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The Weekly Haul – Week of June 14, 2017

Another Wednesday’s come around…and a couple new books I’ve been looking forward to…as well as yet another week (over a YEAR now!) in which there’s a Superman comic I’m interested in "by default"…!

weeklyhaul_06142017a

I get tired of the far over-used kneel before Zod! schtick…but it works for this cover…or at least, it did when I first saw the image when the issue was solicited a couple months back. Seeing it now, I’d forgotten about it…but it works, AND it fits the story (Revenge).

I’m actually curious about this Dark Days thing, and since it’s DC and they’ve earned back plenty of my ‘loyalty’ I’m willing to let them have the occasional $4.99 special issues that truly DO seem…y’know…SPECIAL. Since I have a copy on hold, my "convenience/immediacy tax" edition is one of the variants just so I don’t have multiple copies of the same cover (SINCE variants are all-pervasive and I can’t simply will them outta existence). I would have liked the Superman & Batman cover…but I still can’t stand Kubert‘s art when it comes to Superman in particular.

The homage nature of the Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny issue really "sold" it for me…and I love the look of these various DC/Looney Tunes crossovers, so why not? They actually ARE special things, so I’ll bite the higher cost, at least as long as the cover’s attractive and properly "sells" the issue (and I don’t get stuck with zero choice as to cover, etc).

And finally, because it was cheaper than two Marvel single issues, and only slightly more expensive than two DC Rebirth issues, I snagged the X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four paperback. It’ll fit into my collection, or at least disappear into it, quite well I think!

While a bit expensive for only 4 things…I got everything for less than cover price of the paperback, so that’s pretty good, I’d say!

DC Villains Month, Week Two (Part 1)

ZOD (Action Comics #23.2)

foreverevilzod001Zod’s story is definitely a new one for me; a new take on the character that definitely humanizes him a lot more than previous versions. Adding a fairly defining (if clichéd) episode to his youth goes quite a way in fleshing out the character…and even leaves a lot of room for some future stories, should anyone wish to revisit that period of the character’s life. We get a little bit of insight into his motivation as well as just how far the character will go…both to survive, himself as well as to push his people to survive (a bit of a hint at the influence of the Man of Steel film version of the character, perhaps?).. All in all, the story seemed rather short, and though I have no particular intention of following things into any of the ongoing Superman books at present, taking this as a totally new version of the character, I might check out a Zod-focused story arc in collected edition format sometime down the line..

MONGUL (Green Lantern #23.2)

foreverevilmongul001My first exposure to Mongul was at the dawn of my comics-reading life, in the infamous Alan Moore tale For the Man Who Has Everything. I think my next exposure to the character was in Reign of the Supermen, and then another version of the character in 1999 when the alien Imperiex was introduced…and most recently his involvement after the Sinestro Corps War in the Green Lantern books. While I still most associate the character with Superman, it’s kinda cool to see that he’s really become a Green Lantern villain, where he certainly fits! As to this issue…it felt too short for the events it contains. Other than Mongul himself, the other characters are pretty much inconsequential and of no real significance.  Though what Mongul does in this issue comes off as throw-away, had it involved Earth or Oa this’d be a half-year Event crossover. Still…it’s a “cosmic” story by Jim Starlin, which was a pleasant surprise to me!

LOBO (Justice league #23.2)

foreverevillobo001The cover is quite deceiving to the story within…yet, I’m quite glad the cover has “my” Lobo rather than this new “Goth” Lobo. However, while getting to see this new take on Lobo, I’m actually sorta interested in where things are going to go for the character, and even somewhat see where some of the online controversy over the new design falls. At the very least, this gives a different perspective on the character, and an intriguing new interpretation of past Lobo stories.  I’ll be interested–thanks to this issue–in learning what fate befalls Lobo moving forward…though I don’t think I actually care enough to seek the issues out for the story itself.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this issue and its story…I definitely got a mix of familiar and new. Lobo has never been my favorite character, though I have to admit to a certain grudging interest in the character due to some of his appearances in Superman comics back in the late-’80s/early-’90s.

Superman vs. Zod TPB [Review]

supermanvszodtpbI bought this volume for full cover price at Book-A-Million a couple weeks ago. Which is something EXTREMELY rare for me to do, as I’m highly disgusted at the (over-)pricing of collected volumes these days.

