Grant Morrison Trade Post: Aztek The Ultimate Man

aztek JLA Presents: Aztek The Ultimate Man (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by N. Steven Harris
Collects Aztek #1-10

After reading Grant Morrison’s full run on Animal Man and the first Doom Patrol volume, I should have moved on to Arkham Asylum and then Batman: Gothic, but I don’t have the former or the latter (anymore). But, looking at his DC work, Aztek: The Ultimate Man, his 1996-1997 comic with Mark Millar, marks the next books he did. Since I had it on hand, it was easy to pull off and read through. I will say that, while I read this book fairly quickly, it was a while ago and quite a bit has happened in the meantime, but I did want to get this review up to keep the flowing going a bit.

Aztek was a completely new hero with no connections to the rest of the DCU and even a new city to protect, Vanity. Powered by a mix of sci-fi tech and fantasy elements, Aztek has been training forever to become a protector and journeyed to Vanity because that’s where something big and bad is supposed to happen. While there, he foils a crime and eventually gets the name Aztek from the local newsfolks. He also takes the identity of a doctor named Curt Falconer and is somehow able to do his job at the hospital, Pretender-style.

In addition to going through some traditional secret identity stuff (juggling the job and being a hero, romance, etc.) Aztek runs into some familiar and brand new villains as well as a few heroes like Green Lantern, Batman and Superman. We also eventually find out a bit more about the organization that trained him and the shadowy folks behind it all.

But, the whole thing felt a bit rushed and maybe even a little sloppy to me. I never felt like it was properly explained how this guy could just become a doctor with no medical training. Crazier yet, he turns out to be the best doctor in the hospital! This also wound up feeling like a 24 issues series crammed into 10 issues and then shifted over into Morrison’s run on JLA which doesn’t do it too many favors. I also don’t dig Harris’ artwork that much. It’s very angular and everything felt too extended, like the whole book was a David Lynch dream sequence. That matches the off-kilter tone of the book, but it’s not my bag.

I just realized that one of the big problems with the book is that the lead is just so bland and boring when not fighting bad guys or finding out about his past. What is there to this guy aside from what he’s done? Not much. He’s your basic good guy hero, one who happens to fall into a pretty great job and a seemingly even better situation towards the end of the run when his mysterious benefactor comes along. He lacks the swagger or charisma of a Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne and seems to out-Clark Kent Clark Kent when it comes to just being a good person trying to stop bad guys.

I also think it’s crazy that, for a few years there, Morrison and Mark Millar were writing comics together. To me it’s like finding out that Neill Blomkamp and Michael Bay had a series of films together. One creator is pretty cerebral, but still does great things in the big-time superhero space while the other goes for popcorn spectacle or “shock” tactics. Anyway, it’s always hard to figure out who wrote what in team-ups like this, but there were definitely moments in this book where I found myself guessing at who added which bit of the tale.

Anyway, I think Aztek is probably the least Morrison-y book of his I’ve ever read. There are some of his signature wild ideas, but overall, it’s a fairly standard superhero story with the problems I already mentioned above. In fact, aside from a few appearances, the book even feels like an independent comic. And, aside from the eventual JLA inclusion that was actually pretty great, Aztek might have been better suited as an Image book if it was, in fact, planned as a much larger story than presented in this trade.

Even with the complaints levied against Aztek, I will be keeping this book in my collection. I’ve still got a bit of that completist vibe, so it feels pretty necessary for my JLA collection. Plus, like most of Morrison’s comics, I think that fairly regular re-readings help fully absorb the material. I’ve since interrupted my chronological Morrison read-through, but I should be getting to the Morrison/Millar Flash run fairly soon. In the meantime, you can check out my older reviews of JLA Volume 1, JLA Volume 2 and Flash: The Human Race.

