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The ’80s Revisited: DC Retroactive – The ’80s – Superman #1

dc_retroactive_1980s_superman_0001New Day, Final Destiny

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Sergio Cariello
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Andrew Elder
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 2011
Cover Price: $4.99

I remember when these DC Retroactive specials hit, back in 2011–as a sort of bridge between the pre-Flashpoint wrapup of titles and dawn of the New 52. I got the Superman 1990s one, but don’t recall if I had actually picked up this 1980s one at the time–though I can’t imagine that I would not have, given the cover! Still, this particular copy coming from a 25-cent bin recently, and including a reprint of a 1980s story along with a new story OF the 1980s pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman places it well within my personal definition of a 1980s Revisited issue!

As said, the cover stood out to me most, showing an anguished Superman surrounded by imagery from the ’90s and forward…particularly Superboy Prime and an OMAC from Infinite Crisis; an Amazon from Amazons Attack, Bane breaking Batman from Knightfall, and a prominent Hal Jordan as Parallax from Emerald Twilight, Zero Hour, etc. In fact, this cover would make for an excellent art print and/or poster. The imagery is nice, and the Superman logo is nice and big, the "classic" yellow letters with red 3D coming off..the "classic" DC Bullet logo I grew up with, etc. While part of my motivation grabbing it from the quarter bin was that it was originally a $4.99 issue and here I was snagging it for a mere 25 cents…the cover had grabbed my attention and was worth 25 cents to me to get just to have handy, regardless of owning a copy "somewhere" in my too-vast accumulation.

The issue opens on an exhausted Superman who’s just trying to get some sleep…but if there’s no rest for the wicked, then he’s apparently been very naughty (to paraphrase the character’s thoughts). Superman quickly finds himself in the midst of a major crisis as an alien creature called The Dread destroys the Daily Planet building, killing thousands. When he tries to at least rescue one girl, time freezes…and he encounters the entity known as Destiny (one of the Endless) who pauses time, and confronts Superman with a choice: Superman can give in to The Dread’s option of aiding their conquering of worlds, or he can live to see horrible things happen to the people and its heroes. Destiny shows Superman glimpses of what’s to come: Amazons Attack Washington, killing thousands. A huge brute called Bane breaks Batman’s back. An earthquake levels Gotham City, and the Arkham Asylum inmates take over what remains of the city. Firestorm and Blue Beetle are killed. With encouragement/sanction of the Justice League, Zatanna mindwipes villains. Sue Dibny–the WIFE of one of the JLA–is killed. Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord outright. Hal Jordan dismantles the Green Lantern Corps and becomes Parallax. Barry Allen (Flash) is killed during a Crisis. Superman himself is killed by a Doomsday creature. Even his beloved cousin Kara is killed. Many other heroes and villains are killed, and eventually resurrected during a Blackest Night to kill countless others. All Superman has to do to prevent these things is to become the assassin/"herald" of The Dread and let all of Earthly humanity to be made into mindless slaves to The Dread. Yet, Superman refuses to give in, refuses to accept these as the only two options…he holds onto hope in the face of it all. The destruction of the Planet building, everything Superman’s seen right here is shown to be visions granted from Destiny…who himself isn’t actually the Destiny Superman had met before. He knows only that this is someone different…but as readers, we learn that this is a disguised Lyla–Harbinger–"testing" Superman, and finding him to be truly the hero they need to recruit if any of the multiverse is to be saved from the Anti-Monitor.

Story-wise, on the surface, this is a rather cheesy, pandering, gratuitous thing. As a DC Retroactive issue, this is designed to play on nostalgia, from the cover-inward. For me it gets that on numerous levels–from the ’80s writer in Wolfman to the’80s version of Superman, to the visions of major events from the ’90s and 2000s that were all "current events" for me as a reader as they came about.

But beyond RECOGNIZING that, in a clinical sorta way…I honestly HIGHLY enjoyed this story! It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want in something like this…give me the older version of the character, with a story that in no way detracts from prior continuity, show that even "old" continuity is part of "new continuity"–one big flow–as well as letting me as a reader see events that I know were indeed coming, that Superman and his world would face and endure. This is both a revisitation of the ’80s and a revisitation of the ’90s. Much as Superman is shown, though, a number of things are left out of being explicitly shown on-page (such as the death of Jason Todd) though the narrative allows for this in acknowledging that so many other events are glimpsed in Superman’s mind.

While I recognize Wolfman‘s contribution to comics history, I cannot honestly say that I specifically recognize his writing…I have not read enough of his work specifically to do so. That said, this was a story I really enjoyed, that captured the "tone" of the 1980s Superman that I do know, from what I have read from immediately prior and shortly after the Crisis itself, before Byrne‘s reboot. That the character is recognizable as such is a strong point to me…as well as the way the glimpses of the actual future of the DC Universe is worked in.

