Trade Collections Reviews

The last few weeks I’ve read quite a few trades. Here’s the best of the bunch in alphabetical order. I’ll have another in a few days as I’m still working through my stack from Wizard World Chicago.

100 Bullets: Once Upon A Crime
Volume 11
Brian Azzarello/Eduardo Risso

I know that this series has a finite number of issues left. Azzarello has set out a story arc that will wrap up and the series will come to an end. In the 11th collection its obvious things are coming to a head. The players are coming together and choosing sides. The build up is starting to really pay off. And as spectacular as the build up has been, it’s getting even better now. Graves and Lono are putting together their teams, and the Trust is aware something is happening and coming right for them. Azzarello’s ability to write fully fleshed out characters that are obviously bad guys, and yet sympathetic is uncanny. Part of me wants to see them all locked up, the other part of me wants their plans to succeed. A perfect world of blurring lines and shades of grey.

Eduardo Risso gets better and better. The desert scenes made me sweat, the warehouse scenes had me listening for echoes. In every face you can see the emotion. A second look through the book without reading, just taking in the art will tell the whole story.
While I wish this series would never end, I can’t wait to see how it does.

Alan Moore’s Complete Wildc.a.t.s.
Alan Moore
Wildstorm/DC Comics

Alan Moore Wild Worlds
Alan Moore
Wildstorm/DC Comics

Both of these collections originally came out in the late 1990’s. By this point Image comics signature style of artwork had toned down a bit and the addition of Alan Moore as a writer really made for some wonderful reading. While my favorite work by Moore is his darker and more eclectic writings this collection is really about what he does best, tell stories. And these stories are fun and spectacular.
The Wildc.a.t.s. collection has the team rebuilding and gives Moore a chance to write superheroes in a bit different way than superheroes normally get written. New characters and new places are through out.
The Wildworlds collection is similar in that Moore really adds to characters. Reading Moore’s work while playing in someone else’s sandbox is always great fun, and there is a little bit of forshadowing to some of the work he would later do with his ABC line. For his run on these books he made the characters his and it’s pure reading fun. The books are both self contained and can be thoroughly enjoyed on their own.

Batman: Harley and Ivy
DC Comics

This collection is a combination of three tales from different places, but they all share one thing, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. The first and third are written by Paul Dini and the middle is from Judd Winick. The bet is a fun little tale of the girls trapped in arkham and missing boys, Ivy bets Harley she can get more kisses., Story two is Harley having troubles with the Joker and going to Ivy for help. Wonderful art on this one from Joe Chiodo. The final story was originally a miniseries and shares the title with this collection. Bruce Timm makes this my favorite part of the book with his Eisner like layouts and wonderful art. Dini also wrote a very fun story taking the gals fro Arkham to South America and to Hollywood.
Over the top fun rules the day in the world of Harley Quinn, yet somehow she’s made friends with the ever serious Poison Ivy. I look forward to more of these two teamed up, hopefully with Dini and Timm at the helm.

Birds Of Prey: Blood and Circuits
Gail Simone/various artists
DC Comics

The timing of the release of this trade is perfect as we are seeing Dinah gearing up for her wedding to Ollie. The first half of the book shows why she’s leaving, at least for now, and it’s a nice character driven piece. Gail Simone did a great job showing how well these people get along and the respect they have for each other. The second half of the book leads into a story arc involving an old nemesis of Barbara’s, a woman who has taken the mantle of Spy Smasher. Guest stars galore as Barbara tries rebuild the team a bit and redo the way she handles operations, using Huntress as her main player.
I love this series and every thing Gail Simone has done to breath so much new life into these great characters. It makes me believe that maybe Simone is the true Oracle here.

The Boys Volume 1
Garth Ennis/Darick Robertson
Dynamite Comics

I love this idea. A world with superheroes out of control. It seems like this is more the way it would really be if they existed. And Garth Ennis is the perfect cynical writer to take it on.

