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90s Comics

DC 90s Superman Justice League

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#1 Virgil Vox

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 03:27 PM

DC has been releasing a lot of their old 90s series in trades over the last few years. Titles like Superman, Nightwing, Robin, Young Justice, Catwoman, Aquaman, The Flash, Superboy, Green Lantern, Supergirl, and Justice League just to name a few have all seen trades released.

As a 90s kid this makes me extremely happy. When I think of Superboy, I think of the brash young clone of Superman. To me, Robin is Tim Drake. The same with Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern and Wally West as the Flash.

I’ve bought several of these trades and thought I’d review them here and see if anyone else shares my love of 90s comics (even when they went EXTREME!!!!). I might also review series that haven’t been collected in trade like Dan Jurgen’s Teen Titans run.

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Superman: Panic in the Sky

Panic takes place at the height of the Triangle era. This was when all four of the Super-books shared sub-plots and also combined for big events like this one and the upcoming Death and Return of Superman. From the little I’ve read from that era it worked quite well.

This is the new Panic in the Sky collection, which has issues not included in the previous release.

The plot sees Brainiac take over Warworld which was left leaderless after Superman defeated Mongul. He bribes, tricks, and uses his mental powers to get Maxima, Draaga, and the Matrix Supergirl to do his bidding. He sets Warworld on a course for Earth and sends his skullship ahead to attack Metropolis.

Superman quickly realizes this problem is too much for him to handle alone and since the Justice League was recently disbanded he recruits all the heroes he can. There’s Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Guy Gardner, Deathstroke, Rocket Red, the Flash, Nightwing, Crimson Fox, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, the Metal Men, and many more.

His plan is twofold. One group, led by him, will head to space and stop Warworld before it reaches Earth. The second group, led by Batman, will stay on Earth in case Brainiac sends an advance force of troops.

The first thing that strikes me about Panic is how in control Superman is. He has a plan and he executes it and the rest of the heroes listen to him. In fact, most of them are at least a little in awe of him. It’s a far cry from how Superman is normally portrayed now, with most people on Earth scared of him. It also feels like he plays second fiddle even in his own big events. This event revolves around him and his cast even with all the heroes on the page.

The Panic storyline moves along at a good pace, with the threat being ratcheted up every issue. At one point Brainiac has gotten control over most of the heroes on Warworld and sends them all to fight Superman. At the same time the planet bound heroes are being overwhelmed by Warworld warriors.

Brainiac comes across as a major threat. He easily defeats several New Gods, including Metron. He seems prepared for just about every tactic the heroes throw at him. Sure, he has definite aspects of the stereotypical mustache-twirling villain but those are balanced against the fact that he does have the upper hand for most of the story.

There’s a lot of fun, big comic book action on display here. Page after page is filled with brightly colored heroes using their powers to attack Brainiac and his forces. It’s all just fun. While the threat is real it doesn’t get grimdark like what happens with a lot of these big superhero events nowadays.

The artwork is spot-on. The book has numerous artists but their styles are similar enough that you never have trouble telling who is who or where the characters are. I always hate reading a trade, especially one that tells a single story, and the artwork is all over the place and hard to follow from issue to issue.

There are definitely some 90s elements here. One of the major ones is Supergirl. Here she isn’t Clark’s cousin. Instead she’s a shape-changing protoplasmic being from a pocket dimension created by that dimension’s Lex Luthor to defeat evil Kryptonians.
Luthor himself is involved in a soap opera worthy plot. His old body was dying of cancer thanks to always wearing a kryptonite ring. He transferred his brain into a younger clone body with tons of hair. He then pretended to be his own long lost son. He is also pretending to be a stand up citizen trying to atone for the crimes of his “father.” Here he helps the heroes, including Superman, seemingly out of the kindness of his own heart.

These issues also see the romance between Luthor and Supergirl start. Her Luthor was a kind man and she misses him. This Luthor looks and acts like the Luthor she loved and so she is drawn to him. Luthor, on the other hand, sees this as a great opportunity to have his very own personal superhero.

Maxima is a major star here as well. Brainiac devastated her world of Almerac and she is working with him so he won’t destroy it completely. She does turn against him towards the end. She also wants Superman as her mate.

There are sub-plots going on in the background that aren’t connected with the Panic event. Jimmy has apparently been fired from the Daily Planet and here he gets a chance to work for another newspaper before being hired by the Planet again. Emil Hamilton also shows up, as does Bibbo.

The last part of the Panic trade is only slightly related to the actual Panic in the Sky storyline. Once the heroes return home the plot shifts focus to a group of beings from another dimension, some of whom are stuck on Earth. Jimmy has actually been to their dimension before, though here it’s Emil who gets transported to the other dimension. A lot of this is wrapping up story lines that started many issues ago and aren’t referenced in the main Panic arc.

There’s also an attack against Luthor that was set up at the start of the Panic in the Sky story. It features the Hellgrammite and references back to Superman’s first meeting with Luthor in the Man of Steel series by John Byrne.

The second to last issue ties in to Panic quite well. Right before he was defeated Brainiac released a silver sphere. Turns out it is a lure to a giant black swarm of insect like creatures or nanobots (it’s not made clear). Their job is to devour everything on a planet conquered by Warworld to prepare it for colonization.

It’s a great issue as Superman has no clue how to fight a giant swarm like this. The tension is high until Luthor figures it out and manages to drive off the swarm. I wish this had been the end of the trade. It would have been a nice bookend to the whole Brainiac attacks Earth arc.

Instead the final issue wraps up the story of the dimensional beings and their plight on Earth.

Panic in the Sky is a collection I’d highly recommend. It has a great story, good artwork, and is just a lot of fun.


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Superman and Justice League America Volume 1 by Dan Jurgens and Rick Burchett

While seeing the major heroes join together to fight the bad guys in team books like Justice League and Avengers is always great, I do have a soft spot for teams that are made up of B and C list heroes. That is part of why I love James Robinson’s run on Justice League right before the New 52 reboot.

This run by Dan Jurgens is a lot like that. You have Superman leading a League populated by Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Blue Beetle, Maxima, and Bloodwynd. It’s a strange combination but it works.

There are three main arcs in this trade. The first three issues deal with the team forming and fighting their first villain; the next three see the League go to Almerac to help Maxima with a usurper to her throne; and the final three issues has the League deal with an alien who has bought Earth.

This trade starts with the Justice League Spectacular issue, which was DC’s way of making changes to their JL titles. They had just done a giant 15 part arc that wrapped up the Justice League International run that was known more for its soap opera elements and comedy than super heroics. There are still comedic moments in this trade but also serious threats.
I’ll talk about the heroes before getting into the individual arcs.

Superman – In Post-Crisis continuity Superman was not a founder of the Justice League. In fact he was never truly a member. He helped them out but never joined. Here Batman approaches Superman and tries to convince the world’s greatest hero to form and lead a new League. Superman is a reluctant member. He doesn’t like the U.N. involvement with the League nor does he like how Maxwell Lord tries to tell the team what to do. He does hope he can be a positive influence for the other heroes as well as try to reign in Guy’s worst impulses. He knows the world needs a Justice League. He just isn’t sure that he can work within a team like this.

Blue Beetle – Beetle is essentially the Batman of the group. He has no powers and he is a genius. He is constantly designing new gizmos and weapons. He has a beetle shaped aircraft that the League flies in. I really like Ted Kord. It makes me sad that he was eventually killed off. His intelligence is on full display here as he uses it to defeat two major villains. He is also suspicious of new team member Bloodwynd. A lot of his arc in this trade has to do with discovering as much as he can about the new hero.

Booster Gold – Beetle’s best friend, Booster is from the future. He came to the past to become a hero and make money. He is something of a comic relief character, always making quips. In one issue he complains that he and Beetle don’t pull any pranks anymore so the two teleport to the HQ of Justice League Europe wearing different pieces of each other’s costumes to make it look like they were spliced together. The prank backfires on them when the Flash strips them to their underwear, ties them back to back with their own uniforms, and teleports them back to their own HQ. That’s pretty much Booster Gold in a nutshell. He is always up for a good time and it almost always backfires on him.

Fire – A model as well as a superhero, Fire is a meta-human who can envelop herself in green fire and has the ability to fly. She is best friends with Ice. She goes through several different costumes because she was ranked #1 on a Worst Dressed List. Her second costume is well designed and I wish she had stuck with that one. Her third costume is extremely revealing and definitely there for the male gaze. I liked Fire even though I felt more could have been done with her.

Ice – A princess from a magical frozen kingdom, Ice surprisingly has ice powers. I never would have guessed. Ice is the most innocent member of the team. She is just an all around good person. She used to date Guy but they’re on the outs at the moment. She develops a major crush on Superman.

Guy Gardner – He starts the trade as a Green Lantern and ends it using Sinestro’s yellow ring because he was fired from the Green Lantern Corps. Guy is basically a walking advertisement for what the #MeToo campaign is fighting against. He is loud, obnoxious, boorish, and sexist. He picks on everyone and starts a fight with Superman. He literally abandons the team on Almerac when they don’t agree with him that they should just rush to fight the bad guy instead of doing some reconnaissance. It is really hard to like Guy here. It’s a far cry from the Guy of recent years. In his defense, he does make some good points. Superman refused to carry a JL communication device, which means several members have to hunt through Metropolis to try and find him when an emergency happens. Guy calls him out on it and he was right to.

