Trade Post: Superman Vs. Shazam, Fables Volume 2 & Legion Lost

superman vs shazam Superman Vs. Shazam (DC)
Written by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Paul Kupperberg, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane & Joey Cavalieri; drawn by Rich Buckler & Gil Kane
Collects All-New Collector’s Edition #C-58, DC Comics Presents #33, 34, 49 & DC Comics Presents Annual #3

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always a little leery going into these Silver Age, pre-Crisis DC collections. These are the kinds of comics I mostly snickered at as a kid. I came up in the 90s when comics were dangerous and intense, what do I need with silly stories that were probably written for children a few decades ago? I’ve since learned that that’s a pretty poor way to approach art, but, let’s be honest, comics from this era can be very hit-or-miss, especially when you consider the fact that they’re leaning pretty heavily on the hero-fighting-hero gimmick.

So, with all that in mind, I went into Superman Vs. Shazam cautiously. I love Superman, but this isn’t my Supes, so this was more of a curious read. And, honestly, it didn’t do a lot for me. The first story is a whopping 72 pages featuring a villain using other villains (Black Adam and Sand Superman from the incredibly good Kryptonite No More) to pit Superman and Captain Marvel against each other in an effort to destroy both worlds (Earths 1 and S). All of that spreads out over dozens of pages and certainly drags at times. The most interesting part of this book for me is that, while the two guys are smashing the crap out of each other across two Earths, their female counterparts — Supergirl and Mary Marvel — figure out what’s really going on. The guys wind up officially saving the day and we end with double smooches, but I still thought that was a cool way to go.

The other issues have a lot of the same, following the villain-tricking-heroes-into-fighting formula that doesn’t do a lot for me anymore. If I was a kid or new to comics, though, and this was the first time I saw these things, it’d probably be pretty mind blowing. However, I don’t think this would be a great book to hand to someone blind. Since these stories are set in a pre-Crisis world, there’s a lot going on that might be confusing. All the Earth-1/Earth-S stuff gets fairly well explained, but then you’ve got the DCP #49 in which Billy Batson and Captain Marvel appear side by side. I think it’s because we’re seeing Earth-1 Billy Batson, maybe, but wasn’t sure and by that point I’d lost a lot of interest. This book would have greatly benefited with an introduction of some sort to give less-informed readers like myself a little context for the adventures. It’s another unfortunate example of comics not always being accessible to the non-fan market.

fables vol 2 animal farmFables Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Mark Buckingham
Collects Fables #6-10

As I said when I reviwed the first volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables, the book didn’t strike much of a chord with me for two reasons: one, I called the mystery reveal too early and lost a lot of intrest in the proceedings and, two, I couldn’t help but compare it to Once Upon A Time. Since one of those complaints is more my fault than anything, I decided to continue on and give the second volume a shot. The fact that I got the first three volumes in a Swap also came into play, of course.

This second volume finds Snow White taking her not-dead sister Rose Read up to The Farm, a place where non-human Fables (talking animals, giants, dragons, etc.) live away from the prying eyes of the world located in upstate New York. But, once the sisters get there it becomes pretty clear that something fishy’s going on. A faction has done away with the one human left in charge while also moving forward with plans to take their homeland back from The Adversary.

From there you get a story that finds Goldilocks playing revolutionary with the non-human Fables, Snow on the run from Shere Khan, Rose siding with ‘Locks, weapons that animals can fire and a few more fantastical character appearances. While I enjoyed this volume a lot more than the first, it still didn’t grab me. Once again, I figured the thing out with Rose pretty early on, so that was a lot less of a mystery. But, since that’s not the main thrust of the book, it doesn’t take as much away. Meanwhile, I thought it was an interesting bit of worldbuilding when we learn at the end of the arc that a Fable’s strength is directly related to how many people in the real world know about them. I’ve seen this done with gods in fiction before, but not storybook characters. It’s an interesting tie that I’m sure comes into play later on down the line. While I’m not fully sold on this book that a lot of people seem to love, I’m interested enough to hold onto these collections for now and see what’s up in the third.

legion lostLegion Lost (DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Olivier Coipel & Pascal Alixe
Collects Legion Lost #1-12

Back in 2000 and 2001 when Legion Lost was coming out, I remember there being a lot of buzz surrounding the book. When I say that, I mean that Wizard was covering the book pretty heavily and seemed to really dig it. That idea never really left my head, so when the hardcover collection came out, I was pretty excited to finally give it a read. I even got my hands on the 100-Page Spectacular that sort-of leads into this story and enjoyed that experience quite a bit.

