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Trade Collection Reviews

A lot of what I read is in the trade format. I seem to prefer it just like I prefer watching TV in a DVD set instead of when it’s aired weekly. No interruptions and NO WAITING!

So here’s some recent reads I enjoyed:

Hawkgirl – Hath-Set

Kendra has been having troubles since she first became Hawkgirl. She’s been conflicted about her emotions towards Hawkman/Carter, and about being a reincarnated soul. This story arc finally puts these things to rest. In a final battle against the priest/mummy Hath-Set, Kendra, and also the spirit of Shiera, fight alongside Hawkman and finally triumph over the bitter Egyptian and end the curse they’ve been living all this time. Walter Simonson has taken some characters who have a very twisted continuity and smoothed over the last of the strangeness. Buy the end of the book things all seem to make sense and leave us with a fresh beginning.
The fun part is that along the way Kendra gets to fight a giant robot made from technology smuggled off Apocalypse, she fights the female furies, and then fights with them, and she also gets to team up with Batman and Superman.
Great story telling throughout and the art work is perfect for all the action in these pages. I have to say, this is a perfect trade collection.

Justice League of America – The Lightening Saga

Another wonderful team up with the Justice Society, this time with both teams working together to find missing members of the Legion of Superheroes trapped in our time. The Legion has an ulterior motive and needs to break away to fulfill there plan which leads to a really nice climax with the return of a great hero.
There is some great fore shadowing here of what’s coming this summer, and once again Meltzer lets out his inner fan boy wile writing the team supreme. Melzter obviously loves these characters and he writes them as true heroes and larger than life.The two part written by Geoff Johns are seamless in the way they fit in.This is a wonderful story with some great artwork. After the main arc we get a nice stand alone piece with Red Arrow and Vixon, followed by a ver characerter drive piece I loved called Monitor Duty. Also collected here is a fun piece from Justice League of America 0.
This is a great book and a must have for any DC Comics fan. This book proves why the Justice league is the number one superhero team.

Justice League Unlimited – The Ties That Bind

The animated Justice League is a lot of fun, it’s worlds better than the cartoons I had as a kid with DC heroes.
This trade collects issues 16-22 of the animated series, and each story stands alone. The art is very similar to the cartoon and it features the same characters.
The first story is a X-Mas tale with the younger members on monitor duty. They get called to take care of an escaped villain known as Girder. It’s actually heartwarming at the end.
Let Freedom Ring features a guest shot by the Freedom Fighters, next up is a great story with Space Cabbie. Also a cool tale with Mary Marvel called Just Us Girls, a love story of sorts with Heat Wave and Killer Frost in it and finally a story with Gypsy fronting.
These are obviously all ages comics, but they have something for everyone. Some ice nods to DC history without being constricted by continuity. This is just the ticket for older fans needing light reading, or younger fans just learning about comics.

Nightwing – The Lost Year

This latest collection of Nightwing covers some pretty cool territory as it picks up after Dick is injured at the end of last year’s big crisis event. He recuperating with the help of Barbara Gordon and it gives the two a chance to look back on their relationship, which means we get some really fun flashbacks. Marc Andreyko did a really nice job with this and it leaves the story kind of open with hope. Nicely played.
The second arc is the beginning of the Marv Wolfman run called 321 Days. Dick is in New York trying to piece his life together and an old flame shows up. She was trouble then, she trouble now. And it doesn’t help that the new Vigilante wants in on the trouble.
This collection reminds me why I love this character. I’m glad he made it through Infinite Crisis.

Superman: Action 3-2-1
DC Comics

When I was a kid my experience reading comics was different than the experience I have now, like with music and movies and even food, my tastes have changes and evolved to what may or may not be a more mature level. It’s at least different. That said I still love a lot of the comics I read as a kid. Certain issues of World’s Finest and brave and the Bold are etched in my memory and I still love rereading them.

This latest collection of Superman stories which focus on Jimmy Olsen is like going back and rereading some of my favorite nostalgic comics, except these tales are new. Without a doubt it’s in large part to the wonderful writing of Kurt Busiek. His writing comes across with a love of the characters that makes me think we had similar reading experiences as kids. He also plays fair with the reader, nothing that makes you think he jumped the shark, nothing out of character for our heroes and cast. If anything he adds even more depth to them. Add the follow through punch of art work by Brad Walker and Steve Rude and it’s a must have for any comics fan. The expressions that Walker puts on the faces of these people really make them jump off the page. Every little smirk or grin adds to the nuance. And Steve “The Dude” Rude?!?! Wow. I’ve loved his work for years, nexus is an all time favorite. But here he has managed to totally add his own flair to the look and at the same time pay homage to early Kirby. It’s brilliant.

