Archive for Kal-El

Lasso of Truth – Weekly Comics Round-up: 7th October 2009

Posted in Batman, Batman and Robin, Comics, DC, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 7th October, 2009 by Adam Redsell

lasso_of_truth_8

Lasso of Truth is your weekly guide to what’s hot and what’s not in the DC Universe.  Each week, the Red Baron goes through his comics haul to tell you what’s worth buying and what’s best left alone.

Here’s the key:

Must havethere’s no question, you should buy this great book.
Buy ita high-quality read that won’t disappoint.
Check it outpick it up if you have some extra cash.  May be an acquired taste.
Avoida disappointing read.  Save your money and steer clear.


b&r_5

Batman & Robin #5
Written by Grant Morrison ǀ Art by Philip Tan
Jason Todd is back – or is he?  The Red Hood administers a lethal dose of retribution to Gotham’s underbelly, but they aren’t about to take it lying down; not when the Flamingo flies into town.  The new Dynamic Duo have their work cut out for them.  Philip Tan’s no Frank Quitely, but he’s bringing his A-game to this story arc.
Verdict: Buy it.


batman_unseen_1

Batman Unseen #1
Written by Doug Moench ǀ Art by Kelley Jones
I picked this up to read a Bruce Wayne Batman story from the creative minds that brought us Red Rain.  What I got instead was a terrible Seventies throwback.  If you ever wondered what The Invisible Man would be like if Batman was in it, wonder no longer.  Seriously, it’s not worth it.
Verdict: Avoid.


new_krypton_8

Superman: World of New Krypton #8
Written by James Robinson & Greg Rucka ǀ Art by Pete Woods & Ron Randall
Superman proves his mettle as an inspiration for all peoples.  Kal-El diffuses a Thanagarian attack through rather unorthodox means.
Verdict: Check it out.

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Wednesday Comics #5

Posted in Comics, DC, Wednesday Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 8th August, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Thank God it's Wednesday.

Thank God it's Wednesday.

Onto week five of Wednesday Comics, and there’s much to report.  I’ll go through it page by page as I did with the first issue:

Batman
Author: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso (with Robins & Mulvihill)

There’s a moody, green atmosphere back in the Batcave as Bruce Wayne pieces together the evidence surrounding Carlton Glass’ murder.  Alfred, as always, makes a pointed observation on the Batman/Bruce Wayne dynamic.  I love the layout on this page; the smaller panels on the outside give the feeling of “putting the pieces together”, while the central spread of the Batcave suggests an “openness” and scope.  I love Eduardo Risso’s facial expressions and close-up shots; they help establish an intimacy with the characters.

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!
Author: Dave Gibbons
Artist: Ryan Sook

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! is explosive action as always.  The unlikely pair of Kamandi and Prince Tuftan the anthropomorphic tiger take on an entire army of apes in an attempt to save the first human girl they’ve ever seen.  Dave Gibbons has handed Ryan Sook the reins, quite happy to observe from afar. Without a doubt, though, it is Gibbons’ visual storytelling sensibilities coupled with Sook’s beautifully detailed action drawings that have made this story such a treat to behold.

Superman
Author: John Arcudi
Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Barbara Ciardo
Letterer: Ken Lopez

It didn’t take long for Arcudi’s Superman to go from intriguing sci-fi action to emo navel-gazing – one issue in fact – and it hasn’t been the same since.  I’d like to see it return to form, but clearly that was just the setup for this revisitation of Kal-El’s origins.  I suspect this was nothing more than an excuse to have Bermejo depict the destruction of Krypton in excruciatingly beautiful detail.  Maybe this would have been better as a straight re-telling rather than a flashback.  Superman’s banging on about “not belonging” even though he’s got the two greatest parents on Earth: Ma and Pa Kent.  What an ingrate.

Deadman
“The Dearly Departed Detective: Part V”
Authors: Dave Bullock & Vinton Heuck
Artist: Dave Bullock
Letterer: Jared Fletcher
Colorist: Dave Stewart

Deadman got a whole lot better when he stopped talking and started fighting.  Since the sharp drop in speech bubbles in issue 4, the panels have opened up to Boston Brand’s acrobatics and hard-boiled introspection.  Question, though, can Deadman really die?

