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
Over the past three or four years, I’ve really started digging into the horror side of comics, especially the ones published by Marvel. A few years ago we did a week-long run-up to Halloween showcasing certain scare books, then last year we did the same, but for the whole month of October.
One of the many jewels I’ve discovered in my time reading through these books mainly on the fantastic Marvel Unlimited service has been Tomb Of Dracula. That series is just fantastic and I hope to dig into the whole thing at some point. I’ve also come to realize just how amazing of an artist Gene Colan was. So, while searching his name on my local library service, I was excited to see his and Marv Wolfman’s The Curse Of Dracula which came out from Dark Horse in 1998. Continue reading Trade Pile: Curse Of Dracula, Batman Contagion & Prelude To AoA
I know it’s October and I should be finishing up the Wally Wood EC book I started or the volumes of Creepy and Eerie Archives I got from the library, but I just couldn’t resist reading this pair of books from the library. So let’s jump right in! Continue reading World’s Finest Trade Post: Lois, Clark & Robo-Batman
Every few weeks I find myself requesting any number of trades from the local library system. They come in in spurts and I get to them as I can. I can’t think of much in the way of connections between Harrow County Volume 1, First Wave and Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, but I enjoyed them all, so there’s that, I guess!
Harrow County is a witchy horror comic by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook from Dark Horse. This first book — officially titled Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints — compiles the first four issues of the series which follows Emmy, a young woman who comes to realize that her fellow country denizens might want to murder her for being the reincarnation of a witch they killed about 18 years ago.
Packed with characters I want to learn more about, a slowly unfolding mythology and some amazingly creepy art by Crook (whose style reminds me a bit of Jeff Lemire’s, but with a more comic strip shape if that makes sense) I’m definitely hooked and want to find out what else happens to Emmy, her dad and the unusual creatures she’s come into contact with. In a way, it reminds me of a smaller-in-scope Hellboy with a young woman protagonist which adds a new, interesting angle that I’m sold on. Time to see if the second volume is available at the library!
Back in my Wizard days, DC seemed to be snatching up random characters or rebooting old imprints and trying to incorporate them into the DCU with little success. They brought back Milestone and Tangent and also tried to bring the THUNDER Agents into the fold. I actually preferred what they did with First Wave, which mixed classic pulp-inspired characters like Doc Savage, The Spirit and Justice Inc. with non-powered DC folks like Batman and the Blackhawks into a new universe. Things kicked off with the Batman/Doc Savage Special by Brian Azzarello and Phil Noto and then moved into the six issue series called First Wave by Azzarello and Rags Morales.
I wasn’t very familiar with Doc or Spirit the first time I read these issues, but have read a few things since then. I think Azz does a great job of bringing in all these different characters and not only keeping them clear, but also giving them business that works for them. I had a little trouble keeping track of all the balls in the air towards the end, but I still enjoyed the pulp-y quality to the tale which was enhanced by Rags’ art which always excels at capturing facial expressions while also drafting solid action scenes. Reading this made me want to dig up the issues of the Doc Savage and Spirit series’ that launched out of this as well as the Batman/Spirit one-shot by Jeph Loeb, Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone which I remember being a lot of fun.
Finally, let’s wrap things up with Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto. THis is the rare comic that I picked up just to check out the artwork. I like Edmondson and have interviewed him a number of times for Marvel.com and also dig Black Widow as a character, but you just don’t get enough Noto-drawn comics! I mostly see his stuff online and on covers, so getting to really dive into a book that plays to his strong suits — beautiful but dangerous women, great action — was a lot of fun and a treat for the eyes. I especially like how he outlines various elements in a spidery red that draws the eye from object to object.
Story-wise this book focuses on Black Widow’s desire to make amends for the bad things she did in her past by taking on various jobs around the world and using that money to support her victims’ families as well as a web of support around the world. The one-and-dones are a nice change of pace, but I admit to having trouble reconciling an international killer who is also a member in good standing with the Avengers. Then again, that’s probably just be getting too much in my own shared universe-loving head!
