Review: Catwoman Vol. 6: Keeper of the Castle trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Catwoman is a title that has sometimes been very good and sometimes not, and Genevieve Valentine's Catwoman Vol. 6: Keeper of the Castle is one of those good times. Valentine's tale of mob boss Selina Kyle trying to rebuild Gotham through bad acts is riveting, full of crime drama, double-crosses, and betrayals. I'm stymied that it only lasted for one more volume, and that like the rest of the "DC You" it did not take off and become the Selina Kyle portrayal of the land. Surely what's here is significantly stronger than what immediately preceded it.

[Review contains spoilers]

Foremost, Valentine has my utmost respect for overhauling Catwoman to the point where it's almost unrecognizable from what came before -- but still using characters from those previous runs. It would be wholly understandable, especially given the number of new characters Valentine introduces here, if she'd set some new, random Gotham police after Selina, but instead she uses Alvarez and Keys from Judd Winick and Ann Nocenti's runs. I've read all of those books, even though some were exceptionally troubled, and surely I took the risk that those stories wouldn't ultimately "matter"; even though Valentine goes a different direction, she preserves those stories and brings them along, and I appreciate it greatly. Equally Tesla from Nocenti's run gets a mention.

Setting Castle in established Catwoman lore is useful too because Valentine makes a significant leap from where Selina was before in this title to where she is now. Had Valentine's run continued, I imagine a flashback issue would be needed at some point (or maybe it's coming up, I don't know) that shows how Catwoman went from thief and sometimes-hero of Gotham Underground to the head of the Calabrese crime family. Even the revelation of Selina as Leo Calabrese's daughter over in Batman Eternal doesn't cover the nuts and bolts of how Selina climbed to the top so quickly (letting alone that someone ought come up with an explanation why Selina never mentioned being a Calabrese before now, aside from the fact that the twist hadn't been thought up yet). A lesser story might fall on all of these points, and it's due to the strength of Valentine's story that any confusion is inconsequential.

Castle collects issues #35-40 and the Annual #2, split three and three with the annual in the middle. That's perfect, because issue #37 ends shockingly, with Selina's bodyguard Antonia Calabrese having to kill her brother Nick for leaking information to the police. Again, all credit to Valentine, who in three issues makes us care enough about Antonia and Nick that the murder feels tragic and painful (there's shades of Greg Rucka's Lazarus in this book as well). At the same time, I felt our lack of familiarity with these characters a little bit in the end; I understand Selina wants to protect Antonia because she sees her as the future head of the Calabrese family on one hand, but on the other I maybe wanted to see a bit more of Selina and Antonia together to really feel it.

Similarly, while there's plenty resonance in seeing Catwoman battling Black Mask, I wished Valentine had chosen a different villain rather than echoing the Ed Brubaker run. Black Mask is a callback to the past, which I like, but the last we saw of him in the New 52, Roman Sionis had some metahuman mind-control powers, which are not at all present here; Valentine has overlaid Brubaker's Black Mask on the proceedings, incongruously. And Selina seems to butt heads rather constantly with Black Mask or Penguin; surely Two-Face or Maxie Zeus or the Court of Owls (or a comics version of Fish Mooney) would be an equally appropriate crime saga villain.

I've no objection to Valentine's positing, essentially a retcon, that Selina might be bisexual. First, it hardly alters my perception of the character, and second what's most interesting here is Valentine's suggestion that it might not be Eiko Hasigawa that Selina's attracted to, but rather that Selina's attracted to the Catwoman persona, which Eiko has taken on in Selina's absence -- that what Selina really kisses here is herself or her own dual identity. At the same time, Valentine's clearly able to get away with something with Catwoman that another writer couldn't do with Superman or Batman; more nuanced sexuality is probably good for mainstream comics, but at the same time some fetishization of female sexuality is surely at play.

Garry Brown offers fine work here, who like Andrea Sorrentino and Babs Tarr draws attractive, stylized superhero characters without reverting to gratuitous sexuality or sexuality when the story doesn't call for it. Catwoman seems like it for now for Brown at DC aside from Bombshells, maybe another fallout of "DC You" untimely end, and that's a shame. Only occasionally did Brown's sketched-out characters confuse me, as when Aiden Mason first appeared and with no context for how to place him, I at first thought he was the story's only other long-haired blond man, Nick Calabrese.

