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Superman: Lois and Clark #1 [Review]

superman_lois_and_clark_001Arrival, part 1

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Penciller: Lee Weeks
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterers: A Larger World Studios’ Joshua Cozine & Troy Peteri
Cover: Lee Weeks and Brad Anderson
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marion
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this, at least in concept. Superman…and Dan Jurgens. It can’t get much better than that, right?

I came into the thing expecting this to be “my” Superman sent back to help stop the Crisis and then picking up 5 or 9 or however many years later–with him, Lois, and their son (born in Convergence: Superman). Maybe I never thought through the details, maybe I was hung up on the notion of actually, finally getting “my” Superman (of sorts) back. The pre-Flashpoint Superman.

What I’ve found is that Superman apparently living on the New 52 Earth (or one very much like it), with things striking me as being pretty much the same as the “current” DC Comics Superman. Having realized the world was quite different, he stuck to the background, and even went “underground,” taking the name White, and operating strictly in secret, restraining himself from getting involved.

Since the New 52-ish world is similar in many ways, he’s–while operating in secret–sought to do what he can to prevent the rise of certain entities, prevent certain events from coming about. Meanwhile, Lois has written a number of books as an anonymous author, impacting the world as she can that way, while together they raise their son Jon.

When I think of Dan Jurgens on Superman, everything goes back to 1992’s Superman #75, The Death of Superman…particularly VISUALLY. It’s an unconscious thing, that issue, that story being such a key part of my childhood and early days in comics. As a result…it’s a bit jarring and such when my brain wants to see Superman one way visually and get something different.

Though he’s the writer, the art is actually be Lee Weeks, with a style distinctive from Jurgens‘ own. Getting past that, I like the art in this issue. Aside from “noticing” it’s not Jurgens‘ art, I really have no active/overt gripe with it. I never got pulled out of the story, out of the reading experience by any surprise or “weirdness” or such; there was no oddity to my eye with the depiction of the characters. And maybe it’s my earliest issues of Superman/Adventures of Superman–when I was introduced to the modern version of the character–but I really dig Superman/Clark with a beard.

Story-wise, this was a bit of an odd experience…having a lot of loaded pre-conceived expectations and notions as to what this should be, what I wanted to see, how I hoped the characters would be shown, etc. Given my personal “history” with Superman–the character being THE core of my comics-reading experience and the reason I was even first introduced TO comics–I freely admit that there’s really no way this was going to live up to my idealistic hopes.

What I got is mediocre compared to what I’d hoped for.

In and of itself? This was a solid issue. There’s some flashback/exposition that I’m not sure would make MUCH sense to someone just jumping onboard to “try” this, without familiarity with pre-Flashpoint continuity or having read Convergence and the Superman 2-parter from that. It provides just enough for me, to get around the lack of a textual “previously” page (and sets this up for the inevitable “graphic novel”) and to clarify that yes, this is the pre-Flashpoint Superman, yes, he went back and helped end the first Crisis, yes, he’s aware of this world’s other heroes, and despite reservations, he’s left them to their things and focused on protecting his family while helping in secret as he can.

We’re introduced to a couple of elements I don’t believe have been dealt with in the New 52 Superman stuff (or if they have, it’s not been in the limited handful of stuff I have personally read/been made aware of). Intergang, and Hank Henshaw. Lois is working on something with this world’s Intergang (a dangerous proposition)…while Clark seeks to make sure that Henshaw’s spacecraft does not meet the same disaster it did in the world HE remembers.

Of course, as always…the world is different, and there are other forces at play, and this is only the first issue of four or six or some such (though I’d love for it to be an ongoing series).

There’s not enough here to truly display the historical significance of this version of Superman/Clark and Lois, or of their having a child, being married, etc. The significance comes from being an “old” fan, to fully appreciate the unspoken, unmentioned context that gives plenty of weight to this. I can only assume that otherwise–to a newer reader–this is nothing more than an alternate, older version of Superman. That this Superman is now what the “Earth-2” Superman may have been to others in the silver age comics, or the “pre-Crisis” Superman to readers in the time I was getting into comics.

This book can surely be enjoyable for new readers and old alike, but I am on-board as the older fan/reader, and appreciating this bone I’ve been tossed, as SOMETHING for me that isn’t New 52 or some “out of continuity” one-off.

