Book Review – Trinity vol. 1: Better Together

  • Title: Trinity vol. 1: Better Together
  • Author: Francis Manapul
  • Artists: Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Brad Anderson, Steve Wands
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Superman (Clark Kent), Batman (Bruce Wayne), Wonder Woman (Diana), Lois Lane, Jon Kent
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/30/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I read Trinity twice, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some parts that are a bit confusing, especially at first, but it’s a wonderful story – about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The story opens with a monologue by Lois Lane who is now married to Clark Kent and the two are raising their son, Jon. Bruce Wayne and Diana arrive at their farm house. Young Jon experiments with his powers, which he can’t quite control. Next, he’s in the barn, Jonathan Kent is unconscious on the floor, young Jon is freaking out, and Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman arrive in their costumes. Jon flies off. The costumed heroes save Jonathan then go after young Jon. They find him, and later, Superman begins to wonder what just happened, though he’s happy to have seen his parents again.

Next, is Bruce’s story – he’s too late to see his parents before they die, or to prevent the horrible events of That Fateful Night. He sees a counselor, who gives him some medication to control his fears. This causes horrible, frightening hallucinations. Superman, adult Batman, and Wonder Woman have to save Bruce. By this point everyone is getting suspicious.

Next, Wonder Woman takes a boat, with Bruce and Clark, to Themyscira. By now, the three, including Wonder Woman, know nothing that is happening to them is real. The Amazons test the three, and they pass their tests. Hippolyta offers “Wonder Woman”, as she introduces herself, the chance to stay, but says the two men must leave. Diana decides she must go with her friends. Meanwhile, young Diana, is incensed at this and follows them, then begins to lead them through. They discover that Mongul, under the influence of the Black Mercy is behind everything. However, he had contacted Poison Ivy, Avatar of The Green, whom he manipulated to help him escape. The third person that is behind the dreamworld is the White Mercy – something created by Mongul’s need to escape and his boredom. The White Mercy, who appears as a child, appears to Poison Ivy as a child – she wants to use Superman to free her “daughter” the White Mercy. Mongul wants to escape the dream world of the Black Mercy. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are caught in the thrall and dream world of the Mercy plants. Ivy even goes after young Jon. However, though, basically a construct, the White Mercy learned from the three scenarios he had Clark, Bruce, and Diana experience. In the end, he helps them escape the dream world. Mongul is returned there, Ivy forgets everything, including her “daughter”, and the White Mercy? It may have escaped to the real world.

This is a beautiful book – the art is gorgeous, with a marvelous painted look. The panels reflect the characters, as well, forming the famous symbols for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman at times. Though at times it was hard to tell what order to read the panels in. All three interwoven stories really explain and stress the strengths of Bruce, Clark, and Diana. It’s a great book and deserves a spot on any DC Comics fan’s shelf. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Supergirl vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen

  • Title: Supergirl vol. 1: Reign of The Cyborg Supermen
  • Author: Steve Orlando
  • Artists: Brian Ching, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, Michael Atiyeh, Steve Wands
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Supergirl, Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers, Cat Grant
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/18/2017

**Spoiler Alert** To be honest, I’d like to rate this 3.5 Stars. It’s not bad, just a bit disappointing. Supergirl vol. 1 Reign of the Cyborg Supermen collects Supergirl Rebirth and the first six issues of the newest Supergirl series from DC Comics. This Supergirl is heavily influenced by the CW Series, it seems, but leaves out some of the best parts of that show. Alex Davers, Kara’s human adopted sister on the CW series is nowhere to be seen here. But 16-year-old Kara is being raised by two DEO Agents, Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers. At times, the Danvers act like parents. But at other times, they act like secret agents simply doing a job. Kara, herself, is sent to a regular high school in National City. Well, a science and technology magnet school, though Kara is confused by the primitive nature of the technology she uses at the school. It isn’t quite, “a keyboard how quaint”, but it’s close.

