In the inaugural installment of The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive, I got into Graduation Day and the short story “A Day After” from Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files & Origins 2003. Briefly, the former Titans and Young Justice teams called it quits after a time-traveling blue robot popped into the present and woke up a Superman Robot that killed Donna Troy. Of course, these being superheroes, they tend to flock to one another and two new books soon followed: Teen Titans and Outsiders. Today we’ll get into the first volumes of each series, which debuted in 2003! Continue reading The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 2 – A Kid’s Game & Looking For Trouble
When Teen Titans by Geoff Johns and The Outsiders by Judd Winick launched in 2003, I’d been reading comics for about a decade. I still loved them, but my reading habits had changed, mostly because I was in college and diving into my to-read pile Scrooge McDuck-style when I’d come home on breaks. I still read Wizard when I could, but my actual exposure to comics was very different than it had been.
And then at some point in my junior or senior year, I discovered that a nearby hobby shop sold comics. I can’t remember if I found this out myself or if this one girl I knew mentioned it, but I started buying a few books here and there. I stuck to ones that I knew I wasn’t getting in my pull box. I think the two I started reading were Runaways and Outsiders. Not bad choices, if I do say so myself. Continue reading The Great Teen Titans/Outsiders Deep Dive Part 1 – Graduation Day & Secret Files 2003
Superman: Secret Origin (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Gary Frank
Collects Superman: Secret Origin #1-6
When I started reading Superman comics, the character was about six years out from his post-Crisis reboot which de-powered him a bit and made a conscientious effort to make him the last Kryptonian (hence a clone Superboy and extra-dimensional shape-shifting Supergirl). Another major tenet of those days was that Superman because Superman as an adult. This was the Superman I knew, though I also understood that the Golden and Silver Age were jam packed with elements that didn’t fit into that rubric. I try my best to keep an open mind for Superman stories that don’t fit into that mold, but sometimes they throw me for a loop. Luckily, I didn’t have that problem with Geoff Johns’ retelling of the Man of Steel’s life in Secret Origin.
Johns worked with the amazing Gary Frank on this miniseries after they teamed up on Action Comics a few times. Essentially, this is the definitive origin story for the post-Infinite Crisis DCU which has since gone the way of those aforementioned older ages. Still, there’s plenty of Superman-fueled goodness in here for people to dig into.
The first issue is set in Clark’s earlier days when his parents reveal his alien origins to him. He’s mad about the whole thing, but still uses his abilities to help people when he can. We also find that Lex Luthor grew up in Smallville too and even encountered Clark. My favorite part? Young Clark doesn’t like the Superboy costume his mom made him, which makes perfect sense when you think of a modern teenager running around with his underwear on the outside. In the next issue, Clark heads to the future to hang out with the Legion. I wish Frank could draw a thousand issues of Legion comics, I really do, he’s perfect for them.
The last four issues follow Clark as he gets to Metropolis and working at the Daily Planet while also revealing himself to be a hero. One of the interesting things that Johns does in this book is take some of the classic elements and making them make sense in more modern times. The costume thing is part of that, but so is the fact that the Daily Planet is still a paper that exists (instead of all the ones that have closed down in the past decade). For my money, that’s one of Johns’ strongest talents, integrating old craziness and making it work even in a world where aliens come to Earth and save the day all the time. I even like what he did with Metallo and Parasite, though I’m not a fan of the former’s design this time around (you can’t like everything, right?).
So, no, this isn’t MY Superman (everyone has their own) but it still tells a great Superman story that’s not unrecognizable. One of the problems I’ve had trying to read the New 52 Superman books is that he just doesn’t seem like Superman to me. This is still on point and fits in with what I like about the character: he’s the ultimate orphan who still wants to fight for his larger family, humanity.
Superman: Secret Identity (DC)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Stuart Immonen
Collects Superman: Secret Identity #1-4
Superman: Secret Identity is one of those books that everyone loves and I just never got around to reading. I actually have the last three issues in a box out in the garage, but wasn’t going to fully skip the first issue. Luckily, the library had a copy, so I dove in right after Secret Origins.
