Spotlight Sunday 6.17.18

It was a pretty good batch of books this week. And also Wonder Woman.

That fact coupled with the lack of any sort of recurring or relevant theme in the books themselves or in my life this week has made it tricky to make a selection.

Exiles was fun and featured a deep dive into the (alternative) history of the Marvel Universe, with some delightful silliness, but while the issue does make an important revelation about the nature of the team’s time-devouring foe, it still feels…insubstantial. That’s not bad; as I said, it was fun, but it just didn’t grab me enough to make me want to devote much space to discussing it.

As I looked through my options, I decided to go with the book that contains a shift in direction and establishes a new status quote – and was also a lot of fun – which means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
Rated T+
$5.99
Marvel

“No, you may not touch my hammer.”

The death of the Mighty Thor did not, it turns out, bring with it the death of Jane Foster, even though she did spend some time standing before the gates of Valhalla, but it did bring with it a significant amount of destruction for Asgardia, and the death of Mjolnir, which Jane hurled – with the Mangog in two – into the sun.

With Jane no longer able to take on the role, and the belief that there must always be a Thor, the role – and name – returned to the Odinson, who, worthy or not, has experience in the job.

He has a shiny new golden arm, a winged helmet, and a job to do, as many of the powerful artifacts contained within the vaults of Odin were scattered about the realms during the Mangog’s assault on Asgardia.

What he doesn’t have, however, is a hammer, and what is a Thor without a hammer?

We find the new/old Thor on the run from cultists of the Crimson Temple of Cyttorak, from whom he is liberating one of the missing artifacts.

Still, hammer or no, a few cultists wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the God of Thunder. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones he needs to worry about.

You can’t stop this motherf***er.

The problem of hammerlessness was very much on Thor’s mind, and so he set the dwarf Screwbeard to work on it, and though the attempt at addressing the problem is not quite ready, there is a pressing need, and so a new hammer, enchanted by Odin, is sent down to Thor on Midgard just in the nick of time.

Unfortunately, while it allows Thor to soar through the air, it’s not quite as durable as the hammer with which he’s grown accustomed to smiting his enemies.

Still, if you’re going to make a new hammer, why stop at just one? Thor calls for Screwbeard to send down all of the hammers that he’s crafted, and proceeds to try – and destroy – all of them until he finds one that does the trick.

Upon returning to Asgardia with the recovered artifact, Thor instructs Screwbeard to keep working on the problem – the problem being the lack of sufficiently pure Uru that can compare to the kind from which Mjolnir was forged – as the War of the Realms still rages and will need to be dealt with. Once Bifrost is restored and allows access to the other realms, at any rate.

From there we get a quick check in on how most everyone else in the extended cast is doing. Heimdall is no longer all-seeing, or seeing at all, as the Mangog gouged out his eyes, and Odin is unusually subdued, and his thoughts are on his estranged wife.

On Midgard, Roz Solomon has procured a temporary shelter for the refugees from Asgardia in the Bronx, where Volstagg – attended to by Odin’s aforementioned estranged wife Freyja – is recovering from his experiences as the War Thor and his battle with the Mangog and is well on his way to once again being Voluminous.

Freyja’s mind is not on Odin, but on Loki, who, despite the fact that he stabbed her in the back with a poisoned blade, she believes is not as much of a monster as everyone, including Loki himself, thinks he is. Thor doesn’t share her conviction.

Jane is progressing well in her treatment and can’t help but take an interest in Thor’s new hammer.

She informs Thor that they may have located another of the lost artifacts, which leads to a brief battle with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and a nice dinner for Thori, the Hel-Hound, who, along with one of Thor’s goats (Toothgrinder; Toothgasher was killed by the Mangog), lives on a boat with Thor on the Jersey shore.

An unwelcome guest awaits in the form of Loki, who claims to have come offering the thing that Thor wants most: a way to travel to the other realms to deal with the war.

And he intends to give it to Thor – for a price to be named later – whether he wants it or not. As Loki casts a spell to send Thor away, Thor grabs Loki and takes him (as well as Thori and Toothgrinder) along for the ride.

The back-up story, with gorgeous art by Christian Ward, is a tale of King Thor in the unimaginably distant future. King Thor and his three granddaughters were introduced several years back as part of a storyline that touched on different periods in the long life of Thor and have been periodically revisited since then. They most recently appeared in Thor Special #1, in which the girls drugged their grandfather so that they could take some “time diamonds” for a joyride into the past to meet their idol, Jane Foster.

When King Thor first appeared, Midgard had become a lifeless husk, and, despite his best efforts, King Thor found himself unable to restore it to its former glory, until his granddaughters intervened and worked some magic, making the dry desert into the wet and green world it had once been. With that accomplished, King Thor set about creating some mortals to live in this new garden.

Rather than Adam and Eve, however, he created Jane and Steve, in honor of the two mortals he had loved best in all the eons through which he’d lived.

Now, nearly three hundred years later, King Thor is fighting off an invading Space Shark that has come to Midgard in search of meat while his granddaughters chum the spaceways with a meat substitute to steer it away.

Jane, who was preceded in death by her beloved Steve, is dying, and King Thor visits her at her bedside. He offers to extend her life further, but she declines, even after she learns that this is all there is when King Thor informs her that the time of the afterlife has ended and is beyond his power to restore.

One of his granddaughters, Ellisiv, however, knows that there is more mourning to come, as the fact that the Space Shark had to venture to find meat is a grave portent, as is the fact that King Thor hasn’t been carrying his hammer for days.

As she mentions this fact, the hammer returns, presumably bearing the news of what Ellisiv suspects: the universe is dying.

With hammer in hand, King Thor ventures far out into the cosmos, confirming his suspicions. Ellisiv is wrong:

As he considers the state of things, King Thor finds himself wishing he had something to hit.

Either fortunately or unfortunately for him, dead or not, the universe is still able to provide that something.

This issue was a lot of fun, and it’s an interesting new status quo, in a series that has regularly and frequently shattered the status quo in the course of Aaron’s lengthy tenure.

The “fun” part of that assessment is perhaps the biggest change. While humor has always been a component of the series, here it really moves to the forefront, and gives the book a tone that is much closer to that of Thor: Ragnarok. I’m not always on board with attempts to align comics with their adaptations in other media, but given how thoroughly I enjoyed Ragnarok, and how well Aaron executes the humor here, I can say that I’m well and truly in.

Not that there isn’t an underlying seriousness – the war is still going on, after all – but the more lighthearted tone and instances of levity help to provide a welcome contrast to and departure from the dark and grim context in which the story is set.

That said, I’m not totally sold on the Del Mundo art, though in fairness that may be because I miss Dautterman’s work. I like the line work, and I’m particularly fond of the expressiveness of the characters. I think it’s the coloring that’s throwing things off; everything seems to blend together in a way that’s distracting and that obscures the action. It’s clear in some cases that it’s intended to evoke a certain mood, particularly in scenes that are nearly monochromatic, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

I think it would benefit from a broader palette, or a less posterized style (it reminds me of some of Richard Corben’s work), or it could be better offset by thicker lines and fewer color holds.

It’s not bad! In fact, I think it could be great, but there’s just something…off.

Christian Ward’s art on the King Thor story, however, is unambiguously great, with a combination of clean lines and a painterly style that brings to mind the work of Bill Sienkiewicz. (I am very proud of myself for spelling that correctly on the first try.)

Recommended Reading:

Yeah, I continue to be lazy about this, but you continue to not buy things anyway, so let’s call it even. Anyway, you can’t really go wrong with any of Jason Aaron’s work on Thor, so have at it.

Bonus:

Admit it: you forgot about the Bonus, didn’t you? I nearly did, too, but while the Weigh In is gone, I am still wrapping up those books that won the vote and had ongoing storylines, and given that this is a limited (twelve-issue) series, and also that I wanted to write about this anyway, here’s the skinny on Mister Miracle #9.

The short version is summed up very well by Scott Free himself.

The war between Apokolips and New Genesis is still ongoing, but there is a push for peace, and that’s where we find ourselves in this issue, with a summit between the leaders of the worlds being held on Apokolips.

