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Zero Hour Revisited – Superman #93

90srevisited_zerohour

superman_0093Home!

Story and Layout Art: Dan Jurgens
Ink Art: Josef Rubinstein
Lettering: John Costanza
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure if I’ve actually re-read this issue since the summer it was originally published; and I definitely feel like I’ve now read it slightly out of order…it seems to be kinda crammed somehow in between Zero Hour #s 4 and 3, almost like this and Man of Steel should have been read “alongside” Zero Hour #4.

Amidst all the stuff going on with Time Anomalies, Superman finds himself back in Metropolis, agonizing over a call from Ma–does he help his own parents, “only 2 people,” or focus on and stick to helping “The world” at possible expense of his parents? He makes the choice and zips to Smallville, where he finds two people claiming to be his BIOLOGICAL parents, who explain how it is that they’re there–that Krypton never actually blew up, and has entered a new golden age, but for the missing Kal-El. Their time here is limited, and they want him to come back with them permanently. Superman thus has another choice to make. But as his choice plays out, tragedy strikes, and even though he realizes they were time anomalies, he feels orphaned again. Before he can grieve much, he’s pulled back into the main Zero Hour story.

There were parts of this issue that struck me as a bit odd or “off,” as it especially seemed like Superman was a bit too quick to accept this Jor-El and Lara as genuine from his timeline, rather than accepting them more as “just more time anomalies.” Of course, being who they are, he’d be a bit understandably biased and such, so that’s not a huge deal. In their recounting events that unfolded on the not-exploded Krypton, though, there’s mention of their clothing being life-support suits or such, like what they wear is essential to literal survival…which is NOT something I consciously remember at all from anything I’ve read. I don’t know if that was some slip, or I forgot something, or what. I also feel like there was some senseless “drama” to the issue, with Jonathan and Martha “worrying” about Clark up and leaving. To me, the Superman I grew up on and the understanding I have for the Superman of this period of publishing: he was sent from Krypton in the gestation matrix, so was not even BORN yet, he was not even a conscious entity on Krypton and thus never knew his biological parents, nor had they ever met. He grew up on earth with Jonathan and Martha, not even knowing he was not their biological son until he was 18 (half his entire life as of this point if Superman was in his early-30s). Maybe I myself am biased in my own life experience, but it seems to me that there should never have been any real drama about whether or not he’d leave. Still, Zero Hour provides a perfect context to be able to touch on this, to put this experience into Clark’s story for later use.

The art seemed slightly off, though not bad at all…but I find myself pondering the credits a bit: Layout Art and Ink Art, and that could be what I noticed–Rubinstein may have had more of a hand in the art itself than Jurgens; if Jurgens did very loose art, as “layouts” for what he envisioned for the story, that keeps the consistency of the title, but it looks like Rubinstein might have been able to do more original art beyond “just” inking. Whatever the case and despite seeming slightly “off,” it worked well for the issue, holding the look and “feel” of ’90s Superman. Beyond the observation/speculation, really nothing complaint-worthy with the art!

Given Jurgens‘ involvement as the writer of Zero Hour itself, it makes this feel like it’s that much more important–with him using Superman in ZH and knowing what’s to come, he can “use” the character more effectively than someone else just “tying in” to the story. That’s also something I never consciously thought about originally but likely contributed to some of my reading experience  at the time, and what I’m noticing in the issues I’m reading for the first time now. Namely, Jurgens being one of the core Superman writers (and I was following all the Super-books) as well as writing the main Zero Hour (that I was following) meant I was reading pretty much the entirety of Jurgens‘ hand in the event, and perhaps the Superman books (with Jurgens being a core member of that writing team) by “default” got to have just a little more perceived importance.

I definitely enjoyed rereading this issue, and look forward to the other couple Superman books, though I only recall slight bits of detail from each. This issue touches directly into the looser flow of Zero Hour itself…it’s not essential, but it’s got direct touches to Zero Hour itself where most of these tie-ins tie only on the loosest basis that there’s “something” going on with Time or there’s some sort of “Time anomaly” that happens/appears in a book…so as tie-ins go, I’d recommend this ahead of most of the ones I’ve read so far. Maybe at the end of this reading project I’ll make up a list of “core” issues that I’d recommend reading along with the central mini…maybe I won’t.

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Superman vs. Zod TPB [Review]

supermanvszodtpbI bought this volume for full cover price at Book-A-Million a couple weeks ago. Which is something EXTREMELY rare for me to do, as I’m highly disgusted at the (over-)pricing of collected volumes these days.

I look primarily at Marvel (as I have most of what I want from DC, find what I yet want from DC quite reasonably price, and/or don’t much care for their newer stuff). With the Marvel volumes, it seems that where once a 6-issue arc could be had for about $15 (making it a better value than the single issues), now the standard TPB is $16.99-$18.99 and hardbacks $20+ for 4-5 issues, making the single issues an equal or better value.

As such, THE vast majority of my collected volume purchasing is done through Amazon, InstockTrades, CheapGraphicNovels, Half-Price Books, M&P Used Books, bargain bins, or other bargain purchasing conditions…typically seeing me paying only about 50% of printed cover price on average.

