DC

DC Comics

Superman #7

Superman 7

Superman #7; DC 2012

One of the biggest complaints about comics in the last decade has been about the Superman titles.  They have been awful.  And I think it’s something that has gnawed at DC Comics for a long time and for whatever reason, nothing they do for the title/character seems to work.  Particularly for the last five years, readers have been exceedingly disappointed with Superman and have expressed their concerns by simply not buying or reading these titles.  This is a really sad thing because Superman is so kosmically recognizable that there is just something unsettling about no one being interested, let alone excited, about his comics.

I think that within the deep recesses of the hearts of comic fans there was a, quite natural, hope that with DC’s New 52, Superman would be saved.  Not rehabilitated, but heroically saved.  The complaints of the last decade that Superman titles were boring, scattered, uninteresting, pointless, and stupid were valid and probably hit DC pretty hard.  So, everyone probably expected that the New 52 would solve these issues and send Superman titles to the top of the charts – where he belongs (even if fanboys do not dare admit they believe this).

On Action Comics, DC put the famous, but difficult, writer Grant Morrison.  I’ve gone over that situation in my reviews for Action Comics.  For the Superman title, DC gave the reins to writer George Perez.  Perez is one of those industry-standard writers who has written Wonder Woman and Silver Surfer among other titles. I was pleased that he was selected as I felt that he was a solid choice for a proven, but not extreme writing style.  Now, Superman also appears in DC’s “flagship” – Justice League, which is being written by star writer Geoff Johns.  Surely, with the New 52 and these three writers writing the character, there is no way Superman could fail.

Action Comics may or may not be good. It’s certainly not a “basic” comic read.  Morrison has some different perspectives and ideas as to how stories should be told.  Geoff Johns’ Superman is good – but since he’s a member of a supergroup, he does not get much face time or development.  Superman’s entrance, though, is still one of the highlights of the start of the New 52.  The Superman title penned by Perez looked so pretty. It contained a lot of action, fighting, flying, battling, etc.  However, it felt scattered and disconnected. Some readers felt it was confusing and disoriented.  Ultimately, it was a disappointment. While the character is freshened, the problems with the title still seemed to be present.  We all wanted to love the title. Most of us ended up dropping the title from subscription lists with a dejected, puzzled feeling.

However, it seems DC was willing to do something proactive about the situation.  Starting in issue #6, they added writers Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen.  Both of these writers/artists are also solid creators who are no strangers to the industry.  Issue #6 was nothing great, but I do feel it was better than the previous five.  Finally, in issue #7, I can say that this is a real Superman comic.  This is a storyline that I can follow without frustration or annoyance.  This is art that looks fantastic and the character does not seem like a haphazard mess of confusion.

Superman’s thoughts are presented in a reasonable manner – he does seem younger and bolder.  The opening fight is easy to follow and interesting enough that it does not seem like just frames of action shots.  I like that there is a linear storyline – a problem, a setting, villains, and friends.  The art perfectly matches the story and the story seems, finally, like it is going somewhere.  The first five issues seemed really in media res and random.  This seems like there is a real story going on, which is a nice change. In other words, this issue is a well-organized, linear, solid story.  The artwork is above average and it is not messy.

I am interested in the villain, Helspont.  I know he has history in DC, but I want to see if the New 52 has changed anything – or will change anything. I want him to be a worthy villain that Superman can battle with both physically and intellectually. He’s also drawn to look mighty cool.

I kind of feel bad for those readers who dropped Superman before issue #7.  They probably won’t believe this is any good.  And, well, even though this issue is a solid 4 stars, all readers are probably dubious about believing that anything good will come to pass with this title, anyway.  After all, it’s hard to forget a decade of mediocrity and boring. It is my real hope, though, that Jurgens and Giffen CAN AND WILL make this a worthwhile, interesting title. But, one issue isn’t enough……….

4 stars

Justice League #7

JL 7

Justice League #7; DC Comics

One of the better titles (but maybe not best) to come out of the “New 52” initiative of DC Comics is Justice League. It’s difficult to believe that the title is already at issue #7.  For this issue, the “regular” artist Jim Lee took a break and we had a guest artist, Gene Ha.  I believe that Jim Lee still was the artist who drew the cover for this issue, however.  Geoff Johns remains the writer.

