Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

Alright, so going through the top half of this pile was pretty fun on the previous post. I had a great time with Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. AND the first volume of Mockingbird so there’s no reason to expect I didn’t also enjoy the bottom half (mostly because I tend to follow the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say” adage). Want to hear about Shutter, Aquaman, Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City and the first volume of Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol? Then you know what to do! Continue reading Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

When it comes to DC Rebirth books, the Superman group, the Superman group stands apart. I’m not saying that as a longtime and devoted Man of Steel fan (though I am), but because the headline character is actually the version from the previous universe, as explained in Superman: Lois & Clark. Some time after that book, the New 52’s version of Superman seemingly died before DC launched their Rebirth initiative. In Superman Volume One: Son Of Superman and Superman: Action Comics Volume One: Path Of Doom, the previous incarnation of Superman leaves the black-and-silver suit behind, takes up the more familiar colors and makes his presence known to a world still reeling from his predecessor’s death. Continue reading Superman Rebirth Trade Post: Action Comics & Superman

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.

Books Of Oa: Blackest Night, Blackest Night Green Lantern & Blackest Night Green Lantern Corps

BLACKEST NIGHT (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ivan Reis
Collects Blackest Night #0-8, Blackest Night Director’s Cut #1
Here’s the thing about events. Even when it makes sense for the events of the event to have an effect on the greater universe (zombies infesting the universe, the government wants to register superheros) that doesn’t always mean it works out from a story perspective to tie into the greater universe. For instance, Blackest Night brought the dead back to life in nearly every DC comic book of the time, but that didn’t really mean anything. Even the ones who had a way to get rid of the Black Lanterns didn’t play into the greater story (for the most part) so what’s the point? There were also a ton of tie-in miniseries showing what Blackest Night did to people like Batman or Superman. Some of these stories seemed to be spawned from brief moments in the greater story (like what happens to poor Damage) but others wound up being pointless (Wonder Woman spent time in a stasis field imagining three issues worth of nonsense). The only reason I bring all this is up is to preface this review by saying that I didn’t bother with any of that stuff on this second reading of Blackest Night. I know the tie-ins really bogged the greater story down for a lot of people which is pretty much a rookie move as far as I’m concerned, but what are you gonna do? I was really looking forward to sitting down and reading this story in a pretty short period of time.

I kicked around the idea of reading each of these three books on their own, but I wound up following this list I found online: Green Lantern #43, Blackest Night #0, BN #1, GLC #39, GL #44, BN #2, GL #45, GLC #40, BN #3, GL #46, GLC #41, GL #47, BN #4, GLC #42, GL #48, BN #5, GLC #43, GL #49, BN #6, GLC #44, GL #50, GL #51, GLC #45, BN #7, GLC #46, GL #52, BN #8 and GLC #47. Bouncing around from book to book was kind of a pain in the ass, but I think it really helped with the story. As it turns out the Green Lantern issues tie in very heavily with Blackest Night while Green Lantern Corps deals with the rising of the dead in space (the main story takes place mostly on Earth). While I think the GLC stuff can be read closer together if you feel the need, I’d probably stick to this reading order next time around too.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke, Ed Benes and Marcos Marz
Collects Green Lantern #43-52
So, to run down the basics of the story, the Black Lantern rings spread across the universe attaching themselves to the fingers of dead people, many of whom have a special connection to Earth-bound superheroes and Green Lantern Corps members. As someone puts it at some point in the series (I didn’t take notes, but I remember the deets pretty well, it was either Flash or Atom) the ring wears the corpse instead of the other way around. It can access their memories and use them to make their victims feel one of the emotions on the spectrum. The more they feel the brighter their auras get and once they’re bright or charged enough, the Black Lantern grabs their heart and consumes it. The first time I read all this, I had several questions. Why are they only going after heroes? Why is so much of the story based on Earth? What is the deal with these freaking Black Lanterns? All gets explained by the end.

