Review: The Twelve hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

I don’t think I realized how much I missed JSA until all of the recent talk of the upcoming omnibus brought up old memories. It might be surprising that a Marvel book was able to capture much of what made that classic title work, but J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s The Twelve hits all of the right notes. This wasn’t Marvel’s first attempt to ride the popularity of JSA; a variety of Invaders revivals over the last few years have sputtered due to a lack of fan interest. Fans love Captain America and Namor ... but as a team, there’s something lacking, especially since Marvel didn’t really have an equivalent to All-Star Squadron to map out its World War II-era adventures.
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 30, 2013

There's some things I like and some I don't about how DC Comics collects crossovers in the New 52. I don't mind, for instance, that the relevant issues of Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family are also collected in the Joker book; I read Teen Titans regularly, but if I didn't and I was interested in "Death of the Family," I'd be glad that the Joker book was there.

The flip side of this is that Teen Titans Vol. 3 collects six issues, one of which can be found in Batman Vol. 3 (and a bunch of other places) and two of which can be found in Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3, leaving only three "original" issues for this book (Red Hood, in contrast, offers four original issues not found elsewhere). Even as DC's new collection schema helps casual fans, it sometimes punishes those who read a large part of the line, in my opinion, with repetition and smaller trades.

Review: Superman vs. Shazam! trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

When Superman vs. Shazam! was released, it marked the first reprint of the top-shelf 1978 DC treasury comic of the same name. Whether intended as a video game tie-in or a companion to Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Shazam! hardcover, any excuse for DC to present the balance of Rich Buckler’s Superman/Captain Marvel team-ups is good enough.

The idea of The Man of Steel facing off against The World’s Mightiest Mortal has likely existed since the 1940s, where the two vied for the attention of children at newsstands and drug stores. Without getting into the gory details, DC essentially sued Captain Marvel and Fawcett Publications out of existence in the 1950s and kept the characters in suspended animation, until they acquired their rights in the 1970s.

Review: Guards! Guards! A Discworld Graphic Novel hardcover/paperback (Gollancz)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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

I planned on reviewing Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski this week, but upon re-reading it, I realized just how gloomy it was. It’s a book that definitely deserves examination ... but I think Easter might be the better time to do so. Instead, let’s take a look at one of the Discworld graphic novels. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is a series of fantasy books whose primary purpose is to both parody and celebrate the numerous fantasy tropes. Pratchett is a prolific author as well as an extremely brave one; the fortieth Discworld novel is set to come out in 2014 even though he is dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Review: Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis Vol. 1 hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, December 23, 2013

[Review by Michael Updyke, who blogs at Mr. MGU's Certain Point of View]

Unlike most of DC’s other hardcover volumes focusing on a single artist’s Batman work, Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis Vol. 1 actually includes a continuous run of Detective Comics stories (#569-575) with the same creative team, as writer Mike W. Barr and inker Paul Neary join penciller Davis for most of the book.

Barr and Davis’s stories are an entertaining throwback to the “superhero” Batman in the months just preceding (and then briefly concurrent with) the constant Miller-angst that reigns till this day. Batman smiles, cracks jokes, and frequently calls Robin “chum.” Alan Davis’s art is crisp, clean, almost but not quite veering into cartoony. He homages the giant prop Sprang era quite a bit, but he can do grim as well, as seen in one panel where Batman backhands the Joker in a burst of anger.

Review: X-Files Season 10 Vol. 1 hardcover (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Joe Harris's X-Files Season 10 Vol. 1 (not apparently called "Believers" despite that it's the title of the story) is not a perfect book, but it's as good a fictional opener for a new X-Files season as fans might hope. There's nary an aspect of fan service that Harris doesn't run straight in to; while this might make the book somewhat predictable, it's no more or less so than knowing whether that night's episode was a "mythology episode" or not based on the names in the opening credits. If X-Files were coming back, this is what fans would want, and as a fan I'm very eager for Harris's second volume.

[Review contains spoilers]

I read "Believers" just after a re-watch of the second X-Files movie, I Want to Believe. Like the movie, "Believers" takes as its purpose to reintroduce Mulder and Scully, again after an absence (though fans can rest assured "Believers" is far more mythology-driven than I Want to Believe); the darkness finds them again, as the last movie discussed, with Director Skinner showing up at their door instead of FBI agents in need. I Want to Believe had its touchstones, like the pencils collected in Mulder's ceiling; in "Believers," Harris gets in a "Spooky" Mulder reference as quickly as humanly possible. This is, again, fan service, but an X-Files revival comic ought have no higher purpose than nostalgia anyway, so what might seem blatant is at the same time effectively cute.

Review: Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1: Kindred Spirits trade paperback (Archie Comics)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

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

In an alternate universe where I grew up playing video games instead of collecting action figures, I would probably be doing reviews of the Sonic the Hedgehog comic instead of IDW’s Transformers titles. Archie has been publishing their Sonic comic for an astonishing twenty years -- their longest-running franchise outside of the actual Riverdale books. As a result, it has a complex continuity of its own far removed (and often better) than the various video games. Archie’s Mega Man series is “only” about three years old by comparison, and as a result, it’s closer to what you might remember from the video games and old cartoon show. The two series recently came together in a twelve-part story, the first four chapters of which are collected in Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1: Kindred Spirits.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2014 - All-Star Batman and Robin, Batman: Zero Year, Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell, Batman: Carmine Infantino

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big news this month in DC Comics's March 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations seems to be what is, or isn't, coming up in Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All-Star Batman and Robin, given the solicitation of an Absolute volume that collects the unfinished series.

