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Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

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Blackest Night: Titans #1 [Review]

When Death Comes Knocking

Written by: J. J. Krul
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter, Jon Sibal & JP Mayer
Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham
Cover: Benes, Hunter, & Rod Reis (variant by Brian Haberlin)
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ve been out of the Titans/Teen Titans loop for some time now. The issue opens with the various Titans observing Heroes Day–setting this on the same day as the opening of Blackest Night #1, as everyone is paying their respects to fallen heroes around the world. The Titans discuss lost allies, and even whether or not someone who once served as an ally should be memorialized alongside everyone else who had not betrayed the team. The argument leads Beast Boy to seek some alone time which makes him a perfect target for a particular Black Lantern to work with. The other focus to the issue is on the current Hawk and Dove, as they face an appropriate Black Lantern, who pushes a number of buttons for the duo.

The art for this issue is top-notch…I really enjoyed it, and never found myself wanting for clearer depictions of what’s going on. Benes is an artist wose work I’ve tended to enjoy since I “discovered” his art years ago on Superman. The entire creative team provides for a well-done visual that gets the story across very well.

I’m not familiar offhand with the writer, but found the story here to be perfectly solid. This is the tie-in mini I was least anticipating for Blackest Night, and had originally considered passing on entirely…but something to it actually pulled me in, and I’m glad I did not pass on it. My limited Titans knowledge was stretched a bit here, but with the current arc in Booster Gold, actually caught references and context that would otherwise have been lost on me. Some of the expositional dialogue in the early pages of the issue seems a bit strained, and yet is believable given the characters’ context.

I was surprised at the presence of Hawk and Dove, and am curious about the way dialogue danced around exactly what happened to the original Hawk (I’m unsure, for example, if post-Infinite Crisis the events of Armageddon 2001 still happened). Still, the timing of this issue’s release is fortuitous as I just a few days ago watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited starring the original Hawk and Dove, which added to my contextual knowledge and appreciation of the characters.

Overall, an enjoyable issue in itself, and I expect it’ll be even more enjoyable (or at least able to be further appreciated) by longer-time Titans fans or those more knowledgeable with the property than I.

Recommended for Titans (or really, classic Teen Titans, given the characters involved) fans, and/or those simply following the whole of the Blackest Night story.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

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