Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t it Cool News)
For anyone who has bitched and bemoaned the New 52, plug your piehole because your universe is back…sort of.
In a time only alluded to as “soon,” BATMAN 28 catapults us in time from last issues Zero Year escapades to a time about 5 years from now. I applaud all of DC for holding this one close to the vest, not only did I see the two major players of this issue appearing, but I also had no idea BATMAN ETERNAL was going to take place in the day after tomorrow. When I interviewed Snyder at New York Comic con ’13, he mentioned ETERNALS would focus on the side characters in the bat-universe, but didn’t once mention who those characters would be or that they would be future incarnations.
So who’s here? How about Harper Rowe for starters. Our little friend from the narrows is a bit more grown up and fighting the Gotham imposed police state tooth and nail as the character BlueBird.
While Batman shows up in this issue, he’s far from the star. He only appears after Harper is deep inside the layer of Gotham’s new kingpin of crime, Catwoman. That’s right kids the “will she, won’t she” rooftop tussles of early 52 books have resulted in a Selina scorned.
Why exacty is Harper scratching her way into Catwoman’s layer. Apparently in the future the Narrows is a place of mass infection with a disease that makes Ebola look like a head cold. The only one with the cure for this plague is the Cat.
The surprises don’t end there though. When Selina opens the safe holding the cure, we see the one and only waifish waffle lover Stephanie Brown in a scene from a bondage flick.
I refuse to hate on the New 52. The best way to be seen as an old codger is to simply dismiss anything new as rubbish. Have all the choices been my cup of tea? No. Is a 39 year old man DC’s sole demographic – FUCK NO! While I would never be so naïve to request perspective from a comic book audience, I will say it’s a fool’s errand to lament time, and a blond man’s folly to ignore that which you don’t agree with. With BATMAN 28 I truly believe the New 52 haters could find a home at DC again. Also, if this truly is a secret glimpse at BATMAN ETERNAL, then you might have a home moving forward. For Gen X, this is the DC we imagined as kids. Where Bruce would be a healthy Boomer greeting people at Wal-Mart by day and guiding the next generation of crime fighters at night. While Bruce is a little closer to 50 than 60 in this “soon” time, I’ll take it. Greta book and a much better teaser for BATMAN ETERNALS than past efforts. I thought for sure the thing was going to be a modernization of G.C.P.D. Now that it’s a future look, this Elseworlds boy is hella sold for the first issue. I just caution Tynion to ensure he doesn’t copy BATMAN BEYOND as he zooms Back to the Future
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED 1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jim Lee & Dustin Nguyen
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I was going to open this review with a stupid DJANGO joke, had it planned for weeks. But after reading SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, I frankly don’t want to sully the book with such cheap review parlor tricks. Instead I’m going to open this review with an apology. I wasn’t the biggest fan of JUSTICE LEAGUE when it launched. I felt it was too big and too bodacious, it lacked the intimacy of Johns’ past work so I put the onus of my distaste on Lee. I claimed he gave it splash page pacing and as a result took my beloved Johns out of his comfort zone.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED basically puts egg on my face. As you will see with the picture accompanying this article, it has one of the biggest god damn splash pages you’ve ever seen and it was still an intimate experience punctuated by epic grandeur – exactly how SUPERMAN should be.
I’m honestly amazed at how much ground the boys covered in such a short page count (aside from the aforementioned megasplah, there’s an epilogue, an interview, and of course…sigh…Channel 52). I’m going to say this is a basic SUPERMAN story and I say with that the utmost respect and reverence. It’s a balance that’s been missing in lieu of exposition in the New 52. We get equal doses of Clark and SUPERMAN in UNCHAINED, but Snyder melds them organically unlike the clear issue by issue delineation we’ve seen in since the day FLASHPOINT changed everything. As SUPERMAN, Clark is the ego controlling the id. As Clark, SUPERMAN is the id making the superego more interesting than your typical corn fed farm boy.
We all know the basic plot by this point, some satellites drop to Earth all under the control of…some new villain. Of course SUPERMAN stops the satellites and yes there’s a new villain, but those broad strokes don’t even begin to describe the famous Snyder retcon that takes place behind the scenes or the spot on characterization for SUPERMAN and his equally famous friends.
The book actually opens in 1945 in a small Japanese town. What comes next any of us could imagine, but not really. Yes, a bomb is released from an old prop plane, but instead of exploding above this town it breaks apart and releases a blue humanoid. Honestly, this figure was reminiscent of the days went SUPERMAN went blue (and I don’t mean his period as a stand-up comedian that swore profusely). This is a big change for DC to completely rewrite actual history. Sure Snyder has had his way with the history of Gotham in the past, but it’s only been his Vertigo work where he transformed our reality.
