Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Superman: Red & Blue #1

***This is where we keep it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Superman: Red & Blue #1
AUTHORS: Various
ARTISTS: Various. Cover by Gary Frank & Brad Anderson.
RELEASED: March 16, 2021

For me, the main selling point of this first issue, comprised of several short Superman stories, was seeing John Ridley write the Man of Steel. But author Marguerite Bennett and artist Jill Thompson wind up stealing the show with a tale of Clark Kent trying to make friends on his first day of kindergarten. Even as the young future Superman is worried about the other kids liking him and making friends, he sees another child isolated and alone and wonders what the right thing to do is. Thompson even draws it like a children’s book. Very touching.

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

Posted in Television

Superman & Lois, “The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower” Review

SERIES: Superman & Lois
TITLE: S1:E3 – “The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower”
STARRING: Tyler Hoechlin, Bitsie Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin, Inde Navarrette
WRITER: Brent Fletcher
DIRECTOR:
Gregory Smith
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
March 9, 2021
SYNOPSIS: Jordan tries out for the football team, while Sarah clashes with Lana.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Here’s what I liked about that “Kent family plays with paint” sequence: Right after Clark races off to do Superman stuff and everything has stopped, there’s that half-second before we cut to the next scene where Lois goes back to playing with the boys. It sends the message that Clark dashing off is something that happens all the time, and she’s used to it by now even if the boys aren’t.

Three episodes in, and I’m not really feeling social anxiety from Jordan, as the show’s premise suggested. Based on my experience with social phobia, he’s not so much anxious as he is angsty. And that’s more or less any teenager at some point, right?

Tyler Hoechlin is giving off serious dad vibes as Clark. Maybe it’s the hokey, “Aw shucks” nature of the Clark Kent character. But Hoechlin is making it work. 

How much you wanna bet that Lana’s husband, Kyle, becomes a supervillain at some point? Or maybe Sarah? Maybe both?

“Everything you do is a mistake,” said the teenage brat to friggin’ Superman.

When she got attacked during this episode, I was initially inclined to say Lois should carry a weapon of some kind. Then I realized, what better weapon could you have than a direct line to Superman? Sure as hell beats a gun, or a knife, or whatever the hell she could be carrying.

Jonathan is a good brother. That’s refreshing to see. It would be easy to pit the two brothers against each other constantly. But the show makes him a lot like his dad. That’s good writing, in my book.

This was a good parenting episode, and a good episode for Lana in particular. It provided her with some much-needed depth as a quietly suffering wife and mother.

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


Posted in Uncategorized

Superman & Lois, “Heritage” Review

SERIES: Superman & Lois
TITLE: S1:E2 – “Heritage”
STARRING: Tyler Hoechlin, Bitsie Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin, Emmanuelle Chriqui
WRITER: Todd Helbing
DIRECTOR:
Lee Toland Krieger
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
March 2, 2021
SYNOPSIS: As the family adjusts to life in Smallville, Clark teaches Jordan about his Kryptonian heritage.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I do need to make a correction from last week’s post. The “first” Superman costume from the premiere did not make its debut in The New Frontier (although that’s primarily the work I associate it with). It’s from all the way back in the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the ’40s. Whoops. Hey, what do you expect? I’m not Superman, y’know…

Captain Luthor says, “We need to stop Kal-El before he does to this world what he did to mine.” It looks, then, like Captain Luthor is an alternate-universe Lex Luthor. In the comics, the most prominent alt-universe Lex is the one from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Alexander Luthor, as he’s known, is that world’s only hero, fighting against an evil version of the Justice League. Is that what we’ve got here?

There’s a city on Krypton named “Kryptonopolis?” That’s pretty dumb, actually. I wonder where the city of “Earthopolis” would be…?

We see the artificial intelligence Jor-El, played by Angus Macfadyen. I imagine it’s more daunting for an actor to play that role than we imagine. After all, a large portion of the audience associates that role with Marlon friggin’ Brando. No pressure there.

Question: Clark takes Jordan to the Fortress of Solitude to learn about his Kryptonian heritage, but not Jonathan. Why? Odds are Jonathan is manifesting powers too, right? They’re just different than his brother’s. So why sew the seeds for jealousy by taking one brother and not the other? Also, they couldn’t have waited until after school to take Jordan to the fortress? What, are they worried about him missing dinner or something?

I’m finding myself wanting to see more personality from Bitsie Tulloch’s Lois Lane. It feels like she’s missing a certain spunk, or killer instinct. I suppose you can argue this is an older, more subdued version of Lois. But I’m not sure I buy that. Granted, it could also just be Tulloch growing into the role.

So now we’ve had another episode to let this Social Anxiety Disorder thing with Jordan sink in. Much like I’m wishing Lois had a little more spunk, I’m wanting to see Jordan be more socially isolated. After all, he kissed a girl in the show’s very first episode. That’s not to see everyone experiences social anxiety the same way, or that it should be portrayed uniformly. But if you’re going to say the kid has Social Anxiety Disorder, why not really dive in and explore it?

