Sunday, April 23, 2017

Batman (vol.3) #21 (2017)


Batman (vol.3) #21 (June, 2017)
"The Button, Part One"
Script -Tom King
Pencils & Inks - Jason Fabok
Colors - Brad Anderson
Letters - Deron Bennett
Associate Editor - Rebecca Taylor
Editor - Mark Doyle
Cover Price: $2.99

Hard to believe it's almost been a year since we saw Batman find that bloody button in the Batcave.  I don't think any of us saw that coming... and I doubt if anyone had any idea where it was headed.

Looks like we're about to find out.  

Should go without saying what follows the double-dashes is gonna be SPOILERY.

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Our story opens with some Arkham Asylum inmates gathered around a television about to enjoy a hockey game between the Gotham Blades and the Metropolis Mammoths.  A blonde inmate, who is probably Saturn Girl, begins to panic... something is coming, and nothing can stop it.  Everyone will die, including... the Legion?  We shift scenes to the Batcave, where it looks like Batman is finally about to start looking into the Comedian's button.


He's also watching the same Gotham/Metropolis hockey game on one of his monitors... a fight breaks out, and it is pretty intense!  Lotsa blood on the ice.  He sets the button down on his console right next to the mask of the Psycho Pirate... and there is some electrical reaction between the two.  It causes Batman to fall back, and when his fog clears, for a brief moment he sees his father... from the Flashpoint Universe!


Batman decides to contact the Flash to further discuss the button.  Barry tells Bruce that he's currently engaged, but he'll be there in about a minute.  Three seconds later, an altogether different Flash appears before Batman.


The Reverse-Flash introduces himself... then proceeds to spend the next several seconds beating the holy hell out of the Batman.  Like, really and truly... beating the hell out of him.  With Bruce on the ground, Thawne finds the note Flashpoint-Thomas wrote to Rebirth-Bruce.  He laughs... and gleefully tears it to bits.


As one might imagine, Batman doesn't really appreciate that... and so, he decides to start fighting back.  Initially, it's futile... Thawne's vibrations don't allow him to be touched.  Batman figures out a "work around" by plunging a batarang into the baddie's foot.


From here the fight is a bit more even, but Reverse-Flash still has the upper hand.  Batman finally slumps to the ground, at the very moment Barry Allen was to arrive.  Thawne picks up the Comedian's button... and blinks out of view for a moment.  Upon return, he proclaims that he'd seen God... all they while, his body degenerates.


The chapter ends with Barry Allen arriving at the Batcave.  He apologizes for his tardiness, and explains that the hockey fight ended in a fatality.  He is shocked to find the battered bodies of Batman and Thawne on the ground.


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Well, hell... yeah, this felt pretty big, didn't it?

I gotta say, between The Button and Superman Reborn, DC has been bringing it with the "event" feel.  I only wish there was more to read here... but, if the worst thing I can say about a book is that I can't wait to read the next chapter... we're doing pretty good, right?

This really felt like a proper follow-up to DC Universe Rebirth #1.  I will say that I was a bit trepidacious when this was announced without Geoff Johns in the writer's chair... but Tom King knocked this out of the park.  Jason Fabok... well, this dude's just a treasure.  Absolutely excellent work here.

When I started reading this today, I really wasn't sure if I was gonna dig the "one-minute" gimmick... but it totally worked.  It added a sense of urgency to the thing, and also served the nine-panel grid they were going with here.  I suppose if we're gonna play with the Watchmen, we oughta go all the way, right?

The use of the Psycho Pirate mask was a neat touch.  Back in Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, the Pirate was institutionalized in Arkham because he could still remember the multiverse/pre-Crisis DC Universe.  So, if this story sets to weave disparate eras of DC Continuity together... or at least make them flow in an easy to swallow kinda way, it makes sense that the Medusa Mask would cause a reaction with the Comedian's Button.  At least it makes sense to me...

The use of Reverse-Flash feels like a way to help link Flashpoint into the mix, which is fair enough to me.  The next-issue blurb promises to reveal who killed Thawne, so I gotta wonder if we're gonna be seeing a whole lotta blue skin in the next few weeks!