However, Kara and one of her classmates are soon taken out of school entirely to be part of Cat Grant’s Young Innovators program at her new Catco Corporation. Other than her determination to deny young people a normal education, Cat is actually one of the most interesting characters in this book. She is just starting Catco, and is remarkably astute, realizing both that she can be her own worst enemy and that to do what she wants with Catco, she needs the new ideas she can get from the young. I would have no problem with her Young Innovators program if it was a Summer internship, or even a “gap year” program, but taking young people out of school and putting them straight in to an incredibly stressful and competitive business environment, with no mentoring, structure, or help? That’s just not a good thing. 16-year-olds are too young to be told to sink or swim. But I digress.

The second part of the story is where the title comes from: the Cyborg Supermen. Kara’s father, Zor-El returns. He is now a cyborg, and wants to return Kara to Argo city. Worse, his plan to bring back the citizens of Argo City involves turning them into Cyborgs who will suck the life out of humans to become truly living. Kara isn’t having it, and the fight scenes between Kara and her misguided father have meaning because there are emotional reasons behind why the two are fighting. And as misguided as Zor-El is, he has his own point of view. In the end, he only wants to save his people, the last city of Krypton. Of course, doing that by killing a city’s worth of people on Earth, in a strangely vampiric way, isn’t the best way to accomplish this – but at least Zor-El isn’t being evil simply for the sake of being evil. And Kara really, really gets to kick butt. She is powerful, strong, and ultimately defeats Zor-El and his super-powered cyborgs, both by using her wits and by physically beating Zor-El. That was enjoyable.

Overall, Supergirl in many ways feels like young adult fiction. A teenaged girl would probably enjoy the story more than I did. Still, I also did not hate it, I was just disappointed. I felt Kara was a bit too young. I didn’t like the “send Supergirl to high school” thing, and apparently neither did the writers, because no sooner than they sent her there than they pulled her out. Why not make her a 17 or 18-year old high school graduate at least? Or make Cat’s program a Summer internship? The plot with Kara’s father had emotional impact, at least, so that worked. Kara was strong throughout, which was also good. The art has a Japanese Anime look, though the colors are bright with a lot of red and blue, as a Superman family book should be.

Recommended with reservations.

Book Review – The Hellblazer vol. 1: The Poison Truth

  • Title: The Hellblazer vol. 1: The Poison Truth
  • Author: Simon Oliver
  • Artist: Moritat, Andre Szymanowicz, Sal Capriano
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: John Constantine, Chas, Mercury, Swamp Thing, Abby, Clarice
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/15/2017

The Hellblazer vol. 1 The Poison Truth collects The Hellblazer Rebirth and the first six issues of Hellblazer. The opening story has John Constantine returning to London, a city that’s deadly to him because of a curse. With some last minute assistance from Mercury, a psychic, John is able to defeat the demon and lift his curse. There’s a dicey bit where the curse affects all the people in London, but John is able to reverse it. Now, permanently in London, John is living with his friend, Chas, and his wife. Swamp Thing calls in a marker with John and gets his friend, Mercury, to travel to The Rot to seek out Abby – avatar of the rot. With Swamp Thing as Avatar of the Green, they travel to the Rot. This poisons Swamp Thing, though Mercury is able to travel through a wormhole to another dimension. Trying to find Abby, she fails in that but finds a Djinn instead.

Meanwhile, John visits Clarice, who warns him he’s wanted – later we find out she’s also working with a Djinn, and the Djinn want Constantine.

This book has some truly remarkable art – I love the colors, and how the colors reflect each world. Mercury and Chas are interesting foils for Constantine – though I think his character needs even more people around him. Swamp Thing’s view of the world – as three plains of existance: the Green, the Red, and the Rot; or the worlds of Nature, living beings, and all dead creatures, is fascinating – as is his trip through the Rot, and Mercury’s failed attempt to find Abby (avatar of the Rot). But London has it’s own color scheme, Swamp Thing’s pages have their own color scheme, and Mercury’s trip to another place looking for Abby has it’s own pastel colors. Meanwhile, Clarice is working with a Djinn and trying to unite London’s mobsters.

