The Threshold

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.



Spotlight Sunday 5.13.18

After a lot of internal back-and-forth about which book to focus on, some stray thoughts about the continued record-breaking success of the latest Marvel Studios offering means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Exiles #3
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Cover: David Marquez
Rated T+
$3.99
Marvel

“Are we about to go bye-bye?”

I had considered writing about Eternity Girl, in large part as an opportunity to talk about DC’s Young Animal imprint in general, and I will, one day, but today isn’t that day. (That is to say, I’ll write about one of the books from Young Animal, not necessarily – but probably – Eternity Girl.

The reason that today isn’t that day is that last week was Free Comic Book Day, and, as mentioned there was a very strong turnout for it at my local comic shop, and because Avengers: Infinity War continues to make all the money at the box office.

The thing is, those two things – a good turnout for Free Comic Book Day and the box office success of comic book movies – aren’t nearly so connected as they could or should be. Movie success doesn’t do a whole lot to drive comic book sales. There is an entire generation of fans of different heroes who have never even considered picking up any comic books featuring those heroes.

Many theories exist as to why that might be, and what can be done about it, but one of the more common refrains is that it’s an issue of adaptation. That is, in the act of adapting comics to film, the moviemakers take a great deal of artistic license, picking and choosing bits and pieces from the stories that have been told throughout the years, mixing them together and adding in new elements to create versions of character that often share little more than a name with their four-color counterparts (if even that).

Some argue, then, that the solution is to align the comics more closely with the movies.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic towards that idea, though I don’t think that’s the core of the problem, given that it’s less a matter of people, flush with excitement about the latest blockbuster comic book movie rushing into a comic shop, grabbing a comic, and then discovering that the status quo for the character in the comic is radically different from that in the movie than it is that it’s not even occurring to those excited movie-goers to walk into a comic shop at all.

Beyond that, aligning comics with movies represents a substantial challenge, particularly for characters with long and convoluted histories, and with an existing fanbase that has grown weary of the kind of reboots that creating such an alignment would necessitate, and, to me, it feels like an unnecessarily restrictive approach to storytelling. More restrictive even then a hidebound commitment to adhering to decades’ worth of established continuity, I think, particularly given that there’s no guarantee that it will succeed anyway.

Much of the success of a movie depends on the people in it; I’m not sure that an Iron Man comic, for example, could present a Tony Stark who is as snarky and likeably dickish as the movie version without having the actual presence and charisma of Robert Downey, Jr to sell the portrayal.

There is a balance that can be struck, I think – though as someone who loves comics above all other things, I do sometimes wonder why the reverse argument of “Make the movies more like the comics” is seldom made – but even that is a secondary consideration, given that there are other barriers to entry in making the move from movie fan to comics fan.

The biggest barrier, I think, is cost, which is why you might end up standing in line on Free Comic Book Day, while having the comic shop all to yourself on any given non-free comic book day.

In any case, thinking about this is what led me to decide to write about Exiles this week, as it’s a comic that, somewhat free from the constraints of adhering to continuity, has created a bit of an alignment with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the form of a version of a classic character based on the movie version of that character. Namely, a Valkyrie who is, at least physically, based on Tessa Thompson’s character from Thor: Ragnarok.

Exiles is a relaunch of a title from several years back which featured a group of characters – mostly mutants – from alternate realities who, guided by a device called the Tallus, travelled across the multiverse to deal with threats to reality. It was a fun book that I enjoyed, in large part because of the variations on familiar characters.

The new series features the return of one character from the original: Clarice Ferguson, AKA Blink.

Blink has ties to Fox’s X-Verse, as a version of the character is featured on The Gifted, though there’s little in the way of physical resemblance. Comics Blink is a yellow-eyed woman with lilac skin, pink hair, and pointed ears and is of West Indian descent, while TV (and movie, though played by a different actress) Blink is an Asian woman with weird eyes.

After having settled on Earth 616 – the mainstream reality of the Marvel Universe – Blink gets called back into action by the Tallus to form a new team of Exiles to deal with the threat of the Time Eater, an entity that is devouring entire realities.

The threat of the Time Eater is explained to her by a man known as The Unseen, who serves as something of a narrator for the book. The Unseen is the result of one attempt to align with the movies; while the MCU version of Nick Fury portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson was based on the Nick Fury from Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics (an alternate version of the mainstream continuity), the original Nick Fury was a white guy and World War II veteran who was given a life-extending serum that allowed him to continue to serve his country for decades.

However, now that the Ultimate line is no more, Marvel decided to introduce Nick’s biracial son, Nick Fury, Jr, who looks more like the movie version (and, like his dad, lost his eye and wears the trademark eyepatch) as the mainstream Nick Fury and sideline the original, but rather than simply killing off the old man, they made him into The Unseen.

The Unseen is imprisoned on Earth’s moon, taking the place of the late Uatu, the Watcher, forced to observe all that occurs, but unable to interfere.

(Like I said, there’s no way to clean all of this up and make it easily-accessible to non-comics readers without just scrapping everything.)

The other Watchers, however, believe that The Unseen, using an alternate reality’s OG Nick Fury as his hands, has violated the terms of his imprisonment and is interfering (by having formed the new Exiles team), and they intend to execute him.

Blink and company are there at the time, though, and things go awry, leading to the Tallus becoming damaged in some fashion and the Watchers either hightailing it or being destroyed.

The end result of it is that the Exiles find themselves being transported seemingly at random, as the Tallus has lost its ability to navigate the multiverse, unable to bring them to the specific location it’s attempting to reach, though managing to just barely keep them ahead of the Time Eater, which has been devouring every (non-Earth 616) reality they’ve visited so far.

In addition to Blink, the team consists of the aforementioned Valkyrie, an older, meaner, battle-scarred version of the current Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan (though she insists on being called simply Khan), a cartoony li’l Wolverine from a cutesy, kid-friendly reality, and Iron Lad, a young genius named Nathaniel Richards, who is, if I recall correctly, the nephew of Reed Richards, and who may or may not one day become Kang the Conqueror.

(While he’s from an alternate reality, he’s the nephew of the mainstream Reed Richards, the result of Reed’s father, years earlier, becoming stranded in another timeline. Comics are complicated.)

As they’re transported about, the Exiles find themselves in a strange reality ruled over by a hippie version of Namor.

While there, Blink bumps into one of her old teammates, Morph, who is a literal blast from the past, as he’s there as part of a mission with the original Exiles from years earlier. Their reunion is short-lived, however, as the Time Eater shows up and chows down.

Next, the team finds itself in an alternate World War II in which Peggy Carter has taken on the mantle of Captain America, and, with her sidekick Becky, is preparing for a mission to stop the Red Skull from destroying New York with something called an “atomic bomb.”

Peggy assumes the Exiles are the support team that was sent by the top brass to help with the mission, and figuring that they might as well, the team decides to play along. After all, none of them particularly wants to see the Red Skull blow up New York.

Along the way, they learn that it’s meant to be a suicide mission, and that no one from that pre-atomic era understands that blowing up a plane with an atomic bomb on it, even high above the city, is a really bad idea, so Blink teleports everyone – other than the Red Skull, of course – to safety, along with the atomic bomb, leaving the Red Skull to deal with the more conventional explosive left behind.