Green Lantern
Author: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Joe Quiñones (with Pat Brosseau)

I know I bashed on Busiek last week (or yesterday) for flashing back, but this time it actually works.  Hal reminisces on his space college days as he races to save his mutating astronaut friend.  I suspect this is to emotionally ground the inevitable battle between the two.

Metamorpho
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Nate Piekos

Gaiman really picks up his game this time, returning with the humour and aplomb he brought to the first issue.  Metamorpho’s billionaire boss Mr. Stagg decides to stop for lunch in a booby-trapped Antarctic temple and hilarity ensues!  Metamorpho finally gets to put his elemental powers to good use!

Teen Titans
Author: Eddie Berganza
Artist: Sean Galloway
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano

Teen Titans is just so pale and boring.  The soft lines and washy colours don’t help matters much, but the paper-thin plot and ever-switching perspectives are the main culprit here.  I just don’t care about what’s happening here, and I feel as though I’m expected to.  In fact, I’m still not entirely sure just what is happening here…

Strange Adventures
Author & Artist: Paul Pope (and Jose Villarrubia)

Even the Rannian Wastes are beautifully exotic in the hands of master artist-writer Paul Pope.  This time Strange Adventures has a decidedly Arabian Nights-style feel to it.  With Adam Strange nowhere in sight, it strikes me that his wife Alanna may be this title’s protagonist.

Supergirl
Author: Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: John J. Hill

Palmiotti’s Supergirl is cute and charming and all, but I can’t help but wish there was more to this story than rounding up some rowdy super-pets…

Metal Men
Author: Dan DiDio
Artists: José Luis García-López & Kevin Nowlan
Letterer: Kenny Lopez
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill

A standard bank robbery has evolved into a hostage situation.  A very personal hostage situation for Doc Magnus.  DiDio creates a tense atmosphere throughout, but isn’t afraid to break it up with some classic Metal Men humour.

Wonder Woman
Author & Artist: Ben Caldwell

Reading Caldwell’s Wonder Woman is an exercise in frustration.  The claustrophobic panels make it near-impossible to follow or even read.  I’ve at least managed to figure out the basic story: Diana is accumulating all of the necessary accoutrements to become Wonder Woman in her fitful sleep, under the guise of collecting the “seven stars”.    It seems that most of these legendary items are in Ancient China, though, which I don’t quite understand.

Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.
Author: Adam Kubert
Artist: Joe Kubert

I said before that it’d be interesting to see where the Kuberts go from here, and the answer is nowhere.  Nowhere in five weeks is a lot of nowhere.  More visceral images of Rock being tortured.

Flash Comics/Iris West
Authors: Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher
Artist: Karl Kerschl
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Colorist: Dave McCaig

This is a great story!  Barry Allen keeps revisiting the same moments with Gorilla Grodd and Iris West, but each time his nemesis and his lover throw him yet another curveball.  It just goes to show that turning back time won’t solve everything — in fact, it’ll do quite the opposite!

The Demon and Catwoman
Author: Walter Simonson
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze (with Steve Wands)

Walter Simonson’s Demon may not rhyme, but he’s still a damn fine poet.  Catwoman’s not really worthy of her double-billing at this stage, though, so hopefully she’ll shine next week.

Hawkman
Author & Artist: Kyle Baker

It’s disappointing that the sci-fi element of this story was dispensed with so handily this week – I was under the impression that the alien threat was still there – but hopefully we’ll see it return.  Hawkman’s only stopping a plane crash this week, but the final caption promises that next week “it gets worse!”

I’d have to say that this has been by far the strongest installment of Wednesday Comics.  The greats are still great, and some under-performers really hit it out of the park this week.  Certainly worth a read.

Superman: World of New Krypton #3

Posted in Comics, DC, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
You will believe a man can fly.

You will believe a man can fly.

Authors: Greg Rucka & James Robinson
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artist: Gary Frank
Variant Cover Artists: Howard Chaytkin with Edgar Delgado
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

New Krypton is an interesting little ‘what if?’ scenario for Superman.  What if Superman lived in a world where everyone had the same powers he has?  What if he wasn’t special at all?  What if he was just Clark Kent?  Would he still make a difference?  Except he’s not Clark Kent, the human reporter – he’s Commander Kal-El of the Kryptonian Military Guild.  And yet, this series has done more to highlight Superman’s very human upbringing than any other.  Superman is special, and what’s special about him is his humanity.

