Revisiting Superboy And The Ravers

Back in the mid-90s there were two teen superhero team books from DC that captured my imagination: the Dan Jurgens Teen Titans and Superboy and the Ravers. Both books seemed really cool and featured new, young characters that I figured I could relate to at the ripe old age of 13. However, I was working with a pretty tight budget when it came to comics and could only get issues here and there. As such, I collected most of both short-lived series’. It wasn’t until my pal, CBR mastermind and Cool Kids Table blogger Kiel Phegley sent me a a box o’ stuff that included all 19 issues of SATR that I was able to read the entire series from front to back.

And you know what? It was a surprisingly fun read. The concept might seem kind of silly and very of-the-times today — an intergalactic party that teenagers with super powers can teleport to on a whim centered around one of the most 90s characters around, Superboy — but it actually did some fun stuff with characters who weren’t really being used, based new ones on existing ideas and dealt with issues like coming out of the closet and trying to fit in.

The run was written by Karl Kesel and Steve Mattsson with artists Paul Pelletier (1-9, 13, 14) and Josh Hood (#15-19). It also boasts fill-ins by Aaron Lopresti (#11, 12) and Ramon Bernado (#10, the Meltdown crossover) and even a back up story by Jim Aparo and Todd Nauk pencils on the final issue. In addition to

One of the things that impressed me most about the book is that it actually doens’t focus too much on Superboy in favor of original characters Hero Cruz (who eventually gets the H Dial!), Rex the Wonder Dog, the magnetically powered Aura, the only good guy on Qward Kaliber, New Blood Sparx and alien-created ectoplasmic goo guy Half-Life. The writers do an excellent job balancing each character’s story with the larger one of trying to figure out exactly why the guy throwing this rave, Kindred Marx, is doing so and why intergalactic cops InterC.E.P.T. want to put him out of business. I actually get the feeling that Kesel and Mattsson wanted to create this book with all original characters and maybe editorial liked it but wanted to see a known/popular character thrown in to boost sales.

While re-reading this run I realized that this book might have started my love of the Dial H For Hero concept. I don’t know where else I would have seen it and definitely read some of these issues well before I got into Will Pfeifer’s excellent series HERO. I just think it’s such a neat concept with all kinds of potential. Speaking of which, anyone read the current series? I’m very curious to check it out. I also think this might be one of the first comics I read with a gay character and was surprised at the honest reaction Sparx had when Hero came out to her, difficult as it was to read.

At the end of the day, I had a good time reading this series again, but I don’t want it to sound like I unearthed a forgotten classic. A while ago I realized that there have been teen team comics that appeal to the younger generation reading said comics for decades and that while those books can become all-time favorites for those kids, they might not read well for people from other generations. For me, this is a nice little time capsul that did some interesting things, but I don’t think I’d hand it to a younger or much older reader and expect for them to dig it as much as me.

DUMP, KEEP OR BIND: When it comes to loose comics like this, the question I have after reading through them is first, “Do I want to keep these comics?” followed by, “Do I want to get them bound?” I’ll definitely keep these issues around, but they’re incredibly low on the list of books I want to pay to get put together in a nice hardcover package. I would however consider using them as a test run for trying my hand at home binding. I mean, these issues aren’t that hard to find, I could replace them for cheap if I screwed up the binding and I actually have at least half of them in my collection back home, making SATR a great self-binding project.

The Box: Lobo Annual #1, Snake Eyes Declassified #2 & Crux #6

My continued adventures with the longbox of comics my pal Jesse sent me for my birthday from Cardsone took me back into the world of Bloodlines, the history of one of the coolest G.I. Joes around and into the first of many CrossGen comics I’ll be reading.

My first pick up was Lobo Annual #1 from 1993 written by Alan Grant and drawn by Christian Alamy. It was actually a pretty interesting one as it’s an early chapter in the saga that would become Bloodlines, an effort to bring some new, edgy blood into the DC Universe by way of some aliens based on the seven deadly sins who eat people with the metagene. Back when Bloodlines was actually coming out, I didn’t have enough cash to purchase annuals at their whopping $3.50 cover price. Add the fact that they had no real real importance on what happened in the ongoing series’ and I skipped out.

The interesting thing about this issue, in addition to teaming Lobo up with a female character named Layla who took no guff from him, this issue explains how the invading parasite aliens wound up getting their human looks: by mimicking the looks of some L.E.G.I.O.N. agents they took out.

Lobo’s the kind of character you either dig or you don’t, I do so this was a fun issue. I’m also a bit of a fan of L.E.G.I.O.N. and R.E.B.E.L.S., though it’s more of a curiosity since I didn’t read the books when they came out. On it’s own, the issue actually works pretty well and it also holds some sort of importance on the oncoming Bloodlines story, but it was worth the read, though maybe a little long as these things tend to be.

