Man and Superman 100 Page Super Spectacular (DC)

Man Superman

Rating: 5/5 – A Super Story Focusing on Clark Kent’s First Days in Metropolis.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

In his forward, Marv Wolfman says: “I may be totally deluded, but I truly believe this story is arguably the best Superman story I ever wrote.”  You’re not deluded, Marv.  This is a pretty awesome Superman story.  One of the best I have ever read.

Wolfman also gives some history to the story, originally written for the Superman Confidential series between 2006 and 2008, and drawn back then by artist Claudio Castellini, that series was cancelled before the story ever saw print and it has been sitting complete for over a decade.  This is 4 full issues of content and since the Superman Confidential series had a price tag of $2.99 per issue, we would have had to pay $11.96 for the 4 issues 10 years ago…. so paying $9.99 for all 4 issues as one giant 100-page Spectacular is a pretty good deal.  Even better considering the normal price of a comic is now $3.99 which would put 4 issues at $15.96.

On to the story.  Wolfman deftly zeroes in about what makes Superman special to me.  It is the MAN more than the SUPER.  He has all these powers and he chooses to do good.  He chooses to do the right thing.  Superman is an inspirational hero and represents the best parts of humanity even though he is the last son of Krypton (for which we can credit his upbringing in Kansas).  He is what heroes should aspire to be.  Is is this core that I find attractive and Wolfman spends that vast majority of the four chapters focusing on Clark going through the key transitional period when he has arrived in Metropolis but has not yet donned his uniform.  He is going through the final bits of character building that get him ready to don that uniform, and what better to help shape that decision than initial encounters with Lois Lane and Lex Luthor (and by the way, Wolfman cuts to the core of these iconic characters as well, emphasizing what makes both of them tick).  We don’t see Superman in the familiar red-and-blue much at all, which may disturb some readers, but the whole of the story builds to that final moment where he transitions from being the “flying man” to truly becoming Superman.

What about the art?  Claudo Castellini did a fabulous job of keeping my interest despite the lack of big super-hero action and splashy costumed battles.  The storytelling is carried by the the characters as they move through their world and interact with one another.  Wolfman’s words and Castellini’s art blended together to carry me through the tale, keeping my rapt attention from start to finish.  I loved how Clark has to buckle down and show the determination to win a job at the Daily Planet.  This is a top newspaper, and he’s usually shown as just walking in the door having been given a job.  There are also some nice moments as he realizes that he really needs to be a bit more careful about concealing his identity.  Wolfman fills in some blanks in the Clark/Superman backstory for us admirably, and Castellini steps up and beautifully renders each and every moment.

This 100-page 4 chapter story is well worth finding, though I understand it is selling out at many stores.  Hopefully it will get a second print or be added to some collection.  It deserves to stay in print and available to fans who would like to read a really nice “behind the scenes” story about Clark Kent as he transitions to his more famous identity.  I also appreciate that no attempt is made to shoehorn it into current DC continuity.  It’s a nice tale that stands on its own outside of the shackles of a continuity that changes fairly regularly anyway.  This is highly recommended for all fans of the man behind the Superman.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Norroway Book 1 (Image)

Norroway

CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – An All-Ages Fantasy-Adventure with a Resilient Girl at its Core.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Sisters Kit & Cat Seaton bring us the first part of a fantastic embellishment/retelling of the Scottish fairy tale “The Black Bull of Norroway” in this thick 224 page volume that hit shops in November.

Writer Cat Seaton heightens the realism of the plucky heroine Sybilla with her dazzling dialogue, but it is the art of Kit Seaton that brings Sybilla and the entire world of Norrway to life with her spectacular art that I found evocative of Jeff Smith’s work on Bone in its simplicity of line and clarity of layouts and storytelling.  At its core, this is the story of a girl who is prophesied to become the wife of the Black Bull of Norroway, a man cursed to take on the shape of a Bull.  She sets off with him on a hero’s journey but does not shrink into the subordinate female role, standing her ground and asserting her will when necessary.

