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The ’90s Revisited: Superboy #22 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

superboy_0022Fire and Ice

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Dan Davis
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Editor: Frank Pittarese
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This month, a number of blogs and podcasts have joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Beyond my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG  |  Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast  |  Relatively Geeky Podcast Network  |  The Retroist  |  Chris is on Infinite Earths  |  Cosmic Treadmill  |  The Pop Culture Palace  |  Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast  |  The Idol-Head of Diabolu  |  Justice’s First Dawn  |  Justice Trek: The Podcast


It seems I’ve picked a whole bunch of "cold" issues for covering Underworld Unleashed! Mr. Freeze over in Green Lantern #68 and Batman #525, Luthor and Joker in a snowglobe over in Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #3…and now Killer Frost in this issue!

The issue opens with Superboy popping back into the present in amazement after some sort of time-travel adventure (apparently a crossover between the previous issue, Legion [of Super-Heroes?] #74, and Legionnaires #34, according to the Editor’s Note). He heads home only to be ambushed by Knockout, who has decided she’s living "here now" to Superboy’s consternation. Meanwhile, a plane crashes into the airport, apparently brought down due to being "all iced up!" An ice-woman emerges, seeking warmth, saying "…Neron said he’d make me more powerful, but i’m just as I always was…need to absorb more heat…" We then return to Superboy and a rather perturbed Rex Leech lamenting damage to the house, though he hadn’t noticed Knockout being in the process of cleaning up the mess she’d made. While Superboy, Knockout, Dubbilex, and Roxy Leech chat, it begins to snow…which is quite surprising considering their Hawaii environment! Superboy and Knockout wind up in town facing off with the ice-woman, who–based on MO–seems to be Killer Frost. With Tana Moon nearby observing, they manage to stall Frost with a bit of volcanic heat…before Knockout drops a truckload of liquid oxygen on the Neron-enhanced villainess. Losing sight of both, Superboy worries about Knockout before she emerges and steals a kiss, joyful over the fun of the day (said kiss making Tana jealous, and leading Superboy to affirm his feelings for her and that Knockout is not his interest). Meanwhile, Neron appears to Knockout and offers her her heart’s desire…she violently refuses and Neron leaves. Also meanwhile, Roxy makes it slightly belatedly to a "meeting" she was worried about, and we see that she’s taking a police exam, which has implications for the future.

First off, while Neron does appear (briefly!) in this issue, it’s more of a cameo, lasting barely a single page. Second, we’re not given much of anything on Killer Frost…she’s anything BUT 3-dimensional here, just a name and power; nothing to do with who she is, any background, any real or in-depth motivation (she thought Neron was helping her, but she still needs warmth.) Lacking motivation, she’s nothing but a plot device, serving as a shoe-horned-in element to try to justify this issue "tying in" to Underworld Unleashed for the month.

Though the cover gives us Killer Frost’s face and a frozen Superboy…that’s misleading, giving an appearance of personal, intentional malice on her part and having more impact on Superboy than she actually does.

The issue really seems to belong to Knockout trying to establish–or re-establish–a teamup with Superboy and showing (perhaps) a bit of responsibility on her part. I remember seeing the character on covers, and I’m pretty sure I remember her being an antagonist for Superboy in the earliest issues of this series–maybe as early as the first or second issue. I don’t remember much of anything about her or her arc, but she seems like the "annoying tag-along spanner-in-the-works" here, disrupting Superboy’s life, public and private. She reminds me quite a bit of Maxima in some of her early appearances in the Superman titles in the late-’80s/early-’90s, serving at once as an antagonist while showing lustful interest in our hero that is not reciprocated, and yet not being "all-bad."

As said, Killer Frost is basically incidental here, interchangeable with any other character that causes/controls cold, or even any NEW character with such a power set. I only even really know the name "Killer Frost" thanks to the CW Flash tv series…without that, I wouldn’t know the character existed prior to this issue and might have assumed she was some throw-away character introduced in the main Underworld Unleashed mini-series or an earlier issue of Superboy or some such (Killer Frost was actually introduced in Firestorm in the late 1970s).

