Mighty Marvel Trade Post: Thanos Rising, Silver Surfer Vol. 1 & Avengers Vs. X-Men

thanos rising Thanos Rising (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Simone Bianchi
Collects Thanos Rising #1-5

I’ve been requesting a ridiculous number of trade paperbacks from the library recently. I’ll sign into the system with an idea about one book to put on hold and the next thing I know, I’ve got a dozen or so books in the hold section and am getting a few messages a week from the library telling me my stacks are in. In an effort to put my thoughts down and get these books back into the system, I’m going to do some brief reviews here and move along.

First up we have Thanos Rising, an origin story for one of Marvel’s most powerful villains (and the driving force behind the fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy) written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Simone Bianchi. I think this is probably the first interior work by Bianchi that I’ve actually read and I think he did a stellar job bringing the intensity and detail seen on his covers to the interiors.

Of course, it also helps that Aaron wove a compelling story about the bad guy who’s in love with death. This story starts with Thanos’ birth and travels with him as he grows into the genocidal maniac we’ve all come to know and love in Marvel’s cosmic adventures. Heck, there were even times when I felt bad for a character who almost killed Captain America. This feels like a great book to pass to someone who’s seen a Marvel movie and might be interested in getting into comics because it’s very much unattached to the more complicated universe.

silver surfer volume 1 new dawn Silver Surfer Vol. 1: New Dawn (Marvel)
Written by Dan Slott, drawn by Mike Allred
Collects Silver Surfer #1-5

When I’m sitting on the computer trying to think of books to look up, I try to remember which runs everyone seems to love. Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s Silver Surfer popped into my head and not long after, I had it in-hand. I’ve only just started reading Slott’s excellent Amazing Spider-Man work, but Allred’s an easy sell for me because I love Madman and his work on iZombie (I reviewed volumes one, two and three and have four waiting for a read).

Silver Sufer is an Allred-illustrated book that felt more like an Allred-penned comic, which was an interesting experience. The Surfer is on a vast vacation world, hanging around with a young quirky girl who could easily be played by Zooey Deschanel and having trippy nightmares about being trapped on Earth again. There’s also an awesome appearance by SS’s Defenders teammates Dr. Strange and Hulk. The story itself wasn’t my cup of tea, but how cool is it seeing Allred draw those characters? The answer is that it’s very cool. Overall, this story didn’t really latch onto me, but I liked the art enough that I’ll probably give the second volume a look just to see where it goes.

avengers vs. x-men Avengers vs. X-Men (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman & Matt Fraction; drawn by Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel & Adam Kubert
Collects Avengers Vs. X-Men #0-12, Point One #1

Back in my days at Wizard I was fully up to date when it came to the big time Marvel and DC events. But, it’s been about five years since I got the axe and a whole lot of craziness has gone on since then. DC implemented a complete reboot and Marvel rolls out an event roughly every year (plus more character or team-based side events). As I’m trying to catch up and dive into some X-books, it seemed pertinent to check out Avengers Vs. X-Men.

And I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed this book. I worried going in that it might feel like Civil War which, no matter how hard any of the writers tried, always seemed very much in favor of Captain America’s side, but in this case both Cap and Cyclops have pertinent points. Better yet, Cyke gets possessed by the Phoenix Force, so you don’t have to worry about his side making sense. More impressively, though, were the little bits and pieces that hit home. The second issue does a great job of framing these events that might seem commonplace and making them seem cool and huge.

I was also impressed with how well these issues flowed considering six different writers and five artists were working on the issues. I’m not always the biggest fan of events because they can easily get bloated and plot-driven, abandoning character along the way, but that wasn’t the case here so it gets a big thumbs up from me. Oh, also, it resulted in more mutants, so that’s cool!

