Review: Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 graphic novel (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I have been a fan of DC Comics's Earth One books from the beginning. I like the format (a trade-waiters dream, no waiting!) and I have liked the edgier, riskier takes on DC's Big Two characters that J. Michael Straczynski and Geoff Johns have submitted so far. But I'm not sure I've liked an Earth One quite as much as Jeff Lemire and Terry Dodson's Teen Titans: Earth One.

It is not just that Lemire's Teen Titans feels like the first Earth One without something to prove -- telling a good story, not necessarily making a writer's mark on a character -- though this certainly helps. It is also how recognizable and at the same time new that Lemire's Titans characters are, such to make one wistful, for a moment, that this wasn't what DC used as the New 52 iteration of the Titans. And the sheer breadth of Titans references that Lemire brings to the book -- especially Marv Wolfman/George Perez Titans-era references -- will charm any Titans fan, even as the book remains accessible enough for the uninitiated or fans only of the cartoons and not the classic comics series.

Review: Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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

Carol Danvers has been in the press a lot in the last few weeks and that will likely continue for the next four years until the Captain Marvel movie is finally released. The movie is the payoff for years of fan support, allaying any fears that Carol would return to being Ms. Marvel or that the title would be cancelled any time soon.

The All-New Marvel NOW! initiative relaunched the Captain Marvel title with the same writer and used a change in setting as an excuse for the new #1 (collecting these new first issues in Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More), in the same way that Daredevil was relaunched after a move to San Francisco. I won’t give Marvel too much criticism for this relaunch since there really is a shift in the title’s paradigm; specifically, Carol has become an interstellar adventurer.

DC Comics Convergence: Guide to What to Read Before: Week Two

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's Week Two of our special Convergence feature, where we look at what DC Comics trade paperbacks and collections lead in to the various Convergence miniseries that DC has announced this week.

Last week focused on titles that ended immediately preceding Flashpoint (and saw those characters battling the Flashpoint characters); this week offers Zero Hour-era characters fighting Kingdom Come characters (with Kingdom Come having come out just a couple years after Zero Hour). (It's 40 miniseries, if I'm not mistaken, of which we already know 20 titles. Seems to me we should expect Crisis on Infinite Earths-era titles next, and then maybe Silver Age? Elseworlds?)

Something interesting I'm coming to find in writing up these lists is that it illuminates how well or spottily each era of DC Comics has been collected. Pre-Flashpoint, we see most series have extensive collections; pre-Zero Hour, titles like Green Arrow, Aquaman, Steel, and Superboy all lack significant collections. If DC were to turn next to just-post-Crisis on Infinite Earth titles (like Legends-era John Byrne Superman, Year One Batman, George Perez Wonder Woman, all of which would be really cool), we'll see a lot of collections for the offering; if the era is just-pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, those collection numbers drop considerably.

We'll start off with a little background:

Kingdom Come
Kingdom

Everything you need to know about Kingdom Come you can find within Mark Waid and Alex Ross's imaginative generational tale of the DC Universe's future. I maintain there's some nice character beats in DC's Ross-less sequel ("Kathy?"), though it's not universally well-regarded and my guess is that Convergence will stick with Kingdom Come proper. And now on to this week's titles ...

• Batman: Shadow of the Bat (Larry Hama)

What to read:
Batman: Sword of Azrael
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 2
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 3

Shadow of the Bat was a 1990s in-continuity Batman series, but built from smaller multi-part arcs that were often darker or more psychological than the regular Bat-fare. (The series was to some extent replaced after No Man's Land by Gotham Knight, which served something of the same function with an emphasis on the Bat-family.) Convergence: Shadow of the Bat seems to take place firmly in the Knightfall era of Shadow, roughly issues #16-30, though the first issues of the series are collected in the unrelated Batman: The Last Arkham collection.

For interactions specifically between Batmans Bruce Wayne and Jean-Paul Valley as covered in Convergence: Shadow of the Bat, one will want to consult the Knightfall books or Batman: Sword of Azrael that introduced Jean-Paul Valley.

