Kobra Trade Post: Kobra Resurrection & JSA Vs. Kobra

Kobra: Resurrected (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Jack Kirby, Steve Sherman, Martin Pasko & Ivan Brandon, drawn by Joe Bennett, Jack Kirby, Mike Nasser & Julian Lopez
Collects Checkmate #23-25, Kobra #1, DC Special Series #1, Faces of Evil: Kobra #1, JLA-Z #2 & Who’s Who #12 & 13,

Back before DC decided to do a complete reboot, it looked like Kobra and the villainous cult he ran was going to become a pretty big deal in the DCU. I have no idea if this actually happened or not, but he did get a rebirth in the pages of Faces of Evil: Kobra #1 a few years back that lead into the series I’ll be reviewing next. But even before that, Greg Rucka and Eric Trautman were doing some really interesting things with Kobra in the pages of the highly underrated Checkmate. I had a whole thing written about how I would be keeping this one trade pretty much just for the Jack Kirby issue, but then I did a little looking around and discovered that this book actually collects the as-yet-uncollected issues of Rucka’s run on the series. I assumed incorrectly they were in Fall of the Wall, but that’s not the case. So, this book now has even more value for me.

For most of my reading of this collection I was thinking it was kind of a bad collection. Tricky. The kind of thing thrown together to get you to buy another book if you liked JSA Vs. Kobra or to get the crazy completists to buy another book for a pertinent issue or two, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore (or at least not to the same degree). See, the Faces of Evil one shot directly leads into JSAVK, so it would make a lot of sense for it to be in that book, but then again the Checkmate stuff leads into both. You throw in the Kirby issue and a Batman story that gets referenced later on and these to actually work as pretty solid companion pieces. Could they all have been put in one book? Sure, but that would have been a pretty thick collection for a miniseries that may or may not have lead to anything or sold well, so I guess I get it.

Content-wise, I like the stuff that leads into JSAVK and love looking at anything Kirby drew, even if the story itself is somewhat plodding and not super interesting. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the history of Kobra, the big reveal of the book is right there on the cover for everyone to see which undercuts what could have been a pretty surprising moment. The Batman/Kobra story wasn’t very interesting, so I mostly skipped it, but overall, I thought this was a pretty good character compilation book that fills in a lot of holes for some people.

JSA Vs. Kobra (DC)
Written by Eric Trautmann, drawn by Don Kramer & Neil Edwards
Collects JSA Vs. Kobra #1-6

Much of my interest in the previous book comes from how much I liked JSA Vs. Kobra both when it first came out and upon a second reading. The idea behind this series is that a new Kobra has taken over the organization and has completely changed up their MO, which puts the Justice Society off their game. At it’s heart, story is a battle of wits between the heroic genius Mister Terrific and the new Kobra. It’s actually one of the few times where alternating thought box writing moving from the one main character to the other works. Jeph Loeb did this with Superman/Batman and it came off super corny in my opinion, but here it works really well and adds another layer to the drama and tension.

I’d say that the book works very well on its own as a taut thriller, the kind of thing you could probably give to non comic readers who are fans of procedurals, thrillers or mysteries and they’d enjoy it. Sure it’s got super heroes and super villains with longstanding relationships, but that’s not much different than jumping in on a long-running detective type series. There is a good amount of history that fans can dig into though–much of which is reprinted in the above trade.

Most of all, though, it’s just a good story that you’re not quite sure how the good guys will get out of. The downside of it being a comic book, especially a miniseries of an ongoing franchise, is that veteran comic fans know that nothing bad is going to happen to the heroes. That would be reserved for a big event or the main series, but not something like this generally speaking. It cuts out some of the tension–much like Kirby’s Kobra cover–but at the end of the day, I think it’s worth a read, even if you’re one of the many people not interested in reading superhero comics about old people.

