(COMIC) SUPERMAN #8

STORY: Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens
ART: Dan Jurgens and Jesus Marino

Superman is a complex character that’s often harder to write for than other, less powerful heroes. When the hero has almost no weaknesses and a whole arsenal of superhuman abilities, their stories can quickly become stale and repetitive. Fortunately, Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens are incorporating Helspont and the Daemonites – from the Wildstorm imprint – into Superman’s mythos, giving him an enemy that isn’t as readily ‘hit-able’ as Metallo or Parasite. One of the best ways to tell a Superman story – at least these days – is to invoke Clark’s demi-god status. While all of Earth’s other heroes have enough humanity to give them weaknesses, Superman is so far above them, in terms of raw power, that the true meat of his stories come from the psychological implications behind Clark’s actions.

Superman #8 explores this with a conversation between Superman and the warlord Helspont. The Daemonite warrior tells Clark his tale, one of fear and betrayal from his peers. He was one the pride and glory of the Daemonite empire, until those in power saw Helspont as a liability against the empire itself. He was cast out, exiled from his culture. Helspont sees Clark as a conqueror; it’s all he can see, really. Helspont’s culture is one of dominion, and Clark is the most powerful being on the planet, so why wouldn’t he rule? Helspont makes Clark on offer to leave Earth if Clark will help him reclaim his place in the Daemonite Empire. Clark, of course, refuses, and Helspont shows Clark just how powerful he is.

Unfortunately, our favorite Daemonite pretty much just disappears before the brawl can really get underway. Ol’ Supes chalks it up to a strategical retreat, but it comes off as a lame way of ending this particular confrontation – nothing is answered and Clark simply goes back to his life. With a villain like Helspont making his debut in the DC universe, I expected a little more pomp and circumstance.

GRADE:
B-
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(DC NATION) APRIL 28th, 2012

Young Justice
Season 2, Episode 1
“Happy New Year”

Young Justice is an animated superhero show done right. One of the reasons I generally dislike more contemporary animated superhero shows is because the writers and producers tend to coddle the audience, assuming children aren’t able to (or simply don’t want to) understand more complex story elements. Fortunately, Young Justice is the exception to the rule, proving that taking a big leap with audience expectations can greatly pay off, especially when it appeases the hardcore comic book fans, too.

Looks like Cassie Sandsmark is YJ‘s Wonder Girl of choice!

“Happy New Year” starts off five years after the events of “Auld Acquaintances” and things are different. Dick Grayson has become Nightwing, allowing Tim Drake to take the Robin mantle (and join the Team); Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, Wonder Girl, Batgirl, Lagoon Boy, and Bumblebee have all joined the Team; M’gann and Superboy are no longer an item (but M’gann and Lagoon Boy are!); Aqualad, Artemis, and Kid Flash have apparently left the Team (they are nowhere to be seen); while Zatanna and Rocket are full-fledged members of the Justice League. WOW! I think that about covers it.

Most networks wouldn’t dare allow a show (technically) aimed at children to deviate so harshly from the core framework of it’s first, highly successful season. But just like the comics, the Team is has an ever-changing roster, and the writers have conveyed this fact excellently. It very much feels like this second season of Young Justice comes from the heart – the producers obviously hold these characters in high regard and want to use as many of them as possible. How much cooler is it to write a episodes with Robin and Nightwing? Or to include the under-appreciated, rather interesting second incarnation of the Blue Beetle? It’s a win-win situation, as Cartoon Network now gets to sell soooo many more toys.

The second season of Young Justice is subtitled ‘Invasion’, a concept that comes to ahead when Wonder Girl and Batgirl take on Lobo, who himself is looking to complete a job by retrieving a Krolotean criminal. Lobo rips apart a seemingly innocent diplomat to reveal the small Krolotean operator inside. Video footage makes its way into the media and the question becomes, “How can we trust who is and isn’t an alien?” While this story element may harken to Marvel’s Secret Invasion event a few years ago, it remains to be seen if the Kroloteans have infested the superhero community.

