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The ’80s Revisited: Detective Comics #572

detective_comics_0572The Doomsday Book

By: Mike W. Barr
Colored by: Adrienne Roy
Edited by: Denny O’Neil
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March 1987
Cover Price: $1.25

Chapter One:
Artist: Alan Davis
Letterer: John Workman

Chapter Two
Artists: Terry Beatty & Dick Giordano
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Carl Gafford

Chapter Three
Arists: Carmine Infantino, Al Vey
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Carl Gafford

Chapter Four
Artist: E.R. Cruz
Letterer: Romeo Francisco

Centerpiece
Dick Sprang

Chapter Five
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Letterer: John Workman

dick_sprang_remembers_detective_572

I’m finding that I’m a bit of a sucker for ’80s anniversary issues. Especially ones like this, where it’s not some round number of an issue, not a bunch of variant covers, not a relaunch or renumbering, not even the culmination of some huge story that’s overly self-aware of numbering. This seems–essentially–to be a nice, hefty, done-in-one full-length self-contained adventure…and it’s not at all hard to see where this could (by present-day standards) be dragged out as some six-issue mini-series (at least) if not multiple 2-3 issues mini-series or such.

But of course that would fly in the face of an anniversary ISSUE. In this case, celebrating 50 years of the title, not Batman himself, though the caped crusader has a definite role in the issue!

What we get here is an extra-sized issue with story elements on multiple fronts, allowing multiple art teams to work on the title, as well as the writer to flex and work with different characters that aren’t strictly Batman or his immediate Bat-group. This issue is from a time much closer to the title’s historical format with multiple characters sharing the title…even though Batman’s been the most prominent character, a number of other characters "came up" through the title, not necessarily related specifically to Batman or stories involving Batman himself.

I’ve been aware of Barr‘s work for a long time…and while I’ve come to know him as the writer of Batman: Year Two, and Camelot 3000, and Batman and the Outsiders and whatnot…I most associate him with Mantra, one of my favorite Ultraverse titles growing up in the ’90s. That a creator of a character I thoroughly enjoyed there also has such a history with Batman has been icing on the cake, so to speak.

I’ve primarily read Detective Comics from #604-onward…very much after the "anthology" format was basically jettisoned and it’s been just another Batman title. So while aware of its history, I haven’t actually read much of that history…at least not while of any age to truly appreciate it (I know I’ve read a number of issues from Grandpa’s collection, back in my earliest comic days, but that was a quarter-century ago!).

Slam Bradley finds himself with a client who’s under the gun–literally. Though Batman and Robin intervene for the moment, there’s more to the situation–and story–and he’s determined to figure it out. What he doesn’t count on is learning of a couple names with prominent ties to the past: Watson…and Moriarty. The Elongated Man–Ralph Dibny–gets involved, with a personal encounter with the villain at hand, confirming what Slam Bradley had learned. We then jump to "the past," and a tale of Sherlock Holmes…fitting to the continuity of this issue’s story, while being simply a new Sherlock Holmes story, and certainly celebrating the title Detective Comics.  The various branches of the overall story converge and we get back to Batman and Robin being on the page as all the characters come together…including a rather surprising (to the characters) figure, one that I had actually come to think would not be present in quite the way they turned out to be.

This issue is just over 30 years old, but I still step around stuff a bit. Consider this your spoiler warning.

After this line, I get into "spoilers," as I would if this had not been a three-decade old back-issue.

Batman meets a significantly-aged Sherlock Holmes here. As this was published in 1987, along with being the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics, it was the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes. And with a mention of living conditions and such, and just HOW old the character looks at the end of this issue…it may have been a bit of a stretch to consider a man would live to be over 120 years old (if he was already an adult in adventures in 1887). Of course, 30 years later, this is no longer plausible in the slightest…at least to me. So it "dates" the issue, but in a good way…and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the cover was not JUST a case of being some thematic team-up where both characters appear in the course of the issue but don’t directly interact…we actually get to see Batman meet THE Sherlock Holmes. (Though I’m not gonna get into the meta-stuff of characters recognizing the STORIES but then having the story-accurate character showing up in their midst as a "real guy").

