Review: Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath by Greg Pak

Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies BeneathSuperman – Action Comics, Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath by Greg Pak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes! This title continues to get better & better!
Pak did an excellent job with this volume, and wrote a story that really showcased Superman’s strengths as a character.

Ok, first you have Clark’s Secret Origins issue. Now, I’d already read it in the Secret Origins vol. 1 collection, but I thought it was a good fit for this volume.
It’s a touching story about Clark/Kal told through the overlapping voices of the two women who loved him most.
His biological mother, Lara, who sent him away to save him:

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And his adopted mother, Martha, who raised him to embrace his humanity:

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It’s sappy, but it works as a short story.
I have to say, I believe one of the biggest mistakes the New 52 made was killing off Martha Kent. The mother/son dynamic between those two shouldn’t be wasted. Besides, I think it helps keep a character as powerful as Superman grounded & humanized when you see him going home and helping his mom out with chores.

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Zero Year also makes its way into this volume, but it’s not set in Gotham, so I’m not sure what the point was. I guess it’s just there to let us know what Clark was up to while Bruce was off fighting the Riddler…and learning to be The Batman?
Eh. Whatever.
It didn’t suck. It shows a cocky, t-shirt wearing Superman trying to beat back the forces of nature, and finding out that sometimes a softer touch is needed.

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On to the main event!
Lana Lang is quickly turning into one of my favorites, and stories like this one are the reason why.

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These two share a deep trust, that comes from years of friendship, and it really make their interactions on the panel pop. Not to mention, they used to date when they were younger, so there’s still a tiny part of each of them that still wants to impress the other. It makes for an interesting dynamic, and one that you don’t see done well very often.

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Ok, the main story takes place before the events of Doomed. I wish I’d read this one first, because it explains who the blue monster kid was, and where he came from!

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It also explains who the hell Ghost Soldier is, and why Clark would (maybe) trust him.

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Without giving away the plot, I just want to say that THIS Superman needs to be the role model for all the future incarnations.

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I’m an immensely powerful being, and FUCK YOU if you think you can make me do something that goes against my morals!

Thank you, Pak! Thank you! Superman should kick ass and take names, but he should not act like a bully or psychopath. This volume is a perfect blend of that. Clark has a great moral compass, and he has the mojo to back up his decisions. Excellent job on nailing his personality in this one.

Definitely Recommended For Superfans!

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Review: Superman: Doomed by Greg Pak

Superman: DoomedSuperman: Doomed by Greg Pak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of Big Blue, then I think you’ll enjoy this one.
I’m sort of surprised that this played out as well as it did, to be honest. I was sort of expecting more flashbacks to Krypton or something.
But they kept this about Clark, and the story was pretty darn good!

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Wonder Woman & her relationship with Superman plays a Huge role in this one, and if you were planning on reading Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 2don’t. Everything but a Future’s End issue is already packed into Doomed, and it makes a hellava lot more sense when you read it all together.

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Doomsday gets loose, turns into some kind of a Doomsday-Prime beast, and starts rampaging across the planet. Superman is forced to do the One Thing he doesn’t want to do, and…kttttk!
But there’s a problem! Of course!

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To save everyone, Superman inhales all of the spores that puffed out of Doomsday when Supes blasted him. And now…
{cue dramatic music}
He’s turning into Doomsday!

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The rest of the story is all about how to save the planet from Brainiac, and save Superman from himself. It’s a catch-22, because they need Superman to take out Brainiac’s fleet of ships, but every time he enters Earth’s atmosphere he loses control of himself and Hulks-out…thanks to the government blanketing the planet in Kryptonite.

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What I loved?
Diana & Clark have a pretty interesting relationship. I love that she’s the only one who is strong enough take him out if he totally loses control, and she’s willing to do it. But she also never gives up on him, even when he’s acting like an asshole. She doesn’t do that angry girlfriend thing, and stomp off with her feelings hurt.

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And speaking of never giving up, can I get a round of applause for Batman?! He’s another one who refuses to throw in the towel on Clark.
He’s Diana’s biggest ally in saving the Man of Steel, and I love how much this showcases his (very deeply buried) feelings for his friend.

