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
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!
I’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
VERTIGO RESURRECTED FINALS 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR (Vertigo)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Jill Thompson
Collects Finals #1-4
I first read Finals while at Wizard. Will Pfeifer had recently made a name for himself on high quality but under the radar books like HERO and Aquaman. Some of the guys there were pretty high on this four issue miniseries from 1999 that he wrote and suggested I check it out. I dug it then and liked it even more upon this second reading. I’m really glad that Vertigo collected the four issue mini so simply. I’d love to see more of these mini-trades/square bound reprints in the future, especially at $8 a pop.
Finals is about a group of college students at Knox University, a school that encourages every student to complete a very aggressive senior project in order to graduate. Gary allowed himself to devolve over the semester. Dave’s a criminal justice major who’s been committing robberies all over town. Nancy started a cult. Tim invented a time machine that actually works. And Wally, well, Wally needs to come up with something that fits into his “Extreme Cinema Verite” idea that he completely bullshitted his way through. All of this takes place in a hyper version of reality where lives are next to meaningless and knowledge equals strength, which makes Wally’s slacker bumbling and struggle for a project all the more interesting.
I’m very impressed with how Pfeifer put this story together. It doesn’t just zero in on Wally and his relationship with Nancy. They’re definitely the focus, but Wally’s roomies Gary, Dave and Tim all get not only their fair share of scenes, but more importantly solid arcs that pick them up at the beginning of the semester or school year and sees where they wind up by the end. It’s a lot to pack into a four issue comic and he handles it with ease. Pfeifer also captured the intensity and ridiculousness of college that rings true even with murder and time travel in the mix.
From an art standpoint, Jill Thompson does a fun job of it, but the interiors don’t really remind me of her usual style. It actually reminds me of a looser version of Sean Phillips on Sleeper. Her visual storytelling chops are spot on and her art keeps the sometimes serious or over the top moments from getting TOO serious (there’s a lot of death in the book). All in all it’s a great package.
Reading Finals again actually bummed me out a little bit because I miss Pfeifer as a writer and the Vertigo of years past. Like I said, I really like HERO and Aquaman and his Catwoman run had it’s moments but never really grabbed me. It is interesting that Wally here was a film buff and Pfeifer pitted Catwoman against Film Freak. Anyway, it seems like something happened around the time of Amazon’s Attack and either the writer felt burned out or lost favor. It’s too bad because I think he had a lot of talent and would like to see what else he has in him. Meanwhile, Vertigo seems to have lost a lot of it’s variety over the years. They’ve got magic-based books and violent books and what else? I’m honestly not sure anymore. I’d like to see them get back to a place where they give new writers like Pfeifer a chance to shine with concise stories. Seems like a lot of this kind of talent is heading over to Image or the smaller companies, but also that they’re looking for more long term books than things like Finals anymore. Maybe if this 100-Page Spectacular sells well enough it could lead to not only a return of Pfeifer but also a little more variety from Vertigo.
SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE (Dark Horse & DC)
Written by Peter David, drawn by Todd Nauck and Pop Mahn
Collects SpyBoy/Young Justice #1-3
I fully intended for this belated Trade Post to feature an all WildStorm line-up, but then I realized that I had already reviewed Authority: Harsh Realms, which I re-read and liked better this time around. Anyway, I had already read this crossover between two Peter David books and figured this fun and lighthearted look at teen superheros fighting and teaming up would fit in perfectly well with some hardcore WildStorm stuff (it’s not really that hard core).
Anyway, as it turns out, this book isn’t very good, which is disappointing because I am a gigantic Young Justice fan. Ben and Rickey turned me onto the book when we were all still at Wizard and I’ve gone back and gotten all the issues I didn’t already have. On the other hand, I’ve never read a SpyBoy comic. Here’s the problem with the book, I just didn’t care about the story. David intertwines the worlds of the characters very well, but since I’m not familiar with the SpyBoy Universe, so anything on that side wasn’t all that interesting to me. So, I’m guessing if you’re familiar with both books, this will be awesome for you.
My other problem was that I don’t like Mahn’s art. It starts off pretty solid, but it’s almost unreadable by the end of the book. I’d rather they just had given the entire thing to Nauck as I think he’s a rad artist (and also a rad dude). So, there you have it. As only a Young Justice fan, the book wasn’t really for me because, frankly, I just wanted more Young Justice that I hadn’t read yet. I would definitely consider giving SpyBoy a read though and maybe revisit this book later.
