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Action Comics #957 [Review]

actioncomics0934Path of Doom

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Sonia Oback
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early August 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

This issue gives me pretty much anything/everything I could reasonably want from a contemporary, 2016-published Superman comic (post-New 52, post-Flashpoint, post-New Krypton, post-Secret Origin, post-Final Crisis, post-Infinite Crisis…).

The cover–the regular one, at least, I don’t know if I’ve even seen the variant, but the regular cover I’ve seen marketed and that is shown with this review–we have the title carved in a rock, being lifted by Superman–the “pre-Flashpoint” Superman, the Superman that we had prior to the New 52, though the journey has been circuitous. We have a Doomsday-looking thing in the “classic” green suit, suggesting a much more “grounded” Doomsday than anything from Doomed to some entity flitting in and out of the Phantom Zone. We see Luthor in a suit reminiscent of Steel. We have Jon–the son born during Convergence and raised for ten years in hiding on the New 52 Earth. We have Clark Kent–a character virtually purged from Superman, it seemed. We have the Lois married to this Superman…and we have longtime allies Wonder Woman and Batman. So many characters, maybe not the most “dynamic” composition, but certainly “iconic” and hinting at the greatness within the issue! The logo being part of the stone–to be overly analytical–suggests that whatever else, this is Action Comics, with Superman, and it has endured some 78 years, and a reboot, and is still here.

The issue itself drops us into an unfolding terrorist situation…one that is resolved–at least for the moment–by an unseen entity we come to realize is a power-suited Lex Luthor. This is the New 52 Luthor, who has been through Forever Evil, worked with the Justice League, and so on. Foregoing the “classic” purple-and-green thing, this suit is much more reminiscent of Steel’s armor, and we see Luthor is intent on replacing the fallen New 52 Superman (to him, to everyone–THE Superman, the genuine one-and-only). As he announces his intentions to live media, the broadcast reaches Clark White, who has operated in secret for years, avoiding the spotlight and trying to leave events of this world alone to unfold as naturally as possible. Luthor’s boldness spurs him into a seeming snap-decision: he shaves, dons a costume, and reveals himself to the world. If there is to be a Superman, it will NOT be Lex Luthor!

Said revelation occurs in confronting Luthor directly, to the point…and unfortunately, into immediate violence. As the two have it out, we get some bits of subplot…something’s been stolen from an extremely durable vault, and some of this world’s Clark Kent’s allies are shocked at “confirmation” of his death…even as they, and Lois & Jon, and even us as readers get the surprise arrival of Clark Kent (while Superman is actively engaged with Luthor!). And then the arrival of another jarring but familiar character…a green-suit-clad Doomsday…said green suit being one the character has not worn in this way since his first appearances nearly 24 years ago.

Thanks to having the Superman: Rebirth issue prior, as readers (if one read that issue) we have had a slight bit of transition already, to move past and deal with (not simply ignore) the seeming loss of the New 52 Superman. That lets us get right into the action here, characters all fairly well established, stuff in continuity in place to allow this, and the events of this issue also leave plenty of room yet to explore reasons, consequences, and the simple fact-of-the-matter present.

We have a mix of past and present, of being part of a world that’s been around nearly as long now as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths one had been at the time of the original Death of Superman. Allowing for alterations through the years, particularly changes, tinkerings, and so on out of Infinite Crisis, this is still–as much as is possible–the Superman that can be traced back through the years, to Infinite Crisis, back to Our Worlds at War, to Zero Hour, to Reign of the Supermen, to the Death of Superman.

And while I gush so, emphasizing the above…that’s very much what I consider a joyful reality, an understood-despite-outward-obfuscation recognition of “my” Superman, of reading about–essentially–the same character here, now, that I first read about running low on air as he battled phantoms on some dead planetoid in 1989’s Exile arc.

I can see that far back, and appreciate the incredibly rich depth to be had here. On the other hand, for newer readers…this is a Superman, with background to be uncovered, details to be filled in, and for all he has a role to be earned, despite fitting into it so well.

I love that this is written by Dan Jurgens. I know the writer’s work primarily from his work on Superman from 1992-1999 or so (a range of years that saw me from junior high through high school and just before college). For me, after several years on the side, away from Superman, this is an amazing homecoming (albeit preceded by what I’d initially seen as simply a “bone” tossed to fans like me in Lois and Clark). He merges elements of the “new” with elements of the “old,” where we’ve had status quo changes, aging, advancement…and it’s like everything’s part of one large tapestry.

