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ForgedBy4: The Man of Steel (2018) #1 – A New Era Begins

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The Man of Steel (2018) #1 – A New Era Begins

man_of_steel_2018_0001Man of Steel Part 1

Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Art (pp21-22): Jay Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Cory Petit
Cover: Reis, Prado, Sinclair
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Editor: Michael Cotton
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

This is a good point to jump in if you’ve not been following Superman stuff for awhile, and especially if you are a fan of Bendis’ writing. As said above, I’m a Superman guy–so in that regard, I wasn’t going to pass this up. For what this issue and mini-series are…I think it’s well worth picking up…and this six issue "event" seems like it will definitely be cluing us in on what to expect when the ongoing series come back. That said, there’s not really enough to this to "only" get this issue–one pretty much needs to commit to the entire 6 issues. I’m on board, and I’ll be interested in my own thoughts on it once all 6 are out.

Full Article posted over at ForgedBy4!

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Action Comics #1000 [Review]

action_comics_1000From the City That Has Everything

Writer/Artist: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Color: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh

This is the “primary” story of the issue–a sort of stand-alone “finale” to Jurgens-and-Co.’s run the last couple of years and 45-some issue run. We open on a narration/captions of Jon Kent and Lois talking, against imagery of Superman battling a Khund warship. Jon’s worried his Dad won’t get here in time, as Lois reassures him he’ll be here. As Clark arrives, Lois reminds him that people just want to thank him. We see that they’re at a Thank You, Superman presentation in the park–Metropolis has gathered to try to offer thanks to Superman, though knowing they can’t begin to cover it. Amidst various testimonials of how Superman has impacted and saved folks, Clark keeps thinking he sees further traces of a Khund invasion…perhaps just looking for an excuse to get away from this presentation. Eventually, the crowd gets to see Superman fly into action, as Clark can’t ignore his senses. He finds Wonder Woman, who reveals that there was indeed a major Khund incursion…but it’s been handled. By everyone. Even his fellow heroes are fans, and thank Superman for his role in everything. Without him, none of them would likely be there.

On its surface, this is a rather cheesy story of little substance. There’s some presentation to honor Superman, and he’s avoiding it. Then, alllll the other heroes are there as well, because they wish to honor him, too.

Neat and simple, right? Evocative of classic Silver Age stories (to me), and not terribly deep.

But back to “on its surface.”

See, this is the 1,000th issue of Action Comics. 80 years of Superman. This is a major event, a one-issue spectacular. An anthology of sorts with numerous shorter stories making up the whole. It’s a standalone issue, something that draws from and can influence other stuff, but it’s not truly coming off any To Be Continued… message. It’s (as an issue) not leading directly into anything. It’s expected that this will be read where the previous few issues, or dozens of issues, or even hundreds of issues, have not been read.

There’s loads of “meta” to this–as a story, and as part of the issue.

This Superman–Dan Jurgens‘ Superman–comes from a take on the character where Clark Kent is the man, and Superman is a “mask.” This Superman is Clark Kent…who does what’s right because it is right–not to show off, not for accolades and recognition–and is actually rather uncomfortable being the center of attention. And we get to see that…as we get to see a bit of Lois’ personality. She teases him for trying to get out of the ceremony, but we come to see that she’s the one that spearheaded the gathering of the heroes, and helped coordinate with Batman and the others to “cover for” Superman, so that he could have this day, this event. We also see Jon, the son, both AS the Son of Superman and as a kid. Not fully understanding everything going on, loving his dad but not sure if he’ll make it, and an eagerness to stand in for him, recognizing the importance of the situation and wanting to live up to the family tradition.

I knew going in that Norm Rapmund was involved with the art…and I was loving the art all through the story. There was something extra familiar about it, though, that had a slight smile trying to escape me as I read it, but I couldn’t quite place it. Until I looked consciously at the credits for the story and realized why the art seemed that much more familiar and was evoking such a reaction in me: Jurgens on the pencils. Of course! Regardless of conscious realization in words, on sight I had recognized the (somehow UNexpected) presence of work by probably my favorite Superman artist!

Superman reluctantly accepts the recognition…somewhat awkwardly. The final spread with all the heroes and fans and such…metatextually, real-world…without Superman, there probably would NOT have been any of these other heroes. Certainly nowhere near as many, and probably not even a comics industry.

This story is a send-off of sorts from Jurgens–capping off his run, as well as recognizing and thanking Superman.

And for one such as me–a 30-year-fan of Superman, introduced to him when I was but 7 years old–this is a powerful piece, meaningful and deep, and moving…and if one has to put a one-off story as a capstone to a run, that stands alone and evokes the past, has elements from the run, but isn’t beholden to it and all that…this does it well, and is a worthy opening to Action Comics #1000!

action_comics_1000_variants_30sNever-Ending Battle

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Tom Napolitano

This story opens with a rather hellish, red-tinged image of Vandal Savage having Superman engulfed in some sort of red energy and alien machinery. The narration is Superman, speaking to Lois, apologizing for being sidetracked on the way home–he’s late. Basically, Savage tried to blend Superman with the past, trapping him and leaving the future open for him (Savage) to rule without Superman’s interference. So we get a bunch of pages evoking some key eras in Superman’s history, as we know it in the real-world; but in-continuity the character himself acknowledges that despite the familiarity, he knew it was impossible to have been there in the 1930s, for example. These are all full-page images with the “voiceover” going along with them…not necessarily tied exactly to the image whose page the words are on, but particularly for those familiar with the history of the character and the stories/eras being referenced, the words take on additional (and deeper) meaning than they might otherwise. And the story ends with a shot of Superman standing at a table with a lotta candles (one can assume there are probably around 1,000 of ’em!), Lois and Jon on either side, a “Happy Birthday” sign strung up behind, and even Krypto in the foreground, as we celebrate Superman’s 80th birthday, and the 1,000th issue of Action Comics.

