Review: Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Lest I gave the impression that I'm simply no fun with my review of Batgirl of Burnside, let me say I loved Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy.

Taking into consideration DC Comics's three new "Young Gotham" books, I've still got it give it to Grayson Vol. 1, largely due to that phenomenal Futures End tie-in issue, but Gotham Academy is a close second, with Batgirl (a fine title, don't get me wrong) bringing up the rear (and art-wise, Batgirl and Grayson would switch places).

And should you say, "You said Batgirl wasn't superhero-y enough for you, so why favor Gotham Academy, which is barely superhero-y at all," my reply would be, "Exactly." With Batgirl, there's a certain book I want to read, and while I admire many aspects of the new team's new approach to Batgirl, it remains that the book did not have quite the vibe I wanted. Whereas with Gotham Academy, I had no expectations, or at least, the expectations of a story about a creepy, ghostly school with strange goings-on behind every door. Gotham Academy is lush, visually rich, with a fully-realized world, and a story that feels significantly more like a novel than a collection of issues. I was quite pleased with this one.

Is Darkseid War the 2015 DC Comics crossover event?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the parlance of earlier times, let's mark this one with a yellow light, what say? I am not sure of this, I have no official word on it, just something I noticed that struck me as curious.

We all know about the "Darkseid War" storyline going on over in Justice League right? So it stands to reason that if Justice League Vol. 6: Injustice League collects Justice League #30-39, then Justice League Vol. 7 ought be the collection of the "Darkseid War" storyline that starts in issue #40, right?

Except there's a listing online right now for a book called DC Comics: Darkseid War.

Now again, I don't know anything specific, and these solicitations are always preliminary and maybe it's just a naming quirk, or maybe they're renaming the seventh volume of Justice League to reflect the story's stature, or something (and the book isn't that expensive, which suggests it's not an omnibus collection of line-wide titles like the Futures End: Five Years Later Omnibus).

But I would point you to the similarly-named DC Comics: Zero Year book, which collected issues that tied into the Batman: Zero Year story, and it seems to me maybe this is some indication that there are "Darkseid War" tie-ins on the way.

UPDATE: As shagmu points out (thanks, shag!), apparently Bleeding Cool respectfully informed us of "Darkseid War" one-shot tie-ins at an earlier juncture, but now we have a link to the inevitable collection.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Batgirl Vol 1: Batgirl of Burnside is most assuredly the Batgirl we needed. Whereas I can't fault Gail Simone for writing Batgirl stories that were gripping and therefore happened to tend toward the dark, if there was some lack of joy in the DC Comics New 52 universe then probably the Batgirl title was a straightforward place to bring it back. Certainly Babs Tarr draws a comic that looks like nothing else coming out of DC Comics, and that diversity of vision helps buoy the rest of the line along with it.

That said, while Burnside is a visual feast and I'll keep on with it because I'm interested in and want to support what Tarr and writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher are doing, in all this makes me nostalgic for Bryan Q. Miller's Stephanie Brown Batgirl series. Stewart and Fletcher tell a fine story, but it is purposefully more sitcom-ish and less specifically superheroic than the average superhero title, at least almost until the end. Not that there's anything wrong with that if that's your thing, but I'd prefer the scales tipped a bit more the other way -- a comic that's funny, basically light, but with more outright supervillains and vigilante-patrolling-of-the-streets, a la Miller's Batgirl, than Burnside necessarily offers.

Review: Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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

After a long opening arc, Carol Danvers spends Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly rocketing around on a variety of adventures. Joining her is Tic, the mysterious alien girl who put the previous arc into motion, and I suppose I should start off mentioning how much I dislike her continued appearance in this title. The Higher, Further, Faster, More trade introduced a cast of interesting aliens and the most annoying of them ended up traveling with Carol Danvers past that story. It’s a rare misfire for Kelly Sue DeConnick, who previously used the little girl Kit as an adorable side character. Tic (which I noticed is “Kit” backwards phonetically) is Space Jubilee when Carol needed Space Shadowcat instead.

Batman: Contagion and Legacy, Cassandra Cain: Batgirl, Azrael in new DC Comics solicitations

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bunch of exciting solicitations just appeared online, mainly coming out of the now-classic 1990s-2000s Batman eras, that I wanted to share because I know you'll be as excited as I am. Batman: Legacy/Contagion -- the long out of print Bat-crossovers finally get a new printing. Cassandra Cain: Batgirl Vol. 1, showing the first new Batgirl some love. And a collection of Dennis O'Neil's Azrael, one of my personal favorites. That and more -- go ahead and take a look. (Hat tip @FuzzyCactusPie.)

