Top 10 Superheroes

Thanks to a persistent request and enough desire to do it anyway, here are my Top 10 Favorite Superheroes. It is an eclectic group, split pretty evenly between Marvel and DC as well as between men and women. I think it’s a good list, and if you disagree you are objectively wrong.

10: Wolverine –

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I got into comics though the 90’s X-Men cartoon and I think it is impossible to come out of that show not loving Wolverine.  It also helped that he was short like me. Most of his solo comics have not been especially good, but his time with X-Men has featured quite a few memorable stories. He is kind of the prototype for all the crappy 90’s anti-heroes, but none of them ever did it as well as it was done with Wolverine.

9: Wildcat –

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He is almost as much of a joke character as a real superhero, but Wildcat is still one of my favorites. He is in some ways the JSA’s Wolverine, except not as useful. He has no powers, other than sometimes having 9 cat lives, he’s just an old boxer who dresses like a cat and beats up crooks. He is also the heart and soul of the team. In most DC continuities, he’s also responsible for training many other heroes. He’s taught Batman, Black Canary and Catwoman how to box. He did something similar in his sporadic appearances an Arrow. When the JSA’s adventures get big, I always like seeing how the largely normal Wildcat deals with things.

8: She-Hulk –

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I’m not sure what She-Hulk has been up to lately, but I really fell in love with this character during Dan Slott’s run with her in the early 00’s. She is one of the fun Marvel characters, like a version of Deadpool that isn’t completely obnoxious. She is capable of 4th wall breaking hijinks as well as more serious superhero stuff. She is just a lot of fun.

7: Superman – The original and still best. There is something more pure about the best Superman stories than with most other superheroes. I don’t think this pick needs any justification, other than that every year I think I like him more.

6: Captain Marvel Carol Danvers –

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I have less of a reason for liking this character than most. I read her last mediocre run as Ms Marvel in the middle 00s and it was fine. The more recent stuff with her as Captain Marvel was simply great. There is something about brash, no-nonsense superheroines that really appeals to me.

5: Power Girl –

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See above about this sort of superheroine. The stuff starring her by Palmiotti, Gray & Conner, her own series and her Harley Quinn mini, has been inspired stuff. She is DC’s answer in a lot of ways to both She-Hulk and Captain Marvel.

4: Mr. Miracle & Big Barda –

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I am cheating a bit here, but this pair almost always operates as a pair and they are really only interesting to me as a pair.  I’ve written about them before, but these two are great. They make a great couple that is physically an inversion of the usual gender roles, but they spend a lot of their time trying to conform to those roles anyway. It also helps that most of the appearances I’ve read of them, the original Jack Kirby stuff and their appearance in the JLI, have all been very good comics. Also, it is great that Mr. Miracle’s power set is largely non-combative.

3: Stargirl –

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From her own short lived series to her appearances in JSA, Stargirl has long been a favorite of mine. She is that teenage superhero Spider-Man riff, but with some of DC’s special legacy baggage. Being the young hero who ended up with the old guys instead of the Teen Titans made her seem special. Plus, she has the added benefit of just being a lot of fun.

2: Hercules –

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There is something really enjoyable to me about a hero that treats superheroing like fun. That is Marvel’s Hercules. He is a big goofy Thor. Every adventure with him feels like half a party, but his best stories also have strong character moments.

1: Green Lantern Guy Gardner –

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Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1

The one requirement to be a Green Lantern is to have no fear. Guy lives up to that by being kind of a douche. He is also a surprisingly complex character, a hero who has to put up this brash front rather than admit he feels inadequate.

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What I Read August 2016

Only three books this month, though it was a rather busy month. I also finished up some comics reading, getting through some old newspaper strips and one of the collections I picked up a Planet Comic-con Kansas City earlier this summer. Even though I fell short of my monthly goal, I am more than satisfied with what I read this month. Also, I have enough half-finished books that I should more than make up for it in September.

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie

This is a book that gets two reactions: one knowing the twist and one not knowing. I didn’t get to experience that first one. I’m not too upset, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is famous and famous for its twist, that I have been spoiled on it in the 90 years since the book was published is no surprise. However, that kept me from reading it with truly fresh eyes. I read it knowing the outcome, so I spent my time looking for the real clues and seeing if Christie played fair. As far as I can tell, she did. Still, the revelation lacks some of the impact it might have had if I came into it blind. The retired Hercule Poirot comes out of retirement to investigate a murder is a small village. He meets with the townsfolk and aided by the town doctor looks into the murder of one Roger Ackroyd. He does the usual things, checking the alibis and opinions of the possible suspects before the surprising revelation the murderer. Even being spoiled about the culprit I enjoyed this quite a bit. Christie earned her reputation.

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The Bishop’s Heir

Katherine Kurtz

I picked up a handful of Kurtz’s Deryni books a long time ago at a college library sale, but the first one I tried didn’t immediately grab me, so I sold them to a used book store when I was clearing out some space. Since then I have read more about the series, so when another opportunity to pick some of them up for cheap presented itself I took it. The first one I read, The Bishop’s Heir is the first part of her third trilogy of Deryni books. It has young king Kelson Haldane dealing with a rift in the church and a political uprising.

Kurtz’s prose can be workmanlike and the world of this book is very close to the real world with just a splash of magic. It feels very much like the precursor to stuff like A Song of Ice and Fire. It also does little to ease new readers in; which is only a problem because the cover says book one. Still, once you get in the groove, the book works. Kelson is young and still unsure at times, wanting to be a good king but not blind to the harsh realities that he faces. The plot seems surprisingly light considering how complete this one book is. It is not structured like the usual fantasy book, being much more political than action oriented. The big piece of the plot happens early, and the last two thirds or so are merely dealing with the fallout from that encounter. By the end, was fully drawn in. It isn’t really great work, but it is very readable historical fantasy.

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The Garden of Stones

Mark T Barnes

I listened to this book as an audiobook rather than read it, so I can’t guarantee my thoughts on it are the same that they would be had I read it normally. The Garden of Stones makes itself hard to like early on, has a solid middle portion before falling apart again at the end. It spends almost the whole first half introducing so many characters and concepts it is hard to keep them straight. Especially since they are all made up words. That is the part that I think the audiobook suffers in comparison to the real thing. Still, having all of these fake words showing up frequently, and then characters with unusual names that then have nicknames, sometimes multiple, makes it hard for a reader to find their footing. By the time the players and their relationships are clear, the book starts to be fun.

The Garden of Stones has three primary characters: the power mad Corajidin who wants to seize power in the Shrian Federation, the warrior-mage Indris opposed to him, and Mari, Corajidin’s daughter who is caught between family and what she believes is right. The three of them and their compatriots plot and scheme in a tense political situation the Corajidin has engineered to his own benefit. That’s all well and good for a while, but things go a bit off at the end. Mostly from a pacing point of view. The book alternates between those three POV characters, but they seem to get to the climactic moments out of order. Important events happen off page because none of those three characters are there, and the order that the chapters fall removes a lot of the possible tension. By the time it’s over you start to wonder about the timing of things, as events don’t quite fit together smoothly.

I’ve read a lot of people compare this book to Erikson’s Malazan books, which isn’t far off. But that comparison fits into me not really enjoying this book; I don’t much care for the Malazan series either. They are both dense with world building, but I find them both lacking in most other respects.

Comics

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The Complete Peanuts 1957-58

This is the forth volume of Fantagraphics complete Peanuts, and it is good. Peanuts is great. I don’t really know what else to say. It is almost always funny and is just often enough poignant. In this early volume Schulz is still fleshing out his cast, with Linus getting the bulk of the focus. Good, good stuff.

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Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Vol 2

As a showcase for Alex Raymond’s art this is wonderful. I really wish I could track down volume 1, but the story is so episodic that it hardly matters. Flash and Dale and Zarkov move from one adventure to next at breakneck speed. They visit the various realms of Mongo, fight with the royalty and Ming the Merciless and eventually conquer. It is worth reading if only for Raymond’s art, which is exquisite.