For the first time in a while, the Time Eater doesn’t seem as though it’s about to show up, so the team decides to enjoy some much-deserved downtime.

There are a lot of people who are EXTREMELY MAD ONLINE about Becky being a lesbian. Because of course there are.

That…that doesn’t work out so well.

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the original Exiles, and I’m particularly fond of Blink, so I’m glad to be able to see her in action again. (I wish TV/movie version were more in line with the comics version, at least in terms of personality.)

One aspect I like about the book is that it does have the kind of freedom to switch things up that most other books don’t, but, conversely, I also like that a lot of it is based on a deep knowledge of the history and continuity of the Marvel Universe, as it often draws from established alternate realities, or bases new realities on small, but pivotal, What If…?­-style divergences.

It’s not there yet, but it has the potential to be a gateway for new readers who are only familiar with the movies while providing some lived-in details that will be of comfort to established readers, and providing something new for both groups.

The very notion of a multiverse – and travelling across it – opens up a lot of possibilities for creating synergy with adaptations in other media, and I think that having a version of Valkyrie from another reality who is at least somewhat like the movie version is a good step, but it’s a rather timid one. Given that they move through time as well as space, there’s no reason why she couldn’t be a younger version of the movie Valkyrie from an earlier point in her life.

(Alternatively, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – assuming it continues past this season – that featured a portal that brings over a character from Earth 616, with a corresponding storyline in the comics.)

It’s just a thought, and we’ll see if it makes any moves in that direction as it continues.

As it is, the book itself is fun so far, though it is a strange mix of old and new – it follows the modern comics storytelling technique of decompression, but at the same time it’s rather compressed, with a lot of stuff packed into every issue, and very dense, panel-packed pages to accommodate it all.

I don’t think this comic is the key to translating box office success into comics sales, but I have to believe that there’s a way to do it, and even these small, ultimately timid moves, are necessary to drive the discussion.

And speaking of attempts made, mostly in vain, to drive sales…

Recommended Reading:

EXILES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 1 – The original alternate-reality dimensionhoppers! Led by Blink, the fan-favorite character from the Age of Apocalypse, the Exiles were each plucked from different times and dimensions, brought together to fix the kinks in the chains of the Multiverse! Meet Nocturne, daughter of Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch! Magnus, son of Magneto and Rogue! Thunderbird, transformed by Apocalypse into a powerhouse! Mimic, one of his planet’s greatest champions! And the shape-changing Morph! Together, they must travel from world to world, striving to put right the timelines – or risk seeing those realities blink out of existence! But not everyone will survive their first mission! Who will live to visit far-out places from a Skrull-conquered Earth to Mojoworld, and take on threats including Phoenix, the Hulk, Sentinels and Galactus? And what uncanny versions of your favorite heroes will join the Exiles?

EXCALIBUR EPIC COLLECTION: THE CROSS-TIME CAPER – Amazing adventures across the Marvel Multiverse! England’s premier superteam takes their show on the road in an interdimensional odyssey. Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, Captain Britain and Meggan face a truly epic journey through incredible alternate dimensions, guest-starring nearly every hero and villain you can think of – or very unreasonable facsimiles thereof! But what do Crusader X, Centurion Britannus, Chevalier Bretagne and Lady London all have in common? Why, they’re all Captain Britain, of course! Traumatic transformations and titanic tricksters await!

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE VOL. 5 – Fan-favorite AVENGERS scribe Kurt Busiek’s most epic tale concludes in this star-studded volume! When the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror launches an all-out war against the present day, the entire planet becomes a battlefield – and the Avengers are on the front line! Atlanteans, Deviants, Sentinels and even the Master of the World join the conflagration – but how will the Avengers react when Kang…wins?! Also featuring outer-space action with the 3-D Man! The spawn of Ultron! And an untold tale from the Avengers’ past, as the original team takes on Dr. Doom!

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for the Showcase Saturday.

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).

In an alternate reality, you’re already supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon, so why not do it in this one, too?



Showcase Saturday 5.12.18

It’s something of a probationary week, with a few titles that I’m giving a chance to wow me before I decide whether to drop them entirely, add them to my pull list, or start trade-waiting after the first arc concludes.

Let’s take a look:

From DC:
ETERNITY GIRL #2 – Far beyond the farthest any mortal has ever traveled is a nameless world nested in the very heart of existence. On that planet is a structure that extends infinitely into the heavens. It is the Shining Tower, the axis of life and death. And to end her suffering, Eternity Girl must destroy it. The catch? Everyone else will die, too.

ETERNITY GIRL #3 – While Eternity Girl and Madame Atom make their way to the mysterious Shining Tower that sits at the intersection of being and nothingness, Caroline’s old boss reveals a devastating secret about Eternity Girl’s powers that even she doesn’t know, but that could destroy her for good. This looks like a job for…Never Man?

THE IMMORTAL MEN #2 – “THE END OF FOREVER” part two! Following the destruction of their base of operations, the Immortal Men find themselves on the defensive! Their only hope rests with an emerging metahuman named Caden Park—but the evil Conquest has gotten to Caden first! Will the remaining few battle-ravaged Immortal Men be able to rescue their young would-be savior? And what connection do Caden’s tactile telepathic abilities have to the survival of humanity?

WONDER WOMAN #46 – “The Dark Gods” part one! In the wake of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, new secrets of the cosmos have been revealed and taken form…and though she doesn’t know it yet, Wonder Woman is at the center of their plans!

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…

From Image:
KINGSMAN, VOL. 2: THE RED DIAMOND TP – Following the global success of blockbuster movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we launched the sequel to the hit comic book series by MARK MILLAR & DAVE GIBBONS. KINGSMAN: THE RED DIAMOND is a brand-new Eggsy adventure as he follows in his mentor’s footsteps, but is still rough around the edges for a Kingsman agent. In this awesome six-issue volume, Eggsy embarks on a rescue mission to save Prince Philip and unravel an international terror plot, in a story that starts where James Bond draws the line. ROB WILLIAMS (Suicide Squad) and SIMON FRASER take the helm for this stunning six-issue miniseries. Collects KINGSMAN: THE RED DIAMOND #1-6

From Marvel:

DOMINO #2 – Marvel’s #1 soldier of fortune’s luck has finally gone south… turning her life as a mercenary upside down! Plus: Who is Domino’s evil counterpart? Guest-starring AMADEUS CHO!

 

 

 

 

EXILES #3 – The fan-favorite Captain America — Peggy Carter of the Marvel Puzzle Quest game — faces off against an apocalyptically armed Red Skull! And the Exiles are just in time to join the fight — ’cuz they’ve been kicked off their mission! There’s a new team of Watchers in town, and they’re cracking down on the Exiles’ interference in the timestream — even if it means the death of everything. Can the Exiles salvage Peggy Carter’s world, fix the Tallus and get back to saving reality before the Time-Eater tracks them down again?

That does it for this week’s Showcase Saturday. Come back tomorrow for…y’know, the thing.

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).

