Sunday, May 01, 2022

A Month of Wednesdays: April 2022


Challenge of The Super Sons (DC Comics) The Super Sons have gone through some stuff since their last adventure, Adventures of The Super Sons, the kind of stuff that characters tend to go through in shared superhero universes. 

Superboy Jon Kent went into space with his dead paternal grandfather, somehow hyper-aged through puberty, spent some time with the Legion of Superheroes and now fills his father's one-time role of Superman, protecting Earth while the other Superman is off in space somewhere.

 Robin Damian Wayne got a new costume. 

Okay, one changed more than the other, but the point is, the Super Sons team-ups that Peter Tomasi was writing for a while are a thing of the past...which makes Challenge of The Super Sons, which ignores all those changes for a story set well before they happened, so much fun. Beyond the normal pleasures that come from these two very different characters bouncing off one another, it also has the feeling of a sort of last hurrah, a one-more-time encore before we submit to the forces of change. And/or Brian Michael Bendis.

The story opens at the West-Reeve school, where the two are classmates—it's unfortunate that we didn't get to see more of the pair in school—and then has them suiting-up to go on patrol together, this time in Metropolis ("We have to patrol Metropolis tonight," Jon stipulates. "My mom is making chili!") There they eventually get wrapped up in a particularly weird case involving time travel.

They are shunted to the 16th century, where they encounter the immortal Vandal Savage and his new partner Felix Faust, as well as Faust's young apprentice, who they just met as an old lady in the present, mere panels before their leap back in time.

 When they return to the present, it's with the "doom scroll" in hand; this is a blank parchment which shows the symbol of a Justice Leaguer on it and the means of that Leaguer's death an hour before that death is ordained; they must then prevent that death from happening without letting the Leaguer know about it, as foreknowledge will activate the spell trap that Faust laid for the League in the past. 

That's the "challenge" part of the book.

While they're saving their dad's work friends in the present, they are trying to escape Savage and Faust in the past...of course, they will also have to deal with them in the future, given the villains' immortality.

As a plot goes, it's a bit on the complicated side, but as long as it keeps the two friends together and bickering, it will suffice. Oddly, each of the seven issues is broken into two chapters, with the second half of each issue marked "Chapter Two." When reading it in trade, these chapter notations are nonsensical, as there are seven chapter twos and no chapter ones, or chapter threes or any other chapters.

The artwork comes courtesy of Max Raynor, Jorge Corona and Evan Stanley, three different artists with three extremely different styles, particularly Stanley, whose work looks more appropriate for a kid-friendly DC original graphic novel—which, come to think of it, might be a better home for future Super Sons adventures—then the DC house style of Raynor and Corona.

At any rate, it's always fun to see Damian ranting and raving and the unflappable Jon, and as much as this feels like a last hurrah, I do hope it's not the last we've seen of Tomasi on the Super Sons 

Oh, and the Supermobile is in this comic. I love the Supermobile. 

Sensational Wonder Woman Special #1 (DC) This trade-like anthology includes a trio of stories featuring Wonder Woman...and nothing else that really binds them together as a unit. They very much read like a trio of inventory stories. 

In the first, by Paula Sevenbergen, Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund, Wonder Woman faces off against her Golden Age enemy The Blue Snowman. Beyond the hero vs. villain business, there's a bit about a little boy who dresses up like Wonder Woman for his school's hero day, and gets bullied for it...although he, naturally enough, proves to be a real hero. That's the reason I bought this, actually. I find the Blue Snowman fascinating, as I do most of Wonder Woman's Golden Age rogues gallery, although she's here little more than a generic freezing-stuff villain, in a robot snowman suit.

The second, by Scott Kollins, is a Doctor Fate team-up in which the two heroes must fight a giant monster while trying to stave off an invasion of Lovecraftian space monster gods. It's laid out in such a way to suggest it was intended for an online fact, these might have all appeared online first for all I know. I don't really pay attention to comics that aren't printed on paper.

The third, by Stephanie Phillips, Alitha Martinez, Dexter Vines and Vincente Cifuentes, is a Freaky Friday-inspired story and thus the most high-concept of the lot:  During a fight with Circe, the witch casts a spell which switches Wonder Woman's mind with that of a teenage girl who happened to be at the scene at the time, and Wonder Woman must try to make it through a day of high school in a teenager's body while a young, inexperienced girl pilots her body. Things end abruptly, given the strength of the concept, but it's pretty fun while it lasts.