I have suspicions regarding Clark Kent from this issue, and am eager to see more of the conflict with Luthor play out…as well as seeing how Doomsday is handled at this point. I’m eager to see more with supporting cast characters, and while this title is due to be biweekly, I’d love to have it weekly; for once I want something “decompressed” and frequent, exploring many characters, while an ongoing story unfolds continually forward.

And the art…wow. I’ve seen Zircher‘s work in the past and liked it, but something about it here–and combined with the characters, characterization, and just the sheer feeling of refreshment I get reading the issue–it’s fantastic. Zircher‘s art here is the next best thing to Jurgens himself…and in some ways, melding old with new, I think surpasses the idea of this new issue in 2016 having his art, bringing an excellently-detailed and nuanced appearance to the characters and doing nothing but impressing me, through my own cynicism at a lot of modern takes on Superman.

This is a bi-weekly book now…two issues per month. In other words, it’s being double-shipped. Instead of 20 pages once a month for $3.99, it’s going to be 20 pages twice a month for $2.99 each (40 pages for $5.98). Jurgens on writing, a rotating art team (I believe) (said rotation given the incredible boost of Zircher‘s art kicking things off on such a high note in this issue), and a Superman I’m not just WILLING to read, but eager to read.

I can’t NOT be biased in this–I am far from objective. But honestly–simple, outside objectivity seems to be what led to a Superman character I was wholly uninterested in, and saw me walk away from for nearly four years. Now, I’m not only back but excited for it, as should be evidenced by my gushing above.

It’s said that one can “never go home again,” and that’s true, this is not some over-simplified “return” to the past–it’s like re-uniting with an old, dear friend…recognizing that years have passed, life has gone on, things have changed…but they’re still them, you’re still you, and you’re back together, and feeling great for it.

As a review or ratings would go…I walked away for four years. I flat-out ignored Superman for four years of current comics, punctuated by a handful of issues a couple years ago that did not hold me, and further solidified my giving up and letting go. I’d ceded Superman, and comics featuring him, resigned myself to maybe checking in here or there but mostly only to find the simple, fun ENJOYMENT in back issues.

And now? I loved this issue–story and art. I love the price point compared to the $3.99 the title’s been for nearly half a decade. Whatever the rest of DC‘s Rebirth initiative holds, at least when it comes to Action Comics, as things look now, I’m in for the long haul…the run up to #1000 at least.

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Trinity War [Checklist]

JUNE 2013
PRELUDE: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1

JULY 2013
PART 1:
Justice League #22
PART 2: Justice League of America #6
PART 3: Justice League Dark #22
TIE-IN: Constantine #5
TIE-IN: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2

AUGUST 2013
TIE-IN:
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #11
PART 4: Justice League of America #7
TIE-IN: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #3
PART 5: Justice League Dark #23
PART6: Justice League #23

trinitywarchecklistfront

trinitywarchecklistback

source: promotional postcard (pictured above)

The New 52! #1 [Review]

The New 52! #1

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Kenneth Rocafort, Gene Ha
Color: Alex Sinclair, Rod Reis, Blond, Art Lyon
Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Kate Stewart
Editors: Dan Didio & Eddie Berganza

This issue is mostly teaser, and seems especially designed more for those following DC‘s The New 52 for the past 9 or so months moreso than a brand-new reader that might be sucked in for Free Comic Book Day 2012.

We’re shown a sentencing for a trio of characters, all of whom–if not off the bat, then by their fates–have a certain familiarity, as we see the origin of “Pandora,” who we see here has a much larger role to play in the new DCU in the near future. These three characters have been condemned by The Wizard (as in Shazam), punished for contributions to harm of mankind. In the present day, Pandora stirs up some trouble stealing back her box as she seeks to unravel her curse, and we’re then shown a glimpse into the near-future of the DCU, and the coming “event” due out “next year.”

There’s a whole mix of art to the issue, culminating in a fold-out posterlike 4-page spread by Jim Lee spotlighting the main Justice Leaguers in the “near future.” Overall, given this is essentially a sampler issue and I had no idea what to expect of it, the art didn’t stand out all that much to me. Some characters are familiar, others not so much, and I’m not sure if the unfamiliarity I have is with the New 52 in general, or with concepts being “introduced” in this issue.

