Archive for Phantom Zone

Superman #689

Posted in Comics, DC, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 4th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
A World Without Superman ain't so bad after all.

A World Without Superman ain't so bad after all.

“The Tourist”
Author: James Robinson
Artist: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover Artist: Andrew Robinson
Assistant Editor: Will Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Against all odds, James Robinson’s Superman has become, for me, the most interesting Superman book on the stands.  That Robinson achieved this without its titular character is no mean feat.

The issue opens with a snidely amusing xenophobic diatribe from Bill O’Reilly knock-off, Morgan Edge.  Widespread fear of the Kryptonian threat has created PR problems for its new protector, Mon-El, and even Superman himself.  As he’s dispensing with two-bit supervillains (and no doubt listening to a television in the distance), Mon-El reflects upon the fickleness of Metropolis, and humanity at large.  Not out of judgement, but out of pure fascination with the human condition.  Why all the existentialism?  Mon-El has been told the baddest of bad news – he doesn’t have long to live – and having spent a majority of his life in dimensional purgatory; he’s got a lot of living to do.

(This may require a history lesson: some of you may remember Mon-El, the boy from the planet Daxam, who met Superboy all those years ago.  Superboy was delighted to have found a friend (or a big brother, so he thought) he could relate to; someone else just like him, with the same powers.  But he wasn’t just like him.  He didn’t have a weakness to kryptonite, and they soon discovered he had a different planet of origin, and a far more fatal weakness: to lead.  And so it was that a lead-poisoned Mon-El was projected into the Phantom Zone until Superboy (now Superman) could find a cure.  The recent destruction of the Phantom Zone meant that Superman had to get Mon-El out of there, pronto.  Thankfully – for reasons best not discussed in this review-cum-history lesson – an anti-lead serum had been left for him.  After running a series of tests at S.T.A.R. Labs, Dr Light discovers that the serum is working its magic, but that his superpowers are trying to metabolise the serum.  Thus, the more he does to protect Metropolis, the closer he comes to his own death.)

And a lot of living he does!  As soon as he’s dealt with the D-listers, he flies off to Russia to see St. Basil’s Cathedral, goes on a date with one of the Rocket Reds(!), fights an imitation Blue Hulk in England, takes a break to admire the art of Georges Seurat and the architecture of Gaudi, and helps a vampiress fight crime in Barcelona!  What a rip-roaring, rollicking tour of the world according to DC!  The result are some beautiful drawings from Renato Guedes, no doubt leaping at this chance to spread his wings.  I believe James Robinson is also taking this opportunity to include a few of his favourite comic book characters from across the globe (Will Von Hammer, La Sangre, Beaumont and Sunny Jim), and the fun he’s no doubt having is almost tangible.  The character and his creative team are going on an adventure, and they’re taking us with them.  It’s an amusing relief from the heaviness of Mon’s terminal illness.  This is the strength of the medium: gravity and levity, reality and fantasy, can somehow co-exist to deliver an emotionally rich and entertaining story.

Mon-El’s story, though it is the most interesting, is not the only one this issue tells.  There’s a weird little interaction between the Guardian Jim Harper, and his alien friend, and still I’m struggling to discern the importance of that particular plot thread (one that requires reading the Guardian and Jimmy Olsen one-shots in order to follow).  Another interesting plot thread emerges from these pages involving John Henry Irons (aka Steel) and a long-dormant character.  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave it there.  As much as I’d prefer to see these stories of Metropolis’ heroes advanced in separate stories, I understand the difficulty in selling a Mon-El series or a Steel series separately.  Huge respect to DC for using one of its biggest titles to explore the untapped potential of these characters.  I hope they are rewarded for their efforts with a deeper roster of characters and a richer catalogue of stories.

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Detective Comics #854

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Damn good value.  Damn good detectives.

Damn good value. Damn good detectives.

