Friday, March 3, 2017

My Comics Project Update: February 2017

As part of my on-going comics project, I update monthly with what comics I bought and anything weird or interesting I stumbled across. Each post will have a running list, and I'll update with the new titles and where they fall chronologically.

I came up with the order of the books from this comment of all the Batman trades in chronological order (up to Flashpoint), this trade reading order list for Superman, and this one for Batman. I judged the rest for myself based on release dates and what the story depicted.

I want this list functional and readable, so I didn't focus on perfect chronological order. I tried to keep decent chunks of individual runs together where possible, then backtrack chronologically if necessary for a chunk of a different title--except in cases where something important was introduced, like a character dying, coming back to life, etc.

Below you'll see the list of canon DC titles that I own at this point. The ones in bold are the ones that I got this month.

  1. Crisis On Infinite Earths
  2. Batman: Dark Victory
  3. Justice League International, Vol. 1
  4. Justice League International, Vol. 2
  5. Justice League International, Vol. 3
  6. The Death of Superman
  7. Impulse: Reckless Youth
  8. Justice League: A League of One
  9. JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
  10. Young Justice: A League of Their Own
  11. Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds
  12. Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies
  13. Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
  14. JLA: The Hypothetical Woman
  15. Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid's Game
  16. Teen Titans Vol. 2: Family Lost
  17. Teen Titans Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls
  18. Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future is Now
  19. Teen Titans/Outside​rs: The Insiders
  20. Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy
  21. The OMAC Project (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  22. Infinite Crisis
  23. Teen Titans Vol. 5: Life and Death
  24. Batman: Face the Face by James Robinson
  25. Teen Titans, Vol. 6: Titans Around the World
  26. Teen Titans, Vol. 7: Titans East
  27. Superman: Up, Up, and Away!
  28. Superman: Back in Action
  29. Superman: Last Son of Krypton
  30. Superman: Camelot Falls, Vol. 1
  31. Superman: Camelot Falls (Vol. 2)
  32. Superman: The Third Kryptonian
  33. Superman: Redemption
  34. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World
  35. Superman: Shadows Linger
  36. Blue Beetle (Book 1): Shellshocked
  37. Blue Beetle (Book 2): Road Trip
  38. Blue Beetle (Book 3): Reach for the Stars
  39. Blue Beetle, Book 4: Endgame
  40. Batman: Batman and Son
  41. Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
  42. Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven
  43. Wonder Woman: The Circle*
  44. Time Masters: Vanishing Point
  45. Superman: Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
  46. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)
  47. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  48. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
  49. Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection (The New 52)
  50. Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
  51. Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
  52. Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey
  53. Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
  54. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52)
  55. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (The New 52)
  56. Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)
  57. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  58. Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  59. The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare (The New 52)
  60. Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada
  61. Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga
  62. Batgirl Vol. 4: Wanted (The New 52)
  63. Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places
  64. Bizarro
  65. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged

Once upon a time, DC writers told stories about whatever the hell they felt like. Sometimes, if they wanted to tell a story that didn't strictly fit into the established canon, they'd write a story set on some Other Earth--Earth Two, Earth Three, blah blah blah. This eventually became too confusing for readers--wait, which Earth did that happen on? Did that actually happen, or was that on one of the other Earths? 

In order to simplify things, DC published an event--Crisis on Infinite Earths--in which all of the other Earths and timelines were eliminated and streamlined into one easy to follow series of events.

This lasted for all of five minutes because of course it did. Since then, it's been sort of a DC tradition to periodically have big events that rewrite portions of their timeline or otherwise affect big changes:
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in the death of Silver Age Flash Barry Allen as well as the streamlining of the DC universe timeline...for a while...
  • Zero Hour resulted in the eventual death of Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan.
  • Infinite Crisis resulted in the deaths of several characters as well as rewriting Wonder Woman's and Superman's origins (again).
  • Final Crisis resulted in the death of the Martian Manhunter and the temporal displacement of Batman.
  • Flashpoint resulted in the entire DC universe rebooting back to zero (sorta, kinda, depending on how editors were feeling at the time). This new timeline is referred to as the New 52.
  • Convergence introduced the pre-New 52 Superman into the New 52 timeline through time shenanigans.
  • Rebirth has so far resulted in DC trying to reinstate some of the legacy and history that was lost when they rebooted everything in Flashpoint.