Lana not knowing Clark’s secret takes some getting used to. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But she’s almost always portrayed as having been in on it since Clark was a teenager. And even having a cunning nature to rival Lois’ at times. Thus far, Superman & Lois has portrayed her more like a ditzy homemaker.

That shot of Superman standing with the American flag in the background was a nice touch. I’m a sucker for cheesy stuff like that. 

Lois quits The Daily Planet after an editor re-writes a story of hers, and joins The Smallville Gazette. I’ve always been a fan of the journalism-oriented side of Superman’s world. So seeing Lois empowering a small community newspaper is pretty cool. I’m also liking the Chrissy Beppo character. Here’s wondering what she and Lois can learn from each other.

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

Posted in Television

Superman & Lois Season Premiere Review – Family Matters

SERIES: Superman & Lois
TITLE: S1:E1 – “Pilot”
STARRING: Tyler Hoechlin, Bitsie Tulloch, Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin, Emmanuelle Chriqui
WRITERS: Greg Berlanti, Todd Helbing
DIRECTOR:
Lee Toland Krieger
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
February 23, 2021

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Looking at the Superman costume they used for his debut in Metropolis, my initial instinct was go shout: “They made it to match his original suit in Action Comics #1!” Because, of course, I’m a huge geek.

That’s not what they did, however. It took me a minute to realize where I’d seen that suit. It was Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier. The costume’s vintage look threw me off.

So the kid says to Superman, “Thanks. Cool Costume.” He replies, “Thanks. My mom made it for me.” That line is plucked directly from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Superman For All Seasons.

This show went out of its way to establish geek cred right away.

Jordan, one of Clark and Lois’ twin sons, has Social Anxiety Disorder. As someone who’s struggled with social anxiety, that hits home for me. I’m sure it hits home for a lot of the people watching a comic-book-inspired TV show like this. From that standpoint, it has the potential to be a very smart move. But as with anything, it’s all about how they execute it…

I’m a staunch Superman defender. But watching this episode’s expository opening sequence, I can understand why some people don’t like him. Especially when he talks about being married to the most famous journalist in the world, raising two teenage boys, and then we see him on TV doing Superman stuff. As he’s presented here he has, in many ways, the perfect American life and family. In that moment, he comes off like the most popular football player in high school who grew up to become president of the United States. Personally, I love that Rockwellian Superman. But I can see the drawback. The hard truth is that when he’s at his truest and best form, Superman isn’t for everybody.

Question: I know that as comic book characters Superman and Lois Lane don’t age. But how old are they supposed to be in this show? Late 30s? Early to mid 40s? For what it’s worth, Tyler Hoechlin is 33 and Bitsie Tulloch is 40. Mrs. Primary Ignition, by the way, thinks that age difference makes them look weird. I’ll admit, it is a little weird. But I imagine that’s one of those things that’ll wear off with time.

After discovering the rocket in the barn, Jonathan (Can we just call him Jon?) and Jordan come right out and accuse Clark of lying.  I like that. Superman supposedly never lies. But as a parent, Clark Kent does. What that says about being parent is up for interpretation.

“Your life falling apart doesn’t mean you’re special. It means you’re human.” That’s a good line from Lois.

Fun fact: Alexander Garfin, who plays Jordan, was the voice of Linus in The Peanuts Movie. Am I weird for thinking that’s kind of perfect, considering Jordan has social anxiety? It matches up with the whole Linus and the blanket thing, right?

On the subject of Jordan, for me it’s always a fine line with how moody and angsty certain teenage characters are. At what point does it cross the line and get too moody or angsty? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to that. It just depends on the character and the story…

Clark Kent’s signature glasses disguise always requires a huge leap in terms of suspending disbelief. It’s comic book science at its least practical. But disbelief really stretches thin when you try to sell us that Clark’s own children didn’t recognize him without his glasses on.

Simply put, when we get to the scene where Clark takes his glasses off and it’s this big revelation, Jonathan and Jordan look like idiots. It’s just that simple.

What are the odds that as the series progresses we get a good twin/bad twin situation? Does one become a superhero, and the other a supervillain, thus tearing the Kent family apart? Seems like the probable way to go…

So the bad guy in this episode turns out to be someone named “Captain Luthor.” I can only assume this isn’t Lex Luthor, as the CWverse Lex is played by Jon Cryer. (Right? It’s been awhile since I’ve been plugged into the CWverse.) But apparently it’s not a Superman show unless you have a bad guy named Luthor. So…cousin? Someone unrelated who adopted the name?

Overall, not a bad premiere. I can’t say I was blown away. But Superman & Lois shows a lot of promise. Tyler Hoechlin was, and is, a great Superman. Possibly the best performance in the role since Christopher Reeve, and I don’t say that lightly.

