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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #74

90s_revisited

superman_0074Countdown to Doomsday!

Story & Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/46

While it’s certainly credit to Dan Jurgens being the writer on both this issue and Justice League America #69, I quite enjoy the way this issue picks up directly where that one left off. This one even has a much better, more prominent notice that it picks up from that issue, urging readers to stop reading now and go read that first (a handy sort of thing since these two issues were apparently on sale the same week…and with no actual chapter numbers on the covers, it’d be easy to go straight to Superman first, and plan to then read Justice League America).

We get a lot more of Mitch in this issue…in fact, to a certain degree, this issue is about Mitch and his "encounter" with the Justice League and Superman!

We open on Ice and Maxima with the nearly-lifeless body of Ted Kord–Blue Beetle. Ice has no means by which to get Ted to a hospital, while Maxima does…though she wants to just stay and fight, though the Beetle will perish. Ice eventually convinces her to get Ted to a hospital, while she (Ice) confronts the creature. Nearby, Mitch arrives home from school and argues with his mom. As he’s about to leave again, a battered Ice is thrown through the window into their kitchen, moments before Superman and Booster Gold show up, confronting the creature…as it gets its name, thanks to Booster’s comment to Superman in Justice League America #69. "What was it you called, this, Booster? Oh yeah–Doomsday." Superman and what remains of the League fight the creature, eventually combining energy projections to try to take it out…though all they really do is make the creature more dangerous and themselves largely defenseless…they’ve burned away most of the restraining suit and cables (releasing Doomsday’s ’til-now-restrained-behind-his-back other arm). As the creature leaps off, Superman follows…forcing himself to ignore the pleas from Mitch as the house burns and lives there remain in dire danger.

I think I’m always "amazed" by the end of this issue, of seeing Superman consciously ignoring a cry for help. It’s a horrible position he’s in, though–stop chasing Doomsday and risk lots of lives lost by turning back to help three people, or ignore them (with hope that someone else back there can do something) to try to bring the creature down at once. And while it’s heart-wrenching to contemplate, I tend to find that I fall in the camp of agreeing with Superman’s decision here. Of course, I know what comes next, and the final decision he makes (Showing among many, many things why he’s Superman and I’m not).

Visually, I definitely like this issue. A lot of that–certainly in retrospect–is Dan Jurgens‘ art. He’s a definitive artist on Superman for me, starting here for sure (to say nothing of #75!) I’m not as much a fan of the cover, though…it seems a bit busy and generic, with Superman himself hardly a part of it. Of course, at the same time, it’s a far cry more to my liking than many modern covers, as it shows something from the issue without just being a lifted panel or such: Ice, Booster, and Maxima don’t fare well against the creature, and Fire and Guy do add their energy output to Superman’s heat vision against the creature, who basically stands there and takes it.

Perhaps my biggest thing is that–to this day, all these years later–I have never been able to figure out how the knee spikes and elbow spikes were concealed in the green suit!

As we get deeper into the Doomsday! arc, it feels less and less likely that anyone would really have any reason to be reading an issue "in a vacuum" without context of the other issues. All the more now, 25 years later, where the story has been available as a collected edition or "graphic novel" for nearly the 25 years…so really, who’s likely TO read this as some lone one-off issue?

If Man of Steel #18 felt like it would’ve been a better prologue than actual part of the story, this issue feels like a direct extension of Justice League America #69. The art on the two issues are different, but in some ways not overly noticeable, and these play like both Justice League guest-starring Superman or Superman guest-starring the Justice League…as they should.