• Suicide Squad (Frank Tieri)

What to read:
Suicide Squad: Trial by Fire

This iteration of the Suicide Squad ended a couple years before the Zero Hour era of this week's Convergence books, and what it's related to will probably be largely based on what villains are involved when this book comes out. However, there is one collection of the classic 1980s-1990s Suicide Squad series by John Ostrander that would pre-date Convergence: Suicide Squad; Ostrander also penned a Suicide Squad miniseries many years later, Suicide Squad: From the Ashes.

• Green Arrow (Christy Marx)

What to read:
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time
Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse

Little of the Zero Hour-era Green Arrow material is collected; DC has recently begun collecting the early issues of this series by Mike Grell, but not those by Chuck Dixon and especially not the stories of Green Arrow Oliver Queen's son Connor Hawke. Queen plays a pivotal-enough role in Zero Hour itself that I've included it; the closest other collected issue of this time is Green Arrow #101 in the multi-era Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse collection, which took place about ten issues after Zero Hour but did involve Hawke.

• Catwoman (Justin Gray)

What to read:
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 2
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 3
Catwoman: The Catfile

The Jim Balent era of Catwoman (written by a number of writers but drawn by Balent) is also largely uncollected. For specifically pre-Zero Hour material, one would have to look again to the Catwoman issues within the Knightfall books, specifically the second and third volumes. The stories in Catwoman: The Catfile took place right after Zero Hour (Catwoman's involvement in Zero Hour was tertiary at best).

Post-Zero Hour, issues of this specific Catwoman series can be found in the Batman crossover books, Contagion, Legacy, Cataclysm, and No Man's Land.

• Superboy (Fabian Nicieza)
• Superman: Man of Steel (Louise Simonson)

What to read:
Superman: Death and Return of Superman Omnibus

Neither the Superboy or Steel series that emerged post-Zero Hour have been collected, so for both of these characters a reader's only resource is their appearances in the "Return of Superman" storyline. Note the Convergence: Superboy solicitation contains an anachronism in that Superboy wouldn't be called "Kon-El" until many years later.

• Justice League International (Ron Marz)

What to read:
Justice League International Vol. 1
Justice League International Vol. 2
Justice League International Vol. 3
Justice League International Vol. 4
Justice League International Vol. 5
Justice League International Vol. 6

The Keith Giffen/JM Dematteis/Kevin Maguire "bwa-ha-ha" era of Justice League ended well before Zero Hour, so this, too, seems like something of an anachronism; as well, Red Tornado was not appearing regularly during that time and wouldn't be until the Primal Force series after Zero Hour. But, those wanting to catch up with the pre-Zero Hour adventures of this Justice League can do so (and have a good time, to boot) in DC's Justice League International collections from a couple years back (sadly never completed).

• Supergirl: Matrix (Keith Giffen)

What to read:
Superman: Panic in the Sky
Superman: They Saved Luthor's Brain

DC hasn't yet collected the original John Byrne Superman issues that introduced the "Matrix" iteration of Supergirl (almost, but not quite), but she does figure prominently into the classic Superman trades Panic in the Sky and They Saved Luthor's Brain prior to Zero Hour. Some time after Zero Hour, this Supergirl (modified again) had her own series by Peter David, of which the first issues are collected in Supergirl and the very last issues are collected in Supergirl: Many Happy Returns.

• Aquaman (Tony Bedard)

What to read:
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

In keeping with the theme, there are no collections of the Peter David-written Aquaman series. Another anachronism, Aquaman is shown in the solicitation image with his hook hand, but he actually didn't get it until after Zero Hour. A reader's best bet is just the Zero Hour collection, which includes minor appearances by a hand-less Aquaman.

• Green Lantern/Parallax (Tony Bedard)

What to read:
Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight/New Dawn
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time

What with Ron Marz's involvement elsewhere in Convergence, it seems rather a shame DC doesn't have him writing Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax, which takes place right smack in the middle of Marz's Green Lantern run. Irrespective, Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight: New Dawn chronicles the fall of Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the rise of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, leading right in to Zero Hour, where both Hal and Kyle factor prominently (here, too, exactly how the Convergence events fit in with Zero Hour and Hal and Kyle's first meeting should be interesting). Another major Hal/Kyle storyline, well after Zero Hour, is Final Night.

