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New Books And How They Could Have Been Better

Taking advantage of an online discount, I snagged several volumes recently that I was really quite interested in…if not entirely "justified" in ordering.

new_ist_books

I’m at least the previous volume behind in reading on The Walking Dead. But I really did not want to let myself get away from "keeping up with" the series in collected volume format…and I can definitely see sitting down and binge-reading several in one go, my periodic binge rather than slogging through issue by issue.

I’d heard really good things about Titans Hunt, and rather than track down 7 or 8 issues at $3+ apiece, I waited a couple extra months for the collected volume. While I certainly do NOT disapprove of it also containing an issue of New 52 Justice League along with the Titans: Rebirth issue…it kinda makes the Lois and Clark volume look a little light by comparison.

I thoroughly enjoyed Superman: Lois and Clark as a series before I had any inkling of a Rebirth or this Superman (the closest to "my" Superman I see in modern comics) "taking over," and was quite thrilled that "even though" the series was retroactively a "mini-series," it was leading into the character taking over the main books.

But honestly…if Titans Hunt can include two additional issues beyond its core-titled run…why the heck did this Superman volume not contain Convergence: Superman #s 1-2?!? The inclusion of just those two issues would have pretty much made the volume as perfect a collected volume as I could imagine.

I have no desire to buy one of a bunch of other TPBs "just" to have those two issues on my bookshelf. I might have to just bag the Convergence issues and slip ’em in between this and whatever’s on the shelf next to it.

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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.

Finishing the Story: A Redeeming Price on DC’s Convergence

The other day, I very nearly walked out of the Mentor Half-Price Books empty-handed. Several collected volumes caught my attention on the shelf–but each was priced ABOVE cover price. A used books store, named HALF-PRICE Books, and they just randomly price books ABOVE cover price because it’s “out of print.” Yet, isn’t that the POINT? It’s a bunch of USED, old books, that probably are NOT just available walking into the local BAM, B&N, or even Walmart/Target.

But that’s more a topic for another post.

HPBhaul_convergence_0_to_8

This HPB location has a $1 default price, unless specifically priced with a higher price on a bag or bag/board.

BUT…they also had several “sets” in a box, and I flipped through, curious about what OUTRAGEOUS prices they’d have, if they’re already considering 25-cent comics $1.25+ individually.

I noticed this set, and pulled it out, VERY curious…and was rather surprised to see it priced ONLY $15. DC‘s Convergence…#0 and #1-8.

Three of the 9 issues were cover price $5 ($4.99). That’s $15 right there. The other 6 issues were $4 ($3.99), so that’s $24. $39 in cover price, for a series from only 3-4 months ago, complete set in one place…no hunting through multiple stores and paying full price all the while.

Less than half-price. Best yet, the full set CHEAPER than it would cost me to buy the single issues I was missing. And I held off on ordering the collected volumes, because the main thing I wanted was to actually finish reading the full “core” story…but if I’m getting that, I want it to match the other collected volumes…which means a much longer wait for the hardcover to be swapped out for a paperback edition.

Now, I”ll just get to read the story, and the heck with the Convergence collected volumes for awhile.

Earth 2: Society #1 [Review]

earth2society001Planetfall

Writer: Daniel H. Wilson
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: John Rauch
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Jimenez & Rauch
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published By: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 2015
Cover Price: $2.99

For a guy who was intending to ignore DC output in June and consider Convergence an endcap to stuff for awhile, I’ve still managed to find myself picking up 3 books in 2 weeks. Though of those three, I think this was the most disappointing, and that’s almost surely due to this being only an opening chapter of a larger story. I expected something “more,” though…but then again, a series fulfilling its “premise” in the first issue is hardly a series, right?

I picked this up specifically because of the notion of it continuing from Convergence, and the premise of our seeing the development of a new world a new Earth 2. I suppose I expected to see a fully developed yet “young” world, and from the cover I definitely expected to see a number of the various characters…not basically “just” Batman.

