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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #44

90s_revisited

starman_0044Star Shadows part three: Dark of the Moon!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Penciller: John Calimee
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: March 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

We open with Lobo in our face (metaphorically-speaking) ready to throw a punch. The issue is basically one big fight scene, with Lobo vs. Eclipso, Eclipso vs. Starman, Lobo vs. Starman, Starman and Eclipso vs. Lobo…a bunch of posturing, tough-guy cracks, etc. Eventually Eclipso convinces Starman to help him…but after they manage to "fake" Eclipso/Bruce’s "death" and Lobo takes off to collect his bounty, Eclipso betrays Starman, uses some of his energy, and heads to Earth. As Starman realizes the danger to Kitty back on Earth–expecting Bruce and Will, not the evil Eclipso–he, too, heads back to Earth.

Well, we’re back to Calimee/Richardson on the art, as with #42, and this issue is decidedly less "cartoony" than the previous. And I’ll give credit to the page layouts–in general–for actually having multiple panels, clear gutters overall, etc. This is not a bad issue to look at visually. But it’s basically one big fight scene.

The story is ok-ish…we do glean a BIT of information, such as Eclipso specifically wanting Starman as a battery, to use the hero’s sun-energy and his own black diamond. Eclipso recognizes the hands of the Lords of Chaos in stuff, so it’s not some unknown quantity thing.

Even though it’s been years since I’ve read anything Eclipso-related, specifically anything from The Darkness Within, I feel like there’s something "off" to the character’s presentation here. Expecting this to be a set-up/prologue to that event certainly impacts my lens through which I’m seeing this Star Shadows story.

There’s not much, really, for me to say beyond that. Lobo (because ’90s and Lobo has to be everywhere); tail-end of an ongoing series, yadda yadda yadda. Despite Lobo being on the cover, this doesn’t really have much to offer the reader as a standalone issue…especially 30 years later; but as with previous issues, if you find the entire arc together and at bargain pricing, it might be worth the purchase/read.

I’m much more eager to get to the start of The Darkness Within, again assuming that this story leads into that. So far I’m not seeing any connection other than "Eclipso," so maybe that’ll be something the next/final issue of this story gets to?

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #43

90s_revisited

starman_0043Star Shadows part two: Blue Moon

Writer: Len Strazewski
Artist: Vince Giarrano
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: February 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

Well, then…this is a definite change from the modern way of "Delay Delay Delay" to "preserve artistic integrity" for an "inevitable" "graphic novel"–this issue’s artist is a Vince Giarrano, the previous issue’s team of John Calimee, Andrew Smith, Roy Richardson, and Alan Kupperberg. That said, I honestly didn’t immediately notice, I just took the issue’s contents at face value, figuring "oddness" was my lack of in-depth familiarity and fondness for the title and character(s).

This issue opens on a several-page flashback starring Lobo, giving us some random–possibly "typical"–but tame–Lobo "stuff". The character in a bar, being very uncouth, rough, and fairly caricatureish overall…with some then-timely pop-culturally references before being sent on his way to fight Eclipso for a bounty. We also see that the seemingly arbitrary character putting him on the path to Eclipso is actually an avatar of the Lords of Chaos. Lobo literally crosses paths with Starman and Dr. Bruce Gordon. Starman and Lobo fight for a bit, while we see a certain evil emerging with Dr. Gordon that–sixteen pages into our issue–pretty much catches us up to where the previous left off! Eclipso lets on that he definitely had a hand in Starman’s origin before stepping in with Will’s (losing) battle with Lobo. A blast of darkness pauses the battle, reveals Eclipso’s presence, and gives us another cliffhanger as Lobo goofily recognizes his target.

I had to have noticed SOMEthing was up with the art but it didn’t stand out to me until going back through the issue for this post–it got very generic and cartoony at points. It’s far superior than anything I myself could produce, but it’s a far cry from stand-out, impressive distinct work that I’d remember significantly down the road. It gets the job done, for what story there is.

