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

X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

astonishing x-men vol 9 exaltedI can’t seem to stop reading X-Men comics these days! I’m on quite a streak thanks to my library system having a huge selection. Not everything has been a hit, but I figured I’d run down my experience with these books outside of the usual Trade Post format.

My buddy Brett White is a huge X-fan, so he was the first person I went to when trying to figure out which of the many books to request. On the top of his list was Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. I looked into it and saw that Greg Pak did the arc before hers, so I requested that one first. Astonishing X-Men – Volume 9: Exalted collects #44-47 of that book plus part of a Warren Ellis/Adi Granov story called Ghost Boxes that plays into this story of alternate dimensions drawn by the excellent mike McKone. Continue reading X-Posed: Astonishing, X-Men & All-New

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.

Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

justice league of america injustice league Justice League Of America: The Injustice League (DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie with Alan Burnett, drawn by Mike McKone, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes & Allan Jefferson
Collects Justice League Of America Wedding Special #1, Justice League Of America #13-16

After reading through the two Brad Meltzer Justice League Of America books, it just made sense to keep going and re-absorb Dwayne McDuffie’s run on the book which makes up four trades. While my negative memories of Meltzer’s run were somewhat vague, I had very specific memories of why McDuffie’s bummed me out. First and foremost, it went with the “a group of villains getting together” story which had been done plenty of times before and after. Then you had the fact that it seemed like there were editorial mandates that just kept coming down which truncated some arcs and interrupted others. One arc ends with a “Huh?” because it had to lead into Salvation Run while another reintroduces the Tangent characters for seemingly no reason.

At the time these books were coming out, I remember thinking that all of this just seemed wrong. The Justice League should have been the book steering the good ship DCU instead of feeling like something that was being back seat driven by someone other than the book’s writer. So, when getting back into these stories I tried to forget everything I knew — which turned out to be a bit easier than expected — and actually read this book as if it was in charge. How’d the work out?  Continue reading Books Of Justice: The Injustice League & Sanctuary

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

Books Of Oa: “The Alpha Lanterns,” “Tyger” & Secret Origin

“THE ALPHA LANTERNS” (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Mike McKone
Green Lantern #26-28 in Green Lantern Rage Of The Red Lanterns
Anyone who bothers to read anything I write about comic book collections knows that my biggest pet peeves is collecting issues in a strange order (ie, skipping issues). That’s exactly what DC did with the Rage Of The Red Lanterns book which collects two stories that, while they are related, have a nearly 10-issue span between them. The first story is a three-parter called “The Alpha Lanterns” which is the first story in the regular GL book immediately following Sinestro Corps War. It also takes place chronologically before Green Lantern Corps Ring Quest because Alpha Lanterns make an appearance in that book. The idea is that, after introducing the first new law in the Book of Oa, which is that Green Lanterns can kill members of the Sinestro Corps, they’ve developed a new faction of the Corps called Alpha Lanterns which are essentially a combination of Manhunters and GLs (they don’t seem to have any emotion any longer). This story is told in a way that I don’t think suits it very well because we actually see Lanterns Green Man, Kraken, Chaselon, Varix and Boodikka as Alpha Lanterns in the first few pages of the first issue. That really kills some of the emotion of the story because, as it turns out we see that those guys get offered the chance to become Alpha Lanterns, John Stewart also did. Of course, we know he doesn’t accept, because we already saw that he didn’t.

Anyway, the other, meatier part of the story involves the Lost Lanterns–who we first saw make a triumphant return in Revenge Of The Green Lanterns and who saw members like Jack Chance and Ke-Haan perish in the war against Sinestro’s Corps–losing two more members of their unusual group, Boodikka to the Alpha Lanterns and Laira because she murdered Sinestro Corps member Amon Sur. He had gone to Ke-Haan’s home planet and murdered his family then waited for the Lost Lanterns to arrive with the corpse. He talked some shit and then surrendered, but Laira straight up killed him. She goes on trial and gets stripped of her mantle as GL, but is “saved” by a Red Lantern ring from Atrocitus who somehow freed himself from his prison on Ysmault and killed Qull who originally told Abin Sur the prophecy of the Blackest Night. We also get a glimpse of Scar, the Guardian attacked by the Anti-Monitor in Sinestro Corps War, tasking GL Ash with finding the Anti-Monitor’s corpse.

A lot goes on in these three issues, including Hal meeting up with Cowgirl again, but really it’s more of a Corps story than a Hal story. In fact, he’s kind of just there to narrate and act is the intro to the story. John Stewart actually gets the spotlight for a while too, which is good to see considering he’s had nearly no role in the Green Lantern universe since Rebirth. We even get a look at a Sinestro Corps ring trying to get on Scarecrow’s finger, which is pretty rad and a nice precursor to Blackest Night. Oh, by the way, I absolutely love seeing Mike McKone draw Green Lanterns and wish he had spent more than three issues on that book.

