Review: Sweet Tooth: Endangered Species trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

As would seem only appropriate for a book about animal-human hybrids, the natural and man-made worlds clash in Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth Vol. 4: Endangered Species — not to mention the influence of realms mythological and spiritual. Familial bonds strengthen but also wither; the group gets on the road, only to pause in place.

In this way, the fourth volume is more like the second than the third — a stage play, a bottle episode. It works better than it did before, perhaps because here the close quarters serve to increase the paranoia and heighten the tension. At the same time, I’m very cognizant of a lot to wrap up with only two volumes to go, not enough room to emphasize so heavily character over plot. If I understand correctly, Lemire expected more issues than he got, which explains some of this, but I’m hopeful for a satisfying ending and this trend of taking one’s time, understandable as that may be, makes that ending increasingly uncertain.

Review: Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Dubious as this may sound, I think there’s a need every once in a while for a mundane Batman story. We’ve been through a couple of decades of writers — and the past five or so years in particular — where the sole point seemed to be to take Batman apart, stare at his insides, and put him back together differently.

Not that James Tynion isn’t also trying to do that — Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories is quite specifically the first volume of another all-new, all-changed Batman era. At the same time, Ghost Stories follows a fairly familiar Bat-trope — one of Bruce’s childhood rivals returns to haunt him — which is as classic a premise for a Bat-story as “Bruce falls in love but the woman/her father/her maiden aunt is a vigilante/super-villain.” It doesn’t feel as though Tynion tries to reinvent the wheel, plot-wise, and that’s an unexpected relief, all the better for some of the character drama to shine through.

Review: Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

I read the first volume of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth and liked it well enough. I thought the second book was fine, though maybe lacking a little bit following the first. And then I read Sweet Tooth Vol. 3: Animal Armies. Reader, I tell you when I finished this book, I was not all right.

With Animal Armies, Lemire’s post-apocalyptic story finally gets cooking. The remarkable thing for me for the most part was not the plot, but the craftsmanship; Lemire builds perhaps the most intricate chase sequence I’ve ever seen, in which whom the characters think they’re fleeing is actually whom they’re approaching. It’s wholly gripping, and on top of that, some of Lemire’s page compositions are really impressive. Then, on top of that, Lemire delivers a gut-punch moment late in the tale that’s grotesque, horrifying, and brilliant, such that I found myself still shaken by it moments after I’d put the book down.

DC Trade Solicitations for September 2021 — Far Sector, Milestone Compendium One, Other History of the DC Universe, Joker Vol. 1, Flash Vol. 15: Finish Line, Sandman Deluxe Book Four, American Vampire 1976, Batgirl of Burnside Omnibus

Sunday, June 20, 2021

I don’t have a particularly big pull list from the DC Comics September 2021 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations, but there’s a bunch of books here I feel like I’ve been waiting a while for.

Predominant is N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell’s Far Sector, the Young Animal series that’s gotten rave reviews, and with the added bonus that Green Lantern Jo Mullein is continuing to the main series. In that same “waiting a while” category is, finally, the collection of John Ridley’s The Other History of the DC Universe, and also Joshua Williamson’s Flash takes its bow. You all have been telling me that one’s good, so I’m holding you to it.

Next, everyone needs to put in their preorder for the Milestone Compendium One. First of all, not since the Jack Kirby Fourth World omnibuses have we seen a collection of semi-connected series like this all in one book — one wonders if these will be presented in publication order or series by series. Second of all, this is such a thing that the Milestone line has deserved for so long, and most of what’s collected here are the better known books — for titles like Static’s team Heroes, we need this collections series to run to its finish, hence the pre-orders. (If you need a third, the next volume ought collect the never-collected DC/Milestone crossover “Worlds Collide.”)

Other notable titles on the list, we get James Tynion’s first Joker collection, Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire’s Inferior Five, and the Sandman Deluxe Editions keep rolling out.

Those are my picks — let’s take a look at the full list:

American Vampire 1976

Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s newest American Vampire miniseries, collecting issues #1-10.

Batgirl of Burnside Omnibus

Collects the latter part of Batgirl's New 52 adventures, the "Burnside era" — Batgirl #35-52, Batgirl Annual #3, Secret Origins #10 and DC Sneak Peek: Batgirl #1.

Batman by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo Omnibus Vol. 2

In hardcover, collecting Batman #34-52 (being the Joker "Endgame" event through "Superheavy" and the end of Snyder and Capullo's regular run), a story from Detective Comics #27, Batman Annual #3-4, Batman: Futures End #1, DC Sneak Peek: Batman #1, a story from Detective Comics #1000, and Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1-3. That inclusion of Last Knight is pretty key for bringing a lot of the other "flash forwards" in the series to fruition. I'd venture all that's missing for the full reading experience is Dark Knights: Metal given how that book tied together some of the other otherwise-random pieces of this series.

Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs

Paperback of James Tynion's first arc on Batman, issues #85-94 and Secret Files #3. I tell you what, I liked this one a lot, and Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War was a surprising disappointment afterward. I'm hoping the third volume is a return to form.

Batman: Last Knight on Earth

Speaking of which, here’s the paperback, following the hardcover, of the three-issue DC Black Label series by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. This is also collected in the solicitations in the Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo Omnibus Vol. 2.

Batman/Superman Vol. 2: World's Deadliest

Issues #7-15 and the first annual by Joshua Williamson, in paperback following the hardcover. My recent review.

Far Sector

The collection of Far Sector feels like it's been a long time coming and I'm eager to read it, especially since it's been getting such good reviews and that Green Lantern Jo Mullein will be appearing in the main title after Future State. By N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell, arriving finally in October.

The Flash Vol. 15: Finish Line

Being the final collection of Flash by writer Joshua Williamson, this should be about issues #756-762, ahead of a short run by Kevin Shinick, “Endless Winter,” and Future State. You all are telling me this one is pretty good, so let’s see ...

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters Saga Omnibus Vol. 2

The latter half of Mike Grell's Green Arrow run, including Green Arrow #51-80, Green Arrow Annual #4-6, Who's Who #14, Brave and the Bold #1-6, Shado: Song of the Dragon #1-4, and Green Arrow: The Wonder Year #1-4. Yes, the recent Grell paperbacks did not include the Shado or Brave and the Bold miniseries and yes, I am still annoyed and would like one more paperback.

Inferior Five

There is a whole lot about an Inferior Five miniseries set in the midst of DC’s 1980s Invasion! crossover and with contributions by Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire that I’m very interested in. But consider me part of the problem, because low sales (for the niche pitch and also people like me waiting for the trade) caused this to be cut down from 12 to six issues. Obviously, perhaps bizarrely, DC thinks there’s a market for the trade (maybe because of the Peacemaker material); if it comes out, I’ll get it, though I’m myself wary of a plotted miniseries that got cut in half.

The Joker Vol. 1

In hardcover, collecting issues #1-6 by James Tynion and Guillem March, following Infinite Frontier #0. I'm most excited here to see James Gordon get the spotlight and also for the return of Bluebird Harper Row.


Can't get too excited about a five-issue Man-Bat miniseries that either ignores the character's portrayal in Justice League Dark or is out-and-out out of continuity. Wonder what incarnation of apparently Suicide Squad appears here.

Milestone Compendium One

I have thought from time to time about trying to pick up all the existing Milestone trades — here DC just made it easy for me. This is said to be Blood Syndicate #1-12, Hardware #1-12, Icon #1-10, Static #1-8, and Xombi #0-11, and Shadow Cabinet #0 (being, among other things, the "Shadow War" inter-title crossover). Hopefully this keeps going through the rest of the Milestone books and minis, through to Milestone’s appearances in the regular DCU and the character appearances from the late 2000s Brave and the Bold series. For reference, the Worlds Collide crossover would coincide with the next book.

The Other History of the DC Universe

Also a long time coming, John Ridley's five-issue miniseries, coming in hardcover in November.

The Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Four

I would like these all to come out before the Netflix series debuts. Thank you and good night.

Arriving in November, this is issues #51-69 and Vertigo Jam #1, being the "World's End" and "Kindly Ones" collections. (Next and last, I would certainly hope, should be "The Wake," issues #70-75, plus Sandman: Overture, Endless Nights, and the two versions of Dream Hunters.)

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 4

Said to collect Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, the Superman Annual #2, and Doom Patrol #10. The solicitation calls this the “final volume,” so unfortunately it doesn’t look good for a continuing series of the post-Crisis Superman series.

Wonder Woman by George Perez Vol. 6

The final of the smaller paperback cut-down collections of the Wonder Woman by George Perez omnibuses, collecting Wonder Woman #58–62 and War of the Gods #1–4. This maps exactly to the Wonder Woman: War of the Gods omnibus, but in comparison to the Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus Vol. 3 it leaves out the Wonder Woman issues #168–169 and #600 short story by Perez.

Did you know you can basically read the post-Crisis Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) straight through from #1 to the end of John Byrne’s run with #136? Then it picks up again with the Phil Jimenez run through to Greg Rucka and the end. Shame Eric Luke’s run isn’t collected, for completeness sake.

Review: Sweet Tooth: In Captivity trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

I grant it’s a little early to be calling Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity an unusual volume of Sweet Tooth, given that it’s only the second volume — for all I know, this is a perfectly normal volume of Sweet Tooth as far as that goes. But the “captivity” of the volume’s title very quickly reveals itself as not referring to protagonist Gus only, and moreover by the end Captivity is very nearly not Gus' story at all. Not that this can’t be an ensemble piece, but it seems early for this kind of narrative play, just as it seems early too that Captivity ends how it does. I consider none of this a detriment; rather, inasmuch as Sweet Tooth runs along certain too-familiar lines, it’s pleasing to see the narrative twist and turn in unfamiliar ways.

