Saturday, February 04, 2023

A Month of Wednesdays: January 2023


Tales From Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee (DC Comics) December marked the 100th year since the late Stan Lee's birth, and DC Comics seems to have wanted to do something to celebrate. Given the writer/editor/icon's long relationship with Marvel, they didn't have much choice as to which characters to feature, resorting to those created during Lee's one big project with the publisher, 1998's Just Imagine..., in which the legendary creator was paired with an all-star artist to re-create some of DC's biggest characters. With titles like Just Imagine Stan Lee with Joe Kubert Creating Batman and Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Buscema Creating Superman, there were a dozen in all, introducing ten new characters (Superman, Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, The Sandman and Shazam), enough new superheroes to fill the pages of Just Imagine Stan Lee with Jerry Ordway Creating JLA and Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Cassaday Creating Crisis. 

The new $9.99, 80-ish-page giant revisits many of these characters for short, ten-page stories. It obviously has its heart in the right place, but then the Just Imagine... project, the creations of which apparently dwell on Earth-6 in DC's current multiversal cosmology, didn't generate the greatest stories, and was basically a gimmick (Marvel's Stan Lee! Working for the Distinguished Competition!)  and is best remembered for some great art from some of the industry's top talent (including Dave Gibbons, Walter Simonson, Chris Bachalo and others). 

Only two of those artists return for this project. Kevin Maguire, who co-created Lee's Flash, draws the Superman short, while Ordway returns to the JLA. Some art from the original artists does appear, in the Secret Files & Origins-style character profiles that appear at the end of the book. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the resultant tribute comics aren't that great. The one stand out is Mark Waid and Maguire's Superman story, in which the belligerent, resentful Man of Steel sets out to end all war on Earth by making it personal for all those that supply its weaponry or otherwise profit from our conflicts, which he feels takes energy away from our space programs (This Superman, marooned on Earth, longs for our planet to develop space travel capable of taking him back to his un-blown-up home planet). 

I liked the cartoony art in Meghan Fitzmartin, Anthony Marques and Mark Morales' Catwoman story, Ordway does his usual phenomenal job in a character-filled piece featuring the JLA and there's better-than-average art in the Batman and Shazam stories, but the stories themselves are all mostly forgettable, average super-heroics featuring well-designed and conceived Elseworlds versions of DC's stars. In addition to the above-mentioned, there are also stories featuring Lee and company's Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Sandman. 


Godzilla Vs. The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (IDW Publishing) The formula for each episode of the original, 1993-1996 Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers included a scene where villain Rita Repulsa would grow her monster to gigantic, kaiju-sized proportions, and the Rangers would need to board their giant robot vehicles to combat it, ultimately combining them into the giant robot Megazord to defeat it. Given this, a crossover with Godzilla is not quite as ridiculous as it might first sound, given the Ranger's careers as giant monster fighters.

In writer Cullen Bunn and artist Freddie E. Williams II's mini-series, Rita and her minions have found a mystical artifact that allows them to gaze into different dimensions. She uses it to find a world without the Power Rangers, assuming it will be an easier world to conquer. She transports her retinue there, but there's a stowaway—Green Ranger Tommy Oliver, who was spying on them. 

They land in the middle of mayhem, as the world they've traveled to is apparently Godzilla's, and he's currently engaged in fighting Megalon, semi-controlled from a hovering flying saucer inhabited by the Xiliens of Planet X. Unversed in which monsters are good monsters and which ones are bad ones on this world, Tommy summons his Dragonzord (despite being in a different dimension, the Rangers still have access to their 'zords) and takes on Godzilla, not lasting long. Just then the rest of the Rangers arrive, sent by Zordon to rescue Tommy. 

Meanwhile, Rita and her followers have pressganged the Xiliens into an alliance, and, while the Power Rangers' giant robot fights Godzilla, convinces them to summon more and more giant monsters, supplemented by their own supply (all of which repeat ones that have appeared on the show). 

Like a movie-length episode of Power Rangers that's stuck in the kaiju-fighting portion of the episode, the comic is pretty much all giant monster battles, with Gigan, various insect-like kaiju and King Ghidorah eventually joining the fray. As is crossover tradition, the Power Rangers and Godzilla first fight one another, before teaming up to take on their common foes. 

Bunn does a fine job of writing what is pretty much as pure a fight comic as exists, and Williams is able to do a decent job of drawing everything thrown at him, and creating a shared world where characters from each franchise both seem to be a natural part of. 


Monkey Prince Vol. 1: Enter the Monkey (DC Comics) After a so-so debut in a short story in 2021's DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration, Gene Luen Yang and Bernard Chang more thoroughly introduce their new DC superhero The Monkey Prince in this collection. It's pretty excellent super-comics, and the character is a welcome addition to the DC Universe. Outside of Superman Smashes The Klan, with its amazing Gurihiru art work, this is probably Yang's best super-comics writing to date. 

Star Wars: Tales From The Rancor Pit (Dark Horse Comics) This Vader's Castle-like collection of scary Star Wars stories features a victim of Jabba the Hutt's trying to Scheherazade his impending execution by entertaining the space gangster with tales of terror set throughout the eras of the franchise. Not as sustainable a premise as the Vader's Castle comics—you know what Chekov said about a rancor pit, right?—but just as entertaining. Plus it's got a cool cover from EDILW favorite Kelley Jones.