Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

Alright, so going through the top half of this pile was pretty fun on the previous post. I had a great time with Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. AND the first volume of Mockingbird so there’s no reason to expect I didn’t also enjoy the bottom half (mostly because I tend to follow the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say” adage). Want to hear about Shutter, Aquaman, Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City and the first volume of Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol? Then you know what to do! Continue reading Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

Wonder Woman Trade Post: Diana Prince Volume 4 & Who Is Wonder Woman?

diana_prince_vol_4 Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 4 (DC)
Written by Denny O’Neil, Samuel R. Delany, Bob Haney & Robert Kanigher, drawn by Don Heck, Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo & Don Heck
Collects Wonder Woman #199-204, Brave And The Bold #105

If you’ve already read my reviews of the first, second and third volumes of the Diana Prince: Wonder Woman you already know the basic idea behind this quartet of collections: Wonder Woman decided to stay in this reality when the Greek gods decided to go on a sojourn. Now on her own, the powerless Diana Prince still did her best to right wrongs while also learning martial arts from a man named I Ching, wearing a lot of white and opening up a boutique.

Before writing this review I went back and read the previous three, partially because it’s taken me five years to read four trades, but also because I needed a little refresher on my thoughts. All three reviews share two elements of this run that I got a kick out of: Mike Sekowsky’s writing and art are fantastic and the issues run the gamut of genres much like the films Roger Corman produced around the same time. This volume, unfortunately lacks Sekowsky’s involvement, but does continue the genre mash-up goodness that I so enjoy.

Much like she did in the first volume, Diana finds herself palling around with a private detective, this one Jonny Double (the same guy Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso rejuvenated in the 1998 miniseries). He’s a fun character because he’s your traditional down-on-his-luck guy, but also peppers his speech with some beatnik-ness which goes well with the overall vibe of this book. Diana and Jonny get paid to protect a guy. What sounds like a simple bodyguard job turns into all kinds of wonderful wackiness involving cultists, exploding dogs (not a typo) and jousters on motorized unicycles (also not a typo). The next story is even crazier, borrowing elements and characters from Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser, a concept I know nothing about but still involved swords, sorcery, mystical gems and Catwoman (she and the Gray Mouser both chase a mouse!).

The book ends a bit wobbly thanks to an issue of Brave And The Bold that doesn’t feature nearly enough mod Diana drawn by Jim Aparo. This one didn’t do much for me, but I do appreciate it in the book. Then you’ve got the penultimate issue which is fantastic. This one has Diana getting in on the Women’s Lib movement and helping bring down a man setting up a crummy department store to put women in danger while making money off of ladies wanting to get in on at least the fashion of women’s lib. There’s a lot of great stuff in this one from O’Neil who’s no slouch in the writing department.

Let’s call this SPOILER TOWN (for a decades-old book). This last issue feels like an editor coming in with a broom and just sweeping everything that I love away. I Ching gets killed by a sniper on page 4, Diana goes after him but winds up hitting her head and losing her memory on page 7, by 13 she’s back on Paradise Island and we’re treated to another retelling of her origins. Oddly, we’re also introduced to Nubia the Wonder Woman from another Amazon place called the Floating Island. Has this ever been brought up again? My Wonder Woman knowledge is just about zero between this time and the next time Diana lost her powers in The Contest, so it very well may have and I missed it. It seems like an interesting idea and while they don’t completely dump on everything that came before it or tell you that it never happened, it certainly feels like an unceremonious end to a series I really enjoyed. Even with a bit of a weak ending, I’m still a huge fan of this line of books and will proudly display them on my bookshelves…when I eventually get shelves big enough to support my whole collection.

wonder woman who is wonder woman Wonder Woman: Who Is Wonder Woman? (DC)
Written by Allan Heinberg, drawn by Terry Dodson with Gary Frank
Collects Wonder Woman #1-4, Annual #1

Much like with New 52, DC had different levels of failure and success when they pulled their One Year Later jump towards the end of the universe-altering Infinite Crisis. I’m still a huge fan of what Judd Winick did in Green Arrow and Outsiders and also Up, Up And Away which reintroduced us to Superman. But others didn’t go over so well. Remember Nightwing? Nah, don’t, it’s not worth it, I promise. Wonder Woman fell somewhere in between, but everyone was really excited about it. Allan Heinberg moved from TV to comics with Young Avengers which was pretty great and also joined Geoff Johns for a JLA arc that was heavily tied to Infinite Crisis. Teaming him up with Terry and Rachel Dodson seemed like a killer match. But, the book was super late. MyComicShop tells me that the first three issues came out consecutively, but there’s a four month gap between #3 and #4 with the annual hitting nine months after that. Much like they did with the first Geoff Johns/Richard Donner arc of Action Comics, DC switched gears with the ongoing to get the issues coming out more regularly and finished this story in an annual. None of this matters to you if you’re just reading this book, of course.