My 12 Favorite Trade Reading Experiences Of 2012

I write about a lot of trades on this site, about two a week if I’m on my game. But, I actually read a lot more than that. So, this particular list is the 12 books or runs that I enjoyed the most reading or re-reading this year. Most of them have been covered on the site, but others have not. I’ll give the latter a few more words than the former, but hope you enjoy.
outsiders looking for trouble  I read all of Judd Winick’s run of Outsiders this year, but didn’t write about it? Why? Well, it was a pretty big reading project, something that makes it harder for me to write about as a whole. But, I still really enjoyed this reading experience. Winick brings a realness to superhero comics without letting it get too in the way (if that makes sense). I know a lot of people think he forces issues into books, but I think these are the kinds of things that should be talked about and seen. Anyway, this was a fun superhero reading experience that made me remember how fun the DCU was back when this book and Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans launched. Good times. starman-omnibus-vol-3I haven’t written about James Robinson’s Starman because I haven’t finished the last omnibus yet. I haven’t finished it because I kind of don’t want to finish it and I also need quiet time to really sit down and finish it. This series is up there with Preacher and Sandman for me in my list of all time favorites. It lives in my heart and I was elated to discover that I still like it. This is what shared universe superhero comics could and should be. legend of grimjack volume 1I know I just read the first two volumes of Grimjack, but the experience has stayed with me. I love that world and keep thinking of great ways it could be interpreted for different genres. Right now I’m thinking about a Crackdown/Amazing Spider-Man style video game set in Cynosure where you take on jobs or just spend your day drinking in Munden’s Bar. If you dig Hellboy, B.P.R.D. or 100 Bullets, I think you’ll enjoy Grimjack. Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 War of the MonstersI’ve had a lot of different feelings about DC’s New 52. At first I was upset that “my” versions of the characters would only survive in my trade shelves and long boxes. Then I realized that I don’t really read new issues anymore and I still have my collection (and books I’ve never read from that era) to enjoy. I also realized that I’m almost 30 and have better things to worry about. With that behind me, I was able to dive into various trades with a mostly clear head and enjoyed them for the most part. I appreciate how DC was attempting to hit all different kinds of genres and audiences, of course, not all of those attempts were successful. The least successful tries in my opinion, though, were the books that just failed to set up a basic reason why that book existed aside from “to make money.” I still have a pile of them to read and am getting a sense of the new U, which is kind of fun. secret avengers vol 1 mission to marsEven though I read the second arc of Ed Brubaker’s Secret Avengers first and the first second, I had a great time reading this “black ops” take on superheroes. Bru writing Captain America/Steve Rogers is always aces in my book, but throwing in a lot of other street level-esque characters was even cooler. I’ve only read these first two volumes, but was satisfied with Brubaker’s ability to create an enjoyable sci-fi/spy mash-up story that felt well contained while still making me want to read more. the return of king dougReturn of King Doug came out of left field for me. It was gifted to me by a pal and I knew nothing about it, but Greg Erb, Jason Oremland and Wook-Jin Clark reminded me so much of the kinds of stories I love from the 80s, but while also doing all kinds of new, funny things I enjoy. Read this now. bprd hell on earth 2 new world gods And MmonstersI’ve said this before, but one of the things I miss most about not working at Wizard anymore is access to all of the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics that came out. I’m super behind, but I did get my hands on some B.P.R.D. trades this year for a little catching up (Hell On Earth: New World and Gods And Monsters). That’s still the best damn comic series around and has been for a while. hulk red hulkI don’t mind playing catch-up on some books. I’ve been super happy re-reading things like World War Hulk and catching up on Hulk, Incredible Hulk and Red Hulk this year. Super fun, popcorn books mixed with well thought out ongoing superhero tales filled with monsters? Yeah, I’m all over that. izombie vol 2 uVAmpireI read the first iZombie trade in 2011, but was delighted to get my hands on the second and third volumes in 2012. I wrote about the second one here and have a post in mind talking about the third. Anyway, this series is the rare mix of intriguing characters, wacky situations, rock solid architecture and mythology I want to study PLUS one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen. So, so, so good. american vampire volume 1I’m pretty surprised there are two Vertigo books on here. It seemed like for a while I was reading nothing from them. Now iZombie and American Vampire are two of my faves. Then again Chris Roberson and Scott Snyder are two of the best newcomer writers around, so that’s no surprise. In this case, Snyder takes two things that have become old and boring — vampires and American history — and makes them both super interesting and intense. Can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes.batman knightfall volume 1Batman: Knightfall Volume 1 was pure, nostalgic joy. All of the Batman comics that got me into Batman in one place in one fat volume? Yes, yes and yes. I have the second and third volumes waiting to be read. Maybe next month after knocking off a smattering of random trades I want to check out. lost_dogs_cover_sm_lgI don’t remember exactly why I didn’t write about Jeff Lemire’s Lost Dogs. It’s one of the few books I’ve bought through Comixology for my Kindle Fire. The long and short of it is that this story about a simpleton trying to save his family. It’s raw and rough and hits you in the gut. I don’t know if I liked the experience of reading this story, but it was certainly powerful. I can’t remember if it made me cry or not, but it came close.