Before we dive into it, however, one Cancelled Comics Cavalcade note: DC has apparently cancelled orders for the Katana collection by Ann Nocenti, promising to resolicit the trade. This isn't the first time DC has cancelled and resolicited a New 52 trade (the second volume of Deathstroke and Savage Hawkman are examples), but it is curious since there's nothing to add to the book; it was already supposed to collect the whole series, issues #1-10, plus the Villains Month Justice League Dark 23.1: Creeper issue. Might the resolicit contain less (like, not the Creeper issue) and not more?

And now the solicitations:

Absolute All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder HC

I never read All-Star Batman and Robin the first time around and I don't have an interest in reading it now, so the fact that the solicitation for the Absolute edition offers issue #1-9 -- essentially promising that the book's final issue, #10, will never see light of day -- doesn't bother me all that much. But if you bought nine issues of this series, especially if it was ever offered to you as a ten-issue miniseries -- and especially given that half of the creative team is a high-ranking executive with DC Comics -- I can understand why you might be miffed.

It also seems a little callous to be releasing an Absolute edition of an unfinished series without some official statement as to whether yes, this series will one day be finished or no, we just have to cut our losses. If for some reason DC and the creators can't get this series done, I think we'd all understand that stuff happens; the problem in my opinion is that there's simply been no statement, and instead an Absolute solicitation that glosses over the inherit problems and therefore comes off looking blithe.

JSA Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

On the other end of the spectrum, the long-awaited JSA Omnibus now has a release date, May 14, 2014. This also marks a triumph of you, the reader, who made your voices heard when this collection was going to start with issue #6, and now it'll start with issue #1 (and the Justice Society Returns prequel miniseries). If you spoke up again, could you make new All-Star Batman and Robin appear? ... Probably not, but I still always encourage voting with your wallet.

Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year–Secret City HC

The fourth collection of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman run includes issues #21-24, skipping over issues #18-20. Many of you have asked, and yes, I do think DC will collect these issues eventually, probably after all the Zero Year collections.

Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King HC

Aquaman Vol. 4 picks up from the controversial Vol. 3, which only collected issues #0 and #14-16, all but one of which was collected in Justice League Vol. 3 (Update: the constant changes to the Aquaman Vol. 3 contents remain confusing; I'm told the Aquaman Vol. 3 trade had two issues not found elsewhere). In another decision that will please no one, Vol. 4 collects issues #17-19 and #21-25, making it a hefty eight-issue trade but skipping #20, a fill-in issue by John Ostrander. Whereas I do think we'll see Scott Snyder's Batman #18-20 collected somewhere, I'm less enthusiastic about Aquaman #20's chances. It is enough to make me consider just going digital with this series.

Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted HC

Gail Simone's Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family offered some really gripping storytelling, and I'm very excited for this fourth volume. Includes Batgirl #19-25 and the Villains Month issue Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1: Ventriloquist. An eight-issue Batgirl collection is a nice take in my opinion.

The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires Vol. 1 – Money and Power TP

Collects the entirety of Art Baltazar and Franco's Green Team. Not sure the tie to the ongoing DC Universe was ever quite enough for me to pick this one up right away, unless someone knows otherwise.

Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish TP

I have been enjoying Matt Kindt's head-trip Mind MGMT very much, and so I'm eagerly anticipating his bringing that spy-thriller vibe to Suicide Squad. Kindt's contribution to this volume is only the Villains Month Justice League of America #7.1: Deadshot and Detective Comics #23.1: Harley Quinn (along with Ales Kot's issues #20-23); more of an appetizer, really, but one I'm looking forward to.

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell HC

The long-rumored Paul Dini/Joe Quinones graphic novel also now has a release date, May 21, 2014. You all should read and enjoy this, sure, but my shameful comics secret is that I've never been on the Paul Dini/Zatanna hyper-bandwagon, really; I thought Dini did a nice job with Zatanna and Batman in some recent issues (not so recent any more) issues of Detective Comics, but the graphic novel lovefest isn't for me. If anything, it'll be a trip to see the pre-Flashpoint Black Canary again.

Deadman Book Five TP

I've mostly passed over these classic Deadman collections, but the fact that this one collects the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths 1986 Deadman miniseries piqued my interest -- could it be DC Timeline fodder?

From what I can tell, the contents of this one are a little strange; it collects Challengers of the Unknown #85-87, a time-traveling Deadman story from 1978, and then the Deadman miniseries and Secret Origins issue which are related, but follow from Brave and the Bold #86, collected back in Deadman Book Two. Chalk it up to Crisis, but maybe this would be a better read without the Challengers issue and with another more modern story alongside the 1980s bits, like the Spectre or Action Comics Weekly issues.

Final Crisis (New Edition) TP

This newest "new edition" of Final Crisis now includes the new pages from Absolute Final Crisis, plus everything that was in the original book and the two Batman issues.

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire HC
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo TP

I reviewed the two-volume set of Denise Mina's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and liked it, though I thought splitting it into two volumes hurt the story as a whole. Therefore I'm glad to see DC/Vertigo releasing The Girl Who Played with Fire as one single volume, and also the paperback edition of Tattoo will contain the first two volumes in one. Whether this better allowed Mina to not have to artificially split the story, or whether the script was done before the final format was decided, I don't know.

