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The Trades Thread - Hardcovers, Graphic Novels, and More


Two visions of Batman:

Batman: Dark Prince Charming Books 1-2

I’m a big Marini fan, his work on The Scorpion is utterly superb and should Eagles of Rome ever get translated I’ll buy it, so it’s great to see him get to do a Batman story. But, his work to date has been that of artist, how does he fare as writer-artist?

For me, pretty well. The story of a Batman and Joker engagement over a number of days built around the Joker’s kidnapping of a child - which isn’t who the story tends to suggest - works well. There’s some excellent action sequences and the double page splash technique is used sparingly, which gives each of them more weight. There’s also some neat little details like Gordon now vaping.

Did DC get the format right? I think so, it’s a good way of showing off the art but where they went wrong is on the price. £11.99 RRP for what is 3 issues, even 3 gloriously rendered issues, is pushing it. Their issue of it as a single volume at RRP $34.99 could well backfire - that’s a high price when other volumes of the same price offer around double the content.

Batman: Deluxe Edition Volume 2

Yeah, I think I’m now done with King’s Batman.

I liked pieces of the finale to the trilogy of stories, I Am Bane. The juxtaposition of Batman and Bane’s origins works very well. The idea that this is all distraction for Gotham Girl to be cured works. The problem comes in the fact of all the sheer punishment Batman takes and then shrugs off because, wait for it, he’s Batman and can take Bane out with a single super Bat-head-butt whenever he chooses doesn’t. The epilogue issue with Gotham Girl almost makes up for these shortcomings but not entirely.

For all that the idea of The Button story sets the scene for Batman to decide he wants a life outside of being Batman, it’s still a big leap for him to go from that to deciding he wants to marry Catwoman. Is this concept credible? Do I buy it? Not really.

This weakness is emphasised by the nature of the infamous next arc, The War of Jokes and Riddles. This is the first time I think King has written the Joker and it’s not pleasant, which is as it should be, but he goes further and renders both the Joker and Riddler as too unpleasant. Put it this way: As a Punisher story where they both get eventually killed, it works but as a Batman story? No.

In potential, the idea of a Joker versus Riddler confrontation has promise, but King runs so far with it, by extending it to the point of there being scores of dead Gotham citizens that he renders Batman impotent and his moral principles practically worthless. Nor does it fly that, in such a situation police, or even military forces, wouldn’t be able to find and execute all of them - but that’s what the story later requires the reader to buy. If a story is going to go this far, then Riddler and Joker, considered seriously, don’t get to walk away, but they do. It doesn’t even have to be Batman that kills them, have a hacked off cop snap or just sentence them to execution because, in this story, the insanity defence doesn’t fly.

For all that I Am Bane was flawed, it read reasonably well. War of Jokes and Riddles was just a nasty bastard from start to finish. Now, I can go with those sort of stories but in the world of say Scalped or some other harsh, bleak crime noir book, not as a Batman story.


Finally someone agrees with me on King’s Batman :laughing: I thought I was going mad, being the only overtly critical opinion here.

I found the ending to “I Am Bane” ridiculous, and mentioned it at the time. I did like the epilogue issue, but how that lead to the Catwoman proposal I have no idea. And, considering how important both her and Duke Thomas were made out to be at the beginning of the run, has King done anything with Gotham Girl in the 25 issues since then?


Have you read the Flash/Batman story The Button? As that’s what sets that running for me, but like you, I don’t see how it leads to him choosing Catwoman.

Sweet Fabok art on the Batman chapters of that too.


Ares & Aphrodite - Love Wars
This is a romance comic from Oni Press, written by its former EIC Jamie S Rich and with art by Megan Levens. I’ve not read anything by either of them before, but I was keen to try this as you don’t see many romance comics these days, especially from a relatively mainstream publisher.

The premise is that a hopeless romantic divorce lawyer Will Ares makes a bet with cynical wedding planner Gigi Averelle about whether their mutual (celebrity) clients will go through with their impending wedding. Shenanigans ensue, as Ares endures persistent vandalism and the groom’s exes interefere with the planning.

And that’s all fine. The characters are nice enough, things happen but there’s not quite enough there for the story to hang together. It feels like there’s a final twist or reveal or occurence missing to tie it all together. Certainly it would have been nice if there was resolution to one of the sub-plots beyond a shrugged dismissal.

The best thing about the book is Levens’ art, which is beautiful. There’s an easy charm to the characters with a graceful style that evokes the feel of a Audrey Hepburn or Ginger Rogers movie without feeling like it’s trying to emulate them. In fact that’s a good point if comparison for the book as a whole: Classic Hollywood direction of a daytime TV movie plot.


Supergirl: Being Super

This is a great little story that I’d recommend to anyone. Neatly self-contained with a perfect ending it’s very classy.

Dark Nights: Metal OHC

Fire up the soundtrack to Doom - Batman’s about to punch Satan’s balls off!

