Trade Pile Part 1: Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, Mockingbird, Batman & The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Well, I guess I’ve been at it again. Even though I spent a good deal of my last vacation burning through the first few books of Alan Moore’s amazing Swamp Thing run, I’ve also taken time out to plow through another pile of trades, most of which come from my local library.. I thought about separating them out into various themes and writing a bunch of different posts, but don’t want to forget too much and have decided to do a good, old fashioned quick-shot pair of pile posts! You know you want to hear what I thought about these books, so hit the jump! Continue reading Trade Pile Part 1: Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, Mockingbird, Batman & The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Cartoon Crossover Trade Post: Future Quest Volume 1 & Lobo/Road Runner

A while back when DC announced their new line of comics based on classic Warner Bros.-owned comics, I was intrigued. You’ve got Scooby Apocalypse, Wacky Race Land, The Flinstones and, the one I was most excited about, Future Quest! Frankly, I was completely sold by the art above which features characters from Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, Birdman, Mightor and more. Even thought they all debuted and were cancelled decades before I was born, these shows meant a lot to me because of reruns hitting when I was a kid. I’m such a devoted fan that I didn’t allow myself to watch Space Ghost Coast To Coast or Harvey Birdman for a while because I didn’t know if they were being disrespectful or not! So, how did the first half of Future Quest hit me? Hit the jump and find out! Continue reading Cartoon Crossover Trade Post: Future Quest Volume 1 & Lobo/Road Runner

Halloween Scene: The Trade Pile

wytches vol 1Even with all the Halloween-related work I had going on this season — which included healthy doses of Warren’s Eerie comics and Marvel scare books — I still had some time to read a few other things leading up to the big day. I’ll hit these up in a quick hits fashion, but still wanted to call out a few fun aspects of each book. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Trade Pile

Trade Post: Marvels, Atlas Volume 1 & Gotham By Gaslight

marvels Marvels (Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross
Collects Marvels #0-4

Going into last weekend, I pulled out a random sampling of mostly one-off trades that I wanted to make my way through this weekend. Some I had experience with, others were brand new to me. I’m splitting the experience between two posts, but here’s how the first three went over.

When I was a kid in the early-to-mid 90s Alex Ross blew everyone’s mind in comics. He might not have been the first guy to paint comic books, but he seemed like it to me at the time. His figures were so iconic and classical looking that you just couldn’t help but pour over his pages. The fact that he and the writers he worked with liked hiding pop culture easter eggs throughout the panels also helped. Kingdom Come was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I even picked up his next work, Uncle Sam, which I didn’t understand at the time, but definitely want to dig out of my longboxes when I have access to them. I did eventually pick up the four issues of Marvels at a garage sale where a woman was selling off her son’s collection for a buck a book.

I don’t actually remember much about that original reading experience, but I can imagine it was pretty revelatory to me. I was a hardcore DC guy growing up, so my main exposure to the Marvel U was through trading cards, action figure bios, pieces in Wizard and cartoons. At the time, I was a novice when it came to Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age history which we see through the literal lens of photographer Phil Sheldon. He’s there from the beginning, when the original android Human Torch first gets shown off to a suspicious crowd and, as a NYC journalist, sees the beginnings of the superhero world and the way people react to what he labeled Marvels.

Unfortunately, the story wasn’t nearly as fresh this time around. I’ve read a ton of Marvel comics in the meantime and even a few books about the company, so the big action scenes are pretty well-worn for me even if they were presented by Ross in his heyday. I know that’s not what the book is ABOUT, but it is what drives things forward. I appreciate the man-on-the-street perspective that Busiek uses with Sheldon, especially the way his opinions of the “mutant menace” evolves, but I felt like he did all this much better in Astro City (a complaint I realized I also had when reading Busiek’s Web of Spider-Man #81). It’s interesting to see how the writer has wanted to work with specific themes throughout his career, tried them out with Marvel books, but, in my opinion at least, was really able to nail them down in his creator-owned book.

