2023 Comic Reading Challenge

Action Comics: 12 issues from 1941
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Ah, lucky thing Superman’s spontaneously developed hypnosis powers. Those sure come in handy for resolving plots all of a sudden.

So, is Nation X related to A Foreign Power? Maybe it’s some kind of successor state.

To stop a train from crossing a weakened bridge, Superman stops it in its tracks (so to speak), rips off the engine car, and turns it over on its side in front of the rest of the train. As he flies away he says “There! No wreck today!” Bro, what do you think you just did?

A villain:

  • Sees Superman crash through his wall.

  • Sees Superman’s costume.

  • Retrieves an experimental weapon to use on him.

  • Sees the weapon have no effect.

  • Tests the weapon on a steel panel, which it destroys.

  • Sees Superman twist a steel beam into knots to show off because Siegel Superman is like that.

  • Then and only then says “I realize now-- you’re Superman!

Criminal mastermind of the year right here.

I think we’ve got the second issue in a relatively short span of time where some rich guy recruits Superman to teach his kid responsibility.

I don’t have anything else to say about that, I’m just putting it here.
838.

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Loved it! The TWOMORROWS books are always worth a read.

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476 to date. Right on schedule. Just finished my Conan omnibus and I am starting on my Mike Grell Green Arrow omnibus Volume I.

Read some okay Kickstarter comics, and I’m still keeping up with X-men titles.

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This week I read 101 comics. My total year to date is 1111.

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Lot of 1s.

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JSA All-Stars: 11 issues from 2010
Writer: Lillah Sturges (1 issue, main story in 10 issues), Jen Van Meter (backups in 10 issues)
Hey now.

OK, so JSA seems to have finally gotten anachronistic Nazis out of its system, so… of course we open on anachronistic Soviets. Grand.

“Sorry! I hope androids don’t have feelings!” Maxine, what did your grandmother go by, again?

He gets shuffled out before too long, but it feels like kind of a stretch how much the characters, like, tolerate Magog before then. And talk him up sometimes. Like, they all complain about him, but they’re also like “oh, he’s so smart.” No he’s not! He’s an idiot! It’s very satisfying when Karen punches him the face. Just really decks him. Smashes him right in the mouth.

Shoutout to a villain threatening Magog with a “mundane staff.” It appears to be a staff intended to render people mundane, but I choose to believe that Magog’s weakness is just a stick.

I don’t usually mention this because I’d be bringing it up on like half the books I read, but yeeeeeeeesh this thing is cheesecakey. Like, I don’t even think the writer’s mind is in the gutter, it’s all, like, questionable panel framing and “I know you’re drawing Power Girl but come on, those are bigger than her head” type art choices.

He’s upstaged in the asshole Olympics by Magog, but I have to shout out how impossibly insufferable King Chimera is. It always amuses me when writers… don’t really seem to understand how being smart works. Like, I mean with respect to smart characters, but the jokes write themselves.

One of the funniest comic tropes is funerals where every single attendee is a superhero in full costume. It’s hilarious every time.

So, this exchange:

Sonia is not Chinese, you moron.

For most of #11, Rick is running around with Karen limp in his arms, and not once does he stand and yell while people line up on platforms behind him. What do artists circa 2008-2010 have against Crisis on Infinite Earths?

This title looks kinda dumb. Now picture me with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an L on my forehead.

And, because this book hates me, there’s a backup about Rick and Jesse. And of course, Jesse…

… does… things…?

Holy ■■■■, Jesse does things. At no point is she kidnapped. She speaks to two or three separate people other than Rick, occasionally about subjects that are not Rick. Guys, this is all I have been asking for since she first got jumped from Titans to the Flash in… like… 2002, I want to say? Anyway, thank you.

I’m joking around, but the backup is just really noticeably better than the main stories in both writing and art. Like, read this book for the backup, skip the main thing.

Seriously.


It’s incredible.

Though the plot is still ultimately resolved by a speedster running in a circle fast.
849.

Anyway, that’s the more modern book for this post, but there’s so much to do, so much to see.

Detective Comics #2 from 1937
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Dug this random Slam Bradley story up from a trade they’ve got on Ultra now. I don’t know about one of “DC’s Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told,” but shoutout to the sole pre-Batman Tec story I’ve been able to actually find.
850.

Adventure Comics #51 from 1940
Writer: Gardner Fox
Same collection. You know, I don’t remember if this was in any of the Sandman stories I already read, but it’s interesting that Dian knows Wesley is the Sandman. I guess maybe it’s so early that the love interest not knowing the hero’s identity hadn’t had time to become a cliché yet.

Took me about halfway through to realize I had read this story; it was reprinted in the back of a Bronze Age JLA issue.
851.

