Catching up on DC/Vertigo Comics Collections

DCVertigo-CoverImageAttempt

Featuring: Arkham Manor, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Bodies, Coffin Hill, Deathstroke, Detective Comics, Gotham Academy, Grayson, Harley Quinn, Justice League, Lobo, The Names, (New) Teen Titans

ArkhamManorARKHAM MANOR

Writer: Gerry Duggan | Artist: Shawn Crystal

Arkham Asylum, the legendary home for the criminally insane, now lies in ruins. Gotham City needs a replacement to hold Batman’s most dangerous foes — and only one building fits the bill: Wayne Manor.

With his family fortune depleted, Bruce Wayne goes underground — literally — as his ancestral home is transformed into a new prison for his archenemies. From his fortified Batcave below its foundations, the Dark Knight watches as evil moves in above him.

But watching alone won’t stop the killings that begin almost immediately in “Arkham Manor.” To find the predator responsible, Batman must become an inmate himself.

Now the World’s Greatest Detective begins the most dangerous undercover mission of his life, working with — and against — the resident doctors, guards, and ghoulish supervillains to crack the case. Can he catch the killer and restore order to the chaos? Or will the insanity of Arkham Manor claim the mind of its latest patient?

Collects: Arkham Manor #1-6

This was pretty great. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, and it didn’t have the strongest beginning — not bad, but also not particularly stand-out. The story developed brilliantly, though, as Wayne (in disguise) infiltrates Arkham Asylum (newly relocated to Wayne Manor) and gets to the bottom of a spate of strange goings on and brutal murders. There are moments of tenderness among the brutality and blunt justice, though, making for an interesting and ultimately excellent story. I particularly liked Mr. Freeze’s place in the story. A self-contained story, this is very highly recommended.

*

Batgirl-Vol.01BATGIRL, Vol.1 – “Batgirl of Burnside” (New 52)

Writers: Cameron Stewart & Brendan Fletcher | Artists: Babs Tarr & Maris Wicks

Barbara Gordon’s ready for a fresh start. She’s packing her bags, crossing the bridge, and heading to Gotham’s coolest neighborhood: Burnside. And when a freak fire burns up her costume and gear, Babs has the chance to become a whole new Batgirl!

But she barely slips on her new DIY costume before Batgirl starts trending as Gotham’s first viral vigilante — and attracting a new wave of enemies who want her social-media spotlight for themselves. Meanwhile, the girl beneath the gear’s got a whole new crew of friends, college classes that are kicking her Bat-butt and a dating scene that can make anyone want to swipe left on life.

This bat’s done living in the shadows. But will the bright lights of Burnside burn her for good?

Collects: Batgirl #35-40

A new direction for one of the break-out titles from the New 52. This story takes a different tack to previous story-arcs, as Barbara/Batgirl relocates to a different part of Gotham, far from the rest of the Bat-family and their continuing travails and eternal-angst. Batgirl is still trying to balance her work/vigilante lives, but in this collection they collide quite spectacularly. It’s an interesting look at modern culture, with hook-up aps, cyber-stalking and bullying, not to mention over-sharing and identity theft. It’s fast paced, for the main well-written, and visually interesting. There are some clunkier moments in the story, and the ending was a little “WTF?”, but overall I think it bodes well for the future of the series. Recommended if you’ve been following the series already, but also if you want to try something a little different, lighter and new.

*

Batman&Robin-Vol.06BATMAN & ROBIN, Vol.6 – “The Hunt For Robin” (New 52)

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi | Artist: Patrick Gleason, Andy Kubert & Doug Mahnke

After losing his son Damian — a.k.a. Robin — Batman has finally found peace with his death. Damian’s grandfather Ra’s al Ghul, however, has not. In order to resurrect Robin, he’s stolen the body and now Batman-Robin’s father-will stop at nothing to reclaim him. Even if that means that the Dark Knight must hunt down Ra’s al Ghul from Paradise Island to Nanda Parbat.

While traversing his way thru some of the most dangerous and exotic locations in the DC Universe Batman meets up with his fellow teammates in the Justice League and even the noble monster Frankenstein! But do they come as friends or foes? And who will win once the forces of Darkseid decide to take an interest in the future of Damian Wayne?

