Superman: Peace on Earth - 1999

The first of the excellent Alex Ross/Paul Dini books. To me, there are no finer comics than these. I will brook no argument on this subject.

It's not secret--hell, it's on the front page of this site--that Alex Ross is a big fan of treasury comics. When first coming up with the idea for these books, it was decided somewhere along the line to do them in the classic treasury format. Not only would they be a better fit for the beauty and scope of Ross' work, but part of the goal of these books was for them to reach a wider, non-traditional-comic-shop-dwelling audience. These would be sold in bookstores, and having them be so huge, they'd be noticed.

I'm betting that DC collectively rolled its eyes when Ross & Dini suggested this, but they're still Alex Ross and Paul Dini, so I bet they all said "great idea!" before going back to their offices to say "What's a treasury comic?"

Anyway, the story deals with Superman's attempt to address the issue of world hunger, and maybe point the world in the right direction.

There are no word balloons in this comic--it's all written out as text accompanying the art. Initially, it takes a little getting used to, but after half a dozen oages you get swept up in the story and everything just clicks.

By the end of the story, Superman of course learns he cannot end world hunger all by himself--that even Superman is powerless up against the will of humanity, whichever way it turns. The story is a little sad in a lot of places, and even though this is a Superman comic, it attempts to take a realistic view of some of the problems that cause people to go hungry in this world.

A great start to the series.

68 beautiful, breathtaking pages by Ross.

New! Rollover the image to see the book's back cover!

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Batman: War on Crime - 1999

The second of the excellent Alex Ross/Paul Dini books.

With a character as well-trod as Batman, it's probably tempting to say that there's no more to be said about the character, no new angles to view him from--all that's left to do is subtle variations on what's been done before.

But in War on Crime, Ross and Dini present Batman--and just as importantly, Bruce Wayne--in a manner I at least have never seen before. We see Bruce decide to try and take on crime in more than just the traditional batarang-to-the-head way. For the first time in a long time to this Batman reader, it's Bruce Wayne that seems like the real person, not Batman.

While the story is ultimately uplifting, it does end with a exquisitely beautiful melancholy moment, a moving evocation of Batman's lonely quest.

This is a wonderful companion to Peace on Earth, and, I feel, even outdoes it. One of the finest Batman stories ever written.

68 beautiful, breathtaking pages by Ross.

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Update After our pal Rogerio Baldino showed me the delights of the French editions of these Ross/Dini books, I've been on the hunt for my own copies.

I recently found a copy of the French War On Crime, and like Rogerio noted, its filled with extra little deights the American version does not. Not only is it hardcover with a dustjacket, but it comes with several pages of sequenital pin-ups by Ross, plus this wonderful little iconic logo.

This logo is so neat it's a wonder that it hasn't been picked up and used more--like the familiar yellow oval, this thing just screams Batman.

Click the image to see some of DC's in-store promotional material for this book!

Shazam!: Power of Hope - 2000

The third of the excellent Alex Ross/Paul Dini books.

Alex Ross, among others, are unabashed Captain Marvel/Shazam! fans--he and Mark Waid made the Captain a big part of Kingdom Come because they liked the character so much. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he was chosen to headline one of these books, instead of, say, Aquaman, Flash, or Green Lantern.

I've always like the Captain, too--from the comics to the cheesy 70s TV show and back--but I can't call myself an expert on him. That said, I think this might be the single best Captain Marvel story ever.

Like War on Crime, Power of Hope focuses on Marvel and his alter-ego Billy Batson equally. Marvel starts to doubt his purpose and usefulness as a hero, so to reconnect with his inner Billy, goes to visit a children's hospital and tries to bring some joy and excitement into their lives.

There are some moments in this book that are simply astonishing--Ross even sneaks in appearance of Mr.Tawky Tawny and yet it doesn't look ridiculous.

Marvel takes the kids on an adventure and worries he's scared them, when in fact they've had the time of their lives. Marvel gets flirted with by a doctor who sees the kindness inside the hero (his reaction is priceless). He goes to visit the thuggish, bullying father of an abused boy and tells him in no uncertain terms to cut it out.

In the end, Marvel reconnects with himself and his mission. A really sweet, wonderful story. If all Captain Marvel comics were this good, he would be as big as Superman or Batman.

68 beautiful, breathtaking pages by Ross.

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Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth - 2001

The fourth of the excellent Alex Ross/Paul Dini books.

