Review by J.T. Johnson
Welcome to another edition of ‘The Geekly DC Review’! This is a pretty lite week as I only picked up two titles. First, we check in with Nightwing’s first annual of his latest series before looking at Red Hood’s latest annual. Since this is a lite week, I’ve decided to give my thoughts on a classic Batman story as I take a look at 1988’s “Batman: The Cult” by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson. I also decided to go ahead and get my review of “The Death of Superman” out of the way as that was going to inevitably happen anyway.
As always, I hope you enjoy the following reviews and if you’re a fellow DC fan, then I would also love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below!
“RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS” Annual #2
WRITER: Scott Lobdell
PENCILS: Neil Googe
Red Hood’s latest annual is mostly just filler until the character returns (in a fresh new costume) in “Red Hood and the Outlaws” #26. In this issue, he is dealing with the aftermath of getting his ass handed to him by Batman. Roy Harper, a character that is dealing with his own issues of sobriety, is helping his friend recover.
Afterwards, they go on a brief adventure in China. The most interesting thing about this is that Roy brings up that he’s going to go into rehab. In particular, he’s going to a new place made specifically for superheroes to deal with their problems. This is the same place that will be the focus of Tom King’s upcoming story, “Heroes in Crisis”.
It’s also a story where we know someone will die and when Jason and Roy say goodbye, it feels ominously like this goodbye may be more permanent than we might think. Beyond that, though, this issue was an average affair. The writing was fine and the artwork was serviceable, but in the end it really wasn’t anything that memorable.
“NIGHTWING” Annual #1
WRITER: Benjamin Percy
ARTIST: Otto Schmidt
Writer Benjamin Percy would like you to know that the internet and the news is actively trying to destroy us. I know this because the preachy message in his storyline for “Nightwing” has been hammered into our brains. Not only did I feel like I was being preached to about the dangers of information on the web, Percy is also doing it through the eyes of Nightwing, a character whose age makes him a millennial, but he acts like the most paranoid baby boomer around.
The story has plenty of action and the art by Otto Schmidt is fun to look at, but this story is all over the place. Wyrm and its minions are able to take over every 24-hour news source, including papers, apparently within a day. In a world of make believe superheroes, even that comes off as a bit ridiculous and, dare I say, unrealistic. This issue continues the already mediocre story told in “Bleeding Edge” and I’m not looking forward to the next issue so that Percy can once again tell me how bad technology is.
BATMAN: THE CULT
Number of Issues: 4
WRITER: Jim Starlin
ARTIST: Bernie Wrightson
Remember how Bane took over Gotham City in the movie “The Dark Knight Rises”? Well, many elements were taken from several stories, primarily the lengthy “No Man’s Land” storyline. However, there were also elements taken from “Batman: The Cult”, a story that sees a villain named Deacon Blackfire taking over Gotham using an army he’s been building under the city.
It is also the source material that inspired certain visuals such as the scene where Bane hangs the special ops officers off a bridge. “The Cult” is definitely a dark post-“Dark Knight Returns” storyline. In fact, the artwork by Bernie Wrightson and even some plot elements from writer Jim Starlin seem to rip off what Miller had done two years prior with “Returns”. Despite blatant ripoffs, though, the story is still a good read as it reminds us, and Bruce Wayne, that he is merely a mortal who dresses as a bat to intimidate those around him.
In the first issue, Blackfire is able to break Batman down and brainwash the Caped Crusader. Batman is able to break Blackfire’s spell, but the drugs used still take their toll and, more importantly, Bruce is doubting his abilities as Batman now that someone has defeated him so completely.
My only other problem beyond lifting plot points from previous Batman stories is that Blackfire’s takeover of Gotham happens way too quickly. Batman’s recovery also feels a little too hasty. I feel that this story would have benefitted from having six issues instead of four in order to fully develop everything.
As stated before, despite its lack of originality, Starlin is a solid storyteller and he tells his bleak tale well enough. The artwork is also fun to look at as Batman ultimately faces off with Blackfire and his forces.
THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN
Number of Issues: 7
I’m going to go ahead and get this one out of the way. What can I say that others before me haven’t already said before about “The Death of Superman”? This is the Superman story that defined a generation of Superman fans and influenced more stories down the line. All I can do is just give my honest opinion of the story.
I know that cynics out there see this story as a simple publicity stunt, made to improve sagging sales of the Superman books. That may be so, but I also don’t think DC revealed that the death was temporary because that would have taken away all the tension of the story. Seriously, how effective would this story had been if DC had come out and said, “We’re killing him, but don’t worry! It’s only temporary!”
For anyone out there that has been living under a rock for the past 26 years, the story is pretty straightforward. A new villain named Doomsday has come out of nowhere and is wreaking havoc everywhere he goes. There appears to be no motive and the destruction he is causing seems to be completely random. Essentially, he lives to destroy.
Throughout seven issues, Doomsday destroys everything and everyone in his path. He even makes short work of the Justice League America team that was featured in the comics at the time. The only one who might be able to stop him is Superman and it is definitely a battle royale as Supes tries to stop Doomsday as they make their way across the country.
The final issue, titled appropriately ‘The Death of Superman’, is told by nothing but splash pages as Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice to stop Doomsday. Yes, Superman’s death is temporary but I must admit that I still get goosebumps when I read this story. The storytelling from all the writers is pretty solid and, for the most part, the artwork is great as well.
My only problem is with the artwork from the two issues of “Superman: The Man of Steel”. Jon Bogdanove was the artist of this particular book and while it’s not necessarily bad, it feels out of sync with the rest of the issues. It’s not the worst problem in the world, but it’s what I notice when I revisit the story from time to time.
Yes, there was no intention of keeping Superman down and out with this story, but its effectiveness is still relevant to this day. Hell, DC just readapted the story again with the animated film, “The Death of Superman”. Now, that’s one hell of a publicity stunt!