Friday, June 30, 2023

Review: Superboy Man Of Tomorrow #3

Superboy: Man of Tomorrow #3 came out last week, the middle chapter of this mini-series, and another fun chapter in this book. 

I have enjoyed this book as a sort of reclamation of the Conner character. After time missing, returning in Young Justice, and sort of struggling to find his place in the new world, this mini-series has really felt like classic Conner. This is a brash, loud, confident, fun-loving Superboy. But he is still trying to live up to the example of Superman. As someone who loved the Kesel/Grummett stuff from decades ago, this feels classic. But it also feels new.

In this issue, Conner is making a name for himself and showing the Cosmoteers just how powerful and charismatic he is. He is freeing the experiments of Dominator X and stopping the Khunds and other villains waging war. He is a leader here. But you can still sense he isn't sure if he is worthy, or doing it correctly, or even moving in the right direction. This is a growing Conner and he needs the lesson of this story to get there. Writer Kenny Porter seems to have captured this sort of dichotomy of Conner, a lost soul trapped in a overconfident body. 

Also, since we are at the halfway mark, we get a sudden plot swerve, one I suppose I should have foreseen. It ramps up the conflict.

Jahnoy Lindsay's art is stylized and energetic. There is a little bit of an anime feel to it but not overwhelming. And there is one stylistic choice I noticed (or maybe imagined I noticed) that really clicked, showing the power of the medium. More on that later. 

This is an entertaining read, a fun read which is perfect for Conner. On to some specifics.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Review: Superman #5

Superman #5 came out last week and was another fun issue in this latest run by Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell. Things happen fast in this book. A lot of stuff just needs to be accepted and moved on with. But in this era of decompression and 6 issue arcs for 2 issues worth of story, I'll take these 'done in 2' adventures.

This issue wraps up the Silver Banshee attack. Siobhan has been augmented by Dr. Pharm and Mr. Graft to fight the Man of Steel in hopes of ultimately getting revenge on Lex Luthor. Like the Parasite in a prior story, the Banshee was amped by some multi-colored Kryptonite exposure. And like the Parasite, her threat is handled quickly and almost too easily. (Although the wrinkle of the Banshee being in love with Jimmy is delicious.)

But these villain fights are really just catalysts for the main story. Lex wants to help Superman. Pharm and Graft want to kill Luthor. And Superman is trying to figure it all out. Those big plots continue to rumble forward in a gripping way. This issue has a great new mystery and a stellar cliffhanger that left me wanting more. Plus, there is a stealthy humor in the book I am really enjoying.

Add to that Jamal Campbell's lush art and you have a winner. The best scenes for Campbell here are the human moments of romance which sort of bookend the issue. I really loved his take on both Siobhan and the Banshee here.

As long as you don't dwell too long on how the villain attack stories wrap up, this book is firing on all cylinders. It is always a great sign when I close a book and I wish I had the next issue already. On to some particulars.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Review: Batman/Superman World's Finest #16

Batman/Superman World's Finest #16 came out that week and I know you will be shocked to hear this ... it was fantastic. 

I have been a big fan of this series since it began. Set in some recent past time so not bound by current continuity, with classic versions of not only out titular heroes but all DC heroes, this book has been a revelation and frankly a revolution against the current DCU.

I have always been a fan of Mark Waid. I think his grasp of comic writing and the DCU is pretty impeccable. But he is being masterful here. This is a Batman/Superman book by name. And they are the straws that stir the drink. In reality, this is a Legends of the DCU book with anyone and everyone a possible guest star. In this issue alone we get a majority of the Justice League, a collection of C-list villains given credibility, and more robot characters than you can imagine. Moreover, his characterization work is spot on. There is a GA/Batman moment that is perfect. Robin has a line of dialogue that is just perfect.

Perhaps most impressive for me is the path this arc has taken. What started out as a simple murder mystery ('Who killed Simon Stagg?') has turned into a planetary threat with the entire human population at risk. That isn't an easy track to jump to but Waid has done it.

Add to that Dan Mora's exemplary artwork and the book sings. I guess you can add Hawkman, Firestorm, and Flash to the laundry list of characters that Mora has rendered here that I would want to see him draw on a monthly. And this is his second book on the rack each month. 

On to specifics.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Review: Superman Lost #4

Superman:Lost #4 came out this week and I think the book was appropriately titled. Because I was frankly a little lost throughout the issue. I was so impressed with the first issue of this book. But since then, I think the book has lost momentum. 

Writer Christopher Priest has a good concept. Superman was missing for 20 years in space but to his friends on Earth is was about a day. Superman is troubled by this lost time, self-isolated and trying to re-adapt to life on Earth. That's solid.

