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The ’80s Revisited: Superman #31

80s_revisited

superman0031Mr. Mxyzptlk! in "As Good as His Word!"

Scripter/Co-Plotter: Roger Stern
Co-Plotter: Tom Peyer
Guest Penciller: Paris Cullins
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: May, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

I think this issue went over a little better with me as a kid than Adventures of Superman #453. I had no idea who this "Mxyzptlk" was, but it was cartooney, magical, random shenanigans and I just took it at surface value.

The cover is one of the more distinctive to me; albeit like the Adventures issue, perhaps more to me as it’s one of MY first-ever comics. Still, a giant Superman stomping kaiju-style through Metropolis is not something you see all the time; nor the "meta"-ness of the cover with Mxy folding back the corner and talking to the reader, saying "This scene PROBABLY doesn’t appear in this issue…but with me around it COULD!" We also have the typical trade dress stuff I mentioned with the Adventures issue; standard enough stuff at the time but rather foreign in 2022 comics!

The story opens with a giant Mxy already in Metropolis, greeting the city and proclaiming his return. There’s a note from Editorial that Superman is unavailable for this issue, and the credits are worded a bit creatively with a "meta" tone to them as well. Essentially, Mxy’s back, causes a bunch of destructive, painful mischief trying to draw Superman out to "play," but when he doesn’t show, the imp goes for the next-most-powerful-guy-around, Lex Luthor. There’re a lot of "sight gags" and cartooney (if a bit more realistic/violent) stuff; and Luthor devises a plan to get rid of the imp by lying to him. While this plan technically proves successful, it leaves open the question of what happens if Mxy ever comes back…and lies?

The art is solid here; it definitely has a rose-colored-glasses appearance for me as one of my very first-ever "new" Superman comics. I’m sure I saw the editorial note that opened the issue, and took it at face value. I know I had no real clue who Mr. Mxyzptlk was, but contextually figured out he had these shape shifting/transformative powers like a cartoon character but in the "real world." Luthor worked something out and the guy went away, so all was well that ended well. 41-year-old-me in 2022 recalls that this wound up impacting Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite; as it was here that Mxy learned how to lie, and that came back to bite Luthor in the backside during that story.

Yet another comparison to Adventures 453…at the time, it didn’t even phase me that the "main" story was so short; I probably felt at the time like it was a truly "bonus" story; albeit I didn’t much care for the 2nd one.

Hostile Takeover Part III: Poison Pill!

Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Pharmacist: Jerry Ordway

This issue’s Hostile Takeover chapter actually seems to flow out of the main story, beginning with Luthor visiting the hospitalized men of his Team Luthor squad that were inside the power suits "transformed" by Mxyzpltlk’s visit. While Luthor visits a lab where "Brainiac" is being held, we learn that his aim for wanting Star Labs is a specific facility that will allow him to mine the alien intelligence’s mind for alien tech! A montage of "people on the street" reactions to the potential buyout shows that certain themes don’t seem to change…feeling as natural for 2022 as they must’ve been in 1989! Meanwhile, the Star Labs board determines a way to fend off the takeover by issuing new stocks and divesting themselves of the facility Luthor is after, which apparently plays right into Luthor’s plans.

The art is again quite solid, with Luthor in particular being recognizable. That the story flows from the main story adds to the general "continuity" and that it’s another part of the same issue rather than being 100% separate stories. As a kid when I first read this, I certainly did not understand this story nor care for it; though it’s got a lot more interest for me as an adult that sees/understands more what’s going on; as well as the nostalgia of re-reading as a 41-year-old what I first read as an 8-year-old.

* * * * *

Though this issue falls amidst the Exile story arc, it’s not itself a part of it; it’s more of a "filler" story with a purpose that gets referenced a couple years later. It continues the Hostile Takeover story, so places this "in order" after Adventures 453. As I’m almost certain that this issue is not at all in the Exile TPB and not sure if it’s in the omnibus; it’d make sense being so far removed to be excluded. It should be present for "completion" of this era of the Superman comics, but narratively doesn’t touch the actual story of Superman’s quest in space…despite obviously showing us what’s going on on Earth while he’s in space.

