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Action Comics #976 [Review]

action_comics_0976Superman: Reborn Part 2

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below… ]

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised, yet I still managed to be: after three issues building toward something HUGE…this felt very anti-climactic. Rather than coming off as "organic," to me–at least on this initial read-through–it came off as rather forced and after-the-fact than an organic, planned development.

[ I really will be spoiling this below, so consider this your final warning…spoilers after this line are preceded by plenty of SPOILER WARNING to absolve me of feeling guilty for discussing the issue in detail plainly. ]

We open on Mxy going off on Superman…or at least A Superman. In Mxy’s pocket-existence where Jon’s being held, A Superman and Lois have arrived. Jon recognizes them…they fail to recognize him. While Mxy revels in the chaos, even taunting this Superman, Jon realizes with horror that the woman he believes to be his mother doesn’t even remember him. While two spheres of blue energy approach Jon, Mxy opts to leave, warning of someone far beyond even himself as the cause of everything. That he–Mxy–was merely taking advantage of a situation already present. Channeling power from the blue ‘ghosts’, Jon manages to oppose Mxy, who offers him one last chance to leave this existence. Jon refuses, and Mxy leaves. As the reality crumbles, the blue energy merges with the New 52 Superman and Lois, restoring their memories of Jon and their lives together…and all reality re-knits, merging what we knew from pre-Flashpoint and the New 52 into one continuity, with Superman simply…Superman. But married to Lois, and with their son–Jon–as Superboy. Somewhere else, Mr. Oz looks on and marvels at the situation, at the love shared between Lois, Clark, and Jon, and how it unites realities. And finally, a hint that there’s someone–and/or someTHING–else out there still influencing things.

I feel like this was telegraphed a mile off, so to speak. New 52 Superman and the "real" Superman would merge, their realities fused/merged into one, to simply BE Superman, supposedly no more "divide" and smooth over stuff.

It doesn’t really work for me, as far as the in-story stuff goes. I could even have probably "bought" the notion of Mxy re-setting stuff somehow, though usually his machinations are undone when he disappears. Just continuing to merely "hint" at something else out there is getting old, and I’m ready to just be TO whatever ‘event’ that will be, and get beyond it. To just have A single DC Universe, even if it’s actually a multiverse, and either the New 52 completely wiped away or officially merged and just have a set UNIVERSE that is what it is and get on with stuff.

Visually, parts of this issue were quite "off" for my preferences, but not bad. I really like the "new costume" for Superman, essentially being the classic costume minus the trunks, and a modified (solid) belt (instead of the dots of red thing that’s been going on awhile). We seemed to have pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark turned into energy and merged with the New 52 versions…but then a sort of switch up with the new costume, and it seems that Jon’s been given additional power (I had it in my head that he couldn’t fly, and he seems to be, here).

This resolution and issue as a whole seems to be an attempt to bring stuff together and "unify" fans of either Superman by making it so that both are one and the same–that New 52 Superman was always part of THE Superman, and the pre-Flashpoint Superman we had from Convergence, Superman: Lois and Clark, and the past ten months of Rebirth was not himself whole, but is now, with the merging of the new. This combined with stuff from last November’s Superman Annual would seem to have stuff in line for that, to firmly establish Superman is Superman and now whole, PERIOD.

I guess time will tell.

There’s still plenty of dancing around the fine details…even with the double-pager showing stuff from "both" continuities, it’s hard to tell–for me, at least–exactly what’s what, or supposed to be what–and what’s just looking different because of the artist’s rendition.

While I’ll grant that the "new costume" deserved its full-page "reveal" and the double-page spread of the "new history" deserved the room, I’m also a bit disappointed at how quick a read this was.