I’m certain I missed a few books that I didn’t write about, but this is a pretty solid list by all accounts. I should probably branch out into more diverse trades and graphic novels — and I plan to — but what can I say? I love me some superheroes. I also happen to love all kinds of other comics, so let’s continue to make and talk about awesome comics.

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…

Steve Rogers Trade Post: Secret Avengers Volume 1 & Fallen Son

Secret Avengers Volume 1: Mission To Mars (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Mike Deodato, Will Conrad, David Aja, Michael Lark & Stefano Gaudiano
Collects Secret Avengers #1-5

After getting a good deal on the second volume of Secret Avengers from Thwipster, I was pretty excited to check out the first volume. So, right after finishing, I went on Sequential Swap and set up a trade for the book. When it came in the mail on Saturday, I read it pretty much immediately. This is basically the perfect team book for Ed Brubaker to write because it’s perfectly set in his wheelhouse. Not only does it star Steve Rogers, the character he revolutionized over in the excellent Captain America, but it’s all about the black ops side of the Marvel Universe and includes characters that fit in that world either obviously like Moon Knight, Sharon Jones, Black Widow and Ant-Man (the most recent one) in ways that make a lot of sense even if you didn’t think about it like Beast, War Machine, Valkyrie and Nova. The idea is for the team to be more pro-active, a buzz concept in comics that always sounds good on paper, but doesn’t always deliver because, how do you stop crime before it happens?

So, with that team and that idea in mind, Brubaker kicks the first adventure off with a trip to Mars! It’s the kind of story that might not seem he’s suited for, but it still deals with evil corporations, brainwashed henchmen, a secret organization and heroes fighting other brainwashed heroes. Here’s the actual story: Roxxon has a mining operation on Mars, but all the workers disappeared and Rogers thinks something’s up. He sends his space guy–Nova–to check it out and he finds a crown very similar to the Serpent Crown that instantly takes over Nova and results in the rest of the team–minus Sharon Jones who is back on earth getting ambushed–heading into space. It turns out that Roxxon made a deal with a Hydra-like organization called The Shadow Council to mine there, but they accidentally stumbled upon a prophecy or something that will lead to the end of the universe. So, it’s up to Commander Rogers (don’t think I’ll ever get used to that, not that I need to), Moon Knight, Valkyrie, Ant-Man, War Machine and Beast–all in pretty awesome looking space suits, by the way–to stop Nova and save the universe, which includes seeing Steve put on Nova’s helmet and get a Nova-based costume, which I dug. It sounds like a straight forward superhero story and it is, but it’s also got a lot of those awesome espionage flavored moments that signify a great Bru comic. That really gets focused on in the fifth issue that explains who the Nick Fury lookalike that’s working for the Shadow Council is. Really fun stuff.

I talked about Deodato’s art in the last post and I feel the same way with this earlier volume. I think he’s a great choice for this book if you want to get away from the Steve Epting style set up in Captain America, or the Michael Lark/David Aja look that is actually used in the fifth issue. He’s doing great on the big superhero stuff, but also–and this might be thanks to the inking or coloring–things look shadowy, which fits the theme of the book perfectly. At first it was a little distracting, but once I started thinking that way, I was in it all the way. It’s not noir by any means, but shadows are impotant for a black ops team.

