Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman #43 Review – The Missing Puzzle Piece

Superman #43, coverTITLE: Superman #43
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 26, 2015

***WARNINGS: Spoilers lay ahead for Superman #43.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Two months after the Truth storyline began across all of the Superman titles, Superman #43 finally gives us the story’s inciting incident. At last, we see how and why Clark Kent’s secret identity was revealed to the world. Why they waited this long to show us the actual revelation is mind boggling to me.

Much of the drama in the past few issues of Superman has been watered down because, if you’ve been reading other Superman books, you already know what happens to Clark and the other characters. What’s more, it’s been a source of frustration in those other books, because we’ve lacked context for what’s going on. We knew from Divergence that Clark’s powers had been lessened, that his secret identity had somehow been exposed, and that Lois Lane was somehow responsibly for the latter. You can argue we didn’t need more context than that. But it certainly would have helped, given the enormity of both situations. Before you make something like this a mystery, it’s probably best to examine if that’s the best way to present it. In this case, it wasn’t.

Superman #43, Hordr, John Romita Jr. While Clark and the others may have escaped from Hordr last issue, the organization continues to plague our heroes, blackmailing Superman with the knowledge of his secret identity. They draw him out, strap him to a chair, and have him do his new solar flare thing in front of a bunch of “energy storage” robots. I can only assume this is how Clark lost his powers. They’ll explain it with comic book science or something.

Then, Lois apparently sends a compromising image of Clark to news outlets across the world, exposing his identity and taking Hordr’s advantage away from them. In the moment, this seems like an extremely rash decision. She’s just taken one of the biggest decisions of Superman’s life, and made it for him. Afterward, Clark is understandably furious with her.

They do plant a seed for it, however. Twice during the course of the issue, and once during the previous issue, they establish that Lois feels guilty over what her father and Lex Luthor did to Clark in Action Comics #2. If you’ll recall, they performed brutal experiments on him, including strapping him to an electric chair. They even use Rags Morales’ art from the issue. So when Lois sees Superman in a similar situation, it evidently strikes a chord, and prompts her to act. Was it the right choice? No. But given Lois’ emotional investments in both Superman and Clark Kent, it’s a decision that’s easier to understand.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane revealIt’s a powerful moment, to be certain. But again, I’m left wishing we’d seen it before the Truth storyline started. There would have been so much more depth to it all, as opposed to just watching Superman walk around punching people…

While I’m sure he’s not complaining about getting to write such a notable Superman story, I can’t help but feel like this is a waste of Gene Luen Yang’s talent. Remember, this is the guy who wrote American Born Chinese (among numerous other works). Is he really a writer you want to merely plug into a giant crossover like this? Sure, he’s doing a fine job. But I can’t help but wonder what Yang would do with the chance to tell a Superman story all his own? I can’t help but think it’d be more fulfilling than what we’ve gotten from Truth thus far.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane faceAs for Romita Jr., at times there’s an odd disconnect between his pencils and Yang’s dialogue. The panel at right is a perfect example. Now that Lois knows Clark is Superman, she’s getting to ask him all kinds of important questions. Does he have a master plan in mind? What would humanity do if he ever went rogue? These are questions that potentially effect the entire world. And yet, look at Lois’ face. What does that face say? She’s almost grilling him on the nature of his mission, and the checks and balances that could be in place to prevent him from running roughshod over the planet. But in this panel, she almost looks like a shrinking violet. Lois Lane is many things, but a shrinking violet isn’t one of them.

There are a few little moments like that scattered about the issue. Romita also seems to have a thing about drawing hands. Look at Clark’s left hand in the second-to-last panel of the issue. Little things like this start to take a toll as the issue goes on.

At the very least, the cat is finally out of the bag as far as how Superman got outed. Hopefully now that the exposition is out of the way, Truth can expand a little more. If there was ever a concept that deserved a chance to stretch it’s legs, it’s that of an “outed” Superman. The delayed revelation definitely created some awkwardness. But all isn’t lost quite yet.