My feelings on this issue are certainly victim to the "hype machine," and to wanting to see some overt reference to Superman Red/Superman Blue, to SOMEthing more with the notion, at least, of Red and Blue, and some overt explaining of things. Instead, a lot seems to have been left to the visuals, to whatever the reader wants to interpret. Maybe it’s stuff to be explored in coming issues–but to consider this a conclusion seems to understate things, and though I certainly appreciate NOT having stories stretched out, I think Superman Reborn certainly deserves to be at least another chapter or two, to really lay things out and concretely state what’s what and when and all that.

Superman Reborn started strong, with a lot of epic possibility and potential. Sadly, it–at least for me–ends far short of what I’d hoped for, underwhelming me despite itself. I trust that stuff will play out in coming weeks and months, with further details and ramifications touched on…and hopefully this mainly just means that we’re NOT locked into "the graphic novel" of exactly X issues to a story with hard stop/starts. Perhaps this is just a "main event" and the full details WILL be revealed here and there–organically–as things continue.

I had to go to two different shops to find a copy of this issue, and got the last copy at the second shop…so I’m pretty sure that a number of people have been grabbing this issue even if they hadn’t been getting previous issues. Perhaps the nostalgia, more likely the hype–particularly from sites like Bleeding Cool–and jumping on for whatever this one issue would hold, regardless of continuity. Story-wise, art-wise, it’s a solid enough issue (note my feelings of its failings above) well worth getting if you’re already following either/both titles or this particular story.

But it’s not worth the "hype," at least on one read-through and thinking on it. That said, I won’t be surprised to have my feelings on it changed by further thought, analysis, and points of view…this post simply being my initial thoughts/reaction to the issue on a single read-through.

action_comics_0976_blogtrailer

Superman (2016) #19 [Review]

superman_0019Superman: Reborn Part 3

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Late May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

Well, it’s safe to say I had too-high expectations for this issue, coming off the previous issue AND Action Comics #975. Though this issue advanced stuff a bit, it did not on initial reading hold up to my own internal "hype."

With the villain revealed, we basically get to see Clark and Lois being made to forget their life together, their son Jon, and to play along to Mxyzptlk’s game. As the issue ends, we have a bit of a throwback on stuff, that can kinda call into question this arc’s title and make one really wonder what’s going to happen in the fourth/"final" chapter before we head into April’s DC stuff.

Yeah, that’s all a bit vague, especially for a review, but this issue was all over the place–capitalizing on Mxy’s reality-bending powers and inclinations. And this is my "snap judgment," initial thoughts after having just read the issue, taking it–as I try to all my reviews–on a first reading without getting overly deep into it. My preference, my style.

The story picks up from the first half of Action 975, and seems to almost ignore the secondary Dini story. It also seems slightly out of nowhere to me, like I missed something. We had intro/setup stuff and the building of tension in the first chapter, getting things rolling. The second chapter brought that stuff to a head and revealed the villain of the story as well as paying off most of a year’s worth of build. I’ve plenty of anticipation and suspicions as to possibilities for how this story might end…so this "middle chapter" that’s neither setup nor conclusion is somewhat stuck in place, unable to conclude stuff, but not much new to be able to put out there.

The imagery is a bit wacky and trippy…which perfectly fits with Mxy and his powers and such. But it also made for a too-quick read; I rarely "like" multiple splash pages or double-page splashes and find them to be a huge "cheat" story AND page-wise in modern comics. That said, the spread with the game board worked quite well for me, all things considered.

This issue does not "sell" me on Mxy’s legitimate motivation for stuff…where it actually made sense in the Action Comics chapter, here he just comes off as petty and mean…I didn’t feel any of the "heart" of his motivation here.

I’m quite certain virtually no one–especially in this day and age–is gonna be inclined to "jump in" with the 19th issue of a series, labeled chapter 3 of a story. This is not something for a first-time reader, but is an issue for the ongoing reader, or the reader who’s dipping their toe in for this ARC.

In a way, this issue feels nearly "skippable" or extraneous, though I’m sure some small "details" will play into the conclusion and whatever status quo going forward from next week’s chapter. I would not actually recommend skipping this issue, but I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of picking this up also pick up the first two chapters with plans to grab next week’s fourth chapter!

