Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack!

By Will Pfeiffer & Peter Woods (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-654-2

Beware any book that begins “the Story So Far…”

Have you ever watched a film or read a book when you were so tired that you kept nodding off, only to repeatedly wake and find whole chunks of the story gone by and you unable to work out where you were and how you got there? If not you could closely mimic the experience by reading Amazons Attack!

And now that I’ve got that off my prodigious chest I’ll attempt to be a little more generous and helpful. But I will say this: if you’re new to comics or need all the details to enjoy a story – buy something else.

They could at least have provided a list of the other titles and issues the story strands this six part miniseries wove through so that interested readers could track them down…

Before all this kicks off the Department of Metahuman Affairs has ordered the arrest of Wonder Woman, on the orders of a shape-shifting agent called Everyman who has replaced the real boss Sarge Steel. On the magical island of Themyscira the evil sorceress Circe has resurrected the Amazing Amazon’s dead mother, but the once serene and stately warrior queen seems a little strange…

When Queen Hippolyta learns that Wonder Woman has been captured and is being tortured by the Americans she declares war on the United States, unaware that US agent Nemesis has already helped her daughter escape…

Now begin reading…

The great pity here is that when taken in conjunction with the missing chapters that comprised this braided mega-event, Amazons Attack! is a tremendously entertaining and powerful read, with Washington DC, Kansas, Gotham City and many other locations spectacularly reeling under the magical assault of the mythological super-women and their fabulous war-beasts surpassing anything you’ve seen as movie blockbusters.

With the US government in retreat, the President declares anyone with Amazon connections a potential terrorist, equalling the iniquities of Japanese internment in WWII, and forcing heroes to choose sides, torn between friendship and love of country.

Naturally Batman deduces that there’s a deeper, double game being played, Superman proves the power of true nobility and Wonder Woman is forced to confront some ugly truths before the whole rotten mess is resolved in a shock ending.

And then there’s another, bigger one that impacts both Countdown to… and Final Crisis!

Will Pfeiffer and Pete Woods produced superb work in the miniseries that manages to amaze and entertain as well as make some telling points about the real American war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s borderline criminal to produce a collection that only gives half the story – and yes I know there’s a text catch-up page preceding each chapter; my point is there shouldn’t have to be!.

Can we have a complete book, pretty please – even if it does have to be a whacking great Absolute Edition?
© 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA volume 2: American Dreams

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, Oscar Jimenez, John Dell & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-394-0

After getting off to an impossibly cracking start in JLA: New World Order the superb quality of storytelling actually improved as Morrison and Porter began laying the groundwork for their first big story-arc, and this collection of shorter tales (originally appearing in JLA issues #5-9) stands as excellent interlude as well as a fine example of how modern superhero comics can still surprise, beguile and addict impressionable minds.

Leading off is ‘Woman of Tomorrow’ wherein veteran League villains Professor Ivo and T. O. Morrow construct the perfect super heroine to infiltrate and destroy the World’s Greatest Superheroes from within – but for once they build too well…

This is followed by ‘Fire in the Sky’ and ‘Heaven on Earth’ (with Ken Branch joining John Dell to ink Porter’s hyper-dynamic pencils) as the Angel Zauriel risks everything to warn the heroes of a second rebellion in Heaven, and the League must defeat an invasion by God’s own armies. This spectacular mini-saga also features old foes Neron and arch-demons Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast and was intended to introduce a new Hawkman to the DC Universe, but somewhere, somehow, wiser heads prevailed and the original was eventually retooled and reintroduced with Zauriel winning his own place in the company’s pantheon.

Oscar Jimenez and Chip Wallace stepped in to illustrate ‘Imaginary Stories’ as mind-bending villain The Key attempted to conquer the universe by trapping the individual League members in perfect dreams, and the art team was augmented by Hanibal Rodriguez for the tense conclusion ‘Elseworlds’ which saw the Zen warrior Green Arrow (son of the original, irascible ultra-liberal bowman) join the team in classic “saves the day” style.