DC Universe vs. the Masters of the Universe TP

This series has been critically panned, but I might just check it out in digital anyway; surely there must be some enjoyment to be found in He-Man and Superman on the same page. Collects the six issue miniseries, plus the classic DC Comics Presents issue that first teamed He-Man and Superman.

• Superman/Batman Vol. 1 TP

As they well should, DC's quest to reprint everything Superman/Batman ahead of the new movie continues with this paperback of issues #1-13, originally published as the "Public Enemies" and "Supergirl" storylines. This is essentially the contents of the recent Absolute edition, now in paperback.

Personally I'd love to see a Superman/Batman omnibus that collected the entire series, for better and for worse, including some of the self-contained stories by rotating teams toward the end.

Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino HC

Alongside a number of classic Carmine Infantino Batman stories, I think it's cool that DC is including the story Geoff Johns wrote and Infantino drew in tribute to Julius Schwartz in 2004.

That's what jumped out at me. In our last solicitations run-down of 2013, what's on your buying list?

Review: Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Unfortunately the New 52 Nightwing series still fails to live up to the promise of the first volume, though there's always next time. Nightwing Vol. 3: Death of the Family, while drawn well specifically by artist Eddie Barrows, seems six issues really only in service of one or two big moments, with lots of filler in between. Writer Kyle Higgins offers another great cliffhanger that's likely to bring me back for the fourth volume even though the second and third didn't impress, though that's a trick I'm only likely to fall for so many times.

[Review contains spoilers]

The six issues in this collection (plus the mostly-generic Young Romance short) make up three stories: Nightwing vs. Lady Shiva, by guest-writer Tom DeFalco and artist Andres Guinaldo; the "Death of the Family" tie-in, by Higgins and Barrows, and then an epilogue and "Requiem" tie-in by Higgins and Juan Jose Ryp. The book's strongest story, not surprisingly, is by the title's regular team, though this volume marks Barrows's final issues in the series.

Review: Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firstorm Protocols trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Given the rocky road that the DC Comics New 52 Firestorm title has had, I wasn't expecting much from Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 2: The Firestorm Protocols, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. Writer Joe Harris arrives, replacing Gail Simone as writer/artist Ethan Van Sciver's co-plotter, and the overall story improves. Rather than focusing on high schoolers fighting an evil corporation, a la Teen Titans, this latest book is all about "legitimate" Firestorms hunting "rogue" Firestorms, a more engaging and mature story.

There's also an interesting structure to this book, in which Harris creates a solid mission and supporting cast for Firestorm and then proceeds to essentially wipe the slate clean in preparation for Dan Jurgens's run that follows.

Review: Incredible Change-Bots Two graphic novel (Top Shelf Productions)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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

Since the 2007 publication of the original Incredible Change-Bots, the star of graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown has risen tremendously. His adorable Star Wars tie-in books, such as Darth Vader and Son, might end up serving as a gateway for new young fans to get into graphic novels. His take on the Transformers franchise is a bit less reverent than his Star Wars books, but that’s fine by me, because there’s more than enough material in my favorite franchise to be spoofed. Brown followed the first volume with Incredible Change-Bots Two a few years ago.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a very Jason Todd-centered trade, and since Jason is the strongest part of writer Scott Lobdell's Red Hood series, that's a good thing. Though Lobdell is still in origin-telling mode (after last volume's spotlight on Starfire), the twist he offers on Jason's origin is good enough -- and told so cleverly -- as to make it wholly worthwhile. Alongside Batgirl and Batman and Robin, this is a "Death of the Family" tie-in that distinguishes itself well, and it's a shame that one of this title's strongest volumes should be Lobdell's last on the series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Lobdell's biggest bombshell comes in the middle of the very first chapter, the Zero Month issue: that the Joker specifically manipulated events so that Jason Todd would become Robin, and so that the Joker could kill him. It's a claim almost too preposterous to believe, even for comics, but Lobdell backs himself up well with a kind of cracked mirror story that shows events first from Jason's perspective, and then from the Joker's. That's clever enough to sell it, but it also adds a brilliant level to Jason going forward in that he's the figurative "son" now of both Batman and the Joker (not unlike the pre-Flashpoint Kon-El taking DNA from both Superman and Lex Luthor). What Lobdell has not yet revealed is why Jason chose the Red Hood moniker (I'm not sure if anyone has touched on this, including Judd Winick's original Under the Hood), but the fact that Jason "owes his life" to the Joker gives the Red Hood choice additional meaning.

Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Scott Lobdell's Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire demonstrates the versatility of this title in a way that ought to suggest good things going forward. But Lobdell tells a familiar story, and despite a welcome tweak here and there, the book remains mostly predictable.

[Review contains spoilers]

The last volume of Red Hood saw the team take on undead ninjas and giant monsters; the story was not "earthbound" in the "fighting crime in Gotham City" sense, but neither was it too far afield from what one might normally find among the Bat-titles. Starfire begins with the Red Hood versus mobsters, then a "Night of the Owls" crossover, then a four-part trip to space, and then a run-in with Superman. None of these stories feel out of place for the characters, and in this way Lobdell demonstrates the breadth of stories this series can tell. This genre-bridging is not something that could be comfortably done with another Bat-book like Batgirl or Batwing.

