Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Superman (vol.3) #42 (2015)

Superman (vol.3) #42 (September, 2015)
"Before Truth, Part 2"
Writer - Gene Luen Yang
Penciller - John Romita, Jr.
Inker - Klaus Janson
Colorists - Dean White, Wil Quintana & Tomeu Morey
Letterer - Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor - Andrew Marino
Group Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $3.99

DCYou... remember that?  Me neither.


We open on the outskirts of Metropolis where Clark, Jimmy, Lois and Condesa are collecting themselves following Clark having been shot.  Oughta mention, this was around the time he discovered his Solar Flare power, which would leave him powerless for 24-hours following use... and boy oh boy did he use it... like every issue.  The group is suddenly ambushed by a group of Techno Ninjas... which Clark just thrashes his way through.

When the techno-dust settles, Lois finally confronts Clark.  She's noticed things ever since he... and Superman... arrived in Metropolis.  He isn't terribly keen on continuing the conversation, and pulls away... unfortunately for him, she won't let go... and his clothes tear.  Welp, that's underwhelming.

Lois is surprised, and rather ticked that he'd been keeping this from her.  She's even less pleased to learn that he'd already let Jimmy in on his secret (a few issues earlier).  And, wouldja look at that, Condesa also knows!  Ya see, she worked with Hordr_Root, who has been sending our man some threatening text messages of late.  Hordr_Root?  Have I said "underwhelming" yet?

Condesa also mentions a top secret campus where Hordr_Root and his, er... followers? students? employees? work.  They need to wear  strange techno facewear in order to enter, as these diet-Dr. Doom masks will serve as their identification cards.  Condesa speaks some binary techno-babble into the mask to program it... is there anything she can't do?  The answer to that is... sigh, probably not.  Oh, she's also flirting with Jimmy, I should probably mention that.

Anyhoo, the gang masks up and waits for a campus-bound bus... which, it would appear, travels the road less traveled.

Along the way, Clark tries to continue his chat with Lois... who despite choosing to sit right next to him, isn't in the mood to talk.  She says that she no longer thinks of him as a friend... or partner.  Condesa tells them to shut their yaps as they're just about to arrive.

After touching down, Clark, the gang, and the entire Hordr_Horde are addressed by a giant holographic image of Hordr_Root.  We learn that their ultimate goal is to "remake the world".  What an original idea!

It isn't long before Clark and company are found out for their bogus facial apparati.  They find themselves surrounded by some armored types... maybe robots, who knows.  Anyhoo, Clark grabs Jimmy and Lois and super-speeds them to safety.  He didn't choose to leave Condesa behind... she had wandered off.  He brings them to a building, and punches a hole in the wall revealing something pretty interesting...

The trio are then greeted by the man himself, Hordr_Root (which hasn't become any less annoying to type).  He brings with him both Condesa and... an offer.  He claims that everything he'd put Clark/Superman through these past few weeks were just a test to see if he was Horde material... and wouldn'tcha know it, he passed!  Clark tells him to pound sand, and a fight with Hordr_Security is on.

While he fights the bots, Superman calls out to Jimmy and Lois, imploring them to chase Hordr_Root, and try to make all of the other employees leave the Hordr_Plex.  Jimmy happens across Condesa (which I keep trying to spell with two S's) and she easily puts him in a hammerlock and presses him, face first, into a wall.  She whispers in his ear that her IQ is 150, and she scored 1580 on her SATs... okay, no she didn't... but she does tell him that she's not really with Hordr_Root, she just sided with him to protect a secret of her own... probably something to do with her perfection.

Back in the monitor room, Lois clocks Hordr_Root in the head with a metal pipe.  He goes down like a sack'a potatahs, and his mask shatters.  It would appear that Root is no more than a child... go figure.  As Lois grabs him by the collar, he digitizes and vanishes, claiming that this body is just a "node".

Elsewhere, Condesa has led Jimmy to the holographic PA system, so his freckly face can take to the skies above the campus and issue a warning.

In the monitor room, the robots are proving to be rather difficult for Superman to take down... and so, this being a DCYou era book, he resorts to the, say it with me... Super Flare.  Toldja it was like every issue.  Even Jimmy says "Oh no... again?!"

The issue wraps with Condesa getting the flying bus started as Lois and Jimmy load Clark's naked, powerless backside on board.


