THE MAN OF STEEL / BLACK LIGHTNING & HONG KONG PHOOEY / AMAZING SPIDER-MAN / HARBINGER WARS II [Reviews]: Heroes Reborn!
Summer is on its way, geeks and geekettes, and what better way to get in the vacation mindset than checking out today’s hottest titles? We have some new creators working on some of the best books, and some great writers letting you know what to expect.
That’s enough intro, let’s junp right in…
“Superman, where are you now ?”
He’s right here! It’s 1986 all over again when the biggest shark in the tank has jumped from Marvel to DC to tackle the one and only Superman! That’s right kids! John Byr.. what ? huh. Oh. BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS has officailly arrived at DC COMICS ! “Bendis is coming to DC! It’s the end of the world! The end is Nigh! NooooOOOOOo!!!” – sorry Internet Chicken Little, but Brian Michael Bendis is not the apocalypse personified. Bendis has been given the keys to the man who started it all. Sure, DC may be named after the book that gave us Batman, but come on: Superman is the crown jewel of the DC Crown. He is the first superhero. He’s why comics are comics. He’s important.
DC has a history of having creators come from other companies and they either have to toil away on basement books to “prove” they belong, or they’re given the Yardstick of all Yardsticks. Bendis has the yardstick folks, and he’s been given a murderer’s row of talent to work with! Ivan Reis, Doc Shaner, Ryan Sook, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes and Josh Fabok?!?! Bendis has already done a short story (his first DC story under this new deal) with the King of the Prom – JIM LEE! Now, onto the story!
The best villains never see themselves as anything but the hero of their own story. ROGOL ZAAR is new to us, but not new to the DCU. Is he friend or foe? New or old? Well he’s been around since before Krypton was destroyed. Hell, ZAAR wanted Krypton to be destroyed before it even happened! Did he have a hand in it? Time will tell. (I’m guessing yes? Maaaaaaaybe? Hmmm…?) This weekly series starts off with a bang! We get quick glimpses into what Bendis’ Superman is going to be like: we see Superman flying, saving people, stopping crooks, x-ray vision, super-hearing, bad jokes, making hearts swoon. You know, BEING SUPERMAN. We do get to see Clark with Lois and their son Jon; we see Perry, and the Daily Planet.
Reis is the first artist on this mini series, and as usual he’s done a stellar job. Superman looks like Superman (trunks and all!) Superman sounds like Superman. No, Internet, he doesn’t sound like Superman reading from a David Mamet fan fic script. Sorry to disappoint you. This is Superman. Unlike when John Byrne came over from Marvel in 1986 to “fix and save” Superman, Bendis has inherited a Superman that for the past few years was already “fixed and saved” by Jurgens, Tomasi, Gleason and company fixing all the things that went sideways with Flashpoint/52/Nu52/Rebirth. Nothing to be done here but just tell great Superman stories. We’re off to a solid start. Up, Up, and Away – indeed. 4/5 Bibles.
I can’t figure out which idea is more interesting: The fact that they got a current superhero in Black Lightning to team up with one from the seventies, Hong Kong Phooey in this case, or the fact that the story is actually set in the seventies?! Either way, this was a good idea, and from what I just read, it seems like they had a good time with it.
Set in 1976 Metropolis, the story has our two heroes going up against Professor Presto, Cheshire, and Bronze Tiger who are on the hunt for a scroll that when combined with two others ones will give them the most powerful Wushu technique, the God Fist. It does have some immediate similarities to a certain other comic book company’s current popular story but this is on a smaller scale–and also this one has a martial arts trained dog instead of a trigger-happy raccoon. Okay, they both sound ridiculous when you put it that way. But the chief question underlying the rest of the issue is how are Phooey and Black Lightning going to take down such a dominant foe? And his two minions?
The book was some nostalgic entertainment, even though the story is a little too familiar. But it’s a fun team-up book though, so who really cares? Seeing such a mature and wise version of Phooey works well, and gives the sense that the character grew up the same way we all have to in order to become adults.
The pencils and inks by veteran artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz bring some grit and shadows of darkness to the book that give us a feeling that this is not the land of Saturday morning cartoons. The pages that are used for Penry explaining the origins of the God Fist are like a giant poster that must’ve looked even more amazing before the words got dropped in. It says that this a “Special” issue but I hope to see more because this was an all too brief example of a partnership that could give us more. 3.75/5 Bibles.