Superman: 6 issues from 1941
Writer: Jerry Siegel
This isn’t really relevant to the main content, but anytime I see the single-page humor strips in some of these old comics, it’s always amazing just how unfunny they are. Like, by averages, you’d think they’d be amusing sometimes, but the high end of the curve is still “any intelligible joke at all, let alone a funny one.”

Hey, wait a second. That A Foreign Poweran spy has a little symbol on his hat, a cross or X kind of thing… has A Foreign Power been Tomainia this whole time?!

someone please get that joke

I love how Golden Age Superman can go from fighting an army of giants to A Foreign Poweran spy ring to… just tormenting a bunch of petty con artists at a carnival, all in the same issue.

I like to give this book a hard time, but I do have to note that Lois Lane was an absolute treasure from the very beginning. That will be all.

#12: Well, it’s about time. Oh, sure, Superman outpowers locomotives and leaps tall buildings in a single bound all the time, but not once has he actually outrun speeding bullets until this issue! Usually he just catches them; anybody can do that. Uh, once.

I like how every issue contains at least one saboteur story, at least one Luthor story, and at least one story about things that are not normally supposed to be giant getting turned giant. These things overlap in various ways.

Shoutout to Lois’s bizarre taste in hats:


This is probably the goofiest of them, but she goes through a lot of ridiculous-looking headgear in these.

I like how often the book tries to make it a surprise that the bad guy is Luthor. He’s the only recurring villain, shows up constantly, and is fairly consistently involved in all of the “mad science to conquer the world” plots.

The first costumed villain in this title, or at least the first to not just be Luthor in some unnecessary disguise, is “the Archer” (who is, because Golden Age, invariably referred to as “the Archer”). He battles Superman with the devastating weapon of… a bow and arrow.

… … … I really can’t wait for this book to start having more, like, aliens and robots in it.

Also, in #13, he just… kills a car full of guys. Like, a few times he’s bailed on a crashing plane or villains have been killed by ricochets while shooting at him, but here he just… kicks a car, and it goes flying, and everybody in it dies.
857.

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I said this when our book club read it-

is awesome Grandpa, Rick is responsible uncle, and Magog is the wild college dormmate who has been “crashing at your house for the weekend” for years.

I always wear my tights to funerals. I always will.

Non Chinese people eat fortune cookies.

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My point is more (a) Rick assuming that fairly generic advice must’ve been from The Art of War first, and (b) the fact that they’re both stereotypically Chinese references when there was nothing identifiably Chinese about the original comment.

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Well!
I never…

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So far this year I have read 3 volumes of manga and around 50 chapters of manga. Which isn’t a lot for me but between work and trying to make time for actually having a life outside of my house is very hard. Plus I haven’t been able to really read or pay attention to reading until recently sadly. But I am sure I will meet my goal of 100 manga this year like I managed to last year except last year was 65.

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Justice League: Generation Lost: 12 issues from 2010
Writers: Judd Winick (12 issues), Keith Giffen (co-plotter on 1 issue)
Okay, I have been dreading this. They gave JLI to Judd Winick of all people. Ugh. Ugh.

Like the book, let’s begin with the character assassination of Maxwell Lord. This wasn’t this book’s stupid decision. But they didn’t have to make the entire book about it. We’ve got “The JLI were a bunch of useless idiots.” We’ve got “Captain Atom is order-following government man.” We’ve got “Captain Atom explodes every five ■■■■■■■ minutes.”

It’s just- it’s just every bad characterization trope for every character here. I feel like I’ve been complaining about this book for years without even realizing. Incredible.


You know something?

I ■■■■■■■ agree.

Aaaaaaaand Magog is in it. Grand.


Don’t bet on it; it’s all he’s allowed to do since Kingdom Come.

You know… I’ve been argued with about this point because Gavril Ivanovich is presented as against the current government, but given that a former KGB agent is trying to invade a former Soviet territory for being too Western right now, you’ll forgive me for finding this anti-Western Soviet-revanchist ex-government agent who appears as a protagonist here to have aged rather poorly.

“Ease up there, Ivan.” “Gavril.” “I don’t really care.” Nathaniel, you’ve been on a team with multiple separate Rocket Reds who you had to tell apart.

Oh my god, they’re trying to make Kingdom Come canon. That’s what all of this is. That’s even what that utterly absurd gold design Captain Atom had for a while is about; I’d missed it originally in all the… busy Alex Ross-ness of KC.

The retcons on Ice’s backstory are… baffling. So, like, first of all, she had this secret other history that she… somehow… forgot or got brainwashed into thinking of her original backstory. Second of all, the rest of the JLI has met her family from the original “secret magical village” backstory, so this is some impressive nonsense. Third, if I can parse anything about the actual objective of this retcon, I guess it’s to introduce some Roma heritage for her, except her entire extended family other than her father are portrayed as evil thieves, so good job on the cultural sensitivity, Winick.
869.