Collects: Batman & Robin #29-34 & Robin Rises: Omega #1

This has been possibly my favourite of the New 52 titles. Volumes 1-5 were superb, and the first three story-arcs in particular were excellent. I was slightly annoyed when they announced that Batman: Incorporated was starting again, which split the Batman & Robin story across two series. As seems to be the norm whenever Grant Morrison is involved in an established series, he introduced a game changer that, I felt, would likely ruin this series. I was… half-right. Robin’s death gave us the “silent” issue of this series, which is probably one of my top five issues of any comic, ever. This book is the first of two that takes us through, as the title suggests, Batman’s hunt for Robin – Ra’s has stolen Damian and Talia’s bodies, and is intent on resurrecting them. This after Bruce has finally come to terms with the loss of his son (while alienating and pissing off almost all of his allies and former-colleagues). It’s a good book, but the resurrection side of things is of less interest to me than the crime-fighting aspect of the earlier arcs. It’s still good, and better than a lot of the other books/series I’ve read or tried.

As it happens, I’ve also read the issues that make up Volume 7, “Robin Rises”. It’s also good, but is even bigger and more insane than this one. With dips and highs, though, it’s a bit less even. Oh, and Darkseid is involved. It’s a whole, big, action-packed extravaganza.

So, ultinately, this is still a great series, but I enjoyed these last two books a bit less than previous arcs. (The Two-Face arc was incredible, and I loved the darker tone and ending very much.)

*

BodiesBODIES (Vertigo)

Writer: Si Spencer | Artists: Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay and Phil Winslade

LONDON, 1890. As Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, Inspector Edmond Hillinghead — the city’s most diligent detective — applies his skills to an even harder case. The victim is an unidentified male. The killer may have powerful allies. And Edmond’s darkest secret may be exposed if he gets too close to the truth…

LONDON, 1940. As the Blitz rains bombs down on the city, Inspector Charles Whiteman reigns over its streets. He escaped the Nazis in Poland only to run the very rackets he’s supposed to shut down. But when he discovers a mysterious murder victim, his double life may be destroyed…

LONDON, 2014. As racist rioters wreak havoc in the name of their prejudiced patriotism, Detective Sergeant Shahara Hasan leads the fight against them. As a Muslim cop, she’s English to the core. But the corpse she’s uncovered may reveal something rotten deep below the surface…

LONDON, 2050. As the mind-scrambling pulsewave plagues the last survivors of a terrifying techno-apocalypse, the amnesiac young woman known only as Maplewood can barely understand the body she’s discovered. But this ritual killing is identical to those from decades past — and the link between them all is stronger, and stranger, than anyone could dream…

Collects: Bodies #1-8

This was… much stranger than I initially thought it might be. It’s considerable in scope and ambition and, for the main, it pulls it all off. The story is told from four main timelines (as indicated in the synopsis), and three of them are really interesting and quite gripping. The future thread, though, is less interesting. It was just plain weird, frankly, and while there were a few moments where I spotted connections before they were announced, and there are lots of ‘gags’ in the background, it felt considerably at odds with the other three timelines. I think the best storyline was set in the present, which offered a good amount of commentary on Britain’s rightward shift (in rhetoric and also overt support for racist, isolationist sentiments). It’s creepy, shocking, and explicit; but at times also nuanced, fiendishly clever, and gripping. If you’re after something rather weird, focusing on crime, the supernatural and a time-spanning conspiracy (and stylistically a nod to From Hell, perhaps), then Bodies should be of interest. A cautious recommendation, though, given that it can also be really damned weird.

*

CoffinHill-Vol.2COFFIN HILL, Vol.2 – “Dark Endeavors” (Vertigo)

Writer: Caitlin Kittredge | Artist: Inaki Miranda

Years after a night in the woods gone awry, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed ten years ago that fateful night was never fully contained. It continues to seep through the town, cursing the soul of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow, spilling secrets and enacting its revenge. Set against the haunted backdrop of New England, COFFIN HILL explores what people will do for power and retribution.

Collects: Coffin Hill #8-14

Another great instalment in this great, supernatural-noir series. When I first started it, I couldn’t quite remember what had happened in volume one, but I pretty quickly relocated into the story. There are witch-hunters hunting down the witches of Coffin Hill, and Eve is in jail. The story is told through two threads — the present day and the “Ice Fisher” case. It’s an excellent blend of crime and the supernatural, expertly paced and beautifully illustrated. If you haven’t tried this series, yet, then I urge you to do so. I can’t wait for volume three.

