At The Comical Librarian, I review Marvel’s latest OGN, The Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business, in which the stupidest part of Peter Parker’s backstory returns to send him on a globe-trotting adventure.
At The Comical Librarian, I review Marvel’s latest OGN, The Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business, in which the stupidest part of Peter Parker’s backstory returns to send him on a globe-trotting adventure.
As some people have commented, the New 52 universe feels scarcely populated. DC’s strategy has been to focus on their handful of iconic characters from which they plan to spin-out stories that brush in the details of the universe. This strategy, while successful in many ways, has come to the detriment of many beloved Golden-age and legacy characters. James Robinson begins to rectify this with a new Earth 2. This universe, one of the new 52 universes, which is to be the home of Power Girl and Huntress (though, as their popularity would dictate, they were quickly jettisoned to the main DC Universes and their own series, World’s Finest, in the first issue of the Eponymous Earth 2 series) as well a new JSA. Or at least something that bears a semblance to what we have known as the JSA.
Traditionally the JSA were the first crop of super-heroes to appear, mostly around WWII, in the DC-verse. Publisher’s have always had an uneasy relationship with character origins that were historical situated, specifically the ageing issues that they inevitably lead to. Previously DC had utilized the Earth 2 concept as a way to explain away the discrepancies of such historical situated origins. As a result, Earth 2 stories have a pretty lengthy and developed publishing history. Those who were expecting a modern update of these stories will be severely disappointed. Earth 2 is as different from Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, or even Post-Infinite Crisis Earth 2 (which, although editors went out-of-the-way to make clear was not the same earth, was in fact a very clear homage) as imaginable. Whereas the JSA had been treated as the forbearer of the JLA for a while now, Earth 2 is re-imagining them as a group heroes who fill the vacuum left after the catastrophic destruction of the JLA.
One staple of James Robinson’s legendary Starman was “Times Past,” a set of stand-alone stories diving into the history of the Starman legacy and Opal City. It was a way to tell a fun adventure story, introduce some fascinating character traits, or deepen the mythology he was patiently building without using too much tedious exposition. So imagine my surprise and delight when I opened this month’s The Shade #4 and found myself enthralled by the Shade’s fantastic adventures in 1944, an excellent stand-alone adventure that deepens our understanding of the main plot while telling its own story and welcoming new readers.
Starman. Even after everything else Robinson has done, even after the flat-out embarrassment of Cry for Justice, Starman has endured as a shining example of many of the best things serialized superhero comics can offer. Jack Knight remains a memorable creation, and the book Robinson built around him stands up well, even to this day. But, for whatever reason, it’s a feat Robinson has never been able to repeat. With The Shade, a 12-issue mini-series launching today, Robinson returns to Opal City and to the morally ambiguous former villain he popularized.
Superman: World of New Krypton was always doomed to have a disappointing conclusion. The best issues of the series has little ongoing plot other than to explore New Krypton, to familiarize us with the unique problems of this alien world. While there was always, in the background, a metaplot going on, the most exciting moments often came when Superman and Zod clashed: neither wrong, but both with a fundamentally different understanding of what the planet needed. With Superman: World of New Krypton #12, we once again have to abandon a great deal of the exploratory aspect of the book to plot, though it’s handled much more deftly than it was in previous issues. A traitor is revealed, and it all finally ties back to earth. War is imminent, but not before a final page reveal that leaves the fate of the the Kryptonians in some jeopardy.
Pete Woods and Ron Randall, provide some excellent concluding visuals, like the surprise one-panel visit to a Starro-ruled planet or a glimpse of Krypton’s Jewel Mountains, overflowing with lava. While the mini concludes on a cliffhanger that does little save set up the next event prelude – Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton – the final issue is at least largely a satisfying read in its own right. That an event is coming so inexorably is a sad thing. Superman: World of New Krypton could have been so much more than a competent, enjoyable prologue.
– Cal Cleary
Superman: World of New Krypton continues its renewed creative upswing with this issue. After floundering a bit in the middle, #11, the penultimate issue of the series if I recall correctly, suggests a fine return to form as it has a little bit of everything that made the title so very fundamentally enjoyable. Nothing gets wrapped up in these 22 pages, but an awful lot gets set-up for what will hopefully be a stellar finale. Adam Strange and Superman team-up to find out who attempted to assassinate Alura. Though evidence suggests the leader of the Labor Guild, neither Superman nor Strange believe it. The Council is divided on what the attacks mean and how he should proceed, and Zod seems to be on the way to a speedy recovery. And just what is that mysterious, lead-lined military structure that they ‘forgot’ to mention to Kal-El when he took over?
