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Big news is that Rick Veitch has released a new installment of Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends as a print-on-demand book via Amazon…I ordered that sucker as soon as the news hit my feed reader on Monday, and had a copy in my hands by Wednesday. Unfortunately whoever packed my copy didn’t do a great job of it, and it showed up damaged. I should have a hopefully undamaged replacement arriving around the time you’re reading this, assuming you’re reading this sometime in the morning or early afternoon on Friday, December 9th, 2016. However, flipping through it was a welcome return to Veitch’s dream diaries, and I hope we see more installments of Rare Bit Fiends in the future. You can order it here, and you can take a gander at some sample pages on Veitch’s site.
I also keep meaning to order his other print-on-demand book Super Catchy. Maybe after I’m done with the Christmas shopping, which I should probably start someday.
UPDATE: A copy in more acceptable condition was delivered today…after being initially delivered to another address. Ah well, at least I got it eventually.
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Other comics this week:
Flintstones #6 continues its bizarrely dark take on the Hanna Barbera characters, which is a phrase that in most cases would rightly send you running in the other direction, but here that “dark take” works absolutely marvelously. The social satire, the horrible lives of the animal-appliances, poor old lonely Mr. Slate, the pitch-black humor, all working together to make what may be my favorite comic on the stands right now. I never would have imagined that would be the case when these HB relaunches were announced way back when, but man, I love this comic.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra brings to the Star Wars comic franchise something desperately needed: some measure of unpredictability. I’ve been enjoying all of Marvel’s new Star Wars books so far, but despite the twists and turns of each storyline, we know where the main characters end up, as the majority of the books take place between Episodes IV and V. Aphra is new to the comics, a supporting character from the Darth Vader series, who has her own original-to-the-comics supporting cast accompanying her, so the characters aren’t restricted to specific paths. I mean, not to say the creators haven’t been doing a good job telling stories with Luke, Han and Leia in this period…perhaps a better way of saying this is that with Aphra, we have a new character that is fresh to us, for whom we don’t know her eventual fate, which makes her story perhaps a little more compelling. Plus, her supporting cast is basically Star Trek’s Mirror Universe of other familiar members of the Star Wars family, with Evil Artoo, Threepio, and Chewbacca analogues, all of whom are a lot of fun.
Now if this paves the way for the eventual Jaxxon solo series, that would be the best.
So with Reggie and Me #1, this makes the second of the Archie relaunches to be narrated by a dog, I believe? Which is fine…it gives us a sympathetic outsider’s view of Reggie’s life, which this first issue is devoted to setting up. Not so much a story as a character sketch, it establishes his mostly adversarial relationships vis-à-vis the rest of the Archie Universe. One of the main appeals of Reggie in the original Archie comics is that he may be a jerk, but he’s a funny jerk…it’s funny to watch him be a giant ego monster and eventually (at least sometimes) get his comeuppance. The Revamp Reggie with its slightly more (and please pardon the expression, particularly in a comic with a dog narrator) “realistic” young-adult bent doesn’t really have a lot of laughs, particularly when compared to the classic Reggie comic presented as a back-up in this issue. I did like the comic, but I hope the mood does lighten a little in future issues.
ATTENTION! THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Swamp Thing appears in this week’s Superman Annual #1:
Aside from the fact that this is the…fourth? “Superman Annual #1” to be released by DC over the years, it’s not a bad comic. Swamp Thing confronts Superman about the fact he’s not really from this universe, the harm that’s causing and what must be done to fix it. Somewhat reminiscent of DC Comics Presents #85, another story where Swamp Thing has to come to Superman’s aid, only this time Swampy is all up in Superman’s face, as opposed to surreptitiously doing so in that old team-up book. Maybe a little too heavy on the fight scenes, but it does establish Swamp Thing as being able to hold his own against the Man of Steel, which was fun to see.
So between this, Swamp Thing appearing in Batman in a month or two, and Swampy’s appearance in Wonder Woman a couple of years back, the old muck-encrusted mockery of a guest-star has completed his tour of the recent versions of the DC Trinity, post-Flashpoint/Rebirth. Now to get him to pop up for brief team-ups in DC’s other superhero books…like, I don’t think he’s been in The Flash ever. Well, the Flash has been in Justice League Dark with him a couple of times, but clearly we need a Flash/Swamp Thing race in the Flash comic itself.