We are learning through flashbacks what happened during that time away. But this issue throws us in so many times, so many flashbacks within flashbacks, that I kept needing to reread the book to see if I could figure out 'when' this was. Assuming I am right, it leads me to some difficult questions about what Superman is actually doing in one particular moment. 

Moreover, this issue again is a thinly veiled political commentary placed on an alien world which is using Earth town names. Thinly veiled. At least Priest here is pretty open-minded showing the folly in both sides of a debate when both sides should be trying to help each other.

As I have said before, the art by Carlo Pagulayan is really wonderful. From quiet moments to frustrated moments to battle scenes, he really brings a fine line and detail to the work that is beautiful. I would love to see his stuff on something street level at some point, like The Question or Azrael. The art definitely raises the grade here.

But when I am stuck on some moments and maybe even confused, it leaves me a bit dismayed. On to the book.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Review: Steelworks #1

Steelworks #1 came out last week and was a wonderful first issue. I have to admit that I was a bit worried when actor Michael Dorn was revealed as the writer for this book because it seemed like a stunt. After all, I know him as 'actor' Michael Dorn, not writer Michael Dorn. But Dorn crafts a great tale here, doing all the things a first issue should do to grab a reader and have them want to read more. Add some lovely Sami Basri art and I am already looking forward to issue two.

We'll start with the character of John Henry Irons, Steel. We recently saw in the lead-in back-ups of Action Comics that Irons is trying to turn Metropolis into some high-tech paradise. Dorn builds on those in a way that feels more like a natural progression of Irons' character. He is an inventor. He became Steel to honor Superman and protect people. So his wanting to use his skills to invent to save Metropolis on a city-level, it reads like a progression. 

What is the interesting hook is that he wants to protect Metropolis so that the Superman family doesn't have to be active, doesn't have to save people. Now I suppose what Henry means his that he's got Metropolis so the Supers can be elsewhere. But in some places it sounds Luthor-ian, that the people need to save themselves and not rely on Superman. It makes Henry suddenly 'gray' and makes me want to see where it will all go. Still charming, still humble ... but with the potential go dark if he thinks his way is the way.

So we have an interesting direction there. But even better, Dorn wants to embrace Steel's history and DC continuity. From rapid fire recaps of his early career to his relationship with Lana to Lena Luthor, Dprn dives in deep. 

Lastly, if technology is going to be the hero, then it looks like technology will be the villain. An enemy company is the first villain. But I get the sense that the upcoming villains are also tied into the technological world. 

I have been a fan of Sami Basri since his work on the Power Girl series way back in the day. The art here is great. Basri knows how to draw super-heroes and the Super-family. I love his Supergirl, seen briefly here. But everything is polished and sharp. Basri is a great fit here.

On to the book.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Life Comes At You

Hey all,

Last Monday, I had a very traumatic fall while hiking up a mountain in New Hampshire resulting in a number of significant injuries to my head, spine, and chest. I was in the ICU for a couple of days and just released 2 days ago. 

I am extremely lucky to have got through this with injuries that just need to heal. No longstanding issues that we know of or are anticipating.

That means I'll try to get back on the horse here and start posting reviews and columns soon.

Hope all are well out there!


Monday, June 12, 2023

Review: Adventures Of Superman Jon Kent #4

Last week, I reviewed Dark Knights of Steel #11 and gushed a bit. In that comic, writer Tom Taylor has done a great job of world building and crafting character. That feels like a complete world and everyone there feels three dimensional. Huzzah. Kudos Tom Taylor.

Right below it on the read stack was Adventures of Superman Jon Kent #4 written by Tom Taylor. This book didn't grab me anywhere near as much as Dark Knights did. There is things about this issue, this series, and indeed the recent characterization of Jon that just aren't working for me. 

This is basically an Injustice book meaning I am being thrown into a universe I know little about. I don't know the motivations of these versions of the characters. I don't understand what is going on here. I don't collect Injustice by choice. Now I do. This was a lane change from the way the book was advertised.

But here is the thing. I don't know this world. Neither should Jon. He is just learning that his father is very different in this world. You think he would take some time to learn about this world because people can be very very different from his world. But here he somehow can figure out which people are trustworthy based on how they act on his world. Seems naive or dangerous. But despite putting total faith in those people, he can't really decide who is on the side of right on this world. He thinks both Superman's dictatorship and Batman's rebellion are wrong. 

The Ultraman plot which was supposed to be the main plot of this book is brought up again but only to introduce a deus ex machina that I am sure will come into play later.

