Sunday, 26 September 2010

JLA Classified #49

I really dislike leaving a full week between posts, but unfortunately, every now and again, work rears its ugly head and monopolizes my life to the point where I barely have the energy to to anything other than eat between walking through the door and going to bed. I did, however, find the time to squeeze in the season premiere of Smallville last night, and despite missing out on the best part of five years' worth of plot, I was not surprised to see that a lot of what drove me away from the series is still there.

We had moments of insanely bad acting (especially the scene where Clark returns to the Watchtower, and Tom Welling cannot find a sensible way to deliver the line 'But I'm here now. what about the others, did they make it?'), comedy that wasn't funny or made any sense (I had no understanding of the 'dropping the pen' scene), and, of course, at least one moment where the ambition of the show went far beyond its ability to deliver. The moment where The Blur (euch) raises the Daily Planet globe appears to have been witnessed by about 12 people, which isn't bad for a major metropolitan city.

I was watching for the money-shot. I had heard that Darkseid was to appear in the episode, and as he is one of my favourite villains of all time, I was eager to see how he would be handled in live-action. Well, as it turns out, he was being presented as a non-sequitorial puff of smoke that bore a fleeting resemblance to the villain we know and love. Remember how for about half a second you could see the outline of the true Galactus in Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer? That's how it felt to me.

It wasn't all bad. The John Schneider scene looked for a moment like it was going to a terrible waste of potential, but turned into something quite beautiful and moving. The shadow of Michael Rosenbaum enhanced the episode rather than making him noticeable by his absence (although the fake clone Lex needed far fewer cliches to go along with the effectiveness of his corrupted Lex visual). And the introduction of the Superman, suit, something I wasn't expecting, was very nicely handled, and I like the way that the final shot set the concept of Superman as a prize for Clark at the end of the season, as well as a reward to viewers for ten years of support.

I think I'll do my best to keep up for this series. I'm going to be interested in how Apokolips is handled in live-action, and the return of the Justice Society is going to be more than enough to keep my inner geek satisfied.


Talking of my inner geek, on thing he has not been satisfied with is today's review issue for the World of Superman, JLA Classified #49.

To Live In Hearts We Leave Behind

Writer: Andrew Kreisberg
Pencils: Paulo Siqueira
Inks: Amilton Santos
Colors: Allen Passalaqua
Letters: Jared K Fletcher
Cover: Siqueira with Passalaqua
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: Late February 2008
Release Date: 26/12/2007

An insectoid alien race called the Locusta has laid claim to Earth's solar system. The JLA convene on Mars to mount a defence against the invaders. As the JLA engage the Locusta, the Earth waits with baited breath. Linda Park presents news coverage, whilst other people close to the various members of the JLA anxiously await news. Eventually, the Locusta are defeated, the League reunites with their loved ones, and the Earth celebrates.

Whilst this occurs, Lois Lane arrives at Wayne Manor for a pre-arranged interview with Bruce Wayne. Finding that Bruce as been unexpectedly called away on business, she takes tea with Alfred whilst the two wait for news of the invasion.

Yes, it's a short synopsis. Not a lot actually happens in this issue. The JLA beat up some armored crab-aliens on Mars whilst everyone gets nervous on Earth. Lois and Alfred have a not-very-revealing talk. If you're after dense plotting, then you're better off looking at another comic. What there is in this issue is atmosphere, oodles of it. There's a real sense that the people of Earth are genuinely worried about the impending Locusta invasion. Linda West's broadcasts are suggested to be the kind of broadcast to bring the nation together, whilst Jimmy and Lois exchange terse, personal admittances of fear on their Blackberries. Compounding this is the fact that none of the combat on Mars has any dialogue, narration or sound-effects. Although the reader is privy to the action, they are not a part of the League's actions. We are as much in the dark as to how the battle is progressing as Earth is. I'd like to think that the League's triumph here is what gives the public the strength to support future moves against alien attackers, such as the 'Earth To Invaders: Drop Dead' response in Invasion #1.

Lois and Alfred's conversation is both interesting and unrevealing. There's a nice underlying element of dramatic irony in that the reader knows that both parties are concerned for heroes on Mars, but that neither is aware of the other's connections. Unfortunately, this is as far as it goes, and what we get on the page is several pages of small talk that doesn't really make for an interesting read.

I would normally be finishing my review here, summing up the issue as a fairly inoffensive but inconsequential fill-in issue of a title heading towards its cancellation 6 issues later. But unfortunately, I have to address one piffling little concern, namely the fact that the continuityJLA seen fighting on Mars is clearly, thanks to the presence of John Stewart and the predilection of JLA: Classified to use this version of the team, the post-Obsidian Age incarnation of the Big 7 League. The second is the relationship of Wally West and Linda Park, who first appeared in 1989. The third is the awkwardness between Lois and Superman, and the fact that Lois is not romantically involved with Clark, and doesn't know his secret identity. The three elements cannot co-exist. Most notably, John Stewart is only a true member of the JLA following the Obsidian Age, many years after the League's founding, and long after Lois and Clark/Superman are an item and open about Clark's identity.