Batman: 4 issues from 1941
Writer: Bill Finger
Shoutout to the story premised on the firm insistence by nearly every involved character that pirates don’t exist anymore. I mean, these are anachronistic pirates in the style of the Golden Age of Piracy (or, obviously, pop-culture’s idea thereof), but the characters all reject the very idea of modern piracy.

Also, if I had a nickel for every time Batman fought a gang who dress and talk like pirates to rob yachts, and then if I were on a yacht myself and the pirates came after me, they’d be very disappointed that I only have two nickels on me.

One story refers to the sound of a machine gun firing as a “deadly chatter of death,” which I almost thought was a clever turn of phrase until I thought about it.

This feels like… I don’t know, kind of an obvious statement. But coming off of the contemporary Superman stories, I legitimately sort of almost forgot how much better it makes the story when the protagonist isn’t invincible?

More seriously, I do kind of find that both Siegel and Finger are improving over time.


Welp, there goes another Robin. Time to hit the circus again.
873.

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Late,late,late…

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You know what, I don’t know why I bother talking.

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The JSA was not Gardner’s toys, it was guys big enough to hold a comic piece but not their own series. This would help DC get more A listers (like Hawkman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Wonder Woman) besides Batman and Superman.

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And now, another unexplained tangent. I deleted my last set of reviews because they inexplicably caused an argument, but they entailed seven issues (2 of Freedom Fighters from 2010—very bad—and 5 of All-Star Comics from 1941—very Gardner Fox), so my current total is 880.

Anyway, I’ll be sure not to make smartass observations when a major team debuts with a high proportion of one writer’s characters in the future, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Adventure Comics: 12 issues from 1980
Writers: Len Wein (Plastic Man stories in 2 issues), Paul Levitz (Starman stories in all issues), Martin Pasko (Plastic Man stories in 9 issues), Marv Wolfman (Plastic Man story in 1 issue), J.M. DeMatteis (Aquaman stories in 4 issues)
My favorite part of Prince Gavyn’s design is the, uh… sequins? Apparently… just around his abdomen and crotch, not the other red parts of his costume?

… Is Jediah Rikane here related to Jedidiah Rikane from Legion Academy? They even don’t appear to be the same species (Jediah here looks essentially human, while Jedidiah is purple), but, uh, given the name and the Levitz?

Shoutout to the name “Mn’torr.” I’d bet money he dies before I’m done here. I’d make money, too.

Anyway, Starman is pretty good here. The space opera component is a little bare-bones, but it’s a neat spin on the secret identity, sort of a Man in the Iron Mask gimmick. Wait, I just looked it up, and apparently the Man in the Iron Mask was real and only speculatively identified, so I should probably specify that I mean Dumas’s theory.

The Plastic Man stories are… not bad as such, but sort of in the “Dezago’s Impulse” zone, where there’s all the trappings and mood of comedy, sort of this sprinkling of absurdity, but oddly few actual jokes (other than making everybody’s name a pun, the humor value of which declines rapidly around the time you realize that yes, really, Pasko’s going to do this with every character). Like, Wolfman’s guest issue is the funniest, and if you’ve ever read New Teen Titans, you know how dire of a situation that is.

When the Aquaman feature starts up, uh, I feel like I came into the middle of this picture (I’ve been reading too much Golden Age; it’s got me speaking in ‘40s), but it seems all right for four short stories before it bounces away to a different title again.
892.

DC Comics Presents #36 from 1981
Writers: Paul Levitz & Jim Starlin
Aww, they got rid of Gavyn’s leotard-shaped sequin pattern.

And let Jim Starlin co-write the end of the story; that’s not a good sign.

So, wait, first, every one of the “thousands” of planets in the Empire was only there because they would get blown up otherwise, and everybody was just fine with that until now? And- and the planets- every single one of the planets has engines that can let them just… fly around, so they’re all clustered around Throneworld and then just nope out when the doomsday device is shut down?


893.

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102 this month so far.

March

JSA 23-87

JSA Secret Files and Origins 2

Stargirl 4-5(x2)

Catwoman and Wildcat 4 issues

JSA All-Stars 8 issues

Justice Society (2022) 3(x2)

Green Lantern 1

Flash 110

Shazam (due it being a backup I think it is effectively 7 issues).

Justice Society (1992) 7-9

The Last Ronin the Lost Years 2

Batman and Scooby-Doo Mysteries 5

World’s Finest 12

All-Star Squadron 36-37

Justice Society (2007) 1-2

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This week I read 105 comics. Year to date my total is 1216.

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I also really enjoyed the Shazam book. I reread it recently.

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Finished Mike Grell’s Green Arrow Omnibus Vol 1. At 54 issues, it was quite a large book.

533 year to date.


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