Reviews, reviews and additional reviews

11-29-13

Going from top to bottom this time.

ASTRO CITY #6 (DC, 2013) – My principal complaint about this story is that the protagonist is a stereotypical corrupt union official. I think this is a stock character type that we can really do without, given that anti-union sentiment has rarely been greater in this country than it is now. I’m not accusing Kurt of being personally hostile to unions, nor do I think this story will make any significant contribution to anti-union sentiment. But this story still makes me uncomfortable, especially since it’s published by DC, which currently has the worst working conditions of any major comics publisher and really needs to have an employees’ union. Besides all of that, this was a reasonably good issue. With its concept of a device that reveals your secret hopes and desires, it reminded me of that one Swamp Thing issue where people reacted differently to eating Swampy’s tubers. The protagonist is a bit like other Astro City characters who make a fantastic discovery but aren’t able to use it (e.g. issues 2 and 3 of the original miniseries), but he’s an interesting character because he has a level of maturity and patience that many other Astro City protagonists have lacked. Grade: A-

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1 (Archie, 2013) – This comic is interesting largely for novelty value, with its mock-horror take on the Archie characters, but it’s also quite well-written and well-drawn. It almost crosses the line from mock horror to actual horror; the fact that it’s about Archie characters makes it ridiculous and frightening at the same time. I also loved Veronica’s deilberation on whether to be a sexy witch or a sexy gypsy for Halloween; Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa has clearly been following recent Internet discussions of the sexy-insert-costume-here phenomenon. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series. Grade: A

X-MEN: CURSE OF THE MUTANTS SAGA #1 (Marvel, 2010) – This is not a comic book, but a collection of interviews and featurettes which was given away for free to promote the latest X-Men event. There is nothing here of any interest at all. Grade: F

FANTASTIC FOUR #308 (Marvel, 1987) – Englehart’s FF run was one of the low points of his career. He was trying to take the characters in new and unexpected directions, but most of the original concepts he came up with were just weird and stupid rather than truly novel. For example, the new villain in this issue, Fasaud, is a Middle Eastern terrorist prince who’s been turned into a living TV signal. This issue does have some okay character interactions, which are usually Englehart’s strong point. However, another thing that impaired the success of Englehart’s FF was his decision to replace Reed and Sue with Sharon and Crystal, two far less interesting characters. Grade: D+/C-

BATMAN, INC. #4 (DC, 2011) – I just had no idea what the hell was going on here. I feel like I would have to read all four issues of this series in succession in order to understand the story, and even then I probably wouldn’t. There is interesting stuff here, including some cute flashbacks (?) involving the Silver Age Batwoman, and Chris Burnham’s artwork is interesting, reminiscent of Chris Weston or Frank Quitely. But I would have enjoyed this comic more if the story had made any sense at all. Grade: C+/B-

SUPERBOY #50 (DC, 1984) – I bought this several years ago because it has a Legion guest appearance, but it took me this long to read it because I didn’t expect it to be very good. I was right. The artwork is okay, but Paul Kupperberg is just not a good writer and it was a chore to finish this issue. A particularly annoying feature of the story is that the Legionnaires keep losing fights against vastly inferior opposition, despite having Element Lad, Wildfire and Brainiac 5 on their side. Grade: D

FLASH #48 (DC, 1991) – The previous issue of this series was one of the first comic books I ever owned, and I still have fond memories of Bill Loebs’s Gorilla Grodd story. However, looking at Bill Loebs’s from a more knowledgeable perspective, I realize that it doesn’t particularly seem like a Flash comic, and the previous run by Mike Baron had the same problem. Wally never came into his own as the Flash until Mark Waid took over, and Bill Loebs is not well suited to writing superhero comics; he’s much better at lower-intensity stories like Journey or The Maxx. For example, in this issue Wally comes across as an inept bumbling goof rather than a superhero. Also, the premise of the story is that Wally’s mother has been kidnapped, but Loebs consistently portrayed her as an unsympathetic shrew, so why should the reader care if Wally finds her or not. Grade: C+/B-

BLACKEST NIGHT #0 (DC, 2009) – Another free preview comic, although at least this one has an actual comics story in it. Unfortunately that story is by Geoff Johns, so it’s a bunch of Silver Age continuity porn. Grade: D

GROO THE WANDERER #19 (Marvel, 1986) – In this issue, Groo acts stupid, fails spectacularly at everything he tries to achieve, and causes a series of horrible disasters, despite having good intentions. The issue is brilliantly drawn by Sergio Aragonés and is enlivened by Mark Evanier’s witty dialogue. Also, the issue begins with a poem and ends with a moral, and includes a cleverly hidden message. Oh wait, I just described every issue of Groo ever. Not much to say about this issue specifically, but it does have some funny flashbacks to Groo and Grooella’s childhood. Grade: A-

AW YEAH COMICS! 3 (Aw Yeah! Comics, 2013) – This issue was pretty absurdist and nonsensical even by Baltazar-Franco standards. The first story made no logical sense at all. I preferred the Awesome Bear story and the one with the supervillain cat disguised as a dog. The level of talent on this series is kind of variable and I really have no idea who any of the creators are, besides Baltazar and Franco themselves. Still, this was an enjoyable package. I wonder when issue 4 is coming out, or did I miss it already? Grade: B+

GREEN LANTERN #10 (DC, 2006) – I really do like some things about Geoff Johns’s writing – he has some legitimately cool ideas, like the multiple Lantern Corps and Bzzd the insect Green Lantern. Sadly, the good aspects of Johns’s writing were not visible in this issue, which was confusingly plotted and portrayed Hal in a negative light; at one point, he forgets the name of the woman he’s just hooked up with. The one thing I liked about this issue is the scene where Arkillo of Vorn gets recruited into the Sinestro Corps, because he’s a giant hulking monster. Grade: C

EXCALIBUR #91 (Marvel, 1995) – Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the first half of this issue is perhaps the worst-drawn comic I’ve read this year. Marvel must have been desperate for talent if they were willing to give David Williams any work. Besides that, this issue, in which the members of Excalibur go out to a bar, is a genuine classic. It reminds me of X-Factor #87 in terms of the deep insight it offers into each of the individual team members. We find out that Brian is a recovering alcoholic, Kurt is terrified about how other people will react to his appearance, Moira’s accent gets thicker when she’s drunk, etc. A particularly cute scene is Kitty buying Rahne a non-alcoholic cocktail. Warren Ellis clearly has a deep understanding of both British pub culture and the individual characters he’s working with. The result was one of the most fun comics I’ve read lately. Grade: A

DAREDEVIL #25 (Marvel, 1967) – This story, which introduces Mike Murdock, is ridiculous even by Silver Age Marvel standards; it resembles a Silver Age Superman comic in its implausibility. In the first place, Matt comes up with the flimsiest excuse ever to protect his secret identity – Daredevil isn’t him, it’s his previously unmentioned twin brother Mike. But what’s worse is that Karen and Foggy are gullible enough to believe this! The scene where Karen and Foggy meet Matt posing as Mike, and fail to realize that it’s just Matt wearing glasses, is one of the more absurd things I’ve seen in a Silevr Age Marvel comic. At lesat this issue does have some well-drawn fight scenes. Grade: B- mostly for unintentional humor.

