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Review: Superman #1

After upending Superman’s status quo by showing the real reason why Krypton was destroyed and blasting Lois Lane and his son Jon into space, writer Brian Michael Bendis returns everything to normal in Superman #1. Not really. Bendis and majestic artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado with blockbuster colorist Alex Sinclair show that even idealistic heroes get the blues in the proper beginning to Bendis’ Superman run. There is plenty of saving the day, but also sadness over the departure of his wife and son, whose communicator is broken as well as one hell of a final page hook.

In a single image of Superman shooting off into space to find his family, Reis and Prado show that they can handle both emotions and wide screen action. Superman #1 is a comic where the Man of Steel defeats a Dominator armada before they can even come close to invading Earth and also one where Clark Kent sits alone at home and reminisces about Lex Luthor expose related pillow talk with Lois and misses convincing his son to go to school even though he can fly, has freeze breath, and heat vision. Sinclair’s colors are really what sets the tone from explosions offset by the primary colors of Superman’s costume to the bleak darkness of the Fortress of Solitude’s new location at the Bermuda Triangle and the sheer eeriness of the final pages. Blue, yellow, and red are a constant, but the amount of light that shines on the crest of the House of El varies depending on the scene. It’s like a visual thermometer for hope.

Bendis’ gift for dialogue is what helped him stand out in the comics scene for better or worse, and it serves him well as Superman has one extended, pivotal conversation with the Martian Manhunter plus a couple small, yet great interactions with the Justice League and “himself” in Superman #1. For example, in a single page, Bendis and Reis nail the humility of Clark Kent as a slightly, self-congratulatory piece about the Fortress of Solitude moving location gets deleted, and Kent decides to write something that helps someone by following up on the ongoing, still unresolved arson subplot. Journalism isn’t just a day job disguise for Superman; it’s a powerful weapon in his fight for truth and justice even if it could be tempting to use his byline at the Daily Planet as PR. Reis and Prado do a close up on Clark touching the frame of his glasses to really sell the humility.

The conversation between Superman and J’onn is probably Bendis’ strongest scene yet as a DC Comics writer. Past writers have made the fairly obvious connection between Superman being the Last Son of Krypton and Martian Manhunter as the Last Son of Mars. However, Bendis goes a little deeper and has J’onn show empathy for Superman after he found out that Krypton wasn’t destroyed by natural causes, but by the genocide of Rogol Zaar. He writes J’onn with empathy, nobility, and patience as Superman keeps interrupting their conversation to help people and then creates a little bit of a gap between them when J’onn suggests that Superman play a more active role as a world leader instead of just a superpowered volunteer firefighter. Openly placing himself as superior to humans goes against Superman’s code so he declines J’onn’s idea while still listening to him. It might seem like a good idea, but remember Injustice Gods Among Us. 

Superman #1 is a full showcase for the talents of Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis with Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair on both a macro and micro level as they show while also show him emotionally coping with missing Lois and Jon and the loss of his Fortress of Solitude while also dealing with an extremely powerful threat connected to the events of Man of Steel. The book succeeds as both a character study and superhero blockbuster, and Bendis and Reis continue to seamlessly weave in Superman and Clark’s “co-workers” in the Justice League and Daily Planet to enhance the narrative.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Pencils: Ivan Reis Inks: Joe Prado
 Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Josh Reed
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Man of Steel #2

In a wise move, Brian Michael Bendis pivots from focusing on Rogol Zaar, the villain of the Man of the Steel to the even juicier mystery: where is Lois Lane (and Jon Kent)? Most of Man of Steel #2, and the man who wrote an ongoing series based on the investigative reporting branch of The Daily Bugle (RIP The Pulse) is in his element writing Sorkin-esque speeches from Perry White about truth and journalism between his frustration with Jimmy Olsen or juicy newsroom gossip. And he’s helped by some fantastic art from Doc Shaner, Jay Fabok, and Steve Rude, who brings an old school flair to the second half of the comic and turns in possibly the best Perry White page yet.

If anything, Man of Steel has been a showcase for some fantastic artwork, and we get the one-two punch of Shaner and Rude in issue two. After an overly edgy prologue where two fellows named Lord Gandelo and Appa Ali Apsa do some literal damage control on Krypton, Shaner demonstrates why he’s one of the most wholesome artists in the business as Superman dismantles one of Toyman’s robots and smiles when Hal Jordan makes a surprise cameo. (Alex Sinclair is a master at coloring intense, intergalactic situations though.) There’s a Saturday morning cartoon vibe to Superman taking out the wannabe Gundam and providing notes on Toyman’s less than stellar villainous banter game, and Shaner systematically shows each big moment with a clear use of angles and perspective. But, then, Superman rebuffs a “check-in” with Hal and flies into red and yellow watercolors showcasing his speed and desire to save as many people as possible.

Even though it’s not integral to the overarching mystery of Man of Steel , the moment where Superman brushes off Hal is probably Bendis, Shaner, and Rude’s best work in the comic. First, even Superman needs someone to ask him how’s he doing, and it was cool to see Bendis include that in the hullabaloo of a supervillain battle. But, then he flies off back to the Planet so he can quickly file his story as Clark Kent. Having a secret identity isn’t great for social graces or responsibilities, and Superman that it’s easier for him to rebuff niceties in costume than in his civilian guise. As Superman, he’s an icon and constantly on call so it’s easy for him to get back to saving the world and not behave like a human being/good friend. It’s kind of like the Pope, the pre-2016 President of the United States, or any highly visible public figure not having time to grab a beer or catch up with an old college roommate because they have to board a plane or somewhere or have a briefing. This is contrast with the more approachable and harried Clark Kent, who would probably get called an asshole for pulling that stunt so he leaves that move for Superman.

