The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 29: DC Comics – Wonder Woman

And so we’ve come to the magnificent, extremely fabulous elephant in the room. No other comic character is quite so engaging, and yet completely ridiculous, than Wonder Woman. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that she may be the hardest character to get “right”

Nope, nothing gay about this at all.

in terms of character and tone, simply because there really isn’t any “right” with her. To some, she’s an example of an extremely misogynistic period in American history. To others, she’s an example of post-feminist 21st century pop culture. To other others, she’s just a hot chick that likes to tie guys up. I think the character can work, and in recent decades there have been some interesting Wonder Woman stories. But there’s also been some very bad ones. Here’s my 2 cents:

1 – She works better alone. Her story, and the story of the Amazons don’t fit that well into the modern DC era. Don’t get me wrong, there should be lots of magic and epic storytelling in a Wonder Woman book. I just think that the character becomes less interesting when you try to make her a traditional “super-hero”. I really liked Greg Rucka’s “Ambassador Oprah” (my words, not his) take on the character, where she is legitimately trying to change the culture of the world we live in, as opposed to just beating up bank robbers. The minute she becomes part of the JLA, or the traditional hero culture, it diminishes the character.

2 – She’s too powerful. Although J. Michael Straczynski’s recent reboot of the character proved quite controversial, the one thing he did get right is to tone down the power levels, and to build up her more militaristic tendencies. She should be DC’s version of Captain America, but in recent years she’s become nothing more than Superman with a vagina. The problem with that, is that DC already has a Superman with a vagina. His name is Superman.

3 – One of my favourite memories as a comic book fan was sitting in the audience of a panel at San Diego Comic Con, and listening with bemusement as an angry fan stood up and in a shaky voice complained to Dan Didio (DC big wig) about how DC wasn’t paying enough attention to how Wonder Woman’s costume looked from issue to issue. Seriously. He has the undivided attention of one of the most powerful people in comics and the topic he wants to discuss is how many stars Wonder Woman has on her panties. If fashion is your reason for liking comic books, you need to rethink your obsessions. Also, if you joined any type of online group opposing Wonder Woman’s recent costume change, you have no life, and I hope that you die a horrible death caused by burrowing Ceti eels.

Wonder WomanThe Naive Schoolgirl Years (Gods & Mortals, Challenge Of The Gods, Beauty And The Beasts, Destiny Calling)

We’ve talked before about Crisis On Infinite Earths, and how DC used that opportunity to “reboot” a lot of characters that were in need of a refresh. No character benefited from the reboot as much as Wonder Woman did, and George Perez’ run on the book is regarded as a golden age in Wonder Woman comic books. From a character perspective, I would agree. Perez (and the many talented co-writers and artists he collaborated with) had a clear vision on who Wonder Woman was, what her new motivations were, and how she would fit into the DCU. From a plotting perspective, it’s a little weak. It’s quite often overly dense, with far too much story in a relatively short period of time. That being said, this run is still well worth your time and money. George Perez’ art is absolutely stunning, and I don’t think that the Wonder Woman character has ever been as charming or likeable as when he was running her book. He also made Greek mythology more important to her mythos than ever before, and that rule has stuck with the book ever since.

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Wonder WomanThe “Did Anyone Else Notice That There’s A Lot Of  Naked Chicks On That Island?” Years (The Contest, Lifelines, Second Genesis)

I probably shouldn’t group these together, as Lifelines and Second Genesis were written by John Byrne, and quite different in tone from The Contest, and in fact were written almost as a defiant response to The Contest.