Convergence #8 [Review]

convergence008Last Stand

Writers: Jeff King and Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Stephen Segovia, Carlo Pagulayan, Eduardo Pansica, Ethan Van Sciver
Inks: Jason Paz, Scott Hanna, Trevor Scott, Stephen Segovia, Ethan Van Sciver
Colros: Peter Stiegerwald
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover: Andy Kubert, Brad Anderson
Special Thanks: Geoff Johns, Beth Sotelo, Mark Roslan
Asst. Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015

[Please note that I WILL be “spoiling” this issue in this review. If you have not read it yourself and/or do not wish to know how the issue–and Convergence itself in general–conclude, you’ll want to stop reading; though I have about 2 1/2 paragraphs before I truly get to “spoiler” territory.]

I think I left off about six weeks ago–I’m pretty sure I jumped off after #2, never picking up #3 of this series. And though my enthusiasm quickly, almost totally tapered off…I again found myself curious about how this would wrap up, particularly given recent rumors at certain comic sites, and wanting to see/experience it for myself instead of just reading about it.

Of course, that was not truly worth the $4.99 cover price (at this point, that means I’ve bought THREE $4.99 issues and only one $3.99 issue of Convergence proper, which is absolutely disgusting to me). The cover also is quite generic and basic, not impressing me at all.

The story itself is relatively basic, and I certainly lack context of the past few issues. A group of heroes has gathered, to make their last stand. Someone named Deimos has just been killed by Hal/Parallax resulting in the planet becoming unstable, and its destruction threatens the Multiverse itself. A few remaining time-travelers (specifically Booster Gold, his sister, and Waverider) show up…and their solution is to bring Brainiac back. In turn, Brainiac’s solution is to absorb the temporal energy that’s been unleashed and return the heroes home, while having himself restored and the Multiverse fixed. Part of fixing the Multiverse is preventing its total collapse in the “first” Crisis. And fix stuff they do, and all the worlds are restored, the many many worlds of a Multiverse.

I mention that the story is relatively basic, and that’s in the “heroes are gathered, a last-ditch solution arrives, is executed, and we get page after page of “moments” to end the current series/event while not truly capping things off” sense.

Essentially, it seems that in a way, this means that Crisis on Infinite Earths is given a different ending, in which the final five Earths, at least, do not collapse into one single Earth, and generally that anything and everything that has ever happened in a DC comic has a place in the multiverse and is still out there somehow.

[The way I choose to interpret it is that we’re seeing the creation of a divergent branch OF the multiverse with worlds where Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Flashpoint, Infinite Crisis, etc. all happened or will happen existing amidst worlds in which none of those happened, and so on.]

The issue’s art is a mixed thing, with a bunch of pencilers and inkers involved. Fortunately, though seeming much like a “jam piece,” dealing with multiple versions of characters and various Earths and all that, I didn’t honestly consciously “notice” that overly much…I noticed some differences here and there but mentally wrote them off as nature of the story.

While the series didn’t hold me week to week, knowing now how it ends, I do expect I’ll still be interested in a collected volume–I half considered that it’d “only” be 5 issues to fill in my “gap,” but with DC‘s rather reasonable pricing, that $20 for 5 issues will probably be 2/3 or more the price of the inevitable hardcover of all 9 issues, so I expect to try to “hold out” for that.

Unless you’re like me and just want to get the immediate gratification of “experiencing” (reading) this issue and its place in DC History right now, or have already kept up ith the rest of the series…you’re better off waiting, I think.

This isn’t the worst ending of an event, but I wouldn’t consider it great, either as it seems to throw wide the doors on things than it does close them on even this story in itself. It does set up the new Earth 2 for the ongoing “primary”/focal part of the DC Multiverse (formerly The New 52) and leaves the entirety of DC history open such that it seems “possible” that anything/everything that’s ever been at DC is now “available” to be used in DC comics in general. Whether this ultimately proves to be good or bad, I don’t know.

I can’t say I’m thrilled with the issue in and of itself…but I am glad to have gotten to read this immediately, and be given some small “hope” of interesting self-contained stuff down the line. For the immediate present, though, this serves as a jump-off for me.