Overall, I think this series has been average.  It pains me to say this, because I truly want to love this title and give it high marks all around.  However, when I am not being a comic-sentimental-sap, I admit that it’s only average fare.  And this is even more glaring when I compare it to the stellar job that has been done with the Batman and Red Lantern titles.  Frankly, Justice League (with its star characters and mega-cool creators) should be much better than this.  Now, I do not say it is a bad title – it is worth the cover price.

I was not sure what to make of Jim Lee’s art when this title started. After a few issues, I felt that it definitely grew on me and I looked forward to seeing it.  However, compared to Gene Ha’s art, I can see I was settling.  Many readers/reviewers disdained this batch of Ha’s art and griped about not getting more Jim Lee work.  Frankly, Lee is very good, but there was something about the artwork in this issue that really appealed to me and I enjoyed it a lot.  In the middle of the comic, there are three pages that depict a “video” conference between Steve Trevor and the Justice League Watchtower.  All of these frames are excellent – and the layout is phenomenal.  In fact, these three pages are really, really well done and all of the stars that I am giving this issue are because of these pages.

Wonder Woman “answers” the video conference call and we see her via Trevor’s monitor.  In the first frame, Ha captures the beauty, sexiness, and charm of Wonder Woman.  In the next series of frames, Ha draws her with expert mastery.  The body language, facial expressions, and so forth in these frames is really good.  I know it may seem to be a “minor” thing to be able to draw a couple of frames of a superhero – after all, shouldn’t all DC/Marvel/Dark Horse/Image artists be able to do that?  But it’s not the drawing of a superhero that is good here, rather the very natural, human, and alive-ness that Ha brings out in the drawing.  I feel like he must have studied a lot of…. people… and must be rather intuitive and perceptive in order to render the drawings so well.

This same skill is seen earlier in the comic with Batman, although I feel Wonder Woman is a more obvious example.  In the Batman frames, the reader can almost feel the frustration/aggravation Batman is feeling.  Can comic book art really evoke a response in the viewer like traditional fine art? These frames in this issue prove that they can.  The stigma against comic book art fails here.

The writing is okay.  Johns gives us some witty moments and some good dialogue.  He also writes a straight-forward story with each character having their own voice and personality. He manages to give each member of the Justice League seemingly equal “facetime” (although, perhaps a little less with Superman) and they all seem balanced in the storyline.  The little asides characters have with each other is amusing.

However, I feel the storylines are so…. decompressed (it’s the word all the comic reviewers are using these days)… that it verges on boring.  There is nothing wrong with it – and I really understand the goal Johns is working toward and how there is a lot of responsibility to make this title, of all titles, accessible and workable.  However, I feel it needs more life in the writing. Not just quips, but a more powerful story. Again, this is not bad, but it is average.  Of course, I am going to keep pulling this and reading along. And wow, I need to find more Gene Ha in the world.

3 stars

Action Comics #7

Action Comics 7Grant Morrison.

I read Action Comics #7 twice and decided to give the issue 4 stars – in spite of it having been written by Grant Morrison. Or, maybe, because of being written by Grant Morrison. I just cannot tell.

Okay, so first of all, it’s difficult to believe we are already on the seventh issue of The New 52!  The Batman title has, more or less, been seen as the greatest success for DC, with most readers finding it to be the best of the whole lot. Sure, some people like what has been going on with Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman – but those titles will never have the powerhouse appeal that Batman does.  Now, where does Action Comics fit in with all of these?  It has always been the flagship Superman title.  DC handed this title over to Grant Morrison, who is probably one of the most talked about creators in comics.  It seems that readers either love or hate Morrison – and usually flip their opinion with every issue they read.  Most of the time, it seems Morrison is, at least, frustrating.

I’ve commented on Morrison several times in this blog. He is known for cryptic details, non-linear storytelling, and daring unorthodox character developments. So, is Morrison really a good writer or does he just know how to get talked about? Is he a good writer or do people just enjoy the “difference”? I kind of wish Derrida were around to comment on Morrison.  And since I’m imagining a little forum of writers, I’d like to add China Miéville to the mix. This would be a good round-table group.

