Batman Superman books is too many Batman Superman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Action Comics 51, Superman Lois and Clark 7 and The Flash 50.
Action Comics 51
Drew: Last week, Spencer and I discussed the curious constraint of tone when running one storyline through four different series in Batman/Superman 31, and how balancing the tone of that storyline against the tones of the respective series can make or brake a crossover. A related factor is that of the creative teams — those actually crafting each chapter. In the case of “The Final Days of Superman,” Peter Tomasi is handling all of the writing duties, but that leaves artistic teams as a huge variable — especially since these aren’t necessarily folks who have had time to find their groove with either Tomasi or the title they’re working on (or both). A new artist on every issue can work beautifully (Zero is my most recent favorite example, but many series have rotated artists successfully), but it can also result in an inconsistency that doesn’t serve the story at all. Unfortunately, “The Final Days of Superman” seems to be falling into that latter category.
That’s not to say that any one artist isn’t pulling their weight — indeed, Paul Pelletier turns in some great work in this issue — just that the change between Doug Mahnke’s style and his own doesn’t feel narratively motivated. Obviously, it isn’t narratively motivated — this story has eight issues coming out in eight weeks, so it simply wouldn’t be possible to put this all on one artist (at least, not with an extra eight months of lead-time) — but that practical decision has some jarring repercussions on the story.
Unfortunately, the story itself may have more fundamental flaws. Or, rather, I should say that the script has some fundamental flaws — the story seems to be solid, and Tomasi achieves some compelling moments, but others are so awkward as to be confusing. Take Clark’s ass-backwards way of telling Kara that he’s dying:
“Only one member of our family will be alive soon, and that member is you” has to be the worst way to tell a loved one you’re dying. It’s so convoluted, Kara still doesn’t understand — it’s not until Clark brings her to the Fortress of Solitude that she finally gets it. The two share a genuinely moving moment there, but are quickly interrupted by Wonder Woman, who Clark has somehow neglected to tell about his condition. It sets up another intriguing chapter (that should fit in well with Superman/Wonder Woman), but this issue is starting to reveal flaws in the conception of this crossover that even an Amazonian princess can’t solve.
Superman Lois and Clark 7
Mark: I’ve decided to embrace Superman Lois and Clark as a purposefully retro comic. How else to explain dialogue such as, “Don’t know what you’re talking about, honey bunch?”
Sure, there are moments that read a bit as “old man yelling at clouds.” There’s basically no way to get through the Bad Ass Nation moments in the issue without feeling like Dan Jurgens has beef with today’s kids and their fame-hungry “reality television” lifestyle. Superman scolding the Bad Ass Nation staff, completely aghast that they’d endanger the lives of civilians for their darn TV program (completely ignoring the fact that the scenario Jurgens has invented is so insane that it would never remotely happen in real life), is pretty unreal.
But if you ignore the anachronistic discussions of reality television, this is an issue that wouldn’t be out of place in the 80s. It’s enjoyable enough, but the writing lacks sophistication. The dialogue is incredibly explicit, with characters either narrating their actions or just plainly restating important plot points.
I’ve been pretty harsh on Superman Lois and Clark in the past, and frankly I don’t know that there’s room for a comic like this today, but I’m sort of glad it exists. It reminds me of the comics I read as a kid. It’s junk food. But you can only eat so much junk food, you know?
The Flash 50
Spencer: Making it to a 50th issue is a true milestone in today’s market; even more momentous is the fact that The Flash has made it to this point with, essentially, only two different creative teams. Van Jensen, joined by Jesus Merino and Paul Pelletier on art, mines the history he and former co-writer Robert Venditti have established throughout their long run to great effect this month, making this issue truly feel like a milestone moment even though it’s neither the finale of this arc nor of Jensen’s run.
Most effective is the decision to have Henry Allen mastermind the Flash’s “escape” from prison. It’s a choice that taps into and furthers several plot points from previous arcs — the “friends” Henry’s made in prison, Girder’s humanity, even the uncontrollable menace of Overload — thus feeling like both a natural extension of the story and a complete surprise all at the same time. Jensen also has fun with some of the Flash’s pre-Flashpoint history, giving a handful of Rogues their first New 52 appearances.
This shows a reverence for history but also a respect for the current continuity by introducing these characters to it in the first place.
All this focus on villains actually provides a wonderful spotlight for the Flash as well. He’s been declared a menace and arrested, yet once the jailbreak goes down the police need the Flash to do what they can’t. Moreover, the Rogues’ mercenary nature, Girder’s selfishness, and Overload’s insanity are all a wonderful contrast to the Flash’s selflessness, and even Frye seems impressed.
That contrast is also front-and-center in the Wally West back-up (illustrated by Joe Eisma, of Morning Glories fame), which finds Wally finally starting to gain an understanding of his new abilities, and thus being forced to figure out how to best use them. Wally’s cruel, selfish classmate provides the perfect example of what not to aspire to, allowing the story to firmly establish Wally’s helpful, heroic nature in comparison.
So not only is The Flash 50 a great celebration of what makes Barry Allen and Wally West such beloved heroes, but it’s also an issue that manages to tap into all the best aspects of Jensen’s run so far. In many ways, I suppose that’s everything a milestone 50th issue should be.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?