Friday, May 29, 2009

Review: Superman #688

Superman #688

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedas
Inker: José Wilson Magalhães
Released: May 28, 2009

The monthly Superman book holds no significant meaning anymore. This may be a bold indictment, but I feel it is an accurate one. Upon completion of this particular issue, an issue I felt to be an improvement over last month's - which is akin to saying a cold sore is an improvement over a genital wart - I could not shake the feeling that what I had just read meant nothing to me, both as a reader and as a follower of the DCU. I could have left my copy of issue #688 to languish on the dusty, chipped shelf of my local retailer and been no worse for wear for it. I learned nothing of any substance, nothing not already touched upon in previous issues, and I was not particularly moved by the creative endeavor of the whole, so on both storytelling and artistic fronts, this issue was meaningless, hence, insignificant. 

Last issue left off with our substitute hero Mon-El plummeting from the sky due to a sudden and previously unsubstantiated loss of powers. This issue gives us the deus ex machina explanation that a previous deus ex machina is to blame. Basically, a little magic potion that suddenly appeared out of nowhere which Superman used to save Mon-El's life is now responsible for slowly killing him. He will have only about twelve to sixteen issues to live. This is a predictable out for the character for when all of this World Without Superman nonsense is finished with and DC editorial no longer have use for Mon-El in the monthly title. There is nothing revelatory here as common sense predicated from the beginning that the substitute teacher was never going to take over the class. All these second-tier characters will be pushed aside when the Big "S" returns. 

Just like the mysterious magical life-saving potion, too many things have had the feeling of being too convenient. How lucky that when Mon-El loses his powers he is over water and therefore doesn't become street pizza on a strip of Metropolis asphalt. How lucky that The Guardian happened to be following him on camera (a camera named Lucky, apparently) and is able to fish him from the drink in the nick of time. How lucky that his powers return just in time for him to put the hurt on Squad K, yet another government-sanctioned strike force assembled to bring down Superman in the eventuality he needs bringing down. None of this feels earned within the context of the story.

The scene with Squad K is yet another sequence used to demonstrate that Mon-El is not Kryptonian and therefore has no vulnerability to Kryptonite, facts already so deeply established it makes no sense for them to be repeated here again. Robinson seems to understand this to some degree, and so the fight part of the fight scene is not actually shown. However, it still feels like wasted pages that would have been better spent moving the real story, whatever that's supposed to be, along. 

Ultimately, the real problem with Superman is that there appears to be no actual story being told. Everything has the feel of a prologue, a set-up for something still yet to come. The pace is so slow that when story threads that have been dropped are picked up again, much of the scene is devoted to refresh the reader's memory of something long forgotten. Zatara's scene with Jimmy Olsen several issues back served only as a recap of events in the Return of Atlas arc of last year. Much of the dialogue could start with the phrase "Remember that time..." 

Characters that were meant to have significant roles in this World without Superman, such as Steel and Zatara, have made such trifling cameos as to be almost entirely useless. Even Dr. Light suffers from being poorly used. Doctor Kimiyo Hoshi, known for her strong personality and biting wit, in her scene here is reduced to giving the medical bullet as if she were an extra on ER. Why use her for this scene when any generic STAR Labs doctor would have sufficed to give the same dry expository monologue? Her presence proves to be an unnecessary serif on an already bland piece of type. It adds nothing, only further highlighting the dreariness. Not even the good doctor can shone brightly out of this dark void. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Supergirl #41

Supergirl #41

Writer: Sterling Gates
Penciller: Fernando Dagnino
Inker: Raúl Fernandez
Released: May 20, 2009

Labeled as the finale of "Who Is Superwoman?", issue #41 gives us the final showdown between Supergirl and Superwoman, but also leaves many of the truly important questions unanswered and alludes to greater revelations to come beyond just the simple mystery of Superwoman's true identity, which was revealed last month. While the main thrust of this storyline was this question, giving it its title even, who Superwoman was never seemed like the big mystery to be solved here. In any crime story, the deeper issues of motive are always more interesting and those threads are left dangling here, tantalizingly frayed into even more split ends. 

