Team Up Trade Post: Superman, Batman, Galactus & Darkseid

superman dark knight over metropolisSuperman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern & Jerry Ordway, drawn by Art Adams, Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod & Ordway
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Action Comics #653-654, Adventures of Superman #466-467 & Superman #44

While Hal Jordan might not have been my early bread and butter as a comic reader, Superman and Batman definitely were. I love both heroes, so seeing them team-up in this interesting period (1990) where they didn’t really trust each other and definitely weren’t friends was a trip, especially because I came around later and saw them team up in JLA.

The first comic in this series is a classic that brings both heroes together. It’s written by John Byrne with art by the crazy-awesome Art Adams, but I’ve read it a handful of times and the surprise is a bit gone so I skipped it (well, I flipped through it cause, daaaaaag, it’s pretty). The rest of the book builds off of the title three part story, but kicks off two issues before that to add context. Part of that context involves seeing the origin of Hank Hall, the man who would become Cyborg Superman, one of the most important characters of my childhood!

The actual “Dark Knight Over Metropolis” story had been built up to for a while in the Superman comics because a woman who worked for Lex Luthor stole his Kryponite ring and also figured out who Superman truly was (but Lex didn’t believe her and ruined her life). She gets murdered, the ring gets stolen and winds up in Gotham where Batman gets clued into it. The work the case in and out of costume and eventually, Superman entrusts Batman with the Kryptonite ring (another iconic moment that I always heard about when I started reading a few years later, but didn’t actually read until this point).

This book is steeped pretty heavily in the world of Superman books of this era, much of which is covered in the Man Of Steel trades (which I, of course, adore). I don’t know how easy it would be for a new reader to just jump right in and read these issues, BUT I’m guessing that the dynamic between Batman and Superman in this comic is a lot closer to what’s going on in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice than the Super Friends we later came to know and love.

darkseid vs galactus the hunger Darkseid Vs. Galactus: The Hunger (DC & Marvel)
Written & drawn by John Byrne

Of the three books in this post, Darkseid vs Galactus: The Hunger is actually the one I read as a kid. The mid 90s were actually a really great time to see characters from Marvel and DC crossover, first with the DC Vs Marvel series and then the All Access books and one-offs like this one. At the time, I knew the basics of Galactus and the Fantastic Four and probably knew a bit about Darkseid, Apokolips and the New Gods, but zero clue that these were all Jack Kirby creations coming together.

Though over-written in the grand tradition of both Kirby and Byrne, this super-fun book finds the World Devourer trying to turn Apokolips into his latest snack thanks to Silver Surfer discovering the world of awfulness and sorrow.

There’s a twist at the end of this book that blew me away as a kid and stuck with me ever since. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I remembered about this book that I first read 21 years ago. Again, it’s both reflective of Kirby’s work as well as Byrne’s writing of the mid 90s, so I’m not sure how accessible it is, but if you have even the remotest interest in Kirby’s worlds and always wondered what would happen if they collided, track this book down!

Wonder Woman Trade Post: Guts & Iron

wonder woman vol 2 gutsWonder Woman Volume 2: Guts (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins
Collects Wonder Woman #7-12

While ordering the first batch of Greg Rucka Wonder Woman comics from the library, I realized I’d read the first volume of Brian Azzarello’s New 52 Wonder Woman series, but hadn’t gone on beyond that. So, I looked around, requested the second and third volumes and started reading. But before that, I went back and gave the first volume a re-read because my memory is deteriorating at an alarming rate.

The major information points from the first book involved Diana discovering that she’s not made of clay, but instead Zeus’ daughter, meeting a young woman named Zola who’s carrying another child of Zeus and some of the family drama and politics that come from being a member of the Greek god clan. But all of that was really set up for these two volumes. The great thing about all three of these books is that Azzarello finds fun and interesting ways of giving the heroes what they want and then almost instantly taking it away in a way that shuffles a lot of characters around.

