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DC Villains Month, Week Four

BANE (Batman #23.4)

foreverevilbane001 It’s rather discouraging to see such a great character go to waste. But, seems that’s what’s happened with Bane in the New 52. I was hoping for something with a lot more depth in this issue, than I found a year and a half ago in The Dark Knight #6. But this seems to be pretty much that same Bane…the one that–to me–truly seems to ignore 15 years of character development and depth. The issue basically shows us Bane recruiting an army to “take back” “his” city (Gotham) as if his only goal has ever been the taking of Gotham. He’s making use of a modified Venom, which flies in the face of what I saw as one of the character’s greatest strengths and the poignancy of the second Vengeance of Bane issue: his rising above and overcoming the need for Venom, and consistently proving himself powerful and smart with no use for the drug that had once had such hold on him. What I get out of this issue is pretty much a caricature of the character circa 1993 with none of the depth/growth/developoment that made me continue to like the character beyond the Knightfall arc 20 years ago. I see no reason to care about or be interested in this New 52 Bane, and I suppose I’m thankful to “get” that from a single issue rather than investing in an entire multi-issue arc…such as the Forever Evil tie-in mini this issue was probably aiming to “sell” me on picking up as a continuation.

SINESTRO (Green Lantern #23.4)

foreverevilsinestro001 I quite enjoyed the Sinestro Corps War a few years back, and enthusiastically followed all the Green Lantern stuff for years, but gradually trailed off. My past enjoyment of Sinestro as a character was the “selling point” for me for this issue, once I’d decided to get some of these Villains Month issues. I’ve been very loosely “aware” of stuff the last couple years in the GL side of things, so was not totally lost with this issue. It was cool to “catch up” a bit on Sinestro–even from a point of view outside of his own. While the “witness” is not entirely reliable to me, the overall context seems to me that we’ve had some extra detail added to Sinestro’s background–including his introduction into the GL Corps–that fits within established stuff. While not quite enough to spur me back to the monthly issues, this was an enjoyable glimpse back into the GL side of the DC Universe and hint at what I should expect as I gradually get caught up with the collected volumes from the last couple years.

BLACK ADAM (Justice League #23.4)

foreverevilblackadam001 I really wasn’t going to ‘bother’ with this issue. I’ve not been a huge fan of Black Adam except under Johns‘ writing, and I hadn’t cared for what I’d seen second-hand of the New 52 Shazam stuff…and was not at all interested in buying Justice League for the “backups,” and generally figured the Shazam side of things was no longer for me. But a friend’s into Shazam, and knowing he’s interested sparked my interest…as well as realizing that hey, this IS by Johns, so why not? And even though I am not “up to speed” on the New 52 status quo of the (formerly?) Marvel family, this issue provided some interesting details, and left me more curious about other New 52 stuff than any of the other Villains Month issues. With a collected edition of the New 52 Shazam story thus far just out, I might actually be inclined to check it out and see where I land thanks to this issue.

METALLO (Action Comics #23.4)

foreverevilmetallo001 I have never been a particular fan of Metallo, though I got kind of attached to the Byrne version introduced in Byrne‘s Superman #1. That take on the character–as he showed up with differing amounts of power and control over machines, the machine with a human brain basically–is the one I prefer. I’m not a particular fan of the former military John Corben or the ties to Sam Lane and Lois Lane. It just seems a bit too complicated having a major Superman villain be basically just a girlfriend’s spurned “ex.” Technically this issue does what I would hope for–introduces me to the character, shows how he got the way he is, and shows what he can do. But my lack of interest in the character in general taints that, and left me fairly cold and honestly did nothing to spark my interest in where the character might go from here. I’m pretty sure I remember Corben showing up in one of the earliest issues of the New 52 Superman (unless that’s blurred with Geoff JohnsSecret Origin mini from a couple years ago), and this issue hints at a prior battle with Superman, so it would seem to me the only real “significance” of this particular issue is the “introduction” of the “Kryptonite heart” and technically being the issue in which Metallo is recruited by the Society.