[Review contains spoilers]

At the end of my review of the first volume, Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods, I wasn’t sure whether writer Jeff Lemire would bring back the character of Jepperd or if I wanted him to. What had seemed a common “gruff warrior cares for little kid” scenario was turned on its head by Jepperd’s very intentional betrayal of young Gus, and I hoped against type that Jepperd wouldn’t have an immediate change of heart and be back to rescue Gus right away. Well, half right; Jepperd’s change of heart wasn’t immediate and he didn’t rescue Gus right away, but that’s where we’re headed. Certainly the most heartwarming outcome, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but perhaps I was in the mood for a turn a little less saccharine (or that differed, anachronistic as this is, from the first two seasons of Mandalorian).

Review: Superman Vol. 4: Mythological trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Writer Brian Michael Bendis does a nice job salvaging the ending of the Superman half of his Super-title run in Superman Vol. 4: Mythological. It is almost enough to convince one that this was Bendis' intended conclusion all along, though really I sense the story was only just getting started — that Superman’s very specific revelation last time around was the beginning of the story and not the beginning of the end.

Moreover, in Mythological Bendis begins to explore the psychological implications of a lot of things — of Superman’s revelation, yes, but more of that as a symptom instead of a cause, reaching farther back to Bendis' Man of Steel, Jon Kent’s disappearance and return, the fate of “Mr. Oz,” so on and so forth. It’s probably been a good 20 years since we’ve see Superman seek therapy — circa “Our World at War” — and it’s probably nigh time for a reminder that even superheroes need help too (and in a forum less polarizing than Heroes in Crisis).

Review: Flash #750: The Deluxe Edition hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

I can't quantify this necessarily but it feels rare for the Flash to get a hardcover, all-star special like the Flash #750: The Deluxe Edition volume. I guess these kinds of books are all the rage these days, but given Detective Comics #1000 plus Detective Comics #1027, and the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special followed by the Wonder Woman #750 book, it feels like these kinds of things are the realm of DC's Big Three, and for the Flash to get an anthology is rare and special.

But it does seem rather clear the shine is not here. This is a nice Flash party, to be sure, but it contains only six stories plus Barry Allen's debut from Showcase #4, whereas the Wonder Woman #750: The Deluxe Edition contained nine stories plus Diana's debut issue. Of these, three are stories related to other DC events or series and two of those are also collected elsewhere. The net effect is that this seems like the sparsest of celebrations; no expense wasn't spared, essentially, whereas the Wonder Woman book (and Detective #1027 before that) better utilized the hero and their supporting cast and was more far-reaching.

Review: Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Obviously I’m taking the opportunity of a lull in my comics pull list to check out Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth because of the TV show premiering on Netflix. Also because, with Mandalorian, Bosch, Titans, and Doom Patrol all on hiatus and not scheduled to reappear for at least a month at earliest, I’m looking for a streaming show to watch. The pastel-tinged fantastical of the Sweet Tooth trailer wasn’t quite up my alley, but the comics series seems to have been popular and I’m always happy to support Jeff Lemire’s work.

Now, I haven’t actually started watching Netflix’s Sweet Tooth yet, but I did finish reading Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods and — you in the know probably saw this coming — it seems to me there’s quite the divide between Sweet Tooth the comic and the tone of the trailer, at least, for the Sweet Tooth TV show. That is, I was expecting more Fables than The Walking Dead, and for me the first volume of Lemire’s Sweet Tooth leaned more toward The Walking Dead. This is just a review from the comic side, but I’ll be curious to see online any controversy from audiences going from the TV side to the comics; if you were expecting wide-eyed wonder and instead got bloodied heads, you might feel misled.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: Metropolis Burning trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: Metropolis Burning is kind of nuts, but I found it kind of nuts in the most refreshing way.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis is back with his unique dialogue patois, bringing it not just to Superman, the Justice League, and Young Justice, but also Lex Luthor, the Legion of Doom, and Bendis' prized creation Leviathan. Long-time comics artist John Romita delivers his signature style, all shading lines and blocky, immobile figures. Both writing and art are maniacally unpolished, and that’s even before a story that’s the equivalent of throwing a box of action figures at each other while simultaneously trying to shoehorn into the smallest continuity gap possible.

Of late I’ve been dissatisfied with a couple of DC books I’ve read, stories that often seem just marking time alongside sometimes a half-dozen or more mid-level artists on a single book, all offering dubious takes on DC’s staid, traditional house style. In Action Comics, Bendis is clearly Bendis and Romita is clearly Romita, and their work is both authentic and unapologetic. The creators' idiosyncrasies might fairly be called flaws, but I found this break from the everyday a treat. I would much prefer two creators bringing their own inimitable styles to the fore than others trying the same old tried-and-true with various degrees of success.