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Action Comics #957 [Review]

actioncomics0934Path of Doom

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Sonia Oback
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early August 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

This issue gives me pretty much anything/everything I could reasonably want from a contemporary, 2016-published Superman comic (post-New 52, post-Flashpoint, post-New Krypton, post-Secret Origin, post-Final Crisis, post-Infinite Crisis…).

The cover–the regular one, at least, I don’t know if I’ve even seen the variant, but the regular cover I’ve seen marketed and that is shown with this review–we have the title carved in a rock, being lifted by Superman–the “pre-Flashpoint” Superman, the Superman that we had prior to the New 52, though the journey has been circuitous. We have a Doomsday-looking thing in the “classic” green suit, suggesting a much more “grounded” Doomsday than anything from Doomed to some entity flitting in and out of the Phantom Zone. We see Luthor in a suit reminiscent of Steel. We have Jon–the son born during Convergence and raised for ten years in hiding on the New 52 Earth. We have Clark Kent–a character virtually purged from Superman, it seemed. We have the Lois married to this Superman…and we have longtime allies Wonder Woman and Batman. So many characters, maybe not the most “dynamic” composition, but certainly “iconic” and hinting at the greatness within the issue! The logo being part of the stone–to be overly analytical–suggests that whatever else, this is Action Comics, with Superman, and it has endured some 78 years, and a reboot, and is still here.

The issue itself drops us into an unfolding terrorist situation…one that is resolved–at least for the moment–by an unseen entity we come to realize is a power-suited Lex Luthor. This is the New 52 Luthor, who has been through Forever Evil, worked with the Justice League, and so on. Foregoing the “classic” purple-and-green thing, this suit is much more reminiscent of Steel’s armor, and we see Luthor is intent on replacing the fallen New 52 Superman (to him, to everyone–THE Superman, the genuine one-and-only). As he announces his intentions to live media, the broadcast reaches Clark White, who has operated in secret for years, avoiding the spotlight and trying to leave events of this world alone to unfold as naturally as possible. Luthor’s boldness spurs him into a seeming snap-decision: he shaves, dons a costume, and reveals himself to the world. If there is to be a Superman, it will NOT be Lex Luthor!

Said revelation occurs in confronting Luthor directly, to the point…and unfortunately, into immediate violence. As the two have it out, we get some bits of subplot…something’s been stolen from an extremely durable vault, and some of this world’s Clark Kent’s allies are shocked at “confirmation” of his death…even as they, and Lois & Jon, and even us as readers get the surprise arrival of Clark Kent (while Superman is actively engaged with Luthor!). And then the arrival of another jarring but familiar character…a green-suit-clad Doomsday…said green suit being one the character has not worn in this way since his first appearances nearly 24 years ago.

Thanks to having the Superman: Rebirth issue prior, as readers (if one read that issue) we have had a slight bit of transition already, to move past and deal with (not simply ignore) the seeming loss of the New 52 Superman. That lets us get right into the action here, characters all fairly well established, stuff in continuity in place to allow this, and the events of this issue also leave plenty of room yet to explore reasons, consequences, and the simple fact-of-the-matter present.

We have a mix of past and present, of being part of a world that’s been around nearly as long now as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths one had been at the time of the original Death of Superman. Allowing for alterations through the years, particularly changes, tinkerings, and so on out of Infinite Crisis, this is still–as much as is possible–the Superman that can be traced back through the years, to Infinite Crisis, back to Our Worlds at War, to Zero Hour, to Reign of the Supermen, to the Death of Superman.

And while I gush so, emphasizing the above…that’s very much what I consider a joyful reality, an understood-despite-outward-obfuscation recognition of “my” Superman, of reading about–essentially–the same character here, now, that I first read about running low on air as he battled phantoms on some dead planetoid in 1989’s Exile arc.

I can see that far back, and appreciate the incredibly rich depth to be had here. On the other hand, for newer readers…this is a Superman, with background to be uncovered, details to be filled in, and for all he has a role to be earned, despite fitting into it so well.

I love that this is written by Dan Jurgens. I know the writer’s work primarily from his work on Superman from 1992-1999 or so (a range of years that saw me from junior high through high school and just before college). For me, after several years on the side, away from Superman, this is an amazing homecoming (albeit preceded by what I’d initially seen as simply a “bone” tossed to fans like me in Lois and Clark). He merges elements of the “new” with elements of the “old,” where we’ve had status quo changes, aging, advancement…and it’s like everything’s part of one large tapestry.