This great moment is bookended by some not so great ones like Rogol Zaar finally arriving in Metropolis after being teased months ago in Action Comics #1000 as the cliffhanger ending and yet another blinding light moment of vagueness from Bendis and Fabok featuring Lois and Jon’s whereabouts that plays like a rerun of the ending of Man of Steel #1. Even at DC, Bendis’ plots still work better at a trade paperback versus single issue level, but this is offset by the energy he brings to the Daily Planet. I’ve really only mentioned Shaner and Rude’s skill at action and showing Superman’s power and heart, but they also draw the hell out of a bustling newsroom crowd sequence along with gestures and facial expressions that give a little extra “oomph” to their sparring about publishing an article on Lois Lane going MIA and the conflict between being a hard hitting journalistic institution and a gossip rag. Because unlike his Marvel Comics newspaper editor counterpart, Perry White actually gives a damn about truth, justice, and all that stuff, and it comes across in his passion and frustration about the current state of the Planet.

Bendis has yet to hit a home run at DC Comics, but Man of Steel #2 is a solid base hit that continues to look at how Superman/Clark Kent feel about the world around them and their relationships while digging a little bit more into the Lois Lane mystery on both an earthbound and intergalactic level. Also, the Daily Planet has never felt so vibrant, and Doc Shaner seriously needs to draw a Superman/Green Lantern team-up miniseries.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Doc Shaner, Steve Rude Jay Fabok
 Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Josh Reed
Story: 7 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Man of Steel #1

Besides an ominous villain-centric prologue featuring Rogol Zaar from Action Comics #1000 and a deep cut cameo, Brian Michael Bendis’ first full DC comic: Man of Steel #1 lacks a real plot hook beyond “Something is coming”, and it’s connected to Superman’s past, or the ending of Action Comics #1000. However, Bendis shows he can write the heck out of both Clark Kent and Superman putting him through his paces as a superhero fighting villains, guardian of the weak, inquisitive journalist, husband, and father. And when they get a full page (or sometimes two), Ivan Reis and Joe Prado turn in beautiful work of Superman humorously chiding two Gotham villains, who thought they could carve out a small piece of Metropolis or taking a second out of his busy day to listen a girl play a song for her best friend. And, of course, he saves both pets and small children in this comic book.

But back to the bad guys for a second. In the opening of the comic, Reis, Prado, and especially colorist Alex Sinclair churn out some heavy metal, cosmic evil in Man of Steel #1 with Rogol Zaar putting together his version of a Power Point presentation for some kind of intergalactic, multiversal governing body about why Krypton should be destroyed.  Some cynics might consider this scene derivative of Bendis’ Illuminati in his New Avengers run, but it’s much larger scale. (Except for the one that gets named later, I have no idea who the heck these guys are either.) Rogol Zaar’s motive boils down to being a more cosmic scale 1960s Magneto: the Kryptonians are starting to expand to other planets so they should immediately be subjected to genocide. He’s very much a black hat, and hopefully future issues add some depth to him or add an even Bigger Bad that’s just using him as muscle. But, for now, his design has a kind of mid-1990s Wildstorm excess to it with a touch of a space barbarian, and it’s sad that Reis only gets a few panels of him in actual action.

Other than feeling a twinge of disappointment with the not-really-a-cliffhanger ending of Man of Steel #1 from Bendis and guest artist Jay Fabok, my main takeaway is that Bendis gets Superman at a macro level. He has godlike powers, but wants to be human and uses these extra abilities to serve humanity. Superman loves and enjoys humans and wants to keep him safe. The scene where he takes a beat after easily stopping (and not dropping) Firefly and Killer Moth to listen to a girl play music is just breathtaking. Reis and Prado deal in the majestic and blockbuster in their artwork and are mostly a good fit for this book even though they whiff on a comedy sequence where Metropolis’ new deputy fire chief acts like she has a crush on Superman. They show that even if his powers are over the top, he cares about each life that he comes into contact with. If a building’s on fire, he won’t just rescue its inhabitants; he’ll absorb the brunt of its heat and destruction with his own body. It’s like that great scene in The Dark Knight Returns where Superman takes the full force of a nuke with his body and shrinks, but more down to Earth and shows the daily sacrifices that the Man of Steel makes every day.

I also like how Brian Michael Bendis seamlessly blends Clark Kent and Superman with Superman trying to quotes and article fodder for Clark Kent in a way that doesn’t seem opportunistic, but that he really cares about the cause of this rash of electrical fires in Metropolis. Also, it demonstrates that Bendis has a steady command over all aspects of Superman’s life from his day job as a hero, his other day job as Clark Kent, and his home life towards the end. With jokes about Jon’s costume and light flirting and chatting about articles, Bendis has put his own twist on the Kents’ family life, which was the strength of previous Superman runs by Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and others. He gets Superman’s relationship dynamic, personality, and values; now all we need is a strong plot to go with it.

Even if the bad guy is a little underwhelming and the overarching narrative stumbles out of the gate, Man of Steel #1 proves that Brian Michael Bendis understands Superman/Clark Kent and how his commitment to truth and justice affects the dual aspects of his life. He even adds a little dry Midwest wit to the proceedings and gets out of the way to let Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair craft soaring splash pages and hellish planetscapes to set up a battle between good and evil.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Ivan Reis with Joe Prado, Jay Fabok
 Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Cory Petit
Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Action Comics #1000 Captures Superman’s Inspirational Power

In Action Comics #1000, an all-star team of writers, artists, and colorists try and for the most part succeed at getting to the heart of Superman. Some stories touch on different eras of history from his time in the 1930s as a non-flying, slumlord buster and the Mort Weisinger Silver Age sci-fi kookiness to classic comics like Kingdom Come. Others look at his relationships with his parents, wife/co-worker Lois Lane, and his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. One story even looks far in the future of the DC Universe while another acts as a semi-controversial prologue to Brian Michael Bendis’ upcoming Man of Steel miniseries and his runs on Action Comics and Superman.

To give each story the attention it needs, I will do a short review of each one and score it at the end of the paragraph. A final aggregated score  will conclude this (hopefully not that long) “80 page giant” review.

