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Gorilla Warfare[FLASH V03 GORILLA WARFARE][Hardcover]
Gorilla Warfare[FLASH V03 GORILLA WARFARE][Hardcover]
by FrancisManapul
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Gorilla my dreams, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #13-19 of the New 52’s ‘The Flash’ comic is collected as The Flash Volume 3: Gorilla Warfare TP (The New 52). As with the previous volumes, there is an excellent mix of main story and ongoing sub-plots throughout the volume. There are two main stories; the first, a five-parter is “Gorilla Warfare”, which sees Gorilla Grodd and his army invade Central City in search of the Flash and the speed force. The Flash and the Rogues have to work together to rescue the threatened citizens, the gorilla from Barry’s childhood experience turns out to be an old friend, Iris and her companions lost in the speed-force find their way home, and the Trickster makes the mistake of trying to shake hands with Gorilla Grodd. The second, a two-part story involves the Trickster, who has been framed for a robbery-murder, the side effects of the speed-force on the people who were lost there, and the Outlanders, who have come to recue the Trickster from prison. This sees fluctuations in the speed-force, which is traced back to some of the people who were lost there manifesting speed-related abilities – all except Iris. Those old enough to remember the pre-Crisis Flash will remember where Iris’s family came from; I wonder if this is related… We also see Barry Trapped in prison armory without his speed abilities when the Outlanders attack – and nothing but the Rogue’s old weapons to fight back with.

This is an excellent Flash volume, with, as I said above, an excellent mixture of main story, sub-plot and character development. Even the artwork has improved over previous volumes, or else the story is so good that I have stopped noticing its defects. Apart from one – the little gold capsules that we see in the first issue turn out in the fifth issue to be really big capsules that contain the Gorillas. Something went awry with the perspective somewhere in that opening issue.

THE SPOILER ZONE
For a detailed breakdown of the individual issues collected in this volume, see The Flash Volume 3: Gorilla Warfare TP (The New 52).


Marvel Rarities Volume 1[MARVEL MASTERWORKS MARVEL -V01][Hardcover]
Marvel Rarities Volume 1[MARVEL MASTERWORKS MARVEL -V01][Hardcover]
by StanLee
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Mighty Marvel Grab-Bag of Goodies, 20 Dec 2014
This volume reprints three ‘minor’ comic book series from the 1960s and 1970s, which take up 271 pages of comics, along with 58 ages of extras, which include a short unpublished Starhawk origin story by Roy Thomas and Dan Adkins, reprint edition covers and unused pages of artwork relating to the stories in this volume, as well as articles from FOOM magazine, and every in-house advertisement you can remember from the 1960s, along with the original art for T-shirt designs and badges, Marvel stationery – including the fabled No-Prize; basically everything that got into print back in the day that still exists. This really is a Marvel Rarities volume.

The stories reprinted are –
Pages #1-25:
Dr. Droom (later known as Doctor Druid, for obvious reasons)
Amazing Adventures #1-6, July-October 1961.

Pages #26-156:
The Watcher
Tales of Suspense #49-58, January - October 1964
Silver Surfer #1-7, August 1968 - August 1969
Marvel Super Heroes #23, November 1969.

Pages #158-271:
Dr. Doom
Marvel Super-Heroes #20, May 1969
Astonishing Tales #1-8, August 1970 – October 1971

The writers involved are Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway; the artists include Jack Kirby, Larry Leiber, Gene Colan, Wallace Wood, and six others; the inkers and letterers are basically everybody and their brother (Lee/Leiber joke there) from the 1960s.

Dr. Droom is a forerunner of Doctor Strange, though with more aliens than interdimensional demons, as befits Jack Kirby’s work at the time.

The Watcher’s series is basically him narrating a series of mystery stories, the sort of things which were slowly being replaced in the regular Marvel titles by superhero series as the 1960s progressed.

