Trade Pile: Curse Of Dracula, Batman Contagion & Prelude To AoA

curse-of-draculaOver 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

New 52 Batman Trade Post: Catwoman The Game & Detective Comics Faces Of Death

Catwoman Volume 1: The Game (DC)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Guillem March
Collects Catwoman #1-6

Catwoman’s one of those characters I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with as a comic book reader. When I got into Batman books, it was during Knightfall and then Knightsend, which she played a part in. Not long after that, someone offered me a subscription to a comi, I went with Catwoman because it seemed fun and Jim Balent’s art looks pretty neat (and not just for the T&A factor, though I’m sure that didn’t go unnoticed at the time). I’d pick up issues here and there, but never really got into either the Ed Brubaker or Will Pfeifer stuff. I did love the character in the animated series and The Dark Knight Rises.

I’m not nearly as tapped in as I used to be, but I think there was some controversy about this book when it launched because Guillem March draws Catwoman very sexy and because she has sex with Batman at the end of the first issue and into the second. As I said when I read the first issue a few months back, that doesn’t bother me. I talked to a few friends and the point one of them made was that it might be a bad choice having one of the marquee characters in your universe raw dogging it with a criminal the first month of production. I get that, but, again, it didn’t bother me.

I’ve taken a new kind of approach to comics lately. I don’t so much care about one big cohesive universe or continuity anymore. The way I look at Big Two comics now is that a writer comes in, has access to all the past stories that have been written about said character (basically, the building blocks) and they construct their story with whichever blocks they choose while adding their own. I liked the ones Winick decided to play with. This Catwoman is a thief who steals out of greed, but still has a good heart, a code of ethics and a few friends she’s very attached to.

In the process of doing her thing, Selina Kyle finds herself with one less friend and in the presence of a man who wronged her greatly in the past. Seeing how she reacts to these situations gives us a chance to see how she really is and it’s not always as pretty as March’s art might make it seem. I got a very film noire/detective vibe from this story. Catwoman’s not a good character, but she does some good things and you wind up on her side even if you don’t think you’d do the same things in her situation (or be in that situation in the first place).

I’ve been a fan of Winick’s on books like The Outsiders, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, so I wasn’t surprised I’d like this book. I think there’s one more volume before he bounces right? I’ll give that one a read if I can get my hands on it.

Batman – Detective Comics Volume 1: Daces Of Death (DC)
Written & drawn by Tony Daniel with Szymon Kudranksi
Collects Detective Comics #1-7

I was less interested in Tony Daniel’s take on Batman in Detective Comics. This doesn’t have anything to do with my thoughts on Daniel — I like him quite a bit — the problem is that I think I’ve reached my fill of basic Batman stories. I have no idea where I read this, but I remember someone writing that they think some comic readers have a certain amount of a particular character’s story they can read and then they’re all filled up, the idea being that most writers can only do so much with a particular character (either because of their own level of ability or what the editor wants to see). While I can still read Catwoman stories, I’m just not sure how interesting I find another story where Batman has to track down a group of unknown criminals and deal with them in time to save an innocent (in this case Jim Gordon).

Don’t get me wrong, though, Daniel did some really cool things in this book. I actually like how he came up with a small army of new villains, either as part of Dollmaker’s crew or Penguin’s new pals. I also thought making Penguin’s club, The Iceberg Lounge into the floating Iceberg Casino is a great idea. I also appreciate the kind of old school Batman nature of the story which not only involves the aforementioned bad guys in outlandish costumes, but also a scene where Batman’s strung up like a puppet and has to fight four dudes dressed as Joker in the same states. That’s just a fun, weird idea that works when you’re dealing with guys in bat suits and, well, someone as bugnutty as Joker.

The Joker stuff is actually part of the only real, concrete thing about the book I didn’t like: it’s super dark. The Dollmaker’s people are all literally sewn together from other people, Joker’s face gets chopped off (and later shows up in Suicide Squad, which made that story make a lot more sense to me) and a handful of other nasty things happen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think these elements are inappropriate by any means, but to return to my above metaphor, they’re not the kind of blocks I’m as interested in reading as I might have once been. I’ve also read plenty of Batbooks along those lines in my years of fandom, so I might just be plain full up.

Conan Visits A Comic Shop

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Not only does he head to a comic shop that’s in a strip mall that looks nearly identical to the one that JC’s Comic Shop in Toledo is housed in (but the nail place is on the other side), but he also holds up my buddy Chris‘s President Obama AND makes fun of several statues I wrote up for ToyFare. Good times. Then he flips through a comic by my personal favorite Catwoman artist Jim Balent and visits some other places. Good stuff.

