Superman Trade Post: Action Comics Volume 1 (New 52) & Man Of Steel Volume 7

action comics new 52 volume 1 Action Comics Volume 1: Superman And The Men Of Steel (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Rags Morales, Andy Kubert, Gene Ha, Brent Anderson & Brad Walker
Collects Action Comics (New 52) #1-8

After enjoying Man of Steel so much, I figured it made sense to read a few Superman comics. As it turned out, I had an interesting sampling in my to-read box including the first volume of Grant Morrison’s New 52 Action Comics as well as the latest collection of post-Crisis Superman comics, Man of Steel Vol. 7.

I actually tried reading the first volume of the New 52 version of Superman and could not get through the book. I actually counted the number of panels that Superman appeared in in the first issue compared to ones he didn’t and the ratio was ridiculous. It’s supposed to introduce the character to the world in a whole new universe and you barely use him? Seemed silly to me. From there things went downhill and I didn’t bother finishing. Still, I had high hopes for Grant Morrison’s Action Comics because I consider him to be a really smart writer who loves this character and, even though he’s written Supes in JLA, All-Star Superman and Final Crisis, he still seems to have a lot to say about one of the world’s most famous fictional characters.

The volume finds a T-shirt and cape wearing Superman who hasn’t been around too long doing his best to mess with the kinds of people who tend to get away with all kinds of crimes thanks to their piles of cash and influence. Meanwhile, Clark Kent works for The Daily Star doing similar work but with his words instead of his fists. Since he’s still pretty new on the scene, the government doesn’t trust Superman and has General Lane working with Lex Luthor to try and figure out a way to stop him. While all this is going on new versions of Brainiac and Metallo get involved. Superman learns about himself, his home planet and even gets the suit he wears in the modern day New 52 U. There’s also a pretty fun story featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and current Superman traveling to the Action Comics time period to fight the Anti-Superman Army.

Like I said, I like Morrison’s work and have come to expect a kind of slow-burn when it comes to his stories. There’s another 10 issues of this run, so I’m definitely curious to see how he wrapped the story up. But, there were a few things about this volume that got under my skin. First of all, Rags Morales’ art is not so great in the earlier issues. His pencils look too loose and many of his figures look generally un-dynamic, but the weakest part is his eyes. They look googley half the time with one pupil pointing one direction and the other elsewhere. It’s incredibly distracting and really draws you out of the story. Oh, plus, there’s no possible way that Clark Kent and Superman could be the same person the way they’re drawn in this book which is unfortunate.

The other aspect of the book — actually the first story, specifically — is the fact that it feels like many of the plot points feel more akin to another character: the Hulk. You not only have the dynamic of Lois’ dad trying to get rid of our hero (no, they’re not together, but it’s Lois and Superman, we know the potential is there), but also her rebuked lover becoming a villain in his own right. I know these are fairly general plot points, but they came off as a little tired to me. Luckily the story doesn’t dwell on those elements too much, so that’s more of a minor complaint.

As a longtime Superman fan, it was interesting to see how Morrison reshaped concepts and characters like Steel, Brainiac and Metallo. I hate Jimmy Olsen’s haircut, but the portrayal of him and Lois seemed right on. I like seeing a younger, more brash Superman and the same qualities in Clark. Overall, this seemed like a solid Superman comic. I almost wrote that it’s probably not the best comic to give someone who wants to learn about Superman, but then again, this book shares a lot of themes with Zack Snyder’s movie, so maybe it would be a good idea. Someone test the theory!

superman man of steel vol 7 Superman The Man Of Steel Volume 7 (DC)
Written by John Byrne and Jerry Ordway, drawn by Byrne & Ordway
Collects Action Comics #596-597, Adventures Of Superman #436-438 and Superman #13-15

DC’s Jack Kirby and Man Of Steel books are probably my favorite collection projects around. The former introduced me to The King’s wild DC projects while the latter brings together all of the post-Crisis Superman comics into one place. That’s important to me because these books are filling in all kinds of gaps I had in my Superman reading which started in 1992. My hope is they get up to the Death of Superman story and then I’ve got it from there with the books from my collection.

