Review: All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In broad strokes a majority of Batman stories follow (retroactively) the James Bond framework: Batman gets a mission; his "Q," Alfred, provides him the tools he needs to succeed (with a side helping of witty banter); and then Batman wreaks vengeance on the criminals of Gotham in answer to the murders that left Bruce Wayne an orphan.

But late in Scott Snyder's original Batman run, there began to creep in a paradigm not often found in Batman stories and almost unheard of among the Justice League set, that eventually Alfred became surrogate and de facto father for the young Bruce, and now Bruce fights crime neither as a loner nor orphaned, but rather supported by and often in partnership with his parent. This modifies Batman significantly (though not, I don't think, unfairly), eroding at least some of the core reasons for his mission, but in line with Snyder's pervading portrayal of Batman as less the vengeful Dark Knight and more the aspirational hero of the people. It is not out of sorts that Snyder's Batman should have a family.

All-Star Batman Vol. 3: The First Ally addresses all of this from Alfred's perspective. Branching from Batman Vol. 8: Superheavy (indeed, despite Batman's post-Superheavy costume, there's some suggestion this takes place prior to those events), First Ally plumbs Alfred's misgivings over the very role he plays, assisting and abetting and giving tacit permission for his son Bruce to continue living this life. Here at All-Star Batman's conclusion, this is perhaps the most self-contained of Snyder's tertiary Batman stories, the most standalone and the most fully realized, with lofty, seemingly effortless art by Rafael Albuquerque. This is the best saved for last, Snyder finally hitting his groove on All-Star in a manner that will hopefully inform Snyder's standalone Batman stories to come.
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Super Sons Vol. 2: Planet of the Capes (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

When at the time of this writing the fates of the Super Sons title, Jon Kent himself, and the Teen Titans and Titans titles are all up in the air, it seems very clear that whatever resolution DC Comics comes to should involve Peter Tomasi. The best parts of Tomasi's Rebirth Super Sons Vol. 2: Planet of the Capes involve Superboy Jon Kent's interactions with Robin Damian Wayne's Teen Titans, and the titular four-part story is clearly the worse for it when they depart. Tomasi has written some of the most magnificent grown-up, often gory comics stories I've read, but he's seemingly become DC Comics's go-to guy for mainstream "young DC" titles; Titans seems the logical next step so that Tomasi can keep doing what he's doing and also because the wider character net seems to mitigate some of Super Sons' pervading problems.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 4: Blockbuster (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

It's only with the Rebirth Nightwing Vol. 4: Blockbuster that I suddenly realized Tim Seeley's run on this title only had one more volume. This makes Blockbuster bittersweet, but also calls to question some of what transpires here. Seeley continues to "rebirth" Nightwing Dick Grayson's classic Chuck Dixon-led mythos, putting new spins on old concepts, but it's hard to know how much of this to get invested in when it's equally hard to know how much of this is going to remain relevant and for how long.

Blockbuster collects two stories, one of which continues Seeley's Bludhaven world-building and one of which hearkens back to Seeley and Tom King's Grayson series. Though overall Seeley writes an apt Dick Grayson, these stories are equal parts strong and problematic, often ranging from one extreme to the other page by page. Again, the larger question becomes whether or not this matters -- with Seeley's story still largely in the set-up phase, clearly there's no room for a full denouement in one more volume, which means it falls to incoming writer Sam Humphries to ultimately determine whether Seeley's story is successful. I acknowledge that's not necessarily Humphries' responsibility, but my fear is the loser in all of this might end up being the reader.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Rise of Aqualad (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Appealingly, Benjamin Percy's Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Rise of Aqualad introduces Aqualad Jackson Hyde to the DC Comics Rebirth universe; this is not the first time we've seen a Jackson Hyde, but here he's visually and tonally closer to his Young Justice origins, and that's a lot of fun. Reading Teen Titans, however, I'm struck by the impression that DC has finally accomplished what it wants -- a mainstream in-universe equivalent to the Teen Titans/Teen Titans Go cartoon -- and that's both a very good and very bad thing. There's an occasional piece of deft character work here, but I remain unsure if this title is quite as strong as it could be.

[Review contains spoilers]

Not unlike Super Sons, Teen Titans exists in this odd space in DC Comic's publishing line, neither an all-ages out of continuity title like some of the animated series tie-in books, but neither written for the adult comics buying audience despite the youthful characters (as Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans was). Perhaps DC has needed and lacked these kinds of younger-skewing titles, but with DC Ink and DC Zoom on the horizon -- and an impressive slate of titles from each -- my hope is that titles like Teen Titans might right themselves and get back to the approaches that inarguably worked the best -- Wolfman and Perez or Geoff Johns's runs, for instance, as opposed to the sillier and more off-the-cuff New 52 run.

