Monday, June 30, 2014

Smallville: Lantern #1 (DC)

writer: Bryan Q. Miller
artist: Marcio Takara
via Dad's Big Plan
Smallville ran for ten seasons between 2001 and 2011, exploring the journey Clark Kent took to become Superman.  Famously, its credo was "No Flights, No Tights."  In later seasons, some exceptions were made as the series got to bring in various other DC characters such as the Justice Society (which was seriously cool).  The comics that've been published since then, echoing the Dark Horse Buffy series that explore additional "seasons" of material, have expanded the platform's ability to present, well, more flights 'n' tights.  This particular entry features the debut of the Green Lantern Corps.

As a lifelong fan of the GLC, I couldn't have been more excited to see this (the Smallville comics are initially serialized digitally, for the record).  I liked the Smallville TV series, sure, but I've never really been compelled to read the comics, so this was an excellent opportunity to see how they were going.  Long story short on that, pretty well.  Oddly enough, perhaps, but the Smallville Green Arrow is still thriving here.

Anyway, back to Green Lantern business.  I became keenly aware that as a mainstream commodity this particular DC franchise is completely nonexistent despite years of critically acclaimed comics from Geoff Johns, after the relative miserable failure of the 2011 movie.  No one thought there was a reason to care about Hal Jordan, and so they crapped all over the movie.  It certainly doesn't help that superhero fans who know them better from movies or TV shows still think of Green Lantern as John Stewart from the Justice League cartoons.  (Another reason: movie audiences love superheroes specifically to be in movie franchises.  Green Lantern was not part of a franchise that year.)  Comic book fans know it's Jordan who lies at the center of the mythos.

Still, I think the greater point of the public confusion is that Green Lantern isn't one superhero at all, but literally thousands of them, space cops who roam not even just Earth but throughout the galaxy.  What makes any one of them special? 

Cleverly, this Smallville story reminds us that even Krypton had a Green Lantern assigned to its sector.  Conveniently for those who at least remember the movie, that Green Lantern was the same one who introduces Hal Jordan to the basics, Tomar-Re (voiced in that incarnation by the great Geoffrey Rush).  

More conveniently still, for those who still consider John Stewart the human Green Lantern on record, he's the one accounted for in this story.

Tomar-Re, who is deceased in the story and present as an interactive recording, explains a lot of Green Lantern lore.  I loved reading this.  It even walks through the whole Parallax deal, which was also central to the movie, as well as what happened to Jordan in the comics (at least until he got better).  All of this happens at all, of course, because Clark has been drafted into the Corps.  The reasons have to do with events that have been developing in other stories from the comic, which involve Zod (always Zod!), but suffice to say, it's the cleverest move of the story to have Clark become a Green Lantern.  He hardly needs a power ring to have powers, and keeps fighting the ring's hold, but for anyone who doesn't know John Stewart from Hal Jordan, this is a completely ideal introduction to the whole concept.  Yes, it reduces Green Lantern to a story gimmick in one sense, but it also helps provide context to the idea.

I would recommend this to anyone who still doesn't "get" Green Lantern, whether they particularly care for Smallville (in whatever form) or not.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Original Sin #0 (Marvel)

writer: Mark Waid
artist: Jim Cheung, Paco Medina

via Inside Pulse
Original Sin is the current Marvel crossover event.  I guess it's about guilt or something (kind of like the pain Sybok frees people from in the always-popular Star Trek V: The Final Frontier).  Otherwise it's also known as a story that actually revolves around the Watcher (Marvel's version of the Observers from Fringe, which technically would be the other way around).  Except it's a story that revolves around his murder!  So, bummer.

I picked up this prelude on a whim during Free Comic Book Day (yes, I bought comics on Free Comic Book Day).  While the actual mini-series is written by Jason Aaron (whom I still prefer to remember as the guy who did Scalped which, I'm just saying, would make an excellent TV series), this is issue is from Mark Waid.

Hey, Mark Waid!  I love that guy!  Wait, I used to love that guy.  I've been of the opinion lately that he hasn't exactly been living up to his potential.  No sweat, though, because there's not too much heavy lifting for him to do here.  So what is he doing in the issue?  Actually...writing a Nova story, apparently.  Nova, as in the star of a reboot from last year that I loved...for exactly one issue.  The reason I loved that issue so much is touched on in this story, but then Waid seems to forget what the moral of Sam Alexander's journey to date has been when he concludes that Sam always wanted to believe in his father.  Which is kind of the opposite of the heart-tugging arc Jeph Loeb introduced and which has basically been discarded...for no reason in particular.

It's funny, because Nova is our guide in the story much in the way the Watcher famously was the guide for so many Marvel stories in the past.  That was basically the character's claim to fame.  I don't know if Waid and/or Jason Aaron came up with Watcher's backstory for Original Sin, but that's in this issue as well, and that's pretty cool.  Adequately explains the character.  That's good.  

I don't have a particular opinion about Original Sin as a whole, however, because I'm not sure how much this issue really has to do with the rest of the story, because again, the event itself is about what happens after Watcher is murdered.  He is not even bleeding by the end of this issue (what???).  I really have no idea why Waid wrote this rather than Aaron.  I guess because Marvel decided to have a prelude and Aaron was busy having already written his story.

Anyway.  The thing about this story is that it also serves as Waid's return to juvenile superheroes.  Famously, he created the character of Bart Allen, who started out known as Impulse and then Kid Flash, and I'm of the opinion that Waid and Humberto Ramos's Impulse was one of the indisputable finest comics of the '90s.  (Ramos is currently best known for his work with another youthful character, Spider-Man.)  I'm not sure the Waid I remember from Impulse shows up.  I know, it's good for a writer to evolve, to not repeat themselves.  But it seems like the Waid in this issue came from a young adult book, Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games maybe.

Yeah, plenty of people would consider that a good thing.

Me, I had to look for other reasons to stay interested.  Fortunately there was also artist Jim Cheung.  Cheung is another guy who's done teenage comics before, Allan Heinberg's Young Avengers.  So I'm always happy to see Cheung in action.  His work is surprisingly versatile for a style that hasn't really changed in a decade.  That remains true in this comic.  

Of course, he's no more the artist in the rest of Original Sin than Waid is the writer.  Go figure.

Was this worth reading?  I guess.  Even though it's Nova running around doing stuff and narrating throughout the issue, it's the Watcher who comes off best.  A pity that the story this is attached to brings his future to an end.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ms. Marvel #3 (Marvel)

writer: G. Willow Wilson
artist: Adrian Alphona
via comiXology
That girl in the big panel at the bottom is Kamala Khan, who as of this issue still looks like the Carol Danvers blonde Ms. Marvel when she's actually being a superhero.  Her reaction to hearing about Ms. Marvel's exploits typifies the whole series to this point.

