Halloween Scene: House Of Mystery, Animal Man & Flesh + Blood

I’ve mentioned my general plans for this year’s Halloween Scene and even discussed my history with Vertigo, so now it’s time to jump into the actual reviews! The first three books I tackled are the entire run of House Of Mystery, the fourth volume of Animal Man and the modern day vampire tale Blood + Water!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: House Of Mystery, Animal Man & Flesh + Blood

The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 2 – A Kid’s Game & Looking For Trouble

In the inaugural installment of The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive, I got into Graduation Day and the short story “A Day After” from Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files & Origins 2003. Briefly, the former Titans and Young Justice teams called it quits after a time-traveling blue robot popped into the present and woke up a Superman Robot that killed Donna Troy. Of course, these being superheroes, they tend to flock to one another and two new books soon followed: Teen Titans and Outsiders. Today we’ll get into the first volumes of each series, which debuted in 2003! Continue reading The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 2 – A Kid’s Game & Looking For Trouble

The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 1 – Graduation Day & Secret Files 2003

When Teen Titans by Geoff Johns and The Outsiders by Judd Winick launched in 2003, I’d been reading comics for about a decade. I still loved them, but my reading habits had changed, mostly because I was in college and diving into my to-read pile Scrooge McDuck-style when I’d come home on breaks. I still read Wizard when I could, but my actual exposure to comics was very different than it had been.

And then at some point in my junior or senior year, I discovered that a nearby hobby shop sold comics. I can’t remember if I found this out myself or if this one girl I knew mentioned it, but I started buying a few books here and there. I stuck to ones that I knew I wasn’t getting in my pull box. I think the two I started reading were Runaways and Outsiders. Not bad choices, if I do say so myself. Continue reading The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 1 – Graduation Day & Secret Files 2003

Alternate Universe Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Vol 2 & Revolver

Sometimes I grab a series of trades the purposefully have a connection while other times I just grab whatever looks interesting out of my boxes. In the case of this week’s post, I did the latter, but realized that I had a nice connection in that both the second Exiles book and Matt Kindt’s Revolver feature characters dealing with the differences in the realities they experience! Want to know more? Hit the jump! Continue reading Alternate Universe Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Vol 2 & Revolver

Trade Post: Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)

exiles ultimate collection vol 1 Exiles Ultimate Collection Book 1 (Marvel)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Mike McKone & Jim Calafiore
Collects Exiles #1-19

Sometimes a book comes along and just fits so perfectly in your wheelhouse that you wonder why you haven’t already mainlined the whole thing already. Exiles is that book for me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the X-Men, but didn’t feel up to the challenge of diving into that incredibly dense continuity. I also love alternate world stories, so when Judd Winick — a writer I love — came along and combined the two in Exiles, I was on board. Well, not really because I didn’t read the book as it started coming out because I was graduating high school and heading into college at that point, but I was intrigued and kept it on my trade-watch radar. At this year’s New York Comic Con I scored the first, second, third and fifth volumes of the Exiles Ultimate Collection books for $5 each which was huge for me. I’m pretty excited about getting my hands on the two I’m missing, though maybe not the very last one which is all Chris Claremont. Still, I’ll have fun with the volumes I have (I hope) and see if I want to keep reading the rest.

The idea here is that a group of X-Men have been plucked from their alternate dimensions to work for an entity called the Time Broker who sends them on missions in other dimensions to help get the time stream back on track. If they fail, their own realities will suffer great changes that threaten their own lives. The great thing about this book is that it’s so completely in and of itself while also playing off of many of the themes and ideas presented in the main X-books as well as the Marvel Universe as a whole. Since Winick is working with a team of characters who “don’t matter” in the grand scheme of things at Marvel, he can do a lot more with them than you might expect. These first 19 issues are packed with character deaths, pregnancies, jokes, budding relationships, ridiculously difficult decisions, honest conversations and heaping helpings of ass kickery and explosions.

