by Drew Baumgartner, Michael DeLaney, Patrick Ehlers, and Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
“From the City that Has Everything”
Drew: Superman changed the world. That’s obvious enough in-universe, but it’s just as true of our world. Action Comics 1 created (or at least codified) the superhero genre, a genre that came to define both the 20th and 21st centuries, and is still growing as Action Comics rings in its 1000th issue. It’s a singular achievement, but celebrating it as such might not be in the spirit of Superman, for whom humbleness is as much a part of his character as heroism. He’s not one to take compliments easily, let alone brag, so any efforts to do so on his behalf run the risk of feeling crass. Most of the stories in this issue opted to ignore lionizing Superman outright, aiming instead to illustrate what it is that makes him so laudable, but in the issue’s opening chapter, Dan Jurgens came up with a way to address the issue with Superman himself, providing a commentary on the whole exercise of a huge anniversary issue, and offering a justification that even Superman can get behind. Continue reading →
Today, Mark and Drew are discussing Convergence: Superman 2, originally released May 6th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Mark: I really dislike Zack Snyder’s 2013 Man of Steel. It feels like the filmmakers fundamentally do not understand what makes Superman special. Strip away his Kryptonian background and all of his super powers, at the end of the day what makes Superman super is that he stands as an example for good. And while New 52 Superman wasn’t bad, there’s just no comparing to pre-Flashpoint Superman. This is a lived-in Superman, an older Superman. Perhaps overpowered by the end, but the emotional connections he had with other characters, especially Lois Lane, were rich. All of that history may have driven to narrative dead ends, but as a character this Superman is basically the best, and having Dan Jurgens back for a proper send off makes Convergence: Superman 2 one of the few highlights of Convergence last week. Continue reading →
Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Superman Unchained 5, originally released January 1st, 2014.
Mikyzptlk: Since the beginning, Kal El has been a man caught between two lives: Clark Kent and Superman. Sometimes, these two lives are shown in conflict, while other times they are shown in harmony with one another. No matter what though, these lives are a part of the Man of Steel. In Superman Unchained 5, the other superman, known as Wraith, attempts to use Kal El’s dichotomy to get Superman to see things his way. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and (guest writer) Shane are discussing Batman/Superman 3.1: Doomsday, originally released September 25th, 2013.
Spencer: Doomsday is a hard character to write. Of course he’s a legendary, unstoppable force, but he’s also a personality-less beast with little depth beyond an insatiable desire to destroy Superman. In short, he was a gimmick, but a wildly successful gimmick; considering all of that, I was quite curious going into this issue about what Greg Pak would do with the character. Much to my surprise, Pak decided to write a Doomsday story about how the monster’s legend affects various generations of his victims. It’s a novel approach, but I admit, some unclear or missing parts of the story make it a bit hard for me to figure out what exactly Pak is trying to say. Continue reading →
Patrick: I likes me a good anti-hero. There’s nothing quite like cheering for a character’s success and failure at the same time. Let’s take Walter White as a perfect example of this in modern fiction. He is a terrible husband and father, and an even worse friend, who makes dangerous decisions in the name of greed, power and desperation. And yet, I cheer every single one of his personal victories, no matter how immoral they might be. So much of Breaking Bad is about that character finding a way to feel powerful in the face of illness and poverty, and about how that need to feel powerful never goes away. The ride is exhilarating because there’s nothing more satisfying than a character with agency. Say what you will about Walter White — he has goals and he takes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Supergirl has no such agency. She spends the majority of issue 17, fighting Wonder Woman just because, and then stops fighting her for equally arbitrary reasons. Neither a hero, nor an anti-hero, Supergirl ends up the clueless victim of her own series.
Drew: Supergirl really drew the short straw on this crossover event. She very quickly aligned herself with a villainous cipher whose motives and methods have yet to be fully explained, which makes her gullible at best, downright stupid at worst — traits we generally don’t associate with heroic figures. We could excuse some of this based on her desire to return to Krypton, but each moment she spends with H’el without asking for just a little more information strains credulity that much further. Supergirl 16 does well, then, to give Kara time away from H’el, reasserting that this character — and this series — might just have some agency after all. Continue reading →
Drew: Ironically, I’m kind of a sucker for stories about con men. I like movies like Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can more than they probably deserve, and the scams from LOST and Justice League Dark might be my favorite parts of those series. With so many compelling, relatable con artists running around fiction, it’s easy for me to forget that they’re generally bad guys. It’s somewhat understandable that they aren’t depicted negatively more often; we like to think that we’re smart, and that the protagonists we identify with are also smart, so it’s a risky move to depict a hero being taken in by a scam. Mike Johnson attempts that risky move in Supergirl 15, with decidedly mixed results.
Drew: For being a site run by DC fanboys (and girls), we’re not great about covering Superman’s corner of the DC universe. In fact, aside from a few annuals and zero month, we’ve barely covered any titles anchored by DC’s oldest superhero. There’s plenty to not like about the way DC has handled Supes in the New 52, but our two biggest problems hinge around the increasingly strained explanations to superpower villains and the often lazy assumption that Krypton is automatically interesting. With Supergirl 14, the H’el on Earth crossover seems poised to give us an emotionally satisfying exploration of both of those ideas, which could serve as an important turning point for the Superman family.
Today, Shelby and (guest writer) Pete Peterson are discussing Superman 0, originally released September 27th, 2012. Superman 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: What more is there to know about the origin of Superman? Krypton blows up, baby Kal-El is loaded into an escape pod, crashes to Earth as the only survivor of Krypton (except for his cousin Supergirl, but that’s a different story), and becomes Superman because science. I have never stopped to think more about Superman’s story; turns out, there are a lot of details I’ve been glossing over. For example, what exactly caused an entire planet to blow up in the first place? Scott Lobdell gives us a clue to the destruction of Krypton, and decides the best place to start the origin of Superman is with his father.
Today, Peter and Shelby are discussing Action Comics 0, originally released September 5, 2012. Action Comics 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Peter: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Grant Morrison. Sometimes he has very crisp writing that really delves to the point of the story and the characters. Sometimes it’s full of meta references and allusions that overwhelm the story he is trying to tell. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t. Really it boils down to how well does Grant Morrison fit into the work he is writing. I mean the man can write just about anything, but does it actually work? The fundamental question is of pairing a writer with a specific character or book; what makes a good match?