Action Comics #35, Wonder Woman #34, Captain America #25 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Action Comics #35

The comic opens with Superman flying through space, and closes with Lois Lane starring directly out at the reader, saying “you don’t understand Superman at all”. The last few pages of the comic are narrated by Lane’s article. While Clark Kent might be disillusioned and depressed following his recent Doomsday infection – not to mention the guilt he is feeling after meeting with Lana Lang back in Smallville – Lane argues that Superman needs Earth and it’s people. Superman might appear to bring monsters and destruction, but he inspires us to be better. In turn, people inspire Superman to be a better, stronger, and faster hero.

It’s an interesting story. Superman is not up on a pedestal. He’s a part of the world, and an important part that keeps everything moving forward. Also worth seeing is a page where the heroes of Metropolis are seen helping the city recover from a recent attack by Brainiac. The young shapeshifter Baka returns. Supergirl saves small family from falling cement. Moreover, a page shows police officers and the Metropolis fire service working to save the city – a tribute to their service.

Wonder Woman #34

There’s some great ideas and insights into what it means to be a god in this issue. Wonder Woman also struggles with a tough question. She wants to be peaceful, however she has been selected as the new god of war, and her family is under attack from the powerful villain known as The First Born.

Hera says that human life, to her, is like watching television. The characters mean little to her, ultimately, and the episodes are relatively short. Zola is not impressed. Eris, god of chaos, laughs at Hera for her detached point of view. Meanwhile Wonder Woman, faces the question: stay true to her peaceful ideas, or use violence, and fight a war against the first born. This is escalated to the brink of no return, where she cannot reason or argue her enemy out of his war with the gods.

Hera makes a decisions. She shows restraint, and something a bit like kindness to Wonder Woman, Zola, Orion, and several other cast members. Hera, Eris, and Wonder Woman also have some of the best wordplay in the comic. There’s some interesting moments in the artwork, when monsters are transformed into crystal statues, and giant, elephant mechs charge into battle.

Captain America #25

The new Captain America arrives in this issue. Jet Black endures drama. Even her brother Ian questions her motives, her rejection of Arnim Zola, and her friendship with Captain America. The pain drawn on her face is powerfully executed when accusations are thrown at her.

Arnim Zola returns to dimension Z in a brilliant flash of white and blue light. Later, Captain America and the avengers enter into another situation of extreme pressure – a dinner party at Avengers Mansion with all of the current Avengers teams (except the Young Avengers and Secret Avengers) and X-factor. These scenes have several back-and-forth comedy moments between characters. Artwork here is highly colourful. Hyperion’s head to body proportion may need adjustment, however.

A full page artwork introduces the new Captain America.

An epilogue reintroduces an old threat – Hydra believe now is the time to start drawing plans against the new Captain America.

Superman Doomed #2, New Avengers #24, Saga #23 – Short Comic Review

While I’m on vacation for three weeks, I’ve put together a short round up of comics published this week. I’ll return to full reviews on October 11, 2014.

Superman Doomed #2

The trust Lana and Lois place in Superman is a little inspiring to see. Even more so when they reach out to Superman – telepathically – and urge him to realise that no matter what he looks like, no matter how horrifying he might look, he is still Superman on the inside.

Appearance has nothing to do with strength, integrity, and everything Superman stands for. That’s the value here.

These scenes show excellent us of composition and positive and negative space. Panels and thought bubbles are expertly placed across action scenes. Worldwide, Superman’s friends (Baka, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, and Krypto) are all fighting to stop the villain Brainiac.

New Avengers #24

This comic has a story tied down in months of story telling. The science fiction concept of parallel universes plays out in this comic. The most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe decided they could prevent incursions – events where two parallel universes collide, and only one of the twins can survive.

Unfortunately, the gathered heroes have fallen out. King Namor has fled to Dr. Doom for help, while the Black Panther’s country is under attack.

The artwork is widely varied. Strong facial expressions convey distaste, rage, fear, and other dramatic emotion.

