Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quarter Bin 120 "BX Thor!"

Thor (Marvel)
from 2013

One of the neat things about being associated with the military over the years has been sporadic access to the comics specifically for it.  This is the latest Marvel comic I've seen from the tradition.  What made it particularly interesting was that the art was from Tom Grummett, whom I know best from his Superman and Superboy work.  His last notable mainstream comic was Justice League #52 (the final New 52 issue) with Dan Jurgans.  Otherwise he seems to have done a lot of stuff like this, as well as media tie-in giveaways.  Hey, sometimes it's whatever work you can get, and at least he's still working.  But Grummett definitely seems like he should have had a better fate.  Maybe I just don't know how this medium treats its veterans well enough.

This Thor issue, at any rate, was the sixteenth such release by Marvel, with more that followed, and one of several with art from Grummett.  The story is pretty basic, with actually a lot more focus on Jarvis (the Avengers butler) than Thor (whose scenes are incredibly repetitive, especially the utterances of the frost giant he's battling).

Well, it's just nice they're making them for the military.

Quarter Bin 119 "DC 3-Packs Strike Back!"

DC doesn't seem to have released new packs recently; these are just more from the last round I hadn't gotten yet (each one has a featured lead comic). 

Batman Eternal #1, 16 (DC)
from 2014

I consider Batman Eternal to have been Snyder and Tynion's attempt to sprint through everything they were never going to get a chance to explore during the New 52 as they explored their own arcs, revisiting classic characters and even letting some new ones (Harper Row) a chance to breathe.  The first issue is early DC Jason Fabok, who would later have his true breakthrough in the pages of Justice League.  #16 is another one featuring art from Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. 

Batman #7 (DC)
from 2016

This was one of the featured lead comics, reprinted as Batman: Night of the Monster Men #1.  As I've said before, I love that these are true variants.  I have no idea if they'll ever be worth money, but I just love that they exist.  "Night of the Monster Men" was billed as the first crossover event of the Rebirth era, and it seems positively tame in hindsight.  It's also funny that Tom King bowed out as writer for the tie-in issues, allowing Steve Orlando, fast emerging as a new force in the company, a chance to step in. 

Green Arrow #48 (DC)
from March 2016

It's downright baffling that DC didn't make a greater priority of Green Arrow once Arrow, the TV series, began and eventually expanded into a whole franchise.  This late issue from the New 52 era seems to have left Oliver Queen a...werewolf?

Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse #10 (DC)
from June 2015

Injustice: Harley Quinn (DC)
from 2016

The later was originally published as Injustice: Ground Zero.  But being reprinted with Harley Quinn in the title isn't merely gratuitous, it's also acknowledging that the story is all about her, plus a review of everything that's happened in the Injustice comics.  I'm not a video game guy, so the Injustice comics, and the Infinite Crisis comic listed above, are as close as I'll get to those experiences. 

The New 52: Futures End #13 (DC)
from September 2014

It's really shocking that fans didn't really care about this weekly series.  The assembled writers were certainly impressive enough: Azzarello (synonymous with prestige), Giffen (synonymous with DC weekly comics at this point), Jurgens (still synonymous with "Doomsday," the biggest comics event of the modern era), and Lemire (now synonymous with the modern vanguard).  I still want to catch up with it.  This issue features part of the Superman arc, where he's been amnesiac about being Superman.  It was also the mainstreaming of Batman Beyond.  Terry McGinnis seems on his way to...involuntarily bequeathing the role to Tim Drake in this issue...

Convergence: Action Comics #2 (DC)
from July 2015

I still love Convergence.  Maybe it's because it came at a dark moment for me, and it was a rare beacon of life.  I didn't read the Action Comics two-parter at the time, and I'm not sure what I missed.  Maybe not too much.

Trinity of Sin: Pandora - Futures End (DC)
from November 2014

I've written about Pandora often enough.  This version of her story reveals an alternate explanation for the character (Geoff Johns had a different one during the Justice League "Trinity War" event, and a much different fate in DC Universe Rebirth).  But it was certainly interesting to see this one, even if the art didn't really do it much justice.