THE AUTHORITY REVOLUTION VOL. 1 & 2 (WildStorm)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Dustin Nguyen
Collects Authority: Revolution #1-6 and #7-12 respectively
I’ve talked about how much I dig WildStorm in general and The Authority more specifically, but I still haven’t read everything. In fact, I didn’t even know that Brubaker wrote anything for WildStorm aside from Point Blank and Sleeper, so when I saw these two volumes written by him and drawn by the excellent Nguyen on Sequential Swap, I zeroed in and traded for them. Luckily I was not disappointed.
There is a volume or two between these two books and the end of the previous volume that I had not actually read yet, so I was a little confused on some of the details and how the characters would go from here to the places they were when WorldStorm happened. The overall story here is that a version of Henry Bendix returns to screw with the Authority, leading them to disband for a while. We also get to meet the new Doctor, Rose Tattoo and a grown up Jenny Quantum, plus an entire world of the previous Jennies. The thing I really like about what Bru did with this comic is that he mined the history of this team along with other WildStorm books and created a helluvan interesting story that I dug. I’m not sure if newbies would be able to jump in and appreciate the story, but I had a lot of fun with it. These will be going on the shelf (or more accurately in the box) with my ever-expanding collection of WS trades.
CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON (DC & WildStorm)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects Captain Atom: Armageddon #1-8
I’m not sure if I would recommend Captain Atom: Armageddon to anyone but die hard WildStorm fans, Captain Atom fans or people who want to know exactly what the hell has been going on in the WildStorm U over the past three years. The idea here is that after exploding trying to save the world in Superman/Batman, Cap pops around a little bit and then ends up in the WSU, the only problem is that he’s going to destroy the universe and there’s nothing he can do about it. In an effort to try and help himself and not be guilty of universe-cide, Cap visits with just about every team and hero on the planet, getting some assistance and also into his fair share of fights. I do think it’s interesting that he considers this reality so much more distasteful than his own with their heroes who do what they want (mainly the Authority).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Pfeifer does a great job with the story, it’s just a bit long. I enjoyed it because I’m such a WS geek, but I could see how it might get boring for newbies. I also really liked the ending because, well, it results in what the title promises, but instead of ending in nothingness, things get resorted and sometimes restarted.
Here’s the problem though, this lead to one of the more confusing periods in the history of WildStorm as most of the books relaunched but to different degrees and varying levels of success and output. WildCats came out by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. Or at least one issue did. Morrison’s Authority drawn by Gene Ha got two issues. Then Gen 13 seemed to have been completely restarted from the ground up, though that was somewhat explained later on (it wasn’t enough to keep me reading that book at the time though). On the other hand, Stormwatch seemed to carry on without any hiccups and just changed focus. I don’t even remember what was going on with Deathblow aside from the fact that he was talking to a dog and died. Plus, ever since the post-Apocalyptic nature of the WSU now, it’s not really necessary reading unless you need to know every beat. All that said, I thought, like Bru did with the Authority run, that Pfeifer weaved a really great story using the tapestry of the WSU and Camuncoli did a great job with the art, giving the book a literal edge that it needed.
Like with movies, I’ve been reading mostly newer trades (stuff I haven’t read before), but after getting most of the issues of HERO bound recently, I decided to sit down with that book and read it all in one sitting. Damn, is this a good book.
Written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by a series of artists including Kano, Patrick Gleason, Leonard Kirk and Dale Eaglesham, HERO doesn’t so much follow a character, but an object. In this case it’s the “H Dial” an old device from DC comics where the gimmick was that it would change the user into a random hero, sometimes suggested by the readers themselves. Over the course of the series, the device lands in the hands of many different characters and they use it as they see fit, kind of like that show Gun that was on ABC in 1997. Sometimes they use it to turn into a superhero only to discover that’s not as easy as it seems, sometimes to become a mega powered master criminal and sometimes to impress the kids at school. Like 100 Bullets, though, the gimmick eventually leads into a larger story with many of the characters coming back in the last few issues.