There is a great deal of Orange and Black used in this comic. The colours wash over panels and scenes, with more violent scenes appearing in orange, and black in use for moments of conversation, drawing attention to the white speech bubbles.

Saga #23

The Truth is boring. If anything is clear in the opening pages of Saga, truth is not enough. People need enticement to believe in something. Life is complicated, but it’s also very short. Another idea appears. A scene between Izabel and Alana highlights that life is too short for petty ego fights, or sacrificing an entire relationship just to win one argument.

There’s some brilliant plot changes here and the artwork is stunning. A cliffhanger ending is a bit chilling.

What becomes more and more clear in Saga is that despite story focus largely centred on Alana and Marko, parents of the narrator, Hazel, there’s no guarantee that these two characters will remain to the end.

Superman #32 – Comic Review

A new creative team takes on the challenge of writing Superman comics at DC entertainment – this new direction contains large artwork with powerful action, and a new character – a man whose story mirrors Superman’s.

Superman #32 offers:

  • Powerful action scenes, and artwork that controls light effectively
  • A new character with a name from Greek Myth
  • A story that shows off the mythic quality of superhero comics, with themes of isolation

Large, splash pages, spread over two smaller pages, shows off powerful action scenes in this new, Superman comic. Light is used effectively throughout the comic book

While the comic begins with the origin of  a new character, a giant opening page introduces Superman. The man of steel knocks down a mechanical, giant gorilla with a right hook. Light changes convey a sense of tension or relaxation: the daily planet office is a cold grey, while Clark’s house is a warm, lighter yellow.

A splash page overflowing with blue electric lights introduces the sheer power of the new character. Ulysses has a name from greek myth, and a backstory that mirrors Superman’s, albeit on much smaller scale. Artwork for Ulysses scenes make excellent use of space. Each panel moves the reader in a circle around the two heroes.

Another interesting contrast is Ulysses costume contrasts Superman’s: Black, white, and grey against red, blue, and yellow. Greyscale to primary colours.

A new male character with powers comparable to the man of steel raises a point about diversity. A  dialog point intended to build character may need attention.

It’s interesting that Ulysses is a male character. Considering DC’s initiatives to add more diversity to their casts, I was expecting a new female character, or a character who shows diversity in some other way. A new female character is mentioned however: a political correspondent name Jackee Winters has started working at the daily planet. Winters and Lane have made friends, and as a black, female character, there’s no questioning the cast has diversity.

There is a dialogue point that had me confused:

“Klerik said he’d find my homeworld and destroy it. I believed it to be gone and that his threats where empty, but … it wasn’t destroyed.”

-Ulysses

So if Klerik threatened to destroy Ulysses’ homeworld, and he thought Klerik’s threats were empty, why did he believe Earth was gone? The exposition confuses a little. Either Ulysses is bewildered, or the sentence needed some more attention to clarify.

The comic establishes a theme of isolation in Superman’s behaviour, and Ulysses origin, and the theme ties these characters together. This issue shows the mythic quality of super hero comics, since myths are constantly retold, and this issue replicates Superman’s story.

Mythology plays a big role in this comic book. The key thing that defines myths are that they are retold. Encapsulated within this Superman comic is a smaller superman comic – Ulysses origin story is Superman‘s story on a smaller scale. Naming the character after a the well known Greek legend only highlights this quality more.

Isolation is a theme that plays out when Ulysses is introduced, and when Perry White a the Daily Planet points out that Clark’s increasing isolation. Ulysses parents, in their brief appearance, point out that their son will be alone in a new world. Later, Clark sits at home, calling Wonder Woman, leaving a message with Alfred for Bruce Wayne, and leafing through photo albums. He switches on his super hearing, and listens to Metropolis, rather than going out into the city, and flying between the sky scrapers.

Ulyesses last comment: He’s not alone anymore.