Shazam! (New 52) Vol. 1 [Review]

shazamvol001Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterers: Nick J. Napolitano, Dezi Sienty
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $24.99

I’ve never really been a fan of the Shazam/Captain Marvel property. I haven’t exactly disliked it, but I’ve never really had any active interest in it. Actually, my primary interest has probably come much more in retrospect in the last 10-15 years, looking back to where I came across the character(s) in the 10 or so years prior, and seeing how the concept’s been worked into the general DC Universe, and given the history as tough competition to the Superman publications.

In more recent years, I neglected to follow the Trials of Shazam series, though seeing the changes wrought by Infinite Crisis and its lead-up seemed to hold a lot of potential. I just never really got around to going back and checking up on the saga.

Then the New 52.

I didn’t care for Justice League, so wasn’t about to buy a title “just” for some “backup feature” or “co-feature” or whatever. It seemed to me that there was some miscommunication as to when the Shazam stuff would even start, and ultimately that came down to “out of sight, out of mind” for me, if not simply “don’t care.”

Skip then to Villains Month and the heavy house-ad presence for the Shazam! vol. 1 hardcover, combined with a conversation I had with a friend whose only real exception to “no super-heroes” IS Captain Marvel/Shazam. Beginning with simply being “cute” and sending an SMS photo of the ad (“hey, here’s something NEW you can buy!”) followed by realizing I’d been enjoying the stuff with Black Adam in 52 and then the JSA story near the end of Johns‘ run there, and opting to get the Black Adam Villains Month issue…and I fell into my own “trap.”

I was curious, and interested.

Which, finally, brings me to the book itself: Shazam! Volume 1. This book collects the Shazam! feature from Justice League (2011) #s 7-11, 0, 14-16, 18-21…or 13 chapters. Being–as I understand–functionally “backup” or “co” features, these were each significantly shorter than a standard issue, so these 13 or so chapters work out to approximate six issues…making this a standard-size volume overall.

That I was able to get the hardback for $15 shipped made it like getting a paperback, but the added “plus” of actually being a hardback…though that’s probably moreso the immediacy, as my curiosity had gotten the better of me and I was more interested in checking out the New 52 iteration of the property than caring about having a hardback vs. paperback.

The cover’s depiction of the character is a bit “off” to me, looking questionably sinister, power-mad, or at the least, slightly creepy. Based on the interior, it looks to me like that image was from a variant cover of an issue of Justice League, and seems modeled after the 2012 #0 issues of the New 52. Fitting, as this is the introduction of this version of the character…not so fitting as it’s the only image of the character that stuck out to me in that way.

Gary Frank‘s art is a definite draw for me, and made the book quite easy on the eyes. Everything taken solely in context of this single volume, I haven’t much to say about the art other than I enjoyed it quite a bit–in general as well as the character designs themselves. Adding my knowledge of more Shazam stuff than just this volume, Mary seemed a bit too “old” and not so “innocent” as I’m used to seeing the character (excepting Final Crisis and such), and I’m not familiar with Pedro, Eugene, or Darla offhand. Additionally, the hooded full cape isn’t an aspect of the costume I’m used to, though Frank makes it look good.

Story-wise, it was a bit stranger to me seeing a more rebellious, cynical Billy Batson, one quite lacking in the wide-eyed worldly wonder and “Holey moley!” of even the ’90s take on the character. While that’s long been a relatively defining aspect of the character, its absence in this was actually quite welcome to me. This Billy seems much more grounded and realistic, and it’s a lot easier to identify with the character himself. That there are echoes of the typical “with great power comes great responsibility” refrain thematically doesn’t hurt things, either. I also found that I don’t at all mind the missing “Captain Marvel” name, as I’ve grown up with Shazam as the cover designation involving the character(s). It remains to be seen the long-term designation of the siblings’ names, but as I’ve (as of this writing) yet to even read Ordway‘s Power of Shazam series, I have no particular vested interest in the old naming convention.

Throughout this volume, we get to see some honest growth of the character as he first takes advantage of his power, then attempts to learn to channel it, and finally shares it and steps closer to being the hero he’s gotta be. We also have the introduction and a bit of development of the villain–Dr. Sivana–whose quest for Black Adam and access to magic dovetails into the overall arc of Billy getting HIS powers and stepping into action. Sivana’s motivation also rings true, as he’s seeking to save his family with the magic and not “just” some mad scientist-type scheming against the magical hero.

