KC: Trades O' Plenty!

 height=(WoW JUL 08)

By KC Carlson

There's an exceptionally huge amount of great new comics collections being offered this month! Even more than I can blather about here! So I thought that this might be a great time to check out some of the more noteworthy collections. (Your mileage may vary.)

DC COMICS

 height=GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN is actually a bit of a misnomer title, as we're getting the origins of several characters and/or situations in this great storyline by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Building upon the material that Johns has previously introduced into his wonderful GL relaunch (and even including a bit here and there of what Darwyn Cooke established for Hal in DC: The New Frontier), Secret Origin is effectively the re-casting of several classic key elements in the Green Lantern saga into a strong singular narrative. Starting with fresh details into the Hal/Carol Ferris relationship, the story also provides new information about "Where's Carl Ferris?", new motivations for the mysterious death of Abin Sir and Sinestro's investigation into it, new background on Hal's training as a new GL which incorporates the new history of the GL Corps and Hal's relationships with key members, as well as new "origins" for long-time GL foes Hector Hammond and Black Hand. Hardcore continuity purists may quibble with the liberties that Johns is taking with the original material, but the care with which he incorporates the intent of the original stories and history is largely unmatched in current projects of this kind. I admire the work being done here in the overall "Hal Jordan Reclamation Project," something that has long been needed for one of comics' most enduring heroes. And Geoff Johns is the perfect Chief Architect.

 height=BAT LASH: GUNS AND ROSES features the return of DC's classic cult western hero in a storyline that could easily have been called the Origin of Bat Lash. It actually features elements of the original "origin" story from Bat Lash #6 (Sept. 1969), but all of the details have been changed, updated, and elaborated upon. Co-writer Sergio Aragones (Mad, Groo) amazingly worked on both tales, and along with Western novelist Peter Brandvold, the duo weave a tale of treachery, heroics, and more snaky owlhoots than your boots can contain. And the artwork by John Severin is beautiful beyond belief. A couple of minor quibbles: Because this story is set early in the life of Bat Lash, we don't get much of a chance to see the "lovable rogue" aspect of his character that was such a big part of the original series. Hopefully, this sold well enough for subsequent mini-series to elaborate more on this facet. And as much as I love John Severin's work here and wouldn't want to lose it, why was original Bat Lash artist Nick Cardy not asked to participate in this revival? (At least he's been called in to provide the cover to this collection.) And DC: Where's the collection (or Archive) of the original series? Don't leave that amazing work floundering in your vaults forever! For now, get Bat Lash: Guns And Roses and show DC you want more Bat Lash!

 height=ROBIN: VIOLENT TENDENCIES. Well, at least writer Chuck Dixon got to right two wrongs: He returned both Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) and Dr. Leslie Thompkins to the pages of the Bat-books. And he did a mighty good job of restoring their sullied reputations from one of the dumbest character decisions that DC had ever made. [Aside: I had the very odd experience of interviewing Denny O'Neil on stage at the Baltimore Comic Con the week after Spoiler was killed and Leslie (a character near and dear to Denny's heart) was made to blame for her death - something I was unaware of as I had not had a chance to read the book in which it happened. Denny was providing very long answers to my questions - I only got to ask four or five in the 50 minutes that was allotted - and the last one segued into talking about Leslie in a roundabout way and suddenly Denny - usually the calmest of beings - was in a rage. A controlled rage, to be sure, and I was fairly sure the audience wasn't picking up on it, but sitting next to him I could actually feel waves of anger pouring off of him - and I had no idea why! Unfortunately, we were out of time and I clumsily wrapped up the session without following up on it. Later, after reading the issue in question, I understood why, and I was angry as well. As well as feeling foolish for not being able to follow up on the moment.] Anyway, Chuck did a heroic deed here in bringing them back, and paid a price - he was removed from the book! (Could it be because he killed off a Dan Didio look-alike character earlier in the storyline? Probably not. But controversy is always good for book sales, no?)

 height=TEEN TITANS: ON THE CLOCK is the introductory storyline for the new Terror Titans team (soon to be seen in their own mini-series). The Terror Titans is an interesting concept in which apparently new characters take on the names (and occasionally the appearances) of several old DC characters (like the Clock King and Copperhead) who may or may not be in current DC Continuity any more. Does that make this The "Green" Team? (Sorry, bad recycling joke.) The story, by the hopefully stable TT creative team of Sean McKeever and Eddy Barrows, starts off well, with McKeever wisely pushing spotlight hogs Robin and Wonder Girl temporally aside to focus on the underutilized Kid Devil, Ravager, and Miss Martian. But I'm cringing a bit at the introduction of The Dark Side Club, an iffy concept of re-introducing the New Gods' Apokolips characters that seems a little bit force-fed to us readers of late. But if anyone can make it work, I'd place bets on McKeever. His work at Marvel (Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane) was amazing, but he hasn't quite broken out at DC yet. I'm just hoping that he and the very dynamic Barrows stick around for a while, as Teen Titans seems like it's been a book in transition since "One Year Later." This storyline is no exception with Supergirl leaving in the first chapter and another character apparently on the way out before the conclusion.

