Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

Trade Post: Bloody Mary & Tom Strong Volume 1

bloody mary gart ennis tpb Bloody Mary (Helix/Vertigo/DC)
Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Carlos Ezquerra
Collects Bloody Mary #1-4, Bloody Mary: Lady Liberty #1-4

Garth Ennis is one of those comic creators who has earned a life-time pass as far as I’m concerned. His work on Preacher (my reviews of which you can read here, here and here) resulted in one of my favorite works of fiction ever. I’ve read plenty of his other stuff from the myriad of World War II-inspired tales to things like Punisher: Welcome Back Frank and The Authority: Kev. While most of those other books don’t match Preacher (probably because that book now stands on such a pedestal in my mind) they’re all enjoyable.

When I saw a copy of his Bloody Mary trade on a fellow Sequential Swapper’s page, I was quick to try and get my hands on it. We were able to work something out and I eventually got to reading it fairly recently. Packed with the usual Ennis dark humor and bloody violence, the two miniseries’ featured in the collection follow the adventures of a super soldier by the name of Bloody Mary who fights on the side of the US and Britain in their longrunning war with Europe in the year 2012. As you might expect from a Garth Ennis comic, neither side is particularly angelic and just about everyone has severe emotional and psychological problems, but that doesn’t stop them from having a sense of humor about all the terrible things going on around them.

Both stories — which were published in the mid-90s by DC’s short-lived sci-fi tinged imprint Helix — work really well in their allotted four issue stories which can be a nice change if you’re used to huge, overarching comic stories. It’s nice to see a writer and artist get in there, do their thing and walk away with four rad issues of art and story. Speaking of which, Carlos Ezquerra is pretty much the perfect artist for this book. He’d done plenty of dystopian war torn futures from his days working on 2000 AD. In fact, I’d say that, even though Mary herself is American and Ennis is Irish, the look and feel of Bloody Mary reminds me of what few British comics I’ve read and seen from the lates 70s/early 80s, but in a way that doesn’t feel old or tired. I’m not sure if this was their first pairing, but Ennis and Ezquerra would go on to work together plenty of times and now I kind of want to back and read some of those WWII stories.

tom strong volume 1 Tom Strong Volume 1 (America’s Best Comics/WildStorm/DC)
Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Chris Sprouse with Art Adams, Gary Frank, Dave Gibbons & Jerry Ordway
Collects Tom Strong #1-7

By the time Alan Moore launched America’s Best Comics through WildStorm  back in 1999 I’d probably read Watchmen, but it was still a little over my head. So, I wasn’t as crazy excited about ABC as I should have been. I’ve written extensively about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen here and here as well as Top 10, but the two glaring omissions in my ABC reading have been Tom Strong and Promethea. I’ve attempted to read both of these books at different times in my comic reading career and even have the very first issue of Tom Strong signed by Chris Sprouse (as well as a sketch of Tom that Sprouse very nicely did for me around the time of the book’s launch). And yet, neither clicked for whatever reasons.

Well, recently, again while perusing Sequential Swap, I saw the first volume of Tom Strong up for trade and decided to give it a read. Man am I glad I did. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Tom Strong is a kind of Doc Savage type character whose scientist dad decided to move to an island in 1899 when Strong’s mom was still pregnant with him. Tom was born into a pressurized containment unit where he was taught by his parents and their robot Pneuman but never had skin to skin interaction with them until the day an earthquake hit, his parents were killed and Tom emerged to be raised by the island’s natives, a group who had mastered their own sciences. Tom strong eventually married their princess Dhalua, became a renowned adventurer and had a daughter named Tesla.

Much like Bloody Mary, I enjoyed how these issues mostly did their own thing while also adding to the growing mythology of Tom Strong. And that’s really the beauty of this particular Alan Moore comic book, you get the feeling that this entire world exists in his head and he’s giving you exactly what details you require when you need them to not only keep you invested in the story, but also to show you how deep that well goes. Each issue is basically a self-contained story that also includes a back-up story, usually informing the formerl. I loved the storytelling on display which could be enjoyed both for the adventure itself, but also as a way of watching a writer convey story and worldbuilding to the reader without ever getting heavy-handed or boring.