Putting this issue in this position in the blog is a difficult choice, and doing so requires a pinch of salt. From the Lois point of view, her relationship is entirely with Superman. There is no mention of Clark at all in the issue, and the conclusion is her hugging Superman. Therefore, it can be assumed that Clark is only 'the guy that scooped her' at this point in time. This issue cannot be concurrent with the post-Man of Steel issues, as that version of the League was the infamous International version. Therefore, this League is more than likely a one-off permutation of the Satellite era that just so happens to resemble the later version. Of course, you have to ignore the fact that John Stewart is an icon on Earth when he is far more likely a very green, rookie Lantern, and the fact that Wally West isn't even the Flash yet, nor has he met Linda Park. But in the context of Superman, these elements can be brushed over. Well, I have.

Have you read this issue? What are your theories concerning the placing of this issue? Do you even care? Please let me know in the comments below.

The Geeky Bits: The title is a quote from Hallowed Ground by Thomas Campbell.

Andrew Kreisberg is a writer whose main claim to fame outside of comics was an episode of The Simpsons called Barting Over. His most noteable run on comics was replacing Judd Winick on Green Arrow/Black Canary, which he wrote for 15 issues, and a series called Hellen Killer, which saw Helen Keller become bodyguard to the President of the USA.

Paulo Siqueira is an artist whose work includes runs on Birds of Prey, Anti-Venom: New Ways To Live, and the 2007 Black Canary mini-series.

Next on World of Superman: We get back to the core series of this era, as we examine Man of Steel #5. Hopefully just in time for the first birthday of this blog.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

JLA Incarnations #3

So, we'll pass right by my last post, which inflated a minor mistake into an entire blog entry, before making a huge error at the end of the article. Thanks to Michael Bradley for catching that one for me in the comments!

I'd also like to return a shout-out to Kevin Cushing of the Geoff Johns Podcast, who read out an e-mail of mine on his second episode and plugged the blog a little. The Geoff Johns Podcast is a new podcast looking at the work of Geoff Johns. In a few episodes time, the podcast will alternate between the current month's worth of Geoff Johns work, and the same month 11 years ago (starting at the beginning of Johns' writing career), but for now the podcast is playing catchup with current titles and storylines to provide context for future episodes. I've really enjoyed the first two episodes, even with the second episode being a Brightest Day catchup (not a fan of Brightest Day, which seems to be heading towards Countdown standards as opposed to 52 standards). I hope you'll be able to find some time to catch this podcast, as once the 'historical' episodes get underway I think Kevin will be covering some really interesting titles.

Anyway, it'll be a very long time before we cover any Geoff Johns work here at the World of Superman. Today, we'll be looking at John Ostrander. Please open your issues to page 1.

Like A Tombstone In The Sky

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Val Semeiks
Inker: Prentis Rollins
Colorist: John Kalisz
Separations: Heroic Age
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Assistant Editor: Steve Wacker
Editor: Dan Raspler
Cover Artist: Val Semeiks, Prentis Rollins, John Kalisz
Cover Date: September 2001
Release Date: 11/07/2001

Having been established for some time, the Justice League outgrows its original headquarters and builds itself a satellite headquarters in orbit around the Earth. Green Arrow resents the symbolism of the League looking down upon the Earth, and concerns over the 'sitting duck' nature of the satellite. Superman tries to address his concerns, telling him that only the League know that the satellite is there. However, Superman is wrong, as Lex Luthor gains positive confirmation that the satellite exists. He draws his plans against the League.

In the next few weeks, a new terrorist organisation known as Kobra makes itself known when an all-out attack on Cheyenne Mountain is routed by the Justice League. WLEX reporter Tully Reed presents footage of the attack, which is seen by Lex, who makes contact with the head of Kobra and reveals the existence and location of the League's satellite. Kobra plans to attack and destroy the satellite in retribution for the League destroying his mobile base of operations during the Cheyenne Mountain attack.

Green Arrow gives an inflammatory performance during an interview with Tully Reed, criticising the League for getting above its station and not doing enough for social issues. Hawkman takes offence at Arrow's comments, saying that the interview has jeopardised the League's UN backing and funding. He calls for the League to censure Green Arrow, but before they can do so, Arrow quits. Green Lantern follows his friend, and two talk. Green Arrow is having a mid-life crisis, and wonders if he needs the League as much as it needs him. Their conversation is interrupted by an emergency call from Black Canary, who is alone on the satellite and has detected a horde of Kobra spaceships heading towards her. The satellite is boarded and although Canary fights hard, she is overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers, and is captured by Kobra. As the the heroes prepare to rescue Canary, Atom tells the League to rendezvous at LexCorp.

The League confronts Luthor, who protests his innocence, claiming that Kobra stole LexCorp equipment to mount his raid on the satellite. He then turns on a screen broadcasting Kobra's message to the world -  a trussed up Black Canary and an ultimatum for the League to surrender to him. Although they doubt Luthor's innocence, the League realises that Kobra has laid a trap for them. They decide to distract Kobra, and Green Arrow teleports to the satellite to be that distraction. Taking out the first few guards, he fires an arrow into a control panel before announcing his presence to Kobra and drawing his troops. Alone in the control room, the arrow starts to shape-shift - it was really a disguised Martian Manhunter.