Yes, she is terrified.  

That's one of the refreshing things about G. Willow Wilson's Ms. Marvel.  A lot like Brian Michael Bendis's penchant for extended origin stories (typically featuring a version of Ultimate Spider-Man), expect a lot of the superhero in their civilian identity not having an easy time of transitioning into being a superhero.  This is where the series starts to get interesting, loses some of its early pesky quirks, like Kamala's inability to control her new powers (there are good comics to be made out of that sort of thing, but that wasn't necessarily a strength of the first two issues here).  In fact, there's a whole sequence of her successfully controlling her powers for the first time.  About time!

The most notable thing about this series, of course, is Kamala's Islamic faith, which to say the least is completely atypical in comics.  Half of her struggles in this series have to do with struggling with her faith, trying to be secular and faithful at the same time (a common theme in Wilson's fiction), which is not made easier by Kamala's relationship with Bruno, which has only become more complicated since her transformation.  In a perfect world, she would've been able to rely on him for support.  The thing is, Kamala does not live in a perfect world, and refreshingly, that doesn't mean there are costumed nutcases looking to destroy the world or whatnot every other minute.

In fact, by the end of the issue, the first villain she actively confronts is Bruno's own brother, who in a misguided attempt to use Bruno's position at Circle Q (a convenience store) in his favor, sticks on a ski mask and pretends to stick him up.  Kamala has no idea what's going on, and gets shot for her efforts.

You'll have to wait until I review the next issue to find out how that pans out, or perhaps start reading this comic for yourself.  It's storytelling that only gets better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forever Evil Aftermath: Batman vs. Bane (DC)

writer: Peter J. Tomasi
artist: Scott Eaton
via DC Infinite
Forever Evil was an event that got a lot of bad press on the Internet, criticized for featuring a bunch of villains.  (I'm going to start calling this Internet Logic.)  I didn't check in until the end, but I never heard or saw anything that rubbed me the wrong way.

Along with every crossover event these days, not only were there tie-ins with ongoing series, but special mini-series that told side stories.  Among them was Forever Evil: Arkham War.  If you want to know where Batman vs. Bane begins, that's it.  I don't particularly care about the context myself.  The whole thing seems to be spelled out well enough here.

Basically, what you need to know is: Forever Evil gave DC an excuse to insert the Bane you'll find in The Dark Knight Rises into comics.  That Bane isn't so different from the one who was in comics twenty years ago, but somewhere along the way, it became easier to think of him only (and this is pretty ironic) as the parody who appeared in Batman & Robin, the steroids Venom freak who lacked any discernible subtlety.

As you'll notice in the panel above, this Bane comes equipped with the fur-collared coat he wore in the movie.  He strikes the same hands-clasping-on-coat pose, too.  When Batman returns, they have a good rumble, one that more easily evokes the one Jean-Paul Valley had with Bane in Batman #500 than the one Bruce Wayne had in #497 (the one that resembles the panel above).

Most of the reason I picked this up, though, doesn't really have to do with Forever Evil, but the belief and hope that Peter Tomasi would do Bane justice.  This is all but a Batman and Robin one-shot (it'll be interesting to see if it's collected as such).  Being a big fan of that series and Tomasi's excellent work therein (usually in conjunction with artist Patrick Gleason), I hoped for something spectacular.  It isn't, exactly, and so it probably does owe more to being a Forever Evil tie-in than a Batman and Robin one-shot.  Although it gives me a little hope that eventually Tomasi will do a Bane arc in the latter.  

And that, I hope all the more, will be awesome.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reading Comics #124 "Reading FCBD 2014"

Atomic Robo (Red 5)
I'm on record for loving me Atomic Robo.  Earlier this year I read every other FCBD offering featuring the most awesome Tesla-inspired fighting robot in comics (recapped here).  In the eighth installment of this peculiar series, there is, alas, no Dr. Dinosaur (what's up with that?).  Maybe it's because I just read all those, but this time it seems a bit been there done that.  Although I still recommend Robo to any and everyone.  Red 5's other samples aren't very inspiring, either.  They be a small publisher for a reason, yo.

Bongo Free-for-All (Bongo)
Featuring nothing but the Simpsons (plus a weak nod to Futurama on the back cover that's actually nearly as much a nod to...Archie).  The first tale features Bart and Milhouse trying to accidentally gain superpowers, like they do in comics.  The one real result is Milhouse's hair becoming amazing.  Then there's a Spy vs. Spy (a classic feature of Mad Magazine) featuring Itchy and Scratchy.  Then there's a Mr. Burns story that has some fun with the idea of his being "the best boss in the world."  Then back to Bart and Milhouse, imagining the behind-the-scenes of Krusty Burger.  Then more superhero adventure-type things.  Then a "Where's Waldo" feature with Ralph from Sergio Aragones!  Simpsons comics are always good stuff!

(Help the CBLDF) Defend Comics (CBLDF)
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helps you take comics more seriously than you every thought possible, and this handy special helps you understand exactly how!  Highlight, for me, is an excerpt from Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's excellent Comic Book Comics (later reprinted as Comic Book History of Comics) featuring the (in)famous tale of Fredric Wertham, the man who declared war on the medium in the 1950s.  Although since it takes up the bulk of the issue, this isn't such a difficult accomplishment.  The other highlight features Sergio Aragones again, as well as Mark Evanier, Tom Luth, and Stan Sakai (a sequence originally featured in CBLDF Presents: Liberty Comics #1) in a series of examples of people being silly about comics (and not in a debating-who-would-win kind of manner).

The Dumbest Idea Ever! (Graphix)
Excerpted from a longer work, this is actually...kind of...a fictional account...of how this...thing...was the first place.  Not greatly impressed, but maybe the whole thing is better?

Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel)
This one is basically, with the title feature, a primer on the comic book version of the team (likely comparable to the movie version hitting theaters this summer) from Brian Michael Bendis.  Not hugely inspiring, but I guess you don't expect a lot from something like this, especially since it doesn't even get the whole issue.  The next segment belongs to Jim Starlin and Thanos, two names that historically have gone very well together, and is an excerpt from the Thanos: The Infinity Revelation graphic novel.  Either it's not the greatest excerpt, or it's not the greatest pairing of these two.  Hard to say.  Then there's a silly Spider-Verse excerpt from Dan Slott.  I just don't know what to make of Slott's overall vision for Spider-Man.  This is how he chooses to follow-up Doctor Spider-Man?  I know I'm not usually Marvel's biggest fan, but this was not a hugely inspiring FCBD offering.