Quarter Bin 118 "Fan Fuel"

Batman: Master of the Future (DC)
from 1991

Master of the Future is a sequel to Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, a Victorian Age tale that has stood the test of time from the Elseworlds era, the unofficial multiverse that existed between Crisis On Infinite Earths and its sequel, Infinite CrisisGaslight was part of the 1989 barrage (along with Batman, the movie, and Arkham Asylum, the Grant Morrison tale).  Like Master it's written by Brian Augustyn, who otherwise is best known as editor of Mark Waid's Flash, and the first guy who tried succeeding Waid in that series.  Gaslight was one of Mike Mignola's DC projects (other notable examples: Cosmic Odyssey and the covers from "A Death in the Family").  The artist for Master is Eduardo Barreto (other notable works: Martian Manhunter: American Secrets and Superman: Under A Yellow Sun, like Master both prestige format projects).  There's a DC animated film based on Gaslight in production at the moment.  Master, as I've never actually read Gaslight, doesn't particularly read as terribly noteworthy.  I don't know if it reads better as a sequel.  But it's still interesting, having finally read something Gaslight related.

The Flash: Our Worlds At War (DC)
from 2001

Our Worlds At War was at the time intended to be a next-level Crisis event, redefining the concept in a modern, literate manner.  Lead writer was Jeph Loeb, in-between Batman: The Long Halloween and the one-two punch of "Hush" and Superman/Batman, the three major works that still define his legacy (Marvel fans seem to remember him only for his later Ultimatum, which is a huge shame).  But the concept was overshadowed by the coincidental real-life catastrophe that was 9/11, which occurred in Our Worlds' aftermath.  The comic ended up looking like just another of the unfortunate reminders of that day.  But it's always fascinated me, as I wasn't reading comics at the time.  A couple years ago I read an omnibus of the event, so finally got caught up.  I forget if it was in that or a Geoff Johns Flash omnibus where I've read this particular extract previously.  I don't think it's a great way to sample Johns except to see Cyborg pop up in another of his stories; later, Johns had him join the New 52 Justice League as a founding member, which is how he shows up in the upcoming movie, too.  The dramatic heft of the story, actually, belongs to the New God known as the Black Racer, who is best known as the guy who inexplicably skis everywhere.  But he's got a great, emotional story, being tied to a human trapped in a hospital bed.  I'm not sure if Johns used him again in his "Darkseid War," but not as I remember or have read (haven't read that whole story yet, either).

Justice League of America #58 (DC)
from August 2011

This is from the Brad Meltzer relaunch era, but once James Robinson, post-Cry for Justice, had taken over, in its final days before the New 52.  Robinson had cobbled together his own League, including Congo Bill, whom he doesn't seem to have made relevant again (six years later and no additional Congo Bill, right?), but basically another B-League, which has always been curious to see even considered again post-JLA.  But Robinson certainly seems to have also used the opportunity to subtly promote his best-known work, the 90s Starman, although not with lead character Jack Knight (alas).  The Starman here is the blue alien, whom a letter writer (this is the brief era in which DC brought them back!) celebrates for helping make gays visible.  And also the Shade, who is somewhat absurdly praised as being basically the most powerful dude around.  But Robinson would later produce The Shade, a fascinating maxi-series during the New 52 that curiously never really got much love (fickle fans!).  I'd always wanted to sample this work, as Saint Walker, the Blue Lantern, is also a member of the team.  And on the cover?  Seven Soldiers of Victory's Bulleteer!  But...not so much in the issue.  But Zauriel is!  Also funny to see all the Green Lantern movie hype in the issue.  And...!  Josh Williamson writing a Subway comic ad insert!  After an...unfortunate formative interlude with Dark Horse where I may have questioned his ability to produce distinctive comics, he's now become one of my favorite writers of The Flash...

Justice League of America #3 (DC)
from June 2013

...This incarnation of the title started off with a bang (it's the Justice League's opposite number!), and was even written, in the beginning, by Geoff Johns, who of course was also writing the New 52's Justice League at the time.  (Yet another iteration of the title launched in the Rebirth era, where it looks like the curse may have finally broken; fingers crossed!)  Anyway, so aside from reading another Johns issue (I had only read the first, previously, the one with covers for every state in the United States), I was eager to read it mostly for Vibe, who was hyped with his own ongoing series simultaneously launched with it.  Vibe was previously known as a joke from the Justice League Detroit era.  Thanks to this revival, he gained a third chance at relevance, where as far as I'm concerned he's earned it, in the second TV Flash series, where I think he may actually be the best character, aside from maybe the many incarnations of Harrison Wells.  Anyway, the art is by David Finch, who was brought in by DC with little clue, at first with what to do with him, so he was given his own New 52 series, at first, Batman: The Dark Knight.  Eventually, he did Forever Evil with Johns, Wonder Woman with his wife, and finally Tom King's Rebirth Batman.  Where, I think, the signing finally really paid off.

