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

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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 DC Comics, Science, Superheroes, Superman

Krypton, Earth, and the Drake Equation

One of the most captivating parts of Superman, is his mythology. Granted, his origin bears a striking similarity to biblical and mythological figures. It provides a fascinating background in which to base a truly wonderful superhero. However, a question that may burn in your mind when thinking of it. Why did Jor-el send Superman to Earth specifically? What makes Earth so special? It’s been shown in the comics frequently that there are plenty of other planets capable of supporting life, so why Earth?

In Superman: Birthright, we get a brief glimpse at Jor-El firing the rocket. Running simulations to see if the rocket can even escape Krypton’s destruction. Just as the planet begins to erupt, it seems that an actual target for the rocket is an afterthought. Jor-El runs to the console and quickly selects a planet that seems to have the best chance of letting his infant son live.

“Billions of worlds we know NOTHING about. Merciful Rao, let there be one – Yes. Lit by a yellow star. It’s gravitational pull relatively negligible. If he makes it at all, he’ll stand his best prospects here. Computer, secure COORDINATES.”

Given Jor-El’s rushed state, it’s worth asking. If he had run the calculations sooner, and looked a little longer, would he have found a better option? To unravel this question, let’s use the Drake Equation to see if there is a possibility.

Created by Frank Drake in the 1950s, the Drake Equation was created to help estimate the likely hood of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe. At this point in history, no part of the equation has a definitive number, and some are beyond calculation, so right now, we need to use available information, and best guess. The equation proposed looks like this:

N = R* × Fp × ne × Ft × Fi × Fc × L

N represents the number of Intelligent civilizations in the galaxy. R* is the birth rate of suitable stars for life in the Milky Way Galaxy, measured in stars per year. Fp is the fraction of stars with planets. ne represents the number of planets in a star’s habitable zone. Ft for the number of civilizations that have technology and want to make contact. Fi is the fraction of habitable planets were life exists. Fc is planets inhabited by intelligent beings, and L is the average, in years, for an alien civilisation to invent radio, up until their culture is destroyed or disappears.

In this case, we are looking for what N‘s value is. When proposing the equation, Drake used the Earth and what we know of our own solar system as a model. R* has been estimated to be anywhere between 1 and 10. When proposing this, Drake used the middle estimate, so for now, we will use 5. For Fp, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, believed that most stars had planets. However, the conservative estimate is around 20%, or 1 in 5. With our solar system as a model, then ne equals 1, as Earth is the only habitable planet in our solar system. Again, using Earth as a model, and without any other available data, then Fi, Fe, and Ft are all at 100%. L is the hardest to calculate, as even when using Earth as a model, you can’t find a definitive answer. We are still alive. Hence why we are asking questions. Drake and Sagan estimate that the number maybe anywhere between 100 and 10,00 years. While this gives us an estimate for just our galaxy, the Milky Way is estimated to be 100,00 light years across. In Superman #132, Krypton is stated to be 3 Million light years away from Earth. Within that distance, there are approximately 20 other galaxies. Add in the Drake Equation, and this gives us a possibility of around 2,000 to 200,000 possible planets Jor-El could have sent Superman to, besides Earth.

So, it looks like it was luck that Jor-El chose Earth. Case closed.

However, in 2000, Ward and Brownlee re-evaluated the Drake Equation in their book Rare Earth. They looked back at the estimates previously suggested, and comparing it to data collected in the 50 or so years since its original inception. Their findings force all of those previously established numbers to move to their lower estimate. After re-entering the data, this gives us a maximum number of possible planets from 200,00, to only about 1,000. Condensing this back down to just the Milky Way, this makes it highly likely that Earth is the only planet with intelligent life nearby.

It seems it wasn’t fate that brought the Man of Steel to us. Simply, we were a last resort.

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Discussion, Superheroes, Superman

9 Superman Stories Everyone Should Read

While not as popular as the caped crusader, Batman. Superman is *THE* quintessential superhero. The first, and greatest. Since his creation in 1938, Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, have become the cornerstone of pop culture, recognised the world over, and has become the hero of many. But when it comes to comics, I find that people are incredibly reluctant to explore the man of steel’s many, many wonderful stories. Some refer to him as the big blue boy scout, others say that he is completely un-relatable, or even boring, but I assure you, that’s not the case. While it is incredibly tempting to scream at you all to dive straight into the DC Rebirth books for Superman, it seems worth gathering an understanding of the character and his universe, before his days as a father, husband, and protector of the world from the town of Hamilton County.

