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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #45

90s_revisited

starman_0045Star Shadows part four: Starlight, StarBRIGHT!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Penciller: John Calimee
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: April 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

And here we are…final chapter of this 4-part Starman adventure!

The issue opens with the proclamation of the story title, as we look over Kitty Faulkner’s shoulder to see Bruce Gordon’s jet arriving. She sees Bruce but wonders where Will is? As she greets the disembarking Gordon, she’s horrified to find that it’s Eclipso…and even as Rampage, she’s no match for the villain. Will freefalls into the bay and crawls out to a phone booth to call the JLE, but gets a voice service instead. Meanwhile, Eclipso commandeers lab equipment to put a plan in motion: STORE excess energy he drains from Will to use at his convenience. While he torments Kitty for providing him the means to this end, Starman bursts in and the two fight. Will gets the worst of it until Power Girl shows up and joins the fight. Kitty also eventually joins in, having been freed…but unable to transform back into Rampage, she uses a tech gun to blast Eclipso. The heroes immobilize the villain and Starman pops a burst of solar energy, reverting the villain to Bruce Gordon. Day saved, they mill about…as Kitty realizes there’s no way she can compete with Power Girl for Will’s affection. Clueless of her anguish, Will has to chase after her to find out why she’s reacting as she does and the two talk things out…and we end with them clear on how they feel for each other, and Will making a crack about their age difference.

It’s definitely "interesting" seeing Mignola’s work on the cover…though at this point in 2022 and eager to get from this story to the "main event" and such, more than a bit is lost on me. The cover seems rather generic and Eclipso far too bulky, taking on Starman physically. There’s a loose/lack-of-detail Power Girl off to the side almost as an afterthought; and the sun in the background–presumably setting–hardly seems appropriate even symbolically for Eclipso to have such a physical advantage "already" (if the sun is SETTING and NOT rising). It also seems much too bright for the cover callout of "ECLIPSED!". Maybe it’s just MY interpretation/assumptions with this cover but at a glance I might almost think the villain to be sun-based in power rather than the darkness/eclipse.

Story-wise things aren’t all that deep on the whole…it seems like a lot of padded-out fighting and boasts/quips/threats. And Kitty’s jealousy/reaction/over assumption about Power Girl and Will seems sudden and rather shoehorned-in; arbitrary drawma for the sake of drama. (Not that jealousy and such feelings are rational…they’re totally understandable) If this were a masterpiece of superhero fiction I’d presumably be a lot more familiar with it, so "history" seems to support that. Despite this, it comes off as a fairly typical ’90s comic, and a series itself setting…as this turns out to be THE final issue of the series. 45 issues, not QUITE 50…but hey, it sure lasted longer than many modern series that seem to be lucky to crack double-digits at all!

The art team seems a bit more consistent–matching with the previous chapter and the first chapter. Which is a far cry from modern comics where there seems to be more insistence on "integrity of the art team" than on-time shipping of a book. Having an apparently "fill-in" team on an issue may’ve kept the series "on time," which used to be important but not so much in 2022.

With Strazewski’s name on this fueling my nostalgia–the WANT to like the story–I feel almost guilty that I didn’t really "enjoy" this issue. This entire arc has been "in the way" of getting to the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event itself, though, and not a story I remember from the ’90s–I don’t think I was even aware of this series itself until a few years ago, and this story in particular until shortly after. And this has been my first time reading it, so you could say that THIS story was "eclipsed by" the event story.

Nothing about the issue in itself particularly indicates that this is a final issue. No such callout on the cover, and no particular note on the final page of the story. It’s only in wording from the editor at the end of the letters page that one would realize this isn’t JUST the conclusion of a 4-part story but the conclusion of the series itself.

While I had thought this was a prologue/lead-in to The Darkness Within, it definitely does not seem to be the case. More like this story just happened to come about not long before a big event featuring the same villain. A quirk of timing more than any plan or "synergy" or whatever.

It remains to be seen if ANY of this story carries over into the event…but unless something specifically from this story plays a key role in that, I feel it’s pretty safe to say one would not need this story to get into The Darkness Within story.

