Those DC Headliners

*52 Dept: I’ve already kind of gone over this in the comments section of a prior post, but contrary to what I was thinking about this issue, it’s not a full 22 pages, it certainly doesn’t read like everything was written by Grant Morrison, and it doesn’t do an awful lot in chronicling the Bat-Family’s adventures prior to the resumption of their monthly adventures. More than anything, this issue feels like it was reconfigured to accommodate newly expanded plots that’ll return farther down the road. Otherwise it’s going to look awfully silly for Nightwing to not show up again to deal with Batwoman, and I’m not so sure about ending Bruce’s story with what amounts to a spasm of dramatic irony (ha ha, of course he’ll be Batman again!) - there’s almost going to have to be more.

I think this one was more of a disappointment of expectations than anything.

Action Comics #845

In case any of you hadn’t heard, Richard Donner is co-writing Action Comics with Geoff Johns, just in time for that surgically reconstructed dvd of Superman II to hit the shelves. This issue arrived in comics stores the other week, the second in their run, accompanied by artist Adam Kubert and colorist Dave Stewart. The story is very easy to pick up, since Superman has apparently discovered a new survivor of Krypton, a young boy, and is trying to keep him away from the government and the forces of evil while pondering with his various sets of parents and loved ones what to do with the lad. It’s Superman and son, not entirely unlike in Superman Returns!

Although actually it’s not much of anything, certainly nothing that’ll inspire me to pick up past or future issues of the run. There’s a bunch of little nods toward past and recent Superman movies, from a Jor-El conversation in the Fortress of Solitude to Christopher Reeve references, to little things like translation subtitles being displayed free-floating at the bottom of wide panels (like it’s a movie, you see). But there’s not an awful lot of interest in the story itself, which is mostly the same teary-eyed, soppily-written soap opera that Johns has (allegedly) been bringing to the Steel segments of 52, interrupted for a third of the page count by a remarkably uninteresting iteration of Bizarro, who has apparently been stripped of any of the reverse-talking whimsy that made the character interesting or fun. Now he’s just some hulking badass who snaps little kids’ arms while exhibiting poor vocabulary skills and occasionally tossing out a ‘reversal’ of one of Superman’s offensive powers (fire breath, for instance). I’m not up on DCU Bizarro history, but Wikipedia assures me that this is Johns' innovation; one gets the feeling that he might as well have just invented some generic super-strong menace for Superman to fight, except a familiar property will probably always catch a little more attention, no matter how blandly it’s used.

At lease Kubert manages a few good action pages, with plenty of the sprawling landscapes and ‘widescreen’ action that superhero comics of a few years ago became noted for in their desire to better emulate action film conventions; it’s about as appropriate for something as self-consciously ‘cinematic’ as this. The art loses its pop whenever the fighting stops, however; Stewart does a great job loading backgrounds with enough lacquered depth that the brightly-colored foreground characters seem to be existing in stills from a animated cartoon, but Kubert has real difficulty in handling character nuance, or even basic consistency - note how still images of characters displayed on television screens change from panel to panel in terms of hairstyle or the direction their eyes are staring. If this creative team wants me to think in terms of movies, and they quite obviously do, I’d suggest less hammy actors and a tighter grip on shot-to-shot continuity.

Anyway, the issue ends as Superman saves the day, something ominous (if visually unclear) occurs with green waves and dinner rolls from space, and -- surprise!! -- the villains from Superman II (FROM DIRECTOR RICHARD DONNER ON SALE NOW) show up, their dialogue clanking around to accommodate the use of all three of their names in natural conversation. Didn’t some version of Zod just show up in For Tomorrow? I guess we’re now One Year Later! I won’t be around to find out what’s up with all these villains or Superman’s son, but with the way this is going I wouldn’t be surprised if the villainous mastermind turned out to be Richard Lester.