Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Action Comics #968 (2017)


Action Comics #968 (January, 2017)
"Men of Steel, Part 2"
Writer - Dan Jurgens
Art - Tyler Kirkham
Letterer - Rob Leigh
Colorist - Ulises Arreola
Associate Editor - Paul Kaminski
Editor - Mike Cotton
Group Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Another random "from the pile" pick... from the future!  I'm not sure if it's sad how excited I am to be adding "2017" to the tags... okay, I'm sure it is sad... I'm not sure just how sad.

--


We open with a blustery father lambasting a Superman-Super-Watcher helicopter tour guide due to the fact that while his family partook in a flight... the Man of Steel was a no-show.  He reels back and is just about to strike the poor pilot when... Superman and Zade bust into the scene... destroying the helicopter... though missing the goofball dad.  The battle rages, destroying property all along the way... we get to see that... *sigh* Jon is looking on.  Gotta say... I can't wait for Super Sons to launch, maybe then this can go back to being just a Superman book.


Meanwhile, on a nearby roof Lex Luthor kneels before L'Call the Godslayer.  Ya see, L'Call is there to slay ol' Lex... unfortunately for him, however, Lex is armed to the teeth with awesome tech.  After blowing L'Call away, Lois and nu-Clark enter the scene in search of a story.


We rejoin Superman as his battle with Zade rages on.  Zade gets the better of it when Superman is distracted by nu-Clark's use of his signal watch.  He uses his x-ray vision to see that Lois and Clark are in trouble.  Before Zade can land a "killing" blow, *sigh* Jon crashes the scene by hitting the baddie with a semi tractor.


Superman and Superboy head off to the roof, but father (thankfully) tells son to hang back.  Once he arrives, Superman is... stabbed (!) in the shoulder by one of L'Call's blades.  L'Call tells Superman his plans for Luthor... even going as far as to show him a glimpse of Darkseid-Lex's future.  This is moving into the old "Would you kill Hitler in the crib?" dilemma.


While this is going down, Lois catches a glimpse of Jon on a nearby building... and nu-Clark catches a glimpse of Lois talking to the red-caped adolescent.  Hmm... indeed.


Superman is not convinced and so L'Call calmly and rationally blasts him point-blank in the face.  As Superman sit prone, L'Call readies to decapitate him... until... *sigh* Jon pleads with him to back off... and he does.


Instead of killing Superman, L'Call and Zade decide just to just leave... with Lex.  Superman tries to stop them, but it's too late.  Nu-Clark approaches Superman and plays devil's advocate... if Lex is destined to become a mass-murderer... why not just let him die?  Hmm... that's not the Clark Kent I know.


--

I really wanted to like this more than I did.  I'm not sure if we're killing time... but it kind of feels like we are.  It may be just that I really dislike Lex wearing the "S".  Hell, I dislike it that just so many people are wearing the "S" at the moment... but Lex?  I mean, it was cute at first... I guess... but by now it just feels like it's gone on for too long without any real progression.  It's as though we're being told "Look at Lex... he is important" but he hasn't really done anything yet.  By this point we're six months into Rebirth... we/I really want this to move along.

We get the whole "would you kill Hitler in the crib?" thing... which, I suppose is a decent enough way for us to learn that nu-Clark has some different values than the original.  That I can dig.  I'm really not sure where the vestigial-Clark storyline is headed... but again, I'm really anxious to get down to it... and move it into the rear-view.  I guess I'm just looking forward to having all the lumps ironed out.  It's difficult for me to give this a fair/balanced review... because with Superman I kinda wear my biases on my sleeve.

Anyhoo... not overly interested in the Trial of Lex Luthor... and as much as it pains me to say... I just really want Superman stories again.  I'm getting tired of other-supers... I'm getting tired of Jon... I just want some fun stories again.  Granted... this is just one fool's opinion.  Don't have any complaints about the dialogue... some good stuff there... and the art... ooh boy, the art.  This is some wonderfully pretty comics.  I'm not sure I'd want Kirkham on the title full-time, but I do enjoy him popping in from time to time.  I kinda dig the cover too... I swear it's an homage... but I can't put my finger on it.