I’m not overly familiar with this period of the Superboy series, losing track of the title after its first several issues in 1994. I remember Rex and Roxy from the character’s earliest days in Adventures of Superman, during Reign of the Supermen, and that along with Dubbilex and Tana Moon, they wound up in Hawaii with Superboy. I also remember Roxy seeming like a complete, dumb airhead or such…but here, I see that she’s been making changes and the simple fact of her taking the police exam shows me that she is anything BUT some complete, dumb airhead. She’s apparently stretching herself and trying to do something positive with her life, possibly inspired by Superboy or making up for something (I honestly don’t know what her motivation is, but as a "supporting character" in the Superboy comic, that would be a simple guess, I suppose).

Though I don’t have much context for things, the fact I recognize most of the characters does a lot for me, and allows me to enjoy the issue in and of itself, and I wonder at stuff between Superboy and Knockout, as well as between Superboy and Tana…and my curiosity has me that much more curious about the early issues of the series, in a good way!

Visually, I love Grummett‘s art…all the characters look familiar, and look good (as far as they’re supposed to…Rex has the slightly smarmy look to go with his name, as well as with my memory of his actions during Reign of the Supermen and claiming legal right to use of the name ‘Superman’). Superboy especially looks exactly as I "remember" him looking in this time period, which is what I expect and adds to my enjoying the issue.

Though I enjoyed the issue, it does not seem at all "essential" in any way to Underworld Unleashed…without "prior knowledge" OF that title as a concept/event series, I wouldn’t even know from this issue what it actually is! In context of this issue, Neron could be just some villain playing behind the scenes of this title, and even the Underworld Unleashed logo on the cover could be a blurb for this issue or a story in this series following whatever the Legion/Legionnaires crossover was, with an underworld being unleashed on Superboy and his allies. If you want the entire event/crossover, though, since the logo’s here on the issue, you’ll want this for that at least. Otherwise, this issue doesn’t seem to be particularly significant in and of itself in isolation–I’ve not read the aforementioned Legion crossover, I don’t recall what came immediately after this issue, so I’m not sure how significant Roxy and the police exam might truly be, or Knockout’s presence in this issue, and so on.

As a snapshot of mid-’90s Superboy by Kesel and Grummett, though, this is well worth snagging if you find it in a bargain bin…but probably not something to singularly seek out without it being part of a run or as seeking Underworld Unleashed tie-ins.


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

superboy_0022_blogtrailer

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman the Man of Tomorrow #3 – Underworld Unleashed!

90s_revisited

superman_man_of_tomorrow_0003Fighting Back

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Tom Grummett and Brett Breeding
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Assistants: McAvennie & Duffy
Editors: Carlson & Carlin
Cover Date: Winter 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This month, a number of blogs and podcasts have joined together to present #BestEventEver 2018, covering the 1995 event Underworld Unleashed! Beyond my own posts, please check out these other blogs and podcasts for in-depth coverage of the various issues that were part of the event…and join in on further peeks at and discussions of the event on Twitter by joining at hashtags #BestEventEver and #UnderworldReUnleashed!

ITG  |  Resurrections: An Adam Warlock/Thanos Podcast  |  Relatively Geeky Podcast Network  |  The Retroist  |  Chris is on Infinite Earths  |  Cosmic Treadmill  |  The Pop Culture Palace  |  Rolled Spine’s Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Podcast  |  The Idol-Head of Diabolu  |  Justice’s First Dawn  |  Justice Trek: The Podcast


Now this is more like it! This is the sort of thing I expected of Underworld Unleashed tie-ins! Then again, looking back across the 20+ years…the Superman tie-ins very likely were the only ones that I actually would have read, as I was in a downswing toward a 13-14 month period of getting very few comics!

This issue is "triangle-numbered" 1995/50…that is, it’s the 50th issue of any of the main Superman titles with a 1995 cover date. This is from that time where the titles functioned as a weekly thing, with each leading into the next with very tight continuity! In fact, this title itself was created (as I’m recalling it) to cover "fifth weeks," so that there WOULD be a new SUPERMAN comic every single week of the year!