Visually, it’d be easy to mistake this for what it is–a much more contemporary take on Superman. Unfortunately, the issue doesn’t LOOK like ’80s Superman…it looks like early 2010s Superman, a more generic Superman as depicted by whoever the current artist is. However, for this story, the art still works well and in and of itself is quite solid, conveying the action, this artist’s takes on the key turning points that Superman is shown, and the characters involved.

I also quite appreciated the editorial note that Superman had previously met Destiny in Superman #352…I actually made a note for myself with the intention of tracking that issue down in the near future, curious about that original story. I had not even connected that with the knowledge that this issue also contained a reprint story from the ’80s after the new "lead" story.

superman_vol1_0352Superman (vol. 1) #352: Day of Destiny!

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Letterer: Shelly Leferman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Julius Schwartz

It was a very welcome treat to find that the reprinted 1980s story included in this issue was the aforementioned Superman #352! Rather than having to remember to look for the issue and maybe find it easily, maybe not, I was able to simply turn a page and dive right into the story!

This story was also written by Wolfman, with accompanying art by classic Superman artist Curt Swan…whose visuals I definitely recognize and made for a real treat of a thing. Given that it IS from then, it looked and read as an ’80s piece, with the familiarity I’d expect, and also enhanced what I had read in the lead, contextualizing things a bit and giving a post-read feel of merely reading two issues out of order…bringing back memories of reading Grandpa’s old comics. Like I had been grabbed by the cover and read an issue, and then being referred to a previous issue, found it and got to read it.

Despite my praise that definitely comes from the nostalgia of it all…this story’s looking/feeling like its time period isn’t all good…strip away the nostalgia and it felt a bit boring and ham-fisted and a bit borderline preachy.

Superman encounters Destiny, who is determined to PREVENT Superman from helping people, despite Superman’s every instinct being to leap into action and help people as he always does. Superman is forced to stand by helplessly as he sees people that he WOULD save ultimately save themselves. And thus Destiny’s lesson is imparted to the Man of Steel that the world and its people cannot be solely reliant on one person–him–for everything; that they are actually capable of taking care of themselves (Superman and the people are made to realize this).

I couldn’t help but think of the years-earlier story Must There Be a Superman? from Superman #247 (in which the Guardians of the Universe put Superman on trial for interfering with Humanity and impart to him the same lesson, essentially, that Destiny does here). The two are 106-some issues apart (nearly a decade) so it’s not like they were back to back…but as someone who has read SOME stuff from throughout Superman’s history it jumps out at me where it may not to others.

Though I recognize Swan‘s art and like it in the nostalgic sense…there’s a certain "generic" nature to the art that I personally tend to compare to (in particular) Dan Jurgens‘ art, particularly from around The Death of Superman as well as other Superman art from the late 1980s/early 1990s, a good 9+ years removed from this, as this was from Superman 247.


The cover price is rather steep for a 26-page "main" story and 16-page REPRINT. Still, that’s 42 pages of content for $4.99, from a time where many books were $2.99 to $3.99 for only 20 pages. Additionally, the reprint is specifically germane to the main story, which would certainly be a $2.99 value, and it’s pretty unlikely I’d be able to acquire the single issue as its own unit for under $2, so the extra price is still a definite savings and added convenience to have the issue’s story right here.

All in all, this is actually a solid value and enjoyable issue for a $4.99 special, whether at that price over 5 years ago or by present-day 2017 standards. As something that might be come across in a bargain bin, this is certainly worth 25 cents, and would be a strong buy for $1, and I dare say I’d be relatively willing (for the nostalgia factor at least) to pay full cover price on this (or rather, some of the other DC Retroactive specials).

Highly recommended for the lead story if you’re a fan of Wolfman or the era; and certainly worthwhile for a glimpse back to that period combining the lead with the reprinted story (and pre-Gaiman appearance of Destiny). The cover is a definite treat as well!

dcretroactivesuperman1980s

General Mills Presents: Justice League #4 [Review]

Breakout!

Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Bruno Redondo
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

So…Atlanteans are just like normal humans, except they live underwater. That’s ‘interesting.’ And Batman’s determined that no other family will ever be destroyed by crime. Penguin instigates a prison breakout to keep Aquaman busy, but the rest of the Justice League show up to help Aquaman and Batman. And we get several of the common “nicknames” such as “Big Blue” (Superman) and “Caped Crusader” (Batman).

This issue continues the trend of feeling rather generic, as well as having some stuff that feels a bit ‘forced’ in the course of dialogue or story.

