Posts Tagged ‘Superman’

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Man of Steel has come and gone. And while reaction has been mixed it was apparently successful enough for WB to fast track a sequel and jump start those Justice league rumors again. I won’t review the film here but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. It cuts close to the core of the Superman mythos while still managing to be something new and exciting. It also delivers the best action sequences in a superhero film yet. It’s very exciting but has just enough heart underneath to give it some real weight.
But whether you loved or hated the film, chances are you have some strong feelings about Superman. So, in no particular order, here are three stories that can scratch your krypton itch.
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Superman: Birthright
This Mark Waid written and Francis Yu penciled story, like Man of Steel, is a retelling of Kal-El’s origin story. This 12 issue story opens with Clark traveling the world as a freelance journalist. I love this angle, particularly as its executed here, with Clark spending some time in Africa and writing about tribal disputes, injustice and identity. There is some fantastic dialogue to be had here, particularly about masks and having a place to call home. I also like how all of that builds into Clark’s decision to become Superman. There is far more focus on his humanity than on his alien birth.
Also of interest is Clark’s relationship with his parents. Waid and Yu deliver what I think may be some of the best interactions between Clark and his adoptive parents ever committed to the printed page. It really nails it. Martha is a super supportive mom, always pushing her son to be the best he can be. She becomes a bit obsessed with finding out where Clark comes from, getting involved in UFO searches and constantly watching the skies. Jonathan is his typically inspiring self himself for much of the story but also has some of that overprotective, even jealous  vibe that Kevin Costner portrayed so well in Man of Steel. The other relationships throughout the whole arc are just as nuanced. I love Waid’s take on Lex, full of sadness, pride and a zealous obsession with all things extraterrestrial.  And every single panel involving Lois, Perry, Jimmy and the rest of the Daily Planet staff feels classic, appropriately cheesy and fun. The secret identity issue is addressed here too ( glasses, slouching, acting!) in a way that makes sense. I could write about this story all day but we still have to discuss four more stories!

Short version: Birthright delivers an excellent origin tale that was clearly the inspiration for large portions o the movie. I sincerely hope the next on screen Luthor mirrors this one.

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All-Star Superman
Everyone’s favorite Superman story( for good reason!) was created as an out of continuity tale by superstars Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, possibly the best team in comics today. Unlike Birthright, this story mostly features a very experienced and very powerful Superman. One that solves monumental problems quickly and takes just as much time to stop and encourage everyone he meets. Morrison has a unique voice in comics and really brings Superman to life in a way that is inspiring and immensely entertaining. Phantom Zones, Doomsday, crazy Jimmy Olsen stories, the 5th dimension, Bizarro world and super dates are all here. Morrison throws so many great ideas into each issue of this series that one read through just isn’t enough. And it’s all beautifully illustrated by Frank Quitely in a style that is immediately recognizable and iconic. The basic plot is that Lex Luthor has managed to give Superman a form of super-cancer and the man of steel has to come to grips with his imminent death and put his affairs in order. All while saving the world, or in some cases just one lonely person from various crazy threats. It’s a colorful book that flirts constantly with the fine line between Sci-Fi and superhero storytelling.

Short Version: This is probably the definitive take on the Last Son of Krypton. When I think of Superman, this is what I want to see. Inspiring in its content and execution. It’s damn close to being the perfect comic book.

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Superman: Last Son
Last Son makes it into this list for several reasons: it delivers a great version of Man of Steel villain General Zod and its penned by fan favorite Geoff Johns and the director of Superman 2, Richard Donner. It’s also illustrated by the fantastic Adam Kubert.
Last Son is notable because it features a married Lois and Clark, something we don’t get to see anymore thanks to the New 52 (although I like the Wonder Woman/Superman couple too). Lots of old stories feature comic’s greatest couple but none of them really push the story forward like Last Son. That’s because they become adoptive parents of a mysterious Kryptonian child that falls the sky. Both Lois and Clark react to this forced parenthood differently and it delivers some great drama. I really like Lois as she is written here, Johns pushes the character forward by letting her feel fear, not at falling out of buildings or getting shot at but of growing up. It’s as if Lois is finally forced to grow up and this romance with an all powerful alien just got very real. But of course she matures as the issue progresses and comes to terms with this new responsibility, which makes the ending all the better.  Adam Kubert draws some great fight scenes between Superman and various other Kryptonians. It also features Bizarro and that’s always fun to see. Richard Donner’s presence can really be felt in this story. Krypton, Zod and the Phantom Zone feel very reminiscent of Superman 2  while still allowing for updates to the mythos and a fresh take on Zod and the Phantom Zone, a little of which seems to have influenced Man of Steel’s depiction of everyone’s favorite militant Krypton. This is as close we will get to a decent continuation of the old movies and it delivers everything you want in a Superman story.