Maxima – A queen and she won’t let you forget it. Maxima is on Earth hoping to convince Superman to be her king help her rebuild Almerac. She joins the League hoping this will help her case. Towards the end of the trade she is banished from Almerac and stays with the League because she has nowhere else to go. I like Maxima even if she can be grating at times. Not only is she an alien on a new planet but she is royalty surrounded by people who don’t care that she is royalty.

Bloodwynd – He is a mysterious hero who appears to help the League fight Weapons Master. His powers are magic based and many. He can fly, teleport, turn invisible, shoot magical beams, and cast illusions to name a few. We don’t learn much about him here though Blue Beetle tries his best. I do know the secret of Bloodwynd because I looked him up after encountering him for the first time while reading The Death of Superman. While I know who he is I don’t know the reasons behind the mystery so it will be fun to find out. I have to say that I like Bloodwynd a lot. He has a cool look and an interesting power set.

I am going to briefly review the arcs in the trade.

The first arc sees Weapons Master hired by the Dominators to attack the League and steal Guy Gardner’s Lantern ring. W.M.  tests the League first by giving advanced weapons to the Royal Flush gang. Once he has seen enough, he attacks the League and manages to take them out rather quickly. He teleports them to another dimension where they are under his control. He is outwitted by Blue Beetle and Bloodwynd.

This first arc was rather good. It gives a reason for why this League exists, shows off all of the characters and their power sets, and has them face off against a worthy opponent.

These three issues also introduce several plot threads that run through these issues and, presumably, beyond. Plots like Beetle’s suspicions of Bloodwynd, Ice’s crush on Superman, Fire making new outfits, Superman distrusting Max and the U.N., etc.

The second arc is, IMO, the highlight of the trade. A person loyal to Maxima crashes on Earth with news that someone has usurped her throne on Almerac. She rushes off to reclaim her position and the League quickly follows.

The threat is a villain named Starbreaker, a threat the League apparently fought in an old 1972 issue. He is an energy vampire and world destroyer. He lands on a planet, drains it of energy, and then causes it to drift into the sun. The resulting explosion gives him even more power. That is the fate that awaits Almerac. He quickly defeats the League (minus Guy who ran off in a huff) and digs three trenches deep into the core of Almerac. It takes everything the League has to defeat Starbreaker and save Almerac.

I like this arc for several reasons. The first is that Starbreaker is a huge threat and his villainy threatens the entire universe. He’s not a pushover. The second is that it gives us more insight into Maxima. Her people turn on her here because she left instead of helping to rebuild the planet. They end up exiling her since she hadn’t been ruling them for a while anyways. We see a rare moment where Maxima lets her guard down and softly cries as she looks at a painting of her deceased parents.

The third reason is that with Guy gone for most of this arc it wasn’t as annoying to read. The final issue is that the League has a discussion if they should even get involved. They agree that it is terrible that Almerac is suffering and that Maxima has lost her throne but don’t agree whether they have the right to interfere and put Maxima back on her throne. They don’t go around Earth toppling dictators so why should they on another planet? It is an interesting discussion and a nice little bit of real world politics creeping in.

I lump the last three issues into an arc even though really only the last two issues deal with the alien that bought Earth. The first issue sees Guy returning to the League with his new Sinestro ring and getting into a fight. Superman starts to fight Guy at first but realizes that there is no point. He can easily beat Guy but it won’t change things. He lets Guy back in the League with the hope that he can still be a positive influence on the hothead. The Atom guest stars, hoping to join the League but decides not to after seeing the dysfunction going on.

The final two issues are just fun. The League investigates a missing space shuttle for NASA and discovers that it has been taken aboard a giant alien spacecraft. The alien, named Chaq, bought the rights to Earth and the solar system from an old galactic ruling body. Of course the heroes don’t recognize the authority of this old ruling council but Ice points out that human history is full of examples of one civilization forcing its laws on another civilizations whether that civilization wanted it or not.

The League wins not by force but by tricking Chaq into selling the deed to them. It was a nice change of pace from the slug fests that were the last two arcs.

Overall, I thought this trade was highly enjoyable. I had a smile on my face many times while reading it. The issues were just fun and didn’t wallow in darkness. The stories could get dark, like when we are shown just how horrible the situation is on Almerac. The main difference is that it doesn’t stay dark and gritty when it doesn’t have to, unlike some comic books today.

There are some problems. Some technical, like when talk bubbles are pointed at the wrong character or when Weapons Master is called Master Weapons. Others are a writing issue, like when at the end of one comic Starbreaker clearly says he remembers Superman and then at the start of the next issue has trouble remembering who this guy in the red and blue costume is supposed to be.

Still, that didn’t deter me from enjoying this trade. In the long run, this Justice League trade isn’t significant. It features an odd collection of heroes and exists at a time when the League was in flux, between a highly popular comedic run that had just ended and a highly memorable run by Grant Morrison that would start in a few years. I can see why that would stop people from buying it. However, if you want a fun, well drawn Justice League collection you could do a lot worse than this one.

Edited by Virgil Vox, 14 March 2018 - 05:53 PM.

"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
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#2 G-man

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 09:57 AM

Yeah … the 1990’s.

While I followed “Chase,” that was pretty much the decade when I stopped following the main hero titles for both DC and Marvel.  As I recall, that was the era of the “bad girls,” frequent cross-overs, specialty covers, and extended story-arcs involving plots that I really wasn’t interested in.  I think, IIRC, that was around the time DC’s Vertigo line was proving popular and it was Gaiman’s Sandman that held my attention.

Still, it’s interesting to hear about the Events I missed in your reviews.  At least now I can be glad I missed them ;)

/s/

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Edited by G-man, 14 March 2018 - 09:57 AM.

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Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.
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#3 Cybersnark

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 11:32 AM

The 90s were when I started reading DC (and proceeded to fall down the rabbit hole), though these two trades were a bit before my time --I came in at the Death of Superman. The 90s Titans/Ravers/YJ (Tim Drake, Conner Kent, Cassie Sandsmark, Bart Allen, et al) were my generation.

This was before Dan Didio had started his rise to power and his campaign to revert DC to a darker, grittier Pre-Crisis. Everyone talks about the 90s as the Dark Age, but the main thing I remember is how fun the DC titles could be --the 90s were a period of self-aware self-parody and loving deconstruction (using superhero registration not for contrived drama, but for jokes about bureaucracy).

I maintain that the 90s (specifically after DoS) were a golden age for "Event" comics --they were (or at least felt) more character-based(*) rather than world-shattering destruction for its own sake. The Death and Return of Superman led directly into Emerald Twilight, which led directly to Zero Hour, which led to Final Night. . .

(* And that character was Hal Jordan, apparently.)
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#4 Virgil Vox

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 06:01 PM

View PostG-man, on 14 March 2018 - 09:57 AM, said:

Yeah … the 1990’s.

While I followed “Chase,” that was pretty much the decade when I stopped following the main hero titles for both DC and Marvel.  As I recall, that was the era of the “bad girls,” frequent cross-overs, specialty covers, and extended story-arcs involving plots that I really wasn’t interested in.  I think, IIRC, that was around the time DC’s Vertigo line was proving popular and it was Gaiman’s Sandman that held my attention.

Still, it’s interesting to hear about the Events I missed in your reviews.  At least now I can be glad I missed them ;)

/s/

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Everything you said is true. The 90s were notorious for giant cross-overs that collapsed under their own weight (like the Onslaught event that crossed over into just about every Marvel title and that I will be reviewing), gimmicky covers, and all the rest.

However, there were a lot of good things in the era as well. There were some great cross-overs that did shake things up and introduce new characters that have had a lasting impact.

View PostCybersnark, on 14 March 2018 - 11:32 AM, said:

The 90s were when I started reading DC (and proceeded to fall down the rabbit hole), though these two trades were a bit before my time --I came in at the Death of Superman. The 90s Titans/Ravers/YJ (Tim Drake, Conner Kent, Cassie Sandsmark, Bart Allen, et al) were my generation.

This was before Dan Didio had started his rise to power and his campaign to revert DC to a darker, grittier Pre-Crisis. Everyone talks about the 90s as the Dark Age, but the main thing I remember is how fun the DC titles could be --the 90s were a period of self-aware self-parody and loving deconstruction (using superhero registration not for contrived drama, but for jokes about bureaucracy).

I maintain that the 90s (specifically after DoS) were a golden age for "Event" comics --they were (or at least felt) more character-based(*) rather than world-shattering destruction for its own sake. The Death and Return of Superman led directly into Emerald Twilight, which led directly to Zero Hour, which led to Final Night. . .

(* And that character was Hal Jordan, apparently.)

These first two trades were all new to me as well. I had heard a lot of good things about Panic In the Sky so I finally went ahead and bought it. I decided to grab Superman and the Justice League because it starred Superman and it followed up from Panic. A lot of the comics I'll be reviewing will be new to me simply because a lot of them have been hard to come by until now.

