Another week has gone by and I’ve knocked out another pile of comics, most of which came from my local library system. As you can see, we’ve got a mix of amazing indie artists, classic comic visionaries, crossovers and newer books. Hit the jump to see what I had to say on this batch! Continue reading Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT
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 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.
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.
JENNY SPARKS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY (Wildstorm)
Written by Mark Millar, drawn by John McCrea
Collects the miniseries of the same name #1-5
I’ve gone on record saying that I’m a big Authority fan, having reviewed a good number of the books on the blog, so this Jenny Sparks mini was right up my alley. I got it off a Sequential Swap and then saw two words on the cover that tend to turn me off from comics: Mark Millar. I’m just not a fan of the dude’s writing in general. I feel like he tries too hard to shock readers and I haven’t been truly shocked by a comic since Preacher and I’m fairly certain it won’t happen again. I will give the guy credit for creating great big popcorn books (the equivalent of a summer blockbuster), but for whatever reason, I don’t tend to enjoy those comics as much.
Anyway, my desire to learn more about Jenny Sparks and to check out some John McCrea art (I’ve been slowly collecting and reading all of the old Hitman trades and really dig his art), so I soldiered on. And, overall, it’s a pretty interesting little book. We do get more bits of Jenny’s history, but also how she met each member of the original Authority team and convinced them to join. For that alone, it will stay in my Wildstorm trade collection, but I’m not sure how many times I will go back to it.
For one thing, Millar decided to make Hitler a large part of one of the issues, stating that Jenny and he were friends back when he was a lowly artist and she suggested he go into politics. Later, she’s working as a spy during WWII and gets caught by the Nazis, but Hitler lets her go. Now, I’m torn on this because it feels like a very “look how crazy I’m being” Millar moment, but at the same time it makes sense that Jenny, being the spirit of the 20th century, would have influenced the good along with the bad. I’ll give it a pass for now. What I can’t give a pass is the non McCrea-ness of the art. Don’t get me wrong, the art is good, but it doesn’t look like the McCrea I know and love and have in my head when I think of him, which was disappointing. Add him to the list of artists who have changed their style for the worse from the 90s.
I can’t really see anyone aside from Authority fans really digging this book. It’s not Millar-y enough to appeal to his hardcore fans (though they probably already have read it) and it’s not like Jenny Sparks is a belovedly missed character (though I would definitely like to hear more about her getting sent into a crazy depression). Bonus points for getting a pretty good intro by Authority creator Warren Ellis in the book too!
HELLBLAZER: THE ROOTS OF COINCIDENCE (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Manco
Collects Hellblazer #243-244, 247-249
Even though this collection of Hellblazer breaks my number one rule for trades (collect EVERY ISSUE consecutively), it was still an interesting read. But, in cases like this I’m always left asking “Would it have killed them to include those two other issues?” I don’t tend to read Hellblazer books in any kind of order, just reading whatever trades I get my hands on, but it’s still frustrating to have that question mark hanging over my reading experience.
Anyway, the book is broken up into two related stories, the first about a room in the Vatican that doesn’t allow God to see what’s going on inside. The idea is that priests can go in there and do whatever their black hearts desire to whoever they can find and it won’t be considered breaking their vows. Considering all the bad energy in the place, it should come as no surprise that a demon gets loosed inside. I was raised Catholic, don’t practice now, but also took a lot of classics and lit classes in college that focused on Church teachings and its history, so the story was really interesting to me and had me wondering if that room really exists in the real Vatican. Constantine gets called in to get rid of the demon, but also has motives of his own. Without giving it away, I give Diggle a lot of credit for adding a few extra layers to the story than what someone else might have done.
The second story involves a businessman who’s done a lot of wrong trying to set up his own private heaven and then killing himself. He gets a demon to help him, but Constantine gets involved and winds up serving his own brand of justice. After that, though, we get an issue that probably plays better with people who have been reading Hellblazer comics for longer than me as Constantine comes face to face with the force that has been plaguing him for years. I’ll be honest, I didn’t completely understand it, but I think I liked it.
There are two elements that I really liked in this book. First off, the artists are amazing. Camuncoli and Manco should always be drawing Hellblazer or Hellboy comics as far as I’m concerned. They’re perfectly suited for this kind of work. The other aspect that I liked was Diggle’s ability to really set Constantine up as a man with a strong grasp of his own morality, punishing privileged, wicked men who has a devilish way of putting people in their place. He’s a great character that I really enjoy reading about and would have liked to have gotten those extra two issues in this book!
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.