There is much back-and-forth, and it goes about as well as one might expect, and, of course, there are the small, personal moments between Scott and Barda, and some fun – if disturbing – interactions with other members of Darkseid’s crew, and a couple of pages following the progress of a drop of piss falling down into a seemingly – but not really – bottomless pit.

Then there’s…well, in the negotiation, Darkseid is represented by his son – and Scott’s step-brother – Kalibak, who gives Scott a gift. The Mirror of Goodness, which had belonged to the late Granny.

Eyes open. Eyes close. But do they see you and me? Goodness knows.

The mirror’s function is to show the underlying truth to the children Granny “raised.” The “lessons” she taught them often left the children physically damaged, though it was nothing that a few skin grafts and some reconstructive surgery couldn’t fix. But the mirror would show them the damage that the surgeries hid, or, as Granny said, “On the outside, you’re beautiful. And on the inside, you’re mine.”

Darkseid is.

In the end, a deal is reached. Or so they think; at the signing, Kalibak states that Darkseid will not accept the deal.

There is anger, until it’s revealed that the alteration that Darkseid wishes to make to the deal is to give up even more than he was originally asked to give up, providing something that was assumed to be off the table.

Darkseid recently acquired the Anti-Life Equation but is willing to surrender it as part of the peace agreement, in exchange for one small thing: custody of Scott and Barda’s son Jacob.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And if you don’t already – which you don’t, because no one does – you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Showcase Saturday 6.16.18

It’s Saturday, and you know what that means…because if you don’t know what it means, you’re probably not here looking at this anyway, so who am I even talking to?

Anyway, I bought comics. Let’s you – whoever you may or may not be – and me take a look, shall we?

From DC:

MISTER MIRACLE #9 – After war comes peace. The bloody battles that waged across New Genesis and Apokolips have come to an end, and now Mister Miracle and Kalibak must sit down and discuss a truce. Can Scott Free trust the former minions of Darkseid to keep their word? Not likely, but a leader sometimes has to take a risk in service to the greater good. Perhaps the more pressing question, though, is whether Big Barda can make it through the negotiations without beating the life out of the assassin Kanto.

NEW SUPER-MAN VOL. 3: EQUILIBRIUM – In these stories from issues #13-18, Shanghai falls—and Emperor Super-Man rules the ashes! With an army of super-villains on the streets, the Justice League of China leads the movement to take the city back. It’s up to I-Ching and the New Flash of China to snap Kenan out of it and save Shanghai. As Kenan fights to save his city and its people, a final casualty shakes the young hero to his solid-steel core.

PLASTIC MAN #1 – Meet Eel O’Brian: a petty thug, thief and con artist who runs a strip club. Hey, he’s also dead, at least according to the gang that tossed him out like last week’s garbage. Literally. Don’t worry, though—he bounced back from all that, and now he’s trying to make a new life for himself, but the effort is stretching him pretty thin. How can he get revenge on his old boss, keep a street kid out of trouble, make a dancer fall in love with him and stop a mysterious society from taking over the world? Eel has no idea!

THE IMMORTAL MEN #3 – “THE END OF FOREVER” part three! The Immortal Men have risked everything to save the otherwise unremarkable teenager Caden Park. But neither Caden nor the immortal heroes who saved him know the crucial role he’s predicted to play in the upcoming war between the Immortal Men. So when the hero Reload falls into the horrifying hands of the Bloodless, Caden Park must learn the Secret History of the DC Universe, and the truth behind his family heritage—and fast—before the Batman Who Laughs has all his pawns in play!

THE MAN OF STEEL #3 – The merciless killer and zealot calling himself Rogol Zaar has searched the cosmos for Superman—and when he reaches the Fortress of Solitude, his actions will cut Superman to the core.

WONDER WOMAN #48 – “The Dark Gods” part three! Every hero on Earth has tested their mettle against the Dark Gods—except for Wonder Woman, who’s not on Earth! With Diana lost in space fighting off the Gods’ assault on the Star Sapphires, it’s down to Jason to protect her planet and her friends…but, uh, he hasn’t won a fight yet…

From Marvel:

DOMINO #3 – DOMINO’s luck is running out, and not just figuratively: Her powers are fading away! What good is our favorite soldier of fortune without the good fortune? She’s got her back against the wall, but that doesn’t mean nobody’s got her back: OUTLAW, DIAMONDBACK and a VERY SPECIAL (VERY SECRET) GUEST are in Dom’s corner! PLUS: Domino’s mysterious archnemesis strikes!

 

EXILES #4 – BLACKBEARD BEN AND THE BUSTED TALLUS! When the broken Tallus sends them hurtling through time, the Exiles find themselves on the open seas! But this is no pirate’s paradise. If the Exiles don’t recover the Tallus and return to their mission, Earth – and the rest of reality – is lost! But they’ll need help. The legendary Blackbeard – A.K.A. Ben Grimm, formerly the Thing – just might be willing to lend a ship. But for a price…

THOR #1 – JASON AARON & MIKE DEL MUNDO TAKE THE PRINCE OF ASGARD IN A WHOLE NEW DIRECTION! Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Come back tomorrow for the Sunday Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And if you want to do more than just look and read, you can also support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Spotlight Sunday 6.10.18

An overwhelming lack of enthusiasm means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Red Sonja/Tarzan #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Cover: Aaron Lopresti
Rated Teen+
$3.99
Dynamite

“I quite feel that sheathing my blade to get assistance from the man who threw me over isn’t perhaps the wisest of all strategies at this time.”

I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t want to do this.

That’s not to suggest that I’m ordinarily not honest with you, or that I have any specific opposition to writing about this particular comic.

Rather, I’m candidly admitting that I didn’t want to do the Showcase/Spotlight thing at all, for any comic, and wanted to take the weekend off.

Why? Mostly because I’m tired. So very, very tired. The demands of my day job – and, more to the point, the commute to and from it – and the general state of both the world and my life just leave me exhausted, bone-weary in a way that no amount of largely restless sleep can mitigate.

And given the toxicity of fandom that has been so put so thoroughly on display recently, it doesn’t feel like a great time to be a fan of anything.

Beyond any of that, this whole endeavor seems pointless, given the ratio of effort to reward.

But!

We do what we have to do, I guess, and so, for the five or so people who actually look at these things, let’s get started.

I had anticipated – I should, I suppose, say “expected” – writing about The Unexpected, the latest addition to DC’s line of “Metal” spin-off comics, but…meh. It didn’t grab me, and I doubt that I’ll bother continuing to pick it up.

I mentioned that I’m holding off until the end to write about The Man of Steel, and I have no interest in spilling more digital ink on Robinson’s run on Wonder Woman, which left me with only two choices, bot of them involving a certain she-devil with a…well, in the comic I opted to talk about, a dagger.

Following up on the success of Wonder Woman/Conan, Gail Simone spins another tale of time-tossed people who under normal circumstances would never be able to bridge the gap of the millennia that separate them.

Of course, these aren’t ordinary people, and these aren’t normal circumstances.

In the first issue, we found John Clayton, AKA Lord Greystoke, AKA Tarzan squaring off against a wealthy trophy hunter by the name of Eson Dull.

The battle begins as one being fought in the courts, but briefly turns physical, once the Lord of the Jungle encounters a gorilla that Dull is keeping in captivity. Still, it’s legal maneuvering that, seemingly, wins the day for Lord Greystoke.

There is, of course, more to Dull than just a weird name and being a rich douchebag, as we see by moving back thousands of years from the early 20th Century and visiting the Hyborian Age, where we find Red Sonja battered and despondent after encountering a man named, you guessed it, Eson Dull.

Following that encounter, Sonja visits a witch, to whom she tells the tale of that run-in, and who sets Sonja on the path that destiny has laid out for her.

Back in 1921, Tarzan receives some rather unpleasant “gifts” from Dull, and swears vengeance, but before he can get to that, a certain red-haired woman, dressed in a manner befitting a lady of the time, but not befitting the lady herself, shows up to warn Tarzan that Eson Dull is preparing to hunt Tarzan’s family – both the human one and the animal one.