The New 52: Futures End #0 (DC)
I haven't been reading the latest DC weekly series, but it's an undeniably good idea, making a whole bunch of characters who don't necessarily have viable homes in the current landscape suddenly relevant, headlined by Grifter and, especially with this special preview, Batman Beyond in his official continuity debut.  I'm a DC guy, and it's always nice when there's full-issue new material from anyone for FCBD, so it's especially nice for new material for a major new project available.  This is the way it's done.

Previews: What's @ Comic Shops (Diamond)
Ideally everyone who wasn't already familiar with reading comics as a hobby picked this one up.  It's an excellent primer.

Project Black Sky (Dark Horse)
As part of Dark Horse's latest attempt at jump-starting a superhero franchise, this is possibly also its first ever major crossover event, featuring Captain Midnight and Brain Boy in starring roles (also involved are Ghost and X, both of whom have been part of past attempts).  The writer is Fred Van Lente, who was a considerable favorite of mine back when he was working at Marvel but another of those creators who've been floating around looking for ideal context again.  Captain Midnight, by the way, is a pastiche on Captain America.  That's the hardest thing to overcome with this story.  Otherwise probably a pretty smart gamble on Dark Horse's part.

The Rise of the Magi #0 (Top Cow)
I think this is an irredeemably terrible title for the project, but the actual comic isn't too bad, finally a Top Cow idea that doesn't have anything to do with the Artifacts concept cobbled together from characters like Witchblade and the Darkness (Think Tank is the other notable attempt for the publisher to break out of its bubble).  As for what it is, Magi is a fantasy concept.

Rocket Raccoon #1 (Marvel)
It is what it is.  Groot comes off best.  Hey, did you know he's Groot???

Shigeru Mizuki's Showa: A History of Japan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Excerpted from a larger work, this was one of the best things I read from all my selections.  This special features the best look at Japan during WWII from a sympathetic point of view since Letters from Iwo Jima.  Anyone still trying to reconcile the country we know today with the one that attacked Pearl Harbor ought to consider having a look.

Steam Wars #1 (Antarctic Press)
The biggest pleasant surprise of the whole bunch, one I hesitated a great deal picking up because I feared it would be terrible.  But it's awesome, it really is, a variant on Star Wars that completely nails it.

Teen Titans Go! #1 (DC)
Yes, DC and Marvel each get two selections, one for kid readers and one for whoever reads comics otherwise.  Based on the cartoon that was actually brought back a few years ago, this was another highlight for me, unexpectedly written by Sholly Fisch of all people, the guy who was doing all those excellent backup features during Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics.  Good fun.

The Tick (New England Comics)
Aside from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Tick is the most famous indy character in comics, having successfully (to a much more limited extent) completed the leap to television both in animated and live action (a series that starred Patrick Warburton).  This latest FCBD offering details every previous release in the free series.  In a just world, The Tick would be more famous.  Good stuff.

Valiant Universe Handbook 2014 (Valiant)
Dry reading featuring bios for a set of characters who've had a thousand chances to catch on (they were among Dark Horse's previous superhero attempts, for instance).  This was perhaps not the best way to go about FCBD, but it's at least a handy reference that can be looked through later.  Just not right-now-kind-of-later.

Worlds of Aspen 2014 (Aspen)
Looks at new series Zoohunters and Damsels in Distress.  Neither look like great, per say.

2000 AD (Rebellion)
One of the longest-running comics outlets is British and an anthology that's released every week (up to nearly two thousand issues!), known as the birthplace of Judge Dredd, who is coincidentally the star of the standout story from this special.  The creator responsible is actually Chris Burnham, the artist who collaborated with Grant Morrison during the final run of both Batman Incorporated and Morrison's long Batman run as a whole.  The last pleasant surprise, as I'd never really had an opportunity to fully appreciate Dredd before; Burnham's story did an excellent job explaining the character's appeal.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Star Wars #7 (Dark Horse)

writer: J. W. Rinzler
artist: Mike Mayhew
via Dark Horse
"Apparently, he and his friends are rescuing us.  The Skywalker is teaching them how to fly like birds, and the Starkiller god is attacking a moon -- to rescue a princess!"
That's a quote from Threepio (always a storyteller!).  It's funny, and tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this penultimate issue of the mini-series based on George Lucas's original rough draft of his famous saga.

You may be familiar with the anecdote about how the Ewoks came to Return of the Jedi, and why the Wookiees ended up fighting in Revenge of the Sith.  It was always the intention for the Wookiees to feature in a climactic battle, but as things ended up developing, it wasn't practical, and then it was modified, and then delayed, basically.  So this issue in particular is a window into one of the most famous, if not the most famous, elements of the rough draft.

In that way, we have a pretty amusing version of how Swamp Thing Han Solo met Chewbacca.  The funniest thing about it is that it sort of resembles how we meet Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace.  Ain't that great to know???  As the issue picks up our heroes have already saved the Wookiees.  One of them sticks around, won't go away, but no one can understand him, so they have no idea why.  Just a local pest.  (Chewbacca!  A local pest!)  But as it turns out, Han understands him perfectly (which nearly explains why in the movies he's still the only one who understands what Chewie says), and explains that he and the rest of the Wookiees have mistaken Annikin Starkiller for a god.

(Please remember that in this version, Annikin is basically Luke.)

The other notable scene in the issue is Darth Vader (also, Annikin is not basically Darth Vader) being a gentlemanly...sadistic a-hole, gleefully torturing Princess Leia (that much doesn't change).  You can bet this Vader doesn't have James Earl Jones's voice.

Once again, a fun issue to twist all your precious memories!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading Comics #123 "Paging John Carter"

via Wikipedia

No, not that John Carter (Noah Wyle's doctor from ER), but this one:
via Gonzo Geek
Specifically, in relation to a couple of comics I picked up recently: Starlight #s 1-2 and Star-Lord: Tears for Heaven.  The whole reason I'm referencing John Carter (the above image, of course, from the 2012 movie that a handful of people, such as myself, really loved) is that the main characters in both comics are a lot like the other Edgar Rice Burroughs creation, the one best known for being associated with Mars (or, Barsoom) despite the fact that he is human.

Now, as a comics fan I'm more familiar with this concept when it comes in the form of Adam Strange, a DC character who has never really been a major part of that landscape but has been prominent enough that anyone who knows DC should at least be familiar with him.  As the lead character in Guardians of the Galaxy (both the upcoming movie and in the comics), Star-Lord...has not exactly been the Marvel equivalent, though a lot of people want you to think so.  He was completely obscure until a few years ago, when Brian Michael Bendis dug him out of the archives to lead the current Guardians initiative.