Fallen Son: The Dead Of Captain America (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by John Cassaday, David Finch, Ed McGuinness, John Romita Jr. & Leinil Francis Yu
Collects Fallen Son: Wolverine, Avengers, Captain America, Spider-Man & Iron Man

I am a very big fan of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America. If you’re into espionage super hero comics, I don’t think you can find a better one than that. I was disappointed when Steve Rogers got killed off a few years back, but, I mean, it’s comics, so you know he’s going to come back, it’s just a matter of when and how. Plus, Bru did an excellent job making me care about Bucky Barnes just as much, so I was okay. But, when I heard that someone else was going to be writing a series of one-shots showing what Cap’s death meant to a variety of heroes in the Marvel U, I wasn’t super excited. I think I read the issues when they came out and I was working at Wizard, but didn’t remember much about them, so I was curious to see how they played out a few years later and with Steve Rogers back in the land of the living.

I gotta say, it’s a pretty melodramatic thing to read which feels somewhat unnecessary, especially considering the fact that Steve Rogers is back. I get the idea behind it, putting together one of the best selling writers in comics with a series of big time artists on the subject of the death of a popular characters. And, as a story, it’s interesting how the issues tie into one another (something I didn’t remember from the first read), and there are some cool moments and ideas like Hawkeye thinking about becoming the new Cap at Iron Man’s request and Spider-Man remembering how Cap helped him out, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t seem to carry any weight now. It also features at least one character issue actually saying “The death of Captain America,” out loud which just never sounds right.

However, if you are an art fan, this is a pretty fantastic book. I love Leinil Francis Yu, David Finch and Ed McGuinness and seeing them tackle a wide variety of characters is a lot of fun, especially since they’re one-shots and you don’t have to worry about them missing a future issue. I’m not the biggest John Romita Jr. or John Cassaday fan, but they turn it on full blast too.

KEEP OR DUMP? So, the big question every time I read a trade is: will I keep this book and I’m split on these two. I will definitely save both Secret Avengers trades because I think they’re great continuations of Brubaker’s run on Cap with a lot of fun other elements thrown in. On the other hand, cool art just isn’t enough to keep a book in my collection, with very few exceptions.

80s Odyssey: Zapped (1982) & Teen Wolf (1985)

I’ve been on a real 80s movie kick since I watched Back To School and Just One Of The Guys. Since then, I’ve probably watched a dozen or so 80s flicks. I’ll be pairing some of them up and writing about them over the next few days and weeks. Zapped appealed to me instantly because, as longtime readers will remember, I am a big fan of Charles In Charge which also stars Scott Baio and Willie Aames.

The story behind Zapped actually reminds me a lot of a movie I saw when I was younger called School Spirit as both are R-rated teen comedies about a kid getting a certain kind of superpower and basically using it the way that a kid that age would. In this case, Scott Baio gets telekinesis after some of the chemicals in the lab he uses at school get mixed up and he ingests them.

There’s little touches here and there that made this film fun and quirky when it could have gotten tired and stale. Even before getting his powers, Baio is growing weed in the lab. His parents also think he’s on drugs and give him a really hard time until he controls a ventriloquist dummy to scare his mom and then she leaves him alone. Oh, Scatman Crothers also plays a coach in the movie and I always enjoy seeing him do his thing.

And, as you might expect, there’s plenty of T&A to go around. I was actually surprised that I didn’t remember this movie from my youthful days of watching USA’s Up All Night or Comedy Central’s T&A Matinee. Heck, the end of the movie finds everyone at prom and Baio going all Carrie, but instead of being pissed, he’s just ripping everyone’s clothes off. In my mind, I like to think that Baio and Aames changed their names, went on to college and wound up on Charles In Charge.

The theme for this post is “high school comedies about kids with strange abilities and the wackiness that ensure” in case you couldn’t tell. Unlike Zapped, I had, of course, seen Teen Wolf. I think it’s nearly impossible to be my age, had cable for a long time and not seen at least a part of the movie. In case you haven’t, though, basically Michael J. Fox is a nondescript teenager on a crappy basketball team who finds out that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Things actually start turning around for him when people find out about his secret (apparently, in addition to getting hairy and growing fangs, being a werewolf also makes you awesome at basketball). From there it turns into a question of identity and being true to yourself as Fox struggles between being the wolf that everybody loves and the boy Boof loves.