Darick Robertson is on art this issue. I've always liked Robertson's art so was glad to see him on a book. This issue is pretty busy with a lot of characters walking in and out of the book. Robertson shines on the action sequences, especially with Jon's electric powers. His style is different than usual artist Clayton Henry so I wonder how it will seem when the story is read in one lump.

Still, overall this book isn't one I can easily recommend. On to the particulars.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #11

Dark Knights of Steel #11 came out this week, the penultimate issue of this mini-series which I have very much enjoyed. Writer Tom Taylor has really done a good job of putting together this world, a pastiche of Dungeons & Dragons and the DCU. In 11 short issues, he has stuffed a lot of characters into this world and they feel both iconic and new. That's what Elseworlds should be.

I have to say that Tom Taylor sort of fascinates me. I loved his All-New Wolverine.  I really like this book. I think his Nightwing is a solid book. But his Jon Kent books are not good. And I am avoiding his Titans. Usually I find creators who are 'sure things' and he seems to be batting .500. This review will be glowing. Next week's Adventures of Superman Jon Kent #4 won't be. I guess no one bats 1.000.

Here, Taylor sets up next month's finale very well. But just when I thought I knew all the there was to know heading into the conclusion, Taylor throws one more curveball. And it was one maybe I should have expected. Great cliffhanger and surprise.

Yasmine Putri is on art again and it is lush. I have talked about the excellent expressive work here but the Harley in this book is too precious. Here Harley is the perfect 'court jester who is the smartest person in the room'. But the action is solid too. This issue is mostly a set-up for the upcoming battle so there are a lot of scenes of people talking. But Putri makes it look good. Add to that a Dan Mora cover showcasing these versions of the character and this issue's art is a big win.

I will be sad to see this series end although there is enough world building here to easily do a sequel.

On to the particulars.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Bullet Review: Power Girl Special #1

Last week, the Power Girl Special #1 came out and it took me a couple of days to wrap my head around it. Thus, the review is up today on Monday instead of last Friday. 

I was pretty unimpressed with the Power Girl story which unfolded in the recent Action Comics. In that story, writer Leah Williams changed Karen to Paige, changed her from a physical, confident, brash hero to a psychologically damage, isolate, psionic. It just didn't read like the Power Girl I have known for the last 40 years. Whether it was the original in All-Star or the JLE hero or JSA All-Stars leader or the Palmiotti/Conner version, they all felt recognizable. This version by Williams just didn't. Marguerite Sauvage was on art and I think her style is a 'love it or hate it' one but I love it. And her pastel pastiche does work well with psychic landscapes.

That story ended with Johnny Sorrow arriving. 

Anyways, all that meant I went into this special with almost no expectations. Like zero. 

So when I read this special the first time, I actually thought to myself 'hey, that wasn't that bad'. A lot of that was built on a couple of Supergirl moments where Kara is portrayed very well. And hey, Streaky is back. Sauvage's art is very good if you like it. I even tweeted that I thought it was better than I anticipated.

But then, when going back into the book to try and get this review ready, I realized it isn't really a good Power Girl book. Because, once again, this isn't the PG, the Karen, that I know. For a second, I thought much of the new stuff here would be swept under the rug. Throw in some other moments that don't make sense and I think in the end, this isn't a very good story. The art is wonderful.

Now if you have no sense of PG history, you might love this. And I honestly wonder what long time PG fans think. 

On to some moments.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Bullet Review: Nightwing #104

Nightwing #104 came out last week. It included the final part of the back-up Jon/Dick story written by C.S. Pacat. This was a story which I was pretty excited about after reading the first part. But the story has kind of fizzled.

Over the last couple of months, I have struggled with the Jon Kent character. His own book wrapped up in an understated way, filled with overly simplified political message stories in which Jon was a more a guest than a lead. In his latest mini-series, Jon has been whisked away to the Injustice world, where again he is a leading man in a world that isn't his. The story that book should've told, Jon dealing with Ultraman, was truncated. 

Now this story started with a great premise, Jon being trained by Dick to fight physically. It took a left turn into a circus mystery which highlighted the differences of the heroes upbringing. It downshifted into a 'very special' tale about parents pushing kids into careers they don't want. And now it concludes with a simple ending to the circus mystery. 

The opening idea about Dick training Jon? Never touched.

Daniel HDR is on art here and there is something off brand about his take on Jon. I wish I could put my finger on it in an intelligent way. But the close-ups of Jon here seem strange. 

I was hoping this story might rekindle my interest in Jon's character. 

On to a few moments including my favorite moment.