Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

Wayward Volume 1 String TheoryBack when I started working for CBR, I covered Image Comics. It was a wild time when new creators were rolling in and producing these great creator-owned books. A lot of them have gone on to work at Marvel where I now interview them for that company’s website. I’ve since switched beats and now cover BOOM! Studios and IDW so I’ve lost touch with some of the books that everyone’s talking about and digging like Wayward and Descender. Continue reading Image Trade Post: Wayward & Descender

Batman Trade Post: Gates Of Gotham & The City Of Owls

Batman The Gates Of Gotham Batman:  Gates Of Gotham (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins & Ryan Parrott, drawn by Trevor McCarthy, Graham Nolan, Dustin Nguyen & Derec Donovan
Collects Batman: Gates Of Gotham #1-5, Detective Comics Annual #12 & Batman Annual #28

One my favorite parts of going to any comic convention is digging through $5 trade boxes. I scored a number of Exiles Ultimate Collection volumes at this year’s NYCC, but was also incredibly excited to get my hands on a copy of Batman: Gates Of Gotham. I’d read a few of these issues here and there, but lost track of it. At the time, I didn’t know about Scott Snyder, but have since become a huge fan of his after reading Severed, American Vampire Volumes One and Two and the first book of his New 52 Batman stuff. He plotted this miniseries along with New 52 Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins who also teamed up with Ryan Parrott for dialog. Between that general appreciation and the fact that I also recently came into a copy of Batman Volume 2: City Of Owls, it seemed like a good time to go on a mini-Batman reading spree.

The miniseries bounces back and forth between the early days of Gotham as we know it, when the city was being built up by a pair of architect brothers known as the Gates of Gotham. They worked for the Waynes, Cobblepots, Elliots and Kanes, the four richest families in town at the time who funded many of the biggest construction efforts in the late 1800s. Meanwhile, in the present, Batman (Dick Grayson) is trying to figure out who is blowing up some of those older structures and what the two have to do with one another. Luckily for him, he’s got Robin (Damien Wayne), Red Robin (Tim Drake) and Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) to help him out.

Much like American Vampire, I dug how Snyder, Higgins and company were able to make this history lesson not only interesting, but intriguing. That story itself could have supported its own miniseries, but you’ve also got all the action in the present and the mystery of how the two are connected. Plus, there’s a great little twist at the end that was clever and fun.  This is a great, fun miniseries that I really enjoyed and will happily add to my collection, but I really do wish that they would have been able to stick with Trevor McCarthy for the whole series. I really dug his angular, animation-ish style and while the other guys aren’t bad, they do have different styles that can bring you out of the story because it’s so obvious that you’re dealing with a different person behind the pencil.

There was one interesting aspect of this book that actually had nothing to do with the writing, but more of the setting. This is, I believe, one of the last pre-New 52 Batman stories out there. I’ve been reading a TON of New 52 books lately and have a lot of mixed feelings, so it was fun to go back to “my” DCU and enjoy a newer story with characters I actually know and understand deeply. Plus, the only big continuity thing you need to know is that this story comes after Bruce returned from his post-Final Crisis journey through history in The Return Of Bruce Wayne and that he’s launched Batman Incorporated. That’s still kind of a lot to remember as time goes on (once again, a recap page would have been nice), but all-in-all, I think I’ll be able to handle it, especially after I get all of Grant Morrison’s run on my shelf.

batman volume 2 city of owls Batman Volume 2: The City Of Owls (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder with James Tynion IV, drawn by Greg Capullo with Jonathan Glapion, Rafael Albuquerque, Jason Fabok, Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke & Sandu Florea
Collects Batman (New 52) #8-12, Annual #1

After all the craziness of the first volume, Snyder didn’t give Batman much of a breather. Battered and nearly broken, Bruce is in rough shape when all of the previously frozen Talons decide to kill him and several other prominent members of Gotham society all on the same night. Of course, they came at Bruce a lot harder than everyone else. Since he was pretty banged up already, Bats donned a pretty killer suit of armor to take them on. I love when characters put on armor, you guys. Love it.

From there, Batman tracks down the Court of Owls only to find a much more prominent villain who thinks he has direct ties to the Wayne family that rounds out Bruce and his parents’ history in this new universe even more. This collection also contains the introduction of a new ally for Batman’s called Harper Row and a really great story that explains this new version of Mr. Freeze that plays off some of the known aspects of the character and goes in a few different directions. Also, for what it’s worth, this book does have a text opener letting readers know what happened in the previous volume. Kudos for that , DC!

