DC Trade Reviews – Week One of Sept

As I get caught up I’ll be posting more reviews.
Countdown Countdown Countdown
The event from last year spawned a number of great spinoff titles. It’s all leading up the fall of the heroes, and a really big ending in final crisis. They tie in to the overall event, but also stand on their own. If you read all of them it adds to the overall enjoyment of the event as a whole, but they also stand by themselves and can be read individually.

Countdown to Adventure
DC Comics
Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire in space together leads to the end of their adventure and return home. Starfire is staying with Buddy (Animal Man) and his family while she recovers from the events they shared together. She actually has a time to live a kind of normal life with no powers. Buddy goes back to work as a stuntman. Meanwhile Adam Strange returns home to find himself replaces as Rann’s protector. As the stories progress we see similar threads of an intergalactic infection religious in nature making people crazy and angry. Eventually our heroes are all brought together and fight together to put things right.What is nice about this is that while yes, these are herpes with powers, they are shown as people first. Interacting with the families and everyday situations. Adam Beechen managed to take a couple b list heroes and an underused heroine and make it really interesting. I also enjoyed the artwork by both Eddy Barrows and Allan Goldman and hope to see more of both.

Countdown : Arena
DC Comics
Another cool idea that ran during countdown. The Monarch wants an army to fight with him and he reaches across all 52 earths looking for champions to follow him in his quest to save the universe. What this means for us lucky readers is that we get to see various versions of our favorite heroes fight each other. Creatively unique and a bit of a fanboy dream come true my only problem with it is that it should have been longer!

Countdown: Lord Havok and the Extremeists.
DC Comics
A new take on the uber villains from the 80’s Justice League. These guys are even more extreme than the originals (and they wiped out a whole planet). Parts of this will feel familiar, but it’s a new kids, this is some seriously psychotic people doing what ever they want. The cool part is I found myself rooting for them.

Countdown: The Search For Ray Palmer
DC Comics
Everything is going to Hell and Ray Palmer (The silver age Atom) may be the key to setting everything right. Running concurrently with Countdown this miniseries teams up Kyle Rayner, Donna Toy and Jason Todd with a rouge Monitor to seek out Palmer. The journey takes them to a lot of alternate earths and we get to see some really great stuff. Gotham by Gaslight, Red Rain, Superman Red Son, an Earth where the genders are flipped. It’s all loads of fun. Written by a load of different people and drawn by even more. This is really why comics are so much fun.



The Deadboy Detectives
Vertigo ComicsOriginally published in 2001 The Sandman Presents The Deadboy Detectives is Ed Brubaker having fun with the classic detective tale with a innovative supernatural twist. The two young men haunting these pages are Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine, two boys who decided they didn’t want to go with death when their time came. They stayed on Earth to enjoy sneaking in to movies and solving mysteries.In this tale they are trying to find someone who is killing children for their own ends of becoming immortal. The boys are brought to the case by a young runaway named Marcia and their adventure ends up teaching them a few things about the things they can do as ghosts and it also teaches them a few things about themselves. With some clever twists and a few cameos from the Sandman series this is a fun read and a truly enjoyable mystery.

Deathblow – And Then You Live

Brain Azzarello playing in the Wildstorm sandbox with an ass kicking character. What’s not to love? Deathblow is an unstoppable soldier, and he is back after being held captive by terrorists. The government has him under watch and puts him in what he believes to be his home. But other people are watching him too. As the story progresses the only thing that is clear is that there are a lot of people trying to manipulate the masses. As Deathblow gets it together he makes some choices and takes things into his own hands his own way. What this means for the reader is top notch action drawn by the amazing Carlos D’Anda.This could be seen as a cynical look at the way the world might really work and the silliness of all the behind the scenes manipulations, or it might just be a highly entertaining story. What it is for sure is a pleasure to read. This played out in my head for a few days after I finished it and I’ll be re reading.

DMZ Volume 5 – The Hidden

This latest collection is a series of stand alone tales that take place in the DMZ. Brian Wood fills in some back stories with a few and adds to his mythology in others. As with the rest of the series the stories are about people and what they do with the circumstances they find themselves in. It’s is a good look at why war is stupid and the enduring human spirit. I especially enjoyed the first tale of a graffiti artist who wanted to leave a legacy.This is a series that keeps getting better and a perfect example of the wonderful and soulful things that comics can portray. DMZ should be required reading for anyone who ever plans to vote of be involved in the world around them.