Tears for Heaven is one of those periodic reprint one-shots that Marvel does, collecting some older material that wouldn't necessarily suit a trade collection.  I got a couple Thanos releases this way from stories that weren't Infinity [Fill-in-the-Blank], and those were all worth reading.  I assumed this would be, too.  I figured, if Marvel has such faith in this character, maybe he's got some hidden gems behind him.

He really doesn't, apparently.
via Previews World
I would've used some art from the interior, as I've been doing lately, but this misleading cover is as good as that gets.  It's not the fact that some of the stuff inside is black-and-white, but that it's completely generic material.  Maybe I reread this stuff later and derive some actual enjoyment from it, and maybe it remains..."meh" material.  That's really disappointing to discover.

Included is a typically overblown Marvel write-up of how awesome Star-Lord is supposed to be from a previous reprint special edition, plus covers from '90s attempts to revive him, among other bonus material.  There are a couple of other Star-Lord reprint specials from this Guardians push.  I wonder and/or hope they have better material, but I've been scared off.  This may be why the majority of people who watch comic book movies don't read actual comic books, because they're afraid the source material is exactly like this.

Fortunately, I had another Not John Carter/Not Adam Strange moment in Mark Millar's Starlight.  At the same time Marvel was relaunching the Guardians comic, they were also relaunching Nova, which is kind of Marvel's Green Lantern (or perhaps Darkstars).  The first issue of that relaunch (one of precious few written by Jeph Loeb) was one of the best comics I read last year.  Easily.

Starlight, as it turns out, is a lot like that issue, but expanded.
via Comic Book Movie
Both Nova #1 and Starlight are about the John Carter/Adam Strange/Star-Lord experience years after the fact, when the cosmic adventurer has returned home and is just another human again, and no one (in Nova's poignant case, the guy's own son) particularly believes he really experienced all those cool things.  I was disappointed when the second issue of the Nova reboot dropped the drama in favor of fairly generic cosmic adventuring (kind of the new version of what I found in Tears for Heaven, then), so to find something like Starlight is very, very welcome.

The writer is Mark Millar.  This is apparently the first time he is going to be a label here at Comics Reader, but this isn't the first time I've read him.  Chances are you known him best from the Kick-Ass comics and/or movies.  He was also responsible for the Wanted comics that...bear no real resemblance to the later movie, and at one time had a close working relationship with Grant Morrison (they collaborated on Aztek and The Flash among other projects).  Lately, thanks to the huge success of Kick-Ass, he's been working virtually exclusively (okay, pretty much exactly exclusively) on his Millarworld comics.

The whole reason I looked at Starlight at all is because I haven't really read a lot of these efforts, and I figured they were worth it.  This one was definitely worth it.  Another recent Image series (lately he's been releasing most of his comics through Image although he still has some, like Kick-Ass, over at the Marvel imprint Icon) I've been enjoying in recent years is another space comic, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga.  If you like Saga you'll like Starlight, too, which is saying something because Saga has been one of the best comics being published since it debuted.

Usually when I sample a comic I don't pick up more than one issue at a time.  I looked at Starlight long enough where I figured it was worth the gamble of snatching up the first two at the same time.  It really was.  It's really good.  Best new comic of the year kind of good.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ultimate Spider-Man #200 (Marvel)

writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: Dave Marquez, David Lafuente, Sara Pichelli, Mark Brooks, Mark Bagley

via Inside Pulse
To reach this numbering milestone (as handily recapped in the back of the issue), Marvel counted: Ultimate Spider-Man #s 1-133, Ultimate Six #s 1-7, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #s 1-15, 150-160, Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem #s 1-2, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #s 1-28, and Cataclysm: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #s 1-3 (plus this one).  Strictly speaking, it's kind of sad, and completely indicative of the shenanigans typical in today's comics (although Marvel also celebrated a Nova anniversary that combined...a lot of very deeply spaced issues recently, so there's that as well, and DC's Detective Comics celebrations, that speak to the need for anniversaries in general...while trying to look "fresh" to newer readers; and all the ridiculous fake anniversary issues...).

When it started, Ultimate Spider-Man was a remarkably long-lived partnership between Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley that lasted a hundred-and-eleven straight issues (just breaking the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby streak in the original Fantastic Four).  Bagley returned for a number of additional issues, but soon gave way to other signature collaborators in Bendis's remarkable (and most and only remarkable Ultimate) run with this alternate Spider-Man saga.

Sara Pichelli has fifteen previous appearances, David Lafuente sixteen.  The only one missing from this reunion is Stuart Immonen, who logged in twenty-three issues but is perhaps tied up with another Bendis collaboration at the moment, All-New X-Men (which is kind of too bad).

David Marquez, it should be noted, is the one going forward.

Such are the other vagaries of this run that it celebrates a different Spider-Man than the one that's currently on record, Miles Morales, the ethnically diverse wunderkind who has been building his own legacy (and stars in the latest relaunch, Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man).  The one you may know better, obviously, would be Peter Parker.  Except he's been dead since the Ultimatum event that basically radically broke the Ultimate line from the mainline Marvel universe (even more so, anyway).  

Bendis gets a lot of credit as far as his worth to Marvel in general is concerned, but he's rarely considered to be as good a writer as he is dependable.  Most of what you'll hear critically about him isn't all that flattering.  I've been somewhat guilty of that.  I haven't read him nearly as much as his DC rivals Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison, but he's as important as either of them, and his legacy is equally comparable.  The thing he has on them is his dedication to this title, no matter what form it takes.  

Every now and then, I try to make good and check in on what he's been doing, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  Once again Bendis pleasantly surprises me.  While Morales certainly gets the short straw, Parker's enduring legacy is greatly exhibited, everything he accomplished just in these adventures, the remarkable supporting cast that surrounded him.  

A series of monologues reveals how each of these characters still remember Peter.  In a lot of ways, this is almost an ideal Spider-Man comic.  Peter Parker dead but living in the memories of those he left behind, with someone else struggling to follow in his footsteps (it should be noted that left out of the celebration numbers is a tie-in comic between Miles Morales and the "616" Peter Parker, Spider-Men, which is referenced here).  Peter, another boy who never grew up, which has certainly been a matter of some controversy elsewhere.  Bendis has been making as strong an argument as anyone ever has that Marvel could weather a reboot and be the better for it, although perhaps no one could do it as well as he has.  

