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.

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