The intent of this book was to set up a new status quo for Wonder Woman. This comes after the lead up to Infinite Crisis which found Diana killing Maxwell Lord who had the power to control minds and did exactly that with Superman. Wonder Woman dropped off the face of the map for a year — just like Superman and Batman — but is now back…as Diana Prince, an agent of the Department of Metahuman Affairs partnered with Nemesis. While she’s working at being a secret agent, Donna Troy has stepped in as Wonder Woman and Cassie Wonder Girl is pissed off at the whole thing. But, Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery — Cheetah, Giganta, Dr. Psycho and a small fleet of others — wants her to return so they go after Donna and Cassie. The real baddie then gets revealed and Diana winds up with a new status quo: when she turns from Wonder Woman back into Diana, she loses her powers.

It’s not a bad set-up and if this was a simple four issue lead-in to whatever happened next, it’d be great. But, I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Issues #4-13 feature issues by Will Pfeifer, novelist Jodi Piccoult and J. Torres, but my memories of those issues aren’t very good. This was also around the time that Amazon’s Attack happened which also doesn’t have a good reputation in my brain. With #14, Gail Simone hops on board and creates one of the best Wonder Woman runs in recent memory (I’ve got to read Rucka’s stuff). I don’t remember her stuff taking muck or anything from this arc, so it winds up feeling a little pointless upon further reflection.

Trade Post: Batman Knightfall Volume 1

Batman Knightfall Volume 1 (DC)
Collects Batman #491-500, Detective #659-666, Showcase 93 #7-8, Shadow of the Bat #16-18 & Vengeance of Bane
Written by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon & Alan Grant, drawn by Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Bret Blevins, Klaus Janson & Mike Manley

You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw that DC was re-collecting the Batman Knightfall story. If you’re unfamiliar with early 90s Batman comics, a weakened Batman went up against a new bad guy on the street named Bane who released all the villains in Arkham. After trying to stop and recapture all the bad guys, Batman finally goes up against Bane and — as you can see on the cover to the left here — Bane breaks Batman’s back. After this, a guy who has been hanging around for a little bit named Jean-Paul Valley, also known as Azrael, gets named the new Batman. JPV’s a little nutty to be nice about things and Robin realizes this is a problem, but Bruce is worried about finding Tim’s kidnapped dad and their shared doctor who Bruce wants to tell he’s Bats. There’s a lot going on, but what else can you expect from a 630 page book?

The reason I was so excited about this book — and the two that come after it — is because these were really my first Batman comics. I’d read one or two before and knew the character from the Adam West TV show, but these were the first ones I collected. The death of Superman got me into that book and the breaking of Batman got me into this one, I guess I was a little morbid as a kid. Anyway, while I have most of the issues collected therein, this is the very first time I’ve read them in order. I got many of the issues piecemeal, read them and then promptly placed them in bags and boards.

I was surprised by a lot of things reading through this book. First off, I was shocked that Kelly Jones didn’t do any interiors, only covers. This surprised me because what I remember about these stories is mainly his covers (as well as the gatefold foil Joe Quesada one for #500). I was also surprised at how quickly they got to breaking Bats. I assumed it would be towards the end of the book, but it actually takes place around the half way point.

My other surprises were more story based, so they deserve their own paragraph(s). I should note that, even if this book was a complete artistic embarrassment, I would love it because it’s so near and dear to me. While I didn’t think it was embarrassing at all, I was surprised at how flimsy Bane’s reasoning is presented in the book. We see his origins in the Bane one-shot, but his reasoning doesn’t make much sense. Why does he care about Gotham or Batman? Because some guy told him how great it was? I assume the intent is for Bane to compare himself to the highest physical specimen and win, but that falls apart when you release an army of madmen to bend him so you can come in and break him. Along similar lines, I have no idea why Bane hangs out with the trio of goofballs he does, Bird, Trogg and Zombie as they don’t do a whole lot for him.

Another problem I had which might have come from seeing how well this source material was handled in The Dark Knight Rises was that I didn’t get the impending sense of worry and doom with this story that I got in the film. Bane not only releases every crazy into Gotham and breaks Batman’s back IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, but also starts taking over all of the crime in the city, but the normal people we see don’t seem super upset or worried about it. The story lacks a sense of larger urgency that the film absolutely nailed. This is not helped by the inclusion of the Shadow of the Bat issues included in this collection which come right after JPV went out as Batman for the first time and give you three issues of Scarecrow trying to become a fear god, JPV being crazy Batman and Anarky trying to kill both of them. These don’t really help the series along and slow things WAY down, but I’m glad they’re in there. Maybe it would have been better to put them later in the book? But then they’d come after JPV made the AzBat armor…hmm

Okay, that was a good deal of complaining and critiquing, but I still really enjoyed reading this book and not just because of the wonderful trip down memory lane. Watching Batman getting so worn down facing also-rans like Firefly was actually pretty amazing. And, man, that scene where he fights Bane and gets broken? Still gives me chills. So intense. I also liked how JPV goes over the edge bit by bit. I mean, he’s clearly a terrible choice for Batman, but Bruce is not in his right mind, his brain’s as broken as his body, so it kind of makes sense. Plus, JPV was apparently hanging around before all this and was being trained by Batman and Robin. I’m pretty excited to break into the next book and see how his books hold up.