The Contest was an attempt to modernize the concept of Wonder Woman a bit. The contest in question, is designed to determine who will be the new representative of Paradise Island. A new, extremely unlikable and uninteresting character called Artemis won, and Diana was ordered to trade in her tiara for a black leather jacket (Oh, the ’90’s. I’m surprised they didn’t give her claws and a cigar to smoke while they were at it). Although not a bad story, Mike Deodato’s (who would eventually grow into one of my favourite superhero pencillers) anatomically unbelievable art makes this difficult to take seriously. It’s essentially a cheap way for DC to pack panel after panel of half-naked women into a comic book. And not good-looking half-naked women either. Again, this is Deodato in his formative years, and so every character looks exactly the same, with breasts the size of mutant watermelons, and thighs thicker than Elton John’s head. It comes across as sleazy, and not at all in keeping with Perez’ vision of the book.

After The Contest’s failed attempt at modernization, DC brought John Byrne to the book, in an effort to bring back some of the class that the book had lost. Class he brought. Good comics he didn’t. Although I know this run is loved by some fans, I found it to be quite dull, even though Byrne has some pretty big events befall Wonder Woman and the Amazons. First of all, Byrne does the inking on his art himself, which is never a good thing, and really makes it hard to remember that at one point he was one of the most popular pencillers in the game. Secondly, Byrne turned this into just another superhero book. In fact, you could have put Superman, or Captain America, or even Batman into a lot of the stories here with very little change. Thirdly, Byrne’s attempt at making Darkseid into Diana’s number one villain seemed forced, and rushed. A villain like Darkseid should be used sparingly, but with major buildup. All in all, although I admire Byrne’s efforts here, his run has to be considered a disappointment.

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Wonder WomanThe “I Can’t Believe She Just Squirted Poison In Her Eye To Win A Fight” Years (Paradise Lost, Paradise Found, Down To Earth, Eyes Of The Gorgon, Land Of The Dead, Mission’s End, The Hiketia)

This is my personal favourite run of Wonder Woman, and it’s one that I think was cut short before it had a chance to fully develop. It started with Phil Jimenez’ intensely personal and reverential take on Diana, and continued with Greg Rucka’s well-plotted, yet absolutely action packed version. The Wonder Woman as written here is probably the most fully realized she’s ever been in regards to character development. She’s the world’s greatest warrior, but most importantly she’s the world’s most reluctant one as well. Although her pacifism is still a high priority, Rucka removes the naiveté that the character has often possessed in recent years, and replaces it with an optimism that serves her well. There’s also a lot of mythological action, and Rucka does his level best to turn Wonder Woman into the baddest bad-ass character in the DCU. He also gives her the most interesting supporting cast she’s had since the Perez years. Special mention should go to Jimenez’s sweet Wonder Woman and Lois Lane bonding story from Secret Origins 2, and Rucka and J.G. Jones wonderful The Hiketia, which is one of my favourite contemporary Wonder Woman comics.

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Wonder Woman The “What Were They Thinking?” Years. (Who Is Wonder Woman, Love and Murder, Amazons Attack)

So because Rucka’s run was both popular and critically acclaimed, it made perfect sense for DC to remove all of the great work he had done with the character and reboot it from scratch. The premise here is that Wonder Woman had removed herself too much from humanity, and that since she didn’t really know who she was anymore, decided to take up a secret identity. Quick note: If you’re ever deciding to take a break from being a super-hero ambassador goddess in order to regain your lost humanity, becoming a Bondish Super Spy for a secret paramilitary organization specializing in supernatural occurrences MIGHT not be your best bet. Long story short, this was an extremely misguided attempt at “fixing” a character that really didn’t need fixing. It’s poorly written, not even remotely in keeping with character continuity, and barely enjoyable. The art by Terry Dodson is fun, but not enough to hide the run’s other faults.

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Wonder Woman The “Too Little, Too Late” Years (The Circle, Ends Of The Earth, Rise Of The Olympian, Warkiller, and Contagion).

So since the character had been completely devalued by delays and poor storytelling, DC finally went to the writer that they should have gone to in the first place, Gail Simone. When Simone took over the book, the feeling was that she was finally going to make Wonder Woman into the A list hero that DC had been telling us she was for decades. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. While it’s a good run, with some very readable stories, they never really clicked with the mainstream comic book audience. I’m not really sure why. While Simone has had great success with rebuilding damaged DC characters before, it’s possible that Wonder Woman was too much of a sacred cow for Simone to really do anything drastic with. Simone is at her best when left in her own little corner of the DCU. The Wonder Woman character by definition is extremely high-profile, and so Simone’s stories come across as readable, enjoyable, but extremely safe.