I certainly would not recommend seeking this out as a single issue in a void…but it’s an interesting "middle chapter" as the action ramps up and we definitely see the creature as something more than what can simply be handled in an issue or two, or even BY a combined group of super-beings. And of course, it’s essential to the overall arc, and not something to skip over reading a collected edition!

superman_0074_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

Justice_League_America_0069_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #50

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0050Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Four: The Human Factor

Story by: Jerry Ordway
Art by: Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Kerry Gammill, Dennis Janke, Curt Swan, John Byrne, and Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Glenn Whitmore
Letters by: John Costanza
Editing by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Jerry Ordway
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1990
Cover Price: $1.50

This is an extra-sized issue, for a whopping DOUBLE-usual-cover-price…at a whole $1.50. That’s still HALF what contemporary DC Rebirth comics cost, and less than half of what a current Marvel comic costs. Granted, we’re talking a little over 26 years’ difference, but still…

Speaking of covers and cover prices…this may not be THE best or THE most iconic cover ever for a Superman comic (at least, not to me, and not one of my personal top ten) but its "spirit" is pretty iconic–Superman bursting through a wall. In this case, fairly appropriate, after several issues of his being powerless…basically a normal human. Having the strength to simply, cheerfully burst through a solid brick wall is a small indicator of his power level being much increased. Superman #50 is one of the first comics I ever got as a "back issue," and before I really knew the concept of "multiple printings" or "variant covers" or the like. The copy of the issue that I first owned, the first time that I read this, gave away a fairly major spoiler for the issue (at the time).

superman50spoilercover

Historic Engagement Issue. Ok, so the engagement was looming, and it happened here. I had no idea at the time that it was a second print, hence spoiling the ending by calling out what happens in the issue and how it’d go down in history (beyond concluding a several-part story and seeing Superman get his powers back).

This issue gives us a glimpse of Clark in action, going about life powerless–but getting beyond the simplistic "mild-mannered reporter" and letting us see that it really is he himself–Clark–that makes the man, not the Super. Even without powers, he’s not gonna stand by or put his own safety first…he helps people, and tries to step in as able. He checks in on things with Lois, who has just gotten her father’s approval in dating Clark. Jimmy’s mother is doing better…even as we see that Perry and Alice are having their own issues, still reeling from the death of Jerry. And of course, Luthor being Luthor. When Lex contacts Lois, Clark steps in, demanding an interview…which he’s granted. Luthor’s convinced to tell how he’s deprived Superman of his powers…and since he’s telling some reporter, he’s not breaking Mxyzptlk’s One Rule to Not Tell Superman. Of course, Luthor has long since discarded the notion of Clark and Superman being one and the same…but that doesn’t change that Clark is Superman, and Mxy’s powers are magic based and thus bind the rule even without Mxy’s conscious direction, so Luthor telling Clark means he’s broken the rule…and Superman is re-powered. The imp shows up, gives Superman a freebie of sorts (providing a Rule to the game and how Superman can send him away, and then getting Superman to fulfill it) and actually leaving. Luthor’s great victory is wiped away, and the man is dying. Meanwhile, Lois has thought about Clark’s earlier proposal…and says yes. She WILL marry him.

While I did not read this in my initial time into comics, it was still one I read relatively early-on, prior to The Death of Superman. It was cool to see the actual engagement, as well as to have another chapter of the story with the red-border covers, which helped "place" this time-wise/continuity-wise for me at the time. Now, re-reading this, it’s actually sort of hard to believe, and seems such a long time ago, in Clark and Lois ONLY here just getting ENGAGED. Though the engagement aspect went on for a number of years–over 60 issues–they’ve been married so long that I find it natural and preferable, and this was the kick-off, if you will, of that long-lasting aspect of the characters.

Story-wise, this is definitely "classic" Superman for me, for my favorite version of the character, during my favorite period of the continuity. This came at the beginning, served as part of my "foundation" in Superman stuff, as a Superman fan, witnessing the actual development and forward-movement of the character and supporting cast. I think part of that also came from (and I’m using modern thoughts to "project" on my past self) feeling like there was room for surprise and growth beyond done-in-one issues and self-contained every-story-must-stand-alone-and-be-a-graphic-novel-in-serialized-form comics. Clark is the character, Superman is what he does, how he presents to the world when he’s in action. We see his relationship here with Lois–not one of hero worship on her part, or some single-minded buffoon or mere story-trope–but as real humans. She is interested in Clark–the person–and not chasing after some guy in a cape. She wants to marry Clark, and has no idea that he IS Superman. He’s just a man she’s friends with, has come to know and love, and it’s genuine.

