The Midnight Comic Club Episode 9 – Frankenstein Everywhere Else

Welcome to the ninth meeting of the Midnight Comic Club! In the third and final look at Frankenstein-related comic books we plunge into the waters of Dick Briefer, EC Comics, Warren, Image, Dark Horse and a variety of other companies. In this episode we see writers and artists experiment with all kinds of variations on the theme ranging from setting and sex to superheroics!

As always, I mention a lot of titles in the episode. I’ll link to them here and also show off some images below to help create a fuller experience. Frankenstein: The Mad Science Of Dick Briefer, The Monster Of Frankenstein By Dick Briefer, the Jack Davis-drawn “Mirror, Mirror On the Wall ” can be found in glorious black and white in Fantagraphics’ ‘Taint The Meat…It’s The Humanity, Creepy Archives Volumes 1 and 2, Eerie Archives Volume 1, Top Cow Monster War, Doc Frankenstein, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son Volume 1, Madame Frankenstein and Frankenstein Underground!

The Midnight Comic Club Episode 2 – Brent Schoonover & EC Comics!

As the second meeting of The Midnight Comic Club comes to order, I’m joined by comic book artist Brent Schoonover to talk about EC Comics, the Tales From The Crypt TV show and the wonders of Jack Davis and the gang by way of Grant Geissman’s excellent Foul Play!: The Art And Artists Of The Notorious EC Comics! We both discovered the show and comics around the same time back in the 90s and had a great time talking about all the goodies in Foul Play. Also, do yourself a favor and check out Brent’s website here and follow him on Twitter here!

Continue reading The Midnight Comic Club Episode 2 – Brent Schoonover & EC Comics!

Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT

trade-pileAnother week has gone by and I’ve knocked out another pile of comics, most of which came from my local library system. As you can see, we’ve got a mix of amazing indie artists, classic comic visionaries, crossovers and newer books. Hit the jump to see what I had to say on this batch! Continue reading Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT

The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

comic pileLongtime readers might remember a time when I was reading so many books a week that I would simply take pictures of them in a stack and do a quick hit kind of report on them. Well, I’m not knocking down nearly as many books these days, but I did read through a good number from the library and figured I’d return to that form for this post. Let’s hit it! Continue reading The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

Old School Trade Post: Uncle Scrooge Only A Poor Old Man & Adventures Of Tintin The Secret Of The Unicorn

uncle scrooge only a poor old man Uncle Scrooge: Only A Poor Old Man (Fantagraphics)
Written & drawn by Carl Barks

Right off the bat, I want to say that I talked about both of these books a few weeks back on the 42nd episode of my dad podcast, The Pop Poppa Nap Cast. I’m sure I’ll get to a few new points that I didn’t hit on there, but if you listened to that episode this post might feel a bit redundant.

Anyway, one of the greatest things about working at Wizard was meeting so many people who were so passionate about so many different kinds of comics. Some guys were Marvel scholars, others knew everything about indie books and a few others were more fans of old school material like Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics. These are Disney comics I’d been hearing about for years, so when I had a little extra cash last year I figured I’d finally dip my toe into that coin-filled pond and check out Fantagraphics’ Uncle Scrooge: Only A Poor Old Man which happened to collect Barks’ first Uncle Scrooge-starring comics (before that he was more of a supporting character in Barks’ Donald Duck comics).

Like a lot of people my age, I’m mostly familiar with Uncle Scrooge thanks to Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Duck Tails. While the former didn’t paint a very flattering portrait of the character, the latter made him out to be a go-getting adventurer with a mile-long greedy streak. It’s the latter version that comes front and center in this book. Every story revolves around the almighty dollar (or coin, in many cases) with Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie going to great lengths to keep his money safe. The stories are presented in Barks’ iconic style which is perfectly cartoony, but also detailed and fun at times you might not expect it. He seemed to enjoy drawing Duckburg as much as Atlantis, so there’s a wide breadth of locations and characters in this collection to enjoy.

