Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Panels of Awesomeness

Panels of Awesomeness: Francis Manapul Draws Smallville (and Also Superboy)

By Rob Siebert
Suddenly Wants to Be a Farmer

THE ISSUE: Adventure Comics #1 (2009)
CREATORS: Geoff Johns (Author), Francis Manapul (Artist), Brian Buccellato (Colorist), Steve Wands (Letterer)
RELEASED: August 12, 2009
THE SCENE:
The newly resurrected Conner Kent (long story) enjoys a morning sunrise in Smallville alongside Ma Kent and Krypto.
WHY IT’S AWESOME: Because it’s legitimately one of the most gorgeous images I’ve ever seen in the pages of a comic book.

I remember picking this issue up from Graham Crackers Comics in Downer’s Grove, IL, and feeling my jaw hit the ground when I opened to these pages. It’s been over a decade, and this image has never left me.

As much as Francis Manapul shines here, the real star is Brian Buccellato. That sky is absolute magic. Corny as it is (See what I did there?), how can you look at that and not feel the morning breeze on your face?

There were some additional warm fuzzies here because Conner Kent, a.k.a Superboy, had been gone for a couple years. He’d been killed off in Infinite Crisis, then brought back in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. Both written by Geoff Johns. When Johns was writing Conner in Teen Titans, he was living with the Kents in Smallville and wasn’t happy about it. So the line, “I can’t believe I ever hated Smallville,” adds the extra exclamation point to the image.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

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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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Mon-El, Vol. 2: Man of Valor Review – Time Slips Away

Superman: Mon El, Vol. 2 - Man of ValorTITLE: Superman: Mon El, Vol. 2 – Man of Valor
AUTHOR: James Robinson
PENCILLERS: Fernando Dagnino, Bernard Chang, Javier Pina. Cover by CAFU.
COLLECTS: Superman #693-697, Superman Annual #14, Superman: Secret Files 2009 #1, Adventure Comics #11
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $24.99
RELEASE DATE: September 15, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This stuff with Mon El becoming the main character in Superman for about a year presented some really intriguing story opportunities. Unfortunately, the creators didn’t get quite enough time to flesh out some of the plot points, and make Mon El’s time in the spotlight mean as much as it could have.

Man of Valor picks up where Superman: Codename Patriot left off, with the terminally ill Mon El presumed dead. In actuality, he’s being held captive by General Sam Lane’s forces at Project 7743. In the issues that follow, Mon El does battle with Lane’s team, as well as the Parasite and Bizarro. Also, members of the Legion of Superheroes are on Earth, and they’re watching him very carefully…but why?

Superman #695, Mon El, BizarroAfter that, the book leaps forward past the events of Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton, where Mon El’s time in present day Earth comes to an end, and we find out whether or not he overcomes his illness. In addition, James Robinson looks at the history of Mon El’s home planet of Daxam, as well as the character’s origin story.

The whole thing is…okay. Unfortunately Robinson didn’t have a decent amount of time to play around with the fact that, because Earth’s atmosphere is ultimately poisonous to him, Mon El is protecting the people of Earth at the expense of his own life. There were some lovely moments surrounding that issue in the first Mon El book, but it’s barely touched here. He also begins a relationship with Billie Harper, who’s kinda/sorta related to The Guardian (long story). We never get an effective wrap up to that plot thread. It just hangs there at the end. These are all things Robinson could have addressed had he been given more time on the book.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the Legion of Superheroes’ involvement in the story. Granted, Mon El IS a character from their time period, and they do play a key role in the end of the book. I’ve just never been a Legion fan, what can I say? And when it’s revealed that people that we thought were ordinary civilians that just happened to interact with Mon El were actually Legionnaires the entire time, it tarnishes the story.

Mon El, Parasite, BizarroI will say that Mon’s battles with Bizarro and Parasite were pretty cool. And it’s tough to pick a favorite between Fernando Dagnino, Bernard Chang and Javier Pina. They all do pretty good work here.

As interesting as it was to see the Superman book function without its title character for a year, it ultimately wasn’t as good as it could have been. It’s still a career moment for the Mon El character, but it could have been a lot better. What’s more, to fully understand what happens at the end of this book you not only have to read Codename Patriot, but Last Stand of New Krypton as well. So overall, Man of Valor is more expensive than it’s worth.

RATING: 6/10

Images from comicvine.com.

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