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The ’80s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #453

80s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0453Words and Pictures: Jerry Ordway
Lettering: Albert De Guzman
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: April, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

This cover is one of the MOST iconic in all the comics that I own. Yet to many, I imagine this is just another cover. But for me, it sticks out in a big way because it was one of my very first comics I ever owned; one of the first four comics Mom ever bought for me. It was my first issue of Adventures of Superman; and thus has that very special distinction FOR ME.

The cover has a lot going on. The trade dress is at the top; the DC "bullet" in the upper left, and a generic image of Superman immediately below it. It’s no "corner box" like Marvel used to have, or that DC would eventually use; but it showed that it’s a DC book, and Superman, just from that corner. The title logo is across the top/center of the cover; a standard location so if you only see the very top of the issue, you know what the title is. The number is in a small white box along with the cover date, the price, and the old Comics Code stamp. There’s a cover blurb "Phantoms of the Past!" to add a bit more to stuff. The main image is 3 people emerging from the ground and reaching for a startled Superman, with a moon-like thing behind him on an otherwise black background. Then there’s a box at the bottom for the barcode for the issue, as well as a companion box showing a headshot of a bald guy (Lex Luthor) with a banner stretched between stating "Plus: Part Two of Lex Luthor’s ‘Hostile Takeover!’" and some creator names.

We start the issue on some sort of planetoid or moon or such; a barren wasteland, with a silhouette of Superman, and narration from someone (Superman) reflecting on the place. Suddenly, three figures emerge from the ground, raining dirt and debris and accuse Superman of burying them alive; though he didn’t kill them, he intended to, and so his guilt remains. The scene then cuts elsewhere to a conversation between a "Jonathan" and a "Martha" via narration boxes, while we see what looks like an old woman in anguish in a bedroom. As the conversation continues and then "Martha" enters this room, now the person looks like Clark Kent, which causes "Martha" to faint in shock. Meanwhile, two of the figures from the ground shift appearances but all three taunt Superman, crushing an air mask before disappearing as Superman lies on the ground. The scene shifts to some older man tinkering with an armored suit while on the phone, discussing something about Luthor and STAR Labs. There’s a guy in the suit and the helmet malfunctions…he gets it off and shields the older guy as it explodes. Back to Superman and the figures now shift to look like a Superman himself, Clark Kent in a suit, and some other guy with the chest of his suit ripped to show a Superman costume underneath. These continue to taunt Superman before he absorbs them and leaps into the air, now whole once again…and then drifts in space, where he’s picked up by some ship and the aliens discuss selling him for games or a body bank.

Fourteen pages, but wow…that’s a lotta stuff going on! I was at most 8 1/2 years old when I first read this, and I had NO IDEA what was going on. Didn’t know how Superman came to be where he is, or who these people were that were confronting him. Something about him having killed them…but I thought Superman DIDN’T KILL? But it must be ok since they’re here and alive; but where’d they go, then? And whatever that conversation was, something about someone having been killed in an apartment…I guess these could be Superman’s parents, but who knows? And the person that looked like an old lady–"Matrix"–becoming Clark Kent? Hokay? And no clue who the guy working on the superhero suit was, nor the guy in it, nor who was on the phone; only vaguely recognized Lex Luthor. I remember "getting" that Superman/Clark Kent/the other guy were apparently parts of Superman and his "absorbing" them back into himself; and something of him being in space and apparently needing air (given his mask was crushed and affected him).

Of course, 33 years later and I know Ma and Pa Kent; Matrix; Luthor; Emil Hamilton and Jose Delgado (Gangbuster). I know General Zod, and the pocket universe, and the Supergirl Saga and whatnot. That in the aftermath, Superman went into space feeling he was too dangerous to remain on Earth and so had exiled himself. As that kid, though, all I knew was that it said Adventures of SUPERMAN on the cover, had Superman on the cover, and whatever had happened to Superman, here he was in space and all that. I’m sure I noticed the high number and "connected" that with all of Grandpa’s comics having numbers on them; but he hadn’t had any with this particular logo or title, so this must’ve been different.