*

Deathstroke-Vol.1-ArtDEATHSTROKE, Vol.1 – “Gods of War” (New 52)

Writer & Artist: Tony Daniel

Slade Wilson is the world’s deadliest assassin. His reputation doesn’t just precede him, it’s his most important asset. So when Slade is betrayed by his trusted friend and handler and left for dead, the world thinks Deathstroke has finally been terminated. Slade’s most valuable possession has been taken from him.

Now, the world’s deadliest assassin has awoken with a completely different face and a completely new mission: find the man who arranged for his death, and who is building an army that will threaten every nation on Earth. Find Odysseus.

But as Slade hunts Odysseus, Odysseus hunts the one man who will unlock his ultimate power and ultimate victory. And all three have one thing in common — a shared history that could destroy Deathstroke’s new life before he even has a chance to build it!

Collects: Deathstroke #1-6

The first New 52 version of Deathstroke was pretty interesting, if a little one-note: “kill everything that moves, in elaborate and over-the-top set-pieces”. This new series picks up the story after a moment in Suicide Squad (which was a bit of a spoiler, as it turned out), and takes it in a new direction. It’s a bit more supernatural, we get a (possible) slight redefinition of what makes Slade so effective as a killer. As the book progressed, though, I’m afraid I lost some interest. It was interesting, sure, but not as gripping as I had hoped. I’ll probably check out the second collection, as a second chance for things to get really good.

*

DetectiveComics-Vol.06-IcarusDETECTIVE COMICS, Vol.6 – “Icarus” (New 52)

Writers & Artists: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

A bold new direction for DETECTIVE COMICS as THE FLASH creative team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato take over the creative reins! Batman finds himself knee-deep in a new mystery involving a deadly new narcotic that has hit the streets of Gotham City. Can the Dark Knight stop the threat before the entire town finds itself embroiled in a deadly gang war that could burn everything — and everyone — down to the ground?

Collects: Batman: Detective Comics #30-34 & Annual #3

This was an excellent continuation of the Detective Comics series. A clean(ish) break for the new creative team, it’s an excellent self-contained story. The artwork is superb, the pacing of the narrative is very good, and the writing superb. It’s nice to read a story that focuses on the crime-solving side of Batman’s mythos/raison d’être, and while there’s a certain supernatural element to it, it remains grounded in detecting. I’m very much looking forward to reading their next storyline.

*

GothamAcademy-Vol.1GOTHAM ACADEMY, Vol.1 – “Welcome to Gotham Academy” (New 52)

Writers: Becky Cloonan & Brendan Fletcher | Artist: Karl Kerschl

Welcome to Gotham Academy, the most prestigious school in Gotham City. Only the best and brightest students may enter its halls, study in its classrooms, explore its secret passages, summon its terrifying spirits…

Okay, so Gotham Academy isn’t like other schools. But Olive Silverlock isn’t like other students. After a mysterious incident over summer break, she’s back at school with a bad case of amnesia, an even worse attitude… and an unexplained fear of bats.

Olive’s supposed to show new student Maps Mizoguchi the ropes. Problem: Maps is kid sister of Kyle, Olive’s ex. Then there’s the ghost haunting the campus…the secret society conducting bizarre rituals…and Bruce Wayne, the weirdo billionaire who funds the Academy – and may know the secret to Olive’s big mystery.

Collects: Gotham Academy #1-6

This was quite fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having not paid much attention to it as it was coming out on a monthly-basis. (Which is pretty much true for most series, now — I now just wait for news of the collections.) Gotham Academy blends a boarding school story, coming-of-age, some mystery and, of course, the Batman mythology. The characters are fun, well-written and realistically drawn (in terms of story). There’s some great humour in here, too, but it never overshadows the general story and mystery of what’s going on at the Academy. I really enjoyed this, and look forward to the next story arc. Highly recommended for anyone who wants something a little different from the Batman/Gotham setting.

