SUPERMAN / HOUSE OF PENANCE / INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN / LORDS OF THE JUNGLE [Reviews]: SUPERStarks.
Superman #50 is the conclusion of the recent Superman crossover “Savage Dawn” and, on a bigger scale, everything that’s happened in the Superman titles immediately post-Convergence; and what a conclusion it is. It’s difficult for me to talk about this single issue outside of the context of what Gene Luen Yang (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Howard Porter (JLA), John Romita Jr. (uh, everything), Greg Pak (Batman/Superman), Aaron Kuder (Action Comics) and others have pulled off over the past 9 months. They’ve shown us that, even without his powers, Clark Kent is and will always be Superman. They’ve shown us that Superman will always inspire people to come together in times of need, even when self-preservation may seem like a smarter option.. They’ve reminded us that, although most people may not think he’s the coolest, Superman is the heart of the DC Universe.
While Superman #50 offers a rather simple plot, in essence it’s just Superman saves the world from a giant comet; it serves as a philosophical exclamation point at the end of that sentiment. Yang, Porter, Ardian Syaf (Batgirl) and Patrick Zircher (Cable & Deadpool) don’t just give us an exciting “Superman saves the world” sequence, however. They also take us on a journey through alternate realities to arrive at the philosophical core of Superman as a character: “Strength in service of the weak.” The visual storytelling is every bit as powerful as the written words in this issue as well. The pages of Superman in space are gorgeous and cinematic, but what really sells the story are the facial expressions. Ultimately this issue offers a satisfying conclusion to almost a year’s worth of Superman stories that have been an absolute joy to read. 4.5/5 Supermen.
Release Date: 4/13/16
The tale begins with the disinterment of a pair of coffins in Connecticut in the year 1905. Their cross-country train ride the next panel to a San Jose that looks duly like the last vestiges of the old Wild West settling in to the twentieth century conveys the immediate impression that this will be some permutation on the well-worn trope of westerns giving in to the present and fading into the sunset. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is mystery. Here is dread. Here is the potential for horror to emerge creeping through the last brick in the bedroom wall that the builders never had time to lay because they were summoned away to erect a ladder to nowhere.
Peter J. Tomasi (Green Lantern Corps, Batman & Robin) takes a break from being a cornerstone of the mainstream DC universe to tell this much more claustrophobic and personal and mostly true tale of Annie Winchester. Born Sarah Pardee, Annie married the sole heir to the Winchester fortune and then weathered the heartbreak of losing her daughter and husband and father-in-law by putting every cent of her $20-million inheritance toward paying men around the clock to build a house that might be a repository or apology to all of the spirits of those killed by Winchester steel. Or, it might even be a numerical labyrinth based on a Baconian and Pythagorean number theory that gives the Templar/Masonic/Rosicrucian business at Rennes-le-Château in southern France or Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland a serious run for their money. Ian Bertram (webcomic Bowery Boys: Our Fathers; origin of Damian Wayne in #4 of that latest Secret Origins; Detective Comics #27) makes a strong showing here with soft lines that belie the narrative’s jagged tension and none other than industry gold-standard Dave Stewart (Hellboy, Daytripper) doing what he does best with a muted palette.
Like the eponymous house, this series promises to be a maze that both puzzles and mystifies the reader, though take heed. You might think yourself immune to being trapped in the narrative. I mean, you can close this comic book at any time and go about your day, right? It’s nothing more than a two-dimensional storytelling engine. But if you’ve never heard of Sarah/Annie Winchester or the Winchester Mystery House, don’t look too hard. Absolutely don’t go read every word at http://www.thetruthaboutsarahwinchester.com because you’ll catch whatever brilliance or madness that caught her, that she encoded within that house in every door that opened up onto a wall and every stairway that terminated at a ceiling, at least as far as anybody has as yet been able to tell. 5/5 Upper-Dimensional Prime-Number Paradigm Shifts.
