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Posts Tagged ‘Superman’

DC: The New Frontier #3

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

March 13, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: The Brave and the Bold

As the Challengers of the Unknown are born, Hal Jordan finds a new purpose.

Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Cover Art: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics

The various plotlines woven into the first two issues of The New Frontier finally start to converge, albeit tangentially, in this issue. Four brave men band together as the Challengers of the Unknown. Meanwhile, J’onn J’onzz finds his secret jeopardized and Hal Jordan signs up with Ferris Aircraft, unaware of the fate that awaits him.

Darwyn Cooke’s story gets a bit more interesting this issue as some of the various plotlines from the first two issues begin to connect. He has done a good job generating a feel for the silver age incarnations of these characters, with the exception of the “big three” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, each of whom seems like more of a holdover of their golden age selves and who are, in fact, painted as something of an “old guard” in this series. Cooke also adds in a new character in this issue, a black man who sets out to take revenge on white supremacists that assaulted him. The story isn’t entirely original, of course, but I find myself curious about it mostly because, DC geek that I am, I can’t seem to figure out what character he is supposed to be a corollary for.

If there’s any problem with this book, it’s that so much of it seems like retreaded territory. While the classic versions of the characters are welcome, the red scare story and the reactionary Commie-hunter story are both somewhat worn out, and Cooke’s storyline doesn’t feel like it’s adding much to it, at least not yet.

As usual, his artwork is fantastic. Cooke’s iconic style is absolutely perfect for an old-fashioned comic book story, or a story that tries to take old fashioned elements and cast them in a new light. He draws the best classic versions of Superman and Batman that I’ve seen since the creators themselves put down their pencils, and the otherworldly form he gives the Martian Manhunter is spot-on.

So far, this series is more remarkable for the artwork than the storyline, but the storyline is okay. And it’s still got plenty to potential to grow – Cooke just needs to find the new paths that are available with such great source material and stop going down the old ones so much.

Rating: 7/10

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Smallville #7

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

March 13, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Chronicle & Parenthood

Chloe Sullivan gets a visitor that dredges up a case from the past.

Writer: Clint Carpenter
Pencils: Tom Derenick & Tom Grummett
Inks: Adam DeKraker & Kevin Conrad
Colors: Guy Major & Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Cover Art: John Van Fleet
Publisher: DC Comics

DC comics and the WB network begin a multimedia assault with a story that picks up a thread from a season one episode of Smallville, continues on the show’s website and will wrap up two months from now in the next issue of the comic book. If you’re going to do a story like that, this is the way to do it – “Chronicle” is a story that has a fairly satisfying ending to it, even if you don’t decide to log on to the website and check out how it continues, but the option to keep reading is there if you want it.

A man arrives on Chloe’s doorstep with new information about the mysterious “Level Three” that Luthorcorp moved out of Smallville under mysterious circumstances. Chloe and Clark go out to investigate. In a back-up story, Jonathan and Martha Kent get stranded on the side of the road due to a series of Clark-related mishaps. The backup is a quick funny story with a predictably sappy ending, but in the context of the television show it works fairly well.

It’s always a challenge, when adapting a TV show or movie, to draw characters that resemble the real actors without completely surrendering the storytelling needs of a comic book. Tom Derenick does a great job with this – his characters look enough like Allison Mack and Tom Welling to remind us that there is a TV show but he never sacrifices the conventions of comic storytelling. Tom Grummett isn’t quite as successful at this – his faces, especially John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, tend to be a bit over-detailed, but overall, the story looks all right.

This issue also includes a few text pieces – an article about visual effects on the program, the beginning of the season two episode guide and a weird “Voices From the Future” report that uses that annoying internet technique of substituting numbers for letters. You’re welcome to try to decipher it if you want – I got frustrated in two sentences.

This is a decent comic book, but I don’t think it gets used to its fullest potential. I’ve never seen an issue outside of comic book stores. This should be out there on magazine racks where kids and teenagers who watch the TV show can find it, read it and hopefully make the transition to other comic books. It’s time DC learned how better to market the best tool for grabbing new readers they currently have.

Rating: 7/10

Superman Family Adventures #1

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

June 4, 2012, 2012

Title: When We All Lived in the Forest

Writer: Art Baltazar & Franco
Art:
Art Baltazar
Editor:
Kristy Quinn
Publisher:
DC Comics

I was, I admit, somewhat despondent when DC Comics announced the end of their brilliant all-ages series, Tiny Titans. That heartbreak was assuaged, however, when word came that the creators of that book were going to take the same comedic sensibility and apply it to a new title, Superman Family Adventures. Having read the first issue of this new title, I feel like they haven’t missed a beat.

Set in the same continuity (such as it is) as Tiny Titans, Superman Family Adventures #1 picks up a few years later. Superboy and Supergirl are a little older, but still children, and the focus shifts over to their older cousin Superman and the rest of his friends (and foes). This issue, his arch-rival Lex Luthor plans yet another of his many attacks on Metropolis, and Superman and the gang – including Krypto and a new friend – team up to save the day.