The story centers around, of course, Hal Jordan and his pal and Johns favorite Barry Allen but also brings all of the other Lantern corps into play in a gigantic war at the very end that results in the deputization of several heroes and a few villains into the different corps. It’s cool on a fan boy level and makes sense on a larger level. Lex Luthor WOULD get a greed-based ring, Scarecrow (who we saw almost get a Sinestro Corps ring earlier in the series) WOULD get a fear-based ring. It’s all great.

As it turns out, the reason all this stuff happens on Earth is because it acts as a shell for something called The Entity which started all life in the universe (which we get treated to during the story, along with the birth of all the emotions on the spectrum). A lot of these details and explanations were hard for me to keep track of when these issues were coming out. Like I’ve said before, I would try and read them so voraciously, that I’m sure I missed elements and even forgot some of the questions I had. I was also distracted by the various deaths throughout the series, many of which were made better by the fact that 12 heroes and villains were able to rise from the dead without the use of the Black Lantern ring.

BLACKEST NIGHT: GREEN LANTERN CORPS (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Green Lantern Corps #39-47
There’s lots of geekiness in these books that I enjoyed as well. John Stewart deals with the death of Xanshi, the planet he was supposed to watch, Flash telling Mera and The Atom they’re the new Wonder Woman and Superman, the fact that some fairly low level characters got to be the major players, that Nekron explained how every resurrected superhero was really a way for him to weaken this reality allowing him to make his move on Earth and the Entity (he basically wants to kill all life) and that kick off issue with Black Hand is creepily amazing. The splash pages in this book are worth writing home about too, especially towards the end. Seeing Hal working with Sinestro, Carol Ferris as a Star Sapphire and Atrocitus was also a really fun dynamic too.

I have friends who had lots of problems with this story, though I’m not sure if they’ve read everything together and still have their complaints. After finishing it this second time around in a much shorter time period than the first go around, I’m really impressed with the greater story, especially how it intertwined itself with Green Lantern. I’m sure you could read Blackest Night without reading Green Lantern, but it would be nowhere near a complete story.

Well, this will be the last Books Of Oa for a while. I’ve got a few other in mind that I’ll get to and have a plan to get some of my Kyle Rayner era comics bound in the near future, so I’m sure I’ll write about those in due time. Right now I’m looking forward to reading some less dense comics, but have had an awesome time going back and reading six years worth of comics.

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps Emerald Eclipse

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: EMERALD ECLIPSE (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason
Collects Green Lantern Corps #33-39
Remember how when I talked about the previous volume of GLC called Sins Of The Star Sapphire that it felt like Tomasi didn’t quite have Dave Gibbons’ flair for treating this book like the cop show it had previously been? Well, that’s not the case with Eclipse which has a ridiculous number of huge moments packed into seven issue. This book contains Arisia and Yat defending Daxam from Mongul, Soranik and Kyle’s relationship moving along at a fast clip, Saarek meeting a Star Sapphire, a battle between Mongul and Arkillo (that’s a personal favorite), Scar engineering a breakout in the Sciencells, Sinestro revealing to Soranik that he is her father, Ash and Saarek finally meeting up on their quest to find the Anti-Monitor, Scar destroying Oa’s protective Lantern-shaped shell, Yat sacrificing himself in Daxam’s sun to save his home planet and Guy and Kyle trying to put a stop to the Alpha Lanterns killing the surviving rioters from the breakout. While reading this book, I was trying to remember when many of those events take place and was shocked how many take place in one episode. It’s like watching “The Puffy Shirt” episode of Seinfeld which not only had the infamous shirt, but also boasts the low-talker woman AND George trying to become a hand model. In my mind, those were all different episodes, but it turns out it’s all one!

Tomasi improved greatly in his ability to handle so many characters and so many rad moments. Patrick Gleason, who for some reason I didn’t realize has drawn most of this series, also seemed to jump a few levels in talent. The way he tackles the fight scenes look big and crazy and choreographed and scary. Next to Doug Mahnke, he’s my favorite artist for this property.