Some will be ones I've read before, like The Death and Return of Superman, Batman: Knightfall (though the issues where Jean Paul Valley take over will be all new to me), and Superboy.

So far, most of what I've read has been fun and when things have gotten dark it's because the story demanded it and not because that's the hip thing to do.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#5 Virgil Vox

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 05:03 PM

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Superman and Justice League America Vol. 2 by Dan Jurgens, Rick Burchett, and Dave Cockrum

Even though this is named Superman and Justice League America, Superman is only alive for two issues. The first is a Justice League annual with the team battling Eclipso. Issue #69 is part of the Death of Superman event and sees the League taking on Doomsday. Issue #70 picks up right after Superman died.

It does suck that Superman died so early in the run of this League. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of influence he would have on the League and vice versa.

Like the last volume, this one can be separated into distinct arcs. The trade starts with an Eclipso: The Darkness Within tie-in. The next three issues deal with Doomsday’s attack and the effect on the League. The next four issues comprise the “Destiny’s Hand” arc. The last two issues, “Blood Secrets,” reveals who Bloodwynd is and what’s been going on with him.

The Eclipso tie-in is an annual so it is extra length. This cross-over positioned Eclipso as a major villain in the DCU. He is based on the moon but sent down Eclipso diamonds that could possess people, even heroes. The League is responding to the crisis and ask for help from heroes like Wonder Woman and Metamorpho.

I liked this annual even if it isn’t a complete story. There are a few loose ends left dangling at the end. This annual really belongs to Blue Beetle as he faces off against Eclipso by himself since the rest of the League is dealing with an Eclipso-possessed Maxima who was jealous of Wonder Woman getting Superman’s attention. Beetle manages to outthink Eclipso though his fate is left uncertain. It did make me want to get more of this cross-over event.

My only complaint about the issues surrounding Doomsday and Superman’s death is that I would have liked the trade to include the Superman issue that takes place after JLA issue #69 as that shows how Doomsday wrecks the rest of the League.

The Doomsday issue is good. It is basically all action as the League gets destroyed by Doomsday while Superman is giving a television interview.
The next issue is part of the “Funeral For a Friend” arc that crossed into several titles. It sees the various members of the League dealing with Superman’s death and their own injuries. It ends with many heroes gathering at JL headquarters and donning black armbands with Superman’s symbol.

Issue #71 sees Max recruiting new members. Wonder Woman, the Ray, Black Condor, and Agent Liberty end up joining the team.

A lot happens in these three issues that seem like they will have a lasting impact on the League. Fire has lost her powers and isn’t sure that she can get them back. Ice, after seeing Superman get killed while she was helpless to stop it, decides to quit the League. Blue Beetle is in a coma after getting a beat-down from Doomsday, though he does wake up by the end of the trade. Booster Gold’s costume is destroyed and can’t be repaired since it was made in the future. His superhero career is more or less over.

I like that the ramifications of such a big battle and devastating loss aren’t just being swept under the rug. It isn’t just status quo as usual. Nor does it feel too gimmicky.

Maxima gets a new costume and it is much better than her old one. The best thing about it is that it actually covers her entire body. Her old costume didn’t leave much to the imagination. The color scheme of gold and purple works well too. She promises to stay with the League as a way to honor Superman, which is nice.

Of the new recruits only Wonder Woman and the Ray really make an impact. Wonder Woman is brought on to be the new leader, more or less, which doesn’t thrill Guy. Wonder Woman manages to handle Guy better than Batman or Superman did.

The Ray is a brand new hero and it shows. He’s a rookie and he makes rookie mistakes. Still, he’s an entertaining character and I’ve always had a soft spot for him so it’s nice to see him join the team.

Black Condor is a cipher. We learn basically nothing about him in these issues. Agent Liberty fares a little better but not much. He is apparently wanted by the government because of the death of a judge. Unfortunately it is only brought up when he is recruited and never mentioned again.

The “Destiny’s Hand” arc is really good, though it doesn’t allow any of the new members to really shine. In fact, because of the premise, it focuses a lot on a different JL line-up.

The premise is that an old JL foe, Dr. Destiny, has been rotting away in prison. Literally. His face is just a skull with red eyes. He has the power to enter and manipulate dreams. He does this to the Atom, who has been dreaming about his days with the old League. Dr. Destiny manipulates the dream into a nightmare and then causes the nightmare to become reality.

The nightmare is a Justice League (Martian Manhunter, the Atom, the Flash, Hawkman, Black Canary, Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado) that have turned into fascists who more or less rule the world. They are cruel and uncaring. When Sinestro is captured, Hawkman cuts off both his arms.
This evil version of the League bleeds through into reality and comes into conflict with the current League. All Dr. Destiny has to do is kill the Atom and this nightmare reality will become the real reality, if that makes sense. It’s all a bit of timey wimey stuff.

Nowadays heroes going evil are a dime a dozen (more so with Superman, unfortunately). Still, that doesn’t lessen the impact here. The evil League’s descent into becoming fascists was paved with good intentions as they started to do more to help people during a huge economic crisis.

Dr. Destiny makes for a creepy villain. He is pulling the strings behind the scenes and almost succeeds with his plans. He does actually stab the Atom but is stopped right after that and the Atom gets the medical attention he needs.

It’s also in these issues that we see that Bloodwynd is actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise. That leads to the last two issues, “Blood Secrets.”

Bloodwynd is an actual hero. He gets his powers from his blood gem. It was created by a group of slaves in the American south who wanted to get revenge on their hated owner. They created the gem and used it to imprison the owner’s soul, killing him. The gem was then handed down through the generations. The soul of the slave owner, as well as the evil thoughts of all the previous owners, created a creature called Rott that exists inside the gem. He wants out. J’onn came across Bloodwynd as Rott was trying to escape. Through a series of events Bloodwynd was sucked into the gem and J’onn put it on, becoming Bloodwynd and being given the directive to find something powerful enough to free Rott.

That something is the Ray. Rott, along with Weapons Master who rears his ugly head again, demand that the Ray enter the gem or they will kill J’onn and the Atom (who had entered the gem earlier).

Long story short, Rott is imprisoned again and both Martian Manhunter and the real Bloodwynd are free.

I liked these two issues but they are crammed with information. Issue #77 ends the trade and Dan Jurgens’ run on JLA, so my guess is he wanted to finish the Bloodwynd mystery before a new writer came on.

Most of the League doesn’t even appear in these two issues. The Ray, Bloodwynd, Blue Beetle, and Booster Gold are the only actual League members included. Martian Manhunter and the Atom guest star.

Overall, I enjoyed this trade even if it wasn’t as good as I would have liked. “Destiny’s Hand” was a good story but I felt that a story focusing more on the new members would have been better. “Blood Secrets” was good, especially since I am a fan of Bloodwynd, but it felt rushed.

I do have to give the trade credit for handling the aftermath of the death of Superman. Like I wrote above, the status quo is overturned. I also like that, apart from Ice who quit, Booster and Fire were still characters despite no longer having powers. They weren’t just bum rushed out the door.

Like with the first trade, there’s nothing here that has a lasting impact, even with Superman’s death. Still, I’d recommend it just for how the aftermath is treated. Plus, the stories are well written and the artwork is nice.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#6 Christopher

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 05:07 PM

"Bloodwynd" is such an incredibly '90s name. And his story/explanation is convoluted in a very '90s way as well.
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#7 Virgil Vox

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 06:06 PM

Quote

"Bloodwynd" is such an incredibly '90s name. And his story/explanation is convoluted in a very '90s way as well.

I totally agree, though surprisingly his costume it pretty tame by 90s standards. Still, there's something about the character that I like. I think if you re-tooled his origin a bit and he could work as a hero in today's comics.

Edited by Virgil Vox, 18 March 2018 - 06:22 PM.

"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#8 Virgil Vox

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 09:53 AM

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Bloodlines: Lobo Annual – Hounds of Blood by Alan Grant and Christian Alamy

Bloodlines was a DC event that ran through all of the 25 annuals in 1993. The main goal was to introduce a slew of new heroes that would hopefully prove popular and star in their own titles. The annuals were split into four parts: Outbreak, Earthplague, Deathstorm, and Bloodbath.

The main story of Bloodlines concerns six alien parasites that crash land on Earth. They are large, strong, and able to take human form. They have xenomorph like tongues that they use to extract spinal fluid from their victims. In rare cases, those victims gain powers instead of dying. Those people are referred to as New Bloods.

The entire series is very 90s. The New Blood heroes are extreme to the max. Most of them never appeared again after this cross-over was done. If they did it was usually just as canon fodder.

The Lobo annual sees Lobo ordered by Vril Dox, head of L.E.G.I.O.N., to accompany a L.E.G.I.O.N. task force to investigate a strange space craft that just appeared. The task force is under the command of Layla, a tough as nails woman who doesn’t appreciate Lobo constantly hitting on her and basically sexually assaulting her.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Poiple Gang (that’s how they spell it) has found the alien vessel as well. Lobo has a bone to pick with the gang since they stole his bike. Once all the characters are on the ship they are attacked by the alien parasites, who have been in slumber for many years.

