Superman Year One #1

Superman Year One #1

Before I say anything else, let me just put out that I have no idea what this comic is really about or what its goals are, other than a Supes origin story obviously. I’m reading this solely out of an unavoidable urge to read and review a comic book I have already pre-judged to be garbage. Year One is a new series written by Frank Miller. I really do not like Frank Miller. I only kind of like his older work, and I really don’t like his newer work. His art specifically is criminally bad, and shouldn’t be allowed to be published by anyone with a functioning brain. His writing may have some redeemable qualities but I simply haven’t been impressed with anything he’s done in a long time. But wait, turns out Frank Miller isn’t doing the art for this comic book. Maybe the dream isn’t completely dead. Who better than John Romita Jr. to helm the art on this crazy new Frank Miller comic!? Seriously, if you asked me: “Anthony, if there’s one artist who could compete with Miller’s trash tier art style who would it be?” Well, I’d answer almost immediately James Romita Jr.. Which sicko at DC decided to pair these two together? These are 2 of my least favorite people in the comic book industry today, so what better than to read and review their new comic book about my favorite Superhero? I genuinely find most comic books I read to be at least passable. Some outliers exist here and there but come on. Read my reviews. I’m most often giving comics glowing scores and mentioning why some of the less than great things are balanced by the good. I’m not sure I can deliver that here. There’s a major uphill battle, and I’m not all that interested in winning it, so this comic has a lot to prove. Let’s jump in.

Superman Year One has a lot of storytelling in it, and it’s a very long comic at that. I don’t want to go into heavy detail, so we’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. First off, this first issue doesn’t really follow the logical “Year One” branding. #1 follows Clark through the first 18 years of his life, from Krypton exploding to his high school graduation and a little beyond. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I think they’re just a little trapped by the Year One labeling which is well known within the DC Comic world. I’m glad Frank Miller decided to not take that labeling too literally, and write the story he wanted to write. The comic is told in a somewhat strange third person classic storytelling type of way. It sometimes feels like a poem or a nursery rhyme like Twas the Night Before Christmas. Also, thoughts and feelings are accessed by the narrator on an individual character basis depending on the situation. The omnipotence of the narration only follows one character at a time which is a little strange. It’s a little hard to explain unless you’ve read the style he’s writing in. This style is particularly strange in the first 1/4th of the comic or so when it focuses on baby Clark Kent. The narration begins very simply and babyish with few words as Clark is learning and absorbing his surroundings with his adoptive family. This narration evolves and grows with Clark as he becomes older, even though the narration doesn’t solely take place within Clark’s mind. It’s very weird but it’s an interesting enough style. 

The beginning chunk of Year One follows Clark through the first few years of his life as he slowly comes into his own.  His adoptive parents can only look on as baby Clark sets the house on fire with his heat vision because his food is too hot, or runs way too fast in front of them, or jumps way too far away from them. It’s fun to see this much younger Superman utilizing his powers. Most origins have Clark developing this stuff much later on. Seeing a baby with god tier strength and super powered reactions to his emotions is pretty clever, and Miller keeps it from being over the top.  

The bulk of the comic focuses on Clark’s high school life. While he’s learned from a young age just how powerful he is, and how careful he needs to be in his everyday life, the high school drama he faces pushes his limits in ways he hasn’t before. So begins an internal struggle with how to properly utilize his powers. A gang of bullies practically run the school, and as they become more and more bold with their antics, Clark becomes more and more unsure how to properly handle the situation. He could easily annihilate these people pretty much by looking in their general direction, but obviously that’s not the Clark Kent thing to do. That’s what makes this character so endearing to me. These conflicts exist to form Clark Kent into Superman. It’s what Zach Snyder tried to show in Man of Steel and it’s what Miller is trying to show here. Superman is overpowered as all Hell. When pushing someone down could literally kill them without much effort Clark has to learn to put serious limitations on himself both physically and emotionally, and I think Miller does a really admirable job showing this aspect of Clark both in these high school situations and throughout the entire comic. 

