Villain Month Guide: Part 2 – Superman and Earth-2

villains month superman

In September, DC’s entire line is going to be highjacked by the villains of the universe. The creative teams frankenstiened together from DC’s regular stable of writers and artists, but — with a few exceptions — none of titles look like logical continuations of any of the current series. How’s a body supposed to know what they’re supposed to read? That’s where our four-part guide comes in.

DC’s having a bit of a Superman renaissance at the moment. Between the successful — but critically divisive — Man of Steel and the host of new series with a big red S on the cover, it’s starting to be okay to be a Superman fan again. In part two of our guide, we’ll be going over the issues from Action Comics, Superman, Batman / Superman and Earth-2. Be sure to check Part 1 – Batman and Part 3 – Justice Leagues and Teen Titans.

Cyborg SupermanAction Comics 23.1: Cyborg Superman
Written by Michael Alan Nelson; art by Mike Hawthorne
Release date 9/4/13

Michael Alan Nelson has been pitching clean-up for DC for a little over a year. He took over Ravagers after the Culling event that spawned it left the series high and dry. Similarly, he took the reigns on Supergirl after she was muddled during the H’el on Earth story arc. Unfortunately, Nelson’s introduction of Cyborg Superman in the pages of Supergirl has been fraught with stilted jokes and redundant storylines. Plus, it looks like this version of the character has very little in common with the Fantastic Four pastiche from pre-Flash Point continuity, reducing Cyborg Superman’s appeal to “just another bad guy kinda like Superman.” This is Mike Hawthorne’s first work with DC, but he’s no rookie — he was nominated for an Eisner Award for his work on Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country.

ZodAction Comics 23.2: Zod
Written by Greg Pak; art by Ken Lashley
Release date 9/11/13

Greg Pak is getting in to the Superman business in a serious way — his Batman / Superman series is already a hit and he will be taking the captain’s chair on the troubled Action Comics in November. Who better, then, to introduce the good General into the New 52? The place may be lousy with Kryptonains (they are supposed to be extinct, right?) but Pak is smart to let the emotional weirdness of losing one’s homeworld drive the story, instead of getting bogged down in mythology. Ken Lashey has done some pretty stunning cover work for DC in the New 52, but not much in the way of interiors, so this will be a rare treat.

Lex LuthorAction Comics 23.3: Lex Luthor
Written by Charles Soule; art by Raymund Bermudez
Release date 9/18/13

Lex Luthor’s a complicated fellow. He’s been passed around the DC books like a hot potato, bounced from Grant Morrison to Scott Lobdell to Scott Snyder — no wonder the character’s experiencing a little existential whiplash. Charles Soule has shown an extraordinary gift for digging characters out of exactly that kind of black hole with his surprisingly successful runs on Red Lanterns and Swamp Thing. Soule will also be writing the forthcoming Superman / Wonder Woman, so he’s got a vested interest in straightening this character out. This is Raymund Bermundez’ first gig with DC, so he’s kind of an unknown entity at this point. But in researching him for this piece, we did find this drawing he did of Shaq dunking on Hulk, so we can now all share the same impossibly high hopes.

MetalloAction Comics 23.4: Metallo
Written by Sholly Fisch; art by Will Conrad
Release date 9/25/13

Outside of losing the red underpants, the most controversial change to Superman in the New 52 was the loss of Ma and Pa Kent. Sholly Fisch was tasked with contextualizing that loss in his back-ups to Grant Morrison’s mythology-heavy Action Comics. The stories were bittersweet, and struck just the right tone of nostalgia and hope. No matter how dense and impenetrable the main story was (and it was Morrison, so: very), the back-ups were a sure thing. Will Conrad had a six-month stint as the artist on StormWatch immediately following the Zero Issue, so his previous work might have slipped past us*. But this will be a fun preview for when he takes over artistic duties on Nightwing in October. The solicit suggests that Metallo is feeling betrayed by both Lois Lane AND the U.S.A., which should piss Clark off plenty.

*Will Conrad has actually been drawing Nightwing since July, and will continue through October and November and the foreseeable future. Thanks to Evan for the correction!