“Great lengths” is actually a pretty solid descriptor of this book. I was surprised to find out how long many of the main stories were in this book. I guess that’s just how comics were set up back then, but I often found myself flipping to the end of the story to try and figure out how many more pages I had to go. Personally, I think a few of these longer stories could have been cut down and would have felt a lot more streamlined and focused. As it is, some feel a bit meandering at times. This was compounded by the fact that there are one page gag strips included that I absolutely loved. These were quick, concise and often hilarious.

Even though some of the strips felt a little slow, I would still recommend checking out some of these Carl Barks strips. There’s such a great sense of wonder and exploration here that doesn’t get swallowed up by the greed also present in the series. In fact, Scrooge’s obsession with money might kick off many of the adventures, but it also leads to all kinds of calamity. I don’t want to read too much into these stories, but you can easily pull lessons from here that are good for both adults and kids. I tried reading this book with my kid and she wasn’t super-interested just yet, but I’ll try again later on down the line.

tintin-secret-of-the-unicorn-little-brown-cover-1 The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (Little, Brown)
Written & drawn by Herge

Herge’s Tintin is another one of those books that I’ve heard about for years but never actually read. At last year’s New York Comic Con I was flipping through a box of $5 trades, saw a bunch of Tintin books and decided to try The Secret Of The Unicorn. At the time I didn’t realize that this was actually the book that the recent Tintin movie was based on. I actually watched the movie, but remembered next to nothing about it aside from the opening scene which is the same way this book opens. From there, though, it was like experiencing a story for the first time.

In this book, kid reporter Tintin gets wrapped up in a mystery directly related to his pal Captain Haddock’s family. The adventure includes shady antique dealers, pickpockets, cops, robbers, pirates, treasure and even a big, old mansion. The simple, comic strip-esque art style lulled me a bit to the point where I was shocked when a guy got shot in the back. I also didn’t expect for the B storyline to tie back into the A one so concisely because I was expecting something more aimed at kids. This was probably the best way to read it because it helped enhance the surprises, twists and turns.

As it turns out, this book leads directly into Red Rackham’s Treasure which I don’t have, but do want to get my hands on. I enjoyed this story so much, I’m actually thinking of picking it up in one of those three-in-one collections so I can keep going.

I want to say one more thing about both of these books, they are absolutely packed with bonus material. Scrooge features an intro by none other than George Lucas and is followed by a series of essays written by Duck Comic scholars and fans that not only give details about Barks and what he was going through at the time, but also explores some of the themes therein. In the Little, Brown versions of the Tintin stories, they’re aimed at kids and include a bunch of material in the back that add historical context and also show off comparisons between Herge’s finished art and the extensive reference material he collected while working on Tintin. I love when trades like this add extra material to flesh out the experience, especially when you’re dealing with older material that might offer a bit more context.

Trade Post: American Born Chinese & Ghost World

american born chinese American Born Chinese (First Second)
Written & drawn by Gene Luen Yang

Several years ago I was talking to a friend of mine from high school who is now an English teacher. She asked me if I had any suggestions for comics, trades or graphic novels that might be useful examples of the form for her AP students to read. I want to say she’d already read Watchmen at this point, so I went with several suggestions of books that I had either read myself or heard were good and passed whatever hard copies I had along to her for her perusal.

Well, today I got a box from her in the mail with all those books. I remembered passing her Dan Clowes’ Ghost World, Mo Willems’ travelog You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons and a pair of Marjane Satrapi books — Embroideries and Chicken With Plums — but had no recollection of giving her Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese. This surprised me because it’s a book that I’ve been hearing about since it came out in 2006, especially from my pals at Wizard who were for more tapped in to the indie comic and graphic novel scene like Sean T. Collins and Kiel Phegley.

Anyway, getting this box today was kind of like comic Christmas. I felt like reading something I was excited about and ABC fit the bill. I’m going to say right now that I only knew that people liked this book and understood that it had something to do with trying to fit in as a kid of Chinese lineage in America. That’s it. So I was pleasantly surprised by everything in this book. If you’ve heard good things and want to check it out, I recommend stopping here and getting your hands on a copy because it was a delight having this tale unfold before me.

