A Superman: Rebirth #1 Review – Death and Rebirth

Superman: Rebirth #1, 2016TITLE: Superman: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 1, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman was created to thin out the number of “super” characters in the DCU. The idea was to restore his status as the Last Son of Krypton. Now, more than 30 years later, DC is using this same version of Superman to do the exact opposite. With this character comes a new Superboy, and a new Superwoman. Now that’s what you call, ironic.

The Superman we met when the New 52 launched is dead, having succumbed to Kryptonite poisoning. As the world mourns the loss of the Man of Steel, one man is certain he will return: Clark Kent. That is, the Clark Kent of another Earth, who has hid out on this world along with his wife and son. But Lana Lang isn’t convinced. She also has no idea there’s another Superman on her world. Thus when the two meet, emotions run high.

I’d love to hear someone try to explain the new Superman status quo to a newbie. It’s putting up X-Men numbers in terms of how convoluted it is. That being said, I’m very pleased to see the old Superman back. Why he’s not allowed to have red boots in this new “Rebirth” era is beyond me. But having him back has shaken things up nicely.

doug mahnke, death of supermanIn this issue, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke acknowledge the elephant in the room in the aftermath of the New 52 Superman’s death. They take us back to The Death of Superman, and we get Mahnke’s take on some of those iconic moments from the fight with Doomsday. Considering how many big event comics Mahnke’s fingerprints have been on in the last decade, there’s something fitting about him getting a crack at this one. Later, we see Clark’s resurrection, and he and Lana even search for a New 52verse version of the regeneration matrix. As a longtime fan, it’s gratifying to see them go back and look at this stuff from a new perspective. I never understood why DC omitted this story from the New 52 continuity. It crossed over into pop culture, and kids who grew up in the early ’90s typically remember it. So why eliminate it?

Clark has an odd line during this issue, when he tells Lana: “…two Clark Kents on two different worlds were very lucky to have Lana Langs in our lives.” They need to be careful with this kind of thing, especially now that we have an infinite multiverse again. The idea that you’ve got an infinite number of Clark Kents on different worlds, some of which might be interchangeable, seems like the kind of thing that could lead to apathy from the audience. What do we care if our main character dies, if we can simply replace him with one from another world?

Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Superman Rebirth #1, 2016Mahnke’s versatility is on display here. On one hand, the flashbacks to the fight with Doomsday are very intense and high-octane. In contrast, we have a scene with Clark at the memorial that’s very somber. We also have scenes with Clark and Lana that, while they have a certain tension, are fairly quiet. But Mahnke manages to stay consistently strong throughout.

With this relaunch, DC has managed to make the Superman books more interesting than they’ve been in years. At face value, at least. How ironic that death winds up being the element that freshens the Man of Steel up a little bit. But who knows? Maybe a little family time is exactly what Superman needs.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from bleedingcool.com.  

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A Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – Why So Serious?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeTITLE: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 151 min
RELEASED: March 25, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This movie had a lot of mud thrown its way before even one shot was in the can. Some of that was fair. Much of it wasn’t. Man of Steel wasn’t as well received as many would have liked. Then people jumped on the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. There was also a lot of skepticism about the inclusion of all the Justice League characters, not to mention Doomsday. And that’s just some of it. So after all that, what’s the bottom line on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Is this movie as bad as so many critics say it is? No. Is it a deeply flawed movie? Yes.

After the destruction left in the wake of Superman’s battle with Zod, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) unknowingly has an enemy in Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman (Ben Affleck). Then, 18 months later Superman causes an international incident when he swoops in to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a terrorist group. While his intentions are good, Superman’s actions have sparked a mass debate about if and how he should be monitored and regulated. Meanwhile, young business tycoon and hereditary CEO of Lexcorp Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has plans of his own regarding the Man of Steel…

Batman v Superman, image 1

Audiences hoping for something in the vein of a Marvel movie likely got a rude awakening from Batman v Superman. Zack Snyder’s superhero films, going as far back as Watchmen, are very serious, and at times very grim. This is a stark contrast to what we get from Marvel Studios, and also Fox’s X-Men movies. Those various superhero franchises (Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America, etc.) have all found their own balance between action blockbuster and comedy. That comedy is more important than a lot of people think. While I’ve always maintained superhero stories can be more than simple escapist tales about people punching each other, people should also be able to have fun when they see these movies. And that fun pays dividends. For proof, look no further than Deadpool, a movie made for $58 million that went on to make $745 million worldwide.

Fun doesn’t mean belittling the story or universe, either. There’s a moment in Batman v Superman when Batman saves Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and tells her “I’m a friend of your son.” She replies with a simple: “I figured. The cape…” There are precious few moments like this in the movie. But humor and levity are such valuable storytelling tools, particularly in terms of endearing the characters to us. And they’ve largely been cast aside in Batman v Superman. The notion that levity somehow takes away from a movie’s epic factor, or even it’s “dark tone,” is simply a fallacy. Cast in point: Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Those films weren’t funny, per se. But they had little moments of levity that made the dark and chaotic stuff that much more impactful. By comparison, this movie feels like darkness on top of darkness.