It’s a lot to cram in here, but Rucka and Robinson make it work. Pete Woods continues to turn in excellent work, delivering exciting action sequences and a bizarre panache of sci-fi scenery to give Krypton an alien feel. Rucka and Robinson have escaped the formula that so made the middle of the series drag, and have instead returned to the book’s strongest elements: the collapsing politics of an alien planet. Anyone who claims to be a Superman fan should be reading this book, but it’s reach is beyond that: despite a few slip-ups, Superman: World of New Krypton often delivers a fun, engaging pulp sci-fi adventure that digs into Superman’s character without hinging upon it to drive the book.
– Cal Cleary
Hey everyone. Expect another BEST OF list in the next few days. Until then, we here at Read/RANT will be taking things a little slow for the holiday season. Hope you all enjoy the next week or two, and we’ll be back with the same excellent reviews in 2010!
The same creative team that brought you Blackest Night: Superman is back for another tie-in mini-series, this time focusing on the Justice Society of America. Following directly after the Superman mini, Blackest Night: JSA follows the team after the death of Damage in the main Blackest Night book. While the core group tries to hold off the superzombies that are wreaking havoc on the city, Mr. Terrific and a few others remain hidden inside the JSA compound, examining the bodies of zombie Superman and zombie Lois Lane.
The story here is a little tighter than it was in Blackest Night: Superman and the script is a little more believable, but the action is weaker and the suspense that made the first half of the Superman mini so engaging is all but gone. Barrows is notably stronger here than he was on Blackest Night: Superman as the action is more straightforward and the atmosphere pretty much amounts to “it’s dark out”. Robinson and Barrows work together here to put out an enjoyable mediocre action tie-in. Fans of Blackest Night will probably find much to enjoy. No one else will care.
– Cal Cleary
After last month’s surprisingly disappointing entry, Superman: World of New Krypton is largely back on track. Rucka and Robinson’s entry still feels more formulaic than the often unpredictable early issues did, but it’s still reliably fun and still capable of stepping out of its established trend to tell a decent story. WoNK #10 returns us, lightly, to some of the Kryptonian intrigue that made the early issues such a joy as Adam Strange is quickly cleared of his murder charges and enlisted to help Superman solve New Krypton’s first murder.
Rucka and Robinson do a good beginning to sell New Krypton’s increasing tensions, as merely showing up to question Labor Guild representatives very nearly causes a riot to break out, but the story lacked the weight it should have had, thanks to the need to shoehorn another through the revolving door of cosmic guest stars. New Krypton’s first murder (and, potentially, first assassination) does not come across as as big a deal as it probably should have, but the story was otherwise better than the book’s had in months.
Woods, this time with help from Randall, continue to do fine work on art, improving with almost every issue. With the next event in place – War of the Supermen with, sadly, Barrows on art for the opening issue rather than Woods – it seems that World of New Krypton is pretty definitely leading towards war. Hopefully, the impending crossover won’t distract Rucka and Robinson from continuing to tell a decent story here, as World of New Krypton has, last issue’s failures aside, been a remarkably enjoyable examination of Superman and his second home.
– Cal Cleary
No matter what Robinson and Rucka have been doing to Superman and Action Comics, their collaboration on Superman: World of New Krypton has never been anything less than sharp. With Pete Woods constantly improving on art, the book was becoming one of DC’s most consistently enjoyable books. Unfortunately, Superman: World of New Krypton #9 sees the book’s first real stumble.
Rucka and Robinson seem to have gotten into a comfortable pattern with WoNK – alien threat from last page of previous issue appears, is talked down by Clark, leaves an ally, new alien threat appears on last page. If it’s kept honest and exciting, there’s little problem with this, but the confrontation with Jemm and his Saturnian contingent was utterly unremarkable. The fight was surprisingly confused for Woods’, whose fights have previously been clear and smooth.
World of New Krypton #9 ends with another surprise cosmic visitor in a compromising situation, and I have no doubt that Kal will resolve the issue quickly and without more than perhaps a brawl or two. There are, as always, interesting potential roadblocks, but thus far Rucka and Robinson have largely shied away from putting Superman in any sort of actual moral quandry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with predictability when it’s paired with honest drama, exciting action, or any number of other well-handled story-telling. But this issue feels bland, and combined with the last couple, it feels a lot like the book is just spinning its wheels until the next big crossover kicks in.