This particular volume of Man Of Steel is an interesting one. I flipped through it and was surprised to see several issues tied into the mega crossover Millennium. While I don’t remember the details of that story too well aside from the basics — the Manhunters have replaced key people in the lives of superheroes — but I don’t remember Superman playing a huge role which fits with these issues in which Supes deals with the fact that a small army of Smallvillians were actually Manhunters, including Lana Lang. There’s an explanation for everything that works within the story, but it’s a pretty crazy revelation when you think about it. While they were explaining how they kept an eye on the Kryptonian infant, the Manhunters also revealed that they created the huge blizzard that allowed the Kents to tell the townspeople that Martha gave birth to Clark but wasn’t able to get to the hospital. This seemed like a strange piece of information to tack on to an origin story — storms can just happen, they don’t need a reason to happen — but at the time John Byrne was steering the Superman ship and that’s that. By the way co-wrote and drew every issue in this collection!

The weirdest part of this whole thing, though, is a lie that Pa and Ma Kent decide to tell Lois: that they raised Superman alongside Clark. Not only did this lie seem completely unnecessary — sure, Lois asks Superman point blank if he’s really Superman after all the craziness that went down in Smallville, but he’s Superman, he could have come up with a better answer — but I also don’t remember hearing this repeated in any other comic down the line. He doesn’t reveal that he’s Superman to Lois until Action Comics #662, so did she believe Clark and Supes grew up  like brothers that whole time? Does she forget? Do they tell her another lie? I’m very curious about this because the whole thing understandably makes Lois furious. She’s mad that they lied to her, but more so, she feels like she was fed stories and pitied by the two of them anytime she got a story. It’ll be interesting to see how that storyline plays out.

The book ends with a pair of standalone issues. The first gives a little bit more background about Maggie Sawyer and introduces us to her daughter who has fallen under the spell of Skyhook, a bat-like creature who can somehow turn others into winged beings like himself. Byrne really gets to have fun in this issue stretching into some horror elements that weren’t overly common in these books at the time. The final issues introduces us to a circus mentalist who calls himself Brainiac and seems to have L.E.G.I.O.N. creator Vril Dox banging around in his head. I think this might be the first mention of Dox in post-Crisis continuity, but he seems different than the one seen in Invasion and then L.E.G.I.O.N. This is a more villainous incarnation along the lines of his pre-Crisis counterpart. For what it’s worth, the character’s Wiki page makes no mention of this appearance, noting that Dox’s first appearance is in Invasion #1. Interesting stuff.

While this collection series if firmly aimed at Superman fans of my ilk, I’m very thankful that they exist. This is the Superman that lead into the version of the character I’m most familiar with. Yes he’s powerful and inspiring, but he’s neither all-powerful nor perfect. Sure, I get a kick out of him moving planets and whatnot, but this is the version of the character I’m most familiar with and have the most affection for. Please keep these books coming DC!

Flash Trade Post: Flashpoint & New 52 Volume 1

FlashpointHC Flashpoint (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Andy Kubert
Collects Flashpoint #1-5

When Flashpoint was first announced I was pretty curious. I’m a big fan of alternate reality stories and that’s what this is. Flash (Barry Allen) wakes up in a world where he simply does not exist as a superhero and instead, Captain Cold is Central City’s champion. People like Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman and Cyborg still exist in this world, but they’re very different from how Barry and the reader remembers them. The fun of a story like this — especially as a reader who knows the history of the universe pretty well — is finding out why certain heroes are different, why some are the same and why some brand new ones exist. It sounded a lot like Marvel’s Age Of Apocalypse which swept through the X-books back in the mid 90s. And, much like that event, this one wasn’t contained in just one book and spread out into six trades’ worth of minis and one-shots exploring this brand new world.

Of course, when the whole Flashpoint thing was announced, we in the general public had no idea it was going to lead to the complete and utter dissolution of the DC Universe I’ve been reading since I was 9. Like a lot of people I was bummed when I first heard that, but it’s been a few years and I’m a 30 year old father, so who has time to worry about that kind of stuff? With my one-time negative look at Flashpoint and New 52 long gone, I figured it would be fun to actually get back to the book and see how it was. I mean, I dig Johns’ stuff a lot and he’s a longtime Flash fan and writer, so it’s gotta be pretty cool right?