Lobo, Layla, and two other people are the only survivors. They managed to kill one of the parasites and blow a hole in the ship but that still leaves six parasites who are about to land on Earth.
This was a decent issue to open the cross-over with. It has an Aliens vibe to it as the crew members get picked off one by one in gruesome ways.

The parasites themselves look good. They’re large and menacing. The problem is that some of them look too much alike so it’s hard to tell them apart at times, especially when there is a lot of action going on. I’m hoping that as the cross-over continues the parasites will get individual focus.

Lobo, is well, Lobo. He says frag a lot and tries to kiss Layla a lot. He’s a fighting machine but even he has trouble with the parasites. I have to say, I prefer the short lived New 52 Lobo that was leaner and not nearly as sexist.

Layla is a decent character and she doesn’t take crap from Lobo. In fact, she uses a medallion to hypnotize Lobo and have him act like a dog. When she gains powers from a parasite bite (making her the first New Blood), she kicks the crap out of Lobo. The downside is she gets amnesia.

The artwork is nice. Christian Alamy does a good job of drawing spaceships, aliens, and the various characters. He imbues the parasite ship with a feeling of dread. It looks off, like it’s supposed to.

Overall, I have no real complaints with this issue. It won’t be for everyone and it is definitely a product of its time.

Bloodlines: Superman: The Man of Steel Annual – Cutting Edge by L. Simonson, Newell, and Barreiro

This annual picks up where the last one left off. The parasite ship crashes on Earth. A group of bikers witnesses the crash and goes to investigate. They are promptly attacked and drained of their spinal fluid by the parasites. One of them, a large female named Angor, decides to go her own way and heads to Metropolis.

There we are introduced to our New Blood. His name is Tom, and he works at a gym. His father died at a young age and he has helped his mother support his three younger siblings ever since.

He is attacked by Angor after leaving work. She dumps him in the sewers along with the other bodies of her victims. However, he changes into Edge, a superhuman with razor sharp blades growing out all over his body. He also has some kind of barbed wire running from his knuckles to his head. Like Layla, he has amnesia.

This took place during the Reign of the Supermen arc, so here we see Steel (referred to at the time as Man of Steel) dealing with the crisis. Tom is his friend, and he helps the newly transformed hero to realize that he’s not a monster. They work together to try and stop Angor.

Maggie Sawyer, recently promoted to Inspector of the SCU, also makes an appearance as she tracks down rumors of monsters roaming the city.

What to say about Edge? I mean, the guy has blades growing all over his body and he can shoot them at people. They are incredibly tough, even able to pierce Steel’s suit. The guy screams 90s extreme. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t show up after this cross-over, and with good reason. He’s kind of lame. I like his back story of having to support his family. I just wish he had a better power set.

I did appreciate that Angor got the spotlight in this issue. She’s a good villain in that she’s extremely intelligent as well as super strong. She knows to hide the dead bodies that are piling up and when it looks like the tide is turning against her she runs.

The parasites make mention of a mission that they have to complete. It looks like they have a plan besides feeding on humanity. I wonder what it is.
Tom’s younger brother features heavily in this annual and I wish he had been eaten by a parasite. The kid was annoying.

I liked this issue in spite of Edge and his annoying brother. I’ve always been a fan of Steel and he’s great here, showing why he deserves to wear the S. I appreciated the spotlight on Angor, as well as the hint dropped that they have a master plan.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#9 Virgil Vox

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Posted 01 April 2018 - 11:11 AM

Bloodlines: Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual – Joe Public by Grant, Von Eeden, and Giordano

This comic introduces us to New Blood Joe Public, though he has a smaller role than Layla or Edge received in their comics. The focus is on Batman (still Bruce Wayne though he will be replaced by Jean-Paul at the end of the event) and another hero named Pagan.

Joe Public is kind of silly, though Alan Grant tries to give him a good back story. He is a P.E. teacher that had a student die after using ecstasy so he has put on a costume and is hunting down the drug kingpin that is supplying most of Gotham’s school. This brings him into contact with Batman, and eventually an alien parasite.

His costume isn’t great, though it could be. If he were to lose the jacket that has giant stars on the shoulder pads it would look okay. Well, that and the crew cut with a mullet hair that he is rocking.

The parasite here isn’t named, but he is large, red, and can fly. When he assumes human form he has flaming hair. Unlike the other parasites, he is hoarding food on an island off the coast of Gotham and being more discrete than Angor was.

Batman’s investigation into the drug kingpin gets him involved with the parasite. It’s this investigation that also sees him team up with Pagan, a female superhero who mainly protects women and likes to speak in the third person on occasion.

It ends with the three heroes fighting the parasite on the island and Joe Public getting his powers.From what I can tell, he saps strength from the people around him, making him stronger. If there are no people around him, he loses his abilities.

It’s a somewhat tense finale as Batman and Pagan are no real match for the parasite and use delaying tactics just to try and get away.

All in all, a decent issue in the Bloodlines saga. Joe Public isn’t a great new hero but he has potential. I liked that the issue did focus on Batman and his investigation. Pagan was a decent hero and I would like to know more about her.

Bloodlines: Flash Annual – Undercover Angel by Waid, Hester, and McClellan

Introduced here is Argus, one of the more successful New Bloods in that he got his own short-lived series.

It helps that he has an interesting set-up. Argus is Nick Kovak, a member of a mob in Keystone City who gets attacked by Venev and Glonth. The twist is that Nick is actually a Fed, working undercover to bring down the criminal organization.

His powers are enhanced strength and agility, to turn invisible when out of direct light, and what is more or less x-ray vision, though he sees more in wave lengths. Not exactly an impressive power set but he puts it to good use. His costume isn’t bad either. Sure there are some 90s touches like too many belts but it is simple and it works.

At first he thinks a rival mob set the parasites in him so he goes after them until he discovers the truth and then sets out hunting down the parasites.

The Flash (Wally West) gets involved because Linda gets abducted by the parasites when she is trying to figure out Nick’s secret. The Flash has a smaller role in this annual than Batman did in his but I didn’t mind. Argus is a good hero and The Flash has his moments to shine.

We get two parasites for the price of one here. Glonth is the fat parasite with a lion’s mane. Much like the parasite from the previous annual, he prefers to capture prey in bulk and feed on them at his leisure.

Venev is green and multi-limbed. She is much more impatient than Glonth and wants instant satisfaction.

They make mention of their mission again, and how it requires them to maintain a certain degree of anonymity. I think going around killing a bunch of people in the same way over and over again isn’t very anonymous but what do I know?

The Flash and Argus manage to drive the parasites away while saving Linda. The ace reporter does figure out that Nick and Argus are one and the same but promises to keep his secret.

This was one of the better Bloodlines annuals up to this point. I just felt that it all clicked. Argus is a good hero with potential and not a lot of 90s extreme like Edge. He was likeable and I didn’t mind reading more of him than The Flash.

Bloodlines: New Titans Annual – The Red Hand Blues by Hand, Witcover, and Davis

I did not like this comic at all. Part of that is the artwork. It doesn’t help that there are 8 inkers working on the annual, which does change the look of the art. A lot of times too much is thrown into one panel so it is hard to tell what is going on. There are also panels where the background is a single color and the art inside the panel that we’re supposed to be focusing on, like a person’s face, looks incomplete. I don’t know if that is a stylistic choice or simply not enough time to finish all the artwork. There were also moments where the civilian characters looked too much alike so it was hard at times to tell who was who.

The New Titans, consisting of Nightwing, Pantha, Arsenal, Starfire, Red Star, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Aqualad, are called in to help with an explosion at an oil rig/science station near New Orleans. They fix the problem and then get asked to find the missing daughter of one of the managers of the rig.

She has been kidnapped by cultists who are worshipping two parasites, Pritor and Lissik, as gods and bringing them human sacrifices. Pritor seems to be the de factor leader of the parasites. He is blue and looks like he is wearing armor. Lissik is pink and has giant butterfly wings.

Courtney, the kidnapped girl, becomes the New Blood Anima. It is unclear though whether she gets her metagene unlocked because of the parasites or is chosen by some strange deity called Animus. It is kind of hard to tell. The same with her power set. I’m not really sure what all she can and can’t do. She does get amnesia like Layla and Edge, though she gets some memories back.

There is just not a lot to like here. The Titans bicker amongst themselves a lot and are more concerned with fixing their PR image than helping people. They see Courtney get kidnapped, and the next page they are all at a restaurant eating.

Arsenal takes the people at the oil rig to task for letting the accident happen, but immediately quits and apologizes when a good looking woman takes him to task, even though he was in the right.

The cult is also strange. The leader is a failed theater actor who started the cult for reasons we aren’t given and it’s unclear whether he believes in the nonsense he is spewing.

I just didn’t like this annual. It was too disjointed, with subpar artwork, and a nonsensical plot.

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The Ray: In A Blaze of Power by Jack C. Harris, Joe Quesada, Art Nichols

I’ve always liked the Ray and was happy that he was given a cartoon series (even if it was just a few mini-episodes) as well as a live action appearance during Crisis on Earth-X. That made me realize though that I’ve never actually read The Ray’s comic book. I’ve only ever seen him in team books like Justice League and Young Justice or in big event books like Final Crisis. I decided to rectify that and I picked up this trade, which collects the six issue mini-series that introduced the new Ray.