Norroway is what I’d consider a truly “all ages” book (like Bone).  It is not written “down” to kids and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  I read this on my own and it’s something I that would be great to read to your kids, if they are of the age where you still read to them (my son is 27 so read it himself…and loved it). If you can’t find this at your local shop & they cannot reorder it for you from Diamond, it is also available on Amazon.com.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Sandman Universe #1 (DC)

SU 1

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – Neil Gaiman “curating” a series in not the same as Neil Gaiman writing a series.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Daniel, Lord of Dreams and successor to Morpheus, has goes missing and it is causing problems in the Dreaming.  DC, failing to have seriously popular new/original Vertigo series for several years, has fallen back on its greatest success to create/revive several spin-offs in hopes of getting readers back.

This issue is a mixed bag.  It’s an anthology giving sample stories of the 4 series that will be set in the Sandman Universe created by Neil Gaiman.  As with most anthologies I’ve read, I didn’t like everything, but everyone will have their own take on these samples and this issue is a good way to try out all 4 series in one place.  The series revivals (Lucifer & Books of Magic) are the ones I liked the least, and maybe that is because I liked the originals so much that I can directly see a lack of the same “spark” for me that existed in the originals.

The story is credited to Neil Gaiman (meaning he came up with the general idea / structure?) but the comic is scripted by Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Si Spurrier, and Dan Watters, who are each writing one of the four books spinning out of this comic. I’m guessing each writer scripted the parts of the comic that tie-in with their own series, but that’s not actually stated in the credits.  Nalo Hopkinson is scheduled to be writing House of Whispers, a new house in the vein of the Hoses of Secrets & Mystery with a New Orleans/voodoo flavor and the only totally new series.  I enjoyed this one, it seemed to have some fresh ideas and I liked the main character Erzulie.  Kat Howard is writing The Books of Magic that brings back Tim Hunter as Neil Gaiman’s boy magician.  Si Spurrier is writing The Dreaming (another series revival) which gets to play with familiar characters like Lucien, Merv Pumpkinhead, Matthew the Raven and others.  Spurrier seems to have a decent handle on weaving a tale of these characters dealing with the absence of Daniel and a new threat that looms in Daniel’s absence. Finally, Dan Watters is writing Lucifer in which the character faces a new set of struggles but does not measure up, in this short sample, to Mike Carey’s epic run writing the character.

For me, Neil Gaiman “curating” this series (and I’m not really sure exactly what that entails) did not feel like a series actually written by Gaiman.  He created the core universe and many of the characters, but they’re now being handled by other writers.  It’s hard for me not to feel that DC is using Gaiman’s name as a draw on this the same way that companies slap Stan Lee’s name on things where he contributes an idea and then the books are written by others.  I suspect they will be successful with this at first as people who love Gaiman’s Sandman try out these new books and that will settle down over the next few months as people decide how much they actually enjoy the work of the creative teams on the books and either stay or drift away from the spin-offs from this anthology.  If Gaiman was actually writing any of these they would be auto buys, but with his limited oversight level of participation, seeing the samples presented here,  the only one I feel strongly compelled to try is The Dreaming.  House of Whispers is a “wait for the trade”.  Lucifer & Books of Magic are “if I see them in bargain bins”.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 (Marvel)

Cosmic

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – Cosmic Ghost Rider Rides Again.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Brunell

If you havn’t read the recent Thanos series and had a glimpse into the Cosmic Ghost Rider, then you won’t feel left behind in this most recent comic release. As soon as you open the comic you are brought up to speed, Writer Donny Cates leaves no stone unturned when it comes to what happened to Frank Castle to transform him into the Cosmic Ghost Rider. Not to spoil anything, Cates doesn’t provide all the details into what happened in the Thanos series, but directly how and why Frank Castle is now dead. Frank ends up in Valhalla, Odin himself found Frank to be a warrior and deserved a warrior’s heaven amongst the Gods. The only issues are, Frank is a mortal and some Gods don’t think Frank should be where he is, and Frank doesn’t take kindly to people trying to push him around. After a tussle in a bar, Frank is approached by Odin. The conversation does not go well, and Odin provides Frank with the option to live again as the Ghost Rider. Odin gives Frank the option to go back in time to anywhere he wants to push vengeance onto anyone he feels deserves his wrath, and his choice is rather surprising and almost disappointing.