PARASITE (Superman #23.4)

foreverevilparasite001 If I’ve not been a fan of Metallo, I actually dread Parasite. I think the only time I found the character relatively tolerable was the 1990s Superman: The Animated Series. I especially disliked the character’s transformation in the mid-90s’ comics to the tapeworm-round-mouthed blob, and the continued round-mouthed look in general. And it seems the character was just redone in the last few years in JohnsSuperman: Secret Origin arc. So having yet another version of the character isn’t that appealing. As I read this issue, I found myself wondering why, exactly, I had even bothered to buy it–I grabbed it “off the shelf” not having pre-ordered it–when I should have “left it” same as I did the Bizarro issue (a character I likely would have preferred over this) and H’el (a character I’ve yet to actually read anything with). At least this issue confirms for me that I’m STILL not at all interested in Parasite, and saves me investing in a longer story than just this one issue.

KILLER CROC (Batman and Robin #23.4)

foreverevilkillercroc001 I think this is probably one of the better versions of the character I’ve seen; it definitely works for me, at the least. I never really cared for the grey-skinned version of the character on the Animated Series, and wasn’t all that fond of what I saw of the character in the early/mid ’90s (specifically around Knightfall). That version “worked,” though and I liked it better than the later “Leatherhead-lite” version that was further mutated a few years ago to look more like a “real” crocodile. This issue shows a Killer Croc that is green-skinned, some of the looks of a crocodile, but much more human-looking overall without losing the “monster” appearance. Something to this take on the character doesn’t go over badly for me. I like that the character’s still more muscle than anything else, yet he shows some room for brains, and definitely has a fairly disctinct “place” within the Gotham hierarchy of Batman rogues. I won’t specifically seek anything else out with the character just as a result of reading this, but the issue lets me know that handled similarly I probably won’t dread another Killer Croc story down the line.

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #50

supermanmanofsteel050The Trial of Superman! / Part 1: Split Personality

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Duffy & McAvennie
Editors: Carlin & Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: 2.95
Cover Date: November, 1995

This was another issue I pulled from the quarter-bins not too long ago: it caught my attention because of having revisited the issue’s cover when complaining about the newest DC Superman title, Superman Unchained and lack of explanation to the “unchained” part. But seeing the issue handy for only 25-cents, I re-bought it in order to easily re-read it…far easier to pay 25-cents than have to shift a number of heavy longboxes around and root through at least 2 boxes to find my original copy.

This issue begins the Trial of Superman arc…one of the larger arcs of this era of the titles, crossing through about 3 months’ worth of all the Superman titles at the time. Yet, as typical of the era, the story as a whole is an ongoing narrative, so this picks up with an ongoing plot, and sort of merges into what becomes the main plot for The Trial of Superman.

We pick up with a grossly weakened/decayed Superman, virtually powerless, barely skin-and-bones from an ongoing fight with a new incarnation of the Parasite. While some of the details played out on-panel in a previous issue, here we get context and figure out along with the characters what the present status quo is of the Parasite, which makes him all the more dangerous. Things don’t end with putting down the threat posed by the Parasite, as Superman is captured and faces an alien tribunal seeking to hold him accountable for the destruction of the planet Krypton…and things are not pretty.

While I like the cover quite a bit, I’m not all that thrilled with the interior art. I don’t remember having much of an issue with it “at the time,” but taking this alone and pretty much out of context–and being much more used to the last several years’ worth of interpretations of Superman–it’s not to my liking. And while explained in-story by the Parasite draining him, Superman just appears rather “off,” and impossibly skin-and-bones to even have survived any of what he’s put through in the issue.

Story-wise, I’ve never–that I can recall–been any fan of the Parasite character. I’ll be one of the first to want to see villains who are a physical danger to Superman (as opposed to businessman Lex Luthor, or the likes of the Toyman or Prankster) but I’ve just never been interested by Parasite, and have a particular dislike for the round-mouthed “parasitic-worm” look the character was given in the mid-’90s.