– Cal Cleary
Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3)
With the popularity of the absolutely stellar Batman: Arkham Asylum and the recent relaunch of the Bat-franchise, it should come as no surprise that Gotham’s infamous Arkham Asylum would get its own miniseries. After the mass breakout from the Asylum and subsequent explosion, Jeremiah Arkham, ancestor of the Asylum’s original designer, has taken it upon himself to continue the grand, bumbling legacy of the world’s only criminal institution with a revolving door.
Hine does a good job building the book slowly, despite the fact that the entire mini-series is only three issues long. Here we meet Arkham’s new staff, specifically Jeremiah Arkham, who believes in curing Gotham’s madmen with love and respect; Alyce Sinner, sole survivor of a massive suicide cult and expert on the criminally insane; and Aaron Cash, now Arkham’s head of security and one of the tragic figures to come out of Dan Slott’s excellent Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Jeremiah has met with some small success in his bid to rehabilitate, but we know that the laws of comic book storytelling says that that can’t last – Dr. Sinner soon betrays him, revealing the Asylum’s dark, heinous underbelly in a bid to keep things crazy.
There’s nothing unpredictable here, but Hine does a good job setting the mood and introducing everyone, while artist Jeremy Haun turns in excellent work on all fronts, designing a few new characters and an all-new Arkham and still managing to craft a few extremely memorable images. The pair seem well-suited, and while it seems that the entire mini’s purpose is to keep Arkham Asylum the same hellhole it has been these past few years, at least they seem to be having plenty of fun with it.
Detective Comics #858
Years after the character was introduced and months into her first solo title, “Go” marks our first foray into the origins of Kate Kane. Growing up moving from military base to military base, Kate and Beth Kane really only had each other growing up. A few issues back, it was hinted that something bad happened to her growing up, and now we see what that is: after earning a post in France, Mrs. Kane, Kate and Beth were kidnapped by terrorists during a security alert. While Kate couldn’t see what was happening to her mother and sister, the aftermath certainly left an impression.
Rucka’s storytelling is far more solid here than in the previous arc, perhaps due to the shortened arc’s tighter focus. Whatever the reason, the issue provides a quick, tragic glimpse of an origin that didn’t go at all where I thought it would, and was wrapped up in a single issue, leaving next month for the fallout. J.H. Williams III makes an abrupt shift in style for the bulk of the issue, giving the flashback to Kate’s youth a vastly more structured layout and color-palette. The contrast between the two time-periods is gorgeous and memorable, once again suggesting Williams as one of comics’ top talents.
The Question back-up finally wrapped up its opening arc with this issue. The lack of room the story had, confined as it was to these back pages, took away from some of the suspense the story might’ve had if it had had more room to build up an atmosphere or throw us a plot twist or two, but it has nonetheless remained a consistently entertaining action comic, thanks in part to Rucka’s collaborator, Cully Hamner, whose layouts and art make it a joy to watch Renee in motion.
Between the issue’s two parts, Detective Comics features a pair of artists at the top of their games, anchored by strong writing of two fascinating new heroines. It’s well-worth your time.
Astro City: Astra Special #2 (of 2)
Astro City: Astra Special concludes on a high note. Anyone who has graduated college can relate to what Astra is going through as she continues to tell her boyfriend Matthew about the increasingly bizarre possibilities open to a young woman of her immense talents. From mundane jobs with research institutes on Earth to a chance to untie, one world at a time, a series of realities knotted together by a madman’s destructive last act, Astra has, for the first time in her life, no idea what to do next.
While the other part of the book will probably resonate less with others, using a now-grown child heroine to look at and condemn our deranged obsession with celebrity culture largely works. Though there are a few painful, relatively clunky moments, Busiek works hard to keep the emotions honest and keep it all part of Astra’s story.
Astro City: Astra Special combines Jack Kirby’s flare for bizarre cosmic world-building with a more grounded, human story. Anderson’s pencils are much improved when he’s dealing with these larger-than-life concepts, and together the pair brings us a small-in-scope, massive-in-scale story about the pains of growing up. It isn’t the most memorable Astro City story, but it’s honest and entertaining, and continues to flesh out the best setting in comics.