Well, yeah, for the most part. It’s kind of your basic “guy stuck in an alternate universe story” but like I said, that’s the kind of thing I dig. This one is packed with fun takes on the DC characters like breaking Billy Batson into six different kids who combine into Captain Marvel and also a brewing war between Aquaman’s Atlanteans and Wonder Woman’s Amazons. And of course, the whole thing’s a race against time where the one person remembering the old reality is starting to forget it and other characters tell him he needs to succeed, that it doesn’t matter who dies because if Flash succeeds, this world will have never existed.

Much as I liked this story, though, I’m hesitant to go after the other five trades. The problem with these big events is that you can’t ever tell which tie-ins are worth reading. The reality of the situation is that a ton of them are put out as a cash grab to make more dough off of the main story. When it came to something like Blackest Night, the main stories were great, but the tie-in stuff was dicey-at-best and mostly unnecessary. The problem is that, the way these things are put together, even if a really cool idea is developed in one of the off-shoot books, it won’t really matter in the larger scheme of things because the main writer is already doing his or her thing and probably has the story all the way plotted out. I remember there being some pretty creative uses of light powers in a few of those tie-ins, but they wound up not playing any kind of larger part in the story because, at the end of the day, they’re basically afterthoughts. So, what I’m saying is, “Are any of the other Flashpoint books worth checking out?” I’m probably not going to pay much money for them, but if I get a few recommendations, I’ll keep an eye out while on Sequential Swap or whathaveyou.

flash new 52 vol 1 move forwardThe Flash Volume 1: Move Forward (DC)
Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, drawn by Manapul
Collects Flash #1-8

After finishing Flashpoint, it seemed only natural to move into the New 52 book starring the same character. I’ve said before that Barry Allen isn’t exactly the most interesting character in the world to me, though I did start taking a shine to him with Flash: Rebirth. I think it’s because there’s such an uphill battle there for me as a reader my age. See, for my generation of DC readers, the Flash was always Wally West. Barry was a guy who — as my pal Ben Morse has said a number of times — was at his most interesting when he died. Aside from that he was this Silver Age goober who wore a bow tie and was always late meeting his girlfriend. I didn’t really know about his deeper cuts (on trial for murder and whatnot), but that was the impression I had. The nice thing about the New 52 is that it’s given me the mental break I needed to look at Barry as an all new, fresh character, not someone being dusted off by a creator with a love of those older stories.

One of my favorite things when it comes to reading stories about these heroes that have been around forever is when a writer can take that character’s powers and explain them in a new way or do something new with them. Flash and his fellow speedsters are kind of the poster children for this idea. They started out simply running fast, but then they could vibrate through things, tap into the Speed Force and much more. Super speed is also an interesting power because it’s easy to understand on one hand — dude’s fast — but has additional layers to it. I actually remember two instances of hyper speed powers behing shown that have taken up residence in my brain. One was a moment in someone else’s comic (I believe) where everyone in the DCU is watching TV and Wally goes out and gets his girlfriend/wife Linda’s dry cleaning between words of s sentence. Another was the way the real world must slow down for you when you’re super-fast, to the point where most normal people seem like statues. That actually came form an episode of Batman: The Animated Series starring Clock King called “Time Out Of Joint.” Both of those instances gave me a much better idea of what it much be like foFlash to function in the real world.

Anyway, one of the neat things that writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato do in this book is explain Barry’s powers with a slight twist (at least as far as I’m concerned as an every-now-and-then Flash reader) and that is by showing that Barry can practically see the future because he can think through every scenario so quickly that he’s already imagined all the outcomes well before they actually happen (like how Midnighter is with fighting, but with everything). It makes perfect sense and yet I’d never thought of it before. Moments like that are really fun to me as a reader.

So you’ve got a cool exploration of powers while also reintroducing some of Flash’s Rogues in fun and creative ways (the new Top!), plus I can actually buy Barry as a CSI guy now because, well, why not? I know there’s all kinds of explanations that could be given on how he caught up on modern police techniques in the previous DCU, but him going back to that job after returning in Rebirth just didn’t wash with me. Anyway, I also really dig how Manapul handles the artwork on this comic. His style is a little bit loose, on the cartoony side, but it’s also incredibly fluid, which fits the concept perfectly. I’m becoming less and less a fan of huge numbers of panels on a page, but Manapul and Buccellato use that concept to great effect in this book, often to point out every little thing Flash notices. As far as I’m concerned, this book succeeds at everything New 52 was supposed to do: updating old, dusty characters in modern ways that can be appreciated by brand new readers and longtime ones alike. It kind of reminds me of what a lot of animation folks do when adapting comics to TV: cherrypicking the best ideas and making them their own.

