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Comic Review – Injustice 2 Annual #2

Injustice 2 Annual #2 Cover

Normally I try and review the first issues of new series or the starts of runs by new creative teams on long-running series. This is for the good and simple reason that, typically, that’s when people need a critic’s advice.

I’m making an exception this week for Injustice 2 Annual #2 for two reasons. The first is that the core of this book is an incredibly good Superman/Batman team-up story that stands on its own. The second is that this is said to be the final comic set in the world of Injustice and I felt the need to talk a bit about this little comic that could.

A quick bit of background for those who aren’t video game fans. Injustice was a fighting game utilizing various DC Comics characters, created by the same team responsible for Mortal Kombat. The series was set in a timeline divergent from the core DC Comics reality, where The Joker put his belief that “one bad day” could push anyone over the edge to the test on Superman. The end result was a dead Lois Lane, a Metropolis burned in nuclear fire and a Joker who laughed his last laugh as Superman punched through his chest. The action of the game opens five years later as the Batman of this world, one of the last free heroes left, summons the Justice League of another reality to help him retake his Earth from the army Superman formed to force peace upon the world.

Nobody expected much of the Injustice comic that was created as a link to the games. There’s a long history of terrible superhero video games and equally terrible tie-in comics. I myself ignored the title until an associate, who knew of my love of Green Arrow, said I had to check out Issue #5 of the digital edition. It was there that I read a silly little story that involved Green Arrow hunting down Harley Quinn and I instantly fell in love.

Injustice Green Arrow and Harley Quinn

It is worth mentioning that Injustice: Gods Among Us first came out at the height of The New 52 revamp, when DC Comics was busily trying to remake Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool and Green Arrow into their version of Tony Stark. The book’s presentation of the classic Harley Quinn and Oliver Queen attracted many fans who were turned off by DC’s latest reboot and it is hard to say how much seeing the classic versions of the characters at a time when they were sorely missed may have boosted the titles’ sales in addition to its clever writing, which was both touching and hilarious in equal measure.

Writer Tom Taylor spun a five year saga plausibly detailing how a grief-stricken Superman might slowly transform himself into a tyrant in a bid to stop anyone from suffering as he had. He also explored many questions the video game didn’t cover, such as why Earth’s magicians or The Green Lanterns didn’t step in to try and stop Superman before he went over the edge. (The short answer is that they did and things did not end well for anyone.) Yet in the middle of all this, Taylor wrote flashback stories that showed a great understanding of Superman’s character and many critics called Taylor’s “For The Man Who Lost Everything” the best Superman story of the past decade.

Injustice Superman Helps A Kid Fix His Bike

The story of Injustice 2 Annual #2 is a similarly retro story, showing Superman and Batman in happier times. After Bruce Wayne is nearly assassinated on behalf of a nationalist Intergang cell unhappy with Wayne’s sponsorship of a refugee assistance program, Clark offers his teammate a place to rest and recover while he and the rest of Bruce’s friends and family hunt down those responsible. It’s not much of a plot, but it does afford Taylor the chance to tell the sort of story he excels at, playing off of the reader’s expectations as he uses his knowledge of these beloved characters to bounce themselves off of one another in unexpected ways.

To say more than that would spoil the game, so I’ll simply say that Bruno Redondo, Rex Lokus and Wed Abbott – Taylor’s artistic partners for the better portion of the runs of both Injustice comics – do a fantastic job on this issue, making it a worthy capstone for the series to date. If you want a good, old-fashioned World’s Finest team-up with solid writing and artwork, give this book a try. Then go back and see what you’ve been missing with the earlier Injustice comics. Even if you don’t care much for video games, they are well worth your time as one of the most interesting and well-developed Elseworlds in comics’ history.

9/10

Injustice 2 Annual #2 releases on November 21, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

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Comic Review – Superman #1

Superman #1 Cover

A SPOILER warning before we start. If you haven’t read Man of Steel #1-6, which directly lead into this book, you may want to do so. A summary on the first page of this book will spoil it for you otherwise. So will this review. Please bear that in mind and thank you for reading.

***

Superman is feeling uncharacteristically depressed. His wife and son are beyond his reach, taken into space by his father, Jor-El. His only means of communicating with them has been destroyed, along with The Fortress of Solitude and The Bottle City of Kandor. Between that and his cousin, Supergirl, having gone into space in search of information on Rogol Zaar – the madman who apparently also engineered Krypton’s destruction and is now trapped in The Phantom Zone – Superman is feeling more than a little bit sad and lonely.

Clark Kent isn’t one for sitting around feeling sorry for himself, however, and soon he is throwing himself back into his work and building a new Fortress Of Solitude in a new location. Still, he is troubled by something his father said to him  – about how he should be guiding his adopted home world to a better future rather than devoting himself to fighting crime and natural disasters.