Green Arrow is quickly captured, and is beaten and brought to Kobra. Green Arrow taunts his captor, telling him that Martian Manhunter has already disabled his traps and bombs. The League then burst in to confront Kobra, whilst out in space, Superman, Green Lantern and Firestorm take care of the spaceships. With the Kobra troops defeated, the League search for Kobra himself, but find that he has managed to escape. However, they find the badly beaten body of Green Arrow, and transport him to a government hospital for him to receive treatment. Recovering in bed, Arrow decides not to rejoin the League, although Atom tells him that he is family and will always be welcome.

There's not a huge amount to say about this issue from a Superman point of view. He is listed on the opening splash page as a reserve member, a status he holds with League pretty much until the Watchtower era starts in JLA #1. There's a good moment where Green Arrow is freaking out with the League's self-appointed protectorshipbenevolance and humanity shines through. Green Arrow's response, a semi-mocking 'You're not the same as other people', speaks volumes about how he views Superman.

Although Superman doesn't really contribute to the rest of the plot, he does get to use his powers against Kobra a couple of times. These are nicely rendered by Val Semeiks, who really gives some panache to the battle scenes in the book. I particularly like the splash page where Superman, Green Lantern and Firestorm take apart the Kobra spaceships, especially the bits where Firestorm turns the ships into stone. Semeiks does a great job with the issue, bringing a real sense of unease to Kobra, especially his temple.

The issue opens with the construction of the iconic Justice League satellite, then jumps forward in time with the caption 'Some time later...' on page 8. This leap in time covers the most notable incident to occur on the JL satellite, the rape of Sue Dibney by Doctor Light and the mind-wiping of both Light and Batman. Although not specifically stated in this issue, the League's actions in the aftermath of the assault is the trigger for Green Arrow's feelings towards the League and his actions in this issue.

There are a few continuity errors in this issue. Luthor is shown with his kryptonite ring, an item he wouldn't acquire until Superman #2, a year or so down the line. He's also pictured in his post-Underworld Unleashed body, taller, slimmer and more well-built than his original Man Of Steel body, which was shorter and stockier. Luthor should also have some red, receding hair, and I do get a little irritated when the Luthor from the Man of Steel era is rendered as fully bald, as one of the nice touches throughout the original miniseries was how Luthor gradually lost his hair across his appearances. In a wider DC sense, Ollie and Diana were residents of Star City at this time, not Seattle.

The Geeky Bits: On the topic of Superman and the JLA, around the time of this issue, three Justice League of America story-arcs from the Silver Age featuring Superman as a member/reserve member can be definitively said to have occurred in the Post-Crisis history. The first, issues 96-98 from 1972, contains the original appearance of Starbreaker, who would return in Justice League America #62-65 (1992), Adam Strange: Planet Heist (2005) and Justice League of America #29-34 (2005). The second is issues 120 and 121 from 1975, which featured the marriage of Adam Strange and Alanna. The last, issues 185-187 (1981) show Superman's first time on Apokolips and his first encounter with Darkseid. This story is important, as during the Legends crossover, Superman exhibits knowledge of Darkseid that he would otherwise not have had the opportunity to gain.

Next on World of Superman: I really don't want to do this, but I'm going to have to unleash the continuity-challenged JLA: Classified #49 upon you all. Put on your finest continuity cop uniforms, and meet me back here in a few days time.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

World's Finest #6. Or not, as the case may be.

A few hours before getting home and sitting down to write this, a tweet from bleedingcool caught my eye. It was announcing a new article, entitled Why Do People Hate Azazal Anyway - Blast From The Past By Paul O'Brien. Now, the article was basically an excuse to reprint one of Paul's best ever review from the sadly offline (now incorporated into, blasting Chuck Austen's The Draco storyline from a few years back, but it did get my brain's nostalgia centre a-buzzin'.

The X-Axis was a review site that ran from 1999 to 2006 before the regular updates shifted to a blog format, before its current incarnation. Written by British X-Men fan Paul O'Brien, it set itself the not-so-modest task of reviewing, in full, every X-Book that was released on a weekly basis, as well as dives into the history of the X-Men. It was a tremendously fun site. I don't remember how I discovered it, but once I did I was hooked, looking forward to its weekly updates with glee. One of its many strengths was Paul's ability to puncture pomposity and pretension whilst making you laugh and despair at the state of Marvel comics (but only a little bit), which considering he was looking at the X-Men books, he was able to do on a regular basis. To this day, I can only look at a week when Marvel backends an entire line of books or a ridiculous amount of crossover titles into one release and think of Paul's many tirades against such practices.