Or… Maybe not. Sure, it’s mad, but it doesn’t feel quite as mad as it was talked of being. There’s some good stuff here, I like that it’s Superman saving Batman for a change and that in turn is premised on Batman not being the Batcrap loner of years past. On the other hand, I dislike the team-up with Joker at the end - I would have preferred more of Batman kicking the crap out of his dark reflection, which is the main weakness of this - the villains talk too much and what they have to say isn’t that interesting.

It is a quite gonzo story, it does go for it as much as DC could, there’s some wonderfully mental visuals and I really liked the way it wove Dream and Lucien’s library into it all. But, the ending felt like it was pulled out of nowhere - oh look, Earth 53. Oh and there’s 10th metal now? That’s … handy.

Despite these flaws, the sense of enthusiasm from Snyder and Capullo is laudable. Though I’d agree that in the end they can’t sustain it all the way to the end.


Didn’t help that the ending was cut off by a very Marvel Event-type “here’s all of our upcoming events” montage.


Superman For All Seasons - The Deluxe Edition HC

Some books you just fall in love with, and Superman For All Seasons was one of those books when I first read it many years ago. I like it enough that I decided to upgrade from my old standard HC to this deluxe edition, which is not only bigger in page size but also features three spinoff short stories by Loeb & Sale that weren’t in the old version (including some stuff from Sale’s Solo issue and a touching tribute to Loeb’s son in the shape of ‘Sam’s Story’) .

Rereading it again today has reminded me of just how perfect it is. I don’t usually go for particularly sentimental or saccharine stories, but this one earns its sentiment by effectively exploring the various relationships in Superman’s life through the narrators of each issue (Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang), and building up solid emotional through-lines that run through the four seasonal chapters.

Loeb and Sale are one of those teams that seem to effortlessly gel and be completely in synch, allowing them to pull off some relatively subtle moments that really hit home.

For some reason, this panel has always really got to me - the wistful and melancholy undercurrents cutting through the happy scene of togetherness, and reminding us to make the most of these relationships while we have them.

And some of the bigger, more obvious moments pack a punch too.

In fact I’d forgotten how big and bold the book goes at times, with the second issue packing in countless double-splashpages filled with iconic, beautiful Superman imagery.

But all of this would mean far less without the rich sense of humanity that runs through Loeb and Sale’s take on Clark Kent. I love that they give him pensive and difficult moments, and occasionally show him alone in deep thought (with a recurring image of Clark alone in bed, thinking, mulling things over, that really helps to sell him as a three-dimensional character).

It’s relatable, universal scenes like this one that make this book one of my favourite takes on Superman.

I love the way the Kents are drawn as realistically old and frail and wrinkled (and there’s a lovely moment towards the end of the story involving Clark cradling Jonathan in his arms that is beautifully written and drawn).

The artwork really helps to sell Smallville itself as a character, mixing a sort of Norman Rockwell throwback quality with little lived-in details and worn old mundane objects that give the scenes set there a completely different texture to the sleek, clean lines of Metropolis.

Sale draws a great Lois Lane too (even if the book doesn’t find space to really flesh her out as much as she deserves - Luthor gets far more attention here).

In some ways this is an odd book - it’s not a full, comprehensive origin, it’s not a radical take on the character that makes sweeping changes to his history, and it’s not even really a complete story in its own right, in that all of the character relationships are left open at the end to proceed further and develop.

But by making those relationships the heart of the book (especially those relating to Smallville characters like Pete Ross and Lana Lang, who really come into their own as the book goes on), and making the superheroics more of a side element (albeit a significant one), Loeb and Sale give us one of the most human, likeable and endearing takes on Superman ever seen in comics.


I just gave somebody “Daytripper” as a birthday present a few weeks ago. It’s an incredibly strong and accessible single piece of work, and it’s literary mainstream in a particularly comics kind of way - perfect for people who love to read, but haven’t read any comics yet.


Great review, Dave. For All Seasons is probably my favourite Loeb/ Sale collaboration (for many of the reasons you made). I’m disappointed it never got an Absolute edition, although I guess never say never.

Loeb’s run on Superman with Ed McGuiness actually carried over a lot of the sensibilities of this mini- series. It was the last time I really found Loeb’s work enjoyable.


I initially would have said it’s too short, but after Year One and Killing Joke anything’s possible.

I wonder whether the art would scale up with the current art files, though. There’s a very slight graininess to the reproduction even at Deluxe size.


But realistically…Batman’s rogues were always murderous psychopaths. That’s kind of the whole point, especially with Joker. It always strikes me that fans are so tolerant of Killing Joke even though it’s one of the most abhorrent stories ever told in superhero comics. That’s a million times worse than anything “War of Jokes and Riddles” does, even the origin of Kite-Man (hell yeah!). And you even have to keep in mind, the body count in the story involves a whole host of accomplices. Every victim in those wall panels has the exact perpetrator listed.