Up next came Snake Eyes: Declassified #2 from 2005 which I did not have nearly as much fun with. The Devil’s Due book was written by Brandon Jerwa with art by Emiliano Santalucia and Robert Atkins. I had a pair of problems with this comics not including the fact that I’m not a die hard G.I. Joe or Snake Eyes fan. First off, the story is very obvious. The man who would become Snake Eyes winds up hooking up with a guy who is clearly using him. As a reader you get this nearly immediately, so the following pages wind up being kind of pointless. My other problem is one that I’ve had with several comics and that is that the art just doesn’t feel up to snuff. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not as good as you would expect from a professional comic book you theoretically would have paid three bucks for. The backgrounds are boring, the figures vary between strong and weak and the coloring feels very faint which makes the characters feel less bold and imposing.

At it’s heart, though, this is basically just a comic about two dudes running around committing crimes. That’s all well and good, but when you know one of them is going to become the greatest ninja warrior around, you kind of don’t care and just want to get to the good stuff. One of the problems with prequels is that we all know the foregone conclusion, so we know when risks are involved. This felt like it could have been told in a simple flashback instead of taking up an entire issue.

Lastly I came out of the box with CrossGen’s Crux #6 by Mark Waid and Paul Pelletier. This was a bit of a difficult issue to pick up on out of nowhere because it directly deals with an important event that happened at the end of #5. It’s well recapped–as are the characters and their abilities thanks to a recap page on the inside cover–but you do miss a bit of the emotional impact of something when you’re reading about it in text or in recap.

Of course, this is an ongoing comic book and that’s the trick to them. I was filled in enough to understand the story and follow along. This book is about a bunch of super type beings waking up on an Earth that’s empty and they’re trying to figure out why. There’s a few revelations that pop up, but again, since I’m not as invested in the characters or the story, they don’t hit as well for me.

Probably the most confusing element of this book and most of the other CrossGen comics I read, though, comes from the fact that a very disparate number of books on all kinds of different worlds are supposed to be connected by the sigil symbol some of them sport that looks unsurprisingly like the CrossGen logo. I still feel like CrossGen could have been a success had they not flooded the market too quickly and labored so intensely to connect all these comics that didn’t need to be connected.

By the way, Paul Pelletier is an awesome artist.

Hulk Trade Post: Incredible Hulk Sons Of Banner & Fall Of The Hulks

The Incredible Hulk: Son Of Banner (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Ariel Olivetti, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Paul Pelletier & Ben Oliver
Collects Incredible Hulk #601-605, Dark Reign: The List – Hulk

Hulk is one of those characters I’ve kind of danced around with fan-wise. I’ve heard amazing things about Peter David’s epic run, but when I tried reading it, I was completely lost (he started in the middle of an arc, if memory serves). The only time I’ve ever really jumped in full boat is when Planet Hulk started. I was completely taken with that series, what a great way to turn a character who’s basically a plot point into an actual interesting person you want a read about (and in a way that hadn’t been done quite that way before). I wasn’t so into World War Hulk and fell away when the Red Hulk stuff started.

But I’ve heard good things about the tag team effort being put forth by Jeff Parker and Greg Pak on the two books and decided to give Incredible Hulk a shot when these two books came up on Thwipster. If you’re unfamiliar with the new M.O., this book sees a de-Hulked Bruce Banner palling around with his son Skaar (who was born on Planet Hulk, but Hulk didn’t know it). Skaar also hates Hulk and wants to kill him, which Banner actually likes because he knows/assumes he’s going to turn back into the Jade Giant eventually.

All kinds of machinations are going on in this comic as Banner manipulates everyone to figure out how Skaar will react when really bad things really happen. There’s also a lot of cool bleeding edge science going on with Banner playing action hero. It’s a cool dichotomy because you get both genius Banner, but also a warrior who gets to smash everyone from Juggernaut to Wolverine. There’s a lot of set-up in this first collection as well as cool tent poles for you to grab onto, which makes it kind of a perfect collection. It works on its own, but flows so well into the next.

My only problem? I’m not a big fan of Olivetti’s artwork. I know I used to, but there’s been a switch in style, I think. His characters and backgrounds just don’t look like they belong on the page together. I can’t necessarily explain why, maybe it’s a coloring or compositing thing (do some of the backgrounds look like they were Photoshopped?) but it’s disorienting to my eye. Even so, it’s not so distracting that I don’t want to read these comics again. They’re so fun I just can’t stay away.

The Incredible Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak & Jeff Parker, drawn by Paul Pelletier
Collects Incredible Hulk #606-608, Fall Of The Hulks Alpha

Unlike its predecessor, Fall Of The Hulks mostly flows with the larger Hulk story that was going on at the time. Banener and Skaar have to deal with a cabal of brainy villains lead by the Leader who have been secretly working together for years (basically, a bad guy Illuminati). There are elements at play here that I didn’t directly understand because they refer to Hulk issues that are collected elsewhere, but overall, I really enjoyed this story too. It was like a crazy chess match, but, you know, which giant green guys punching the stuffing out of each other.

The art also greatly benefits from Pelletier’s pencils which are a lot more traditional and have a very big, iconic feel. He also gets to really stretch his wings and draw all kinds of characters from MODOK and the Eternals to Spider-Man and Hank Pym. Even though the book is very Hulk-centric, it’s also a great celebration of the Marvel Universe.

I had so much fun with these two books that I now want to go back and get all of Parker and Pak’s run to see where all this goes. I think I’m a Hulk fan now. Those guys make great comics.