Some of the art fails to distinguish characters from each other (notably dueling brunettes).  Maybe this is a problem for someone who hasn't been following the whole thing.  It doesn't really matter, though.  The impact is still considerable.  Unlike, say, Superior Spider-Man #30, you don't really have to have read anything else to fully enjoy and appreciate the proceedings.

If you've never read a single issue, just to make it clear, this would be a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Superior Spider-Man #30 (Marvel)

writer: Dan Slott, Christos Gage
artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
via Inside Pulse.  Imagine if this were his permanent headgear!
As everyone knew must happen when the Doctor Spider-Man era began, Peter Parker officially reclaims his identity/body from Otto Octavius, the erstwhile Doctor Octopus.  This is the issue where that happens.

It's actually kind of disappointing.  Maybe it's because I've read precious little of the Doctor Spider-Man arc (my coinage) but I would've thought Otto might get a bigger denouement.  As it is, it's basically Peter figuring out that he can control his own body even with Otto's mind running the show, Otto deciding that only Peter can resolve the current crisis, and then voluntarily sitting himself down to the device that can undo what he did.

And what's most disappointing is that Otto's emotional goodbye, which in theory is very affecting, is completely undercut but severe brevity.  Otto's happiest memories flit by.  And basically, he's gone.  Peter's back.  Swaps costumes.  That's it.  The end.  Issue done.

What somehow even more embarrassing is that half the issue is given over to Black Widow #1.  Not because it's Black Widow or anything.  It's a decent read and all, as far as I know drawing heavily from the character as depicted in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I just don't see why one of the pivotal moments, a truly historic Spider-Man occasion, after a long arc, plays like a glorified prelude to a character who has nothing to do with him, the arc, the series, anything.  I understand that Marvel probably included this in other comics as well, but I don't see why it should have been done with this one.  I mean, seriously?  Really?

And so that's the underwhelmed reaction to an event that ends up played off more as a shrug than a milestone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sinestro #1 (DC)

writer: Cullen Bunn
artist: Dale Eaglesham

via DC Infinite
Ever since the launch of the New 52 in 2011, Sinestro's profile has been raised significantly.  After all, he was technically the title ring-bearer of Green Lantern at that time.  Geoff Johns used his final few years with the franchise focused in part on the one-time villain.  An ongoing series for the character has been all but inevitable, but it's still a little surprising that it actually...happened!

The franchise received a significant expansion in the relaunch.  One of the more debated titles from the start was Red Lanterns, which is still running and arguably stronger than ever after a recent tie-in with Supergirl.  Larfleeze ran for nearly a year.

And now there's Sinestro.  In a lot of ways, it seems more unlikely now than in the fall of 2011.  When Johns left with Green Lantern #20, he put the character back in the box, made him pretty distinctively villainous again, putting this series more in line with Red Lanterns than than one of its emerald brethren, or even the isolated antics of Larfleeze, which sadly had no real fan support.  One of the knocks on Red Lanterns from the start was that it was a curious decision indeed to focus on a pack of villains, which is still unusual in comics despite a steady stream of Thunderbolts and other such efforts.  It still seems inconceivable that The Joker existed in the '70s (for about as many issues as Larfleeze forty years later), and no doubt you're barely aware that even happened.  With good reason.

But here this is, and so what's there to say about it?  I may be biased.  I find Sinestro to be fascinating, with or without a green ring, yellow ring, what have you.  Comic book characters subsist in large part on healthy egos, but there are few to rival Sinestro in this regard.  Most of what has been done with him in recent years, almost exclusively by Johns, is to provide nuance to such a reputation, make him sympathetic.  

When we last saw him, Sinestro had gone into exile, and that's where Cullen Bunn finds him.  I have little experience with Bunn.  I really only know him from a Deadpool comic I read earlier this year, and as the writer of The Sixth Gun, the Oni series that isn't Wasteland.  And I wasn't impressed with Deadpool that time.  Surprisingly or not, Bunn settles into Sinestro seamlessly.  The panel at the start of this review is a perfect encapsulation of the character, the comic, and Bunn's understanding of both.  The ego's still there, but the guy has been humbled (as much as possible, anyway).

Since this is a series and not a one-shot, however, you can be sure the story picks up considerably from that point.  Lyssa Drak, the blue-skinned disciple from Sinestro's largely-abandoned yellow-ring-fear-based corps, shows up and soon enough he powers up again.  With a yellow ring.  And by the end of the issue, Sinestro's daughter, Soranik Natu (who debuted in Green Lantern Corps: Recharge and has been an off-and-on signature character since), shows up.  And that relationship is still complicated, to say the least.

The other thing the panel displays is the art, obviously.  The artist is Dale Eaglesham, who is making his return to DC after five years.  His signature work had been Justice Society of America, with Johns.  I'm not hugely familiar with his work in the meantime, but if anything, he has significantly improved.  The cover isn't so impressive and not really particularly indicative, but the stuff inside is truly exceptional.  I don't know how much credit colorist Jason Wright deserves for this.  It's similar to Mike Mayhew (who knocked The Star Wars out of the park) or Mike Perkins (who similarly stood out in the pages of The Stand) at this point, and as such repositions the entire series in a different light.  You don't have to approach it as a fan of the Green Lantern franchise.  It's now a kind of epic all its own.  You don't even need to have read much of Sinestro previously.  Everything you need to know is recapped within this debut issue.

So this is a heck of a thing.  I have no idea what its chances for long-term survival are, but if Bunn and Eaglesham, or creators of similar quality and motivation, remain attached to the series, Sinestro has unexpectedly become one of the better titles DC has to offer.  The character always had this potential, so it's good to see it fulfilled.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Digitally Speaking...#19 "Archeologists of Shadows Vol. II"

via Major Spoilers
Archeologists of Shadows Vol. 2: Once a Nightmare (Septagon Studios)
From 2012.

As you may or may not recall, after reading the first AOS volume, I was pretty excited.  This is a version of the hero's journey that is about as pure as well as radical as you can get.

This second volume is a kind of dream logic.  Our heroes Alix and Baltimo, the so-called Alter Egos, become separated for the first time.  They are the last hope of the resistance against a world that seeks to fully mechanize everyone.  The Archeologists of Light have already fallen.  Now it remains to the Archeologists of Shadows to succeed, and all their hopes have been pinned on the pair of travelers who are trying to confirm that they are who other people say they are.  In the process, they're exploring the very depths of their whole world.

When I say "dream logic," I mean that this volume in particular moves along swiftly, with Alix and Baltimo moving from one moment, one challenge, to the next without much ceremony.  Things happen, not flippantly, but at a steady pace.  It's fitting that I invoke dreams, because both are faced with their worst fears (there's at least one good line when they come back together to compare notes on the experience, a trademark of AOS I particularly enjoy).

