As you can see from the photo above, I’ve read a lot of random trades lately. Here are a few of them and my thoughts! Continue reading Trade Post Quick Hits: Flex Mentallo, Severed, Justice Society Returns & Grayson
The last time I was really excited about mainstream comics was the lead-up to Infinite Crisis and everything that went on up until about Countdown. It seemed like DC had done a great job of keeping their universe well organized, using several quality creators to not only tell stories that were unique and fun in and of themselves, but also lead up to something much larger. Sometime during the Infinite Crisis event, I actually started working at Wizard, so I had more of an inside track on what was going on. To be honest, as cool as that can be, it’s not always a great thing and can taint how you feel about different books. It’s the age old bit about seeing how the sausage is made. Sometimes it’s interesting and enlightening, other times it’s pretty gross.
Hit the jump to keep reading! Continue reading Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga
I fully intended to write this post towards the end of last weekend, but lost track of time. In the end, I guess it doens’t really matter. Anyway, like I said in that post (or maybe didn’t, it was so long ago, who can remember?), I read these four JSA trades back to back to back to back in the order they’re presented in these posts. As you’ll remember, JSA All-Stars was a spinoff book that featured the more proactive (and younger) members of the fairly unwieldy group. When I say proactive, I don’t necessarily mean the usual “we’re gonna go after the bad guys instead of wait for them to attack” idea, but a team that is well trained in order to be more active and effective when they fight the bad guys.
The second trade features three stories, the first dealing with SPOILER Atom Smasher’s death during Blackest Night, the JSA fighting a gang of gods running amok and a two-parter answering the question: why are there so many Cyclones running around?
While the actual death of Atom Smasher might have been told in a one-off mini that held almost no baring on the larger Blackest Night story (I’ll get around to reviewing that book eventually), but the issue here was actually pretty heartfelt as it followed Judomaster exploring her feelings towards AS in depth.
I wasn’t as interested in the details of the gods story, but I will say that any script that offers Freddie Williams II the chance to draw monkeys riding tigers in the jungle, some iconic super heroes and building-big gods, I’m happy. There were some revelations and characters moments that were pretty important to the larger story as well, which I also appreciated. The multiple Cyclone story was also pretty cool, kind of along the lines of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode over two issues, with an ending that actually had me going, “Whaaaaat?” I’d really like to see how this book wrapped up. I believe there was one more trade’s worth of issues, but don’t know if DC has any intention of collecting them right now. Anyone know?
Supertown is a little but of an outsider when it comes to this particular quartet of JSA books. The first JSoA volume I read lead right into the two JSA All-Stars books, but the original book has a collection called Axis of Evil that I don’t have and a crossover with JLoA that I’m holding off on until I go through all the post-Infinite Crisis JLA books. So, I don’t have as great of a sense of this team and its motives in the wake of the split, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a more difficult comic to read, I just like having all the pieces of the puzzle, you know?
Anyway, this arc revolves around the battle with a super powered terrorist named Scythe. The JSA takes him on in the first issue and tells young member Lightning to, essentially, go supernova and blast the crap of him, destroying a huge area of the town. Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott gets mortally wounded in the battle and we soon discover that he and Golden Age Flash ran into this thing as a child experiment in WWII.
With the fallout, Flash focuses his efforts on rebuilding the whole city, a job that takes a lot longer than it usually does in comics, taking a more real world approach to that trope. More terrorists show up to give our heroes a hard time, but we also get a brand new design for Alan Scott’s costume, which is pretty clunky, but actually serves a purpose.
I’ve talked before about how I get bored with comics that feel too familiar with other comics I’ve read, especially when said older comics are from the same character or team’s history. This one included a few elements that have been very popular in the last few years for the JSA: a major member gets nearly killed (actually two in this collection) and a villain that comes out of nowhere with seemingly all the answers. However, I thought Guggenheim did a pretty great job of building this story around different character beats and moments. I’m still not sure about the GL costume, but I’d definitely be interested to see how JSA ended just prior to New 52.