Supergirl #41 follows a crime thriller finale blueprint, in which during their ultimate confrontation protagonist and antagonist deal in a verbal joust of Q & A so that the audience may have the schemes, plots, and motives explained to them, cross-examination style. Here, however, Supergirl's questions go unanswered as Superwoman stubbornly refuses to follow the formula, still holding onto the belief that she can complete her mission successfully, believing there are secrets best kept secrets. She reveals not her true motives for allowing the murder of Supergirl's father. It is left a riddle as to how she was reconciling being manipulated by her own father into acts against New Krypton with her belief that her actions ultimately were in service to the Kryptonian people. The true source of Superwoman's powers, her relation to the House of El, the very nature of her costume itself, are all left like scattered puzzle pieces missing their tenons. They look like they fit together until you actually try to join them. 

Frustration mounts in Supergirl and feeds into her spiraling rage, the battle between hero and villain escalates in brutality and desperation. She beats Superwoman repeatedly, slamming her through buildings headfirst, tearing at her costume, invoking the names of her victims, showing no mercy to a woman she clearly holds responsible for her father's murder, and who she sees as defiling the family crest of the House of El. Superwoman's pleas turn desperate, but they ring not as pleas for her life, but as warnings for Kara, cautions of things misunderstood, things shrouded in secrecy now careening out of control. These pleas go unheeded and Supergirl's wrath leads to Superwoman's death. Her death is agonizing and grotesque, harrowing and unstoppable. The shocking murder may be most unintentional, but in succumbing to her basest emotional response, an obvious need for vengeance, Supergirl bloodies her hands irrevocably and is left with ever more painful questions.

The complexities of the loose ends left point to the depth of the story at hand. Nothing here could be wrapped up with clean edges and neat folds. There are too many conflicting personal agendas and twisted emotional histories for that to be possible. Everyone involved is holding onto secrets, of identity, of politics, of motivation, and doing so out of a belief that these secrets are needed to serve a greater good or to protect those whose ignorance could prove to be salvation. This is the core dilemma for those who serve in capes and masks and deal in covert identities and multiple lives. This storyline shows, ultimately, it's those secrets kept that lead to tragic misunderstandings that lead to death and heartbreak; it's a demonstration that the frustration felt by unanswered questions is the perpetual pain of life.

Supergirl #41 is dramatic, visceral and emotionally wrenching tragedy, ending with bodies strewn about; two families, literally, torn apart; and our heroine, battered, in shock, in tears, on her knees lamenting her violent actions. The motivations of the characters may be ambiguous and misguided, but the consequences they suffer and inflict on each other are as vivid as the colors red and blue. The secrets they keep protect no one, only insuring pain is endured in lonely solitude. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: Secret Six #9

Secret Six #9

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Inker: Doug Hazelwood
Released: May 13, 2009

Gail Simone should have written Battle For The Cowl. The mess that is going on in that other book and all the other accompanying books tragically tagged with the BFTC banner would have been avoided if DC had just handed the reins of the misguided juggernaut to Simone. Want proof? Read Secret Six #9. Everything that the other books are trying and failing to achieve is accomplished here in 22 pages. This one single issue encapsulates everything about Batman, his legacy, and what his absence from Gotham City means to both the citizens and the costumed denizens left behind, and does so with intelligence and humor while bestowing an unbelievable grace and nobility upon the men in tights who, in one form or another, make it their business to help save a little corner of the world.

The remarkable triumph of this issue is how much it accomplishes with such a simple conceit. There is no elaborate plot nor redundant trappings to distract from the core issues. Bad guys are becoming more brazen in the absence of Batman. Others of all stripes must now come out to restore order and continue the mission laid out by the Caped Crusader. It's a simple story used as a microcosm to explore the larger more complex questions surrounding, not only this corner of the DCU, but the very fluidity of heroism and villainy in general. Are the methods by which one perpetuates heroism just as important as the end results, and in fact, are the methods used what ultimately define the hero? Was Batman the hero he was because he crusaded against crime or because he did so without employing the tactics of the criminal element he hunted? Ultimately, was it Batman's seemingly more honorable code, adopted by his allies, that allowed him the right to pass judgement sanctimoniously over the greater costumed community at large? Was it this code that elevated Batman to a level greater than a vigilante even while he worked so perilously close to the edge of civil law? Not all of this is alluded to explicitly, but it is present in nearly every panel and every line of dialogue; in every interaction, Batman and the questions that have always surrounded his existence are there for the reader to discern. 