The art’s not bad…also as with the other issues of this “mini-series” I’m not familiar with the artist…but, the art overall isn’t anything I actively dislike, which makes it good in my book.

The story is pretty basic, but it DOES have simple stuff worked in that would help inform someone on aspects of the characters–namely, that Batman’s all about not seeing another family destroyed as his was. This issue’s nothing special in the grand scheme…but as a comic that’s likely to be read by someone much younger than me…this isn’t a bad starting point to get someone interested in pursuing more about these characters.

And as a whole, this issue–and the whole “mini-series”–serves as a very basic introduction to the Justice League and several of the individual characters that doesn’t really contradict what I’m aware of about the characters, but this also makes the “real” comics look that much better.

Best of all, these comics are 24 pages of story–making them 4 pages (20%?) longer than current $3-$4 comics. And while totally separate from actual continuity…these even work a lot of “standard” elements in that give a “physical structure” like that of any contemporary comics–varied panel sizes, and even double-page spreads.

If these issues were to be collected as a full size 96-page one-shot in the $5 realm, I’d probably buy it for the novelty–and it’d be interesting to see if it would attract younger readers.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.5/10

General Mills Presents: Justice League #3 [Review]

Sinister Imitation

Written by: Doug Wagner
Art by: Steve Scott & Livesay
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

This issue is the classic, cliche robot-duplicates story. I’m not all that thrilled with the art…again, not familiar with this artist. By the end of the issue, though, I wasn’t noticing the negatives of the art, though, which I find likely to be that it’s just not art I actively enjoy…but it’s nothing for me to actively dislike, either. The characters are all quite clearly recognizable, and other than being in their “classic” costumes, nothing really looks all that “off” about them.

The writing is a bit more “off” than the art. There’s something that doesn’t really ring true about this league, and while they claim to be friends, it seems more like a surface detail than anything that’s really FELT. It is cool to see that the villain is a familiar one…though there doesn’t truly seem to be any motivation for him, and it seems odd that he’d actually give the whole league this kind of trouble, when typically he’s been a Superman villain.

However, as with the other two issues so far, this is rooted quite strongly in the realm of being for kids, who most likely aren’t going to care for the stuff I look for in my comics at age 30–deeper character moments, stronger stories, etc.

In connection with the first two issues, this adds a little more to the Justice League as we find out Flash is “Barry,” and that he’s friends with “Hal” (Green Lantern), and so on.

All in all…maybe my least favorite of the three, but for (again) something out of a cereal box, not horrible.

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

General Mills Presents: Justice League #2 [Review]

Artificial Invasion

Written by: Paul Tobin
Art by: Derec Donovan
Colors by: Allen Passalaqua
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

Though Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and Batman are on the cover and have a one-panel cameo…this issue focuses on Superman and Wonder Woman. Or rather, it doesn’t so much focus on them, as it does star just the two of them.

Metropolis is being swarmed by robots that keep replicating, using mainly car parts they scavenge. Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves in the middle of things, but even their powers aren’t stopping the robotic invasion. As they fight, they’re contacted by someone who manages to get past the robots to tell the heroes how these robots came to be. The robots then manage to catch the heroes…but the end result is not exactly what might be expected.

I’m again unfamiliar with the artist, and the visuals for this issue seem a bit more generic than #1. The art seems a bit more uneven on this issue, though I can’t really say it’s all that bad. It’s not exactly my cup o’ tea, but it’s preferable to some art I put up with in comics I actually buy, so I suppose this ought to be considered good, at least in and of itself.

The story itself is quite generic…but it does allow a SLIGHT glimpse into the motivations of the two main characters, showing a 3-panel flashback for Superman and another 3-panel flashback for Wonder Woman. Being familiar with the characters, I know most of the characters shown…but there’s nothing actually saying who they are, and so I wonder if the impact may be lessened.

In and of itself, this issue isn’t quite as fun as #1…but as another piece in addition to it, there’s a bit more character depth here, at least in us seeing that there’s more to Superman and Wonder Woman than their fists. And by issue’s end, they even realize that and state it explicitly.

My main issue is with Wonder Woman’s utterances of “Great Gaia” and “Great Hera”–they seem quite forced here, and at least a small bit out of character given lack of any other context.

All in all…a decent addition to things, and not nearly as bad as I’d expect a free comic from a box of cereal to seem.

Story: 5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6.5/10

General Mills Presents: Justice League #1 [Review]

Unstoppable Forces

Written by: Scott Beatty
Art by: Christian Duce
Colors by: Allen Passalaqua
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

It’s been years since there’s been anything worth buying cereal for. Well, that phrasing may not be entirely accurate–I’ve been a cereal guy all through this time. But it’s been a lotta years since there was anything extra–a “prize” or “bonus” or whatever–contained in the cereal box as any true incentive in and of itself. But now, select General Mills cereals include a “free” Justice League comic book, making up essentially a 4-issue mini-series. They’re labeled as 1-4 “of 4,” anyway.