If you’re still here, I’ll explain a bit more. The book features three different stories. One is of a monkey king who flirts with the idea of becoming a man, another stars a wildly racist version of a Chinese person visiting and embarrassing a high school student and the third follows Jin Wang as he does his best to navigate a school that’s not overly friendly to him while dealing with all the feelings and emotions any kid that age finds themselves surrounded by. All three stories are really enjoyable, but it’s tough to talk about how good they get without getting into spoilers.

So, this paragraph is SPOILER TERRITORY. The beauty of this book is that it kept these three stories going along and each one was super entertaining. I wondered why I was reading all three in the same book, but it didn’t bother me much. Then — BAM — you find out how they’re related and it’s this great Usual Suspects like moment where the good thing you were reading just revealed to you that it’s great. What started out as three different stories turned into this much more impressive non-linear fable that left me a little slack jawed, I must say. That was a great experience and I hope repeated readings will only add to the experience.

I can easily say that all the hype around ABC is dead-on accurate. There are bits in this book that made me laugh, cringe, feel sad, remember the awkwardness of growing up and even thrill to some pretty spectacular action. For all that, it gets a gigantic thumbs up.

Ghost World Ghost World (Fantagraphics)
Written & drawn by Dan Clowes
Collects Eightball #11-18

I don’t remember when I first read Ghost World, but I feel like my reaction to this book has probably changed since then. I want to say we first crossed paths in college. That’s when I was really building up my trade collection by buying cheap lots of on ebay. I wound up with a wide variety of books to explore. I’m not sure if I saw the movie before reading its sequential inspiration or not, but kind of think that was the case.

Ghost World first appeared in Dan Clowes’ self-published comic Eightball which also birthed The Death Ray and Art School Confidential. The comic follows lifelong friends Enid and Rebecca as they wander around town, talk and create complicated backstories for the people they encounter. It’s nearly impossible for me to separate this comic from some of the indie movies I rented from Family Video back in the late 90s/early 00s because it has that kind of slice of life, slightly meandering tone that shines the spotlight on young people trying to figure out the world. 

The problem? These young people are assholes. Man, I feel ancient writing that sentence. But, reading this book kind of made me feel ancient anyway and not just because I wanted to shake Enid and tell her to get out of her own ass and actually do something, but also because Teenage Me probably did and said many of these same things. Let me amend that, I probably said the same things, I would have never called a personal ad guy and set him up for a fake date. That level of meanness has always bothered me and it makes me dislike Enid pretty strongly.

But I think that’s the point. I’m not very familiar with Clowes’ work, but from what I gather he enjoys presenting unlikable or hard-to-like characters and giving the reader an idea of what their lives are like. You definitely get that with Enid and Rebecca. This book doesn’t go deep into the hows and whys of their relationship or psyches, but you do get to form your own opinions of such things as they talk. And, as things progress throughout the story, you do come to realize that things are going to change for these women. Enid’s dad wants her to go to college, the mere idea of which winds up creating a rift between Enid and Rebecca, one that gets them both to reevaluate their relationship and what they’re doing with their lives.

At the end of the day, I don’t think I need to read Ghost World again. It’s not a bad book by any means. Clowes knows how to tell a story, expertly combining dialog, pacing and cartooning skills to get you into the story, but also keep you involved even when you might not like the people you’re reading about. After returning to this book, though, I’m left feeling like I did about some of those indie movies I mentioned: regardless of how I felt about the people, I respect the artistry involved, but I don’t think I need to revisit any time soon. Then again, Clowes is one of the most well respected cartoonists around so it might be worth keeping around for a while…

Ganges Is Awesome

As I mentioned in my MoCCA report last weekend, I picked up Ganges #1 and 3 from the Fantagraphics booth to go along with my #2 written and drawn by Kevin Huizenga. Holy crap, I love these books. Huizenga has this amazing way of writing and drawing comics that hit me in the soul, either directly reflecting an experience I can relate to (having trouble falling asleep in #3) or a feeling (like missing the good old days of a group of awesome work friends). Plus, his art style is this amazing mix of surreal and everyday imagery that mimics the daily weirdness of being a creative, introspective person and also takes on the look of a classic comic strip (Glenn’s nose reminded me of Popeye for some reason).