Normally I would not care for this sort of story. Had this been a 15-page sequence in an otherwise-20-paged issue of something (especially if at a $3.99 price point) I would be disappointed and annoyed. Even as one of the longest stories within this issue, it’s still a “mere” 15 pages, and as such, even this sequence is a relatively small portion of the entire issue. As a “short story” in this “anthology” issue of numerous creators…it works quite well. We have a basic story–Superman faces a villain, is flung throughout time, makes it home safe. This reminds me of other stories I’ve read, and feels rather familiar, like it’s a sort of “trope” at this point–where you can have a numerous-issue “event” of a character being thrown through time, or it can be just a casual backdrop “referenced” but not really the point of a story.

Here, this does both: it’s a sort of casual-ish “reference” thing…but the pages as we go through show Superman through the decades–Gleason‘s imagery evoking the general “style” and depiction of Superman through the decades. One page reminds me loosely of the Superman vs. Superboy issue from early in the Byrne era; the next is a familiar image from Miller‘s Dark Knight Returns (and signed by the artist after Frank Miller). There’s a page with the black-costumed, long-haired Superman fighting Mongul, with Steel and Superboy in the background, in reference to the Death and Return of Superman…Reign of the Supermen. There’s a page with a version of Zod, the pointy-crystal Fortress of Solitude in the background, and a Superman trapped in the pane of glass version of the Phantom Zone. There’s even a page showing the Kingdom Come Superman facing Magog, a mushroom cloud in the background with several of the other heroes. And there’s a page showing the New 52 Superman breaking through a wall, shifting to the black-costume, bearded Superman of JurgensLois and Clark, shifting into the Rebirth costume, into the Reborn costume, punching Savage out.

This is an appropriate celebration of Superman, of how (ultimately) he easily overcomes situations, fights through whatever is thrown at him, and that Tomasi puts as Superman’s words: “Each and every time stream, in the end, led home…to my family.”

Tomasi and Gleason being the primary creatives the last couple years on the named Superman title that has run alongside JurgensAction Comics, this is a highly-appropriate story to cap off that run, to share in this issue, and to celebrate and acknowledge the rich history of the character. I often find I’m not overly thrilled with Gleason‘s art–just a personal issue due to comparing it so often to art I prefer–but here, particularly for the time-tossed pages, it shines excellently.

An Enemy Within

Script: Marv Wolfman
Art: Curt Swan
Inks: Butch Guice, Kurt Schaffenberger
Color & Production Assist: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh

I appreciate the history of Wolfman with the Superman character, as well as the very fabric of the history of DC Comics in-continuity and out; ditto the importance of Curt Swan as one of THE Superman artists. That said…I did not really care much for this story.

Basically, we have narration from Superman as he’s halfway across the world dealing with a Brainiac threat, while we’re shown a hostage situation involving a principal and one of his students. From the narration, we get that the principal is being mind-controlled by Brainiac, and that Superman is facing the villain…but that action all happens off-panel, concluding with a single image of Superman, that may be recycled from a previous publication. The story is simple, has potential, but for me, personally–especially stacked against the Jurgens and Tomasi stories in this issue, and against numerous episodes of Law and Order: SVU I’ve been watching the last few weeks, it just doesn’t really hold up in a way I particularly care for.

It’s not a horrible story, and the art is solid in and of itself…I respect the inclusion here, but other than the “inclusion” aspect, I just don’t really care for this one.

action_comics_1000_variants_blankThe Game

Storytellers: Paul Levitz & Neal Adams
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Dave Sharpe

This is an interesting, short piece, where Superman shows up to the roof of Lexcorp Tower, and he and Lex talk over a game of Chess…and I’m reminded strongly of the Xavier/Magneto imagery from the Fox X-Men films. Luthor springs a trap of animated Kryptonite chains that wrap around Superman…before the hero straightens, flexes, and bursts the chains with an orange background obviously reminiscent of the Kryptonite Nevermore! from the original Superman #233. Superman reveals that he’s got a Mother Box with him that temporarily prevented the Kryptonite radiation

This is another short piece that I don’t particularly care for. I like the concept well enough, and it reminds me (as said) of the Xavier/Magneto stuff…and the more I think on it, I realize there’s also a bit of that Batman/Joker meeting from The Killing Joke in here, too.

Adams is another whose work I appreciate, whose place in comics history I appreciate…but I just can’t get into his Superman art. I didn’t stick with The Coming of the Supermen, I didn’t care for an Action Comics variant I had from some “Neal Adams Month,” and his Superman in general looks rather “off” to me here.

As this is “only” a 5-page story, though, it’s not horrible; but I might have liked a prose version a bit better, as I dig the story much, much more than I do the art.

action_comics_1000_variants_40sThe Car

Story: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Special thanks to: Matt Wilson
Letters: Nick Napolitano

This is an interesting story that seems to be set in the ’30s; the color palette and general art style certainly gives it a rustic, “period piece” look that fits very well with the story being told. A busted-up car is brought into a shop, and when the mechanic tries to get its story from the owner, the tale is a little bit “out there”–all this damage caused by one man? One man lifted it and smashed it against some rocks, apparently. We then move to the owner–Butch–noticing a colorful figure…that of the “man” who smashed his car. Superman chats with him, showing compassion and having come to “understand” more of Butch’s “side” of things, and leaving him with the notion that even having made mistakes, one can choose to make their life count for something, choose to make something of themselves, better the lives of others rather than doing harm.