I miss the X-Axis. Reading Paul's brilliant one-line decimation of the entire Draco storyline makes me want to go back and randomly dip into his previous reviews. But I can't, as the site has long-since expired. Thankfully this Saturday is a podcast Saturday for the House to Astonish team, and when I get home from work there will be another episode of House to Astonish waiting for me in my itunes. If you haven't already listened to this great podcast, go on and give it a try. I think you'll like it.

And here's what you won't like. I made a mistake and was trying to force World's Finest #6 into the Man of Steel timeline like a round peg into a four-dimensional hole.

Confused? Not as much as I am!

Here's the rundown of the situation. World's Finest takes as its conceit the fact that each issue takes place a year apart, on the anniversary of Harrison Grey's death, with the time just after the first meeting of Superman and Batman in Man of Steel #3 as its starting point. Man of Steel covers six years in Superman's life, from his public debut to the discovery of his origins, and my eagerness to chronicle this era of Superman's history led me to... well... be lazy. As with each issue of World's Finest, #6 is subtitled 'Year Six', and knowing that Man of Steel #6 effectively concluded the sixth year of Superman's career, I quickly filed this issue away under pre Man of Steel #5-6 (I have reason to conclude that a sizeable gap exists between Man of Steel #4 and 5 - just take a look at Luthor's hairline! - and tend to view the final two parts of the series as being almost continuous.).

Of course, several months after my poor piece of filing, I come to read the issue for the first time in a few years. And stuff just doesn't add up. How can Batman and Superman know each other's civilian identities and openly display this knowledge before Adventures of Superman #440? What about Mr Mxyptlk? Superman seems awfully familiar with his modus operandi, despite the fact that they have yet to meet. The Daily Planet newsroom seems awfully familiar if you were reading comics in 1988 (look, there's Allie), but seems like  avery different place to the newsroom we see in Man of Steel #5.

I could have attempted to write a lovely snarky review pointing out the cockups in continuity, but the error is mine. Six years on from the first meeting of Superman and Batman (there is no hard evidence to suggest how much time has passed between Man of Steel #3 and World's Finest #1) puts us at least several months after Man of Steel #6, and with the vagiaries of comic book dating, this issue fits in very nicely post Adventures #440, more than likely between Action Comics #600 and the start of the Return to Krypton storyline that started in Action #601 Superman #18.

So, my apologies for my mistake and for the wall of text that comprised this post.

Next of World of Superman: We get back on track and check up with Lex Luthor's first attack against the Justice League in Justice League: Incarnations #3

Monday, 13 September 2010

World's Finest #5

Ok, I got back to this issue and got some panel scans uploaded, as well as fixing the unexpected truncated synopsis - sorry, recap fans!

At the back end of last week, the final episode of my stint on Amazing Spider-Man Classics went live. A few hours beforehand I strapped on the 'phones and mic and recorded my final contribution, almost two months to the day after the first attempt at recording. With the news that the hosts of the podcast are going to change their recording schedules - apparently, recording a podcast for 7 hours straight, the equivalent of a working day, is pretty hard even if it's not the middle of the night - this makes me the longest guest star on ASMC. Oh yeah, I am amazing!

In other news, I finally got to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World a couple of nights ago. Here in the UK, the film's release came a couple of weeks after the US release, and I've been waiting for my work schedule to allow me a proper night out before I went to see it. I absolutely loved it. I've only read the first three volumes of the series, but what I say adapted on the screen had the tone and feel of the books, and was far funnier than I expected it to be. The only moment that took me out of the film as Aubrey Plaza's portrayal of Julie, which just didn't feel like it fitted with the rest of the film. Everything else was absolutely brilliant, but props have to go to Brandon Routh, who made Todd so wonderful to watch. his delivery of the 'Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday' speech was worth the price of the ticket alone. What I really enjoyed was that the theatre was mostly full, with quite a few people who I would guess had never read or heard of the original books, and who thoroughly enjoyed theirselves. It's nice for this geek to watch other people enjoy one of his loves, especially when it's one that doesn't occupy a space in the national consciousness like Superman, Batman or Spider-man does.

However, as great as Scott Pilgrim vs The World was, it had no Superman or Batgirl in it. I wonder what does... oh yes! This!

No scans as of yet, it's rather late for me to start scanning stuff in. I hope to get back to this later this week and pop a few in, in particular the panel where Superman and Batgirl start to fly.

A Woman's Work

Words: Karl Kesel
Pencils: Dave Taylor & Tom Morgan
Inks: Robert Campanella
Color/Separator: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Clem Robins
Associate Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Special Thanks to Barry Kitson and Peter Doherty
Cover Artists: Dave Taylor & Robert Campanella
Cover Date: August 1999
Release Date: 16/06/1999

Six Years Ago. Two burglars attempt to break into the Gotham Public Library, but are stopped by the appearance of Batgirl. The crooks attempt to escape, but are caught by Superman. Batgirl acts nervously around Superman, until he explains that he is not timing her, and that he is not in Gotham on a case but on personal business. Batgirl unmasks the criminals, telling Superman that they are from Metropolis and affiliated with The 100. Surprised, Superman accepts Batgirl's offer to team up and work out what The 100 wants in Gotham.