This all sounds very poignant for what is essentially a story about a hostage situation.  That we get to see Superman negotiate a hostage situation at all just goes to show how interesting New Krypton’s basic premise is.  While some readers are waiting for ‘something’ to happen, I’m enjoying all the very ‘normal’ situations Superman finds himself in, and how his intrinsic responses differ from that of his Kryptonian colleagues, particularly Zod.  Now, I expect that ‘something’ readers and critics are impatiently waiting for is something along the lines of ‘Zod’s up to something, and it ain’t good’, and this story certainly alludes to that in some small measure, but I want to see this ‘what if?’ scenario explored first and played out to the full.

It’s true, General Zod does risk losing the menacing heights he achieved during Geoff John’s and Richard Donner’s “Last Son” story arc, if he doesn’t do something villainous soon.  It seems that Superman and Supergirl aren’t the only ones who view New Krypton as a new beginning.  Zod, too, has turned over a new leaf, it seems.

(For those not in the know, New Krypton consists solely of the citizens of Kandor, a city which was shrunk and trapped in a bottle by Brainiac long ago.  As a result, the people of New Krypton are still adjusting to their newfound freedom, and are completely unaware of the nature of General Zod’s military coup back on Krypton proper.  They were also completely unaware of Jor-El’s peaceful attempts to warn the Council of Krypton’s impending doom.  Years later, Zod and company are the only survivors of Krypton’s destruction, and the only surviving Kryptonians who were ‘right’ about the whole thing.  His attempt to forcefully ‘save’ Krypton from the Council’s ignorance is thus considered an act of heroism in retrospect.)

Superman and Zod’s new relationship is understandably awkward considering their embattled past, and while this is intended and entertaining, it’s also a little implausible.  Zod seems far too reasonable for a man who was an egomaniacal madman not so long ago.  And Superman seems far too composed for a man who – being the only one who knows the truth about Zod – is required to serve under his command!  Zod appears to admire Superman’s non-lethal solutions to societal problems, and Superman appears to regard Zod as someone other than an egotistical madman.  If they get much more familiar, it’s going to be very difficult for these two to lock fists to faces in the inevitable future.  I suppose I’m just concerned that Rucka and Robinson have written themselves into a corner they can’t get out of (though I feel the same way about the whole New Krypton scenario altogether).

World of New Krypton explores another side of Superman that we’ve perhaps not seen before: Superman the Revolutionary.  New Krypton still operates under a guild system as established on Old Krypton, but the Labor Guild (sound familiar?) is the only without political representation.  Superman, the red-blooded American he is, sees this as fundamentally wrong and undemocratic, and in many ways planted the dissenting seeds that led to this situation.  Members of the Labor Guild take Alura (Superman’s biological aunt and Supergirl’s mother) hostage, demanding reasonable working conditions and political representation.  Before Zod orders their outright execution, Kal-El asks for 30 minutes to find a non-violent solution.  Now this is what makes Superman, Superman!

Rucka and Robinson remind us again what makes Superman so important in the superhero landscape.  There are some forces too good to be polluted by the evils of this world, and one such force is Superman.  Even in a world full of superpowered beings, Superman sets himself apart with purity and ingenuity.  You can have your post-80s grit, but I prefer my Superman squeaky-clean, thank you very much.

The Dark Knight Cram School: The Greatest Batbooks of All Time.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, JLA, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 14th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

To celebrate the birth of Bat-Shark Repellent, I thought I’d lend my expertise to you all by recommending the Greatest Batbooks of All Time. I’ve made no secret of the fact that my comic book collection threatens to swallow my entire bedroom, so rest assured – I’ve read a lot of Batman. So if you’re looking for a good jumping-on point for the Caped Crusader, you’ve come to the right place. Here goes…


16. Batman: Venom

This story marks the second time Batman is broken, this time by addiction to a performance enhancing drug known as Venom. Venom has an almost surreal quality, but the story takes a very Bond-like turn when the Batman hunts down his tormentors. And yes, Bat-shark-repellent is involved!

15. Superman: Red Son

While not a Batbook per sé, Red Son features the coolest iteration of the Batman that you’ll ever see. It’s also one of the greatest Superman stories you’ll ever read. It’s an Elseworlds tale [i.e. outside of continuity] that poses the question: what if Kal-El landed in Russia instead of America? It further poses the question, how would a Russian Batman react to a superhuman Communist dictator?

