Comic Book Review – Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4

Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4 (2022)
Reprints Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, Superman Annual #2
Written by John Byrne, Paul Kupperberg, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne, Ty Templeton, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Ross Andru, Curt Swan, Mike Mignola, John Statema, Ron Frenz

So it seems this will be the last volume in The Man of Steel collections which makes sense. These issues mark John Byrne’s final contributions to the Post-Crisis Superman, and the series title comes from his mini-series that rebooted the origins and supporting cast of the character. Volume Four manages to reintroduce some more elements from Superman’s mythos, updated for the 1980s. On reflection, this does not seem like a radical reimagining as it may have when the issues were first published. It’s very evident that Byrne is a fan of the Silver Age Superman but also wants to modernize the icon per his directive from DC Comics. This is also the first volume of reprints where Marv Wolfman was gone from Adventures of Superman, and thus Byrne was writing all three Superman titles monthly, plus penciling two of them.

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Comic Book Review – Black Hammer ’45/Black Hammer-Justice League

Black Hammer ’45 (2019)
Written by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes
Art by Matt Kindt

Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice (2020)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Michael Walsh

Black Hammer has been a fascinating experiment in superhero fiction, helmed by the immensely talented Jeff Lemire. Starting in 2016, he created a narrative about superheroes trapped in a small town who have to hide their powers. From there, he expanded and created a larger universe that serves as his personal commentary on all sorts of subgenres and archetypes within American comics. There have been some comparisons to Watchmen, but I don’t really think there are many similarities other than one writer’s voice at the center. Lemire has much more reverence for the medium than Alan Moore did or does. With both of these mini-series, Lemire can play around with tropes and, in one instance, DC’s superhero stable of characters.

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Comic Book Review – Strange Adventures

Strange Adventures (2021)
Reprints Strange Adventures #1-12
Written by Tom King
Art by Mitch Gerards and Doc Shaner

Tom King’s work is such a perfect distillation of the current state of mythic media in America today. On the surface, it looks incredible; he has some of the best artistic collaborators out there right now. Mitch Gerards delivered some gorgeously dynamic work in Mister Miracle and continues here. Alongside Gerards, handling flashbacks is MVP Doc Shaner. In an interview, King stated that Shaner draws comics the way people imagine they should look. He is definitely right on that one; it’s a beautiful combination of classical forms and sparks of more modern comics art. You will love each page of this series as it presents some gorgeous visuals. Yet, King himself is a troubling figure. He’s become a punching bag for the eye-willingly ignorant comicsgate right-wing morons. They are right to not like him, but they do so for all the wrong reasons. 

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Comic Book Review – Rorschach

Rorschach (2021)
Reprints Rorschach #1-12
Written by Tom King
Art by Jorge Fornes

I approached this with some trepidation, not because I’m in the camp that thinks Watchmen should be left untouched, but because it’s always hard to see how someone will be able to live up to the original. I also believe Damon Lindeloff’s Watchmen sequel series on HBO has been the best continuation of the material we’ve ever had, and with that being so recent, it felt odd to go back to the well so soon. Yet, Tom King, despite his flubs (see Heroes in Crisis), is still an intriguing comic book writer, and I knew he’d give readers an unexpected twist on something they likely thought they could predict. This isn’t about Rorschach, the character from the original Watchmen comic, but about people trying to further the ideology of someone like him. It’s a dark political story that remains enigmatic even after concluding.

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Comic Book Review – The Terrifics Part 2

The Terrifics Part 2
Reviewing The Terrifics #15-30
Written by Gene Luen Yang (with Mark Russell & James Asmus)
Art by Stephen Segovia, Joe Bennett, Doc Shaner, Jose Luis, Dexter Vines, Ray McCarthy, Matt Santorelli, Scott Hanna, Richard Friend, Jordi Tarragona, Sergio Davila, Max Raynor, Dan Mora, Vincente Cifuentes, and Brent Peeple

The Terrifics’ second half builds on its first without a hitch, despite onboarding a new writer. Gene Luen Yang is a comics writer I don’t know too much about. He penned a run on Superman that was part of the curtain call for the New 52 reboot. I have enjoyed what I’ve read of his run on the follow-up The New Superman, a series where a Chinese citizen is imbued with the power of the Man of Steel. I wasn’t sure what Yang’s interpretation of The Terrifics would be, whether he would lean into the Fantastic Four pastiche or try to carve out something unique. But, it’s clear, that once word came that the series would be canceled, Yang decided to pull out all the stops and have fun with the whole thing.