Review: Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

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

When I did the first “Transgiving” last year, I distinctly remember wondering how the then-newly begun arc of Robots In Disguise would fare in its review. Much like last week’s review of More Than Meets The Eye Vol. 4, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 4 is the culmination of over a year’s worth of issues, but it feels like it’s been far longer. Much of this is because at least two issues -- the “Syndromica” stories -- really should have been published as one-shots or their own miniseries. Even if you count issue #12 which opens this book as issue #10 of the “real” plotline, there’s still something off about the pacing.

Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Once again, while I adored the first volume of Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin, I found the second volume scattered and lacking. Batman and Robin Vol. 3: Death of the Family is a better story, though it's hampered by being an especially short trade -- just three regular issues and an annual, discounting that Batman #17 that keeps showing up everywhere and that I'm skipping by this point.

[Review contains spoilers]

By virtue of the first Batman and Robin collection being eight issues, that placed both the "Night of the Owls" crossover and the lead-in to "Death of the Family" in volume two, whereas most Bat-books only handled "Owls" in volume two and saved all of "Death" for volume three. Batman and Robin's proper two-part "Death of the Family" tie-in is collected here, but by virtue of goings on in Batman Inc. Vol. 2, the book cuts off after the one-off issue #17, before the book changes in issue #18.

Review: Adventures of Superman: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

[Guest reviewer Greg Elias writes for Speed Force]

Since the 1980s, the artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez has been the marketing standard for DC Comics. From lunch boxes to Valentines and toys to apparel, Garcia-Lopez’s clean and fluid style is immediate and definitive, capturing the grace and power of DC’s superheroes and villains. Though it is tempting to name Deadman or even the Metal Men as his signature subject, his work on the Man of Steel stands out as the artist’s strongest sequential output, making him a perfect name to spotlight in the second Adventures of Superman hardcover.

Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Vol. 4 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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

As enjoyable as Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is, it spent its first year not entirely sure of what story it wanted to tell. James Roberts used that time to introduce characters, set up plot points, and reveal numerous retcons about the years before the Great War and the rise of Optimus Prime and Megatron. The first two issues of Volume 4 work in a similar manner, but the story finally swerves into a massive climax with the reintroduction of Overlord, the villain of Last Stand of the Wreckers. It’s the first major change of status quo in the title and it unleashed a torrent of changes in the next arc and the franchise as a whole.

Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 2: Pearl hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Peter Tomasi's first Batman and Robin volume was one of the best debuts of the New 52, a sweeping eight-issue saga that frankly deserved to have been published as a graphic novel. I therefore picked up Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin Vol. 2: Pearl with much eagerness, expecting indeed to find a pearl between the pages.

Unfortunately, Batman and Robin Vol. 2 is lesser than Batman and Robin Vol. 1. Of the seven issues collected in this book, Tomasi has to give up four to various crossovers and events; though Tomasi attempts to tell his own story around these, the result is disjointed. There's good ideas here, but the pieces don't come together especially in the emotional way that they did in the first book.

Marvel to release Annihilation Omnibus

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Friday, November 22, 2013

[Doug Glassman Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

The upcoming Annihilation Omnibus is one of the most anticipated collections of 2014, and rightly so, especially since the three trades which made it up have been out of print for a while. It was a major revamp of Marvel's cosmic properties, many of which had stayed dormant for some time. Nova was redeveloped into the equivalent of the Ion incarnation of Kyle Rayner and the Silver Surfer regained relevance; villains such as the Super-Skrull and Ronan the Accuser were turned into anti-heroes. One of its best elements is the sheer size of the threat involved: a massive fleet of world-consuming insectoids led by Annihilus, an underused Fantastic Four villain who finally reached A-list villain status.

Moreover, the sequel crossover, "Annihilation: Conquest," led the way for the creation of the new Guardians of the Galaxy. I think we'll see a Conquest Omnibus announced before 2014 is over to tie in with the upcoming movie.

The only major problem with Annihilation is that it starts very, very slowly. The "Drax the Destroyer" mini-series is tedious, even though we do get to see Lunatik and Paibok the Power-Skrull among other classic cosmic villains. You can probably skim through it and not miss anything if it ends up in the book before the "Prologue" issue. Also, if you're a fan of guidebooks, you'll enjoy the "Nova Corps Files" one-shot, which explains who some of the more obscure characters are and occasionally irons out the timeline troubles that can pop up when numerous mini-series cross over.

$125 is a bit much when the original trades cost about $25-35. If you have the time and patience, you might be able to track down all three of the original trades at cons or comic book stores. But if you're interested in cosmic Marvel, and especially if you enjoyed Infinity Gauntlet, then Annihilation is a definite get in any form.

Review: Star Wars: Legacy Vol. II Book 1: Prisoner of the Floating World trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

As I've acknowledged before, I'm something of a Star Wars traditionalist. If you're going to tell me a Star Wars story, let's have it star Luke, Leia, and Han, please, or even the prequel trilogy characters in Clone Wars. Though neither Lost Tribe of the Sith nor Dawn of the Jedi were bad stories, my interest is not as focused when the characters aren't familiar or even the familiar trappings of Jedis versus the Sith or the Empire aren't present, as was the case in these stories set in Star Wars's ancient past.