Though there were multiple art teams for the issue, with them being split up across different chapters (instead of several pages here, several there) it really served the story, and kept things from seeming choppy or such. Batman didn’t seem to be in much of the issue, but where he was, he seemed "’80s-accurate" to me; and the other characters (that I’m less familiar with, particularly from this time frame) all work and don’t stand out as contradictory to whatever I do know about them. The cover led me to believe (in conjunction with something I’d read in the past) that the focus of the issue might’ve been a Batman/Sherlock Holmes team-up/adventure. I was initially disappointed, as I thought when I bought the issue that it’d be a team-up. As the issue went on, it took on more a sense of reality, history, and "legacy" that I found intriguing…such that it was simply a treat to have the aged Holmes show up at the end as he did.

There’s a nice "center spread" by Dick Sprang that makes for a good touch, and far out-beats contemporary practices where it would have been a variant cover or a couple of variant covers. It’s just a nice double-page art piece showcasing Sprang‘s take on the characters.

I believe I paid $6 for this issue, against its $1.25 cover price. By contemporary comics’ standards, this was well worth that price and then some. For time it took to read, it more than out-matched contemporary comics, at the "inflated" or "priced back issue" dollar I paid for it. This would absolutely be worth getting out of a bargain bin…and I have no problem with having paid a slightly more "premium" price for it as an actual, priced back issue and not something from a bargain bin. This stands alone as a singular, strong issue, and other than knowing that the characters exist, you don’t really need to know any present-day (at the time) continuity to enjoy this issue; FROM this issue, I would not be able to tell you myself offhand what was going on in issues immediately before or immediately after this issue.

Highly recommended!

detective_comics_0572_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Batman #497

90s_revisited

batman_0497Broken Bat

Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Jim Aparo
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Asst. Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late July, 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

This is one of the most iconic, “key” comics in my life. The writing is straight-forward, the art is superb, and when I picture Bruce Wayne, this is the version I see. Not necessarily the worn-down, beaten man the issue opens with, but the face, the body structure, the human trying to be more-than-human.

With a lead like that, what did I REALLY think?

This issue is only slightly past the midpoint of the Knightfall story. It’s 3 issues before the big 500th issue, and yet is more of a crucial, impactful issue than that, in terms of its effect on the series for a time. The cover spoils the issue, even though really, we already knew it was coming…such was the nature of the beast, even at that time before the internet as we have it now. The cover–at least for the edition(s) I’m used to–feature a half-cover overlay as a sort of “enhancement” or such; just a black-and-white thing mimicking the upper-left corner copy and first part of the title logo…but then has the partially-eclipsed Bat-logo with the text

“You thought it could never happen…

THE BREAKING OF THE BATMAN”

Flip that up, and you have the actual cover itself, the iconic image of a ridiculously-huge and disproportionate Bane pressing Batman backwards over his knee. While the image is NOT lifted from the interior, it certainly conveys its point, and the issue is thus blatantly, fully marked as “the” issue where Batman gets his back broken…even as this “middle chapter” within a larger 19-issue story.

The issue opens with Bruce Wayne just into the manor, surprised at the presence of Bane. The two actually talk, having a semi-civil-ish exchange, basically discussing recent events very matter-of-factly, before the “final battle” between these two is joined. Batman is virtually non-existent, as Bane essentially tosses Bruce Wayne in a Batman costume around, pummeling him nearly to death, the man’s feeble attempts at fighting back doing nothing to slow the villain. As Alfred escapes and seeks out Tim for help, Bane decides on a different course of action than he’d apparently originally intended.

“I am Bane, and I could kill you…but death would only end your agony and silence your shame! Instead, I will simply… BREAK YOU!”

Slamming the battered body down over his knee, Bane then drops him.

“Broken… and done.”

The visuals in this issue are brutal…and it’s almost painful to look at, and just really take in just HOW MUCH of a beating Bane dishes out…yet how resilient Bruce/Batman is, simply to actually SURVIVE the experience. There are subtleties that even just on this read-through I picked up that I hadn’t before (and this is one of the most repeatedly-read comics in my own life) which says a lot! Even a number of years’ worth of issues later, this is the same Bruce Wayne seen in A Death in the Family and during the New Adventures run of the title and others between. This is simply the iconic–to me–visual rendition of the character and by far my favorite.

