Saturday, 28 August 2010

Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #4

Good gravy, how the time flies. It's been a busy old week over here behind the scenes. There have been more than a few distractions from the actual business of writing about Superman. As well as the already linked podcasts (Amazing Spider-Man Classics Episode 13 and Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast Episode 37), the Amazing Spider-Man Classics team wrangled the next episode into shape, added in some extremely dodgy renditions of various television theme songs, and released it as Episode 14. As before, I joined the team, and had a great time whilst doing. it.

In addition to this, a twitter papertrail led me to the SFX 200th Issue Celebrations. I started collecting SFX with issue 37 (Uma Thurman on the cover, promoting Gattaca), and stopped about 100 or so issues later. It's a big part of how I became a SF fan, and I think it's fair to say that without the magazine's glowing coverage of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which started long before the series made its way to the BBC, I may have overlooked the brilliance that was and is Joss Whedon until a lot later. A more direct influence on my comic reading is the article they did to celebrate the finale of Preacher, which turned me onto that series, and in turn to the idea that comics didn't have to be about men in capes and tights. The linked site is a special even they did for their 200th issue, whereby they link one feature from each of their issues. It's a great piece of nostalgia, especially for any Brits out there. Remember the days when the best we had in the UK was Bugs?

Anyway, that's enough distractions. We have some serious business to get down to.

First Thunder Part 4: Men And Boys! Gods And Thunder!

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: Febuary 2006
Release Date: 21/12/2005

Back in Metropolis, Clark relaxes in the Daily Planet newsroom, fending off questions from Lois Lane concerning his scoop from Fawcett City. Meanwhile, Dr Sivana is relishing the fact that he is about to rid himself of Captain Marvel. He doesn't care that this involves murdering a child, and that there is a possibility that the child being targeted might not even be the right one.

In the subway, Billy Batson changes into Captain Marvel, who shrugs off a hail of bullets. He leaps into the attackers, making quick work of them. Turning back to make some lighthearted banter with Scott, Marvel is shocked to see his friend unconscious, with a bullet wound to his chest. Marvel takes Scott to a nearby hospital. The doctors and surgeons work long and hard, but are unable to save his life. At the Fawcett City police station, Spec is being grilled by two detectives. Suddenly, Captain Marvel appears, ripping the door to the interrogation room off of its hinges. Ignoring the policemen with their guns on him, Marvel demands to know who sent him.

Dr Sivana is drinking to cover his disappointment at not having Captain Marvel killed. Marvel appears at the window, shattering all the glass in the penthouse. He grabs Sivana by the throat, wondering whether or not to let him live. When Sivana passes out, Marvel drops him to the floor and leaves. Coming to, Sivana decides to leave Fawcett for good.

The next morning, Clark sees reports of Captain Marvel's rampage. He flies to Mount Everest and finds Captain Marvel sitting in their spot. Superman demands answers as to why Marvel put so many lives in danger, but is taken aback to see him crying. Marvel tells Superman about Scott, that he was his best friend. Superman doesn't understand, and Marvel realises that he has to reveal his secret. He says 'Shazam' and turns back into Billy Batson, telling Superman that he feels it's too dangerous to be Billy anymore. Superman asks who did this to him.

A little while later, Superman confronts Shazam in the Rock of Eternity. He is angry that the wizard has given this responsibility to a child, removing the gift of childhood from Billy. Shazam tell Superman that Billy is a boy who needs guidance. Later on, Clark goes to visit Billy in a run down building. When Billy asks if he is from social services, Clark unbuttons his shirt to reveal his identity. Sitting down, he introduces himself to Billy.

Way back, in my coverage of issue one of this series, I teased in reply to a comment that I don't react to this series in the way I normally react to a Judd Winick comic. I normally find Winick to be a heavy-handed writer, fond of championing social issues but doing so with about as much subtlety as the time Darth Vader decided to use the Death Star to do a spot of light pruning in the garden of his holiday home on Coruscant. Wether dealing with homophobia in Green Lantern, or HIV in Green Arrow, readers have found themselves lectured by the comics they have read. Here, the social issue is homelessness, but instead of making it a focus of the story, Winick uses it as flavouring, an element to enrich the story without having Superman tell the readers that kids living on the street is A Bad Thing. It helps that the homelessness is an element of the original origin story for Captain Marvel.

