The Midnight Comic Club Episode 8 – Frankenstein at Marvel & DC

As we come together for the eighth meeting of the Midnight Comic Club, we celebrate the November 32, 1931 release of James Whale’s Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff by looking at how Marvel and DC have integrated the character into their universes!

Starting with Marvel, check out Menace #7, X-Men #40 and the fantastic Monster Of Frankenstein trade paperback if you’d like to learn more.  Scroll on down for some images of those books as well as plenty of others mentioned in the episode. I also mentioned the Avengers: Legion Of The Unliving trade which you can check out here.

I should probably link to the episode, so here it is!

Here’s a few more of the Marvel books I mentioned: Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, Howling Commandos Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fear Itself: Deadpool/Fearsome Four and Punisher: Frankencastle.

Moving on to DC, these are some of the books I mentioned: Showcase Presents Superman Volume 2, The Demon By Jack Kirby, Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Volume 2, The Creature Commandos, Seven Soldiers Of Victory Volume 2 (though you should also check out Volume 1 as well), Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 and 2 and Elseworlds: Batman Volume 1.

Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

When it comes to DC Rebirth books, the Superman group, the Superman group stands apart. I’m not saying that as a longtime and devoted Man of Steel fan (though I am), but because the headline character is actually the version from the previous universe, as explained in Superman: Lois & Clark. Some time after that book, the New 52’s version of Superman seemingly died before DC launched their Rebirth initiative. In Superman Volume One: Son Of Superman and Superman: Action Comics Volume One: Path Of Doom, the previous incarnation of Superman leaves the black-and-silver suit behind, takes up the more familiar colors and makes his presence known to a world still reeling from his predecessor’s death. Continue reading Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

Trade Post: Batman The Man Who Laughs

batman the man who laughs Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Doug Mahnke & Patrick Zircher
Collects Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Detective Comics #784-786

I’ve gone a little crazy requesting trades from my local library network. It’s been a lot of fun searching for all kinds of books I may have missed over the years or haven’t read in a while. Batman: The Man Who Laughs actually combines both of these because I somehow missed Ed Brubaker’s take on the Joker in the 2005 Man Who Laughs one-shot, but did read the three issue run on Detective Comics from 2003 also included in this collection.

I remember Man Who Laughs being a pretty big deal when I started working at Wizard in 2005. The prestige format book had come out before I got there and Brubaker’s star was definitely on the rise. A few of the guys on staff were huge fans of Gotham Central, which Bru co-wrote with Greg Rucka and so there was a lot of buzz about his then-new Captain America run and his other projects including the excellent Sleeper. Because of this, Man Who Laughs was a tough book to get your hands on in the Wizard library as people were constantly asking about it. Plus, one book like this can be very difficult to find in a huge, fairly unorganized library like that.

Basically, MWL is a story about the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It acts as a nice sister story to Batman: Year One because, up to this point, the Dark Knight has only really faced off against mobsters, criminals and street thugs, but the appearance of the Joker takes things to a whole new psychotic level. In true Joker fashion, he comes on the scene like a bomb, presents rules for a game that he has no intention of following and eventually finds out exactly what kind of adversary he has in the form of Batman. Like I said when I wrote about the Lex Luthor-centric run of Action Comics recently, this is one of those stories that helps define a hero by the villains he attracts. Plus, as I’ve said in many a Books Of Oa post, Doug Mahnke is just the best and should draw everything ever.His Joker is waaaay creepy.

After that you’ve got a three issue arc from Detective Comics that teamed a pair of Gotham’s protectors up to solve a series of murders with roots back in the post-WWII era. Green Lantern Alan Scott tried to find a serial killer back in the day who carved “Made of Wood” into his victims. When a new killer with the same MO pops up in modern times, he joins forces with Batman to figure out what’s going on. This is a pretty straightforward whodunnit with a retired Jim Gordon working the case from a different angle. This is the kind of crime solving tale Bru became known for in Gotham Central, but with the added flare of seeing a par of superheroes working the case that makes stories like this set in a shared superhero universe fun.

I got pretty nostalgic reading these issues of Detective Comics because they came out when I was in college. I would come home for a break and my mom or dad would have my pull list waiting for me. I’d spend a good deal of time organizing everything and then putting them in a desired reading order before diving in. These comics reading experiences were much further and farther between than I was used to, but they were a lot more intense because it was such an immersive, deep-dive experience. When we get into a house one of the many things I’m looking forward to is getting my comic collection all in one place so I can go back, re-read books like this and see what’s worth keeping.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Volume 2 The Revenge Of The Black Hand

Green Lantern Volume 2 The Revenge Of The Black Hand Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods, Renato Guedes & Jim Calafiore
Collects Green Lantern #7-12 & Green Lantern Annual #1

I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s crazy to think that Geoff Johns isn’t writing Green Lantern anymore. I’m pretty far from caught up on his Lantern comics, but few people have done so much with a fairly simple concept and expanded on it so much as he did with these books. When he did Rebirth, there was only one Lantern and no Corps. Now there’s thousands of GLs and a whole variety of colors to choose from. Heck, he even got his book to move from the old continuity to the new one relatively unscathed, which is no small feat.