At the end of last season, six superheroes went missing for 16 of the 24 hours that the Justice League was under Vandal Savage’s mind control. In the present (or five years in the future if season one was 2011) Adam Strange – a scientist accidentally Zeta Beamed to the planet Rann – explains that the same six missing heroes are wanted criminals on Rann and across the galaxy. This revelation sets into motion the major arcs for ‘Invasion’: how do the Missing Six connect to Rann, why have the Kroloteans invaded Earth, why are they afraid of the Blue Beetle, and finally; who will we meet next?

Overall, “Happy New Year” is about 80% showcasing for the new faces audiences will be seeing going forward in Young Justice, and about 20% fantastic plot that moves the story forward while making connections to a bigger malice.

GRADE:
A+
Green Lantern: The Animated Series
Season 1, Episode 9
“In Love and War”
Zamarons! Yes! Green Lantern: TAS seems to really be picking itself up by the bootstraps – with three great episodes in a row, this show may just be an acceptable Green Lantern enterprise yet! By incorporating two new Lantern groups (and a technical third with the cameo from Saint Walker a few episodes back), Bruce Timm is really bringing Geoff Johns’ multi-colored Corps dream to life. Of course, just like in the comics, the Sapphires mostly use love instead of have it, per se. I mean, their entity is the Predator, who infects hosts who use love as an excuse to commit vile actions. It came as no surprise when Kilowog’s girlfriend from last episode showed up as a new Sapphire, then froze ol’ ‘Wog in pink ice.

More and more, the writers for Green Lantern: TAS are bringing elements from the comics into the show, however slowly. Carol Ferris hasn’t made an appearance since the first episode, so it was nice to see her return, not only for continuity’s sake, but also as a mirror image of her comic book self: a Star Sapphire. Carol’s ability to resist the Sapphire’s power shows another young Sapphire that the Zamarons have a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of love. Unfortunately, the show squanders a chance to build a “Rainbow Brigade” of its own (a la Green Lantern: New Guardians) by sending Carol back to Earth by the end of the episode.

“In Love and War” is definitely one of better episodes of the series so far. While not as strong as “Reckoning” (an episode I still regret not covering), it gives this animated GL universe even more depth without going overboard with colors quickly.

GRADE:
B+

(COMIC) TEEN TITANS #8

STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Ig Guara and JP Mayer

As the creative force behind Teen Titans, Superboy, and Red Hood and The Outlaws, Scott Lobdell has a lot of room to create fantastic stories that involve a great lineup of characters that could possibly evolve into a sort-of mini-universe within DC’s larger mainframe. Unfortunately, Lobdell has completely squandered both Teen Titans and Superboy with trite dialogue, a ridiculously convoluted tale about the organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (a pet peeve of mine is unexplained acronyms) that captures/recruits teenaged metahumans for some mysterious use. Also, some weirdo mutant thing called Harvest is the ringleader of the whole thing.

Apparently, Lobdell is building toward some ‘official’ crossover between Teen Titans and Superboy called “The Culling”. By dictionary definition, a culling means a trimming down, a reduction. I can only assume this is the central idea behind Lobdell’s crossover because there’s been absolutely no indication of what this culling actually is. This month’s Superboy carried the same “The Culling: Prelude” tag as this issue of Teen Titans, yet there’s nothing to in either issue that points to this event – the exception being the cameos of Beast Boy and Terra at the end of Superboy #8.

This month in Teen Titans, the team is somehow already balls-deep in a fight with Omen, a metahuman teenager who can manipulate reality and…minds? Maybe? It’s not really explained, like most things in Teen Titans, so I suppose I should stop complaining, huh? Mostly, Omen brings out the insecurities and fears of each team member, using these feelings to pit them against each other. But at the end, it turns out that the entire issue was a dream being collectively shared by the team. They’ve been strapped to steel lab beds the entire time, all of their struggles simply a made-up reality courtesy of Omen.

Honestly, it feels like a lot of wasted time. If all of it was a just a hallucination of-sorts, what was the point? What purpose did this entire issue serve? And with painful dialogue like, “Wha–? Last thing I remember was writhing in Omens grip…and now I’m dressed like Superboy’s prom date. And bound to this table, to boot. Super strength would normally be enough to break free but…” This monologue by Wonder Girl made me literally cringe while reading it. Nobody talks like that ever. It’s an affront to basic intelligence to make a character literally say what they are thinking. It’s abhorrent and Lobdell better start taking a look at how he treats this title or he will lose all of his readers.