Dr. Doom’s series opens with an epic story that looks into his background and his dealings with Diablo. The Amazing Adventures run was his first solo series, and it begins with Wally Wood as artist at the height of his “THUNDER Agents” style.

If you are an enthusiast for the early days of Marvel Comics, then you will not be disappointed by the contents of this volume – artwork by Kirby, Wood and Colan, and stories by Stan Lee and the other stalwarts of the House of Ideas.


The Punisher Volume 1( Black and White)[PUNISHER V01 V][Paperback]
The Punisher Volume 1( Black and White)[PUNISHER V01 V][Paperback]
by NathanEdmondson
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars “Everyone isn’t afraid of the Avengers”, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #1-6 of the latest Punisher series is collected as The Punisher Volume 1: Black and White. This is the latest relaunch of the Punisher title, and it is a sort of back to basics but with a Hollywood budget. Frank is up to his usual tricks, working his way through the Dos Soles drug cartel, but discovering that they have been testing a bio-weapon for some nefarious purpose, and they have contacts with AIM and taken delivery of something unpleasant. There is also a black-ops team calling themselves the Howling Commandos – though why a super-secret black-ops team with some Hollywood-budget technology would want a fancy name when they are supposed to be super-secret will no-doubt be revealed in due course. We see a couple of their operations as the story progresses, to establish who they are and what they get up to, before they are sent out to hunt for Frank, which leads us to wonder who they are working for, as by this time rank has uncovered a plot to do serious harm to Los Angeles, where he is currently based. Among the sub-plots/supporting cast, we get to meet his latest weapons-supplier, a US Army quartermaster, we see Frank get friendly with a female police officer at his regular diner, and he acquires a pet after it gets caught up in one of his firefights.

If you are a regular Punisher reader, then you will find a lot of the ‘usual’ stuff here, but done excellently well. It is well-scripted and excellently-illustrated – though a lot of the high-tech special effects for night-vision and sniper-scopes and the like I find hard to follow myself. The story is interesting, and there are any number of dangling plot-threads taking us into the next volume, for this is only half the story, so be warned. There are also references to past adventures, especially as the hired heavy supplied by AIM is carrying a grudge from that time that Frank blew up the supervillain bar a few years back (and no, it’s not the Stilt-Man).

THE SPOILER ZONE
For a detailed breakdown of the individual issues collected in this volume, see The Punisher Volume 1: Black and White.


Justice League of America Vol. 2( Survivors of Evil (the New 52))[JLA JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMER VOL][Hardcover]
Justice League of America Vol. 2( Survivors of Evil (the New 52))[JLA JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMER VOL][Hardcover]
by MattKindt
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Meanwhile, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #8-14 of DC Comics’ New 52 Justice League of America is collected as Justice League of America Volume 2: Survivors of Evil HC (The New 52) (Justice League (DC Comics)). The story collected here tells you what the Justice League and JLA were up to during the events happening in Forever Evil HC (The New 52). I would recommend reading this volume before reading Forever Evil, as that contains a major spoiler for this story. Actually, to be precise, the first six issues tell that story; the final issue is the mopping up afterwards, and setting up the future direction of the JLA, as the Government is no longer going to sponsor it.

The Good News is that this volume contains excellent scripting and superb artwork, on a par with the previous volumes of the Justice League and JLA. The bad news is a bit of a spoiler, so be warned.

MINOR SPOILER ZONE
After the end of Justice League Trinity War HC (The New 52) (Justice League (DC Comics)), and at the beginning of ‘Forever Evil’, the majority of the members of the Justice League and the JLA have vanished. During the course of ‘Forever Evil’, their whereabouts are discovered, and by the end, they have been recovered. This story – “Survivors of Evil” – is set during their disappearance, but if you have read ‘Forever Evil’, then you will see that the two stories have certain elements that disagree with each other, and these may allow you to guess the outcome of this one. To be honest, I guessed the likely outcome on the last page of issue #8, and having read “Forever Evil” just confirmed my guess as the story progressed. However, the good news is that it is all irrelevant, as the real story is about Stargirl, and the rising and advancing of her spirit, so that by the end she is a fully-fledged superhero and is ready to organise and lead a new JLA.

