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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Thursday, August 13, 2009

Superman: New Krypton

Whenever I sit down to review DC Universe comic books, I face the elephant in the room. That it is absolutely no secret that I don't have a lot of love for the current direction of the DCU and have a plethora of personal reasons for feeling pretty much the same about the company's management.

What's a reviewer to do? In my case, I labor over any DC reviews I write to make sure I am being fair and not just bitchy. (Yes, it *is* okay to be a little bitchy if you're a reviewer. Some people even think I have a master's degree in it.) I also actively seek out DCU titles that I might enjoy more than the bulk of their line. It's the latter that leads me to a series of reviews not unlike my recent blow-by-blow coverage of Marvel's Secret Invasion issues.

If a fan's going to attempt to rekindle his love for the DC super-heroes, then Superman is a good starting place, especially when the Man of Steel is being written by Geoff Johns and James Robinson and especially when his latest adventures involve the newest strange visitors to our world: an entire city full of super-powered Kryptonians. I read the first chapters of the story in Superman: New Krypton Volume One [$24.99], a hardcover collection reprinting Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen Special #1, Adventure Comics Special Featuring the Guardian #1, Superman: New Krypton Special #1, Superman #601, and Action Comics #871.

With the defeat of Brainiac, his ship and his collection of living cities are on Earth. Restored to full size, the Kryptonian city of Kandor is now located near the North Pole and Superman's Fortress of Solitude. As you can imagine, the presence of 100,000 supermen and superwomen is a matter of concern for, well, everyone else on the planet. And I can't say I blame them.

There's a lot of good stuff in this collection. Robinson's Jimmy Olsen Special is one of the best takes on Jimmy ever. In addition to doing right by Olsen, he revives a long-forgotten character and brings him into the DCU while revealing dark secrets of the Cadmus Project. There are also somewhat surprising guest appearances by two other DC characters and the truly moving death of a third. The Adventure Comics Special fills in the rest of the tale while setting up a new situation for the Guardian. The Olsen Special has strong art and storytelling by Jesus Merino, Leno Carvalho, and Steve Scott; the Adventure Comics Special not so much.

The New Krypton Special - written by Johns, Robinson, and Sterling Gates with spiffy art by Pete Woods, Gary Frank, and Renato Guedes - contains all kinds of wonderful. The emotional funeral for "Pa" Kent. The revelation of a plot against Superman and the unholy alliance between Lex Luthor and the supposedly deceased Sam Lane. A visit to the spectacular New Krypton. A tense reunion of sisters Lois and Lucy Lane.

My solitary quibbles are my weariness toward the cliched "sinister government plot" bit and my eye-rolling disdain for the "My Father-In-Law, My Enemy" development. The American government could have legitimate concerns about New Krypton and it would have been much more interesting to address them without the evil scientist and the zealot general.

The remaining two stories have good stuff going for them as well. I'm not wild about Superman's being super-naive about how good it is that Earth is now inhabited by one hundred thousand powerhouses like him - it would make me damn nervous - but I did like that his naivete isn't shared by the Justice Society. I'm also not wild re: the return of Doomsday, but bringing back the same villains again and again is an ongoing DCU problem. On the plus side, the writing remains top-notch, the art is excellent, and the appearance of the new Nightwing and Flamebird has me eager to see what happens next. All in all, these are real good comic books.

Superman: New Krypton Volume One picks up an impressive four out of five Tonys. Look for more "New Krypton" reviews as I make my way through the entire serial.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Nick Cardy

There are days when it is incredibly cool to be me. Like a recent day when the phone rang and the caller was Nick Cardy. Yes, *that* Nick Cardy, the legendary artist of Bat Lash, Aquaman, Teen Titans, and countless other great comic books. Tough as the comics industry can be, moments like that make me feel all the excitement of my first days in the business.

The esteemed Cardy was called to see if I had read and had any comments on Nick Cardy: Behind the Art [$34.95], a spiffy hardcover book published in 2008. He hadn't seen any reviews of the book and was seeking feedback. I hadn't seen the book - I'm thinking it got misfiled in the chaos of my accumulation of stuff - but immediately ordered a copy.

Written by Cardy, Behind the Art is more than a mere collection of his work. It has dozens of illustrations, paintings, sketches, comic-book covers, and comic-book pages, all enlivened by Cardy's informative discussion of how he approached each work and how he brought them to magnificient completion. There are portraits of his late wife Ruth, commercial pieces, examples of his early and later comics work, trip drawings, breathtaking paintings, and more. The book is part career overview and part art instruction. Even to a common word-slinger like myself, it delivers invaluable insights into the visual possibilities of comics.

With editing and design work from Eric Nolen-Weatherington, and an intro by Todd Dezago, Nick Cardy: Behind the Art should be part of any serious comics library. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 08/12/2009 | 08/13/2009 | 08/14/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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