I’m sure I would have realized pretty quickly that this is a sort of “sequel” to a big part of Action Comics #1; but this benefited SO beautifully from my having just re-read the Superman story from that first issue, and being probably THE freshest-in-mind Superman story for me prior to this 1000th issue.

This Superman feels very much like the “modern” Superman, though; less of the rough ‘n tough version from that first appearance. But it works, and makes for an interesting piece overall. Especially when one considers just how heinous Butch’s crime was–kidnapping a woman for rejecting him…and one could likely predict at least a couple likely outcomes of such action.

I haven’t cared a lot about the Johns/Donner stuff–particularly the Last Son of Krypton, and Escape from Bizarro World stories, even as those are (now) a good dozen years in the past. I didn’t care for them at the time as part of a seemingly-overly-overt rewriting of Superman away from the version I’d grown up on and back to more of a Silver/Bronze Age version. But this single story, I liked; the modern art showing the classic original Superman, with the feel of the contemporary Superman…and this being both a continuation/sequel and yet even if one doesn’t know or connect that context, it works very well as a singular, one-off bit…

And of the “shorts” in this issue, I think this is one of my favorites.

action_comics_1000_variants_50sThe Fifth Season

Script: Scott Snyder
Art: Rafael Albuquerque
Color: Dave McCaig
Letters: Tom Napolitano

I’m not quite sure what to make of this piece. In a way, I think something to it is “over my head,” perhaps..in a way that I definitely do NOT care for in my comics.

Superman arrives at the Smallville planetarium to find Lex Luthor, who has found the “Eye of Xotar” and Chronos’ “Time Scissors”–that together can be used to literally erase any genealogical line from history. Given this is Luthor…obviously, that’d be Superman’s line, the House of El. As the two muse over their shared past, and the present situation, we see a flashback to Luthor’s early days in Smallville, where we also see that a potentially fatal accident that could have killed Luthor was prevented by a young Clark Kent–Superman as a boy. We also get a bit about a “fifth season,” between Winter and Spring, when the weather can be wildly unpredictable…which seems to be a statement of the story itself. Luthor intended to wipe Superman from history, but maybe discovered that it was Superman that had saved him, and so opted not to.

This isn’t a horrible story, but as said, something about it just feels like it might be over my head, needing extra consideration, disproportionate to its size in relation to the rest of this issue. The art also isn’t horrible, but not really to my liking. On the last page particularly, I don’t care for the depiction of the “S” shield…its top and bottom seem way too thin compared to the middle, especially compared to the “standard” licensed version I’m used to, that I tend to hold mentally as the “standard” to which the various takes on the “S” are compared.

This also plays on Luthor and Superman having known each other as kids–something that was NOT part of the story I grew up on, and so I’m a bit biased against it. Still, knowing that and seeing what’s being gone for here in a way, I’m ok with the story, but won’t single it out as a favorite or such.

Then there’s the narration in the background speaking to the idea of Sol, our sun, eventually expanding: “…and eventually, the sun will eat our Mercury…and then Venus…and then Earth. And then, our time…ends.”

Which seems almost intentionally to lead into the next piece:

action_comics_1000_variants_60sOf Tomorrow

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: John Workman

Superman kneels, scooping up some coal from the ground and squeezing it into diamond. He stands and we see blazing fire all around, amidst his speaking. It’s been BILLIONS of years, and Earth is finally about to be swallowed up by the red giant Sol has become; no matter that Superman had apparently pushed the entire planet of Earth out of its orbit, it still finds itself being consumed. And Superman speaks to his long-dead parents–Jonathan and Martha Kent–as he says goodbye for the final time. He’s got to let go–of them, and of Earth itself. After five BILLION years. Somehow, Superman, and Lois, and Jon, have been essentially immortal, thanks to (apparently) an “Eternity Formula.” He speaks of them, as he forms the diamond into a specific shape. He tells his parents “I miss you. I love you. Every day. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been. It’s still every day.” And as the planet burns up and wee see the grave plate reading:

KENT
JONATHAN & MARTHA
BELOVED PARENTS & GRANDPARENTS
YOU GAVE US HOPE

Superman leaves with the words “We’re all stardust fallen. And so we look to the sky. And we wait to be reclaimed. Good-bye, Ma. Good-bye, Pa. And thank you. For everything.”

This is an odd sort of story. While we can consider that the ongoing story of Superman is not one that’s gonna end anytime soon; while we’ve had stories of Superman surviving into the far future–thousands, even millions of years…to consider that he’d live another five BILLION years seems a bit out there for me. It changes the character. It’s best not to dwell on.

The point is: to the end of the Earth–literally–Superman has been shaped by his parents. He’s continued to live. He’s lived his life. He’s gone on–but that doesn’t mean that he’s forgotten. The love of his parents–his adoptive parents, the REAL parents he actually knew–they molded him into who he became, and that’s NOT something that changed with time. Their brief moment with him lasted through time, a huge legacy, outlasting the planet itself.

But on a smaller level, this speaks in an abstract sort of way to anyone who has ever lost loved ones. Wondering at the futility of visiting a grave, of speaking to those gone before, and I’d say to how even a year can feel like a lifetime, several years like countless lifetimes, when separated from the loved ones.

And on a “meta” level, Superman has outlived this planet, outlived all those lives…as he outlived his creators, and has and likely will outlive so many others.

On the literal level, this reminds me of an old story of an ancient Supreme or Mr. Majestic (I believe written by Alan Moore) (edit: yeah, I’m pretty sure that was Wildstorm Spotlight: Mr. Majestic #1: a story called The Big Chill.) recalling a world he once spent time on…he thinks its name had begun with ‘E’.