Star Wars: Legacy II Vol. 1: Prisoner of the Floating World is a different beast, the first Star Wars comic I've read now set in Star Wars's future. More familiar trappings are here and as such I was more comfortable with the story. It takes a little re-reading to get straight the Imperial Court versus the Jedi Council and Galactic Alliance, but once that's done, Prisoner settles down to a story of a kid on a backwoods world whose life is upturned by the battles of Jedis and Sith, a la A New Hope, and from there Prisoner is a fairly accessible Star Wars book.

Review: Spider-Man: The Gauntlet Vol. 4: Juggernaut hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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

Despite the name, Spider-Man: The Gauntlet Vol. 4: Juggernaut has very little to do with the “Gauntlet” story cycle, which saw a number of villains upgraded by the Kraven family. This lack of tie-in to the ongoing story is actually a good thing considering that the rest of the trade is doing its hardest to win back old-school Amazing Spider-Man fans. Three years later, the “Gauntlet” storyline, and the “Grim Hunt” story it led up to, are just bumps in the road for Peter Parker. The first story collected here, “The Sting,” by Fred Van Lente and Michael Gaydos, is the one most clearly set in the modern era, with an appearance by the new, female Scorpion and references to the then-ongoing “Dark Reign” plotline.

Review: Star Trek Vol. 6: After Darkness trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Star Trek Vol. 6: After Darkness speaks well for IDW's ongoing "new Trek" series. Writer Mike Johnson gets the tone and voice of the movie Trek characters perfectly; though the trappings are familiar, this clearly feels like a story told within the new universe and not just The Original Series with new faces. In fact, After Darkness is even a little more Trek-y than the recent Into Darkness movie, with some nice sci-fi technobabble in the main story's conclusion.

Really the only place this book struggles is in serving as a follow-up to Into Darkness itself. The book is called "After Darkness" and takes place after Darkness, but the story is mostly tertiary to the movie; aside from a couple of cut-scenes, it wouldn't have been hard to set this story after Star Trek and before Into Darkness. That's a tiny quibble, however, since I wasn't so impressed with Into Darkness and found After Darkness to be a rousing story irrespective.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2014 - Trinity War tie-ins, Batman/Superman, Batwoman, Brubaker Catwoman

Friday, November 15, 2013

Controversy is the name of the game this month with DC Comics's February 2014 trade paperback and collections solicitations. Everybody's got an opinion about how DC should be collecting their crossovers these days, and the February solicitations will give you a lot more to chew over -- Justice League, Green Lantern, Pandora, and Phantom Stranger all collect parts, but not the whole, of certain storylines.

I look at all of that and more, as follows:

Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid HC

This will undoubtedly fan the flames of concern about DC's Trinity War collection plans. The new solicitation for Justice League Vol. 4 now includes issues #18-20 (the "Grid" storyline), skips #21, and then collects parts 1 and 6 of Trinity War. Those who don't follow Justice League of America and Justice League Dark are upset, I know, that some double-buying seems to need to be involved; I'm disconcerted by the new absence of issue #21, which ties-in to the Shazam! story that I enjoyed. Will we ever see this issue collected somewhere? Why publish this book with five issues, when six is not uncommon?

Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species TP

I love the "Not Final Cover" cover of this one, with all the white space; it reminds me of some of the Animal Man covers during Grant Morrison's run. Don't read the solicits for this one, which spoil the end of "Rotworld."

Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World HC

Collects Batman/Superman #1-4 and also the Justice League #23.1 issue featuring Darkseid. The Villains Month issue is written by Batman/Superman's Greg Pak and I'm glad to see it collected, but I wonder if it actually relates to this story or if this was just a convenient place to put it.

Batwoman Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick TP

Collects the last of J. H. Williams and Haden Blackman's issues on Batwoman. As some commenters have pointed out, this appears to be the first instance of a New 52 collection series switching from hardcover to paperback for its first-run collections. It seems curious to me that DC did this with Williams and Blackman's final trade; if, one assumes, the concern is that the book won't sell well enough for hardcover, I'd imagine that sales drop would come with Marc Andreyko's first trade (no reflection on Andreyko), not Williams and Hayden's last. It's equally possible that low sales have caused the switch, authors notwithstanding, though I thought Batwoman was doing well.

Earth 2 Vol. 3: War HC

It's a little surprising that DC has this hardcover packed as full as it is -- eight issues plus an annual. James Robinson's last issue is #16, and unless there's a significant cliffhanger between Robinson's #16 and Tom Taylor's #17, I'd think DC would want to start fresh with Taylor in the next trade. I'm not complaining, mind you -- packed hardcover collections are OK with me.

Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine TP

At some point I thought the previous collection, Harrow, was meant to include a little bit of Jeff Lemire's new run on the series, but that's not the case; this fourth collection starts off Lemire's run. Rather surprised to see this didn't switch the other way, over to hardcover.

Green Lantern Vol. 4: Dark Days HC

Very early word that I received on this collection said it would contain all the "Lights Out" crossover parts from all the other titles (and that the other collections would as well, the kind of construction I think some would like to see for the Trinity War collections). This new solicitation, however, says this just contains Green Lantern #21-26, the Annual #2, and the Villains Month issue #23.1: Relic. This means this collection only contains one part of "Lights Out" and you'll have to buy other collections to get the full story, which I imagine won't sit well with some.

