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From the Archives: Adventures of Superman #648

adventures_of_superman_0648Look…Up In The Sky

Summary: Lois Lane reports on the destruction of Bludhaven and the response of the super-heroes.
By: Lois Lane
Photos by: Jimmy Olsen, Karl Kerschl and Renato Guedes
Additional Reporting by: Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilipis, Christina Weir and Jami Bernard
Graphic Design by: Richard & Tanya Horie
Copy Design: Rob Leigh
Editors: Eddie Berganza and Jeanine Schaefer
Editor in Chief: Perry White
Cover Art: Karl Kerschl, colors by Dave McCaig
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

This issue is another logoed Infinite Crisis crossover issue. This is where we get the immediate response/fallout to the destruction wrought by Chemo in Infinite Crisis # 4. Rather than dialogue and seeing "inside" the heroes’ reactions to that event, we get it from the perspective of some citizen of the DCU reading reporter Lois Lane’s article covering the heroes’ response as she observed it.

This makes for an interesting perspective, if not entirely original. The "narration" is simply Lois’ story, which provides the only words found in the otherwise "silent" issue. One moment that stands out to me offhand is a full-page panel of Green Lantern amidst the wreckage, obviously deeply pained over the event. I believe this would be apparent even without Lois’ observation.

My initial reaction to this being where the plot thread gets immediately dealt with was surprise–given that many characters have "signature cities" that are often as much a character as any humanoid supporting cast member. Shouldn’t this be dealt with in another book? Except of course, Superman being Superman is obviously going to help. And given that Superman’s so powerful (here, the specific focus is on his invulnerability), it’s not like the character’s going to stand by and let others die just to maintain some "image" or such.

The style of this issue remind me of the Superman issue (# 79, I believe) that was told in this same way, except it was Ron Troupe’s story scattered in the otherwise silent issue which showed the Cyborg Superman stopping an attempt in the White House on the president’s life, and that president’s endorsement of the Cyborg as the "real" Superman. Given the destruction the characters rally to face, I’m also reminded of the "Black Cover Spider-Man Issue" (Amazing Spider-Man v.2 # 36, I believe).
Getting the story simultaneously after-the-fact (Lois’ words) and as it unfolds (the visuals) works pretty well–and for the most part might be the only way to truly cram so much into one issue. If there was dialogue with us seeing/hearing the characters talking to each other and coordinating and whatnot, this issue would have be be double, triple, or even quadruple-sized.

On the one hand, it’s interesting that there are four people listed for the writing–three beyond regular writer Greg Rucka. I can give the benefit of the doubt on it to the writing style and giving voice to Lois’ writing, as journalistic writing is not quite the same entity as character-writing and may be more collaborative.
Visually, there’s a fair amount of blank-space on these pages, as the images are pretty much contained to panels, and those panels’ layout tends to somewhat resemble photos placed on a fixed-size page. Though the art is not by a single person, it works for me here.

I found myself reading the text, using the visuals almost as an abstract, seeing them but not diving in deeply. Letting the visuals enhance what I was reading.
No real complaints with the art–it’s not perfect by any means, and this issue continues a trend of having "extras" credited, assumably to get an issue out exactly on-time (given what it covers, this issue pretty much had to be out right after Infinite Crisis # 4. Same week, and someone reading this issue spoils a major part of that issue; two weeks after, and it’s old news compared to books that also touch on the ramifications.

Other than describing how some of the mess is specifically cleaned up quickly (which might be mentioned in other books–I don’t know), this issue doesn’t strike me as essential reading. It will enhance one’s reading of the overall Infinite Crisis event, though. The issue doesn’t even have to be a Superman one–this could almost have been labeled "The Daily Planet – The Day After Infinite Crisis # 4" and been a "special" or "supplement" issue.

My initial reaction to the issue was that it wasn’t all that good, but it is actually quite well done, and serves its purpose as a followup to one of the more catastrophic events in the DCU.