This story by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen is actually about a person named Clark Kent who’s in a version of our world. His parents named him that as a joke because everyone knows about the comic book and pop culture icon. But, after a mysterious meteor hits nearby, Clark gets Superman-like powers and starts experiencing some of the fictional hero’s ups and downs.
In a way, this book reminds me of Paul Cornell’s Action Comics story “The Black Ring” in that you find yourself learning about Superman by comparing him to the character you find yourself reading. This version of Clark follows some of the fictional version’s path, but he also finds himself living in a simpler world than the one in the comics, but still one filled with a certain amount of danger for him and his eventual family. He also deals with concepts like secret identities in ways that feel more realistic than some of the ways they are dealt with in ongoing comic book series’ that not only try to keep things interesting year in and year out, but also come from a variety of different minds and voices.
As it is, Secret Identity is a wonderful take on Superman from two very distinct, but complimentary voices in Busiek and Immonen. I was familiar with the artist’s work on books like Adventures Of Superman, but here he keeps his figures smaller and more realistic, while playing more with darkness and shadows than I remember him doing in the the mainstream superhero work. Together he and Busiek nail that real-person-dealing-with-the-unreal idea that the writer has become famous for in his comic book career.
Justice League Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52) (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Jim Lee with Carlos D’Anda
Collects Justice League #1-6
After years of the Justice League not exactly taking center stage in the grand scheme of things in the DC Universe, the company put them right in the forefront when they launched the reality-altering New 52. Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee not only boasted one of the biggest creative teams around, but also marked the new continuity’s birth as the very first New 52 comic.
Set five years in the past, Origin puts the team together as they all face the incoming threat of Darkseid and his Parademons. It’s basically a “putting the band” together story that doesn’t feel contrived or boring, like some of the ones in the old continuity. In other words, there are no meeting scenes where the big three look at photos or ones where a bunch of scrub characters talk about how they’re going to carry on the team’s legacy. We start with Batman meeting Green Lantern. They then meet and fight Superman which leads to GL calling his pal Flash in. Later Wonder Woman and Aquaman show up. Oh and Cyborg goes from football star to, well, Cyborg as the story progresses.
After all the introductions and set-ups, our heroes finally face off against Darkseid in a battle that is clearly another set-up, but also feels satisfying because they earn their victory. Clearly, the dark New God will return, but that’s a story for another time.
What I liked most about this book is the tone and interactions between the members. It sets up their characters pretty well — even if those personalities might not reflect across the line — and gives an interesting dynamic between them that could be fun to read about. I will say that I’m not a fan of the overall dark and mean tone of this new DCU, but I guess that’s just part of the deal these days. I haven’t heard great things about the huge crossovers that spun out of Justice League, but enjoying this book definitely piqued my interest in the second volume which I quickly requested from the library. I also got a big kick of of Flash’s line at the end where he calls their group The Super Seven.
Plus, can we just talk about how fun it is to look at a Jim Lee Justice League book? Even if it includes these weird, overly piped and paneled costumes, he’s just so good at drawing those big, iconic characters doing all kinds of crazy things. I’m down for at least looking at anything he does.
I actually picked this book up on a Comixology sale not long ago, but after my Kindle broke, I figured I’d check the library and see if I could get a hard copy. I will say that, while I like the convenience of digital comics, I still prefer actually holding the book.
Justice League Vol 2: The Villain’s Journey (The New 52) (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Jim Lee, Carlos D’Anda, Gene Ha, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver & David Finch
Collects Justice League #7-12
It took me longer than expected to get my hands on this second volume called The Villain’s Journey. I guess someone else in the library system was equally excited about giving it a read. This second book is set in the current time frame of the DCU where the Justice Leagues have become a pretty big sensation that seems to defeat anything the universe can throw at it. But, there’s still some mistrust from the government and a mysterious villain first seen in the previous book who proves to be a bigger threat than anyone could have imagined.