 height=SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SUPERGIRL VOL. 2 & SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SGT. ROCK VOL. 2: Who knows if we'll ever see another volume of the Archives Editions of either of these great DC titles, but if you were getting the Archives and want to continue reading these characters' classic Silver Age adventures, you need to pick up these Showcase volumes. The Supergirl volume reprints Action Comics #283-321 (the last Archives volume leaves off at Action #285) and Sgt. Rock reprints Our Army At War #118-148 (the last Archives volume leaves off at OAAW #125). Classic stuff all!

JLA/AVENGERS: Oddly enough, I was just a'hankerin' to re-read this epic crossover between Marvel and DC by Kurt 'n' George (and maybe the last one ever?). I can't believe that it took them this long to produce a popularly priced collection (or maybe I can, after all...). A must-read for fans of both Universes!

BATMAN: EGO AND OTHER TAILS: All Batman! All Darwyn Cooke! Finally in paperback at an economy price! (Although I can't believe that everyone hasn't already picked this up in hardcover!)

 height=MARVEL COMICS

DAREDEVIL: CRUEL AND UNUSUAL reunites the amazing writing team of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka (Gotham Knights) to plead the case of forgotten Luke Cage villain "Big" Ben Donovan. Turns out that Donovan is in prison, days away from execution for a horrific crime that he didn't commit. And he needs a good lawyer. Unfortunately, Matt Murdock is either crazed or wallowing in self-pity after having to commit his wife to psychiatric care, possibly for life. Plus, things look very bad for one of Matt's close allies. Featuring gorgeous art by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano. Collections are certainly the way to go on series like Daredevil - it doesn't even bother anymore to make a pretense that it's still a superhero comic, instead resembling a multifaceted illustrated crime noir novel. And by picking up the collections, you can avoid ads for Secret Agent Clank and Batman selling milk.

 height=MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS VOL. 7: WEIRDER AND WILDER DIGEST: I would think that when faced with the oddball line-up of heavy hitters (and seemingly non-compatible) characters that makes up the Marvel Adventures Avengers team (Captain America! Storm! Iron Man! The Hulk! Giant-Girl! Wolverine! Spider-Man! Ant-Man!) in this non-continuity, kid-friendly title, writer Jeff Parker must either throw up his hands in frustration... or just sit there at the keyboard and giggle a lot. My money's on the latter. Don't tell anybody, but this is secretly the most insanely subversive comic book that Marvel has published since Not Brand Ecch!, or when Fred Hembeck was allowed to roast, destroy, and sell the Marvel Universe. Where else can you see Galactus playing Texas Hold 'Em for the fate of the Universe? Where else can you see the Hulk watching TV on Arnim Zola's chest screen? Where else can you see the Avengers eating lunch in a cafeteria ("Good tots," says Wolverine). And I don't even want to talk about M.O.D.O.K.... Highly recommended for those who don't take their Marvel Comics too seriously (and you know who you are!).

 height=ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR VOL. 2: Deep within the bowels of this 616-page tome (what, they couldn't find 50 more pages to make it super-scary?), lurk the adventures of The Living Mummy, Brother Voodoo, Gabriel the Devil Hunter, the Golem, Modred the Mystic, and the Scarecrow! What, you've never heard of them? Well, they've all heard of you and they are all shambling over to your house to do bad things to your pets. Or laundry. Or Internet connection. Something... Pretty scary 'eh, kids!? And they're bringing their heavy-hitter storytellin' pals as well, including Steve Gerber, John Buscema, Len Wein, John Byrne, Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman, Tom Sutton, John Romita, Jr. and many, many others. Includes muck so deep that you'll never scrape all of it off your shoes (upsetting your mom... Score!).

