DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

I found myself with another pile of trades from the library recently and figured I’d write about all four of them. Two of the experiences were great, the others? Not so much. Let’s start with the good!

sensation comics vol 1I’m a big proponent of anthologies in comics. At their best, they’re a great way to both test new talent and also give those with a lot more experience the chance to write or draw a character they don’t otherwise get to spend much time with. Sensation Comics Volume 1 does both and to great effect. This is one of DC’s digital-first books that allows creators to just go wild telling whatever kind of Wonder Woman story they want to from any of her many eras. It was nice to see the pre-New 52 costume so many times for this fan of that bygone era! Continue reading DC Trade Post: Sensation Comics Volume 1, Mad Love & A Few Others

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern – Emerald Dawn II

green lantern emerald dawn 2 Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & Gerard Jones, drawn by M.D. Bright
Collects Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn II #1-6

When I was a kid, DC went through a lot of changes when it came to their big time superheroes. Superman died, Batman got broken and Hal Jordan went nuts. So, I became very used to the idea of change when it comes to my superheroes. I also developed allegiances to the newer, younger, cooler characters like Kyle Rayner, especially when I heard about the old guard complaining so hard about that old guy Hal getting kicked to the curb.

Aside from a few random comics I acquired over the years, Emerald Dawn II, a 1991 miniseries became my first real introduction to Hal Jordan. This series is the sequel to 1989’s Emerald Dawn and takes place directly after that. See, the series that launched in 1990 was all about current, grey-templed Hal, so these series’ about the rookie space cop were a bit more appealing to me. I scored these particular comics while visiting Carol & John’s in Cleveland while visiting my grandma who was always a big supporter of my geekery. However, looking around in my library’s system for other GL comics reminded me of this story’s existence. A few clicks later and I had requested the trade.

So here’s the deal, not long after getting the GL ring and joining the Corps, Hal Jordan needed training so the Guardians sent one of their most accomplished officers, Sinestro, to do just that. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Hal just got sentenced to jail for drunk driving and is spending his days in prison. While hanging out with Sinestro, it soon becomes very apparent that the large-headed, pink-hued GL is actually a pretty big despot on his home planet of Korugar. This is the first time Sinestro’s expulsion from the Corps is expanded upon. There are also references to Invasion and appearances from Guy Gardner as a social worker, which is a wrinkle of his character I wasn’t familiar with.

I had a pretty good time reading this story from a time when DC was excited about explaining these Silver Age characters in ways that make more sense while expanding on their histories. This is just a few years after Crisis On Infinite Earths still. A lot of people, including my pal Ben Morse, feel that Hal is just too much of a hot shot jerk to like, but I thought he came off as much more human and likable in this series. Things might get a little After School Special at the very end, but overall, I dug this Year One-ish story. Not only did Emerald Dawn II make me want to get my hands on the original series, but also dig out my recently completed collection of Guy Gardner comics written by Gerard Jones as well as the Guy Gardner Reborn miniseries which I also haven’t read yet.

Books Of Justice: Justice League International Volume One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New 52 Trade Post: OMAC & Green Arrow

OMAC volume 1 OmactivateOMAC Volume 1: Omactivate (DC)
Written by Dan DiDio & Keith Giffen with Jeff Lemire, drawn by Giffen & Scott Kolins
Collects OMAC #1-8

Do you ever get a group of trades and pull the ones you’re least interested in to the top and read those first? I can’t say it’s something I’ve done a lot of. When I was a monthly comic reader, I’d move the books I was most excited about to the top and get to the rest later. But, I recently came into a stack of New 52 books and wanted to read a few of the more random ones first just to see how they were.

One of those books was OMAC. I wasn’t super excited about the creative team or the fact that yet another one of Jack Kirby’s creations was getting yet another make over. But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised by this series, which only lasted the 8 issues collected in this book. This new version actually stands for One-Machine Attack Construct unlike the One Man Army Corp of the original series (which I can’t believe I read three years ago at this point). Set in the new DCU, the human component this time is a scientist named Kevin who gets moved all over the chessboard by Brother Eye to do his bidding.

Basically, this whole series is a love letter to Kirby, or at least that’s how I’m looking at it. Giffen is clearly paying homage to The King’s style with his pages, all of which feature at least one of Jack’s trademarks: squared off fingers, Kirby crackle or the four panel pages he seemed to like. You could also say that some of DiDio’s story elements take their lead from Kirby’s. Not everything is explained super well and things just kind of happen, much like they did in Jack’s DC books.