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Godland Celestial Edition Volume 1

Joe Casey & Tom Scioli

I was gifted Scioli’s American Barbarian and fell in love with it, so when I happened upon a couple of volumes of Godland, a series with his art, on sale at the KC Comic-con, I snatched them up. The first volume, unfortunately, was a huge disappointment. Like Scioli’s art, the story of Godland is very Kirby inspired, taking from his Fantastic Four collaborations with Stan Lee and his later 4th World stuff from DC. Not that Godland isn’t entirely original, it is, but is desperately tries to ape the tone of those works. In many ways it succeeds, but there is something about it that just end up feeling off.

Godland tells the story of Adam Archer, an astronaut that gained cosmic powers on an ill-fated expedition to Mars. He uses those powers to be a superhero back on Earth, fighting enemies like Friedrich Nickelhead, who looks like Destro from GI Joe, and Basil Cronus, a junkie who carries his own head around in a jar. The design of all the characters found in this first volume is nearly perfect and the plots themselves are exactly the sort of thing I was expecting, but the dialogue kills it for me. The whole thing feels slathered in a sort of glib irony – maybe an attempt to ape Stan Lee of the 60’s – that undercuts any true feelings the story could invoke. It constantly pushes the reader away, seemingly wanting them to laugh at the book and find the whole thing ridiculous. It is ridiculous, but if the book is so desperate to undercut itself why does it exist in the first place. American Barbarian was similar in many ways, but it presented itself more earnestly even when being ridiculous. Joe Casey seems desperate to make sure that readers know that he knows how ridiculous this whole thing is, and that knowing tinge is off putting.

DC Rebirth Month 3

Three months in and DC is still rolling out Rebirth titles. I think returns are diminishing, if only because DC has gotten past their bread and butter titles and are now into some of their more niche stuff. Still, while I could have easily passed on most of this month’s books, it did feature what may be the most successful Rebirth issue to come out thus far. Hopefully next months, which look to be more to my taste, will be all be like that.

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Deathstroke Rebirth – The big draw here is Christopher Priest returning to DC Comics, now writing the adventures of DC’s best mercenary most famous for his inability to stop a group of teenagers. This rebirth issue kind of goes all over the place; with flashbacks to Slade with his kids as well him meeting with a client and couple of targets. It sets up Deathstroke as a real bastard, but a bastard that does care about some things. The preponderance of flashbacks and quick transitions leaves this issue feeling a little muddled, as though the creative team is trying to do much in the space allotted. The art by Carlo Pagulayan is nice enough, clean and clear but not far off the DC house style. The idea of family permeates the book, with Slade and his two sons being prominent, and what read like a fake out to me at the end when Slade rescues someone. It is a perfectly fine comic that gives the series a lot of ground that it could possibly explore.

Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Jeromy Cox

6/10

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Red Hood & The Outlaws Rebirth – I don’t know how Scott Lobdell still has a Red Hood book to write, but here is his third crack at it. While they are in the title, there is not so much as a mention of The Outlaws, this is a retelling of Jason Todd’s origin and a set up for his ongoing. It shows his recruitment, some training and his death at the hands of the Joker. Interspersed with that is him doing something that gets him a lot of credit with the villains in Gotham, with the intent of going undercover with them. Not a terrible set up for a book, though the dialogue and captions only ever rise to the level of being serviceable. Dexter Soy’s art is dark and scratchy, perfect at times for a Batman book, but not really my thing overall. This book was better than I expected, but only because I expected to hate it. It isn’t bad enough to hate, it’s just there. It really hurts this book that Nightwing is doing a similar plot and doing it better.

Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini

5/10

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Suicide Squad Rebirth – This one was a bit of a surprise. DC has really struggled to get the Suicide Squad right since they brought it back with the New 52. Here, other than the built in parts that I will never like, it manages to work really well. The book pares things down to just three squad members: Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn and Deadshot. They are ruthless and irreverent. They have a high stakes but fairly perfunctory mission that perfectly illustrates what the team is. Mixed with that is Amanda Waller’s attempts to keep the team going, by bringing in someone the government can trust to be the field leader, which means the return of Rick Flagg. Waller spends the issue both talking up Flagg, to let the reader know who he is, and trying to sell Task Force X to him. This one issue doesn’t give a lot of room to flesh out characters, but it does give a good idea of what the five central ones are all about. I expected to hate the art, but Philip Tan’s usual second rate Jim Lee impression here is a first rate Jim Lee impression. Lee will be doing the art of the main book, and Williams wrote this to that style’s strengths. It is quippy and violent and dark and funny, but it also seems like it might have some thought going on behind it. It is pretty much everything one would want the Suicide Squad to be.

Rob Williams, Philip Tan, Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna, Sandu Florea, Alex Sinclair

7/10

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Supergirl Rebirth – This book was great. It starts with clean, expressive art from Emanuela Lupacchino. Her stuff has always looked good, like the Supergirl run that closed out the last volume of this title. It is just so great. The story kind of moves things for Supergirl to be closer to the TV show, but not exactly the same and in a way that makes sense in the comics. This Kara is only 16, so the DEO hooks her up with a new set of parents: The Danvers. Same set up as the show, though no sister was mentioned in this issue. The issue itself is has Supergirl take a rocket ride to the sun to regain her powers at the same time that a Kryptonian Werewolf attacks the DEO. The way that Supergirl deals with the threat is perfect. As far as taking a character and giving her a new status quo, Supergirl Rebirth is about perfect. The Danvers are great, it brings in Agent Chase as the head of the DEO and is just an all around good time. If the main book keeps this tone and expands on this set up it will be a treat.

Steve Orlando, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, Michael Atiyeh

9/10

Those are the Rebirth books for the month, minus Blue Beetle which will be in my next month’s box. Outside of the actual Rebirth titles, though, there were some new books that didn’t start with a special but with an actual #1. I’ve got some quick reviews for them here.

  • All-Star Batman 1 – A lateral move for Scott Snyder, who follows up his well-loved Batman run with new project All-Star Batman. This book has been sold on the idea that it is going to be spending a lot of time with the classic rogues gallery, who aside from Joker were largely absent from Snyder’s Batman run. This first issue was a lot of fun.
  • Batgirl 1– Also kind of spinning out of the Birds of Prey Rebirth, Batgirl has the titular character leave the Burnside neighborhood of Gotham, where her recent status quo was centered, to do some globetrotting training. Hope Larson shows a strong understanding of the character here and Raphael Albuquerque is always good; this is an absolute delight.
  • Harley Quinn 1 – Did you like the previous Harley Quinn series? Then you are in luck, because this is a new #1 because that’s what comics do, not because there is anything new here. I don’t mean to be harsh, I actually quite like Palmiotti & Conner’s work with the character, though I prefer the stuff when Harley has to share the focus (I love Harley Quinn & Power Girl). This is just more of good stuff we were already getting.
  • Superwoman 1 – This spins out of the Superman stuff, obviously. It is a well-executed comic, Phil Jimenez’s is great and the writing is good, but it feels a little like a cruel trick thanks to how DC sold the book. I don’t know how I feel about this book yet.

Last and probably least, I thought I would include a list of the titles I am sticking with three months into this little endeavor. The price has got me really thinning my list, and for once I feel like DC is putting out more good books than I care to read, instead of me buying a few mediocre titles for the writer or artist. Right now my pull list has Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and Detective Comics for the books shipping twice monthly, with Nightwing being the most recent unfortunate casualty. As for the once a month titles, I am sticking with Batgirl, Supergirl, New Superman and, for now, Batgirl and Birds of Prey. That last one is likely the next to be gone, especially once some of my Marvel books come back from Civil War 2. Come back next month as I take a look at Batman Beyond Rebirth, Cyborg Rebirth, Teen Titans Rebirth and catch up with Blue Beetle Rebirth, as well as a handful of other fresh starts.

