28
Apr
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Chris
Action Comics #900
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer (Main Story): Paul Cornell
Artists (Main Story):Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle, and Gary Frank (yeeesh!)

As the book's newly reinstated letter column is quick to point out, Action Comics is the first super hero comic to reach the impressive milestone of a 900th issue. For the past 9 or so issues, Paul Cornell has been scripting this book and focusing on a critically acclaimed examination of Superman's greatest enemy Lex Luthor. This issue brings the Luthor storyline to a close while transitioning the focus of the title back to the Man of Steel.

The fact that DC gave Cornell the privilege/burden of such a prestigious milestone is a testament both to DC's faith in Cornell, and the fantastic job he has done on this title to date. I can't speak from first hand experience, I've only been following the reviews thus far, but I can tell you that across the board, Paul Cornell's Action Comics has been the Reviewer's choice for buzz book of 2010.

Superman is one of my favorite DC characters, and yet it is very rare that I find a take on the character that I like, outside of the work of Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Kurt Busiek (Although I would also love to see Chris Roberson have a shot at writing Superman free of the influence of the ill conceived and aborted idea that was J.M.S's "Grounded"). So having been without my Superman fix since Geoff Johns ended his tenure on Action Comics, and having kept an eye on all of the good things being said about Paul Cornell and his work on this title, I jumped at the chance to jump onboard this series as Cornell ended his first storyline and began a new one with Superman taking the spotlight once more.

Cornell had a lot of hype to live up to on this issue, and you know what? It was very good. Not phenomenal, he didn't re-invent the wheel by any means. But he did tell a very solid Superman/Luthor story that revealed just how well he grasps both characters. The action was as large scale as one would hope for. The issue reviewed major events from Superman's past as anniversary issues are want to do, but there was a logical and story driven reason for these reflections. Superman and Luthor go head to head in a battle of strength and wills that truly showcases the amazing grit and fortitude of Superman and the inescapable flaw of Lex Luthor.

The art, as it is for most anniversary issues, was a mixed bag jam session. Some faired far better than others with Pete Woods being the only real stand out of the bunch. Ultimately the different styles just didn't mesh well and the result distracted from this milestone issue much more than it celebrated the monumental achievement.

While I am less thrilled about the "Reign of Doomsday" storyline Cornell has inherited, I am eager to return next month. Cornell, like Johns and Morrison before him, understands that examining Superman's humanity does not have to come at the cost of doing away with the limitless and fantastical possibilities for adventure that this character and his world affords writers (Yes, in addition to a compliment to Cornell that was also another shot at J.M.S. I'm sorry, I usually like to stay positive with these things but the whole affair just really pissed me off. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please email reviewtobenamed@gamil.com or tweet at reviewtobenamed and I'll happily fill you in.)

Grade: B+




Brightest Day #24
Publisher: DC
Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter Tomasi
Artists: Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado

SPOILER ALERT

STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS ISSUE.

OR YA KNOW THE INTERNET

SERIOUSLY I'M GONNA SPOIL STUFF

NOT JUST STUFF THAT'S ON THE COVER

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED


I was originally going to write a longer column examining this series as a whole, but the more I thought about, the more I realized that this maxi series was neither stellar enough, nor terrible enough to warrant or benefit from any sort of in-depth scrutiny, and that my thoughts on the series as a whole are really very similar to my thoughts on this issue. They can be summed up as follows: A few neat ideas undercut by a lot of questionable ideas and a narrative that moved at break neck speed to set up the next big thing, overall resulting in a lot of missed opportunities.

Let me start off with the things that I did like. I liked the explanation of the threat our heroes were facing, as it made much more sense that I thought it would. I liked the Deadman and Dove interactions, these were always a highlight of this book. I liked the conclusion of Deadman's story, undoubtedly the strongest of the five narratives, it definitely ends on the strongest and most heart wrenching note. I liked the art. The different teams all working together, jamming on what is essentially one big long showdown in the Star City Forest, was not nearly as distracting as similar artistic relay races are (See above review of Action Comics).