Speaking of never boring, the art in this book is masterful. Sprouse’s style is absolutely perfect for the big, bold heroics that go along with the core of Tom Strong as a character and a comic book. His lines are so clean and clear that you always know exactly what’s going on which is even more impressive when you think about how dense Moore’s scripts can be. Adding to the visual fun is a host of beloved artists who offered their talents to the back ups. Art Adams and Gary Frank are two of my absolute favorites so seeing them do some stories was great. You also get to see Jerry Ordway and Dave Gibbons do their thing.

tom strong sketch chris sprouseThe crazy thing about this book is that it kind of felt like Alan Moore was using some of his crazy snake god magic on me through its pages as a way of inspiring creativity. There was something about the time and place and experience of reading this book that I’ve never experience before. As I read each issue, I was further driven to sit down and write my own stuff. I was literally reading the issue while also thinking about my own story which seemed to be growing at a much more rapid pace than usual and then putting the book down, flipping my laptop open and typing ideas like a madman. I don’t know if I was just inspired by the creativity on the page or what, but it was a really great experience.

KEEP OR DUMP: As you might already be able to tell by the reviews, I’ll be keeping both of these books in my collection because I enjoyed the reading experiences so much. When it comes to Bloody Mary, I’m sure I’ll want to return to this book both to experience this story again and also to  get a quick dose of Ennis that doesn’t involve reading a much larger run on a series like Preacher, Hitman or Punisher. Regarding Tom Strong, I’m keeping it and also doing my best to track down the other trades even though I know Moore doesn’t write the last two or three. I look forward to acquiring them and eventually reading the whole run altogether.

Superman Trade Post: Man Of Steel Volume 6 & Eradication!

SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOLUME 6 (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin & Dan Jurgens
Drawn by Art Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens & John Byrne
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures Of Superman Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #594-595, Booster Gold #23 & Superman #12.
I’ve only blogged about the fourth Man of Steel volume before, but this is a series of collections that I adore, even if I’m not in love with all the of stories therein. I find myself looking back to the 80s and 90s moreso than looking forward to books coming out in the future from Marvel and DC. Part of that is because I’m out of the loop and only really hearing about things after they’re either well liked or panned. Not having all the comic book access I used to is a bummer, partially because I love reading comics, but more prominently because I don’t have the opportunity (or don’t give myself the opportunity) to make up my own opinions unless I find myself lucky enough to get a trade.

Anyway, I appreciate what creators were doing at DC back then. After Crisis everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on and making some really interesting comics that fit in all different corners–some of which we hadn’t seen before–in the DCU. This collection of Superman comics–mostly annuals–does some of that itself. The underutilized but ridiculously amazing Art Adams draws one of the annuals which features Superman, Batman, Robin AND vampires. I had read the issue before, but it was fun reading it again. Then, there’s one of those stories where a monster runs amok, but he’s not really a bad guy. It might have been new then, but I’ve read it enough to know all the beats. Jim Starlin–who I just interviewed actually for CBR–does some really interesting stuff in an annual that thankfully wasn’t paint by numbers and really had be guessing, trying to figure out what was going on. The Booster Gold crossover was fun, followed by the origin of Lori Lemaris which I already knew, so it was kinda boring and finally a Silver Banshee story (possibly her first–at least post-Crisis–appearance?) that does the ol’ “Superman/Martian Manhunter” switcheroo.

In the end, I think the level of enjoyment you get out of these issues will depend heavily on what comics you have already read, how much you already know about Superman and how much you like Superman. I’ve read a ton of comics and know a lot about Superman, but I also love the character and have a great interest in this era because it’s what directly influenced the comics I wound up reading in the early 90s. I’m definitely having holes filled in my mental map of Superman’s history and hope that the Man Of Steel trade series continues on. Has anyone heard anything about that? I don’t think anything past this sixth volume has been announced, right?

SUPERMAN ERADICATION (THE ORIGIN OF THE ERADICATOR) (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway & Roger Stern
Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez & Kerry Gammill
Collects Action Comics #651-652, Adventures Of Superman #460, 464, 465 & Superman #41, 42
I have a series of 90s era Superman trades I’ve had sitting around for a while. I’ve been holding off on reading them because I was hoping the Man Of Steel volumes would catch up. I still want that to happen because, frankly, some of these books are kind of a mess. The trade paperback market was pretty infantile at the time, which might explain why this book that supposedly tells the origin of The Eradicator (who would play a big role in The Return Of Superman storyline, hence the trade) doesn’t really achieve that goal. From what I can tell, it would be a difficult task because there was a significant amount of time between Superman being given the Eradicator (that thing that looks like his spaceship floating about his hand in the trade) and the story you read in the pages.