Remember that you can – I swear, it’s true, even if you don’t want it to be true – support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Spotlight Sunday 5.6.18

The inclusion of an unusually timely and topical story means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Action Comics Special #1
Writer:  Mark Russell, Max Landis, Dan Jurgens
Artist:  Francis Manapul, Will Conrad, Jill Thompson
Cover:  Will Conrad
Rated T
$4.99
DC

“Instead of embracing the super, he embraces the man. Therein lies his weakness.”

If you’re on Twitter and follow any comics professionals you’ll inevitably see responses from fans arguing that said pros should stick to tweeting about their work and “leave their politics out of it,” or complaining about super-hero comics being taken over by “Social Justice Warriors.”

Imagine. People who complain about super-heroes being interested in justice.

Of course, there are entire generations of comics-readers who somehow never managed to catch on to the idea that Nazis = bad guys, and there were, rather infamously, complaints from readers last year about a scene in which Superman saves a group of refugees from being shot by an economically anxious American citizen, so I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised by the number of people who have missed the point so completely.

Super-hero comics are often described – sometimes dismissively, sometimes simply matter-of-factly – as “juvenile power fantasies.” There is an obvious truth to that, of course, but that label is not quite so apt or descriptive in its usage as it could be, focusing on the physics-defying abilities of the brightly-clad characters who engage in their monthly adventures rather than the real power fantasy at the core of the stories: the fantasy of power being used wisely, and for the purposes of doing what’s right.

Obviously, what is “right” is hardly a settled question, and even in the stories themselves there is seldom an easy and obvious answer to the question, because if there were, the stories would be just as boring as so many of their detractors assume they must be. In any case, no matter how “right” is defined, it’s a safe bet that it is not turning a blind eye to the slaughter of innocent refugees, and, in general, it will align with principles that, for some, will seem tied to a partisan worldview.

In his debut, Superman was a crusading man of the people, fighting against a corrupt system, and as Clark Kent, he, along with Lois Lane, has long been a member of the “liberal media,” working as a crusading reporter, working to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That said, while politics of one type or another – whether readers noticed them or not – have always been infused into comics, they tend not to be particularly overt or explicit, favoring allegory, metaphor, and satire to the use of real-world figures and issues. There are exceptions, or course, and sometimes the allegories, metaphors, and satirical portrayals provide very little in the way of cover.

Such is the case for the second story in this issue – which was the one that made me choose this issue for the Spotlight – but we’ll get to that one shortly.

The first story, by Dan Jurgens, which wraps up his most recent run, tells the tale of an aged Lex Luthor, twisted by decades of bitterness and hatred, traveling from the future to the present in pursuit of revenge against the Man of Steel.

Using advanced technology, he breaches the defenses of the Fortress of Solitude, and discovers a truth that had eluded him for so long: Superman is Clark Kent, prize-winning journalist, and family man.

People complain about Superman being “too perfect,” but look at how he’s holding that pizza. OMFG Clark, what kind of MONSTER are you?

Future Lex launches an attack targeting Lois, but it’s really a feint intended to hit Superman with a Kryptonian nerve agent that weakens Superman slightly, intending to slow him down enough to prevent him from stopping a second attempt on Lois’s life before finally doing him in.

However, after observing that the missile used in the first attempt utilized Kryptonian technology, Superman confronted the one person in the world who would be smart enough to figure out that Lois is “Mrs. Superman” and to mix terrestrial and Kryptonian technology, and who holds any sort of grudge against him, and isn’t Batman (because you know he had to have been on Superman’s list, even if we don’t see Superman considering it): Lex Luthor.

Well, present-day Lex, who isn’t exactly a super-villain – indeed, he’s even a part-time hero – but there is some bad blood between them, albeit not quite so bad as it must be in the future, or as it has been in other continuities.

Superman’s angry confrontation with Present-day Lex (PLex) doesn’t go very well, particularly as it becomes clear that PLex had nothing to do with it, but it does pay off, as it gets PLex’s attention, and leads him to insert himself into the confrontation with Future Lex (FLex), arriving just in the nick of time to save Lois.

PLex wants to get involved with the fight with FLex, but Lois shames him into helping the people on the street who have been placed in danger by the conflict, so he isn’t there to learn the identity of the mysterious attacker once Superman, despite being weakened, overcomes FLex.

Superman, having not yet lived through the experiences that drove FLex to such extreme behavior, is baffled by the revelation, but receives no answers, as the strain of his efforts take their toll on FLex’s heart and he dies. His armor self-destructs before PLex can learn the truth about who this mysterious antagonist had been (or will be), and Superman opts not to tell him.

The next story, by writer Mark Russell, is considerably less action-packed, but it also focuses on Lex Luthor. I mentioned the use of the satirical in presenting politics in comics, and the post-Crisis, Byrne-era version of Lex Luthor is a solid example of that approach, based as he was on the type of ultra-wealthy, Wall Street businessman who was so prominent, generally – and sensibly – as a villain in the greed-soaked 1980s. The type of enormously successful, shark-like mogul that a certain current inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue spent so long presenting himself as being that eventually people decided to believe that he actually was what he claimed to be.

Over the years, many people have made the obvious comparisons between Lex Luthor and Donald Trump, particularly given that there was a period in the comics in which Lex ascended to the presidency, though this story makes the comparison much more explicit.

In the rapid-fire news cycle in which we live, it may seem like it was years ago, but in reality it’s only been a week since the cutting remarks by comedian Michelle Wolf at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) sparked a firestorm of controversy, casting into stark relief the ugliness of the whole ritual which, while ostensibly about being a celebration of the First Amendment and the recognition of the value of reporting and a free press, seems like nothing more than a monument to the insidious coziness of access journalism. Wolf spoke truth to power, and many of the people whose job it is to do the same shirked that responsibility, attacking the incivility of it all, and doing their best to comfort the comfortable.

The WHCD, to me, seems an odd setting in which to find Lois Lane and Clark Kent, and yet, in this story that seems to take place in no established continuity (though it does roughly align with pre-Flashpoint continuity), that’s where we find them.

The idea of the “crusading reporter” is likely more myth than reality, but that is the reality of who Lois and Clark are, the kind of reporters who try to change the world, and as such they don’t really fit in a setting dedicated to maintaining the status quo.

Still, it is a prestigious event intended to honor the best in reporting, so in that sense, I suppose it’s a place they do belong.

Given the production time involved, the timing of this story is merely coincidental, and it could not, of course, provide any commentary on the most recent gala, but it does manage to get in some biting commentary at the current state of things, particularly in this exchange between Lois and Clark.

They story is largely told through the POV of Lex, as he reflects on his past, and his place in the world, how he got to that place, and what he thinks his place in the world ought to be.

The parallels to Trump are particularly strong in the references to the role the media plays in propping him up, and the mythology he’s built around himself of being a self-made man, despite having been born into wealth.

The crux of the tale is in Clark’s speech – which follows after a speech from Lois that was considerably more blistering than Wolf’s, as is only appropriate – which is the lead-in to presenting a humanitarian award to Superman (who, mysteriously, but understandably, given how busy he is, is not present to accept it), in which he lightly roasts some of the members of the Justice League who are there in support of their team member, and delivers some sick burns on Lex.