BACK TO THE STORY
The Martian Manhunter from Mars and Stargirl wake up in a strange environment, where they are joined by half of Firestorm, who tells them that they are on the outer shell of a prison containing the Justice Leagues, and that he has found the corridors running between the cells. He leads the Manhunter down into prison, while Stargirl remains above as a telepathic ‘beacon’ for J’onn to navigate by. The first couple of issues involve meeting the various prisoners in the cells, which have created a virtual world where they are trapped by their greatest fears, Wonder Woman, Flash, Superman, Green Lantern Simon Baz, Aquaman, for example, or in Shazam’s case, a world where Billy Batson can play with his powers without any consequences. By the end of issue two, Stargirl has found a way out and back to Earth, but when she pulls the Manhunter out with her, he ends up as a disembodied mind linked to hers. As they make their way across the USA, heading to Stargirl’s home in LA, they begin to track the prison, which is being transported to use as a bomb by the evil now in charge of the world. As they pursue the vessel carrying the prison, they have to fight supervillains in the employ of the Crime Syndicate, and Despero, who is in charge of the prison. During the course of this story, Stargirl experiences flashbacks to her ‘origin story’, and J’onn has to coach her through her fears and hangups, until she is finally ready to confront Despero and rescue the imprisoned Leagues.

The final issue is set after the end of ‘Forever Evil’, where a debrief is taking place between Steve Trevor and Stargirl, in the ruins of ARGUS, as they discuss (and we see) what has subsequently happened to the League members – though a couple of them have not reappeared - and meanwhile Green Arrow is busy trying to recruit his own JLA. At the end, Stargirl and the Manhunter fly off to recruit the new and independent JLA…

THE REAL SPOILER ZONE
Basically, the first six issues of this volume have nothing to do with “Forever Evil”, as such, though the prison is real, and the heroes are really imprisoned in it, and all the Firestorm stuff is also ‘real’; but you need to read ‘Forever Evil’ for the full story regarding all that.

The JLA ended with the finale of ‘Trinity War’, and issue #14 is the ‘goodbye’ issue, as we discover the fallout of the events. The main story is really about Stargirl, supervised by the Martian Manhunter, as she is developed into a fully-fledges superhero.

It is still an excellent story, with superb artwork and scripting; it is just not the Justice League of America, as such.


Justice League Dark Vol. 1( In the Dark (the New 52))[JLA V JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK VO][Paperback]
Justice League Dark Vol. 1( In the Dark (the New 52))[JLA V JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK VO][Paperback]
by PeterMilligan
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The League of Substitute Heroes, 20 Dec 2014
The stories running through issues #1-6 of the ‘New 52’ Justice League Dark, comprising of a five-part story in which Madame Xanadu gets the old gang together again, and a ‘flash-forward’ story setting up the next big mystical threat, are collected as Justice League Dark Volume 1: In the Dark TP (Justice League (DC Comics) (paperback)). This is written by Peter Milligan, and his old Vertigo character of Shade the Changing Man is a main character in this as-yet non-team, as a disparate band of mystical characters slowly get drawn together by the mystical goings-on as the Enchantress goes mad and unleashes mystical chaos across the land, which cannot be stopped by the big guns of the Justice League, who are not very good at the mystical stuff. Eventually, the various characters end up together facing the Enchantress, and somehow something happens to fix her. I’ve read it twice and I’m still not clear, and neither are the team, as they accuse Madame Xanadu of causing it all in order to get them together to face another mystical threat that she has detected. This mystical stuff is all very confusing. Anyway, they all storm off, only to return in the final issue to argue some more and throw a few punches at each other in true team-up tradition, before the giant nightmare monster bursts in and they all end up being a team -
Constantine: “We don’t actually have to like each other, do we?”
Xanadu: “No John. That won’t be necessary.”
Then we get the dire warning that will lead us into the next story-line…

I’m afraid you’ll have to make your own mind up about this one.

