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The ’90s Revisited: Superboy #22 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

superboy_0022Fire and Ice

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Dan Davis
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This month, a number of blogs and podcasts have joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Beyond my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG  |  Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast  |  Relatively Geeky Podcast Network  |  The Retroist  |  Chris is on Infinite Earths  |  Cosmic Treadmill  |  The Pop Culture Palace  |  Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast  |  The Idol-Head of Diabolu  |  Justice’s First Dawn  |  Justice Trek: The Podcast


It seems I’ve picked a whole bunch of "cold" issues for covering Underworld Unleashed! Mr. Freeze over in Green Lantern #68 and Batman #525, Luthor and Joker in a snowglobe over in Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #3…and now Killer Frost in this issue!

The issue opens with Superboy popping back into the present in amazement after some sort of time-travel adventure (apparently a crossover between the previous issue, Legion [of Super-Heroes?] #74, and Legionnaires #34, according to the Editor’s Note). He heads home only to be ambushed by Knockout, who has decided she’s living "here now" to Superboy’s consternation. Meanwhile, a plane crashes into the airport, apparently brought down due to being "all iced up!" An ice-woman emerges, seeking warmth, saying "…Neron said he’d make me more powerful, but i’m just as I always was…need to absorb more heat…" We then return to Superboy and a rather perturbed Rex Leech lamenting damage to the house, though he hadn’t noticed Knockout being in the process of cleaning up the mess she’d made. While Superboy, Knockout, Dubbilex, and Roxy Leech chat, it begins to snow…which is quite surprising considering their Hawaii environment! Superboy and Knockout wind up in town facing off with the ice-woman, who–based on MO–seems to be Killer Frost. With Tana Moon nearby observing, they manage to stall Frost with a bit of volcanic heat…before Knockout drops a truckload of liquid oxygen on the Neron-enhanced villainess. Losing sight of both, Superboy worries about Knockout before she emerges and steals a kiss, joyful over the fun of the day (said kiss making Tana jealous, and leading Superboy to affirm his feelings for her and that Knockout is not his interest). Meanwhile, Neron appears to Knockout and offers her her heart’s desire…she violently refuses and Neron leaves. Also meanwhile, Roxy makes it slightly belatedly to a "meeting" she was worried about, and we see that she’s taking a police exam, which has implications for the future.

First off, while Neron does appear (briefly!) in this issue, it’s more of a cameo, lasting barely a single page. Second, we’re not given much of anything on Killer Frost…she’s anything BUT 3-dimensional here, just a name and power; nothing to do with who she is, any background, any real or in-depth motivation (she thought Neron was helping her, but she still needs warmth.) Lacking motivation, she’s nothing but a plot device, serving as a shoe-horned-in element to try to justify this issue "tying in" to Underworld Unleashed for the month.

Though the cover gives us Killer Frost’s face and a frozen Superboy…that’s misleading, giving an appearance of personal, intentional malice on her part and having more impact on Superboy than she actually does.

The issue really seems to belong to Knockout trying to establish–or re-establish–a teamup with Superboy and showing (perhaps) a bit of responsibility on her part. I remember seeing the character on covers, and I’m pretty sure I remember her being an antagonist for Superboy in the earliest issues of this series–maybe as early as the first or second issue. I don’t remember much of anything about her or her arc, but she seems like the "annoying tag-along spanner-in-the-works" here, disrupting Superboy’s life, public and private. She reminds me quite a bit of Maxima in some of her early appearances in the Superman titles in the late-’80s/early-’90s, serving at once as an antagonist while showing lustful interest in our hero that is not reciprocated, and yet not being "all-bad."

As said, Killer Frost is basically incidental here, interchangeable with any other character that causes/controls cold, or even any NEW character with such a power set. I only even really know the name "Killer Frost" thanks to the CW Flash tv series…without that, I wouldn’t know the character existed prior to this issue and might have assumed she was some throw-away character introduced in the main Underworld Unleashed mini-series or an earlier issue of Superboy or some such (Killer Frost was actually introduced in Firestorm in the late 1970s).

