Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Grant Morrison's Action Comics run has been a pleasant mix of modern and throwback sensibilities -- modern, of course, in the New 52 costume and origins, and retro in the 1940s industrial settings (a callback to Action Comics's beginnings) with 1950s Elvis swagger and a heavy dose of 1960s-1970s Silver Age weirdness. But though Morrison's Action has sometimes felt a little metatextual around the edges, the series really hasn't offered full-blown Grant Morrison wobbliness ... until now.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 3: At the End of Days is a fantastic conclusion to Morrison's Action run, exciting and moving but also a thorough head-trip as only Grant Morrison can deliver. As with Morrison's Batman, the big ideas in Action have started small, but by this third volume they're nearly ballooning off the page and out of this dimension.

DC Trade Solicitations for October 2014 - Futures End: Five Years Later Omnibus, Simone's Batgirl ends, Superman Unchained, Identity Crisis Tenth Anniversary

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Comings and goings" is the theme of the month in DC Comics's October 2014 hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations.

Not only does DC have six new series premiering in October, along with the launch of one more weekly series, but in trades we also see Gail Simone's last Batgirl trade, Jeff Lemire's last Animal Man trade, Ann Nocenti's last Catwoman trade, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's first/last Superman Unchained trade, and Marc Andreyko's first Batwoman trade (which ties in to JH Williams and Hayden Blackman's last Batwoman trade). All this plus the Futures End: Five Years Later omnibus and "why do we need another Identity Crisis trade?" So belly up to the bar and I'll run down my picks:

Futures End – Five Years Later Omnibus HC

I've soured a bit on these omnibus editions from DC; it's pretty cool to have, say, the entirety of DC One Million in one volume (still waiting on that Armageddon 2001 Omnibus, which I would buy immediately), but they are very heavy, and very unwieldy to sit and read. It remains to be seen, however, whether these "Five Years Later" issues will be collected with each series' individual trades or not. The "Villains Month" issues were not all collected except in the omnibus, but for most of those I figured that if it wasn't important enough to collect in a trade, it wasn't important enough for me to read.

Jury's still out on buying all the "Five Years Later" tie-in issues in one book, though; probably if DC would release a digital edition of these omnibuses, I might give it some additional thought.

Batgirl Vol. 5: Deadline HC

Notable now that we know that this is indeed Gail Simone's last Batgirl collection. I'm hoping Gail's next "secret" project involves "six" characters ...

Animal Man Vol. 5: Evolve Or Die! TP

Jeff Lemire's last Animal Man trade (going along with Gail Simone's last Batgirl trade), but I'm not taking it so hard given that Lemire is writing still writing Animal Man over in Justice League United.

Catwoman Vol. 5: Race of Thieves TP

Collects issues #25 and #27-34, which might seem a little confusing, but issue #26 went with the "Gotham Underground" storyline, so it's in the previous volume. Here, issue #25 is the "Zero Year" tie-in, #27-28 are "Gothtopia" tie-ins, and then finally issues #29-33 or #34ish are the "Race of Outlaws" storyline. One of the perks of being a trade-waiter is that issue #25 now doesn't interrupt the previous storyline. Keeping with this month's theme, this is Ann Nocenti's final Catwoman trade.

Superman – Action Comics Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath HC

What's most interesting in this collection of Action Comics #25-29 is that it also includes Secret Origins #1. I'm guessing this means the Superman origin story only, but I'll be curious to see if this keeps up and the Secret Origins stories end up in the individual characters' trades only, and not in dedicated Secret Origins collections.

Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs TP

Webs collects Marc Andreyko's first issues on Batwoman (including a "Zero Year" tie-in) and also the Batwoman Annual #1, where Andreyko cleaned up some storylines left over from the previous team, JH Williams and Haden Blackman. I rather wish they'd included Batwoman Annual #1 with the old team's last trade, such to give a better sense of a completed story despite the goings-on behind the scenes, but maybe they wanted Vol. 4 to be the old team's alone.

