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The ’80s Revisited: Worlds Finest #323

worlds_finest_comics_0323Afraid of the Dark

Writer: Joey Cavalieri
Penciller: Jose Delbo
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Duncan Andrews
Colorist: Nansi Hoolahan
Editor: Janice Race
Cover: Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano, Tatjana Wood
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1986
Cover Price: $0.75

I don’t know that I know exactly what I expected from this issue…but this sure wasn’t it!

Metropolis finds itself in the grips of a magical darkness…which means that even Superman can’t do anything about it–though he still tries to at least help, even if he can’t solve anything with it. but he quickly gets taken down by Nightwolf and his magical darkness-wolves (werewolves? dire wolves? magic-wolves, whatever). Nightwolf then parades around proclaiming himself king of the world (essentially) with the beaten Superman as a symbol of his own power and abilities. Meanwhile, Batman does the detective leg-work of the piece, tracking down the origin of this Nightwolf, learning a weakness he can exploit, and ultimately saving the city (and Superman) from the magical threat. In the aftermath, Batman rejects Superman’s attempted thank-you, lecturing him on how he could’ve been killed, and can’t just rush into stuff with FORCE. Batman leaves things at the fact that he’ll SAVE Superman any time, but will not help write his epitaph. And thus, the World’s Finest team has broken up, paving the way for the adversarial (despite mutual respect) relationship of the later 1980s and 1990s that pretty much remains in 2016, 30 years after this issue saw print.

The art is not bad, as Superman and Batman both have a very familiar look, very much what I associate with them for the early to mid 1980s "bronze ange" and such (so much so that as I read Batman’s lines, I heard the voice of the actor from the Untold Legend of the Batman comics-on-cassette!) By extension of THAT, I got a bit of Superman’s voice from the Man of Steel comics-on-cassette stuff as well. My only real problem with the art stems from the time this was published: Superman vs. magical wolves that leave him beaten, costume shredded, and basically unconscious…yet there’s no blood. I don’t need to see a bloodied, shredded almost-corpse, but for the level of threat this supposedly was, it’s odd as a mid-30s adult to read this and see Superman just so "simply" taken down but the only thing INDICATING any harm is holes/tears in the costume with nothing but clean, unmarred skin beneath.

Story-wise, again, this isn’t bad, but it’s certainly DATED. For one thing, someone successfully taking over even a city, and Superman going down, and Batman having to track down the villain’s origin and figure out a weakness and actually take the guy on and such–this would CERTAINLY be a 6-issue arc in terms of contemporary deconstructed/padded/written-for-the-trade comics. And with as much as I have read of modern-day contemporary comics published in the last 15-some years, the "modern sensibility" being drilled into me constantly for all this time–this issue feels ultra-compressed to the point of there being no real character to it…and I’m disappointed at how "filler" and ARBITRARY it felt. I mean, there’s a lot of potential here, but as a now-2016 reader reading this cold some 30 years after it was published, even the hints of characterization and depth that could be picked up on just doesn’t "work" for me as a single issue.

This does not feel like it’s picking up from a cliffhangered previous issue, and as the final issue of the entire series, there’s no cliffhanger (at least not in the "To Be Continued…" sense, though it leaves the Superman/Batman relationship hanging to be developed from its now-broken pieces). As such, it feels like it could be set "whenever," and has no real hook on a specific point in continuity, based on the story itself. And for the flimsy/abrupt splintering of the "partnership" between Batman and Superman, that comes outta nowhere–no internal narration or thought balloons of Batman wishing Clark hadn’t rushed in, and that he’s always doing this and never thinks ahead, whatever. As such, the final couple pages could have been tacked on as "epilogue" to virtually ANY story in which Superman "almost died" and Batman got to "save the day."

The cover as well is a bit out of sync with my personal expectations as well. It seems to indicate the split, a farewell between the two heroes, but no real indicator of cause nor actuality. Given Batman’s small wave, it seems more a casual thing between old friends than any real split or breakup or animosity.

Perhaps adding to my feelings on this issue is also the modern day sensibilities in comics–something as "crucial" as the friendship between Batman and Superman, their partnership, the way they’ve been the best of friends (to this point) coming to an end? This would have been hyped and hugely played-up, with an extra-sized issue with at least another short story following each character and exploring their feelings on the matter and where things are likely to go, etc. (I think of Cyclops vs. Wolverine with Prelude to Schism as its own mini-series to set up the conflict, then Schism itself as another mini to have them actually fight, and then the outcome split into an entirely new ongoing series and a renumbered version of a 48-year-old series).

Something this big just seemed like the issue should have FELT bigger, felt more important, felt Earth-shattering…but instead, it feels like a whimper, or like some tv show that was told it was getting another season, is preparing to film a season finale, but gets told the pre-finale episode is their last, but they can film another minute or two’s worth of story to "wrap things up."