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Next up: The odds and ends of DC: Final Night, Several different Crisis’, WW3, New Frontier, 52, Kingdom Come, and others.

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The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 28: DC Comics – Teen Titans

Before I start, I should mention my wife. She has been awesome in all of this. She’s put up with my nose being in various comic books for the past 6 months, and has also done an excellent job in feigning interest in such topics as  “Why Brian Bendis’ Daredevil is vastly superior to Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil” and “Yes, The Hulk could beat Superman in a fight, but only if it’s the green Hulk as written by Greg Pak, and not the grey Hulk as written by Peter David”. The one snag is that she has an annoying habit of leaning over my shoulder to see what I’m reading right around the time that I’ve turned the page to a panel of some anatomically impossible trollop dressed in a thong thinner than Michael Ignatieff’s credibility. Usually she gives me a sigh, and then goes on with her day. Not when I read Teen Titans however. Because as any self-respecting comic book fan knows, Teen Titans means Starfire. Or as my wife put it, the love child of Sailor Moon and Chaka Khan.

The love child of Sailor Moon and Chaka Khan

That being said, my wife’s mocking of my hobbies is a small price to pay for paradise, so there you go.

As is the usual with some of the weirder DC concepts we’re discussing, some back story for the Teen Titans is required.

In the late 1960’s, DC realized that they had a glut of teen sidekicks (Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy) taking up a lot of space, and decided to put them in a team. And so the Teen Titans were born. As befitting the era, there were a lot of “Groovy, man!”, and “Out of sight!” & “I can’t believe Batman touched me there, dude” and so ons. The comics were corny, and for the most part shouldn’t be discussed.

Fast forward a decade and a bit. Marvel had a HUGE hit with the X-Men, a motley group of powered young people who spent a lot of time dealing with personal drama. And so since coming up with an original idea would have been too hard, DC remembered that they had their own group of powered young people who spent a lot of time dealing with personal drama, and dusted them off. They put two up and comers on the book (Marv Wolfman and George Perez), and the New Teen Titans were born. There have been endless versions of that group ever since, of extremely variable quality.

Teen TitansTerra Incognito, The Judas Contract, The Terror Of Trigon, Who Is Donna Troy?

When people think of the Titans, they think of this version, the early ’80’s one created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. These Titans were superheroes, but they were also teenagers. Which meant that they were moody, had problems with father figures, and screwed each other silly. This sounds superficial, but in reality this was a hell of a comic book. The focus was character development first, plotting second, but Wolfman supplied a healthy amount of both on a regular basis. The traits and backstory that Wolfman wrote into these characters are still used today, which is pretty rare in an industry that reinvents it’s characters about as often as Sarah Palin edits her Facebook page. And what can I say about the art? It rocks, that’s what I can say. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When it comes to big-time superhero action, nobody beats George Perez. Nobody.

Although Judas Contract is usually considered the pinnacle of the series, my personal favourite is the Terror arc. It’s a mini-masterpiece in how build tension in a superhero comic. You truly feel as if these heroes are beyond redemption, and that this is the last time you’re seeing them. The despair leaks from every page. And I don’t think there has been a more disturbing image in superhero comics than the shot of Raven finally going over to the dark side and following in her father’s footsteps. Creepy, powerful stuff. The only “miss” in this batch of trades is the Who Is Donna Troy collection, simply because it highlights how rediculous DC’s attempts at salvaging the character of Wonder Girl have been. It’s still worth owning for the beautiful art by Perez and Phil Jimenez, but it’s a bit of a mess in places. I’ll also use this quote from my friend Donovan, where he calls me out for not mentioning that “the original issue of Who is Donna Troy? Is one of the single greatest stories in the history of the medium and one of only two works of art that nearly succeeding in getting a young B-Boy Dram E. Dram to shed a single tear of appreciation. (The other being when they shaved the Lion’s mane in The Witch, The Lion, and The Wardrobe.)” For those of you who need that translated, he meant to say that it was really good, and that he liked it. He also says that “no other single issue meant so much to establishing Dick Grayson as more than Batman Jr. while in costume.”