If you’re into the concept of Clark and Lois as parents, there are two book’s I’d highly recommend. The first is Superman: Lois and Clark (which has nothing to do with the ’90s TV show). The second is Son of Superman by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and all the subsequent books in that series. For my money, this series owes a debt to these creators and those titles.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Best of Batman & Superman: The Cruise of a Lifetime

***It’s easy to put Batman and Superman against one another, as they’re so different. But those who truly understand them know that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are better together! “Best of Batman & Superman” celebrates their best moments as a team!***

TITLE: Superman #76
AUTHOR: Edmond Hamilton
ARTISTS: Curt Swan, John Fischetti (Inker). Cover by Win Mortimer.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL COVER PRICE: 10 cents
RELEASED: 1952

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Published in 1952, Superman #76 is generally considered to be the first “proper” meeting of Batman and Superman. Granted, they’d been appearing on comic book covers together since the 40s. They’d also appeared together with the Justice Society in the pages of All-Star Comics. Batman and Robin had also made guest appearances on The Adventures of Superman radio show. But often, when historians are asked, “When did Batman and Superman meet in the comics?”, they point to this issue.

Put on your writer/editor hat for a moment: You want to have Superman and Batman, the two biggest and most popular superheroes in the world, meet for the “first time.” Where and how does it happen? In Metropolis? Gotham City? During a battle against Lex Luthor? The Joker? How did they discover one another’s identities? Did Superman use his x-ray vision? Did Batman brilliantly deduce that Clark Kent is Superman? There are a litany of possibilities. So what did they go with…?

Superman and Batman met on a cruise ship.

That’s right, folks. They met and even discovered one another’s identities aboard a goddamn cruise ship. What’s more, in it’s own little way, it worked. It was kind of a genius move, actually.

Written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn by Curt Swan, “The Mightiest Team in the World” kicks off with Batman and Robin doing something unthinkable by today’s standards: Taking a vacation. As Dick Grayson prepares to visit relatives upstate, Bruce Wayne is about to take “a real vacation, on a coastal cruise! I’ll just relax and forget crime for a change!”

Clearly pre-Silver Age heroes knew how to balance business and pleasure, as Clark Kent is about to vacation on the same cruise. And wouldn’t you know it, he winds up sharing a room with Bruce Wayne!

Then, via the magical serendipity of fiction, a jewel thief blows up a nearby tanker truck and uses the diversion to make off with a shipment of diamonds. Naturally, our heroes are keen to jump into action. Feigning fatigue, Bruce kills the lights, prompting both men to do their superhero quick-change.

But low and behold, the light from the flames shines through the window, revealing Bruce Wayne to be Batman and Clark Kent as Superman!

I used to balk at what, in hindsight, is a pretty historic moment. But I’ve found the more years go by, the more I soften on it. As a 30-something adult, I’ve actually come to appreciate it quite a bit.

One of the cardinal sins of a Superman/Batman story, for my money, is making one hero look superior to the other. These two men should stand on equal footing. If you can’t manage that, then you shouldn’t be writing the two characters together.

With this issue, the revelation is pure happenstance. We don’t have Superman peeking under Batman’s cowl with his x-ray vision. Batman doesn’t concoct some conniving scheme to discover Clark’s secret. It’s simply fate that they discover one another’s identities by accident in a moment of heroism. In that sense, it’s kind of perfect…

What’s more, they don’t spend a lot of time digesting it or brooding over it. They recognize they still have work to do, and they get to it.

Obviously our villain is meant to be the jewel thief, who has stowed away on the cruise ship. But I’d argue another character is perhaps inadvertently placed in an opposing role: Lois Lane. After seeing Superman and Batman on board the ship, Lois comes aboard looking for the story. Our heroes now have to keep her at bay while searching for the jewel thief.

After giving Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne a sea-sickness alibi, our heroes try pawning Batman off on Lois. The idea is that if Superman pretends to be jealous, “she’d be too occupied for amateur detective work!” But Lois is on to them. She pretends to actually be enamored with the Caped Crusader, which in turn actually does make the Man of Steel jealous.

Considering some of the stories we’d later get in books like Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, it’s not necessarily surprising to see them lean into a jealousy angle between Superman and Lois. But on the other hand, it’s nice to see Lois portrayed as a force to be reckoned with among the heroes. Batman may be the world’s greatest detective, but contrary to what Superman says here, Lois is hardly an amateur detective herself.

C’mon Superman. It’s not amateur detective work. It’s called investigative journalism.

One of the classic Superman/Batman tricks is having the two disguise as one another. Superman dresses as Batman, Batman dresses as Superman, etc. Tom King and Clay Mann put a nice spin on this trope in Batman not long ago. We see an early version of it here, as after our heroes inevitably catch the bad guy, Bruce Wayne masquerades as Clark Kent while standing next to Superman to throw Lois off the scent of Clark’s true identity.

She gets the last laugh, though. Lois does indeed get a date with a hero by the end of the issue: Robin. (“Isn’t he the cutest little chap?”) How’d they get in touch, as Dick is supposed to be upstate, and we’re long before the age of cell phones? Why, that’s not important…

“The Mightiest Team in the World” is filled to the brim with pre-Silver-Age charm. What’s more, it does right by its characters. Superman and Batman come out of it looking like the world’s finest heroes. Lois Lane stands out as a clever go-getter, and not simply a brainless damsel. Even Robin gets a date by the end. Truly a red letter issue for all parties.

A cruise ship. Who’da thunk it?