I’m not sure my $2-3/issue was truly "worth it" for this story, but for "context" and knowing this was there, I’m glad to at least have read it so that whatever part it plays is a "known quantity" for me.

We’ll see how Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 holds up to my now-heightened expectation and such!

starman_0045_blogtrailer

52 Week #36 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: How to Win a War in Space

The space heroes confront Lady Styx, Montoya’s spurred to action, and Supernova’s in a spot of trouble…

52week36Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Jamal Igle
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot going on in this issue. We pick up with Lobo delivering the space-heroes to Lady Styx, and betrayal mounts. As the heroes face the threat posed by Styx, one of them falls, delivering on the expected death. On earth, Montoya comes to a decision on what to do about her friend, rather than sit around waiting for him to die without his dignity in the Gotham hospital. Finally, as promised on the cover’s ticker, we get to see Rip Hunter’s ‘secret location’ as well as glean a bit more information on Supernova.

I remember with earlier reviews of this series, talking about the slow build and hoping there’d be payoff later on; that establishment of a foundation was a necessary evil (well, they may not have been my exact words then, but they are now.) We get a fair amount of payoff in this issue, as well as some forward movement (if not outright teasing) of what’s to come in the near future.

I for one have quit looking for individual voices in scenes, content to know that the writers are all contributing in one form or another, maintaining a consistency from issue-to-issue. On that note of consistency, we get to see a logical progression of Lobo’s character, maintaining both what has been established of him in this series over the last 4 months or so as well as much earlier in the character’s existence, with a nice nod to a couple specials, even. There even seems to be some room to question some translation–I for one derived a bit of twisted amusement contemplating the authenticity versus some other motivation.

Montoya’s scene seems to straddle a nice line between the real and the fiction that is comic books–her frustration/desperation and sadness at what seems to be a foregone conclusion is blended with the supernatural that is commonplace in the comic book world, allowing a glimmer of hope that may not be realistic in terms of our real world…but it seems to fit very well into the universe we know of through this series.

Supernova and Rip Hunter are shown briefly–and for the moment weigh as the weakest part of the series for me at present. While I expect some cool payoff later on, right now I find that I’m just not that interested in Supernova as a character–I don’t feel anything’s really known about him, and other than "teases" as to identity (and I for one have not picked up on clues that apparently have been dropped here and there, nor "gotten" any that I’ve spotted) there seems to be very little TO the character as yet. It certainly doesn’t help when so few pages have been afforded the character thus far.

The art stays fairly subtle–it’s there, but doesn’t overstep its bounds; it serves the story without offending the eye. My one gripe visually would be the panel when Lady Styx first strikes Lobo–I can figure it out based on context, but without context it’s hard to clearly make out exactly what is happening there. Still, the complaint’s one panel of many, and may just be my own eyes.

Overall, this is another very good issue of the series, and reminds me that I do indeed enjoy the story and format, and look forward to next week’s issue.

The Origin of Power Girl
Writer: Mark Waid
Art & Color: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain

Another standard-ish origin. Pretty much a simplified version of the telling of what I’d already figured out from pre/during Infinite Crisis stories. Still not a big fan of these, though that DOES seem to be tempered in part on whether or not I’m (personally) familiar with the character. Visually, may be a treat for certain folks, but doesn’t appeal to me. Still, it’s two pages…hardly enough to "break" an issue…and it certainly beats the pages being used for ads.

Ratings:

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

Wonder Woman #600 [Review]

This is the third “mega-anniversary” issue from DC in a month’s time (Batman #700 and Superman #700 preceded this) and for me, these are 3-for-3 in terms of being disappointments. Huge numbers, sure…and at least Batman and Superman got to theirs “legitimately.” Last month, Wonder Woman was on issue # 44…so it seems kinda fishy to arbitrarily skip 556 numbers just because issue #45 would be the 600th issue if you strung all the previous series combined in one continuing run.

But that’s a complaint to go into detail on another time.

