Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Adventure Comics #0 (2009)
"The Legion of Super-Heroes"
"Origins & Omens"
Writers - Otto Binder & Geoff Johns
Artists - Al Plastino & Francis Manapul
Letterer - Steve Wands
Colorist - Brian Buccellato
Assistant Editor - Sean Ryan
Editors - Mort Weisinger & Elizabeth V. Gehrlein
Cover Price: $1.00
In blogging and reviewing every day for... almost 400 days straight, I suppose it should stand to reason that I'm going to repeat myself every now and again. I can't discuss Wild Dog or Jim Starlin Batman without begging for them to be collected, I can't discuss a Dan Jurgens book without commenting that he is the definitive Superman writer of my lifetime, and I can't even brush against the Legion of Super-Heroes without mentioning that I simply do not "get" them.
And if I had a nickel for the amount of times I've said (and written) "today we're going to fix that", I'd... ya know, probably have a Snapple-bottle full of nickels.
I said all of that, so I may say this... I wanna "get" the Legion, and so, today we're going to go all the way back to their very first appearance. Folks who follow the blog know that I'm a "single issue" kinda guy... and as luck would have it, I managed to procure an issue that included the Legion's introduction as a reprint. Let's get right down to it...
We open with a young bookish-looking Clark Kent walking down a Smallville street. He is approached by a blonde boy in a suit... who greets and addresses him as "Superboy". Uh-oh. And so, he heads home to change into his Superboy outfit... he leaves home and runs into another young man... this time, he's addressed as "Clark Kent"... moments later, a young lady tells him to give her regards to the Kents. Just what in the world is going on here?
Well, that's an easy one. These young people are just messing with the boy of steel. They are actually super-heroes from the far-flung future, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Boy (I always thought it was Lightning Lad). They inform him that he is considered the greatest super-hero of all, and that their Super Hero Club was inspired by his exploits. They offer to hop in their time bubble and take him with them to the 30th century so he can become an official member.
30th Century Smallville... dude, this is a weird place. There are space sight-seeing trips, intergalactic ice cream, and the Kent home enshrined as a historical structure. In the local school, the story of Superboy is shared with students. The real Superboy and company interrupt a demonstration of X-Ray vision via a Superboy robot. The robot is going to melt steel... with his X-Ray vision... hmm. Didn't know it worked that way... figured it'd be heat vision that melts things, right? Oh well.
Later, the Legion discuss granting Superboy membership... however, first he must compete with the same three members that brought him here. They each have a single power, compared to Superboy just being pretty great all-around. The first trial will pit him against Saturn Girl, whose power is described as "thought casting". The task is raising a sunken statue from under the seas.
The competitors dash out to get that statue. Superboy, however, is distracted when he sees the Superboy robot from earlier with his telescopic vision, which I'd thought would be X-Ray vision here... anyhoo, the (million dollar) robot is running away from its master. Superboy decides to eschew this round of competition to help the professor stop the 'bot.
Elsewhere, Saturn Girl uses her thought-casting to "speak" with a giant sea creature, commanding it to help her raise the statue. Superboy is down 0-1. He does not make any excuses for his loss, and is ready for his next test.
That second test pits him against Cosmic Boy who has the power of Super-Magnetism. Their task is putting out a tremendous forest fire. Wouldn'tcha know it, while Superboy is headed out, his telescopic vision tips him off again... there's a 20th Century satellite fallen out of orbit. He again forgoes the trial to save the planet.
While Superboy was playing cosmic basketball, Cosmic Boy fills a nearby lake with giant stones to flood the forest... and likely destroying the entire ecosystem... but, who's keeping track of that? Once again, Superboy declines to make any excuses. He is now down 0-2.
The final contest is against Lightning Boy, and for it they must inform the Nova Express that they have a leaking fuel tank. Okey dokey... too bad Superboy notices that the Invisible Eagle of Neptune had just escaped from the Interplanetary Zoo. Being as though this bugger is invisible it could be hazardous to all spaceships... his priorities are again shifted away from the contest. He... hmm... plucks an iceberg out of the sea to make the bird visible with frost. At that same time, Lightning Boy sky-writes to the Nova Express.
