12 Trade Reviews to Take us Into Winter

Black Summer
Avatar Press

This was a really wild read. It at first seems like another deconstruction of the superhero genre, but very soon it becomes obvious that it is more. It is also a look at the world today and the politics involved with running the world.
A team of superheroes, all of who were artificially enhanced has over the years gone through some changes. Members have died and retired. Those remaining seem to have gone a little nuts. John Horus was a founding member of the group, the seven guns. He extremely powerful and he’s really pissed. The book opens with him showing up in DC and wiping out the president, the cabinet and almost all the high ranking officials. He does it because he feels they have been acting illegally by starting a war in the middle east. Sound familiar? You bet it does. Almost right after this a group of government ops start tracking down the remaining guns to kill them. The group is run by a man who worked with them and knows their secrets, secrets he’s used to put his own government sponsored team together. What follows is fast and furious action as the remaining Seven Guns takes on pretty much everybody.
The artwork by Juan Jose Yp only seems to amplify the story by Warren Ellis. It’s details to the point of distraction and by that I mean you really need to stop on each page and take it all in. This is a great book and one that needs to be savored.

Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis
DC Comics

This is the first story arc of the new outsiders team under the leadership of Batman. The core team is a little different, but the key players are the same. Batman also brings in other heroes as needed per mission. The mission in this story is to regain control over an Omac unit. Batman is working with Francine Langstrom (wife of Man-Bat) to help regain control of his technology.
Filled with action and plenty of great superhero action this book delivers and with all the best elements of team books without being bogged down in protocol. There is never any doubt that it’s Batman’s team, but since he is such a great tactician it really works well. Chuck Dixon has a wonderful take on the dark knight and how he works and it fits in this book perfectly. The artwork by both Julian Lopez and Carlos Rodriguez is beautiful. While I think it may be too glossy looking for regular bat titles, here it works perfectly. And while I don’t normally comment too much on color, this book is done by Marta Martinez and she really makes this work shine.

B.P.R.D. – 1946
Dark Horse Comics

The latest trade collection of this uber entertaining title is a flash back tale that takes place right after world war two. Professor Bruttenholm is in Germany doing some work with the army investigating the area post Nazi regime. They end up teaming up with a group of Russians lead by a strange woman named Varvara. Varvara is in a body stuck at around ten and she heads up the Russian’s paranormal research. She is also really good at her job because by the time the good professor gets to Germany they find that the Russians have most of the things worth researching. Together they uncover a Nazi operation called Project Vampir Sturm and eventually they manage to put an end to it.
This is a great look back at the origins of the B.P.R.D. and it was this case that got the bureau further funding. Great art as always and the story really rocks. I hope to see more of these stories from the past.
Also included is the free comics day one shot with the professor.

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volumes 1-3
DC Comics

During the early seventies Wonder Woman lost her powers and she became an adventurer who had to rely on skill and brains. It was an interesting experiment at the time to take an established hero and run their comic with them have no powers of a costume. It was also an experiment that worked. It added a whole new side to Wonder Woman a she went through trials and tribulations powerless.
Definitely a comic of it’s time the art reflects the period, which I love as this is around the time I first started buying comics with my own money. For the nostalgia factor alone these are worth owning. It was also some of Dick Giordano’s best work to date. Mike Sekowsky also seems to have had a lot of fun writing this period in our favorite amazon’s life.
These are defining moments in the history of Wonder Woman and defiantly worth rereading.

EX MACHINA VOL. 7: EX CATHEDRA
Wildstorm

This collection which contains issues 30-33 has two stories, one is a three issue run about Mayor Hundred’s trip to the Vatican and deals with the people who are causing him grief, all in the name of God of course. The one issue story that wraps it up deals with commissioner Angiotti and the mayor and also fill in more of the history of The great Machine.
I love this series and it really is an ongoing saga that needs to be read in bunches. The trade format is perfect for Brian K Vaughan’s creation and I think sitting down and reading the whole set again each time I get a new trade really is a perfect way to spend an evening. It’s a complex story that is made richer when reading it all, though each issue stands on its own with just a little background.
Ex Machina is a modern classic.

Fables: War and Pieces
Vertigo

Well this has been a long time coming. Fans of this series having been waiting for the final confrontation between the good folks of Fabletown and the adversary for quite a while. It’s a hell of a fight and it takes its toll on both sides. I love the whole story, but my favorite is part two in which Cinderella is undercover acting more Bond than James Bond and re-acquiring Pinocchio. She is bad ass and the story really kicks. The overall ending is happy, if not bitter sweet. It fits well with what has gone before and I’m really curious to see what happens next. As always Willingham is on the top of his game, as is Mark Buckingham.
I love this series.
The only question I have is what happened with all those rumors of Peter Pan?

Jim Butcher; The Dresden Files: Welcome To The Jungle
Dabel Bros/ Del Rey

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher are some of my favorite books. Combining supernatural with a classic noir style Pi sensibility the series is a joy to read.It also seems a natural for a comic book and Butcher says as much in his opening.
Harry Dresden is a professional Wizard and he makes a living out of Chicago, a lot of it from consulting for the Chicago PD. In Welcome to the Jungle he is brought in to investigate a series of attacks at the zoo. As always things aren’t what they seem and Harry is soon up to his neck in trouble.
Written by Butcher and illustrated by Ardian Syaf this is a great introduction to the character. If it’s your first exposure and you enjoy it I recommend all the novels. And I know that I’ll be reading the comics from here on as well.