As far as comic book universes go, I think the Wildstorm one might be my non-DC and Marvel favorite. Gen 13 was my gateway into Wildstorm back in the day. #14 was my first issue (with Roxy going to school on the cover) and I was hooked immediately. I didn’t really branch out into other Wildstorm books for a long time, but I was really impressed with how historic this new comic book universe felt even back then. Gen 13 were the kids of guys in a group called Team 7, whose members were on all kinds of other teams or hanging out in their own solo books (Grifter, Backlash, Lynch, Deathblow, etc.). I didn’t really know what all was going on, but I was super intrigued. So intrigued that I bought a few other books like a Team 7 mini that came out and whatnot, but not a ton of books.
I completely dodged the initial Image onslaught of comics when the boom hit, which I’m still thankful for, but I did wind up with some random issues here and there thanks to various grab bags I picked up over the years. I also watched the Wildcats cartoon when it was on, because, at the time, I’d watch ANYTHING comic book related. So, with all that I had a basic idea of what was going on in their universe and it all seemed really cool. A big part of that has to do with the artists working on these books. Man, they looked slick and definitely appealed to me as a kid, but I was also into the “super powered kids on the run from adults” story that came along with Gen 13 as it was my first exposure to such a concept. Oh yeah, I also remember Sarah from the Real World Miami being a Wildstorm editor. On the very first episode they showed her getting kicked out of her place after a big party. If memory serves (which it probably doesn’t) her roommates were J. Scott Campbell and another notable who I can’t remember. Her desk in the RW house was also surrounded by comic book pictures, which totally geeked me out back when no one on TV ever talked about comic books.
Skip ahead a bunch of years, I’ve dropped Gen 13 from my list because of Claremont’s relaunch (yeesh) and not really interested in Wildstorm anymore, but I’m hearing a lot about this book called The Authority. I eventually score an internship at Wizard where Rickey recommends I read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which leads directly into The Authority. I did and dug it and then read Authority and got less and less impressed as it went on. So recently, I re-read all five Stormwatch trades and they’re really good. Ellis does a surprisingly good job playing in a super hero universe that doesn’t have as many rules as DC or Marvel. I’m looking forward to reading his Authority again soon in the next few weeks too. Ellis’ Planetary is also a lot of fun, but I want the last trade dag nabbit!
Once I started working for Wizard full time I jumped back into the Wildstorm pool and was surprised to see some names that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with the company like James Robinson and Alan Moore who both did stints on Wildcats. I can’t remember how far I got, but I started with Wildcats #1 and read through Moore’s stuff (which includes Robinson’s run). Both Robinson and Moore’s arcs are pretty fantastic (especially Moore’s, no big surprise there). Like with Ellis, it was great to see Moore coming in and picking up elements from previous Wildcats stories and running with them. Moore did a bunch of other stories here and there that have been collected in one big trade that’s definitely out there, but still a lot of fun.
I also read Ed Brubaker’s Point Blank which lead into his Sleeper series with Sean Phillips. Man, this story blew me away. It could have very easily been it’s own stand alone story of espionage and intrigue, but Brubaker set it squarely in the WU, with references to Alan Moore’s Wildcats and plenty of other goings on. It’s a great series and one I recommend to anyone who loves dark and dirty comics.
From there I jumped into more modern Wildstorm as they shook up their universe with the Wold Storm event. Even now I’m not really sure what the deal was. Things were predicated by the Will Pfeifer-written Captain Atom: Armageddon mini which placed Cap in the Wildstorm U. He blew up and so did the WU, but it reformed in similar and different ways after that. I got to talk to most of the creators for the big relaunch (this is when Grant Morrison was announced to be writing both Wildcats and Authority) which was a lot of fun, but as a fan of the existing Wildstorm U, I was left mostly confused. Unlike Crisis on Infinite Earths there wasn’t a “we’re completely starting over” vibe as some teams seemed to be unchanged (Stormwatch PHD which was a great book seemed to be exactly in line with previous Stormwatch stuff) while others were way different (my beloved Gen 13). There were a few stumbling blocks as Wildcats and Authority have only put out one and two issues respectively, but overall Stormwatch PHD, Deathblow and Midnighter were all pretty solid books and Gail Simone added a whole new element with her Welcome to Tranquility series.
But the changes weren’t over as Wildstorm geared up for another big shake up with their trilogy of stories: Wildstorm: Armageddon, Wildstorm: Revelations and Number of the Beast which I liked for the most part though I wish Number of the Beast would have picked up more elements from Revelations. Anyway, now you’ve got the Wildstorm U in a kind of post-apocalyptic Mad Max-like world where everything’s turned on it’s ear and all these familiar heroes are fighting just to keep humanity going.
It’s not an easy universe to break into with over a decade’s worth of stories, but I’ve had a great time exploring the good and the bad of the Wildstorm U, which is a lot more intricate and detailed than you might think at first. If you’re looking to get in, I’d recommend Sleeper, Moore’s Wildcats, the upcoming James Robinson Wildcats trade, Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch and Authority and Stormwatch PHD. I’m really curious to see where they go with this new path and I can’t wait to see what they do and what new creators and characters will pop up in the future.