14. Batman: The Man Who Laughs

A menacing Joker tale by veteran Ed Brubaker. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if his interpretation of the villain informed Heath Ledger’s performance.

13. Batman & the Monster Men

A young and naive Batman faces off against the abominations of Dr Hugo Strange. Written and drawn by the legendary Grendel creator Matt Wagner.

12. Batman & the Mad Monk

Matt Wagner returns for a supernatural romp through Batman’s past. It’s pulp and spectacle with a modern touch.

11. Son of the Demon

Batman marries the daughter of his greatest foe, Ra’s Al Ghul. The Bat and the Demon must work together to stop a terrorist threat, for Talia’s sake and the world’s. A controversial tale that has recently come into play in a big way.

10. Batman: Black & White Volumes 1 & 2

A series of Batman vignettes by comic book greats and mainstays, all in black and white. It’s amazing how much story they can cram within a few pages. A great laugh and a great deconstruction of the character. Pick up Volume 3 if you’re keen, it’s just not quite as good as the first two volumes.

9. Batman: Blind Justice

A surprising amount of material has been mined from Blind Justice to bring you Batman Begins, and this is chiefly because it is the authority on Bruce Wayne. It’s funny considering the author is none other than Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. Never has Batman’s alter-ego [or past] been shaped so definitively. Believe it or not, Henri Ducard and Ra’s Al Ghul are two separate people. It’s a pity about the kooky mind-control, though.

8. Batman: Gothic

It’s surprising just how well Batman goes with the supernatural. Trust Grant Morrison to pull it off [and he continues to do so now!]. Everything about this tale is gothic, especially the art of Klaus Janson.

7. Batman: Year 100

Year 100 takes place in a dystopian future Gotham, which is eerily similar to the old Gotham: a dark place full of crooked cops. Batman is once again a wanted outlaw, though the authorities prefer to deny his existence altogether. Paul Pope’s gritty and brutal future is believable, and reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. A great read with no strings attached.

6. Batman: The Cult

One of the greatest bat-villains was a one-and-done character, Deacon Blackfire. Criminals are being brutally murdered, while the homeless disappear from the streets of Gotham. He defeats the Batman in the worst possible way: by breaking his spirit. Another supernatural Bat-story written to great effect by comics stalwart Jim Starlin. Jason Todd (the second Robin) has never been so likable than in this book, which is surprising.

5. Arkham Asylum

Once again Grant Morrison gives supernatural depth to the Batman mythos, this time to his rogues’ accidental lair: Arkham Asylum. Batman’s greatest foes have taken the house hostage, challenging him to a game of wits. The Batman accepts, but he soon finds that the building has a life of its own. Drenched in symbology, each page is hand-painted by the legendary Dave McKean.

4. The Killing Joke

The Greatest Joker Story Ever Told. If there was ever a book to read before seeing Dark Knight, this is it. Comics legend Alan Moore proposes a possible origin for Batman’s arch-nemesis. Short and sweet.

3. The Long Halloween/Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale team up for one of the greatest Bat-mysteries ever told. Batman must sift through his rogues gallery to solve the mystery of the Holiday killer. The fall of the Falcone crime family; the definitive Two-Face origin story; the origin of Robin – it’s all here and it’s all told beautifully in a true marriage of word and picture.

2. Batman: Year One

Frank Miller redefines the Batman for a new era. Make no mistake, the Batman of Year One is the Batman we know and love today. The definitive Batman origin story, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham to wage his personal war on crime. Gritty, dark, and grounded, Batfilm enthusiasts have this book to thank for its rich source material.

1. The Dark Knight Returns

Before Miller wrote his beginning, he wrote [and drew] the Batman’s end. A retired Bruce Wayne must don the cape and cowl once more to reclaim the streets of Gotham from Violence and Unreason. Without a doubt the Greatest Batman Story Ever Told, and one of the greatest graphic novels ever written.

Honourable Mentions
This is a list of other Batbooks that are still worth a read for Batfans, but have not been included in ‘The List’ for reasons I will state below:

Batman: Knightfall Part One – Broken Bat
Knightfall is like the Rocky movies: a great overall story arc, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. The chapters written by Chuck Dixon are pretty good (especially the moving finale), but most of the fill-in stories are abhorrent. Nonetheless, an important chapter of Batman’s life, though it suffers from the trappings of 90s event books and B-list villains. Bane puts the Batman through his paces, letting his entire rogues gallery loose upon Gotham. He breaks his spirit and then his back.

