Review: Star Wars: Shattered Empire trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Greg Rucka is one of my favorite comics writers, so the idea of a Star Wars: The Force Awakens prequel written by Rucka had a lot of draw for me. But while Star Wars: Shattered Empire (technically Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire) has its moments -- especially when Rucka, who excels in strong female characters, gets his hands on Princess Leia -- it falls short in what it seemed to promise. There is a big tie to Force Awakens, to be sure, but it's a tie really in name only -- it reveals nothing and really matters not to Force Awakens itself. I'd also argue that the four-issue miniseries is structurally unsound, reaching its crescendo in the third part and then petering out in the fourth, such that I was left at the end wondering if that was truly all there was to it.
Collected Editions 2015 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy trade paperback (Boom! Studios)

Thursday, February 04, 2016

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

This review has been in the pipeline for a long time. When I was picking books for Indie-Pendence Month last July, I made sure to concentrate on independent books that had or deserved a wider acceptance. I added Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy to the list after news broke of an upcoming television adaptation. After not liking GI Joe: Cobra, a cult favorite, it’s with both that regret and not a small amount of fear that I make this admission: I really didn’t like Lumberjanes either.

Review: Sinestro Vol. 2: Sacrifice trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 01, 2016

On one hand, I like much of the character work that Cullen Bunn does in Sinestro Vol. 2: Sacrifice. On the other hand, I found aspects of the plot mundane, not wholly different than my reaction to Bunn's Lobo, and that would make me slow to pick up the next volume. This book uses the aftermath of the Green Lantern "Godhead" crossover better, surprisingly, than most of the other titles in the franchise, but the story is so slow and padded that to some extent I feel disrespected as a reader.

[Review contains spoilers]

Sinestro Vol. 2: Sacrifice does not stand on its own very well in its "Godhead" aspects, with significant jumps between its three issues. It does, however, link pretty well with Green Lantern Corps Vol. 6: Reckoning, and together those two books could be read somewhat on their own (if not perfectly). What Sacrifice does have going for it is that each "Godhead" issue deals with the New God Bekka and Sinestro's interest in her. The second issue is very strong, both with their cat-and-mouse sparring, almost flirting, and art by Green Lantern stalwart Ethan Van Sciver.

DC Trade Solicitations for April/May/June 2016 - Wonder Woman by Deodato, Grell Green Arrow Vol. 5, Supergirl by Peter David

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Not a whole lot on DC Comics's first hardcover and trade paperback collection releases of the year, for April/May/June of 2016 (posted January 2016), but I did note a couple of collections I'd like to pick up. Larger collections of some notable 1990s-2000s Wonder Woman and Supergirl stories are always welcome, and also I'm thrilled the Mike Grell Green Arrow collections have continued (and the more there are, the more tempted I am to pick them up).

At the writing of this, no idea what "Rebirth" is supposed to be, but I'm reminded of something I wrote the last time this happened ...

Let's take a look at the solicits:

Batman: War Games Vol. 2 TP

Said to be a new edition of Batman: War Games Vol. 2 -- and these new printings of the 1990s-2000s Batman crossovers have relatively faithfully added or expanded new material -- but for the most the contents of this as solicited seem to match the original War Games Vol. 2 pretty much exactly.

Catwoman Vol. 5: Backward Masking TP

Continuing the reprint of the 2000s Catwoman series, this is a smidgen of the Will Pfeifer run that's never been collected before (issues #50-52), and then the Replacements and It's Only a Movie collections. The sexual politics in this run are a little troubling though it's enjoyable overall; however, I recall it reaches its peak about here or the next volume and the end is more generic Catwoman heist stories.

Grayson Vol. 3: Nemesis TP

Collects Grayson #9-12, the first annual, and the story from Convergence: Hawkman. Three trades in and only 12 issues feels a bit slow; I'd have liked to see up to issue #12 by the second trade perhaps.

Green Arrow Vol. 5: The Black Arrow TP

Continuing the Mike Grell collections. This one has some interesting callbacks to Longbow Hunters and also appearances by prominent Arrow characters (in original form). So glad these collections are proceeding; one of these days I'm just going to do a read-through of this whole thing.

Harley Quinn Vol. 4: A Call to Arms HC

I've liked the irreverent Harley Quinn series more and more with each volume, though the third volume was just three regular issues, albeit with a very good annual and two holiday specials. I was eager for the fourth volume, said to collect eight regular issues and a special. As solicited now, however, it's just five issues and a special; that's not bad but it's less than I'd hoped.

Supergirl Book One TP

As a couple people have pointed out to me online, the fact that this says "Book One" now is a good sign that maybe DC will collect more of this beyond Peter David's initial issues with Gary Frank and into Leonard Kirk and etc. Which only makes sense given Supergirl's current prominence. This basically follows the original collection of this material -- issues #1-9 and Showcase '98 -- but now also includes a "Legends of the Dead Earth" annual with stories by Chuck Dixon, Barbara and Karl Kesel, and others, and the Supergirl Plus team-up with Mary Marvel by David.

More than the "earth angel" material that would come later, these first nine issues are an interesting set-up for a Supergirl series, essentially a Buffy the Vampire Slayer/"evil things going on in town" kind of story that would probably appeal to today's audiences. At the same time, what DC is waiting on to release a big omnibus edition of Sterling Gates's Supergirl, I don't know, given it's about as close to the TV series as anything in DC's arsenal right now.

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 4: Dark Truth HC

Includes issues #18-24 and the sneak peek story from Convergence: The Flash.

