Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Action Comics 40, originally released March 14th, 2015.
Spencer: In preparation for the premiere of its final season next month, I’m currently in the process of rewatching Mad Men from beginning to end. Meanwhile, my best friend just got into House of Cards, and has shown me a few episodes in hopes of getting me to watch it as well. I guess it worked — the first episode hooked me right away — but I already know that there’s no way I’ll be able to go straight from Mad Men‘s unending cycles of dysfunction to House of Cards‘ cynical wheeling and dealing; it’s simply too much darkness back-to-back. I need some sort of comedy as a palette-cleanser between the two series, and I get the feeling that Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder were dealing with a similar dilemma when they came up with the idea behind Action Comics 40. After the angst of the massive “Doomed” crossover and the horror-centric Ultra-Humanite story, the title was in dire need of a fun, goofy story to lighten the mood, and Bizarro’s story here certainly succeeds in doing just that. Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne and Drew are discussing Action Comics 38, originally released January 7th, 2015.
Suzanne: Have you ever read a story arc that you didn’t quite connect with? A few years back, I picked up Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night and was disappointed that it didn’t have the emotional punch for me that so many other readers felt. Maybe I was at a disadvantage — I was unfamiliar with the pre-New 52 universe and this was my introduction to many of the characters. Then I read the first few issues of Johns’ Justice League when the members confront the ghosts of their dead loves ones. For example, Thomas and Martha Wayne appeared and told Bruce how disappointed they were in his choices in life. Again, I didn’t have a strong reaction to the story because the stakes didn’t feel as real. Action Comics 38 includes a horror zombie version of Jonathan and Martha Kent. So can Greg Pak revive what has become a (somewhat) tired trope and also bring renewed focus to a series overshadowed by the recent “Superman: Doomed” crossover? Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Action Comics 37, originally released December 3rd, 2014. Patrick: The opening to Jaws is just about perfect. A beautiful young woman indulges herself in a (probably drunken) morning swim. It’d be an idyllic scene but for the foreboding sense that this moment is somehow too precious for a movie with a giant shark on the poster. When the inevitable shark attack happens, the audience is briskly snapped away from the pleasant scene and tossed back and forth like the film’s first victim. The violence is jarring, not because it’s particularly graphic or believable (there’s no reason a shark would drag someone around the surface of the water for so long), but because we’re able to feel the loss of the pleasantly banal moment that came before. Action Comics 37 plays a similar trick, insisting on a Smallville that’s apparently very serene, until that very serenity ends up be just as creepy as any external threat Superman can face. Continue reading →
Today, Shane and Taylor are discussing Action Comics 36, originally released November 5th, 2014.
Shane: Horror in comics has recently hit a major revitalization. Heralded by the meteoric success of The Walking Dead, we’ve seen such titles as American Vampire, Uzumaki and Locke & Key emerge to terrify the market. Even mainstream superhero books like Animal Man and X-Men have made real attempts to embrace the horror genre, but, honestly, answer me a question: If you had to pick an iconic superhero, one of the real icons, to have a major horror arc…would Superman be your first choice? No. Not at all. Batman, sure — he fits right into the dark world. Even Wonder Woman, with her mythological connections, could gravitate towards a number of unsettling stories. But Superman, the paragon of hope? Not a chance. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and guest writer Ryan are discussing The Fade Out 1, originally released August 20th, 2014.
Drew: Without getting too abstract, I’d like to suggest that western art is really about the development of ideas. The beginnings and ends of our books, plays, symphonies, movies, jazz tunes — virtually any art form that can said to have a “beginning” and “end” — are largely prescribed, but everything in between is totally open. For someone who is largely suspicious of rules in art, those middle sections — the rising action, the development, the open solos — are my favorite parts, where the artists are free to express, explore, and fully realize their creative potential. Of course, that also means that I’m often bored by beginnings and endings; especially in genre fiction, where the rules of exposition and resolution are even more specific. What differentiates one noir mystery from another tends to be a little subtler than can usually be communicated in the first issue of a comic, which is why Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips The Fade Out 1 is such a pleasant surprise. The issue doesn’t shy away from its genre trappings — if anything, it leans into it — but the result is something that transcends its boilerplate outline, creating an alluringly familiar late ’40s LA. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Action Comics 32, originally released June 4th, 2014.
