Category Archives: Comic Book Friday

Comic Book Friday: Batman Volume 7: The Wedding

Batman, Volume 7: The WeddingAs Kevin Smith has often pointed out, comic books are mainly concerned with the middle part of the story. This explains why certain plot points are introduced in one issue only to see them nullified a few issues later. Such is the case with superhero relationships and potential romantic pairings.

So it is with Batman and this collection of issues leading up to the big marriage of Batman to Catwoman. Either the series was getting ready to have a major change to the status quo of Batman or else there would be a big reset button hit before Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle got to the altar.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s the reset button.

But even before we get to the altar, there are about a hundred pages of treading water to get us there. Putting aside the double sized issue that is the wedding issue with splash pages by some of the most influential names in Batman lore, there are two collected arcs here leading up to the wedding. One is Booster Gold trying to make Batman happy and failing miserably at doing so (which should be a warning as to where all this is going) and the other is Joker and Catwoman battling it out, becoming mortally wounded and then discussing their history together for what feels like an eon.

I was beginning to get frustrated with both stories without having to wait a month or so between issues. Whether I would have enjoyed them more in single installments spread out over time is up for debate, but I have a feeling I’d be left feeling frustrated.

I’ve heard some good things about Tom King’s run on the Dark Knight. And I suppose he had some big shoes to fill when Scott Snyder left. But from what I’ve read here, I’m not in a huge hurry to pick up more of his collected editions. I may at some point out of curiosity. But I am not exactly in a hurry.

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Comic Book Friday: Batman: White Knight

Batman: White KnightDC’s Black Label line of comics has caught a bit of flack lately for a recent installment that brought Batman’s genitalia to light (or in the case of said panel, in shadowy highlight that somehow slipped past the censors at DC and has ensured that issues with the panel in tact will go for a high dollar value on the collector’s market). This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I heard that DC was publishing a line of comics that were intended for adult audiences.

So, it was refreshing to find that the eight issues making up Batman: White Knight did what I wanted a comic book aimed at adult to do — namely, not just rely on flashes of nudity and swearing in order to be “adult.”

The premise is a fairly intriguing one. What if Batman and the Joker switched places in how the citizens of Gotham viewed them? Both are vigilantes who operate outside the law, but Batman has always done so with the tacit endorsement of Jim Gordon and the police while the Joker hasn’t. As this series so intriguingly points out, it’s Batman who causes just as much destruction in his wake taking down the various villains who show up to take on the Caped Crusader. Exactly where the millions of dollars needed each year to rebuild Gotham and how those funds are allocated is just one of the intriguing questions delved into over the course of these eight issues.

The early issue finds Batman and Joker’s battle of wills reaching a new height. After nearly beating the Joker to death with his fists, Gordon and some members of the police force begin to question their loyalty to and endorsement of Batman. When the Joker starts taking a medication that slowly reduces his more manic side and he decides to run for city government, public sentiment begins to turn from the Caped Crusader to the Crowned Prince of Crime. Seems all he needed was the love of a good woman in the first Harley Quinn (the series gives us two women who play Harley to the Joker, thus ticking off a few continuity boxes from how we saw Harley in the animated series and how she was in the big-screen Suicide Squad and the right medication.

But how effective is the medication really? And is the Joker playing some sort of long game to slowly undermine the Batman’s support mechanisms and destroy him once and for all? Could it be that the Joker would rather see his adversary in ruins rather than dead?

It makes for a fascinating story and one that it feels like Batman comics could or should have delved into before now.

If there’s one complaint I have about this collection, it’s that the final issue feels like it’s too quick to wrap things up. I understand there is a follow-up coming our way in the near future and I suppose they had to leave room for more stories to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel that the final installment didn’t stick the landing as effectively as it could or should have.

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Comic Book Friday: Man of Steel by John Byrne

Superman: The Man of SteelYears ago, a friend shoved a copy of the collector’s edition first issue of this Superman reboot into my hands and said I should make it part of my comic book collection. And while I can clearly recall having the collector’s cover issue in my collection for years, I can’t recall much about reading it at the time. (In fact, I may not have read it on the off chance that I’d bend the spine and decrease the collect-ability value of the comic in question).

Reading this six-issue reboot of Superman thirty plus years later, I’m impressed by how big an influence it had on just about every version of Superman that’s appeared in pop culture since that time. The six issues reflect a lot of the high points of one of my favorite shows of the ’90s, Lois and Clark. Whether it’s Clark’s parents still being around to serve as sounding boards to Lex Luthor being a billionaire industrialist with his own mischievous agenda that he’s upset gets hijacked by Superman’s appearance on the scene, John Bryne’s take still echoes through comics and pop culture today.

In many ways, I kept feeling like what Bryne was doing with Superman was what Brian Michael Bendis did with Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man line — it was giving a character relevance to a new generation of fans. And certainly, the Man of Steel needed that refresh in the 80’s. This reboot opened the door to many of the other Super storylines to come, including the infamous Death of Superman storyline in the 90’s.

With an introduction by sci-fi great Ray Bradbury, this collection of six issues is a refreshing reboot of one of the iconic comic characters. It’s worth looking at if you haven’t read it before or visiting again if you haven’t read it in a while.