I was also slightly incorrect in my "assumption" of the covers for this story: they ARE going to join together in a 4-panel connected image…however, rather than a 2 x 2 configuration, they’re a 4-panel "tall" configuration (which is shown in the text piece on the final page of the issue, after the story itself).

superman_0019_blogtrailer

Superman (2016) #18 [Review]

superman_0018Superman: Reborn Part 1

Story: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason and John Kalisz
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Please note that I will spoil the issue a bit, so stop reading now and come back AFTER you’ve read the issue yourself, if you do not want to encounter spoilers! ]

I buy each new week’s Superman book pretty much as an extremely welcome again (after some 6 or so years away) "habit"–and have since about this time last year. That said, the covers rarely "grab" me–I recognize them, the issue gets paid for and taken home, and read. THIS issue, though, really jumped out at me for its coloring/color-scheme, the visual design, and somehow being rather unexpected to me. It also seems like it’s a small piece of a singular image that I can imagine being spread out across at least 3 more chapters of this story (though I’ll be highly annoyed–to say the least–if such a thing would merely be VARIANTS for this single issue. I’ll hold to my notion until at least next week, though, and give the publisher the benefit of the doubt for now).

This is the opening issue of a fairly "hyped" storyline that I’ve been looking forward to despite some disappointment at how the Clark Kent story seemed to "end" over in Action Comics last week. (Though I’ll give it credit for playing into continuity and this feeling largely like "just" the next issue in sequence OF an ongoing thing).

We open on a brief scene of someone–presumably this Mr. Oz–musing on time/space blah blah blah, and then seeing multiple individuals in his "collection" acting out–reacting to the fact that SOMEONE (we aren’t told who) got out. Looking to the empty cell, we see graffiti indicating an extreme hope in Superman…before shifting to Hamilton County and the main part of the issue.

[ Spoilers to follow ]

Clark, Lois, and Jon are celebrating the couple’s anniversary when there’s a knock at the door. The "other" Clark Kent seems to have left something for the family (and majorly spooks Krypto!).  They find that it’s a scrapbook with photos that no one on this Earth–let alone reality–"should" have. Its images shouldn’t even exist, they were wiped out with Clark and Lois’ Earth. Before they can dig all that deeply, they notice their house is on fire…but quickly realize it’s not so much on fire as being ERASED. Then to make it WORSE…Jon’s being erased. Superman leaps into action to save his son, as any father would. And we see the maddening, helpless desperation of our hero and his wife as they see everything they know and love…erased.

Talk about a setup and leaving one hanging! I’ve loved only having to wait two weeks between issues for Superman and Action Comics since last spring…but this would be flat-out frustrating to have to wait an entire two weeks…I’m anxious for the next chapter, in next week’s Action Comics…by the time of this post, a "mere" 5 days, and that seems too long!

There’s plenty to be found within this issue and its story. We have stuff pointing to the larger DC Universe as it now stands. We have stuff rooted firmly within the Superman books, and specifically this title. We have reference to earlier issues, and we have references to pre-Flashpoint elements. So it seems that we’re getting some major payoff about to really kick into gear after most of a year of building. Still more, we have a story that seems like it’s pretty self-contained to the Super-titles, not some line-wide must-buy-them-all crossover or such. I believe some of the events of this book might trickle out and be reflected in other titles, but in this issue we’re only directed to Action Comics, next.

This may not be the BEST issue for a new reader to start with…but it’s not horrible, and I also think a lapsed reader could probably do pretty well here, just knowing that this is pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark; that they have a son, and there’s been some other Clark Kent around.