I started reading Lost right after that, which would have put my first attempt at a little over a year ago. What stopped me? Well, this is definitely a big collection, an entire year’s worth of stories. Plus, Abnett and Lanning, writers I very much enjoy, put a lot of content into each issue. While the “Legion of the Damned” story featured in the Spectacular was mostly dialog and action, this one actually gives each character the first-person thought-box treatment in every issue which results in a lot of expressed thoughts. I’m not saying that’s bad because these guys have an excellent grasp on who these characters are, what makes them tick and how that differs from their outward actions, but it can make for a slower reading experience than I was expecting.

This time, I knew that going in and was more prepared for the experience which finds a team of Legionnaires — Live Wire, Saturn Girl, Monstress, Ultra Boy, Kid Quantum, Chameleon, Brainiac 5, Monstress, Umbra and a few others — lost in space. Now, the two issues that ended Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires (the ones that take place between the 100 Pages Spectacular issues and this book) are not included so you have no idea what this rift thing they were fighting was (or if it was even shown on-page). But, they seem to be at an end of the cosmos that even Brainiac 5 can’t find on a map and are trying to find their way home.

Along the way they make a few friends but even more enemies only discover what’s really going on at the very end of the story when it turns out that one of their own has caused all this heartache. That’s an important part of the tale, of course, but what really struck me was how well Abnett and Lanning captured the growing feeling of helplessness as the story continues. Certain characters have decided to put on shows for what they assume is the benefit of their teammates which wind up backfiring. Meanwhile, others who started off positive eventually start losing their cool as the twelve issues progress. Mistakes are made and we see what those actions do to that person as well as their teammates.

We also get to learn a lot about these characters which is great. I’ve said it before, but the Legion and X-Men are the two most confusing franchises in comics as far as I’m concerned, but I didn’t feel that going into this book. Sure, I could have used some of those boxes reminding me of what each character’s powers are (like Geoff Johns and company did when they reintroduced the team in Action Comics), but other than that I was right on board and that’s mostly because DnA included a new character who offers folks like me a window into this wild world.

If you’re curious about Legion Lost, I’d say give it a shot, but go in knowing a few things. One, it’s a fairly wordy book. Those are good, well thought out words, but there’s still a lot of them. Two, you won’t need to know anything about the Legion going in, what you need to know is on the page eventually. Three, you get to see some awesome Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe art that captures the dark mood of the story.

Wildstorm Trade Post: Authority & Wildcats World’s End

The Authority: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Simon Coleby
Collects The Authority #1-7

I talked about and explained the whole concept behind Wildstorm’s World’s End event in last week’s Trade Post where I wrote about the Stormwatch and Gen 13 installments. Today I’ll be reviewing the two Authority collections from the same time as well as the second Wildcats one (I thought I had the first when I started reading these trades, but soon realized that wasn’t the case).

As I said in that previous post, the Wildstorm Universe basically came to a crashing halt and all the heroes had to figure out how to go on in the face of such widespread destruction and death. In the case of The Authority, their headquarters, The Carrier, a gigantic ship that can travel through dimensions and is powered by a baby universe, got all messed up and crashed in London, fusing with the city. The new world is so polluted that Apollo can only stick around for a few moments, Engineer can’t access her nanites and Jack Hawksmoor doesn’t have any cities to draw power from because they were all destroyed. Midnighter and Swift are both alright and doing their best to keep the survivors they can find safe.

It’s a really interesting dynamic because, for their entire lives as characters, the Authority have always been the king turds of poo mountain. They had the best powers and the best tech to back them up, but they only worked best for the world they were living in and not the one they are living in. Abnett and Lanning do a great job of chronicling how they deal with these new circumstances. This collection shows how Midnighter stands against an unkillable enemy, what a new virus is doing to people, how a few other survivors are doing and gives alternate angles to a story from Stormwatch where the two teams meet up.

The Authority: Rule Britanna (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Simon Coleby, Brandon Badeaux, Drew Johnson & Mike S. Miller
Collects The Authority #8-17

The Stormwatch crossover at the end of the previous book got the team back up and running in some respects. The Carrier powered up a bit as did Angie and Hawksmoor. On the other hand, Apollo still can’t handle the atmosphere and, as if that weren’t enough, he’s got that Warhol virus running through him.