Short Version: This is classic Superman and it delivers some excellent character drama while introducing a few new things to the mythos. This was an in continuity tale at the time so it feels like its connected to a bigger DC universe but manages to avoid the drawbacks that come with that.

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BONUS: Superman Unchained #1

This newly launched New 52 series features the best Superman we’ve seen since DC rebooted it’s publishing line two years ago while still feeling new and exciting. The series is penned by one of my favorite writers in the industry at the moment, Scott Snyder (currently making Batman one of the best comics on the stands). Snyder doesn’t hold back at all in the debut issue, bringing his background as a history professor to bear and exploring some new ideas for Superman. Clark’s narrative voice is better here than I’ve seen in a long time as it feels folksy and heroic at the same time. A tough balance to find. Snyder’s great script is brought to life by the excellent Jim Lee, now a legend of his own thanks to decades of fantastic work. Lee draws what is probably the best representation of Superman in the modern age and it’s great to see him back on the character. His sense of scope is epic too and the massive fold out pages in the book will blow you away yet he handles smaller moments as well, as we get to see Clark and Jimmy Olsen share a moment and we see Lois being herself in a fashion that is very entertaining. Like everything else in the New 52, this story is different from the others listed here. It’s a new continuity for everyone in the DCU and that means that some old stories never happened and some things just are not the same. Clark doesn’t work for the Daily Planet, he and Lois are not together and Superman’s life and attitude are different here. But none of that holds the story back from being an eye catching, well written take on the man of steel. Check it out now and get on the ground floor of Superman’s newest adventure.

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Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The opening splash page for All-Star Superman.
Property of DC Comics.

Grant Morrison is a polarizing figure in comics. I admit, sometimes his stories can be a little too far out (Final Crisis) and more confusing than they should be (New X-Men) but when his style comes together, it really works. His run on JLA is my favorite iteration of the team despite the lack of Hal Jordan (I’m not a fan of Kyle Rayner) and the inclusion of electric blue Superman. His run on Batman has been a wild ride, especially Batman and Robin and Batman Inc. But it’s his take on Superman that is his greatest contribution to mainstream comics. Morrison’s Kal-El is a powerful, virtuous, iconic character that lives up the legend. All-Star Superman showcases this better than anything. Without being confined to continuity or worrying about keeping the series running, Morrison manages to tell the definitive Superman tale. Supporting characters help make heroes what they are and Morrison hits all the nails on the head: the charm and fun of Jimmy Olsen, the determination and curiosity of Lois Lane, the greed and narcissism of Lex Luthor and the compassion and intelligence of Superman. It’s that intelligence that really sells the character for me. Supes is a smart guy interested in far more than just punching atomic robots and catching falling ladies. Morrison’s Superman tends a galactic garden, cares for monstrous creatures and solves conflicts with wit before resorting to violence. He even stops his superheroing to care for a young woman in need of some encouragement.

Property of DC Comics.

It’s the busy as a bee attitude that Superman takes on that leads to some great moments. I won’t spoil the whole story for you but the basic idea is that Superman only has so much time left and must complete 12 challenges before overexposure to the Earth’s yellow sun kills him. The story takes on the aspect of a Greek tragedy and that use of mythological imagery works. There is an element of science fiction at work here too, and that melding of science and myth is a recipe for good comics.   Morrison is a big believer in the idea that superheroes are a modern pantheon and his treatment of Superman has always had that element to it. Superman is a constant, driving force of nature and a paragon of virtue. It is what Superman does with his power that defines him, not his power in and of itself. I really can’t say enough about the series, it is without a doubt my favorite Superman story. It made me love the character again after years of being jaded about his relevancy. Morrison makes Superman relevant by staying true to the character of Superman. He doesn’t try to make him edgy or cool. Superman is a little cheesy, a little too good. But maybe we need a character like that. If superheroes can’t be superheroes in superhero comics then what’s the point? Dark and gritty has a place in comics, it really works for Daredevil for instance, but Superman is the bright spot of optimism and I hope it stays that way. The New 52 Action Comics has done an excellent job keeping this tradition running. I just hope Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel and continue to capture the essence of the character when they take over the title at issue 18. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a small dose of All-Star’s brilliance every month while Morrison has been on the flagship Superman title.