Wonder Woman by Mike Deodato TP

I still find this an oddly-titled collection, being essentially a combination of Wonder Woman: The Contest and Challenge of Artemis with one other issue thrown in, being so much more than just an artist showcase book, but whatever gets people in the door.

The #100 issue of Wonder Woman's post-Crisis series collected here, by the way, fell at the same time as a number of other new post-Crisis series, including Superman, Flash, and Green Arrow, at least, if I remember correctly, and DC did a special cover dress for them all (maybe Justice League, too?). The Wonder Woman story, though Deodato's art is heavily of the 1990s era, was enjoyable with some twists to it; the Flash story of the time was "Terminal Velocity," one of Mark Waid's many good ones from that era.

What are you thinking of buying? What is a "Rebirth," anyway?

Review: Red Lanterns Vol. 6: Forged in Blood trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 25, 2016

After two stellar volumes under writer Charles Soule, I'd heard talk that Red Lanterns Vol. 6: Forged in Blood wasn't up to the same level. I was glad to find that wasn't the case, and that Forged in Blood is a satisfying end to this once-troubled-but-ultimately-redeemed title. Soule handles the three-part crossover with the Green Lantern "Godhead" event, and then Landry Q. Walker comes on for another three issues -- some horror, some funny, some superheroics -- before Soule wraps things up with a Futures End tie-in. Both writers do well by the title's hero Guy Gardner, and additionally Soule acquits well Green Lantern Simon Baz. All three of Soule's Red Lantern volumes come highly recommended.

Review: Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned Book Three ebook novel (Pocket Books)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

If we might judge the entire ebook miniseries by Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned's Book III, then the endeavor has been a rousing success. If the second book seemed perhaps to tread lightly, the third book rebounds with all the action and moral complexity that makes Peter David's New Frontier series so appealing. For me David tied up enough of the story's threads and only hinted at the future in a way that New Frontier feels complete to me if there's no more to follow, but I'd also still be happy to read additional books in the future.

[Review contains spoilers]

I felt Returned Book II was too obvious in its good guys and bad guys and in the direction the story would go, up to and including that in the story's final pages, Excalibur Captain Mackenzie Calhoun violently beats but does not kill the man who wiped out Calhoun's entire Xenexian race. As I said before, obviously beating someone to death is not conduct becoming of a Starfleet officer, but what's always been a joy of David's New Frontier is its willingness to push the boundaries, often violently, of what's allowed in traditional Trek (especially at times, during New Frontier's almost twenty-year history, when televised Trek has been particularly toothless). Calhoun killing the D'myurj Sulentus would have been wrong, but it would have also been interesting.

Entry Plug: Dorohedoro Vol. 1 paperback (VIZ Media)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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

I'm a squeamish viewer when it comes to most media, which is why I'm still surprised that I enjoy Japanese body horror manga so much. Sights that would repulse me in an American comic are somehow fine by me as long as they're in black and white on a smaller page. Some of this goes back to my favorite manga, Bio-Boosted Armor Guyver, an entire superhero franchise based on terrifying bodily contortions. Following in this vein, I found Dorohedoro in a sale on Comixology and thought it held a similar appeal. It's the brainchild of Q Hayashida and, having ended not too long ago, will hopefully make its way to animation in the next few seasons.

Review: Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 6: Storming the Gates trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Justin Jordan's New Guardians has been a largely charming sci-fi romp. If for instance Green Lantern Corps did not end its New 52 run as strongly as it started, New Guardians has been as good if not better than the Tony Bedard run that preceded it, again with Jordan's heavy planet-of-the-week sci-fi aesthetic. We get another of those in Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 6: Storming the Gates's closing three issues, after the "Godhead" crossover, and it's a satisfying (if slightly chaotic) end to the series. Jordan also resolves this book's problematic romantic triangle in an equally satisfactory form.

Review: Ragnarok Vol. 1: Last God Standing Standing hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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

A post-apocalyptic tale of a classic Marvel hero ... sort of. Since it began, I've semi-seriously claimed that Walter Simonson's Ragnarok is a covert Secret Wars tie-in. Simply edit this book's Thor into some of the crowd scenes in Secret Wars and Thors and the illusion would be complete. It has the feel of other tie-ins like Old Man Logan and Future Imperfect, which were set in versions of the Marvel Universe gone wrong. On the other hand, Simonson has the ability to go off in his own direction after Ragnarok Vol. 1: Last God Standing by maintaining the book's own continuity.

Review: Green Lantern Corps Vol. 6: Reckoning trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Here at the end of the New 52 Green Lantern Corps, I remain fascinated by this title. Under Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, as you've heard me say ad nauseum, Corps was one of my favorite titles, and it's been less so with Van Jensen, Bernard Chang, and colorist Marcelo Maiolo. At the same time, I recognize there's strength in Chang and Maiolo's work on this title, and the story Jensen presents in Green Lantern Corps Vol. 6: Reckoning is interesting for John Stewart fans, if not possibly maddening too.

I liked the Green Lantern "Godhead" crossover overall, though Reckoning by itself offers a lesser reading experience than Green Lantern Vol. 6: The Life Equation. That book can more or less be read on its own, while Reckoning lacks both "Godhead"'s starting chapter (found only in the Godhead trade proper) and also the Green Lantern Annual conclusion. This book devotes three issues to "Godhead" and then does tell a full concluding three-issue story, but I'm skeptical anyone would want to read this for "Godhead" without also at least Green Lantern and also the Sinestro issues.