In an abandoned warehouse, The 100 attempt to recruit a Gotham mobster to their organisation. The meeting is interrupted when Thorn comes crashing through a window on a motorbike. She takes out several of the goons, but one manages to whack her with a wooden plank, knocking her out.

Batgirl introduces Superman to Commissioner Gordon, informing Gordon that they will be working together. Batgirl leads Superman to the car belonging to the crooks, which she had disabled before tackling them. Searching the interior, she discovers that Batman has beaten them to the evidence. Following his notes, Batgirl prepares to ride her motorbike to the location, when Superman decides to try a different way of travelling. Grasping her, he lifts her into the sky. As they fly, Superman asks why someone as bright and upbeat as Batgirl would emulate Batman. Batgirl explains that for all of his darkness, she feels that he is the only one in Gotham who can see 'the light in the distance'.

As The 100 tie Thorn to a chair, she comes too and escapes. Giving chase, the crooks are surprised when the lights go out. In the darkness, something attacks them. The leader manages to escape, getting to his car. Turning on the lights, he is shocked to see Batman in front of him, crashing his car. Crawling from the wreckage, he is confronted by Thorn, whose lust for vengeance is tempered by the intervention of Batman. Superman and Batgirl arrive, with Batgirl wondering what The 100 wanted at the library. The leader confesses all - The 100 intended to plant evidence showing that Barbara Gordon had embezzled library funds, thus giving them leverage over Commissioner Gordon. To protect themselves, The 100 kidnapped the library's accountant, intending to kill her and place Barbara as the number one suspect. Superman takes Batgirl to the accountant's house whilst Thorn takes her leave of Gotham. At his house, the accountant answers his door to Barbara Gordon. Suddenly, Batgirl attacks, revealing Gordon as an imposter, who is quickly apprehended.

After the events of the night, Batman and Superman meet on the skyline of Gotham. Superman tells Batman that Batgirl is going well and doesn't need more training. Although Superman's advice is unsolicited, Batman values what is said, surprising Superman. Batman then confesses that he never thought that someone as dark and tortured as Thorn could have come out of Metropolis. Referencing Thorn's past, Superman wonders if there is a similar tragedy in Batman's past. Although he doesn't want to talk about it, Batman suggests that one day he will do.

In theory, this story should work. We're far enough into Batman and Superman's relationship to start to challenge what each character thinks they know of each other, and their preconceptions of each others cities, having only experienced the extremes in previous stories, is a good place to start. Starting to introduce the extended families (if Thorn can be considered to be part of Superman's extended family) also works as well. We're also working towards a softening of Batman, as opposed to a hardening of Superman. The problem is that all of these elements are filtered through the plot line of Thorn and The 100, a minor and obscure supporting character and criminal organisation from Metropolis.

So, the reason why this review is up a little later than expected is because I dived into this issue thinking I knew who Thorn was. As it turns out, she's someone completely different to who I was expecting her to be, having anticipated the Rose and Thorn version of the character. And once I worked out who she actually was, I realised that it didn't really matter to the issue. There are plenty of subtleties to Thorn's character, but in terms of this story the important thing is that she is a darker, Batman-esque character originating from Metropolis, in a move to help blur the lines between Batman and Superman's worlds. Unfortunately, contrasting her with Batgirl, a far more established and recognisable character in the Batman family, only serves to highlight Thorn's obscurity.

The final scene is probably the most successful part of the issue. For me, it's the first time Superman and Batman approach each other not only as equals, but as colleagues, not competing with each other or trying to prove a point. It feels like their modern relationship, with grudging respect for each other but each being their own superhero. Most notable is Batman's not-quite-a-refusal to talk about his personal history. Superman's gentle, respectful probing into his past elicits the response the one day Batman will tell him about his past. For Batman to be in a position where he considers revealing his most personal secret highlights how far the two heroes have come since their combative first meetings.

The Geeky Bits: I honestly can't remember when Thorn next makes an appearance, and considering my difficulties in identifying which Thorn I am reading, I don't think knowing her next appearance would do me much good! This version of Thorn isn't the schizophrenic Golden-Age-wife-to-Alan-Scott-and-mother-to-Obsidian-and-Jade character, but the schizophrenic Bronze-Age-anti-hero. So, I hope that makes things clear.

Next on World of Superman: It's our final visit to World's Finest for some time, as Batman and Superman take on Mr Mxyptlk, and continuity takes a beating.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

DCU Holiday Bash! II

So, as hinted last time, our subject matter today is about as short as it gets. Three pages, no dialogue. Not exactly the densest of material to tackle here at World of Superman. Still, at least this story exists, unlike Adam Hughes' All-Star Wonder Woman.*

So, before we dive in, what else have I been reading of late? Well, I was going to write about my ambivalence at the latest venture from Mark Millar, CLiNT, but I logged onto google to search out a website to link to, and got distracted for about ten minutes trying to destroy the google logo. In short, I kinda liked it, but all the non-comic pieces were very dull, especially the awkward Jimmy Carr interview. I was a bit disappointed at the volume of reprints, although the larger-sized format made the wordy Turf easier to read.

