Tag Archives: Jae Lee

A Superman: American Alien #4 Review – Playing the Batman Card

Superman: American Alien #4, 2016TITLE: Superman: American Alien #4
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Jae Lee. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: February 18, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Superman: American Alien #4.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. Max Landis, you were doing so well. I’d never have pegged such a good writer who cares so much about Superman to make such a textbook mistake.

You played the Batman card. Hell, you even played the Dick Grayson card! Not to mention the Oliver Queen card! What the hell, bro?

Shortly after moving to Metropolis, Clark Kent wins a student essay contest run by The Daily Planet. As such, he gets to attend the Cerberus Summit, a meeting of the three most important young businessmen in America: Oliver Queen, Lex Luthor, and Bruce Wayne. During his time at the summit, Clark gets some quality time with both Queen and Luthor. But he also gets to interview Bruce Wayne’s young ward, Dick Grayson. This garners the attention of a certain Dark Knight Detective.

Superman: American Alien #4, Batman capeI think I get what Landis was trying to do with Batman here. He was making a point about how Superman and Batman coexist in the same universe, and that Batman wouldn’t always have the upper hand in a fight. I appreciate that mindset. But frankly, I resent Batman’s shadow being cast over half of this issue, when this is supposed to be “an important juncture” in Clark’s development as a person.

On the last page, Clark even tries on Batman’s cape, with the caption reading “…do something big.” As a Superman fan, I find the notion that Batman helped inspire Clark to be a hero as the light to contrast his darkness to be offensive. And for the record, I love Batman as much as anybody. But it would be just as ridiculous the other way around. Picture a scene where Bruce Wayne somehow beats up a young Superman, then tries on his cape and an idea is sparked. Again, we go back to the idea of the DC Universe becoming “Over-Baturated,” with Batman being central to so many crucial events in this universe.

I’m tempted to think this might have been an editorial mandate, what with Batman v Superman coming out next month. But Landis did pitch a gratuitous Batman element in what would have been his Death of Superman story. Following Superman’s fight with Doomsday, Landis would have had Clark spend an extended period of time learning how to fight, courtesy of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. That was needless and disappointing, just like the Batman stuff here is needless and disappointing. Especially coming from Landis, who’s proven he can do so much better.

Lex Luthor, Superman: American Alien #4Less offensive are the appearances of Oliver Queen and Lex Luthor. Mind you, an early Superman/Green Arrow meeting still feels like something we’d see on Smallville. But given what happened with Batman, it’s tough to be cranky about this. Frankly, had Ollie and Lex been our only guest stars, the issue might have been just fine. Landis contrasts the perspectives of the two characters nicely, giving a young Clark something to think about. Queen sees himself as a spoiled rich kid given a chance to use his resources for good, while Lex predictably has a messiah complex. Lois Lane is also in this issue simply to foreshadow, which is something of a waste.

I stand by what I’ve said about Jae Lee being an ill-fit for Superman, his Art Deco-ish style being much more suited for Batman. Still, good art is good art. Lee draws a nice Lex Luthor here, fittingly in a dark and shadowy style typical of Lee. And while Dick Grayson is completely out of place in this story, Lee gives him a nice wisdom beyond his years. Our introduction to Lois Lane is also cool, with her figure drawn in front enlarged text.

Superman: American Alien #4 is a surprising letdown, considering what’s come before has been mostly good. I maintain that Max Landis is a great writer. He went on record saying this issue was supposed to make us think. Sadly, I wasn’t exactly thinking good things…

Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.

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A Batman/Superman #1 Review – What Page Are We On?

Batman/Superman #1 (2013)TITLE: Batman/Superman #1
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Jae Lee
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 26, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In a company that likes to toss around the term “all star,” Jae Lee is a true all star. His dark, gothic style is usually fantastic, and it’s seemingly tailor-made for a character like Batman. But is Lee the right guy to put on a Batman/Superman book? I had my doubts, and I still do. But there is some good stuff here…even thought some of it’s rather confusing.

