067 The Hellblazer Vol 1: The Poison Truth

First the good news.  This volume reprints the Rebirth issue that was also published at the end of the previous volume.  When I first read that, I kind of breathed a sigh of relief.  DC has cut the balls off of John Constantine, realized that they did a bad thing, and have been working on trying to reattach them.  The Rebirth issue showed a lot of promise.  This volume starts with that issue, and I'm afraid it might be the best issue reprinted here.  

This is John Constantine's third relaunch since cancelling his Vertigo book.  The New 52 launch was awful.  They completely neutered him.  Alfred Pennyworth had more of a sharp edge to him than John Constantine did.  They really tried to integrate him HARD into the regular DCU.  Guess what?  I didn't work.  That book was eventually cancelled (along with Justice League Dark, which went from being a great book to absolute unreadable garbage in a short span of time) and replaced with a second go round.  That book was better, but it still wasn't quite John Constantine.  He was still a little too kind, a little too gentle, but heading in the right direction.  Maybe the phrase I'm looking for is "user friendly."  He was a little too user friendly.  He's not supposed to be likable.  He's supposed to be a bastard who happens to do good along the way.  His heart would be in the right place if he had one.  This John had too much heart still.  And now we have our third launch.  Maybe it's going in the right direction, I don't know.  Why?  Because this is almost more of a Swamp Thing (and don't get me started on what a walking disaster that is) story than a Hellblazer story.  Aaaannnnnndddddd, it's only the first half of the story.

I love John Constantine.  I'm eating up the remastered series of Vertigo Hellblazer trades.  The last three runs, though, not as much.  DC, you can do better.  You really can.  I don't know why you won't.

The Hellblazer Vol 1: The Poison Truth
Writer: Simon Oliver
Artist: Moritat, Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan Jr
DC Comics

066 Astro City: Honor Guard

A couple of posts ago, I was complaining that Kurt Busiek, although a solid writer, just doesn't get the Justice League.  Or the DC Universe for that matter.  There's always been something about the stuff he writes for DC that doesn't click for me.  His Marvel work is great and he's so good at what he does, but not when it comes to DC properties.  Astro City is his creator owned book and what he does here makes his Marvel work look like his DC work, if that makes sense.  There's something magical about reading Astro City to me.  It rarely hits a sour note (though there was that maxi-series a few years ago.  The less we talk about it, the better).  He was born to write this book.

Very often in Astro City, Kurt will write a story which involves some sort of flashback.  Sometimes it's a single page showing scenes from previous adventures of the characters.  When you read something like JLA and they do that, you see a panel of them battling Shaggy Man and you remember that story, or they show a panel teaming up with the JSA and it brings you right back to that issue.  When Kurt does that in Astro City, you get the exact same feeling even though what he's flashing back to has never been published before.  Every time I read an issue of Astro City, it feels like a universe I've been heavily invested in since I was ten years old.  How he can manage to do that on a consistent basis is beyond me.

This collection is a little different than the last few.  It's full of one or two part stories that were published in between longer arcs.  Each story is about a different member of the Honor Guard.  You get some decent backstory on some of these characters.  I do love a nice done-in-one tale and these are all solid stories.  Also different about this collection is the stories are all drawn by guest artists.  But that does not detract from any of the stories.

Astro City: Honor Guard
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Jesus Merino, Joe Infurnari, Gary Chaloner, Tom Grummett, Wade Von Grawbadger, Cory Hamscher, Ferlis Santacruz, Agustin Padilla Bob Wiacek, Andrew Pepoy
Vertigo Comics

065 Robin Vol 2: Triumphant

I'm a little behind on the Robin trade paperbacks.  This is the second, though there are three out right now.  The book collects the second and third Robin mini-series from the early 90s as well as a couple of issues of the main Batman book leading up to the second mini-series.  Like most of the Batman books under Chuck Dixon's lead, this is pretty solid.  He had built up a solid base of what Gotham City at the time was like, who was in it and what they were doing.  Robin got a slow build.  Rather than immediately introduce Timothy Drake and have him out as Robin within three issues, there was a deliberate build to getting him in costume and out on his own.  Which makes sense.  The previous Robin had been murdered by the Joker and the last thing Batman should be doing is just throwing a replacement out there.  