Superman Special #2 (DC)
from 1984

From classic creators Cary Bates (a legend at DC in the '70s) and Gil Kane (a classic Green Lantern artist), this one features Brainiac tricking an alien civilization into thinking Superman is the bad guy.  It's the kind of storytelling that feels quaint today, but served as the backbone of comics for decades.  Which is kind of way a lot of fans still have a problem with how comics read today.  They lament the British explosion in the same breath they celebrate it, without really realizing it.  Alan Moore was credited with making superheroes perhaps too mature, but he and his cohorts were really guilty of one thing and one thing only: making this stuff permanently more sophisticated.  Fans still want to argue this alienated the inherent juvenile audience of the medium.  But, again, comics were never actually intended for kids.  Funny joke in hindsight, Wertham.  You convinced the fans...

It's worth noting that these comics are the first ones I bought as, once again, a resident of Florida, this time on an ongoing basis.  I was last here two years ago.  I haven't actually visited a comics shop yet.  These came from a kind of vendor shop at a mall. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Green Valley #9 (Image)

writer: Max Landis
artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli

Having caught up with the premise and first few issues earlier this year and been such a fan of Superman: American Alien, I was happy to catch the final installment of Green Valley

Obviously, I missed a good chunk of the story, but other than not knowing where a given element came from, it made perfect sense, not only from what I'd read but also on its own.  This is a good thing.  I was able to recall the pertinent details and keep up with the emotional rewards at the conclusion.

The problem is that I'm not sure the landing was really nailed.  It's not in the scripting or the art, which from Camuncoli remains stellar, but that the pacing seemed wrong.  You know how people complain about all the epilogues in Peter Jackson's Return of the King, and they just seemed to drag on and on?  Here it's kind of the opposite.  It feels rushed.  There's really no chance to breathe between celebrating victory and then finding out the two big things waiting for our heroes when they get back.  Plus there's a whiff in explaining what's supposed to come next.

It's not even so much that the ending is essentially a reboot.  Some fans loathe the idea of a reboot because it cancels out the emotional developments that helped make a story work in the first place.  I've seen plenty of reboots to know that this isn't really the case if you know the reboot is inevitable.  The problem here is that this is literally the first story featuring the Knights of Kelodia (that's my other main beef with Green Valley; "Kelodia" is a lousy name).

But given all that, I still love the ambition and the skill brought to the table.  Landis ought to be celebrated as a wildly talented new writer in the field.  Camuncoli has already worked at DC and Marvel; he did two issues of 52, plus scores of Spider-Man (including Superior Spider-Man), and Batman: Europa.  He ought to be considered a superstar in the making.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reading Comics 216 "Kings Cross"

I'm about to relocate again.  Don't know what kind of impact this will have on my admittedly at present sporadic comics reading, but it's certainly worth noting.  This batch of comics represents what could be my last trip to Zimmies in Lewiston, Maine, which is a shop I've been visiting in its several incarnations since I bought my first comics nearly a quarter century ago. 

Batman Annual #4 (DC)
This one's from 2015 and is set during Snyder's Commissioner Batman era, when Bruce Wayne has amnesia.  It's James Tynion writing Bruce as he returns to Wayne Manor, which at the time had just finished being used as the new Arkham Asylum.  It's interesting, story-wise insofar as it posits Bruce Wayne as a target for Batman's enemies, who may have mistaken him as the Dark Knight's financier.  But it's the cover and the art that really interests me.  The cover is from Sean Murphy.

Murphy has been a favorite since he collaborated with Grant Morrison on Joe the Barbarian, and I've tried to keep track of his work ever since, whether Punk Rock Jesus or the Detective Comics #27 (New 52 era) story he did with Snyder that rumor has it they'll be returning to soon.  Murphy also has Batman: White Knight coming up, and that sounds fascinating.

The interior is from Roge Antonio, whose work looks like Snyder's American Vampire collaborator Raphael Albuquerque.  Have a look at it yourself:

Apparently he's been on the Rebirth series Batgirl and the Birds of Prey these days.  A career well worth tracking, too, I think.