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Best of Batman & Superman: A New Era Begins

***It’s easy to put Batman and Superman against one another, as they’re so different. But those who truly understand them know that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are better together! “Best of Batman & Superman” celebrates their best moments as a team!***

TITLE: Superman/Batman #1
AUTHOR: Jeph Loeb
ARTISTS: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines (Inker), Dave Stewart (Colorist), Richard Starkings (Letterer)
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL COVER PRICE: $2.95
RELEASED: Fall 2003

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s hard to believe this issue is creeping up on 20 years of age. And yet, among Batman and Superman stories, it’s a timeless classic.

If I could bring one person back to work on Superman and Batman, seperate or together, it would be Jeph Loeb. He understood both characters, and cut to their core better than almost any of his peers. That’s why, in the early 2000s, DC tapped Loeb and his former Superman collaborator Ed McGuinness to work on an all new title featuring the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: Superman/Batman.

Loeb would do more than 25 issues of Superman/Batman, roughly half of which were with McGuinness. Almost all of them were great. But the book’s inaugural issue, Superman/Batman #1, delivered pure magic. You’ll won’t find a better example of why these two characters are better working together than against each other.

The series is narrated by both characters simultaneously. Thus, we get duel perspectives on the events of the story. Loeb makes perfect use of this tool right out of the gate, as our heroes narrate their origins in alternating sequences (shown below).

Loeb, McGuinness, and the team start out with dueling sequences in which Superman and Batman narrate their origins. What’s brilliant about this is that it showcases not just the differences between these two characters, but their similarities. Yes, they have different methods and demeanors. But its this common ground that ultimately brings them together. These are two heroes born of tragedy, who used that tragedy to forge their identities for the betterment of mankind. That mutual desire to better the world serves as the foundation of every Superman/Batman story we’ve ever seen.

Our main antagonist for the issue (though not the story at large) is Metallo, a machine with the brain of John Corben, and a heart of pure Kryptonite. Coming out of the opening sequence we get a fight between he and Superman in Metropolis. We then jump to Gotham City Cemetery, where Batman is examining Corben’s grave.

Here we get a great little moment between our heroes. One of my favorites in the entire six-issue story. Superman talks about going through Corben’s files at S.T.A.R. Labs, and speculating about his actions of late. Batman asks, “Which one of us is the detective again?”

Superman replies with a line I absolutely love: “It’s called investigative journalism.”

I love this moment because it illustrates that while Superman isn’t the detective Batman is, he’s not just some brute with super powers. Writers like to emphasize that Batman is the brains of the team, while Superman is the braun. But the best writers are the ones who show us it’s not as simple as that. Superman is perfectly capable of putting on a detective hat, just as Batman can hold his own against some of Superman’s more powerful enemies.

We’re reminded of that moments later as Metallo attacks, shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. And of course, he falls directly into John Corben’s exhumed grave. After briefly incapacitating Metallo, Batman goes to work trying to extract the bullet. Loeb provides us with another great little moment as we get this little exchange…

Batman: “Do me a favor, Clark. Lose the sense of humor.”
Superman: “Do us both a favor, Bruce. Buy a sense of humor.”

We get a cliffhanger for next issue as Metallo then proceeds to dump a mountain of dirt on top of our heroes, burying them alive. Then to close the issue, we go to the Pentagon and President Lex Luthor. We’ve got a crisis on our hands, as an asteroid made of Kryptonite is headed for Earth. To complicate matters, President Luthor has recruited his own team of heroes…

Visually, the issue is gorgeous. Everything is bright, crisp, and clean. Ed McGuinness’ superhero figures are always jacked beyond belief. Practically every muscle in both Superman and Batman’s bodies are bulging for display. It’s not my favorite style choice. But it works for McGuinness in a cartoony, popcorn-flick sort of way.

Simply put, this issue has it all. Action. Drama. Beautiful art. Character exploration. Character origins. It’s appealing to fans, but 100% accessible even if you’ve never picked up a comic book before. What’s more, it’s the first chapter in one of the best Batman & Superman stories ever told.

Now that’s how you kick off a series.

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

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Rorschach #1, Commanders in Crisis, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

TITLE: Rorschach #1
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Jorge Fornes, Dave Stewart (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

This is one of those first issues that doesn’t really try to hook you until the last page. As such, we spend most of Rorschach #1 setting up our characters and their world. Which, considering this book takes place 35 years after Watchmen, is hardly the worst idea in the world.

Thus far, Rorschach is every bit the noir exhibition we expected it to be, with Jorge Fornes turning in some excellent pencil work. I’m just hoping when it’s all said and done we get Vision Tom King on this book, and not “City of Bane” Tom King.

TITLE: Commanders in Crisis #1
AUTHOR: Steve Orlando
ARTISTS: Davide Tinto, Francesca Carotenuto (Colorist), Fabio Amelia (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 14, 2020

This book was obviously written with a Crisis on Infinite Earths type event comic in mind. As if we didn’t get the hint, Dan friggin’ Didio writes an introduction to Commanders in Crisis.