Also, Superboy is on the cover, yet not in the issue. This is sooooooo aggravating I cannot tell you.

GRADE:
D

(COMIC) AQUAMAN #8

STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

It feels like, at this point, there’s not much to be said about Aquaman that I haven’t already expressed in spades over the course of the last four months. Geoff Johns is a stellar writer and he obviously has a soft spot in his heart for characters who’ve lost their true essence. In 2004, Johns took Green Lantern and revitalized that franchise to a point where DC was basically framed around the workings of the GL universe for nearly three years. And while the imprint is no longer as GL-centric as it once was, Johns brings the same passion and bravado to Arthur Curry in the pages of Aquaman. This month’s second part of “The Others” give us a little more insight into Aquaman’s life before the events of the series thus far, which seems to take place before Arthur joins the Justice League but not much before.

Starting six years in the past, Johns shows us paparazzi are hassling a young Arthur before he throws a temper tantrum and jumps into the sea. Flash-forward to the present and Arthur decides to take off with Miss No-name-from-last-issue because of something having to do with a group of superhumans that worked together, but were never (technically) a team. In true Geoff Johns style, the storyline at this point is still cryptic and hidden under layers of intricate backstory that Johns has masterfully crafted, so I’m not super worried about the eventual conclusion.

My only gripes with Aquaman #8 would be the a general lack of real movement in plot. While we get a lot of backstory, the present-day panels and flashbacks didn’t flow as well as they could have, and Ivan Reis’ art this issue seemed a bit sloppy, a bit rushed. But like I’ve said many a-time, Aquaman is still one of my favorite series of the ‘New 52’ and issue eight still impresses beyond most of the other top-tier books in DC’s lineup.

GRADE:
B+

(COMIC) AvX: VS #1 of 6

STORY: Jason Aaron (Part 1) and Kathryn Immonen (Part 2)
ART: Adam Kubert (Part 1); Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger (Part 2)

The preface pages of Avengers vs. X-Men: VS #1 explains most of what you need to know about this series going forward. While it connects to the main Avengers vs. X-Men event, VS is all about fighting! Small on plot and big on visual appeal, VS is mostly about letting the artists draw some of the biggest and coolest fights ever seen in the Marvel universe. And, Marvel isn’t looking to squeeze every last penny out of you by limiting VS to six issues, one for each month of AvX.


This month brings us the “director’s cut” for the fight between Iron Man and Magneto, as well as the undersea brawl between Thing and Namor. Unlike the somewhat lacking main series, VS isn’t trying to dress up this superhero cat fight with actual plot. After a disappointing second issue in the main series, I was very much hoping that VS would be this event’s saving grace. Unfortunately, while the actual fights are fleshed out very well, the choices for who fights and who wins is absolutely absurd.

Can you really call him ‘Iron’ Man if his suit isn’t made of metal? I mean, I understand not being made of actual iron – that would be ridiculous – but shouldn’t Tony Stark’s suit be somewhat metal? Or at least have some metal parts? I find it very hard to believe that throughout his entire suit, there’s not at least a few metal pieces. But, that’s what Marvel would have us believe as Tony takes on Magneto. And wins. Yes, Magneto takes on IRON Man and loses.

The second extended fight comes from Thing – formerly of the Fantastic Four – and Namor, the Sub-Mariner and ruler of the former kingdom of Atlantis. After getting punched up into the air through a S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier, Thing crashed back down into the ocean and proceeds to defeat Namor. NAMOR IS THE KING OD ATLANTIS AND CAN BREATH UNDERWATER! I seriously almost became angry when Thing was able to breath using thermal vents on the ocean floor. How ridiculous is that? Namor is the obvious winner of this fight, yet the writers decide to make Thing the victor.

It very much feels like Marvel and it’s writers are trying to throw audiences curveballs with this series. It’s very, very obvious that Magneto should defeat Iron Man and that Namor should defeat Thing when fighting underwater, yet Jason Aaron and Kathryn Immonen (respectively) feel like giving the underdogs the victories makes more sense. Instead, it simply comes off as ridiculous and a slap in the face to readers who supposedly know these characters. I mean, how can Marvel justify making Namor lose a fight underwater? I simply don’t know.

