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Action Comics #900 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman: Secret Origin #6 [Review] (updated link)

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Superman: Secret Origin #6 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 2/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 2.5/5

Supergirl #50 [Review]

Queen

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inkers: Jon Sibal & Mark McKenna
Colorists: Nei Ruffino, Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artists: Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

After quite a bit of foreshadowing, last issue provided the culmination (or so I’d thought) of Lana’s story. Where I’d thought it was going to be cancer or some other terminal illness and that DC would actually allow the character to be killed, that issue ended with Supergirl barging into the morgue and finding a cocoon where Lana’s body should have been. This issue opens some time after that with General Lane and his grunts finding the re-grown body of his daughter Lucy and discovering that she’s actually alive, despite being thought dead when her super-suit exploded awhile back. We then pick up wtih Gangbuster (in a new, weird-looking costume) busting into some alien hive and getting Supergirl out…as she’d been captured off-panel since the previous issue. The hospital Lana was in has been grown over by a cocoon, as we find out that the Insect Queen lives once again, having spent the past year preparing Lana’s body to be taken over. Supergirl and the Queen fight, and it’s not hard to guess what happens by the issue’s end. We have some definite closure to things, while elements are left open to coming stories…but this issue’s events are not likely to be simply brushed under a rug.

The art by Igle is quite good. In and of itself, I have no problems with the art.

The story is also quite strong as what it is. I have never had any interest in the Insect Queen stuff with Lana, and have zero nostalgia for the silver age stuff…it was actually the Insect Queen story in the main Superman book several years ago that led me to bail on the Superman titles entirely for a brief time. As such, I was quite dismayed to see it becoming a focal point for this storyline. To its credit, the actual, overt Insect Queen stuff is basically limited to a couple brief bits last issue, and now this issue, rather than being a huge part of the overall arc. I’m interested in seeing where Supergirl herself goes from here, as Gates has continued to grow the character and give her surprisingly realistic reactions to things instead of the usual, simplistic cliches one would normally expect.

What I dislike most about this issue is the ties back to the Superwoman story, as I to this day cannot be convinced that the Lucy Lane I’ve read for 15-some out of the last 20ish years is the same character…whether this is Gates claiming the character or simply doing the best with the hand dealt, I’m not sure.

In addition to the 40-page main story (which has a 26-page chunk with no ads!), we also get a short bonus tale by Jake Black and Helen Slater (the actress who played Supergirl in the Supergirl movie in the 1980s).

A Hero’s Journey

Writers: Jake Black, Helen Slater
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Wil Moss
Group Editor: Matt idelson

This short is pretty simplistic and straight-forward: it’s a recap of much of these first 50 issues of Supergirl. I recognize Black from his TMNT work, and it’s cool to see his name popping up like this. While the story is basically recap, it does add a bit to the Supergirl character, as we are reminded how far she’s come, and the changes over the past 17 issues or so have been brought both betterment and clarity to the title as well as the character in the title. I also quite enjoy the fact that Ron Troupe is still around and being used again lately…he is just as important a character to me as any of the supporting cast of the Superman family of titles…and I like a great deal better than, say, Steve Lombard or the current interpretation of Cat Grant.

The art for this story is clean and fairly simple, reminding me of any of a number of animated works that don’t use too much in the way of detailed lines to get things across. Again, that works for this story, though I don’t think I’d care much for the style on any ongoing basis for this title.

As a whole, I think the only “weak point” of the issue is the cover. Turner had a significant role in bringing this version of the character into contemporary continuity, but the art used for the cover just doesn’t work for me–it seems extremely out of place, especially given how far this title and the character have come over the past few years. Maybe it’s just over-nitpicky, but Supergirl’s ears on this cover make her look like an elf, and her physical build just seems out of proportion with the way she’s portrayed lately. As with most books, though…the issue can’t be judged solely by the cover.

Story: 3.5
Art: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Superman: Secret Origin #4 [Review]

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Covers: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Edior: Matt Idelson

Lex Luthor has a lottery. Each day, he’ll pick one person from the assembled crowd outside his building, and attempt to make their dreams come true, putting his expansive resources to full use. The latest “winner,” Rudy Jones, has already been shown to be a bit of a parasite, leeching off those around him. Thanks to his disgusting disregard for things better left to common sense, he finds himself victim of a chemical spill that transforms him into the being that will become known as The Parasite. Amidst this, Luthor has summoned Lois and Clark to question them about the “flying man” spotted around Metropolis. As The Parasite’s threat escalates, Clark bows out and the “flying man” returns, saving many and yet winding up looking questionable to the city as Luthor hurls accusations at him. When he takes some time for himself atop the Daily Planet building, he finds he’s not alone–young Jimmy Olsen is there, saying goodbye to the city he’s failed to become a part of…not realizing what an important friendship he’s about to enter into with another necomer to the city…and reaps the reward of taking a chance and asking a favor.

