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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 Weekly Haul – Week of June 14, 2017

Another Wednesday’s come around…and a couple new books I’ve been looking forward to…as well as yet another week (over a YEAR now!) in which there’s a Superman comic I’m interested in "by default"…!

weeklyhaul_06142017a

I get tired of the far over-used kneel before Zod! schtick…but it works for this cover…or at least, it did when I first saw the image when the issue was solicited a couple months back. Seeing it now, I’d forgotten about it…but it works, AND it fits the story (Revenge).

I’m actually curious about this Dark Days thing, and since it’s DC and they’ve earned back plenty of my ‘loyalty’ I’m willing to let them have the occasional $4.99 special issues that truly DO seem…y’know…SPECIAL. Since I have a copy on hold, my "convenience/immediacy tax" edition is one of the variants just so I don’t have multiple copies of the same cover (SINCE variants are all-pervasive and I can’t simply will them outta existence). I would have liked the Superman & Batman cover…but I still can’t stand Kubert‘s art when it comes to Superman in particular.

The homage nature of the Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny issue really "sold" it for me…and I love the look of these various DC/Looney Tunes crossovers, so why not? They actually ARE special things, so I’ll bite the higher cost, at least as long as the cover’s attractive and properly "sells" the issue (and I don’t get stuck with zero choice as to cover, etc).

And finally, because it was cheaper than two Marvel single issues, and only slightly more expensive than two DC Rebirth issues, I snagged the X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four paperback. It’ll fit into my collection, or at least disappear into it, quite well I think!

While a bit expensive for only 4 things…I got everything for less than cover price of the paperback, so that’s pretty good, I’d say!

DC Villains Month, Week Two (Part 1)

ZOD (Action Comics #23.2)

foreverevilzod001Zod’s story is definitely a new one for me; a new take on the character that definitely humanizes him a lot more than previous versions. Adding a fairly defining (if clichéd) episode to his youth goes quite a way in fleshing out the character…and even leaves a lot of room for some future stories, should anyone wish to revisit that period of the character’s life. We get a little bit of insight into his motivation as well as just how far the character will go…both to survive, himself as well as to push his people to survive (a bit of a hint at the influence of the Man of Steel film version of the character, perhaps?).. All in all, the story seemed rather short, and though I have no particular intention of following things into any of the ongoing Superman books at present, taking this as a totally new version of the character, I might check out a Zod-focused story arc in collected edition format sometime down the line..

MONGUL (Green Lantern #23.2)

foreverevilmongul001My first exposure to Mongul was at the dawn of my comics-reading life, in the infamous Alan Moore tale For the Man Who Has Everything. I think my next exposure to the character was in Reign of the Supermen, and then another version of the character in 1999 when the alien Imperiex was introduced…and most recently his involvement after the Sinestro Corps War in the Green Lantern books. While I still most associate the character with Superman, it’s kinda cool to see that he’s really become a Green Lantern villain, where he certainly fits! As to this issue…it felt too short for the events it contains. Other than Mongul himself, the other characters are pretty much inconsequential and of no real significance.  Though what Mongul does in this issue comes off as throw-away, had it involved Earth or Oa this’d be a half-year Event crossover. Still…it’s a “cosmic” story by Jim Starlin, which was a pleasant surprise to me!

LOBO (Justice league #23.2)

foreverevillobo001The cover is quite deceiving to the story within…yet, I’m quite glad the cover has “my” Lobo rather than this new “Goth” Lobo. However, while getting to see this new take on Lobo, I’m actually sorta interested in where things are going to go for the character, and even somewhat see where some of the online controversy over the new design falls. At the very least, this gives a different perspective on the character, and an intriguing new interpretation of past Lobo stories.  I’ll be interested–thanks to this issue–in learning what fate befalls Lobo moving forward…though I don’t think I actually care enough to seek the issues out for the story itself.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this issue and its story…I definitely got a mix of familiar and new. Lobo has never been my favorite character, though I have to admit to a certain grudging interest in the character due to some of his appearances in Superman comics back in the late-’80s/early-’90s.

Superman vs. Zod TPB [Review]

supermanvszodtpbI bought this volume for full cover price at Book-A-Million a couple weeks ago. Which is something EXTREMELY rare for me to do, as I’m highly disgusted at the (over-)pricing of collected volumes these days.

I look primarily at Marvel (as I have most of what I want from DC, find what I yet want from DC quite reasonably price, and/or don’t much care for their newer stuff). With the Marvel volumes, it seems that where once a 6-issue arc could be had for about $15 (making it a better value than the single issues), now the standard TPB is $16.99-$18.99 and hardbacks $20+ for 4-5 issues, making the single issues an equal or better value.

As such, THE vast majority of my collected volume purchasing is done through Amazon, InstockTrades, CheapGraphicNovels, Half-Price Books, M&P Used Books, bargain bins, or other bargain purchasing conditions…typically seeing me paying only about 50% of printed cover price on average.