Batman #30-31 (DC)
The first is "The Ballad of Kite Man Part 2," which is apparently hugely controversial, both parts, as it seems way too heavy for some readers.  I just don't get that.  This is literally the most relevant Kite Man has ever been.  I don't expect Tom King is done with the guy just yet, sort of like Gotham Girl.  The second is the penultimate chapter in "The War of Jokes and Riddles" itself, which promises an explosive ending (and apparently whether or not Catwoman accepts the proposal).  I think the arc's been brilliant.  This is a Joker who has been every bit the savage beast he's sometimes been depicted to be (The Killing Joke) but in a context where he's "lost his smile" (quotations thanks to Shawn Michaels).  This is a Batman who has apparently been forced to ally himself with the Riddler.  This is a story that once again feels, if Batman were every to be taken seriously, and his whole world around him, like this is what would actually happen.  Too often these characters only exist one story at a time, or locked up in Arkham.  What if Batman's foes were forced to take sides?  What if Batman himself was forced to take sides? 

Birthright #19 (Image)
This is from 2016, and is Josh Williamson's main interest outside of DC and The Flash, and I figured I'd finally have a look.  Naturally it's a little difficult to know exactly what's going on, but it seems pretty fascinating.

Black Hammer #2, 13 (Dark Horse)
A kind of alternate DC from Jeff Lemire, in which the aftermath of a crisis left the heroes trapped in a kind of pocket dimension (wonder if Infinite Crisis will be reflected).  These particular issues feature a kind of Shazam in a kind of I Hate Fairyland situation, the Skottie Young series where a young girl has been a young girl for far too long in a scenario she is well and truly over.  I've been hearing that this is Lemire's best work.  I'm a huge Lemire admirer, whether his recent Moon Knight or Descender, which I wish I were reading regularly.  I'm not ready to declare Black Hammer in that league, but I suppose for fans wanting him to reflect superhero comics, in a way that makes sense to them, this is a good option.

Mister Miracle #2 (DC)
Like his Batman, King is finding readers who don't understand what he's doing in Mister Miracle.  But I'm loving it.  He is absolutely one of my all-time favorite comic book writers at this point, and I look forward to having this whole thing to relish.

Nightwing: The New Order #1 (DC)
I was quite happy when I heard this one announced.  It's a Nightwing mini-series, the kind usually only Batman and Superman, and once in a while Wonder Woman, get.  It's also Kyle Higgens returning to the character.  He was the writer who launched the New 52 series and was at one time Snyder's running mate, the role Tynion later assumed.  So I'm glad to see that The New Order was worth the interest.  This first issue isn't really going to be able to explain how Dick Grayson ended up deciding superpowers are a bad thing.  What it does instead is bring the focus to Dick's relationship with his son.  This is a scenario previously featured in the Earth 2 comics, and an interesting continuing consideration for Nightwing's further legacy.  We find out at the end of the issue that the mother is Starfire, which begs the Dick's position based on heartbreak?  Either way, I'll definitely want to read more of this.

Rise of the Black Flame #2 (Dark Horse)
This is another comic from 2016, part of the Hellboy universe.  I bought it mainly for the Christopher Mitten (Wasteland) art.  Always glad to see more!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Quarter Bin 117 "More DC 3-Pack Comics"

I love these DC 3-packs.  I love that I can find any comics in retail stores, even if they're grab bags, but the consistency of these 3-packs has been a continuous joy for the past few years.  So here's what I got in the last two:

Batman and Robin: Futures End (DC)
from November 2014

I love reading these Futures End issues.  I love that so many writers ignored, and possibly at editorial suggestion, the Futures End event itself and just had a look at whatever was most probably five years down the line in whatever was happening in the titles at the time.  Ray Fawkes was riffing, here, on Damian's death, and Batman's penchant for going gunshy on his new partners because of things like that.  This time he's pulling it on Duke Thomas, who in this Futures End timeline actually did become Robin, as so many fans long anticipated (Snyder has instead opted to give him his own identity: the Signal).  The art is by Dustin Nguyen, with inks by frequent collaborator Derek Fridolfs.  It's funny to see Nguyen presented as a traditional artist again, after getting so used to his Descender water colors look.

What's funny is that it makes his work look like Jorge Corona's.


Yeah, Corono drew Duke, too, as a kind of Robin, in the pages of We Are Robin.  Seems appropriate, anyway.

Here's what Nguyen looks like in Descender, by the way:

The story, by the way, involves Batman's showdown with a revived Heretic, most likely a clone, the villain who killed Damian in the pages of Morrison's Batman Incorporated.  I'm sure I've read it before, but it's another of the excellent Futures End specials. 