I’m still a little bit confused about how the CiC universe works from a comic book science perspective. But hopefully it’ll be easier to grasp on to as the story, about a bunch of multiverse survivors trying to save the last surviving Earth, continues to expand.

I’m on the fence on Commanders in Crisis, but there’s enough potential to bring me back for issue #2.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #14
AUTHORS: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS: Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer). Cover by Justin Erickson.
RELEASED: October 15, 2020

This issue, which wraps up the “Red Son Rising” arc, is much like this Batman: The Adventures Continue series at large. Which is to say, it doesn’t blow you away. But it’s still pretty much what you want it to be. We get our climactic sequence with Batman, Jason Todd, the Joker, and Robin. And as one might expect, it leaves the door open for more of Jason in the future.

I’m always happy to see a new B:TAC issue pop up. I’m hoping our adventures continue for at least the foreseeable future.

TITLE: Superman #26
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Ivan Reis, Danny Miki (Inker), Alex Sinclair (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Reis, Joe Prado, & Sinclair.
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

Reis, Miki, and Sinclair really nail a couple of iconic Superman shots here. Though I confess, I’m a sucker for that kinda stuff.

What I’m not necessarily a sucker for is a Superman vs. Alien of the Week story. That feels like what we’ve gotten these last two issues. As far as Bendis’ Superman run is concerned, we’re about to wrap up. If we end like this, it’ll be a disappointing end to an otherwise positive stretch of time with the character.

Still, Bendis’ handling of Clark Kent and his supporting cast is strong as always.

TITLE: Darth Vader #6
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Raffaele Ienco, Neeraj Menon (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer). Cover by InHyuk Lee.
RELEASED: October 15, 2020

New story. Same trick. We’re once again using a location from the prequels. Though at least this time we’ve got an interesting story to tell. The Empreror tests Vader by breaking him and seemingly leaving him to die on Mustafar. Now Vader must crawl back from the abyss without the use of the Force…

Alright. I’m interested.

Like the main Star Wars title, Darth Vader started off with something of an eye-rolling tale. But now both books seem to be upping the intrigue. Here’s hoping they both find success in that regard.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #764
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki
ARTISTS: Steve Pugh, Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Colorist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer). Variant cover by Joshua Middleton.
RELEASED: October 13, 2020

Tamaki makes Wondie and Maxwell Lord into a bantering good cop/bad cop duo here. I’m not sure how I feel about that, as Max is supposed to be one of her worst enemies…

And yet, I can appreciate what they bring to the table as a duo. The Wonder Woman character doesn’t necessarily lend itself to partnerships like this. So even with an unlikely partner, there’s an intrigue to it.

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

Posted in Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Batman, Superman, and Shazam Return! Plus, Superhero of the Year?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Ahhhh yes. Action and Detective are back. Now it really does feel like comics have returned.

I find it funny that on this week’s Action Comics cover (shown below) and several recent Superman covers, they’ve felt the need to tell us about Entertainment Weekly naming Superman the “Superhero of the Year.”

In case you’ve been trapped in a Fortress of Solitude since birth, Superman was the original comic book superhero and is an American icon whose legend has inspired millions. How many more issues could “Superhero of the Year” possibly be selling?

I love DC, and I love these characters. But it reeks of desperation. “Look at us! Entertainment Weekly knows who we are!”

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #5
AUTHOR:
Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by Joe Quinones.
RELEASED:
June 4, 2020

There’s a 9/11 reference in this issue. That’s really surreal considering The New Batman Adventures was on the air in the late ’90s.

We get something here that ties back to the first issue, which is kinda cool.

Is Deathstroke British in the DCAU? Some of his lines in this book sound like they should be coming from Alfred. Or perhaps a friend/relative of Alfred’s.

The last panel leaves some doubt as to whose side Jason Todd will be on when the chips are down. That’s definitely a tweak to what they did in Under the Hood.

TITLE: Action Comics #1022
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Danny Miki (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover inks by Klaus Janson.
RELEASED: June 2, 2020

This is the best issue of Action Comics in awhile, and not just because it’s the first one in awhile. We’re finally diving into who Conner Kent is and how he returned, so there’s a lot of intrigue here.

When it comes to how he’s drawn the past several issues, I’ve been pretty hard on John Romita Jr. Specifically, his figure rendering is positively jarring at times. But he’s on his best behavior here. I’m not sure if that has to do with all the additional lead-in time involved with the pandemic. But I ain’t complainin’.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #9
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: Clayton Henry, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer).
RELEASED: June 2, 2020

Good issue. Very accessible. We reference a lot of recent event comics, but with editor’s notes so readers can follow along. Williamson also provides some good exposition for Atomic Skull, who obviously meets a tragic end. Our villain doesn’t get the same treatment, but hopefully that comes next issue.

Clayton Henry’s art is clean, but avoids that over-the-top spotless look you sometimes see for artists going for that look. My only critique would be, oddly enough, the shape of Superman’s head on the cover. Something looks off…

TITLE: Shazam #12
AUTHOR: Jeff Loveness
ARTISTS: Brandon Peterson Mike Atiyeh (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 2, 2020

I wouldn’t call Shazam! #12 a page-turner. But it is a fun team-up issue. Jeff Loveness, who’s worked on Rick and Morty, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and has also worked on Spider-Man and Groot over at Marvel, injects a lot of charm into the Big Red Cheese. Especially when it’s time for Billy Batson’s scenes with Freddy Freeman.

