Late October: 10 Trade Reviews for DC

CCAlogo_02100 BULLETS VOLUME 12: DIRTY
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
2008
Vertigo

DIRTY collects 100 Bullets issues 84-88. The series will be ending with issue 100, so it’s safe to say that things are really starting to amp up to what I’m sure will be a killer conclusion. This is one of the best pieces of crime fiction I’ve read in years, each volume another chapter in a saga that is complex and absorbing.
Sides are being chosen in the battle between Agent Graves and the Trust and it’s getting messy. Bodies are dropping and the players are resorting to their most basic instincts, kill or be killed. Graves is pushing on with his still unknown final agenda and the Trust is trying to do whatever they can to stop him. As with earlier parts of this tale, we see everything though the eyes of the people on the ground, each move having an effect on the outcome with more direct consequences for the players involved. No one appears safe as someone makes a move on Lono, who up till now seems unstoppable. A player thought to be off the board is brought back into play and Graves world seems to be getting smaller.
This series actually moves quickly considering how smoothly the story is told. It’s so absorbing that time between events blurs. Azzarello is without a doubt a genius, a mad genius to be sure, but the kind I want writing more crime fiction.
This volume also has an introduction by the artist for the whole series, Eduardo Risso. It’s a love song to the work that he and the team have created and it seems to me that maybe he should try his hand at some more writing.
One volume to go, and I can’t wait, but I also don’t want it to end.

CATWOMAN: CRIME PAYS
Written by Will Pfeifer; Art by David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez
2008
DC Comics

Collecting issues 73-74 this trade starts with a pop to the gut as Selina finds herself with no home and no possessions left. She goes to the Calculator for help in discovering who is out to get her, but this only makes this worse as she discovers the identity of who is out to get her. She finally looks to be ready to put things right and finds herself wisked off planet and caught up the Salvation Run ( and that’s a whole other trade collection).
I love the solo Catwoman stuff and she’s always been one of my favorites, and it’s not just the tight outfit, it’s the fact that she is one of the most strong minded people in the DC Universe and she sets her own code and lives by it. Pfeifer does a nice job of showing this.
This is a nice collection and the story spins around and moves fast.

DC GOES APE
Written by Otto Binder, John Broome, Gardner Fox and others; Art by Carmine Infantino, Wayne Boring, George Papp, Ross Andru, C.C. Beck, Jim Starlin and others; Cover by Arthur Adams
2008
DC Comics

In his introduction Mark Waid does a nice job explaining why there are so many ape stories at DC. At one time it was proven to boost sales, and I admit the minute I saw this was coming I knew I had to have it, I’m a sucker for stories with apes.
The collection goes back to the 50’s and brings up into the 90’s starting with Superbaby and running through any number of heroes including Flash (of Course!) and Wonder Woman and Batman. The only weak story in the bunch is the superfriends story, it’s a bit lame. The rest of it is really fun, I even liked the Shazam story which was amusing and kind of innocent. The Animal Man story is also really cool, a nice look at 1960’s story telling and art.
This isn’t for deep pondering and thought, this collection is entertainment, and it’s that in spades.

DEATHBLOW – AND THEN YOU LIVE
Brian Azzarello
2008
Wildstorm

Deathblow – And Then You Live is 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.

HELLBLAZER : THE LAUGHING MAGICIAN
Andy Diggle
2008
Vertigo

Andy Diggle continues his run with Constantine in this collection with art from Leonardo Manco and Danijel Zezelj. The first story is a tale of a secret part of London and the power that places have over those inside and what they think and believe. It’s a great story further building on John’s ties with old magics. The second tale see someone gunning for John. A village in Africa is destroyed while a madman looks for magic. The magic has been hidden in an object and eventually finds its way to London which brings a world of hurt towards Constantine.
This is classic Constantine and I look forward to more of Diggle’s work.

JLA: THAT WAS NOW, THIS IS THEN
Written by Roger Stern; Art by John Byrne and Mark Farmer;
2008
DC Comics

A interesting telling of two stories at once, both involving the same villain. Originally run in JLA Classified 50-54 this arc tells of a God like foe who is back to kick some ass. I enjoyed the way Stern tied to two stories together through time and used the old League with the new. I also quite enjoyed John Byrne on the artwork. It’s not an earth shattering continuity challenging tale, but it’s a great solid story that shows off each of the characters in a classic time and in classic form. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between Black Canary and Green Arrow. Fans of JLA wil really enjoy this book.