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Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Not Bad
Story Title: Yesterday’s Hero

The Legion members recount how a young Superman came to be part of their team…

legionofsuperheroesinthe31stcentury001Writer: J. Torres
Art: Chynna Clugston
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Cover Art: Steve Uy
Publisher: Johnny-DC/DC Comics

The initial draw for me to this issue was the price. The prospect of buying a new issue with no discounts at a bricks and mortar store for just over the $2 mark grabbed my interest out of principle (though I sheepishly admit to virtually ignoring all Johnny-DC books for the last couple years). It’s a first issue, it’s cheap, and it features characters I’m not terribly familiar with…so hey, might as well check it out, right?
The first thing I noticed with the issue was the paper quality. Very thin, and if it isn’t, sure feels like the classic newsprint from comics of days gone by…which explains the cover price.

The story is pretty simple and straight-forward: the Legionaires have conflicting views on what exactly it was that led to a young man of steel being part of their 31st-century team. We basically get several narratives from the characters, recounting a couple of quick adventures, collectively serving as a first-issue introduction-and-origin of the team and info about its starring characters.

We’re given a look at the Legionaires "interviewing" the young man of steel to see that he’s eligible to join (this seems vaguely familiar to me as something from one of the original Legion of Super-Heroes stories from way-back-when); and then a fight with the Fatal Five.

The art is also fairly simple and not terribly detailed (which is not to say there’s no detail), and somewhat manga-ish. I realize this is to have it fit with the actual cartoon this series is a companion to (though I’m not sure if the first episode’s aired yet). It’s not particularly my cup of tea so to speak, but it fits the tone of the book, the characters are distinct and recognizeable, and so I really can’t complain about it in and of itself.

I’m not sure how this book will go over with long-time Legion of Super-Heroes fans, as my primary knowledge of the characters comes from the first year of the current iteration in the mainline DCU, but while this is definitely much different from that, I found it to be entertaining enough. I’m not a huge fan of the "Americanized-manga" styling, and a seemingly-on-the-surface over-simplification of things (the perception of which has largely kept out of the Teen Titans animated and Teen Titans Go! comic series). But as a simple, fun story not bogged down in continuity, this definitely isn’t bad.

It’s also a self-contained "full" story, in a debut issue of a new series, that actually introduces the main/core team, gives a look at all the characters and interacts with them…which scores points in MY book.

This is worth checking out if you’re looking (at least) for a quick diversion from all the heavy seriousness of many other current fare, and wouldn’t be a terrible issue to offer to the younger crowd–or read WITH them. Nothing all that spectacular, but certainly NOT bad at all.

Ratings:

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

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

52 Week #48 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Asked and Answered

The race to find Kate Kane and rescue her is on!

52week48Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Art: Darick Robertson
Pencils – Origin: Nicola Scott
Inker – Origin: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: David Baron, (Origin – Alex Sinclair)
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens with several days’ worth of action, in a rather cool way: multiple characters across multiple panels across multiple days, asking one key question to kick the main story into motion. The bulk of the issue centers on Nightwing, Montoya & co. as they seek out Mannheim and Batwoman, to foil the plans of Intergang and their crime bible. There’s a lot of action as we see the characters fighting increasingly-high-level underlings, working their way up to Mannheim himself and a dark ceremony that promises to unleash hell-on-Earth, starting with Gotham City.

The ending of the fight has a bit of surprise and bucks the norm a bit–a welcome feat in contemporary comics.

To a degree, there’s little be said about the writing. It’s good. It’s solid. It’s consistent. Same as it’s been. The story flows, and we get to see characters acting in-character and reflecting (particularly in Montoya’s case) growth from the past 11 months.

The art this week–by Darick Robertson–fit really well. There’s a sort of thick darkness about it that sets the tone without being overly bold nor overly light. No complaints here in that department.

The origin backup stars the Birds of Prey, and like the other backups, condenses years of history into just a couple pages of the bare-bones basics. Par for the course, really…gave me a clearer vision of the history, and not atrocious to look at so fills its duty; nothing stand-out astonishing or anything, though.

48 issues in…if you’re not on-board, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you; and if you’ve stuck it out this far even disliking it, you might as well finish.

