New 52 Team Trade Post: Stormwatch & Suicide Squad Volume 1

Stormwatch Volume 1: The Dark Side (DC)
Written by Paul Cornell, drawn by Miguel Sepulveda & Al Barrionuevo
Collects Stormwatch #1-6

I read through about half of DC’s New 52 #1 issues a while back, but it’s hard to judge an entire series based on just one issue, so I was pretty jazzed when I got my hands on some of the trades. One of the books I was most curious about was Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch, which I had read none of. On one hand, I’ve liked Cornell’s work in the past and on the other, I’m a big Wildstorm fan and was curious to see how some of those characters and concepts were integrated into this new DCU. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The tricky thing about doing anything with the Stormwatch and Authority characters is that Warren Ellis put such a stamp on them. He added a seriousness and a weirdness to the proceedings of these characters (and created half of them) that you really can’t separate them from him. Heck, most writers who tackled the team after Ellis left did their best, but it was difficult to pull off. I think Cornell did a pretty great job of playing in that same kind of sandbox, but making it more of a solid superhero story that, as far as I know, works well within the framework of a bigger superhero universe.

The basic idea with this team is that they deal with the dirtier and darker problems that the JLA can’t or won’t deal with. The series picks up with the team — which very smartly includes Martian Manhunter — trying to recruit Apollo and Midnighter and deal with a world-threatening bad guy. It’s a cool, fun and weird superhero story that throws out some rad ideas (I like how Jack Hawksmoor talks to the personifications of cities) and includes some rad action that sets up a larger story, something that works very well for an episodic adventure like this. I also dug Miguel Sepulveda’s artwork which suits the darkness and the superheroics both quite well.

I’m curious about the rest of this series, but right after this collection, the writer changes twice. Paul Jenkins, a writer I’m not wild about, comes on and is soon followed up by Peter Milligan. Did anyone read those issues? Does it flow well? Does it continue to pay off the promise of the sixth issue? Let me know in the comments.

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked In The Teeth (DC)
Written by Adam Glass, drawn by Federico Dallocchio & Clayton Henry
Collects Suicide Squad #1-7

Suicide Squad is a concept I dig in general, criminals being used on missions instead of rotting or dying in prison. I liked it the first time I saw it in The Dirty Dozen (such a great movie) and every time I encountered them in comics. So, this was another book I was primed to like. I think this one caught some flack, didn’t it? I can’t remember, but it’s definitely a darker and dirtier book, something I dug because you don’t need every comic to be on the same wavelength. In fact, I give DC a lot of credit for casting as wide a net as possible when it came to tone and themes with the New 52 books.

Anyway, the New 52 version of the Suicide Squad includes Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark, El Diablo, Voltaic and Black Spider. They’re sent by Amanda Waller to take care of the smaller, dirtier missions that even Stormwatch isn’t paying attention to. The thing I liked most about this book is how fast it moves. They literally go from one mission to another as quickly as possible. Writer Adam Glass also doesn’t drag things out to six issues when he can do shorter ones, which I really appreciate.

This book covers all kinds of bases, from zombies to heroes-on-the-run and lots in between, plus the fun of seeing some of the weirder, smaller characters pop up (Mad Dog!). Because it’s a new team and a new universe, you really don’t know who’s going to make it out alive from issue to issue or who’s going to try and turn on the others, so it makes for an exciting ride. My one gripe with this series is the inconsistency of the artwork. It changes by page sometimes which is a real bummer, especially because some of the guys don’t hold up as well as others. Worse yet, some art styles look cartoony while others look darker, so it kind of throws you out of the story a bit.

One more thing I want to say about these trades in general is that I like how consistent the trade dress is. I know that might sound goofy, but it’s something I pay attention to, especially as I look at my trades on the shelf. I like consistency. So far, all the trades I’ve seen have that bar across the bottom front cover displaying the creative team, but then the spines all have the same font and are separated by color bands at the top that I believe denote which sub-section of the new DCU they belong to. Kudos on that.