Overall... like I said, looking forward to putting this in the rear-view.  I'm hopeful that once it's all behind us we'll start getting some great fun Superman stories.  I mean, it's Dan Jurgens... the definitive Superman writer of my lifetime... I've got faith that this will return to form.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Batman #423 (1988)


Batman #423 (September, 1988)
"You Shoulda Seen Him..."
Writer - Jim Starlin
Penciller - Dave Cockrum
Inker - Mike DeCarlo
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

No real preamble today... casa Chris is in crisis, too much stuff coming to a head at once.  Let's get right into this (spoiler alert) excellent issue of Batman.

--


We open on the Gothamboro Bridge as an officer is trying to talk a hopeless junkie off the safety railing.  The poor heroin addict, Kenny, feels as though his life isn't worth living... and nothing Officer Bart says will persuade him otherwise.  Lucky for him, he's got some backup... in the form of the Batman.  Unlucky for Kenny, Batman isn't all that much more convincing... the junkie jumps!


Batman leaps after him... Kenny doesn't realize it, but the Bat's wearing a safety harness.  He catches the junkie just twenty feet before he hits the drink.  Kenny then gets the mother of all lectures from the caped crusader.  It's really very well done.  He tells the fella that he should be dead right now... and had he not been there, he would be.  He tells him not to waste his second chance, and drops him to a coast guard boat below.


We jump to a diner the following morning where Officer Bart is sharing this story with fellow GCPD Officer, Greg.  "You shoulda seen him!" he says.  Well, it just so happens that Greg did see the Batman last night as well... during a hostage situation at a nearby Delicatessen.  A rather cliche-looking gang of goofs are holding several deli patrons at gunpoint... with the threat of, ya know... being made dead.  The hostage-negotiator is called... these geeks want a measly hundred-thou and a Caddy.  Really now... what, no nude pictures of Bea Arthur?  Anyhoo, if they don't get it... people get dead.


The police don't budge, and it looks like a poor elderly lady is about to have her brains blown out... Now... I dunno much about police protocol, much less fictional-police protocol... but this just seems like bad form, no?  Anyhoo... Batman is on the scene, and scares the rotten-mouthed punk into losing sight of the prize.  Another wonderful bit of Bat-dialogue here from Starlin.  Batman promises to make this goober feel the worst pain of his life... pain that will never end... because Batman will not allow him to die.  Brutal!


Back at the diner, a third officer overhears Greg and Bart's conversation... and decides to share his Batman story for the night.  Earlier that evening, this officer, Kirby Jackson, saw some very young children hanging about in a bad part of town.  Once they realize he saw them... they bolt through the alleys and over fences to get away.  Kirby has trouble keeping up... he blames it on his lack of familiarity with "the terrain"... I think he's just crap at his job.  Anyhoo... the tots run right into... the Batman.



The young boy doesn't miss a beat... he picks up a little plank of wood as though he is going to start swingin'.  He tells both Batman and Kirby that they "ain't going back".  Batman calmly walks over to the children and kneels down to their level.  He is able to get through to them, although the reader isn't privy to the exact words used.  The kids then lead him by the hand to the little crate in which they currently reside.


Batman and Kirby set a small campfire, and the foursome sit around it.  The kids explain their situation.  Hank is seven years old, while his sister Jenny is just five.  They are from Florida... and both of their parents have recently passed away.  Their mother passed in a car accident, and their father got mixed up in a shady poker game after arriving in Gotham to look for work.  A social worker went to retrieve the poor orphans... and broke the news that they would be placed in separate homes.  Well, that's all Hank had to hear... and the twosome hit the bricks.


Kirby continues his story... he mentions that he believes he caught the Batman crying at the children's plight.  Batman then promised the children that he would see to it that they were never separated again.  Ya see, he knows a guy... I think you may have heard of him... a Mr. Bruce Wayne.


We shift back to the diner and Kirby is wrapping up with his tale.  He takes his leave so that he can give his wife a ride to work.  After he leaves, Greg and Bart joke about how ridiculous Kirby's story was... I mean, really now... Batman... crying?  Nahhhh...


We wrap up at Wayne Manor, where Bruce is... you know it... checking in on the tots.  Ya see, he's going to keep them together until they can be shipped off to live with their Aunt Susan.  Alfred makes a joke about the Batman having gone soft... and Bruce smiles.