AND LOTS MORE!

 height=CREEPY ARCHIVES VOL. 2: The early issues of Creepy were labors of love for everybody involved and remain among the very best comics ever produced. Ever since Dr. Wertham and the Comics Code plowed horror comics back into the swamps from which they first emerged, certain artist and writers were dying to tell more stories from the darker side of life. Publisher Bill Warren and legendary editor (and primary writer) Archie Goodwin provided a murky, dank hideaway for these once "forbidden" tales to once again ooze to the surface, and the twisted artwork of Alex Toth, Gray Morrow, Reed Crandall, John Severin, and others did not disappoint. Out of print for decades, these tales have only become more legendary by their absence. An excellent series for lovers of horror and great comics in general!

 height=HARVEY COMICS CLASSICS VOL. 5: THE HARVEY GIRLS: While a lot of the "Harvey Universe" revolved around characters with a fantasy/supernatural bent (Casper, Wendy, Spooky, Hot Stuff) there were also a few "normal" people around, most notably the three "Harvey Girls" - Little Audrey, Little Dot, and Little Lotta, although I'm not sure how "normal" a character obsessed with polka dots and the strongest little girl in the world actually are. Little Audrey has the most interesting history, appearing first in cartoons, including an early appearance in a 1948 Popeye cartoon. The early Audrey adventures were said to be "inspired" by the popular Little Lulu comics and cartoons, but nonsensical folklore tales of a Little Audrey character circulated as early as the 1930s. Eventually, by the mid-1950s, Audrey evolved into her own distinct character. Little Dot, on the other hand, appeared exclusively in the comics, and her regular title introduced both Richie Rich and Little Lotta as spin-off series.

The care with which these Dark Horse Harvey Comics collections are assembled is astounding in the attention to detail and production values. And they're just plain fun to read! Animation authority Jerry Beck provides historical "liner notes" to each volume and Leslie Cabarga's meticulous restoration and design are essential to each volume. Excellent story selections based on equal parts historical importance and that hard-to-define "Harvey"-essence means a great reading experience, whether you read them "back in the day" as a kid (like me) or are just discovering them for the first time.

 height=ROY ROGERS ARCHIVES: I'm not familiar with any of this material (collects Dell Four-Color Comic #38, 63, 86, 95 and 109) myself, but I do know plenty of folks out there who have been waiting for some collections of great Western material. (Hi, Beau!) I'm intrigued by seeing comics work by Tom and Charles McKimson, as I'm a fan of their animation work, including classic Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. And Dark Horse hasn't put out a bad Archive volume yet.

POPEYE VOLUME 3: "LET'S YOU AND HIM FIGHT!" It's hard to explain why Segar's Popeye comics are so good. Like Walt Kelly's Pogo, they just are. And like both strips, there's really nothing else like them. With this luxurious volume, Fantagraphics is halfway through Segar's run, offering up plenty of J. Wellington Wimpy, one of the greatest supporting characters ever. I can't wait to be invited over to Wimpy's house for one of his legendary duck dinners!

 height=HANK KETCHAM'S COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE (1959-1960) (VOL. 5): If all you know of Dennis the Menace is the current newspaper strip and the various movies and TV show, you really need to check out these great collections published by Fantagraphics. I was never a huge Dennis fan because, by the time I actually started paying attention to the comic strip, it had begun that long, slow decline of both artwork and content. But when I saw the first volume of this series, with its outstanding linework and panel design by Ketcham (as well as the killer jokes), I was hooked. And I haven't been disappointed with each subsequent volume. The jokes are scream-ably funny and the situations have not dated a bit. And I love the super-thick little square format!

AND COMING SOON TO AN ORDER FORM NEAR YOU!

Last January, I recommended the Patsy Walker: Hellcat series by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen running in Marvel Comics Presents and lamented that, because it was so short, it would probably never be collected. Well, since then you've all seen the debut of the Patsy Walker: Hellcat mini-series [no longer drawn by the very busy Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Spider-Man), but now more-than-ably illustrated by David Lafuente Garcia]. Well, the existence of this new mini pretty much guarantees a collection upon completion (including the MCP stories, I am told) and that you should be on the lookout for it in just a few months. Yippers!

Another must-have collection on its way very soon is Todd and Craig's Perhapanauts! (That's Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau, if you don't know). It's the funniest, rip-roaring-est, most moving comic held together with two staples! Todd sez: "It will be on the next order form and so on sale in November. It collects issues #1-5 (the entire Triangle storyline) as well as the sold-out Annual, variant covers, etc. Great Christmas gift for family and friends! Order two today! Ahhh... Next Month!"

Betcha can't wait to get your new Worlds of Westfield catalog in the mail!

KC CARLSON types funny.

Got comments or questions about this column? You can contact KC at AuntieKC@WestfieldComics.com

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