And that’s where we pick up, with Tarzan stripping down and riding off to Dull’s estate, and with Sonja, much to the shock and dismay of Tarzan’s faithful friend N’Tubu, who struggles to cover the eyes of the children present, does the same.

At Dull’s estate, Tarzan and Sonja deal with Dull’s hired goons, and then listen to an improbable tale told by Dull’s “Chinese” gardener, a tale of a time in which Tarzan and Sonja previously encountered – and fought – each other, though neither remembers it.

The gardener, it seems, is not from China, but is instead from the land that would one day become China, which Sonja, in the Hyborian Age, knows as Khitai.

The Khitan encourages Tarzan and Sonja to seek out a “futurist” with whom Tarzan is acquainted for answers as to how this unremembered encounter – which left Tarzan with a scar that proves the tale’s veracity – could have occurred.

As they journey to visit Tarzan’s friend, Sonja reveals that the dagger she carries, given to her by the witch, allows her to speak English.

The “futurist” turns out to be H.G. Wells, who informs Tarzan that time has somehow splintered, in a way that centers around Tarzan and Sonja, and inadvertently reveals to Tarzan that he’s seen it happening, as, despite the fact that he’d promised to never do so again, he’s been making use of his time machine.

Which is what Tarzan went there for in the first place.

As with Wonder Woman/Conan, Gail sets up a bit of a mystery as to how this crossover is happening at all, revealing the answers slowly rather than simply providing starting at the beginning and providing the set up. Similarly, there’s another mystery to be explained – such as the unremembered fight scene – that has to be reconciled with the known state of things, much as she did with the Diana/Yanna thing in Wonder Woman/Conan.

We also have the whole “Our heroes fight each other to an inconclusive draw, in which one seems to have the upper hand, but only as the result of a quirk of fate.”

Overall, it’s…fine. I liked Wonder Woman/Conan more than I do this, even at this early stage in the story, though that probably has a lot to do with being more personally-invested in the characters involved in that earlier crossover. While I’m quite familiar with Sonja, I’m not as versed in Tarzan lore. I’ve never read any of the original stories by Burroughs, so I only know Tarzan from comics, movies – though I haven’t seen the most recent one – and the old cartoon from when I was a kid, and I can’t help but view him as a deeply problematic literary trope that is difficult to make relevant in the current era.

In fairness, if anyone can do that, it’s Gail, and so far she’s managed it by not delving too deeply into the more racist elements of his backstory, taking more of a high-concept approach to the character that isn’t bogged down by the details.

Still, there’s no way for “Kreegah bungolo bundolo*!” as a multipurpose phrase that means whatever it needs to mean to be anything other than ridiculous (and racist).

The other advantage that Wonder Woman/Conan had was in the art, where Aaron Lopresti knocked it out of the park with some of the finest work I’ve ever seen him produce.

Ordinarily, I’m quite fond of Walter Geovani, and I’ve particularly enjoyed his depiction of the She-Devil when he provided the art for Gail’s run as the writer of the Red Sonja ongoing series, and he’s also been excellent – again, paired with Gail – in Clean Room.

He has exactly the sort of clean, minimalist style that I respond to, and his work on Clean Room brought to mind the similarly-clean style of the late Steve Dillon.

But here, it’s…it’s kind of a mess. I’m not entirely certain where the problem lies, as, at times it looks like an issue with the coloring, and at others it looks like it may be some kind of production issue, with images improperly resized, or some problem with the printing.

It has the appearance of being rushed and of having been inked with a Sharpie; the lines are thick and flat and imprecise.

It’s not bad, exactly, just…disappointing.

The book is not without its charms; I’m particularly amused by the scenes with Sonja attempting to pull off the appearance of a proper lady of the early 20th Century, and then eagerly ripping that propriety to shreds.

The inevitable hero fight was by-the-numbers, but was staged well, and had some entertaining twists.

Still, quite apart from my lack of enthusiasm for doing this, I’m not finding the book terribly exciting, though, ultimately, In Gail I Trust, so I’ll see this one through to the end, and just hope that it – and my mood – manages to improve.

Recommended Reading:

I’m going to be lazy again this week and tell you that, despite my comments here, you should seek out all of the other works of Simone and Geovani.

(And I’ll point out that clicking through and actually buying some of these things will help with that “reward” part of my efforts.)

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & ArtworkmyLocal Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And remember that another way to provide some reward for my efforts, such as they are, is to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



*I corrected the typo. I still say it’s ridiculous, but what do I know? I’m the one who screwed up and typed bungalo.

Showcase Saturday 6.9.18

I show you what I bought, you take a look, then, hopefully, you come back tomorrow to see which of these comics – if any; I might choose something else entirely – I write about.

That sums it up. Here’s the part where you take a look:

From DC:
THE LEGION BY DAN ABNETT AND ANDY LANNING VOL. 2 – Following the destruction of a Legion Outpost, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5.1, Chameleon, Umbra, Kid Quantum, Live Wire, Apparition and Monstress are lost on the far side of the universe. As they journey home, the team encounters a superhero known as Singularity and a creature called the Omniphagos—a world-destroying monster imprisoned in a “hard light” pyramid. Collects LEGION LOST #1-12.

THE MAN OF STEEL #2 – With an arsonist loose in Metropolis, Superman’s powers are almost useless in finding the culprit. And back at the Daily Planet, everyone wants to know what’s going on with Lois Lane. How can Clark hold on to the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon much longer?

 

 

 

THE UNEXPECTED #1 – In the aftermath of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, the DC Universe has been forever changed as new heroes are called out of the shadows. Amid this all is Janet Fals…Firebrand! Once a paramedic dedicated to saving lives, she must now start a fight once every 24 hours to feed the Conflict Engine that’s replaced her heart. But Janet’s heart isn’t just a curse—it’s a beacon, drawing out both the mysterious Neon the Unknown and the seductive, malevolent Bad Samaritan. One of them wants to cut out her heart, the other wants to save it—but neither of them knows the true danger hidden within that will kick off a superhero manhunt ranging from Thanagar to the deepest heart of the Dark Multiverse!

WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #2 – “Star Light”! An enormous, divine threat has the Star Sapphires in its sights—and only Wonder Woman can protect them! She’s wielded their ring before, but the Corps has changed since then…is even their combined power enough to stop a god?

From Dynamite:
RED SONJA #16 – Here it is, at last, the battle that’s been brewing back and forth across the centuries: Red Sonja vs. Kulan Gath for the fate of Meru! The wizard is more powerful than he’s ever been, but Sonja is joined by some unexpected allies… the city of Shamballah will shake in this fight to the finish — Hell or Hyrkania ends here!

RED SONJA/TARZAN #2 – The Lord of the Jungle and the She-Devil with a Sword find themselves up against an enemy who uses methods they cannot comprehend. In different times and places, our heroes must seek out the assistance they need to stop the evil Eson Duul before he destroys both of their worlds.

 

 

You have now completed the “taking a look” portion. Come back tomorrow for the next segment of our weekly journey.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And if you want to do more than just look and read, you can also support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Spotlight Sunday 6.3.18

In a rare advance look into my thinking, I’ll mention that I’m holding off on writing about The Man of Steel until the mini-series is complete. I will say that I liked the first issue more than I expected to; it sets up an interesting mystery, and while Bendis is Bendis – which is exemplified by a similarly-constructed tautology in the story – even now, he does still have his moments. Yes, the sheer Bendisness of some of the dialogue is grating, but there are times – and more of them than I would have expected – in which the sharp, staccato back-and-forth works, and seems fresh and crisp. The benefits of a good editor? If so, kudos to Chen, Cotton, and Cunningham.

Given that I rarely write about trades, that left me with two options, and while there some interesting surprises in what by all rights should have been a silly bit of nonsense, it feels like now is a good time to unleash some spoilers for…

Kill or Be Killed #19
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Cover: Sean Phillips
Rated M
$3.99
Image

“You just have to not stop yourself…y’know?”

