Superman #43

I really, really don’t enjoy Superman.

But I LOVE Superman. Or at least I have over the last three months.

The storyline we’ve been following thus far in Action Comics has been called Truth, and it’s been dealing with the fallout that a mostly depowered Superman has to experience after Lois Lane revealed his secret to the world. This was a major point of contention for a lot of people – no way would Lois Lane ever reveal the truth about Clark Kent! Why, Lois was never one to chase a story and publish something, damn the torpedoes and screw whoever got caught in the flotsam and jetsam!

This was a particularly fun argument to follow on Twitter, as people – before they’d read a panel of story – had jumped to several thousand conclusions about how this was going to ruin Superman and how they had well and truly broken the already fractured relationship between Lois and Clark.

I’m included in this, bee-tee-dubs. I went to the wild opposite end of the spectrum – screw the relationship, this was Lois Freakin’ Lane we’re talking about here! Intrepid investigative reporter – the woman who never let her feelings or emotions get in the way of the story! By God, if Lois Lane found out that Clark Kent was Superman (and they weren’t in a relationship), then hell yes she’d release the story! Burn it to the ground, Lois is awesome and she’s going to Expose. The. Truth.

It’s funny, because the storyline is called Truth – and the truth of the matter is, the truth actually falls somewhere in the middle of those two divergent beliefs.

While Action Comics has been dealing with the fallout of the big reveal, Superman has conversely been dealing with the lead-up to the reveal. We’ve met a new villain who has discovered Clark’s secret – Hordr_Root, and have seen Clark slowly start to lose his powers. Through this, though, we’ve seen the tightknit bond that Lois and Clark share – when she found out that Clark was Superman, she was rightfully angry – he’d been lying to her, after all, and she’d almost fallen in love with him. But, with time and space, she realized that Clark and Superman – no matter who was in front of her – were the same person. That even if he was born on another planet, he was at his core a Kansas farm boy raised by loving parents to make the right choice, even when it’s the hard choice.

Which Lois has to do in issue #43.

There’s some great character moments in this particular issue, and you can really sense the depths that the connections between Lois and Clark go. And, in the end, when Lois has to make that hard choice, there’s some great splintering of that relationship – with Lois delivering the ultimate verbal haymaker to Clark. In all honesty, this is as close to a classic Lois and Clark story as you’re to get in the New 52, and it’s a really strong take on the two characters. Dialogue wise, there’s no real misfires for the main players of Lois and Clark, though I’m not the biggest fan of the villain’s speech pattern, or the way Jimmy and supporting cast member Condesa interact. It feels a bit forced, but it’s most likely because it’s lined up against the verbal juggernaut that is the Lois and Clark issue.

From an art perspective, the Superman comics have been some of John Romita Jr’s strongest, and while I’m not usually the biggest fan of his work, I’m pleased to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last three issues. The inks are sharp and crisp, but where the book really triumphs from an artistic perspective is the coloring process – a lot of the colors feel almost water colored, with a lot of deep hues present to show shading and folds. It’s a small thing, but it adds so much depth to the page that the weight of each character, despite being flat paper, is felt and experienced.

Is this issue perfect? No. But when taken at with the rest of the Before Truth storyline running through Superman, it’s a strong placesetting issue that has a hell of a final act to set up where we go from here. This was a logical, well paced comic that really brings things into focus for the next arc – and, for the first time in decades, I can’t wait to read a Superman comic.

Up, up and away!

-Jay

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Prez #3

There’s been a quiet stirring of revolution in the land of DC Comics, and we’re seeing that pay out in spades with books like Starfire, Doctor Fate, Justice League United, Bizarro, and Prez. A spin-off of a short-lived title introduced in the early 1970’s, the original Prez series detailed the life of “The First Teen President of the U.S.A.!” While only running for four issues (with a fifth appearing later in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, it was one of those signature oddities of DC comics in the 60’s and 70’s that resonated with a generation of comics readers. But, like Sugar and Spike, Prez was destined to be a vision of times past – not something that could be brought into the present continuity or marketplace.