Hey, in 2021 it’ll be Swamp Thing’s 50th anniversary. We gotta start planning for this stuff now.
Now I haven’t been keeping up with interviews or news stories about what may or may not be happening with the “Mignolaverse” in which Hellboy, Abe Sapien, the B.P.R.D. and whathaveyou from this point forward, now that the “present day” stories in that milieu seem to have come to their conclusion in this week’s B.P.R.D. #147, with Hellboy and Abe’s own current storylines having come to a stop within the last few months. Of course, we’ll continue having the flashback Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. series, and surely more Witchfinder and Lobster Johnson stories, and then there’s this series about the aliens that appeared very early on in the Hellboy comics.
Anyway, I’m hoping there will be more stories at some point continuing the story after the B.P.R.D., but for now I’m glad things have reached some kind of conclusion. The current short-run Hellboy projects are probably a lot more accessible for casual readers, as even for someone who’s been reading comics in this particular universe since the get-go, I got a little lost sometime with who was doing what and did or did not like whom and even who was a mummy (which, I mentioned before, I couldn’t believe I had forgotten). I suspect, however, once the palate has been cleared a bit, we’ll get some kind of new B.P.R.D. relaunch picking up where the old series left off. Unless someone’s mentioned that, yes, this is exactly what they’re doing, in which case I’ll really suspect that’s their plans.
I’m also hoping for some kind of all-Mignola Return of Hellboy comic book series in the future. Hey, there’s a tiny possibility it could happen, and there ain’t no law against wishin’.
I’m trying to like Infamous Iron Man, which is essentially a solo Doctor Doom comic where he seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf as a superhero. I admit, it’s the bashful blue-eyed Thing’s appearances in the comic that got me to pick it up, though watching Ben act like an ass in the Latverian embassy was equal parts amusing and feeling maybe just a little out of character, maybe? I mean, just straight up destroying historically and artistically significant items was a wee bit jerkier than I’m accustomed to from him. But, you know, I can manage. And I know this certain style of talky dialogue throughout the book is Bendis’s trademark, but for someone like me who hasn’t read much of his work, it takes some getting used to. I’m all for reading a Doctor Doom series, however, so I’ll stick around and see where it goes.
When I opened my store, I gave up a lot of my personal collection for in-store stock, including all my Thanos-related comics. All those Infinity Gauntlets and Silver Surfers and so on, and had I realized a lot of these same books were going to turn up over and over again in collections people would try to sell to me at the shop, maybe I would have held onto them. What’s done is done, however, and by giving up those comics, that sort of dissuaded me from reading new installments of the character’s saga in, for example, those recent Jim Starlin graphic novels. I figured, eh, I’d read enough over the decades, I’m done with that big purple guy.
And then this new first issue shows up, and it’s written by Jeff Lemire, and I like the cover, so I end up reading a new Thanos comic again. It’s all set-up, reestablishing Thanos as a Bad Dude and prepping a couple of other folks for a confrontation with him, and it feels kinda Starlin-y, sorta maybe, if perhaps a little less weird, a little more somber. I mean, not that Starlin’s Thanos couldn’t be dark, given that he wanted to kill most everybody and rule what was left, but it was all so out-there and strange and wacky that it seemed breezy and fun. This new Thanos #1 is not breezy, but still an enjoyable reintroduction to the character, and relatively continuity-lite for anyone new to the character after seeing his brief appearances in the Marvel films.
Despite appearances, definitely not for kids! Archie’s Dan Parent continues with this weird parody of comics and the comics market, which starts of with an ersatz “classic” 1960s Kitty story in which she teams up with the Casper the Friendly Ghost like-a-look Dippy, which feeds into the back half of the book where Dippy has returned to kill Kitty! It’s a full-on Harvey Comics parody drawn by an Archie artist, which is amusing just in and of itself, and I think you all know how much I like Harvey Comics. In a weird way, this comic reminded me of that long ago first issue of Miracleman from Eclipse Comics, which started off with a vintage Marvel/Miracleman story (redialogued by Alan Moore), then followed it with the new, updated, gritty, “realistic” version of the character. Kind of the same thing here, only slightly more for laughs, and a little more explicitly self-referential in its commentary on comics publishing. Fits right in as a thematic cousin to all those reflective superhero reboots, like Moore’s Surpreme.