Sooooo... hmm.  I do believe I said "underwhelming" a few times during that synopsis.

Now, let's take this discussion piecemeal.  There's a bit to dig through here... we've got the story, the threat, the cast, and the reveal.

Let's start with the reveal.  Like I said, underwhelming.  This entire story is the systematic removal of the secret identity.  Many people, myself included point to the New-52! as DC aping Image in the 1990's.  If you were to ask me, I'd say DCYou is DC aping Marvel around the turn of the century... the Bill Jemas days.  Where things like "secret identities" were just those "comic booky" things that forty year olds who live in their parents' basements cared about.  So many things they were throwing at the wall in hopes that something... anything would stick.

I can't imagine where DC saw this going... and I have a difficult time thinking that Rebirth was already in the works at this point.  Despite claims to the contrary, I still feel that DC licks their finger and holds it up to see which way the wind's blowing on a regular basis... which fuels a bit of my trepidation and affects my level of commitment with the organization's wares.

Keeping with the reveal, let's talk creative team.  Nothing against Gene Yang or JRJR... I've liked most everything Yang has written, and I remain a staunch Romita Jr. supporter, I feel this storyline... being a (would'a/could'a/should'a) DC Universe-altering one, it should have been left to a more seasoned DC Comics storytelling combination... and not a fella writing his third or fourth DC Comic, and one of the biggest and most identifiable Marvel artists of all time.  It just made me feel that DC wasn't making a big enough deal out of something which, in my opinion, should have been huge.  I mean, we're talking almost eighty years of secret identity being flushed away here.

Speaking of flushed away... I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this here.  I know I've said this a few times, but can't recall if it was here or social media or a podcast or something... there is that bit about not being able to put any genies back in the bottle.  I mean, not completely, anyway.  As of this writing, the secret identity is "back", in that nobody knows Clark and Superman are one in the same... but that doesn't change the fact that we have already read the story in which they did!  We know how Perry, Lex, and the world at large react to learning the secret.  This wasn't meant to be a "What if...?" story or "Imaginary Story" (and I don't subscribe to Alan Moore's "... aren't the all?" line of thinking).  These reactions and the stories that sprung from them were supposed to be the real deal.  It kinda takes any oomph out of any future secret identity-centric stories... and weakens the concept of secret identity as a whole.  Who knows... maybe it's just me.

I think back to Spider-Man's big reveal during Civil War (aka, the book that cured me of my Marvel-Zombitude).  We saw how the world reacted to it... we say Jonah's frustration, anger, and feelings of betrayal... we dealt with all that, we digested it.  So, when Brand New Day happened, they tried putting that genie back in the lamp... but, if you ask me... they couldn't.  We already know how people, good, bad, and indifferent are going to react to the reveal... so, it's not a story we'll be "cautiously looking forward to" ever again.

Back to the issue itself... Hordr_Root.  He's not a bad idea for a villain... I actually quite like the concept.  I don't think he should've been the catalyst behind the reveal... but, then again, a lotta folks thought Doomsday shouldn't have been the one to kill him back in 1992.  I will say however, I'm a bit "over" heroes coming across a bank of monitors which show all of their secrets.  Seems like we're going to that well a bit too often these days.

Let's talk Condesa.  Wow... when they got on the bus, I was half expecting it to break down as they were passing a high school football game... so she could score the winning touchdown, then repair the rig.

Overall... the story isn't a bad one... if we take all the reveal nonsense out of the equation.  I purposely didn't reread the one where Lois sends the magical worldwide "tweet of revelation", because I didn't want my brain to leak out of my ear... but this issue... underwhelming, but not offensively so.

If you wanna read about the first, real, and only marginally less underwhelming "Lois finds out" issue, feel free to check out my coverage by clickin' the cover below:


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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Legion of Super-Heroes #306 (1983)

Legion of Super-Heroes #306 (December, 1983)
"Born Under a Lucky Star"
Writer/Co-Plotter - Paul Levitz
Co-Penciller/Co-Plotter - Keith Giffen
Guest Co-Penciller - Curt Swan
Inker - Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Carl Gafford
Editor - Karen Berger
Cover Price: $0.75

Time for a little Legion-Learning... and today we're going to meet Star Boy.  I gotta say, it's weird referring to a fella in a full beard as Star Boy, but we'll go with it.