I read Action Comics #5 and shrugged. So did Zarathustra. I read Action Comics #6 and hated it. In fact, I purposely left it off of my comic subscription list at my local comic book store. I was ready to be done with Morrison. I had high-hopes at issue #2, but I hated #6 so much that I could not stand the idea of reading any more Morrison nonsense. I was prepared to write an “enough-is-enough” rant about the madness and drivel that Morrison gets away with publishing.

And then I read #7 and, though it had it’s frustrating-Morrison-moments, I really liked it. After #6, I brought a lot of negative with me to #7, so for me to say that I liked #7 rather pains me. Okay, it contained things that I like about Superman comics, viz. the Bottle City of Kandor and Brainiac.  Maybe I just have too much love for Lilliput or something.  I love the concept of a bottle city.  And then there is Brainiac.  Of course I love Brainiac. I love Brainiac the villain and “Brainiac” 5 of the Legion of Super-heroes. So…. there’s just a lot here that I love on principle.

This issue does have the typical Morrison-style in media res stuff.  However, it’s not as “bad” as in other issues. Somehow, I was able to follow along fairly-well and be drawn into the story. (Who knows if Morrison will continue this storyline anytime soon?) There’s Superman being confident and Lois being abrasive and Lex being two-steps ahead of everyone else.  There’s armor from Krypton and Superman is wearing an airtank when he gets to space (the eternal:  how does he breathe in space aporia).  But Brainiac is updated a bit:  collector of worlds, internet, computo, et al. This is good stuff:  perfect for The New 52.  This is what should be going on in the DC titles.  The artwork is solid (I cannot imagine what drawing for/with Grant Morrison would be like).

….Grant Morrison….. What to do with this guy? I guess I’m all in for a few more issues of Action Comics.

4 stars

Green Lantern Corps #6 (2011)

GL Corps 6
Green Lantern Corps #6; DC Comics

I like science fiction, particularly kosmic space science fiction. Naturally, since I love comics and Green Lantern, I am fond of the Green Lantern Corps.   However, I have not really read many GL Corps books. In fact, I think this 2011 reboot of the New 52 is the first time I’ve read six issues in a row – and that may also be the most I’ve read of the GL Corps.

The cover for issue #6 was done by Andy Kubert and Alex Sinclair. I think the dark red background is done quite well. I like the basic layout here.  However, and this has been said on other websites, the oversized “artillery” on the cover is a bit much. I also do not like the “smoking” gun stuff. I think this is a good basic cover, but ultimately, it will never be a pinup anywhere.

The issue was written by Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by Fernando Pasarin. This is the “climactic” issue of the first six-issue storyarc for this title.  This issue is entitled “Fearsome” and continues where the previous issue left off.  In other words, these are not stand-alone issues, you gotta start at the beginning for any of this to make sense.

Page four has two long frames on it – and both are really cool. I think Pasarin did a great job here and this is the kind of creepy, futuristic science-fiction stuff that I really want to see in a title like Green Lantern Corps.  Page four’s artwork definitely is a keeper. However, the big fight scene in the middle of the issue (full-page spread) is a piece I don’t really like. At first, I thought this was nicely done. However, after looking at it again and again, and then re-reading the story, I am not really fond of this particular spread. Frankly, it just looks messy. Now, I know battle on faraway planets with ring constructs and aliens is bound to be chaotic and messy. Yet, I still feel that I have seen my share of full-page spreads covered in battle that were done a lot better. I really just don’t like this “centerfold.”

There is another page that needs to be discussed:  the full-left-page that shows John Stewart killing Kirrt. The art is well done here, nothing tremendous, but definitely well done. I was surprised to see this turn in the story. It happens rather suddenly, I feel, and I was a bit “shocked” when I came across it.  Stewart, though a soldier through-and-through always seemed to be the moral core of the the Earth Green Lanterns. Even though he thinks like a soldier – he always seemed to remain the most calm and look for a way to minimize death. So, this was surprising. After all, this is what I would expect from Guy Gardner.

The Green Lantern Corps wins the day by using a “fear bomb,” which may seem a bit hack to some readers – but I enjoyed it. I liked this using things at-hand instead of using some complicated newly-created idea. I like Gardner’s wide open approach and I like that it worked as it was expected to. Sometimes, I get a little tired of heroes who cannot even complete the simplest task. It was nice to see a plan that was effective.  Now, I assume Tomasi is going to continue with the Stewart hook – he showed regret at having killed Kirrt, so I would think this was not simply a two-frame deal for him.