I like the approach I mentioned above, but it does have its fair share of problems. There’s basically three levels you can enjoy this book on. Let’s called the homage one level. Then there’s the more basic level of a superhero smash ’em up bonanza which it definitely delivers. But, the third layer is a lot less satisfying. I mean, we’re never even told why Brother Eye chose Kevin. Worse than that, it’s never explained why Brother Eye (who annoyingly says “Eye” instead of “I”) even needs a human-hosted OMAC. Why doesn’t he just use a robot? I wish these questions had been answered in these eight issues but they weren’t. I can still enjoy the story that is told on the page, but it definitely could have been more satisfying.

KEEP/DUMP: I’m going to keep this one for now. Not sure if it’ll stay in the collection after a re-read later on down the line, though.

green arrow volume 1 midas touchGreen Arrow Volume 1: The Midas Touch (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul & Keith Giffen, drawn by Jurgens & George Perez with Ray McCarthy & Ignacio Calero
Collects Green Arrow #-6

I fell in love with the character of Green Arrow when Kevin Smith brought him back from the dead and was on board with the series up until a few years ago when Judd Winick left Green Arrow & Black Canary. I even started collecting the previous volume by way of lots on eBay and back issues found at conventions. As such, I’m always leery when I experience a new version of the character.

I haven’t written about it much on the site, but I actually really enjoy Arrow on The CW because they gave Oliver Queen a really solid, interesting and believable back story that I can sink my teeth into and enjoy. I can’t say that’s the case for this New 52 series, though. Sure you’ve got rich Oliver Queen dressing up in a superhero costume and running around fighting supervillains, but why?

This is something that I think some of the New 52 books completely failed on and others nailed really well: the question of why this book exists. I understand that DC and Warner Bros. wanted to continue with a book that had done fairly well before the relaunch and also wanted something that eventual fans of the series could read if they were so inclined, but in the book itself, what’s the point of it existing?

Much of the plot of the first arc in this book focuses on younger supervillains who get their jollies committing crimes and sending that out over the internet for people to watch. It’s the next level up from schoolyard or bum fight vidoes in a world with super powers. For some reason, this aspect of the story never grabbed me. It didn’t feel super new (Will Pfeifer did something sort of like this in the amazing HERO). I think I didn’t care about that part of the story because I didn’t care about Ollie. Sure you see him in his civilian identity blowing off the guy who runs the larger Queen family company, but that’s not enough. This is supposed to be a brand new universe where anything can happen, you can’t rely on old stories for that, you need to put enough on front street to suck me in or get me with one crazy hook and unfortunately Green Arrow had neither of those.

It did have one issue — #6 — drawn by Ignacio Calero who looked like a more stylized JLA-era Howard Porter. I’d like to see more from him in the future.

KEEP/DUMP: This one’s going up on Sequential Swap where it will hopefully get me another book.

DC Space Trade Post: Invasion & Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga

Invasion! (DC)
Written by Keith Giffen & Bill Mantlo, drawn by Giffen, Todd McFarlane & Bart Sears
Collects Invasion #1-3

I can’t tell you how long I’ve had the (as far as I know) most recent printing of Invasion sitting in my to-read box. I mean, I probably could. I got it from the comp boxes back when it came out and I was still working at Wizard, so that gives you some idea. Anyway, I tried reading it at one point a few years back, put it down for just a little too long and forgot what I’d read, so it went back in the box. That’s partially because this 256 page trade collects only three issues. Can you imagine DC or Marvel trying to pull that now? Only three months of an event? Ha! Putting out the story in three 88 page installments? You’re out of your mind! Having each book be a specific chapter that’s related to the previous, but mostly goes in a different direction? Get out of here kid, you’re bothering me.

I’ll admit, all those elements that make this 1988 event so different than the ones I’m used to (I wasn’t reading comics when all this went down, but I’ve read many of the tie-ins over the years), did throw me a bit. The first issue is completely from the villains’ perspective. We get a lot of the details about the invading Dominators and their allies. You’re not even on Earth until the very end and only see a few heroes at all. The second issue deals with the invasion and shows the heroes successfully deflecting it. Wait, what happens in the third issue then? Well, one Dominator drops a bomb on Earth that mitigates the metagene that gives many heroes and villains their powers, so an unaffected group (mostly those who got powers from supernatural, extraterrestrial or scientific means) go on a mission to find the cure. It’s a pretty big turn, but it winds up making sense and adding an interesting extra layer to the story.