It’s that last bit that takes center stage with today’s Books Of Oa trade post as I review the second volume of Johns’ New 52 Green Lantern drawn mostly by the amazing Doug Mahnke. In the first volume, Hal got ousted from the Green Lantern Corps, but Sinestro came along and gave him a ring of his own. This book starts off with Sinestro visiting his deputy and a fight breaking out that only stops because the Indigo Tribe appears and takes them away. This part of the story explains the Abin Sur helped complete this group as a way of punishing the evil. Basically, the Indigo rings make very bad people feel compassion as a form of punishment. But, they discover that, over time, it actually works.

While Hal and Sinestro fix the Indigo’s problems, Black Hand — a fairly recent inductee into the Tribe — escapes which leads into the second story collected in this volume. While disconnected, he scores a shiny new Black Lantern ring and then heads back to Earth where our heroes eventually find and attack him. Meanwhile, the Guardians, who have clearly lost their minds, are making moves to create a Third Army (the Manhunters were first, the GLs second). To do this they break into a secret jail and leave with a being called The First Lantern all of which leads into the next big Lantern event.

One of the great things about this volume is that, unlike some of the other ones I’ve read in this ongoing space-fantasy epic, it feels like its own story. Sure, it leads into the larger story and will surely be referred to in those pages, but the immediate tales are not only fun and interesting on their own, but also offer new information about what the heck is going on in the larger Lantern tapestry.

And let’s just say that the world is a better place when Mahnke is drawing aliens and zombies. I think that’s a pretty universal truth at this point. It was fun seeing the other artists jump in for the annual, but at the end of the day I think Mahnke will go down as one of the best Green Lantern artists of all time and with good reason.

Books Of Justice Trade Post: Second Coming & When Worlds Collide

justice league of america second coming Justice League Of America: Second Coming (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie , drawn by Ed Benes with Alan Goldman, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Ian Churchill & Ivan Reis
Collects Justice League Of America #22-26

Naturally, after reading Brad Meltzer’s two-book run on Justice League Of America and then Dwayne McDuffie’s first two, I moved right along into his last two. While The Injustice League and Sanctuary read like truncated tales, Second Coming actually felt like a full story that McDuffie wanted to tell that didn’t get interrupted by a larger DCU event.

As I said before, while Grant Morrison’s JLA deals with macro issues showing why the world needs the team, the Meltzer-into-McDuffie one seems more focused on why the team members need each other. While trying to fix Red Tornado again, Amazo shows back up and starts causing trouble for the team. Of course, they’re dealing with their interpersonal relationships which, like the threat itself, exist because this team exists. It’s a cool, organic process that does something a little different than I’m most used to when thinking of blockbuster JLA teams.

The trade ends with a crazier story than I remembered from my first reading. Vixen wants to get to the bottom of her new, wonky powers, so most of the team goes to Animal Man’s house. While there, a trickster god brings them into his dimension where he tells Vixen and Buddy about their true secret origins (if you can believe the god of lies) and also builds an alternate version of the Justice League by changing a few details here and there when it comes to hero origins. I’m a big fan of alternate reality stories, so this was right in my wheelhouse. I remembered this story being more confusing when it was coming out monthly, but felt it flowed a lot better with all the pieces in hand.

Art wise, this book is a little all over the place. Ed Benes is the main artist, but he’s still kind of in flux. The first issue of the collection has inks that are way too dark and heavy, but those back off as the issues progress. Alan Goldman came in and did a pretty great fill in and then you’ve got the cavalcade of killer artists from Doug Mahnke to Ian Churchill coming in to do a few pages here and there on one of the issues. All in all, both the art and story felt really pretty organic, not just for the few issues in this collection, but for the whole JLoA run to this point.

justice league of america when worlds collide Justice League Of America: When Worlds Collide (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Ed Benes with Jose Luis, Shane Davis, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf & Eddy Barrows
Justice League Of America #27, 28, 30-34

The word I keep thinking of when trying to describe When Worlds Collide is: bonkers. This trade is all over the place. First, you’ve got a two part story dealing with the Milestone characters trying to steal something from the Justice League. This was around the time when those heroes and villains were first being integrated into the DCU, but not being very well explained. All of a sudden, we’re just supposed to accept that an entire comic book universe was shrunk down to one town, Dakota, and had always been in the DCU? Huh? Well, after adding to some of that confusion, McDuffie actually does explain what happened towards the end of this book and his run on the series. I don’t think I ever actually read all these issues when they came out because it was around the time I got laid off from Wizard and lost access to every comic ever, so it was a big question mark in my head until I finished this trade.