Patricio Clarey's art remains superb, while Lara Fuentes manages to slow the pace of the story without losing momentum.  Does that make sense?  In a lot of ways, Once a Nightmare is a lot like Empire Strikes Back, if the whole story had taken place on Dagobah.

via the Geek Girl Project
This particular fellow reminds me that AOS is in a lot of ways what the Star Wars prequels could have been like if George Lucas had done away with pesky humans entirely (he tried his best!).  And if that helps, if that's a positive association for you, maybe that'll help you understand this thing better.

Apparently the third volume is still being worked on, which means I'll have to wait (hopefully not too long) to see what happens next.  Baited breath!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Sandman: Overture #2 (Vertigo)

writer: Neil Gaiman
artist: J.H. Williams III

via Nothing But Comics
I came very late to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, but I became as much a fan as anyone has.  That being said, and also that I'm very happy that they've once again come together, I'm not sure what I think of Overture after two issues.  The above image is part of my dilemma.  

Gaiman so far has been setting the stage, and that's about it.  This is not one of those complaints that has anything to do with delays.  I'm not so starved for entertainment that I must hang all of my attention on a single story.  That being said, I'm pretty sure the schedule was always more elongated than usual.  Now it seems it's a little longer still.  Whatever.

No, this is more a matter of how much time Gaiman is spending talking about Dream rather than tossing him into another story.  My limited experience of Sandman to date is that it's less to do with the central character and more his tangential role in a whole tapestry of stories.  With Overture, Gaiman seems to have reversed that.  I get the sense that the whole reason he's even working on this project is because like a lot of writers at later stages in their careers (although considering Gaiman is only 53, this is kind of ridiculous to be saying, I know) and years removed from their most famous projects, they either try to distance themselves from said project or try and do whatever they can to remind everyone of what made them so special to begin with.

So on that score it makes sense for Overture to be more about Dream than feature him.  This is a chance to revisit the character and everything else around him, to celebrate, and so that's a little of what's going on here.  This second issue doesn't do a ton more than the first one.  The multiple versions of Dream do a lot of talking with each other.  In theory this is right up my alley.  I like cerebral material, people talking about things rather merely doing things.  But as far as my expectations go, I kind of what, I guess (and I just realized what I was thinking as I was writing this sentence, and how it suddenly sounds kind of stupid) what Gaiman has done before.

And I guess, that's an important thing to realize.  Maybe Overture is doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing.  I'm still a neophyte as a fan.  I'm not lost, really, but maybe because I still haven't actually read the whole of the original material, I wanted something that evoked it more than I should have.  I was probably being a little ridiculous.  


So I guess I'll relax a little.  The next issue is scheduled for release at the end of next month.  Sometimes it bears reminding in a monthly format that it's not always as easy as it can seem to appreciate what a finite story is accomplishing from issue to issue.

In the meantime, have another look at that art!  All praise to J.H. Williams III!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ms. Marvel #2 (Marvel)

via Hannah Givens
writer: G. Willow Wilson
artist: Adrian Alphona

I went with that image culled from Google Images mostly because that's one of the dominant aspects of this series so far.  Yes, this is the Muslim Ms. Marvel.  But writer G. Willow Wilson (a favorite of mine) has tended to do as much exploring Kamala Khan's relatively unique perspective (which Wilson is uniquely situated to present) with a lot of embiggening.

This is a feature you normally expect from Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four, the dude who takes his amazing fantastic stretching powers mostly to embiggen things (as opposed to DC's approaches to Plastic Man, as a giant goof, or Elastic Man, as a detective).  That's the extent of Kamala's experimenting with her new powers, certainly as of this particular issue (it seems like an obsession, and is the only thing that's negatively distracting about the series so far).

Figured I'd get that out of the way.

The issue otherwise continues the new Ms. Marvel's origin story, as she tries to become comfortable as a slightly rebellious Muslim (certainly according to her parents) and new superhero, with friends and family who are not really making any of it easier.

The image comes from her first heroic act, by the way, coming to the rescue of a high school classmate who embodies a lot of Kamala's insecurities.

I've since read both additional issues so far published, so you know I'm enjoying this.  My thoughts on those will follow, as I continue figuring out what exactly this comic book is accomplishing.  So far, merely more good Wilson material.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Batman and Robin #30 (DC)

via Comic Book DB
writer: Peter J. Tomasi
artist: Patrick Gleason

For the last year Batman and Robin has been dealing with the fact that Robin has, in fact, been dead.  The title has revolved on the latest guest-star, at least as the cover is concerned.  This issue, as you can tell from the tiny image above, features Wonder Woman.

This is the rare issue of the series I didn't entirely enjoy, and I think I've figured out why.  Do I pin it on genius collaborators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason?  Heck no!  I think it has to do with the very thing that has plagued the issue's guest-star all along, in that depicting the tribe of Amazons has always been difficult.  Along with probably everyone else who regularly reads comics but hasn't particularly regularly read Wonder Woman, I've only sporadically read that series (in any incarnation).  I'm one of the few who enjoyed Will Pfeifer's Amazons Attack!, and creators like Greg Rucka and Brian Azzarello have greatly impressed with with their depictions of Wonder Woman's mythology.  I was an early (and perhaps remain the only) advocate of Geoff Johns's Justice League as a hidden second Wonder Woman vehicle, which gave birth to an actual second vehicle, Superman/Wonder Woman (a digital-first series is soon joining this line-up, Sensation Comics).

And yet, it's still a difficult proposition to make that this is an icon that has truly found her sweet spot.

As Batman tries to thwart Ra's al Ghul's twisted quest to resurrect Damian (the aforementioned dead Robin) and his mom Talia (this is the third installment of the arc; I've read and will review two others, including the ones before and after), he tries to cut his nemesis off at the pass in every possible location he makes an attempt.  This includes Paradise Island, the land where Greek myth still lives.

This means a lot of women who tend to act...kind of manly?  In a world devoid of men, the Amazons are all a bunch of warriors (in the original Greek myths, they're far less feminine than they are usually depicted in the comics, and I'll leave it at that).  This is not to say that women can't be warriors.  But the comic book depiction of them as warriors usually leaves very little of the woman in them, usually only reserved for Wonder Woman herself and her mom, Hippolyta.  (The one good Gail Simone story involved a whole plot by other Amazons to take revenge on them.)