Savvy, compelling, dauntingly High-Concept but not afraid of nostalgia or laughing at itself, the new JLA was an all-out effort to be Smart and Fun. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are the “World’s Greatest Superheroes” and these increasingly ambitious epics reminded everybody of the fact. This is the kind of thrill that nobody ever outgrows. Got yours yet?
© 1997 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA volume 1: New World Order

By Grant Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-369-8

After the Silver Age’s greatest team-book died a slow, painful, wasting death, not once but twice, DC were taking no chances with their next revival of the Justice League of America and tapped Big Ideas wünderkind Grant Morrison to reconstruct the group and the franchise.

And the idea that clicked? Put everybody’s favourite Name superheroes in the team.

Of course it worked, but that’s only because as well as star quantity there was a huge input of creative quality. The stories were smart, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with desperate vitality. With JLA one could see all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be.

This slim album collects the first four issues of the revival and covers a spectacular landmark tale that altered the continuity landscape of the DC Universe by introducing a family of alien superbeings called the Hyperclan whose arrival on Earth could have ushered in a new Golden Age – a least by their standards.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman are the legends who see their methods and careers questioned only to uncover a deadly secret that threatens to doom the planet they’re pledged to protect in a splendid old-fashioned goodies ‘n’ baddies romp that re-sparked fan interest in the “World’s Greatest Superheroes”.

If you haven’t read this sparkling slice of fight ‘n’ tights wonderment then your fantastic life just isn’t complete yet…

© 1997, 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JLA: World Without Grown-Ups

By Todd Dezago, Humberto Ramos, Mike McKone, Todd Nauck & others (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-473-2

There are a lot of different aspects that contribute to the “perfect mix” in the creation of any continuing character in comics. How much more so then, when the idea is to build a superhero team that will stand out from the seething masses that already exist? In the mid-1990s a fresh batch of sidekicks and super-kids started cropping up at DC after some years of thematic disfavour, and as the name and modus operandi of the Teen Titans was already established something new needed to be done with them.

But why were kid crusaders back at all? Ignoring the intrinsic imbecility – and illegality if you count numerous child-endangerment laws – of on-the-job training for superheroes who can’t shave yet, why should young champions appeal at all to comics readers?

I don’t buy the old saw about it giving young readers someone to identify with: most kids I grew up with wanted to be the cool adult who got to drive the whatever-mobile, not the squawking brat in short pants. Every mission would feel like going out clubbing with your dad…

I rather suspect it’s quite the reverse: older readers with responsibilities and chores could fantasize about being powerful, effective, cool and able to beat people up without having to surrender a hormone-fuelled, purely juvenile frat-boy sense of goofy fun…

That’s certainly the case in the adventures of the frenetic trio here. Although pitched as a Justice League miniseries World Without Grown-Ups was really a commercially-loaded vehicle intended to introduce the new teen super-team, Young Justice, where teen issues and traditional caped crusading could be seamlessly blended with high-octane adventure and deft, daft home-room laughs.

This irresistibly contagious fun-fest collects that initial miniseries and also includes a related one-shot that appeared as part of that year’s (1998) skip-week publishing event “GirlFrenzy“.

‘Young Justice: the Secret’ (by the Todds Dezago and Nauck, with inks by Lary Stucker) finds Robin, Superboy and the super-speedster Impulse relating the suspicious circumstances that led them to rescue a young girl composed entirely of smoke and vapour from the supposedly benign federal agency the Department of ExtraNormal Operations – a exploit that would have major repercussions in later tales – before the main event kicks off.

