Its just Jim and Mike this week talking comics, the give you their thoughts on the first Aquaman book in the New 52 ‘The Trench’, then Jim shares his thoughts on the Brian Michael Bendis run on Superman and Action Comics, Mike talks about the Greg Rucka Wonder Woman run and we find out whats next on our read list!!
Its that time of the year where everything takes a dark turn for it is Halloween! So we have put together a Halloween special for you featuring some of the best creepy comics and scariest tv characters and the best part is it’s all 3 of us together Jim, Mike and Rob so come have some spooky fun with us!
The early 2000s saw a majority of the DC’s major characters go through a creative renaissance, a rebirth, if you will. This happened to coincide with the second time in my life that I gave up comic books. One did not cause the other. In fact, I’m now trying to track down a lot of material some twenty years after the fact. You see, in the early 2000s, university demanded much of my time and money. Comic books were the first luxury to go.
As a result, I’m reading a lot of new material for the first time, two decades on. This was stuff I would have loved to enjoy when it first came out, but better late than never. This list looks at some of the best from this decade. Don’t expect the likes of All-Star Superman or Batman: Hush on this list. You know me; I like to dig a bit deeper with Curated.
Batgirl: Year One
I adore the concept of Batgirl. I adore Barbara Gordon in any identity, but the majority of Batgirl stories at this time, were ones that had already been published in the Silver Age. Few modern Batgirl storylines exists prior to the New52 reboot, yet when DC published a Batgirl story during these decades, they truly rewarded the reader for their patience. Batgirl: Year One is the benchmark for future writers.
Collects: Batgirl: Year One 1-9
Batman: New Gotham Volume One
Batman was experiencing big event fatigue by the end of the 1990s. Or at least he should have been just as exhausted as his fanbase that just experienced a decade that opened with a new Robin, continued into the Knightfall Trilogy, a plague, an earthquake, being declared a no man’s land that included a year of near anarchy in a city that already doesn’t really understand the concepts of law and/or order to begin with. And this all happened within 2-3 years of Bruce’s life, according to then published timelines.
The Batman franchise as a result took a slightly slower pace at the turn of the millennia. Greg Rucka was put in charge of Detective Comics, and with a highly stylized new look by Shawn Martinbrough gave us stories that largely eschewed the psychopaths in favour of more personal, intimate stories; more police procedural, more crime boss and gangs, less guest stars from a certain asylum. This ranks as one of my favourite Batman collections.
Collects: Detective Comics (Vol. 1) 742-753
Green Arrow by Kevin Smith
Green Arrow is a niche character, and one that is often considered a carbon copy of Batman. While some of these criticisms may have been true in the Golden and Silver Age of comics, there’s a very different Oliver Queen that ran around in the 1970s to 2010s. There have been many memorable runs for this character, but for me, the respect and reverence that Kevin Smith shows makes this a modern classic.
Contains: Green Arrow (Vol. 3) 1-15
Robin: Year One
Yes, I have raved about this book already. Yes, it is already on the Curated: Dick Grayson by Chuck Dixon list, and no I don’t care. I’m going to recommend it again. And I recommend it, because it dovetails beautifully with the Batgirl: Year One collection, but you’re going to just have to find out for yourselves!
Contains: Robin: Year One 1-4
Superman: The City of Tomorrow Volume One
If you haven’t noticed a pattern by now, DC franchises entered a period of either going back to basics as with Batgirl and others on this list, or did a soft reboot button as with Batman or Green Arrow. Superman, much like Batman, fell into both camps convenient, with an infusion of new talent such as Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, Ed McGuinness, Mark Schultz and more. As a result, we got big action Superman but with some of the strongest characterizations not seen in some time. It appears DC is eager to get this material back into stores after a long period of being out of print. This first collection is well worth spending an afternoon over.
Contains: Action Comics (Vol 1.) 760-763, Adventures of Superman (Vol. 1) 573-576, Superman (Vol. 2) 151-154, Superman: Man of Steel (Vol. 1) 95-98 & Superman: Y2K
Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka Book One
Diana of Themyscira can be a difficult character for me to invest in. Don’t get me wrong; she is a brilliant character, but I have found few creative teams that have made me really lover her narrative. John Byrne mostly succeeded at this with his run, as did Phil Jimenez. George Perez was just okay to me, and sadly Messner-Loebs run was by my estimation… a hot mess. As a long time fan of Rucka both in comics and in his novels, I had high hopes for this run. If anyone would understand her and write her, strangely a man like Greg Rucka could.
