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Showing Off the Shelves: Kotobukiya X-Men ’92

Earlier in the year, I discovered the Kotobukiya line of X-Men ’92 figures/models/statues.Where I’d originally only intended to get Rogue and Gambit, that quickly expanded until finally, I wound up with the entire line (that I’m presently aware of)!

kotobukiya_xmen92a

Professor X and Phoenix/Jean Grey were the only figures to come as single-characters, all the rest came in packs of 2. Jubilee came with Wolverine, and Storm came with Bishop.

kotobukiya_xmen92b

Gambit and Rogue came together, which is what set me off on this entire line. Cyclops and Beast make up the final pair.

The Bishop/Storm set was the most expensive for me, and I paid more than I’d have preferred–still a bit of buyer’s remorse there–but after missing one heckuva sale price at Black Friday, I decided to splurge and order them from BigBadToyStore just to HAVE them and not have to worry about them becoming even MORE extremely-exspensive if they’re "out of print" or such.

Despite that/leaving the cost off to the side…I really dig the set, and would certainly prefer to see more releases for it.

Most immediately, a "regular" Jean Grey, perhaps paired with a Morph (possibly with an "extra" head for "Dark Morph"); and then of course, some villains.

Magneto and Mr. Sinister would be definites for me, along with Apocalypse, perhaps Mystique, Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche. Perhaps swap Juggernaut for Mr. Sinister if we’d keep to the first season, though Jean in her Phoenix form is from beyond the 2nd season, even, so…yeah.

It’d even be great to see a sentinel, perhaps…though for the price of these-sized figures, I hate to consider what a Sentinel would cost from Kotobukiya!

Despite wanting more…this present set pretty much perfectly fits on two "floating" wall shelves I bought on Amazon; it wasn’t until I was mounting the shelves to the wall that I realized they’d be good for these figures.

I may look into getting some more of these shelves in the new year when I do some re-arranging of the basement space; I have a number of ideas there (plus thoughts toward some alternate shelving as most of my shelves have bowed significantly, and I reconfigure the overall space a bit to accommodate the last couple of years).

Time will definitely tell, though…as always!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #19

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0019DOOMSDAY is Here!

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1993/1

This issue has one of the most iconic covers of my life. It may not be a favorite, exactly–it’s not one that’d really work (for me) as a poster image or such–but for a lotta years, just because of the cover date–January, 1993–and being the first Triangle # of 1993, this was an image I pictured when I’d think of "1993."

The image is "just" an extreme close-up of Doomsday and Superman literally getting in each other’s face, the creature being larger/taller and bearing down on the (black)-bloodied Superman (though no real/obvious facial wounds for the blood, but hey, it adds effect, right? And had to get by the Comics Code Authority and all that.

Despite reading this entire Doomsday! story fresh, I’ve realized that part of my confusion on the gradual tearing-away of Doomsday’s suit and the reveal of the hulking grey-and-white creature is the inconsistency from book to to book of its depiction! While there was some severe tearing and a big chunk missing, where we left off in Action Comics #684, the creature very shortly later now has far more of it gone. I expect that’s the peril of having to get multiple issues drawn by differing art teams in a short time, and the thing was probably set on the notion that "most of the green suit is now gone," but no ultra-hardline visual "bible" to lead it. Of course, this is–to me–mere "observation," something I don’t recall consciously noticing quite in this way before, and I have no problem with it!

This issue has us down to only two panels per page in the several-issue declining-panel-count countdown to the main issue of the story, and as such is increasingly fast-paced with less dialogue and less room for pauses…just faster visual beats on the march from cover to cover. Perhaps it’s the increased action, the ferocity of the battle, but I dug the visuals on this issue a lot more than I did the previous issue, with several iconic moments (to me) in this issue: from Doomsday’s first kills in Metropolis, Superman trying to take the creature into outer space, Doomsday’s elbow-stab of Superman, and the Underworld explosion, Doomsday one-punch taking out Supergirl, hitting her so hard she reverts to her protoplasmic state, the look on Bibbo’s face as he, Hamilton, and Mildred realize they’ve not only angered the creature, but it’s gonna land right on them if they don’t jump…and the shock-cannon blasts from the Cadmus troopers as Superman and Doomsday pound on each other, with Superman thinking "Even if it kills me–Metropolis is where I hold the line!"