Books Of Justice: Justice League International Volume One

justice league international vol 1 Justice League International Volume One (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Kevin Maguire
Collects Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7

I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty on the blog here before, but I have an extensive collection of post-Crisis, pre-JLA Justice League comics. I still don’t quite remember why I started digging through longboxes for back issues of everything from Justice League International to Quarterly and even Task Force, but I’m pretty close to a full set. For the most part, I would grab whatever books I could find, read them and then put them in a box. I was planning on going back and re-reading everything from the beginning once I completed my obsession, but that plan fell away a few years back when my collecting side waned to almost nothing. And yet, I still wanted to get back into those books, so I was happy when I saw DC start collecting the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire era of the League in the Justice League International collections. I’ve got five or six of these books sitting in my to-read box and recently found myself in a place where I wanted to pay them a visit.

I realized not long after cracking this book open that, even though I consider myself a big fan of this era of Justice League comics, I’d never actually read these first seven issues in order. It was fun going back and reading them in their proper order with a much deeper understanding of the DCU of the day.

This particular League consists of Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Batman, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. The book starts off with this group trying to stop a terrorist group from blowing up the United Nations. They also face off against a trio of Avengers analogs known as Bluejay (Ant-Man), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch) and Wandjina (Thor) who want to rid our world of nukes as well as a mystical threat known as The Gray Man.

From there, a mysterious businessman named Maxwell Lord steps in and tells the League he’s proposing to the United Nations that the team become a sanctioned peacekeeping organization with embassies all over the globe. The group’s like, “Who is this guy?” but thanks to some recent international incidents, they go along with it. The team gets Captain Atom and a member of Russia’s armored Rocket Red squad foisted upon them and look forward to new adventures on a global scale. Dr. Light was in there too for a few issues too, but didn’t stick around. Dr. Fate took off as well.

What blew me away the most about this first book of Justice League comics is that it really jumps right in and spends zero time telling you how the group came together. In fact, there’s so little mentioned that I wound up getting the Legends event miniseries that spawned this team off of ebay because I was curious. I’ll talk more about that in a separate post because it’s pretty bonkers. There is a page devoted to Martian Manhunter mourning his fallen teammates who were part of the Detroit-based League that preceded this one. This style of having a team set before the book launched and dealing with personnel changes as they came is basically the antithesis of the Brad Meltzer League that launched several years back and even the New 52 version more recently. Those eras spent SO much time bringing everyone together and explaining how this character met that one or what he thinks of her that they failed to launch with much gusto. I’m a firm believer that team politics and dynamics should flow organically from the events of the book and not be frontloaded in the early issues. It was refreshing seeing such a different take on what seems like a standard kind of superhero story these days.

The other major departure for this era of the League, the one that it’s most known for, is the humor. Between Giffen’s plots, DeMatteis’ dialogue and Maguire’s art (specifically those wonderful facial expressions) the laughs come from all over the place. What surprised me about these early issues, though, is that they’re not as yuck-filled as the later ones. Sure, they’re in there, but they’re peppered throughout the action which is still taken seriously. That balance of levity and drama is what really makes this run so well-remembered, not just the fact that it’s a funny funny book with superheroes.

Finally, I love that they didn’t immediately throw this new League up against a well known foe. It would have been easy to bring in Kanjar Ro or Starro again, but instead the creative team created new threats, made the book more political and presented complex characters like Max Lord and Bluejay, Silver Sorceress and Wandjina who are actually trying to save this world from the weapons that destroyed their home world. These aren’t simple bad guys to just beat up, they’re more complicated and therefore more interesting to my mind. Instead of making their comic grim and gritty like a lot of the other books of the time, which in and of itself is a way of making comics more realistic, this one brings in larger questions and villains that can’t simply be knocked out, which infuses a book filled with Lords of Chaos and Order, aliens and New Gods, with a different angle of reality. I’m psyched to keep reading and see how International plays out and the eventual inclusion of Justice League Europe in the trades. Plus, here’s something to look forward to when/if the books ever get to the Breakdowns crossover. I did an interview with Keith Giffen about that run that I’ll dig up and post for some fun content.

Books Of Justice Trade Post: Team History & Dark Things

justice league of america team historyJustice League Of America: Team History (DC)
Written by James Robinson, drawn by Mark Bagley
Justice League Of America #38-43

Months ago I was looking through the two longboxes of unread trades in my closet and realized I had a lot of post-Infinite Crisis Justice League collections. I’d read many of the issues as they came out, but not since then. It seemed like enough time had passed that I could give them a re-read. I started with Brad Meltzer’s two volumes, then moved on to Dwayne McDiffie’s four books and am now up to the first two James Robinson offerings called Team History and Dark Things.