I’ve listened to two different Fat Man On Batman podcasts with host Kevin Smith interviewing Snyder and I’ve got to say, this guy thinks about story on levels that I don’t hear about much and I talk to a fair amount of writers for my day job. He’s not just in Batman’s head, but he’s in every character’s head going back a few generations and, from what I hear of the current/upcoming stuff, into the future. I’ve become a huge fan of his writing and hope to score a few more of his books from my Amazon Wish List in the near future. Hinthinthint.

Trailer Time: Once Upon A Time In Vietnam, Getaway & Pompeii

Once Upon A Time In Vietnam (formerly Monk On Fire) has obvious ties to Spaghetti Westerns considering it’s themes and title, but it also looks to mix action, fantasy and history in a way that we can get behind. Dustin Nguyen directed and stars in this flick that will see Vietnamese theaters on August 22nd. Here’s hoping for a quick, but good dubbed version to makes its way to the States without too much delay. [via Asian Movie Pulse]

If you watch network TV on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen a good deal of commercials for Courtney Solomon’s Getaway starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight. Hawke and Gomez seem to spend a good deal of time in a super fast car driving around and committing crimes for Voight in order to get Hawke’s wife back from the criminal. It opens on August 30th.

And finally, here’s the teaser for Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii starring Kit Harington (Game Of Thrones) and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) as two star crossed lovers trying to stay alive as Mt. Vesuvius rains down ash around them. The film bows on February 21, 2014.

Wilcats 3.0 Trade Post: Year One & Two

WILDCATS 3.0 YEAR ONE (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Joe Casey, drawn by Dustin Nguyen
Collects Wildcats 3.0 #1-12
WILDCATS 3.0 YEAR TWO (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Joe Casey, drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Sean Phillips, Pascal Ferry & Duncan Rouleau
Collects Wildcats 3.0 #13-24
Wildcats 3.0 is kind of a tough nut to crack. If you’re a scattershot WildCats fan like myself (in order to read the James Robinson and Alan Moore stuff, I read everything up to that point and then almost everything after 3.0) it might be a little confusing (you’ve got Grifter, a changed Spartan and a little bit of Zealot in addition to lots of other new characters). Essentially, I missed all of the second volume, so I have no idea where all the other characters are and aside from the ones I already mentioned, Ladytron and Emp, no one else is mentioned (nor are any other WildStorm characters for that matter).

The idea behind the book is that Spartan took over the Halo Corp from Emp and has decided to make it this huge, privately owned conglomerate whose main goal is to make the world a better place. It starts with batteries that never die and go on to cars that don’t need gas. Essentially, a good chunk of this book is corporate melodrama in the vein of an Aaron Sorkin behind-the-scenes TV show that happens to be set in a world with superheroes. It’s a really interesting take on the characters and the world that only seems to have been referenced a little since then (I remember Halo batteries being a hot commodity in the post-apocalyptic world of WildStorm leading up to the imprints cancellation, but also doesn’t take full advantage of the world it’s set in (like Sleeper did). This volume also just kind of ends without tying up too many loose ends. Since I wasn’t paying attention when these issues were coming out, I have no idea if the book’s end was performance based or an effort to move into other territories. I have read Wildcats: Nemesis which followed this series and I remember liking but don’t know how it all fits together. I’m going to flip through that, Captain Atom: Armageddon and Coup d’Etat again to get a better idea.

It’s too bad, really, because Casey really had some interesting ideas going on here. I think one of the problems with WildStorm was that they had all of these ground breaking stories written by excellent creators in books like Wildcats, Authority and Planetary, but they were still trying to keep everything together in a cohesive universe, which is difficult to do when one book is trying to change the world through a company and another through superhero actions. Sometimes combining the groundbreaking and the cohesive don’t always work.

You might be able to tell by this meandering review that I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. I liked it while I was reading it, but the ending was a bit strange and left me kind of flat. Making matters worse is that, it felt like there was a lot of wheelspinning in the first volume that does not play out at all by the end of the book. There’s this dude who’s an accountant that also has some hidden killing abilities. We never find out where these abilities came from. We also never really find out why we’re supposed to care about his former partner who had a lot of personal problems working for Spartan and having his company sold out from under him. So what if the dude wound up being in charge of a front for assassins if it’s never mentioned in the second volume? I had to read this annoying loudmouth for ISSUES and for what?

I’m also not completely sold on a lot of the new characters in this story. You’ve got this secret agent named Wax who bangs his bosses wife while under hypnosis and then makes her forget it, a spook named C.C. Rendozzo who’s supposed to be a pretty huge badass, but doesn’t do a whole lot, an incredibly annoying gangster hacker and a pair of BDSM killers who aren’t explained nor are they all that interesting. I’m sure I’m missing a lot by not having read the second volume, but it also seems like a more complete story would have that information slipped in here and there.

