• July 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « May    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • On Facebook

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Comic Blog Elite

    Comic Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

  • Advertisements

The Trials of Shazam vol. 2 TPB [Review]

trialsofshazamtpb002Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Howard Porter, Mauro Cascioli
Letterers: Rob Leigh, Travis Lanham
Original Series Covers: Howard Porter, Mauro Cascioli
Reprints: The Trials of Shazam #s 7-12
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

This volume took me a bit longer to “get into” than the first…partially less excitement to get into the volume (now having a good idea of the story and such after reading the first). Of course, plenty of distraction, too with a “new comics day” and a local comic convention since reading the last volume.

We pick up here with Freddy’s journey…he’s got part of the powers of Shazam, and Sabina has the others so far…with a couple of the gods’ powers as yet unspoken for. He winds up recruiting “help” from the Shadowpact, on the idea that his attaining the powers is less important than Sabina NOT getting them. As she steals more power and the balance of magic is close to being toppled, the “war” actually breaks out with Sabina launching a spell that needs one million souls and will push Dark Magic far beyond Light magic. Freddy meanwhile recruits the Justice League and leads the counter-assault. Things finally come to a head, and the legend of Shazam moves forward.

Story-wise, this volume is consistent with the first; this felt like the back half of the same story, with obvious progression and development from what came before. I definitely liked seeing the other characters involved…while I expected this to be Shazam-centric, seeing that this takes place in the shared, main DC Universe of the time makes it so much better than just being off in its own little corner. It’s also cool to see Freddy being responsible and involving others as the situation needs it rather than egotistically insisting on going it alone (suggesting there’s plenty of strength simply in recognizing when one needs to turn to others, perhaps).

Visually, the first couple chapters match the entire previous volume while the final four are a shift as we move to Cascioli on art rather than Porter. While this is in itself a bit jarring and quite noticeable, it works pretty well…and I definitely prefer a complete such shift than stuff being interspersed. It may not be entirely consistent with the first 8 chapters, but the parts are consistent with themselves, and everyone is still quite recognizable. I actually think I’d’ve preferred this latter visual take for the entire thing if that’d been possible.

As a whole, a good volume, though I maintain that I’d’ve by far preferred this be one large volume to its existing two skinnier volumes. This is a singular overall story that seems near-arbitrarily split in half just for the sake of being halved, or of keeping its collected volumes as the “standard” 6-issue things.

I’d think it obvious, but as the second of two volumes, if you’ve not read the first, I don’t see any real reason to seek this out unless you’re specifically looking for the ending of the story rather than the beginning or ‘full’ story. But if you’ve read the first half, this is definitely well worth getting to finish, to have the complete story. Overall, I’d recommend trying to get both volumes at once if possible to read as close together as possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this series and already knew the “core” ending going in. But I definitely  enjoyed reading this, and find myself very disappointed to realize for the moment that other than the New 52 Shazam volume I read weeks ago, I don’t know if there are any collections with NEW Shazam stuff after this story out there or what issues to get for any appearances of Shazam.

The fact that that bothers me and that I’m interested in more of this take on the characters is a definite positive to me and credit to the story.

If you want to see the Shazam/Captain Marvel stuff actually progressed and status quo changed/updated (or at least don’t mind it happening), this is definitely well worth reading!

Advertisements

The Trials of Shazam vol. 1 TPB [Review]

trialsofshazamtpb001Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Howard Porter
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Reprints: The Trials of Shazam #s 1-6 and a selection from Brave New World #1
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price:
$14.99

I vaguely recall the events preceding this…the huge goings-on around the run-up to Infinite Crisis as well as the events of Infinite Crisis itself…this is an aftermath that I was tangentially “aware of” but never got around to (being able to) read until now.

Given my recent/ongoing surveying of multiple eras of the Shazam stuff, other than some sentimental value on the Action Comics Annual during the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event I don’t feel any particular attachment to any version the way I am sure I have with Superman, Batman, and many other characters I’m much more familiar with at length. So that puts this story into a unique position in my reading knowledge.

The idea of this journey, the “trials” strikes me as a classic Hero’s Journey; giving us what I believe might be the first “starring role” for Freddy (outside a possible co-starring role in Ordway‘s Power of Shazam ongoing way back that I have yet to read) and setting him up to fill the shoes of the “original” Captain Marvel.

