(COMIC) SUPERMAN #7

Written by Keith Griffin and Dan Jurgens
Artwork by Dan Jurgens and Jesus Marino

One of my favorite parts of the ‘New 52′ relaunch was the potential to make Superman great again. After decades of learning to hone his powers, good ol’ Supes was literally unstoppable. God complex stories are nice, but they too can get old after a while. Over in Action Comics, Grant Morrison’s origin story has explained that, in his early days as a superhero, couldn’t fly or lift more than a car. Also, toning down the boy scout routine was essential; trying to convey a character like Superman into the 21st century meant shedding the “Aww, gee golly shucks!” attitude that was popular when the character was first developed.

Last time, Clark defeated his daemonite doppelgänger after it went on a villain killing spree. This month, the cause of all Superman’s worries in the last six issues comes to light. After a couple of run-ins with what looks like a minotaur robot, Supes is teleported to a fortress in the Himalayas where he comes face to face with Helspont, a long-time Wildstorm Comics super villain. One of the reasons for DC relaunching everything under the ‘New 52’ header was to bring in characters from the Wildstorm and Vertigo imprints that DC owns. Helspont and the dameonites represent this aesthetic. It’s nice that the first arc of this new Superman series wasn’t a Lex Luthor or Brainiac encounter. The encounter between Superman and Helspont is great. The daemonite warlord doesn’t understand, as a Kryptonian far more powerful than anyone else on the planet, why Superman hasn’t conquered Earth yet. It’s fantastic writing because Helspont is ‘technically’ new to the planet, so he logically reached out to the most powerful being.  The new creative team of Keith Griffin, Dan Jurgens and Jesus Marino is fantastic. The artwork is solid, with some jagged edges that convey Helspont’s authoritative presence, and the writing is still as solid as George Perez’s work on the first six issues. The end of the issue sets up next month’s the main event: Superman Vs. Helspont.

GRADE:
B+
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(COMIC) AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Aaron
Artwork by Frank Cho

For months, Marvel has been teasing it’s Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover as the event to read this summer. With a huge 12-issue main series, the all-fight companion series AvX: VS, and countless tie-in issues from across the imprint, Marvel is bringing fans an awesome event without going overboard, an issue that’s plagued crossover events – for both Marvel and DC – over the past ten years. And it all starts this week with Avengers Vs. X-Men #0, a prequel issue that features two stories about the Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers.

We start with Scarlet Witch and her fight against M.O.D.O.K. Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel show up to lend a hand and a few words about friendship. Against Wanda’s better instincts, they all fly back to Avengers Mansion only to be greeted by Scarlet Witch’s ex-husband, Vision who wants nothing to do with her. It seems a bit odd to me that it’s been eight years since the Avengers: Disassembled story arc and seven since House of M, and loose ends from both of these events are just now being tied up. Why wouldn’t Wanda and Vision have at least seen each other before now? It might be a bi-product of Brian Michael Bendis’ writing style. Dedicating twelve issues of a series to a day’s worth of events – for example – severely hinders the ability for the entire imprint to keep a consistent timeline.

The second story focuses on Hope Summers, the mutant messiah, as explained to me by the character bio at the beginning in the issue. Holed up on Utopia, the X-Men’s island sanctuary off the coast of San Francisco, Hope has been sneaking out to fight crime and Cyclops has finally decided to approach her about it. Before I keep going, I’d like to mention the fact that Scott Summers (a.k.a. Cyclops) is supposed to be the leader of the X-Men and an inspiration for all of mutantkind. It’s been 70 years and he still has to wear a visor. Seriously? It’s actually kind of annoying that Marvel hasn’t allowed Cyclops to evolve beyond needing his visor. Anyway, Hope is set to be the next avatar for the Phoenix Force, which is hurtling through space toward Earth. Scott doesn’t want to talk about the Phoenix, due to the whole Jean being possessed by it thing, and Hope wants answers about this mysterious alien force coming to possess her body.

For fans who regularly follow Marvel’s titles, Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 is probably an integral issue that offers payoff for months of build-up, but as a jumping-in point for new readers, it fails to give enough backstory to create a narrative understandable enough to continue reading.

GRADE:
B+

(COMIC) GREEN LANTERN – NEW GUARDIANS #7

Written by Tony Bedard
Artwork by Tyler Kirkham and Batt

Green Lantern stories have a way of sneaking up on you. With eons of history in which to place new ideas, GL titles tend to introduce a new, mysterious threat that eventually gets explained near the end of the arc. While this sounds like a general storytelling technique, it’s used abundantly for GL tales with good reason. Green Lantern: New Guardians #7 starts the ‘wrap-up’ phase of it’s first arc by giving the readers a little history on Invictus and how he fits into the Lantern mythology.

Quick history lesson: Millions of years ago, Larfleeze – the Orange Lantern – attacked the Vega system and it’s protectors, the Angels of Vega. After discovering he couldn’t steal the Angels’ souls to use as orange constructs, Larfleeze slaughtered all the Angels, their souls merged into their lone surviving brother, Invictus. In their final battle, Larfleeze cast Invictus into another universe where he stayed trapped for eons.

