Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review

Blackest Night: Superman 2

by James Robinson and Eddy Barrows

The opening sequence is a nice setup, showing various inhabitants of Smallville, and quickly establishing the emotions that each person feels for another. Later, the Psycho-Pirate enters the picture and warps everyone’s emotions so that it all comes out backwards: love into hate, admiration into hostility, and so on. Barrows is at his personal best for the artwork, with excellent attention to detail, and the color combinations that we get to see from the Black Lanterns’ point of view is neat, letting us see our heroes in a different light (sorry, the pun was unavoidable).

There is a lot going on, but all of the characters get good screen time. Superman from Earth-2 takes a backseat when Conner falls to the Psycho-Pirate and comes back to take on Superman. Supergirl has an impressive scene where she comes to the conclusion that the horror before her is not really her father, and we also get to see the fiery resolve of Martha Kent. When I put this book down, I didn’t want to wait a month before getting the next one, and that’s when you know you’ve got a good issue on your hands.

Detective Comics 857

by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III

Williams III steals the show starting with the cover, which reminds me of those old mix-and-match books we played with as kids, but with only two panels instead of three. There’s probably a technical term for it, but he continues with what I call the intermingling of Kate and Alice in the same picture on the inside of the issue, alluding to something that is revealed later, and implying a certain symmetry between the two.

The panels are split, divided by elegant framing devices, often with Bat symbols. One page in particular is nice, with a confrontation between Batwoman and one of Alice’s followers, with lightning inserts displaying the fight that ensues. It’s hard to describe adequately without writing a thousand words, so do yourself a favor and pick this up. This run already has more variety with panel composition than half of DC’s titles combined for the past year.

It’s very telling that I spend all the time on the art, and not so much on the story. The story itself is okay, but the reveal that Alice is Kate’s sister is too cliché for me, and without the interesting art, the story would come across very average. The art genuinely helps to set the right atmosphere to improve upon the plot and make it more solid.

The backup with the Question is still unimpressive. Renee uses someone else for her cyber needs, so I guess she’s not on a first-name basis with Oracle. Cully Hamner likes the image of a bullet casing being ejected from a gun so much, he uses that same configuration with three different guns as the bad guys shoot at her. Despite her somewhat normal abilities, her athleticism is all she needs to run away from tons of gunfire and not get hit. The crooks in DC have to be the worst shots ever!

Justice League of America 37

by Len Wein and Tom Derenick

I’m not sure why they keep cheating on the cover. Superman is on the cover, but the only place he appears is in a non-action flashback scene with Vixen. It would have been more creative to us the existing team in a way to enhance or remind us of the plot, rather than just another group pose. All it does is reinforce the belief that the current configuration of the League is weak, and can’t even manage to have a cover without one of the big guns around.

The inside is the conclusion of a three-part story, with the JLA splitting up and tackling the different members of the Royal Flush Gang. Amos Fortune’s luck-altering technology is just not enough to cause more than a stumble here and there, and the Leaguers are all able to defeat their opposition.

The villains disperse, with an exploding boat that seems to kill Fortune, but we know it did not. Roulette appears before the Key, having completed her mission to record all of the data on the JLA’s fight, but the key himself has a mysterious boss. We end on an epilogue showing Amos Fortune has resurfaced, only to be shot at by a grieving widow. We don’t get to see if his luck is holding up or not, as the issue ends on a gun blast.

This final part of Len Wein’s fill-in story was slightly predictable, but hopefully we will get to see more of the plot behind the Key’s involvement. Next issue, James Robinson and Mark Bagley take over, with a new team for the cast.

Madame Xanadu 15

by Matt Wagner and Michael Kaluta

The two stories conclude with this issue, with our visit to 1493 ending in the death of Xanadu’s lover, and teaching her the consequences of being complacent and not using her powers. After the time she has spent on Earth, you might think she wouldn’t need to learn that lesson. With this, we leave behind the Inquisition, and Xanadu’s affair with another woman ends no better than most affairs involving the main character of a DC comic: poorly, for the other party.

In 1940, the real threat I revealed and defeated, along with Xanadu concluding that Wesley Dodds is the Sandman. I am hoping that this revelation will be revisited, and come in useful at another time. The conclusion is fun, but signals the end of Michael Kaluta’s run. It was very well done, but I do confess some eagerness to see Amy Reeder Hadley draw this character again. It brings up a good question, though: should the artist change along with the time period, to add another aspect that can highlight the change in the ages?

Supergirl 45

by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

The public relations offensive against the Kryptonians is under full swing, and Cat Grant is a willing participant, even though she is basically a pawn for General Lane. Squad K has some neat new tricks, and they sound impressive, but they can’t quite take on three Kryptonians at once. The issue is a solid read, with just the right amount of action and plot development for such a crowded book. Igle is also solid on the art chores. This is the middle part of a large story, and has that feel, which means you should settle down for a while and be ready for a fairly large saga. Still, it’s important to note that the title is well above the quality it used to be, and the choice to bring in Gates, Rucka, and Igle, and make the title closer to the rest of continuity with the Super-family of title was a great decision.

Superman: Secret Origin 1

by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

We return to Clark as a young boy, still discovering his powers, and not yet aware of his true origin. It’s a secret even from him, at the start. Gary Frank’s art has improved, with better definition for the eyes of a character; used to be, everyone would look old no matter what. The softness Frank displays is realized here, and makes for a pleasant viewing.

The story is a little too reminiscent of the TV series Smallville, and comes after Johns had a chance to write for the show. Scenes come straight out of the first couple seasons from TV to this comic, with new powers flashing on during puberty, his heat vision sparking when he kisses Lana, and his first experience with flying coming along because of a tornado, and needing to save Lana. While the story reads well for the uninitiated, anyone who has watched Smallville will see this as a bit of a re-run ripoff.

The introduction of a young Lex Luthor is already bound with a discovery of green kryptonite, and next issue will bring in the Legion of Super Heroes already, which was the part of Smallville that Johns got to write for the WB. I’ll get the next one and hope for some differences between the TV show and the comic. Because of this, it had much less appeal for me than my initial anticipation of it.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.