Superman Trade Post: Mongul, & The Power Within

superman vs mongul Boy oh boy do I have a lot of Superman trades lying around waiting to be read. I figured I’d do something about it and made my way through this batch here starting with Superman Vs. Mongul which collects stories from DC Comics Presents #27, 28, 36, 43 as well as “For The Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11.

As a longtime, albeit post-Crisis fan of Superman’s I thought I knew all about Mongul, the villain planted the Black Mercy on Supes and later teamed with Cyborg to destroy Coast City. It turns out Mongul actually had several appearances before that written and drawn by the likes of Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Paul Levitz and Curt Swan.

The opening two-parter finds Mongul blackmailing Superman into getting him the key to Warworld from Martian Manhunter (who’s hanging out on a planet called New Mars apparently). From there he teams up with Supergirl to stop Mongul which works pretty well until he appears again a few months later. This time, Supes partners with the Starman of space to fight off the yellow madman. The third DCP story then teams Supes with the Legion to fight Mongul delightfully drawn by Swan, the man born to draw Silver Age Superman and his pals. Fun fact: Mongul has a strange ability to shrink people and put them in clear boxes that he uses in every one of these appearances.

I actually didn’t read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “For The Man…” this time around because I can only take so many “he’s living in a fake reality!” stories and am no stranger to this one specifically. However, if you’re looking for another reason to buy this trade, that might push you over the edge.

dc universe special superman mongulReading Superman Vs. Mongul reminded me that I also had a copy of DC Universe Special: Superman #1 which actually features all Mongul stories. This book came out in 2008 which the big yellow bastard was a big time player in the Green Lantern books and, much to my surprise (especially given the re-use of its rad Ryan Sook cover for the above collection) has no overlap with the SVM book.

This reprint floppy includes a story from Superman #32 by Roger Stern and Kerry Gammill, the two part Showcase ’95 tale by Peter J. Tomasi and Scot Eaton and an appearance in Flash #102 by Mark Waid, Micahel Jan Friedman and Oscar Jimenez. The first is part of Superman’s time away from Earth where he had amnesia and fought on Warworld, the second shows what happens when a prison tries to mess with Mongul’s memory and the third pits Wally West against the villain. I’m actually a big fan of the Showcase story and am pretty sure it’s not collected anywhere else, so for that alone, this one’s worth the price of admission. As an added bonus, Tomasi wrote many of the Mongul issues of the Green Lantern saga.

superman the power withinI also made my way through Superman: The Power Within, an odd little collection that brings together the Superman strips from when Action Comics went weekly (#601-641 to be exact) and the three part story, “The Sinbad Contract” from Action #658, Superman #48 and Adventures #471.

The former, written by Roger Stern and drawn by Superman legend Curt Swan, is a series of two¬† page spreads told in the style of comic strips with a good deal of recap. I’m sure that helped readers pick up on details they would have otherwise missed reading the weekly adventures, but it can make the all-at-once reading experience a bit slow. The story itself revolves around a guy named Bob Galt who’s part of a Superman god cult and a group that thinks he’s the anti-Christ known as the Consortium. Ultimately there’s a big villain reveal that I didn’t see coming, but it would have been nice to see Superman and said bad guy square off a bit more (as it is, the villain’s only in three strips).

Swan also penciled the “Sinbad” story which was penned by Bill Messner-Loebs. This one’s about a pair of Muslim siblings who wind up with a special power belt that belongs to Lex Luthor. While much of it is about the boy and his older sister trying to figure out what to do with the newfound power, the three-parter also heavily deals with the idea of anti-Muslim sentiment and how it can be used as a weapon more powerful than the aforementioned belt.

As a big Superman fan, I will be keeping all three of these books in my collection. I’ve gotten much better at letting go of trades and donating them to the library, but I have a much harder time doing that with pre-New 52 Superman trades. There’s just so much greatness in this character that I want to hang on to these books to flip back and watch him defeat Mongul again or deal with problems a lot more complicated than bank robberies or alien invasions.

Superman Trade Post: Man Of Steel Volume 6 & Eradication!

SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL VOLUME 6 (DC)
Written by John Byrne, Ron Frenz, Jim Starlin & Dan Jurgens
Drawn by Art Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens & John Byrne
Collects Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures Of Superman Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Action Comics #594-595, Booster Gold #23 & Superman #12.
I’ve only blogged about the fourth Man of Steel volume before, but this is a series of collections that I adore, even if I’m not in love with all the of stories therein. I find myself looking back to the 80s and 90s moreso than looking forward to books coming out in the future from Marvel and DC. Part of that is because I’m out of the loop and only really hearing about things after they’re either well liked or panned. Not having all the comic book access I used to is a bummer, partially because I love reading comics, but more prominently because I don’t have the opportunity (or don’t give myself the opportunity) to make up my own opinions unless I find myself lucky enough to get a trade.