GREEN LANTERN #86 (DC, 1971) – This is obviously a classic comic with major historical importance, but the surprising part is that it still holds up well today, unlike some of Denny and Neal’s GL/GA stories. Neal’s dynamic action sequences and innovative page layouts have still rarely been equaled. The one thing I hate about this story, though, is the last panel, where Ollie feels proud of Roy’s newfound maturity. Throughout this and the previous issue, it’s become clear that Ollie is a neglectful parent and has failed to show Roy any genuine understanding, and it seems like anything Roy has achieved in this story is despite Ollie’s parenting, not because of it. Still, this is one of the essential comic books of the ‘70s. Grade: A+

ARCHIE #282 (Archie, 1979) – All the stories in this issue were funny and well-executed, even if none of them was particularly memorable. After reading the issue I discovered to my surprise that the art was by Dan DeCarlo, not Harry Lucey. The letter column includes some wildly inaccurate predictions of what school would be like in the year 2001. Grade: B

SHAOLIN COWBOY #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – I find Geof Darrow’s work extremely difficult to read because of its famously hyper-obsessive level of detail. I feel obligated to look at every line in every panel before going on to the next one, and then I feel guilty that I can’t do so. His work has obvious affinities to Hergé and to Clear Line revivalists like Daniel Torres and Yves Chaland, but unlike them, his work seems to demand sustained, intense concentration, which maybe makes it more appropriate for covers or gallery art than for comics. The artwork tends to overwhelm the story. For example, this issue does have some kind of a story which appears to be intended as an absurdist satire of American culture, but I didn’t really care about it. Grade: A-

SCRATCH9 FCBD #1 (Hermes Press, 2013) – I got this at Comic-Con, but went back and read it after reading on comicbookresources.com that it was an Eisner nominee – it says so on the cover, but somehow I missed that. This is an utterly adorable story about a cat who gains the power to summon his eight previous lives. It’s actually too cute sometimes, but I found myself enjoying it anyway. The irresistible purr attack on the first page is a highlight. I want to read more of this series, but I don’t recall ever seeing any of the other issues. Grade: A

X-FACTOR #27 (Marvel, 1988) – I really only like Weezie’s writing on Power Pack. Her characters always seem extremely awkward and childish, which is fine when they’re prepubescent children, but not when they’re teenagers or adults. I don’t much like any of her X-Factor characters, and I find Boom Boom especially annoying. There’s one sequence in this issue where the kids sneak into a hospital to drop off some Christmas presents, which reads like something out of the kind of children’s book that I disliked when I was a child. I have trouble caring about any of the adult X-Factor members either, especially not Jean, who has consistently been written as a lifeless, boring character ever since her resurrection. My other problem with this series is that Walt’s artwork never seemed like the best he was capable of. Grade: C

VALOR #19 (DC, 1994) – This late issue of a forgettable Legion spinoff was pretty bad, significantly below the usual level of the creators involved, Mark Waid and Colleen Doran. (Though actually I don’t like Doran’s artwork very much to begin with, because her characters are excessively cute.) The story is mostly focused on continuity, and is therefore extremely confusing. The practical purpose of the story is to get Valor to the point where he can replace Superboy as the inspiration for the Legion, so this story is an attempt to paper over the gaping holes in continuity which resulted from Byrne’s decision to get rid of Superboy. Of course DC never entirely succeeded in doing this, and that’s why we now have the New 52. This issue also includes a Legion guest appearance, though the Legionnaires don’t get to do much. The one thing about this issue I did like is a one-page sequence where Luornu Durgo, about to vanish due to time paradoxes, pleads with Valor to do… something, I’m not sure what. The reader is supposed to connect the dots here and realize that if Superboy never existed, then it must have been Valor who was the target of Luornu’s unrequited love. It’s a surprisingly poignant moment in an otherwise lousy issue. Grade: C+/B-

AGENTS OF ATLAS #11 (Marvel, 2009) – This one was shockingly fun. I didn’t understand what was going on in the story, but Jeff Parker’s writing is straightforward enough that I was able to more or less follow it anyway; Grant Morrison could take lessons from him. What makes this story great, though, is Parker’s wittiness; he keeps surprising the reader in delightful ways. For example, the robot M-11 is given a personality routine based on Muhammad Ali, and spends much of the issue saying things like “You’re junk, punk! Go to the dump, chump!”, in a computer-style font. Two giant Chinese dragons get in a fight, but the “fight” consists of one dragon using logic to convince the other to surrender. I wonder what’s happened to Jeff Parker because Marvel (and especially DC) could use a writer with his sense of humor. Grade: A

HAWKWORLD #17 (DC, 1991) – This issue begins with an extended action sequence in which Katar and Shayera defeat and kill a bunch of Palestinian terrorists who have hijacked a train. The action sequence was drawn very effectively by Graham Nolan, but its political implications made me rather uncomfortable; it seemed like Ostrander was just invoking the standard stereotype of Middle Eastern terrorists as villains. Luckily, Ostrander did exactly what I was hoping he would do and showed the other side to the story. Later in the issue, Katar visits the one surviving hijacker, who claims that his goal was to make the people of Chicago experience the same conditions of terror that Palestinians experience daily. And Katar clearly seems troubled by this. Then the issue ends with a scene in which a human experiences the racial memories of an intelligent alien culture that was wiped out by the Thanagarians, which reminds us that Katar is also complicit in imperialism and genocide. I still think the politics of this comic are not beyond reproach, but one of the strongest features of Ostrander’s writing is that he doesn’t shy away from difficult questions. Grade: A-