Although the first three issues of the series don't do much for me, this fourth issue is far stronger. I can really get behind Marvel'sMarvel's driving seat, seeing the fears of a small boy in Marvel's actions comes across well on the page. I particularly like the way Superman redirects his anger when he sees Marvel crying, angrily defending a child's right to be a child to Shazam.

And then we get to the end of the issue, which ends with Superman stripping off to share a bed with a young, emotionally vulnerable boy. Yeah, in context of the issue it almost works as a moment where Superman puts the needs of one of his allies over his own desire to maintain a secret identity. But let's face it, there is a very uncomfortable and more-than-likely unintentional subtext to this scene that is completely wrong for the two characters involved.

The Geeky Bits: In this current age of the multiverse, Earth-53 has Superman as a fugitive, hunted by the JLA for crimes against minors. Or not...

Next on World of Superman: Superman gets locked up in Arkham Asylum. Have I taken the opportunity to skip 15 years of comics and jump right into Emperor Joker? Or have I just reached issue 3 of World's Finest?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Teenage Wasteland: A British Spider-Man Podcast

Did ya see what I did there?

Just a quick note to say that Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast episode 37, focusing on the first half of the Hobgoblin story arc and featuring... well... me... is now available to download. Find the podcast here or on iTunes.

I'll see you all in a couple of days for the final part of Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder! #3

First Thunder Part 3: Titans

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: January 2006
Release Date: 02/11/2005

The wizard Shazam narrates the secret origin of Eclipso. Knowing that his champion is about to face Eclipso in battle, Shazam fears for Captain Marvel. Spec speaks to the homeless of Fawcett City, looking for information on the boy he saw Captain Marvel turn into. One old man is able to give him some information, and Spec asks for a name.

Superman and Captain Marvel arrive at the site of the demonic ritual. Although Marvel doesn't recognise Sabbac, he recognises the strong magical powers within him. The two engage, but Sabbac belches fire all over them and flies away. Meanwhile, Eclipso uses the Fawcett City Solar Center to broadcast the energy from the black diamond into the sun, causing rays of black light to fall onto the city, turning anyone they touch into Eclipsos. Superman saves Captain Marvel from one of these rays, and the two turn to face their increasing problems.

Doctor Sivana observes the chaos from the top of his building. Spec arrives with a piece of paper bearing the secret of Captain Marvel's vulnerability.

Eclipso is gloating over his success when the machinery used to spread his influence is suddenly destroyed by Superman. The two fight, and Eclipso uses his posessed minions to attack. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel and Sabbac trade blows. Sabbac is gloating and monologuing, and accidentally gives away that his name is the source of his power. Superman uses his powers to vibrate the air around him, repelling the posessed people, and the uses his super-breath to provide a cushion for them to fall on. Having broken free, Superman races into the sky, and locates the cavern where Sabbac was summoned. Breaking in and destroying the seals within causes the darkness over the sun to withdraw, diminishing Eclipso's power and freeing his minions, including Bruce Gordon. With the sun returned, Captain Marvel is able to face off more effectively against Sabbac. Taunting and teasing him, Marvel makes Sabbac so mad that he yells out his name, returning to human form. Marvel then grabs the human by his mouth, preventing him from re-summoning his power.

Superman and Marvel say their goodbyes, with Superman feeling more comfortable about the world of magic, knowing that he has an ally who can stand up to that power. Marvel changes back into Billy and returns to his shelter, where he discusses the events with Scott. A noise alerts them, and suddenly they are confronted by a group of soldiers, who open fire.

So, this would be the fighting issue, then? We get a full issue of Superman and Captain Marvel vs Eclipso and Sabbac. I'm not quite sure why Eclipso needs to be here, displaying a command over his powers that wasn't otherwise present during the earlier years of Superman's life. Thematically his presence makes a kind of sense, a random element thrown into the mix as a result of Sivana's work with Sabbac, but all he does is occupy Superman and keep him from engaing with Sabbac. When the whole gist of Superman's involvement in this story is to confront his fears and concerns about his ability to face off against magical forces, giving him an easy option to back out of a fight with a supremely mystical being and having him bow out after a couple of punches feels like a cop out. But as we're talking about Superman's resistance to magic, one panel has Superman countering Ecliso's black diamond energy beam thingy with his heat vision, and succeeding. If Superman is able to face down the power of the former Spirit of Vengeance with his heat vision, then why does he have concerns about facing magical enemies? Why does he even have a weakness against such foes?

