Posted tagged ‘DC’

Review: Secret Six: Depths

June 2, 2010

The newest collection of Gail Simone’s twisted super-villain series, Secret Six, is the first misstep she’s taken since writing the first mini-series featuring the characters.  Her grasp of the characters is as strong as ever, and the first two issues in this collection, which are both one-off tales, are excellent.  However, the main story in this volume is a ill-conceived team-up with Wonder Woman, which pretty much just exists because Simone was also writing that book at the time.

The Six are hired by a group who has forced a band of Amazons into slave labor in order to construct the world’s greatest prison.  What exactly the six are hired to do, is never really explained, nor is it explained why the would be warden has made a deal with Grendel.  Then there’s the problem that Wonder Woman and the Six don’t mesh together at all.  Oh and there’s also that this makes back to back stories in which the Six turn on one another and then somehow make up afterwards.

The book’s almost worth it for the first issue, being the most awkward date comic in history, but the rest is just a mess.

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance

March 23, 2010

Joe Casey excells at two things in particular when it comes to superhero stories, characters with an awareness marketing concerns (Wildcats, the Intimates), and characters that owe a huge debt to Jack Kirby (Godland).  So now he’s been given what is essentially a dream job with Dance, a mini-series focusing on Grant Morrison’s Super Young Team.

The Super Young Team is a group of five Japanese teen heroes, who Morrison used as a replacement for Kirby’s hippie-radical Forever People.  With their publicity agent in tow they spend this series trying find a way to redefine the role of modern superheroes, although they never quite succeed, and sadly neither does Casey, although he does come fairly close.

There’s a lot to love here, but it’s all things that Casey has done better elsewhere.  For example Most Excellent Superbat’s (he of the power of being unbelievably rich) running Twitter feed along with the narrative works great, but not quite as well as the meta-commentary scroll bar Casey used in the Intimates.  More importantly considering the team only has five members, it’s an issue that one is entirely ignored and another written off as little more than a lush.

It’s still worth a read though, especially if you’ve never been exposed to Casey.  But he is capable of better.

Review: Showcase Presents Aquaman Vol.1

February 26, 2010

Oh Aquaman, the #1 punching bag in comicdom.  But before he lost his famous orange shirt….and his son….and his hand….and became a zombie, he was one of DC’s big 7.  And that’s where the first Showcase Presents volume of his stories takes the reader.

These stories mark the start of the silver age interpretation of the character, in which his origin is altered making him a half Atlantian.  The stories are fairly typical for silver age DC.  Hokey, full of crazy monsters, black and white morality, and people without personalities.  Aquaman and Aqualad certainly don’t have any, and Quisp is only mischievious because he tells the reader so.  

Then there are the incredibly formulaic plots.  In each story Aquaman runs across a pirate/evil sea captain/alien fish monster, discovers their evil plan to take over the world/hijack some ships/recover a sunken treasure chest, gets captured and is kept from water for 59 minutes, then gets rescued by Aqualad (who first appears here)/his water sprite friend/his pet octopus.  Yet the sheer craziness of these stories manage to make them a lot of fun, especially thanks to the art of Nick Cardy and Ramona Fradon.  Granted they still draw undersea cities as if they people who lived there walked through them instead of swam, but then so does pretty much everyone else.

So, Aquaman is pretty good silver age fun, but probably only in small doses.  This volume collects over 500 pages of comics and it took me 2 months to finish between other books because I just couldn’t handle that much Aquaman at once, despite actually being someone who enjoys the character.

Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds

December 1, 2009

The Legion of 3 Worlds is a very strange book.  It serves as the culmination of various plot threads from Geoff Johns’ runs on Teen Titans, Superman, Green Lantern, and the Flash but has nothing whatsoever to do with Final Crisis, despite the title.  Then there’s its stated goal of redeeming Superboy Prime, the villain of two massive DC events (Infinite Crisis and the Sinestro Corps War) and a continuity headache in his own right thanks to his role in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  And then of course the book is actually supposed to be about the Legion of Superheroes, and is an attempt to straighten out the three different continuities that exist in the Legion canon.

Can you follow all that?  If so this is the book for you.  For the other 99% of the population who won’t have a chance of groking this story without a wikipedia IV I think this book will pose a substantial problem.  

But credit where its due, the story here holds together remarkably well despite just how much is going on here in so little space.  And much of that is due to the legendary George Perez turning in some amazing art work.  Throughout the series he has to draw a couple hundred characters, not to mention distinguishing between all the alternate versions of the Legionaires.  Its a pretty impressive tour de force and it makes this comic a must read, but really only for the hard core DC fans.

Review: Planetary

October 29, 2009

Well it took a decade for a mere 30 issues (counting the 3 specials) to come out, but the wait was worth it.  Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary is one of the key comics of the last decade and unquestionably a must read for any fan of the medium.
What makes the book such a standout is the two levels the story works on.  On its surface this is an adventure book about 3 adventurers dedicated to their catchphrase “it’s a strange world, let’s keep it that way”.  To do so the team of “mystery archaeologists travels the world finding wonders and trying to save them from the 4, a group dedicated to hording those treasures for themselves.