The question I ask myself at the end of every trade-reading experience is whether I’m going to keep that particular book, pass it on to someone else or put it up on Sequential Swap. This has been an interesting question to answer with the New 52 books. A few — like Scott Snyder’s Batman — have been instant “Keeps,” while others that I won’t mention have been total slogs I never even got all the way through, so they get tossed on the “Dump” pile. But, a lot of the ones, like Flash, Superboy, Supergirl and Teen Titans wind up in a weird kind of limbo. I liked what went down in the first volume, but if there isn’t a solid storytelling arc that comes to a decent conclusion or blows me away in some other manner, they get to keep their spot in my collection. But if there’s a ton of creator changes, an abrupt cancellation or things just fizzle out in general, there’s no point in keeping them on board. For now, though, the first Flash volume and others like it get a pass for now.

Superman Trade Post: Up, Up & Away, Last Son & Escape From Bizarro World

superman up up and away Superman: Up, Up & Away (DC)
Written by Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns, drawn by Pete Woods & Renato Guedes
Collects Action Comics #837-840, Superman #650-653

I’ve said time and time again here on the blog when talking about comics, especially DC Comics, that I was a hardcore continuity guy, especially when it came to Superman. Those are the books that got me into comics and taught me the most about the Man of Steel and the greater DC Universe. So, when Infinite Crisis went down and did some vague continuity edits that didn’t seem that well conveyed and I started reading Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics, I was confused and angrier than I should have been. I was being over-reactionary and not really fair partly because of my bias, but also because I was so dedicated to the version of that character that I was so familiar with.

Since then, I’ve done more thinking about all this than I probably should have, but I go back to what I call the Puzzle Theory Of Corporate Comic Characters. The way I see it, every single existing Superman story is a puzzle piece that a new writer can come in and use. Take Batman for example. That character can work as the ultra-dark version seen in the Christopher Nolan movies or as the fun, upbeat version seen in the Brave and the Bold cartoon. It’s the same character with different past aspects highlighted by the creators. That’s the lens through which I checked out Johns run on Action Comics when I went back and re-read it recently. He’s more a fan of the Silver Age stuff than the books I read, so that’s what he highlighted. I’m doing the first three books here and will do the final two next week, then maybe get into the New Krypton stuff which he set up and then handed off to James Robinson, Greg Rucka and Sterling Gates.

So, Infinite Crisis changed the DCU a bit by making Clark Kent Superboy when he was a kid. That was the major difference for Supes, but they also took away his powers for a year leading into One Year Later and 52. Up, Up & Away is a crossover between Action Comics and Superman with Johns and Kurt Busiek trading off issues in an effort to set up the new world without a Superman and, of course, gradually bring him back. In the year since he lost his powers helping bring down Superboy Prime, Clark has been able to enjoy the finer aspects of being a regular person: getting really good at his job, being more present with his wife and savoring his more limited senses. But of course, it’s not meant to last. While Clark had most of his bases covered with Supergirl and other heroes watching over Metropolis, he didn’t account for Lex Luthor getting out of jail and going back to his mad scientist roots, gathering villains and wielding them as weapons against Metropolis and Superman once he does return.

I can’t say for sure, but I think I really liked these books when they came out and I liked it a lot on this read through. It seemed like both writers really got a good grasp of the character and did a few things that I really enjoyed, most of which had to do with Lex Luthor. When I started reading Superman books, he was the quintessential industrial bad guy, but I’m also a big fan of mad scientist Lex. Better than that, though, the book asked a question that I had never thought of until these issues: Why didn’t Lex put his genius to use curing cancer instead of going after Superman? I tended to think of Luthor in the sense that he was portrayed in the Lex Luthor: Man of Steel series as a good man trying to defend his people from what he saw as a threat, but that ignores the irresponsible and crazy aspects of the character that are also there. Why DIDN’T he cure cancer?! Cause he’s nuts. There are also stellar moments between Lois and Clark where she explains that, while she enjoyed her time with powerless Clark Kent, she knows he needs to be Superman for the world’s sake. This is my favorite relationship in comics.