This first issue is rather bland, but in a fun sort of way. You have the various characters–Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman–but virtually nothing of their secret IDs, and the story isn’t all that deep. It’s really a done-in-one, out-of-continuity sorta deal.

Some time back, the heroes manage with some difficulty to subdue something called “The Shaggy Man,” and go on with their lives. Years later, a real estate developer breaks ground on the very spot the Shaggy Man is in stasis…awakening the creature. The Justice League springs into action, and ultimately find a better solution to keep the world safe from this Shaggy Man’s threat.

The art isn’t bad, though it suffers (for me) from a strong sense of being generic–this IS a “free giveaway” in a box of cereal, after all. It also feels rather weird seeing these characters in their “old” costumes–this giveaway comes barely 2 months into the relaunch of DC’s superhero line, so it would seem to have been a better thing to have this wait or at least have featured the new versions of the characters. Heck, make it a four-issue thing detailing some of the backstory of the New 52…or even reprint some prior material (do 2 issues of the Heroes’ origins from 52, and 2 issues of Villains’ origins from Countdown or some such).

The story is self-contained, and aside from that sense of being generic, the art IS NOT bad…though I’m not familiar with this artist. This is definitely something you could give to kids…it skirts deeper issues in favor of vagueness, and there’s no real depth of character for any of the characters here…but that only irks me as a fan of continuity and stronger stories.

The cover features an image by Dan Jurgens which helps offset the interior art; it also features a subtitle “Unstoppable Forces,” and the story is truly a done-in-one, which makes the “1 of 4” a bit strange–there’s no “To Be Continued,” so this didn’t even need a number. Seems the number is there to “legitimize” there being 4 different comics, and make this look more like a “real” comic.

Despite my complaints and whatever negativity…the truth is…this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I would have been THRILLED with at age 8 or 9 or 12 when I was first getting into comics, being exposed to multiple heroes and seeing them doing heroic stuff. Long before I came to care about things like depth of character and the sort of stuff that’s lacking here. The back cover shows all four covers to this “mini-series,” and even has caption “Enjoy reading all 4 comics together as a family!” I don’t know about anyone else, but I figure that would be a splendid idea–you’ve got the cereal, you’ve got the comic, and you can spend some time reading with your kid.

Or if you’re an adult…enjoy the simple stuff about comics that made them a joy to get into when you were a kid.

Story: 6/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

DC Universe Online Legends #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

 

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Deathblow (2006 series) #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: And Then You Live! (Part One)

A new start for the man code-named Deathblow…

deathblow001Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Carlos D’anda
Colors: Carrie Strachan
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Kristy Quinn
Editors: Ben Abernathy and Scott Peterson
Cover Art: Carlos D’anda, variant by Stephen Platt
Publisher: Wildstorm/DC Comics

This issue has a mix of stuff to it, with a good pacing. We open with the reader apparently being addressed, before we discover we’re seeing things through the eyes of someone being tortured, before flipping to the discussion of a rescue operation, then the rescue operation itself. We’re introduced to the main character, and are left at the issue’s conclusion with a glimpse of what may be to come, as the status quo we’re led to believe is shifted into place isn’t what we–or the title character–thought.

The writing here is good. Before this issue, pretty much the entirety of what I knew of the character or concept, even, of Deathblow was what can be found in Jim Lee‘s "The Stormfront" column in this past month’s Worldstorm books. However, there’s enough here that while there may be an initial sense of genericy, we are not only introduced to the title character in this debut issue, but early enough on that events transpire after his introduction, (which then lead into the issue’s cliffhanger). The art has a gritty edge to it, and with the coloring, a subtle darkness that gives a visual impression of just how un-pretty things are here, story-wise.

As a debut issue, this has a good amount going for it. We get some background that sets up what’s going on here, now, in the present, that leads to the introduction of this Deathblow character. (The fact that the title character actually shows up is a definite plus.) We are introduced to the character in such a way that accounts for (apparently) events that came in the earlier volume of the title (pre-Worldstorm) and presumably gives an extra depth for readers familiar with the character from way-back-when…but it works equally as well in setting the character up for those (like myself) coming in cold.

I didn’t have much of any expectation coming in beyond the usual one would expect of any comic. I’m not absolutely wowed or amazed at the book…but I find in it a solid start with plenty of potential, and I’m willing to give it a go, see how stuff develops.

I’m sure you could find better, but there’s plenty worse out there. As a debut/first issue, this is a good point to jump on and check things out. If you’ve $3 to spare, it probably couldn’t hurt too much.

Ratings:

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

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