Batman Beyond Trade Post: Superman Man Of Tomorrow & 10,000 Clowns

Superman Beyond Man of Tomorrow Superman Beyond: Man of Tomorrow (DC)
Written by Paul Levitz, Ron Frenz, Tom Defalco & J.T. Krull, drawn by Howard Porter, John Livesay, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson, Tom Defalco, Ron Frenz & Sal Buscema
Collects Superman/Batman Annual #4, Superman Beyond #0 & Superman Beyond Digital Chapters #1-10

After enjoying Adam Beechen’s first two volumes of Batman Beyond, I got right on my library’s website and placed the other available volumes on hold. They don’t have Justice League Beyond and I’m still waiting on the last BB volume, but quickly moved on to Superman Beyond: Man Of Tomorrow and Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns. These stories were originally presented in a digital-first format and then put out in hard copy for the most part.

Of all the Beyond comics I’ve read, the ones in Superman Beyond feel the most disjoined, but I think that’s because it’s got three different writers involved. The Superman/Batman Annual by Levitz and Guedes was an interesting story about Superman finally defeated Lex Luthor, but it ends with him leaving Earth to explore the cosmos. This got picked up in Superman Beyond #0 by Frenz, Defalco and Buscema which finds Superman returning to Earth and discovering his place in a world that’s evolved to a new place. And then in the J.T. Krull stuff, you find Superman wondering if he should stay on Earth or not without mentioning the fact that he spent a year off planet. In the end, it feels like the first two issues are one thing and the other pieces are connected, but not all the way.

The thrust of the main adventure finds Superman dealing with Lex Luthor’s daughter, Lucy, whose true identity was revealed to her by a projection of her father. Lucy uses a combination of her own smarts and her dad’s plan to get pretty darn close to killing Superman. Luckily, Metropolis has armored cops now and Batman swings by to help out, so the day winds up getting saved and a new status quo is set up for Superman including a new secret identity as a fireman.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t really do it for me. I was never convinced of Lucy’s turn from disillusioned youth to A level maniacal supervillain in like one day. I get that she was bummed for feeling like an outsider, but to go from that to piloting massive robots around Metropolis and surrounding the planet with Kryptonite meteorites is another thing.

There were cool moments though. Luthor’s plans were pretty spectacular and I really enjoyed the moment when Bruce Wayne popped over from Gotham in his Dark Knight Returns armor to help Superman fight Solomon Grundy. But, at the end of the day, this is another sad Superman story and that’s not the kind of Superman story I want to read. For me, the heart of Superman is that he’s got hope in his heart even when things are going terribly. There is some of that at the end, but you spend all this time hanging out with a sad sack that it’s not very fun. You could argue that they went this route as a way to flip the Superman/Batman dynamic in the future because Terry McGinnis is a young guy who seems to enjoy what he does, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m also not a fan of seeing Supes in that black and white costume, but that’s not to say that the artists in this book didn’t do a rad job of bringing it to life.

batman beyond 10000 clowns Batman Beyond: 10,000 Clowns (DC)
Written by Adam Beechen, drawn by Norm Breyfogle
Collects Batman Beyond Unlimited #1-13

Thankfully, I had a much better experience with Beechen’s next Batman Beyond offering 10,000 Clowns. This one felt like a nice synthesis of the previous two volumes in that it had the overarching storyline as seen in Hush Beyond, but also handled a lot of evolving story elements like Dana’s brother Doug, her relationship with Terry, the appearance and origin of a new Vigilante and the reappearance of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and the new Catwoman in service of the greater good. Oh, and Bruce Wayne almost died.

In a move that feels like a great mix of The Warriors and a smaller version of the “Grand Guignol” story from James Robinson’s Starman, Gotham City is under siege by an army of Jokerz from all over the world. As it turns out, a fairly new character to the series has crowned himself The Joker King and has a new take on the Joker’s chaos theory: none of it matters, so let’s cause as much destruction as possible. To that end, he drugs all the thugs and sends them out into the city with explosives, a plan that decimates huge chunks of the city, even though Batman, Catwoman, the new Vigilante and Dick Grayson are out in the field trying to save the day. Even Bruce gets in on the action trying to protect people in the hospital while he’s seemingly dying from cancer.