Story-wise, on the surface there’s really not much. Bane is here, beats up Batman, in essentially an issue-log fight sequence ending with Bruce broken on the ground. It’s something that in the present I would be inclined to strongly dislike–after all, isn’t this just “padding” and “decompression,” having an ENTIRE ISSUE as a fight sequence?!? Yet rather than being a full 1/6th of a graphic novel or such, this is “merely” 1/19th of the Knightfall story itself; the ending of the first TPB of the original collected version, and appropriately-placed within the huger contemporary edition. This truly is just a small piece of a larger story, and so the fight being such a major thing, it does not FEEL padded-out. There are touches that I really liked, especially on this read-through, such as panel “flashbacks” to “recent events,” that I do recall from times I’ve read them, and jog my memory on stuff throughout the Knightfall arc thus far and stuff leading up to it. I could almost hear the somber music swelling as we see these interspersed with “now” and know we’re heading to The Fall, a defining moment for the character of Batman…the guy who can never be defeated, who is always fully prepared with contingencies for everything…but here, he’s gone, worn down as Bane intended, softened TO the point of defeat.

I know I got this copy that I read this time out of a quarter-bin, it’s an issue I’ve seen “hold its price” in terms of what dealers will ask for it…so it’s certainly worthwhile if you find it IN a bargain-bin! Given the full Knightfall story is available in multiple formats and collections, unless you sincerely want to own/read/experience this as a single issue, I would not say it’s actually worth anything more than $1 or so for print or (grudgingly for immediacy) $1.99 for digital.

However, if you’re grabbing this in-print…you MIGHT want to lift that overlay and check which printing you’re buying. I was rather surprised on this copy to realize I’m holding a 2nd print…perhaps that’s part of why it was “only” 25 cents. The only difference I can see outside of the Roman Numeral “II” is that the color of the bat behind the word “Batman” on the cover is yellow for this printing, but white on the first.

The ’70s Revisited: Action Comics #428

action_comics_0428Whatever Happened to Superman?

Story: Cary Bates
Art: Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson
Editing: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October, 1973
Cover Price: 20 cents

The Plot to Kill Black Canary!

Story by: Elliot Maggin
Drawn by: Dick Giordano
Edited by: Julie Schwartz

GBS has had a new satellite launched. Superman flies into action to stop a fire raging far above easy reach of firemen, and conveniently (and extremely quickly) locates and flies in an iceberg, melting it with his heat vision to put out the fire. But the world sees just a storm cloud and rain. As Superman investigates this phenomenon, he becomes aware of the fact that everyone believes Superman hasn’t been seen in ten years–even going so far as to (as Clark Kent) do a shirt-rip on live TV…but all anyone sees is Clark revealing an undershirt. Of course, the real villain turns out to be Lex Luthor. Luthor mouths off, revealing his plan when Superman poses as a newly-assigned inmate occupying the "empty cell," convincing Luthor he’d been double-crossed and had himself been "forgotten." All’s well that ends well, right?

Meanwhile, in the Green Arrow (and Black Canary) portion of the issue, we see Ollie on the phone, declaring "Listen, Trump–when Ollie Queen says his Public Relations Agency will make your motorcycles sell…they’ll sell!" He then springs into action, recruiting Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary), and convinces her to participate in a stunt for a commercial. Later, Ollie’s made aware of a planned attempt on Dinah’s life, so he goes back into action and saves her (though she’s not at all happy about it, as he should’ve just told her what was going on). Again, all’s well that ends well, right?

Visually, this issue simply "looks like" one of Grandpa’s comics. And I’m pretty confident that that literally is what this one is–one of Grandpa’s comics, from back in the day, that somehow got mixed into stuff that wound up in my family’s garage, where I found it recently.

And that obviously makes sense–Curt Swan? Murphy Anderson? Dick Giordano? Big names I recognize from the time period and associate (particularly) with DC Comics; Swan all the moreso with Superman. And of course, I recognize the other credited names as well from the time. For where I’m at, the credits read like a roll call of classic creators, all of which have a good name to me when it comes to comics.

