Tag Archives: Metropolis

A Superman: American Alien #6 Review – A Little Slice of Home

Superman: American Alien #6 (2016)TITLE: Superman: American Alien #6
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLERS: Jonathan Case. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 20, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Long story short? This issue gives us more of the same. Great art, good writing, and more out-of-place Batman stuff. Max Landis could be such a great Superman writer if he’d just let go of Batman…

Pete Ross and Kenny Bravermen, two of Clark’s buddies from Smallville, have come to visit him in Metropolis. Understandably, the city has one thing on its mind: Superman. It has at least that much in common with Pete and Kenny. But Clark’s friends have a different perspective on the Man of Steel than anyone in the city. So what do those who know Clark Kent think about his newfound fame?

My single biggest complaint about American Alien has been Landis’ use of Batman. In issue #4 he gratuitously used The Dark Knight, and in issue #5 he established Clark Kent wore Batman’s cape as part of a pre-Superman costume. In this issue, we get a page and a half of Clark and his buddies talking about Batman. Then on the next page, when talking about Clark flying around in a costume, Pete says: “Batman got in your head.”

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseI understand not everyone feels the way I do. But as a fan of both Superman and Batman, I find this offensive. I won’t re-tread ground here. Read the reviews linked above if you’d like my arguments as to why this is so offensive. But sadly, what started as an annoyance has became a major flaw.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that this Batman stuff is stuck in the middle of an otherwise great issue. It gives us what you might expect from a story with two of Clark’s old friends. They look at what he’s become and have reservations, largely because they care about him. And he cares for them too. Landis shines a nice spotlight on both the human and alien qualities that make Superman who he is. What’s more, the dialogue between Clark and his friends feels very natural. That’s something Landis has excelled at from the start.

Penciller Jonathan Case shines in this issue. His style has a retro feel to it that made him a good fit for Batman ’66. But I’d love to see him take a crack at an ongoing Superman title. His art might not be what we’re used to seeing on Superman or Action Comics, but isn’t that the point?

Ryan Sook has been on the covers for this series, and this one is his best yet. What’s so hilarious is that it took me a couple of looks to see Clark Kent in the image. Therein lies the brilliance. This cover is a visual metaphor for Clark Kent’s existence, and how he’s able to stay hidden. No one is looking for Clark Kent. They’re all looking for Superman. And of course, the image is beautifully drawn as well.

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseWe’ve got one issue left of Superman: American Alien. Based on these last three issues, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. We’ll get some good dialogue, along with some excellent artwork (Jock is on the pencil next month). We’ll also have a sense that our writer truly cares about the Man of Steel, and understands him in a way previous few writers do.

But there’ll also be an infuriating idea in there that drags the whole thing down.

What a shame. What a crying shame.

Images from flickeringmyth.com.

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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.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
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.

Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.blogspot.com. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

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Superman Against Police Brutality – An Action Comics #42 Review

Action Comics #42 coverTITLE: Action Comics #42
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 1, 2015

Miss last issue? Check out Action Comics #41.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman vs. The Cops. Yeesh. Well, it’s timely. You can’t fault them for not being relevant…

Indeed, in the year that the town of Ferguson became synonymous with racial prejudice and police brutality, and headlines continue to pop up about cops going too far, Superman finds himself standing between the police and innocent people. While I’m still not a big fan of the de-powered “Tough Guy Superman” approach, this is very much in line with what a Superman comic should be. The Man of Steel taking on issues that effect real people.

As Superman, whose identity has been exposed to the world, battles a monster made of “solidified shadow,” the Metropolis police descend on the citizens assembled in “Kentville.” Now the question is, can Superman protect these people? And what will he have to do to accomplish that?

Action Comics #42, chainsGreg Pak and Aaron Kuder return Superman to his roots here as a champion for the oppressed and defenseless. As we see police in riot gear attempt to tear gas civilians, our hero is set up in a somewhat contrived, yet visually arresting scenario. He wraps himself in a giant chain and creates a barrier between the police and the citizens. He then takes repeated shots to the face from gimmicked up S.W.A.T. team guys. It’s hokey, but it creates the sense of drama and sacrifice they’re going for. And of course, the chain harkens back to the tried-and-true image of Superman snapping the chains off his body.

