I don’t know if this is interesting to anyone other than me, but I’m having fun so I’m
going to keep going. For those just joining us, I’m looking at the trade paperbacks and original graphic novels sitting on my bookshelf and writing whatever I want to about them. Part 1 was the Dark Horse shelf. This is DC.
All-Star Superman Vol. 1-2
I was planning on skipping this entirely. I didn’t care for Marvel’s second-continuity
Ultimate line which seemed to be the basis for DC’s All-Star out-of-continuity All-Star line. And Grant Morrison tends to be hit or miss for me. But the reviews were glowing. The Frank Quitely art was some of the best I’ve ever seen from him. So I finally broke down and bought the first trade. The reviews were right. Morrison and Quitely crafted some of the finest comics I’ve ever read. Not just Superman comics either. Comics period. The wait for the second trade was interminable (though Ana must not have minded as it’s still sitting on her shelf waiting to be read).
Batman: Prodigal and Thrillkiller
That’s an odd pair of Batman trades. The one thing they have in common is that they star Dick Grayson. Prodigal is the post-Knightfall story in which Bruce gives Dick a turn under the cowl. It’s not actually as riveting as Knightfall but it’s still a nice story- especially for fans of Dick Grayson like me. Thrillkiller is an Elseworlds story by Dan Brereton.
I bought this hardcover featuring independent creators on DC concepts when it was
first released. I can’t say that I enjoyed every story in it. A few of the artists seem to go out of their way to be ugly or obtuse. But, on the whole, it was a great experience. Most of the stories were fun and quirky. I have no idea why I never bought the sequel.
Catwoman: The Dark Side of the Street and Selena’s Big Score
Like a lot of other comic readers, I didn’t think I’d ever buy a Catwoman comic. I associated the character with Jim Balent and big breasts. But Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke brought an entirely different approach to the character. She was sleek and sexy, instead of top-heavy. She was a cat-burglar, with all of the finesse of an Olympic gymnast. She came right out of noir movies. I bought the first of these for Ana as a gift (in return for the Star Wars trades I mentioned in last week’s column, if I remember right). I bought the second one for myself.
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3-4
Sometimes a title is capable of helping you crystallize your thoughts and opinions. DC’s collection of the annual JLA/JSA team-ups did that for me. I bought the first couple
of volumes but I didn’t enjoy them. The stories were too formulaic, the heroes too
bland, the villains too insipid. It was a struggle to finish each volume with that many
uninteresting stories in a row. But I kept plugging along thanks to a small completist streak. Plus, it was cheaper to buy these trades than the actual back issues so I thought I was coming out ahead.
Then, I got to volume 3. I actually liked it. I really liked it. It featured great stories
by Len Wein and art that was more my style. Len brought in additional teams
like the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the stories got bigger and bigger as he kept
trying to outdo himself. It was great stuff. I loved it. And volume 4 was just as
good, even as other writers like Elliot S. Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell took over.
I realized that I just didn’t like Silver Age JLA. I didn’t like the few beat-up back issues I had bought. I didn’t like the trades. I didn’t like the series… at least, not until Len Wein took over around issue 100. I sold off my few back issues. I donated the first two trades to my local library. My completist streak is still simmering, but not for anything before issue 100. I stopped collecting this series after volume four, though. By volume 5, I already had the back issues.
DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore
This is a wonderful collection. It features Alan Moore’s classic Superman stories and incredible nuggets like his work on the Green Lantern Corps.
Fables: Legends in Exile and 1001 Nights of Snowfall
This is a pretty typical entry for me. On the Dark Horse shelf (which I wrote about last week), I have a lot of series that I collected entirely in trades. However, it’s a lot more common for me to try the first trade of a series and then switch to the single issues.
That’s what happened with Fables. I missed the first issue. I don’t buy a lot of Vertigo titles as it is and I had no idea how good this series would be. But it didn’t take long for me to hear about and get interested in it. I bought the first trade and absolutely loved it.