I have suspicions regarding Clark Kent from this issue, and am eager to see more of the conflict with Luthor play out…as well as seeing how Doomsday is handled at this point. I’m eager to see more with supporting cast characters, and while this title is due to be biweekly, I’d love to have it weekly; for once I want something “decompressed” and frequent, exploring many characters, while an ongoing story unfolds continually forward.

And the art…wow. I’ve seen Zircher‘s work in the past and liked it, but something about it here–and combined with the characters, characterization, and just the sheer feeling of refreshment I get reading the issue–it’s fantastic. Zircher‘s art here is the next best thing to Jurgens himself…and in some ways, melding old with new, I think surpasses the idea of this new issue in 2016 having his art, bringing an excellently-detailed and nuanced appearance to the characters and doing nothing but impressing me, through my own cynicism at a lot of modern takes on Superman.

This is a bi-weekly book now…two issues per month. In other words, it’s being double-shipped. Instead of 20 pages once a month for $3.99, it’s going to be 20 pages twice a month for $2.99 each (40 pages for $5.98). Jurgens on writing, a rotating art team (I believe) (said rotation given the incredible boost of Zircher‘s art kicking things off on such a high note in this issue), and a Superman I’m not just WILLING to read, but eager to read.

I can’t NOT be biased in this–I am far from objective. But honestly–simple, outside objectivity seems to be what led to a Superman character I was wholly uninterested in, and saw me walk away from for nearly four years. Now, I’m not only back but excited for it, as should be evidenced by my gushing above.

It’s said that one can “never go home again,” and that’s true, this is not some over-simplified “return” to the past–it’s like re-uniting with an old, dear friend…recognizing that years have passed, life has gone on, things have changed…but they’re still them, you’re still you, and you’re back together, and feeling great for it.

As a review or ratings would go…I walked away for four years. I flat-out ignored Superman for four years of current comics, punctuated by a handful of issues a couple years ago that did not hold me, and further solidified my giving up and letting go. I’d ceded Superman, and comics featuring him, resigned myself to maybe checking in here or there but mostly only to find the simple, fun ENJOYMENT in back issues.

And now? I loved this issue–story and art. I love the price point compared to the $3.99 the title’s been for nearly half a decade. Whatever the rest of DC‘s Rebirth initiative holds, at least when it comes to Action Comics, as things look now, I’m in for the long haul…the run up to #1000 at least.

Batman and Robin Eternal #1 [Review]

batmanandrobineternal001Story: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder
Script: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Tomeu Morey
Asst. Editor: Dave Wielgosz
Editor: Chris Conro
Group Editor: Mark Doyle
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Against otherwise better judgment, I decided to check this out. I’m sure it had plenty to do with being a #1–a chance to “check it out” from the start, before things get deep. Also that I got the impression the series is due to focus heavily on the previous Robins–Dick, Jason, and Tim–which is something I’m quite interested in (particularly Dick and Tim). I also have the hope of it being a lengthy but mostly contained story, and while I’m really not thrilled at the prospect of a WEEKLY $4 book, since it’s not like I’m really following anything else from DC and Marvel at the moment, I might be able to tolerate a weekly dose at the higher price.

We open with a flashback, then jump to the ‘present’ with Red Robin, Grayson, and Red Hood pursuing someone; a bit of an action sequence. Scene skips abound as we get a moment with the new Batman interacting with would-be Bat-protégé Harper Row, then more flashbacky stuff, and Grayson encounters a costumed figure that could have used lethal force but doesn’t; we’re introduced to this “Mother” as a concept, and “The Orphan,” and ultimately get a fairly disturbing “reveal” for the ending of the issue.

Aside from the concept, probably the first thing I noticed with the issue was the art. I tend to enjoy Daniel’s work, and even on a hit-or-miss basis, this one’s a hit for me. I really liked the look of the issue on the whole–including Dick and Jason looking rather similar (thanks to metatextual knowledge of Jason’s creation/introduction back in the ’80s). Really no complaints visually.