I found this to be another solid issue of what’s really come to be a favorite series.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #44 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Deaths in the Family

Last issue’s bloody conclusion sets the stage for this week, as the Black Marvels face the Horsemen of the Apokalips…

52week44Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, Eddy Barrows
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot to be said about this issue, and it certainly marks a clear turning point both for the series, as well as the Black Marvels. What we’ve seen over the course of the last 30+ issues in particular, and series as a whole brings several plots together in a collision point that paves the way for the upcoming World War III week.

After last week’s rather sudden betrayal by Sobek and devouring of a member of the Black Marvel family, the remaining Black Marvels have it out with the Horsemen of the Apokalips. The bulk of the issue depicts this battle, with the conclusion leading back to Montoya’s story even as she spends time in Nanda Parbat, and kicks her story forward a bit, too.

Thankfully, this issue has a full complement of pages, allowing just an extra couple pages of story, rather than an origin backup.
All in all, this issue packs quite the punch, and continues to offer the payoff that was lacking in the earliest issues of the series.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the craftsmanship of the story itself at this point that’s not been said before–it’s fully solid, as has come to be standard for the book, with its core writing team. 44 issues in, there’s a consistency that just flows, and took me quickly through this issue without any pause for any visible story glitches.

Visually, the art team tackles some harsh material, and depicts some rather gory stuff, making this one of the darker, bloodier issues to date (even beginning at the cover as we see the reflection of Isis in a pool of spilled blood). To a small degree, Black Adam in particular seems just a bit "off" visually from prior appearances–that I’d notice or care says a lot about the last couple years of the character’s presence on my comic-reading-radar. While this is noticeable, it really doesn’t detract from the issue’s story–the characters are clear and fairly emotive, and other than a general lack of familiarity with the individual Horsemen, it’s not hard to tell who’s supposed to be who. The only "complaint" I really have is the visual similarity between Richard Dragon and Ralph Dibny, as I’m not particularly familiar with the former, and the latter has sported a similar appearance throughout this series.

After this issue, there are a mere 8 chapters left…it’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 months since the story kicked off, and it’s already rushing at breakneck speed toward its conclusion. While some smaller bits of continuity will almost certainly be lost on a newer reader, and there’s no real "catch-up" mechanism (such as a "last issue" or "story thus far" page), this wouldn’t be an absurd point to jump back into the series if you gave it up due to the relatively slow start. At the same time, it doesn’t seem overly likely that anyone’s going to be really pulled in this far in if one hasn’t already been following the story.

Another very good issue of what I suspect may–for me–go down as a favorite run, period.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #40 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Man Ain’t Nothing But a Man

Steel vs. Lex Luthor (and a teaser on what’s up in Kahndaq)…

52week40Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Rodney Ramos & Dan Green
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost entirely focused on Steel, and his fight with Lex Luthor. Only the final two pages deal with anything else–Kahndaq and the worsening situation there (that likely will be picked up and run with before too long as the final quarter of this series kicks into high gear).

John Irons–Steel–arrives at the LexCorp building to confront Luthor over his role in the New Year deaths of thousands, as well as to rescue his neice from the evil businessman’s clutches. He’s got some help, though they split off to deal with various threats, ultimately paving the way for Steel’s personal confrontation with Luthor.

At face value, this is just one big fight-scene, though there are a few moments scattered throughout for characterization–particularly via characters’ interactions. This fight has been building for months…since the beginning of the series, really.

I for one really enjoyed this issue. I’m pretty sure the last time (in-continuity) that I really saw Steel in action–the John Henry Irons Steel, that is–was the end of the Superman: Man of Steel series or the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokalips Now 4-5 years ago. I only recall seeing him become a literal "man of steel" in the earlier issues of this series, not actually using the armor he created for himself. As such, seeing the character suit up and dive into battle here was very, very welcome.

The writing’s about normal for this series…being a big fight-scene, there don’t seem to be any deep or nuanced bits of dialogue to dissect, just two men throwing down after building hard feelings over a course of the last 10 months or so.

However, whether intentional or just my reading too much into it, I’m reminded of one of the closing chapters of The Return of Superman where the characters are battling their way into the heart of Engine City to confront the Cyborg and have to face their own individual battles en route, while fighting for the larger single goal.