JLA/Avengers
DC/Marvel

To say that this story is a long time coming is a real understatement. Rumors of a crossover between the two major superhero teams began years ago. In fact there were some sketches and preliminary art done back in 1983. The project had false starts and eventually fell apart. If you get a chance to see some of the preliminary art by George Perez is almost heart breaking to think of how great it would have been. Over the years rumors were many as to why the project never went anywhere. And at this point it doesn’t matter.
Why?
Because in 2003 the project was on again. With Kurt Busiek and George Perez working together the team up of a life time would finally happen.
It opens with a great premise for the teams to meet. Kronos , famous in green Lantern lore is on a rampage destroying universes looking for answers to what came before the big bang. With each universe destroyed he gets stronger and more crazy. He finally nets the Gamemaster, a cosmic being of the Marvel universe and a plan is hatched with a wager. Six object from the the DC universe and six from the Marvel universe need to be found. The JLA and the Avengers are on a collision course to find them. After some fighting between the teams they eventually hook up and fight together to save , well, everything.
The story here is amazing in the way it brings everything together in a way that really works and is respectful to both companies heroes. Busiek was a perfect choice of course due to the number of these characters that he’s written over the years. And to be honest I can’t think of anyone else who could have pulled off the artwork so perfectly. This is a must have for any fan who loves superheroes, and Kurt and George manage to get every member of both teams in there somewhere.
Pick this up and read it twice, once for the story, once for the art.

The Lindbergh Child
NBM/Comics Lit

Rick Geary has been working on this series of true crime books for a while and they are really well researched and offer up some of the truly great crimes of the last century. This latest is obviously about the Lindbergh kidnapping. Since reading Max Allan Collins novel STOLEN AWAY I have been more than a little intrigued by this case and have formed my own opinions. In The Lindbergh Child Geary offers up all the facts of the event as they took place. He also points out some of the strange inconsistencies with the story but he does it in such a way that he isn’t drawing conclusions. My own feelings are that the baby’s remains they found was not the kidnapped child and that the wrong man was punished. There are a lot of strange things in this case and while tragic it is truly fascinating as well. It also changed federal laws.

In 80 pages he gives the whole story in such an interesting way that I think most readers will feel like doing some research on their own. I would suggest using his bibliography as a place to start.

I also recommend all the other titles in this series of books by Geary. Some of the other titles are: Treasury of Victorian Murder: Murder of Abraham Lincoln, Treasury of Victorian Murder, Volume 8: Case of Madeleine Smith, Jack The Ripper (A Treasury of Victorian Murder Series): A Journal of Whitechapel Murders 1888 -1889,Treasure of Victorian Murder: Saga of the Bloody Benders,Fatal Bullet the Assassination of President Garfield. The whole series is great and worth tracking down.

The Spirit: Femme Fatales
DC Comics

Just in time for people to study a bit before the move, The Spirit Femme fatales introduces readers to the women in the Spirit’s life.
Will Eisner was undeniably a genius, this character is so perfect. Noir with a sense of fun, great artwork that isn’t over done. But what really made the character work so well was the dames in his life. So reprinted here are stories from 1940-1949. Eisner really took the idea of the femme fatale to a new level. Deviously and dangerously wily women who were too clever for normal cops. Eisner’s writing inspired a generation and then another after that and reading this will show you why.
Classic comics greatness collected at a reasonable price, what more could any fan want?

The Spirit Achieves, Volume 25.
DC Comics

This volume collects the daily comic strips from October 1941-March 1944. Comic strips are a bit of a different animal than comics. The nature of doing a single strip each day instead of a 22 page book means a different style of writing. It works well with humor, but it doesn’t always work with crime drama of heroes. Well, will Eisner nails it and this is great stuff. Black and white and a little smaller than the comics, but other than that it is some of his best writing. It is also full of incredible art.
A piece of history and just damn good story telling this is yet another collection that is worth owning for a number of reasons. Eisner’s work on these strips really was ground breaking and inspiring for people even today.

The Un-Men: Children Of Paradox
Vertigo

John Whalen and Mike Hawthorne have taken an obscure part of comic history from Swamp Thing and turned it into a very entertaining series. Volume on of this title introduces us to Agent Kilcrop and the town of Aberrance, a place where freaks can be together. The town is a place where the Un-Men, creations of Anton Arcane can live in peace, or at least that was the theory.
This second volume has Agent Kilcrop investigating n illness that is spreading through Aberrance and its origins lead to some disturbing secrets.
I love the artwork on this book, Hawthorne really has a style perfect for this kind of storytelling. Whalen also has really added to the lore of this group, in just two trade collections worth of stories he has added a whole mythos that is ripe for more stories. The series has been cancelled and I think that’s a shame. This is something that had a lot of potential, though sometimes that’s not enough I guess. The title had trouble finding its audience, though with these trades available readers can still find the book. If we’re lucky maybe we’ll get to see more of the Un-men some day.