Popular Culture References:

As mentioned, naming a character Ulysses is a big reference to myths, and not just a popular culture reference: Ulysses, AKA Odysseus, was a Greek king, and main character of Homer’s Odyssey.

Superman #32 is published by DC Comics ($3.99 USD). Geoff Johns (W.) John Romita Jr. (A.) Klaus Janson (I.) Laura Martin (L.) Cover artwork by Romita Jr, Janson, Martin.

Earth 2 #23 – Comics Review

The team of heroes assembled by Green Lantern and Batman are under attack from new monsters brought from Apokolips. Red Tornado has finally reunited with Superman, and the battle for Earth 2 expands. The new Kryptonian Val Zod also expand, adding to his powers and confidence.

What Earth 2 #23 offers:

  • Fiery and energetic artwork that captures emotion and action.
  • The return of Green Lantern, and a powerful moment for Lois Lane: the new Red Tornado.
  • A theme of Guardianship – the comic shows off a key part of being a superhero: acting as a guardian.

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Comics Review – Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1: The Leap

What are Superman’s greatest principals? His strong morality and sense of optimism? Or his ability to punch a falling space station the size of an apartment block away from a crowded city?

Superman Unchained has all of these facets.  like a primer on Superman with a good story, and compelling artwork. Superman’s voice sounds right. There’s action, and it’s realistic, not forced. What I mean is Superman is a character who is indestructible, and has impossible strength; is fast, and has powerful sensory abilities. But he has limits.

Eight heavy satellites falling to the Earth is a problem – one of them is a giant space station. Superman is fast, but only fast enough to reach seven out of the eight. Superman still has to brace, and concentrate as he catches the giant space station. When the oxygen in the station runs out, he can’t speak, and probably has trouble hearing since there’s no air to carry the sound.

The bottom line: His abilities have limits.

That’s what I enjoyed most about this comic book. Superman may be an everlasting cultural icon, but he has limits.

What makes Superman even more human – drawing Clark Kent to the front of his personality – is a story Superman tells about what he calls “The Colder Leap”

Back home in Smallville, he would jump down a silo with his friends into a haystack. The jump was 30ft, possibly more.

30ft is like jumping from the second story of an apartment building to the ground. This little robot does it. Before he could fly, before he was Superman, Clark was already leaping from tall buildings. The Colder Leap story was a strong human element to add to Superman’s character.

The Art

The largest aspect of the art in this comic book is the fold out page. I would love to pour over the detail rendered on it, but the page is unwieldy. I did enjoy that the page captures the size and impact of Superman’s character. The poses Superman takes throughout the comic are suitably epic. This fold out page was made inconvenient, however, by sticky and stretchy tape, which crumpled the pages around it.

The graphic novel edition will most likely solve this problem.

Further, some panel arrangements felt flooded by text. Thankfully the writing is good, but the visuals were ultimately cluttered by it. Colours and inking don’t let the comic down and are consistently bright and suitably brooding.

I thought the best scenes are Superman flying through space. A good slow zoom sequence flows from panel to panel: space filled with stars is followed by space with a thin red blur across it, like a comet, before the final zoom, which reveals the red blur to be Superman’s cape.

A sinister looking new villain is unveiled, and their design is electric and powerful. Lois Lane has aggressive body language with dismissive, condescending, and rude facial expressions. I think that is her character, however I thought it was a one-dimensional and simplified introduction to Lois in the new comic book.

A bit more on Superman Unchained #1

Science fiction concepts are fun to read: robots with tungsten carbide arms designed to crush space rocks. Lex Luthor, however, is interested in making a “new solar chemical fuel”. Luthor either loses some credibility with this vague comment, or he was speaking down to Superman, but it’s not clear. Superman Unchained offers a compelling mystery to solve, and strong character voices.

Superman Unchained #1 is published by DC comics. Writer: Scott Snyder. Penciler: Jim Lee. Inker: Scott Williams. Colouring: Alex Sinclair. Lettering: Sal Cipriano.