On the general level, that abstract level…this just speaks to the heart and I got choked up contemplating loss to come and what that’ll mean to me personally; and teared up considering losses I’ve already experienced. In a way, this had no reason to hit me like it did; yet, this is its own deeply personal, powerful piece…certainly worthy of being a Superman story, and well worth its inclusion in this issue!

action_comics_1000_variants_70sFive Minutes

Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Jerry Ordway
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual

This is another 5-page “short.” Clark is trying to finish a story, with Perry and Jimmy standing by, noting they’re 5 minutes to deadline, with Printing already giving hell for holding the presses. Even as Clark points out he’s nearly done, he’s hearing cries of distress, and jumps from his seat to go into action, while Perry tells him he has five minutes. Superman stops a runaway train; saves Bibbo; stops space debris from crashing to Earth, and still makes it back to the Planet to finish his story. But turns out in being so focused on that, he didn’t even consider the impact he just had, saving numerous people, maybe much of Earth…that the story he WAS working on is nothing compared to the story of Superman’s recent super-feats.

This is a neat piece, and as with others in this issue of Action, not one I’d care much for as an entire issue, but as a “backup,” as a piece included in this issue, I really like it. And with Louise Simonson writing and Ordway on art, it’s one that’s hard to beat, having such positive memories of both creators’ work in the ’90s on my early Superman comics.

And the idea of Clark Kent, Reporter, working, having to deal with stuff as Superman and still make his deadline is not new, but it works well here…and the fantastic art just makes it a beauty to behold.

I enjoyed this for that, and its relative timelessness.

action_comics_1000_variants_80sActionland!

Script: Paul Dini
Pencils: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Inks: Kevin Nowlan
Colors: Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Josh Reed

What would a big, giant Superman comic be without Mr. Mxyzptlk? This is a short story showing an amusement park take on Superman and his history, where visitors get to “ride” in a replica of the ship that bore baby Kal-El away from Krypton; lift a tractor like little Clark in Kansas, witness Superman performing super-feats, view other heroes that served with Superman, as well as villains that were fought, and then the way things ended, with Superman… sacrificing himself…giving his life…the ending? The scene we’ve been seeing is a reality of sorts from Mxy, who just can’t quite figure out how he’d like to see the story of Superman end, even though he himself has the power to blink him out of existence with hardly a thought.

I think my initial thought–that it’s “fitting” to have Mxy get a story in something like this–comes from the Newstime special after the death of Superman, where there was some throw-away piece referencing the character, sort of explaining his showing up during all that, and yet not having an actual issue til well after the return.

Story-wise, I’m not overly enamored. It’s a solid enough piece with an interesting premise. Structurally, not a bad story. I think I’ve just kinda felt put-off to Mxy stuff after Superman: Reborn and being reminded of stuff from Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? recently. It has its merits–a glimpse at parts of Superman’s origins; shows us Mxy himself and reminds us he’s around and his powers, and that he can be “just” an imp messing with Superman without wanting to truly destroy him. I just didn’t singularly like this story that much.

Art-wise, this is solid, and though Dini has plenty of pedigree himself, having a new Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez story is quite appealing on principle. I can’t say I’d recognize the art on sight, but knowing Garcia-Lopez has significant association with Superman, this certainly deserves its place in the issue!

action_comics_1000_variants_90sFaster Than a Speeding Bullet

Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: John Casaday
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

This was an interesting story, touching on elements that I don’t often think of with Superman stories. A gunman with a hostage prepares to pull the trigger…while from a significant distance, Superman’s flying as fast as he can to the scene. We get Superman’s inner thoughts as he zips toward the gunman, even as he pulls the trigger and the bullet begins to move, as Superman does the math and everything remaining as-is, knows he will not make it in time. Yet, it turns out while he was focused on the gunman, the hostage was shifting, which bought the extra fraction of a second Superman needed to get there, and he saves her. He compliments her on her bravery, that she could be Police, and flies off.

The story here does a good job with building tension as Superman tries to get to the scene. All too often we have the imagery and stories of Superman getting somewhere JUST in the nick of time to bounce bullets off his chest, or pluck them from mid-air, mid-movement before they strike their intended target…but we rarely get something from his point of view, where even he might realize he will be a fraction of a second too late. We get a positive ending here, though, as the woman–Lila–shifts to resist her attacker and Superman is able to save her.

I was not expecting a Meltzer piece, but he’s another name that I feel certainly deserves his place and involvement with the issue…if not for prior Superman work, then for his real-world involvement with stuff–helping bring attention to the Siegel house, helping bring about the Superman display at the Cleveland airport, and other involvement with folks preserving the history of Siegel and Shuster and all that.

The art isn’t bad…and actually, is quite good–overall. There’s just something to the way Casaday does Superman’s face that seems really “off” to me. It looks like someone else’s face, a stranger’s face, is pasted onto a body with “a” Superman costume. Where some artists’ Superman is recognizable just by the face, I wouldn’t be able to look at the faces in this story and just form those know this was Superman.