There’s a lot to like about this trade, but it is held back by some odd story decisions. Case in point: Ray Terrill’s origin. We learn at the start that he is the son of the original Ray, Happy Terrill. Ray inherited his father’s light abilities but as a baby couldn’t control them. Happy concocted a story that Ray would get sick and die if exposed to sunlight, so he kept the boy locked up in a darkened house. When Ray is 20, his father dies and Ray learns the truth. As a young man he can control his abilities better and actually go out into the sunlight.

It’s a good origin. Simple and sticking with DC’s love of legacy characters. It also means that Ray has never really interacted with the outside world and that gives writers a lot to play with. However, we quickly learn that Happy is apparently still alive but might be incorporeal and possibly an alien. It felt like they couldn’t stick with an origin and so they added more stuff on and then decided they didn’t like it and took it back. That happens a few times.

Something else that bothered me is how the villain, Dr. Polaris, was treated. He is a big threat at first but towards the end he gets merged with Happy and so now three personalities are sharing one body (Dr. Polaris already has a split personality between a good person and the evil Polaris persona). He becomes a comedic character and valuable time is wasted on him when we should have been shown Ray facing down the big threat that was about to destroy the planet.

It’s not all bad. A lot of the story works, and once they clear up all of the origin confusion it is a fun read. For the most part it is a light hearted comic; especially with a running gag that every time Ray uses his powers it burns off his clothes. He ends up naked on several occasions until he learns how to control his powers better.

Ray is a good character to follow. He is a nice, intelligent young man who has had his whole world turned upside down in a matter of days. While he’s dealing with his powers he also has to deal with the aftermath of his father’s death. His house is being sold and while he does have computer skills he’s never worked a job before.

As far as a supporting cast goes, there are really only two main ones. The first is Ray’s cousin Hank. Imagine a 50s greaser transplanted to the 90s. That is more or less Hank. He is the one who pushes Ray to use his powers and become a hero. The next one is Jenny, a young woman Ray has had a crush on since childhood. She was his neighbor and only friend, though he hasn’t seen her in years. I liked Jenny, but at times she felt more like a plot device to motivate Ray to do or not do something and less like an actual character.

The artwork by Quesada and Nichols is fantastic. This is a beautifully drawn comic. The characters are distinct from one another and Ray’s light powers look unique. His costume is great as well.

The comic is very 90s, from the slang to the clothes to the technology in display. It is dated, but not in a bad way. It never took me out of the reading experience. The main story structure (once all the stupid fake-outs are removed) are strong and work. They were easily transplanted to the Rebirth version of the Ray appearing in Justice League of America.

I’m on the fence about how I feel about this one. There is a lot to love here and it does set up a good foundation for an on-going comic. The problem is that the plot is made more complicated than it should have been with the origin fake-outs and all the twists that kept getting thrown out there.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#10 Virgil Vox

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Posted 10 April 2018 - 09:13 AM

Bloodlines: Superman Annual – Myriad by Jurgens, Lapham, and Machlan

This was a nice palate cleanser after the dreck that was the New Titans Annual. The last Superman annual featured Steel. The Cyborg Superman stars in this one.

The New Blood introduced in this issue is Myriad. She was Sasha Green, martial arts instructor to Lex Luthor. However, she showed him up one day in front of Supergirl and Lois. He couldn’t have that, so he had her killed and left her body to rot in a garbage dump.

That’s where Gemir (flame headed parasite) and Venev (many limbs parasite) find her. Gemir feeds on her to the disgust of Venev. That ends the involvement of the parasites in this issue.

Gemir feeding on her brings Sasha back to life, but her thoughts are confused and fragmented. She ends up at a gym where another woman touches her. This transfers the woman’s memories and personality to Sasha, who truly believes she is the woman. As she heads out into Metropolis she touches a gang banger, taking on his personality as well. Thus is Myriad born.

The Cyborg Superman is trying to prove that he is the real deal and that he is here to help. Obviously it is an act, and one that Commissioner Henderson isn’t buying. The Cyborg promises to discover what has been killing people around Metropolis and draining their spinal fluid.

This issue ties more into the Reign of the Supermen arc than it does Bloodlines, since the parasites only make a cameo appearance and other than the Cyborg figuring out that the parasites are extraterrestrial the overall arc isn’t advanced.

Instead much of the issue is on Luthor panicking that Sasha Green, now Myriad, is alive and might be able to point to him as her killer. He does everything he can to kill her. It’s actually fun to read, since he still has to act like the do-gooder he is trying ti portray himself as while he’s planning on re-killing this woman.

It ends with Myriad absorbing the memories and skills of an assassin Luthor sent to kill her. Luthor believes that the assassin succeeded and that Myriad is dead.
I don’t know of Myriad shows up again, but since this was written by Dan Jurgens and he continues on the Superman title for some time yet she could make another appearance. I believe Luthor gets exposed not too long after Superman returns from the dead so she might be there for that.

Bloodlines: Green Lantern Annual – Where the Boys Are by Jones, Byrd, and Davis

This is another good installment in the Bloodlines saga. Green Lantern heads back to Coast City when he hears that women have been getting murdered in droves. Of course his main reason is because Carol is there and he wants to protect her. Honestly, there are times Hal comes across really bad in this trade.

He is flying with Arisia, a de-powered Green Lantern, who comes on to him. He turns her down, but later thinks that her teenage innocence turned him on. It is just a creepy thought, especially since this is the time period when he has the white streaks in his hair and looks much older than he is.

The New Blood introduced here in Nightblade. He is a young man who was in a car crash with his father. His father died and Nightblade lost both his legs. While he is recovering in the hospital Lissik (the parasite with the butterfly wings) shows up and massacres just about everybody on the hospital floor. She attacks Nightblade. Instead of dying, he gains the ability o regenerate lost limbs. His legs grow back.

He goes home to find that Lissik has been there as well and killed his mother and sister. He creates a costume for himself, arms himself with many knives, and goes to investigate the murders. He runs into a pack of mutated men who attack him. It turns out the men are the husbands of the women Lissik murdered and she has made them into her own mutated army.

Green Lantern gets involved, and the two heroes try to figure out what is going on. They eventually track down Lissik, who is attacking Carol and several other Ferris Air employees. Hal falls under Lissik’s sway but Nightblade is able to drive Lissik away.

I really liked this issue, the creeper moments from Hal aside. Nightblade might be a generic name and his costume is bland but he is an interesting character. Hal compares the young man to himself at that age. His regenerative powers are cool, and the new limbs are stronger than they were before. His back story is good too, what with his mother and sister being murdered and his uncle being turned into one of Lissik’s mutant monsters.

Speaking of, they add a new wrinkle to the overall Bloodlines arc. These are men Lissik fed on and who then turned. However, because Lissik apparently has some kind of mind control over these men they are loyal to her. I wonder if the other parasites have different abilities as well.

This also means that this is a more action packed comic than some of the others since Green Lantern and Nightblade have more foes to tangle with.

The spotlight is shared pretty evenly between Green Lantern and Nightblade, which was nice. It even allows Hal some introspection as he thinks back to what he was like at Nightblade’s age. It adds a little more depth to the issue.

Bloodlines: Batman Annual – Ballistic by Moench and Barrieto

This was another excellent addition to the Bloodlines event. The last Batman annual had Bruce Wayne as Batman. This one, however, has Jean-Paul as Batman since the Knightfall story was taking place at the same time. This is before Jean-Paul created his own Batman suit so he is still wearing the old one.

The New Blood created here is called Ballistic. He was a member of a special Gotham police force called Mao. He’s also Asian-American and we get a glimpse of the racism he has to endure from his squad mates.

Batman encounters Angon (who I called Angor in an earlier review for some odd reason) and barely escapes. He tells Gordon to have his police force focus on saving civilians and not engaging the creature.

Mao’s squad decides to disobey this order and engages Angon. They are slaughtered, of course. Mao survives, and in the hospital his skin turns into what looks like red Kevlar body armor. He also gets a more monstrous look with spikes coming out of his chin.

He escapes the hospital and sets up shop in an abandoned subway tunnel. He wants to avenge the death of his squad mates. He buys a ton of guns (hence the name Ballistic) and uses the Bat signal to meet Batman and propose teaming up.

Batman agrees, and the two heroes bait a trap for Angon. This was my favorite part of the issue. They lure Angon to an old house on a hill overlooking the ocean. It is basically a run and gun fight as Angon proves far tougher than they thought. Once in the house it becomes a cat and mouse game as the heroes lure Angon to the top floor to set off their trap, which is basically just blowing up the house with the parasite creature inside.

Ballistic is a 90s character. His skin looks like body armor and he has the plethora of pouches and belts that were the height of superhero fashion at the time. He also totes around an amazing amount of weaponry. Like so many guns. When Batman questions him about it Ballistic replies that he is a Republican. Truer words were never spoken.

Despite that, I found him a pretty engaging character. I liked that we saw him dealing with racism and that he is an Asian superhero who has powers and abilities that don’t involve martial arts of any kind. He just has skin that is hard to penetrate and a deep love of guns. His motivation for fighting is also a good one.

