Trade Post: Superman Vs. Shazam, Fables Volume 2 & Legion Lost

superman vs shazam Superman Vs. Shazam (DC)
Written by Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Paul Kupperberg, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane & Joey Cavalieri; drawn by Rich Buckler & Gil Kane
Collects All-New Collector’s Edition #C-58, DC Comics Presents #33, 34, 49 & DC Comics Presents Annual #3

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m always a little leery going into these Silver Age, pre-Crisis DC collections. These are the kinds of comics I mostly snickered at as a kid. I came up in the 90s when comics were dangerous and intense, what do I need with silly stories that were probably written for children a few decades ago? I’ve since learned that that’s a pretty poor way to approach art, but, let’s be honest, comics from this era can be very hit-or-miss, especially when you consider the fact that they’re leaning pretty heavily on the hero-fighting-hero gimmick.

So, with all that in mind, I went into Superman Vs. Shazam cautiously. I love Superman, but this isn’t my Supes, so this was more of a curious read. And, honestly, it didn’t do a lot for me. The first story is a whopping 72 pages featuring a villain using other villains (Black Adam and Sand Superman from the incredibly good Kryptonite No More) to pit Superman and Captain Marvel against each other in an effort to destroy both worlds (Earths 1 and S). All of that spreads out over dozens of pages and certainly drags at times. The most interesting part of this book for me is that, while the two guys are smashing the crap out of each other across two Earths, their female counterparts — Supergirl and Mary Marvel — figure out what’s really going on. The guys wind up officially saving the day and we end with double smooches, but I still thought that was a cool way to go.

The other issues have a lot of the same, following the villain-tricking-heroes-into-fighting formula that doesn’t do a lot for me anymore. If I was a kid or new to comics, though, and this was the first time I saw these things, it’d probably be pretty mind blowing. However, I don’t think this would be a great book to hand to someone blind. Since these stories are set in a pre-Crisis world, there’s a lot going on that might be confusing. All the Earth-1/Earth-S stuff gets fairly well explained, but then you’ve got the DCP #49 in which Billy Batson and Captain Marvel appear side by side. I think it’s because we’re seeing Earth-1 Billy Batson, maybe, but wasn’t sure and by that point I’d lost a lot of interest. This book would have greatly benefited with an introduction of some sort to give less-informed readers like myself a little context for the adventures. It’s another unfortunate example of comics not always being accessible to the non-fan market.

fables vol 2 animal farmFables Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Bill Willingham, drawn by Mark Buckingham
Collects Fables #6-10

As I said when I reviwed the first volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables, the book didn’t strike much of a chord with me for two reasons: one, I called the mystery reveal too early and lost a lot of intrest in the proceedings and, two, I couldn’t help but compare it to Once Upon A Time. Since one of those complaints is more my fault than anything, I decided to continue on and give the second volume a shot. The fact that I got the first three volumes in a Swap also came into play, of course.

This second volume finds Snow White taking her not-dead sister Rose Read up to The Farm, a place where non-human Fables (talking animals, giants, dragons, etc.) live away from the prying eyes of the world located in upstate New York. But, once the sisters get there it becomes pretty clear that something fishy’s going on. A faction has done away with the one human left in charge while also moving forward with plans to take their homeland back from The Adversary.

From there you get a story that finds Goldilocks playing revolutionary with the non-human Fables, Snow on the run from Shere Khan, Rose siding with ‘Locks, weapons that animals can fire and a few more fantastical character appearances. While I enjoyed this volume a lot more than the first, it still didn’t grab me. Once again, I figured the thing out with Rose pretty early on, so that was a lot less of a mystery. But, since that’s not the main thrust of the book, it doesn’t take as much away. Meanwhile, I thought it was an interesting bit of worldbuilding when we learn at the end of the arc that a Fable’s strength is directly related to how many people in the real world know about them. I’ve seen this done with gods in fiction before, but not storybook characters. It’s an interesting tie that I’m sure comes into play later on down the line. While I’m not fully sold on this book that a lot of people seem to love, I’m interested enough to hold onto these collections for now and see what’s up in the third.

legion lostLegion Lost (DC)
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Olivier Coipel & Pascal Alixe
Collects Legion Lost #1-12

Back in 2000 and 2001 when Legion Lost was coming out, I remember there being a lot of buzz surrounding the book. When I say that, I mean that Wizard was covering the book pretty heavily and seemed to really dig it. That idea never really left my head, so when the hardcover collection came out, I was pretty excited to finally give it a read. I even got my hands on the 100-Page Spectacular that sort-of leads into this story and enjoyed that experience quite a bit.

I started reading Lost right after that, which would have put my first attempt at a little over a year ago. What stopped me? Well, this is definitely a big collection, an entire year’s worth of stories. Plus, Abnett and Lanning, writers I very much enjoy, put a lot of content into each issue. While the “Legion of the Damned” story featured in the Spectacular was mostly dialog and action, this one actually gives each character the first-person thought-box treatment in every issue which results in a lot of expressed thoughts. I’m not saying that’s bad because these guys have an excellent grasp on who these characters are, what makes them tick and how that differs from their outward actions, but it can make for a slower reading experience than I was expecting.

This time, I knew that going in and was more prepared for the experience which finds a team of Legionnaires — Live Wire, Saturn Girl, Monstress, Ultra Boy, Kid Quantum, Chameleon, Brainiac 5, Monstress, Umbra and a few others — lost in space. Now, the two issues that ended Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires (the ones that take place between the 100 Pages Spectacular issues and this book) are not included so you have no idea what this rift thing they were fighting was (or if it was even shown on-page). But, they seem to be at an end of the cosmos that even Brainiac 5 can’t find on a map and are trying to find their way home.

Along the way they make a few friends but even more enemies only discover what’s really going on at the very end of the story when it turns out that one of their own has caused all this heartache. That’s an important part of the tale, of course, but what really struck me was how well Abnett and Lanning captured the growing feeling of helplessness as the story continues. Certain characters have decided to put on shows for what they assume is the benefit of their teammates which wind up backfiring. Meanwhile, others who started off positive eventually start losing their cool as the twelve issues progress. Mistakes are made and we see what those actions do to that person as well as their teammates.

We also get to learn a lot about these characters which is great. I’ve said it before, but the Legion and X-Men are the two most confusing franchises in comics as far as I’m concerned, but I didn’t feel that going into this book. Sure, I could have used some of those boxes reminding me of what each character’s powers are (like Geoff Johns and company did when they reintroduced the team in Action Comics), but other than that I was right on board and that’s mostly because DnA included a new character who offers folks like me a window into this wild world.

If you’re curious about Legion Lost, I’d say give it a shot, but go in knowing a few things. One, it’s a fairly wordy book. Those are good, well thought out words, but there’s still a lot of them. Two, you won’t need to know anything about the Legion going in, what you need to know is on the page eventually. Three, you get to see some awesome Olivier Coipel and Pascal Alixe art that captures the dark mood of the story.

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?