While building his own team, Winick also does a great job of building an interesting world within a world that explores all kinds of other worlds. There’s clearly a system at play with the Time Broker, but as the series progresses, we learn that the Exiles aren’t the only team of displaced heroes popping around dimensions. It’s one of the intriguing overarching elements that makes me want to keep reading all six volumes of the Ultimate Collection except for maybe that Claremont stuff.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that Winick didn’t work in the typical six issue arc format. If a story needed one issue, he gave it one issue. If it needed three, it got three. This not only keeps the book moving at a good clip — something that’s much appreciated when reading nearly 20 issues of a comic in one collection — but also gives artists Mike McKone and Jim Calafiore the opportunity to do their own things with their own stories before trading off with one another. While McKone’s style is a lot smoother than Calafiore’s more angular one, they both excel at balancing the action scenes with the comedy gags Winick throws in via Morph, so they still feel like they’re working on the same coherent series.

This kind of book does something that not many Corporate Comics can: play with all the pieces of an existing universe and really have fun with it. By going the alternate universe route Winick was able to build his own team, while also creating a myriad of worlds worth their own miniseries’ in many cases. Since those worlds and these characters weren’t connected the main Marvel U, the stakes were much higher. Is Morph going to die in this issue? Are they going to actually save the world from Galactus? These are questions that not only get raised, but worried about because Winick didn’t have to play it safe. You feel pretty safe assuming those bad things won’t happen in a regular universe book, but pretty much anything can happen here.

New 52 Bat Trade Post: Batman & Robin, Batwing & Batman

Batman and Robin Volume 1 Born to Kill Batman & Robin Volume 1: Born To Kill (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Batman & Robin #1-8

One of the more confusing aspects of DC’s New 52 initiative is that some books seem to carry over completely from the old continuity while others have gone in radically different directions. This only confuses older continuity geeks like myself who aren’t quite sure how all these Robins can fit in the same world now that Batman’s been around for a lot less time. You’re also dealing with a Teen Titans-less world in the way that most people know them, so where does that leave Batman and his relationship with Nightwing? It’s a slippery slope indeed, but not on the creative side. They’re setting everything up how they want to, it’s the continuity guys and gals who have to do their best to not slide into the infinite game of “what if” and instead just read these new stories as if they’re being told to us for the first time without any existing information. That’s how I tried to go into all three of these book and I had varying degrees of success with that.

I actually had the most trouble with Batman & Robin and not necessarily because I was comparing it to the books I’m familiar with, but because I didn’t really know what was going on for big chunks of the story. I mean that in both a confused-story kind of way and in a “That’s not how I think Batman should act” way. The story confusion came from the book’s main adversary, Nobody. I had no idea who this guy was and wasn’t sure if he had been around in the previous continuity or not. Now, this might seem contrary to my earlier statement that I was trying to put such things out of my mind, but the reason I kept wondering is because it took so long to explain who he was and where he came from. I didn’t want to know if he existed previously because I wanted to compare him to the original, I wanted to know if I was already supposed to know about this guy or not, information that wasn’t presented to me as a reader until pretty far into the tale.

While that confusion was at play, I also keep looking at this guy claiming to be Batman and feeling like he wasn’t jibing with the idea of the character I’ve had in my mind after over 20 years of comic reading. He spends most of the book telling his son — and current Robin — Damian not to follow him out on patrol because it’s too dangerous. He expects Damian to just listen to him and do what he says which anyone could tell you would not happen. For one of the smartest guys in the DCU, this recurring element — which he was doing to protect his son — just felt stupid and feeling smarter than Batman is not a reaction I like having while reading one of his comics in particular.

Artistically speaking I’m a pretty big fan of Patrick Gleason. He’s definitely got his own style and it works well on a book like Batman & Robin. The fact that I thought it also worked well in the Green Lantern Universe shows how diverse he can be. My one complaint in this department would be that some of the more zoomed-out panels seemed to lose definition. I’m not sure if that’s on his end or the coloring/inking department, but it was something I noticed, as if getting further away in some panels made everything lose focus.

batwing volume 1 the lost kingdom Batwing Volume 1: The Lost Kingdom (DC)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Ben Oliver with ChrisCross
Collects Batwing #1-6

Meanwhile, I had a great time reading Batwing, though it’s definitely an intense comic. If you’re already familiar with some of Winick’s DC work, it should come as no surprise that this book about, essentially, Africa’s Batman is packed with equal parts superhero craziness and social and political elements. In this case, the star of the book, David Zavimbe, is not an orphan who fights for justice, but a former child soldier trying to make up for some of the atrocities he committed in his younger days. As much as I love the classic Batman origin, I’ve got to say, Batwing’s actually rings a little truer to me than Bruce’s.