And in a way, that sums up the issue. Going from scene to scene, as Doomsday hits Metropolis like a wrecking ball, killing immediately and continuously, punctuated only by attempts to damage him, whether by Superman or Professor Hamilton with a sci-fi cannon of his own, and so on. There’s not much story, exactly, but this issue’s not intended to be all that deep in that regard, and receives no penalty from me for it.

It’s also a credit to the Dirk Maggs dramatization of the story that I "hear" echoes/flashes of that as I read this, as it definitely gets across the frenetic ferocity of the situation, and certainly moments out of this issue.

Yet again, there’s not exactly a whole lot to be gotten from this just as some standalone single issue at this point, picking it up some twenty-five years after publication. It’s a key chapter in the overall story, and maybe sees Superman take some of the worst physical damage ever to this point…certainly more than I remember offhand seeing him take on-panel in Superman #75. While I mentioned early in this post that I don’t see this issue’s cover making a great poster, I could probably be persuaded pretty easily, as I do think on a small scale this would work as wall art at its actual-comic-cover size (perhaps amidst the other issues of the story).

This is definitely well worth snagging from a quarter bin or otherwise bargain bin if you can get all the issues of the story (or all the issues you are interested in at the time), but I’d continue to recommend a collected volume of this story over the single issue for "best results" and maximum impact.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #684

90s_revisited

action_comics_0684…Domsday is Near!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Art Thibert and Denis Rodier
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/48

I like when an issue’s title is worked into its title page…all the more after recently re-noticing the way Marvel "cheats" by having a non-story page for credits/story titles that can simply be omitted from a collected volume to ignore the fact the story was serialized first.

Here, we open on a couple screens of news reports recapping recent goings-on and leaving off that authorities are trying to determine if "…Doomsday is Near!" We then pick back up with Superman, Guardian, and Maxima, and Guardian is no longer worried about lecturing Superman, and Superman has him get Maxima to a hospital while he–Superman–resumes taking on the Doomsday creature. Superman catches up to Doomsday after it takes out an overpass and hurls a car–Superman saves the car and driver. Then Doomsday wrecks a Lex-Mart (think Walmart)…but is able to take in a loud commercial from a tv about a wrestling match in METROPOLIS…and the creature is taught a word, a destination. Lois and Jimmy are on-site in a helicopter reporting on things, Lex Luthor II and Supergirl watch tv reports, and Luthor convinces Supergirl to stay put, to not leave Metropolis unprotected. Trying to get Doomsday away from populated areas, Superman hurls him into the distance, forgetting about Cadmus’ "Habitat" facility (fortunately deserted). Guardian catches up while the combatants are both stunned, and then Doomsday breaks free of the wreckage (knocking out the two heroes) and bounds onward, now intentionally bound for Metropolis.

This issue’s art is not bad at all…but the visual style is something different from both Jurgens and Grummett in a way I just don’t like the same way. Nothing’s particularly "off" in anyone’s anatomy; everyone is recognizable as who they are; I have no trouble following the flow of physical events and the story itself. I just prefer the former to Guice and Rodier here. That said, there are some stand-out moments to me–I do like how Supergirl looks (though she doesn’t get to "do" much here), and same for Lois. The wrestler in the commercial Doomsday sees reminds me very much of Hulk Hogan, which may have been the intention at the time (remember, this was 25 years ago that this saw print!).

Story-wise, this flows pretty well from the previous chapter, picking up much like an opening of a tv show where it’s not exactly frame-for-frame picking up, but picking up within the same scene within moments of where we left off. Though most of the issue is more battle, we get the "moments" between characters–Superman and Guardian; Lois and Jimmy; Supergirl and Luthor, etc. There’s no context given on Supergirl and Luthor…their status quo and presence were very much a part of "continuity" of the time…so they were just there, to be understood by longer-time readers or simply glossed over if one wasn’t familiar with stuff.