“TYGERS” (DC)
Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Kevin O’Neill
Originally printed in Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps Annual #2, collected in DC Universe: The Stories Of Alan Moore
Before getting any further into the Green Lantern epic that has been churning for years, I figured it would be a good time to re-read Alan Moore’s “Tygers” which was the first story to mentioned Blackest Night, Sodam Yat, Ranx the sentient city, the Children of the White Lobe, Ysmault and Qull. The story shows Hal Jordan’s GL predecessor Abin Sur attempting to save a downed spacecraft on the planet Ysmault which holds a much of demons. He winds up talking to Qull, a big freaky demon looking thing that looks like he came out of Sandman who winds up telling him the prophecy of the Blackest Night which you can read in the page to the right.

Of course, Geoff Johns has greatly added to the events of this story, but I think it’s important to actually read the original for yourself. I’ve got the DC Universe trade, but I believe it’s also reprinted in Tales Of The Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2 (though, really it should have been included in one of the actual trades considering how much has been built on its foundation).

It’s a cool little story that meant almost nothing the first time I read it aside from showing why Abin Sur was driving a space ship when he crashed on Earth instead of using his ring. Now it’s a big huge deal that everyone should check out at least once.

GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ivan Reis
Collects Green Lantern #29-35
The reason I made sure to read “Tygers” again aside from wanting to refresh my memory of the details was to see how Johns’ new take on the story differed from the original. I don’t mean that in the sense of the glasses pushing nerd who wants to call out discrepancies between comics printed over two decades apart from one another, but just out of curiosity to see what he added. And, considering Johns rewrote the history of Hal Jordan in Secret Origin to include Atrocitus (who did not actually appear in “Tygers” nor any previous tellings of the fall of Abin Sur) I’m glad I did. What really surprised me was how Johns seemed to rewrite himself, but more on that in a bit.

This story is told completely in Hal Jordan’s past. I remember when this story was first announced I was not interested whatsoever. I wasn’t interested in Hal or seeing yet another explanation of his past, I wanted to see more alien ass kicking or maybe the reveal of another Lantern or two. But, upon reading this book again, I actually enjoyed it for the most part. My biggest problem with the book is reading panels and scenes that I’ve already read before! I appreciate Johns wanting to keep his stories tight and go back and refer to moments he hinted at in previous stories, but do I really need to read pages worth of material over again? No. I can give it a bit of a pass because, when reading these books on a monthly basis, there’s a much larger time gap between mentions than when reading them in rapid succession in trade form.

So, we get to see Hal feeling bad about his dad dying and Hal feeling bad because his mom was dying and refused to see him because he was in the Air Force (why didn’t he just lie to her instead of going through all the steps he did?). Then Abin Sur crashes while transporting Atrocitus to Earth in an attempt to find the source of “the black” that will presumably spawn the Blackest Night prophecy. Atrocitus gets free to roam the Earth a bit. We see Hal training on Oa and also Ganthet contacting Sinestro to ask him to go hang out with Hal even though it breaks one of the edicts about GLs staying in their own sectors. We get a better look at his early animosity towards the Ferris family and a better understanding of his lack of fear, but the big story finds Hal and Sinestro fighting Atrocitus on Earth right after the big red guy finds the kid who will become Black Hand and accidentally provides him with that ray gun thing he used as a weapon for a while.

I’m still not sure whether spending seven issues on an origin story was the best use of space for the ongoing Green Lantern comic book, but reading it now is an enjoyable experience. I’m not sure yet how well this fits in with Hal’s past because I’ve never read any of that stuff, though I’ve got a book coming to me that will hopefully remedy that. It is fun to see Hal’s questioning nature go up against the Guardians and the early days of Ganthet separating himself from the rest of his blue brethren. Overall, I dig the story and think it was necessary, though I wish it wasn’t so repetitive of previously seen moments.

Trade Post: JSA Strange Adventuers, Wildstorm After The Fall & Hardware The Man In The Machine

JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES (DC)
Written by Kevin J. Anderson, drawn by Barry Kitson
Collects JSA Strange Adventures #1-6
I’ve been a big fan of the JSA concept for years. I love the idea of legacy characters still kicking around in modern times offering a sense of connection to the past that can only be done in fiction when dealing with magical beings who have various elements keeping them alive for decades after they should be dead (especially when you consider how often they put themselves in danger). While I’ve read every regular issue of JSA since Geoff Johns launched the book back in 1999, but I skipped or missed a lot of the JSA minis that have come out since then. I was pretty excited about Strange Adventures because it presents a JSA story from back when they were first a team as opposed to them being the old soldiers they are today. I was looking forward to seeing the tale told from a different perspective and, while the book does offer another perspective through the eyes of Johnny Thunder, I didn’t really like this book.