I can’t move on without talking about Ross’s art in this book. It’s as big and bold as you’d expect, though far less pastel than you might expect if you’re more of a recent fan. You can also tell, though, that this is the guy who will evolve into the Kingdom Come painter. The characters here seem a bit lighter and less dense than they do in KC, which is still one of my all time favorites and I’ve got the itch to read it again, so look for that review soon.

atlas return of the three dimensional man Atlas: Return Of The Three Dimensional Man (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Ramon Rosanas & Parker
Collects Assault On New Olympus Prologue, Incredible Hercules (back-ups) #138-141, Enter The Heroic Age & Atlas #1-5

In writing about Agents Of Atlas: Dark Reign, AoA: Turf War and pretty much every other Jeff Parker comic I’ve reviewed here on the site, I’ve talked about how much I enjoy his ability to play within the Marvel sandbox while still adding something new to the characters. It’s a skill set that I’m always impressed by, especially in the days when it seems like creators at the big two don’t have as much freedom thanks to huge events and/or other external circumstances that have nothing to do with creating. Of course, it helps when you’re dealing with characters that are only really cool because you made them that way.

Parker launched AoA as a miniseries back in 2006 based off of an old issue of What If?! that posited a team of characters created back in the Atlas days of Marvel’s history actually became the Avengers. Forgotten by most, Parker dusted these characters off, gave them unique voices and personalities and, in the course of telling thrilling stories, hooked me forever. Since that first outing, the team has appeared in a few failed ongoings (I always said I’d like them to simply take the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series-of-minis approach, but that wasn’t in the cards), minis and back-ups. This trade collects the team’s back-up features in Incredible Hercules which were going on at the same time as the Assault On Mount Olympus story. The team then got another shot at an ongoing simply titled Atlas, but it only made it the five issues collected in this volume.

Anyway, this volume continues all the elements about Parker’s team that I enjoy while always moving the individuals and the team itself forward. The thrust of the main story revolves around Triathalon and the gang figuring out why beings are trying to kill the original 3D Man and his brother (who was a part of that What If?! issue but no subsequent iterations). The book ends with the team searching for and finding a resolution that actually winds up helping everyone involved instead of going the easy route, which is a nice touch. At this point, I believe this is the last AoA book around. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the Gorilla Man or Marvel Boy minis, but I’m hoping somewhere down the line Parker gets to bring these guys back again and show the world why they’re rad.

gotham by gaslightGotham By Gaslight (DC)
Written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Mike Mignola

Gotham By Gaslight is the kind of book I’ve heard about for years. Though not labeled as such on the cover of this original GN version, this was the first of the Elseworlds tales, stories taking iconic DC characters and putting them in different settings throughout time, space and, oftentimes, literature. Back in 1994 when I was 11, DC gave every ongoing book the Elseworlds treatment in that year’s annuals. It was a lot of fun, spawned one of my all time favorite stories and also sparked my imagination in a general way. So, as a fan of Elseworlds and artist Mike Mignola, Gotham By Gaslight was easily on my to-get list.

After working out a Sequential Swap, I wound up with a copy in hand and while I’m not sure if it deserved so much anticipation, it’s still a pretty good story. The idea here is that Bruce Wayne became Batman back in 1889. As it happens, he comes back to Gotham just in time to take on Jack the Ripper who has also relocated after committing his infamous crimes in London.

I think this book sounds cooler than it actually is. Batman versus Jack the Ripper drawn by Mike Mignola? That was a much different animal back in 1989 than it is today. The book isn’t bad by any means and dodges many of the elements that made some of those Elseworlds books annoying — like every single DCU supporting character coming into play in these alternate universes — but also doesn’t do a great job of creating a compelling mystery. The looming question over the story is, “Who is Jack the Ripper?” {If you want to completely avoid SPOILERS, skip the rest of this paragraph.} We’re offered a few potential suspects, but the actual culprit is really the only person it could have been, right? We’re thrown some red herrings like the creepy British people on the boat and this world’s version of the Joker, but neither of them come up ever again. Had those characters recurred more throughout the story, I would have questioned my original guess at who the killer was, but as it was, I had it pegged from that character’s first appearance in the comic.

Still, I enjoyed the comic and would be interested in checking out the follow-up which features art by Eduardo Barreto called Master Of The Future. While the main character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is basically the same as you’d expect as even a casual Batman fan, it’s cool to see how that character interacts with a world that reminds me a lot of the one seen in Sandman Mystery Theatre. Plus, that costume is just rad!