I’m not overly familiar with this period of the Superboy series, losing track of the title after its first several issues in 1994. I remember Rex and Roxy from the character’s earliest days in Adventures of Superman, during Reign of the Supermen, and that along with Dubbilex and Tana Moon, they wound up in Hawaii with Superboy. I also remember Roxy seeming like a complete, dumb airhead or such…but here, I see that she’s been making changes and the simple fact of her taking the police exam shows me that she is anything BUT some complete, dumb airhead. She’s apparently stretching herself and trying to do something positive with her life, possibly inspired by Superboy or making up for something (I honestly don’t know what her motivation is, but as a "supporting character" in the Superboy comic, that would be a simple guess, I suppose).

Though I don’t have much context for things, the fact I recognize most of the characters does a lot for me, and allows me to enjoy the issue in and of itself, and I wonder at stuff between Superboy and Knockout, as well as between Superboy and Tana…and my curiosity has me that much more curious about the early issues of the series, in a good way!

Visually, I love Grummett‘s art…all the characters look familiar, and look good (as far as they’re supposed to…Rex has the slightly smarmy look to go with his name, as well as with my memory of his actions during Reign of the Supermen and claiming legal right to use of the name ‘Superman’). Superboy especially looks exactly as I "remember" him looking in this time period, which is what I expect and adds to my enjoying the issue.

Though I enjoyed the issue, it does not seem at all "essential" in any way to Underworld Unleashed…without "prior knowledge" OF that title as a concept/event series, I wouldn’t even know from this issue what it actually is! In context of this issue, Neron could be just some villain playing behind the scenes of this title, and even the Underworld Unleashed logo on the cover could be a blurb for this issue or a story in this series following whatever the Legion/Legionnaires crossover was, with an underworld being unleashed on Superboy and his allies. If you want the entire event/crossover, though, since the logo’s here on the issue, you’ll want this for that at least. Otherwise, this issue doesn’t seem to be particularly significant in and of itself in isolation–I’ve not read the aforementioned Legion crossover, I don’t recall what came immediately after this issue, so I’m not sure how significant Roxy and the police exam might truly be, or Knockout’s presence in this issue, and so on.

As a snapshot of mid-’90s Superboy by Kesel and Grummett, though, this is well worth snagging if you find it in a bargain bin…but probably not something to singularly seek out without it being part of a run or as seeking Underworld Unleashed tie-ins.


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

superboy_0022_blogtrailer

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Zero Hour Revisited – Guy Gardner: Warrior #24

guy_gardner_warrior_0024Killing Time!

Story: Beau Smith
Pencils: Mitch Byrd, Phil Jimenez, Howard Porter, Mike Parobeck
Layouts: Jackson Guice
Inks and Finishes: Dan Davis
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Edits: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

I expected a lot of this issue, and unfortunately found myself rather disappointed. Guy, Steel, Batgirl, and Supergirl face Extant, and are thrown through time, bouncing from dinosaurs to Guy’s own past with a woman he’d loved but who died in Coast City.

Reading this issue as an isolated thing, it just didn’t do much for me. Now, I’m a fan of Guy, and have read at least a couple issues of his series before (including, I think, some sort of Year One story and a followup to Emerald Twilight–so with this, that’s probably at least 10 issues of this series I’ve read). I’m familiar with the character from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annuals (his appearance in the Adventures of Superman one where he first has the yellow ring) and his being part of the Justice League at the time (Death of Superman stuff), and have gotten a lot more familiar with the character in the 20+ years since.

But this issue just felt like it was all over the place…and all I can REALLY tell is that Guy’s new getup is just that–new–he’s still learning what it (and he himself) can do. That these characters are fighting Extant in this issue, that they’re bouncing around through time–that certainly makes this a nice tie-in to Zero Hour, one that truly deserves that banner on the cover, and serves as a RELEVANT tie-in. So even being all over the place, its "fun factor" is there a bit…though I don’t know that I’d particularly recommend it in and of itself.

Visually, I noticed a mix of art styles–PARTICULARLY toward the end when the visuals went toward something resembling Batman: The Animated Series and Darwyn Cooke…it was not until I keyed out the credits for this post that I realized there were FOUR different pencilers. I’m not sure if it helped having Guice doing layouts or not…except that despite multiple artists it at least kept panels to one vision so nothing was overly "out there" or varying drastically from the others. None of the art singly was bad, but it was a bit jarring going from grittier to simplicity reminiscent of Cooke. Not knowing any behind the scenes stuff regarding this specific issue, I can’t comment on that–but I do definitely appreciate what I know now about comics in general in 2016–where I can "assume" that this issue was running late and so the art was divided up to make sure the issue would be done on time as it is a Zero Hour issue and thus HAD TO be out during Zero Hour, which only lasted one month. And with this ending on the blank pages, that sticks it as intended for the last week of the month…where even a SINGLE WEEK slip would put it out of sync with the event itself.