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #158 (DC, 1966) – Unlike so many other Silver Age Superman comics, this comic takes itself seriously; it is not a goofy tale of secret-identity hijinks, but a genuine superhero story. In “The Invulnerable Super-Enemy”, Superman and Batman battle the evil inhabitants of a bunch of miniature bottle cities, and eventually discover that the cities were miniaturized by a reverse version of Brainiac who shrinks cities full of evil people. Okay, that sounds pretty stupid, but somehow it actually works. There’s also a Roy Raymond backup story with a cute twist ending. Grade: A-/B+

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #154 (Marvel, 1976) – After playing Infamous, I felt the desire to read a good Spider-Man comic. This issue only sort of satisfied my desire, because it’s mostly a long fight scene between Spidey and Sandman. There is little if any characterization, other than one powerful scene where Spidey, still pissed about the ending of last issue (see below), nearly beats a criminal to death. The Spidey-Sandman fight scene is reasonably well-written, though the ending, in which Sandman gets cryogenically frozen, is predictable several pages in advance. However, I expect a ‘70s Spider-Man story to include more characterization and soap opera than this one had. Grade: B+

MARVEL TEAM-UP #19 (Marvel, 1973) – I had trouble finishing this one because I was falling asleep. Besides the brilliant Gil Kane artwork, this is a fairly generic Spidey/Ka-Zar team-up. Its most notable feature is that it introduces Stegron the Dinosaur Man, an awesome and sadly underutilized villain. The highlight of the issue is an awesome two-page splash depicting a dinosaur stampede, although the dinosaurs are drawn with a certain lack of realism. Grade: B

GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES #5 (DC, 2012) – This Baltazar-Franco story was quite readable, and I would much rather read this series than DC’s official Green Lantern comic. However, the story is just one long action sequence and it ends in a rather puzzling way, as Aya, a character about whom nothing is explained, appears to get killed but inexplicably comes back to life. For that matter, Baltazar and Franco also neglect to explain who Aya is, which is an odd violation of the principle that every comic is someone’s first comic. Grade: B-

ACTION COMICS #313 (DC, 1964) – The first story in this issue has the sort of bizarre, illogical, convoluted plot that I’ve come to expect from Silver Age DC. Probably the story was written to match the cover, which shows Supergirl and Perry catching Clark in the act of changing to Superman, but it turns out that Supergirl and Perry, along with Superman’s other friends, have been replaced with androids created by the Superman Revenge Squad. The Supergirl backup story is almost as confusing, but at least it’s cute. It’s impressive how Jim Mooney gives Supergirl and Lena Thorul distinctive facial types, making it possible to tell them apart even when they’re wearing each other’s clothes. Grade: B-

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #13 (IDW, 2013) – This was the best issue of this series that wasn’t by the Cook/Price team. Brenda Hickey is almost as good with facial expressions and background Easter eggs as Andy Price, and Heather Nuhfer’s story is exciting and funny. The highlight of this story is Fluttershy, with her obsessively protective attitude toward Gil the fish. I don’t understand why two of the pirates look exactly like Granny Smith and Big Macintosh. Grade: A-

SIMPSONS COMICS #2 (Bongo, 1994) – These comics are better than current episodes of the TV show, although that’s damning with faint praise. Both stories in this issue are hilarious, and I found myself hearing the voices of the actors as I read; obviously, the writers do a perfect job of imitating the characters’ speech patterns. Eventually I want to have a complete collection of this series. Grade: A-

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #153 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Deadliest Hundred Yards” might be Len Wein’s best Spider-Man story. It begins with some wonderfully soap-operatic scenes involving Peter and MJ, but then shifts from humor to tragedy, as Bradley Bolton, a former ESU football star, sacrifices his life to save his daughter from a kidnapper. The one weak link with this story is the flashback to Bradley Bolton’s college days: in his last game, he ran 99 yards but got stopped short of the goal line, and somehow this sucked all the energy out of his team and they immediately lost. You get the feeling Len Wein may not have known much about football. Grade: A+

11-20-13

For proper continuity, read from bottom to top. I do it this way so that the reviews within each post will be in the same order as the posts themselves. That’s not much of an excuse and I think I’m going to do the reviews from top to bottom next time.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2013) – This, on the other hand, was the best of the comics I read yesterday. In this issue, Carol finally returns to earth and interacts with her normal cast of characters, especially Kit, who is just the cutest kid ever. I squeed so much when I was reading this issue. Some of the stuff here is kind of corny and overwritten, especially the “I’m Spartacus” moment at the end, but I don’t mind when everything else is so cute, optimistic, and non-grim-and-gritty. Grade: A

CAPTAIN MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 2013) – This was the third bad issue in a row. This story makes no sense without having read the Infinity crossover, which I obviously haven’t. Nor does it provide much insight into Carol’s character. The three crossover issues in a row have killed the momentum that Kelly Sue was building on this seies. Grade: D

MY LITTLE PONY MICRO-SERIES #9 (IDW, 2013) – This story had a lot of potential but it was not fulfilled. The awesome thing about this story is that it’s a parody of Sea Monkeys. This reference will be lost on the younger audience of this series, but is not necessary to understand the story. That story is rather cute, involving Spike’s accidental creation of a new intelligent species, but the moral of the story is delivered in an overly heavy-handed way. Grade: C

SAVAGE DRAGON #192 (Image, 2013) – With this issue Erik genuinely seems to be trying to write Dragon out of the series. There are two great works of literature in which the original hero is replaced as the protagonist by his son – The Tale of Genji and Dragon Ball – and it seems like Savage Dragon will be the third such work. There’s a funny scene where Adrian’s girlfriend turns herself into a villain to get revenge on Malcolm for Adrian’s death, and Angel tells Brendan that Adrian died because he was stupid, which is completely true. Besides that I don’t have much to say about this issue. Grade: B+

SEX CRIMINALS #3 (Image, 2013) – This issue is less serious than the previous two. That claim sounds like nonsense considering that this series is about people who can stop time by having orgasms, but I think it’s true. It’s mostly about Suzie and Jon’s sexual escapades. There’s one panel where Jon and Suzie are having a sack race in Cumworld, using objects that I’m unable to identify for sacks, which I find weirdly disturbing for some reason. Oh, also this issue contains a musical number, but Fraction and Zdarsky couldn’t get the rights to the lyrics and so they’re replaced by authorial commentary. I still love this series and I’m looking forward to future issues, but this was my least favorite of the three so far. Grade: A-

