Batman: The Killing Joke — The Deluxe Edition
Alan Moore, Brian Bolland
$21.99/$17.99 US (Hardcover)
***** (out of five)
The Killing Joke is one of the most perfect Batman comics ever published.
Really. Ask anybody. Except for its artist.
This stand-alone story, originally published in 1988, beautifully interwove a flashback tale that revealed the origin of the Joker with his current villainous plan to drive one of the noblest men in Gotham City — police commissioner Jim Gordon — insane.
Written by comic book icon Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta) and breathtaking illustrated by gifted cover artist Brian Bolland (Camelot 3000), The Killing Joke is utterly chilling in its depiction of the Clown Price of Crime and how one horrible day turned him from a soon-to-be dad and husband into a psychotic killer.
Of course as good as all this sounds, nothing is ever perfect.
Bolland, due to time constraints back in ’88, couldn’t do the colouring himself on the book, resulting in a finished product he was never that happy with.
Now, with this book said to be one of the main inspirations for the pending summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight, starring Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, Bolland’s original vision — one far more suited to the material — has finally been delivered in a deluxe hardcover edition befitting this all-time classic.
DMZ Vol. 4: Friendly Fire
Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli, Nathan Fox, Viktor Kalvachev, Kristian Donaldson
$15.99/$12.99 US (Paperback)
**** (out of five)
The United States of America lost a war on Day 204 and now someone is going to swing for it.
The young-but-increasingly bitter Matty Roth, the only journalist living and working in the DMZ that used to be New York City after the second American civil war, is about to get the story of a lifetime. He gets to interview the lone soldier charged after 198 peace protesters were gunned down on Day 204 of the conflict in what was either a provoked attack or a colossal mistake — depending on who you ask.
Digging deeper, Matty follows up with the families of the victims and others living in the DMZ to discover the lasting effects this massacre had — how it lost the war for America based solely on perception — and he learns that no matter whether the soldier is found guilty of innocent, that old wounds bleed deeply.
Writer Brian Wood, along with regular artist Riccardo Burchielli and guest artists Nathan Fox, Viktor Kalvachev and Kristian Donaldson, continues to deliver a series that always seems far too grounded in reality to be comfortable — one of the most gripping and relevant comics published today.
Justice League International Vol. 1
Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Al Gordon
$29.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover)
**** 1/2 (out of five)
Rule No. 1 in writing a major, mainstream DC Comics title: Batman isn’t funny.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t surround him with a bunch of quip-throwing heroes and make him the straight man.
That’s pretty much the formula followed by the writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis back in 1987 when, along with artists Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin and Al Gordon and editor Andy Helfer, they reinvigorated the Justice League.
Instead of a collection of the world’s greatest heroes dedicated to stopping evil and only talking business, these heroes (granted not necessarily the world’s greatest, either) tended to view the Justice League as more of a superhero club, where they could be themselves (for better or worse) and, oh, also stop evil whenever it reared its ugly head.
The result was an instant classic.
From Captain Marvel’s naïveté to Guy Gardner’s boorishness to Blue Beetle’s wise cracking, the book blended humour and action better than any book before or since.
This new hardcover collection of the first seven issues of the series — which sees the transition from mere superhero team to UN-sanctioned international peacekeeping force — breaks rule No. 1 and a lot more to boot and the result is quite simply extraordinary.
Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes: The Quest For Cosmic Boy
Tony Bedard, Dennis Calero
$16.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
*** 1/2 (out of five)
They say all good things must end, so Supergirl couldn’t stay in the 30th century forever.
In the wake of the epic Dominator War, which ended when Legion leader Cosmic Boy banished the Dominators and their entire world to the mysterious Phantom Zone, the galaxy’s greatest super-team is faced with looming threats on all sides.
First, Cosmic Boy is missing (he accepted an invitation to join the Legion of the 41st century without telling anyone). Second, Cosmic Boy is being investigated for war crimes for “destroying” the Dominator’s homeworld.
Three Legion strike teams are off to different parts of the galaxy in search of “Cos” and instead they find danger, trouble and chaos in large amounts. Oh, and they just might have found a way to get Supergirl home to the 21st century.
Writer Tony Bedard ties up a lot of loose ends in a nice bow in this latest Legion adventure.