So I think this first arc was a success. There were some questionable points, but there was also some good writing/art. I think that this is a solid start for this title and I am interested to see this kosmic storyline develop.

3 stars

Justice Society of America #1 (2007)

Justice Society of America

Justice Society of America, DC Comics, cover #1

I have already given this beautiful cover a “cover of the month” award.  I am finally getting around to reviewing it now, though. The cover was done, obviously, by the inimitable Alex Ross. And is somewhat of an homage cover to All Star Comics #3 from 1940 and the variant is an homage to All Star Squadron #1 (1981).  The 1940 All Star Comics cover was done by Everett E. Hibbard.

All Star Comics

All Star Comics #3 1940 cover

The 2007 issue was written by DC Comics’ star writer Geoff Johns.  The issue starts off with the three big superheroes of DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) approaching Wildcat, Flash, and Green Lantern of the Society after WWIII.  The “trinity” say that the planet needs the Justice Society and that the Society is more like a family and a moral compass than the Justice League is.  So, on the second page of the issue we are already given some of the baseline concept for this volume of the Justice Society of America.

There are two main stories going on in this issue. One is Green Lantern, Flash, and Wildcat acting as leaders of the JSA and selecting veteran members.  They select to draft Stargirl, Power Girl, Liberty Bell, Dr. Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific, and Hourman.  And then, these members go out to recruit younger members who have some connection to the old JSA.  Wildcat, grumpy as always, reminisces on the old days and is reluctant to help Green Lantern and Flash. Wildcat feels alone and isolated – until the end of the issue when Green Lantern and Flash show Wildcat that he has a teenage son named Tom.    The second story running through the issue deals with Mr. America, an ex-FBI agent who is still tracking down and punishing criminals.

The characterizations are excellently done.  Each character is different – and the reader can tell that Johns spent time giving each of his characters personality, identity, attitude, and background.  I particularly enjoyed the pages introducing us to Maxine Hunkel and Starman.  These sections were really interesting and fun and, in a way, played the flip side to the solemn and gritty Mr. America storyline.

The interior art was done by Dale Eaglesham and it’s fantastic. The art makes the story easy to follow. It is uncluttered and yet dynamic.  The facial expressions are dead-on and the personality of the characters shines through.  The framing of the art is well-done, which is not something I find myself saying very often.  But overall the art has this sort of “classic” JSA / superhero book feel to it – but done in a fresh, colorful manner. If this was 2007, and I read this issue, I would tell you this series will run for as long as the quality remains near this level.  After reading the first issue, I certainly wanted to read the next and I think this issue far exceeds issue #1 of Justice League of America (2006).

It’s Wednesday. They’re serving sloppy joes tonight.  Do you like sloppy joes as much as I do?” – Starman

5 stars

Action Comics #2

Action Comics 2

Action Comics #2 cover

 One of the most popular pulls from the DC New 52 titles is the Action Comics series.  There are several main reasons for this, the most significant being the renumbering and rebooting of Action Comics.  1938 – 2011 saw 904 issues of the absurdly famous DC title that features Superman. It’s a shame that we probably will not get to see a 1000th issue of this title, but I do understand that after 900 issues, it may be time to reboot and re-examine. Of course, on such an epic reboot DC wanted to place a really big name writer. They chose Grant Morrison.

For several years, Morrison has been one of several writers to be credited with expanding, renewing, and repopularizing comic books. I’ve read several of his storyarcs and they are indeed different than the standard comic book fare.  Many readers love his work, many dislike it – I think that in general, the best thing Morrison has done has been to bring comic book storytelling into the 2000’s with fresh ideas, intriguing writing styles, and a whole lot of attitude.  I have not fallen in love with his writing, but I do recognize that his efforts are powerful within the industry. I feel he’s a bit of a showman, so I was hesitant to get too excited about him writing Action Comics.