Action Comics #1000 opens with one hell of a curtain call from writer/penciler Dan Jurgens, inker Norm Rapmund, and colorist Hi-Fi that acts as a victory lap for Jurgens’ DC Rebirth run on Action Comics and his tireless work turning Superman from the edgy, armor wearing New 52 version to his classic role as a heroic hope bringer and a family man too. The story is simple. Metropolis is holding a Superman celebration day, but Superman doesn’t want their praise and adulation and wants to keep saving the day. However, through a little trickery from Lois and the Justice League, he ends up getting his moment in the sun. Jurgens’ writing cuts to the core of Superman and his positivity with a small-time Metropolis criminal named Benning talking about how he got him a job after prison so he wouldn’t keep relapsing and running with different supervillains. His art is a little old school, but that’s not a bad thing, and Rapmund’s inking helps make the crowd shots sharp in a story that shows Superman’s bond with the citizens of Metropolis and the superhero community while not neglecting the family elements that have been a big part of the Rebirth era of Superman. There really wouldn’t be a superhero genre without him.

Story: 9.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.8

The next story “Neverending Battle” from the Superman creative team of Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Alejandro Sanchez is a tiny bit philosophical, somewhat historical, and definitely epic as a story only done in full page spreads. It’s about Vandal Savage weaponizing Hypertime to trap Superman in his own history so he can’t get back to Jon and Lois to celebrate his birthday. Tomasi’s writing is a little corny at times with adages like “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “History repeats itself”, but Gleason and Sanchez’s glorious visuals and the through-line of Superman consistently overcoming great odds wins out just like Superman over Vandal Savage. The first spreads are the most iconic with Golden Age Era Superman punching out gangsters, stopping locomotives, and throwing tanks around with Tomasi commentating on the simplistic, good vs. evil nature of these early stories. But he and Gleason aren’t afraid to get vulnerable with a poignant homage to the scene in The Dark Knight Returns where Superman is weakened after stopping a nuclear explosion that blocks out the sun or a page where he’s trapped in the Phantom Zone. However, despite cunning and powerful enemies and occasionally death itself, nothing will stop Superman from being a hero or spending time with his loved ones on his birthday. Gleason has a strong handle on the moral clarity and goodness behind Superman’s strength and I look forward to his upcoming work as the main Action Comics artist.

Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.3

The third story “An Enemy Within” with a script from Marv Wolfman, Butch Guice and Kurt Schaffenberger inking over recently discovered Curt Swan, and colors by Hi-Fi straddles a thin line between optimism and naivete and definitely falls on the naive side. Superman is too busy fighting Brainiac in Japan so he relies on Maggie Sawyer and the Metropolis PD to take out a mind controlled teacher, who is holding his students hostage. There is an opportunity to address social issues, like school shooting, gun control, police violence, and even homelessness in a scene towards the end, but Wolfman, Swan, and Guice gloss over these issues with a simplistic “humanity is good and will save themselves” mantra and use the mind control plot device to cover their asses. Honestly, your enjoyment of this story will depend on how much you believe in the idea of original sin or your tolerance level for after school specials. Guice’s inks bring an interesting grit to Swan’s usually clean, bright pencils, and honestly, the best part of the story is a solemn Superman pinup at the end inked by the late Schaffenberger.

Story: 4.5 Art: 6.5 Overall: 5.5

Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Olivier Coipel, and Alejandro Sanchez turn in a stoic, 1930s era Superman story about a small time crook named Butch who gets his car beat up when trying to fight Superman. It’s probably the car from the cover of Action Comics #1. Johns and Donner’s take on Superman is a little rougher and little more stern, but he has a solid moral compass and cares for humanity as shown by his empathy towards Butch, who lost his dad in combat during World War I. Coipel’s art is wonderfully rough hewn and is like Norman Rockwell’s work without the sentimentality, and he even plays the “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…” line for sardonic, silent comedy. His Superman commands the page and is someone who you would listen to and definitely take seriously. He doesn’t smile either. But the ending of “The Car” has an earned happiness and is a little spark of light in a cynical world. Johns and Donner really get that heroism is about the little things and not flying the world backwards or time travel shenanigans.

Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.8

Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig tell a quiet, yet time spanning story about the relationship between Superman and Lex Luthor, and how Superman chooses to see the good even in his worst enemy. The story starts intense with shadow wreathed art and dark colors from Albuquerque and McCaig as Luthor has assembled some powerful MacGuffins to take out Superman. But he’s actually just star gazing at the Smallville Planetarium? Albuquerque’s art is sharper and sadder after that with a nostalgic orange palette from McCaig as Lex tells Superman that the planetarium was an escape from bad weather and his abusive parents. They seamlessly blend past and present as it’s revealed that a young Clark Kent gave Lex’s space laser a little boost and saved his life. Snyder uses this anecdote/flashback sequence to hold out hope for a time when “maybe” the cycle of hero and villain will be broken between Superman and Lex Luthor as the story fades to black.

Story: 9.6 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.7

Tom King makes a case for winning back to back Eisners for Best Short Story in his, Clay Mann, and Jordie Bellaire’s contribution to Action #1000, “Of Tomorrow”. It’s a tone poem about Superman’s last day on Earth as he says goodbye to Ma and Pa Kent one last time as the Earth is engulfed in the sun with flames and winds that are reminiscent of the last days of Krypton. King writes Superman as an old man wrestling with his past and legacy, wishing he could save more people, and being supremely proud of his wife and son. And it gets deep at the end when he reflects on his father’s blend of science and faith. Mann captures each tiny, beautiful moment in his artwork as he makes art with his strength, tears, and freeze breath: a frozen statuette of Jonathan and Martha Kent like the one of Jor-El and Lara-El in the Fortress of Solitude. Bellaire goes for Earth tones in her colors as Superman immerses himself in his adopted planet before flying off forever. He loves his parents, he loves Earth, but he realizes that all planets die and all story ends. (Except for his comic book for now.)

