All posts by Don MacPherson

Gravity Fails

Skyward #1
“My Low-G Life, Part One”
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Rick Lopez Jr.
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Normally, it’s characterization that makes or breaks a comic-book title for me. If I can relate to the characters, if they really feel like they live and breathe beyond the two-dimensional confines of the page, that’s often what resonates with me. Skyward offers some strong characterization, but with this first issue, it’s the premise that grabs the reader’s attention. The notion of a world that loses its gravity is presented as both a horrific tragedy and a heaven-sent miracle, and both perspectives are true. What makes this presentation of such an immense idea work, though, is how focused it is. Writer Joe Henderson takes us into just one small corner of a world without gravity, with a small cast of characters — which just happens to include a pivotal player in the story.

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Superman Isn’t the Only Action Hero

The comics industry — at least the one in North America — achieves a significant milestone this week with the release of Action Comics #1000. It’s not just that it’s the first title in this marketplace to achieve that long a run, but it’s also because of what that title represents. Action Comics #1 in 1938 introduced Superman and spawned an entire genre of fiction, one that now dominates pop culture. Sure, Superman wasn’t necessarily the first costumed hero — there were others in the pulps before him — but the Man of Steel resonated with an audience in a way no other adventure hero had before.

But as we celebrate this moment 80 years in the making, it’s worthy to note Superman didn’t lead us on this cultural journey alone. Action Comics #1 also introduced Zatara the Magician, and that character’s legacy lives on in Zatanna, who’s broken through in pop culture as well, albeit to a lesser degree than Superman. Other characters joined them in the initial anthology issue: Chuck Dawson; Pep Morgan; Sticky-Mitt Stimson; Scoop Scanlon, five-star reporter; and Tex Thomson (later Mr. America and the Americommando) among them.

As I looked back on my four decades of memories of Action (half of its unprecedented run), it occurred to me my favorite stints weren’t linked exclusively to Superman stories, but rather to issues that included and involved a diverse array of DC characters.

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Discovering Treasures of Bronze

Used-book stores and flea markets were key for this small-town kid who loved comics and didn’t have access to a comic-book store until his high-school years. But even with a great local shop these days and the availability of just about anything a comic collector could want online, I still like to hit a flea market from time to time in search of treasures.

The problem I’ve encountered, though, is that many vendors at these markets and even at used-book stores are turning to price guides — both printed and online ones — to guide them in pricing comics. Often, they don’t know how to grade or interpret those guides — I saw one flea-market vendor offering a copy of Freedom Fighters #1 that looked as though it had been run through the wash for $10; it wasn’t worth a quarter, though I would’ve paid 50 cents to read that bit of comics history from 1976. Other vendors don’t completely understand the marketplace, such as those who feel Superman #75 from late 1992, featuring the “death” of the Man of Steel, should be worth big bucks, but they don’t understand just how many copies of the first printing are out there and how many other ways there are to read that story.

But once in a while, you happen upon a vendor at a flea market who knows what a flea market is about: haggling and clearing out stuff he or she doesn’t want lying around anymore. And this weekend, at the weekly Sunday flea market in a school gym, I happened upon just such a vendor. In addition to many non-comics related flea-market fare, he had a small stack of Bronze Age comics, all bagged and boarded, most with sticker prices ranging from $14 up to $40. Definitely pricier than what I was looking for, but the array of these 1970s and 1980s books were just so appealing.

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Pug Drunk Love

Domino #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: David Baldéon
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Greg Land (regular)/Elsa Charretier, David Baldéon, J. Scott Campbell and Rob Liefeld (variants)
Editor: Chris Robinson
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

I was torn when it came to the decision to purchase this comic book. I’ve been a big fan of writer Gail Simone for years, but when it comes to Rob Liefeld creations such as Domino, I generally have zero interest in them (though some writers, such as Simone, have convinced me otherwise with runs on Deadpool in the past). A retailer friend raved about the first issue of Domino online Tuesday, so I decided to trust in his recommendation and my faith in Simone’s skills. While her trademark humor definitely offers some appeal here, the character’s original quality as an empty vessel, crafted only as a Kewl concept when she arose in the early 1990s, still appears to haunt the property. There’s a lot of fun action here, but little in the way of characterization.

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I Can’t Thrive at 55

The Season of the Snake #1
Writer: Serge Lehman
Artist: Jean-Marie Michaud
Translation: Edward Gauvin
Cover artists: Simon Roy and Jean-Marie Michaud
Editor: Lauren Bowes
Publisher: Titan Comics/Statix Press
Price: $6.99 US

I think North American comics enthusiasts need to be paying closer attention to Titan’s re-releases and translations of Euro-comics under its Statix Press imprint, because the UK-based publisher bringing some real gems to potentially wider audiences. Originally published in French as La Saison de la Couloevre in 2007, Season of the Snake is one such gem. Like many other European science-fiction comics, it’s immense in scope, meticulous in its level of detail and challenging in the breadth of the world-building. But what draws you in here is how grounded it is in the face of that other-worldly imagination.

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Justice Replayed Is Justice Replied

I’m looking forward to DC’s No Justice “event,” a series of four one-shots that will bridge the current Justice League series and a relaunched title, to be written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Jim Cheung. The No Justice one-shots will run weekly in May, and I’m always interested in weekly stories, and I’m a fan of several of the creators involved in them (such as Snyder and artists Francis Manapul and Marcos To).

Based on the promotional artwork, it appears the main Justice League team is fractured, and key members have formed their own squads. Included in those lineups are some unlikely members, including several Teen Titans and, oddly enough, some villains. Sure, No Justice isn’t shaping up to be particularly cerebral, but the unexpected array of characters do promise a lot of super-hero genre fun.