On the other hand, there were definitely elements I loved. Casey went into brand new territory as far as I know with the corporate angle, I just wish I could have seen where it was all leading. Casey also took one of the WildStorm’s biggest badasses, Grifter, and put him in a wheelchair which didn’t make him any less dangerous. I like seeing characters out of their element, but still figuring out a way to do what they do, and without giving too much away, he certainly does. There’s even a solid amount of action and pacing at the end of the second volume that’s a joy to read as GrifterTron and some of his new friends lay siege on the Coda warrior women to save Zealot.

Reading these two volumes reminded me a lot of Ex Machina. Both books take superhero elements but are more about other kinds of drama (corporate and political respectively), both involve lead characters (Spartan and Mitchell) seemingly with humanity’s best interest in mind and both have weak endings. Unlike with Ex Machina, though, I’m definitely keeping these books in my collection. I still have that collecting mentality when it comes to WildStorm U trades. I don’t need to keep them all out on a shelf, but I like to keep them. It’s kind of appealing the idea that most of this universe, from beginning to the-end-for-now is collected and can be read. I’d like to do a reading that’s in chronological order somewhere down the line. Like, maybe when the kid goes to college.

Trade Post: Spyboy/Young Justice, Authority Revolution Vol. 1 & 2 and Captain Atom: Armageddon

SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE (Dark Horse & DC)
Written by Peter David, drawn by Todd Nauck and Pop Mahn
Collects SpyBoy/Young Justice #1-3
I fully intended for this belated Trade Post to feature an all WildStorm line-up, but then I realized that I had already reviewed Authority: Harsh Realms, which I re-read and liked better this time around. Anyway, I had already read this crossover between two Peter David books and figured this fun and lighthearted look at teen superheros fighting and teaming up would fit in perfectly well with some hardcore WildStorm stuff (it’s not really that hard core).

Anyway, as it turns out, this book isn’t very good, which is disappointing because I am a gigantic Young Justice fan. Ben and Rickey turned me onto the book when we were all still at Wizard and I’ve gone back and gotten all the issues I didn’t already have. On the other hand, I’ve never read a SpyBoy comic. Here’s the problem with the book, I just didn’t care about the story. David intertwines the worlds of the characters very well, but since I’m not familiar with the SpyBoy Universe, so anything on that side wasn’t all that interesting to me. So, I’m guessing if you’re familiar with both books, this will be awesome for you.

My other problem was that I don’t like Mahn’s art. It starts off pretty solid, but it’s almost unreadable by the end of the book. I’d rather they just had given the entire thing to Nauck as I think he’s a rad artist (and also a rad dude). So, there you have it. As only a Young Justice fan, the book wasn’t really for me because, frankly, I just wanted more Young Justice that I hadn’t read yet. I would definitely consider giving SpyBoy a read though and maybe revisit this book later.

THE AUTHORITY REVOLUTION VOL. 1 & 2 (WildStorm)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Dustin Nguyen
Collects Authority: Revolution #1-6 and #7-12 respectively
I’ve talked about how much I dig WildStorm in general and The Authority more specifically, but I still haven’t read everything. In fact, I didn’t even know that Brubaker wrote anything for WildStorm aside from Point Blank and Sleeper, so when I saw these two volumes written by him and drawn by the excellent Nguyen on Sequential Swap, I zeroed in and traded for them. Luckily I was not disappointed.

There is a volume or two between these two books and the end of the previous volume that I had not actually read yet, so I was a little confused on some of the details and how the characters would go from here to the places they were when WorldStorm happened. The overall story here is that a version of Henry Bendix returns to screw with the Authority, leading them to disband for a while. We also get to meet the new Doctor, Rose Tattoo and a grown up Jenny Quantum, plus an entire world of the previous Jennies. The thing I really like about what Bru did with this comic is that he mined the history of this team along with other WildStorm books and created a helluvan interesting story that I dug. I’m not sure if newbies would be able to jump in and appreciate the story, but I had a lot of fun with it. These will be going on the shelf (or more accurately in the box) with my ever-expanding collection of WS trades.

CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON (DC & WildStorm)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects Captain Atom: Armageddon #1-8
I’m not sure if I would recommend Captain Atom: Armageddon to anyone but die hard WildStorm fans, Captain Atom fans or people who want to know exactly what the hell has been going on in the WildStorm U over the past three years. The idea here is that after exploding trying to save the world in Superman/Batman, Cap pops around a little bit and then ends up in the WSU, the only problem is that he’s going to destroy the universe and there’s nothing he can do about it. In an effort to try and help himself and not be guilty of universe-cide, Cap visits with just about every team and hero on the planet, getting some assistance and also into his fair share of fights. I do think it’s interesting that he considers this reality so much more distasteful than his own with their heroes who do what they want (mainly the Authority).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Pfeifer does a great job with the story, it’s just a bit long. I enjoyed it because I’m such a WS geek, but I could see how it might get boring for newbies. I also really liked the ending because, well, it results in what the title promises, but instead of ending in nothingness, things get resorted and sometimes restarted.

Here’s the problem though, this lead to one of the more confusing periods in the history of WildStorm as most of the books relaunched but to different degrees and varying levels of success and output. WildCats came out by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. Or at least one issue did. Morrison’s Authority drawn by Gene Ha got two issues. Then Gen 13 seemed to have been completely restarted from the ground up, though that was somewhat explained later on (it wasn’t enough to keep me reading that book at the time though). On the other hand, Stormwatch seemed to carry on without any hiccups and just changed focus. I don’t even remember what was going on with Deathblow aside from the fact that he was talking to a dog and died. Plus, ever since the post-Apocalyptic nature of the WSU now, it’s not really necessary reading unless you need to know every beat. All that said, I thought, like Bru did with the Authority run, that Pfeifer weaved a really great story using the tapestry of the WSU and Camuncoli did a great job with the art, giving the book a literal edge that it needed.

Trade Post: The Authority Vol. 1-5 (Plus The Monarchy Vol. 1)

2008-12-23
4:10:25 am

So, as I’m sure I mentioned before in my post about loving Wildstorm, but I recently re-read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which naturally leads into The Authority. I’m not going to get too in depth on these reviews.

THE AUTHORITY: RELENTLESS (VOL. 1)

Written by Warren Ellis

Drawn by Bryan Hitch

I really dig what Ellis started here. It’s kind of hard to remember reading these books now, but this was one of the first times we ever saw “heroes” take matters into their own hands and change the world how they saw fit to make it a better place. This trade collects two storylines, one introducing the team and pitting them against Kaizen Gamorra and his crazy superpowered kamikaze clones, and the other pitting the team against aliens from an alternate universe. That’s a lot of action in one trade. It’s also a lot of information, especially when it comes to exactly how the carrier works.

I’m not usually a big fan of Ellis’, but he really was dipping into a very cool well of ideas when he was putting this book together. But he doesn’t get too wrapped up in the small details as the big ideas are balanced pretty well with big action. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who’s not easily offended (I love how, every time Jack Hawksmoore, who may be my new favorite superhero, he knocks their jaw or head clean off, that’s awesome). My only negative is that I don’t really get what the big deal about Hitch’s art is. Yeah, he’s pretty good and there’s some killer splash pages in there, but I don’t understand why people would wait so long for him to finish Ultimates (I have no idea how late, if at all, Authority was when he was drawing it, but I’m still waiting for that last issue of Planetary…). But, again, it’s a really great book, which obviously leads into…

THE AUTHORITY: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (VOL. 2)

Written by Warren Ellis & Mark Millar

Drawn by Bryan Hitch & Frank Quitely

Warren Ellis’ last arc, which featured the creator of the Earth coming back to terraform Earth for his own fiendish purposes. Plus SPOILER, the death of Jenny Sparks (she was the spirit of the 20th century after all). Again, I’ve got to say how impressed I am by these characters that Ellis created, whether it’s Midnighter or the limited Superman in the form of Apollo to The Doctor and The Engineer. So, yeah, Jenny goes out with a bang, which leads to Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s arc, which isn’t quite as good.

This is the famous arc that has the Authority facing off against Avengers proxies. The problem is that the story doesn’t quite measure up to memory as it seems to take a really long time to get to the point (the Authority kicking the crap out of the Avengers). There’s also a pretty big jump between Ellis and Millar’s runs where the Authority become celebrities which brings up a point I want to make. In both Ellis and Millar’s arcs, things happen that are explained but never shown and it’s a little annoying. For instance, why the heck are they so famous now? We’re never really told. Is it just because Jenny saved the world? If so, they did that before and we never heard about how the general populace reacted. We’re also never really treated to much in the way of origins for The Doctor or the Engineer beyond what we’re told. I’m not the kind of reader that needs everything laid out for me, but it would have been nice to see at least a flashback or something at some point.