I had absolutely no concept of a Crisis on Infinite Earths or "Pre-Crisis" or "Post-Crisis," nor what a "Reboot" was, hadn’t heard of anyone named "John Byrne," did not know of any comics with the words "Man of Steel" as part of the title; etc. But I read the words on the pages; I reread the issue at least a few times given how few comics I owned at the time; and just took stuff in at face-value. This was "a comic." Obviously I didn’t have the previous issue, nor the next one yet. It wasn’t what I recognized Superman as, but hey, this was a NEW comic at the time (33 years ago!) so it probably wasn’t going to be like "older comics."

Looking at this as my 41-year-old self; this is a good story and moves stuff along. We see Superman being very low on air and thus hallucinating, as he fights through his guilt; mulling over questions such as why he would feel justified to execute the Kryptonian villains, but NOT villains like Lex Luthor or Brainiac; as well as recognizing that even AS "Superman," he was also Clark Kent AND Gangbuster. And that fortunately, as he runs out of air, he’s picked up by some alien spaceship and thus doesn’t actually suffocate to death. We see stuff from Superman’s point of view–his hallucinations; and we get some context of recent events (presumably) going on like someone was killed in Clark’s apartment; and we see Matrix/Mae take on the guise of Clark, shocking his parents (who are still alive in this continuity).

The art is good. I especially noticed the contrast in Superman’s darker blue compared to the brighter blue for the hallucinated version. This is an older issue; the copy I read this time through is especially old-seeming with its newsprint; so some color work has presumably been lost by nature of the printing process and the paper, as well as the amount of detail in so many panels just kinda blending to a darker overall appearance that’s soaked into the paper a bit over the last 3 1/2 decades.

This is by no means an "ideal" jumping on point or first issue…but it was MINE. And it did NOT put me off so much that I never got any more. I just had to gradually catch up and figure out what was going on contextually, piecing stuff together and accepting what the present was.

Even knowing I’ve read this a number of times before, and at least once in/after college as an adult with much more context of what Exile is/was, parts of this felt new to me; especially with Hamilton and Gangbuster.


Hostile Takeover Part II: Insider Rumors!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Insider: Jerry Ordway

I’m not a huge fan of "backups" in comics; especially not when they cross titles. This issue had "Part Two," and Superman #31 had "Part Three." But at the time, I accepted it; because it didn’t seem that out of place when older comics were often these shorter/multiple stories in one issue; so I just simply had what I had. Though with Superman not even IN this "Hostile Takeover," and as an 8-year-old I had no clue what a "hostile takeover" even WAS, and it just seemed to be a bunch of adults talking, I am pretty confident that I largely ignored the segment when I read this as a kid.

NOW in 2022, though, it’s actually fairly interesting to me.

We start with various people discussing rumors of Luthor buying out Star Labs; and we see reactions from "common people" as well as Luthor himself.  Star Labs workers confront a boss who knows nothing of a buyout; there’s some sort of groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility in Tokyo for Star Labs that Luthor shows up to. Other people react to Luthor’s being on the news; and then as they’re anxious to sell shares of Star Labs, Luthor offers to buy them for $50/share and they seem all too eager.

This is an 8-page backup story; it moves stuff along. Sort of introduces the situation with rumors; we see that Luthor has a plan; and after rumors raise the price of the stock and then people are ready to panic-sell, he magnanimously steps in to take shares off their hands.

The art is good; Luthor is at his overweight, bald, businessman best here. I recognize the likes of Emil Hamilton and Perry White; and of course Luthor himself. I don’t recall what had happened in Hostile Takeover Part I; and I’m not sure even now if this backup has ever actually been collected/reprinted! I’m pretty sure even the Exile Omnibus excluded these segments; and that they were not in the Exile TPB, either.

