Better than the first volume, but again not recommended for people who are not already fans of the genre.
Most of the stories are by Len Wein or SteveBetter than the first volume, but again not recommended for people who are not already fans of the genre.
Most of the stories are by Len Wein or Steve Gerber (who appears to take over when Wein moves up to editorial, but follows through on plots laid out by Wein). Exceptions are a throw away story by Tony Isabella with gorgeous art by Jim Starlin (a framing sequence for several reprints followed by a short conflict derived from those reprints), a few Marvel Team-up stories by Gerry Conway, and a truly weird, awful story by Bill Mantlo (confession--with the exception of Micronauts, I don't much care for Mantlo's stories).
Most of the art is by Sal Buscema, whom I'm not a particular fan of, though a couple of stories feature unusual inks over Buscema by Bill Everett or Klaus Janson, which gives Buscema a bit more interest. Other artists include the aforementioned Jim Starlin, Don Heck, and Gil Kane.
The Silver Surfer and Sub-Mariner are mostly gone by this volume, and the core of the group is established as Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, and the Hulk. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Yellowjacket, and Damian Hellstrom feature in several stories as accomplices, and the Thing, Spider-Man, and Human Torch each team-up with a solo Defender or two in the Two-In-One and Team-Up stories reprinted herein that lead into stories in the regular title.
While there are several mediocre stories in this volume (and, as noted, the truly awful Mantlo fill in), there are also several bright spots. Wein, Conway, and Gerber weave an odd, complicated back story for Val that provides a nice springboard for future plots and makes her characterization interesting. An extended story pits the Defenders against the Sons of the Serpent, a white supremacy group, which is both an unusual topic to tackle in super-hero comics, and managed to have a double twist ending that actually caught me off-guard. An unusual story has an old Ant-Man villain attacking his niece, who aided Ant-Man against him in the past, injuring her and Nighthawk, whom she was dating. The Defenders misinterpret the attack as being directed at Nighthawk, and immediately head out to confront Nighthawk's previous teammates, the villainous Squadron Supreme. And an extended story near the end of the volume teams the Defenders and the Guardians of the Galaxy, providing several unexpected bonuses for this reader--a nice summary of Marvel's "future history" as laid out in the '70s, showing how the features Deathlok, Killraven, and Guardians of the Galaxy lined up (and probably one or two others I didn't recognize. Also jarring was seeing global warming (though not under that name) play a role in that history, as well as seeing a reference to the planet's population as "three billion". Have we really doubled the Earth's population in just 35 years? One last shining moment--the introduction of the head men. Gerber's Defenders were definitely unlike any other team book around at the time, and were probably unrivaled at strangeness till Grant Morrison got his hands on the Doom Patrol....more
Not recommended unless you're already a super-hero fan in general and are curious about or nostalgic for '70s Marvel. I'd probably give it two and halNot recommended unless you're already a super-hero fan in general and are curious about or nostalgic for '70s Marvel. I'd probably give it two and half stars, but it got a half-star bump for nostalgia--I really want to read the Steve Gerber issues, which are probably in Vol 2, but started with this one.
Several minor items of curiosity are now satisfied--I know how the Defenders first came together and why they're often described as a "non-team". But apart from that, the only thing it really had going for it from my point of view were the Englehart issues.
The Thomas issues are overwrought (I much prefer his '80s work at DC to his '70s Marvel super-hero stuff). And the Wein issue or issues that close out the volume are just fairly typical villain of the month stuff.
I'll probably pick up the next volume or two at the library just to read the Gerber issues and maybe the David Anthony Kraft/Keith Giffen stuff, but I don't intend to pursue it into the J.M. de Matteis era....more
Meh. Not my favorite era of Batman to begin with, these stories don't particularly leap off the page. There's a few enjoyable episodes--the second PenMeh. Not my favorite era of Batman to begin with, these stories don't particularly leap off the page. There's a few enjoyable episodes--the second Penguin story, for example, and the Catwoman story. There are also some mediocre stories featuring the Penguin (again) and the Joker. The majority of the stories deal with the duo fighting common criminals and solving mysteries.
The collection is boosted somewhat by some excellent supplemental material....more
Alan Moore left comics in the late '80s following a dispute with DC over merchandising royalties associated with his landmark series Watchmen. By theAlan Moore left comics in the late '80s following a dispute with DC over merchandising royalties associated with his landmark series Watchmen. By the mid-'90s he was back, doing a bit of work for Image and a wonderful run on Maximum/Awesome's Supreme and associated books. In the late '90s, for WildStorm, he was given his own imprint, America's Best Comics, and created a number of diverse titles that each took the idea of a super-hero comic in very different directions.