We begin the issue on Earth, with Lois Lane meeting with Contessa (at this time the current head of Lexcorp) and discussing recent events; basically exposition for those of us just joining in. Superman’s been kidnapped into space, the Alpha Centurion gathered the rest of "Team Superman" (Supergirl, Superboy, Steel) to go after him, something about the Eradicator, and hints at other subplotty stuff with people romantically linking the Centurion to Lois herself. The scene then moves to Sorcerer’s World, where we find Superman fighting an invisible and mostly-intangible entity. It seems he’s been "shot down" onto the world, along with a new friend–"Mope" or "The Mope"–they were arriving peacefully, seeking to clear Mope’s name so he would be free of "The Tribunal."

[The Tribunal being a cosmic group that tries and punishes folks; I don’t remember all the context as it’s been quite awhile since I read the story, whether I’ve even read it since publication or if it’s BEEN 23 years! They had Superman brought in to be tried for the destruction of Krypton, for example. I’ll probably re-cover this issue if/when I’d cover The Trial of Superman and be able to do so with more context!]

While Superman defeats the entity and claims its cape, we find Mope prisoner of a sorcerer who is determined to find out why Mope is here!

Meanwhile…in the Underworld, Neron sits on his throne and enjoys gloating over a snowglobe with two figures held prisoner within–The Joker! And Lex Luthor! Luthor reflects on the events that have brought him here, the "flashback" showing us his deal with Neron and how he’s gone from being a mind trapped in a frail, shriveled clone to being a fit man at his prime–and some details contextually from Underworld Unleashed itself–the main mini-series. That he is stuck with The Joker offers him his own personal hell. Then the whole place bursts apart! Meanwhile (again), Superman rescues Mope and they convince the sorcerer of their non-invasive intentions, and get sent to where they can find the person they’re after.

As this is going on, Luthor and Joker find themselves in some surreal void and ultimately separated, and Luthor "lands" on Earth. He reflects further on the situation–is he truly free of Neron, and how he lucked out keeping this healthy body…and he seems to settle his questions of having or not having a soul with the idea that if he DID have a soul, he’d surely lost it prior to Neron anyway. Hitchiking a ride, he heads into the nearest city to get back to humanity. Closing out the issue, the Tribunal has a new agent who is glad to hunt down Superman for them–The Cyborg! And Superman and Mope find themselves trapped on the other end of the portal they were sent through, facing a new situation that’ll pick up in another issue of another title.

As much as I complain about modern 2018 comics and the constant cycle of events…I’d nearly forgotten the overlap of events in the ’90s. Or if not events as I think of them in 2018, then titled storylines/crossovers where an issue is part of two different larger stories. This very issue is the immediate example, as it is both a chapter of the larger The Trial of Superman! and also part of Underworld Unleashed! at the same time. I’m also thinking of the 1994 story The Fall of Metropolis where at least one issue was part of that and simultaneously part of the Worlds Collide event/crossover between the DC Universe and the Milestone universe. I don’t remember particularly minding this back then, and now in 2018 I’m good with this issue being part of two stories because The Trial of Superman! is basically a crossover, or given the "weekly" nature of the combined Superman titles, "just" a titled story wholly contained with no special issues, one-shots or external tie-in issues. And with the issue’s participation in Underworld Unleashed, it represents there not being a separate special, one-shot, or tie-in mini-series on top of the already weekly Superman saga. Underworld Unleashed was an event affecting the DC Universe, and here we see it affecting the DC Universe!

I really enjoyed this issue, overall…a large part of that is the art from Grummett and Breeding; I’m re-realizing lately just how much I truly enjoy Grummett‘s work! Superman himself looks a bit "off" without his cape, but I’m pretty sure I he lost it in a different chapter of this story, so that speaks to the quality editing and continuity; and this was from a period where the cape was not a singular, permanent piece of a singular costume, but something that could and would be damaged and occasionally lost. I far prefer the character with the cape, but as part of an ongoing story where he doesn’t have time or inclination TO replace it, the visual speaks volumes that don’t even have to be referenced in text or dialogue. The alien characters look suitably odd to me, and I really like the way Luthor looks here, and even the Joker has a certain ’90s look and feel where he’s dangerous but one can easily drop their guard on that with the act he puts on. Seeing him frolic around the snowglobe actually made me chuckle, and I could just feel Luthor’s boiling anger at him when hit with a snowball of all things!