Trinity of Sin—Pandora Vol. 1: The Curse TP
Trinity of Sin—The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith TP

The first Pandora collection includes issues #1-6, of which #1-3 are Trinity War tie-ins and #6 is a Forever Evil: Blight tie-in; sounds to me like this will be a tough collection to read solely on its own. Even more crazy-making is that the Phantom Stranger collection includes issue #6-11, of which #11 is a Trinity-War tie in; Blight doesn't start for Phantom Stranger until the next trade, in issue #14, so you get one part of Blight in Pandora in February but not the Phantom Stranger parts of Blight until probably much later this year.

Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer? New Edition TP

This is the Batman: Murderer collection that I wish DC would have published the first time around, and I'm glad to finally see it. The book contains Batgirl #24, 27, Batman #599-602, Batman: Gotham Knights #25-28, Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure #1, Birds of Prey #39, 40-41, 43, Detective Comics #766-767, Nightwing #65-66, 68-69, and Robin #98-99; if some eagle-eyed commenter wants to check how this matches with the original collection and let us know, feel free.

Catwoman Vol. 3: Under Pressure TP

At long last, this third volume completes the collections of Ed Brubaker's Catwoman run. Includes issues #25-37, including the War Games tie-in issues, #34-36.

• DC Comics Presents: Harley Quinn #1
Harley Quinn: Welcome To Metropolis TP

I actually didn't think DC was publishing those DC Comics Presents sub-trades any more, but this one includes Harley Quinn's No Man's Land-era origin story, among other things. The trade collects the last of Karl Kesel's issues on his series; sales of this one will probably decide whether DC follows this with a collection of the A. J. Lieberman (Gotham Knights) stories that followed.

Batman ‘66 Vol. 1 HC

Collects issues #1-5, though I'm not sure if that's from the print version of the digital series or straight from digital. At some point I'd heard this series was supposed to have interactive features but I've never seen anything else about it; I'm curious how that will translate to print, if at all.

Smallville Season 11 Vol. 4: Argo TP

Near as I can figure there should be just one more Smallville Season 11 trade after this collecting the "regular" digital series, before this switches over to miniseries. This collects print issues #13-15 and the Special #2; the next should have #16-19.

What will you be picking up in February? Crossover collecting driving you crazy yet?

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The first volume of Injustice: Gods Among Us is not a poorly told tale, especially as a digital comic translated to print and then newly collected in trade form. It's a story, however, that likely won't be palatable to most outside of ardent fans of the Injustice video game, given how dark and joyless the subject matter is.

The greatest importance of Injustice to those outside the video game realm may instead be that it's written by Tom Taylor, who follows James Robinson's much-acclaimed run on the Earth 2 title. I liked the first Earth 2 collection a lot, and so I take very seriously the question of whether Robinson's replacement will be able to do justice to the title or not. Injustice, as a book about an "alternate" DC Universe with an expansive cast, will be many readers' first indication of how Taylor will handle the other title.

Comic Book Gift Guide 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's that time of the year again for Collected Editions to offer my top trade paperbacks and graphic novel presents for you to give as gifts this holiday season. I think I've got a couple of winners here that'll make you a hit with your loved ones (or that you might want to snag for yourself!).

Of course, there's nothing I like less than using my holiday money on shipping, so once again I've got tips for how you can get three, even four or five books all with free shipping.

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

JSA Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

The JSA Omnibus doesn't come out in time for the holidays, but I thought I'd mention that it's selling right now for almost 40% off. If you've had your eye on it (especially since the contents changed) or need to have a gift for your favorite comics fan in reserve, this is a good opportunity. Geoff Johns's tale of DC's Golden Age heroes training the new generation is some of my favorite of Johns's work.

Pair with anything else on this list -- the JSA Omnibus comes with free shipping, so you can order to your heart's content as long as you have this in your cart.

Amazing Spider-Man (Little Golden Book)

Every year I like to include a couple items on the gift list, not too expensive, that you can use to pad out your order for free shipping, and then you can either give them to a young reader in your life or donate them to charity. This children's Spider-Man book is under $5.00 and written by Frank Berrios (former DC Comics editor), and it'd be a fun introduction to comics for a young reader.

Pair with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Monolith, Black Beetle, or Star Wars: Shadow of Yavin for free shipping.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis TP

This might very well be my favorite Superman story (though Superman: Panic in the Sky is no slouch), and certainly with the Superman/Batman movie coming up, now's the time for every comics fan to get this in their collection. This three-part story heralded the beginning of the great Triangle Title days in 1990s Superman comics that also brought us "Death of Superman." A murder brings Batman to Metropolis just as Clark Kent himself is marked for death; it's a great mystery and also makes a landmark change in Superman and Batman's partnership by the end. If you or your favorite comics fan has not read this story, do yourself a favor and pick it up, a steal at under $10.

Pair with the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Sonic/Mega Man, and Lazarus, and get five gifts for $35 with free shipping. Or, add something like the Al Jaffee biography or the Fables Encyclopedia and also get free shipping.

Happy! Deluxe HC

I reviewed Grant Morrison's Image comic Happy! back in April, but it's really a Christmas story (of sorts), and Image has a deluxe edition just in time for the holidays, with ten pages of new material. Be warned, however -- I called Happy! a "demented" Christmas story in my review and I meant it. This is Christmas by way of a Quentin Tarantino movie, in which a hardened hitman hunts down a kidnapper in bloody fashion -- while accompanied by a bright blue cartoon horse. If your favorite comics fan takes their holidays a little less seriously, Happy! should make them, well, happy.