Which brings me back around to (ostensibly) the main point of this post: Superman vs. Zod, a new TPB collecting several “classic” Superman-vs-Phantom-Zone-villains stories. Despite my above-mentioned purchasing preferences…I still enjoy taking a peek at the “regular” bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million) to get a look at some of these volumes “in-person” in a way that can’t be duplicated by solicitation and other info online.

supermanthemedclassiccollectionsSo I was looking at the Superman volumes, and happened to notice this Superman vs. Zod volume. I’ve been increasingly interested in some of these classic “themed” collections–Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons, Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor, Superman vs. Brainiac, Superman vs. Lex Luthor, pretty sure there’s a Daily Planet volume–so this one being new, I was curious. I pulled it out, glanced at the table of contents (determined it was mainly “classic” material in the vein of these other books), but because it was a bit thinner, glanced at the price–figuring it was a $15 book (the others being a bit thicker were $20 books, I believe).

I was surprised to find that this was priced at $9.99…and bought it. $10 is not nearly as off-putting as “more than $10,” be it $10.99-$19.99 and on upward. And because Amazon and other places often seem to have a $10 minimum–typically I see Amazon at least keeping to the $9.99 pricing on such-priced volumes–I don’t mind “paying full price” on a $10 book that feels worthwhile, as this one did. Had it been even $12.99, I’m quite certain I would have put it back on the shelf. But it had the “magic” reasonable price where the sheer thickness of the book feels worth $10 compared to volumes maybe 2/3 its size commanding twice the price.

The stories themselves were definitely “classic.” We get The Phantom Superboy from Adventure Comics #283 (1961), The Great Phantom Peril from Action Comics #473 (1977), Escape from the Phantom Zone and Superman Meets the Zod Squad from Action Comics #s 548 & 549 (both 1983), Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter from DC Comics Presents #97 (1986) and then jump 21 years to The Criminals of Krypton, a segment from Action Comics #10 (2007).

While I can “appreciate” these stories for what they are–stories involving the Phantom Zone–I was not particularly enamored with any of them. The cover certainly doesn’t quite fit–it’s a very modern take on the characters, compared to the very silver/bronze age art on the inside. Which isn’t to slam the art–it’s a product of its time(s)–but it’s not much a visual style I tend to enjoy these days.

The story themselves also are products of their times–particularly the first four, which were largely “painful” to read…the first most of all. The DC Comics Presents story struck me as the most mature of the classic bunch, and actually put me very much in mind of the Last Days of Krypton novel I read a couple years ago by Kevin J. Anderson, making me wonder if he drew inspiration for his story from this one.

These were all stories that I’m pretty sure I’d NOT previously read, except the last one, which I recall as I bought/read the original Annual. I haven’t much cared for all the “going back to silver-agey elements” of the post-Infinite Crisis DC stuff, but can’t deny that its presentation of Non makes that character a bit relatable, rather than just some mindless brute.

This volume’s titled Superman vs. Zod, but seemed to be more generically a Phantom Zone volume. As something involving Zod, I’d’ve expected at least an issue from Byrne‘s run, with the Matrix/Supergirl stuff and the pocket universe, if not specifically Adventures of Superman #453 from the Exile story where Superman hallucinates an encounter with the ghosts of Zod & co. There’s also stuff from around Our Worlds at War with that version of Zod, (which I honestly don’t recall if it was different from the Zod used during For Tomorrow) or not, that seem more fitting to me for this volume, if not as neatly self-contained.

The Zod presented in these stories seemed a bit generic, if not outright a lesser character than Faora. Yet, it seems to me that Zod in general pop culture is defined by Terrence Stamp‘s performance in the Donner films with Christopher Reeve, particularly the infamous “kneel before Zod.” (There was also the Smallville depiction of the character late in that series that may be just as or more familiar to contemporary audiences).

So overall…for a $10 volume, I found this to be well worth the purchase. The stories are a bit on the lame side to me, but they’ve added to the range of Superman stories I’ve read, now, and given me just a little more knowledge of the actuality of these characters; and the more I think about it, the more I do think I rather enjoyed the Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter story (which must’ve come out in that in-between as the original Superman stuff was wrapping up and things were being put in place for the Byrne relaunch and the version of the Superman stuff that I grew up on and consider to be “my” Superman).

This is sort of a “classic-lite” volume–I’d say it mostly fits with those other themed volumes of classic stuff, though it’s far from comprehensive and is not quite as large; but at half the price, not bad to be an “intro” volume. Cover copy suggests “Before Superman takes on General Zod in theatres, read here a collection of classic Zod tales spanning nearly fifty years!” So the pricing and mere existence of the volume seems more a promo type thing to tie in to this summer’s Man of Steel…I would unfortunately assume it’ll be someone “lost in the crowd” of all the other DC books and Superman/Justice League stuff, and definitely be victim to the “spine-only” trouble so many volumes face in comic shops and the bookstores.

TBR Challenge: The Last Days of Krypton

lastdaysofkryptonA good friend gave me this book a couple years back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to reading it right away…and it sat on a shelf with several other comic-related/adapted novelizations.