Both mini-series are solid.  The first involves Robin's first encounter with the Joker.  The second involves Robin's first meeting and team up with the Huntress.  Both series involve Robin's slowly building rogue's gallery (King Snake, Lynx) and introduces some of his regular recurring cast (Ariana).  This is a decent read.  You don't really get any nutrition out of it, just some empty calories, but they're tasty calories. 

Robin Vol 2: Triumphant
Writer: Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Artist: Tom Lyle, Norm Breyfogle, Grant Miehm, Bob Smith, Andy Mushynsky, Steve Mitchell, Scott Hanna, Jose Marzan Jr
DC Comics


064 DC Comics: Bombshells Vol 3: Uprising

I love the Bombshells.  It's a clever re-imagining of the ladies of DC Comics.  DC has the best when it comes to super-heroines and it's fun seeing them in this context.  What started out as just cool art has taken on a life of it's own. 

This is the third volume of the Bombshells series.  And as much as I love the Bombshells, this book is a mess.  The trade paperback format is not the way these stories are meant to be read.  I say that because these are digital first stories, so they all need to be a certain length and they need tell a complete story, or at least a complete chapter, in that frame.  I think each chapter is about ten pages.  So that limits what you can do.  In a normal comic, in ten pages, you can spend a page or two per scene, jumping here to there and back and it feels organic.  And you can do that because your typical comic is 20-22 pages.  That limitation here calls for stilted storytelling.  Now, it wasn't so bad in the first two volumes of Bombshells.  They were giving us a big story there.  Now that that story has ended, we have this volume which kind of loses direction.  There's an overarching story here, but you have to look for it because it often takes the back seat.

Without a lot of focus, and with an enormous cast, this book is just a mess.  There are some neat points, there are new Bombshells introduced, but it's all too much.  What I'd like to see are tighter stories focusing on a smaller (rotating) cast.  Use them all, but only when it makes sense.  Don't cram every Bombshell (and then a few new ones) into a story for the sake of cramming them into a story.

 DC Comics: Bombshells Vol 3: Uprising
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Miraka Andolfo, Pasquale Qualano, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell
DC Comics

063 JLA Vol 9

This book was a real mixed bag for me.  It's the final volume in this era of JLA.  I believe it leads right into Infinite Crisis and then into the Brad Metzler run of JLA.

We have three big stories here.  And I see each of them differently.  One I loved.  One I hated.  One I liked.  The book starts off with the end of Kurt Busiek's run.  I love Busiek.  I think he's a fantastic writer.  His run of Avengers was my favorite run of the book.  Astro City is a book that is amazing to me.  But for some reason, Busiek and the DCU just don't gel together for me.  At all.  I don't know why.  The characters don't seem right to me.  The stories just don't grab my attention.  And this book starts off with a big story.  Nine or ten parts, I think.  It's massive.  And, for me, really hard to get through.  I did not enjoy it then.  I didn't enjoy it now.

The next story was my favorite.  It's a six part arc that sort of served as a sequel to Identity Crisis.  It was the beginning of the end of this era of JLA.  The team was falling apart.  Hard.  The Secret Society was going after the JLA and their loved ones.  Mind wipes were discussed.  It was a big mess for the team.  And although there was one more story arc, for all intents and purposes, the JLA was done.

The last story features the team pretty much packing it in, but before they can officially close this chapter, The Key strikes.

Despite my feeling towards the Busiek story, this is a really good collection of JLA tales from the early 2000s.

JLA Vol 9
Writer: Kurt Busiek, Bob Harras, Allan Heinberg, Geoff Johns
Artist: Chris Batista, Tom Derenick, Ron Garney, Mark Farmer, Dan Green
DC Comics

062 Batgirl Vol 1: Beyond Burnside

I don't know anything about new Batgirl writer Hope Larson, but I was expecting to not like this volume as much as the previous run.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe I was setting the bar low in case DC hired some hack to write Batgirl.  After reading this, I still don't know anything about Hope Larson, but I do look forward to more Batgirl from her.  I don't believe she's ever written comics before.  I assume that based on two things.  1) I have never heard of her before and 2) this book feels different.  I can't quite place my finger on it, but it kind of feels like all the regular superhero comic conventions were stripped away from it.  The story is kind of simple, kind of quiet, but very enjoyable.  It's a fun story.  If I had one major gripe about it, it's that there were too many coincidental things in the story.  Things were just too set up to not notice, whether it's her trainer's former home, her hostel roommate and where some of the bad guys learned to fight.  It's all just a little too convenient.  But it was still fun and I'm willing to overlook that.

