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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!

superman0031_blogtrailer

Convergence – Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 [Review]

convergence_batmanshadowofthebat002Home is the Sailor

Words: Larry Hama
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Dan Green
Colors: Elmer Santos
Lettering: Steve Wands
Cover: Philip Tan, Elmer Santos
Assistant Editors: Holzherr & Kraiger
Editor: Marie Javins
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Batman and Azbats…er…Azrael, vs. Wetworks, for the fate of the city? Yeah, but I don’t even know WHICH city they’re in from this. The previous issue was several weeks ago and this one lacks anything to bring one up to speed. Sure, it’s ONLY the 2nd issue of two, but…really? So the Batmen fight Wetworks while befriending a woman and her son as the notion of getting the Wetworks team to slow down long enough for a teamup to be proposed, to endeavor to save BOTH cities. And while both cities are still around at the end of the issue, there’s no truly definitive ending.

We get the "conclusion" of a story that is NOT a conclusion. At best it’s the first act in a larger arc…but there’s no To Be Continued note, no "continued in Convergence #7," no "for the final fate of BOTH CITIES, check out Convergence #8 on sale in TWO WEEKS!" note, just some ridiculous, cliché stopping point because we’re out of pages.

And I really feel like I should have gone with my initial instinct and left this thing on the shelf. But in a fairly rare instance of it happening, the cover sold me, just by its weird coloring, and the title logo…and the strength of the previous issue’s cover (which I liked SO MUCH that I made it my phone’s lock screen, so have been seeing it several times a day for the past month or so).

I was further sold, again, by Hama‘s name on the cover…though sadly, that (and the interior credits) are the only place I have anything to truly suggest to me that Hama‘s even involved. Nothing about this "feels" like some kind of GI Joe thing, nothing reminds me of 1993-ish Wolverine, and nothing about this otherwise screams "I’m by Larry Hama!" to me.

I blame that not on Hama, but on the lack of room for anything to truly develop. And having soured CONSIDERABLY on Convergence in general since its start, having allowed myself some general enjoyment of Marvel’s version of stuff in Secret Wars, this just pales all the more as an issue.

This felt paced to be the opening of a larger story, and if this were a six-issue arc, it would seem on track to be a good story overall, having spent the first issue (re)introducing us to Zero Hour-era Batman and Azrael and setting up the Wetworks fight; this issue gave us the actual fight and leaves us with the two groups seeming about to team up; leaving several issues to show them interacting and preparing a plan; putting the plan into action and the plan going awry; an issue to refocus or have some significant change to the Batmen at least, and lead into some cataclysmic or miraculous event for one/both of the cities and a possible lead-back into some core event series.

So in a way, this is like a 6-issue mini getting canned after only 2 issues; or checking out a couple episodes of some tv show, being somewhat interested, but then told "oh, no, they just never put any more episodes out" or some such.

I’m irked at the length (technically, the lack thereof); irked at the Deathstroke "preview," that I don’t care about especially for not caring about the title or character, I’m irked at the $3.99 cover price vs. $2.99; and I’m irked that I bought this thing at all as a single issue.

This totally feels like it’s something destined for bargain bins; whether dollar bins or cheaper I don’t know. The entirety of Convergence does, for that matter. I’d bought the Superman #2 issue last week and now this; I’m wrestling with OCD on the STEEL issue as well as the handful of other #2s still pending. Consciously I know I should wait for the bargain bin appearances, but there’s part of me that just HAS TO "experience" what’s happening real-time with some of these ‘key’ issues, that is not content to just sit back and get it second-hand.

As long as you’re not feeling that way, I’d say this issue is totally skippable and inconsequential…to whatever the main story has gotten to and in general. There’s no #3 and no new #1 for Batman: Shadow of the Bat that I am aware of; no new pending title debuting starring Jean-Paul Valley, any incarnation of Azrael, or a Zero Hour era Batman, so…if the cover doesn’t suck you in or some other sentimentality grab you, wait for the bargain bins or an attractive collected volume that includes this.

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

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