Superman: In the Name of Gog review

Monday, March 27, 2006

Unexpectedly moving. That's what I found myself, somewhat surprisingly, thinking after I finished the conclusion of Chuck Austen's Superman: In the Name of Gog -- unexpectedly moving. Granted, the jury's still out as to whether the conclusion was written by Austen at all, or J. D. Finn (whom Austen recently denied being), but if you take the trade simply as a sum of its parts, it actually works quite nicely -- suprisingly nicely. That's not to say there aren't some hiccups, including a largely unnecessary Lois/Lana dust-up, but the conclusion of the trade gets to the heart of what it means to be Superman in a way ... I just wasn't expecting.

In the aftermath of Lois's shooting in Superman: Unconventional Warfare, Superman rushes to his wife's aid. But while Lois recuperates during Thanksgiving in Smallville, the Kandorian villain Preus builds an army of white supremacists in the desert, Doomsday makes his way to Metropolis, and Gog sends a mutated villain to the Kent farm. Superman is weakened by a Kryptonite injection during Superman: The Wrath of Gog, but he still manages to defeat Preus and free Jimmy Olsen and the Martian Manhunter; seeking a cure for his condition, Superman ventures to Metropolis, where he's confronted by both a time-travelling army of Gogs -- before Doomsday comes to his aid. Gog is triumphant, torturing Superman for a millenia, before Superman's unwillingness to sacrifice innocents to save his own murdered family causes Gog to recognize the pain he's caused. A reformed Gog, and a reformed Doomsday, return Superman to his own time and undo the damage, warning him of the impending Infinite Crisis before they depart.

Clearer, perhaps, than even Action Comics #775, the conclusion of In the Name of Gog demonstrates why Superman is the world's greatest super-hero, bar none. An aged Gog tortures Superman for hundreds of years, offering Superman first the option to go back in time to save his murdered family at the cost of the destruction of Metropolis, and then later, even offers Superman the opportunity to murder an infant Gog in order to save his family. Every time, Superman refuses. In fact, Superman refuses so long, and so steadfastly, that solely by virtue of his unwavering conviction never to sacrifice an innocent life, Superman convinces Gog of the error of his ways. It is amazingly powerful, and even though gigantic punches are thrown throughout this trade, Superman ultimately defeats the bad guy only with the power of his own character. This is Superman, the Superman of Joe Kelly's Action Comics #783 who gave Major Disaster a chance, too, again by virtue of the power of his own character. This is a Superman who is so good that you just can't help becoming good in his presence. Chuck Austen's been the butt of a lot of ridicule in comics, but whomever wrote the end of this trade, In the Name of Gog shouldn't be discounted because it has Austen's name on it. It features Superman written at his finest.

At the same time, In the Name of Gog features Lois Lane and Lana Lang written at their silliest. In completely ignoring established comics continuity (where Lois and Lana are friends), Austen pits the two women against each other, making neither especially likeable (Lois comes out only a little ahead, in that at least she's not pining after someone else's husband). It's obvious here that Austen, admittedly, doesn't get Lois, and uses this situation to try to understand her himself; unfortunately, he never quite succeeds, making the Lois/Lana battle feel mostly just like petty bickering.

On one hand, Austen's contention that Lois fell in love with Superman but settled for Clark is false, as the Jurgens-era comics showed Lois falling for Clark; Ma Kent's contention, however, that Lois isn't always there for her husband does ring true, if only because writers who aren't sure what to do with Lois have often pulled her from the picture. Greg Rucka's Lois isn't my favorite, either; frankly, I'm looking forward to reading Gail Simone's Action Comics trade, where her work on Birds of Prey gives me faith that Lois and Clark's relationship will be done right; the Lois/Lana fight in Gog is best skipped for better parts of the trade.

Yet Another Comics Blog took one of the issues in this trade to task a little while ago because nothing happened in the issue, or, perhaps, too much happened. Indeed, Superman: In the Name of Gog with a lot of villains and a lot of sub-plots, and it probably is best read as a trade. But one can tell that Chuck Austen had plans that never came to fruition -- there's a interesting Creeper bit that just dies off, and we never do find out why it is Superman doesn't remember Gog, who he's met before. Again, these are points that have to be ignored. This trade is not perfect, but it's imminently readable, and probably moreso than people expect.