Batman: Legacy/Contagion

What a collection! And not a small one, either. Judging by the title, this is the 12-ish-part Contagion and the 10-ish-part Legacy, making for a big trade. (Yes, I know that despite the title, Contagion came first.) Contagion and Legacy, as good trade readers known, are two mid-1990s Bat-crossovers at the time in which Bat-family crossovers were an almost constant event. Contagion was about the first big Batman crossover after Knightfall, and then Legacy was followed by Cataclysm, which took us into No Man's Land. The villain of Legacy is, let's say, relevant right now, and both of the original collections of these crossovers have been out of print for a long time. This will make many trade readers very happy.

Cassandra Cain: Batgirl Vol. 1

Second only, of course. to what appears to be a new line of Batgirl trades, similar to the new line of Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Secret Six trades. The author of this collection is listed as Kelley Puckett; if I had to guess, I'd say this will be a new set of collections of the 2000s Batgirl series, collected but out of print; however, what would be really cool would be if this series also collected Cassandra Cain's No Man's Land appearances also written by Puckett (though maybe a double-dip for those who bought the No Man's Land collections).

Azrael Vol. 1

I expected we might see new Contagion and Legacy collections eventually. The Cassandra Cain: Batgirl collections are a surprise but not a shock. But I never expected a collection of Dennis O'Neil's Azrael series, ever. (My guess is I have Arkham Knight to thank for this.)

Most people know Azrael Jean Paul Valley as the eventual villain of Knightfall. Fewer, I think, picked up O'Neil's subsequent Azrael book, drawn at first by Barry Kitson. It was visually beautiful, but also O'Neil wrote an oddball series in which Valley traveled the world alongside a disgraced, alcoholic psychiatrist and a woman from Valley's Order of St. Dumas who had never been outside. It was weird, cleverly-written, and with well-choreographed action, and I still have a high opinion of it after all this time. The series faltered a bit when it became Azrael: Agent of the Bat, but I've even thought about revisiting those issues to see if I enjoy them any more now.

This is a really unexpected and worthwhile collection, and I hope you'll check it out.

Batman: Road to No Man's Land Vol. 2

We were just talking the other day about the first Road to No Man's Land collection, which will actually collect the post-Cataclysm "Aftershocks" stories. This should be Road to No Man's Land proper, where Bruce Wayne, not Batman, has to try to prevent No Man's Land via political routes (given that No Man's Land follows, you can take bets on his success). An equally exciting collection of some long-uncollected issues.

Deathstroke: The Terminator Vol. 2: Sympathy For The Devil

We actually knew about this second collection of the Marv Wolfman and talked about it before, but I can't believe I didn't realize that in addition to Deathstroke #10-13 (Superman crossover, brings the title close to a New Teen Titans crossover), this also has the first annual, which is an "Eclipso, the Darkness Within" tie-in. To my knowledge, that marks the only annual from the "Eclipso" event to be collected (I was thinking the Demon annual with Hitman qualified, but that's "Bloodlines," not "Eclipso").

Suicide Squad Vol. 2: The Nightshade Odssey

Also as I mentioned the other day, the long-cancelled second volume of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad does now seem to be back on the schedule.

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns Omnibus Vol. 3

I don't totally trust the contents for this book as listed because it seems to cut off the pre-Flashpoint Green Lantern series before its end, but includes the New 52 Green Lantern series. However, I bring this up because the contents also supposedly include the Larfleeze Christmas Special, which was not collected anywhere else and so would be exclusive to this omnibus if it makes it in.

Birds of Prey Vol. 2

This is listed as being written by Gail Simone, but unless something really funny happened, this should be the second new collection of the Chuck Dixon run. With no offense to Simone's superlative run, I'd be more excited about Dixon collections if only because Simone's were collected the first time around.

Catwoman Vol. 5

The next collection of the Will Pfeifer issues. The last collection included up to Catwoman #49; issues #50-52 haven't been collected before, and then issue #53 is where Catwoman trades picked up again after a long hiatus, since issue #24. If this trade basically follows what's already collected, it would be The Replacements, to issue #58, or It's Only a Movie, to issue #65.

The rest of these on the list were ones we either already knew about that happened to hit my radar again, or are pretty self-explanatory collections of new "DC You" series, but I list them here for your information. Find more details on some of these in our recent rundown of DC Trade Solicitations for October/November 2015 and also the massive list of DC Comics's Fall 2015 Trades.

Aquaman Vol. 7
Black Canary Vol. 1
Catwoman Vol. 7
Deathstroke Vol. 2
Earth 2: Society Vol. 1
Green Arrow Vol. 4: Blood of the Dragon
JLA: Gods and Monsters
Martian Manhunter Vol. 1
New Suicide Squad Vol. 2
Nightwing Vol. 3
Omega Men Vol. 1
Sinestro Vol. 3
Starfire Vol. 1
Superman: Secret Identity Deluxe Edition
Swamp Thing Vol. 7

Review: Demon Knights Vol. 3: The Gathering Storm trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Plenty of New 52 series that began very well unfortunately didn't finish as strongly due to the necessities of abrupt endings or departing creative teams -- Batwoman, Batwing, and I, Vampire are all examples. In comparison, while Demon Knights Vol. 3: The Gathering Storm shows a little bit of wear in the finale, it is by and large very good throughout. Even in the changeover in creative teams from Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves to Robert Venditti and Bernard Chang, the book remains so tonally consistent that the reader might barely even notice (something that couldn't be said, for instance, about Batwing).

