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Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

action_comics_0976_blogtrailer

Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

superman_0019_blogtrailer

Superman (2016) #18 [Review]

superman_0018Superman: Reborn Part 1

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Please note that I will spoil the issue a bit, so stop reading now and come back AFTER you’ve read the issue yourself, if you do not want to encounter spoilers! ]

I buy each new week’s Superman book pretty much as an extremely welcome again (after some 6 or so years away) "habit"–and have since about this time last year. That said, the covers rarely "grab" me–I recognize them, the issue gets paid for and taken home, and read. THIS issue, though, really jumped out at me for its coloring/color-scheme, the visual design, and somehow being rather unexpected to me. It also seems like it’s a small piece of a singular image that I can imagine being spread out across at least 3 more chapters of this story (though I’ll be highly annoyed–to say the least–if such a thing would merely be VARIANTS for this single issue. I’ll hold to my notion until at least next week, though, and give the publisher the benefit of the doubt for now).

This is the opening issue of a fairly "hyped" storyline that I’ve been looking forward to despite some disappointment at how the Clark Kent story seemed to "end" over in Action Comics last week. (Though I’ll give it credit for playing into continuity and this feeling largely like "just" the next issue in sequence OF an ongoing thing).

We open on a brief scene of someone–presumably this Mr. Oz–musing on time/space blah blah blah, and then seeing multiple individuals in his "collection" acting out–reacting to the fact that SOMEONE (we aren’t told who) got out. Looking to the empty cell, we see graffiti indicating an extreme hope in Superman…before shifting to Hamilton County and the main part of the issue.

[ Spoilers to follow ]

Clark, Lois, and Jon are celebrating the couple’s anniversary when there’s a knock at the door. The "other" Clark Kent seems to have left something for the family (and majorly spooks Krypto!).  They find that it’s a scrapbook with photos that no one on this Earth–let alone reality–"should" have. Its images shouldn’t even exist, they were wiped out with Clark and Lois’ Earth. Before they can dig all that deeply, they notice their house is on fire…but quickly realize it’s not so much on fire as being ERASED. Then to make it WORSE…Jon’s being erased. Superman leaps into action to save his son, as any father would. And we see the maddening, helpless desperation of our hero and his wife as they see everything they know and love…erased.

Talk about a setup and leaving one hanging! I’ve loved only having to wait two weeks between issues for Superman and Action Comics since last spring…but this would be flat-out frustrating to have to wait an entire two weeks…I’m anxious for the next chapter, in next week’s Action Comics…by the time of this post, a "mere" 5 days, and that seems too long!

There’s plenty to be found within this issue and its story. We have stuff pointing to the larger DC Universe as it now stands. We have stuff rooted firmly within the Superman books, and specifically this title. We have reference to earlier issues, and we have references to pre-Flashpoint elements. So it seems that we’re getting some major payoff about to really kick into gear after most of a year of building. Still more, we have a story that seems like it’s pretty self-contained to the Super-titles, not some line-wide must-buy-them-all crossover or such. I believe some of the events of this book might trickle out and be reflected in other titles, but in this issue we’re only directed to Action Comics, next.

This may not be the BEST issue for a new reader to start with…but it’s not horrible, and I also think a lapsed reader could probably do pretty well here, just knowing that this is pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark; that they have a son, and there’s been some other Clark Kent around.

Visually, I have very mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand, I like the cover, and most of the interiors are ok. There are a couple panels–one with Tim Drake (Robin/Red Robin) and one of Jon–that just look really off to me. While Tim’s appearance can be chalked up to his imprisonment, the first large panel of Jon just looks too cartoony to me, overly manga-styled for what is NOT a manga volume. I suppose comparison could be drawn as well to Ed McGuinness‘ art (I’m thinking around 2000 or so), but in the moment, it just threw me off and had me feeling a lot more nitpicky about the issue. The cover, though, is pretty darned good, and would make an excellent print for hanging…and if this indeed is part of a multi-part image, I dare say it’ll likely make a fantastic poster.

All in all, even if you’re not "up" on the various Superman titles, if you’ve a passing familiarity, I’d definitely recommend this issue. It’s well worth its $2.99 cover price, and does a nice job of setting stuff up for what ever is to come, while providing its own major chunk of story and key event for things. I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter, and to see where things go in general with this story, and the Super-books in general!