I didn’t know much about this series going in, so I was surprised to see Norm Breyfogle’s name on the cover. He was a Batman artist in the 80s and 90s when I first started reading comics and actually gave me my very first comic sketch when he visited my hometown shop 20 years ago. I was surprised when I opened this book and saw him doing a very different style that was much more reminiscent of the Bruce Timm look of the original cartoon. Ryan Benjamin did more of a stylistic take in the previous two books, but this felt a lot more similar to the existing cartoon material, which was probably a conscious effort to make these digital comics as easy to digest for new, non-traditional comic book readers as possible. While I enjoy the look of Breyfogle’s usual pencils, I found myself really digging these books as well. It’s not easy looking classic and futuristic at the same time, but that’s what the cartoon did and that’s what Breyfogle did as well.

So far, I’m giving Beechen’s run on Batman Beyond a big ol’ thumb’s up, but I must admit that I’m a little worried about how it’s all going to end. I know Batman Beyond is a big deal in DC’s current weekly series/event called Future’s End and that there’s a Batman Beyond 2.0 book right now, but it’s by a different writer and also takes place in an alternate universe. Basically, I’m worried that Beechen’s run will just end and then this other things jumps in to take its place. It always bums me out when one creator does all this hard work bringing a character to a cool new place and then, after said character gets popular, someone else is brought in and changes things around to go in a different direction. I’m not saying I won’t like or try the new version of Batman Beyond, but I don’t want its existence to negate this other book that I’ve enjoyed so much. I also want to see what happens to Gotham in the wake of this insane attack by the Jokerz, so I hope to get a little bit of that, plus a well deserved ending in the last collection called Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond.

New Mutants Trade Post: Classic Volume 1 and 2

The New Mutants Classic: Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Bob McLeod, Paul Smith & Sal Buscema
Collects Marvel Graphic Novel #4, New Mutants #1-7 and Uncanny X-Men #167

I’m not quite sure what made me make a Swap for the first two volumes of The New Mutants Classic. I’m not a big fan of the X-Men and I’ve been known to downright loath Chris Claremont’s writing, so how did I find myself reading these books? Well, I try to keep an open mind and besides, Swaps don’t cost a lot of money and I wanted to make this one work for some reason. I also have an affinity for comics starring teens. Each generation of comic fans has had their own from the Teen Titans to Gen 13 (my personal teen team) and on to the Runaways.

I had a few worries before cracking the first volume open. First of all, even though I like teen superhero comics, you oftentimes run into problems where the stories that were so beloved when they were originally written have been retreaded to death. I had this problem when I tried reading the first New Teen Titans archive. Around that same time, I’d read all of Geoff Johns’ run on the book, Judd Winick’s Outsiders, Booster Gold and Titans, all of which went back to the well or were influenced by those original stories. So, by the time I got to reading about how the team first met Deathstroke, I felt like I’d seen it from a hundred different angles already and there wouldn’t be a lot for me to be surprised by. My other worry was that Claremont would be Claremont and I’d be overwhelmed by an obscene number of text boxes.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the former wasn’t a problem for me. Maybe it’s because I barely know these characters, but I had no idea where anything was going, so I was along for the ride. This got me pretty jazzed. And then the ride got kind of boring. I found myself struggling to finish both of these books only spurred on by the desire to write this post and get to the Bill Sienkiewicz stuff which my pal Brett White not only loves, but also featured on an episode of his podcast Matt and Brett Love Comics. I was able to score those trades in another swap, so I soldiered on.