[Contains full covers, "The Story Thus Far ..." pages]

Continuing with Superman, I'm on to That Healing Touch now. And then to Green Lantern and Adam Strange, and soon to the Countdown miniseries. Slowly but surely ...

Infinite Crisis #5 review

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Infinite Crisis #5 was another enjoyable issue of Infinite Crisis; this, better than issue four, and issue four better than the first three. I'm coming to find that I'm enjoying Infinite Crisis more if I stop looking for a universe-encompassing story like Crisis on Infinite Earths, and instead treat it as a remarkable story about DC's Big Three--Superman, in particular.

In the wake of a second Earth appearing above our own, and the heroes from a number of teams suddenly disappearing, the remaining heroes gather to pray. On the second Earth, the Earth-2 Superman is stunned by his Lois Lane's death, despite the promises made by Alexander Luthor. The Earth-2's Superman's screams draw the attention of the Earth-1 Superman, who the Earth-2 Superman attacks. Only the intervention of Wonder Woman— spurred on by the spirit of the pre-Crisis Wonder Woman—can end the fight, and her lasso causes the Earth-2 Superman to recognize Luthor's betrayal. As he returns to Luthor's base, Luthor creates even more Earths, and the Earth-2 Superman splits into infinite counterparts. Meanwhile, Booster Gold and the new Blue Beetle gather a team of mostly non-powered heroes in the Batcave, where they plan to take on Brother Eye; Nightwing and Superboy team-up in an assault on Luthor's base; and a Flash returns, heralding the coming of Superboy-Prime, cloaked in the armor of the Anti-Monitor.

Geoff Johns touted this issue as, in the words of Mr. Terrific, "the calm before the storm," and I liked it a lot. The opening sequence really worked for me, with Terrific, Ragman, Hal Jordan, Blue Devil, and the Huntress—these are the kinds of random super-hero groupings that I expect from something called a "Crisis." While the team gathered in Batman's cave is just a little too Brave and the Bold for my tastes (Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, AND Black Canary? It feels like it's been done before.), I'm very eager to see a team of heroes go all out against Brother Eye. And the Nightwing/Superboy pairing is ingenious; it makes you wonder why no one's put these two legacy heroes together before, and I'm eager to see how that plays out in Teen Titans: Life and Death.

One of the best parts of this issue, however, was the eight or nine pages of pure Jerry Ordway goodness. Though at times the Earth-2 Superman's face appeared a smidgen puffy (bruises, perhaps?), Ordway's depictions of the JSA, and Superman and Lois Lane, shown. He has a clean, classy style, comic book-y without being cartoony, that really worked, and doubly-so as a representation of Earth-2. It looks like Ordway has a couple of covers and an issue of JSA coming up; here's hoping DC gives him even more to do, soon.

It was interesting to hear talk on the Internet that people thought the Flash that returned was Barry. Me, I totally thought it was Wally (I guess your first Flash is always your Flash). Looking back, however, I will grant that it's Barry's costume—the ears, the belt—but I'm still holding out hope that it's Wally behind the cowl. All things must end, and a lack of change would make things stagnant, but Barry had about a thirty-year run, and Wally's only had twenty; surely there must still be story potential in Wally somewhere.

Overall, however, the themes of Infinite Crisis still disturb me. To put too fine a point on it, we essentially have five issues of the Earth-2 Superman, arguably the first and greatest hero ever, being lead around by his nose by a Lex Luthor. Not only does it not portray him in a great light, but frankly, I don't even think it portrays him consistently with the way he was portrayed back in his regular adventures. Essentially, it might look like the Earth-2 Superman, it might sound like the Earth-2 Superman, but it's not him, and so it makes it tough for me to feel very much emotion for him. The point of Infinite Crisis seems to be to say that the modern heroes are just as good as the old ones—but you know, frankly, I never really had a lot of doubt about that to begin with. I don't think that people who think "modern heroes suck" are really in the majority. So while I'll be glad if the well-written, well-drawn Infinite Crisis can give the Superman titles a dose of confidence and the Batman titles a shot in the arm, I'm not convinced that it needed to be done at the cost of the Earth-2 Superman being remembered as the guy who let the Pantha-killer loose from limbo. But I'm still eager to see what the next two issues bring.

That's it for me. Various Superman and Green Lantern goodness on the way in a little while.