The Lords of Chaos in this issue "should" mean more to me I’m sure, but mostly just ring a distant bell in my mind. I believe something involving a retcon on the nature of Eclipso, but I’m reading along for the experience and there are plenty of sites/blurbs out there to fill in gaps if one wants to go hunting for info. My "retcon sense" is definitely tingling, certainly helped along by the "meta" nature of my read-through for this story–knowing this is THE final arc for the series, possibly the last starring presence of Will Peyton, and kinda leading into the summer 1992 Eclipso: The Darkness Within "event" in DC’s annuals. Having previously only read the issue that crossed over with the Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, I don’t have any great knowledge of this title, its tone, and all that sorta context. This has the feel of a hastily-ending series with a "new" villain shoehorned in as "the Big Bad All Along" or such.

Even saying that, though, it’s definitely an "older" and "’90s" comic…for better and worse. Two chapters in of four and I’m beginning to "regret" my idea to start with these issues rather than diving into Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1. I feel like part of me WANTS to like and enjoy this more than I am…but that’s certainly on rose-colored-glasses/memories of enjoying Strazewski’s stuff in the past and the nostalgia the name brings to mind for me.

This is definitely another single issue that I’m not gonna recommend AS an arbitrarily contextless single-issue purchase or quest. If you’re following this classic Starman series, or going after this Eclipso story for pre-The Darkness Within context, etc, it’s worth getting to have the arc; but I feel like I at least could definitely do just fine without it.

We’ll see what the next couple chapters hold!

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #42

90s_revisited

starman_0042Star Shadows part one: Sun Spots!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Pencillers: John Calimee, Andrew Smith
Inkers: Roy Richardson, Alan Kupperberg
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: January 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

The cover of this issue proclaims "Eclipso casts a shadow of DOOM over STARMAN!" and we see some weird guy lurking as the background casting a shadow over the title logo, while Starman looks on in apparent surprise while someone in a labcoat looks on, also in apparent surprise…and there’s some linework suggesting a machine of some sort. I see Mignola‘s "signature," presumably Mike Mignola–better known for Hellboy and such. Which explains the stylized nature of Eclipso on the cover. I’ve long associated Mignola with Hellboy and forget that he did work for DC!

We open on a full page piece showing a weird face partway between transformation, and someone asking Starman what’s going on…as she pieces together that this guy really IS the hero and that’s why he’s been flaking on her. His powers surge and he has to direct it to not incinerate her. He quickly heads to STAR Labs for Kitty’s help…but after crashing into Kitty’s lab, collapses. When he comes to, hours later, he’s being examined by both her and some other guy…apparently a Bruce Gordon. We get some expositional conversation, a couple of footnotes to recent back issues, and a bit of context of Kitty (she’s also Rampage), Will (a montage of sorts of his origin/career), and then Bruce and his darker half brought out by a black diamond–Eclipso. And apparently it was actually Eclipso that caused Will to get his powers! After deciding they need to get Will into outer space to better get a read on what’s going on WITH his powers, Will gets a moment with Kitty where he reveals his true face and name and they confess their love for each other. Getting into space with Bruce’s spacecraft, they’re hit by something…as they reel from it, we see that it’s Lobo! Meanwhile, Eclipso apparently re-emerges from Bruce.

Just about all I know about Starman is that his "superhero name" is Starman, star of this book; he’s got SOME sort of legacy tie that came into play in the post-Zero Hour James Robinson series; he’s got solar powers, supporting cast member Kitty is Kitty Faulkner/Rampage who had also been in some early post-Man of Steel-era Superman; and whatever I gleaned from Starman #28 that tied in to the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story in the Superman books in 1990-ish.

But hey, that’s enough for ME, for jumping in "cold" to a #42!

While Mignola‘s work on the cover is fairly recognizable–once I realized it was his work–I’m not terribly keen on it. My initial impression looking at the cover was some generic artist’s work, some lower-tier art for a lower-tier comic that when you look at modern DC stuff you wouldn’t even realize ever even EXISTED–both the title, and the character. The art throughout the issue’s not bad, but doesn’t blow me away…I’m really not consciously familiar with the artists. Len Strazewski I recognize from Ultraverse comics–namely as a co-creator of Prime!

