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From the Archives: Adventures of Superman #648

adventures_of_superman_0648Look…Up In The Sky

Summary: Lois Lane reports on the destruction of Bludhaven and the response of the super-heroes.
By: Lois Lane
Photos by: Jimmy Olsen, Karl Kerschl and Renato Guedes
Additional Reporting by: Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilipis, Christina Weir and Jami Bernard
Graphic Design by: Richard & Tanya Horie
Copy Design: Rob Leigh
Editors: Eddie Berganza and Jeanine Schaefer
Editor in Chief: Perry White
Cover Art: Karl Kerschl, colors by Dave McCaig
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. ]

This issue is another logoed Infinite Crisis crossover issue. This is where we get the immediate response/fallout to the destruction wrought by Chemo in Infinite Crisis # 4. Rather than dialogue and seeing "inside" the heroes’ reactions to that event, we get it from the perspective of some citizen of the DCU reading reporter Lois Lane’s article covering the heroes’ response as she observed it.

This makes for an interesting perspective, if not entirely original. The "narration" is simply Lois’ story, which provides the only words found in the otherwise "silent" issue. One moment that stands out to me offhand is a full-page panel of Green Lantern amidst the wreckage, obviously deeply pained over the event. I believe this would be apparent even without Lois’ observation.

My initial reaction to this being where the plot thread gets immediately dealt with was surprise–given that many characters have "signature cities" that are often as much a character as any humanoid supporting cast member. Shouldn’t this be dealt with in another book? Except of course, Superman being Superman is obviously going to help. And given that Superman’s so powerful (here, the specific focus is on his invulnerability), it’s not like the character’s going to stand by and let others die just to maintain some "image" or such.

The style of this issue remind me of the Superman issue (# 79, I believe) that was told in this same way, except it was Ron Troupe’s story scattered in the otherwise silent issue which showed the Cyborg Superman stopping an attempt in the White House on the president’s life, and that president’s endorsement of the Cyborg as the "real" Superman. Given the destruction the characters rally to face, I’m also reminded of the "Black Cover Spider-Man Issue" (Amazing Spider-Man v.2 # 36, I believe).
Getting the story simultaneously after-the-fact (Lois’ words) and as it unfolds (the visuals) works pretty well–and for the most part might be the only way to truly cram so much into one issue. If there was dialogue with us seeing/hearing the characters talking to each other and coordinating and whatnot, this issue would have be be double, triple, or even quadruple-sized.

On the one hand, it’s interesting that there are four people listed for the writing–three beyond regular writer Greg Rucka. I can give the benefit of the doubt on it to the writing style and giving voice to Lois’ writing, as journalistic writing is not quite the same entity as character-writing and may be more collaborative.
Visually, there’s a fair amount of blank-space on these pages, as the images are pretty much contained to panels, and those panels’ layout tends to somewhat resemble photos placed on a fixed-size page. Though the art is not by a single person, it works for me here.

I found myself reading the text, using the visuals almost as an abstract, seeing them but not diving in deeply. Letting the visuals enhance what I was reading.
No real complaints with the art–it’s not perfect by any means, and this issue continues a trend of having "extras" credited, assumably to get an issue out exactly on-time (given what it covers, this issue pretty much had to be out right after Infinite Crisis # 4. Same week, and someone reading this issue spoils a major part of that issue; two weeks after, and it’s old news compared to books that also touch on the ramifications.

Other than describing how some of the mess is specifically cleaned up quickly (which might be mentioned in other books–I don’t know), this issue doesn’t strike me as essential reading. It will enhance one’s reading of the overall Infinite Crisis event, though. The issue doesn’t even have to be a Superman one–this could almost have been labeled "The Daily Planet – The Day After Infinite Crisis # 4" and been a "special" or "supplement" issue.

My initial reaction to the issue was that it wasn’t all that good, but it is actually quite well done, and serves its purpose as a followup to one of the more catastrophic events in the DCU.