As is becoming a regular trait with this series, we have more examples of dialogue that just doesn't fit the mouths from which it springs. Eclipso taunts Superman, telling him that he smells of flesh and blood and bone, that he smells mortal. And what does Superman respond with? 'Good. I won't tell you what you smell of.' Wow, this has all the sharp, biting wit of a six year old who doesn't like being called stinky-pants. This isn't the Man of Steel, the figurehead of all heroes on Earth, and reading such poor dialogue coming out of Superman's mouth is just painful. And let's just not start of Superman vibrating the air around him to provide enough kinetic energy to repel twenty of so humans and then directing enough of his breath quickly enough to cushion their fall without blowing them away. My science-type brain kinda melted when I read that.

The Geeky Bits: Joshua Middleton is mainly known as a cover artist, although he has occasionally been an interior artist. He started at CrossGen with the title Meridian in 2000, and next surfaced as the penciller for the 2004 series NYX. However, Middleton's work is often subject to delays, partly because of his all-encompassing work that sees him pencil, ink and colour his own work. Middleton was nominated for an Eisner award for his covers for NYX in 2004.

Next on World of Superman: We finish off First Thunder! Are you prepared to cry? Because the creative team would like you to.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Spidey Podcasts

A big hello to you all. I'm currently in the very unusual position of listening to myself in podcast form on Amazing Spider-Man Classics Episode 13. Due to recording difficulties, the first twenty or so minutes were recorded a month before the rest of the episode, so I have little to no memory of what was discussed. And you'll be pleased to hear that when we remounted the recording, it started at about 10pm, not 3am. Although listening to the next three episodes, the record time gets later and later, and my fragile sanity very audibly starts to crumble...

This is actually my second podcast, although release schedules have made it my official podcasting debut. Later this week, probably Thursday or Friday, you'll be able to hear my debut on Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast. That was a real blast to record, partially because it started at a very sensible time for myself, and also because I really put some effort into a couple of bits from my recap/summary for USM #75. Thanks to the hosts of both podcasts for letting play with their toys, and I hope you enjoy the results.

So, welcome to those new readers who have stopped by after hearing me on Amazing Spider-Man Classics. I hope you'll stick around.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #2

First Thunder: Odd Couples

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Thanks to Brian Reiber
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: December 2005
Release Date: 05/10/2005

One week ago. Doctor Sivana travels to Metropolis for a clandestine meeting with Lex Luthor. Luthor offers up a resource caled Spec, which will follow Captain Marvel to reveal his secrets. In return, Sivana will sell back to Lex the LexCorp shares he has been buying through dozens of shell companies as a prelude to a hostile takeover. Realising that he has been outplayed, Sivana agrees. Spec starts to trail Captain Marvel, and one night follow him into an alley. Marvel vanishes, but a small boy runs out and into an abandoned subway station. Spec realises that his job has just become more interesting...

Now. Superman and Captain Marvel team up to take down the mystical beasts, whilst the gang of crooks, realising that two super-heroes are onto them, beat a hasty retreat. As they leave, they confirm that their second team have captured their target, and that they are working for Sivana. Superman is encased in a magical crystal, which Marvel is able to shatter. Superman is then surprised to see that Captain Marvel is able to withstand magical attacks. The beasts are defeated, and Marvel starts to explain his powers. Realising that it might be a longer conversation, he suggests that they go somewhere to talk.

On the summit of Mount Everest, the two heroes compare their similar and different powers. Superman finds himself about to reveal information about his civilian identity, and gently backs off, explaining that he keeps the two sides of his life seperate.

As night falls in Fawcett City, Doctor Sivana instructs that his plans begin. In a mystical cave, the captured civilian is forced to say a magical word - Sabbac. A mystical explosion sends a beam of energy to the sun, blacking it out. As Sabbac rises, Bruce Gordon is taken over by Eclipso. Superman realises what is happening with his super-hearing, and the two heroes return to the city.

So, a few fast thoughts on this issue, as we're on part two of a four part story and I want to hold the big guns until the end.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Luthor and Sivana. Putting Sivana in the role of a bitchy old queen going up against the stoic, unmoveable, and far superior Luthor work incredibly well, and the only duff moment comes from the point where Lex lowers himself to Sivana's level, with his retort of "Oh come one, what's the hurry? Apart from the fact that you're incredibly old and will probably die soon." It's too blunt for the subtle Lex, and it's also a poorly constructed put down, stumbling awkwardly off the tongue instead of gliding out with barely concealed ease.