Which brings me back around to (ostensibly) the main point of this post: Superman vs. Zod, a new TPB collecting several “classic” Superman-vs-Phantom-Zone-villains stories. Despite my above-mentioned purchasing preferences…I still enjoy taking a peek at the “regular” bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million) to get a look at some of these volumes “in-person” in a way that can’t be duplicated by solicitation and other info online.

supermanthemedclassiccollectionsSo I was looking at the Superman volumes, and happened to notice this Superman vs. Zod volume. I’ve been increasingly interested in some of these classic “themed” collections–Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons, Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor, Superman vs. Brainiac, Superman vs. Lex Luthor, pretty sure there’s a Daily Planet volume–so this one being new, I was curious. I pulled it out, glanced at the table of contents (determined it was mainly “classic” material in the vein of these other books), but because it was a bit thinner, glanced at the price–figuring it was a $15 book (the others being a bit thicker were $20 books, I believe).

I was surprised to find that this was priced at $9.99…and bought it. $10 is not nearly as off-putting as “more than $10,” be it $10.99-$19.99 and on upward. And because Amazon and other places often seem to have a $10 minimum–typically I see Amazon at least keeping to the $9.99 pricing on such-priced volumes–I don’t mind “paying full price” on a $10 book that feels worthwhile, as this one did. Had it been even $12.99, I’m quite certain I would have put it back on the shelf. But it had the “magic” reasonable price where the sheer thickness of the book feels worth $10 compared to volumes maybe 2/3 its size commanding twice the price.

The stories themselves were definitely “classic.” We get The Phantom Superboy from Adventure Comics #283 (1961), The Great Phantom Peril from Action Comics #473 (1977), Escape from the Phantom Zone and Superman Meets the Zod Squad from Action Comics #s 548 & 549 (both 1983), Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter from DC Comics Presents #97 (1986) and then jump 21 years to The Criminals of Krypton, a segment from Action Comics #10 (2007).

While I can “appreciate” these stories for what they are–stories involving the Phantom Zone–I was not particularly enamored with any of them. The cover certainly doesn’t quite fit–it’s a very modern take on the characters, compared to the very silver/bronze age art on the inside. Which isn’t to slam the art–it’s a product of its time(s)–but it’s not much a visual style I tend to enjoy these days.

The story themselves also are products of their times–particularly the first four, which were largely “painful” to read…the first most of all. The DC Comics Presents story struck me as the most mature of the classic bunch, and actually put me very much in mind of the Last Days of Krypton novel I read a couple years ago by Kevin J. Anderson, making me wonder if he drew inspiration for his story from this one.

These were all stories that I’m pretty sure I’d NOT previously read, except the last one, which I recall as I bought/read the original Annual. I haven’t much cared for all the “going back to silver-agey elements” of the post-Infinite Crisis DC stuff, but can’t deny that its presentation of Non makes that character a bit relatable, rather than just some mindless brute.

This volume’s titled Superman vs. Zod, but seemed to be more generically a Phantom Zone volume. As something involving Zod, I’d’ve expected at least an issue from Byrne‘s run, with the Matrix/Supergirl stuff and the pocket universe, if not specifically Adventures of Superman #453 from the Exile story where Superman hallucinates an encounter with the ghosts of Zod & co. There’s also stuff from around Our Worlds at War with that version of Zod, (which I honestly don’t recall if it was different from the Zod used during For Tomorrow) or not, that seem more fitting to me for this volume, if not as neatly self-contained.

The Zod presented in these stories seemed a bit generic, if not outright a lesser character than Faora. Yet, it seems to me that Zod in general pop culture is defined by Terrence Stamp‘s performance in the Donner films with Christopher Reeve, particularly the infamous “kneel before Zod.” (There was also the Smallville depiction of the character late in that series that may be just as or more familiar to contemporary audiences).

So overall…for a $10 volume, I found this to be well worth the purchase. The stories are a bit on the lame side to me, but they’ve added to the range of Superman stories I’ve read, now, and given me just a little more knowledge of the actuality of these characters; and the more I think about it, the more I do think I rather enjoyed the Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter story (which must’ve come out in that in-between as the original Superman stuff was wrapping up and things were being put in place for the Byrne relaunch and the version of the Superman stuff that I grew up on and consider to be “my” Superman).

This is sort of a “classic-lite” volume–I’d say it mostly fits with those other themed volumes of classic stuff, though it’s far from comprehensive and is not quite as large; but at half the price, not bad to be an “intro” volume. Cover copy suggests “Before Superman takes on General Zod in theatres, read here a collection of classic Zod tales spanning nearly fifty years!” So the pricing and mere existence of the volume seems more a promo type thing to tie in to this summer’s Man of Steel…I would unfortunately assume it’ll be someone “lost in the crowd” of all the other DC books and Superman/Justice League stuff, and definitely be victim to the “spine-only” trouble so many volumes face in comic shops and the bookstores.