This collection has conflict, edginess, and doses of great humour in the right places. A new role for Diana gives us brilliant new dimensions to her character. Not just a hardcore feminist icon anymore, politics have become more varied and more nuanced in the modern age. This is the first book of a run that would define an already iconic character.
Contains: Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) 195-205 & Wonder Woman: Hiketeia
As children of the 1980s, many of us likely became fans either through the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, or perhaps Michael Keaton’s Batman. Those were the days when there was not a dozen comic book related movies hitting theatres each year. For many of us, comic book reading started in the early 1990s. Superman was killed, Batman had his back broken and Marvel was doing some equally big things over in their sandbox with Spider-Man and the X-Men.
Personal nostalgia is rooted in the 1990s, specifically in DC Comics during the 1990s. Yes, it was definitely not the write time for any of us to be entering the comic book fandom. This was the decade that saw some epic highs and lows. This decade is perhaps the most derided, criticized and lambasted decades of comic book history. It also was the best of times, too.
This was the decade that gave us a mega crossover once a year, yearly themed annuals and its fair share of great storylines. There were great concepts and some ideas that really were just too bonkers to only work in comics. Everyone who reads comics are familiar with Batman: The Long Halloween, The Sandman and Animal Man. Those are entrenched in our psyche because they really are that good. They belong on other lists. Instead, let’s look at five overlooked/underrated storylines of the 1990s definitely worth your time.
Superman: The Trial of Superman
This is about to receive a reissue with a new collection out by the end of this year. In terms of Superman storylines, this is one of the more inventive and cohesive storylines of the decade. While the premise does stretch credibility a little, but this is comics and that requires a certain suspension of disbelief in order to work in the first place. Once you get past it, you’ll see this storyline has a considerably meatier plot than “The Death of Superman”, is just as action packed and features many of the same characters as the more famous storyline.
Flash by Mark Waid Book Four
Mark Waid’s run on Flash during the 1990s is a cornerstone of the successes that the comic book company had during that decade. Waid wrote some incredible things in the 1990s, but nothing quite like his run on The Flash. DC has been collecting this run, and book four, which contains the “Terminal Velocity” story is perhaps one of the best Flash stories of the modern era, and a pinnacle of Waid’s run. Most writers after writing the same character for forty issues would be ready to throw in the towel and move onto other projects… with Flash, Mark Waid was just getting started.
“Contagion”, and its follow-up “Legacy”, are often overlooked because they happen… right between two year long mega storylines we know as the “Knightfall Trilogy” and “No Man’s Land”. As a result, these two, particularly “Contagion”, do not nearly get the praise that they deserve. For two relatively self contained storylines (two to three months vice year long), each have their merits, but “Contagion” is the one you definitely want to track down. Warning: if you are looking for a storyline that showcases a plethora of Batman’s rogues gallery, this is not the collection or recommendation for you.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
Being a Green Lantern fan in the 1990s meant reading issues starring Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. Many ignore this decade of stories for a lot of reasons. The stories are not always great, or even average, and the fandom was toxic towards the creators to the point that it has left a dark stain on the books ever since.
There are bright moments in this run. Ron Marz and Darryl Banks really did do their best to work with editorial edicts and a fanbase that were unwilling to give anything a chance after Marz was forced to make Hal Jordan go insane (see: editorial edicts). The first couple years of Kyle Rayner are really up and down in quality (Green Lantern (Vol. 3) 50-69), but the series gets its legs by the time time issue 75 hits the stands and continues on that way for a few years. Of these stories, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is the highlight. Kyle Rayner teams up with Hal Jordan, and it’s a seven issue arc that brilliant feels like a passing of the torch between the two characters. The fandom would not accept the torch passing, but this book is still very much worth a read, and perhaps the most under the radar Green Lantern stories out there.
JLA: Rock of Ages
Rounding out this list a Grant Morrison storyline from this critically acclaimed run on JLA. While many would now criticize this storyline as reading like a proto-Final Crisis, this tells the story in a more contained and enjoyable way. It’s six issues that pack a lot of action and wonderment into its materials. Others would argue that “New World Order” order is better, but that feels more like a movie experience, whereas “Rock of Ages” feels more epic, if you can excuse the hyperbole. Extra kudos also should go to Morrison who had to write this particular storyline at a time when Superman was electric and Wonder Woman was dead. Oh, the 90s….