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Teen TitansA Kid’s Game, Family Lost, Beast Boys & Girls, The Future Is Now, Life & Death, Around The World, Titans East, Titans Of Tomorrow

Although there have been numerous Titans reboots since the Wolfman/Perez version, most of them have failed miserably. And so a few years ago DC got their golden boy Geoff Johns to try his hand at rebuilding the franchise. For the most part, he succeeded. Although this series isn’t going down in my all-time favourites any time soon, Johns and Mike McKone took a credible stab at reminding people why teen superheroes were a good idea in the first place. Specifically Johns spent a lot of time building up the friendships and relationships that are necessary in any teen book, and the Titans team up with their future selves is one of the better time travel stories that DC has attempted recently. However, as I reread I found that the series quickly wore out its welcome, and that pretty much everything after the Future Is Now storyline started to slowly deteriorate in quality. I got the impression that Johns told the story he wanted to tell early on, and that it didn’t take long for him to lose interest in the characters.

A Kid’s Game, Family Lost, Beast Boys & Girls, The Future Is Now: KEEP

Life & Death, Around The World, Titans East, Titans Of Tomorrow: CULL

Teen Titans & Outsiders – The Insiders, The Death And Return Of Donna Troy

Since Geoff Johns’ Titans and Judd Winick’s Outsiders were launched as companion books, it was inevitable that the two books would cross over occasionally. In fact, the Death and Return arc is the storyline that launched both books. Although not essential, these are books that read nicely for fans of Titans or Outsiders.

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Next up: The utterly fabulous character known as Wonder Woman.

The Great Comics Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 27: DC Comics – Superman & Batman

Superman & BatmanGenerations 1 & 2

Much has been made of John Byrne’s descent into madness. Or at least mediocrity. Byrne was considered one of the preeminent pencillers of the ’80’s, and also quickly showed that he had considerable writing skills as well. However,  like Stephen Harper and common sense, Byrne and great comic books seem to have parted ways at some point, and much of the work I’ve read of his in the past decade or so is pretty close to unreadable. And unfortunately these two trades are shining examples of that.

Here is the premise: These series follow the adventures of Superman & Batman from the beginning of their careers to the far future. Unlike most superhero comic books, the adventures take place in real time, as opposed to super slow superhero time. Also unlike most superhero comic books, it’s god awful and should be barred from the sight of god and man.

I’m being harsh, but that’s because I’m comparing Generations to the work that Byrne has done in the past. You see, I’m a little ahead in my reading, and I’ve recently reread the work he did in the 80’s on titles such as Alpha Flight and Fantastic Four. And they were awesome. Absolutely awesome. And so as a big fan of the man’s previous work, I think I have the right to critisize, for what that’s worth. First of all, Mr. Byrne needs to stop inking his own pencils. Immediately. The man is one of the all-time great superhero artists, but these days his art is so unfocused that it makes Bill Sienkiewicz look like Jim Lee. That’s a little comic book art humour for those in the group that care about such things.

Secondly, he seems to have forgotten that comic books are a visual medium. So, if you have Batman standing on a building, and Superman is flying down to meet him, you don’t need to have Batman saying: “Hey, it’s Superman”. We know. We can see him. You’re the one that put him there.

Thirdly, this thing is cheesy. SO cheesy. And while I think that that may have been Byrne’s point at some point, it doesn’t make for interesting reading. I’m being pretty nasty here, so let me end by saying that no one would be happier than me to have Byrne take his rightful place back among the ranks of the comic book elite.