TBR Challenge: The Last Days of Krypton

lastdaysofkryptonA good friend gave me this book a couple years back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to reading it right away…and it sat on a shelf with several other comic-related/adapted novelizations.

Then last year I came across Superman & Batman: Enemies & Allies, and wound up starting that randomly one day. I finished it fairly soon after, and realized I’d have to read The Last Days of Krypton before long–the writer had certainly proven himself to me with Enemies & Allies.

And, of course, there was that reading challenge I decided to adopt at the start of the year…this book was part of my list’s core, perfectly fitting the purpose of this challenge: to read books that I’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t been around to reading just yet. I decided to start the year out with this one, though didn’t think it would take me almost a full month to get through. (Though I determined several days ago to finish it tonight–or BY tonight–so I could start another book for February, as I should go through at least one book per month to achieve the goal of the reading challenge).

Just tonight I got to thinking a bit more "metatextually" about this book–how, in the final hundred pages or so–I wasn’t even thinking about the story being set on Krypton exactly–not as an alien planet with a different culture, anyway. It was simply the setting. Characters like Jor-El, his wife Lara, the politically-minded General Zod…they’re just who they are, in this book.

And it’s a shame, because I do think that was part of what put me off at first–I was hesitant to get into a story dealing with Krypton itself, before Kal-El was even born (even conceived, at that!). Yet, after over a year of the comics having the whole World of New Krypton thing going on…this wasn’t as much a leap as it might otherwise have been. And proved far more enjoyable.

Anderson shows a great bit of craftsmanship in the telling of this tale. At the start of the book, Krypton indeed comes off as alien–as it should. But somewhere along the way, it just simply…is. It’s no different than when I first opened Dragons of Autumn Twilight early Freshman year of high school and first discovered the world of Krynn, or the first time I read The Fellowship of the Ring and found myself in Tolkien‘s detailed landscape…or for that matter, turned the pages of a comic in which a man could fly or dress as a creature of the night and fight crime…in the daytime.

Even as events unfolded–especially toward the very end–in a way that I didn’t expect, nothing actually contradicts what I already know about Superman and his background. A couple characters have names I’m unfamiliar with, others have names that would almost have to be intentional plays on words…but nothing truly contradicts stuff.

In fact, toward the latter part of this book, I was put even more in mind of the Donner movie continuity, as certain elements came together in such a way that I was visualizing what I think I recall from the original film’s time spent looking at the end of Krypton.

Even though this book details–as the title says–the last days of Krypton, and you’d have to have zero idea who Superman is, his background, and probably not even see this book’s cover to not know how it ends….it’s the story leading there that draws one in. And Superman fan or not, this makes for a nice, solid sci-fi story…just that it has something extra going for it knowing what it technically "leads into."

All in all, a very enjoyable read–one I’m glad to have read, and I look forward to possibly tracking down some of the author’s other works at some point down the line.

Superman: World of New Krypton #4 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Superman: World of New Krypton #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 [Review]

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 CoverFull review posted to comixtreme.com.

Action Comics #874 [Review]

Suspicion!

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Pablo Raimondi
Inkers: Pablo Raimondi & Walden Wong
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Aaron Lopresti & Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue picks up with Superman having a bit of a tantrum on New Krypton at the fact that General Zod not only has been freed of the Phantom Zone but that he now lead’s New Krypton’s army. After fists fail, talking ensues, and Superman grudgingly seems to let things slide for now, though he makes known his misgivings.Back on Earth, Kryptonians–with a specific exception made for Superman–are banned, which sparks the new Flamebird and Nightwing into action as their clock is ticking (and a blurb informing readers to follow them into next month’s Action Comics). Superman and Lois visit his fortress while he ponders things, and then a voice from his past cries out, leading to the issue’s cliffhanger.

The story isn’t bad, but really lacks some “oomph!” I find myself actually bored by the New Krypton stuff, especially given the abrupt ending of the titled story while this still feels like it should fall under that heading. This story also feels like filler, just sorta moving pieces on the board around to force stuff into a new status quo for next month with the Superman family of books.

The art also is not bad, but doesn’t particularly thrill me. Not bad, but not spectacular. It gets stuff across that needs gotten across, but doesn’t begin to get in line to be art I’d specifically choose for Superman.

Origins & Omens

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

This backup stars The Guardian, and basically follows him through some (for him) relatively normal activities in his new job as head of the Science Police. Some of his history is touched upon–particularly recent developments/revelations, with some hints of what may be in store for him given.

Though I don’t particularly care for Guedes’ art style, it works for me pretty well here–perhaps because it’s not Superman/Clark himself depicted but other characters I don’t have so firm an idea in my head as to what they look like. The story is basic, but then, six pages is hardly room for any great storytelling for the most part.

If you’ve been following everything New Krypton, or the “triangle numbers,” this is worthwhile, This is probably also worthwhile as a bit of a prologue to the new status quo for Superman and Action Comics to come. That the main story is shorted for the backup doesn’t exactly make the issue all that enticing.

Story: 6/10
Art: 6/10
Whole: 6/10

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