I've really enjoyed Superman/Batman #75, not so much for the main feature, as I am rapidly growing tired of tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes interacting with a young Clark Kent/Superboy (if you need an explanation as to why this is, perhaps you should take a look at the mission statement of this blog), but for the wealth of interesting backup features. The Calvin and Hobbes-esque Joker/Lex story alone is worth the price of the issue, although the less said about the awkward David Finch art on the story 'Eternal', the better. And Action Comics continues to be one of the best books I'm buying, although I'm reaching the end of each issue and being gently disappointed that it's not the lead in to the upcoming Death issue.

Right, that's enough filler! Let's get into this issue.

The Gift

Writer/Penciller: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Brett Breeding
Colorist: Jason Wright
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Darren J. Vincenzo
Cover Artist: Scott McDaniel and Kevin Nowlan
Cover Date: Special 1998
Release Date: 26/11/1997

Superman meets Lex Luthor on the roof of LexCorp, depositing the lifeless form of a large robotic insect. Luthor feigns surprise and innocence at the robot. Superman flies away, his cape in tatters from the fight. Returning to his parents house, Clark discovers an envelope addressed to him on the tree. Santa had seen the fight and has sent Superman a new cape for Christmas.

A small, slight, but nonetheless charming little story. It's no Metropolis Mailbag, but it stands head and shoulders above the last couple of holiday themed stories. The art here is typically great, the team of Jurgens and Breeding at their best. I really like the look on Lex's face when he feigns innocence in the face of Superman's accusation of having unleashed a terrifying giant insectbot on Metropolis, and his expression of utter hatred when Superman flies off. As a side note, this is the first appearance of Dan Jurgens at the World of Superman, and if I ever finish this project, or get within a few years of 'current' comics, then I think Dan will take the prize for the most appearances on the tag list. Well, it's him or Mike Carlin...

The Geeky Bits: blah blah blah Christmas blah blah bla

Well, you didn't think I'd throw in a bio of Dan Jurgens on such a small story? No, we'll be saving that for his true Superman debut, on the 1987 Adventures of Superman Annual #1.

Next on World of Superman: It's time for another iconic team-up between the World's Finest, Superman and Batgirl? Whuh?

*There you go TomO. For more info, check out this post from

Sunday, 5 September 2010

World's Finest #4

Hey guys. I'm a very tired writer tonight, having spent the day riding around Central London on my bike as part of the Mayor of London's Sky Ride. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the day, with thousands and thousands of fellow cyclists of all ages riding through what are normally some of the most congested streets in the city. I think the highlight of the day was either riding through the tunnel along Victoria Embankment, just south of St Paul's Cathedral, where a Samba band greeted the cyclists along with a huge banner proclaiming 'Make Some Noise' (which we did), or queuing up by Westminster Bridge, waiting to move into Parliament Square, just as Big Ben struck midday.

In other comics-related news, the second of my two guest appearances on Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast went up over the weekend. Covering issues #75-#78, it's my favourite of the five podcasts I recorded recently. You can hear me summarise Spider-Man in poetry, reveal my true feelings towards Joe Quesada, and get very angry at the presence of a full moon. No, not because I'm a werewolf, but for a far more insidious reason.

Year Four: Underworlds

Writer: Karl Kesel
Penciller: Dave Taylor
Inker: Robert Campanella
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Clem Robins
Associate Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Cover Artist: Dave Taylor and Robert Campanella
Cover Date: July 1999
Release Date: 19/05/1999

Four Years Ago. Batman has been hacking military surveillance satellites, discovering that he is not the first person to do so, and that whoever has been before him has focused them on Suicide Slum in Metropolis. With the anniversary of Harrison Grey's death only a few days away, Batman smells a rat, and he heads to Metropolis.

Superman saves a young mother and her child from an inferno in Suicide Slum. He discovers that another child is trapped inside, but before he can save the child, Batman appears, saving the kid. The fire chief shows Superman a high-tech incendiary device that has been found at two previous fires, and Superman prepares for a long night. He meets up with Batman, surprised to discover that his presence in Metropolis is seemingly unconnected to Grey's death. As the two heroes examine the device, Desaad presents more of the devices, along with a powerful technological gauntlet, to Bruno Manheim and Intergang. As one of the gang checks their monitoring of Superman, he and Batman make an appearance, taking out the crooks despite their advanced weaponry. Desaad tests Superman to see if he is a New God by opening a Boom Tube. Superman is transfixed by what he sees through the tube, the war between New Genesis and Apokolips, and inadvertently allows Desaad to escape. Batman brings Superman back to the present, where Superman states that despite not knowing his origins, he is not from that world.