Overall, if you read DC Comics, there's no reason why you wouldn't pick this up.  This is the first week in I-don't-know-how-long that one of the Superman books wasn't on the tip-top of my reading pile... and after reading this, I think I can safely say that The Button will be the first book I read every week for the next few.

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Lenticular Cover:


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Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Adventures of Superboy #1 (1980)


New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January, 1980)
"The Most Important Year of Superboy's Life!"
Writer - Cary Bates
Penciller - Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker - David Hunt
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Letterer - Ben Oda
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40

Super-short preamble today... I'm about shoulders deep in my final research paper.  I'm calling it my "Chrissertation" much to the annoyance of my wife.

Onward to Superboy's birthday!  Looks awfully warm in Smallville for February 29th, don't it?

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We open as sixteen-year old Clark Kent smugly stands next to his birthday cake ready to blow out the candles.  Lana asks why Clark's cake has 17 candles on it when he's only 16.  I guess she's never heard of "one for good luck", eh?  He isn't sure either, and just says adding an extra candle is something Ma and Pa have done since his eighth birthday.  This leads us into a flashback... to Clark's eighth birthday, back when Ma and Pa were much... older.  A helpful footnote informs us that this occurred before they were rejuvenated by some chemical.


This is right around the time that Clark made his first public appearance as Superboy... which surprised me a bit.  I always thought he was an early teen, however here, he's barely eight!


As he flies over Smallville, he notices an airplane in an apparent nosedive... and so, he heads in to help out.  Turns out, this plane was barreling toward the ground on purpose... it's the Flying Aces Stunt-Pilot Show!  Man, Smallville's got everything!  Superboy takes the opportunity to do some aerial hot-doggin' himself.


After getting his fill of oohs and ahhs, Superboy retreats.  Unfortunately, he winds up in the path of a strange purple spaceship.  He is struck by a beam and pulled on board.  He wakes up in a room and is addressed by a pair of speakers.  They promise the boy they mean him no harm... and they just want to study him.  Likely story, right?  Superboy's all "screw this" and escapes with ease.


Back at the Kent home later on that evening, the family settles in for a birthday tradition... home movies!  Clark is bored out of his mind... but plays along anyway, and it's a good thing he does... because their flick is interrupted by the same alien spacecraft he'd escaped from earlier that day!


During the interruption, we learn the origin of Myla and Byrn... two survivors of a fallen race of cat-cheeked creatures.  As they escaped their radiation-pummeled planet, they took a plague serum.  This serum doesn't just cure them... it activates bio-chemicals in their advanced brains which grants them immortality!  The immortality was only supposed to last during the healing process, however, at this point... their brains will not allow them to age or die!


Their story continues... their craft wandered through space for several million years, until one day... they saw a tiny rocketship aimed toward the Earth.  Any guesses who might have been on board?


The aliens then beam themselves into the Kent living room, where they give Superboy a bit of a sales pitch.  They wish to trade in their eternal lives, by (somehow) transferring his aging factor into them... and their immortality into him.  Ay yai yai.  Plan B is just as dumb, and concerns giving Superboy everlasting youth... so he'll forever be eight.  Jon and Martha really ain't keen on the thought, but Superboy kinda mulls it over.


Byrn hands Superboy a strange-looking laser syringe thing... and he takes off to weigh his options.  The aliens beam their monitoring system onto the projector screen, and they watch Superboy make his decision... the extraction occurs, and it looks as though Superboy is going to be immortal!


He returns home to share the news of his decision, but they already know.  The aliens thank him up and down, and before taking their leave, induces selective memory-loss on the boy so he'll never regret his decision.  Once the Kents are alone, Superboy informs his parents that everything they saw on the screen, didn't quite happen the way it looked.


It turns out, Clark negated the extractor beam with his own heat vision... giving the impression that the aliens were no longer immortal.  He then uses his telescopic vision... well, it would've probably been "telescopic vision" in the Silver Age, here it's just Super-Vision... anyhoo... he uses that to take a look at Byrn and Myla... who have already started to age.  The placebo is in effect.


We wrap up with Jon and Martha vowing to put an extra candle on his birthday cake every year as their "secret token of thanks" that their boy won't be an eternal eight-year-old.


