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The ’90s Revisited – Superman Annual #4

90s_revisited

superman_annual004Enduring the Night!

Writer: Dan Vado
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inker: Trevor Scott
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Assitant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

We open on Superman patrolling Metropolis, watchful for Eclipso-activity. He happens across an apparent mugging–some guy desperate to get off the planet before he’s possessed by an alien from the moon again. A police officer doesn’t take kindly to Superman’s intervention, nor the Man of Steel’s questioning of what part of the guy’s story he didn’t understand. Unfortunately, with a Black Diamond present, an Eclipso is unleashed. Fortunately, Bruce Gordon had just shown up, so is able to be part of the action…managing to save Superman by solar-blasting this particular manifestation.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane arrives in Crater Bay to investigate corruption (which just so happens to be where the "mugger" from earlier is from). She’s not exactly put at ease by her contact there, nor the hotel manager. And for good reason as it turns out the manager is a shape-shifted, Eclipsed Starman…and her contact is being blackmailed as part of Eclipso’s attempt to "get" Superman. Eclipso has also used this town to spread his Black Diamonds over the years. As Gordon and Mona near the town, an Eclipso creature ambushes them, and their solar trap is broken. Superman’s arrival saves the lives of the scientists, though not their car. As he flies them the rest of the way to Crater Bay, we cut to Lois, talking to her contact and being spurred to anger. It’s Superman arriving that tips her over the edge, and she’s possessed by Eclipso, thanks to the Black Diamond given to her by the hotel manager. Superman engages but is soon overwhelmed…not just by Eclipsed Lois but other Eclipsed individuals and manifestations. Mona sees the hero’s plight and as desperate times call for desperate measures, she grabs her Black Diamond and allows herself to be possessed, directing her rage at Eclipso and stalling things a bit. Ultimately, Superman is able to keep Eclipso busy til the sun rises, which releases the villain’s possession of Lois. Unfortunately, Mona is not so fortunate. As Superman, Lois, and Bruce debrief, Superman declares that he’s got to go back to save the rest of the town.

I’m definitely a bit mixed on this issue. I feel like I "understood" it better this time through than whatever previous time(s) I’d read it; though I definitely had a sense before that the Eclipso situation had been a bit more drawn out and dire by this point, where so far it seems and feels more like isolated incidents than a concerted event. While I don’t totally "buy" Lois losing her cool so easily, at the same time it works for this story…and hey, it gives us extended time WITH Lois, seeing her go about investigating and such rather than JUST being TOLD she does what she does. As she and Superman were engaged by this point and she knows he’s Clark, I don’t really see her getting angry at Superman as she’d surely "understand" his intent and not take his tone/words as patronizing or such.

There’s definitely a lotta brawling in this issue and some visuals and a Stephen King reference, but it’s not very deep. It does feel like the issue tries to take on a bit of "tone"–or play on "tropes"–of horror films/stories, I guess.

The visuals aren’t bad, but aren’t particularly memorable; the art gets things across but doesn’t really stand out. Which, really, means it does a good job as we get a story, that is a comic book, but the art isn’t trying to carry the entirety of the thing.

I do wonder a bit about Eclipso possessing Lois and her having all this strength to tear up trees, street signs, etc.–we’ve had the manifested "Eclipsos" show plenty of physicality, but it’s seemed til here that Eclipso’s possessing someone was just that–possession–and not bestowing of supernatural strength and such. If Lois gets all this power just by Eclipso possessing her, why does he need Superman’s body if he himself grants all this power?

I appreciated the general Lois story this time more than in the ’90s…but it’s still not exactly my favorite of these Annuals. That said, this is another that’s decently worth the one-off read if you can snag it from a bargain bin. Not entirely self-contained, but a pretty meaty chunk of story that can be decently appreciated as a "middle chapter" of a story in a way that standard-sized single-issues do not work on modern "decompression."

superman_annual004_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

52 Week #10 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Title: Stop the Press

Black Adam’s conference is interrupted, Clark Kent is on Perry White’s bad side, a new superhero shows up, Booster’s ticked off at events unfolding contrary to Skeets’ historical records, while Will Magnus and Professor Morrow converse…

52week10Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Jimmy Palmiotti & Jack Jadson
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assitant Editors: Jann Jones & Harvey Richards
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This series seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people, and while many seem to be losing interest entirely, that’s definitely not the case with me. Things are taking awhile to develop, and the overall story seems to be moving pretty slowly…but overall, I’m liking things pretty much as they are–though if we get in deep, I can find plenty of faults.

This is the tenth issue–and tenth week–of this series. For as slow as things seem to be, enough has happened already that I believe I would just have to dig out the previous issues to make sure I could list ’em all, if I were to attempt to do get into that. At the same time, as far as "big" or "major" stuff…not so much.

