Jim Lee

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1 – J. Lee, S. Snyder; DC Comics; 2013

Because we are nearing the end of the year and I have not done a comic book review in awhile, I figured it was time. Not to mention the INSANE backlog of comics stacked around the premises.  I would show you pictures, but I think it would terrify.  Anyway, I happily dove into the first issue of DC’s Superman Unchained title.  This issue starts a new series and was highly anticipated by readers.  Anything involving Superman generally makes news, however the excitement over this title comes from the creator team of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee.  I think DC jumped onto these facts and slapped a $4.99 on the cover just to see if they could do it – i.e. how much value does Snyder/Lee have in terms of buyers?

The cover is nice.  You can tell immediately that it is Jim Lee’s work.  It features the New 52-style Superman (younger and updated costume) ripping through some sort of technological debris. Superman has a gritty look as opposed to the happy, accomplished look he tends to wear.  I really wonder, though, what DC was thinking with the “Unchained” part.  Is this some cool, youthful lingo?  You know, the dialect in which we would say “this is off the chain” or “no limits.”  But the thing is, the whole concept of Superman is that he is never chained.  He’s unchained, y’all…………

frame, Superman Unchained #1, J. Lee, S. Snyder, DC Comics; 2013

I really like the artwork in this issue.  It has frames from all points-of-view and angles.  I like the coloring – very colorful and sharply defined.  I always think of Jim Lee’s work as being high-definition and highly-sharpened.  Included in this issue (and perhaps to soften the price point) is a tagged-in four-fold “poster” that actually is part of the issue.  This fold-out section is part of the storyline – just the art needed an embiggened format to be shown.  Now, did it? Sure, I guess, maybe.  I am not real fond of gimmicks like this.  I found it a bit cumbersome to unseal, unfold, read, and then re-fold.  Overall, the Superman here is drawn with shadows, while frowning in concentration, with youth and almost a slightly dark feel.

The storyline is okay.  I think that Snyder has proven himself a very capable and interesting writer with his laudable work on the Batman title.  In this issue, there are included several pages of “interview” material with Snyder and Lee and he makes some comments regarding the differences and similarities between the characters Batman and Superman.  I do think Snyder will be writing us a Supes who is a bit heavier and grittier than those 1980s Superman characterizations. Anyway, the storyline is kind of vague.  Satellites are falling to Earth – Superman is reacting to this. Clark Kent and Superman (or do we speak of them as the same?) are “investigating” the situation.  A supposed-terrorist/crime group called Ascension is hinted at – the whole time all the characters tell us “it cannot be Ascension who did this.”  Of course, Superman’s go-to is Lex Luthor (who has a few frames which perfectly depict his arrogance.  There are some threads with Lois’ father and historical events (WWII).  Overall, Snyder is setting up a big storyline for us, so it’s too early to decipher much other than there are a few interesting elements here.

I am going to give this 4 out of 5 stars – for the art, for the seemingly bold direction Snyder is driving toward, and because this feels stronger than the Action Comics and Superman titles’ starts with the New 52.  I own issues #2 – 4, so I will have to see where this goes.  Still, at $4.99 I am not entirely sure all readers will feel they got their value.

4 stars

Advertisements

Justice League #1

Justice League 1

Justice League #1

There is probably not another item that has been more talked about in the world of geek this week than this issue of Justice League.  And rightly so.  If you do not know the significance of this issue and the changes to the DC Universe…. I suspect you’ve been off-planet. Since there are dozens and dozens and dozens of reviews to sort through online regarding this issue, I imagine readers will get tired of reading.  After all, its a thin comic book, but yet the commentary and opinions regarding it could fill huge tomes. I feel almost too obvious by writing a review of this issue, but I would be remiss if I did not.  I avoided all the reviews/talk/spoilers for this issue prior to my own reading of it.

I was so excited to read this issue that I had to force myself not to read it right away. I waited a few hours before I trusted myself to peel open the cover.  I wanted to make certain that I was going to be in the right state of mind to read this comic – no interruptions, not being rushed, not hungry or tired or having to use the bathroom. I wanted no distractions or outside influences.