Lords of the Jungle #1 is basically the beginning of Hercules meets Xena, but in the jungle. Luckily, Corrina Bechko (Star Wars: Legacy) keeps the story moving forward with a ton of action. From beginning to end, every frame had a something being fired, thrown, stabbed, or pulled into a portal. Basically, Sheena is fighting to stop some people from destroying her part of the forest and is pulled into a dimensional portal that brings here to Tarzan’s jungle. There’s really nothing else storywise going on in this first chapter, so it was a very very quick read. I do have to say Cover A is beautiful! Alex Ross captures that wonderful 1970’s Farah Faucett look for Sheena and gets that exotic “man of the jungle” look for Tarzan perfect. The rest of the book, though, drawn by Roberto Castro (Lords of Mars) did little for my eye. It all seemed a bit too Archie-Gets-a-Derp-Face for me. I love crossover comics, and always enjoyed Tarzan, so I may pick up is 2 to see where this is leading; otherwise, I was just “whelmed.” 2.5/5 Tarzans.
Dear Uncle Stanley,
If you’re going to irrevocably insist on fist-feeding us the same old, tired, rehashed-rebooted-retconned jobbery from your Silver-Aged super hero brands, tropes, and icons – at least ballblast the bitch-slap into us with a dark-mattered iron gauntlet of gobsmacking suckerpunchery. Going George Carlin with your retooled superhero titles by simply increasing the syllable count, only further weakens the played-out elastic waistband on these decades-old Underoos you’re attempting to continue to David Carradine us with; and all I’m whiffing up in this mug is the Jenkum Man! Stop barraging us with these petrified super turds of yesteryear, and give US some new heroines and heroes for this 21st Century Age of Digital Oblivion we’re treading right now.
Despite the fact that LaughiStan Lee has assembled the indefatigable brilliance of Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Marvel Universe Architect), Alex Maleev (Spider-Woman, Moon Knight), and Paul Mounts (Fantastic Four), International Iron Man #1 is just another Marvel staple retread, rubberband-wrapped into baldy tire nubs around the nearly-sheered wheels of a sputtering Honda Prius backfiring Pixie Dust–like your grandpa attempting to diaphragm that bubbleshart into his own rubber diaper with the legholes hanging slack around his pencil-thin chicken thighs. Bendis forges his prolific wordsmithery with poetic precision, Maleev renders the chiaroscuro grit in strokemaster pencil, and Mounts etches the burnbright with an acridly acidic palette; yet their ménage à brilliance remains contained within an iron template that Disney’s Marvel Master seems to impose the hegemony of. Someone open this goddamned rusty tuna can!!!
Let this True Talent Trifecta takes the gloves off, and knuckle bust us into hemorrhage with something more. Instead of retcon, let’s go afterbirth. How about Tony Stark 2.0, Son of Iron Man, or Iron Mandroid? Tony Stark’s late-21st Century cybernetic clone gets viro-hacked and goes super rogue on human colonies outside of our solar system. Iron Son gets unintentionally Oedipal and offs the old man, as he conspires with his villainous mother in unholy union to alter his own human genome with technological accoutrement, in order to bend back time and undo his evil. Stark-Raving Madman fuses flesh-and-bolt with the Vision, to create the ultimate Mandroid that can easily shatter cosmic surfboard over the Silver One’s head, as he endeavours to defeat the offspring of Galactus and Apocalypse… I mean, who gives a hydrocarbon-polymer-alloy about Tony Stark discovering that Howard wasn’t his real Daddio?? It seems Uncle Walt’s Progeny got all incestual with the Globalized Crapitalism, stuffing the Dead Mouse with the Green Cheddar that they choked-out and killed the Chesire Cat with. 2/5 Starkist Tuna Cans Full of Iron Filings.
Alright, let me get this out of the way: I’ve never been a big Green Arrow fan. I’ve never seen an episode of the show, never read any of his own books, and didn’t care for him too much in the animated Justice League show. But after reading this issue…yeah, I still don’t care for him. So DC is approaching the end for the New 52 books, and with just a few books to wrap things up, this issue — clocking in at a whopping 44-pages — feels stuffed to the gills and still sort of hollow. Vampirism, kind of, is running rampant. Your favorite archer has been infected, but pulling a Blade keeps it at bay using a medicinal mix. The writing is pretty solid. Oliver has a pretty poignant monologue about his reactions at a certain blood bank, and Doctor Miracle brings on the emotion. The artwork is suitably dark for the story ark. It all works just fine; just good enough. All in all, #50 was an okay issue, but ultimately did nothing for me. 2.5/5 Arrow Blades.