So here we are again with another round of new funnybooks. This week, we’ve got our first look at Tom King’s Superman and Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane, and also the latest issue of an on-going favorite…
The Green Lantern 9
by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
I’m starting to feel a bit like a broken record on this book, but the big-picture review for every issue is pretty much the same: It’s tremendously fun to read, owing equal parts to Silver Age insanity, 2000 AD attitude, and whatever pop cultural detritus Morrison and Sharp choose to draw upon for each individual story. They are clearly having a blast on this book, and establishing a new way to tell super hero stories in the process.
Or maybe a “new-old” way. The real joy of The Green Lantern, after all, is in the ideas. There is plot and character development in the mix, but it’s subtle, and it takes a back seat to whatever crazy new concept Morrison and Sharp have built the issue around. That’s very much an old school way to approach super heroes, and one that hasn’t often been practiced very successfully since Jack Kirby retired.
But Morrison’s approach to character is still more complex than what you’d get from Kirby or Silver Age DC. His Hal Jordan is a flawed champion, a guy who’s great at being a space cop, but who’s also decided that nothing else in life truly matters to him. That makes his personal life, we’re slowly discovering, a bit of a wreck. His only meaningful relationship is with his ring, and that can’t be healthy. I don’t know where that’s heading yet, but it’s the kind of long-term, slow-burn character work that Morrison’s specialized in at least since his time on Batman. And it’s not the sort of thing you’d really see in the kinds of comics The Green Lantern is pretending to be.
Those are very much the kinds of comics where you’d find the source material Morrison’s drawing on for this story, however.
That, as you can no doubt see, is the SUPERWATCH, a collection of outer space super heroes that Morrison’s pulled out of a multitude of Silver Age one-off stories and made into what looks like a 21st Century version of the Legion of Super Heroes. I mean, he’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, with characters like… Marvel Maid! Super-Male! Strong Woman! Hyperman! I mean… when Vartox is the cream of the crop…
…you KNOW you’re not dealing with the A-List.
But the Superwatch is only around for the first few pages of the issue. After that, we join Hal Jordan on vacation on the planet Athmoora, which is basically a D&D planet, where Hal goes to have fantasy adventures with his friends Samandra and Fekk the Satyr.
We join this latest Athmooran foray in progress, and are introduced to all these characters as if we should know who they are. Fekk, in particular, feels like the kind of character Morrison would have drawn out of some forgotten 1970s Jim Starlin comic. So it’s like… Last issue Hal was hanging out with his old pal Green Arrow from the O’Neill / Adams era, and now he’s tooling around with that old reprobate Fekk from the ill-fated Sword of Green Lantern run they did just before the DC Implosion.
Except Sword of Green Lantern never existed, and Fekk is brand new. All of Athmoora is brand new, in fact, and that cracks me up. Because now Morrison’s mixing new ideas with old, and doing it in such a way that you can’t tell which is which. It’s all just such tremendous weird fun, and I am having a blast with it.
The whole thing wraps up with the introduction of a new meta-villain called The Mad Lantern, and a group I’m calling The Guardians of the Multiverse, a team of multi-dimensional Green Lanterns drawn together to combat Mad Lantern, and whatever threat he poses to all of reality.
Because, you know… Why think small?
Superman: Up in the Sky 1
by Tom King, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope
So this is the book that reprints the Tom King Superman stories from the Wal Mart exclusive Superman comic. I’ve been looking forward to reading this story, since actually laying hands on those Wal Mart comics is stupid-hard (THANKS, Speculator Bastards!), and to be honest, I’m not sure I was willing to pay that much for a book that’s largely reprints of comics I already didn’t want to read. But this Tom King Superman thing… That has piqued my interest.
I wish I could say that it lived up to the anticipation.
I wish I could say anything about it at all.
But tonight, just three days after I sat down to read it…
I don’t remember anything about it.
Even as I sit here flipping through it, my memory is only half-jogged.
I know I read it.
I remember reading it.
But it evidently made no impression on me at all.
And the story is pretty generic, now that I’m looking at it again. Granted, the hook is pretty good: There’s a little girl in the hospital who survived some kind of super-attack, and saw another girl get taken away (“Up. In the Sky.”) by a man in a space suit. That’s all Superman has to go on, and he wants to find the missing girl. So that’s a cool mystery, with a nice “tug at the heartstrings” kind of set-up.