So, there’s this bonkers story about all these heroes you’ve either never heard of and don’t know or have heard of and don’t know why they’re around. Then a whole issue is skipped over. After that, Hawkman asks the team for help in fighting Shadow Thief. After that, there’s an issue where Black Canary’s talking to all these different people about why the League is basically over with next to no explanation as to what went on to cause all this. Finally, a team consisting of Dr. Light, Firestorm, John Stewart, Vixen and Zatana runs up against Starbreaker. This last story also brings in a few more Milestone characters (and explains why they’re here now) as well as the Batman from the alternate universe in the previous volume. Again, bonkers.

The real problem with this book is that there’s zero context or explanation for what’s going on in the greater DC Universe at the time. This was around Final Crisis which lead to the death of Martian Manhunter, the temporal displacement and apparent death of Batman, Superman heading off to live on New Krypton and Wonder Woman disappearing for some reason. Some of these things are mentioned in the book, but a simple text explanation would have been greatly appreciated.

That lack of interest in catching a reader up really bothered me while reading this book and the next one which also picked up after some pretty huge out-of-book events. There’s this assumption that you already know everything that’s going on in the entire world of these characters. Heck, even if you did read everything when these issues were coming out and owned the trades, it’s incredibly likely that you won’t a few years down the line when you want to give them a re-read (which, you know, is the point of friggin trades!). To keep new readers abreast of what’s going on around these stories, there needs to be a small amount of explanation for what the heck the characters are referring to. This is an incredibly easy comic related problem to fix, so someone needs to get on it!

Books Of Oa: New 52 Green Lantern Sinestro & Green Lantern Corps Fearsome

Green Lantern Volume 1: Sinestro (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Mike Choi
Collects Green Lantern #1-6

When I first heard about the New 52, the first two franchises I wondered about were Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern stuff and Grant Morrison’s Batman books. Not only were they two of the most popular series’ at the time, but they were also pretty longform works by some of the top talents in the biz. How would this reboot change them? Well, apparently they didn’t, not really. While this certainly offered a good deal of confusion to readers trying to figure out the differences between the two sets of continuity, it’s actually not such a big deal to a more casual trade reader like myself.

I should note that I don’t have and haven’t read the War of the Green Lantern story that, I believe, ended with the old universe, but from what I’ve read online and seen in this book, the connections are very strong, possibly the strongest between continuities as I didn’t find myself wondering about changed details or anything like that while reading this book which finds Sinestro back in the Green Lantern duds and Hal Jordan on the outs. So, while I don’t know the details behind these story (not continuity) based changes, I caught on pretty quickly and was along for the ride.

All of which brings me to the actual story which involves Sinestro creating a ring that he can control for Hal to use in order to help remove the Sinestro Corps from his home planet of Korugar. They head there, lose some power and allow the people to help them break free and win their own freedom. Meanwhile, Hal is also dealing with his relationship with Carol Ferris and the Guardians decide to create  the Third Army (after the Manhunters and the Green Lanterns). This is clearly the big overarching Green Lantern franchise story being built toward, but unlike some of the preWOTGL stories, these storiesdon’t feel like they’re only there to service the larger story and do a lot to both get new readers involved in what’s going on and also give plenty of service to long time fans (something that Johns has built his career on).

You know what makes all of the above even better? Doug Mahnke’s artwork. That guy was born to draw a book featuring not only a plethora of aliens but also all the constructs the imagination can create. I’ve been a fan of his since I first saw him on Man of Steel and on through the rest of his career. He is perfect on this book. As such, when you get to the last issue in the collection, it’s a pretty gigantic difference, one that doesn’t do anyone any favors. I’ve liked Mike Choi’s art on a lot of books, but it looks really sleight and faint here, which sometimes happens if pencils get colored without inking (no idea if that’s actually what happened here, but that’s what it reminds me of). Between that and the almost pastel coloring choices, you couldn’t genetically engineer an issue that looks more out of place after reading five issues featuring Mahnke’s dark, bold, bombastic pencils. Still, I’m a big fan of this trade because, if nothing else, it’s a return to form for Johns and the GL concepts I fell in love with post-Rebirth.

