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From the Archives: Superman #650

superman0650Up, Up, and Away! (part 1)

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Cover Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

It’s been a year since Superman apparently disappeared, and the fine folks of Metropolis have moved on, though many take an evening to revisit the past, watching a retrospective on the life and times of their favorite son. Among the spectators are Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who discuss the authenticity of the retrospective with a couple different viewpoints. Shortly after, other familiar elements of the Superman story are reintroduced–Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Perry White. A familiar "villain" is introduced here as well–one that may be familiar to older readers, but I’m not sure this character has appeared in the Superman comics since the mid-80s reboot. As this villain is attended to, we as readers are clued into at least part of why Superman has been absent for a year.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this issue. I’ve been concerned at the idea of "my" Superman–that is, the character (re)introduced in Byrne‘s Man of Steel mini-series–being shuffled off to the side in favor of yet another/different reimagining of the character. While this is only the first of an 8-parter that re-establishes the character post-Infinite Crisis, the writing team of Busiek & Johns has assuaged some of my concerns as several aspects that have defined the character and supporting cast for the last 18+ years are re-established here. However, there seem to be a number of minor or subtle shifts that distance things from the past, settling the characters very much in a sort of "timeless" present.

Busiek wrote my favorite Superman story in 2004’s Superman: Secret Identity. Johns on the other hand has written some other very compelling stories that I have really enjoyed over the past several years (including pulling me into following The Flash for 30 issues after never previously caring for the character). That said, both writers have a lot to live up to in my eyes, and for the moment, I’ll cautiously advance the idea that yes, they have lived up to those high standards.

The writing here is clear and definitely gets across the idea first of the broad strokes of Superman’s history that just about anyone will be vaguely familiar with (whether you know the character solely from last month’s issues, the Christopher Reeve films, Smallville, Lois & Clark, a parent/grand-parent’s stack of older comics, or just picking up on elements from years of the character’s suffusion of popular culture. If this is the first-ever comic starring Superman that you’ve read, you’ve got yourself a good starting point. If you’ve been following these comics for 20 years, you’ve got a good read that revalidates the character for the present, showing that both the old and newer elements can come together in a single well-written manner that gives us a story of Superman.

Offhand, I am unfamiliar with Pete Woods‘ art, but this issue makes for a good introduction. Everything seems nice and clear/clean–reading along with the story, the art shows exactly what is going on and pretty much just does it’s job of enhancing the written word to contribute to the overall look and feel of the issue. The art’s not perfect–but very little is. The main quibble I have is the depiction of the S-shield; it comes across a bit too "shiney" or metallic for my own tastes.

However–whether in Woods‘ art itself or the coloring (or both)–this issue somehow has a "brighter" feel to it than a lot of recent DC issues–by design or not, this lends itself to this being an upbeat, bright start to a new "generation" of Superman.
I very much recommend this issue, whether you are a new, old, or an on-the-fence reader.

superman0650_blogtrailer

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Superman #2 [Review]

Flying Blind

Script & Breakdowns: George Perez
Pencils & Inks: Jesus Merino
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: Perez & Buccellato
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

From the very first look at this issue–the cover–there’s something that’s been missing for me for a long, long time from Superman comics. I can’t quite put my finger on it, put words to it…but I’m pretty sure it’s something to do with just really liking the look of this new costume as shown here. Maybe it’s just simply that I like Perez‘ art over so much of what I think of with a lot of Superman stuff in recent years and so the cover grabs me. This also seems like the sort of cover, somehow, that “fits” an early issue of a new series, and whatever else to it I can’t find words for…I just simply like this cover.

The interior visuals are high quality as well, and I can’t help but think some of that’s gotta be Perez doing the breakdowns, which makes things fit the story moreso than if the writer and artist were working far more independently of one another. Paging through the issue again, I really can’t find anything that particularly bothers me about the visuals, that isn’t attributable to a generic creature/antagonist or keeping with a “newish” younger look to Clark Kent.

The story itself is good, with all the elements that I’ve tended to enjoy about a Superman comic. And for what seems like the first time in too many YEARS, Clark Kent is actually a part of the Superman story again. Maybe not a huge part, and it’s too soon for me to have much hope of any great emphasis being placed on the Clark Kent personality…but Clark is there, is a part of the story unfolding, and for now, that’s a marked improvement over things during the New Krypton era of the previous DC Universe. I really enjoy that we have Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Superman all playing parts in the overall story. Cat Grant even appears here, and we at least have a mention of Perry. There’s even a sense of continuity here, that Superman’s got a past, even though in some ways this is like a new beginning of his career. He comes off as a bit unsure of things and yet confident enough to do what he’s gotta do.