But from there, it goes into Supes… talking about finding the girl. But really making excuses for why he doesn’t find the girl. While he deals with a bunch of other super-threats that all look more interesting than the one he’s talking about. Big red dinosaur… Metallo… the Atomic Skull… Which…
Holy crap, the Atomic Skull.
I would MUCH rather read a really good Atomic Skull story than this.
But this is one of the things King does that he really shouldn’t do: he diminishes. It’s kind of the opposite of what Morrison’s doing on The Green Lantern. There, he takes lame-ass characters nobody remembers and does his best to make them cool. Here (and elsewhere), King takes awesome characters who should be carrying their own stories and reduces them to one-page non-threats. Distractions, at best, in a story that’s not as compelling as the ones you imagine happening in the throw-away panels.
That shit drives me insane.
But, anyway. Eventually, the little girl in the hospital dies, and that’s what it takes to make Superman actually get off his ass to go find the girl who’s been abducted. I think I remember being confused by this motivation on the first read-through. I mean… It’s Superman. Of COURSE he’s going to save a kidnapped child who’s been dragged off to a life of space-slavery, or whatever the hell’s happened to her. That’s just what he does. His reluctance didn’t make sense to me on such a basic level that I didn’t even understand what was happening.
So when I’m halfway through the issue, and he’s FINALLY gone off to Rann to track the Zeta Beam that was used to abscond with the kid… I’m just wondering why it took King so damn long to get him there.
Then there’s a head-trip sequence, where Superman’s super-brain parses Zeta Beam data. But it takes the form of ANOTHER series of scenes that look more interesting than the story being told, and I think my brain just smudged it all together with the previous sequence. In going back to it, though, I see that it actually involves this whole sub-story of a kid jumping off a roof trying to fly like Superman, and Superman feeling bad about it, and deciding to quit being Superman, and contemplating impossible suicide, and…
Once again, I’m left not feeling it. I understand that it’s not really happening. I’m just confused as to why this would be the heart of darkness for a mature Superman. That’s a “Year One” kind of fear, and while I am intrigued by the “they die if you save them, they die if you don’t” meltdown he has a couple of pages later…
…I’m not buying that a kid getting hurt while playing Superman would send him there at this late date.
By all of which I mean the thing that I always mean when I’m talking about Tom King writing the super hero icons: his take on them simply doesn’t jibe with my own. This issue (the back half of it, anyway) is well-considered and interestingly put together. It just doesn’t work for me because I have a fundamental difference of opinion with the author.
Your mileage may vary, but I still can’t give it more than…
Lois Lane 1
by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins
Hoo, boy, is Greg Rucka having a field day writing this book. Comics’ leading liberal, writing comics’ leading investigative reporter? It’s a match made in heaven, and so far I’m enjoying the hell out of it.
Much has been made already of Rucka’s potshots at the Trump administration (all of them well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned), but there’s a lot more going on here than that. He’s also got a sub-plot (started over in Bendis’ Superman books) about the public thinking that Lois is cheating on her husband with Superman. And I really love that. It’s a perfect modern world kind of problem, and one that I hope Rucka runs with over time.
There’s also something brewing on the international espionage front, involving the death of a Russian journalist. The Question (Renee Montoya version) is working with Lois on that investigation, providing the brawn to Lois’ brains. I like that combo, too. Lois can’t always rely on her husband to get her out of a jam, after all, and Batman’s got his own fish to fry. But the Question… There’s a character with historic ties to journalism, and it’s cool to see them reestablished with Montoya.
We could do a lot worse on the artistic front than Mike Perkins, too. He’s got a grounded, realistic style that fits this book perfectly. If I have a complaint, it’s that his look for Lois hasn’t settled yet. Her face varies more than it should in different parts of the story, to the point that I wasn’t always immediately sure who I was looking at. And that’s a bit worrisome. But overall, the book looks great, and I’m hoping he can settle into distinctive features for Our Heroine soon.
So, yeah. I’m pretty happy with this one. I don’t remember the last time I read a good journalistic mystery, but this is shaping up to be one.