I was quoted $2 for this issue, minus a 20% discount, so figure I paid roughly $1.60 for this…and its cover price is $0.75, so 30 years after its publication, as a "key issue" (final issue of a longrunning series, the "breakup" of the Superman/Batman team), I barely paid more than twice cover price, which itself STILL made it half the cost of a current Dc Rebirth issue, and only a little over 1/3 the cost of a contemporary Marvel issue. The reading experience took longer than contemporary comics, and I’ve sunk however much additional time into typing and preparing this review, so I certainly got my money’s worth out of this for time-to-expense considerations (and I was "prepared" to pay around $6 for this, too!).

Aside from having some desire to read it for yourself, to "experience" the issue as a whole for yourself, this was a real letdown and not something I’d recommend seeking out. Still, there are worse issues, and if you’re (like me) a huge fan of Superman, and even the Superman/Batman stuff, this is worth picking up if you can get it cheaply.

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The ’90s Revisited – Superman: Man of Tomorrow #9

History Lesson

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Paul Ryan & Brett Breeding
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editing: Mike McAvennie and Joey Cavalieri
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.95
Cover Date: Fall 1997

I grabbed this issue out of a 25-cent bin last week. What grabbed me was the cover itself. This is from right in the middle of the whole “Electro-Supes” era from 1997 to 1998 when Superman was transformed into an energy-being with electrical powers and a new costume. The cover is billed as “The Secrets of Superman’s Costume!” and shows a bunch of the different costumes Superman’s had in the current continuity.

I couldn’t remember what the secret(s) of the electric costume were, and liked the cluster of variant costumes, and for only $.25 decided to buy this to re-read (having bought a copy originally the week it came out, at full cover price–but that copy’s buried away in one of my longboxes with the rest of my Superman comics from this era). Re-reading it didn’t bring quite the experience I was looking for, but certainly was worth my 25-cents.

We open on Jonathan Kent falling asleep to some news about Superman, and dreaming an amalgamation of current events and stuff from the 1986 Man of Steel mini-series. He remembers the incident that brought Clark into the public eye as Superman, but replacing the development of the “classic costume” with the energy containment “electric costume.” When Martha wakes him, the two remenisce over the various events their son’s been through, essentially hitting on key points in the then-current continuity of Superman, as measured by the costume variants he’d been depicted in. By the end of the issue, Clark drops in, and we see the current costume in action.

Overall, I really like the art in this issue. I’ve generally enjoyed Breeding‘s art, and while an occasional panel here and there might have an element that seems a bit “off,” it’s hard to know if that should be pinned on the pencils, inking, coloring, or what, within the process. The overall visuals of the issue are a real treat–it’s quite enjoyable seeing all these different costumes Superman’s had, even if most of them lasted for only a few weeks or a single story and weren’t necessarily an “official” costume change the way the electric suit was.

Story-wise, I’m really not all that impressed. This is definitely a throw-away issue in terms of ongoing continuity–it’s relatively “timeless” and seems to have nothing to do with anything immediately before nor does it lead into something else. It’s a one-shot, and fairly contrived: Jonathan dreaming and then he and Martha having a conversation with these sorts of details recapping all these events just doesn’t seem at all realistic.

Despite that, this issue deals very much with long-term continuity by touching on all these events, Stern showing an obvious knowledge of the events, having been part of a lot of them (particularly the Death/Return of Superman). In contemporary terms, this would be a great 0-issue or Point-One issue.

And while this does not continue a particular story from the previous week nor lead into the next week–that makes it a nice stand-alone one-shot. I remember this era so have vague recollection for context, and it’s nice to take a peek back without getting sucked into wanting to immediately re-read anything else from this time.

The Flash: Rebirth #6 [Review]

Fastest Man Alive

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver
Inkers: Ethan Van Sciver & Scott Hanna
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Brian Miller of Hi-Fi
Colored by: Brian Miller of Hi-Fi
Cover by: Ethan Van Sciver
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Published by: DC Comics

This mini started out billed as a 5-issue series. Then it got expanded to 6 issues. This sixth/final issue comes basically 10 months after #1 shipped. Frankly, the issue–while something I’d like to…well, like…seems to be something that ought to have been wrapped up long before now.

Story-wise, we open on Barry and Wally chasing Zoom through time–the latter has vowed to kill Iris, the former are trying to stop him. Of course, the duo catch the villain and ensure he won’t threaten anyone ever again (well, for the rest of THIS issue, at least…it’s a comic. He’s gonna come back!). Then they return home where there’s a parade for Barry…I believe the one he was nervous about way back in issue #1. And what would a re-insertion of a classic character into contemporary continuity be without the “validation” of the Justice League affirming the return and his place with them?

The art for this issue–while good–lacks a certain sense of greatness, and isn’t nearly as appealing as I’d’ve hoped. Perhaps the lateness of the issue would suggest time was taken to really make it pop, or something. Even on a couple of the huge full-page/double-spread shots, I’m not entirely clear what’s being shown, though they make a little more sense when I take time to go back and “study” them, looking for what they COULD be, beyond what simply looking at them AS I read the story gives me. There’s one that I’m not sure if it’s being suggested that this chase through time IS the lightning that gave Barry his powers in the first place (which would seem to be a time paradox), or if they’re just viewing it, or if it’s just there to fill out the page and clue us in that they’ve reached the earliest time OF Barry’s time as The Flash.