Green Lantern Corps Volume 1: Fearsome (DC)
Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Fenando Pasarin, Geraldo Borges & Claude St. Aubin
Collects Green Lantern Corps #1-7

The problem I had with the first issue of the new GLC when I read it months ago was that it felt like a rehash of stuff I’d already read. You’ve got Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart realizing that they don’t have much of a place on Earth and moving to Oa, something Guy did in the previous GLC series with Kyle Rayner. You’ve also got a mysterious, seemingly Lantern-based force killing GLs in Sector Houses. It wasn’t the most thrilling thing to an old hat GL fan like myself, but then I remembered that these books are as much for people like me as new readers, if not more so the latter.

So, I tried reading this book with that in mind and I think it helped. It doesn’t reach that balance nearly as well as the Green Lantern volume, but this collection still offered an interesting and intense adventure that really looked like the GLs wouldn’t make their way out of (as much as you can expect something like that from a Big Two team book). Not only that, but we get introduced to a group of old warhorse GLs called Mean Machine and a guest appearance by Martian Manhunter of Stormwatch connecting this story more to the New 52 than the other.

The story also did something pretty interesting that explained an old trait of GLC members. Back in the day, they used to be able to reach into a pocket dimension, grab their lanterns and recharge. It’s something that’s been missing since the Kyle Rayner days and, honestly, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, so this was kind of a fun geek service thing. On the other hand, I can only imagine what it was like for new readers who have no idea what any of this refers to thought about it.

There was one story detail that still sticks in my craw. It’s a pretty big part of it, so I’ll let loose the SPOILER WARNING. At one point a small group of Lanterns gets captured by the bad guys and are being tortured for information. One of the rookies is just about to break so John Stewart frees himself just enough to snap that Lantern’s neck, killing him. It’s a super dark moment that I’m not sure if I like or not, especially having been a fan of Stewart’s for so long, but I guess it shows how much of a soldier he’s become. I was further confused by the fact that Stewart was able to cover up the murder considering he has a ring on his finger that can give a full report back to his superiors. It didn’t feel quite right on character level or a logic one, but maybe that’s the new world we’re dealing with (that’s got to be a great crutch to fall back on if you screw something up, isn’t it?).

After having read these books, I’m still in it when it comes to the Green Lantern books. I’m curious to check out the Red Lantern one and the New Guardians or whatever that other book with Kyle Rayner is is called. Plus, I have to admit, I’m curious to find out what the Guardians have up their sleeve with this whole Third Army thing. Color me interested.

Books Of Oa: Blackest Night, Blackest Night Green Lantern & Blackest Night Green Lantern Corps

BLACKEST NIGHT (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ivan Reis
Collects Blackest Night #0-8, Blackest Night Director’s Cut #1
Here’s the thing about events. Even when it makes sense for the events of the event to have an effect on the greater universe (zombies infesting the universe, the government wants to register superheros) that doesn’t always mean it works out from a story perspective to tie into the greater universe. For instance, Blackest Night brought the dead back to life in nearly every DC comic book of the time, but that didn’t really mean anything. Even the ones who had a way to get rid of the Black Lanterns didn’t play into the greater story (for the most part) so what’s the point? There were also a ton of tie-in miniseries showing what Blackest Night did to people like Batman or Superman. Some of these stories seemed to be spawned from brief moments in the greater story (like what happens to poor Damage) but others wound up being pointless (Wonder Woman spent time in a stasis field imagining three issues worth of nonsense). The only reason I bring all this is up is to preface this review by saying that I didn’t bother with any of that stuff on this second reading of Blackest Night. I know the tie-ins really bogged the greater story down for a lot of people which is pretty much a rookie move as far as I’m concerned, but what are you gonna do? I was really looking forward to sitting down and reading this story in a pretty short period of time.

I kicked around the idea of reading each of these three books on their own, but I wound up following this list I found online: Green Lantern #43, Blackest Night #0, BN #1, GLC #39, GL #44, BN #2, GL #45, GLC #40, BN #3, GL #46, GLC #41, GL #47, BN #4, GLC #42, GL #48, BN #5, GLC #43, GL #49, BN #6, GLC #44, GL #50, GL #51, GLC #45, BN #7, GLC #46, GL #52, BN #8 and GLC #47. Bouncing around from book to book was kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it really helped with the story. As it turns out the Green Lantern issues tie in very heavily with Blackest Night while Green Lantern Corps deals with the rising of the dead in space (the main story takes place mostly on Earth). While I think the GLC stuff can be read closer together if you feel the need, I’d probably stick to this reading order next time around too.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke, Ed Benes and Marcos Marz
Collects Green Lantern #43-52
So, to run down the basics of the story, the Black Lantern rings spread across the universe attaching themselves to the fingers of dead people, many of whom have a special connection to Earth-bound superheroes and Green Lantern Corps members. As someone puts it at some point in the series (I didn’t take notes, but I remember the deets pretty well, it was either Flash or Atom) the ring wears the corpse instead of the other way around. It can access their memories and use them to make their victims feel one of the emotions on the spectrum. The more they feel the brighter their auras get and once they’re bright or charged enough, the Black Lantern grabs their heart and consumes it. The first time I read all this, I had several questions. Why are they only going after heroes? Why is so much of the story based on Earth? What is the deal with these freaking Black Lanterns? All gets explained by the end.