I’ve talked about my love of the Justice Society a few times here and there, but the gist is that I’m a fan of legacy characters and the idea of older heroes trying to train and usher in the next generation, which was the point of the team post One Year Later when Geof Johns returned to the team he helped bring back into the comic fan consciousness after taking over for James Robinson and David Goyer. Before jumping off of Justice Society of America, Johns not only added a ton of characters to this book, but also took them on an extended adventure that some people lost interest in. I remember reading all the Gog stuff in a sitting or two and thinking it worked a lot better in trade, but that’s not really here nor there.
At some point, Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges took the book over. I’m not exactly sure when or how long they’d been on the book by the time Bad Seed kicked off, but it was the kind of story I’d seen before and didn’t exactly fall in love with, even though it did lead to an interesting movement for the team.
If you follow the second link above you’ll find my review for the JSA vs. Kobra miniseries which had an enemy coming out of nowhere to hassle the JSA, take out Mr. Terrific and get really close to taking the whole team out for good. That’s the basic plot here too, but with a little bit more of a mystery factor because we’re not supposed to know whether the culprit is the cocky and crude King Chimera or the gung-ho but crazy All-American Kid. It’s not much of a mystery because we see the Kid do it and just have to wait around for the team to figure it out. Another aspect of this story to feel like well trod territory is having Obsidian be in danger and possibly part of the problem. I have a crappy memory, so I can’t remember exactly when this stuff happened previously, but it felt like I’d seen many of these story aspects before. Oh there’s also a ridiculously huge army of supervillains, which seemed to be the thing to do for most DC books around this time.
At the end of the day, this book isn’t super interesting. I like Jesus Merino’s artwork, it’s big and bold and he can do a lot of characters in one page. I also like the writers, but this particular story doesn’t really utilize everyone’s strengths in my opinion. At the end of the book, something big has happened: a rift between members in the teams leading to a split into two different teams and comics. Most of the older heroes stuck with Justice Society of America while the younger, more proactive members moved over to JSA All-Stars.
While I might not have been the biggest fan of how we got to two ongoing JSA books, I actually really enjoyed JSA All-Stars (or what I’ve read of it so far). See, in the previous story, Magog got in the faces of some of the older guys for not being active enough in training and screening new recruits. As such, the one-time military man, takes it upon himself to train this younger squad in the ways of hand to hand combat and military tactics.
This is a perspective in comics that seems to get overlooked a lot and one that I really liked seeing explored.
The story also continues some of the elements from Bad Seed. In that story, the villains were told by their unnamed employer not to touch Star Girl. We find out in this collection that SPOILER the man behind all of that was Johnny Sorrow, the villain behind an early JSA adventure. The book also features the Injustice Society line-up scene in those same early issues. I know I complained about the army of supervillains in the review above, but these guys are more of a team instead of a ton of bad guys all thrown together.
Even though Sturges used characters I was familiar with especially in the context of this team, I thought he did a great job of using them in different ways and giving the bad guys different motivations. Mostly, though, I adore Freddie Williams II’s artwork. He’s kind of like a cartoonier JLA-era Howard Porter, but really with his own unique look. This dude nails every group shot he does and also is equally comfortable with larger fight scenes and quieter moments. I could not take my eyes off of his panels and pages. I believe he’s all digital and actually takes the time to design the rooms and locales and can then shift them around as they make sense for any given panel or angle. That is fantastic.
I think JSA All-Stars was actually a really good idea, even if the market probably wasn’t crying out for a second JSA book at the time of its launch. Fans of the older crew could stick with JSoA and see their adventures while people who might be scared off by octogenarian superheroes could see what the whole legacy hero thing was about in a book with a slightly different perspective on the whole superhero thing. For more JSA related reviews, check back later this week for when I get to JSA All-Stars Glory Days and Justice Society of America Supertown!
