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Graphic Novels

Marv Wolfman - Deathstroke the Terminator: Vol.1 - Assassins

"Deathstroke is one of the most dangerous and beguiling characters to come out of the DC universe "

Synopsis:
While carrying secret cargo on a train in Stuttgart, Adeline Wilson and her team are ambushed by someone who obviously knows her… and knows her infamous ex-husband, Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke. Despite her obvious hatred for her ex – and the little fact that she tried to kill him, Adeline failed but at least she got an eye, Slade goes to be with her. As he leaves his African home he is also attacked, bombs levelling his home. Now, Slade is determined to seek out whoever has chosen to attack his manor – and he is hell-bent on finding answers.

Review:
Superheroes and villains are created on a daily basis. Many re-appear over the decades while others disappear quickly, never to be seen again. Once in a blue moon a character comes along who takes your breath away. Someone who clears the decks and is left standing with no contenders to even touch them. Such a character is Deathstroke.

When I first encountered this guy way back in the day with issue no.2 of The New Teen Titans, I, and many like-minded comic fans, could tell we'd be hearing a lot more from this guy. I think it was because he was a mercenary, someone who didn't fight for good or evil - but fought for money. His ambiguity and unpredictability were extremely intriguing. With his haunted past, Deathstroke was a man of mystery. He was an enigma, a puzzle to try and fathom. This man has more layers than an onion!

Over thirty years later, we are still fascinated by this creation from his new comic series to his appearances in 'Arrow', Deathstroke still endures. No one can hold a candle to him. This first collection is from his original series which debuted in 1990. Written by Marv Wolfman, (who in my eyes can do no wrong), Deathstroke takes time out from battling the Teen Titans. This volume includes TT no.70 and Deathstroke 1-9. The last four issues form the 'City of Assassins' storyline and features Batman. This has to be one of the best alliances ever as they are both strong men with a broken past.

Marv Wolfman created Deathstroke with George Perez (both men deserve a sainthood imho) and continues Deathstroke's fractured storyline with his ex-wife, Aveline and manservant, Wintergreen, which adds to these stories. Art is by Steve Erwin who perfectly depicts this character. I love the fact that Wolfman and Erwin have fun here. Does anybody fancy staying at the 'Hotel Aparo'? This volume has the matt effect paper and is not glossy, which perfectly embodies the stories contained herein. Can you imagine Deathstroke all glossy? Not really. Deathstroke is one of the most dangerous and beguiling characters to come out of the DC universe and this is a must-read for any DC fan, young or old.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jon Morris - The League of Regrettable Heroes

"This is one I will read and re-read – and I am sure you will do the same with this enchanting book."

Synopsis:
Covering the early days of superheroes from the Golden Age of comics to 1997, not every hero has been memorable. Morris goes back in time to find the heroes that have been forgotten, some for obvious reasons (Doctor Hormone, anyone?) and some which were downright bizarre (Nightmare and Sleepy I think take the crown). Others included here are Fatman, Pat Parker – War Nurse, Pow-Girl and Brain Boy who for some unfathomable reason have become lost in the mist of time. Here, Morris gives them one last shout.

Review:
This is one of those wonderful books you can either read from cover to cover, or as I prefer, dip in and out of. It was particularly fascinating to see how comics have evolved over the last seventy-odd years. The artwork back then was very basic with its set panels, in comparison to today's buff heroes. Although Morris gives a tongue-in-cheek commentary, it isn't off-putting nor does it deride the creative talents of the time. In a way it simply asks in some cases, 'what on earth were they thinking?'!! You do wonder yourself while reading this marvellous look back at the bizarre and the weird.

There is Fantomah who looks like a typical dolly bird of the 40's who transforms in to a wrathful skeletal being. I never knew there was another Captain Marvel who only had to cry out 'Split!' for his limbs to detach themselves from his torso! Or how about magical Mother Hubbard who debuted fighting the Nazis! And lastly, Madam Fatal from 1940 which was comics first cross-dressing hero! Included is also Funnyman from Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. This one was not to be as memorable as the big S and only lasted six issues.

I was intrigued to see the origin of some who have been reinvented decade after decade, e.g. Congorilla, Kid Eternity, Doll Man, who eventually joined The Freedom Fighters, B'wana Beast, (who appeared in Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold), Dial H for Hero, The Red Bee (whose niece took up the mantle and also joined The Freedom Fighters). Some here I collected as a kid including The Human Fly, The 3D Man (from Marvel Premiere), The Scarecrow (later renamed, The Straw Man for obvious reasons) was one of my favourite bizarre characters, but was again to have a short shelf life. And does anyone remember The New Guardians? Well, I collected the twelve issues back in the late eighties! It was a big thrill to see AAU Shuperstar who featured in the comic strip/advert in many of the DC Comics I collected as a kid. That really was a pleasant blast from the past! The one I really liked the sound of was Just 'n' Right who sadly only had the one issue!