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Comic Book Review – The Terrifics Part 1

The Terrifics Part 1
Reviewing stories found in The Terrifics #1-14
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Ivan Reis, Jose Luis, Joe Bennett, Evan ‘Doc” Shaner, Dale Eaglesham, Viktor Bogdanovic, Jonathan Glapion, Jordi Tarragona, Dexter Vines, and Scott Hanna

In 2017, DC Comics introduced the concept of the Dark Multiverse to its wide array of alternate realities. It was the creation of writer Scott Snyder who was coming to the end of a large story cycle he’d been developing since New 52 started in 2011. The Dark Multiverse is a collection of realities that mirror the standard Multiverse most readers knew about. In the aftermath of Dark Knights: Metal, the crossover event that introduced all of this, a group of titles was spun-off under the banner of The New Age of DC Heroes, aka the Dark Matter line. By 2020, all eight books were canceled, and this subset of the DC Universe has essentially been forgotten already. 

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Comic Book Review – Wonder Woman and Justice League America Volume 2

Wonder Woman and Justice League America Volume 2 (2017)
Reprints Justice League America #86-91, Justice League International #65-66, and Justice League Task Force #13-14
Written by Dan Vado, Mark Waid, and Gerard Jones
Art by Marc Campos, Chuck Wojtkiewicz, and Sal Velluto

The Justice League of the 1980s/90s was winding down at this time. When Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis introduced their take on the classic DC superhero team, it emphasized humor and character relationships rather than non-stop action. However, the influence of the “extreme” and “edgy” Image Comics and other alternative publishers reshaped how DC presented its characters. The title most struck by this fad, in my opinion, is Justice League America which devolved into chaos. Dan Vado can’t solely be blamed for what this collection presents as multiple entries are authored by Mark Waid and Gerard Joes. The core story is meant to be an epic gathering of all the Leagues at the time, but it feels so incoherent and sloppy. 

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Comic Book Review – Wonder Woman and Justice League America Vol 1

Wonder Woman and Justice League America Volume 1 (2017)
Reprints Justice League America #78-85, Justice League America Annual #7, and Guy Gardner #15
Written by Dan Vado (with Chuck Dixon and Bill Loebs)
Art by Kevin West, Greg Larocque, Mike Collins, and Chris Hunter

The post-Crisis reinvention of the Justice League had been around for seven years by the time these issues were being published, and it had clearly veered away from its original tone. That makes sense; the book was on its third creative writer, and the comic book landscape had changed drastically since 1987. Image Comics and other upstarts gave DC and Marvel a run for their money using gimmicks and an injection of something new. Unfortunately, the consumers of the era weren’t aware how quickly these fantastically new comics would burn out and fade away, and so the Big Two saw themselves mimicking the “gritty” and “edgy” style of their young competitors. The result was some of the ugliest unreadable stories to come out, especially here with Justice League America.

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Comic Book Review – Superman and Justice League America Volume 1

Superman and Justice League America Volume 1 (2016)
Reprints Justice League Spectacular, Justice League America #61-68
Written by Dan Jurgens (with Gerard Jones)
Art by Dan Jurgens and Ron Randall

In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, one of the significant changes made to continuity was removing characters like Superman and Batman from the founding Justice League roster. Throughout the late 1980s, the JLA consisted of characters that weren’t considered headliners like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner. Once the creative team of Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis stepped down after a five-year run, and JLA was handed over to Dan Jurgens, a writer/artist who was doing some exciting things in the Superman books. So it seemed natural that he would bring Superman to the title as it was time for a new pared-down team to form. That would consist of stalwarts Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Ice, Fire, and two new additions, Maxima & Bloodwynd.

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Comic Book Review – Superman: Man of Steel Volume 3 (2021)

Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 3 (2021)
Reprints Superman v2 #12-15, Superman v2 Annual #1, Action Comics #594-597, Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #436-438, Adventures of Superman Annual #1, Booster Gold #23, and Superman: The Earth Stealers
Written by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens, and Jim Starlin
Art by John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Arthur Adams, Ron Frenz, Dan Jurgens, and Curt Swan

The post-Crisis Superman is such an interesting bridge between the Silver Age Superman and the contemporary image of the character now. The writers and artists on this reboot period were tasked with reimagining the very stories they grew up with and revered. So it’s to be expected that some elements harken back to those classic tales while other aspects of Superman’s mythos are injected with new life. This collection opens with a trio of one-shot annuals and concludes with an original graphic novel drawn by the legendary Curt Swan. The result is the feel of a reboot wherein the creative forces weren’t exactly sure how willing they were to drift away from the original.

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