Thunderbolts Trade Post: Cage & Violent Rejection

Thunderbolts: Cage (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker
Collects Thunderbolts #144-147

Thunderbolts is one of those teams that I’ve been familiar with since its inception, but never read regularly, popping in here and there when particular arcs interested me. The basic idea since the post-Onslaught inception of the team has been “villains playing hero” in various capacities. Lately, that’s translated into criminals at a maximum security supervillain prison being allowed out to fight crimes. Run by Norman Osborn for his own nefarious reasons, the project is now run by the former U.S. Agent and Luke Cage with an eye towards actual reform. The team consists of OG T-Bolts Fixer, Songbird and Mach Mach V (now legit heroes) as well as Juggernaut, Moonstone, Ghost, Crossbones and Man-Thing. When I first heard about this series and the line-up I remember having big, huge question marks about those last two, but they’re explained very well in the series.

The adventures include some post-Siege clean-up that also serves as an introduction for a new Troll character who will, I assume, eventually become a larger part of the book as well as exploring a cave with some Terrigen crystals that also happen to be making some bonkers monsters. These larger adventures plus a few tests for the new T-Bolts and a prison riot offer plenty of room for the team members to show why they’re useful, what problems they  might present and the potential for this group.

While I can get a little tired of the A-list team books that get mired in whatever huge overarching stories Marvel or DC is working on at the time, I’ve found that I really like these lower level ones that not only have room to do their own thing, but also pull some of the less-used characters from a particular universe and do some really fun stuff with them. In the case of Thunderbolts, it helps that I’m not a hard core Marvel fan because I don’t have nearly 50 years of Juggernaut stories in my head. I’ve got a basic knowledge of all these characters and can enjoy these new stories without constantly comparing them to the old ones. One of Parker’s strengths has always been creating that balance between appealing to new and old readers alike and he does that all over the place here. He excels at looking around the sandbox, seeing what toys the other kids aren’t playing with and creating some really fun, excited stories with what he’s got.

Thunderbolts: Violent Rejection (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey
Collects Thunderbolts #152-157

I’d hoped to get my hands on the trade between Cage and Violent Reject in order to read all three back to back to back, but it wasn’t in the cards, so I just went on and checked out the latter after reading the former. Between a recap on the first page and Parker’s writing, I didn’t feel too behind and was able to catch right up. I had a feeling that would be the case after reading so much of his Hulk material out of order.

Anyway, I realized with this trade that Thunderbolts actually feels like an old school Marvel book where you’re not reading these big arcs necessarily, but instead one or two issue adventures that flow really well into one another. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely overarching plot lines being fleshed out, but those aren’t the sole focus of the stories. There’s no “writing for the trade” here.

This collection sees the team going up against some of the giant monsters that Parker first wrote about in Red Hulk: Scorched Earth, but you definitely don’t need to read both books to get the gist (which is basically, giant monsters are about to attack Japan, go stop them). The team now includes Hyperion who may or may not be evil (which gets answered decisevely soon enough). After that, Man-Thing disappears to fight creatures from another dimension, Cage and Dr. Strange team up to find Satana and the team gets sent to a mystical castle filled with Nazi zombies. Oh and a B team of T-Bolts gets put into motion back at the prison. Like I said before, lots of stuff goes on with tons of action, but you never lose sight of the characters themselves in these adventures, which is, I’m realizing, a Parker hallmark.

Artwise, I don’t think I’ve read a Kev Walker or Declan Shalvey comic before this, but I am definitely a fan of their work now. They both have kind of offbeat styles that I like, imagine more superhero-y Hellboy or B.P.R.D. type artists. While they look somewhat similar — you don’t get thrown out of the story with the change in styles as much as some other books — they both bring their own talents to the table and each have a knack for handling human characters next to monstrous ones and large moments with the small.

KEEP OR DUMP: I’m definitely keeping these books and looking for the rest of Parker’s trades. I hear they get into some time travel stuff, the B-team gets to take center stage and then the whole thing turns into Dark Avengers. As with most of Jeff Parker’s Marvel work, I’m in it now.

Red Hulk Trade Post: Scorched Earth & Planet Red Hulk

Red Hulk: Scorched Earth (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Ed McGuinness, Mark Robinson & Ben Oliver
Collects Red Hulk #25-30

My unexpected love affair with the Hulk continues on through these two volumes of Red Hulk written by Jeff Parker. Like with most of my reading of this series since a few years ago when Jeph Loeb took over, I’ve been getting these trades here and there when I can find them either on Sequential Swap  or cheap on Amazon. So, while I haven’t actually read War or Fall of the Hulks, I am reading these two books that take place after those other stories.

