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Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

superman_0019_blogtrailer

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.

action_comics_0975_blogtrailer

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.

Superman (2016) #18 [Review]

superman_0018Superman: Reborn Part 1

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Please note that I will spoil the issue a bit, so stop reading now and come back AFTER you’ve read the issue yourself, if you do not want to encounter spoilers! ]

I buy each new week’s Superman book pretty much as an extremely welcome again (after some 6 or so years away) "habit"–and have since about this time last year. That said, the covers rarely "grab" me–I recognize them, the issue gets paid for and taken home, and read. THIS issue, though, really jumped out at me for its coloring/color-scheme, the visual design, and somehow being rather unexpected to me. It also seems like it’s a small piece of a singular image that I can imagine being spread out across at least 3 more chapters of this story (though I’ll be highly annoyed–to say the least–if such a thing would merely be VARIANTS for this single issue. I’ll hold to my notion until at least next week, though, and give the publisher the benefit of the doubt for now).

This is the opening issue of a fairly "hyped" storyline that I’ve been looking forward to despite some disappointment at how the Clark Kent story seemed to "end" over in Action Comics last week. (Though I’ll give it credit for playing into continuity and this feeling largely like "just" the next issue in sequence OF an ongoing thing).

We open on a brief scene of someone–presumably this Mr. Oz–musing on time/space blah blah blah, and then seeing multiple individuals in his "collection" acting out–reacting to the fact that SOMEONE (we aren’t told who) got out. Looking to the empty cell, we see graffiti indicating an extreme hope in Superman…before shifting to Hamilton County and the main part of the issue.

[ Spoilers to follow ]

Clark, Lois, and Jon are celebrating the couple’s anniversary when there’s a knock at the door. The "other" Clark Kent seems to have left something for the family (and majorly spooks Krypto!).  They find that it’s a scrapbook with photos that no one on this Earth–let alone reality–"should" have. Its images shouldn’t even exist, they were wiped out with Clark and Lois’ Earth. Before they can dig all that deeply, they notice their house is on fire…but quickly realize it’s not so much on fire as being ERASED. Then to make it WORSE…Jon’s being erased. Superman leaps into action to save his son, as any father would. And we see the maddening, helpless desperation of our hero and his wife as they see everything they know and love…erased.

Talk about a setup and leaving one hanging! I’ve loved only having to wait two weeks between issues for Superman and Action Comics since last spring…but this would be flat-out frustrating to have to wait an entire two weeks…I’m anxious for the next chapter, in next week’s Action Comics…by the time of this post, a "mere" 5 days, and that seems too long!

There’s plenty to be found within this issue and its story. We have stuff pointing to the larger DC Universe as it now stands. We have stuff rooted firmly within the Superman books, and specifically this title. We have reference to earlier issues, and we have references to pre-Flashpoint elements. So it seems that we’re getting some major payoff about to really kick into gear after most of a year of building. Still more, we have a story that seems like it’s pretty self-contained to the Super-titles, not some line-wide must-buy-them-all crossover or such. I believe some of the events of this book might trickle out and be reflected in other titles, but in this issue we’re only directed to Action Comics, next.

This may not be the BEST issue for a new reader to start with…but it’s not horrible, and I also think a lapsed reader could probably do pretty well here, just knowing that this is pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark; that they have a son, and there’s been some other Clark Kent around.

Visually, I have very mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand, I like the cover, and most of the interiors are ok. There are a couple panels–one with Tim Drake (Robin/Red Robin) and one of Jon–that just look really off to me. While Tim’s appearance can be chalked up to his imprisonment, the first large panel of Jon just looks too cartoony to me, overly manga-styled for what is NOT a manga volume. I suppose comparison could be drawn as well to Ed McGuinness‘ art (I’m thinking around 2000 or so), but in the moment, it just threw me off and had me feeling a lot more nitpicky about the issue. The cover, though, is pretty darned good, and would make an excellent print for hanging…and if this indeed is part of a multi-part image, I dare say it’ll likely make a fantastic poster.