The first issue was okay. We are introduced to a young Superman and a world which is just beginning to recognize him. He’s a bit brash and wild, he wears jeans and boots with his cape, and his powers have been trimmed down from the God-like status that the DC Universe seemed to grant him after the 1980s. However, I was still wary and unsure as to how I felt about all these “changes.”  I was very hesitant to jump on the bandwagon with this title.

Issue #2 starts off where #1 left off.  The first page is the young Superman strapped into a chair. There are all sorts of restraints and wires attached to him.  His muscles look tense, his teeth are clenched, his eyes are glowing red. We discover that Lex Luthor has captured Superman and is torturing him. Doctor Luthor, Doctor Irons, and General Lane (of the US Army), are all in a nearby room watching as Superman is shocked with electricity. There are people attempting to take a blood sample. In a room nearby, similar “tests” are being run on the apparently indestructible cape.

I was unsure as to what to expect before and after reading issue #1.  I was leery and wary. However, this issue starts immediately by presenting a scene, developing the roles of the characters in that scene, and giving the scene tension and purpose. So far, yes, Morrison is doing a good job writing. Things are a bit new and unfamiliar in the New 52 universe, so I am not certain where all the characters stand.  The Doctor Irons from the old continuity was John Henry Irons – also known as Steel. In that continuity, Doctor John Henry Irons was a brilliant weapons engineer for AmerTek Industries, who eventually became disgusted when an energy cannon he had designed fell into the wrong hands and was used to kill innocent people. The company would have coerced him to retain his services, so John faked his death and eventually came to Metropolis. John Henry Irons has no superhuman abilities; however, he is an exceptional inventor and engineer, and wears a suit of powered armor which grants him flight, enhanced strength, and endurance. Obviously, the creators of Doctor Irons pulled many characteristics from the American folklore hero John Henry.  In this new Action Comics, we meet a Doctor Irons dressed in shirt and tie. Irons becomes very upset by Luthor’s torturing of Superman. Irons condemns Luthor’s actions and storms out of the facility. I am rather excited to see more of Irons because I think he’s always been a great character and I am hoping he has a strong role in the new Action Comics.

Luthor is very Luthor in this issue. I know in the old continuity, almost every possible iteration of Luthor seemed to have been worked through.  But this Luthor that Morrison is writing is very classic Luthor.  He appears dispassionate and completely in control. He is clearly calculating and arrogant. The artist, Rags Morales, draws Luthor with an expert understanding the character. When Irons leaves, Luthor makes a snarky comment as if Irons was a mere annoying insect. Morales nails the facial expressions.  Again, this is a young Luthor and it’s actually nice to see Luthor without his creased forehead and crow’s feet. Luthor stubbornly refuses to address Superman as anything but “it” or “the alien,” thus dehumanizing this young fellow who many in Metropolis have begun to see as a hero – particularly, Lois Lane.

Superman breaks out of his restraints and tears up a lot of the facility, but Superman is just as clueless as everyone else, because he seems unclear as to his own origins.  Still, this Superman is brash, active, and a bit unseasoned – which comes through nicely in both writing and art. I realized, I am liking this new take on Superman. I like this slightly wild, slightly impulsive dude wearing jeans and a cape. This is a good Superman for 2011 and I am ready to be a fan of Action Comics for good.

The ending scenes show us that Morrison has some definite plans for the storyarc and he is not just freewheeling.  Some readers speculate that we Luthor is being helped by the entity Brainiac. It’s really cool to watch as the threads that tie Superman, Luthor, Brainiac, and Lois together are being pulled together. It’s exciting to visit these “youthful” times of Superman and Morrison is doing what the New 52 is supposed to be doing – breathing life into a character that has been around since 1938.

Also, this issue is $3.99 because of several pages of sketches and quotations from Morrison and Morales. The quotations describe what and why the changes and ideas are in the new Action Comics. Some readers were grousing about having to pay for these pages – I was thrilled to have them. I found them interesting and helped me get comfortable in the New 52.  I think I am starting to trust what Morrison and Morales are doing with this major character. And I like it.