The New 52 Action Comics explores Superman before he becomes the world’s top superhero.
Property of DC Comics

I almost forgot to mention the art. I’m a fan of Frank Quitely’s work. It gives the book a very classic feel. His costumes are particularly fun. And the underworld full of bizarros has some great sight gags. The action scenes are well laid out and give Superman a real sense of weight and power. Likewise, his Lex Luthor always looks to be up to something (because he totally is) and  his Jimmy Olsen looks like the happiest guy in the world. His Lois Lane isn’t the best though, she just doesn’t look as iconic as the characters surrounding her.

The direct to DVD animated movie adaptation is pretty good to, even if some of my favorite scenes were left out. DC animation has a proven track record, check out their take on All-Star and any of their other animated features if you get a chance. Wonder Woman is especially good.

Review Round-Up

Posted: November 9, 2012 in DC, Marvel, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

By Alex Headley

The Review Round-Up will be a regular installment here at Comic Critique. Phil and I will be taking a look at our pull lists each week and reviewing the new issues of our favorite books. If you enjoy our thoughts, leave suggestions on future books for us to review.

It was a pretty good week in comics for me. I’m sad to see Defenders end and I wish the Earth 2 books were better but overall it was a good week thanks to Action Comics, RotWorld and Green Lantern.

A variant cover to Action Comics 14.
Property of DC Comics.

Action Comics #14

This is Grant Morrison at his best, taking a whacky concept and running with it. In some regards this issue feels like an episode of Dr. Who and that alone is an immense compliment. Superman is very likable here but still has some of his New 52 attitude on display. When Morrison writes him, I think this new Superman is very interesting. Kal-El is smart, strong and just as virtuous as he should be. Morrison understands the character better than anyone in comics right now. Rags Morales return to the series is a treat as well. His loose style really works here and I’ve liked his take on Supes from issue 1. Superman looks far more caring and compassionate here than in Justice League or this week’s Green Lantern.

His race to Mars to fight off the Metaleks is a fun one and his interaction with the space crew is genuinely interesting despite how short-lived it is. The real problem with this issue is how much is crammed into it. We have the Metaleks, The Multitude (which is supposedly a big, damn deal that has been set up for awhile) and then more 5th dimension shenanigans. That doesn’t even include the back up story. I think this is largely due to Morrison finishing his run on Action with issue 16. It seems like this story could really have benefited from being a three parter instead of just two issues. Maybe next issue will clear things up enough to make this gripe go away but as it stands on its own it hurts what is otherwise an excellent Superman adventure. The back up story featuring real life astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is touching but the exposition is a little much. The science is interesting to be sure but having an intern explain it all was a little tedious. The opening scene with the Justice League was hilarious though.

Green Lantern #14

The cover to Green Lantern 14.
Property of DC Comics.

Rise of the Third Army continues! This is the only GL book I’m picking up at the moment and I still love it. Geoff Johns has done a stellar job making Green Lantern a must read title both before the New 52 and after. Simon Baz is shaping up to be a very interesting character, his interaction with the Justice League in this issue is great, all the characters seem to act in the appropriate way and Baz’s fear and awe at their appearance is believable. His use of the ring is interesting and helps establish just why he was chosen in the first place. I think running away as fast as he did may not have been the wisest decision but it’s believable. He has trust issues for good reason and nothing seems like it was done purely for the sake of the plot; we’ll see how his quest to clear his name and protect innocents from a potential terrorist works out when the Guardians and their Third Army gets involved. Speaking of which, Johns moves the plot forward in the smallest way possible this issue. Nobody is really aware of the threat yet and the foreshadowing regarding the first lantern is a little heavy handed. Still, I want to know more about the character. More interesting to me though is Black Hand and the secret Guardians in the prison. Seeing how that plays out is going to be a fun ride. Ivan Reiss continues to be an excellent choice for the book, his light constructs have depth and personality and the Justice League looks good, if maybe a little too square-jawed. His best pages are the ones dealing with Hal and Sinestro though; his shadows and lighting are very interesting. On a story note, we all knew that those two weren’t permanently dead and I’m sure they will play a key role in the event but surprisingly I find myself less interested in their plight than in the other mysteries and plots at play here. That’s saying something, as Sinestro is my favorite Green Lantern and his role in the series has just been a treat.

