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The ’00s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #586

adventtures_of_superman_0586Soul of the City!

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Mike Miller
Inkers: Armando Durruthy & Walden Wong
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Wildstorm FX
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $2.25

Maybe it’s something about the paper quality, but this issue just feels thicker and sturdier than a modern comic book..!

We open on Superman overlooking the city, still flabbergasted that Luthor–Lex Luthor!–is President-Elect of the United States. He pulls himself together, puts on his public face, and flies in to greet the man, and congratulates him on his election. Elsewhere, we find several "minor" antagonists (Rose/Thorn, Kitty Faulkner/Rampage, Cary RIchards/Adversary, and Prankster) gathered before Lord Satanus, who proposes they assist him in claiming the actual soul of the city itself. Lois is spending time with her very pregnant sister Lucy, who goes into labor unexpectedly, prompting a rush to the hospital…though ultimately she’s sent home as it’ll be awhile yet. And Superman finds himself face to face with a gloating Satanus, claiming victory is already his–though Superman has several up-front allies and one seemingly missing in action, as we’re left with a to be continued.

Moving out from the election night issue (Superman #164) and the previous week’s Superman: Lex 2000 special, that story moves from primary focal point to subplot, as we seem to begin a new threat–the "return" of Lord Satanus and his latest bid for souls and such, going against what Superman himself stands for, etc. Re-reading this issue for the first time in nearly 15 years brought with it a bit of deja-vu, as my conscious mind recognizes the story as I read it, and yet my conscious primary guess at this issue–based on that cover–would have been that this was the issue where Superman discussed with someone that he’d be at the inauguration–hadn’t missed any yet–just that he’d do so without being seen, refusing to give a photo-op/endorsement that way.

Yet, seeing Superman–at least for the public face–graciously allow himself to be seen with Lex, to shake his hand, to say the words–seems an appropriate, totally classy thing…though it’s easy to relate to his inner conflict of having to appear cordial with a man who has been one of his life’s greatest antagonists and who he knows is beyond loads of crooked, corrupt stuff and yet it can’t be proven in such a way as to bring him down.

But rather than that being a long, drawn-out, done-to-death issue-long scene, life (and the story) continue to unfold, and we move into a new plot in which Lord Satanus is back on the scene. However, given I’d forgotten he even appeared here (mostly I remember the character from the Blaze/Satanus War in 1992 just before the Death of Superman, knew he’d had a couple "flare-ups" over the years, before apparently being destroyed during the Spectre’s rampage in the run-up to Infinite Crisis), it seems a foregone conclusion how this’ll turn out, and ultimately makes for a less-than-truly-threatening plot.

I also would not have been able to tell you that DeMatteis had done this issue or Miller provided the art…the the imagery is quite familiar.

Miller‘s art isn’t entirely to my liking…there’s something slightly "off" to the art, giving almost a "generic" Superman than one that seems as "familiar" as I prefer. However, I DO like the art, and this is not a bad version of Superman. And maybe it’s that I’ve had the cover looking at me for several days, but I really dig the cover!

All in all, this is a good issue, it deals with the emerging presidency of Luthor while bringing in a lesser-used antagonist in Satanus and even lesser-used allies, while addressing other ongoing facets of characters’ lives such that this really works as (in a good way) "just another chapter" in the ongoing Superman saga. Even having the issue in one of my few sorted longboxes where I know exactly where it is, I would be hard-pressed to NOT spend the 25 cents to snag an extra copy if I found it, if only to do something with the cover as an art piece. Given that, I certainly recommend this if you find it for a quarter; though the higher the price, the less enthusiastically I’ll recommend. To someone interested in this era of the Superman titles or picking up a small combined run of the titles for a true run of the "triangle numbers" (S-shields), this is certainly worthwhile.

I was gonna wrap up this collection of successive reviews, and may not actually write up the following issue…but this leaves me interested in at least reading the next chapter!