Batman v. Superman, image 2The movie also has slow build-up to the confrontation between the two titular characters. This results in the first half of the proceedings being flat-out boring at times. We get a lot of good information regarding the characters and their world. But between the bleak and dreary look these movies have been given, and the lack of levity or fun, I can see many a casual moviegoer falling asleep here. Batman v Superman tries to slap a band-aid on this problem with some nightmare sequences in which Batman fights against a tyrannical Superman. While they do have a certain appeal, they contribute little to the actual story, and end up being more frustrating than anything else.

But let’s not pile on, here. The movie isn’t devoid of positives by any means. Batman fans jumped all over the casting of Ben Affleck like a pack of rabid dogs, and perhaps justifiably so. But as a lifelong Batman buff, I say Affleck gets a passing grade as The Dark Knight. I maintain Affleck wasn’t a bad choice for Daredevil either. Both Daredevil and Batman v Superman had problems. In the case of Daredevil, Affleck took the heat for those flaws because he was the face of the film. Hopefully, history won’t point the finger at him again.

Batman v Superman, image 3, Jesse EisenbergJesse Eisenberg is partially channelling Heath Ledger’s Joker in his portrayal of Lex Luthor. That’s fine, I suppose. Once he gets into full blown supervillain mode, he’s very good. To those of us who saw him in The Social Network, that should be no surprise. Heck, the Lex Luthor we see here isn’t unlike Mark Zuckerberg, really.

Perhaps the single best aspect of Batman v Superman is that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets put over like a million bucks. In my theater, when she finally showed up in costume, the audience cheered. That’s a hell of a sign. I’d never seen Gal Gadot before, but she carries herself well in the role. This obviously bodes well for a Wonder Woman movie.

As one might have guessed with the presence of Doomsday, this movie goes the Death of Superman route. On paper it sounds risky. But it works on the screen, particularly in setting up a Justice League movie. Superman’s death can galvanize the other heroes into working together for the greater good. What’s more, the fight with Doomsday is amazing. It’s almost as if they met their entire action quota with that one fight. They also seemingly learned their lesson from Man of Steel, and didn’t destroy an entire city this time.

Batman v Superman, image 4There will be lessons to learn from Batman v Superman as well. The biggest one being not taking things so damn seriously. Not every superhero movie needs to conform to the Marvel formula. But it would be silly not to learn from the success of something that spawned an entire cinematic universe. Batman v Superman should have been a fanboy classic for the ages. While it’s not quite as bad as it’s been made out to be, what we got was definitely not that. Frankly, that’s a crime. All the tools were there, but they couldn’t get the job done. As a long time DC Comics fan, that’s an awful miscarriage of justice.

Maybe that should have been the title.

Images courtesy of rottentomatoes.com. 

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A Convergence #0 Review – Cosmic Conversation

STK665787TITLE: Convergence #0
AUTHORS: Dan Jurgens, Jeff King
PENCILLER: Ethan Van Sciver
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: April 1, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Convergence #0.***

Ready for some cosmic conversation, featuring Superman and pretty much every version of Brainiac that’s ever existed? I know I wasn’t. Come to think of it, I really had no idea what to expect when I picked Convergence #0 up, except for maybe a general prologue for the weekly Convergence event series, which begins next week. We did indeed get a prologue. But didn’t expect this much…dust. And rocks. And sand. And talking. Lots of talking.

Convergence #0 takes place during the Superman: Doomed story arc, as Superman and Brainiac are trapped in a black hole outside of time and space. At this point, Brainiac has seen the scope of the multiverse, and has watched other versions of Superman die numerous times, most notably against Doomsday in The Death of Superman. (“His death would inform your transformation into the Doomsday monster.”) He has thus captured various cities from various timelines across the DC Multiverse, and his holding them captive under various domes. He tells Superman all of this, with the promise that although Superman will forget everything he’s just been shown, he’ll return to Brainiac when the time is right.

blogger-image--1647092081At the end they reveal the real villain for Convergence: Telos. We don’t know much about him at this point. But we do see him lowering one of the domes, as he talks about allowing certain cities to return to the universe, and that only the strong will survive. Via an appendix, DC is nice enough to give us an inventory of all Brainiac’s stored cities. No matter how long you’ve been around the DC Universe, chances are there’s something here for you.

As for Convergence #0, there’s some obviously important information here. I just wish they’d thought of a way to get it to us in a more creative way than just Brainiac telling Superman everything. Not to mention a way that didn’t harken back to Superman: Doomed. For readers that opted out of Doomed (*raises hand*), we start this issue in a confusing place. Readers starting here also don’t know why Superman is mysteriously growing a 5 o’clock shadow as the issue progresses. If we’re trying to bring back readers that were turned off by the New 52, or simply haven’t read a DC comic book in awhile, we’re giving them an awkward start.

Convergence #0, cities, BrainiacAll this being said, Ethan Van Sciver is still an all star. Having him on this issue certainly gives it an epic feel, akin to his work on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth. I can’t complain at all about his renderings of Superman and Brainiac, past and present. And there’s a great two-page spread of Brainiac (one of them, anyway) bending this weird reality to his will, and showing Superman some of the city’s he’s collected. It’s certainly enough to make you wish Van Sciver was sticking around. Sadly, he’s not.

The main Convergence series is still very much worth checking out if you’re interested in where the DCU is heading in 2015. And obviously we’re in for some cool time-bending stories. But from a writing standpoint, this didn’t wet my appetite as much as it wanted to.

Image 1 from infinitecomix.com. Image 2 from comicsbeat.com.

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