I’m not sure the behind the scenes context or reasoning for this as a backup feature rather than being a subplot; I can guess, though, that in PART it was that it’s a major plot point with a specific sequence, so it was clustered together and its parts numbered for continuity, where other parts of Exile may not have been as "hard-coded" order-wise requiring a specific order. It may have been to allow other creatives to be involved as well; maybe something was running late; I don’t really know, and I don’t really care.

* * * * *

This is a dense issue; a bit physically murky and aged; and having the place it does in my memory and "comics life," I’m not exactly impartial to it. I can’t say that I necessarily ENJOYED this time through the issue…but it definitely brought back some familiar memories, and certain panels and such jumped out at me that I DEFINITELY remembered being striking to me as a kid. While this holds a lot of nostalgic value for ME personally, I don’t know that it otherwise stands alone overly well except in that this era of the Superman comics were generally quite high quality, so if you get it from a bargain bin, it shouldn’t be bad…but you’ll likely appreciate it all the more if you have several of the Exile issues as a cluster; and I definitely recommend the Exile arc as a whole, if not the single issues!

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #499

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0499Grave Obsession

Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Doug Hazlewood
Scripts: Jerry Ordway
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Assists: Jennifer Frank
Edits: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: February 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

We open with Lex and Supergirl finding an alarm going off…it’s from Superman’s tomb. Movement’s been detected, so Lex sends Supergirl to investigate. In her investigating the site, she inadvertently winds up getting the SCU involved as THEY investigate the movement of the grate over an airshaft that she opened. While she investigates the tunnel she’s found, we cut to Jose Delgado–Gangbuster–as he ponders where to go and what to do; as well as check in on Lois and the Kents as each feels they’ve been no good to the other(s).  Supergirl finds Underworlders and winds up fighting them–as does Turpin (without the SCU actually present). Meanwhile, Gangbuster’s back in action. Supergirl and Turpin get away from the Underworlders, as they realize that the culprit behind the missing body has gotta be Cadmus.

Over the years, I’ve read the comics, read the novelization, listened to the audio drama…and there’ve even been a couple animated films. The films of course rushed through the funeral stuff as if the POINT of the story was to kill Superman and then bring him back. My understanding and how I feel is that the point of the story was to detail a world without Superman…just that after that story, it was necessary with a corporately-owned character such as this to return the status quo–eventually–hence the eventual return. But with the various iterations of the story over the years, it’s interesting the elements that stand out and I remember, and the stuff I forgot.

So this issue is a lot more "action-oriented," rather than character-focused. We get SOME of that character stuff, but it’s brief and primarily contained to Gangbuster, Lois, and the Kents (with no mention of Lana). I’ve never cared for the Underworlders…not in 1992, not in 2022, nor the decades between. I remembered Supergirl investigating the motion sensors and finding tunnels…but I think the Underworlders may have been left out of the novelization and audio drama, so I’m less familiar with their part–and Turpin’s dragged-out fight with them.

I do feel like this chapter was dragged out quite a bit, and while I don’t recall specific details now from the next chapter, the tunnels and such I thought I remembered from that issue.

Story-wise this is a solid issue, if rather boring due to my distaste for the Underworlders stuff. Carve that out and the fact of Luthor’s motion sensors picking something up, Supergirl investigates, and Lois with the Kents could be tacked into another issue, perhaps. It’s not bad, just not to my taste…and probably a reason I remembered more from the first few chapters of Funeral for a Friend than latter stuff. The "Sequence Number Seven" move of an Underworlder dropping a grenade with someone to cover an escape rings a bit of a bell for me as a recurring thing…but it’s been so long now that I’d all but forgotten.

Visually this is a definite treat again…and as much as I don’t care for those Underworlders, Grummett gives us a great Clawster! The cover is also rather iconic, giving us a great look at the Superman statue…and that may be the best part of this issue!

This is definitely my least-favorite chapter of the story so far…though I’m sure it serves its purpose in bridging parts of the story, going from the immediate reactions to Superman’s death, the obvious funeral, and the other heroes doing stuff to honor their fallen friend…to Cadmus getting the body and setting up stuff for the rest of the back-half of the story.