The story centers around, of course, Hal Jordan and his pal and Johns favorite Barry Allen but also brings all of the other Lantern corps into play in a gigantic war at the very end that results in the deputization of several heroes and a few villains into the different corps. It’s cool on a fan boy level and makes sense on a larger level. Lex Luthor WOULD get a greed-based ring, Scarecrow (who we saw almost get a Sinestro Corps ring earlier in the series) WOULD get a fear-based ring. It’s all great.

As it turns out, the reason all this stuff happens on Earth is because it acts as a shell for something called The Entity which started all life in the universe (which we get treated to during the story, along with the birth of all the emotions on the spectrum). A lot of these details and explanations were hard for me to keep track of when these issues were coming out. Like I’ve said before, I would try and read them so voraciously, that I’m sure I missed elements and even forgot some of the questions I had. I was also distracted by the various deaths throughout the series, many of which were made better by the fact that 12 heroes and villains were able to rise from the dead without the use of the Black Lantern ring.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN CORPS (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Green Lantern Corps #39-47
There’s lots of geekiness in these books that I enjoyed as well. John Stewart deals with the death of Xanshi, the planet he was supposed to watch, Flash telling Mera and The Atom they’re the new Wonder Woman and Superman, the fact that some fairly low level characters got to be the major players, that Nekron explained how every resurrected superhero was really a way for him to weaken this reality allowing him to make his move on Earth and the Entity (he basically wants to kill all life) and that kick off issue with Black Hand is creepily amazing. The splash pages in this book are worth writing home about too, especially towards the end. Seeing Hal working with Sinestro, Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire and Atrocitus was also a really fun dynamic too.

I have friends who had lots of problems with this story, though I’m not sure if they’ve read everything together and still have their complaints. After finishing it this second time around in a much shorter time period than the first go around, I’m really impressed with the greater story, especially how it intertwined itself with Green Lantern. I’m sure you could read Blackest Night without reading Green Lantern, but it would be nowhere near a complete story.

Well, this will be the last Books Of Oa for a while. I’ve got a few other in mind that I’ll get to and have a plan to get some of my Kyle Rayner era comics bound in the near future, so I’m sure I’ll write about those in due time. Right now I’m looking forward to reading some less dense comics, but have had an awesome time going back and reading six years worth of comics.

Books Of Oa: Rage Of The Red Lanterns & Agent Orange

GREEN LANTERN: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Shane Davis & Ivan Reis
Collects Final Crisis: Rage Of The Red Lanterns #1 & Green Lantern #36-38
Okay, I know I said in my reviews of the Alpha Lanterns story line (which is also collected in this book) and the Secret Origins trade that I don’t like when comics are split up and not collected in actual order, but I’ve got to say that this one works out pretty well. As I mentioned in the Secret Origins review, that entire story takes place in the past with absolutely no mention of what’s going on in the present, so jumping from the end of issue #28–which turned Lost Lantern Laira into a Red Lantern–right to the poorly themed Final Crisis one-shot (which only briefly mentions what’s going on on Earth with the death of a god) and then into #36 because that’s basically the chronological story (in the DCU, not the real world). That’s a lot of parentheticals.

Anyway, the actual Rage Of The Red Lanterns story actually kicks off with the one-shot which is still rad, even if it probably never needed to be tied into Final Crisis. For whatever it’s worth, I love Final Crisis, but think it was a great story by one guy that got turned into an event, though it probably shouldn’t have been. So, FC: ROTRL turns out to be a kind of origin story for Atrocitus, the head of the Red Lanterns and denizen of Ysmault, the planet visited by Abin Sur in “Tyger” (see the above link). We learn that Atrocitus’ entire sector died thanks to something the Guardians did (we’ll find out more about this later), Sinestro is being escorted by a group of GLs to his home planet of Korugar for execution, Hal visits Earth and chats with Cowgirl, Ash finds the Anti-Monitor’s helm, the Controllers make an appearance a, Dex-Star makes his first (I think) and we get our first look of a Blue Lantern. It’s a LOT going on in one issue. The rest of the story has the Red Lanterns keeping Sinestro prisoner on Ysmault, Hal visiting Odym the base planet of Ganthet and Sayd’s Blue Lanterns and there’s a mini war of the light as Hal tries to save Sinestro from the Red Lanterns while the Sinestro Corps members have the exact idea in mind. Hal finds himself sporting the red ring after Sinestro kills Laira which only goes away when Saint Walker places a blue ring on his finger as well.