DESTROY!! #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – I bought this years ago but never read it because I lost the 3D glasses that came with it. I had to use the extra 3D glasses from my copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, and I had trouble getting the 3D to work right. I don’t know if this was because of the glasses or because the issue was printed poorly. Besides that, this one-shot is a minor early McCloud work. The paper-thin plot, in which two superheroes fight over a girl, is obviously just an excuse for Scott to draw giant scenes of buildings being destroyed. The manga-inspired storytelling technique is the most interesting thing here. As a story, Destroy!! is clearly not up to the level of even the earliest issues of Zot! Grade: B-

MORNING GLORIES #23 (Image, 2012) – Another issue I didn’t really understand. Lots of bizarre stuff going on here with Jun/Hisao, Akiko, Fortunato, etc. David makes an appearance at the end of the issue but it’s not clear why he’s there. I really need to reread my Morning Glories issues in the proper order, and even then the series probably still won’t make sense. Grade: not graded

FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS #1 (Dark Horse, 2012) – I haven’t been keeping up with Gilbert Hernandez’s recent work, largely because he produces so much of it. At the Los Bros event last weekend, Gilbert himself made some mildly self-deprecating comments about his productivity; if I recall correctly, he said that there’s less Jaime work out there than Gilbert work, and that this is unfortuate because Jaime is one of the great artists in comics. This specific issue is the first chapter of a rather grim and depressing story; it takes place in a future world where people take a drug that turns them into zombies, and the protagonist’s job is to kill them. Gilbert creates a truly bleak mood here, but I feel that this issue was too low on narrative content. Grade: B+

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #184 (DC, 1982) – I expected to dislike this story because it’s written by Mike W. Barr, whose work I typically find humorless and overwritten. However, it turned out to be surprisingly good. The guest star in this issue is Huntress, and it is just adorable how she interacts with Bruce, whom she sees as an uncle rather than a surrogate for her own father. The story is well-plotted but depends on Bruce being kind of stupid. Bruce finds evidence that Thomas Wayne was bankrolling a mob boss and immediately quits being Batman, thus showing himself to be both gullible and lacking faith in his father. However, this story is redeemed by the cute Bruce/Helena interactions and Jim Aparo’s artwork. This issue is a quasi-sequel to Alan Brennert’s classic “Interlude on Earth-Two,” and is clearly not on the same tier as that story, but it’s still fun. There is one truly clever panel where Bruce and Helena walk in front of an advertisement that says DON’T FORGET MOM AND DAD THIS CHRISTMAS. Grade: B+/A-

WONDER WOMAN #180 (DC, 1969) – To me, the “no costume” era of Wonder Woman was more interesting for its weirdness and novelty than for actual narrative or artistic quality. I Ching is the biggest stereotype ever, Denny O’Neil’s characterization of Diana is kind of inconsistent, and Mike Sekowsky’s artwork is serviceable but boring. I read this story just the other day and I can’t remember much about it. I don’t think Wonder Woman was ever a genuinely good comic until the early ‘80s, and then it was only the Huntress backups that were good and not the actual Wonder Woman stories. Grade: C-

PALOOKA-VILLE #14 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2000) – This installment of “Clyde Fans” is heartbreaking. Simon Matchcard spends the entire issue trying to sell fans and encountering nothing but rejection and disdain, and flashback scenes make it clear that his job depends on the sales he’s not making. It’s almost as depressing as being on the academic job market (ha ha, just kidding, I hope). The other striking feature of this issue is Seth’s loving depiction of an Ontario town in 1957. Despite (or because of?) the cartoonish visual style, I almost feel like I’m exploring Dominion, Ontario with Simon. The story creates a deep sense of nostalgia which is also reflected in the letters page, where Seth complains about his reluctance to enter the 21st century and wonders how much longer he’ll be able to buy typewriter ribbons or mailing tubes. “Let’s face it, a guy like me doesn’t belong in that future. I’m a cartoonist, I’m interested in little paper pamphlets… that’s not exactly the cutting edge of technology.” Actually I think this essay might be worth discussing somewhere in my book, and I wonder how Seth’s views on this issue might have evolved over the past 13 years. Grade: A+

MADMAN COMICS #17 (a.k.a. MADMAN COMICS: THE G-MEN FROM HELL #1) (Dark Horse, 2000) – That’s exactly what it says in the indicia. I’ve never quite understood the plot of Madman but I don’t think I’m supposed to. Clearly, the series is a parody of the sort of nonsensical but relentlessly energetic storytelling of the Silver Age, and Allred’s artwork is a modern take on classic superhero artists like Kirby and Curt Swan. There’s one page here, depicting a cutaway view of the Atomics’ headquarters, which is heavily inspired by Kirby’s similar depictions of the Baxter Building. A couple odd things about this issue: first, it’s printed on newsprint rather than glossy paper, which seems odd for 2000, and second, Joe spends much of the issue pantsless for no apparent reason. Grade: B+

ARCHIE #232 (Archie, 1974) – I don’t know much about Harry Lucey’s work, but both Gilbert Hernandez and Bart Beaty are huge fans of his, so I was excited to read this issue. Harry Lucey’s artwork, much like Beto’s, is kind of minimalist, lacking the more detailed and realistic rendering of Bob Bolling, but he is clearly a master cartoonist; he tells each story perfectly with great economy of linework. Easily the best story in the issue is the first one, in which Reggie tries to deny the existence of the Christmas spirit, but finds himself grudgingly buying a teddy bear for a poor little boy. There’s one almost silent panel, showing the boy looking tearfully at the teddy bear in the store window, that’s just heartwrenching. The other stories in the issue are immediately forgettable. Grade: A-

DETECTIVE COMICS #823 (DC, 2006) – An exciting story by Paul Dini is nearly ruined due to lurid, exploitative Liefeld-esque artwork by Joe Benitez. Like the previous Paul Dini Batman story I reviewed, this one is a self-contained story focusing on one particular villain, in this case Poison Ivy. I think the 22-page done-in-one story is one of the best ways of utilizing the comic book format – I certainly like self-contained stories better than continued stories which are written for the trade and don’t offer a complete chunk of narrative in each issue. I’m interested in reading more of this run so I can see what else Dini did with the single-issue format. Unfortunately, because this story is about Poison Ivy, Joe Benitez takes advantage of every possible opportunity to draw her in revealing and anatomically unlikely poses. Grade: B+