The DC Rebirth Round Up Month 2

DC’s second month of Rebirth titles was not quite as gripping as the first month. This slow rollout of titles is certainly a better plan than dumping all the new titles out at once like they did with the New 52. This gives smaller titles a chance to catch an audience and DC a chance to see how some things play out before tossing everything out there. Still, for the most part the second month’s worth of books are big titles. Another Green Lantern book, secondary Batman titles like Batgirl and Nightwing, and big gun Justice League. Hellblazer is clearly a title DC has an interesting publishing, and somehow Red Hood keeps coming out even though the only time it was remotely interesting was when Kenneth Rocafort was giving it distinctly styled art. Unfortunately, I did not receive my copy of Red Hood and the Outlaws Rebirth, so it will have to be included in next month’s post. To make up for it, I have included a write up of New Super-Man, which is not a Rebirth title, but it is a brand new character getting a title all of his own as part of this initiative.

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Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth

Shawna & Julie Benson & Claire Roe

I believe this book is the writing team, Shawna & Julie Benson, first comics work and that shows. The first several pages, which recount the origin of Batgirl and how she came to operate as Oracle, feature narration that is as clumsy as possible. They reach their painful climax with this line “Ironic. A guy named the Joker took away our laughs”. Once those narration boxes fall away and the story gets going things get a lot better. The bulk of the issue is spent introducing Batgirl, but a page or so is spared for Black Canary and Huntress. Batgirl and Black Canary have some nice verbal repartee ad the fight some mobster, quickly establishing both their former camaraderie and some strain on their relationship. That duo is almost always great together. Huntress is the outsider in the group, moving from her place as a super spy – as seen in Grayson – towards her original gimmick of killing mobsters to get revenge for her parent’s death. The motivating factor for the team is that someone is using Batgirls tech and info to take her place as Oracle and she needs to know who it is. Unlike the bulk of last month’s Rebirth titles, this one feels more like the first issue of a new series and not a wheel spinning 0 issue. It is good, not great. That early narration is really bad, but the Benson’s have an ear for dialogue and seem to have a good handle on the characters. This plot doesn’t feel exactly fresh, but as an excuse to get the band back together it works just fine. Claire Roe’s art is strong; not blow you away great, but well-constructed and perfectly suited to the tone of book. While her figures are good, I’m not sure I like the angular faces that she gives the characters. The whole book is like that, it is largely very good, but there are some obvious flaws that keep it from being a slam dunk. Still, this is a title I am interested in reading more of.

7/10

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Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth

Robert Venditti & Ethan Van Sciver

Ethan Van Sciver’s art has always been a good fit for Green Lantern. It is detailed and little stiff; well suited for various alien creatures and locales the pop up in this book. His work here is up to his usual fine quality. The story here … is. It just is. It’s there, and that’s about all I can say for it. It opens with Sinestro lamenting the emptiness of his victory. He is now suddenly old, and with the Green Lantern Corps gone his Sinestro Corps rules the galaxy essentially by default. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan relates his origin and how he came to be on the run. He forges a new Green Lantern Ring. That’s pretty much it. It sets up what could be an interesting book, with Hal Jordan going alone against the Sinestro Corps while trying to find the missing GLC, but there isn’t a lot of meat to this Rebirth issue. The biggest draw of this issue is Van Sciver’s art, which I do not believe will be featured in the series going forward. I assume at some point the rest of the GLC will return, given that they are in the title, and this will become something of a classic GL book while Green Lanterns focuses on the newbies, but right now it looks like Hal versus Sinestro. Again.

6/10

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Hellblazer Rebirth

Simon Oliver & Moritat

For once, one of these Rebirth issues actually tells a story. John Constantine has never been a character I’ve cared over much for, but this is a fine comic issue. Since the start of the New 52 and Constantine’s reintroduction to the DC Universe, he has been based in America rather than England. This book sends him back home, by giving him a reason to have left in the first place. He was cursed in one of his various dealings with a devil and just now has decided to change things. So he sets out to con a demon. It is a standard Constantine story, but it does a good job of showing the reader who he is and what he does. It is a great introduction to who Constantine is and what he does. It keeps him in the DCU, but removes him somewhat from the bulk of its superheroes. Simon Oliver seems to have a good handle on the character and Moritat’s art is always a delight. This is a solid book.

8/10

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Justice League Rebirth

Bryan Hitch

Bryan Hitch writes and draws what is essentially a Justice League Mass Effect crossover. A giant, tentacled space monster, called a Reaper, attacks Earth and begins to harvest the population. Its methods and look and message are all reminiscent of the Reapers from Mass Effect. I don’t think it’s that much of a problem; they accomplish what they are meant to do in this one off story, which is to give the Justice League a larger than life foe to fight. Hitch draws the hell out of the book, making it both look realistic and epic. It actually does quite a bit with the plot for such a short issue. Other than the central conflict with the Reaper, which is solved fairly perfunctorily once the league is assembled, it also integrates several new members to a team that by all appearances is just the most classic of JL line ups. It mostly deals with the fact that there is a new Superman around, a Superman that is completely unknown to the other members of the team, and they don’t know how to deal with him. Also there are two new Green Lanterns. By the end of the issue, they are at least accepting of each other as a team. It looks to be attempting to deliver the biggest scale action with just enough character moments to keep things moving along.

7/10

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New Super-Man

Gene Luen Yang & Victor Bogdanovic

This isn’t strictly a Rebirth book, but it is did come out as part of the relaunch so I thought I’d include it. This book is about a Chinese Superman. I picks up after Superman Rebirth, with the New 52 Superman dead and a new one showing up in his place. Kenan Kong is a self-important bully from Shanghai. It opens with him beating up a kid and stealing his lunch. Only as this happens a supervillain attacks. Without thinking, Kenan lobs his soda at the villain, saving the kid he was just bullying. This sets the rest of the issue in motion, as he is interviewed by a news agency, which gets the attention of a secret organization trying to make a Superman for China. The book is doing a lot of interesting things. It is explicity setting up parallels between Kenan Kong and Clark Kent in a lot of superficial ways, like the hard “K” sounds of their names, their connections with people with the initials “L.L.” But he is expressly not the shining tower of virtue that Superman is. There are also parallels to Spider-man, with Kenan being much younger than Superman. But instead of Peter Parker, it is more like Flash Thompson getting the powers. After one issue, it looks like Yang is managing to get the best of both worlds. While Kenan is not a nice kid, he is a great protagonist. The more the book shows his inner life, the more sympathetic he becomes. How he acts is not okay, but there is a reason behind it. He is a teenager going through a tough time. The last thing he probably needs is to be handed superpowers. Or maybe the powers will be the catalyst that allows him to be the good person he could be. This is a pretty great opening issue.

8/10

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Nightwing Rebirth

Tim Seely & Yanick Paquette

This is the best Rebirth of the month. Both Tim Seely and Yanick Paquette do some good work here. It is a smooth transition for Dick Grayson from his previous book, the delightful Grayson, back to being a superhero; from being just Grayson the spy back to being Nightwing. Dick gets to hang out with Damian and Bruce, as well as some of the characters from his old book. It grants a brief check in with Huntress, who next appears in Batgirl and Birds of Prey, as well as Midnighter and the new head of Spyral, the spy organization he just left. Dick is an almost inherently delightful character and he gets ample opportunity to bounce off of other fun characters in this issue. Other than introducing Dick and showing what his deal is, which is essentially being a Batman that other people actually like, it also sets up a villainous group for him to deal with. I don’t have a lot to say about this issue, it all just kind of works.