Trade Post: Wonder Woman Odyssey Volume 1

Wonder Woman: The Odyssey Volume 1 (DC)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski & Phil Hester, drawn by Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica, Allan Goldman & Daniel Hdr
Collects Wonder Woman #600-606

A lot was made of JMS taking over Wonder Woman. People weren’t sure why yet another writer felt the need to screw with Diana’s origin again. Little did anyone know, at that time, that in a year or so it wouldn’t matter. Well, I kind of figured it wouldn’t matter, but in a different way. I assumed this would just be one of those stories with an ending that explained how everything was in an alternate universe and put things back to normal. You know, basic comic book stuff.

So, I went into reading this first volume of what would become Phil Hester completing the story from JMS’s outlines, with an open mind. And, honestly, it’s a fine comic. Diana gets re-envisioned as a younger member of the Amazons. In this new timeline, the Amazons have left Paradise Island and have moved all over the world. There’s also a kind of anti-Amazons causing trouble in various ways. And, of course, there’s enough hints dropped letting you know that something is wrong with this reality, which I assume lead back to the original WW coming back (or would have, if Flash Point/DCNu hadn’t gotten in the way, I really have no idea how this whole thing ended).

But, at the end of the day, does it matter? Considering the new direction DC has taken, probably not in a continuity sense. The real question is whether the story goes somewhere new and worthwhile, mattering artistically. I’m leaning towards no. I’ve read a lot of Wonder Woman comics over the years and nothing in this collection felt altogether interesting or groundbreaking. It doesn’t help that the original writer bailed on the book. If he didn’t care enough to finish, should the reader care enough to see it through to the end?

I don’t usually like JMS’s writing because he has a tendency to get Claremontian with his verbosity. However, I didn’t have that problem with whatever issues he actually wrote (Hester’s always solid in my book). On the other hand I love Don Kramer’s artwork. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the whole book and some of the fill-in guys lack basic composition and storytelling skills. Also, for whatever it’s worth, I had no problem with Wonder Woman’s new costume, even if I used it as a spring board for a Topless Robot list I wrote. I think it looked practical, modern and bad ass.

At the end of the day there wasn’t enough goodness in this book to get me excited about picking up the next volume. I’d probably read it eventually if someone gave me a copy, but I have no intention of seeking it out. If I get curious about how it ended or how it tied into the then-DCU, I’ll just check the Wiki page.

Trade Post: The Pile


Hey Gang, seeing as how I’ve got a lot of time on my hands now, I’ve been tearing through some movies and trades. I haven’t done posts yet, but you can be on the lookout for more of those down the road. These trades are actually from last week and the week before. As usual, I’ll run down the pile top to bottom.

CAPTAIN AMERICA BATTLES BARON BLOOD (Marvel Illustrated Books) Written & drawn by Roger Stern and John Byrne
This little number was quite the oddity. I thought it was going to be one of those novels-based-on-comics things. I read a ton of the ones that came out in the 90s back then. I guess I should have noticed the “Illustrated” portion of the title. So, what you’ve got here is a strange book that collects (according to this site) collects Captain America 250, 253 and 254 which covers those issues where Captain America fights Baron Blood and meets the new Union Jack (as well as the newer Baron Blood) along with the issue where Cap says “no” to running for president. The interesting thing, which you can see in the below pic, is that they cut these comics into panels (black and white ones) and pieced them together on pages the size of the average Pocket Book. Weird right? The stories were good, though kind of slow and I would much rather read them in color. Roger Stern is the man, by the way, he’s definitely one of the most unsung writers in the history of comics.

