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Superman: Doomed #2 [Review]

Superman: Doomed #2Evolutions

Story: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Art: Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes, Norm Rapmund
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

This issue is late. I believe it was originally solicited/scheduled for at least a month ago, sometime in August. I’m not certain of course, but I’m guessing that also accounts for so many involved on the art team for the issue. With all the one-shots I’ve been reading this month on the Futures End stuff, in some ways I’d even forgotten about this story for several weeks, only last week realizing “Hey…Doomed #2 never DID come out, did it?!?”

This issue sees the “last stand” of Earth and its heroes against Brainiac. With Superman having given himself over to Doomsday, his “essence” is basically a passenger along for the ride, or in the mind or such, where Brainiac reaches out, showing how much better things would be with Brainiac free to do his thing, why he should be allowed to, etc. Perhaps most pressing is that if Doomsday–Superman–“Superdoom”–destroys Brainiac, it’ll mean the destruction of all human life on Earth, as the stolen minds will be done for and not returned to their bodies.

While showing Superman visions of what could be, Brainiac continues taking down the last remnants of Earth’s heroes–having apparently utilized Superman somehow to “find” them and get through their defenses. He also reveals his core, true motivation to things, which on one hand could be sympathetic but for the notion of “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few” and all that. Lois plays a key part in things, and ultimately the minds–and thus lives–of all on Earth rest with Superman and a gambit to take down Brainiac before he can remake the universe itself.

Visually, this issue is a jumble. A lot of artists involved, but that can be forgiven as they seem to be utilized for the visions of what-could-be and such. I’ve never been a fan of the “Superdoom” look and have found it ridiculous–still do–so that lends a visual weirdness to stuff for me anyway on top of numerous artists. That said, having made it through all the tie-ins and such to this point–all those styles and renditions of involved characters–I can’t complain too much here. The issue is what it is, and whether utilized to show alternate realities or that’s just a fortuitous element given so many involved, I’ll take it at face value. The only point that I REALLY consciously noticed a huge difference was a sequence that reminded me of Darwyn Cooke‘s art.

Story-wise I’m left with a fair bit of frustration at the sheer length of this “event” and such. It seems that SO MUCH was made of the “Doomsday virus” and Superman fighting it/becoming a Doomsday and so on–that Brainiac’s involvement feels like a bait-and-switch. Like this whole thing could have been done in just a couple issues–perhaps Doomed #1, a single month’s slot of tie-ins, then this #2.

Then there’s the fact that this issue itself doesn’t even definitively end but rather kicks down the door onto something else.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

In “trying to find a place for” Brainiac, Superdoom–powered by all that Brainiac had sought–pushes Brainiac’s ship into a black hole of sorts, ready to sacrifice himself as well to see that Brainiac’s threat to the universe is over. But in this we see shards of something broken, and in those shards, we see what look to me like glimpses of the pre-52 DC Universe…particularly recognizeable to me are Nightwing and his classic first costume (circa 1989) and of course, Superman himself with the “trunks.”

Like this week’s Futures End: Booster Gold issue, this sees to show that in some fashion or another, the DC Universe that *I* grew up on is still out there somehow, and perhaps something involving Brainiac would be a key to–if not bringing it “back,” then at least accessing it.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

Despite the enormity of what we see on the last pae of the issue, I still don’t feel this story warranted all the chapters it carried, and that this could have been handled in just a handful of issues. Chances are, with the likes of Bleeding Cool and other online spoilers, this issue will wind up being fairly signifiant in the long run and thus in that regard probably worth seeking out, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it in and of itself unless you’ve been following the story in general.

I’m actually (overall) glad I went and hand got it–despite that hefty $5 cover price–for the feelings elicited by that last page, for capping things off, and giving me an “out” to drop back to spending far less each month.

Except that this issue–and event–leads directly to an aftermath issue in October’s Action Comics, at minimum. The story isn’t over. And rather than a definitive conclusion, an actual “bookend” to things…we’re simply propelled on to “The next thing.”

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Dynamite) #1 [Review]

turokdinosaurhunterdynamite001 Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Lauren Affe
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Cover: Bart Sears
Turok Logo Design: Rian Hughes
Packaged/Edited by: Nate Cosby
Published by: Dynamite
Cover Price: $3.99

It wasn’t all that long ago that I learned of Dark Horse relaunching several former Gold Key titles, which grabbed my attention as former Valiant properties that I recognized from the 1990s. I saw it as a good point to jump aboard, as presumably the closest I was gonna get to a Valiant rebirth. Those titles only lasted a few months, and while I rather enjoyed them at the start, my interest trickled off with ’em. SINCE then, though…

Since then, Valiant‘s back, with a number of great titles proving the characters and universe have an audience…and are still going strong nearly 2 years in (a rather large accomplishment, to me, in an age of mini-series and things generally just not lasting).