The art kept pace with the style set out in the last run of Batgirl.  It's a little rougher, but still very Batgirl.

Batgirl Vol 1: Beyond Burnside
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
DC Comics


061 All-New X-Men: Inevitable Vol 3: Hell Hath So Much Fury

This volume of All-New X-Men: Inevitable could be named Interlude.  Not a ton goes on, but it's a nice break before the next story arc.  The first few chapters all take place over the course of the same night, each focusing on a different character or group of characters.  Wolverine gets out of the headquarters to bampf around on some missions, only to find out her boyfriend, Angel, has beaten her to the punch.  Idie and Kid Apocalypse take Iceman out so he can meet boys.  After failing miserably, he does meet an Inhuman and they kind of sort of hit it off.  Cyclops is still wheelchair ridden and going stir crazy after the events of the last trade.  He goes from playing video games to battling demons Beast may have inadvertently unleashed. Finally, the team converges as Goblin Queen shows up to test them.

It's a fun book with some real character driven moments.  And it's laying the groundwork for a big battle with the Goblin Queen.  Which I find intriguing since at one point in time, she was married to older Cyclops.  Seeing younger Cyclops battle her could prove to be an interesting thing.

All-New X-Men: Inevitable Vol 3: Hell Hath So Much Fury
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy
Marvel Comics

060 Torchwood: World Without End

I was a big fan of the Torchwood television show.  If you're not aware of what Torchwood is, it's a spin off of Doctor Who (as well as being an anagram of Doctor Who).  Captain Jack Harkness, former sort of companion, headed up an agency who investigated alien incursions in and around England.  It ran for four series on tv, with most of the original cast dying.  The two main characters left were Captain Jack and Gwen Cooper, and they both star in this new adventure.

This is my first Torchwood comic.  There was a series published by Doctor Who's former publisher IDW, but if it was ever collected in trade format, I never realized it.  And I'm not sure if this is Titan Comics' first Torchwood comic, but like I said, it's my first.  And this definitely picks up where former comics left off.  There are new characters here I don't recognize.  Jack is now operating out of a ship.  He and Gwen aren't currently working together.  But it's easy enough to put who's who in order.

I didn't enjoy this book.  It took me a minute to figure out why.  It wasn't the story.  The story (of which this collection reprints the first half) was fine.  Well, it was fine during the parts I could follow.  It was the storytelling.  It's written by John Barrowman and Carole Barrowman.  It's sooooooo choppy and that it doesn't flow.  At all.  It's too choppy to make a lot of sense.  They've written a handful of comics together by the time this book came out, so they should know how to tell a story in this format, but they just don't.  It's like they write each panel as it's own separate story or something, forgetting that you need to logically progress from the previous panel and on to the next.  It's very choppy, there are big gaps in storytelling, there are things that happen that just don't seem to make sense, they pick up one plot point and drop it just as quickly as they pick up the next.  It's just not a fun read, though it is nice to look at.

Torchwood: World Without End
Writer: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman
Artist: Antonio Fuso, Pasquale Qualano
Titan Comics

059 Power Man And Iron Fist Vol 2: Civil War II

Marvel is giving me Special Event Fatigue and I don't even read as many Marvel titles as I used to.  Luckily most of the series I do read take place on the peripheral of the main crossover heavy universe.  This book is part of the awful Civil War II event.  While it isn't directly involved in the mail crossover, this story is a Civil War II tie in.  You don't need to read the crossover to figure out what's going on here.  Basically, I guess, there's a new Inhuman who accurately sees what's going to happen in the future and Captain Marvel is going around arresting people before they can commit the crimes.  Or some such bullshit.  I really fucking hate this.  I hate how they've neutered Carol Danvers.