Kobra: Resurrected (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Jack Kirby, Steve Sherman, Martin Pasko & Ivan Brandon, drawn by Joe Bennett, Jack Kirby, Mike Nasser & Julian Lopez
Collects Checkmate #23-25, Kobra #1, DC Special Series #1, Faces of Evil: Kobra #1, JLA-Z #2 & Who’s Who #12 & 13,
Back before DC decided to do a complete reboot, it looked like Kobra and the villainous cult he ran was going to become a pretty big deal in the DCU. I have no idea if this actually happened or not, but he did get a rebirth in the pages of Faces of Evil: Kobra #1 a few years back that lead into the series I’ll be reviewing next. But even before that, Greg Rucka and Eric Trautman were doing some really interesting things with Kobra in the pages of the highly underrated Checkmate. I had a whole thing written about how I would be keeping this one trade pretty much just for the Jack Kirby issue, but then I did a little looking around and discovered that this book actually collects the as-yet-uncollected issues of Rucka’s run on the series. I assumed incorrectly they were in Fall of the Wall, but that’s not the case. So, this book now has even more value for me.
For most of my reading of this collection I was thinking it was kind of a bad collection. Tricky. The kind of thing thrown together to get you to buy another book if you liked JSA Vs. Kobra or to get the crazy completists to buy another book for a pertinent issue or two, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore (or at least not to the same degree). See, the Faces of Evil one shot directly leads into JSAVK, so it would make a lot of sense for it to be in that book, but then again the Checkmate stuff leads into both. You throw in the Kirby issue and a Batman story that gets referenced later on and these to actually work as pretty solid companion pieces. Could they all have been put in one book? Sure, but that would have been a pretty thick collection for a miniseries that may or may not have lead to anything or sold well, so I guess I get it.
Content-wise, I like the stuff that leads into JSAVK and love looking at anything Kirby drew, even if the story itself is somewhat plodding and not super interesting. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the history of Kobra, the big reveal of the book is right there on the cover for everyone to see which undercuts what could have been a pretty surprising moment. The Batman/Kobra story wasn’t very interesting, so I mostly skipped it, but overall, I thought this was a pretty good character compilation book that fills in a lot of holes for some people.
Much of my interest in the previous book comes from how much I liked JSA Vs. Kobra both when it first came out and upon a second reading. The idea behind this series is that a new Kobra has taken over the organization and has completely changed up their MO, which puts the Justice Society off their game. At it’s heart, story is a battle of wits between the heroic genius Mister Terrific and the new Kobra. It’s actually one of the few times where alternating thought box writing moving from the one main character to the other works. Jeph Loeb did this with Superman/Batman and it came off super corny in my opinion, but here it works really well and adds another layer to the drama and tension.
I’d say that the book works very well on its own as a taut thriller, the kind of thing you could probably give to non comic readers who are fans of procedurals, thrillers or mysteries and they’d enjoy it. Sure it’s got super heroes and super villains with longstanding relationships, but that’s not much different than jumping in on a long-running detective type series. There is a good amount of history that fans can dig into though–much of which is reprinted in the above trade.
Most of all, though, it’s just a good story that you’re not quite sure how the good guys will get out of. The downside of it being a comic book, especially a miniseries of an ongoing franchise, is that veteran comic fans know that nothing bad is going to happen to the heroes. That would be reserved for a big event or the main series, but not something like this generally speaking. It cuts out some of the tension–much like Kirby’s Kobra cover–but at the end of the day, I think it’s worth a read, even if you’re one of the many people not interested in reading superhero comics about old people.
It’s been almost a month since I ran down what trades I’ve read recently and I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit for more of my “insight” (ie blathering). To catch up on a few things. I finished Tor and Barry Ween from last time. Barry was awesome from beginning to end, while Tor felt a little long, though it might be solely worth checking out for the art.
