Archive | June, 2013

My Review of Countdown to Final Crisis

18 Jun

I have been a fan of DC Comics now for twenty-five years.  In that time, I have seen some great “event” comics, like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Blackest Night.  I have seen some decent ones too, like Armaggedon 2001 and Underworld Unleashed.  And then there were the terrible ones, like Genesis and Final Crisis.  Now, Final Crisis is one of those books people either seem to love or hate and since day one, I have always fallen in the latter category.  Because of this, a year and a half ago, I decided to buy The Death of the New Gods.  It was a book many talked down but this usually revolved around the differences between it and Final Crisis. When I finished The Death of the New Gods, I was shocked.  I loved it!  It was a satisfying conclusion to Kirby’s masterpiece for me.  And if it was better than people said, what of that other event that was supposed to feed into Final Crisis but didn’t mesh right?  What of Countdown to Final Crisis? 

This had plagued me since it came out.  When it came out, I had not read 52 and the thought of a weekly comic did not appeal to me because I could only get to a comic shop about once a month.  Eventually, I bought and fell in love with 52 through trades.  I thought of buying Countdown the same way, but the fourth trade has stayed consistently expensive on Amazon.  But then came Hero’s Con, in Charlotte and I had the chance to buy all 51 issues, Countdown to Adventure, the Lord Havok and the Extremists tie-in, and three of the Search for Ray Palmer tie-ins all for the low price of $17.  For those who don’t read comics, that is cheap, believe me.  At original cover price costs, the main series alone would have been around $150.  So it was a steal and I had to know if Countdown was better than everyone said, like The Death of the New Gods was. 

The short answer is YES, Countdown is much better than its reputation would lead you to believe.  Is it a great story, like 52 was?  Definitely not.  But it is a decent story.  After reading it for a week, I can honestly say, the entirety of the event rates around a 6 on a 10 point scale. 

There are definite problems that have been mentioned by others.  If you did not read all of the tie-ins (or at least all of the ones I read), I could see where the story would be very haphazard.  Events start to happen in Countdown but then pick up in Death of the New Gods, only to reflow back into Countdown later.  And in reading Lord Havok based on its Countdown week number on the bottom of the comic was a waste of time, as most of its story occurred during a time around issue 26 of the main series. 

Another major problem (depending on your point of view) was the resolution of some of the stories.  For example, Mary Marvel ends up bad at the end of the series, having exorcised her demons midway through.  I can deal with this though because sometimes the allure of power is too great.  Likewise, some complain of the death of Una and having read her death this morning before work, I could agree it definitely was not great.  Having risked her all for thirty plus issues, she gets eaten by evolved rats and ignored by her fellow heroes.  Even the man she died saving just sort of watched her be devoured.  But in story, there were a couple of reasons for these events.  She left her fellow heroes to try and help the other man find his family.  Meanwhile, he gave up on her, in an attempt to keep his grandson safe.  So I can accept it, even though it wasn’t a great conclusion to her story arc.  And the less said about how Pied Piper exists solely for comments about him being homosexual (both pro and con comments), the better.

Meanwhile, there was much that was entertaining.  The search for Ray Palmer did allow a window into several worlds on the new multiverse created during 52.  The stakes were high throughout the story and it was interesting seeing the birth of Kamandi, a classic Kirby concept.  The idea of a group to “monitor the Monitors” had a great deal of potential.  Bart’s funeral was one of the better funerals in comics.  The ongoing chess game between Darkseid and Solomon was an interesting visual and storytelling motif.  And though it was a tie-in, Countdown to Adventure’s main storyline was great.  Parts of its Forerunner story was ok. 

After a week of reading little other than it, I can honestly say I am glad to have finished it.  I cannot say that Countdown was a great story.   It really had little lasting impact, as most of the story was retconned by Final Crisis or as I like to call it “the real Great Disaster.”  Some of the characters were not handled with the respect they probably deserved.  But it is a fun story for the most part with several interesting parts.  If you can find it cheap, I recommend you give it a shot.  If nothing else, seeing Darkseid killed by his son Orion is much more satisfying to me than seeing Superman whistle a song to save the world.  Several years later and I am still trying to make peace with that one. 

 

My Thoughts on Man of Steel (Spoilers!)

