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Superman: Secret Origin #4 [Review]

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Covers: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Edior: Matt Idelson

Lex Luthor has a lottery. Each day, he’ll pick one person from the assembled crowd outside his building, and attempt to make their dreams come true, putting his expansive resources to full use. The latest “winner,” Rudy Jones, has already been shown to be a bit of a parasite, leeching off those around him. Thanks to his disgusting disregard for things better left to common sense, he finds himself victim of a chemical spill that transforms him into the being that will become known as The Parasite. Amidst this, Luthor has summoned Lois and Clark to question them about the “flying man” spotted around Metropolis. As The Parasite’s threat escalates, Clark bows out and the “flying man” returns, saving many and yet winding up looking questionable to the city as Luthor hurls accusations at him. When he takes some time for himself atop the Daily Planet building, he finds he’s not alone–young Jimmy Olsen is there, saying goodbye to the city he’s failed to become a part of…not realizing what an important friendship he’s about to enter into with another necomer to the city…and reaps the reward of taking a chance and asking a favor.

There’s something that’s lost by this being an origin tale in years-old continuity where much has already been questioned. We’ve already seen much of the change this origin would essentially set up, losing any real discovery, revelation, or chance to follow a huge, unfolding story. While Byrne‘s Man of Steel significantly altered the details of Superman’s beginnings in the mid 1980s, it was also the opening chapter, the actual foundation, of the official Superman story. This series, while altering the details of Superman’s beginnings yet again, feels like more of a plug-up-the-holes sort of thing than a foundation.

This issue doesn’t feel quite like the earlier issues. We have some origin-like stuff in terms of The Parasite, but there’s not much character development. Parasite’s an unlikable, uninteresting character to me–rather two-dimensional, really–and seems to serve little more here than plot device to give Superman something to fight, to punch…and to be more directly “outed” as existing to the public of Metropolis.

The art by Gary Frank, of course, is stellar…on the whole, I really enjoy his art, and it brings a great look to this series and this issue. My primary gripe is the seemingly obvious use of Christopher Reeve as a “model” for this depiction of Clark/Superman…there are panels–such as on page 7 where Clark suggests to Perry’s question of the man actually flying “Um, up, up and–away”–where the imagery just SCREAMS Christopher Reeve. On the one hand, a fitting tribute, and acknowledgment of the man’s legacy and impact on this character, especially in the eyes of the public in and outside of comics. On the other hand…it seems another sign of Superman being “stuck” and unable to really grow and develop beyond a decades-old image that’s clung to, returned to, after decades of actually growing and developing the character beyond simplistic and hokey stories/concepts.

If I were a new fan of Superman, or at least new to the comics, I suspect I would find this a great, thrilling issue and enjoy it very much. As it is, as a longtime DC reader watching the character I’ve grown up on over the past two decades being phased into something of an amalgamation of every possible version of the character…it’s frustrating and discouraging. Johns is a great writer, and obviously has a knowledge of much that is Superman–from the comics, from tv, from the movies–and I can appreciate that effort’s being put forth to reconcile many versions into one cohesive whole.

Usually for me it’s the story that makes the issue…but in this case, the art’s the primary draw for me. I don’t like where the Superman books are headed, nor the revamping and loss of “my” Superman–but this is at the very least the best-looking Superman book out there these days.

Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment of the issue: 6/10

Captain America: Reborn #6 [Review]

By: Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Leters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Designer: Rian Hughes
Covers: Hitch and Mounts; John Cassaday and Laura Martin; Joe Quesada, Danny Miki and Richard Isanove
Assoc. Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort

Before I read a single page of this issue, I was impressed by a stark difference I’m entirely unused to. This issue–at least, for the version of the cover that I bought, keeping with the visual style of the covers I’ve chosen since issue #1–sports not only a wrap-around cover, but a gatefold as well. That is, we have a 3-“panel” cover that folds out to the width of 3 comic covers, as a single, large image. Meanwhile, the latest Justice League of America issue from DC features HALF of a two-panel image as each of two different editions of the same exact issue. I dislike variants, but have a much easier time tolerating them when each is at least its own complete image. And the “build-an-image” motif where covers connect to form a larger image is cool, so long as it is multiple different issues–whether consecutive issues of a series/mini-series, or of a crossover/story arc.

Picking up where the previous issue left off, this issue finds Steve Rogers in his Captain America uniform, his body in control of the Red Skull’s consciousness, ready to murder his old partner Bucky, now the current Captain America. Meanwhile, a number of friends/allies fight for not only the rescue of Steve but also of those who have become entwined with the Red Skull and his machinations. Steve battles for control of his body, and unsurprisingly (especially given the title of this series) Steve wins out, the Skull is dispatched, and Steve is left–stable and no longer being bounced throughout his own history–in the present, to deal with a world in which he’s been absent and missed the Secret Invasion and most of Osborne’s Dark Reign.

The art on this book is high quality stuff. While it’s not perfect or anything, It really brings a lot to the story, enhancing the story and never particularly distracting from the reading experience. There are a couple of “iconic” full-page shots that were a little distracting as a result (in a good way, though). Despite the distraction–of noting the enormity of the moments depicted–they were a couple of my favorite moments of the entire issue. One shows Steve and Bucky rushing into battle side-by-side…two Captain Americas existing side-by-side. The other is Steve leaping into the fray, shield raised, the sunlight glinting off it, as many of the characters realize that THEIR Captain America is back.

While I tend to enjoy Brubaker‘s writing, this issue seemed so anticlimactic as to lack any real enjoyment for me. The enjoyment I found was in the art, in those images mentioned above. It doesn’t help that there wasn’t much to “wonder” about in this series. The title itself gave away the ending: Captain America would be reborn…and as we’d pretty much JUST wrapped up an 18-month mega-arc introducing a NEW Captain America into things (Bucky’s transformation from enemy agent to Shield-bearer)…it was pretty darned obvious. This issue in particular was spoiled by the fact that its first “epilogue” shipped some 4-5 weeks ago. Why that couldn’t have simply been held is beyond me–but it gave us an issue of Steve obviously back, obviously no longer bouncing through time, obviously alive, and Bucky alive as well. All that was left was the exact, specific details as to how things would wrap up.

If you’ve been following the series so far, it’s worthwhile to snag this issue to wrap up and such. Otherwise, wait for the collected edition–which will HOPEFULLY contain not only this 6-issue mini, but BOTH epilogues: Who Will Wield the Shield? and Who Will Not Wield the Shield?

Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 6.5/10

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