After my return to comics following almost a decade-long hiatus, there were a lot of new names and faces awaiting me, not only in terms of the characters but also in terms of the people behind the comics, and while as someone who particularly appreciates the visual elements of the medium most of the names – if not faces – that stood out initially were artists, there was one writer whose work caught my attention almost immediately: Ed Brubaker.

I’ve been wanting to write about Brubaker – particularly Brubaker paired with Phillips, his frequent collaborator – for a while, but he keeps getting edged out by other works, and when the Weigh In was still a thing, hardly anyone ever voted for his work when the option was available, because there’s clearly something wrong and broken inside of each and every one of you.

Cough

In any case, it’s likely that at some point – possibly several – when I opt to dive into the archives for future Spotlight posts I will emerge with something by Brubaker (and Phillips).

But for now, let’s take a look at this week’s entry, which is the penultimate issue of the series.

Kill or Be Killed (KoBK) tells the story of a young man named Dylan, and it began with a suicide attempt. Immediately after jumping off a building, Dylan decides that he’s made a mistake and, though realizing it’s much too late to make such a realization, decides that he wants to live after all.

Somehow, though what seems like divine intervention, he survives, a bit battered and bruised, but overall not much the worse for wear.

Later that night in his bedroom, however, he discovers that while there was intervention, it was infernal rather than divine, as a demon appears and informs him that it saved his life, and now he, Dylan, owes a life in return.

Lives, actually. As if paying rent for the existence that he no longer owns, he owes the demon one life a month from this point on, and if Dylan should ever fail to deliver, he’ll be evicted (from life).

Given that he struggles with issues of mental illness, it’s unclear – to Dylan and to us – whether the demon exists outside of Dylan’s mind, but whatever the case may be, Dylan soon learns that there are consequences to ignoring the demon’s demands, and eventually starts making his payments, becoming a ski mask-wearing vigilante and targeting people who, in his mind, deserve to die.

Along the way he discovers, much to his surprise, that he’s actually pretty good at it, though he makes plenty of mistakes – including accidentally killing his drug dealer, who, by his moral code, didn’t deserve to die – and running afoul of the Russian mob, who have at various points come perilously close to finding Dylan.

He also makes a mess of his personal life, and ultimately ends up, where we find him in this issue, institutionalized.

Dylan has been in the institution for several issues already, but his life there hasn’t been the entire focus. I mentioned that the story began with his suicide attempt, and that’s true in terms of the chronology, but is not at all reflective of the non-linear manner in which Dylan – who provides the narration – tells his tale. The first issue began with him in full badass Liam Neeson mode taking out a bunch of Russians and the standard, “I’ll bet you’re wondering how I got here” approach to starting a story in the midst of things, a set of circumstances that Dylan keeps returning to for brief intervals while promising that eventually we’ll get the answer to what we’re wondering before moving on to something else.

But.

We start out this issue in the institution, during a blizzard, with Dylan making progress towards his eventual release, and letting us know that, demon or no demon, he intends to get back to taking out the trash once he is out.

The one problem with that plan is a detective who has discovered that Dylan is the vigilante and is on her way – risking the drive in the lousy weather – to confront him, though she does so without realizing that a car full of Russians is on her tail.

When she confronts Dylan, he realizes that if she had him properly dead-to-rights he’d be in cuffs, and the fact that she hasn’t arrested him means that there’s some reason that she can’t.

While Dylan was away, a copycat killer went on a brief rampage, that ended with his death, and as far as the NYPD is concerned the copycat was the vigilante all along and the case is closed.

Dylan is prepared to walk away, but the detective – Lily Sharpe – draws him back in with a reference to Rex, the accidentally-murdered drug dealer.

While the brass won’t let her reopen the case, Sharpe still wants answers, to know the why of it all.

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the Russians, who start killing people in an attempt to find Dylan, and at that point there are larger concerns for the two of them than discussing the morality of murder and of the primacy of the rule of law.

The two make an surprisingly effective duo – with Dylan, a civilian, being more of a battle-hardened veteran than Sharpe, who, prior to the events of this issue, had never shot anyone – right up until they don’t, which is the point at which, after getting outside to the parking lot, they discover that the Russians had left one of their number outside lying in wait.

It will be interesting to see where Brubaker goes from here – and how he manages it – and I wonder whether we’ll get any answers as to the nature of the demon. One thing I hadn’t mentioned is that Dylan’s father killed himself years earlier, and the gun that Dylan used initially was found among his father’s things.

His dad had been an artist who illustrated covers and images for various pulpy horror, fantasy, and science-fiction publications. (Dylan is particularly disturbed when he learns that his mom served as the model for some of the more erotic images that he and his friend used to peek at when he was a kid.)

Sometime after taking on the role of masked vigilante, Dylan discovers a trove of his father’s artwork that he had never seen before, all of it depicting an image of the same demon that has been driving him.

Further, he learns that he had an older brother – from his father’s first marriage – who killed himself before Dylan was born, and who seemed to have been haunted by the very same demon.

It seems equally likely that these coincidences indicate that the demon is real or that it’s some sort of shared delusion within the family. Perhaps Dylan’s father began depicting the demon as a means of dealing with the loss of his son and Dylan did see the images in his youth, and after his brush with death Dylan drew on the memory of those images to create a rationalization for his actions.

After all, while the demon may have pushed Dylan to become a killer it didn’t make him enjoy it. That’s all on Dylan.

KoBK is an intensely political work, capturing much of the current zeitgeist, and driven by Brubaker’s own frustration with what he sees happening in the world, a world in which the rich and powerful are utterly unaccountable to the laws they use against those who are not rich and powerful, and the story it tells is one of taking that frustration to extremes.

(Interestingly enough, given the timing, the inclusion of Russians as antagonists/corrupting elements in the story seems to be entirely coincidental.)

It’s also incredibly fraught, given our current environment, and the reality of gun violence. Superficially, it may seem to glorify that violence, to suggest that violence is not just the solution but the only solution.

I don’t think that’s the case. While he has arguably done some good, Dylan has so far solved nothing, and created more problems through his actions than anything else, and those actions – no matter how good they make him feel, or how justified he thinks they are – required the intervention of a demon to push him past the inertia of his more conventional sense of morality.

It’s not that we need to start murdering the “bad guys,” and we don’t need a demon threatening to kill us to provide a rationalization, but we do need to take a more honest look at what’s happening in the world, at the demons that are driving us, and find a way past our complacency.

The other day on Twitter, Kelly Sue DeConnick challenged people to identify the pervasive themes in the works of their favorite comics creators.

For Brubaker, I suggested that it’s people trying to find a way to some kind of happiness or peace, no matter how dire the circumstances, and dealing with, or trying to avoid, the damage they cause along the way*.

I think that assessment aligns well with Brubaker’s noir sensibilities; the genre often involves terrible people doing terrible things, but ultimately doing so for the sake of something not necessarily noble or pure, but at least a little bit closer to the better angels of our nature.

And it’s certainly where we find Dylan, as he imagines a post-institutionalized life in which he can go back to spending time with his best friend/woman he loves and to killing bad guys on the regular (exemplifying that “trying to avoid the damage” aspect).

Brubaker’s flair for and interest in noir storytelling is what made his super-hero work so compelling, focusing, in large part, as he did on the “street-level” kinds of heroes, like Daredevil. He can spin a good story with the more “cosmic-level” heroes as well, but his best work involves damaged people who are doing their best, or, more often than not, their worst.

That approach is best complemented by Sean Phillips, whose art is a study in contrast in contradiction, feeling simultaneously old and new, mixing simplicity with complexity in a way that’s ideally-suited for the kind of stories he and Brubaker tell, and his open panels allow for a full bleed that is appropriate for the work, leaving only the barest hint of negative space to provide the requisite flow.

I also appreciate the occasional pages that are laid out in a way to separate the text from the images, allowing you a few moments to enjoy the two separately before diving back in to the more traditional blending of the two.

As is something of a rare gift for artists, Phillips is especially adept at capturing naturalistic facial expressions that convey a wealth of information, contributing enormously to the storytelling.

