Friday, May 4, 2018

Review: DCNation #0

 DC Nation #0 came out this week and had three stories within to promote some of the upcoming storylines in the fresh new DCU. This includes a Tom King/Clay Mann Batman story and a Justice League story to promote the post-Metal DCU by writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion, and Joshua Williamson with art by Jorge Jimenez.

I am a DC fan so of course I was going to get this regardless. But for me the draw was a Superman story by Brian Michael Bendis with art by the legendary Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, praised be his name. We all have been curious about where Bendis will be taking the Superman family once he grabs the reins. I have been worried about him upsetting the apple cart of the recent excellence in the book. And frankly this story made me a little more worried than the action sequence in Action Comics #1000.

Part of that worry is that whenever a big name comes onto the Superman books their first inclination always seems to be that they need to change things, shake things up, and make things different. And that rarely seems to work. So in the recent past when Gene Luen Yang decided to depower Superman, remove the Clark Kent secret identity, and make him a motorcycle-riding wrestler ... well that didn't work. That ain't Superman. And before that when James Michael Straczynski decided to have Superman walk across the US, ignoring people who were dying of a heart attack on their front porch, and telling someone he would let them throw themselves off a building and not stop them ... well that didn't work. That wasn't Superman.

But when Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason had him with Lois, being heroic and inspirational, and working for the Daily Planet .. ... that worked! It was truly a Rebirth, with Superman being Reborn into all the things that made Superman fans love him to begin with.

Now we are faced with Bendis and I know we have barely scratched the surface. But already Bendis has an evil alien being behind the destruction of Krypton and, in DC Nation #0, Lois Lane out of the picture and missing. This isn't exactly Superman ...

Will it work? I'll go in with an open mind like I always do. But it better be spectacular. Metaphorically, the apples are falling off the cart, rolling down the street.


 Okay, I shouldn't be here to curse the darkness but instead to light a candle.

First off, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is an incredible artist. His ability to use panel size and point of view and angle to convey more than just his wonderful art. Look at that lower panel of a crowd shot. That isn't easy. And Perry is clearly the focal point.

And I have to give Bendis credit. This sounds the way Perry White should sound in my mind. I love this sentiment that the Planet will only report the news. No more fear-baiting articles about Superman. They will report what Superman does not what he could do. They won't make their money peddling terror.

Again, that last panel shows his control of the room. It's like a sermon on the mount. Everyone is engaged.


In walks Clark Kent with a story. Clark had wormed his way into an illegal arms deal in Costa Rica. Ex-army soldiers were trying to sell old LexCorp battlesuits. Thankfully Superman swooped in and saved the day.

Of course, we know Clark is Superman. No big surprise the Man of Steel was there.

But I love Perry's excitement. Despite the decades behind him, he is still passionate about his work.


But then Bendis drops the news that Lois isn't around. He offers Clark her office. Clark refuses.

I love this short, wide, 'letterbox' panel showing the crowd response to Clark's answer. Again, you can see the magic of Garcia-Lopez's work here. The expressions are a mix of curiosity and concern. There is a palpable feeling of awkwardness to this interaction, all written on their faces. And this panel lets us pan the room that way. Brilliant.

But Lois being 'missing' is an odd choice to begin a run with. We hear that she doesn't work for the Planet anymore. We hear Perry had to pull strings to keep her out of jail. She's off writing some book. Her picture is still on the wall ... but she is gone.

One thing the New 52 suffered from was a complete lack of respect for Lois. It was only in these last couple of years that we finally had a Lois presence in the book. So Bendis removing her, especially if it is for a long time, might be a misstep.


 And Lois and Clark are married. So this has to be odd for Clark too.

Bendis does give us some new characters to mull over as well.

One is 'Trish Q', the gossip columnist for the Planet who probably thinks this Lois thing is a good story. I suppose she fits the Cat Grant archetype now that Cat has gone on to bigger things. Maybe she is the Lola Barnett of the current times?


 I throw this panel in for a couple of reasons.

Again, you see the power of Perry in this situation. People are hanging over railings to hear his words of wisdom. Everyone is on board. He is clearly the leader here.

Second though, Perry's use of 'shock' and 'horrify' reminded me too much of the opening warning to 1931's Frankenstein. "It'll thrill you. It may shock you. It may horrify you."

Quoting an old Universal monster movie sounds so Perry. Even if unintentional, I am putting it in my head canon.

 And then we also meet Robinson Goode, a young reporter hired by the Planet from the Star City Sentinel.

Perry has nothing but good things to say about her recent work, exposing S.T.A.R. Labs cover-ups and being gritty. It's always good to add some diversity to the cast. But this seems like she is taking the place of Lois at the Planet. So this better turn out okay.

She seems nice enough at the beginning, thanking Perry and talking about how Clark inspired her. We don't often hear about how good Clark is at his job.


In his office, Perry tells Clark that the Costa Rica story lacks punch. Clark is missing something.