First, the cover. This was done by Jim Lee, Alex Sinclair, and Scott Williams.  For the “New 52” (which I am pretty sick of reading or typing), DC “adjusted” many of their characters. Some people have been using the words “rebooted” or “redesigned,” however I think these words are not accurate to explain DC’s intentions in messing with their traditional characterizations.  The characters are not entirely different – there don’t seem to be (on the face of it) wild and shocking fundamental changes. Therefore, I say “adjusted” because the characters are younger and their uniforms and costumes are updated.  On the cover, we can see seven members of the Justice League, including the big three of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. I think the youthfulness of the characters is most present in Superman and Wonder Woman. The teaser images for this cover show a blue background, so when I found out the background was actually the gold color I was somewhat taken aback. I don’t like the background. I understand why gold was the choice – based on a palette and the surrounding colors, however I really don’t like the gold background.

The Justice League of America (2006 volume) first issue cover was done by Ed Benes and (again) Alex Sinclair. Neither first issue cover is something that I love. 2011’s is full of action while the 2006 cover is static. Either way, these are not covers to drool over. When DC released images of the second printing cover, I have to say I prefer the second printing and wish it had been the first printing release.

Jim Lee is the interior artist – one of the comic industry’s big names. He’s drawing for Geoff Johns on this, DC’s self-proclaimed flagship title.  The two of these creators together is something of a superhero team-up for comic readers, so I think the expectations for this title are high.  Since its a “new universe,” I threw out all that I knew about Jim Lee and Geoff Johns and Green Lantern and Batman and Superman and all the rest. I just opened the cover and prepared myself to enjoy a great comic.  That being said, I swept the slate clean and “pretended” that I had never seen Lee’s art before. On several reviews I read the adjective “cinematic” used to describe his artwork in this issue and after some reflection, I think that is a very accurate description.  Of course, what the heck does cinematic mean in terms of comics?  Well, I will go further than those other reviews:  it means action shots with camera-angles from all around.  The characters are jumping off of the page and the scenes are widescreen, high fidelity, panoramics. I think these elements are very clear with the three panels on the first page. It’s a close up, a pseudo-bird’s eye view, and a pseudo-worm’s eye view close up. The entire page oozes action and movement and in your face artwork.

Because the issue is spewing action all over the place, some of the dialogue seems a bit stilted. Not bad, not incorrect, just a bit stilted. I love the banter betwixt Batman and Green Lantern  – there are some insta-classic frames on these pages.  However, a lot of these pages seem like they’re coming directly at the reader, no pausing for breath, no setup. Truly, there are pages here that translate perfectly to the movie screen. The dialogue is good on its own, but its context seems slightly jarring.  Still, it is entirely enjoyable. Johns does not seem to fill the frames with words, being (in this issue) a wee bit minimalist and letting the art do the work.

The pages involving Vic have a slightly smushed feeling to them. I feel that they are rather sandwiched between action-packed pages that do not connect well with the interlude that is Vic on the phone.  But, back to Green Lantern and Batman and Metropolis now. Guess who we meet on the last page? And Superman makes a (to be expected) action-packed entrance.  I feel in the past, Superman became a bit tame and lost and dopey. Here is an “adjustment” to character; previously, I feel Superman would have gracefully landed on the ground and shook hands in a dignified manner with Batman and Green Lantern. Oh, not so in this issue! And its like a fresh breath of air – exciting and new, precisely what DC intended. However, my problem with Superman is that he looks very young. I know the intention was to youth-en the major characters, but Superman looks like he’s a kid. He’s not as block-headed looking as some artists have drawn him. I spent some good minutes looking at Batman and Superman and comparing the two:  Batman has the very satisfying square jaw and brooding look while this youthful Superman has a very playful and almost truculent look to him. At first I did not really like Superman’s look, but it grew on me.

Most of my critiques and observations are almost picayune. Overall, this issue is a perfect starting point for new readers.  It also succeeds because it does not alienate the dedicated hardcore fans.  Anxious die-hards can breathe a sigh of relief because the beloved characters are treated with love and respect. Part of me wonders what it would be like if this was the first issue of Justice League ever. You know, as if this was everyone’s introduction….. what would readers think of it?

In fact, the entire issue got better on the second read. By the fourth read, I was thinking that I might need to get another copy because I will be wearing this one out. The worst part of this issue was that it did not come with issue #2 straightaway.  I need issue #2. Hurry!

5 stars