An All-Star Batman #2 Review – The Jerk Store Called…

All-Star Batman #2, 2016, John Romita Jr.TITLE: All-Star Batman #2
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLERS: John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: September 14, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I haven’t been as in love with All-Star Batman as some reviewers are. But credit where credit is due: This is good stuff.

 Harvey Dent says he can get rid of his alter-ego Two-Face if Batman can get him to a mysterious house 500 miles away from Gotham. Two-Face counters by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. Ergo, Batman’s enemies are coming out of the woodwork to kill and collect. But fittingly, Two-Face’s plan is double-headed. Jim Gordon and the GCPD are literally about to walk into the Batcave!

One of Snyder and Romita’s priorities with this book is to prominently feature Batman’s rogues gallery. Not just the A-listers, either. In this issue alone we get appearances from King Shark, Amygdala, Cheshire, Great White, and KGBeast (referred to as “the Beast”). As a Batman geek, one of the thrilling elements about All-Star is never knowing who will pop out from around the next corner. It could be anyone from Mr. Freeze to Kite-Man.

Snyder also does a lot of justice to Two-Face, diving deeper into the concept of duality than I expected. Not just the traditional Harvey Dent vs. Two-Face stuff, but the notion that everyone has a dark side. Everyone is secretly as twisted as he is, and by holding secrets over people’s heads, he’s going to show you how. We also get a nice scene between Alfred and Duke Thomas that spells out some of the rules for how Two-Face’s brain works. The two sides can keep secrets from one another, but also influence each other. That’s good information to have as we go forward.

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., the jerk store calledWhat I continue to dislike about Snyder’s writing in this book is the sarcastic dialogue he gives Batman during battle sequences. This book kicks off with an awesome fight against Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala on top of a moving train, with Two-Face looking on for good measure. But it’s promptly spoiled with the line: “Hey Waylon. Appaloosa called…they want their fool back.”

Hey Batman. The jerk store called…

What makes that sequence all the more frustrating is that John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, and Dean White absolutely nail it. It’s got a great energy, accentuated beautifully by the motion work and the gorgeous colors in the background. This is also the best Killer Croc has looked in awhile. For my money that’s a high compliment, as this book came out the same week as one of Jim Lee’s Suicide Squad issues. Romita’s take on the Penguin is also very reminiscent of Danny DeVito’s look in Batman Returns, which isn’t something we see very often.

I also adore the panels of Batman and Two-Face fighting in the water (shown below), if for nothing else because of the water itself. The way it’s colored, the way it moves, the way it drips off the characters. It’s almost cloud-like.

We’re also introduced to the notion that many suspect Bruce Wayne is Batman, but no one can prove it. This would be interesting as a throwaway line. But they’re obviously following up on it, what with Jim Gordon and the GCPD breaking into the Batcave…

All-Star Batman #2, John Romita Jr., Batman, Two-FaceKGBeast gets put over like a million bucks in this issue. He’s put on arguably the same level as a Deathstroke or Deadshot, and even has a decapitated Talon from the Court of Owls as a trophy. He’s treated with a reverence he’s rarely, if ever, gotten.

I’m still sour this “color wheel” idea Snyder is using in the back-up feature, though in all fairness there’s still much we don’t know about it. For now, we’ve got a mostly quiet scene between Batman and Duke as they track down Zsasz. Declan Shalvey’s work remains delightfully clean. His opening page is a striking mosaic of Duke’s family memories, which transitions into a scene between he and his mother. We’re not given any further insight into what exactly Batman has in mind for Duke. But things are unfolding nicely. We have yet to see a sarcastic quip from the Dark Knight in this story, so it almost has the advantage over what Snyder is doing with Romita.

There’s also a delightfully subtle detail to the one of Zsasz’s word balloons. It gets little gray scratches behind the letters to signify the various marks he puts in his own skin.

All-Star Batman is mostly quality work thus far, which is consistent with what Snyder has done with Batman previously. But as I see it, Snyder has a tendency to get in his own way, and take his own stories down a notch. Whether it’s with dialogue that’s out of character, big awful Batman robots, or something else entirely. It’s like he just can’t resist.