While Perry can rally the troops and be a strong editor, his EQ seems lacking. 'Is it Lois?' Did he ask him that? How could it not be.

'Hey Clark. I know your wife doesn't work hear anymore, over something bad that could have landed her in hot water. And I know that I disparaged her writing a book now. And it has to be weird for you to still work here. And I know I offered you your wife's empty office. Could that be why you aren't acting like your normal self?'


Clark gives a curt response about fixing the article. Then he heads to the roof and takes off. That isn't a happy face on Superman.

But man ... does JLGL draw a great Superman.

Twice in a month we have been reminded why his name is praised.


I have to admit I wasn't surprised to see that Robinson Goode isn't all good.

The story ends with her meeting an unnamed person in a club. This looks like the cliched 'members only' club for the rich and famous. Red lights, huge bodyguards with visible guns, people being openly romantic - it all looks so Hollywood.

She reports about the unstable nature of the Planet right now, despite that sense earlier that Perry has the troops in line. Is she evil? Writing an expose for the Sentinel about Lois? Just a Millenial trying to move ahead in the world?

So overall, I'll gush one more time about the sumptuous art. While Perry's scenes early on were perfect, his scene with Clark seemed off. Trish Q and Robinson Goode have potential.

But no Lois???

I'll try to go in with an open mind.

Overall grade: B

14 comments:

Martin Gray said...

Truly excellent review Anj, with some especially good art observations. Praise be his name indeed!

I share your worries about the absence of Lois. On the one hand, DC has seen how much fans loved having her back and strong the last couple of years; on the other, Brian Michael Bendis is comic writing's answer to Saturn Queen... he somehow has editors in his thrall, and gets to do what he wants - ignore continuity, throw out established characterisation and so on. On the other hand, he claims to be a massive Superman fan - I suppose the question is, which Superman? Please don't let it be the loner loser of JMS (I atually liked the later Yang stories, all the gods nuttiness).

I'd love it were that Daily Planet cut-out of Lois revealed to be the real thing, temporarily turned 2D by Mxy!

Anonymous said...

"Part of that worry is that whenever a big name comes onto the Superman books their first inclination always seems to be that they need to change things, shake things up, and make things different. And that rarely seems to work."

Fully agree.

Nowadays, writers appear more obsessed with redefining the characters and leaving their mark than with telling a good tale.

I'm worried but I let myself "let's wait and see".

I don't know what has happened to Lois but she appears in Doomsday Clock, which is set one year in the future.

"But this seems like she is taking the place of Lois at the Planet. So this better turn out okay."

Possible first warning flag. Bendis has been know to replace characters with his pet creations.

"But man ... does JLGL draw a great Superman."

Agreed. And the same than Boring's or Swan's, his Superman is easily recognizable. Those wiry muscles, that haircut, those chilseled features and that cleft in the chin are definitely his.

"I'll try to go in with an open mind."

Let's hope for the best.

By the way, Anj, what did you think of the "No Justice" prelude?

"On the other hand, he claims to be a massive Superman fan - I suppose the question is, which Superman?"

He's apparently a huge JB's Superman fan... which is troubling to me.

Anonymous said...

Terrific review Anj, you noticed some cool things about JGL's art that I found intriguing. Lopez was the one good thing about this issue and his art here was better than his Action 1000 story. As for Bendis, I also have my concerns with his approach to Superman. His Clark stuttered much too much, his insert OC replacing Lois is an unwise decision and his story was an on the nose cliche blowback to BvS' fear of Superman plot point. Not that bashing BvS is bad but it was obvious where Bendis was going. I wonder if you're going to review the No Justice Prelude given the last two pages...

Louis

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
Wasn’t planning on reviewing the JL story despite the Kara sighting ... but maybe I should?

Anonymous said...

Sure, would like to hear your thoughts on the JL story. I’m going to be reading No Justice but haven’t been following JL or Dark Knights: Metal, so have no idea if there is required or important backstory to this prelude. The solicitation for No Justice does mention that it follows upon Metal, but I guess what doesn’t?

Looking at the solicitations for No Justice it seems that this Prelude might be a mid-story preview.

And I guess those are the 4 Omega Titans on the last page. Suggests Kara has a role in No Justice, though from the look of things she’s more likely to be walloped and put out of commission in very short order.

The question is, was this before or after she gets walloped and put directly out of commission by Rogol Zaar? She’s racing from one clobbering to the next?

She also got put out of commission in short order during the Superman Revenge arc not that long ago, lying in an unconscious heap on the ground for part of 2 issues (Action 983-984), sometimes under Zod’s boot. Lots of recent precedent for “wallopped and out of commission.”

Anyway, I always need your reviews, Anj, to have any idea what is going on!

Another upcoming Kara sighting - Wonder Woman cover 48, which is part 3 of "The Dark Gods" starting in Wonder Woman 46. (Which will be at least 4 parts? Maybe 5?)