This is where Planetary goes from being a merely good comic to something special.  The four are clearly patterned on the Fantastic Four, who if you know your comics history, launched Marvel’s dominance of the comic stands.  The FF are explorers at heart, a quartet that goes into the unknown in order to define it.  In this book, Ellis instead portrays them as the death of the heroic age that came before them.  An age in which the pulp heroes sought out the same sorts of wonders, but soley to have the experience, and not to define them and limit their capacity for evoking a sense of wonder.

Ellis then combines this analysis of pulp history with his archaeologists to turn the comic into a tribute what was lost.  Up until the end when Ellis starts wraping up the story every issue serves as a meditation on a different part of that history.  There are issues dedicated to Doc Savage, Japanese Kaiju, the Justice League, and big dumb object s.f. tales (think Rendezvous with Rama), plus many more.  Ellis is always respectful of these inspirations, and Cassaday’s art, which made him a superstar, is the perfect compliment for it.

Just an incredible book.

Review: Secret Six: Unhinged

September 10, 2009

It’s been a long time coming, but the Secret Six finally have an ongoing series with Gail Simone at the helm (along with the great Nicola Scott on art).  The Six is DC’s latest attempt at a villains book and it is arguably their most successful because of Simone’s deft characterization.  

The six leads are aren’t so much villains (although they do get up to quite a big of robbery, murder, and mayhem in this book) as just deeply broken people.  The book is just littered with one disturbing peak into their minds after another, none of which are obvious, but all of which just seem right.  From Scandal being consoled with a prostitute dressed up as her dead lover to Bane unilaterally deciding to become a surrogate father I kept finding myself simultaneously amused and horrified.

The plot for this collection is a blast as well.  This book is basically a macguffin story, but a very clever one that makes for a perfect start to this series.  I can’t wait to see where Simone goes next.

Review: Final Crisis

June 20, 2009

Final Crisis is kind of a frustrating book, epitomizing both the best and worst of Grant Morrison.  There are big ideas on display on every page and the scale of the story is overwhelming.  This is a tribute to the legacy of Jack Kirby, its a meditation on the role of superheroes in pop culture, and its the summation of Morrison’s entire career at DC.  Thus while it is often great, it’s more often prohibitively dense.

You really have to wrestle with this story in order to grok it, and while normally that’s a very rewarding experience with a Grant Morrison book, it doesn’t really work when the comic in question is supposed to be a widescreen tent-pole event.  Huge events happen in this book, the silver age Flash returns from the dead, while both Batman & the Martian Manhunter meet their ends, and yet these moments get lost in the somewhat experimental narrative.  

This is soooo close to being a great book, but somehow it just doesn’t quite work.

Review: Batman Chronicles Vol.4

June 10, 2009

It’s a very odd experience reading the stories within the Batman Chronicles.  I find it’s impossible to enjoy it in its own right and can only really read it as a historical artifact.  This volume collects every Batman appearance between May and October 1941.

 They don’t really read right, no one had really worked out how to write a comic yet.  There are too many captions, there’s almost no attempt at composition beyond the individual panels, and the writing keeps overwhelming the art (which is really a shame as it’s really good).

Now what’s most notable about the collection is the inclusion of World’s Finest #3, the first appearance of the Scarecrow.  He doesn’t have any fear gas yet, or other gimmick’s besides the costume, but the character’s pretty much fully formed here.  If you’re a Batman fan this issue is pretty much worth the cost of the book.  But besides that there’s not much here that you won’t see in the earlier volumes.

Review: Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol.3

June 1, 2009

Last time I reviewed one of these I said I was finally starting to understand the appeal of the Legion, well with volume 3 I’m well and truly hooked.  This volume collects the earliest Jim Shooter stories and is where the series hits its stride.  The issues here introduce Shadow Lass, the Fatal Five, Universo, the Sun Eaters, the Controllers, the Dominators, the Dark Circle, and the Miracle Machine recently used in Final Crisis.

As you can imagine a lot happens here, and it’s all a lot of fun especially as this still falls into DC’s silver age and so Shooter is still doing the occasional silly story (the superpets revolt against their owners, the Legion are turned into babies, etc….).  But at the same time a few more serious stories come through in astonishing fashion.  A tale of the Legion teaming up with the Fatal Five and sacrificing one of their own to battle a Sun Eater threatening the galaxy takes a single issue.  A few decades later when the same story is essentially retold in the Final Night it had to be its own mini-series, complete with a multitude of tie-in issues.

Comics just aren’t written this way anymore, so thank God for reprints.

Review: Showcase Presents the Doom Patrol

May 16, 2009

I’m still sick dammit, but that does allow me plenty of time for reading, which is sort of nice.  So I just finished DC’s collection of the earliest Doom Patrol stories, one of their better silver age books.  What sets it apart is the comic’s byline, “the world’s strangest heroes”.  The Patrol don’t see themselves as superheroes, they see themselves as freaks.

This gives the book just enough of its own identity to set it apart from most of DC’s other output at the time.  It also allows writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney to tell some slightly odder stories, most notably ones featuring the Brotherhood of evil.  Nowhere else could you see something like Monsieur Mallah, the super-intelligent, French gorilla.

This is one of the best of DC’s Showcase collections.  The stories are fun, the characters are fairly strong, and the book has a nice air of historical significance.  It also gets bonus points for featuring a female superhero in 1963 (Elasi-Girl) that is actually portrayed as the physical equal of her co-stars.  Well worth a read.