Trade Post: B.P.R.D. 1946 & Catwoman Crime Pays

2008-12-17
1:37:54 am

Okay, time for another installment of trade post:

B.P.R.D. 1946 Volume 9 (Dark Horse)

Written by Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

Drawn by Paul Azaceta

I love me some Hellboy, you guys and, of course, that includes B.P.R.D. I didn’t get into the Hellboy-verse until a few years ago, which was pretty good timing because I was able to read all the trades at Wizard and I was able to hop over the long gap when there weren’t any new books and Hellboy was spending a few years under the ocean. I’m a big fan of how intricate the history is. There’s elements in 1946 that resonate later on, though I can’t point all of them out, because it’s really hard to keep everything straight in my head. I do like to re-read the books every year or so, but I haven’t done that in a while and even right after I do it’s hard to remember.

This story follows Hellboy’s adoptive pops Trevor Bruttenholm in one of his post-WWII adventures with a group of soldiers in a bombed out Germany. This one’s got everything from vampires and werewolves to little girls in white dresses leading the Russian version of the B.P.R.D.

One of the great things about Dark Horse’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. trades is that you can pretty much pick any of them up, understand what’s going on and enjoy a great story with a beginning, middle and end. Sure there are smaller elements that you might not pick up on, but might also drive you to check out other books. The other thing I love about these books is that they almost always have extras. Usually that includes an intro by Mignola along with a sketchbook with commentary in the back by Mike and whoever else is drawing the book. Unfortunately, this volume lacks the intro, which usually has Mignola explaining the genesis of the idea (where the mythology came from, that kind of thing). I really like those and was bummed to see there wasn’t one. There was, however an Afterward by Dysart explaining his first 1946 meeting with Mignola and the sketchbook.

Oh, one more thing, I really dug Paul Azaceta’s art. Like a lot of the non-Mignola or Dan Davis Hellboy/B.P.R.D. it took me a while to get used to his style (what can I say? I’m used to my superhero artists), but Azaceta seems like the perfect artist for this project. I look forward to seeing him on future B.P.R.D. projects almost as much as I’m looking forward to all the other Hellboy-verse books.

CATWOMAN: CRIME PAYS (DC)

Written by Will Pfeifer

Drawn by David Lopez

Catwoman’s one of those characters that I have an on-again off-again relationship with. I actually had a subscription to the Jim Balent-drawn version for a year which I dug. I’d also grab whatever crossover issues came out. I completely missed out on Brubaker’s relaunch and still want to go back and read it, but I have read a few of Pfeifer’s trades, this being, I believe, the second to last of the current run (it’s getting canceled right? I’m super behind).

Anyway, this story follows Selina’s attempt to start a new life with her baby, then get rid of the baby and finally waking up in her empty apartment which then explodes, leaving Cats on the run in Gotham without her mask or whip. There’s a character called The Thief who disappears due to Catwoman’s involvement in the Salvation Run storyline which feature supervillains being sent to a crazy planet far far away.

I was actually pretty interested in the Thief storyline and seeing Catwoman stripped of everything and on her own, but it got cut off by the Suicide Squad getting the jump on her and sending her to the prison planet. I wasn’t a big fan of the whole Salvation Run storyline, partly because it seemed a bit too close the Marvel’s Negative Zone prison (did they even really flesh that out? All things Civil War are a blur thanks to the Civil War Room column), even though it’s a pretty sound idea in theory. I don’t even know how that mini-series ended and this trade doesn’t offer up much insight. You get an issue of Cats wandering around from faction to faction only to end up with Luthor’s crew, but then she ends up in this weird world where’s practically SuperCat and runs everything. Once she’s out, she presumably rejoins the Salvation Run storyline. I feel bad for Pfeifer because it doesn’t feel like the Salvation Run stuff was very organic, probably more dropped on his plate. But he handled it well, though the story itself doesn’t hold much consequence (even though it’s pretty cool).

I’ve liked Pfeifer’s writing in the past, his Aquaman Sub Diego stuff was rad and HERO is one of the coolest books from the past five or six years not yet collected (seriously, what’s the deal with that? come on DC, where’s my omnibus?!), but for whatever reason Catwoman hasn’t really absorbed me yet, though I’ll probably grab the next trade when it makes its way into the Wizard office. I also like David Lopez, he’s a solid artist with a distinct style that makes him stand out. He seems equally adept at drawing grim and gritty street-level stuff as huge superhero group shots, which he also gets to do in this book.

I can’t really recommend Crime Pays to non Catwoman readers. There’s a lot going on in this book that’s not only connected to past Catwoman continuity, but also a part of DC’s last year that seems generally ignored (seriously, I read a ton of DC books, how did the villains get back?). Hopefully the next volume will wrap things up with The Thief (I’m seriously interested in that storyline, as well as what the heck Catwoman’s supposed to do with all her stuff gone).