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John Steel & Lana! Loved these two! Again, you get to see how much Clark means to the people in his life, and how deep their loyalty to him goes.
*sniff, sniff* Do I smell romance in the air for these guys?

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Another cool tidbit is the BFF status between Lois & Clark. They genuinely care about each other as people this time around! Instead of Lois pining after Superman because he always saves her life, and ignoring the dorky reporter next to her? Well, Lois may still (secretly) harbor the hots for the man in the cape, but she also has some conflicted feelings for her friend.
And Superman’s feelings for her seems to go a bit farther than just friends, as well. When he argues with the monster in his head, Doomsday keeps referencing ‘her‘ as the reason Clark won’t give up.
Hmmm? Why not just say Diana if that’s who he’s talking about? I think this is a teaser for things to come…

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I have to admit I wasn’t crazy about Lois (once again) getting superpowers. It doesn’t sit right with me, and it’s sort of annoying that it’s turning into the go-to plot device for this title. We all want Lois to play a big role in the stories, but there has to be a way to do it without turning her into a Power. Maybe I’m wrong?

Overall, this was an excellent story, though.
Recommended for Fans of Superman!

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Review: Batman/Superman, Vol. 3: Second Chance by Greg Pak, Jae Lee (Illustrations)

Batman/Superman, Vol. 3: Second ChanceBatman/Superman, Vol. 3: Second Chance by Greg Pak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

3.5 stars

I don’t know if it was because I expected to not like this or what, but this volume didn’t disappoint me as much as the other two. The stories weren’t connected at all, or if they were, only loosely. And instead of growling at each other, they were back to being friends. So…a bit more fun.

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That’s not to say this was perfect.
The first issue was some weird story about a spaceship full of microscopic aliens that Batman accidentally sucked up his nose. Ray Palmer (The Atom), who is a scientist working for S.H.A.D.E (Frankenstein’s old organization), shrinks himself and Superman down, and they take a trip inside Batman to save the day.
I shit you not!

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Doomed crossover event.
Already read it, so nothing new there.
Batman, Wonder Woman, Steel, & even Krypto search through the Phantom Zone for a cure for Superman. It’s good stuff, but it won’t make much sense unless you’ve already read Superman: Doomed.

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Second Chance is the next up, and it takes place on Earth 2. That wacky little chaos demon from before is back, and it gives them a chance to change the lives of their counterparts on the alternate Earth.

{Spoilery things happen}

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Then the demon makes a deal with some giant devil-thing, who lives in a devil-dimension. They erase both of their memories, and shoot them back on to Earth…naked.
*cough*
Things get a bit mixed up, and the boys sort of end up with the wrong women.
So to speak…

Clark falls into Selina’s lap, and (of course) she can’t resist playing a few tricks on the Man of Steel.

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Meanwhile, Lois partners up with Bruce, and brings out his flirty side.

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Eventually, the boys shape up, fight back, remember who they are, and (naturally) save the day.
The End.

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Review: Storm Vol. 1: Make it Rain by Greg Pak

Storm Vol. 1: Make it RainStorm Vol. 1: Make it Rain by Greg Pak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ehhhhh.
It was ok. I just thought it would be cooler or something.
I mean, it’s Storm!

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But it wasn’t as badass as I was hoping. Or as interesting as I was hoping.
Mostly it was just a bunch of unconnected stories about Storm roaming around and doing…you know, do-gooder stuff.

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She saves people from bad guys, tries to find herself, has lunch with Logan, and then tries to get over his death by attempting to help one of his friends.

Not a bad bunch of stuff, but I was kind of bored by the end of it. And I hate to say that about such a cool character! She just seemed kind of stuffy.
I’m sorry, but this just didn’t inspire me to want to read more about her.

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Review: Batman/Superman, Vol. 2: Game Over by Greg Pak, Brett Booth (Illustrator), Jae Lee (Illustrator)

Batman/Superman, Vol. 2: Game OverBatman/Superman, Vol. 2: Game Over by Greg Pak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was weird.
The first two (or three?) issues are sideways.