This collection deals with a lot of the Authority’s previously-fought enemies, showing how they survived the apocalypse and have even taken advantage of the situation. You’ve got the blue guy from Sliding Albion, Kaizen Gamorra and his super powered weapons and even Cybernary. We also find out a little bit more about whatever happened to the Doctor.

It might sound like this book is steeped in continuity and might be difficult to slog through, but I didn’t find that to be the case. It’s one of those things where you’re told enough about the characters, but if you’re really interested, you can find out more online or in other collections. It makes a great companion to the first volume, but like Stormwatch and Gen 13, the last issues of the series have never been and might never be collected. Again, the appeal here is the creative use of the Armageddon situation and how it has changed this team of badasses.

Wildcats: Family Secrets (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Christos Gage & Keith Giffen, drawn by Neil Googe, Pete Woods, Phil Jimenez & Ryan Sook
Collects Wildcats #8-12

I don’t usually read through a series of trades without having everything, but I was too far into my World’s End re-reading when I realized it and, honestly, it doesn’t matter too much. I remembered enough of the basics–or so I thought–to read on and still enjoy the second volume. Turns out I don’t remember many of the specifics of those first six issues, but I do remember that the ‘Cats are still in New York in the Halo building and, like The Authority or Stormwatch, help as many people as they can. There’s also a cool nod to Joe Casey’s Wildcats 3.0 that I liked as a Wildstorm fan: people are going butt nuts crazy over getting the Halo batteries that never run out of juice. This is a great example of taking an elements from a shared comic book universe and using it in a later story that I really dug.

Anyway, the bulk of the story in this collection finds the Wildcats dealing with Majestic, a fellow alien who has created his own island paradise–and also knocked the Earth back on its axis after the Armageddon event, if you were curious–and gone crazy. Actually, on the surface, he’s okay, giving people a well built paradise to live in, but behind the scenes, he’s keeping his daughter captive and trying to make a child with her.

Meanwhile, Ladytron has made friends with a bunch of fellow robots which also lead to problems with the Daemonites kicking back up. When the Wildcats went off to encounter Majestic, they left Ladytron behind. The Daemonites took this as the perfect time to attack and did so. By the book’s end the two storylines come crashing together and leave the ‘Cats in a much different place than they were when this whole thing started. Again, I think there’s enough fun action and drama in the book that anyone can enjoy it, but I’m not sure how accessible it might be to a new reader. I like to think it is, at least someone interested in checking out the existing World’s End books.

Mini Trade Post: Batman Dark Knight, Dark City & Legion 100-Page Spectaculars

DC COMICS PRESENTS BATMAN DARK KNIGHT, DARK CITY 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR (DC)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Kieron Dwyer & Tom Mandrake
Collects Batman #452-454 & Detective Comics #633

Wow, that is one heck of a title, isn’t it? Seems to me you could either ditch “DC Comics Presents” or “100-Page Spectacular” or possibly both. Also, does it really need a #1 on the cover? Anyway, it seems to me this tiny, cheaper collection format was designed to put out random Batman storyarcs from the two core Bat-books, Shadow of the Bat, Legends of the Dark Knight and the myriad minis starring our hero. I would imagine that, for the most part, many of them will land with me how this one did: just alright. It’s a clever tale that features the Riddler finding some old Gothamite cultist’s journal and getting possessed by a demon. Demon Riddler puts Batman through this series of paces that SPOILER winds up putting him through the motions to prepare him for a dark ritual.Well played Eddie.

As you can imagine, the book is pretty dark, darker than I thought for some reason even though this was well into the grim and gritty period. Seeing Batman stab a dog with a knife is pretty intense. Anyway, the story was a little slow and felt familiar to this long-time Bat-reader, though I can’t pinpoint why. The Riddler reveal is pretty interesting, but it’s kind of like watching a movie you’re not that absorbed by with an interesting twist. Oh okay, cool. What’s next?