In all, Genevieve Valentine's Catwoman Vol. 6: Keeper of the Castle shows the Selina Kyle character used well, and later when Selina is invariably used poorly again, I'm sure I'll lament that this didn't continue. There are certain good short-runs in DC history, often between events, and this period between Convergence and "Rebirth" will be notable for how many it had, all the more significantly for its brevity.

[Includes original and variant covers, Garry Brown sketches]
Collected Editions 2015 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: DC Universe: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 26, 2016


The DC Universe: Rebirth special is certainly audacious, and I respect audaciousness greatly. But it will be years apparently before we know whether that audaciousness is justified, and therein lies the difficulty.

Spoilers for DC Universe: Rebirth #1 below the jump.

DC Trade Solicitations (June 2016 Previews) - Flash by Mark Waid Book One, Supergirl by Sterling Gates, Final Days of Superman, Titans Hunt

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Obviously the biggest DC Comics news lies somewhere other than their June 2016 hardcover and trade paperback collection solicitations. For we trade-waiters, however, for whom "Rebirth" is still somewhat far off, there's some exiting stuff in this list, namely at long last the first Flash by Mark Waid collection. There's also some interesting (and controversial) material heralding Supergirl's renewal for a second season, now on CW, and the Titans Hunt collection to maybe tide us over until "Rebirth" arrives.

Here's the run-down:

Flash by Mark Waid Book One TP

Surely the highlight of this month is the first volume of the long-awaited collection series of Mark Waid's Flash. This first book collects issues #62-68; #62-65 are the "Flash: Year One" story collected in Flash: Born to Run, and the other issues (involving Aquaman and Pied Piper) are previously uncollected. Also included is a Flash Special with a framing story by Waid, published before his run, and Flash Annual #4, which is an Armageddon 2001(!) annual, and Flash Annual #5, an Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual.

This volume collected seven regular issues; if we count seven more issues, that puts one squarely in the middle of the Flash: Return of Barry Allen storyline. I doubt DC would break that up, so either the next collection is from issues #69-79, or else it's #69-73 with two Green Lantern crossover issues, which would still make seven issues.

I had thought there was significantly more Waid/Flash material before Return of Barry Allen, but I guess not; I didn't realize that was practically the beginning of the run.

Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato Omnibus HC

Less notable but still a fine read in its own right, this omnibus collects Manapul and Buccellato's issues #0-25 and the Villains Month Reverse Flash issue.

Coloring DC: Supergirl TP

DC unfortunately starts off a month of strong Supergirl offerings with a bit of controversy. The solicited cover for Coloring DC: Supergirl is a Ian Churchill drawing that's not been received well online. It's hard to say if this was accidental or a conscious choice of "sex sells," but I wouldn't be surprised if this ships with a different cover.

Supergirl: Who is Superwoman? TP New Edition
Supergirl: Friends and Fugitives TP New Edition
Supergirl: Bizarrogirl TP New Edition

If any run deserves another set of collections, it's Sterling Gates's "New Krypton"-era Supergirl stories, which among other things seem to have directly influenced the CBS TV show. These "new editions" don't appear to have any new content, however, and curiously only three of Gates's four collections are getting reprints (missing is Death and the Family, which is surely required reading for this run).

Adventures of Supergirl TP

Collected this month also is Gates's Adventures of Supergirl digital TV-tie-in miniseries. So if Gates writes the Supergirl digital comic and Gates writes for the Flash digital comic, does that mean Gates could write a digital Supergirl/Flash crossover comic?

Superman: American Alien HC

Collects the Max Landis miniseries. I haven't known what to make of this. Good? Not good?

Superman: Savage Dawn HC
Superman: The Final Days of Superman HC

Closing out the Superman titles before "Rebirth" are these collections of Action Comics, Superman, Batman/Superman, and Superman/Wonder Woman by Aaron Kuder, Gene Luen Yang, Greg Pak, and Peter Tomasi. At least the Superman/Wonder Woman issues are supposed to be collected in their own volume, but whether the connected Superman issues will be as well, or whether this will be it for those issues, remains to be seen. Preferences?