Mid-2006 Collected Editions DC Comics Trade Paperbacks Predictions List

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Welcome to the Collected Editions mid-2006 DC Comics Trade Predicitions! If you've been watching Collected Editions, you saw our beginning of the year predictions, and now with the year half-over (or, at least, half-solicited), it's time to look at what's coming up next.

[If you want to know more about The Sam Loeb College Scholarship Fund, or if you want to make a donation no matter how large or small, please send an email to SAMLOEB4@AOL.COM. For more information on the fund, click here for a Newsarama story with preview pages from Superman/Batman #26.]

Earlier, we talked about one of the things we thought we'd see in 2006 were trades ending at DC's One Year Later point, so that DC's trades could be more organized and regular across the board (the regularity of Teen Titans and JSA, let's say, versus the Superman titles). Well, for the end of 2006, I think one of the main things to look for us renewed numbering among DC trades. Let's consider, what are some of the foremost trades that aren't numbered? Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash. Of those, both Wonder Woman and the Flash are about to start over (with numbered trades, we're betting), and already on Amazon, the Superman and Batman trades are listed as Superman 1, Batman 1, and so on. Consumers, we're betting, like numbered trades, because it's easy to figure out where to start when you're looking at them in the bookstore. There's a great chance we'll see more trades take up numbers as we go.

And now, without further ado ...

All-Star Batman and Superman
- paperbacks of each of these are confirmed via Amazon; I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of these paperbacks are collected in Absolute editions.

Aquaman - Sword of Atlantis: Once and Future (#40-45) - long enough has passed that I'm pretty sure you'll never see an Arcudi or Pfeifer trade of Aquaman. Instead, expect DC to collect the first storyline of Sword of Atlantis, possibly before the year is up.

Batgirl: Destruction's Daughter (#65-73) - Frankly, if there weren't a new Batgirl trade solicited on Amazon, I wouldn't believe it. This title is cancelled as of One Year Later, and the buzz for Andersen Gabrych's run has been good, but not astronomic. Still, I'd be glad to see DC finish out the series.

Batman: Face the Face (#651-654, Detective Comics #817-820) - Collected Editions is pleased to note that we correctly predicted the second Batman: Red Hood volume, to be released by DC in June. Next up for Batman is undoubtedly Face the Face; Detective Comics will get a City of Crime trade, but issues #815 and #816 are strictly fill-in. I wouldn't be surprised if Face the Face is the "Batman 1" currently solicited on Amazon.

Gotham Knights - After Batman: Hush Returns, I think we can safely say farewell to Gotham Knights. There's little chance that the remaining issues, which stood away from Infinite Crisis, will be collected. As a comic that took up many of the roots of Batman: Shadow of the Bat, while injecting the title with a addictive super-hero, character-driven flavor, Gotham Knights was fun while it lasted.

Birds of Prey - Happily, the "Between Dark and Dawn" trade that we predicted at the beginning of the year is now a reality; unfortunately, there are still sixteen issues left un-collected before Birds of Prey jumps One Year Later. Quite of a few of those issues tied in to Infinite Crisis, so we would hope that DC would collect them -- but they might skip over them, too. Let's hope for at least issues 76-83 collected before the end of 2006, and keep our fingers crossed.

Catwoman - So far, there's been no Catwoman trade in 2006; I'm sure we'll see at least one before the end of the year. However, given that there's nine issues of Catwoman before War Games, and sixteen issues after -- and that the Wild Ride trade ended the "cartoony" art style on Catwoman -- it's just as likely that DC could skip the Paul Gulacy-drawn issues all together, and jump in with the Will Pfeifer-penned One Year Later issues. Which would be a shame for the completists among us.

DC: The New Frontier - I think an Absolute edition of this was rumored at a recent convention. I still think it's a lock.

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man - Despite a clear push in Infinite Crisis, we still haven't seen a trade of the new Firestorm series. My best is we'll definitely see a trade of the post-One Year Later storyline, or otherwise this series is on its way out.

Flash - The post-Geoff Johns Flash finale issues didn't get much attention; my bet is that we'll see a trade, likely before the end of the year, of the first storyline of the new series. Likely this'll be numbered "1", too.