I’m not the fondest guy when it comes to pre-Byrne Superman comics–I was introduced to and grew up on the post-CoIE Superman, and hold that as my favorite to this day. But I also have plenty of fond memories of laying on a bed, having pulled out many of Grandpa’s comics from a cabinet, literally surrounded with more comics than I could truly hope to read in the limited time(s) I had there. For the 8-9-year-old-Me, that was a key time for me, when Superman comics were just Superman comics, and I had no clue who any of the creators were, never noticed any of the credits, and hardly even noticed any numbers or saw much distinction, say, between Action Comics or Superman or such…they were just titles on a cover, and I don’t recall ever sorting the comics to put them into numerical order or systematically reading through any given title. I just looked for the coolest-looking cover, or whichever character(s) I was interested in reading at the time.

So, I can definitely say that this issue held up to that. It’s not the craziest or silliest or most out-there story. It’s–as many such were, and particularly compared to modern post-2010 comics–a highly-compressed story. Thirteen or so pages, and I could easily see how this would be grounds for a six-issue (at least) story nowadays*.

(*As a de-compressed story, I figure the first issue would include a bit more detail of Superman doing super-feats and perhaps a bit more foreshadowing with the satellite and such, and likely end with an initial revelation/question like "What are you talking about? Superman’s been missing for TEN YEARS!"–To Be Continued. We’d then get several issues of Superman investigating the phenomenon while performing further super feats and being increasingly stressed at not being "seen" as Superman; we’d get details of it affecting him in private life, and possibly relationships with others, as he starts questioning his own sanity. There might even be one-shots or a JLA mini-series to see how other characters are reacting to a world seemingly without Superman; how their attitudes toward the hero gig are affected by believing Superman’s been missing for a decade, and so on; and maybe even a couple new characters introduced that are trying to follow in the legacy of the "missing" hero.)

As-is, it’s fast-paced, introducing the problem, exploring it, and resolving it, with little deep exploration of the implications of stuff, and we’re done start-to-finish in just this issue, half the issue.

The Green Arrow piece looks remarkably good…though I guess I shouldn’t seem surprised (yet, I was!) The character looks exactly as I like him, with the hat and goatee and such. I looked up the dates, because it felt like the Ollie from the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, but I suspect this was from just after or near the end of that run…this being 1973, while that run started in 1970.

The GA story itself is rather simplistic, and seemed a little heavy on pushing whatever dynamic it is with Ollie and Dinah. Being such a short story and characters I’m less familiar with from this time, it’s a bit short to try to dig in and analyze much…suffice it to say I wasn’t enamored with it as a singular, stand-alone story. It seems like something that would read better in a group of stories for longer context. Of course, there’s also the fact that it was a Green Arrow story when I set out to read a Superman comic. That said, I was quite grabbed by the opening with Ollie yelling into the phone to Trump.

THAT Trump.

The Liberal Oliver Queen, Green Arrow, enthusiastically doing business for Donald Trump.

What a difference 40+ years makes, right?

All in all, this issue was an enjoyable read, and a nice trip down memory lane. I’m glad to have read the issue, for myself. I’m awed at considering the timeframe, that the cover references 35 years of Superman, and here it’s been another 43 years since then…this issue is from less than HALFway into its run and Superman’s existence and all that.

Other than the Trump reference in the Green Arrow/Black Canary piece or interest in the actual reading experience of the Superman story given my lack of brevity discussing the issue, I don’t really see or know anything of this issue to make it singularly a stand-out issue or to overly differentiate it from any other issue from the early-’70s with the creative teams. Still, it’s not a bad issue, and if you find it cheaply, it’s not a bad one.

The ’80s Revisited: Worlds Finest #323

worlds_finest_comics_0323Afraid of the Dark

Writer: Joey Cavalieri
Penciller: Jose Delbo
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Duncan Andrews
Colorist: Nansi Hoolahan
Editor: Janice Race
Cover: Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano, Tatjana Wood
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1986
Cover Price: $0.75

I don’t know that I know exactly what I expected from this issue…but this sure wasn’t it!