In the case of Guts, Wonder Woman teams up with Lennox, Hermes, Eros and Hephaestus figure out a way to get Zola back from Hades who wants her as his bride. Basically, these are the good members of the gods who feel sorry for this poor girl who happened to fall for the wrong guy. Without giving too much away, Diana ensures Zola’s safety, gets herself out of Hell and essentially saves the day, but things don’t go well for Zola’s baby by the end when it turns out that one of the people in their camp is a traitor.

wonder woman vol 3 iron Wonder Woman Volume 3: Iron (DC)
Written by Brian Azzarello, drawn by Cliff Chiang with Tony Akins, Dan Green, Goran Sudzuka, Amilcar Pinna & Rick Burchett
Collects Wonder Woman #0, 13-18

As you might expect given what I said above, Wonder Woman’s new goal in the third book is getting Zola’s baby back to her. She’s still got most of her crew with her as well as Hera who adds a great deal of comic relief, but also a new comrade in the form of Orion of the New Gods. Along the way we also get to meet more of Diana and Lennox’s half brothers and sisters as they are all modern illegitimate children of Zeus. As with the previous volumes, there’s plenty of trickery going around on all sides, but at the end of the book we get something of a happy ending, but with another looming danger, which is exactly what comics should have.

One of the really interesting things Azzarello does in this book is doing something new and different with the Greek gods. These are characters who have been around forever and been interpreted in a myriad of ways, especially if you read Wonder Woman comics. I’ve seen them as the robe-wearing gods of myth, human-like business people and just about everything in between. Azzarello mixes some of that old mythology with his own new ideas and makes a family that’s often as interesting as the title character herself. Plus, there’s the addition of Diana’s fellow Zeus progeny and the connection to the New Gods that I assume gets fleshed out in later volumes.

As much as I liked these volumes there were a few odd sticking points for me, though I will admit right away that I might have just missed these points in Azzarello’s rapid fire dialog. I didn’t think the fact that Zeus had gone missing was very well conveyed. There was also the matter of Diana removing her gauntlets and being super powerful. Why didn’t she do this earlier when she was in danger? It was a cool move, but it kinda felt like something added in just to be a cool move. I also personally miss the majesty that used to come along with the character that’s basically gone in these pages, but were all over the place in Rucka’s run. Basically, these are two different takes on the character and each writer is doing or did their own thing which is great.

One thing that did surprise me is how completely separate this feels from the rest of the New 52 DCU. There’s next to no mention of any other heroes or villains, which is an interesting choice. Orion and Highfather of the New Gods show up, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t appearing anywhere else at the time. This is good and bad for various reasons. On one hand, this is a great story that should just do its thing. On the other, what’s the point of being part of a shared comic book universe if there’s no sharing? It’s a similar concern I have with Scott Snyder’s Batman, which is the other New 52 book I really love. As with Batman, I’m pretty much onboard for everything Azzarello wants to do with this character and I’ll keep checking in to see what’s going on in that particular book.

Trade Post: Swamp Thing, Fourth World, Scalped and Wonder Woman

2008-12-11
5:32:55 am

Doesn’t look like things will be letting up any time soon and seeing as I’ve been falling asleep pretty early these days, I haven’t been able to watch many movies. I will get around to the second part of that Thanksgiving weekend round-up though, because I want to get to my Squirm and Return to Sleepaway Camp (love that movie!). But, I’ve got some time now and I’ve been doing some trade reading so here we go.

SCALPED: DEAD MOTHERS (VOL. 3) (Vertigo/DC)

Written by Jason Aaron, Drawn by John Paul Leon, R.M. Guera & Davide Furno

Scalped is one of those books that I got to late in the game and have yet to actually catch up to the monthly issues, so I’m mostly grabbing the trades from the library as they come out. I dig the story for the most part, especially because it takes me to a world that I’m otherwise unfamiliar with in the form of an Native American reservation. Plus, there’s all kinds of action and intrigue and some great names (I especially like our main character’s Dashiell Bad Horse).