Swamp Thing 14.
Property of DC Comics

Animal Man #14 & Swamp Thing #14

These two books really need to read together. Both have been excellent since the beginning but now they are overlapping just a bit too much. The stories are just too similar. Buddy Baker sets out across RotWorld to put an end to Rot once and for all. And so does Swamp Thing. Holland takes along a band of misfits to help him fight as he travels. So does Animal Man. Both books even have flashbacks to what has happened to the title characters loved ones while they were gone. The stories are a good use of the classic Hero’s Journey tale in which the hero must make his way across the land to face impossible odds and comes to learn more about himself in the end, nothing wrong with that formula. The concept for the event is thrilling and getting to see big time heroes reduced to shambling zombies is gross, terrifying and fun. The art in both issues is fantastic. I prefer Yanick Paquette’s work in Swamp Thing because of his use of lighting and dynamic panels to tell the story in a very visual way but Animal Man does a great job of evoking the body horror of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Both books are favorites of mine, I love the magical side of the DCU, I won’t stop reading the books but right now is not the best either have been so far. The conflict between the Red, the Rot and the Green is a great way to unite some of the DCU’s more fantastical elements and put everything in context for years to come. It’s one of the major successes of the New 52 so far and I’m very excited to see how things play out in RotWorld.

Worlds’ Finest #6

This is a book that I desperately want to be good. The premise is fun, the characters should be interesting. But aside from the excellent issue 0, nothing seems to be clicking. The battle with the giant radioactive man went on way too long and now that it’s over the plot is just kind of sitting still. This issue was promising, interaction between Huntress and Damian should have been great, instead it just fall flat. The dialogue just seems lazy, with numerous hints about each character’s parentage. The “something seems so familiar about [character] is way overplayed. Damian is written as way more of a dick than he should be. Don’t get me wrong, the character is a jerk. But, he’s supposed to be a lovable jerk and that doesn’t come across here. Power Girl falls flat as well. Despite boasting a far more modest costume in the new series, this version of Karen Starr seems far more exploitative than the old one with the boob window. Her clothes are ripped, burned or torn off in every single issue! Sometimes more than once. In this issue a near encounter with Supergirl is particularly frustrating. Just as I want to see Damian and Huntress interact because of their shared parentage, I want to see Karen meeting the other Kryptonians on this Earth.  A meeting is teased here, but nothing comes of it. Not even some interesting thoughts from the main character. I’ll probably see this story arc to its end and then drop the title to make room for some more Marvel stuff or to try the new Green Arrow creative team. Jeff Lemire is taking over soon and I’m a big fan of his work.

The Cover to Earth 2 #6.
Property of DC Comics

Earth 2 #6

Like World’s Finest, I really want to like Earth 2. The concept is interesting, the new takes on lore is great and the costumes and use of old characters in a new setting is definitely fun. But James Robinson’s dialogue can make it tough to get through. He bounces back and forth from deliberate, almost flowery language to lots of unnecessary “yeahs” and almost stream of thought narrative that serves little purpose. The art isn’t doing it any favors either. The action is unclear at points and the lighting never quite works the right way. Alan Scott is at once a noble and heroic figure fighting for the Earth and a selfish, egotistical prick. It just doesn’t work yet. Which is a shame as I want to like the characters; Flash is the only one that comes across as authentic. Hawkgirl and Pratt are just a little too mysterious. I’ll keep reading for a couple more issue and see where things go. I enjoy alternate reality tales and seeing new takes on old characters but Earth 2 has regressed instead of progressing despite moving along at a fairly fast pace. It’s not a bad book per se, but it’s so close to being a good one that the flaws just really stand out.

Defenders # 12

To read my thoughts on this series check out my post from earlier in the week. Issue 12 is good, but certainly not the best issue in the series. One reason is the lack of Terry Dodson. The back up artist, Pierfederici, does a decent job of mimicking Dodsen but in some instances there are some jarring differences. My real gripe, and I touched on this a bit in my last post, is just how little time the cast gets to say farewell. While I enjoyed Dr. Strange’s journey throughout the series, I feel like the rest really get shafted a bit here, especially Red She-Hulk and Iron Fist. I think a double sized issue would have fixed this problem.

Do you read any of these titles? Share your pull lists and reviews below in the comments section.