Story-wise, this issue progresses two things: 1. the ongoing Trial of Superman story following Superman himself and his ordeal involving escape from the Tribunal and helping his new friend clear his own name and 2. Underworld Unleashed by way of seeing Luthor’s deal and the result, even getting some context of the event series itself along with notes-from-the-editor on issues to check out for full details that refer us both to the event series and another Superman issue. But we get plenty right here in this issue such that we don’t NEED to read Underworld Unleashed itself…we’d just get a lot more context and fuller appreciation for doing so! While I’ve already covered Green Lantern #68 and Batman #525 that both tied in to the event…this is the first issue I’ve gotten to that actually has an actual, obvious direct connection to the event itself and truly reference it.

While it’s obvious that this issue is impacted by the main mini-series of the event, even if a reader doesn’t get to that at all, one is able to share all the more in Luthor’s perspective of knowing something happened but not being "in the know" as to what, exactly. That allows this to stand alone as well as it does. That it references the mini and draws from it very much justifies the "logoed branding" of this issue as part of the event, in a way that other issues have not.

I think my main complaint for the issue is rather surfacey–the cover is highly misleading, showing Luthor gloating over Superman being electrocuted; something that doesn’t at all happen here. Yet, as a figurative thing, it does allow for the caption "Luthor–Back in CHARGE!" Further with that, given Luthor’s history in the post-Crisis DC Universe, this issue is quite significant for the character!

Taken by itself as a single, isolated issue, this is not bad, and does definitively show us how Luthor so quickly got back on his feet, healthy and whole and all that, after the events of The Fall of Metropolis. While this is an issue #3, is a "middle" chapter of The Trial of Superman!, is a part of Underworld Unleashed, I feel that one can appreciate it well enough for the Luthor stuff on its own…making the issue something quite justifiable for an isolated, single-issue bargain-bin purchase!


Again, please check out these other sites for additional, more in-depth coverage of the various other issues–including the main event mini itself–for Underworld Unleashed!

superman_man_of_tomorrow_0003_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #497

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0497Under Fire

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Tom Grummett, Doug Hazlewood, & Denis Rodier
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/47

Like many issues from this time period, this one’s cover stands out quite a bit to me. I don’t know that I’d call it a favorite–there are definitely plenty of covers I like more–but I do really like this and it’s instantly recognizable to me.

This issue picks up where Superman #74 left off, with Superman chasing after Doomsday, blocking out Mitch’s cries for help. The transition, though, isn’t quite as smooth as the one from Justice League America #69 into Superman #74, though it isn’t jarring. Mitch narrates–describing the situation and letting us know that the rest of the League has fallen, Superman’s a distance off but still visible (and his punches against Doomsday audible), and his mother and baby sister (as well as the rest of the League) are still in danger from the collapsing house that’s burning. Superman finally returns after shoving Doomsday into the soft earth at the bottom of a lake, and Bloodwynd makes a timely return to assist as well before teleporting away to avoid medical attention from EMTs. As a military helicopter targets (and is targeted by Doomsday), Superman’s back in the fray, continuing to save those he can while beating on the creature. Taking a moment away from all this, we get a scene of Lois in the GBS building, meeting up with Cat while she tries to find Jimmy. Olsen’s moonlighting as Turtle Boy for a kids’ show, but taping’s run hours late…and Jimmy is needed on assignment (covering the Doomsday situation). The battle rages into a small town where Maxima catches up to Superman and Doomsday, and her contribution leads to a huge explosion. The Guardian arrives to find her and Superman knocked out from the blast, and Doomsday nowhere in sight. Brushing off Guardian’s lecture on violence, Superman realizes this is his fight, and his alone.

I’d forgotten about Grummett‘s time on this title, given the changeover around #500…I really like his art, and it looks especially good–and familiar–here! The art team is fantastic, and though it’s been quite awhile since I’d’ve thought about it, I think I’d have to say that offhand, this is my favorite Superman art next to Dan Jurgens‘ work! This issue begins the subtle "countdown" I had never noticed until about 10 years ago: the issue is done as 4-panel pages (with the next chapters having three-panel pages, then two-panels, before the conclusion in all full-page splashes).