Blackest Night: Superman #3 (of 3)
Blackest Night: Superman, which started out so much vastly stronger than the other “Blackest Night” related books, ends here more with a whimper than with a bang. The book does have some interesting revelations about the weaknesses of the Black Lanterns, as well as an explanation for what New Krypton is up to throughout the event, but it amounts to little more than that, in the end.
Despite its failure to live up to its own eerie opening issue, Blackest Night: Superman #3 nonetheless offered solid action illustrated by Eddie Barrows doing what he’s most comfortable doing, with (perhaps sadly) the best writing Robinson’s been doing, lately. Robinson continues to use the emotional spectrum’s color-coding to vastly more effect than the main mini to give us a neat, inside peak into the characters heads in otherwise wordless scenes, a trick that works especially well with Psycho Pirate in the mix. Ultimately, Blackest Night: Superman isn’t bad. It’s just forgettable.
– Cal Cleary
Detective Comics #857
I think that, when it comes to Read/RANT, I’m the resident James Robinson fan. It isn’t easy these days. Go back a few years, and there were few who would dispute Robinson as a top-notch creator. Admittedly, many hadn’t heard of him, nor had they read the title that earned him such accolades… but that just meant they couldn’t really dispute the claim. Now, however, Robinson has failed to produce a truly successful follow up to Starman, instead giving readers a string of mediocre-to-bad comics, from his uneven Superman to his downright laughable Justice League: Cry for Justice. And yet, with many of Starman‘s fans, good will remains. His newest, and arguably his highest profile book to date, hit yesterday as he takes over writing duties on Justice League of America with issue #38.
Unfortunately, there’s little of value in Justice League of America #38. Robinson opens the issue with the death of Blue Jay, insults Young Justice on the following page, and then introduces Gypsy by having her brought in unconscious and thrown around by Despero. It’s hard to describe that sequence of events without at least imagining that Robinson is slyly satirizing the recent trend to piss off fans of the critically-praised, beloved JLI and Young Justice, but he plays it so straight and with so little heart that it almost seems incidental to everything else.
Led by Vixen, a group of heroes battered by Prometheus in Justice League: Cry for Justice has gathered in the headquarters of the original Justice League to discuss the future of the group. Vixen, Dr. Light, Plastic Man and Red Tornado can think of few reasons why the team should exist, let alone any world in which they could be the glue that holds it together, but a surprise attack by Despero unites the four injured heroes with Gypsy and Zatanna. Together, they manage to fend off the attacker, and that’s when we get the real news: this is a “Blackest Night” tie-in. Taking place at the exact same time as the events of Blackest Night #3, the newly-formed Justice League decides to crash the Hall of Justice and confront the now-undead villains, seemingly led by the malevolent Dr. Light.
Mark Bagley, recent superstar of DC’s Trinity, does a fine job on the art. His style is extremely traditional – impossibly thin, curvy women and enormous, muscle-bound men – but that hardly hurts the issue. The action segments flow smoothly and he keeps the dialogue-driven scenes running well, too, most notably because of Plastic Man, who looks increasingly as though he’s about to fall apart as the issue progresses.
This is a book that I very much wanted to like. A Justice League comprised of Vixen, Zatanna, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Gypsy and Kimiyo Hoshi is… well, that’s a pretty damn interesting team, and there are a lot of stories to be told. Unfortunately, Robinson takes the easy way out – a whole lot of exposition broken up by a brief brawl with a bland baddie. The issue does not suggest that we will see the clever, character-driven action and well-constructed drama for which Robinson justly became a star. Justice League of America looks to remain, at least for now, a book desperately struggling to find a voice, tone or interesting creative direction.
– Cal Cleary
For all my current qualms with the storytelling of Rucka and Robinson on the Earth-based books, especially post-“Codename: Patriot”, Superman: World of New Krypton, their collaborative project with artist Pete Woods, continues to be one of the consistently strongest books the Superman-family of books has produced. Separated from his tiresome gallery of villains and massive support network, World of New Krypton continues to use the struggles of the new nation trying to form its identity to look at previously underused facets of his personality.