Guys, this trade is an absolute mess and it has nothing to do with the stories. When I wrote about McDuffie’s last book, I noted that there was zero context offered for what the heck is going on in the larger DCU. If these trades were only sold in comic shops to fans, that would be fine, because they would essentially be written for existing fans. But because trade paperbacks are out in the world, I feel like there should be some way to catch new readers up on what went on before it. I also fully support adding a few pieces of text between issues if something huge happened in a different book. Basically, these TPBs need to be as timeless as possible and they’re not.

Team History deals with all kinds of huge events that aren’t centrally located in Justice League Of America, so it’s super confusing. You’ve got an already depleted League that has to deal with Blackest Night and the Cry For Justice storyline, none of which are explained outside of quick dialog recaps in the books themselves.  I read those other comics when they came out, but that was a while ago, so even I was confused when I got to Team History. And then, BANG, you’ve got the Cry For Justice team along with fill-ins for the Big Three. To be fair, Robinson does a great job of recapping past events in #41, but that’s already four issues deep in this trade.

All that being said, Robinson did a good job with what he was given. Can you imagine taking over the most iconic superhero team of all team and it consists of Plastic Man, Vixen, Dr. Light and Red Tornado? Sure Zatanna and Gypsy show up to help fight Despero, but that’s still about as far from a headlining team as you can get. But, they do make for an interesting group to deal with evil returned loved ones in the Blackest Night event. Like the other BN tie-ins that I talked about before, though, the problem with these stories as a whole is that, even though many of them figured out smart ways to deal with the Black Lanterns, none of it was used in the larger story so what’s the point?

Finally, towards the end of the book, Robinson finally got to do his own thing and it was…interesting. The League finds itself dealing with a group of New God wannabes and some devices found throughout the history of the DCU which offers some fun looks at the Metal Men, the Challenges of the Unknown and other heroes and groups. At the end of the day, though, it felt like a bit of a confusing ending that has to take time to explain why several heroes left the team and then move right into the next book, a crossover with Justice Society Of America.

justice league of america dark things Justice League Of America: Dark Things (DC)
Written by James Robinson, drawn by Mark Bagley
Collects Justice League Of America #44-48 & Justice Society Of America #41, 42

Unlike the previous JLoA/JSoA crossover handled by Meltzer and Geoff Johns, this one was written and drawn completely by Robinson and Bagley. The team in this book is a much smaller version of the one seen on the cover of the previous volume. You’ve got Batman (Dick Grayson), Donna Troy, Congorilla and Starman with Supergirl and Jade showing up as the story progresses. Basically, this story finds the JSoA teaming up with the tiny JLoA because Jade has returned to Earth and brought the Starheart with her. Its presence winds up driving her dad Alan Scott crazy and the rest of the book has the teams joining forces to first take care of some of the magic- and weather-related backlash and then stop Adam’s rampage.

There’s nothing wrong with this story, but it also didn’t blow my mind. This story has loose ties to Brightest Day, the Blackest Night follow-up that focused on some of the returned-from-the-dead characters like Jade, but it didn’t feel like there was too much information left out. At the end of the day, I think I’ve just read enough of these kinds of stories to be a little bit bored with them. I really enjoyed how this book incorporated the effects of the Starheart on the rest of the DCU with all kinds of cameos, but at the end of the day, this is another team-up based around, basically, the same heroes doing a lot of the same things they’ve done before. That’s less a complaint about the quality of the story and more about my general feelings about Corporate Comics these days.