The Boys are a group of folks sanctioned by the CIA to take down superheroes. They target the ones abusing their power and really mess them up.
The beginning of the book has a bad ass dude named Butcher putting together a team so we see each team member and get a bit of background. The new guy is Wee Hughie, a normal guy whose girl friend was obliterated by an arrogant superprick. The other members have done this before and are more than happy to take these jerks down. Surveillance gives the team information they need to go after a supergroup of teenagers and eventually after some nasty counterintelligence type tricks and hell of a fight team they get the results they were hoping for. This is Garth Ennis doing what he does best, wry humor and no worries about being sensitive.

Great art by Darick Robertson and the story from Ennis is really fun and violent. I love this title and will be getting the rest as the trades come out.

Grendel Archives
Matt Wagner
Dark Horse Comics

Collecting Grendel Primer and Grendel 1 –3 from Comico’s original run this is a great addition to any collection of trades. These issues are damn hard to find and great fun to read. There is a wonderful introduction from Matt Wagner which is a perfect lead in for these very first Grendel tales. Even then Wagner’s art was something to behold and while not as polished as it is now it’s still beautiful.
Presented in a hard cover edition at only $14.95 this is a steal.

Grendel: Devil by the Deed
Matt Wagner
Dark Horse Comics

Originally run as a back up feature in Mage this is another collection that’s been a long time coming. With an introduction form Wagner and one from Alan Moore it starts big. It finishes that way too. I love Grendel and this is a beautiful story with art deco influences and simple black white and red coloring.
Hardcover only $12.95

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus: Volume 1
Jack Kirby
DC Comics

Anyone reading comics should need no introduction to Jack Kirby, the man was a genius and ahead of his time. He is also responsible for an awful lot of the things still being read today. This long anticipated collection gathers all his tales involving the New Gods, The Forever People, Mister Miracle and sets the ground work for stories years down the road. I have to say that I am a HUGE fan of Mister Miracle and loved seeing these first appearances.
Chronologically collecting all the stories starting with the Jimmy Olsen run by Kirby this is the beginning to a tale Kirby wanted to tell with his own characters and it will take four volumes to bring it to it’s conclusion.
The artwork alone makes this worth the price as you can see how Kirby’s influence taught other artists. Add the sheer grandness of the story telling you have a book where every page is a masterpiece.
This first edition has Jimmy Olsen 133-139,Forever People 1-3, The New Gods 1-3, and Mister Miracle 1-3.
A beautiful hardcover edition this book should be a must have for all comics fans. There is a reason Jack Kirby was called the King, and this book proves he still has the crown.

The Phantom: Maneaters
Rafael Nieves

One of the all time great pulp characters The Phantom has the potential for endless tales. This book from Moonstone is not a typical graphic novel in that the story is not told frame by frame but rather in text with art flowing through the middle of the pages to accompany the story. It’s a techniques that works well and really lets the story move at it’s one pace. Combining modern story telling with DEA agents and ancient mysteries MANEATERS is truly a heroic piece and one I would highly recommend.

Stormwatch: Post Human Division
Christos Gage/ Doug Mahnke
Wildstorm/DC Comics

I really enjoyed Stormwatch and grew to like all the characters, I also liked the offshoot Authority. This is a bit of a different take in the same place. Stormwatch is bleeding funds and needs to fins a way to protect but on a budget. After a vicious fight in New York Jackson Kong brings together a team that will rely on members who are more human and need to rely on skill and smarts, not raw power. A former villain known as The Machinist, overweight living at home with Mom is brought in for his tech skills. A woman named Gorgeous who has a knack for making men do what she wants is on the team for a number of skills, the main one being manipulation. Black Betty is a sorcerer’s apprentice, Paris is an amazing hand to hand combatant, a funny little scientist who used to turn into a giant monster, and former Stormwatch field leader and now un-powered hero Fahrenheit round off the team led by NYPD officer John Doran who has the distinction of being a human who wasn’t killed in the huge dust up.

This volume sees the team coming together and learning to work together. We get insight in to each character as they prepare to take on a Daemon led team of Super villains. Wonderful action, and great characterizations really make this work. The art by Mahnke is every bit as great as his work on The Seven Soldiers mini series. It’s dark and a bit sketchy and really fits the mood. I love the expressions he gives people. A damn fine book.