Trinity War [Checklist]

JUNE 2013
PRELUDE: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1

JULY 2013
PART 1:
Justice League #22
PART 2: Justice League of America #6
PART 3: Justice League Dark #22
TIE-IN: Constantine #5
TIE-IN: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2

AUGUST 2013
TIE-IN:
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #11
PART 4: Justice League of America #7
TIE-IN: Trinity of Sin: Pandora #3
PART 5: Justice League Dark #23
PART6: Justice League #23

trinitywarchecklistfront

trinitywarchecklistback

source: promotional postcard (pictured above)

Secret Avengers #27 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

Wolverine #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Supergirl Annual #1 [Review]

Secret Identities / Second Born: The Secret Origin of Superwoman

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Renato Guedes
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue functions much as I would expect of an annual “special” issue. We have a couple of stories by the main series writer–stories that are directly relevant to current ongoing plots, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to see the regular issues slowed by inclusion of these stories in chunks nor taking a whole issue.

Essentially, we finally get to actually see Supergirl in her new civilian guise of Linda Lang (the introduction of the concept having been interrupted by the start of the whole New Krypton affair last spring). We see that she’s not nearly as experienced as her cousin, but it’s her learning curve and differnces that make the character more interesting–she’s not just some “clone” of her cousin–we see some real depth to her here. While we see development of Supergirl sorting out elements of her own secret ID we also see continuation of the anti-Kryptonian sentiment present in the current DCU.

The second story of the issue gives us a background story/origin of Superwoman, and how it was that Lucy Lane wound up in that role. While it technically “fits,” it’s not a story that I particularly “buy,” and it leaves a sour taste for me much like the “Supermen of America” story did in the 90s taking a character that has no business with Superpowers or such being given them as anything more than a one-off situational thing. Within the already-set bounds of belief-suspension, Lucy Lane having any sort of super-powers (provided by a costume or otherwise) doesn’t fit for me. We also see where the character is being further subjected to fantastical elements that just seem really out of place to this reader.

The art throughout the issue–for both stories–is not bad, nor is it anything spectacular. It holds its own, but I could take it or leave it.

If you’re following events in the main Supergirl book, you’ll want to snag this annual–its stories are certain to play into major plot points in the main book in the coming months. This mostly deals with plot threads prevalent in the main book, so I wouldn’t particularly recommend this issue as a jumping-on point.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6.5/10
Whole: 6/10

Superman #689 [Review]

The Tourist

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue focuses primarily on Mon-El exploring the world and encountering trouble all across the globe. He tries to visit one place, and winds up in the middle of a metahuman conflict; he goes to help with a conflict and gets to visit something significant. Meanwhile, the Guardian deals with Morgan Edge calling out the public on Mon-El’s presence…something which Edge then spins back into his own favor once again. We also see General Lane interacting with the Prankster about getting another hero out of town…and preparing for yet another of Metropolis’ heroes to take the big dirt nap.

The art as usual isn’t much to my taste, not really enjoying Guedes’ style, nor that of the rest of the art team surrounding his pencils…though that’s personal taste, and is not to say that the art is horrible: it just doesn’t suit me, and thus detracts from my enjoyment of the book. It still gets across what it needs to–and does so effectively.

The story itself gives me mixed things: on the one hand, it’s doing a good job of keeping me interested in Mon-El’s development as well as the Guardian, especially as the two outright take the place of Superman in his own title for the fourth or fifth issue of at least a year’s worth. On the other hand, I find myself more and more skeptical of the General Lane subplot–whatever the character was depicted as prior to Our Worlds at War, now he seems like a derivitive rip-off of General Ross from the Hulk book(s)…and by his associations in this issue, begins to feel like he’s being shoehorned into the role of a new Lex Luthor quasi-archetype…the primary human enemy of Superman/Kryptonians, including having metahuman “lackeys.” We also get a return of a character at the very end that I didn’t care for the first time around.

If you’ve been following the title, may as well stick on with it–this shows Mon-El experiencing the world he’s sworn to protect as he avoids facing the fact of his mortality. If you’ve not been following things…well, you may not really care for this.

Story: 5/10
Art: 4/10
Whole: 4.5/10

Action Comics Annual #12 [Review]

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: Mazi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Renato Guedes
Publisher: DC Comics

I bought this comic out of a combination of “habit” and the fact that it is part of the ongoing narrative of the Superman family of books these days (even though it sports a black “S” in place of a number for this issue’s place in the overall sequence of things).

This issue’s story details how Chris Kent went from the kid we saw in “Last Son” to where we saw him during the initial New Krypton event as the new Nightwing. It also details how Flamebird got to be what/where she is. Since the point of this annual IS the filling in of those gaps in info, I’m not going to dance around the plot being all vague and such beyond what I’ve already said.