Right before reading this book I read the four existing trades of the most recent R.E.B.E.L.S. series, which I really enjoyed (the only reason I’m not reviewing them is because the last arc isn’t collected and I want to write about the whole thing). I found it interesting how heavily writer Tony Bedard mined Invasion for source material. Just about every alien in that book was in Invasion, though I’m sure some or most of them go back further than that. It’s interesting how you can stumble upon two series’ separated by decades and find so many touchstones between them. The same goes for The Great Darkness Saga too, but I’ll get to that in a paragraph.

So, the real question is whether I would recommend you my reader picking up Invasion. That’s a tough one. Like I said, it was interesting reading an event done differently. There’s plenty of allusions to the tie-ins, but they don’t seem as necessary. One thing that this book did that something like Blackest Night did not is explaining the tie-ins in a panel or two when needed. There’s also some pretty rad McFarlane and Sears artwork in these pages. It’s fun to see someone like McFarlane so known for a particular group of characters drawing other ones. I also like seeing Sears’ art recolored as a fan of his Justice League work. On the other hand, it’s kind of a tricky story to dig into because so much is going on and so many characters pop in and out. I don’t think someone who isn’t a die hard pre-DC 52 fan would have as good or as easy of a time reading this collection. At the end of the day, I’d suggest checking it out on a site like Sequential Swap where you can make a trade for it instead of dropping down the $25 cover price. I always feel better about recommending a book when I know people can get it on the cheap.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (DC)
Written by Paul Levitz & Keith Giffen, drawn by Giffen, Pat Broderick, Howard Bender & Carmine Infantino
Collects Legion of Super-Heroes #284-296, Legion Annual #1

The Great Darkness Saga is one of those stories that you hear a lot about how great it is from older comic readers or at least I did at Wizard. I think I tried reading one of the earlier softcover trade versions at some point but really didn’t know what was going on. This deluxe edition collects a whole year’s worth of stories leading up to, including and following the Great Darkness Saga, a story that had a mysterious bad guy sending his shadowy henchmen across the galaxy to grab a few things so he can achieve his nefarious goal.

The funny thing about this story is that it’s one of the most spoiled ones in history. I mean, you spend 12 issues trying to figure out who the bad guy is — in theory — but he’s right there on the cover and has been on every other collected edition cover I’ve seen. It’s not like people even talk about it that much, that Darkseid is the bad guy, just that it’s right there front and center. The problem with that, of course, is that it kind of undercuts the whole point of the story which is who this guy is. I thought that was kind of lame. I mean, I expect as a longtime comic fan not to go into every store completely clean and innocent, but this is a little ridiculous, isn’t it?

The huge spoiler is but one thing working against this book. The other is how infamously difficult it is to collect Legion comics from the Levitz/Giffen era. Unlike today, the stories weren’t told in six issue arcs, instead each character got the spotlight at different times and things moved along more like a soap opera than today’s comics. I actually prefer this method of comic storytelling, but it definitely poses a problem when collecting said issues. The first issue in this collection doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Darkseid, but it does have to do with characters who will pop up to fight him and his people later on. One of the reasons I didn’t read the previous version I saw was because I had no idea what was going on or who the characters were. By including so many additional issues, this book gives you a much better idea of who the Legionnaires are and what they’re up to even if you’re not exactly coming in on the ground floor. Since first trying TGDS, I’ve read the Eye For An Eye and The More Things Change collections from this era as well as a few other Legion trades from different eras, so I was much more well-versed in the characters and what was going on.

Still, I think if you’re open and quick on the uptake, this book works really well for readers completely new to the Legion concept. I was going to suggest letting a friend borrow it, but removing the slip cover and telling them not to look at the covers in the back to give them a more pure reading experience, but then I looked at the book’s cover and it has a silver embossed Darkseid on it. Oi.

Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3

ANNIHILATION BOOK ONE (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Mitch Breitweiser, Scot Kolins, Ariel Olivetti & Kev Walker
Collects Drax The Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue & Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Back in my days at Wizard, I wound up being the go-to guy for Annihilation interviews. I had just read Infinity Gauntlet for the first time and was pretty high on the idea of Marvel’s space characters getting a jump start. With very few exceptions, I had very little experience with these characters, so it was kind of fun to just be thrown into the middle of all this craziness and see where it went. When these issues were coming out, I had trouble not comparing the Annihilation set-up with that of DC’s Infinite Crisis. Both had four four-issue minis leading up to a main series. At the time it felt like Marvel did the whole thing better because their minis lead into the main series better. I can’t say I necessarily feel the same way now, but at least we didn’t have to get four one-shots to actually cap those stories. But, as usual, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Continue reading Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3