We open with Star Boy and Wildfire discussing the ongoing election for the next leader for the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Star Boy recognizes that his relationship with Dream Girl kinda hit the skids since she was elected last time around, and so he's hopeful that she won't get a second term.  He plans to vote for Ultra Boy, and is displeased to hear that Wildfire intends to vote Dream Girl.  Even worse, Thom suggests that Dream Girl would only run again if her precognitive powers made it clear that she would win.

From here, Thom goes on a bit about another reason he's sure Dream Girl will win... because of how unlucky he always has been.  This leads us into a flashback wherein Star Boy shares the story where he first displayed his density-affecting powers... an event which cost his family their observatory!

Thom's mother noticed the odd gesture the lad made with his fingers before they began to plummet, and suggests he might have been the cause of the whole thing.  From here, Thom's young life changed forever... he became something of a test subject, doctors poked, prodded, and studied him to see what made his powers "tick".

Wildfire comments that the power of increasing mass doesn't really lend itself to a career in superheroics... and so, Thom shifts his story ahead a few years to explain.  Ya see, when he hit a certain age, and reached his fill of "living" in doctor offices and science labs, he made a run for it!  He commandeered a spaceship, and as he fled... wound up in the tail of a comet.  He managed to steer the ship back homeward, crashing it in front of his parents house!  Due to the wonky effects of the comet, he would emerge from the smoldering wreckage without even a scratch.  From here it's only natural that he'd apply for Legion membership.

Back in the present, some ballots have arrived.  It's really cool how they do this... we can see the individual Legionnaire "logos" to signify who they cast their votes for.  As it stands at this point, Ultra Boy has three votes, Dream Girl has one... and, most surprisingly, Element Lad has three write-in votes!  Despite Nura's lack of votes, Star Boy is still convinced she'll win.

After the brief aside in the present, Thom continues his tale.  He mentions that when he first joined, he was the most powerful member the Legion had... which is really saying something considering Superboy was there.  He talks about a specific instance on the planet of Takron-Galtos where the Science Police were building their headquarters, and training facility... and also a prison.  Not that great a prison either, because the prisoners managed to break out and take over the entire place!  Star Boy was volunteered to serve as a one-man rescue squad... and he arrived with a(nother) crash!

In the present, more votes have been tabulated.  As it stands, Ultra Boy is at four, Dream Girl has rallied up to four, and Element Lad remains with his three write-ins..

Thom sees Dream Girl's influx of votes as another example of his rotten luck, and returns to his story to share yet another.  While he was on Takron-Galtos, his comet-granted invulnerability powers vanish!  He is left with only his density/mass thang, and so in a last-ditch effort, he uses it to bring the roof down on the prisoners... and himself!  He wakes up in a full body cast, and is greeted by then-leader of the Legion, Saturn Girl, who informs him that he still has a place on the team.

More votes have been cast... bringing our totals to six for Ultra Boy, and five apiece for Dream Girl and Element Lad... keeping in mind that Element Lad's votes are write-ins, he's looking pretty good!

From here, Thom shares the story of his first meeting with Dream Girl.  She joined the Legion after having a dream of seven Legionnaires dying in an accident... which turned out to be seven android doubles instead.  Man, everyone had a robot in their likeness back in the day!  She also used "science" to alter Lightning Lass' powers to make her less redundant with her brother.  She would become Light Lass, the Lass who can make things Light!  Dream Girl then resigns as she feels she only became a member due to a trick.

However, that (obviously) wouldn't be the last time Star Boy and Dream Girl's paths would cross.  On the planet of Karak, Star Boy would be attacked by Kenz Nuhor, Dream Girl's ex-boyfriend who refused to marry him due to her love for Thom.  In an act of self defense, Thom winds up killing Kenz... an act which would get him kicked out of the Legion.

As he leaves the Super-Hero Clubhouse, he is approached by Dream Girl who suggests he join her in the Legion of Substitute Heroes... and so, he does!

He would remain a Sub until a crisis occurred wherein a planet was surrounded by the dust of Green Kryptonite.  Superboy and Supergirl had to name a couple of replacements for the mission... and they would choose, ya ready for this... Sir Prize and Miss Terious!  They would wind up being Star Boy and Dream Girl (duh) wearing lead suits.  They would eventually reveal themselves and be granted membership once more.