Anyway, I appreciate what creators were doing at DC back then. After Crisis everyone was just trying to figure out what was going on and making some really interesting comics that fit in all different corners–some of which we hadn’t seen before–in the DCU. This collection of Superman comics–mostly annuals–does some of that itself. The underutilized but ridiculously amazing Art Adams draws one of the annuals which features Superman, Batman, Robin AND vampires. I had read the issue before, but it was fun reading it again. Then, there’s one of those stories where a monster runs amok, but he’s not really a bad guy. It might have been new then, but I’ve read it enough to know all the beats. Jim Starlin–who I just interviewed actually for CBR–does some really interesting stuff in an annual that thankfully wasn’t paint by numbers and really had be guessing, trying to figure out what was going on. The Booster Gold crossover was fun, followed by the origin of Lori Lemaris which I already knew, so it was kinda boring and finally a Silver Banshee story (possibly her first–at least post-Crisis–appearance?) that does the ol’ “Superman/Martian Manhunter” switcheroo.

In the end, I think the level of enjoyment you get out of these issues will depend heavily on what comics you have already read, how much you already know about Superman and how much you like Superman. I’ve read a ton of comics and know a lot about Superman, but I also love the character and have a great interest in this era because it’s what directly influenced the comics I wound up reading in the early 90s. I’m definitely having holes filled in my mental map of Superman’s history and hope that the Man Of Steel trade series continues on. Has anyone heard anything about that? I don’t think anything past this sixth volume has been announced, right?

SUPERMAN ERADICATION (THE ORIGIN OF THE ERADICATOR) (DC)
Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway & Roger Stern
Drawn by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez & Kerry Gammill
Collects Action Comics #651-652, Adventures Of Superman #460, 464, 465 & Superman #41, 42
I have a series of 90s era Superman trades I’ve had sitting around for a while. I’ve been holding off on reading them because I was hoping the Man Of Steel volumes would catch up. I still want that to happen because, frankly, some of these books are kind of a mess. The trade paperback market was pretty infantile at the time, which might explain why this book that supposedly tells the origin of The Eradicator (who would play a big role in The Return Of Superman storyline, hence the trade) doesn’t really achieve that goal. From what I can tell, it would be a difficult task because there was a significant amount of time between Superman being given the Eradicator (that thing that looks like his spaceship floating about his hand in the trade) and the story you read in the pages.

Another problem is that this story doesn’t actually feature the character we came to know as Eradicator, but instead a tale of Superman/Clark Kent becoming very distant and more Kryptonian (ie cold and scientific). The problem is that, if you’ve probably seen this story before if you’ve been reading Superman comics before. I’d rather read all the comics that lead up to this, the ones that showed Clark becoming Editor in Chief of Newstime magazine or the troubles that Jimmy Olsen finds himself in or the Draaga story. Instead, we get peeks at those threads but the “Hey Clark and Superman are acting wonky, aren’t they?” takes center stage.

A few fun bits do include the building of the Fortress of Solitude, a fight with Lobo and Maxima explaining her intentions for Superman (she wants to make him her man and take him back to her planet Almerac). These are elements that I am familiar and was happy to learn more about. As it happened those same elements played into some of the other older Superman trades I happened to read and will write about shortly. I was kind of disappointed in the collection as a whole because it wasn’t very interesting or original, but it did offer more pieces to the puzzle that is “my” Superman (basically from the Man Of Steel miniseries til the end of Infinite Crisis). Hopefully, the Man of Steel collection series will continue on so I can have a better idea of everything that was going on around this time.

The Box: Warlock And The Infinity Watch #21-24

It was bound to happen. It’s not like I could have 100% luck liking these comics I picked at random and let me tell you, these four issues of Warlock And The Infinity Watch from 1993 and 1994 written by Jim Starlin and drawn by Tom Grindberg (21, 23, 24) and Angel Medina (22) are just bad. It doesn’t help that 21 and 22 are Infinity Crusade tie-ins while 23 and 24 are part of the four title, 13 issue Blood and Thunder Thor crossover and I have very little working knowledge of Warlock and his team aside from what I’ve read in the current Guardians of the Galaxy and Infinity Gauntlet. Oh, also, I hate Grindberg’s art. He’s like a less anatomically correct and more sloppy Mike Mignola. And I love Mignola, which got me thinking about how fine the line between art I like and art I don’t is. I wasn’t going to even bother scanning one of the pages, but since these covers don’t seem to be online anywhere and I was scanning anyway, I figured “what the hell.” You can see the last two covers with your own eyes. I have no idea how the inker and colorist figured out what belonged to which character.


But enough about that. I like Jim Starlin space comics and these were not good Jim Starlin space comics. They don’t even approach something like Infinity Gauntlet or Dreadstar (a book I highly recommend checking out). It did go a little away from his usual “space government fighting against space church” thing he seems to go to a lot, but I really had no idea what was going on in these issues. Again, it’s hard to really judge a series of comics that have no running story between them, zero character development (Drax fights Thor…a lot), very little team interaction and absolutely no room for newbies like myself to gain a foothold. Blech. Maybe they’re better in the context of their related stories, but as of now, I’m not putting the effort in. Hopefully the other WATIW comics in the box are a lot better because there are quite a few of them (their numbers come in second to the nearly complete run of Power Man and Iron Fist I keep hoping I don’t pull for this column (did you like the new logo?).