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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

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source: promotional postcard (pictured above)

Fatal Attractions Revisited: X-Factor #92

xfactor092The Man Who Wasn’t There

Co-Plotter: Scott Lobdell
Penciler/Co-Plotter: Joe Quesada
Script: J.M. DeMatteis
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Starkings
Background Assist: Cliff Van Meter
Colorist: Oliver
Assistant Editor: Jaye Gardner
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Dated: July, 1993

This issue kicks off the Fatal Attractions story/crossover/event, and carries the cover title “Out of the Light and into thy father’s shadow,” which is an apt declaration of the interior.

After an attack on a bunch of humans in hospice, X-Factor is investigating the slaughter. Though they lose the last survivor from the attack, the team has a prisoner–one of the Acolytes–who doesn’t seem inclined to give them any information until Quicksilver shows up. As the Acolytes worship Magneto, they place great importance on The Son, which allows some answers to be coaxed from the captured Spoor. Despite orders to remain behind, the rest of the team follows Quicksilver and government liaison Valerie Cooper, and what they find at an apparently quiet military base shocks the team and creating a rift between them and Cooper. Lead Acolyte Fabian Cortez does the usual villain thing of spouting off about his plan to Quicksilver, and is angered when his offer to install the Son of Magneto as leader of the Acoyltes is rejected. After X-Factor’s battle with the Acolytes ends, the team is left to deal with Cooper, who has had a revelation of her own explaining her recent actions and attitude.

I know I read this issue when it first came out 19-some years ago, but this time through much of the issue read as “new” to me. I remembered the Acolytes’ attack on the hospital, and the woman crying at the end, but the in-between stuff hadn’t stuck, nor did I have any great grasp on who all these characters were or their context.

It’s quite interesting looking back from 20 years later, knowing where certain characters wind up, and knowing in general what I do today about them that I did not know then. For one thing, I feel like I truly appreciate the enormity of this story now, where back then it was just an extra-length issue with a sturdy cover, fancy “hologram,” and a nearly triple-sized price tag ($3.50, but I think an issue like this published today would–knowing Marvel–be at least $7.99 if not $9.99).

Story-wise, I’m not entirely impressed–though this issue seems to set stuff in motion for the rest of the Fatal Attractions series, there’s something to it that just doesn’t feel like it “matters” as much–perhaps because this is just kicking stuff off, and so the nature of the crossover isn’t yet apparent by this issue’s conclusion, so it winds up feeling like more of a prologue or tangential piece of things. While the Acolytes are present here and their slaughter of the humans will have other consequences later in the arc, this issue is very much an X-Factor issue, and seems very much like the “random” issue plucked from continuity and read out of context. Knowing what I do now about Quicksilver’s relationship with Magneto, this issue holds more meaning for me–all the familial relationships of Marvel characters were still mostly abstract to me in 1993.

I definitely like the art for the issue, and in the first few pages I found myself thinking there was something familiar about it–and had a momentary “ah-ha!” when I saw the credits box and realized this was Quesada‘s work–I’d totally forgotten that he was the penciler on this series back then. I don’t recall being at all put off by the art back in ’93, and at present, find that it holds up well, as the characters are distinct, the action’s easy to follow, and I even actually like the very-90s character designs.

I’m most used to seeing the front half of this cover, so I’m that much more impressed opening the issue and looking at the whole of the image. The trade dress for this series is the darkened overlay on the right-hand side with the Fatal Attractions logo, cover blurb/title, and of course the hologram. This overlay takes up nearly half of the front cover and for me has always been the dominant factor. The hologram image itself is about the size of a trading card, and even now remains quite impressive to me–I recall noticing how “deep” the image was, and in the right light I can still stare at it for a bit, marveling at the detail and depth. (Even with contemporary 3-D films, I’m far more impressed by the depth of purported 3-D than I am stuff popping out at me).

All in all, a strong issue that I definitely like. Though I paid full price for a copy back in the day, I’ve since snagged this issue from 25-cent and 50-cent bins, though considering its cover price is still cheaper than a contemporary 20ish-paged single issue from Marvel today, it’s well worth its full price. Heck, the hologram alone is worth the 25/50 cents to $1 price if you come across it in a bargain bin. Though this is part of a larger story, it stands alone well enough.