I did have to read the book twice because parts of it were somewhat confusing, but it’s a good start, and I will certainly look for the next volume. Recommended.

Book Review – Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity

  • Title: Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity
  • Author: Scott Lobdell
  • Artist: Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini, Taylor Esposito
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Red Hood (Jason Todd), Artemis (of the Amazons), Bizarro (Superman’s clone), Black Mask
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/15/2017

**Spoiler Alert** I loved Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity – I simply loved it! Jason Todd as part of the “Bat Family” is a character that I’m not super familiar with. Yes, I read the original, A Death in the Family where he’s killed by the Joker. And I’ve both read Judd Winick’s Under the Red Hood and seen the Warner Brother’s/DC Comics animated film based on it (which is quite possibly still the best of several excellent animated DC films) where Jason comes back. But that’s mostly about it. However, the previews and such about this book were very enthusiastic, so I decided to order it from my local comics shop and try it out. I’m so glad I did – because this book is wonderful!

Jason is a complex character, and this story uses flashbacks extremely well to introduce the character. It’s not, say 50-pages of straight backstory, but the flashbacks are interwoven into the story well. Obviously, they are there because the book is aimed at new DC readers, but, and it’s an important but, the flashbacks are well-integrated and they enhance the story. If you are familiar with Jason’s story arc, they simply remind you of the important points, and if you are not – well, now you know. For the long, continuing, and complex world of graphic novels and comics – this book is almost a primer on how to do that well. Plus, you have things like the very famous full-page picture of Batman, kneeling in the rain, and holding Jason’s body, but Jason’s comment that he was dead so he doesn’t remember it.

Which brings me to the second point – I wasn’t expecting this book to be so funny, but I did (literally) laugh out loud at several points. Jason Todd to me has always been a tragic figure, The Robin Who Died. The person who, like his parents death, profoundly affected Bruce Wayne and his mission by dying. (And even Bruce using the term, “the mission”, became a stronger, clearer, and more obvious part of his role as Batman because of Jason’s death.) But in this book, he’s not the street-wise kid with an attitude problem. He’s smart, and sassy, and his own man with his own way of doing things. In some ways, even though he’s nothing like Dick Grayson either, he reminds me of the first couple Nightwing books by Chuck Dixon, as Dick feels his own way and becomes his own man and his own type of superhero. Jason, here is the same – he follows his own code, he has his own way of doing things, he knows his way isn’t Bruce’s way, but he’s still becoming a hero. The characterization in this is brilliant and I loved it. And yes, there’s a lot of humor here – both Jason’s inner monologue, and in his conversations with Artemis.

The plot of the book starts with Jason “shooting” the mayor of Gotham City. However, Jason hasn’t suddenly turned assassin. He’s actually shot medicine into the mayor to cure him of techno-organic virus. Black Mask had been using the virus to control the mayor. Batman, who had made a show of trying to “stop” the Red Hood’s attack talks to Jason, finds out about the techno-organic virus, and learns that the “attack” on the mayor was part of a plan. Jason intends to go deep undercover to take down Black Mask and his organization.

As the newest recruit in Black Mask’s organization, Jason discovers that he not only blew-up the “orphanage” run by another criminal, Ma Gunn, but that he intended it to be full of children at the time. Jason also sees Black Mask kill three of his own men for “disappointing” him. But that might have been your typical undercover-in-the-mob story – until Jason tries to stop Black Mask from attacking a train delivering a super-weapon to Gotham City. In an attempt to stop Black Mask from getting whatever is in the train, Red Hood runs into Artemis. This Artemis is a Amazon warrior, a rival of Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) and on a quest to find the Bow of Ra. And she’s brilliant! I loved the character of Artemis, and I hope she stays as a regular member of Red Hood’s Outlaws. Also, the dialogue between Artemis and Jason is brilliant. It’s well-written and it sparkles like a 1930s film. Not that Artemis and Jason are a romantic couple (yet) but their dialogue is just incredible.