At ten issues, Gathering Storm recaptures the sweeping, epic feel of the first volume. Fans of the old Dungeons & Dragons or Dragonlance novels that passed this series by the first time would do well to give it another look.

DC Trade Solicitations for October/November 2015 - Convergence, Batman: Road to No Man's Land, Birds of Prey, Secret Six

Friday, June 19, 2015

Obviously the big headline for DC Comics's October/November 2015 hardcover and trade paperback collection releases (posted June 2015) are the Convergence collections. And with eight out of nine of them in paperback, there's almost no waiting -- this is the format almost every trade-waiter is going to pick up. I'm really excited to get my hands on these come October.

Plenty of other good things in this month. That we see Batman: Road to No Man's Land, War Games, Birds of Prey, and Secret Six collections all in the same month should suggest to any ardent trade-waiter that the state of DC trades is pretty healthy right now, or at least healthier than it's been. Road to No Man's Land has some issues we've been waiting forever to see collected; the new Birds of Prey trade is on its way to collect never-collected Chuck Dixon issues; and Gail Simone's Secret Six gets its due respect in these reprints. Good news, all.

Let's dig in and see what else we've got:

Convergence HC

The centerpiece of the Convergence collections but the least notable in terms of contents, this book collects issues #0-8 as expected.

Convergence: Zero Hour Book One TP
Convergence: Zero Hour Book Two TP

Arriving the same week as the Convergence collection, on October 7, the first Zero Hour book collects Justice League International, Catwoman, Superboy, Green Arrow and Suicide Squad. I only just got this, but weirdly Suicide Squad is a Convergence title without a series antecedent because there wasn't a Suicide Squad title at that time; instead this just brings together relevant villains of that time period.

The second Zero Hour book collects Superman: Man of Steel, Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Supergirl: Matrix, Aquaman, and Green Lantern/Parallax. I don't dismiss the first volume but you can't beat Steel and the Matrix Supergirl in the second.

Convergence: Crisis Book One TP
Convergence: Crisis Book Two TP

I still find it weird that it seems the Convergence collections are being released in a different order than the original release weeks. Anyway, the first Crisis collection includes Batman and the Outsiders, Adventures of Superman, Green Lantern Corps, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Hawkman. Second volume is Flash, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, Swamp Thing and New Teen Titans. Book Two wins the week again for me.

Convergence: Flashpoint Book One TP
Convergence: Flashpoint Book Two TP

Probably the collections I'm most looking forward to are the Flashpoint collections. Sure there's some great characters to revisit in Zero Hour, but from "our" perspective we didn't lose them in Zero Hour but rather they continued on (you can even say that, after a fashion, about the Legion of Super-Heroes). But these characters were gone-gone after Flashpoint, and I'm excited to see them again.

Book One is Superman, Question, Batgirl, Nightwing/Oracle and Justice League. Book Two is Atom, Speed Force, Titans, Batman and Robin, and Harley Quinn. Plenty I want to read in Book Two, but I've got to give it to Book One there.

Convergence: Infinite Earths Book One TP
Convergence: Infinite Earths Book Two TP

Infinite Earths Book One collects Justice Society of America, Infinity Inc., Detective Comics, World’s Finest Comics and Action Comics; Book Two collects Shazam!, Blue Beetle, Crime Syndicate, Booster Gold and Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters. Interested in Justice Society and Infinity Inc., though the Justice Society isn't really my (pre-Flashpoint) Justice Society, and surely Book Two's Booster Gold book rules the week.

Batman: Road to No Man's Land Vol. 1 TP

As I've recounted elsewhere, I've wanted a Road to No Man's Land collection for a while, and the contents of this book are even better. This is actually a collection of the "Aftershock" stories that came before "Road to No Man's Land" (which preceded No Man's Land itself), so we're getting even more than I hoped, assuming it sells enough for the second volume. This is Batman #555-559 (with an appearance from the New Blood Ballistic, there's a throwback for you) by Doug Moench; Shadow of the Bat #75-79 by Alan Grant with art by Mark Buckingham; Detective Comics #722-726 by Chuck Dixon; Robin #54 also by Dixon; and Batman Chronicles #14.