The writing here isn’t bad…there’s definitely a lot of context/exposition that seems vastly out of place at this point in 2022–THIRTY YEARS after this comic was originally "new"! But for its time, it works; and it gives someone like me stuff to follow along with and to appreciate. I may not be "up" on all the subtleties of the issue, but it gets across key stuff as I learn more about Starman’s background than I could have recited prior to reading the issue; gives us some development with Will and Kitty, introduces us to this Bruce Gordon guy, and a bit about his history with/as Eclipso, while setting us up for later chapters by the end of the issue.

I can honestly say that I was surprised at Lobo’s showing up…he’s not on the cover, not mentioned, and I went into this issue figuring we’d simply have Starman ultimately encountering references to Eclipso if not the villain himself.

My introduction to Eclipso came through the summer/fall of 1992 with several of the DC Annuals that year; but those came after this issue/story…which is part of why I’m reading it now: I assume it’s THE reintroduction of Eclipso to the DC Universe, and that this story presumably sets up the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event/crossover. So I’m curious for the context and such, and look forward to getting into further chapters.

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Showing Off the Shelves: Kotobukiya X-Men ’92

Earlier in the year, I discovered the Kotobukiya line of X-Men ’92 figures/models/statues.Where I’d originally only intended to get Rogue and Gambit, that quickly expanded until finally, I wound up with the entire line (that I’m presently aware of)!

kotobukiya_xmen92a

Professor X and Phoenix/Jean Grey were the only figures to come as single-characters, all the rest came in packs of 2. Jubilee came with Wolverine, and Storm came with Bishop.

kotobukiya_xmen92b

Gambit and Rogue came together, which is what set me off on this entire line. Cyclops and Beast make up the final pair.

The Bishop/Storm set was the most expensive for me, and I paid more than I’d have preferred–still a bit of buyer’s remorse there–but after missing one heckuva sale price at Black Friday, I decided to splurge and order them from BigBadToyStore just to HAVE them and not have to worry about them becoming even MORE extremely-exspensive if they’re "out of print" or such.

Despite that/leaving the cost off to the side…I really dig the set, and would certainly prefer to see more releases for it.

Most immediately, a "regular" Jean Grey, perhaps paired with a Morph (possibly with an "extra" head for "Dark Morph"); and then of course, some villains.

Magneto and Mr. Sinister would be definites for me, along with Apocalypse, perhaps Mystique, Blob, Pyro, and Avalanche. Perhaps swap Juggernaut for Mr. Sinister if we’d keep to the first season, though Jean in her Phoenix form is from beyond the 2nd season, even, so…yeah.

It’d even be great to see a sentinel, perhaps…though for the price of these-sized figures, I hate to consider what a Sentinel would cost from Kotobukiya!

Despite wanting more…this present set pretty much perfectly fits on two "floating" wall shelves I bought on Amazon; it wasn’t until I was mounting the shelves to the wall that I realized they’d be good for these figures.

I may look into getting some more of these shelves in the new year when I do some re-arranging of the basement space; I have a number of ideas there (plus thoughts toward some alternate shelving as most of my shelves have bowed significantly, and I reconfigure the overall space a bit to accommodate the last couple of years).

Time will definitely tell, though…as always!

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #75

90s_revisited

superman_0075Doomsday!

Words & Pictures: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Jurgens & Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25 ($2.50 Collector’s [black bagged] Edition)
Triangle #: 1993/2

This is it–probably the most important single issue of any comic book in my life…at least to me, personally. This issue has–in one form or another–influenced so much of my experience in/with/of comics, far beyond anything I could truly sum up briefly.

The cover is that iconic image–the tattered cape caught on a wood pole sticking out of the wreckage in Metropolis–that has become so symbolic of the fall of a character, and so defining of this story and the Superman character. At least to those of us who read this as a new comic, were there as the story unfolded.