Unlike other chapters, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this one in a vacuum…it’s worth getting if you find the series in a bargain bin, and the art is great just to look at. But while the issue is fairly well contained, it’s not all that interesting or stand-out to me as a single, isolated thing.

I do look forward to getting to the next chapter and seeing what ELSE I’ve forgotten and see how that hits me!

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The ’90s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #498

90s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0498Death of a Legend

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Letterer: Albert DeGuzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Jennifer Frank
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with a note to see Justice League America #70, which ALSO picked up from the final moments of Superman #75.

We open on an awkward full page shot of Superman’s body slumped against Lois, his cape draped over his chest while Lois looks over the shoulder of the reader, Jimmy stands behind her, The Guardian is seen behind him, while Bloodwynd holds the unconscious body of Ice off to the side. Bloodwynd has declared Superman dead–though Ice may yet live if he gets her to a hospital, and Jimmy questions Lois as to their taking Bloodwynd’s word for it that Superman’s actually dead. Subsequent pages bring us the reactions of various individuals–Dubbilex, Maggie Sawyer, Dan Turpin, Lois, Jimmy, Guardian, various SCU folks and some Cadmus…and Cat Grant joins in as well. Reactions to Superman’s fall; to whether or not the beast Doomsday is dead, and attempts to resuscitate Superman himself. While resuscitation attempts continue, Turpin wanders off, lamenting another loss and is startled by what appears to be a totally burned body and then the arrival of Lex Luthor II who carries it off, calling it his Supergirl.

Cat gives Lois a tough-love pep talk as tv crews arrive/set up, and as we see Cat begin her tv report on the fallen hero, we get a scene with Jose Delgado–Gangbuster, with Cat’s kid Adam as they react to the news. We get a scene of Jonathan and Martha Kent at home reacting to the news. Cadmus begins to remove Doomsday’s body, but is challenged when they try to remove Superman’s as well. With the arrival of Professor Hamilton and Bibbo with an energy-collection device, one last attempt is made to resuscitate the Man of Steel…that doesn’t work. Shifting to the Daily Planet, Perry White and Jimmy discuss Jimmy’s photos and they realize that as hard as they have things, Lois is hit harder…both with Superman having died in her arms…and her fiancé, Clark, is among the missing in the wake of Doomsday’s destructive rampage. Lois finishes typing her story to hand in to Perry, as he and Jimmy try to encourage her, that Clark will be found…though she tells them that Clark’s luck ran out when Superman died.

Like Superman #75, this is an extremely "iconic" issue to me. The cover certainly…black border as is the "trade dress" for the Funeral For a Friend arc–with further black background as the main image is a photograph–Jimmy’s–of Superman laying on the cracked pavement. While the cover image is symbolic, it’s also part of the story, as this photo is one that I believe gets mentioned a number of times in-continuity, and I believe is a referential image later for the "death of Superman" issue of the Planet. Other than some color variations for the LOGO The Adventures of Superman and a Roman numeral (or lack thereof) and a bar code or not…the cover itself–trade dress, image, etc–remains the same. There is REALLY only ONE COVER for this issue. Of course, there’d be probably a DOZEN or more if this was published in 2022, and it’d be an extra-sized $5.99+ issue rather than "just" "the next issue" of a title at regular price.

While I tend to think of Dan Jurgens first as my favorite Superman artist, Grummett is absolutely right up there with him! The characters are extremely recognizable and–while going solely on memory withOUT comparing any issues side-by-side–consistent. This does not feel like "this issue’s artist’s ‘take’ on the characters," it just looks like those characters, as drawn by this artist. The art is distinct, it is different, but it does not have a feel of TRYING TO BE different or trying to stand out from the other Superman titles of the time, or to be some singular/distinctive "interpretation" of the character(s).