Rucka and Robinson occasionally pile it on a little thick, as illustrated in this issue in particular. A relatively common criticism I heard of Aaron Sorkin’s famous show, The West Wing, was its often simplified view of politics that frequently boiled down to a single idea: “We could solve any problem if only everyone just sat down and listened.” That could definitely be thrown against the current issue of World of New Krypton, which rushes through the Thanagarian conflict in a matter of pages before moving onto the much larger threat of the moon hurtling towards New Krypton.
Woods continues to display a strong sense of design, adding the Thanagarian battle fleet and Kryptonian tech designed to move a moon to his resume. While his art isn’t as eye-catching as some of today’s superstars, he continues to display a workmanlike mastery of DC’s cosmic side and an ability to handle action and drama with an equal amount of skill and comfort.
Despite the rush-job – and the morally and narratively easy way out – with the Thanagarian conflict, the issue is still essentially enjoyable. They continue to play to Wood’s strengths with a large variety of sci-fi inspired costumes and settings in which to work, and the book displays none of the jerky, cliche storytelling currently plaguing the two core titles. It isn’t the book’s strongest issue to date, but continues to cement Superman: World of New Krypton as both a must-read book for Superman fans and general superhero sci-fi fans alike.
– Cal Cleary
When last we left Superman, Mon-El had been beaten up, a bomb had gone off, Lane’s plan was revealed to us, and Superman himself, back on Earth for a brief time, had tried to stop a Kryptonian agent from a devastating strike. And while this issue is in many ways a direct follow up to that, it feels painfully schizophrenic in doing so. The world now believes Mon-El to be dead, a water shortage has caused its value to skyrocket, everyone thinks Superman is a traitor, Lane is a national hero, John Henry Irons is in a coma and Zatara has been kidnapped, taken to an alternate dimension, and is being pumped for infor… wait, what?
Before “Codename: Patriot”, Robinson’s Superman was a stellar blend of action and drama that managed to turn Mon-El and the Guardian into compelling characters. Now, we skip entire story-lines – such as the Zatara one – and get our exposition through psychopathic rants from Morgan Edge, who spend the entire issue enraged and half-shaven and just generally looking homeless. Anti-Kryptonian sentiment runs rampant as Edge and Lane stir up an insultingly jingoistic humans-first agenda, but the plot is missing exactly what Robinson normally does best: the human touch. Frankly, every single one of us knows how the bulk of this story will play out. What we don’t know is, how are the people in Metropolis reacting? Why?
Unfortunately, when a book’s scope magnifies and the crossovers begin, one of the first things we lose is almost always that human element. New artist Fernando Dagnino is given little to do with this issue, so it’s hard to judge how well he’ll fit on the title. His brief action scenes seem competent, but then, his Morgan Edge looks like a complete lunatic. Though it is impossible for me to make any long-term statements about him on this title and nothing in the issue sets him apart as a particular talent, he does a fine job with illustrating most of what Robinson throws his way.
Pre-“Codename: Patriot”, Superman was only a crossover in name. It was given space to explore its own world and tell its own stories, and it had a great deal of potential there. With “Patriot” come and gone, however, the book is rushing headlong into the master-plot. If that master-plot was fascinating, perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem, but Superman is offering nothing you haven’t seen before. It isn’t terrible, it’s just painfully average.
– Cal Cleary
Blackest Night: Superman #1 was handily the best thing to come out of Blackest Night thus far. An excellent blend of superheroics and horror, it managed to do more with a few off-panel deaths and the color yellow than any ten gore-splattered comic corpses could. Though Robinson carries over some of the semi-horror traditions – the idyllic small town, especially – to Blackest Night: Superman #2, this issue is much more of a straight-up superheroic battle.
Clark and Conner continue to battle zombie Superman in the skies above Smallville while zombie Lois Lane holds Martha (and the corpse of Jonathan) Kent hostage on the streets below. The tension this issue, however, comes from the sudden arrival of a new player: Psycho Pirate. As he incites all sorts of colorful emotions on the unsuspecting populace of Smallville, the idyllic town descends into utter chaos… and becomes the perfect food for the Black Lanterns.
Barrows is on more solid ground than he was last issue – he’s far more capable at showing bad-ass superpeople fighting than he is at creating a pervasive atmosphere, and this issue is far more about the fight than it is about the horror. Along with Ruy Jose, he also manages to wring a lot out of the Black Lantern emotional spectrum schtick, giving us snapshot reactions of the characters without looking ridiculous.
