Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

Forever Evil (2013 – 2014)

(This article discusses the main event found in the Forever Evil trade, and not the tie-in issues. Below is the opinion of the writer solely.)

Writer: Geoff Johns, Penciller: David Finch, Inker: Richard Friend, Colourist: Sonia Oback.

Seven issues that nicely sum up everything wrong with the New 52.

While the writing and art are all around solid works. Not to mention the interesting premise of centring on villains trying to figure out what to do when the Justice League disappears, and something worse tries to take over. It’s execution throughout, and even it’s resolution, are undeniably bleak. Leading to a story that leaves the audience feeling disheartened, and with a sense that the future will only get darker.

The Justice League has disappeared, and in their place, appears The Crime Syndicate. Evil double-gangers from another dimension. Consisting of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Atomica, and Deathstorm. They declare to the villains of the world that the Justice League is dead, and that if they value their lives, they will join them. Nightwing is unmasked, and the only ones left to save the world are Lex Luthor, Black Adam, Black Manta, Catwoman, an injured Batman, Captain Cold, and a clone of Superman Lex has been constructing, known as Subject B-Zero.

With the New 52 acting as a reboot to the DC universe, this event does provide us with a useful outlet for fleshing out the villains of the world, as well as how this Earth has grown to view superheroes. However, in execution, the book screams for attention. Proclaiming, “look at how grim and gritty we can get! Our evil Superman snorts Kryptonite like a well-paid hooker snorting cocaine! Look at us damn it!” Actions and scenes are extremely depressing and horrific. Including the death of Atomica by way of a boot. The disturbing image of Cyborg’s cybernetic components ripping itself from his body, and the utterly unconvincing job of attempting to reform Lex Luther, despite spending the majority of the book giving us his inner monologue. In which he describes the depths of his cruelty.

For those looking for superhero fun, this book is not one for you. Very much a product of the company’s erroneous direction at the time, rather than a passion project of the creators. While dark superhero stories certainly have their place. This stands as more of a cry for attention, than an exploration.

The trade collection is available here: Forever Evil TP

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Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Superman: Secret Identity

81jYK1le2XLA wonderful, and uplifting tale, with a unique and imaginative look at the reality of superhero sized secrets.

Written by Kurt Busiek with art by Stuart Immonen, Superman: Secret Identity is set in the real world, an Elseworld story in all but name. Dealing with four main stages of a character’s life. While this fact alone could suggest a book similar to Superman: For All Seasons, Secret Identity expands itself over a much larger period of time. Creating a more personal, and intimate story. The book largely deals with growing up, and feelings of isolation, and loneliness even in a crowd. Having secrets that feel too big to keep to yourself, but no way to find the answers you so desperately want, without considering going public. Through chapter two, it shifts to learning what to do with your life, now your out on your own, as well as finally letting someone in. Chapter three discussing responsibility and parenthood, and finally chapter four, morality.

So, why do we celebrate a book that seems to be nothing more than your standard morality tale, or slice of life work? Because of our lead. A young boy, born in real world Kansas, named Clark Kent.

Growing up, Clark has a particular hatred for Superman. Putting up with the constant jokes and teasing from classmates and neighbourhood kids. Clark comments about how he’s heard every joke a million times before.

“Still, it’s a lot fresher to them than to me.”

Complaining about his parents warped sense of humour with having named him this in the first place, and how, even if he did sometimes wish he had Superman’s powers, it’s his ability to just have a normal life as Clark Kent, that he envies the most. Unlike Superman, Clark can’t just put on a pair of glasses and change his posture to escape talk of Superman. In the real world, we know Clark Kent is Superman.

Clark goes out as often as he can, and just camps out under the stars. One night, during an anxiety dream, Clark wakes up suddenly flying. Convinced he’s dreaming, Clark experiments a little, before realising that he has all of Superman’s powers. Unable to figure out how, it adds a whole new level of complication to his life. When people start noticing the occasional presence of what looks like a flying boy around town, the jokes don’t let up.

Secret Identity takes nothing for granted when it comes to Superman’s abilities, and the effect it would have on a person’s life. How much it complicates his life, and adds an extra layer of confusion. The book follows Clark heavily through his life, meeting the woman he loves, trying to find answers for his powers, worries of the government and FBI, everything that could happen to his future children, let alone weather or not they will even be ok. His own mortality, and finally legacy. Small note, during his first date with Lois, his monologue describes all the things she likes, her hopes for the future, the way her nose wrinkles when she laughs, and her smile. The line that makes me smile every time is simple:

“If I sound smitten, don’t read too much into it – it’s because I am”.