Trade Post: Agents of Atlas Dark Reign & The War That Time Forgot

AGENTS OF ATLAS: DARK REIGN (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Carlo Pagulaya, Benton Jew, Leonard Kirk
Collects: Agents Of Atlas #1-5, Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust, Dark Reign: New Nation, Giant Size Marvel Adventures Avengers #1 & Wolverine: Agent Of Atlas from Marvel.com
Man, I love Agents Of Atlas. Jeff Parker has done an amazing job of taking a bunch of dusty old Atlas characters and making them not only awesome, but really fun to keep up with. The hardcover collecting the very first mini along with the first appearances of most of the characters and a ton of extras is not only one of my most prized hardcovers, but also one of the best examples of what a comic book collection can be. So, needless to say, I was excited to read this collection of AoA stories which launched with Dark Rein, a story I generally don’t care for.

This book picks up, relatively, where the last one left off, showing how the Agents are dealing with being an extension of the criminal organization-turned-instrument for change Atlas group. It’s a pretty cool concept that really plays well in the Secret Invasion/Dark Reign era, even if I do think the idea of anyone handing power over to Norman “The Murderer Who Forced His Agents To Wear Green And Purple” Osborn is one of the more stupid ones in all of comics (and maybe fiction). Luckily, while the stories do firmly take place in the Marvel U, there’s a lot of other action going on with adventures from the team’s past to keep you interested even if the quoed status of Marvel isn’t your bag. Plus, I really appreciate Marvel including the Marvel.com Wolverine story as well as the excerpts from various books and even the Marvel Adventures annual (even if it was the one thing I didn’t care to read). There’s one more trade’s worth of this series, then I’m assuming there will be one that ties in with all of the Incredible Hercules/X-Men/Avengers crossovers and minis, and after that, the new series simply called Atlas. Keep up the good work Parker!

THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT VOL. 1 & 2 (DC)
Written by Bruce Jones, drawn by Al Barrionuevo and one issue by Scott Kolins
Collects: War That Time Forgot 1-6 in Vol. 1, 7-12 in Vol. 2
When The War That Time Forgot came out, I’m sure a lot of people were questioning why this book even existed. Fans weren’t exactly clamoring for a book about faintly-recognizable-at-best characters from the annals of DC’s huge history, nor was anyone asking for a Bruce Jones comic, especially after his atrocious run on Nightwing and the generally dull OMAC book. But, the story held some interest for me for a reason I still can’t place. Maybe it was my love of Barrionuevo who I’ve been a fan of since he popped up on Batman: Gotham Knights with AJ Lieberman back in the dizzy. Maybe it was because I WAS curious about those oddly familiar characters like Enemy Ace, Firehair and G.I. Robot among a good deal of others. Or possible I wanted to read a story about a mysterious island like Lost. Whatever it was, I kept my eye out for the two volumes of this book (it really should just be in one) and gave them a read. I really liked it.

I will say right off the bat that one of the reasons I DID like the series is because of the characters. Many of them I had a very passing knowledge of them, which wrapped the story in another layer of mystery. Sure there was the one in the story about how these characters who had no business being in the same time, but I also kept wondering how Jones would explain whether these are the same versions of the characters we’ve seen in other comics. Let me tell you without spoiling anything that it does pay off.

The island holds warriors from all different time periods from ancient Viking times to the French Revolution to both World Wars and even on into the future. In the beginning they’re broken up into two warring camps trying to survive this island full of dinosaurs.

Well, as you might expect there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The story probably could have been told in 4-6 fewer issues, but I never thought it dragged. But, if you don’t have as easy access to these books as I do or even pay full price for trades, I can see why this would be an iffy purchase. But, if you like classic science-fiction with some mystery, intrigue, dinosaurs and somewhat familiar characters thrown in, give this book a shot.

Also of note are the ridiculously awesome cover artists this book boasted. Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, Walter Simonson, Kevin Nowlan, Ladronn, Justiniano, GEOF DARROW(!) and Howard Porter. They should be enough to get you to buy the book (they’re just 12 pages out of two whole trades), but I liked the story enough to keep the books in my collection…until I get a few beers in me and start clearing off the shelf again.