Check out my previous weeks' Convergence Reading Guide features, and check back here next week for my run-down of the books to come.

Week One

Review: Batman/Superman Vol. 2: Game Over hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Batman/Superman Vol 2: Game Over, Greg Pak once again writes another volume that evokes well the spirit of the now-classic Jeph Loeb team-up series. Even when the book is too flip in places, it's impossible not to see the influence of the Loeb series all over this, from storylines to villains to narration, and I have no problem with Pak giving us more of what we love. Artist Jae Lee shines brightly as always, and though Brett Booth is a jarring addition after Lee's first volume, it's hard to miss the similarities between Booth on this title and Ed McGuinness before, so precedent resounds.

DC Comics Convergence: Guide to What to Read Before: Week One

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the two-month break in which DC Comics moves their offices from New York to California, they've recently announced they'll publish Convergence, a nine-part miniseries with forty two-part companion miniseries, spanning April and May 2015.

This past Tuesday, DC released details on the first ten of these two-part miniseries, all of which will venture into different parts of DC's publishing history (or "multiverse," as it's often called in-story). The ten announced so far each deal with DC's continuity and characters immediately prior to the Flashpoint event that launched the New 52 reboot.

Each week, this series of posts will look at where we last left these characters, and what trade paperbacks or collections you can pick up to bring you up to speed on them. If, in essence, you wanted to read the character's last published appearance, collection-wise, before you read their Convergence miniseries, this is your guide how to do so.

• Superman (Dan Jurgens)

What to read:
Superman: Grounded Vol. 1
Superman: Grounded Vol. 2

Superman: The Black Ring Vol. 1
Superman: The Black Ring Vol. 2

Superman: Return of Doomsday
Superman: Reign of Doomsday

The Convergence: Superman miniseries, according to solicitations, involves the pre-Flashpoint married Superman and Lois Lane, now expecting their first child. Lois's pregnancy happened "off the page" after we left these characters, but there was some emphasis on Clark and Lois's relationship toward the end of Paul Cornell's Reign of Doomsday and to some extent in Grounded, too.

The absolute last place we saw the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois was in Reign of the Doomsday, but the two-volume Grounded, Black Ring, and Doomsday books make up the larger "last Superman" stories between Blackest Night and Flashpoint (depending on how much you want to read).

The DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline, by the way, lists the reading order for these books as Grounded Vol. 1, Black Ring Vol. 1, Grounded Vol. 2, Return of Doomsday, Black Ring Vol. 2, Reign of Doomsday.

Readers wanting even more can find some consideration of Clark and Lois having children in Geoff Johns's Superman: Last Son.

• Atom (Tom Peyer)

What to read:
All New Atom: My Life in Miniature
All New Atom: Future/Past
All New Atom: The Hunt for Ray Palmer
All New Atom: Small Wonder

Titans: Villains for Hire
Titans: Family Reunion

Writer Tom Peyer has some experience with the Atom Ray Palmer, penning two Atom specials in the 1990s, but unfortunately these aren't collected. Convergence: Atom deals with Palmer learning that his Atom successor Ryan Choi actually isn't dead, and they hunt down his supposed killer, Deathstroke. Readers who just want the bare bones of when Choi died should pick up Titans Vol. 4: Villains for Hire. The All-New Atom books, however, involve Choi and Palmer's first meetings, and Titans Vol. 5: Old Friends sees Palmer chasing Deathstroke to avenge Choi's death. The very final issues of Titans, however, weren't collected.

Note too that Arsenal Roy Harper, featured in Convergence: Titans, was also a character in this latest Titans title; Donna Troy and Starfire, also in Convergence: Titans, were involved in James Robinson's Justice League (see below).

