Jeff’s July Book Review, Week 2

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JLA: The Deluxe Edition Volume Two HC: Continuing the oversized hardcover reprinting of Grant Morrison’s JLA, this volume contains JLA #10-17, Prometheus #1 and JLA/WildC.A.T.S. (The title page incorrectly repeats the issue information from Volume One; oddly not the kind of mistake DC usually makes in their collected editions.) This stuff is as bursting with ideas and as timeless as when it first appeared, with one exception: Electric Blue Superman. To his credit, Morrison really integrated the new powers into his stories instead of just lazily substituting a different costume but it’s just not the same. I picked this volume to read now because one of the things I want to get to soon is the Final Crisis hardcover and Morrison has said in interviews that it’s the conclusion to one long DCU story starting the “Rock of Ages” story arc here. I didn’t see much direct correlation, especially since Darkseid’s conqueror future is erased by Flash, GL and Aquaman in time, but I can see some of the same themes and there is some talk of the Fourth World giving way to a new one. Prometheus is very formidable in his first appearances here – he defeats Batman in combat and he has access to a Limbo dimension that even Zauriel is frightened of – it’s a shame that he never lived up to this potential again. I hadn’t read the JLA/WildC.A.T.S. story since it first came out; I remembered it as one of my favorites and it’s still good but not as good as the rest of the stories in this book. Howard Porter’s art looks terrific in the larger size, so if you haven’t read these stories or don’t already have the trades I highly recommend this book. Extras: oversized, trade paperback covers, sketches by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, pinup by John Delaney, Howard Porter and John Dell.

apr090427d Spider-Man: Election Day HC: This is the culmination of the “Brand New Day” year’s storylines: The identity of Menace, the reveal of the Spider-Tracer Killer and the winner of the NYC mayoral election (although there’s actually more to come about that.) It’s very well written by Marc Guggenheim, featuring some great Matt Murdock, Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn scenes, and illustrated by some of the best in the business: John Romita, Jr., Barry Kitson and Marcos Martin. You don’t need to have read all the previous stories to understand this, and I think it’s great – if you don’t like this, then the current direction of Amazing Spider-Man is not for you. Also included is the famous Obama story by Zeb Wells, which is pretty stupid. Todd Nauck’s Obama likeness is passable, but his Joe Biden is identifiable only by dialogue. There’s also a Spidey/Captain America/Abraham Lincoln story by Matt Fraction previously available only online that’s cute but forgettable. Extras: Obama 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th (!) printing variant covers.

apr090582d Dark Reign: Accept Change TPB: This is designed to go next to the Secret Invasion trade on your bookshelf. It contains the immediate aftermath of that story, and the spine is even colored to match the SI books. Secret Invasion: Dark Reign is the first meeting of Norman Osborn’s Cabal. Dark Reign: New Nation is a series of prologues to Secret Warriors (featuring Steve Rogers as inspiration), Agents of Atlas, Skrull Kill Krew and New Avengers: The Reunion. (Presumably, these stories will also be collected in the first trades of their respective titles, but that’s not known for sure yet.) Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 reveals the relationship between Namor and Emma Frost. (According to this story, Namor was just pretending not to recognize Emma in the first Cabal meeting but it feels to me like a mistake is being covered.) Dark Avengers #1 is, well, Dark Avengers #1 – you’ve probably already read it and it’ll definitely be reprinted separately. The Marvel Spotlight: Dark Reign and Dark Reign Files issues, which I think are hard to find, are also included. It’s all good stuff, but collected in this form I think it’s aimed more at the person who’s just read Secret Invasion and is trying to decide if he’s interested in what’s next than at someone who’s collecting the whole storyline.

apr090566d X-Men/Spider-Man HC: This four part story by Christos Gage features meetings between the X-Men and Spider-Man at various points in their history (roughly once per decade) connected by a scheme from a well-known X-Men villain. The story is decent and nostalgic – one chapter even features Ben Reilly – but the real draw is the artwork by Italian artist Mario Alberti. He did some covers for DC, but to my knowledge this is his first interior art for the American market and it’s terrific. It’s not painted, at least I don’t think so, but it has a very lush look and is printed oversized so you can see every detail. I rarely buy books just for the art, and if this story had really sucked maybe I would have skipped it but I really would have had to think about it. Recommended. Extras: oversized; reprint of X-Men #35 guest starring Spider-Man.