Enter the DC You, the continuity reboot of the New 52, that throws hard continuity to the wind and lets creators run a little more freely through not only the established DC Universe, but also lets them embrace the bizarre – which, I’m pleased to report, Prez does without hesitation. Again, the story of a teenager elected president, Prez this time around stars Beth Ross, known as ‘Corndog Girl’ due to an unfortunate incident with a fryer caught virally on the web. Also involved is the original namesake of the title, Preston Rickard, as her Vice President. In 2036, the United States is a place of excess and little – it’s a living, breathing dichotomy of the haves and have-nots. Workers are timed on their breaks, their speed is clocked to ensure that they are operating at peak performance, and are subsequently fired if what they dispose of during bathroom breaks isn’t deemed to be fitting of the time taken in the restroom.

It’s pure madness. Gameshows are held for people to win money still, but the ultimate prize can only be won if you’re willing to shoot yourself. American imperialism is rampant, and we invade countries and destroy villages that we think are the aggressors, without proof. Everything is bought and sold. Everything, and everyone a commodity. It’s a bleak look into our future, and it’s not something that we can really say is too far away from (an admittedly ultra-shocking version of) our reality. We live a life of digital indulgence, and our society avoids responsibility to worship at the altar of reality stars and celebrity spokespeople.

That’s where Beth steps in. Tired of the hand life has dealt her, Beth immediately becomes a force for improvement and an inspiration after experiencing a deep personal tragedy. As she is a teenager and a Washington outsider, she’s able to form a Cabinet for her presidency that features the correct people for the job – favors aren’t used to fill positions with substandard candidates, instead, scientists are placed in charge of the expansion of the sciences! Corrupt ambassadors to the United Nations are fired. And Beth, who could have handled this all by phone, instead does everything face-to-face. She’s a driving force of good in an otherwise incredibly corrupt society.

Personally, I love this series thus far, and at three issues in, there’s not a bit of it that I can find a lot of fault with. The characters are wickedly over the top, except for the two that count the most – Beth and Preston. The artwork is bright, quirky, and has such great pacing and panel manipulation that the book feels like it’s a television show with how it moves throughout the page. I was worried for awhile that we weren’t going to see past six issues of this incredibly niche title, but in a Facebook post on the 27th of August, Dan Didio of DC Comics stated that the final six issues will be solicited at a later date. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s at least shining a light that we’ll see more in the future from Beth Ross. Give Prez a shot if you haven’t yet – is it quirky? Absolutely. Is it for everyone? Certainly not. But it’s definitely for me.

-Jay

Meet the Press

Hello Revuers! I have breaking news. Our very own Andrew Horton will be at Cincinnati Comic Con on September 12th and 13th.  If you’ve been dying to meet one of the writers behind (hopefully) your favorite comic book blog now is your chance. Andrew will wearing a press pass with Deja.Revue printed on it. Also if you need any more motivation the list of comic creators who will be in attendance is astounding: Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, Tony Moore, Phil Noto, Brian Ewing, Bill Willingham, Cullen Bunn, Rick Remender, Raw Fawkes…… The list goes on and on. Truly the amount of comic talent they have assembled is staggering. Especially for the very modest ticket cost of $21 for a day pass and $35 for a weekend pass. So if you want to come meet Andrew and talk comics or life for awhile, all while meeting some of the best creators in the game, then go to Cincinnati Comic Con. Here’s a link:

http://www.cincycomicon.com/Welcome.html

Guest Review: Action comics #43 by Girl-on-comicbook-world

Today we have a special guest review from Girl-On-Comicbook-World. She consistently puts out great material, from comicbook reviews to movie reviews to Opinion pieces. I strongly recommend you go check out her blog. I made her name clickable and you can also click hereor here. Seriously, check out her blog, it’s in my weekly rounds. With out any further delay here we go:

Action Comics #43 Review
Writer: Greg Pak and Artist: Aaron Kuder

Action Comics #43 continues the adventures of the newly depowered, with a now public identity, Superman. Greg Pak continues to prove that he understands the heart of this character through this street-level story, which involves Clark teaming up with his neighbours in Metropolis…whilst they fight Shadow Monsters!!!

