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more DC trade reviews

Batman: Joker’s Asylum
2009 DC Comics

A series of tales told by the Joker of some of his fellow inmates. Each tale is written and drawn by a different crew and they all stand alone while keeping a common thread of show us just how truly insane the rogues are. Joker takes over a live TV show and ends up making the producers look like bad guys in a story by Arvid Nelson. Joe Harris Tells an especially twisted tale of the Scarecrow, JT Krul screws with heads in a Poison Ivy ditty, David Hine has a very twisted Two Face story and Jason Aaron shows how screwed up the Penguin really is.
These are all darker than normal tales and the art reflects that, each artist seemingly perfect for the villain they drew. This is a fun nasty book.

Flash: Emergency Stop
2009 DC Comics

Reprinting an earlier arc of the fastest man alive written by Grant Morrison this goes back to a time when the Flash world included Impulse and Max Mercury. The main bad guy is a forgotten villain known simply as The Suit. But the Suit isn’t exactly a person, and besides, The Suit was killed, or was he?
During the course of the story Wally messes up his legs and needs to call in back up. Eventually learning a bit more about the speed force and coming into kick some ass Wally eventually pulls together all the speedsters into a fighting force to be reckoned with.
Morrison obviously was having fun here and managed to tell a rather twisted tale with magic and science combining for a unique battle. Another nice volume of Flash to add to the library. Now if we could only get some of the stuff from the 70’s reprinted in color….

Jack of Fables: Americana
2009 Vertigo

This 4th trade collection of Jack’s solo series has Jack, as ever, in pursuit of fame and fortune. While still being pursued by the agents of Revise, Jack journeys unto Americana, full of all new Fables and an adversary even more demented and dangerous than Revise. This story sets up some events that will have a big impact on Jack. It’s also loads of fun. Huck Finn, Zombies, Humpty Dumpty. And the ever popular Babe the Blue Ox are just some of the people who fill Jack’s trip with fun and excitement. Set in the same universe as Fables this is similar but lighter and more zany. I love the way Jack’s adventures add back story and show how big the fable universe is while still being so fun and having great stories.
I truly Dig Jack Of Fables and this latest volume rocks.

Shadowpact: The Burning Age
2009 DC Comics

Another comic series ends as this is the last Shadowpact. I have to say if it had to end it ended well. The beginning of the story pulls all our players back together. The trio of Nightshade and Ragman and Nightmaster get help when the rest of the group tracks them down and come to the rescue just in time. After kicking some serious mystical ass the group heads home, except for one member who has a new destiny. Meanwhile Blue Devil finally clears up his problem and gets home soul intact, but with no powers. Too bad, because the major threat they’ve been joined together to fight is finally here. Donning his original suit Blue Devil rejoins the team, along with a past and future version of Shadowpact to fight the Sun King.
And so the book ends as the series is over, but I think it’s a safe bet that Shadowpact will be around the DC universe for some time to come. This series did a nice job of re-introducing these characters and making them seem like players not washed up ideas from an earlier time.
Matt Sturgis really did a nice job of wrapping this all up and it ends on an upbeat note. The art throughout was great, but I really like Phil Winslade and I think I’ll be buying anything he working on from here on out.

Superman: Shadows Linger
2009 DC Comics

Collecting 671-675 Shadows Linger was written by Kurt Busiek and brings in a new Insect Queen, more disturbed than before and with a strange connection to Lana Lang, who has enough trouble keeping Lex Corp running with being kidnapped by psycho villains. On the home front, Clark and Lois’s adopted son Chris is having problems with his powers flaring up and out of control. After that’s all settled Supes has to deal with Paragon, a wannabe who blames Superman when things go wrong.
This is wonderful Superman, it has what makes the character really readable even after all these years, heart. Kurt Busiek writes Superman playing to Superman’s greatest strength, his humanity. Maybe it’s because he isn’t human and he over compensates that makes him so human. What ever the reason may be, Busiek has it nailed. He writes Kal-el like the true hero he is. He also manages to come up with new and inventive storylines that insure the readers keep coming back.

Tangent:Superman’s Reign
2009 DC Comics

I love comics that play with the norm and take place in alternate realities and other worlds. Tangent was originally done some years back as an alternate take on the DC heroes and it was very different and pretty damn interesting. The line has been revised and brought back and they are now part of the multiverse, and in this tale they are interacting with our Earth and heroes. Pulling our Black Canary, Flash and Green Lantern to the other Earth starts out this adventure on a planet where Superman is a bit more powerful and a bit less reluctant to interfere with humanity’s destiny. Teaming up with the Tangent heroes maybe they can set things right. This is only volume one and it’s bound to get more hairy before they return home.
I really liked the Dan Jurgens is doing this, it feels like the Tangent folks have always been around and he gives the background needed to enjoy the work without belaboring the point. Also on board for parts of this are Ron Marz, and Dwayne McDuffie.
This is cool stuff.

The Vinyl Underground : Pretty Dead Things
2009 Vertigo

This is the second, and alas, last trade of this cool ass series. I’m guessing not enough people went out of their way to pick it up. Too bad, it’s a really great group of characters and a beautiful blend of mystery and supernatural. Like any good ensemble cast what makes Vinyl Underground really work is the fact that the characters are each interesting on their own, so together.
This story arc has the team investigating a strange series of murders that that leaves women dead after some pretty brutal abuse. Some side plots involving some attacks on London that could implicate Moz, plus some secrets un buried shake things up for the unflappable team.
This is a cool damn book and while the comics series has been canceled, I hope this isn’t the end of this gang of occult investigators.

Jonathan Vankin
Vertigo Comics

This graphic novel is two separate stories. Both share the theme of Americans abroad and the cultural differences that can confuse and bewilder.
The first tale is set in Tokyo, and follows a young man who is addicted to gadgetry. He has a job to cover his expenses and spends his free time getting the latest electronics. Through a twist of fate he meets a young Japanese girl who helps bail him out of some trouble, only to lead him into bigger trouble. Rich pop stars, Yakuza and a girl who just wants to have fun are a just a few of the things making life , shall we say more challenging? For Steve, our unlikely hero.
In Bangkok Nights the adventure follows two people from LA, a couple trying to fix a relationship which seems to be pretty screwed up. Marz Kay and his girlfriend Tuesday are both people with their own agendas. Marz is a minor actor with some B movie credits, Tuesday likes spending his cash and messing with him. Soon after landing they realize that the way they behave back home won’t work here. There adventure gets more interesting when they steal an elephant, get caught up in a hassle with sex workers and their bosses, and go to a kick boxing match with a transvestite champion.
The stories here move at a nice clip and are very interesting. I’m guessing Vankin spent time overseas because it just feels to authentic to think otherwise. I love the way he plays the Americans, rather oblivious to the way other people live and getting in trouble as a result. It seems like they eventually catch on, but maybe just enough to keep from getting in serious trouble. It’s a big world out there and TOKYO DAYS, BANGKOK NIGHTS does a groovy job of showing some of it.

Jon Jordan