This hearkens back to another infamous real-world WHCD in which then-president Barack Obama mercilessly roasted reality-TV host Donald Trump, an event that was said to have prompted him to run for president as an act of spite.

The third story, by Max Landis, was not written specifically for this special, and as such has no connection to Lex Luthor, instead telling a small, holiday-themed personal story focusing on Lois and Clark.

Lois gets in an accident and wrecks her beloved car, which is very upsetting to her, as she and the car had been through a lot together, and she imagined sitting in the driver’s seat one last time for a journey through the forest with Clark to visit her aunt for Christmas.

On Christmas morning, Lois awakes to find a note from Clark telling her that there’s a surprise waiting for her on the roof. She goes there to find Clark (as Superman), with the seat and steering wheel from the car, and it ends with Superman flying her (in the seat, with steering wheel in hand) through the forest. Aww.

Landis wrote an out-of-continuity Superman mini-series a while back called American Alien. It had its moments, but one of the main problems I had with it was the dialogue. There is a way to write Superman dialogue that remains true to the heart of the character but that is more naturalistic and that doesn’t come across as cornball and overly earnest, but Landis hasn’t found it.

Politics don’t enter too directly into the Landis story itself, but its inclusion here was, I think, somewhat driven by the recent discourse in the real world; the story was originally slated to run in a holiday special but was likely pulled due to Landis being called out for his behavior as part of the #MeToo movement. Now that the heat is off – I’ve seen no real fallout or repercussions for Landis – DC likely decided it was “safe” to run the story.

It drives home a certain point. It’s said that “the personal is political,” and I believe that’s borne out by the way this last story made its way into a collection of stories in which it’s an ill fit. Beyond that, though, is the ridiculous notion that comics should be apolitical. As if such a thing were possible.

This was an uneven collection of stories, with the first by Jurgens being the one I liked most, which seems somewhat ironic, I suppose, given that I’ve focused here on the place of politics within comics, and yet it was perhaps the least political of the three, at least on the surface. (Though, again, the politics of the Landis story were external to the story itself.)

However, politics, or at least the driving force behind them, were at the core of it, with the underlying conflict the story contains being the result of a lack of empathy or a concern for anything beyond the self.

The art by Will Conrad is top-notch; I’ve long been a fan of his style, which has a sort of old-school, Jerry Ordway/Brian Bolland flair, with strong blacks and excellent hatching. That said, it needs to be paired with good colors, as modern coloring techniques and strong pencil/ink rendering often do not mix well. It’s a problem I’ve seen elsewhere with Conrad’s work, but fortunately here the colors by Will Quintana work with the art rather than against it. It’s a great-looking story.

I did like certain elements of the WHCD story – particularly the commentary from Lois, both in her pep talk for Clark, and in her remarks at the dinner itself, in which she straight-up called the president a murderer, referring to reports of a deadly drone strike in Somalia mentioned earlier in the story – but some of the satirical content was a little too strained and ridiculous.

I’m generally fond of Jill Thompson’s work – she illustrated my favorite Sandman story arc – but the doofiness of the faces she draws undercut some of the story’s power.

As for the final story, I’m a fan of Manapul as well; his light and loose style somehow conveys a sense of optimism that is ideal for super-hero comics in general, and for Superman in particular. (The story itself is pretty insubstantial, but…fine.)

Overall, this issue was basically filler as we wait to see what the post-1000 future holds for Action and Superman, but it was an interesting choice to engage with rather weighty and substantial subject matter in a one-off special.

I don’t think that politics are a thing that comics should – or can – avoid, though I will say that it works best when they do so at something of a remove, without explicitly endorsing a particular party, in a general sense. Obviously, specific characters can have a specific party allegiance, but, as the driving impulse behind this site and the platform it’s intended to be, comics are for everyone.

Naturally, that idea of inclusiveness will resonate more strongly with people of one political persuasion than another, but I would suggest that if the idea of justice is something that offends you, the problem isn’t with comics.

If you legitimately believe that the inclusion of political ideologies with which you may not agree is some new, SJW agenda, I would humbly suggest that you consider that Kirby ended a storyline in Captain America with Nixon killing himself after being revealed to be the leader of a group of super-villains, or that you read any of his Fourth World books, or read the O’Neal/Adams run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, or…well, just learn to read.

If nothing else, please take away this key point: in comics, as in real life, NAZIS ARE THE BAD GUYS.

Recommended Reading:

SUPERMAN: RED SON – SUPERMAN: RED SON is a vivid tale of Cold War paranoia, that reveals how the ship carrying the infant who would later be known as Superman lands in the midst of the 1950s Soviet Union.  Raised on a collective, the infant grows up and becomes a symbol to the Soviet people, and the world changes drastically from what we know – bringing Superman into conflict with Batman, Lex Luthor and many others.

SUPERMAN: PRESIDENT LUTHOR – Follow the campaign, election night and inauguration in SUPERMAN: PRESIDENT LUTHOR, as Lex Luthor becomes the world’s most powerful political figure!

THE SANDMAN VOL. 7: BRIEF LIVES – Older and more powerful than the gods themselves, the Endless are a dysfunctional family of cosmic beings that have ruled over the realms of dream, desire, despair, destiny, destruction, death, and delirium since the beginning of time. But three hundred years ago, one of the mythical beings gave up his duties and left his realm, never to be seen again. Now on a mission to find their missing sibling, Delirium and older brother Dream encounter immortal humans and various deities as they try to locate the prodigal Destruction. But as their adventure draws Dream into a final, tragic confrontation with his son Orpheus, the eternal being learns the true meaning of fate and consequences.

PREZ: THE FIRST TEEN PRESIDENT – Created by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti in 1973, Prez captured the spirit of his era, spreading a message of “Peace in our Time” and fighting government corruption in the form of the villainous Boss Smiley. Though his term in office was short-lived, the idea of the nineteen-year-old political whiz kid nevertheless went on to inspire such comics greats as Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Ed Brubaker and Grant Morrison.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for Showcase Saturday.

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 remember that you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon. (And also remember that Nazis are the bad guys.)



Showcase Saturday 5.5.18

Happy Free Comic Book Day!

Normally I hate standing in line…and today wasn’t any different, but I was pleased that the line I had to stand in just to get into the comic shop was so long. (Though I did still hate standing in it.)

I didn’t grab any freebies (for myself), but here’s what I bought:

From DC:

ACTION COMICS SPECIAL #1 – “The Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor”! When Superman’s world was reborn, his greatest enemy became his most unexpected ally. But does that truly reflect Lex Luthor—or was it all a sham? Now, as Lex Luthor’s path toward righteousness reaches its apex, he finds himself involved in an adventure in which Superman stands to be destroyed. What choice will Luthor make? Will he save Superman or watch him die at the hands of a foe he could not possibly imagine? This oversized special also features stories from the acclaimed teams of Max Landis and Francis Manapul (in a story previously slated to appear in the DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 #1) and Mark Russell and Jill Thompson!

DC NATION #0 – Just in time for Free Comic Book Day, this special comic priced at just $0.25 US features three brand-new stories from a lineup of superstar talent—and each tale serves as a prelude to some of the biggest DC events of 2018!