As Lex and Sivana spend some time together, so do Superman and Marvel. Whilst their relationship in-combat is pretty bland, their conversation atop Mount Everest is far more interesting. Superman finds himself in a unique position. He's talking to a fellow super-hero without having to constantly be on guard, as he is with Batman, and without the pressures that come with interacting with a member of the Justice League. He seems a lot more relaxed, and finds himself slipping when it comes to details about himself. Although it's Captain Marvel who voices that fact that "it stinks" to not be able to talk, there is a sense of longing on the part of Superman to be able to be free and open about himself without having to constantly be careful of what he says.

The art continues to be fairly solid, although as with the first issue, faces occasionally deviate from the standard model. This issue's biggest offender is Lex Luthor, who conveys absolutely no presence on the panel. I hate to use a word such as 'bland', but I honestly can't think of a better word to use to describe how Joshua Middleton renders Luthor. Well, maybe 'meek'.

The Geeky Bits:  Judd Winick is one of comicdom's more polarising writers. He first came to fame as a cast member of the third series of The Real World, and his experiences on the show as well as his friendship with Pedro Zamora informed his multi award-winning graphic novel, Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned. Winick joined DC in 2000, working on titles such as Green Lantern, Green Arrow (where he revealed that GA's sidekick, Mia Dearden, was HIV positive), Batman (where he resurrected Jason Todd), Outsiders, and other projects. His work is loved by some, and hated by others. The highlights of his DC work would probably be his Green Lantern and Green Arrow runs, whilst the absolute lowlight would definately be the ill-advised and ill-executed Titans relaunch a couple of years ago.

Next on World of Superman: Part three of First Thunder, where things get tragic.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1

And we're back. The latest event to take me away from blogging has been a trapped nerve in my shoulder, which made it almost impossible to lie down without heavy doses of medication, meaning no sleep for a couple of days. Thankfully it appears it has become untrapped and I have recovered my mental state from 'zombie' all the way back to 'normal, if a little geeky'. Later on tonight I'll be joining the crew from Amazing Spider-Man Classics for another shot at recording our episodes. If all goes well then the first should be up by the end of the week. Anyway, enough distraction... shall we take a look at some comics?

First Thunder Chapter 1: A Face In The Crowd!

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: November 2005
Release Date: 08/09/2005

The wizard Shazam observes the emergence of super-heroes into the world, and decides that the time has come for him to have a champion again. Captain Marvel makes his first appearance to the world, saving the an aeroplane from crashing into the center of Fawcett City. As Shazam watches, he decress that Marvel is locked in a battle with fate.

Three months later. Superman apprehends a gang of crooks who are breaking into the Metropolis Museum of Natural History and are attempting to steal a 1000 year-old golden statue. To cover their escape, the crooks produce staves which they strike onto the floor, summoning a giant mystical beast who attacks Superman. Superman engages the monster, but after a few seconds of fighting the beast vanishes in a puff of smoke. He spies a coin on the floor, and realises that magic was involved.

The next day, two giant robots attack the Fawcett City Solar Center contruction site. Captain Marvel engages and defeats them after a short battle. In the aftermath, Marvel agrees to leave the robots in the care of Dr Bruce Gordon, the chief scientific advisor of the project. Marvel then takes off. Later that night, Billy Batson returns to his makeshift home in an abandoned subway station. He and his best friend, Scott Cooper, who also knows his secret, discuss Captain Marvel's popularity in Fawcett City. Scott wants Billy to come back to the foster home with him, but Billy doesn't want to be part of the system, happy to sleep rough with the other homeless people.

Doctor Sivana, frustrated by his failed attempts to kill Captain Marvel and his failure to obstruct the Solar Center project, decides to contact Lex Luthor to exchange ideas on killing caped superheroes.

Later still, Billy is scoping out the Mckeon History Museum when he sees a gang breaking and entering. Changing into Captain Marvel, he confronts the gang, who had previously robbed the Metropolis museum. They employ the same tactics, summoning two mystical beasts to cover their escape. The beasts throw Captain Marvel out of the museum into the street. Looking up, he sees Superman, who offers his assistance.