I don’t care for the cover–I kinda consciously "know" that’s supposed to be Extant’s face…but with the fire effect, just the face looks like this is some other villain or a fire-entity or like some X-Men character or something…show me the image without the Zero Hour banner and I would not at all think "Extant" OR "Zero Hour."

Ultimately, this is (along with Batman #511) probably the closest-tied issue to Zero Hour, making it one that you’d definitely want to read with the main series if you’re going for an all-in experience on the reading. By itself, I would not recommend it AS some destination-issue or to seek out as a single issue. As part of Zero Hour or as part of reading the title in general, I think it fits quite well.

Zero Hour Revisited – Team Titans #24

90srevisited_zerohour

team_titans_0024All Good Things…

Writers: Jeffrey Jensen & Phil Jimenez
Penciller: Nigel Tully
Inkers: Andrew Pepoy, Rus Sever, Dan Davis
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Assistant Editor: Chris Eades
Editor: Rob Simpson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

This is another issue I’d never read before, and really had very little expectation going in. It’s also one that didn’t truly engage me…other than Garth (Aqualad), I don’t even know who any of the characters are. I know the NAME Terra but not the character (despite knowing OF Titans history, they remain yet a blind spot in my comics experience). So while I could literally, physically "follow" the story, page after page…this was much as I’d imagine tuning into a semi-popular tv show’s final episode without ever having seen prior episodes and only having commercials to go on for the past.

Given that this really is not at all intended as any kind of jumping-on point (it’s actually the end point, kinda-sorta-maybe-somewhat wrapping things up) and seems to dovetail into Zero Hour itself (with the final, ultimate payoff coming in that and not even in this 24th issue of its own run!), this is yet another tie-in that does not seem relevant nor important to Zero Hour. It fleshes stuff out for me a bit in that it’s more content I’ve now read, but does not change any of my understanding or identification with any of the characters and such.

The writing is satisfactory for my experience…but not having read any prior issues, not being familiar with the characters and story, recognizing the intent is not to have someone jump in cold, etc. I cannot really judge it and really have nothing to compare it to. I got what I "expected" out of this, I guess.

Visually I wasn’t blown away by the art. It’s a bit "off" from what I expected, but really not bad. As with the writing, I don’t have much of anything to compare it to, so it really just IS.

Ultimately…I’m really only glad to have read this for the sake of having read it; checking off another box in my read-through of everything I can find directly involved in Zero Hour. Unless you’re reading this series itself, all you need to know about the Team Titans seems to be played out in Zero Hour itself and if you try to go on this issue alone, you won’t really have much more context with the issue than without.

Zero Hour Revisited – Superboy #8

90srevisited_zerohour

superboy_0008Big Trouble in Smallville!

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inkers: Doug Hazlewood, Dan Davis
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Now THIS is more like it. This was an issue I had read when it was originally released, and I enjoyed it now, and I enjoyed it back then. Of course, whatever checklist I was working from that listed this issue before Valor #23 did me a disservice…this one had a footnote to see that issue. But I already had my mind set on reading this next…and hey…wibbly-wobbly and all that.

This is just the eighth issue of the 1990s Superboy series…focusing on the Superboy that appeared in the whole Return of Superman shindig. This is well before his Kon-El days, even before he had an inkling, really, who the Kents were (He doesn’t even have a bit of recognition of them in this issue!). After Crisis on Infinite Earths, there was no longer a Superboy, who was "Superman when he was a boy." Of course, when you have a Crisis (in Time) and have other-timelines’ characters popping up and such…why NOT a timeline where Superman WAS SuperBOY first?

So we pick up on Superboy accompanying a plane across Kansas. His travel-buddy Dubbilex needs the plane, and has rescued Krypto (Bibbo’s dog that was gonna be named Krypton but wound up Krypto cuz of a jerk tag-maker…see the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman story for that, if I’m recalling correctly). Superboy and the dog aren’t getting along, and Superboy’s riding on the wing of the plane…whether it’s BECAUSE of the dog I’m not sure, but I guess it doesn’t matter TOO much. When the plane’s hit by lightning and about to crash, it’s rescued–by Superboy…and Superboy! The second Superboy, wearing the classic Superman costume appeared with the lightning, apparently after some adventure in the future. He guides the plane to Smallville, recognizing the sign stating it’s the home of Superboy, and then seeks out familiar territory. While "our" Superboy gets some attention in town, the time-displaced Superboy changes to his guise as a young Clark Kent…and finds some unsettling surprises. And of course, eventually the two Superboys meet up (how neither realized the other assisted with the plane can be chalked up to "It’s comics!") and fight…before realizing there’s no need for fighting, and that there are forces at work beyond even the two of them. As the displaced Superboy fades out, Superman/Green Lantern/Metron’s message arrives, and Superboy springs into action.

I’ll say it again: this is more like it! While "the message" does not come until the end of the issue…within this issue we HAVE a Time Anomaly, a character whose only way of being capable of even appearing IS the weirdness with Time, as a result of what’s going on with Zero Hour…making this a great tie-in! And at a time when "elements" of the pre-Crisis era were seeping back into the Superman mythos, albeit with "modern" twists rooted within the new continuity, this Superboy was an interesting contrast…a sort of having the cake and eating it, too. I suppose in most modern ways of comparing, it’d be like Kon-El showing up in the New 52 for just one issue and that’d be that.

In a way, I wasn’t even paying attention to the story as I read this…I just thoroughly enjoyed the issue! Grummett‘s art is fantastic, and Hazlewood/Davis/McCraw do an excellent job enhancing that with inks and colors. After reading some of the other tie-in issues, this one was a very welcome one in both art and sheer enjoyment.

While there’s not a lot of context for the ongoing series, as a one-off, this is a fun issue…basically showing the "real" Superboy encountering one from a different timeline, providing some comparison/contrast between the two, and then setting things back before ending. Other than allowing "our" Superboy to be able to say that he encountered a Time Anomaly already (and as readers, we were thus along for the ride having read this issue), there doesn’t seem to be anything here to really move the SUPERBOY story along…and yet it fits then-current continuity and ties into Zero Hour and is one of the better examples thus far of something tying into the event.

Well worth it if you find it in a bargain bin!

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 [Review]

The Panic of the Composite Creature

Writer: Matt Wayne
Penciller: Andy Suriano
Inker: Dan Davis
Colorist: Heroic Age
Letterer: Randy Gentile
Editor: Rachel Cluckstern
Cover: James Tucker
Publisher: Johnny DC / DC Comics

I decided to pick this issue up, having enjoyed the last several Johnny DC books I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I found myself somewhat disappointed with what I got in this issue.

The issue opens at the tail-end of an adventure shared by Batman and Aquaman, before Batman learns of a monster tearing apart London. Joined by Power Girl, he faces this composite creature, formed from civilians in a several-block radius of one of Luthor’s devices. The story resolves in a fitting manner for the style, and leaves things ready for the next issue.

The art seems to be a mix of classic Batman from the silver age, the Super-Friends cartooney-style, and a hint of the Adam West Batman. Of course I assume it’s also inspired by the cartoon this series is based on, but not yet having seen an episode of that, I reference what I know. The style works, as it lacks the dark, grim, and gritty style that would likely be fairly inappropriate for kids and hams up the almost cheery, lighter style that could draw the younger crowd in while not traumatizing them if they move on to the mainstream DC version.

The story is simplistic, but that’s me as an adult pushing 30. I’m sure it’s well within range of appropriateness for the target audience of this book. Simplistic though it may be, it is not unenjoyable–just slightly cheesey/hokey…but I expect that going in. My main complaint with the issue is the lack of Blue Beetle and so little of Aquaman.

If you’re looking for a “fun” version of Batman, this seems a good one to go with–plus you’ll have other familiar characters along for the ride. I would be curious as to kids’ reaction to this issue, as it seems perfectly appropriate for the younger crowd–I just can’t speak to their actual enjoyment.

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

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