 

 

 

From Dynamite:

RED SONJA #15 – In the penultimate chapter of Hell or Hyrkania, Sonja returns to where her adventure started, the nation of Meru, to find it completely under the iron rule of Kulan Gath-who is using the native magic to grow more powerful than ever. The wizard needs to be stopped once and for all, before he finally gains the omnipotence he craves…but there’s one thing still standing between Gath and Sonja-and it’s something the she-devil never expected to face.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #1 – The She-Devil with a Sword meets the Lord of the Jungle!
Eson Duul is an evil man. The mere mention of his name makes powerful quake with fear. He has no regard for life, including that of man. But he may finally have met his match when he finds himself up against Red Sonja and Tarzan!
Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Red Sonja) and Walter Geovani (Red Sonja, Clean Room) reunite to bring us the crossover event featuring two of fiction’s greatest heroes side by side at last!

From Image:

EAST OF WEST #37 – “ALIGNMENT OF THE STARS” When one bad choice leads to another and another.

SEX CRIMINALS #24 – “FIVE-FINGERED DISCOUNT,” Part Four The long-awaited return of the most beloved piece of the SEX CRIMINALS phenomenon that took the comics world by storm: the eight-panel grid! Wait, what do you mean you didn’t even notice it was gone? How dare you!

 

 

 

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to head to your local participating shop to celebrate Free Comic Book Day, and be sure to buy a thing or two while you’re there. I went to  Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Find your own here if you don’t already have one!

Be sure to come back tomorrow for Spotlight Sunday, and remember: you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Spotlight Sunday 4.29.18

It’s not the best or most interesting comic I read this week, but it is the best example of a kind of inadvertent theme I noticed in my purchases, and so there are spoilers ahead for…

Batman Beyond #19
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Ande Parks, Phil Hester
Cover: Bernard Chang
Rated T
$3.99
DC

“Live long enough and the debts of the past are bound to come due.”

I’ve been reading comic books pretty much since I could read – and was fascinated by them even before that – which totals up to more than forty years.

Beyond reading new comics, I have, of course, read old comics that hit the stands long before I made my debut, and more than a few books and articles on the history of different characters, creators, and the medium itself.

Over the course of those decades, if there’s one thing that’s stood out (though there have been many), it’s the notion of a legacy.

Legacy characters are a hallmark of comics, whether in the form of a straightforward notion of passing the mantle down from one generation to the next, as with the Phantom, a character who creates the illusion of immortality by bequeathing the role and responsibility from father to son, or with characters who are inspired by some earlier hero and take up the legacy, as with Mr. Terrific (who is at the core of one of my purchases this week).

There are legacies for fans and creators as well, with new generations carrying and passing on the torch of love for the medium, and the legacy – some would say baggage – of continuity and tradition within the stories that the comics tell.

Batman Beyond is, of course, a legacy character, one introduced as the titular character in an animated series nearly twenty years ago, a young man named Terry McGinnis, who takes on the role decades after Bruce Wayne retired from crimefighting.

Similarly, the current comic itself is a legacy, flowing from the different Batman Beyond comics that preceded it, and this storyline is driven by the appearance of a legacy character based on a character from the animated series.

The current run of the comic differs from the others that preceded it, in that they were set in the continuity established by the various animated series that made up the DC Animated Universe, while this comic hews a little more closely to the standard continuity of the current DC Universe.

The events of the animated series, are, however, still considered canon; it’s in the specifics where things differ.

When this series launched (or rather, the series that preceded it before it relaunched with new numbering), Terry McGinnis was believed to be dead, and a time-tossed Tim Drake had taken up the legacy of both Batman and Batman Beyond.

Terry turned up alive eventually – as did an elderly Bruce, who was also believed dead – and once again donned the cowl to protect the streets of Neo-Gotham.

The small circle of people in the know about Terry’s alter ego has expanded to include his kid brother, Matt, and Terry’s girlfriend Dana.

This issue is a culmination of a storyline that started with Terry facing off against another character from the TV series, a cybernetically-enhanced hunter called Stalker. It turned out that Stalker, with whom Terry had previously achieved a kind of détente, had been hired to capture Terry, and had only taken the job because he needed the money to provide food and supplies to his village in Africa. Stalker ended up quitting the job after Terry saved his life, and so the person who had been paying him stepped up to finish the job.

Payback, as the villain behind it all called himself, had been a teenaged victim of bullying who used advanced weapons to become something of a vigilante delivering, well, payback, on behalf of teens who had, like him, been victimized and ignored. But the last Terry knew, Payback was safely locked away getting the help he needed.

Thrown into the mix is a young woman named Melanie Walker – also from the TV show – who is grappling with her own legacy as the former Ten of the Royal Flush Gang, and the Gang itself is something of a legacy, and has been trying to make up for her former life by helping Batman.

She also has a bit of a crush – which is reciprocated, despite Terry’s feelings for Dana – on both Batman and Terry. (She’s not part of the large inner circle that knows that they’re one and the same.)

Both Batman and Ten are captured by Payback, who turns out to be the father of the original Payback, which makes it a rather unusual legacy. His son ended up taking his own life, and the new Payback blames his son’s suicided on Batman.

Payback is broadcasting his slow, torturous execution of Batman for all the world to see, there’s very little time to call in outside assistance, and Bruce is confined to a wheelchair, unable to intervene.

However, Matt has, of late, been obsessing over the careers of the various Robins, and, unbeknownst to Terry and Bruce, has begun a training regimen with an obvious eye towards taking a more active role in his brother’s second life.

Matt convinces Bruce – who, despite whatever recriminations he may feel, can always find a way to justify putting children in harm’s way – to let him take some equipment and rush off to Terry’s aid.

Initially, the mission for Matt is simply to cut off the power to the location in which Payback is killing Terry to allow Terry to break free and save himself. Dana, who had shown up after seeing the broadcast of Terry’s plight, thinks even that is too dangerous for a child, and chides Bruce for his apparent disregard for Matt’s safety, and wonders, as so many others have,

“What is wrong with you people? How can you live like this?”

Once Matt accomplishes his mission, however, he can’t help but try to get more involved, as Payback activates your standard “I’ll happily die as long as I take you with me” self-destruct mechanism. The only real result of Matt’s clumsy attempt at helping, though, is pissing off Terry, who manages to stop the destruct sequence, and delivers some hard truth to Payback, who had been a terrible, neglectful father, about who really killed his son.

With Terry saved, Dana leaves the cave threatening to call Child Protective Services on Bruce, and Matt and Terry return so that Terry can have an angry confrontation with Bruce. Most of that confrontation is set aside for a moment, however, as Terry wraps things up by leading a Wayne Enterprises-funded relief mission to Stalker’s village.

As I said, it wasn’t so much that this was a great story – though it was fine – that led me to write about it, but rather the way that it is so dependent on that theme of legacy, in almost all the forms in which that concept impacts serialized comics storytelling.