Superman & Batman Public Enemies, Vengeance, Supergirl, Absolute Power

These were the first 4 trades of a series that still continues today.  I’ve talked a lot of smack about Jeph Loeb in recent months, and rightfully so. His strongest talent seems to be convincing great artists to make his scripts look amazing. And so while these might not be 5 star Superman/Batman stories, they are definitely solid 3 star stories. Excessively goofy at times, and formulaic to a fault, but still enjoyable in a high camp kind of way.

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Superman & BatmanEnemies Among Us

This was the first trade of the series after Jeph Loeb left, and the kindest thing I can say about it is that it made his writing seem brilliant in comparison. Although Mark Verheiden has done admirable work in both comics and film, he turned in a hackneyed alien invasion script that defied logic and common sense. Only Ethan Van Sciver’s beautiful, but menacing pencils make this worth reading, but unfortunately they’re not enough to make it worth keeping.

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Next up: Teen Titans! They’re like superheroes, but with puberty!

 

The Great Comics Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 26: DC Comics – Superman Part 2

SupermanBirthright, Earth One

Before Earth One, before Secret Origin, Birthright was supposed to be the definitive Superman origin, or at least the most definitive since the last definitive Superman origin, which was created only about 15 years before this one. And if anybody had read it, maybe it would have been. But unlike the previous Superman origin story Man Of Steel, Birthright never really captured the imagination of Superman fans. It’s a shame, as Mark Waid and Lenil Yu did a fantastic job here. Although Waid doesn’t add as many new concepts into the Superman mythos as John Byrne did before him, he tells a much more cohesive story than Byrne. It’s an extremely safe interpretation of Superman’s origin, but it’s also very well told, and definitely worth a read.

Earth One, on the other hand, tries to add a lot of new concepts, but writer J. Michael Straczynski is so excited by his new ideas that he forgets to make his Superman interesting, or even likeable. It’s still a decent story, but it’s definitely not the savior of the Superman franchise that is was made out to be when it came out last year.

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SupermanThe Death Of Superman

While Superman’s birth is retold every decade or so, his death has really only been told once. Which sounds like a lot if you’re you, or if you’re me. But if you’re a comic book character, dying only once is pretty much a mathematical impossibility. Since this story was so overhyped in its day, I was surprised to see how well it held up. This was the comic version of a summer action movie: High on action, high on emotion, short on plot or substance. While in retrospect it might have been nice to have some back story on the villain of the piece (something we would get a few years later), it’s still a fast-moving action story with some pretty effective emotional beats.

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SupermanFor All Seasons

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are the peanut butter and chocolate of the comic book world: Ok on their own, but magnificent when they’re together. There is nothing they’ve done together that’s not worth reading, and For All Seasons is one my personal favourites of the work they’ve done. Again, it emphasizes pathos over plot, but it’s still a beautiful piece of mainstream comic work.

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Superman Kryptonite

Although Darwyn Cooke has achieved near-legendary status in a relatively short period of time, this was one of the first comics that he wrote, but didn’t pencil. Although I don’t think he’ll be competing with Warren Ellis anytime soon, Cooke put together a solid script here. Tim Sale is one of the few pencillers that could be considered Cooke’s artistic equal, and really elevates the story.  In fact, reading Kryptonite is enough to convince me of who really did the heavy lifting in all of the aforementioned Loeb-Sale collaborations. This has some really great Clark and Lois moments, and I think it’s quite underrated.