All in all, even if you’re not "up" on the various Superman titles, if you’ve a passing familiarity, I’d definitely recommend this issue. It’s well worth its $2.99 cover price, and does a nice job of setting stuff up for what ever is to come, while providing its own major chunk of story and key event for things. I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter, and to see where things go in general with this story, and the Super-books in general!

Ads to Make Me Geek Out A Bit

I normally dislike or avoid ads as best I can…but I’m a LOT more "forgiving" of them in-print. Though both Marvel and DC seem to cram their comics full of ads, such that sometimes it seems every-other page is an ad or a double-page ad spread.

But this week, one ad in particular made me geek out, two others significantly impressed me, and another re-made a point to me of just why I so strongly "prefer" the standard/main/basic/A/most-non-variant cover an issue carries. These in just two comics! 


DC Universe: Rebirth – The Deluxe Edition

geeking_out_ads_rebirth_deluxe

I’ve been vaguely aware that this was coming up, but seeing the ad for it really made me geek out. DC Universe: Rebirth is easily one of the most KEY issues of my lifetime, and certainly of the last few years, for me. I started out grudgingly deciding I’d get the issue and wound up getting multiple copies to "support" the thing, a digital copy for immediacy, and a couple of the other prints for the squarebound format… but the issue is what truly, fully SOLD me on Rebirth and prompted me to go all-out on the initiative and dive in as I have…to say nothing of simply giving me a Superman experience driving me to the comic shop every single week for the latest on the character, after most of a decade of blah stuff.


DC Collectibles: Batman the Animated Series – The Batwing

geeking_out_ads_btas_batwing

The "regular size" figures in this Batman the Animated Series line are too expensive for me…as I’m absolutely certain this Batwing toy is. But darnit, this thing looks really freaking cool, and if I had the space and money to throw presumably $100+ at it, I’d love to have it.

As-is, this is a fantastic ad, showing the toy, describing it with context as to its scale (more than three feet long and just over two feet wide and holds two action figures!). Adding the classic quote from the Tim Burton Batman film that was heavily influential on this series (particularly the theme music!) was an added touch.

Then there’s the way it melds the new/current DC logo with the classic tv series logo…


Action Comics #967 – Men of Steel

geeking_out_ads_action_men_of_steel

I just like this image…seeing both Clark and Luthor doing The Shirt Rip, revealing each man’s Super-outfit. While there doesn’t seem to have been all that much with them clashing yet (a feeling I’m thankful for!), this re-ignites my interest on the matter. Having this Luthor interacting with this Superman is fantastic for conflict and character interaction, and I look forward to witnessing more of it for myself.

After having a story "restoring" Clark Kent to things, albeit with a twist; then another story "re-installing" Lois at The Daily Planet, it seems likely that this will re-catalyze the Superman/Luthor relationship in context of the current situation, giving both men reason to clash with the other, rather than either man’s "assumption" of who/what the other is.


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Thoughts on Rebirth #1, Lois and Clark #8 and Superman #52[SPOILERS]

weekly_haul_week_of_20160525a

I’d been looking forward to these issues for awhile, with way more excitement and interest than I’ve had in most comics in ages.

Please be forewarned, I’m going to spoil these issues here, especially the Rebirth issue!

Superman: Lois and Clark #8

I remember highly anticipating the first issue of this series, due to the prospect of this meager “bone” tossed to me as a fan of the pre-Flashpoint Superman. It’s been a rich series, giving me so much that I’ve wanted, particularly as “my” Superman was now like I remembered the pre-CoIE Earth-2 Superman–not being the focus, not being “the” Superman, there could be hugely major shakeups in the status quo, such as Clark and Lois actually having a (biological) son. There’s the huge, overwhelming (to me) loss of the pre-Flashpoint world they knew…but with stuff in Rebirth I think there’s something to be said/suggested in this Superman sticking around but at least us as readers having “hope” that his world and past and loved ones are still “out there somewhere.”

While the above was more speculative and incomplete, I’ll be “spoiling” Superman #52 below as well as the Rebirth issue after it.