8/10

Red Hood and the Outlaws Rebirth will be included in next month’s Rebirth Round-up, along with the Rebirth titles for Blue Beetle, Supergirl, Suicide Squad, and Deathstroke. Maybe, just maybe, I will include other new titles that didn’t get a dedicated Rebirth issue, like Batgirl and Superwoman. Maybe not; I guess we’ll all find out. While not all the books have been winners, and certainly not all the series coming out of these have been, I am still really satisfied with DC’s Rebirth titles.

What I Read June 2016

I only managed to read two books in June, being caught up with other things and really just not getting most of the several books I started finished. I hope July will get me back on track, especially since my schedule has cleared significantly, but only time will tell. At the very least I have a pair of Christie mysteries that I should finish before the end of the month.

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Thrones, Dominations

Dorothy Sayers & Jill Patton Walsh

This is a Peter Wimsey story, started by Sayers and finished much later by Walsh. And while I did enjoy it, it does seem largely like two different books forced together. It starts as more of a family drama or comedy, with the Wimsey family adjusting to the marriage of Peter and Harriet. There are class conflicts, since Harriet is from a lower class and just some general unfamiliarity that arises with any new addition to a family. Still, the class and sexual dynamics on display in the early part of the book is easily the most engaging part.

It takes nearly a third of the book for the mystery to get going in earnest. And from then on it is a largely by the books murder mystery. It’s fine. The beautiful, and bored, wife of a theater producer is found murdered, and Wimsey, with much help from Harriet, look into it. Harriet is interested because she fears her advice, for the wife to go to their country home and redecorate to occupy herself, is what lead to her being killed. There are the usual array of possible suspect and motives, conflicting timelines and alibis. You know, all the stuff that make up the backbone of mysteries. There is also an interlude with Wimsey dealing with some problems with new King and his lover that is not explored as fully as it could have been. Thrones, Dominations is a nice addition to the Wimsey series. It is not the best entry in the series, but neither is it among the worst.

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Girl on a Wire

Gwenda Bond

I so enjoyed Bond’s Lois Lane books that I also picked up one of her other books. This one is a about circus performers, with the main character, Juliet Maroni, being a wire walker like her father. There is a big rivalry between the Maroni family and the Garcia family, with overt shades of Romeo and Juliet. Overt to the point that the protagonist’s love interest is named Romeo. There is also the possibility of circus magic and increasingly difficult and exciting acts that the young characters of the book put on.

It’s fun. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I like the Lois Lane books, but that is mostly a product of the subject matter. Circuses were never really my thing, but I love Superman and his extended cast of characters. The characters here are largely believable and engaging, and the mystery at the center of the plot is, while predictable, intriguing. At the very least this book is worth a look.

Comics

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All-Star Superman

I had an internet argument about whether or not Grant Morrison was great, and I read this to reassure myself that he indeed is. All-Star Superman, which I’ve written about before, is great. I would call it the single greatest work in the medium of comics.

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New X-Men

I also read this on my trek through some Grant Morrison stuff. It isn’t quite the revelation it was coming out of the execrable 90’s X-Men stuff, but large parts of it still hold up. Unfortunately, for much of it the art is not one of those parts. It is unreadably bad at points. Even good artists, like Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez, turn in some bad work on that book. I can only assume they were rushed. The story, while constantly inventive, feels inordinately rushed. There are plot lines that need time to develop and instead jump around in fits and starts. Still there are great stories, like Riot at Xavier’s and Assault on Weapon Plus, but there are nearly as many straight duds. That said, it is still one of the best X-Men runs.

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Flash Gordon

This recent and all too short series from Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner and Jordie Bellaire is one of my favorite things I’ve read in a long time. It is a simple and heartfelt update of Flash Gordon that keeps all the pulpy fun while smoothing out some the edges that are apparent in the work from nearly 80 years ago. To wit, it gives Dale much more to do without doing anything to sideline Flash. This only manages to tell two or so early Flash stories before it sadly ends, but they are worth it. It starts with Flash, Dale and Zarkov arriving on Arboria and then moves on to Sky City. The art is simply wonderful, and the story nails distinct personalities for Flash, Dale and Zarkov that are true to their roots and still feel fresh. This is just a great book.

DC Rebirth Month One

DC Universe Rebirth is their latest attempt to adjust their superhero universe and generate interest in their line. Their last attempt to do so, with their DCYou line, failed horribly commercially, despite that fact that most of the comics were actually quite good. But the more one pays attention to comic book sales, the more apparent it becomes that sales are at best tangentially related to quality. Ignoring that pointless argument, the fact remains that no one bought excellent books like Omega Men or Starfire, so DC is again forced to cull a wide swath of its line and try something new. What they went with is a tight refocusing on their core characters. Big guns like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are double shipping each month at the expense of the third string characters. To get them into this initiative, DC published DCU Rebirth, and 8- page comic to move the universe from one status quo to another, and then each title is getting its own Rebirth title to set out what that character will be up to for the foreseeable future. Today, I am going to be sharing my thoughts for the first month of these Rebirth titles, starting with DCU Rebirth and then going through each characters title published in the month of June.

DC Universe Rebirth

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Right from the start it is obvious what the objectionable/shocking part of this book is going to be. It starts with a nine panel grid and watched, that is as clear an indicator of tying things to Watchmen as possible. I think that is a bad idea, not only or even primarily for moral reasons surrounding the ownership of the characters. It is a bad idea because there isn’t much point to the characters outside of their own story. They aren’t in of themselves interesting characters. In fact, DC already has versions of these characters in their universe, since they were based on Charlton characters like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. Still, if they are going to this, I think this is as good a way to do this as possible. Here they are set as otherworldly interferers who have had a darkening effect on the DC Universe as a whole. While placing the blame on Watchmen itself, that book’s influence has had a darkening, and terrible, effect on superhero comics. Less skilled writers have long attempted to capture some of that book’s tone writing stories that have dirtied up characters beyond all reason. Bringing in the Watchmen characters and making this comic an overt repudiation of that influence is pretty good.

The comic itself is much more character driven than one would expect from a reality altering event comic. It is all about Wally West, erased from reality since the New 52, trying to find an anchor to bring him back to the world. But no one remembers him. Each of his attempts to reach somebody, be it Batman or Johnny Thunder of the JSA, give a glimpse into that character’s new status quo, along with a handful of unrelated little scenes. Just like with Wally, each of those scenes being an attempt to bring back a character or characters that have been lost either thanks to the New 52 or in the years since. While they are all unfinished parts of stories, each one is a interesting set up for a new series that may or may not be coming. Johns also goes out of his way to show that they are not throwing out the new characters that have come with the New 52, most notably the new Wally West, who here is retconned into old Wally’s cousin.

While all of this is well and good, the emotional punch that Wally’s journey packs is what makes this comic work. As he bounces around the DC Universe, he begins to lose cohesion. He starts to break apart. After his wife fails to recognize him, he starts to lose hope. From then on he is not trying to find his way back anymore, he is merely saying goodbye. It is shocking how affecting it is.

This isn’t a great comic, but it does everything it sets out to do. Its fleeting glimpses of other stories really help to get the reader excited for DC comics, as does its supposed change to a more positive outlook. That is what this comic is supposed to do, to get readers excited for what is coming next and it worked on me.

8/10

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Aquaman Rebirth

Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton & Oscar Jimenez

A lot of these Rebirth reviews are going to sound the same, since a lot of them do a lot of the same things. They exist to sort of explain the character and the challenges they face. Abnett does a good job here of setting up a lot of interesting story threads for Aquaman to follow. Like he has been for at least the last five or so years, Aquaman is caught between two worlds. He is the king of undersea Atlantis, but he was born and raised on dry land. Undersea he is seen as a surface dweller, more interested in his life as a superhero than ruling his kingdom, on the surface he is – bafflingly considering the recent crossover where Atlantis attacked the Eastern seaboard – seen a kind of goof with tales of ruling an invisible kingdom. He is trying to be a part of two worlds, both of which need him but neither of which want him. It is a good set up.