SPOLER ZONE

For a detailed description of the individual issues, see Justice League Dark Volume 1: In the Dark TP (Justice League (DC Comics) (paperback)).


The Death of Magic[JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK V03 DEATH][Paperback]
The Death of Magic[JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK V03 DEATH][Paperback]
by JeffLemire
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars “Someone’s stolen the House of Mystery”, 20 Dec 2014
The stories running through issues #14-21 of the ‘New 52’ Justice League Dark are collected as Justice League Dark Volume 3: The Death of Magic TP (The New 52). There are two main stories collected here, with a bridging issue from the previous collection/storyline leading off, as two people are missing from the previous adventure involving the Books of Magic (which I haven’t read), and various newcomers from ARGUS are milling about trying to help; along with the Phantom Stranger who pops in to warn of an impending major war – which will be a big crossover event with all the Justice Leagues, collected as Justice League Trinity War HC (The New 52).

However, the stories collected here are very entertaining, with excellent scripting and high-definition artwork. The writer manages to provide excellent characterisation and interaction for the cast, something they didn’t always get as ‘guest artists’ in other people’s series.

THE SPOILER ZONE

For detailed descriptions of the individual issues, see Justice League Dark Volume 3: The Death of Magic TP (The New 52).


Justice League Dark Vol. 4( The Rebirth of Evil (the New 52))[JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK V JUSTIC][Paperback]
Justice League Dark Vol. 4( The Rebirth of Evil (the New 52))[JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK V JUSTIC][Paperback]
by JeffLemire
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars All you need is love, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #22-29 of the New 52 ‘Justice League Dark’ is collected as Justice League Dark Volume 4: The Rebirth of Evil TP (The New 52). It might seem strange to give 5 stars to a volume that contains two episodes of Justice League Trinity War HC (The New 52) (Justice League (DC Comics)), and several unconnected episodes of Forever Evil: Blight TP (The New 52), but you can just about follow the story, and it really is very good, and the artwork is spectacular. Issues #24-29 form part of the Blight crossover, which also runs through four issues each of Constantine, Pandora and the Phantom Stranger, so you only have one third of the story here. I have only read this volume and the Constantine volume, and I have to say that it is a really spectacular story, and is not just a big running a round and fighting story, though there is plenty of that sort of stuff. There is genuine character development for John Constantine and Zatanna, and I am expecting the same for some of the other players. There are actually two major stories in Blight (and that is ignoring the Trinity War issues); the Blight itself is a sort of distillation of humanity’s evil from the collective unconscious, triggered by the Crime Syndicate’s crossing over from their dimension; and when that is dealt with, there is the matter of the Syndicate’s kidnapping of Earth’s magic-based characters to use against another force that is following them from their world, and which laid that waste, forcing them to come to ours for sanctuary. The two stories together make up an incredibly spectacular adventure, ending in big changes for several characters and a very different Justice League Dark in the next volume.

I have tried to avoid any spoilers in writing the above, simply because it is such a good story and you deserve to read it in pristine form. I would recommend reading the Blight collection before reading the component volumes though.


Deadpool vs. Carnage[DEADPOOL VS CARNAGE][Paperback]
Deadpool vs. Carnage[DEADPOOL VS CARNAGE][Paperback]
by MarvelComics
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Nothin’ special, 20 Dec 2014
The four-issue mini-series ‘Deadpool vs. Carnage’ is collected, along with Superior Carnage Annual #1, as Deadpool vs. Carnage. This story takes place after Superior Carnage, with the Annual getting Cletus Kassady back inside the symbiote and out in the world. The Deadpool series is basically Deadpool being told by his TV to go and hunt Carnage, who is on a killing spree, down; which he does. So… if you are a fan of Carnage and or Deadpool, then you are likely to like this collection. If, like me, you have come to Deadpool quite late – his current continuing series, for example – then this is going to be a meaningless extended chase / fight story. An imaginative and occasionally humorous extended fight / chase story, maybe, but if you want something a bit more in your comics, then this is not the comic book you are looking for.