Detective #723 collected here, by the way, is part of the "Brotherhood of the Fist" crossover with Green Arrow, Robin, and Nightwing, which we've reviewed here before as an "Uncollected Edition." Unfortunately the whole thing isn't collected and I'm not sure how just one piece of it will read in this trade, but I'd rather DC collects it than skips it.

Batman: War Games Vol. 1 TP

This volume collects the whole of the previous Batman: War Drums and Batman: War Games: Act 1: Outbreak collections. The Batman: Murderer/Fugitive trades were ground-breaking because they cut-and-pasted the various issues into a cohesive whole, for one, and for two, included the Fugitive Vol. 3 collection that served no other purpose than to be an epilogue to the first two books, when previously collections only collected the event itself and that was it. The "War Games" collections built on this trend with the War Drums collection that served as prologue to "War Games," the three War Games trades, and then the epilogue trade War Crimes. As this new volume collects the first two of five in this set, it remains to be seen whether the next volume will collect the last three trades, or if there's two additional new trades coming.

Birds of Prey Vol. 1 TP

According to DC's solicitations, at least, this collects all the Birds of Prey miniseries by Chuck Dixon that lead into the ongoing series, but no issues of the ongoing series itself. That means this book collects the issues in the first Birds of Prey collection and then also part but not all of Old Friends, New Enemies. Dixon's run on Birds of Prey was not collected past Old Friends (which collected up to issue #6), so it'll be a nice addition to DC's list if stories now start to see print with the next collection.

Secret Six Vol. 3 TP

Collects the two previous Secret Six trades Vol 3: Danse Macabre and Vol. 4: Cats in the Cradle. One more collection of two volumes to finish out these new collections of the Gail Simone series.

Blackest Night Unwrapped Deluxe Edition HC

Obviously these Unwrapped pencils-only collections must be selling well since DC keeps releasing them. If someone out there has bought one, I'd be curious to have you chime in to talk about what the value is to you. Are you an artist and this is a learning tool? Big fan of the artist in question's work? I don't dispute there's a difference between an artist's original pencils and the inked version; I guess I'm just surprised there's that big of an audience for these, but I could certainly be mistaken.

• Catwoman: A Celebration of 75 Years HC

Simply glad to see Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke's names attached to this, such that this will include, for me at least, the best era of Catwoman that there's ever been.

Justice League: A League of One TP

Nice to have both of Christopher Moeller's painted Justice League stories in one volume. Rather surprised this isn't being presented deluxe.

Batman and Robin Vol. 7: Robin Rises HC

Collects the final issues of Batman and Robin before Convergence, #35-40, plus Robin Rises: Alpha, the Annual #3, the Futures End story, and a Secret Origins story.

Earth 2 Vol. 6: Collision HC

Earth 2 coincides with the World's End weekly series beginning with this volume.

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Casualties of War HC

First collection of the Peter Tomasi/Doug Mahnke run. Some of my favorite creators; could not be more excited for this one.

Got a Convergence collection week you're most excited about? Another pick on this list? Give a shout out in the comments section and let me know.

Review: Batwing Vol. 5: Into the Dark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In deference to this title -- a notable element of the New 52, if not always successful -- I am pleased that Batwing Vol 5: Into the Dark is a trend upward for the series, even if the volume is still largely unsuccessful. As the title suggests, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take the usually-upbeat Batwing into darker emotional territory this time around; that's unfortunate, because the lack of tragedy was what differentiated this Batwing from the rest of the Bat-family, but it does mean that the conflicts in Dark affects Batwing's life to a greater extent than those in the last book. That gives us a story that really matters to Batwing, and in that way it matters to the audience as well.

Review: Marvel 1602 hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

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

Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert's Marvel 1602 stands out as the best "What If?" story by not really being a "What If?" in the first place. This isn't a case of the Watcher pondering what life would be like had the Age of Marvels begun four hundred years earlier. It's instead a rare case of the main 616 timeline getting modified in a destructive and bizarre way, setting up a core mystery that Gaiman can build a world around. I found this to be a great change of pace compared to the many stories -- Powers, Watchmen, Old Man Logan -- centered on a murder investigation to explore their world.

Review: Grayson Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Honestly, when I read the first two full issues collected in Grayson Vol. 1: Agent of Spyral, I wondered what all the fuss was about. This was clearly a better-than-average comic book, and writers Tim Seeley and Tom King were doing a fine job with their portrayal of former Nightwing Dick Grayson, but it wasn't a book I was falling over myself for.

But oh, that third issue. And then the Futures End tie-in issue, which I'm going to predict now will be the very best Futures End tie-in issue I read, quite beside the fact that it's a fantastic issue all on its own.

I had concerns about Grayson when I finished reading Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son. I do not have concerns about Grayson any more. At just four regular issues plus a Secret Origins story and the Futures End issue, the only flaw in Grayson Vol. 1: Agent of Spyral is that it's over too quick, and now we're left waiting six months before we can get our hands on the next volume.