*

Grayson-Vol.1GRAYSON, Vol.1 – “Agents of Spyral” (New 52)

Writers: Tim Seeley & Tom King | Artist: Mikel Janín

Unmasked, targeted and presumed dead, Dick Grayson’s world has been turned upside down. No longer Nightwing, former Boy Wonder, he’s now a man who doesn’t exist… which makes him the perfect double agent.

Dick will have to leave behind the black and white world of super heroes to infiltrate the shadowy inner workings of the mysterious spy agency known as Spyral. Without a costume to hide behind, the would-be 007 must find the answer to one important question: just who is Dick Grayson?

Collects: Grayson #1-4, Grayson: Future’s End #1, excerpt from Secret Origins #8

I don’t really know what I thought about this. To begin with, I was a little in the dark (I haven’t read the final volume of Nightwing, yet, which I believe would have prepared me better for Grayson). It was good — far more spy-oriented, which I welcomed, although it had some of the rather insane super-hero/-villain stuff that made it a bit odd. The missions, though, were well-written, the artwork was excellent. I’m certainly eager to read the second volume, to give the series a bit longer to get going. I think it has a lot of potential.

*

HarleyQuinn-Vol.2HARLEY QUINN, Vol.2 – “Power Outage” (New 52)

Writer: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artists: Chad Hardin & John Timms

When bona fide super hero Power Girl drops outta the sky and into Harley Quinn’s new Coney Island ’hood, there’s only one thing for the former moll to do: Sew herself a new costume so the amnesiac Power Girl believes they’re a pair of crime-fighting super-heroines! But how long can Harley keep up the act now that she’s pretending to be on the straight-and-narrow?

PLUS! A look into the future of the greatest power couple in crime as Harley and the Joker are reunited in FUTURE’S END!

DOUBLE PLUS! Harley puts the “con” back in “Comic Con” with a wild trip to San Diego, drawn by Paul Pope, Dave Johnson, and a Hall H full of crazy talented artists!

Collects: Harley Quinn #9-13, Harley Quinn Future’s End #1

Harley Quinn is a pretty fun series — it’s completely silly and frequently odd, daft and so forth. This is fine, I think, in small doses. Reading through this pretty long collection, though, the wackiness started to wear a bit thin. Sure, the story with Power Girl-suffering-from-amnesia was amusing (poking much fun at PG’s outfit, for example), and the plentiful nods to tropes and making fun of these comic standards is welcome and frequently amusing. There’s just a bunch of other odd stuff that didn’t always work for me. I think, if I’d read this as individual issues, on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, I would have got more out of it — a lighter break from the generally serious, more poe-faced comics DC publishes. If you’re after something lighter, sillier and more comedy-focused, then this could work well for you.

*

JusticeLeague-Vol.06JUSTICE LEAGUE, Vol.6 – “Injustice League” (New 52)

Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado

When the Crime Syndicate nearly destroyed our world, Lex Luthor led the fight against them. Now, with public opinion of him at an all-time high, Superman’s former nemesis has decided to continue fighting for good full time — as a member of the Justice League!

But does Lex really have only good intentions? And even if he has changed sides, can his teammates work alongside a man who once persecuted them?

An unforgettable tale of enemies, allies and the thin line in between…

Collects: Justice League #30-39

This was a pretty interesting book. I didn’t read much of Forever Evil (a couple of issues, then I checked out, unfortunately). I was a little concerned, therefore, about picking this series back up. I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this takes, and the added challenges and opportunities that Lex Luthor’s and Cold inclusion on the team brings to the storytelling. It’s not all fantastic – this is a pretty long collection, and there were a few moments during which the storyline dragged. It’s a somewhat episodic storyline — there’s a new, evil Power Ring to deal with, the Amazo virus, and more. As with most JL titles, it’s big in scale, there’s a ton of property damage, and bit, exciting action sequences. And an “evil” League. Again… It was interesting, and I’m especially looking forward to the series’ next story-arc. A good book, but not the best Justice League collection of the New 52.

*

Lobo-Vol.01-ArtLOBO, Vol.1 – “Target” (New 52)

Writer: Cullen Bunn | Artist: Reilly Brown, Alisson Borges, Vicente Cifuentes, Cliff Richards, Nelson DeCastro

The intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo returns to the DC Universe and is bringing his well known brand of ultraviolence with him.

