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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #677

90s_revisited

action_comics_0677“…In Love and War!”

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Cover: Art Thibert, Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1992
Cover Price: $1.00

This issue details the background and a then-new status quo with Supergirl, and Lex Luthor II, the son of the late Lex Luthor, arch-enemy of Superman. We see this young couple as they’re new to each other, Luthor curious about this Supergirl’s background, and she’s totally fallen for him, as he’s a visual doppelganger at least to the man who created her and gave her life in a pocket/alternate universe. That background–that readers saw over the course of The Supergirl Saga and subplot elements following, and things that came out in the Panic in the Sky story–is recounted here, as Supergirl tells Luthor. This also serves as further introduction for newer readers as to this Supergirl, her background, and her abilities. Meanwhile, we get touchpoints in other subplots–Jimmy Olsen had been fired but now recently re-hired to the Daily Planet. Perry had been gone, but now is back, and we see him meeting a Ron Troupe. We also see development in stuff with Cat Grant and her career, as well as Sam Foswell, who had temporarily held Perry’s job. We also see Clark and Lois spending time together as a newly-engaged couple and whatnot, as well as reporters. And then the “core” of the issue, as Luthor announces Supergirl has joined Lexcorp, and Clark is quite concerned about what she may have let slip to Luthor–about him, his parents, and so on. The Superman/Supergirl discussion gets heated, she instinctively lashes out, and this physical altercation is caught on camera by one of Luthor’s cameramen–accompanying him as he pursued the Super-duo, trying to keep tabs on his girl. Though Luthor demands the tape from his man and promises it will never see air while he’s around, he neglects to destroy it, which keeps Superman at a certain point of unease, as we see that this bright, charming son of Luthor has a certain questionable, dark streak to him…that as the issue fades out, indicates could be quite threatening indeed.

In retrospect, this is quite a “key” issue, primarily on the Supergirl and Team Luthor front. In fact, much of this issue was pretty directly adapted in the Dirk Maggs audio drama Superman Lives!, which adapted the novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond based on this and other comics in the Death and Return of Superman saga.

I quite enjoy Stern‘s writing, and the Guice/Rodier visuals. Everyone looks as I remember them from this time frame…which would be expected, given the pretty consistent nature of the creative teams on the books in 1992, into the Death of Superman stuff and beyond. I even recognized Foswell, as much by name as appearance, given a story this issue is a few months from at this point.

Story-wise, this packs a LOT into a single, regular-sized issue’s page-allotment. Of course, this was in the midst of the best of the “Triangle Numbering” period, where the Superman titles all had their own focused subplots, but collectively served as a nearly-weekly ongoing singular title (with ongoing elements, but Action Comics really taking the reins on dealing with Luthor II’s background, for example, or Superman: The Man of Steel taking the reins on the underworlders, etc).

I remember being aware of this issue for awhile before acquiring a copy for myself back in 1993 or ’94–whenever it was that I actually did. I was even more aware of what the content of the issue was, thanks to the Stern novelization The Death and Life of Superman, which included loads of continuity detail from the Man of Steel mini-series by Byrne through key issues up to and including the actual Doomsday!, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen run. Finding that this one issue alone had so much key stuff that factored into the larger story–the comics AND Stern‘s novel–is quite cool on this read-through. It seems so odd in 2018, snagging this for 25 cents to recall that it was not an issue simply or readily available to me as a kid–and I think I may have paid $3-5 for it as a “priced back issue,” at the time.

While many of the “random” single issues from this time period might be relatively inconsequential, this one, and I believe the next, are a couple of rather “crucial” issues, and are much more worthwhile to pick up as single issues than most. That said, a lot of my enjoyment here is from being quite familiar with the history and context of these characters, including knowledge of information that had not quite yet been revealed when this saw publication and would have been originally read…and knowing where things go, and hence how important this is. It’ll be much more enjoyable to one familiar with this period of the Superman comics, or going through everything from the time, than as a one-off if you’ve no familiarity with the time or the Death/Return/etc.

I paid a whopping 25 cents for this particular copy…and that was well worth it to me to revisit this without digging through longboxes looking for a copy, or even having to deal with lugging a box off a storage rack just to get at it.

action_comics_0677_blogtrailer

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The ’00s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #586

adventtures_of_superman_0586Soul of the City!