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10

Two veteran comics creators Louise Simonson and Jerry Ordway show they still have a lot in the tank in their “Five Minutes” story with colorist Dave McCaig that expertly intertwines Superman’s life as a superhero and Clark Kent’s life as a journalist in five minutes. Simonson’s narration shows that both Clark and Superman’s “powers” come in handy in different situation as Superman is able to dart from a train accident to a hold up and finally to save the city from an asteroid just like Clark is able to write a story and get it in under deadline. It’s a quick, zippy read with a lot of heart and a kind of cheesy “twist” ending, but Simonson and Ordway show how much passion Superman/Clark Kent has for both saving people and reporting. He is precise, efficient, and knows when to fly to next crisis just like a writer juggling different projects. Plus there’s a Bibbo Bibbowski cameo, which will be a treat for Superman fans of the 80s and 90s.

Story: 8.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.3

Paul Dini, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, and Trish Mulvihill turn in a cheeky homage to Superman’s history, Garcia-Lopez’s ability to skillfully render almost every DC Comics hero and villain, and most of all, Mr. Mxyzptlk. Mxyzptlk has the ability to wipe out Superman from the existence in the blink of an eye, but he’s more of a prankster than a coldblooded villain and enjoys toying with him instead. Dini, Garcia-Lopez, and Nowlan also provide a little meta-commentary on how stories involving superheroes in comics never seem to end even after they’re killed off or have passed their mantle to sidekicks or legacy heroes. Probably, because they’re too much fun. This story’s kryptonite is Dini indulging his sleazy side towards the end, but the energy and humanity of Garcia-Lopez’s figures and Mulvihill’s heroic colors more than make up for it.

Story: 7.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.0

In a much darker story than the previous one, “Faster than a Speeding Bullet” happens in a very short span of time as Superman tries to stop a domestic abuser from shooting his girlfriend, Lila, in the head. Artist John Cassaday tells the story in a series of freeze frames as you can see the strain of Superman flying to stop the bullet, and the red, yellow, and blue of Laura Martin’s colors as his chances increase. Brad Meltzer starts incredibly dark in his script with Superman running calculations in his head that he won’t be able to save Lila and ends with Superman admitting that he is inspired by humanity as much as they are inspired by him. “Faster than a Speeding Bullet” is a taut, mini-thriller that also captures Superman’s essence and the strength of his and the people he inspire’s resolves.

Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5

The final story in Action Comics #1000 is Brian Michael Bendis’ DC debut with Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair doing the art. Lee and Williams definitely put the “action” in Action Comics, and most of the story is a third act of Man of Steel fight sequence with collateral damage galore as new giant sword wielding alien conqueror villain Rogol Zaar crashes all over Metropolis and tries to kill the last two Kryptonians on Earth. Yes, Supergirl has a cameo in this comic and is there to get her ass kicked as much as Superman. Bendis’ writing is quippy as ever and doesn’t really pair well with the disaster movie feel of Lee and Williams’ art. He seems to be going for an “Avengers Disassembled” type of throughline in his approach to Superman by physically breaking him down and also taking shots at his past. Yes, the final page of Action Comics #1000 is a huge retcon for Superman’s character, and hopefully, Bendis has the reasoning and great story to back it up, or Rogol Zaar might just be a Mongul knock-off with a cooler sword.

Story: 6.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.0

 

Story: Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Louise Simonson, Paul Dini, Brad Meltzer, Brian Michael Bendis  Art: Dan Jurgens with Norm Rapmund, Patrick Gleason, Curt Swan with Butch Guice and Kurt Schaffenberger, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Albuquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez with Kevin Nowlan, John Cassaday, Jim Lee with Scott Williams  Colors:  Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Laura Martin, Alex Sinclair
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

C2E2 2018: The Action Comics #1000 Panel

At C2E2 this past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Action Comics #1000 panel, which had a lot of information about that specific issue as well as reveals of upcoming Superman artwork and stories, mostly involving new DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis. Along the way, the talented group of creators on the panel talked about their connection to Superman while teasing their stories, and some surprise swag was given out at the end…

It’s seriously insane that a monthly comic book has hit four digits in issue numbers and has basically been published since 1938. Some of DC’s best creators convened at the Action Comics #1000 panel to talk about their work on upcoming Superman titles, their relationship to the iconic hero, and most importantly, should his costume have underwear on the outside, or not? The panel included writer Brian Michael Bendis (Alias), who is making his DC Comics debut on Action Comics #1000, writer/artist Patrick Gleason (Superman), writer Tom King (Batman), artist Clay Mann (Batman), artist Jill Thompson (Beasts of Burden), and artist Philip Tan (Suicide Squad: Rebirth).

It kicked off with some information about the 80 page celebration that is Action Comics #1000 as well as a 384 page hardcover book called 80 Years of Superman with all kinds of essays, tributes, stories, and art that looked perfect for a coffee table along with an unpublished story by Jerry Siegel and artists from Joe Shuster’s studio. Continuing with the unpublished theme, Bendis reminded the moderator that Action Comics #1000 has some unpublished art by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan that Marv Wolfman scripted over and geeked out about it. He showed a real passion for being involved with Superman and DC Comics on the panel.

After saying he had almost no time off between doing his last Marvel book, Invincible Iron Man #600, and his first DC book so he could jump in on Action Comics #1000, Brian Michael Bendis set up the first reveal of the panel. It was four pages of lettered Jim Lee art as well as his and Bendis’ first original DC creation, the mysterious villain Rogol Zaar. (There was a snarky joke about red trunks in there too.) Bendis said that the villain will be connected to a secret from Superman’s past. The secret will be revealed in Action Comics #1000 and then expanded upon in the weekly Man of Steel miniseries. He then told Rogol’s secret origin, which was connected to his hospitalization for a MRSA infection in late 2017. Dr. Rogol was a no-nonsense doctor in the hospital, who helped him get better so he decided to name his first big DC villain after her. When Bendis told Dr. Rogel this, she nodded like he was crazy. The next day, she had Googled him and brought out an old Marc Silvestri drawing and said she should look like a bloodstained, bikini wearing barbarian woman. It’s safe to say she wasn’t impressed with Jim Lee’s final design. In his first DC story, Bendis made sure to “write big” for Jim Lee and was influenced by some of his collaborations with Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder on Justice League and Superman Unchained respectively in the salad days of the New 52.