In this issue he hunts down some Atlantean terrorists and goes out to dinner with his once and future wife Mera, all while being watched by his rival Black Manta. It is a fine comic. The art is basically standard superhero stuff. Not mind-blowingly great or anything, but solid. The same goes for the script, which efficiently sets up an intriguing status quo for the ongoing series.

7/10

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Batman Rebirth

Tom King, Scott Snyder & Mikel Janin

Trying to sell Batman to readers is kind of the easiest job in the world, and it seems a little like Snyder and King, two very good writers, kind of punted this one a bit. Not to say that this is in any way a bad comic, it’s not, but it just a fun little on off. In it, small time villain Calendar Man has released some sort of spores into the air that make the seasons speed by extra fast. One day it is spring, the next it is summer. It is up to Batman, with some help from his new sidekick Duke Thomas, to stop him.

It does set up a fun tone for the new, Tom King written Batman series, with it being more of a straight superhero book. It jumps right into the ridiculous cool Batman stuff, with Bruce Wayne doing shirtless, one-handed pull ups off the edge of the helicopter pad on the roof of the Wayne Enterprises building. It claims to want to try something different, but for the most part it is Batman business as usual, if a little heightened. The one big change is Duke, who agrees to be Batman’s partner, but not Robin. He is given a yellow and black costume but no codename for now. It is a good issue, but not an especially enlightening one. Batman’s not changing and readers already know if they want to read it or not.

7/10

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The Flash Rebirth

Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico

This one is a direct continuation/retelling of parts of DCU Rebirth as well as setting up this version of the Flash to be much like the one from the TV show. It does that without mucking things up too much, but it doesn’t really do anything else. It starts with Barry at a crime scene, doing his CSI job at a crime scene reminiscent of his mother’s murder. It then repeats the scene where Barry saves Wally and repeats some stuff with Batman and the Watchman button. That is about all that this issue has to offer. It is very much a zero issue, even more so than the other Rebirth titles.

The writing definitely gets to the heart of who Barry Allen is, but it doesn’t really tell much of a story for itself. Still, the art is appealing and the characterization is good. The whole thing just feels very slight. Di Giandomenico’s art is a good fit for the Flash, with his characters looking somewhat square yet lithe, all long limbs and angles. It looks really good when the Flash is in motion. There just isn’t much here.

6/10

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Green Arrow Rebirth

Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt

This is the big winner of the first month. Great art, great writing and the set up for what should be an excellent run on Green Arrow. In it, Ollie finds a homeless kid apparently being kidnapped by person in a cloak after the boy’s mom disappears. It turn out that the cloaked person is actually Black Canary attempting to save the boy as well. It really tries to get back to the idea of Green Arrow as a liberal crusader and has Black Canary call him out for being a hypocrite. Together they return the boy to his father and team up to fight with men who are kidnapping and auctioning off homeless people.

It is just a really good issue. The interplay between Green Arrow and Black Canary sparks immediately. They move the coming romance blisteringly fast, but it feels right. The art looks nothing like the DC house style, but in this case it is a good thing. It looks kind of scratchy and dirty, but still detailed enough. The colors, also by Schmidt, are mostly subdued but that really helps the Ollie’s green and Dinah’s blue pop off the page. It is just a great look. This issue also manages to tell a pretty good one off story while setting up the new status quo for the series. It is just a great issue.

10/10

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Green Lanterns Rebirth

Geoff Johns, Sam Humphries, Ethan van Sciver & Ed Benes

Note the ‘s’ in the title, this is not a book starring any well-known Green Lantern, but the two new ones that Johns created since the New 52 started: Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Baz is a Muslim who has had encounters with overzealous government agencies while Cruz is an agoraphobe who up until recently was possessed by the evil Green Lantern like Power Ring. This book sets the two of them up as a buddy cop team working the Earth beat. This issue works well setting both of them and their personal struggles up, as well as forcing the two of them together for the premise of the book. It also gives them some antagonists in the Red Lanterns.

It is a simple issue, but it is really well put together. It feels more substantive than most of the others because it has to set up two characters rather than one. Benes’ art actually looks good, with some of his more egregious excesses toned down from their worst and the half by Van Sciver is his usual meticulous, detailed if a bit stiff stuff. It is and always has been a good fit for Green Lantern. The only weak point is Hal Jordan showing up to act like a heavy. The character doesn’t really work as well in that capacity. Still, this is a good issue and good start to this comic.

8/10

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Superman Rebirth

Pete Tomasi & Doug Mahnke

This is probably the book I was most excited about coming in, and this Rebirth issue is a baffling choice for an issue. The Superman books have a tough row to hoe after how badly DC has screwed up the character since the New 52. Now they have replaced the new Superman with the old Superman. So obviously this Rebirth issue focuses on the fact that a Superman is dead and that the new old Superman died before, in the 90’s. It uses a few pages early to retell that fight with Doomsday. Apparently they are bringing in a lot of stuff from that story, not the least of which is writer Dan Jurgens, for the ongoing books, but it is a fairly impenetrable read. After that interlude, Superman and Lana Lang look for the regeneration chamber that brought him back to life back then and fail to find it, which establishes this new Superman as the only Superman going forward.

As convoluted as the plot is, Tomasi shows a strong take on the character. His Superman feel like Superman, the first time I could say that since Morrison left Action Comics. (I have heard good things about Greg Pak’s Action Comics) And Doug Mahnke draws the crap out of the issue. This is not a great issue of a comic, but it still feels like it is leading into what should be a good run.

6/10

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Titans Rebirth

Dan Abnett & Brett Booth

Right from the start, I need to say that I don’t like Brett Booth’s art. His figures tend to be weirdly posed and proportioned, with thighs as big around as characters’ waists and characters tend to do a lot of squatting to show that off. Like The Flash, this is a book that picks up straight from DCU Rebirth. This follows Wally West to the book that he will be costarring in for the foreseeable future. Outside of the regrettable art, which is standard Brett Booth stuff, the comic is fine. Wally tries to get in touch with his old teammates, the Teen Titans. Except that they don’t remember him and it starts a fight.

This book has a harder time than most of the others because it is a team book and not a book about a single, or even a pair of characters. Characters that will not be starring on other books, this is the only place to find them. It does it with a neat trick, having them regain their memories of Wally when they touch him and each instance of that giving a chance to show off that character. This issue does everything it needs to with clarity and efficiency, but little flare.

5/10

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Wonder Woman Rebirth

Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark and Liam Sharp

This one is up there with Superman for the most disappointing book of this whole endeavor. Like all Wonder Woman runs, this one starts by throwing the previous ones under the bus. It starts with that old chestnut that everything the character knows is wrong. Not the worst plotline, but one that is very familiar to Wonder Woman, considering that was at the heart of her last acclaimed run, the one that come out of the New 52 by Azzarello and Chiang. It does a have a nice moment, with Wonder Woman wrapping her lasso of truth around herself in order to dispel the lies. That is where they do the art switch, which again is a neat trick. Or at least it would be if the art styles were more distinct and Sharp’s stuff didn’t look so rushed. The fight pages at the end look great, but the first couple of pages look a little off.

The big problem I have with this Rebirth issue is that all of the other such issues tell the reader who they are. This issue tells the reader that even Wonder Woman doesn’t know who she is. To its credit, the book doesn’t waste any time. Unlike the other books, this doesn’t feel like a zero issue, it feels like the first issue of a new story. While I don’t feel like this book accomplishes its goals, I do have some hope for this going forward, though I expect the next writer to roll any changes back.