While I’ve commented before on the unusually complicated yet compelling premise of the current Superman titles, I haven’t said much about Lex Luthor’s development in these post-Rebirth comics. Picking up on threads from the latter part of DC’s New 52 era, Luthor has seemingly decided to become a superhero…literally, with the New 52’s Superman’s death, becoming Superman, with the “S” logo and everything. It seems apparent that Luthor is trying to force himself into a role for which he is ill-prepared, though via his own egotistical self-aggrandizement he feels he is the better fit for the job than his predecessor.
Now, given Luthor’s portrayals in the past, we, the readers, know this almost certainly can’t end well. From our perspective, we’ve seen how Luthor behaves, we’ve seen the crimes he’s committed, we’ve seen him brag about his misdeeds…we know, despite the many changes he may have undergone over the years, that there is a rotten core that is always present, no matter how respectable the exterior appears. The other characters in the comics know this as well…they of course are limited to whatever experiences they are allowed within the latest permutation of their shared fictional universe, but a Luthor never changes his spots, as it were, and despite any superficial efforts at semi-redemption, the inertia of Luthor’s portrayal over the decades will certainly result in a return to form.
In this week’s issue of Action, this bears out, given that visitors from the future have come back to the present to put a stop to Luthor before he becomes a universal scourge, a tyrannical madman with ultimate power crushing all before him. We don’t have the full story yet about this, of course, but totally within possibility knowing what we know about him.
Interestingly, undermining Luthor’s perhaps spurious attempts at redefinition is a secondary plotline, hinted at in this issue of Action but primarily playing out in Superwoman, is the fact that he is currently under the influence of enemy agency. Specifically, it’s his estranged sister Lena, exerting control over him for her own nefarious ends, while Luthor tries to continue following his own agenda, as tinged as it may be by Lena’s own.
At any rate, we’ll see how these particular plotlines work out over, oh, I don’t know, the next four to eight years.
I intended to have more of this week’s comics read for an end-of-week reviews post, but I’ve only managed to read a couple from this week’s rather sizable haul. Part of the reason is that I’ve been distracted by this massive tome that details Atari’s artistic history, from the covers of the Atari 2600 game cartridge boxes, to ad campaigns, to designs of their arcade cabinets. Not just pretty pictures, but also includes a history of the company and commentary from the artists. For a guy like me, who still thinks of the original Nintendo system as “that newfangled video gaming machine,” and still has his original, working Atari hooked up to the big ol’ widescreen, this hits pretty much all my nostalgia triggers.
Just so there is at least a tangential relation to comics, the various Superman games are briefly covered. For you longtime ProgRuin readers, you may remember the 2600 Superman was used for the image on my 404 “file not found” page:
I did manage to read a few comics…Flash #9 pushes ahead the whole “Watchmen? In the DC Universe? WHA–!?” metaplot by an inch or two; Swamp Thing is still in The Hellblazer as of issue #3, which also brings back another character from the title’s Vertigo days; and then there’s this comic:
…which still remains fresh and entertaining with each issue. This is a solid done-in-one story in case you wanted to sample the book, in which the Surfer and his pal Dawn get stuck on a gambling planet and have to bet their way to freedom. It’s a lot of fun, and is topped off by a great cover gag:
One other comic I read was the digital-only release of the new BOO! Halloween Stories anthology:
…available right here from Comixology. A bunch of my pals are involved, including Ken Lowery, Matt Digges, Andrew Weiss, Dave Lartigue, Joe Hunter, Dan Butler (who drew my Twitter icon!), Andrew Ihla, Dylan Todd, Josh Krach, Matthew Allen Smith, Pete Toms, and some other folks I haven’t really interacted with but are swell creators anyway. C’mon, it’s only $2…it’s really good, I promise.
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Speaking of money, here are a couple of worthy and/or interesting causes you may consider contributing to:
First, Matt Brady, proprietor of the “Warren-Peace Sings the Blues” comics blog that I’ve linked to a few times, is currently seeking some assistance paying legal fees for a difficult divorce proceeding that’s already drained many of his resources. If you can spare a little, please help him out.