Metropolis finds itself in the grips of a magical darkness…which means that even Superman can’t do anything about it–though he still tries to at least help, even if he can’t solve anything with it. but he quickly gets taken down by Nightwolf and his magical darkness-wolves (werewolves? dire wolves? magic-wolves, whatever). Nightwolf then parades around proclaiming himself king of the world (essentially) with the beaten Superman as a symbol of his own power and abilities. Meanwhile, Batman does the detective leg-work of the piece, tracking down the origin of this Nightwolf, learning a weakness he can exploit, and ultimately saving the city (and Superman) from the magical threat. In the aftermath, Batman rejects Superman’s attempted thank-you, lecturing him on how he could’ve been killed, and can’t just rush into stuff with FORCE. Batman leaves things at the fact that he’ll SAVE Superman any time, but will not help write his epitaph. And thus, the World’s Finest team has broken up, paving the way for the adversarial (despite mutual respect) relationship of the later 1980s and 1990s that pretty much remains in 2016, 30 years after this issue saw print.

The art is not bad, as Superman and Batman both have a very familiar look, very much what I associate with them for the early to mid 1980s "bronze ange" and such (so much so that as I read Batman’s lines, I heard the voice of the actor from the Untold Legend of the Batman comics-on-cassette!) By extension of THAT, I got a bit of Superman’s voice from the Man of Steel comics-on-cassette stuff as well. My only real problem with the art stems from the time this was published: Superman vs. magical wolves that leave him beaten, costume shredded, and basically unconscious…yet there’s no blood. I don’t need to see a bloodied, shredded almost-corpse, but for the level of threat this supposedly was, it’s odd as a mid-30s adult to read this and see Superman just so "simply" taken down but the only thing INDICATING any harm is holes/tears in the costume with nothing but clean, unmarred skin beneath.

Story-wise, again, this isn’t bad, but it’s certainly DATED. For one thing, someone successfully taking over even a city, and Superman going down, and Batman having to track down the villain’s origin and figure out a weakness and actually take the guy on and such–this would CERTAINLY be a 6-issue arc in terms of contemporary deconstructed/padded/written-for-the-trade comics. And with as much as I have read of modern-day contemporary comics published in the last 15-some years, the "modern sensibility" being drilled into me constantly for all this time–this issue feels ultra-compressed to the point of there being no real character to it…and I’m disappointed at how "filler" and ARBITRARY it felt. I mean, there’s a lot of potential here, but as a now-2016 reader reading this cold some 30 years after it was published, even the hints of characterization and depth that could be picked up on just doesn’t "work" for me as a single issue.

This does not feel like it’s picking up from a cliffhangered previous issue, and as the final issue of the entire series, there’s no cliffhanger (at least not in the "To Be Continued…" sense, though it leaves the Superman/Batman relationship hanging to be developed from its now-broken pieces). As such, it feels like it could be set "whenever," and has no real hook on a specific point in continuity, based on the story itself. And for the flimsy/abrupt splintering of the "partnership" between Batman and Superman, that comes outta nowhere–no internal narration or thought balloons of Batman wishing Clark hadn’t rushed in, and that he’s always doing this and never thinks ahead, whatever. As such, the final couple pages could have been tacked on as "epilogue" to virtually ANY story in which Superman "almost died" and Batman got to "save the day."

The cover as well is a bit out of sync with my personal expectations as well. It seems to indicate the split, a farewell between the two heroes, but no real indicator of cause nor actuality. Given Batman’s small wave, it seems more a casual thing between old friends than any real split or breakup or animosity.

Perhaps adding to my feelings on this issue is also the modern day sensibilities in comics–something as "crucial" as the friendship between Batman and Superman, their partnership, the way they’ve been the best of friends (to this point) coming to an end? This would have been hyped and hugely played-up, with an extra-sized issue with at least another short story following each character and exploring their feelings on the matter and where things are likely to go, etc. (I think of Cyclops vs. Wolverine with Prelude to Schism as its own mini-series to set up the conflict, then Schism itself as another mini to have them actually fight, and then the outcome split into an entirely new ongoing series and a renumbered version of a 48-year-old series).

Something this big just seemed like the issue should have FELT bigger, felt more important, felt Earth-shattering…but instead, it feels like a whimper, or like some tv show that was told it was getting another season, is preparing to film a season finale, but gets told the pre-finale episode is their last, but they can film another minute or two’s worth of story to "wrap things up."