17 Jun

Superman and Batman are arguably the two most famous superheroes in the world.  I have always had an unusual history with the two.  I have blogged previously about my thoughts on Batman.  I have almost always loved his movies and TV shows but rarely think the comic book writers “get” Batman.  Jeph Loeb did several times.  Scott Snyder does now.  But otherwise, the comics have been “off” to me, while the movies have showed what Batman could and should be, especially when done by Nolan.  Or on the opposite end of the Bat-Spectrum, The Brave and the Bold.  At the same time, I have always hated Superman movies but loved the comic books (until the new 52).  The movies just seemed overly simplistic in the threat levels.  Yes, Superman fought rogue Kryptonians, but it wasn’t a long fight and not a lot of damage is seen onscreen.  Yes, Superman fought the Nuclear Man.  But that was Superman 4: The Quest for Peace, and let’s be honest.  The less said about that movie, the better!  Meanwhile, the comics have allowed Superman the opportunity to fight huge, epic battles on a sweeping scale.  He has fought gods, demons, and Sun-Eaters (one guess what that one does!).  And if you get bored with those types of fights, he fights Lex Luthor, who in the comics is the most dangerous criminal alive, unlike his movie counterpart, thus far who…..doesn’t do much.  I say all of this, to say, I now live in a world with awesome Batman movies and a good Superman movie!  No one was more surprised than me. 

I wasn’t looking forward to the movie when I heard Zack Snyder was directing.  I was not a fan of 300 or of the Watchmen movie, even though like many, I believe it to be one of the greatest comics ever.  And having not been a fan of previous Superman movies, I wasn’t expecting much when I heard Zod was going to be the bad guy.  Once again, like many, I did believe Superman 2 was the best of the old Superman movies, but to me, that wasn’t saying much.  But when I heard Chris Nolan and David Goyer were involved, the duo who had rescued Batman after the Batman and Robin debacle, I decided to give the movie a shot. 

Now, I will be honest, the movie is DIFFERENT.  And from this point on, there will be spoilers, so don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen them movie and don’t want the movie spoiled. 

 

 

 

 

 

I will confess I was shocked by the notion that Lois figured out Clark’s identity before he even became Superman.  But as my mind processed the concept, it made sense.  Lois is supposed to be an excellent investigative reporter.  In fact, throughout much of the characters’ histories, she has spent a great deal of time believing and trying to prove that Clark is Superman.  For once, she actually uses her brains and figures it out.  I don’t really mind that.  It is done in a believable manner.  She doesn’t automatically know that Superman is Clark.  She tracks evidence of stories of man of amazing abilities all the way to the conclusion of the story. 

The other major issue that I know many will have a problem with is the resolution of the Zod story.  Toward the end of the movie, using information received from Jor-El’s message, Superman, Lois, and the army send the majority of the Kryptonian criminals back into the Phantom Zone, but Zod is too far away to captured.  The two begin a furious fight before Superman grabs Zod in a hold.  At that moment, Zod tells Superman that he will never stop trying to destroy Clark’s adopted homeworld.  To prove his point, he begins using his heat vision to attempt to fry a family in the building the two are fighting in.  With no other clear alternative, Clark does the unthinkable and kills his enemy.  He is then shown to be very upset over this development.  I know many will say that Superman does not kill.  And normally, this is the case.  But exceptions have always been made to this rule.  In the Golden Age comics, he killed several people.  In the last Silver Age story, he kills the villain and retires.  In the modern age, he killed three criminals (Zod included) before deciding he would never kill again.   But even then, later, he kills Doomsday (who promptly gets better, but you can’t blame Clark for that).  The point is Superman does not want to kill but sometimes realizes he has to if he wants to save people. Another point could also be made that with this being his first outing as Superman, he acted rashly, and will think of ways out of similar situations in the future (like flying the villain into outer space to a prison planetJ). 

Other than those two possible problems though the movie is a fantastic movie showing what the world would be like with real super-powered individuals in it.  Clark’s adopted father struggles to rise a boy into a man and the relationship between the characters was handled wonderfully, just in time for Father’s Day.  Likewise, Jor-El gets a much bigger role than in previous movies.  Clark’s moms also do a good deal more than previous showcases. 

Clark’s other relationships, like with the military, were handled much better than in previous movies too.  I hardly believe the US government would be thrilled to have someone with Clark’s abilities flying around.  But a respect was developed slowly and naturally between the two.  Another interesting relationship dealt with Clark’s faith.  Clark kept his faith even in the difficult situation he found himself thrust in, and sought advice from a minister to know he was making the right choice. 

This movie offered a brilliant examination of what super-powered individuals would bring to the world.  It also had a great deal of sci-fi fun in it, which works well because Superman was created by a pair of guys who fell in love with science fiction at an early age.  It has a nice message about faith and the value of family.  And it made a ton of money in its first week, insuring a sequel and hopefully a potential Justice League spin-off.  Way to go DC!