With the demise of the Wizard, everyone’s roles in the world of DC magic shifts. Billy Batson–Captain Marvel–steps into the role of the Wizard, and Freddy is prepping to fill Billy’s old role. But with the change in magic, the rules have also changed. The gods’ powers cannot now be merely “bestowed”…they must be EARNED. Thus, Freddy must go about these “trials” in order to earn each power, from each god represented in the name SHAZAM. He’s given a guide who leads him on this journey; even while opposing forces rally to prevent his completing the trials. 

This volume gives us the first half of the Trials of Shazam series. While it does contain six issues plus some material from the Brave New World one-shot, it still feels rather skinny. Thankfully, I obtained this volume through an eBay purchase along with the second…both plus shipping for less than the cost of either individual volume. This is another case of where I truly believe–for “only” a 12-part limited series–the story should be in a single volume, even at double the cover price of these half-size volumes. That this is only HALF the story is the core drawback of the volume.

Visually I’m not terribly impressed. The art’s definitely not bad…it’s good, in fact. But there’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on that’s missing or lacking, most likely simply my expectation given I had to put some conscious “work” into obtaining these volumes while prior Shazam stuff I’ve sought out were easily found on a shelf, in a back-issue bin or via Amazon. The art conveys the story and gives a look and feel to things and maintains consistency…I’m really never left with any confusion in a panel as to what’s going on. In and of itself the art is of a higher “technical” level than “emotional” for me.

Story-wise, this seems fairly run-of-the-mill and formulaic. As said above, it fits what I know/recall of the classic Hero’s Journey; plugging Freddy (and the Marvels) right in. Taken strictly on its own, as such, there’s nothing really all that new or “special” to this story. Being a super-hero comic (and something I’m reading the better part of a decade after it came out–knowing what ultimately came about and that the continuity this is part of doesn’t even exist anymore except in memory and “the back issue bin” and bookshelves) it definitely lacks an excitement and simply feels like it’s running through the motions more than anything else. That this is an extended “transition period” moreso than it is any true challenge or question of what’s to come.

Despite that, what makes this really worth reading is that it is a significant story in the overall Shazam/Captain Marvel saga, particularly in the late DC Universe of the 1990s/early 2000s…presenting actual, large changes to the status quo and moving characters forward in a way that they’re rarely allowed to; putting real growth into the Shazam mythos.

If you have an interest in the “legacy” aspect of characters; of passing-of-the-torch stories, of the Hero’s Journey, and the like, this fits in well with that. Ditto if you’re–like I am–surveying major available stories of the Shazam characters regardless of era/continuity. I’m not sure if this volume is technically out of print or not, but as it is only the first half of a singular overall story, I would definitely recommend getting the whole story at once if you’re going to at all…be it both volumes of the TPB edition or all the single-issue comics.

Superman/Batman #76 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

My thoughts on ‘Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths’ part 3: The Extras

A “bonus” feature (as far as I can tell, included with the barebones DVD, the special edition DVD, and the BluRay) is an animated short starring The Spectre.

This is a bit of an unusual piece to me–I’ve really only known the character as the primal/cosmic/universal force-of-naturehe’s been for the last 10 1/2 years. This short focuses on the character with Jim Corrigan as his “host,” where Corrigan grounds the Spirit of Vengeance a bit.

This short delves into some dark, disturbing territory…whether intentionally going there or taking advantage of less restriction due to being packaged with a PG-13 animated film, I’m not sure.

Not being particularly familiar with a down-to-Earth Spectre, I found it to be less interesting than I’d prefer in and of itself…but it’s still fairly interesting being exposed to this version of the character.

There’s also a preview of the next DC Universe project…Batman: Under the Red Hood, which is based on the 2003/2004 Under the Hood arc in the Batman comics.

While I have never bought into the “Return of Jason Todd” and everything that’s been done with that character for more than half a decade…as an animated project, it looks like this one has potential…at the least, this preview/”First Look” sold me on the concept. A large part of that, I think, is that it looks like the film will include material taken from A Death in the Family, which will more closely tie the Under the Hood story to that prior one, making it work as a unified whole in the film where it still has not for me as a comic story that essentially undid a key story in the Batman history.

Finally, there’s a short documentary that looks at the recent history of DC Comics, with brief interviews with the likes of Paul Levitz, Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer, and others discussing Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis, and a lot about how the stories were crafted and made to build toward one another. The interviewees also discussed what got them into comics, and their influences…and in general, made for a very enjoyable piece.

Of course, it was also interesting to see several of their roles/titles, given changes announced last week for the organization at DC.

I’m a sucker for such documentaries/interview pieces…I enjoyed the Death of Superman retrospective, the Green Lantern/Blackest Night piece on the Green Lantern: First Flight release, and of course this one.