And yet, there was something that just felt off about these issues. A LOT of time is spent on Steve Trevor and how sad he is because he loves Wonder Woman and she doesn’t love him back. That’s exactly what you want from your Big Seven Superhero comic, right? I only complain about that because it felt like the team itself doesn’t get nearly as much time as they should. As much as I love seeing the League fight against impossible odds, I also like to see a little bit more of them hanging out together and interacting.
I still like the interactions between Batman and Green Lantern and how GL and Flash are pals, but those relationships get leaned on a bit too heavily. Sure we find out that Superman hasn’t revealed his identity to his teammate in those five years, but what the heck does Cyborg do all day? As the one character in this comic without his own solo book, it seemed natural to focus more on him, but that doesn’t happen.
Speaking of characters who get a lot of page-time, but aren’t on the team, Green Arrow gets a lot of time too as the US government tries to get him on the team. Arrow trying to get on the team is something of a Justice League tradition, but in an odd turn, he doesn’t make the squad. Instead, this is all a set-up for Justice League Of America, a book I haven’t read yet.
Back to the villain for a paragraph, I just didn’t care and I’m not sure why. SPOILERS follow. This guy Graves and his family were saved by the League in their first mission back in the first trade. Something about the incident wound up killing his wife and kids, but also turned him into a weird monster that looked an awful lot like a White Martian. None of this is very well explained and all felt like a really long way to get around to Graves being locked up in Belle Reve where Amanda Waller asks him to write down how to destroy the League. I don’t think I would mind all of this if it was a one or two parter instead of spread out over all these issues.
This book also features Green Lantern’s exit from the group, a big fight between the members, a big kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman and a lot of teases about what’s coming up after this volume. All in all, I would say that this book didn’t do much for me. I really enjoyed how the first one just got right into it, but this one felt more plodding. I felt like I could see the plot points more clearly, like there was a checklist being checked off in a slightly disjointed manner. Part of the disjointed feeling came from the various artist drawing these issues. I’me a big fan of all these artists, but their styles are so vastly different that you’re constantly made aware that you’re on to the next part instead of being absorbed by the story.
It also felt like something of a misstep to focus on a brand new villain while also mentioning all of these established League villains who don’t do much of anything this time around. I’m sure this all leads to the next big thing in the DCU, but as a one-off volume meant to be read in and of itself, it’s not very satisfying.
Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Doug Mahnke with Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods, Renato Guedes & Jim Calafiore
Collects Green Lantern #7-12 & Green Lantern Annual #1
I know I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s crazy to think that Geoff Johns isn’t writing Green Lantern anymore. I’m pretty far from caught up on his Lantern comics, but few people have done so much with a fairly simple concept and expanded on it so much as he did with these books. When he did Rebirth, there was only one Lantern and no Corps. Now there’s thousands of GLs and a whole variety of colors to choose from. Heck, he even got his book to move from the old continuity to the new one relatively unscathed, which is no small feat.
It’s that last bit that takes center stage with today’s Books Of Oa trade post as I review the second volume of Johns’ New 52 Green Lantern drawn mostly by the amazing Doug Mahnke. In the first volume, Hal got ousted from the Green Lantern Corps, but Sinestro came along and gave him a ring of his own. This book starts off with Sinestro visiting his deputy and a fight breaking out that only stops because the Indigo Tribe appears and takes them away. This part of the story explains the Abin Sur helped complete this group as a way of punishing the evil. Basically, the Indigo rings make very bad people feel compassion as a form of punishment. But, they discover that, over time, it actually works.
While Hal and Sinestro fix the Indigo’s problems, Black Hand — a fairly recent inductee into the Tribe — escapes which leads into the second story collected in this volume. While disconnected, he scores a shiny new Black Lantern ring and then heads back to Earth where our heroes eventually find and attack him. Meanwhile, the Guardians, who have clearly lost their minds, are making moves to create a Third Army (the Manhunters were first, the GLs second). To do this they break into a secret jail and leave with a being called The First Lantern all of which leads into the next big Lantern event.