The topic turned to May 2’s DC Nation #0, which is coming out the same week as Free Comic Book Day, but is on sale for $0.25 so the comic could feature more story pages. The book has previews of Tom King’s upcoming work on Batman and Scott Snyder’s upcoming work on No Justice as well as a brand new Superman story by Bendis and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Working with the 70 year old Garcia-Lopez was on Bendis’ bucket list, and he came out of retirement to deliver some beautiful pages featuring group shots of the Daily Planet bullpen reacting to Superman. Also, apparently he’s a super nice guy and still lives for collaborating on comic book stories.

About a month after DC Nation, The Man of Steel #1 will be released with Brian Michael Bendis writing and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado on artwork. In each issue of this weekly miniseries, Bendis is collaborating with a new artist he’s never worked with before except Kevin Maguire and diving feet first into the DC Universe. Bendis talked about how he wanted to make Metropolis a lived-in setting where each nook and cranny has its own story much like Gotham and also how he wants to show why Clark Kent became a reporter to “tell the truth Superman can’t”. He pointed out that unlike his powers and coming to Earth as an infant, becoming a reporter was his choice. Plus there’s going to be a big space conspiracy story featuring various alien races, including the Guardians of the Universe, and its logo was based off of John Byrne’s Man of Steel even if the stories aren’t really similar.

The Man of Steel leads into Action Comics #1001, which will be written by Bendis and drawn by Patrick Gleason, who previously was the co-writer with Peter Tomasi and occasional artist on Superman. Gleason says that Action #1000 is the celebration/jam issue while the real story starts in issue 1001. He talks about how Superman is an all-out superhero book while Action Comics will focus on the Clark/Superman dichotomy and also build up Metropolis and the Daily Planet. He then proved that he is one of the harder working creators in comics and said that he had to draw 15 pages of Action Comics #1000 while also doing full interiors on Superman #45, his farewell to the title. Luckily, all 15 pages of his Action Comics #1000 story “The Neverending Battle” were splashes and was a love letter to Superman stories across time. One of them featured the old Superman “S”, which his six year old son said was incorrect. His son ended up appearing on a page where Superman stops a train, and all four of his kids helped ink a page with Superman fighting Nazis in World War II with Sgt. Rock.

The moderator turned the focus to Tom King and Clay Mann’s five page Action Comics #1000 story, which is already available online. It is set way in the future, fairly depressing, and King began with a little joke about how Batman was better than Superman. King said that he when was he younger that he thought Superman was a fairly “generic” hero. However, through his grandmother, who is from Nebraska and his wife, who is from Chicago, he began to see him as an embodiment of Midwestern values aka focusing on the solution, not just the problem. Then, artist Clay Mann got a nice ovation from the audience for his art skills and talked about King giving him reference material of Mars to draw this future Earth. He also joked about Superman’s tears not evaporating in the sun, which severely hurt Tom King’s “scientific” credentials. King’s explanation was “super tears”, which led to Bendis telling a story about how he wrote an angry letter to John Byrne while he was a comic book store clerk about how Superman shaves with a mirror and heat vision and ended up getting roasted by Byrne in the letters page of Next Men #8. The ghost of John Byrne definitely seemed to be haunting this panel.

Next, Jill Thompson teased some of her art for the upcoming Action Comics Special story with Mark Russellwhich is about Clark Kent roasting Lex Luthor at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It looks super hilarious, and various members of the Justice League are there in dressier versions of their costumes. The wrestler Alex Chamberlain posed for her art. Then, the moderator asked her and the panel who their favorite Superman artists were. Thompson said she liked Steve Rude, especially his work with Dave Gibbon on World’s Finest, where he gave Metropolis and Gotham two distinct looks. Philip Tan’s definitive artist was Alex Ross on Kingdom Come and Mann’s were the aforementioned Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, and John Byrne. King picked Byrne and Curt Swan because “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” is his favorite Superman story. Patrick Gleason said he liked the Superfriends and Bruce Timm Superman cartoons before getting into comics, but his favorite artists were Jurgens and Ross. Bendis closed by giving a shout out to the jam issue (He loves those.) Action Comics #400, which featured Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Moebius, and more’s take on Superman. And they all commiserated over the difficulty of drawing the Superman “S”.

Towards the end of the panel, Brian Michael Bendis talked about how what a solid foundation Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason left him on the Superman titles as they went from having two Supermen to just one hopeful, optimistic Superman even with some super crazy stories like the Boyzarro and Rozarro starring Superman #45, which is basically a Bizarro-verse version of the DC Rebirth one-shot. Bendis says the ideal is taking over a struggling book, like Frank Miller on Daredevil, because you have creative freedom, but it’s a tougher challenge to take over a book that has hit a creative peak like Superman.

Bendis said that his take on Superman wouldn’t be a reboot and that he had a seven page manifesto of Superman is relatable to him, especially as a father. (Of course, King quipped about Batman being more relatable.) Plus there is a lot of adoption in his family. He retold a story where as a struggling artist in Cleveland, he took on a gig to do art for a Superman parade where he was paid for Superman merchandise. Siegel and Shuster cancelled so Stan Lee of all people was the guest of honor and called him by name, but it was really because he was wearing a nametag. However, this parade gave him to the opportunity to talk with many comic creators about his career, including George Perez, who gave him 20 minutes of solid advice, including to focus on one project at a time, which has helped him with all those crazy deadlines and juggling multiple books.

