Review: Green Arrow Vol. 7: Kingdom trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"The pause that refreshes" could also be a good tagline for Green Arrow Vol. 7: Kingdom. I might be skeptical of a single volume by a new (albeit TV-connected) creative team, bridging the gap between the previous and next ongoing creative teams, as that tends to suggest perhaps-skippable filler material. But after Jeff Lemire's three mostly-standalone Green Arrow volumes, CW Arrow's Andrew Kreisberg and Ben Sokoloswki not only further this book's ties to the TV show -- in what I felt were generally inoffensive ways -- but also bring a whole bunch of the DC Universe into the Green Arrow title.

Kind of like how Wonder Woman Vol. 7: War-Torn or Batman/Superman Vol. 4: Siege each served to re-center their characters in the DCU just prior to the Convergence/"DC You" changeover, I'm a sucker for these guest-star-heavy kind of tales. Kreisberg and Sokolowski do a good job of balancing action and story in each issue, and though the book's story might seem familiar to Arrow fans, I felt this was a solid outing that increased my enthusiasm for the Green Arrow franchise.

Review: Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 17, 2016

I haven't been overly taken with Ann Nocenti's recent DC Comics work (Catwoman, Green Arrow), but there's something about it I find compelling. I am unsure whether her Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker, for instance, suffers from lazy writing, or if there's a thematic imperative in two different characters repeating almost the same line of dialogue four times in the last chapter, whether Nocenti's work is full of poetry or confusion.

Katana is a complicated tale of women's lives, love, obsession, subservience, and revenge. Nocenti populates it with characters with vying motives on all sides; there's a lot packed in with ties big and small to Geoff Johns's Justice League of America, Jeff Lemire's Green Arrow, and the Creeper via Dan DiDio's Phantom Stranger. To those ends, Katanta might almost be workable, were it not for the strained (and repetitious) dialogue and what seem to be Nocenti's almost trademark leaps of logic. These elements combine to make a book that's hard to figure.

Review: Superman: American Alien hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Yet another Superman origin story is a hard sell. Fortunately DC Comics makes no claims to Superman: American Alien being in-continuity, and instead it's something of an objet d'art, as notable for the words of writer/director Max Landis as for the individual chapters depicting Clark Kent's young adulthood by a variety of DC's best artistic talents, including Francis Manapul, Jae Lee, and Jock.

The pervading question for a project like this is whether it significantly adds to the Superman mythos or offers any surprises not covered in the bevy of origins and re-tellings previous, and the answer is that it does. Landis offers some clever twists especially as relate to Clark Kent and Smallville, as well as some smart, unexpected cameos. American Alien reads like a fan tribute, at times hewing maybe too close to what we've seen before, but there's touchstones here to the John Byrne and "Death of Superman" eras that ought please fans of those runs.

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 6: Broken trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 10, 2016

By virtue of shifting creative teams, the New 52 Green Arrow series has ended up with some odd-sized trades, of which Green Arrow Vol. 6: Broken is the latest, at three issues, the Futures End tie-in issue, and a Secret Origins story. But here again are the creative team of Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Marcelo Maiolo, so even a short trade is a stunner. Lemire's concluding Green Arrow story is perhaps a tad small in scope for a finale, though in three issues Lemire effectively bridges the gap between his run and the next (and pays some deference to the Arrow TV show), so maybe that's sufficient. All this and, from one of the architects of Futures End, a tie-in that actually relates to the series itself.

Review: Omega Men: The End Is Here trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Just before I read Tom King's Omega Men: The End Is Here, I spotted a review that said the book didn't live up to its hype. Indeed, given all the great things I'd heard about Omega Men, not the least the outcry that saved this miniseries from cancellation halfway through, I wondered if it could really be that good.

Oh, yes.

Omega Men is a gripping, involved miniseries, starting with its provocative, ripped-from-the-headlines prologue and continuing through to its morally gray end. King brings the puzzle-antics and circular storytelling of Grayson to often pages-upon-pages of nine-panel grids, making for dense chapters that beg re-reading. In the sharp detail Omega Men gives both its heroes and villains -- a category often overlapping -- Omega Men is in some respects the closest a cosmic DC title has come to going toe to toe with Image's Saga. Obviously I haven't yet read DC's upcoming Death of Hawkman yet, but a bar has been set here for space-fairing stories -- really for DC titles in general -- that I fear few are going to be able to meet.