Before getting into the details of why I liked each issue, I want to comment on the actual format of these comics, as they’re not your average floppy (I still can’t tell if I hate that term or not). The three issues of Ganges are the fifth, 27th and 35th installments of Fantagraphics Ignatz series, which are 8.5×11-inch comics printed on card stock-like paper, come with a dust jacket (the covers you see in these images) and cost $7.95. Huizenga’s art definitely benefits from the larger page size, but I’m not really sure what the benefit of having a dust jacket is. Wouldn’t eliminating the jacket bring the cost down? I’m sure a lot of readers are like me and will balk at $8 for a 32-page comic by someone you might not be familiar with.

Now on to the actual issues themselves. The basic premise is that each issue stars Glenn Ganges who lives with his wife Wendy. We don’t know much about Glen’s background, but it seems as though he works from home (he used to be employed by a dotcom startup) and his wife is an animator or graphic designer. The first issue is made up of more smaller strips than the other ones with five in total with topics ranging from litterers to trying to get to sleep. Of all three issues, this is my least favorite, not that it’s bad by any means, but it didn’t hit me like the other ones did. I can relate to Glenn’s tendency to get completely lost in his own head and really lose himself.

I also appreciate the drawings of Beatles songs. I’ll be honest, I didn’t catch on right away, but after I did I went back and read through it again with a smile on my face. That’s one of the great things about these books, they demand repeated readings or at least another look through just to check out Huizenga’s art.

The second issue is all one story, though it starts with 11 pages of crazy drawings set in the video game based on Wendy’s designs. Being my first issue of Ganges (and one of the first indie comics I ever read) this kind of blew me away while also confusing me. I had no idea what this book was about or what these little guys were, but I was completely drawn in and compelled to devour the images which just get more and more intricate and crazy as you go on.

But it was the rest of the issue that really got me and hit me in the nostalgic gut when I read it late the other night. Glenn’s thinking back about some after hours video game shenanigans at his old dotcom job. It really reminded me of the early days of Wizard, though I came a few months late for the marathon Halo sessions, in which a lot of really good dudes were doing some really good work and having a good time doing it. There’s kind of an “us against the world” mentality.

I just finished the third issue tonight while the missus was watching America’s Next Top Model (I can’t even be in the same room when that show’s on). This one focused entirely on Glenn’s difficulty falling asleep. While in bed a mental version of himself tries all kinds of things to actually fall asleep. Man, I can relate to that like crazy. I’ve had nights where I just can not get to sleep because my mind is racing too much. When I worked a traditional job it used to plague me fairly regularly and even back when I was in school, specifically on Sundays. You’d think it would go away now that I can stay up as late as I want and basically get up in the same fashion, but I can still think of a few recent times when I sat in bed, hoping for sleep but it didn’t come. I enter a kind of in-between sleep and dream state where time passes, but I’m still kind of awake, especially when the power went out a while back. Anyway, Huizenga nails my personal experience which is impressive.

Maybe it’s just me and if you haven’t had these similar experiences the books might not strike such a chord, but I would definitely recommend these books to anyone who’s looking to dip their toe into the indie comic scene. I’ve got to check out more of Huizenga’s work and can’t wait for the next issue of Ganges. Anyone know what he’s working on next?

