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Zero Hour Revisited – Steel #8

90srevisited_zerohour

steel_0008The Challenge!

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Chris Batista
Inkers: Rich Faber, Andrew Pepoy
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Gina Going
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is the only issue of this crossover that lacks the Zero Hour logo on it. I didn’t know–and wouldn’t know–of its connection without whatever checklist I used a couple years ago to finally track down the entirety of this event. While I don’t have or remember context of issues of this series surrounding this particular issue…reading it shows clearly that it fits, and does so better than at least a couple other issues that DID carry the Zero Hour banner.

We open on a scene of Steel in Metropolis interacting with Superman…the latter essentially offering John Henry a “job” in Metropolis, asking if he’d want to stick around. Getting back to Washington (as in “, DC; not the State), Steel slips back into personal mode and interacts with family, which apparently includes at least one foster kid in the extended group, who has recently been the victim of gun violence. We also see a couple of villains interacting, pulling some strings and basically serving as villains themselves while also manipulating/using others. While Steel has to fight, his family is “at the park” where they encounter someone separated from his class group on their Senior Trip. When he gets caught up in the fight–“saving” Steel “right on schedule,” we learn that this was a time-displaced John Henry himself. The “main villains” also prepare to step up plans, and that doesn’t bode well for Steel for coming issues.

Two things particularly stood out to me for this issue…firstly, it felt like Steel and Superman had never interacted before…something about their exchange seemed like typical superhero-chatter between characters making nice/playing nice that hadn’t met before or fought side-by-side before. Given Steel’s very origin, and the events of Reign of the Supermen, I’d’ve expected the dialogue to have a slightly different feel to it. But then, I’m much more sensitive to nitpickiness on the Superman side of things, especially like this, than I am many other things. The second thing that stood out was a bit more “fun”–I noticed John’s wearing a shirt in part of the issue that says “Body by Bog.” It’s “just” a shirt, nothing special…except I recognize it as a reference to Steel’s co-creator Jon Bogdanove (Simonson, writing this issue, being the other co-creator).

Story-wise I liked this issue. I know little bits here and there of Steel’s time “away” from the Super-books (particularly while he had his own series here, before he got folded back into the supporting cast OF the Super-books after his series ended) but overall it’s new territory for me, particularly in the actual details. I could follow along pretty well overall with context and picked up where the title’s apparently just coming off the Worlds Collide thing (a DC/Milestone crossover back when there was no other shared continuity with the Milestone characters). I like the family elements with Steel, seeing that he has a family, and cares about them…they’re not throw-away characters. However, I did get a slight sense of ’80s “After School Special” with this…I can’t entirely put my finger on it.

Visually, I wasn’t blown away…but I really enjoyed that this FELT LIKE a comic book. It looks and comes off as a ’90s superhero comic with the ultra-strong but extremely maneuverable armor, huge cape, etc. and worked well for the story. I doubt I could look at random art and say “that’s Chris Batista‘s art!” without the credit, but that’s as much good as it is neutral: the art does not stand out in a negative sense, so just fits the title and story, gets everything across, and I’m happy with it.

Perhaps the only thing that might disqualify this, really, from being a Zero Hour tie-in is that Steel thinks “right on schedule” at one point as the “young John Henry” gets involved…suggesting that John REMEMBERS this from his own youth…so this is truly his younger self from the current timeline or such, and not some random anomaly from an alternate timeline. I do not know if this is picked up in later issues or plays out with anything, or what, but I’m glad to count this as part of this reading project!

Obviously in lacking the banner, there’s nothing by the cover to suggest it’s worth picking up as a Zero Hour reader…but it’s not a bad issue. As it is not officially part of the crossover, and thus LOOKS just like it’s “just another issue,” it’s nothing essential…but I enjoyed it.

If you like the character, it’s certainly an issue to get along with the rest of the run; but outside of Zero Hour or that, it’s essentially mid-story stuff, and there doesnt’ seem to me to be anything to make this stand out–in and of itself–as any “key issue” to specifically seek out.

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52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

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

52 Week #40 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Man Ain’t Nothing But a Man

Steel vs. Lex Luthor (and a teaser on what’s up in Kahndaq)…

52week40Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Rodney Ramos & Dan Green
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost entirely focused on Steel, and his fight with Lex Luthor. Only the final two pages deal with anything else–Kahndaq and the worsening situation there (that likely will be picked up and run with before too long as the final quarter of this series kicks into high gear).