Visually, I have very mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand, I like the cover, and most of the interiors are ok. There are a couple panels–one with Tim Drake (Robin/Red Robin) and one of Jon–that just look really off to me. While Tim’s appearance can be chalked up to his imprisonment, the first large panel of Jon just looks too cartoony to me, overly manga-styled for what is NOT a manga volume. I suppose comparison could be drawn as well to Ed McGuinness‘ art (I’m thinking around 2000 or so), but in the moment, it just threw me off and had me feeling a lot more nitpicky about the issue. The cover, though, is pretty darned good, and would make an excellent print for hanging…and if this indeed is part of a multi-part image, I dare say it’ll likely make a fantastic poster.

All in all, even if you’re not "up" on the various Superman titles, if you’ve a passing familiarity, I’d definitely recommend this issue. It’s well worth its $2.99 cover price, and does a nice job of setting stuff up for what ever is to come, while providing its own major chunk of story and key event for things. I’m eagerly anticipating the next chapter, and to see where things go in general with this story, and the Super-books in general!

Super Sons #1 [Review]

super_sons_0001When I Grow Up… part one

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Jimenez and Sanchez
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: April 2017
Cover Price: $2.99

I’ve been looking forward to this title for quite some time…for a number of reasons. One being the fondness with which I recall reading some of the "classic" "Super Sons" stories in Grandpa’s old comics. Another being the inspired nature of putting Damian and new Superboy Jon Kent together and seeing the two playing off each other–my having come to "accept" Damian, and being quite open to the possibilities of a Superboy who is not "just" Superman as a boy or an adopted "clone" or such…but the biological, actual SON of Superman. Then there’s the simple fun of "Son of Batman" with "Son of Superman" and their being kids, and far less "need" for decorum, professionalism, etc. As kids…there’s bound to be a certain lack of a "filter" and hijinks can ensue.

We open with a creepy-ish scene with a family that reminds me a bit of that episode of The Twilight ZoneIt’s a Good Life–with a kid having a family/town in thrall. Then we jump into some action with Robin and Superboy racing away from a crowd of creepy doppelgangers of themselves. And then…we jump to the recent past to see how they got there. We follow Jon on an otherwise normal day, seeing him dealing with being a kid, going to school, and trying to stand up for someone who can’t otherwise stand up for themself, while he HAS the power to do something. We also see Damian dealt with parentally by Batman, forced to face academics rather than action. Of course, he winds up sneaking out anyway, and enlists Jon’s assistance, as Superboy and Robin are on the case. Little realizing what an appropriate adult figure they’d bump into…the boys are in trouble, one way or the other, and we’re but one issue in.

I don’t know what I expected, exactly, from this series, outside of the hype and promise of its potential (see my opening paragraph). I’m at once drawn to, yet put off by, the art. It has a clear, energetic quality to it, a bit cartoony without being ridiculous. And I suppose it reminds me a bit of the look of the Young Justice series from the ’90s somehow, though that may just be a track of thought with no fruit…the mind can be a funny thing sometimes.

The art certainly fits the title, but I guess visually I was just expecting something more along the lines of Jim Lee, Ed Benes, or some other familiar/iconic Superman and/or Batman artist.

So while not my first choice, the art IS good, fits the story, and one can follow the action and such just fine. I’m sure it will grow on me, and become iconic in its own way, if there’s not a rotating art team or such on this title.

Story-wise, this fit in quite well with the "backdoor pilot" story we had a couple months ago in the Superman title, as well as fitting with what I’ve read of both Jon and Damian over the years in general.

We seem to be getting a new "villain" for the story, some new threat that is NOT just the kids facing some cheesy or cast-off villain from their dads’ rogues gallery(ies). And though the dads are part of the story, the story is not about them–they’re rather typically incidental.

But we’re also given plenty of first-issue material here (which is good since this IS a first issue!) in being introduced to the title characters, their supporting cast/relevant family, see them in their own elements, together, and then they’re brought together TO "team up," and encounter a threat that may be beyond either of them individually…and then a direct encounter with someone neither one of them would WANT to encounter.