Superman Unchained Deluxe Edition HC

On various boards and such, I still see some confusion about this -- Superman Unchained Deluxe collects the entire 9-issue series, previously meant (perhaps) to be an ongoing around the Man of Steel movie, but "canceled" of sorts after nine issues when creators Scott Snyder and Jim Lee moved on to other projects. Still, I'm interested to read Snyder's take on Superman, and surely Jim Lee Superman art is nothing to sneeze at.

Identity Crisis: Tenth Anniversary Edition HC

Brad Meltzer remains a big media name, but I'm befuddled by this one.

I have something of a love/hate relationship with Identity Crisis. I love the overall mystery, and I credit Identity Crisis with giving new life to a number of characters -- among them Deathstroke and Green Arrow -- in the lead-in to Green Lantern: Rebirth and the successful Infinite Crisis era of DC. Of course, at the same time Identity Crisis reflects some of the worse excesses of that era as well.

So, I acknowledge Identity Crisis as significant. But, I also acknowledge it as very much a product of its continuity moment, as opposed to something more timeless like Batman: Long Halloween or All-Star Superman.

Does Identity Crisis warrant a tenth-anniversary edition? Is this something anyone's marking, or is there a pent-up audience for this book waiting for a new edition? Obviously DC sees some money to be made here, but I'm surprised that there is.

Batman Adventures Vol. 1 TP

It's not an anniversary for Batman: The Animated Series I don't think, but with Batman's 75th Anniversary, some new collectables, and this trade, it looks like the show is getting a renewed spotlight. Sure seems to me an animated-series digital comic, even with Paul Dini and Bruce Timm involved, would sell well.

Tales of The Batman: Len Wein HC

Someone can let me know if there's notable issues in here, but I think it's auspicious to see a Batman volume spotlighting a writer rather than an artist. Again, I don't know the details of the stories exactly, but I imagine this trade jumps around less following a writer than some of the artist spotlight volumes that offer only parts of stories.

Superman for All Seasons Deluxe Edition HC

One of my favorite Superman stories, and it's maybe a little astounding that it didn't have a deluxe edition before now. Surely DC could find some additional Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale material enough to make an Absolute for this one, no?

That's what I'm (maybe) getting, but what are you getting? Favorite trades for this month I might've left out or overlooked?

Review: Grimm Fairy Tales: Inferno trade paperback (Zenescope)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

[Doug Glassman ('80s Marvel Rocks!) celebrates "Indie-pendence Month" with his July reviews ...]

I typically give the story behind the books and companies I cover during "Indie-pendence Month" and where the specific trade fits into their universe. This time, I honestly don’t care because I have no intention of ever picking up anything from Zenescope Entertainment again. I admit that I may have gone into Grimm Fairy Tales: Inferno with too high of hopes. The trade name and characters implied that there was some influence from the Divine Comedy and it sounded more interesting than any of their other books. There had to be some reason why Zenescope is so popular other than “Look! Boobs!”

Review: X-Files: Conspiracy hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Monday, July 21, 2014

There's a lot that could have gone wrong with IDW's X-Files: Conspiracy, an unlikely story that teams the Lone Gunmen (but also Mulder and Scully, where it counts) with the Ghostbusers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and the Crow. Not in the least one of the worst outcomes -- when you imagine Mulder and Scully leaping rooftops with the cartoon-era Turtles, shouting "Cowabunga!" -- is that all involved would come off looking pretty silly.

But, happily, both good writing and good art save the day here. For me, the book worked; even when the story strays far enough into the guest-characters' territory to perhaps stretch the X-Files's more realistic ethos, some element of voice or depiction still smoothed it out. For a wacky premise, X-Files: Conspiracy was as much fun as I could have hoped.

Review: Damian, Son of Batman deluxe hardcover (DC Comics)

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

For fifth Robin Damian Wayne to get his own miniseries, especially while currently deceased, says significant things about that character's popularity. Though I think the "new Robin" storyline trope lost its cache after the Stephanie Brown debacle, Damian had settled in to being a serviceable Robin character prior to his death (if one sidekick among many now instead of the leader of the pack, as when Tim Drake debuted as Robin).

Even given that Andy Kubert's Damian, Son of Batman is set in an alternate future and was no doubt released mainly to coincide with the animated Son of Batman movie, I still looked forward to seeing what a Damian-focused miniseries might look like, different than the character's co-starring role in Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin.