Pair with Lazarus (an equally bloody story) and then a book like March, Black Beetle, or Monolith for free shipping.

Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1
Sandman Omnibus Vol. 2

Both volumes of DC Comics/Vertigo's Sandman Omnibus are now available. They're about $100 each, but so pretty! Seriously, between these two books collects all seventy-five issues of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series; there's an Absolute edition out there, but for me, a two-volume omnibus is just more manageable. With Gaimain releasing a new Sandman story right now, this is the perfect time to get these collections for your favorite comics fan -- and think what a hero of the holiday you'll be when they unwrap these! (DC also just announced a Silver Edition of this, for the fan who already has everything else.)

Pair with anything on this list; each book comes with free shipping, so you can use these to secure free shipping for your entire order.

Captain America, Vol. 1: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection TP

The first trailers for Captain America 2: The Winter Solider are hitting the airwaves, and if you don't know it, your favorite comics fan does: the movie is based on a very popular storyline by fan-favorite writer Ed Brubaker. A few years ago Marvel released this Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection, which includes Brubaker's Captain America #1-14. This sizable volume will make a good impression on your favorite comics fan and help them gear up for the flick.

Pair with Happy! and the Amazing Spider-Man Little Golden Book for free shipping on your order.

Black Beetle Vol. 1: No Way Out HC

Many of us fell in love with Francesco Francavilla's pulp artwork in his contributions to Batman: The Black Mirror, and I love seeing his designs on Twitter. Black Beetle started out as a webcomic of sorts on Francavilla's website; Dark Horse eventually picked up the series and now Francavilla is writing and drawing Black Beetle as an ongoing set of miniseries. This first collection has been in my "to read" pile for a week or so now; it collects Dark Horse's Black Beetle #0 and the first four-part story arc, "No Way Out." For the superhero or pulp fan that's mostly stuck with the mainstream, Black Beetle might be something for them to check out.

Pair Black Beetle with Monolith and Lazarus from Image and get your favorite comics fan some great "indie" comics with free shipping.

Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography

This biography of MAD's Al Jaffee came out a couple years ago, but I just stumbled upon it in a bookstore the other day. Anyone who's ever read MAD (or used to read MAD as a kid) knows Jaffee's work, from the MAD "fold-ins" to "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and plenty of bits in between. Though not a graphic novel, Jaffee illustrates this authorized biography by Mary-Lou Weisman, and it'd make a great companion gift for a long-time comics fan.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for free shipping, or add Star Wars: Jedi Academy and Sonic/Mega Man to get free shipping and gifts for young and old on your list.

Fables Encyclopedia HC

Bill Willingham has announced that he's bringing Fables to a close with issue #150, so if you're a Fables fan (and who isn't?) or know one, you might start feeling a bit nostalgic. DC Comics/Vertigo has just released the Fables Encyclopedia by writer and comics annotator Jess Nevins, who details the backgrounds of all the mythic and fairytale figures Willingham has used in his Fables saga. If you're in the mind to revisit Fables, this is the way to do it right.

Pair this with Lazarus and the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book for free shipping; this reference book might also pair well with the Al Jaffee biography, with free shipping.

March Book 1 TP

March is by congressman and civil rights figure John Lewis, and it begins to chronicle Lewis's life journey. The book is nonfiction, black and white, and part of a trilogy, so this is a great gift to get a comics fan who maybe hasn't read so many graphic novel bios, or even for a young adult reader who maybe likes comics a little better than other books, and then you have two more ready-made gifts available when the other parts come out.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for a one-two superhero-nonfiction action, plus maybe something like Star Wars: Shadow of Yavin or Sonic/Mega Man, Jedi Academy, and the Spider-Man Golden Book for free shipping.

Star Wars Vol. 1: In The Shadow of Yavin TP
Star Wars: Jedi Academy HC

I thought the first collection of Brian Wood's new "classic era" Star Wars series was very good -- not perfect, but a great, faithful attempt at telling new Star Wars stories. I like movie-based Star Wars comics better than the ones set in the far-flung past or future, so Star Wars: In the Shadow of Yavin was just right for me. If you've got a Star Wars fan gearing up for the new movies, there's no question this should be in their collection.

Also out now is Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars: Jedi Academy. Brown is the author of the absolutely precious Star Wars cartoon books Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little Princess. Jedi Academy is more a storybook/graphic novel than the comic strip humor of the previous books -- think Star Wars meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid, set at an intergalactic middle school.

Pair these two together for a Star Wars fan young and old (or a fan who's young at heart), plus something like the X-Files Season 10 collection for a bunch of media tie-ins and free shipping.

Star Trek: The Stardate Collection, Volume 1

I like collections, obviously, and especially when there's a collection of unusual or unexpected materials, that piques my interest. IDW is about to release their first Star Trek: The Stardate Collection volume, which collects Star Trek comics from all different publishers, in their general "stardate" order. This first collection includes Star Trek: Crew from IDW, which precedes Captain Pike's tenure on the Enterprise (before Kirk's time), Alien Spotlight: Vulcans, also from IDW (a Pike/Spock adventure), and Early Voyages #1-6, a Pike series published by Marvel. I love this idea of trying to bring the disparate series from various publishers into "continuity," and I'm eager to see this collection series continue. A great gift for your favorite Star Trek fan. For fans of the new movies, I'd also recommend the newest volume of IDW's ongoing "new Trek" comic, Star Trek: After Darkness.