And yet, I was still disappointed by both of these books for a few reasons. First off, I’m not quite sure why this team exists other than to sell Justice League comics. I don’t necessarily need to be inundated with “team business” type stories, but there seemed to be very little of that. Heck, there’s hardly a team throughout both of these trades. Additionally, I was disappointed by both creators. Robinson penned one of the greatest superhero epics of all time in Starman and this doesn’t even come close to that. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I just can’t separate my love of that book from my expectations for this one. It’s not fair at all, but that’s how it is. Meanwhile, Bagley’s art didn’t wow me nearly as much as I thought it would. I was as excited as anyone when I heard he was moving over to a Justice League comic as the regular artist. But the results just seem a bit too slight and sketchy. These are supposed to be big, bold heroes and that doesn’t always come across.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure what to think about these books. They’re important pieces of the post-Infinite Crisis, pre-New 52 Justice League series of books, but are they shelf or collection worthy? I’m going to hold on to them for now and see if I can get my hands on the last few to see how they work as a whole, but I’m not so sure these are worth holding on to.

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 Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

justice league of america injustice league Justice League Of America: The Injustice League (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie with Alan Burnett, drawn by Mike McKone, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes & Allan Jefferson
Collects Justice League Of America Wedding Special #1, Justice League Of America #13-16

After reading through the two Brad Meltzer Justice League Of America books, it just made sense to keep going and re-absorb Dwayne McDuffie’s run on the book which makes up four trades. While my negative memories of Meltzer’s run were somewhat vague, I had very specific memories of why McDuffie’s bummed me out. First and foremost, it went with the “a group of villains getting together” story which had been done plenty of times before and after. Then you had the fact that it seemed like there were editorial mandates that just kept coming down which truncated some arcs and interrupted others. One arc ends with a “Huh?” because it had to lead into Salvation Run while another reintroduces the Tangent characters for seemingly no reason.

At the time these books were coming out, I remember thinking that all of this just seemed wrong. The Justice League should have been the book steering the good ship DCU instead of feeling like something that was being back seat driven by someone other than the book’s writer. So, when getting back into these stories I tried to forget everything I knew — which turned out to be a bit easier than expected — and actually read this book as if it was in charge. How’d the work out?  Continue reading Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga

justice league of america the tornado's path Justice League Of America: The Tornado’s Path (DC)
Written by Brad Meltzer, drawn by Ed Benes
Collects Justice League Of America #1-7

The last time I was really excited about mainstream comics was the lead-up to Infinite Crisis and everything that went on up until about Countdown. It seemed like DC had done a great job of keeping their universe well organized, using several quality creators to not only tell stories that were unique and fun in and of themselves, but also lead up to something much larger. Sometime during the Infinite Crisis event, I actually started working at Wizard, so I had more of an inside track on what was going on. To be honest, as cool as that can be, it’s not always a great thing and can taint how you feel about different books. It’s the age old bit about seeing how the sausage is made. Sometimes it’s interesting and enlightening, other times it’s pretty gross.

Hit the jump to keep reading!  Continue reading Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga

Binding Trade Post: Guy Gardner Warrior

guy gardner warrior 17 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 1 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon, drawn by Mitch Byrd & others
Binding Order: Guy Gardner: Warrior #17-24, 0, 25-28, Green Lantern #60, GGW #29, Action Comics #709, GGW #30-31, Guy Gardner: Warrior Annual #1, Detention Comics #1 & Showcase ’96 #1

This one’s a little bit of a cheat because it’s not an actual trade that you can go out and buy, but a pair of hardcovers I had made through Houchen Bindery. I had gotten some extra cash for Christmas and my birthday that I put aside for a binding project and got to work amassing whichever books I was missing, having my parents bring out stacks from home and getting everything together. I soon focused in on two areas: the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern comics and Guy Gardner: Warrior, both books that had a huge impact on me in my formative comic-reading years that I continue to enjoy this day. I spent a good deal of time designing three different covers for the GL books, but decided to go with the more traditional, solid-colored covers for the Warrior books partially because I was tired of staring at computer screens and Photoshopping like crazy (something that proved very difficult with most of the GGW covers) and because I got a kick out of the idea of seeing my Guy Gardner comics covered in a way that makes them look like classy library books.