Another problem is that this story doesn’t actually feature the character we came to know as Eradicator, but instead a tale of Superman/Clark Kent becoming very distant and more Kryptonian (ie cold and scientific). The problem is that, if you’ve probably seen this story before if you’ve been reading Superman comics before. I’d rather read all the comics that lead up to this, the ones that showed Clark becoming Editor in Chief of Newstime magazine or the troubles that Jimmy Olsen finds himself in or the Draaga story. Instead, we get peeks at those threads but the “Hey Clark and Superman are acting wonky, aren’t they?” takes center stage.

A few fun bits do include the building of the Fortress of Solitude, a fight with Lobo and Maxima explaining her intentions for Superman (she wants to make him her man and take him back to her planet Almerac). These are elements that I am familiar and was happy to learn more about. As it happened those same elements played into some of the other older Superman trades I happened to read and will write about shortly. I was kind of disappointed in the collection as a whole because it wasn’t very interesting or original, but it did offer more pieces to the puzzle that is “my” Superman (basically from the Man Of Steel miniseries til the end of Infinite Crisis). Hopefully, the Man of Steel collection series will continue on so I can have a better idea of everything that was going on around this time.

Trade Post: The Authority Vol. 1-5 (Plus The Monarchy Vol. 1)

2008-12-23
4:10:25 am

So, as I’m sure I mentioned before in my post about loving Wildstorm, but I recently re-read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which naturally leads into The Authority. I’m not going to get too in depth on these reviews.

THE AUTHORITY: RELENTLESS (VOL. 1)

Written by Warren Ellis

Drawn by Bryan Hitch

I really dig what Ellis started here. It’s kind of hard to remember reading these books now, but this was one of the first times we ever saw “heroes” take matters into their own hands and change the world how they saw fit to make it a better place. This trade collects two storylines, one introducing the team and pitting them against Kaizen Gamorra and his crazy superpowered kamikaze clones, and the other pitting the team against aliens from an alternate universe. That’s a lot of action in one trade. It’s also a lot of information, especially when it comes to exactly how the carrier works.

I’m not usually a big fan of Ellis’, but he really was dipping into a very cool well of ideas when he was putting this book together. But he doesn’t get too wrapped up in the small details as the big ideas are balanced pretty well with big action. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who’s not easily offended (I love how, every time Jack Hawksmoore, who may be my new favorite superhero, he knocks their jaw or head clean off, that’s awesome). My only negative is that I don’t really get what the big deal about Hitch’s art is. Yeah, he’s pretty good and there’s some killer splash pages in there, but I don’t understand why people would wait so long for him to finish Ultimates (I have no idea how late, if at all, Authority was when he was drawing it, but I’m still waiting for that last issue of Planetary…). But, again, it’s a really great book, which obviously leads into…

THE AUTHORITY: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (VOL. 2)

Written by Warren Ellis & Mark Millar

Drawn by Bryan Hitch & Frank Quitely

Warren Ellis’ last arc, which featured the creator of the Earth coming back to terraform Earth for his own fiendish purposes. Plus SPOILER, the death of Jenny Sparks (she was the spirit of the 20th century after all). Again, I’ve got to say how impressed I am by these characters that Ellis created, whether it’s Midnighter or the limited Superman in the form of Apollo to The Doctor and The Engineer. So, yeah, Jenny goes out with a bang, which leads to Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s arc, which isn’t quite as good.

This is the famous arc that has the Authority facing off against Avengers proxies. The problem is that the story doesn’t quite measure up to memory as it seems to take a really long time to get to the point (the Authority kicking the crap out of the Avengers). There’s also a pretty big jump between Ellis and Millar’s runs where the Authority become celebrities which brings up a point I want to make. In both Ellis and Millar’s arcs, things happen that are explained but never shown and it’s a little annoying. For instance, why the heck are they so famous now? We’re never really told. Is it just because Jenny saved the world? If so, they did that before and we never heard about how the general populace reacted. We’re also never really treated to much in the way of origins for The Doctor or the Engineer beyond what we’re told. I’m not the kind of reader that needs everything laid out for me, but it would have been nice to see at least a flashback or something at some point.