I think what sets Teen Wolf apart from movies like it is how differently they play everything. It runs out that Fox’s dad actually completely understands what he’s going through because he is also a werewolf (I love that scene where he opens the door and dad’s standing there in wolf mode too). I also like how no one really seems to care that he turns into a werewolf in the middle of a basketball game. Sure some people are a little weirded out, but they also don’t care because he’s actually good at the sport. I also love the character of Stiles in pretty much any incarnation I see him in. He’s that perfect 80s smooth operator that seems to be missing from modern movies. I think some actors make that guy too douchey for consumption, but Jerry Levine kills the role of ultimate party guy who everybody loves. We need more Stiles’ in our lives.

Like with Zapped and all movies like this that follow a somewhat formulaic plot (you know prom has to be involved and the lead has to like the popular girl while his female friend pines after him), Teen Wolf lives or dies based on the main character. Luckily for both flicks, both Baio and Fox are great at playing normal guys who you can either feel for or relate to. You feel kind of good when they get to be awesome and then feel bad for them when they take it too far, but then good again by the end when they redeem themselves.

I want to take a quick paragraph and talk about this Teen Wolf show that MTV’s got coming up soon. I’ve seen a few previews for it and it doesn’t look like my bag. I’m not one of those idiots who throws around terms like “raping my childhood” when things like this get remade. Not only do I find the very idea of the phrase to be repugnant and a wild misuse of a term, but someone making a new version of something you liked as a good should have no baring on your enjoyment of the original work. It’s still there. You can always watch the original Karate Kid or Teen Wolf and completely ignore the remakes. It’s as simple as that. All that being said, I the bits of the Teen Wolf show I’ve seen seem to take all the fun that was inherent in the movie out of the proceedings in order to make another cheap Twilight rip off. I said something like that to the missus the other day and she responded with something like “Kids today don’t want fun, they want brooding.” I hope that’s not true. I know movies like Teen Wolf and Zapped aren’t in vogue anymore, but they should be. Maybe teens aren’t as into comedy because the only things aimed at them are shows on the Disney channel and the occasional dramedy on TV like My Life As Liz. Where’s the Zapped, Teen Wolf or American Pie for this generation?

Trade Post: Criminal 3, Buffy 4 & Diana Prince Wonder Woman 3

CRIMINAL VOL. 3: THE DEAD AND THE DYING (Icon/Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips
Collects Criminal Vol. 2 #1-3
I’ve read Criminal here and there. I know there was a push at some point during the first volume to try and convince people to read the book in single issue form instead of waiting for the trade. I’m a big fan of the monthly comic book format, but I’ll be honest, I think most of Ed Brubaker’s comics work better in trade form, and usually reading several trades in a fairly short time period. You don’t have to do that with Criminal because it works in an arc system that doesn’t really crossover (maybe a few names here and there, I really can’t remember names from the first volume or if I even read the second volume).With that in mind, a Brubaker trade is usually something I really look forward to because it’s been so many months since I last read one. Unfortunately, this book was a pretty big disappointment. In the three issues, you see a heist from three different perspectives, the problem though is that, by the last issue I knew all the important parts of the story and didn’t really care about how crappy of a life the girl in the story had. I’ve read enough crime and mystery fiction to get where it was going from page one.

I will say that Phillips’ art is top notch as always. He really sets the mood and tone of the stories with details that go unnoticed at first. Plus, I liked the first issue, which followed a black boxer as he tried to set his life straight even though his former friend and current white gang leader started causing all kinds of trouble. Even that, though, felt familiar. Not like it was swiped from somewhere, but like I’d seen it or it’s parts elsewhere. If you haven’t seen or read a lot of crime or mystery movies, books or comics, I recommend checking this out. If that’s not the case, go check out the first volume of Criminal or, better yet, Brubaker and Phillips’ Sleeper for WildStorm. That’s one of the best mystery/crime/espionage/superhero comics of all time.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER VOL. 4: TIME OF YOUR LIFE (Dark Horse)
Written by Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb, drawn by Karl Moline and Georges Jeanty
Collects Buffy #16-20
I’ve gone back and forth between not really caring about the Buffy comics and loving them. In the beginning, the whole story seemed a little off, but then the missus and I rewatched the whole series and I like where Whedon and Co. took the story with there being tons of slayers and Buffy being in control of all of them. And, for the most part, I’ve been pretty impressed with how well all the different writers have been at nailing that tricky Whedon-esque dialogue. Every time I pick up one of these comics, it can hear the actors and actresses’ voices easily tossing off the verbal calisthenics. My big problem has been the art. It’s not bad, but I’m often left scratching my head when a supposedly big reveal happens. “Who the hell is that?” I’ll often ask myself.