For another “short,” I can’t really complain beyond that about this one!

action_comics_1000_variants_2000s“The Truth”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Cory Petit

Outside of the number, I’m sure this story is one reason for a lot of people to pick up this issue: it offers a prologue to a prologue to a mini-series that itself will lead into the ongoing story in the continuation of this title and rebooted-numbering fifth-volume of Superman. This piece kicks off Bendis‘ work on Superman…and does so with a beaten, bloodied Superman crashing through what looks like a cave wall, and on zooming out, we see a couple more hits as he smashes through the ceiling and out the side of the L-shaped Lexcorp tower, and then hits a road so hard he bounces a few times, destroying pavement, vehicles, and storefronts. Bystanders of course whip out cellphones to take photos/video of the fallen hero, while they try to drag Superman behind a counter. They comment on him wearing “the red shorts” again (rather than the cosmetic change being just there). Some giant creature with a huge battle axe is after him, and after taking a huge punch and repeated jabs from the just-arrived Supergirl, hits her once, taking her outta the fight (sending her flying toward the huge globe of the Daily Planet). Maggie Sawyer and the SCU shows up, though their weapons do nothing to the creature. There’s more discussion from further bystanders of him having “the shorts” again, and the creature continues to get the best of Superman, continuing to physically beat the crap out of him (so to speak), and a simple energy-blast wave-of-the-hand takes a just-returning Supergirl back out of the fight. Transforming the handle of the axe into a sword, he seems to plunge it with a splash into Superman’s chest, as he claims to be wiping out remaining Kryptonians, finishing the job he started when he destroyed Krypton.

Once upon a time, Jim Lee was just about my favorite Superman artist–perhaps behind or tied with Jurgens and Ed Benes. But here, I just don’t care for the art. I’m sure part of it is the coloring…this seems “dark” and “grim and gritty” especially compared to the rest of the issue, and feels out of place visually with the rest of the issue.

Ditto on the story side–this beating, this violence and Superman just being pummeled and beaten and such, and Supergirl coming off as completely ineffective as well–is sickening after so many happier, brighter, celebratory bits.

Sure, this is a new villain, but we don’t even get the name here. We just get nothing but fight. Superman himself points out he hasn’t gotten a name, and the villain accuses him of stalling, rather than giving his name. And sure, on one hand, it would be old-style, stereotypical monologuing or such to just give a name at that point…typically, the villain would be depicted in a large panel with a logo-style word balloon declaring his “cool”-sounding name and such, so instead he calls Superman out for stalling, and on a technical level, I guess this is good to get away from the typical.

I don’t like that we’re thrown into the middle of a fight like this, that we end on a cliffhanger, when the entire rest of this issue has been self-contained one-off stories and whatnot.

Surely we could have started on a brighter note, seen a bit of a different status quo or perspective maybe hinting at this villain’s coming or some such. I don’t know–but based solely on this 12-page piece, I’m not looking forward to the upcoming Man of Steel mini, and I’m suddenly quite concerned about what to expect from Bendis‘ run, where until now I’ve been content to “wait and see” and been fairly optimistic. I suppose I’ll now have to “wait and see” what we get in the DC Nation #0 issue and go from there.

I guess it’s appropriate enough in its way to launch Bendis‘ run with this issue…and yet despite assurances to the contrary, the part of me that suspects his “coming” heralded the end of Jurgens‘ and Tomasi‘s runs feels like they should have had more pages to play with in this issue, and Bendis could launch with DC Nation or The Man of Steel (after all, the last time, one creator (Alan Moore) ended the previous Superman, and it was the interstitial mini-series Man of Steel where Byrne‘s stuff started.

This is 12 pages of what’s likely a multi-year, dozens-of-issues run by one writer, so ultimately may not be indicative of what to expect on the whole and long-term…but for just these pages, and to come after such positive stories for the other 60+ pages…this just seems out of place and inappropriate for something as celebratory as a 1,000th issue…especially seeing nothing but Superman take a beatdown outta nowhere.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue As a Whole

I’ve looked forward to this issue for a long time. In some ways, I’ve probably looked forward to it for nearly 30 years, ever since the first issue I ever owned of the title (#651). At the least, I’m sure I wondered at a comic making it to #1,000 during the Doomsday! and Funeral for a Friend stuff, and the years following, as Adventures of Superman hit #500, Action hit #700, Superman (vol. 2) hit #100, and so on. I certainly wondered about it seven years ago when DC announced what came to be The New 52, that every single title including Action Comics and Detective Comics would be restarted with a #1. Though I still feel that Action making it to #1,000 technically needs an asterisk denoting the 1-52 sequence (there are no issues numbered 905-956) from the New 52 run. But I give DC a “pass” on that, as it was only one “hiccup” in the numbering. Given cover dress, paper condition, and literally the pricing should anyone actually find a copy of the original issues 1-52, one just needs to add 904 to the issue number to know what the issue is in that sense. There have not been numerous iterations where multiple hundreds of issues here, a hundred issues there, another several dozen issues, a mini-series, and a couple of less-than-20-issues runs suddenly add up to a big number. Number-wise, there’s virtually no reasonable confusion.

When Rebirth was announced, when it was announced that Action Comics and Detective Comics would get their original numbering back, and that Action Comics (especially) would indeed get to make it to #1,000, I jumped back in. And all these issues and almost two years later, here we are. I feel like this issue is a sort of reward, an attained destination, a prize that’s been driven toward since Action Comics #957 back in 2016.

A few months ago, there was some definite ambiguity as to formatting and such for the issue and what to expect for the issue. Part of me thinks this should have been even bigger, included even more–both in the way of original stories as well as reprints. But the companion hardback collection Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman handles a lot of that–with essays and reprints of stories both for characters and creators tied to Superman, and Action Comics itself. I was also a bit curious about what the issue’s story would be, or if it would be an anthology/”jam” issue.

Back in the 1990s there were periodic special issues such as The Wedding Album that were key, integral chapters in the ongoing Superman story unfolding in the actual, ongoing titles; though this would be an actual numbered issue, I’d wondered if this would have any singular through-story that just happened to have a bunch of different artists and maybe some narrative structure allowing for different writers to leave a mark on the story.

Obviously what we got was 15-page chunks of the two main creative teams of the ongoing titles, and then 8 more stories/contributions, and a 12-page launch sequence from the new writer coming onto stuff.