Jason worries that the train car that Black Mask steals has some horrible bioweapon aboard. Artemis thinks it’s her Bow of Ra. They are both wrong – it’s Bizarro, a Superman clone created by Lex Luthor. The last third of the book has Bizarro brought to Black Mask’s hideout, Jason trying to connect to Bizarro, Artemis pretty much wanting to kill off Bizarro as a threat, and eventually Black Mask using his techno-organic virus to take over Bizarro. Black Mask using his own brain to control Bizarro becomes his downfall, as Jason is able to use the cure he used on the mayor, as well as his own relationship with Bizarro to free the Superman clone from Black Mask’s control. The backlash destroys the mobster’s mind. At the end, Jason and Bizarro agree to help Artemis on her quest for the Bow of Ra.

Meanwhile, when Jason meets up with Batman to report – the two both learn a bit about each other.
I hope DC Comics continues to publish this book in graphic novel collections, because I will definitely want to continue to buy and read it. Highly recommended.

Red Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Dark Trinity collects the Rebirth special and issues 1-6 of the series.

Book Review – Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West (Rebirth)

  • Title: Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West
  • Author: Dan Abnett
  • Artist: Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Andrew Dalhouse, Carlos M. Mangual, Carrie Strachan
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Teen Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Tempest (Garth), Omen (Lilith), Arsenal (Roy Harper)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/11/2017

In May of 2016, DC Comics started “Rebirth”, an updating of all of DC Comics. Rebirth dumps New 52, returning the DC Comics books to the feel of the Classic 1990s Modern age. The new series now features a diverse cast of characters including many women, and religious, racial, and ethnic minorities, like DC featured starting way back in the Silver Age (1960s). I have been subscribing to many of the new Rebirth titles in monthly issues, but “Titans”, the updated “Teen Titans” is a title that I skipped in single-issue form.

Rebirth takes off from Flashpoint with the Flash, lost in the Speed Force, trying to get through to his friends. Titans vol. 1 The Return of Wally West features Wally West, also lost in the Speed Force, and no longer Kid Flash, but now “a Flash”, trying to find his friends in the Teen Titans. But no one recognizes him. However, when he touches Dick Grayson (Nightwing), there’s a spark of electricity – and Dick remembers Wally. Wally and Dick gather the rest of the Titans – Donna Troy (Wonder Girl), Garth (Tempest), Lilith (Omen), Roy Harper (Arsenal), and when Wally touches them – they remember him and the Titans. The group also soon discover that their memories of Wally and the Titans were stolen when Wally was thrown into the time stream by an enemy. However, Linda Park – Wally’s girlfriend doesn’t remember him at all.

The villain of the piece, Abra Kadabra, a villain from the far future appears at a birthday party in Keystone City, and uses puppet copies of the Teen Titans to attack the Titans. He eventually sets-up the Titans so they split-up to investigate three locations to find the kidnapped Linda Park. He then places everyone in deadly peril and challenges Wally to save them all, even though he’s used magic to move everyone to different cities. One does have to wonder why Wally didn’t call on the Justice League for help, since the locations (Coast City – traditional home of Green Lantern, Gotham – home of Batman, etc) are home to other heroes, but Wally decides he must save everyone. He does (in a stunning sequence) including Linda but goes so fast he’s absorbed by the Speed Force. Kadabra gloats over defeating his enemy. In the Speed Force, Wally talks to the Linda from his future who sends him back. Returning to Real Time, Wally defeats Kadabra and is reunited with the new Titans.

I enjoyed reading this book. Rebirth gets DC right – with fun, and humor, yet with deep and meaningful characterization. In the end, it’s Wally’s love for his friends in the Titans, not his romantic feelings for Linda, that allow him to return. The scenes in the Speed Force are wonderful though. And even Kadabra, as over the top as he is, is a fun villain – semi-threatening but not totally angsty. This book and the rest of Rebirth is highly, highly recommended.

