Superman stands in the middle with Manchester Black in the top left corner on a tv screen behind him, Midnighter on a screen to the top right, Enchantress to the bottom left, and Omac to the bottom right.

Superman & the Authority & Comic Book Reviews 7/21

Who knew Superman would be taking the lead in back-to-back weeks? And not just him, his cousin, Supergirl has one of my favorite issues of the year. Between Superman & the Authority, and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, fans of the Super-fam have a lot to eat. I love it, especially as I get back into Superman and his adjacent characters.

Of course, our regular X-Men reports are also in. Surprise, surprise, they’re still good. That being said, it was a surprisingly light week, so much so that we get to check on Brian Michael Bendis’s Justice League again. Sadly, it has not maintain its upward moment, the only book that doesn’t on my pull-list this week.

Superman & the Authority #1

Written by: Grant Morrison

Art by: Mikel Janin

Coloring by: Jordie Bellaire

Lettering by: Steve Wands

This book isn’t necessarily the epitome of a Grant Morrison book, but it feels like the most streamlined. It has all the big ideas about what superheroes strive for, and Superman is at the forefront of accomplishing them. But, for what feels like the first time, or at least the first time in a long time, Morrison and their team are writing about what Superman does when he thinks he may not live to see his dream come true.

This Superman is desperate. He’s losing his powers and the other heroes of the world have seemingly have lost faith. After doing the things the same way for a long time, Superman has finally come to the conclusion that he needs to try something new. 

Morrison understands Superman as a character, that’s how they’ve been able to write a litany of classic Superman stories. If this story had any other writer, I wouldn’t have had any faith in the promises this issue makes, but I do. Superman’s attempt at something different isn’t going to be him becoming Batman. That’s what makes this idea so interesting.

Superman seems to be building a team of people who normally wouldn’t be on the Justice League. These are people from different walks of life who need help getting on the right path. Some, like Manchester Black, need that guidance much more than others. And if Superman can achieve success, and do something different by turning anti-heroes and C-List heroes into icons of truth and justice like himself, than he’ll have succeeded in assuring not necessarily success, but the idea that there’s still hope. 

Morrison gets Superman. Even as this Superman is hinted to have stretched his moral compass pretty far, he’s still the pillar of hope we know and love.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #2

Supergirl, cousin of Superman, with the powerup of Red Kryptonite, grows wings of fire to fly through space.
This is easily her best look, like ever.

Written by: Tom King

Art by: Bilquis Evely

Coloring by: Mathews Lopes

Lettering by: Clayton Cowles

This Supergirl is much more mature than the character we usually read. It’s ridiculous that she’s still called Supergirl and not Superwoman at this point. I say this because her characterization here has mellowed compared to usual incarnations. What’s bound to either bring fans in or turn them off though, is her candor.

Those of the House of El are known to be an honest people, yet Tom King writes them differently. They’re honest, but sometimes they are brutally so. This is very much the Tom King who wrote Superman: Up in the Sky, rather than Batman: City of Bane. 

Supergirl is honest knowing it will hurt, but is honest anyway because someone needs to hear it. Whether it be Ruthye being told the folly of revenge without the words being said, or confronting people’s use of red Kryptonite, Supergirl holds nothing back. But who can blame her, someone killed her dog.

Supergirl at first to me, felt like she hadn’t really lost anything. Krypto is one of the best dogs in comics, and dogs are already the best thing in the world, you’d think she’d show more emotion. In reality, her anger is festering underneath the surface, in this quiet, stewing anger. Its all in small scenes perfectly crafted by the art team of Bilquis Evely and Mathews Lopes. 

This issue is none-stop slow moments of characters just stewing, broken up by the most stunning page of the year. Seriously, Supergirl’s most stunning moment may have been put to page in this issue. 

I do understand people’s problem with King’s writing, but I truly don’t believe they need to worry about him not understanding Supergirl. 

Guardians of the Galaxy #16

The Guardians of the Galaxy swarm a large silhouette that has only the question, "Who Will Annihilate Them All?" in it.
I don’t know who will annihilate them, why are you asking me?

Written by: Al Ewing

Art by: Juan Frigeri

Coloring by: Federico Blee

Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

Guardians of the Galaxy is the gift that keeps on giving. Usually I’m not about crossovers. I prefer events to be separate books of their own, but in the age of Hickman’s X-Men, they’ve grown on me. Now, with the beginning of this “Last Annihilation” crossover between Guardians and S.W.O.R.D., I can firmly say I’m excited for a crossover not about the X-Men.

The creative team continues to juggle its fantastically large cast rather well. They can’t give everyone a moment, but everyone has something in-character to say if they have nothing substantial to do. It’s impressive and I hope this large roster stays together after this event. 

The most impressive thing to me is that, unlike in other events, the subplots actually progress. Most of the time these take a back seat in an event, but the arc of the lead character, Nova, is still in full swing. He’s recognizing his natural sense of nihilism and what’s clearly unrecognized depression. He’s gone through so much, and fought so hard, that he now struggles to enjoy in a good thing. At the same time, there seems to be real self-reflection from him. He wants to be happier, and he wants to have hope, and I think he may actually get there.

