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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #49

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0049Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part One

Art & Script: Jerry Ordway
Inking: Dennis Janke
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Lettering: John Costanza
Associating: Jon Peterson
Editing: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Glenn Whitmore
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: November 1990
Cover Price: $0.75

This issue grabbed me rather recently, going through bargain bins. The cover got me, with its distinctive red border/trade dress for this story. It both sets this issue apart from earlier issues, but the trade dress unites the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story as a whole in a way that still calls it out for me nearly three decades later, one of its chapters being amongst my earliest-ever comics in my collection.

The issue opens on Perry and Alice white at the grave of their son Jerry, who has recently died. We also get a bit of context, that Lex Luthor is the biological father. Luthor, too, laments the loss…and while he stands over the grave, he’s assaulted by an odd red rock…seems Mr. Mxyzptlk is due again, but is having too much fun where he is. As such, and not wanting to let down his good buddy Superman, he figures he’ll kill two birds with one stone, letting his quarterly mischief manifest via the red rock–Red Kryptonite–to mess with Superman. Meanwhile, Lois and Clark are out and about when they bump into an old friend of Clark’s–Pete Ross from Smallville. The two friends catch up briefly, and Pete obtains Clark’s "blessing" to pursue Lana. Not long after, Luthor figures out how to get things moving with Mxy’s magic rock, as Superman saves the day from a villain named Barrage. As the magic goes into effect, instead of granting Luthor power to be equal to Superman…Superman’s powers are taken away…making Luthor equal to him. Magically summoned to Luthor’s presence, and still in shock at the loss of his powers, Luthor gives Superman quite a beating before having him thrown out. Back at home, despite not being up to the visit, Clark finds himself in position to be a rock himself, as Lois is going through a rough time.

Though it was a number of years after I’d first read any part of this story that I got to read the rest of it (including this opening chapter), this brings back a lot of memory, of this era of the Super-titles. This issue has the very familiar visuals of Jerry Ordway that I’ll likely always associate with my earliest days reading Superman comics. The characters are all familiar and distinct and look quite good.

The story itself is strong, as well–painting a picture of what’s going on in general at this point in the Super-titles without being overly-obvious about doing so. (I’m reading this story "out of context" but there’s enough to remind me of where things were continuity-wise at the point this story takes place). We’re introduced to the setting and characters, given some clues as to recent events even while we see current stuff unfold, and the driving conflict of the story–Superman losing his powers to a chunk of red rock–is set in motion. Rather than leave us on some cliffhanger proclaiming that his powers would be gone or such, we actually get that in this very issue, as well as immediate after-effects. In that regard, this issue probably has two or three issues’ content by modern standards, neglecting to be highly-decompressed or drag stuff out.

The issue’s by no means some absolute stand-alone thing, but there’s enough, I think, that one could enjoy it on its own without having read much of this era previously, and the reader can figure out in general the current situation. That said…this works pretty well for me "jumping in" and not having to page through a bunch of issues to re-familiarize myself with the story. This was quite enjoyable in and of itself, even as I look forward to issues to come–including the sole chapter I read during my initial period being into comics.

I’m definitely enjoying diving back into this era, however briefly…and while this issue by itself isn’t necessarily anything all that special, the story as a whole is, and if you can score it for around $1 an issue or less, I definitely recommend it, as of re-reading this issue alone.

superman(1987)0049_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman the Man of Steel #44

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044To Know… Know… Know Him!

Story: Louise Simonson
Layout Art: Jon Bogdanove
Ink Art: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Chris Duffy
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

This is one of the more "iconic" Superman covers for me from the ’90s: it was the issue immediately preceding the 100th issue of Superman and the start of the whole Death of Clark Kent storyline. I distinctly remember this cover from first getting it–we were visiting my grandparents, and my aunt took me to a comic shop in the area, where I got this. It also helps the cover to be memorable given that it’s essentially (but not quite! It’s still its own thing!) a reproduction of a panel within the issue.

Clark’s on the phone with his book editor when he hears a ticking in the background from the other end; so he rushes in as Superman, managing to save the man from being blown to bits. Meanwhile, Keith (a young boy being adopted by Perry White and his wife) is hanging out with some older kids after school. When the store manager accuses them of shoplifting, the other boys race off, leaving Keith to take the fall. After being extricated from the situation by Perry (who assures Keith that he and his wife are still adopting him), Clark once again learns of a bomb by hearing it over a phone, and saves Perry and Keith (and everyone on the bridge they’re stuck on) but Perry’s car is destroyed. Later, Keith takes courage from the incident and stands up to his so-called friends, and winds up making some new ones…while Jimmy decides to stick with Clark like glue until they figure out who’s been threatening him and trying to bomb his editors. Clark distracts him briefly as they get off an elevator, only to find a Superman dummy pinned to his apartment door by a giant knife…and he realizes then who’s behind stuff.