There were a number of splash pages, enough that I couldn’t always tell where a chapter definitively had ended. In this single-volume format, that’s definitely a good thing…yet it underscores how much I would have hated this in its original serialized format. The story taken as a whole–this entire volume–works very well, but pull out any one chapter by itself and there’d be a lot left wanting for that chapter–either focus on Billy and his building relationship with his new “siblings,” or continued development of things on Sivana’s end with Black Adam.

As touched on earlier–I very nearly bought this for full cover price just for the immediate gratification…but currently holding an Amazon Prime account with free 2-day shipping, I forced myself to hold off in order to save $10 (40%). At the $15 I ended up paying, this was more than worthwhile as a purchase. The full $25 might be a bit of a stretch…but as a hardcover, it’s not a horrible value, and as something I was actively interested in acquiring TO read, this seems one of the better volumes I could have chosen. 

All in all…I’m quite satisfied with this book, and the amount of time it took me to read the thing cover to cover for its price compared to the same price for say, four of last month’s Villains books. I don’t know that I’d jump into buying single issues with a continued backup series featuring Shazam or the Shazam family, but I would certainly check out an ongoing title or occasional special.

Batman: Earth One [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5

Action Comics #904 [Review]

Reign of the Doomsdays Finale

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist (pp 1-16): Axel Gimenez
Artist (pp 17-20): Ronan Cliquet
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Kenneth Rocafort
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics

Hard to believe it, but this is the final issue of Action Comics. Sure, Action Comics (vol. 2) #1 comes out in a couple weeks, but that’s a whole different thing. It’s not this same title. It’s not the actual title with its roots in the dawn of the comics industry, the dawn of the super-hero, going back to even before World War II, touching on eight decades. But that’s mostly a discussion for the new Action Comics.

This issue wraps up Superman, and Action Comics, and is basically the send-off for this title and these characters, at least for what I’m currently reading (I have not read Superman #714, nor the final issues of Supergirl or Superboy).

We open with Superman discovering that the current threat to the world still ties back to Lex Luthor’s recent actions in the Black Ring arc. Talking with this willed-to-existence entity, Superman is restored to solid existence, to lead the heroes in a final attack on the Doomslayer to save their world. While Superman and the Eradicator (in a different but familiar form) take on Doomslayer, the others attend to the multiple Doomsdays. When all’s said and done, Clark and Lois talk over dinner, bringing this era of Superman, and aspects of the character going back a quarter-century, to a close.

The main story seemed to wrap up a little too quickly for my preference. It’s not bad, mind you–but it just seemed a little quick. Perhaps it’s the time between issues combined with all the other stuff I’ve (as an individual) had on my mind and looking toward with the pending relaunch–but it doesn’t feel like the potential with this Doomslayer really had a chance to take off, and the heroes (as with a couple years back in New Krypton) handle the Doomsday threat a little too easily for what the character was created to be. That said, I found the closing to be a great touch and appropriate epilogue to this lengthy Doomsdays thing, which has been going on all year now, since that Steel one-shot back in early January.

Given that it was the Death and Return of Superman “trilogy” that most firmly brought me back into comics in a way that I’ve never truly left since, it’s rather satisfying that Supergirl, Superboy, Steel, the Eradicator, Doomsday, and the Cyborg Superman were all brought into what turned out to be the final story of this title, and these characters.

Visually, I’m not really impressed with the art on the main story segment. I’m not really disappointed, either…it’s just not a style that clicked well with me in reading this issue–something about it just felt off. The characters and action isn’t hard to follow, everyone’s recognizable and all–so it does its job as it should. The epilogue segment worked quite well, though–I’ve mostly enjoyed Gary Frank‘s work on Superman, and Cliquet does an excellent job of emulating that style.