The basic idea is that, after running around causing all kinds of trouble throughout Loeb’s run, Red Hulk (who was finally revealed to be General Thunderbolt Ross, something I’d known from working at Wizard a year before the book even launched) got captured and started working with Steve Rogers and some of the other Avengers to show he’s not such a bad guy. What this series winds up doing, in addition to explaining away or building upon some of Loeb’s wilder ideas (punching the Watcher), is making the Red Hulk more of a character instead of the trademark force of nature status Hulks tend to wind up with.

The Scorched Earth of the title refers to a contingency plan by MODOK and the Intelligentsia (the bad guys of Fall of the Hulks) to destroy the world in various ways. Red Hulk gets recruited by Steve and Iron Man to help put a stop to them because, basically, he’s responsible. These adventures bring him into conflict with giant monsters and techno zombies, but also into battles with Iron Man, Thor and Namor. The beauty of a Jeff Parker comic like this comes from the balance between awesome battle scenes (which it has in spades) and more personal moments. There’s something sad about watching the strangely honorable Ross hanging out in a base inhabited by only Life Model Decoys so he can’t hurt anyone. There’s also a few back-up stories, one involving Rick Jones (aka A-Bomb) on Monster Island that eventually leads into the main story and Uatu the Watcher going bug nutty and telling another Watcher about how this thing called Omegex is going to kill all life on Earth, but that’s a matter for the next book.

The collection also contains Red Hulk #30 which is about as bonkers as it gets with Red and Green Hulk teaming up both together and in the same body going up against the Impossible Man, Xemnu The Titan, Woodgod, Kluh and a bunch of monsters that look like Jack Kirby creations. It’s a fun romp and it’s all drawn by Ed McGuinness doing what he absolutely does best.

Red Hulk: Planet Red Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Carlo Pagulayan & Pat Zircher
Collects Red Hulk #30.1-36

While Scorched Earth set up a status quo and did a little clean up with previous stories, this collection of shorter stories did a little of that, revisited even older stories and blazed even newer trails. This is the kind of thing that can be tricky/bad for me as a reader, but Parker’s a very skilled writer and walks that balance between familiar and new very well.

With the looming threat of Omegex, Red Hulk takes on a few other threats. First up, a soldier who used to work with Ross and idolized him is after Red Hulk because he thinks the Crimson Crusher killed Ross and wants revenge. He’s got a new team of Hulkbusters and planted micro mines in Rulk’s brain that will go off when he transforms back into Ross. That’s just such a great superhero comic dichotomy going on there paired up with a flip of the norm established in the previous arc that I can’t help but love the development.

There’s also a growing group of baddies lead by someone called Zero/One that would take quite a while to explain, as would her team. Needless to say, they’re from earlier issues and wind up being both scary and threatening. Seeing how their mission winds up mirroring the new Hulkbusters is another interesting balance.

From there, Rulk gets his own Planet Hulk experience and it’s cool seeing Carlo Pagulayan returning to some of the ideas he and Greg Pak tackled the first time around. Just when I was getting a little bored with this, it’s revealed why Ross has this experience and I was back on board. The book ends with Rulk taking on Zzzax and also taking on the new MODOK who appeared in the previous book in a pretty fantastically gross and awesome way.

What I enjoy about Parker’s characterization of Rulk is that he’s both deviously conniving, but also has a moral code. There’s a dual nature there and it’s interesting to see how this character reacts to certain experiences and how they differ from Banner/Hulk’s responses. I wonder if the stories would be as interesting for someone who has not read those other stories, but I would guess they still would be because Parker’s a solid, creative writer who always keeps me interested in what’s happening next and why.

Hulk Trade Post: Red Hulk, Hulk Vs. X-Force & Fall Of The Hulks Prelude

Hulk: Red Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ed McGuinness
Collects Hulk #1-6, a story from Wolverine #50

Last week, I talked a bit about my history with the Hulk moving from Planet Hulk into World War Hulk. I loved the former, didn’t feel quite the same way about the latter and wasn’t thrilled about Jeph Loeb taking over the book. He’s a writer that doesn’t always hit with me, but I also wanted to read Greg Pak’s take on what happened after Hulk attacked Earth and it’s heroes. Instead he moved over to Incredible Hercules and Skaar, eventually coming back to the pages of Hulk and Incredible. I was also working at Wizard when this book came out and we were told pretty early on who the Red Hulk really was, so the mystery elements wasn’t there for me.