With his 79 years in comics, here are 9 to get you started, whether you are a diehard comic reader, curious of Superman, or starting from scratch…

Action Comics #1 by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster

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Superman’s very first appearance, and a true landmark in history, sometimes it’s best to go back to the beginning. While not highly engaging, and provides only a bare bones story, it is always worth taking a step back and looking at how it all started. While getting your hands on a copy of Action Comics #1 is almost impossible, the story has been collected in multiple books, including Superman: The War Years 1938–1945, and the Superman The Golden Age Omnibus.

Available here: Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 (Action Comics (1938-2011))

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis

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Released last year (2016 if you’re reading this in the future, hi future!), and made up of 7 issues, Max Landis’s American Alien explores Clark’s life from a young boy, all the way up to his adult life. The book makes Clark highly relatable, especially in his younger years, and delivers hard on important milestones, such as discovering his powers and the isolation he feels, Clark’s first assignment for the Daily Planet, his first meetings with Lois Lane, Batman, and Lex Luther, establishing himself as a hero, and learning from his mistakes. Strongly written, with a rotation of all-star artists from issue to issue, including Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jae Lee (The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born), Jock (The Losers), and more. A fantastic, self-contained read.

Available here: Superman: American Alien

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

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What would it be like if Superman showed up in modern times? Part of DC’s Earth One line up, Superman: Earth One is a wonderful retelling of part of Clark’s origin, set in the modern day, and exploring Clark’s early days in Metropolis, and his decision of what to do with his life. Exploring both the uncertainty of what to do with your life, post high school, as well as wrestling with his decision for what to do with his powers. Superman: Earth One is full of compelling and heartfelt moments written by Straczynski, paired with Davis’s beautiful renderings, it’s a truly fascinating read that sucks you right into the world. While there are three volumes to the story, the first book can be approached as a standalone story, though the decision to continue will gift you a hauntingly beautiful double page spread in the second volume. Truly worth picking up.

Available here: Superman: Earth One

Superman: The Last Son of Krypton by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert

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Taking a page from Superman: The Movie, and The Richard Donner cut of Superman II, The Last Son of Krypton tells the story of a Kryptonian pod crash landing on earth, revealing a young boy inside. Adopted by Clark and Lois, and given the name Christopher Kent (a rather lovely nod to the late Christopher Reeve), they start their happy lives, with Clark safe in the knowledge that he is not alone, he is no longer the last of his kind. However, their happy lives are brought to a screeching halt when it is revealed that Christopher is, in fact, the son of one of Superman’s greatest enemies, General Zod. Brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner himself, with stunning art by Adam Kubert, The Last Son of Krypton is a must for fans of the Donner films, and a highly engaging read for everyone else.

Available here: Superman: Last Son of Krypton TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen

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Imagine you lived in the American Mid-West, and in what feels like the ultimate act of cruelty to you, your parents name you Clark Kent and shower you with Superman merchandise. As a result, you’re heavily bullied and can’t stand the sight of Superman. Well, that’s life for the young Clark Kent in Kurt Busiek’s Secret Identity. In a fit of misery one night, and camping on his own, however, he awakes to find he has been given all the powers of Superman. Set in our world, Secret Identity explores what it would be like if Superman truly existed in our world, as well as chronicling his life from a young man, angry at the world for the hand he has been dealt, to a wiser old man, floating above us all as a fatherly figure. A wonderful out of continuity story, that is truly wonderful to behold.

Available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

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Another out of continuity tale, and not essentially a Superman story, but a purely stunning and cinematic experience. Set in a future where Superman and the rest of the Justice League have abandoned their roles as the Earth’s heroes, after the appearance of figures such as Magog, and other metahuman “heroes” who have no problems with killing, including offing The Joker early on in their career. A being known as The Spectre appears to a human minister, Norman McCay, shows him the oncoming apocalypse that is about to break out between the current heroes and the original Justice League, and invites him to help pass judgment on the events to come. Including the threat of nuclear war, and the intense brainwashing of former Justice League member, Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel (Now known as Shazam!), Kingdom Come is an incredible experience. You do not read Kingdom Come, you live in it. With magnificent painted art by the great Alex Ross, and a story by the wonderful Mark Waid, Kingdom Come is an absolute must.