John Irons–Steel–arrives at the LexCorp building to confront Luthor over his role in the New Year deaths of thousands, as well as to rescue his neice from the evil businessman’s clutches. He’s got some help, though they split off to deal with various threats, ultimately paving the way for Steel’s personal confrontation with Luthor.

At face value, this is just one big fight-scene, though there are a few moments scattered throughout for characterization–particularly via characters’ interactions. This fight has been building for months…since the beginning of the series, really.

I for one really enjoyed this issue. I’m pretty sure the last time (in-continuity) that I really saw Steel in action–the John Henry Irons Steel, that is–was the end of the Superman: Man of Steel series or the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokalips Now 4-5 years ago. I only recall seeing him become a literal "man of steel" in the earlier issues of this series, not actually using the armor he created for himself. As such, seeing the character suit up and dive into battle here was very, very welcome.

The writing’s about normal for this series…being a big fight-scene, there don’t seem to be any deep or nuanced bits of dialogue to dissect, just two men throwing down after building hard feelings over a course of the last 10 months or so.

However, whether intentional or just my reading too much into it, I’m reminded of one of the closing chapters of The Return of Superman where the characters are battling their way into the heart of Engine City to confront the Cyborg and have to face their own individual battles en route, while fighting for the larger single goal.

The art for this issue is quite good–I have no complaints with it, and actually enjoyed it. There’s a full-page shot of Steel that would make a great poster, and is the best I recall seeing the character since some of his earliest appearances in the 90s. I don’t recall offhand if I knew Batista‘s art prior to this series, but the name sticks now, and I certainly enjoy his art.

This issue’s story takes the full allotment of pages, leaving no room for an origin backup, which is more than fine by me. In that sense, we get a full "normal" issue’s-length on the Steel/Luthor story, with the Kahndaq sequence replacing the backup, keeping this issue as a whole from being "just" some wrongly-titled issue of Steel.

If you’ve not been along for much of the ride, not much to sell you on here; if you’re a fan of Steel, though, this is a great issue, if only to see him in-armor and in action. Otherwise, this is an issue for those in for the long haul with the singles.

We’re well past the half-way point, squeaking past the 3/4 point…and I’m strapping in for the final section of this particular roller-coaster ride.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

52 Week #20 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Week #20: God is Fragged

Supernova in the Batcave, Steel grows into his new powers, and the heroes in space come under attack…

52week20Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Ruy Jose
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Assistant Editors: Harvey Richards & Jeanine Schaefer
Edited by: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue gives us some fairly continuous action, opened with a moment of quiet as Supernova infiltrates the Batcave. Steel begins to grow into his new powers/strength, saving a number of lives from a burning building. The rest of the issue pretty much focuses on the hereos-in-space: Starfire, Adam Strange, and Animal Man…and of course, their new best buddy, Lobo. These folks come under attack by a bunch of (other) aliens, and wind up bringing more trouble down on their own heads due to the means by which they end the battle.

All in all, not a bad issue at all. I found it to be a good read–though I feel like we’ve not gotten to see nearly enough of the "new" Steel, so it almost feels like he was just tossed in to remind us he exists (though more likely, he’s there for us to see that he’s growing into his new powers, and learning to make use of ’em and in general, keep on truckin’ as a hero).

The battle in space works–I’m not totally into it, but hey, action-in-space and all that. Seeing what happened to Lobo was rather gruesome, though actually made sense, having read his origin a few issues ago–I wasn’t lost or dumbfounded at his state after the battle.
The art continues to work well, serving the story quite well. I really don’t have any complaints with this.

On the whole–this issue and the series in general–I continue to be satisfied with the product as a whole. It’s one of the better ‘values’ in comics these days, per individual issue, and just has a grand FEEL as a true serial (as opposed to other books that don’t often make the every-30ish-days frequency). I think this series challenges my recent expectations of comics–even with certain stories meandering in and out, I feel that I "get" more out of it than the same number of issues of most anything else.

All that said–chances are, if you’re not on-board yet, you probably aren’t gonna change your mind based on a few remarks from me. And if you’re STILL on-board…you’re probably similarly-minded on the series.