To the best of my recollection, this is my first exposure to Brandon Peterson. It’s a very solid outing for him. His work is nice and clean. Of course, Michael Atiyeh helps him out a lot with great coloring.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1022
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
RELEASED:
June 2, 2020

The early part of this issue is structured quite like the second part of a Batman ’66 story. You know, where they escape whatever death trap they were put in last time, and then sometimes fight off a bunch of henchmen? In this case, they’re literally named Vice and Versa.

We also build for Joker War in this book, and if I’m reading this right, it’s suggested that the events of that story were actually the second part of Joker’s plan from Death of the Family. Tomasi was also involves in that story via the Batman & Robin ongoing. Interesting…

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Batman, Vol.10: Knightmares Deep-Dive Review – Over His Head

TITLE: Batman, Vol. 10: Knightmares
AUTHOR: Tom King
ARTISTS: Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Jorge Fornes, Lee Weeks, Amanda Conner, Dan Panosian, John Timms, Yanick Paquette
COLORISTS:
Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Dave Stewart, Lovern Kindzierski, Paul Mounts, Timms, Nathan Fairbairn
LETTERER:
Clayton Cowles
COLLECTS: Batman #6163, #6669
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: September 11, 2019

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead***

Need to catch up? Boy, have I got you covered. Check out Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Vol. 2: I Am Suicide, Vol. 3: I Am Bane, Batman/The Flash: The Button, Vol. 4: The War of Jokes and Riddles, Vol. 5: The Rules of Engagement, Vol. 6: Bride or Burglar?, Vol. 7: The Wedding, Volume 8: Cold Days, and Volume 9: The Tyrant Wing.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

He did it again, didn’t he? That sly son of a…

You’ll recall back in Batman #24, Bruce Wayne proposed to Selina Kyle. Huge deal. Huge. A historic moment for both characters. One that could shake up Batman’s whole world depending on Selina’s answer. But of course, they left us with a cliffhanger.

But when Batman #25 came out, we didn’t get one. What we got was the beginning of The War of Jokes and Riddles, a tale from Batman’s past that he had to tell Selina about before she answered. Issue #24 came out on June 7, 2017. Batman #32, the issue where we finally get Selina’s response, didn’t come out until October 4. We had to wait until fall to get the answer because…um…because DC said so. (Although it was pretty obvious she was going to say yes.)

Fast-forward to December 5, 2018. Batman #60 is released, and another bombshell is dropped. The Batman of the Flashpoint universe, Thomas Wayne, not only survived the events of The Button, but has teamed up with Bane against his alt-universe son. Thomas Wayne vs. Bruce Wayne. Father vs. Son. Batman vs. Batman! The stage was set!

Then in the very next issue we got…no answers. Instead we got the issues collected in this book (with two exceptions that we’ll get to in a later date). We wouldn’t see Flashpoint Batman again until May 1, 2019.

Why DC and Tom King loved making us wait so long for cliffhanger payoffs is a mystery to me. But I’ll say this much: Knightmares is a better book than The War of Jokes and Riddles.

1. I Dreamed a Dream…
Toward the end of the book, we discover Batman is hooked up to a contraption that’s giving him very vivid nightmares. I say that not to spoil anything, but to provide context. Plus, between the Knightmares title and what happens once the book starts rolling, it’s pretty easy to see something’s up. Each collected issue contains one of our hero’s bad dreams.

This is the final volume before we get into the “City of Bane” story, which is an astounding 16 issues long. With that many pages to fill, it’s no wonder it felt immensely padded. Like they were just trying to fill space between plot points. While I consider Knightmares a good read, I’ll argue King starts to do that here. It’s a trend that ultimately forces him to limp into the home stretch. For the most part, these issues work. The “City of Bane” issues don’t.

We kick things off in issue #61, as Batman investigates the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The catch? We seem to be in the present day, and young Bruce Wayne is very much present and able to interact with his older self. Obviously it’s a “What if?” story. But it’s not what you might expect.

Travis Moore returns for this story. Once you reach the end, you’ll see how that’s fitting. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain really shines, especially early on. Her use of reds and oranges to depict the lights of Gotham City, contrasted with the deep blacks you’d expect from a Batman story are reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla’s more recent work on the character. That’s damn good company to be in.

2. “They call me MISTER PIG!!!”
Issue #61 is a good start. But here’s where business really picks up. Our sole artist is Mitch Gerads, who almost always does phenomenal work with King. With Batman #62, they create something truly unsettling. At times even horrifying. It opens with our hero hanging upside down in the back of a butcher’s shop, and he’s got some company: Professor Pyg.

And there’s blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

I think Professor Pyg, or at least this King/Gerads version of Professor Pyg, is what a lot of fans want the Joker to be like. A horror movie villain with a funny gimmick. Of course, the Joker is so much more than that. But Professor Pyg? As far as that horror villain territory is concerned, he’s got a solid cut of the market share.