BizarroSuperman 23.1: Bizarro
Written by Sholly Fisch; art by Jeff Johnson and Andy Smith
Release date 9/4/13

Look, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Bizarro am awesome. He’s such a goofy concept but still represents a serious threat to Superman, Metropolis, and the world. Not all of those kinds of characters are represented this September (whither Mister Mxyzptlk?), but it’s nice to see that DC hasn’t totally lost its sense of humor when it comes to Superman. Fisch has shown such a deft hand for bringing out the honesty in the sadder parts of Superman’s past, it’ll be interesting to see him tackle something as silly as Bizarro. Jeff Johnson and Andy Smith are both artists of the traditional DC house-style, but have not worked together before. Here’s hoping they take some kind of meta-bizarro route, and have Smith un-draw everything Johnson turns in.

BrainiacSuperman 23.2: Brainiac
Written by Tony Bedard; art by Pascal Alixe
Release date 9/11/13

Back when the entire Green Lantern writing staff quit the line, we were left asking “what’s Tony Bedard going to be doing now?” We always like reading his work, but both New Guardians and Blue Beetle suffered from being interfered with by other series. (Interestingly enough, the big issue that bumped Blue Beetle off course was the Justice League International Annual 1, written by Geoff Johns, and New Guardians was frequently strong-armed by Green Lantern: also written by Johns.) Free of the tyranny of Johns, Bedard should have a pretty interesting Brainiac story up his sleeve. Pascal Alixe is a little murky when it comes to human expression and clarity, but his work on the Superman Annual 1 showed that he’s got a knack for impressive, innovative action sequences. The solicit promises to answer the question “Who is Brainiac?” We all know who Brainiac is, but who the H’el is this next guy?

H'elSuperman 23.3: H’el
Written by Scott Lobdell; art by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
Release date 9/18/13

We covered all of H’el on Earth last fall, and we did so largely because we were enamored with Kenneth Rocafort’s jagged, kinetic artstyle. But the story bogged down early with logical inconsistencies, shoddy characterization and an unrealized villain. There’s something tempting about an issue that promises Scott Lobdell explaining his creation — H’el — without the burden of telling a world-ending story featuring the rest of the Super-Family (and eventually the Justice League). But without Rocafort on pencils, I’m afraid there’s not much you could do to get me to read a Lobdell Superman book ever again.

ParasiteSuperman 23.4: Parasite
Written by Aaron Kuder; art by Aaron Kuder
Release date 9/25/13

As an artist, Aaron Kuder is a strange talent. He has a gift for dramatic, beautiful staging, and his acting is often impeccable. Sometimes, however, issues with scale and human faces detract from that shining brilliance. Luckily, the Parasite’s features should be grotesque from the get-go. Kuder’s impressed us with his visual storytelling in his run on Green Lantern: New Guardians and he’s slated to draw Action Comics when Greg Pak takes over in November. No idea how he’ll handle the writing duties, but it can’t be any worse than J. Michael Straczynski’s Parasite story in Superman Earth One: Vol. 2 last year. J.H. Williams III and Tony S. Daniel lay out the poles of the writer/artist spectrum, which means this could fall anywhere between incredible and absolute shit. We’re approaching this one with cautious optimism.

DoomsdayBatman / Superman 3.1: Doomsday
Written by Greg Pak; art by Brett Booth
Release date 9/25/13

Doomsday is a big gun. He’s a trump card. And other metaphors as well! Whatever folksy way you want to spin it, he’s the monster that killed Superman. The relaunch (and Batman/Superman’s own wonky timeline) makes it unclear whether this is round one or two, but either way: Doomsday is not to be taken lightly. Our guess: Batman is going to be taking on more of a support role. We enjoyed Brett Booth’s recent fill-in work welcoming Nightwing to the city of Chicago. His knack for clear staging may suit him well, but we can’t really imagine two characters more visually opposed than Dick Grayson and Doomsday, so who knows?

DesaadEarth-2 15.1: Desaad
Written by Paul Levitz; art by Yildiray Cinar
Release date 9/4/13

Being from one Earth and becoming stranded on the other is all the rage these days. Power Girl did it; Huntress did it; hell, even Batman and Superman did it. Time for the baddies to get in the mix! With Worlds’ Finest scribe Paul Levitz in the drivers seat, this issue focuses on a dimensionally stranded Apokaliptian god — the god of fear and pain, no less! Yildiray Cinar is no stranger to Earth-2, having recently drawn the Annual 1. These all sound like appropriate choices for this issue, but we gave up on the Earth-2 books a long time ago, boob windows or no.

