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The ’90s Revisited: Superman – Dead Again!

deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel038Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reading/rereading complete stories rather than “just” single issues here or there that aren’t connected directly to one another by story or series.

The latest instance comes from issues I picked up recently at a sale (Carol and John’s Not At ComicCon 2015 sale). Finding they had a good stock of mid-’90s Superman books–ALL FIVE TITLES–allowed me finally to in one single purchase get the entirety of the Dead Again! arc (which either has not ever been reprinted in collected volume, or at least I do not have said volume). This purchase saved me the hassle of moving then replacing a dozen-some longboxes in a confined space to pull hardly a dozen issues, where I would then have to move and replace the boxes again after reading.

deadagain_superman094Despite seeing issues from this arc here and there over the past several months/years and being interested in re-reading the story in its entirety…it wasn’t until Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor began their coverage of the story on their From Crisis to Crisis podcast that my interest was heightened to the point of action…which combined nicely with the well-timed opportunity of getting the issues and the time to actually read the entirety of the 11-issue arc in two days.

I actually can’t remember the last time I sat down and re-read more than one or two Superman issues in a row, let alone an entire cover-branded storyline like this from the ’90s Superman books. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and may next look to The Trial of Superman.

deadagain_adventuresofsuperman517I never noticed it as a kid when I originally read this some 20 years ago, but the issues do not line up 100% going from issue to issue the way they probably would if this was being published in 2015. Each issue ends on a some level of cliffhanger/dramatic moment–setting the stage for the next chapter–but then that next chapter didn’t often seem to pick up from the exact same moment. Additionally, some of the narratives of individual chapters would be different stylistically…some straight-forward, others picking up “later” and then flashing back to fill the reader in, then continuing on.

The art is also all over the place throughout the arc, and reading it all at once, I noticed the differences from book to book in a way I never had before.

deadagain_actioncomics704All of this is not unexpected, given the multiple titles and creative teams. I rarely went back to re-read issues week-to-week as the issues were coming out, and having a week between issues I don’t recall comparing the visuals to each other all that much…though even back then I’d noticed a personal preference for the art in the Superman title.

Dead Again! begins with characters reacting to the fact that a body–one that APPEARS to be the genuine Superman’s–is found in what should have been an EMPTY tomb. The tomb/room had been damaged in a fight between the current/live Superman and new villain Conduit. Various tests seem to confirm the body as being genuine, leading our active Superman to seek out villains that might be responsible for trickery…after all, he remembers coming back from the dead, being Clark Kent, etc. Other characters react in differing ways–Lois believing him to be genuine, while other characters aren’t so sure (and don’t have Lois’ “insight” into Superman’s genuinity).

deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel039Across the arc, Superman’s search involves Conduit, a new villain named Death Trap, the Eradicator and the Outsiders, STAR Labs, Atom, the New Gods on New Genesis, Darkseid on Apokalips, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Metropolis SCU, hallucinations, and finally the ultimate villain of the piece (despite seemingly being ruled out on New Genesis) Brainiac himself.

Over the course of the story, we see Superman growing increasingly irrational as the situation drives him closer to sheer madness, as the supporting cast gets more concerned about him and his mental state. We also have a significant subplot as a young orphan–Keith–finds and loses his mother while gaining new foster parents in Perry and Alice White. We see the majority of Superman’s rogues gallery, and generally see questions raised and answered regarding whether or not there could have been–if this is–another “imposter” Superman…the possibility that Superman himself, the true Superman might never have actually been resurrected.

deadagain_superman095While I don’t recall this story getting any serious media attention and it does seem largely a footnote in the entirety of the ’90s Superman…this is a pretty significant arc, and an interesting follow-up to stuff. After the Death and Return of Superman “trilogy,” there were a number of smaller arcs and the overall continuing story/”Never Ending Battle” of the multiple titles collectively telling a weekly story…but this seems to be the largest singular story since Superman’s return, and paved the way for the likes of The Death of Clark Kent and The Trial of Superman, as well as (eventually) a number of other several-month arcs that punctuated the ongoing saga.

And this is definitely well worth the read if you get a chance!


