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Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1)

Far in the future, The Garden is the only place in America that’s worth living. It’s a safe haven… or is it? Lex Luthor created The Garden, and sure, everyone inside is out of the desert elements, living comfortably, and seemingly happy. Buuut that’s probably due to the little chips he implanted in every citizen’s head, and due to the fact that his chief enforcer is none other than the Bat. When Kara Gordon accidentally brushes with the law, she knows she needs to run or die. She escapes into the “freescape”, the world outside The Garden, the lawless world in the desert. There, she meets a group of women who roam the freescape on motorcycles, kicking Lex Luthor and his Garden where it hurts. They ride or die for each other. Kara fits right in, even as she misses her sister Barbara. Inside The Garden, Barbara tries to uncover the truth about Kara and their father – but she works closely with the Bat, and she needs to watch her every step.

Like Bombshells, this arc started originally as a figurine line that got so popular they decided to make a comic from them! This comic is so cool. I’m a sucker for alternate universe arcs, and I really got a Mad Max vibe from this one. The landscapes are really important here, to either convey the twisted security of The Garden or the hot, vast emptiness of the desert freescape. Just enough of this world is explained to keep you in the loop, but just enough is left out to keep you reading and searching for more clues. Most of all, it’s just good fun with all your favorite heroines ;D

-Kathleen

Kelly, Collin, Jackson Lanzing, Biran Ching, Aneke, and Carmen Carnero. Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1). 2018.

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The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection

Back in the mid ’90s (ahhh, that glorious decade), Marvel and DC decided to create an entire crossover series. They blended characters from both camps to create something new and entirely different! But they didn’t stop there. They printed them under a “new” printing company called Amalgam. While each story was a one-shot, they peppered each issue with context and hints referring to “past” issues and events. Pretty cool, huh? The Marvel Comics Collection focuses on DC characters with Marvel spins:

  • Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In which Bruce Wayne prepares to finally confront his arch-nemesis, Green Skull (Ra’s al Ghul and Red Skull). Only it might not be him in charge of Hydra anymore…
  • Bullets & Bracelets: Diana Prince and Steve Castle (Steve Trevor and Punisher), together again – to save their son who’s been abducted!
  • Magneto & the Magnetic Men: Erik Magnus creats the Magnetic Men to bridge the gap between human and Mutant. To be honest, I really had trouble figuring out who was who in this one, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Speed Demon: BRUUUH. This mashup of Ghost Rider, Flash, and Etrigan was by far my most favorite. I’d kill to read actual stories of this!
  • Spider-Boy: This one blended the best of Superboy and Spider-man into one fun romp as he fights Bizarnage!
  • X-Patrol: Very cool mashup of Teen Titans and X-Men. The clean art in this one was my favorite!

Man, this whole collection was silly and I loved every minute of it. The creators didn’t take themselves seriously at all! I really miss when comics were fun like this. It was really fun figuring out who was mashed up with who. Some characters were pretty obvious, and others took a little more thinking to figure out. I enjoyed the mental workout ;D Stay tuned for the DC Comics Collection!

– Kathleen

Various. The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection. 1996.

Batman: White Knight

Been a while since we’ve done a Batman title, eh? I knew I had to read this as soon as it popped on my radar.

Once again, Batman confronts the Joker. Once again, Batman puts the Joker in Arkham. But this time… Joker is cured? Batman force-fed the Joker an unknown medication that seems to have driven him sane. The newly reformed Jack Napier, along with Harleen Quinzel, are now on a crusade to save Gotham from Batman. Not too many people take him seriously at first – come on, it’s gotta be another of Joker’s schemes, right? – but as time goes on, and Jack doesn’t let up, it becomes very clear that he is serious, and that he won’t stop until Gotham is delivered from her Dark Knight and corrupt police force. Will the public’s opinion of Jack change? Will Batman be revealed as the villain after all, or will the Joker come back out of the woodwork?