The issue is itself nothing but splash pages, each page a single large image, ending with a fold-out back cover stretching to a triple-wide image.

Nearly every single page is "iconic," each page being a key image, something easily recognizable as being from this very issue. So much so that these images were used time and again for flashbacks, and capture the key "moments" of the end of the battle…and are reinterpreted to this day to place a flashback within this story.

This issue’s art–for the full pages, the sheer importance of the issue in the time, and what it was to me–is certainly the "gold standard" for Superman art, and for Jurgens‘ work on the character.

Story-wise, this is but a handful of moments, of scenes, each page having to carry stuff forward…but it certainly works. For several chapters now, the panel-count has gotten smaller, the action more intense, the story speeding up, rushing to this conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–Superman dies. I felt on this read-through like the "final punch" is earlier in the issue than I remembered and expected…but perhaps it was the way I was reading. While we get some moments of Doomsday menacing Lois and Jimmy and Cat, for me, the heart of this issue–morbid as it may be–comes in the narration after the final punch. This is some of the most "iconic" narration for me in all my years of reading comics, and resonates with me still.

Like weary boxes who have gone the distance, the combatants collide in one last, explosive effort. In the years to come, a few witnesses will tell of the power of these final punches, that they could literally feel the shockwaves. Others will remember the enormous crater that resulted from the sheer force of the blows. But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew–finally fell. For those who loved him–one who would call him husband–one who would be his pal–or those who would call him son–this is the darkest day they could ever imagine . . . And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life–comes the shock of failure. The weight of being too late to help . . . For a city to live, a man had given his all and more . . . For this is the day that a Superman died.

The views moving around, showing us Lois and Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan Kent, Ice and Bloodwynd…we get the "in the moment" reactions as the characters all witness the final punches–in person or on tv. And then the final scene, as Lois cradles the broken Superman, and even still, his concern is the safety of others, never mind his own condition.

"Doomsday…is he…is he…"
And he hangs on just long enough to hear her assurance: "You stopped him! you saved us all! Now relax until–"

And as the final page is folded out, the image goes from her holding him, to her obvious anguish as he’s slumped over, dead.

I’m absolutely anything but impartial on this issue. Even reading it this time through, it never fails to stir me. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER, it still gets to me. It seems unbelievable that it’s been that long since this issue was released. I was all of 11, a couple weeks shy of my 12th birthday. I’ve lived over 2/3 of my life SINCE this issue. This was the first truly "big event" in my experience in comics…both story-wise, and real-world. This was the first issue I encountered with any sort of "variant cover." This was the first time I saw an issue done in all full-page images, the first time I’d heard of pre-ordering comics, the first experience I had with "speculation" and such.

This issue began "the weekly habit" of comics for me, that "have to get it ASAP" mentality of each new, subsequent issue. That ongoing interest in the next chapter, what comes next, how are these characters handling stuff, etc. And this being in the heart of what I’d call the best of times, the highest quality and tightest story of the "Triangle Era," this became my gold standard for comics, what comics could be, and all that.

To this day, when I come across this in bargain bins–in any of the four printings, UPC barcode or "direct edition"–I tend to snag it. While this–like most of the other issues of the Doomsday! story–draws deeply from preceding issues and ongoing stuff…this one works pretty well alone. As you’d be interested in the issue AS "the death issue," of reading the actual death of Superman, it happens here. You witness the death, the final moments of the battle, get exposed to several key supporting characters, and can glean from context that others have fallen and it’s down to just Superman himself to take the creature down, the doing of which costs him his life.

While this is basically at best a "footnote" in the history of Superman…this is one of those issues that I think any "long term" comics person ought to (have) read. It’s still a piece of history, a part of comics history, and very few other comics’ stories or moments have or retain the impact this did.superman_0075_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Superman: The Man of Steel #19

90s_revisited

superman_the_man_of_steel_0019DOOMSDAY is Here!