As we open the issue, Superman’s awaiting information from Sam Lane, who remains distrustful of the man of steel from their prior encounter (in the “5 years ago” story going on in Action Comics right now). We then transition to Lois and Clark discussing their encounter at the end of the previous issue before returning briefly to General Lane, and then Superman encountering the “monster” of this issue–a creature that everyone but him seems to be able to see. After getting knocked around by the creature, Superman of course figures out a way to deal with this threat, in a fight that rages across 11 of the issue’s 20 pages. Finally, we cut to Superman recording an audio journal or log–his narration has not actually been internal this issue, as it originally appeared to be. This also allows for some more defining of the current relationship Clark has with Lois, and then we’re set up with a mild cliffhanger to lead into the next issue.

All in all…another great issue, which is quickly cementing this as a version of Superman I’d love to read long-term…and somehow, I’m even ok with Superman and Lois not (yet) being romantically involved here. It’s also great that rather than load the back of the issue with a preview I’m not even going to read (yet tend to be annoyed at having to page through to make sure there’s no other RELEVANT content to the issue in-hand), this issue has only a single page advertising Batman: Noel.

Though there’s obviously an over-arcing story building…this is the second issue, and we’ve already had two stories where amidst the other character interactions and details, we’ve had the beginning, middle, and end of a creature’s introduction and battle with Superman, rather than stretch either of these into 4+ issue arcs apiece.

Of the two main Superman books, this is by far my favorite for the story, art, and the feeling of actually getting my money’s worth in content. I expect Action Comics will read as a fast but engaging graphic novel, if you want an actual comic with serialized adventures of Superman, this is certainly the title to get. As an “old fan” I’m greatly enjoying this…but it seems there’s enough here that a new or lapsed reader would be able to figure stuff out fairly easily as well without missing out on anything.

Highly recommended.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Superman #1 [Review]

What Price Tomorrow?

Script & Breakdowns: George Perez
Pencils & Inks: Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: George Perez & Brian Buccellato
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

What do you think of when you think of Superman? And more to the point, what do you expect to see in a Superman comic? Speaking for myself–especially for a premiere issue of a new series–I tend to expect to see Superman…but also Clark Kent. Ideally, Lois Lane would be there, and I don’t mind if we have something with Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and other staffers of the Daily Planet…to say nothing of the Daily Planet itself. I expect to see Clark Kent interacting with people, just as I expect to see Superman being…well, super. Have those elements, and I’m pretty much going to be one satisfied camper.

I came to this relaunch this month with a lot of mixed feelings. Probably the strongest was–has been–regarding Superman, and not knowing what he would be in this relaunch…knowing only that the character is one that DC felt the need to change quite a bit from the existing status quo, to update and bring back in a different way (unlike, say, Batman or Green Lantern). Action Comics left me rather cool–especially in retrospect…and there was but a cameo of Superman in the new Justice League book. So, there’s a lot of weight put upon this issue, the first issue of the new Superman comic itself. After Action Comics, and generally lukewarm if not hopeful feelings on a lot of the other #1s, I was prepared to dislike this issue, or at least find a lot of fault with it in and of itself.

The issue opens with a voiceover, discussing the history of the Daily Planet building. We follow the narration to find it’s live coverage of the unveiling of the NEW Daily Planet, recognition being given to the original. At this point, the Planet is an acquisition of Morgan Edge, and in moving things into the present, readying for the future–the newspaper is now “just” a part of the overall media corporation Edge owns. We’re introduced to Lois Lane and Perry White–familiar names and faces (though White looks a good 10-15 years too young), and find out their new roles moving forward with the new Planet. We learn some backstory about Clark’s opposition to the Planet’s acquisition, and that Superman is only just now back in town after some sort of noticeable absence. We get snippets on attitudes toward Superman in this new DCU. We see Jimmy Olsen at work–not as a bumbling cub reporter but as a competent video reporter working as part of a street team. We’re also introduced to new characters that will presumably be a regular part of the supporting cast.

When an alien fire-entity explodes onto the scene, it’s clearly a job for Superman. While the battle unfolds, we learn further detail about Superman–his powers are continuing to grow/develop, and no one knows for sure what can really hurt him…and there’s still a certain amount of distrust…or at least, willingness to believe that he doesn’t care about the very people he’s trying to protect. After the battle, we see the aftermath in the people involved, as we’re introduced to the current status quo of the Lois/Clark relationship.

I love the art on this issue. I don’t recall specifically enjoying Merino‘s art like this before, but in this issue, it feels like he was born to do this. I just paged through the issue again, and I can’t find a panel to dislike. The characters–if looking a bit young, but I knew they’d be, going in–all look recognizeable, and just simply…are. This is Superman–and I actually really enjoy this new costume–it just works, to the point that the ads in the issue showing the classic costume actually look dated. I hadn’t realized how much I like this costume until now.