A MoCCA Report

As I mentioned the other day, the missus and I went to our very first MoCCA (that’s the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art’s annual comic book show which is generally filled with indie comics, writers and artists) on Saturday. It was an interesting experience. I’m not super into the indi comics scene, so a lot of stuff was over my head and off my radar, but it was a fun experience overall, mostly because I got to see a lot of my buddies who were all way more educated about this stuff than I was. I did get a few things and got to meet a few of my contacts from my old Wizard days which was very cool.

  • Ganges #1 and 3 (Fantagraphics) Written and drawn by Kevin Huizenga – I haven’t read these yet because I want to enjoy them like a new record: without any distractions. I got the second issue about year back when I was still at Wizard and really dug it. As I don’t go to the comic shop much anymore, I took the opportunity to pick up these two issues. I’ll do a post after I read them along with re-reading #2.
  • Murder (Partyak) by Sean T. Collins, drawn by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota and Josiah Leighton – Sean’s my buddy and he was working the Partyak booth which gave me the perfect opportunity to finally pick up Murder, an anthology of his stuff, and the next entry. Murder’s a mix of Destructor strips (which I loved drawing here and here) along with the account of some really creepy folks.
  • The Side Effects Of The Cocaine: David Bowie April 1975-February 1976 (Partyak) by Sean T. Collins, drawn by Isaac Moylan – Another book by Sean that was really great. I don’t know anything about David Bowie, but this book is still a fun, sick ride (dudes loved coke and Nazis). This was the one book I stopped reading on the train for fear of strange looks or my fellow riders thinking I was some kind of new-Nazi. The spread in the middle of the book is gorgeous. You can read the whole thing here.
  • Wiegle For Tarzan & Head To Head (Partyak) both by Matt Wiegle – While at the Partyak booth I figured I’d check out a few of Matt Wiegle’s mini comics for a buck. Both were a great deal. In Tarzan, Wiegle lobbies to become NYC’s current Tarzan and take it away from the current one who’s not doing a very good job. Head is a series of one page gags with two characters. Both had me giggling on the train and most likely getting funny looks from my fellow travelers.
  • How To Survive Working In Retail #1 and 2 (3 Guys Making Comics) Written by Ronnie Gorham and drawn by Lisandro Di Pasquale – I’ve got to give it to the HTSWIR guys for being hustlers. I was standing talking to a buddy and these guys came up and offered us their two $2 comic books for $2. I hasn’t bought much and figured I had a couple extra bucks, so whatever? The book follows five friends who all work crappy retail jobs. The first issue didn’t knock it out of the park, partly because it didn’t separate itself from Kevin Smith’s work enough (they used the number 37). The second issue is better as it gets into more relationship type stuff. The main reason I bought this book is because the second issue has a girl with a guitar. Overall, the $2 purchase was worth it, but these guys need to step up their production game a little more. The first issue wasn’t copied correctly so word balloons and panel lines get cut off, plus they don’t seem to have any kind of web presence. I will say that I dug Pasquale’s art and would love to work with him on something.

We also got this rad puzzle created by artist Chris Yates. The missus, being a scientist, already took it to work where it sits prominently on her desk. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and would love to add more of his awesome Baffler!s.

I also wanted to pick up the above Jack Kirby post cards from the Jack Kirby Museum, but didn’t. Luckily, Rickey was still there and he was able to pick them up after I texted him. Thanks Rickey!

All in all it was an interesting and fun experience, though we probably should have gone a little later so we didn’t run out of things so quickly. Hopefully over the next year I’ll become more familiar with the indie comic scene and grow some cajones and actually go talk to more artists to get some sketches in my Green Lantern sketchbook, like my buddy Matt who got his cartoon-themed sketchbook packed with mostly free sketches, hopefully he’ll start adding them to his Saturday Morning’s Awesome blog. My laziness combined with my crippling shyness around strangers with any kind of success have resulted in only one sketch in that book thanks to Koi Pham. It’s a pretty good one, but I need to get more, otherwise it’s just a sketch being held in by 100 pages and a hardcover, which seems a bit ridiculous. Oh, also this Paul Pope after party poster featuring Orion of the New Gods is super sweet.

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.