Story: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Dennis Janke
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Bogdanove & Janke
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1993/1

This issue has one of the most iconic covers of my life. It may not be a favorite, exactly–it’s not one that’d really work (for me) as a poster image or such–but for a lotta years, just because of the cover date–January, 1993–and being the first Triangle # of 1993, this was an image I pictured when I’d think of "1993."

The image is "just" an extreme close-up of Doomsday and Superman literally getting in each other’s face, the creature being larger/taller and bearing down on the (black)-bloodied Superman (though no real/obvious facial wounds for the blood, but hey, it adds effect, right? And had to get by the Comics Code Authority and all that.

Despite reading this entire Doomsday! story fresh, I’ve realized that part of my confusion on the gradual tearing-away of Doomsday’s suit and the reveal of the hulking grey-and-white creature is the inconsistency from book to to book of its depiction! While there was some severe tearing and a big chunk missing, where we left off in Action Comics #684, the creature very shortly later now has far more of it gone. I expect that’s the peril of having to get multiple issues drawn by differing art teams in a short time, and the thing was probably set on the notion that "most of the green suit is now gone," but no ultra-hardline visual "bible" to lead it. Of course, this is–to me–mere "observation," something I don’t recall consciously noticing quite in this way before, and I have no problem with it!

This issue has us down to only two panels per page in the several-issue declining-panel-count countdown to the main issue of the story, and as such is increasingly fast-paced with less dialogue and less room for pauses…just faster visual beats on the march from cover to cover. Perhaps it’s the increased action, the ferocity of the battle, but I dug the visuals on this issue a lot more than I did the previous issue, with several iconic moments (to me) in this issue: from Doomsday’s first kills in Metropolis, Superman trying to take the creature into outer space, Doomsday’s elbow-stab of Superman, and the Underworld explosion, Doomsday one-punch taking out Supergirl, hitting her so hard she reverts to her protoplasmic state, the look on Bibbo’s face as he, Hamilton, and Mildred realize they’ve not only angered the creature, but it’s gonna land right on them if they don’t jump…and the shock-cannon blasts from the Cadmus troopers as Superman and Doomsday pound on each other, with Superman thinking "Even if it kills me–Metropolis is where I hold the line!"

And in a way, that sums up the issue. Going from scene to scene, as Doomsday hits Metropolis like a wrecking ball, killing immediately and continuously, punctuated only by attempts to damage him, whether by Superman or Professor Hamilton with a sci-fi cannon of his own, and so on. There’s not much story, exactly, but this issue’s not intended to be all that deep in that regard, and receives no penalty from me for it.

It’s also a credit to the Dirk Maggs dramatization of the story that I "hear" echoes/flashes of that as I read this, as it definitely gets across the frenetic ferocity of the situation, and certainly moments out of this issue.

Yet again, there’s not exactly a whole lot to be gotten from this just as some standalone single issue at this point, picking it up some twenty-five years after publication. It’s a key chapter in the overall story, and maybe sees Superman take some of the worst physical damage ever to this point…certainly more than I remember offhand seeing him take on-panel in Superman #75. While I mentioned early in this post that I don’t see this issue’s cover making a great poster, I could probably be persuaded pretty easily, as I do think on a small scale this would work as wall art at its actual-comic-cover size (perhaps amidst the other issues of the story).

This is definitely well worth snagging from a quarter bin or otherwise bargain bin if you can get all the issues of the story (or all the issues you are interested in at the time), but I’d continue to recommend a collected volume of this story over the single issue for "best results" and maximum impact.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #684

90s_revisited

action_comics_0684…Domsday is Near!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Art Thibert and Denis Rodier
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/48

I like when an issue’s title is worked into its title page…all the more after recently re-noticing the way Marvel "cheats" by having a non-story page for credits/story titles that can simply be omitted from a collected volume to ignore the fact the story was serialized first.