Now I know not everyone has been loving this new status quo that has fallen on Superman, and would prefer to be seeing the traditional Superman stories. But here’s the thing, sometimes you need to throw your character into new and different situations in order to deconstruct the character and find out who they really are at heart. And that is exactly what the “Truth” story arc has been doing so far across the Superman books.

The one thing that is imperative to understand about Superman’s character is how he see himself. He doesn’t view himself as a god, or somebody who has the answers to all of life’s problems. He views himself as a guy who grew up on a farm, one day found out he was an alien, and then suddenly had to deal with all the responsibility and expectations that came with that. And because Clark is inherently a good person, he was more than willing to accept his situation and embrace becoming Superman. But at the end of the day he is farm-boy Clark Kent, who would prefer to be hanging out with people, not hovering over them like some arrogant god.

The “Truth” story arc has stripped away what made him seem like a god, his powers, secret identity and costume, and forced the world and audience to see him for who he really is, Clark Kent. And Action Comics #43 explores that, as we see Clark face-to-face with the people of Metropolis, working alongside them.

The issue opens up with Clark punching a cop. Yupp, he punched a cop! But to be fair the cop is actually a Shadow Monster, so all good! But before realising that the cop was in fact a monster, Clark had a moment of struggle, he’s Superman, he shouldn’t be punching cops. But because the cop, Binghamton, was using extreme force on a peaceful neighbourhood, Clark snapped. And that’s the thing about Clark, at his core he will always strike to protect people, and with him being less powerful than he was before, he feels like he needs to overcompensate a little.

After his battle with Binghamton we see a beautiful moment with the people of Metropolis. Clark gives one of his classic inspiring speeches, telling everyone that together they can protect each other, because they’re all Superman now.
There are a bunch of twist and turns in the book, including a shocking revelation about what’s going down in City Hall. All in all Action Comics #43 is very much a character driven story that is deconstructing who Superman is at his core. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Superman character, I would definitely recommend picking up Pak’s Action Comics “Truth” run because it really has been a fascinating story, showing how both Clark and the world reacts when Superman has a public identity.
Kuder’s art as always is great and expressive (although sometimes Clark looks weirdly wide but ehh). The splash page featuring the neighbourhood really gave us a great sense of humanity and diverse community through the character designs and body language.

Overall Action Comics #43 was another great issue by Pak and Kuder, diving deeper into the humanity of Clark. Rating: 8/10.

Tales From the Pull List (Aug. 12th): We are living in a (Im)material world

Pick of the Week:

Phonogram: The Immaterial girl #1: So full disclosure: I own the first two volumes of Phonogam, and I have read them both numerous times. When I found out that they were making another volume of it I freaked out. I marked the day on my calender, and stared longingly at it. With this hype I had built, a worrisome thought crept into my mind: what if it didn’t live up to the hype I had created in my own head? What if the beauty of what it had been overshadowed what it will be. I am happy to report that it lived up to the hype I had created for it, and then some. The issue is a nostalgia filled roller coaster of emotion. Gillen’s script is so good that at times it hurts. The art by McKelvie and Wilson holds up to its standard of excellence and more.  Wilson has cemented (in my mind at least) his status of the best color artist in the game. Seriously, is there a better creative team than Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson? I dare you try, I know you’ll fail. Go buy this issue.If you haven’t read the previous volumes of Phonogram you will still enjoy it. If you have you’ll enjoy it even more. Rating: 10/10

Buy

Injection #4: More of the back story is explored in this issue, but the answers are coupled with more questions. Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire craft an excellent issue with lots of character development. With more of the background being revealed you finally get a sense of what’s going on, and that in and of it’s self is exciting. Not as much action this issue as the bulk of it was dedicated to back story. An almost antithesis of issue three really. I’m excited to continue this series and see which bends first: Science, or magic. Rating: 7/10