Superman rounds up the rest of the crooks, whilst Batman goes to check out a hunch. He had interrogated the technician monitoring Superman, discovered that he was just taking advantage of pre-existing monitoring, realises that he hadn't seen anyone enter or exit the building, and discerns that there must be a hidden entrance. He soon locates it, discovering underground tunnels that lead to a vast, hidden pseudo-military complex, called Cadmus. As Cadmus soldiers contain an escape of DNAliens, Batman discovers the cloned body of Jim Harper, undergoing memory implantation. Digging further, he discovers the truth of the complex and confronts Director Westfield with the fact that the facility is trying to clone Superman. Westfield admits this, and that they have had trouble doing so. Batman leaves, promising to keep an eye on the project.

Afterwards, Superman shares dinner with survivors of the inferno, whilst Batman returns to Gotham, determined to see Dick Grayson's school play.

So, this is pretty much the Batman and Superman meet the crazy world of Jack Kirby issue, introducing the New Gods into the series (despite Superman having met them twice already, reaching an understanding of their nature and conflicts in Jack Kirby's Fourth World #20) as well as giving us our first glimpse of Project Cadmus, a Kiry concept that would be a key cornerstone of the Superman stories in the first half of the 1990s. It's a chaotic issue, relying on the reader's pre-existing knowledge of these concepts and offering up highlights (Desaad, Boom Tubes, DNAliens, The Guardian) without really touching on why these are important. The Cadmus pages in particular feel more like Batman being given a 'best-of' tour of the facility rather than constructing a coherent story with these elements. Sure, there's the running thread concerning the monitoring of Superman, but once Batman arrives in Metropolis, this takes a back seat to the more pressing need to show off the work of Jack Kirby.

There's a wonderfully surreal moment, where Batman is sneaking through the corridors of Cadmus, and we see a guard who appear to be Obelix from the Asterix series. The posing of the other guard, especially his face, is very reminiscent of the art of Albert Uderzo. The panel is very obviously an homage to these comics, but for the life of me I cannot work out why this would be. It may be Dave Taylor's way of honoring the 40th anniversary of the publication of the first Asterix strip (in October 1959). Normally I like homages to other works, and I'll happily get behind Asterix, one of my favourites as a child, but I have to say, seeing Obelix in Cadmus did derail my reading of this issue as I sat there for a few moments wondering what was going on.

I really wanted to like this issue. Project Cadmus was one of my favourite things about the Superman books in the 1990s (even the Mickey Cannon era), and I was genuinely sad when the last remnant of the project, Dubbilex, died at the start of the World of New Krypton storyline.However, the rushed nature of how the concept is presented to us leaves me cold to the issue. In fact, this issue is the first of several in the World's Finest series that don't quite do it for me. Up to this point, the references to specific continuity have been fun, minor elements. However, with a few exceptions, from here on in the continuity will drive the story rather than flavouring it. At times, it can and will distract from the core purpose of the book, examining the relationship between Batman and Superman. For example, I would happily have not had Desaad in the book if it meant that we could have dealt with the frosty ending to the previous issue.

The Geeky Bits: If I've got my issues straight, then this is the third meeting between Superman and the New Gods. And if I've got my issues straight, then we won't see them again until Darkseid takes center stage in the Legends crossover. Project Cadmus, however, stays out of sight until 1998's Superman Annual #2.

Obelix's next appearance will be in 2001's Asterix and the Actress.

Next on World of Superman: As this is World of Superman, not World of Obelix, I must reluctantly put down my Asterix volumes. Instead, I'm going to see how much of a blog post I can get out of a three-page story with no dialogue. If it takes me a week to write, then I really have gone to live in Lazy Town, and you all have permission to throw rotten fruit at me.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

World's Finest #3

Don't panic everybody! This isn't the World's Finest miniseries as recently covered on From Crisis To Crisis. This one is much better! It's safe to read on!

Year Three: Light In The Darkness

Words: Karl Kesel
Pencils: Dave Taylor
Inks: Robert Campanella
Colors/Seps: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Bill Oakley
Associate Editor: Joseph Illidge
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Cover Artist: Dave Taylor and Robert Campanella
Cover Date: June 1999
Release Date: 21/04/1999

 Eight Years Ago...

Illuminata and her two henchmen rob a truck full of money in Gotham City. Clark Kent steps forward, proclaiming that it looks like a job for Superman, before struggling to remove his civilian clothing, confusing the villains. He then threatens to use his heat vision, before struggling to reach a fast sprint. Illuminata uses a flash bomb to blind him, but having been distracted by the events, they are arrested by Commissioner Gordon. In the tussle, a gun accidentally goes off, striking Superman and dropping him to the ground. Policemen come to his aid, and discover a kevlar vest underneath his costume. With Bruce Wayne overlooking, Gordon comes to the conclusion that 'Superman' is just another member of the public who has gone a little crazy and gently escorts him to Arkham Asylum for evaluation.

At Arkham, 'Superman' joins Jeremiah Arkham for an evaluation. His power either fail or he refuses to display them like a performing animal. Jeremiah persuades him to spend the night . As 'Superman' is led to his cell, the various inmates of Arkham react to his presence. Concerned about Superman, Bruce Wayne contacts Perry White to find out what has happened to Clark Kent, telling White that 'Superman' has been locked up in Arkham. After the call, White celebrates with Jimmy and Lois - Clark has gained access to Arkham Asylum for his undercover story.