The thinness of the simple, clean line work pairs as well with the dark, detailed shadows and heavily-rendered backgrounds almost as perfectly as, well, Brubaker pairs with Phillips.

Their frequent partner in crime (noir), Elizabeth Breitweiser brings a moodiness and grit with her flat colors that add dimension without detracting from the depth of the inkiness or creating the distraction that more seemingly-sophisticated coloring techniques would.

Ultimately, my takeaway from Kill or Be Killed is that as much as it sometimes may seem otherwise, I have to hope that those aren’t the only options we have.

Recommended Reading:

Literally ALL the Brubaker and Phillips. All. Of. It.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artwork, my Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

I doubt that a demon will show up and tell you that you have to do it or else be killed, but, just to be on the safe side, support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.

*And my response was “liked” by Sean Phillips, which made my week.

Showcase Saturday 6.2.18

Being late to the party means I missed out on the one DC/H-B crosssover I was most interested in (Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey), but I still grabbed one of them, anyway.

Let’s take a look at what we have to work with.

From DC:

THE MAN OF STEEL #1 – A new era begins for Superman as a threat from his earliest origins reemerges to destroy the Last Son of Krypton. As Superman struggles to come to grips with what has happened to his wife and son, he must also face a new threat that’s determined to burn down Metropolis!

 

 

SUPER SONS/DYNOMUTT SPECIAL #1 – It’s no fun for Jon Kent to be visiting Big City with his parents for the funeral of an old friend. So his best pal Damian Wayne decides to follow along and give him the inside scoop on the city. But when they go to meet Robin’s local friend, Dynomutt, they find him injured and in need of help. And Dynomutt’s human superhero companion, Blue Falcon, has seemingly turned evil. What’s the reason for this betrayal between once-loyal companions, and what role might the evil Red Vulture play in this scenario?

From Image:

KILL OR BE KILLED #19 – The fourth arc ends with a bang! If Dylan can’t get to the trouble, well…it’ll just come to him. Trapped in an insane asylum, Dylan fights for his life and whatever future he may have! And don’t forget, every issue of KILL OR BE KILLED contains extra back pages, articles, and art!

 

 

 

WHERE WE LIVE: LAS VEGAS SHOOTING BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY TP – “On October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada suffered the worst mass shooting in modern American history, resulting in 58 deaths and over 500 injured. It broke my heart. Las Vegas is my home. I felt like something needed to be done to help in a unique way.” — JH WILLIAMS III, Artist & Curating Editor

This “unique way” was the genesis of the WHERE WE LIVE anthology—a riveting collection of both fictional stories and actual eye-witness accounts told by an all-star line-up of the top talent working in comics today. All the creators have graciously volunteered their time and talent to help bring some sense to this senseless act and, in the process, raise money for the survivors and their families.

The book will include a variety of perspectives with key themes exploring gun violence, common sense gun control, value of a compassionate society, mental health stigmatization, aftermath of tragedy and how individuals & communities persevere and an appreciation of Las Vegas as a vibrant community.

100% of the proceeds for the WHERE WE LIVE anthology will be donated to Route 91 Strong, a non-profit organization.

Come back tomorrow to see which of these books will be in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon. Because why not?



Spotlight Sunday 5.27.18

I considered taking a look at the final issue of Super Sons this week – it was pretty good! – but some thoughts I didn’t fit into last week’s post and a conversation at the comic shop mean taking a dip into the archives, with spoilers, I guess, ahead for…

DC Comics Presents Annual #1
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Rich Buckler
Cover: Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano

“This time, Luthor shall win!”

I was in a bit of a rush when I wrote last week’s entry, as I had some plans for the day, so I didn’t get to to mention everything I had intended to mention.

I did mention that in the days of my long-ago youth there were several team-up books on the stands, with the book that serves as the namesake for last week’s entry being one of them, and DC Comics Presents being another.

Whereas The Brave and The Bold featured Batman teaming up with some other hero, DCP featured Superman as the hero who would partner up with someone new every month.

The various short-lived attempts at reviving team-up books have demonstrated that there is no apparent appetite for the genre among modern readers, and even some of the current revival attempts tweak the format a bit, with Brave and Bold being a mini-series that features an extended story featuring a specific pairing (Batman and Wonder Woman), and, on the Marvel side, the suggestively-titled Marvel Two-In-One currently on the stands similarly restricts itself to pairing two specific heroes – the Thing, who was the star of the old title, and the Human Torch.

In light of that modern approach, one of the thoughts I had on the topic of team-up books is that it might be sensible move to do limited-run revivals of the team-up titles as special events similar to the Batman and Wonder Woman pairing, featuring top-tier talents producing the stories, and digging deep into the catalog of characters DC and Marvel have at their disposal.

Just a thought; my thumb is probably miles away from the pulse of fandom, but I believe that while a monthly team-up book of the Bronze Age type can’t thrive, something like what I suggest could do quite well.

Beyond wanting to mention my humble suggestion, the reason I opted for the comic in the Spotlight this week is a conversation I had in the comic shop about an issue of the original Brave and Bold. Specifically, the last issue, which featured Batman teaming up with…Batman?

(That issue also contained a preview of the comic that was taking the place of B&B: Batman and the Outsiders.)

To say that Batman teamed up with himself isn’t quite correct – in essence, the Earth-One Batman fights a villain that Earth-Two’s Batman had defeated nearly thirty years earlier – but it was thematically similar to a story that ran the prior year in the comic we’re here to talk about today.

For the uninitiated, the reason it was possible – theoretically, in the case of Batman – to team up with themselves is that for years the DC Universe was part of an infinite multiverse, with multiple known Earths that shared many similarities, but had many differences as well.

The primary difference between Earth-One and Earth-Two was timing; on Earth-Two, certain events happened a bit earlier than they did on Earth-One, such as the birth of Bruce Wayne, or the arrival of Kal-L (as the Earth-Two version was known) from Krypton, with the two heroes starting their careers before their namesakes on Earth-One were even born.

(The reason that modern-day, Earth-One Batman couldn’t actually team up with Earth-Two Batman is that by that time Earth-Two’s Batman had died.)

Of course, the concept of the multiverse was introduced in large part to provide an explanation or the new versions of old heroes that started appearing in the stands, starting with the introduction of the Barry Allen version of the Flash in 1955.

This concept – that there was more than one Earth on which DC’s heroes appeared – created a lot of narrative possibilities and provided a lot of opportunities to clear up some of the messes that had occurred in terms of continuity over the years.

Many writers and editors pieced together a semi-coherent explanation of the history of the two worlds – including Roy Thomas who had done a lot of work with retroactive continuity when he worked at Marvel – that at least provided broad strokes explanations for many inconsistencies stemming from sloppy editing or the influence of other media.

For example, when he was first introduced, Superman, in his guise as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, worked at a newspaper called The Daily Star, where his boss was a man named George Taylor.

In time, in the comics, for various reasons, things changed up a bit, and it wasn’t long until Clark worked at The Daily Planet under the leadership of Perry White. (Perry was introduced on the Superman radio show, and then later brought into the comics.)

But the idea that there was another world on which the early adventures of characters like the Jay Garrick version of the Flash took place created an opportunity to build separate history, drawing from some of those elements that had long-since been forgotten (or never known about by newer readers).

Thus, those initial stories featuring Superman were said to have taken place on Earth-Two, whereas the modern adventures of Superman occurred on Earth-One.

Eventually, after the initial crossover event that started it all when Barry Allen broke through the vibrational barrier separating Earth-One from Earth-Two and met his older counterpart, crossovers between the two Earths started happening more frequently, and the team-up of the Justice League of America with their Earth-Two counterparts the Justice Society of America became an annual event, and they often involved the introduction of yet another Earth, an Earth that was usually in crisis.

Characters from Earth-Two, and some of the other alternate Earths, popped up in various books, such as the Huntress, who was the daughter of the Earth-Two Batman and Catwoman, who appeared for a time in Batman Family, and then later as a back-up feature in Wonder Woman, and even the Earth-Two Superman, who appeared in a featured called Mr. and Mrs. Superman in the pages of Superman Family (though those stories mostly took place in the late forties and early fifties).