• Batgirl (Alisa Kwitney)

What to read:
Red Robin: The Grail
Red Robin: Collision
Red Robin: Hit List
Red Robin: Seven Days of Death

Batman, Incorporated Vol. 1
Batman: Gates of Gotham

Batgirl: Batgirl Rising
Batgirl: The Flood
Batgirl: The Lesson

In the main Batgirl Stephanie Brown's final pre-Flashpoint appearance was in Batgirl Vol. 3: The Lesson, but if one hasn't read all of Bryan Miller's superlative series, you really should. Red Robin (former Robin) Tim Drake and Black Bat (former Batgirl) Cassandra Cain also both appear in Convergence: Batgirl, and their most recent appearances are above.

The DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline suggests this reading order for Red Robin and Batgirl, which intersect: Red Robin Vol. 1, Batgirl Vol. 1, Red Robin Vol. 2, Batgirl Vol. 2, Red Robin Vol. 3, Batgirl Vol. 3, Red Robin Vol. 4.

• Nightwing/Oracle (Gail Simone)

What to read:
Nightwing: The Great Leap
Batman: The Black Mirror

Birds of Prey: End Run
Birds of Prey: The Death of Oracle

Collections of the Nightwing Dick Grayson as Gotham's Batman post-Final Crisis are a bit spotty, but the final-most, and probably best-known, is Scott Snyder's The Black Mirror. Nightwing: Great Leap is the actual end of the pre-Flashpoint Nightwing series, but far from the character's last appearance before Flashpoint.

Birds of Prey relaunched after Brightest Day, and Death of Oracle marks that character's latest pre-Flashpoint appearance.

Convergence: Nightwing/Oracle deals with the characters' wedding; Nightwing actually proposed to Oracle in Devin Grayson's Nightwing: Renegade prior to Infinite Crisis, but this was largely ignored as of Nightwing: Brothers in Blood (which involved the pre-Flashpoint "Red Hood" Jason Todd).

• Speed Force (Tony Bedard)

What to read:
Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga

Flash: The Wild Wests
Flash: Rebirth

Convergence: Speed Force involves second Flash Wally West and his super-powered children. Readers wanting to go way back can read Geoff Johns's Flash run, in which Wally's kids are born; in Infinite Crisis, Wally, wife Linda Parks, and the babies disappear into the Speed Force. In Johns and Brad Meltzer's Justice League: Lightning Saga, Wally and family return, with the children now aged to pre-teens.

The Speed Force miniseries looks most similar to Flash: The Wild Wests by Mark Waid; subsequent issues of this series were not collected, before the title relaunched after Brightest Day with Flash Barry Allen in the lead. Wally and his kids also appear in Johns's Flash: Rebirth.

• Titans (Fabian Nicieza)

What to read:
Justice League: Cry for Justice
Justice League: Rise and Fall

Titans: Villains for Hire
Titans: Family Reunion

Justice League of America: Team History
Justice League of America: Dark Things
Justice League: Omega
Justice League of America: The Rise of Eclipso

REBELS: Sons of Brainiac

Much as I hate to recommend James Robinson's ultra-dark Justice League: Cry for Justice and the books that went with it, Convergence: Titans deals with Arsenal Roy Harper trying to resurrect his late daughter Lian, and Lian died in Cry for Justice; Arsenal's story continued Justice League: Rise and Fall and then into the Titans series (the last issues of which were uncollected before Flashpoint).

Also appearing in Convergence: Titans is Donna Troy, who most recently appeared in Robinson's Justice League, and Starfire, who appeared in Justice League and REBELS (the last issues of REBELS are also uncollected).

• Justice League (Frank Tieri)

What to read:
Justice League of America: Team History
Justice League of America: Dark Things
Justice League: Omega
Justice League of America: The Rise of Eclipso

One could go as far back as Cry for Justice for this one, but you're probably OK with just the James Robinson/Mark Bagley Justice League trades, which involve Convergence: Justice League's Supergirl, Jade, and Jesse Quick. Quick announced her pregnancy in Rise of Eclipso.