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Mike Miller
Inkers: Armando Durruthy & Walden Wong
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Wildstorm FX
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $2.25

Maybe it’s something about the paper quality, but this issue just feels thicker and sturdier than a modern comic book..!

We open on Superman overlooking the city, still flabbergasted that Luthor–Lex Luthor!–is President-Elect of the United States. He pulls himself together, puts on his public face, and flies in to greet the man, and congratulates him on his election. Elsewhere, we find several "minor" antagonists (Rose/Thorn, Kitty Faulkner/Rampage, Cary RIchards/Adversary, and Prankster) gathered before Lord Satanus, who proposes they assist him in claiming the actual soul of the city itself. Lois is spending time with her very pregnant sister Lucy, who goes into labor unexpectedly, prompting a rush to the hospital…though ultimately she’s sent home as it’ll be awhile yet. And Superman finds himself face to face with a gloating Satanus, claiming victory is already his–though Superman has several up-front allies and one seemingly missing in action, as we’re left with a to be continued.

Moving out from the election night issue (Superman #164) and the previous week’s Superman: Lex 2000 special, that story moves from primary focal point to subplot, as we seem to begin a new threat–the "return" of Lord Satanus and his latest bid for souls and such, going against what Superman himself stands for, etc. Re-reading this issue for the first time in nearly 15 years brought with it a bit of deja-vu, as my conscious mind recognizes the story as I read it, and yet my conscious primary guess at this issue–based on that cover–would have been that this was the issue where Superman discussed with someone that he’d be at the inauguration–hadn’t missed any yet–just that he’d do so without being seen, refusing to give a photo-op/endorsement that way.

Yet, seeing Superman–at least for the public face–graciously allow himself to be seen with Lex, to shake his hand, to say the words–seems an appropriate, totally classy thing…though it’s easy to relate to his inner conflict of having to appear cordial with a man who has been one of his life’s greatest antagonists and who he knows is beyond loads of crooked, corrupt stuff and yet it can’t be proven in such a way as to bring him down.

But rather than that being a long, drawn-out, done-to-death issue-long scene, life (and the story) continue to unfold, and we move into a new plot in which Lord Satanus is back on the scene. However, given I’d forgotten he even appeared here (mostly I remember the character from the Blaze/Satanus War in 1992 just before the Death of Superman, knew he’d had a couple "flare-ups" over the years, before apparently being destroyed during the Spectre’s rampage in the run-up to Infinite Crisis), it seems a foregone conclusion how this’ll turn out, and ultimately makes for a less-than-truly-threatening plot.

I also would not have been able to tell you that DeMatteis had done this issue or Miller provided the art…the the imagery is quite familiar.

Miller‘s art isn’t entirely to my liking…there’s something slightly "off" to the art, giving almost a "generic" Superman than one that seems as "familiar" as I prefer. However, I DO like the art, and this is not a bad version of Superman. And maybe it’s that I’ve had the cover looking at me for several days, but I really dig the cover!

All in all, this is a good issue, it deals with the emerging presidency of Luthor while bringing in a lesser-used antagonist in Satanus and even lesser-used allies, while addressing other ongoing facets of characters’ lives such that this really works as (in a good way) "just another chapter" in the ongoing Superman saga. Even having the issue in one of my few sorted longboxes where I know exactly where it is, I would be hard-pressed to NOT spend the 25 cents to snag an extra copy if I found it, if only to do something with the cover as an art piece. Given that, I certainly recommend this if you find it for a quarter; though the higher the price, the less enthusiastically I’ll recommend. To someone interested in this era of the Superman titles or picking up a small combined run of the titles for a true run of the "triangle numbers" (S-shields), this is certainly worthwhile.

I was gonna wrap up this collection of successive reviews, and may not actually write up the following issue…but this leaves me interested in at least reading the next chapter!

All-Star Superman #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good!
Title: …Faster…

Superman saves a group of scientists, Luthor puts his plan to kill Superman in motion, and of course, some Daily Planet drama…

allstarsuperman001Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Inks: Jamie Grant
Colors: Jamie Grant
Letters: Phil Balsman
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover Art: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics

I was prepared to be rubbed the wrong way by this title. I’d heard mixed things about it, and Morrison‘s been a bit of hit-or-miss with me. I also wasn’t sure what I’d think of a story going back to basics on the character, especially when it would seem that meant going back to more of a "silver age" sensibility and such, particularly in the Superman/Lois relationship.