Second, not that this particular endeavor needs my help given the coverage it’s received, but there’s a Kickstarter for a game based on the infamous and voluminous works of Chuck Tingle. If you know who that is, well, you can guess the link is perhaps just slightly Not Safe for Work, if your job can’t handle the idea of butts and what may or may not be done to them. The primary reason I’m linking to it is that one of the game’s writers is pal Karla Pacheco, she of Inspector Pancakes fame, and frankly I can think of no better match for a project of this majesty. The other reason I’m linking is that the write-up on that Kickstarter page is hilarious. Even the dollar amount the Kickstarter is seeking is hilarious. Chuck Tingle, this world hardly deserves you.
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One final note, given what’s happened
in the comics industry this week: certain dudes out there, stop being jerks to women. C’mon, nobody needs this.
So I love oddball promotional materials sent to retailers by comic book companies. My favorite is probably the bottle of Armstrong Ale that Valiant Comics sent to promote Archer & Armstrong back in the ’90s. (In fact, I’m pretty sure my old boss still has that bottle in the back room somewhere.)
This week, the weird promo item was an honest-to-Philips audio cassette tape to tie into this week’s release of Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye (which is one hell of a title, one must admit). It has a brief playing time, with a song (“Into the Cave We Wander”) on one side and an alleged documentary excerpt from Carson’s investigation of Poggy’s Cavern on the other, essentially making it a “cassingle” in the parlance of Ye Olden Times. (As opposed to a C-Dingle in the parlance of Slightly Less Olden Times.) Anyway, it’s weird, since I doubt too many stores nowadays have an in-store cassette player to pipe the tunes/spoken word track to their customers’ ears, but, you know, maybe some do. Or it can be used as a contest giveaway (buy a copy of the comic, get entered in the drawing…er, depending on your state’s lottery rules, maybe, I’m no lawyer), or if you like obscure-ish recordings, like I do, it’s yet another goodie to add to the collection. …A little investigation reveals that this was also given away at a “Young Animal” panel at a recent convention, and I suspect these tracks will be made available in wider release, probably as digital downloads, at some point, if they’re not already.
In case you’re wondering, the comic itself is fine…probably the most “traditional,” I suppose, of the three titles so far released under the Young Animal imprint. If you thought Doom Patrol and Shade the Changing Girl were a little too “out there” for you, this feels more like a simple updating of a Silver Age character that might be a little more accessible. But overall I think I like the aesthetic of the imprint…dense and complicated but mostly clearly told and enjoyable comics that don’t necessarily feel beholden to whatever related comics preceded them. This has me wondering about what Mother Panic, the first entirely original character (I believe), will be like, but if it’s presented in the same fashion as the others, I’m looking forward to it.
I had no idea how much I missed Love and Rockets in its magazine format until I was finally holding a new issue in my hands. Not to say I didn’t appreciate L&R or related works in whatever format I could get my mitts on, but there’s a bit of a nostalgic “going home again” sense in seeing it like this. In fact, I think I prefer the magazine format to the previous annual format, particularly since if the magazine comes out on a regular basis that means more Los Bros Hernandez pages per year, and who can say no to that? Also, it’s a bit easier to sell something at $4.99 a few times a year than it is to sell a $14.99 book even just once a year, which probably sounds strange but that’s just been my experience. Anyway, I’m glad Love and Rockets is still around in any configuration.
So you guys all remember pal Ian? The fella who was one of the founding members of ACAPCWOVCCAOE, which is short for, as long-time readers will remember, Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA and Outlying Environs? The kind and gentle editor of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book Archives who was good enough to place a credit for me in the collection due to my small bit of production assistance?
Well, pal Ian can use a little help…he’s been out of work for a bit, and while he tries to get more employment in the comics biz, he could stand a bit of assistance to keep himself going in the meantime. If you have a few spare dollars, he’d be most appreciative, so please visit his GoFundMe page and help out if you can. Or just straight-up hire the dude…he’s a good and talented guy! I’ll vouch for him!
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I’m genuinely surprised that Marvel is ending the Darth Vader series, but in retrospect that’s probably a good thing. Too much Vader can spoil whatever mystique is left (I mean, yes, we got a lot of Anakin in various Star Wars-ian media, but Vader is another thing entirely), and we basically know how it all ends for him, so having a short-run adventure with a beginning, middle, and end in the midst of already-established Star Wars “history” is for the best. And it’s also probably just as well that the series bows out now while sales are still strongish, though they were beginning to sag a little…switching up the titles on a regular basis for ones starring different characters keeps things fresh. Yeah, that’s like the exact opposite of what I usually want from Marvel, another parade of new #1s, but Star Wars sales generally remain strong and enthusiasm for new titles is still present in the marketplace, unlike the groans I hear at the same titles being relaunched over and over again, sometimes only months apart.