‘World Without Grown-Ups’ sees a young boy use an Ancient Atlantean talisman to get rid of all adults, leaving the planet a responsibility-free playground. The planetary guardians the Justice League can only wait helplessly in some other existence as all the underage heroes left on Earth try to cope with the wave of idiocy and irresponsibility trying to cope with the spiralling disasters caused by a dearth of doctors, drivers, pilots and so forth. Robin, Superboy and Impulse meanwhile seek out the cause, desperate to set things right unaware that the malign entity imprisoned in the talisman has its own sinister agenda…

This canny blend of tension and high jinks, comedy and pathos, action and mystery fair rattles along with thrills and one-liners aplenty courtesy of Dezago, Humbert Ramos & Wayne Faucher (kids world) and Mike McKone, Paul Neary & Mark McKenna (JLA sequences) who combine a compelling countdown to calamity with outright raucous buffoonery.

Kids are all about having fun and this book utterly captures that purest of essences. Unleash your inner rapscallion with this addictive gem but remember not all genies want to get back in their bottle… and not all the Young Justice tales were ever collected.
© 1998 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Blue Beetle: Reach for the Stars

John Rogers, Rafael Albuquerque & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1642-9

Although long-gone as a monthly series the latest incarnation of the venerable Blue Beetle still survives in trade paperback collections where you can – and should – experience the frantic, fun and thrill-packed exploits of young Jaime Reyes, an El Paso teenager who was catapulted into the world of high-level super-heroics when a sentient scarab jewel affixed itself to his spine and transformed him into an armoured bio-weapon.

The third volume (collecting issues #13-19 of the monthly comic-book) begins with ‘Defective’ by Rogers, Albuquerque, David Baldeon and Dan Davis, wherein a benevolent seeming alien from an interstellar collective named The Reach introduces himself and reveals that the scarab is a invitation used to prepare endangered worlds like Earth for trade and commerce as part of a greater pan-galactic civilisation.

Unfortunately the one attached to Jaime has been damaged over the centuries it was here and isn’t working properly.

But the Reach envoy is a big, fat liar…

The Scarab should have paved the way for a full invasion and once they discover this, Jaime and militaristic superhero Peacemaker soon realise that The Reach are the worst kind of alien invaders; patient, subtle, deceptive and stocked with plenty of space-tech to sell to Earth’s greedy governments. The only hope of defeating the marauders is to expose their real scheme to the public – which is too dazzled by the intergalactic newcomers’ media blitz to listen…

‘Mister Nice Guy’ (Rogers & Albuquerque) finds the Beetle teamed again with the erratic Guy Gardner – a Green Lantern who knows all about The Reach and their Trojan Agenda – to defeat the macabre Ultra-Humanite who has sold his telepathic services to the invaders. Still looking for allies and a solution Jaime meets Superman in ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ by J. Torres & Freddie Williams Jr. and battles one of the DC Universe’s gravest menaces in the startlingly powerful change of pace tale ‘Total Eclipso: the Heart’ by Rogers & Albuquerque.

The same creative team produced ‘Something in the Water’ as the elemental menace Typhoon joins with The Reach to endanger an entire city – and Bruce Wayne’s off-shore oil wells – in a clever and insightful tale with plenty of punch whilst ‘Away Game’ (Rogers, Albuquerque, Baldeon & Davis) finds the Beetle and the Teen Titans in pitched and pithy battle against the unbeatable alien biker-punk Lobo.

Rogers and Albuquerque are joined by the weirdly whimsical Keith Giffen for the final tale in this collection which focuses on Jaime’s best friend Brenda, who has blithely lived her entire life unaware that her foster-mother is La Dama, El Paso’s crime boss supreme. The distraught girl only learns the dreadful ‘Hard Truths’ when the rival mob Intergang declares war and sends the fifty foot woman Giganta to smash her and her family to gooey pulp…

There are so few series that combine action and adventure with fun and wit, and can even evoke tragedy and poignant loss on command. John Rogers excels in this innovative and impossibly readable saga and the art is always top notch. And with the climactic final battle against the Reach still to come, this is a series any adventure fan will want to read over and over again.

© 2007, 2008 DC Comics.  All Rights Reserved.