Then last year I came across Superman & Batman: Enemies & Allies, and wound up starting that randomly one day. I finished it fairly soon after, and realized I’d have to read The Last Days of Krypton before long–the writer had certainly proven himself to me with Enemies & Allies.

And, of course, there was that reading challenge I decided to adopt at the start of the year…this book was part of my list’s core, perfectly fitting the purpose of this challenge: to read books that I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t been around to reading just yet. I decided to start the year out with this one, though didn’t think it would take me almost a full month to get through. (Though I determined several days ago to finish it tonight–or BY tonight–so I could start another book for February, as I should go through at least one book per month to achieve the goal of the reading challenge).

Just tonight I got to thinking a bit more "metatextually" about this book–how, in the final hundred pages or so–I wasn’t even thinking about the story being set on Krypton exactly–not as an alien planet with a different culture, anyway. It was simply the setting. Characters like Jor-El, his wife Lara, the politically-minded General Zod…they’re just who they are, in this book.

And it’s a shame, because I do think that was part of what put me off at first–I was hesitant to get into a story dealing with Krypton itself, before Kal-El was even born (even conceived, at that!). Yet, after over a year of the comics having the whole World of New Krypton thing going on…this wasn’t as much a leap as it might otherwise have been. And proved far more enjoyable.

Anderson shows a great bit of craftsmanship in the telling of this tale. At the start of the book, Krypton indeed comes off as alien–as it should. But somewhere along the way, it just simply…is. It’s no different than when I first opened Dragons of Autumn Twilight early Freshman year of high school and first discovered the world of Krynn, or the first time I read The Fellowship of the Ring and found myself in Tolkien‘s detailed landscape…or for that matter, turned the pages of a comic in which a man could fly or dress as a creature of the night and fight crime…in the daytime.

Even as events unfolded–especially toward the very end–in a way that I didn’t expect, nothing actually contradicts what I already know about Superman and his background. A couple characters have names I’m unfamiliar with, others have names that would almost have to be intentional plays on words…but nothing truly contradicts stuff.

In fact, toward the latter part of this book, I was put even more in mind of the Donner movie continuity, as certain elements came together in such a way that I was visualizing what I think I recall from the original film’s time spent looking at the end of Krypton.

Even though this book details–as the title says–the last days of Krypton, and you’d have to have zero idea who Superman is, his background, and probably not even see this book’s cover to not know how it ends….it’s the story leading there that draws one in. And Superman fan or not, this makes for a nice, solid sci-fi story…just that it has something extra going for it knowing what it technically "leads into."

All in all, a very enjoyable read–one I’m glad to have read, and I look forward to possibly tracking down some of the author’s other works at some point down the line.

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: World of New Krypton Part One

Superman begins his new life on New Krypton by getting to know a bit of his new surroundings as he is tasked with choosing a Guild to belong to.

supermanworldofnewkrypton001 Writers: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank with Brad Anderson (variant by Ladronn)
Publisher: DC Comics

We open this issue on Superman’s solo journey from Earth to New Krypton. Arriving, Superman is confronted by locals informing him that Zod wishes to meet with him–Superman declares that his family comes first and proceeds to his Aunt’s home. Here he declares his intention to live amongst his people on New Krypton as a Kryptonian, leaving Earth behind. As such, he must choose a guild and in general adjust to Kryptonian customs as just another guy in the crowd, since he’s nothing special on a world where everyone has his super-powers. After exploring a bit and meeting with Zod, his guild is chosen and we’re left with a Superman facing a future as a Kryptonian with other Kryptonians.

The art here is not bad, but I’m not terribly thrilled with it. It just lacks the detail/feel or something that I get from other artists like Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, and Gary Frank (That the cover is a Frank image allows for that much more an immediate comparison). The story is conveyed, we can see a range of expression in characters’ faces where called for and so on, so the art is simply not to my personal taste/preference.

The story is solid. While I haven’t entirely bought into the seeming suddenness of Superman’s decision to pursue this course of action–it’s felt fairly forced/arbitrary like plopping playing pieces where-ever one decides on a gaming board and then throwing some almost arbitrary reasoning to the placement–I can’t deny the potential this story has. It’s been nearly two decades since we last had a story exploring a world without a Superman–but that story was a world which had lost its Superman to death, not one “deserted” or “abandoned” by its hero. Either way, this is the series that follows Superman as he deals with leaving Earth behind in order to live with his people, seeking to protect them from a threat that they don’t want to acknowledge.

On the one hand, this may not be the best point to jump on-board without the context of Brainiac or the branded New Krypton story, if one understands simply that Superman is beginning another “quest” that involves his going to and living on this planet of Kryptonians, this shouldn’t be too bad a point to start into things.

As only the first issue of twelve, it’s hard to say where things will go. For now, I’m taking this simply as another Superman book, and do look forward to seeing how the character handles this new year-long status quo.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Action Comics #888 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Action Comics
Story: 2/5
Art: 2.5/5

Captain Atom
Story: 1.5/5
Art: 2/5

Overall: 2/5

Adventure Comics #10 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5/5
Art: 2.5/5
Overall: 2.5/5

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