FLASH GORDON #4 (King, 1967) – A masterpiece by one of the great storytellers in the history of American comics, Al Williamson. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the action sequences are thrilling – I’m finding that I don’t have the critical vocabulary to convey just how beautiful this art is. Archie Goodwin’s stories, though, are mostly just excuses for the artwork. The third story in the issue is about two ancient robots who’ve forgotten they’re robots, which I suspect was a cliché even in 1967. Grade: A+ but only because of the art

DONALD DUCK #256 (Gladstone, 1987) – “Volcano Valley” is a very early Barks story but already shows his trademark brilliant storytelling and beautiful draftsmanship. The plot is not nearly as tight as in some of his later works; the story is basically a series of loosely related episodes. The big problem with this story is that it’s blatantly racist. The Volcanovians, who look like South Americans and have stereotypical Latino accents, are depicted as lazy good-for-nothings who would rather sleep than work. This is not the only Barks story that contains racist imagery (“Voodoo Hoodoo” comes immediately to mind) but it’s particularly blatant here. An odd historical footnote is that the Volcanovian currency is the pezozie (1,000 of which are worth one cent); this seems to be a direct reference to the currency used in the kingdom of Nazilia in E.C. Segar’s Popeye. Grade: B/B+ on the merits, F for racism

GREEN LANTERN #47 (DC, 1966) – I generally like the Silver Age Green Lantern but I don’t love it. John Broome wrote exciting stories and created an immersive sense of continuity without making a big deal out of it. However, characterization was not one of his strengths (especially not when it came to women, as my friend Mordecai Luchins has repeatedly pointed out). This issue is an exciting and fairly well-plotted story involving both Dr. Polaris and Pol Manning. One thing that’s pretty cool about this story is how Broome talks to the reader: “But wait! we can hear you cry out, reader! How was it that….” etc. Still, the lack of interesting character moments means that I have trouble remembering the story. An odd thing about the issue ist that Katma Tui appears but is never identified by name; instead, Broome calls her by epithets like “Girl Gladiator”. Gil Kane’s artwork in this issue is impeccable as usual. Grade: B

AQUAMAN #34 (DC, 1967) – Nick Cardy was a wonderful old man who was very nice to me each time I spoke to him at a convention, and it goes without saying that he was also a phenomenal artist. I read this after I heard he had passed away. Like most Haney/Cardy stories, this one is kind of corny but passionately written and gorgeously drawn. The plot involves a villain, Dudley, who tries to steal Mera from Aquaman. Haney and Cardy generate a lot of dramatic tension and the artwork is beautiful, especially because it gives Cardy lots of chances to draw Mera. However, the weak link is Mera’s characterization. It could be argued that she intentionally or negligently leads Dudley on. When he turns into a giant insane Aquaman clone and kidnaps her (and this is not even the weirdest thing that happens in this story), she does little if anything to try to escape. Mera was one of the most confident and physically powerful characters in ‘60s DC comics, and I prefer stories where she gets to kick some ass. Other than that, this is a prime example of Nick Cardy’s greatness. Grade: A-

SUPERBOY #126 (DC, 1966) – The first story in this issue is just so incredibly bizarre I don’t even know where to start. Ma and Pa Kent start aging in reverse and then Clark starts punishing them for trivial offenses. And then it gets even weirder: it turns out they’ve been replaced by an alien Romeo and Juliet who are trying to get to the “Asteroid of Hearts,” etc., etc. It may not be entirely clear from this summary, but this is a bizarre and incoherent story even by ‘60s DC standards. The backup story is about Krypto’s heroic ancestors, so at least it’s cute. Grade: C

GREEN LANTERN #185 (DC, 1985) – I like Wein and Gibbons’s Green Lantern, although it was overshadowed by the classic Englehart/Staton run that followed it. This issue features beautiful art but only an average story. It’s kind of hard for me to care about John’s romance with Tawny or Hal’s adventures out of costume, when I know that there are much more interesting things coming only a few issues later. The backup story is a very early work by Kurt Busiek, about an elderly Green Lantern who becomes the ruler of his planet and then abdicates, causing his planet to descend into anarchy. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for him when he clearly did a terrible job of creating political structures that could outlive him. Grade: B+ mostly because of the Gibbons artwork.

BATMAN ADVENTURES #26 (DC, 1994) – A masterpiece by the great team of Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck. This issue does not feature Batman at all but is instead a team-up between Robin and Batgirl, whose witty banter is just hilarious. It’s also an extremely well-plotted story, in which Dick and Babs’s criminology professor becomes a criminal himself and they have to catch him. I think this series was the best Batman title of the ‘90s. Grade: A+

ADVENTURE COMICS #372 (DC, 1968) – This isn’t one of Shooter’s best Legion stories from this run (I think the last great one was the Mordru two-parter), but it’s interesting. Shooter creates some serious drama here, as the Legion of Super-Villains kidnap Colossal Boy’s parents in order to force him to work with them. The way that the Legionnaires get out of this dilemma is rather impressive. Other highlights here include Duo Damsel beating up Nemesis Kid, and Ron-Karr trying to hide by posing as a painting. Although this was not one of Shooter’s greatest stories, his run on the Legion was one of the best DC comics of its time, because of his youthful energy and because he applied Marvel-esque characterization to a DC title. Grade: A-

INVINCIBLE #26 (Image, 2005) – A very important issue in which Mark and Nolan are reunited and baby Oliver makes his first appearance. The scene in which Mark and Nolan meet, culminating in a splash page in which Mark tearfully hugs Nolan, is very well done. However, the bizarre bug aliens who live for only nine months are kind of disturbing. Grade: A+

SAMLA paper on teaching comics

The following is the text of the presentation I gave at SAMLA the weekend before last, on a panel about teaching comics. I’m preparing a longer and more formal version of this material for an anthology edited by Professor Matthew K. Miller of the University of South Carolina at Aiken, who also organized the panel. The paper was accompanied by a slide presentation which can be seen here.