Story-wise, nothing really jumps out at me as any sort of "Ordway signature" or such, except that as with the other creative teams’ work, this plays very tightly with its sister titles. While not quite as "involved" at this point due to their encounters with Doomsday, it’s cool to see stuff play out with the League still being present in the title, if not much else. Guy Gardner grabbing Superman and essentially giving his ‘blessing’ (or command) to put the creature "in a pine box" strikes me as rather poignant…Guy admitting that Superman’s "tougher" and capable and such to do what he–Guy–was not able to. And a sort of quasi-reconciliation between the characters before what’s about to go down goes down.

Maxima’s bit in this issue has also stuck with me over the years–her focus on being a warrior and casual acceptance of casualties, as well as Superman giving her pause, as well as her tolerating his calling her ‘Princess.’

This is yet another issue that’s very much a piece of the larger story…even if ultimately, the story’s a huge "fight scene" of sorts, when looked at most broadly. This chapter isn’t really "essential" to the whole, offhand (maybe the first chapter to feel that way)…but there’d sure be a clear gap in stuff if we didn’t have this chapter. Outside of the pretty cover, I wouldn’t really recommend this as a "single" issue, but it’s well worthwhile as part of the whole, and definitely not a chapter to arbitrarily skip in a collected volume.

adventures_of_superman_0497_blogtrailer

General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #4 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0004Alien Justice

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Keith Champagne
Colorist: Sotocolor
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover Artist: John McCrea
Cover Colorist: Mike Spicer
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the fourth and (presumably) final issue this time around. Several years ago, they did a run of #s 1-4, and the next promotion had #s 5-9…so I would not be shocked if that happens again (or not, either way). But to my knowledge, for the current promotion, there are only four different issues, of which this is the last.

For me, personally, this is also the most common and plentiful…as of this typing I have something like 9 or 10 copies! It’s become the one to LOATHE seeing when I pull it from a cereal box. That said…

This was probably my favorite read of the four. Perhaps its the immediacy of it–the most recent one I read–as well as the generic feel of #3 that this certainly topped by far. But I really enjoyed this in and of itself.

A giant alien ship shows up over San Diego, and begins sucking up the ocean just offshore. Aliens broadcast to the world what they’re doing and why–they’re taking Earth’s water, as Earth has too much of it and their world doesn’t have enough, and that’s just a huge injustice! The League springs into action, attacking this threat on multiple fronts, each to their strength/specialty. As this is an Aquaman-centric issue, he gets more page time and we get stuff more from his point of view…including the requisite (for this series) “flashbacks” to his youth. As the present-day situation continues, we flash back to see a young Arthur dealing with being of mixed heritage–part surface-dweller, part Atlantean. He sees people react to the notion of someone different, and then talks with his dad, who advises him on the wisdom of finding common ground when one is so different from another. Young Arthur gets a tangible opportunity to put that advice into practice when he encounters some Atlanteans threatening some local fishing boats. The lesson apparently stuck with him, as back in the present, he devises a solution and quickly acts to implement it. With help from (perhaps unexpected) sources beyond “just” the League, a bad situation is halted, with a bit of potential redemption coming out of it, with elements of a win/win scenario.

I was comparatively quite disappointed with the last issue and its feeling of being so generic after the first two issues of this “series.” This issue gets us back to “Name Creators” that I recognize, and is a second Bedard-written issue…with art from Tom Grummett, another creator whose work I quite enjoy, period. As such, it should not have surprised me to enjoy this story as I did. It’s a self-contained piece, and does include a bit of that “special message” peachiness to it…but that’s mitigated quite a bit by my relative lack of familiarity with details of Aquaman…he’s a character I’m pretty aware of while having quite the significant blind spot. Though I’m certain this issue’s flashbacks are “new” and involve a version of the character perhaps different from others…it doesn’t bother me as I have so very little to compare it to.