As with my excitement for Rebirth and Action Comics #957, I bought this digitally, and I bought this in-print, and I’ll gladly buy the hardcover edition that I believe will be out this Fall. I also ordered the “Decades Variants” through DCBS, and will be getting the 1,000 covers poster, which will be an excellent, appropriate addition to my comics space.

This is an issue that rightly deserves the “celebration” that variants offer. There are artists who may not otherwise have had involvement with the issue, who get to be associated with Action Comics #1000 if only with a variant. And as the first American comic book to make it to #1000…it’s more than worthy. 80 years of continuous publication of a comic titled Action Comics is nothing to sneeze at. I’m among the first to complain and gripe and grouse about variants, and will continue to, where they merely cheapen stuff and are “abused” (really, does a #17 or a #81 or a #962 truly deserve a variant? What makes such numbers special if they’re just another issue?) But this 1,000th issue deserves the added recognition, the “fun” of certain variants…especially what I’ve seen of the “Decades” variants, that bring back the logo style and even the DC logo of each decade…the DC Bullet I grew up on is back with several of the issues, and even the “swoosh” logo gets some love with the 2000s variant.

$7.99 for a single issue is a bit much in most cases. This is squarebound and has 81 story pages with no ads between stories nor interrupting any stories, and the cover is a stronger cardstock…so this is absolutely worth its price for the physical product as well as the content it contains.

None of the stories seem to specifically continue from anything; nothing I’m aware of comes off of a To Be Continued; and other than the Bendis segment leading into stuff out of/after this issue, that’s still 69 or so pages that stand alone quite well, neither requiring previous reading nor requiring subsequent reading. This is well worth getting just for itself; a 1,000th issue; a standalone, celebratory Superman issue. Perhaps it’s an endpoint; maybe it can be a starting point; it’s definitely an excellent one-off, special thing.

I highly recommend this to any Superman fan or anyone interested in checking out some Superman content, period, and especially if you don’t want to commit to anything ongoing or long-form.

action_comics_1000_blogtrailer

Secret Wars Journal #1 [Review]

secretwars_journal001The Arrowhead; We Worship What We Don’t Understand

Writers: Pru Shen; Matthew Rosenberg
Artists: Ramo Bachs; Luca Pizzari
Color Artists: Jean-Francois Beaulieu; Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Kevin Wada
Editor: Jake Thomas
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I think I thought and "assumed" that this was to be some broad, "down-to-earth" sort of title, like the "man on the street" view of Battleworld, since I’m pretty sure not every last inhabitant is a version of one of the previous multiverse’s "named" super-powered characters. What I got was two short stories (much like Battlworld #1), one of which trailed off into a "follow this character into a full title" note.

The stories are short and basic; Kate Bishop sneaks into Doom’s castle to steal an orb, and winds up having to take the "noble" road to see her thieving partners have a chance to escape. The second story follows some mutants as they seek to end Khonsu as their god, that they might know freedom.

In and of themselves, the stories aren’t bad…they just did not come off as very interesting to me. The first one really felt like some sort of prologue or such, particularly for having a blurb to follow the main character into the pages of another Secret Wars tie-in series. The second has an ending, but was tainted from the start by the end of the first, and ultimately feels like just some random one-off. As "moments" within Battleworld’s existince, sure, that’s fine, it’s nice to have stuff that isn’t necessarily part of the driving force behind a singular "core event series story" and all that.

But…?

But I wasn’t expecting half-issue-length stuff, I either hadn’t read at all or didn’t particularly mentally "register" what this title was…I saw THAT it was coming out, so planned on picking it up, as a tie-in to an event whose start really worked for me, more than I’d even figured at the time.

I’m not all that familiar with the visual team. I’m not all that thrilled with it on the whole–it’s ok, it fits the stories, but nothing about it is consciously memorable for me (this goes for the cover as well). You could certainly do a lot worse, but this is also a good bit of distance away from my favorite comic art. It works for the issue, but–especially for one such as me–the art is by no means a "selling point."

All in all, I suppose it’s not the worst $3.99 I’ve spent. But especially in comparison to more specific stuff–Inferno, Infinity Gauntlet, and other stuff coming up like X-Men ’92, Years of Future Past, and so on–this is a fairly disappointing issue, and if I had to choose right now for certain one way or the other if I’d get the remainder of the series, I’d err on the side of caution and give it a pass. As-is, we’ll see what kind of week it is when #2 arrives, whether or not I continue with the series.

Ultimate End #1 [Review]

secretwars_ultimateend001Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Production Design: Manny Mederos
Cover: Mark Bagley
Assistant Editors: Chris Robinson, Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Despite missing the first two issues (to this day 14-some years later I’ve had to rely on reprints for my personal collection) I had jumped into the Ultimate universe basically at its start, with Ultimate Spider-Man #3, and I believe I finally got to read the first two issues initially in a Mighty Marvel Must-Have edition. As such, seeing as how–after several false-starts on the “end” of the Ultimate universe–the ending is finally here, I couldn’t pass this up. And like I started with Ultimate Spider-Man with the single issues, so, too, I found it fitting to follow the single-issues here as well.

This triggers plenty of nostalgia for me from the cover, which utilizes the original trade dress of the Ultimate books–the two solid-color bars down either side of the cover with a skinnier image between. The Ultimate End logo looks familiar, though I think the font is slightly “off” from some of the other Ultimate _______ logos; and of course we have the Battleworld banner across the top and the Secret Wars stamp marking this as part of the overall Secret Wars 2015 event, specifically the Battleworld class of tie-ins. I had noticed an alternate cover with the Miles Morales Spider-Man costume, that looked like the original Ultimate Spider-Man #1 cover that I almost chose over the standard cover. However, never having acquired an original USM #1, I stuck to my guns on getting just the standard/main non-variant cover for this.