Drew: How do you beat the unbeatable man? Normally, Superman writers struggle with this question in trying to create any real tension — the conventions of comics dictate that Superman is the most powerful being on Earth and that the good guy always wins, so how do you manage to wring a compelling story out of that? “Doomed” solves this problem by turning it on its head: what if Superman was the bad guy? Then the fact that he’s the most powerful being on Earth lies in direct conflict with the fact that the good guys always win, making the question of how to beat Superman no longer a trivial detail, but a key to the resolution of the conflict. Of course, years of the other kind of conflict have given writers an arsenal of weapons to use against Superman — they’ve never quite worked on their own, but maybe they can get the job done together. Action Comics 32 explores this idea in earnest, but reminds us that for all the ways we have to beat Superman, he was always our only solution to beating Doomsday. Continue reading →
Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Action Comics 30, originally released April 2nd, 2014.
Scott: Segues: you either love ’em or you hate ’em. I’ve listened to enough standup comedy to know that I’m a fan of the clean break, the abrupt change of topic. Lengthy transitions are just a waste of time. In longer storytelling formats, such as monthly comic books, there’s more of a virtue in spinning many plates at once. Even though stories are broken into defined arcs, some elements carry over from one arc to the next, making the clean break impossible. It results in issues like Action Comics 30, where writer Greg Pak’s first major arc comes to an end while also introducing important pieces of the story to come. The issue looks fantastic, but the story gets a little messy as it tries to connect the old with the new, making me wonder if Pak might have been better off nixing the segue.
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Action Comics 28, originally released February 5th, 2014.
Tell me something, Billy. How come a cute little guy like this can turn into a thousand ugly monsters?
Sheriff Frank, Gremlins
Scott: Imperial Subterranea. No, that’s not the title of an archeology elective at your local community college (well, maybe it is). It’s the setting of Action Comics 28. It’s a place shrouded in mystery, where looks are always deceiving. Greg Pak’s Action Comics has been a perfect blend of fun and heartfelt, and it’s increasingly full of surprises. All of your expectations can and will be thwarted. Terrifying monsters will transform into cute little buddies, and vice versa. Through it all, the fun, heartfelt nature remains at the forefront. Clark and Lana’s relationship drives this issue, it just so happens to take place on an underground roller-coaster ride (not to be confused with the Underground Railroad, although, strangely, slavery plays a big role in each). It’s 20 pages of pure energy. As Lana might point out, according to the laws thermo-dynamics, it shouldn’t exist.
Today, Scott and Mikyzptlk are discussing Action Comics 27, originally released January 8th, 2014.
It’s tempting to see your enemies as evil, but there’s good and evil on both sides in every war ever fought.
Scott: That’s a line from this new Game of Thrones Season 4 trailer (Don’t click this if you aren’t caught up with the show, there are some possible spoilers). It brings up a good point about how irrational wartime mentalities tend to be, and about the importance of looking at things from a foe’s perspective. I think it holds true on a person to person basis as well. There are two sides to everyone, and no matter how prevalent the evil in an enemy seems to you, if you look harder you will see some good in them. Action Comics 27 is something of a study on this theory, as every seemingly ill-intentioned character is revealed to have at least some heart. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing Velvet 2, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Shelby: I do so enjoy a good spy thriller. There’s something about the James Bonds, the Jason Bournes, the Ethan Hunts that is just impossibly cool. They’ve got the neatest gadgets and the most impressive skills. The life of a spy is built on lies, no one can really be trusted. The story is intrigue layered on mysteries, usually layered on top of betrayal. That’s why I think the mole-hunt/double agent story is my favorite kind of spy thriller; it transforms the necessity of the secrets and lies into a liability. Who better to hide from spies than another spy? Who could take down a secret agency other than one of its own? How is an agency supposed to find a mole when all its own tricks are being used against it? Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting take on these questions in their spy thriller Velvet, and it is exactly as fun as you would think. Continue reading →