The story in this first volume revolves around the murder of several former African superheroes who collectively referred to themselves as The Kingdom. Though he’s fairly new to the superhero game, David does his best to figure out why these people are getting offed, which puts him into direct conflict with a real bruiser named Massacre. What I liked about the pacing of this story is that you continue to learn more and more about what’s going on, but there’s always more questions in the works. As we learn about David’s past, you can’t help but wonder why he decided to start wearing a costume or how long he can really do this with such rage and anger inside of him. Plus, there’s the more obvious mystery of who’s killing The Kingdom and more importantly why? These are the kinds of things that keep you coming back for a serialized story like this. I was satisfied enough with the given answers that I want to come back and give the second volume a shot to see how things pay off.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the art in this book, but found that it really fit with the story being told. I’m really bad at explaining these things, but Oliver has a style that almost makes his figures look like they’re three-dimensional objects superimposed on painted backgrounds. Does that make sense? Sometimes that kind of style — where the two elements look so disparate — takes me right out of the story, but in this case it brought a more grounded realism that really fit the tone of the book.

batman volume 1 court of owls Batman Volume 1: The Court Of Owls (DC)
Written by Scott Snyder, drawn by Greg Capullo
Collects Batman #1-7

Finally we have the one comic that most people tend to agree on as being one of the best monthly comics from DC these days: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman. After hearing a lot of the hype, already being a fan of Snyder’s non-superhero work and listening to him talk about the character on Kevin Smith’s Fat Man On Batman Podcast, I decided to finally jump in and see what all the fuss was about. And man, I agree with every good thing everyone’s saying about this book. It’s just fantastic.

The basic approach to this story is actually somewhat similar to what Grant Morrison did with Batman: R.I.P. and the Black Glove in that Bats discovers a long-standing group of bad guys who come out of nowhere only to come after the Dark Knight. Putting the comparison aside, though, this one is really a lot of fun and offerse a ton of Batman goodness to sink your teeth into.

I don’t want to get too deep into the details because I really don’t want to spoil anything (even though I’m probably the last person on earth to read this book), but one of the aspects I liked about this comic is that it’s really Batman’s story. Sure he interacts with Robin, Nightwing and Jim Gordon, but this is about him trying to figure out Gotham’s connection to the Court of Owls and how his own family ties into all that. Like I said above, I like continuity and Snyder’s doing a heckuva job building an all new one that more fully connects Batman and Bruce Wayne to Gotham City in ways that are both inventive and fun (from a reader’s perspective, I’m sure Bats doesn’t think all this is fun).

Speaking of fun, the visuals in this book are a delight to look at. I don’t have much experience with Greg Capullo’s Spawn work, but he certainly has the chops to nail Gotham in all its weirdness. The skyline looks interesting, but so do new additions like Talon and the Court of Owls masks. I liked staring at these pages as much as I did reading them. His style’s kind of cartoony in places, but I think that does a lot to break some of the tension and darkness of a story that’s not exactly smilesville.

At the end of the day I’m left feeling lukewarm, pretty interested and overly psyched about these books in that order. Batman & Robin didn’t do a lot for me and is already set up for a Sequential Swap. Meanwhile, I like the Batwing book mostly because of the creator and think it would have worked equally well as a creator owned Image book or something along those lines. Lastly, Snyder’s Batman does an amazing job of taking an existing character that I know and love and doing something that really adds to the mythos while also setting all of that in a new universe I’m growing to understand. I not only can’t wait to get the second volume, but also want to get his other Batman stuff like The Black Mirror and Gates Of Gotham which he co-wrote or plotted or somesuch. This guy is legit, you guys. Super legit.