I hadn’t given it much thought, but as this issue continues the "countdown" (three panels per page, down from four), there’s more visual/unspoken action, and in a way, that leaves less room for story, and a quicker pace. We jump scene to scene essentially, but it works, as the whole battle is drawing out…we’re down to basically just Superman, as Maxima’s out and by the looks of things (and memory), Guardian’s basically out, and we already saw the rest of the Justice League taken out.

This is definitely another issue that doesn’t have much going for it in terms of being stand-alone; it is definitely very much a middle chapter of a tight, full story spread across multiple titles by multiple creative teams. Of course, it’s not a bad one if you come across it in a bargain bin to snag, but much more enjoyable in context of the full story. I do feel like–next to Justice League America #69–this is the issue of the story I’ve seen least in bargain bins, though come to think of it, Superman #74 may be similar.

This is the fourth of the Superman titles carrying the Doomsday! story–with the next two chapters being second issues of their titles with the story, before the Funeral for a Friend picks up.

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #497

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0497Under Fire

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Tom Grummett, Doug Hazlewood, & Denis Rodier
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/47

Like many issues from this time period, this one’s cover stands out quite a bit to me. I don’t know that I’d call it a favorite–there are definitely plenty of covers I like more–but I do really like this and it’s instantly recognizable to me.

This issue picks up where Superman #74 left off, with Superman chasing after Doomsday, blocking out Mitch’s cries for help. The transition, though, isn’t quite as smooth as the one from Justice League America #69 into Superman #74, though it isn’t jarring. Mitch narrates–describing the situation and letting us know that the rest of the League has fallen, Superman’s a distance off but still visible (and his punches against Doomsday audible), and his mother and baby sister (as well as the rest of the League) are still in danger from the collapsing house that’s burning. Superman finally returns after shoving Doomsday into the soft earth at the bottom of a lake, and Bloodwynd makes a timely return to assist as well before teleporting away to avoid medical attention from EMTs. As a military helicopter targets (and is targeted by Doomsday), Superman’s back in the fray, continuing to save those he can while beating on the creature. Taking a moment away from all this, we get a scene of Lois in the GBS building, meeting up with Cat while she tries to find Jimmy. Olsen’s moonlighting as Turtle Boy for a kids’ show, but taping’s run hours late…and Jimmy is needed on assignment (covering the Doomsday situation). The battle rages into a small town where Maxima catches up to Superman and Doomsday, and her contribution leads to a huge explosion. The Guardian arrives to find her and Superman knocked out from the blast, and Doomsday nowhere in sight. Brushing off Guardian’s lecture on violence, Superman realizes this is his fight, and his alone.

I’d forgotten about Grummett‘s time on this title, given the changeover around #500…I really like his art, and it looks especially good–and familiar–here! The art team is fantastic, and though it’s been quite awhile since I’d’ve thought about it, I think I’d have to say that offhand, this is my favorite Superman art next to Dan Jurgens‘ work! This issue begins the subtle "countdown" I had never noticed until about 10 years ago: the issue is done as 4-panel pages (with the next chapters having three-panel pages, then two-panels, before the conclusion in all full-page splashes).

Story-wise, nothing really jumps out at me as any sort of "Ordway signature" or such, except that as with the other creative teams’ work, this plays very tightly with its sister titles. While not quite as "involved" at this point due to their encounters with Doomsday, it’s cool to see stuff play out with the League still being present in the title, if not much else. Guy Gardner grabbing Superman and essentially giving his ‘blessing’ (or command) to put the creature "in a pine box" strikes me as rather poignant…Guy admitting that Superman’s "tougher" and capable and such to do what he–Guy–was not able to. And a sort of quasi-reconciliation between the characters before what’s about to go down goes down.

Maxima’s bit in this issue has also stuck with me over the years–her focus on being a warrior and casual acceptance of casualties, as well as Superman giving her pause, as well as her tolerating his calling her ‘Princess.’

This is yet another issue that’s very much a piece of the larger story…even if ultimately, the story’s a huge "fight scene" of sorts, when looked at most broadly. This chapter isn’t really "essential" to the whole, offhand (maybe the first chapter to feel that way)…but there’d sure be a clear gap in stuff if we didn’t have this chapter. Outside of the pretty cover, I wouldn’t really recommend this as a "single" issue, but it’s well worthwhile as part of the whole, and definitely not a chapter to arbitrarily skip in a collected volume.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #74

90s_revisited

superman_0074Countdown to Doomsday!