GRADE:
C-

(THE WEEK) APRIL 24-30, 2012

COMIC COVERAGE

Aquaman #8
(Johns, Reis)
“The Other League” continues this month with a second part that explores Arthur’s history – and other team membership – before he joined the Justice League.

Avengers vs. X-Men: VS. #1 (of 6)
(Aaron, Immonen, Waid)
The first issue of Marvel’s only event mini-series! Expanding on fights from the main book, VS. is less about story and ALL about them fights! This issue: Iron Man vs. Magneto and Thing vs. Namor!
*Review may include details from other Marvel titles that are deemed pertinent enough to warrant coverage.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #8 
(Bedard, Kirkham )
Arkillo discovers that his Sinestro Corps has been disbanded — by Sinestro himself! The fiercest yellow ring slinger goes on a mission to find a new source of yellow energy, and the New Guardians come along for the ride!

Justice League Dark #8
(Milligan, Sampere)
The crossover with I, Vampire continues this month as Zatanna and Shade face an army of hive-minded vampires — ALONE!

Superman #8
(Griffen, Jurgens, Reis)
Helspont has Superman under his control, but how? Find out in the second part of Superman’s excellent second arc that brings Wildstorm’s Helspont to the DC universe!

Teen Titans #8
(Lobdell, Guara)
The team comes together (however slowly) as Red Robin goes after a missing Wonder Girl, Superboy announces his intentions to lead the Titans, Solstice works through some drama from her past, and Kid Flash sees the future!

OTHER COVERAGE


DC Nation for April 28th


– Young Justice Season 2, Episode 1“Happy New Year”

– Green Lantern: The Animated Series Season 1, Episode 9, “In Love and War”

(COMIC) RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #8

STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Kenneth Rocafort

Welcome to the first post of coverage for Red Hood and The Outlaws. Like many titles I don’t regularly cover here, I’ve been reading about Jason Todd, Roy Harper, and Koriand’r since DC’s ‘New 52’ relaunch. When I originally made decisions about what to cover for “The Endless Reel”, I decided against RHatO because it technically stands as a Batman-related title, and I didn’t want to overload myself – or readers – with Bat-related material. Of course, after seven months of reading the increasing odd exploits of these three non-team-members, it’s pretty obvious Jason’s connection to Batman simply serves to set a base for his personality and place in the world. And so – coincidentally enough – does this issue of Red Hood and The Outlaws serve as a set-up t next month’s tie-in to the “Night of the Owls” event.

Scott Lobdell’s work on RHatO is similar in both style and scope to Dan Abnett’s Resurrection Man. Both titles are about fun, comic book-y issues that (may) eventually tie together, but mostly stand on their own as well. This month, Jason, Roy, and Kori go after Suzie Su, a new character created by Lobdell who has a history with Jason that ended with Jason killing everyone in her father’s gang. Seeking revenge, Suzie wakes up out of the coma Jason put her in years earlier and takes a wing of the hospital hostage until the Red Hood shows himself.

Suzie is being treated in a hospital in Gotham, so when she wakes up and takes hostages, Jason & Co. are forced to travel to Gotham as well, giving them a reason for being in Bruce Wayne’s city on the night that the Talons attack. It’s definitely a little forced, having the Outlaws show up just in time to help Batman and the others contain the Talon insurgence. But seeing how far removed Red Hood and The Outlaws is from the regular Bat-canon, it makes sense to use a rather unsubtle means to bring Jason and his team to Gotham.

The flashback cameo from Red Robin was great and was a fantastic way for Lobdell to create a more cohesive world between Teen Titans, Superboy and Red Hood and The Outlaws. In events that took place about a month prior to the confrontation with Suzie Su, Jason and Tim meet to bring each other information. Jason informs Tim about “Wonder Girl”, and Tim give Jason the info about smugglers coming into Miami (from RHatO #1!). Seeing Lobdell make connections between his three titles for the ‘New 52’ is awesome, and it’s something DC has needed for a while.

Next month, I’m sure I’ll have a whole lot more to write about than a ‘prelude’ issue, so don’t miss out on the coverage for “Night of the Owls”.

GRADE:
B-