However, reading these books again with far less of an emotional connection to the comics, I really enjoyed these books. I think the key to really enjoying a Loeb comic book is to not be heavily invested in the continuity of the character he’s writing. He tends to bring on all the bad guys, throw them against the hero and we all get to enjoy the fireworks which are ALWAYS drawn by the best artists in the business. If you’re too steeped in continuity you’re thinking annoying little things like “Hey, Catwoman couldn’t be here, she’s stealing a cat statue in Egypt” or “Wait, which version of Clayface is that?” Nonsense like that that can stick in some of our craws when reading comics.

Since I know next to nothing about Hulk or his rogues, I could just sit back and enjoy this book which kills off a big deal villain right away, sorry Abomination. Here’s a quick list of the other awesome things that happen in this comic: She-Hulk punches a human bear, Red Hulk hits Iron Man with a plane, Red Hulk punches the Watcher, the Hulks fight, Red Hulk beats Thor then jumps form the moon to Earth and the Hulks fight again. All of these things might sound kind of goofy and some of them are, but that’s part of the fun of reading comic books. A green woman can punch a bear-person and it’s not that big of a deal. With Ed McGuinness drawing these things, they look all the better.

Hulk Vs. X-Force (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ian Churchill & Whilce Portacio
Collects Hulk #14-18

I forgot to mention above that I actually paid for these first two trades, which is something of a rarity. The books I reviewed last week and the one following this I got via Swap, but I found these two on Amazon for $8 a piece and couldn’t resist. For whatever reason the two books between these ones were not as cheap, so I skipped them in hopes that I’d get them somewhere down the road. I don’t think it mattered too much because this collection continues the blockbuster action movie style that Loeb put into the first one.

This time around, X-Force member Domino happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and discovers Red Hulk’s true identity. As this is very important to him, Rulk decides to put together his own color-coded team consisting of Elektra, Deadpool, Punisher, Thundra and Crimson Dynamo to kill Domino. This doesn’t sit well with either Dom or her teammates in X-Force, so lots of fighting and double crossing ensues. Oh, there’s also a Red She-Hulk that pops up to make matters a bit more confusing.

Like I said, the story is fun and well told, but the art bugged me a bit. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but I am actually a huge fan of Ian Churchill’s and seeing him try to fit in more with the McGuinness style kind of bums me out. If this was just some other artist, I’d have no problem with the mix of McGuinness bulk and Darwyn Cooke faces, but every panel I looked at made me wish he was doing that crazy detail I know and love.

There’s also an issue in here that (I believe) plays off of a previous Hulk story I haven’t read, but have heard about where Doc Sampson goes into Banner’s head and tries to straighten things out as well as an issue of X-Factor where Samson analyzes those team members. This time, though, it’s Doc who’s being analyzed and we find out why he’s been so crazy lately. This issue is drawn by Portacio who seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Good stuff.

Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks Prelude (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Ed McGuinness, Ron Garney, Mitch Breitweiser, Takeshi Miyazawa, Frank Cho, Dan Panosian, Peter Vale, Gabriel Guzman, Michael Ryan, Ariel Olivetti & Ian Churchill
Collects Hulk #2, 9 & 16, Skaar #1, Hulk: Raging Thunder, Amazing Fantasy #15, Planet Skaar Prologue, All New Savage She-Hulk #4 & Incredible Hulk #600-601

Hodge podge trades like this can be a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, if you’re only reading one Hulk title they can be a good way of catching you up as to what’s going on. On the other hand, if you’ve read and collected a few different trades you can get a little burned by the contents. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about this one. I’ve already got Hulk #2 and 16, Amazing Fantasy #15 and Incredible #601 collected in other trades, so there’s not much value there.

At the same time, I don’t have the other issues and this is as good a place for them as any, though I do prefer having all my comics collected in a little better order. Also, if I read and like something like All New Savage She-Hulk #4 and want to get that trade, this trade served one purpose but because that much more unnecessary. It’s a real double edged sword, you guys.

At the end of the day, Hulk did something I wasn’t sure could happen anymore, it surprised me with how much I liked it. Being around comics as much and as long as I have gives me a pretty good radar for what I will like and what I won’t. I’ll try things I don’t think I’ll like just to give them a shot, but usually I’m pretty right on. I’m glad I liked this book and had so much fun with it. Now I’ve got to find out when they revealed Rulk’s true identity and how the went about explaining the roughly one million times those two characters were in the same room together. I’m guessing LMDs. It’s always LMDs…