The panel concluded with a roundtable discussion about the return of Superman’s red trunks, and Gleason talking about how he and Jim Lee basically designed around them when they were coming up with Superman’s new costume for DC Rebirth. But the panel seemed pretty pro-trunks, and each member of the panel audience was rewarded with their own pair of Superman trunks (Mostly XL.) with #TheTrunksAreBack embroidered on the back.

Basically, Action Comics #1000 seems like it’s going to be historic and epic, and you should pick it up when it drops on April 18.

Up, Up, and Away for Justin Trudeau this Halloween

Canada has their Prime Minister in Geek with Justin Trudeau who has had no issues showing off his nerdy geek cred. The Prime Minister went as Clark Kent/Superman this year and clearly had fun while doing so.

Review: Trinity #2

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*Warning Spoilers Below*

Francis Manapul pulls out all the stops for an amazing sophomore issue to the new Trinity series. DC Comics should be proud. Issue #2 of the Trinity series give us part two of “Better Together” a story line that has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman visiting Clark Kent’s past and visiting his father while Lois and Jon deal with his absence and his fight to save their present.

This time jump is sure to send ripples through the timeline as Superman comes face to face with his dad and younger self. The fear of the trio showing up and the presumed death of his father sends a young Clark Kent running away and encountering one of the very threats that Superman was trying to avoid. Superman gets to have a warm but, real conversation with his dad on fatherhood and love while Batman fears that having contact this close with his Superman’s past self could make things worse.

As the trio, joined by a bewildered and weakened from the shock Mr. Kent, search for the lost and frightened young Clark, Superman falls into a lake with some Kryptonite residue that weakens him. Young Clark forms an alliance with the mysterious force haunting the trio causing them to do some real soul searching with disastrous effects. When the reunion between Mr. Kent and young Clark finally happens the joy of the moment is overshadowed by the appearance of Poison Ivy who has tricked young Clark into planting seeds that may bring about the destruction of them all.

Francis Manapul‘s writing is pretty damn good and the story tugs at the heartstrings. His style is honest and open and gives a voice to the complexity of the characters with a nice sense of empathy for their situation. It evokes feelings of family and what someone, no matter how powerful, would do with   one last chance to talk to someone they loved and loss. His writing provides us with a glimpse into the soul and desires of Superman and makes him appear human and even though he’s invisible for the most part physically, he still has some vulnerability. Manapul makes Superman easy to relate to and real which makes this issue a refreshing turn for the hero.

Manapul also provided the artwork for this issue , which means that everything works well together and comes off as seamless and purposeful No stroke is unnecessary, now line is without purpose and every panel serves the purpose of drawing the reader in and pushing the story along. The style is pretty old school and simple but, brilliant and beautiful in its simplicity. The art work does not overpower the words or the story, it enhances them.

The symbiosis between the story and the art make issue #2 of Trinity an overall great comic. Everything about it is damn near perfect and I am looking forward to see what happens when the trio returns to the present to face the threat that has them on a time run. Will Poison Ivy’s seedlings cause a change in Clark Kent/Superman? Will the timeline be forever changed for the worse? Will there be a Jon Kent and/or Lois Lane in his life in the future? So many questions and such a worthy story arc to wait and find out.

Story: Francis Manapul Art: Francis Manapul
Story: 9.2 Art: 9 Overall: 9.1 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Supergirl S2E1: The Adventures of Supergirl Recap

supergirl21fi

Season 2 of Supergirl kicked off with a bang last night on its new home The CW. Any fans who were skeptical about how the change in networks would effect their beloved show can relax.

Fans and newcomers to the show were treated to a new intro and that classic CW look. Always ready to keep the viewers on their feet there was a space pod crash and a mystery Kryptonian crash landed on earth.

In the interim between season 1 and season 2 the clandestine alien hunting team have moved into newer digs. No longer underground and with a little more autonomy, the lovable laughable Winn is now a member of the team. He’s their tech guy and it was a clever way to keep him on the show since it looks like Kara won’t be spending much time at the office season.

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202a_0016 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist Kara/Supergirl and Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

We also get to meet Superman and see the big cousin, little cousin ribbing and love that we needed. Having Clark on the show means Kara has someone, like her to talk about her Kryptonian problems. The Superman intro was delightfully campy, complete with slow motion running and shirt ripping to reveal the giant house of El crest.

The villain this time around is kind of ambiguous. Lex Luthor may or may not be trying to take his sister out and he’s willing to put all of National City at risk to do it. Supergirl and Superman team up throughout the episode and prove that two heads are better than one. I just hope that this mash up does not turn into the Superman show with Kara as a side kick.

Everyone’s favorite mogul and Kara mentor is back and still being the awesome example of a boss chick that we love. She is putting pressure on Kara to chose her next career at Cat Co. because she’s too good to just be an assistant. A good quarter of the episode is Kara trying to choose her path and Cat trying to lovingly but, bluntly get her to make a choice. In the end Kara chooses to be a reporter which Cat knew she would chose from the second she met her. That’s why Cat was so hard on her. She wanted to polish the diamond in the rough. There’s something refreshing about seeing them interact. We get to watch an older successful woman mentoring a young woman just starting out. She’s not trying to turn her into a clone, she’s trying to help her be the best she can be. So often in media we see women tearing other women down, exhibiting a sort of Highlander (there can be only one) mentality, or lamenti about boys. Their relationship is the kind that little girls need to see because it’s an image that is lacking in most media & depictions of female relationships.

clarkandkaraSpeaking of relationships, Jimmy and Kara are trying to make the relationship thing work. But, it’s not going as well as planned. clearly these two love each other and we all love to ‘ship them but, the timing isn’t right and Kara isn’t as into it as she could be. There is this great moment where Kara breaks the news to Jimmy and he acts like a human being. I phrase is like that because so often men take it the wrong (aggressive) way when women friend zone them. When Kara tells him that she just wants to be friends because she needs time to figure out who she is, how she can be Kara and Supergirl and, how she can manage a career he accepts it and supports her instead of telling her why she is wrong and pushing a romantic relationship on her. There was no saltiness and he kept his sulking to himself. It was a nice example for the young men watching, a feminist flag saying that women are not property and they don’t owe you a romantic relationship .