6/10

Final Thoughts – Overall, I would say that first month was a rousing success. I only really disliked one of the books and am generally really pumped for the books coming out. I’ll be buying Superman, Batman, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman. The only book I am not interested in at all is Titans, at least not with the artist currently on the title. The other books, Flash, Aquaman and Green Lanterns could all be good. I think they have good directions. I only have so much money in my budget for comics. I’ll be back next month, hopefully more timely than I was with this post, with my thoughts on the Rebirth issues of Justice League, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Hellblazer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

The Many Origins of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman Earth One was easily the most I’ve ever anticipated a Wonder Woman comic. Coming from a writer that is considered by many, myself included, to be the best scribe in the industry, Grant Morrison, and drawn by Yannick Paquette, an artist that he has already had excellent collaborations with, their take on Wonder Woman’s origin story was a book to look forward to. A few months before that book hit the stands, DC Comics began publishing a digital first series about Wonder Woman’s origin, this one written and drawn by Renae de Liz, best known to me for the comic adaptation of the Last Unicorn. That was not a book I had any real attention to picking up. A new Morrison book is a treat worth savoring, but a digital origin by a somewhat unfamiliar writer/artist did not excite me.

Then I saw a few preview pages of the Legend of Wonder Woman. De Liz draws with a clean, clear line. (Aided greatly by colorist/inker/husband Ray Dillon) Her art is detailed without being cluttered and expressive without being too cartoony. It is just a joy to look at. Seeing what the art had to offer was enough to get me to drop a dollar a week on the book. I wouldn’t regret it. I have read a lot of Wonder Woman comics. A few years back I read the entirety of the second volume of her solo title, the one that started with George Perez’s much loved run on the title, over a few months. I have read most of the third and fourth volumes as well. There have been quite a few very good takes on the character during that time, but none of them made Diana herself as interesting a character as the Legend of Wonder Woman does. It takes the recurring elements of the various origins the character has had, keeping the important parts and arranging the other pieces into a modern and appealing take on the character.

The Diana of Legend of Wonder Woman is a wonderful protagonist. That book has managed to free her of the expectations of what Wonder Woman must be and simply tells a story about a character. In the first couple issues, the young Diana is inquisitive and restless. She is very aware of her duties as the Princess of Themyscria, but also chafing against that role. Being born of the island, she is one of the few that sense the corruption that is creeping through the island. She convinces Aclippe, the greatest of the Amazonian warriors, to train her, showing her dedication and resolve. This is a strong character, but not a perfect one. This is best illustrated in her conversation with her mother, when Diana finally realizes that her mother also chafes against the restrictions placed on her by her position, but has enough respect for the laws of her land to work within them, that her mother cares enough about Diana’s happiness that she is willing to allow to go her own way to an extent. It is just great storytelling.

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The more I read and became engrossed by the Legend of Wonder Woman, the more my feelings for Wonder Woman Earth One changed from anticipation to something more like dread. Not that I expected the book to be bad, but I was afraid the higher profile of the book would overshadow the excellence of the other work. Grant Morrison’s work rightly gets a lot of people excited, but it seemed unlikely that his take on Wonder Woman would eclipse Legend of Wonder Woman in quality even it if steamrolled it in awareness.

WW Earth One was pretty much everything I expected it to be. Morrison tried to stay true to the earliest of the Wonder Woman stories, including weird almost subliminal sexuality, and Paquette’s art is as lush as always. It sets the story of her origin as a trial and pits her against the other Amazons after she returns from man’s world. It is an interesting and through provoking work that is not entirely successful in its aims.

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They are two interesting works to compare and contrast. They both return to the Golden Age origins of the character, but they bring forward different elements. Earth One is very interested in the implied sexuality of Marston’s version. His version of Paradise Island is a slightly twisted sci-fi lesbian utopia, with a healthy dose of bondage. The undertones of the original comics are made explicit in Morrison’s take. That aspect almost overwhelms the rest of the work, even though it does have some things to say about gender, sexuality and even race. Legend of Wonder Woman continues the trend of excising the bondage, instead opting to keep things like Amazons riding giant kangaroos. It is simply a cleaner, clearer take on the material, one that sets up more stories with an all ages bent. It also does a much better job of creating a Diana that is a believable and relatable protagonist.

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The books do share the same barebones story. USA pilot Steve Trevor crash lands on Paradise Island and the young Princess Diana wins a challenge to be allowed to be the one to return him to his own land. Elsewhere they differ greatly, but that through line remains consistent. They also both bring back a character that has consistently gotten short shrift in modern comics: Etta Candy. The two takes are only vaguely similar, but both versions of the character are highly entertaining. Etta is a short, stout little ball of energy. He incarnation in Legend is especially charismatic, taking the new to the world Diana under her wing and guiding her through life in America.

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As part of DC’s Rebirth initiative, the Wonder Woman book is being taken over by fan favorite writer Greg Rucka. He is going to be doing a Wonder Woman Year One story. I am certain that Rucka will do good work on the book, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. I’ve just read the best possible Wonder Woman Year One in Legend of Wonder Woman. I doubt his take will even approach the flawed complexity of Morrison Earth One version. Still, I can’t be too disappointed. There are at least two more Earth One volumes planned and in between starting to write this and finishing it DC has given Legend of Wonder Woman a second volume. I wait with bated breath.

What I Read May 2016

There is a theme this month, and that theme is Lois Lane. I was interested in the non-fiction book Investigating Lois Lane, but when I went to buy it I encountered a pair of Lois YA novels, so I snapped them up as well. And that took care of most of my book reading for the month of May. I really hope there are more of those YA books to come, they were very good.

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The Big Heat

William P McGivern

My local library had a sale, and I picked up a dilapidated copy of this, along with a half dozen other books, for about a quarter a piece. This is just a lean, muscular noir piece, turned into a well-respected movie. A police detective looks into a case despite being warned off, which gets his wife killed. He then resigns from the force and gets revenge. There isn’t anything especially unique about this story, but it is reasonably well told.

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Investigating Lois Lane

Tim Hanley

This is an insightful and illuminating look at the history of one of comics’ most prominent characters. Hanley takes us through the creation and evolution of Lois Lane, both in the comics and in other media, from the start of Action Comics up to the present day. There is a lot of good stuff in there, especially for fans of the character or even just Superman. It shows how her strengths as a character seemed to show through despite the stories she was in frequently undercutting her. I don’t want to just regurgitate the information found in the book, but it did give me plenty the think about and some stories I want to track down.

Tim Hanley writes in a clear, engaging style and while this isn’t the most intellectually rigorous subject matter he does make some thoughtful points. I did grow somewhat annoyed about how often it came back to the idea that Lois’ stories were being put on the backburner for Superman’s when these stories were taking place in a book titled Superman. Lois’ biggest problem, as displayed by this book, is that she is a supporting character. Still, there are a lot of great and plenty of terrible stories that Investigation Lois Lane can inform you about.

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Lois Lane: Fallout

Gwenda Bond

This book, and its sequel are pretty much perfect. Gwenda Bond takes Lois Lane and perfectly reimagines her as a high school student, albeit one in a world that has a touch more science fiction than our own. Lois is a 16 year old army brat whose family has relocated to Metropolis. She has a reputation for getting into trouble, usually by sticking her nose into tricky situations to help people. She quickly does the same at Metropolis while joining the Daily Planet as a correspondent for their youth blog. Also, she has an online relationship with a mysterious boy from Kansas who she met looking into this mysterious flying man her and her father saw while driving through the state. She is basically everything you could want from a teenage Lois Lane.

In this book, she gets entangled in a plot that uses at risk kids in some sort of experiment to develop a hive mind, only the hive mind isn’t being shut off and they keep recruiting new kids. They are doing this using a sort of VR video game that all the kids are playing. Lois, along with her fellow young journalists, investigate and try to get to the bottom of things, all while she tries to seem like she is following the rules to keep her dad off her back. It is amazingly fun.