This book takes a very interesting approach to the story. The plot feels like it could have been pulled straight from any number of silver age adventures. Luthor is legitimately trying to do bad things here, but there’s a sort of goofy innocence to the plot – no murderbots, no women in refrigerators, no Dr. Light-style attacks on the Justice League satellite to worry about. Just some good old fashioned robots programmed to steal Superman’s powers. Simple.

What makes the book great, though, is how the creators take that simple, silly concept and apply their unique style of comedy to it. The puns, the visual gags, and the situational humor is all distinctly their own, and it all blends very well with the Silver Age flavor of the plot. They also bring in satire of some of the contemporary DCU elements – for example, discussion of the new costumes that the characters are wearing in the New 52 era. This sort of modern lampooning is the sort of thing they did in their previous comic, and it still works here. The combination of familiar elements makes this a comic that feels very much like a spiritual successor to Tiny Titans while, at the same time, succeeding as its own entity.

In fewer words, I really liked this book, and I’m really glad this creative team still has a home with the toys of the DC Universe.

Rating: 9/10

Action Comics (1938 Series) #775

June 12, 2012 Leave a comment

June 12, 2012

Title: What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?

Writer: Joe Kelly
Pencils:
Doug Mahnke & Lee Bermejo
Inks:
Tom Nguyen, Dexter Vines, Jim Royal, Jose Marzan, Wade Von Grawbadger, Wayne Faucher
Letters:
Comicraft
Colors:
Rob Schwager
Cover Art:
Tim Bradstreet
Editor:
Eddie Berganza
Publisher:
DC Comics

With the new DC animated film Superman Vs. the Elite coming out today, I thought I would go back and reread the comic book that inspired it. This 2001 story by Joe Kelly was one that I remembered really enjoying when it was first released. Now, over ten years later, does it still hold up?

Hell, it’s more relevant than ever.

In “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” Superman is shocked when a new group of metahumans arrives on the scene. The Elite, led by Manchester Black, is a quartet of extremely powerful individuals who hand out their own form of brutal, murderous justice to criminals, often with no concern about civilian casualties or collateral damage. Public opinion of the group, remarkably, begins to rise, and Superman is suddenly faced with the question of his own relevancy.

This book was written as a response of sort to the growing popularity of comics like Wildstorm’s The Authority, itself a book initially conceived as the Justice League taken to brutal extremes. Then, like now, people questioned whether Superman could fit or belong in a darker, harder world. The thing that Joe Kelly did so perfectly in 38 short pages was show just why it was vital that a character like Superman refuse to cross the line the Elite trod upon. The final sequence of the story, the showdown between Superman and the Elite, is one of the hardest, most gut-wrenching sequences I’ve ever seen in a DC Universe comic book, but it isn’t gratuitous or shallow. It makes the point, it reminds us who Superman really is and why he’s important, and why characters like Black and the Elite are, ultimately, taking the easy way out.

The artwork here isn’t bad, with two strong pencillers and a tag team of talented inkers, but it does lack a bit of consistency, shunting from one style to another with more frequency than one would want. It tells the story well, though, and that story is strong enough that any glitches moving from one art style to the next can be easily forgiven.

If you’ve never read this comic before, it is currently available from the Comixology store (and if you’re reading this review on the date it’s published, it’s currently part of a 99-cent Superman Vs. the Elite sale). It’s well worth checking out before you watch the movie. It’s truly one of my picks for the greatest Superman stories of all time.

Rating: 10/10

Earth 2 #1

May 15, 2012 Leave a comment

May 6, 2012, 2012

Title: The Price of Victory

On Earth 2, a different trinity of heroes fights… but what happens if they fall?

Writer: James Robinson
Pencils:
Nicola Scott
Inks:
Trevor Scott
Colors:
Alex Sinclair
Letters:
Dezi Sienty
Cover Art:
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis
Editor:
Pat McCallum
Publisher:
DC Comics

The Multiverse is back with this new title, the first book set in a world outside of the universe of the New 52. Five years ago, the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman of another universe fought fiercely to save their world from an invasion by Steppenwolf and his Parademons. The world survived, but at an incredible price.

This issue is a lot of set-up, but it’s the most action-packed set-up you could possibly ask for. It’s clear that the classic DC trinity, although they’re in center stage here, will not be the stars of this title. Their appearance, in fact, is mostly here to set up the return of some other classic characters, albeit in new forms. It works nicely for that. This is the sort of all-out war you probably couldn’t get away with on “New Earth” (or whatever they’re calling the universe of the New 52 these days). Plenty of devastation, plenty of death, too much to deal with in 50 or so titles linked together in a single, current continuity. But as this book takes place on an alternate universe, and there are no other books set there (Worlds’ Finest is a spin-off, but that’s not quite the same thing) James Robinson could theoretically have a pretty free hand to go nuts, make major changes, and drastically alter the world as the story dictates. He’s done it before, but in things like The Golden Age. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does with a book like this on an ongoing basis.