One of the great things about this volume is that, unlike some of the other ones I’ve read in this ongoing space-fantasy epic, it feels like its own story. Sure, it leads into the larger story and will surely be referred to in those pages, but the immediate tales are not only fun and interesting on their own, but also offer new information about what the heck is going on in the larger Lantern tapestry.
And let’s just say that the world is a better place when Mahnke is drawing aliens and zombies. I think that’s a pretty universal truth at this point. It was fun seeing the other artists jump in for the annual, but at the end of the day I think Mahnke will go down as one of the best Green Lantern artists of all time and with good reason.
The last time I was really excited about mainstream comics was the lead-up to Infinite Crisis and everything that went on up until about Countdown. It seemed like DC had done a great job of keeping their universe well organized, using several quality creators to not only tell stories that were unique and fun in and of themselves, but also lead up to something much larger. Sometime during the Infinite Crisis event, I actually started working at Wizard, so I had more of an inside track on what was going on. To be honest, as cool as that can be, it’s not always a great thing and can taint how you feel about different books. It’s the age old bit about seeing how the sausage is made. Sometimes it’s interesting and enlightening, other times it’s pretty gross.
Hit the jump to keep reading! Continue reading Justice Trade Post: JLoA The Tornado’s Path, JSoA The Next Age & The Lightning Saga
I was looking through unpublished blog posts and realized I had a nearly complete review of Neil Gaiman’s Eternals book and Geoff Johns’ Flash: Rebirth. I cleaned some things up and updated a few references, but otherwise this review from January 2012 was in pretty good shape.
Man, expectations can be a real bummer. If you had handed me this Eternals book and not told me who wrote it, I think I might have maybe walked away liking it a bit more than I did, but knowing that one of my all time, all around favorite writers wrote this story leaves me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. On the other hand, the artist, John Romita Jr. is not one that I tend to like and yet I thought he killed it in these issues.
Okay, to get into a little more detail, these seven issues tell the story of a group of god-like beings called the Eternals who were planted on Earth by even more godlike beings the Celestials to make sure Earth was still cool when they come back later. They’re basically super powered house sitters, but ones that were originally created by Jack Kirby five years after his New Gods books had been cancelled by DC, hence the HUGE similarities). Anyway, for some reason, the Eternals don’t remember they’re Eternals and are just living regular human lives. And…that’s about it. Yes, there’s also some stuff about trying to stop a sleeping Celestial from waking up, but the majority of these issues involves the speedster of the group, Mercury, living life as–I shit you not–Mark Curry. I guess that’s not as bad as Ike Harris, better known as Ikaris. Yeah, that happened.
The problem with this story is that I just don’t care about anyone in it. Am I supposed to care about Curry? If so, why? Because he’s a med student? Yeah, that sucks I guess, but do I need to watch him bumble around with his identity for five out of seven issues? No, not really. It’s funny, I just read somewhere that this series was originally planned as six issues, but was bumped up to seven to fit the action. I do not see that in the finished product. It seems to me like things could have been sped up to make them more interesting. Part of the reason I wound up not being invested is because I knew that these people living normal lives really were big time super powered beings. There’s nothing to lose. You’re going to regain your memories and go live your awesome life where you don’t really have to worry about anything and get to fight monsters or whatever. That’s WAY better than slaving away in a hospital or BSing your way through a party planning business you don’t really know anything about, right?
But, like I said, this is my favorite JRJR art. That boxy, Frank Miller-esque style he seems to like so much just doesn’t work for me. I remember pages of World War Hulk with Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor where it looked like his armor was made out of one of those ugly metal desks. I also couldn’t get into the boxy Iron Man he drew in his issue of Captain America: Fallen Son. But, for whatever reason, his Iron Man looks rad to me in this book as do the rest of the characters. Maybe the fact that these guys were created by the king of boxy characters–and the King of comics all around, really–put me in a different mindset, or maybe he was doing something else with his character design and placement at the time, but I really liked what he was laying down on the pages. I just wish I cared more about what was going on.