Issue #9 is also filled with small details and moments that serve as eulogy and tribute to the spirit of Batman in all of the varied and conflicting guises the character has taken on over the years. One panel, in particular, shows our protagonists scaling down the edifice of a Gotham City penthouse in direct homage to the 1960's Batman television series wherein Adam West and Burt Ward could be seen (slowly) defying gravity courtesy of a sideways camera. Simone continually flirts with the fourth wall, showing the reader that her characters have knowledge of things that are of our world, such as Robin's ridiculous catchphrases in the aforementioned TV show, here discussed as being apocryphal. Moments like these do more than just acknowledge the lengthy history of the characters, they also shine light on the immense footprint Batman and Robin have left on all the players of the DCU. Simone deftly wields all of these elements - the big theoretical questions and the small humanistic moments - and creates a substantial fullness to a 2-dimensional comic book universe. These people exist and know about each other's histories, and are affected by them whether they like it or not.

It is difficult to write about Secret Six #9 without bringing up the severe deficiencies of the main Battle For The Cowl series and ancillary books, and I don't want to mar a review of a phenomenal work with the tainting droppings of something else so obviously inferior. Suffice to state, whatever the 16 books of that event were purportedly supposed to realize, it has instead materialized as a monumental misfire, an overcrowded mess of characters and inane action sequences that muscles anything substantive off the page. Gail Simone's Secret Six #9 manages to balance action with intellect, and uses subtlety in place of histrionics to massively powerful effect. Near the end of the issue when Nightwing makes his appearance, he immediately takes command of the situation in a quiet, confident, and masterful way. With few words and measured movement, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, the first and true son of the Batman, demonstrates in only six panels why he, and only he, could ever truly don the cowl of his adoptive father. It is as obvious to the reader as it is to those on the page. 16 issues versus 6 panels. This is efficient, engaging, and beautiful storytelling done by a writer who understands the beating hearts of the men she writes. They all want to be Batman, be as noble and as revered, be a legend crusading for the just cause, but they know they cannot be. That type of hero - truly that type of human being - exists only once. Each man's actions testify to just how much, in their own way, they miss Batman and understand how much he is truly needed. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #1 (of 6)

Writer: Ivan Brandon
Penciller: Marco Rudy
Inker: Mick Gray
Released: May 13, 2009

"Not one thing here makes any sense." - Tom Tresser

Poor Tom Tresser. I understand how you feel. See, I just read the first issue of your new mini-series and feel exactly the same way. Not one thing here makes any sense. I'm not sure where you are, what's happening to you, or who any of the other people around you are, for that matter. Perhaps this series requires a lot more back story and continuity knowledge than just the seven issues of Final Crisis this is supposed to spin directly out of? Maybe it helps to be reading this whilst on as many drugs as you seem to be on throughout the whole issue? 

Tom Tresser is drugged up. He is drugged up and imprisoned...somewhere. He is drugged up, imprisoned, and hallucinating, possibly, everything that is happening to him. Nothing is revealed to him; questions he asks, and by proxy the reader asks, are only answered with vague bemusement. Narration is redacted. He is served a breakfast of Omelet Florentine and black coffee by identical blonde triplets in groovy stewardess uniforms. He is served a drink in a dog bowl. He blacks out repeatedly preceded by or immediately following him running down a hall. He awakens repeatedly to be faced by another complete stranger who refuses to again answer any questions. 