I guess I don’t have a lot more to say about this series other than I have been really enjoying it and, having jumped into reading the Blackest Night, Blackest Night: Green Lantern and Blackest Night: Green Lantern collections, am really impressed with how big and epic the whole thing feels. It’s not like everything that was going on in GLC–which is essentially a secondary book–stops, in fact it’s quite the opposite with things like the Sinestro/Mongul showdown taking place in the middle of the action. Also, for what it’s worth, I think Tomasi and Gibbons before him actually did more to open up a heck of a lot more characters to the reader than Johns did with Hal in Green Lantern. Instead of repeatedly showing young Hal thinking about his dad dying or the conflict with Sinestro, you get looks at Guy’s relationship with Ice, Kyle’s budding romance with Soranik, how different GLs deal with the deaths of their comrades. There’s a lot going on in this book and think it would actually make an insanely entertaining TV series, though it would need a pretty impressive budget. Someone get HBO on the phone!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps Sins Of The Star Sapphire

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: SINS OF THE STAR SAPPHIRE (DC)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason & Luke Ross
Collects Green Lantern Corps #27-32
So after the Sinestro Corps War and Ring Quest, the Green Lantern Corps finds themselves at odds with even more Sinestro Corps members like Quintet and Kryb, but also on a mission to discover even more about the Star Sapphires who we hadn’t really seen much of since Green Lantern: Wanted. We start off by seeing the new Warrior’s bar and grill on Oa and also meet Green Lantern Saarek who can talk to the dead. Good thing he popped up because some ugly looking Sinestro Corps member has been killing the family members of GL rookies and sent their eyes to Oa. While that killer, actually a set of five brothers and sisters going by the Quintet, is being hunted down, Ice, Guy’s ex who is now back from the dead, hitched a ride to Oa and Scar asks Saarek to search for the Anti-Monitor’s corpse. She also asked Ash to do this over in the “Alpha Lanterns” story, though he’s not mentioned at all in this book. I believe they later show up working on it together.

Anyway, the rest of this trade deals with Mongul on his way to Daxam while inadvertently creating a new Red Lantern, Ice telling guy she wants some time on earth to rediscover herself, a group of GLs including Kyle and Saranik hunting down the baby stealing Sinestro Corps member Kryb and Yat, Arisia and Guy accompanying a few of the Guardians–including Scar–on a trip to Zamaron where the Zamarons basically tell the Guardians that they’re not going to back down in their attempt to bring and foster love in the universe. The third new law of the Book of Oa also goes out saying that love between GLs is forbidden, which, again, is strange timing because it turns out that, according to that newly minted Star Sapphire’s gem, that Kyle and Soranik are bound to fall in love.

The Kryb stuff is super creepy (hence the horror tag) and done very well, but I’ve noticed the biggest difference now that Tomasi is on the book instead of Dave Gibbons. Overall, I like Gibbons as a writer on this book better than Tomasi, though I do enjoy Tomasi’s run. The difference is that Gibbons was telling stories with lots and lots of different characters with elements that were leading towards bigger stories, but Tomasi’s stories all seem like they’re just servicing the greater story instead of being important on their own. It’s less NYPD Blue and more…I don’t know, CSI in that it focuses less on multiple stories and instead just one. I still dig the stories, but there’s a definitely difference.

A few things I found interesting while reading through this book before moving on. First off, I think the Kyle/Soranik relationship feels really shoehorned. When I was reading these books in single issues, I bought it a lot more because I figured I missed a few hints at it during SCW, but having just read that book, it seems pretty out-of-nowhere. The other thing that caught my attention is how different lanterns fill their rings the first time. We know that Yellow ones get put in a fear lodge and have to relive their own personal fears to fill the ring, but in this book we find that the Purple light actually takes the place of an emptiness in the bearer’s heart (I wonder if a man can be a Star Sapphire). Finally, it seems like GLs are super easy to kill lately, right? One of them gets smashed in Kryb’s back spine things. That seems a bit easy to me. I don’t remember them saying anywhere that the various lights have different effects on each other (aside from Blue and Green, but we’ll get to that in the next installment).

