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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #659

90s_revisited
action_comics_0659Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Three: Breakout!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Bob McLeod & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

I was a little bit correct and a little bit off in my assessment of Starman #28‘s place in this story…as reading this would definitely feel like something HAD been missed if that wasn’t read first. Yet, there’s context and footnote to explain the high-level "essential" stuff so you get what you "need" from this. Roger Stern was the writer on that, and is on this, so there’s some definite organic tie-in stuff, with the necessary retread for this era in which comics were not designed and destined for a "graphic novel" or collected edition.

We get a bit of that essential retread to start this issue, "Superman" confronting Luthor and getting the Red Kryptonite from him. We then move to Superman himself and Hamilton as they test out a suit of armor and things don’t go as well as either of them would like. Starman tries to be helpful, but is unable to cheer Superman at all. Meanwhile, Killgrave (a mad scientist/mad genius) launches his plan to bait Superman, take out the hero, and escape. Starman does super feats while Clark goes about life. When Killgrave springs his trap, Starman takes him on as Superman, to shocking effect before the real Superman shows up in his armor. Facing Killgrave, our hero gets lucky with a failsafe in the armor allowing him to bluff the villain. Killgrave attempts to escape, and the powerless Superman leaps back into action to attempt to stop him…but fails, and Starman has to save Superman rather than pursue the fleeing villain…which bums Superman out all the more. Mixed in there, Mxyzptlk uses Red-K dust in Luthor’s office to reveal that the Superman flying around is an imposter, which cheers Luthor a fair bit.

I enjoyed reading this issue…it originally came out toward the end of my first "run" with comics, when I was still getting to know this version of Superman and was really too young to "get" a lot of it, where I appreciate stuff a lot more now as an adult.

This definitely reads as a middle chapter, but does so in a good way…fleshing out the notion of a Superman without powers trying to find a way to "stay in the game" while conveying the danger and frustration he faces. It also touches on subplot stuff to remind us of the larger tapestry of the Superman saga and keeps things grounded and interesting. As a middle chapter, though, there’s only so much this can do, though it’s interesting to have Superman try the armor and lose it in the same issue. With contemporary standards getting, having, and using the armor would be a several issue thing in itself, with loads of variant covers and hype over the "new costume" for him and numerous artists’ interpretations of it and so on.

The art is quite good and very much to my liking. Though the story is good, I do think the quality art lent itself significantly to my simple enjoyment of this issue.

All in all, another good chapter of this arc, and another issue I’d recommend if you find it in a bargain bin.

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Zero Hour Revisited – Detective Comics #678

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detective_comics_0678Yesterdays Gone

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Graham Nolan
Guest Inker: Bob McLeod
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Editor: Scott Peterson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

The thought’s hit me as I get to writing about this issue–Zero Hour is beginning to wear a bit thin on me. I’ve always loved the event, the core series and the Superman tie-in issues, because those were the ones I’d read at the time, when they were first released. I was coming off my first major Batman phase, but still somewhat following the Bat-books. Now as I’m coming down to a handful of books remaining to the event, I’m eager to finish up, get to the end of the event itself and on to other reading projects (perhaps a guy diligently typing away about every issue he reads for several weeks in a given twenty-two-year-old story shouldn’t admit that, but there it is). Despite that, I’m enjoying it more than the bulk of new comics being released and appreciating it a heckuva lot more than modern events.

This issue is one with a familiar cover, though I don’t really–truly–have any conscious memory associated with it. Reading the issue itself was like reading a completely new comic…such that I cannot actually with complete confidence say that I absolutely read it in 1994…though I would have–before reading all these–sworn that I had. I’d thought something played out in a missed detail in one of the Zero issues, that after this event Batman had not truly caught his parents’ killer, that it wasn’t Joe Chill, and so on…but it seems at least the major seed of that was planted here, in this issue…and is absolutely a detail I missed at the time in terms of reading or "getting" it myself.

We find Batman responding to an alarm in the Cave…but upon emerging from the cave, finds the Manor and the world to not be the one he knows…he himself has become an anomaly in ANOTHER timeline. In this one, his parents have arrived home after a horrible night…in which their son Bruce was killed in an attempted mugging as they left a movie theater. Batman skirts the edges of awareness in the Manor, and sees a chance to salvage stuff–he KNOWS WHO the killer is, and thus how to find him immediately, this very night–and in this timeline, where he IS an anomaly, he can bring justice in a world in which he can also see his parents LIVE. And in the course of seeking said justice…Batman comes to find that the man he’s long known to be his parents’ killer…is (at least in this timeline) NOT. And before long finds himself back in his own timeline, where his parents are dead, and he now has to consider the very real possibility that he actually never HAS brought his parents’ murderer to justice…and may never actually be capable of doing so, having long since closed the case and let a cold trail go even colder.

The best way to describe my feelings on this issue’s artwork is that it’s quite solid. It doesn’t particularly stand out–in conscious memory at least, and does not in itself trigger any particular memories or feelings of simply joy–or enjoyment–regarding the visuals. But I recognize Nolan and McLeod‘s names from this era, and that’s a very welcome factor for me. There IS a definite familiarity to the art, and I definitely enjoy it…this is some of the better Batman art I can think of…and I’d certainly welcome it over a lot of more modern stuff.

Story-wise, this is also a solid issue. With Dixon on writing, I would associate it with positive quality on name value alone. I just wish I had more conscious memory of him on this book, say, than "only" on something like Robin.

That element aside…I definitely enjoyed 1. the way and fact of this issue being part of Zero Hour allowing for the scenario it does, and B. that despite its ripples on continuity, it gives a largely self-contained micro-story that works and yet (as with many other tie-ins) does not need to explain or solidify the why and how of stuff, just show us the WHAT.

I don’t recall how long it actually stuck, but I do remember this "changing the game" a bit, at least for awhile, and thus this makes for a good issue to read, outside the core event, and particularly if you followed Batman at the time.

Though in this typing I find my analysis colored by evaluating it simply as an object of the past…it’s still in the higher part of any list I’d compose of recommendations for stuff to read if not the entire event…and gives me plenty to think about from stuff as simple as the blood on the cover under Batman…while no visible wound on the body (good ol’ ’90s censorship and pushed boundaries)… or the fact that while I’ll occasionally see Zero Hour issues in bargain bins…this issue does not tend to be one of them…either people don’t get rid of it with other issues (and/or they’re bought quicker before I get to the bins) or it’s sought after enough to "hold value" in a realm of ‘regular’ back issues, not to be merely offloaded in a bargain bin.

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!

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