It’s a legacy book about a legacy character, featuring characters dealing with their own legacies in markedly different ways. Melanie is trying to turn her back on her legacy and to make amends for the harm it’s caused; Terry, sometimes reluctantly, accepts the responsibilities and the costs associated with the legacy he has taken on; Matt is rushing joyfully and heedlessly towards becoming a part of a legacy; Bruce examines the legacy of his own behavior; Payback takes up a legacy as a means of ignoring his responsibility for creating that legacy.

As a writer, Dan Jurgens tackles the legacy of the history of children donning colorful costumes and risking their lives as kid sidekicks, presenting multiple reactions to and perspectives about the idea, and as readers we contend with that legacy as an accepted part of super hero comics.

The concept of legacy in comics is something that I’ve struggled with throughout my years as a fan of the medium. It’s not something that can be ignored, but it is often – as with the case of kid sidekicks – something that we must find a way to reconcile. There have been many attempts at changing the narrative to make it more palatable – like the notion that Bucky wasn’t quite so young as he seemed, and that his apparent youth was simply a cover for the darker actions taking place behind the scenes – or to deconstruct it, or to parody it, or to follow the narrative to its inevitable destructive end.

But it remains an enshrined legacy, one that is foolish, and dark, and often silly, but one that has led to so many positive narrative developments. There are many ways in which the idea of Robin is ridiculous – beyond the hot pants and pixie boots – and there’s a strong argument for dispensing with the character entirely. And yet, for all that, the DC Universe would be so much poorer without the presence of Dick Grayson (and not just because of his butt), and it remains nigh-impossible to consider abandoning that legacy.

I don’t know that I really have much of a point beyond the obvious “Most fandoms have to find a way to deal with problematic tropes,” which isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is something that I often think about. Not just in terms of kid sidekicks, but just…all of it. So much of what we love about comics is built on things that we’re also kind of embarrassed by, or that are there just because they’ve always been there, and we can’t conceive of them not being there, or we feel uneasy if they’re not there*.

Which is rather a lot like life, I suppose.

As for the comic itself, like I said, it was…fine. No specific complaints, though I’m not that keen on the art. Given the book’s ahem legacy I would like to see something either a little closer to the animation style, or a complete departure to something more conventional and detailed. The style here seems to attempt to strike a balance, but I don’t know that it works.

Like the story itself, it’s fine, and beyond that I have no specific complaints, but it just doesn’t seem like a fit.

Recommended Reading:

CAPTAIN MARVEL: FIRST CONTACT – On the concept of legacy, it’s worth noting that for a time Genis-Vell, the titular Captain of this collection of the issues from the series written by Peter David, went by the name “Legacy.” Also, the “cosmic” part of the Marvel Universe is, understandably, on my mind.

INFINITY INC.: THE GENERATIONS SAGA VOL. 1 – Shunned by their parents and mentors in the Justice Society of America, Infinity, Inc. is a team made up of the best and brightest new heroes from the next generation of DC Comics.

Collecting a 1980s classic at last, INFINITY INC. follows the adventures of the Justice Society of America’s sons and daughters as they pick up the role of crime-fighters from their parents. Denied membership by the JSA due to a lack of experience, the young cast of Infinity Inc. decides to train themselves – including heroes Power Girl, Huntress, Jade, Obsidian, Nuklon and others.

THE NEW TEEN TITANS VOL. 1 – When the series launched, writer Marv Wolfman (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) and artist George Perez (FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, Avengers) crafted a timeless story starring Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Cyborg, Changeling, Raven and Starfire – a group of young individuals with great powers and strong personalities who learned their way in the world through the strength of their friendship and the adventures they shared.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for the Showcase Saturday, the feature that tries to carry on the legacy of the old Weigh In Wednesday.

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).

By the way, if there’s one legacy I’d like to see come to an end, it’s the continuing legacy of people not supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.

*See also: Are Back, The Trunks



Showcase Saturday 4.28.18

A bit of a delay this week as I had to take some time out to catch a screening of an obscure little movie you probably haven’t heard about.

But I’m here now, so let’s see what I bought.

From DC:

BATMAN BEYOND #19 – “The Long Payback” finale! When Batman was at the mercy of Payback, Melanie Walker—a former member the Royal Flush Gang—swooped in to save his life. Now, with Melanie on the receiving end of Payback’s wrath, Terry will have to return the favor. But can a bruised and battered Batman save the day, or will he need the help of his mysterious new partner?

BUG!: THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER – Forager is just one of the Hive before he breaks out of his cocoon and finds himself in a mysterious house in an unknown realm, where he meets a ghostly girl, a talking teddy bear and otherworldly weirdos. Worst of all is General Electric, who is on the hunt for a reality-bending metal that could alter the fabric of life itself. To preserve the Multiverse, Forager must travel through alternate dimensions to seek the metal before it gets into the wrong hands! Collects issues #1-6.

THE DEMON: HELL IS EARTH #6 – Humanity is on the ropes! Belial’s plan has almost taken full effect, with the Hell dome rapidly expanding and consuming all of the Earth! With Etrigan, Jason Blood and the rest of the team down, one will have to make the ultimate sacrifice to give humanity a chance to destroy Belial! Is Earth doomed—along with the entire universe—or is there still a chance to save humanity? All is answered in the cataclysmic conclusion to THE DEMON: HELL IS EARTH!

 

THE TERRIFICS #3 – “MEET THE TERRIFICS” part three! When will this superhero team bound by dark multiversal magic ever get any privacy? It certainly won’t be today, because while Mr. Terrific feverishly works to free himself from Metamorpho, Plastic Man and Phantom Girl—but mostly Plastic Man—the team must also contend with the towering, rolling death-inferno that is the War Wheel.

WONDER WOMAN #45 – “AMAZONS ATTACKED” finale! It’s all-out war for Themyscira! Jason’s been handed a gift from the gods that could turn the tide…but how will he use it? And is this gift actually what he believes it to be?

From Image:

KILL OR BE KILLED #18 – While Dylan’s been locked away inside, the vigilante has been running wild on the streets—but how is this possible? Featuring the return of Detective Lily Sharpe, who is hot on the trail of the masked man! And remember, each issue of KILL OR BE KILLED contains extra content and articles only available in the single issues.

 

 

LAZARUS: SOURCEBOOK COLLECTION, VOL. 1 TP – Collecting the first three LAZARUS SOURCEBOOKS, covering the lands ruled by Carlyle, Hock, and Vassalovka, now in one volume. With revised and expanded content, including additions to reflect developments in LAZARUS as the series moves into the year X+67 with “FRACTURE,” beginning summer of 2018.

From Marvel:

EXILES #2 – SHE COMES FROM THE LAND OF THE ICE AND SNOW…and enchanted hammers! The Exiles land in Asgard just in time to aid Valkyrie in a fight against the fire demon Surtur! But the Lord of Ragnarok is the least of their problems. The Time-Eater is hot on the team’s heels, and when he takes Asgard, no Valhalla awaits Valkyrie or her new friends. Good thing they’re about to pick up a Wolverine! And he’s got red on his claws. The mystery of the stolen pies starts here as Blink completes her new team of multiversal champions!

MIGHTY THOR #706 – AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA! The battle against the Mangog is finished. And the losses have been profound. So what – if anything – remains of the story of Jane Foster, Goddess of Thunder? And where do the other gods possibly go from here?

