Review: Superman: Lois and Clark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I'm an avowed fan of Dan Jurgens's Superman from way back. I'll also acknowledge that some of Jurgens's newer material, in the New 52 specifically, didn't pack the same punch for me, so I approached Superman: Lois and Clark warily. If Dan Jurgens was going to write the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane, he was really going to have to write them, and lines as in the beginning where Clark calls Lois "Lo" -- which I don't think this Clark ever did -- threaten that. For this trick to work, DC bringing back these pre-Flashpoint characters, it has to be flawless; otherwise these aren't the pre-Flashpoint characters, just more new versions of these characters now using old names and costumes.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 8: Truth hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 8: Truth is an astounding example of just how quickly the fares of a work of serial storytelling can change. On one hand, we have perhaps the epitome of what the DC You tried to be, a story that combines superheroics and social relevance as movingly as in recent memory, but on the other hand, from those high lofts the book ultimately ends up in very basic superhero fisticuffs. Two full chapter in, I was ready to laud Truth as among some must-read Superman work, but seven chapters in, not so much.

I already knew writer Greg Pak wrote a strong Superman, and I don't think he and Aaron Kuder's work has received the recognition it's deserved among runs by Geoff Johns and Gene Luen Yang, Doomed and Rebirth and so on. The best work in this book just reinforces my esteem despite the missteps, and I'd still say this book's early issues are worth looking at even if Truth doesn't hold out throughout.

Review: Flash Vol. 2: Speed of Darkness (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DC Comics's Flash Vol. 2: Speed of Darkness remains distinctly connected to the ongoing Rebirth storyline, with plenty of touchstone moments that call back to DC's most popular characters and continuities. But the second volume in, when titles in the Batman and Superman franchises have begun to soar, the Flash title continues to struggle. Writer Joshua Williamson focuses mostly on Kid Flash Wally West here, and unfortunately he conflates the juvenile character with the tone of the story. There's a wistfulness to the book, as well as a marked deification of Flash Barry Allen, that comes off too light for me; I'm eager for the promised villains in coming volumes mainly for a story one might finally sink their teeth in to.

Review: Superman Vol. 1: Before Truth hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Gene Luen Yang was dealt no easy hand with the story collected in Superman Vol. 1: Before Truth. The writer's first arc connects immediately to the mega-event "Truth," the story involves both Superman and Lois Lane necessarily acting out of character, and we're left with more questions than answers about the villain of the piece. As such, it's hard to fully know what to make of Yang's issues, because it's tough to find what Yang himself is trying to say among the needs of the larger story.

Artist John Romita Jr. does nice work here but really starts to shine at the very end with the grittier Superman who emerges, and we intuit that Yang is more comfortable, too; this is where the DC You aesthetic begins to emerge as well. In some respects Before Truth seems a prelude to where this team really wants to go, though at this point they only have six issues left to do so (and only three before the next crossover). Now that Rebirth has taken off and Peter Tomasi and Dan Jurgens have cemented their partnership as the new Superman team, this Superman run becomes, like many DC You series, just something of a footnote as Rebirth steals the spotlight.

Review: Batman: Night of the Monster Men (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

There's comparisons to be made between Batman: Night of the Monster Men and Batman: Night of the Owls, given that each "night" marked both the first crossover and first Bat-event of their respective eras, Rebirth and the New 52.

A fairer comparison might be with Night of the Monster Men and Trinity War or Robin War, given that Monster Men is an inter-title crossover like those others and Owls was a main story in the Batman series plus a string of other-title tie-ins. But whereas it might seem a benefit that Owls allowed the reader to pick up as many or as few tie-ins as they liked, versus Monster Men requiring the reading of all six parts, the Owls tie-ins felt in some respects shoehorned into the crossover and the total result was lesser, not greater. Owls essentially had the Bat-family tackling one threat simultaneously, but separately; Monster Men sees the already-disparate casts of Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing truly joining forces against a common threat.