I look primarily at Marvel (as I have most of what I want from DC, find what I yet want from DC quite reasonably price, and/or don’t much care for their newer stuff). With the Marvel volumes, it seems that where once a 6-issue arc could be had for about $15 (making it a better value than the single issues), now the standard TPB is $16.99-$18.99 and hardbacks $20+ for 4-5 issues, making the single issues an equal or better value.

As such, THE vast majority of my collected volume purchasing is done through Amazon, InstockTrades, CheapGraphicNovels, Half-Price Books, M&P Used Books, bargain bins, or other bargain purchasing conditions…typically seeing me paying only about 50% of printed cover price on average.

Which brings me back around to (ostensibly) the main point of this post: Superman vs. Zod, a new TPB collecting several “classic” Superman-vs-Phantom-Zone-villains stories. Despite my above-mentioned purchasing preferences…I still enjoy taking a peek at the “regular” bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million) to get a look at some of these volumes “in-person” in a way that can’t be duplicated by solicitation and other info online.

supermanthemedclassiccollectionsSo I was looking at the Superman volumes, and happened to notice this Superman vs. Zod volume. I’ve been increasingly interested in some of these classic “themed” collections–Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons, Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor, Superman vs. Brainiac, Superman vs. Lex Luthor, pretty sure there’s a Daily Planet volume–so this one being new, I was curious. I pulled it out, glanced at the table of contents (determined it was mainly “classic” material in the vein of these other books), but because it was a bit thinner, glanced at the price–figuring it was a $15 book (the others being a bit thicker were $20 books, I believe).

I was surprised to find that this was priced at $9.99…and bought it. $10 is not nearly as off-putting as “more than $10,” be it $10.99-$19.99 and on upward. And because Amazon and other places often seem to have a $10 minimum–typically I see Amazon at least keeping to the $9.99 pricing on such-priced volumes–I don’t mind “paying full price” on a $10 book that feels worthwhile, as this one did. Had it been even $12.99, I’m quite certain I would have put it back on the shelf. But it had the “magic” reasonable price where the sheer thickness of the book feels worth $10 compared to volumes maybe 2/3 its size commanding twice the price.

The stories themselves were definitely “classic.” We get The Phantom Superboy from Adventure Comics #283 (1961), The Great Phantom Peril from Action Comics #473 (1977), Escape from the Phantom Zone and Superman Meets the Zod Squad from Action Comics #s 548 & 549 (both 1983), Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter from DC Comics Presents #97 (1986) and then jump 21 years to The Criminals of Krypton, a segment from Action Comics #10 (2007).

While I can “appreciate” these stories for what they are–stories involving the Phantom Zone–I was not particularly enamored with any of them. The cover certainly doesn’t quite fit–it’s a very modern take on the characters, compared to the very silver/bronze age art on the inside. Which isn’t to slam the art–it’s a product of its time(s)–but it’s not much a visual style I tend to enjoy these days.

The story themselves also are products of their times–particularly the first four, which were largely “painful” to read…the first most of all. The DC Comics Presents story struck me as the most mature of the classic bunch, and actually put me very much in mind of the Last Days of Krypton novel I read a couple years ago by Kevin J. Anderson, making me wonder if he drew inspiration for his story from this one.

These were all stories that I’m pretty sure I’d NOT previously read, except the last one, which I recall as I bought/read the original Annual. I haven’t much cared for all the “going back to silver-agey elements” of the post-Infinite Crisis DC stuff, but can’t deny that its presentation of Non makes that character a bit relatable, rather than just some mindless brute.

This volume’s titled Superman vs. Zod, but seemed to be more generically a Phantom Zone volume. As something involving Zod, I’d’ve expected at least an issue from Byrne‘s run, with the Matrix/Supergirl stuff and the pocket universe, if not specifically Adventures of Superman #453 from the Exile story where Superman hallucinates an encounter with the ghosts of Zod & co. There’s also stuff from around Our Worlds at War with that version of Zod, (which I honestly don’t recall if it was different from the Zod used during For Tomorrow) or not, that seem more fitting to me for this volume, if not as neatly self-contained.