Story-wise, Perez presents a new Superman with plenty of echoes of the classic. Though this Morgan Edge reminds me of Samuel Jackson‘s Nick Fury from Marvel…this works, too. The character seems to be what he is, or for longtime readers familiar with the name–there’s an extra layer to consider. The opening–the history of the Planet, its being swept away in favor of the new, and even some of Edge’s early comments in the issue–felt like a direct parellel to this entire new DCU thing…which adds levels of depth in and of itself to the story.

Unlike most of the other DC issues I’ve read this month, this issue does what I expect of a #1. We’re introduced to the setting, the characters–main and supporting. We’re introduced to what’s recently happened and given some slight hints as to what may be coming. We get a seemingly arbitrary scene, but a classic-style “footnote” directing us to Stormwatch #1 for more detail (which reminded me that Stormwatch #1 had a footnote itself directing us to Superman #1) which sets up some official continuity between this and another DCU book. And–best of all–despite the huge threat, that seems to be an actual challenge to Superman, we’re not left on some to-be-continued, left dangling to have to buy another issue to find out the (obvious) “fate” of the “hero” (sorry if that’s a spoiler, Superman doesn’t die in this issue).

By the end of the issue, I actually CARE about the status quo. I’m interested more, really, in all the “regular” characters–old and new–than I am Superman himself…and yet, I’m not actually disinterested in this Superman. He’s different from the Superman I grew up on…and thankfully, he’s different from boring post-Infinite Crisis caricature of the last few years that saw me walk away from the character for most of the past couple years. I think I like this character, and this issue. In fact, this has got to be just about my favorite issue of the relaunch so far.

If you’ve never read Superman before…give this issue a chance. It’s well worth it. And if you find you don’t like what you’re introduced to…you’re out a single issue. Only $2.99. No $3.99 let-downs, and no to-be-continued. This is a great single-issue story, and I really think that THIS should have been the “flagship” title of the new DCU. As-is, it certainly lives up to its title…Superman.

Highly recommended!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Superman #712 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Superman #696 [Review]

Man of Valor part three

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Cafu, Santiago Arcas
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

I continue to read this book, though I’m a bit anxious to see if it improves once Superman (assumably) actually returns to it. Mon-El is a character I’ve never cared for all that much–what little I’ve known of him–and given that, I much preferred him as “Valor” from the early 1990s. But that’s from a different continuity and reality, apparently…at least since Infinite Crisis…so we’ve got what we’ve got. Mon-El–despite being written by James Robinson–remains almost entirely uninteresting (aside from the fact that I look forward to him facing off with General Lane). I’m also not much more interested in the Guardian. After the set-up of his apparently having a “daughter” to care for–who has hardly been referenced in I-don’t-know-how-long) and the confusion I have as to his identity (to this day, I have not figured out if this Guardian is a clone of the Guardian I read in the 1990s Superman titles, or if this is that same Guardian, with his origin played up more than ever before). Yet, I don’t really care enough to find out, as neither option thrills me. I also care very little for Nightwing and Flamebird. Despite their potential, there just hasn’t seemed to be much in the way of satisfying development with them…I feel like they’re just pieces being pushed around a gameboard for some inevitable endgame or arbitrary “big sacrifice” or other role in coming events.

This issue continues the “Man of Valor” arc from Action comics…which at least in itself is kinda refreshing–though it renders the cover “shield numbering” fairly irrelevant (Parts 2 and 3 of this story are “shield #23” and “shield #25” respectively). Mon-El, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Guardian make sure everyone is ok after the blast that seemingly took ’em all out. Mon-El and Guardian send Nightwing and Flamebird away, preparing to hold off General Lane’s forces while the Kryptonians make their getaway…unfortunately, the two lovers double back fearing for their friends, but ultimately leave at Mon-El’s urging. While Mon-El and Lane trade words, Guardian finds someone apparently named “Control,” and Mon-El rushes to their side to face the horror of what has happened to this character.

I don’t know who this “Control” is, though I suspect she is just one particularly forgettable character that never made any real impact on me whatsoever in my reading. As stated above, the writing inspires no real sense of connection to any of these characters, nor any interest in them.

The art comes across as better than some recent issues, though it’s still not something I’d categorize amidst my favorite work.

I can’t help but wonder if this story being more of a “crossover” with actual Story Name and chapters crossing from Action Comics is an effort to tie things together, get things over with quicker, or both.

If you’re already following the events of this ongoing “World Against Superman” mega-arc or the Superman/Action Comics Man of Valor arc…this issue’s probably worth getting. Otherwise, nothing special or spectacular here to warrant picking up outta the blue.

Story: 5/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5.5/10

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