Anyway, this arc is still pretty cool, as the Authority does eventually kick the crap out of the evil Avengers. Unfortunately, this trade reminds me of why I didn’t like Frank Quitely until All-Star Superman. This trade has some of the ugliest faces I’ve ever seen and not just the ones that are supposed to be ugly, Shen’s particularly bad looking. There’s still plenty of interesting ideas like the New X-Men-like Hive-Mind, HeadMailing and the Avenger-like group’s invisible hideout in the middle of NYC. Volume 2 is definitely worth buying if you liked the first villain and even though Millar’s arc doesn’t quite match up to Ellis’, it’s still a valiant effort that fits well within the post-Authority Wilstorm Universe.

THE AUTHORITY: EARTH INFERNO & OTHER STORIES

Written by Mark Millar, Joe Casey, Paul Jenkins & Warren Ellis

Drawn by Frank Quitely, Chris Weston, Cully Hamner & Georges Jeanty

With Volume 3, Millar definitely steps his game up. This arc focuses on the Doctor’s drug problems along with a rogue Doctor from the 60s who’s wreaking havoc on the Earth (or something, I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get it). Wheston handles some of the art chores, which don’t even look as good as Quitely’s not-quite-there-yet art. But, the story makes up for it as we get to see the scale the Authority is working on (they evacuate the entire planet to alternate universes). I also really like how the Doctor comes back and defeats the old Doctor (this whole thing is kinda like Dr. Who isn’t it? I’ve never seen the show, but, it seems similar).

Anyway, this is another good book and we get our first look at Midnighter out of costume (at least in Authority). Apparently he’s blond (but only in this issue, as he appears as a brunette in every other out of costume appearance I’ve noticed). There’s also a few shorter stories here from other writer/artist teams. There’s an annual where Midnight and Apollo have to face off against zombie versions of their old Stormwatch teammates, a short story about the Engineer’s non existent sex life and one starring Jack Hawksmoor (love that guy). Good stuff.

THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON (VOL. 1)

Written by Doselle Young

Drawn by John McCrea

Authority #21 was written by Doselle Young as a way of spinning Stormwatch’s Jackson King and Christine Trelane off into their own world-changing group The Authority. There’s a lot of cool, Authority-like ideas in this book (and the use of Union, one of the few Image characters I have fond memories of as a kid getting comics from a grab bag), but the problem is that this trade only collects the Authority issue and the first four issues of the 12 issue series, so you don’t really get to see how things play out. Hopefully DC and Wildstorm will put the rest of the series out at some point. Oh, I also really like John McCrea from his work on Hitman, one of the best in-universe mature reader titles of all time.

THE AUTHORITY: TRANSFER OF POWER (VOL. 4)

Written by Mark Millar & Tom Peyer

Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Art Adams, Frank Quitely & Gary Erskine

And now presenting the trade where everything goes off the rails. Apparently there were some scheduling problems or something that pushed the stories in this book (half written by Millar, half by Peyer) back and made things screwy. I’m not sure if a regular schedule would have saved things as the Authority are seemingly killed and replaced by a new version of the team. It could really have been a 2-3 issue story, but ended up as eight freaking issues. The book really just seems to be spinning its wheels the whole time. Even art by one of my all time favorite artists Art Adams can’t save the issues he drew. I ended up just skimming them, waiting for these new jerks to die and for the Authority to kick some butt, which they eventually do (of course), but it and the marriage of Midnight and Apollo doesn’t save this book. Skip this one if you can.

THE AUTHORITY: HARSH REALMS

Written by Robbie Morrison

Drawn by Dwayne Turner & Tan Eng Huat

So, the Authority took some time off, but eventually came back under the stewardship of Robbie Morrison (don’t be fooled by the cover, which only cites “Morrison and Turner” as the creative folks, very tricky Wildstorm). This particular volume sets the Authority against Reality Incorporated, a group of jerks who use other realities for their own gain. It’s not a very memorable story (I read it over the past two days and still had to go back and see what happened in the issues I didn’t read today. It’s not bad stuff by any means, but it does make one think that the Authority is the kind of team that should maybe just hang out in limbo until someone has a really cool idea for them.

So, I know I haven’t read all things Authority yet, but I did have a lot of fun with the book. I love the characters, especially after this second reading where I’ve gotten a better idea as to who they are and what they can and can’t do. I’d like to check out the rest of the trades, especially the one where they actually take over the world, I’m curious to see how that played out aside from the obvious. I also like how they’re being handled now in the post-apocalyptic playground of the current Wildstorm U. They’re no longer the “we can do anything we want” team, they’ve got problems of their own, though I’m not a big fan of Hawksmoor being city-less. Oh well, we’re see where things go and if I’m able to snag the rest of the trades.