• Superman/Batman: The Saga of the Super Sons TP New Edition

This collection of 1970s-1980s World's Finest stories about Clark Kent Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr., plus a story from the infamous Elseworlds 80-Page Giant, has been printed before, and there doesn't seem to be new material this time except for the connection to "Rebirth."

Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years HC

Includes stories by Jack Miller, Steve Skeates, and Geoff Johns; I can guarantee what a lot of fans want to see for Aquaman's 75th anniversary is collections of more Peter David material.

Batman Beyond Vol. 2: City of Yesteryday TP

Collects issues #7-11; there should be one more collection of the Dan Jurgens series before "Rebirth."

Batman: Arkham: Poison Ivy TP

Collects Batman #181, #339; Batman/Poison Ivy; Batman Chronicles #9; Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #3; Detective Comics #23.1; Gotham City Sirens #8; Joker’s Asylum: Poison Ivy #1; Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #42-43; World’s Finest #251-252; and Secret Origins #36. Some of this is uncollected though I don't see anything of continuity significance necessarily.

Constantine, The Hellblazer Vol. 2: The Art of the Deal TP

Collects issues #7-13, ending the series before "Rebirth."

Green Arrow Vol. 6: Last Action Hero TP

Continues the Mike Grell Green Arrow collections from issue #39 through the double-sized issue #50.

Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits TP

Collects Batman Adventures #12, Batman #613, Gotham City Sirens #7, Suicide Squad #1, Batman #13, Harley Quinn #21, Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special #1, and Countdown #10; I don't see much here that hasn't been collected before.

Justice League 3001 Vol. 2: Things Fall Apart TP

Collects the final issues of Justice League 3001, #7-12.

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death TP

Collects the six-issue Poison Ivy miniseries. I can't say this really stuck out to me, seemingly unlikely to be picked up as cannon by future writers (same with some of the other miniseries out at that time like Swamp Thing and Legends of Tomorrow), but I'm certainly glad that the fans who wanted this book got it.

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana TP

Collects the Katana half of the Deadshot/Katana miniseries. I was surprised to see Katana in Batman Eternal the other day since the character has little to do with him in this continuity (her inclusion being an artifact of what the writers remember from previous continuities). Hopefully the Suicide Squad movie will lead to the character being used better coming up.

Teen Titans: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

The contents here, for reference, are the same as Showcase Presents: Teen Titans (minus Brave and the Bold #83 and Teen Titans #19) and the Silver Age Teen Titans Archive Vols. 1-2 (except that also contained Teen Titans #20).

Titans Hunt TP

Obviously more and more important all the time, this volume collects the eight-issue miniseries that leads into "Rebirth."

So what's on your pull list? No "Rebirth" spoilers -- that's for another thread -- but how's your luck been avoiding those spoilers online?

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 4: Clay hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Gregg Hurwitz's Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 4: Clay is enjoyable, and for a reader wanting a continuity-light, back-to-basics Batman story (with just Alfred and Commissioner Gordon), this would be the book. The difficulty is that for ardent readers, other more tied-in Bat-books already just featured the characters Clayface and Man-Bat who appear here, and so Clay reads like unnecessary repetition. I like, especially, Hurwitz's writing of the interaction between the protagonists, but as always it's hard to call Dark Knight required reading.

[Review contains spoilers]

Clay collects Dark Knight #22-29, the final issues of the villain-focused series in the tradition of Shadow of the Bat and Gotham Knight. The first four issues are a Clayface story by Hurwitz and Alex Maleev, the next two an all-silent Penguin story with art by Alberto Ponticelli, and then a two-part Man-Bat story with art by Ethan Van Sciver.

Review: Gotham by Midnight Vol. 1: We Do Not Sleep trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's a shame, we already know, that DC Comics cancelled Gotham by Midnight after the second collection; it's a surprise a Bat-title didn't make it (perhaps this needed to be Batman: Gotham by Midnight), but so too of course goes Damian, Son of Batman and We Are Robin. In many respects Ray Fawkes's Gotham by Midnight Vol. 1: We Do Not Sleep is the Spectre title I always wanted to see, one whose focus is not God's spirit of vengeance but rather police detective Jim Corrigan. John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's Spectre was a superlative run on the title, but often dealt more in the metaphysical than the here and now; Fawkes's Midnight showed early signs of being the kind of gritty supernatural police procedural that fans of X-Files and Gotham Central could get behind.