Available here: Kingdom Come TP New Edition

Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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From the wonderful team behind Batman: The Long Halloween, and Daredevil: Yellow, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale turn their sights to the man of steel. Set across four seasons, and narrated by those involved in Clark’s life, namely Johnathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang, For All Seasons may be set in Clark’s early days, but it is not about his origin. The book chronicles how Clark, and Superman, affect the world around him. From his parents, worrying about his life as he leaves home, his co-workers at the Daily Planet, his enemies as he starts to make himself known, and the people he grew up with and left behind. For All Seasons is truly beautiful, and wondrous. As with any Loeb and Sale paring, well worth the read.

Available here: Superman For All Seasons TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Red Son by Mark Miller and Dave Johnson

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We play the “what if” game again for a moment with Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Son. Superman has always been paired with the phrase, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Emphasis on the “American.” But what if Superman’s rocket never landed in Kansas? What if he landed just outside of Moscow? Red Son flips the Superman mythos on its head and gives us a chilling tale of the communist party right in the hands of the most powerful being on Earth. The book also gives us alternative takes on the rest of the Justice League, with a Wonder Woman who sided with the Russians, as well as a Russian Batman, who seeks to take down the all-mighty dictator. Red Son works as a perfect definition for what Superman stands for, by showing us his complete opposite. Always worth a read, with a final page twist that will make you want to read it all over again.

Available here: Superman: Red Son

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

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The book a lot of you probably saw coming, but with good reason. Superman has one year left to live, having effectively developed a form of cancer that is slowly killing him. This twelve-issue series focuses on how Clark chooses to spend his final year. Including a touching birthday gift to Lois, seeking an end to his rivalry with Lex and Bizzaro, and everything he feels is needed before he leaves. All-Star Superman is a truly touching read, dealing with the likes of depression and death, but never dwelling on it. A quintessential Superman and a comic book read.

Available here: All Star Superman

After that massive stack, I highly recommend What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? By Alan Moore and Curt Swan, Superman Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, The Death and Return of Superman Saga by Various, Superman: Lois and Clark by Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, and the incredible Rebirth run currently being published by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Happy reading Super-fans..!

 

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

 

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Documentary, History, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superheroes, Superman, The Flash, Video, X-Men

Spotlight on: Nerdsync Productions!

While the properties are everywhere in the 21st century, comics are still one of the hardest mediums to get started with. Especially if you want to dive into the mainstream stuff, such as Marvel and DC. With the use of the internet, you can make the job a little easier for yourself. You can look up character history, cool stories, and maybe get an idea of what you want to read. But it can still be over whelming, with nearly 100 years of comic book history. Enter, YouTube! Through YouTube, it’s never been easier for you to stumble across great comic book content. There are countless Comic Book channels, giving you brief histories of key characters. Run downs of major or recent storylines. Tips on collecting and preserving. Even channels doing fun comic related games, and dares. All you have to do is quickly type ‘comic book’ in the YouTube search engine, and there you go! However, these channels can start to blur together after a time. The same brief histories, of the same characters, feeding back the same information till you can recite it from memory.

Enter Nerdsync.

Since launching their first Comic Misconceptions video on March 26th, 2013. Scott and the Nerdsync crew have worked hard to deliver quality, fun and informative videos for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a well-read veteran, who can recite ever single Lantern oath from memory. Or a movie going fan, who wants to break into the source material. Nerdsync breaks down their material to be completely accessible to even the newest of readers. Beyond that, their choice of subject is far and wide. Giving nice little twists on the now stable Comic Book/YouTube formula. You want a history of Superman? Not only will they give it to you, they will go through the real-life reason for his creation, and the story behind that. When a film comes out, and every channel is scrambling to bring you a funny story or origin relating to the characters involved. Nerdsync proves their nerdy worth by talking about science, history, mythology and psychology. There is a reason why the Nerdsync slogan is ‘helping you grow smarter through comics’!

The show’s host, one Scott Niswander, brings a fun, passionate and energetic feel to the show. Encouraging his audience to get involved, create their own content, and start discussions. The show prides itself on its community of ‘loveable nerds’, banning together to help pool together resources, create on going jokes, and sometimes, just taking to the internet to spread their love of comics. Over the 4 years since Nerdsync burst on to the scene. Other shows and creators have taken to the channel, and added their own little segments, connecting to their own work. Giving us an even greater variation, to an already wonderful channel. We have Hass with Comicana, bringing us insightful looks at how comic pages work. Exploring the flow of panels, pacing and tone, using recent books, and well-known classics. We are given a dose of legal history with Joel in Super Suits, breaking down the insane history of comic book lawsuits. Not to mention the fantastic cameo and cross over appearances from the like of Auram, Ricky of Stewdippin, and Mike of PBS Idea Channel.