This one works better as a one-off for the Mxy story in that that part is a one-off itself. Heck, at 14 pages, add a couple and that story could have been a 2-part backup with the Hostile Takeover doubled in size and being the main story somewhere.

I’m actually interested enough now in the Hostile Takeover story that I’m tempted to dig out the next chapter just to see if my guess of where it’s going was right; and it re-interests me a lot more in this "era" of the Superman comics.

While this issue’s significance is primarily personal for me, it’s definitely worth snagging from a bargain bin, especially if that bargain bin is 25-cents! Since I’m pretty sure Hostile Takeover has never been specifically reprinted, if you’re able to get the four chapters for 25 cents each, that $1 alone would be definitely worthwhile, I think, for being a solid Luthor story!

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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!

adventures_of_superman_0453_blogtrailer

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

Continue reading

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #50

90s_revisited

superman(1987)0050Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite Part Four: The Human Factor

Story by: Jerry Ordway
Art by: Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Kerry Gammill, Dennis Janke, Curt Swan, John Byrne, and Jerry Ordway
Colors by: Glenn Whitmore
Letters by: John Costanza
Editing by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Jerry Ordway
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1990
Cover Price: $1.50

This is an extra-sized issue, for a whopping DOUBLE-usual-cover-price…at a whole $1.50. That’s still HALF what contemporary DC Rebirth comics cost, and less than half of what a current Marvel comic costs. Granted, we’re talking a little over 26 years’ difference, but still…

Speaking of covers and cover prices…this may not be THE best or THE most iconic cover ever for a Superman comic (at least, not to me, and not one of my personal top ten) but its "spirit" is pretty iconic–Superman bursting through a wall. In this case, fairly appropriate, after several issues of his being powerless…basically a normal human. Having the strength to simply, cheerfully burst through a solid brick wall is a small indicator of his power level being much increased. Superman #50 is one of the first comics I ever got as a "back issue," and before I really knew the concept of "multiple printings" or "variant covers" or the like. The copy of the issue that I first owned, the first time that I read this, gave away a fairly major spoiler for the issue (at the time).

superman50spoilercover

Historic Engagement Issue. Ok, so the engagement was looming, and it happened here. I had no idea at the time that it was a second print, hence spoiling the ending by calling out what happens in the issue and how it’d go down in history (beyond concluding a several-part story and seeing Superman get his powers back).

This issue gives us a glimpse of Clark in action, going about life powerless–but getting beyond the simplistic "mild-mannered reporter" and letting us see that it really is he himself–Clark–that makes the man, not the Super. Even without powers, he’s not gonna stand by or put his own safety first…he helps people, and tries to step in as able. He checks in on things with Lois, who has just gotten her father’s approval in dating Clark. Jimmy’s mother is doing better…even as we see that Perry and Alice are having their own issues, still reeling from the death of Jerry. And of course, Luthor being Luthor. When Lex contacts Lois, Clark steps in, demanding an interview…which he’s granted. Luthor’s convinced to tell how he’s deprived Superman of his powers…and since he’s telling some reporter, he’s not breaking Mxyzptlk’s One Rule to Not Tell Superman. Of course, Luthor has long since discarded the notion of Clark and Superman being one and the same…but that doesn’t change that Clark is Superman, and Mxy’s powers are magic based and thus bind the rule even without Mxy’s conscious direction, so Luthor telling Clark means he’s broken the rule…and Superman is re-powered. The imp shows up, gives Superman a freebie of sorts (providing a Rule to the game and how Superman can send him away, and then getting Superman to fulfill it) and actually leaving. Luthor’s great victory is wiped away, and the man is dying. Meanwhile, Lois has thought about Clark’s earlier proposal…and says yes. She WILL marry him.

While I did not read this in my initial time into comics, it was still one I read relatively early-on, prior to The Death of Superman. It was cool to see the actual engagement, as well as to have another chapter of the story with the red-border covers, which helped "place" this time-wise/continuity-wise for me at the time. Now, re-reading this, it’s actually sort of hard to believe, and seems such a long time ago, in Clark and Lois ONLY here just getting ENGAGED. Though the engagement aspect went on for a number of years–over 60 issues–they’ve been married so long that I find it natural and preferable, and this was the kick-off, if you will, of that long-lasting aspect of the characters.