Meanwhile, the Detective Comics issue which was also written by Milligan with Tom Mandrake art was just the opposite for me: an interesting story about Bruce Wayne trying to figure out why he wasn’t Batman/where the Batcave had gone, but with an ending that made me not care about what I had just read. This collection’s biggest fault, to me, though is not reprinting the Mike Mignola covers between issues. For the record, there are 88 pages of story in this book, some ads, a 4 page The Search For Swamp Thing preview and a DC Nation column which means there was plenty of room to run the covers. But, if you maybe haven’t read a ton of Batman comics and want to read a darker tale that actually does something interesting with the Riddler, you probably will be okay spending $8 on these four issues.

DC COMICS PRESENTS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR (DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Oliver Coipel
Collects Legion Of Super-Heroes #122-123, Legionnaires #79-80

Since I complained about the overly-long Dark Knight, Dark City title, I’ll take a moment to complain about this title as well. I actually think this one should have had an additional subtitle, like Legion Of The Damned. I’m guessing that would not fit on the spine, though. Again, not a big deal, just something that popped into my head.

I moved this mini-trade to the top of my “to-read” pile after reading the first adventures of this incarnation of the Legion. I completely forgot to mention this collection in that post, which was funny because I was literally staring at it while I wrote the post. As it turns out, this bad boy practically ends both the regular LoSH book and Legionnaires. There’s one more issue of each book which leads into the epic and well-received Legion Lost (anyone know if those last two issues are collected in the Legion Lost hardcover?).

Okay, enough about the book itself, how about the content? I really dug this story and it makes me want to keep an eye out for single issues of the previous books and the DnA-written Legion book that followed at cons. I have no idea what went on before this, but the first issue opens with Earth being overrun by the Blight a kind of organic Borg that has overrun the planet and even possessed most of the Legionnaires. Just when Chameleon thinks he’s the last of the bunch, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Monstress and Apparition return from a wild trip in space that kept them out of this mess as it was going on. Now it’s up to them and a few others–who I won’t spoil, but are on the cover, so I guess it’s not spoiling–to defeat the Blight and save the day. It’s a pretty fun, tight story that really screwed up the Earth and Metropolis, something you don’t really see in comics much without some kind of loophole or get-out. By the end of this book, the Blight have been defeated, but it’s not like Earth and Metropolis are back to normal.

It should also be said, that I wasn’t too confused by what was going on, even though there was a pretty huge gap between my reading of this series. Sure, there’s some characters I didn’t know (Monstress) but it’s not hard to jump into the story because the good guys and bad guys are pretty well defined, so even if I don’t know which Legionnaire Monstress has a crush on or whatever, I know she’s a hero fighting the villains. Nuff said. I was also impressed with Coipel’s artwork. It might not be what you think of when you think of him now because it’s a little sketchier and looser, but still really detailed and stylized. I also appreciated how he drew some of the Legionnaires as if they were actual teenagers. I never for a minute thought that any of the kids in the first trade were younger than 17, so it was good to get the feeling some of them actually looked like their younger age. All in all, this was a great book, definitely worth the price of admission for me and a great precursor to get me excited about the Legion Lost collection.

I mentioned this when I talked about Finals, but I really appreciate that DC has created this new format for collecting their comic books. Purists might not refer to them as trades because they have ads and issue numbers on the cover, but I don’t care about that stuff. In fact, it might be kind of fun to look back and see what was being advertised back in the day. Finals is sitting on my trade shelf between Fallen Angel and The Five Fists Of Science, sure there’s a few more inches of gobbledegook than need be on the spine, but that’s no big deal. My only real complaint (that title stuff is mostly grousing) is that they’re not including the covers in these things. I hope DC keeps doing these even with the relaunch.

Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3

ANNIHILATION BOOK ONE (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Mitch Breitweiser, Scot Kolins, Ariel Olivetti & Kev Walker
Collects Drax The Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue & Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Back in my days at Wizard, I wound up being the go-to guy for Annihilation interviews. I had just read Infinity Gauntlet for the first time and was pretty high on the idea of Marvel’s space characters getting a jump start. With very few exceptions, I had very little experience with these characters, so it was kind of fun to just be thrown into the middle of all this craziness and see where it went. When these issues were coming out, I had trouble not comparing the Annihilation set-up with that of DC’s Infinite Crisis. Both had four four-issue minis leading up to a main series. At the time it felt like Marvel did the whole thing better because their minis lead into the main series better. I can’t say I necessarily feel the same way now, but at least we didn’t have to get four one-shots to actually cap those stories. But, as usual, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Continue reading Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3