This was another reading experience where my expectations came into play heavily but from a different angle. I had read most or all of Flash: Rebirth in single issue form, but that was over a pretty large expanse of time either because of my lackadaisical reading patterns or the book’s lateness (I’m fairly certain these six issues didn’t all come out consecutively, but honestly don’t remember for sure). I remembered a few plot points from the first reading but was left with memories of confusion for the most part. Though a lot of that got cleared up this time around, it does feel like the life of Barry Allen was made a lot more confusing than it needed to be.
Allow me to explain. This book–much like Green Lantern: Rebirth–is intended to explain the return of a Silver Age Justice Leaguer, this time Barry Allen, the Flash who gave his life to save the lives of everyone in the universe back in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Considering my age — Barry died in the real world when I was two — I have never cared about Barry Allen. Wally West was my Flash and I’ve been around long enough to remember his more hound-dog ways in Justice League Europe and then the awesome runs by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns that really fleshed him and his supporting cast out as characters. So, when Barry came back in Final Crisis, I really didn’t care that much. What’s so special about this character who was only ever interesting when he died? Well, not much, but one of the cool things about this book is that it actually asks that very question through the voice of the villain Professor Zoom. Even with all the continuity tampering that goes on (Zoom killed Barry’s mom when he was a kid which is now part of his childhood) and power explanation (Barry actually creates the Speed Force by running), the real point of the story is for Barry to prove his worth to the reader. Whether that succeeds or fails depends on the reader and whether they can make it through the aforementioned confusion zones (which definitely distracted me from the point the first time I read the story).
I think it does a good job of showing the specific way in which Barry Allen can and should work in the DCU: while Wally is the more freewheeling guy (even as a dad), Barry is the straight-laced cop who spends his non-tights days trying to solve cold cases. Was that actually followed through on with the comics that followed? No idea. Was Wally given equal footing? I don’t believe so. Does any of this matter anymore considering the New 52? No, probably not.
The basic question every time I finish a trade is whether I’ll keep it or put it up for trade on my Sequential Swap page. I’ll be keeping this one, at least for now. I have an idea to get my hands on Geoff Johns’ run of Flash which I only read bits and pieces of and I think this might make for an interesting end cap to that collection if I do decide to keep it. I also love the art. Van Sciver’s level detail is amazing and gets me excited to read comics, even ones with big text blocks or huge dialog balloons explaining things like the Speed Force. Finally, this story reminds me of the ones that I occasionally read and loved from the Waid’s run like Terminal Velocity that brought a bunch of different speedsters together. I always liked the legacy/family aspect of the Flash with Wally, Jay, Impulse, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury and even Barry’s ghost coming together to pitch in when necessary. This story not only did that but also brought Max back from the Speed Force, so I dig it.
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.
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 New Krypton Vol. 1-4, Supergirl: Who Is Superwoman?, Superman: Mon-El Vol. 1 & 2, Superman: Nightwing & Flamebird Vol. 1 & 2, Superman: Codename Patriot, Superman Last Stand Of New Krypton Vol. 1 & 2 and Superman War Of The Supermen.
Written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Sterling Gates & Eric Trautmann, drawn by a cast of hundreds.
After reading through Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics (check out the posts here and here if you’re interested) it only made sense to move right into the epic that it spawned called New Krypton. As you can see from the above image, this is a pretty hefty undertaking. I’ve got 13 of the 15 books that encompass the entire thing, I didn’t realize there were two Supergirl volumes I was missing, but I was already three or four books deep by that point and just decided to move forward. I’m not going to go through and write about each individual book because that would take forever and there’s a lot I’ve forgotten. Still, I really enjoyed this story and wanted to talk about it a bit.
Johns’ run ended with the first real look at Brainiac whose ship has a bunch of bottle cities inside, including a Kryptonian one (Kandor mashed up with Argo City). They got that city out and re-enlarged it in the Arctic which of course caused a fair share of trouble because not all Kryptonians are as good as Superman. Eventually, after several run-ins with Earthers, Krypton becomes its own planet in an opposite orbit of Earth. To be with his people, Superman actually leaves Earth but asks Mon-El to stay behind and keep Metropolis safe. At the same time Earth outlaws Kryptonians but that doesn’t stop Nightwing (Chris Kent from Johns’ Last Son arc) and Flamebird from running around trying to find some Kryptonian sleeper agents who are hiding out on Earth.