That lack of familiarity also lent itself to my being able to TRULY appreciate this as I believe one would hope the target audience would/could: this makes me a little more familiar with the character and his background, shows me some important elements of the character, and generally serves as a bit of a touch point for me. It sets some of my character-specific expectations for Aquaman in a way that the other issues did not do for the leading characters…and reminds me a bit of the impact The Untold Legend of the Batman had on me as a kid and my then-knowledge of Batman, or that The Man of Steel #3 “audio comic” did for my understanding of Superman.

Grummett‘s art carried a definite sentimentality for me…the visuals for this issue reminded me of other work he’s done, particularly his prior work on Superman, as well as Robin and Superboy. That’s certainly a good thing–as is the art in itself. This is not just a good-looking “cereal comic,” but a good-looking comic, plain and simple!

Though I’d be inclined to choose Superman or Batman first…this Aquaman issue is definitely THE treat of the set, and very well worth reading if you find it!

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0004_blogtrailer

Zero Hour Revisited – Robin #10

90srevisited_zerohour

robin_0010Two Birds One Stone

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Albert DeGuzman
Assistant Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is probably one of the most "iconic" covers for me of the Robin run…as well as (loosely) one of my favorite issues. I’ve "always" enjoyed Tim and Dick’s interactions, and having their ages/experience somewhat reversed here (while playing with Tim’s relative inexperience solo anyway) just makes for an interesting, entertaining story.

We open on Robin (Tim Drake) pursuing a lead, but he encounters another Robin…one that turns out to be a young Dick Grayson. Realizing this is another instance of a time anomaly, Tim invites him along on the case. While pursuing "Weasel," the two bond a bit, and even learn some from each other. As the case wraps up, almost with a positive ending, outta nowhere, things fade to white.

Story-wise, this fits right into stuff with Zero Hour and the Batman family of titles, in that we have a solo Tim/Robin story, set during Zero Hour, that involves something not easily explained EXCEPT for "Zero Hour time anomalies." We see Tim in action, still early in his "solo career" as Robin (defining "solo" with the start of his ongoing series, having had solo adventures in the past across annuals and three mini-series, as well as Dick Grayson Robin having had solo outings years prior in backups and whatnot). We see that he’s still learning, still growing, and get some character development through that as he interacts with Dick. I also find it interesting Tim noting that he has more experience at the point this story takes place, than Dick does for the time he’s from. That’s the sort of thing MY mind does, pulling up such comparisons (it’s been longer now since Tim’s ongoing series ended than the entire time I knew OF any Robin character, prior to Tim’s ongoing).

This issue being part of a crossover/event serves to enhance things, allowing for character development and forward-movement that would not be possible in a single issue without the established backdrop OF the event. Additionally, this is basically a one-shot/done-in-one story, where you really don’t need to know anything about the previous issue nor what comes next…you just get a story of Tim as Robin by himself, encountering a time-anomaly Dick Grayson, and the two go after some criminal. This doesn’t feel like something continued from a prior issue’s cliffhanger, and it ALMOST ends without a cliffhanger.

Yet the cliffhanger ending is the concrete tie-in to Zero Hour, outside of Dick’s appearance.

The art is certainly up to par with what I’d expect from this "era" of the title. I quite enjoy Grummett‘s work with Tim, and find that his style is what I tend to think of when I picture these early issues of the title. While the characters do have similar appearances, and the costumes have their differences, there’s still just enough hint of the physical differences that I could probably tell them apart with little difficulty. Of course, the rest of the art team helps in this regard, and colors make a difference along with the design differences of the costume.

All in all, this is one of the better tie-ins to the event, as well as being a darned good issue of Robin, period. If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s well worth picking up. And if you’re a fan of Tim particularly, that goes extra.

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 ’90s Revisited: Robin #1

robin0001aOutcast

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Scott Hanna
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Tim Harkins
Asst. Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Covers: Tom Grummett, Scott Hanna
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.50 (Newsstand) / $2.95 (Collector’s)

Robin is no longer welcome in the Batcave. Bruce’s back is broken, the man himself off searching for Jack Drake (Robin’s father) as well as his own doctor. Jean-Paul Valley, formerly Azrael, is now the Batman. And Valley is not keen on having a partner. So, Robin takes off–now officially split from the “Batman and” designation.