The writing is hardly noticeable in a way. For me, as an issue this close to Superman #75 and that–along with that issue–I’ve probably read more times over the years than just about any other single issue of a comic series–the story just IS. The characters just ARE. In reading the issue, I simply am watching the story unfold, and the characters all seem like themselves…in-character, acting as one might expect, etc. Though one COULD "join in" at this issue, you’d be kinda fending for yourself. You’re not spoon-fed WHO the characters are, what they’re all about, backstories and nuances and context. That stuff’s there if you know the general Superman stuff of the era, and there’s plenty to pick up on having that sort of context, or simply authentic-seeming details to suggest these are real characters inhabiting a real world going on in real time. There are a lot of characters and subplots present, the stories being nudged along…advancing, but not racing forward. Some jumps are a little abrupt, but some of that I think only seems so by comparison to modern "decompressed" comics.

This issue has a whole new sort of impact on me in early 2022. While I’ve lost a number of extended family members over the years, I’ve never experienced loss QUITE so close before as losing my Dad less than 48 hours before the new year, five weeks ago as of this typing.

There are some moments in the issue that especially stand out to me, that have stuck with me over the years. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of deja vu but I’m pretty sure I had a mental "flash" to the Guardian’s yelling "Then melt the blasted paddles!" while I saw what I saw in the hospital when I lost Dad.

And then there’s Jimmy’s frustration he shares with Perry: "I mean, the way everyone’s crawling over everyone else to be the first to officially pronounce Superman dead…you’d think they were HAPPY he died, to save them all from a slow news day!" That was poignant THEN 29 years ago and it’s all the MORE poignant NOW in 2022! Whether it’s comics sites tripping over one another to be "first!" to spoil something, or any "news" outlet PERIOD trying to be the first to post something public about WHATEVER.

I have a new sort of identification with Lois–the shock of seeing a particular death, of (perhaps projecting) seeing them given up on as even heroic efforts aren’t enough, of having to "go through the motions" and someone "existing" or "functioning," after being through a sudden, virtually-unthinkable loss. My own real-world loss also makes it far more identifiable with so many characters as they react. Knowing what I thought and felt and would have done if I could, the helplessness, all of it…there’s a painful authenticity to this issue that I never fully "understood" before.

While not necessarily FREQUENT, I have definitely found this issue in quarter-bins and other bargain bins. Particularly if you’re not looking for a high-grade first printing and just want THE ISSUE, I wouldn’t pay more than a couple dollars for it; pretty much anything over cover price (if that much, even) would be more of a "convenience fee" for immediacy, to me. You can find this issue digitally, and there have been a number of printings and editions of collected volumes with it, and there are at least 3 printings of the issue that I’m aware of (having a first and a third printing in front of me as I type).

As a "part of history" or just part of what I consider to be an extremely high-quality "era" for Superman, I’d definitely recommend the issue if you’re at all interested in Superman, these characters, or the story in general. I’m surprised at how well it seems to "hold up" nearly 30 years later…though that may be my "closeness" and that this is SUCH a part of my childhood and early period with comics.

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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: Doomsday Pages

Back in 1992, shortly before the actual start of the Doomsday crossover/event/story/arc, all four of the Superman titles ended with a single page showing a fist repeatedly punching a wall, as whatever it was, tried to escape some sort of confinement.

Superman: The Man of Steel #17 saw Superman dealing with the ongoing subplot of Underworlders in Metropolis, ending here:

doomsday_mos17

Then Superman #73 saw Superman and Waverider interacting again, and dovetailing off to:

doomsday_superman73

Next, Adventures of Superman #496 gave us one last hurrah with Mr. Mxyzptlk before the monster arrived:

doomsday_adventures496

And finally, Action Comics #683 saw Superman dealing with The Jackal in a (comparably) forgettable story that left us with:

doomsday_action683

And of course, from there, the actual story kicked off in Superman: The Man of Steel #18!

Along with these pages, and all sorts of news coverage, we had this iconic (to ME, at least!) house ad:

doomsday_ad_superman73

These days, that alone would have to be its own VARIANT cover…either for Man of Steel #18, or heck, they’d do different silhouetted poses of Doomsday like this for all four covers with those single page bits the month before the actual event!