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.

We Want Action: Batman Under The Red Hood (2010)

At this point, I’m solidly in love with Warner Bros.’ animated DC movies. Check out my post about Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which I just reviewed recently. When I first heard that the Red Hood story which brought formerly dead Robin Jason Todd back from the dead after being pummeled to death by the Joker. His return was explained by the fact that Superboy Prime was punching walls leading up to Infinite Crisis which sent shock waves throughout reality that changed it in various ways. I actually dug the story which was written by Judd Winick, a favorite of mine, though it was one of the worst kept secrets in comics when the issues were coming out. Who was under the red hood? Who else? Of course it would be Jason Todd. To call the story controversial would be an understatement, but even worse has been Todd’s treatment since he returned. Bruce Jones wrote some of the worst comics of all time with the One Year Later Nightwing issues which starred Todd taking on Dick Grayson’s identity to fight crime. He then got sucked into the pointless nonsense that was Countdown which eventually turned him into Red Robin, which referred to Dick Grayson’s Kingdom Come identity. Now his early days are being retold thanks to Winick in a mini that I’ve enjoyed from the few issues I’ve read. It would actually seem that Winick incorporated elements from that mini in this movie, which he also wrote the scripts for.

I watched the movie with the missus and we can’t remember if she read the issues or not, but she remembered at least parts of the story from flashbacks and whatnot. My main worry was that this story might be a little too inside comic ball to work for the uninitiated, but she enjoyed the movie as much as I did. The inclusion of our shared favorite actor Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Nightwing helped a lot and was an interesting take on the character: that of brash hero that reminded me of how much I actually miss seeing Nightwing in the DCU. Dick as Batman makes a lot of sense, but I always liked the lighter version of Batman that he created for himself as Nightwing.

Anyway, the story follows along pretty closely to that of the comic with just a few changes to streamline things and take out all the Infinite Crisis references. There isn’t a box full of colored Kryptonite and Nightwing doesn’t come into the fight hurt, though he does leave it that way. And, most importantly, Jason wasn’t resurrected by other-dimensional wall-punching but thanks to Ra’s al Ghul who hired the Joker to distract Batman but never expected or wanted Robin to be murdered. In an attempt to make it up to Batman, Ra’s switched Jason’s body with a double and put the actual corpse into the Lazarus Pit which turned the boy quite mad. Soon enough he showed up in Gotham making a play for Black Mask’s territory and having all kinds of run ins with various hoods.

Action-wise, there’s equal amounts of good and bad. When it comes to the bad, the moments aren’t super important, but did rub me the wrong way a little. There’s a scene where Batman’s chasing the Red Hood. Bats is driving the Batwing while Todd’s in a car speeding along. The scene is well choreographed, but my problem lies in the fact that they used CGI vehicles instead of traditional animation like the rest of the movie. That always bugs me. The other sticky situation was when Batman and Nightwing were chasing Red Hood on foot over various rooftops. Anything through the air looks awesome (I actually really like how acrobatic Nightwing comes off), but when the characters are actually running they look kind of ridiculous. I think it’s their arm movements, but those scenes took me right out of the moment.

Aside from those quibbles, though, the movie’s damn good. The fight where Batman and Nightwing square off against the Amazo robot was tons of fun. The animation choreographers did a great job of showing how in-sync these two fighters are. There’s also a scene where Batman and Red Hood fight a quartet of armored foes with various abilities that was a lot of explosive fun. But the real fulcrum of the story rests on the relationship between Jason and Bruce. Jason blames Bruce not so much for his death, but for letting the Joker run around after he killed Jason. Jensen Ackles, an actor I’ve only seen in My Bloody Valentine 3D, does a surprisingly good job with the speech that actually hit me in the gut a little. I was kind of surprised they didn’t shy away from this and now have even more respect for these movies. They’ve got home runs in both original interpretations of characters like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and straight-up adaptation of stories like the various Superman/Batman arcs and now Red Hood. I’m extremely looking forward to whatever comes out next.