Review: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1 hardcover (Bantam/Dynamite Entertainment)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

[Doug Glassman ('80s Marvel Rocks!) celebrates "Indie-pendence Month" with his July reviews ...]

As I indicated last week, the world of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t something I normally follow. This isn’t the fault of any of the material; instead, it’s because A Game of Thrones, its fellow novels, and the various adaptations of them fall into one of my least-favorite genres: dystopian literature. It might be weird to think of a medieval fantasy doubling as a post-apocalyptic tale, but it’s a detail which emerges once you find out more and more of the backstory of how the various houses rose, fell, and went to war. I’m a student of epic literature; the story I want to read is the one of the younger Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, and Tywin Lannister going to rescue Lyanna Stark, the kidnapped sister of Ned and girlfriend of Robert. That world is gone, replaced with political infighting and far fewer dragons.

Review: Dial H Vol. 2: Exchange trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The statement that China Mieville's Dial H series could well have been a Vertigo title has been well and truly made, not in the least just because of the Brian Bolland covers and Karen Berger editing, but also Mieville's unlikely cast and wild and winding storyline. Dial H Vol. 2: Exchange, the final volume, is arguably not as strong as the first, delving as it does more into the mythology than into the characters themselves; it is enjoyable overall, however, and the fifth and especially the seventh chapters (issues #11 and #13) shine as real paragons of comics writing.

[Review contains spoilers]

Early in Exchange, Mieville introduces a secret military organization that's been experimenting on the titular H-Dials. Mieville contrasts well in the story the sci-fi espionage elements on one hand, and the dimension-hopping fantasy that comes later; Dial H jumps genres like the characters change hero personas, and that's all right with me. At the same time, between Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT and Matt Fraction's Sex Criminals, not to mention the bevy of covert organizations in the New 52, Dial H loses a little something here, where I think I'd liked better the threat of the all-consuming Abyss monster in the first volume, Into You.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 4: Second City trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I was sorry to see artist Eddy Barrows leaving the Nightwing title, apt as his art was for that book. I was especially sad to see Barrows going to Teen Titans, where I hadn't favored his work previously, and to see Titans's Brett Booth coming to Nightwing; Booth's wild, cartoony style worked for the Titans, but his early Nightwing covers seemed to distort the character in a way I didn't like.

With Nightwing Vol. 4: Second City, however, writer Kyle Higgins and artist Booth breathe new life into an already successful book. To an extent it feels like the Nightwing title has been waiting from the beginning to get to this point, and it's only a shame it took almost twenty issues to do so, especially with the title about to be cancelled. Away from both Bat-continuity and Bat-crossovers, Nightwing soars telling its own story; Booth's work and even his new touches to the Nightwing costume give the title a vibrancy we never knew was missing.

Review: Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 2: Into the Warzone and Vol. 3: Chaos Clash trade paperbacks (Archie Comics)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

[Doug Glassman ('80s Marvel Rocks!) celebrates "Indie-pendence Month" with his July reviews ...]

The remainder of Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, the crossover between Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, and Mega Man titles, fulfills the strong promise of the first volume, Kindred Spirits. It’s a book that had to work on multiple levels: as its own all-ages narrative, as an anniversary celebration, as a tribute for the fans, and eventually as a continuity reboot for the Sonic books due to a falling out with a former creator. That it succeeds on all of these levels is quite impressive. Much of the success can be attributed to a creative team made primarily of huge fans, especially Ian Flynn, who started plotting out the book three years earlier when Archie grabbed the Mega Man license.

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, July 07, 2014

As with the Penguin and Scarecrow before, Gregg Hurwitz pens a cogent new origin and caper for the Mad Hatter, with appropriately creepy art by Ethan Van Sciver (for the most part). Surely Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad is a book other writers should come back to as an example of how to write the Mad Hatter as a credible threat.

Hurwitz's new take on the Hatter works, though it isn't my ideal for a Bat-villain origin (just a difference of opinion). Aside from that, my nitpicks at Mad are mostly secondary in nature -- that I don't think an artist switch-up here quite works, and that continuity, when it intrudes, does so clunkily; I might have a few issues with how the story is told but not with Hurwitz's story itself.