This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
While Superman’s abilities to punch hard, fly fast, and jump high are the sizzle to his steak, the real meat (pardon the tortured metaphor) of Clark Kent as a character is his strong moral center. Comic books are lousy with characters possessing superpowers, but only a precious few represent truth and goodness like the man from Krypton. That’s why the Superman stories that really stick with us are the ones that find ways to challenge his moral certitude — and by challenging it, ultimately end up amplifying it even more. At multiple points, James Robinson and Doug Mahnke’s Superman 40 is on the precipice of testing the Man of Steel’s philosophical strength in interesting ways, but never shows any interest in doing so.
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
Rarely does Superman venture into horror territory, and rarer still does it do so as successfully as in Keith Champagne and Doug Mahnke’s Superman 29. The duo take a story featuring child abduction, possession, and a generally dour and oppressive atmosphere — things I generally would find anathema to a good Superman story — and make them work by never compromising Superman as a character. In fact, while Superman is brave and dependable as always, Champagne and Mahnke dial up his virtue to exaggerated heights, the better to combat the strange darkness of the material. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Superman 22, originally released May 3, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: DC’s double-shipping initiative has created quite the creative dilemma: how do you handle art duties with a schedule that makes it impossible for a single regular artist to handle every issue? Most titles have found a regular roster of artists to cycle through, but Superman adds an interesting wrinkle to that concept — while there are several artists who have consistently lent their talent to the book, co-writer Patrick Gleason is clearly its “main” artist, whose work is usually saved for the most important issues and stories. Such is the case with “Black Dawn,” the culmination of Gleason and Peter Tomasi’s first year of Superman stories. Gleason illustrated “Black Dawn’s” first two chapters, but Doug Mahnke takes over for its third installment. The switch in artists could be jarring, but Tomasi and Gleason incorporate it beautifully, using the opportunity to switch the perspective of their story entirely. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman/Superman 32, originally released May 4th, 2016.
Spencer: I’m a sucker for fight scenes. When I was younger, my top priority for any piece of media I checked out was “lots and lots of fighting,” as my voracious consumption of Dragonball Z in middle and high school can attest to. I still have a soft spot for this kind of action — and I look forward to lots of lovingly, intricately choreographed fight scenes when I finally get to see Captain America: Civil War on Friday — but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that action without any sort of substance supporting it is just hollow. While the “Final Days of Superman” storyline has plenty of substance to it, little of it makes its way into Batman/Superman 32. This issue has tons of action, but little of it means anything. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman/Superman 31, originally released April 13th, 2016.
Drew: What is a comic book series? That sounds like a simple question, but it’s one of those definitions that falls apart under close scrutiny. Peter Tomasi understands how strange our notion of a series can get, as he piloted Batman and Robin through the better part of a year without Robin. In that case, it wasn’t the cast, but the creative team that allowed us to group those issues as part of Batman and Robin. But if we take that definition of a “series” as something to do with a serialized narrative told by the same person (or team of people), what do we make of “Super Legion,” Tomasi’s new eight-part crossover that cycles through four different titles? Does it function like its own miniseries, or do its constituent issues maintain enough of their series’ identity to keep them distinct? The answer lies somewhere in between, which makes Batman/Superman 31 one of the most fascinating, if troubled, individual issues I’ve read in quite some time. Continue reading →
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, 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.