ANIMAL MAN by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog (cover by Brian Bolland, all rights with current holder) collects the first nine issues of the series, which turned animal-powered Buddy Baker from a third stringer into a steady seller. This has many neat details such as the way the Baker family treats Buddy’s crime-fighting as just Dad’s eccentric hobby, and oddball stories such as his encounter with the over-the-hill super-villain Red Mask (on the right). On the downside, Morrison’s efforts at an animal rights message are hideously clunky: to show hunting is bad, he makes the hunters in an early issue not only sadists but rapists. Overall, a winner.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: Forever Heroes by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis is one of the best in their run on the title as a depowered, newly human Cyborg rebuilds himself then seeks out the Metal Men to help him take down the Crime Syndicate’s AI member, the Grid (who helped the villains kick JLA butt in the previous collection). Johns does a great job handling the Metal Men (Silver Age robot super-heroes), but making the Crime Syndicate members all the same kind of sadistic psycho makes their personalities interchangeable.
BATMAN: Dark Knight, Dark City is a collection of Bat-stories by Vertigo writer Peter Milligan. The best of thesewere readable, no more, the worst were … bad (an entire story is explained by someone’s pretentiously surreal hallucination).
XMEN: Original Sin by various creators was the X-team’s tie in to the Original Sin big event in which various characters’ dark secrets are dredged up and brought to light. In this case, in the course of Wolverine’s battle against the Hellfire Club and his own son Dakken, we learn that a)Wolverine wanted to get onto the team so that he could kill Professor X for his secret master Romulus; b)Xavier took him, erasing some of Wolverine’s mental reprogramming and false memories and at the same time putting a hypnotic compulsion in Logan’s head to join the X-Men (“I need a weapon.”). Not only do I not by premise B, the last thing the mutant books need is yet more playing around in Logan’s head (they’ve been revealing mindwipes and false memories since what, the late eighties?) or another shadowy manipulator in the Apocalypse/Sinister mode.
TEEN TITANS: Ravager — Fresh Hell by Sean McKeever, David Hine and Yildiray Cinar is pretty by the numbers, following one of the more brutal Titans members, Ravager, as she deals with her outlaw father and takes on a criminal conspiracy while worrying whether the TItans will ever accept her. Ravager is just too stock a character to really hold my attention.
BALTIMORE: The Curse Bells by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden and Ben Stenbeck is a vast improvement on the first volume, giving more of the weirdness I expect from Mignola, including undead nuns, a crazy WW I German veteran with a plan for world conquest and the resurrection of occultist Helena Blavatsky as a four-foot midget. It’s been close to four years since I read the first one—I anticipate a much faster approach to Book Three.
SPIDER MAN: Election Day by Marc Guggenheim and various artists has Spider-Man coping with the super-villain Menace and accusations Spidey’s secretly the “Spider Tracer Murderer” as New York prepares for the next mayoral election (I believe this is the one that put J. Jonah Jameson into that office). There’s also a separate story in which Spidey saves Barack Obama from the Chameleon and Vice-President Biden reveals his expertise in Knight Rider trivia. Not Spidey’s best, but entertaining.
BPRD HELL ON EARTH: The Devil’s Wings by Mike Mignola and several collaborators is a fun collection of stories in which opening a cold case gets Kate possessed, Johann witnesses a kaijin battle and in the best tale we get a man-on-the-street perspective on what’s been going on. This will go in the Hellboy Chronology as soon as I sit down and review the overall placement of stories since the Hell on Earth cycle began (as I’ve mentioned I’m not entirely satisfied with my work yet).