If not for the DC solicitation for this issue that clearly states that Mr. Tresser is being imprisoned and tortured by the Global Peace Agency, it would not be apparent, since the agency is never mentioned. In an issue so replete with hallucinatory panel compositions, black outs, and riddles, its difficult for an uninitiated reader to even think this is prison or torture at all. It just feels like a bad acid-trip being had by a man in a costume. Hell, Batman used to go through this all the time in the late 50's. Zur-en-Arrh, anyone?

Good serialized drama answers one question while asking two more. This satisfies the appetite while simultaneously tempting the palette for more. This issue answers nothing. Where exactly is Tom Tresser and his fellow prisoners? Are these other prisoners really here with him or are they hallucinations? Is any of this actually happening in reality or just in his drug-addled mind? Why was Tresser chosen? What do they ultimately want from him? Who is really holding him and are they truly perpetuating torture or are these the after-effects of the anti-life equation? Is this what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder looks like for meta-humans? Surely, I don't want every question answered in issue #1, but when reading the solicitation blurb is necessary for all the information because none of it is in the issue itself, there is a slight disconnect and it's jarring. Perhaps this was the intention of the issue, to put the reader through the same frustration and impatient panic the protagonist is experiencing? If so, mission accomplished.

It is an intriguing read and the art by Marco Rudy and Mick Gray is creepy and medicinal, everything looking like it's been dipped in antiseptic. However, I do tend to find these drug-trip style issues to be a bit clichéd, complete with stretched out perspective, lava-lamp backgrounds, stairways leading into infinity, and blurred after-effects. It tends to leave the reader feeling like nothing can be trusted. No word of dialogue, no caption, not a single panel can be relied upon to be telling anything resembling the truth. Ultimately, this leads to emptiness.

Review: Green Lantern Corps #36

Green Lantern Corps #36

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Patrick Gleason
Inkers: Rebecca Buchman with Prentis Rollins
Released: May 13, 2009

In the classic Superman story "For The Man Who Has Everything..." we are provided with a glimpse into the heart of the villainous character Mongul to witness first-hand a depiction of his true desires, that which would make him most content. It is a vision of total universal devastation and subjugation at the hands of a control-hungry dictator, the ultimate abuse of power, seemingly, for the sheer thrill of being able to make such agony a reality. It is not a reality, however, only a fantasy hallucination brought about by contact with an alien fungus. He would have to wait to spin his wheat into gold.

Green Lantern Corps #36 shows Mongul getting one step closer, laying the foundation for a universal take-over with the domination and enslavement of the planet Daxam. He oversees the building of massive superweapons which are presumably capable of mass planetary destruction. He "commissions" a piece of self-aggrandizing public art, an immense statue of himself in classic Christ pose lording mightily in the Daxam skyline. He is a classic dictator ruling with draconian might and unrestrained ego in a throwback jersey. He is as retro as a Nelson lamp. 

In contrast, Sinestro now stands as a solitary figure, the deposed leader of his own Corps, escaped fugitive running from the law of the Green Lanterns, hunted bounty running from the vengeful rancor of the Red Lanterns. However, he is far from ineffectual, his unassailable power feeding not on the worship of an outside source, but blooming brightly from within. He is unswayed in his aims, confident in his abilities and assured in the outcome. He believes himself to be serving something higher than the pursuit of power, higher than his own ego. He believes himself to be in possession of knowledge, strength, and intellect beyond that of others and that it is his duty to rule for the betterment of the poor lesser beings beneath him. Where Mongul wishes to enslave through power, Sinestro wishes to deliver through power. It is a fine distinction to be sure. 

The most interesting part of the Superman Annual #11 featuring Mongul, published in 1985, is that no motivation is ever given for why this is his heart's desire, for why he wishes to bring about so much ruin and anguish. He is presented as an evil-doer so he then does evil things. He is not presented much differently in 2009. This is what makes Mongul a classic comic book villain. He is a black-hat, easy to hiss at when he appears on stage.

