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Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

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Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

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Super Sons #1 [Review]

super_sons_0001When I Grow Up… part one

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Jimenez and Sanchez
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: April 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

I’ve been looking forward to this title for quite some time…for a number of reasons. One being the fondness with which I recall reading some of the "classic" "Super Sons" stories in Grandpa’s old comics. Another being the inspired nature of putting Damian and new Superboy Jon Kent together and seeing the two playing off each other–my having come to "accept" Damian, and being quite open to the possibilities of a Superboy who is not "just" Superman as a boy or an adopted "clone" or such…but the biological, actual SON of Superman. Then there’s the simple fun of "Son of Batman" with "Son of Superman" and their being kids, and far less "need" for decorum, professionalism, etc. As kids…there’s bound to be a certain lack of a "filter" and hijinks can ensue.

We open with a creepy-ish scene with a family that reminds me a bit of that episode of The Twilight ZoneIt’s a Good Life–with a kid having a family/town in thrall. Then we jump into some action with Robin and Superboy racing away from a crowd of creepy doppelgangers of themselves. And then…we jump to the recent past to see how they got there. We follow Jon on an otherwise normal day, seeing him dealing with being a kid, going to school, and trying to stand up for someone who can’t otherwise stand up for themself, while he HAS the power to do something. We also see Damian dealt with parentally by Batman, forced to face academics rather than action. Of course, he winds up sneaking out anyway, and enlists Jon’s assistance, as Superboy and Robin are on the case. Little realizing what an appropriate adult figure they’d bump into…the boys are in trouble, one way or the other, and we’re but one issue in.

I don’t know what I expected, exactly, from this series, outside of the hype and promise of its potential (see my opening paragraph). I’m at once drawn to, yet put off by, the art. It has a clear, energetic quality to it, a bit cartoony without being ridiculous. And I suppose it reminds me a bit of the look of the Young Justice series from the ’90s somehow, though that may just be a track of thought with no fruit…the mind can be a funny thing sometimes.

The art certainly fits the title, but I guess visually I was just expecting something more along the lines of Jim Lee, Ed Benes, or some other familiar/iconic Superman and/or Batman artist.

So while not my first choice, the art IS good, fits the story, and one can follow the action and such just fine. I’m sure it will grow on me, and become iconic in its own way, if there’s not a rotating art team or such on this title.

Story-wise, this fit in quite well with the "backdoor pilot" story we had a couple months ago in the Superman title, as well as fitting with what I’ve read of both Jon and Damian over the years in general.

We seem to be getting a new "villain" for the story, some new threat that is NOT just the kids facing some cheesy or cast-off villain from their dads’ rogues gallery(ies). And though the dads are part of the story, the story is not about them–they’re rather typically incidental.

But we’re also given plenty of first-issue material here (which is good since this IS a first issue!) in being introduced to the title characters, their supporting cast/relevant family, see them in their own elements, together, and then they’re brought together TO "team up," and encounter a threat that may be beyond either of them individually…and then a direct encounter with someone neither one of them would WANT to encounter.

This is a rich issue for me, having read plenty of (older) Batman and Robin stuff, and plenty of stuff throughout Damian’s 12-ish year existence, as well as the past 8-9 months of Rebirth-era Superman stuff, and the earlier Lois and Clark mini that came out of the events of Convergence (itself nearly 2 years ago). But just knowing tangentially that these are the biological, actual SONS of Superman and Batman, you can jump in and pick up from this issue alone, with its own context and  such.

The primary drawback here is that this is but one issue, and compared to the biweekly main Superman/Action and Batman/Detective books I believe this is monthly…so it’s going to seem drawn out. And though elements I’d expect of a first issue are here, it’s "just" part one of the story, and I’d be quite shocked if this is any less than 6 chapters…this feels like a solid opening chapter of a serialized graphic novel.

All in all, if you have enjoyed these characters in the past–individually or their "team-up" in Superman a couple months back–or are at all intrigued at the notion of the sons of Superman and Batman interacting/having their own adventures…this is a good start. I’ll certainly be giving it another issue or so myself before deciding if it fully seems more worthy of a graphic novel than being strung out as single issues.

For now? It’s only $2.99, and well worth at least giving it this single issue to get your interest up, with what it shows AND what it "promises."