I was quoted $2 for this issue, minus a 20% discount, so figure I paid roughly $1.60 for this…and its cover price is $0.75, so 30 years after its publication, as a "key issue" (final issue of a longrunning series, the "breakup" of the Superman/Batman team), I barely paid more than twice cover price, which itself STILL made it half the cost of a current Dc Rebirth issue, and only a little over 1/3 the cost of a contemporary Marvel issue. The reading experience took longer than contemporary comics, and I’ve sunk however much additional time into typing and preparing this review, so I certainly got my money’s worth out of this for time-to-expense considerations (and I was "prepared" to pay around $6 for this, too!).

Aside from having some desire to read it for yourself, to "experience" the issue as a whole for yourself, this was a real letdown and not something I’d recommend seeking out. Still, there are worse issues, and if you’re (like me) a huge fan of Superman, and even the Superman/Batman stuff, this is worth picking up if you can get it cheaply.

The ’90s Revisited: Armageddon 2001 #1

armageddon_2001_001Dark Time

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Dick Giordano
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Asst. Editor: Kelley Puckett
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1991
Cover Price: $2.00

One up-front problem with reading this issue now: I know who Monarch is…who he was supposed to be…and how stuff’s developed over the quarter-century since this issue was published. So there’s no true wondering, curiosity, nor concern to me about that…nor does this issue hold any particular story/continuity significance to me outside of being the introduction of Waverider. Which–honestly–is the reason I picked it up this time around. I wanted to revisit that character’s introduction, given the name appears only as homage in the current DC’s Legends of Tomorrow tv series.

The issue opens on someone being saved by a hero pulling him out of some rubble…though he doesn’t seem to remember which one…it could be any of a number of heroes active in the late 20th century (1991). We then move to the year 2030 (when this issue was published, that was nearly 40 years in the future. Now…it’s a mere 14 years!). Matthew Ryder is a scientist, working for the government…which itself is under this Monarch–a super powered being who rules over all, providing order and peace. Or as Ryder sees it…”order” and “peace.” Though he has a family, he sees even family time as a mere intersection of four lives drifting apart from each other. At work, one day, there’s a breakthrough, and time travel becomes a reality…at least to some degree. Ryder volunteers to be a test-subject, but is turned down: he simply won’t conform and blend with society. One way we see this is with his visiting a small shop for black market disks on turn of the century history (REAL history, not the stuff force-fed from the top-down). Events come to a head and Ryder stakes his life on a risky endeavor that brings him to the attention of Monarch…and ultimately “earns” his place in the time travel testing. Ultimately, this leads to his rebirth as an energy-being with temporal abilities–at a touch, he can see one’s most probable future. This is an ability he plans to put to use to try to determine which of “the heroes” becomes Monarch…as Matthew Ryder (now Waverider) seeks to change the future.

As said above–I already know the resolution to “who is Monarch?” so there’s no particular significance/drama there for me personally. Though I’ve also read this very issue at least once in the past, I didn’t remember much detail, so in many ways this felt like a first reading for me. The issue also felt a bit dated with its technology references that are now 25 years old. I’d forgotten that this entire issue was basically “the origin of Waverider,” to give us background on who he was, how he came to be, the time-travel stuff, the Monarch question…basically to set the character to then move through the various Annuals with a lot more context than could reasonably be set up a dozen times. The story in no way blows me away–it’s ho-hum in that regard–BUT it is absolutely not bad, either. It failed to excite me now, 25 years after its publication, some 24 1/2 years after its story was fully wrapped up…but as a piece of its time, it worked.

Visually, I quite enjoyed the issue…which did not surprise me, given the Jurgens art, and having so thoroughly enjoyed his work on Superman in the ’90s. With most of my ‘experience’ with Waverider and the Linear Men coming from the pages of Superman and Zero Hour (art by Jurgens on both titles) and the Superman/Doomsday Hunter/Prey mini (again, Jurgens art), character designs and such in this issue felt extremely familiar in a good way, lending to a visual continuity I always enjoy.