In truth, we know villainy to be much more complicated, and our need now as readers is to be shown the varying sides and motivations behind the twirling-moustache cliché of the classic bad-guy. Sinestro's storyline serves this function. We see him confront Green Lantern Soranik Natu with the revelation that he is her biological father. We see his tenderness and sincere love for his own child and the honor with which he sees the role of fatherhood and the sacrifices it requires. Through all of this, Sinestro becomes a fleshed out character, not just a scowling archetype, but a real man complete with estranged ex-wife and daughter and a career in law-enforcement that went off the rails. Underneath all this, the questions are there: How can this man be truly evil? How can we completely despise him? 

Once again, artist Patrick Gleason turns in another stunning issue. Where most superhero artists feel an overwhelming need to make every character beautiful or handsome in every panel from every angle, regardless of the content and context of the situation and the scene, Gleason understands that facial expression is an involuntary reactionary manifestation of emotions. He strives to present his characters in the glory of raw honesty and the drama is ratcheted up markedly because of this. Tomasi pens dramatic emotional conflict between characters with deeply personal connections and Gleason shows us the invisible bruises that are left by words, not punches. 

This issue is strong meat, displaying two characters who diverge in their style with which they wear the mantle of Villain. One is classic and retro, the other complex and modern. They are destined to clash. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #1

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #1 (of 6)

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Released: May 6, 2009

Mike Miller was lower than D-list. A never-was bank robber with a silly gimmick, a horribly unfortunate nom de guerre, and a terribly overinflated sense of importance, Mike Miller was destined to be nothing more than a footnote in a grand encyclopedia, not worth the breath expelled in saying his name. The Human Flame was a joke long-ago burnt away into ashes of insignificance. Now, he is a cover star. 

What brought about this shift? What caused the ignorant spotlight of fame to set its intense highbeam upon the doughy hirsute personage of one Mike Miller? Why, only the end of the Multiverse, of course.

When those responsible for bringing about the apocalypse came calling seeking followers to the cause, it was to the Human Flame they first approached, knowing that his combination of desperation and megalomania made him the perfect stooge to bait the hook with which to lure in the bigger villainous fish. Mike Miller obliged and his blind zealousness led to the murder of a beloved hero and helped open the door through which Hell walked in. Final Crisis Aftermath: Run is the greater DCU giving Mike Miller a big 'Thank You'.

Perhaps it would be unfair to lay too much blame at the feet of such an inconsequential character, but the beauty of this is the incongruity of it all, the insane realization that the most inane and insignificant people can have huge impacts on entire Universes simply by just being stupid. And that's the real heart of Miller's problem and why he is where he is. Where other low-level villains find themselves on the D-list due to overcrowding or the negligence or laziness of creators, The Human Flame finds himself consigned to the also-ran pile purely because it's where someone of such unbelievable imbecility deserves to be. That he finds himself running from every person, place, and thing in a costume because he's the scapegoat-apparent of Final Crisis is fitting for someone who thinks it's awesome to strap gas canisters to his back and shoot flames from his nipples. 

Run is shaping up to be one long chase and it is thrilling in its absurdity. Drug deal gone very bad? Check. Kyrgyztani mob? Check. Hong Kong-style gun-battle in a children's playground? Check. Flaming lamb mascot? Check. Tied-up ex-wife? Check. Appearance by a Green Lantern? But, of course! Can this continue at this ridiculous, tawdry, sickening, nasty pace for five more issues? Why not? This is under the underbelly. This is comic books, kids. 

The world is falling in on poor Mike Miller for a second time. What makes it sad and pathetic is his belief he can outrun the plummeting debris. What makes it riveting is he doesn't see that in his attempt to dig his way out he is filling in his own grave. The life of a cover model ain't ever easy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Missing In Action: The Super Books! Part III - SUPERGIRL!

To demonstrate the greatness of something by omitting it and hoping people see what they are missing is a strategy best employed by petty lovers and comic book editors. Show readers a "World Without (insert hero here!)" and watch as they gasp and thrill as everything falls apart and new heroes step up to fill a void that cannot be filled. Yeah, that'll show 'em! Alas, like in love, what generally happens is the spurned party tends to just feel manipulated and, growing weary of this petulant behavior, end the relationship. Lovers and readers leave and in the end, no one is happy. 

