Sunday, December 29, 2019

Looking Back: Matt Wagner's Trinity (2003), DC Direct

Matt Wagner wrote Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity seven years before I started this blog, and I've finally gotten around to reading it here at the end of 2019. Lately I've been revisiting some of the DC Direct figures I've had on card in my collection, though I'd sold off many of them in the last three years to downsize my collection, among them three Trinity figures I never opened. Early in my action figure collecting, I was just buying what appealed visually to me, not necessarily related to the sheer volume of books I was consuming in attempt to get up to speed on all I'd missed in the years I wasn't reading comics. I'm unsure why I never bought the Superman from this series, other than I may have already bought enough other Superman figures from other series, or I couldn't get him at a price I found reasonable. At any rate, DC Direct was known for their creator/title inspired series, and they nailed it in 2008 with the release of the Trinity Series. Collectors often lamented the limited number of characters DC Direct offered, Bizarro and Artemis noticeably missing from this series. But if you could only choose four, they offered the four obvious characters, which looked fantastic.

I found a copy of Trinity for south of six dollars recently, and finally committed to getting it read all these years later. Not my first exposure to Matt Wagner, having read a Grendel book back in the '80s, the author's art style was instantly familiar to me- here, a quasi-Art Deco homage that brought to mind the Fleisher Superman cartoons of the 1940s. There's a great deal of Trinity I liked, while some of it falls short, such as the not-so-subtle fetishization of Wonder Woman in parts, to the murky purpose of Artemis in the book's plot. Wagner carries the entirety of Trinity on his own creative shoulders however, which is impressive from any angle, though the art lacks consistency that other artist's who employ similar simplistic styles employ more efficiently- Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke come to mind here. In fact, I'd recommend Cooke's Justice League: The New Frontier over Trinity if you are looking for a retro-styled DC book. That said, Trinity has a lot to offer, and I'm glad I finally read it. This is the second book I've read this year with Ra's Al Ghul, the other being the fantastic Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77. It's been fun getting back to physical comics lately, mostly DC, after reading Marvel Unlimited on my iPad the last couple years- a trend I plan to continue in 2020.

Visit Joe Acevedo's online DC Direct Archive to see all the figures from 1999 to 2012!
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Justice League of America #242 (1985)

Digging through the discount bins recently in my local comic shop unearthed an issue of Justice League of America with a cover I couldn't ignore. I've read more JLA from recent years, the team not even on my radar in the mid-eighties, though I was still reading comics as a young teenager. The roster interested me, some like Zatanna, Vixen, and J'onn J'onzz now familiar to me, and others such as Gypsy and Dale Gunn not as much. Also of interest was Steel and a pre-New 52 Vibe- neither of which I'd experienced.

Issue #242, "Battle Cry", finds two search parties of the JLA tracking the super-powered android Amazo in the Northwestern Canada. Unbeknownst to our heroes, the adaptive Amazo is the hunter in reality, using the powers of the JLA against them to attack with calamitous results!

Meanwhile, Aquaman searches for Mera, who left weeks ago, the loss of their son devastating the aquatic couple. tearing them apart. Finding her deep in the dark currents of the Atlantic, where they consummated their love years ago, the couple embrace, surfacing to talk out their differences in a tearful, heartfelt reunion...

After recovering from a brutal attack by Amazo earlier, Martian Manhunter and Dale Gunn regroup to pursue the android, certain their teammates would never break ranks and attack without them. They are unaware that Amazo caught the sperate parties by surprise, throwing them into a hole and entombing them with a boulder! You'll have to hunt down issue #243 to see if Aquaman returns to save them!

Of further note regarding this issue, a rather lengthy special preview of Mask is plopped right in the middle of this issue. Of interest to fans of this property most certainly, it left me wishing for more pages of JLA in what I initially thought was a thicker issue. Additioanlly, an advertisement for Crisis On Infinite Earths was tucked into the pages of this issue, which would change the landscape of DC Comics dramatically thereafter. I didn't read Crisis until around 2011, when I got back into comics after starting this blog, and began reading everything I could find in attempt to get back up to speed on what I'd missed in the years before.

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

DC Direct Brightest Day Green Arrow

Continuing from my last post with another DC Direct Brightest Day figure, Series 1 Green Arrow! I've had this figure on card in my collection since the summer of 2011, less than a year into publishing this blog, and obsessed with DC Direct action figures. They were more delicate then the DC Universe Classics I was also buying, but the sculpts were more unique and the paint was more nuanced. DC Direct often designed the characters after their interpretations within particular stories in the comics. While I've yet to read Brightest Day ( I just found all three books at great prices used), I loved the hooded costume of this figure, a somewhat new look for the decades old DC Comics hero at the time, if memory serves me correctly.

I really like that you can display Green Arrow without his hood, and that the loose arrows he comes with can be stowed in the quiver on his back. There have been some really cool Green Arrow figures, but his one may be nearly perfect, due in large part to the comic-accurate portrait. But the remaining sculpt throughout cannot be ignored, from the fabric folds in his tunic, pouches around the utility belt, and darts on the inside of his gauntlets. Ollie also gets points for little details like the painted bow handle and arrows, and real bowstring. I also love the subtle metallic tint of his boots and gauntlets- Exceptional! 

Like most of the DC Direct figures of this era, Green Arrow lacks the articulation of a lot of recent action figures, though many critical reviews in his time praised him in this department- DC Direct had made strides forward in this regard, though still behind the DCUC figures at the beginning of the decade. Whatever he lacks in articulation is more than made up for in aesthetics, however, and made Green Arrow a standout among an already beautiful line of action figures that the Brightest Day series was. Most all of them have increased in value, Green Arrow much higher than most on the secondary market, over eight years after his release.