_____________________
My thoughts on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
part 1: What Came Before
part 2: The Movie Itself

Batman #690 [Review]

Long Shadows Part Three: Tripwires

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Jack Purcell
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics

Even though the status quo of Dick being Batman is still pretty new–not even half a year yet–this just feels right. From the character’s depiction on the cover, to the “inner voice” we’re allowed inside the issue, even though he’s not Bruce, this simply feels like Batman.

We see Dick facing Clayface and a new partner; noting places he can improve should he survive the villains’ attack. Alfred proves a considerable ally in a way I don’t recall seeing with Bruce in contemporary continuity…and yet, it works very well to me seeing his role unfold. We also see the Penguin confront Black Mask and find a new lesson taught. Two-Face’s plan seems to bear some fruit as the issue’s clifhanger gives a familiar visual but new situational dynamic for the characters.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Clayface here, though. This is a classic Batman rogue, of course–teamed with some character I’m not familiar with. Between the various DC Crises, reboots, retcons, and Silver-Age-Returneth, I’ve lost track of what version/which Clayface this is. The way he’s depicted here, I’m put in mind of a number of things: a version of The Thing I’m not thrilled with; something belonging to the cover of the original Fantastic Four #1; and even some generic demon. I’m not really put in mind of the visual we were given in Batman: The Animated Series, nor what I think I recall from the original Hush arc back in 2003.

Additionally, I found myself taken out of the story entirely at the inclusion of the movie version of the “batarang”–the Bat-shuriken, if you will. I have no real complaint with that in and of itself–it makes sense, really–but the exactness of it caused me pause as I contemplated its inclusion as such. Specific, personal nitpicks aside…Bagley provides a good Batman visual throughout the issue. Two-Face is recognizeable, but as usual looks slightly different depending on which artist’s work we have on-hand…but really, such is the nature of the character.

On the story side of things, this is a solid issue. I’m not totally impressed in it being any great work of writing…but I’m firmly satisfied at the depiction of the characters. I’m really liking the interaction between Dick and Alfred…as we’re seeing a different interaction than what we had with Bruce and Alfred.

I really don’t care for Black Mask as a “Kingpin” figure, so the scene with the Penguin facing Black Mask’s show of power is just another point in the ongoing Batman story. The last page of the issue was a bit of a surprise–I’d forgotten about the Battle for the Cowl teaser image…and it seems that elements from that teaser are yet to really play out beyond the Battle for the Cowl minis/specials.

All in all, a solid issue…nothing terribly remarkable in and of itself, but certainly worth getting if you’re a Batman fan, a Winick fan, or just following this new season in the Bat-books.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Batman #687 [Review]

A Battle Within: an epilogue to Battle for the Cowl

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Rob Hunter
Colors: Ian Hannin & JD Smith
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea (variant by JG Jones)
Publisher: DC Comics

Though this issue boasts the Batman: Reborn banner at the top of its cover, it actually ought to be labelled with the Battle for the Cowl logo, the word “epilogue” clearly spelled out beneath. Though this issue takes place after the events of the Battle for the Cowl mini, it’s not all that firmly set into the territory of this new Batman: Reborn “era.”

We open on a flashback of Bruce and Dick, then move into Dick and Damian, juxtaposing the two relationships. We also see Alfred reacting to changes, as well as Dick and Tim having words over Damian’s new role as Robin (reminds me just a bit of things during the early issues of KnightQuest: The Crusade back in 1993). We also get to see Dick in action, having accepted the need for a Batman while still struggling to embrace the cowl. Damian shows his brashness, and Dick–as Batman–reveals himself to the city as he shows up to face the Scarecrow.

The story is fairly straightforward. It’s not all that moving exactly–I definitely wish that Final Crisis had not had the epilogue it did–better to have been left guessing at the truly definitively final fat of Bruce to make this stuff more moving and impactful. It is nice, however, to see some of these moments happening given how entirely RUSHED the ending of Battle for the Cowl felt.

The art’s quite high-end…it’s good to get Benes’ art again on something I’m reading; I’ve enjoyed his work pretty much since I first started recognizing it in particular.

As an epilogue story, this will probably be more enjoyable/fitting for longer-time readers (particularly those who followed the Battle for the Cowl stuff in any form). The next issue I believe will kick off the action within the new status quo, and so will probably be a better jumping-on point for new readers.

Not a bad issue, but nothing to get terribly excited over.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

%d bloggers like this: