Tag Archives: Alex Ross

Today’s Super Comics — Justice #1-12 (2005-07)

Classic super-heroic action gets a paint job in the miniseries Justice. It’s the Justice League of America vs. the Legion of Doom with painted art by Alex Ross, so you know it’s going to be a visual treat.

While there’s a lot to love, the art is the star here, as it lends suitable grandeur to some of the most recognizable superheroes and villains (and plenty of lesser-known ones). Story-wise, each character is true to his or her essence, and heroes and villains both get the attention they deserve. Plus, there’s no elaborate continuity bogging things down. If you haven’t read a DC comic in years, you can pick this up and your inner child will have a grand time.

And after you read, you can go back and admire the meticulous craftsmanship apparent in each panel.

Writer: Jim Krueger

Painter: Alex Ross

Penciler: Doug Braithwaite

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Justice volumes 1-3 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #4 (1996)

kingdom_come_4Kingdom Come arrives at a perfect conclusion.

The Superman in this miniseries has been one who’s lost his way. He still wants to do the right thing, but his previously impeccable judgment is impaired. This is the issue to address how he let that happen and how to right the course…but only after he reaches his breaking point, brought upon in part by his own incredible sense of responsibility.

Wonder Woman, too, has strayed, and her arc comes to a head in an excellent confrontation with Batman. And Captain Marvel is extremely well cast as the one character who is both superhuman and human.

The two-page spread early in the book showcases Alex Ross’s amazing artistic talents. He crams so many characters on the battlefield, with every bit player and background actor engaged in a specific action against a specific opponent. Throughout the book, each page is a phenomenal work of art.

Writer Mark Waid clearly understands superheroes’ two most important roles—to fight always for life, and to inspire. Unless they do those two things, they’re not truly superheroes. This series is ultimately all about superheroes becoming heroic again, and while I’ve never ranked my favorite comics, Kingdom Come would easily fall in the top ten. Probably top five.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #3 (1996)

kingdom_come_3In the third issue of Kingdom Come, Superman doesn’t want to adjust to a changing world, but Captain Marvel couldn’t adjust. Superman strives to maintain peace, but Wonder Woman is prepared for war, if necessary.

The inclusion of Captain Marvel (Shazam) is an excellent choice. He truly is DC’s most innocent superhero. He’s a child who can transform into a super-powered adult, but he’s still a child at heart. But this miniseries is set in the future, and Billy Batson is all grown up…and the manner in which he’s grown up reflects the world around him. He simply doesn’t fit in this darker age, leading him into Lex Luthor’s thrall. His cheesy smile has never been creepier.

The conflict between Superman’s idealism and Wonder Woman’s pragmatism is especially well-handled, and it’s all the more interesting because it’s a conflict between two people who respect each other a great deal.

Tensions escalate throughout the issue. We get some relief as Batman has his Awesome Batman Moment. But this is all about putting all the chess pieces in place for the climactic battle, and it features many excellent moments along the way, including this fantastic quote from Superman to Batman:

“The deliberate taking of human—even super-human—life goes against every belief I have—and that you have. That’s the one thing we’ve always had in common. It’s what made us what we are.”

I will savor re-reading the final issue.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #2 (1996)

kingdom_come_2Another issue that’s just as good, if not better than I remember.

This is the “gathering of forces” issue. Superman rebuilds the Justice League. Batman and a few other non-powered ex-Leaguers make their own appeal to the younger generation. Lex Luthor and a cabal of old villains are up to something. And the antiheroes continue to do whatever they damn well please…but with significantly tougher opposition now.

The key to the issue’s success is the focus on varying worldviews. Superman and Batman’s argument, which involves not a single punch or blast of heat vision, is far more compelling than anything seen in the Batman v Superman movie. Wonder Woman, who’s serving as Superman’s right hand, also sees things differently than the Man of Steel due to her experience as a warrior.

And then there’s Magog, the “superhero” who precipitated Superman’s retirement. Magog took it upon himself to kill, rather than apprehend, the Joker; Superman wouldn’t stand for such a blatant disregard for the law and human decency, so he took Magog to court. And Metropolis and its citizens sided overwhelmingly with Magog. He was the future, and Superman was the past.

But “new” doesn’t always equal “right,” and as we saw in #1, Magog’s carelessness resulted in the deaths of a million innocents. And his genuine remorse in this issue adds just enough depth to his character.

“They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t,” Magog says, “and now they’re dead.”

As I suggested yesterday, this is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #1 (1996)

kingdom-come-1I haven’t read Kingdom Come in many years, so I figured it was time to see how well it holds up.

Exceptionally well, judging from the first issue. Mark Waid wrote it and Alex Ross painted it, so that was a pretty safe bet.

It’s set in the DC Universe’s possible future, in which the younger generation is running amok without understanding the true meaning of super-heroism. The Justice League generation is all either retired or focused solely on their respective home turfs. And we view it all through the eyes of an ordinary preacher, whom the Spectre has recruited as his human anchor.

This is, first and foremost, a Superman story, and one of the great Superman stories. In this world, Superman has been gone for ten years, and the void is tremendous. We see the importance of his ideals in their absence. It feels especially relevant these days, since Superman has been largely missing from his own movies—well, the last two have had a grim fellow who looks like him, but that’s about it.

This Superman isn’t exactly a happy sort either. He’s a Superman who’s lost his way and needs to get himself—and the world—back on track. As contradictory as it sounds, he’s out of character in a way that demonstrates a superb understanding of his character. At this point, how he got there and how he recovers isn’t fully apparent.

And I have to praise Ross’s art, of course. The level of detail is phenomenal—far beyond the capabilities of mere mortal comics. (That’s no slight against any other artist. It’s the benefits of the painted medium combined with Ross’s mastery of his craft.) So much care has gone into countless character designs and set designs—look at all the Easter eggs in the Planet Krypton diner, or the tiny skull in the Spectre’s eye, and how Superman’s presence instantly evokes a sense of grandeur.

I’m going to take this series one issue at a time, one day at a time. It’s worth the attention.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — JSA #69 (2005)

JSA_Vol_1_69What a great concept for a team-up—the Justice Society of America and…the Justice Society of America!

The storyline by Geoff Johns takes advantage of DC Comics’ long history by having the current-generation JSA members travel back in time to 1951 to meet their first-generation counterparts…right as they’re disbanding. They’ll all have to work together to prevent a villain from wrecking the timeline, like villains tend to do. (Oh, and Rip Hunter is the one who gathers the present-day team and sends them back in time, which naturally reminded me of the TV show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.)

Issue #69 is the second part of the story, but the first with the modern team navigating the ‘50s. In classic team-book fashion, they split up and individually track down their counterparts, thereby putting each JSA member in a different scenario. Stargirl meets the original Starman in a mental hospital. The era’s horrible segregation laws interfere with Mr. Terrific’s pursuit of his predecessor. Sand finds not only Sandman, but also himself at a uniquely terrible point in his long life. And so on.

Good stuff indeed. The generational approach suits DC’s original super-team.

And the cover features painted art by Alex Ross, so there’s that, too. Alex Ross is always a plus.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Don Kramer

Inker: Keith Champagne

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in JSA vol. 10: Black Vengeance (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up