• The Question (Greg Rucka)

What to read:
52 Omnibus

Question: The Five Books of Blood
Final Crisis: Revelations
Blackest Night: Rise of the Black Lanterns
Question: Pipeline

Greg Rucka has written the adventures of Renee Montoya for a couple of years, most notably in the Gotham Central series, but the character became the Question in the 52 weekly series co-written by Rucka. Though the Question guest-starred in a number of books like Birds of Prey, her major Rucka-written appearances are Five Books of Blood, the Revelations Final Crisis miniseries, an issue included in Blackest Night: Rise of the Black Lanterns, and the backup stories collected in Pipeline. Renee is thought to have died in the line of duty in the New 52.

• Batman and Robin (Ron Marz)

What to read:
Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn
Batman and Robin: Batman vs. Robin
Batman and Robin: Batman and Robin Must Die
Batman and Robin: Dark Knight, White Knight

Batman and Robin was a title that continued mostly unchanged from the pre-Flashpoint to New 52 universes, so my guess is that the continuity emphasis in Convergence: Batman and Robin is on foes the Red Hood and the Extremists. Red Hood Jason Todd was significantly different in the late pre-Flashpoint era, with Grant Morrison portraying him as a semi-crazed caped anti-villain. For that, readers need only pick up Batman Reborn; Judd Winick mitigates this portrayal a little bit toward Todd's more normative Red Hood persona in Dark Knight, White Knight.

The Extremists, traditionally characters from "another Earth" in the DC Universe, are analogues for Marvel characters, who've usually fought the Justice League. There was, as a matter of fact, a Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists miniseries collected in a book by the same name, which tied in to the prelude to Final Crisis.

• Harley Quinn (Steve Pugh)

What to read:
Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes
Harley Quinn: Night and Day
Harley Quinn: Welcome to Metropolis
Harley Quinn: Vengeance Unlimited

Gotham City Sirens: Union
Gotham City Sirens: Songs of the Sirens
Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit
Gotham City Sirens: Division

Gotham City Sirens Book One

The promotional art for the Convergence: Harley Quinn miniseries bears a lot of resemblance to the 2000s Harley Quinn series started by Karl Kesel and Terry Dodson. That series remained uncollected for a long time, but is just now being collected with Harley's resurgent popularity.

Catwoman and Poison Ivy's presence in the story, however, suggests a greater tie to Paul Dini and company's Gotham City Sirens series, which ended just before Flashpoint; this series was collected and is currently scheduled to be re-collected in new volumes spanning multiple original trades.

That's what you need to know for this week. Tune in next week for another edition of "Convergence: What to Read Before!"

Review: Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When I re-read Paul Levitz's second volume of Worlds' Finest in preparation for the third, I liked it a little better than I did originally, and this made me optimistic for the third volume. Unfortunately, what problems the second volume had are even greater in Worlds' Finest Vol. 3: Control Issues; what had seemed promising emerges as a really poor effort. I have wanted to like this book from the outset, and indeed once again what Levitz promises for the next volume threatens to bring me back, but by the third round I think I've learned my lesson enough that Worlds' Finest is going to fall well to the bottom of the reading pile.

Comic Book Gift Guide 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hard to believe 2014 is almost over, but we've arrived again at the time for the Collected Editions top trade paperback and graphic novel gifts for you and your loved ones this holiday season. A lot of books that I'm really excited about this year, nice collections of really strong work.

And it wouldn't be a Collected Editions gift list if I didn't offer some pairing suggestions that'll make you a hit for the holidays and also come with free shipping. Win-win!

Don't miss my 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 lists for more great ideas. Shop easy!

Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More

This “Volume 1” is actually the first volume of Marvel’s newly-relaunched Captain Marvel series, which had two previous volumes also with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist David Lopez. But this new first volume is, as they say, a great place to jump in to the adventures of one of Marvel’s most popular heroines, recently announced for her own movie in the next couple years. And fans of Marvel’s cinematic universe who may not necessarily be comics readers should feel comfortable with this one, which features appearances by the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Pair with Greg Rucka’s Lazarus for free shipping right off the bat; or with other Marvel titles Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight; or with Hellblazer Vol. 1, Fun Home, and a Golden Book and get three or four books plus free shipping.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal

Collected Editions contributor Doug Glassman recommends this one for readers old and also young, saying “Kamala Khan is one of the most realistic teenagers in comics.” In the spirit of books like Ultimate Spider-Man and Blue Beetle, this one would be right for the young adult reader on your gift list and established comics fan alike.

