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Convergence: Adventures of Superman #2 [Review]

convergence_adventuresofsuperman002Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Roberto Viacava
Inker: Andy Owens
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Sotocolor
Cover: Mikel Janin
Assistant Editors: Brittany Holzherr, Michael Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this primarily because I’d bought the first issue, and it just seems too weird to me to buy only HALF a story. Plus…this is Superman, and Supergirl, and moreso, it’s Adventures of Superman, back for a shiny moment.

We open on the Phantom Zone villains beating on Superman, while Supergirl tries to save him. In the “real world” Lucius is able to contact the Super-duo and prepares to bring them back. Superman forces Supergirl to go but remains behind until she uses one of Lucius’ devices to bring Superman back through, destroying the portal before the PZ villains can come through. Then the two join up with Kamandi to fight the gorilla invasion and ultimately realize they have to take the fight beyond the city to actually make a difference.

Frankly, I found this issue to be boring. I don’t much care for the over-use of the Phantom Zone, the re-use of the villains (nor their redesign to match Man of Steel (the 2014 film) rather than classic pre-Crisis costumes), and something just seemed “off” about Superman in particular here, like he was more caricature than anything else. Supergirl seemed overly obsessed with the notion that Superman MUST Live and concern over her own pending fate to a degree that she, too, felt fairly two-dimensional. The characters, their environment, etc. continue to fall into the appearance of “based on ____” rather than BEING the same characters I’d remember or know from the past and so significantly lack any sense of true importance.

That this issue has a to-be-continued note (into Convergence #6, which I believe was out LAST week) was a surprise as I’d thought these were to be self-contained two-parters…so rather than any real attempt at an ending or any finality, and having dropped the main Convergence title due to feeling it was irrelevant to my weekly reading experience…I now find that to not be the case, which is annoying and puts me off more than a little bit.

I’m not familiar with the art aside from the previous issue of this mini, and can’t say I’m overly enthused by it…though it’s not bad or put-offish in itself. I think the primary issue I have with the visuals is that this LOOKS too “modern” for the characters involved. The cover has some interesting contrasts in colors, particularly Superman and Supergirl against the Gorillas…but the whole thing just has a certain “flat” look that I don’t particularly care for.

While I’d consciously choose to like this issue if I could, I just don’t like it, despite appreciating Wolfman‘s past with comics and that he’s handled these characters as well as post-Crisis versions before and those hold a key point of nostalgia for me.

Along with the main story there’s a Martian Manhunter short that makes this issue thicker…but as I have zero interest in the character in this context, of a reinvention or such and have an active disinterest in DC‘s “mini relaunch” in a couple weeks, I couldn’t bring myself to truly READ the thing, and skimmed it instead. It adds nothing to this issue for me, and despite knowing it’s technically new/original content it just seems out of place and just like any other “preview” I am more than used to actively ignoring. Given what it is–that it’s supposed to promote the upcoming Martian Manhunter book I’m surprised there’s no blurb or any kind of indication on the cover…if it’s a “selling point” that there are 8ish bonus pages of original content promoting the June lineup in the various Convergence issues this month I would think they should be on the cover.

In and of itself this seems quite skippable in general, particularly if you’re not keeping up with Convergence. Nothing about this issue really seems essential, fun, or important…and for the cover price, you’re better off passing on this unless you feel compelled to get it for the same nostalgic factors that hooked me, or because you really want the Martian Manhunter content because you plan to check that book out.

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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.

Action Comics #874 [Review]

Suspicion!

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Pablo Raimondi
Inkers: Pablo Raimondi & Walden Wong
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Superman having a bit of a tantrum on New Krypton at the fact that General Zod not only has been freed of the Phantom Zone but that he now lead’s New Krypton’s army. After fists fail, talking ensues, and Superman grudgingly seems to let things slide for now, though he makes known his misgivings.Back on Earth, Kryptonians–with a specific exception made for Superman–are banned, which sparks the new Flamebird and Nightwing into action as their clock is ticking (and a blurb informing readers to follow them into next month’s Action Comics). Superman and Lois visit his fortress while he ponders things, and then a voice from his past cries out, leading to the issue’s cliffhanger.

The story isn’t bad, but really lacks some “oomph!” I find myself actually bored by the New Krypton stuff, especially given the abrupt ending of the titled story while this still feels like it should fall under that heading. This story also feels like filler, just sorta moving pieces on the board around to force stuff into a new status quo for next month with the Superman family of books.

The art also is not bad, but doesn’t particularly thrill me. Not bad, but not spectacular. It gets stuff across that needs gotten across, but doesn’t begin to get in line to be art I’d specifically choose for Superman.

Origins & Omens

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

This backup stars The Guardian, and basically follows him through some (for him) relatively normal activities in his new job as head of the Science Police. Some of his history is touched upon–particularly recent developments/revelations, with some hints of what may be in store for him given.

Though I don’t particularly care for Guedes’ art style, it works for me pretty well here–perhaps because it’s not Superman/Clark himself depicted but other characters I don’t have so firm an idea in my head as to what they look like. The story is basic, but then, six pages is hardly room for any great storytelling for the most part.

If you’ve been following everything New Krypton, or the “triangle numbers,” this is worthwhile, This is probably also worthwhile as a bit of a prologue to the new status quo for Superman and Action Comics to come. That the main story is shorted for the backup doesn’t exactly make the issue all that enticing.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6/10

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