However, when I first heard of these No Justice comics, the weekly schedule and the promise of a fractured Justice League forming new teams, I was immediately struck by the fact that DC has travelled down a similar road in the past. Justice Leagues was one of DC’s “fifth-week events,” something it would do to fill out its publishing lineup in months that had five Wednesdays, or five days in which new comics shipped to direct-market comic-book stores. That story, published in 2001, also featured a divided League forming alternate versions of the title team.

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Fire Starter

The Curse of Brimstone #1
“Inferno, Part 1”
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Philip Tan
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

With this new creation, writer Justin Jordan and artist Philip Tan delve into a socio-political reality of rural life in America and beyond, but surprisingly, this comic book, at least so far, isn’t all that political from a partisan perspective. This script is going to speak to a lot of people. While I live and work in an urban area, the Canadian province in which I live is suffering from population decline and a struggling economy. While I don’t find myself in dire straits like the characters in this story, it’s incredibly easy to connect with the despair tempered with hope for change. The socio-economic ideas Jordan explores here are important ones, and not something one typically finds in mainstream super-hero comics, so the first chapter of The Curse of Brimstone was a refreshing change of pace in that regard. What hampers it somewhere, though, is the over-declaration of the plight of the backdrop and insufficient information on the real premise that emerges at the end of the issue.

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Haller Back, Girl

Legion Season 2 premiere
“Chapter 9”
Actors: Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jermaine Clement, Hamish Linklater, Jeremie Harris, Jean Smart, Amber Midthunder & Jon Hamm
Director: Tim Mielants
Writers: Noah Hawley & Nathaniel Halpern
Producers: FX Productions/Marvel Television

If one hadn’t watched the first eight-episode season of Legion on FX last year, this continuation would likely have been quite impenetrable, mainly because the backgrounds and abilities of the supporting characters aren’t explained at all. If one found the first season of this show to be too bizarre or surreal, well, the second season is off to an even weirder start. That all being said, the launch of Legion Season 2 was riveting, challenging and occasionally quite amusing. My wife was in the room for a few minutes and was quite put off by the unconventional visuals and tone of the show, but then, she can’t even handle the commercials for this series. Me, I was entranced.

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Causes of Death

Warner Bros. Animation has announced its next direct-to-movie film will be The Death of Superman, an adaptation of the classic comic-book story from late 1992 that saw the Man of Steel “killed” by the monstrous Doomsday. The followup will be an adaptation of the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline, which saw four replacement Supermen arise and the “real” Man of Tomorrow restored to life.

In a genre in which super-hero deaths were commonplace and quickly reversed, it was nevertheless historic. While comics are much more mainstream today, in 1992, they were still maligned black sheep of pop culture, but despite that, the notion of Superman’s death captured the imaginations of people all over the globe, sending droves of people, those interested in comics and those who weren’t, in droves to comic shops. Some were curious, some were speculating, but it was undeniably a cultural phenomenon.

As such, it makes sense Warner Bros. would eye those storylines for other-media adaptation. There’s just one problem: it’s already done it.

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Tech Support as Life Support

Cyber Force #1
Writers: Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill
Artist/Colors: Atilio Rojo
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover artists: Marc Silvestri and Atilio Rojo
Editor: Elena Saldeco
Publisher: Image Comics/Top Cow Productions
Price: $3.99 US

I wasn’t a fan of the original Cyber Force series back in the early 1990s; like most of the other fare from Image Comics in its infancy, it was all about Kewl super-hero action, with ridiculous large guns and extreme violence. It was supremely popular with many readers (and notably collectors), but creator Marc Silvestri’s style wasn’t for me, and neither were the characters. When I learned Image and Top Cow Productions were relaunching the property and reinventing it in the process, it piqued my curiosity. I was pleased to find writers Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill (who have impressed me as late with their Postal one-shots) offer a much more grounded take on these extreme characters. The plot and character reactions here feel a little familiar, but the execution is solid and much more inviting than the original book.

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A Tale of Two Asylums

Doomsday Clock #4
“Walk on Water”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’s writing for some time, but this single issue may be the best thing he’s crafted in his career. Much to my surprise, this event book takes a bit of a hiatus to explore the background and psyche of the new Rorschach, and it’s a fascinating character study. Despite the controversy over mining Watchmen for new stories over the objections of Alan Moore and his fans, it really feels that Johns does right by the source material here. This is completely unlike anything Johns has written before. This issue feels more like an organic extension of Watchmen than the three preceding it. Even if one hasn’t read the first three chapters of Doomsday Clock, one could easily delve into this character-focused issue for a satisfying read in and of itself.

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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Krypton TV series pilot
Actors: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Shaun Sipos, Elliot Cowan, Ann Ogbomo, Aaron Pierre, Wallis Day, Rasmus Hardiker, Ian McElhinney, Paula Malcomson, Rupert Graves & Nicholas Witham Mueller
Directors: Ciaran Donnelly & Colm McCarthy
Writers: David S. Goyer & Ian Goldberg
Producers: Phantom Four, DC Entertainment & Warner Horizon Television

Fans of comic books are certainly living in a Golden Age of other-media adaptations. There are so many comics-related shows (and not just flowing from the super-hero genre) on the air and streaming now, it’s impossible to follow them all. There was a time when I probably would have watched any comic-related show out of pure devotion to my beloved medium, regardless of quality. Having PVR’d the first episode of Syfy’s new Krypton series (airing on Space here in Canada), I only got around to watching it this weekend, a few days after its premiere. I was of two minds after having watched it: disappointed and relieved — relieved I don’t need to cram another show into the lineup of programs I watch regularly.

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