Pair with Captain Marvel and Moon Knight for a Marvel gift basket, or with Teen Titans: Earth One and the deluxe Superman for All Seasons to make an all-ages comics gift for under $50.

Moon Knight Vol. 1: From the Dead

Another of Doug’s recommendations, which he recently reviewed and called one of "the best comic of the year." Not only is the new Marvel NOW! rendition of cult favorite Moon Knight written by legendary comics creator Warren Ellis, but as one of Marvel’s prominent Jewish superheroes, Doug says this makes a great Hanukkah gift (“even,” he adds, “if Moon Knight is possessed by an Egyptian god”). A psychedelic, supernatural superhero comic, consider this one if it’s been under your favorite comics fan’s radar.

Pair with the other Marvel books for free shipping, or add in the weirdness of Prophet: Remission, the reality of Fun Home, and a couple Golden Books to get five titles with free shipping.

Prophet Vol. 1: Remission

Prophet is Image Comics’s unlikely revival of a 1990s Rob Liefeld character that used to interact with Youngblood. The new series by Brandon Graham, with art by Simon Roy, is a futuristic tale of alien civilizations that Graham has said has a Conan-like spirit. Doug recommends it “because not only is it unique, but I also want to figure out what the hell is going on and might want to start up a reading group.”

Pair this one with Wake for sci-fi fun; add any other book to that (Saga is another space adventure, and you can’t go wrong with a Star Wars book) for free shipping.

Archer & Armstrong Deluxe Edition Book 1

Just as Image recently revived a couple of their ‘90s properties with modern-day sensibilities, so too did Valiant Comics, now Valiant Entertainment. If you or your favorite comics fan have been hearing good things about Valiant’s new (old) universe in the run up to Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt’s The Valiant miniseries, this deluxe collection of the buddy action comedy Archer & Armstrong is a good place to start (one a cult assassin, one his immortal target, teamed up against the mystic cult masters). The deluxe edition collects the first three trades of the series.

Pair with Fun Home and you’re already at free shipping; basically anything on this list plus Archer & Armstrong will net you the shipping gratis.

Saga Deluxe Vol. 1

Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples’s space opera is ribald, hilarious, suspenseful, and heartfelt — it’s a Rated R Star Wars that can’t be missed. I’ve mentioned Saga on these gift lists before, but the new deluxe edition just released collects the first three trades of the series. If your favorite comics fan is the kind to laugh off the nursing baby on the deluxe cover, Saga is a book sure to please.

As with Archer & Armstrong, anything you pair Saga with on this list (or anything else that you pair with Saga) will earn free shipping. Lazarus plus Saga, in my opinion, equals some good reading.

Lazarus Book 1

I suggested the first trade paperback of Lazarus last year, having just enjoyed immensely Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s introductory collection. But I’d be remiss, having now also enjoyed the second trade, if I didn’t mention this new edition, just released, which collects both the first and second trades into one stellar hardcover. Rucka and Lark are part of the noted team behind Gotham Central, and Rucka brings his talent both for strong characterization and strong female protagonists to this tale of family politics and invincible ninjas. I’ve described it as a post-apocalyptic Downton Abbey, and I’m sticking with that.

Lazarus and Saga, as I’ve mentioned, would be a blockbuster gift combination with free shipping, but you could also pair Lazarus with The Wake and get free shipping or with the first volume of John Constantine, Hellblazer. Lazarus plus Ms. Marvel is also an affordable free shipping package.

The Wake

I recently reviewed Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake, a Vertigo miniseries that translates seamlessly to hardcover “graphic novel” format. Wake starts out as a monster movie horror story, but it transforms as it goes into speculative, uplifting sci-fi of the kind you might expect from a Robert Heinlein book or a Steven Spielberg movie. There’s nothing you have to read before this and no series to commit to, so this is a perfect gateway for a sci-fi but not necessarily comics fan.

