What a week to have to wait an extra day for comics!
DC Comics finally unveils its Big Summer Event, Final Crisis, while delivering two more doses of Grant Morrison with the second installment of the “Batman RIP” crossover and the penultimate issue of All-Star Superman. And don’t forget the first volume of The Starman Omnibus.
Not to be outdone, Marvel at last ties up Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s popular Astonishing X-Men run, and debuts Marvel 1985, by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards.
Elsewhere, Fred Hembeck gets a massive archive collection, Lynda Berry gets a hardcover, Dragon Ball gets an omnibus edition, and Nightmares & Fairy Tales comes to an end.
To see what other titles Chris Mautner and I think are worth mentioning, just keep reading. As always, let us know your choices in the comments below.
Kevin’s pick of the week: The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1
Perhaps the only thing good that came out of DC’s Zero Hour event, James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman was the antithesis of the mid-’90s superhero comic. While so many new titles sought to capture that early Image aesthetic, with gritted teeth, big weapons and even bigger shoulder pads, this was a quieter book, centering on Jack Knight, an antiques dealer (!) who reluctantly assumed the mantle — and cosmic rod — of Starman at the urging of his father, the Golden Age superhero. (To hammer home my point, contrast Starman with the other titles launching out of Zero Hour, such as grim-and-gritty revamps of Fate and Manhunter, and Primal Force and Xenobrood.)
For seven years, Jack Knight, wearing his leather jacket and goggles, served as protector of Opal City, the wonderfully quirky coastal burg that became as much a part of the book’s cast as The Shade or the O’Dare family. But then in 2001, Robinson retired Jack to San Francisco where, a couple of cameo appearances aside, he’s remained, just as the writer intended.
Now Jack returns, sort of, in the first of six hardcover editions collecting the entire series. At $50 a pop, they’re a little expensive, but I thinka return visit to Opal is worth the price.
Chris’ pick of the week: What It Is hardcover
Though praised in certain circles, Lynda Barry never really seemed to get her due from the traditional indie-comics crowd, perhaps because she worked mostly in a weekly comic strip format instead of the more traditional 32-page pamphlet format. If any book will bring about a reassessment of her talent, however, this will likely be the one. A heady blend of autobiography, how-to writing guide, philosophical tract, comics, collage art and just general kick-assery, What It Is is alive and pulsating in ways that most comics can only dream of being. So totally worth your time and money.
Speak of the Devil #6 (of 6)
Chris: Gilbert Hernandez’s tribute to B-grade horror films concludes with this issue. A lot of people seemed perplexed initially by the series’ style and tone, but I think once the trade collection is released a more positive critical re-evaluation will take place. In fact, I guarantee it.
All-Star Superman #11
Kevin: I approach this issue with mixed emotions: I’m incredibly excited to see Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely bring all the threads together in their take on the Death of Superman, but I’m sad that their run on this stellar series is coming to an end. Just one more to go.
Chris: Like a lot of folks, Morrison’s take on the Caped Crusader has been hit and miss with me. I keep veering between vowing to wait for the trade and then snatching up a run of back issues in a weak moment. I doubt I have it in me to follow all the various “RIP” storyline tie-ins, but I did like the set-up of the last issue, so perhaps I’ll have another weak moment again this Thursday.
Final Crisis #1 (of 7)
Chris: Worlds will live! Worlds will die! Nothing will ever be the same again! Blah, blah, blah!
Yeah, I know, we’ve all heard the spiel a million times before. But the simple fact that two well above average talents like Grant Morrison and JG Jones are working together on this GINORMOUS SUMMER CROSSOVER EVENT is enough to give one pause. If we must endure another round of “can you top this,” superhero-style, perhaps this one will actually bring a bit of life and fun to the system.
Kevin: I find the Heroes television series to be, at turns, mindlessly entertaining and bang-my-head-on-the-desk frustrating. But I don’t have much of a desire to read a print version of what’s essentially a comic book presented as a TV show. This trade paperback collects the online comics, and tosses in Tim Sale’s artwork from the actual series.
Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps hardcover
Chris: Is there any comic book cover more freaky and in your face than that first issue of OMAC? I submit to you that there is not. I’ve been on a big Kirby kick lately, most of it due to the considerable efforts of DC to finally get his work out there in a proper format. I’ve never read this particular series, about a one man soldier who “battles the forces of conformity,” a fact which makes me anticipate its arrival all the more.
Justice, Vol. 1
Kevin: The first four issues of Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite’s earnest, and well-received, homage to the old SuperFriends cartoon gets the trade paperback treatment.
Teen Titans Go! #55
Kevin: Two titles bow out this week — the first a hodge-podge of DC’s magic-based heroes, spinning out of Day of Vengeance, and the second the all-ages book based on the now-canceled Teen Titans animated series.