But I sat down to read this issue, and my # 1 complaint is that it’s like being allowed to watch just the first 15 minutes of a movie. You get the introduction of the characters, a bit of conflict, the set-up for the main plot, and a bit of a cliff-hanger when you have to turn it off and do something else, and wait another month for another dose.

The story certainly delivers on the back-to-basics, as we have a Superman unencumbered by marriage or other official romantic ties; a bumbling Clark Kent racing in at the last second to everyone’s wonderment at his whereabouts. Lex Luthor is an evil scientist under government watch (apparently he’s been allowed out of prison to use his genius to better mankind (or the government) so long as he doesn’t keep trying to kill Superman).

And in four panels on the first page, the character’s origin is summed up, which is cool as a refresher, and pretty much necessary only to remind readers (such as those who haven’t touched a Superman comic ever, or in the last 20 years or such) of the origin, since it’s arguable that just about everyone knows the basics of the origin: Doomed planet Krypton, parents launch a rocket into space, where the baby is found by a couple and raised on earth.

I don’t know that this is Morrison‘s most novel approach to a character, but something about it definite works. We get a status quo more reminiscent of the pre-Crisis Superman stuff, but the tone is definitely modern, including an interesting take on the nature of Superman’s powers.

This issue has a lot of little details and little moments, and I’d love to talk about them all, but that’s impossible for a review such as this. Suffice to say that if you’ve never really cared for Superman–either he was too powerful, too god-like and un-relatable or to the other extreme, was too human, not powerful enough…this take falls somewhere in the middle.

Quitely‘s art is also very good, conveying a sort of not-quite arrogance about Superman, but a playful, carefree attitude as he goes about doing his business of saving others. The facial expressions of the characters carry a lot of story, and the artist’s style in general works well here.

Other than the opening page, nothing’s said of the origins of the character-we’re plunged right into the midst of the story, everyone knows who Superman is, Clark’s already a reporter for the Planet, and so on–which is rather refreshing. It’s like being a kid again, being given a random Superman comic that just happens to start a multi-part story. (And this one has nothing to do with crises or multiple earths, united villains, countdowns to anything, etc.)

Well-worth checking out!

Ratings:

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

DC Universe Online Legends #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

 

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

Adventure Comics #0 [Review]

Quick Rating: Decent
Story Title: The Legion of Super-Heroes / Origins & Omens

Superboy meets super-powered teens from the future, and a new Luthor/Brainiac team is introduced.

Writer: (AC247) Otto Binder, (O&O) Geoff Johns
Artist: (AC247) Al Plastino, (O&O) Francis Manapul
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Swands
Associate Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Elisabeth V. Gehrlein
Cover: Aaron Lopresti
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is primarily reprint material, reprinting the story from Adventure Comics #247…a silver-age comic. This was the story that introduced Superboy to a super-hero club–the Legion of Super-Heroes. Encountering several individuals who know that he is Superboy AND Clark Kent, Superboy agrees to go 1,000 years into the future with these super-powered teens, who invite him to join their club as an honorary member if he can pass their initiation.

At the end of the issue is a 6-page sequence–the Origins & Omens story (one of which will be found in each of a number of other DC titles this month). This one continues a thread from the recently-concluded New Krypton story and sets the stage for the earliest issues of this series.

The story and art on the reprint are instantly recognizeable as silver age fare. While I appreciate concepts of the silver-age and greatly enjoyed time spent reading through my grandfather’s collection of comics half a lifetime ago, these days I find such stories in a bit of opposition with my interest. However, this story was decent, and it IS interesting to see the early/original version of the characters that would go on to have so much more depth in the years since this introduction.

The Origins & Omens bit seemed extremely short, but it has me interested in what’s to come. And I couldn’t help but recall Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? as I read this latest version of a Luthor/Brainiac interaction. The writing’s familiar–it’s Johns, after all–and the art is solid.

However, I’m doubtful that the Origins & Omens sequence is itself enough to justify the cover price. If you want the reprint and/or especially enjoy the Lopresti cover, this issue is well worth the $1. And if you’ve never read this story, there are few better ways to get a piece of history added to your “read” pile.

Ratings:

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

Superman: Secret Origin #6 [Review] (updated link)

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Superman: Secret Origin #6 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 2.5/5

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