But the important thing about this comic, which ran for 22 issues between 2003 and 2005, is that it never felt like a gimmick. Pfeifer had this incredible ability to introduce us to brand new characters every few issues and give us something to like in each of them. Whether it’s the business man who wants to fly or the dudes who just want to make a super-powered Jackass, these characters all felt interesting in one way or another.
You might remember there being a lot of hype about this book when it first came out because Geoff Johns offered a moneyback guarantee if anyone bought the book and didn’t like it. He talks about that in the forward of the first and sadly only trade. Johns brings up the point that Pfeifer seemed to be getting at with the series which is that every comic book fan has thought about having these awesome powers, but how hard have we really through about what we would do with them if we did in fact have them. I think in the real world you’d have a lot more people doing what these characters did with the H dial and far fewer taking the Superman and Batman route. It’s interesting that, while firmly set in the DCU HERO never had any guest stars, but the whole point of the series kind of shines a spotlight on what those other heroes do day in and day out. Basically, it’s not easy being Superman.
I could get into an arc by arc breakdown of why this is such a good book. Every artist absolutely nails their arcs and the series actually has a very satisfying conclusion, though not necessarily a happy one for everyone involved. I liked how everyone who had the H dial earlier in the series came back. I first heard about this book when I interned at Wizard. I read all the issues then and even bought a copy of HERO from Pfeifer at the 2003 Mid Ohio Con. I went on to get the rest of the issues here and there and thank goodness I did because it doesn’t look like there’s any plans for DC to collect this story anytime soon. HERO introduced me to some of my favorite artists like Gleason, Kano and Eaglesham (my buddy Rickey owns the splash page of the woman who’s all cubed up and I’m super jealous of that fact). Plus it drew my attention to Pfeifer whose work I thoroughly enjoyed on Aquaman, another run that got cut short too soon.
I know it’s not easy to pick up HERO. You’ve got to hunt down an out of print (I assume) trade plus a bunch of issues, but I bet they’re not too expensive. Maybe add them to your shopping list this con season and see what you can come up with. I’m not about to lay down a moneyback guarantee like Johns did (he said in that forward, which was written in 2003, that no one ever took him up on that, I wonder if it still holds true), but I highly HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone even remotely interested in superhero comics. Even if you’re a Marvel zombie, I wager you’d like this book. Heck, even if you’re not a superhero fan and prefer more real world-based comics because you think no one would really act like superheroes do in mainstream comics, then this is the book for you because it basically says just that.
That’s the end of the actual review. Now I just want to briefly talk about the reading experience I had with my bound comics. There were 16 issues not collected in the first trade, so I was a little worried about losing text balloons and art to the gutter (the space where the staples go). I mainly figured this would happen in the middle, but the only place I had even the remotest amount of trouble was in the first and last few issues. And even then, I just had to stretch the book open a little bit more and I had no problem. I’m also currently reading a stack of single issues about the same size and I can easily say that I prefer having everything all in one convenient space. I recommend getting comics bound like I recommend HERO, all the way.
Okay, time for another installment of trade post:
B.P.R.D. 1946 Volume 9 (Dark Horse)
Written by Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart
Drawn by Paul Azaceta
I love me some Hellboy, you guys and, of course, that includes B.P.R.D. I didn’t get into the Hellboy-verse until a few years ago, which was pretty good timing because I was able to read all the trades at Wizard and I was able to hop over the long gap when there weren’t any new books and Hellboy was spending a few years under the ocean. I’m a big fan of how intricate the history is. There’s elements in 1946 that resonate later on, though I can’t point all of them out, because it’s really hard to keep everything straight in my head. I do like to re-read the books every year or so, but I haven’t done that in a while and even right after I do it’s hard to remember.
This story follows Hellboy’s adoptive pops Trevor Bruttenholm in one of his post-WWII adventures with a group of soldiers in a bombed out Germany. This one’s got everything from vampires and werewolves to little girls in white dresses leading the Russian version of the B.P.R.D.
One of the great things about Dark Horse’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. trades is that you can pretty much pick any of them up, understand what’s going on and enjoy a great story with a beginning, middle and end. Sure there are smaller elements that you might not pick up on, but might also drive you to check out other books. The other thing I love about these books is that they almost always have extras. Usually that includes an intro by Mignola along with a sketchbook with commentary in the back by Mike and whoever else is drawing the book. Unfortunately, this volume lacks the intro, which usually has Mignola explaining the genesis of the idea (where the mythology came from, that kind of thing). I really like those and was bummed to see there wasn’t one. There was, however an Afterward by Dysart explaining his first 1946 meeting with Mignola and the sketchbook.