A gang is stealing cars–and opts to hit a Gotham Heights dance, figuring there’ll be rich kids’ cars there as easy pickings. Meanwhile, Tim is in attendance with Ariana, and the two get caught up in things. Tim pursues as Robin, but gets run off the road…and encounters a new figure who does not seem that friendly.

It’s been probably 15 years since I read this. Elements, I remember. Ariana, and I recognize some of the names of other characters in the cast as characters that play a role going forward. I originally read this when it came out, back in late 1993, and I may have re-read it during my college years when I “caught up” on the series, buying a run of issues 1-40 or so to match to my run from around #50 to whatever was current at that point.

There’s no “previously” page here. No real description of the premise on the opening page. Only some small context to bring us up to date. So, to pick this up “cold” it’s a bit lacking as a first issue, that big question of “what set off ‘Batman’?” But this issue takes place very much in context of the overall “Bat-Universe” of the time, amidst stuff going on with Knightfall/KnightQuest, and part of the overall story at the time, part of the continuity was that with Jean-Paul Valley taking over as Batman, he wasn’t suited for a partner…certainly not a “junior partner” with more experience than he himself had at the time. So it was a good point for the story as a whole to see Robin split off…but in order to take a character like Robin–Tim Drake–and remove him from the midst of the Batman-centric stuff…it makes sense to explore the character in his own series. SO, as the start of the series, we see him essentially kicked out of the Cave, to begin his solo adventures.

I love Grummett‘s Robin work. It certainly works extremely well here…I see the character on these pages, and this IS “my” Robin. Flip through this issue, and it’s simply ROBIN. The character I grew up with. Reading through the issue, nothing stood out or took me out of the story in a negative way…I just flat-out ENJOYED the issue.

Dixon did a fantastic job with a number of Bat-elements…Robin being one of my favorites. As said above…though this issue wasn’t one to come to “cold,” it fits very much in the Bat-Universe, and Dixon does a great job with the character and supporting cast. Having read this, I’d love to dive in and re-read some more, time permitting.

The first Robin Annual–part of Eclipso: The Darkness Within–was the first time I’d see Robin featured on the cover of a comic, getting his own title. I now know (but didn’t at the point in summer 1992 when I first acquired the Annual) that Robin had had a mini-series (and I’ll be darned if I can remember if Robin II: The Joker’s Wild was out yet or not…but I’m pretty sure it was). Then there was Robin III: Cry of the Huntress, that I ‘discovered’ in late 1992, around the time of the Death of Superman, Sword of Azrael, Spider-Man 2099, and so on. Then the Summer of Superman and Bloodlines, Knightfall and the start of KnightQuest…and Robin gets an ongoing title.

A title that lasted some 180 issues, that with a couple of gaps I’ve since filled in I followed mostly from this issue to the end, 1993 to 2009.

robin0001bI’ve seen this newsstand edition in quarter bins a couple times. The copy I read for this post I got off a 4/$1 rack at a Half-Price Books; and I got a copy as part of a 100-something issue set I bought several years ago (for the price of about 10 modern comics). I don’t see the “collector’s edition” much…but both covers are rather iconic to me. I think I did get both when they came out; and though I presently despise variants, I don’t have the same problem with stuff like these that I do with contemporary variants: there were a static TWO COVERS available. To my knowledge, they were individually orderable by comic shops, and they were NOT “ratioed”–neither cover was intentionally “more rare” than the other as far as comic shops. The “Collector’s Edition” was “only” available through comic shops, while the “Newsstand Edition” was what would be found at Waldenbooks, 7/11, grocery stores and general non-comic shop locations. Since they were different venues, and both covers were available through comic shops…I’m ok with them. Additionally, the “enhanced cover” was twice the price…so rather than merely “missing out on” a preferred cover image, you were SAVING MONEY getting one cover over another. You would pay more for the “variant,” sure, but everyone paid the same, and it was readily available.

All that aside…the early issues of this series in particular were quite good, and though this one single issue might not suck you in…for myself, this was well worth the 25 cents, time spent reading, and time spent writing this post.

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