Boy, I wish he could resist…

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An All-Star Batman #1 In-Depth Review – Sh*t Batman Says

All-Star Batman #1, John Romita Jr., 2016TITLE: All-Star Batman #1
AUTHOR: Scott Snyder
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: August 10, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What exactly is “out of character” for Batman? He’s one of the most multi-faceted figures in all of popular culture. In comic books alone, we’ve seen him do virtually everything. He’s spit in Superman’s face (long story) and beat people to a bloody pulp. But he’s also worn zebra stripes and fought on the keys of a giant typewriter. Much depends on the angle you’re looking at him from. Are you going for the more mature, moody and broody Batman? Or is this a more colorful Caped Crusader for all ages?

This being said, a few things happen in All-Star Batman #1 that struck me as out of character. Both of them deal not with something Batman does, but something he says. More specifically, how he says it.

All-Star Batman takes our hero out of Gotham City, and on to the open road. Harvey Dent believes he can dispose of his alter-ego Two-Face if he can somehow get to a mysterious house nearly 500 miles away. Two-Face counters Dent’s offer by putting a price on the Dark Knight’s head. What’s more, if Batman reaches his destination, Two-Face threatens to spill every dirty secret he has about the Gotham underworld. This makes our protagonists the target of supervillains, civilians, and shockingly, one of Batman’s most trusted allies.

All-Star Batman #1, John Romita Jr., faceThis book comes from our old friend Scott Snyder, who writes really good Batman stories, despite at times annoying the crap out of yours truly. Most of what we get here falls into the really good category. Heck, our premise involves Batman hauling Two-Face across the country in a semi-truck. As a Batman geek, I’m immediately interested.

But Snyder makes some grating choices in this issue. The most notable is in the above image. Our opening scene sees Firefly and Killer Moth crash through the window of a diner, Batman in tow. They threaten to kill everyone inside if he doesn’t tell them where Harvey is. Batman responds with: “Hey. All of you in this diner. Look at me. Not them. Look at my face. No one is dying today.” He follows up with a wink and a smile.

These two panels feel completely out of character. They seem like something we might get from Superman or Captain America. Particularly the “look at my face” bit. I understand that saving those lives is Batman’s primary motivation that scene. But this isn’t his first rodeo. Why would Bruce Wayne, a public figure, want to intentionally draw attention to his masked face?

All-Star Batman #1, 2016, John Romita Jr., shut up and dieThen you have the wink and smile. I’m not sure if he’s looking at the villains or the diner patrons. Either way, it’s completely out of left field for this version of Batman. It’s one thing to make bold choices. For instance, Snyder later has Batman stab Killer Moth through the arm, and hack off Black Spider’s cybernetic limbs with a chainsaw. Edgy? Yes. But fair enough. However, if you push the boundaries too far the character itself begins to change. For this Dark Knight version of Batman, Snyder pushed the boundaries too far, and too early in the issue. Readers are just getting settled in, and he’s already throwing them awkward curve balls.

The whole “shut up and die” line (shown above) wasn’t great, either. I’m also prepared to get another big awful Batman robot at some point in this book. You know it’s coming.

All of this in a series called All-Star Batman, which obviously prompts memories of the controversial and much-maligned All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder. Why would they choose that title? Because the All-Star name evokes a reaction? Because Snyder will be working with “all-star” talents on this book?

But to repeat: Most of what’s in this issue is good. Snyder’s characterization of Two-Face is spot-on. We establish he’s colorblind in his left eye. Meaning his dual personality sees the world in (you guessed it) black and white. Two-Face knowing people’s secrets, their hidden dark sides, is very strong writing and fits him like a glove. There’s also a point to be made for money bringing out the dark side in everyday people.

All Star-Batman #1, John Romita Jr., chainsawAnd admittedly, I like the image of Batman using a chainsaw. As a one-off, it’s a lot of fun.

Though his art has an undoubtedly epic feel to it, John Romita Jr. has good issues and bad issues. One in awhile, you’ll seen one of his panels and just cringe. Thankfully, this is a good issue. Also, Dean White’s colors allow you to really feel the heat of the Indian summer they mention early on. The intense red that White puts into Two-Face’s scarred half is very striking, specifically that big eye. It’s like he has the all seeing, all knowing eye.

Snyder also gives us a back-up story drawn by Declan Shalvey, whose sleek and clean work I prefer to Romita’s. We get a lovely appearance from the Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile. The story features Duke Thomas, who is also in the main story. But between his appearances in this book and Tom King’s Batman, we still have no idea what the end goal of him being there is. It’s been emphasized that Duke is not going to be Robin. Batman, in his own words, is “trying something new.” My interest is piqued.