The book naturally shipped with lots of covers. I got the "International Woman's Day" one by Maria Laura Sanapo, featuring a random assortment of five other superheroines rushing into action behind Wonder Woman. 


Batman: Legacy Vols. 1-2 (DC Comics) Having just recently re-read  Batman event story "Contagion", I of course then felt the need to re-read its sequel story, "Legacy." I wasn't sure if I should include the trades collecting it in this column or in a separate, standalone post, but since I did borrow them from the library this month, then they technically qualify for inclusion in this feature, even if I am re-reading them. 

Or, as it turns out, mostly re-reading them. The two volumes, published in 2017 and 2018 respectively, contain a lot more comics aside from those marked with the demon's head "Legacy" logo.  In fact, it's not until the final issue collected within volume one that we get the official part one of the "Legacy" storyline; the rest is all build-up.

Obviously, this storyline was written to be read as it was published—serially, across multiple titles—rather than in this, its current collected format. People who complain about comics being "written for the trade" would have had no such complaints about this 1996 storyline.

Because stories that merely foreshadow or otherwise lead-in to "Legacy" are included, the first trade begins with a two-part storyline introducing the villain Lock-Up, included presumably because the story has a scene in which a character dies of "The Clench" disease introduced in "Contagion," and another in which Commissioner Gordon reacts ominously to that death (Incidentally, it also introduces readers to the "Dynamic Trio" team of Batman, Robin and Nighting, working together as a well-oiled machine; they'll continue as a team throughout "Legacy"). 

From there, there's a multi-issue Catwoman arc, in which the thief is press-ganged into raiding a tomb—and springing all its traps—that leads to the ancient "wheel of plagues" that has both the formula for creating The Clench plague and the formula for its cure. There's an issue of Robin included, a Wildcat team-up, presumably just for the last page, in which Batman and Alfred realize that if The Clench can come back in and kill those who were originally infected with it, Robin is still in danger, and then an issue of Shadow of The Bat and Batman leading to the first chapter of "Legacy," where it's finally revealed exactly who the shadowy character referred to as "The Immortal" who has been searching for the plague is: Ra's al Ghul, who, in a surprise, has teamed-up with Bane, who has taken the role once offered to Batman, as Talia's promised mate. (Of these many issues, I had only read maybe three issues total when they were originally published.)

There's a lot of great art in this volume, primarily from Graham Nolan, inked by Scott Hanna, as well as a few issues of Balent's Catwoman, Mike Wieringo on Robin, Dave Taylor on Shadow and, most interestingly Jim Aparo inked by Bill Sienkiewicz.

The second volume opens not with part two of "Legacy" but, rather, with the four-issue miniseries Batman: Bane of the Demon, by the prolific Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan team (Nolan is here inked by Tom Palmer). This storyline, while something of a deviation from "Legacy", explains what Bane has been up to—seeking the identity of his father—and how he came into contact with Talia and Ra's, eventually coming to a tense detente with The Demon's Head that made them allies in the plot to wipe out a huge percentage of the population with the plague weapon and set themselves up as rulers of what's left.

From there, "Legacy" continues through the pages of Catwoman, Robin, Shadow, Batman and Detective Comics by the then-regular creative teams of those books, an epic storyline that features the heroes heading off Ra's terrorist cells in Paris, Edinburgh and Calcutta, before Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Huntress all unite in Gotham City to stop Bane, Ra's and Talia. This includes a rematch between Batman and Bane, for the first time since the villain broke Batman's back. 

This is followed immediately within the collection with Batman: Bane #1, a character-specific one-shot published in connection with the 1997 Batman movie Batman and Robin and that functions as an epilogue to "Legacy", picking up directly where the plot left Bane, and showing him immediately moving on to another plot to menace Gotham City and, after coming into conflict with the Dynamic Trio again, disappearing into the waves yet again.

This second volume of "Legacy" includes art from some of the same artists as the first, with Staz Johnson pencilling the issue of Robin rather than Wieringo, and the great Rick Burchett handling the pencil chores on the Bane one-shot/epilogue. 

It's interesting to read and/or re-read these comics today, as the Bat-family was then quite small (just Robin, Nightwing, sometimes Huntress and, behind the scenes, Alfred and Oracle) and Bane and Ra's were still new enough and/or used infrequently enough that their very appearances felt like quite big deals. It's a far cry from today, when membership in the Bat-family dwarfs that of the Justice League, and Bane and Ra's or more-or-less constant presences in the Bat-books, which have grown substantially in number, and thus rely on near-constant churn of name Batman villains.  