The art for this issue is quite good–I have no complaints with it, and actually enjoyed it. There’s a full-page shot of Steel that would make a great poster, and is the best I recall seeing the character since some of his earliest appearances in the 90s. I don’t recall offhand if I knew Batista‘s art prior to this series, but the name sticks now, and I certainly enjoy his art.

This issue’s story takes the full allotment of pages, leaving no room for an origin backup, which is more than fine by me. In that sense, we get a full "normal" issue’s-length on the Steel/Luthor story, with the Kahndaq sequence replacing the backup, keeping this issue as a whole from being "just" some wrongly-titled issue of Steel.

If you’ve not been along for much of the ride, not much to sell you on here; if you’re a fan of Steel, though, this is a great issue, if only to see him in-armor and in action. Otherwise, this is an issue for those in for the long haul with the singles.

We’re well past the half-way point, squeaking past the 3/4 point…and I’m strapping in for the final section of this particular roller-coaster ride.

Ratings:

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

52 Week #36 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: How to Win a War in Space

The space heroes confront Lady Styx, Montoya’s spurred to action, and Supernova’s in a spot of trouble…

52week36Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Jamal Igle
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot going on in this issue. We pick up with Lobo delivering the space-heroes to Lady Styx, and betrayal mounts. As the heroes face the threat posed by Styx, one of them falls, delivering on the expected death. On earth, Montoya comes to a decision on what to do about her friend, rather than sit around waiting for him to die without his dignity in the Gotham hospital. Finally, as promised on the cover’s ticker, we get to see Rip Hunter’s ‘secret location’ as well as glean a bit more information on Supernova.

I remember with earlier reviews of this series, talking about the slow build and hoping there’d be payoff later on; that establishment of a foundation was a necessary evil (well, they may not have been my exact words then, but they are now.) We get a fair amount of payoff in this issue, as well as some forward movement (if not outright teasing) of what’s to come in the near future.

I for one have quit looking for individual voices in scenes, content to know that the writers are all contributing in one form or another, maintaining a consistency from issue-to-issue. On that note of consistency, we get to see a logical progression of Lobo’s character, maintaining both what has been established of him in this series over the last 4 months or so as well as much earlier in the character’s existence, with a nice nod to a couple specials, even. There even seems to be some room to question some translation–I for one derived a bit of twisted amusement contemplating the authenticity versus some other motivation.

Montoya’s scene seems to straddle a nice line between the real and the fiction that is comic books–her frustration/desperation and sadness at what seems to be a foregone conclusion is blended with the supernatural that is commonplace in the comic book world, allowing a glimmer of hope that may not be realistic in terms of our real world…but it seems to fit very well into the universe we know of through this series.

Supernova and Rip Hunter are shown briefly–and for the moment weigh as the weakest part of the series for me at present. While I expect some cool payoff later on, right now I find that I’m just not that interested in Supernova as a character–I don’t feel anything’s really known about him, and other than "teases" as to identity (and I for one have not picked up on clues that apparently have been dropped here and there, nor "gotten" any that I’ve spotted) there seems to be very little TO the character as yet. It certainly doesn’t help when so few pages have been afforded the character thus far.

The art stays fairly subtle–it’s there, but doesn’t overstep its bounds; it serves the story without offending the eye. My one gripe visually would be the panel when Lady Styx first strikes Lobo–I can figure it out based on context, but without context it’s hard to clearly make out exactly what is happening there. Still, the complaint’s one panel of many, and may just be my own eyes.

Overall, this is another very good issue of the series, and reminds me that I do indeed enjoy the story and format, and look forward to next week’s issue.

The Origin of Power Girl
Writer: Mark Waid
Art & Color: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain

Another standard-ish origin. Pretty much a simplified version of the telling of what I’d already figured out from pre/during Infinite Crisis stories. Still not a big fan of these, though that DOES seem to be tempered in part on whether or not I’m (personally) familiar with the character. Visually, may be a treat for certain folks, but doesn’t appeal to me. Still, it’s two pages…hardly enough to "break" an issue…and it certainly beats the pages being used for ads.

Ratings:

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

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