This issue shows us the first one-on-one meeting of Superman and Batman, first in civilian form, then in costume. To Greg Pak’s credit, his character work is awesome. His opening scene is particularly strong. Clark Kent travels to Gotham City to investigate the murder of some employees at Wayne Enterprises. He stumbles across a boy seemingly being beat up by some bullies, as Bruce Wayne (in a familiar disguise from Batman: Year One) looks on. He gets in Bruce’s face for not interfering on the boy’s behalf. But it seems the would-be victim was simply luring his opponents into a trap. From the get-go, this issue captures the source of Superman and Batman’s constant conflict, and the reason these two characters work so well together despite their differences. It’s Clark’s hopeful idealism paired with Bruce’s cynical reality. Then we go into a beautifully formatted two-page spread, which shows us what the two characters have in common: The quality of people who raised them. It’s a fantastic start.

Batman/Superman #1, robotsBut from there, things get weird. Batman uses some weird robots to try and wrangle Catwoman, who’s being controlled by a new villain called the Trickster (through she hasn’t been referred to by that name in-story yet). Then Superman flies in and the whole thing goes to hell. From there…I’m not sure what happens. Suddenly they seem to know eachother (Batman calls him “Clark”), and Batman is wearing a slightly different outfit. And then we get an appearance by someone we definitely weren’t expecting.

At this point, it seems a lot of this is supposed to be a mystery. But the whens and the wheres of this issue are confusing. In Justice League: Origin, which was written by two of the company’s co-publishers, mind you, we know that most of the League is meeting one another for the first time. And yet, this issue indicates that Superman and Batman met during Clark’s early years as a hero, when he was still wearing jeans and a t-shirt. And YET…later on in the issue Batman calls him by his civilian name and asks: “What’s with the jeans?” What page are we on? Are we in some kind of weird time warp thing? We need to clear this up pretty fast. As in, tell me what this is by next issue, or I might be gone…

Batman/Superman #1, Jae LeeAs I mentioned, I’m not completely sold on Jae Lee’s suitability for a book which prominently features Superman. His Clark Kent looks good, I’ll give him that. I also appreciate that his Superman doesn’t look like an Abercrombie and Fitch model, or a competition bodybuilder (I’m looking at you Kenneth Rocafort). But for instance, there are a few panels (shown above), where he draws a young Clark Kent in Smallville. I think this is supposed to be your typical contrast of sunny Smallville and shadowy Gotham. But Lee’s shadowy style, combined with June Chung’s color choices, give it a much too dreary look. He’s got the right idea, but it doesn’t really fit the way he does things. It can be argued the same is true when we get to red cape time. But it’s tough to say so definitively, as midway through red cape time, Ben Oliver takes over. Yeah, there’s a little tidbit they left out of the marketing campaign…

For longtime comic book readers, it’s tough to even talk about this issue without thinking about the old Superman/Batman series, specifically the stuff Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness did with the first several issues (the story which would eventually be collected in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The first issue of their run was published almost 10 years ago. That issue also had a writer with a great understanding of both characters’ voices, and an artist whose style might have gone a little too far in one direction for a lot of peoples’ tastes. While Lee likes drawing skinny pale people, McGuinness likes drawing big muscular balloon people. But Superman/Batman #1 is 10 times what Batman/Superman #1 is. It had great pacing and flow, played up the dynamic between our main characters in a way that was both insightful and fun, and it put them against Lex Luthor, a bad guy we all love to hate.

Batman/Superman #1, fightBut while that issue was built upon more than 15 years of story continuity, the New 52 initiative is less than two years old. In Batman/Superman #1 all the iconic Superman and Batman stuff is there, but certain specifics in terms of backstory are still being established. Heck, after we close this first issue we’re not even sure where we are on the  New 52 timeline. All that stuff is still being established in other books. Superman/Batman #1 kept things simple, which definitely helps when it comes to first issues.

Hopefully Pak and Lee (and whoever else is pencilling…) will fill in some blanks next issue. Until then, Batman/Superman #1 is in the “undecided” category for me. That’s a shame, as for a longtime DC Comics fan like me, this series should be a no-brainer.

Image 1 from hypergeeky.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com. Image 3 from bleedingcool.com.

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