The first issue of this series is captivating. Dialogue is well laid out and the story doesn’t hold back some major questions that readers may have. Frank has questions while in Valhalla for the Gods, and even Odin can’t look him in the eye when Frank is seeking answers. Artist Dylan Burnett brings a high rank of skill to the series, his scenery is breathtaking, and his action panels are intense. Frank transforming into the Ghost Rider is painful and chaotic, Burnett lets this be known with a fierce sequence augmented by Colorist Antonio Fabela capturing the vivid moments of pain, torture, and hatred.

I was skeptical to grab this comic without reading the Thanos series, but Cates really helped me as a reader to understand the story once I dove in. The only thing that is still questionable to me is the choice that Frank makes in going back in time. The idea could produce a great story in the future, but it puzzled me that Frank states he is going back to where things went downhill for him, and it’s not when his family was killed, or when he sold his soul to the devil. These two moments alone should be the highest horrible moments in Franks life, but I guess Donny Cates had a different opinion.  Even with that mismatch between what I expected and what Cates delivered, I still thoroughly enjoyed the issue and will be back for more next month.

Reviewed by: Adam Brunell
(adamb@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Batman Giant #1 (DC)

100Batman

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 5/5 – Batman Family for a New Group of Fans.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The 1st 100 page Batman sampler that DC is releasing through Walmart stores has 3 full reprinted comics and a new 12 page Batman story.  I’ll be reviewing all 4 of these comics and there will be a bit of repetition in this opening paragraph about the program.  DC has stated that it is to get new readers into DC comics, so that is how I’ll be reviewing these, not based on the story value to an existing fan.  The one exception is the “all new” 12 page story.  This is not needed for the new reader and serves mostly, in my opinion, as a DC marketing hook to get their hard core fans to go to Walmart and buy these comics so they do not “miss out” on the new material.  The comics themselves are displayed along with the collectible card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) up by the registers, so are in a good spot to be noticed by kids.  That is good.  However, there do not seem to be very many copies on display, and I’m curious how many will be left to be discovered by new readers after existing DC fans have swooped in to buy copies, combined with the people who will buy them to resell on eBay.

On to the comics: the 1st story in the comic is 12-pages by Jimmy Palmiotti and Patch Zircher that has Batman trying to solve a kidnapping case and the trail leads him back to Crime Alley, where Palmiotti is able to give a brief recap of the fateful night when his parents were murdered.  Palmiotti again shows his ability to cut to the core of a character, he hits the high points of what makes Batman “Batman” in 12 pages.  As an aside, the announcements for this 100 page line produced for Walmart talked about a new Batman story by Brian Michael Bendis, but it’s not in this issue. Since this is the 1st of 2 parts, the earliest fans may be seeing that tale will be in September’s #3 issue.

The 2nd story is a reprint of Batman #608 from 2002, the first part of the “Hush” storyline written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee/Scott Williams, one of the most famous/popular Batman stories of the past 25 years.  This is a great story to choose to introduce new readers to Batman, and existing fans should not mind giving this classic a re-read.  3rd is a reprint of Nightwing #1 (2011) written by Kyle Higgins with are by Eddy Barrows/JP Mayer.  This is the 1st New 52 issue of Nightwing and one of the better New 52 debuts.  Most people are aware of Dick Grayson’s past as Robin from various pop culture sources, this gives a crash course on how he matured into Nightwing, and the tone/action of the story should appeal to Batman fans and could very well create some new Nightwing fans.  The 4th and final story reprints Harley Quinn #1 (2014) written by Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Chad Hardin.  This also felt like a great choice, this Harley Quinn series was a fan favorite and I would regularly see huge lines of people waiting to see Jimmy & Amanda at conventions as a result of this series.  Not directly relevant, but I do think it has a good chance of resonating with a decent number of newcomers.