This being an expanded, extra-sized issue is definitely a good thing, allowing nearly double the usual length, and thus a lot more story in a single issue…and though the engagement happens here, it’s organic, a rather small part of the overall issue, and is far from actually being the FOCUS of the issue, story-wise. It’s just a darned good Superman comic, at least to me and in recognizing the nostalgia for me.

Visually, it’s an interesting issue, with numerous artist contributing. On one hand, I’d figure that’s partly to allow an extra-sized issue to be produced in the same amount of time as a regular-sized issue while holding to schedules and avoiding fill-ins. It also allows more artists to be part of a key issue in Superman’s history. That said, while I vaguely noticed some unevenness in the art, I was much more engaged (no pun intended) with the story itself, and it wasn’t until sitting down to type up this post that I consciously noted (re-realized) that there were so many artists involved. The art all worked together and was not jarring to me in style or otherwise (perhaps thanks to the single colorist). For an anniversary issue without drastically different variant covers or such, I absolutely welcome the "jam" nature, with a lot of artists "being part of it," and will gladly overlook the uneven nature of that. All the better when the art works with the story and doesn’t distract me.

All in all, this is definitely one of the more "iconic" ISSUES for me, and a key issue in the history of the character. Despite that, I’ve found it in a number of bargain bins over the years; the copy I actually read for this revisiting is from a 25-cent bin…in which there were multiple copies, both of this first print and the later print, and I even convinced a friend to get one to read. Definitely an issue worth reading and having, even out of context and without the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story. As a conclusion, it’s fitting, and makes for a good end to that while moving the overall Superman mythos forward and opening stuff to coming stories.

Highly recommended!

superman(1987)0050_blogtrailer

Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

action_comics_0976_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #472

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0472Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Two: Clark Kent–Man of Steel!

Story: Dan Jurgens
Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Art Thibert
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Associate Editor: Jon Peterson
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover: Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This is another very nostalgic issue for me…from the cover on in!

We open on Superman hanging upside-down, tangled in a rope, while a hulking behemoth–Mammoth–postures about being the one to take him out. Flashback to the day’s start–a visit with Emil Hamilton as well as (separately) Lois and her family, where Clark learned that they’re indebted to Lex Luthor for Mrs. Lane’s survival. In the present, Superman bluffs his way out of being squished by Mammoth, and barely survives the SCU’s attempt to take the villain down…which leaves Superman to play a harrowing game of "chicken" with the rampaging brute–essentially staring him down without powers. After making his way home and reflecting on the day, Clark realizes his days as a hero may be done, unless he can get some help…and places a phone call.

While I’d read a handful of issues prior–and this issue itself is some 20 issues after my first of the title–this is still one of my "earliest" Superman comics that I owned, in my "initial run" with comics. And though I didn’t know it at the time, this is largely by one of my all-time favorite creators–Dan Jurgens! It’s reasonable for me to assume that this early issue was quite influential–as well as other issues he was on–in both setting him as one of my favorites, and "imprinting" his take on the character as a sort of "default" or such in my mind.

That said, nostalgia certainly swings my opinion of the visuals very much into the positive…though I’d say they’re quite good anyway. It’s not hard to follow the story, everyone looks recognizable…and something TO the art, I felt like I could SEE Superman’s physical vulnerability here. Sure, he’s in-costume, but I "bought" that he’s powerless.

The story is very solid as well, advancing the overall story of this arc while functioning nicely as its own issue…complete with a fairly obvious (to me) formulaic structures (starting on action, flashing back to earlier, catching up to present and resolving that initial high point, then giving us a bit of drama to end on). We get to see Clark as himself and as Superman; we have a villain; we have interaction and story advancement of supporting characters/subplots. Superman literally in a bind against a villain, surviving, and ready for whatever the next step of his adventure is.