All-Star Batman #1, 2016, DeclanHowever, this story also introduces us to something that, if it’s what I think it is, infuriates me. The Cursed Wheel is supposed to be a condensed version of all Batman’s training, sharpened and applied to tenets taught by Alfred. Each color on the wheel apparently represents different psychological traits. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this concept, until you get to this dialogue…

“Look at the colors. You see hints of them in the colors of your allies. Dick leans blue. Damian, green. Barbara, purple. It’s a secret history that unites them, connects them, differentiates them.”

No, it really doesn’t.

We don’t need to overthink the colors that Dick, Damian, Barbara, and everybody that’s trained with Batman wears. If Duke needs to have a model for his training, so be it. But let’s not overdo it. This concept has just been introduced, so it deserves a chance to grow. But at this point it’s an eye-roller.

Just before we’re introduced to the wheel of contrivance, Duke is telling Batman that he’s fine on his own, and that today “Robin doesn’t need a Batman.” The Dark Knight replies with “Good. Batman doesn’t need a Robin either.” That line feels very wrong coming from Bruce, considering just how many Robins he’s trained. What’s he getting at?

There’s definitely some nitpicking to be done with All-Star Batman. I’ve credited Scott Snyder with not being afraid to have big ideas. Some of them pay off, some of them don’t. But it’s the little things that chip away at this issue, and cumulatively bring it down a notch. Still, Snyder has earned the right to say what he wants to say with Batman. It’s obviously too early to call this story a success or failure. But because Snyder is attached to it, All-Star Batman will at the very least be noteworthy.

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A Batman/Superman #31 Review – The Search For Supergirl

Batman/Superman #31, cover, Yanick PaquetteTITLE: Batman/Superman #31
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke. Cover by Yanick Paquette.
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 13, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Damn. Just when you thought Big Blue was gettin’ things back in order…BAM. He gets a death sentence. And you thought Batman had bad luck.

Due to the after-effects of multiple intense battles, Superman is apparently dying. With the end in sight, the Man of Steel has begun getting his affairs in order. With help from Batman, he starts searching for Supergirl so that she might continue his work. But Kara isn’t easy to find, and Superman is running out of time…

Readers should be grateful Peter Tomasi has the pen on all the Superman titles for this big “Final Days of Superman” crossover. Not only does that bode well in terms of consistency between issues, but Tomasi is so good at injecting heart into his stories. That’s one of the main reasons his run on Batman & Robin was so good. In the recently rebooted DC Universe, Tomasi made sure the characters still felt familiar. Deep down, this was still the Batman we knew. He’s the perfect pick for a story like this. Though one can argue a story about Superman’s dying days has been done to perfection in All Star Superman.

Batman/Superman #51, Tusk, Doug MahnkeTomasi was a little vague in Superman #51 on what exactly is killing our hero. We knew it was a result of his exposure to the fire pits of Apokalips in Darkseid War, his fight with Rao in Justice League of America, and the A.R.G.U.S. Kryptonite chamber in Truth. In this issue he says something about “Kryptonite malignancy eating away at me.” Anything with the word malignancy in it must be pretty bad. But I’d still like a little more info on what exactly is killing the most powerful man on Earth.

Tomasi understands these characters better than most of the current crop of writers at DC. As such, the dialogue scenes in this issue feel the way they’re supposed to: Like a meeting between two old friends. They sound very much in character. There’s a panel where Batman asks Superman: “Do you know your irises are green?” Coming from another character, this would have sounded asinine. But from Batman it works. We also get the unlikely meeting of Superman and Bat-Cow, which plays to Clark Kent’s upbringing on the farm.

We also get an appearance from Tusk (shown above), who we met when these two worked together in Batman & Robin Annual #1. So we’ve got some fun continuity between that book and this one.

National City, the home of Supergirl on the CBS show of the same name, is mentioned late in the issue. I imagine this is an clue as to what we’ll be getting when Supergirl once again gets her own series this fall. Not a moment too soon, by the way…

Batman/Superman #31 (2016), flying, Doug Mahnke

We’ve also got a character in this book who has mysteriously gained Superman-like powers and is glowing orange. I imagine that’s our villain. Though what exactly is going on with him remains to be seen

Doug Mahnke has drawn so many big DC stories that his art inevitably brings a certain weight, or an “epic” feel, to whatever he’s drawing. This is true with both the action and dialogue sequences. Considering what’s happened over the last year with Superman losing his powers, and Jim Gordon tagging in as Batman, this issue feels like a homecoming.