That does it for this week’s Showcase Saturday. Unless you’re new here (and site traffic stats indicate that you are not), the whole point of this is to come back tomorrow and see which of these books – if any, because I might pick something else entirely if I feel like it; it’s exciting because it’s uncertain! – I write about in my Spotlight Sunday post.

The featured image doesn’t necessarily indicate which book I’ll write about, it’s just the cover I liked the most.

And hey, this post wouldn’t have been delayed if I didn’t have to work during the week, which I wouldn’t have to do if people did things like support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon. Just thought I’d point that 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).



Spotlight Sunday 4.22.18

In the least surprising turn of events imaginable, there are spoilers ahead for…

Action Comics #1000
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Cover: Jim Lee
Variant Covers: Steve Rude, Michael Cho, Dave Gibbons, Michael Allred, Jim Steranko, Joshua Middleton, Dan Jurgens, Lee Bermejo
Rated T
$7.99
DC

“That’s why they let him speak, Jon. To remind us that people can always be better. That we should always have hope.”

Anyone who knows me – and anyone who’s been reading these Spotlight entries – knows that I’m a fan of Superman.

Much as he is for a certain cauliflower-eared member of the supporting cast of characters in Metropolis, “Sooperman is my fav’rit.”

(There is a compelling argument for Lois Lane being my “fav’rit,” but we won’t quibble.)

As much as people deride the character and dismiss him as boring, and as often as he’s mishandled – both in and out of comics – the fact remains that there is something compelling about the character, given his enduring success. He’s been with us for 80 years and 1,000 issues, and has appeared in film, radio, television, prose novels, video games, and even a Broadway musical.

He’s referred to in songs, his image and his symbol adorn countless pieces of merchandise, and it’s not especially hyperbolic to suggest that had there been no Superman there would be no such thing as comic books today.

He’s an icon, a symbol of the American exceptionalism that is, and always has been, more myth than reality, but it’s a symbol that endures because it contains such mythic power and resonance. “The American Way” that Superman champions – though that was a later addition to the Truth and Justice for which he’s always stood – is aspirational, a reflection not of what is but of what could be. Of what we hope it will be.

“Must There Be A Superman?” asked writer Elliot S! Maggin in a story featured in Superman #247. It’s a question that has been asked many times since.

My answer to that question is even less of a mystery than which comic I’d be writing about today: an unequivocal yes.

The fact that we’re here, 80 years later, talking about the 1,000th issue of the comic in which he first appeared seems to bear that out.

Yes, there must be a Superman, and, fortunately for us, there is.

The first story contained in this volume is brought to us by Dan Jurgens, a writer and artist who has a long history with the Man of Steel, and it’s a good one, focused on Superman – as Clark Kent – feeling awkward as the citizens of Metropolis celebrate their hero.

Lois is prodding him to put in an appearance as Superman, Jon is eager to step up and take his place, but despite Lois pointing out that this celebration is for them, not him, Clark would rather be anywhere else, even if “anywhere else” is fighting off an invasion by the warlike Khunds.

Fortunately for the people gathered there, and perhaps unfortunately for Superman’s sense of humility, his friends have got it covered.

Next, in a story by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, Superman finds himself trapped in Hypertime by Vandal Savage, fighting his way through bygone eras – each one a nod to the styles and stories of the eight decades of Superman’s history – in order to make it home in time to celebrate his birthday with Lois and Jon.

I’m not certain of the provenance of the next story, which features art from the late Curt Swan, who drew Superman for decades, and a script by Marv Wolfman. It seems to be cobbled together from pieces of an unfinished – or at least unpublished – story, using Swan’s art (with a final page provided from a comic from the ‘80s, inked by another longtime Superman artist, Kurt Schaffenberger), with dialogue provided by Wolfman. Superman appears only in voiceover, with a focus on Maggie Sawyer’s efforts to deal with a hostage situation while Superman is half a world away fighting Brainiac, listening in on the situation, and eventually discovering that the two incidents are connected.

Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, with art by Olivier Copiel, give us the untold rest of the story of the car-smashing, er, action featured on the cover of Action Comics #1.

Superman and Lex Luthor take a look at the past in a story by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.

Tom King and Clay Mann tell a tale set in the unimaginably-distant future in which Superman pays a final visit to Earth as it nears its end. DC put this story online in advance of the issue’s release, so you can read it yourself here.

The great Louise “Weezi” Simonson and Jerry Ordway focus on the demands of living a double life, as we find our hero rushing to meet a deadline in what is a job for Clark Kent, while also dealing with more than one thing that looks like a job for Superman.

José Luis García-López, who is, as I often note, a goddamn national treasure, and who drew the featured image (as part of the DC Style Guide), provides the gorgeous art for a fun story by Paul Dini that ties in to one of my favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, featuring a certain behatted imp from another dimension.

Brad Meltzer, with art by John Cassaday, continues to love using the word femtosecond – and even introduces attosecond – as he demonstrates that “faster than a speeding bullet” is a relative concept.

The issue is wrapped up with a preview of the upcoming Man of Steel mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis, with this segment’s art provided by Jim Lee (the mini-series will feature several artists). In it we find Superman and Supergirl (who also debuted in the pages of Action Comics, way back in 1959, in #252) in a pitched battle with a powerful enemy who claims to hold a shocking truth about the destruction of Krypton.

The issue is rounded out with pin-up pages by Walter Simonson, John Romita, Jr., and Jorge Jimenez.

Of course, while it’s clear in some of the images I’ve posted, I have not yet mentioned one important fact: THE TRUNKS ARE BACK.

“People don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes” was a less valid complaint back in the ’80s, thanks to Madonna.

Issues like this, containing multiple short stories by multiple creators are usually hit or miss, but this one is pretty strong throughout, and even the weakest stories are still well-done and entertaining, and contain strong character moments that are true to the essential core of who and what Superman is.

I was particularly pleased to see strong representation from creators from what’s known as the “Triangle Era,” which remains my favorite era of the Super-books.

(At one point in the ‘90s there were four monthly Superman books: Action, Superman, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: The Man of Steel. While each book had its own focus and told its own stories, all of them were very closely tied to each other, and plots and subplots would continue across them. As a result, there was a reading order, indicated on the cover by a number inside of a triangle.)

My primary complaint is that, as is so often the case, Lois didn’t get quite as much focus as I would have liked. After all, it’s her 80th anniversary and 1,000th issue, too, given that she was right there from the beginning.

Five years ago, she got her own hardcover anniversary collection of stories, so I’m hoping the same will happen this year. Of course, if I were running things, the celebration of her 80 years would include various specials, linewide Lois Lane variant covers, and, for the month, instead of Superman in Action Comics, the cover for Action would read Lois Lane in Action Comics, and Superman would be titled Lois Lane’s Husband Superman, in the way that her own book was titled Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane.

(I told you: there’s an argument to be made for Lois being my “fav’rit.”)

