Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What If? Why Not?

Son of Superman: written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman; illustrated by J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray, and Lee Loughridge (1999-2000): A fairly straightforward, early piece of work from artists J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray -- pleasing, beautifully composed and clean superhero work. Chaykin and Tischman offer a rejoinder to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in this alternate take on Superman.

The Man of Steel went missing 15 years ago. Now, in a world in which the Justice League has been morally compromised by the government and by beloved trillionaire Lex Luthor, Superman's son with Lois Lane suddenly finds himself with superpowers after a solar event. And so he goes searching for his lost father, uncovering a massive conspiracy along the way. Breezy and fun and gifted with crackling dialogue, Son of Superman makes most Superman stories look lead-footed by comparison. Recommended.

Ministry of Space: written by Warren Ellis; illustrated by Chris Weston (2001-2004): The always sardonic Ellis crafts a fascinating alternate-universe tale of a Great Britain that becomes the world's leading space power after World War Two. Ellis apparently started the project after coming across some Dan Dare comics from the 1950's in his attic, comics which seemed to him to come from an alternate Earth.

Chris Weston's art is detailed and enjoyable as it delineates the massive, retro-future spaceships of Great Britain's Ministry of Space and the occasionally wormy people who build and fly them. This isn't a shiny utopia. The price paid for Great Britain's dominance is brutal, and a concluding panel riffs on a classic final panel from an EC Comics story of the 1950's to further establish the moral bankruptcy of a Great Britain whose Empire now extends into space. The whole thing, at about 100 pages, leaves one wanting more, a lot more, which in the end is better than wanting a whole lot less. Recommended.

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