That was another advantage to the existence of other Earths – the status quo didn’t have to be maintained. Thus, on Earth-Two, Batman could marry Catwoman, and Superman could marry Lois.

(The introduction of Barry Allen is largely considered to have ushered in what’s known as the Silver Age of comics, with its predecessor being referred to as the Golden Age. Thus, the Superman from Earth-Two is often also referred to as the Golden Age Superman, whereas the Earth-One Superman is called the Silver Age Superman, and so it goes for all the other characters with shared names, such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman.)

In a similar vein, and relevant to this comic, there had been an early appearance of Luthor in which he had a full head of red hair, and, since the Golden Age Superman had, in this newly-established history, never been Superboy, didn’t have the same motivations as the Silver Age Luthor, and so the Golden Age Luthor that was created as part of this delineation was presented as being that redheaded mad scientist who had once made an appearance, and was dubbed Alexei Luthor.

And that basically brings us up to speed as we dive into this issue, in a story entitled “Crisis on Three Earths!”

Our story opens with Luthor – Lex Luthor, the bald, Silver Age one – pulling a bank heist with a super-advanced tank. Naturally, Superman (Kal-El), who is returning to Metropolis with Lois after taking her to have lunch in Paris, soon puts an end to Luthor’s rampage and puts the evil scientist back where he belongs: behind bars.

After attending to that, he returns to Lois to apologize for having to cut their date short, but Lois isn’t having it; she thinks that sometimes he looks for trouble as an excuse to get away from her and from his feelings for her. Superman maintains that while he does love her, he can’t shirk his responsibilities.

Meanwhile, on Earth-Two, Alexei Luthor has fired off some missiles at The Daily Star, mostly out of spite. After all, that’s where all of Superman’s (Kal-L) pals work.

The Golden Age Superman isn’t as young – or as powerful – as he used to be, but he’s still able to make quick work of Luthor’s missiles and track down Luthor’s location and put the evil scientist back where he belongs: behind bars.

Lex, however, was prepared for winding up back in prison, and once there tracks down an associate he’d planted in the prison, one equipped with some special circuitry hidden underneath a covering of false skin.

The purpose of said circuitry is, of course, sinister, and is something that young Jon thought was a damned clever idea. The device Lex builds with it allows him to transport himself to Earth-Two, where he appears in Alexei’s cell, and, without offering any explanation, exhorts him to take his hand. With that done, Alexei is transported to Earth-One, while Lex remains on Earth-Two.

Removed from their native worlds, and with their dissimilar appearance, neither man is recognized by the prison guards, and on both worlds the assumption is that their Luthor has engaged in some super-scientific perfidy that allowed them to transpose themselves with some innocent bystanders, and thus each of them is released.

On Earth-One, Alexei is greeted by one of Lex’s employees, and the plan suddenly becomes clear. Each man wants to kill his own Superman, but each one has failed time and time again, but what if they switched things up?

They both make the attempt, and they both come close, but a stroke of luck saves Kal-El from Alexei’s death trap, and a swift kick from Lois Kent, who jumps in as soon as she sees her hubby in trouble, saves Kal-L from Lex’s.

On Earth-One, Kal-El arrives just in time to save Lois Lane from Alexei – who confuses the hell out of her by calling her Lois Kent and claiming that they’ve met before – and, just as Kal-L did, Kal-El figures out at who his mysterious assailant is.

The two Supermen confer via an inter-Earth communication system and decide that they’re both sick of their respective Luthors’ shit and decide, for the time being, to imprison the two baddies in the formless limbo of the emptiness between worlds.

Lex was prepared for that, too – albeit not that specifically – and the two Luthor’s join hands again and are transported to yet another Earth.

Said Earth is Earth-Three, a world that has no super-heroes, only supervillains, with an evil version of the Justice League of America known as the Crime Syndicate of America. The Crime Syndicate, like the two Luthors, is supposed to be imprisoned in limbo, but, in some fashion that isn’t explained, one member of the Syndicate is present on Earth-Three, an evil version of Superman known as Ultraman. Ultraman is something of a meathead, and Lex and Alexei are soon able to convince him to join forces with them in an effort to destroy the two Supermen, whom Ultraman also hates.

Unbeknownst to any of them, a certain familiar-looking someone overhears their plans…

Initially, Lex ignores the comment Alexei makes about wanting to destroy Earths 1 and 2, but soon he finds Alexei – with Ultraman’s assistance – building a device to accomplish just that.

The person who overheard their initial discussion turns out to be the Lois Lane of Earth-Three, who rushes to get help from the smartest man in the world, a scientist by the name of…Luthor!

Specifically, Alexander Luthor, who kind of splits the difference between Alexei and Lex by being bald and having a red beard. Because things are somewhat topsy-turvy on Earth-Three, this Luthor is a good guy, and his instruments show that the three no-goodniks that Lois encountered are up to something, and so he decides he needs to do something about it.

Kal-El, meanwhile, takes up Kal-L’s invitation (it was Lois – Lois Kent – who suggested it) to pop by Earth-Two for a visit, and the two Supermen have a bit of a heart-to-heart in which Kal-L tells the younger Kal-El about how much better his life has been – and not just because she just saved his bacon, for what is far from the first time – since the day he decided to stop setting aside his feelings and marry Lois.

Listen to the man, Kal-El.

Their discussion is interrupted by a message from Alexander Luthor, who transports them to Earth-Three.

With the two Supermen there to help, Alexander – after prodding from Lois – decides that he will become their world’s first super-hero, donning a powersuit that’s even gaudier than Lex’s, and the three of them head out to take on the bad guys, leaving Lois to ponder the significance of the fear she has for the safety of the smart, kind, and handsome Alexander Luthor…

I can pretty much guarantee you that 10-year-old Jon read that as “sobrikwet.”

Lex and Alexei, however, are not quite so unified, as Lex has no interest in destroying any world, particularly not one on which his beloved sister lives, but Alexei has set his plan, and the device that will make it possible – a tractor beam that will cause Earth-One and Earth-Two to materialize in the same space at the same vibrational frequency – and reveals that he wasn’t as unaware of the existence of other Earths as Lex had assumed him to be, and had been planning and preparing for this for quite some time.

While they argue, Ultraman manages to beat the stuffing out of the two Supermen but meets his match in Alexander Luthor, who uses a device to turn Ultraman intangible.

With him out of the way, the two Supermen move in to collar the two Luthors. After receiving an assurance from Alexei that he’ll find a way to save Lex’s sister Lena, the Luthors agree that they need to deal with the more pressing concern of the two Kryptonians.

Kal-El comes up with a plan to save the two Earths, leaving Kal-L to deal with the two Luthors.

Flying to limbo with the device that Alexander used to make Ultraman intangible, Kal-El positions himself between the tractor beam and the Earths and turns them intangible so that they will harmlessly pass through each other, while Kal-L, despite being weaker than his younger counterpart, is able to overcome adversity and defeat the two evil geniuses.

With the problem dealt with, Alexander prepares to return Ultraman to his prison, and to send Superman – and their respective Luthors – back home.

After dropping Alexei off in prison, Kal-L is warmly greeted by his loving wife, while Kal-El, after dropping Lex off in prison, lands in the store room of The Daily Planet and, spotting Lois, thinks that maybe he should take Kal-L’s advice, only to hang his head in sadness after overhearing her accepting an assignment in Europe.

I don’t feel bad for you. This is all on you, Superman.

This story has always been a personal favorite of mine for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it was just kind of cool seeing Superman teaming up with Superman, and Luthor teaming up with Luthor, and Superman and Superman teaming up with Luthor, and Luthor and Luthor kinda-sorta teaming up with Superman (in the form of Ultraman).

In particular, I liked seeing the ways in which they were similar, but different. Kal-L was older, and wiser, Alexei was more vicious and destructive, and Alexander was the hero that his counterparts could have been if they weren’t so consumed by hatred.