By the time Clark graduates high school he’s ready to see the world. As his father has encouraged him throughout the comic book to use his powers for the sake of humankind, (a little pointedly at times, perhaps in direct contrast to Snyder’s take on Clark’s dad in Man of Steel) Clark heeds his advice in his own way and enlists himself in the Navy as an attempt to see the oceans of Earth, step one of his master plan to “know his planet”. Why can’t he supersonic fly his way around the world and see the oceans? Well that’s just not emotional enough. We’re given some tear jerking goodbyes from his parents and his girlfriend Lana that are kind of ruined by the weird narration style but well written nonetheless, and Clark begins his life changing journey away from home.

First and foremost, I think that this comic from a story only perspective is beautiful. I really really enjoyed the things that happened in this issue. I think executionally the comic has some faults, and I think specifically with dialogue there are some jarring moments. Additionally as always, Frank Miller’s weird political leanings and opinions rear their ugly head a bit here. I’m all for weird ideas and concepts I don’t really agree with in the content I consume, but it’s a bit too on the nose for me at times. I’ve said the same for things I do agree with. Again the narration style struggles to know exactly what it’s trying to convey at times, but I’ll stop rambling about that specific topic. To my own surprise, I think Miller wrote a really good story from beginning to end with this issue, and it’s by far the most redeeming quality.

The art is kind of difficult to give a clean review of as well. I can say confidently that this is the best Romita Jr. has to offer. Now, is that a compliment or not? I’m not really sure. When Romita isn’t drawing people I think his art is phenomenal. His backdrops and settings look so damn good. When Romita is drawing people they’re hard to look at. That being said, I think it’s easy to get used to in this comic specifically, and certainly not the worst I’ve seen from him. This comic did teach me that Romita can only draw one head size, as we constantly see young teenage Clark with a massive adult sized head on his skinny teenage body throughout the issue. That’s probably a little nitpicky, but my god in some shots it bothered me so badly. I’m stuck wondering what this comic book would have looked like with a different artist on the helm. While I think Romita’s style does cater best to this grainy country setting, I simply don’t like his art, even in this issue where it looks the best that I’ve seen.

While I’m going to reserve my judgments on issues to come in this series (I’m not sure how long it’s going to be), I think this comic book would hail as one of the best origin stories put to comics if it stopped right here and existed as a one off “first 18 years” kind of deal. Again, the story of this comic book is really good, but I’m afraid of where Miller is going to take it from here, and I’m even more afraid of how Romita is going to draw it from here. Year One #1 was slow and emotional and it didn’t care how long it took to tell you a story from beginning to end. It started great and ended beautifully. But alas, all good things must continue until they’re not good anymore. I adore Superman, but I’m just not sure I see myself continuing with this series. I’m simply satisfied with this, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for issues to come, and if they’re praised as much as this one was I might have to read anyway. Props to Miller though. He gets a pass from me on this comic.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

DCeased #1

DCeased #1

What’s a DC comic book story event without a ridiculous name right? DCeased is the next big event for the DC mainline continuity, and it’s something that both Snyder and Capullo have been teasing these past few months as fans have watched their mysterious tweets and mentions of something stirring within DC. Something they’ve been calling their final Batman story together. To be honest, It’s been difficult to keep up with, especially with things like Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis still steadily hitting shelves in a painfully slow but no doubt deliberate pace. I know very little about this new story going in, but naturally I hear the names Snyder and Capullo and I’m immediately on board. Their Batman run of 2011 is legendary, and I have no doubt whatever they’re cooking up hidden behind all this fluff will be glorious.

The first half of so of this first issue follows Darkseid, an evil god and one of the most powerful entities in the DC universe. His recent invasion of Earth is quickly answered by the Justice League, who bring his swift defeat at the hands of a not-so-happy-to-see-him Superman. Defeated, Darkseid retreats, though he’s already retrieved what he was looking for elsewhere. Cyborg, created by technology akin to the Anti-Life Equation, an extremely powerful and dangerous ‘thing’ Darkseid has spent his entire life trying to find was Darkseid’s target all along. Now kidnapped by the minions of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home world, they work tirelessly to tear the Anti-Life Equation from Cyborg’s cybernetic body. Though perhaps with some impatience and eagerness for the prize he’d spent so long trying to obtain Darkseid finds himself in a less than ideal situation, forcing the Anti-Life equation out of Cyborg and sending shock waves throughout the universe as a result. Though Cyborg is able to return to Earth during this time, his connection to the digital world causes a heap of trouble, as the now revealed Anti-Life Equation uploads itself onto the internet all over the world, festering as an incredibly malicious virus and in turn, a mind altering disease. Hundreds of millions across the planet become plagued with the Equation and lose their minds, going berserk and killing everything in their path. The Justice League is forced to move quickly, though as they’re forced to sever their connection to the web they find themselves scattered, unable to contact each other.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t expect zombies. I’m not a fan of them, but I suppose I should have known just by looking at the cover and reading the name. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though, and I’m always willing to give comics a shot, especially for DC. Disregarding the zombie element for a second, the style of this comic’s writing and the buildup to the end of the comic is pretty entertaining. The story obviously revolves primarily around Batman, but the Justice League which has now expanded quite significantly, now similar to the old JL roster, have their roles to play too, and it’s all handled quite well. The art is the comic’s primary weak point, but I’ve certainly seen worse, and I think the art direction is something that could grow on me after a few issues. We’ll have to see how this comic continues and how it ties back into Snyder’s storylines he’s stitching together, but to be honest, I hope the zombie stuff doesn’t last the whole run.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Detective Comics #1000

