Review: Superman #691

Superman

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?

Grade: D+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #6

Superman #689

Review: Superman #689

Superman

I don’t envy James Robinson or Greg Rucka – placed on two of DC’s premier titles, Superman and Action Comics, the titles were stripped of Superman and left with C-listers like The Guardian, Mon-El, Nightwing and Flamebird.  That couldn’t be an easy sell to audiences, and not every change has worked across the board… but Superman #689 continues to maintain the relatively high standard of Robinson’s recent issues.

The bulk of the issue follows Mon-El as he travels around the world.  In it, he meets a wide range of heroes and villains, and we get a page on each of his world-spanning adventure as he teams up with the Rocket Reds to defend Moscow on one page before helping Dr. Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) fight Robo-Octo-Ape in Tokyo.  We meet a dozen or more characters briefly and Robinson leaves plenty of fascinating fodder for future issues while building a character and a history for the slowly-dying Mon-El.

It isn’t hard to imagine a 6 issue or more arc detailing these adventures, especially in today’s writing climate.  But there’s something charming about hearing simple snippets of Mon-El’s adventures.  That’s not to mention how successfully it keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace without reflecting too heavily on Mon-El’s slow death.  We finally find out more about the mysterious man with whom John Henry Irons is speaking, Jim Harper speaks out publicly in Mon-El’s favor, we learn a little more about the alien freed in the last issue, and even more.

All this is accompanied by stellar art from Renato Guedes, whose style is clear and recognizable and oh-so-lovely.  He isn’t a flashy artist, but this issue does a great job of highlighting his talents as he gets to illustrate a ton of new characters in a number of interesting locales.  Guedes is just a great overall fit for this book.

Robinson isn’t trying to rewrite all the rules with Superman.  What he is doing, however, is introducing a bevy of interesting supporting characters in loosely connected situations that seem to be hovering on the edge of explosion.  And I can’t wait for more.  Superman can take his time coming back to Earth.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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SeventhSoldier’s Top 5 for May

Everyone else is doing it, and I am nothing if not a lemming, and so I present my own Top 5 for the Month of May.  The month wasn’t my biggest, spending-wise, but that looks to be picking up fairly soon.

#5

Secret Six 9

Secret Six continues to be one of the most consistently enjoyable titles on the shelves, though #9 felt like a bit of a middle child in the grand scheme of things.  Still, the ruminations on the cowl were fun, as was the general taunting tone it seemed to take towards the holding pattern ‘event’, and Ragdoll, in Simone’s hands, can sell me on just about anything.

#4

mar094130f

After a somewhat lackluster first issue, Irredeemable‘s second issue delivered the thrills, deepened the twisted Superman-esque mythos of the book, and came packed with some pretty great art.  Though the book hasn’t yet lived up to Waid’s strongest work, it demonstrates a lot of promise that I hope to see come out more thoroughly in future issues.

#3

Superman

Robinson’s Superman continues to improve, for the first time beating out World of New Krypton in most every way.  Helped in no small part by artist Renato Guedes, the book feels vastly more human than most superhero titles out there, especially the issue’s closing page of Mon-El’s reflections in Paris.

#2

The Unwritte

The Unwritten‘s premiere was enormous, affordable, creative and well-executed.  Carey and Gross begin a new Vertigo series with a great deal more promise and finesse than most new #1’s can boast, crafting an engaging tale that manages to combine aspects of Harry Potter, Books of Magic, and Sandman in ambitious fantasy. 

#1

seaguy

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those that enjoy its quirky brand of black humor and heroics, this issue provided everything you could’ve asked for and more.  This is Morrison and Stewart doing some of their finest work, offering a layered fantasy world that plays with our expectations and revels, at least a little, in our discomfort.

– Cal Cleary

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Review: Superman #688

Superman

After the opener’s, Robinson’s Superman-free Superman has come out ahead of Rucka’s Action Comics, matching, in many ways, even the collaborative Superman: World of New Krypton in terms of quality and excitement delivered on a consistent basis, and exceeding it in some ways with art from the stunningly talented Renato Guedes.