Beyond that, I always liked seeing Superman and Lois actually together; the Mr. and Mrs. Superman stories were one of my favorite aspects of Superman Family, and it made me angry that Kal-El was too stupid to take Kal-L’s advice. (Like you can’t be in Europe within seconds, Clark. Come on!)

Underlying it all, in some ways that were less obvious than others, was a sort of testament to the power of love. Love had made Kal-L a happier, better person, and, to a certain extent, it had made Lex a better person than Alexei. Lex, at least, had the love of his sister to at least soften some of his edges, whereas Alexei had nothing, and was much more of a monster than Lex.

And it was clear that love had found its way to Alexander, drawing him out of his isolation, and, rather than causing him to turn his back on his responsibilities to the world, love led Alexander to turn and face them.

That’s the lesson here, kids: love is the power that makes all the infinite worlds go ‘round!

Or maybe not, but the point is, love or the lack of it is a central aspect of the story.

Beyond having a nostalgic appeal, this comic is an essential part of the history of DC. As mentioned, DC had various similar crises on various Earths throughout the years, and a few years after the “Crisis on Three Earths!” DC would launch a twelve-issue maxi-series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths, which would change everything.

While having an infinite number of Earths to choose from created infinite narrative possibilities, it also led to some laziness in storytelling – if there was ever any kind of screw-up someone could always say, “Uhh…that happened on, let’s say…Earth-Twelve, or something.” – and even with the distinctions created to delineate them, it could get confusing when you talked about Golden Age versions of characters and Silver Age versions.

DC decided to scrap the multiverse, consolidating different elements from some of the known Earths into one, single Earth. Some of the Golden Age heroes stuck around, but the Golden Age versions of characters who weren’t completely different people than their Silver Age versions – most notably Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman – were wiped out of continuity, their very existences retroactively erased.

Beyond being the type of story – and story title – to which Crisis on Infinite Earths was an homage, the events of this issue were key, as in the first issue of CoIE we learn that Alexander Luthor and Lois Lane got married, and they had a son, whom they named Alexander Luthor II. As their world was destroyed, they sent young Alexander out through the vibrational barrier to save his life. He was intercepted along the way, gained strange powers, aged at an accelerated rate, and played a vital role in the resolution of the Crisis.

It’s also worth noting that it was in an issue of DC Comics Presents that tied in to Crisis that Superman met and teamed up – much like Kal-L – with a younger version of himself from another Earth, an Earth known as Earth-Prime.

Earth-Prime was on Earth which, while having plenty of the regular variety, had neither super-heroes nor supervillains, where no one – well, virtually no one – had any super powers to speak of, and science and technology were a bit behind where they were on some of the other Earths.

What it had going for it, though, were people who were attuned, on some unconscious level, to what was happening on the other Earths, and they wrote down and drew some of the stories that they saw in their minds.

That Superboy from Earth-Prime – our Earth – also played an important role in the Crisis, and, twenty years later, as part of an effort to restore the multiverse after realizing that in condensing things down to one Earth they had created an even bigger mess, he and Alexander Luthor II, along with Kal-L and Lois Kent, who had managed to avoid being completely erased from history, popped up once again in Infinite Crisis, which was written by someone my age who obviously had a fondness for this particular comic as well.

The art chores on this issue were capably handled by the late Rich Buckler, who was the sort of artist who would never be considered a “star” – to the extent that anyone in comics can be – but was a solid and constant presence back in the days of my youth.

In any case, this trip into the archives wasn’t entirely a frivolous effort driven by a lack of interest in writing anything about my recently-purchased comics. I do legitimately think that my idea for a limited run of team-up books could be a winner, if positioned as something like what the “All Star” line of comics had been, or the current “Earth One” books are. Get on this, DC!

Beyond that, like I said, this rather unassuming little Dollar Comic had an impact that went beyond young Jon thinking it was cool, so it seemed like something worth talking about.

I’m sure that next week will find us back in the usual routine.

Recommended Reading:

CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS 30TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION – In 1985, DC Comics dramatically altered comics’ original universe with CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, a 12-issue series that rocked the comics community, tragically dooming some of DC’s most beloved characters and drastically altering others. An unforgettable and defining event in comics history, CRISIS was arguably the first companywide crossover to make good on its promise of lasting change.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: DC COMICS PRESENTS SUPERMAN TEAM-UPS VOL. 1 – Superman meets DC’s greatest heroes including The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and many more in this title collecting DC COMICS PRESENTS #1-26.

SUPERMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE VOL. 1 – Faster than a speeding bullet, Superman burst onto the comic book scene in 1938, just as America was on the terrifying precipice of a world war. In a desperate time, legendary creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster brought to life the world’s first modern superhero. The Man of Steel emerged as a champion of the oppressed, taking down any enemy with his super-strength and speed, both foreign and near to home. In his distinctive royal blue, red and yellow costume, complete with cape, the stalwart Kryptonian emanated strength and fearlessness. He swiftly became a symbol of hope for a downtrodden America.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight. Be sure to come back next week for the Showcase when the comics featured will most likely have some bearing on what I write about in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artwork, my Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And remember, if you enjoy reading this stuff at all, and would generally like to see more, y’know, stuff here at OpenDoor Comics, you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.

Showcase Saturday 5.26.18

It’s Saturday. I’ve been to the comic shop. This is what I bought.

I may write about one of these tomorrow, or I may write about some other comic entirely.

So you know what I got, but you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get.

Let’s take a look.

From DC:

BATMAN BEYOND #20 – “Target: Batman” part one! After his first outing as a vigilante, Matt is hungry for another chance to prove himself, but Bruce and Terry butt heads over what’s next for Matt. Will Terry shut his brother down for good, or will the original Batman succeed in training him to become the latest Robin? Meanwhile, a hostage crisis turns deadly, and Commissioner Barbara Gordon has to sort out why the Jokerz are resorting to far more violent and extreme measures than ever before.

SUPER SONS #16 – “END OF INNOCENCE” part two! The epic battle between the Super Sons and Kid Amazo crashes to a close, and Superboy and Robin must decide how to pick up the pieces of the disastrous Amazo Project. The Super Sons face tomorrow in this latest chapter of their journey together!

 

 

THE TERRIFICS #4 – “THE GIRL FROM BGZTL”! Return with the Terrifics to the Phantom World! As our heroes continue their trek through the multiverse (dark or otherwise) to find a cure for the condition that binds them together, their journey brings them to the home planet of Phantom Girl. This is one tearful reunion you do not want to miss! Plus, a giant space squid attacks! That’s right, a giant space squid!

WONDER WOMAN #47 – “The Dark Gods” part two! Wonder Woman seeks answers from the Greek pantheon about the strange new beings barreling towards Earth —but can she convince her creators not to abandon their creation?

From Dynamite:

BARBARELLA #6 – The great R.U.S.T. rush has pitted Barbarella against fellow prospectors, the Glain family as the old west meets the final frontier (and please, no “Cowboys and Aliens jokes)! With an inconceivable fortune at stake the fighting is getting dirty, and Barbarella finds herself on the defensive in a maze where time and space have no meaning! But the heart of the maze is stranger still…

 

 

That does it for the Showcase. Will any of these books make it into the Spotlight? Does the fact that I’m asking that question at all hint at the answer? Come back tomorrow and find out!

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

(And this is the part where I remind you that you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.)



Spotlight Sunday 5.20.18

We’re finally seeing blue skies and sunshine this morning, and I find myself barely remembering what that was ever like, which brings to mind the plight of some mythical creatures, meaning that there are spoilers for…

The Brave and The Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #4
Writer: Liam Sharp
Artist: Liam Sharp
Cover: Liam Sharp
Rated T+
$3.99
DC

“When the encroaching veil of forgetfulness descends to take away those bright recollections of lives once lived, we turn to our art – and we remember!”

The Brave and The Bold is a title – and a phrase – with a long, rich history at DC. Starting off as an anthology series, the original Brave and Bold went on to become a “try-out” series, introducing new characters and concepts, and in #28 it provided the debut of the Justice League of America.

By the time I started reading it with any regularity it had become a team-up book, with each issue containing an adventure featuring Batman and some other character from DC’s stable, much like the beloved animated series that drew its inspiration from the comic.