Gotham Central - The forthcoming Unresolved Targets is a real treat. On one hand, with all the other trades coming out, I'd wonder if we'll see another Gotham Central trade in 2006; on the other hand, DC's been churning out the Sandman Mystery Theatre trades pretty quick, so you never know. The tie between Gotham Central and Infinite Crisis certainly helps. Regardless, we continue to think that the next trade will contain mostly Greg Rucka Gotham Central stories, that is, issues #11, 16-18, and 23-25.

Green Arrow: Into the Light (#52-59) - Collected Editions was pleasantly surprised by the gigantic Green Arrow trade that just came out--have you seen Moving Targets? It's massive! Issues 52-59 of Green Arrow are distinct Identity Crisis/Infinite Crisis crossovers; I think this trade is very likely before the end of the year.

Green Lantern: Hal (#7-9) - A new Green Lantern trade is already solicited on Amazon, with the unlikely name of "Hal." But with Green Lantern: No Fear collecting issues one through six, a Green Lantern trade that only goes up to One Year Later would be a very small trade, indeed. The second trade is very likely before the end of the year; this one bears watching.

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge - As predicted, this trade is confirmed.

Hawkman - At the beginning of 2006, Hawman #28-49 remained to be collected. Now we have the forthcoming Hawkman: Rise of Golden Eagle, which takes a big chunk out of the middle of that with issues #37-45. It's highly likely now that we won't see another Hawkman trade at all, but that DC will jump straight to collecting issues of the new Hawkgirl series.

Infinite Crisis - A hardcover of Infinite Crisis has already been solicited, and a paperback surely won't be too far behind. It remains to be seen how DC might collect the various crossover miniseries specials, however, perhaps along with the lead story from the Infinite Crisis Secret Files. It could be, however, that we'll see the OMAC Project special with the first Checkmate collection, the Day of Vengeance special with the first Shadowpact collection, the Rann-Thanagar War special with the Ion collection, and the Villains United special with the Secret Six collection. Keep watching.

JLA - Collected Editions correctly predicted the JLA: World Without a JLA trade soon to be released; as you know, that series has now been cancelled. Just as DC wants numbered trades, I'd wonder if the JLA trades nearing number twenty seemed to be off-putting to new readers. It's a sure thing that Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America series will be collected, likely with at least one hardcover volume.

JLA Classified: The Hypothetical Woman (#16-21) - Despite JLA Classified #1-3's disappearance, New Maps of Hell is soon to be released. Look for collections of "The Hypothetical Woman" and "Game of Chance" in late 2006 or 2007.

Justice League Elite: Volume Two (#5-12) - That there's been no word on the next volume of Justice League Elite is disheartening ... keep you fingers crossed for a release sometime in 2006.

JSA: Lost and Found (#76-82) - Remember, you heard JSA: Black Vengeance predicted here first! Another JSA trade is already listed on Amazon; Collected Editions expectation is that this'll collect all the issues up to One Year Later.

JSA Classified - We'll see the first arc of JSA Classified played out in the upcoming Power Girl trade. A collection of the Injustice Society story after that remains to be seen, as the storyline after that is a crossover with JLA Classified (and what a trade that'll make!).

Legion of Super-Heroes - The second trade of this series is already confirmed, and a third--featuring One Year Later and the addition of Supergirl--is a certainty for 2007.

Manhunter: Trial by Fire (#6-14) - Manhunter has survived not being cancelled before One Year Late, but from a trade perspective, the first trade was very short, and there's fourteen issues, six through nineteen, between the end of the first trade and One Year Later. Either DC's going to release another Manhunter trade in 2006, or this series, too, will jump to One Year Later without the issues in the middle; let's hope not. If we don't see another trade of this title by the end of 2006, I'd fear for the series' longevity.

Nightwing: The Devil You Know (#112-117) - DC's choice to jump the Nightwing trades forward--skipping the end of Chuck Dixon's run and most of Devin Grayson's--was a big surprise, and a disappointing one. Now, a second 2006 Nightwing trade is solicited on Amazon, likely collecting the Nightwing issues up to One Year Later. A collection of Bruce Jones' initial Nightwing issues is also a certainty for 2007.