Now elements of the Darth Vader comic will continue in this new series, and by the way that entire link is a SPOILER in case you haven’t read that last issue. I wonder if the main Star Wars title has a planned conclusion in its future? I suspect not, but I am surprised at the lack of a current comic based on the Rebels cartoon, since the Kanan series wrapped up some time ago. I think an Ahsoka series would probably be like printing money.
We’re beginning to see a little more of a direction in the Doom Patrol series with the second issue, after a very strange, but still quite interesting, debut issue. Glad to see the return of concepts from the Grant Morrison era, which is a couple of decades old now (but usually readily available in trade paperback form at a comic shop near you!) but I still have fond memories of those crazy stories and it looks like this new series should build quite nicely on them without necessarily repeating what we’ve seen.
Every time one of the new Superman comics comes out, like this week’s Action #965, I say the same thing: “this shouldn’t be working.” But it does, somehow, even with the convoluted set-up of the pre-Flashpoint Superman returning to the New 52/Rebirth universe after the reboot Superman died, and then there’s the other non-Superman Clark Kent running around, and two Lois Lanes (or are there) and the Son of Superman, and so on and so forth. It makes for compelling reading, as the reader wants to know what the resolution is going to be, and I sure as heck hope it’s not tied to the larger metaplot of the Watchmen’s involvement in Rebirth. But eventually there’s going to be some sort of “smoothing out” of continuity which results in One Universe, One Superman, One Lois Lane, and I’m about 90% certain No Son of Lois and Clark, and it’ll probably be Dr. Manhattan waving his hands and saying “well, I thought that would work, let me put the pieces back together.” We’ll see.
Anyway, this issue of Action had a couple of great Lois Lane-focused covers, appropriate for the Lois-heavy content within. It was hard to pick which one I wanted for myself, but ultimately went with the one pictured above.
I buy every issue of Haunted Horror (and its sister mag Weird Love)…it reminds me of that late, great series Tales Too Terrible to Tell, without the great historical text pieces discussing the stories and publishers, alas, but it is in color and it’s always great to see what was going on in vintage horror titles that weren’t from EC Comics. The stories can be of…shall we say, varying competency, but they always make for some entertainingly ghoulish reading. Hey kids, comics!
If you told me years ago that in 2015/2016 I’d be reading and enjoying a Howard the Duck comic that wasn’t written by Howard’s creator Steve Gerber, I’d probably be secretly plotting a way to get my hands on your time machine. Also, I would have been surprised by this revelation. It’s not Gerber’s Howard, but it was definitely Zdarsky’s Howard and it’ll be missed. Yeah, this is the last issue. That’s too bad. …Still can’t believe I’m saying that about a non-Gerber Howard. YES, I’M CLINGING DESPERATELY TO THE PAST, WHAT OF IT
So you Swamp Thing fans out there, of which there are at least one or two I’m pretty sure, should keep a lookout for this edition of the
British Canadian horror magazine Rue Morgue:
…that’s issue #169, and I normally just get a copy in that shop for a pull list customer, but of course once I saw what was being featured I had to get my mitts on one myself. I like the cover, which of course incorporates Steve Bissette’s cover from Swamp Thing #51. It’s a nice seven-page chunk of the mag in full color, featuring interviews with cocreator Len Wein, artist of the recent mini-series Kelley Jones, and writer of the back half of the New 52 series, Charles Soule. There’s a brief overview of Swampy’s history, and a review of the aforementioned mini. It’s a welome addition to the ol’ Swamp collection.
Checking with my distributor, it appears to be no longer available through them (and any other retailers checking there themselves should note they have a different cover attached to the item information for this issue). However, it appears you can mail order a physical copy from the official site for the magazine, or even get a digital copy, if that’s the way you swing.
And speaking of swinging…er, I mean, of Swamp Thing:
…there he is, palling around with his old chum John Constantine in the first issue (as opposed to the Rebirth one-shot that came out a month ago…thanks for making me have to explain the “two number ones” thing to every customer, DC) of The Hellblazer, which is different from the other Constantine series called Hellblazer in that there’s a “The” there in the title now.