Review: Trinity of Sin Vol. 1: The Wages of Sin trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 03, 2016

Given the tortured history of these characters in the New 52, Trinity of Sin Vol. 1: The Wages of Sin is better than it has any right to be. The comics staring Pandora and Phantom Stranger (with guest star Question) were actually for the most part good, give or take a bloated Forever Evil: Blight crossover, and the short-lived Trinity of Sin serves as a fine coda to those books. Phantom Stranger writer J.M. DeMatteis knows these characters and writes them well, and makes a story of demigods and dreamscapes -- often tedious territory for comics -- eminently palatable. These characters deserve more than to be the butt of jokes or fodder for "shocking deaths," and DeMatteis delivers with their last adventure.

Review: Red Sonja Vol. 3: The Forgiving of Monsters trade paperback (Dynamite Entertainment)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gail Simone's final volume of the Red Sonja regular series, Red Sonja Vol. 3: The Forgiving of Monsters, is oddly-shaped. Though there's elements here that hearken back to the first volume, one has to turn their head and squint a little more than is optimal to see this fully as a conclusion (if Simone even means for the three collected volumes to share a trilogy structure, which might simply be my construction). Mostly the awkwardness comes in the initial four-part story here perhaps serving better as the climax, and the final two-part story less so, though this might indicate alternatively the most pertinent points Simone wants to make here.

Irrespective, Simone's three Red Sonja volumes are action-packed, surprising adventure stories full of humor, wisdom, and gore. They serve certainly as a pitch-perfect primer on the character and present Gail Simone as a writer at the top of her game.

Review: Adventures of Supergirl Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, September 26, 2016

DC Comics's tie-ins to their burgeoning line of CW television series have improved as they go. Digital was obviously a godsend to these types of comics, an improvement over the awkward mixing of comic and fan magazine from back in Smallville's heyday. The Arrow digital tie-in comic series that I first sampled felt too-purposefully toothless, spinning middling origin stories so as not to step on the television show's toes; Flash: Season Zero improved on that (and I understand later Arrow comics have been better, too) in telling longer and more relevant stories, though the occasionally collision with the television series continuity still grates (see Flash: Season Zero's proto-King Shark King Shark story).

Next up is the digital-to-print Adventures of Supergirl, which has at its start the distinction of being written by Sterling Gates, whose own in-continuity Supergirl run clearly served as a template for the present TV series. Following the Flash comic model, Adventures of Supergirl tells an episodic, connected story rather than relating self-contained shorts, and, at about half the size of the Flash book, reads as very organized and put-together. Gates has no problem here capturing the voices of the television characters and his enjoyment of the material is palpable. All the lessons learned from previous DC digital tie-in series result in Adventures of Supergirl being the best of this genre so far.

DC Comics Trade Solicitations for December 2016 - Superman, Batman Rebirth, Arkham: Man-Bat, Checkmate by Rucka, Bloodlines

Friday, September 23, 2016

Obviously the big draw for DC Comics's December 2016 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations are the first eight Rebirth collections, as we discussed last week. These solicitations answer as many questions (paperback, shipping a little closer together) as they do raise them (how will crossovers be collected, will there ever be hardcovers), but I'm certainly excited to get my hands on the next big thing from DC.

If that weren't enough, we've got a variety of fun collections and reprints from DC this month -- a new Cassandra Cain Batgirl trade ending Kelley Puckett's run, the last Will Pfiefer "new edition" Catwoman trade, another Mike Grell Green Arrow collection, the Bloodlines miniseries collection fueled entirely on 1990s nostalgia, post-Crisis Green Lantern ... plus PLUS a "new edition" collection of the first two volumes of Greg Rucka's Checkmate, one of my top comics recommendations.

All in all, a good way to start/end the year. Here we go ...

Aquaman Vol. 1: The Drowning TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-7.

Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-6, ending just before the "Night of the Monster Men" crossover. (It's a weird coincidence[?] that the first Bat-family "Rebirth" crossover and New 52 crossover both began with "Night of ...".)

Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-8. Since DC Universe: Rebirth is not collected here, my next guess is it'll be collected with Titans.

Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death and Life of Oliver Queen TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-5.

Green Lanterns Vol. 1: Rage Planet TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-6. Got nerves about this one. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz headlining a title is great, but apparently Bleez is the villain. Will the writer undo all of Bleez's growth in Charles Soule's Red Lanterns? Sure hope not.

Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machine TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-5. Totally unsubstantiated guess -- could this title be cancelled and replaced with Justice League of America after the Suicide Squad crossover?