Pair with Fun Home and Prophet Vol. 1: Remission for three books with free shipping. The strong female protagonists in Lazarus and Wake would also make a good pairing and net you free shipping.

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins

Send your brickbats now; yes, I have never read an issue of the original Hellblazer series. But with Constantine on TV, I recognize it’s well beyond time I started, and maybe you and yours, too. This recent reissue collects the first nine issues of the book plus John Constantine’s early Swamp Thing appearances, so you can get in on the ground floor with it.

The comics horror of Hellblazer would pair well with The Wake, plus two Golden Books or a copy of Fun Home and you’d have free shipping to go!

Here

Richard McGuire’s short comic Here, published in the late 1980s in Raw magazine, challenged the genre through a nonlinear depiction of a certain corner of a house from the dawn of time to the far future. Now, 25 years later, McGuire has expanded Here into a full-length, full-color graphic novel, still in study of one location throughout time. Here will be released early next month, so your favorite fan of the comics genre is sure not to have it yet, and this seems sure to become an integral part of any collection.

Pair Here with Fun Home for two “serious” graphic novels with free shipping, or pair anything else on this list with Here also to get free shipping.

Fun Home

Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir Fun Home deserves to be on every gift list this year after the South Carolina legislature cut the College of Charleston’s funding in response to their assigning Fun Home for freshman reading (though this is hardly the first attempt to ban the book). Controversies aside, Fun Home is a well-written memoir and a coming of age story dealing with sexuality and gender. For your comics fan who might only read superheroes, or a non-comics fan who reads “serious” fiction, Fun Home is a window into the greater possibilities of graphic novels.

Fun Home is also the cheapest book on this list, so it pairs well when you need a little extra for free shipping. Consider Fun Home, Prophet Vol. 1: Remission, Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal, and Hellblazer Vol. 1, and get a great, varied package of four comics with shipping free.

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1

We’re a couple weeks away from the official release of Jeff Lemire’s Teen Titans: Earth One, but these self-contained Earth One books have consistently made great gifts. Also, it’s written by Lemire, who’s knocked it out of the park on Animal Man, Green Arrow, and Justice League Dark, so there’s no reason to think he won’t do the same here. For a potential comics fan who can’t handle all the continuity (and might be already familiar with the Titans from their animated incarnations), this is a safe bet.

Pair with DC’s Superman For All Seasons deluxe edition for free shipping straightaway, or go for Titans, Fun Home, Prophet: Remission, and some Golden Books for a good comics package.

Superman for All Seasons Deluxe Edition

Before Superman: Earth One, before the New 52, one of my favorite “young Clark Kent” stories was Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s heartfelt Superman for All Seasons. Time and again this is the book I’ve given to non-comics reading friends and family, because it’s an enjoyable, approachable, and just plain good Superman story. Superman for All Seasons has been out for a while, but this deluxe edition arrives just in time for the holidays, and the larger deluxe format should be impressive all wrapped up.

Superman For All Seasons can pair with just about any book on this list for free shipping. Consider again Superman for All Seasons and Teen Titans: Earth One, or even Superman for All Seasons and one of the Saga or Lazarus collections.

• Absolute Batman: Haunted Knight

Also by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Absolute Batman: Haunted Knight is the perfect gift for your fan of Loeb and Sale’s Batman: Long Halloween and Dark Victory. This new Absolute edition serves as both prelude and epilogue to those well-known books — it collects the Loeb/Sale Batman holiday specials that preceded and inspired Long Halloween, but then also the Catwoman: When in Rome miniseries that followed Long Halloween and Dark Victory. A Loeb/Sale Batman collection isn’t complete without it.

This book will run you a bit, but the good news is that it ships free on its own, and anything else you pair with it gets to ride along for no extra dough.