The issue starts “one year from planetfall,” or one year in the future showing us a new city, the first new city on the planet, and a Batman in action with communication to an unseen individual. Then we flash back to said planetfall, as the survivors of the previous Earth 2 begin to arrive, having followed Green Lantern’s beacon. Something goes wrong and the ships begin to crash, and it seems this is something intentional by the person who designed them. Meanwhile, we see a man lamenting the loss of the use of his legs, as well as his family. I believe this is the Earth 2 Dick Grayson, but I’m not 100%. Jumping back to the one-year-later, Batman captures the man responsible for the thousands of deaths in the planetfall event…

Where I’d felt that Batman Beyond #1 and Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 gave me well-rounded issues (giving us an establishing situation, introduced us to the main character and some part of a supporting cast, and set something up for future issues) and generally felt relatively self-contained while setting up an ongoing series…Earth 2: Society feels to me like just another opening chapter of something larger. We don’t really get the full cast, the cover is misleading about characters’ involvement/prominence in the issue), and the time-jumping cuts in half the amount of information we get about “then” and “one year after.” This will probably read quite well in a collected-volume/graphic novel format where one can read the entirety of the arc in one go…but I’m left rather disappointed in this based solely on this one issue as a single issue.

The art is good…pleasantly “invisible” in the sense that it gets things across and isn’t jarring or weird, and I didn’t noticeably find myself stopping to wonder just what the heck was going on in a panel. I’ve found the “controversial” candy bar ad annoying, consciously forcing myself to ignore it and not focus on it, while trying to keep my eyes strictly to the actual content that *I* paid for, and my annoyance over that translated into my mind wandering slightly as I tried to think about the same double-page ad layout influencing my enjoyment of the other DC books the last couple weeks.

While I imagine it would not be terribly difficult to use this as a jumping-on point for the series, I’m pretty sure this book is more for continuing readers, with threads of the original Earth 2 title and the weekly Earth 2: World’s End having gone into Convergence and this is the result of what came out from that. One can start here, but there’s plenty I’m sure I’m not picking up on that I’d be better able to appreciate having READ what came before. That this does not feel like a quasi-standalone issue but merely the first chapter of a six-chapter collected volume leaves me thinking that unless you’re particularly invested and eager to get a monthly dose of the Earth 2 characters (and primarily Batman, in this issue), you’d be better off waiting for a full story in collected volume format.

As for me…I gave this a shot, interested in the start of things post-Convergence for these characters, and while I definitely support the $2.99 price point, I’m pretty sure I won’t be back for #2.

The Weekly Haul – Week of May 27th, 2015

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile, but here we go again.

This was a big Secret Wars (2015) week for me, snagging four first issues to try the series:

weekly_haul_20150527a

As Secret Wars is just kicking into gear and I’m living so many of its notions, DC‘s counterpart–Convergence–comes to a close. I jumped straight to Convergence #8, and now having read the end find I’m not at all eager to bother reading Booster Gold or Blue Beetle…and I can’t even remember what happened in Blue Beetle‘s first issue!

weekly_haul_20150527b

And finally to the pull-list stuff: TMNT and Valiant. The latest TMNT issue as well as the “Director’s Cut” TMNT/Ghostbusters #1. Which I thought was a one-shot meant to address the entire mini-series…but turns out to be a prestige format edition of the first issue with “commentary” and script and such thrown in…making this a total double-purchase thing, but one I’m glad to for the format and (presumably) only one-issue-per-month thing. And Valiant‘s Divinity concludes, and the second arc of Timewalker begins.

weekly_haul_20150527c

Along with all these issues I also had to dig deep into the wallet as I found quite a score in quarter bins. Back in 2005/2006, I used DC‘s One Year Later stunt as a jumping-OFF point for the Teen Titans series that I’d followed–at that point–from its first issue. This week, I found a complete run from that point into the #90s as well as a couple Annuals and such, and several of the pre-One Year Later issues so if I delve into reading before I unify these with the nearly-decade-old issues hidden away in a longbox somewhere, I can refresh slightly before jumping into all-new stuff I’ve never read.

I also found several interesting-looking random issues, along with a beat-up but perfectly readable copy of the Uncanny X-Men/New Teen Titans #1 from back in 1982.

All in all, a HUGE week I hope not to repeat in a single week again anytime soon…but LOADS of reading.

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.

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.

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