Back in the present, the final votes are counted... and Thom is shocked to see that... Dream Girl lost!  Element Lad would win with seven write-in votes!  Star Boy celebrates feeling that perhaps his luck is starting to change.


I think I might just be on the right track to Learning the Legion.  Most of the Legion issues I've covered here were spotlight-style stories which feel so much less overwhelming and intimidating than I feared.  These stories also "go down smoother", they're easier to follow and don't really leave me scratching my head.

So, let's talk Star Boy.  My familiarity with the character comes from the post-Infinite Crisis Justice Society of America volume where he was... a bit off.  He heard voices and whatnot... and from what I can recall, was used as a sort of tragic and humorous character.  That's really not the fella we meet today.  Here we meet a sort of "woe is me", self-loathing, kind of unpleasant fella.

My main takeaway from this issue is... why does Star Boy want so badly for his girlfriend to lose the election?  Granted, I just pulled this issue, and read it without context... but, his attitude here makes him come off like a grade-A selfish jerk.  I mean, Wildfire even says that she's been doing a good job in the role... it just really paints Thom poorly in my view.  That very well could be the point, I can't say for sure.  It's not a bad thing or anything... it doesn't make it a bad story, it just shows me that this fella might be a tad on the unlikable side.

It's funny... it feels like every third issue of Legion I check out features an election... or the results of an election.  I'm not sure how often the elections occur, or if they're on an actual "schedule".  It's just funny to me that I can't seem to escape them.

The art here was really neat... I enjoyed the use of Curt Swan for the flashbacks.  I love when they do stuff like that... makes it feel like we're actually experiencing a flashback, rather than simply being told a story.

Overall, despite thinking Thom comes across like kinduva jerk here, I really enjoyed this one.  These "spotlight" issues might just be the ticket to my finally Learning the Legion.  This one is available digitally.


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Monday, June 19, 2017

Blackest Night: Superman #1 (2009)

Blackest Night: Superman #1 (October, 2009)
"A Sleepy Little Town"
Writer - James Robinson
Penciller - Eddy Barrows
Inkers - Ruy Jose & Julio Ferreira
Colorist - Rob Reis
Letterer - Steve Wands
Editors - Adam Schlagman & Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Was in the mood for something a bit "darker"... and didn't wanna wait until October for a little #boohauntedblog.


We open cold on Kal-L from Earth-Two's hands jutting from his grave after being summoned to "Rise"... which, if you recall, was kinda the thing that gimmick of Blackest Night.  From here we shift to Smallville, where it's really just another quiet day around town.  We join (former President of the United States) Pete Ross sweeping outside his shop and chatting with the locals.  It's a real illustration of the pleasant mundanity of small-town living.  Their discussion is briefly interrupted by a shadow crossing overhead.  Was it a bird?  Nah, it was probably nothing.

We briefly visit with the Sheriff's office where a bored Smallville Officer claims to have applied for a position on the Metropolis Police Force.  While the Sheriff tells him what a dumb idea that was, a black hole appears below him.  The Sheriff plummets and the entire dealie results in elevated levels of fear.

We shift over to a diner where more folks are going about their mundane Smallville lives.  "Regulars" are enjoying their "usuals", we learn that poor Tom Hardy lost his thumb in an accident... stuff like that.  A man enters in shadow... resulting in even more elevated fear-levels.

Across town at the drive-in, a couple enjoys a Friday the 13th-esque horror flick.  Guess what?  Elevated levels of feeeeear (and love, cuz they're making out).

After our Smallville tour, we finally arrive at the Kent farm where Ma, Clark, and Ma's new housemate Conner Kent are sitting down to dinner.  While they discuss how well Kon is adjusting to his new digs, one of Krypto's ears perk up... there's something sinister in Smallville.  Superman and Superboy "supe-up" and head out to see what might be lurking.

They arrive at the graveyard where they discover... Black Lantern Superman (of Earth-Two), and it would appear that he just finished... digging up Pa Kent's body.  Yikes.  I suppose I oughtta mention that he appears to have used a shovel... which is a very silly visual in my head.