Oh, one more thing, I really dug Paul Azaceta’s art. Like a lot of the non-Mignola or Dan Davis Hellboy/B.P.R.D. it took me a while to get used to his style (what can I say? I’m used to my superhero artists), but Azaceta seems like the perfect artist for this project. I look forward to seeing him on future B.P.R.D. projects almost as much as I’m looking forward to all the other Hellboy-verse books.
CATWOMAN: CRIME PAYS (DC)
Written by Will Pfeifer
Drawn by David Lopez
Catwoman’s one of those characters that I have an on-again off-again relationship with. I actually had a subscription to the Jim Balent-drawn version for a year which I dug. I’d also grab whatever crossover issues came out. I completely missed out on Brubaker’s relaunch and still want to go back and read it, but I have read a few of Pfeifer’s trades, this being, I believe, the second to last of the current run (it’s getting canceled right? I’m super behind).
Anyway, this story follows Selina’s attempt to start a new life with her baby, then get rid of the baby and finally waking up in her empty apartment which then explodes, leaving Cats on the run in Gotham without her mask or whip. There’s a character called The Thief who disappears due to Catwoman’s involvement in the Salvation Run storyline which feature supervillains being sent to a crazy planet far far away.
I was actually pretty interested in the Thief storyline and seeing Catwoman stripped of everything and on her own, but it got cut off by the Suicide Squad getting the jump on her and sending her to the prison planet. I wasn’t a big fan of the whole Salvation Run storyline, partly because it seemed a bit too close the Marvel’s Negative Zone prison (did they even really flesh that out? All things Civil War are a blur thanks to the Civil War Room column), even though it’s a pretty sound idea in theory. I don’t even know how that mini-series ended and this trade doesn’t offer up much insight. You get an issue of Cats wandering around from faction to faction only to end up with Luthor’s crew, but then she ends up in this weird world where’s practically SuperCat and runs everything. Once she’s out, she presumably rejoins the Salvation Run storyline. I feel bad for Pfeifer because it doesn’t feel like the Salvation Run stuff was very organic, probably more dropped on his plate. But he handled it well, though the story itself doesn’t hold much consequence (even though it’s pretty cool).
I’ve liked Pfeifer’s writing in the past, his Aquaman Sub Diego stuff was rad and HERO is one of the coolest books from the past five or six years not yet collected (seriously, what’s the deal with that? come on DC, where’s my omnibus?!), but for whatever reason Catwoman hasn’t really absorbed me yet, though I’ll probably grab the next trade when it makes its way into the Wizard office. I also like David Lopez, he’s a solid artist with a distinct style that makes him stand out. He seems equally adept at drawing grim and gritty street-level stuff as huge superhero group shots, which he also gets to do in this book.
I can’t really recommend Crime Pays to non Catwoman readers. There’s a lot going on in this book that’s not only connected to past Catwoman continuity, but also a part of DC’s last year that seems generally ignored (seriously, I read a ton of DC books, how did the villains get back?). Hopefully the next volume will wrap things up with The Thief (I’m seriously interested in that storyline, as well as what the heck Catwoman’s supposed to do with all her stuff gone).
As far as comic book universes go, I think the Wildstorm one might be my non-DC and Marvel favorite. Gen 13 was my gateway into Wildstorm back in the day. #14 was my first issue (with Roxy going to school on the cover) and I was hooked immediately. I didn’t really branch out into other Wildstorm books for a long time, but I was really impressed with how historic this new comic book universe felt even back then. Gen 13 were the kids of guys in a group called Team 7, whose members were on all kinds of other teams or hanging out in their own solo books (Grifter, Backlash, Lynch, Deathblow, etc.). I didn’t really know what all was going on, but I was super intrigued. So intrigued that I bought a few other books like a Team 7 mini that came out and whatnot, but not a ton of books.