I could go on with others you may know who you may not feel should be under the title of 'regrettable' – such as Brother Voodoo, Man-Wolf, R.O.M., The Son of Satan and Captain Victory by the king himself, Jack Kirby – although even as a huge fan of the man, I understand not all his output was on a par with the Fourth World series. Some you can understand. Skate Man – really? This is a fascinating and wondrous journey through yesteryear. This is one I will read and re-read – and I am sure you will do the same with this enchanting book. You may even find a couple of characters here you might want to explore. To my recollection there are a lot more out there who have been forgotten, so I do hope Morris is already compiling volume two! Enjoy.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Ostrander - Suicide Squad: Vol.2 - The Nightshade Odyssey

"...an edgy read and shows the beginnings of the kind of comics we are all enjoying today."

Synopsis:
This rag-tag band is expendable – well, that's what Amanda Waller keeps yelling at them. She doesn't care who gets back home – or who doesn't, as long as the job gets done. Here our 'heroes', for want of a better word, take on drug lords, Manhunters, the Russians and travel to another dimension where Nightshade's mother originated from. Also included here is Nightshade's origin from Secret Origins no.28 and the Doom Patrol/Suicide Squad Special. As always, some will return from the mission while others won't.

Review:
This second volume of the original Suicide Squad series from 1988 appears to be settling down and finding its niche. The first volume was enjoyable, but felt as though the creators couldn't decide in which direction the comic was going. Here, there feels more cohesion with the team (especially the main players: Flag, Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and Nightshade) and it is interesting to see different characters, even if they are on the periphery of the story. Back then DC was investigating and exploring bold new ways and darker parts of humanity, which was why they brought in their 'Mature Readers' label for some titles. Suicide Squad wasn't one of those under the warning, but it did delve in to some deep stories which were to come along later. Here, the strongest of the stories is 'Blood and Snow', which deals with the cocaine industry and Colombian gangsters.

The collection starts with issue no.9, which is here purely for completists. Unless you know the Millennium storyline which floated across many DC titles back then, it may confuse you a little. The Batman appears in several issues, determined to bring down Waller and her Suicide Squad. To Batman, her squad is unethical and extreme. This sparring between Batman and Waller was to go on for several years, even in the Justice League cartoon series. It all ends with 'The Nightshade Odyssey' which is alluded to throughout this collection. However, by the time we get there you feel the sense that despite so much promise the plotline feels a little rushed. The saving grace is the squad find Shade, the Changing Man whose series was horribly cut short when DC nearly went bust in the 70's. He was to become a great addition to this team. In all, this series is still a bit patchy but is still an edgy read and shows the beginnings of the kind of comics we are all enjoying today.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Marguerite Bennett and Andy Smith - Earth 2: Collision - Volume 6

"...a standout series for many DC fans... I don't feel we'll see it's like for many years, if not decades."

Synopsis:
The Apokolips invasion has started. Jumping out from the fire pits are the Four Furies – and that is only the beginning of the siege. Our Earth 2 heroes battle to save their planet from the insidious grip of Darkseid and his evil minions. The heroes of the day managed to defeat the hordes five years ago – will these new heroes be able to defeat Darkseid a second time?

Review:
This is the last collection of the 'Earth 2' series. At the end of this book it says the story continues in Earth 2: World's End (Vol.1), but it isn't as simple as that. I feel you need to have started reading 'World's End' and then intertwine the two together or the origins of the Four Furies and Avatars, which are in this book, won't make much sense. This is not a criticism, purely an observation, a 'head's up' if you like. I have done nothing but get excited about this series - so now it is wrapped up making way for the new Earth 2 Society. Having enjoyed this series so much I am from that group of 'If it ain't broke... don't fix it', but DC obviously felt they wanted to move things to a different level, so I will have to see what form this series takes and where DC takes it. 'Earth 2' has been a standout series for many DC fans, myself included, and I don't feel we'll see it's like for many years, if not decades. A brilliant series that leads on to the hugely epic 'World's End'.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Eddy Barrows and Marguerite Bennet - Earth 2: World's End - Volume 1

"...of an exceptionally high standard and breath-taking. "

Synopsis:
This issue collects nos. 1 – 11 of the weekly series that spotlights the darker, alternate world version of the DC Universe. You never know who will live and who will die in these stories taking place in an alternate version of the DC Universe, where Superman is the world's greatest villain and heroes like the aged Batman, the god-like Flash, and others must fight for their very lives to save the world from the clutches of the maniac, Darkseid.

