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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

Superman #683 [Review]

New Krypton part nine: Hard Times!

Writer: James Robinson
Pencillers: Renato Guedes & Jorge Correa Jr.
Inker: Wilson Magalhares & Jorge Correa Jr.
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Laura Martin)
Publisher: DC Comics

Superman faces a number of Earth super-heroes in this issue’s opening sequence–asking that they leave and let him attend to locating the Kryptonians who were responsible for a number of police deaths. They in turn give Supes an ultimatum–a half-hour before they’ll go into action. Superman confronts his aunt, and begins to realize things are beyond his control. As the battle is joined, we have Kryptonians vs. super-heroes, and then a moment between Superman and Supergirl that takes me back to a 1992 issue of Action Comics. The issue concludes with a certain “cavalry” arriving.

I’m still not the biggest fan of the art for this title–the style just seems a bit “off” to me; as probably stated before, the visual is shared by the entire art team–sometimes it’s the coloring that seems most “off” to me. I actually think I’d prefer to see Guedes’ linework inked and left uncolored–that might give me a different perception.

The story is decent if lacking complexity. Then again, given that we’re into the ninth chapter of this crossover story, it’s goot to get to action and not be bogged down with overly-complex layering and whatnot. The characters and situations are quite believable and make sense contextually. This certainly isn’t the best issue of this title–nor the “New Krypton” story–but it’s a solid chapter (and didn’t seem like some plot device forced into it for the sake of re-introducing old characters).

Not one to skip if you’re following the story; by this point in the story I assume one’s probably going to pick issues up whatever complaints they have, and doubt my recommendation would do much here. I’d recommend picking up earlier chapters before just grabbing this and wading in, of course.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6.5/10

Superman #682 [Review]

New Krypton part six: Invasive Surgery

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Wilson Magalhares
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Rodolfo Migliari)
Publisher: DC Comics

Including the Jimmy Olsen special, this is the seventh straight week of an ongoing Superman narrative…in that sense, it’s definitely like the good ol’ days of the 90s ongoing story. Being a decade older and more knowledgeable at things like “creative teams” and in general knowing more than “just” the “character” I’m reading, I see a lot more–like while this is an ongoing story overall, we keep shifting focus from one character to another, as each creative team really gets to step up and tell their own story within the larger whole.

In part 6 of New Krypton, we begin with Clark and Martha visiting Jonathan’s grave–a fairly touching scene, though I don’t feel like I’ve seen Clark and Martha interact quite this way before. Martha seems a bit sharper…though given what the characters have been through, it’s still believable. After the two find an extremely unexpected “guest” already visiting the grave, we launch into the meat of the issue, as Kryptonians–led by Zor-El, Alura, and Supergirl–embark on a campaign of ridding the world of Superman’s old foes in a less than polite manor. Whatever their good intentions, they succeed mainly in provoking Superman to anger, and Earth’s populace to fear.

The art still hasn’t captured me–it’s got a style that somehow just doesn’t come across all that well, and I can’t quite tell how much it’s the pencils and how much it’s the colors. The look it gets for Bizarro works very well, though. There’s far, far more talent in the art than I’m capable of–but compared to the likes of Jim Lee, Gary Frank, Dan Jurgens, and others, this art just doesn’t do it for me.

The story makes perfect sense, and gets to deal with the question of how effective Superman really is, as well as the different perspectives held by the Kryptonians. It also continues to show that if Superman can do what he does, and a handful of Kryptonians do what they do, the world has justification for its fear and worry. This issue plays very well within the overall narrative of late, moving the story forward and setting up the next chapter(s) as well.

I like the cover–the image here reminds me of the cover to 1998’s Superman Forever, and it’s that much easier to imagine the motion in the depicted moment and that immediately following.

Overall, perhaps not the best point to start with on jumping in–but definitely worth getting if you’re already following the story or determined to get this title despite the crossover.

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

Superman: New Krypton Special #1 [Review]

New Krypton

Writers: Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates
Penciller: Pete Woods, Gary Frank, Renato Guedes
Inker: Pete Woods, Jon Sibal, Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank (variant by Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalhaes)

This is the way “events” should be done. And with the (temporary, at least for this storyline?) return of the “triangle-numbers,” this issue immediately feels like “classic” 90s Superman–in its highest quality.

The issue opens with the fairly immediate aftermath of Action Comics #870 with a particularly powerful “silent” sequence–if you’ve ever been to a funeral, if you’ve ever lost a loved one or seen someone else having lost someone they loved–you know that there ARE no words…and what words there are, tend often to be private and unique to those involved. The way this sequence comes off, one can fill in their own words, their own feelings–and it is that much more touching. Any words the writer could put on the page would not measure up to what I, as the reader, can imagine…which makes the scene that much more personal. Even when we get to the flashbacks and words, the scene is still very effective…I was almost in tears at the full-page of Clark in the barn.

After the funeral, we see that the story of Brainiac is actually far from being “over,” as the military has a certain interest in our alien friend. And as is cliche…they don’t quite know what they’re getting themselves into. Meanwhile, after a moment with his mother–Martha Kent–Superman visits Kandor where he gets some time with his Uncle and Aunt–actual living, breathing, genuine blood-relatives. He also has the honor of reintroducing them to their daughter Kara–and the Family of El gets to have their first dinner together in many years.

Lois and Lucy have a sisterly reunion at their father’s grave, and later at the Planet, Jimmy returns with information he needs to share about what he found out on his recent leave of absence. Finally, we’re introduced to the folks pulling the strings behind the scenes in a cliffhanger with the potential for major ongoing ramifications for the entire Superman family.

We have three creative teams collaborating on this book. Where often I don’t notice much difference in sequences, here I felt there were several distinct pieces. The “Action Comics Sequence” seems obvious–dealing with Jonathan’s death. The “Supergirl Sequence,” too, seems obvious with the reuniting of daughter and parents. The “Superman Sequence” stood out for me more for the art. As such, this issue felt a bit like it contained several mini-issues of the regular ongoing books, probably largely for the differing art to go with their respective writers.

Despite that, the overall story works quite well, and on assumption that the entire story will be told in this fashion–one overarching story with individual creative teams going “deeper” into certain characters/interactions–this is some good, solid stuf.

There were a number of great “moments” in this issue, stuff that sets up elements for all three of the “core” Superman books as well as setting the foundation for this specific New Krypton event.

As a reader who remembers and enjoyed the days of the triangle numbering–when all the Super-books were essentially a massive ongoing weekly story, with the quarterly special often starting or bookending particular arcs–this feels like a return to form. Though the Brainiac arc worked really well for me in terms of the writing and art–this special issue has me actually excited for the first time in nearly a decade for the multiple Super-books as a whole.

While you’ll almost certainly “appreciate” things a bit more if you’ve been reading the books for awhile, this is also a strong jumping-on point if you’ve been curious about the Superman family of books. And if you’ve any interest at all…I’d recommend jumping in now–this story/event looks to be for Superman what the Sinestro Corps. War was for Green Lantern…and well worth getting in at the start!

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 8/10

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