Story & Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/46

While it’s certainly credit to Dan Jurgens being the writer on both this issue and Justice League America #69, I quite enjoy the way this issue picks up directly where that one left off. This one even has a much better, more prominent notice that it picks up from that issue, urging readers to stop reading now and go read that first (a handy sort of thing since these two issues were apparently on sale the same week…and with no actual chapter numbers on the covers, it’d be easy to go straight to Superman first, and plan to then read Justice League America).

We get a lot more of Mitch in this issue…in fact, to a certain degree, this issue is about Mitch and his "encounter" with the Justice League and Superman!

We open on Ice and Maxima with the nearly-lifeless body of Ted Kord–Blue Beetle. Ice has no means by which to get Ted to a hospital, while Maxima does…though she wants to just stay and fight, though the Beetle will perish. Ice eventually convinces her to get Ted to a hospital, while she (Ice) confronts the creature. Nearby, Mitch arrives home from school and argues with his mom. As he’s about to leave again, a battered Ice is thrown through the window into their kitchen, moments before Superman and Booster Gold show up, confronting the creature…as it gets its name, thanks to Booster’s comment to Superman in Justice League America #69. "What was it you called, this, Booster? Oh yeah–Doomsday." Superman and what remains of the League fight the creature, eventually combining energy projections to try to take it out…though all they really do is make the creature more dangerous and themselves largely defenseless…they’ve burned away most of the restraining suit and cables (releasing Doomsday’s ’til-now-restrained-behind-his-back other arm). As the creature leaps off, Superman follows…forcing himself to ignore the pleas from Mitch as the house burns and lives there remain in dire danger.

I think I’m always "amazed" by the end of this issue, of seeing Superman consciously ignoring a cry for help. It’s a horrible position he’s in, though–stop chasing Doomsday and risk lots of lives lost by turning back to help three people, or ignore them (with hope that someone else back there can do something) to try to bring the creature down at once. And while it’s heart-wrenching to contemplate, I tend to find that I fall in the camp of agreeing with Superman’s decision here. Of course, I know what comes next, and the final decision he makes (Showing among many, many things why he’s Superman and I’m not).

Visually, I definitely like this issue. A lot of that–certainly in retrospect–is Dan Jurgens‘ art. He’s a definitive artist on Superman for me, starting here for sure (to say nothing of #75!) I’m not as much a fan of the cover, though…it seems a bit busy and generic, with Superman himself hardly a part of it. Of course, at the same time, it’s a far cry more to my liking than many modern covers, as it shows something from the issue without just being a lifted panel or such: Ice, Booster, and Maxima don’t fare well against the creature, and Fire and Guy do add their energy output to Superman’s heat vision against the creature, who basically stands there and takes it.

Perhaps my biggest thing is that–to this day, all these years later–I have never been able to figure out how the knee spikes and elbow spikes were concealed in the green suit!

As we get deeper into the Doomsday! arc, it feels less and less likely that anyone would really have any reason to be reading an issue "in a vacuum" without context of the other issues. All the more now, 25 years later, where the story has been available as a collected edition or "graphic novel" for nearly the 25 years…so really, who’s likely TO read this as some lone one-off issue?

If Man of Steel #18 felt like it would’ve been a better prologue than actual part of the story, this issue feels like a direct extension of Justice League America #69. The art on the two issues are different, but in some ways not overly noticeable, and these play like both Justice League guest-starring Superman or Superman guest-starring the Justice League…as they should.

I certainly would not recommend seeking this out as a single issue in a void…but it’s an interesting "middle chapter" as the action ramps up and we definitely see the creature as something more than what can simply be handled in an issue or two, or even BY a combined group of super-beings. And of course, it’s essential to the overall arc, and not something to skip over reading a collected edition!

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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #18

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0018Doomsday! part one

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/45

It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty five years since this issue was new! This cover remains one of the most iconic I can think of, certainly extremely recognizable at a glance for me. It’s the cover that started things off for The Death of Superman saga, and has remained locked in memory for me ever since.