Legends: the Collection

By John Ostrander, Len Wein, John Byrne & Karl Kesel (DC Comics)
ISBN: 1-56389-095-X

With the success of Crisis on Infinite Earths (ISBN: 978-1-5638-9750-4) and Marvel’s Secret Wars (ISBN: 978-1-90415-983-4) comicbook publishers had dreams of regular, spectacular sales boosts, but a section of the cantankerous buying public muttered about gimmicks to make them spend more and voiced concerns about keeping the quality high.

At DC fan-interest was still fresh and keen as so many of their major properties – and indeed the entire continuity – was open for radical change, innovation and renewal. So, how best to follow the previous years cosmic catastrophe? Why not a much smaller and more personal Great Disaster, spotlighting those strangers wearing familiar costumes and a bunch of beginnings rather than the deaths and endings of Crisis?

Darkseid of Apokolips decides to attack humanity’s spirit by destroying the very concept of heroism and individuality. To this end he sends the hyper-charismatic New God Glorious Godfrey to America to lead a common man’s crusade against extraordinary heroes, while the God of Evil initiates individual plans intended to demoralize and destroy key champions of Earth. The rampant civil unrest prompts President Ronald Reagan to outlaw costumed crime-busters.

Some comply and many rebel, but as world-wide chaos ensues Darkseid amps up the pressure by adding monstrous artificial threats such as Macro-Man and Brimstone, a sentient mountain of super-heated plasma. With the world in tumult and Godfrey making a power grab using Apokoliptian Warhounds, the destructive anarchy forces the heroes to act: coming together to prevent the conquest of Mankind…

The enthralling core tale contained here can comfortably be read without the assorted spin-offs, crossovers and tie-ins, and it still feels like a magnificent mission statement for that new DC Universe, gritty, witty cohesive and contemporary. This collection also includes covers reproductions of each out-rider installment of the greater story, should you feel like tracking down those missing components…

John Ostrander was new to DC, lured from Chicago’s First Comics with editor Mike Gold where their work on Starslayer, Munden’s Bar and especially Grimjack had made those independent minnows some of the most readable series of the decade. Paired with veteran Len Wein, whose familiarity with the DC stable ensured the scripts would have the right company flavour, they concocted a bold and controversial tale for super-star Superman re-creator John Byrne to draw and the immensely talented Karl Kesel to ink.

Possibly the best and certainly the most cohesive of the company-wide braided mega-series, Legends launched as a six issue miniseries cover-dated November 1986 to April 1987. Like its predecessor the major narrative thread spread out into other DC series, but unlike Crisis each tie-in was consecutively numbered and every pertinent cover was labeled. If you got ’em all you couldn’t help but read them in the right order! The miniseries crossed into 22 other comics and miniseries and premiered three new series, Justice League, Flash and the superb and long neglected Suicide Squad. It even led to another new treatment for Billy Batson in a Shazam! miniseries and a sneak peek at the newly re-minted Wonder Woman.

If anything was ever destined for a complete Absolute Edition…

Until then however you can look for this little cracker and wonder why DC ever let it fall out of print.
© 1986, 1987, 1993 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups

By Gardner Fox, John Broome & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0470-9

As I’ve mentioned before, I was one of the “Baby Boomer” crowd that grew up with Gardner Fox and John Broome’s tantalisingly slow reintroduction of Golden Age superheroes during the halcyon, eternally summery days of the 1960s. To me those fascinating counterpart crusaders from Earth-Two weren’t vague and distant memories rubber-stamped by parents or older brothers – they were cool, fascinating and enigmatically new. And for some reason the “proper” heroes of Earth-One held them in high regard and treated them with obvious deference…

It all began, naturally enough, in The Flash, flagship title of the Silver Age Revolution. After ushering in the triumphant return of the costumed superhero concept the Scarlet Speedster, with Fox and Broome at the reins, set an unbelievably high standard for superhero adventure in sharp, witty tales of science and imagination, illustrated with captivating style and clean simplicity by Carmine Infantino.