Tony Bedard’s history of Invictus finally gives some context for the galaxy-inspired orrery ship. In his grief, the lone Angel built a new Vega system for himself in the universe of exile, complete with genetic copies of the species that inhabited the various planets.

The story of the Angels of Vega points to Larfleeze as the culprit behind the creation of the New Guardians. In a somewhat annoying info dump, Kyle Rayner explains how Larfleeze was the one who stole the various-colored rings and sent the team on their mission to kill Invictus. The manic-depressive Invictus finally shows some restraint and decides to not replace the current Vega system with his copy. How nice! Instead, he wants Kyle to kill Larfleeze. Who’s ready for next month’s issue? This guy.

GRADE:
B-

(COMIC) TEEN TITANS #7

Written by Scott Lobdell
Artwork by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

I don’t know what’s going on with Scott Lobdell. With Teen Titans and Superboy both currently his responsibility, Lobdell has managed to totally undo twelve of decent storytelling in a single month. In my review of this month’s Superboy, I waxed poetic about how Lobdell was telling us his story instead of showing us, which is a cardinal sin when dealing in graphic arts. This month unfortunately shows that Lobdell is migrating his Superboy style over to Teen Titans, with horribly long info dumps to prove it. Along with an extremely chopped up narrative, Teen Titans #7 might be the worst of the series so far.

The issue starts with a jump into the near future. Superboy is once again being held against his will by N.O.W.H.E.R.E., and Director Centerhall decides to bore everyone to death with a five-bubble monologue that takes up the ENTIRE FIRST PAGE. That’s right, the first page of the entire issue is dedicated to a lengthy diatribe from a villain in a situation that hasn’t been explained yet. It’s maddening. After Kid Flash pops up for a second, Lobdell immediately throws the reader back in time.

Then we meet Danny the Street. In Scott Lobdell’s new Teen Titan universe, there is a metahuman teenager who is an actual street and has the ability to create doors that lead to random destinations. What. A. Joke. Backed into a narrative corner, Lobdell pens a character, with literally no personality, whose only exists to serve a trite narrative function – get the kids out of a jam. It’s such a stupid concept that I kept getting distracted and trying to think of an explanation for why Lobdell would think such a convoluted idea was a good one.

The rest of the issue fairs no better. At one point, the narrative shifts to Wonder Girl as she stands over a defeated Ravager with an editor’s note explaining that the fight can be seen in Superboy #8. WHAT A CROCK OF SHIT! This issue is all about Superboy’s rescue operation and Lobdell conveniently decides to leave out an arguably vital part of the story (considering the upcoming The Ravagers series) with no obvious reason other than to sell more issues of Superboy.

It’s unfortunate that a team as great as the Teen Titans is being dragged through this narrative mud. When a writer treats his audience with little regard to their intelligence, it’s apparent and it’s insulting. Scott Lobdell has managed to make me seriously rethink Teen Titans and Superboy as A-list titles from the ‘New 52.’

GRADE:
C-

(MOVIE) SUPERMAN/BATMAN – PUBLIC ENEMIES

Directed by Sam Liu
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Produced by Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm and Others

By the time Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was released, DC had already found success in two movies adapted from comic books (Superman: Doomsday, and Justice League: The New Frontier), two well-received origin story films (Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman), as well as Batman: Gotham Knight, which became wildly popular in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s epic second chapter in his Batman reboot, The Dark Knight. It was time to put two of DC’s most iconic characters together.

Public Enemies isn’t very plot-centric. Though, this team-up tale is important for a few reasons. First off, it’s animated in the exact same style as it’s comic book forefather, illustrated by Ed McGuinness, which is an astounding feat considering McGuinness’ art style is seminally unique. Second is reunion of Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly as Batman and Superman respectively. While both had voiced the characters since the end of their animated series’ in the late 90s, neither had worked together as Bats and Supes. Third, Public Enemies marks the animated debut of some awesome DC characters like Power Girl, Major Force, Night Shade, and others.

This loose narrative centers on Lex Luthor winning the election for Presidency of the United States, and a giant meteor made of Kryptonite heading for Earth. With the country’s most powerful position as his weapon, Luthor doctors film clippings to accuse Superman of killing someone. Luthor declares Superman (and Batman because they hang out, duh) a wanted felon with a reward for his capture. This prompts many DC villains and aforementioned heroes to come after the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight hoping to either get the reward or curry favor with Luthor. Eventually, the plot pulls back around the remind us that the Kryptonite meteor is still heading toward Earth. And this is where things start to fall apart.

The boys in blue and black go to see the (new, very young and Asian) Toyman in Tokyo where he reveals to them that he built a robot in their honor some years ago. The robot is half Batman and half Superman. The robot can destroy the Kryptonite meteor where hundreds of nuclear bombs could not. The robot can be manually operated by a person with no training, without a space suit of any kind. It’s all hugely silly and really took away from the mood of the film. And after all that, Batman takes the robot into space and smashes it into the meteor, effectively going kamikaze. But he survives! From a nuclear explosion with a radioactive green meteor! What!?