It is a sentiment echoed by J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter, who feels that Earth is approaching the point where it will be ready to enter the galaxy as a power to be reckoned with and that Clark is the person best equipped to guide the way. Thoughts of Superman as a political leader will have to wait, however, as a new crisis threatens the Earth…

Your enjoyment of Superman #1 will ultimately come down to how much you enjoy the writing of Brian Michael Bendis. Personally, I think Bendis is a decent writer, though often overrated and increasingly given toward lapsing into laziness in recent years. That said, there are certain things he does well as a writer and his flaws and talents are both well displayed in Superman #1.

Bendis has a great gift for dialogue and character. Unfortunately, he has also has a tendency to write many characters according to the “types” he enjoys writing. He writes a good snarky genius, but his snarky geniuses all sound like Peter Parker. He writes a good strong woman, but his strong women all sound like Jessica Jones.

It turns out that Bendis writes a good Clark Kent, a good Lois Lane and a good Jonathan Kent. Unfortunately, the best moments of the book – the flashbacks in which Clark thinks on the family he is missing – are all too brief and not the focus of the story. Had Bendis elected to continue the Super-Family stories started by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, this would be a fantastic book.

Sadly, happy families apparently hold little interest for Bendis, who has secluded Clark in order to make him dwell on a question that has been tackled before and tackled far better in earlier stories – Should Superman Run The World?

I think anyone who has played the Injustice series of games can tell you what a tremendously awful idea that is. Ditto anyone who remembers Elliot S! Maggin’s classic Must There Be A Superman? In fact, one of Lex Luthor’s key motivators in the modern age is the fear that Superman will someday try to do that, because that’s what Lex would do if he had that kind of power. It also seems to be the main motivation of new villain Rogol Zaar, who apparently destroyed Krypton over his fears of the Kryptonian people becoming a race of world-conquerors.

It’s possible that Bendis may wind up crafting a fantastic parable out of this conceit, exploring the nature of how power can corrupt even the most noble of men. Unfortunately, all I can think of while reading this book is the ludicrous Superman IV: The Quest For Peace movie, which was also based around showing why Superman shouldn’t involve himself in political matters. And it seems horribly out of character for Martian Manhunter to be pushing Clark to take the lead in preparing humanity to enter a bigger universe – particularly when J’onn is far more qualified to tackle that mission!

Politics and story aside, the artwork for this issue is fantastic and a welcome change after the ever-changing inconsistency of Man of Steel. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado are rightly praised as one of the greatest artistic duos since Miller and Janson. The colors by Alex Sinclair are phenomenal and Josh Reed does a great job keeping the word balloons from obscuring the action, despite some lengthy monologues and dialogues.

It remains to be seen where Brian Michael Bendis is ultimately going with his efforts to revitalize Superman. So far, I’ve seen little to justify the belief that he is attempting anything truly revolutionary. Despite this, Superman #1 is a competently handled first issue that sets the stage for the story to come.

6/10

Superman #1 releases on July 11, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Man of Steel #1 Teaser

Comic Review – Man Of Steel #1

 Man of Steel #1 Cover

What can be said about The Man of Steel #1?

Does it dramatically redefine the Superman mythology? No.

Does it seem like it’s about to radically change everything we know about Superman and Krypton? No.

Does it seem like the coming of Brian Michael Bendis to DC Comics was over-hyped? A little bit.

Is it a bad comic? No. Not even close.

Is it a solid Superman story? Yes, it is that. But not much more than that. So far.

Unfortunately, what The Man of Steel #1 delivers is about what I expected based on Brian Michael Bendis’ first Superman story in Action Comics #1000. The parts involving Superman being Superman and doing Super-things are incredibly good and interesting. The parts involving Rogal Zaar – the new villain Bendis created, who has some kind of vendetta against The Kryptonian Race – are not. This leads to an odd paradox, given Bendis’ reputation for writing fantastic character-building scenes, which drives to the heart of the problem most writers seem to have when it comes to handling Superman.

Man of Steel #1 Page 3

Superman is at his worst as a character, to borrow a phrase from Mark Waid in Kingdom Come, when the “Super” is emphasized over the “Man”. Throwing Superman against a never-ending series of seemingly invincible enemies is just boring. This does not mean, however, that Superman is a dull character. His stories are frequently dull, however, because writers can’t think of anything to do with him other than keep throwing more and more powerful villains at him.

The best Superman stories, therefore, are the ones that explore who Clark Kent is as a person and show him having to work around the problems that all the super powers in the world can’t solve. Stories like Miracle Monday, What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way? and All-Star Superman are fondly remembered because they saw Superman being tested on a moral battlefield. Of course this sort of story is far more difficult to manage, which is why many writers don’t bother.

The grand irony of The Man of Steel #1 is that there are several moments where Bendis absolutely nails the character of Superman and puts his own unique touch on the Superman mythos. There is one moment, for instance, where Superman is listening for trouble on his nightly patrol and overhears a woman singing a song that he vaguely recognizes but can’t remember the name of. The problem is quickly put aside as a crisis arises but it’s a brief moment that shows how very human Superman is at his core. Who hasn’t heard a snippet of a song and briefly had their routine thrown into sharp relief as they tried to remember what it was?