There’s something that’s lost by this being an origin tale in years-old continuity where much has already been questioned. We’ve already seen much of the change this origin would essentially set up, losing any real discovery, revelation, or chance to follow a huge, unfolding story. While Byrne‘s Man of Steel significantly altered the details of Superman’s beginnings in the mid 1980s, it was also the opening chapter, the actual foundation, of the official Superman story. This series, while altering the details of Superman’s beginnings yet again, feels like more of a plug-up-the-holes sort of thing than a foundation.

This issue doesn’t feel quite like the earlier issues. We have some origin-like stuff in terms of The Parasite, but there’s not much character development. Parasite’s an unlikable, uninteresting character to me–rather two-dimensional, really–and seems to serve little more here than plot device to give Superman something to fight, to punch…and to be more directly “outed” as existing to the public of Metropolis.

The art by Gary Frank, of course, is stellar…on the whole, I really enjoy his art, and it brings a great look to this series and this issue. My primary gripe is the seemingly obvious use of Christopher Reeve as a “model” for this depiction of Clark/Superman…there are panels–such as on page 7 where Clark suggests to Perry’s question of the man actually flying “Um, up, up and–away”–where the imagery just SCREAMS Christopher Reeve. On the one hand, a fitting tribute, and acknowledgment of the man’s legacy and impact on this character, especially in the eyes of the public in and outside of comics. On the other hand…it seems another sign of Superman being “stuck” and unable to really grow and develop beyond a decades-old image that’s clung to, returned to, after decades of actually growing and developing the character beyond simplistic and hokey stories/concepts.

If I were a new fan of Superman, or at least new to the comics, I suspect I would find this a great, thrilling issue and enjoy it very much. As it is, as a longtime DC reader watching the character I’ve grown up on over the past two decades being phased into something of an amalgamation of every possible version of the character…it’s frustrating and discouraging. Johns is a great writer, and obviously has a knowledge of much that is Superman–from the comics, from tv, from the movies–and I can appreciate that effort’s being put forth to reconcile many versions into one cohesive whole.

Usually for me it’s the story that makes the issue…but in this case, the art’s the primary draw for me. I don’t like where the Superman books are headed, nor the revamping and loss of “my” Superman–but this is at the very least the best-looking Superman book out there these days.

Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment of the issue: 6/10

Superman: Secret Origin #3 [Review]

Mild-Mannered Reporter

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Covers: Frank w/ Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics

While I generally enjoy stuff Johns does, my feelings toward this series have been trending toward the negative. Initially, I thought it was sorta cool that elements from the various versions of Superman were being incorporated into this. But as this series has progressed and I consider it further, it seems more of an amalgamation than something definitive. It’s like a “PC” version of Superman intended to offer these little bones to as many readers as possible, without giving any one group a clear Superman.

This issue picks up with Clark’s (or should I say Kal’s?) early days in Metropolis, with a sinking Daily Planet where he’s been hired to replace someone else. From the country-boy-in-the-city bit to getting his briefcase stuck in the door to sliding into the parasitic elevator man, this is a Clark Kent far too much like the silver age “Clark-is-the-mask” persona put forth than I care for. There’s also a distinct feeling of Christopher Reeve’s presence here…it’s easy to hear his voice in the character.

Arriving in the office itself of the Daily Planet, Clark meets Jimmy, Ron, Steve, Perry, and of course Lois. Cat Grant is present, looking very much like she does in the current “present-day” story, which seems to do away with all the great characterization from her introduction through the mid/late 1990s–as if that version of the character never even existed.

Lois takes to clark just fine from the get-go…just another reporter for her to break in. The two head to a Lexcorp technology demonstration, where Lois uses Clark as “bait” to distract the guards while she slips by (apparently anyone from the Daily Planet are expressly not welcome around Lexcorp). Lois winds up falling of the building in an attempt to avoid getting squished by a helicopter that malfunctions, leading to a duplication of that scene from 1978’s Superman film in which Superman arrives on the scene, catching the falling Lois and a helicopter as his first public act. (Though people surrounding him and Lois demanding favors and askins salvation is kept, to give him something to go home and think about).

The art, truly, is the best part of this book. It’s just a bit much, though, that it’s so easy to see Christopher Reeve…that’s the primary problem I have with the visuals. It’s not that one shouldn’t be able to see Reeve, but that this Superman is then tied to that vision of the character, anchored in a past rather than freed to grow into the future.

The writing in and of itself is not bad, by any means. Johns certainly knows his stuff, working in subtle elements of the various Superman origins/backstory through the years–the films, the silver age comics, Byrne’s revamp, and presumably a bit of Birthright and Smallville (though if so, the latter two are over my head at present). It’s great that recognition is given to all the different visions…but it’d be better if there’s just one definitive version, rather than this bastardization of so many takes on the character.