Solomon GrundyEarth-2 15.2: Solomon Grundy
Written by Matt Kindt; art by Aaron Lopresti
Release date 9/11/13

Aaron Lopresti’s art, with his gentle character designs and knack for subtlety, may seem like an odd choice for the savagery of Solomon Grundy’s origin story, but that’s by design — Lopresti suggested at the Boston Comic Con that he was brought in specifically to mitigate the violence in Matt Kindt’s script. It’s cross-type casting, to be sure, but it worked well for the war-filled pages of Sword of Sorcery, though that series was significantly less brutal than what this cover suggests. In his Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Kindt demonstrated that he’s capable of injecting even the most grotesque characters with heart, so hopefully there’s more than just violence for Lopresti to work with here.

17 comments on “Villain Month Guide: Part 2 – Superman and Earth-2

  1. Not the biggest Supes fan. I’m only p,lanning on getting Lex & Doomsday and maybe Metallo for Will Conrad’s art.
    Just as a note, Will Conrad has been on Nightwing since July, so not sure why you said he is taking over in October.

  2. I think I’ll definitely pick up Parasite, Luthor, and Doomsday (the latter mainly because I’m already following Batman/Superman).

    Grundy, Zod, Metallo, and Bizarro are maybes, again, depending on how full my pull list is that week. I wanna support Bedard too, but God do I just not care about Brainiac in the slightest.

  3. I don’t understand why Lobdell still has a job with DC. He hasn’t written a good comic in a while, so I don’t know why DC thinks it’s a good idea to keep paying him to write crap.

    • I think that writing a good comic is only part of working for a large company like DC. Meeting deadlines, being able to work with editorial, promote yourself, your books, and the rest of company are all key parts. I haven’t been a fan of Lobdell’s work either but they keep giving it to him.

    • I can’t be sure, but it sure seems like DC is phasing him out of prominence. Drew and I were frequent defenders of his first 8 issues of Red Hood, but everything else has been middling to straight-up shitty. With Pak moving in on Action Comics in November, that leaves Lobdell with just Superman, and that pool is being diluted with some really excellent writers (Snyder, Pak, Soule). It’s just like how DC lets crummier writers do some of the Batman titles (DetCom and TDK are frequently helmed by bad writers).

  4. This portion of the publication schedule is like a candy store for me. I’m getting Cyborg Superman (been digging the new Supergirl writer), Zod (Pak!), Luthor (Soule on Luthor, very enticing!), Metallo (classic Supes villian written by Fisch whom I LOOOOOVE), Bizarro (see: Metallo), Brainiac (Bedard > average writer > turds > Lobdell), Doomsday (Pak! Doomsday!), Desaad (Fourth World!), Solomon Grundy (for Kindt and Lopresti… not a huge Grundy guy)

    • I’m pretty excited about Sholly Fisch’s contributions to this month, but there’s definitely a lot of good stuff in here. I’m not interested in the Earth-2 stuff, but Action and Superman both have an unusually high good-looking to crummy-looking ratio. And Mogo, you know I’m not the biggest Superman fan in the world, but come on!

      Also, what’s your take on no Mxyzptlk?

      • LOL, I wonder if anybody else could figure out the mechanics of writing Morrison’s New 52 Mxyzptlk… it’s so quantum and out there

  5. I wasn’t that interested in the Superman/Wonder Woman book, but I’m glad you pointed out that it will be written by the same guy who is doing the Luthor issue. Hopefully that issue proves good enough that I might try S/WW but I still have no idea what to expect. I still feel like that whole relationship has been forced and is a total gimmick. And I love that Azzarello is just like ‘no im not doing that’ and ignoring Superman.

    • Yeah, the romantic relationship certainly seems like a wash. But I love the idea of entire series built up around relationships between characters. Green Arrow / Green Lantern, Green Lantern / Flash, Batman / Superman, Superman / Wonder Woman – it’s all good fun. Plus, if the pattern keeps up, we might could get that Cyborg / Shazam book that would make no sense but be hilarious.

  6. Pingback: Villain Month Guide: Part 3 – Justice Leagues and Teen Titans | Retcon Punch

  7. Pingback: Villain Month Guide: Part 1 – Batman | Retcon Punch

  8. Pingback: Villain Month Guide: Part 4 – Everyone Else | Retcon Punch

  9. Pingback: What I Bought Today – Action Comics #23.1, Batman and Robin #23.1 (WARNING – SPOILERS) | Jyger's Rant

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