While Ballistic is a rookie hero, Batman is a rookie hero pretending to be an experienced crime fighter. Jean-Paul is still working out the kinks in being Batman and trying to do things Bruce’s way. I have to say, seeing Jean-Paul in the suit but without the cowl is strange. He has blond hair and wears shades. It is just a stark difference from how Bruce looked and behaved.

I just really liked this issue. The last 17 pages or so were action packed and just really tense as the heroes battled Angon. Ballistic, despite his design, is one of the better New Bloods. It was interesting to see the new Batman involved in a big cross-over event like this, especially since we saw how Bruce handled things in a previous issue.

Bloodlines: Justice League International Annual – Bloody London by Jones, Parobeck, and McDonnell

The parasites decide to cross the pond and feast in London. Well, Pritor, Gemir, and Glonth cross the pond. The Justice League International are on the case though. Well, the Elongated Man, Tasmanian Devil, and Metamorpho. The female heroes are off working on some diplomatic thing and apparently can’t be concerned with learning what is killing tons of civilians. They actually come across bad here, as they make fun of the male heroes for reacting poorly after seeing the corpses left behind by the parasites.

The New Blood here is Lionheart, though I’m not sure if he even gets any powers after being attacked by a parasite. At the start of the issue he is just Richard Plante, a dock worker who liked to drink and fight. He is also extremely cocky. Like, super cocky. It gets annoying.

He is recruited by Lord Whitestone to become the hero Lionheart. It turns out that Richard is a direct descendant of King Richard I. Whitestone wants to put together a team of heroes to defend England from threats. He wants Richard to be the first. He gives Richard an armored suit as well as an energy sword and dubs him Lionheart. He sends the New Blood out to figure out what is killing Londoners and to hopefully humiliate the Justice League.

See, Whitestone is racist. He is the living embodiment of the Brexit movement: He is a white guy who thinks England should be for white people and that all those nasty foreigners need to leave.

The sad thing is Lionheart displays some racist tendencies of his own. In typical superhero comic fashion, Lionheart and the Leaguers fight before teaming up and Lionheart says that he needs to get rid of any foreigners coming to England to commit murder. Luckily the dude chills out by the end of the issue.

I liked Lionheart okay. He has a decent costume. It goes the less is more route and that was a good choice. Yes, he’s cocky and pigheaded but it gives him room for growth. He does get attacked by a parasite towards the end of the issue but as I wrote above he doesn’t seem to have gotten any powers from it.

As for the Leaguers, I like Elongated Man and Tasmanian Devil. It was nice reading about Ralph and Sue when they are a happy couple and before the terrible Identity Crisis ruined them. Ralph talks about leaving the League and traveling with Sue and solving mysteries like they used to.

Tasmanian Devil is one of DC’s few gay characters. I’m not sure if he was out during this issue or if he comes out later. James Robinson famously had him killed, skinned, and used as a rug by villain Prometheus. Fan outcry caused him to reverse that during his run on Justice League, and it even looked like he was going to give him a boyfriend in Starman.

I have never really been a fan of Metamorpho. The character never clicked for me, and that doesn’t change here.

Apparently this League lives in a haunted castle. I have to say, reading this issue makes me want to track down older issues of Justice League International and see what is going on with this team.

The issue ends with the parasites attacking the castle, where young hero Maya is all alone. The other heroes realize this eventually and go to her rescue. This is where Lionheart is attacked.

The parasites are driven off but vow revenge. While no real mention is made of what their overall goal is, we do see the dynamics at work among them. Pritor is nominally in charge, though Glonth and Gemir don’t always listen. Pritor constantly has to prove his dominance. When his plan to attack the League goes south he is forced to retreat with the others and try and stop them from telling the other parasites how bad it went.

This issue is less serious than some of the others have been. Don’t get me wrong. The tone gets dark when it has to but it remains light otherwise with playful banter between the League members. The art also has more of a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it. It is more upbeat and fun.

This issue marks the end of the Outbreak phase of this event. I have now read nine issues of this event. I have to say that I have been enjoying this more than I thought I would.

Sure, there have been some low points (I’m looking at you New Titans) but the quality has been good for the most part. I like the parasites. They make for creepy villains. I do like that they have a larger plan other than just feeding on humans. I do wish more hints had been dropped about that plan but it is still early. There are 25 or so annuals in this event, after all.

I found myself liking some of the New Bloods more than I thought I would. Argus, Nightblade, and Ballistic are the stand-outs for me at the moment. Anima has potential but her debut issue was just wretched.

Not all of the New Bloods introduced have been great. I can do without Edge, Layla, or Joe Public. There has been a lot of 90s X-treme on display. I do wish there had been some better coordination between all the creative teams. After this many parasite attacks you would think that people would be recognizing the patterns and realizing that all these attacks in various cities are connected. Heck, several take place in Metropolis and Gotham and people act like they don’t know what is going on. Hopefully that is something that will change as we move into the next phase, Earthplague.
"You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
--Jor-El


It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it's a depression when you lose yours.
-- Harry S. Truman

#11 Virgil Vox

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Posted 22 April 2018 - 03:23 PM

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The Death of Superman by Jurgens, Ordway, Simonson, Stern, Grummett, Guice, Breeding, Burchett, Hazlewood, Janke, and Rodier

This is probably one of the most well known comic story lines of all time. It stunned the world when DC announced they were killing off the Man of Steel, and led to a giant rush on comic book stores as people who normally didn’t read comics went to buy Superman #75.

It has been a few years since I’ve read this story. Reading it now, having read Panic in the Sky and the two Superman and Justice League America trades has given me a better appreciation for the story. There are some nuances that I missed since I didn’t know the background of some of these characters.

I know that there is criticism of this story, with a lot of it centering on Doomsday and the fact that this is nothing but a seven issue slugfest. There is truth to that. Doomsday is more a force of nature than a character. His only dialogue is when he grunts out Metropolis. He has no master plan. If he sees something, he destroys it.

Still, the writers and artists manage to squeeze out a lot of tension from the threat of Doomsday. It really did feel like anyone could die and that no one was safe. Look at the first issues where Doomsday faces off against the Justice League. He rips through them easily. Beetle and Booster get the worst of it but none of the League escapes unscathed.

This is where my new knowledge of the League and the aftermath of this fight helped. I know now that the League doesn’t simply bounce back from this attack. Booster is left without his costume, Ice quits the team, Fire is left without her powers, and Beetle is in a coma.

There is a scene where Ice is begging Maxima to take Beetle to a hospital. She is the only League member left standing that can save Beetle. Maxima doesn’t want to do it. In her mind, Beetle will die a good death. Plus, she wants to continue the battle against Doomsday. Still, she relents because the League stood by her against Starbreaker. It shows growth in Maxima’s character that I didn’t get the first time reading this trade.

One scene that stands out is when Superman chases after Doomsday, leaving a battered League behind. Doomsday had just wrecked a house and the family is trapped within. The house is on fire, and the teenage son can’t get his unconscious mother and baby sister out by himself. He is yelling for Superman to save them.

Superman hears the cries for help but ignores them at first because he knows that if he lets Doomsday go more people might be in danger. You can tell how conflicted the Man of Steel is with the situation. It is definitely a gut punch because usually Superman puts the needs of citizens above stopping the bad guy. He does eventually go back and save the family but not before incapacitating Doomsday.

This story also manages to work in a ton of supporting characters. Lois, Jimmy, Cat Grant, Professor Hamilton, Bibbo, Project Cadmus, Guardian, Dubbilex, Luthor, Supergirl, Maggie Sawyer, and Dan Turpin all get page time.

The final issue is powerful stuff. Every page is a splash page, highlighting just how terrible the fight has become. Superman is obviously on his last legs but is determined to stop Doomsday no matter the cost. He shares a tearful kiss goodbye with Lois before dealing the punch that stops Doomsday, and before Doomsday delivers the punch that kills the Man of Steel.

The final images of Lois holding a bloody, weakened Superman and then crying over his dead body as tatters of his cape whip in the wind behind her are iconic. They never fail to give me chills.

There’s really nothing I have to criticize about this trade. I think it does a great job of showing Superman go up against a creature that might be even more powerful and resilient than he is and that can’t be reasoned with or tricked.

Of course, this would kick off a wave of DC hurting and/or replacing its signature heroes. Pretty soon Batman will have his back broken, Wonder Woman will lose her title to Artemis, Hal Jordan will go insane and Kyle Rayner will become Green Lantern, etc.

As the opening salvo in a longer story line, The Death of Superman works great. It is a well written, well drawn comic that manages to evoke a host of emotions while also being a fun, seven issue slugfest.
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#12 Christopher

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Posted 22 April 2018 - 03:35 PM

I presume that's the trade edition I found at the library a while back, the first of a 5-volume set with the bloody S shield printed across their spines, containing the whole Death/World Without/Reign/Return sequence plus a couple of Doomsday sequel appearances in the final volume. I'd say the Doomsday battle was the weakest part of the overall storyline, because it really was nothing more than a gimmick, the crudest possible way to kill off Superman so as to set the rest of the story in motion. And the whole gimmick of "counting down" with the number of panels per page in each issue, until the climax was nothing but 20-some splash pages, just meant that there was less story with each issue, making it even more superficial.