Batman is typically the top-selling comic for DC and of the 4 100 page Giants produced for Walmart, this was by far my favorite. As a fan and also evaluating how it might be received by newcomers to comics, this issue was top notch.  The selection of stories felt like they were properly curated to appeal to Bat-fans, helping expand the narrative to Nightwing and Harley Quinn in much the same way the long ago title Batman Family would highlight characters closely associated with Batman in their own stories.  The overall package is nice.  Good paper and print quality, an intro page before each story and a “come back in 30 days for the next installment” teaser at the end of each.  There are ads for complementary trade paperbacks in several places throughout the issue, PLUS an ad for Comic Shop Locator ad to help new readers find a local shop to buy more comics if they wish to (the ad was in the Batman & Teen Titans issues, but not in Superman & JLA).   Ultimately, I think it is a nice package for new fans and well worth the $4.99, but the 12 page Batman story is not really enough to make this worth it to existing fans who have read the material being reprinted, except for the most hard-core completists.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Teen Titans Giant #1 (DC)

100Titans

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Confusing Selection of Different Titans Teams.
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The 1st 100 page Teen Titans sampler that DC is releasing through Walmart stores has 3 full reprinted comics and a new 12 page Teen Titans story.  I’ll be reviewing all 4 of these comics and there will be a bit of repetition in this opening paragraph about the program.  DC has stated that it is to get new readers into DC comics, so that is how I’ll be reviewing these, not based on the story value to an existing fan.  The one exception is the “all new” 12 page story.  This is not needed for the new reader and serves mostly, in my opinion, as a DC marketing hook to get their hard core fans to go to Walmart and buy these comics so they do not “miss out” on the new material.  The comics themselves are displayed along with the collectible card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) up by the registers, so are in a good spot to be noticed by kids.  That is good.  However, there do not seem to be very many copies on display, and I’m curious how many will be left to be discovered by new readers after existing DC fans have swooped in to buy copies, combined with the people who will buy them to resell on eBay.

On to the comics: the 1st story in the comic is a 12-page Teen Titans story written by Dan Jurgens with art by Scot Eaton/Wayne Fauchner.  This one was peculiar because Eaton/Fauchner are the current art team on Teen Titans, but the team featured here is NOT that team.  It consists of Robin (Tim Drake), Changeling, Raven, and Starfire.  So a new reader is going to be exposed to a team from some point in the past in a new story made for this issue.  I’m not sure I understand why DC would do this if the goal is to create new readers who will move to reading regular DC Comics in the comic shops at some point.  The story is a pretty simple “stop the Disruptor from stealing a science-y device from S.T.A.R. Labs” that leads into a continuing story hook involving H.I.V.E.

The 2nd story in the issue digs back 15 years in Titans history, reprinting Teen Titans #1 (2003) by Geoff Johns & Mike McKone.  This is the Titans team most prominently featured on the cover of the issue, as opposed to the team featured in the new story.  Kind of an interesting choice for the main feature, since none of the characters really exist in current DC continuity, but they do live on in reprints, so if the goal of this book is to more sell collected editions from the DC backlist than to move readers to current comics, this makes a lot of sense.   The 3rd story reprints Super Sons #1 (2017) by Peter Tomasi & Jorge Jimenez.  A nice story featuring Damian Wayne’s Robin and Jon Kent’s Superboy, playing to the “young heroes” theme.  The 4th story reprints the recent “new age of heroes” book Sideways #1, that follows the theme of stories with teenage protagonists, by Dan Didio, Justin Jordan, and Kenneth Rocafort.

If I was a new reader I think I’d walk away from this comic very confused about who the Teen Titans are.  I just saw two different versions of the team, neither of which are the team I’d see if I went to a comic shop to pick up the current issue of Teen Titans, though at least I got a story with the Damian Wayne Robin who is on the current team.  The overall package is nice.  Good paper and print quality, an intro page before each story and a “come back in 30 days for the next installment” teaser at the end of each.  There are ads for complementary trade paperbacks in several places throughout the issue, PLUS an ad for Comic Shop Locator ad to help new readers find a local shop to buy more comics if they wish to (the ad was in the Batman & Teen Titans issues, but not in Superman & JLA).  It’s interesting that this issue has FAR fewer copies on display than the other 3 100 page giant (2 vs 8-10) and this was on 1st day of sale at 8am, so I don’t think someone came in and bought up a bunch of them before I got there.  I have heard from other people that the Titans book was in much shorter supply than the others at shops they visited in other states as well.  Ultimately, I think it is a nice package for new fans and well worth the $4.99, but the 12 page Teen Titans story is not really enough to make this worth it to existing fans other than the most hard-core completists.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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Superman Giant #1 (DC)