Inside the comic, Swamp Thing needs John’s help with something-or-other, and the two trade quips and barbs and it kinda feels like the Good Old Days in case you read that previously-noted one-shot and didn’t care for it (as some of my customers expressed to me). There is an odd continuity thing, which…well, to catch you folks up:
1. Lab explodes, and Alec Holland’s burning body plunges into the swamp.
2. The chemicals Alec was working on merge with the swamp and with Alec’s body, and out pops Swamp Thing.
3. Swamp Thing believes he is Alec Holland, mutated by science gone awry.
4. It is revealed that isn’t the case, that Alec did in fact die in the explosion, and the plant elemental that arose used Alec’s memories as a template for itself.
5. That Swamp Thing hangs around for a long time, before eventually going away.
6. Alec is returned from the dead, and this time he actually is turned into Swamp Thing to replace the previous one.
As per what seems to exist in New 52/Rebirth continuity, that Thinks-It’s-Alec-Holland Swamp Thing still happened, and in one issue Actually-Is-Alec-Holland Swamp Thing meets Thinks-It’s-Alec-Holland Swamp Thing. What of the published stories is still in continuity is anyone’s guess, especially since a major thing that happened to a supporting character during the Alan Moore/Bissette/John Totleben era seems to Have Never Happened now.
In The Hellblazer #1, we get a discussion referring to a specific something that happened during the Not-Holland-Swampy’s tenure, with John chiding Current Alec-Swampy for it. Now it could be that maybe Alec-Swampy did a similar thing off-panel and this is the first we’re hearing about it, or that John somehow forgot these are two different Swamp Things, or that the previous Swamp Thing merged with the current Swamp Thing somehow and they’re basically the same being, or it’s a complicated Rebirth re-fiddling with the continuity thing, or this was all explained somewhere and I missed or forgot it because I don’t reread every issue multiple times anymore, or maybe I’m just thinking too much about it.
Anyway, it’s just a very minor point in this issue and only some crazy person who’s been reading Swamp Thing for the better part of four decades and also has a blog would really bring it up.
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So Flintstones #2 from DC’s strange Hanna-Barbera revamp project isn’t quite as peculiar as the initial installment, but it does firmly establish the milieu as some sort of terrifying nightmare world. It goes well beyond the humorous shrug of the various appliance-animals exclaiming “it’s a living!” to…well, worse things, frankly. That’s just a small portion of the overall theme of the issue, which is a critique of consumerist culture, with a little poking fun at religion mixed in, and overall I think I’m beginning to really like this series. The first issue caught me off guard, as I said at the time, but I think with the second issue I’m catching on to what they’re doing.
Superwoman squeezes a whole lot of storytelling into those 20 pages…many panels per page, lots of dialogue, along with an additional surprise character that I wasn’t quite sure I was expecting as a regular in this series. The title brings an additional permutation of the Superman franchise, which has been going in some unusual directions of late, and generally for the better. Like I said last week, I feel like this weird fiddling with the Super-books will all go away once the Rebirth event reaches its eventual conclusion, but in the meantime it’s nice to see them break out of their usual ruts. And I mean in a good well-thought-out way, not in the rushed-to-the-marketplace-New-52-retooling way.
And yes, I know “Superman’s girlfriend gets super powers!? WHA–!?” ain’t exactly a new story, but neither was “Superman’s identity — REVEALED!?” but taking those old Silver-Agey one-off plots and turning them into The Status Quo (for at least a while) is still an appealing way of doing things, at least to me. Remember, I was into that whole Superman Red/Superman Blue thing before it was cool!
Darth Vader wraps up next issue, which kinda surprises me given that it’s been a success for Marvel (not that any of the Star Wars books haven’t been successes). However, it’s nice when it’s recognized that a series that comes to a natural conclusion (and will sell forever in collected book form) is preferred to an eternally-running series with diminishing returns. Or restarting with a new #1 immediately to boost up sales for another month or two. Not that we won’t see another Darth Vader mini-series at some point, I’m betting, but taking the first one off the shelves finally makes room for that Lobot: P.I. mini-series that I would totally write for free if Marvel is listening.