Busiek’s dialogue leaps of the page with a mind of it’s own. Seeming at once very personal to the character, but highly relatable to the reader. This is highlighted beautifully by Immonen’s breathtaking, and unique art style throughout.

Superman: Secret Identity is just a wonderful out of tale, sure to leave a smile on your face. With Kurt Busiek releasing his latest stand-alone series, The Creature of the Night, basically his take on Superman: Secret Identity for Batman. It’s the perfect time to get around to this wonderful story.

The Deluxe edition is available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes, Superman

Jack Kirby, Superman and the changing faces…!

Kirby is one of the most celebrated, and legendary figures in the comics industry. Co-creator of Captain America with Joe Simon, and countless others alongside Stan Lee. Including the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, the original X-Men, and Black Panther. Kirby’s reach and influence spans far and wide. Getting his start in animation, before diving into the comics industry in 1936. Working in various genres, before exploding, alongside the popularity of superheroes.

Comic artists of the time, especially at Marvel, were encouraged and instructed to mimic Kirby’s style as much as possible. Given copied pages of his pencil work to ink-in, just to get a feel for how Kirby drew characters. Placed scenery. Structured a page. Kirby is easily one of the most important figures in comics, who’s style defined the look of many stories his pen didn’t even touch.

Primarily associated with Marvel, thanks to all the amazing creations his name and talents are linked to. In late 1970, however, Kirby signed a contract with DC. Moving to the competing company, and created a whole new mythology. The Fourth World, and the New Gods. Mythology DC is still drawing from nearly five decades later. With characters such as Mister Miracle, and Darkseid.  According to Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Pages of Kirby’s work on these new books, would be smuggled into the Marvel offices, where the artists and writers would marvel at Kirby’s work, and see just how he was improving. How they could compete with the legend.

Despite Kirby’s legendary status, his influence on the industry, and his immense talent. DC took every drawing Kirby did of Superman, and switched out the artwork of his face, with the work of Al Plastino!

According to Brian Cronin, author of Was Superman a Spy? And other Comic Book Legends Revealed!:

“Kirby had Superman guest star in his Jimmy Olsen stories, to establish these New Gods in the DC Universe, but when he did, strangely enough, DC had a different artist redraw Superman’s face! Al Plastino, who was a popular Superman artist during the 1950s (and drew the first appearances of Brainiac and Supergirl), was brought in by DC to redraw Kirby’s Superman faces to make them appear consistent with the way the hero looked in his own comic book (which was drawn mostly by artist Curt Swan)”

What’s strange about this, is the fanfare DC made, over having the talent of Jack Kirby working in the DC Universe. The simple idea of having Jack Kirby, the legendary artist, drawing one of DC’s flagship characters, and the originator of superheroes as a whole, should have been enough of a draw. But even with his talent on bored, it seems that even in the 70s, DC is more concerned with keeping their continuity intact, than letting a legendary artist express their own views and style for a legendary character.

All Books used for this article, are available here:
Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
Fourth World by Jack Kirby’s Omnibus
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (P.S.)

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes

Teen Titans Vol 1: Damian Knows Best [Review]

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artists: Khoi Pham, Jonboy Meyers & Diogenes Neves
Issues: Teen Titans Rebirth #1, Teen Titans #1 – 5 (2016 – 2017)

If the New 52 cemented anything about Damian Wayne, it’s that he doesn’t play well with others. Even when briefly partnering with the Teen Titan’s in the past, it’s clear that Damian wants things his own way, and rarely compromises. Enter DC Rebirth, and Damian’s 13th birthday. Has he grown, or still the same old egotistical pain in the ass?

Bitter at his father absence, Damian celebrates his 13th birthday largely alone. Until a letter arrives from his grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. He is summoned to take his place in the League of Shadows. Carry out his destiny, or die at the hands of those he one trained beside. Damian learns of not only the hit out on his life, but those of other young heroes. He brings them together to become the new Teen Titans! Only Damian’s methods, are not what you would call friendly.

“Damian: I’ve lived in the shadows of great men. No longer. I burn too brightly for that. Unlucky thirteen. The moment when life tips toward adulthood. For most, it’s a time of questioning uncertainty, awkward role-playing. But I’ve never doubted who I am… I know the legacy I’m meant to claim.”