This particular trade focuses mainly on Dashiell working on a dead hooker case because he promised her son that he would while others investigate his own mother’s death. There’s obviously a lot of history between Dash and pretty much everyone else on the reservation and Aaron does a good job of giving just enough details as we read to keep us from getting completely lost but also not overwhelming the reader with needles detail. It’s a harder balance to achieve than you might think. I also like how the villain of the story, Lincoln Red Crow (the guy that Dash, an undercover agent is trying to pin a murder on) is more interested in finding his mother’s killer (they used to be lovers) than Dash himself. But even he’s got problems of his own as various outside forces are trying to push and pull him and the casino he runs.

Really, that’s what I like about the series as a whole: there’s a lot going on, but not too much. Aaron’s got a great sense of pacing and knows when to throw in some kick ass action scenes to balance all the other personal aspects of the book. I’m really curious to see where the series goes (they introduced a new character in the form of honest reservation cop Franklin Falls Down who seems like he’ll have a lot of potential). I’m also looking forward to seeing how Aaron writes a long form story like this one. I’m not sure if there’s an end point in mind that he’s working towards, but I’ve only read a handful of his other books, some I liked, some I didn’t, so I hope he ends this one with a bang.

SWAMP THING: LOVE AND DEATH (DC)

Written by Alan Moore, Drawn by Stephen Bissette, John Totleben & Shawn McManus

This is the second Swamp Thing trade collecting Alan Moore’s run on the book that helped launch his career and shoot comics to whole new levels. To me, it’s one of the last few epic comic runs that I haven’t read yet, so I’m glad to finally get to it (though I don’t have any more of the trades, so we’ll see how that goes), which is too bad because I really dug this book and am curious to see where it goes.

Most of the trade follows the developing relationship between Swamp Thing and Abigale including her short-lived death. There are all kinds of horror elements bouncing around these pages, including Swamp Thing’s visit to the afterlife which boasts guest spots by Etrigan, Phantom Stranger, Deadman and the Spectre. I really like how firmly Swamp Thing takes place in the DCU, proving that you can do Vertigo type stories in the same world that Superman flies around in (Sandman also did this on a few occasions).

I’ve also got to mention the semi sex scene between Swamp Thing and Abigale at the end of the last issue. It’s not as gross as it might sound as Abby eats a fruit that Swamp Thing grows from his chest and then they go on a super-trippy ride that we become voyeurs to.

But I didn’t like everything about this collection. There’s a story called “Pog” which featured some tiny cartoon-like aliens landing on Earth hoping to find a new home to call their own. The story itself is interesting, but the problem is the dialogue. These aliens talk different, making up words that seem and sound an awful lot like English, but took me way too long to read as my brain kept trying to read the words I’m used to. Props to Alan for coming up with this new language, but it drove me a little crazy. Oh well. I’m probably going to ditch these trades in favor of the hardcovers they’re putting out shortly (or is it out yet? I dunno).

DIANA PRINCE WONDER WOMAN VOL. 2 (DC)

Written & drawn by Mike Sekowsky

Man, I love these swinging Wonder Woman issues, each one is like a Roger Corman movie starring my favorite Star Spangled Amazon (missing her stars of course). For those of you who may not know, these Diana Prince tales follow Wonder Woman around after losing her powers and becoming a kung-fu boutique owner hanging out with blind martial arts master I Ching.

This volume not only collects Wonder Woman issues, but also a Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane issue in which the constantly swooning Lois gets jealous of Superman spending so much time with Wonder Woman who appears to have regained her powers. There’s even this hilarious scene where Wonder Woman takes Superman to a club and he starts dancing so intensely that he almost sets the floor on fire, after which he thinks to himself: “Did I goof! I can’t forget myself for an instant! That’s the trouble with being super! I can’t relax like ordinary people!” I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it’s your average cheesy silver age stuff (which is pretty different than the rest of the trade, because this particular story was written by Robert Kanigher).