To be fair, the police aren’t completely demonized here. We see reluctance among the cops, and some of them acknowledge how Superman has saved them in the past. But the bad apples spoil the bunch. We also see the civilians debating whether they should fight back, so the hostility isn’t entirely one-sided. But it’s fairly obvious what this issue is meant to be. The police are the bad guys. One can definitely argue whether this is in good taste, but I think much depends on how the in-story conflict is resolved. We end on a rather dramatic image, so we’ll obviously be seeing more of this next month.

Action Comics #42, splashAs far as Clark Kent himself is concerned, the man we see here is more likeable than the one we saw last issue. While issue #41 saw him using mild profanity, and at one point talking like he was in a gritty noir comic, he feels more like Clark here. He still has more of a cynical edge to him. But he doesn’t feel as darkened here. At one point they actually have him hogtie the big monster he’s fighting, i.e. “farm boy.” That’s a little on the nose, but I prefer that to what we saw last issue. Action Comics #41 felt like we were reading the exploits of a different character. This issue feels like a Superman comic. That’s a very welcome change. If it’s not Superman, this whole Truth thing doesn’t even matter, does it?

Pak and Kuder will have me back for next month. For my money, culturally relevant Superman beats sci-fi monster battling Superman any day. Tough Guy Superman? That’s another story. But the intrigue of how they’ll follow this issue is too much to resist.

Image 1 from nothingbutcomics.net. Image 2 from kotaku.com.

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A Man of Steel Review – Superman Begins

Man of Steel posterTITLE: Man of Steel
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, DC Entertainment
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 143 min
RELEASED: June 12, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Man of Steel is one of the most polarizing fanboy flicks I’ve seen in recent memory. People either seem to have really enjoyed it, or really disliked it. Either way, things probably aren’t as good or as bad as they seem. But that passion is understandable, given all the struggles the Superman film franchise has gone through, even since Christopher Reeve was still in the suit. Superman fans have been dying for a film adaptation worthy of their hero. Is Man of Steel it? Eh…maybe. It depends on what you’re looking for.

We all know the story: On the distant planet of Krypton, Jor El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara send their infant son to Earth to save him from the planet’s immediate destruction. Once there, he’s adopted by a kindly couple in Smallville, Kansas. Earth’s yellow sun grants young Clark Kent with powers and abilities far beyond those of normal men. He becomes Superman (Henry Cavill), the ultimate champion of truth, justice, and the American way. In this film, our hero takes on General Zod (Michael Shannon), a survivor of Krypton who will stop at nothing to ravage Earth, and effectively make it a new Krypton.

Man of Steel, Superman, Henry Cavill, image 1When Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns came out in 2006, one of the major recurring complaints was that it was too low on action. There was nobody for Superman to punch or fight with. When Brandon Routh was in the costume, he spent most of the his time either putting out fires or trying to impress with special effects stunts. So when it came time to dump the game board over and start again, they made sure to fill the super-powered action quotient by giving the director’s chair to Zack Snyder, the man behind 300Watchmen and Sucker Punch. But wouldn’t ya know it, Man of Steel wound up having the exact opposite issue Superman Returns had: It overdoes the action to the point where it almost jumps the shark. And for some moviegoers, it did.

Most of the last 45 minutes of Man of Steel consists of an all out super-powered war between our hero and General Zod’s forces. With seemingly unlimited power and strength, they send each other flipping and flying through the air, crashing through countless structures and effectively reducing them to scrap. A large portion of Metropolis, one of the biggest and highest-populated cities in the DC Universe, is ripped apart. Skyscrapers literally crumble and topple over as civilians run for cover. To an extent, it’s actually really cool to see Superman unload on somebody, and actually unleash all his power. Some of us have been waiting to see this kind of thing for years. But unfortunately, Snyder stays at the party 10-15 minutes longer than he needs to. As such, the novelty and the shock value of all the crashing and smashing begins to wear off, and they’re basically fighting in a city made of building blocks. Considering this movie is 143 minutes, they could have afforded a bit more brevity.