The Zod presented in these stories seemed a bit generic, if not outright a lesser character than Faora. Yet, it seems to me that Zod in general pop culture is defined by Terrence Stamp‘s performance in the Donner films with Christopher Reeve, particularly the infamous “kneel before Zod.” (There was also the Smallville depiction of the character late in that series that may be just as or more familiar to contemporary audiences).

So overall…for a $10 volume, I found this to be well worth the purchase. The stories are a bit on the lame side to me, but they’ve added to the range of Superman stories I’ve read, now, and given me just a little more knowledge of the actuality of these characters; and the more I think about it, the more I do think I rather enjoyed the Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter story (which must’ve come out in that in-between as the original Superman stuff was wrapping up and things were being put in place for the Byrne relaunch and the version of the Superman stuff that I grew up on and consider to be “my” Superman).

This is sort of a “classic-lite” volume–I’d say it mostly fits with those other themed volumes of classic stuff, though it’s far from comprehensive and is not quite as large; but at half the price, not bad to be an “intro” volume. Cover copy suggests “Before Superman takes on General Zod in theatres, read here a collection of classic Zod tales spanning nearly fifty years!” So the pricing and mere existence of the volume seems more a promo type thing to tie in to this summer’s Man of Steel…I would unfortunately assume it’ll be someone “lost in the crowd” of all the other DC books and Superman/Justice League stuff, and definitely be victim to the “spine-only” trouble so many volumes face in comic shops and the bookstores.

TBR Challenge: The Last Days of Krypton

lastdaysofkryptonA good friend gave me this book a couple years back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to reading it right away…and it sat on a shelf with several other comic-related/adapted novelizations.

Then last year I came across Superman & Batman: Enemies & Allies, and wound up starting that randomly one day. I finished it fairly soon after, and realized I’d have to read The Last Days of Krypton before long–the writer had certainly proven himself to me with Enemies & Allies.

And, of course, there was that reading challenge I decided to adopt at the start of the year…this book was part of my list’s core, perfectly fitting the purpose of this challenge: to read books that I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t been around to reading just yet. I decided to start the year out with this one, though didn’t think it would take me almost a full month to get through. (Though I determined several days ago to finish it tonight–or BY tonight–so I could start another book for February, as I should go through at least one book per month to achieve the goal of the reading challenge).

Just tonight I got to thinking a bit more "metatextually" about this book–how, in the final hundred pages or so–I wasn’t even thinking about the story being set on Krypton exactly–not as an alien planet with a different culture, anyway. It was simply the setting. Characters like Jor-El, his wife Lara, the politically-minded General Zod…they’re just who they are, in this book.

And it’s a shame, because I do think that was part of what put me off at first–I was hesitant to get into a story dealing with Krypton itself, before Kal-El was even born (even conceived, at that!). Yet, after over a year of the comics having the whole World of New Krypton thing going on…this wasn’t as much a leap as it might otherwise have been. And proved far more enjoyable.

Anderson shows a great bit of craftsmanship in the telling of this tale. At the start of the book, Krypton indeed comes off as alien–as it should. But somewhere along the way, it just simply…is. It’s no different than when I first opened Dragons of Autumn Twilight early Freshman year of high school and first discovered the world of Krynn, or the first time I read The Fellowship of the Ring and found myself in Tolkien‘s detailed landscape…or for that matter, turned the pages of a comic in which a man could fly or dress as a creature of the night and fight crime…in the daytime.

Even as events unfolded–especially toward the very end–in a way that I didn’t expect, nothing actually contradicts what I already know about Superman and his background. A couple characters have names I’m unfamiliar with, others have names that would almost have to be intentional plays on words…but nothing truly contradicts stuff.

In fact, toward the latter part of this book, I was put even more in mind of the Donner movie continuity, as certain elements came together in such a way that I was visualizing what I think I recall from the original film’s time spent looking at the end of Krypton.

Even though this book details–as the title says–the last days of Krypton, and you’d have to have zero idea who Superman is, his background, and probably not even see this book’s cover to not know how it ends….it’s the story leading there that draws one in. And Superman fan or not, this makes for a nice, solid sci-fi story…just that it has something extra going for it knowing what it technically "leads into."

All in all, a very enjoyable read–one I’m glad to have read, and I look forward to possibly tracking down some of the author’s other works at some point down the line.

Superman: World of New Krypton #4 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Superman: World of New Krypton #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 [Review]

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 CoverFull review posted to comixtreme.com.

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