Below, Brightest Day Green Arrow with Blackest Knight Green Lantern Hal Jordan...

Visit Joe Acevedo's online DC Direct Archive to see all the figures from 1999 to 2012!
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Sunday, December 15, 2019

DC Direct Brightest Day Dove, Jade, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter

I had started picking up some of the DC Direct Brightest Day Series figures in 2011, only to leave them all on card- the number of figures I picked up that year was larger than the amount of time I realistically had to photograph/document them in the very systematic fashion I had only recently adopted. In fact, I'd sold my Jade figure just over a year ago, deciding to buy her again while I was buying Firestorm and Dove at such good prices from an eBay seller recently. DC Direct was making some of their most beautiful figures in 2011, the year before they rebranded as DC Collectibles, and while these were designed specifically after the characters in the Brightest Day story, some of the figures from this series were just really nice evergreen versions of the characters that could plug into anyone's 7" collection. You won't get a great deal of dynamic poses out of these, but the sculpts and colors are fantastic, and they come with really nice display stands.

Firestorm had a pretty complicated history prior to the New 52 reboot, and I'm honestly less interested in that than I am as the character as an action figure. I've always loved his outfit, this version executed beautifully, the chest emblem actually sculpted around the torso and swirly crown of translucent fire atop his head. In Brightest Day, both the original Ronnie Raymond and the modern Jason Rusch merge into the Firestorm Matrix, the former having been resurrected.

Below, Brightest Day Firestorm with the DC Universe Classics Firestorm...

Jade is the Daughter of Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern of Earth, and former girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. She was not included in the New 52 or Rebirth timeline reboots, so her continuity in DC Comics is in limbo, as I understand it. Regardless, I love the character design and her facial portrait is perfect. The pearlescent white went a long way in making an otherwise simple figure kind of special.

Below, Brightest Day Jade with Blackest Night Green Lantern Hal Jordan...

Probably even less than with Firestorm, I've no real attachment to Dove as a character, having picked her up on her merits as an action figure alone. The character design is simple, but beautifully executed. Even back in 2011, I preferred the female DC Direct figures over the Mattel females, Dove here using the same buck as Jade. I love the colors and her little, winged cape. DC Direct produced a Brightest Day Hawk figure to compliment her, which I do not have. Dove suppresses her partner's rage & violent tendencies, which would be boundless without her. She is hypervigilant and can read how people will react, also possessing enhanced agility, flight and healing powers.

Below, Jade with one of her Wave 3 mates, Brightest Day Aqualad...

Now this Brightest Day Martian Manhunter has been on card in my collection for nearly nine years, so I'm really happy to have opened him. I loved the updated design of this character, having been brought back to life from his death in Final Crisis (DC Comics, 2008-2009). J'onn purportedly has a substantial role in Brightest Day, which I have limited knowledge of, having never read. I know that sounds crazy as I was such a Blackest Night fan, but I must've been consumed by the dozens of other books I was reading at the time, freshly back into comics as an adult. Regardless, J'onn is at one point in the series forced to choose between Earth and Mars, fulfilling a plan for the White Lantern Entity, and defending the Earth against the Dark Avatar as an Elemental.

I actually have a 3" DC Action League version of the Brightest Day J'onn J'onzz...

Visit Joe Acevedo's DC Direct Archive online to see all the figures from 1999 to 2012!
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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

DC Direct Blackest Night Green Lantern Hal Jordan

At the end of 2010, freshly back into reading comics and just a few months into authoring this blog, I read Blackest Night and got into Green Lantern like never before. I had soon collected several of the DC Direct Blackest Night figures, keeping them on card until liquidating them in 2018 as I downsized my collection. While I don't necessarily regret this, I did surprise myself when purchasing the Blackest Night Hal Jordan figure loose on eBay recently. The carded sample picture above is the Hal Jordan I sold off in 2018, one of the Blackest Night figures I most wanted to open, and am really happy to have found a loose, affordable sample in great condition.

Blackest Night: Green Lantern and Blackest Night (DC Comics, 2009-2010)

The sculpts on these DC Direct Blackest Night figures were extraordinary, and Hal was no exception. DC Direct rebranded as DC Collectibles just over a year after producing these figures and the subsequent Brightest Day Series figures, eventually adding more points of articulation in attempt to compete with other lines of figures in a rapidly expanding market. It's true that I'm nostalgic for this era of figures because I was just getting into collecting as an adult, there's little doubt that the hobby was climbing in popularity while the quality of figures was improving dramatically. The quality lantern accessories and bases included with the Blackest Night figures made them truly special!

I've said many times on this blog during my years collecting DC Direct figures, that what they lacked in articulation was more than made up for in aesthetic. I was also a huge DC Universe Classics fan at the time, but I do love the uninterrupted torso sculpt on Hal. The knees and elbows on this figure don't even achieve a 45 degree bend, but he does have swivels at his wrists, above the biceps and at his boot tops.

Below, Blackest Night Hal Jordan with my DC Collectibles New 52 Justice League Hal Jordan and Simon Baz. Not much had changed yet in regard to articulation with these two figures, who in fact have a little less without boot top swivels- gone are the figure bases we got with DC Direct just a year or two before.

Below, Hal Jordan with DC Direct Green Lanterns Soranik Natu, Sinestro, and Guy Gardner. These Series 5 Green Lantern figures dropped about a year after Blackest Night Hal, and sport a metallic green that just blew me away at the time. Everyone was into Green Lantern then, the books and figures coming out with fanfare not seen before, culminating with the oft bemoaned Green Lantern film. While the movie was kind of a letdown, I did continue to read Green Lantern into DC's New 52 relaunch, thrilled by Sinestro's reinstatement into the Green Lantern Corps! Visit Joe Acevedo's DC Direct Archive online to see all the figures from 1999 to 2012!

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