Psycho Pirate is a natural villain for Blackest Night. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason he should be here rather than in the main mini, where his ability to manipulate emotion could bring the book down to the personal level it very much needs to reach. Though he has some fine scenes as he terrorizes Smallville and forces people to become the perfect food for his companions, he serves no real purpose in the narrative. Normally, I wouldn’t mind a loosely connected side-plot, even in a three-issue mini… but Blackest Night: Superman already has a loosely connected side-plot in the form of Supergirl’s plight on Krypton. With one issue to go, can Robinson bring those stories to a meaningful resolution?
We’ll find out in a month. Regardless of the side-plot issue, however, Blackest Night: Superman #2 remains a decent read. It lacks the grace of the mini’s opener, but it’s replaced it with some solid action scenes, a tongue-in-cheek tone that doesn’t break the drama, and the set-up to what promises to be the fight of the century. After all, what mother hasn’t wanted to beat up her daughter-in-law at some point?
– Cal Cleary
Picking up almost exactly where Robinson’s recent Superman #691 left off, Superman: World of New Krypton deals with the first bits of fall-out from the inferior “Codename: Patriot” story that ran through all the Superman family titles recently. As Kal flies the murdered Ral-Dar back to New Krypton, the planet moves towards war. The military is itching to strike back after the attempted assassination of General Zod, the council is divided, and there is worry as to just how far the infiltration goes, and how it even happened in the first place.
This is all very familiar stuff. Anyone who has ever read, for example, a single X-Men comic published in almost any era will be familiar with the “powerful minority who is hated and misunderstood and wants to fight back” story. But where Superman #691 (and many X-Men comics) fell prey to the absolute worst tropes of that genre, Superman: World of New Krypton smartly avoids cliche by focusing on how things changes Kal’s responsibilities to his home planet. In a brilliant move, to spoil a plot point of the book, Kal is placed in temporary command of the armies of New Krypton by a barely-conscious Zod.
Woods continues to do stellar work in making the Kryptonian technology and fashion look both appealingly retro and utterly alien, and the increased drama that comes from Clark’s sudden promotion brings out a gift for recognizable and diverse facial expressions that I haven’t noticed much in his previous work. Though I was at times unimpressed with him in earlier issues, it is becoming more and more clear that he really does have a handle on the alien feel of New Krypton and the massive design issues the book demands.
The issue does a good job largely ignoring the impending Earth/Krypton war for the issue’s action in favor of a skirmish with some Thanagarians and a tragic accident that happens because of it. Meanwhile, Robinson and Rucka are giving World of New Krypton‘s villains subtlety and grace utterly lacking in the “Codename: Patriot” story, as well as putting Kal through one of the biggest challenges of his career. It will be interesting to see how Superman reacts in the heat of battle as the leader of his fighting force, especially with the knowledge that each Kryptonian death brings his species that much closer to extinction. World of New Krypton remains the strongest Superman title available.
– Cal Cleary
Thus far, James Robinson’s work on Superman has been pretty stellar non-stop since Superman left the title to charmingly awkward Daxamite Mon-El. With the recent “Codename: Patriot” arc spread across all Superman titles (and a one-shot), however, the recently-excellent Superman family books have devolved into a predictable mess, and worse yet, a predictable mess that requires you to be reading all the Superman family titles to enjoy.
The book starts in the middle of a conflict about… something… between Kara and Mon-El and Nightwing and Flamebird, and things don’t get much clearer from there. A lot happens in the issue, but it’s all so intricately tied into the “Codename: Patriot” story that regular readers of Robinson’s run shouldn’t even bother picking the book up unless they’ve invested in the entire arc. This is not to say that you can’t follow what’s happening; after a few pages to orient yourself, you should have no trouble with that. The problem comes with the realization that you just won’t care to – these problems, taken out of context, seem trite and dull. Even Guedes, normally excellent, offers a clunky opening fight scene, though he comes back up to his usual high standards shortly thereafter.
Supposedly, Gail Simone’s much-rumored Big Event for next year has been either pushed back or shelved indefinitely in favor of a Johns-penned Earth/Krypton war. If “Codename: Patriot” is any hint at all as to what we could expect from such an event, all it will do is drag a number of otherwise excellent titles through the mud in pursuit of the sort of racial-themed action books that X-Men has been doing pretty much nonstop for the last 40 years. We get it: humans hate everyone and everything indiscriminately. Can we move on yet?