All in all…this issue’s for the longtime/ongoing readers. This is the end of Cornell‘s run on this title; this caps off a quasi-crossover sort-of-“event.” This is the end of Lois & Clark, at least the Lois & Clark of the last 15 years. This is likely the last of a lot of other familiar elements and possibly actual characters that have been part of the Superman story for a generation of readers. This goes out with neither whimper nor bang…but leaves things so that maybe someday, this iteration of the characters can be revisited.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Superman #712 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

Action Comics #901 [Review]

Reign of the Doomsdays part 1

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Kenneth Rocafort, Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Kenneth Rocafort
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the banner at the top advertising the Green Lantern film due out June 17 “only in theaters.” Now, I know Marvel has done this for YEARS, but they’ve generally done it by way of the upper corner box by the issue’s number and such. And I appreciate this on the GL books–it’s most appropriate there. But on a Superman title, it’s less appropriate, except as the full-DC-wide blast of the advertising. After all, why hide the ad on an interior or the back cover when by having a banner at the top, you’re advertising off any and all ways of displaying comics that allow the top portion to be seen?

That aside…the cover doesn’t impress me all that much. I do appreciate that Doomsday looks a lot closer to what I’m used to than it has in awhile. But the image does seem rather generic to me–Doomsday standing amidst wreckage, the bodies of the Superman Family sprawled at its feet. Something about the imagery just doesn’t do it for me. Then again…the cover is not why I bought the issue.

The story picks up where the lead story of Action #900 left off–the Superman Family has found that they are facing several Doomsdays, each tailored to a diffeent power set, but all set on destruction of the entire group. Cyborg-Superman welcomes destruction, the chance at death. The others, however do not–so after Superman neutralizes the Cyborg, the group gathers up and heads away from their attackers into the depths of the prison they’ve found themselves in. Meanwhile, on Earth, an imminent extinction-level event is detected, and (in contrast to the controversy over a short in the previous issue) the American President proclaims the country’s need of Superman, of any super-powered beings able to help. As Superman & Co. realize their prison is fast approaching Earth, they encounter yet another threat, who steps forth to prevent them from saving the planet. Without wasting time arguing, he delivers a shocking blow to the group, leaving their reaction as our cliffhanger.

I’m not a huge fan of the split art duties on the issue. Rocafort‘s visual style seems a bit “off” to me, and reminded me of my least favorite art from #900, though on a double-checking, it’s not the same. There’s something to this style that makes the characters seem overly generic, Superman especially. Somehow it looks to me more like some guy in a Superman costume, and the face alone doesn’t say “Superman” to me. Merino‘s art in the middle of the issue stands out, and is far preferable to me–the characters look a lot more “on” on those pages…and it makes it rather jarring to then shift right back to a different visual style.

Cornell‘s writing is solid…I haven’t yet read much of his work…the first issue of the Black Ring arc and then the lead in Action 900. But I do like the concept, at least, that’s at play here…and I really enjoy having Superman teamed up again with Supergirl, Eradicator, Steel, Cyborg, and Superboy. And given the first time these characters all got together, it’s fitting that they’re dealing with Doomsday. Given this context–their teamup, and the Doomsday situation…I’m tentatively hooked. I came back for this issue, having figured to only pick up #900 as the anniversary that it was.

While much of the story is fairly serious and played straight…there’s a part where we actually get a thought balloon for Superman, which seems somewhat out of nowhere–especially as I’ve grown used to the LACK of thought balloons in favor of “voiceover” narration and such. The use of the thought balloon in this issue seemed hokey and a bit forced; and momentarily took me out of the story while I thought about it. Not a huge deal, but noticeable.

Where the story is most hurt in my eyes is that I have no idea how many chapters to expect…just as I had no clue how many to expect, really, with the Reign of Doomsday hopping along through various other books without really meaning much. I certainly hope this arc is not dragged out…though this is labled Reign of the Doomsdays part 1 (escaping Reign of Doomsday which was around a half-dozen issues), it’s essentially the same story continuing, so this feels like the 7th chapter, and I’m not sure I’ll want to stick around long-term if it’s simply a dragged-out slugfest or punch-and-run-and-punch-again kinda thing.

While this doesn’t really hold a candle to Reign of the Supermen, if you’re a fan of these characters, this packs a good bit of nostalgia and hope of a new classic. Worth picking up if you enjoy seeing these characters all brought together, and/or if you read #900 and want to follow this Doomsday story.

As of now, I’m interested enough to see where this goes that I plan to come back for #902.

Recommended.

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

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