We open on (a) Spider-Man tangling with a Serpent Squad, putting him into interaction with Cloak, Dagger, and a Spider-Woman. We then shift to a huge gathering of heroes that seems made up of a mix and combination of “616” characters and “Ultimate” characters. Spidey joins in as everyone is debating the fault and situation itself they all find themselves in, before the party is further crashed by Thors.

Simply opening the book and reading, I was actually expecting the Miles Morales Spider-Man, so was surprised to see a classic-costumed Spidey. Further, this seems to be a Peter Parker Spidey, suggesting he’s either the 616 Spider-Man or another. The issue has a prologue and then jumps to “3 weeks ago,” and references a white portal/other world, so as a cursory read-through I’m not certain on the timing and how much the characters know of where they are and if that was pre-incursion or what; I have not kept up on any Marvel the last several years until Secret Wars #0 and 1. So what may be totally obvious to readers following along was not to me.

Still, knowing the basic premise, that didn’t bother me much…I recognized the various characters overall. Whether this was actually Battleworld as I assumed or a flashback to the universes still being separate isn’t a huge deal to me. Story-wise this worked well enough and had a familiar “feel” stylistically. The art of course is familiar, and Bagley‘s work is just as good now as I recall from when I was following the Ultimate Spider-Man series with his art.

This is only the first issue of–I believe–five, so there’s by no means a complete story here. We’re introduced to stuff, mostly, with a little bit of background/flashback given; this is clearly a first chapter of a larger singular story within the Secret Wars/Battleworld stuff. As I expected that going in and did NOT expect some one-off single-issue tale, I’m fine with that; I also went into this with the expectation that I’d enjoy it and that barring some huge disappointment or negative factor, I wasn’t going to bail on the series just from whatever this single issue held.

I enjoyed the issue overall–story and art, and appreciated the mix of nostalgia and new. I do look forward to the next issue and want to see where things go. I bought this because of my own history with the Ultimate books; though I suspect this may be one of the more “key” tie-ins to the overall Secret Wars as it deals specifically with ending the Ultimate Universe. (After all, Secret Wars is kicked off by the Ultimate and 616 Universes as the final two in existence, merging).

This seems like a very strong issue for a tie-in reading experience, and well worth getting if you’re following Secret Wars. It also seems likely to be a good story overall for putting the lid on the Ultimate Universe, fairly friendly even to readers like me who haven’t really read any of the Ultimate books for years. You could certainly do a lot worse than this issue!

Wolverines #1 [Review]

wolverines001Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Alisson Borges
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editors: Katie Kubert and Mike Marts
Cover: Nick Bradshaw, FCO Plascencia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

In a lotta ways, I’m lost. I recognize some characters, of course (at least by name/vague recollection)…but it’s rather difficult to reconcile this as taking place in the same continuity as the stuff I grew up reading in the ’90s and early/mid-2000s. It’s also quite a challenge to consider that Wolverine–Logan–is really, truly, permanently, not-coming-back-ever-never dead-is-dead DEAD. Moving on…

Thankfully, the “Previously…” page is there–I don’t have to track down all those Death of Wolverine follow-up minis I skipped. Sure, they’d flesh out the DETAILS, but for where this series and this first issue in particular picks up, that’d be superfluous for me.

We open on a bloodied Mystique getting psyched to go through a door; then jump “back” to present. Where we find Mystique, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 being forced to work with some escapees from Dr. Cornelius’ experimentations. The mission is to locate/retrieve an object to help them survive. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew has also appeared in the vicinity, and confrontation ensues. Though the object sought is located–the adamantium-encased remains of the late Wolverine–this success is short-lived with the appearance of an old villain I certainly would not have suspected. The villain absconds with precious bounty, leaving our protagonists’ situation in disarray.

I picked this up to give it a shot–I’m currently buying all 3 weeklies from DC Comics, might as well give Marvel‘s a try. Moreso than that, though…the cover intrigued me. Kinda generic in a way, but it certainly grabs my attention, seeing the adamantium-encased body of Wolverine surrounded by individuals tied to him (from life, and from what he gave it for). We only get the arms of Deathstrike, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 (with a couple of the Weapon X kids in the background)…no Mystique. But that’s not something I even noticed until writing this review.

The actual story is ok enough…where I’d thought the premise of the series might be the characters tracking the body, the cover suggested otherwise, which was why I bought this. And since (thankfully!) the cover suggests these characters around the body and the opening of the issue has them seeking it…hardly spoilers to say that yeah, they find the body IN THIS ISSUE. However, the villain that showed up and left the group in bad shape gives the characters a new quest/hunt, which should sustain the weekly nature of the series for a bit.

I appreciate Soule being on this, given my understanding that he’s the architect of the death of Wolverine…good to see that he’s the one to follow-up “long term” on the development, rather than just killing the character and moving on. And while I wouldn’t think I’d care about the characters involved, have not kept up with them (for example, the last I recall of Sabretooth, he was beheaded by Wolverine…though I’m loosely aware there was a recent-ish story that saw his return) the interactions are not too bad here and I’d be interested in seeing more, seeing these characters in a world without Wolverine.

The issue’s visuals are not bad…there’s a cartooney quality at points that’s mildly distracting and reminds me of Humberto Ramos‘ work. Not a terrible thing, but not entirely my cup of tea. On the whole this simply has the look of a comic book…I credit that to the strong linework (and I suppose that’s a shared credit with the inking). Ultimately the art’s relatively neutral for me…neither a significant turn-off nor a draw. It’s just there, it does its job, and I’m satisfied with it.