Promethea was one of the initial batch of ABC titles, and remains my favorite. The 32 issue series was originally collected in five hardcover collections (and later softcover as well). They are now in the process of being re-collected in DC's "Absolute" format: large, deluxe slipcovered hardcovers with gorgeous production quality (DC bought WildStorm, ABC's parent company, around the time ABC was formed, thus putting Moore in the position of indirectly working for DC again). This first volume collects the first 12 issues (essentially the first two volumes of the previous collections). A second volume, collecting the next 13 issues, is already out, and a final volume, collecting the last seven issues plus (presumably) bonus material is forthcoming.
Promethea is essentially a guide to Moore's idea of what magic is, disguised as a super-hero comic. In the introductory arc, we meet young Sophie Bangs, college student, who is writing a term paper on what she believes to be a fictional character, Promethea, who appears to have had several unusual incarnations in Romantic poetry, newspaper comic strips, pulp novels, and comic books. During the course of her research, she manages to track down, unbeknownst to her, the most recent Promethea, now in semi-retirement, and unwittingly stirs the interest of an old enemy of Promethea's, who decides to launch a pre-emptive strike against Sophie out of fear she will become the next Promethea--which, indeed, she does. The failure of the initial strike leads to plans for a much larger attack, and in a race against time Sophie must learn both the history of her predecessors as well as enough about her new self to enable herself to survive the forthcoming brouhaha.
The above may sound like standard super-hero fare, and in other hands it could easily have become so. But the super-hero theatrics are really only stage dressing that provide the motivation for Sophie's education in magic, and that journey is fascinating. The second major arc, in the following volume, deals with an in depth magical road trip, but this first volume lays some of the groundwork for that, with an explanation of the four elements/Tarot suits/magical weapons, the Tarot's major arcana, the introduction of the idea of the 10 spheres and 22 paths of the Kabbalah/Tree of Life, and more.
The art on Promethea is by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray. Williams is perfectly in tune with Moore on this book, and the Absolute format really gives his art the chance to shine. Williams is particularly noted for his innovative page layouts--he uses recurring motifs and stylized page layouts to move the story along and to suggest different layers of reality. Throughout the series, though more so in the later issues than in these, Moore and Williams take many opportunities to explore alternative storytelling techniques. Highlights from this volume mostly come from the three stories that close the book, acting as transitions between the first and second story arcs. In chapter 10, Promethea learns how sex and magic relate, and there are a number of innovative page designs and story loops that make this "more" than a straightforward narrative. Chapter 11 is told in a "widescreen" format, where all the pages are designed for a landscape orientation rather than a portrait orientation. And Chapter 12 involves an exploration of the Tarot, with each page a splash page that simultaneously tells three different narratives that intertwine and come together as each progresses.
A final delight are the covers by Williams and Todd Klein, which each pay tribute to various artists and art styles, such as Terry Gilliam, a Sgt Pepper's collage, an old pulp novel style cover, a romance comic, '60s rock posters, etc.
Looking forward to picking up the second volume when finances permit (these aren't cheap books)....more
The middle part of the arc that culminates with Batman: R.I.P., this is probably my favorite collection in the Black Glove arc, due in no small part tThe middle part of the arc that culminates with Batman: R.I.P., this is probably my favorite collection in the Black Glove arc, due in no small part to the J.H. Williams III art in the first half of the book. In that sub arc, the Black Glove reveals itself (or, at least, reveals their existence), and we have a classic mystery arc, which reminded me of a throwback to the O'Neil/Adams detective years. We also have an Agatha Christie/Ten Little Indians plot, with Batman, Robin, and a group of international masked men trapped in a mysterious house of death traps on a mysterious island with a killer who may or may not be one of them.
The second sub arc here has art by Tony Daniels, who I'm less impressed with, though he's certainly serviceable enough. It advances the "three ghosts of Batman" subplot, which is here revealed as another plot of the Black Glove.
Both arcs also make more obvious use of references to old Batman tales from the '50s that Morrison is trying to re-integrate to Batman's back story via the Black Glove storyline....more
The "new" Batman (Dick Grayson) and Robin (Damian Wayne). Good, moody art by Quitely helps get the first arc off to a good start. Interesting dynamicsThe "new" Batman (Dick Grayson) and Robin (Damian Wayne). Good, moody art by Quitely helps get the first arc off to a good start. Interesting dynamics as Dick Grayson (the original Robin), who worked so hard to shake off the sidekick mantle years ago, now has to learn to work with one of his own while trying to fill his mentor's shoes. And Damian, Bruce Wayne's recently introduced illegitimate son, has to learn to work within a team context, and to shake off the snotty arrogance and over-confidence he has gained via his upbringing, and learn to live within his father's ideals....more
I have liked much of Morrison's work over the years, dating back to Animal Man. This...not so much. Choppy, disjointed, and a little too incestuous. II have liked much of Morrison's work over the years, dating back to Animal Man. This...not so much. Choppy, disjointed, and a little too incestuous. I've drifted away from the mainstream DCU over the years, and this does not make me regret that decision....more
The conclusion of the Black Glove storyline. In previous arcs, Batman's been battered and abused physically, and now the Glove makes its move in GothaThe conclusion of the Black Glove storyline. In previous arcs, Batman's been battered and abused physically, and now the Glove makes its move in Gotham, capturing Batman and mind-f***ing him.