I’m enjoying it–it’s worthwhile and keeps me going to the comic shops each week. Nothing blows me away, but this is simply a solid, reliable series that builds on itself week after week.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Stop the Press

Black Adam’s conference is interrupted, Clark Kent is on Perry White’s bad side, a new superhero shows up, Booster’s ticked off at events unfolding contrary to Skeets’ historical records, while Will Magnus and Professor Morrow converse…

52week10Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti & Jack Jadson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assitant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This series seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people, and while many seem to be losing interest entirely, that’s definitely not the case with me. Things are taking awhile to develop, and the overall story seems to be moving pretty slowly…but overall, I’m liking things pretty much as they are–though if we get in deep, I can find plenty of faults.

This is the tenth issue–and tenth week–of this series. For as slow as things seem to be, enough has happened already that I believe I would just have to dig out the previous issues to make sure I could list ’em all, if I were to attempt to do get into that. At the same time, as far as "big" or "major" stuff…not so much.

But that’s part of the fun of this title–and why I’m enjoying it so far. While it’s just over three times the price of a regular issue, it’s roughly four times the size of a regular issue. And rather than get a chunk of story and have to wait 4-X? weeks for another chapter, we get a new chapter each week. Despite the old/tired comparison…it’s really like following a tv show with a large cast, where there are characters you love and hate, and even when you’re most interested in a certain character, they may not even show up in a given episode, and then be the focus of another episode, or anything in-between.

This issue takes us back to Black Adam, who has gathered together Kahndaq’s allies. While he speaks to them, he is intrrupted by a woman who slipped past guards–a woman who disagrees very much with Adam’s gathering of allies, apparently to rival the U.S.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has made Perry’s list, and not in a good way, prompting Clark to take some rather drastic action–quite at risk to himself–to re-prove himself to the editor (and possibly begin the setup for where things were at the start of the recently-concluded Up, Up and Away! arc). This ties into what looks to be a developing arc on a new superhero: Supernova–a character I am as much in the dark about as the characters themselves.

Booster Gold is understandably frustrated, as his plans from recent weeks have completely fallen apart on him, and events around him unfold very differently from what he expected. In fact, Skeets doesn’t even have record of certain events, which leads to some curiosity as to their place in all this.

Finally, Magnus and Morrow discuss a recent development, leaving me ready and interested in the next issue.
My favorite part of this issue is the segments devoted to Clark and Perry, and Clark’s developing status-quo in this pre-One-Year-Later world. Reading the issue after this week’s Superman issue felt like a real treat: an extra helping of Clark.

Though I know virtually nothing of the characters–and other than them being part of any large-scale stories/crossovers, I don’t think I’ve read anything with them before this series–I find myself looking forward to whatever it is that’s developing, that Magnus and Morrow are finding themselves involved in.

The story overall is good, though the further into this series we get, the more "continuity-heavy" it seems to be growing. We already know the basic outcome, as we’re into the 5th month of books that take place after this series, so some of that initial "wow, what happened in the missing year?!?" factor has worn off. Of course, that means that the story is going to have to carry itself all the more, and really be a story in and of itself, and not just "hey, this happened during the ‘missing year’!"

Not much to say about the art…it doesn’t blow me away, by any means…but it serves the story, and clearly at that. It’s not bad by any means…just fits the story, gets the job done, and elicits no real complaints from me.

The largest hurdle I see to this issue is really the price–that is, collectively for this series, given the weekly nature.

If you’ve been following these, though…I would argue that it’s worth keeping with the series. We’re about 1/5th into it, and I suspect due for some decent payoff in the near future.

And if you’ve been enjoying the recent Superman stuff, you may want to check in on this issue, for the segment with Clark, pre-One Year Later.

History of the DCU
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Andy Lanning
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Colors: Jeromy Cox & Guy Major
Editors: Berganza, Cohen and Schaefer

What can I say about this? This backup feature–which, as recently as two and a half months ago, I was really looking forward to–is an absolute disappointment.

So far, it seems like it would have been FAR more appropriate to serve as its own special issue, perhaps a 52 # 0 or prelude. This 9th chapter basically brings us up to last September (2005) heading into the actual Infinite Crisis series. As far as I can tell, we’ve learned nothing "new" about the New Earth that resulted from that series.