The book ends and Superman’s back in the suit with the bad guys are vanquished. He’s even helping rebuild parts of the city and handing over the signal watch to Jimmy Olsen. It’s a cool ending that doesn’t really establish the new status quo of Superman or Clark Kent, but did give a cool feel for both before moving into the separate books.

SUPERMAN LAST SON Superman: The Last Son (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns & Richard Donner, drawn by Adam Kubert
Collects Action Comics #844-846, 851 & Action Comics Annual #11

I hope there’s a point in my comic reading career when I can completely separate my reading of a trade from the knowledge I have about how that series came out in a monthly format. It’s not much of a problem anymore because I don’t read many single issues anymore so lateness has very little meaning to me. If you don’t remember or weren’t around, the books in this collection were widely spread out, had fill-ins by completely different creative teams and didn’t actually get finalized until much later when the annual came out, allowing DC’s flagship title to continue on without as much interference. It was frustrating.

There was actually a lot that frustrated me about this book the first time around. It was assumed that the lateness came from then-new DC acquisition Adam Kubert. I don’t have much tolerance artist lateness, especially if it’s an artist I’m not into. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about and therefore wasn’t very forgiving when month after month passed and the story still hadn’t wrapped up. There were also a pair of story elements that bothered me. First, the book features Superman meeting the Phantom Zone villains for presumably the first time which I thought had already happened in the previous continuity. Second, I didn’t want Superman to have a kid.

However, this time, I was able to just take it all in at once. And you know what? I liked most of the story. I did my best to ignore the lateness and my continuity bias, instead just letting myself focus on this new story and it’s pretty good, though I’m still not a great big fan of Adam Kubert’s. Aside from some poorly constructed figures when zoomed out, my main problem with the art was that it looked like the figures were being photoshopped onto painted backgrounds. When artists do that kind of thing, it looks inorganic and distracts from the implication that you’re looking at a whole broken up into many panels.

As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. This story kicks off with a young Kryptonian landing on Earth. He’s soon followed by Zod, Ursa and Non (better known as the bad guys from Superman II) who are actually using their son as a tether allowing them to escape the Negative Zone. Now Superman has to fight for the very survival of his adoptive planet and his new foster son in the face of overwhelming odds.

I dug the ins and outs of this story from the explanation of how Lor-Zod was conceived to Mon-El’s appearance and the Bizarro fight to the people Superman turns to for help in defeating his enemies. My only real problems this time around were still related to other comics, but not the ones I read as a kid, but instead Up, Up & Away. Somehow Clark Kent went from a confident guy wearing a Smallville jacket to a suit and tie-wearing doofus who felt the need to act as such to hide his secret identity. Doesn’t that seem weird? Wouldn’t that kind of big character change cause a lot of people to wonder what’s going on? However, as its own thing and the beginning of Johns’ solo run (he recently said on Kevin Smith’s Fat Man On Batman podcast that he basically hammered out the beats with his one-time boss Richard Donner and then scripted it himself), it works a lot better than it did as a monthly comic. One of the major negatives at the time was that Lor-Zod wound up spending months and months with Clark and Lois, basically spinning his wheels until everyone got their stuff together and gave him the proper send off which wound up being really emotional and well done.

superman escape from bizarro world Superman: Escape From Bizarro World (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns & Richard Donner, drawn by Eric Powell
Collects Action Comics #855-857, Superman #140, DC Comics Presents #71 & The Man of Steel #5

While I might want to forget some elements of the previous books, I have only good memories and experiences with Escape From Bizarro World, which is a three issue story drawn by The Goon‘s Eric Powell. While working at Wizard, I was given the assignment of interviewing Powell for a sketchbook feature. You can actually see the sketches in the intro written by Brian K. Vaughan, but the amazing Darkseid one he did wasn’t included because he has nothing to do with the story. That image of Darkseid has become second only to Jack Kirby’s in my mind for iconic interpretations of the character. Powell was also a super nice guy to interview. He had a death in the family at the time and still took the time to help me with the article, something I don’t know if I could have focused on in his shoes. Good guy that Powell.