In 2005, Judd Winick launched two projects to highlight not only Captain Marvel but also his relationship with Superman. The first, Lightning Strike Twice, was a three-issue crossover that ran through the Superman titles coverdated June. This was a prequel to Day of Vengeance, itself a prelude to Infinite Crisis. A few months later came this four-part mini-series depicting the first meeting between the two heroes.

This is a perfectly serviceable first issue to the series. It's solid without being spectacular, but is also a surprisingly brisk read. There's very little dialogue in this issue, and this results in Captain Marvel and especially Superman coming across as ciphers, there to wear their uniforms and do some fighting without displaying any character of their own. The two pages of Doctor Sivana work a lot better, as we get an interesting portrayal of the character as well as a nice setup for his role in the rest of the series. I really like the idea that Sivana - pre-mad scientist, and Fawcett City's version of Lex Luthor - would swap notes on cape-killing with Luthor. It's only a little bit crazy, and in the long run makes Superman's inclusion in the story better setup than we get here. I also like the fact that we get a homeless Billy Batson, an element of the character

There are a few slippages in the issue. Some of Captain Marvel's dialogue just seems wrong. The Captain Marvel I know (admittedly I don't know very much, mostly from the pages of JSA) wouldn't yell 'Hey! Iron butt!' at a robot, and such a saying seems out of character for someone blessed with the wisdom of Solomon. Joshua Middleton's art, whilst pretty good throughout the issue, falls down in one close-up of Superman's face that ages him by about twenty years. It's a shame that these little moments occur, as they detract from the comic.

The Geeky Bits: Right, a short history of Captain Marvel in one paragraph. Created in 1940, became the best-selling super-hero of the 1940s and the first comic character to have a live-action adaptation. Publishing ceased in 1953 when DC sued Fawcett Publishing for trademark infringement. Twenty years later, DC bought Fawcett and started publishing Captain Marvel, although Marvel had trademarked their own Captain Marvel in the meantime, so the book had to be called Shazam!. Captain Marvel had a rough ride out of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it wasn't until Jerry Ordway created The Power of Shazam! in 1994 that a permanent ongoing series featuring the character was established. This series ran for five years, and after its conculsion, Marvel joined the JSA until Infinite Crisis came along.

Next on World of Superman: Superman and Captain Marvel do more than say 'hello' in their first ever team-up.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Jack Kirby's Fourth World #20

Apologies for the lack of interior images, my scanner has let me down by producing wonderful static-filled scans. Gotta love the tech!
The Gods Themselves

Story, Pencils, Inks and Lettering: John Byrne
Coloring: Noelle Giddings
Assistant Editor: L.A. Williams
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Creator: Jack Kirby
Based on the work originally appearing in Forever People #1 and Jimmy Olsen #149
Cover Art: Walt Simonson
Cover Date: October 1998
Release Date: 12/08/2008

Superman is flying through Metropolis, pondering his unknown alien origins. Flying into the Daily Planet and changing into Clark, he encounters Jimmy Olsen, who tells a tale of his meeting with a group of super people called the Forever People, and their mentions of a place called Supertown. Whilst out driving the previous night, Jimmy was surprised when a Boom Tube opened up and deposited the Forever People, causing him to drive off the road. The Forever People save him, apologise for their error, and let him take pictures of them.

Superman's interest is piqued, and he flies off to find the Forever People. So focused is he that he doesn't register being observed by an Intergang helicopter, which gives chase on orders from Darkseid. Superman locates the Forever People in an abandoned lumber mill. The Forever People can't decide wether Superman is an envoy from Supertown or a minion of Darkseid, but before they can choose, the Intergang 'copter attacks with alien weaponry, stunning Superman. Superman tries to down the chopper by hurling a tree at it, but he is stopped from further action by the Forever People, who tell him that they need to track the helicopter to find out where Darkseid is hiding Beuatiful Dreamer.

Superman offers his help, and by using his x-ray vision he discovers a non-terrestial metal under the ground. As the Forever People move in, Superman helps to defend them from a poison gas attack, but he finds himself pinned down by the Gravi-Guards. Realising that Superman needs more help, the Forever People combine their powers to call the Infinity Man, who makes short work of the guards. Infinity Man then calls out Darkseid who appears. Darkseid returns Beautiful Dreamer, deciding that he can extract the secrets of the Anti-Life equation from other minds, before vanishing. Infinity Man then vanishes, returning the Forever People, who greet their lost comrade.