To last 800 issues is quite the accomplishment for a character that almost didn’t get published in the first place. When a series reaches these numbers, it’s almost daunting to review because what do you focus on? The character? The series? The duo on the book? All of the above? The answer is obviously D, all of the above.
With his second to last issue, Dan Slott gave us a Spider-Man issue that should go down as one of the best. It was Dan Slott that brought me back to the Spider-Man universe after the disastrous “One More Day” arc that sent a lot of fans running away from the series — about as bad as “The Clone Saga”. Since that fateful issue of “Brand New Day”, I have been hooked; Slott made Spider-Man all that we loved about him, but he gave us so much more. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of “Superior Spider-Man” you have to admit it was well executed and was an interesting idea.
Slott gave us some great story arcs, but none so intriguing as his final arc with Peter Parker going up his best arch nemesis – Norman Osborn (and no, I don’t mean The Green Goblin. We’ve had other Green Goblins. Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis is the man behind the mask). The man that, if he hadn’t grown jealous and gone psychotic could have been Tony Stark’s rival, but now he’s a psychotic rage-fueled egomaniac joined with the Carnage symbiote and that made this issue all the better. Slott made Spider-Man rely on villains to protect his family, villains who became heroes in Parker’s eyes. Slott gave us a Doc Ock and a Venom who were heroes, and I’m talking about the black goo here, not ‘Flash’ Thompson who was another hero in the series.
This issue was a great ending to a great arc. There were so many great moments, but Slott gets at out heartstrings when he shows who Spider-Man really is. When JJJ had the opportunity to, finally, kill Osborn for all the pain he caused Parker, when JJJ has a gun pointed at a helpless Osborn and pulls the trigger, Parker jumps in the way and takes the bullet. Because that’s what Heroes do and that isn’t who JJJ is. Watching Slott turn JJJ from antagonist to a father-figure of sorts was a really sweet way to end the issue. Slott also gives ‘Flash’ the hero’s funeral he so rightfully deserves. He went out a hero, saving as many people as he could and finally giving his life to save Spider-Man. While they might have been enemies at the start, they turned into brothers that cared for each other.
The art in the series matches each chapter and each one is done beautifully. From the various variant covers (I may or may not have a few in my pull box… Okay, I do), to the Alex Ross main cover to the interiors by the likes of Nick Bradshaw, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, to Stuart Immonmen to Marcos Martin and then back to Giuseppe Camuncoli. Each artist brings their ‘A’ game to making this book actually worth the $10 cover price (and that is not something I say lightly). They are able to make the big action panels jump off the screen and then on the next page show heartfelt emotions.
While some people were upset with Iron Man’s #600, this should go down as one of the best seminal issue (like X-Men 300, Amazing Spider-Man 500 or Captain America 700). Slott ties up this issue (and arc) with a nice bow and leaves people satisfied–or at least it should–and leaves Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley a nice present at the end. 5/5 Webslinging Bibles.
Blockbuster crossover from Valiant? Must be summer. Yes, once again the arrival of Valiant’s big names all mashed together in a wild crossover book reliably signals the arrival of summer, as has been the way since the beginning of human history.
Harbinger Wars 2 pits Bloodshot, Livewire, Harbinger Pete, and the Renegades against Ninjak, X-O Manowar, and H.A.R.D.Corps in a battle to save mutantkind… sorry, I meant save the psiots from the forces of a world that hates and fears them, after their existence becomes known and Livewire goes all Magneto about it. It’s fantastic stuff. If all this sounds familiar and derivative, then that’s a “you” problem, not a “me” problem.
Written by the excellent Matt Kindt (Revolver, Sweet Tooth, Rai), a man who, having already helmed the team book Unity and prior crossover The Valiant well and truly knows his way around the Valiant universe, and wildly illustrated by Argentinian up-and-comer Tomás Giorello (Conan the Cimmerian, Star Wars: Empire, Ninjak); the first issue of Harbinger Wars 2 delivers a neat set-up for what promises to be all-out (Civil) war. However, unlike most crossover events, Valiant crossovers don’t include a million side-issues and will not send you spiraling into a life of crime like Marvel and DC did to me in the ’90s. Take it from me: it’s not always worth it.
In short, this summer, stay indoors and read this. Never go outside again, even. Forget outside even exists as a concept. Tell anyone who gives you a hard time about it that I said it was okay and that they should bring it up with me if they have a problem with it. 4.5/5 Ecumenical Councils.