Story-wise, this is definitely "classic" Superman for me, for my favorite version of the character, during my favorite period of the continuity. This came at the beginning, served as part of my "foundation" in Superman stuff, as a Superman fan, witnessing the actual development and forward-movement of the character and supporting cast. I think part of that also came from (and I’m using modern thoughts to "project" on my past self) feeling like there was room for surprise and growth beyond done-in-one issues and self-contained every-story-must-stand-alone-and-be-a-graphic-novel-in-serialized-form comics. Clark is the character, Superman is what he does, how he presents to the world when he’s in action. We see his relationship here with Lois–not one of hero worship on her part, or some single-minded buffoon or mere story-trope–but as real humans. She is interested in Clark–the person–and not chasing after some guy in a cape. She wants to marry Clark, and has no idea that he IS Superman. He’s just a man she’s friends with, has come to know and love, and it’s genuine.

This being an expanded, extra-sized issue is definitely a good thing, allowing nearly double the usual length, and thus a lot more story in a single issue…and though the engagement happens here, it’s organic, a rather small part of the overall issue, and is far from actually being the FOCUS of the issue, story-wise. It’s just a darned good Superman comic, at least to me and in recognizing the nostalgia for me.

Visually, it’s an interesting issue, with numerous artist contributing. On one hand, I’d figure that’s partly to allow an extra-sized issue to be produced in the same amount of time as a regular-sized issue while holding to schedules and avoiding fill-ins. It also allows more artists to be part of a key issue in Superman’s history. That said, while I vaguely noticed some unevenness in the art, I was much more engaged (no pun intended) with the story itself, and it wasn’t until sitting down to type up this post that I consciously noted (re-realized) that there were so many artists involved. The art all worked together and was not jarring to me in style or otherwise (perhaps thanks to the single colorist). For an anniversary issue without drastically different variant covers or such, I absolutely welcome the "jam" nature, with a lot of artists "being part of it," and will gladly overlook the uneven nature of that. All the better when the art works with the story and doesn’t distract me.

All in all, this is definitely one of the more "iconic" ISSUES for me, and a key issue in the history of the character. Despite that, I’ve found it in a number of bargain bins over the years; the copy I actually read for this revisiting is from a 25-cent bin…in which there were multiple copies, both of this first print and the later print, and I even convinced a friend to get one to read. Definitely an issue worth reading and having, even out of context and without the entire Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story. As a conclusion, it’s fitting, and makes for a good end to that while moving the overall Superman mythos forward and opening stuff to coming stories.

Highly recommended!

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The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #112

wonder_woman_0112Game Over

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

There was little doubt in my mind of Wonder Woman’s survival…more just a matter of “how” the story would end.

We have a much smaller time gap between issues this time, as we open in the midst of the battle with “Doomsday,” which we do know is not the REAL creature, but more a sort of “clone” being fed power from the machine that allowed its creation. Given the enormity of the situation, and the significance of Doomsday (apparently) showing up, it’s no surprise that we get a guest-bit with Superman…a family moment as he places a tree he got for his parents, right before Jonathan pulls up to share a radio report of the creature’s presence. Superman heads off intending to join the battle, despite his parents urging him not to. While Wonder Woman and Champion join forces against the creature, and even Cassie gets into the mix, stuff at Lazarus’ place comes to a head as the authorities arrive to take him into custody over the situation. His “son” the computer spawns yet another creature that kills on the spot, and finally a last-ditch idea is tried…that resolves the situation, allowing the creature’s defeat (before Superman even gets there), and an almost too-neat wrapup to this 4-issue chunk of the series.

As with the last three chapters, this was solid overall, particularly on the art. I liked that the story “expanded” a bit, and brought Superman into play–it only makes sense that he’d be made aware of Doomsday seemingly showing up again, and would NOT make sense to not even give any time to his reaction, or that of anyone who knows him. This is also placed as being during that time when Superman and Lois were broken up…which gives me a better “consciousness” as to the timing of this issue and why I was so totally unaware of Doomsday’s appearances in the previous issue and this one: this came out while I was “out of” comics, between the end of The Trial of Superman and prior to the Superman Wedding and then the Electric Costume saga.