Of all of them, I would say this one is the weakest. Not because it's about Wonder Woman, but that her goal is a little more vague than the others--ending hunger, ending crime, finding hope--those are big, dynamic themes. Spirit of Truth suffers from being a little more abstract.

But that said, it's still an excellent book. Ross and Dini really get behind Diana's personality, and she seems more understandable and relatable than in almost all of her other appearances. Like Captain Marvel, if WW had been done this well in her regular book, she'd be as big a seller as Superman or Batman.

There's a wonderful scene where Diana, unsure of the soundness of her mission, has a sit down with Clark. Not Superman--Clark. They sit like and talk like any two people in the same line of work. They even flirt a little; it's a really charming sequence.

This was originally supposed to be the last of these books...luckily it wasn't!

68 beautiful, breathtaking pages by Ross.

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JLA: Secret Origins - 2002

Originally, there was just going to be the four Ross/Dini books. But they had been such a success, critically and financially, that the opportunity was there for the creators to continue of they wanted.

The idea Ross and Dini had was to do a summation--a book featuring all the classic JLA characters. As they state in the interview segment at the end of this book, they didn't feel that the other DC stalwarts--Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc.,--couldn't necessairily support their own treasury books, so why not do one with everybody? (While I was thrilled they did a JLA one, my teeth clenched at their assessment of the other characters' ability to carry books of their own--I mean, I'd actually kill another human being to get an Aquaman treasury comic by these two)

So, in the build up of this massive book, they decided to put out this stop-gap book--a collection of 2-page origin sequences, highlighting each character.

Obviously, this book is really more a promotional piece than a complete piece, but it's still a load of fun, and Ross & Dini come up with inventive angles on each of the hero's origins.

Finally, in the interview, Ross & Dini jokingly mention they want to do Black Canary & Zatanna:Power of Fishnets. Let me just say, I'm up for buying it if they're up for doing it!

52 pages.

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Click the image to see a foreign EBAL ad for this book plus other treasury ads!

JLA: Liberty and Justice - 2003

The *sniff* last of the excellent Alex Ross/Paul Dini books.

To say they went out with a bang is an understatment. Liberty and Justice is a tremendous story, full of pathos and fun, but with wonderful, sharp characterizations of our favorite heroes.

The JLA confronts an alien menace, but their attempts to confront it creates a second, just as big a problem--humanity's distrust towards these super-people.

All the heroes of the JLA get their own special moment, or moments. Flash and Green Lantern hatch a plan to help fix the problem, and they admit to each other they're basically making this up as they go along. Batman gets to be wonderfully taciturn towards his fellow teammates, but he never decends into being a rude jerk that he has under many lesser writers.

Best of of all, my favorite hero, Aquaman, gets a really good sequence, where we get to see his raw power.

These characters really came alive under the control of Ross and Dini, and I've found I read and re-read these books regularly, as well as getting them as presents for kids I know--I feel they are ideal entertainment, truly for all ages. While I'm sad that this was the last one, I'm so grateful that we've got them at all.

One of my favorite JLA stories of all time. A supreme acheivement.

100 beautiful, breathtaking pages by Ross. Mind-boggling.

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Superman/Fantastic Four - 1999

What a fun idea! The return of the treasury format for these classic DC/Marvel team-ups.

By Dan Jurgens and Art Thibert, this was a neat story where Superman teams with the FF to face...who else? Galactus!

In the wake of all the DC/Marvel team-ups that occurred around this time, I wonder why only this one was given the treasury treatment. It would've been, of course, to see a whole series of these, but..oh, well.

Cover by Dan Jurgens and Alex Ross.

68 pages.

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JLA: Heaven's Ladder - 2000

Mark Waid wrote a huge story to fit the huge format in this really fun book. Great art by Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, with color by my pal Laura DePuy!

This is a classic JLA story--a monstrous, overwhelming threat--is taken on by the JLA in small teams, just like those classic Gardner Fox stories.

Each of the characters gets a nice moment or two, and there are enough twists and turns that the story feels really epic in scope--a really great story for this format. Hats off to whomever decided to do this book in the treasury size. Nice thinking outside the box.

Btw, this is the era of the JLA when Plastic Man was on the team. I loved him in the JLA, and he gets some especially funny moments in this story.

76 pages.

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Click the image to see the original DC ad for this book plus other treasury ads!
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