It should go without saying... a fight is on.  Kal-L lunges at Superboy, and mentions that he was just recently dead... and with L's help, he could be dead again!  As Black Lantern Superman and Superboy soar across the sky, real-deal Superman (though, I suppose in a situation like this, your mileage may vary) gives chase, with heightened levels of Fear, Hope, Will, Rage, and Love!

Back at the Kent farm, Ma is attending to the dishes.  Upon first blush, it seems kinda silly, doesn't it?  Then I remember that Clark being out dealing with dangerous situations is nothing new to her.  Suddenly, one wall of her home is demolished and Krypto goes flying... when the dust settles, she finds herself stood before Black Lantern... Lois Lane (of Earth-Two).

Back at the Super-Fight, Kal-L really starts getting his digs in on Kal-El.  He suggests that he is no Superman, as he couldn't even save his own father.  Instead of reminding the baddie about Kal-L losing both parents to a silly tropical disease, he just seethes then socks him so hard his anatomy goes wonky (see below).  Though, to be fair, he probably doesn't know about that.

L continues, comparing and contrasting their disparate upbringings.  L claims that he was never scared of his powers... even as a child he would "leap tall buildings" and whatnot as Superboy.  Speaking of Superboy, Kal-L just hurled him toward the ground... I may not have made it clear, this battle has been happening in the sky.

We take a brief detour to... New Krypton.  It's been a long time since I tried reading through the New Krypton saga, so I'll leave my pithiness out of it.  By the way, "Krypton" has gotta be one of the least typing-friendly words known to man.  I never backspace more than when I'm trying to type that word.  Anyhoo, Supergirl and her mother are paying their respects to her fallen father Zor-El... when he is fitted with a new piece of jewelry and summoned to "Rise!"

Back on Earth, Superman and Superboy return to the Kent farm.  They find it in all sorts of disarray... the front porch is completely destroyed and Krypto has been wounded.  A quick scan tells them that Ma is no longer there.  They head down Main Street, and note that things have grown even more ominous... nobody is around.  It's silent, not even the crickets remain.  They do eventually find Ma... unfortunately, she's being held captive by Black Lantern Mr. and Mrs. Superman!


I'm not sure if it's because I've been reading (and covering) so much 1970's material lately, but... boy did this feel decompressed.

These quick little vignettes... shots of the town, and the townsfolk interacting with small talk took up far too much of this issue.  I mean, I get why they did it... but I feel like too much time was spent on it.  Much of it could have been summed up in a single page.  Instead, we get a full page of a couple at the drive-in movie.  Seems wasteful to me.  It reminds me of a Vince McMahon quote I see bandied about when folks get annoyed at the current state of Professional Wrestling, "We're makin' movies, pal!"  This feels more like it's playing toward a cinematic feel rather than just being a comic book.

Blackest Night was one of my blindspots in DC history, as it landed smack-dab in the middle of a really rough financial patch in my life.  It was an event that felt as though most of its tie-in miniseries' were actually warranted.  I remember being excited about this one in particular, as I wasn't sure if they were going to revisit Clark's own death, or if we were going to see more of the Earth-Two folks, who made their return a few years earlier during Infinite Crisis.

I appreciate the ideas presented here... Kal-L appears to be going around Smallville killing Smallvillians.  At least that's what I think it occurring at the end of the vignettes.  That's all well and good, but again, I think far too many pages were spent on this.  I'm intrigued to see what Kal-L and Kal-Lois are planning to do.  Not a bad start here, just took a bit long to "get there" for my liking.  

The art here is rather good, if not a bit inconsistent at times.  Being pretty familiar with Eddy Barrows' work, I'm gonna blame most of that on the inking.  Some of the Smallvillians here look positively ghoulish... even moreso than the Black Lanterns.  I'm looking at Pete Ross' evil-looking mug expecting him to sprout horns and a tail and be revealed as the devil or something.  Kinda off-putting, and something I'd have imagined they'd work hard to avoid.  I'd assume they'd want the "mundane" scenes to appear to be as clean and un-scary as possible to contrast with the Lantern threat.

Overall, I really want to recommend this... however, with a caveat.  I'd say if you haven't read this, and want to... maybe grab the trade.  After reading just the first issue, I'm left a bit cold... it doesn't feel like enough has happened.  Feels like I got the same amount of story from this that I would have if I read 3-5 pages of a Bronze Age comic.


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