Gardner Fox didn’t write many Flash scripts at this time, but those few he did were all dynamite. None more so than the full-length epic that literally changed the scope of American comics forever. ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (the Flash #123 September 1961, illustrated by Infantino and Joe Giella) introduced the theory of alternate Earths to the continuity and by extension resulted in the multiversal structure of the DCU, Crisis on Infinite Earths and all the succeeding cosmos-shaking crossover sagas that grew from it. And of course where DC led, others followed…

During a benefit gig Flash (police scientist Barry Allen) accidentally slips into another dimension where he finds that the comic-book hero he based his own superhero identity upon actually exists. Every adventure he had absorbed as an eager child was grim reality to Jay Garrick and his mystery-men comrades on the controversially named Earth-2. Locating his idol Barry convinces the elder to come out of retirement just as three Golden Age villains, Shade, Thinker and the Fiddler make their own wicked comeback… Thus is history made and above all else, ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ is still a great read that can electrify today’s reader.

Fox revisited Earth-2 nine months later in #129’s ‘Double Danger on Earth!’ (inked by Murphy Anderson) as Jay Garrick ventured to Earth-1 to save his own world from a doom comet, only to fall foul of Captain Cold and the Trickster. Another cracking thriller, as well as double Flash action, this tale teasingly reintroduced Justice Society stalwarts Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Doctor Mid-Nite and Black Canary. Clearly Editor Schwartz had something in mind…

‘Vengeance of the Immortal Villain!’ from Flash #137 (June 1963, inked by Giella) was the third incredible Earth-2 crossover, and saw the two Flashes unite to defeat 50,000 year old Vandal Savage and save the Justice Society of America: a tale which directly led into the veteran team’s first meeting with the Justice League of America and the start of all those aforementioned “Crisis” epics.

That landmark epic can be found elsewhere (most notably in Crisis on Multiple Earths volume 1, ISBN-13: 978-1-56389-895-2), and this collection continues with the less well-known ‘Invader from the Dark Dimension!’ (Flash #151, March 1964, by Fox, Infantino and Giella), a full-length shocker where the demonic Shade ambitiously attempts to plunder both worlds.

Public approval was decidedly vocal and Editor Julie Schwartz used DC’s try-out magazines to sound out the next step: stories set on Earth-2 with exclusively Golden Age characters.

Showcase #55 saw the initial team-up of Doctor Fate and Hourman as the Justice Society stalwarts battled the monster of Slaughter Swamp when ‘Solomon Grundy Goes on a Rampage!’ Produced by Fox and Anderson, this bombastic yarn even had room for a cameo by Earth-2’s Green Lantern, and the original text page featuring the heroes’ origins is also reproduced here.

Showcase #56 also featured “the Super-Team Supreme” (and by the same creative team supreme) in ‘Perils of the Psycho-Pirate!’ wherein ex-con Roger Hayden (cell-mate of the original JSA villain) steals the magical Masks of Medusa to go on an emotion-controlling crime-spree. Fan-historians should note that this tale is a pivotal antecedent of the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths (ISBN: 978-1-5638-9750-4) as well as a superbly engaging adventure in its own right. A text feature on the original Psycho-Pirate accompanies the story.

Although getting in late to the Counterpart Collaborations game, the inevitable first teaming of the Hal Jordan and Alan Scott Green Lanterns is one of the best and arguably second-most important story of the entire decade. ‘Secret Origin of the Guardians!’ by John Broome, Gil Kane and Sid Greene (Green Lantern #40, October 1965) introduced the renegade Guardian Krona, revealed the origin of the multiverse, showed how evil entered our universe and described how the immortal Oans took up their self-appointed task of policing the cosmos. It also shows Gil Kane’s paramount ability to stage a superhero fight like no other. This pure comicbook perfection should be considered a prologue to the aforementioned Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Still looking for an Earth-2 concept that would support its own series Schwartz, Fox and Anderson debuted the team of Starman and Black Canary in The Brave and the Bold #61 (September-October 1965), pairing the heroes against the eerily translucent villain the Mist in ‘Mastermind of Menaces!’ This compelling thriller is augmented here by the text feature biography of the Black Canary.