Review:
I have mentioned in my review of 'Earth 2' Vol.6 that both need to be read in tandem to make sense of the Four Furies from the fire pits and Earth's new avatars. Then it is on to the epic invasion of Apokolips which is astounding. With this maxi-series, DC was able to introduce other characters such as Dick Grayson who here is a journalist, and I LOVE the new Ted Grant! Wildcat has always been my favourite of the Earth 2 heroes and I was disappointed he wasn't included in the new line-up, but I feel that with his inclusion here some reparation has been made. As with all 'Earth 2' art, this is of an exceptionally high standard and breath-taking. The saga is not concluded here but I am sure you will order volume 2 immediately. A must-have for any comic fan.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Marguerite Bennett and Eddy Barrows - Earth 2: World's End - Volume 2

"...an amazing end to a phenomenal series."

Synopsis:
Collecting issues 12 – 26, this second volume chronicles the end times come for the Wonders of Earth 2! Racing against time to find out what really happened to Superman, the new heroes of Earth 2 find themselves deep beneath the earth in the clutches of Desaad and his twisted creations. Meanwhile the Avatars of all different realms come to the aid of Green Lantern to fend off the Furies of Apokolips but will their combined might be enough to defeat them? The line between friend and foe is extraordinarily thin in a series that will leave you breathless!

Review:
Well! I have finally managed to catch my breath after finishing this title, which is amazing. I had read the 'Convergence' hbk before starting this one so I had an inkling of what happens at the end of 'World's End', so for any of you out there - read this first before reading the main 'Convergence' book. All our Earth 2 favourites are literally fighting to save their planet. I admit I have always had a fascination for Jack Kirby's Fourth World series with The New Gods and Apokolips which has always sparked my imagination. Kirby was a God in his own right within the world of comics and here I feel DC have kept Kirby's dream alive. Darkseid is such an enigmatic character as the epitome of pure evil - he has the same insane charisma as The Joker. I think that is why I have loved the Earth 2 series so much. It has not only breathed new life in Earth 2, but in Apokolips as well. Darkseid has reached a new level of evil - and the future does not bode well when you read Darkseid's last words. This is a warlord who would not be content if he ruled the Universe or had total control over The Source. Despite ruling everything, Darkseid would still want more... and that is why he makes such an exciting embodiment of evil within the DC multiverse. I'd have loved to have been sitting on Kirby's shoulder when he created Darkseid. What Kirby's dreams must have been like to create such amazing worlds featuring The New Gods and The Eternals… but I digress. This is an amazing end to a phenomenal series. It will be interesting to see how DC continues the momentum with 'Earth 2 Society', but for the meantime enjoy this lavish epic. I just hope Ted Grant survived as I'd love to see a new Wildcat (and I don't mean the Yolanda Montez version!).

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Paul Levitz - The Bronze Age of DC Comics

"...a treat for many a comic fan and will keep them, like I was, quiet for many hours."

Synopsis:
Ex-President of DC Comics (2002-2009) celebrates the 'Bronze Age' of DC Comics covering the 1970's through the early 80's. Each section is organised by the artist, some of whom have their name sacredly carved in stone within comic culture. Some included are Jim Aparo, Jack Kirby, Marv Wolfman and George Perez (these guys' careers are so intertwined), Neal Adams and a plethora of others right up to Alan Moore in the 80's. This book is filled with memorabilia and masses of artwork including memorable covers and panels – all beautifully reproduced here.

Review:
This book was like a gateway to my childhood. I was immediately transported back in time as I hungrily turned page after page. Covering great titles such as 'The New Teen Titans', a flagging title rebooted by the astonishingly talented Perez and Wolfman to 'The Darkness Saga' which was the high point of another so-so title, 'The Legion of Super-Heroes' who were pitted against the mighty Darkseid. These are only two points, but there is so much more within the huge covers of this amazing book.

Taschen are renowned for producing oversized books of distinction and have certainly done the artwork enclosed here, justice. Some pages are given over to one image of a famous cover of the period, which brings them startlingly to life. There were some covers I had forgotten about which was akin to finding long lost buried treasure! This is a wonderfully luxurious book that should find its way under many a Christmas tree for the coming festive season. This will be a treat for many comic fans and will keep them, like I was, quiet for hours. The wonderful thing is that this is the type of book you can go back to time and again and find something new. I cannot be excited enough about this book. All I will say is buy it! 'The Bronze Age of DC Comics' by Paul Levitz should grace the library of any comic fan.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons - Aquaman: Maelstron - Vol.6

"...one of the best series to come out of the New 52!"