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Despite being a Teen Titans book, this first arc acts more as a story of personal growth for Damian Wayne. Making his choice of what he wants his life to be, learning to ask for help, and that it’s ok to rely on others. The book does show growth on the part of Damian, perhaps more so than the Supersons title. However, it’s the other Titans that bring the real entertainment to the story. A mix of personalities and attitudes, playing of the young Robin. Beast Boy is loud and obnoxious, but knows full well when to dial it back, often clashing with the more serious Damian. Raven holds the most sympathy for Damian’s situation, given her own family ties, acting heavily as an older sister figure. Starfire and the new Kid Flash round off the team to create a well-balanced set of characters overall.

The driving danger of the story does feel inconsequential. We know the outcome before even the middle issue. But it works well as a catalyst to bring the young heroes together. When read together with the Teen Titans Rebirth issue, it does work well as an origin. However, it feels as though the character dynamics could have benefited from just one more issue of build-up. While easily justified, the team’s acceptance of Damian as leader, feel slightly rushed. Particularly with Beast Boy, due to his early claims of Damian not measuring up to Tim Drake. Still, the ground work is set for what could be an amazing and fun team moving forward.

“Beast Boy: So Damian… Do you prefer the title of ‘Fearless Leader’ or ‘Ruthless Overlord’?

Damian: How about ‘Work-In-Progress’? That goes for us all. I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing’s for certain… We’re in this together.”

Overall, the story is a fun pass time read, with bright and vibrant art. A visually striking battle, with decent character development, that is sure to build to a great team book in the future.

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine.)

The trade is available here: Teen Titans (2016-) Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Superheroes

9 Batman stories to read NOT by Moore, Morrison, or Miller

Despite not being the first, it’s safe to say that Batman is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. The star of campy 60s tv shows, multiple big budget films, critically acclaimed video games, generation defining cartoons, and almost 80 years of comics. It’s easy to become engrained with the world surrounding the Batman without ever picking up a book, but those who choose to, know the great depth and wealth of stories available. While the works of Alan Moore (The Killing Joke), Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns), and Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylam: A Serious House on Serious Earth) are often among the first recommended to new comers. They are far from the only must-read material.

With 78 years of history, here are 9 stories NOT by Moore, Morrison or Miller, that are more than worth your time…

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996 – 97) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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Set early in Batman’s career, The Long Halloween follows a yearlong investigation into a mysterious killer known as Holiday. A vicious killer who strikes ever holiday, once a month. With the assistance of Captain Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman races against the clock to figure out who it is that’s committing the murders, and try to save the next victim. Along the way we encounter many members of Batman’s famous rogue gallery, including Scarecrow, The Joker, and Poison Ivy, as well as the slow transformation and creation of Two Face.

Available here: Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb, Jeph (2011) Paperback

Batman: The Cult (1988) by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson

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Possibly one of the most brutal Batman stories written, The Cult focusses on the kidnapping and attempted brainwashing of Batman by Deacon Blackfire, and his army of homeless followers. During Batman’s absence, Gotham city has been driven into turmoil, as politicians are assassinated by Blackfire’s followers. Attempts are made on Commissioner Gordon’s life, leaving him hospital bound, and martial law is declared in Gotham, as the city decays. The books tone is helped phenomenally by the art of the late Bernie Wrightson, and is a story that is remarkably hard to shake after reading.

Available here: Batman The Cult TP

Batman Hush (2002 – 2003) by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

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Batman is being stalked. The culprit’s identity, unknown. His intent seems to sabotage Batman’s every move, and something about him seems to know Bruce Wayne intimately. Complete with a large number of guest appearances by Batman’s rogue gallery, and the inclusion of Superman, Hush contains an all-star cast, for a truly interesting mystery. Including the incredible detail of Jim Lee’s art, the story is rather hit and miss among fans, but still an interesting read just to uncover the mystery.

Available here:Batman Hush Complete TP

Batman Black and White (1996) by Various

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A wonderful example of what happens when you give creative minds just a few pages, and complete free rein of the Batman world and characters. With an incredible array of talent from Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series), Neal Adams (Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore), Simon Bisley (Judge Dredd), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Alex Ross (Kingdom Come), and more! It’s hard to find a more intriguing, varied, and fascinating creative pool of tales.