W o w. This is definitely a Batman comic worth reading. It challenges a lot of things that Batman has previously gotten away with, and then some, revealing no clear answers in the process. It makes you question if Batman is really doing good, or if he’s just another criminal in a mask and cape. His design in this one – with a Dracula-esque collar, more angry scowl lines on his cowl, and hints of fangs – definitely hint that Batman is more of a villain than he lets on, and we see it in the art. Obsessively detailed and cinematic, with many Gothic elements in the architecture and character designs, the art is a constant reminder of the seedy city we’re in. This stellar start to the DC Black Label series is provocative, thought-provoking, and will have you mulling it over long after you’re finished.

– Kathleen

Murphy, Sean, and Matt Hollingsworth. Batman: White Knight. 2018.

Blackest Night: Green Lantern

While I’ve read some of the Blackest Night stories (like the WW one), I’ve never actually read the main arc!

While the War of Light – the conflict between the ring bearers of the emotional spectrum – rages on, a threat to the entire universe arises. Black Hand has risen from the dead by the light of the Black Lantern ring. Across the universe, the dead are rising again. Those who have died and come back – Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman – are being sought out by the black rings of death and becoming Black Lanterns. Hal Jordan, the best of the Green Lanterns, must find a way to stop the war and unite his fellow Lanterns against the Black Lanterns. Not only are the Lanterns in danger of being snuffed out – the whole universe is, too.

Holy crap! IT’S SO GOOD!!! I shouldn’t be surprised, because Geoff Johns penned it, but still!!! The action! The pace! The high stakes! It’s everything you want a superhero story to be, and then some. The writing assumes you’ve read past stories, and I feel like the story skipped between issues. From what I understand, the whole arc was told throughout multiple heroes’ books at the same time. The issues within are all sequential, so the skipping feeling makes sense. However, this collection has cover pages with recaps and more context between each issue, which is really helpful.

The art is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The coloring, of course, is stellar. So many Lantern colors and constructs playing off each other – eye candy! I think the layouts of all the panels are cinematic, with many wide shots of epic Lantern battles and close-ups of characters, highlighting tension. The figures are solidly drawn, in many dynamic and creative posts. I’m happy to report little to no gratuitous shots of Star Sapphire, Indigo-1, or any other heroines.

The only part I don’t like? That I didn’t read this sooner!!! I will be finding and devouring the rest of this arc.

– Kathleen

Johns, Geoff, and Doug Mahnke. Blackest Night: Green Lantern. 2010.

DC Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash

Sorry for the delay from my usual Monday post, but I’ve been sick! And since this is a pretty hefty book, I needed to take some bed rest for the extra time required to finish it ;D

Barry Allen is finally on the road back to happiness. He wakes up the morning of his wedding to Fiona Webb, at last feeling like he can put the past behind him for good. However, just as he’s getting into his tux, one of the Guardians of Oa appears to him. His arch nemesis, the Reverse Flash, has escaped from the galactic prison that Barry sealed him in. Rage takes over Barry – the last time they dueled, it ended in the murder of Barry’s first wife, Iris West. Reverse Flash is determined to make history repeat itself by killing Fiona as well. Warning the Guardians to stay out of his fight, Barry takes off to stop the Reverse Flash, leaving his family, friends, and his bride-to-be at the altar.

At the end of their struggle, the Reverse Flash is dead. Fiona, hurt and humiliated from being left at the altar, and shocked at how close she came to death, suffers a mental breakdown. To the general public, Barry Allen is missing, but to those who know him best, he has gone into hiding in plain sight as the Flash. Barry himself is reeling from the events of that fateful day. Half of Central City maintains that the Reverse Flash’s death was an accident, but the other half paints the Flash as a murderer. Barry is not sure himself whether he meant to kill his rival or not. His fate rests in the hands of twelve jurors. Is the Flash a murderer? Should he be held accountable for his actions, just like any other man? Or do his heroic feats earn him a “get out of jail free” card?