Gotham Academy #9: Another strong showing for my favorite series from DC. Could there be a wolf at Gotham Academy? Or something more sinister? This issue builds on the mystery that surrounds Olive’s mother while providing plenty of action in the for of a man bat and a wolf man(?). We discover that certain people are excellent at science, and that they may or may not have a secret layer. The creative team of Cloonan, Fletcher, Kerschl, Lapointe, and Msassyk continue to deliver month after month. At this point if you aren’t reading Gotham Academy you might want to re-evaluate your life. Rating: 8/10

A-Force #3: She-hulk finds herself in the midst of trouble after jumping threw the portal from the end of issue two. Will she be able to make it back to her team? Whats the meaning of the portals? What’s causing them? All these questions are, more or less, answered in this issue. I’ll keep this mini review spoiler free though. A-Force continues to be a fresh air in what is starting to feel like an aimost-stale mega event. The only titles I read from Secret Wars is Secret Wars and this title. I am glad it’s continuing after Battleworld is no more. Rating: 7/10

Secret Wars #5: Speaking of Secret Wars, the main title continues to surprise me. I know I’ve said it before but Jonathan Hickman is a genius, or a mad scientist. One of the two. In this issues we see the repercussions of the shocking end to Issue 4 (no spoilers, just know that it was indeed shocking). We learn more of how God Doom was able to save what fragments of the muti-verse that he did save (with the helm\p of a very special someone). Truly the exploration of how battleworld came to be is fascinating to me. It’s clear that this event was months, no, years in the making. The art by Ribic continues to astound. All in all a great addition to a great series. Rating: 8/10

Skip

Starfire #3: Honestly the only reason I got this issue is because I pre-ordered it months ago. I can see why other people like it, it’s just not for me. Rating: 3/10

Descender #6: This issue really fell flat for me. Which is a pity because I’ve really enjoyed the overall series. I hope that Jeff Lemire can turn it around for the next issue. Rating: 5/10

Ms. Marvel #17

Ms. Marvel #17

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Adrian Alphona

Publisher: Marvel

I like to take chances on new books – I’m a sucker for a new #1 that introduces a new character. And, being as how I’m a DC born and bred reader, I’m also a sucker for legacy. So, when the new Ms. Marvel series debuted last year, I was excited to see what G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona had in store for Kamala Khan. I didn’t know quite what to expect – I figured that there would be heavy ties to Carol Danvers, and that her powers might reflect those ties. I hoped that it would be a fun title, but not one I held out a ton of hope for – I fully anticipated I’d read the first arc, and that would be it.

So, imagine my surprise that 17 issues later, I’m still excited about a title that I expected to be done with. Never once did I falter at the fact that Kamala Khan’s powers were different than Carol Danvers, quite the opposite, in fact. See, what Wilson and Alphona created was that rare breed of legacy that was equal parts reverent and unique – and while tonally different, Ms. Marvel is as close to DC’s incredible Starman series by James Robinson as we’re likely to get. Legacy heroes, thrust into the spotlight, and expected to be exemplary. And both are – in their own unique way.

Issue 17 continues the ridiculous hot streak that the series has been on since its debut. We finally get the interaction with Captain Marvel that people have been so desperate for (despite the book never once feeling like it was necessary to validate Kamala’s claim to the name). And with that interaction, we get one of the most feel good, buddy-cop stories that I’ve read in a long time – Kamala basks in the compliments and advice provided to her by Carol, and Carol truly admires Kamala’s enthusiasm and heroic drive. It’s an influential symbiosis that is going to serve Kamala well as the title relaunches with a new #1 following the Secret Wars event.

The story itself is driven by Kamala’s need to find her missing brother, who is seemingly being forced to undergo the Terrigenesis process to trigger his latent Inhuman abilities. This story is truly Kamala’s show – Carol is there to assist, never there to overstep and dominate the story, and Kamala in turn learns some valuable lessons as a hero. There’s some truly great moments in the issue as Kamala bargains with some masked hoodlums to have them help the sheltered citizens in the school gym, as well as a touching moment between Carol and Kamala that teaches a valuable lesson about being a hero: you can’t save everyone all the time.