--

This may have been the perfect issue for me to read today.  Came very close to facing the arch-nemesis of many fellow bloggers of late... the most evil interloper... that thing, civilians like to call "real life".  Many have fallen before it... and over the past couple of weeks I've felt its steely gaze and hot breath.  I'll just say having a "softer" Batman story really helped me out today... for a variety of reasons, none of which I will bore anyone with.

Is this a perfect issue?  Nah... it's a competent one... but, damned if I didn't enjoy every it from cover to cover.  Weird as it may sound, it was just so... comfortable.  It's a series of vignettes... just another night in the life of the Caped Crusader.  A night that we, the readers, would normally not be privy to.  There are no clowns, nor penguins, nor riddles to be solved.  This is just Batman out dealing with the folks in his city... and it's great.

I've never felt that Dave Cockrum was a great fit for Batman, however, his work here is very nice.  There are panels where the children look like shrunken grown-ups, but overall... very nice.  In discussing the art, I would be remiss not to mention the Todd McFarlane-before-he-was-Todd McFarlane cover... which I really dig.  I can only imagine how Wizard Magazine priced this one during the years of the Image boom.  The cover is fairly iconic, though... Todd himself even used it as inspiration for a recent issue of Spawn (#230).  Check it out...


Pretty cool, eh?  Overall, despite my gushing... this may not be an issue that will rock everyone's socks.  If you're down for a night "off" for Batman... as in, his Rogues Gallery plays no part... this issue comes with a very high recommendation.  It is available digitally.

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Both Great Series

Sunday, December 4, 2016

DC Comics Presents #31 (1981)


DC Comics Presents #31 (March, 1981)
"The Deadliest Show on Earth!"
"Whatever Happened to Robotman?"
Writers - Gerry Conway & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers - Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Alex Saviuk
Inkers - Dick Giordano & Vince Colletta
Letterer - Ben Oda
Colorists - Jerry Serpe & Phil Rachelson
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.50

Random pick from the pile today... been getting a bit overwhelmed with school work (which is why this is going up late in the evening rather than first thing in the morning) as we ever so slowly trudge along toward Christmas break.  I have all these huge plans and reading projects I want to push through during those few weeks off... but knowing myself the way that I do, I will be so overwhelmed by my freedom that I will accomplish absolutely none of them!

--


We open late at night with Robin paying a visit to the Sterling Circus.  He walks around a bit, relieved that he hasn't yet been jumped by a carny... when he gets jumped by a carny!  It is the Half-and-Half from the Freakshow.  Ya know, the person with half their face and body done up like a man, and the other done up like a woman.  This bugger is strong, but proves to be no match for the Teen Wonder.


When the dust clears, Dick recounts his first visit to Sterling's earlier this afternoon.  He walked the grounds with his "comely" date before settling in for the show where he ran into someone quite familiar... Waldo... ya know, Waldo the Clown!  Strangely, Waldo doesn't appear to recognize him...


Well, that's why he's come back for an after-hours visit.  He figures something's gotta give here.  Inside a tent he is led to, he sees that Waldo (the Clown) is being punished for nearly giving "their secret" away that afternoon.  His punishment?  Leaping through a flaming hoop... seriously now.  Lucky for Wally, just as he jumps, Robin pulls him before he can singe his fringe.  Unlucky for Robin, the brains of the operation uses this opportunity to use his mind control powers on the poor Teen Wonder.


As he struggles to fight it off he looks up to the Circus Strongman... who upon closer inspection (and removal of his phony mustache and beard)... is Superman!  Robin is in a state of shock and can no longer fight the mind control... and down he goes.


The following day the circus leaves Gotham City and travels to Metropolis where we see Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen taking in the show.  They watch as Robin performs a trapeze act and as Superman lifts an elephant over his head.


That night while Robin stand dazed in his cage, he is shaken... er, clapped out of his trance by the Man of Steel.  Superman tells Dick that he was never under the mind control but played along to try and get to the bottom of things.  They are almost immediately bathed in a spotlight, and the circus folk (and animals!) quickly pounce.  All but one are under mind control... but who is the one behind it all?


As Superman keeps the carnies at bay, Robin loads up an old-fashioned camera with some flash powder.  He snaps a pic, which causes only one of the carnies to recoil... clearly this is the one doing the hypnotizing!  Superman snags the baddie and flies off with him... and, well... that's it!