Flash forward to today when the satellites start falling, and that gorgeous page breaking megasplash. Be careful with this page dear reader, while gorgeous and bold in execution – the logistics could use some work. Mine is precariously hanging on by a small gob of glue right now as I gingerly slip it back into mylar. As the satellites fell I knew SUPERMAN was back on track. A little inner story about Kansas, a screaming in the head on the sanctity of life and real harrowing struggle as he tries to divert a hunk of metal with a nuclear reactor to safety were all things that embody the character packed into three short pages.
Once the satellites are landed, of course Clark Kent needs to cover the story (not before a quick diversion to shake down Luthor though) and here is where Snyder shows an aptitude for the ancillary characters in Clark’s life, especially Lois Lane. Up until now New 52 Lois has frankly been mildly cunty towards Big Blue. LobRocster’s run redeemed her a bit (along with the whole title actually), but we didn’t see “work” Lois during that time. Here, she is driven and focused, but courteous and dare I say mildly caring towards Clark and his freelance writer self. Jimmy is funny and Perry gruff. Basically a return to the core characters that has again been greatly obstructed with 5 years before and the politics of media up until now.
The book ends as it began – with our big blue nemesis. Or is he? While Clark learns he wasn’t the only one diverting satellites today we get the omnipotent look at this blue character’s lord and master – the US Government, specifically General Lane.
The back-up story (another welcome Snyder staple) is mildly confusing, but a wonderful soft contrast to thhe main event in both tone and visuals. We meet another mysterious character with burnt out eyes hauled in by a fishing net while Perry shows Jimmy a pair of binoculars his Uncle retrieved from the ashes of Nagasaki. A nice moment with an obvious and yet also mysterious connection towards revealing this new 75 year old government secret Uberman.
Look, at the end of the day this is a SUPERMAN story. This is not a Millar twist event nor anything overtly shocking. If you hate SUPERMAN stories, keep on walking. But if you’re like me and have been waiting to see the real SUPERMAN for the past two years, here he is. DC branding called this SUPERMAN UNCHAINED for some reason, me I’m going to call it SUPERMAN SALVATION.
Tired of face lift…offs and the morbidity of comics, want to just have a little bit o’ fun with some of your favorite Gothamites? Look no further than L’il GOTHAM. Before you think this digital exclusive is just the Muppet Babying of the bat family, listen to what L’il GOTHAM artist extraordinaire, Dustin Nguyen, has to say about Holiday time inside his imagination.
Rob Patey – Optimous Douche (OD): I’ll admit, as a fully grown man the L’il GOTHAM line scared me from both peer perception and enjoyment. So I need to ask, how two other grown men would think to slather Gotham with Muppet Baby style cuteness?
Dustin Nguyen (DN): At first, it was done for fun- to take a break from the seriousness of drawing the day to day books I was working on. Then it just got addicting to see what every character might look like and act if they weren’t always so serious.
DN: The Holiday theme in the initial pitch we titled “ Little Gotham’s: Calender of Small Events.” It came from the idea that if we can get DC to sign off on a year-long Holiday based series… we’d get at least a year’s worth of work. Passover’s going to all bundled up with this year’s end of season special, I believe that one’s going to be a two-parter.
DN: Yeah definitely, since we get to do 2 chapters instead of 1 a month now, we are expanding to a few 2-parters for some stories, and as you mentioned- break away from the holiday theme and might even leave Gotham City for a bit.
OD: Both you and your writing counterpart Derek Fridolfs work in the other stratums of the DC brand spectrum of ages. What’s it like shifting gears from one to the other, and do you ever find ideas from one feeding the others?
DN: I definitely feel the two have to co-exist, although to be honest, I am a little behind on the current timeline. Derek and I still sort of live in the BTAS world sometimes.
OD: The New 52 continuity in Gotham is pretty dark, are you guys making any of those themes a little more palatable like the Joker’s face hanging off his skull? Or do you just avoid main continuity all together?
DN: Even though we’re part of the main DC universe, we aren’t part of the main continuity, which allows us a slight bit more freedom with our stories and costume choices.
OD: So have you guys hit every player in Gotham yet? Anyone waiting in the wings or someone you’re dying to “youth”enize?
DN: We’re pretty much open to anyone really, i prefer some of the more obscure, lesser used characters, but we always want to include some that’s more known as to not completely alienate the main audience. ah- but they all stay their own age even through my stylized versions!
OD: Friendship is a big part of L’IL GOTHAM as are larger panels with far easier flow. I have to assume this is because a child’s head and thus brain is so small and also have a false sense that mankind is good? Do you find any extra freedoms in these wide open panel spaces and moralistic black and white surety?
DN: That’s absolutely what it is, so we’re letting the kids enjoy it while it lasts, but around that, there’s still plenty or room to play with. Now that we’ve gotten the green-light to do more chapters, we can focus on stories that are more involved and would take a bit longer to tell.
OD: Can you please give us the lowdown on the impending Valentine’s issue if you would be so kind?
DN: It’s going to be full of <3
DN: Gah! you NAILED it. Joker and the LAYDEEES in this one.
L’il GOTHAM’s Valentine special is ready for download now. Get up on it, especially for the wee comic fans in your life.