Anyway, this arc is still pretty cool, as the Authority does eventually kick the crap out of the evil Avengers. Unfortunately, this trade reminds me of why I didn’t like Frank Quitely until All-Star Superman. This trade has some of the ugliest faces I’ve ever seen and not just the ones that are supposed to be ugly, Shen’s particularly bad looking. There’s still plenty of interesting ideas like the New X-Men-like Hive-Mind, HeadMailing and the Avenger-like group’s invisible hideout in the middle of NYC. Volume 2 is definitely worth buying if you liked the first villain and even though Millar’s arc doesn’t quite match up to Ellis’, it’s still a valiant effort that fits well within the post-Authority Wilstorm Universe.

THE AUTHORITY: EARTH INFERNO & OTHER STORIES

Written by Mark Millar, Joe Casey, Paul Jenkins & Warren Ellis

Drawn by Frank Quitely, Chris Weston, Cully Hamner & Georges Jeanty

With Volume 3, Millar definitely steps his game up. This arc focuses on the Doctor’s drug problems along with a rogue Doctor from the 60s who’s wreaking havoc on the Earth (or something, I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get it). Wheston handles some of the art chores, which don’t even look as good as Quitely’s not-quite-there-yet art. But, the story makes up for it as we get to see the scale the Authority is working on (they evacuate the entire planet to alternate universes). I also really like how the Doctor comes back and defeats the old Doctor (this whole thing is kinda like Dr. Who isn’t it? I’ve never seen the show, but, it seems similar).

Anyway, this is another good book and we get our first look at Midnighter out of costume (at least in Authority). Apparently he’s blond (but only in this issue, as he appears as a brunette in every other out of costume appearance I’ve noticed). There’s also a few shorter stories here from other writer/artist teams. There’s an annual where Midnight and Apollo have to face off against zombie versions of their old Stormwatch teammates, a short story about the Engineer’s non existent sex life and one starring Jack Hawksmoor (love that guy). Good stuff.

THE MONARCHY: BULLETS OVER BABYLON (VOL. 1)

Written by Doselle Young

Drawn by John McCrea

Authority #21 was written by Doselle Young as a way of spinning Stormwatch’s Jackson King and Christine Trelane off into their own world-changing group The Authority. There’s a lot of cool, Authority-like ideas in this book (and the use of Union, one of the few Image characters I have fond memories of as a kid getting comics from a grab bag), but the problem is that this trade only collects the Authority issue and the first four issues of the 12 issue series, so you don’t really get to see how things play out. Hopefully DC and Wildstorm will put the rest of the series out at some point. Oh, I also really like John McCrea from his work on Hitman, one of the best in-universe mature reader titles of all time.

THE AUTHORITY: TRANSFER OF POWER (VOL. 4)

Written by Mark Millar & Tom Peyer

Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Art Adams, Frank Quitely & Gary Erskine

And now presenting the trade where everything goes off the rails. Apparently there were some scheduling problems or something that pushed the stories in this book (half written by Millar, half by Peyer) back and made things screwy. I’m not sure if a regular schedule would have saved things as the Authority are seemingly killed and replaced by a new version of the team. It could really have been a 2-3 issue story, but ended up as eight freaking issues. The book really just seems to be spinning its wheels the whole time. Even art by one of my all time favorite artists Art Adams can’t save the issues he drew. I ended up just skimming them, waiting for these new jerks to die and for the Authority to kick some butt, which they eventually do (of course), but it and the marriage of Midnight and Apollo doesn’t save this book. Skip this one if you can.

THE AUTHORITY: HARSH REALMS

Written by Robbie Morrison

Drawn by Dwayne Turner & Tan Eng Huat

So, the Authority took some time off, but eventually came back under the stewardship of Robbie Morrison (don’t be fooled by the cover, which only cites “Morrison and Turner” as the creative folks, very tricky Wildstorm). This particular volume sets the Authority against Reality Incorporated, a group of jerks who use other realities for their own gain. It’s not a very memorable story (I read it over the past two days and still had to go back and see what happened in the issues I didn’t read today. It’s not bad stuff by any means, but it does make one think that the Authority is the kind of team that should maybe just hang out in limbo until someone has a really cool idea for them.

So, I know I haven’t read all things Authority yet, but I did have a lot of fun with the book. I love the characters, especially after this second reading where I’ve gotten a better idea as to who they are and what they can and can’t do. I’d like to check out the rest of the trades, especially the one where they actually take over the world, I’m curious to see how that played out aside from the obvious. I also like how they’re being handled now in the post-apocalyptic playground of the current Wildstorm U. They’re no longer the “we can do anything we want” team, they’ve got problems of their own, though I’m not a big fan of Hawksmoor being city-less. Oh well, we’re see where things go and if I’m able to snag the rest of the trades.