Images 1 and 2 from comicvine.com. Image 3 from supermanhomepage.com.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Divergence #1 Review – The New Batman, a New Era for Superman, and More Mobius

Divergence #1 (2015)TITLE: Divergence #1
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff Johns.
PENCILLERS: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: Free Comic Book Day Release
RELEASED: May 2, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This year, we actually got something nice from DC for Free Comic Book Day. Not only do we have three talented writers matched with three equally talented artists, but the three mini-stories we’re given are actually pretty amazing! Snyder, Yang, and Johns are all in top form today, and if these stories are any indication of what’s to come post-Convergence, then I think I might just take a look.

Divergence #1 seeks to set up the new status quo for Batman, Superman, and the Justice League after Convergence. Batman gets top billing, as he often does these days. In “The Rookie”, Gotham City without Batman has thankfully not descended into chaos and fire following the events of Batman #40. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see Gotham at peace for once, though the narrating TV reporter speaks of unhealed wounds. Indeed, Capullo treats us to a beautiful splash page of a crowd of Gothamites shining miniature Bat Signals in the sky, looking positively sullen.

Batman, Divergence, Greg CapulloBut all hope is not lost! The Hillary Clinton-esque Geri Powers appears to reassure the citizens of Gotham City that a new Batman is about to be born. Who’s behind the cowl this time? I think I’ll leave that for you readers to find out for yourselves. But I’ll tell you this: It’s equal parts astounding and amusing. It was also nice to see the seeming end of Batman through the point-of-view of the ordinary, mundane folks like the reporters and cops. The inner circle of the Bat-family is nowhere in sight, except for the new “Batman.”

In “Exposed,” we’re introduced to Gene Luen Yang’s take on Superman. We start with Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen chatting sometime after Clark’s had his secret identity outed by Lois Lane. To top it all off, he’s operating with weakened powers. In my opinion, Superman has behaved in pretty much every single New 52 appearance as an irrepressible jerkhat. This includes Geoff Johns’ run on Justice League, which features Superman and his fellow heroes engaging in petulant bickering while, you know, saving the world.

Divergence #1, Superman, John Romita Jr. So Superman here is kind of a jerk, understandably so. But he then beats up this super-strong thug who tries to kill him and some innocent bystanders. At least he tried to avoid the fight, and he actually saved some people. Jimmy Olsen then plasters pictures of the fight all over social media, and excrement hits the fan for the Man of Steel. He then tells off Lois Lane when she tries to help him.

I like Yang’s story, but I don’t like his Superman. Yang’s a talented writer, but I wish the people at DC would get over themselves and get the message that their heroes don’t all have to be jerks. Superman is one such hero, and he’s a good place to start. At the very least, the story was still pretty fun. Yang’s writing style is free of any grim-and-gritty pretentions, a theme reinforced by the bright, easy-lined artwork of John Romita Jr.

And that brings us to the final story in this issue: “The Other Amazon.” Fittingly enough, this story by Geoff Johns focuses primarily on the lore of Wonder Woman, using it to highlight the origin of The Anti-Monitor, a.k.a. Mobius. The long and short of it is that this rogue Amazon named Myrina gives birth to Mobius, whose father is revealed to us at the end, and we get a preview of Darkseid War. She will apparently be a major player in this latest hullaballoo. I really hope that this will end up being a feather in Wonder Woman’s cap. From what we see here, it certainly looks likes it will be the case.

Divergence #1, Wonder Woman, Jason FabokThe mini-story itself does its job well. It gives us a window into what’s going on in Darkseid War, and makes you want to check it out. It actually looks pretty epic! On the other hand, I’m beginning to get fed up with these Geoff Johns-led super-mega-events. First there was Blackest Night, and then Flashpoint, Trinity War, Forever Evil, etc. I mean really, when will it end? At least Jason Fabok’s art was nice. It manages to be bright and flashy even when most of the background is dark brownish and grayish.

On the whole, this Free Comic Book Day issue was by no means of low quality. DC really invested a lot into this issue, bringing in some real heavy hitters, and boy, did they hit hard. Divergence #1 gave us three engaging, entertaining stories with lovely artwork and solid writing. This is a far cry from last year’s Free Comic Book Day issue, where they just reprinted the origin of Chris Kent. That was just lazy.

Fortunately, Divergence #1 is anything but.

Image 1 from dreamwidth.org. Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.wordpress.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

Follow Levi Sweeney on Twitter @levi_sweeney, or at his blog, The Stuff of Legend.

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