The series was revived as a team-up book for a time in the mid-aughts, though it was not limited to “Batman and…” instead choosing random pairings of different characters.

Team-up books of that sort were popular when I was a kid. In addition to B&B, DC had DC Comics Presents, which was a “Superman and…” book – after the Byrne relaunch, for a time, Action Comics took on that role – and World’s Finest, which was a combination team-up anthology book, with the main team-up being Superman and Batman.

Marvel had their own team-up books as well, such as, well, Marvel Team-Up, which featured characters being paired up with Spider-Man, and a book featuring the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing teaming up with someone new every month in what seems like it would have to be a porn parody: Marvel Two-In-One.

(Along with the infamous Giant-Size Man-Thing, Marvel also had another porntastically-titled book: Marvel Triple Action.)

The thing I always liked about the team-up books was that they gave characters who didn’t appear regularly – and some who were, at least to young Jon, incredibly obscure – a chance to shine, with a little help from a more well-known friend.

Eventually, team-up books, like so many things do in comics, fell out of favor, and while there have been varied attempts at reviving them, most of them don’t stick around for long, and they don’t follow the original conceit of [Main Character] and [Guest Star].

This limited series does, at least, retain the Batman portion of the old book’s premise, though it differs from the older version in that the team-up is an extended tale.

Speaking of which, the tale involved centers on the mystic land of Tir Na Nóg, a realm separated from the world of mortals, populated by creatures of magic who in the distant past decided to cut themselves off from mortals.

For centuries they’ve lived in their hidden world, all-but forgotten by the mortals they left behind, and forgetting themselves thanks to the spell that keeps them separated from the mortal realm, forgetting more and more with each passing year.

Still, ancient grudges and enmities may be forgotten, but they’re never quite forgiven, and so the inhabitants of Tir Na Nóg have lived for centuries in an uneasy peace, forgetting why they hate each other, but not that they do.

Recently, that hatred has, apparently, gone from mere grumbling and occasional skirmishes and led to action, in the form of the murder of the king, which will likely lead to all-out war. To prevent that, Cernunnos, the Horned God whose magic created the current living situation, reaches out to the mortal realm to bring in Wonder Woman to assist in resolving the crisis.

At the same time, a homeless man who is obsessed with piercing the barrier between worlds has been engaging in occult activities in Gotham City, which, of course, catches the attention of Batman, which is a lucky “coincidence,” in that Diana soon realizes that there’s only one person she knows who can help her determine who killed the king.

And that’s basically where we find ourselves as this issue opens, with Wonder Woman and Batman investigating the murder, and determining that there is, of course, a deeper mystery.

This comic isn’t exactly action-packed, focusing instead on a lot of exposition and an exploration of Celtic mythology and lore, as Batman and Wonder Woman visit the king’s widow and learn a little about the history of Tir Na Nóg – or at least, what its inhabitants remember.

Much of that comes in the form of paintings depicting battles and tragedies from the past, all of which lead ultimately to the tomb of another king, Nuada, where it is discovered that a glamour has been placed on the body to obscure the fact that the king’s silver arm is missing.

I don’t mean to give the story short shrift, but the fact is that most of the narrative is essentially a lesson in Celtic mythology, and I’m not conversant enough in the lore to provide much commentary.

Beyond that, the real centerpiece of the comic is not Sharp’s writing, but rather his glorious, meticulously-detailed and lovingly-rendered art, and, in particular, the paintings that show the history that’s being told.

There is a poignancy to the lives of the people Tir Na Nóg, living as they are, surrounded by the reminders of a life they have long-since forgotten, but while it’s an interesting book to read – and it’s beautiful to look at – this isn’t a comic you pick up if you’re looking for any kind of visceral excitement. I say that not to find fault, but rather to set expectations.

It’s also very dense, both visually and narratively. There’s a lot to see in every panel and a lot to read, given that it seems like something of a deep-dive into a mythology that is likely much less familiar than, say, Greek or Norse mythology, for the average reader.

It’s not like some dry university lecture – after all, it also features Batman – but it is a lot, and part of the reason I don’t have that much to say about it is that it says so much already. I do wish that – as is pointed out in the pages leading up to the reveal of Sharp’s paintings – more of the story were told through art, with just a little bit less expository text, but it’s a minor complaint about a book that has, despite the lack of explosive action, been a pleasure to read so far.

Anyway, let’s just close this out with some more gorgeous art.

Recommended Reading:

WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1: THE LIES (REBIRTH) – Legendary Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka (BATWOMAN: ELEGY) makes his triumphant return to the character for the first time in years and joins renowned fantasy artist Liam Sharp (2000 AD) for one of the most momentous stories in Diana’s history! Collects WONDER WOMAN #1, #3, #5, #7, #9, #11 and the WONDER WOMAN: REBIRTH one-shot.

BATMAN IN THE BRAVE & THE BOLD: THE BRONZE AGE VOL. 1 – These groundbreaking stories featured some of Batman’s greatest team-ups with such legendary characters as Wonder Woman, the Flash, Deadman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Teen Titans and others, all by some of the foremost comics talent of the Bronze Age—Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Bob Haney, Dick Giordano and Dennis O’Neil, to name a few.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And please don’t let the veil forgetfulness keep you from remembering to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Showcase Saturday 5.19.18

It just won’t stop raining here, and I’m tired and irritable and can’t think of anything clever to say, so let’s just do this.

From DC:
HARLEY QUINN: HARLEY LOVES JOKER #1 – Paul Dini returns to the character he co-created to deliver the incredible two-issue wrap-up of the “Harley Loves Joker” flashback tale that ran as a backup in HARLEY QUINN last year! As far as The Joker’s concerned, the new headquarters Harley built for them is absolutely perfect…but only she knows the whole place is rigged to come crashing down around them—and she doesn’t know how to stop it!

HARLEY QUINN: HARLEY LOVES JOKER #2 – And in the second and final issue in this two-issue miniseries, the Harley/Joker crime spree reaches an explosive crescendo—literally! Everything blows up—including, perhaps, their relationship…?

SUPERMAN SPECIAL #1 – “THE PROMISE”! Superman’s world is about to change in a big way, but before it does, the Man of Steel has some unfinished business to attend to…on Dinosaur Island! Superman and a forgotten soldier of the past take one last trip together into the abyss of tomorrow, as Captain Storm now stands face-to-face with the world of today! This extra-sized special also features stories by writers Mark Russell and Ian Flynn with art by Kaare Andrews and Bryan Hitch!

 

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN #4 – Elatha may have been the most recent king of Tir Na Nóg to die, but death is never far from the throne. Batman and Wonder Woman learn about the realm’s first king, his mysterious silver arm and what bearing it may have on the problems of the present, as the Fomorians grow increasingly weary of these strangers and their questions. The duo’s investigation was supposed to bring answers and keep the peace, but it might burn into the spark that ignites the first shots of war!

From Image:

BLACK MAGICK, VOL. 2: AWAKENINGS 2 TP – The trap around Rowan Black continues to close, with the Hammer closing in on one side and the Ascension now in motion on the other. But the ultimate wound may not be wielded by magick, but instead delivered via the heart. New York Times bestselling creators GREG RUCKA and NICOLA SCOTT bring you the second volume of the critically acclaimed series. Collects BLACK MAGICK #6-11

 

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #36 – “MOTHERING INVENTION,” Part Three One day we’ll reveal a happy secret, like a Secret Santa, but not today.

From Marvel:

MIGHTY THOR: AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 – “The Death of the Mighty Thor” has come and gone. But Jane Foster’s power to inspire lives on — even in the far future! Don’t miss the tribute to Jason Aaron’s epic tale of Thor and the mighty hammer Mjolnir, drawn by rising star Jen Bartel! And with or without a Thor, the War of Realms continues. As Malekith’s power grows, the realms will fall — and who is left to stop him? Eisner Award–winning artist Ramón Pérez kicks off the next stage of Jason Aaron’s ongoing saga.

 

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to etc.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And also as always, you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.