The ultimate point of me making this list, besides boredom and God's failure to install Normal Human OS 19.89 in me, is that some of the best books and arcs for characters--supposed classics--don't fully make sense unless you understand the context of the book.

Here's an example: one of the best known arcs in comics is the Death and Return of Superman. You can read The Death of Superman and mostly understand it (mostly because it's just a big dumb fight scene, but I digress), but when he comes back to life, there's a little extra reading required to fully understand.

Superman is reborn from a Space Womb that's actually leftover Kryptonian technology from when he first arrived on Earth. This is set up in John Byrne's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin for the character, Superman: Man of Steel. In that that re-imagining, instead of Superman arriving on Earth as a baby, he travels through space in a fancy space incubator and arrives partially grown. This is THE REASON Superman can be reborn, but it doesn't really make sense if you haven't read John Byrne's origin. It looks like the writer just pulled something out of his ass.

AND YET, although The Death of Superman was still considered canon, as I said above, Superman's origins actually got changed in Infinite Crisis. It wasn't the first time that Superman's origin had been rewritten in canon, and each of those rewrites usually altered Superman's powers slightly--does Superman need an air mask in space or is he fine? How strong he is? Can he fly or just jump really far? How fast is he? Does he have any memories of Krypton or his parents? Are his Earth parents alive or not? 

You get the idea. You can't really pick just one origin and read it without losing the meaning and context that the older comics were operating under at the time they were published.

All of that is to say that so far I only have two of these big events, and I would like to collect the rest.

My main goal is still to finish collecting the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle and continue collecting the Geoff Johns et al run of the Teen Titans. However, both of those series are bumping into one of the Big Events I don't have yet--Final Crisis.

Final Crisis is heavily tied in with the Grant Morrison run of Batman and deals heavily with the introduction of the fourth Robin, Batman's flesh and blood son Damian Wayne.** It's also the event in which Batman dies and the first Robin, Dick Grayson, takes over as Batman for a while. So this month, in addition to Blue Beetle and Teen Titans, I started working on getting the Batman books that lead into Final Crisis.

Two places where I made spur of the moment exceptions are: 

1) I bought Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven even though it takes place further ahead than I am in Teen Titans because that book is usually hella expensive, but I caught it listed in good condition and crazy cheap, so I snatched that up. Plus, it's supposed to stand on its own, so even though I don't know WHY Raven isn't with the Titans, I should be able to read it and enjoy it.

2) I bought Wonder Woman: The Circle for the same situation as the Raven book above. It's normally at least $40 because the Amazon Marketplace said so, but I found it listed for surprisingly cheap, so I jumped at the chance.

You might notice my picture looks a bit different, and that's because the line of books no longer fit on their original shelf, so I moved them over to a wider bookshelf. While moving the books, I ended up re-arranging my list a little--mostly taking the Blue Beetle run out of the middle of the Superman run and putting it at the end. I've read the whole Superman run, and it reads just fine, and nothing happens in Blue Beetle that dictates it interrupt the flow of the Superman books. I also made some changes on my to-be-bought list that will keep the future volumes of Teen Titans and Blue Beetle more closely together, too.

My plans for March are to keep collecting Teen Titans, keep collecting Batman up to Final Crisis at least, and try to finish up the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle run--especially because he joins the Teen Titans soon after his run ends.

If you have any thoughts about, drop me a line in the comments. Want to discuss books I've recently purchased or read? Any suggestions for books I missed? Just please, no spoilers.

Happy reading!