The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus
Chris: This should be fun. I have fond memories of reading Hembeck’s work in the pages of Marvel Age and various other fanzines. Having it all bound in one volume is a smart trick that I wish someone had thought of earlier.
Angel: Revelations #1 (of 5)
Kevin: To be honest, I don’t really have an opinion of Angel, the winged millionaire playboy from the X-Men. But I’m not a big fan of miniseries designed to re-establish the origins of characters that really don’t require redefining. Yet, I’m eager to read this title, based on the strength of creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Adam Pollina.
Kevin: Writer Greg Rucka joins his Gotham Central collaborators Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark for the “Other People’s Problems” story arc. You know what I’d like to see? Rucka returning to Marvel to write a Nick Fury/SHIELD series.
Essential Rampaging Hulk, Vol. 1
King-Size Hulk #1
Kevin: So, there’s this Incredible Hulk movie coming out next month … which seems to be the sole reason for the existence of King-Size Hulk #1. It features three stories that “fill in the gaps” of the Hulk series — that’s not a good sign — and set up new storylines. For $4.99, you also get reprints of classic stories.
And then there’s Essential Rampaging Hulk, which collects the first 15 issues of the magazine — initially, The Rampaging Hulk and then simply The Hulk — Marvel launched in 1977 targeting fans of the television series. The trade paperback also includes Incredible Hulk #269, which (I think) explains away The Rampaging Hulk #1-9 as a movie made by an alien artist. Eh, I don’t know.
Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1
Kevin: Joss Whedon and John Cassaday finally — finally! — wrap up their run on Astonishing with the conclusion to the big Breakworld storyline. The solicitation text promises that “one of the X-Men won’t walk away from this fight,” but everyone already knows that … because it was spoiled a few months ago. Ah, well.
The Immortal Iron Fist #15
The Immortal Iron Fist, Vol. 2: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven premiere hardcover
Kevin: Marvel’s getting faster and faster with its hardcover editions. “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” storyline wrapped up just last month, and already we get this collection. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve been a fan of the series from the get-go, and I enjoyed his big fight tournament arc a great deal, even though the story kind of wandered away at a couple of points.
Issue 15, meanwhile, gives us another glimpse into the history of the Iron Fist legacy with (deep breath) “he Story of the Iron Fist Bei Bang-Wen — The Perfect Strategy Mind and his Miraculous Travels to the Dark Continent, and What Mysteries of the World and of the Self that He Learned There (1827-1860).”
Marvel 1985 #1 (of 6)
Kevin: I think “1985″ refers to the year this was supposed to come out. I kid, I kid. This is actually the Mark Millar miniseries that was supposed to utilize actors and photography. However, the results apparently didn’t pass muster, so the art chores were handed to the incredibly talented Tommy Lee Edwards. The premise — the supervillains of the Marvel Universe find their way to our world, and only a 13-year-old boy holds the key to stopping them — doesn’t do anything for me, but I do enjoy looking at Edwards’ sequentials.
Angry Youth Comix #14
Chris: Boobs Pooter returns to Johnny Ryan’s ongoing, deliberately low-brow humor series. Considering he pretty much destroyed the planet in his last appearance, it’s hard to imagine what he’ll do for an encore.
Dragon Ball, Vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition)
Kevin: Viz Media rolls out this massive, 560-page edition that collects the first three volumes of Akira Toriyama’s insanely popular manga series.
Chris: If you want to read my comments on this book you will have to first sign a petition advocating that I am not, nor have I ever been, a mysoginist.
OK, that’s not fair to the work. I’m still a bit on the fence with how successful Dave Sim’s attempt to discuss the Holocaust and frame it within the history of anti-Semitism is, but it’s a book worth examining and talking about, despite all of the author’s efforts to alienate every single person on the planet.
Nightmares & Fairy Tales #23
Kevin: Serena Valentino’s fantasy series comes to an end with this, the conclusion to the “Song of the Siren” arc, illustrated by Camilla d’Errico.
A Treasury of Victorian Murder, Vol. 5: The Mystery of Mary Rogers
Chris: Volume Five in Rick Geary’s murder series gets a reprinting. I haven’t read this one, but all of the ones I have perused so far have been top-notch, so I find it hard to believe this would be any less entrancing.
The Comics Journal #290
Chris: They’re a little late to the party, but this latest issue of TCJ should provide the final word on the controversy that surrounded David Michaelis’s biography of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. A roundtable of experts, including Schulz’s son Monte, debate the book’s merits. Also: an interview with Matt Madden, a preview of the upcoming Joe Kubert biography and some classic Bob Powell horror stories.
The Dangerous Alphabet hardcover
Chris: Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly take on the alphabet, with an obvious ode to Edward Gorey’s Gashleycrumb Tales.
The full list of titles shipping this week can be found here.