There are some (very) minor pacing problems in the closing act of the story, and an unfortunate necessity to tie into the Secret Wars / Incursion event, but the book doesn’t suffer greatly from those factors. Overall, Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan continues to be the best everyman character of the Marvel Universe – and characters like that are a rare discovery.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars.

-Jay

Guest Review: Kaptara #4

This week we feature a guest review by the talented writer Jaythreadbear. Who graciously agreed to fill in for me this week as I get situated at my new job. I recommend that after you finish reading this fantastic article you give his blog a visit. Jays blog is stuffed full of interesting and well written content, so give it a view https://jaythreadbear.wordpress.com/. Or I’ve made his name clickable. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check it out. Now without further delay:

Kaptara #4

Review by:

Jaythreadbear

When I was a whole lot younger I used to play with my older brother’s toys. He had a bit of everything, Ghostbusters, He-Man, Thundercats, Trolls(!), they were all there. Rather than play with just one thing I’d mash them altogether and create wondrously outlandish adventures, Bebop & Rocksteady would defend Castle Greyskull from ninja turtles and Bucky O’Hare riding dinosaurs (everyone rode dinosaurs back then!) I was a kid, I didn’t know these were all characters from different cartoons, different worlds, but it sure was fun to just smash them together and tell crazy stories. In all the best ways it seems like Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod are still telling stories just like that. The great news for us is that drawing all the rich fun influences of fantasy and scifi pop culture and mashing them together can lead to a rewarding comic book experience.

There are a lot of strong indie/creator owned scifi books on the shelves right now, many taking place on brilliantly realised, uniquely devised worlds; yet surely in contention for the most creative planet amongst them is Kaptara. Every issue of this scifi comedy has brought with it inventive, original, and surprising creations. Cat tanks and blow dart champions and motivational orbs. Zdarsky regularly introduces new concepts which further the story and give us more insight into this diverse place. Great credit for the success of all this world building (and some of the narrative drive) has to go to McLeod though whose art somehow brings all of the disparate visual influences to life in a surprisingly coherent way. McLeod also manages to purvey a great degree of physicality and slap stick comedy in the book (stuff like the inevitability of Dartor’s dart mishap is elevated by his sheer proximity to the prince). Since the very first issue the colouring in Kaptara has been inventive and surprising and this issue is no different. Handled by Kagan McLeod with an assist from Becka Kinzie the colouring here is bright and unexpected, the action takes place in verdant green and yellow fields, and moves on to the wonderful roiling blue-purple-pink constructs of the Hive. You’d be hard pressed to find a more colourful, immersive world in comics at the moment.

The book isn’t without problems though. Much of the supporting cast, for all their whimsical originality, remain somewhat broadly drawn. Dartor in particular presents a problem in this respect due to the huge amount of page space he takes up. The character is hewn almost entirely from oblivious prince tropes (arrogant, proud, stupid, etc) and whilst he has generated some good comedy (other characters affection for his ridiculous hair being a prime example) he is also a bit of a repetitive and obvious joke. There are many more interesting characters and corners of this world that I would rather be spending time with. Keith, for example, already the most complex character (unsurprisingly given his status as protagonist) offers a chance to explore conflicting feelings of survivor guilt and relief, and his ultimate desire to make Lance’s sacrifice count even though he’d rather be chilling out in Endom. All of this complexity is in danger of being lost behind some of the broader ‘humorous’ moments, for instance, the low-key reunion between Laurette and Keith that perhaps should have been a bigger moment for our lead (after all he’s no longer the only survivor!) is overshadowed by the prolonged Dartor flashback.

And yet, this book is like a great scifi-inspired D&D adventure; the epic quest, the weird and wonderful world, the ragtag team of dysfunctional but heroic adventurers all serve to engage the ready and get them invested. The delightfully unusual art and colouring, confident plotting and neat meta touches like the fun issue subtitles, previously’s, and back page quotes all help to raise the enjoyment of an potentially light concept. Zdarsky and McCleod have raided the toy box and put on the page an adventure every bit as fun and funny as we had as kids, some of the humour may miss the mark, but the inventiveness and creativity more than makes up for any problems.