Detective Comics #1000

It’s somewhat crazy to see this issue finally hit shelves. Every month around the time we order comics I’ve been mentioning the slow approach of this landmark issue and just like Action Comics with Superman there’s a lot of anticipation around this comic. Similar again to Action Comics, Detective #1000 went the tribute route by making a near 100 page collection of multiple short stories by well known writers and artists throughout Batman’s long comic book life. While that basically means you’re sitting down to read three comic books worth of material, the names floating around in this comic are well worth the time to check out. With Snyder and Capullo headlining the comic, they’re already putting themselves in a winning position.

Detective 1000 clearly focuses around telling stories of all shapes and sizes within the Bat universe. Snyder’s story is emotional and meaningful with character driven elements as they always seem to be. Paul Dini’s story revolves around Harley Quinn and much of the silliness around Batman’s rogues gallery. Further stories focus on the Bat’s combat prowess or his unbeaten detective skills. Darker story elements appear in some while lighter appear in others. The entirety of the comic really displays Batman’s potential in storytelling diversity. It’s also why so many different writers have succeeded with the title throughout the years writing in very different ways. The Patrick Gleason comic book of Batman & Robin for example, was an extremely different story in both theme and style than Snyder’s Batman which ran parallel. The multiple ways writers can succeed with Batman and the world around him is really displayed here, even more so than Superman’s #1000 issue was, who often gets criticism for his lack of good storytelling.

Though none of the stories directly relate back to the current continuity with Tom King’s run with Batman or the Detective Comic’s team, fans of Batman’s history and the character itself will find stories worth reading here. This is really just a celebration of Batman over anything else, and thus #1000 becomes a trophy issue. If you’re not interested in that, it’s probably not worth the extra $ you’ll have to spend to pick this up. That being said, this comic is by no means half-assed, and those that have put their time and effort into both this single comic book and Batman as a whole in the past 80 years truly love this character, and that show’s here, which is important in and of itself.


5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Young Justice #1

Young Justice #1

  I know I’m a little (lotta) late to the party on this one, but I think this comic deserves some of my attention. I’ve always been a big fan of the young superhero teams in the DC comicsverse. I’ve always found them to be far superior to Marvel’s, and I think that’s part in due to the god level animated television shows that DC was consistently putting out in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Young Justice, Teen Titans, Titans, etc. have all had their miracle runs over the years, and I think there’s a ton of characters on these teams that we remember fondly and always return to. People in their 20s and 30s grew up watching/reading Teen Titans and Young Justice so I think the younger audience is always ready for more of that young adult comic book content. I’ve always been a Robin fanboy myself, so seeing characters like Dick and Tim return to the teams they were so renowned for during the turn of the century is genuinely exciting. I do have some reservations about Bendis, who’s spearheading this ‘Wonder Comics’ line featuring the younger generations of DC heroes, but Gleason, the new YJ artist, is perhaps my favorite artist of all time, so I was ready to finally jump in and see what the new series had to offer.