A much more novel approach, one that requires far more thought, care, ambition, intelligence, creativity, and guile, would be to demonstrate greatness by providing a proper showcase for said greatness. Craft a story that pits our hero against seemingly insurmountable odds, that tests the very boundaries of their abilities, that pushes them to be a better hero, and you do what you are supposed to do, tell a superhero story in the wonderfully colorful pages of the great American comic book. Case in point, the monthly adventures of that lovable teenager rocketed from Krypton, Kara Zor-El, SUPERGIRL.

According to the DC solicitations Supergirl #23 marked a "brand-new direction" for "The Teen of Steel". Apparently this new direction was a wrong turn because 11 issues later the DC solicitations would declare issue #34 as "Beginning a new direction for SUPERGIRL." This is nothing new in the confusing world of superhero comics where books and characters are relaunched, rebooted, and rebirthed at a rate faster than a speeding bullet. Certain heroes seem to invite this as their very nature proves difficult for writers and editors to get a handle on. Poor Kara Zor-El seemed destined to be a muddled mess, nothing more than teen-girl jailbait with heat vision.

Ah, Supergirl! The short skirt! The bare midriff! The long silky hair flowing like blonde smoke in the Pantone blue Metropolis sky! It's enough to make a boy over-use exclamation marks. Of course, this could all be troubling, too, if not for the fact that the character behind all this pen and ink eye-candy has slowly and very assuredly become one of robust mettle. Since issue #34, Supergirl has grown from a confused jumble of conflicting personality traits into a multi-dimensional hero whose faults now point towards a depth, not dearth, of fortitude. The physical strength was always apparent, and now she has begun to display a mental toughness and a resiliency that balances out the youthful impetuousness. 

What was the difference this time around? Credit lay with the new creative team of writer Sterling Gates and artists Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne. Taking over with issue #34, Gates and company have brought a freshness, humor, grace, and most importantly, a solidity to the eponymous hero whose book could have rightly been stamped as a new #1. This was the real relaunch and everything prior was simply the forgettable prologue.

Mr. Gates understands that superheroes need obstacles thrown at them so that readers may see the true measure of their prowess as heroes, and in just seven issues to date, he has given Supergirl real and worthy obstacles, both emotional and physical. She has gone from the soaring exhilarating heights of reuniting with her long-lost parents to the harrowing plunge of vicious heartbreak at witnessing the murder of her father. Like any child who has dealt with
abandonment, she struggles to rationalize her widowed mothers abusive treatment and reconcile it with her own juvenile need for parental approval. She fights skillfully with her powers and when faced with the loss of her powers, has fought bravely and with guile, demonstrating an intelligent resourcefulness that would make Batman proud, may he rest in peace. She faces the banning of all Kryptonians from Earth, the emergence of another Kryptonian Superwoman intent on protecting her father's murderer, all while enduring the harsh critical lashing of the big-city media. While she may succumb to fleeting moments of self-doubt, she conquers them with valiant recklessness that bear witness to her unflagging sense of truth and justice. Supergirl is a hero, all right. The girl can't help herself.

Completing this remarkable characterization is artist Jamal Igle, who understands the girl in Supergirl. Where other artists have drawn her as a nymphet fit for the dreams of Humbert Humbert, Mr. Igle draws her as a solid figure of heroic femininity blazing through the sky in a steely band of red and blue. She never appears as if she is striking a pose meant solely to elicit a
puerile sexual response. Her postures and gestures are all honestly earned and her expansive facial expressions are sincere renderings of uninhibited childlike emotion. In Mr. Igle's virtuosic hands, Kara Zor-El is most definitely very real.

The DCU is a confusing place but Mr. Gates and Mr. Igle have made a little corner of it far more simple for you, the reader. They have made a whole chunk of its history practically irrelevent. Supergirl is seven issues old. One need not worry themselves with anything that came before because what is happening right now is the truth. This is seven issues of superhero storytelling worthy of the medium's glorious tradition. Seven issues. Seven issues at 22 pages each. 154 pages of comic book splendor dressed in a mini-skirt, midriff top and cape. But of all the bits of costume Supergirl wears, the part that is most exciting is the shield on her chest. The family crest of the House of El never looked so good.