This run was originally published over several years in the mid 1980’s, and the writing reflects the best of both the Silver Age and the more modern storylines. There is great time spent on Barry’s inner struggle, and the struggle of the public at large, to reconcile the heroic ideal and the very human tendency to protect those we love at any cost. But, there are also wacky subplots and moments that only older comics can provide. The thing I love best about older comics like these is, they don’t take themselves too seriously, even though the subject matter may hardly be a laughing matter.

There is much more to the story than the bare bones I have laid above, with many subplots featuring Flash’s rogues gallery, his lawyer, and the Justice League, that all fit together magnificently in the end, in ways you wouldn’t expect. After finishing it, I am simply awestruck at the creative energy that went into a story several years in the making. This is easily up for my best 2018 reads list.

My only nitpick with this volume was, while the art was great, the DC Showcase volume it’s contained in only printed it in black and white. I was disappointed at first, but got used to it as I read. It did become hard to distinguish some characters from one another, especially the Rogues Gallery who, apart from Captain Cold (with his signature fluffy hood), seem to all be wearing the same thing. I’m sure their costumes are colored differently from one another, but it was all lost here.

I haven’t read much Flash, but this is obviously a definitive story for the character. Enough backstory is explained to where I would give it to a new Flash fan; there are also enough recognizable characters to a fan of the show who hasn’t yet started the comics. For those who may be daunted by the length – don’t be. Devouring this one in bite-sized chunks over several days made me forget I was sick for a little while 😉

– Kathleen

Bates, Cary, Carmine Infantino, et al. DC Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash. 2011.

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 3): Summer of Lies

Batgirl and Nightwing get the same tip, for the same spot, at the same time. Which can only mean one thing: it’s a trap! Two girls, identical to someone from their shared past, attack them before jumping off the roof. Someone has brought this Dynamic Duo back together for what can only be one reason: revenge. Batgirl and Robin once worked a case together, way back in their early days of crime-fighting. It involved the Mad Hatter, a new kind of drug, Barbara’s new friend Ainsley, and the growing chemistry between Batgirl and Robin. They’re going to have to reflect back on that summer – on all the painful memories – if they’re going to have a chance at uncovering who’s behind this newest scheme.

I do love me some Nightwing with my Batgirl ;D The plot unfolds in ways you don’t expect and keeps you on your toes as much as our heroes are. The emotional investment that Barbara has in this case is palpable – just as in the flashbacks, we’re shown that it’s difficult for her to keep Barbara and Batgirl separate. The feels stakes are pretty high here. A nice artistic touch was the sepia tone that was overlaid on the flashbacks – infused with a little more golden light that perfectly recalls looking back on summers past.

Before the main story, there are two one-shots. The first is about Batgirl’s investigation of a ghost in the local Y’s pool. The second, and infinitely more adorable, is about the disappearance of internet celebrity pets – and how Batgirl finds herself teamed up with Catwoman, of all people, to recover them! Eagerly looking forward to more~

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Chris Wildgoose, Jose Marzan Jr., and Mat Lopes. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 3): Summer of Lies. 2018.

Green Arrow (Return, Vol. 4): Straight Shooter

The Elevast Corporation wants to build a mega tourist center to bring a little life back to Star City. Trouble is, they want to evict residents of a neighborhood called Lamb Valley to do so. Lamb Valley is filled with construction workers that Elevast helped immigrate from Zimbabwe to build the project. Understandably, a lot of them are angry. Green Arrow has to chase them away from the construction sites they once worked on, but are now bent on destroying. By day, Ollie funds the lawsuit against Elevast, led by Joanna Pierce. The niece of Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning, has an appropriately electric personality that Ollie finds himself drawn to. But things are finally patched up with Dinah… he can’t throw that away. Besides, those Elevast construction sites are now overrun with ogre-like creatures. Ollie’s love life is just going to have to go on the back burner.

