601 Entries

Check back here for detailed information on updates to the reading orders or database, reviews by myself or any of the other site contributors, and general comic news we find interesting! You can also subscribe to an RSS feed for updates.

If you’re new here, you may want to know How To Use This Website. Alternatively, click on a reading order on the sidebar. The current pride of our site is the Recommended Reading Order for the entire DC Universe!

Up Down
By | Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 6:09 pm | 8 Comments | Blog > Reviews

Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover) (Softcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: Superman Returns Prequel 1-4
Issue Dates: August 2006
, , , , , ,

This review may contain light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

Five years ago Superman left Earth after astronomers discovered the location of Krypton’s remains. Upon his return, he finds a lot has changed during those long years (1980 to 2005 if you go by film production).

In the build up to the film’s release they authorized 4 one shot issues that would act as prequels to the film. This trade collects them together.

Luckily, these aren’t your run of the mill film tie-in comics – they’re actually well written and add depth to the characters from the film.

”Krypton to Earth” – The first issue covers the origin of Superman and the death of Krypton, with art by Ariel Olivetti and writing by the duo behind the current Jonah Hex publication, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.

You’d be excused for thinking this was money for old rope and to be honest you’d be mostly correct in thinking that. Remembering that the film origin of Superman is subtly different to the origin of our ongoing monthly Superman, this issue allows the reader to reacquaint themselves with the part of the multiverse they are venturing into.

The writing of this issue is well done, though it suggests the scripting was an easy process. It’s respectful of the source material – unfortunately, nothing new is introduced.

It has obviously been composed well though, with familiar lines being used to make scenes more poignant; for example the classic line of ”The son becomes the father, the father… the son”.

”Ma Kent” – This issues covers Martha Kent’s isolation while Clark is off finding Krypton, with art by Karl Kerschl and written by Marc Andreyko.

With Jonathan dead, and Clark in space, Martha has been left on the farm alone with only her memories and ghosts for company. The reader follows her through an average day in her life and at every corner she is haunted by memories gone by.

She is waiting for him to come back to her, so chooses to endure these ghosts and writes postcards to Lois from Peru, signed from Clark.

It’s such details which make this a well written story and, without a doubt, the best collected in this trade.

The story really adds a real depth of humanity that the film was lacking. You get a feeling that Lois and Martha truly miss Clark/Superman.

”Lex Luthor” – The third installment of the prequels details how Lex became a free man again, with the art by Rick Leonardi and written by the same duo behind the first story.

We join Luthor behind bars reminiscing over his previous run-ins with Superman. We then get to see him being released from jail. During this process we meet some of the other characters from the film’s rogues gallery, such as Kitty and Gertrude, the very wealthy old lady who Luthor uses to regain his wealth.

It’s a nice little story filled with little ties to help link Superman 2 to the new film. My personal favourite parts of the story are the scenes he remembers from the previous films, which are quite a nice touch to add. I mean who can forget the attempted sinking of half of California?

”Lois Lane” – This follows Lois through the process of writing her ”Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman” piece, with art by Wellington Dias and written by Marc Andreyko.

It has been 5 years since Superman disappeared and Perry White wants Lois to write a piece on why we still need Superman. She is not happy with the assignment, as she considers herself past Superman, but Perry insists. We then follow her motivating herself to writing about it, which includes having to talk herself into believing she still needs him.

We soon see she hasn’t gotten past Superman and is angry at herself for this revelation. She decides writing the article will get him out of her life for good. The story also covers Lois’s life between the films and how she came to have a husband and child.

Like the other Andreyko story in this trade it is very well written and adds far more emotional depth to the characters than the film ever did. My favourite panel is when Lois’s cigarette blows out. She thinks it is Superman, then realizes she is wrong and just holding onto the past.

Overview – The artwork in this collection is surprisingly consistent despite being drawn by 4 different artists. Unfortunately, none of it is particularly special.

The artwork is of a decent standard though; the only work that I dislike is in the ”Lex Luthor” issue, as it feels like a cheap copy of Tim Sale.

I managed to get this on Amazon for only £0.01(+shipping), so I wasn’t going to be devastated if it did turn out to be yet another badly done film tie-in. Luckily for me, all four stories were well written, with two in particular really adding to the experience of the film.

You will especially enjoy it if you love your original Superman films.

”You’ve got me? But… who’s got you?” moments of pure classic gold put into (good) comics for the first time.

4.5 out of 5 stars – A hidden gem.