“Elegy Agitato: Part One”
Author: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Variant Cover Artist: J.G. Jones

“Pipeline: Chapter One/Part One”
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Congratulations must go to James H. “Jim” Williams the Third for producing the first genuinely beautiful DC comic book I’ve read in two weeks.  It’s been nothing short of depressing to see so many potentially great stories dragged down by lacklustre artwork in some of DC’s most important books, particularly the Action line and Green Lantern Corps.  What did DC do, round up all the good artists and blast them into the Phantom Zone?

Consider then, what a breathe of fresh air it must have been for me to see Detective Comics – second-stringer of the Batman line – in such fine artistic form.  Consider also that this artistic treatment was not reserved for the Dark Knight himself, as one would expect, rather for a character who until now has assumed a place of relative obscurity in the DC realms.  Batwoman may have been popular with the mainstream press as the ‘first lesbian superheroine’ – a highly dubious claim, I might add – two or so years ago, but little has been seen of the character since her throwaway introduction in the hit series 52, which proved to be just that.  The third surprise was DC’s willingness to let a character other than Batman headline Detective Comics, but that had long since worn off thanks to the solicits.*

What wasn’t surprising was that writing duties for Batwoman fell to Greg Rucka, the only writer who has written the character since her debut (and even then, he was heavily involved!), and I dare say the only writer who could successfully write her without resorting to lesbian caricature.  A blank slate can be as daunting as it is liberating, but Rucka seems to have taken Katy Kane in his stride.  Rucka’s writing style is as natural as it comes, right down to ‘dealing with’ Katy’s lesbianism, which is precisely what this book needed to dispel claims of PC-shoehorning.  For the record, Batwoman’s debut in 52 was just that – a lipstick lesbian superheroine thrust upon the public consciousness for the sake of political correctness and a few headline-grabs – and in that respect, Rucka has achieved the seemingly impossible: he’s given Batwoman a real origin, a real personality, a real motivation, and as a result, he’s made her into a real character worth reading about.  He didn’t achieve this feat in a single issue – he does draw heavily upon his work in 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons in Blood and Final Crisis: Revelations – but newcomers will find that the hard work’s already been done for them.  This is a character already established in Rucka’s mind: he knows who she is, and what she would do in a given situation and why, and reading this will give you an appreciation of that.  Batwoman’s first nemesis, Alice, is another non-conventional and interesting villain, drawing on Lewis Carroll’s famous character of the same name.  What’s awesome about this is how deeply rooted in Batman mythology Wonderland and its denizens are (see also: Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum).

It would be a disservice to J.H. Williams III’s work for me to simply compare it to its lacklustre contemporaries and declare it a “welcome relief”.  It is much more than that.  It’s strikingly beautiful.  He always seems to gravitate towards these black, white, and red affairs (like his “Club of Heroes” Batman story with Grant Morrison in recent years) – full credit to Dave Stewart for the beautiful colours, by the way – and he’s right at home here.  His artistic efforts give these events some much-needed gravity: after all, Batwoman has yet to prove her worth as a character, and her worthiness as a usurper of Detective Comics until now.  He continues to experiment with panel layouts, as he is in the habit of doing, and the result is a comic book that looks fresh and exciting.

But wait– there’s more!  The Question backup feature is no slouch either.  Rucka handles writing duties again – as, again, the only writer to have dealt with the character since 52 – with Cully Hamner (Black Lightning: Year One) on art.  Rucka wears Rene Montoya (aka The Question) like a comfortable pair of shoes, while Cully delivers his unique blend of industrial grit and cartooniness.  It’s a strange contrast, being that his art style could easily attract the attention of small children, and yet he never shies from depicting home truths at street-level.  I for one would like to see him employ some thinner linework just to see the difference.  The Question is on the tail of a mystery once again, as she should be (this is Detective Comics, after all).  DNA-wise, The Question and Batwoman are a match made in comic book heaven, even if romantically they are not.  Then again, who knows?  Regardless of whether they get back together, I can see these two mysteries intersecting in the future.  Maybe then it will merge into one great big comic book.

It’s surprising to see the shoe on the other foot this time – normally it’s Batwoman playing second fiddle to Rene Montoya.  One thing’s for sure, though, Rucka’s the only one to be writing these two.  Detective Comics is damn good value.  Pick it up.