- Green Lantern #38, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
- Justice Society of America #24, by Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
- Madame Xanadu #8, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
- The Starman Omnibus vol 2 of 6 HC, by James Robins, Tony Harris, Wade Von Grawbadger, Craig Hamilton, John Watkiss, Steve Yeowell & others (DC)
- The Incredible Hercules #125 & 126, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Salva Espin, Clayton Henry, Rodney Buchemi, Greg Adams & Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
- Marvels: Eye of the Camera #4 of 6, by Kurt Busiek & Jay Anacleto (Marvel)
- Nova #22, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea Divito (Marvel)
- Gigantic #3 of 5, by Rick Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
- Mister X: Condemned #3 of 4, by Dean Motter (Dark Horse)
- The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
- The Complete Peanuts: 1971-1972, by Charles M. Schultz (Fantagraphics)
Man do I ever appreciate DC publishing James Robinson’s Starman in this nice hardcover omnibus series. Not only does it collect some issues which weren’t in the trade paperbacks, but it collects some odds-and-ends stories from other titles which I’ve never read at all! There are two Shade stories here which I’d never read before, one of which is actually relevant to later events in the series.
This particular volume has both one of my least-favorite stories in the series (Jack Knight and the Shade face a demon on the other side of a magical painting), but it also contains my hands-down favorite story, in which Jack meets Wes Dodds, the original Sandman – now a man in his 80s – and they investigate a series of murders. The story is sort of a sequel to Matt Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre, and explores the relationships that heroes have to one another, the camaraderie which leads to a sort of friendship where a friendship wouldn’t otherwise exist. It’s also one of the most blatant examples of generational relationships in superhero comics, as Dodds is clearly at least one generation, if not two, removed from Jack Knight. (I don’t think it’s ever clearly stated, but I think Jack is himself in his 30s, rather old for a superhero, especially a novice one.)
There are many good standalone stories in here, too: The original Starman’s first battle with The Mist (which leads into the Sandman/Starman story), and “The Return of Bobo”, in which a small-time villain gets out of jail and returns to Opal City, to the worry of the police and Jack Knight. Bobo is one of the series’ best characters, as is immediately evident from this story. But Starman is similar to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in that the standalone stories build up the background of the series and eventually contribute important pieces to the characters and ongoing storyline. And even if not every detail is crucial, most stories are enjoyable on their own.
James Robinson is sorely missed in comics – at least by me; these days I think he mainly works in Hollywood. But this volume of Starman reminds me that he really was one of the most sophisticated writers in the business. In some ways the best is yet to come, but in many ways the best is right here in this book.
I’ve been disappointed in Marvels: Eye of the Camera so far, and I think I know why: The strong character arc of the original Marvels, and the strong sense of time and place of each issue of that series, is missing here. Eye feels like it’s one brief glimpse of 1970s and 80s Marvel after another, without the depth that gives the glimpses meaning. Granted, the period covered so far is mostly not an iconic period in Marvel’s publishing history (the Claremont/Byrne X-Men aside), but I still think it would have been a much better series if it had been pared down to fewer incidents.
This issue primarily focuses on the wake of the Secret Wars series, especially the second one, in which the godlike Beyonder comes to Earth and trails destruction in his wake. It’s okay, but it still feels like a series of vignettes. It’s loosely connected by Phil Sheldon’s ongoing battle with cancer, but the series just isn’t working for me.
There’s still time for Busiek to pull it off, but it’s been a rather haphazard story so far.
Greg Burgas wonders why Gigantic isn’t a better comic book. I think the answer’s pretty simple: While it’s a high-concept action story (“The Earth’s just a setting for alien reality TV programming”), it’s really a very depressing one. The lead character is a man who was turned into a gladiator for the aliens when he was younger, and has come back to his homeworld a hunted man. Catastrophe, tragedy and a whole lot of punching ensues. The first three issues haven’t really expanded on the premise very much, it’s continued to just be a lot of tragedy and punching with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. I have a similar problem with the other Remender series I’m reading, The End League. I can deal with dark comics series, but these aren’t just dark, they’re bleak. So they’re not much fun.
For a much better take on a very similar premise, try Dan Vado’s The Griffin. While the art in that one is a little iffy, the story is first-rate. If you can find the original DC Comics prestige-format mini-series (6 issues), that’s even better, since the SLG collection is in black-and-white.