Nightwing Vol. 1: Better Than Batman TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-4, 7, and 8. As we discussed earlier, this volume omits the "Night of the Monster Men" issues. Possibilities are: the "Monster Men" issues could be in the next Nightwing volume, plus in the Night of the Monster Men trade; Batman and Detective Comics will also omit their "Monster Men" issues and they'll all just be released in the Monster Men trade; or Batman and Detective will have those issues but Nightwing won't, requiring a significant double-dip to get the Nightwing issues. Obviously we're hoping for a good outcome.

Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman TP

Collects the Rebirth special and issues #1-6.

Batgirl Vol. 3: Point Blank TP

The third new collection of the Cassandra Cain Batgirl series collects issues #26-37, which includes among other things appearances by Spoiler and Green Arrow Connor Hawke and Batman: Murderer/Fugitive issues. If the issue list is right, then this does not include a Joker's Last Laugh issue as the solicitation suggests (indeed that was Batgirl Vol. 2: To the Death). This volume also ends original writer Kelley Puckett's run on the series; issues #30-32 and #34-37 have never been collected before.

Batman: Arkham – Man-Bat TP

No word as to the contents but I love that these Batman: Arkham have started collecting the stories of Batman's less well-known villains like Killer Croc and Man-Bat. That missing issue in the Croc volume still stings, though ...

Catwoman Vol. 6: Final Jeopardy TP

Issues #66-82 of the 2000s series, written by Will Pfiefer, with the Blackest Night special issue #83 from 2010 by Tony Bedard. These are the Catwoman Dies, Crime Pays, and Long Road Home trades, which dovetail with Amazons Attack and Salvation Run in the Countdown to Final Crisis era, if you like that sort of thing.

Bloodlines TP

Collecting the six issue miniseries by JT Krul. I will be getting this for the nostalgia value and the hope it might lead to a collection of the original Bloodlines event. DC needs to start releasing omnibus editions of the annual(s) crossover events stat.

Green Arrow Vol. 7: Homecoming TP

The next Mike Grell collection, issues #51-62. If these keep at about 10-11 issues each, just two more to go to collect Grell's Green Arrow run in total.

Checkmate By Greg Rucka Book 1 TP

One of my all time favorite series, a smart, political espionage series utilizing the most random characters from across the DC Universe. This collects issues #1-12, so A King's Game and Pawn Breaks, ahead of the Checkmate/Outsiders crossover that follows. Not to mention this title stood in for Suicide Squad in the post-Infinite Crisis era ...

• Green Lantern: Hal Jordan Vol. 1 TP

Collects Emerald Dawn #1-6 and Emerald Dawn II #1-6, a pair of late 1980s miniseries that served as Green Lantern Hal Jordan's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin (Emerald Dawn the first being to Green Lantern what Man of Steel was to Superman). These are hopelessly outdated now and contradicted by Geoff Johns's work but are a great bit of history, and the "Vol. 1" on this hopefully means we'll see more of the 1980s Green Lantern series collected to follow.

Grayson Vol. 5: Spyral’s End TP

The final Grayson collection, issues #17-20 and Annual #3 (those slim Grayson volumes to the end!).

Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited TP

I'm glad to see this Jeff Parker volume, the final of the series and previously cancelled, back on the schedule again, in no small part because this is one of the "DC You" series that specifically acknowledged the events of Convergence.

Starfire Vol. 2: A Matter of Time TP

The final collection of the "DC You" Starfire series, collecting issues #7-12. Though my sense is this series might be sillier than I'm looking for, Dick Grayson cameoing in a Starfire series, especially before Rebirth clears everything up, is definitely a draw for me.

Those're my picks (not a comprehensive list, mind you, just my picks). What'll you be putting on reserve?

Review: Red Sonja Vol. 2: The Art of Blood and Fire trade paperback (Dynamite Entertainment)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

As I've said before I'm not much of a fan of the sword and sorcery genre, sticking mostly to superheroes and sci-fi, but Gail Simone has given me new respect for Red Sonja, at least, with her recent Dynamite series. Red Sonja Vol. 2: The Art of Blood and Fire is a fine follow-up to the first; Simone carries over a great depiction of Sonja, but this book is structurally and tonally different enough from the first volume, Queen of Plagues, to feel realized in its own right. Simone's Red Sonja remains dynamic and likable, a hero presented respectfully such to immediately transcend the traditional roles of women in pulp fantasy. Given unfortunately just one more volume of Simone's Red Sonja, I'll be curious to see the ultimate shape and arc of this great trilogy.