Charged with protecting a valuable client from six highly trained assasins, Lobo cuts a path of destruction through the DC Universe as he attempts to protect his client, but also must find those responsible for the contract on his client’s life. In the midst of all the chaos, Lobo must also track down the individual who has stolen his identity and serve him with Lobo’s own brand of justice!

Collects: Lobo #1-6

Before reading this, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything that featured the previous incarnation of the character (the hulking, interstellar-mad-biker figure). So, I had no idea what to expect. I was cautiously optimistic, though, given how much I’ve enjoyed Cullen Bunn’s work in the past (especially The Sixth Gun). It’s bold and brash, with an interstellar bounty hunt storyline, which ultimately brings Lobo to Earth, where he confronts Superman and also a ragtag bunch of wannabes (i.e. they are absolutely not on his level). He’s brutal, cold, and highly focused. Some of the humour didn’t quite work for me, but at the same time just as much of it did. There were some strange moments, but that’s probably just down to my own personal preferences when it comes to science fiction, as opposed to Bunn’s storytelling prowess. I enjoyed this more than I expected, and I’m interested in reading volume two as soon as I can. Recommended if you enjoy DC’s and Marvel’s interstellar/sci-fi comics — e.g. Green LanternGuardians of the Galaxy, etc.

*

NamesTHE NAMES (Vertigo)

Writer: Peter Milligan | Artist: Leo Fernandez

THE NAMES is a contemporary thriller that starts off as a revenge story: A deadly heroine ticks off — and kills — each “name” that brings her closer to knowing who killed her husband. It will become much more than that…

The world of THE NAMES is Big Money. Hedge funds, leveraged buyouts, market raids, flash buys. Incredibly high end deals that ruin lives and economies, where secret cabals gamble with people’s lives and jaded billionaires find their kicks the only way they know how.

It’s about righting all the wrongs by any means necessary. It’s KILL BILL meets WOLF OF WALL ST. in a world that’s become Too Big to Fail. It’s a relentless thriller that seeks to unlock the DA VINCI CODE that lies at the center of the world’s finances as the people who really pull the strings in the world finally get what’s coming to them.

The world of high finance has a profound but mysterious effect on all of our lives, yet is understood by too few of us

Collects: The Names #1-8

This is, like Bodies above, both excellent and a little flawed. It’s an investigation into a strange death and the larger conspiracy behind it. The story is fast-paced, but doesn’t feel rushed. It incorporates traditional thriller and global/financial conspiracy elements, mixed in with some puzzle-solving and stepmother-stepson reconciliation. Although, the latter also includes some of the elements I didn’t like: specifically, that the heroine’s interactions with her stepson are rather bizarre and highly unacceptable in one instance. There doesn’t really seem to be much point in it, either. But I may have missed something. There are sinister, cold and calculating villains, and also one bat-shit crazy psychopath for our heroes to contend with. All-in-all, though, this was rather good and I would recommend it.

*

TeenTitans-Vol.01-ArtTEEN TITANS, Vol.1 – “Blinded By the Light” (New 52)

Writer: Will Pfeifer | Artist: Kenneth Rocafort

Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Raven, Bunker and Beast Boy step out of the shadows of the adult heroes of the DC Universe to offer bold, exciting and sometime dangerous ideas on how to protect a world full of superpowered teenagers — any one of whom could be the next heroic figure or major villain!

This exciting new chapter in the teen heroes’ mythos starts here

Collects: Teen Titans #1-7

I ended up liking this a hell of a lot more than I expected. The humour is good, and it’s a slightly lighter story. The Teen Titans are in New York, going about their business, when a new terrorist threat arises. A new enemy appears to have a vendetta against STAR Labs, and it’s up to the Titans to stop their escalating plans. All of this, while also dealing with their celebrity — this was something I rather enjoyed about this book: social media is a big factor (as it is in the new Batgirl direction), and the Titans need to balance the flattery of being praised and recognized, with maintaining their ability to operate as heroes. The action is fast, plentiful but not overwhelming, and we get to know the Titans a little bit better — especially Brick, Beast Boy and Raven, who are somewhat less developed than Red Robin. I also liked the introduction to a new Power Girl. Raven was particularly cool and interesting, but the dynamic between roommates Brick and Beast Boy was amusing and endearing. Overall, a highly recommended book.

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