Superboy has lost all three contests. The Legionnaires mock Superboy pretty harshly... they're really being jerks here... even causing li'l Clark's eyes to water. He collects himself quickly, and decides to be a good sport about the thing.
It's now that the Legionnaires share a secret... all of the weirdness that occurred during the contest was... their own causing... and was actually part of the contest! They wanted to see what choices he would make! Superboy is officially made a member of the Super Hero Club!
At that moment, another alarm goes off. Superboy takes care of it all by himself... however makes sure to use powers of magnetism, lightning, and mind-reading to do so. I guess what's good for the goose... right?
We close up this classic tale with Clark Kent returning home to share the story of his day with his father.
Our backup begins with a reading from the black book by rogue Guardian of the Universe, Scar. She thinks for a bit on Lex Luthor's "better" qualities.
Speaking of Lex, we join him as he attempts to leave a government facility with a captive and unconscious Brainiac. Guards attempt to stop them... which doesn't work out all that well, because Brainiac has woken up.
Lex takes Brainiac to his classic skull ship, which looks pretty cool. Brainiac informs Luthor that they will not be leaving... and that he's now the one running the show. He grabs Luthor by the throat and begins to give him the terms of their new working arrangement.
We wrap up with Scar, still reading... being as though this is a Blackest Night dealie, she understands that since Lex is alive... she cannot control him. There is, however, another Luthor... who is dead. That Luthor... is Superboy, Conner Kent.
It's always a bit of a surprise to me just how much they used to fit on a page back in the Silver Age. I mean, we have the complete introduction of the main movers and shakers of the Legion on a single page! That would require a six-issue arc nowadays. Granted, there isn't a whole lot of depth here... but, ya know... it works.
This is probably the second or third time I've read this story (I've got the Showcase Presents), which was pretty silly... but still quite fun. I like Superboy displaying more intrinsic heroism rather than "playing along" with the Super-Hero Club. That just feels right. The pay off, where we learn that the Legion was tricking him, is also a neat surprise. I mean, we knew that things were going to work out, but the way in which they did it was a bit more interesting than I'd have thought. Plus Superboy was able to get the last laugh, which was pretty cool.
The 30th Century is such a silly place... such a strange mixture of contemporary (for the time) machinery juxtaposed with ridiculous far-flung architecture, so great! I love how the teacher with the Superboy robot... first of all, had a Superboy robot rather than a Superman one. Second, how the arrival of the real-steel-deal didn't even make him blink. He was just like, hey... it's the kid from a millennia ago that my entire syllabus is based around... no biggie.
As for the Origins & Omens bit... this hit at a bit of a comics-blackout for me. This was post job-loss, post-foreclosure Chris... who didn't really do the comics thing for a little while. I probably should think about starting a "reading project", as if that's anywhere near feasible, time-wise, to catch up on some of that stuff. The New Krypton stuff seems especially interesting to me... though, perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Anyhoo, the few pages we get "in the present", were decent enough... though I'm really not sure how we got here... or where we're going next. It was fine... and it had Manapul art, which is never a bad thing. Plus it ended with the reintroduction of what I'd long considered my Superboy, Kon-El... and that was pretty cool.
I am going to try to cover a bit more of the Legion here from time to time... work on my Legion-Education. I might have to sit under a fair amount of "learning trees" for context, but I'd really like to give this team a fair shake. That being said, the only reason to chase this bugger down is for the Superboy (Kon) reveal at the end. If you're down to check out the early days of the Legion of Super-Heroes, there are a ton of ways to do so... but, this single-issue is inexpensive and likely easy to come across. I think the first appearance of the Legion is definitely worth checking out, in any way you can. This issue itself is not available digitally, however the original Adventure Comics #247 is.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Batman #424 (October, 1988)
"The Diplomat's Son"
Writer - Jim Starlin
Penciller - Doc Bright
Inker - Steve Mitchell
Letterer - John Costanza
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Assistant Editor - Dan Raspler
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75
This is one of those issues I'd been looking for off and on. Not one that I have in my "white whale" list or anything... just one I'd heard a lot of good (and interesting) things about.