dec080152d Batman: Heart of Hush HC: I read this and liked it when it was coming out monthly, but I really loved it when I read it all in one sitting. Paul Dini’s backstory for Hush really makes him interesting and viable as a character going into the future – something that Jeph Loeb really didn’t do and the Hush stories that followed Loeb were so bad that the character could have been radioactive for a long time, which would have been a shame. I was a little put off by the fantastic element when I first read this – Hush literally steals someone’s heart – but on this second reading I thought it worked fine because Hush is a doctor (and of course insane.) There is a small mention of Batman R.I.P. on the back cover and on the splash pages, but this really isn’t part of that story at all. (To their credit, DC doesn’t mention it on the front cover.) Dustin Nguyen’s also does a great job carrying the emotion of Dini’s story in the art. Dini’s Streets of Gotham directly follows from this, although you can understand Streets without having read this. Extras: pinups by Dustin Nguyen.

nov072077d Witchblade Volume 1: This is the $4.95 trade I ordered from the Top Cow web site, which took so long to arrive that I had completely forgotten about it. I was somewhat familiar with the character from early issues and from the first season of the TV series, but I didn’t need to be – this is a clean jumping on point. It’s a fun mix of police procedural and supernatural fantasy, and I enjoyed it enough to read more. As always, Ron Marz’ writing is solid and it’s also nice that there’s a consistent artist (Ryan Choi) through the whole book. Choi’s art has some awkward moments in the beginning – there’s a sequence where a character takes three panels to show his badge that baffled me – but by the end he’s handling the emotional scenes really well. I also liked that the character, while still drawn sexy in Witchblade garb, is no longer wearing a chainmail bikini which I never thought was in character for a New York City police detective. Unfortunately, as Dan mentioned when he bought one of these books, the binding sucks – pages haven’t started falling out of mine yet, but they are separating from the spine. I did order the second volume from Amazon, so hopefully it’ll be constructed better. Extras: 9 page variant cover gallery.

Comments

  1. I've noticed problems from the Witchblade trades, but for me, the problem was in the third trade, not the first (although the first looks a bit flimsy, as well). It's entirely possible that they noticed a defect in the product, leading them to pass already-printed trades off under this $4.95 deal, which seems fair to me, actually--I wouldn't want to pay fifteen dollars for a trade that might fall apart, certainly, but five dollars for a book that may (or may not) fall apart? I might take that risk.

    Either way, although the physical product is shaky, I really enjoyed the stories, and I think that Ron Marz is at the top of his game with Witchblade and the other Top Cow properties he's working on. It's become one of my favorite titles to follow in trades, and one of the few books that I'm actively excited for. I do agree that Mike Choi's art isn't quite as dependable as it is today, but this was his first regular assignment, so it's understandable.

    I'm picking up the JLA hardcovers for the same reason that you are--part of my lead-in to the Final Crisis hardcover--but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet (I'm fairly burnt out on DC right now). A casual glance shows me that it really does look good, though--not everyone's a fan of Howard Porter, but I love him.

    My experience with the Spider-Man/X-Men miniseries is limited to accidentally picking up issue 3 when it was printed with the X-Men: Manifest Destiny 5 cover, but the art really does look incredible, and unique--there aren't many artists whose styles I can compare to Alberti, although at times Butch Guice, Doug Braithwaithe and even Chris Bachalo have some similarities. And...Ben Reilly! I feel like a kid again.

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  2. It was the five dollar Witchblade trade that split and fell apart on me, but I don't hold that against Top Cow. I bought and enjoyed the same priced Darkness trade which held up fine. I think it was a bad batch like Shane said.

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  3. My mistake -- I had it backwards and thought you had said the Darkness trade was the one that fell apart. I have corrected the text above.

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