5 stars

Batman #1 (2011)

Batman 1

Batman #1 (2011)

The first month of the “New DC 52” is over. These are the titles that I subscribed to and read:

  • Action Comics
  • Batman
  • Batman & Robin
  • Blue Beetle
  • Detective Comics
  • Green Lantern
  • Green Lantern Corps
  • Justice League
  • Mr Terrific
  • Nightwing
  • OMAC
  • Red Lanterns
  • Superman
  • Wonder Woman

There were no “wretched” issues, thankfully.  Some issues were not as good as others, some were surprisingly good, and some were excellent.  In particular, I really liked Red Lanterns and OMAC.  Overall, the most exciting issue (that, yes, I feel did live up to the hype) was Justice League.  However, as far as the best issue (especially in terms of storyline) that came out, that I read, – I must say it was Batman #1.  It was written by Scott Snyder and pencilled by Greg Capullo.

The cover does not appeal to me very much. It’s not a terrible cover, I guess, but I think I wanted something better for the new number one issue of Batman. I wanted something absolutely outstanding.  This cover is not what I wanted to see for this title. And because I was somewhat unimpressed by the cover, I read the issue the last of all the issues I got that week.  I sure did judge it by its cover!

However, the writing is excellent. I cannot understand how Grant Morrison’s Action Comics and Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics stole the praise away from this issue.  That’s not to say that those issues were bad – they weren’t. This issue of Batman was awesome.  The issue begins with scenes from a dark and dismal Gotham City while Batman muses in dialogue boxes.  We learn that every Saturday in the newspaper, there is a small section wherein citizens are asked to complete the sentence: “Gotham is…..”   This is really fun because from the very first page, I was thinking about this in the back of my head; how would I respond to the question?  Gotham is…. dark. Gothic. Scary. Overrun. Crawling. Insipid. Ominous. Relentless. Decrepit. I loved thinking about how I would finish the phrase.

As Batman ponders the phrase, he’s also punching and kicking his way through bad guys at Arkham.  Until he gets to a room with the Joker and the unthinkable happens… they team up! Joker even says “Aw, always so serious!”  I must say that the Capullo drew the hell out of the Joker in these frames. So, at this point, I’m invested in the story – what’s going on?!  After the battle, Batman meets up with Commissioner Gordon and explains (in his evasive manner) what happened that evening.  Then we are in for a treat – a full spread bird’s-eye view of the Batcave.  I spent several minutes absorbing this shot – its really exciting and fun. I admit it, I am envious of Bruce’s cave. Anyway, surprise! Turns out Dick was actually posing as the Joker! I have no idea if I was relieved or thrilled about this. It was really cool, though, and I enjoyed being fooled. Apparently, Dick was posing as the Joker in Arkham.

Upstairs in the Manor, Bruce meets Dick, Damian, and Tim – all wearing black tie formal wear and looking like a real Bat-family.  Bruce has a party going on whereat he gives a long speech in an endeavor to get investors to join him in creating a newer, better Gotham City.  The point of his speech (and perhaps the Batman title) is that the investors should move beyond what Gotham was and is and focus on what Gotham will be. While this may seem somewhat “uninteresting” to readers who simply want action scenes, I think this section has great potential for the title.

Bruce has to duck out of the party, though, because the police have found a gruesome crime scene.  A John Doe has been killed by someone who used professional, antique throwing knives. However, the victim seemed to know he was going to die because he left a message behind:  “Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow.”  Batman scans the DNA beneath the dead guy’s nails and the last page of the issue confirms that the DNA is a match with none other than Dick Grayson – the fellow who had been helping Batman by posing as the Joker!  The last dialogue box of the issue has Batman finishing the newspaper phrase: “Because above everything, Gotham is… a mystery.

I love the balance between Batman and Bruce Wayne. I love the surprises and supporting role of Dick Grayson. I like the technology and detective skills of Batman. I like that this issue has a deep “Gotham” feel to it – like getting back to Batman’s roots in a solid, classic but also fun way.  This is amazing writing and the surprise mystery ending really makes the reader pine for the next issue.  This issue was certainly the strongest writing of the month and I am really looking forward to see how this storyline develops. I think, at the end of the day, I have to agree with Scott Snyder and Batman….. Gotham is a mysterious mystery.

Finally, one of the debates raised about many of the “new 52” issues was whether they were truly “jumping-on” points for new readers. Were these new number 1’s truly accessible or were they just repackagings?  I have to say that this number one is perfect for new readers who are expecting a great story with classic Batman content.

5 stars