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Hey, this was a fun little issue.  Not sure how I feel about it for a series-launching #1, but dug it well enough.

I mentioned above that I was surprised to see Superboy "in action" at such a young age.  I really thought he was a teen/pre-teen, wasn't expecting him to be in the single-digits, age-wise.  Granted, my Superboy is Kon-El, and he was always depicted to be a teenager.  Might just be a bit of Superboy-transference on my end.

Another thing, and it's silly... if I see a birthday cake with an extra candle on it... I'm thinkin' "one for good luck" or "one to grow on"... I would never expect a huge story (featuring immortal aliens, no less) to explain it!  Like I said, it's silly... and I'm just having fun with it.  Gotta wonder why Lana would ask though... or why she'd count 'em!  The best case scenario, she makes it look as though Ma Kent doesn't know how to count!  Okay okay, enough candle talk.

The immortality swap deal was totally ridiculous.  Gotta have brass ones to ask an eight year old if they wanna either live forever, or remain the same age forever.  Luckily, they didn't ask just any eight year old.  Superboy shows he's wise beyond his years by understanding the potential psychosomatic nature of Byrn and Myra's immortality.  Getting to the root of the "mind over matter", he was able to end the aliens' suffering without risking himself.

Some of the neatest stuff in this book is in the 35 Years of Superboy text piece (below, click to enlarge).  I never knew that the first issue of Superboy had him (mistakenly) growing up in Metropolis!  Lotsa great info here, always enjoy reading the history of characters and properties.  This piece is well worth a read.

Heck, the whole package is worth reading.  It's a bit corny, sure... but for a Bronze Age approximation of Silver, this was a lot of fun.  It doesn't look like this has been collected, or made available digitally as of this writing, but shouldn't be too terribly difficult to find, nor too spendy when ya do.

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(Not the) Letters Page:

 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Green Lantern (vol.2) #123 (1979)


Green Lantern (vol.2) #123 (December, 1979)
"Mission of No Return!"
Writer - Denny O'Neil
Penciller - Joe Staton
Inker - Dick Giordano
Letterer - Milt Snapinn
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.40

Hey a book with a December, 1979 cover date!  That means there's a pretty good possibility that this issue was on a rack somewhere on the day I was born!  Pretty neat, eh?  No?  Okay, let's just get into the book then.

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Our story begins with Hal Jordan working with Superman in order to gain access to the Phantom Zone where the Zod Gang is currently holding "alternate Green Lantern" Guy Gardner.  Superman is a bit nervous sending Hal in there alone... after all, it is the Phantom Zone.  It's not everyday someone heads in willingly.  Hal grabs a box, and zips in... where he runs right into the baddies!



Before he can zap'em with his ring, they focus their will through Gardner's and aim it at him.  Hal shields himself with an emerald spinning-top to block the blast.  He then opens the little box he brought, which reveals... well, not Kryptonite... but "Anti-Kryptonite".  Man, pre-Crisis DC was a weird and wonderful place.  Anti-K is apparently effective against non-powered Kryptonians... and it works!  You'd figure that Zod and his crew would embrace death, given that Phantom Zone imprisonment is a much worse fate, no?



Anyhoo, with the baddies on the ropes, Hal snags Guy and heads for the exit.  Unfortunately, before they can split, a yellow beam surrounds Guy and pulls him deep into the Phantom Zone mists.  This is, of course, back when the Green Lantern rings had that pesky yellow impurity, so Hal is powerless to stop it.  Instead, he packs up his block of Anti-K and heads back to confer with Superman.



Back on solid ground, Hal inquires whether or not the Phantom Zone can be reached from Qward, the Anti-Universe.  Superman's all "prob'ly", which leads Hal to deduce that the person behind that yellow beam is the renegade Green Lantern himself... Sinestro.  Superman wishes him well, and Hal heads off...



... to visit his good friend (and former co-star), Oliver Queen.  He explains the current situation to Ollie, then tells him he's not welcome to join him... which begs the question, why did this scene need to happen?  If Hal doesn't want to endanger Ollie, that's all well and good... but why rub his nose in it?  Seems like maybe O'Neil wanted to cram Green Arrow in here.