After liking the Marvel Graphic Novel that introduced the characters and team, I was surprised to feel a little jerked around between issues of the ongoing series. One would end on a note and then the next would start as if ten things had happened and it wasn’t the usual comic book thing of showing what happens, then going back and showing HOW it happened. There’s also a lot of those text boxes that get on my nerves. Most of them explain the characters’ powers which I understand because, back then, the idea was for every issue to be accessible to every new reader. The problem I had with them was that, while I completely understood Cannonball’s powers (he can fly fast and can’t be hurt while doing so) I didn’t quite get a grip on Sunspot’s. He gets his powers from the sun and turns into this dark energy being, but he can still get knocked out or shot? What’s the point of the energy form, then? I thought it was kind of a Human Torch thing where his body turned into energy or was at least covered by it, so shouldn’t a bullet burn away? I don’t like being confused about things like that while reading a comic.

The New Mutants Classic: Volume 2 (Marvel)
Written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Sal Buscema
Collects New Mutants #8-17

I’m just going to keep on with the critique of the series overall as I go here because the problems I had were not confined to just the first or second volume. I also didn’t care about any non-team member that was brought into the book aside from the local kids they met at the mall. I’m talking specifically here about Team America (motorcycle-riding mutants, not the ass-kicking puppets) or most of the Nova Roma folks. While I did like how the team went traveling around the Marvel U a bit, I wasn’t super interested in many of their stops and couldn’t believe they would just let their friend and teammate Karma, but they’ll run off after everyone else at the drop of a hat. That just didn’t seem consistent.

Man, I’m starting to sound like a message board poster, but I swear, I’m going to get to the stuff I like in a second. While I haven’t read many New Mutants appearances, I did really like the teen-oriented New X-Men series. One of the cool aspects of that book was how well connected it was to the other X-books, but there’s very little of that here. The only real crossover is an issue of Uncanny that features the kids, a few random appearances and Professor X constantly talking about how the other team was off in space or on a mission or something. I know this was the first X-Men spinoff book and maybe that’s just what was going on in the main title at the time, but it felt lacking.

Okay, complain-fest is done. I didn’t fully hate these books. If I did, I wouldn’t have bothered writing about them. One thing that Claremont did do really well in these issues was get into the heads of these kids and write about their insecurities and worries as much as their burgeoning superheroics. While I was getting bored with over a year’s worth of Cannonball being not the best flyer, it was cool how towards the end of the second volume, one of the characters wondered to herself if it was because he manifested his powers later than the rest of them. I hadn’t thought of that, but it was a nice touch. I also like how Claremont tried to work in characters like Kitty Pryde and Ilyiana Rasputin to this group of younger characters. It makes sense that there would be some camaraderie and tension between the “vets” and the rookies. That could have been played with more and probably is in the coming issues.

At the end of the day, these two books feel like a long movie that could have used some serious editing. There’s a really solid 8 or 9 issues in here, but there’s also a lot of other stuff cluttering things up and slowing them down at the same time. I don’t know if I can honestly recommend these books to anyone who’s not already an X or Claremont fan, but if you want to give them a whirl, head on over to my Sequential Swap page. I’m sure we can make a deal.

Immortal Iron Fist Trade Post: Volumes 1 & 2

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 1: THE LAST IRON FIST STORY (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction, drawn by David Aja, Travel Foreman, Russ Heath, John Severin & Sal Buscema
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #1-6, excerpt from Civil War: Choosing Sides
After re-reading all the post-Rebirth Green Lantern comics in Books Of Oa and all ten volumes of Ex Machina, I wanted to re-read another recent favorite but one that wasn’t quite so involved. I’ve had the first three Immortal Iron Fist books sitting around for a while now and figured it would make a great candidate. Even though the comic suffered from timeliness issues if memory serves, they came out with a few one-shots here and there to fill the gabs and really broaden the idea that Danny Rand is but one of 66 Iron Fists from throughout history. As it turns out, Danny’s predecessor, dubbed the Golden Age Iron Fist Orson Randall who also had a Doc Savage kind of a thing going on for a while, is still alive.