Outsiders - This title has suffered from a somewhat wonky trade schedule; in 2005, we just saw one trade, albeit a massive one; in 2006, so far, we've seen three Outsiders issues collected in the Teen Titans crossover trade, Insiders, and five issues collected in Crisis Intervention, which also includes pages from other DC titles. The good news is that the Outsiders trades are caught up to One Year Later, and that there are undoubtedly many more Outsiders trades down the line. The bad news is, the chances of seeing another Outsiders trade in 2006 is uncertain. And if the next Outsiders trade doesn't contain the two Peter Tomasi-penned fill-in issues, #26-27, chances are we won't see them collected at all.

Robin - A new Robin trade, To Kill a Bird, is already solicited, collecting issues #134-139. That leaves seven issues before Adam Beechen takes over. It's hard to say whether DC will collect these Bill Willingham-written, Infinite Crisis-crossing stories, or whether they'll jump to the new material. The longer before this is solicited, the more likely it'll jump.

Superman/Batman: Vengeance (#20-25) - Amazon lists both the Superman/Batman #4 and #5 trades, but as #5 is listed as a paperback, this is more likely the paperback of Absolute Power. Whether Vengeance will include Sam Loeb's #26, and how DC will collect Mark Verheiden's issues after Jeph Loeb departs, remains to be seen. Look for this one in 2006.

Supergirl - A second Supergirl trade is already solicited on Amazon, and this will undoubtedly collect the first Greg Rucka storyline. Sometime in 2006 is likely.

Superman: Up, Up and Away (Superman #650-653, Action Comics #837-840) - Amazon Canada has an interesting listing for Superman, namely Superman 1, Superman 2, and Superman 3. Of those, on Amazon US, Superman 1 is listed as Infinite Crisis (Superman) and Superman 2 is listed as Superman: Up, Up, and Away. I think it's very likely that we'll see both collections of the This is Your Life Superman storyline (including Adventures of Superman #648) and the Kurt Busiek/Geoff Johns storyline. That would make about six Superman trades in the year of Superman Returns--not bad, I must say.

Teen Titans - A fifth (regular) Teen Titans trade is already solicited for 2006, likely containing issues #29-33, and featuring the Red Hood, and Infinite Crisis crossovers. But five is issues is somewhat small for a trade; it remains to be seen whether the Teen Titans trade, like the Outsiders trade, will contain the Simone/Liefield fill-in issues, #27-28. Personally, I hope so. And continuing trades in 2007 are a sure thing.

Wonder Woman: The Storm (#218, 221-226) - Personally, I was surprised at the brevity of the newest Wonder Woman trade, Land of the Dead, even if it does contain the Flash crossover issue. One would hope that DC will do readers the justice of finishing out the trade collections of Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman run, rather than jumping straight to the new series--especially given the Infinite Crisis crossovers contained within. We'll be watching closely for this in 2006.

A couple of miniseries that Collected Editions were watching, including The Question, Vigilante, Dr. Fate, and Rose and the Thorn, have not so far been listed for 2006, and our opinion is, chances are you can bid them good-bye. 'Tis a shame. On the other hand, there's quite a bit coming in 2006 that we're excited about, including the new Superman trades, and quite a few titles that bear watching for the dreaded "jump." Keep your eyes on Collected Editions, send tips if you hear them, and we'll be sure to let you know the latest news.

One more thing: The Collected Editions blog reached its one-year anniversary in February, and we'd just like to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone who's stopped by. Whether you're a regular poster, a lurker, or you were kind enough to mention us on your blog, thank you! Collected Editions is glad there's a place to go on the web to be excited about trades, and we're glad there are others who are out there excited, too. So do us a favor: leave a comment to this post. You can comment on the predictions if you want, or just say "here," but we'd just like to see who's listening. So come on, all you lurkers and quiet folk! Drop us a comment, and we'll keep doing the best we can to bring you the latest news news on TPBs.

Ninth Art ... and a note ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Usually I enjoy the discerning reading at Ninth Art, and I've had fun strolling through their Alphabetti Fumetti. But I don't care whether someone likes George Perez's work or not--Bulent Yusuf's column today, in which he shames the usually highbrow Ninth Art by letting his dislike for Perez's work get in the way of the purpose of the column -- to profile comics greats -- was nothing short of disappointing. And let me be clear: Bulent Yusuf is welcome to his opinion, but a good writer doesn't let his opinion get in the way of his article.


On a happier note, watch this space ... the Collected Editions 2006 Mid-Year TPB Predictions are coming ...