The story itself mostly ties up the broadest of loose ends, but already sets the stage for not only the return of Zoom to active status, but also someone called “Doctor Alchemy,” who I presume is some largely un-used silver-age Flash villain that’s gonna be raised up to show us how awesome he can be, much as was done with Black Hand in Green Lantern (though I’m not expecting lightning to strike twice, in this case). Johns seems to have a definite love for the character, which I applaud…but this series in itself has done far too little to “sell” me on Barry as the primary Flash character (seems if anything, it’s been Johns using Barry to such good effect with Hal in Green Lantern and the core Blackest Night book that’s sold me at all on the merit of having Barry around.

Obviously, if you’ve already bought the first five issues, this issue’s one that you might as well consider picking up for the sake of completing the series. It’s in no way a selling point in itself though for the series, and based on this issue alone I’d suggest ignoring it. The collected volume will probably read much better, with the wait between issues stretching a mere turning of a page or two rather than months, and the whole of the story will be fresher in one’s head and thus probably feel more coherent.

As a whole, this issue’s quite a disappointment, a lukewarm ending to what should’ve been a hot series.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Red Circle: The Web #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

The Red Circle: The Hangman #1 (one-shot) [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Brave and the Bold #24 [Review]

Last Time I Saw Paris

Writer: Matt Wayne
Artist: Howard Porter
Colorist: Tom Chu
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics

Though I’ve “heard” that Static’s been appearing in the Teen Titans book, I’ve not been reading that corner of the DCU…so this is one of the first times I’ve seen the character interact directly with the other DCU characters. Offhand, the only other instance I’ve seen of Static in the mainline DCU was a reference somewhere by Black Lightning about being asked about his relation TO Static. So seeing the two teamed up for this issue was something that seemed interesting enough to check out.

Story-wise, some super-powered villain called Holocaust bursts onto the scene, and both Black Lightning and Static are present and leap into action to protect those around them and deal with the threat. The relationship between the two changes during the issue, winding up with a mutual respect.

The visuals aren’t bad–at some points, they seem a bit “off” to me ever so slightly–but on the whole make for a solid visual experience. The story itself is ok, if a bit cliched. However, given that this is essentially a one-off issue–we have a complete “story” told in this one issue that does not require one to have bought the previous issue nor a need to buy the next issue for continuation/conclusion. Your $2.99 cover price investment nets you the entirety of this particular Black Lightning/Static story.

On the whole given all that, this was a nice fun issue and well worth its cover price. I’d been under the impression that this title was still doing ongoing arcs, just with different pairings of characters taking the lead/spotlight. As a book that gives complete done-in-ones spotlighting such pairings, I’d totally be on-board. After the Booster Gold/Magaog issue last month and now this, I’ll be keeping my eye on the book.

Well worth picking up if you’re a fan of either/both characters.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

The Flash: Rebirth #3 [Review]

Rearview Mirrors

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Colorist: Brian Miller
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Cover: Ethan Van Sciver, Alex Sinclair (variant by Van Sciver & Brian Miller)
Publisher: DC Comics

The “Rebirth” bit is losing its shine with me here. While expectations have been that the trumpeted return of Barry Allen is the focus of this series–that he’d be restored as Hal Jordan was to Green Lantern in that title’s “Rebirth” mini–my expectations are steadily dropping.

This issue sees reaction to Barry apparently interacting with the speed force in such a way that others tapping into it are dying as his body seeks more and more speed power, in an almost vampiric sorta way. While everyone else hustles to figure a way to separate Barry from the speed force–sure, he’d lose the speed, but at least he’d be ALIVE–Barry determines to go his on sacrificial course…one that puts him back in the familiar role of essentially racing Superman. The issue’s ending puts Barry face to face with who the villain of the piece likely is, in a way that also reminds me very much of the Green Lantern: Rebirth series.

The story, somehow–perhaps I just don’t want to like it–seems one of the weakest I can think of from Johns. While I’d known Kyle as Green Lantern longer than Hal, I’d still known Hal as Green Lantern first. However, the first real exposure I had to the Flash, it was Wally–and in restrospect, had BEEN Wally for bout 3 years before I owned my first comic. While the situation presented in this story is mildly interesting, I do not find Barry himself interesting…certainly not the way I did Hal. And I make the comparisons given the creative team and the title of this series–obviously meant to BE compared to GL:R.

The art by Van Sciver–ESPECIALLY the cover–is top-notch; I really can’t complain about it. Much as Van Sciver brought in the glowing/projected imagery for the GLs of the Lantern logo, he brings that to bear on the Flash with the lightning. Not that it’s original, but something about it really pops.

As a whole, this is a higher quality book than the first couple issues of the post-Bart-as-Flash title that I actually read. It’s not bad for those new to the Flash family of characters (I am myself learning more of the character grouping than I’d known of them prior), so overall accessible to new readers. It’s just lacking a certain excitement and enjoyment factor. With Green Lantern, it felt like the return/rebirth of Hal Jordan mattered. With Barry…it feels like we’re looking for a reason FOR his return to matter.

Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8/10

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