Available here: Batman Black And White TP Vol 01 New Edition (Batman Black & White)

Batman: New 52 Run (2011 – 2016) by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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It’s hard to pick just one story from this incredible run. The opening arc Court of Owls was an unbelievable debut. Death of the family was chilling to the bone. Zero Year gave us a truly interesting interpretation of Batman’s first year active. Even Jim Gordon’s turn in the suit was notably interesting, even if a little strange. The 52 issues of Batman from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are a must read, particularly for those looking to inject just a little bit of horror to their Batman. The pair are currently re-teaming for the Dark Metal event, but it’s this run that made them both synonymous with the Bat.

Available Here: Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls TP (The New 52) (Batman (DC Comics Paperback))

Batman and Robin: New 52 Run (2011 – 2015) by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

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Despite his role as a surrogate father figure to all the Robins. When it comes to the 5th Robin, Damian Wayne, there’s no surrogate about it. The 40-issue run by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason explores Bruce and Damian’s relationship with one another while working as partners. The battle-hardened Batman having to work with, and train his own bloodthirsty son. One who sees himself as greater than his father. Ready to kill those in his way, boast of his assassination skills. Tomasi and Gleason are masters at the father/son dynamic. Something they are currently exploring over in the Superman title. But their work with Bruce and Damian stands just as strong.

Available here: Batman and Robin Volume1: Born to Kill TP (The New 52) (Batman & Robin (Paperback))

Detective Comics #27 (1939)/Batman #1 (1940)

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On the list more for history buffs than anything, but still two incredibly important issues in Batman’s life time. His first appearance in 1939, and the first appearance of both The Joker, and Catwoman in 1940. Certainly not the best that Batman has to offer, but hugely important. Learning the history behind these two issues, does add an extra layer of enjoyment. Did you know, The Joker was supposed to die in his first appearance? Or the story of Bill Finger, the long ignored co-creator and writer of these historic stories.

Available here: Batman The Golden Age TP Vol 1

Batman: Dark Victory (1999 – 2000) by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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A sequel to The Long Halloween, though heavily enjoyable on its own. The same creative team takes the next step in Batman’s early years, and tackles the origin of the young Dick Grayson. The first Robin. The story deals heavily with the themes of isolation and loneliness, especially after the events of The Long Halloween. Affecting not only Batman, but the now traumatised and orphaned Dick Grayson, and the struggling Commissioner Gordon.

Available here: Batman: Dark Victory (New Edition)

Batman: Death in the Family (1988 – 89) by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo

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Heavily controversial at the time it was released, and still a major talking point when discussing fan outcry and involvement. Death in the Family is a defining point in Batman’s career. The death of Jason Todd, the second Robin. Another death that Bruce couldn’t prevent. A death he feels heavily responsible for. Death in the Family also holds a significant point in pop culture history as the moment where fans killed Robin. DC held a call-in poll to help decide whether or not Jason would make it out of the story alive, dying with just a hand full of votes separating the options. The death of Jason is an important moment in not only Batman’s history, but in comics and pop culture. Much like Detective Comics #27 and Batman #1, not a great story, but hugely important.

Available here: Batman: A Death in the Family (Batman (1940-2011))
 

These are just a handful of amazing stories of the Caped Crusader to try, aside from The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, or Batman and Robin. Batman’s history now spans almost 80 years, and it’s incredibly unlikely that his popularity will fade. There are still plenty of stories to be told in Gotham.

 

 

Avoid All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder….

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine. I have not read every Batman story in existence.)

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Marvel, X-Men

In Memory of Len Wein

On September 10th, 2017. We lost a beloved and respected member of the comic book community. Writer, and editor, Len Wein.

Co-creator of Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson for DC, and Wolverine with John Romita Sr. for Marvel. As well as serving as an editor for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons with Watchmen. It’s hard to deny his impact on the industry. Having left his mark on characters such as Batman, Spider-man, Superman and the Hulk, Len leaves behind a legacy that should never be forgotten. The man who began the restructure of the X-Men in 1970s, along with Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, many children of the 80s and 90s have him to thank for those days of running around the playground, putting themselves in the shoes of Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and of course, Wolverine.

Len Wein on Wolverine:

In 2009, X-Men alumni and comic book legend, Chris Claremont, had this to say of Len’s work on X-Men:

“The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took Len Wein’s contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn’t get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are – certainly on the X-Men – to Len and to Dave Cockrum”.

Many comic book legends have taken to Social Media in the past 24 hours, sharing stories and words of kindness for the legend. Showing support to his family, and keeping his legacy alive. Len was known for his stories. His characters, and his ability to work seamlessly with both DC and Marvel. But above all, especially looking at all the comments from the people who knew him well. His kindness.

Rest in Peace, good sir. May your legacy live on.