Review: Justice League Vol. 5: Legacy (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Rebirth Justice League Vol. 5: Legacy brings to a close Bryan Hitch's 30-plus-issue run on Justice League, impressive I think for the extent to which Hitch told one related story over these six volumes (including Justice League America: Power and Glory). These books have not been without their flaws, including considerable repetitiousness and also, with this last volume, a rush to completion that leaves a number of aspects unresolved. But the children of the Justice League introduced here are a hoot, certainly capable of carrying their own series, and Hitch delivers some great character moments in the middle as the present League confronts their future. As mentioned, it's in the denouement, when too neat a bow tries to be tied on it, that Legacy feels less cohesive.

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 8: Reflections hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Robert Venditti delivers another good one with Green Lantern Vol. 8: Reflections. The book turns away surprisingly from much of what was set-up in the previous volume, but at the same time Venditti writes among his first Earth-set Green Lantern stories in forty issues and they were worth the wait. It remains hard to tell to what extent Venditti is following his own plan here and to what extent he's being buffeted about by the demands of the larger DC Universe, but impressively it doesn't matter. Despite that storylines here sometimes feel unfinished, Venditti continues to shock and entertain. Venditti's Green Lantern remains among the most consistent of DC Comics's titles and I'm eager to follow him into Rebirth.

DC Trade Solicitations for May 2018 - Final Crisis Omnibus, Superman: Zero Hour, Aquaman: Tempest, DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars, Mystik U, Elseworlds: Batman, Deathstroke by Daniel Omnibus

Thursday, February 22, 2018

In a month where considerable else is happening in the DC Universe, including DC Nation #0 and two Superman specials to wrap up the previous team runs before Brian Michael Bendis comes on, plus a couple of notable cancellations and/or hiatuses, the fact that DC Comics May 2018 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations also include five omnibuses (!) is pretty amazing.

It's a good but not totally astounding month otherwise, with (not "Rebirth" any more, so I guess we just say "new") collections of Detective Comics, Flash, Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan, Justice League, and New Super-Man (plus the Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover and Mystik U). On reprints, nothing long-awaited, but this Aquaman: Tempest book remains a nice surprise (hope for Garth in the Aquaman movie or the Teen Titans TV show, or both?), as is Superman: Zero Hour. That the new Final Crisis omnibus includes lesser-regarded tie-in aspects of the story like the "Dark Side Club" books is, for the completist in me, a real thrill, and I'm glad those stories now end up being "canon" in a Final Crisis book.

Guess we should take a look-see ...

Aquaman: Tempest TP

As I mentioned before, this is an exciting surprise, an unexpected boon of the Aquaman movie. Collects Teen Titans Spotlight #10 and #18 (the latter is also a Millennium tie-in), a story from Aquaman Secret Files #1, and most notably, Phil Jimenez's four-issue Tempest miniseries. I have enjoyed seeing Tempest back in Titans again but I wish Dan Abnett would fill in his new/old origin either in Titans or Aquaman.

Batman by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale Omnibus HC

A truly impressive omnibus, and certainly a treat if you've made it this far and haven't read these stories yet. Collects Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special, Batman: Madness, Batman: Ghosts, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Catwoman: When in Rome, and stories from Superman/Batman Secret Files 2003, Superman/Batman #26, and Solo #1.

Batman: A Lot of Li'l Gotham TP

For those keeping track at home, this is the first full collection of the digital-to-print Li'l Gotham series, previously collected in two separate trades.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 6: Fall of the Batmen TP

Collects just the "Fall of the Batmen" story, issues #969-974 (previous solicitations had this a little longer). We now know James Tynion is leaving this title with issue #981, so probably just one more trade of Tynion's run to go.

Batman: The Arkham Saga Omnibus HC

At first I thought this was going to be a big collection of those Batman: Arkham villains collections that have continued to impress, but instead these are the video game miniseries (I'd think they might do something like this with Injustice, too): Batman: Arkham Knight #1-12, Arkham Knight Annual #1, Arkham Knight: Batgirl Begins #1, Arkham Knight: The Road to Arkham #1, Batman: Arkham City #1-5, Arkham Unhinged #1-20, Batman: Arkham Knight Robin Special #1, Arkham Knight – Genesis #1-6, Batman: Arkham Knight – Batgirl and Harley Quinn #1, apparently among others.