The art works quite well on the whole here–I especially liked the depiction of the Phantom Zone as compared to the 3-D crap foisted on us with the Last Son arc. The way it was depicted here gets the same effect across without resorting to the stupid stunt of needing 3-D glasses to see panels clearly and such. I’m not a fan of the newer costumes for Nightwing & Flamebird…something about the looks just doesn’t work for me, regardless of the in-story explanation for them. Despite that complaint, the way they’re depicted is about as good as I suppose I can expect of these costumes.

While this story sheds further light on the characters (even adding a bit to Non, which I liked) it doesn’t seem entirely essential. One could almost see it as one of those guides to a new DVD player’s remote: the buttons on the device are fairly intuitive and you can get by without the guide…but the guide fills in that much more and does give you a different overall experience for having read it than not.

However, I do think the $5 price tag on this issue was just a bit steep–even just the difference to $4.50 would be preferable, steep as that is as well. If the price doesn’t bother you too much, this is a good issue to pick up.

Story: 7.50/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7.5/10

Superman #688 [Review]

The Fall and Rise of Jonathan Kent

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Andrew Robinson
Publisher: DC Comics

The first thing to note is this issue’s story title, which is a reversal of the “traditional” phrasing, as one would usually expect to read of the Rise and THEN Fall of someone, rather than the fall and then rise. It also puts me in mind of The Death and Life of Superman for the same reason–the title reversing the order. In the case of this issue, the title is quite literal, as we begin with Mon-El sans powers in free-fall. Though he survives, he is not sure what caused his powers to cut out. Joined by the Guardian, answers are sought, and in a typical comics sorta fashion, an answer is found that is not to the liking of the protagonists.

I’m not a fan of the art style in this issue. It’s just not to my liking, so much so that it does actually take me out of the story as I notice panel after panel the visual style I’m not thrilled with. That’s not to say the art’s bad or anything–for one thing, it’s far better than anything I myself could accomplish–but it is such that I don’t engage with the story as I would one with art I enjoyed a good deal more.

The story itself feels rather cliched here. The revelation of what’s affecting Mon-El’s powers goes a good way toward explaining recent events and accounting for his current status quo. But it’s also not all that original, and left me mentally groaning at just how cliche it feels, whatever original elements are yet present.

I have no problem with this book essentially starring a couple of characters who are NOT Superman himself, with stories that show a world that does not have Superman present, but rather others trying to fill the man’s role while he’s off-planet. It’s just that the story itself here just feels rather weak…especially when held against something like Starman, also by this writer.

Aside from simply being one chapter in an ongoing narrative….this is not an issue I’d recommend in general.

Story: 5/10
Art: 4/10
Whole: 4.5/10

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

Action Comics #873 [Review]

New Krypton part ten: Birth of a Nation

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Pete Woods, Renato Guedes & Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: Brad Anderson & David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Ladronn
Publisher: DC Comics

New Krypton the crossover/mega-arc concludes here, but the story is far from over.

The issue opens with the world reacting to Supergirl’s punch at Superman in the previous chapter, with General Lane and Luthor politicking over Doomsday’s for-now dead body. Some Kandorians are fighting the Justice Society and Green Lanterns (with a few other heroes), before a Superman Returns style solution is implemented that then takes on a Counter-Earth feel. We’re then treated to several prologue scenes to close out the issue.

The art on this issue isn’t bad, but for the most part is not all that appealing to me. It gets across what’s going on visually, but leaves me missing Gary Frank’s art, particularly at the way Superman himself looks.

The story is a definite let-down. While this is supposedly the “conclusion” to this epic, I’m left at the end feeling like we’ve had a whole bunch of filler leading to this issue, just to kick off some outside mini-series. There’s been a lot of potential built up that doesn’t get resolved and seems to fizzle out, and just results in a hearty disappointment. As a Faces of Evil issue, supposedly we get a story from Luthor’s point of view. However, Luthor is really only on the first two pages as a pawn to General Lane. This isn’t the writer’s fault–this issue has no business being included in the Faces of Evil stunt.

All in all, what began as a very interesting premise with loads of potential comes down to this issue and a completely anti-climactic conclusion. Recommended only if you’ve been following the story thus far; otherwise, you’ll be just as well served finding spoilers online and spending your money elsewhere. If you want a story from Luthor’s point of view and how he interacts with Superman, I’ll recommend the Lex Luthor: Man of Steel mini-series from several years back.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

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