For a book that I love so much, I don’t actually remember why I picked up my first issue of Guy Gardner. I think I had read an adventure or two of his in random issues of Justice League I’d acquired along the way (this was before my massive post-Crisis JL collection idea), but wasn’t overly familiar with the character. Anyway, some time in 1994 I picked up Guy Gardner: Warrior #17, 18 or 19 and was instantly hooked. This was towards the end of Chuck Dixon’s run on the character where Guy — who was sporting Sinestro’s old yellow ring at the time and no longer a member of the Green Lantern Corps — was going through all kinds of costume changes from the leather-loving dude in the cover above to a ringless armor-wearer to the eventual morph meister he would soon become. These are all concepts that probably seem silly now, but were like crack to an 11 year old.

So, I’ve been a fan of the character going back nearly 20 years at this point and, aside from some of the Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern Corps, most people don’t seem to get the character. Many have the impression of Guy that he’s just a jerk with powers, but if you’ve read Dixon and Beau Smith’s run on the book, you know that it’s a lot deeper than all that. Sure, he’s kind of a jerk, but these writers also got to the underlying bedrock of the character, examining why he was a jerk and also showing all the ways that he’s so much more than that by getting into his relationship with his mom, dad, brother and on-and-off-again girlfriend Tora (better known as the superheroine and fellow Justice Leaguer Ice).

guy gardner binding

Smith has talked about how his run on the book came about in a two part post over on Westfield Comics’ blog, how it began life as a DCU-hopping adventure featuring Buck Wargo and the Monster Hunters and soon turned into that but with a sci-fi/fantasy element incorporating morphing abilities like the ones seen in the then-popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. The books that I put in this volume feature Guy dealing with those new powers, questioning his origins in regards to the newly discovered Vuldarian DNA doing its thing inside him and also setting up his new life which includes funding from Wargo (a scientist-adventurer-millionaire) and a bar called Warriors that’s equal parts hero hangout and headquarters which happens to be the most long-lasting element of this run.

I decided to include a few crossovers like Green Lantern #60 and Action Comics #709, but also the first annual which was part of the Year One line that year. It’s an interesting take with some not so great art that shows how Vuldarians used to do their intergalactic policing back in the day. I also threw in the Detention Comics one-shot which features Guy substitute teaching as well as two other stories featuring Robin (Tim Drake) and Superboy and Showcase ’96 #1 which includes the first part of a two-parter featuring Guy teaming up with Steel where we learn that they used to play football at the same time. Fun stuff. The second half of that story kicks off the next book.

Guy Gardner Warrior 34 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 2 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith, drawn by Mitch Byrd, Marc Campos & others
Binding Order: Showcase ’96 #2, GGW #32, Justice League America #101, Hawkman #22, GGW #33, JLA #103, Hawkman #23, GGW #34-36, Darkstars #37, GGW #37-44, GGW Annual #2, & Mr. Miracle #7

Towards the end of the previous book Guy realizes his Vuldarian powers are going out of control because his peoples’ natural enemies the Tormocks have returned to the cosmos. In an effort to save himself and his planet from the impending invasion, Guy goes to the Justice League (who he’s pissed at for their shoddy treatment of him when Ice died fighting the Overmaster) and asks them for help. They agree to help him which launches into a seven part crossover called The Way Of The Warrior that also included Justice League America and Hawkman.

Unfortunately, this story is a bit of a slog because it felt like three different, yet concurring stories being told at the same time featuring some of the same characters, but not necessarily mattering so much to one another. The JLA are dealing with all their internal bickering while also facing off against some space bad guys while Hawkman returns to Thanagar for the first time in a long while. It’s all stuff that makes sense within the contexts of those books, but doesn’t really have much to do with Guy’s mission which eventually gets wrapped up so he can return home, but only after a few more issues where he appears in Darkstars and one where his clone attacks his pals at Warriors. Basically, it felt like it took way more time than it should have to return Guy to the setting and supporting cast that I find so enjoyable. Still, it’s cool seeing Guy fighting alongside fellow badasses like Lobo, Probert, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, even if the latter two appear in guises that might not look familiar to modern readers.