I completely dodged the initial Image onslaught of comics when the boom hit, which I’m still thankful for, but I did wind up with some random issues here and there thanks to various grab bags I picked up over the years. I also watched the Wildcats cartoon when it was on, because, at the time, I’d watch ANYTHING comic book related. So, with all that I had a basic idea of what was going on in their universe and it all seemed really cool. A big part of that has to do with the artists working on these books. Man, they looked slick and definitely appealed to me as a kid, but I was also into the “super powered kids on the run from adults” story that came along with Gen 13 as it was my first exposure to such a concept. Oh yeah, I also remember Sarah from the Real World Miami being a Wildstorm editor. On the very first episode they showed her getting kicked out of her place after a big party. If memory serves (which it probably doesn’t) her roommates were J. Scott Campbell and another notable who I can’t remember. Her desk in the RW house was also surrounded by comic book pictures, which totally geeked me out back when no one on TV ever talked about comic books.
Skip ahead a bunch of years, I’ve dropped Gen 13 from my list because of Claremont’s relaunch (yeesh) and not really interested in Wildstorm anymore, but I’m hearing a lot about this book called The Authority. I eventually score an internship at Wizard where Rickey recommends I read Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which leads directly into The Authority. I did and dug it and then read Authority and got less and less impressed as it went on. So recently, I re-read all five Stormwatch trades and they’re really good. Ellis does a surprisingly good job playing in a super hero universe that doesn’t have as many rules as DC or Marvel. I’m looking forward to reading his Authority again soon in the next few weeks too. Ellis’ Planetary is also a lot of fun, but I want the last trade dag nabbit!
Once I started working for Wizard full time I jumped back into the Wildstorm pool and was surprised to see some names that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with the company like James Robinson and Alan Moore who both did stints on Wildcats. I can’t remember how far I got, but I started with Wildcats #1 and read through Moore’s stuff (which includes Robinson’s run). Both Robinson and Moore’s arcs are pretty fantastic (especially Moore’s, no big surprise there). Like with Ellis, it was great to see Moore coming in and picking up elements from previous Wildcats stories and running with them. Moore did a bunch of other stories here and there that have been collected in one big trade that’s definitely out there, but still a lot of fun.
I also read Ed Brubaker’s Point Blank which lead into his Sleeper series with Sean Phillips. Man, this story blew me away. It could have very easily been it’s own stand alone story of espionage and intrigue, but Brubaker set it squarely in the WU, with references to Alan Moore’s Wildcats and plenty of other goings on. It’s a great series and one I recommend to anyone who loves dark and dirty comics.
From there I jumped into more modern Wildstorm as they shook up their universe with the Wold Storm event. Even now I’m not really sure what the deal was. Things were predicated by the Will Pfeifer-written Captain Atom: Armageddon mini which placed Cap in the Wildstorm U. He blew up and so did the WU, but it reformed in similar and different ways after that. I got to talk to most of the creators for the big relaunch (this is when Grant Morrison was announced to be writing both Wildcats and Authority) which was a lot of fun, but as a fan of the existing Wildstorm U, I was left mostly confused. Unlike Crisis on Infinite Earths there wasn’t a “we’re completely starting over” vibe as some teams seemed to be unchanged (Stormwatch PHD which was a great book seemed to be exactly in line with previous Stormwatch stuff) while others were way different (my beloved Gen 13). There were a few stumbling blocks as Wildcats and Authority have only put out one and two issues respectively, but overall Stormwatch PHD, Deathblow and Midnighter were all pretty solid books and Gail Simone added a whole new element with her Welcome to Tranquility series.
But the changes weren’t over as Wildstorm geared up for another big shake up with their trilogy of stories: Wildstorm: Armageddon, Wildstorm: Revelations and Number of the Beast which I liked for the most part though I wish Number of the Beast would have picked up more elements from Revelations. Anyway, now you’ve got the Wildstorm U in a kind of post-apocalyptic Mad Max-like world where everything’s turned on it’s ear and all these familiar heroes are fighting just to keep humanity going.
It’s not an easy universe to break into with over a decade’s worth of stories, but I’ve had a great time exploring the good and the bad of the Wildstorm U, which is a lot more intricate and detailed than you might think at first. If you’re looking to get in, I’d recommend Sleeper, Moore’s Wildcats, the upcoming James Robinson Wildcats trade, Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch and Authority and Stormwatch PHD. I’m really curious to see where they go with this new path and I can’t wait to see what they do and what new creators and characters will pop up in the future.