Batman: Nine Lives
A cinema-style noir murder mystery and a damn fine Elseworlds tale. It just feels a little dry, and the Batman takes a while to surface.

Batman: Thrillkiller
Again, this is a great Elseworlds tale, starring Batgirl and Robin, this time in the early 60s. Each panel is painted beautifully, but Batman’s glaring absence is once again noted for most of this tale.

JLA: Tower of Babel
A pretty good Justice League story with one tiny problem: Mark Waid’s Batman is a prick. This was the era of the know-it-all Batman – the House M.D. of comics, if you will – never explaining the methods behind his madness until the very end. Ra’s Al Ghul [you’ll hear his name a lot] procures Batman’s secret files to use them against his allies.

Tales of the Demon
If you can get past the West-ian campiness you’ll enjoy some of the greatest Ra’s Al Ghul stories ever written.

Strange Apparitions
Such an apt title for such a strange book. Following the death of Dr Hugo Strange, this story proves once again that the Bat mixes well with the supernatural. But if you can’t handle a little West-ness, you might want to steer clear.

A Death in the Family
An extremely imporant chapter in Batman’s life, but pretty poorly executed. The fact that the ending was voted for only cheapens the emotional impact.

Gotham by Gaslight
Another Elseworlds tale that suffers from not enough Batman. Batman must hunt down Jack the Ripper before it’s too late, but when Bruce Wayne is suspected, things go arye. The identity of the infamous serial killer is a little disappointing, especially when you compare the mystery as a whole to Alan Moore’s From Hell.

Hush
Hush amounts to nothing more than a gorgeous fangasm, really. Still a good read, up until the ‘big reveal’ at least. It’s still a pretty fun ride through Batman’s gallery of rogues and allies.

Batman & Dracula: Red Rain
The Batman must become a bat-man to protect Gotham from its bloodthirsty tormentor. It’s a pretty decent Elseworlds tale with a great idea behind it, Moench just doesn’t get as much mileage out of it as I had hoped.

Batman: Child Of Dreams
A Japanese take on the Batman, author Kia Asamiya actually deconstructs Japanese culture better than the character himself. This is essentially Batman for a new audience (the Japanese), so it’s understandable that many of the ideas presented are well-worn. It’s still well-executed and an intriguing read, nonetheless.

Death and the Maidens
Greg Rucka cooks up a storm within the Al Ghul family, building up a new heir and Bat-villain in Nyssa Al Ghul. But to kill a man who has resurrected himself time and again with such apparent finality – it’s a little hard to swallow – and with Ra’s’ recent resurrection last year, it all feels a little ineffectual. It is Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson, though, and you can’t blame them for trying.

So that does it for me – if want to dive headfirst into the Batman mythos, check out the books I’ve recommended above. If you want to go further, give the others a try – I’ve been a little harsh on them – they’re not the greatest, but they’re still enjoyable reads. I also highly recommend Grant Morrison’s current run on Batman, but be warned – it’s extremely zany, and requires a lot of background knowledge to follow.

What about you? Do you fancy yourself a fellow Bat-fan? Have I left out your favourite Batbook? If so, gimme some hell!

The Death and Return of Superman

Posted in Comics, DC, Superman, The Death and Return of Superman, videogames with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 13th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
The Death and Return of Superman: The Videogame: The Review.

The Death and Return of Superman: The Videogame: The Review.

Superman fans may be interested to know that my review for The Death and Return of Superman for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System went up today over at EveryGame.  Here’s a sample paragraph to wet your whistle:

The Death of Superman was to comics what E.T. was to videogames.  The lie of Superman’s death was a publicity stunt that nearly single-handedly destroyed the industry.  Sure, in the short-term it was a roaring success – Kal-El’s impending doom made front page news across the globe; people came in droves to line up for a polybagged copy of Superman #75; people who previou$ly had no intere$t in comic$ what$oever, or people who hadn’t picked up a comic book in year$.  I’ll be filthy, stinking rich! The Western hive-mind exclaimed with dollar-signs in its eyes ($)($).

Just click the quote for the full review.  Let me know what you think, either here or there.