I can’t bring myself to be particularly excited about the arrival of Bendis at DC, or about the upcoming mini-series (though I will probably buy it), but there’s no escaping the fact that, while I don’t hold the same esteem for him as I do for his predecessors, his departure from Marvel to work at DC is nearly as seismic a shift as it was when Jack Kirby, and, more than a decade later, John Byrne joined up with their former employer’s Distinguished Competitor.

Still, Bendis is…well, Bendis.

We’ll see what the future holds, I suppose.

I missed out on picking up most of the variants at the comic shop – they all sold out – but I did snag this Joshua Middleton variant at the shop, and I’ve ordered the Michael Allred and Dan Jurgens variants online.

One of these days I should probably write the book-lengthy essay containing my thoughts about Superman, my rejection of the “He’s too powerful to be interesting” complaints, and, of course, my feelings about Lois (and the rest of the supporting cast and the mythos) that seems to be required in order to express them in a way that isn’t thin and disjointed, but even this historic day is not that day.

Which is probably just as well, at least as far as you’re concerned.

I’m glad I got to see Superman reach this historic milestone, and while there is zero chance that I will be here for #2000, I look forward to seeing what I can of what the next 1,000 issues will bring.

Recommended Reading:

LOIS LANE: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS – This Lois Lane Anthology collects: Action Comics #1-2, #6, #484, #600, #662, Adventures of Superman #631, All-Star Superman #2-3, Man of Steel #2, Showcase #9, Superman #29, #33-34, #58, #168, Superman 80-Page Giant 2011, Superman: Lois Lane #1, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #5, #16, #23, #42, #106, and Wonder Woman #170.

SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY DELUXE EDITION – In this critically acclaimed work from writer Kurt Busiek (ASTRO CITY) and artist Stuart Immonen (Ultimate X-Men), an alternate “Clark Kent” encounters complications the real Superman never had to handle: a career, a wife, children—a real life.

Despite his iconic name, Clark Kent from Picketsville, Kansas, is just a normal kid whose parents thought they were being clever. He can’t fly, or see through walls, or shrug off speeding bullets—that is, until the day he can. And it’s all much harder than it looks in the comics.

Follow Clark across the decades as this man with powers tries to prove he can make the world a safer place without sacrificing everything.

SUPERMAN VERSUS THE KU KLUX KLAN: THE TRUE STORY OF HOW THE ICONIC SUPERHERO BATTLED THE MEN OF HATE – This book tells a group of intertwining stories that culminate in the historic 1947 collision of the Superman Radio Show and the Ku Klux Klan. It is the story of the two Cleveland teenagers who invented Superman as a defender of the little guy and the New York wheeler-dealers who made him a major media force. It is the story Ku Klux Klan’s development from a club to a huge money-making machine powered by the powers of fear and hate and of the folklorist who–along with many other activists– took on the Klan by wielding the power of words. Above all, it tells the story of Superman himself–a modern mythical hero and an embodiment of the cultural reality of his times–from the Great Depression to the present.

Bonus:

The end is (not) here with Deadman #6, as it seems that Adams may not have figured out an ending to this story, and DC decided that, thanks to masochists like me, these latter-day Adams comics sell well enough that there’s justification to release a Book Two. In Nanda Parbat, after meeting with Rama Kushna, Boston learns that he’s never been speaking to Rama Kushna herself, but rather some other, heretofore unintroduced character named Tatsinda (who is a deep cut from old Deadman stories), though her relationship to Rama Kushna is unclear. Daughter? Girlfriend? Apprentice? I don’t know, but she says mysterious stuff about Boston’s siblings, and it turns out that she’s got Boston’s body, and it’s possible to restore him to life. But if she does that he won’t have the abilities he needs to help solve the mystery that will carry us to Book Two. Sigh

Mister Miracle #8 focuses on the typical trials and tribulations of new parents who both work, doing everything they can to ensure the health, happiness, and safety of their child, spend some time with each other, and attend to their job responsibilities. Of course, where it gets a little less typical is that their work responsibilities include serving as co-leaders of a race of gods and leading an interplanetary conflict that isn’t going so well.

Without explanation, we find Funky Flashman once more among the living – and King really leaning into the Funky Flashman as a parody of Stan Lee thing – and serving as Scott and Barda’s nanny.

We reach a point at which young Jacob is starting to say his first word, but as we remember that a certain someone Is, we keep in mind that “daddy” isn’t the only word that starts with “da.”

Hey! It’s a Superman Blue reference!
And Superman Red!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That does it for this Action-packed Spotlight Sunday.

 

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).

Oh, and have I ever mentioned that you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon? Because, you know, you can.



Showcase Saturday 4.21.18

There’s no mystery as to what I’ll be talking about tomorrow, but have a look-see at everything I bought this week anyway:

From DC:

ACTION COMICS #1000 – Celebrate 1000 issues of Action Comics with an all-star lineup of top talent as they pay tribute to the comic that started it all! From today’s explosive action to a previously unpublished tale illustrated by the legendary Curt Swan to the Man of Tomorrow’s future—this very special, oversized issue presents the best of the best in Superman stories!

 

DEADMAN #6 – Just as Ra’s al Ghul is hidden in this six-part miniseries, so is his near-demonic influence hidden and slowly revealed in this final issue! Boston Brand’s death was no accident, but a planned and ruthless murder…orchestrated by none other than the Head of the Demon. What Deadman needs now is either death—or the help of the World’s Greatest Detective!

 

MISTER MIRACLE #8 – This issue, it’s back to Apokolips—and a return to war. Scott Free is engaged in a bloody battle against Darkseid’s forces, this time without Barda by his side—because her hands are full, thanks to a domestic situation at home. With his attention split by his concerns for his wife’s commitments back on Earth, can Mister Miracle hold his own against the minions of darkness?

 

SUPER SONS #15 – “end of innocence” part one! Robin and Superboy have been to hell and back again, but this time their friendship must stand the ultimate test: the Amazo Project! Kid Amazo returns as the pieces of this deadly plan fall into place and reveal a secret that might tear apart Damian and Jon’s growing friendship.

SUPERMAN #45 – “BOYZARRO RE-DEATH” finale! The challenge of the Bizarroverse continues as the Super Foes battle the Legion of Fun! As Superman and Son return to Hamilton for a quick recharge, they learn what the little town truly meant to them—and what they meant to the locals of the town.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN #3 – Batman arrives in Tir Na Nóg to help Wonder Woman solve the mystery of a murdered god. But while he may be the World’s Greatest Detective, he soon learns that the techniques he uses on our world may not aid him in this strange new one. As the investigation continues and new suspects are revealed, this dynamic duo learns that each may be more dangerous than the last.

 

From Dynamite:

JOHN WICK #2 – John Wick’s origin story continues! In the underworld of El Paso, Texas, a familiar face introduces an ex-con named John Wick to the local branch of the mysterious Continental Hotel, a neutral zone where professional killers spend their down time. But can John adhere to the rules of the Continental? Or will his search for vengeance destroy his chances for a peaceful life? Also… does John Wick actually have…a cat?

 

Come back tomorrow to see if you’ve managed to correctly deduce just what comic I’ll be writing about. This is a tough one!

I just

 

 

 

 

 

 

don’t know

 

 

 

 

 

 

which comic

 

 

 

 

 

 

it will be!

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 support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!