Ah, I’ve got one more complaint or more positively, a suggestion. It would be nice if there was a trade collecting some of the stuff that leads into this book. Bane appeared in a few other comics that are referenced several times that I’d like to read, but it’d also be cool to get a little bit more of JPV’s back story. Sure, I’ve got the Sword of Azreal trade on my shelf (and plan to read it again soon), but that’s a pretty old and, I assume, out of print book that I’m sure other people would like to read. Similarly, I noticed from looking at the second Knightfall volume I have and the information out there for the third, there’s a lot of stuff that’s still not collected like the Justice League Task Force stuff and a few other tales of Bruce Wayne running around trying to save Tim’s dad and their doctor. It’s entirely possible that these trades will get made in the future, especially if the planned Knightfall ones do really well, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Maybe I’ll just make my own!

The Box: Venom Lethal Protector #3, Brave & The Bold #157 & Adventures Of Superman #473

To be completely honest, this installment of The Box is a bit of a cheat. First off, I read a pair of terrible comics I literally have nothing to say about. I won’t say what they were, but they were both mid 90s Image books that did nothing for me. I don’t want these posts to be completely negative and I also want to have some fun, so those books went right into the recycle bin. I also actually specifically purchased the latter two books at a flea market, so they’re not as random as the other picks, but we’ll get back to that next week, I’m sure. Did I succeed at picking out good comics for myself to read? You’ll have to read (or scroll) on down to find out.

The one random comic from this post is Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) written by David Micheline and drawn by Mark Bagley. Venom’s not a character I’ve ever really been into, but there was always something a little cool and dangerous about seeing these comics in the pages of Wizard or on comic stands when I was looking for the books I wanted.

This issue really has all the components you’d expect from a 90s comic starring Venom. He cracks wise while beating up on bad guys wearing a LOT of armor. There’s actually a solid story underneath all that with a guy trying to get revenge on Venom for his dead son.

Overall, it’s a fine story. I think it’s hard to take a book with so many spikes and pouches seriously these days, but that was the mode of the day. On the other hand, though, Bagley’s art doesn’t look as jagged and crazy as a lot of the popular artists of the day. He is just a damn solid, classic style artist that looks rad no matter what he’s drawing. I won’t be keeping this comic nor will I be tracking down the rest of the issues, but it was a fun read for a few minutes and now I’m ready for the next thing.

I chose this comic for one simple reason: I wanted to see how Jack Kirby’s Last Boy On Earth found his way to Gotham to team-up or tussle with Batman. Brave And The Bold #157 (1979) was written by Bob Haney with Jim Aparo artwork and unfortunately, it’s pretty boring. The story revolves around a new super powered enforcer on the scene and Batman trying to figure it out. However, since we know that Kamandi’s in the issue and doesn’t show upfor a while it’s not much of a surprise that it’s him.

The worst part though is that the scenes between Kamandi and Batman just aren’t that fun or interesting, I just kept thinking about how much cooler this issue could have been or how rad the team-up between the two of them was on the wonderful animated version of this comic from a year or two back. It also sounds like the BATB issue where Batman goes to Kamandi’s time was a lot more interesting.

I think even if I wasn’t comparing this issue to those other stories that I wanted, I still would have hoped for less Batman-talking-to-people and more Kamandi-punching-people. I’m just simple like that, I guess.

It was neat seeing Aparo draw Kamandi, though.

I grabbed this issue of Adventures Of Superman #473 from 1990) because it’s not part of the wonderful Man Of Steel trade series, it has Green Lanterns in it and that Dan Jurgens cover sure looked neat!  Written and drawn by Jurgens, the issue was great looking, but it was the kind of story I’ve read before. Basically Hal Jordan’s being held captive by a giant alien who crashed and remained underground for many years. He sens out a distress signal for Superman who winds up teaming with Guy Gardner. Unfortunately, this is also the version of Guy that really grates on me: the asshole loudmouth who never shuts up. I’m more a fan of the confident, but layered version Beau Smith wrote in Guy Gardner: Warrior.

So, while the main story felt like something else I’d read (another Superman story? something with the Fantastic Four?) I was actually more interested in what was going on back at the Daily Planet because this was right after Lois and Clark got engaged the first time. I came to Superman a few years after this when he was killed, but a lot of what was going on in issues from this time were referred to when I came on and even well after Supes returned.

While I wasn’t really ennamored with this issue, I will hold on to it. I kind of want to fill all the post Crisis Superman holes that exist between the existing trades and when I started collecting. Just thinking about that makes me a bit sleepy.