Superman (2016) #2 [Review]

superman(2016)_0002Son of Superman Part Two

Storytellers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Gleason, Gray, Kalisz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early September 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

In a way, there’s not much to this issue. At least, in a simple way of looking at it, there are just several main things. First, Jon accompanies Clark–Superman–on a mission, to save an icebreaker. While Jon proves reluctant, he is shown–“live”–his father in action AS Superman. We also see that Clark is aware of what happened with the cat, and Jon confesses. They head home to allow Lois in on that. While Lois and Clark discuss the outing, Jon is joined by the neighbor girl, and they discuss things sitting in a tree before the branch they’re on breaks. She and her grandfather soon arrive at the Smiths’ door, where the adults’ meeting isn’t the greatest. Meanwhile, a Kryptonian energy signature is detected in Antarctica, drawing the attention of an entity not seen in quite awhile.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

I’m pretty sure I’ve had an issue with Gleason‘s art in the past. Assuming so, I feel like that’s made up for here. The style is not 100% to my preference…but it’s growing on me. Perhaps it’s not even the art, but the designs–elements such as the more familiar version of the “S” in the S-shield, or that Jon and the neighbors are new characters, or that I’m flat-out simply enjoying the Rebirth stuff in general so far. The art in general carries a sort of simplicity that is working well for me, as well as conveying the story in general. There’s plenty of other art stuff in that–especially the colors, that I’m liking. I never minded “the trunks” in Superman’s costume, but I’m appreciating this new look that kinda blends the classic with the new.

Story-wise, I’m really enjoying Superman as a father. Not just a father-FIGURE (we can go back 8 or 9 years to the stuff with Chris Kent for that) but an actual father…an older Superman (old ER, not “old”), with a 10-year-old son.

We’re still in early issues of this status quo…less than a year including the Lois and Clark series, and even including the Convergence issues. And this is “only” the 2nd issue of THIS series…and it feels like it. We’re getting development that feels natural and authentic (if a BIT quick), and as the STORY title indicates, the focus is on the SON of Superman…essentially, we’re seeing Superman in his own book as his son transitions from “kid who discovered he’s heat-resistant” to being active “out there” with the “S.” And we know that’s coming, in the Super-Sons book that’ll pair Jon with Damian (Robin), so Jon has to go from some kid who learns he can reach through fire to someone who can keep up with–and perhaps keep in line–Damian.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

Earlier in the issue, I wondered at what it was that was homing in on Clark, on the Kryptonian energy–and had my suspicion as to what it could be. Namely, that it would be interesting if it was a new version of a certain Kryptonian artifact…even though Clark did not have one in his fortress, nor did this Earth’s Superman in his (as discussed in the Superman: Rebirth issue). Seeing my suspicion borne out on the last page–and the LOOK of that last page–just made me smile.

[Final Spoiler warning for just below this line]

I love seeing the visored figure…and we’re presumably back to it being just what it looks like. I’ve–since 1993–always enjoyed stuff with the character, though didn’t care as much for what they did with it for and after the Imperiex stuff with Our Worlds at War in 2001…but any time you involve this character or the three contemporaries, I’m generally a sucker for it. I’d been used to the Eradicator’s later appearance…but seeing it back in this form is a real treat, and leaves me totally chomping at the bit for the next issue.

That an issue did that–it’s a great sign. I didn’t just passively “not dislike” this issue…I truly ENJOYED it. And seeing the last page as I did…reminds me how much I’ve missed in the Superman books, for years–aside from an all-too-brief blip, it’s been close to a decade.

Obviously at “only” #2, at “only” a chapter of the first arc that’ll be inevitably collected into a graphic novel/thicker format, I won’t say jump in on this issue. But I dare say that THIS is the title for lapsed Superman fans, those who were reading 10, 15, 20 years ago…even as it paves the way with a new character (Jon) from the new, dealing with events and a world born of the New 52, in which that Superman did exist, did live, did do the Super-thing.

I definitely recommend this title, and this issue just serves to solidify my being glad to be “back.” Anecdotally backing that–I have the issue pre-ordered as part of a “bundle,” but rather than wait for the end of the month, this copy that I read is a “duplicate” copy that I bought, at full price, just because I want to read new Superman stuff–that I’m enjoying–every week. (This being biweekly, alternating with Action Comics–which I’m also thoroughly enjoying–makes for a weekly, enjoyable Superman experience for the first time in ages!

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