It’s kind of shocking how much is crammed into four issues. I say that as a compliment. A lot of comics feel too padded and lack action, but there’s so much world-building and a bevy of poignant character moments, that, had I bought these issues as they came out in monthlies, I think I’d be pretty happy with my purchase. The problem with reading comics that way–as I did at Wizard when the issues were originally coming out–is that it’s really difficult to absorb all that stuff. GL comics were a hot commodity while I was there, so you had to kind of burn through the issue so you could pass it off to whoever had dibs next. I think that’s why a lot of my memories of these comics are fuzzy and why I’m having so much fun reading these issues again altogether now.

GREEN LANTERN: AGENT ORANGE (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Philip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Ivan Reis, Rafael Albuquerque & Doug Mahnke
Collects Green Lantern #38-42, Blackest Night #0
Most of the action in Agent Orange takes place on a planet called Okaara which not only houses the orange light and it’s greedy bearer Larfleeze, but also was the place that Fatality trained to become the great warrior who traveled through space to kill Green Lanterns. I failed to mention in the Rage review that the Star Sapphire’s had rehabilitated her. That comes into play here as she confronts John Stewart and talks to him about love. It’s great to see John actually get a bit of the spotlight after being widely neglected since Rebirth. Meanwhile, Hal continues on his galactic tour that keeps putting new rings on his fingers. He’s got the blue one at the beginning of the story. Since the blue energy feeds off of hope (and also can’t do much but fly without a Green Lantern in close proximity), Hal needs to figure out what he actually hopes for in life to get it off his hand. It’s a pretty interesting mystery that gets pretty close to “JUST TELL ME ALREADY” territory, but didn’t quite get there for me. I was always interested, then something cool would happen and I would focus on that, then the question about hope would pop up and I’d be reminded of it again. Fun stuff.

Also fun and interesting is the big war between Green and Orange on the surface of the planet while Larfleeze tells Hal that he accidentally stole Parallax from someone which put him and his gang on the Guardians’ radar. In an attempt to escape, they wound up on Okaara where Larfleeze and one of his boys found the orange lantern. The Guardians said he could keep the lantern if he stayed in his sector as long as he never left. Larfleeze sees the Guardians as having broken the pact which brings things closer to the Blackest Night. Oh, at the very end, we see Ash and Saarek finally discovering the Black Lantern. CRAZY!

In addition to the action packed story, the collection also includes some of Philip Tan’s Orange Lantern character sketches–I didn’t remember liking his art very much the first time around, but this time around I really liked the textured elements it had–as well as a one of those Origins & Omens back-ups DC made everyone do at the time, the origin of Orange Lantern Glomulus and Secret Files-like run downs of all the Lanterns. I really appreciate them putting the extra effort into a book that felt thin, but still had five packed issues.

These being the last two trades leading up to Blackest Night, I figured it’d be a good place to talk about a few things that have been on my mind. First off, and this is something that’s always bothered me, I don’t understand how Hal Jordan can be in the Air Force and NEVER BE ON EARTH. I know some higher ups know his secret identity, but the military is all about accountability and it seems counter-intuitive to have someone as part of that organization that can’t be around. Maybe it’s that I don’t understand the Air Force as much as, say, the Army, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. Why he’s not still just a test pilot, I don’t know.

A few more quick complaints. For as much as Johns and company have paid attention to past Green Lantern continuity from the Alan Moore short stories to Kyle Rayner’s adventures, it confuses me that he has the Guardians talking like they’ve been around for millennia when they had actually been killed and either resurrected or recreated by Kyle Rayner. I don’t perfectly remember how they explained that back then, but it gives me a geeky twinge every time Scar says she’s been in the universe forever. It also seems like the Guardians are just making stupid decisions and are far too susceptible to Scar’s machinations. This is more going on in Green Lantern Corps, but it bugs me. I get that they’re anti-emotion, but them being so easily swayed seems a little ridic.

Okay, that’s all the complaints. I really dig the book otherwise and a lot of these are quibbles to be honest. I absolutely love how much thought Johns and his peeps have put into the different lanterns. All of this makes so much sense (aside from willpower being an emotion, or the fulcrum of the emotional spectrum in actuality). Of course the greed-based Lantern won’t let any of the rings go! Of course rage literally consumes the bearer! Of course love can be used as an excuse, well, anything! It’s all great in my book.