Superman #52

This issue concludes the Super-Leag…er…The Final Days of Superman story that’s crossed the various Super-books for the last few weeks/couple months. I’ve known what was coming, it was part of why I opted to follow the story. Get the story, see the events that lead to the apparent death of the New 52 Superman.

SPOILERS!

I don’t know what I expected, but this was not it. Surely there’s more DEPTH to stuff, things to be explored, subtexts one can root out…but on the surface, on initial reading, reading to get to the end…I felt like this was a letdown.

That’s it?!? That’s how he goes out?

And even with an 8-part story leading into it (remember, 1992’s Doomsday! arc (aka The Death of Superman was 6 chapters plus a Justice League tie-in) that should have made this epic, this felt padded and drawn-out, and while Superman “knew it was coming” this seemed like a weak way for him to go out, despite doing so literally in a “blaze” of glory (and that is NOT intended as a reference to the character Blaze).

Clark–the pre-Flashpoint Superman–steps in, the two DO meet (albeit briefly–and yeah, here’s the selling point that had me buying the #50s…I wanted to see them MEET), and we get an abrupt end to the New 52 Superman, which paves the way for the other Superman to ‘take over’ or ‘step back into his rightful place’ or some such.

The story ultimately doesn’t seem to have had much POINT except to “clear the board” and allow for things to keep moving FORWARD without actually backtracking or saying someone didn’t exist, etc. And that will surely also be coming into play in the next few months of stories.

Below, I SPOIL stuff in the issue, so be forewarned!

DC Universe: Rebirth #1

Now that I’m ready to actually write about this, I’m at a loss for words.

The art was an immediate attention-grabber…it just looked GOOD. And with the likes of Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and so many other “brand name creators”, how could this not? These are The Big Guns, some of THE big names whose art I’ve so enjoyed in the past (over the last 10-15 some years), so seeing their work was a huge treat, and I did not mind the bits of difference between ‘chapters’ and such…I was far, far more interested in the story itself.

And that story takes place across nearly 70 pages, with so many little moments that I really can’t even begin to properly “summarize” it, nor am I going to offer a page by page commentary on the issue.

Suffice it to say, I’m spoiling this issue.

This.

Is.

Your.

Final.

Bit of.

Spoiler.

Space.

To quote one River Song… “Spoilers, Sweetie!”

So…

Wally is BACK. My Wally. Original Wally. Wally West, Wally that was Kid Flash, in the Teen Titans, great friends with Dick Grayson, that became Flash after Barry died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally that “died” during Zero Hour, Wally that was the focus of more than 226 issues of his own ongoing series, Wally that disappeared and was seemingly–at best–“replaced” to be in line with the then-upcoming/now established tv show.

And he’s brought back in a way, it’s explained such that it does NOT invalidate the New 52 Wally West, it allows both to exist, to co-exist without my having any particular problem with it.

All the hype, and in getting to that, typing that…I’ve realized that THAT was my take-away with this issue.

Wally West is BACK!

Add to that we have some coy setup, more someone behind the scenes of the ones behind the scenes of the ones behind the scenes.

I remember the woman from Flashpoint #5, the ending, when stuff was somewhat supposedly “put right,” she had influence on what became the New 52 including the incorporation of the Wildstorm characters into the main unierse along with elements formerly/primarily Vertigo. Well, this woman–Pandora, I believe–is dealt with, and whatever power she had? She’s minor compared to this other power.

And from Wally’s narration, there’s this concept that 10 years had been “stolen,” that “love” had been stolen, “legacy” had been stolen, that it had all been stolen to make the heroes weaker, prevent them from being capable of taking something on.

Everyone being YOUNGER. A Superman in his early/mid-20s instead of mid-30s, and never married, etc. Barry, with no Legacy; no Jay to Barry to Wally to Bart. A compressed span of time in which Batman went through numerous Robins. Etc and so on and so forth.

And ultimately, to ME, to MY reading, the way I read this, the way I took it to heart…this “salvages” things. This validates the New 52 against pre-Flashpoint DCU. Essentially we have someone messing behind the scenes, manipulating vastly untold powers in ways that affect the very multiverse…and there’s still something COMING.

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