Superman (2016) #2 [Review]

superman(2016)_0002Son of Superman Part Two

Storytellers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Gleason, Gray, Kalisz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early September 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

In a way, there’s not much to this issue. At least, in a simple way of looking at it, there are just several main things. First, Jon accompanies Clark–Superman–on a mission, to save an icebreaker. While Jon proves reluctant, he is shown–“live”–his father in action AS Superman. We also see that Clark is aware of what happened with the cat, and Jon confesses. They head home to allow Lois in on that. While Lois and Clark discuss the outing, Jon is joined by the neighbor girl, and they discuss things sitting in a tree before the branch they’re on breaks. She and her grandfather soon arrive at the Smiths’ door, where the adults’ meeting isn’t the greatest. Meanwhile, a Kryptonian energy signature is detected in Antarctica, drawing the attention of an entity not seen in quite awhile.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

I’m pretty sure I’ve had an issue with Gleason‘s art in the past. Assuming so, I feel like that’s made up for here. The style is not 100% to my preference…but it’s growing on me. Perhaps it’s not even the art, but the designs–elements such as the more familiar version of the “S” in the S-shield, or that Jon and the neighbors are new characters, or that I’m flat-out simply enjoying the Rebirth stuff in general so far. The art in general carries a sort of simplicity that is working well for me, as well as conveying the story in general. There’s plenty of other art stuff in that–especially the colors, that I’m liking. I never minded “the trunks” in Superman’s costume, but I’m appreciating this new look that kinda blends the classic with the new.

Story-wise, I’m really enjoying Superman as a father. Not just a father-FIGURE (we can go back 8 or 9 years to the stuff with Chris Kent for that) but an actual father…an older Superman (old ER, not “old”), with a 10-year-old son.

We’re still in early issues of this status quo…less than a year including the Lois and Clark series, and even including the Convergence issues. And this is “only” the 2nd issue of THIS series…and it feels like it. We’re getting development that feels natural and authentic (if a BIT quick), and as the STORY title indicates, the focus is on the SON of Superman…essentially, we’re seeing Superman in his own book as his son transitions from “kid who discovered he’s heat-resistant” to being active “out there” with the “S.” And we know that’s coming, in the Super-Sons book that’ll pair Jon with Damian (Robin), so Jon has to go from some kid who learns he can reach through fire to someone who can keep up with–and perhaps keep in line–Damian.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

Earlier in the issue, I wondered at what it was that was homing in on Clark, on the Kryptonian energy–and had my suspicion as to what it could be. Namely, that it would be interesting if it was a new version of a certain Kryptonian artifact…even though Clark did not have one in his fortress, nor did this Earth’s Superman in his (as discussed in the Superman: Rebirth issue). Seeing my suspicion borne out on the last page–and the LOOK of that last page–just made me smile.

[Final Spoiler warning for just below this line]

I love seeing the visored figure…and we’re presumably back to it being just what it looks like. I’ve–since 1993–always enjoyed stuff with the character, though didn’t care as much for what they did with it for and after the Imperiex stuff with Our Worlds at War in 2001…but any time you involve this character or the three contemporaries, I’m generally a sucker for it. I’d been used to the Eradicator’s later appearance…but seeing it back in this form is a real treat, and leaves me totally chomping at the bit for the next issue.

That an issue did that–it’s a great sign. I didn’t just passively “not dislike” this issue…I truly ENJOYED it. And seeing the last page as I did…reminds me how much I’ve missed in the Superman books, for years–aside from an all-too-brief blip, it’s been close to a decade.

Obviously at “only” #2, at “only” a chapter of the first arc that’ll be inevitably collected into a graphic novel/thicker format, I won’t say jump in on this issue. But I dare say that THIS is the title for lapsed Superman fans, those who were reading 10, 15, 20 years ago…even as it paves the way with a new character (Jon) from the new, dealing with events and a world born of the New 52, in which that Superman did exist, did live, did do the Super-thing.

I definitely recommend this title, and this issue just serves to solidify my being glad to be “back.” Anecdotally backing that–I have the issue pre-ordered as part of a “bundle,” but rather than wait for the end of the month, this copy that I read is a “duplicate” copy that I bought, at full price, just because I want to read new Superman stuff–that I’m enjoying–every week. (This being biweekly, alternating with Action Comics–which I’m also thoroughly enjoying–makes for a weekly, enjoyable Superman experience for the first time in ages!

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