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SupermanOur Worlds At War Vol. 1 & 2

There are two types of cross overs in comics: Cross-Over A has one central story in a finite mini-series, and then has side books that accentuate the original story but DON”T require reading in order to understand the theme, or to get the main plot beats ( A very good recent example of this is Marvel’s Civil War). Cross-Over B has one central story, and then has side books that accentuate the original story but  still have key moments that you DO need to read in order to full grasp what is happening in the main story. This isn’t my favourite (Recent example: DC’s Blackest Night). Unfortunately, for Our World’s At War DC went with option C: A dozen different comics all trying to tell important parts of the same story, with what seems to be very little editorial direction in order to make an incomprehensible story. It’s an incredibly ambitious, big-time space epic that had some really great beats, but was very poorly served by some extremely bad editing. This was a big alien invasion story in which all of earth’s heroes team up to repel the invaders. I can’t really tell you more than that, as the extremely convoluted plot that drifted in and out of the different comics involved departed from my brain almost immediately after I read the book. In fact, what does it say about a Superman cross-over when the best story came from a Wonder Woman issue?  There are still enough interesting decent character moments (Specifically I’m referring to the Wonder Woman issues) to put it in the keep pile for now, but the next time I need to add some space for new additions, this one is gone.

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SupermanPresident Lex

Making Lex Luthor President of the US was a good idea in theory. In fact, it was such a good idea that Marvel decided to pretty much copy it verbatim for their recent Dark Reign storyline in which Norman Osbourne took control of America’s superheroes. unfortunately, Marvel did a better job with DC’s idea than DC did, and the whole Luthor as President thing is usually discussed as one of DC’s poorer ideas. I liked it though, although as with the Our Worlds At War cross-over, poor editing really hurt the concept, and there’s just as much bad as there is good. Decent idea, poor execution. An other thing this one has in common with Our Worlds At War, is that I’m keeping this one, for now.

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Superman Red Son

This is one of the weirder ideas to come from the DC brain trust in the past decade, and no one was more surprised than me that it actually worked. It’s the Superman story, with the caveat being that the rocket ship that he was sent to earth on landed in Russia. Crazy, right? Da. But still a good story. Although it’s pretty easy to criticize Mark Millar for some of his recent work, no one can say that the guy doesn’t know how to tell a GREAT mainstream comic book action story, and he’s pulling out all the stops here. Although the high concept here is as gimmicky as gimmicks get, Millar still takes the time to stay true to the character he’s riffing on here, and tells an engaging “What If” story that happens to surpass a lot of the past decade’s more mainstream Superman canon. I’ll go on record and say that this also happens to be one of my favourite Lex Luthor stories of all time.

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SupermanWhatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow

A little back story is necessary here. In 1986, DC upset their apple cart and decided to reinvent the origins of several of their key heroes, Superman included. And since that mean that the current run of Superman was coming to an end, Julius Schwartz called up Alan Moore (Post-Watchmen, Pre-bugshit crazy) and asked him to write the final Superman story. He did, got the venerable Curt Swan to do his thing on the art, and then produced one of the greatest Superman stories ever written. I’ve read this a hundred times, and it puts a smile on my face every time. The premise is this: Superman is at the twilight of his career, but his enemies come out of the woodwork to launch one final attack against him and his loved ones. He gathers those closest to him and brings them all to the Fortress of Solitude to try to defend them. Things don’t go well. This is a definitively Silver-Age Superman story, but the interesting thing here is how timeless Moore and Swan make it. 25 years later, it remains one of the great Superman comics, and I think a strong case could me made that it was the last.

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SupermanAt Earth’s End

A throw-away Elseworlds story that is better than it has any right to be. Though not something I would say was remotely essential, it’s still weird (Future Superman fights an army of cloned Hitlers, as well as the reincarnated body of Batman) enough to keep.

Next up: More Superman, but with a dollop of Batman mixed in.

The Great Comics Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 25: DC Comics – Superman, Part 1

It’s time to talk about the grand poobah. The big-wig. The Big Blue Cheese. The butter on the loaf of bread that is known as DC comics.  Superman.  When I talked about Batman I said that it wasn’t that hard to write a good Batman story, but that it WAS hard to write a great Batman story. However, I think that writing a great Superman story these days is almost impossible. It can be done, but they’re rare. The reasons for this are many: The character is a throwback to an earlier, simpler time; the character is too powerful;  they should have never had Clark and Lois marry; The fact that they had a TV show on the air for 10 years about Superman but NEVER ACTUALLY CALLED HIM SUPERMAN etc.