In addition to all that Supergirl’s dealing with her mother who seems a little crazy, but the real drama running through the entire thing is between General Sam Lane who supposedly died way back during Our Worlds At War and General Zod, neither of whom trust their alien counterparts and have taken measures to keep the other in check and destroy them if need be. As much as the story is about showing how truly GOOD Superman is by comparing him to all of these other far more flawed characters around him, it’s also an intergalactic chess match between Lane and Zod as their machinations play out in subtle and overt ways. I really enjoy how both of those elements play out over this gigantic storyline.
And it is gigantic, you guys, but that’s what I love about it. Just think about how weird of a story this is. Superman leaves Earth and finds himself surrounded by other Kryptonians making him far less special (theoretically) in an all new title called Superman New Krypton. Meanwhile, Mon-El, Nightwing and Flamebird took over Superman and Action Comics respectively. At the same time, the usual cast of characters — Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Lana Land, Perry White, Ma Kent — get to do some new things now that Superman is gone. Jimmy runs around trying to figure out a mystery, Lois actually does the same, but she’s doing it without her Superman safety net. And, hey, SPOILER WARNING, the entire thing ends with nearly an entire planet getting murdered by Lex Luthor and Gen. Lane. I remember sitting at the lunch table at Wizard reading these comics and trying to figure out how this story was going to end with my pals. The general consensus was that they would just send the planet off into space or the Phantom Zone or something. There was a little talk about what actually happened, but none of us thought they’d actually do that because it would be too intense. Nope. Boom. Gone. I was pretty surprised by the ending and how often can you say that about a Big Two epic like this.
I did a little research before diving into this reading experience and came up with a fairly good reading order, but it needed some tweaking, so I’ll lay it down here for others to check out and so I can have a reference point next time I give it a read through. The first seven volumes are pretty solid and can be read thusly.
New Krypton Vol. 1
New Krypron Vol. 2
Supergirl: Who Is Superwoman?
New Krypron Vol. 3
Mon-El Vol. 1
Nightwing & Flamebird Vol. 1
Here’s where it gets a little tricky though because the books intertwine a bit.
Nightwing & Flamebird Vol. 2
Mon-El Vol. 2 (stop at the last issue)
New Krypton Vol. 4
Last Stand Of New Krypton Vol. 1
Last Stand Of New Krypton Vol. 2
War Of The Supermen
Go back and read the rest of Mon-El Vol. 2
I actually read Mon-El Vol. 2 before Nightwing & Flamebird Vol. 2, but I think this way makes more sense, leads to less skipping around and Mon-El flows into the end of the series better than Nightwing & Flamebird. Anyway, I will say that, while I’m glad these books were collected they way they were, there’s a part of my brain that actually likes the idea of this story better as a series of weekly comics coming out. At the time I was just voraciously reading each issue and trying to figure out what was going to happen next in all the different stories. I’m sure I could go back, figure out the release dates and jump from book to book, but that sounds like a TON of work. I want to say there’s some material that’s uncollected, I seem to remember some back-ups that aren’t in these volumes, but might be in the Supergirl ones. Something about Captain Atom in General Lane’s weird alternate dimension. Seems crazy that something like that wouldn’t get included considering how much attention they put into these books, most of which came out in hardcover and feature intros and extra features.
As a longtime Superman fan, I love what this story says about Superman as well as the people he surrounds himself with. At the same time, it’s a sprawling, engrossing story that encompasses pretty much every genre with some huge, over-arcing elements which go through all the books. With all that going on, I felt like the characterizations were pretty consistent across the board and resulted in a story I not only enjoyed the second time around but felt equally invested in.