Here, we open on a couple screens of news reports recapping recent goings-on and leaving off that authorities are trying to determine if "…Doomsday is Near!" We then pick back up with Superman, Guardian, and Maxima, and Guardian is no longer worried about lecturing Superman, and Superman has him get Maxima to a hospital while he–Superman–resumes taking on the Doomsday creature. Superman catches up to Doomsday after it takes out an overpass and hurls a car–Superman saves the car and driver. Then Doomsday wrecks a Lex-Mart (think Walmart)…but is able to take in a loud commercial from a tv about a wrestling match in METROPOLIS…and the creature is taught a word, a destination. Lois and Jimmy are on-site in a helicopter reporting on things, Lex Luthor II and Supergirl watch tv reports, and Luthor convinces Supergirl to stay put, to not leave Metropolis unprotected. Trying to get Doomsday away from populated areas, Superman hurls him into the distance, forgetting about Cadmus’ "Habitat" facility (fortunately deserted). Guardian catches up while the combatants are both stunned, and then Doomsday breaks free of the wreckage (knocking out the two heroes) and bounds onward, now intentionally bound for Metropolis.

This issue’s art is not bad at all…but the visual style is something different from both Jurgens and Grummett in a way I just don’t like the same way. Nothing’s particularly "off" in anyone’s anatomy; everyone is recognizable as who they are; I have no trouble following the flow of physical events and the story itself. I just prefer the former to Guice and Rodier here. That said, there are some stand-out moments to me–I do like how Supergirl looks (though she doesn’t get to "do" much here), and same for Lois. The wrestler in the commercial Doomsday sees reminds me very much of Hulk Hogan, which may have been the intention at the time (remember, this was 25 years ago that this saw print!).

Story-wise, this flows pretty well from the previous chapter, picking up much like an opening of a tv show where it’s not exactly frame-for-frame picking up, but picking up within the same scene within moments of where we left off. Though most of the issue is more battle, we get the "moments" between characters–Superman and Guardian; Lois and Jimmy; Supergirl and Luthor, etc. There’s no context given on Supergirl and Luthor…their status quo and presence were very much a part of "continuity" of the time…so they were just there, to be understood by longer-time readers or simply glossed over if one wasn’t familiar with stuff.

I hadn’t given it much thought, but as this issue continues the "countdown" (three panels per page, down from four), there’s more visual/unspoken action, and in a way, that leaves less room for story, and a quicker pace. We jump scene to scene essentially, but it works, as the whole battle is drawing out…we’re down to basically just Superman, as Maxima’s out and by the looks of things (and memory), Guardian’s basically out, and we already saw the rest of the Justice League taken out.

This is definitely another issue that doesn’t have much going for it in terms of being stand-alone; it is definitely very much a middle chapter of a tight, full story spread across multiple titles by multiple creative teams. Of course, it’s not a bad one if you come across it in a bargain bin to snag, but much more enjoyable in context of the full story. I do feel like–next to Justice League America #69–this is the issue of the story I’ve seen least in bargain bins, though come to think of it, Superman #74 may be similar.

This is the fourth of the Superman titles carrying the Doomsday! story–with the next two chapters being second issues of their titles with the story, before the Funeral for a Friend picks up.

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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.

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The ’90s Revisited: Superman #74

90s_revisited

superman_0074Countdown to Doomsday!

Story & Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Brett Breeding
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Letters: John Costanza
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Triangle #: 1992/46

While it’s certainly credit to Dan Jurgens being the writer on both this issue and Justice League America #69, I quite enjoy the way this issue picks up directly where that one left off. This one even has a much better, more prominent notice that it picks up from that issue, urging readers to stop reading now and go read that first (a handy sort of thing since these two issues were apparently on sale the same week…and with no actual chapter numbers on the covers, it’d be easy to go straight to Superman first, and plan to then read Justice League America).

We get a lot more of Mitch in this issue…in fact, to a certain degree, this issue is about Mitch and his "encounter" with the Justice League and Superman!