It feels strange to say that.  In any given issue of World of New Krypton, it seems as though a million and a half things happen.  We learn about a new society and we see a hero we’ve known forever interact with those things in fun and interesting ways.  In Superman, however, Robinson has given us two relative newcomers with the retooled Guardian and Mon-El, remained firmly rooted on Earth, and has moved the plot along in in tiny, neat chunks.

Working off threads set up in the past year, however, this issue sees the plot move along quite tidily – Guardian rescues a mysterious alien being and comes into contact with a military meta, while Mon-El’s powers begin to fail him for unknown reasons.  Thankfully, guest star Kimiyo Hoshi – Dr. Light – is here to explain: Mon-El’s powers are fighting the cure that’s protecting him from lead poisoning, leaving him alternatively powerless and slowly dying.

Besides being yet another plot thread for Robinson to toss in the air, this also provides us with a wonderfully emotional, subtle ending to the issue as Mon-El becomes a little bit less of an emotional cipher to us and begins to open up.  All of this is wonderfully captured by Renato Guedes, who has long been one of DC’s strongest underutilized talents.  Between Superman and World of New Krypton, it seems that DC is intent on making this a powerful time for the Superman mythos.

Grade: B+

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Review: Superman #687

superman

Another Superman title without the titular Superman, eh?  The road has not been smooth in the Superman titles without the infamous alien in them – quality has varied greatly from issue to issue, despite powerhouse creative teams, and it seems as though the most consistent work has been going into Superman: World of New Krypton, the only title with Superman himself in them.  That said, the most recent issue of Superman kept to a relatively high standard throughout as Robinson goes to great lengths to set up future stories without sacrificing the excitement of this one.

Opening with a page spectacularly illustrated by Renato Guedes, Robinson brings the action.  Life without Superman is tough – Mon-El is good, but the Science Police have had to step up, and they’re in some pretty dangerous situations, as we see from the wounds suffered in a brief skirmish with C-list villain Shrapnel.  Black Lightning, Steel, and Zachary Zatara all make appearances as Metropolis-based characters with a stake in making the sure town stays safe.  Much like with Robinson’s famed masterpiece Starman, Robinson is throwing a lot of balls up in the air, and we’ll see how many of them he can hold onto as the series progresses – but while Starman made every event seem like it existed to further the plot of Robinson’s book, which largely existed in its own, private corner of the DC Universe, this book is far more at the whim of editorial mandate and crossover potential.

While I can make no predictions on the future quality of Robinson’s run on this book, I can say that this particular issue was quite enjoyable.  Guedes’ art was as superb as always, well inked and colored by Jose Wilson Magalhaes and David Curiel, and it offered both a little bit of action and a great deal of promise.  While it was far from perfect, the issue remained enjoyable throughout.

Grade: B+

For more comics goodness…

Bruce Castle Presents: New Avengers or New Krypton? Or New Coke?!

New Avengers #46 (***1/2)

I love villain books. Secret Invasion from the bad guy POV? Bring it on! This issue was a lot of fun. Particularly if you like The Hood and the cronies he hangs around. Bendis doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but I still had a good time. Even though I’ve heard a lot of praise for Tan’s art, I feel that his work is just above average, but he makes the baddies look cool here. The most interesting thing in the book is of course non-Skrull related. It kind of sets things up for the future of the NA, or at least gives them a new foe to face.

Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (****)

The first five pages are completely wordless. Why? Because we’re dealing with the Action Comics #870 events. These pages are drawn by Frank and of course he knocks the artistic ball out of the park. Actually, the book’s look in general was very impressive. That’s near impossible when you have several artists working on one comic, but somehow they pulled it off. This seems like an interesting event, but I kind of already know where it’s headed. The foreshadowing is too heavy. Another thing that bugged me is that Robinson’s writing was weak. Yes I realize this is written by Johns and Gates too and how can I tell who wrote what, but I can use common sense. It’s like in 52, do we know who wrote what? No, but we have a really good idea. I think I’ll be skipping the Robinson issues unless of course I hear they’re great. Anyway, this seems like it’ll be a pretty good story and I think you should at least give it a try. Oh, and I skipped that five buck Olsen crap and I don’t think I missed anything important.