So it’s with my enjoyment of the Valiant books that I’m checking out Dynamite‘s relaunching of the Gold Key titles. If Valiant itself can do well…then hey, here’s hoping Dynamite can hold it together for a couple years.

Outside of the names and basic premise (that is, humans existing in a world with dinosaurs still around), this seems a wholly fresh start. Where I recall the Dark Horse run being a closer re-telling (and those premiere issues included a reprint of the original series’ first issues), this seems much more like I expected based on the above Valiant comparison.

We’re introduced to a father vowing to protect his child, before being killed. Flashing ahead 16 years, we find that child an outcast, bullied but surviving on his own…to the chagrin of the others. When confronted he refuses to give in–it’s better (to him) to be alone. The latest confrontation is broken up by a surprise attack by large lizard creatures, which Turok and Andal (a name I recall from the Dark Horse iteration) barely survive as we learn what caused the attack.

Along with the general “strength” of the Valiant titles serving as influence to my buying this, I recognize writer Greg Pak from other stuff I’ve enjoyed…most recently Planet Hulk as well as Valiant‘s own Eternal Warrior. This issue and title benefits from my still relative unfamiliarity with Turok and cast–I only remember reading the first issue of the Dark Horse run and can’t honestly recall if I read beyond that.

I appreciated the use of “time” in this issue, seeing the past, present, and the flashbacks…actually following what was going on to pick up on a tone I feel I miss in a lot of comics. As a first issue goes, this definitely hits points I look for: we’re introduced to the main protagonist, to other characters, learn something of the protagonist and their status quo, and are introduced to the conflict. In less generalized terms: We meet Turok, we meet other characters including Andal, we get dinosaurs, and we get Turok fighting dinosaurs. Maybe more importantly to me…there’s no pretentious last-page spread/cliffhanger “revealing” that dinosaurs exist, as if the very title Dinosaur Hunter doesn’t tell us that.

There were several panels I had some trouble following who was who and exactly what was going on at first glance, but that was mainly during a fight sequence and I can’t imagine it being any worse than trying to visually parse out a fast-moving camera sequence for a movie or tv series. By and large the art is good, and I like the look of the characters, and there’s nothing particularly off-putting or distracting to me.

My primary problem with this issue is the variant covers–I’m used to there at least being some sort of notation on the cover declaring it a variant or not so had some frustration at determining exactly which cover of several was the “regular” or “standard” edition…ultimately identifying this by matching the front cover image with the interior cover (only later at home discoverng a 3-page gallery of thumbnails showing off all the variants for the issue). That identification is part of my preference for standard covers: I prefer the cover that is acknowledged in marketing and such and “fits” the issue and story. If a cover image is going to double up incorporated on the interior, I want the aesthetic of matching, not recognizing a difference.

Other than that and on the whole…I enjoyed this issue. As soon as I saw it at the shop, it was the main thing I wanted to get into and read, and it definitely measured up. The aforementioned issue with variant covers makes me hesitant to put it on a pull list, as I don’t want to get stuck with a variant, and I have a far lower tolerance for that with Dynamite than I do Valiant.

You need not have read anything involving Turok before to get in here, though there’ll undoubtedly be familiar elements if you have. This is functionally a new title and character, there’s no pre-existing continuity to know, you only need one copy of this issue to get into the story-so-far.

Definitely recommended.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday #1 [Review]

foreverevildoomsday001Tales of Doom

Written by: Greg Pak
Pencils by: Brett Booth
Inks by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is REALLY the entire reason I “bought into” Villains Month at all to begin with, prior to deciding to “also” check out the Cyborg Superman issue and everything snowballing from there. Doomsday is probably THE key character for me, even more than the Cyborg, when it comes to my history with Superman. Whether the actual Doomsday arc, the issue of Reign of the Supermen where the Cyborg throws his body into space, the Hunter/Prey mini-series, the Doomsday Wars mini-series, his appearance during Our Worlds At War or his “Jokerization” during Last Laugh…the creature is one that I’ve “always” taken note of. 

All that said, my initial take on this issue is extreme disappointment. Labeled Doomsday #1 for the issue, I expected actual details–of the creature, of its past, clarification of its involvement with Superman already –and perhaps something of what might yet be coming. While we do get a look at the past, with the creature inserted much more closely to Superman himself in the family history…it seems to almost “cheapen” the character, making it just another part of stuff carrying over from Krypton to plague Superman on Earth, rather than something that arrives out of nowhere or “legend” and all that.