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Convergence: Adventures of Superman #2 [Review]

convergence_adventuresofsuperman002Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Roberto Viacava
Inker: Andy Owens
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Sotocolor
Cover: Mikel Janin
Assistant Editors: Brittany Holzherr, Michael Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this primarily because I’d bought the first issue, and it just seems too weird to me to buy only HALF a story. Plus…this is Superman, and Supergirl, and moreso, it’s Adventures of Superman, back for a shiny moment.

We open on the Phantom Zone villains beating on Superman, while Supergirl tries to save him. In the “real world” Lucius is able to contact the Super-duo and prepares to bring them back. Superman forces Supergirl to go but remains behind until she uses one of Lucius’ devices to bring Superman back through, destroying the portal before the PZ villains can come through. Then the two join up with Kamandi to fight the gorilla invasion and ultimately realize they have to take the fight beyond the city to actually make a difference.

Frankly, I found this issue to be boring. I don’t much care for the over-use of the Phantom Zone, the re-use of the villains (nor their redesign to match Man of Steel (the 2014 film) rather than classic pre-Crisis costumes), and something just seemed “off” about Superman in particular here, like he was more caricature than anything else. Supergirl seemed overly obsessed with the notion that Superman MUST Live and concern over her own pending fate to a degree that she, too, felt fairly two-dimensional. The characters, their environment, etc. continue to fall into the appearance of “based on ____” rather than BEING the same characters I’d remember or know from the past and so significantly lack any sense of true importance.

That this issue has a to-be-continued note (into Convergence #6, which I believe was out LAST week) was a surprise as I’d thought these were to be self-contained two-parters…so rather than any real attempt at an ending or any finality, and having dropped the main Convergence title due to feeling it was irrelevant to my weekly reading experience…I now find that to not be the case, which is annoying and puts me off more than a little bit.

I’m not familiar with the art aside from the previous issue of this mini, and can’t say I’m overly enthused by it…though it’s not bad or put-offish in itself. I think the primary issue I have with the visuals is that this LOOKS too “modern” for the characters involved. The cover has some interesting contrasts in colors, particularly Superman and Supergirl against the Gorillas…but the whole thing just has a certain “flat” look that I don’t particularly care for.

While I’d consciously choose to like this issue if I could, I just don’t like it, despite appreciating Wolfman‘s past with comics and that he’s handled these characters as well as post-Crisis versions before and those hold a key point of nostalgia for me.

Along with the main story there’s a Martian Manhunter short that makes this issue thicker…but as I have zero interest in the character in this context, of a reinvention or such and have an active disinterest in DC‘s “mini relaunch” in a couple weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to truly READ the thing, and skimmed it instead. It adds nothing to this issue for me, and despite knowing it’s technically new/original content it just seems out of place and just like any other “preview” I am more than used to actively ignoring. Given what it is–that it’s supposed to promote the upcoming Martian Manhunter book I’m surprised there’s no blurb or any kind of indication on the cover…if it’s a “selling point” that there are 8ish bonus pages of original content promoting the June lineup in the various Convergence issues this month I would think they should be on the cover.

In and of itself this seems quite skippable in general, particularly if you’re not keeping up with Convergence. Nothing about this issue really seems essential, fun, or important…and for the cover price, you’re better off passing on this unless you feel compelled to get it for the same nostalgic factors that hooked me, or because you really want the Martian Manhunter content because you plan to check that book out.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

A Wednesday-Worthy Haul

This week’s Wednesday haul was a bit more normal-ish, except it included a couple of full-price back-issues I’d previously specifically avoided. Bloodshot #13 and Harbinger #14 I picked up as usual–they’re on my pull-list. The Eternal Warrior/Bloodshot Sketchbook was a freebie.