Man of Steel, Amy Adams, Lois LaneStill, the movie manages to do one thing better than arguably any Superman film before it: Capture the essence of Superman’s moralistic mission and peaceful soul. I can’t stress enough that Superman is an idealist. He’s here to inspire us, instill us with hope, and teach us about the human spirit. Man of Steel illustrates this very well, and frankly I didn’t know Snyder had it in him. Because his abilities do to an extent make him a hazard to those around him, our hero is forced to learn the value of restraint and a cool head growing up, which the story uses to contribute to his career as Superman. It’s very well done.

From a performance standpoint, Henry Cavill isn’t going to win any Oscars for the role of Superman. But he does an adequate job. Oddly enough, in terms of getting us to care about Clark Kent, the heavy lifting is actually done by Cavill’s younger counterparts: Cooper Timberline (9-year-old Clark) and Dylan Sprayberry (13-year-old Clark). Their scenes with Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) really sell the torment and anguish the character has endured for the sake of doing the right thing. In that sense, Cavill just has to take the baton and not drop it.

But to his credit, he IS believable in the cape and boots. He’s quieter and more subtle, which is what this movie calls for. But he nevertheless has a strong presence about him, which is what Superman should have. Unlike Brandon Routh, whose job in Superman Returns was to essentially impersonate Christopher Reeve, Cavill is his own Man of Steel. That being said, his scenes with General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) and Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) do call back to some of what Reeve did. But to this day, Reeve is so closely identified with this character, and that’s to be expected on some level. So kudos to Cavill and his counterparts for making us believe again.

Man of Steel, Superman, Henry Cavill, image 2Surprisingly, Amy Adams runs into some trouble as Lois Lane. She’s not bad for the role, per se. But the character is missing some of her trademark confidence, ferocity and snark. The material is there in the writing, but Adams doesn’t fully capitalize on it. Her Lois feels more like a traditional damsel in distress, with some extra passion added in. The way I’ve always interpreted the Lois Lane/Superman romance is that the source of their mutual attraction is their shared ferocity and dedication toward truth and justice. We don’t necessarily see that here. Adams is more like the girl next door, who happens upon this extraordinary person and falls for him. She’ll need to work on that for Man of Steel 2, if we get that far (which I’m guessing we will).

Marlon Brando is a pretty tough act to follow, but Russell Crowe does very well as Jor El. The way he’s incorporated into the entire story, as opposed to just the first half hour or so, is similar to the way it was done with Brando and Reeve in Superman: The Movie, but different enough that it feels like a fresh spin. I found myself caring about the Jor El character, and the Krypton side of things more than I ever have. Michael Shannon also surpassed my expectations as General Zod. He’s menacing, creepy and crazy, but he’s not reminiscent of Terrence Stamp’s take on the character at all. I’d love to see more…

latestLongtime Superman fans will no doubt notice certain trademark Superman elements, which you’d expect to see in a reboot film, are missing from this movie. Lex Luthor is conspicuous by his absence, though we do see a few quick shots of the Lexcorp logo. Jimmy Olsen isn’t there, the big Daily Planet globe is missing. The classic Clark Kent glasses disguise is, for the most part, also absent. The cartoony Superman spit curl, which both Reeve and Routh sported, is thankfully gone as well. For most of this stuff, I assume it’s just a matter of waiting for the sequel, much like we had to wait for The Dark Knight to come out to get a lot of the stuff we were clamoring for in Batman Begins.

While I’ll stay spoiler-free here, Superman does something at the climax of the film that’s very un-Superman-like. It’s something we’ve seen in superhero movies before (Tim Burton’s Batman movie comes to mind), but it’s generally considered a no-no. It was a surprise to say the least. But it’s passable, especially given what had been established up to that point. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays into the next movie, if at all.

So is Man of Steel the movie Superman deserves? I think, much like Batman Begins, it’s a nice first chapter. The movie has its flaws. But show me a movie that doesn’t have flaws. It’s not necessarily what I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. Unlike what we saw in Superman Returns, our hero’s super-powered exploits were awe-inspiring at times, and the action was suspenseful. More importantly, Man of Steel seems to understand what separates Superman from every other hero in theaters today. At the end of the day, much of Man of Steel‘s legacy will depend on what comes next in the Superman film franchise.

So for now, I suppose the answer to that question is: To be continued.

RATING: 7.5/10