But that’s part of the fun of this title–and why I’m enjoying it so far. While it’s just over three times the price of a regular issue, it’s roughly four times the size of a regular issue. And rather than get a chunk of story and have to wait 4-X? weeks for another chapter, we get a new chapter each week. Despite the old/tired comparison…it’s really like following a tv show with a large cast, where there are characters you love and hate, and even when you’re most interested in a certain character, they may not even show up in a given episode, and then be the focus of another episode, or anything in-between.

This issue takes us back to Black Adam, who has gathered together Kahndaq’s allies. While he speaks to them, he is intrrupted by a woman who slipped past guards–a woman who disagrees very much with Adam’s gathering of allies, apparently to rival the U.S.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has made Perry’s list, and not in a good way, prompting Clark to take some rather drastic action–quite at risk to himself–to re-prove himself to the editor (and possibly begin the setup for where things were at the start of the recently-concluded Up, Up and Away! arc). This ties into what looks to be a developing arc on a new superhero: Supernova–a character I am as much in the dark about as the characters themselves.

Booster Gold is understandably frustrated, as his plans from recent weeks have completely fallen apart on him, and events around him unfold very differently from what he expected. In fact, Skeets doesn’t even have record of certain events, which leads to some curiosity as to their place in all this.

Finally, Magnus and Morrow discuss a recent development, leaving me ready and interested in the next issue.
My favorite part of this issue is the segments devoted to Clark and Perry, and Clark’s developing status-quo in this pre-One-Year-Later world. Reading the issue after this week’s Superman issue felt like a real treat: an extra helping of Clark.

Though I know virtually nothing of the characters–and other than them being part of any large-scale stories/crossovers, I don’t think I’ve read anything with them before this series–I find myself looking forward to whatever it is that’s developing, that Magnus and Morrow are finding themselves involved in.

The story overall is good, though the further into this series we get, the more "continuity-heavy" it seems to be growing. We already know the basic outcome, as we’re into the 5th month of books that take place after this series, so some of that initial "wow, what happened in the missing year?!?" factor has worn off. Of course, that means that the story is going to have to carry itself all the more, and really be a story in and of itself, and not just "hey, this happened during the ‘missing year’!"

Not much to say about the art…it doesn’t blow me away, by any means…but it serves the story, and clearly at that. It’s not bad by any means…just fits the story, gets the job done, and elicits no real complaints from me.

The largest hurdle I see to this issue is really the price–that is, collectively for this series, given the weekly nature.

If you’ve been following these, though…I would argue that it’s worth keeping with the series. We’re about 1/5th into it, and I suspect due for some decent payoff in the near future.

And if you’ve been enjoying the recent Superman stuff, you may want to check in on this issue, for the segment with Clark, pre-One Year Later.

History of the DCU
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Andy Lanning
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Colors: Jeromy Cox & Guy Major
Editors: Berganza, Cohen and Schaefer

What can I say about this? This backup feature–which, as recently as two and a half months ago, I was really looking forward to–is an absolute disappointment.

So far, it seems like it would have been FAR more appropriate to serve as its own special issue, perhaps a 52 # 0 or prelude. This 9th chapter basically brings us up to last September (2005) heading into the actual Infinite Crisis series. As far as I can tell, we’ve learned nothing "new" about the New Earth that resulted from that series.

A better "bonus" to these issues would be to save an extra twenty-five cents and cap the issue off with the main story at an even lower cover price…

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Jonah Hex #39 [Review]

Cowardice

Writer: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Rafa Garres
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Edits: Elisabeth Gehrlein & Sean Ryan
Cover: Rafa Garres
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Hex in a bar just before the town goes dry. Meanwhile, some shady individuals seem to be on the run, and wind up with murder on their hands–such that Hex gets involved when the deputy Sherriff doesn’t seem to be effective. Hex faces these outlaws and provides a lesson to the now new Sherriff as well.

The writing here isn’t bad. It isn’t blow-me-away wonderful, either, by any means. The story seems rather basic and cliched…though I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing in this case.

The art really isn’t to my liking. It’s quite stylistic, bordering on surreal to me. I recognize the title character by the flesh from the upper lip to lower and the grimace. Other than that, it wasn’t all that easy to figure out who was who–what I eventually figured out toward telling the characters apart came from context-clues in the writing and process of elimination.

This was my first issue of the series–I’ve heard about it for years though I never got around to trying an issue. For the slow week this was and the local shop being sold out alredy of half the issues I’d intended to buy, I decided on a whim to snag this issue, in the hopes it would indeed be a one-off. By that, I was not disappointed–from the opening to the conflict to the resolution, we have a complete single “episode” in the life of Jonah Hex under one cover. I’m sure there’s an over-arching plot at play that would make this issue all the more enjoyable were I more familiar with the character.

Given that, I’m by no means turned away from this series…though this issue was not sufficient to hook me on specifically planning to seek out future issues or hunt down back issues.

Story: 6/10
Art: 4/10
Whole: 5/10

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