It is well worth picking up and giving a read, even if you didn’t like the film itself. I will warn that the actual film tie-in book is terrible unlike these prequels, so make sure you buy the correct tie-in.

Essential Continuity:
Clearly not essential to the film, otherwise they would have been included. However, the stories definitely add depth to the film as well as links between the previous ones.

Read first:
Watch rather than read: Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980)

Read next:
Watch: Superman Returns (2005). Don’t read the comic adaptation.

« Back to the top?

Want to stay up to date? Click here to subscribe to updates by RSS!
You can also sign up to get updates by Email!
By | Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 3:25 pm | 0 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

Just a few things of note.

I added Reviews to their own spot on the top navigation bar and condensed Feedback/Contact to just Feedback.

I also added a footer to the forum to help with navigation a little bit. There’s still a lot more to be done in making the forum more usable, but it’s kind of low priority right now.

You may have noticed that the review format changed a bit, putting the publication info and links to the side of the cover instead of under (to match the database pages.)

In order for this to work in the feed, is has to be coded in in each post (instead of through custom fields like in the database pages).

So I updated the following early reviews to match our current format:

Viking Glory: The Viking Prince

The Golden Age Spectre Archives Volume 1

JLA Vol. 16: Pain of the Gods

Lex Luthor: Man Of Steel

Showcase Presents: Bat Lash

Also, Simon noted that Sandman: The Doll’s House references Hellblazer: The Family Man. So the Hellblazer trade was moved to be immediately before Doll’s House instead of shortly after it. They don’t interact directly in any other way, so it makes sense to place the books in this order so you get to enjoy the reference.

Want to stay up to date? Click here to subscribe to updates by RSS!
You can also sign up to get updates by Email!
By | Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | 2:28 pm | 5 Comments | Blog > Reviews

Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover) (Softcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: JSA: Strange Adventures 1-6
Issue Dates: October 2004 – March 2005
, ,

This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

Not enough contemporary stories are told about the early careers of Golden Age heroes. While “year one” era Batman is practically its own genre, this may be only the second modern age collection to tell a story about the JSA that takes place when the original All Star comics were being published.

It sounds like it could be interesting. There are elements I love here: Johnny Thunder wants to be a pulp writer and chronicle the exploits of the JSA. Sci-Fi author Jack Williamson is a prominent character in the story (and writes a very good introduction to this collection!) The antagonist is a mysterious Renaissance man who reanimates soldiers recovered from the killing fields of World War II – and arrives in a zeppelin, no less.

Good general premise, good setting and a team of characters that has been shown to (in the right hands) be able to be one of the most interesting and beloved groups of characters in modern comics.

Unfortunately, it falls flat.

It’s not terrible, mind you, just mediocre. There are several major problems with how it’s carried off.

First of all, JSA books should be character driven – this is a group of diverse individuals with drastically different powers and histories (even early in their history.) Unfortunately, Kevin J. Anderson (whose writing outside comics I’m not familiar with) takes the “Golden Age” mentality a little too far. When they aren’t flatly explaining the plot, the characters insist on spouting inane one liners. It’s cute at first, but there’s only so many times I can hear Wildcat and The Atom call each other “Little Guy” and “Big Guy” before I start cringing every time I see they’re in a scene together. I get that the book is an homage, but it’s heavy handed.

The character interactions are made a little stranger by the roster. Yes, the Star-Spangled Kid was around in the 40s, but there’s no explanation for why he’s hanging with the JSA here. Various characters seem to pop in and out of meetings and show up in battles after unexplained absence without ever so much as a nod from their teammates. There are a couple times where, while sitting around a table in the same room, people are misplaced from panel to panel. Small example, maybe, but it seems like the creators weren’t sure how to handle the large team.

The scenes that follow Jack Williamson are the better ones, as he shares some enjoyable interactions with his publisher and Johnny Thunder. What doesn’t make sense is how he gets entangled with the violent conflict in the story – it would have been better for the two plot-lines to run parallel and reflect each other thematically instead of becoming directly (and awkwardly) entwined.

Lord Dynamo, the villain of the piece, comes off as a little flat. He has potential, but his premise (and this is listed on the back of the book) of offering to use his extensive knowledge to end the fighting in Europe “if the society meets his demand to relinquish their amazing powers and abilities” is cliche and the idea that “to save the world, these legendary heroes must make a great sacrifice” is not for a moment believable. Of course he’s evil and of course they’re just going to end up hitting him and his cronies in various ways.