Superman: 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.
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!
Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year – Dark City (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #25-27, 29-33
I continue to fully enjoy Scott Snyder’s run on Batman for DC’s New 52 initiative. A while back I briefly talked about reading the first entry in the Zero Year story. I get that diehard Batfans don’t like how much he and artist Greg Capullo are straying from the origins laid down by Frank Miller in Year One, but I heard an interview with him somewhere where he said that he was equally freaked out by the idea, but was encouraged by editorial to blaze a bold new trail for a new universe. Thus was born Batman’s earliest adventures in a flooded Gotham City run completely by the Riddler.
While the previous volume felt a little more straightforward, I really enjoyed how Snyder played out the mystery of who Dr. Death is (and why he does what he does) while also laying down Riddler’s plans for keeping Gothamites docile. I appreciated that this story felt somewhat familiar — like No Man’s Land or Dark Knight Rises — but also blazed its own trail, kind of like a jazz solo in the middle of a standard (or maybe a familiar tune in the middle of a crazy jazz composition).
I also appreciate how Snyder disseminated the information throughout these issues, though I fully admit that they would have been lost on me had I read this book in monthly issues. All those little bits and pieces about how Dr. Death ties back to Bruce Wayne were super neat and compelling, but I doubt I’d be able to remember them over the span of eight months or so. This is why I love trades.
You also can’t talk about Batman without talking about Greg Capullo. I never read his Spawn stuff, but he just seems so perfect for Batman. I’m glad he and Snyder have been able to keep this run going together because it lends such a specific visual to this new take on Batman. They remind me of one another and pair so well that it feels like a complete thing made by two creators at the top of their game. The colors by FCO Plascencia are also off the wall in the best way possible. So bright and crazy at times and so subdued at others.
Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift (DC)
Written & drawn by a lot of folks including Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #0, 18-20, 28, 34, Annual #2
While the previous five volumes of this collection all tell an increasingly c0mplex and cohesive story, Graveyard Shift brings together a variety of tales told in that time and during Batman Eternal, a weekly comic that was set in the present while “Zero Year” took us back to Batman’s earlier days. So, as you might expect, this book doesn’t have the feel of the previous one (especially because Snyder’s joined by a series of other writers and different pencilers plying their craft).
Even so, it’s impressive that this all still feels like part of the larger Gotham City Snyder and Capullo have been working on so far. In that way, it feels a bit like an anthology whereas the others are part of a sequential story. Oh, also, many of these stories take place after the much publicized death of Damian Wayne, which I haven’t read yet, but obviously knew about.
Personal highlights include Bruce Wayne testing his Batarangs in a flashback on the roof before Gordon pops up to ask him some questions, more Harper Row, Clayface drawn by Capullo, the nod to the Batman Beyond armor, Superman’s appearance, Mateo Scalera’s art and Batman’s new accomplice inside Arkham.
My only complaint about this collection comes from my weird need to know where every story actually comes from. They’re all credited as they begin, but they skip over which issues they first appeared in. That’s a pet peeve of mine (as is a trade filled with non-consecutive stories/skipping stories as they were originally published) but I still enjoyed the experience of looking at Gotham from a different angle, something I’m also experiencing in my re-through of Batman Eternal.
Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy (DC)
Written by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher, drawn by Karl Kerschel with Mingjue Helen Chen
Collects Gotham Academy #1-6
A week or so ago I went on another library requesting spree. I wound up with something like eight New 52 trades that I was curious about. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much to like about three of them and skipped a few others. Not feeling like ragging on anyone in particular, I was glad to find that I enjoyed the first volumes of Gotham Academy and the new Batgirl.
These books work well together not just because they’re both set in Gotham and were launched around the same time, but also deal with far different tones than you might see in Scott Snyder’s Batman (a book I love). There are also a lot of little connections between the two, like the mention of the band Ashes On Sunday in GA that winds up playing a big part in Batgirl and the eventual Black Canary series (which is written by Fletcher). Continue reading Gotham Trade Post: Gotham Academy & Batgirl