Green Arrow #1 (DC)
Wal-Mart reprint from July 2017

This is a reprint of the Rebirth debut issue from the ongoing series, and does an excellent job of spotlighting Benjamin Percy's vision for the series, integrating a lot of different elements of Green Arrow's publishing history, including his social views, relationship with Black Canary, and penchant for having a sidekick, except this one...It becomes a wonderful development for the character, having Ollie take on a half-sister, whose mother turns out to be his enemy Shado.  Makes me think I really should've made this series a priority read at some point.  Will have to check back in...

Justice League #36 (DC)
from January 2015

This is the first chapter in the "Amazo Virus," where Geoff Johns started amping the series back up to its "monthly event book" (my designation) status as it geared toward "Darkseid War."  The art of Jason Fabok was an immediate sensation, and certainly helped drive eyeballs back to the title. 

Justice League United #2, 5 (DC)
from August, December 2014

I never did get around to sampling this series at the time, but I'm glad I finally have.  Jeff Lemire (writer of Descender, by the way!) launched it, and these issues make it clear that United helped launch the New 52 version of Adam Strange, which was fun to read, especially for someone who's just finished rereading 52.

Batman and the Justice League: Outbreak #1 (DC)
Wal-Mart reprint from July 2017

This is what's really fascinating about these 3-packs, that the comic in front is always the newest, and often features a custom Wal-Mart cover and even, with some of them, custom titles.  Batman and the Justice League is actually the Rebirth Justice League from Bryan Hitch, and this is actually #10 from the series.  It's kind of funny, too, or maybe calculated, that the issue is related to the above Justice League, as it also features Amazo.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Quarter Bin 116 "JLA"

JLA #8 (DC)
from August 1997

This is the setup to the Key revamp Grant Morrison pulled early in his run, but I remember it best for Green Arrow Connor Hawke's memorable statement: "Dad.  Oh, dad.  You're going to be the death of me."  He's referencing having to use his then-late father Oliver Queen's infamous trick arrows.  I used a similar line for a story I later wrote. It's just perfectly executed, and still one of the most memorable endings to any single issue I've ever read.  It's also worth noting the excellent art of Oscar Jimenez, which he seems incapable of delivering on an ongoing basis.  How about signing him up for a limited series, folks?  Also, worth noting that Morrison's Key uses tactics that are very similar to The Matrix, an irony, as Morrison's The Invisibles has long been said to be an unacknowledged source of inspiration for the movie.  I don't know Invisibles well enough to offer a judgment about that, but clearly Morrison was on the right wavelength somewhere...

JLA #14 (DC)
from January 1998

Yeah, so I mistakenly thought this was the "Darkseid Is" issue (it's on the cover an' everything!), but it's the one after it.  It's also "Part 5 of 6" in the "Rock of Ages" arc, but for all intents and purposes, is probably to be considered, along with its immediate predecessor, the best stuff in the arc.  It's Morrison's first crack at Darkseid.  C'mon!  He responds with possibly his best JlA material.  Howard Porter provides art.  It's crazy to think Porter, when JLA launched, was instantly considered an elite artist, but has never received another elite assignment.  What the Apokolips is up with that???

JLA #88 (DC)
from December 2003

Truth be told, after Morrison left the title, I didn't really see much point in trying to see what his successors were up to, despite the fact that there's a lot more non-Morrison JLA issues than ones he actually wrote.  This one's from Joe Kelly, who at the time was threatening to become one of DC's most important writers.  Instead he and a bunch of his pals went and did their own projects, not in the Image way, but bigger, arguably.  Anyway, I chose this issue because the cover promised a strong Martian Manhunter spotlight ("vs the Martian Manhunter! and J'onn Jonzz! and John Jones!"), but as it turns out, Plastic Man is the one who receives the best spotlight.  Plastic Man was Morrison's most outlandish addition to the League, so it's really good to see that his presence in the team wasn't overlooked or forgotten years after the fact.  Kelly spins some poignant material that segues nicely with the Offspring character Mark Waid envisioned as Plastic Man's son.  Waid apparently considers Offspring the best thing about The Kingdom.  You'd really think there would've been more with these two.  There's always the future...Also quite fun to see Doug Mahnke's work, as always.  He seems to have developed, by this point, more or less the style he still uses today.