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I found it sort of off-putting because it’s an awkward way to hold a hardcover comic book. I mean, it’s not like it’s all that difficult to turn something to the side, but it got on my nerves after a few issues.
Or maybe I’m just a big whiner-baby?
Anyway, the gist is that Toymaker accidentally invents the World’s Deadliest Virtual Reality game.
I enjoyed the banter between the boys, but the story itself was just ok.

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In a (sorta) continuation of the gamer story, Batgirl, Supergirl, Red Hood, Krypto, and John Steel show up and help our guys kick some alien butt.
Again, it was an ok story. There were a few memorable moments between Barbara and Steel that made me laugh, and I enjoyed seeing Jason Todd show up and kick a little ass.

Next up was a crossover with the World’s Finest aka Power Girl and Huntress. In the last volume I’d read, PG was having some problems controlling her powers, and this seems to be a continuation of that storyline.
They also throw in a character from Earth 2, Vol. 4: The Dark Age. You don’t strictly need to read those to understand what’s going on…but it wouldn’t hurt.

The art is distracting, because Jae Lee isn’t the artist for the whole volume. His art sort of pops up in the middle and slaps you around a bit, disappears, comes back for one more kick in the junk, and then leaves.
If you’ve seen Lee’s stuff, you know it doesn’t play well with others.
He should have either drawn the whole thing..or nothing. I know that sounds awful, but it gave the book a really odd feel. One minute you’re looking at normal characters, and the next you’re eyeballing stuff from fairyland.
And, again, I have mixed feeling on how well like his stuff for a superhero comic.

There are stunning moments like this one:
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And then stuff like this:
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The fuck is that?!
Is he smiling?
Is the yellow alien planning to hug them to death?
I mean, it looks like he’s found his Happy Place to me!
And then there’s that oddly placed plane, that makes it look like he just farted out a jet.
Nothing about that panel looks like it belongs in a comic book. Nothing.

I like the Batman/Superman stuff, so I hope they don’t give up on this title. I’d just like to see something more cohesive and maybe more…fun?

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Review: Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak

Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross WorldBatman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

In the world of graphic novels, art can make or break a story.
It plays a huge role in not only telling the story, but setting the mood. When you have an artist and a writer who are in sync, it’s a thing of beauty.
And that’s what makes this one so difficult for me to review.
Jae Lee’s art is phenomenal. Visually, this is one of the most stunning comic books I’ve ever read. To say it’s hauntingly beautiful wouldn’t be an overstatement.
But.
I hated it.
To me, it looked like it belonged in a fairytale retelling, not a capes and tights story.
Having young Superman wear jeans instead of tights, isn’t a new concept. It was done in Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel to give him a fresh/tougher look.

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And in that one I think it worked.
In this? Not so much.
He looked like a little boy with high water pants on.

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I know I’m going to catch shit for this, but as much as I loved the art, I thought it was wasted on this title. It was like seeing a fabulous dress on Sylvester Stallone. The dress might be lovely, but if you drape it over Rambo, it’s gonna looks stupid.
Does that make sense?

As for the story itself?
Alternate Earths collide!
The plot basically runs along the lines of DARKSEID IS COMING!, but nobody on either Earth knows who the hell that is, and they’re too busy squabbling to find out.
Our Superman and Batman (who don’t know each other yet) are transported by a ‘trickster god’ to Earth 2, where they meet up with their older counterparts. These guys have a different history than our Bruce and Clark. Having met when they were children, they’ve formed a solid friendship with each other over the years, while our guys are still spitting and clawing at each other.

*insert fight scenes*

There’s a way to stop Darkseid, but (according to the trickster) only one Earth can do it. Whoever is willing to ‘grasp the power’, or something. The older S&B want to destroy the dangerous weapon, while the younger guys think they should hang onto it…just in case.

*insert more fight scenes

Of course, if you’ve read Earth 2, Vol. 1: The Gathering, then you already know how well the other guys’ strategy worked.

Having a young Batman and Superman giving each other the fish-eye, plus an older version showing how deep the bond of their friendship really runs?
It should have been an easy win-win!
It wasn’t.
Something was just off about the whole thing. I don’t think I can really even put my finger on it in a coherent way. It wasn’t a total loss, but it wasn’t all that great, either.

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