Doom Patrol Archive Edition Volume 5

This is the last volume of the Doom Patrol collection featuring the original run of the comic. In this volume issues 114-121. The final story would be recapped later as part of the Teen Titans mythology with Beast Boy Gar Logan. The writer on the series was Arnold Drake. Drake was a rather ground breaking figure because in 1950 he wrote a graphic novel called It Rhymes With Lust, (recently reprinted by Dark Horse Comics). It was one of the very first illustrated novel and featured a terrific noir tale. Drake also was the man who came up with enduring character of Deadman later taken to greater heights with Neal Adams on art. The artwork here was handled by one Bruno Premiani. He retired not long after the cancellation of the series. While not the crisp artwork of today there is a simplicity to the art while still using wonderful perception of the story and narrative to really get across the action and drama. While the stories here may not grab the imagination of today’s comics readers there is a lot to be found. The stories are fun and the artwork very telling of its times, but they are also a piece of history within the DC Universe that would come years later and set ground work for many tales written by Mark Waid in the Teen Titans. Kind of a parallel to Marvel’s X-Men this team didn’t receive the fame or glory of the mutants, though many years later they would be reborn and reimagined as something darker and a bit more on the fringe. In these covers we see heroes struggling with who they are and what they’ve become, not as angst ridden as they as other heroes, though for its time it was right on. All in all it’s a nice look at some classic 60’s comic stories with a team that has had its ups and downs.

Justice League International Volume 2
DC ComicsThe second collection of the Baa Ha Ha years is now out and I have to say I didn’t realize how much I missed this run on the league. Collecting issues 8-13 plus Annual #1 this is a very fun set of stories. It takes place in the middle of the Millennium crossover event(also now out in trade), so we see some of the dealings with the manhunters and the moles they had placed. It is also very revealing into the life of Maxwell Lord who would of course later go on to be a crazed whack job and kill Blue Beetle. As the League embraces the international standing as opens embassies around the world they are also now acting globally. We see the beginnings of the end for the Global Guardians as Jack-O-Lantern starts making deals with the leader of Bialya, Colonel Harjavti which will eventually lead to a big mess involving the Queen Bee. There is also a really fun cross over with the Suicide Squad involving a Russian prison break. The stores seem a bit more serious than they did when I first read them, though they are constantly filled with humor running constantly through the background. This was a really fun era for the league and Giffin and DeMatteis embraced the fun of the stories. I also think that this is some of Kevin Maguire’s best artwork as it feels like he was allowed to just cut loose. Fables scribe Bill Willingham also did the art on the annual which has a nice clean crisp feel. Fans of the Justice League need to add this to their collections.

Midnighter – Anthem
Midnighter is a no nonsense kind of guy, he doesn’t put up with much in the line of bullshit and as a result he ends up kicking a lot of people’s asses. This collection opens up with a major ass kicking seen backwards. A cool memento type way to tell a story. We then lead to some manipulation as Midnighter thinks he may have found a link to his past and goes to what he believes is his home town. The town is being “protected” by a group that is a bit more than a little fanatical about their being in charge. Midnighter eventually gets to the bottom of things and sets them right. Along the way a lot of people get hit, and hit hard. Pick this up for the non stop action, stay for the story.

DC Comics
Collecting the 1988 crossover event that was supposed to change the DC Universe this is not really an essential collection as far as continuity is concerned but it is a great read. I love seeing Joe Staton’s art on all the players in the DC Universe. Steve Englehart’s story doesn’t hold up as well in places, but overall it’s a good read. The basic story is the Guardians of the Universe are gone, they left with their female counterparts, the Zamorians. One of each race comes back to help mankind with the next step in evolution. Ten people have been chosen to ascend to the next level and of course this is where we see the heroes step in to help, both gather them together and protect them. At the same time the Guardians first galactic policemen, the Manhunters, are rearing their heads and trying to stop the plan. Manhunter spies have been hidden away and are doing everything they can to stop the event. Mayhem ensues and crossed over into most DC titles as old friends turn out to be Manhunters or pawns of them. Eventually the Guardian and Zamorian get the hope of mankind together to teach them and then change them to the next level in their humanity to become the new Guardians. This is where I got a little jaded. The details of the teaching don’t hold up and seem overly simplistic. They involve the use of numbers ie: The power of one, the concept of two…. It feels a little too new agey and hippie –ish. That said overall this is a fun read and as I said, the art is great. This is a nice snapshot of the DC Universe from the late 80’s.

Robin – Year One
DC Comics
Collecting the 4 issue miniseries Robin Year One gives us a fresh look at Dick Grayson’s early days as Robin and his adjusting to a new life as a crime fighter. Written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty Year One shows us a cocky young man embracing the challenges of working with Batman and working within his rules. The art work by Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin captures and earlier feel in comics and has a striking similarity at times to some of the best work of Steve Rude of Nexus fame. In this collection we see Robin take on the Mad Hatter, deal with entering a new school, fighting other major badguys and having his first rift with Batman. It’s very telling of the man and hero he will later become. Of course knowing where he ends up later makes writing earlier versions a bit easier, though working with those boundaries may also have added extra challenges to the story. I enjoyed this book a lot and it made me smile to see the carefree yet serious youngster who would later be Nightwing. Perfectly capturing the fun of an earlier age while still entertaining today’s audiences I think this book is a must own for any Bat-family fan.