With this fourth volume of the Season 8 comics, that’s not too much of a problem as Buffy’s transported to the future where she teams up with and faces off against the future slayer Fray who starred in her own Dark Horse mini back in 2001. I will say that Whedon’s future dialogue is a bit too much at times, but all the other future stuff is pretty rad and the story fits well into current continuity while also wrapping up the Fray-verse. There’s also a big villain is interesting to see, but I think, with the end of the book, that won’t be a problem anymore. The trade also includes the one-off Jeph Loeb issue which finds current Buffy in the world of the animated series universe that never was. I actually ignored this issue the first time around because I don’t really care for Loeb’s writing generally and it seemed like a throwaway, but this time it was probably my favorite of the bunch because it put Buffy back in the early seasons of the show, but with her current thoughts, so it was kind of cool to see where she had come from and how much she’s made it through and changed (and not changed). It’s a funny little issue that’s definitely worth checking out.

DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN VOL. 3 (DC)
Written & drawn by Mike Sekowsky, with Denny O’Neil and Dick Dillin
Collects Wonder Woman Vol. I #190-198 and World’s Finest #204
I’ve talked about how much I love these early 70s depowered Wonder Woman volumes here and here and that continues on with this collection. I’m blown away every issue by Sekowsky who writes and draws all of the Wonder Woman issues in this issue (O’Neil and Dillin did the World’s Finest issue). These comics are filled with the elements that I love about Roger Corman movies: crazy fights, weirdly fantastic battles and mysterious houses filled with potential murderers. I think it’s awesome that DC let Wonder Woman get played with in such a way that basically made her the hero of a different kind of genre movie every single month. I would imagine all of this was because of lagging sales, but I don’t really care, I’m just glad they happened. I will say that #194 falls short as it’s basically a Prince and the Pauper/Dave riff with Diana turning out to look just like the princess of the country. She even takes the princesses  place when she gets captured. It’s pretty by the book and not all that interesting, but it’s but one stumbling block in an overall solid collection.

One interesting thing about this collection is that it actually leaves out a big chunk of #191 is missing. Right in the middle of an epic medieval-like war in an alternate dimension, Diana sits down to tell her new friend how she came to be de-powered, but you flip the page and it says “Later.” I thought that might be how the original comic was written until that issue ended after a total of only 5 story pages. I guess it’s kind of cool that they didn’t bother with a huge recap of something in the first volume of this series as I probably would have just grazed it anyone. On the other hand, I did have to go back to the original volume and give it a flip through as it’s been quite a while since I’ve read it.

In addition to the huge amounts of enjoyment I got from reading this story, it also pushed me towards digging into the history of comics a little more. I looked up Sekowsky on Wikipedia and found some really interesting stuff about him and a fellow creator. That got me thinking about a potential story set in the days of comics past. That got me reading Comic Book Artist #9, a TwoMorrow’s mag I ordered a while back and never got around to reading. The issue focuses on Charlton Comics which is freaking fascinating. It’s packed with history and interviews that have given me even MORE ideas. It also introduced me to how amazing Dick Giordano was as an editor from the accounts of his former Charlton co-workers. There’s a 31 page interview in the issue that I was saving for last. The next day Giordano passed away. Weird timing right? Of course, as I was finishing this Wonder Woman trade, I realized I had actually seen some of Giordano’s work as an inker and cover artist. It makes me wonder if he edited this book as well, considering it’s so interesting and eclectic and clearly focuses on the writer/artist’s strengths (a hallmark of Giordano’s editing style from what I’ve read). It makes me wish there was some kind of intro in these books. Hopefully someone’s working on a big book about Giordano like that Kirby book I want to pick up.