Although not featured in this volume, Schwartz and Fox did finally achieve their ambition to launch a Golden Age hero into his own title. After three Showcase appearances and many guest-shots the Spectre won his own book at the end of 1967, just as the super-hero craze went into a steep decline.

This fabulous volume concludes with a back-up tale from issue #7 (November/December 1968) of that brilliant but ill-fated series. ‘The Hour Hourman Died!’ by Fox, Dick Dillin and Sid Greene, is a dark and clever attempted-murder mystery that packs a book’s worth of tension and action into its nine moody pages and serves as a solid thematic reminder that the golden Silver Age of the 1960s was a creative high point that simply couldn’t last. When you start at the top the only way is down…

Still irresistible and compellingly beautiful after all these years, the stories collected here shaped the American comics industry for decades and are still influencing not only today’s funny-books but also the brilliant animated TV shows and movies that grew from them. These are tales and this is a book you simply must have.

© 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, 2005 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Shadowpact: the Burning Age

By Matthew Sturges, Kieron Dwyer, Tom Derenick, Phil Winslade & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-141-0

With this final Shadowpact collection (reprinting issues #20-25 of the tragically defunct monthly comic-book series) scripter Matthew Sturges wraps up all the contiguous plot-lines in fine style over two discrete adventures.

In ‘Black and White’ Kieron Dwyer (part 1, ‘Unexpected Allies’), Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher (part 2, ‘A Virus of the Mind’) and, Phil Winslade (part 3, ‘Come Together’) delineate the final fate of team-leader Nightmaster, as he and Ragman accompany Nightshade to her home dimension and stumble into an imminent eldritch invasion of Earth by the mystic zombies of The Unbound.

Meanwhile after completing Twelve Heroic Labours for the Vatican, Blue Devil and his lawyer finally get their day in the Courts of Hell to determine the final fate and disposition of the hero’s soul…

Reunited with a team-member long thought forever lost, the extra-dimensional wanderers save the world(s) again and are cataclysmically returned to their Earth-bound comrades just in time to face the invading god known as the Sun King and his disciple Dr. Gotham.

Over three apocalyptic chapters ‘The Burning Age’ (illustrated by Winslade) neatly ties up the entire series as the menace the Shadowpact was formed to battle finally makes its infernal move. The entire team (in fact all of the teams of mystical champions over hundreds of thousands of years) finally confront the ultimate enemy throughout all of time in a deadly magical duel to the death.

Spectacular, intriguing and immensely cathartic, this is a superb note on which to end a great series, whilst still leaving options open for a glorious return. Shadowpact is one of the best team-comic-books of recent years and if the temptation of a “complete set” is what it takes to make a fan out of you, I’ll even sink that low…

Infinite Crisis: Day of Vengeance (ISBN 1-84576-230-4), Shadowpact: the Pentacle Plot (ISBN: 1-84576-533-8), Shadowpact: Cursed (ISBN13: 978-1-84576-738-9), Shadowpact: Darkness and Light (ISBN13: 978-1-84576-892-8) and Shadowpact: the Burning Age: each volume is pure magic, so get ’em all…

© 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

All Star Superman Volume 2

By Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely with Jamie Grant (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-854-4

The worst part of this gig is those moments when you’re holding something that defies your best-words: something utterly self evident, if only you could but see it yourself…

The long-awaited second and concluding volume of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s quirkily reverential and innovatively nostalgic interpretation of the legend of Superman (reprinting issues #7-12 of the award-winning mini-series) wraps up the saga in inimitable manner to the general delight of all fans and occasional dilettantes everywhere.