The solicit for WW 48 includes "Every hero on Earth has tested their mettle against the Dark Gods - except for Wonder Woman, who's not on Earth!" So I guess Kara is just one of many who is going to be... clobbered.

Are these WW Dark Gods the same as the 4 Omega Titans heading to earth? (She's one of the JL teams dealing with that situation.)

The big bads on the cover for WW 50 don't look like the big bads in the DC Nation preview... Sigh. They are all on course for Earth, so maybe the Dark Gods will smash into the Omega Titans and take care of each other! Problems solved.

T.N.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read your review of DC Nation 0 if you bought it Anj. I am not pulling it myself so it's a way for me to keep updated.

Off topic. Was I the only one a bit peeved that one of the writers picked to write homages in the hardcover AC1000 went into detail on how he never read the Supergirl stories because they had bad art and dealt with girly things. Honestly not being a fan enough of AC to read the whole thing should disqualify you from the honor of writing for AC1000 in my opinion. Also spending your page space to badmouth the part aimed at another audience just seem like an even better reason not to include him.

Remind me to never invite that guy as a wedding speaker.

Anonymous said...

meh, brain and typing fingers didnt communicate... dc nation 0 = continuation of dc nation 0 = no justice in last post...

Also, if anyone didn't get dc nation 0 its currently free on comixology

Anonymous said...

Curious - do you have a link or any more details about that “homage” in the hardcover? Who wrote it? Thanks.

The art has varied over the years. This will be heresy but as I re-read the Silver Age stories in the recent Supergirl Silver Age collection I’m struck by the awkward, out of perspective pencilling, e,g. Supergirl frequently drawn in full profile when she was looking at someone who is actually at a 45 degree angle to the side. But so much was primitive, perhaps part of the charm; the narration saying “Supergirl does such-and -such” while the drawing shows that Supergirl does that same thing, along with the thought bubble of Supergirl thinking “I will do this thing.“ Not much trust in the young readers of the time. Or more likely they were the sole target audience.



Anonymous said...

"Was I the only one a bit peeved that one of the writers picked to write homages in the hardcover AC1000 went into detail on how he never read the Supergirl stories because they had bad art and dealt with girly things. Honestly not being a fan enough of AC to read the whole thing should disqualify you from the honor of writing for AC1000 in my opinion. Also spending your page space to badmouth the part aimed at another audience just seem like an even better reason not to include him."

No. You weren't the only one who felt miffed. I thought it was very unprofessional, actually. It was supposed to be a celebration of AC, not a "I'm going to diss a strip even though I never, ever read it" rambling.

This kind of thing is because DC Super Hero Girls was so necessary and welcome.

Anonymous said...

I guess you folks mean the piece by an author/professor named Tom DeHaven, and he may even be noting some of the same art eccentricities that I myself just observed above. He describes the art as a "cross between nurse comics and love comics; there were too many close-ups, and everyone looked like they could be a robot." I wonder if he is entirely wrong!

But on the one hand, he says he doesn't know if the stories were any good, having never read them - yet he says "the plots seemed to revolve around teen chores done super-fast." That's just objectively false!

Martin Gray said...

DeHaven is writing about what Action meant to him as a reader back in the Silver Age, remembering how he felt as a ten-year-old. He’s not saying the stories are bad, he’s admitting he never went back to look. I love those early Supergirl tales, but he never tried them. He’s not obligated to go back now and see what he thinks as it’s more than 50 years later and perceptions and perspectives have changed. Let’s not be offended on Kara’s behalf, she’s not real. Tom DeHaven never having enjoyed what we did doesn’t stop us loving them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Martin that the writer is entitled to his own opinion and experiences, but I have to wonder why on earth he felt compelled to include that and why DC felt that it was suitable for a celebration of Action Comics. If he was so read up on AC he must have had two pages of positive experiences to talk about. I haven't read through the full book yet due to time constraints, but I can wager DC didn't include anyone who wrote as scathing about Superman. We don't need to defend a fictional character, true... But I really wish it wasn't so symptomatic of the comic world in general to that the female characters seemingly more often gets a rotten deal. It's in the end a reflection of who we are as a society.

I agree with anon above. DCSHG truly is a godsend, and I hope that it is the seed to change that will make more people in the comics industry adapt to and embrace a world where girls can as much as boys or become outdated relics.

Leighton Dyer said...

Hah! ... Superman! ... A bike riding wrestler? ... WTF!
What the hell were they thinking? That is so not Superman.

Anj said...

I'm of two minds regarding the Action 1000 essay.

Certainly it is fine for the author to not like what I like. But I also agree that a celebratory essay shouldn't be negative. He could have said 'I was there strictly for the Superman stories. I can't even comment on the back stories.' as a way to avoid trashing anything else while letting us know his love for Superman.

For example, I doubt if I was asked to write about Action that I would include any time talking about how silly Congorilla is.

Still, we love Supergirl. That is really what matters.

Thanks for continued discussion.