LOVELESS VOLUME 3 (BLACKWATER FALLS)
Brian Azzarello
2008
Vertigo

Volume three, Blackwater Falls, is the last of this series. Pre mature to be sure, but for some reason it didn’t find its audience. Rather than mourn the loss of a great comic I’d like to celebrate what it’s brought to the readers. It’s a truly perfect western noir tale. It’s violent and there are no real heroes. It’s also shockingly realistic in its narrative, it feels like these events could have taken place and Brian Azzarello just happened on the tale and decided to share it with us.
Wes Cutter went off to fight in the war between the states, his wife Ruth was left behind in the town of Blackwater. By the war’s end she was a woman without a home until Wes returned. But the town of Blackwater and the occupying Yankees weren’t done with the Cutters just yet. In this third and last volume Ruth is a woman driven by rage and anger and God help anyone getting in her way. From what I understand if the series had kept going this would have been a bit different, but there is a conclusion of sorts and it works well. There are also a few tales at the end that show a twinkling of what might have been if it had continued.
If you’ve not read any of Loveless I suggest buying all three, make a pot of coffee, pour a glass of bourbon and sit down to a hell of a read.

NORTHLANDERS VOLUME 1 : SVEN THE RETURNED
Brian Wood
2008
Vertigo

NORTHLANDERS is a tale of adventure and action set in 980 A.D., a Viking tale, a thriller with a people whose time is past.
Sven left Orkney early in life for adventure. He became a skilled warrior living in a palace in the Mediterranean. He is drawn back when his Father’s death leaves his Uncle the head of the clan, stealing Sven’s birthright. Rather than a quick regaining of what is his, Sven finds himself waging war against an army singlehandedly as he discovers that the past is never completely gone. The tale is truly epic and the stuff of legends.
Brain Wood (DMZ) has crafted a lush backdrop for storytelling and while Conan is fun reading, this feels deeper and more connected to history. He has taken a period in humankind’s history and given a face to it. This is great reading.

You can download the first issue here:
http://www.dccomics.com/vertigo/graphic_novels/?gn=9839

SCALPED VOLUME 3: DEAD MOTHERS
Jason Aaron
2008
Vertigo

The third collection in this amazing crime fiction graphic series SCALPED is called DEAD MOTHERS. It’s pretty straight forward in that the story arc here revolves around two murders, both victims being mothers. But nothing is as it seems of course.
Dashiell Bad Horse is an undercover FBI agent who has come back to the reservation he was born on. His job is to take down tribal leader Red Crow, who has just opened a new casino. Red Crow has a history with Bad Horse’s mother and this cause confusion after her murder. Bad Horse is trying to avoid thinking about his mother by throwing himself into an investigation of another dead mother, this one a junkie with a load of kids. Dashiell is concerned for the kids and takes the oldest under his wing trying to help him. Eventually a confrontation is inevitable between Red Crow and Bad horse, but the outcome is surprising.
This series works on a lot of levels. Bad Horse is a troubled man, I wouldn’t even call him a hero. His past haunts him and he wants to move on. But to do so he needs to clear up the present and for him that means time on the reservation and constantly being faced with the reasons he left in the first place. I’m not an expert and won’t pretend to be, but it seems to me that this series is also really doing a fine job of showing the problems that the Native Americans have faced and are still facing. It’s also crime fiction at its best, with a deep old soul and a darker side that tries to hide.
Jason Aaron is a writer to watch and he’s only going to get better.

UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS – BRAVE NEW WORLD
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; Art by Renato Arlem
2008
DC Comics

The second story arc with the new Freedom Fighters and the team already feels like old friends to me, too bad they don’t all share the camaraderie amongst themselves. The story opens with the team stopping an invasion and the new Red Bee gets infected by a alien virus like something or other that starts to change her. Phantom Lady is having some issue with self control and addiction and the team is split when the government steps in and wants to run them.
This is a nicely complex story twisting through a number of different plots. By the end of the book I was a bigger fan of the group and of Jimmy Palmiotti whose writing is top notch here.