Review: New Avengers: A.I.M. Vol. 1: Everything is New trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Ten years after it started, the New Avengers title has changed concepts several times. It's gone from the only Avengers title to the "street team" book before Jonathan Hickman made it the home of the Illuminati. As a result, it's fitting that Al Ewing, the writer of the similarly malleable-in-concept Mighty Avengers, has taken on the task of defining what the "new" really means for the team. Continuing on directly from the events of Time Runs Out and Secret Wars, the current run of New Avengers follows Sunspot as he operates AIM, which is now Avengers Idea Mechanics, in New Avengers: AIM Vol. 1: Everything is New.

Review: Batman Eternal Vol. 3 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, May 16, 2016

When all is said and done at the end of Batman Eternal Vol. 3, this has been a superlative weekly series for DC Comics. It's also an impressive achievement for Scott Snyder and company to have, in addition to ten volumes of acclaimed Batman work, also a fifty-two issue, three volume collection set that ties into the run but also stands well on its own. It's enough to make one wonder if single-character weekly series are the way to go, forgoing these large-scale weeklies like 52 and Futures End for something more focused and intimate, insofar as Batman Eternal can be considered such.

Best among the third volume of Batman Eternal is how the writers ramp up sticking the book's mystery to the readers. Most people probably had the culprit in their top three guesses, but there's a great air of a whodunit being worked out. And the book's penultimate red herring is fantastic; even if I knew "who," I never saw the "how" coming. This volume also offers significant spotlight on the younger members of the Bat-family -- Red Robin, Harper Row, and Spoiler Stephanie Brown -- each of whom come off charmingly, such to make me eager for James Tynion's forthcoming "young Gotham"-centric "Rebirth" Detective Comics. Also, unusual for a weekly book, the art here is almost uniformly excellent throughout.

Review: Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War trade paperback (IDW/DC Comics)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Some time ago I read the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation crossovers with the X-Men. Those were fairly ill fits; though I haven't read it, I imagine Star Trek/Planet of the Apes makes considerable more sense than Wolverine on the bridge of the Enterprise. But being primarily a DC Comics reader, the incompatibility of Star Trek and superheroes makes me no less eager for DC to get their own turn.

I'd be happy to see Superman sitting in Captain Kirk's chair, but I recognize there's not much to justify it; the closest we might come to sense is indeed what we have here from DC and IDW, Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War, and even this of course stretches things a bit. (I haven't read Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes and I'm overdue to do so.)

Review: Martian Manhunter Vol. 1: The Epiphany trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 09, 2016

I had some trepidation going into Martian Manhunter Vol. 1: The Epiphany. I'm not familiar with writer Rob Williams, and Eddy Barrows's art has unfortunately missed for me (Teen Titans, Superman) more often than it's hit (Nightwing). Also, the idea -- as suggested right up front in the "Divergence" short -- that Manhunter J'onn J'onzz's origins were an outright lie didn't sit right with me.

But in the end, I recommend this book almost unequivocally. Even as I don't necessarily like that Williams drastically changes J'onn's origins, Williams spins an exceptionally interesting tale that feels to me truly like a Martian Manhunter story. It's all too easy to populate a book with new supporting characters and go terribly wrong (see Lobo), but Williams gets it right. The cast is engaging, and moreover they're charming and funny; this is a book with sci-fi action but also with laughs, and also one that's set directly in the middle of the "Divergence"/"DC You" universe. I can give it no higher praise than to say I reached Epiphany's ending cliffhanger and immediately wanted to read more.

Review: Deadpool: World's Greatest Vol. 1: Millionaire With A Mouth trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Deadpool was curiously absent from Secret Wars. The only mini-series starring him, Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars, took place during the original 1980s story, while Gerry Duggan loosely continued his Deadpool run with the Shiklah-focused Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos. This absence is somewhat explained by Duggan and Brian Posehn killing off Deadpool and his entire supporting cast in the final issue of their first volume. Everyone is alive again in Deadpool: World's Greatest Vol. 1: Millionaire with a Mouth, but new responsibilities have drawn Wade's attention away from his wife, his daughter Ellie, and his other friends.