There are a few good spots, luckily scattered throughout the volume so it never gets too tedious. Apparently Starman is a fan of Jack Williamson’s work (and other pulp sci-fi) which is a nice nod to the 90s Starman’s passionate collecting of nostalgia. There is another moment with Williamson where he asks Johnny not to touch a painting, which I couldn’t help laughing at. Johnny is given a nice intro here with Williamson being skeptical of his campy origins – “Johnny, did you just make up those countries?”

The art, by Barry Kitson and Gary Erskine, is serviceable at its worst and wonderful when it’s great. Sometimes it was hard to enjoy the moments that were accompanied by the aforementioned cringe-worthy bantering. There are also times when it feels a little stiff, but many of the pages were excellently crafted.

It’s nice that the covers were included here – their pulpy novel style is great. They’re reprinted without copy so you can really enjoy them.

It’s possible that my disappointment with this volume was partially because I had such high hopes for an early continuity JSA story.

It isn’t the worst story – it’s readable and if you find a copy for cheap it’s good for an hour of your time.

It’s just not as good as it could have been.

Mediocre. Some very good moments, some really annoying ones. A solid 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Essential Continuity:
Not at all. I’ve placed it between the two All Star Archives that bump into WWII, and it’s got some moments that make for a recap of the JSA’s activities during the war (talk of the Spear of Destiny and foiling the Nazi plans on the home front), but I’m sure those same things are explained well enough in modern age stories. Maybe worth picking up if you’re a huge Johnny Thunder fan… but I’m not, so I don’t know if the portrayal of him is even fair.

Read first:
Pick up some JSA Archives! They’re more fun anyway – and real history! It was the world’s first super-team, after all!

Read next:
Besides the Golden Age JSA material, there was a small JSA ongoing in the bronze age that’s worth reading – it starts with Justice Society Volume 1. Or the Modern Age ongoings starting around 1999 collected in JSA Vol. 1: Justice Be Done. But I’d also like to point you towards The Golden Age, a much much better ode to this era of comics heroism. It was published as an Elseworlds, but I have a feeling that even it will have more effect on continuity than this miniseries.

« Back to the top?

Want to stay up to date? Click here to subscribe to updates by RSS!
You can also sign up to get updates by Email!
By | Monday, November 1, 2010 | 10:27 pm | 7 Comments | Blog > Reviews

Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover) (Softcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
View our database entry
Matthew Moses
Publisher: Pill Hill Press

This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

Most people have never read a Superhero novel. It’s understandable, the genre is most represented by comics (and film, now more than ever). Superhero novels are perceived as being comic rip-offs or tie ins, or worse, comic book movie adaptation rip offs and tie ins. They’re right up there with the officially licensed cereal.

So it’s always exciting to see someone tackle the genre from outside of a major creative franchise.

Proxies of Fate is a superhero book without a known character, from a small publisher, written by a new writer. Yet, with all this juicy obscurity, Matthew Moses’ second novel has been generating small rumblings around the net since its release in February of this year. A small part of that is because of its review-friendly public relations stance (Matthew sent me a copy to read and has made pdf copies available) but much of it is because the book is genuinely enjoyable to read.

I mentioned that this is a Superhero story, but there’s no spandex or secret identities here, and no modern book sits solely in one genre. The origin of our characters is cosmic (like Green Lantern and so many other heroes), all Superhero stories include a bit of the savior myth, and the pages contain much methodically researched historical fiction. It takes place in the 1930s and in many ways it is a love letter to the publications of that era.

Some of the language and much of the plot is shaped by a modern perspective, but the science fiction is as classic as it gets. Two alien races meet above the planet Earth. The first is the fleet of the Krush, a race of scaly lizard men ready to raze the Earth as part of their ongoing campaign to conquer the cosmos. The other, a solitary Theria, is a classic Gray: pale skin, big black eyes, and frail physiology. Their confrontation leads them to chose proxies among the people of Earth, who will in turn decide the planet’s fate through their interaction. The title, then, is a pretty straightforward description of the book’s contents.

As you can gather, the basic storyline is not startlingly original or exceedingly complex, but don’t take this to mean that it’s predictable or cliche. The science fiction elements here are used well and give a sense of geeky nostalgia. I assume that to a younger reader (who most pulps are really written for) the book could seem quite fresh. The action moves quickly and there are even layers of political intrigue that tie into the events of the period.