SLIDE 1. Thank you all for being here today and for your interest in teaching comics, which is a topic of great importance to me. I’m a comics scholar and I use comics in some way in every course I teach. And I’m also a lifelong comics fan. Therefore, it thrills me that so many people are currently using comics as teaching tools and that a panel on the topic of teaching comics has been included in this major interdisciplinary conference.  However, my paper is partly motivated by my sense that in the contemporary academy, comics are often taught in a way that does not fully exploit their potential. My impression is that the use of comics in English departments is limited to a few specific texts – primarily Maus, Persepolis and Fun Home SLIDE 2 – and that English teachers use these texts as ways of addressing a limited set of issues, including trauma, memory and queer identity. Now clearly all these texts are important and useful teaching tools; I use Fun Home in my teaching and research myself. But the problem is that when people think about comics exclusively through the lens of this small academic canon of texts, they develop an overly limited understanding of the medium and end up thinking that nonfiction graphic memoirs are the only important genre of comics, or that telling autobiographical stories is the only thing comics are good at. And this approach misses the forest for the trees; it confuses a particular genre of comics with the medium as a whole. Instead, I want to argue today that comics are useful as a teaching tool not simply because of their content, but also because of their formal, medial and material properties, and because of the way these properties interact with their content. Comics are valuable as a way of encouraging students to think about the operations of media and about the property that Katherine Hayles calls materiality, and in some ways, comics encourage this sort of thinking more effectively than word-based texts do. And I hope this paper will be useful in particular to people who are interested in teaching comics but who don’t consider themselves comics experts. I hope to suggest some approaches to teaching comics that you may not have considered.

To provide some necessary background, I am a Brittain Fellow at Georgia Tech, and what we Brittain Fellows do is we teach introductory English courses from a multimodal perspective, incorporating not only written but also oral, visual, electronic and nonverbal rhetoric – we use the acronym WOVEN for this, and you can see examples of how we do this by attending our poster session. So we typically have our students do creative projects like posters, infographics or videos as well as traditional prose essays. The point of this is to enable our students to communicate multimodally, that is, to use multiple channels of communication both simultaneously and sequentially. And incidentally, comics are absolutely perfect for teaching multimodal composition because they necessarily incorporate verbal and visual communication and often digital communication as well, and that’s why I and many of my Brittain Fellow colleagues use comics extensively. Now I think that one important part of multimodal awareness is an understanding of the effects of media upon communication. I want my students to understand how the medium they use to read or write affects how they read or what they write. And even more specifically, I want my students to be aware of how communication is conditioned by materiality. For Hayles, “materiality” means “the interplay between a text’s physical characteristics and its signifying strategies.” Materiality describes the embodied, physically situated aspect of reading, the fact that reading always occurs in and is conditioned by a particular physical context. As a very simple example of this, Persepolis was originally published in four volumes that looked like this SLIDE 3 and was republished in two volumes that looked like this SLIDE 4 and then in one volume that looks like this, without the little bunny. SLIDE 5. Each of these versions of Persepolis has a different size and weight and different graphic design and therefore makes a different impact on the reader, even before the reader picks up the book. And this is just one example of how materiality is an important factor in our experience of comics. A more dramatic example is something like Chris Ware’s Building Stories, where the physical form and appearance of the text is just as important as its content. SLIDE 6

Now materiality is always a crucial component of our experience of a text, because the particular circumstances under which we encounter a text necessarily shape the way we read it. And this is true of other types of texts as well as comics. The trouble is that when we read a novel, for example, we tend to ignore the effect of materiality because we concentrate exclusively on what the text says and not what it looks like on the page. We typically read prose texts in an attitude of inattention to materiality. And most printed books are designed in a way that encourages this attitude. Beatrice Warde, a historian of typography, said that typography should work like a crystal goblet. SLIDE 7 When you drink wine out of a gold or silver goblet, the beuaty of the goblet distracts you from the tate of the wine. But when you drink from a crystal goblet, you notice only the taste and appearance of the wine and you completely ignore the vessel that contains the wine, and similarly, when you read printed text, you should concentrate on its meaning and ignore the appearance of the text. Also, in most printed texts, the visual appearance of the text is not an integral part of the reading experience. You can take, for example, Great Expectations and reprint it with a different cover and different paper and a different typeface and it will still be recognizable as the “same” novel. SLIDE 8 The identity of a literary text is the words it contains and the order of those words, not the specific physical form in which these words are embodied. Of course there are exceptions to this, such as concrete poetry or novels by authors like Jonathan Safran Foer and Mark Danielewski SLIDE 9, but in general, literature tends to make us unaware of materiality.

Comics, however, cannot work this way because comics reading is an experience of looking at the text as well as decoding its meaning. When reading a comic, you cannot be unaware of the fact that the images are drawn in one way instead of another, or that they are arranged on the page in one way and not another – or if you are unaware of these things, it is a sign that you’re not reading the comic attentively. Moreover, the physical and visual appearance of the comic is an integral part of its meaning. The identity of a graphic novel resides in the particular drawings it contains. If a graphic novel is redrawn in a different style, it becomes a different graphic novel. When a comic is reprinted with different lettering or coloring, the difference is immediately obvious. My favorite example of this is Neal Adams’s ‘70s Batman stories, which were later reprinted with computer coloring which I think was completely inappropriate. SLIDE 10 And because of the fact that the physical appearance of a comic is an integral part of its meaning, features such as typography, lettering and publication design take on an importance in comics that they usually don’t have in text-based literature. SLIDE 11 So in the first place, comics are a good way to make students aware of the way our experience of a text is always constituted by its physical and technological features. But comics can do more than that; they can also help students understand how the material and technical properties of a text can help shape and interact with its content. And now let me discuss an example of how I’ve used comics in this way.