DC UNIVERSE SPECIAL: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 (DC) Written by Len Wein, Gerry Conway & Jack Miller, drawn by Dick Dillin & Joe Certa
Though technically not a trade, there were two reasons I included this issue in this post. One, it collects Justice League of America #111 (“Balance of Power!”), 166-168 (“The League That Defeated Itself”) and Detective Comics #274 (“The Human Flame”). These are all stories that hold some relevance to Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis, though they’re not really hyping the IC connection. You get Human Flame and Libra’s first appearances, which make sense, and then the story in which the bad guys get inside the heroes’ heads and find out all about them, this leads to Zatana doing mind wipes and on and on. So, these are pretty integral issues that a lot of later stories hinge on. That being said, I found them to be boring and mostly skimmed through them. The second reason is that these reprints should have been reprinted again in the Final Crisis Companion, which I will get to shortly. That just makes sense, though, right? Might as well make that companion as much of a companion as possible and the first appearances of the two biggest new characters in the story should have their stories told. But, hey, it’s a rad cover, isn’t it? That Ryan Sook dude knows how to DRAW!

MOME VOL. 14 SPRING 2009 (Fantagraphics) Written and drawn by a ton of talented folks
One of the many perks of working at Wizard for a dyed in the wool superhero fan like myself was getting exposed to some of the more alternative sides of comics. Between going through the library and borrowing books from friends who are way more knowledgeable about these things than I am, I feel like I’ve just barely started to uncover the tip of the indie iceberg. So, as you might imagine, I’ve heard a lot about Mome, the indie comics anthology that Fanta puts out (those guys are amazing), but I’ve never read one until Vol. 14 and I definitely liked it. I will be completely honest, I don’t think I understood a lot of these stories, but I kind of like that. It’s like watching an experimental film, but with cool art. By far my favorite strip was called Kool-Aid Comic by Jon Vermilyea. I like the simplicity of it, the subject and the art. It all comes together in a fun little comic, of which you can peep a page or two of below. Fun stuff and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future Momes.


SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL. 7: THE MIST & THE PHANTOM OF THE FAIR (Vertigo) Written by Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, drawn by Guy Davis
I’ve talked about my love of SMT before, but since then I’ve read the volumes I was missing and have come to like this series even more. For those of you not willing to click the link, SMT follows the Golden Age Sandman as he romps through pre-WWII NYC, fighting bad guys, evading the cops, being a genius, sometimes interacting with other Golden Age heroes (or soon-to-be ones) and sharing his life–both in and out of the gas mask–with his girlfriend Dian Belmont. What I love most about this book, aside from the NYC setting and my love of Golden Age DC characters, is the relationship between Dian and Wesley (Sandman’s real name). I think they’re my favorite couple in all of comics, mostly because they did away with the “keeping the secret identity from the girlfriend” thing. You also get to watch Dian evolve from a spoiled socialite to someone really trying to help the world. But, aside from all that, this volume gives us glimpses of a young, pre-Starman Ted Night and “The Phantom Of The Fair” which is the story that I remember reading about as being one helluva one back in the day from Wizard (they were right). I think you’d be okay if you jumped in here to read this much beloved story, but I highly recommend going back to the beginning. Here’s hoping that Vertigo continues their plans to collect this whole series.

FINAL CRISIS COMPANION (DC) Written by Grant Morrison, Len Wein, Peter Tomasi, Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann, drawn by JG Jones, Tony Shasteen, Doug Mahnke, Ryan Sook & Marco Rudy
So, this is kind of a weird book. The actual Final Crisis collection is amazing. It’s got everything written by Grant Morrison in one place, while this one has the rest of the stuff that isn’t a regular series tie-in and the FC Director’s Cut which is the first issue without color or word balloons followed by the script. Then you’ve got Final Crisis Secret Files, Requiem and Resist. All these issues are cool on there own, but I do wish this volume was a big more robust. In addition to the reprints I mentioned above, I’d also like to see some of the JLoA and Teen Titan tie-ins included, just to have everything in one place. Ah well, it’ll still get a place on my bookshelf.

NIGHTWING: THE GREAT LEAP (DC) Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Don Kramer, Rags Morales, Doug Mahnke, Shawn Moll &
Joe Bennett
I dug Tomasi’s previous Nightwing volume, so I’m not surprised that I dug this second volume. The only problem with it is that it got awkwardly swept up in the Batman: RIP story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Morrison’s Batman run, but the tie-ins lost me for the most part, including Nightwing. So, I hadn’t actually read most of these issues when they came out, but I did like the whole story, most of which involves Nightwing’s weird relationship with Two-Face, which is being carried over into todays Batman stories written by Winick. Interesting for sure.