There’s nothing “new” really to say on the art–the creative credits have been the same across all 4 issues unless I’ve misread something somewhere, and what I’ve said before holds true to this issue as well. Perhaps the fact that we get Byrne drawing the mid-’90s Superman with the longer hair is another plus (adding to what I’d said earlier about seeing Byrne tackle Doomsday).

Story-wise, my only primary complaint is the seemingly over-the-top language spouted by Ma and Pa Kent in the Superman bit–that just seemed so shoe-horned in/exaggerated that it didn’t ring true at all to my reading…despite the fact that Byrne was the one that did the early work on the Kents being alive into Clark’s adulthood and seeing him be Superman.

The end of this issue–and ostensibly the “story arc”–seemed a bit quick and almost too-tidy as a wrapup, with some exposition trying to suggest this could never happen again, Lazarus rather quickly coming around about the truth of it not actually being his son truly in the computer, etc. Echoing comments I made with one of the other chapters, this is very much from the era when it was relatively RARE for a collected volume to be put out, with only the biggest, most sold-out stories getting a volume. This was still single issues as the primary focus…such that I don’t even know what to call this four part story. With issue names like “Level 1,” “Level 2,” “Level 3,” and “Game Over,” I suppose it COULD be called Game Over (and probably would with a modern-day collection put out), but there’s no overall title, of which the names would (with a contemporary 2016 comic) would be “sub titles” within the arc’s title.

For an 80-cent overall cost to me for Wonder Woman #s 109-112, this was absolutely a real treat to read, and leaves me confident in the fun nature of Byrne‘s run on the title, and very much interested in carving out some more time (eventually) to read this series at length…along with the likes of the Wally West Flash series.

If you find these issues–this one, or the previous several–they’re definitely well worth bargain-bin pricing (up to $1ish each), as the four issues at even $1 would be the cost of a single current issue…and this story is more than worth the price of a single current comic. As this is not actually part of some large, singular overall story, one could even conceivably dive in here, with the majority of what you need to know being that Wonder Woman’s engaged in battle with fake-Doomsday, and how things go and get wrapped up. The stuff with Lazarus and his wife/companion even give what would seem to be enough context and exposition to let one “get” the basics of what is–and has been–going on to get to this issue.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #111

wonder_woman_0111Level 3

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is the third issue of a story, and we pick up shortly after where we left off in the previous issue. Doomsday is on a rampage in Gateway City, despite the fact that–to the best of anyone’s knowledge–the creature was hurled into space some time back, never to return to Earth. As the creature tears up real estate, Wonder Woman is brought into the mix–interrupted from the advisory assistance she’s receiving in identifying the substance the fake-Flash and fake-Sinestro were made out of. Even realizing this is the creature that KILLED Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t hesitate to engage it in battle. While taking her lumps, Champion joins in–though he takes a Supergirl-like hit that takes him out immediately. Seeking to aid her mentor, Cassie retrieves the Sandals of Hermes as well as an unknown artifact and goes to Wonder Woman’s aid. When she’s hit–and nearly killed–it distracts Wonder Woman enough that the beast gets the upper hand, and it looks like this might be game over for our heroine.

Three issues into the story and I’m enjoying stuff…and actually had to “force” myself to NOT dive straight into the next issue. I’m enjoying this story, the art’s good, and I just want to get more of everything. See more of Wonder Woman in action, see more of Cassie and get details of her background, as well as see more of the rest of the supporting cast–Cassie’s mom, Mike, Champion, Wonder Woman as Diana NOT in action…three issues in and this is simply flat-out an enjoyable book!

I had no idea just from the cover what the context of Doomsday’s presence was, but now having read the preceding issues and this one, the creature is a construct created by a computerized process controlled by the “consciousness” of someone’s son. The “clones” are created and programmed, and then let loose on the world, though Kris–who apparently died, but his consciousness was “saved”–can see through the constructs’ eyes. Even though it’s a “fake,” this Doomsday is quite powerful, and not “just” some run-of-the-mill villain, showing up and totally diluting the character. Flash-forward twenty years to present day, and the character is just another of Superman’s rogues–like Darkseid or Mongul. But in 1996, this was before The Doomsday Wars, so Doomsday itself was still an extremely rare villain to actually (or seemingly-actually) show up.

