Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

An Action Comics #41 Review – The Supercycle?

Action Comics #41 coverTITLE: Action Comics #41
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 3, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For better or worse, the glasses are off, folks.

Action Comics #41 is the first issue to be published as part of the Truth storyline. Thanks to an expose written by Lois Lane in The Daily Planet, the world now knows Clark Kent is Superman. When we open the issue, an injured Clark is walking back from a fight of some kind, with fewer powers than he’s ever had. He has some of his strength, he can leap great distances, and has some of his speed. The world’s most powerful man is now a marked man, and he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been. In his new exposed state, Superman will find both unexpected friends and enemies.

The Truth storyline as a whole seems to be an attempt to not only “humanize” Superman more, but to darken him up. Both have been tried before, with varying degrees of success. In Superman #40, John Romita Jr. seemed to be trying to de-humanize Superman in order to make this transformation more meaningful. Apparently, New 52 Superman couldn’t taste food or get hungry. In a bizarre scene, Romita even had him get drunk with the Justice League.

Action Comics #41, page 2There are some more groaners in this issue, as Clark uses a little bit of salty language. Nothing too harsh. Stuff like “Can’t even really feel my damn fingers right now.” Some might say this is too boy scoutish, but I’m not a fan of Superman swearing. At least not unless he’s got a really good reason. Then a few pages later he gets into a fight with some thugs at a gas station and rides off on a motorcycle (the Supercycle?). Parts of this issue almost feel like a noir comic.

Superman is wearing a t-shirt and jeans now, much like he was drawn in 2011’s Action Comics #1. The cape is gone, reduced to rags that he has wrapped around his knuckles. His shirt features the famous “S” symbol as red and black, instead of the classic red and gold. Again, a darkening of the character. His hair has also been cut, which is actually an improvement in my book. One can argue his appearance is a little on the nose in terms of the “Superman is just like you!” agenda. But then again, does a hero like Superman really need a costume if his identity is public?

None of this stuff is outright offensive, and I do like the concept of the Truth story. But the impression I get from this issue is that they’re trying to play Superman off as a bad ass. And that’s really not what Superman is about. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: He’s an idealist. Truth, justice, peace, etc. If you want to see how the public reacts when they see who this iconic figure is in day-to-day life, that’s one thing. And putting him in a t-shirt and jeans does make him seem like more of a man of the people. But there’s a grittiness at play here that doesn’t feel true to Superman.

Action Comics #41, hungryDC has been trying to shoehorn more dark elements into the Superman mythos for years. For my money, that’s always been a product of writers not knowing what to do with the character. Point blank: Superman can be a hard character to write. But it can be done. Hell, Geoff Johns just had a great little run with Superman. It just seems to be a matter of knowing where the intrigue lies, and how to create drama with him.

This issue also suffers from timing problems. Divergence and preview materials notwithstanding, we don’t know what’s happened to Superman leading up to this issue. He’s apparently been locked out of the Fortress of Solitude and stripped of his costume, but we won’t see that until Superman #41 on June 24. The issue also references something that happens next month in Superman #42. In essence, we’re coming into this issue missing a lot of important information.

Still, the central story in this issue, Clark returning to Metropolis, is interesting. Certain people are on his side, and certain people aren’t. The public’s reaction to Clark being outed, which I suspect is a major part of what we’ll see in Action going forward, is compelling.

I’ll give this issue credit. Despite the groan factor of Superman riding a motorcycle, and talking like a gritty detective, it’s got me interested in what the other ramifications of Clark’s “outing” will be. I’ll be glancing at Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman for the first time in months. Truth has the potential to bring a lot of new eyes to the Superman books. But if they go too far in the wrong direction, they’ll send those eyes rolling somewhere else.

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from adventuresinpoortaste.com.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2 Review – Rao Lives Again!

Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2TITLE: Superman: Nightwing & Flamebird, Vol. 2
AUTHORS: James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann.
PENCILLERS: Pere Perez, Bernard Chang, Pier Gallo. Cover by Alex Garner.
COLLECTS: Action Comics #883-889, Superman #696, Adventure Comics #8-10
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Of all places to wage war against a Kryptonian god, Iran is probably in my bottom five. I imagine that’s how Nightwing & Flamebird feel in this book.

In the second of two volumes collecting their adventures, the duo of Nightwing (Chris Kent, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s adopted son, and General Zod’s biological son) & Flamebird (Kryptonian Thara Ak Var) are still fugitives. They must quietly consult with Dr. Light and S.T.A.R. Labs when Nightwing suddenly begins to age rapidly. They meet a renowned geneticist, who turns out to be Jax-Ur, a Kryptonian sleeper General Zod has planted on Earth. Jax Ur creates a bastardized version of Rao, the Kryptonian god, and unleashes it in Iran. Nightwing & Flamebird are forced into the center of a battle that also attracts Wonder Woman, and members of the Justice Society. All the while, Lois Lane covers the fight and reports the truth, much to the chagrin of her own government.

Adventure Comics #9, Pier GalloAfter that story, we switch gears completely. In a short story, we meet Car-Vex, another Kryptonian sleeper tasked by General Zod with penetrating General Lane’s organization. We feel her inner turmoil as she’s forced to betray members of her own species in attempt to win a larger battle. Written by Eric Trautmann and drawn by Pier Gallo, it’s actually the strongest material in the book.

The Nightwing & Flamebird section of DC’s New Krypton storyline may have been the weakest one. Thara Ak Var fell a little flat with me as Flamebird. That’s not entirely Greg Rucka’s fault. We knew who Chris Kent was from the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner run on Action Comics. We were already invested in him because of his relationship to Superman, Lois Lane, and General Zod. Thara didn’t have that advantage. She had some great moments with Supergirl, but I still don’t feel like I know her as a character. We know she’s a passionate person, who loves Chris and believes the spirit of the Flamebird is with her. With all that was happening in the single issues, as well as the over-arcing New Krypton storyline, Rucka didn’t necessarily have time to distinguish her from DC’s other young female heroes. The stories still work, but I wasn’t as invested in them as I was in say, Mon El’s in Superman.

Action Comics #887, RaoMidway through the story, Rucka has to get a lot of exposition out, in the form of the Nightwing & Flamebird myth from Kryptonian mythology. He devotes about half an issue to it. It’s not thrilling reading. But it’s not terrible either, and it’s necessary to set up the fight against Jax-Ur and Rao. Unfortunately, the finale felt stale to me. It’s essentially a bunch of heroes against a hundred-foot-tall invincible giant. It’s not that exciting. Plus, the end comes as a result of something established in the exposition, and not necessarily a result of Chris and Thara’s efforts. It’s a logical ending, and it fits. But in terms of storytelling, it’s strictly okay.

Also, a hundred-foot god showing up in the middle of Iran certainly warrants the presence of multiple heroes. But I can’t help but feel Wonder Woman and the JSA were thrown in strictly to add star power to a stale story.

There’s a bit of foreshadowing for Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton in this book, but it’s not  integral to the overall story. Like James Robinson in Mon El, Vol. 2: Man of Valor, it seems like Rucka had to fit a story very large in scope into a limited number of issues. While necessary, it’s ultimately a little sad. We’ve all seen Rucka do better than this, and I wish he could’ve gotten that chance.

RATING: 5.5/10

Image 1 from comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com. Image 2 from babblingaboutdccomics3.wordpress.com.

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