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Lois Lane: Double Down

Gwenda Bond

As soon as I finished the first one I went back in for seconds. I am a huge sucker for the Superman mythos and characters, and this is one of the better takes on them I’ve encountered. This time, Lois helps out a couple of her new friends. One, Maddy, has a twin who is having some problems after she went to a mysterious research lab in order to earn a few extra bucks. The other is the son of the disgraced former mayor, who has recently been released from prison. While they investigate how the Mayor can appear in two places at once, they also look into why Maddy’s sister is having blackouts. As impossible as it seems, the two cases might be connected.

This book is a delight. Since it doesn’t need to spend the time on set up, it really gets to dig into Lois, as well as her friends and relationships. Readers get to know more about the protagonist through how she deals with her friends, her problems and her romantic issues with the mysterious SmallvilleGuy. While the weird sci-fi plot never relents, the book really lets the reader get to know its protagonists. While I am far from an expert on the genre, it is easily one of the best YA books I’ve read.

Comics

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American Barbarian

Tom Scioli

This was a belated Christmas gift (thanks Buge) that I tore into really fast. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. On its surface, American Barbarian is the finest Kirby pastiche. It is a world where no idea is too big or too crazy to be put on the page. It reads like a half joke, but you can’t help marvel while you laugh. Meric, the titular red white and blue haired barbarian, seeks revenge on the giant evil Pharoah Two-tank Omen for the murder of his family in a post-post-apocalyptic world. Every page contains more and more amazing stuff. Tom Scioli has crafted something here unlike anything else you can find, and it is amazing. Writing about it is hard, since even thinking about it makes me as giddy as if I’d just eaten a bag of sugar.

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Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye

Grant Morrison/Cameron Stewart

This is not actually a collection, because I don’t think a collection exists for this mini-series, but I read it as one series and it deserves to be considered. This one picks up sometime after the original Seaguy and continues that story. At the end of that story, Seaguy had his memory wiped and was given a new partner. But he keeps seeing the ghost of Chubby the Tuna and having vague memories of his previous adventures. The villainous Seadog does his best to remove the threat to his idyllic world that Seaguy poses, but Seaguy keeps coming back. I don’t really want to get deeper into it than that, that would spoil the surreal fun of this series. It is definitely worth reading, Morrison is a master and Cameron Stewart is likewise great.

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Superman: Kryptonite

Darwyn Cooke/Tim Sale

Realizing that even with a purchase earlier in the week, see the next entry, I had not encountered wide swathes of the recently departed Darwyn Cooke’s work, I picked this up in a comixology sale. This has Cooke writing, but it is drawn by Time Sale. I liked this, but it is strange. It starts off as one thing, a story as close as Superman gets to noir, before shifting into some full on sci-fi stuff by the end. It is not an elegant transition. I still really enjoyed the story, but it is not as great as I’d hoped it would be after the first two issues. The story supposedly details Superman’s first encounter with Kryptonite, but it also tells a story about a new Metropolis business upstart and an interstellar entity. Clark, Jimmy and Lois are tasked with figuring out what is up with a supposedly reformed mobster as he opens a casino and gives tons of money to charity. Meanwhile, someone is messing with some Kryptonite while showing Clark visions of the past on Krypton. While the story doesn’t quite work at the end, it is still looks great and reads fine. Definitely worth a look.

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Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

Darwyn Cooke

I picked this up, along with the other three Parker books, just days before Cooke tragically passed away. I’ve read plenty of other things written or drawn by Darwyn Cooke, but if the other Parker books maintain this level of quality, then they might be his masterwork. His art is wonderful, distinctive and creative. His works with limited colors in this book, and what he does use is excellent. Then there is the story, which is simple and nearly perfect. Parker has a kind of seductive competence to him; he is cool enough that it is easy to forget that he is basically a monster. He is a sociopath. The only thing only slightly redeemable about him is that most of the people he deals with are just as bad as he is. Still, thanks to Cooke’s mastery, you do end up sympathizing with him for most of the book. This is good, good stuff.

Superhero TV Show Power Rankings

TV is currently inundated with superhero shows and I watched them all. Okay, not all, but most. Even I have to draw the line somewhere. Still, with nearly ten superhero shows airing over the last year, there were a lot of superheroics around. So now that all of the seasons have reached their conclusions, I am going to rate them.

Agent Carter – While it has many of the problems of Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter is pretty damn enjoyable. That is partly due to the period setting and partly due to tone. Setting it in the Post-WWII era makes it different from just about everything else on TV. Plus, it keeps a fairly upbeat tone, something I am very much in favor of. I am certainly going to miss this show. This time, Agent Carter goes to Hollywood and gets entangled with some mysterious science stuff. If I am being honest, I missed a few episodes in the middle of this season, but I loved almost every second of it I watched. A

Jessica Jones – The second Netflix effort from Marvel was even better than the first. I do have some complaints with Jessica Jones, especially with the second half of the season, but for the most part it was a great first season. Jessica is an almost broken person to start, and the show gets to the heart of her problems, as well as her strengths. It also had a pretty great villain and a great performance by David Tennant. I would argue that this would have been a stronger 10 episode season than a 13 episode one, but it is still mostly good. It is hard to get around some of the shocking twists existing just to be shocking twists, but it never dips below a certain level of quality. A-

Arrow – An improvement over S3, but this show still has plenty of problems. This season went a little too big and got messy. I really liked Darhk as a villain, but the parts of the season that haven’t already faded in my memory only stuck because they were annoying. The flashbacks were inconsequential and a lot of stories seemed to go in circles. They killed off Black Canary, but that was a character the show never really knew what to do with; she had been all over the map over the course of the show. There are some interesting developments at the end that season that could set up some good stuff next season, but I think I’ll wait and watch it on Netflix, other than the obligatory crossover episodes. C-

Daredevil – The first season of this Netflix Original was excellent, but it seems like they took some pointers from Arrow for the second one. The high production values are still there, but as the season went on nearly everything else fell apart. It starts off good, with some fine episodes about the Punisher and seeds what could have been a really good season. Then Elektra shows up and things start to go to crap. As the show gets further and further in the ninja war and the Black Sky bullshit, the worse it got. I don’t know how, but they managed to make ninja fights straight up boring. Even the good episodes bring in their fair share of stupidity, like the episode with The Punisher in prison. It is largely an excellent episode, but there is still the prison fight that seemed intent to use the show’s entire fake blood supply. The show doubled down on my problems with the first season, mistaking blood and darkness for maturity. I don’t know how eager I am for a third go round. C-

The Flash – This season did not match the incredible first season, but it was still highly entertaining. All of DC’s shows need to work on their central plots and that was very true of this season of the Flash. Outside of a couple of episodes and some neat reveals, Zoom didn’t work. It also hurt to lose the rogues after the first half of the season. Another episode with Captain Cold or Trickster would have really helped down the stretch. The ending was kind of stupid, first in a good way and then at the very end in a very off putting way. With luck Season 3 will recapture the magic of the first season and bring back a little light after what became a pretty dark second season. B

Legends of Tomorrow – I think I’ve been saying this a lot, but this was a messy season. The central conflict between Vandal Savage and Hawkman/Hawkgirl was dull. And stupid. Really, after the opening few episodes, every time Savage showed up the show was a mess. Still, there is a lot to like here. About 2/3 of the cast is really good and hopefully with the block hole that was Hawkgirl gone, the show can improve. When the show clicks it is so good, but this didn’t click often enough. Still, as a humongous JSA fan I am definitely in for next season. Hopefully they have something to replace Captain Cold. C+

Supergirl – It was uneven and a little too goofy at times, but Supergirl was maybe my favorite show this season. The plotting was weak, especially at the end of the season, but the show never lost its positive outlook. It also has the absolute best episode of the year with its Flash crossover. Still, the show is a little scattered and it kept letting its plots loose immediately instead of giving them time to develop. I hope they calm it down some in season 2. The show has good characters and a good look, it just needs slightly better scripts. Still, there is a lot more good than bad here, and I can’t wait to see more of this show. B+

Agents of SHIELD & Gotham – I didn’t watch either of these shows. My interest in SHIELD is measured in negative amounts. I’m sure it is a perfectly fine show despite the fact that doesn’t connect to the Marvel movies in any meaningful way. I tuned out in the first season and haven’t looked back. Bringing in the Inhumans is not going spark my interest. Gotham also lost me in its first season, seeming to be a grittiest take on Smallville possible. If they had some consistent, logical character growth I might have stuck around, but this show exists to tease Batman villains and be comically dark. It is terrible.