I like the cover (obviously), even though Doomsday is a bit “off” in appearance. This fits with the story, though, and so I can forgive it quite easily. There’s also something rather gratifying about seeing John Byrne handling the character–both from the writing side, and even moreso from the art side, as so much of the Superman mythos at the time of the Doomsday! / The Death of Superman was still closely, tightly tied to the foundation work laid out by Byrne during his tenure on the Superman titles.

This story started with level 1–The Flash, a hero–apparently accidentally causing damage. It continued to level 2 with Sinestro, a villain–causing damage but not outright killing anyone. Then on to level 3 with Doomsday and untold damage and destruction and death. Wonder Woman is facing one of the most powerful things she’s ever faced, and this issue ends trying to convince us of the bad place she’s in…but it’s a comic, it’s #111 where I know the series passed #200, and I don’t recall any other major “Diana-gets-replaced” type stories, so it’s a given she survives. Still, she and her fellow fictional chracters don’t know that as this ends, so it’s on to the next issue to see what comes of this build-up!

And once again, as noted before…EVEN THOUGH this is the third issue of an arc, it still reads like one could pick this up and be no worse off than I was reading the first part of the story. You’re thrust into the action, get a bit of context and new action, and a cliffhanger to lead to the next issue. One story, but each issue could pretty conceivably be someone’s first without them being as totally lost or “coming in mid-story” as one would be picking up the third issue of a present-day arc.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #110

wonder_woman_0110Level 2

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is only the “second” issue I’ve read in this particular set of issues, but I’m quite enjoying the title. Where the previous issue appeared to guest-star The Flash (only it turned out to be a fake), this issue has an appearance of Sinestro–who at this point in DC‘s continuity was dead, his neck snapped by Hal Jordan just before he went all Parallax and such.

We open on Sinestro/not-Sinestro carving up the city, trying to get Wonder Woman’s attention. Once he has her attention, they battle–or moreso, Wonder Woman battles him, and he just keeps on keeping on…at first seeming like a joke, then an actual-true threat. Eventually, it appears that Wonder Woman’s defeated, and a new guy–Champion–shows up, saving her…though he gets the same result from “Sinestro” as Diana had last issue with “The Flash” as we see that this is just some sort of construct that can self destruct into dust. While Champion (who has himself a back-burner subplot brewing that surely leads to something bigger down the road) and Diana puzzle over the similarities in the Flash attack and now Sinestro, as readers we’re given the inside scoop, as the scene shifts and contextual details are revealed…explaining the fakes’ presence and setting things up for the next couple issues.

As with the previous issue–Wonder Woman #109–I definitely enjoyed this issue. The story and art both worked well in and of themselves, and especially as a cohesive whole. With the same creative and editorial team as the previous issue, this definitely FELT like the next issue. No major changes, no weird oddities…it’s just the continuing story.

Perhaps by comparison to contemporary comics, though, this issue does NOT pick up 100% EXACTLY from the previous issue…it picks up as a “next chapter” without being merely the next chunk of story in a larger graphic novel being ‘serialized’…and I actually like that. I’m all for the singular story of a graphic novel…but for this being a “single issue” I like that–even as a continuing story–it maintains its identity AS the single issue.

The story in this issue fills us in as readers much more than the previous issue…this is where comics worked quite well in the ’90s as both ongoing sagas and having stories that can be collected into a “graphic novel” or such. We (I) had no idea any background on stuff in the previous issue–The Flash simply showed up, turned out to be a fake, and we’re left to wonder what the heck’s going on. THIS issue gives us the context and such on where not only The Flash but also Sinestro came from…and goes beyond that to show us the genesis of the threat for the next issue, serving as setup and cliffhanger, and getting to the last page left me quite ready to get to the next issue. Of course, it wasn’t surprise, as it’s the cover of the next issue that grabbed my attention to begin with.