Either it had been so long since I picked up this series that I’d forgotten, or the last volume wasn’t as bad, but this volume was more violent than I’d remembered this run being. There was also a women in refrigerators plot point, which I’ve had enough of in my Green Arrow – see my post about Arrow Season 4. There is, however, plenty of emotional turmoil to go with your action in this run. Winick, as Meltzer did before him in Volumes 1-3, does a good job of balancing Ollie’s inner conflicts with the outside wars and drawing parallels between them. A side I haven’t seen a lot of yet reading GA comics is Ollie’s corporate fighting side, which was fun. Personally, I keep coming back for Hester and Parks’ art, because I’m finding the writing falling back on disappointing tropes.

– Kathleen

Winick, Judd, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks. Green Arrow (Return, Vol. 4): Straight Shooter. 2004.

The Flash (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Lightning Strikes Twice

Barry Allen became the Flash when he was struck by lightning and gained access to the Speedforce. For a long time, he was the only one. But now, all over Central City, a whole bunch of citizens have been struck by lightning and have gained the same powers Barry has. Some, like Barry’s friend August Heart, love their newfound abilities; others are scared and want to go back to a normal life. Dr. Meena Dhawan, a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, has been inviting those who’ve been affected to train with her, to learn to control their abilities. The Speedforce granted her the ability to sense the Speedforce in others. Together, Barry, August, and Meena are helping the new speedsters and protecting them from a new threat. A speedster called Godspeed is targeting these new recruits and stealing their speed. Barry feels responsible, but he’s not alone anymore and thus doesn’t have to shoulder the burden on his own. When the identity of Godspeed is revealed, he thinks it may just be better to go it alone…

This one had a lot packed in it. The first issue had to do a lot with the Batman/The Flash: The Button (2017), which I hadn’t read, so I felt a little lost. I’ve heard it’s good, so I’ll have to pick it up =P After that, it dropped off, and the story picks up by itself. There was a lot going on in the story here, but everything ties together nicely. By the end I wanted to go back and see what I’d missed! The art is serviceable. The figures are very angular, every edge and corner sharp. It works great in the action scenes with all the lightning, but just looks plain odd in slower scenes. This is one of the better Rebirth titles I’ve picked up, and will be reading more!

– Kathleen

Williamson, Joshua, Carmine di Giandomenico, and Ivan Plascencia. The Flash (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Lightning Strikes Twice. 2017.

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose

Black Widow is a spy – lies and secrets are her trade. She’s been accepted into the Avengers and they trust her, despite her past. Someone from the old days is haunting Natasha, leaving her black roses and ribbons, and exposing one of her most well-guarded secrets. That trust her friends and fellow heroes have for her may not hold up so well. Furious and determined to get to the bottom of it, Natasha sets out to expose whoever is behind it. ‘Tasha couldn’t care less if she gets hurt – but they’re going after her friends, and they’re going to pay for that.

I’m not one for spy stories or movies  (unless it’s Archer) but I enjoyed this story well enough. I like Marjorie Liu’s other graphic novel work, and that’s what prompted me to pick up this Black Widow comic. As a first-timer, I was a little confused as to the lineup change of one of the Avengers, but I eventually figured it out. Other than that, it was easy to follow, but I might have to seek out a different title for first-timers who may only be familiar with the movies.

The art is deceptively simple: mostly figures with very little background, detail, or other exposition. I believe this was done purposely so the reader focuses on all the action – which, of course, as a spy story, never lets up from page 1. It made for a surprisingly uncluttered look and reading experience and I appreciated it immensely. Some graphic novels written at a fast pace like this one also try to pack as much detail as possible into the art, which can make a book overwhelming. The creators of this one scaled back a little on the art to showcase the writing more, which in my opinion was an excellent design choice.

Sorry this one’s a little late – was having too much fun over PoGo Fest weekend and I’m trying to catch up ;D

– Kathleen

Liu, Marjorie, and Daniel Acuña. Black Widow: The Name of the Rose. 2010.

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