King is always going to try to go for a psychological approach. He wants his characters to seem real. “I Am Bane” is the classic “Batman’s met his match” story, featuring the quintessential “Batman’s met his match” foe. But in the end, Batman gets to win in an abrupt fashion because this isn’t really a story about the fight, but what he’s capable of enduring, and why he’s capable of enduring, and what he still has to live for, which is something King has been working on since the start of his run, when he’s crash-landing that plane and preparing himself for “a good death.”

I have no doubt at all that we will see Gotham Girl again. She’s still tied in with his idea of actually retiring. The wedding thing happened because Batman realized he can have happiness in his life. This is explained a little more in stories after “Jokes and Riddles.”

What King does that few other writers do, or can do, is give new emphasis to the idea of story beats. He plays by the traditional rules, of heroes triumphing over great odds and dastardly villains, but he gives us reasons to believe in the key moments, he explains the key moments. They don’t just happen. Too often, and not just in superhero comics, writers are content for things to just happen. That’s a whole field of psychology right there. In wrestling it’s called “selling,” making the action seem like it means something. A lot of observers comment that younger wrestlers have no concept of this today, that they just execute flashy move after flashy move, and none of them has any impact except looking flashy, because they have no effect, no impact, cause no apparent harm. In storytelling it’s how you pace, if there is any discernible pace, anything that distinguishes Point A from Point B from Point C. If there are any consequences, anything learned. If things just happen, for me, it feels cheap.

A Tom King story never feels cheap. I know a lot of readers think individual issues can sometimes feel a little too dialed in, but if you read the whole story, their impact should make a lot more sense.


To be fair the criticism of the violence in ‘The Killing Joke’ is very common, there’s loads out there about it, including from the author himself who says it’s the worst thing he’s ever written.


The problem is King’s lack of restraint - unless I choose to buy that Bane is pulling his punches - and the story says he’s not - on an already beaten and injured Batman, but I’m to buy the super head butt out of nowhere because… Batman. For me, King broke the spell of his own magic with that move. Could it have worked? With a little detail, say we see Bats armouring up more, it’d work fine - there’d be a reason for Batman’s resilience.

For me King unbalances the hero vs villain a bit too much and it harms his stories.


Jennifer Blood: First Blood

I had concluded, with good reason, that this story but, having heard good comments about Carroll’s work, decided to finally check them out.

This prequel is his best work by far - it establishes the groundwork in a way that builds on what the reader already knows and then expands on it, finally finishing with the stage set for the story proper.

Jennifer Blood: Volume 5

This 12-issue collection that concludes Carroll’s run, tends to sag at the halfway mark. Until then it’s a crazy, mad ride of an arc that doesn’t spare anyone and has a good few surprises… Afterwards? For all I can see and appreciate what he was going for by exploring the legacy element of Jennifer Blood, it doesn’t quite work out. Nor does the final resolution, in terms of who ends up with her kids. So yeah, it falters and gets to the finish line and then the book keels over dead.

In some ways it’s not surprising that the story ran out of gas, it was running on empty when Carroll’s run started. His continuation was smart and clever but just not enough fuel left in the tank.

Is the series, as a whole, worth reading? Absolutely and for one reason above all: Society has come to have a casual attitude to violence while denying its awfulness, the story of Jennifer Blood asks what would happen if someone really was inclined to be that damn harsh to people? It then goes further: OK, so you solved your problems by killing a load of people, guess what happens now? Correct, you’ll end up killing a whole lot more because secrets get out and that can’t happen.

In the process of trying to have everything - her revenge while retaining her other life, husband and kids - who she treats like crap - Jennifer Blood loses it all. Ennis’ opening shot was a throwaway book, but Ewing really took it to other places in a mix of bleak, black comedy and tragedy. He also challenged his readers to ask themselves how much a character can get away with before that character loses the support of the reader. In pursuit of that Ewing pushed the title to a natural conclusion that Carroll then found a way to continue, at least for a while.

I can’t recommend the V5 trade as a physical edition - as despite a dose of superglue, my copy still tried to fall apart. For this one, go digital.


But what strikes me is that this doesn’t affect its reputation one iota.


It depends on the audience. Also Brian Bolland is amazing.


Thor Simonson Omnibus for £37 here (used - like new)


It’s quite easy to disagree greatly with a story’s content while recognising the technical art also demonstrated by it.

I mean some of those two-page spreads by Janin for War of Jokes and Riddles were excellent.

Also, see Gar’s earlier reply.


I clicked on the heart. I totally get it. Bolland’s great.


This arrived today - I enjoyed this series when it came out in singles but I never got around to picking up the HC until now.

It’s a signed copy too.

Not bad for £2.99! Copies still available here:

(Yes, it’s another quid for postage, but still a bargain.)