This is all relevant because that's what's so wrong about this issue.  Batman shows up, Wonder Woman tries to protect him from the other Amazons, Tomasi has to explain why this whole situation is the way it is.  And it just doesn't jibe.  Even Gleason's work doesn't work very well.  I have fond memories of his Soranik Natu from Green Lantern Corps.  I know he can draw women pretty good.  This is not on display here.  Again, because of what Amazons generally bring, or don't bring, to the table.  I suspect, and I don't by any means imply that Tomasi and Gleason are the ones who can do it, that to truly redeem them someone will have to spend a concentrated amount of times depicting the Amazons without Wonder Woman or Hippolyta overly involved.  We need more distinct Amazons.  There was Artemis (the replacement Wonder Woman).  There needs to be more.  To truly sympathize with Wonder Woman, we need to see her as something other than a champion or exile.  She's unique among DC's Big Three.  She has someplace she can go back to, an origin that didn't go away.

Anyway, now that I've turned this whole review into my thoughts on matters that don't entirely have to do with the actual issue at hand (other than to explain what went wrong), I will note that once Batman and Wonder Woman are alone, things even out considerably.  We get back to Tomasi/Gleason goodness.  There's even some good stuff related to Ra's himself when he explains how he found Paradise Island to begin with.

Then a monster has an allegorical epiphany, and Batman declares in the final panel, " I can chase down that bastard, Ra's," which evokes Admiral Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I love when that happens.

Bottom line is, survive the first few pages of the issue, and the rest goes down easy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Batman #30 (DC)

via Comic Book DB
writer: Scott Snyder
artist: Greg Capullo

This is the ninth issue in Scott Snyder's "Zero Year" arc (it ends with #33 in July for a total of twelve issues).  Basically it's the classic origin narrative (previously made iconic by Frank Miller in his "Year One" arc that remains a perennial bestseller as a graphic novel, among others).

I have a somewhat difficult relationship with Snyder.  I think he's kind of vastly overhyped.  When he entered the scene back in 2010 I was one of the many people who saw a great amount of potential in him.  In my opinion, I think he's let his massive success since then go to his head.  Tellingly, DC has been slow to let him expand his brand beyond Batman and American Vampire.  Yeah, it could be Snyder's own choice, but I think a case could definitely be made for my interpretation: the dude is still working on his craft, and even DC knows it.

I've had a crazy idea or two about what Snyder ultimately has in mind for Batman, which I assumed might be the payoff to the "Zero Year" arc.  Unless there's a massive swerve in the final issue, that's not likely to be the case, and anyway, he will probably be on the title for a bit longer anyway (as opposed to a few years on Swamp Thing or six issues of Superman Unchained), so there's really no rush.  Just me and my ideas.

You want to know what's in this issue, why I checked in?  Because I saw it on the shelf at the comic book store with the words "final act" on the cover, and because I wasn't really paying close enough attention to the publishing schedule for "Zero Year" at the time, kind of assumed this was the conclusion.  Seemed innocent enough.

But it's not, obviously.  This ends up being my first actual look at the arc, is all.  Technically this is a Riddler story, but the circumstances seem taken straight from the Bane/Talia story from The Dark Knight Rises.  Jim Carrey Riddler this is not, by the way.  Snyder actually approaches it pretty well.  While it's questionable to have set a major villain up before there was really a Batman to confront them, I like how Riddler presents himself all the same.  He's less a goon with a gimmick and more a man with a cause, which is a refreshing change of pace.  He's Snyder's answer to what's happening in the real world with everyone and their roommate talking about the consequences of climate change (although: Waterworld, which to my mind sounds like a lot of fun).

To wit: "And right now, at this moment, we're in desperate need of some outthinking.  Rising tides.  Dwindling resources.  Overpopulation.  Pan-global conflict.  The world's largest economies running on fumes..."

This is an argument, methinks, for Snyder to tackle something more akin to DMZ than what for all I can tell he's done in American Vampire or The Wake.  It could be interesting.  Also, why do I keep giving ideas to the guy when he will never in a million years even care?

Riddler, by the way, has bested Batman a few times.  Batman isn't really Batman yet.  Hence "Zero Year."  So that makes the end of the issue kind of cool, when Batman shows up again.  Good moment.  I'm not about to join Team Snyder, but things like this remind me why I liked him to begin with.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Digitally Speaking...#18 "Archeologists of Shadows"

via Deviantart
Archeologists of Shadows, Vol. 1: The Resistance (Septagon Studios)
From 2011.

Well, I'm officially an AOS fanboy.

This is exactly the kind of awesome genius I love to find in the comiXology Submit bundle I purchased a few months back.  I've discovered a few gems already, stuff I easily recommend, but I have a new favorite.  To prove it, I've actually gone ahead and gotten the second volume (it's really cheap, too, just $ .99), and look forward to reading that, and rereading this one.  It's really that good.

This is one of those hero quests that calls to mind other goodness you've experienced.  I mean, the hero quest is classic storytelling, so finding stuff that reminds you of other stuff isn't really that difficult.  This particular hero quest involves a couple of travelers who stumble into a much bigger story by the end of this volume.  These travelers exist in a world where everyone must comply with the edict to become fully mechanized.  There's a resistance (there's always a resistance), but these guys aren't really a part of it until the resistance, the Archeologists, reveal to them their crucial role in it.  This is like discovering The Matrix all over again.

A lot of Matrix fans soured on that experience after the two sequels.  I never really understood that, but oh well.  The benefit of AOS is that at the end of this volume, which is about fifty pages of story and fifty more peaking behind the scenes, the travelers (Baltimo and Alix) are really just beginning their journey.  The whole volume is a journey, really, which leads them to Calvin, a.k.a. the Hermit.  I love that the friendly wizard type in AOS is actually a hermit, and named the Hermit.  This is the guy who really knows how to isolate himself.  

Basically everything about AOS is perfect.

It's the same kind of story that Star Wars always is, throwing you right into the story without a ton of preamble.  I always loved that about Star Wars, and so it's nice to see another story like that.  The dialogue is pitch-perfect.  That's to writer Lara Fuentes' credit.  The art from Patricio Clarey (they're Spanish).  The cover really only suggests how awesome that is.  It's like an animated movie that really will never be made because it's actually dark.  It's steampunk as if there were more steam than punk to it (which actually makes it far more punk).  

Do I have to say it again?  It's great.  I love it.
via Comics Cube
(One caveat this sample suggests: I had to magnify the pages in order to properly read the word balloons.  So best keep that in mind.)

To be clear, this is not your average comic book, and really, that's another huge plus.  It's refreshing.  The art's really a bit like a Dave McKean cover to Sandman in some ways.  Since the dialogue reads so crisply, you really don't end up minding how unusual the page looks around it.  And since the story moves along just as crisply, this is all a delightful package, it really is.