Batman: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book Two HC

Collects issues #16-32 and the Annual #1, so Vol. 3 I Am Bane, parts one and three of The Button, and Vol. 4 War of Jokes and Riddles.

DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars TP

Includes Justice League/Doom Patrol, Doom Patrol/Justice League, Shade, the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman, Mother Panic/Batman, and Cave Carson/Swamp Thing.

Deathstroke by Tony S. Daniel Omnibus HC

The best part about this news is that it gives hope that there might be a Deathstroke by Christopher Priest omnibus to follow. I have read the entirety of this second New 52 Deathstroke series and it is a poor showing. A lot of Deathstroke running around chasing false leads that he ought be smart enough to recognize, a lot of Deathstroke naively fighting a bunch of other DC characters due to misunderstandings, and a cadre of forgettable (and often loosely or inconsistently motivated) antagonists -- plus the pleasure of Red Hood repeatedly calling Slade Wilson "Douchestroke." Co-writer James Bonny comes on early and remains after Tony Daniel leaves, making even the "by Tony Daniel" moniker suspect. It's a good thing that Deathstroke is a hot commodity, but this is by far not the best representation of his exploits.

Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 3 TP

I'm surprised and impressed we're already at volume 3 of the Elseworlds: Batman collections. Clearly we need dedicated collections of both the 1994 Elseworlds annuals and also the 1996 Legends of a Dead Earth annuals, too. This includes Batman: Brotherhood of the Bat (future set), Batman: Knight Gallery (alternate costumes related to Brotherhood), Batman: Scar of the Bat (1920s gangsters), Batman: Masque (based on Phantom of the Opera), and Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table (King Arthur). I'd think the two-issue League of Batmen would be here, a sequel to Brotherhood.

Final Crisis: The 10th Anniversary Omnibus HC

What an incredible omnibus (I seem to be saying that a lot this month), which not only includes Final Crisis and its branded tie-in miniseries, but also looser stuff like the "Dark Side Club" stories from Birds of Prey, Flash, Teen Titans, even Terror Titans. That's a deep dive even for Final Crisis, evidence of DC going the extra mile for this edition. Collects Batman #676-683 and #701-702, Birds of Prey #118, DC Universe #0, DC Universe: The Last Will and Testament #1, Final Crisis #1-7, Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1-5, Final Crisis: Requiem #1, Final Crisis: Resist #1, Final Crisis: Revelations #1-5, Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1-3, Final Crisis Secret Files, Final Crisis: Submit #1, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2, Flash #240-241, Teen Titans #59-60, and Terror Titans #1-6. (Lacking unfortunately are the Infinity Inc. issues.)

Flash Vol. 6: A Cold Day in Hell TP

I've been unhappy with the Rebirth Flash series, but obviously a title like "Cold Day in Hell" suggests the inclusion of a certain Rogue who's been among the best parts of this series so far. The mention of "the turmoil of [Barry Allen's] personal life doesn't please me," but here's hoping. Collects issues #34-38. I will say some suggestion of continuity-fixing in the upcoming "Flash War" gives me hope.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe edition of Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams's Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76-87 and #89, and Flash #217-219 and #226.

Green Lanterns Vol. 6: A World of Our Own TP

Issues #33-39 by Tim Seeley, taking over from Sam Humphries.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 5: Twilight of the Guardians TP

Issues #30-35. Guest-starring Superman; I assume this ties in to recent issues of Peter Tomasi's Superman title? I enjoyed Robert Venditti's DC You Green Lantern issues that I recently read, and I'm glad to see Venditti still chugging along on this title.

Harley Quinn by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti Omnibus Vol. 2 HC

At least another Harley Quinn omnibus or so to go, since this only collects through the end of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's New 52 run, before Rebirth. Collects Harley Quinn #17-30, Harley Quinn Road Trip Special #1, Harley Quinn: Be Careful What You Wish For Special Edition, Harley Quinn and Her Gang Of Harleys #1-6, and Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book #1-6.

Justice League Vol. 6: The People vs. The Justice League TP

This still says issues #34-39, but since Christopher Priest is on until issue #43, when the series ends or pauses for "No Justice," I'd bet they'll collect his whole run. Art by Pete Woods and also now apparently Philippe Briones.

