Blog Archives

#CBR6 Review #20: Dial H, Vol. 2

Dial H 2Target: China Miéville’s Dial H, Vol. 2: Exchange. Art by Alberto Ponticelli, David Lapham and Dan Green.  Collecting issues #7-15 and Justice League issue #23.3

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy

After Action Report:

When last we left Dial H, Miéville was busy adding weird fiction and horror tropes to a little known corner of the DC Universe.  The events of the last volume have raised the stakes and opened the door to a multiverse of possibilities.  Unfortunately, while Dial H was an incredible critical success, its sales numbers left something to be desired and DC ended the run at issue 16.  True to form, Miéville seems to treat the cancelation as a challenge and crashes through two storylines to bring readers a climax worthy of this creative adventure, and a thoughtful coda that hints that we might not have seen the last of the Dialers.

Issue #7 picks up a few weeks after Nelson’s fight with the villain Ex Nihlio and her pet Abyss.  In light of the new threat of the Shadow on the Line, Nelson and his new partner Roxie, set off to uncover more secrets of the dials.  But their leisurely globetrotting quickly turns scary as they catch the eye of a Canadian super-agent who knows more about what they are than they do.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #21 – Birds of Prey Volume 2

Birds of PreyTarget: Duane Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey: Your Kiss Might Kill.  Art by Jesus Saiz and Travel Foreman.  Collecting Issues #8-12 and Issue #0 of Birds of Prey (N52)

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction

After Action Report:

DC’s release dates for its mass-market collections are stupid.  Between the hardcover special releases and some bizarre need to spread releases out, it’s been eight months since I reviewed Volume 1 and fourteen months since the first issue in Volume 2, issue #8, was printed.  This obviously isn’t a problem for people who are just collecting the issues, but DC seems pretty intent on screwing its MMP base, particularly those of us who are fans of Batwoman.  Now, part of this delay is because I’m STILL enormously behind on the reviews, but, much like the U.S. government, I refuse to let facts get in the way of a good rant.

I really enjoyed the first collection of the new Birds of Prey, so it is with mixed feelings that I report that Volume 2 leaves much to be desired.  Between the jerky plot jumps and the ill-conceived Poison Ivy arc, the issues in this volume never really get down to business.  Some of this is due to the Night of Owls and Issue #0 ‘crossover’ events, which derail the existing plot lines in really jarring ways.  But even the two arcs that belong to the Birds feel clunky and don’t have the same storytelling hook present in Swierczynski’s first arc.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #19 – Dial H, Vol.1

Dial H Vol 1Target: China Miéville’s Dial H, Vol.1: Into You.  Art by Mateus Santolouco and David Lapham. Collecting issues #1-6 and #0

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy

After Action Report:

Like many of China Miéville’s novels, Dial H tries to alter the way readers look at its genres.  It uses the tropes of superheroics to tell an entirely different kind of story with a lot of style and unique take on the world of DC Comics.  It is a quintessentially Miéville story, where the rules have to be learned, or re-learned at the very least.  And in spite of all that, it stays true to the comic book canon and is a huge breath of fresh air in a space that has been stagnant for a while.

I am a huge fan of Miéville’s ability to turn the boundaries of genre into creative playgrounds and Dial H doesn’t disappoint in this respect.  It is a brilliantly rendered series that taps into the ‘weird’ space that DC has been attempting to capitalize on in their ‘New 52’ reboot.  It isn’t as grand in scope or story as some of the great graphic novels, like Sandman, but it bridges the gap between a superhero story and a ‘larger’ adventure.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #17 – Secrets of the Fire Sea

Secrets of the Fire SeaTarget: Stephen Hunt’s Secrets of the Fire Sea (Jackelian #4)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery

After Action Report:

The fourth book in Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series is a marked improvement on the third, but doesn’t quite recapture the energy or creativity of the first.  However, the actual narrative line of Secrets of the Fire Sea is surprisingly clean and easy to follow, a vast improvement over Hunt’s pervious stories.

If you haven’t been following my various Cannonball blogs, Secrets of the Fire Sea takes place in Hunt’s steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi setting that started with The Court of the Air. And it is honestly one of the best steampunk settings out there, and continues to be wonderfully creative sometimes even surprising.  I would go so far as to say that the setting is the reason these books are worth reading, as the stories tend to be retreads of obvious tropes and are only interesting because of the set pieces that make up the world.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #5 – Batwoman Volume 1

Batwoman 1Target: J.H. Williams, III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman: Hydrology.  Collecting issues 0-5 of Batwoman (N52)

Profile: Comics, Mystery

Summary: From the back cover, “Gotham City is drowning.
They call her La Llorona.  ‘The Weeping Woman.’ A spectral presence that drowns her own sorrow by destroying the lives of others, dragging innocent children to a watery grave… or to an even worse fate.  The hero called Batwoman is no stranger to sorrow herself.  Estranged from the father who was once her partner in crime fighting, she blames him for the death of her mad sister in Gotham Harbor – but she blames herself most of all.
Now, she has a new partner, her cousin Flamebird.  Together they’re on the hunt for La Llorona, the children she’s abducted, and the shadowy forces behind it all.  But the hunters are hunted as well: Everyone from government agents to Gotham cops want to clip Batwoman’s wings.”