This is a really beautiful issue in a twisted sort of way. It’s like a Saw movie with terrifying, horror flick lighting. Perhaps more importantly, when we start the story, Batman is scared. Not that fear gas-induced fear either. He’s genuinely afraid, as any of us would be. Thus, we’re pulled that much harder into the issue. There’s also a lot of confusion on Batman’s end. Why is he there? How did he get there? Why is he unable to hear what Pyg is saying? We follow Batman’s train of thought as he pushes through his fear to defeat his opponent.

And every bit as unsettling as the setting, the villain, and the frantic confusion, is the swerve turn on the final page.

3. Guest-starring…
A Batman/Constantine team-up sounds pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what we get here. Not exactly, anyway.

In issue #63, Mikel Janin returns to give us the ending we all wanted for Bruce and Selina. They get married, go on a tropical honeymoon, share big romantic kisses on rainy Gotham City rooftops. All seems well. Then Constantine shows up to tell Batman not only is this a dream, but something awful is going to happen. Remember this is a Batman story, where everybody has dead parents, dead spouses, etc. So even if it weren’t a dream, there’s a 50/50 chance he’d be right anyway.

Why Constantine? I think the logic is “Why not?” Are there characters from Batman’s world that might fit this role better int theory? Sure. But no one so obvious that it ruins anything. I get the sense King just wanted the chance to write Constantine, so he wound up in this issue.

Ditto for the Question in issue #66, in which the framing device is Selina being interrogated about why she left Bruce at the altar. Jorge Fornes is on the pencil here, and he fits a Question story like a glove. Less fitting is Selina smoking a cigarette during the exchange, which I don’t think we’ve seen her do at all in King’s run up to this point. It feels very forced. Like they were looking for that one detail to hit that noir-ish nail on the head, and they just gave her a cigarette because they could.

Issue #66 is also where we start re-treading ground. All this stuff about how Selina sees Bruce? We’ve been reading about it for much of the last 60 issues. There’s no reason to go back there, with the Question no less, unless you’re trying to fill space. It’s a fun issue. But its intentions are clear in hindsight.

Issue #67 consists of one long chase scene, as Batman pursues another masked man across Gotham City. Telling you who the individual in question is would take the punch out of the issue. But it’s worth it for those last two pages. There’s some subtext that you have to read into. But it’s pretty easy to get. Fornes is back for this one, alongside the amazing Lee Weeks. Both those men do a hell of a job capturing that Batman: Year One vibe. Again, mostly stuff we’ve already seen. But there’s still greatness here, in one of the best single issue’s of King’s Batman run.

4. “Make a lane for Lane!”
Amanda Conner does a guest spot for issue #68. As such, it’s not surprisingly we focus mostly on female characters. Superman and Lois Lane are back, as we see what might have been a bachelor and bachelorette party respectively. While Bruce and Clark have a quiet night in, an intoxicated Selina Kyle and Lois most certainly do not. The Fortress of Solitude has never seen that kind of fun…

Yes, King backtracks again here. But if I had to choose one thing for him to go back to, there’s a hell of an argument to be made for the “Super Friends” dynamic. Specifically between Catwoman and Lois Lane. Their dynamic in this issue specifically is sheer joyful and colorful comic book fun. The kind of story that’s practically begging to be adapted into animation. Though if it’s for one of the kids shows they’ll have to cut out the liquor. (Not to mention all the stripping Superman robots.) By God, that almost defeats the whole damn purpose.

The downside? With just three pages left we lose Conner. As her style is so distinct, it’s an abrupt jolt to suddenly switch to fill-in artists. Pun intended: It’s a real buzzkill.

5. “Will You Dance With Me?”
The book closes with, of all things, a dance.

It’s only natural that we close with Bruce and Selina. Especially since almost this entire book takes place in Bruce’s head. While the issue does bounce back and forth between them and a Mikel Janin training scene with Bane and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, the meat of the issue is in an extended dance sequence. But it’s hardly the Batusi. Yanick Paquette puts out a career issue as the two characters literally slow dance through a dream, through Gotham, through their history.

It’s a positively outstanding, and truly unique usage of the visual nature of the comic book medium. In yet another backtrack, Selina goes through multiple costume changes as she did in issue #44. But in two-page spreads such as the one above, we literally track our characters’ dance steps across the page. The use of sheet music is an absolute stroke of genius, which instantly makes this comic distinct among the thousands upon thousands in Batman’s history.

What’s more, because this is a dream there’s a subtext to it that I really enjoy. The scene is written as Bruce asking Selina why she left him. Her response involves his vow as a child, and how he can never really love her because of his devotion to the Batman, etc. But of course, the question Bruce is really asking is, “Why did she leave me?” Via a dream, he’s venting his own doubts about whether he can ever really love another person. And it ends in pretty much the manner you’d expect such a dream from Batman to end.