Next in Part IV: WoNK!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: Justice Society of America #26

Justice Society of America #26

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Dale Eaglesham
Inker: Nathan Massengill
Released: April 29, 2009

This cover says it all. Look at these costumes. The bright primary colors and outdated lines clash with eye-gouging vehemence and strain the very limits of fashion taste enough to make a New York editrix sling "Glamour Don'ts" like ninja stars. Some of these heroes look like they could be collecting Social Security and receiving newsletters from the AARP. The Norman Rockwell styled family portrait would look perfect above a fireplace mantle, preferably in a ranch home in suburban Los Angeles. Yep, this cover practically screams "Golly, gee" while stroking the sweet tooth right out of your mouth. It's pretty darn perfect.

The Justice Society of America has always been a bit twee, favoring a down-home style of Golden Age heroism over the gritty urban sprawl of Modern Age cynicism. The greying hair and deep facial fissures of the old guard stand defiantly against the onslaught of time and trend, and like Superman's tights, emerge as classic, not dated. Leave the uncanny members of other super teams to their bondage leather and blood-soaked banter. Jay Garrick and Alan Scott are here and ready to give out hugs.

Issue #26 marks the end of Johns's and Eaglesham's run on this title, relaunched in 2006 following Infinite Crisis, and it demonstrates how much more of a family the JSA is than just a costumed super team. Here we see the members do something that would seem ridiculously out of joint for the Justice League, gather together for a comrade's surprise birthday party. As close as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are, I don't see them sitting down to cake and ice cream, let alone even knowing when each other's special day falls on the calendar. Jay and Alan seem the type to have everyone's birthdays circled in green in their dayplanners and have the local florist on speed dial. They are fathers, not leaders. The brownstone in Manhattan is a home, not a headquarters.

Boy, oh boy! As a final issue in a 26 issue arc this one has it all:

GASP IN AWE as superheroes shop for ice cream! SHIVER WITH SUSPENSE as gifts are exchanged! QUAKE WITH ANTICIPATION as candles are blown out and wishes are made! TREMBLE IN TERROR as our heroes visit the orthodontist! It's All HERE! Don't miss this 22-page blowout spectacular! This month in the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA!

More importantly, see the ideals of The Golden Age live on as costumed adventurers strive to be good citizens, true friends, and real heroes. Nothin' dated 'bout that, mister. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: Superman #687

Superman #687

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhães
Released: April 29, 2009

"Hi, I'm Black Lightning. I make lightning. Lightning is electricity which travels through air which you would already know if you've ever seen,...well, lightning before. I'm going to use lightning to capture these lame bank robbers and tell them all about the scientific properties of lightning while they stand and wait for me to use it on them. Now, I'm going to tell you that I should really not be away from Metropolis if this is going to keep happening."

"Hi, I'm the Guardian. I'm going to introduce the team I work with to each other and completely list all their individual accomplishments to each other, even though they should probably already know this about each other, considering they've been on the same special team together for some time now. Boy, they sure have battled through a lot of danger. Too bad we are talking about it instead of showing any of it. They sure are 'handy'."

"Hi, I'm Mon-El. I'm going to fly around for five panels talking to myself about things you already know. I'm going to tell you that I was worried about being both a costumed hero and a Science Police officer. I'm going to tell you about the fourth villain I've stopped and how I hope I don't suddenly lose my powers....oh, wait, what's happening? I'M LOSING MY POWERS! Oh, boy, I didn't see that coming"

Hi, I'm the reader. I spent $2.99 on a Superman comic in a depressed economy. I'm left with a feeling of complete emptiness both in spirit and in wallet. I'm now feeling that if the point of World Without Superman was to demonstrate how trite and boring a Superman comic can be, DC has succeeded by leaps and bounds. I'm going to warn you against making the same mistake, but you probably already knew that, didn't you?