This is an issue from back in the heart of the "Triangle Numbering" era of the Superman titles…though each creative team had their own through-threads they focused on, their own stories to tell, ultimately the titles were one ongoing weekly series, with each week’s issue moving the overall Superman story forward. As such, with weekly doses of THE Superman story, there was plenty of room for the cultivation and development of a large supporting cast and plenty of "subplots" to be dug into and unfold over the course of things, such that a single issue could often seem all over the place, when taken out of context. This one manages to avoid the worst of that, though a single paragraph summary doesn’t do the thing justice. There’s the overall story, but the details of the various characters’ interactions makes it more complex…much like an episode of a large ensemble cast tv show where certain characters really get around, while others are checked in on but don’t necessarily have much screen time.

This issue ought to–by 2017 standards–be billed as a "prologue" to the upcoming major story; or heck, in contemporary terms there’d be a whole pre-Event event (particularly if this was Marvel). Here, it’s just the next chapter of the continuing saga, that just happens to be right before the larger titled story kicks off.

I definitely dig the story, though I find reading this over 20 years after the fact, I’m less enamored with Keith’s story, being so much further away in age now than I was then (as well as feeling like there’s a bit of "preachiness" going on here that would have much different connotation were it published in 2017).

Visually, it’s not hard to follow what’s going on, to recognize Superman or Clark, Lois, Keith, Perry, or others. However, it’s hardly my favorite art, ESPECIALLY stacked up against the likes of Dan Jurgens, who IS one of my absolute favorite artists (particularly when it comes to Superman!). Bogdanove‘s style grew on me, and holds a definite place in my memory and liking of the Superman books…but might not be the most appealing to someone unfamiliar with it or this era of Superman.

As a whole, though–story and art–this is certainly a strong issue, giving the reader action, plot development, and moving everyone around the final bit to head into The Death of Clark Kent. I appreciated it as an isolated one-off that I picked up specifically for remembering the cover so clearly.

That said…you’d likely be better served tracking down the collected edition of The Death of Clark Kent if possible, or picking this up as part of a larger group of the issues than to get this one issue by itself.

superman_the_man_of_steel_0044_slice

Zero Hour Revisited – Superman: The Man of Steel #37

90srevisited_zerohour

superman_the_man_of_steel_0037Countdown to Zero

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Asst. Editor: Chris Duffy
Assoc. Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of THE most iconic Superman covers to me, definitely one of my favorites, period. I even pointed that out some 3 years ago!

As the issue opens, Clark and Lois are talking to Jeb Friedman–who is coordinating a concert to be held as a benefit to the citizens of Metropolis (which just recently was destroyed). When reflected light grabs their attention, Superman investigates…finding Batman trying to contact him. This Batman is not the one just recovered from a broken back, and references Time anomalies. Another Batman soon arrives…as does a third. Meanwhile, the heroes learn of plans to ruin the concert, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the city at the moment, and it’s up to them to once more save the day. Superman enlists the scientific aid of Emil Hamilton as they confirm the Time anomalies…even as the Batmen shift, split, and disappear. Finally, Superman prepares to seek out "his" Batman, showing the way "great minds think alike"–Batman had just arrived to contact HIM! While the two begin to "catch up," Metron arrives, warning of a Crisis.

This is another issue that nicely (and actually!) clearly ties into the events of Zero Hour…it’s also another issue that I read that summer when it was released. Though I feel like some of the "music" stuff is a bit dated and cliché, on the whole, the issue holds up. Having read all the Superman books solidly for so many years, it doesn’t take long to shift my mind back to what was going on in the books at the time–such as Alice and Perry White taking care of Keith, and Keith constantly getting into trouble "seeing" his mom everywhere and running after her.

I’ve had mixed feelings over the years on Bogdanove‘s art–there’s something to it that’s a bit off-putting to me, especially when held up against Jurgens‘ work. Absolutely, completely isolated, it’s not a style I’d necessarily choose high on a priority list…but the art more than gets across what it needs to, and beyond that usual feeling, REALLY shines here, conveying numerous visual styles of Batman that clearly evoke prior incarnations in a way that shows me the general look of Superman is a choice in style and not a reflection of ability! It’s also a visual style firmly entrenched in my memory OF the various Super-titles from the ’90s, and is not something I’d wish to lose…too much nostalgia for this title!

I really like the story itself in this issue…we move elements of the core Superman story forward–touching on subplots like Jeb Friedman, the Whites and Keith, Jimmy & Ron, as well as getting Clark and Lois along with getting Superman in action…we even have Emil Hamilton accounted for. That we also have Batman, and as a Time anomaly at that makes this both a great singular issue that can be read AS a single one-shot issue, but also plays well within the ongoing Superman titles while being a very clear and useful participant in the larger Zero Hour story. We also get setup for the next of the four Superman books…all within just this one issue, at standard size and price.