Chainsaw Man Vol. 10 (Viz Media) Denji is still reeling from the loss of Aki and unsure to live with all of the thoughts currently messing up his brain when the thinks he comes upon a solution: living in complete submission to Makima, who will do all the thinking for him. This...may not be the best plan, given that no sooner is that decision made than another member of the cast gets killed off. 

The book must be nearing its finale, as there are precious few members of its cast still alive, and the new ones introduced in this volume specifically to take on Chainsaw Man, don't seem like they will last too long either. I'm still holding out hope for a happy ending for Denji but, if it's coming, it looks like there's going to be a whole lot of misery for the character before he reaches it. 

Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 18 (Viz) The fallout from the cultural festival continues, as Komi and Manbagi openly compete for Tadano's affection...or as openly as they can, which, of course, isn't so openly that Tadano notices what they're doing, only that they are acting really weird. The volume ends with the biggest climax in the Komi/Tadano relationship so far, as Komi flat out asks Tadano what he thinks of her...and then...someone walks in and ruins the moment. 

This volume ends with the results of a character popularity poll, ranking the 100 most popular characters in the series. I was a little surprised by some of the results, like how high Nene Onemine placed (third!), given her relative place in the hierarchy of the cast (she's hardly in the top three most-seen characters...or even the top ten). 

The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today Vol. 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment) Something seems to have gotten confused somewhere in the translation of the title, as it doesn't seem to mean quite what it says in English. That is, Yukichi, the "masterful cat" of the title, isn't ever depressed so much as he is often disappointed in his master, Saku. 

See, Saku is loving and appreciative, but also something of a mess, and, try as she might, she can't seem to get or keep her act together for very long without the help of her house cat, who differs from most house cats in several respects. 

First and most noticeably, he's huge, towering over Saku as he goes about on his hindlegs, and he is often mistaken for a bear when he's seen in public (That, or a person in a cat suit). 

Secondly, while Yukichi can't talk, and his mind works a lot like that of an ordinary cat's, he takes care of all of the housework, functioning as something between a mom, a housewife and a butler for Saku. 

After the main manga, there's a five-page short story narrated by Yukichi which basically explains things from his point of view, including the how and why of his becoming a masterful cat. He realized that humans work in order to get money in order to buy cat food, or, "To put it another ways, if you don't get your human to work...YOU'LL STARVE!!" And so he took it upon himself to keep Saku functioning, "to make sure the cat food keeps coming in!!" He seems to have grown in proportion to his "masterfulness," having  been able to cook only the most simple of dishes when he was still a little kitten, but now being able to do the shopping (in an apron he made himself, no less), take out the garbage, cook and bake fancy meals and otherwise run Saku's apartment and life. 

It's a pretty compelling situation for a comedy series, I just don't think "depressed" is quite the right word to describe the typically temperamental cat's mood. 

 The lines between owner and pet are thus quite blurry, but it's an odd and funny situation with 


Avengers: Tech-On (Marvel Entertainment) Beyond being merely interesting in its unusual remit and execution—it's a sentai-inspired series created in collaboration with Bandai Namco, and there are three credited designers among the staff involved—I found Jim Zub and Jeffrey Cruz's Avengers series rather engaging. Remarkably enough, Zub manages to tell a story around the concept that fits more-or-less into the comics continuity, and he uses characters and their characterizations that are familiar-feeling whether your a fan of the Marvel Comics Universe or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's definitely far better than it has any reason to be. More here

Sir Ladybug (HarperCollins) Picture book author Corey R. Tabor turns to comics with this perfectly charming story of a ladybug who is also a knight, and his friends/herald and squire, and their adventures. In this initial installment of what is already a series, they have to save a caterpillar from a ravenous monster...a chickadee. More here

1 comment:

J. Bencomo said...

As a matter of fact, at the time of Legacy, Ra's hadn't been used in the regular Batman books since... Batman 400 in 1986, the last story of the Pre Crisis Batman. He had been mentioned in a few stories like Death in the Family, and he had shown up in oneshots and Prestige books like Son of the Demon and Bride of the Demon, but he'd been absent in person from the main books for almost ten years, the first decade of Post Crisis Batman.