Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mullet Time

Superman Vs. Aliens (1996): written and pencilled by Dan Jurgens; inked by Kevin Nowlan: 20 years ago, DC and Dark Horse put out this fairly nifty battle between Superman (still in his mullet phase) and the Alien film franchise. It was a time when the Kryptonian Supergirl was still gone from DC continuity. That fact explains much of the storyline, in which Superman responds to a distress signal from a domed city in space that appears to have once been part of Krypton. It comes complete with a spunky blonde girl named Kara who's pretty much the image, in appearance and name, of the pre-1987 Supergirl.

The story is a bit heavy on the then-continuity of the Superman comics, from the mullet to the absence of Lex Luthor from the storyline. Superman can't travel unaided through space for long at this point in his career, necessitating some technology help from LexCorp. Or LuthorCorp. Whatever. 

It's solid, unspectacular, and relatively unbloody fun. There's a bit too much harping on Superman's decision not to kill anything, including hordes of acid-blooded aliens. Is this a workable moral stance for the Man of Steel under the circumstances? Well, yes, but as written it relies an awful lot on other people killing aliens, which makes the moral stance seem awfully dubious, if not completely daft. A sin of omission rather than commission is still a sin.

Inker Kevin Nowlan makes the normally straightforward pencils of writer-penciller Dan Jurgens broody, moody, and intermittently menacing. It's a great job of inking in terms of establishing a tone a penciller isn't known for -- Nowlan did something similar with his inks on the sunny Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's Dr. Strangefate during the Marvel/DC crossover around the same time. Lightly recommended.

JLA: Justice League of America: Power and Glory (2015-2016): written by Bryan Hitch with Tony Bedard; illustrated by Bryan Hitch with Tom Derenick, Scott Hanna, Daniel Henriques, Wade von Grawbadger, Alex Sinclair, and others: Maybe getting the perennially late Bryan Hitch to both write and draw a new Justice League comic book way back in 2015 wasn't such a great idea because, well, perennially late. 

It took so long for the nine issues of his initial story arc to appear that DC had already rebooted Hitch's Justice League title (now known as Justice League and not JLA: Justice League of America) when the last issue of this title came out. And by rebooted, I mean, there were as many issues of the subsequent title on the stands as there were of this title when that last issue appeared. Whew!

Hitch writes the reboot, but the art has been left to others. That's too bad because of Hitch's strengths as an artist, strengths that outweigh his strengths as a relatively new writer. Hitch's art, a career-long riff on Neal Adams and Alan Davis, made him a superstar nearly 20 years ago in the pages of ultra-violent superhero book The Authority. And he does good work here -- 'widescreen,' as they say, cosmic though sometimes crowded.

His writing seems a bit padded at times. Nine issues seems like about two issues too much here, with about 40 pages too many of running back and forth without resolving anything plot-wise. Hitch's new Justice League has shorter story arcs so far, suggesting that something may have been learned.

Power and Glory pits Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the usual gang of super-powered idiots against the Kryptonian Sun-god Rao, who arrives in near-Earth space with a whole lot of super-powered followers and an offer to bring peace, health, and long life to all the citizens of Earth -- and indeed, someday, everyone in the universe. He's initially greeted as a saviour. And of course there's a catch.

Hitch throws a lot of super-science and bombastic, epic battles around the nine issues. And time travel, strange visitors with hidden agendas, and weird standing stones waiting to fulfill some plot point or another. It's good, overlong fun. One caveat: in order to finally put a capper on this story (and this JLA title), DC elected to have other people write and draw the final issue, with only the plot by Hitch. Given how long readers had waited by this time, a few more months could probably have been survived if the end result was an all-Hitch writing-and-drawing issue. Oh, well. Recommended.

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