Anyway, this issue is like the total opposite of Superwoman in that it’s all big panels and light on dialogue, but for some reason I’m a little more forgiving of this in a Star Wars comic, probably because George Lucas has brainwashed me since I was a child. It’s mostly mindspace-type shenanigans, as Vader reflects on the incidents that made him who he is, so we’re getting a lot of Prequel Trilogy imagery mixed with the Big Guy as we’re familiar with him from the Real Trilogy, which is intrinsically interesting to the Star Wars nerd that I am. It’s not quite as shocking as the one appearance-of-sorts of Darth Vader in the Clone Wars cartoon series, but it’s neat to see nonetheless.
Okay, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but 1) no, despite the name it’s not a continuation of DC’s finest Batman title, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and 2) the multiple covers for this first issue reminds me of the multiple covers for the first issue of the somewhat similar Legends of the Dark Knight. At least this time they gave us actual drawings on each variant (well, except for the blank sketch cover)…I like that John Romita Jr. cover (pictured above) the best. A quick flip-through at least looks interesting, and I enjoyed Scott Snyder’s Bat-writing previously, so I’m reasonably sure I’ll enjoy this too.
Okay, fine, I read it instead of going to bed like a sane person. It’s a fun Batman comic, featuring our favorite Caped Crusader in some locations you don’t usually see Batman in. Plus, there’s the return of a character that I’ve always liked and that we’ll get to see more of (well, more or less…you’ll see what I mean) in the next issue. Don’t know if we need yet another Batman book, but so long as 1) they’re good, and 2) they’re taking different approaches to the franchise, I guess I’m okay with it, which I’m sure makes the folks at DC let out sighs of relief.
So I have to say I was pretty amused by this week’s preview booklet for DC’s “Young Animal” imprint. As you can see by the cover, it apes the look of DC’s Who’s Who series, down to including Who’s Who-style entries for some of the characters in the first few pages. The rest of the pages are filled with art samples from the forthcoming titles. Mostly I’m impressed by the “lo-fi” nature of the preview, a black and white digest-sized pamphlet that stands out in this age of full-color sampler comics and full-size first-look magazines, selling ideas, not production values. An interesting statement on the aesthetic of this line, I think.
What’s interesting about the Superman titles during DC’s “Rebirth” initiative is that, all things considered, people shouldn’t like them. This is about as convoluted a set-up as you can have for a Superman franchise, involving parallel universes and whatnot, and oh Superman and Lois have a son, too…but ultimately people are interested. It’s a combination of “here’s something sorta new with the character” and “this isn’t the New 52 version of Superman you didn’t like, but the one that’s been around since the 1980s Byrne revamp, more or less.” The hooks for the two series have been engaging (with Action focusing on the maybe-redemption arc for Lex Luthor and the mystery of the Other Clark Kent, and Superman focusing on the Supes/Lois/Jon family dynamic).
I generally prefer Action, and at first I wasn’t entirely thrilled with this week’s issue of Superman…there’s a whole lot of fighting with the Eradictor, and not a whole lot else…but it does provide the next step is Jon’s evolution as the Son of Superman, and that does leave me wanting to see more. Which, of course, I’ll eventually be getting in the forthcoming Super Sons book, co-starring Damian Wayne…which makes me wonder. Did DC’s relative success in giving Batman a biological son pave the way for DC doing the same for Superman? But then, a father/son dynamic has been present in the Batman comics for decades…it’s just now the son is actually his son, not a ward or an adoptee, so there’s not really any change in that dynamic.
I guess in the Superman franchise, Supergirl sort of filled the role of the mentored youngster, but that’s not really the same as “Superman has a child.” He’s not even really had any kind of established Robin-esque sidekick like Batman, despite Supergirl’s occasional guest appearances. So, while Batman having a son didn’t really affect the franchise, giving Superman a son does alter things from the established model quite a bit. (It strikes me, sometimes, how lonely Superman seems to be in the pre-Crisis days…going to the empty Kent home, keeping his double life secret from his friends, even separated from Kandor in either its shrunken city or on-an-interdimensional-planetoid forms.)
Anyway, this is just a lot of meandering about a current plot development that will likely go away in whatever big shakeup the whole “Rebirth” thing is eventually leading to. The current story of “Parallel Universe Superman” will probably be wrapped up sooner rather than later, and whatever permutations that make this Superman differ from the Official Licenseable Version will be sanded away. But in the meantime, the Superman books have made for intriguing reading, if only for exploring how flexible the franchise is after nearly eight decades of existence.
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