While I’ll be doing my own stuff here, several years ago, Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor covered the Death and Return of Superman saga in a lotta detail in their podcast From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast, and there is a HUGE treasure trove of material related to it over at the Fortress of Baileytude!

July 4th, 2017

A quick, simple post…showing off the colorful, patriotic cover art of Superman with the U.S. flag, in celebration of the United States’ Independence Day.

superman_20170704a

Iconic, generic poses…but these two immediately came to mind when I was thinking of such images to share for the day. Loads of others, too…but as two of my most recent acquisitions, these were forefront for me.

superman_20170704b

Then there’s the classic cover from Adventures of Superman #505, celebrating the character’s return after Doomsday, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen:

adventuresofsuperman505

And with that…I’ll call it a day. Hope everyone (whether celebrating the day or not) has a great day!

From the Archives: Adventures of Superman #648

adventures_of_superman_0648Look…Up In The Sky

Summary: Lois Lane reports on the destruction of Bludhaven and the response of the super-heroes.
By: Lois Lane
Photos by: Jimmy Olsen, Karl Kerschl and Renato Guedes
Additional Reporting by: Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilipis, Christina Weir and Jami Bernard
Graphic Design by: Richard & Tanya Horie
Copy Design: Rob Leigh
Editors: Eddie Berganza and Jeanine Schaefer
Editor in Chief: Perry White
Cover Art: Karl Kerschl, colors by Dave McCaig
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

This issue is another logoed Infinite Crisis crossover issue. This is where we get the immediate response/fallout to the destruction wrought by Chemo in Infinite Crisis # 4. Rather than dialogue and seeing "inside" the heroes’ reactions to that event, we get it from the perspective of some citizen of the DCU reading reporter Lois Lane’s article covering the heroes’ response as she observed it.

This makes for an interesting perspective, if not entirely original. The "narration" is simply Lois’ story, which provides the only words found in the otherwise "silent" issue. One moment that stands out to me offhand is a full-page panel of Green Lantern amidst the wreckage, obviously deeply pained over the event. I believe this would be apparent even without Lois’ observation.

My initial reaction to this being where the plot thread gets immediately dealt with was surprise–given that many characters have "signature cities" that are often as much a character as any humanoid supporting cast member. Shouldn’t this be dealt with in another book? Except of course, Superman being Superman is obviously going to help. And given that Superman’s so powerful (here, the specific focus is on his invulnerability), it’s not like the character’s going to stand by and let others die just to maintain some "image" or such.

The style of this issue remind me of the Superman issue (# 79, I believe) that was told in this same way, except it was Ron Troupe’s story scattered in the otherwise silent issue which showed the Cyborg Superman stopping an attempt in the White House on the president’s life, and that president’s endorsement of the Cyborg as the "real" Superman. Given the destruction the characters rally to face, I’m also reminded of the "Black Cover Spider-Man Issue" (Amazing Spider-Man v.2 # 36, I believe).
Getting the story simultaneously after-the-fact (Lois’ words) and as it unfolds (the visuals) works pretty well–and for the most part might be the only way to truly cram so much into one issue. If there was dialogue with us seeing/hearing the characters talking to each other and coordinating and whatnot, this issue would have be be double, triple, or even quadruple-sized.

On the one hand, it’s interesting that there are four people listed for the writing–three beyond regular writer Greg Rucka. I can give the benefit of the doubt on it to the writing style and giving voice to Lois’ writing, as journalistic writing is not quite the same entity as character-writing and may be more collaborative.
Visually, there’s a fair amount of blank-space on these pages, as the images are pretty much contained to panels, and those panels’ layout tends to somewhat resemble photos placed on a fixed-size page. Though the art is not by a single person, it works for me here.

I found myself reading the text, using the visuals almost as an abstract, seeing them but not diving in deeply. Letting the visuals enhance what I was reading.
No real complaints with the art–it’s not perfect by any means, and this issue continues a trend of having "extras" credited, assumably to get an issue out exactly on-time (given what it covers, this issue pretty much had to be out right after Infinite Crisis # 4. Same week, and someone reading this issue spoils a major part of that issue; two weeks after, and it’s old news compared to books that also touch on the ramifications.