And sometime last weekend I’d determined that I would go ahead and give Adventures of Superman a chance. I am so disinterested in current New 52 Superman stuff that maybe some “out of continuity” tales of a Superman more like I remember will scratch this particular “itch.” But I made a condition for myself: only two issues into the series, I would ONLY buy either issue if BOTH were available…which left me only with some of those bargain-bin issues shown earlier this week from Comic Heaven. Kenmore had both of these, so I added them to my “regulars,” and still came out ahead of a week with multiple Marvels…

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As is fairly “usual” for me, I did do a quick rummage through the bargain bins at Kenmore. This week, the entire stack of bargain-bin comics matches the price of any of the four “regular” comics…which continues to be an increasingly disturbing thing!

xbooksandhulk

Found an X-Man issue on my list of missing-issues. A Hulk issue that just looks “fun” to read. And my two favorite issues of Fatal Attractions, and two of my all-time favorite issues, period…I just don’t pass up either of these issues when I find ’em for 25 cents…!

wonderman

Also found another X-Men issue I’m missing. And keeping true, found the entire mini-series for Wonder Man here, so snagged it. $1.25 for what in TPB would run at least $20-25 these days from Marvel…can’t beat that!

premiereissues

About a quarter of one of the bargain bins seemed to be nothing but #1 (and #0) “premiere” issues from the ’90s. I don’t know if someone started to cherry-pick the bargain bins and put a stack back, or if it was part of an unsorted collection purchased and tossed in the bins. So I cherry-picked from those. I grabbed the Stormwatch and Megaton issues because they’re bagged with a trading card. Figure maybe I can just horrify someone by opening the plastic to remove the card. Also a certain “novelty” to snagging Hitman #1 for 25 cents (last year having snagged his very first appearance for 50 cents). And X-Men Unlimited #1…that’ll just be a convenient opportunity for re-reading.

I recognize one of the figures on the Megaton cover…looks like someone from an old Image series that had a flipbook with a Savage Dragon issue. I’ll need to look into that later.

gambitandwolverineholograms

And finally, part of what I like (other than the stories themselves!) with the Fatal Attractions issues: the holograms!

10 Favorite Superman Covers

I’m not much of an art person when it comes to comics–I tend to prefer story over art…but that’s not to say that art doesn’t play a huge factor! And through the years, there have been a number of Superman comics whose covers have particularly stood out to me, for one reason or another. In this series, I presented 10 of my favorites and why they are favorites. Click the covers below to go to the original posts.

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10

I posted this series for 10 days from Wednesday, June 5 through Friday, June 14–opening day of Man of Steel. Click any of the covers above to see the full post for that issue.

Favorite Superman Covers: Adventures of Superman #463

I’m not much of an art person when it comes to comics–I tend to prefer story over art…but that’s not to say that art doesn’t play a huge factor! And through the years, there have been a number of Superman comics whose covers have particularly stood out to me, for one reason or another. In this series, I’m presenting 10 of my favorites and why they are favorites.

While I do know this cover is based on/an homage to the silver-age Superman #199, this version is what I remember, and is my favorite of the two. While I don’t remember the exact time, I do remember pulling this off a spinner rack at a Kmart, and I even think I remember choosing this over the comic adaptation of the Tim Burton Batman film…though that could just be blurry memory/timey-wimey stuff.

adventuresofsuperman463

Continuing the observational trend…this would make a great poster…a simple yet dynamic image, seeing Superman and Flash take off. I also think it’s quite likely that this was one of my earliest exposures to the Flash as a character–certainly it’s the earliest distinct, clear memory I have of being aware of the character.

The color scheme–especially the red and blue against black–makes the cover stand out in a way that others don’t…at least for me.

Favorite Superman Covers: Adventures of Superman #424

I’m not much of an art person when it comes to comics–I tend to prefer story over art…but that’s not to say that art doesn’t play a huge factor! And through the years, there have been a number of Superman comics whose covers have particularly stood out to me, for one reason or another. In this series, I’m presenting 10 of my favorites and why they are favorites.

While not specifically a #1, I find this cover much more suggestive of a #1 issue than either Superman #1 or Action Comics #584 to me. It’s just a rather majestic image of Superman, a classic pose, and nice coloring.

adventuresofsuperman424

Lately when I think of this era of Superman, this is one of the images that comes to mind…and I’m certainly not alone in that, given this image was used recently for a line of Superman/DC licensed school products that seemed to be based on somewhat “classic” stuff and not THE most up-to-date contemporary imagery.

I don’t remember the exact timing, but I do have a vague recollection of finally getting this issue back in the early ’90s…of course having never realized just how soon I’d actually been introduced to the then-current version of the character. But that gets into stuff for another time.

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