Man of Steel #1 Page 9

Bendis also manages that most difficult of all tricks and writes a Superman who is honestly funny and pokes fun at the villains he faces without being mean. I honestly heard Christopher Reeve’s voice in my head reading some of the dialogue in this issue. Which is why it is so heartbreaking that so much of this issue is devoted to introducing Rogal Zaar instead of seeing Clark Kent spend time with his wife and son.

I’m sad to say that the artwork is about as uneven as the writing. Ivan Reis is a fantastic artist, but Joe Prado seems to be a poor partner for him. Prado’s inks muddy some of Reis’ pencils, leaving some pages looking like watercolors rather than inked artwork in terms of the amount of definition that comes through. The colors by Alex Sinclair are nice and vivid, but the only two pages with an consistent view to them are the final two, which were drawn and inked by Jay Fabok.

In the end, Man of Steel #1 is worth picking up if you’re a fan of Superman or any of the creators involved. So far, it doesn’t seem like this series will be the grand, reality-altering epic that was promised over a month ago. Still, it’s a solid Superman story with some good moments and good artwork.

7/10

The Man of Steel #1 releases on May 30, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Action Comics #1000

Action Comics #1000 Cover
Let us take it as a basic truth that Action Comics #1000 is a book of some significance.

It is the first of DC Comics’ series to hit the 1000 issues milestone, despite a number of divergences where the book was renumbered during those times when it was thought that starting everything over at #1 would lead to increased sales.

It contains the first published work for DC Comics by Brian Michael Bendis – recently signed to an exclusive contract – whom you might know as the writer who made Spider-Man fun again and created Jessica Jones. (If you don’t know who Brian Michael Bendis is, click the link. You’re welcome!)

It also features multiple collectible covers, for those who enjoy collecting multiple covers.

None of this, however, has anything to do with why I’m writing these words that you’re reading. I’m here to tell you if this $7.99 tome is worth picking up if you have no interest in collectibles or historical significance. I’m here to calm the nerves of those rare few souls who actually still read comics, who want to know one simple thing: Is Action Comics #1000 worth reading?

The answer, in a word, is yes.

Superman Crowd Shot From Action Comics 1000

It would take most of my word limit to list all of the creators involved in the creation of this volume, never mind describing all of their work. Suffice it to say that if you have ever loved any version of Superman, there is something here that will appeal to you.

If you’re a fan of the current Superman series, Dan Jurgens, Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi are given a chance to take a bow and pay tribute to The Man of Steel while closing out their own runs.

Were you a fan of the 1990s’ Superman animated series? There’s a Paul Dini-penned story with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez you’ll get a kick out of.

Are you an old-school Super-fan? There’s a classic Lex Luthor vs. Superman story by Paul Levitz with artwork by Neal Adams that is well-worth checking out, as well as some previously unpublished work by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan.

Supposing you’re a Bat-fan who is too cool to read Superman comics? There’s even something for you, with Batman writers Tom King and Scott Snyder having created comics with artists Clay Mann and Rafael Albuquerque that number among the more thoughtful works in this anthology. And I’m just scratching the surface describing these seven stories. There’s even more than that!

Superman Fights Rogol Zaar in Action Comics 1000

The flip side to this format is that there will almost certainly be something in this book that you won’t enjoy. For me, ironically enough, it’s the story that is supposed to be the book’s main selling point – the final chapter by Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Lee. Lee’s artwork, I’m sad to say, has looked far better and there’s a number of continuity problems with Superman’s wounds changing from panel to panel. The uneven and frequently sloppy inks of Scott Williams don’t help matters.

The biggest disappointment, however, is the story, which largely devotes itself to Superman fighting a new seemingly invincible villain. It also ends with a cliffhanger urging you to read the upcoming Man of Steel mini-series to see what happens next. Unfortunately, the brief sample here offers little reason to read on, with Bendis’ new villain differing from Doomsday in only three respects – he has better fashion sense, he wields an axe and he won’t shut up.

There’s some irony that this book devoted to The Man of Tomorrow does a better job in honoring its past than in encouraging readers to look to the future. As a tribute to the last 80 years of Superman, it’s fantastic. As a preview of what is to come, I fear it’s better at inspiring fear than hope.

7/10

Action Comics #1000 releases on April 18, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

New Comics for November 22, 2017

This is it, kids. The moment that DC’s Rebirth has been leading up to. DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 comes out tomorrow, but the first 20 people to come out to The Multiverse at 11:57pm TONIGHT can score an AMAZING variant cover!

Come get some awesome comics. Click below to see what else is coming out. See something you like? Let us know what you’d like us to hold. Did you miss out on that rad new book? Be sure to ask us about our free subscription service!

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