Book Review – Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #1

  • Title: Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #1
  • Author: Chynna Clugston Flores
  • Artist: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Maddi Gonzalez, Kelly & Nichole Matthews, Jenna Ayoub, Whitney Cogar, Warren Montgomery
  • Characters: Olive Silverlock, Maps
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics, Boom Box Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 03/18/2017

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy is a crossover between these two young adult graphic novels series. I’ve recently been reading and greatly enjoying Gotham Academy but I’m not familiar with Lumberjanes prior to reading this story. Gotham Academy is, of course, a slightly creepy private school in Gotham, that gives a second chance to reformed villains and gives a chance to be normal to the children of Gotham’s villains. Our characters remind me of a well-written Scooby Doo story – they solve mysteries that often have a supernatural bent. The Lumberjanes are a group of girls at summer camp who also solve mysteries. When Professor MacPherson goes missing from Gotham Academy under mysterious circumstances, and Rosie, the Lumberjanes camp director also disappears – it’s time for a crossover mystery.

The Lumberjanes and our familiar crew from Gotham Academy are soon working together to find their missing people. Soon Jen, the camp leader is also missing, sacrificing herself to “monsters” so the Janes and Academy students can get away.

The Janes and the Academy students work together to find and rescue their teacher, camp counselor, and camp director. Meanwhile, those three find themselves in a Brigadoon-type cabin, a mansion in the woods belonging to a spoiled rich girl and her family. Inside the cabin, it’s always 1986. The women, now looking and dressed like teenagers, slowly realize what’s happened. Louise had been friends with the girls at Gotham Academy – but when her family came in to money, she become a spoiled, self-centered brat – who nevertheless was at the top of the school’s social ladder. When Louise invites everyone to her Sweet 16 birthday party at her family’s cabin, the students decide to teach her a lesson – and no one shows-up. This breaks Louise – she suffers a breakdown. Her magic-practicing parents, place her under a spell – keeping her young, and experiencing the same Summer over and over again for 30-years (without the heartbreak of the disastrous party).

It’s like a ghost story, but with a living person. Not only do the current Gotham Academy students and Lumberjanes, but their counselor, teacher, and camp director must actually give Louise the party she wants and convince her to actually live her life without fear of change.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel – there’s a lot of humor and fun; the characters are bright and compassionate; the art is excellent and fits the feel of a teen book, and the mystery – though somewhat easy to figure out has a good point to it. It’s a story about being yourself, and I liked that. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Gotham Academy vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

  • Title: Welcome to Gotham Academy
  • Author: Becky Cloonan
  • Artist: Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher
  • Characters: Olive Silverlock, Maps
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/05/2017

**Spoiler Alert** Gotham Academy Vol. 1 – Welcome to Gotham Academy is set in an exclusive prep school in Gotham City, one that is sponsored by Bruce Wayne, and was established by his parents. Olive Silverlock is a scholarship student with a secret – her mother was caught by Batman and is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum – this is a secret we find out at the end of the book. While reading the book we know Olive has a mortal fear of bats, something happened to her over the summer, and there is also something in her past that has something to do with her mother. At school, Olive is assigned to nanny a new student, Maps, who is her ex-boyfriend’s younger sister. Despite that, Olive and Maps become friends, and with a few other friends they decide to investigate the closed-off North Hall. One of the bullying girls is also interested in the hall, leading a small cult of girls who are trying to raise the spirit of one of Gotham’s illusterous former citizens, Millie Jane Cobblepot. Olive, having read Millie Jane’s diary, is also fascinated with her – and strongly identifies with her.

Olive, Maps, and their friends continue to investigate – they find Killer Croc, now somewhat domesticated, hiding in the school walls behind the girl’s dorm. There is no ghost – one of the guys at the school had set it up to get the bully to stop obsessing. Olive discovers the mysterious guy who’s interested in her is affected by the Kurt Langstrom bat virus. But Olive and Maps also become good friends. Olive also becomes “just friends” with her ex-boyfriend without as much trouble as she anticipated.

This is a good start to what will probably be a fun series. It reminded me a lot of the old, classic, Scooby Doo television series – and I mean that in the best possible way. Recommended.