This issue–even after reading the whole thing–is virtually forgettable. Less than 2 days after initially reading the issue, I couldn’t tell you what the “lead story” even was. I remembered the short with Power Girl’s cat, because it was a cat-story and combined with the Origin of Dex-Starr in Green Lantern #55, they stuck out as significant for hitting me close to the heart, having recently lost a cat I’d had for 18 years. The other story in the issue was setup for when Straczynski takes over the title, and showed a Diana Prince in a costume quite a bit different from the recent “traditional” version (and works extremely well in the story, despite all the buzz in the media..more on that later). There are also a number of “pinup pages” where other artistic teams had a chance to display their take on the character for this anniversary issue.

We open with an “introduction” by Lynda Carter–the actress who portrayed Wonder Woman in the old tv live-action series…I hardly remember the last time I saw a collected edition with an introduction, and now here we have one for a single-issue comic…I understand there’s big-time significance to a female character having so many issues published, but it still seems strange.

Valedictorian
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: Scott Koblish
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Assoc. Editor: Sean Ryan
Editor: Brian Cuningham

The first story then begins, with Wonder Woman leading most of the well-known (and some less-so-well-known) female characters into battle, before rushing to a graduation ceremony where she’s glad to have arrived in time to see a girl graduate. We find out this is a girl who was part of the supporting cast, apparently, back when the Wonder Woman title was relaunched in the late 1980s after Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story here–at least to this male reader–as fairly generic. It’s cool to see the follow up on a character who has since her first appearance grown up, which lends some real history to the Wonder Woman tale as a whole…but it’s still–structurally–not all that interesting. The art by Perez is awesome, though, and I can overlook a boring story for the beautiful art, the detailed portrayal of the various characters. Plus, there’s that little tidbit of info older readers know: it was Perez who relaunched the character back in the 1980s, so seeing his return to contribute to a story all these years later–as the artist, and by indication in the credits, as an “inspiration” for the story.

Fuzzy Logic
Writer & Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Next up, Wonder Woman teams up with Power Girl to defeat “Egg Fu,” and then retire to Power Girl’s office, where they discuss the way Power Girl’s cat has been acting, and Power Girl realizes she needs a place away from the office, where she and the cat can be away from the day-to-day business of things. The art is so-so…nothing spectacular; it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel it’d be anough to carry a boring story. But it works for this story, and doesn’t put me off. The cat seems a bit stocky/bulky…but in terms of a fictitious comic-book cat, I really shouldn’t complain…he’s a cute little thing without being overly-cutesy.

Firepower
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Travis Lanham

The story that follows is a short that basically pit Superman and Wonder Woman against Aegeus, who has stolen lightning bolts from Zeus. The character apparently is Olympian–I’m not familiar with this version of the character, but the name and visuals seem somewhat familiar, suggesting I’m not entirely unfamiliar–whether in DC‘s comics or simply in reading of Greek mythology. As Superman is vulnerable to magic, he’s more the “backup” in this tale, as Wonder Woman takes the lead in bringing the villain down. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point to this story in and of itself outside this issue…it’s just a tale to show Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up, though giving Wonder Woman the starring role and relegating Superman to an almost second-tier status (as a guest-star, that’s how it goes, though)! The visuals are ok, but again…don’t stand out as significant (whereas the opening story with Perez’ art I recognized it and knew without looking at the credits that it was Perez’ work).

The Sensational Wonder Woman
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Coloris: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

The next story reeks largely of being little more than metatextual. Wonder Woman is shown in battle, while narration boxes discuss her journey, and leads to what symbolically indicates the character rushing into an unknown future, from an established past…almost feeling like a vague series or season finale where the makers aren’t sure if they’ll get to do anything else with the story.

Odyssey – Prologue: Couture Shock
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Don Kramer
Inker: Michael Babinski
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Finally, we have the prologue to Staczynski‘s story, where we find a young Diana Prince in a new, unfamiliar (but with touches of familiarity) costume, seeking an oracle, and referencing a dead mother recently brought back…after having been dead for a few years. We come to see that this new, “current” Wonder Woman is the result of something screwing with the timeline, and she’s going to have to put things back to rights, to exist in the mainstream current DCU again.

We then close with a preview of Action Comics #890 with no cover image to differentiate it from any of the other stories in the issue.

Between stories, we get some “iconic” Wonder Woman pinup pages. While on the one hand they seem a bit like filler material, I am (as I was with Batman #700) very, VERY glad to see these on the INTERIOR of the book, rather than as variant covers!