We open on Ice and Maxima with the nearly-lifeless body of Ted Kord–Blue Beetle. Ice has no means by which to get Ted to a hospital, while Maxima does…though she wants to just stay and fight, though the Beetle will perish. Ice eventually convinces her to get Ted to a hospital, while she (Ice) confronts the creature. Nearby, Mitch arrives home from school and argues with his mom. As he’s about to leave again, a battered Ice is thrown through the window into their kitchen, moments before Superman and Booster Gold show up, confronting the creature…as it gets its name, thanks to Booster’s comment to Superman in Justice League America #69. "What was it you called, this, Booster? Oh yeah–Doomsday." Superman and what remains of the League fight the creature, eventually combining energy projections to try to take it out…though all they really do is make the creature more dangerous and themselves largely defenseless…they’ve burned away most of the restraining suit and cables (releasing Doomsday’s ’til-now-restrained-behind-his-back other arm). As the creature leaps off, Superman follows…forcing himself to ignore the pleas from Mitch as the house burns and lives there remain in dire danger.

I think I’m always "amazed" by the end of this issue, of seeing Superman consciously ignoring a cry for help. It’s a horrible position he’s in, though–stop chasing Doomsday and risk lots of lives lost by turning back to help three people, or ignore them (with hope that someone else back there can do something) to try to bring the creature down at once. And while it’s heart-wrenching to contemplate, I tend to find that I fall in the camp of agreeing with Superman’s decision here. Of course, I know what comes next, and the final decision he makes (Showing among many, many things why he’s Superman and I’m not).

Visually, I definitely like this issue. A lot of that–certainly in retrospect–is Dan Jurgens‘ art. He’s a definitive artist on Superman for me, starting here for sure (to say nothing of #75!) I’m not as much a fan of the cover, though…it seems a bit busy and generic, with Superman himself hardly a part of it. Of course, at the same time, it’s a far cry more to my liking than many modern covers, as it shows something from the issue without just being a lifted panel or such: Ice, Booster, and Maxima don’t fare well against the creature, and Fire and Guy do add their energy output to Superman’s heat vision against the creature, who basically stands there and takes it.

Perhaps my biggest thing is that–to this day, all these years later–I have never been able to figure out how the knee spikes and elbow spikes were concealed in the green suit!

As we get deeper into the Doomsday! arc, it feels less and less likely that anyone would really have any reason to be reading an issue "in a vacuum" without context of the other issues. All the more now, 25 years later, where the story has been available as a collected edition or "graphic novel" for nearly the 25 years…so really, who’s likely TO read this as some lone one-off issue?

If Man of Steel #18 felt like it would’ve been a better prologue than actual part of the story, this issue feels like a direct extension of Justice League America #69. The art on the two issues are different, but in some ways not overly noticeable, and these play like both Justice League guest-starring Superman or Superman guest-starring the Justice League…as they should.

I certainly would not recommend seeking this out as a single issue in a void…but it’s an interesting "middle chapter" as the action ramps up and we definitely see the creature as something more than what can simply be handled in an issue or two, or even BY a combined group of super-beings. And of course, it’s essential to the overall arc, and not something to skip over reading a collected edition!

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The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #69

90s_revisited

Justice_League_America_0069Down for the Count

Story and Art: Dan Jurgens
Finished Art: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Editor: Ruben Diaz
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Dan Jurgens
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1992
Cover Price: $1.25

I may have read this issue before all of the other Doomsday! issues back in 1992…in fact, I’m almost certain that I did. I then reread it when reading the entirety of the Doomsday! arc the night Superman #75 came out.

This is another issue with a fairly iconic, if generic/plain cover, to me. The fade from the deep, almost purple red across the other shades (a gradient is the word I’m probably looking for) as the background eliminates any sort of buildings, trees, other stuff, and leaves us just to focus on the Doomsday creature punching the Blue Beetle as Bloodwynd, Fire, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner struggle against it. (And this time around I’d swear is the first in all these 25 years that I really noticed the huge gashes in the side of Blue Beetle’s headgear from the creature’s strike!) And of the various chapters of this story, this issue is one I feel I’ve least seen in bargain bins over the years–even less than Superman #75 itself!