Thankfully, it's odd-Colorforms cover (thanks, Joe!) makes it easily and immediately identifiable... when I was shuffling through the cheap-o bin at Half-Price Books, it just jumped out at me! I think if the cover was more conventional, I might have passed it by assuming I'd already had it.
Let's check in with the second Boy Wonder, and see how he deals with a baddie getting away with some reeeeally unsavory behavior.
We open with Jason Todd responding to a woman's cry. He crashes through the window of an apartment, where he finds young foreign socialite, Felipe Garzonas stumbling out of a bedroom. Jason is all about punching first, asking questions later... and so, he gets to punching.
Felipe's calls to an associate named Juan for aid, and he wastes no time coming at Jason with a bowie knife. It doesn't look good for the Boy Wonder, but as luck would have it someone Juan's "own size" has arrived to even the odds... the Batman. This doesn't end well for Juan.
Batman scolds Robin a bit for his brashness, and questions what might have brought him to this place. Jason tells him about the woman's cry. He enters the bedroom only to find a beaten young woman who is fearing for her life.
The dynamic duo take Felipe, Juan, and the young woman down to the Gotham City Police Department. Here we learn that the woman's name is Gloria, and she had been kidnapped (at Felipe's behest) by Juan. This is the second time such a thing happened to her, though she never reported him the first time out of shame. Robin assures her that she is safe, this is all behind her...
... but, it's not. Commissioner Gordon enters and shares that Felipe and Juan have corroborated a story in which Gloria arrived uninvited, and was only there to cause trouble because Felipe broke things off with her. They blame her black eye on her falling into the door knob... likely story, right? Doesn't matter... Gordon knows it's bogus, but there's nothing he can do. Hell, even if he could... the kid's got family in high places, and so he has diplomatic immunity... Felipe is untouchable. Gloria, as you might imagine, does not handle the news well.
Later on we join Batman and Robin on a roof. Robin is noticeably ticked off. He wants this guy... he wants him bad. Batman quite matter of factly says "Well, you can't have him." Ouch. He continues, sharing that he has a plan to take Felipe down... another way. Felipe's father is Jose Garzonas, the Ambassador of Bogatago, which is a country currently working with the United States to eradicate the coca fields within its borders. He points out Felipe's behaviors at the time of "arrest"... and deduces that he was stoned... probably with a nose full of cocaine. If they can catch him at a most opportune time, the State Department will request a recall... deporting Felipe back to Bogatago. Jason feels this punishment doesn't quite fit his crimes... and I kind of agree.
Over the next few days, Bruce and Jason keep tabs on Felipe. Bruce is really taking his time here... he wants to make sure they nab him at the most advantageous time... he wants to make sure whatever they get him with sticks. Jason... well, Jason's getting a bit antsy.
Lucky for him... he doesn't have to wait much longer. Batman notices Felipe leaving his apartment flanked by a pair of bodyguards... he knows something's about to go down. They follow him to a run down apartment building... which Batman describes as screaming "Buy your dope here!", which is pretty great. They wait for the transaction to begin... battering ram the door... then, they go to town beatin' baddies left and right!
With the riff-raff out of the way... the only fella left is Felipe. In a really cool scene, Batman turns his back... tells Jason "He's all yours." Jason then BEGS Felipe to resist... sadly, he doesn't. Really such an excellent scene.
This time, down at the GCPD, Felipe is booked. He doesn't stick around long... but everyone knows it's only a matter of time before he's sent packing to Bogatago. Before he leaves the station... in full view of Batman and Robin, be makes a phone call... to Gloria. He promises that he'll see her soon... which causes Jason to absolutely lose it... Batman has to hold him back. I'm with ya, Jason... this dude's got it coming.
Commissioner Gordon fetches Gloria's phone number from their records to call and make sure she's okay... to let her know that they will protect her. Robin makes the call... but there's no answer. Batman and Robin head to her apartment... and, well... they find her. After receiving Felipe's call, she committed suicide. Batman calls for an ambulance, during which time... Jason disappears. Batman has a pretty good idea where he's headed.
We shift scenes to Felipe's apartment... he's toasting to his good fortune, and knowing he's about to be sent home, bids farewell to Gotham. He steps onto his fire escape... and is soon joined by a colorful young man.
The next (and final) two pages are
Welp, that went pretty much the way I expected it to... and it was great!