I've never accepted the idea that the one thing that could beat Superman was mindless brute force. Because Superman isn't just strong, he's also brilliant. He triumphs because of his mind and his imagination as well as his powers. In countless stories in the past, he found himself unable to prevail using strength alone, whether due to kryptonite or magic or being outmatched or some other limitation, and always found a clever way to win by other means. So he should've been able to out-think Doomsday when out-fighting him failed, given that Doomsday didn't think at all.
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#13 Cybersnark

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 09:56 AM

That's kinda the point though; the story started from the idea of killing Superman, so they needed something that Superman couldn't deal with --not a villain, but a force of nature (thus the name "Doomsday," less a character than an event). No plan, no goals, no intellect, just pure destructive energy.

And that thoughlessness actually comes up later.
Spoiler

Also, future stories explain/retcon his fixation on Superman/Metropolis; he recognized a Kryptonian, which is a clue to his origins.
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#14 Christopher

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 10:45 AM

View PostCybersnark, on 23 April 2018 - 09:56 AM, said:

That's kinda the point though; the story started from the idea of killing Superman, so they needed something that Superman couldn't deal with --not a villain, but a force of nature (thus the name "Doomsday," less a character than an event). No plan, no goals, no intellect, just pure destructive energy.


But that's just what I'm saying -- it doesn't make sense that Superman couldn't deal with something so crude and mindless, because he's not just a punching machine, he's smart, and his intelligence and imagination let him succeed when brute force alone is not enough. So it's contradictory to his entire history to say that brainless brute force is the one thing he can't beat. It should be easy for someone with both great power and great intelligence to defeat something that only has the first of those things. After all, what really matters about power is not how much of it you have, but how effectively you direct it. Intelligence and discipline should always be able to triumph over raw, uncontrolled force.

It's also very lazy writing, because it's so obviously just a plot device to kill Superman, a diabolus ex machina created to blatantly fulfill a plot requirement and having no further substance. They came up with an idea and concocted the most superficial, half-assed way of pulling it off.



Quote

Also, future stories explain/retcon his fixation on Superman/Metropolis; he recognized a Kryptonian, which is a clue to his origins.

The fact that they had to retcon him later just underlines how crude and creatively lazy the original idea was.
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#15 G-man

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 11:16 AM

As I understand it, DC decided that they wanted to feature a good old-fashioned Marvel-style  knock-down drag-out fight scene with Superman.  And rather than attempt to have Superman use his brains to “solve” Doomsday, they decided this would be the Death of Superman.

Which, if that was indeed their starting point, suggests they hadn’t thought the concept through beyond delivering what had been decided.

As it was, I didn’t follow that storyline, like I didn’t follow Knightfall (I think that was the story line where Bane broke the Bat), because it seemed like they had dumbed down the heroes to the point where the respective stories could work.

Of course, YMMV.

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#16 Christopher

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Posted 23 April 2018 - 12:47 PM

I would've rather seen Superman killed by a foe who out-thought him rather than out-muscling him. The reason Lex Luthor was his greatest foe in the Silver Age was because Luthor's genius was the only thing that could surpass Superman's unlimited physical power (other than kryptonite or magic, of course). If they wanted to do a story about Superman dying, fine, but why not make it at the hands of Luthor? Although, yes, I know that Luthor was supposedly dead at that point and in the body of a clone that he was pretending was his heroic illegitimate son, so maybe that complicated things. But it would've been more fitting.

Unfortunately, the story was done in the '90s, the most testosterone-drenched era of superhero comics, so instead we got an overblown mass of muscles and spikes that was defined exclusively by violence.
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#17 Virgil Vox

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 07:56 PM

View PostChristopher, on 22 April 2018 - 03:35 PM, said:

I presume that's the trade edition I found at the library a while back, the first of a 5-volume set with the bloody S shield printed across their spines, containing the whole Death/World Without/Reign/Return sequence plus a couple of Doomsday sequel appearances in the final volume. I'd say the Doomsday battle was the weakest part of the overall storyline, because it really was nothing more than a gimmick, the crudest possible way to kill off Superman so as to set the rest of the story in motion. And the whole gimmick of "counting down" with the number of panels per page in each issue, until the climax was nothing but 20-some splash pages, just meant that there was less story with each issue, making it even more superficial.

I've never accepted the idea that the one thing that could beat Superman was mindless brute force. Because Superman isn't just strong, he's also brilliant. He triumphs because of his mind and his imagination as well as his powers. In countless stories in the past, he found himself unable to prevail using strength alone, whether due to kryptonite or magic or being outmatched or some other limitation, and always found a clever way to win by other means. So he should've been able to out-think Doomsday when out-fighting him failed, given that Doomsday didn't think at all.

Actually, the trade I have is the 1993 one. I do own the other trades that form the bloody S-shield. They are a more recent acquisition. I own the omnibus addition of the story but it doesn't include all of the issues, especially the Funeral for a Friend section so I felt that double dipping here was an acceptable use of my income.

As for the debate about Doomsday, I'm fine with him being a mindless beast bent on destruction. Superman has a lot of intelligent foes he has to out think. Seeing him go up against a pure force of destruction was a nice change of pace. Plus, it isn't like he doesn't use his intelligence in the fight at all. He tries different strategies, both by himself and with the League. They all just fail.

I also cut the writers some slack considering their original plan was to marry off Lois and Clark but found out at the last minute they couldn't because of the tv show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. His death was a last minute replacement story line.

Plus, they give him two intelligent foes to fight later on in the arc in the form of Cyborg Superman and Mongul.
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#18 Christopher

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 09:09 PM

View PostVirgil Vox, on 25 April 2018 - 07:56 PM, said:

As for the debate about Doomsday, I'm fine with him being a mindless beast bent on destruction. Superman has a lot of intelligent foes he has to out think. Seeing him go up against a pure force of destruction was a nice change of pace.

Sure, of course, in general. But I don't like the idea that a mindless force of destruction is the one thing that can beat him. I dislike the notion that stupidity is stronger than intelligence.

And as I said, Doomsday is such a blatantly sloppy, poorly thought out concept. Instead of coming up with some intricate, ultimate master plan by Luthor or one of Superman's established archenemies, they just tossed in a walking plot device out of nowhere to punch him to death. It was lazy. Sure, as you say, it was last-minute. And it shows. For such a big event, it's way too superficial.

But, yes, what came after was better.
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#19 Virgil Vox

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Posted 12 May 2018 - 05:55 PM

Bloodlines: Robin Annual – Looking Sharp by Dixon, Dwyer, and Garcia-Lopez

This begins the Earthplague phase and the sub-title means nothing. In fact, the parasites barely play a role here. Venev shows up long enough to create two New Bloods. Robin makes mention of the killings, as does Gordon but the parasites aren’t dwelled on.

Instead the annual focuses on the Psyba-Rats, a collection of extreme hackers that have been hired by a man named Collector to hack into a Wayne Enterprises communications satellite. Robin manages to stop them.

Collector ends up killing a Psyba-Rat, and two of them are then attacked by Venev. Rae becomes Razorsharp and gets the ability to turn her hands into razor sharp blades. Channel enters into a coma but his consciousness is able to travel the digital highway and take control of any TV set or computer. Along with their friend Hackrat they decide to get revenge on Collector for killing their friend.

Robin is flying solo because this is set during Knightfall and Jean-Paul is Batman at the moment. Dixon writes a great Tim Drake which isn’t a surprise since he was Tim’s main writer for years.

This was a fine annual. It doesn’t advance the Bloodlines story at all, but the focus on Robin and a group of young hackers makes up for that because they are all interesting characters.

If I’m not mistaken, the Psyba-Rats were one of the more successful New Bloods, getting their own series and making several guest appearances in other comics.

Bloodlines: Superman in Action Comics Annual – Loose Cannon by Loeb, Moder, Rubinstein, Marzan, and T. Beatty

The Eradicator gets his turn in the Bloodlines spotlight this issue. He is patrolling Metropolis and showing off his edgier attitude as he uses excessive force in dealing with criminals.

The New Blood here is Eddie Walker, a hot shot cop who joined the S.C.U. until his reckless actions landed him in the hospital and stuck on crutches for the rest of his life.

He is attacked by Lissik and it turns him into a Hulk like hero named Loose Cannon. His skin color changes to match his mood.

The Eradicator encounters Lissik who tries to use her pheromone powers on him but fails. The Eradicator beats her handily, but Loose Cannon just sees a helpless woman. This leads to a showdown between the New Blood and the new Superman on a bridge, with Lissik, Glonth, and Pritor getting in on the fun.

I thought this was a pretty enjoyable annual. I appreciated getting more insight into the Eradicator and his harsh methods. He does mellow a little bit at the end when he decides to let the parasites go in order to people trapped on the bridge. He also accepts Loose Cannon as an ally and friend after their misunderstanding is cleared up.

Loose Cannon is a fun, if derivative, new hero. His back story is interesting and there’s a nice level of pathos involved there. His powers are that he is basically strong and tough to hurt. There is a drawback, however. He changes back to Eddie Walker during the day. Loose Cannon can only come out to play at night.