In the fall of 2012, I taught a first-year composition course on the topic of “The Future of the Book.” The idea of the course was, first, to think about reading as an embodied experience, to think about how the experience of reading a book is conditioned by the physical properties of a book and by the physical environment in which we read the book. And second, to explore how the embodied experience of reading is changing now that reading is increasingly becoming a digital experience and e-books are starting to challenge the cultural dominance of printed books. So a perfect text for this class was Carla Speed McNeil’s Talisman. Does anyone know this book? It’s a graphic novel that was originally published in three parts as issues 19 to 21 of her self-published comic book Talisman and is now available in various other formats. And it’s appropriate to this class because it’s all about the physical and affective experience of reading. The protagonist is Marcie, who in the first part of the story is seven years old but can’t read yet because chronic illness has kept her out of school. So her mother’s boyfriend, Jaeger, reads to her from a book which looks like this. SLIDE 12 And for Marcie this book becomes the ultimate book, the greatest book in the world. It absolutely fascinates her and it seems to contain every story there is in the world, because Jaeger never gets to the end of it. And the main character of this book is also named Marcie, so it seems to have been written for her alone. So Marcie learns to read so that she can read the book herself, but before she can do so, her mother throws the book away. And in the second issue, we see Marcie searching for the book and reading every other book she can get her hands on and writing her own stories, all in an attempt to recapture the lost book. And finally by a bizarre coincidence she does find it again, only to discover that it’s not the book she thinks it is. Jaeger was never actually reading the book to her, he was actually just making up all the stories and pretending they were in the book. So in part three, Marcie decides the only way to recover her lost book is to write it herself, but before she can do that, she needs the perfect blank book to write it in, and that blank book will be her talisman, the magical object that will unlock her creativity. SLIDE 13 The point of all this is that Talisman is all about the material, embodied experience of reading. Throughout Talisman we see that books matter not just because of their content but also because of their physical form. The title Talisman describes the way in which a book can operate in an almost magical way as a tool for activating creativity. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that Talisman depicts e-books  in a very negative light. In part three, Marcie says: “Environmentalists hate paper books. They say it’d be better if all books were digital files. But people like books…” And she continues: ”I don’t want a fancy digitla day planner… I want a book.” At the end of part three, in order to create her perfect blank book, Marcie buys an expensive electronic reading device just so she can cut off the design on its cover and paste it onto the cover of a blank paper book, and she throws the e-reading device in the trash. And that seems to summarize how the author, Carla Speed McNeil, felt about e-books in 2001. And privately I sort of agree with her because I still don’t like reading comics on my Kindle Fire, I prefer to have the physical artifacts, but that’s beside the point.

But here’s the strange part. As I mentioned before, Talisman was originally published as three comic books, then collected into a trade paperback and a larger omnibus edition, and now Dark Horse has reprinted it in a special hardcover edition which is designed to look like the book that Jaeger reads to Marcie. SLIDE 15 But Talisman is also now available in electronic form, through Dark Horse’s digital comics app, and that means that my students could have been reading Finder on exactly the same sort of e-reading device that Marcie throws in the trash at the end of the story. Which was obviously not an option in 2001 when the comic was initially released. And the question I asked them was, if we read Talisman in digital form, does this change our understanding of the book? Do the changes that have occurred to the materiality of Talisman since its initial publication have an effect on the way we read the book? And I feel that this was a moment when the students got it, or at least some of them did. Thinking about Talisman this way made them realize that there is a connection between the physical context in which we encounter a text and the way we interpret the text.

But an even more important way in which comics can serve as a useful teaching tool is that they can enable students to apply this sort of perspective on materiality to their own writing. As I suggested before, I want students to show awareness of materiality in their writing as well as their reading practice, and a great way to have them do that is to ask them to actually make comics. So in my first year composition class last spring, which was specifically about comics and modern media, for my students’ final project, I asked them to collaboratively produce an essay in comics form, in which they would predict the future of a specific type of comics. I’ll show you a couple of the most effective responses to that assignment. SLIDE 16 Now I didn’t emphasize the element of materiality here as strongly as I could have, but in order to succeed at this assignment, the students had to show awareness of how to communicate using comics, and because many of them were using digital comics creation programs like Bitstrips or Pixton, I wanted them to show awareness of how creating comics in this format is different from drawing comics on paper. And I think that the best of the student projects successfully demonstrated this. And incidentally, in some of my own current research I’m trying to use comics to theorize comics in a similar way, as you can see in this image SLIDE 17, which is from a paper that’s currently under review for a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly on comics as scholarship. So we can use this method in our own work as well as asking our students to use it.

Now clearly there are some possible pitfalls to teaching comics in this way. This method of using comics may not be attractive to teachers who are themselves primarily comfortable with word-based literacy, although that does mean it can be a way of getting you out of your comfort zone. And also, asking students to actually make comics can unfairly disadvantage students who have less artistic skill, and therefore, when I explained the assignment in class I was careful to stress that I would be grading the comics based on effort and not based on their artistic quality. Still, I think that the approaches to teaching comics that I’ve described in this paper represent effective ways of exploiting the revolutionary potential of the comics medium. Comics should not be taught as if they were just literary texts with pictures added, because comics represent an entire way of thinking about media and about communication.

Reviews for 11-8-13

11-6-13

Haven’t had time to write reviews lately. Some of these reviews will be rather short due to not remembering the comics in question very well. These reviews are all for comics I read last week at the latest.

PRETTY DEADLY #1 (Image, 2013) – I didn’t love this issue as much as others did (including my friend Abra Gibson). I had some trouble following what was going on, and the poem in the beginning of the issue is still stuck in my head, and not in a good way. Still, there is a lot of interesting stuff here, and I have enough confidence in Kelly Sue DeConnick that I’m willing to continue reading the series. I certainly have no intention of ripping it up in public, at least. Grade: B+/A-

SEX CRIMINALS #2 (Image, 2013) – After I read this issue, it became the focus of an embarrassing scandal when Apple refused to sell it on the Comixology iOS app. To quote what I wrote on Facebook, this comic is all about sexual repression and how Americans can’t have an honest discussion of sex, so holy irony Batman. The letters in the letter column suggest that the previous issue struck a chord with women who ran afoul against our society’s taboo on publicly discussing sex in the same way that Suzie did. And this issue examines that same theme but from the male perspective, focusing on Jon rather than Suzie. This comic is making an important statement on how our society thinks about sex, and shame on Apple for trying to censor it. Now in a way this series is also beginning to seem like a version of Chew that’s about sex rather than eating, thanks to all the sex-related jokes in the background of many of the panels (some of which are almost illegible without a microscope). But I do think that Sex Criminals has a serious angle that is often lacking in Chew. Grade: A+