 

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Comic Book Friday: Shazam!, Volume 1

Shazam!Until the rumblings of a potential Shazam movie, my only real point of reference with the character was a Saturday morning cartoon that I vaguely recall from my youth. And beyond the fact that someone shouted, “Shazam!” to turn into the super hero version of themselves, I couldn’t have been more clueless when it comes to a comic book character.

Then, I saw the preview out of San Diego Comic Con for next year’s Shazam! movie and I was intrigued. Part of it could be the casting of Zachary Levi, who I loved on Chuck. And part of it could be that the trailer actually made it look like someone was having fun being a superhero in the DCEU.

So, I decided to check out the new take on Shazam’s origin in this collected edition. And man, if the movie is half as much fun as this comic is, I think the DCEU could finally be on to something. Reading this take on the origin of Shazam, I can’t help but think that Levi is perfect casting for this role as he really got the whole “boy trapped in the body of a grown-up” on Chuck.

Orphaned Billy Batson has moved from foster home to foster home, seemingly never finding a place he fits in. When a new set of foster parents adopts him as part of their family, Billy starts looking for a way out. While running away, he encounters a mystical wizard looking to bestow ancient power on someone who is truly worthy and pure of heart. Alas, Billy Batson ain’t exactly first choice, but he’s the only choice available (and he does have some history of at least trying to be better) and suddenly he can transform into an adult with super powers.

So, like most teens who can suddenly pass for adults, Billy and his foster brother decide not to save the world or stem the tide of evil, but instead go for beer. Eventually, Billy will have to face off against Black Adam, the yin to his Captain Marvel yang.

Seriously, if they just wanted to adapt the story that Geoff Johns has crafted here as the movie, they’d be doing well. I’d be one of the first in line to see it (assuming that there isn’t something animated opening that Shortcake might want to see more, mind you). Reading this and watching the preview, I find myself looking forward to a DC superhero movie for the first time since The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises I also find myself wanting to pick up more installments of Shazam in the future to see where this character may go next.

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Comic Book Friday: The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Volumes 0, 1 & 2

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Vol. 2: The Venom ExperimentA decade ago, the controversial “One Day More” storyline saw the Spider-universe hit a ginormous reset button and remove the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson from the continuity. Years later, another huge crossover event would, the second (or is it the third) Secret Wars storyline saw the creation of a parallel universe where Peter and MJ are still married and raising a daughter.

Their daughter, May, has similar powers to those of her father. In the wake of an evil overlord named Monarch who seems intent on collecting all the super powers he can get his mitts on, Peter is hopping to stay one step ahead of the latest detection devices for himself and his daughter. But when they get noticed and rumors of the Spider-Man’s return begin to surface, Peter finds himself fighting to defend his family — and now the family wants to join the fight.

The resolution of that storyline encompasses volume 0 of this series and then things really get going on volumes 1 and 2. Written by long-time Spider-writer Gerry Conway, these collection of arcs is a lot more fun than they have any right to be. Having recently revisited Conway’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I should expect from these issues. But after trying to read much of the current storylines taking place in the Spider-Man universe, I found these refreshingly easy to digest, straight-forward and welcoming to readers who haven’t memorized every detail of comic book continuity for the past decade. Seeing Peter try to juggle his secret identity along with the demands of the two women in his life to be part of the crime-fighting team gives the story some much needed depth. The second collection even raises the stakes a bit by having MJ become motivated to contribute to the team (tech left over from Monarch lets her share Peter’s powers) and turning to Liz Allen for a new version of the Venom symbiote.

These three collections are some of the best recent Spider-Man stories I’ve read and they reminded me of what it was that I initially loved so much about my favorite wallcrawler.

 

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Comic Book Friday: Normandy Gold by Megan Abbot and Alison Gaylin

Normandy GoldMegan Abbott and Alison Gaylin team-up for the Hard Case Crime series’ first graphic novel, Normandy Gold.

A love-letter to 70’s thrillers, this six-issue miniseries reads just like you’d expect — hard hitting, hard drinking, and completely over the top. In short, it’s a blast…if you’re in the right frame of mind for it.

When her stripper sister goes missing, Normandy Gold heads to D.C. to find out what really happened. What she finds is a vortex of lies, deceit, and underhand dealings that extend the highest levels of power.

A fun, entertaining ride that reminds me of just what it is about the Hard Case Crime series I enjoy so much.

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3 by John Byrne

Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3Another trio of Star Trek stories done in the tradition of the PhotoNovel series from my younger reading days.

As with all Trek tie-in stories, it can be hit or miss. The good news for this trio of stories is that the hit ratio is a bit better than in the previous installment.

Opening with a story in the Enterprise is pursuing a precursor to a certain modern era Trek entity that we’ll meet in “Q Who,” the collection gets off to an uneven start. Even trying to put aside my inner nitpicker and just enjoy a story in which Kirk gets to tangle with the proto-Borg, I couldn’t get over the fact that John Bryne was trying too hard to draw a connection between the Doomsday Machine and the Borg. Part of this is that Peter David did this almost two decades earlier with his novel, “Vendetta” and that (if my memory serves me right) he did it better. Again, this could be my nostalgia looking back on a book that I consumed in mere days when I was a teenager and have had a strong affection for since. Continue reading

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