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Abadazad vol. 1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: The Road to Inconceivable

Summary: We’re introduced to Katie and her present situation as well as beginning to learn a bit about Abadazad…while Katie’s life changes forever…

abadazadvol01Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Drawings: Mike Ploog
Colors: Nick Bell
Cover Art: Mike Ploog
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

This book has been a long time coming. For many, though, it’s a bit of familiarity, as we–like a certain character in the story–return, at last, to the world of Abadazad.
About two and a half years ago, CrossGen introduced a fairly unique and interesting new comic series–Abadazad. After just a handful of issues, though, CrossGen went down, and by extension, so did Abadazad.

Long story short (look stuff up online if you want more of the CrossGen story), Abadazad has found a new home, and an interesting new format.

This is no standard comic or graphic novel or TPB, etc. It’s a hardback book–reminds me offhand of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and a couple other series-I-don’t-know-the-names-of that I see lined up in the YA section at Wal-Mart all the time.

To open this book, flipping to the right page, it certainly looks like one of those sorts of books inside as well (as opposed to, say, some mass market paperback books reprinting comics and such).
Some very familiar images adorn certain pages, sometimes interspersed with the text itself, other times large singular images on a page opposing text, sometimes a full-page image or double-page spread. And still other pages, are actually in ‘standard’ comic book format–these taken from those original 2004 issues of Abadazad that saw print.

It seems that here we get a rather interesting–if a bit haphazard (mostly in a good way, I think)–mix of prose and “comic” and simply images to go with said prose. The prose is Kate’s narration, what she’s recorded in her diary…er…memoir…diary. And on occasion, it leads into the “comic pages” that give brief visuals of Kate and the situations she finds herself in, and the characters she interacts with.
This style feels almost like a voice-over-on-black that then leads into a scene, or a voiceover-into-scene transition, were one to visualize this as a movie or tv program or such.

Physical and style description aside, what of the story?

There’s just something about the story itself that draws one in. It’s at once familiar, and yet new. Not too far in, a reference is made about “through the rabbit-hole,” “over the rainbow,” “into the wardrobe,” showing an in-text awarenessof the likes of Wonderland, Oz, Narnia; another reference goes to Middle-Earth…perhaps the mention alone leads one to slightly shift their mind to try to see this in the same light as those classic stories.

We meet Katie–Kate–a 14 year old girl living with her mother. The father ditched them years earlier. Accompanying that, Kate had a younger brother–Matty. One quickly realizes that she’s writing about Matty in the past tense. Five years later, and she and her mother are still deeply traumatized at having lost Matty. Her mother–“Frantic Frances”–has distanced herself all the more trying to hide from the loss, while Kate herself has tried to harden her heart and move on without wanting to allow herself to dwell on her lost brother.

Her crazy old neighbor introduces her to the “truth” behind the stories she’s read since she was a kid–and had bonded with her brother over reading them to him. The truth leads to what will be Katie’s great adventure/quest/whatever, and the true meat of Abadazad.

DeMatteis‘ story is well-thought-out, drawing on the familiar while injecting some new to the concept of a fantasy-world-turned-real. Given the context of the story, the characters are very believeable, and while there’s not a LOT of depth yet, this is just introducing the characters, context, and world of Abadazad. This book’s story sets the stage for what is to come, presenting the reader with all they need to know to get the characters and know what they’re all about.

Ploog‘s art captures a great style that looks right at home simply as illustrations for a prose tale, but then lends itself to a rather realistic visual style on the comic pages–realistic, but a sort of ‘softness’ that mutes the seriousness of the story. This gives a tone that keeps the seriousness from totally weighing on the reader, while allowing for its presence. Additionally, the comic pages give visual on the settings depicted much moreso than one would get simply from single-image illustrations.

On the whole, while not entirely a prose book nor by any stretch a graphic novel, this book is a great blend of both, and while maybe not 100% original, is certainly comparatively unique in this blending. Adults should find a certain enjoyment of the story, and yet it seems pretty well-suited for a younger crowd (though as with anything, I wouldn’t indiscriminately give it to a kindergartener or such).