If you skip the last ten minutes, you seriously wont be disappointed because I watched it and I was. The heroes and villains going after Superman and Batman was fun and played well to the artistic style of the comic book. The Kryptonite meteor was superfluos from the beginning (even in the comics!) and just got more and more tired as it kept popping up to remind the audience how annoying it was.

GRADE:
C+

(CLASSIC) BATMAN BEYOND [Vol. 3, 2010]

Written by Adam Beechen
Artwork by Ryan Benjamin, John Stanisci

Before I begin, I recognize that 2010 isn’t that long ago and that I may be stretching the idea of a ‘classic’ by regarding such a recent series as such. Since the six-issue run of Batman Beyond two years ago, DC launched a 2011 ongoing series, then relaunched the series as Batman Beyond Unlimited, a web-then-print series that compiled two series, Batman Beyond and Justice League Beyond, into a single, monthly title, with an upcoming Superman Beyond in the works. Suffice it to say, Batman Beyond (Vol. 3) was a success.

Batman Beyond (Vol. 3) reintroduced the Dark Knight of Tomorrow to a whole new generation of comic book fans who may not have been old enough to have seen the original TV animated series. With a full decade of new DC universe material from which to draw, Adam Beechen wanted to breathe new life into the world of Terry McGuinness, Neo-Gotham, and the world of Batman in the near-future. When one of Batman’s oldest and deadliest enemies reappears in Neo-Gotham and starts murdering Batman’s rogue gallery, Terry must track down the new(?) Hush on top of dealing with a new Catwoman and a girlfriend who doesn’t know the truth about his after school job working for Mr. Wayne.

“Hush: Beyond” is important for introducing Dick Grayson into the ‘Beyond’ universe. While Tim Drake was the ‘antagonist’ of the 2001 feature-length film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Dick was never shown and barely mentioned. Eventually, the new Hush is revealed to be a disturbed clone of Dick Grayson attempting to rid the city of Batman’s villains to take the name for himself. As head of the scientific research organization Cadmus, Amanda Waller – a character used throughout DC comics and extended universe – authorized the ‘Batman: Beyond’ project to make sure Gotham would always have a Batman. Realizing Bruce Wayne’s clone would go rogue, Dick Grayson was the next logical template. After escaping before full maturation, the clone’s mind cracked and he used the Hush M.O. to hunt down Batman’s villains.

And while it has a competent narrative, “Hush: Beyond” makes a classic comic book misstep by relying on clone technology alone to drive the story. While the first four issues offer a fantastic reintroduction to the Batman Beyond universe, the revelation that Dick Grayson’s clone as the ‘big bad’ is sorely disappointing. Grayson’s story mirrors that of Tim Drake’s in Return of the Joker; instead of a villain taking over his psyche, Cadmus used Grayson’s psyche and created a villain. I’m sure this was somewhat orchestrated, and if it was, then it was done poorly. The clone-Grayson offers no real emotion behind his actions, and the nonexistent connection to the original Hush makes his behavior all the more ridiculous.

Obviously, Batman Beyond (Vol. 3) was popular enough to spawn an ongoing series that survived the culling of the September 2011 relaunch by restarting as an even stronger series. DC took some care to connect the ‘Beyond’ universe to the established DC timeline. But in the end, the results came up short and the series as a whole comes off as unnecessary.

(NEWS) COMING SOON

Hello Readers!

As the cold slowly gets more and more scarce, and the flowers start to bloom, summer is rapidly approaching which means we’ll soon be kicking off coverage of Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men, DC’s Night of the Owls” crossover, and Before Watchmen. This week’s release of Avengers Vs. X-Men #0 marks the start off all the special coverage coming to “The Endless Reel” and I couldn’t be more excited.

Regular readers will have seen last week’s (DC NATION) coverage of both Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series, one of which I enjoyed, the other I didn’t. Check out the post to see which is which! I’ll be continuing to cover Cartoon Network’s “DC Nation” shows, including thoughts on the various shorts being offered up, from The New Teen Titans to Plastic Man and Superman in Tokyo. I’ll be writing monthly compilation reviews for these shorts.

And remember to stay tuned to “The Endless Reel” into May for the addition of Dial H and Earth 2 to the site’s list of regularly covered material! I’m looking forward to seeing China Mieville’s take on the Dial H for Hero concept, and Earth 2 brings with it the Justice Society, something most fans have been clamoring for since the ‘New 52’ relaunch.

I would also like to thank everyone who reads “The Endless Reel”. I know this might be a small, somewhat insignificant accomplishment, but recently, the site hit 100 page views in a single day. I usually get around 25-50 views per day, so reaching 100 in 24 hours was big for me. Again, it’s not much, but in the humble few months of this site’s existence, I’m proud of it. So again, thank you all for reading!

– Jay