Even though this is Level 2, a second chapter of a story (though perhaps not quite as solid/singular a story as I’d thought–though it plays into the genesis of these back-from-oblivion characters), one could conceivably pick up this issue and be just as good as starting with the previous issue. You get the characters, some context as you go through, and editorial notes to point you where to go for a bit more expansion of stuff touched on here.

It’s also EXTREMELY REFRESHING that there’s just the one cover, it’s (presumably, since there’s no separate cover credit provided) by the interior artist, so fits both visually AND exaggerates (slightly) a scene that actually appears in the issue, and is not merely some stock or “iconic” image that could be interchanged with any other cover.

First issue, Second issue (in this present read-through, it’s MY second), or just another issue if one is reading a run, this is a strong, solid issue well worth the 20 cents I paid for it!

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #109

wonder_woman_0109Level 1

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is one of those ’90s issues that–while revisiting “the ’90s,” is a new-read for me. I’ve dabbled here and there through the years with this book–getting the odd issue because Superman’s on the cover, or something tied to a comic book course in college, or some cover grabbing my attention or there’s a chapter of a crossover I’m following. I jumped on the book toward the tail-end of Rucka‘s run in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, and then followed for a few issues shortly after, but never stuck with the book for all that long. So while I can’t recite lists of characters–particularly the supporting characters–I’m at least “loosely familiar” with who Wonder Woman is, that the exact “who” she is has shifted a bit through the years, and I know OF some of the major story beats of her series.

So this issue opens with a flight passing over Gateway City, where the Lexair passengers are surprised at the random sight of a girl flying with winged shoes. As readers, we quickly learn that this is Cassie Sandsmark and those are the Sandals of Hermes, and she’s not exactly well-practiced in their use yet. Wonder Woman flies after, and the situation is soon resolved as Cassie figures out–a bit–what she’s doing, and the two get back safely to the apartment Cassie and her mom live in. They then prepare for an evening–Cassie is under Wonder Woman–Diana’s–care, and Diana has a “date” that’s not a date. Unfortunately, the Flash shows up and causes a lot of destruction to the buildings along the street the restaurant’s on and more than a little trouble for Wonder Woman. This isn’t Wally West, though, and when he bursts into dust, no one has any idea what he was or why he was there…leaving Wonder Woman with a mystery on her hands.

I bought a 50-issue run of this series, and one cover that REALLY stood out to me had some iteration of Doomsday on it, which had me quite curious–it’s not an issue I was ever consciously aware of back in the day, nor was it something I knew of AS a Doomsday appearance. Fortunately (or not, depending on perspective) I noticed the “title” of the issue included a “3,” so I checked the previous issue–that had a “2,” so I went back another issue–this one, #109–to find the “1.” I have no idea what happened immediately preceding this issue, nor do I recall what happens after. I’m nearly entirely certain this is AFTER “the Artemis” stuff when Diana ceded her role as Wonder Woman, so she’s “back in the role” now and things are moving along at a good clip.

Story-wise, we’re dropped right into the action, with no immediate context–just story. Being somewhat aware of stuff, I followed along without any trouble. I did not open the issue expecting to “know everything,” and so I was not disappointed. It’s like watching an early episode of some tv series from SEVERAL seasons earlier. I’d forgotten Byrne‘s run on the title, or that it was this early–what I DID remember made me think he’d started on the book more in the early 2000s, so that shows what I know.

Visually, I really enjoy his art here. It works very well with the story, and both Wonder Woman herself and the Flash look good…though through no fault of the art, Cassie does NOT look like I think of her from Geoff JohnsTeen Titans run…which makes sense, as this is from 1996, predating Young Justice by a couple years, and Young Justice itself ran several years before Teen Titans.

All in all, for an issue I had not planned to read, but ended up reading for momentary/immediate ‘context’ to the issue that actually grabbed my attention, I really enjoyed this, and look forward to progressing a couple more issues to the one I actually originally planned to read. This also bodes well for my enjoyment of the run, and of (eventually) filling in the gaps in my Wonder Woman run from the Perez “reboot” through Infinite Crisis.

Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

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