After Action Report:

If I had to point to a single comic that drew me to start exploring the DC universe, it would probably be Green Lantern: Rebirth.  There’s just something about power rings and anyone who grew up watching Captain Planet.  But Batwoman: Elegy is what got me really hooked.  I picked up the collected Elegy back in 2010 and when DC announced that Batwoman would be returning in the New 52, I started getting excited about the relaunch event and DC in general.  Hydrology doesn’t disappoint, picking up where Elegy left off and expanding on the personal experiences of this exceptional heroine.

Before I get any further, I need to put my cards on the table.  There is a phenomenal amount that I do not know or understand about DC’s continuity.  I’ve done a bit of due diligence this year to write these New 52 reviews, but, as I am perhaps overly fond of saying, I know just enough to get me in real trouble.  To make things worse, the New 52 universe reboot was only partial, so as many things have changed as not.  It’s a bit of a mess.  This is all by way of saying if I make a significant error in summarizing the books or their background material, I apologize.

Batwoman was one of the series that was not reset, so the events of Elegy are still canonical, and really are essential to understanding the unfolding plot of Hydrology.  I cannot recommend enough picking up Elegy if you get the chance, but to keep things simple and self-contained, I’ll do a quick summary here.  Spoilers to follow:

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#CBR5 Maneuver #1 – Birds of Prey Volume 1

Birds of Prey Trouble in MindTarget: Duane Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey: Trouble in Mind.  Art by Jesus Saiz.  Collecting Issues 1-7 of Birds of Prey (N52)

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction

Summary: From the Back Cover, “One is wanted for a murder.  The other is on the run for knowing too much.  Together Black Canary and Starling work in Gotham City, taking down the villains other heroes can’t touch.  But now, as a grizzled newspaper reporter threatens to expose them, the tow get sucked into a nightmare involving stolen pharmaceuticals, terrorists for hire and killers in stealth suits who can appear – and disappear – at will.

Realizing that Gotham City’s citizens are in grave danger, Black Canary recruits Katana, a vengeful samurai, and the notorious bioterrorist Poison Ivy.  Will the Birds of Prey be able to work together to save Gotham?”

After Action Report:

I came to (American) comics relatively late in life, and entirely because of Joss Whedon.  I started collecting the Buffy Season 8 trade paperbacks in college, but couldn’t really get excited about trying to break into the enormous continuity clusterfuck of ether DC Comics or Marvel’s main universe. I would read a few stray issues here or there if an author I liked was guesting, but that was about it.  When DC decided to do a partial reboot of their continuity it seemed like a good opportunity to start seriously exploring comics.  That lasted all of three weeks, but now that the first trade paperbacks from the reboot are coming out, I decided to take another stab at it.

Birds of Prey is an interesting series that walks in the shadows of some of DC’s biggest names, but has managed to stand on its own as both a concept, and as a storyline.  The original concept was the pairing of a paralyzed former Batgirl, now called Oracle, and the impulsive Black Canary taking on organized crime in the city of Gotham.  The team grew over the years, but at the core of the series was the conflict between the headstrong Black Canary and the cautious and organized Oracle.  The reboot undid Oracle’s paralysis, and made Black Canary the team leader in charge of a new batch of unknowns, including the mentally unstable Katana and the former bio-terrorist Poison Ivy.

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LAB Notes #3 – Scrapped Princess

Target: Scrapped Princess
Studio: BONES
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Notable Themes: Mystery, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
Episodes: 24
Fanservice Level: Average

Reasons to Watch:
A mysterious story that transcends genre
Broad appeal without sacrificing substance

Reasons to Not:
Main characters are somewhat one dimensional

Similar to: Turn-A Gundam, Last Exile, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Review:
It kind of baffles me that Scrapped Princess doesn’t get mentioned more often.  The series is a nearly perfect example of how anime can tell interesting stories that would do well on U.S. television.  It has action, mystery, comedy, drama, cool concepts, and solid characters.  Combine that with the above average production values and decent dubbing and I just don’t understand why this wasn’t picked up by some U.S. network during the anime boom in the late Nineties and early ‘Aughts.  Regardless, Scrapped Princess is one of those rare series that has something for everyone and doesn’t really compromise to get it all packed in.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #22 – Phoenix Rising

Target: Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris’ Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)

Profile: Steampunk, Mystery

Summary: From goodreads.com, “Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #19 – Mindstar Rising

Target: Peter F. Hamilton’s Mindstar Rising (The Mandel Files #1)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery

Summary: From Goodreads.com, “Greg Mandel, late of the Mindstar Battalion, has been many things in his life. Commando. Freedom fighter. Assassin. Now he’s a freelance operative with a very special edge: telepathy.

In the high-tech, hard-edged world of computer crime, zero-gravity smuggling, and artificial intelligence, Greg Mandel is the man to call when things get rough. But when an elusive saboteur plagues a powerful organization known as Event Horizon, Mandel must cut his way through a maze of corporate intrigue and startling new scientific discoveries.

And nothing less than the future is at stake.”

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