There’s also an issue of Brave and the Bold with Wonder Woman and I Ching in another country (though I don’t think they ever say which one) in which a big car race is happening. It just so happens that Bruce Wayne is also there racing along with some bad dude (his name’s not really important). Well, the bad dude tries to kill Bruce because he’s such a good driver so Bruce calls Gotham and gets his buddy Batman to come race for him. There’s actual panels with Batman driving and his cape shooting out behind him flapping in the wind. I had literally just watched a Roger Corman movie with similar themes that I had just watched (Young Racers). Man, that movie was boring (hey, look, a movie review!), but this comic is great.

The rest of the trade involves the return of Dr. Cyber along with an adventure to Hong Kong and the addition of a new young lady who Diana saves from THEM (always written in big red block letters) and then gives a job in her boutique. I really love how the series bounces around from somewhat typical superhero stuff to all kinds of other genres without missing a beat. There’s also something fun about seeing Wonder Woman mingling with Superman and Batman even back in the late 60s/early 70s. These are great books for anyone even remotely interested in Wonder Woman or movies and TV from that time period, these are the books for you.

JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS (VOL. 4)

Written & drawn by Jack Kirby

I’ve had a very on again off again relationship with these New Gods Omnibi (Ominbuses?). Sometimes I’ll get really into them but then I’ll put the book down for weeks or even months at a time, which was the case with this, the last in series. The main reason is that, for reasons that are probably explained in the intro by Mark Evanier that I haven’t read yet, Jack’s books weren’t doing so well and were canned, which means this book collects the last issues of The Forever People (which I liked a lot more than I thought I would), New Gods (my personal favorite of the ongoings) and then a bunch of Mr. Miracle issues (it lasted longer than the others), the new stories Jack created for the reprints and finally the Hunger Dogs graphic novel. The problem is that it’s like watching a TV show that you know doesn’t have a real ending, one that got canceled before it’s time; all the pieces are good, but you’re not sure about the pay off.

I read the FP and NG issues completely but ended up skimming the Mr. Miracle stuff as it wasn’t really my favorite of the books. I did enjoy the final two stories though, because it felt like Jack was finally able to tell the story that he intended to tell years before. But, man, just think of how cool it would have been to see Jack get to do his thing for real. It’s too bad because it feels like that’s a huge missed opportunity, a story only preserved in the library of unwritten books. Oh well, I really like Hunger Dogs, especially the big huge collage spread that Jack did in the middle of it. Check it out and see how many Star Wars pictures you can find (I spotted the rear end of a Star Destroyer first).

Anyway, there’s a pretty interested ending to Hunger Dogs that I’m not really sure how it was resolved later on when the New Gods re-entered the DCU. I did have a basic history explained to me by Rickey. He said that, basically, Jack created the New Gods, but after he left they just kind of sat around and no one used them until the Super Powers cartoon came along and was looking for a villain. They dug up Darkseid and he’s been a dominating force of evil in the DCU ever since. For someone who’s been reading comics since the early 90s, it’s pretty crazy to think that there was a time when Darkseid and the rest of the New Gods weren’t a big deal.

And finally, if you’re like I was when I first started reading these books and think that these older stories don’t really offer up much to a modern, more sophisticated reader, give them a try. Sean Collins helped me realize what I liked about these stories even when I wasn’t quite sure if I actually liked them. The true art isn’t in the words (the dialogue boxes are pretty easily skipped for the most part in my opinion), but in the art and the emotions and gut punches that Kirby is able to convey with his trademark pencils. Plus, if you can’t find a certain amount of giddy joy in tracing the lines of a Kirby machine, I feel bad for you.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll get another post in this week, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you (seriously, that’d be crazy).