One of the things I wanted to really examine with this re-read project was to get an idea of Hal Jordan as a character. I think I’ve got that, but it more comes from how he interacts with his own corps and members of the others and much less from the Earth-bound stuff they seemed more interested in in the beginning of the book. Let’s be straight, it doesn’t make sense for a space cop to hang out too much on Earth. I get that Earth is important and it makes sense for Hal to stop home every now and then, but with Carol about to become Star Sapphire again, why not just let them be together flying around space and kicking ass? That’s what I’d do with the character and leave his Earth-based adventures up to the JLA. But hey, who cares what I say?

Trade Post: Last Week’s Pile 8-9-09

It’s been almost a month since I ran down what trades I’ve read recently and I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit for more of my “insight” (ie blathering). To catch up on a few things. I finished Tor and Barry Ween from last time. Barry was awesome from beginning to end, while Tor felt a little long, though it might be solely worth checking out for the art.

MAJOR BUMMER #1-15 (DC) written by John Arcudi, drawn by Doug Mahnke
Okay, obviously this one isn’t a trade, but that’s because it hasn’t been collected yet (not my fault). I remember reading about this book in Wizard all the time back in 1997-1998. It’s about this guy named Lou who gets super powers thanks to a couple of aliens working on a college project, but he wants nothing to do with being a super hero. But that doesn’t stop other similarly afflicted people from trying to get Lou into the super hero game. I love this creative team. Arcudi’s doing rad things with B.P.R.D. and Mahnke’s the sickest artist out there right now. No offense to JG Jones, but I really wish they would have gotten Mahnke to draw all of Final Crisis. And pretty much any other comic ever. Oh, also, one quick thought about this book: I wonder if it would still be going on (or at least gone on for longer) if it had been a creator-owned book from Image, Dark Horse or one of the smaller companies (this book has no connections to the DCU). Ah well, I think it works very well in its 15 issues.

DAREDEVIL: HELL TO PAY 1 & 2, CRUEL AND UNUSUAL (Marvel) written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka for CAU, drawn by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Lee Weeks, Marko Djurdjevic, John Romita Sr., Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo & Paul Azaceta
Altogether these three trades cover Daredevil #94-110 which is everything post Brian Michael Bendis’ run minus Bru’s first two trades. I started reading DD with Kevin Smith’s first issue and enjoyed the book (for the most part) up through Bru’s first arc called Devil Inside and Out which had Matt Murdock in jail. I really liked the secret agent-like quality of Murdock at the time and after he broke out of jail, but dropped off somewhere in the second arc when everything revolved around smell. The problem with basing a written story around the idea of smell is that, well, I can’t smell it. So, I lost track of the book, but I still am a huge Ed Brubaker fan and heard his re-team with Rucka was good so I gave these books a shot and I liked them but I won’t be adding them to my shelf. I think I’m all set when it comes to reading about a mentally unstable Daredevil. It was one of the aspects of Bendis’ run that didn’t really work (though, to be fair, I was reading monthly comics about once every five months, so I was cramming a lot in on college breaks). I did like how Bru got rid of Murdock’s wife Milla without killing her and the #100 issue had a lot of cool art sequences, though watching yet another “drugged hero relives his mistakes” comic wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world. All in all, they were solid comics, just not the kind of thing that I was looking for. I’d like to see a drastically new direction for DD. Maybe not something bright and sparkly, but maybe a little less crazy?

SUPERMAN MAN OF STEEL VOL. 4 (DC) written by John Byrne, Marv Wolfman & Paul Levitz, drawn by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Greg LaRocque, Erik Larsen
So, the deal with the MOS trades is that they’re (in theory) reprinting every post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman in order from John Byrne’s reboot Man of Steel miniseries on. Being a huge Superman fan, these books were on the top of my “must get” list and as of this last Christmas, I acquired all the ones available as of then (and now I think). The thing about these comics (Superman 7-8, Action 590-591, Adventures 460-431, Legion 37-38) is that some of them are kind of hard to slog through. Partly because they still fall into that “I’m describing what I’m doing” writing style and partly because, by the time I started reading Superman in the early 90s I had heard about a lot of these stories already. But, this book does include the first appearance of Rampage, an encounter with the Metal Men, a convoluted origin for Chemo that includes multiple earths and Crisis, an adventure drawn by Erik Larsen and, most interestingly, a crossover between Superman and Legion that explained why Superboy was still appearing in the future even though, post-Crisis, he wasn’t supposed to exist. It’s kind of convoluted, but it also seems like Geoff Johns was very familiar with the story when he wrote the end of Legion of 3 Worlds (a series I REALLY liked). Another interesting thing about these books is that, after Crisis, they were still trying to figure out how Crisis effected everything and they were really focused on nailing down Superman’s abilities. For instance, he’s not as strong or fast as he was pre-Crisis and even has trouble fighting a goon like Mammoth from the Fearsome Five (sporting two new members in the form of Charger and Deuce, characters that I’ve never heard of). And, finally, I know this is just a coincidence, but doesn’t this look kind like one of the new Corps symbols:

My only complaint about these books is that I wish they reprinted the covers between the issues. Kudos for including all relevant issues though and not skipping over tie-ins!