I trust Peter Tomasi with Superman. Considering how protective I’ve become of the character in recent years, and what’s been done to him recently, that’s saying something. For the time being, Superman and “The Final Days of Superman” are in good hands.

Image 1 from Image 2 from weird 

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A Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3 Review – Questions and…Compassion?

DKIII: The Master Race #3 cover, Andy KubertTITLE: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3
AUTHORS: Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller
PENCILLER: Andy Kubert, Miller
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: February 24, 2016

***Miss the last two issues? Boom and Bibbity-Boom.***

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for DKIII: The Master Race.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, the table is set for a battle of epic proportions. Heroes against Villains. Kryptonian against Kryptonian. Even father against daughter. The fate of the entire planet hangs in the balance.

But, um…can I just ask a few questions before the fighting starts?

Now released from the Bottle City of Kandor, the bizarre and sinister cult leader Quar and his seven children are wreaking havoc on Earth as only Kryptonians can. They give the world three days to surrender. With no other choice, Bruce Wayne and Carrie Kelley seek out Superman, who is in exile at his Fortress of Solitude. And when he finds out what his fellow Kryptonians have done, the Man of Steel will not be happy?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, Andy KubertAt the end of issue #2, we finally see Bruce Wayne. He’s mostly as we remember him, only he now walks with a crutch attached to his right hand. On the very first page, Bruce talks about how his body has worn down, and “I can barely walk.” This development is very believable, as we know how much punishment Bruce put his body through over the years.

But here’s my question: Just how able-bodied is Bruce Wayne these days? There’s a frustrating inconsistency in Bruce’s presentation thus far that I’m hoping is rectified in future issues. Obviously he’ll always have a certain physical strength. But near near the middle of the issue, we see him trudging through deep snow toward Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, using a sledgehammer in place of his crutch. A short time later we see him swing the hammer at full force. Then at the end of the issue, he’s back on the crutch. So what’s the deal? What’s the balance between Old Man Bruce and Batman? He talks like he’d be a liability to Carrie in a fight. But he’s bound to get physical at some point, right? He is Batman, after all.

Also, what’s the deal with Superman? When the story started he was simply frozen over. Is he in some kind of prolonged meditative state? How is it he’s just been sitting there for years on end?

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, sledgehammerStill, after two issues of build-up, Azzarello and Kubert succeed in making Superman’s return feel like a big deal. Practical or not, that shot with the sledgehammer (shown right) is pretty cool. As is the moment when Big Blue finally rises from that chair. The character doesn’t have his usual iconic, American feel here. Rather, we have a sleeping giant that has awakened to find something very angering, very offensive, and very personal. To Kubert’s credit, that first shot of an awake Superman feels very much like a Frank Miller Superman, even down to his proportions being a little bit blockier.

On the other hand, the Bruce Wayne we see here isn’t necessarily consistent with Miller’s recent work in The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All Star Batman & Robin. Miller’s Batman work has always been noted for its grim tone. But as the years went by, his Dark Knight became much angrier. All Star in particular featured a much more vengeful, rage-filled Batman. At times he was practically heartless. But in our opening scene, we see a softer side of Bruce. We’re reminded that he cares for Carrie, and that he actually believes she’ll one day be better than he ever was. He worries about being a liability to her in a fight. This is how we know DKIII is an Azzarello story, and not a Miller one. Modern-day Frank Miller stories were sadly devoid of scenes like this. It’s very refreshing.

DKIII: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, QuarThat’s not to say Miller’s fingerprints aren’t on this book. At one point, one of Quar’s children swallows a seed of some kind and then commits a fiery suicide, destroying Moscow in the process. This, combined with Quar having multiple wives and being part of a religious movement, seem to hint that there’s a little Holy Terror in DKIII. That’s rather uncomfortable to think about.

The media satire continues in this issue. It’s distracting at times, but least its placement in the issue makes sense. We see the likes of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly, and even the hosts of Fox & Friends commenting on the destruction of Moscow, and pondering Quar’s demand for surrender. Analyzing the role media plays in our culture is a trademark of these Dark Knight books. But we’ve reached the point where, unless something new is brought to the table, it’s become more grating than insightful.