This issue boasts plenty of cliche in the villains…but works decently enough overall. I got a definite sense of how overwhelmed Superman was here–dealing with the Parasite and mid-battle being kidnapped into space, and the shock of this alien tribunal wanting to make him accountable for the destruction of a planet gone before he was technically even born.

I enjoyed re-reading this…and it certainly has me contemplating re-reading the entire arc…which I believe I have a collected volume, which would make said undertaking far simpler than trying to dig single issues out or tracking down new copies.

All-Star Superman #5 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: The Gospel According to Lex Luthor

Clark Kent interviews an imprisoned Lex Luthor…

allstarsuperman005Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Frank Quitely
Digitally Inked & Colored: Jamie Grant
Letters: Phil Balsman
Asst. Editor: Brandon Montclare
Editor: Bob Schreck
Cover Art: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman doesn’t show up in this issue. Instead, this is a more character-centric piece looking in on the "All-Star Universe" Lex Luthor, as interviewed by–and interacting with–Clark Kent (who, of course, is actually Superman, but Luthor doesn’t know this.)

Visually, this issue seems–without my having the prior 4 open before me–on-par with those issues. Quitely‘s art seems to capture at once a simplicity often lost to comics, while managing to convey a subtle complexity. That’s not to say this is the most detailed art, nor is it the most simplistic–it’s an interesting blend of both, and for a standalone-continuity incarnation of Superman and the supporting cast, I think it works very nicely.

The story here–Clark Kent interviewing Lex Luthor, encountering The Parasite, and Luthor apparently keeping Kent alive (under his "protection") within the prison)–is, as in previous issues, reminiscent of a silver-age sensibility. However, there’s a complexity going on in Morrison‘s writing that shows those silver-age things in contemporary light. In short, the story can look and feel a bit silver-age, but that’s like a side-effect from a story that is still well-written.

As with the previous issue, this issue includes something between a cameo and a full-blown appearance of an established (in the regular DC Universe) villain, but in a way that isn’t quite the same-old, same-old. The appearance makes good sense given the setting, and provides a bit of impetus in moving the story forward–and perhaps (possibly) setting some stuff up for down the road (especially if we’re to believe Luthor to be quite the smart cookie).

If Superman interests you but you don’t want to get bogged down in years of continuity; or you’re just a fan of Quitely or Morrison, this issue should be a pleaser. The story focus is on the characters, and Superman doesn’t appear in-costume. While disappointing to some, I’m sure…it works for me, given the story.

Ratings:

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

Superman #684 [Review]

The Mind of Rudy Jones

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue works quite well with DC’s Faces of Evil concept. The Parasite is the focal point going in, and we see how much trouble he causes upon release from the Phantom Zone. After that battle, we see the Guardian unmask to his coworkers with the Science Police, Nightwing and Flamebird share a moment with Jay Garrick, and finally Superman visits New Krypton where his aunt reveals something quite disturbing to him.

I’m not quite sure about the green “triangle number” 12 on this cover (I don’t remember an 11, and thought New Krypton was over with as far as the official titled story). That said, this story provides some nice epilogue-type material to that story, showing that just because the official arc is over, the events unleashed don’t tie up so nice-and-neat. Given that, I have no real problem with the story, and it’s really actually nice seeing stuff continue/build from the previous story instead of simply starting fresh as if everything’s always simply been the way it is and no reference to a previous arc.

The art is pretty good, though nothing spectacular. I realize here that compared to the previous issue’s artist, I really like this art, and it depicts the characters in a style that fits what I expect visually.

This issue seems to be a middle-ground issue, not really kicking off a new arc, but not completely belonging with the previous. While much of its content would be far more appreciated with having read New Krypton already, one could probably enjoy this issue fairly well without that context.

All in all a good issue, worth reading if you’re interested in current goings-on in the Superman family of books.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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