Trade Post: Question Epitaph For A Hero, Trials Of Shazam & Buffy Omnibus Vol. 4

THE QUESTION VOL. 3: EPITAPH FOR A HERO (DC)
Written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Denys Cowan
Collects Question #13-18
The Question’s one of those characters I never had much of an opinion about good, bad or indifferent. In the early 90s when I was coming up in comics, he wasn’t really around, which is surprising. You’d think he would have made some appearances in Batman or something, but I don’t really remember seeing him until years later. My first real exposure to him was in 52, which was fantastic and, of course, lead to his death. He was also really great in the JLU cartoon. The two of those were enough to get me interested in reading his series from the 80s. Luckily, DC started reprinting them a couple years back and now we’re up to six volumes at last count. I’ve read the first three and liked them all.

There’s an interesting subsection of DC comics from the 80s that were basically set in the real world or at least ignored the super hero aspects of the greater DCU. Mike Grell’s Green Arrow book was a lot like that and so was The Question. This volume includes the first meeting between those two versions of the characters. The stories are mostly one-offs with a political bent following the Question as he rights wrongs. What I like about the book is that it continually throws curve balls. The racist cop throws himself in front of a bullet. Green Arrow and Question don’t become buddy buddy right away. They’re not huge twists, but enough to keep the story flowing and interesting. Cowan’s art might be considered sloppy, but I think it’s got a strange energy that actually lends itself to the types of stories O’Neil tells. Personally, I’d rather see him using the style he did on Hardware, but, like I said, it works. I recommend giving the first installment of this series a look if you’re interested in more grounded mystery adventure comics with something to say without drowning you in it.

THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM VOL. 1 & 2 (DC)
Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Howard Porter and Mauro Cascioli
Collects Brave New World 1, The Trials Of Shazam #1-6 and 7-12
Captain Marvel’s another character I’ve known about, but never really felt one way or the other. He was used incredibly well in Kingdom Come, I liked him in JLI and JSA, plus a few appearances here and there. The character has gone through a lot of changes over the past few years. Infinite Crisis rewrote the laws of magic in the DCU, the Wizard died, Mary Marvel went absolutely crazy and Billy had to take over as the Wizard. That meant that someone had to take over and the mantle fell to former Captain Marvel Jr. (or CM3 as he was called for a while) Freddy Freeman, which is where this maxi-series picks up. See, Freddy has to meet up with a series of gods–the ones who make up the name SHAZAM–go through trials and get those abilities.

Winick puts on a good story with Freeman starting off nervous about the whole thing and turning into a dog gone hero by the end. The problem is that the story’s a little long. It could have been cut down to 7 or 8 issues and been a lot tighter. Another negative thing about the book isn’t really its fault but DC’s and that’s that the character of Captain Marvel hasn’t really been used since the end of this book. I know he’s shown up a few times, but his supposed inclusion in Cry For Justice turned out to be a ruse. So, you finish reading this pretty great story, which is basically an origin story. And what’s the first thing you want to do after reading a character get set up like this? Read more of his adventures. Too bad there’s no where to turn. I’d like to see Freddy as Captain Marvel leading some kind of magic oriented team like the Shadowpact or some other concoction.

Art-wise, it’s an interesting affair. Howard Porter, whose style I loved in JLA, changed things up and it looks…I don’t really know how to describe it. Less crisp? JLA had the sharpness to it that I really liked, but this is a little sketchier. It’s not bad by any means, just not what you might be expecting from a Porter comic. He was replaced by Mauro Cascioli whose art I like, but goes from looking really awesome to really wooden sometimes from panel to panel. Overall, I liked the story and the art, but I won’t be keeping these books on my shelf.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER OMNIBUS VOL. 4 (Dark Horse)
Written and drawn by a bunch of folks
Collects Buffy #9-11, 13-15, 17-20, 50, Annual 99, Angel #1-3, Wizard 1/2, Lover’s Walk & Dark Horse Presents #141
Buffy fans who weren’t reading the Dark Horse comics back in the day while the show was on have no idea how good they’ve got it. Now, the comics flow directly from the show with Joss Whedon heading things up (at least that’s what they say) and, for the most part, are damn good. Back in the day, though, the comics weren’t so good. They weren’t bad, but they were saddled with keeping their stories set in earlier seasons so as not to interfere with or contradict the show. I bought those comics for two years and actually quit reading because of the main story in this Omnibus. It took a long time to tell, I couldn’t remember all the details and I was sick of reading about Buffy in high school when she was going off to college and having completely different adventures. I actually sold those books on eBay in past year or so.