MAJOR BUMMER #1-15 (DC) written by John Arcudi, drawn by Doug Mahnke
Okay, obviously this one isn’t a trade, but that’s because it hasn’t been collected yet (not my fault). I remember reading about this book in Wizard all the time back in 1997-1998. It’s about this guy named Lou who gets super powers thanks to a couple of aliens working on a college project, but he wants nothing to do with being a super hero. But that doesn’t stop other similarly afflicted people from trying to get Lou into the super hero game. I love this creative team. Arcudi’s doing rad things with B.P.R.D. and Mahnke’s the sickest artist out there right now. No offense to JG Jones, but I really wish they would have gotten Mahnke to draw all of Final Crisis. And pretty much any other comic ever. Oh, also, one quick thought about this book: I wonder if it would still be going on (or at least gone on for longer) if it had been a creator-owned book from Image, Dark Horse or one of the smaller companies (this book has no connections to the DCU). Ah well, I think it works very well in its 15 issues.
DAREDEVIL: HELL TO PAY 1 & 2, CRUEL AND UNUSUAL (Marvel) written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka for CAU, drawn by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Lee Weeks, Marko Djurdjevic, John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo & Paul Azaceta
Altogether these three trades cover Daredevil #94-110 which is everything post Brian Michael Bendis’ run minus Bru’s first two trades. I started reading DD with Kevin Smith’s first issue and enjoyed the book (for the most part) up through Bru’s first arc called Devil Inside and Out which had Matt Murdock in jail. I really liked the secret agent-like quality of Murdock at the time and after he broke out of jail, but dropped off somewhere in the second arc when everything revolved around smell. The problem with basing a written story around the idea of smell is that, well, I can’t smell it. So, I lost track of the book, but I still am a huge Ed Brubaker fan and heard his re-team with Rucka was good so I gave these books a shot and I liked them but I won’t be adding them to my shelf. I think I’m all set when it comes to reading about a mentally unstable Daredevil. It was one of the aspects of Bendis’ run that didn’t really work (though, to be fair, I was reading monthly comics about once every five months, so I was cramming a lot in on college breaks). I did like how Bru got rid of Murdock’s wife Milla without killing her and the #100 issue had a lot of cool art sequences, though watching yet another “drugged hero relives his mistakes” comic wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world. All in all, they were solid comics, just not the kind of thing that I was looking for. I’d like to see a drastically new direction for DD. Maybe not something bright and sparkly, but maybe a little less crazy?
SUPERMAN MAN OF STEEL VOL. 4 (DC) written by John Byrne, Marv Wolfman & Paul Levitz, drawn by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Greg LaRocque, Erik Larsen
So, the deal with the MOS trades is that they’re (in theory) reprinting every post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman in order from John Byrne’s reboot Man of Steel miniseries on. Being a huge Superman fan, these books were on the top of my “must get” list and as of this last Christmas, I acquired all the ones available as of then (and now I think). The thing about these comics (Superman 7-8, Action 590-591, Adventures 460-431, Legion 37-38) is that some of them are kind of hard to slog through. Partly because they still fall into that “I’m describing what I’m doing” writing style and partly because, by the time I started reading Superman in the early 90s I had heard about a lot of these stories already. But, this book does include the first appearance of Rampage, an encounter with the Metal Men, a convoluted origin for Chemo that includes multiple earths and Crisis, an adventure drawn by Erik Larsen and, most interestingly, a crossover between Superman and Legion that explained why Superboy was still appearing in the future even though, post-Crisis, he wasn’t supposed to exist. It’s kind of convoluted, but it also seems like Geoff Johns was very familiar with the story when he wrote the end of Legion of 3 Worlds (a series I REALLY liked). Another interesting thing about these books is that, after Crisis, they were still trying to figure out how Crisis effected everything and they were really focused on nailing down Superman’s abilities. For instance, he’s not as strong or fast as he was pre-Crisis and even has trouble fighting a goon like Mammoth from the Fearsome Five (sporting two new members in the form of Charger and Deuce, characters that I’ve never heard of). And, finally, I know this is just a coincidence, but doesn’t this look kind like one of the new Corps symbols:
My only complaint about these books is that I wish they reprinted the covers between the issues. Kudos for including all relevant issues though and not skipping over tie-ins!