The rest of the run focuses on those elements by doing the traditional superhero stuff and other fun stories like a superhero-filled Christmas party and the end of the book which accumulates most of the bad guys Guy’s faced during his time as Warrior and throws them at him all at once. He also deals with his mother moving in, a possible romance with Ice’s best friend Fire and Buck’s decision to turn Guy into both a cartoon and an action figure. While there were some plot lines that were left dangling as the series came to an end with #44, I still really enjoy what Smith did with his whole run and how he set Guy up to be a bit of a different kind of hero in the DCU. Of course, that didn’t really happen, but he tried.

My book ends with a Legends Of The Dead Earth annual that features tales of post-Guy Vuldarians throughout the galaxy long after the Earth has ceased to be. This one actually makes a really good bookend to the Guy Gardner: Warrior story that I hadn’t read before putting this book together because I never really understood what the point of LOTDE was. Finally, I included Mister Miracle #7 because I saw online that Guy appeared and he does, but it’s not really important to anything. Had this one costed more than a buck or two, I probably would have skipped it, but I was doing okay within my budget and had enough space, so there it is.

Back when I had the first 20-or-so issues of Peter David’s Aquaman bound I actually read through all the issues before sending them out which I actually regretted upon getting the books back from the bindery. I wanted to make sure I still liked the comic, but when I got the actual books in the mail — something that’s always super exciting — I knew I wasn’t going to dive right back in because I just read them a month or so ago. I’d actually read through this run back in college so I knew I still liked it and didn’t go through it again before mailing them off. This time I was able to carry the excitement of getting the package in the mail over to actually reading the books, which I probably did in about a week (subtracting the week we were in Disney and I didn’t have much time to read).

DC Nation Is Awesome

dc-nationIf you asked me what the best show on TV is, I’d probably say something like Mad Men, but the truth is that my favorite shows just happened to return recently. And no, it’s not Downton Abbey, though that is a great show. My favorite shows on TV, heck my favorite television concept right now, is Cartoon Network’s DC Nation. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an hour of TV that runs at 10AM on Saturdays and Sundays that’s made up of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice and a series of shorts based on various interpretations of DC’s stable of heroes. As a gigantic and longtime fan of DC Comics, this hour is tailor made for me, luckily, it’s also made up of high quality shows that absorb me more than plenty of other shows on this season. green lantern the animated series steampunk

Green Lantern: TAS follows Hal Jordan, Kilowog and their artificial intelligence Aya running around the galaxy fighting threats, many of which are based on Geoff Johns’ run on the Green Lantern comics, it’s spinoffs and events. I’m not exactly sure how the seasons break down, especially since Cartoon Network decided to put DC Nation on hold for like three months, but currently, this group is trying to figure out how to stop the Manhunters and their boss The Anti-Monitor. Since returning, this search knocked Hal into an alternate dimension that was all steampunk-y and brought the gang to the home of the Blue Lanterns.

The fun thing about Green Lantern: TAS is that all of this material seems new even though it’s heavily based on comics I’ve read. That’s partly because unlike Batman or Spider-Man, there haven’t already been plenty of iterations of these characters and what they’ve done. It also helps that a lot of the material they’re mining comes from the last few years and doesn’t go way back to the Silver Age. I mean, you’re not watching huge-headed Hector Hammond in CGI on every episode, but instead focusing on the space cop elements of the book that I love so much. My only complaint? Not enough Green Lanterns. I think we’re building towards something big that will involve all the colors of the Lantern rainbow fighting Anti-Monitor and the Manhunters. Did you guys see the episode with Ch’p on Oa? How awesome was that? More Ch’p!

Young Justice Invasion

I actually talked to Young Justice creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti about the cartoon back when I was still working at ToyFare. They were cagey about a lot of the details because the show hadn’t debuted just yet, but I could tell they were really ambitious about this project. I had no idea at the time how ambitious though, even though they explained to me how each episode had a date and time stamp that would also coincide with the tie-in comic. Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but I still thought, “Okay, we’ll see.” And boy, did they show me.

My wife and I started watching the series, the premise of which has the Justice League using a team of young heroes to go on covert missions against villains all the while dealing with their youth. The first season, which was fantastic, was followed up by the second which is shockingly amazing. Between season there’s been a five year jump in continuity, some of the biggest members of the Justice League are missing, an alien alliance has a giant metaphorical gun pointed at the planet and all kinds of changes have gone on in the Young Justice world.