This is a rich issue for me, having read plenty of (older) Batman and Robin stuff, and plenty of stuff throughout Damian’s 12-ish year existence, as well as the past 8-9 months of Rebirth-era Superman stuff, and the earlier Lois and Clark mini that came out of the events of Convergence (itself nearly 2 years ago). But just knowing tangentially that these are the biological, actual SONS of Superman and Batman, you can jump in and pick up from this issue alone, with its own context and  such.

The primary drawback here is that this is but one issue, and compared to the biweekly main Superman/Action and Batman/Detective books I believe this is monthly…so it’s going to seem drawn out. And though elements I’d expect of a first issue are here, it’s "just" part one of the story, and I’d be quite shocked if this is any less than 6 chapters…this feels like a solid opening chapter of a serialized graphic novel.

All in all, if you have enjoyed these characters in the past–individually or their "team-up" in Superman a couple months back–or are at all intrigued at the notion of the sons of Superman and Batman interacting/having their own adventures…this is a good start. I’ll certainly be giving it another issue or so myself before deciding if it fully seems more worthy of a graphic novel than being strung out as single issues.

For now? It’s only $2.99, and well worth at least giving it this single issue to get your interest up, with what it shows AND what it "promises."

Ads to Make Me Geek Out A Bit

I normally dislike or avoid ads as best I can…but I’m a LOT more "forgiving" of them in-print. Though both Marvel and DC seem to cram their comics full of ads, such that sometimes it seems every-other page is an ad or a double-page ad spread.

But this week, one ad in particular made me geek out, two others significantly impressed me, and another re-made a point to me of just why I so strongly "prefer" the standard/main/basic/A/most-non-variant cover an issue carries. These in just two comics! 


DC Universe: Rebirth – The Deluxe Edition

geeking_out_ads_rebirth_deluxe

I’ve been vaguely aware that this was coming up, but seeing the ad for it really made me geek out. DC Universe: Rebirth is easily one of the most KEY issues of my lifetime, and certainly of the last few years, for me. I started out grudgingly deciding I’d get the issue and wound up getting multiple copies to "support" the thing, a digital copy for immediacy, and a couple of the other prints for the squarebound format… but the issue is what truly, fully SOLD me on Rebirth and prompted me to go all-out on the initiative and dive in as I have…to say nothing of simply giving me a Superman experience driving me to the comic shop every single week for the latest on the character, after most of a decade of blah stuff.


DC Collectibles: Batman the Animated Series – The Batwing

geeking_out_ads_btas_batwing

The "regular size" figures in this Batman the Animated Series line are too expensive for me…as I’m absolutely certain this Batwing toy is. But darnit, this thing looks really freaking cool, and if I had the space and money to throw presumably $100+ at it, I’d love to have it.

As-is, this is a fantastic ad, showing the toy, describing it with context as to its scale (more than three feet long and just over two feet wide and holds two action figures!). Adding the classic quote from the Tim Burton Batman film that was heavily influential on this series (particularly the theme music!) was an added touch.

Then there’s the way it melds the new/current DC logo with the classic tv series logo…


Action Comics #967 – Men of Steel

geeking_out_ads_action_men_of_steel

I just like this image…seeing both Clark and Luthor doing The Shirt Rip, revealing each man’s Super-outfit. While there doesn’t seem to have been all that much with them clashing yet (a feeling I’m thankful for!), this re-ignites my interest on the matter. Having this Luthor interacting with this Superman is fantastic for conflict and character interaction, and I look forward to witnessing more of it for myself.

After having a story "restoring" Clark Kent to things, albeit with a twist; then another story "re-installing" Lois at The Daily Planet, it seems likely that this will re-catalyze the Superman/Luthor relationship in context of the current situation, giving both men reason to clash with the other, rather than either man’s "assumption" of who/what the other is.


Continue reading

Zero Hour Revisited – Superboy #8

90srevisited_zerohour

superboy_0008Big Trouble in Smallville!

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inkers: Doug Hazlewood, Dan Davis
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

Now THIS is more like it. This was an issue I had read when it was originally released, and I enjoyed it now, and I enjoyed it back then. Of course, whatever checklist I was working from that listed this issue before Valor #23 did me a disservice…this one had a footnote to see that issue. But I already had my mind set on reading this next…and hey…wibbly-wobbly and all that.