Story-wise I’m less-keen on stuff. Structurally, I definitely appreciate the issue. I liked that we’re dropped in on action right away (rather than some “talking heads” situation), and I like that we get a bit of an overview of the characters that seem poised to be focal points of this weekly series. It’s silly details that hung me up–stuff like “The Narrows” as a location I don’t ever remember in Gotham prior to the Nolan films or the Arkham games, as well as stuff from Dick’s flashback to his first “super-villain” tying to those films. I can’t quite put my finger on why that bugs me, but it’s there. Hardly a “dealbreaker,” though. I have more concern with Batman–Bruce’s–actions and potential motivation, perhaps just on a metatextual level.

Whatever the specifics…I enjoyed this on the whole. The issue also felt thick (and it is–I count 30 pages of story to the usual 20ish) and so the issue is much more worth its $3.99 cover price.

Seeing the third volume of the paperbacks for the previous Batman weekly–Batman Eternal–also out this week plants the seed in my mind all the more that I might prefer to just wait for collected volumes…particularly given how quickly I lost track of DC‘s weeklies last year. If I’m not going to get around to/keep up with weekly issues and binge-read anyway…might as well wait for my preferred format.

Still…a good first issue, working well as a “pilot” issue and getting me interested, confirming that yes, I am (myself, at least) interested in where this story goes, whatever the format. And as a first issue…this is well worth checking out if you’ve any particular interest in Batman’s sidekicks.

Superman: Doomed #2 [Review]

Superman: Doomed #2Evolutions

Story: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Art: Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes, Norm Rapmund
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

This issue is late. I believe it was originally solicited/scheduled for at least a month ago, sometime in August. I’m not certain of course, but I’m guessing that also accounts for so many involved on the art team for the issue. With all the one-shots I’ve been reading this month on the Futures End stuff, in some ways I’d even forgotten about this story for several weeks, only last week realizing “Hey…Doomed #2 never DID come out, did it?!?”

This issue sees the “last stand” of Earth and its heroes against Brainiac. With Superman having given himself over to Doomsday, his “essence” is basically a passenger along for the ride, or in the mind or such, where Brainiac reaches out, showing how much better things would be with Brainiac free to do his thing, why he should be allowed to, etc. Perhaps most pressing is that if Doomsday–Superman–“Superdoom”–destroys Brainiac, it’ll mean the destruction of all human life on Earth, as the stolen minds will be done for and not returned to their bodies.

While showing Superman visions of what could be, Brainiac continues taking down the last remnants of Earth’s heroes–having apparently utilized Superman somehow to “find” them and get through their defenses. He also reveals his core, true motivation to things, which on one hand could be sympathetic but for the notion of “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few” and all that. Lois plays a key part in things, and ultimately the minds–and thus lives–of all on Earth rest with Superman and a gambit to take down Brainiac before he can remake the universe itself.

Visually, this issue is a jumble. A lot of artists involved, but that can be forgiven as they seem to be utilized for the visions of what-could-be and such. I’ve never been a fan of the “Superdoom” look and have found it ridiculous–still do–so that lends a visual weirdness to stuff for me anyway on top of numerous artists. That said, having made it through all the tie-ins and such to this point–all those styles and renditions of involved characters–I can’t complain too much here. The issue is what it is, and whether utilized to show alternate realities or that’s just a fortuitous element given so many involved, I’ll take it at face value. The only point that I REALLY consciously noticed a huge difference was a sequence that reminded me of Darwyn Cooke‘s art.

Story-wise I’m left with a fair bit of frustration at the sheer length of this “event” and such. It seems that SO MUCH was made of the “Doomsday virus” and Superman fighting it/becoming a Doomsday and so on–that Brainiac’s involvement feels like a bait-and-switch. Like this whole thing could have been done in just a couple issues–perhaps Doomed #1, a single month’s slot of tie-ins, then this #2.

Then there’s the fact that this issue itself doesn’t even definitively end but rather kicks down the door onto something else.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

In “trying to find a place for” Brainiac, Superdoom–powered by all that Brainiac had sought–pushes Brainiac’s ship into a black hole of sorts, ready to sacrifice himself as well to see that Brainiac’s threat to the universe is over. But in this we see shards of something broken, and in those shards, we see what look to me like glimpses of the pre-52 DC Universe…particularly recognizeable to me are Nightwing and his classic first costume (circa 1989) and of course, Superman himself with the “trunks.”