This story completely plays to Powell’s strengths as it takes place mostly on a planet that Bizarro smashed together and happens to be under a blue sun which has given him “Bizarro Vision,” the ability to create Bizarro clones. The downside? They hate him. Bizarro needs advice so he kidnaps Jonathan Kent which eventually brings Supes to the planet. Superman actually wants to just get out of there and leave Biz to his problems, but his dad is there to play moral compass and help the two figure out a way to change the status quo. It’s a great series of moments, but doesn’t hold a candle to the few scenes of Superman’s dad getting his son’s powers and understanding for a little while what that’s like. Better yet? The gift Bizarro gave him at the end. Man, that gave me a little lump in my throat!

It’s a quick story with all kinds of goodness on both ends of the comic spectrum. Johns and Donner weaved a wonderful story that ranks up there with some of my favorites. At the same time, Powell not only gets to draw backwards zombie-ish versions of the Justice League and Superman’s supporting cast, but also does a Superman so iconic I almost can’t stand that there’s only three issues.

To beef up the trade, DC did something pretty fun by including three different Bizarro issues from years’ past. Better than just including some basic stuff, though, they actually got Johns to pick issues that inspired him when writing the character. The writer even writes mini essays about why he included each issue which is pretty great.  So, instead of reprinting Bizarro’s first appearance, he went with the one where Bizarro and Bizarro Lois Lane have a kid who’s normal and therefore a weirdo on their planet. This plays up on the themes of alienation that Johns used throughout all of his Superman stories.

Alright, I want to say one more thing while on the subject of how these books are collected. I understand it makes sense to collect the books by artist, but there are a few issues here and there from Johns’ run that weren’t collected in these books. I don’t have the exact issue numbers on hand, but I know there was a Toyman issue that got passed over for collection. I’m sure I’m not the only one to suggest this, but it would be nice to have a Geoff Johns Action Comics Omnibus. They’ve done that with his Teen Titans and Flash runs, so maybe we’re not far off from that with Superman.

Trade Post: Doc Savage The Silver Pyramid, Green Arrow/Black Canary Enemies List & Eclipso The Music Of The Spheres

DOC SAVAGE: THE SILVER PYRAMID (DC)
Written by Dennis O’Neil, drawn by Andy & Adam Kubert
Collects Doc Savage 1-4 (1987-1988)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m excited for DC’s First Wave books, so when I heard about the reprint of DC’s late 80s Doc Savage mini, I was hoping for a story that might tell me why Doc Savage is cool or at least show me. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case with this Silver Pyramid story, the reason? Doc Savage dies in the first issue. Well, kind of. So, what you really get throughout the rest of the three prestige format issues is Doc’s team of helpers–all geniuses in their own right–grousing about how poor his heirs are at replacing him. See, Doc’s son goes nuts and his grandson is a pacifist. But that doesn’t stop the old men charging into battle against the enemy that Doc seemingly died fighting. I won’t give away the twist in case you want to read it yourself, but things change in the end.

I’m not that big of a Andy or Adam Kubert fan nowadays (for my money, Joe’s still where it’s at) so the art isn’t a big draw for me as far as this book’s considered. So overall, this book isn’t really my cup of tea. Maybe if I was a well studied Doc Savage fan–and let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of them out there–it would be interesting to see how the world responds without him, but as I’m a newbie, taking him out of the picture doesn’t really do anything for me.

GREEN ARROW AND BLACK CANARY: ENEMIES LIST (DC)
Written by Andrew Kreisberg, drawn by Mike Norton
Collects Green Arrow & Black Canary #15-20
Few comics have broken my heart like Green Arrow And Black Canary has. I didn’t really care about the character until Kevin Smith resurrected him and really liked the book through his run, then Brad Meltzer (Archer’s Quest is his absolute best comic book work as far as I’m concerned) and all the way through Judd Winick’s run which saw Green Arrow and Black Canary finally got back together and married! I wasn’t a big fan of how their first wedding ended (that whole story shouldn’t have been a shoe-horned event, but just a good story) but enjoyed his first few issues of GA & BC. But, seriously, what the hell is going on in this book anymore? Can you think of a more hack character than a woman who loves a hero so much that she wants him dead? Even worse? This Cupid broad is still kicking around in GA&BC. GAH! And now there’s all this nonsense with Roy Harper’s adorable daughter getting killed in Cry For Justice (which I still haven’t brought myself to read yet) and losing his arm. And now Ollie’s supposed to be going down another dark path. IT’S BEEN DONE! Check out Mike Grell’s fantastic run on Green Arrow (I went back and bought almost all the issues of Green Arrow’s previous volume). None of this grim and gritty shit is new, it’s just boring. You’re also ruining really fun and unique characters. As my buddy Ben pointed out, Roy Harper was one of the few single fathers in comics, a really good role model in his own way. Thank goodness they took that away from him for some stupid story trying to make Prometheus cool again. Also, the Green Arrow family used to actually be fun to read. They all seemed to get along well and didn’t have all the dark baggage of the Batfamily. Now they just seem even closer to their Gotham counterparts.

Anyway, I should probably talk about this volume. It’s not terrible, but it’s the beginning of the bad. There are references to Winicks’ run (by killing some of the new villains he introduced, way to go, I was hoping for more of Merlyn), but the whole thing just feels like filler. Kind of like just watching the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. It’s just filler. Boring filler. I’m sure what I’ve heard and seen of what has come after this collection of issues is tainting my review, but this volume didn’t blow me away and the lack of vision–of at least a truly interesting and progressive vision–is present here and continues to poison one of my favorite comic book families. Wow, I think that was my most negative trade review ever.

ECLIPSO: THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES (DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Stephen Jorge Segovia & Chad Hardin
Collects the backup stories from Countdown To Mystery #1-8
I can’t take the title of this trade seriously because of Patton Oswalt’s bit about taking a science class at his liberal arts college aimed at English majors. Makes me chuckle every time, but it’s not as bad as Robin” Tales Of Fire And Madness, which I always say in a voice that sounds something like a cross between Will Ferrel’s James Lipton impresion and his Robert Goulet impression. Anyway, overall, I had a pretty good time with this story. It’s about Eclipso bouncing out of Jean Loring’s body and taking over his original possessed human Bruce Gordon. It does take place during the kind of mess of continuity that was Countdown (though I did kind of like the series when I read it in a few chunks). I thin a lot of these kinds of books benefit from reading them a few years after they came out because it’s easier to figure out where it all fits in. My buddy Jesse has been away from comics for a while, but is currently working his way through 52 which I read when it came out, so it’s easy for him to ask me questions and I can explain things. Unfortunately, I can’t remember every detail, so the incredibly abrupt change from Loring being the host to Gordon seemed to come out of nowhere. I was also concerned when Sturges had Plastic Man becoming a bad guy, but it turned out he was just under Eclipso’s sway, so it ended up being okay.

It’s kind of funny that the supporting characters in this book seem tailor made for me to be interested. I love Plastic Man, then Creeper shows up, the Spectre, Huntress and the latest Hawk and Dove (who I don’t know anything about and it really bothers me, it seems like Geof Johns just said they existed in Teen Titans without ever explaining where they came from, or maybe I just missed that story, but that’s a complaint for another post). Aside from showing how Eclipso went from Loring to Gordon, the book doesn’t really matter (in the sense that any comic matters), but there are a few interesting points. I really liked how Gordon thinks about becoming a kind of super scientist as he figures out how to atomically alter the Heart of Darkness in order to give himself some of Eclipso’s powers in the day time. Compared to Marvel, DC is seriously lacking in the big brain superheroes. The problem is that the Spectre seems to convince him not to do that so he can become yet another superhero (as if there’s not enough of those flying around). That seems like a gigantic missed opportunity. I also liked Eclipso’s new souped up costume he gets for a few pages, but the real draw for this book is Segovia’s art. Man, is it pretty. He’s got a great, ethereal style that would be perfect for any slightly off the beaten track comic, but I don’t think he’s doing much other work and he doesn’t even finish off this series of backup stories. Anyway, it’s a fun enough read, but probably only for the more die hard DC fan who’s interested int he smallest minutiae of what’s going on in the DCU.