As best I can recall at this typing, my earliest exposures to Waverider were the Adventures of Superman Annual that took part in the Armageddon 2001 story as well as the 2nd/bookend issue to the event Armageddon 2001 #2. Those were followed by his appearance in the Legacy of Superman special and then certainly Zero Hour. He also appeared in an issue of Superman shortly before the Doomsday! story, but I missed that and I recall the issue being a hassle to acquire.

Which all gets back to: I don’t recall much “fallout” from this series outside of it having obvious effect on another title of the time and the way elements were picked up (yet again: by Jurgens) for Zero Hour, or Waverider’s place in the DC Universe for a few years. I know there were a couple of follow-up mini-series, but I’ve never heard anything particularly good about those nor had any inclination to make time to read them myself…but I imagine if even those had had a lasting impact I’d’ve known about it by now.

All told, as a “4/$1” “clearance” issue at a Half-Price Books…this was certainly worth my expense and time to read. It also has re-ignited my interest in tracking down the entire story to actually read…especially since it’s “only” 12 annuals plus the two-issue bookend mini.

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!

Superman vs. Shazam! TPB [Review]

[Reprints All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-58, DC Comics Presents #s 33, 34, 49, and DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984). Cover Price: $19.99]

supermanvsshazamtpbMy initial criteria for choosing this volume? “Cheap” and “Superman” and “Shazam”/Captain Marvel. Also, “new.” As in…this just came out a few months ago (March, 2013 as far as I can tell) and thus qualified as “shiny and appealing,” so to speak. I also have to admit to appreciating the Shazam logo I’m most familiar with at the moment for pre-New 52 stuff (primarily due to Jeff Smith‘s Monster Society of Evil but have noticed for other Shazam items). Surfacey stuff, sure, but it yielded the sale and put the volume into my hands.

The art’s fairly standard-ish, especially for what I tend to “picture” as the generic “pre-mid-’80s” type visuals. Not horrible or anything, but nothing that blows me away by “today’s standards.” Yet, I certainly appreciated that often–while they appear QUITE similar otherwise, I COULD distinguish Captain Marvel’s face from Superman’s face…certainly something QUITE good in my book! It could be argued that the art is limited a bit, constrained by the standard-ish panel structure…that is, a lack of contemporary creative layouts and full/half/double-page splashes and the like. With most everything being in individual panels, there’s not a lot of room for much of the artistic impressiveness that would grab me with more recent art. While that’s a bit broad considering this volume spans a number of years, I largely read it in one go, and the visual style kinda blurs for me on older stuff.

Story-wise…by contemporary standards (again), can’t say I’m all that thrilled with this. Characters didn’t seem all that deep to me (some seemed to just come out of nowhere, with little or no context), and there were plotholes one could drive a truck through. Characters were all too quick and willing to “accept” something at face value with seemingly no consideration for the depth or scope of the issue at hand…and villains’ motivations seemed extremely thin.

All that said, or despite saying all that, I rather enjoyed the volume in and of itself. Even with the extremely limited prior exposure I’ve had to Captain Marvel, I know enough to recognize Sivana, Mr. Mind, Black Adam, the multiple Earths, and have recently learned a bit about Hoppy and the extended Marvel family (Uncle Marvel was–like Hoppy–quite a bit on the far-fetched side, but I recognized the character as Billy’s uncle from Shazam: The New Beginning).

While the stories may have been published years apart, in the general sense of the pre-Crisis DC Multiverse of the ’70s/early-’80s, these fit together well enough, and it was cool to see the nods to continuity.

I don’t know that I’d really recommend this to a new fan of the Shazam or Superman stuff as any sort of ‘essential reading’ (unless you’re particularly interested–specifically–in “digging in” and “experiencing” the historical element of the characters’ earlier interactions). But this does fit in quite nicely with other “themed” classic Superman collections that take a particular element (Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Zod, the Phantom Zone, the Daily Planet, the Bottle City of Kandor, etc) and present some stories focused on it.

For the price (especially if discounted) the volume is quite a good value for the time it’ll take to read, even though the art and stories don’t hold up real well with contemporary comics. This is a time-capsule showcasing Superman/Captain Marvel (Shazam) crossover/team-ups of the past, and for me, upon filing, will be a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

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