The thing about these Omnibi is that they collect the stories in chronological order by season. It’s actually really interesting editor Scott Allie’s forwards in these books as he explains the thinking behind that and how the stories inside came to be. All that being said, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed reading this volume and got through all 368 pages in one night. The main story is called Bad Blood and features am image-obsessed vamp from an earlier comic appearance coming back and forcing a doctor to use science and magic to create a new kind of blood that made super-vampires. Reading it all together was a much more satisfying experience, but I also found a nostalgia going back and reading adventures set in Buffy’s high school, as those have turned out to be my favorite seasons.

The rest of the book has short stories here and there. I probably shouldn’t have tried to read the whole thing in one setting because the stories have a definite rhythm that gets really repetitive when you read them in a row. If you’re a Buffy fan, these are good books to pick up, but I would imagine you already have. If you’re not a Buffy fan, well, I don’t think this book will make you one.

Trade Post: This Week’s Pile 7-17-09

I read a lot of trades in a week. In addition to the bursting-at-the-seems shelf of things I’ve read at least once, I also have two long boxes full of books I need to work my way through, plus things I borrow from other people and work. It’s a lot to get through, but with my train ride and nightly reading, I’m at least putting a dent in those boxes.

So far this week I’ve finished two books I started reading a while ago, read three complete books, started and quit one and and halfway through two others. That’s a total of 8 trades this week on top of Gulliver’s Travels which I’m slowly getting through. Anyway, here’s a few brief (I promise) thoughts on these books).


NORTH WORLD VOL. 2 (Oni) by Lars Brown
I haven’t read the first volume of this book, but I enjoyed this one enough to go back and read te original. The idea is that the main character used to be a fighter in the vein of World of Warcraft or something and has since settled down to do taxes with his dad. I’ve heard the first volume gets a bit mired in the MMORPG in-jokes, but Volume 2 doesn’t have those pitfalls. There are definitely aspects of the story I wasn’t very clear on, but I’ll chalk that up to me coming in part-way through the story and not as a fault of the author for now. Aside from entertaining me on the train ride home, I also used Brown’s book as a reference for how to draw cartoony figures and had some success. Figuring out how he drew his main character lead directly to the creation of the nameless party guy I drew yesterday.

THE BIG BOOK OF BARRY WEEN, BOY GENIUS (Oni) by Judd Winick
I hate to double link to the same post, but I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been reading this brand new collection of all things Barry Ween from Oni for the past few days. I’m about halfway through and I’m loving the foul mouthed adventures of the smartest kid (person, really) on earth, his friend Jeremy and his love interest Sarah. If you liked Dexter and have no problem with a deluge of profanity and pop culture references (some of which have gone completely over my head), then you should definitely check this book out. I haven’t enjoyed a reading experience this much in a long time.

LIGHT BRIGADE (DC) written by Pete Tomasi, drawn by Peter Snejbjerg
AS anyone who read my review of the Nightwing Freefall trade knows, I really enjoy Pete Tomasi’s writing. So, when I was offered someone’s copy of his first(?) comics work Light Brigade I jumped at the chance. I’m also a big fan of Peter Snejbjerg because he was involved with the second half of James Robinson’s excellent Starman run (and the artist behind two pieces of original art I have from that last issue). The story focuses on a group of soldiers during World War II who get mixed up in the war between the renegade angels and God. I’ve seen a lot of stories like this (try and find a Hellboy comic that doesn’t mention deities and Nazis), but I liked the yarn Tomasi wove here, especially the character who’s a fan of DC comics of the time, going so far as to give their group a team name and make them shirts with a logo. Definitely worth checking out if anything above sounds even remotely interesting. Also, this is the best I’ve ever seen Snejbjerg. The colors really seem to leap off the page. Good stuff.