Ultimately, this is a good issue in and of itself…just that the reworking of the character to bring so much of the silver age and films into the comics seem to rob the character of so much development that was accomplished over the past 20-some years.

Story: 7/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8/10

Superman: Secret Origin #2 [Review]

The Boy of Steel

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Covers: Frank w/ Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics

The silver age is apparently back. This issue–while including smaller moments of Clark and his parents, and of Luthor and his own life, as well as some of LUthor’s interaction with Clark (establishing them as acquaintances if not exactly best buds)–primarily focuses on the Legion of Super-Heroes and their first meeting with Clark, and allowing him to tag along “back to the future” with them. While in the future, recently-introduced elements (I believe from Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes) are established as being present from the get-go of things. It’s also pretty easy to fit the original silver age story of the characters’ first meeting between the pages here. The issue’s finale introduces another character whose presence means the current Superman is all the more NOT the character I grew up on.

The story itself isn’t bad–Johns has a great handle on things. However, I’ve bristled for years now at elements being “snuck” back into the Superman mythos that I’ve thought make him too much “super” and not enough “man” and this story really puts aside any sneaking and is quite overt at putting things back into the mythos. At the same time, I imagine that going back to re-read Superman and the Legion will reveal references to what is shown in these pages.

I’ve been curious as to exactly what is and is not official cannon in the Superman books of late, so I’m glad to see his secret-since-Infinite-Crisis origin revealed at last. The execution seems to be working quite well, even if I don’t like the content all that much.

The art team provides fantastic visuals. Even Clark as “Superboy” comes across as pretty realistic–he looks rather awkward in the costume and it’s easy to see that he’s not entirely comfortable in it yet. At this point, Frank is pretty much my favorite Superman artist, and very certainly in the ranks of Dan Jurgens, Jim Lee, and Alex Ross.

Again, while far from enamored at the undoing of so much of the Superman I grew up with from 1989 to present…I can’t deny that in and of itself, the story and art are both of high quality, and taken apart from my preferred continuity, this issue has some of the best Superman work of the last decade.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Superman: Secret Origin #1 [Review]

The Boy of Steel

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Assoc. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Covers: Frank w/ Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics

I don’t know how to describe it, really…but there’s something special just about the look of this issue. The cover’s fantastic–Gary Frank is by far one of my favorite Superman artists. The logo on the gradient-blue sky background stands out very nicely (and yet does not look out of place). This is the first issue of a mini-series…the Secret Origin part tells us we’re going back to the “beginning,” and seeing a young Clark on the cover, happy and with his parents, also both looking happy–speaks volumes to the characters. Perhaps it’s that this really gives credence to that saying about a picture being worth a thousand words–a thousand words to the positive thus hit before one’s even looked inside the issue.

Then again, perhaps it’s none of that, and simply the anticipation for this issue–after it was announced last year, and I thought it would be out by early summer and had to wait these extra months for it, and I just so enjoy finally getting to begin reading a definitive origin for the character since the Byrne stuff was chucked awhile back.

The story begins with Clark playing football in answer to challenge from classmates. Peter Ross breaks his arm tackling Clark, and guilty as Clark feels for that, he’s guilted further by facing Pa (in a scene that somehow put me VERY much in mind of that scene with Peter and Uncle Ben in the Spidey film as Uncle Ben lectures Peter on Responsibility). We see other elements introduced–Lana, and the school, Ma and Pa, Smallville itself, Lex Luthor, to name a few. These all come together as the issue progresses and we see first the discovery and solution to some newly-developed/discovered powers on Clark’s part (and how his parents play a strong role in that) and then the implementing of his powers as disaster strikes Smallville. Finally, we see the development of the costume.

The art–as I said above about the cover–is just fantastic. There’s a detail and realism to the visuals that works so well with the story and getting things across…and yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s being overtly realistic. It just captures a level of detail that makes it easy for the mind to fill in the blanks and set these static images to motion as you read.

For newer readers, this is simply an “origin” story–telling the beginnings and background/motivation to things we’re seeing play out in the current issues of the Superman books.

For long-time readers, it may be much more. This seems set to be THE origin, the definitive story of Superman’s background in the books’ current incarnations. Forget Man of Steel and Byrne…forget Birthright and Waid…for that matter, forget Smallville. This is none of those…and yet, it seems to be quite respectful to them all, acknowledging them subtlely and taking key elements from them as the story requires.

Though I’ve looked forward to this series–and yes, delivered extremely well, meeting (and maybe exceeding) my anticipation/expectation–I remained skeptical. I grew up on the 90s Superman, beginning while the “Byrne revamp” was yet FRESH…and there are several key moments to that interpretation of the character that have been done away with in recent years that I’ve greatly disliked. While this fails to RESTORE them…something about Johns’ crafting of the story puts other things in a light that begins to redeem the changes, making them sit much better with me.