The prose is enough to not be something boring to adult readers, but is simple enough for younger readers. It also provides a “hook” to bring readers into the story, and the comic pages in addition to providing visuals to small scenes serve double-duty by showing someone what comics are–and can be.

Even if for some reason someone disapproves of comics, this format holds more prose than comic, so might make parents happy seeing their kids read a prose story–but the comics enhance the story for someone who wants more than just a few ‘static’ images here and there in their story.

Whether you’re interested in this for having read the original comics, or this is the first you’ve even heard of Abadazad…I highly recommend checking these books out!

Ratings:

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

Doom Patrol #4 [Review]

Dead Reckoning; The Coming of…The Clique!

DOOM PATROL
Writer: Keith Giffen
Penciller: Justiniano
Inker: Livesay
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Guy Major
Cover: Justiniano, Andrew Mangum, Guy Major
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Elisabeth V. Gehrlein

METAL MEN
Plot: Keith Giffen
Dialogue: J.M. Dematteis
Art: Kevin Maguire
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Elisabeth V. Gehrlein

It took me 3 attempts to make it all the way through this issue. The first two, I got hung up in the main feature. At the third attempt I managed to get through the main feature, and then all the way through the co-feature with no trouble at all.

I’m not entirely sure what was going on in the main story. To my knowledge all the characters are new to me–none of them rang any bells for me. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters contextually, though to be honest–I’m not sure if those are characters that are part of the current book, or references to the previous incarnation of this title, or what.

But as standard in Blackest Night comics so far, we see dead rise to elicit emotional response from the living, the aim being to ripen a heart with strong emotion before the subject is killed to power up the Black Lanterns.

The art’s quite good, to keep it simple. Though I’m unfamiliar with the characters, there’s no trouble telling them apart nor in following the action. And nothing to the visual style gave me any pause to contemplate quality.

The story itself was not enjoyable for me. I was not interested in the concept of this Doom Patrol before, and I’m not now after reading this issue. That’s not to say the story itself is bad–it’s not–but it doesn’t appeal to me.

This reminds me a bit of my early days in reading X-Men comics: being entirely unfamiliar with the characters and having no real sense of continuity, who characters were, and so on. While the story structure seems good, it just doesn’t interest me. However, for sake of following the entire Blackest Night event, I still intend to pick up the next issue.

If Doom Patrol’s your thing, this’ll be well worthwhile I think. If not…it doesn’t seem like it’s going to–from this issue, at least–add much to the Blackest Night event. Moreso the other way around–the event’s inserting something into this title’s story.

The Metal Men co-feature has nothing to do with Blackest Night, and seems quite timeless. A group of “female” robots have been activated by an arrogant creator seeking to outdo Magnus’ Metal Men. These girlbots proclaim themselves The Clique, and stir up trouble that gets the Metal Men involved (though they were quite happy enough to begin with, shopping with Magnus for a birthday present to give Tina–aka Platinum.)

I’m somewhat familiar with Magnus from 52, as well as the Metal Men from same as well as elsewhere around the DCU. They’re hardly my favorite characters; basically a take ’em or leave ’em situation. However, something about this story kept a sense of fun about things with some goofiness and the fantastic.

I was more engaged by this story than the Doom Patrol, and while I find The Clique to be a stupid/stereotypical element, it still works overall.

As a whole, I’m not entirely satisfied with the purchase as just a comic. In addition to simply being a Blackest Night crossover issue–the first tie-in of the event that’s not a Green Lantern book or mini-series–this issue is the first of several that are part of DC’s “ring promotion,” wherein retailers could order a bag of rings for every X number of copies of this issue they ordered. This issue came with a Yellow Ring. My inner fanboy was almost giddy at receiving the ring at no additonal cost–and for sheer enjoyment of starting a collection of the colored rings, this issue was more than worth its cover price to me.

Doom Patrol
Story: 4/10
Art: 7/10

Metal Men
Story: 6/10
Art: 7/10

Whole: 6/10

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