HELLBLAZER: THE FEAR MACHINE (Vertigo) Written by Jamie Delano, drawn by Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala
I first got interested in Hellblazer back when Brian Azzarello started writing the title. At that point I was heavily into 100 Bullets and would read pretty much anything with his name on it. Those were good comics, but I had trouble getting a grasp on exactly what John Constantine could do. I knew he had some kind of magical powers, but beyond that? No clue. I’m still not really sure about the dude’s powers even after reading this arc which comes from his earliest adventures (Hellblazer #14-22), but I still really like this enigmatic character. The funny thing about jumping into any Constantine story is that you have no idea if the old friends/acquaintances/enemies/lovers he runs into have been established in previous comics or just made up by the author. This story surprised me because of how far away from the John Constantine rubric it runs. You’ve got John joining up with some hippies, liking it, trying to find a missing girl and sporting (get this) a BLACK trench coat and even sunglasses, instead of a tan one. Remember how angry people were when Keanu wore the black coat in the movie?

Apparently it has precedence.

The story is very deep and involved and it took me quite a while to get through it because of waning interest and the absolute literariness of the whole thing, but by the end I had a great time and really enjoyed this seemingly atypical Hellblazer adventure. I’ve got one more Delano trade I’m interested to burn through now (PUNS!). I also want to get my hands on the Ennis/Dillon books.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Marvel) By Jim Valentino
If you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying the hell out of Guardians of the Galaxy which spun out of Annihilation Conquest’s Star-Lord miniseries. That got me curious about the previous incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, so when it popped up on someone’s Sequential Swap list, I swapped for it. And man, there’s no more 90s story than this one, which collects the first 6 issues of the series. The idea is that this is set in an alternate future where War of the Worlds happened on the 616 and wipes out all the heroes. This is way in the future and the Guardians end up fighting a group called The Stark who, through means I care not to spoil, evolved with full-on Tony Stark technology. I liked the “what happened to THIS character” feel of the story and would definitely read an Essential volume or two to see where the full story went, but, like I said, it’s very 90s. In addition to briefly explaining every team member’s origin, powers and home planet with almost the exact same wording every issue and coming in that same weird size as the Armor Wars trade I read, there’s also Taserface:


Nuff said.

CLASSIC G.I. JOE VOL. 1 (IDW/Marvel) Written by Lara Hama (mostly), drawn by Herb Trimpe (mostly)
I really, really wanted to love this book, but just couldn’t. The book collects the first 10 issues of the series originally done by Marvel, but IDW put out the particular volume I read. These aren’t bad stories, they’re just not all that interesting, which goes for both Hama’s stories and Trimpe’s art. Maybe it’s that I’ve seen so many spy/military-based stories that almost anything feels been-there-done-that. I had high expectations because I know a lot of people who sing the praises of this comic, including Kiel, so hopefully they’ll jump on to let me know what it gets really good.

BAT LASH: GUNS & ROSES (DC) Written by Sergio Argones, drawn by Peter Brandvold
I got interested in this book after reading the latest issue of Jonah HEx which features a very well spoken Bat Lash. Unfortunately, this mini doesn’t really pick up on any of those themes and just came off kind of boring to me. How cool would it have been if Sergio drew this bad boy though? That being said, I still really liked Bradvold’s art, though I’m not familiar with him at all. This is the book I didn’t get all the way through.

TOR: A PREHISTORIC ODYSSEY (DC) by Joe Kubert
This is the other book I haven’t finished yet. That’s because the entire story is told in text boxes instead of dialogue balloons. It fits the story just fine, it just takes me longer to read. Tor’s a prehistoric character who got kicked out of his tribe for being smart and awesome and is having crazy adventures in parts unknown. So far I really like this book, it’s a great showcase of the senior Kubert’s style, which is one of the most recognizable in comics (I bet he could draw a stick figure and you’d still know it’s him). He definitely hasn’t lost his touch.

Anyone else read any of these books? Thoughts? If not, what are you reading and digging right now?