Review: Bedlam Vol. 1 trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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

One of the best Batman story concepts of the past few years was the Riddler going straight and becoming a private detective. While it was inevitable that Edward Nigma would eventually return to villainy, he was finally useful as Batman’s foil rather than his outright enemy. But the redemption coming from a brain injury always seemed a little forced. Nick Spencer and Riley Rossmo’s Bedlam is a deconstruction of some of the same ideas as the Riddler’s redemption, but with added twists: What if it was the Joker who became a hero, and what would he have to go through for that to happen? The answer to these questions is a creepy and clever riff on some old tropes.

Review: Batman Vol 5: Zero Year -- Dark City hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Between the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman: Earth One, and Gotham, it's not hard to tire of seeing Batman's origins these days, nor to suspect some elements -- the murder of the Waynes, Alfred's halting attempts to be a father to a traumatized Bruce -- of passing into cliche. To that end, it's no less than astounding that Scott Snyder in Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City manages to tell young Bruce Wayne stories that feel fresh and are also considerably moving (brought a tear to my eye in the third chapter, issue #27, you did, Mr. Snyder) -- and that's even leaving aside the rock 'em, sock 'em Batman adventure that frames those pieces.

If I had to choose, I'd say the second part of "Zero Year" is Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's best Batman volume yet.

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Taken on its own merits, Tom Taylor's Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age might be a passable alternative-DC-Universe title, if somewhat unremarkable among other superhero books and maybe a tinge too similar to the author's and others' works. But what's truly disheartening here is that in the five issues of Dark Age, Taylor takes what was the New 52's answer to a Justice Society title and transforms it into another Justice League title. An in-continuity Elseworlds title is interesting, but I can't get quite as enthused about it as I could when this was a "DC of yesteryear" book.

Review: Violator vs. Badrock: Rocks and Hard Places trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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

It’s a shame that trades rarely have forewords anymore. The opening to Violator vs. Badrock in particular is a fascinating look into Rob Liefeld’s mind. In it, Image executive and distribution expert Larry Marder tells of how the story was created: Liefeld was playing with toys of the Violator and Badrock and decided that it would make a cool comic. While there’s no proof that this is the case, I can only conclude that this was a storytelling technique that Liefeld lifted from Spaceballs. It’s clear that even Marder, the man who ran McFarlane Toys, is embarrassed with this origin as he instead veers to praise its author, The Original Writer (the author formerly known as Alan Moore).

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 3: Battle Cry hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's clear writer James Robinson is in his element in Earth 2 Vol. 3: Battle Cry, name-checking as he does obscure DC and even Quality Comics characters as he continues to build the world of Earth 2. In this, it's equally apparent the tragedy of this being Robinson's last volume on the series.

Those hoping for a clear conclusion of Robinson's run will be disappointed -- the book ends with a good cliffhanger, but nothing conclusive and no thematic wrap-up. Instead, much like Earth 2 Vol. 2: Tower of Fate, Robinson tells the story in his trademark fits and starts, weaving together four or five different storylines like a symphony -- one "tune" drops off over here, only to come rushing back a few issues later over there. Here, perhaps, we find the closure to Robinson's Earth 2 run, a volume that's as Robinson-esque as any that came before.

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 5: The Outsiders War trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's Green Arrow Vol. 5: The Outsiders War improves on their already-good Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. In some ways volume five is equally as revelatory as volume four, but the book's biggest surprise comes mid-way through, not at the end, such to make the story feel more balanced, less weighted down by character-changing information dumps, interesting as they are.

Outsiders War also uses the Batman: Zero Year tie-in better than a couple of the other books have. There's flashbacks aplenty in this volume, so the "Zero Year" issue fits right in, and serves to depict a seminal moment in Oliver Queen's life, with Batman's presence being mostly incidental. The tie-in connects directly to the "Outsiders War" storyline, and further it kicks off the good amount of fan service that Outsiders War offers Arrow fans (and later, long-time Green Arrow fans).

Review: Tarzan vs. Predator: At the Earth's Core trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

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

It’s a sad truth that the Dark Horse omnibuses, while extremely thorough, simply won’t be able to collect every single story that they would otherwise contain due to rights issues. One such overlooked story is Tarzan vs. Predator: At the Earth's Core. The rights to the Tarzan comic book license are complex due to difficulties with the public domain status of the novels as well as ownership by multiple publishers. In fact, Lord Greystoke has the unusual distinction of being in comics by Marvel and DC at different points. With Dark Horse expanding the Aliens vs. Predator franchise, I hope that they will take the chance to republish this trade paperback, because it’s truly excellent work.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Flesh hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Toward the end, Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman Vol 5: Flesh gets really interesting, even downright gripping. But, getting there has its highs and lows. I'm all for subtle storytelling, but I think Azzarello fails in clueing the reader in on the stakes of Wonder Woman's conflict, and that prevents the reader from really getting entrenched in the story.

Azzarello still writes Diana well, but character development takes too much a backseat to go-nowhere action plots here for my tastes (even if well-drawn by Cliff Chiang and Goran Sudzuka).

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Two, Vol. 1 feels, pleasantly, a bit smaller than the two "Year One" volumes that preceded it. There is, in contrast, one of Injustice's largest-scale battles here, and of course a gruesome death (because what would Injustice be without one?). But ultimately there are not as many storylines packed into this half as there have been in the others, and this has the result of making the start of "Year Two" feel less frenetic, more controlled, and therefore makes it easier for the reader to find their place in it.

Tom Taylor's Injustice books have improved with each volume, and Year Two Vol. 1 is the best, and most accessible, so far.

Review: Elephantmen: Mammoth Book 1 trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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

Richard Starkings is a rarity in the comic book world: a letterer who doubles as a highly-regarded writer (others include Stan Sakai and Chris Eliopoulos). After pioneering digital lettering with his Comicraft company, Starkings decided to make his own comics based on “Hip Flask," an anthropomorphic hippo he created for Comicraft advertisements. The Hip Flask series, in turn, gave rise to a much longer-running series about its world. Thus was born a bridge between American and European comics: Elephantmen. This first “Mammoth” edition collects the first two trades -- which are actually 00 and 01 -- and most of the third trade in a surprisingly affordable package. Most six-issue trades of Elephantmen cost thirty dollars, and Elephantmen: Mammoth collects three times that amount for the same price, making it an enticing entry point.