MILLENNIUM (DC) written by Steve Englehard, drawn by Joe Staton & Ian Gibson
I’ve read a lot of crossovers in my days. Some can be easily contained within the miniseries/crossover they were originally sold as (Sinestro Corps War), while some rely heavily on tie-in issues in addition to the main book to tell the full story (Civil War, Secret Invasion). I’m not sure if I prefer one way of telling a story to another, but I definitely prefer a trade that has all of the pieces of the puzzle in one place, which, unfortunately, Millennium doesn’t. Huge story elements take place in the tie-in issues. See, the whole idea (which wasn’t explained very well in the main series) is that the Manhunters from Green Lantern have infiltrated the lives of every hero (or at least every hero with an ongoing book at the time). One of the big ones at the time was Wally West’s dad. I’m not sure if that still holds up, or if his dad was always a Manhunter or was just replaced at some point like a Skrull (for an incredibly in depth comparison of Millennium and Secret Invasion check out J. Caleb Mozzocco’s Every Day Is LIke Wednesday “The Other Secret Invasion” posts). It would have been nice to read a fuller version of the story that might include more (or all) of the tie-ins. I love a good omnibus as long as it’s not too heavy (I’m a contrarian). So, as a solo story, the Millennium trade doesn’t really work, but it is a fun little time capsule that focuses heavily on the Green Lantern Corps (it was a weird time for them) and tries to launch a brand new team that I’ve seen in ads as The Wanderers, but I’ve never read an actual issue.
[Note: I haven’t actually read Justice Society Vol. 1 yet, it must have snuck it’s way into my pile on accident, or thanks to me cleaning up for the in-laws’ visit.]
HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL. 2 LOVE STORIES FOR DEAD PEOPLE (Vertigo) written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Luca Rossi (plus guests!)
I am loving this book and with the cancellation of Exterminators, 100 Bullets ending and my inability to keep up with Scalped unless I’m reading trades, I’m still struggling to keep up with my current favorite Vertigo title. I think the “problem” is that there’s so much going on that I can’t really keep track of it from month to month. Anyway, this trade collects issues 6-10 of the Sandman spin-off, which really digs deep into why these people are stuck in the House of Mystery (I love that these old DC houses are still being used, the Secret Six were using the House of Secrets at one time as an HQ). We also get some more history of our heroine Fig. I’ve heard from friends that HOM comes off as kind of hitting all the right notes, but not being exceptional as far as Vertigo titles are concerned. I think this doesn’t bother me because I haven’t read all that many Vertigo titles in this vein. Plus, having just read Sandman in the past couple of years, it’s nice to see some kind of continuation. I’m also, of course, a big fan of the side stories told in every issue drawn by guys like Kyle Baker and Bernie Wrightson. I think these stories are what really put me over the edge into the love column. Hopefully I can get caught up or at the very least, stay caught up on the trades. Oh, plus, Luca Rossi does a pretty great job in my opinion of capturing everything from regular folks to huge monsters and all kinds of fantastical elements in between. Plus, I can’t think of anyone who has turned a house into such a character as him. Well done and hope this book has a long a fruitful life.
EASTMAN & LAIRD’S TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES COLLECTED SERIES VOLUME 1 (Tundra) written by Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain, drawn by Ken Mitchroney and Jim Lawson
You guys, this was a weird one. I think this is a pre-Archie mini series (three issues, if I’m reading everything right) and boy is it crazy. Not only do you get a non-canon origin of the Turtles and Splinter as told by Splinter to April in the very beginning, but you also get highly complicated origins for Man Ray, Leatherhead and a surprise appearance from one of my favorite secondary characters (at least in toy form) Ace Duck. Voodoo curses, alternate dimensions, Krang in his robot suit, the Turtles in luchador-like costumes and a floating cow head who can traverse time and space. That’s what you get in this volume. I’m not really sure how to explain it any other way than weird. If anyone knows how all this stuff fits in with the rest of the animated TMNT comics, please let me know. Here’s a page scan to give you a taste of the weirdness: