Comics Comics Comics Comics: Starman #43

Not a lot goes on in my mind when I’m going through cheap comics at shows. If something looks even remotely interesting and has a low low price, it’s pretty much a sure thing I’ll buy it. This issue of Starman struck my fancy for three reasons: it’s a Mike Mignola cover, Lobo’s in it and I’ve wanted to check this series out ever since I read James Robinson’s Starman series. This issue–which was written by Len Strazewski and drawn by Vince Giarrano in 1992–is actually the second part of the four part story “Star Shadows.” As if needs saying, I haven’t read the previous or following issues, but I didn’t have any trouble following the story.

We start off with Lobo drunk in a space bar (what better way to start the story?). A text box tells us that this action takes place earlier in time from whatever happened at the end of the previous issue. Lobo’s drunk and board, so when a space turtle offers him a bunch of money to killed Eclipso on Earth, he very quickly accepts the job and bails.

But, this is no ordinary space turtle, it’s actually a Lord of Chaos masquerading as a space turtle. See, the Lords of Chaos are angry at Eclipso because he failed to destroy Earth, which should have been a small task. We get a little recap about a Phantom Stranger mini that these events take place in, a mini I didn’t even know existed. Soon enough, things are picking up where the previous issue apparently left off with Starman trying to get to Bruce Gordon in what looks like a fighter jet in space. Lobo’s peeved because Starman wrecked his space motorcycle, so they start fighting.

As it turns out–and it came as no surprise even though I’m not very familiar with this version of Starman or his powers–Starman isn’t much of a match for Lobo, even when he’s really pouring on his light power. While they tussle, Bruce Gordon digs out the ol’ purple gloves, black gem and becomes Eclipso once more. According to Eclipso’s thought boxes, this Starman was created as a way to feed Eclipso. I’ve never heard that before, but it makes a strange kind of comic book sense. Just as Lobo’s about to beat the living tar out of Starmna, Eclipso blasts them with some dark light and the issue ends.

Overall this was a pretty interesting issue and, for the most part, I wasn’t too lost even though I’m not super familiar with Eclipso or Lobo and I’m hardly at all familiar with this version of Starman. When I got to the page revealing that Lobo was going after Eclipso, I actually thought this was going to tie into Superman Annual I read a few weeks ago, but it’s a few years too early for that. I wonder if Lobo’s past with Eclipso (presumably shown in this story) was referenced at all during The Darkness Within. I’m still very curious about this Starman series as a whole and hope to pick up some more issues on the cheap in the coming shows.

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Adventures Of Superman Annual #4

I’ve picked up a lot of comics over the year. Some of them fit into larger collections I’m working on while others just strike my fancy at the time. Comics Comics Comics Comics will be a look at some of the more random books I’ve picked up here and there with a few scans/pics of favorite or funny moments from the issues. The first entry will be Adventures of Superman Annual #4 from 1992. It’s written by Robert Loren Fleming and drawn by Bob McLeod and seems to be the penultimate issue in the “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” event that was running through the annuals that year.

I have next to no experience with this Eclipso storyline, but as far as I can tell, the idea is that supervillain Eclipso has been possessing superheroes and villains (which he can only do when it’s dark) including Superman. Our big bad will apparently gain the powers of those he’s possessed once the impending lunar eclipse is complete making him pretty damn powerful.

This issue is mostly concerned with members of the Justice League, L.E.G.I.O.N. and a few Teen Titans (or were they just Titans then?) tracking the possessed Superman down and trying to un-possess Big Blue. I was actually a little surprised that there wasn’t a recap page, but I was able to follow things with context clues. However, I’m not sure why so many pages were spent showing various heroes trying to find Superman even after our heroes already figured it out. Maybe they were capping off elements from previous issues, who knows?

Booster Gold of all people figures out that EclipSupes is hiding out in a volcano during the day. The heroes show up only to be surprised by a newly minted Guy Gardner who recently quit the Green Lantern Corps, got his hands on a Sinestro ring and started running around in a “G” jacket, cowboy boots and jeans. I’m a big fan of Beau Smith’s run on Guy Gardner, but I’m not a fan of how Guy’s written in this issue, read: xenophobic and sexist. Guy’s not an easy character to get right, balancing the arrogance with the good heart, but Guy comes out pretty good in the end. Making him a complete ass is too easy and something a lot of writers tend to do with the character.

As the Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover boasted (and the reason I bought this issue) both Lobo and Guy take their turns fighting Superman and then getting smacked down by him. The plan is to explode the volcano and let the sunlight in thus curing Superman, but the volcano erupts which puts the villagers in danger. Also, it’s night, so the plan was an all-over failure. Earlier in the issue Vril Dox suggests that Guy go get some sun and bring it back, which he says no to, but then goes and does so, which winds up saving the day. With no fear for his personal safety, Guy douses Supes and then launches them both into the volcano. A no-longer-possessed Superman rises out holding Guy whose new ring apparently protects him even when he’s unconscious.

The end of the issues features a big part of Eclipso’s plan. He’s got the Will Payton Starman under his control, but made it look like Starman was being attacked by the other possessed heroes and villains. Taking the bait like super powered fish, the non-possessed heroes swoop in, save Starman and he tells them to go to the dark side of the moon, which they do. Before that, though, Superman asks Nightwing to help him find Dr. Bruce Gordon who is the Eclipso expert and used to share a body with him (or will share a body with him, like I said, I’m no Eclipso expert).

I’ve always loved the Superman/Dick Grayson dynamic, so seeing these two running around trying to solve a mystery for a few pages was very cool for me. Superman’s respect for Nightwing and Nightwing’s level of comfort with the hero everyone reveres is great. They’re checking out the labs of super geniuses like Will Magnus, Lex Luthor the Second, Emil Hamilton, Blue Beetle and more when Hawkman comes in to tell them about the moon. Nightwing goes off with him to help save the (apparently) possessed Titans and Superman gets drawn into a door of light.

Overall, I had a surprising amount of fun with this issue, it even made me want to check out a few more issues of “The Darkness Within,” at least Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2 which I believe ended the story. This issue would probably be hard for a reader unfamiliar with 90s DC comics to jump right into. Though I would start reading comics later in 1992, I still have no idea why Hawkman is wearing that red costume or what Black Canary was doing during this era (I assume she was still kicking around Green Arrow and don’t really remember her being in any of the Justice League books of the time), but if you’re at all familiar with comics, you know that random things like this change without having a lot of baring on the overall story. I’ve read Marvel books where Thor has a beard and Hulk’s wearing a tank top, but it doesn’t really effect how I read the story. I just use Wiki to find out what the deal was (I know why Thor had a beard and Hulk had a tank top, by the way, it was just an example). Putting this story into context with the upcoming Death of Superman story is interesting, especially seeing as how so many heroes–really powerful ones at that–had trouble taking Superman down. Makes Doomsday seem all the more powerful.

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.