While I’ve got to admit to a bit of bias, both on this being a Superman title at all, and having read it originally such that this is more nostalgia than reading something new from the time, this is a great issue that I’d recommend as plain, simple FUN even if you’ve never immersed yourself in the ’90s Super-books…you don’t even truly need Zero Hour to enjoy it…the Event is just a convenient "excuse" to allow for–without lengthy explanation/setup–the presence of multiple iterations of Batman. So far, I’d put this at the top of the list with Batman #511 as the best of the initial wave of Zero Hour Tie-ins, with Superboy #8 as a runner-up.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #50

supermanmanofsteel050The Trial of Superman! / Part 1: Split Personality

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Duffy & McAvennie
Editors: Carlin & Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: 2.95
Cover Date: November, 1995

This was another issue I pulled from the quarter-bins not too long ago: it caught my attention because of having revisited the issue’s cover when complaining about the newest DC Superman title, Superman Unchained and lack of explanation to the “unchained” part. But seeing the issue handy for only 25-cents, I re-bought it in order to easily re-read it…far easier to pay 25-cents than have to shift a number of heavy longboxes around and root through at least 2 boxes to find my original copy.

This issue begins the Trial of Superman arc…one of the larger arcs of this era of the titles, crossing through about 3 months’ worth of all the Superman titles at the time. Yet, as typical of the era, the story as a whole is an ongoing narrative, so this picks up with an ongoing plot, and sort of merges into what becomes the main plot for The Trial of Superman.

We pick up with a grossly weakened/decayed Superman, virtually powerless, barely skin-and-bones from an ongoing fight with a new incarnation of the Parasite. While some of the details played out on-panel in a previous issue, here we get context and figure out along with the characters what the present status quo is of the Parasite, which makes him all the more dangerous. Things don’t end with putting down the threat posed by the Parasite, as Superman is captured and faces an alien tribunal seeking to hold him accountable for the destruction of the planet Krypton…and things are not pretty.

While I like the cover quite a bit, I’m not all that thrilled with the interior art. I don’t remember having much of an issue with it “at the time,” but taking this alone and pretty much out of context–and being much more used to the last several years’ worth of interpretations of Superman–it’s not to my liking. And while explained in-story by the Parasite draining him, Superman just appears rather “off,” and impossibly skin-and-bones to even have survived any of what he’s put through in the issue.

Story-wise, I’ve never–that I can recall–been any fan of the Parasite character. I’ll be one of the first to want to see villains who are a physical danger to Superman (as opposed to businessman Lex Luthor, or the likes of the Toyman or Prankster) but I’ve just never been interested by Parasite, and have a particular dislike for the round-mouthed “parasitic-worm” look the character was given in the mid-’90s.

This issue boasts plenty of cliche in the villains…but works decently enough overall. I got a definite sense of how overwhelmed Superman was here–dealing with the Parasite and mid-battle being kidnapped into space, and the shock of this alien tribunal wanting to make him accountable for the destruction of a planet gone before he was technically even born.

I enjoyed re-reading this…and it certainly has me contemplating re-reading the entire arc…which I believe I have a collected volume, which would make said undertaking far simpler than trying to dig single issues out or tracking down new copies.

Superman: The Man of Steel #19 [Back-Issue Review]

DOOMSDAY is Here!

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Triangle #: 1993/1

After fighting to keep the moster away from his city, Superman is unable to prevent Doomsday from taking lives almost the moment he arrives in Metropolis. While trying to keep clear of news helicopters (one of which carries his friend as well as his fiance), Superman tries flying Doomsdy toward space, then when that doesn’t work pursues him into the “underworld” (not before some underworlders perish at Doomsday’s touch). After a building-leveling explosion, Superman is badly injured when Doomsday pierces his side; Supergirl enters the battle to gruesome results, and even Professor Hamilton and Bibbo join in, firing an energy cannon at the beast. The Metropolis Special Crimes Unit is unable to affect the monster, and newly-arrived Cadmus soldiers have as much impact as the SCU…Superman fights on, alone.

The art here holds up well with the rest of the story–no real issue, no problem with it–though there are places it looks slightly “off” a bit. We witness some fairly bloody fighting, and big explosions.

The story stays consistent with what’s been going on, and giving us a taste of some of the extended cast of the Superman titles of the time, with Bibbo and the Professor’s presence a definite treat (coming years before ill treatment in the late 1990s).

The cover to this issue is one of the more iconic in the series, with a closeup on the faces of the two combatants as they’re locked in combat with an explosion in the background. This image–due to the “triangle number” on the cover–was long the first image I’d associate with “1993,” and remains one of my favorite covers from the run.

We’re down to two panels per page with this issue, heading toward the single-panel splash pages to come in the final chapter of the story.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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