Pair with anything on this list. This book qualifies for free shipping on its own, so whatever else you pick up with it will ship free, too.

Lazarus Volume 1 TP

I recently reviewed Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus; I'm a fan of Rucka and Lark from their work on Gotham Central, and this new Image series doesn't disappoint. In a post-apocalyptic setting, various "families" negotiate both within and without for power and supplies, buffered by their invincible Lazarus assassins. It's as much an action comic as it is the kind of political procedural that Rucka is known for; this collection includes the first four issues for a very cheap price.

Pair with Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis, Sonic/Mega Man, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, and the Amazing Spider-Man Golden Book to get five gifts for $35 with free shipping. Or, a creator-owned book like Lazarus would pair well with Black Beetle and Monolith, also for free shipping.

Monolith HC

Monolith collects issues from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's DC Comics series, now re-published by Image. Monolith is one of those books that received critical acclaim but didn't catch on enough to last, and I'm glad to see books like Monolith and Chase getting collections (still holding out for that Peyer/Morales Hourman collection). Though this book is a couple years old, it involves a modern take on the Jewish golem story, making it a perfect Hannukah gift, or simply an introduction to a great overlooked comics series.

Pair with Black Beetle and the Sonic/Mega Man crossover for free shipping, or add to the Al Jaffee biography also for free shipping.

Sonic/Mega Man: Worlds Collide Vol. 1 TP

Regular Collected Editions writer Doug suggested this collection, which collects the first four parts of the Sonic/Mega Man crossover, with two more books scheduled for next year. Kids will like this one, but as Doug said, he's not even a video gamer and he enjoyed it. If your favorite comics fan is old enough to remember Sonic and Mega Man in their original heyday, this one will be a blast from the past, and makes a great stocking stuffer at less than $10.

Pair with the Spider-Man Golden Book and Star Wars: Jedi Academy for the young readers in your life, plus something like Happy! or Black Beetle and Lazarus to get five books with free shipping.

X-Files Season 10 Volume 1

This has been a good year for media tie-in comics -- Ghostbusters relaunched, there's Smallville Season 11, a Heroes comic is coming, there's Brian Woods's new Star Wars, IDW's Star Trek comic picks up from the movies, and more -- and the one I've been most excited about is X-Files Season 10. Writer Joe Harris gets Chris Carter's blessing for these stories that take place after the second X-Files movie and cameos just about everyone you'd want to see in a new X-Files series. This is in stores in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Pair with Lazarus and Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis for a great trilogy of gifts, or grab X-Files and Happy! plus the Spider-Man Golden Book -- free shipping either way!

If you have more gift suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. Please let us all know in the comments section. (Special thanks to contributor Doug Glassman of Hell Yeah '80s Marvel! for his suggestions.) Collected Editions turned eight this year, and it never could have gone on so long without all the readers who support this site -- thank you, happy holidays, and happy new year!

(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: Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson Vol. 5 trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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

I’ve decided to skip reviewing the fourth volume of Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson for the time being to get to the run’s amazing grand finale in Thor Visionaries Vol. 5.

The majority of that fourth volume is the Balder the Brave mini-series, chronicling the future king of Asgard and his love interest, Karnilla the Norn-Queen, as they fight the Frost Giants. The three issues of The Mighty Thor collected in that book still had a lot going on, including crossing over with the “Mutant Massacre” storyline in the X-Men titles and Volstagg’s adoption of two orphaned human boys, Mick and Kevin, who play crucial roles in Volume 5; they save the day along with Hildy and Kurse, the amnesiac Dark Elf created in Secret Wars II.  These characters have kept a fairly low profile since then, though Thor: The Dark World may change that.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 3: Death of the Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ann Nocenti's Catwoman Vol. 3: Death of the Family transforms the series from the gritty crime drama that it was under previous writer Judd Winick to something funnier, more madcap, more akin to Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's Power Girl, for instance. That's not my preference, but I was among the minority enjoying watching Catwoman bite people's ears off, so I guess now the public's got what it wants.

I was not familiar with Nocenti's work prior to the New 52; the franticness found in her Green Arrow Vol. 2: Triple Threat is reflected here, so perhaps that's Nocenti's style. Again, the tone is not for me, though I do have to acknowledge there's something admirable in the frenetic pace Nocenti keeps up in this book from beginning to end. Art and story at times seem to be chasing each other around the page, struggling to stay together, and there's a lot of energy in this book even if it's not how I like my Catwoman.

Review: Justice League of America Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Geoff Johns's new Justice League of America is an entertaining amalgam, but one that defies easy definitions. Previously, Justice League of America was "the" Justice League, and where that title offered iconic action, its spin-offs filled smaller niches -- Justice League International was a humor title, Justice League Europe was more character-driven, Justice League Task Force was at first an espionage team-up book and later, a Teen Titans-esque heroes in training book.

Justice League of America Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous is a bit of all of these, in one. It's far from a "bwah-ha-ha" book, but Johns and especially initial artist David Finch have some amusing sight gags here. The book is ostensibly character-driven, though less so here than I understand it will be in the future; rather, in comparison to Justice League, the America title is a tad sharper, punchier, less grandiose, rather like comparing Superman to Green Arrow. Justice League took six issues to tell its first story, whereas America gets in two missions in the same amount of space.