Review: Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 08, 2017

It's unfortunate that Tom King and Tim Seeley couldn't write the final issues of Grayson collected in Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral's End. At the same time, I'm skeptical that either writer was really that far away, even if perhaps busy with Rebirth considerations. Without benefit of Seeley and King's actual finale, it's impossible to say that Hacktivist and Joyride's Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly's closing issues really would have been that much different. If Grayson's end came too swiftly, that's more a fault of Rebirth proper than anything two backup writers in an unenviable position did.

For me, the final Grayson volume hit most of the important points I wanted it to. I thought it adroitly positioned Dick Grayson and his supporting cast for their Rebirth roles in such a way as to acknowledge rather than forget this preceding series, preserving Grayson as part of the once-and-future Nightwing's continuum.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One makes me a little mad. It is a lovely Wonder Woman origin that in many ways reflects these characters best selves, with all the more pure and tragic motivations now for Diana, her mother Hippolyta, and the other gathered Amazons especially. At the same time, both happily and not, the broad strokes of Rucka's origin hew fairly close to George Perez's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths original, and I did have to wonder at the necessity of a new Wonder Woman origin when the last most recent still seems to work fairly well.

Still yet, however, this origin does fit fairly well into the post-Flashpoint New 52 continuity. I've no idea and probably won't for at least a few more months what timeline these Rebirth books are supposed to be adhering to, but as it seems pretty certain DC is doubling down on Justice League: Origin as being the definitive first meeting of the Justice League, and Wonder Woman: Year One dovetails with that. We have lacked a clear Wonder Woman origin for almost a decade now, not just for the New 52 but since Infinite Crisis, so the fact that we actually have one at all is something of a miracle.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, May 01, 2017

Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields marks a long good-bye for the "Batgirl of Burnside" title. The book collects seven issues and a special, and in some respects ends twice; there's a five-part story that essentially brings the title to its most proper and loftiest conclusion (with art for the book's last time by Babs Tarr), and then a two-part story that breaks things down to an extent as a lead-in to the Rebirth series. Whereas titles like Batman and Flash offered no overt connection between the end of the New 52 series and the beginning of Rebirth, writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher do a surprising amount of heavy lifting here to position this title for Hope Larson's upcoming run.

Mindfields improves on the previous volume, a positive trend especially since this is the end. In the main story, the basic facts of who the villain is and what's happening to Batgirl Barbara Gordon are apparent from the start, allowing for more emphasis on the characters themselves and their interactions, as befits the Batgirl title. There's a good amount of psychological horror at play that's surprisingly effective, like a Twilight Zone episode, and then that's balanced in the end by Batgirl's campy villains and quip-laden superheroics. Mindfields held my attention and I'm curious to see what Larson does with the book's new status quo going forward.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Better than Batman (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Grayson fans will be pleased with a Rebirth Nightwing series that, if not quite as powerful, remains faithful to what came before. That cuts both ways, however, because in many respects Nightwing Vol. 1: Better than Batman is about once-reluctant super-spy Dick Grayson finding himself now hesitant to give up the "shoot first and ask questions later" and "consequences be damned" aesthetic of his days with Spyral.

That's a good way to bridge what was and what is, and I hope former Grayson writer Tim Seeley hasn't said all he's going to say on the matter even as Dick seems to put those ghosts to bed by this book's end. In some respects -- like the first Rebirth Batman volume and the first Rebirth Flash volume -- Seeley's story is too easy, and the speed with which Dick is corrupted and then looses that corruption comes too fast, though Seeley handles the "dubious partner" trope better than those others. Again, in a twice-monthly shipping world, maybe this is a matter of adjusting my own expectations for a story; better, I guess, that a story seems too swift than one that drags on.

Review: Batman Vol. 10: Epilogue hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Batman Vol. 10: Epilogue is a controversial volume, the story contents within notwithstanding, because of DC's decision to shunt just two issues of the Batman regular series to their own volume. I do actually applaud DC's commitment to collecting every single issue of the New 52 Batman series, whether written by series author Scott Snyder or not. If I have a criticism, it's not in the decision to collect the stories -- and so if the decision was to collect or not, then DC made the right one -- but rather that it clearly seems there were other places along the way these stories could have been included other than their own volume. The greatest difficulty is how this volume narratively casts the end of Snyder's Batman run for the uninitiated reader who might not know this "end" wasn't precisely how the end played out order-wise.