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Superman: Secret Origin #1 [Review]

The Boy of Steel

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Covers: Frank w/ Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics

I don’t know how to describe it, really…but there’s something special just about the look of this issue. The cover’s fantastic–Gary Frank is by far one of my favorite Superman artists. The logo on the gradient-blue sky background stands out very nicely (and yet does not look out of place). This is the first issue of a mini-series…the Secret Origin part tells us we’re going back to the “beginning,” and seeing a young Clark on the cover, happy and with his parents, also both looking happy–speaks volumes to the characters. Perhaps it’s that this really gives credence to that saying about a picture being worth a thousand words–a thousand words to the positive thus hit before one’s even looked inside the issue.

Then again, perhaps it’s none of that, and simply the anticipation for this issue–after it was announced last year, and I thought it would be out by early summer and had to wait these extra months for it, and I just so enjoy finally getting to begin reading a definitive origin for the character since the Byrne stuff was chucked awhile back.

The story begins with Clark playing football in answer to challenge from classmates. Peter Ross breaks his arm tackling Clark, and guilty as Clark feels for that, he’s guilted further by facing Pa (in a scene that somehow put me VERY much in mind of that scene with Peter and Uncle Ben in the Spidey film as Uncle Ben lectures Peter on Responsibility). We see other elements introduced–Lana, and the school, Ma and Pa, Smallville itself, Lex Luthor, to name a few. These all come together as the issue progresses and we see first the discovery and solution to some newly-developed/discovered powers on Clark’s part (and how his parents play a strong role in that) and then the implementing of his powers as disaster strikes Smallville. Finally, we see the development of the costume.

The art–as I said above about the cover–is just fantastic. There’s a detail and realism to the visuals that works so well with the story and getting things across…and yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s being overtly realistic. It just captures a level of detail that makes it easy for the mind to fill in the blanks and set these static images to motion as you read.

For newer readers, this is simply an “origin” story–telling the beginnings and background/motivation to things we’re seeing play out in the current issues of the Superman books.

For long-time readers, it may be much more. This seems set to be THE origin, the definitive story of Superman’s background in the books’ current incarnations. Forget Man of Steel and Byrne…forget Birthright and Waid…for that matter, forget Smallville. This is none of those…and yet, it seems to be quite respectful to them all, acknowledging them subtlely and taking key elements from them as the story requires.

Though I’ve looked forward to this series–and yes, delivered extremely well, meeting (and maybe exceeding) my anticipation/expectation–I remained skeptical. I grew up on the 90s Superman, beginning while the “Byrne revamp” was yet FRESH…and there are several key moments to that interpretation of the character that have been done away with in recent years that I’ve greatly disliked. While this fails to RESTORE them…something about Johns’ crafting of the story puts other things in a light that begins to redeem the changes, making them sit much better with me.

The return of what I consider “silver age elements” is handled nicely, and in a modern way that makes things quite plausible in the present.

I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better opening chapter of this mini.

Even if you’re not following the current New Krypton stuff in the ongoing titles, or any Superman comic at all…this is a book to pick up. The writing, the art, the story as provided by the blending of both…makes for a great read, and I’m already eager for not just the entirety of the story, but to see this thing put into a single volume.

Highly, highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

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

Supergirl #44 [Review]

Codename: Patriot part 3

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Fernando Dagnino & Raul Fernandez with Mazi
Publisher: DC Comics

Ral-Dar, the would-be-assassin of General Zod overhears conversation between General Lane and his people which sparks an outburst leading to his fighting Atlas (recent villain in the Superman title). We then move into seeing Superman, Supergirl, Lois, Mon-El, and the Guardian interacting with one another at the Science Police headquarters. Some tenseness plays out given Supergirl’s role in the recent apparent death of Lois’ sister. Supergirl and Mon-El set out to deal with Nightwing and Flamebird (Flamebird being a childhood friend of Kara’s). The confrontation doesn’t go well, and things escalate as everyone moves toward their places on the board for the final chapter of this story in the next issue of Superman.

The story feels a bit forced here…and yet, on the whole it works. This is the third chapter of a 4-part story with a tighter crossover than we’ve had for the last half-year or so in the Superman books. It feels forced in that certain things set in place by the other titles have to be acknowledged as well as the core in-title story elements. It’s interesting seeing so many of the characters interacting after the separation the last few months. I’m glad to see that some story elements from earlier issues are coming to fruition here, adding to a feeling of the story being more organically-generated than otherwise.

The art’s solid as usual. There are points where I think of Guedes’ style in this issue, but definitely prefer this visual presentation. The art does what it should, getting things across quite well. No real complaint there.

Overall, not a bad issue. It plays with elements from the ongoing story in this title, but mixes well with the “intruding” elements of this “crossover.” One would be lacking in context without the earlier chapters…but even if one hasn’t read those, enough ongoing elements are here that that story is not entirely derailed by the crossing of titles. Similarly, if one is following the Codename: Patriot arc, one may not “get” everything in this issue, but there’s plenty of context on the essential story elements.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Supergirl #42 [Review]

Who is Superwoman? conclusion: epilogues & homecomings

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Jamal Igle
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Publisher: DC Comics

We see more wrap-up on stuff from the Who Is Superwoman? arc here as Supergirl faces Lana and Lois–telling the latter about the death of her sister. Lana fills Supergirl in on the relationshp between Lois and Lucy, while we see General Lane dealing with the death of his daughter.

This issue worked a lot better for me than the previous issue–while I don’t totally “buy” Lucy’s military career and role as Superwoman, it’s a lot easier to “buy” the fact that something horrible happened (her death) and someone having to break the news to Lois. This also adds a bit of depth (cold as it is) to General Lane’s character as he comes to grips with what he’s lost.

Gates seems to hve a good handle on these characters and the relationships they have between one another–such as in Lois’ handling of the news she’s presented with. Though on the book less than a year now, Gates has turned this from an outer-rim sorta book almost embaressingly tied to the Superman family into one integral to the family of books, making Supergirl into a real-seeming teenage girl (albeit alien and with tremendous super-powers). Igle’s style continues to work very well with the stories–though my sole gripe continues to be the way ears are drawn, for whatever reason.

All in all, another strong issue of this title, well worth reading if you’ve been following the book. If you’ve not been following it, you’ll likely be fairly lost, as much of the action in this issue comes from what’s transpired in the last few issues.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

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