Something I have absolutely no trouble at all supporting.  Hopefully in paperback form at some point.  Hardback?  I would even do that.  

If they were to make a movie out of this, I imagine something so blindingly ambitious for wide audiences, it probably couldn't be done anytime soon anyway.  It would be a bit like watching Will Smith's I, Robot, but with less Will Smith and more of Alan Tudyk's robot.  Would you watch several hours of that?  I would.  I loved that movie.  But I'm pretty sure I love AOS more.

Time will tell, but I think I love it at a level comparable to The Matrix.  Or even Star Wars.  I don't toss that kind of love lightly.  AOS has me that level of giddy.  So yeah, AOS fanboy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Umbral #4 (Image)

via CBR
writer: Antony Johnston
artist: Christopher Mitten

I'm an original Wasteland fanboy.  I've loved the Oni post-apocalypse series since it debuted.  The fact that it's ending this year is incredibly bittersweet.  It gets to go out on its own terms, but the massive cult following I always thought it deserved never really materialized.  That being said, finally the comics industry seems to have caught up with it.  Series writer Antony Johnston has two new series being published by Image, featuring the signature artists from Wasteland.  The more recent one, The Fuse, features the work of Justin Greenwood.  The slightly older one (by a matter of issues) is this one, Umbral, which features original Wasteland artist (who has returned for its final arc) Christopher Mitten.

Mitten was a huge reason Wasteland made an immediate impact on me.  This is good news for Umbral, because it features glorious full color (whereas Wasteland was black & white for nearly every issue), including the bold and instantly trademark use of purple to truly make its world of magic pop.

This is the first issue of Umbral I've caught.  I hoped it would reward my long interest in Johnston and Mitten's careers and collaborative potential, and it does.  In a lot of ways, it's Wasteland from a more direct perspective.  Lead character Rascal is like Abi (as well as virtually every other aspect) without all the mystery, just straight-up adventure.  Wasteland was always a complicated tapestry playing a number of different storylines simulaneously.  Umbral is in a lot of ways the streamlined version of that.  All the toys are squarely in the same sandbox.  Hopefully this means anyone who at least knew of Wasteland but might have been intimidated by everything they needed to keep straight will have a much easier time of it with Umbral.

Which is not to say Umbral is simplistic.  Johnston is an expert at world-building.  Even four issues in, having missed the first three, being thrown into his ideas is more fun than daunting.  Like any fantasy series, there are a lot of weird names (but Game of Thrones fans will hopefully be more than comfortable with that).  There's a big bad demon, if you like that sort of thing, too.

The first trade collection, Out of the Shadows, is available as of last week, if you want to bite the bullet and jump right in.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Superman #25 (DC)

via Comic Book DB
writer: Scott Lobdell
artist: Kenneth Rocafort

The Superman books have had a game of musical chairs going since the New 52 relaunch (aside from Grant Morrison's near-twenty issue run on Action Comics).  I was kind of hoping Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort would stick around this title longer (though two years is about how long Morrison went).  I was among the select few who responded to their Red Hood & the Outlaws with something other than, "Why the heck is Starfire acting like Starfire???" (paraphrasing for accuracy), so I was very pleased to see at DC recognize and reward their collaboration by giving them a bigger spotlight (Superman had already chewed up veterans George Perez and Dan Jurgens, alas).

Sadly, because I had to drastically limit my comics intake starting around that point, I never really got a chance to enjoy this choice pairing and their plush new assignment.  It seems they devoted the bulk of it to the creation of H'El, and I phrase it that way because I hope the character sticks around.  He's handy in the same way Eradicator or General Zod are in providing a nasty reminder of Krypton for the Man of Steel's ongoing adventures.

The thing this particular issue, which I went back and caught up with months after the fact, does quite well is accentuate the true strength of the whole New 52 Superman line (which from the start I didn't really get to enjoy because even then I was limiting the intake, a chronic condition that is probably not going to change anytime soon, unless someone wants to dump a lot of money or free review copies in my lap).  Besides Red Hood and Teen Titans, Lobdell wrote Superboy from the start of the DC relaunch.  I wish I'd been able to read that one regularly, because I liked what I read in the debut issue, but distance from ongoing experience kept making me fall back on my other impression of the series and/or character: that he looks like the Tron of Steel in his new outfit.

Which is unfortunate for a lot of reasons.  The original clone version of Superboy, from the days of the "Reign of the Supermen" arc following the original Doomsday storyline (in case you didn't know, there's a new one going on at the moment) was always a favorite character of mine (I liked all of DC's teen heroes in those days, actually).  I didn't necessarily want a reboot of the character, especially since the welcome if different revision Geoff Johns cooked up for another Teen Titans reboot had already created for me sometimes too much distance from it.  And also, Tron of Steel.  But Superman #25 is a reminder that there actually is plenty to like about the newest iteration.  Lobdell is a big reason why.  He's got a knack for getting in the head of his characters, and knowing how to present them.  Think Mark Waid's Flash.  

The H'El arc has intersected Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl for a while.  H'El has been having a strong impact on Supergirl, too, drawing out what makes the latest iteration of this character so special for the reboot as well.  Supergirl is no longer just another Character of Steel on Earth, but rather seems to inhabit her own corner.  In the past it's been incredibly easy just to play up her relationship to Superman (or if you're Peter David, ditch everything and...basically write a different character entirely, maybe one called, oh, Fallen Angel).  I don't know a whole lot about what was going on with Supergirl prior to H'El first appearing, but her appearance in Superman #25 is as strong as anyone else's.

Including Jor-El.  Lobdell has come up with the kind of story Jonathan Hickman tried doing in Fantastic Four a few years back (before the "death" of Johnny Storm).  Surprisingly, few writers have tried to come up with ways for Superman to team up with his father.  Now, technically that's about as impossible as it gets, given the circumstances.  But "impossible" is the middle name of comic books.  So what do you expect?

The issue spells out everything you need to know about the whole H'El arc, including how the villain came into being.  This is also the arc's conclusion, which is handy if you only want to sample the thing.  But I think, even if one long arc and one creation under their belt, Lobdell and Rocafort have an excellent legacy behind them, the kind they deserve.

Rocafort isn't as astonishing here as I'd like, but it's clearly still his work, and that's good enough.  It's completely atypical for Superman (you'll certainly believe a man can fly...into the fantastic!), as it was for the characters in Red Hood.  He's the version of the Aspen template that has something on the mind other than Michael Turner's long lady torsos.  

Anyway, I'm glad I finally caught up with these guys.