I was able to buy a few back issues and caught up with the regular series just like that. I’ve been a faithful reader ever since, falling in love with Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Rose Red, Little Boy Blue, Cinderella and the rest of the cast.
1001 Nights of Snowfall is a Fables original graphic novel. It was an outstanding collection of short stories with an interesting linking narrative. It also came out when DC was testing the market for prestige graphic novels, something that’s sadly fallen by the wayside in recent years.
An excellent Elseworlds story by James Robinson.
Green Lantern: The Power of Ion
This was a gift from a friend. He knew I liked Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern but hadn’t been following the regular series for a while. He was impressed by Judd Winick’s tale of absolute power and bought a copy for me, thinking I would enjoy it. He was right.
Jack Kirby’s Forever People, Fourth World, Mister Miracle, New Gods and Jimmy Olsen Vol. 1
I have an almost-complete collection of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. I was really impressed with the scope of these stories and the wealth of imagination. I eagerly
anticipated each successive volume (yes, I bought them as they came out). It was a chance to collect another classic from the ‘70s. And I liked them. I’m just missing the second volume of Jimmy Olsen. The Jimmy Olsen stories were just a little two weird. I didn’t consciously decide not to get volume 2. I just never got around to buying it.
Just Imagine… Stan Lee Vol. 1-3
That’s kind of a fun pairing. I’ve got Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s DC work sitting side by side on my bookshelf. It wasn’t something intentional either as Jack Kirby and Just Imagine follow each other alphabetically. I skipped Stan Lee’s Just Imagine when it was first published despite the all-star line-up of artists. I know that a lot of other fans were looking forward to it but I was fearful that it would be reminiscent more of Stan’s substandard work from the last 20 years than it would be of anything he had done back in the Silver Age. However, a couple of years later, I found all three volumes on sale and decided to give them a try. I’m very glad I did. I had a lot of fun reading these stories. They were a great re-imagining of the characters, on par with Tangent Comics or some of DC’s better Elseworlds. And they fit together like a pleasant jigsaw puzzle.
Justice League: A New Beginning, A Midsummer’s Nightmare, A League of One, Earth-2 and Virtue & Vice
I like this little collection of Justice League trades. It was easier to buy the first trade of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire series than it was to track down (and afford) the individual issues. I have the rest of the series in singles. A Midsummer’s Nightmare is the Mark Waid mini-series that paved the way for Grant Morrison’s JLA which I picked up much later. Then there are three original graphic novels from the short time period when DC was really trying to make a go of that format. The last one, Virtue & Vice, was a crossover with JSA.
Justice Society Vol. 1-2 and Returns
Here’s another fun pair. Those first two volumes collect the run of All-Star comics from the late ‘70s that revived the Justice Society and introduced new characters like Huntress and Power Girl. The last volume is the fifth-week event that prepared the ground for a new JSA series in the late ’90s.
Showcase: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1-3
Earlier, I mentioned that I can’t stand the Silver Age issues of DC’s Justice League of America. And honestly, most of the flaws in the JLA show up in these Legion of Super-Heroes stories as well. Additionally, they’re repetitive. How many times did the Legion allow a new member to join only to have them betray the team in their very first adventure together? But there’s a sense of whimsy in these Legion stories that I didn’t find in the early JLAs. And I do have a little completist in me. I just can’t read too many stories in a row. On the bright side, the stories are starting to get better. Jim Shooter in particular is starting to play with the formula, upending our expectations and actually introducing some characterization.
The Archie Goodwin-Walt Simonson classic back-up strip collected into one volume.
Nightwing: The Ties That Bind
DC had a pretty good system for a while. They would try a character out in a mini-
series. If that was successful, they’d come back with a second story. If that worked, the character would graduate to an ongoing title. The system worked for Birds of Prey, Robin and Nightwing. This trade collects the Nightwing mini-series that convinced DC the character might be able to hold his own in an ongoing title.
That’s only half of the DC shelf but that’s enough for one article. With all of
the random single trades on this shelf, it turns out that there’s a lot to talk about.