All those years ago, this was the sole issue of the story that I had and read: I came in on Chapter 2, never having read the first chapter, nor getting to read the latter chapters until some time after the fact; in their initial run, I didn’t even know about the "event" within the "event" that ended this arc until some time much later. And I was not put off by getting an isolated chapter of a larger story.

As such…this is a good issue as a random one-off: there’s plenty of "continuity" that it draws from and sets up, and the ending hints at stuff to come, and we have no resolution to Superman’s powers, but we still get a story in this issue. It’s a "middle chapter" without feeling like it’s wholly incomplete, unlike many contemporary comics.

The only "complaint" I’d have is that the cover is a BIT misleading–it pertains to the story within in that we see Superman in trouble with his rope-and-grapple gear, but not falling helplessly toward a street. Still, as covers go, it’s a great piece–eye-catching and conveys the "heart" of the situation–without being context-lessly generic, "iconic," or vague. Best of all, this IS the cover. It is THE cover. No variants, no collector’s editions, no enhanced editions. To my knowledge, it’s this issue, or the collected edition.

I’d definitely recommend this as a simple, fun-ish read if you can snag it for under $1, and certainly worthwhile if you can snag the whole story!

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Action Comics #975 [Review]

action_comics_0975Superman: Reborn Part 2

Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below…even the Second Feature’s title may give it away! ]

While this issue’s cover did not grab me the way Superman #18’s cover did last week, it had its own way to stand out, in the form of the large S-shield on blue as the main background, and the shadowed Clark Kent tugging his shirt open to reveal the classic "bleeding-S" first used with 1992’s Doomsday! / The Death of Superman. I didn’t even consciously notice until later that the title’s logo–Action Comics–was done as a white outline, virtually disappearing with the rest of the cover standing as itself. The green bar on the left seemed a contrast to last week’s issue…but when I held the issues together, they fit together perfectly, pretty much as I’d expected (except I’d figured chapters 1 & 2 would be top-left/top-right with chapters 3 & 4 as bottom-left/bottom right, respectively rather than top-left/bottom-left so far).

And these are–to best of my knowledge–STANDARD covers, the NON-variant covers, just being covers in and of themselves, no fancy tricks, no bags or accessories or foil or die-cut cardstock or 3-D lenticular/hologram stuff.

Just a 38-story-page issue (one 20-page lead story and an 18-page companion piece) for only $1 more…making an EXTRA-SIZED anniversary issue cost…the same as a 20-page Marvel comic.

Since virtually the beginning of Rebirth, the "human Clark Kent" has been a mystery. Things took a turn toward the creepy with the character lately as it became particularly obvious there was something "off" about the character, beyond our not knowing him any better than characters in the comics. The "slow burn" of that "subplot"–a through line in the books for most of a year–finally comes out in this issue as we learn the identity of the mysterious doppelganger.

After Jon disappeared, Superman and Lois go immediately to "the Other Clark"’s apartment seeking their son. Jon’s nowhere to be found…but the couple meet Clark and "our" Clark finally realizes who they’re facing. Though the figure is revealed…we get a few pages of shape-shifting with Superman glimpsing a number of prominent figures in his rogues gallery. Ultimately, a new threat arises, as we’re left on a cliffhanger for the next chapter exactly at the staples of the issue.

[ SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! ]

I generally–and this time is not an exception–find it interesting when I find myself guilty of something a main character is accused of. In this case, I did not see this coming, though in retrospect, I should have. I think I "got" it right before the first of the splash pages featuring other villains, as things all clicked into place, making sense across the months in a believable way that I really dig…though the particulars still have some shaking out to be done.

Mr. Mxyzptlk is our "Mystery Clark," having used his powers on HIMSELF, even, to complete the act–forgetting himself who he was and truly believing himself to be the genuine article. However, the imp is highly cheesed-off at being "forgotten" by Superman…an accusation I realized immediately I’d been guilty of myself…being unable to remember the last time I read a "new" story with the character! As punishment, Mxy will have Lois and Clark forget Jon even exists, though they won’t forget Mxy!