Story-wise, there’s not a whole lot; this is like having the “origin” of Pandora (and a couple other characters) thrown in front of us to pull one in, like “hey, remember these guys? Here they are! See! Now you HAVE to read the coming event!”

As a free issue…yeah, this is worthwhile. If it weren’t for the credits taking up much of the bottom of the image, I’d be inclined to pull the center out of the issue and stick it on the wall as a small poster, at least. Almost half this issue is a section of 2-ish page “previews” of the second wave of DC titles, and I skipped over ’em. I already bought Earth 2 #1, and NOT being an art person, have no interest in the 5-7+ page previews DC‘s often stuck in the back of its books, and 1-2 pages mean even less.

Probably for the worse (to me), this issue makes it clear that The New 52 is building toward some huge event (coming next year, though), and since I’m not willing to invest in a bunch of titles as-is, I have even less interest now.

Story: 4/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 6/10

Earth 2 #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Green Lantern #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, part one

It’s One Year Later, and Green Lantern is definitely back…but with quite a shadow hanging over him; meanwhile, Hal Jordan prepares to be honored for a past deed…

greenlantern010 Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Marc Campos
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: Simone Bianchi
Publisher: DC Comics

So…awhile back, Hall Jordan lost his city when it was blown up by an alien bent on having revenge on Superman for failing to save his family and driving him away from Earth. Hal couldn’t handle the strain, went nuts, killed a bunch of other GLs in his bid for control of the central power battery on Oa, became Parallax, tried to wipe out time to set things right, died to re-ignite Earth’s sun when it was put out, stepped forward as a volunteer-host for the Spectre during a spiritual crisis, and ultimately split from the Spectre as the real Parallax stood revealed…huh?

You don’t really need to know all that–though it adds a bit of context to the character. What you need to know for this issue is that Hal Jordan–Green Lantern–has apparently had his past exposed to the world, and/or done something that has led to most people of Earth not trusting him–regarding him as little more than some criminal acting without regard for Earthly laws and regulations.

Of course, this issue takes place a year after the events of the currently-unfolding Infinite Crisis so there’s a lot that’s happened that we–as readers–are not yet aware of. Though Green Lantern has been cast in a negative light (and this seems to extend to Jon Stewart as well, though we don’t actually see him in this issue), Hal Jordan is regarded as a hero for things he’s taken part in during the past year.

On the one hand–at the surface–this story seemed rather boring to me. Looking deeper, though, it’s actually a lot better than I wanted to give it credit for. The one-year jump allows for stories to be beyond the whole "hey…you’re back?!?" sort of situations. Hal’s gotten himself very much involved in life again and rebuilt as well as simply built new relationships. He’s fairly established again within the DC Universe.

Apparent flashbacks give some hint as to a fairly major event in Hal’s past (the missing year) that seems rich in character potential. I also like the fact that a story from the Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins 2005 comes into play here–we saw in that story last year that Hal leaves his ring behind when he flies. It added an extra touch of humanity (and/or recklessness) to the character, and provides context for stuff shown in this issue). That’s not to say that you need to have read that to "get" this issue.

The art gives me little to talk about–it worked for me. Things were clear panel-to-panel as to what was going on, all the more in context of the text. The imagery in general is pretty bright–we’re not mired in shadows here. Characters are recognizable and while they may not be clones of versions from other artists, they don’t at all come across as a reinterpretation, which means we have good art, good story, and a good issue.

There are some definite questions that arise from this issue: exactly what does the world know about Hal Jordan? What do they actually know about Green Lantern that has made GL unwelcome outside the US? (As readers, we have plenty of "dirt" that could place him in that position if the info were common knowledge to the residents of the DCU) And so on.

Having seen (and had it as my computer’s desktop for the last few weeks) the cover to a later issue of this title, I’ve a pretty good idea who the villain of this arc is, which takes away from the "shock" that’s apparent at the end of the issue. But then, anything lost there is replaced by an eager "Why?" to the whole thing.
In the end, this is definitely a good issue, and well worth checking out if you haven’t already. It’s also a good jumping-on point, as it’s the first "One Year Later" issue for this title, and in many ways functions as a new # 1–old and new readers alike are at the same point regarding Hal’s past year or so and his new life.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Blackest Night #8 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Blackest Night #7 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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