MILLENNIUM (DC) written by Steve Englehard, drawn by Joe Staton & Ian Gibson
I’ve read a lot of crossovers in my days. Some can be easily contained within the miniseries/crossover they were originally sold as (Sinestro Corps War), while some rely heavily on tie-in issues in addition to the main book to tell the full story (Civil War, Secret Invasion). I’m not sure if I prefer one way of telling a story to another, but I definitely prefer a trade that has all of the pieces of the puzzle in one place, which, unfortunately, Millennium doesn’t. Huge story elements take place in the tie-in issues. See, the whole idea (which wasn’t explained very well in the main series) is that the Manhunters from Green Lantern have infiltrated the lives of every hero (or at least every hero with an ongoing book at the time). One of the big ones at the time was Wally West’s dad. I’m not sure if that still holds up, or if his dad was always a Manhunter or was just replaced at some point like a Skrull (for an incredibly in depth comparison of Millennium and Secret Invasion check out J. Caleb Mozzocco’s Every Day Is LIke Wednesday “The Other Secret Invasion” posts). It would have been nice to read a fuller version of the story that might include more (or all) of the tie-ins. I love a good omnibus as long as it’s not too heavy (I’m a contrarian). So, as a solo story, the Millennium trade doesn’t really work, but it is a fun little time capsule that focuses heavily on the Green Lantern Corps (it was a weird time for them) and tries to launch a brand new team that I’ve seen in ads as The Wanderers, but I’ve never read an actual issue.

[Note: I haven’t actually read Justice Society Vol. 1 yet, it must have snuck it’s way into my pile on accident, or thanks to me cleaning up for the in-laws’ visit.]

HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL. 2 LOVE STORIES FOR DEAD PEOPLE (Vertigo) written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Luca Rossi (plus guests!)
I am loving this book and with the cancellation of Exterminators, 100 Bullets ending and my inability to keep up with Scalped unless I’m reading trades, I’m still struggling to keep up with my current favorite Vertigo title. I think the “problem” is that there’s so much going on that I can’t really keep track of it from month to month. Anyway, this trade collects issues 6-10 of the Sandman spin-off, which really digs deep into why these people are stuck in the House of Mystery (I love that these old DC houses are still being used, the Secret Six were using the House of Secrets at one time as an HQ). We also get some more history of our heroine Fig. I’ve heard from friends that HOM comes off as kind of hitting all the right notes, but not being exceptional as far as Vertigo titles are concerned. I think this doesn’t bother me because I haven’t read all that many Vertigo titles in this vein. Plus, having just read Sandman in the past couple of years, it’s nice to see some kind of continuation. I’m also, of course, a big fan of the side stories told in every issue drawn by guys like Kyle Baker and Bernie Wrightson. I think these stories are what really put me over the edge into the love column. Hopefully I can get caught up or at the very least, stay caught up on the trades. Oh, plus, Luca Rossi does a pretty great job in my opinion of capturing everything from regular folks to huge monsters and all kinds of fantastical elements in between. Plus, I can’t think of anyone who has turned a house into such a character as him. Well done and hope this book has a long a fruitful life.

EASTMAN & LAIRD’S TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES COLLECTED SERIES VOLUME 1 (Tundra) written by Ryan Brown & Dean Clarrain, drawn by Ken Mitchroney and Jim Lawson
You guys, this was a weird one. I think this is a pre-Archie mini series (three issues, if I’m reading everything right) and boy is it crazy. Not only do you get a non-canon origin of the Turtles and Splinter as told by Splinter to April in the very beginning, but you also get highly complicated origins for Man Ray, Leatherhead and a surprise appearance from one of my favorite secondary characters (at least in toy form) Ace Duck. Voodoo curses, alternate dimensions, Krang in his robot suit, the Turtles in luchador-like costumes and a floating cow head who can traverse time and space. That’s what you get in this volume. I’m not really sure how to explain it any other way than weird. If anyone knows how all this stuff fits in with the rest of the animated TMNT comics, please let me know. Here’s a page scan to give you a taste of the weirdness: