War stories and DC Comics haven’t mixed so well in the New 52. Back in 2011, the publisher launched Men of War and G.I. Combat as part of the new line-up but the books were cancelled in short order. The reasons are many of course, and not necessarily just that the titles plain didn’t sell well on the shelves. But then that’s the thing, and has become part of the larger problem of the entire New 52 launch. Still, war stories and comics, they mix together fairly well I think and numerous attempts have been made over the years to bring to them a mass-appeal.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, two of the best writers in the business, launched Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie last month with a new #1, and I’d say that they are off to a great start. The title mixes in a zombie soldier with a D.O.D agent, sent on a mission to track down a bunch of gunrunners. The first issue starts off right in the middle of the story, with the big twist halfway through being excellent (never read something with G.I. Zombie before), and the story continues on in the second issue to be a whole lot of fun. Writing is far better than I’d thought it would be, and the (painted-ish) art by Scott Hampton is also impressive.
As I mentioned in my review of Superman #32 back in June, DC’s premier superhero has had a tough time in the New 52, owing much to random editorial interference and the lack of a consistent creative team among other things. The low quality of the stories being told was secondary to all that, in a way, though there was indeed some kind of a feedback loop in the works. And then came Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.’s Superman #32 in June, the first in their run on the title, and suddenly things looked promising. The two started from scratch, with a fresh direction for the title, and the result was spectacular.
Superman #33 and #34 continue the story of Ulysses and Superman. The former has a history much like that of the Man of Tomorrow, except that he is the son of Earth physicists who lost him during an experiment gone wrong years before. Now he is back, or rather, he has returned to his homeworld and has allied himself with Superman. As a fresh character, Ulysses bears much promise and it is really fun to see Superman interacting with someone like him, someone he can really bond with over a (somewhat) shared history. And in the midst of it all, John Romita Jr. works in some incredible artwork.
Back in Superman #31 we saw how Ulysses became separated from his parent and through Superman as a focal character, we saw how he returned to Earth’s dimension after many, many years. Of course, the two of them cooperated together and became friends even. Now, Superman #33 and #34 are all about how Geoff Johns develops that relationship and how he draws in the pieces of a much larger story than the tale of two superhumans bonding together.
The incident at the Ulysses Research Lab that got so much page-time in Superman #32 is expanded on much more in Superman #33 as Clark goes to Perry White at the Daily Bugle to hunt down some leads and his former boss tells him everything that is to know about the Lab and its supervisor, Dr. Margaret Night. From there the story continues on as more and more robotic constructs invade Metropolis, one after the other, and working as a team, Ulysses and Superman come up with both a way to stop them and track down the source, though it all ends in disaster at the end of Superman #34 and the two heroes are forced to make and live with a tough choice.
Characterisation, that’s what’s so important here. It has always been one of Geoff’s strengths, whether you look at his run on Green Lantern or Aquaman. That’s what he brings so well to Superman as well. Ulysses and Superman are quite similar to each other, but they also have nuances. Sure, the story is a bit derivative in that Ulysses is sort of a surrogate for Supergirl or Superboy or other such similar character, but there are important differences, and they are what matter in the end. The story that Geoff is telling is secondary here because his focus is primarily on the characters, what he lavishes most of his attention on.
And I love that. For once in the New 52, characters are important for Superman rather than the story. There are no funny gimmicks about long-lost Krypton or goofy villains or magic or anything. Geoff’s tale about Ulysses and Superman is something rooted in science and a modern understanding of what it means to be a superhero, to be a defender of people.
That is what Superman has always been about to me, and that is what I can see in Ulysses as well. Pretty damn good work, I say!
The art teams for these two issues are largely similar, with John Romita Jr. as the penciller, Klaus Janson as the inker and Laura Martin as the colourist. The only difference comes in that Sal Cipriano does the letters in the first issue and Travis Lanham in the second. As before in my review of Superman #32, the artwork is flat-out excellent in both issues. JRJ has a unique take on the characters and the setting, and with Ulysses he and his fellow artists have room for a lot more freedom of design, which they make good use of. The two protagonists contrast and complement each other well in terms of design, and the action sequences really make it all crystal clear. Whether it is the pencilwork or the inks or the colours or the letters, there really isn’t any criticism I can offer here.