Part one retells the Jimmy Olsen story from an updated view point, which after reading Kurt’s introduction, I completely understand the need for. It’s well done combining the classic elements of Jimmy with a fresh updated feel.

3-2-1- Action is the middle arc here and it’s the story that leads to and ties into Countdown focusing on Jimmy Olsen getting powers and dealing with them. I especially loved the humanity and realism of it and I also loved seeing Krypto!

We finish off with American Evolution, this is the Steve Rude piece, so after taking in the art I had to go back and reread. It’s a nice story involving the Cadmus Project and Guardian, monsters and a doorman who needs a swift kick in the ass. Again Busiek shows real humanity in his writing and his characters are very well done.
** This piece was written by Mark Evanier as was kindly pointed out to me in the comments. I was so exited and in such a rush to review I failed to check all my facts. Thanks for the heads up Mr. B**

This is a really nice collection and perfect for diehard fans or casual fans of Superman and his supporting cast.

Superman: Camelot Falls Book 2 – The Weight of the World

It seems to me that writing Superman would be one of the ultimate pinnacles to achieve in the comics business, and at the same time it’s got to be a bit of a curse. This is a character that has been around for 70 years come this June. 70 YEARS! That’s an awful long time, especially when you consider the sheer volume of stories generated in that time, I would conservatively guess at least 3 or 4 a month, that puts the count over 3,000 stories about this character.
I’ve been reading Superman since the early seventies. I’ve also gone back and read a lot of the older stories. What has all this reading shown me? That writing Superman has got to be a real challenge. How do you make it fresh? How do you get past the fact that almost nothing can hurt him and do it in a way that works?

Enter Kurt Busiek, comics writer extraordinaire. Anyone who reads comics knows the name, the guys a legend and he’s got years of writing ahead of him still. Camelot Falls is a perfect Superman story. It has it all. Space travel, magic, guest stars, humanity’s secret fear of the man of steel and their un wavering belief in him.
So, here’s what Kurt did.
Arion, Lord of Atlantis and sorcerer time travels to the present day and tell Superman he needs to back off, let humanity face whatever crisis may be coming without his help. If he doesn’t he’ll only delay the inevitable and humanity will die completely. Superman isn’t so sure and does what he can to find out. Arion decides that he won’t let Superman make the choice and decides to take Superman out of the game himself.
Along the way Superman has plenty of other distractions, kids from New Genesis come to Metropolis and use it as a playground, the Prankster is up to his usual tricks, and the Government has a team ready to take Superman out if he goes rogue. (and there is another version of this team in the new Superman/Batman series stepping it up a notch.)

Superman takes it all on and still finds time to think through what Arion has said. Along the way we get to see him hang out with Zatanna, the Justice League, the Phantom Stranger and even some New Gods. By the time this collection reaches the end it’s pretty obvious that this is a great story. And it was done without bringing in Luthor, or kryptonite, which to me really says something. This is truly a fresh take on an icon.

Superman/Batman – Enemies Among Us
Batman is attacked by the Martian Manhunter in his cave, Titano is back, Starfire goes crazy in the Fortress of Solitude. It’s all part of a plot of aliens to take over Earth, and beofre to long the aliens on Earth are being mind controlled. Superman shakes it off and then its up to the world’s finest to beat the threat.
This was a nice tale with some interesting cameos. Not the best Superman Batman teaming, but definitely fun,

Wonder Woman: Who is Wonder Woman?