My main problem is that the book didn’t feel very original. The overarching plot involves a super powered genius coming to the world and telling them he’ll fix all these problems if Green Lantern and Starman give up their power sources. When the heroes don’t, the guy turns bad and starts wreaking havoc, but only after regular people get upset with GL and Starman. There’s nothing very original there, that’s the plot of several pieces of science fiction from Twilight Zone episodes to movies. It’s boring and it was so obvious, I thought that Anderson might be messing with the constraints of that kind of story, but that didn’t happen. The only part of the story that I found really interesting was Johnny Thunder’s interactions with a pulp writer and his desire to become a writer himself. I can obviously relate to that and I love fiction that involves writing and creating in one way or another, but even that part of the story didn’t feel entirely original as Johnny Thunder has been portrayed as the newbie who wishes he could really do something before. All in all, Strange Adventures wasn’t a bad comic to read, it just wasn’t a particularly original one. Kitson’s art sure was pretty though.

WILDSTORM: AFTER THE FALL (WildStorm)
Written by Christos Gage and Russell Uttley, drawn by Trevor Hairsine, Brandon Badeaux, Ivan Reis, Mike McKone, Pete Woods, Phil Noto, Ben Oliver, Chris Sprouse, Wes Craig, Shawn Moll and John Paul Leon
Collects several WildStorm back-up stories
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the WildStorm universe. I think it was pretty ballsy when they decided to basically destroy their Earth with the Number of the Beast miniseries and continue on with a post apocalyptic setting that has lead to a huge battle with some alien badasses, the combination of nearly ever super powered being still kicking around into one big team and then, more recently, splitting that group up into a space-faring one and one still left on Earth (Authority and WildCats respectively). Right after the big WorldStorm event that relaunched several books to varying degrees of success. In addition to kicking off new books, WildStorm also included back-up stories involving the company’s rich history of characters. All of those short stories have been collected in this After The Fall trade.

I’ve kept up on WildStorm comics for a while now, but when this happened, I wasn’t reading the back-up stories because I didn’t think I could keep up with all of them, so I’m glad they collected them all in one place. The overarching story here involves John Lynch getting the members of Team 7 back together to kill Sleeper and WildCat villain TAO. The whole thing’s very inside baseball and probably not very accessible to new readers, but I had a great time reading about characters like Deathblow, Christie Blaze and Cybernary. My only problem withe the book is that the whole thing builds up to something that doesn’t happen in this book. The TAO fight takes place eventually in, I believe, WildCats, but that means After The Fall kind of feels like the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie in that, it’s fun in and of itself, but it’s basically a stepping stone for something else. The amazing stable of artists certainly helps the book and it’s awesome to see guys like Noto and Leon work on these characters I love.

HARDWARE: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE (Milestone/DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Denys Cowan and JJ Birch
Collects Hardware #1-8
Back in 1993 I was 10 and Milestone launched, a comic company that seemed focused on bringing more comics starring non-white heroes to the racks. I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of extra books, but I was really intrigued by books like Hardware, Static and Icon and, by the time the inevitable World’s Collide crossover between the Milestone Universe and the DCU came the next year, I bought as many of the issues as I could. There was always something about the look of the books that I found very intriguing. At the time I didn’t really follow artists or even really realize they used different styles, but the kind of muted presentation of the books, especially hardware which looked painted to me, drew my interest. Jump ahead 17 years later and here I sit with a collection of the first 8 issues of Hardware. The collection really captures the art the way I remember it and the stories kept me entertained throughout the whole thing.

For those of you who might not know, the idea behind Hardware is that this super smart kid named Curtis got a benefactor in the form of a rich dude who put him through college, gave him unlimited resources in his lab, but considered the kid, now an adult, to be little more than property with a clause in his contract saying that if he quit, he couldn’t work for anyone else. After doing some digging Curtis discovers that his benefactor is actually a pretty bad dude, so he builds a high tech suit with plenty of add-on weapons (kind of like Centurions) that he uses to quash the bad guy’s criminal enterprises. It’s a fairly basic superhero concept, but I was surprised to find that Hardware actually kills some of the bad guy’s peons, something that he actually comes to question towards the end of the trade.

Overall, I really liked this book. Cowan’s art is fantastic especially when he gets to draw some of the crazier weapons and whatnot. McDuffie’s writing was pretty fun, but there were definitely some moments where I was completely confused, like in #3 when the book opens with Hardware killing the bad guy, then appearing in his girl’s place. I had no idea what that was about. For the most part, I liked the whole presentation and how they started to slowly build a big superhero universe. I hope DC continues to put out these Milestone books (I’ve got the Static one in my to-read party), especially the World’s Collide story. There’s a lot of goodness here.

Halloween Scene: Frankencastle (2009)


I don’t currently read Punisher and don’t have much experience with Rick Remender comics, but I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Frankcastle storyline. Just look at these covers by Mike McKone (Tony Moore’s doing interiors). The interview Remender did over at Marvel.com
doesn’t really get into the plot of the book, but it looks fun. Punisher’s one of those difficult characters to do in a shared superhero universe because, you know, he’s all about killing people and in “reality” he’d kill as many supervillains as possible and probably get put down by one of the superheros also running around NYC. So, why not turn him into Frankenstein and put him with the Legion of Monsters? We’ll see how it does.