Our backup story has to do with Robotman... no, not that Robotman... this is the silver version... from the Golden Age!  This story basically retells his origin... he was once a professor named Robert Crane who was shot by some thugs.  After the baddies flee, his assistant, Chuck Grayson (probably no relation, right?) quickly... ahem, transports Crane's brain into the head of a robot.


And so, Robotman fought crime... until the day he was caught in a mine shaft cave-in.  He awoke twenty years later, and despite noticing how "futuristic" everything around him looks (and how much people he knew have aged), doesn't think all that much of it.  He throws on his Paul Dennis (a new name he yanked from his behind) latex mask and goes about his daily routine.


He comes across the folks he blames for the cave-in, and is finally brought up to speed on the fact that twenty years have passed since his disappearance.


After taking out the riff-raff, he learns that while he was "out" another Robotman (yeah, that Robotman) entered the superhero forum.  He then decides... get this... to have his brain removed from his robot head, and placed into the dome of the long-dead Chuck Grayson!  Wait, what?  Anyhoo, he decides to use this as a new lease on life, and a new beginning for both Robert Crane and Chuck Grayson.  Oof.


--

Not a bad little issue.  Nothing Earth shaking or anything, but nothing offensively bad either.  It was a neat little romp with Superman and Robin, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sure it definitely feels a bit rushed... and I think they could have filled the extra eight pages of this issue had they jettisoned the ridiculous Robotman tale.  Not a whole lot of closure here... Superman just flies off with the bad guy... okay.  Lois and Jimmy's appearance didn't feel terribly necessary... just a way to make the scene scream "Metropolis" I suppose.

Not much more to say about it.  The art (for both stories) is very nice.  Garcia-Lopez is always a treat... the characters he draws always look phenomenal, and Saviuk's no slouch either.

The Robotman backup... okey doke... not a whole lot that can be done with a retelling of an origin... silly as it may be.  I know things were done fast and loose in the Golden Age, but just picturing old Chuck composing himself long enough to yank the brain out of his dying pal and placing it into a robo-dome is really crazy to me.

Overall... not all that much to say about either of these stories.  Had I been collecting this title at release and waited a month to get this issue... I would have been disappointed.  Reading it now almost forty years later... ehh, I wouldn't tell ya to track it down, however, if you happened across it for two-bits, I wouldn't tell ya not to grab it either.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Justice League America #42 (1990)


Justice League America #42 (September, 1990)
"Solicitations"
Writers - Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Penciller - Mike McKone
Inker - Jose Marzan, Jr.
Letterer - Bob Lappan
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Assistant Editor - Kevin Dooley
Editor - Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $1.00

Well, after so many days in a row with excellent covers, I thought I'd shake things up and take a look at a book with a... well, not so excellent cover.  I mean, really now... how hideous is Starman on this cover?  Quite unpleasant to look at all around... not sure at all why they would decide to go with this... it would have sent me for the holy water had I seen it on the shelf.  Yikes... and from Adam Hughes no less!  This dude is normally friggin' incredible... not sure how this found its way off of his pencil.

Let's read on and see if this is indicative of what's on the inside... it couldn't possibly be... could it?

--


We open with Martian Manhunter and Gypsy as they discuss the events of the last several issues.  Before them, in stasis, floats the bite-sized Despero who wrecked havoc on Earth until J'onn was able to nullify the threat.  Gypsy lost her parents in the attack and is adamant that J'onn just kill the tiny destroyer.  J'onn replies that it isn't his place to do such a thing, and decides to leave him be.  J'onn asks Gypsy if she would consider joining the Justice League... an offer he imagined she would jump at... and she declines.  He promises he'll always be there for her and she leaves.


J'onn meets up with Max Lord and now they discuss current events.  Mister Miracle is dead, and the team is in desperate need of some "new blood"... so desperate in fact that Max has sent some of their members out on a little recruitment drive...


We join Fire and Blue Beetle as they hover over Dos Rios, Texas in The Bug.  They land and enter a local dive-y bar in search of their prospective member.  None of the patrons or barmen are too keen on chatting with the heroes, but luckily, their man enters the scene... it's El Diablo... ya know, the boring one.