Synopsis:
Arthur Curry was brought up on land by his father. His mother was Atlantean and was called back to her homeland to rule. With her death, Arthur took his rightful place on the throne as the firstborn of Queen Atlanna, but the seaquakes are getting worse and Aquaman's decriers are adamant that Arthur is not the rightful heir, a usurper who should not be on the throne. The longer he maintains his right as their Monarch, the more assured his detractors are that Atlantis will perish and all its inhabitants will die.
So Arthur sets out on a quest to confirm his royal lineage, to show his subjects that he is the true son of Atlanna, but then he makes a shocking discovery within the bedrock of Atlantis – a new discovery that will lead Arthur and Mera to undiscovered lands.

Review:
I am loving the new Aquaman. As a kid, Aquaman was so Z-list! Even with the great Jim Aparo at the helm, any series was short-lived. With this new series the King of Atlantis is going from strength to strength. With Atlantis rocked by seaquakes, Arthur investigates his lineage only to discover a portal that will take him to different lands. This is a direct homage to the film, 'Stargate' as the portal is activated with certain panels and symbols. This is the strongest part of this collection. The previous storyline introduces 'Chimera', a creature that is laboratory made and can control the sea-life, making them attack Aquaman. This part I felt was slightly weak, whereas the 'Maelstrom' storyline is extremely intriguing. What I love about this series is that Aquaman's wife, Mera now has 'chops'. For so long she was a weak (and in some cases, irritating) character who was more of an albatross than a strong foundation for Arthur. Here, we have Mera the warrior who is not afraid of battle and her ability to manipulate the water makes for astounding artwork. It is always difficult when writers and artists change over during a strong series, but in my eyes, this is just as assured as the beginning when we were introduced to 'The Trench'. Long may this series continue. I hope that Arthur and Mera have many more trials to face during this series which is one of the best series to come out of the New 52!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Sven Hassel and Jordy Diago - Wheels of Terror

"...Diago really made this feel as though watching an old wartime news reel. "

Synopsis:
Sven Hassel and his comrades from the 27th (Penal) Panzer Regiment fight on – but not for Germany, nor for its leader, Hitler. All they want is to see then end of the war alive. As they struggle through wave after wave of firepower from tanks and airplanes, and as they continue to deal with the mass deaths of civilians and soldiers, this motley crew stumble from crisis to crisis – some of it of their own making…

Review:
'Wheels of Terror' is adapted from Sven Hassel's novel of the same name which was first published in 1958. I have never read any of Hassel's novels, so I was coming to this graphic novel with fresh eyes. As the author was himself in the 27th Panzer Regiment, I am guessing that these novels may have been embellished memories of the author. Or maybe the wounds of war were still painful circa 1958, that they were classified as novels rather than memoirs. To be honest, I didn't feel there was a specific strand to the plot and these were instances of a troop of soldiers who felt that they were caught up fighting someone else's war.

With regards to Jordy Diago's artwork, it very much brings the time of the 1940's into startling clarity. Using splashes of colour amongst other black and white frames, Diago really made this feel as though watching an old wartime news reel. There is a sepia tinge to his artwork and it really sets the tone and mood for this piece. Although I felt the story didn't quite hold my attention, the artwork sings off the page and really brought home the futility of war. This is the sort of book they should have in schools so nobody forgets the terrible scale of WW2.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

George Perez - Wonder Woman Omnibus

"This omnibus is truly a feast for the eyes."

Synopsis:
Diana, Princess of the Amazons rises from the ashes of Infinite Crisis. Born on Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyte, the Amazons continue their penance on their hidden island, guarding a dark secret. The Gods have been silent for thousands of years, but the Gods are known to be capricious and there are some, notably Ares, God of War who does not care for the Amazons and wants nothing more than to eradicate them. And so, a champion must be found and it is Diana, given gifts by the Gods themselves at birth, who must venture in to Man's world. But there are dangers in the new world as well as back home on Themyscira and not all of those threats are mortal.

Review:
This omnibus brings together the first twenty-four issues and no.1 annual of the series conceived by George Perez which premiered in 1987. Perez's artwork is always astounding and panoramic. His art breathed new life in to a character that had become stale and one-dimensional. Here, Perez takes Diana back to her roots and hands her back her Greek history; Greek Gods, Amazons and all. With Len Wein and Greg Potter helping with Perez's storylines, Diana faces threats from the darkest depths of Greek mythology. This omnibus is truly a feast for the eyes. Even if you are not a hardened Wonder Woman fan, you have to get this omnibus purely to gorge on the breath-taking art and epic story. This series brought to the fore who Wonder Woman was and where she came from. Buy it – you won't regret this purchase.

Click here to read my piece on Wonder Woman and her Greek Heritage.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

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