What I didn't like was the still very vague and overly complicated plan the White Lantern had for our heroes to save earth. It seems like Johns and Tomasi were really having difficulty connecting the narrative of these 12 characters leading many of their missions to stretch the limits of logic and practicality. Osiris for instance (not a main player in this series) was brought back so that he could help bring his Sister Isis back. Ok, so why not just Bring Isis back and skip the middle man? Same thing with Professor Zoom's mission to bring back Barry Allen. And you could make an argument that neither Isis nor Allen were truly dead (dontcha love comics?) but I still felt like they were really unsatisfying justifications as to why these characters were brought back.

The other central protagonists of Brightest Day: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl, continue their best cover of Captain Planet this issue, even going so far as combining their powers within the new avatar of life on earth. I'm not kidding you, at very least Dove didn't jump in there to represent "heart." Say what you will about the various strengths and weaknesses of each character's respective story lines, the fact that in the end their ultimate end goal was to become spirit guides for their most closely associated natural element, and run interference for the true protector of earth is just"¦disappointing.

The topic of discussion on everyone's mind with the reveals of this issue and the end of this series is the ramifications to the DCU now that certain characters who have been exclusive to Vertigo are being reintegrated back into the DC Universe Proper. Yes, the new protector of Earth is Swamp Thing, and the issue ends with a brief cameo from none other than John Constantine. Yes this is an exciting and controversial move, the kind that will get fans talking and build some media buzz.

Swamp Thing (and Constantine) to a lesser extent really steal this issue. I think DC, Johns, and Tomasi's choice to focus on Swamp Thing and misdirect the conversation about this book with John Constantine's arrival is indicative of a greater problem DC has as a publisher and that is missing opportunities and squandering potential. The whole point of this maxi-series (regardless of what Johns and Didio intended or will tell you they intended) should have been reestablishing and elevating DC's lower tier A-List of characters.

If you look at the current DC publishing catalogue, you'll notice something strange (no not that the Bat titles represent a good fifth of the output, that's normal). See when you look at what DC is publishing, the most popular characters are all represented (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash, some with more than one title) and many of DC's more obscure yet fan favorite characters are also represented (Booster Gold, Jonah Hex, Power Girl, and a plethora of Bat associates and former sidekicks). Yet many of DC middle tier characters, namely the ones who until now were currently starring in Brightest Day are sorely represented and have been absent or struggling to support a title for years now.

With Brightest Day, DC had these characters under the brightest spotlight they've been able to shine their way in awhile. And rather than bringing these characters back to basics, highlighting the core elements that makes them unique, showing us the intrinsic specialness that allows them to endure, the story focused on revising origins (confusing revisions too) and tying into an overly convoluted super story that in the end did nothing more than set up DC's next big thing, the reintroduction of the Vertigo characters.

Yes. We know that Aquaman is spinning off into his own series by Johns and Reis after this (and I get the strong vibe that at very least Firestorm is getting one too), but why not announce that in the final pages of this issue, as the conclusion of Justice League Generation Lost announced a new ongoing Justice League International.

DC should have kept the focus squarely on the most clean and simple interpretation of these characters and then spring boarded each one off into new ongoing series following the conclusion of this story, helmed by some of DC's most buzz worthy young writers (My picks would be Firestorm by Chris Roberson, Hawkman by Scott Snyder, Martian Manhunter by Peter Tomasi, and Deadman by Kelly Sue DeConnick ((LOCK HER DOWN DC, DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE YOU DID LOSING NICK SPENCER!!!!)))

But maybe the reason they didn't announce any new titles featuring the supposed stars of Brightest Day is that after this issue, who would care about anything but the Vertigo characters, as Aquaman, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, and Firestorm really took a back seat to these characters in this issue despite the fact that they had headlined the previous 23 issues.

Standing on its own merits this was a decent issue, but viewed as a conclusion to a year long storyline and considering what it did accomplish as opposed to what it could have accomplished, ultimately, this was a disappointing book.

Grade: B-


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