Moses pays particular attention to the character back stories and motivations. He likes to describe their appearance and history as if he was introducing them in a script, even for minor players.

Sometimes this can be tedious, especially towards the end when we know a character will only be around for a couple pages. I didn’t feel like I needed everyone to be so explained, but I could understand how it would work well for younger readers.

Often it brings them closer to that pulp comic world – where one might spend 10 minutes looking at an illustration of a particularly well drawn hobo who, while only in one panel, seems to have been given a certain amount of the artist’s love. Aspects like this contributed to my feeling that this novel would actually be an excellent comic if someone desired to adapt it. All the elements are there.

For the main characters, the focus is perfect. Chris Donner, the Theria proxy, is a WWI vet that travels across an America I felt more drawn to as he interacted with the lost souls of the depression. Li Chen, the unfortunate recipient of the Krush’s “blessing,” was a particular page turner – I was anxious to get back to his sections and see how the young Chinese peasant would come through his terrible situation and whether the powers would turn out to be more of a curse. Perhaps because this is a novel and not an ongoing comic series, the book never settles into filler plot and constantly has the excitement and discovery of an origin story building straight to a dramatic climax.

I did have some other minor quibbles which I figured should be mentioned. New writers often seem to (perhaps unknowingly) fall back on catch phrases or well known colloquialisms. Sometimes this lends a bit of realism (we all say these things, though we might feel embarrassed for being cliche) but it might also feel too forced – a character saying “when it rains it pours” could induce the reader to wonder if that was widely said in the 30s. Is it anachronistic? Probably not, but noticing it brought me out of the story. The occurrences were sporadic, but could still have been cut down.

Second, while the book is a nicely bound and slightly oversize production – good weight, solid binding – the font is a bit too large for my taste. I’ve seen this in a couple science fiction books now. It makes me feel like it’s a book for a little kid, but then I remember that when I was a little kid all the science fiction I read was in beat up old paperbacks with tiny fonts. I feel like they could have cut down on costs and made a normal size paperback with a smaller font. That’s my own anal retentive personal preference though and after I got past it, I didn’t notice it.

There was too much good in here to let little things like that really impact me. The story contained genuine surprises – including some fun cameos for aficionados, such as name drops for Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz. While we knew that the proxies had to eventually confront each other, the climax came together in unexpected ways.

The jaded bitterness I had come to expect from superhero tales wasn’t there. I was satisfied and ready for more.

Proxies of Fate, the second book by Matthew Moses and hopefully not the last. Check it out.

Note: While this review is for the paperback, the book is also available in a cheaper Kindle edition. In addition, Moses has posted the first few chapters online.

Highly recommended for young adults and great for fans of the pulps or superheroes. 4 out of 5 stars.

Essential Continuity:
This book stands on its own.

Read first:
No need, dive right in! If you’ve seen any classic science fiction or read some pulp novels, you may enjoy it a little more. But I think everyone has some exposure to the elements of pop culture that help this novel work.

Read next:
There are a lot of places you could go from here. Perhaps you’d enjoy Robert Heinlein’s early novels or The Best Alternate History Stories Of The 20th Century.

« Back to the top?

Want to stay up to date? Click here to subscribe to updates by RSS!
You can also sign up to get updates by Email!
By | Monday, November 1, 2010 | 12:07 pm | 4 Comments | Blog > Uncle Gorby's Corner Of Free Stuff

Hi folks. I hope Alex (our esteemed Uncle Gorby) doesn’t mind me borrowing his column from time to time while he’s on hiatus.

I wanted to point you towards another fun distraction. Since the Walking Dead is now a successful TV Show, it’s as good a time as ever to get introduced to the comic.

Luckily for you, Newsarama has put up the first issue for you to read!

Today’s Link:

The Walking Dead #1 is a black and white book put out by Image created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.

I’d actually never read any of it before today, but I really enjoyed this first issue. It’s extremely easy to get into, with no plodding beginning or unneeded explanation. It leaps right into the heart of things – showing you what makes the main character tick.

I’ve never been a big fan of zombies (I don’t like gore, believe it or not) so the book wasn’t really on my radar. But it’s reminded me that good horror is really all about exploring humans, not monsters.

Check it out!

Still Bored? Visit Uncle Gorby’s Archive for More Links or Visit Uncle Gorby’s Corner in the Forum!

Want to stay up to date? Click here to subscribe to updates by RSS!
You can also sign up to get updates by Email!