Unfortunately, though we get some scenes of Doomsday tearing up the landscape–first as he digs/punches his way up/out of the prison he was contained in and then starting to make his way wherever it is he’s going (including squishing a random bird that landed upon his outstretched hand)–we have zero interaction between the creature and Superman himself…until the very end of the issue, no one even seems to know there’s anything important starting at all. As such, it hardly seems like this ought to be the opening chapter…this could have been a prologue issue instead of the first chapter, even part of a multi-issue prologue/prelude thing (along with the Justice League America issue), leaving Superman #74 as the actual opening chapter. But then, that’s the way I’ve been "conditioned" on modern comics to think, where "everything" is an event or an event prologue or there’s an event leading into another event that’s the prologue to the Really Big Event.

Instead, this issue is basically "just" another issue of Superman: The Man of Steel. The issue opens with Doomsday emerging from his confinement, then switches to the current moment in the ongoing continuity of the Superman titles. Interspersed with the creature’s emergence, we have an orphan boy–Keith–trying to find his mom, as Lois Lane investigates a tip about a danger threatening Metropolis. Underworlders (rogue clones/creatures/monsters) allied with Warworld refugees (from the then-recent Panic in the Sky story) are preparing to invade Metropolis and take over. First they "steal" the city’s electricity, then use a giant borer to tunnel to the surface with plans to have their war machines emerge from there. Keith sees Lois get captured and overhears her captors’ reference to holding no prisoners, and realizes he won’t find his mom this way. He manages to get Superman’s attention by spraypainting a huge "S" in a parking lot and leads Superman to the captured lady reporter. A scuffle ensues between Superman and the Underworlders with predictable results (Superman wins). Doomsday having moved from squishing birds and breaking trees moves to traffic interference, which finally gets him noticed by someone (Oberon, a Justice League ally), which leaves us to continue into Justice League America #69.

While I just lamented the lack of Superman/Doomsday interaction, part of that is that I never liked the Underworlders stuff, so that makes for a rather boring and "out there" story for me. On a technical level, though, this works quite well in that everything about Doomsday comes outta nowhere, as he should be just some other creature (perhaps akin to an Underworlder) and this is supposed to be just another day for Superman/Clark, Lois, and everyone else. Nothing as significant as Superman’s death is remotely a part of anyone’s plans.

Though the Superman books all continued a story essentially as a single weekly comic (with four creative teams each handling a week a month), I’ve come to see a bit more distinction in stuff with the different titles…and one of those is the Underworlders being a "thing" for this title, Superman: The Man of Steel.

I don’t care nearly as much for them, as said, which makes this (offhand) my least-favorite of the issues involved in this story. That’s not to say it’s a bad issue, but it doesn’t interest me beyond the snippets of Doomsday.

The art also isn’t my favorite, but it definitely hits some positive nostalgia for me as far as the appearance of all the characters. There’s a visual style that’s quite distinct to this title and this period, making it highly recognizable to me, and I wouldn’t trade it out, given said nostalgia.

As an issue from this time and part of this story, of course the issue is a keeper…and it’s totally etched into my personal history with comics and Superman, creating a bias that keeps me from being entirely impartial in terms of any review.

That said, in looking back across 25 years…I definitely would not recommend this issue as a stand-alone read. Taken only by itself in a vacuum, this is a boring issue, with the most interesting thing being the emergence of Doomsday itself. Of course, this is well worth getting if you want the entire "branded" story/set of Doomsday/The Death of Superman, and of course ought to be read if you’re reading the story in collected edition format.

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The ’90s Revisited: Eclipso #1

90s_revisited

eclipso_0001The Count

Plotter/Breakdown Artist: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Bart Sears
Scripter: Robert Loren Fleming
Inkers: Ray Kryssing, Mark Pennington
Letters: Gaspar
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editors: Michael Eury, KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November, 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

Though I was aware of The Joker and probably Catwoman and the Penguin, as well as Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and Mr. Mxyzptlk to name a few comic book villains…MY first wide-spread, "universe"-threatening villain was Eclipso.