100Superman

CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4/5 – Superman Shines, but Substantially Shares Spotlight .
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall

The 1st 100 page Superman sampler that DC is releasing through Walmart stores has 3 full reprinted comics and a new 12 page Superman story.  I’ll be reviewing all 4 of these comics and there will be a bit of repetition in this opening paragraph about the program.  DC has stated that it is to get new readers into DC comics, so that is how I’ll be reviewing these, not based on the story value to an existing fan.  The one exception is the “all new” 12 page story.  This is not needed for the new reader and serves mostly, in my opinion, as a DC marketing hook to get their hard core fans to go to Walmart and buy these comics so they do not “miss out” on the new material.  The comics themselves are displayed along with the collectible card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh) up by the registers, so are in a good spot to be noticed by kids.  That is good.  However, there do not seem to be very many copies on display, and I’m curious how many will be left to be discovered by new readers after existing DC fans have swooped in to buy copies, combined with the people who will buy them to resell on eBay.

On to the comics: the 1st story in the comic is a nicely done tale written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Tom Derenick and Trevor Scott.   Clark Kent is sent to do a story on tornadoes that have been ravaging the Midwest and we get to see the compassion and heroism that are hallmarks of the Man of Steel.  Existing fans may be scratching their heads since the stories about this 100 page line produced for Walmart were talking about it featuring a new Superman story by Tom King.  It’s not in this #1 issue.  Since this is the 1st of 2 parts, the earliest fans may be seeing Tom King write the Man of Steel will be in September’s #3 issue.  Will it be in that issue?  Time will tell.  For now, sit back and enjoy Palmiotti’s story that is a great introduction to Superman on the comics page for a new fan.  It was nice to see Superman leading off the issue, but Superman’s presence dropped as the issue went on.

DC leaned heavily on the New 52 for the JLA 100 page giant, but shied away from that for Superman, probably for the best, since Grant Morrison’s “jeans & t-shirt” New 52 Superman is only a memory at this point.  Lacking that, DC reached farther back and reprints Superman/Batman #1 (2003) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness as the 2nd story in this issue.  It’s a good story but the focus is on the interplay between Batman and Superman, and Batman gets more of the spotlight in this issue.  Granted he is the much more popular of the 2 heroes, but it felt like Superman was getting short shrift in his own 100 page giant.  The 3rd story was Green Lantern #1 (2005) by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver for the 1st 4 pages and Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Merino for pages 5-30.  Another “avoid the New 52” choice since the New 52 Green Lantern debut featured Sinestro wearing the ring.  Going back an additional 6 years to this series gave DC the change to reprint this excellent issue with a recap of Hal Jordan’s origin and  a nice introduction to the most famous Green Lantern of them all.  The 4th story was a puzzling choice, The Terrifics #1 from a few months ago.  I know DC is desperately trying to get fans to care about their “new age of heroes” but may have been better served reprinting a recent Superman comic.

If I was a new reader wanting to read about Superman and I picked this comic up and flipped through it, I’d find very little of the Man of Steel.  Hopefully new readers will like what they see enough to buy the comic, DC is reprinting some good stuff here. If DC really wanted to put in a Batman/Superman story, it should have been complemented with another standalone Superman story, or at least another story FEATURING Superman.  The overall package is nice.  Good paper and print quality, an intro page before each story and a “come back in 30 days for the next installment” teaser at the end of each.  There are ads for complementary trade paperbacks in several places throughout the issue, but NO Comic Shop Locator ad (it was in the Batman & Teen Titans issues, but not in Superman & JLA).  Ultimately, I think it is a nice package for new fans and well worth the $4.99, but the 12 page Superman story, while great, is not really enough to make this worth it to existing fans other than the most hard-core completists.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

 

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