I can't say much about the plot developments here without giving anything away, but we learn here how long the Black Glove has been in the background planning Batman's undoing, and to what lengths Bruce Wayne has gone to ensure Batman's survival, and both are freaky, scary stuff.
It should be noted that despite the title, Batman's actual "demise" takes place in Final Crisis, not here. The R.I.P. collection does feature, as an epilogue, a two part story that appears to take place at the same time as Crisis, telling the story of what's going through Batman's mind while he's the captive of Darkseid's agents....more
I was a little disappointed with this. Huge fan of Cooke's work on DC's New Frontier title, and his work with Ed Brubaker on Catwoman. But most of theI was a little disappointed with this. Huge fan of Cooke's work on DC's New Frontier title, and his work with Ed Brubaker on Catwoman. But most of the stories in this collection are just... meh. The title story was an interesting concept which Cooke wasn't quite up to pulling off (as he himself acknowledges in the intro). Selina's Big Score is above average, and I think the only piece I'd read before, but the art was a bit rougher than I remembered. The only real standout piece for me was the final one, whose title now escapes me, inspired by a Steve Englehart story....more
The opening salvo in Morrison's Batman arc. On the whole, not my favorite Morrison work, nor my favorite Batman, but the groundwork is nicely laid herThe opening salvo in Morrison's Batman arc. On the whole, not my favorite Morrison work, nor my favorite Batman, but the groundwork is nicely laid here for a long storyline, and Morrison's overall goal--reintegrating the unpopular '50s Batman tales back into Batman's backstory, after more than 40 years of pretending they never happened--is intriguing.
This arc has art by one or both of the Kubert brothers (can't remember which, sorry), and nice character bits with Alfred and Tim. We also get the intro of Batman's obnoxious illegitimate son, made as unlikeable as possible here in order to allow an interesting character growth arc. We also have the first hints of the Black Glove, man-bat ninjas, and the rebirth/reinvention of the Joker, in a text heavy issue that didn't quite work for me....more
There are hundreds upon hundreds of mediocre Superman stories. There are, perhaps, dozens upon dozens of good Superman stories. Morrison and Quitely'sThere are hundreds upon hundreds of mediocre Superman stories. There are, perhaps, dozens upon dozens of good Superman stories. Morrison and Quitely's All Star Superman is one of the really great Superman stories.
As I understand it, the concept behind the "All Star" books (there was also one for Batman, and I think one for Wonder Woman is in the works or underway) was to put top talents on a 12 issues story arc unbound by continuity. This certainly appears to have worked for All Star Superman. This book collects the first half of the story. Morrison gives us a Superman who is human, hero, and legend. Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luther, and the Smallville gang each have a chance in the spotlight, and each shine. Quitely's art is wonderful, too, really bringing out unusual dimensions to these characters. It's a definite departure from the iconic Curt Swan art of my youth, but his depictions of Smallville and the Fortress are breathtaking. Can't wait to get my hands on Vol 2 to see how the whole thing turned out....more
This is the first half of the JSA's '70s revival, plus the "Untold Origin" from DC Super-Stars or somewhere. The latter story, by Levitz & Staton,This is the first half of the JSA's '70s revival, plus the "Untold Origin" from DC Super-Stars or somewhere. The latter story, by Levitz & Staton, would probably rate a solid three stars by itself. Maybe even three and a half. It's a fairly solid done-in-one superhero story, with bonus nostalgia points for being Earth-Two and JSA.
The book strips out all the individual story credits in favor of a block credit at the front of the book, which doesn't break down which creator worked on which stories. Nevertheless, even without checking the GCD, I'm pretty sure that all the All-Star stories were by Conway, and Levitz was responsible only for the origin story. The All-Star stories are, unfortunately, pretty pedestrian stuff. Some nice art by Wally Wood, and some early work by Keith Giffen, can't make up for some terribly generic super-hero stories. Power Girl's ERA-era dialog is frequently awful (an unfortunate truth about many '70s super-heroines who got their start in this decade and were almost uniformly written by men trying to sound hip). The generation gap stuff and the gender equality conflicts just ring hollow. Artificial conflicts in an effort to create artificial tension and drama within the team just don't hold up at all well.
Again, bonus points for being the JSA/Earth-Two stuff, and mild historical curiosity for the intro of Power Girl and for being the JSA's first ongoing revival series just aren't enough to make this recommendable to anyone who isn't already pre-disposed to like it....more