Rather than any real background on the character or firm details of the creature’s origins, we’re given a glimpse of a past encounter with the creature involving Zod, and from Lara’s perspective.  We get some development of Zod’s history with Supergirl (Kara)…which works in context of showing the danger the creature can present, of its place in Kryptonians’ consciousness…but really does not seem to “matter” for an issue that’s supposed to “focus” on the creature. This story seems like it would be far more appropriate as an issue of Supergirl, showing her remembering what she’s learned of the creature. Though the creature’s prominence on the cover is apt, this issue doesn’t really feel like it lives up to its “title,” and certainly fails to live up to my own expectations.

Despite that, had this simply been a random issue of Supergirl and I saw the creature so prominently placed on the cover, I’d’ve likely found this a rather enjoyable “one-shot” of sorts. And with the Zod/Kara stuff, it’s seeming likely that the entirety of Villains Month MIGHT actually drive me to checking out the Supergirl title.

The story itself is solid; I do like the art in and of itself. I don’t mind the reconfiguration of the bone protrusions from Doomsday, except the cheek-horns that just look totally ridiculous to me and seem a pointless addition to the face. While I’ll read about “any” Doomsday, this is somehow probably my least-favorite of all the looks the character’s been given.

All in all…I suspect if you’re a fan of the Supergirl series, you’ll enjoy this. Ditto if you’re a fan of Pak or Booth, or just want the cover to look at. With the apparent “consolidation” of titles for this month, I don’t know where Doomsday is likely to next show up (if at all), but this issue feels like it’s pointing me to the Supergirl title. If you’re expecting to find out where Doomsday came from in-continuity of New 52 or the New 52 “past” of the creature and Superman, you’ll have to look elsewhere or stretch a between-the-lines interpretation.

As a $3.99 one-shot with the fancy 3-D cover…if you can find this at cover price (or opt for the “standard” edition or digital edition), and don’t hold high expectations (or my comments have dispelled those expectations), it’s not bad and I have to “grudgingly” admit I’d recommend it as an expectation-less standalone.

Batman/Superman #1 [Review]

batmansuperman001Crossworld

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Jae Lee, Ben Oliver
Colors: June Chung, Daniel Brown
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Jae Lee with June Chung
Associate Editor: Rickey Purdin
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this issue to meet a credit card minimum. Of everything on the “new” shelf, it was the only thing that really grabbed my attention for a one-shot purchase with potential. Other than setting this apart from the Loeb-launched Superman/Batman from a decade ago, I do find myself mildly curious as to any significance to the title, having Batman listed first. At least BOTH characters are spotlighted on the standard cover…you don’t have to track down two covers to get both title characters in one shot.

Unfortunately, it was a lot more disappointing than I expected. I’d avoided it on Wednesday–I just had zero interest in it from the start. ANOTHER “Superman meets Batman for the FIRST TIME” story. And that’s where it goes wrong; where I go wrong. I am absolutely NOT the “target audience” for this book: I’m bored and put-out by the New 52 at this point…and to ME, the “first meeting” between Superman and Batman happened “One Night in Gotham City” in the 1980s’ Man of Steel #3.

Leaving nostalgia and such aside, I have a real problem with a young Superman–Superboy???–being so…arrogant, angry, violent. To say nothing of the fact that I did read the first-ever New 52 issue, Justice League #1. And I’m recalling a scene in which Batman and Green Lantern talk about some alien in Metropolis, and meet Superman “for the first time.” So that makes this issue essentially a fairly big plothole to a casual such reader as myself.

Clark Kent visits Gotham, and realizes he really does not fit into this dark city. When he confronts some kids bullying another, he meets a drunk, stinking boy billionaire with more street sense than he’d’ve expected. Turns out Clark was looking for Bruce, to see what he knew of several Wayne employees murdered recently. The two part on neutral terms, neither impressed with the other. The murderer strikes again, and Batman leaps into the fray, surprised at the identity…before Superman busts in, throwing around violence and making a bad situation worse. Another entity joins the situation, and just makes things confusing…though that seems to set up what may be the plot for the next few issues.

Visually I’m not all that impressed…Lee‘s art is not particularly “up my alley,” it’s very stylized and just not what I would choose. Because it’s so…what it is, this feels like it ought to me some sort of Elseworlds book, or some intercompany crossover in the vein of these characters meeting the Aliens or Predators. I’ve never really cared for the jeans, t-shirt and cape get-up for Superman; the look is done no favors here, in my eyes. There’s also something to the way Lee depicts the “S” that bugs me–like it’s trying to be a mash-up of the overly-lined Man of Steel film logo and the more stylized Superman Returns film logo.