Legion by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Vol. 2 TP

After the last collection of the "Legion of the Damned" storyline, this is Legion Lost #1-12. Those issues have been collected before in hardcover but not, as now, in paperback. It'll be nice if DC can get to a third collection with some of the never-collected Legion Worlds specials.

Mystik U TP

I've not heard hide nor hair of this so far, and it seems to have gone to trade very quickly. The three-issue miniseries will apparently fill a 160-page trade; maybe some other stories will pad this out?

New Super-Man Vol. 3: Equilibrium TP

Issues #13-18, just before the book becomes New Super-Man and the Justice League of China.

Super Sons of Tomorrow TP

This is bittersweet now that we know Super Sons is ending. Though, I like the concept and characters but was lukewarm on the first trade, so maybe a relaunch, or re-placement as a DC Zoom or DC Ink series, wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Notably this crossover will be collected outside of any of the individual series, at least in the initial paperback. Collects Super Sons #11-12, Superman #37-38, and Teen Titans #15. Obviously this is the way DC has collected Rebirth-era crossovers so far but I had still thought this would end up a Super Sons collection proper.

Superman: Zero Hour TP

This is a fun series that DC is now apparently releasing, following the previous Batman: Zero Hour collection. There's unfortunately not a lot of other series that had multi-part Zero Hour tie-in stories that would also make good collections, though the Justice League titles are certainly one. Collects the Zero Hour tie-in issues Man of Steel #37, Superman #93, Adventures #516, and Action #703, Steel #8 and Superboy #8, and the Zero Month (#0) issues of the same. Among the Zero Hour time-lost elements are a gaggle of alt-Batmen, Jor-El and Lara, the hero Alpha Centurion, and Superboy meets Superboy. The Zero Month issues introduce Conduit Kenny Braverman, an interesting-enough villain that I'm surprised no one ever used him again after the "Death of Clark Kent" story that followed.

Wonder Woman/Conan HC

Gail Simone writing Wonder Woman is always notable, and with her Wonder Woman-run artist Aaron Lopresti, too. Simone and Walter Geovani on Red Sonja again with Red Sonja/Tarzan is no slouch either; I loved their Red Sonja books.

Going back in for another edition of Final Crisis? Getting your feet wet with Aquaman: Tempest? Sound off in the comments and tell me what you're buying.

Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

After two so-so editions of the Rebirth Titans and a so-so edition the Rebirth Teen Titans, but three fantastic volumes of the Rebirth Deathstroke, I was optimistic for a good turnout in the crossover Titans: The Lazarus Contract. Unfortunately, the result is underwhelming, a story without much in terms of content, a truly anticlimactic ending, and which largely ducks the very questions about Titans history that it was ostensibly meant to answer. I give the gathered writers points for a story that does finish with consequences for all three of the teams, but hardly does this crossover live up to the greater story that its title alludes to.

Review: Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Christopher Priest's Rebirth Deathstroke Vol. 3: Twilight is insane. Priest spins an entertaining, dysfunctional family saga, surely the most complex and mature title of DC Comics's inaugural Rebirth line. I'm not sure to what extent this book still tracks as "Deathstroke" any more, but there is so much fantastic mayhem here it hardly matters. Whatever brought Christopher Priest out of retirement, DC Comics needs to hold on to him tight; I hope we see Priest on Deathstroke for a very long time.

[Review contains spoilers]

Only a scant couple issues ago did Jericho Joey Wilson team up with Superman to send his father, Deathstroke Slade Wilson, to prison; now with no animosity Deathstroke is phoning Jericho for a mid-battle assist and later attending his wedding -- a wedding to a double-agent that Slade is also sleeping with. Joey dismisses much of this back-and-forth as "between my mom and pop" (he wrongly believes his fiancee is working for his government spy mother) with only the barest hint of concern.

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 7: Renegade hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Given the the unenviable task of following Geoff Johns's historic run on Green Lantern, Robert Venditti has penned an interesting, exciting take on the franchise, faithful to what came before but tonally different. (In this, Venditti is Johns to Johns's Mark Waid on Flash.) The design for the Green Lantern Vol. 7: Renegade DC You's Hal Jordan is terrible -- all the more so because of the great Billy Tan sketches in the back of this book for what could have been -- but in this unusual chapter of Venditti's Green Lantern saga, he's got another winner. Whether by plan or by fiat, Venditti delivers a quieter Green Lantern story here than he's been able to do so far, with an unusual cast of characters that offer something distinct from what we're used to.