Star Wars: Darth Maul, Son of Dathomir
Star Wars: A New Dawn

Admittedly I’m on a bit of a Star Wars kick lately, watching the new Star Wars Rebels and also the final "Lost Missions" episodes of Clone Wars. So, these “cartoon-verse,” canon Star Wars books have me excited — the Darth Maul, Son of Dathomir collection, written from unproduced Clone Wars scripts, and Star Wars: A New Dawn, a prose novel that serves as a prequel to Rebels. If you’ve got a Star Wars fan at home (or you’re trying to create one), these two books plus anything else on this list will guarantee free shipping and the Force to be with you.

DC Super Friends: Big Heroes!
DC Super Friends: Flower Power!
DC Super Friends: Superman!
DC Super Friends: Batman!
Mighty Avengers

Every year I scope out a couple of low-priced children’s books to add to this list, and lately the superhero-themed Golden Books have been a great bargain. From a practical standpoint, these are great filler if you just need a couple extra dollars to put you at free shipping, not to mention they make a great gift for your favorite young reader or you can donate them to your local Goodwill to make someone else's holidays a little brighter.

That’s my list for 2014. Please tell me what you’re getting, too. (Special thanks to contributor Doug Glassman of ‘80s Marvel Rocks! for his suggestions.) It’s the ninth year of Collected Editions, and thanks to everyone who visits, comments, and participates on our Facebook page — it wouldn’t be the same without you. Happy holidays!

(Lots of bloggers have affiliate links like the ones above, and when you do your holiday shopping after clicking these links, the blogger gets a few cents. This year, if you’re buying gifts online, consider clicking on someone’s link before you buy — when I buy online, I always try to click through a blog before I do. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there [see blogroll], and this is a great, easy way to support them. Thanks!)

Review: Moon Knight Vol. 1: From the Dead trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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

Moon Knight is a character who always has an excess of baggage to carry whenever a new title springs up around him. He’s one of the more blatant DC surrogates in the Marvel Universe, a situation made even more obvious after his creator, Doug Moench, went on to fame writing Batman. Originally, the hook of Moon Knight was “Crazy White Batman," but as the Dark Knight grew darker and edgier in the eighties and beyond, Moon Knight lost a lot of what differentiated them. His multiple personalities became an obstacle to storytelling rather than an innovation. The more recent titles by Gregg Hurwitz and Brian Michael Bendis ratcheted up the insanity to a psychotic level and added unnecessarily excessive violence on top of it.

Review: Birds of Prey Vol. 4: The Cruelest Cut trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unfortunately, since Duane Swierczynski's stellar first volume of the New 52 Birds of Prey, the quality of the successive volumes has gone steadily downhill. Swierczynski's second and third volumes simply didn't rise above the level of boilerplate superhero comics, and new series writer Christy Marx's Birds of Prey Vol. 4: The Cruelest Cut is more of the same.

Marx has a bunch of interesting premises here, including stories involving the fan-favorite Court of Owls and also picking up on some of the pseudo-Wildstorm storylines that have run in the background of the New 52. The actual result, however, is a bunch of "heroes run around and fight" stories, with uninspired characters, characterization, and art, all of which is surprising given how much I liked Marx's Sword of Sorcery: Amethyst. Even worse, where at least Swierczynski's volumes did no harm, Cruelest Cut effectively ruins one of the best parts of the New 52 Birds. That Birds of Prey is cancelled after the next volume seems at this point a mercy.

Review: The Wake hardcover/paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Scott Snyder's The Wake starts out as a cogent horror story -- an interesting, intelligent locale enough to make this feel like more than just another scare book, though with plenty of startling creatures jumping out of dark corners to deliver that good monster movie feel. But it is where Wake ends up that will likely define the story, in a steampunk aquatic sci-fi world of the kind Snyder might not necessarily be known for, until now, and with the kind of far-reaching, revelatory look at humanity that we might expect from Carl Sagan or Robert Heinlein.

It can't be overstated the contribution artist Sean Murphy makes to this book. Snyder writes an enjoyable story, but what sets the book apart are Murphy's unrelenting depictions, especially of the book's weird settings. I haven't counted but I'd venture Murphy submits more multi-paneled spreads that span two pages in this book than just single multi-paneled pages, such that Wake really is a book that deserves the oft-overused "widescreen" moniker.