SANDMAN: OVERTURE #1 (DC, 2013) – I wrestled with my conscience before finally deciding to break my DC boycott and buy this issue. After all, my boycott is primarily motivated not by the desire to financially harm DC, but by disgust – I feel too disgusted with DC to even want to read any of their comics – and so if my desire to read a DC comic is greater than my disgust at the idea of buying it, then I might as well buy it. Now that I’ve gotten that tortured logic out of the way, I can say that I thought this was an incredibly well-written and well-drawn issue. J.H. Williams III is the most gifted artist in mainstream comics today, and this issue is revolutionary even by his high standards. In particular, I was amazed by the four-page splash, something which has only been done once before in a comic book to my knowledge, and in Strange Tales #167 you had to put two copies of the issue together to get the full effect. And Neil’s writing is as witty as ever. I do question, though, whether this is a story that even needed to be told. Neil quit writing the Sandman because he had told all the stories he needed to tell, and that was a possibly unprecedented decision at the time. Is this story so important that Neil has to come back over 15 years later to tell it? Or is this series just a cash grab? The next few issues will tell. Grade: A

FF #13 (Marvel, 2013) – I read almost half this issue before realizing that the dialogue was written by Lee Allred, not Matt Fraction. But perhaps that explains why this issue seems even zanier and weirder than previous issues of this series – sometimes almost to a fault. Still, it’s incredibly fun and it effectively continues Fraction’s storyline. I’ll be sorry to see this series end after three more issues, because it’s the most fun Marvel comic in a while. Grade A-

SAGA #15 (Image, 2013) – Possibly the best comic of the year besides Hawkeye #11. The Nun Tuj Nun sequence is possibly the high point of this series, combining serious character development with hilarious humor. Within the space of just a few pages there are three unforgettable lines: 1) “There are only three forms of high art: the symphony, the illustrated children’s book and the board game.” 2) “Okay, that is… surprisingly progressive. And totally offensive!” And 3) “Is Alana praying?” “No. No, she most certainly is not.” I hope BKV publishes a set of rules for Nun Tuj Nun so we can all play it ourselves. The business with The Will and Slave Girl is not quite as exciting, and I rather doubt that The Will is actually dead. Still, this issue suggests that there is a fourth form of high art besides the three that D. Oswald Heist lists: the comic book. Grade: A+

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #12 (IDW, 2013) – Review removed pending permission to quote someone else’s Facebook posts. Grade: A+

PROPHET #30, #31 and #33 (Image, 2012-2013) – I’ve been buying this series sporadically but not reading it, because the story is hopelessly confusing and I have no idea what’s going on. After reading these three issues back to back, I think I have a better grasp on the storyline, and I begin to see why Brandon Graham is the perfect writer for it: he has the ability to write truly alien aliens, creatures that are truly incomprehensible and bizarre. I suppose you could read this series as a posthumanist work in that it takes place in a milieu where humanity has become completely extinct, yet characters like Prophet and Diehard, who are old enough to remember a previous era, are deeply nostalgic for their old human selves. (Speaking of Brandon Graham, his excrement fixation, which I mentioned in my review of Multiple Warheads, is prominently visible in issue 33.) I need to get caught up on this series. Grade: A- for all

WONDER WOMAN #23 (DC, 2008) – Two weeks after reading this issue, I keep remembering the panel where one of the white gorillas starts grooming Tom Tresser as a sign of acceptance. Besides the white gorillas, my other favorite part of this series is Gail’s portrayal of Diana. As I mentioned in a review written in July, I think Gail has written Diana better than anyone else ever except maybe George Perez, and Gail’s version of Diana is very different than George’s. This issue also prominently features Donna Troy, who used to be one of my favorite characters until she was completely ruined forever by endless meddling with her continuity. There was also an actual story in this issue but it was less interesting than all of the above. Grade: A-

SUPERNATURAL LAW #36 (Exhibit A, 2001) – This issue mostly ignores Wolff and Byrd and focuses on Wolff’s occasional boyfriend Chase Hawkins, who Batton Lash effectively portrays as a sleazy scumbag who lacks restraint when it comes to sex. Obviously the bizarre combination of supernatural horror with real-world law is the primary selling point of this series, but Batton is also very good at depicting realistic human drama. His characters all seem like real people, with realistic flaws, and this issue is an excellent example of that. It also demonstrates Batton’s skill with humor; there’s a nice running gag where Chase keeps trying to find a new psychiatrist, but each of them wants to see him twice a week (I’m reminded of the quack psychiatrist in GTA V). Grade: A

COURTNEY CRUMRIN #4 (Oni, 2012) – Oddly, Dale Jacobs also used a different work by Ted Naifeh as an example in the book mentioned below. I don’t believe I’ve read the previous two issues of this ongoing series, but the plot made a reasonable amount of sense anyway, and it’s a good example of Naifeh’s signature combination of cuteness and scariness. This series actually reminds me a bit of Leave it to Chance, only not nearly as cute. Grade: A-

THE AUTHORITY #1 (Wildstorm, 1999) – I bought the first twelve issues of this series at Comic-Con, but this is the first one I’ve read. This first issue is largely just setup and it doesn’t really indicate what was so important or groundbreaking about this series. However, the artwork and writing are both at a high level of craftsmanship, and I can tell this is going to be one of Ellis’s major works. Grade: B+

BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #12 (DC, 2010) – The artwork in this comic, by Byron Vaughns, is just terrible. It doesn’t look cartoony, it looks like a kid drew it. I could draw a better comic than this. However, the story is fairly exciting. Baltazar and Franco didn’t create the same level of magic and excitement on this series that Jeff Smith did in the previous miniseries, but it’s still a better take on Shazam than most of the other stuff DC has done with the character. Grade: B+

ACTION COMICS #1 (DC, 2011) – I bought this when it came out, on my friend Roger Whitson’s recommendation, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Dale Jacobs’s Graphic Encounters, where this issue is discussed in the first chapter. Jacobs mostly talks about how Morrison’s approach here is influenced by Siegel and Shuster’s original version of Superman, where he was depicted as a Rooseveltian proactive problem-solving vigilante. Accordingly, in this issue Morrison writes Superman as a rebel who fights the corrupt military-industrial complex represented by Luthor and Sam Lane. The trouble is, I think it’s hypocritical for Morrison to write this kind of story in a DC comic, given that DC is so closely linked to exactly the sort of corporate mentality that he condemns here, and Morrison has personally been loyal to DC despite its creative bankruptcy and its abusive labor practices. I feel that if he really believed in the philosophy behind this comic, he would be writing it for a less evil company. Grade: B-