I can't help myself but to gush whenever I read a Jim Starlin Batman issue. I've said it before, and I'm going to say it again... I never expected to read such great non-cosmic stuff from him. This is a run that definitely deserves being collected in trade... hopefully one'a these days it will be. Lord knows almost everything else with "Bat" in the title has been.
For the issue itself... this is probably the best Jason Todd-centric issue I've ever read. It's here where we learn that he might be just a bit more than "rough around the edges". He's in very ends justifying the means mode here... which not only fits with his upbringing, but helps give a fairly striking differentiation between him and the Robin who came before.
I feel like we sort of had this dynamic following Batman RIP, where Dick was a more jovial Batman to Damian's all-business Robin... but this is different in that Jason had a different kind of baggage than Damian... and appears to have his own twisted sense of justice rather than "programming". You've gotta wonder what was going through his head during this issue... watching as Batman just looks on at Felipe's activities... watching as Commissioner Gordon shrugs his shoulders.
This case really affected Jason... whereas it was "just another day" for Batman and the Commish. Even when Batman suggested his "plan" to have Felipe sent back to his home country, Jason comments that deportation is "not much of a punishment". This speaks more to his more extreme sense of justice... and perhaps also speaks for a contingent of the readership. In seeing what Felipe had done to Gloria... on more than one occasion, a reader might be right there with Jason... wanting a more "final" resolution. Something we can truly draw a line under.
Gloria's end is tragic, to be sure... and Jason discovering the body makes it that much more. Jason at this point... if I'm not mistaken, believed his mother dead... and he'd discovered her body as well. Gloria's death is one that could have been avoiding... had justice been done. I think that's probably the worst of it. Felipe instilled enough terror in her that she'd rather die than go through what he'd put her through before. Jason knows that. Jason knows that sometimes justice will not be served... not by the police, and not even by Batman. It's here where he knows he needs to take matters into his own hands... he needs to cross the Rubicon, and become something more than Batman's colorful sidekick.
Now... did Jason kill Felipe? Did Felipe slip? Does it matter? Jason sure doesn't think it does... and to be honest, I don't think it does either. There's enough ambiguity here... and enough twisted motive, that anything could have happened. Felipe was a drug addict... he could've been high. He might've seen Robin and thought he was a four-headed demon for all we know. Maybe Jason was telling the truth, and Felipe just became startled and fell... or... or... maybe Jason pushed him. It seems pretty clear that's what Batman thinks happened... though he doesn't come out and accuse him, necessarily. If I had to guess... I'd say, yeah, Jason killed Felipe. Right or wrong... that I cannot say.
Shifting gears a bit... the Felipe "story" is the kind that I'm surprised doesn't come up more often. Diplomatic immunity is just such an interesting obstacle for a superhero to contend with. Hell while I'm thinking about it, just a couple of issues from here The Joker becomes the United Nations Ambassador for Iran! It seems that diplomatic immunity was going to be a thorn in ol' Jace's side until the day he tragically passed.
Before we go... just a few words about Jason Todd's time as Robin. In acquainting myself with these Starlin issues, it's refreshing to see Jason treated with such a level of depth, conflict, internal turmoil... instead of just being the Robin that happened to be a jerk. This is a character that deserved a better legacy than he had (prior to Superboy-Prime's reality punch, of course). Growing up when I did, I never had time for Jason... I came a few years too late... and all I'd ever heard was he was "the Robin everyone hated"... hated so much, the fans killed him. Oh well.
Definitely recommended... and available digitally for your convenience. Well worth the read... and the hunt, if physical is more your thing (as it, ahem, should be).
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Convergence: Titans #2 (July, 2015)
"Try for Justice, Part Two"
Writer - Fabian Nicieza
Penciller - Ron Wagner
Inker - Jose Marzan, Jr.
Colorist - Chris Sotomayor
Letterer - Carlos M. Mangual
Assistant Editors - Brittany Holzherr & Michael Kraiger
Editor - Marie Javins
Cover Price: $3.99
Fans of professional wrestling know all about "the swerve". It's when something goes the way it shouldn't... ya know, they "pull a fast one" on the audience. If done sparingly, it works great insofar as building drama... or paying off on it. When it's done with regularity... it kinda loses it's oomph. You're no longer surprised when friends turn on each other, or foes decide to team up... it's just something that happens, you groan and move on.