The return of what I consider “silver age elements” is handled nicely, and in a modern way that makes things quite plausible in the present.

I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better opening chapter of this mini.

Even if you’re not following the current New Krypton stuff in the ongoing titles, or any Superman comic at all…this is a book to pick up. The writing, the art, the story as provided by the blending of both…makes for a great read, and I’m already eager for not just the entirety of the story, but to see this thing put into a single volume.

Highly, highly recommended.

Story: 8.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Blackest Night: Titans #1 [Review]

When Death Comes Knocking

Written by: J. J. Krul
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter, Jon Sibal & JP Mayer
Colors: Hi-Fi Design
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Assoc. Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Brian Cunningham
Cover: Benes, Hunter, & Rod Reis (variant by Brian Haberlin)
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ve been out of the Titans/Teen Titans loop for some time now. The issue opens with the various Titans observing Heroes Day–setting this on the same day as the opening of Blackest Night #1, as everyone is paying their respects to fallen heroes around the world. The Titans discuss lost allies, and even whether or not someone who once served as an ally should be memorialized alongside everyone else who had not betrayed the team. The argument leads Beast Boy to seek some alone time which makes him a perfect target for a particular Black Lantern to work with. The other focus to the issue is on the current Hawk and Dove, as they face an appropriate Black Lantern, who pushes a number of buttons for the duo.

The art for this issue is top-notch…I really enjoyed it, and never found myself wanting for clearer depictions of what’s going on. Benes is an artist wose work I’ve tended to enjoy since I “discovered” his art years ago on Superman. The entire creative team provides for a well-done visual that gets the story across very well.

I’m not familiar offhand with the writer, but found the story here to be perfectly solid. This is the tie-in mini I was least anticipating for Blackest Night, and had originally considered passing on entirely…but something to it actually pulled me in, and I’m glad I did not pass on it. My limited Titans knowledge was stretched a bit here, but with the current arc in Booster Gold, actually caught references and context that would otherwise have been lost on me. Some of the expositional dialogue in the early pages of the issue seems a bit strained, and yet is believable given the characters’ context.

I was surprised at the presence of Hawk and Dove, and am curious about the way dialogue danced around exactly what happened to the original Hawk (I’m unsure, for example, if post-Infinite Crisis the events of Armageddon 2001 still happened). Still, the timing of this issue’s release is fortuitous as I just a few days ago watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited starring the original Hawk and Dove, which added to my contextual knowledge and appreciation of the characters.

Overall, an enjoyable issue in itself, and I expect it’ll be even more enjoyable (or at least able to be further appreciated) by longer-time Titans fans or those more knowledgeable with the property than I.

Recommended for Titans (or really, classic Teen Titans, given the characters involved) fans, and/or those simply following the whole of the Blackest Night story.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 8.5/10

Supergirl #44 [Review]

Codename: Patriot part 3

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Jon Sibal
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Fernando Dagnino & Raul Fernandez with Mazi
Publisher: DC Comics

Ral-Dar, the would-be-assassin of General Zod overhears conversation between General Lane and his people which sparks an outburst leading to his fighting Atlas (recent villain in the Superman title). We then move into seeing Superman, Supergirl, Lois, Mon-El, and the Guardian interacting with one another at the Science Police headquarters. Some tenseness plays out given Supergirl’s role in the recent apparent death of Lois’ sister. Supergirl and Mon-El set out to deal with Nightwing and Flamebird (Flamebird being a childhood friend of Kara’s). The confrontation doesn’t go well, and things escalate as everyone moves toward their places on the board for the final chapter of this story in the next issue of Superman.

The story feels a bit forced here…and yet, on the whole it works. This is the third chapter of a 4-part story with a tighter crossover than we’ve had for the last half-year or so in the Superman books. It feels forced in that certain things set in place by the other titles have to be acknowledged as well as the core in-title story elements. It’s interesting seeing so many of the characters interacting after the separation the last few months. I’m glad to see that some story elements from earlier issues are coming to fruition here, adding to a feeling of the story being more organically-generated than otherwise.

The art’s solid as usual. There are points where I think of Guedes’ style in this issue, but definitely prefer this visual presentation. The art does what it should, getting things across quite well. No real complaint there.

Overall, not a bad issue. It plays with elements from the ongoing story in this title, but mixes well with the “intruding” elements of this “crossover.” One would be lacking in context without the earlier chapters…but even if one hasn’t read those, enough ongoing elements are here that that story is not entirely derailed by the crossing of titles. Similarly, if one is following the Codename: Patriot arc, one may not “get” everything in this issue, but there’s plenty of context on the essential story elements.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

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