As I probably over-stated when I wrote about Geoff Johns’ first three volumes of Action Comics, I had a few problems with this run when it first came out. I wasn’t a fan of the Superman continuity I was familiar with getting tampered with, changed and possibly ignored, and this Legion of Super-Heroes arc was actually a part of that, but also helped turn me around on the whole thing. You might not remember, but back in 2005 Mark Waid kicked off a brand new version of the Legion that I really enjoyed. I’m not a big fan of that concept because it’s pretty difficult to get into — I posit that the Legion and X-Men are the two most difficult to crack comic book franchises of all time thanks to all the continuity — but that series was easy to get into because it was a full-on relaunch. As such, I was confused when this arc hit and a new-old Legion was on the scene.
And yet, Johns handled this story and these characters in such a way that I got sucked right in. Plus, I think that Gary Frank is one of the greatest, most interesting superhero comic book artists around and should draw every book, so that sucked me right in. The story here finds Brainiac 5 bringing Superman into a future where a one time Legion reject now called Earth-Man and his cronies in the Justice League have tricked the people of Earth into believing that Superman was a human and that aliens are all awful. They’ve also turned the sun red, so when Superman gets there, the only powers he has are the ones given to him by the Legion flight ring.
And that’s where Johns nails Superman once again in his run on the character. He’s a guy who will not only continue fighting even though he has no powers, but also do so while wearing the iconic costume that makes him as much a target as it does a symbol. Supes ain’t gonna back down from that, he’s going to fight for what’s right. As far as the Legionnaires go, Johns incorporated the imprisonment of like half the team as a way to keep this huge team from becoming too unwieldy for newcomers to the idea. The ones he did decide to showcase all had their own distinct personalities that seem to jibe with the versions I’ve read in books like The Great Darkness Saga, An Eye For An Eye and The More Things Change (they really need to just buckle down and collect everything Legion-related). He also does that wonderful, magical thing that Geoff Johns excels at where he can take a lame old character like Polar Boy and make him awesome.
There’s a pretty cool intro by Keith Giffen in this trade where he guesses that Johns will return to the Legion at some point because, as Giffen well knows, it’s a really difficult franchise to leave behind once you’ve really gotten into it. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that’s happened just yet, but I would love to see him return to the franchise either in comics form or a film which is, now that I think about it, a really good idea considering it’s a teen superhero book filled with kids trying to figure out who they are, who they can love and who they can punch.
While Superman: Brainiac definitely continues the goodness from the previous book, I do have one quick complaint I have to get off my chest right off the bat: for some reason DC skipped Action Comics #864 and 865 which were written by Johns. I mean, this is a five issue trade with some material from a special, would it have been so hard to include two extra issues (or tacked one on at the end of the previous volume and the next here)?
Okay, enough grousing. This book finds, as you might expect, Brainiac coming to Earth, which shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Superman’s kicked his butt a ton of times, right? No. What we learn is that every other Brainiac we’ve seen as but a part of the real Brainiac, the guy who stole Kandor from Krypton and eventually smashed it together with Supergirl’s one-time home Argo City. Now he wants Metropolis, but Superman and Supergirl are standing in the way even though the very thought of facing this villain practically shakes Supergirl to her core. While Superman fights to defeat Brainaic, he sends one of his robots to attack Ma and Pa Kent which leads to the SPOILER death of Pa Kent by way of heart attack. It’s a moment that made me really upset and mad the first time around because my superfan brain wanted me to think he only did it to match the old continuity or the Richard Donner Superman films. But, that’s not the case. Reading all of these books together, Johns incorporated so many wonderful moments with Jonathan Kent in order to both set things up and show how wonderful their relationship is. He earned that death, you guys.
And that pretty much brings us to the end of Johns’ run on Action Comics. This arc would go on to become very important because it essentially launched the events that would become the New Krypton saga. At the time, I thought Johns was overseeing the issues that were written by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Sterling Gates and a few other people. I’m still not finished reading through New Krypton and probably won’t be doing a multi-part review like these, but I do think it’s a really interesting story that deeply explored what Superman is about.