The first page has a call-out/blurb at the bottom directing readers to Man of Steel #18 first, though for me, it’s hard not to have started reading the page before seeing that, as it’s positioned at the bottom, and I start reading at the top, so I’m already through a page of dialogue (granted, a full-page/single image) before getting to it, and thus already slightly "hooked" into the action.

We open on the Justice League in action rescuing people–victims from Doomsday’s having torn up a freeway in Ohio (incidentally, based on details in the novelization The Death and Life of Superman–a stretch of freeway I myself used to drive to and from work!). While they’re dealing with the rescue and cleanup, a parallel thread for the issue is picked up–an episode of the Cat Grant Show being filmed at a high school and broadcast to the country, wherein Cat is interviewing Superman live, as well as questions from the students in attendance. This is interspersed with the League then tracking down the creature–following its path of destruction–and engaging it in a battle that leaves the Justice League itself far worse for wear, and Guy horribly beaten and Ted Kord–Blue Beetle–all but dead. At the end, Booster Gold barely gets his force field up in time to take a massive punch from the creature that sends him flying far away from the scene at a speed that overwhelms his flight ring. His flight is cut short by the arrival of Superman, at which point Booster exclaims that "It’s like Doomsday is here!"

The issue’s story has a lot of little moments, and some of those stick out all the more to me 25 years later, looking back. Seeing Maxima as part of the League, for one thing–I’d only really known her from an issue of Action Comics several years earlier. I believe this was my first introductions to most of the other characters–Bloodwynd, Booster Gold, Fire and Ice, and Blue Beetle. I’d already had Guy Gardner #1 a couple months earlier and knew/recognized Guy from the Eclipso: The Darkness Within annual where he’d tangled with the eclipsed Superman (any of the other Leaguers would have been inconsequential background characters to me for the most part). I remember the interview with Cat, the creature spearing Beetle’s bug with the tree, Maxima mind-probing ahead and declaring of the creature "He’s hate–death and blood lust personified! Nothing more." I also think I remember even then being amazed that Beetle and Guy could have survived the creature’s attack, given the on-panel beatings both took; though Guy at least ostensibly was protected by his ring, where Beetle had no such protection, and was in a coma from here and forward for a number of issues.

The art is quite good, and as with Man of Steel #18, part of that is nostalgia…though I think I like this a bit better. We start to see a bit more of the creature as the green, cabled suit takes some damage (on the cover, anyway!), and the art also seems both consistent with the characters and a bit definitive for me given the times I re-read this as a kid, and as a "source" issue for me in referencing some of the characters for the first time.

While this doesn’t exactly stand alone and definitely continues from the events of Man of Steel #18 and continues directly into Superman #74, as a single chapter of the Doomsday! arc, it works much better alone than the previous chapter…at least for me. Picking up with the creature already loose, and showing the League "playing catch-up" themselves allows the reader to be on the same footing, if nothing else…and the final page where Superman shows up kinda ends the threat being a League thing, as it becomes a Superman thing (and as the rest of the story plays out in the Superman titles, the League is relegated to a support status, as it should be for a story unfolding primarily in several titles technically starring only one main character).

This is hardly a complete story, but it does give us moments of Beetle discovering Bloodwynd’s secret months before it was revealed to readers and fellow characters; this is where Beetle is actually injured (a subplot that continues into the next arc), and does serve as a rather "full" participation in the story for the League, as well as (maybe in a meta sense) illustrating also just how dangerous the creature was that it did so much damage to the League itself in just one issue!

I’d say this one’s worth getting even alone, if you find it in a bargain bin, and certainly is an important chapter in the overall story (such that it really should have had an "honorary" "triangle number"…something that was bestowed on several tie-in titles years later for the Millennium Giants story). Though essentially just a "cameo," this is also where we first meet Mitch–a character that has a bit of a through line across this arc and the Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman stuff.

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