Season MVPs: Captain Cold and Supergirl – Every second Wentworth Miller is on screen as Captain Cold is an absolute delight. For long stretches of Legends, he and Caity Lotz were the only reasons worth watching. His delivery of every line is amazing. Plus, he had maybe the most satisfying character arc of anyone on any of these shows this year. He journey from cynical villain to self-sacrificing hero was fun to watch and big reason that Legends ended up being worth watching. Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl was just as good, in a better show. For all of Supergirl’s, the show, faults there is never a disappointing moment with Benoist. I am so glad the show will continue, hopefully for a half dozen more seasons.

It is a little too early to have a strong read on what new stuff is coming next year, other than Powerless on NBC and Luke Cage on Netflix, but I can say which of these shows I will be watching.

  • Agent Carter – Unfortunately cancelled, so no, I will not be watching this next year
  • Agents of SHIELD – Still no.
  • Jessica Jones – When this show comes back (likely in early 2017) I will be right there to binge watch it.
  • Arrow – Other than the crossovers, I think I am out on Arrow. That could change, and might just need a bigger role for Mr. Terrific, but I think I’ve seen enough Arrow.
  • Daredevil – If and when this gets a third season, I will probably watch it. But I am not really looking forward to the prospect.
  • The Flash – Yes, I will. Season 2 was a minor disappointment, but it still provided plenty of what I want to see.
  • Gotham – God no. I’ve really grown to hate this show.
  • Legends of Tomorrow – Yes, if only because I am one of the world’s biggest JSA fans. Some tinkering over the summer could fix a lot of this show’s problems.
  • Supergirl – As long as Melissa Benoist is playing Supergirl, I’ll be watching the show. So yes, I am back for this one.

What I Read April 2016

April was not a banner month for me, with me only managing to finish two books. I did read a handful of comic TPBs, but that is not really the same thing. I expect to get back on track in May.

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Console Wars

Blake J Harris

This book purports to be the story of Sega and Nintendo and the 16-bit console wars. It really isn’t. It is the story of Sega and the 16-bit console wars, with a chapter about Nintendo’s rise and one about them buying the Mariners. That isn’t to say it’s not good, the story of Sega’s rise and fall is one worth reading, but Nintendo is only a small part of this book. I am sure the writer had much greater access to former Sega employees than Nintendo ones, which results in getting the story from their perspective.

Judging it for what it is and not what it isn’t, Console Wars is a fascinating read. The events that lead to Sega making such a splash with the Genesis and then failing utterly to capitalize on that success is a good one. It does spend a little too much time lionizing the Sega of America crew, seeming to suggest that if Kalinske and crew had been allowed to set their own course then Sega would have never fallen, but I am not sure that is the case. Still, the way they took it too Nintendo for the first handful of years the Genesis was on the market was kind of amazing.

One thing that really did drive me nuts about this book is how wrong it got some stuff about games. I know it was written from the perspective of the guys at Sega, but to suggest that Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing is even in the same league as Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is ludicrous.

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The Glass House

Ashley Gardner

This is the third of these Captain Lacey detective novels I’ve read and the series isn’t quite clicking for me. It is mired with characters that might be interesting, but they don’t interact with each other, only Lacey and often seem to be clogging up the mystery. That is honestly a nitpicky problem, but it is just one that comes to mind that keep me from fully enjoying these books.

In The Glass House, Captain Lacey finds a young woman who was fished out of the Thames and tries to find out how she got there. He finds a lot of people with motives, but his investigation also leads him closer to people he would rather avoid. The mystery is solid, with each revelation leading to a completely new line of questioning. If only the series character stuff moved with the same life as the mystery. That stuff just kind of trudges along. Still, it’s not a bad book.

Collected Comics Reading

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Angela: Asgard’s Assassin Vol 1: Priceless

Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennet, Phil Jiminez, Stephane Hans

I like all the creators involved in this comic, and they do a good job. However, this book mostly just left me cold. I don’t care about the character Angela and this book did nothing to change that. The whole story requires every character to act like a dick for no good reason to work, with each and every one of them coming off looking stupid. The art is good, at least. Honestly, I am being too harsh on this book because it really isn’t bad, it is just a (sorta) superhero comic about a hero that I find actively disinteresting.

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Silk Vol 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon

Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee

A lot of my complaints about Angela could be repeated here. I picked up the books during a sale, willing to try them out, but neither really moved the needle for me. I liked this one a little more than Angela, if only because Silk’s goals are at least understandable. Angela is kind of an inscrutable character, which does not make her the most engaging protagonist. Silk is mostly just a female Spider-Man. I don’t know whose idea it was to shoehorn her into Spidey’s origin, but it almost works. The book has a peppy tone and some really engaging art, but this is not a character whose continued adventures I am especially interested in reading about. Especially since it ends with a lead in to a reality altering crossover. Spider-Man fans would likely get a kick out of this, but I am not a member of that group.

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Jem and the Holograms Vol 1

Kelly Thompson, Sophie Campbell

I am not the biggest fan of Jem and the Holograms the 80’s cartoon. It is just a little too old for me and I never saw it as a kid. But I heard enough good things about this comic that when I saw it on sale on comixology I went ahead and snatched it up. It is great, especially Campbell’s art. The book looks excellent, with distinct and expressive characters and just an overall great look. The story occasionally seems like its treading a little water, but it does a good job of introducing all the characters and providing some compelling conflicts for those characters to face. I realize I am being vague about this, but while there really isn’t anything too shocking or surprising with the story, readers should experience it for themselves. A great book.

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Wonder Woman Earth One

Grant Morrison, Yannick Paquette

I’ve got a big post about this coming soon, but in the meantime I will say that I liked it very much. It is conflicted and strange at times, but it is one of the most thoughtful Wonder Woman comics I’ve read in a long time. Morrison really does take things back to the characters roots, for good and ill. Wonder Woman is a strange character, so any one actually trying to engage with her is going to produce something a little strange.

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Seaguy Vol 1

Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart

I’m not quite sure what to make of this; I really think I’ll need to read it again. It is a strange coming of age tale for a strange sort of hero. Seaguy is a man is a scuba suit, a would be hero in a seeming utopia with everything run my one Mickey Eye, an anthropomorphic eyeball that acts as sort of a Mickey Mouse type character. With his sidekick Chubby da Choona, Seaguy sets out a series of surreal adventures. It is a world where everything is both great and unsatisfying, so when even the smallest adventure appears, Seaguy jumps at the chance. For such a slim volume, there I a lot to unpack here. Seaguy is beautiful (Cameron Stewart’s art is great), haunting, sad and funny all at once. The sequel has now shot to the top of my to buy list.

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Descender Vol 1

Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen

Descender is something like a comic version of Mass Effect, but told with some actual storytelling ability. Ten years after giant robots show up and decimate living populations on several planets, people have all but stamped out robots. On a backwater colony, a small robot boy named Tim-21 wakes up to find everyone in the colony dead, possibly including the boy he was supposed to be the companion of. His creator finds out that that little robot might be the key to figuring out what drew the giant murderous robots, so he sets out with a team to retrieve it. The book is just incredibly well done. You feel for the characters, even those that are far from perfect. And there are so many possibly directions for this story to go that I am eager to get more. Because this book is just the first chapter, it whets the appetite for what I hope is a lengthy story to come. I will likely jump on the recently released second volume sooner rather than later.