After a good start in Superman #32, Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. look set to continue on with a near-perfect streak, and I can’t wait for the next issue as the mysteries about both Superman and Ulysses deepen and we find out the designs of the villain working in the background at the end of Superman #34.
More Superman: #32.
Thankfully, I’m finally settling back into the groove with comics reading and, most importantly, comics reviewing, as I managed to review a fair bit of titles this week and even caught up with reviewing some previous titles that I’ve unfortunately had to neglect for one reason or another.
The surprise hits of this week were Cartoon Network: Super Secret Crisis War: Billy and Mandy #1 from IDW Publishing, Wolverine Annual #1 from Marvel Comics and Vampirella #3 from Marvel Comics. The surprise flop of the week would be Batman: Eternal #20 from DC where the title seems headed downwards just when it was getting once again, and The Wicked + The Divine #3 from Image where the title took a nosedive this week after a second issue that was really good. No graphic novels again sadly, though I hope to correct that that this week. I hope..
Due to going on a vacation towards the end of July, I fell behind on Future’s End, and that kind of sucked in part because this is a highly rated series for me. It is a complex story being weaved together by no less than four writers and covering dozens of characters, so it is kind of easy to get lost but the weekly schedule helps quite a bit with that. At this point in the series, I’m looking for a sense of interconnectedness and the feeling that things are moving forwards towards some kind of a resolution. That resolution might not arrive for another month, or even two months, but that’s what I want, and fortunately, Future’s End #13-16 provide exactly that.
These four issues deal with the many secrets being kept from the many characters in this series. Such as what is really happening in the subbasement levels of Cadmus Island, or who sent Lois Lane a bunch of artifacts that have led her to uncovering some big secrets and even come face-to-face with a stark reality of her alternate life on Earth 2, or what is going on with the masked Superman and why he acts like a jock these days, or the reality of who killed Stormwatch back in the opening issues. The writers turn out some fairly good material here, and with artists like Patrick Zircher, Art Thibert, Scot Eaton and Jesus Merino, the artwork is in good hands here.
There’s no beating around the bush on the fact that in the last year or thereabouts Jeff Parker has emerged as a really talented writer for me, especially with his work on Aquaman. After Geoff Johns left the title he took over and started his run with a bang that can be heard every time a new issue comes out. He has done much to connect Aquaman with other superheroes in the DC universe and has also expanded on the nature of Atlantis and its many secrets, which have been peeling back one by one of late. In one of his recent mini-arcs, he focused on the Giant-Born of Greek mythology and promised a pairing of Aquaman with Wonder Woman no less!
In the recent Aquaman Annual #2, we get to see Diana and Arthur take on a group of Giant-Born in Carcasonne, France and then later a team-up of Diana and Mera as they take on a second group. The first pairing is the main focus of the story here, and while it is quite an aside and thus a perfect fit for an annual-style issue, I still loved it because this is a team-up that is executed really well. Some of the pending story threads from the main arc are addressed here as well, which was a plus. The Diana-Mera team-up was rather cool too and allowed Jeff to focus on the particular nature of both heroes. And as for the art, it was fairly good, with only a few minor flaws.
Wonder Woman, as one of DC’s top three characters in terms of everything that really matters, got a second wind last week when DC launched Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman. Comics history buffs will recognize that the Amazon Princess made her debut so many damn years ago in the pages of Sensation Comics and now she’s back as DC puts out both an in-print ongoing and a digital-first comic featuring their most popular and recognizable female hero. The first issue by Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver was really good and I really couldn’t have asked for a better team-up for “Gothamazon“.