– Cal Cleary
It’s interesting to note that, in the span of a single issue, Blackest Night: Superman manages to feel more menacing overall than the entire build-up and first two issues of Blackest Night combined. It has been noted that Blackest Night is Johns dabbling in horror, trying to find a way of meshing a genre that’s all about the loss of control with superheroics, a genre that’s all about power. It’s a fine line to walk, and the main mini has suffered at times from its inability to do so. Blackest Night: Superman seems to suffer no such problems, and while you could by no means call the book ‘scary’, it does manage to meld the two genres fairly seamlessly.
The cover above is the best illustration of that, with the angles and lighting you’d expect to see on the poster of a horror film. The issue itself is almost parodic in the way it follows the beats of an 80’s horror film. We open on the origin of the monster, in this case Earth-2 Superman as he is called to rise from his grave, and move to the sunny, brightly lit Smallville, where everybody knows your name and even ex-presidents can be good, salt-of-the-earth people. Then, slowly, as black clouds gather, they begin to die from some off-screen threat. And we watch as the Black Lantern power level percentage (conspicuously absent in both Green Lantern Corps #39 and Blackest Night: Batman #1) rise, and know without being told exactly what’s happening to this idyllic town.
Of course, the story is not without its superhero beats as well. Clark and Conner are having dinner with Ma Kent, Clark having returned in secret to Earth for the Memorial discussed in Blackest Night #2, and they’re eager to jump at the fight with Kal-L as the three have a massive aerial battle that takes them far above Smallville and nearly into space. Meanwhile, the first Black Lantern ring reaches New Krypton shortly after Kara’s return… and that can’t be good for anybody.
Barrows is easily the book’s weakest link. The tone of the story calls for a writer capable of furthering the chilling atmosphere without sacrificing any of the excitement of the action. Barrows’ action is well-handled, though little stands out about it, but he fails to match the general tone of Robinson’s story, despite a few excellent panels that suggest hidden depths to his talent.
The issue thrives in using the Blackest Night devices – the power level clock and the color-coded emotional read-outs of everyone – far better than Blackest Night itself. Thus far, the issue appears far less vital to the masterplot than Blackest Night: Batman #1 was save maybe as an explanation as to what Superman is up to, but it is nonetheless the strongest single issue to be involved with the Event thus far. More chilling for what you don’t see than what you do, and more exciting by focusing what you do see only on the most vital events, Blackest Night: Superman #1 is definitely a able thematic heir to the main mini, improving upon its flaws without contradiction it at all.
– Cal Cleary
Hey everyone. Sorry about the continued backlog of reviews – I’ll try and get them out this weekend! Just finished the last of my coursework for my Master’s degree two days ago, so I’m finally free and clear. Now, if I can just find a pesky ‘job’ before my money runs out!
As someone who isn’t traditionally a fan of the character Superman or any of his books, the quality of his titles right now has come as something of a surprise. No title illustrates this quite as well as Superman: World of New Krypton, a sprawling sci-fi book about Superman’s adventures off Earth, among his own kind. Working together, Greg Rucka and James Robinson have turned what could have been a labored year with Superman off his main titles (and Earth) into one of the most creatively intriguing periods of the character in recent memories.
With the attempted assassination of General Zod, New Krypton is panicked, and the House of El steps up to try and maintain order. Rucka and Robinson continue to portray all the characters, from the sociopathic Ursa to the cold Alura, with far more humanity than they’ve ever been shown elsewhere, and it makes the drama all the greater. Things continue to degenerate on New Krypton, and the big crossover between the Superman family titles – “Codename: Patriot” – clearly starts here. It’s an exciting opening to the story, though I have to say, I hope you don’t have to read all four relevant books in order to follow the story.
Woods, normally quite good, demonstrates a little bit of weakness early in the issue as the assassin attempts to fight his way through the crowd of Kryptonians, but picks up quickly – by the time you see him dragged down, screaming, by forty or more angry supermen, you’ll begin to realize the damage a riotous population can do. He also continues to do excellent design work on the world itself, amping up the alien feel of the technology while still making it a recognizable offshoot of the familiar Fortress of Solitude designs.
Ultimately, World of New Krypton remains an interesting, fun book that does an exemplary job of illustrating just what it is that makes Superman so great while laying seeds for a ton of potentially fascinating future stories. With hope, “Codename: Patriot” can live up to this excellent opening issue.
– Cal Cleary