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Corps Ring Quest

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RING QUEST (DC)
Written by Peter Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason & Carlos Magno
Collects Green Lantern Corps #19, 20, 23-26
Usually skipping issues in a trade paperback is a pet peeve of mine, but I think (much as I hate to admit it) that it works pretty well for this collection. See, issues #21 and 22 tell the story of Boodika after she becomes an Alpha Lantern, something I’ll cover in the next Books Of Oa. If memory serves, those two issues aren’t so great and definitely don’t fit into the larger story going on here, though I do hope they get collected at some point in some form. One other quick bit of housekeeping to mention is that the version of GLC #19 collected in this volume is the full issue unlike the edited excerpt you can find in Sinestro Corps War Volume 2. I assume they included what they did in that volume because it all had to do with the GLs dealing with the aftermath of the war while the bits they didn’t are all moving on type moments, like Guy meeting up with the newly undead Ice (his former girlfriend who died a while back).

Okay, so as I mentioned, this book picks up right after Sinestro Corps War which I reviewed yesterday. Also, as I mentioned, the first issue in this collection deals with how the different GLs deal with the end of the war/surviving. Kyle and Guy aren’t really sure what to do with themselves on Earth, Soranik helps wounded GLs, Kilowog heads to Oa for a dinner with his family, Iolande tries to balance being a queen with being a GL and, the best moment to me, Vath Sarn sits in a bar making constructs of every dead Lantern and taking a drink for him. I’m really growing to like that character and his rough soldier ways. Anyway, Kyle and Guy soon decided to move to Oa where they’ll open a new Warriors (the bar/restaurant Guy opened in Guy Gardner: Warrior which got destroyed in Rebirth).

All the good fun times come to an end pretty quickly when Kyle, Guy, Soranik, Stel, Iolande, Vath, Arisia, Sodam and Bzzt get tasked by the Guardians to track down Sinestro Corps rings in the Vega system which used to be off limits, but things are changing in the universe. As it happens, Mongul (Mongul Jr., to be exact) got his hands on a yellow ring in a manner pretty much like Hal got his from Abin Sur. Mongul’s been killing any nearby Yellow Lanterns who don’t want to follow him except a two-headed psycho called Duel who becomes his first lantern. Then, Mongul heads to the home planet of the Black Mercy which eventually attracts all the other GLs on the mission. There’s lots of craziness I don’t want to spoil and we get the history of both Mongul (quite concise) and the Black Mercy (including its involvement in No Fear). During all this the Guardians, including the one who got jacked up by the Anti-Monitor in SCW and who will soon be going by Scar, notice that the Pink Lanterns are starting to spread their light over the galaxy. It’s interesting, even though Mercy winds up trying on both sets of green and yellow bling at the end of the issue, she seems more apt to join either the Pink or Blue Lanterns. Her original intent was to help people by easing their pain, which could be considered an act of love, but she also gave hope. I wonder if she’ll come back eventually.

I kind of love seeing people try to explain old Alan Moore stories. I’m sure he never cared too much where the Mercies or Mongul came from, he just wanted to make up some characters and elements in order to tell the story (of course, I could be completely wrong on that one). Anyway, I think it’s interesting that, when Dave Gibbons wrote this book, it felt more like a cop show popping in and out of different cases worked on by different officers, but when Tomasi took over, everyone’s thrown together and treated more like a traditional superhero team. I still really liked this book and had fun with them throwing down with Mongul (he’s one of the toughest villains around). Another element I appreciate is that, at the end of SCW, the yellow rings didn’t just go away. Just like with WWII, there’s still Nazis running around being evil and they need to be rounded up. That’s kind of what GLC did for a while between big giant events. Fun stuff.