TRINITY 1 (DC) Written by Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, drawn by Mark Bagley, Scott McDaniel, Tom Derenick & MIke Norton
Trinity got a lot of flack, but I think it’s because it wasn’t what people were thinking it should be. 52 was an amazing look at some smaller characters, giving them new life and making them important again in the DCU, Countdown tried way too hard to be the backbone of the DCU and Trinity turned into this crazy, out-there story featuring all kinds of heroes the casual fan has never heard of. This is just the first series, collecting #1-17 and I will warn you, it’s definitely for big time DC fans and not the feint of heart.

SECRET INVASION: INCREDIBLE HERCULES (Marvel) Written by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Rafa Sandoval
Incredible Herc was one of those books that everyone loves but I missed out on in single issues. By the time I read the first trade, the issues were already into the third or fourth arc, but this, the second (collecting 116-120) collects the Secret Invasion issues. I wasn’t a big fan of SI, especially the ending, but I really liked how Pak and Van Lente flipped the script and looked at the Skrull invasion from a different angle. This time we see it from a religious viewpoint, with Herc and some other gods from regular and Marvel mythologies trying their best to kill the god of the skrulls. It’s a cool story, one filled with plenty of sci-fi goodness, but also some fun nods to mythology of all kinds that make this a really fun and well rounded book.

COUNTDOWN ARENA Written by Keith Champagne, drawn by Scott McDaniel
I’ve loved McDaniel’s art since his Nightwing days. There’s a short arc where NW fights Scarecrow early on that is just amazing and I highly recommend it. So, when I heard the news that DC was going to be putting out a book called Arena, drawn by McDaniel that would pit various versions of heroes against each other to see who would win, I was sold. Turns out this story didn’t have a lot of bearing on the actual Countdown story (as I noted here to some extent), but it remains one of the better looks at the multiverse that’s just been sitting around. I know that there’s been word that they’re waiting for Morrison to get in there and really dig deep on the multiverse at some point, but I’m getting tired of waiting. What’s the point of having it if you’re not going to do anything with it? Also, one quick thing that bothered me about many of the Earths they revealed was that they just took Elseworld books and extrapolated that into an entire universe. There’s an entire universe out there based on the idea that Batman was a vampire. And, hey, I like that original story as much as the next guy, but that doens’t mean it should necesarily get it’s own universe. Does that mean those Elseworlds annuals they put out each have their own universe? The one where Steel was around in the Civil War, Batman was actually Two Face or Superman was straight out the jungle book? It’s just a bummer because it feels like they just copied the original multiverse and added this other ones with haste, which wouldn’t have been a huge deal if they hadn’t limited themselves to just 52. Ah well. This book is definitely only for die-hards. Or maybe just me.

THE NEW TEEN TITANS ARCHIVES VOL. 1 Written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by George Perez
This might be comic book heresy, but I couldn’t even get through this book, which collects DC COmics Presents #26 and New Teen titans 1-8. I think what ruined the book for me is the fact that every Teen Titans writer since has mined this territory so, SO much. The only aspect of this story that was surprising for me was the mystical way in which the team first came together. Beyond that? I’ve seen the Deathstroke stuff and the Trigon stuff before. Several times. Geoff Johns did it and it seems like it’s been done a thousand times since then. And that’s coming from someone who loves Geoff’s Titans. Like, a lot. It’s an amazing book. I just think it’s about time for the Titans to move beyond their 80s roots and maybe make some new villains and get some new characters into the mix. Maybe I’ll put this one back in my “to read” pile and give it another shot somewhere down the line, but I’m not sure yet. For me, it’s just too “been there done that” for me. But man, Perez sure knows how to draw and I stand by my claim that he’s one of the few artists who’s actually gotten better with age. I’ll read any new stuff that guy puts out.