But the creme de creme, the moment of moments, comes on the final page of the issue and the final page in Knightmares overall…

Batman friggin’ cries. He doesn’t openly weep. But he cries. It’s not even played up at all. It’s beautifully subtle. Just two little strokes of Paquette’s pencil.

Issues like this are part of what makes Tom King’s Batman run so frustrating. Because he is a good writer. He’s a good Batman writer! He knows what he’s doing. But it feels like he got in over his head. The larger story he was trying to tell got too large and in the end he lost focus. That’s such a damn shame, given how many little gems we find in this run.

Incidentally, the song from issue #69 is one King has used before in his series. Sophie Turner’s “Some of these Days.” It dates back to the ’20s. It’s not required listening. But it’s a great little supplement. I recommend it.

6. Waking Up
There are a few collections in this Batman series that you flat out don’t need to read. Technically, this is one of them. But like Cold Days, it gets a recommendation from me. It’s not an amazing character study altogether. But like Tom King’s Batman run as a whole, it surprises you with moments that are absolute classics.

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

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman: Earth One Retro Review – “Ultimate” Superman

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Superman: Earth One

AUTHOR: J. Michael Straczynski
ARTISTS: Shane Davis, Sandra Hope (Inker), Barbara Ciardo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: October 27, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

DC wants their Ultimate line, damn it! And they’re going to rehash these origin stories over and over and over again until SOMEONE gets it right!!!

So I’m guessing because the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely and Frank Miller/Jim Lee teams couldn’t hack it with a monthly schedule on the All-Star books, DC decided to introduce these Earth One graphic novels, which allow creators to tell stories without being bound down by continuity, tradition, etc. This book is the first in the series, with a Batman: Earth One on the way. Ironically, J. Michael Straczynski was actually taken off the monthly Superman title so he could start working on a sequel to this book.

As expected, Superman: Earth One puts Straczynski’s spin on the classic Superman origin story. It follows an early ’20s Clark Kent into Metropolis as he tries to find himself. We get frequent flashbacks to conversations he had with his adopted father, who in this story is deceased. Eventually, an alien being tracks the last surviving Kryptonian to Earth, and threatens to destroy the planet unless he shows himself. Thus, Clark becomes Superman, etc. etc.

If I sound cynical about this book, it’s because I am. I came into it that way. There’s no story in the comic book industry that’s been rehashed more than Superman’s origin. Geoff Johns was in the middle of rehashing it with Superman: Secret Origin when they announced this book. I understand different writers bring different perspectives and textures to the story. But when you get right down to it, it’s still the same story Just because you can put your own spin on something doesn’t mean you should. Heck, in All-Star Superman Morrison and Quitely were able to get the origin out of the way in four or five panels! And it was beautiful!

The Clark Kent of Earth One is very moody and broody. He walks around in a hoody and jeans, initially trying to find other ways to help humanity besides being a superhero. Some reviewers have made Twilight comparisons. While I’d prefer not to slander Superman with such a label, it’s not hard to picture Robert Pattinson under that hood. *shudders*

Still, credit where credit is due. Straczynski doesn’t use Lex Luthor, Braniac, or any of the stock villains in this story. He instead opts to create his own villain, whose native race was responsible for destroying Krypton. In every other Superman origin, the planet was simply destroyed via a natural disaster of some kind. Having it destroyed out of malice is an intriguing concept. Shane Davis’ art is also very good. My favorite image in the entire book comes toward the end, where Clark puts on the classic glasses for the first time. It’s a hipster look. But it’s new.

I don’t oppose the idea of a younger, less experienced Superman at all. But I think I’d be more inclined to like this book if so much of it hadn’t been done already. Clark’s recollections about his father are a perfect example. The whole “Son, you were put here for a reason” and “Clark, you’re going to find your place in this world,” and “You’re going to fulfill your true destiny” stuff has been done so much that I almost found myself rolling my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good storytelling. But there’s not much room for Straczynski to put his own spin on that. Or if there was, he didn’t.

For instance, Straczynski depicts The Daily Planet as a paper on the verge of going under, but Geoff Johns did that in Secret Origin. He portrays the public as mixed in terms of how they feel about Superman. But Mark Waid did that in Superman: Birthright, and the mainstream Superman comics have been playing up the “What if he turns on us?” angle for years now.

Bottom line ? I don’t get it. People have been so quick to drop heaps of praise upon this book. But aside from Clark’s age and the new villain, it just seems like a mishmash of things that have already been done. And believe me, they’ve been done better than this. By most standards, Superman: Earth One is a good book. But that’s not because of Straczynski’s creativity. It’s because Superman’s origin story was already good, whether he’s in a hoodie or not.

Now that Superman: Earth One has told its first chapter, hopefully Straczynski and Davis can work on being more innovative with their storytelling, and giving us things we haven’t seen before. In their defense, they obviously didn’t want to do a complete 180, and change the core essence of Superman. But this book breaks very little ground, if any.

RATING: 6.5/10

***IN HINDSIGHT: All of this still pretty much rings true. Amazingly, after all these years I still haven’t forgiven Straczynski for bailing on the “Grounded” storyline. It had so much potential and he just abandoned it.***

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