Art-wise, I have mixed feelings on this first half of the issue. The visuals are quite good, and I mostly like ’em…there’s just something slightly off, that I’m apparently not used to…or not consciously, anyway. Mahnke‘s style is very good, but some of the faces–particularly the villain splash-pages–seemed a bit off, and it’s definitely unsettling to see Mxy in this way…reminding me slightly of the character’s tone in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? without going quite that "sharp" and such.

Story-wise, this seemed way too short a segment, with a good quarter of the issue being a villains-show-off (#975, anniversary issue, lets see a bunch of best-known Superman villains!) and not really much plot advancement to the Reborn story other than actually pulling off "the mask" so we could see who’d be the antagonist of the rest of the story, or so it seems.

This is made up for by the Second Feature.

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The Man in the Purple Hat

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Ian Churchill
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza

Mr. Mxyzptlk has Jon Kent as his prisoner. We learn that Clark had told Jon stories of him when he was younger…though Mxy was simply "The Man in the Purple Hat" or to Jon, "Ruppletat." Mxy reveals what he’s been up to for years–having been captured, held, and tortured by Mr. Oz, keeping him "off the table" while Oz’s plan for Superman has unfurled. Mxy had contented himself initially with the sincere hope that Superman would be along to save him within days (when Mxy wouldn’t show up at Day 90, surely Supes would check into why the imp hadn’t reappeared for the traditional every-90-days challenge!) Time passed and no one ever showed up to rescue him…so he had to escape on his own. Once he did, he saw a way to kill two birds with one stone: hide himself from Mr. Oz while helping his buddy Superman in the process, but putting the "Secret Identity" back in the bag. Mxy had to mind-wipe himself to complete this…and was none too happy when he redisovered his own secret…and now he’ll have his revenge utilizing Jon to get at Clark.

I’m pretty sure it’s Churchill‘s art in this segment that put Mahnke‘s art in the first to seeming less thrilling to me. Churchill’s work here is great, with one of the best renditions of Jon Kent I can think of, and a sort of detail to Mr. Mxyzptlk that’s going to make other artists’ take look weak by comparison.

Story-wise, I love that Dini gives us a clear, reasonable explanation for Mxy’s actions and motivation, and this single story’s impact drives back to last May and retroactively adds to those previous issues! This gives us a spotlight on both Jon and moreso, Mr. Mxyzptlk and bridges the gap between whatever his last appearance was and now, while setting him up as an extra-scary antagonist. This is a strong complementary piece to the main story…expanding and contextualizing without having to me its own separate ISSUE or chapter, which will presumably make the "core" chapters that much tighter a story in the end.

We even get some breaking of the "fourth wall" without breaking continuity…and actually suggesting the rich DC multiverse all the more in a way that totally fits Mxy’s character, and allows readers a smile and "a-ha!" in recognizing other ways in which Mxy has appeared over the years.

This is an "anniversary" issue…that is, attention is on the issue’s NUMBER: #975. The round 75, marking off 25 issues since the 950th (which was still part of the New 52 Action Comics #s 0-52 numbering hiccup)…and 25 to go until the big #1000 mark next year.

While a new reader could certainly wade in and likely follow the story a bit…this issue as a whole is like a gift to the readers who’ve been following stuff for awhile, and is certainly a huge treat for me, paying off some ten months of stuff and doing so not only to mere satisfaction but in a way that leaves me eager to continue with the story! It makes sense to me, is believable within my conscious following of stuff, and does not let me down. The "villain pages" in the first story are a bit disappointing as those pages go way too quickly for me just trying to read the story…but they’re a sort of "special" thing for an anniversary issue, and aren’t the cop-out they’d have been if this was not an extra-sized issue.

Action Comics #975 is well worth its price simply for number of story pages, and is a great payoff to months of story-build while keeping things going for whatever’s coming as Superman: Reborn continues.

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