Trade Post: Abe Sapien The Drowning & Nightwing Freefall

2008-12-19
8:02:27 pm

A few more trade reviews for your reading pleasure, BAM:

ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING VOL. 1 (Dark Horse)

Written by Mike Mignola

Drawn by Jason Shawn Alexander

Like I said the other day, I love the Hellboy-verse and a big part of the world is Abe Sapien. This trade collects the very first Abe mini which also recounts his first Hellboy-less mission back in 1981. Remember how I said that even stories like this that take place in the past refer back to other stories? Well, there’s a quick look at Abe’s origin, but again, you don’t need to know anything about that to enjoy this story. It’s really fun trying to work everything out because, while this story came out after the B.P.R.D. trade which explained Abe’s past, The Drowning, chronologically speaking, comes before that. I’d like to see a huge Hellboy timeline laying everything out (maybe even with the order you’re supposed to read them in).

I’ve got the same complaint about this trade as the B.P.R.D. Vol. 9, though, in that we don’t get treated to a Mignola intro (though there still is the requisite sketchbook). And speaking of the art, Jason Shawn Alexander is awesome. I have no idea what else he’s done, but the way he draws the creepy little ghost things with the writing all over them is pretty damn creepy. Well done Jason, someday I’d like to have you contribute to my Green Lantern or eventual horror movie themed sketchbook.

I guess I haven’t really talked about the story, so here goes. Abe’s on an island looking for a magic spike in a demon, but soon enough these short demon dudes show up and everyone on the island dies! So, it’s up to Abe to save the day. I don’t want to get too much more into it without giving stuff away, but it’s another great Hellboy-verse story that any fan or novice can pick up and love.

NIGHTWING: FREEFALL (DC)

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Drawn by Rags Morales & Don Kramer

I’m not the biggest Nightwing fan in the world, though I did enjoy most of the Devin Grayson and Chuck Dixon issues I read back in the day. Of course, things haven’t been so great in recent memory. But no more! I’ve been loving former editor Tomasi’s run on the book. Tomasi has boiled the character down to his essence, added his own spin and really cemented him in his post-One Year Later setting of New York City. In this book we get to see Dick taking up skydiving, getting a new job and home and trying to track down a villain who’s stealing super-corpses. What Tomasi does that I love is, he shows how much a part of the DCU Nightwing really is (remember, he lead the JLA at one point when they were stuck in the past). Not only does Flash (Wally) stop by for a beer, interact with Batman and Robin and confab with Superman on a case, but he also ha the JSA help set up his new pad (they’re not too far away, also being located in NYC).

I also have to admit I’m fond of Peter’s use of the New York area. I’m not as familiar with the city itself, but I totally geeked out when Nightwing flew under the Bear Mountain Bridge, which I pass every day on my way to work. There’s also a few other locations that I think I recognized (hey, I’m still learning). Aside from the locations, I appreciate the writer’s creativity and logic when dealing with the superhero world. Nightwing flies around on a ‘Wing wing (a kind of jetpack with wings), but he also asked Bruce Wayne to purchase various buildings placed strategically throughout NYC to give him plenty of places to get to if he needs to hid out. Brilliant! Does Batman even do that?

There are a few downsides though. There’s a bit of wordiness int he first few pages of the trade explaining how much Dick loves skydiving. It’s not poorly written by any means, but it’s a little bit dense and I know it turned a few guys at the lunch table off from reading the book (though I convinced them too soon enough). I’m also not sure what’s up with Rags’ art. I much prefer Don Kramer’s work in the book. It’s a lot cleaner and crisper and I kind of hope he becomes the regular artist.

So, if you’re even a cursory fan of Nightwing or Batman, you should definitely check this trade out as it, in my opinion, greatly represents the character as well as the logical standing he has in the DCU as one of the very first sidekicks who has literally grown up in the superhero world.