Had Marvel priced this at $2.99 as an enticement to investing in FOUR issues monthly, I might’ve been tempted to give it a shot on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this is a $3.99 book…and a large contributing factor to my having been almost completely driven me away from Marvel stuff is their pricing. Their $3.99 price point combined with frequent double-shipping was a huge turnoff…and if 2 issues at $3.99 apiece each month is enough to frustrate me away from Marvel books, DOUBLING that frequency does nothing positive to my mindset.

I did see somewhere (Bleeding Cool, perhaps) that this series is scheduled to be collected in monthly volumes…provided those are not $20 apiece and I can find ’em at a discount, there’s a possibility I’ll go a bit further into this series that way…or perhaps consider an advance/pre-order for a discount on almost certainly inevitable Marvel Omnibus.

If you don’t mind the $3.99 and are a fan of Soule‘s work with Wolverine and/or Wolverine’s death so far, this may be a decent series to consider. As a single issue this fits the norm…the overwhelming part of the price comes from the realization of the series’ shipping frequency.

[ My thoughts on the final issue of The Death of Wolverine (the week it came out) ]

Magneto #12 [Review]

magneto012AXIS tie-in

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Roland Boschi
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles and Cory Petit
Cover: David Yardin
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

It’s the cover that did it. I’ve had absolutely no purchase-level interest in Axis nor any of its tie-ins…but the cover of this issue grabbed my attention. Onslaught, with the Red Skull’s face, dwarfing a defiant Magneto. Talk about hitting the right buttons for me. The original Onslaught story was HUGE in my youth–in scope, in tying back to Fatal Attractions, in tying into that X-Traitor subplot that even touched the cartoon series, that played with the matter of Xavier, his relationship to Magneto, to “The Dream,” etc. The reason Magneto as a character is interesting to me is the way the character was handled in Legion Quest and the Age of Apocalypse and afterward–as well as the “Joseph” period and all that. I’d also seen some sort of “preview” or “solicitation” text on the issue referencing Erik dealing with his friend, and all that–I recall an apparent plot point being the Red Skull stealing Xavier’s brain–so that plus the cover, and I couldn’t bring myself to NOT buy the issue.

Getting into the issue was a different matter. I haven’t read anything else involved with this Axis “event”–Axis itself or tie-in issues–nor have I read the last 8-9 issues of this series, so my reading this issue was functionally jumping in “cold,” so to speak.

Apparently Magneto’s already mid-battle with “Red Onslaught” (how original, that name), and he’s gathered other “villains” and allies (Carnage, Doom, Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, etc) to combat the Red Skull in Onslaught mode. He has his daughter (Scarlet Witch) cast a spell meant to access whatever there is of Xavier and bring that to the forefront. While this is going on, he recalls a happier time, in his younger days, when he and Xavier were new friends in Israel. The issue goes back and forth, present to flashback and we see an episode where Magneto revealed his powers to Xavier as they fled Baron Strucker and the two men sought to save Xavier’s lover Gabrielle Haller. Something happens and Magneto’s knocked unconscious, coming to to find the other villains gone and the Avengers present. As he wonders if the Scarlet Witch’s spell worked, he encounters the mind of Xavier–apparently the spell worked–and the two converse, the psionic image of Xavier essentially passing the torch to Magneto and telling him his way was right all along.

The art for the issue isn’t horrible, though I’m not terribly impressed–particularly compared to the cover. I know my attitude toward the visuals is partially the actual style and partially that I don’t care for some of the character designs or “new looks” or such. It’s also “tainted” by my presently re-reading old X-Men issues from late 1994 and loving those–for the nostalgia and the art and familiarity from my past. There’s really no way this issue can hold up visually to the likes of Kubert or Jim Lee or other artists whose work I particularly enjoyed twenty years ago. Yardin‘s cover drawing me in the way it did makes me think I’d enjoy his work on the interior, though.

The story itself seems solid enough, and I was absolutely THRILLED at the actual use of CONTINUITY, that the notion of Xavier and Magneto having become friends while working at a hospital in Israel is still there, and the presence of Gabrielle Haller. Stuff that I’d almost have “expected” to be swept under the rug in favor of some other “take” on the characters’ relationship, some other period of time instead of something that’s been touched on before. While I don’t care whatsoever for the Baron Strucker stuff, and struggled to recall what little I knew/know or thought I knew/know, I know the characters didn’t jump from what we see in Legion Quest to a “present day,” and so it makes sense they’d have other adventures and such. I just don’t much care for the constant “inbreeding” of the same body of established characters being constantly revealed to have had earlier and earlier and earlier interactions/involvements with each other, knowingly or otherwise.

But ultimately, while I WANTED to like this issue, it manages to fall short of my expectations–perhaps because this IS just a single chapter of something much larger, and I’m out of the loop and all that. I’m not overly thrilled to have spent $4 on the issue and had so little Magneto/Xavier as well as so little Magneto vs. Red Skull in direct confrontation, etc. I might be somewhat interested in this Axis event later if I can get a collected volume or the single issues cheaply, but despite being a bit intrigued (was it actually Magneto that set the entire Axis thing in motion, I’m curious about and don’t know from just this issue) I’m not motivated by this issue to chase down anything else for Axis, nor am I left with any particular desire to get the next issue.

This is probably a great issue for ongoing readers of the title; I can’t speak to its place or value in the overall Axis story, though…this doesn’t seem to convey anything one can’t get from the main series, and I actually have the feeling one would appreciate this issue more WITH the main Axis series being read.

There are worse issues one could randomly grab from the middle of a run, inside the middle of an event, I’m sure. But unless you’re specifically following the event or this title anyway, this does not seem particularly worth its $3.99 cover price and I am not going to keep chasing the bait of hoping to see more Magneto/Xavier stuff.

All-New X-Men #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

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