Young Justice #1 follows the reforging of the team with a couple of new faces and some very familiar ones. There’s a bit of spoilery in the lineup, so I’ll avoid any names, but the cover will obviously give you a decent idea. An alien invasion by a group of Gem soldiers from Gemworld, an old DC universe that I don’t think has really made an appearance since the 20th century is good cause for the Young Justice team to meet up. It’s unclear why they’re all in the same place at the same time, or what really even sparked the return of some of the characters otherwise forgotten by the New 52 continuity reboot, but they’re here and they’re teaming up once again to put a stop to these evil-doers. What better than an invasion of low tier enemies for a team’s introduction comic to clean up, ey? In natural DC style, the various heroes new and old seem to easily defeat the Gems in question, but as Robin unintentionally learns, there’s more to this invasion than a simple declaration of war and a petty attempt to conquer the planet, so it seems there’s development to come with this Gemworld callback. Robin has no choice but to reforge the previously broken team and tackle this new threat.

It’s very unclear whether Bendis was supposed to keep this comic book in continuity or not. It seems like a very loose yes, and I’m not sure how I feel about that in general. While I do think DC was trying too hard during the New 52 era to keep everything strictly in line with their new continuity, Bendis also shouldn’t be allowed to retcon and shrug off everything that doesn’t fit his vision. Apparently, that’s Bendis’ style, so I suppose it’s time to get used to it. Regardless, the writing felt littered with plot holes at times, and it kind of felt like we’re expected to just not question anything and enjoy the comic. I personally think that’s lame Writers should find a balance between playfully ignoring continuity problems and adhering to them. I’m not sure bendis is doing that here. Story and decision making aside though, it’s the characters and Gleason’s art that really carry this comic book to the level that it’s at. Individually the members of the Young Justice team are still really enjoyable, and there’s some great throwback moments to the old days. Gleason’s vibrant and almost childish art style has some grittier style to it here, and as always, it’s unbearably good. My reservations remain about Bendis even now. There’s a reason he left Marvel with a questionable reputation, however, I’m completely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I look forward to seeing him hopefully prove naysayers wrong. With a comic like Young Justice, he better not prove them right.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
New Talent Showcase #1

New Talent Showcase #1

Every year DC puts out 1 or 2 DC Talent Showcases: a super oversized single issue comic book displaying the new and upcoming talents the DC Comics company is attempting to grow and turn into world class comic book writers and artists. It tends to run under the $9.99 typical price point that a lot of comics this size fall into, and it’s an awesome opportunity for up-and-coming talent to show the comic book world what they’re made of in ways they weren’t able to before. It’s difficult for obvious reasons to make it in this industry. It’s small and its community isn’t exactly mainstream. New figures trying to make it into the comic world only have a few options when trying to make a name and a brand for themselves: attempt to spread your name on Twitter, go independent, or struggle your way into one of the big two (DC / Marvel). It can be a tough and unforgiving road with not a ton of exposure, but this New Talents Showcase is an awesome opportunity for a lot of these newbies to show their stuff, and it’s always an exciting read in figuring out what DC has in store for the future of their creative teams.

Showcase #1 focuses on 6, 12 page stories that showcase  new artists and writers on each. The stories fall almost perfectly across the different styles and genres in the DC comic universe, and it’s apparent that each team was brilliantly assigned to a certain style and execution. These showcases are like team projects within a class. The Batman story is dark, broody and slick. Constantine’s is psychedelic and rightfully magical. Catwoman’s is sleek and sassy, Green Lantern’s (Awesomely focusing around the fan favorite Lantern John Stewart) is as sci-fi heavy as ever. Zatanna’s is graceful and fantastical, and Wonder Woman’s is powerful and unwavering. Each creative team takes the best parts of their respective characters and really runs with them, and each short comic is genuinely really good. They feel like classic return-to-roots comics, and while that doesn’t always work in an ongoing series in the modern world of comics, these stand alone comic books really do show what these teams are capable of.

I remember enjoying the Talent Showcase from last year quite a bit, but this comic book really feels like something special. All 6 stories are beautifully written and perhaps even more beautifully illustrated. You can tell there’s a ton of passion going into these, and while they’re perhaps not something as legitimate as an ongoing series issue or a massively successful indie project, these showcase comic books show a great amount of potential for these artists and writers going forward, and that’s really invigorating. Most of these people are young, and their grasp on the characters they’re writing are top notch. That alone is really reassuring for the future of DC’s comic book teams, but more than that it shows an undeniable presence of comic book talents still in love with these characters and still in love with superheroes. In the light of Image Comics’ success and the uprising of non-superhero comics over the past few years, it’s good to see these type of comics aren’t going anywhere.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
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