Next stop on Hal's heartbreak tour is his sorta-kinda fiancee, Kari Limbo.  He tells her what's going on with her former flame, Guy Gardner, and informs her he's going to save him.  She's cool with it, but realizes this will mean her relationship with Hal is more or less over.



Hal heads into uncharted space in search of his pathway to Qward.  Before long, he finds it... and hops in.  Almost immediately, he finds (a very jovial) Guy Gardner.  Hal is wary as this is out of character for his favorite carrot top... not to mention, he's noticed that there is a yellow beam attached to Guy's back (even though the coloring is kind of "off" in a few panels).  He follows the beam to his quarry... Sinestro!



They battle for a bit until Sinestro erects a yellow wall... something you'd assume he'd lead with, no?  Hal attempts to reason with his foe... appealing to his sense of whimsy in offering up a game of "hide 'n seek".  Ay yai yai.  Sinestro's no fool, and instead encases Gardner in a (golden) globe....



... which he shrinks, crushing poor Guy...



Hal pretends not to care about his fellow Lantern, but Sinestro sees right through it.  Knowing he only has moments to concoct a plan, Hal stalls for time... asking if he can touch Guy to make sure he's still alive.  Sinestro almost seems amused by this, and allows it.  After concluding that Guy is still among the living, Hal fires a blast at a nearby planetoid... shattering it!



He then wills-up a fan, and blows the planet dust into Sinestro's eyes.  Disoriented, Sinestro is easy pickin's for a Hal Jordan kayo punch!



As this is occurring, Sinestro lets Guy go... floating into space.  Hal rushes over to rescue him before he might be crushed between a pair of asteroids.  Amid the confusion, Sinestro disappears into the darkness.



Hal rushes Guy to the hospital, where we learn that Mr. Gardner has suffered quite a bit of brain damage.  The doctor is unsure whether or not they can "cure" him, and offer that they may have a better idea in six months.  Kari Limbo arrives and pledges to stand by her (former) man, Guy as long as it takes.  We close out with Hal swearing that he will find, and deal with... Sinestro!



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Before we start, I gotta say... when I saw "Solo Star-Spanning Action" emblazoned on the cover, I wasn't expecting to see Hal hanging out with Superman on the first page!  Not that he didn't span the stars solo, it was just gave me a bit of a chuckle.

Now this is an era of Green Lantern I'm not terribly well-versed in.  My reading jumps from the O'Neil/Adams "relevant" stories to Wein/Englehart era.  It's pretty neat to be experiencing stories from this period for the first time... and what we get here is a pretty solid adventure.

I think our recent run-in with Millennium might have soured me a bit on Joe Staton, but... boy, does he bring his "A" game here.  This is a very nice looking book.  Really dug the art here.

The story itself, I definitely enjoyed it... however, I think I might be trained to read a more decompressed story these days.  Hal entering into the Phantom Zone... and later Qward, and running directly into the people he was looking for felt a bit too convenient.  Not that I want this issue stretched to the size of a trade paperback or anything, but maybe a panel or two showing him searching would've been okay.

I do want to read more from this time period, as Kari Limbo is a bit of a blind spot.  I knew she jumped from Guy to Hal, however, before reading this issue, I never realized that she and Hal almost married.  I do appreciate how, in light of Guy's return, the pair understand the need for them to let go of whatever it is they had.

As I mentioned above, it feels like Green Arrow's inclusion here was a bit forced.  I guess coming off the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, O'Neil may have felt like Ollie at least needed to make an appearance.  Fair enough, I suppose... but the scene came off as so unnatural.  Not sure why Hal would tell Ollie what he had planned if he wasn't planning on having him tag along.  Oh well.

Sinestro here was a lot of fun.  I enjoy this more "tricky" Sinestro, where it's as though he's like a cat playing with a mouse before going in for the kill.  In his cartoonish arrogance, he's amused by Hal during their confrontation.  It ultimately leads to him losing out, but it was still neat to see.  Much rather this than a bloodthirsty or hyper-violent Sinestro.

Overall, I really enjoyed this.  Great writing and art.  I cannot say for certain that this was never collected... though, I will say that the SHOWCASE Presents... line petered out before this could be published.  It is, as luck would have it, available digitally.  I'd say it's well worth your time.

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Letters Page:



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