Lee‘s art gets the job done, though…even depicting the violence fairly disturbingly (something Lee‘s style does well with). So while it’s not my cup of tea and I have nitpicky issues, I won’t fault it too heavily in and of itself.

I don’t care for the art shift toward the end of the issue. It fits reasonably well given the shift in scenery and all–but I find myself wondering if this is an issue of timing or a planned function to serve the story itself (or just happened to work as it is).

The story itself roughly fits a fairly standard mold for these characters…the idea that while they come to work together when more seasoned at the whole “super-hero” thing, they clash in the early days of their careers is not new. What little I know of the New 52 incarnation of Superman kinda fits, though again I don’t like it much. Batman I’m less sure on–this Bruce Wayne sorta fits with Year One, and probably perfectly fits with the upcoming Zero Year stuff. Given Clark’s readiness to cut loose with his powers it’s sort of astonishing that he doesn’t (seem to) recognize Batman as a mortal man and “reveal” him or at least peek under the cowl with X-ray vision. (Then again, I realize I don’t know the origin of this version of Superman, so maybe he didn’t have access to that power yet).

All in all, I imagine that if you’re a fan of Jae Lee‘s art, of the New 52 early Superman, and/or Pak‘s writing, and have no particular “attachment” to ’80s/’90s Superman and Batman, you’ll probably enjoy this. You might have to overlook that this is yet another $3.99 book…but hey? $2.99 seems to be an exception rather than the rule, these days.

Dead Man’s Run #s 0 & 1 [Review]

Full Circle; Man Down
Written by: Greg Pak
Illustrated by: Tony Parker
Colored by: Peter Steigerwald; David Curiel
Lettered by: Josh Reed
Covers 0C, 1A: Tony Parker, Peter Steigerwald
Published by: Aspen Comics

I came into Dead Man’s Run having no honest idea what it was about. The title itself suggested maybe someone dies and comes back, or has some fatal countdown looming and they have some mission to carry out despite knowing death is imminent.

Turns out there’s this prison, with guards and all that…and what they’re guarding is Hell. Like…THAT Hell. Their prisoners belong there, and they basically just make sure they stay put. There’s a warden who seems to be something more, and some plot seems to be in motion.

The zero issue sees the death of a guard who with his last breath as a live man requests another. In the premiere issue, we meet Sam–a doomed cartographer who finds himself stuck in Hell at the side of the deceased guard, who seems poised to show Sam a whole different world than he ever dreamed existed. Meanwhile, we get a hint at the nature of the warden, and some of Sam’s motivation (the car wreck that he died in and woke up in Hell also left his sister in Hell–something he’s not going to take lying down).

This #0 and #1 really feel like the pilot episode of a tv series, more than just the premiere of a new comic series. The story–what’s set up so far and where it seems it might go, and the execution–seem very cinematic in a tv sort of way. I’m not entirely thrilled with that, because I don’t know that I want to READ a tv series.

That said…the story’s got a couple interesting hooks that leave me curious for the next issue. The art is very solid and in general makes the story flow. Stylistically it doesn’t seem at all like a super-hero comic (which is good, because this most certainly is not of that genre) nor does it seem hyper-realistic. It just has a comfortable feel that carries things alone.

The writing is solid…I know next to nothing about these characters, but there’s enough there for the potential to shine. It’ll be interesting to find out more about Sam’s past and the relationship with his sister–and if there’s anything special about either of them that’ll play into things. The prison guard, too, has a glimmer of something more. The glimpses we get of the warden suggest a lot more to her as well, that COULD wind up being cliche, or could provide something that might make for an interesting (eventual) comparison to the Hell we find in Gaiman‘s The Sandman: Season of Mists.

I made the reference above about this being like a tv series. Using that comparison….this puts me in mind of the first season of Prison Break if the imprisoned brother arranged for the other to be jailed, but dealing with a prison of hellfire and brimstone rather than steel and concrete.

Aside from the story and art, there’s also the fact that this is backed by Gale Anne Hurd’s studio…so I’m inclined to give this a bit of time to take shape if someone who helped to get The Walking Dead from comic to tv endorses it.

I received these two issues free as review copies, so the only up front cost to me was the time taken to read these. I don’t see a price on the #0 issue, but #1 is listed as $3.50…which earns points from me for being $.49 cheaper than most Marvel comics. As something cheaper than a standard Marvel, I’m more apt to buy #2 than I am one of those $3.99 Marvels.

The story so far seems to be–as said–like a pilot episode, so I’m not entirely sold on the singles, but reading these has me definitely interested in either picking up the next issue when I notice it on the shelf, or at least checking back before too long for a graphic novel collection.

You could certainly do much worse than this book…and it’s not off to a bad start at all.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

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