Our mini-comic this time around features Green Lantern returning to Earth to assess the threat. But when he runs into Quar’s wives, things don’t go well. It’s actually kind of brutal what happens to him. And unlike our previous forays with The Atom and Wonder Woman, I’m not sure how this plays into the larger story. One can argue it helps establish Quar’s wives. But we already knew they were Kryptonian, and thus capable of mutilating human beings. So what’s the point? John Romita Jr. helps Miller with the breakdowns, but it doesn’t help with the overall quality of the art. Miller is still Miller, for better or worse.

DKIII: The Master Race #3, Andy Kubert, mediaDKIII continues to have a coherent narrative. You’d think that would be a given for most stories, but considering what we’ve seen in Miller’s recent Batman works, it’s worth noting. Andy Kubert’s art is also in sync with the tone of The Dark Knight Returns, while still maintaining its own identity. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. Thus far DKIII is by no means a masterpiece. But even at $5.99, it’s worth a purchase. Perhaps for its significance to the fanboy subculture if nothing else.

Image 1 from Image 2 from Image 3 from

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A Superman #45 Review – Fight Club and Finances

Superman #45, 2015TITLE: Superman #45
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLERS: Howard Porter. Cover by John Romita Jr.
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 28, 2015

***Need to catch up? Check out our reviews of issues #43 and #44.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. I so want this to get better, but it’s just not happening. As we’ve seen in previous installments of the Truth storyline, there are flashes of quality in Superman #45. But the direction the story takes is all flash and little substance.

With his identity exposed, and Clark Kent’s life destroyed, Superman follows the trail of the cyber criminal group Hordr to California. Once there, he finds himself broke. So when he stumbles on to a meta-human fight club of sorts, Clark is faced with a moral dilemma. Does he go against his moral code, or duke it out for some cash?

Let’s cover the good before we descend into the negative. Clark briefly runs into Lois Lane in this issue, and wants nothing to do with her. Seeing Clark this angry at Lois, and justifiably so, is a really interesting dynamic. Obviously there’s romantic tension lingering under the surface here. How long is Clark going to stay mad at Lois for this? And what can Lois do to regain his trust? This is one of the few areas of intrigue in this series right now.

Superman #45, Howard PorterGene Luen Yang’s spin on the meta-human fight club angle is that the fighters are “gods and goddesses from mythologies on the brink of extinction.” That take is a little overblown for my taste. The issue actually reminded of the “Grudge Match” episode of Justice League Unlimited, where Roulette lures Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman into her Meta-Brawl arena. Has Roulette even surfaced in the New 52verse? If you’re going to do a story like this, why not use a villain like her? The whole thing about gods and goddesses is convoluted, and actually slows the issue down because Yang has to explain the whole thing.

I have a hard time buying the idea that Superman, exposed identity or not, has trouble coming across money. If he were the only hero in this universe, then maybe I’d believe it. But he’s a Justice League member, he’s still got a lot of friends in Metropolis, and he’s friendly with the President of the United States. Chances are if Clark needs a loan, he can get one from somebody.

But for the sake of a story, let’s say Clark is indeed broke. Yang lets us know that Clark will not steal, as he was taught better by his adoptive father (who he refers to as “Pop” instead of “Pa” for some reason). So the prospect of earning money via a fight club is tempting. But I don’t buy the notion that he’d seriously consider participating. He’s Superman. His mission is to inspire people. It’s beneath him. If you want to put him in that scenario, have him take down the fight club.

Superman #45, 2015, Howard PorterPerhaps I simply hold Superman to a higher standard than some. Too high, maybe…

The whole Truth story is so far gone at this point that it’s barely even worth it to mention ways it might be improved. But you want to do a story about Superman and money? How about you have Clark break up the fight club. Then as the sun begins to set he faces the grim reality that he has no money, no food, and no place to stay. He is now homeless, and largely de-powered. Superman has never been in such a vulnerable position. Then, he comes across a kind and compassionate civilian who owns a small motel. Recognizing him as Superman, this person gives Clark a free room, and a bit of food. As we close the issue, Clark realizes the irony of his situation. He was sent to Earth to inspire humans to to good, to “save” them. Now, one of those very humans has saved him in his darkest hour. This would provide intriguing insight into Clark’s relationship with his adopted home world.

