Review: Superman, Vol. 1 – Before Truth by Gene Luen Yang & John Romita Jr

Before TruthThe Superman titles have undergone a renaissance recently, sparked by the arrival of Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder on ACTION COMICS, and followed by Geoff Johns’ and John Romita Jr.’s brief stint on SUPERMAN. Now Gene Luen Yang steps up to the plate – the acclaimed writer of American Born Chinese – with Before Truth, the first volume in his run on SUPERMAN. And with Romita Jr. by his side, he’s redefining Clark Kent for the ‘New 52’ generation. Fans rejoice: we’ve finally got a Superman who’s emblematic of the character we know and love, who stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way; but also renewed and rejuvenated under this new stewardship.

Before Truth picks up where Johns’ The Men of Tomorrow arc ended. Superman has discovered a new power – a solar flare that obliterates everything in its radius, but leaves him powerless for up to 24 hours. Why introduce a new power into Superman’s mythology, you might ask? Well, this version of Superman is de-powered; he’s not quite the God-like being readers have become accustomed too, so the solar flare ability is effectively a ‘last resort’ option. When all else fails, when Superman has got to lay it all on the line, he ignites. This allows Yang and Romita Jr. the opportunity to showcase Clark Kent’s misapprehension of the human condition; a few sips of alcohol leave him inebriated, and he’s developed a newfound appreciation for food. These are small touches, but they add layers to a Clark Kent who has been fairly uninteresting since DC relaunched with the New 52.

Before Truth introduces the villain Hordr, who has learned Superman’s secret identity and threatens to expose him to the world unless he does precisely what’s demanded of him. Aided by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, Superman deliberates between his desire to maintain a normal life as Clark Kent and refusal to bow down to the villain’s command. But ultimately, it might be a decision that’s taken out of his hands . . .

Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr.’s SUPERMAN is, simply, a rip-roaring superhero tale. They haven’t aspired to redefine Superman’s character or continuity; rather, they’re focused on telling a good story and implores readers to pick up the subsequent volume. There’s no doubt about that. Solid characterisation, rapid pacing, great Romita Jr. art – it’s all here. A Superman story for readers, old and new, to enjoy.

Buy the book here.

Review: Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen

9781760276539The cynic in me wanted to view Derek Fridolfs’ and Dustin Nguyen’s Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice as a perfunctory vehicle to spotlight younger versions of DC comics heroes and villains ahead of the release of the blockbuster film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m a sucker for the DC’s ‘trinity’ – Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman – and I’m a long-time admirer of Dustin Nguyen’s art. So despite my hesitations, I pulled a copy from the shelf and dived in… and I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was delighted. This is a book that’ll have both adults and kids in stitches, scouring pages for inside jokes and references, and enraptured by the core mystery. In other words, it’s a winner.

Young Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Diana Prince form their own Junior Detective Agency in the halls of Ducard Academy in Gotham City when they realise there’s more to their new boarding school for ‘gifted’ children than meets the eye. They’re an oddball triumvirate, each displaying the divisive characteristics that’ve been portrayed in the comics for decades. Together, they unravel the mystery behind the school’s secret headmaster, overcoming the villainous obstacles in their way including fellow students Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn and the Joker, as well as dastardly school staff including General Zod, Hugo Strange, Vandal Savage, and so forth.

Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice is layered with references that young fans and older will enjoy – but every element is explicated well enough to ensure the layman won’t be left lost and confused. This is fundamentally a story about friendship – how different personalities, regardless of upbringing, can be moulded into an effective team – with a good amount of super-heroics thrown in. It’s told through traditional comic book pages, journal entries, pamphlets, text messages, and report cards, and the variation enhances the tale’s readability. The only flaw I identified was the novel’s pacing. The story takes its time to get going – it’s not plodding, but necessarily measured in order to establish the characters and their world – but in contrast the climax feels rushed, like suddenly the storytellers realised they were running out of pages. It’s not a major issue, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the novel’s successes, but it’s a noticeable stumble.

This is the kind of book I wish had been around when I was a kid. It’s fun and quirky, but doesn’t talk down to readers. I’d love to see further adventures in this universe, and there’s certainly a ton more characters to explore from the DC Universe.

Buy the book here…

Comic Books to Read if You’re Excited for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

We’re mere days away from the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and if you’re like me, you’re both excited and slightly trepidatious about the flick. Thankfully, regardless of the film’s success and quality (my fingers are crossed for both despite my reservations about Man of Steel) there’re a bunch of collected editions and graphic novel worth checking out.

9781401256982Batman vs Superman: The Greatest Battles

Essentially a ‘greatest hits’ collection of some of The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight’s encounters, it includes work from writers such as Frank Miller, Scott Snyder, Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns, as well as art by Jim Lee, Greg Capullo and Ed Benes. If you’re looking for the battles without the context, this collection is for you!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

 

HushBatman: Hush

Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, Hush is the epic crime thriller that rejuvenated The Caped Crusader. And sure, while its predominantly a Batman story, there’s a brilliant battle with Superman in one of its early chapters – – which sees The Dark Knight equipped with his trusty Kryptonite ring taking on a mind-controlled Man of Tomorrow.

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

DKRBatman: The Dark Knight Returns

There’re few Batman stories more iconic than Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Set ten years after an aging Batman has retired and Gotham City has sunk deeper into decadence and lawlessness, the city now needs him more than ever. But after facing off against two of his greatest foes, it’s his battle with old ally Superman that truly resonates… because only one survives!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

 

Batman v Superman LoebBatman/Superman, Volume 1

Y’know, when they’re not butting heads, Superman and Batman are actually mates. In this first volume of Jeph Loeb an Ed McGuinnes’ Superman/Batman series, the iconic super-heroes unite when Lex Luthor, now president of the United States, accuses Superman of a crime against humanity, and assembles a top-secret team of powerhouse heroes to bring Superman in – dead or alive!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

TrinityTrinity

When Batman’s greatest nemesis, Ra’s al Ghul, recruits Bizarro and an Amazon warrior to aid him in his plan to create global chaos, the Dark Knight Detective suddenly finds himself working with the Man of Steel and the Amazon Princess. Looking to thwart the madman’s plot to simultaneously destroy all satellite communications as well as all of the world’s oil reserves, Earth’s greatest heroes reluctantly band together. But if Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are to have any hope of stopping Ra’s’ nuclear missile assault, they will first need to overcome their own biases and reconcile their differing philosophies.

Buy from Boomerang Books.