Other than describing how some of the mess is specifically cleaned up quickly (which might be mentioned in other books–I don’t know), this issue doesn’t strike me as essential reading. It will enhance one’s reading of the overall Infinite Crisis event, though. The issue doesn’t even have to be a Superman one–this could almost have been labeled "The Daily Planet – The Day After Infinite Crisis # 4" and been a "special" or "supplement" issue.

My initial reaction to the issue was that it wasn’t all that good, but it is actually quite well done, and serves its purpose as a followup to one of the more catastrophic events in the DCU.

The ’00s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #586

adventtures_of_superman_0586Soul of the City!

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller: Mike Miller
Inkers: Armando Durruthy & Walden Wong
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Wildstorm FX
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2001
Cover Price: $2.25

Maybe it’s something about the paper quality, but this issue just feels thicker and sturdier than a modern comic book..!

We open on Superman overlooking the city, still flabbergasted that Luthor–Lex Luthor!–is President-Elect of the United States. He pulls himself together, puts on his public face, and flies in to greet the man, and congratulates him on his election. Elsewhere, we find several "minor" antagonists (Rose/Thorn, Kitty Faulkner/Rampage, Cary RIchards/Adversary, and Prankster) gathered before Lord Satanus, who proposes they assist him in claiming the actual soul of the city itself. Lois is spending time with her very pregnant sister Lucy, who goes into labor unexpectedly, prompting a rush to the hospital…though ultimately she’s sent home as it’ll be awhile yet. And Superman finds himself face to face with a gloating Satanus, claiming victory is already his–though Superman has several up-front allies and one seemingly missing in action, as we’re left with a to be continued.

Moving out from the election night issue (Superman #164) and the previous week’s Superman: Lex 2000 special, that story moves from primary focal point to subplot, as we seem to begin a new threat–the "return" of Lord Satanus and his latest bid for souls and such, going against what Superman himself stands for, etc. Re-reading this issue for the first time in nearly 15 years brought with it a bit of deja-vu, as my conscious mind recognizes the story as I read it, and yet my conscious primary guess at this issue–based on that cover–would have been that this was the issue where Superman discussed with someone that he’d be at the inauguration–hadn’t missed any yet–just that he’d do so without being seen, refusing to give a photo-op/endorsement that way.

Yet, seeing Superman–at least for the public face–graciously allow himself to be seen with Lex, to shake his hand, to say the words–seems an appropriate, totally classy thing…though it’s easy to relate to his inner conflict of having to appear cordial with a man who has been one of his life’s greatest antagonists and who he knows is beyond loads of crooked, corrupt stuff and yet it can’t be proven in such a way as to bring him down.

But rather than that being a long, drawn-out, done-to-death issue-long scene, life (and the story) continue to unfold, and we move into a new plot in which Lord Satanus is back on the scene. However, given I’d forgotten he even appeared here (mostly I remember the character from the Blaze/Satanus War in 1992 just before the Death of Superman, knew he’d had a couple "flare-ups" over the years, before apparently being destroyed during the Spectre’s rampage in the run-up to Infinite Crisis), it seems a foregone conclusion how this’ll turn out, and ultimately makes for a less-than-truly-threatening plot.

I also would not have been able to tell you that DeMatteis had done this issue or Miller provided the art…the the imagery is quite familiar.

Miller‘s art isn’t entirely to my liking…there’s something slightly "off" to the art, giving almost a "generic" Superman than one that seems as "familiar" as I prefer. However, I DO like the art, and this is not a bad version of Superman. And maybe it’s that I’ve had the cover looking at me for several days, but I really dig the cover!