I wasn’t aware last issue was John Romita Jr’s final go-around as the interior artist for Superman. In his place is the more than capable Howard Porter, along with colorist Hi-Fi. Hi-Fi’s colors are much richer and more vibrant than what we’ve seen in recent issues. Porter’s Superman is also much more expressive than Romita’s was. It actually borders on comical at times. But Porter is a nice change of pace. Sadly, solicitations indicate he’s only going to be around for another issue.

Solicits also indicate we’re heading into a big crossover called The Savage Dawn, featuring Vandal Savage. I wish I could say I’ve got high hopes. If you want a mildly optimistic spin on this, I’ll say it’d be fairly hard for me to be more underwhelmed with Superman than I am now.

Images courtesy of

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A Superman #44 Review – Talking Truth

Superman #44 cover, John Romita Jr. TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 30, 2015

***Missed last issue? BOOM. We’ve got you covered.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman #44 is an okay issue which would have been much more compelling had it been released three or four months ago.

Before we get into the issue, let’s talk about this the Truth storyline as a whole. Readers of the Superman books know it’s run through not only this title, but Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman. It’s been touched on in other books, but those are the main four. Beginning in June, DC opted to use Superman to tell us how and why a de-powered Clark Kent’s identity was revealed to the world. All the while, stories of the de-powered, t-shirt wearing, “Tough Guy Superman” were already being told in the other three titles. As such, we saw this new Superman heavily effected by events we hadn’t seen yet. We could sympathize with what Clark was going through, and the stories were entertaining and compelling in their own right. But they lacked a certain depth because we couldn’t see the whole picture yet (We still can’t.).

Superman #44, alternate coverAt this point, it’s pretty safe to say this release strategy was a mistake, and it watered down something that could have been much more interesting otherwise. This is actually one of the few times I would have preferred a mass crossover. This issue marks the end of the Before Truth story, which has lasted four issues. As such it would have been simple to use all four Superman books to tell this story during the month of June. That way, the story has four straight weeks to build to a crescendo. In addition, not only do you have Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr. lending their talents to this pivotal story, but you have Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Ardian Syaf, and everyone else currently under the Man of Steel’s creative umbrella.

What a wasted opportunity…

With all that in mind, let’s get into Superman #44. Clark’s identity is public, and he’s not the only one in jeopardy. When The Daily Planet is targeted by supervillains, the Man of Steel must use what power he has left to defend his friends and colleagues. It’s a great premise, but the execution is surprisingly stupid.

Surprisingly, our hero starts this issue looking pretty stupid. Lois Lane has revealed to the world that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Yet when we open the issue, we see him strolling down the street as Clark, as if this were just an ordinary day. The Royal Flush Gang is able to identify and ambush him on sight! It’s not like Clark is incapable of being stealthy. He can fly and run at super-speed! At the very least, you’d think he’d pick a new disguise! But nope. Our main character, ladies and gentlemen. He’s sticking with an alter-ego that’s been discredited in front of the world.

Superman #44, Killer Croc, John Romita Jr.The villains who attack The Daily Planet are an odd assortment: Livewire, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, Shockwave, and for no particular reason, Killer Croc. The choice to put Croc in there is a puzzling one. The question of why a Batman villain is put into such an important Superman story seemingly at random actually distracts from the scene. Furthermore, he’s rather redundant. He’s just another slab of muscle and mass for Superman to kick around.

About halfway through the issue, something interesting and mildly sensible finally happens: Clark finds out that a former Planet acquaintance of has taken Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and some of his other colleagues hostage. Due to the destruction caused by one of Superman’s enemies, this impromptu villain lost his wife and his livelihood. Now that Clark’s identity is exposed, he’s taking the fight to him. Now this is an interesting idea, and really should have taken up the first half of the issue. The stuff with the Royal Flush Gang, Killer Croc and the others feels like it’s there because they felt the need to fill a supervillain quota. But in the end, simply putting there so Clark can punch them comes off clumsy and forced.

During the fight, Perry White takes a bullet, and we subsequently get to hear his side of things. Understandable, he’s rather perturbed. This scene only lasts a page, making it yet another lost opportunity in the Truth saga. This scene actually reminded me of something Marvel released in the wake of Spider-Man revealing his identity in Civil War. It was an editorial by J. Jonah Jameson, who’s called Spider-Man a menace for years, only to discover that he’s been on the Daily Bugle staff the whole time. Jameson apologizes to his readers, and vows to win back their trust. Perry obviously never had that kind of contempt for Clark. But this revelation makes Perry, and everyone at the Planet look like oblivious fools. There’s a real argument to be made that the paper’s credibility has been compromised. It’d be fascinating to see that angle explored. So naturally, I assume it’ll be left untouched…

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6Toward the end of the issue, there’s an incredibly stupid moment where Clark cuts his hair with a diamond. You know, because he’s Superman and he’s got really strong tissue. This isn’t a new idea (as you’ll see on the left), but I’ve always rejected it, and others along the same line.