He’s also not a character that I’ve ever really liked. But like Rihanna running back to Chris Brown after the 2009 Grammys, I go back time and time again, in hopes that he’ll change. He has not.

SupermanFor Tomorrow Vol. 1 & 2

After Jim Lee worked his magic with Batman: Hush, and helped relaunch Batman back into the upper echelon of DC characters (and sales), the Powers-That-Be at DC decided it was the same to do the same for Superman. They brought Lee back, and had Brian Azzarello do the scripts. They called it For Tomorrow, and although I just read I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what it was about. It was that forgettable. It’s not that it was bad (although it kind of was), it was that it was boring. And a story about a man who can tear a galaxy in half with his bare hands can be many things, but it should never be boring. And although Lee may be the preeminent superhero artist of his generation, even his talents weren’t enough to save this turkey.

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Superman ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Lois hate Superman. Superman feel bad. Superman cry. Lois hate Superman more. Superman cry more. Lois turns out to be evil super villain masquerading as Lois. Superman beat him up. Tim bored.

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Superman – Braniac, Superman & The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Secret Origin

A few years ago, Geoff Johns performed the impossible: he made me care about Superman. He had a brief, but memorable run on the book, and for a while I thought I was hooked. However, upon rereading I realized that artist Gary Frank had just as much (or more) to do with my newfound love of the character as Johns did, and found that the books that Johns wrote without Frank were decent, but nothing that I needed to keep. My appreciation of the books that the two of them did together has grown however, and are essential for any Superman fan. Geoff Johns shows that there isn’t an emotional character moment that he doesn’t know how to exploit,  and the art is about as good as you will ever get in a superhero comic. Ever.

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Superman – Last Son, Escape From Bizarro World, New Krypton Vol. 1 & 2

Although I generally like Geoff Johns, and do think he did a fine job with these arcs, the absence of Gary Frank put these on the fence for me. I realized that although there was nothing in them that I could point to and say “This sucks”, the stories didn’t really grab me. The idea of Clark and Lois adopting an abandoned Kryptonian child seemed so forced and gimmicky, and the addition of General Zod to the mix did nothing to change my mind. Superman works best when he’s the last Kryptonian in the galaxy. Take that away, and you’re taking away a fundamental part of the character.  And although I think Eric Powell is one of the finest artists of his generation, even he wasn’t enough to really make Bizarro World anything other than just a decent Superman arc.

After Johns left the book, James Robinson took over. And since I sang his praises in my previous Starman post, I shouldn’t be afraid to say how disappointed I’ve been in his recent DC comics. In fact, there’s nothing in his recent work that even hints at some of the brilliance shown in his Starman run, and while getting rid of the non-Frank Geoff Johns books was hard, getting rid of the Robinson ones was not.

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SupermanSuperman Adventures Vol. 1, 2, & 3

These are small digest-sized collections of the Mark Millar-penned comic adaptations of the much-missed cartoon, Superman: The Animated Series. For some inexplicable reason, these are out of print, but are very much worth your time and money if you can track them down. They are short, stand-alone Superman stories that are so good that it makes you want to see the Superman movie that Mark Millar has been claiming for years that he’s got hiding under his belt. That DC hasn’t put out the entire series out in a deluxe hardcover is a mystery.

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SupermanAll-Star Superman Vol. 1 & 2.

They’re probably the most critically acclaimed Superman stories of the modern era, and for good reason. Not since Alan Moore’s Supreme has there been a book that captures the wonder, silliness, and magic of Silver Age Superman comics as well as All-Star Superman did. Although Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have their Superman do some pretty amazing things in these stories, probably the most impressive feat of all was to get me to give a damn about this character again. Some amazing stuff here, and if you miss the absolute goofiness of the comics you read as a kid, this is a pretty safe bet.

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Next up: More Superman!