Yeah.

See, I was introduced to comics in 1988, began "collecting" comics myself in 1989, and was just starting to "get back into" comics in the summer of 1992. While hanging out one day, a friend shared with me a couple new comics he’d gotten–including "a" Superman #1. With Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1, I was introduced to Eclipso, and the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story that was taking place in the various annuals that summer.

Get to the end of that crossover, and I remember an ad for Eclipso and Valor–two series "spinning out" from the "event."

Nearly twenty-five years later, I’ve finally READ Eclipso’s first issue!

I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly–perhaps some extension of The Darkness Within, but with newer or lesser-known characters, given the "big event" was over with. Perhaps I expected some loose-knit "team" to have been assembled, perhaps Bruce Gordon gathering folks together to go after Eclipso. What I GOT, though, was a story of Eclipso possessing an outcast and slaughtering a village, essentially reminding himself that he was capable of this, particularly when not hampered by super-heroes. Later while checking out the slaughter, a black diamond is found and taken–with the hopes that its value will make up for the loss of the village and prevent some Count from shooting the messenger. Of course, this being Eclipso and that a black diamond…well, Eclipso feeds on the Count’s anger and possesses him…and slaughters the Count’s household. When the police arrive to investigate this…Eclipso is ready. The black diamond is flipped to a sergeant who is goaded to anger…and thus Eclipso has another minion with whom to continue to kill. And for him…it’s a good day to be a villain.

While we have a narrative story here, the issue is particularly interesting to me as the issue is "hosted" by Eclipso himself, essentially venting to the reader about stuff and showing off to the reader–as he’s got no one else to do it with. He shows us where he came from, what he’s capable of, and lets us in on a bit of his thinking and reasoning and plans for the future…namely, he’s learned from recently-transpired events and is trying a different means of getting whatever he wants.

Story-wise, I really dug this issue. As said, it took me nearly 25 years to get around to reading this, and where I’d expect it to be a letdown for so many years of NOT being disappointed by it to actually read the thing…I really enjoyed this quite a bit, in what it is. Not for the slaughter and casual taking of lives, but as a first issue about a villain that sets him up for his own series. This isn’t making the villain into an anti-hero…it’s the villain BEING a villain. He doesn’t even need a super-hero to fight to do nasty stuff, to be vile and dark and all that. He’s just that regardless of a bright foil. And having the character talking to the reader, aware of us following him through these pages…it’s like a dark take on the usually-lighter way I think many think of for Deadpool, She-Hulk, or Harley Quinn. Plus there’s the nostalgia of the notion of the "hosts" of the House of Secrets books, and here’s Eclipso "hosting" his own book. I later realized that it makes sense, too…the character first appeared IN House of Secrets!

Visually, I really liked this issue. This is Eclipso as I think of the character by default…perhaps because this issue has Bart Sears as the artist, and I believe he was the artist on the bookend Eclipso: The Darkness Within #s 1-2, which adds a great consistency from that mini-series/event into this ongoing series.

Story and writing, I think I really enjoyed that there were no heroes here. It gives room for the Eclipso character to be shown–if not at his WORST–then at his default. And bad as that is, it at least hints at how bad he can be if he’s actually worked up or challenged.

For years, I’ve thought that an Eclipso: The Darkness Within omnibus would be fantastic. Now I’m even more convinced of that…but adding to it the wish for an Eclipso omnibus for this series, and perhaps other appearances through the years. It’s also interesting to note that this was a first issue of a brand-new series, spinning out of an EVENT, with high-end talent creatively…yet it is a standard-sized, standard-priced single-cover first issue. No variants, no fancy gimmicks, no extra-pages to lure someone in or jack up the price…it’s just a comic, that happens to be a #1, that gives a good start to a new series coming off an event.

I won’t say this is by any means a "happy" issue…but it stands alone quite well, and is worth snagging if you can get it for $1 or less, just to read this issue, regardless of anything else read of the character…provided you’re interested in Eclipso. As for me…this has me psyched to read the rest of the series, as well as increased interest in finally going through my Showcase Presents volume and perhaps hunting down some other Eclipso issues.

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

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