Lex and Supergirl have a cameo as they watch the battle on the bridge in Lex’s penthouse. Supergirl wants to go aid in the fight but Lex stops her.

Maggie Sawyer has a pretty prominent role since she recruited Eddie to the S.C.U. and is still trying to find ways to get him work despite his abrasive personality.

All in all, a well written and drawn comic that was fun to read and slightly advanced the Bloodlines narrative.
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#20 Virgil Vox

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Posted 08 June 2018 - 02:56 PM

Bloodlines: Legion of Superheroes Annual – Jamm by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, Stuart Immonen, Joe Phillips, etc.

This may just be the most 90s out of all the Bloodlines annuals. The “hero” introduced here, and I use that word loosely, is Jamm.  He is a young skater guy who wears baggy clothes and speaks like any 90s Pauly Shore movie character.

He is attacked by Angon, and through a series of events he lands in the 30th century, bringing the parasite with him. The Legion are able to beat back Angon and they manage to send her back to 1993. They keep Jamm because he was injured.

When he wakes up he discovers that if he tells someone to do something, they do it. Being a jerk, he immediately exploits that power and convinces a few female Legion heroes to help him escape in a ship. He also has them remove all their clothes.

What follows is Jamm using his powers to have fun in the universe and surround himself with as many hot, naked women as possible. He also gets Valor to pal around with him.

I’m guessing this was supposed to be a fun issue that only tangentially dealt with the parasites. Angon is dealt with fairly early on and most of the annual is devoted to Jamm and his exploits. Sure, there are some fun moments in here but I was mainly waiting for Jamm to get his comeuppance. The dude is just annoying and on his way to being a villain considering how he uses his powers.

Eventually the Legion manages to throw off his mind control and they send him back to his own time, with a warning they will be watching him.

This was a silly issue that didn’t do much for the overall Bloodlines event and introduced a terrible character. I could not see any using Jamm after this event.

Bloodlines: Green Arrow Annual – Lust be a Lady Tonight by Grell, Collins, and Hotchkins

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. I mean, the New Blood introduced is called Hook and surprisingly enough he has a glowing hook for a hand. I didn’t think I was about to read a masterpiece.

To my surprise, this was a much better issue than I originally gave it credit for. Grell gave the New Blood, Captain Masterson aka Hook, a rather compelling back story. I probably cared more for him than some of the other New Bloods who have been introduced.

Hook was a soldier in the Vietnam War. He eventually fell for a Vietnamese woman and tried to get her and her brother out right before the fall of Saigon. However, a truck bomb went off and when Hook woke up later he was missing his eyesight, his hand, and the love of his life. She had disappeared.

He eventually ended up homeless, full of rage and bitterness. He tells all of this to Lissik, the beautiful parasite who can use her pheromones to control men. She drains his spinal fluid but he comes back.

The hook replacement becomes more high tech and charged with power. He can see auras around everything. He can also generate a superhero costume which doesn’t look too bad, especially compared to how some of the other New Bloods look.

Green Arrow enters the picture when he encounters Lissik at a charity event. She wraps him around his finger and almost has him where she wants him until he has to run off on an emergency call.

I’d say this was one of the better annuals in this event. Hook was a fleshed out character that I felt for, even if he does have a relatively lame power. Green Arrow comes off really well here and the annual examines him and his reasons for why he became a vigilante in the first place.

The artwork is really well done with Lissik in human form looking captivating but in her true form looking monstrous. The design for Hook is nice with few 90s embellishments. There are a few splash pages that really stand out.

Bloodlines: Detective Comics Annual – Not Fade Away by Dixon, Balent, and Fernandez

This was another enjoyable issue. The New Blood introduced here is Geist. His power is that he turns invisible in light, be it artificial or natural. He can also make objects or people invisible if he touches them. He also seems to be a good acrobat.

Much like Hook from the Green Arrow annual, here we get a decent look at Geist’s life. He works for a chemical company that has a bad reputation. He doesn’t like his job but has to stick with it. When he gets his powers he decides to make the most of it and practices with his powers. He also makes a costume out of a skintight black ski suit, some welding goggles, and some blue gloves and mask.

Once again, this Batman is Jean-Paul. He still wears the normal Batsuit though he has enhanced it with his new gauntlets that are hi-tech and have claws for fingers. He is still trying to figure out how to be Batman and learning the ropes of the city.

He is already showing that he is a more extreme Batman. He takes down a bunch of gang members who were about to execute a few kids that they had forced to be drug runners and he takes them down with extreme prejudice.

There is actually another New Blood introduced in here but the issue doesn’t focus on him. He was one of the young kids that was going to be murdered. He gains elastic powers and puts them to horrifying use as he attacks the gang leaders. Batman shows up and tells the kid to go home.

The parasite here is Pritor, and he causes a lot of damage. He makes two New Bloods, takes down a police helicopter, and kills at least six people.

The issue ends at the chemical plant as Pritor battles Batman, Geist, Montoya, Bullock, and a SWAT team. It is a pretty exciting and tense finale since none of the heroes involved really has the power to stop the parasite. He only leaves when back-up arrives.

Batman and Geist both make out well. Batman has fought one of these parasites before so he knows what that he has a slim chance of success but he fights it anyway. He even manages to save Geist’s life at one point.

The art by Jim Balent is really good. He can do the superheroics great and then turn around and give some terrifying images.

Posted Image



Batman: Knightfall Part One – Broken Bat

Not soon after Superman died Batman was broken by Bane. The 90s were just not a good time for DC superheroes. They were getting killed, broken, and replaced at an alarming rate.

I believe the first time I ever read this story was back in 2005 or so when I started getting into comics again. I bought a lot of the individual issues at my local comic shop. I had heard of the story but never read it.

I rushed through the issues because they were so good. I was riveted, needing to see what would happen next. I didn’t have all the issues though so it was an incomplete experience. I did eventually buy the trade.

Broken Bat is a terrific trade. It roars right out of the gate and never lets up. It is easy to believe that Batman has never faced such long odds before and you can believe that by the end of the trade he has nothing left to give.

It helps that Bane is an amazing new villain. Unlike Doomsday who was just a mindless killing machine, Bane is a cold and calculating mastermind that has a long term plan to break Batman and take Gotham as his own. He has been slowly chipping away at Batman for some time now, and his plan kicks into gear when he attacks Arkham Asylum and frees (and arms) all the inmates.

It is quite possible that Bane could have beaten Batman without putting him through hell, but he wants to take no chances. It isn’t just about beating him physically, either. Bane wants to break Batman’s spirit.

The success of the story comes down to just how tight the plotting is and how uniform the art looks. Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon have written a great story that builds on what has come before but stands on its own.

The four artists (Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, and Jim Balent) have similar styles that complement each other. There is no wildly fluctuating art styles that can sometimes hamper enjoyment of a trade like this.

There is a good assortment of villains on display here. There are the heavy hitters you expect (Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Riddler) and some B and C listers (Mad Hatter, Zsasz, Firefly) that are unexpected but welcome.

Batman deals with most of them pretty quickly. Joker and Scarecrow are in the trade the most, having teamed up and kidnapped the mayor to sow confusion and chaos through the city. Their plot runs through a good portion of the trade and is one of my favorites.

The Riddler has a decent amount of page time as well but he comes across rather poorly. His own men turn against him and he stages a quick scheme that is foiled by Robin rather easily.

Zsasz has a few issues as he invades the Bates School for Women and takes hostages. Batman defeats him but comes close to killing Zsasz.

Batman keeps Robin on the sidelines because Tim is still relatively new and Batman doesn’t want Tim to go the way of Jason.

This does bring me to one of my few complaints. I understand why Batman doesn’t allow Robin to help him round up all of these criminals even as Batman gets sicker and more injured. It is never explained why Nightwing doesn’t come to help. The events depicted here take place over several days if not a week or better. You can’t tell me that Nightwing hasn’t seen the news about it.

Then there’s also the fact that Batman was just part of the Justice League and even told Superman that he needs to be less of a loner and join the League. There is a disconnect between the Batman that advocates for heroes being less of loners and helping each other and the Batman here who wants to do everything by himself. That is just the nature of comics, though and how different writers depict the characters.

One of the best bits is probably when Batman confronts Joker. By this point Batman has been through hell and is at a low point, emotionally and physically. He sees Joker and all he can think about is Jason’s death. He beats the crap out of Joker, all the while yelling out Jason’s name. It is an emotionally charged few pages.

The trade ends with Bane confronting a worn down Batman in Wayne Manor. It is less a fight than a beating as Batman can only put up token resistance. As Bane is beating him, he flashes back to all the recent events that have brought him so low, most of them orchestrated by Bane.

Then we get to the iconic splash page of Bane breaking Batman’s back. It’s iconic for a reason. It definitely feels like an earned moment, maybe more so than Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday. It is a big cliffhanger to end the trade on.

All in all, Broken Bat is a fantastic story that sets off a dark chapter for Batman and his allies. Pretty soon Jean-Paul will take over as Batman and he has his own ideas for how justice should be dispensed.

Edited by Virgil Vox, 08 June 2018 - 02:57 PM.

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-- Harry S. Truman



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