There’s a two-page spread showing the classic/traditional-costumed Wonder Woman striking a pose in the foreground, with slightly dimmed-out images surrounding as the background, displaying many of the main DC heroes she’s worked with, the villains, and they seem grouped by time-frame, from the different periods of the character’s life, at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Overall Thoughts on the Issue

These are all decent stories, though the issue as a whole feels more like it should be some sort of Annual rather than a (renumbering aside) regularly-numbered issue in the midst of the ongoing series. If this were a half-half split with an epilogue from the previous writer and a prologue from the incoming writer, with pinup pages to lend to the anniversary feel, it wouldn’t seem so out of sorts. As is, it’s an issue with a whole bunch of stuff crammed in, apparently to give a LOT of people some way to say they “got to work on” this anniversary issue.

If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, this could be a bit iffy. The opening story hardly seems worth a $5 price for its nature just to wrap up Simone‘s run on the book. For newer fans, the final segment is the same way…not worth the $5 just to get such a short prologue to the upcoming run, nor is it worth the price just to get the “debut” of the “new costume” that seems to be THE buzz of late.

This issue seems like it’s more well-suited for the random person who is familiar with the character in American popular culture, but virtually entirely UNaware of current continuity. The stories are so short and lacking in ongoing plot elements that one mostly needn’t know anything of the character or stories…there’s a little more flash than substance here.

Despite the hype…this issue isn’t really worth it unless you specifically want this sort of anthology book. It’s not going to give much to summarize the last several years’ stories, and there’s little more than “previewing the premise” in the prologue to the upcoming arc.

I don’t particularly recommend the issue…but on the whole it’s not something I recommend against, either. Ratings below based on the whole issue and not just any single segment.

Story: 5.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

Justice Society of America #20 [Review]

Earthbound

Story: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Dale Eaglesham (Earth-2 Sequence: Jerry Ordway)
Inker: Nathan Massengill (Earth-2 Sequence: Bob Wiacek)
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover: Alex Ross (variant by Dale Eaglesham & Mark McKenna)
Published by: DC Comics

Without a “previously…” page, I don’t recall EXACTLY how the previous issue ended…but this seems to pick up on a cliffhanger of the Justice Society of Earth-2 busting in on the New Earth JSA seeking the “rogue” Power Girl imposter. Accusations (and punches) fly, and ultimately several New Earth JSA members are dragged (along with Power Girl) back to this Earth-2, where elements of the Multiverse are re-revealed and discussed…while painful memories are dredged up as people who have died on New Earth are still alive on Earth-2. The two Power Girls have it out, before the nature of Earth-2 is revealed, and both find information to make their lives a little bit easier.

The art here is just fantastic. Perhaps because it just really fits the story–even down to having a different art team on the Earth-2 sequence (an art team that I vaguely recall has some significance to the characters). I have zero complaint with the art, and really quite enjoyed it. The cover by Alex Ross is quite cool as well…if slightly on the inappropriate side given the viewer’s angle.

The story continues to overall story that’s been going on the entire time (since #10 or so) that I’ve been reading this title, and I’m enjoying that. There’s real progression here that resolves old threads, opens some new ones, and just really holds my interest. I’m interested in the character interactions–in what happens to Power Girl and how her interaction with Earth-2 will affect her. I’m interested in Starman and his character’s evolution. I’m interested in the team dynamics–the old and young and the cross-generational stuff. I’m especially interested in the unfolding story of Gog–and even though this issue seems to be an “aside” from the ongoing Gog/Magog saga–it takes us aside to explore ongoing story elements and I don’t feel that this issue is at all out of place–it’s a great spot for such an aside after so many issues following Gog.

All in all, simply another very strong issue of a solid series. This truly seems to me to be if not the flagship, then certainly a flagship title of the DCU. Fan of the Justice Society, or of Johns, or Ross, or Earth-2, or Power-Girl…I see no real reason to skip this issue. New readers may not get a whole lot out of this given the ongoing arc–but at the same time, there’s a roster at the issue’s opening that will get new readers brought up to speed on the WHO (if not the why/what or ‘previously’) necessary for the issue at hand.

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

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