A better "bonus" to these issues would be to save an extra twenty-five cents and cap the issue off with the main story at an even lower cover price…

Ratings:

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

Booster Gold #14 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part 2

Booster and a questionable ally seek the point in time at which to stop the Starro infestation before the whole of Time can be infected…a feat that may have a large cost to accomplish.

boostergold014Writer: Rick Remender
Penciller: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Chris Batista and Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue begins with a Booster Gold trapped in a sea of malevolent starfish intent upon taking control of the hero. Showing some smarts some don’t credit him with, Booster quickly escapes, but finds that his challenge might just be insurmountable–Starro has (through Rip Hunter) gained access to the Timestream itself and is taking over, eradicating from existence anything and anyone who might be able to stop him. Finding an unexpected ally, striking a (figurative) deal with a lesser of the two evils, and utilizing access to the Timestream, Booster fights back, risking not only his life but the whole of free-thinking reality to try to save Rip Hunter and set time right.

While certainly not my favorite Booster story, this issue certainly wades in deep with the sort of adventure the "All-New" (as opposed to "Pre-Infinite Crisis") Booster Gold is meant for. The story has some decent moments, characters are believable (even if I didn’t know before who a certain villain was prior), and shows that while maintaining an ongoing story it is very possible to have stories done in less than six chapters. This is a solid story, and well worthwhile for Booster Gold fans (or fans of Starro).

The art is of strong quality. I have no real complaint with it, as characters are all unrecognizable and distinct, there’s a good amount of detail (especially if you look closely at points), and the story comes across nothing but enhanced by the visuals. A panel on the last page in particular–while perhaps not entirely true to that character–almost made me laugh as my mind fills in the blanks from what we’re shown.

I’m sure you could find issues better than this within this series and others. But honestly? You could do so much worse than this issue. If you can find the previous issue to go with this, I recommend snaggin’ both for a good, simple two-issue read.

Ratings:

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

Booster Gold #13 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: Stars in Your Eyes, Part I

Booster & Michelle vs. Starro-Rip in a battle with huge consequences.

boostergold013Written by: Rick Remender
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover by: Chris Batista & Mick Gray
Publisher: DC Comics

We open this issue with an image of Superman being punched to the ground, as Booster and his sister move in to save a life Superman (would have been) unable to save. Booster explains why they can’t just save everybody, and the two return to Rip’s lab, only to find Hunter with a starfish…er…Starro Spore hugging his face. The possessed Rip heads into the timestream, and it quickly becomes apparent that Starro has taken over Everything. Booster and Michelle head into the timestream themselves, set on preventing Starro’s takeover. The two find out how the Starro Spore came into contact with Rip, as well as just what it means to face a world that Starro has conquered…and Starro reveals something rather personal to Booster.

This feels like a pretty "standard" sort of issue for this title. The story fits the characters: we have an opening that showcases Booster & Michelle in action doing their time-travel set-things-right-one-life-at-a-time thing. We’re then introduced to the beginning of the primary story, and thrown into the action. This is what Booster’s supposed to be doing, at least as the premise of this title as set up over a year ago, so no problems there. On the whole, this feels like an issue of Booster Gold, the Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard Of.

The art’s good, as well–no real complaint there. It’s not quite a match for Jurgens‘ art…but it’s darned close, and having had a few weeks since reading my last issue and not thinking about it going in, the difference was not particularly noticeable–which I feel is a good thing. Visually, this book certainly holds its own in terms of definite quality. I also have to give it credit for consistency, as I did not once think to myself anything or anyone looked funny or out of the ordinary.

On the whole, though, this feels like a so-so issue. It’s good, don’t get me wrong–but it’s not quite up to what I’ve come to expect of this title. There weren’t any scenes that made me smile, or wax nostalgic, or any of those things that have made so many of the other issues such great reads. Though I’m familiar with the existence of Starro, the character is not a character I’m all that familiar with in particular. Nor am I at all interested in the character. Having such a character as the villain of the piece lessens my emotional investment in the story–as does knowing that this is only a two or three part story, and then I believe Jurgens returns to do both story and art…which leaves me very confident not much of consequence will happen in this story (except perhaps Booster figuring out what was revealed to the readers at the close of Johns‘ tenure on the book).

I certainly will not recommend against this issue…but it’s not an example of what’s made me so enjoy the previous issues thus far.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

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