This is just the eighth issue of the 1990s Superboy series…focusing on the Superboy that appeared in the whole Return of Superman shindig. This is well before his Kon-El days, even before he had an inkling, really, who the Kents were (He doesn’t even have a bit of recognition of them in this issue!). After Crisis on Infinite Earths, there was no longer a Superboy, who was "Superman when he was a boy." Of course, when you have a Crisis (in Time) and have other-timelines’ characters popping up and such…why NOT a timeline where Superman WAS SuperBOY first?

So we pick up on Superboy accompanying a plane across Kansas. His travel-buddy Dubbilex needs the plane, and has rescued Krypto (Bibbo’s dog that was gonna be named Krypton but wound up Krypto cuz of a jerk tag-maker…see the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman story for that, if I’m recalling correctly). Superboy and the dog aren’t getting along, and Superboy’s riding on the wing of the plane…whether it’s BECAUSE of the dog I’m not sure, but I guess it doesn’t matter TOO much. When the plane’s hit by lightning and about to crash, it’s rescued–by Superboy…and Superboy! The second Superboy, wearing the classic Superman costume appeared with the lightning, apparently after some adventure in the future. He guides the plane to Smallville, recognizing the sign stating it’s the home of Superboy, and then seeks out familiar territory. While "our" Superboy gets some attention in town, the time-displaced Superboy changes to his guise as a young Clark Kent…and finds some unsettling surprises. And of course, eventually the two Superboys meet up (how neither realized the other assisted with the plane can be chalked up to "It’s comics!") and fight…before realizing there’s no need for fighting, and that there are forces at work beyond even the two of them. As the displaced Superboy fades out, Superman/Green Lantern/Metron’s message arrives, and Superboy springs into action.

I’ll say it again: this is more like it! While "the message" does not come until the end of the issue…within this issue we HAVE a Time Anomaly, a character whose only way of being capable of even appearing IS the weirdness with Time, as a result of what’s going on with Zero Hour…making this a great tie-in! And at a time when "elements" of the pre-Crisis era were seeping back into the Superman mythos, albeit with "modern" twists rooted within the new continuity, this Superboy was an interesting contrast…a sort of having the cake and eating it, too. I suppose in most modern ways of comparing, it’d be like Kon-El showing up in the New 52 for just one issue and that’d be that.

In a way, I wasn’t even paying attention to the story as I read this…I just thoroughly enjoyed the issue! Grummett‘s art is fantastic, and Hazlewood/Davis/McCraw do an excellent job enhancing that with inks and colors. After reading some of the other tie-in issues, this one was a very welcome one in both art and sheer enjoyment.

While there’s not a lot of context for the ongoing series, as a one-off, this is a fun issue…basically showing the "real" Superboy encountering one from a different timeline, providing some comparison/contrast between the two, and then setting things back before ending. Other than allowing "our" Superboy to be able to say that he encountered a Time Anomaly already (and as readers, we were thus along for the ride having read this issue), there doesn’t seem to be anything here to really move the SUPERBOY story along…and yet it fits then-current continuity and ties into Zero Hour and is one of the better examples thus far of something tying into the event.

Well worth it if you find it in a bargain bin!

The ’80s Revisited: The New Adventures of Superboy #1

newadventuresofsuperboy0001The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker: David Hunt
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January, 1980
Cover Price: $0.40

This issue only just barely makes the cut to be counted as an ’80s comic…though I am pretty sure that is a technicality, as it’s the cover date, while the publication date was likely at least a couple months earlier, the end of 1979. I actually remember this issue as one I’d managed to acquire ages ago, when I was in junior high (probably–early 1990s). I could not have told you anything about the content of the issue from memory, but on reading it, I realized I had also definitely actually READ the thing, too.