What makes Nerdsync stand apart, is its dedication to education through comics. In the world of academic, comics have a surprising and glorious history. They have been the subject matter when talking about so many real-world events. Including politics, genetics, physics, mythology, and pseudoscience. While these concepts, books and papers, may seem dry and none accessible to outside readers. Nerdsync delivers compelling, interesting, and outright fun material, that inspires and entertains the audience. It’s hard to deny the number of comics, characters, theories, and principles you will be exposed to, without realising it. And, you will enjoy every second of it.

“Holy here we go again Batman!”

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC Comics, Review, Superheroes, Superman

Super Sons #6: Planet of the Capes Part 1 (2017) [Review]

Super Sons 06 (2017)Six issues in to the Super Sons series, and it’s time to start the boys second arc. One that explores not only the super sons team, but introduces Jon to the Teen Titans! After an issue off, the wonderful Peter Tomasi returns to writing, and the fun and energetic art of Jorge Jimenez explodes off the page.

After the previous issue, we find the Kent’s living in Metropolis, and Jon preparing for a night of super heroics, and a chance to test his ever-growing powers. Tomasi is fantastic at highlighting the family dynamic of the Kent household. Even when confined to a handful of panels, their interactions are perfect.

Jon: “Come on, it’s FRIDAY – Damien’s Dad lets him stay out all night.”

Clark: “Damian’s Dad dresses like a bat and gets hit in the head 28 times every night. So maybe not the best argument.”

After the first arc of Super Sons, and the in-between issue, this is the first time we can really see Lois and Clark’s thoughts on Jon’s team up with Damian, and putting himself in harm’s way without Superman around to save him. There moment together as Jon leaves, adds to Clark’s development as a father, and shows, not only that he is learning from his own past, but the example his own father set.

Super Sons 06 (2017)sfdghsdfhfgshAs with the previous 5 issues, and there appearances together in Superman, Damian and Jon play off each other with an incredible beat to their dialogue. As they take to the streets to fight crime, Damian’s more harsh and darker upbringing comes out almost instantly, jumping to conclusions, such as jay walking quickly turning to store robbery, while Jon, despite being the younger of the pair, acts as the voice of reason between the two.

The Teen Titan’s introduction here works remarkably well, with Beast Boy acting as his usual jokey self, appearing as a cat beside Jon, just after Jon rescues neighbourhood cats, almost rubbing in Jon’s more wholesome and ‘uncool’ roots. The moment the Teen Titans show off, there is an immediate change in how Jon is treated. Robin, while still cocky and commanding, takes on a far more authoritative and constructed tone, almost hammering in Jon’s younger age, as though the work Jon and Damian do, is below actual Super heroics. It seems that even being the son of Superman doesn’t grant you all the privileges. The abandonment of Jon is even commented on by Starfire, despite his abundance of power, he is still just a ten-year-old kid. Despite Jon’s almost carefree attitude, it’s clearly shown that it bothers him, providing a very interesting look at Jon as an average ten-year-old. Upset at not being invited, feelings of being left out.

Despite the book itself focusing on the adventures of Damian and Jon, this issue spotlights the Teen Titan’s incredibly well, in a brief encounter with Atom-Master and Chun Yull, the team’s dynamics and how they work off each other are defined and played with. Something that is remarkable to see in such a short space of time. This arcs villain rears his head, and while his appearance is brief, his impact hammers in the theme of age and youth in this issue, and possibly the entire arc. Damian’s feelings of superiority due to his older status and training, may well be a hindrance to him here.

Damian: “Weird. No one is answering.”

Jon: “Who are you calling?”

Damian: “My Team. I have more responsibilities tonight than just us.”

Jon: “Sounds super-important if they’re ignoring your calls.”

Damian: “They’re raw. Young. I’m still working on them. One day maybe you’ll even be ready to be a Titan.”

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This arc, in the first issue at least, is shaping up to be an interesting one when it comes to growing, not only Jon, but especially Damian as characters. While it’s fun and interesting to see their personalities play off of each other, they need to grow. Especially Damian. The added benefit of this issue, is a curiosity to explore the current Teen Titans book. The team makes enough of an impact here, as well as showcases another side to Damian, that certainly leads to a desire to check out their solo title.

As the start of a new arc, this issue is a perfect jumping on point for new readers, as well as intriguing set up for things to come.