As this first volume progresses we not only learn more about Randall and some of the other previous Iron Fists, the present story involves Danny and Orson teaming up to fight the newly powered Davos (his old enemy called the Steel Serpent) along with an army of Hydra agents. The seeds are also laid for the next arc including an evil businessman blackmailing the guy that run’s Danny’s company Jeryn into arranging for some trains to be built. Fraction and Brubaker also mention six other celestial cities like K’un L’un where he became Iron Fist which have their own immortal weapons all of whom fight in a tournament.

I’m a sucker for superheroes with a legacy, so the idea that a character who, as far as I knew, was the first of his kind, had this long ranging history with all kinds of story potential was right in my wheelhouse. Thankfully, the book also proved to be pretty damn good. Sure, there’s action elements that don’t always work because of the constraints of the form. I’ve recently realized that action, especially fisticuffs are really difficult to convey in comics. Sometimes it’s the art, sometimes it’s the eye not catching all the things it’s supposed to. One thing that artist Aja does to help get rid of some of that confusion is putting red circles around impact points. It might seem a little obvious, but the redness zooms the attention from one crack to another, just like in a great action flick. Aja’s my favorite of the many artists in the book. Some fit really well with whatever story they were tasked with while others leave me wanting more. All in all, this volume not only adds a depth to an existing character (I knew nothing about Iron Fist when I started reading this book, so don’t worry about not knowing what’s going on) and tells a great action story where two kung fu masters fight an army of goons and a few legit fighters, but also gives you plenty to look at and even includes some behind the scenes sketch material from Aja. Best of all, though, is that the collection does it’s job in making me want to move right on to the next volume. Oh, my only complaint is that Heroes For Hire Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing come off a little too 70s blaxploitation for my tastes, but that’s all I got.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST VOLUME 2: THE SEVEN CAPITAL CITIES OF HEAVEN (Marvel)
Written by Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, drawn by David Aja, Roy Allan Martinez, Scott Koblish, Kano, Javier Pulido, Tonci Zonjic, Howard Chaykin, Dan Brereton & Jelena Kevic Djurdevic
Collects Immortal Iron Fist #8-14 & Annual #1
While the first volume of IIF was a lot like a 70s kung fu movie with some pulp elements thrown in and a butt-ton of (for lack of a better word) ninjas throwing down, the second one focused more on the fantasy elements of the character, his fellow immortal weapons and his former home K’un-L’un. As it happens, every so many years all seven Capital Cities of Heaven come together and have a tournament where each of the seven immortal weapons (Iron Fist, Steel Phoenix, Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, Dog Brother #1, Fat Cobra, Prince Of Orphans and Bride Of 9 Spiders) all fight each other using rad sounding moves like The Black Milk Of Hell and Burning Chi Thunderfoot, but the larger story revolves around Danny trying to find out more about Orson Randall’s life and teaming up with his former trainer The Thunderer to plan a revolution in K’un-L’un.

Brubaker and Fraction really know how to pack a lot into a comic because, in addition to the elements I mentioned already, this volume also has repeated flashbacks to Danny’s father training to become Iron Fist (SPOILER, he fails) and his relationship with Davos which turns a little quicker from friend to enemy than seems realistic, but that’s more of a nitpick. Danny also escapes to Earth to meet with some of Orson’s friends and learn more about his history AND the guy with the trains from the last volume is causing more trouble, this time trying to shoot a train full of explosives at K’un-L’un in an attempt to destroy ALL the cities. Oh and a more toned down Heroes For Hire are there too, trying to help. Seriously, the issues are just packed with goodness.

I don’t want to get into too much spoiler territory here because I want everyone to go into these books fresh, but I found it really interesting how the tournament ended and then even more so how the volume ended. I also read the third volume but since this review is running a bit long, I’ll save that for another day and a pretty good amount of the issues after that, but not the Immortal Weapons series. I know the creative team changed, so I’m curious to see how the excellent set-up played out. Speaking of which, what’s the deal with Iron Fist right now? Where’s he at?