The beauty of a series like Young Justice is that, unlike a lot of other superhero cartoons, it doesn’t just repackage existing stories, but instead builds its own stories using the ones that have come before it and compiling something new and possibly better. There’s a clear reference in the season’s subtitle to the 80s crossover event Invasion, but they also pull from classic Justice League comics — I freaked out when Despero showed up last weekend — and even the fantastic Blue Beetle series from a few years back. It’s really like they took the whole chronology of the DCU, put various elements on notecards and then threw them all over the room to get rid of the order and then put them back in a way that made sense in service of their story.

Another aspect of this series that I really like is how you really have to either keep up or just sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a mountain of story so far in this season, a mountain I have trouble remembering for the most part. I wonder how kids keep up with it or if they have any trouble. I’m able to rely on my existing DC knowledge to fill in some of the gaps, but it’s all new to them. They’re better at absorbing information than adults are, so maybe it’s not a problem for them. The cast of characters is pretty huge at this point and the second season not only introduced plenty more, but also had a few characters switch up their superhero identities. I love not knowing what all is going on and trying to remember if we’ve had certain things explained or if they’re going to come to us eventually. I’m patient, so I don’t mind waiting for the slow burn. super best friends forever

DC Nation also has a ton of excellent shorts that I adore. The only one that gets on my nerves is that weird British thumb ting that uses kids voices, that’s just not in my wheelhouse. But, I’ll take a few of those every season just to get to a Plastic Man, Animal Man, Amethyst, Thunder & Lightning (Black Lightning’s daughters), Anime Batman, Super Best Friends Forever (shown above) and a ton of others. I’d actually love to see Cartoon Network get behind something like SBFF or Thunder and Lightning and give it a full series of episodes. I’m sure the idea of building a whole series around female superheroes worries CN execs, but I think there could be a real future there. beware the batman

With Teen Titans Go and Beware The Batman getting added to the DC Nation block, I’m even more excited about where DC Nation is going. I’m not sure if those two shows will bolster the block to two hours instead of one or if the new shows will replace the old and trade off when new seasons are ready. I’m super happy with DC’s animated situation right now between DCN and the straight-to-DVD movies they keep nailing (a bunch just got added to Netflix Instant, so I’m going to get caught up!). Can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Christmas Stories: 2012 Geek Ornaments From Hallmark

IMG_2185I actually snapped these pictures at our local Hallmark weeks ago, well before Thanksgiving, but forgot about them until now. Hopefully you’re all set on your Christmas shopping, but if not, the geek in your life will surely enjoy something from this line-up (assuming they’re still available, I really have no idea). Either way, I’d love to get my hands on the giant cardboard Darth Vader wearing red cloves and cape AND a Santa hat!

It seemed like there were a lot more available this year, which is pretty cool. I guess geeks like to go all out when decorating their Christmas tree. Of course, I know this. A few years back, we only had a tiny artificial tree that I decorated entirely with the superhero, movie and TV ornaments I’ve been given over the years. Speaking of superheroes, considering the huge summer they had at the box office, it comes as no surprise that they’re featured so heavily. You’ve got Spidey, Catwoman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Captain American, Green Lantern and of course Lion-O. That last one is the most exciting to me as it seems to come out of nowhere (especially because it’s in the classic style instead of the new-but-failed style of this year’s excellent remake). IMG_2184

Of course, you can’t have a giant cardboard Vader and not have a goodly offering of Star Wars ornaments. Looks like you’ve got your choice between a TIE Fighter, Hoth Han on Tauntaun, General Grievous, Darth Maul and a pair of Lego dudes. I have a longstanding love of Hoth Han, so I really should get my hands on that ornament.

I’m also a big fan of the movie and TV ornaments they make. I’m as much a product of the thousands of comics I’ve read as the hundreds of movies I’ve watched over and over again, so I’m just as, if not more excited by the Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshamallow Man, ET with flowers and Caddyshack groundhog dressed like Rodney Dangerfield as I am about the superheroes. Looks like a pretty darn good crop of ornaments to me!

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.