Superman is dying. Poisoned by Lex Luthor and the Tyrant Sun Solaris, the Man of Tomorrow rushes desperately to finish a shopping list of impossible tasks before his inevitable end, aware that the precious Earth and his greatest friends must be kept safe and happy, even after his demise…

Revisiting such unforgettable Silver Age motifs as the Planet of the Bizarros, being replaced by (even) more competent Kryptonians, liberating the citizens of the Bottle City of Kandor and all those cataclysmic battles with Luthor, not to mention curing cancer and the last Will and Testament of Superman, these gently thrilling glimpses of finer worlds shine with charm and Sense-of-Wonder, leavened with dark, knowing humour and subtle wistfulness. And action. Lots and lots of spectacular, mind-boggling action…

Older readers of the Man of Steel look back on an age of weirdness, mystery, hope and above all, unparalleled imagination. Morrison and the uniquely stylish Quitely (aided and abetted by the digital wizardry of inker/colourist Jamie Grant) obviously remember them too, and must miss them as much as we do.

However this is not just a pastiche of lost grandeur. Kids of all ages are better informed than we were, and the strong narrative thread and sharp, witty dialogue, backed up by the best 21st century technobabble should ensure that even the worldliest young cynic feels a rush of mind-expanding, goose-bump awe.

All-Star Superman: One of the very few superhero collections that literally anybody can – and should – enjoy…

© 2007, 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Firestorm, the Nuclear Man: Reborn

By Stuart Moore, Jamal Igle & Keith Champagne (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1219-3

One of the best “straight” superhero series of the last decade came and went with very little fanfare and only (thus far) this intriguing collection to mark its passage. Firestorm the Nuclear Man was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, launched in 1978 and promptly fell foul of the “DC Implosion” after five flamboyant, fun-filled issues.

High School Jock Ronnie Raymond and Nobel winning nuclear physicist Martin Stein were, due to a bizarre concatenation of circumstances, caught in an atomic blast that melded their bodies and minds into a fusion-powered being with extraordinary powers over matter and energy. Ronnie had conscious control of their consolidated body, and became an exuberant, flashy superhero, with a unique pantheon of villains all his own.

He was drafted into the Justice League of America, and eventually starred in a well received back-up series in The Flash (#289 to 304) which led to his second chance; Fury of Firestorm (100 issues and five Annuals between June 1982 and August 1990) before fading into the quiet semi-obscurity of team-books and guest-shots.

In 2004 Dan Jolley and Chrisscross reinvented the character, as black Detroit kid Jason Rusch was brought back from the brink of death thanks to a blazing energy ball (the Firestorm matrix seeking a new host after the murder of its previous body – although nobody discovered that for nearly a year…). This new version of the Nuclear Man can absorb any other body into the matrix, using them as a kind of battery – or more accurately spark plug – for Jason’s powers.

After impressively establishing himself as a hero in his own right he joined Donna Troy’s Space Strike Force in the Infinite Crisis (ISBN: 978-1-4012-0959-9), consequently suffering hideous injuries.

Inexplicably this volume (reprinting issues #23-27 of the third Firestorm comicbook series) ignores all that back-story and begins as part of the One Year Later narrative strand. Jason can now only combine with fellow atomic hero Firehawk, and their uncombined personas cannot safely be more than a mile apart. That’s rather problematic as Jason is a student in New York and Lorraine Reilley, when not Firehawk, is a United States Senator. Jason’s teleporting girlfriend Gehenna isn’t too keen on how much time her man and that “Older Woman” spend together either…

As Firestorm they are desperately searching for Martin Stein, missing for a year and somehow connected to a plot to destroy the Earth, but their quest has also made them/him the target for some extremely dangerous people…

By trying not to give too much away I might have made this tale seem a bit daunting or confusing, but it really isn’t. This is a deliciously clever and witty adventure, providing plenty of opportunities to bring first-time fans up to speed, with likable characters, dastardly villains, an intriguing mystery, plenty of action and loads of laughs – just like the rest of the series was. It reads enchantingly and is really beautiful to look at; so I just don’t understand why newcomers’ first exposure to this material should be with the twenty-third chapter and not the first…

Hopefully Firestorm’s scheduled appearances in the second season of the Brave and the Bold TV show will prompt somebody to collect the rest of this utterly appetising little gem of comic in trade paperback form. For your sake, as well as mine, I truly hope so…

© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.