In fact, and maybe I’m reaching, this issue seems to push further towards the dream of a Star-Lord/Gamora/Nova thruple that we deserve. If Nova’s arc culminates in the way I think, a relationship with his long-love and best friend feels rewardingly fitting, for readers and Richard Ryder.

Marauders #22

The Black Bishop of the Hellfire Club stands back-to-back with Emma Frost.
All hail the Queens.

Written by: Gerry Duggan 

Art by: Matteo Lolli, Klaus Janson

Coloring by: Rain Beredo

Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

Marauders and I have this on and off again relationship where sometimes its my favorite X-book, and sometimes it’s definitely not. This week, it is. By focusing on Emma Frost, the Stepford Cuckoos, and the history of the Hellfire Club, the creative team paints a rather dark and mature picture of these old X-Men villains. This definitely goes up there as one of the best issues in the series. 

Heroes and villains find proper empathy for each other, in a way that neither diminishes heroism or villany. The issue is about lines even the worst of villains can’t cross. There are things that can happen to villains that even heroes can have sympathy for. 

This issue could be triggering to some people. Not in the way X-Factor was a couple weeks ago, but there are things implied that may trigger someone’s past trauma. This issue doesn’t pull any punches and it does so the right way with the right intentions. It builds sympathy for the victim, without giving the scumbag any fame or recognition. 

It also helps that the art sees a step up in quality, as if Matteo Lolli had time to focus on his scenes while Klaus Janson did the flashbacks. Both of their art styles are at their best here. They’re consistent, capturing beauty and ugliness to be both tasteful and respectful. 

Here’s hoping this issue is a signal of quality to come from this new arc.

New Mutants #20

Gabby is caught between the massive of hands of the Shadow King, his giant hands slowly encircling her.
Leave Gabby alone!

Written by: Vita Ayala

Art by: Alex Lins

Coloring by: Matt Milla

Lettering by: VC’s Travis Lanham

New Mutants has really clawed its way to the top of the X-books. Like Way of X, it asks deeper questions, but rather than being philosophical in its answers, it uses the power of friendship. That may sound ho-key, but its also great storytelling, assuming you’re not a jaded prick. 

It’s been a back and forth between Gabby and her friends, whether or not to trust Shadow King. Gabby’s been used by terrible men before and doesn’t want her friends to go through the same thing. That led to her being left for dead, alone, let down by the people she wanted to help. Their guilt-ridden and high-risk attempt to save her is the epitome of the “power of friendship” trope.

It’s also nice to see the creative team not forgetting about the actual New Mutants. They may not be the most interesting part of this series anymore, but they’re still worth their plot line. Rahne’s slow descent into the Shadow King’s grasp rubs up against Karma’s good fortune in a way only an intelligent creative team would figure out. It shows true understanding of where the characters are emotionally and in society making that comparison. 

Read New Mutants, not only for the big moments, but the small moments. Too often stories get bogged down with setting up multiple storylines that feel the need to collide in one big explosion. It’s far better when they slowly rub up against each other, slowly wearing each other down. The culmination can be an emotional yet quiet affair, rather than a loud one. 

I hope that’s where the creative team is going.

Justice League #65

A close of up of Black Canary as she screams with Batman right behind her.
A couple of real MVPs right here.

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis

Art by: Steve Pugh

Coloring by: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Lettering by: Josh Reed

We’re stalling again. 

There becomes an issue when a creative team, typically the writer, confuses dire odds with high stakes. Last issue we were introduced to a super-powerful being who seemingly hates Superman, and now he’s wrecking the Justice League single-handely. Thing is, if he has a reason for being here, such as hating Superman, why does he act like a mindless monster? Why does he continue to attack the Justice League after defeating Superman? Why does he chose to leave Superman alone after knocking him out, to attack the Hall of Justice?

We’re told this Synmar has a motivation, but this character never acts like it. We’re never shown his personality, the alien doesn’t ever speak in the issue. It drains the conflict of tension and stakes. Sure, the odds are dire, but why do we care? It feels like such a diabolus ex machina, where the villain unreasonably wins. 

It all leads to what the creative team wanted to be an emotional moment, where the League needs to rally for a last defense after losing most of the battle, and fails. We as the readers should feel defeated, like there’s no hope, like there’s stakes, but there is none.

Doomsday is so intimidating, frightening, and a good villain because, you know, Doomsday is a monster whose spoken of like one. He was a monster through and through, the embodiment of death. He didn’t have implied complex motivations, or a deep personality, but we were told that, and shown why that’s scary. 

We were told Synmar had motivations, and then we got none of that. 

Brian Michael Bendis has a track record for writing street-level heroes really well, but he sure likes writing boring plots about barely thought out aliens.

Superman and His Family Make the Most of a Slow Week 

Is this a bad week? No. Is it light? Yes, and not because I took books off my pull list last week. This is the first week in a long time where I didn’t have to chose which of the books I bought to review, I had to review everything. I actually bought Superman and the Authority to fill out the week and I’m glad I did. 

I’m not sure what happened this week, but it pushed me to try something new. I took a chance on a proven author and massively popular character so maybe its not that daring, but it worked out. Superman and the Authority is a good time, and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is an even better one. The Super-family is full of special characters, and I’m glad to have gotten back into them. 

It’s fitting that Superman would continue his dominance on my pull-list after his descendants represented last week. Truly, we’re under the reign of the Supermen.

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