Anyway, enough of that.  Here Luke and Danny get hired by some former (and current) felons who need protection.  Someone is going around and beating and arresting former felons and throwing them in jail unjustly.  There's this recognition software that's finding these guys, falsifying criminal records to justify putting them in jail.  Luke and Danny get involved, Danny gets arrested and Luke considers how to get him out of jail.  That's where Captain Marvel and her posse of douche bags come in.  They want to arrest Luke for something he hasn't done and in the process manage to destroy the prison Danny and the unjustly arrested are jailed.  It's a fucking mess.  But an enjoyable story.  I really like this version of Power Man and Iron Fist.  Like most of the other Marvel books I read, it's not heavy.  It's fun and it makes me smile to read it, even when the shitty part of the Marvel Universe (and isn't most of the Marvel Universe pretty shitty these days?) crosses over.

Power Man And Iron Fist Vol 2: Civil War II
Writer: David E Walker
Artist: Flaviano, Sanford Greene, Scott Hepburn
Marvel Comics

058 Legionnaires Book One

When this run of Legion of Super-Heroes first started, I wasn't really having it.  Sure, I read every issue, but I just wasn't happy with it.  The Legion of Super-Heroes had two series going.  The main book featured the Legion and the second book, Legionnaires, featured younger clones of the original team.  Then DC decided "fuck it, let's start over."  And both books were rebooted and we started over at day one again.  We got new adventures, new motivations, new characters.  I wasn't happy because my team, a team I'd been reading since I was ten or eleven years old, was suddenly gone.  They were replaced with these imposters.

But over time, this title really grew on me.  It wasn't bad.  It wasn't done half-assed like another reboot I've complained about a lot on this blog.  And the characters slowly became old friends again.  There were new characters whom I adored (XS!!!  Monstress!!!!).  There were reboots I didn't particularly care for (Projectra.... um, no.)

What's weird re-reading these stories, especially in this format, is seeing how quickly the basis of the Legion was thrown together.  This volume reprints six or seven issues of each series and it's crazy how quickly they added and subtracted members in less than the first year of the series.  Sure, it kind of makes sense they way they did it, but it was still pretty quick how many characters were introduced after the team was formed.

It's weird to me that Mark Waid was behind the reboot of the team into this AND the reboot of this team into the next iteration.  This one worked.  The one after this so did not.  I'm anxious to see the next volume of this book.

Legionnaires Book One
Writer: Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer, Mark Waid
Artist: Stuart Immonen, Lee Moder, Jeffrey Moy, Brian Apthorp, Scott Benefiel, Yancey Labat, Chris Renaud, Ron Boyd, W.C. Carani, Philip Moy, Tom Simmons
DC Comics

057 Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol 1

So, I always have comics in my desk at work to read during my lunch break.  I always eat at my desk and use my measly 1/2 hour to down my lunch and devour something graphic.  For the last few weeks, this is what I've been reading on my lunch breaks.  And man oh man, was it glorious.  I love all this Silver Age nonsense.  Comics were so much simpler back then.  And much more illogical, but that was the charm.

I've read a lot of the stories in this volume, but there were a ton I've never read before, or at least don't remember ever reading.  This book contains all of Supergirl's adventures from when she landed on Earth to the time Superman was ready to reveal her existence to the world and just beyond.  We follow Supergirl from Midvale Orphanage to a couple unfortunate adoptions to her final placement with the Danvers family.  We get to see her help other orphans get adopted (apparently back in the day, all you needed was a special talent like being able to play golf to get adopted by a famous golfer, or have a special talent like playing piano or cooking to find a loving family), we get to see her hang out with the Legion of Super-Heroes, we get lots of adventures with Streaky, the Super Cat and Comet, the Super Horse.  She's got boyfriends, both super and ordinary.  It's 600 plus pages of super cheesiness and it's absolute glorious.  I hope this whole new Omnibus series DC is pushing does well because I want more.  I want this to at least reach the Supergirl run in Adventure Comics and her own short lived title around that time.  There's a special place in my heart for that era of Supergirl.

Supergirl: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol 1
Writer: Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Leo Dorfman
Artist: Al Plastino, Jim Mooney
DC Comics