All in all, this is a good issue, it deals with the emerging presidency of Luthor while bringing in a lesser-used antagonist in Satanus and even lesser-used allies, while addressing other ongoing facets of characters’ lives such that this really works as (in a good way) "just another chapter" in the ongoing Superman saga. Even having the issue in one of my few sorted longboxes where I know exactly where it is, I would be hard-pressed to NOT spend the 25 cents to snag an extra copy if I found it, if only to do something with the cover as an art piece. Given that, I certainly recommend this if you find it for a quarter; though the higher the price, the less enthusiastically I’ll recommend. To someone interested in this era of the Superman titles or picking up a small combined run of the titles for a true run of the "triangle numbers" (S-shields), this is certainly worthwhile.

I was gonna wrap up this collection of successive reviews, and may not actually write up the following issue…but this leaves me interested in at least reading the next chapter!

Zero Hour Revisited – Adventures of Superman #516

90srevisited_zerohour

adventures_of_superman0516The Hero of Metropolis

Writer: Karl Kesel
Guest Penciller: Peter Krause
Inker: Jackson Guice
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Assistant Editor: Chris Duffy
Associate Editor: Frank Pittarese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.50

This is one of those quasi-forgotten issues–one where I remember in broadest strokes the events but it’d been so long since reading it that it was a lot like reading a new comic.

Amidst all the other time-stuff going on, Superman finds himself in an alternate timeline, with many similarities but some rather disconcerting differences. Of course, some of these are things he picks up on as he goes along–realizing, for example, that here, Lois doesn’t even know him, period–let alone know his identity or have feelings for him. And despite the familiarity of Superman, this world’s hero is the Alpha Centurian–a character we’ve apparently seen before but this was the first meeting between him and Superman personally. By issue’s end the situation is revealed and the two are allies, off to dive back into the whole saving-all-of-time-and-space thing.

I think when I saw Alpha Centurian in a previous issue of Zero Hour itself, I assumed he’d already been introduced…my mind just didn’t parse out the details or question anything. And yet, I knew this was where the character comes into the Superman stuff–"that issue with his name on the cover over top of Superman’s." I suppose not having looked ahead to the covers, conscious memory failed me and all that.

Anyway, this is another solid issue that plays firmly into the stuff that Zero Hour is about–that is, Time is mucked up and allows for a bunch of anomalies and parallels and alternates and the like. In this case, we get a new Superman ally…one that (as I recall) becomes a recurring member of the supporting cast for a time–much as a one-season character can be close and important for a single season of a tv show.

At this point, 20+ years after the fact, this issue having a "guest penciller" means little to me, particularly for this specific title. The art’s just the art–neither phenomenal nor bad. It works for the issue, gets everything across, and I’m perfectly fine with that. The story itself is cool, revisiting this "moment" in the history of the Superman story and seeing (again) the first meeting (officially) between the two characters and being thus able to cast my mind back to that summer and the following year or so as this Alpha Centurian was a recurring cast member NOT from Reign of the Supermen, yet I was there "from the beginning."

Superman is front-and-center in Zero Hour itself, so his having time for not just one "side story" but multiples is a bit of a stretch in general…but then, he’d had four ongoing series at this point, all of them tying into Zero Hour (given especially the ongoing/weekly nature of the four Super-books). This was a pleasant read, if not terribly contributative to the ongoing Zero Hour saga. Other than being a sort of first-appearance/first-meeting, it’s not singularly stand-out in a way that screams "go out and read this to thank me later" or anything. Still, if you find it in a bargain bin, it’s worthwhile.

The Weekly Haul – Week of August 19, 2015

As new comics go, this was a very small week, with only two new TMNT books:

weekly_haul_20150819a

I also hit the quarter-bins, where along with far more X-Men books than I’d had any intention of buying in one shot, I also snagged a couple of key Superman issues:

superman01s_and_aos424_quarterbin

Being what they are, and for the price, I wasn’t gonna leave these sitting in the bin. I have tentative plans for one of the Superman #1s and Adventures of Superman #424 for sure.

Hard to believe TMNT is about to hit its 50th issue. I’ve been keeping up with it since #1…

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