DC Universe #0
Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, George Perez, Doug Mahnke, Tony Daniel, Ivan Reis, Aaron Lopresti, Philip Tan, Ed Benes, Carlos Pacheco, J.G. Jones
**** (out of five)
Something big and probably bad is about to happen in the DC Comics universe.
How can you tell?
There’s a really inexpensive and compelling new teaser issue written and drawn by some of the company’s best on the stands and it looks like the (Barry Allen) Flash is back.
Every DC Comics fan knows the much-anticipated summer blockbuster miniseries, Final Crisis, begins in just a few weeks, but there’s so very much more to get excited about — as we learn by reading DC Universe #0.
In addition to FC, we’re going to see writer Geoff Johns (Infinite Crisis) and artist George Perez (Crisis On Infinite Earths) team up for Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds; Grant Morrison (JLA), in addition to penning FC, will team with artist Tony Daniel (Teen Titans) on Batman: R.I.P.; Wonder Woman will find herself with some man trouble thanks to writer Gail Simone (Birds Of Prey) and artist Aaron Lopresti (Incredible Hulk) in Whom The Gods Forsake; Johns and Ivan Reis (Superman) continue to build Green Lantern’s momentum towards the Blackest Night; and Greg Rucka (Checkmate) and Philip Tan (Spawn: Godslayer) tackle the Spectre in Final Crisis: Revelations.
But what was that about the Flash, you ask?
While Barry’s never actually depicted in DCU #0, the story concludes with a trademark lightning bolt across a white moon (the Flash’s logo) and it appears the Silver Age Flash — who died saving the universe in the 1986 classic Crisis On Infinite Earths — will have a key role to play in the Final Crisis.
All in all it looks to be one hot summer for DC Comics.
Noble Causes #32
Jay Faerber, Yildiray Cinar
**** (our of five)
The Noble family was the world’s best and brightest: True heroes.
Then it all came crashing down.
It’s been five years since Gaia Noble, the family matriarch, confessed to committing crimes to help her celebrity family remain popular and in the public eye. Now a new Noble family defends the world against the forces of evil — one still led by super-scientist Doc Noble, but with his new wife Olympia and step-kids, Surge and Minutiae, along with Doc’s kids Rusty, Zephyr and Frost and Zeph’s husband, Slate Blackthorn.
But this new-look team still faces the same old problems and the first one they face could just be their last as a nasty new foe infiltrates the family.
Creator Jay Faerber reboots comics’ best soap-opera/action title, alongside new artist Yildiray Cinar, and sets the stage for an exciting new era for the Nobles.
Screamland #1, 2 (of 5)
Harold Sipe, Héctor Casanova
**** (our of five)
Ever get tired of the good guys always getting the best of the monsters?
So does Frank.
Of course, he’s not going to let that stand in the way of the fat paycheque he’s been promised to appear in Hollywood’s latest monster-slayer epic alongside all his old friends: the Count, the Mummy and the Wolfman.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Frank is short for Frankenstein’s Monster, long past his terrifying beast days and now just trying to make ends meet.
Screamland, from the minds of writer Harold Sipe and artist Héctor Casanova, is a wonderfully biting satire along with a melancholy remembrance of a lost era all in one great package.
Pigeons From Hell #1 (of 4)
Joe R. Lansdale, Nathan Fox, Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics
*** 1/2 (our of five)
The title alone makes you want to pick it up and read it: Pigeons From Hell.
Master storyteller Robert E. Howard (Conan) posthumously first brought the world the idea of these evil rats with wings way back in 1938 as a short story in Weird Tales magazine.
Now, modern horror master Joe R. Lansdale (The Bottoms, Conan And The Songs Of The Dead) and artist Nathan Fox have brought this nasty tale — about a group of teens and their unfortunate adventures in a decrepit old southern plantation house full of evil — to comics.
Five teens will enter, but how many will survive?
Pigeons From Hell!
Hard to resist, isn’t it?
All We Ever Do Is Talk About Wood
Drawn & Quarterly
*** 1/2 (our of five)
Two beavers leaning against a stand of trees and a caption that reads: “All We Ever Do Is Talk About Wood.”
Such is the simple genius of the one-panel cartoons of Tom Horacek.
With a wonderfully black sense of humour, Horacek makes light of death, dating and day-to-day life in this quick-but-compelling little tome that will have you in stitches.