I’ve been a fan of Nicola Scott for some time now, but with Trevor Scott and Alex Sinclair joining her on the art for this book, we’re seeing some of the greatest work she’s ever done. The battle scenes here are incredible, and she gives us depictions of DC’s three biggest guns that look very familiar, but just different enough that we accept them as alternate versions of the characters.

This first issue was great, even if it felt more like a “zero” issue. It doesn’t really matter that much what the number is, though. It’s a fine way to start, and I can’t wait to see where this newer universe is going to take us.

Rating: 9/10

JLA #107

April 10, 2012 Leave a comment

November 8, 2004

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Maintenance Day (Syndicate Rules Part One)

The Justice League is taking a day for general maintenance, unaware of a growing threat from another world.

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Pencils: Ron Garney
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Art: Ron Garney
Publisher: DC Comics

I’m a little biased here, I’ll admit that up front. New writer Kurt Busiek is one of my favorite scribes working in comics today, and moreso, this is a title in serious need of improvement. The book hasn’t been good on a consistent basis since Mark Waid’s all-too-short tenure ended nearly 40 issues ago.

As the issue opens, the JLA is basically spending the day doing preventative maintenance. Several of them are keeping their eyes on the Cosmic Egg that contains a new universe ready to hatch. (This egg, of course, was a leftover from Busiek’s JLA/Avengers crossover, although he has to be careful never to mention any copyrighted properties of that other publisher by name.) As they do that, Martian Manhunter and The Flash do their regular sweep of various contacts around the globe, making sure no crisis demand their attention, and pay a visit to an old menace they have in containment.

Right off the bat Busiek is doing one of the things I think he, along with writers like Waid and Geoff Johns, do incredibly well. He picks up on the history of the League, tapping into old stories to create the new. Some readers may find things a bit daunting, but the particular threat that occupies our two heroes this issue (although not the main threat of this story arc) is one even I was unfamiliar with, but Busiek gives us everything we need to know to comprehend the story.

Ron Garney’s art is usually very good, but it appears somewhat unfinished here. Just as the last six issues, released biweekly, looked as though he rather raced through them, so did this first issue with his new writer. There’s nothing really bad about the artwork, but it’s not as strong as anyone who has seen his Captain America run knows he’s capable of. It’s possible he just needs time to rest and then get back onto a normal monthly schedule.

After a truly abysmal last story arc (which, admittedly, started with a strong first issue then spiraled into cliché and tedium), this issue is a breath of fresh air. Busiek has said he wants to join the small club of writers who has had long tenures writing both the Justice League and the Avengers. Hopefully this issue is just the start of great things to come.

Rating: 7/10

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Superman (1939 Series) #299

March 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: The Double-Or-Nothing Life of Superman

CREDITS:
Writer:
Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin
Art:
Curt Swan & Bob Oksner
Editor:
Julius Schwartz
Publisher:
DC Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Superman I know – but why is his suit empty? And who are these guys surrounding him?

IMPRESSIONS: Evidently, Superman’s next-door neighbor is an alien. But not a nice one, like Superman is. He’s the sort who is planning an invasion or something and has gone about it in a ridiculously roundabout way – somehow he’s found a way to remove Superman’s powers whenever he changes to Clark Kent. Superman has decided to test this out by spending an entire week only as Clark, then a week only as Superman. After his time is up, he’s about to decide on which life to stick with full-time (for some reason), when his alien adversary rounds up nine of – as Superman puts it, “the most fearsome super-villains [he’s] ever fought!” I don’t know about how fearsome they are. Lex Luthor, sure. The Parasite and Brainiac look pretty formidable too, and I’m sure I can understand why he’d be afraid of someone named Kryptonite Man. But we’ve got a dwarf in a derby hat called Mr. Mxyzptlk, a chubby guy in a plaid coat called the Prankster, a weirdo called the Toyman, a goofy cowboy called Terra-Man, and someone named Amalak who doesn’t do much but stand around looking purple. (A lot of Superman’s enemies seem dedicated to a purple-and-green color scheme for some reason. Five of the nine wear those colors exclusively, and only Toyman doesn’t have any of them at all.)

Anyway, Superman goes out to round up these guys in a fashion that comes so easily one must seriously question how tough the rest of the criminals in Metropolis are, if these are the most fearsome of the bunch. Then we get an explanation for Superman’s power loss that makes you wonder why the hell it took him three weeks to figure it out, and then he beats the alien using an even more convoluted series of events.

There’s a bold proclamation on the first page of the issue: “The greatest hero the world has ever known in his most magnificent adventure of all time!” I’m hoping this was mere hyperbole, because as far as adventures go, this wasn’t particularly magnificent. I understood this just fine. That didn’t make it less silly.

GRADE: C