Meanwhile over the Arizona desert, Starman... and his glorious mullet soar the skies.  He runs into the top JLI PR fella himself... Guy Gardner.  Guy offers him the gig, and when Will turns it down, Guy just decides that he wasn't willing to give him any rights of refusal.  He nabs him in a green energy construct, and flies away.


Back in Dos Rios, Fire takes point... she and El Diablo begin chatting in Spanish, while Beetle begrudgingly takes in the local flavor.


Our next team of recruiters is Huntress and Ice... and their targets are the crime-fighting duo, Hawk and Dove... wait, really?  Okay.  


Now for something completely different, we shift skyward... and spaceward, up to the spacecraft of the great Manga Khan.  Mister Miracle was contracted to him via some nuttiness drafted by Stan Lee Funky Flashman over in his own title.  Khan informs Scott that he's met his obligation, and will "in the name of friendship" be escorted back to Earth so that he may resume his life... little does he know that the robot that took his place just "died".


Back on Earth... Bea and El continue their chat while Beetle fights to stay awake... and Guy and Will continue their scuffle over the desert.  If I were Will I'd be angry too, but mostly due to the way I was drawn on the cover!


Back at the Embassy, Max Lord is escorted to his office to find... Mister Miracle, alive and well... along with Manga, Oberon, L-Ron, and the Flashman.  After being caught up on the "status" of his robotic dupe, Scott faces the harsh realization that Barda believes him to be dead!


We get a neat little scene between J'onn and Batman where they discuss both the future of the League and their places in it.  J'onn is looking to get away for awhile, though Batman feels that it really wouldn't change things if he did.  I'm really not doing the scene the justice it deserves... it's really well done.  J'onn ultimately decides to tell Max he wants to bug out for awhile... which is news that Mr. Lord is not too keen on hearing.


The next several pages reveal the unsuccessful results of the JLI Recruitment Drive, as all three parties have been shot down by their prospects.  Suddenly a whole lot of hair with men underneath it enter the Embassy... it's Lightray and Orion of New Genesis... they want on the League and they want it now!


--

Thankfully that old axiom about not judging a book by its cover comes into play here.  This was a helluva fun issue... from a very strange (but wonderful) time in League history.

We're coming off perhaps the defining battle for this version of the League... Despero just goes ape and kills/destroys everything in his path... such an amazing tonal shift from the normal "sitcommy" nature of this title... but it worked so well.  Perhaps I'll dig some of those issues out somewhere down the line.

For this issue... we get to watch as the League does something I'm not sure it had ever done before... or since... go out on a recruitment tour!  Such a great idea, especially for this group of characters.  We see the problem with trying to run a superhero team as though it were a company... I mean, these folks aren't really known for their PR skills... Seriously now, would you send Guy Gardner out to recruit new talent for your company?

For whatever reason whenever I think back to this issue I remember that Wild Dog also turns down membership... and every time I revisit it, I'm surprised that this scene does not exist.  I must be confusing it with something... I'll have to do some brain-digging I suppose.

J'onn J'onzz continues to be a true highlight of this title... really makes me hate what they've done with him since 2011.  It may be cliche to call the Martian Manhunter the "heart and soul" of the Justice League... but that doesn't make the statement any less true.  J'onn requesting time to decompress makes perfect sense after what he was forced to do with Despero... and after what happened to Gypsy and her family.  Gypsy was something of a daughter figure to J'onn... having to deal with her suffering and persistence to process everything that occurred on her own has really shaken the man.

The Mister Miracle bit... ehh, I didn't dig this the first time I read it, and I still don't.  Asamattafact, Scott leaving Earth was kind of what sank his solo ongoing for me too.  Up until then, it was kind of "sitcommy" as well... just some fun comics.  Having him leave Earth made it feel a whole lot less special.  I mean, I get it... not everyone is going to enjoy reading about Scott and Barda's domestic bliss... but, I definitely thought the book was better during those stories.

Overall... I would recommend ignoring the gruesome cover and enjoying the wonderful contents of this issue... hell, this era.  It is often around this point in the Giffen/DeMatteis run that my interest begins to wane, but there's still some great stuff in here.  If you're down for an offbeat issue from an offbeat era, definitely consider giving this one the ol' flip through.

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