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From the Archives: Superman #650

superman0650Up, Up, and Away! (part 1)

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Cover Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

It’s been a year since Superman apparently disappeared, and the fine folks of Metropolis have moved on, though many take an evening to revisit the past, watching a retrospective on the life and times of their favorite son. Among the spectators are Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who discuss the authenticity of the retrospective with a couple different viewpoints. Shortly after, other familiar elements of the Superman story are reintroduced–Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Perry White. A familiar "villain" is introduced here as well–one that may be familiar to older readers, but I’m not sure this character has appeared in the Superman comics since the mid-80s reboot. As this villain is attended to, we as readers are clued into at least part of why Superman has been absent for a year.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this issue. I’ve been concerned at the idea of "my" Superman–that is, the character (re)introduced in Byrne‘s Man of Steel mini-series–being shuffled off to the side in favor of yet another/different reimagining of the character. While this is only the first of an 8-parter that re-establishes the character post-Infinite Crisis, the writing team of Busiek & Johns has assuaged some of my concerns as several aspects that have defined the character and supporting cast for the last 18+ years are re-established here. However, there seem to be a number of minor or subtle shifts that distance things from the past, settling the characters very much in a sort of "timeless" present.

Busiek wrote my favorite Superman story in 2004’s Superman: Secret Identity. Johns on the other hand has written some other very compelling stories that I have really enjoyed over the past several years (including pulling me into following The Flash for 30 issues after never previously caring for the character). That said, both writers have a lot to live up to in my eyes, and for the moment, I’ll cautiously advance the idea that yes, they have lived up to those high standards.

The writing here is clear and definitely gets across the idea first of the broad strokes of Superman’s history that just about anyone will be vaguely familiar with (whether you know the character solely from last month’s issues, the Christopher Reeve films, Smallville, Lois & Clark, a parent/grand-parent’s stack of older comics, or just picking up on elements from years of the character’s suffusion of popular culture. If this is the first-ever comic starring Superman that you’ve read, you’ve got yourself a good starting point. If you’ve been following these comics for 20 years, you’ve got a good read that revalidates the character for the present, showing that both the old and newer elements can come together in a single well-written manner that gives us a story of Superman.

Offhand, I am unfamiliar with Pete Woods‘ art, but this issue makes for a good introduction. Everything seems nice and clear/clean–reading along with the story, the art shows exactly what is going on and pretty much just does it’s job of enhancing the written word to contribute to the overall look and feel of the issue. The art’s not perfect–but very little is. The main quibble I have is the depiction of the S-shield; it comes across a bit too "shiney" or metallic for my own tastes.

However–whether in Woods‘ art itself or the coloring (or both)–this issue somehow has a "brighter" feel to it than a lot of recent DC issues–by design or not, this lends itself to this being an upbeat, bright start to a new "generation" of Superman.
I very much recommend this issue, whether you are a new, old, or an on-the-fence reader.

superman0650_blogtrailer

Green Lantern #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, part one

It’s One Year Later, and Green Lantern is definitely back…but with quite a shadow hanging over him; meanwhile, Hal Jordan prepares to be honored for a past deed…

greenlantern010 Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Marc Campos
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: Simone Bianchi
Publisher: DC Comics

So…awhile back, Hall Jordan lost his city when it was blown up by an alien bent on having revenge on Superman for failing to save his family and driving him away from Earth. Hal couldn’t handle the strain, went nuts, killed a bunch of other GLs in his bid for control of the central power battery on Oa, became Parallax, tried to wipe out time to set things right, died to re-ignite Earth’s sun when it was put out, stepped forward as a volunteer-host for the Spectre during a spiritual crisis, and ultimately split from the Spectre as the real Parallax stood revealed…huh?

You don’t really need to know all that–though it adds a bit of context to the character. What you need to know for this issue is that Hal Jordan–Green Lantern–has apparently had his past exposed to the world, and/or done something that has led to most people of Earth not trusting him–regarding him as little more than some criminal acting without regard for Earthly laws and regulations.

Of course, this issue takes place a year after the events of the currently-unfolding Infinite Crisis so there’s a lot that’s happened that we–as readers–are not yet aware of. Though Green Lantern has been cast in a negative light (and this seems to extend to Jon Stewart as well, though we don’t actually see him in this issue), Hal Jordan is regarded as a hero for things he’s taken part in during the past year.

On the one hand–at the surface–this story seemed rather boring to me. Looking deeper, though, it’s actually a lot better than I wanted to give it credit for. The one-year jump allows for stories to be beyond the whole "hey…you’re back?!?" sort of situations. Hal’s gotten himself very much involved in life again and rebuilt as well as simply built new relationships. He’s fairly established again within the DC Universe.

Apparent flashbacks give some hint as to a fairly major event in Hal’s past (the missing year) that seems rich in character potential. I also like the fact that a story from the Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins 2005 comes into play here–we saw in that story last year that Hal leaves his ring behind when he flies. It added an extra touch of humanity (and/or recklessness) to the character, and provides context for stuff shown in this issue). That’s not to say that you need to have read that to "get" this issue.

The art gives me little to talk about–it worked for me. Things were clear panel-to-panel as to what was going on, all the more in context of the text. The imagery in general is pretty bright–we’re not mired in shadows here. Characters are recognizable and while they may not be clones of versions from other artists, they don’t at all come across as a reinterpretation, which means we have good art, good story, and a good issue.

There are some definite questions that arise from this issue: exactly what does the world know about Hal Jordan? What do they actually know about Green Lantern that has made GL unwelcome outside the US? (As readers, we have plenty of "dirt" that could place him in that position if the info were common knowledge to the residents of the DCU) And so on.

Having seen (and had it as my computer’s desktop for the last few weeks) the cover to a later issue of this title, I’ve a pretty good idea who the villain of this arc is, which takes away from the "shock" that’s apparent at the end of the issue. But then, anything lost there is replaced by an eager "Why?" to the whole thing.
In the end, this is definitely a good issue, and well worth checking out if you haven’t already. It’s also a good jumping-on point, as it’s the first "One Year Later" issue for this title, and in many ways functions as a new # 1–old and new readers alike are at the same point regarding Hal’s past year or so and his new life.

Ratings:

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

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