The Box: Creatures On The Loose #35, Defenders #59, E-Man #10 & Fantastic Four #207

Hey gang, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these The Box posts and that’s because I had to move the boxes into our storage unit down the road and, well, I’m somewhat lazy. And, to be honest, these four comics I’ll be talking about aren’t from those boxes anyway, but a shoebox full of comics the in-laws gave me for Christmas this year, which was obviously much appreciated. Yesterday I put the comics in alphabetical order, as I’m want to do, grabbed a stack and gave them a read through. The shoebox is mostly late 70s Marvel with a few DC books and some Modern Comics comics thrown in. I’ll be honest, I’m not familiar with that company, but they did some Judo Master comics, so I found them interesting. I’ll spread the comics out over a few posts. For the most part I found these books fun, though some of them dragged. Let’s jump right in though, shall well.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #35 (Marvel)
Written by David Kraft, drawn by George Perez
Working at Wizard, I learned about a lot of comic characters I otherwise probably wouldn’t know anything about. Take Man-Wolf for instance, who stars in this issue. Did you know that, when he’s in a place called the Other Realm, he becomes a guy called Stargod who is a telepath? That’s nuts! So, when I saw this issue of him fighting a red armored guy on the cover, I was sold. Stargod’s not in this issue, mind you, but it was still a fun romp as Hate Monger, in the armor for some reason, captures Man-Wolf and brings him back to his lair only to have Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. show up to save the day. There’s also some stuff with Man-Wolf’s dad J. Jonah Jameson fending off claims that his son is Man-Wolf. I had a pretty good idea of what was going on even though this 1975 comic didn’t have a recap page. And, I guess it did it’s job because I want to read more issues of Creatures On The Loose and some more Man-Wolf stuff. Oh, also, as you might have noticed George Perez penciled this issue, which, according to Comic Book Database’s entry on the artist, was only his sixth issue ever. Don’t expect to open this issue and see Teen Titans or Avengers-level Perez as he’s just cutting his teeth, but there’s a page when the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang comes busting in where you can really see Perez’s style shining through.

THE DEFENDERS #59 (Marvel)
Written by David A. Kraft, drawn by Ed Hannigan & Dan Green
Like the other issue of Defenders I read in a previous The Box, I wasn’t all too interested in this one. The main plot of the book involves Valkyrie, Hulk and Devil Slayer going to Dr. Strange and asking him for help to stop some demon people from doing…something bad. Then, all of a sudden, the story cuts to Hellcat and Nighthawk working their way through some death machines. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read much of this comic as it was proven fairly early to me that it was going to be long, overly wordy, boring and confusing. Unlike the Man-Wolf issue, this Defenders issue didn’t recap things in a way that was interesting enough to keep me focused on what was happening. Plus, the scenes with the heroes talking to Dr. Strange just seemed way too long and uninteresting. Then, the jump to the other teammates just seemed to come out of nowhere and by then, I was bored and was just looking at the cool deathtraps, which this issue is lousy with (in a good way). As it is, there’s some fights, references to other characters I’m not familiar with and then Dr. Strange dies. Or at least a bearded man tells the Defenders as such nonchalantly at the very end. I think one thing that makes Defenders comics hard for me to follow is that I have no idea why they’re a team or what their purpose is. Anyone know?

E-MAN #10 (Modern Comics)
Written by Nicola Cuti, drawn by Joe Staton
Reading this 1975 issue of E-Man, The Energy Man was an interesting experience because he is a character I knew nothing about heading into this reading experience. That’s a fairly rare occasion because it seems like I’ve at least read about most of the major (and minor) comic book characters out there. What I gathered from this issue is that E-Man was an energy being from another planet who came to earth and eventually took on human shape and became a kind of superhero and shacked up with a woman named Nova. I only know any of that because this issue was a flashback and told me most of the origin stuff. It was an interesting issue overall because it featured E-Man trying to communicate with a blond woman in the forest who loved reading fantasy books. Eventually, someone saw her talking to him as he was playing genie and wanted to kill her as a witch. E-Man came to her defense and ten all of a sudden, she flipped the script and wanted to kill her attackers. As it turned out, the girl was actually mentally unbalanced and had what sounds like bipolar disorder. I thought that was an interesting twist from a comic I didn’t expect much out of, especially because of the cartoony art by Staton. I’d be interested in checking out more E-Man issues, does anyone know about him?