This is a good title for a collection of Wonder Woman stories as it seems that more than most characters she seems to undergo the most changes with creative teams. I loved the Greg Rucka run on Wonder Woman, I think his use of the mythology and the focus on her mission was brilliant. I also enjoyed the Perez run and even some of the Byrne run.
In the wake of infinite Crisis WW has gone walkabout in search of who she really is. With the help of a few friends she lands a job with the newly reformed bureau of Meta Human Affairs as Diana Prince. The story arc opens with a museum under siege and a demand for Wonder Woman to show up. And she does, only it’s Donna Troy. Things don’t go well and Diana and her new partner Nemesis are in search of the true Wonder Woman to stop the crisis. As Diana Prince our heroine is able to take care of business and eventually things get worked out. But the journey includes a battle royale with a lot of her foes, an angry Wonder Girl and a disillusioned Hercules. The ending is wonderful with a large cast showing support for Wonder Woman, and after what happened with max Lord in Infinite Crisis she needs it.
Allan Heinberg did a nice job on bringing Diana back to the fore front of the series and he obviously has a nice knowledge of what’s gone before. My only real complaint is that I think Circe is really over used. Hopefully after this she’ll go walkabout for a year or two. This sets up a run by novelist Jodi Picault and then sets the stage for Gail Simone to step in. This is a nicely done story and it does a great job of setting up the new run of the series. The art work by Terry Dodson with his wife Rachel Dodson doing the inks was really nice. Not pin-uppy like some artists do it, and yet sexy and strong at the same time.
Who is Wonder Woman? She’s a hero with a soul and a heart and a warrior who knows when to talk not fight. And this book really shows that off.

Witchblade Volumes 1-3
Top Cow Comics

I recently just read these three volumes and they collect issues 80-100. It was a really great reading experience to sit down and powerhouse through twenty issues worth of stories from Witchblade.
I’m a recent convert to Witchblade. I didn’t really read it when it first came out, I picked up an issue or two but never really followed it. But in recent years I’ve come to love the book. A wonderful blend of heroics with a bit of supernatural stuff, police procedural and one hell of a strong woman lead. The art is also really damn good. Art isn’t enough for me these days and so when I read something for more than an issue the writing needs to be great. Ron Marz wrote everything here and it’s wonderful. The three volume run starts with Sara Pezzini in a coma due to events previous to this set, and it ends with a surprise at the end of Volume three that leads to what is happening in the title now. Along the way Marz delves into who Sara is and what the Witchblade armor is and where it came from. He also looks at Sara’s relationship with the armor. This isn’t all fight scenes and splash pages, which would be easy to do with a title like this, we are given character development that makes us want to root for Sara and her friends. And more importantly Marz makes us want to keep turning the pages.
Witchblade is a great idea and for my money Marz has taken it to new heights.

If you’ve not read this series before, pick up a copy of the Volume 1, I promise you’ll be back for two and three.

To make the package even better, just like good DVD sets, these have bonus features, Introductions by some great comics creators including Marz and Phil Hestor, Cover galleries, and in volume 2 a great look back at the previous holders of the Witchblade.
And to make this an even better deal, the volumes are priced nice, #1 is 9.99, and 2 and 3 are 14.99. Truly a bargain for the sheer level of story telling going in in these pages.

Hellboy Animated 1-3
Dark Horse

I love Hellboy. I love the offshoots B.P.R.D. and Lobster Johnson. The Abe Sapian mini series is wonderful. And like anything truly wonderful there is never enough. I understand that it takes a while to put together great comics. There is a lot of work involved. That doesn’t change the fact that I need immediate gratification.

So I picked up the first three of the Hellboy Animated books. These are smaller manga sized books based on the Hellboy animated series. There are some differences from the regular series, but you will recognize everyone here. And as it turns out they are wonderful! While maybe a bit more kid friendly, they are all means a book Hellboy fans will enjoy.

The amazing Jim Pascoe wrote the main stories in the first two. The Black Wedding and The Judgment Bell are great tales. Black Wedding involves a witch summoning demons and wanting to become it’s bride to gain power. The Judgment Bell is a story of atonement and vengeance and has Professor Broom revealing some things from his past. Book three has a great story called The Menagerie about a crazy king, monks and love gone wrong.
The back up stories are great too. I love the young Hellboy being a fan of Lobster Johnson and getting into trouble because he wants to do justice.
These are great books and for only 6.95 you are getting a great story at a damn good price. These are more than just something to hold me over between regular Hellboy stories, they are really damn good books!

The Golden Age
DC Comics

I just reread this collection again. James Robinson is a really writer and this series is something he wrote before changing the face of comics with his run on Starman.

This is an elseworlds look at the Justice Society post WWII in an era when everyone was paranoid about Commies and the climate for heroes changed dramatically. The various heroes deal with retiring differently and ultimately it doesn’t agree with them. A hero returns from Europe and his status as a c-list hero (at best) is elevated and he runs for the senate. Before long he is setting policy and things get damn scary.
The secret behind it is even scarier and the conclusion to this story rocks.

This is damn powerful writing and is totally character driven. I can’t recommend this enough.