Another nice example for the men watching was Superman himself. When Kara asks for his advice about balancing it all he gives it to her. He doesn’t mansplain or tell her what to do instead he tells her how he did it and that she can figure it out. He treats her as a person instead of an object. He listens instead of ordering and, helps instead of sowing seeds of doubt.

Lena provides an antiCat for the series, she’s a strong woman but, she’s a variation on the most common women in power trope. She’s ruthless, cold and kind of heartless. She doesn’t even bat an eye at shooting a mama who was sent by her brother to kill her, even though Superman or Supergirl could have taken him down. But, the shows  take on this trope makes her relatable. She’s end fighting for her place so long she knows she’s alone and somehow it comes off less sexist and cliched and more complex and real.

With the threat to Lena neutralized and another unconscious Kryptonian pod person in the mix, Clark decides to stick around. The last few minutes of the show gave us the birth of Metallo who I’m assuming will be one of this seasons villians. Pod man (or should I just call him Valor? Because, it’s not like y’all weren’t thinking the same damn thing) will hopefully join the fight and I’m hoping the hero injection on the show doesn’t over power the She-ro the show is supposed to be about.

Overall this was a great start on the new network. It was serving up a little Smallville magic and I am hoping the magic continues. Supergirl is one of the few truly Girl powered (and empowering) shows on right now and, I am hoping that the writers continue to do right by her because she deserves it.

Overall Rating: 9.7

TV Review: Supergirl S2 E1 “Adventures of Supergirl” is a Crossroads for Kara

Supergirl -- "The Last Children of Krypton" -- Image SPG202a_0016 -- Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist Kara/Supergirl and Tyler Hoechlin as Clark/Superman -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Much of the press surrounding the season 2 premiere of Supergirl has been centered around Teen Wolf‘s Tyler Hoechlin guest starring as Superman, and he does turn in the best performance as the Man of Steel since the last Christopher Reeve. However, “Adventures of Supergirl” is about a turning point in Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) life as she must decide what job she is taking at Catco, whether she wants to date James Olsen (Mechad Brooks), and basically choose what kind of person she wants to be. Sure, a mercenary with a British accent and a name that is familiar to comic book nerds shows up to wreak havoc, and there is some intrigue from Lena Luthor. But writers Andrew Kreisberg, Jessica Queller, and Greg Berlanti focus the main brunt of the plot on Supergirl’s “coming of age” and ably position Superman’s guest apperance as both a family member and someone she can aspire to be. It’s the bedrock of a pretty overstuffed premiere that also features a subplot about tension between Superman and Martian Manhunter (David Harewood) over the DEO keeping kryptonite as insurance against any rogue Kryptonians.

“Adventures of Supergirl” is a major episode in Supergirl’s continuing character arc, and Melissa Benoist shows some nice acting range as she goes from smiling while saving a plane with Superman to stuttering about filling out an Internet quiz to pick her new job at Catco. And even though she isn’t Cat Grant’s (Calista Flockhart) assistant any more, Kara is a little unsure of herself as she and Superman (in disguise as Clark Kent) investigate Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath) and in some of her interactions with Cat. However, she has never been more confident as Supergirl as she smiles while speed fixing L-Corp (formerly LexCorp) Tower and crack jokes about changing Superman’s diapers on Krypton to a family of bystanders she rescues. When Supergirl shields civilians or bullets or flies to save an airplane, it makes you believe in things like truth and justice. And this extends to her civilian life as Kara Danvers as she channels some of her life as Supergirl into an impassioned plea to Cat Grant to become a reporter at Catco. (Also, it’s the perfect job for a superhero, and you can get “exclusive scoops”. Just ask Peter Parker or Lois Lane.)

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“Adventures of Supergirl” also features a trio of wide-ranging guest performances for the earlier mentioned Hoechlin, Flockhart, and McGrath. Hoechlin’s plays Superman as a human being, not an icon, and he channels the competent, mature reporter and hero that has settled down with Lois Lane as written in Post-Crisis stories by John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Mark Waid (His investigative reporting in Superman Birthright especially.), and the DC Animated Universe. The writers give him just a dash of cheesiness in his dialogue to satisfy fond memories of “bumbling reporter” Clark Kent, and director Glen Winter frames the big “S” front and center in the action scenes and establishing shots before cutting to him making a dry quip or shaking DEO soldiers’ hands. Superman is a family man with godlike powers, and Hoechlin and Benoist have a cheerful chemistry with Superman giving her helpful tips about being a more efficient superhero while Supergirl tells him stories about Krypton. I’m glad that they will have a few more episodes to explore their relationship, grow together, and share more triumphant high fives and smiles.

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Unfortunately, Cat Grant’s time as a main cast member of Supergirl has drawn to a close, but “Adventures of Supergirl” is hell of a curtain call for her. Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti build off the friendlier relationship that she and Kara developed at the close of Season 1 while still keeping some of her trademark sniping for good measure, like her constant reminders of the exact time Kara has to choose a job at Catco. Cat gets some of the most perceptive writing in the episode as she remarks that Supergirl’s beliefs are what make her a hero, not her abilities. Cat also gets a tiny bit sentimental when she talks about Kara’s potential to grow from an awkward, unsure assistant to a confident woman because she sees her drive to succeed in Kara. Flockhart excels at playing the mentor much more than the angry boss even though her one-liners are sharp as ever.