We start with a classic Julius Schwartz cover, showing us a rather absurd, dramatic scene that relates to the content of the story within…a relation that plays up some element that doesn’t seem to make much sense on the cover, but has a reasonable story explanation. In this case, Superboy is celebrating a birthday, but his parents insist he needs an extra candle…and this story promises to tell us WHY.

Of course, while we have SUPERBOY on the cover…it’s actually Clark Kent being celebrated within…which fits continuity, as they weren’t THAT open about Superboy’s identity even back then…he held the secret identity knowing enemies of Superboy wouldn’t hesitate to strike at him through those he loved–particularly his parents. Clark’s 16 birthday is here, and he’s asked about the extra candle…he doesn’t know himself why it’s used, just that his parents have added it every year since his 8th. We then get a flashback from Jonathan and Martha’s point of view as the secret is revealed to us–the readers. Two ancient aliens found their way to Earth, where after “testing” the newly-revealed Superboy (that they have searched for since crossing paths with baby Kal-El’s rocket years earlier) deem him their salvation. They accidentally made themselves immortal–something that’s become a curse–and need someone of sufficient makeup that they could SURVIVE a device that would transfer one’s ability to age into them. Yet, they mean Superboy (and Earth) no harm…so provide the 8-year-old Superboy the choice: help them, or don’t.

We see the noble boy choose to help them, using their device on himself, which means he will no longer (ever) age, giving his ability TO age to the aliens, that they might finally age and find the end of their (unnaturally-long) lives. They also impart a bit of amnesia to the young Clark so that he won’t remember his choice, and can live with the thought that his ‘immortality’ comes from being Kryptonian on earth, rather than choosing to sacrifice a part of himself. After they leave and the Kents lament their boy’s fate, Clark reveals that he noticed from what the aliens had said about their plight that it was their own minds keeping them from aging…he actually countered their device with his heat vision…granting the aliens the BELIEF that they could age, which tricked their minds into ALLOWING them to age. Meanwhile, Clark will continue to age as normal…a win/win situation. Though the amnesia kicked in and he no longer remembers the aliens or his solution/decision, his parents do–and honor their pride in him with the extra candle.

I recognize the names Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger, though I can’t particularly place them off the top of my head, as of this typing. I’m pretty sure they’re either “big names” at DC from the late-’70s/early-’80s, or on the Superman family of titles (or both). I of course recognize Julius Schwartz as the editor as mentioned above.

This issue’s story worked decently for me–I’m not thrilled with it, nor does it play much into “continuity” that I recall except the obvious references and Editor’s Notes to remind (or inform) the reader of things of note (like the elder Kents having been de-aged). Stuff like that I took at face value as a kid, and took at face value here, but the added benefit of–as an adult–now having some vague memories of reading about the stuff being referenced, since I’d originally read the issue. In and of itself, I don’t know if I “buy” Superboy as an 8-year-old…but then, some of that may simply be that I’m so far removed from that age now, where I was only several when I would have originally read this. The story is a done-in-one, with nothing of note added to an ongoing saga or anything; just another “adventure” that takes an issue and leaves things in place for the next issue.

The art is quite good, and I really like the style overall…there’s something particularly familiar to it that puts me in mind of some of these characters even into the then-current comics I read in the late-’80s. It certainly fit the story and nothing to the art drew me out or distracted me, so it definitely succeeded in doing its job.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue as what it is–a “random” one-off, done-in-one issue that just so happens to be a #1 from an age when an issue with a #1 actually had some measure of significance. This was more than worth the 25 cents I paid for it.

Additionally, there’s an ad in the issue for the then-current issue of Adventure Comics that grabbed my attention…to the point that I actually sought it out in a non-bargain back-issue bin and found/bought it. It’s possible dabbling in these older back issues lately is just that–a dabbling. At the same time, I find myself more and more interested in older comics than new, and I’m increasingly willing to buy an issue from the back issue bins where I used to hold myself strictly to the quarter-bins.

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