Dirty/Tricks[DIRTY TRICKS][Paperback]
Dirty/Tricks[DIRTY TRICKS][Paperback]
by SiSpurrier
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Very confusing opening story, but all is made clear at the end, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #1-6 of X-Force (2014) is collected as X-Force Volume 1: Dirty Tricks. This is a new(ish) team, with new motivations, new artists and new writer, but same old ultra-violence, but now more graphic. I found the opening a bit confusing, as there was reference to an “Alexandria Incident” which apparently has triggered yet another mutant progrom (but not in any of the other X-titles that I have seen), and Cable’s daughter is apparently dead or in a coma or something – which isn’t explicitly declared, just hinted at as the story progresses. Being slightly Autistic, this confusion was extremely disconcerting to me as I read the story, but all was explained in the final issue of the volume, which flashed-back to the Incident, and explained what was going on – so be warned, it is supposed to be confusing.

The plot is straightforward – the team, assembled and led by Cable are hunting down a baddie who is weaponising mutants. The team consists of Marrow, a de-powered mutant, who apparently was Weaponised by the baddie and then discarded - but doesn’t know she has lost her mutant power; Psylocke, who is trying not to kill people because she is addicted to it; Fantomex (Charlie Cluster-7), who is suffering from performance anxiety as he has been genetically programmed to believe that he is the best at what he does, but since his split into three people, has lost some of his abilities; and Cable, who has lost his arm as a result of the Incident and has replaced it with a big gun. There is also Meme, who is another Weaponised mutant who is able, from her comatose body, to infect any computer/machine with her consciousness, who joins the team after being rescued from the baddie during the story.

Although the plot is straightforward, the characters are extremely messed-up, and their dysfunctional personalities and inter-relationships are half the story – if not more. Also, stuff is revealed as the story progresses, which sheds new light on what is going on, and on the characters’ backgrounds, and there is a last-page reveal which should have been apparent early on to non-Autistic problem solvers…

Anyway, apart from the ‘messy’ artwork in the first half of the story, which is replaced by slightly less ‘messy’ artwork in the second (all personally subjective views there), this is a really interesting and well-executed (pun-unintended) story, that is actually more about the complex characters than the equally complex plot.


Black Widow Volume 1( The Finely Woven Thread)[BLACK WIDOW V01][Paperback]
Black Widow Volume 1( The Finely Woven Thread)[BLACK WIDOW V01][Paperback]
by NathanEdmondson
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars What Avenging Agents of SHIELD do on their day off, 20 Dec 2014
The story running through issues #1-6 of Marvel’s latest Black Widow series is collected, along with an 8-page short story from ‘All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1’, as Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread. This story shows us what the Black Widow gets up to on her day off from being an Avenger or an Agent of SHIELD, and picks up on the film character’s comments about having “red” in her ledger, as she has a business agent who takes commissions on her behalf to carry out ‘mercenary’ operations. The operations naturally involve taking down bad guys, and the money earned goes to financing her ‘web’ of safe houses as well as financing various charitable trusts.

This particular story sees the Widow hired to take out a bad guy, but it turns into a trap as an old opponent tries to take revenge for past acts; there is the obligatory mad Russian monk on steroids who is a heavily-armed killer, and a new secret conspiracy organisation who are able to penetrate the highest SHIELD security. Yes, we have seen all this sort of stuff before, but it is still an interesting and entertaining story, with plenty of character / background story to flesh it out. It may not be the most original story, but I enjoyed it. There was even a cameo of Hawkeye, on his day off from being an Avenger.

For a different take on the story, see Black Widow and The Marvel Girls GN-TPB.


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