Finally, Katie McGrath brings an otherworldly presence to the role of Lena Luthor. Her calculated line delivery makes her initially seem like a femme fatale played by Eva Green, and Clark Kent doesn’t trust her, but she is really a woman, who wants to make something for herself apart from her family. She isn’t Lex Luthor’s plant, but a woman with a vision even though we don’t get to see her business acumen in this episode. Lena does end up being the one to take out Corben, and Kreisberg, Queller, and Berlanti do a twist on the Superman/Luthor dynamic by writing a favorable article about her and her company L-Corp because it’s the “truth”. But from the slow, measured ways that McGrath delivers Lena dialogue, and the “all too easy” ending of this episode, she may end up being a villain yet.

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Despite strong performances and inspirational themes, “Adventures of Supergirl” does have its shortcomings. The lack of budget in the move from CBS to the CW definitely shows with Winter’s quick cuts to not expose the fact that Supergirl and Superman are flying against a generic cityscape green screen. The sad richness that David Harewood brought to his voice performance as the Martian Manhunter in Season One is also distorted in the sound mix. Besides these technical hiccups, John Corben is a pretty one-dimensional villain of the week as your standard run of the mill merc with a drone that looks bought off eBay. (He becomes immensely cooler in the stinger though.) “Adventures of Supergirl” is also juggling a ton of plots and subplots, and major one of them (Jimmy/Kara romance) doesn’t get the kind of attention and lingering camera shots it got last season as Kara decides to just be friends with James. It does make sense that she wouldn’t have time for a romantic relationship at such a transitional time in her life though.

A villain of the week and some special effects issues aside, “Adventures of the Supergirl” is a sparkling example what an inspiring show Supergirl is and features some excellent character chemistry between Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman, and Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant. The episode dedicates itself to establishing and shifting the character of Supergirl while setting up a couple of mysteries to explored down the road. Lena Luthor is especially captivating thanks to Katie McGrath

Overall Rating: 8.5

Review: Superman #43

SM_Cv43“The secret’s out and we’re all friends here”

This issue does finally what we’ve waited for since this “DC You” revamp, and that’s answer just what the hell happened to Superman’s powers? We start the issue off with Lois and Clark in bed. (not to worry, nothing happened, Superman just burned up all his clothes with his new Solar Flare power and Lois put his cape in the wash) Clark realizes he’s back at Lois’s apartment in her bed and she replies “Couldn’t put Superman on the floor, could we?” (Classic Lois, gotta love her) As Clark gets his bearings he sees that more company is there, his best pal Jimmy Olson (Though he likes to be called Jim. Good luck bud, you’ve been Jimmy for over 75 years so deal with it.) and fellow Daily Planet colleague, Condessa.

Jimmy is all sorts of distraught as he thinks he may have inadvertently spilled the beans on Clark’s big secret. Everyone assures him this is not the case, but how can they be sure? Someone knows. One thing is for certain it’s not good. While Condessa consoles Jimmy, Lois gets real with Clark over a microwave meal of Lean Cuisine. (Lois is not the happy homemaker type clearly) She then tells him even though she has reported on him for most of his career, there is still so much she does not know. So she hits him with some hard questions: “Why did he settle in Metropolis?” “Does he have some sort of master plan?” “What if he goes rogue one day?” “Can he control this new Flare power?” (Good questions, that one would expect from the most intrepid reporter on the planet) She tells him that the public deserves the right to know these answers. Clark tries to change the subject but Lois brings up back when Superman was in his early days, she saw her father and Lex Luthor torture him to get answers. Lois tells Clark she is not like them, she will not brutalize him even for the sake of a great story in print. With that being said Lois said she’s decided to keep his secret. He’s always been Clark Kent to her first, and she’s even fell in love with him. Clark puts the brakes on and tells her that he belongs to someone else. (Wonder Woman, duh she sees the news Clark!) Lois in true Lois fashion responds saying she’s got someone too and besides she knows she’s not “mythological” enough for his taste. (Ha! best line of the book) When someone gets Lois and writes her so well, it’s hard not to make a case for these two not to be together. They are just iconically eternal. The name just rings. Lois and Clark. There was even a show about it with the super talented Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in the 90’s too. I digress, we can’t get what we want in fandom all the time. Sigh.

Just as the two finish up their heart to heart, they realize they are being watched. Lois’s phone has been transformed with robotic tri pod legs and a villain name Hordr (lame name I must admit), is using it to blackmail Superman. Lois instinctively smashes the phone before the demands can be explained and Clark admonishes her. She says he can’t be serious but tells her, he has to play along. At least for now. Then Clark gets ready to rush off to save the day and Lois tells him she’s coming with him. He explains it’s too dangerous, bla, bla, bla and she says she is a part of both his lives. (Good for you Lois, he may wear the cape but you have the backbone)

The remainder of the issue is Lois and Clark setting out to confront Hordr (maybe if I keep saying it, nope the name still sucks) which they do with some surprising results. I won’t ruin the revelations here, but I will say Lois’s reason for what she did with Clark’s secret made me sympathize with her greatly. As for how Superman’s powers are depleted, it was serviceable enough.

Overall: I wanted answers, and this issue (and writer Gene Luen Yang) gave them to me. What it also did is remind me that Lois and Clark should be together. Sure the Wonder Woman thing is cool, but he belongs with Lois. Aside from the complications of a possible human/ Kryptonian pregnancy, I don’t see any reason to keep them apart. I’m not a fan of the new villain either but it is better than writers rehashing old storylines and getting overused villains out of the sandbox all the time. This was definitely the best chapter of this story yet. I even thought Romita Jr’s, art was above what it’s been the past year. (Truth be told, I am a life time fan of the Romitas and both John Sr. and John Jr. are my favorite all time Spider-Man artists.) Now that the genie is out, it’s going to be hard to get the cape back on it. I sure know they will try their best though, and after this month I can’t wait to follow along. Remember kids to beware your phone because once something is in cyberspace it never dies. Also it could secretly be a super villain’s robotic booby trap to blackmail you too. Till next month, if you need me I will be watching Lois and Clark reruns remembering what was.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: John Romita Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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