Why in the world am I saying this? Well, read on...
Picking up where we left off... Roy Harper just murdered his two teammates. Oh wait, no he didn't... he shot two structural support beams on either side of him. This kinda makes the wincing "I'm making the hardest decision of my life" look on his face from last issue seem a bit silly, don't it? The beams topple over as he fires an arrow past Dreamslayer. Now, here's where we get one of my most irksome comics writing chestnuts... Roy's shot clearly misses Dreamslayer... and so the baddie thumbs his nose and say "nyah nyah, ya missed me!", but ah-ha... he wasn't the target after all! Roy snags Lian and swings away.
At this point "the cavalry" arrive, in the form of Beast Boy and Cyborg. Up til now, Cyborg was a prisoner in his own cybernetic shell and Beast Boy was stuck in the form of a green pigeon... which begs the question, what would prompt Gar Logan to take the form of a damn pigeon? I mean, of all the birds... a pigeon?
The Titans and the Extremists continue their struggle while Roy slinks away to his bunker to keep Lian for safe-keeping. Of course, as soon as he enters they are joined by Dreamslayer... who causes Lian to vanish. He then gives Roy the "devil on the shoulder" speech... tells him he must kill the Titans, because right now Lian is stranded in a hazy limbo. This causes Roy to reveal a hidden button... that Dreamslayer already knew about... which would trigger his Gotham arsenal to deploy. This begs the question... and I'm beggin' a lot of questions today... if Dreamslayer knew about it, why not push the button himself?
Anyhoo... several barrels take aim at the battlefield, and in their targets... the Titans! The first blast nails Starfire... and Lian reappears in the bunker. Roy can't have her yet, however...
He then aims a barrel each in the direction of Donna, Vic and Gar. At this point, Dreamslayer... being an idiot, let's Roy take Lian. But oh-oh-ohhh, the targeting reticles change from Titans... to Extremists! Ol' Roy's pulled a fast one...
He then triggers an EMP wave sweep... which, somehow messes up Dreamslayers teleportation portal... causing him to be swept... somewhere, unknown to Roy... until the next page, when our main baddie shows back up on the battlefield.
The Extremists flee... or vanish... or both.
As the Titans regroup, there is an explosion some distance away at Robinson Park... I suppose we can assume the Extremists are behind it? Maybe? I dunno... anyhoo, Donna tells Roy he's gotta stay in Gotham with Lian... because, ya know... exploding parks and rogue Extremists with chips on their shoulders surely aren't gonna be a threat.
The remaining Titans all head off to fight whatever it is that's behind the Convergence event... and, well... that's it.
Oof. Can't say I liked this.
Hey, Roy's turned bad! Oh, no he didn't... it was a trick... oh wait, now he's really turned bad... oh, duh... that was a trick too. Felt like I was watching something Vince Russo booked here for a minute... just so much silliness, and no pay off... because this is the last time we'll see this version of the character.
Toward the end there... and not to use yet another analogy... it felt like when you were a kid, and you'd have make-believe fights with your friends... you'd point your finger like a gun, and go bang... and they'd say "I'm wearing a bullet-proof vest"... then you'd use your make-believe flamethrower... only to find out they're wearing their flame-retardant underwear... the stakes just keep raising, you're getting more and more annoyed... and at the end of the day nothing comes of it. Here, the stakes keep raising and Roy just... wins. Okay? While we're at it... how dumb is this Dreamslayer, anyway? Hey... maybe this time Roy won't screw me! Whatta jerk.
I suppose we do sort of get a "send off" for Roy and Lian... but it isn't a satisfying one. It feels cheap to have her plucked out of the past... because, really... couldn't Dreamslayer just start yanking people out of the past to fix any problem he might be having? I dunno... I didn't like it.
The art is still not my cup of tea... but it's serviceable. A bit too angular, maybe. Really just didn't have a good time with this one. This is the type of disposable story that pops into my head when I think of Convergence. Easily skippable... and I say that with a heavy heart... not only is it Titans, it's Nicieza... two of my favorite things in comics.