That night, in his cell, Superman bemoans that he really cannot see through the lead-based paint. Suddenly his door unlocks, and Illuminata is standing there, having assaulted a guard to steal his keys. She has been busy, having already released the other inmates. Flying off, Superman quickly encounters Scarecrow and Penguin, both of who are surprised to discover that 'Superman' is actually Superman. Superman then follows The Riddler through the corridors, before discovering a scene orchestrated by Two-Face where both Mr Freeze and Poison Ivy stand ready to kill two members of staff at the same time, with Superman only able to intervene and save one of them. Superman chooses to melt Mr Freeze's gun, whilst Batman arrives to take care of Ivy. With the villains apprehended, Batman realises that the Joker is missing.

Batman and Superman enter the kitchens, where they are attacked by the Joker. Batman quickly overpowers Joker, but the two heroes are told that the Joker had caught Illuminata in the pantry. Opening the door, Superman discovers that the Joker has cut off her eyelids.

After order has been restored, Batman angrily confronts Superman over his assumption that Batman would act as backup on the anniversary of Harrison Grey's death. Batman insists that they are not partners or a team, and when Superman suggests that Batman's training of Robin is a reaction to their past team-ups, Batman suggests that the reverse is true. He suggests that Superman's night in Arkham was a reaction to his previous comment that he wouldn't last the night in Gotham. Superman denies this - he was originally going to write an exposé on Arkham with the intention of having it shut down, but his experiences have led him to change the focus of his article, calling for more funding and resources. The work being done there is too important to shut down, as is Batman's. Despite reaching an understanding, Superman has taken Batman's original words to heart, and suggests that the next year they try to remember Harrison Grey in their own ways. The two part company.

Ah, it's nice to return to a series that builds a relationship between Superman and a hero whose presence actually affect the Man of Steel. One of the strongest things about these earlier issues of this World's Finest miniseries is that, with large gaps in the history of the relationship between Batman and Superman, Karl Kesel is unafraid to have the heroes make mistakes with each other. The relationship that is in place by the time the two of them are heading up the JLA is one forged through adversity and across the years. Here, Superman makes some assumptions about the nature of his and Batman's working relationship that are wrong. The end result appears to be what he assumed would happen, but the reasons for the result are very different from what he expected, prompting him to re-evaluate his relationship with his most notable ally.

Although Superman has worked in Gotham prior to this issue, this is the first time he is exposed to the true darkness that inhabits the city. Magpie, for all of her showy theatrics, was a troubled woman and therefore elicited sympathy from Superman. The various Batman villains in Arkham Asylum, at their most demented and powerful, profoundly trouble Superman. When he comes across Illuminata, strapped to a chair with her eyelids sliced off so that she can never close her eyes, he is told by her to turn the light off as it is too bright. Instead of closing the door and quietly extinguishing the light, Superman is so shocked and reviled by what he sees that he cries out in shock, ripping the light bulb from the ceiling. Although he denies putting Batman's decree that he wouldn't last a night in Gotham City, this is very much a trial for Superman, one that he passes unscathed, but not unaffected by what he has seen. Although match-ups between Superman and Batman's villains are rare, each of them is taken seriously, with a respect for the potential for violence and loss of life that Superman gets from this encounter.

I really enjoyed the opening of the issue, where Superman pretends to be a well-meaning but deluded super-hero wannabe. Dave Taylor does a great job with the art in this opening scene, presenting subtly wrong images of Superman in action. I particularly like the detail on 'Superman's' hair, which is deliberately almost-but-not-quite right. I'm not so much of a fan of Taylor's portrayal of the Bat-villains, however. His Joker seems too ordinary, his appearance being at odds with the horrific act he commits. He is a lot creepier on the very striking cover that adorns this issue. I particularly like the way that Batman takes up the whole cover, and yet it's possible to not even notice that it's him unless you take in the small element of non-silhouette at the top of the image.

For me, this is one of the strongest issues of World's Finest, building on the first two issues whilst telling its own story, without being distracted by events that would define the later years of Batman and Superman. And in a few days, we'll be checking out the next issue.

The Geeky Bits: I missed out on creator bios the last two issues thanks to some interesting continuity pieces that needed addressing. And talking of those, this is the first time that Superman encounters The Joker.

Karl Kesel is one of the few people to have worked on the post-Crisis Superman as writer, artist and inker, although never at the same time. He is best known as the creator of the clone Superboy, a 67-issue, 6-year run as writer of Adventures of Superman, and as the writer of 59 issues of the Superboy series, in three runs from the first to the last issue. His main work as a penciller was on the Superman issues of the Time And Again arc, and he was the inker for the majority of John Byrne's run on Superman.

Next on World of Superman: Well, it's not the biggest leap in time that we've made (that honour belongs to an almost 100,000 year jump from World of New Krypton #2 to The Kents #1), but we're leaping ahead an entire year to see how Superman and Batman react to the third anniversary of Harrison Grey's death in World's Finest #4.