FANTASTIC FOUR #207 (Marvel)
Written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by Sal Buscema & Joe Sinnott
Here’s the deal with this issue of Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four aren’t in it. Also, Johnny Storm is away at college, but it’s a college run by mind-controlling super-villain The Monocle. So, you’ve got the Human Torch flying around doing bad things and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop his old friend from doing too much damage. Oh, also, Peter Parker is now working for a different paper and trying to dig up some dirt on the place. This was another fairly straightforward and fairly boring story to slog through. Maybe I’ve read too many comics in my day, but this kind of thing just felt very been-there, done-that and thus wasn’t that interesting. Really it had me wondering what the status of the FF was at this time. Where is the rest of the team? Why would Reed, the smartest man in the world, not know that this college is being run by a super-villain? Why would anyone trust a man who wears a monocle and isn’t British? These are all questions I was left asking. It looks like the next issue will be more interesting as someone has captured Medusa of the Inhumans!!! Maybe I’ll stumble across that one at some point…or not, whatever.

The Box: Batman vs Predator II #4 & Defenders #119

For the full rundown of what The Box is all about, check this out. This week’s picks (I went with two because I had some spare time and felt like trying my luck again) are Batman vs. Predator II #4 and The Defenders #119. One thing I forgot to mention before is that, as you can clearly see in the picture, there are actually two boxes (“The Boxes” just doesn’t have the same kind of ring). Also the box that’s completely full of comics is full of Marvel, the less full one is mostly DC and Dark Horse with some incredibly random stuff thrown in (there’s even a copy of Spawn #1).

Alright, enough explaining of things. Let’s get into the comic reviews. First up is BVPII #4 from 1994 which was written by Doug Moench and drawn by Paul Gulacy. I’m 90% sure I haven’t read this series before. I have read–and own–the original and more Predator comics than I care to admit (or am able to remember), but I’m still thinking this one wasn’t on the list. I’m glad I snagged the last issue and not a random one in the middle (I think there’s a few more in the box, but I’m not sure). Anyway, you pretty much get the full story right here even though there’s nothing like a flashback to catch newbies up. Batman’s got a contract out on him while one Predator is attacking Gotham. Meanwhile, another Predator is there to stop the bad one. I’m not sure what makes him bad, as Predators all love to hunt humans. Unlike the first volume there’s some government dudes in weird costumes and Huntress is involved. It’s not a great comic, but the last bunch of pages were a lot of fun as the poo hits the fan and we get our final battle. Maybe I’ll check the trade out online.

And now we have The Defenders #119 by Steven Grant and Sal Buscema which has a cover date of May 1983. Having only ever read one Defenders comic (the first issue of Erik Larsen’s series), I was glad to find out that, even though the issue number was so high, this was actually a “never told story” that takes places between issues #68 and #69. That might not seem like much help, but, apparently at this time, the team still consisted of the main members I’m vaguely familiar with: Namor, Dr. Strange, Hulk, Hellcat, Valkyrie and Nighthawk (who apparently died right before this issue came out). The flashback shows us a tale of Yandroth taking mental control of most of the Defenders only to have them fight the ones who aren’t controlled in the end. When I first looked at the cover it was just a glance and I read the text “MARVEL SUPER-HEROES BATTLE SIDE BY SIDE AGAINST…EACH OTHER.” I thought “Awesome, big huge fight issue. Then I looked at it a little closer and saw that Namor, Clea and Dr. Strange were on the opposing side. That’s not really that interesting of a stand-off and unfortunately the issue mimicked those sentiments. I guess the real point of this story is that Nighthawk’s nurse Luann Bloom was actually a robot, spying on him for a shadowy organization yet to be revealed. All of which would make a lot more sense if I knew anything about the Defenders. Oh well, it was a fun enough issue to read and did make me curious about checking out other Defenders comics.