Like this week’s Futures End: Booster Gold issue, this sees to show that in some fashion or another, the DC Universe that *I* grew up on is still out there somehow, and perhaps something involving Brainiac would be a key to–if not bringing it “back,” then at least accessing it.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

Despite the enormity of what we see on the last pae of the issue, I still don’t feel this story warranted all the chapters it carried, and that this could have been handled in just a handful of issues. Chances are, with the likes of Bleeding Cool and other online spoilers, this issue will wind up being fairly signifiant in the long run and thus in that regard probably worth seeking out, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it in and of itself unless you’ve been following the story in general.

I’m actually (overall) glad I went and hand got it–despite that hefty $5 cover price–for the feelings elicited by that last page, for capping things off, and giving me an “out” to drop back to spending far less each month.

Except that this issue–and event–leads directly to an aftermath issue in October’s Action Comics, at minimum. The story isn’t over. And rather than a definitive conclusion, an actual “bookend” to things…we’re simply propelled on to “The next thing.”

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

Batman/Superman #3.1: Doomsday #1 [Review]

foreverevildoomsday001Tales of Doom

Written by: Greg Pak
Pencils by: Brett Booth
Inks by: Norm Rapmund
Colors by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is REALLY the entire reason I “bought into” Villains Month at all to begin with, prior to deciding to “also” check out the Cyborg Superman issue and everything snowballing from there. Doomsday is probably THE key character for me, even more than the Cyborg, when it comes to my history with Superman. Whether the actual Doomsday arc, the issue of Reign of the Supermen where the Cyborg throws his body into space, the Hunter/Prey mini-series, the Doomsday Wars mini-series, his appearance during Our Worlds At War or his “Jokerization” during Last Laugh…the creature is one that I’ve “always” taken note of. 

All that said, my initial take on this issue is extreme disappointment. Labeled Doomsday #1 for the issue, I expected actual details–of the creature, of its past, clarification of its involvement with Superman already –and perhaps something of what might yet be coming. While we do get a look at the past, with the creature inserted much more closely to Superman himself in the family history…it seems to almost “cheapen” the character, making it just another part of stuff carrying over from Krypton to plague Superman on Earth, rather than something that arrives out of nowhere or “legend” and all that.

Rather than any real background on the character or firm details of the creature’s origins, we’re given a glimpse of a past encounter with the creature involving Zod, and from Lara’s perspective.  We get some development of Zod’s history with Supergirl (Kara)…which works in context of showing the danger the creature can present, of its place in Kryptonians’ consciousness…but really does not seem to “matter” for an issue that’s supposed to “focus” on the creature. This story seems like it would be far more appropriate as an issue of Supergirl, showing her remembering what she’s learned of the creature. Though the creature’s prominence on the cover is apt, this issue doesn’t really feel like it lives up to its “title,” and certainly fails to live up to my own expectations.

Despite that, had this simply been a random issue of Supergirl and I saw the creature so prominently placed on the cover, I’d’ve likely found this a rather enjoyable “one-shot” of sorts. And with the Zod/Kara stuff, it’s seeming likely that the entirety of Villains Month MIGHT actually drive me to checking out the Supergirl title.

The story itself is solid; I do like the art in and of itself. I don’t mind the reconfiguration of the bone protrusions from Doomsday, except the cheek-horns that just look totally ridiculous to me and seem a pointless addition to the face. While I’ll read about “any” Doomsday, this is somehow probably my least-favorite of all the looks the character’s been given.

All in all…I suspect if you’re a fan of the Supergirl series, you’ll enjoy this. Ditto if you’re a fan of Pak or Booth, or just want the cover to look at. With the apparent “consolidation” of titles for this month, I don’t know where Doomsday is likely to next show up (if at all), but this issue feels like it’s pointing me to the Supergirl title. If you’re expecting to find out where Doomsday came from in-continuity of New 52 or the New 52 “past” of the creature and Superman, you’ll have to look elsewhere or stretch a between-the-lines interpretation.

As a $3.99 one-shot with the fancy 3-D cover…if you can find this at cover price (or opt for the “standard” edition or digital edition), and don’t hold high expectations (or my comments have dispelled those expectations), it’s not bad and I have to “grudgingly” admit I’d recommend it as an expectation-less standalone.

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