There’s still some potential left in the Superman: Truth story as a whole. But it’s been so mismanaged that at this point that it’s inescapably tarnished. At this point, those of us who are sticking around can only hope for better things ahead now that the backstory of Superman’s “outing” has been revealed.

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A Superman: The Men of Tomorrow Review – So Much to Do, So Little Time

Superman: Men of Tomorrow coverTITLE: Superman: The Men of Tomorrow

AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: John Romita, Jr.
COLLECTS: Superman #32-39
FORMAT: Hardcover

PRICE: $24.99

RELEASED: August 19, 2015

By Levi Sweeney
Staff Writer, Grand X

This is a Superman story that I had fairly high hopes for. Considering how the Superman title has been doing for the entirety of the New 52, almost anything could have made it better. Geoff Johns did a fantastic job on Superman: Secret Origin, so this collection virtually guaranteed to kick the Man of Steel back into gear.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Superman: The Men of Tomorrow takes a rather interesting premise and plays it well for a little bit  before the whole thing crashes and burns halfway through. It starts with Superman encountering a blond-haired, super-powered ubermensch named Ulysses, a.k.a. Neil. He helps Supes take out a robot baddie, and soon they’re fast friends.

Superman #36, John Romita Jr. Neil was sent to an alternate universe by his Earth-bound scientist parents who believed that the world was about to be destroyed. Neil has now returned to Earth, apparently having sojourned in “Dimension 4” as a superhero in his own right. But all is not as it seems…

I honestly was psyched when we first got to know Neil. He looks all the world like a recreation of Jean Paul Valley, a.k.a. Azrael. I love that guy! He acts like him, has similar speech patterns, and even has the same long blond hair! Add the fish-out-of-water gags that he gets into briefly, and you could potentially have a funny, entertaining story.

Unfortunately for Neil, Johns takes more pages from Knightfall‘s book that I would have liked. In addition to casting a similar character in a Superman-doppleganger role, Johns tries to spin Neil as a maniacal killer. I don’t buy it at all. There’s no foreshadowing whatsoever that Neil was plotting and planning to stab Superman, and plenty to suggest the exact opposite. Neil’s character development was going one specific direction the whole time, and then it turned around in a way that makes absolutely no sense given the established context.

Superman: The Men of Tomorrow, John Romita Jr. Superman himself is portrayed decently, in that he generally isn’t a total douchebag like he’s been depicted in the New 52. He actually treats Neil like a human being, unlike a certain billionaire playboy in a Batsuit treated a certain other mentally ill protege. He even goes so far as to visit him in jail! They have an interesting dynamic, in that Superman is (temporarily) partnered with someone who is very much his equal in terms of powers and skills.

One thing Johns gets right is how he manages to reset the Superman status quo. Clark had quit The Daily Planet to become a blogger alongside Cat Grant. In roughly six pages, Johns gets everything back to business-as-usual. There’s even the added bonus of Clark revealing a certain secretto Jimmy Olsen in the final issue. I would have loved to see Johns’ take on New 52 Lex Luthor, but I guess you can’t have it all.

The core problem with Men of Tomorrow is that it’s too big for its own good. We’re talking alternate dimensions, a Superman doppleganger with a messiah complex, an alien race bent on wholesale slaughter, and Alfred attempting to iron Superman’s cape. This is the sort of story that ought to be part of a crisis crossover, or at least a 12-issue miniseries. Plus, the story is just plain confusing.

Superman: The Men of Tomorrow, Superman vs. UlyssesTo the regret of everyone involved, Johns does not succeed in writing a story that is fitting for his allowed run. It could have been great, but Johns failed to capitalize on Neil’s strong potential as a character, all exacerbated by an overstuffed plot. Superman stories are usually big in scale. But Johns has proven on Green Lantern, Aquaman, and even Superman: Secret Origin that he’s perfectly capable of making small feel big.

RATING: 6/10

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