Sensation Comics #2 brings to a close the two-part “Gothamazon” arc, which also marks Gail and Ethan’s exit from the title for the present. The format for this series in print is going to be anthology-style, and I’m going to be a bit sad that these two fantastic creators are leaving, but all the same, at least their exit is great! The new issue is much more action-packed and it really gives you a look into Diana’s though processes and the comparisons with Batman are handled well. Plus the art is really good once again, though there were a few negatives scattered here and there, quite atypically Ethan Van Sciver.
Grant Morrison is one of the biggest names in comics at the moment and he has been around for quite a while. He’s worked on lots of different properties over the years, most prominently Batman and he is also the creator of Batman’s son Damian Wayne, IIRC. His run on the relaunched Batman: ended last year, soon after he killed off Damian in a rather spectacular fight, and he is reported to be working on a Wonder Woman graphic novel as well, though details on that are still sketchy. However, his long-rumoured and long in-development project above all others is The Multiversity and today, I found out exactly what it is.
The Multiversity #1 is basically Crisis of Infinite Earths told from the point of view of completely new characters as far as I can tell, and the antagonists are different as well. Morrison brings together heroes from a bunch of different worlds, many of them being rather remarkable, such as a black Superman, Aquawoman, Dino Cop and others. The writing throughout the opening issue was really confusing and haphazard, though the art was often good, largely because I always love Ivan Reis and Joe Prado’s work. The issue started off really confusingly, and the confusion continued throughout, so I’m not sure where I stand with this. Read the rest of this entry
Three years, that’s how long Gail Simone has been on DC’s New 52: Batgirl, making her the only female creator at the publisher to have stuck with a title for that long. Sure, there was the period back in December 2012 when things were uncertain and she was off the title, but she has helmed the series since its reboot regardless. And now it is coming to a close, and I find that I am not nearly ready for her to leave. Gail’s run on the title with the various artists that have come and gone has been fairly spectacular and as she leaves, she gives readers the best she had to offer with Batgirl #34.
Batgirl #34 is pretty much the end of the current creative team’s run on the title. I haven’t looked at the solicits for next month’s Future’s End special issue so I have no idea who is writing/drawing that issue, so I’m just gonna roll with that here. In the last few issues we’ve seen that Batgirl’s new nemesis Knightfall has finally begun to execute her long-held plans for Gotham into motion and that she is setting the stage for an epic war against crime and corruption in the city. Under Gail’s pen and Fernando’s pencil however, Knightfall is up against the greatest challenge of her life against Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl.
Wonder Woman is one of DC’s premier characters in the company’s long history. She has emerged over the decades as one of the most powerful and important characters in the entire DC mythos, and indeed, she forms a part of a DC Trinity alongside Batman and Superman, the three of the most central characters in DC’s main-verse. It kind of stands to reason that if Batman and Superman can sustain multiple simultaneous titles, then so can Wonder Woman. After all, she is also the most prominent of DC’s female superheroes in kids merchandise. And it seems that DC has finally listened to fans.
This week saw the release of a new digital title, Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1. In this title, writer Gail Simone explores the premise of what happens when Gotham’s villains take out Batman and Oracle calls in Wonder Woman to take care of matters in her friend’s sudden absence. Paired with artist Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone’s rendition of Wonder Woman feels very classic and unrestrained, with a lot of the character’s actionable charisma brought to the fore. This first issue is hopefully the start of something really great, something that can eventually translate into an ongoing print title!
As per my plans, I didn’t do one of these posts in the past 2 weeks since I was on a holiday. And a great holiday it was indeed. I didn’t get to do more than a very small handful of reviews, more like just two or three in all, but I managed to read a fair bit and kept myself on target for my comics reading.
The surprise hits of this week were Storm #1 from Marvel and Star Spangled War Stories #1 from DC Comics. The surprise flop of the week would be Batman #33 from DC Comics. Not exactly a bad comic but just a disappointing one. All the other comics were pretty much good, excepting Flash #33, where I still can’t really connect with what the new creative team is doing there. I wanted to read a trade paperback comic as well during this week, but the first few days of the vacation were very busy and all these comics were pretty much read in the last 2-3 days of the week so that didn’t happen.