In return for his help, the Forever People open a Boom Tube to Supertown. Superman flies through it and find himself in a floating city where everyone has superpowers. Seeing a young girl about to be crushed by a falling tower, Superman saves her, but is confused when the girl reveals her own powers, tossing the tower around like a toy. Superman is beckoned over by a bearded stranger with a staff, who tells him that his questions about his origins can only be answered on Earth. The stranger then returns Superman to Earth. Orion then appears to talk to the stranger - revealed as Highfather - and they confirm that Earth will be an important part of the war against Apokolips. Highfather tells Orion that the Source has directed him to Earth, but Orion has decided to stop on Apokolips first.

I'm always wary of retelling prior stories in current continuity. Sometimes it works really well, enhancing the bare bones of the story with material relevant to the concurrent stories. Two good examples of this are the two retellings of Hal Jordan's origin, as seen in the Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn 2 miniseries, and the in Secret Origins arc of Green Lantern that served to lay the groundwork for the Blackest Night crossover. At other times, the structure of the story being retold is followed to faithfully, resulting in an old-fashioned story being told for little more than nostalgia purposes. This issue of Jack Kirby's Fourth World pretty much sits between the two extremes, its excesses given structure and form by being very blatantly created as a tie-in with The Man of Steel from 22 years previously.

The caption on the first page references the fact that this story takes places before the final issue of The Man of Steel, and it's elements of Superman's character prior to the revelation of his origins that drive the story here. It's the strongest addition to the story, although having never read the issues in question I am unsure as to what the other additions comprise of. Apart from this character drive, it's hard to understand why this particular story needed to be told. Other than their status as one of the four titles that launched the Fourth World, the Forever People have never exactly been a strong component of the concept, especially in the Post Crisis continuity. The more incredible aspects of the team, such as their relationship with Infinity Man, goes pretty much unexplained, and the Forever People don't really make any impact on the reader. It would have been far more interesting to delve into Darkseid and Superman's history, as it is hinted in the Legends crossover that the two have faced each other before. Simply having the two foes share only two panels just doesn't feel like it's enough.

Byrne's artwork here is , in my opinion, his last great Superman work, as I am very much not a fan of his return to Action Comics in 2005. He shows us why he is such a strong intrpreter of the Fourth World - his Darkseid, although appearing in 3 panels, is imposing and menacing, especially on his physical entrance to the story, shrouded in shadow with the barest hint of the omega power issuing from his eyes. His Superman is both powerful and human, his face conveying his confusion and disappointement over his lack of knowledge concerning his origins.

The postscript to the issue reads awkwardly. This issue was the last of the series, and the scene attempts to round off the series with an Important Scene between Highfather and Orion. Sadly, it's a scene that attempt to be portentious without telling the reader anything they probably have learned over the past 20 issues. Orion's fate is to fight his father in the Armagetto. And Earth will be important. Right. Oh, and there's a great example of early CGI imagery in comic books in the establishing shot of Supertown, all awkwardly lit, stupidly designed, and bearing no relation to the designs of the city as rendered by Byrne.

The Geeky Bits: The Fourth World was a concept created by Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics on his arrival at the company in 1970. Comprising Mr Miracle, The Forever People, New Gods, and the pre-existing Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen, the four titles told the story of the battle between Apokolips and New Genesis, and introduced readers for the first time to Darkseid, one of Superman's most enduring villains.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World was a 20 issue series created by John Byrne that attempted to continue to story of the conflict between New Genesis and Apokolips. The series was followed by Walt Simonson's Orion series, and the two titles represent the most recent attempt by DC to create new, standalone stories for the New Gods without being tied into other titles or events.

Superman would get to know Darkseid more intimately before their first post-Crisis meeting in the Legends crossover. This meeting took place in a pre-Crisis Justice League of America story that has later been defined as 'having happened' post-Crisis. It's a little confusing, I know, but I'll be devoting a whole post to the sticky issue of 'What actually happened to the pre-Crisis stories' in a few weeks time. For reference's sake, the issues comprise Justice League of America #183-185, along with a couple of earlier stories that also fit into this unique category.

Next on World of Superman: The Man of Steel and the World's Mightiest Mortal meet for the very first time!