Tag Archives: Jeph Loeb

Today’s Super Comics — Superman For All Seasons #1-4 (1998)

Less is often more. Superman For All Seasons, a four-issue miniseries by frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, distills Superman into his key elements and zeroes in on his most super quality—he can do almost anything, but he chooses to help people.

The book is set in Superman’s early days, and as the title suggests, it’s structured around the four seasons. A different character narrates each issue: Jonathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang.

Pa Kent talks about a young man who was raised right and wants to do right. Lois talks about a dashing man who’s too good to be true, and yet he is that good. Luthor talks about a rival for the affection of Metropolis, a lonely man who can’t save everyone no matter how good his intentions are. And Lana talks about Clark Kent, the kind boy she grew up with who’s still there inside that costume.

Together, the issues form a nice arc, guiding us from Clark’s initial desire to use his abilities to help the world, to his initial successes, to his first real defeat, to his acceptance that though he can’t do everything, he can still do everything he can do.

Superman has definitive origin details, but he doesn’t have a definitive origin story. Nothing about Krypton informs who Clark Kent is as a person. No traumatic event motivates him to become Superman. By virtue of his upbringing, he’s intrinsically motivated to do good.

What’s interesting, then, is how he grows into the role and his responsibilities, how he adjusts to the burden that he has freely chosen, how he sticks with it despite any setbacks. That’s what Superman For All Seasons examines, and that’s why it succeeds in instilling a sense of grandeur on nearly every page. To understand the super, you have to understand the man.

In issue #4, two pages are devoted to a single panel of Superman flying over Smallville and looking down as the town is flooding. The only words on the page are Superman saying, “All right, Lana. I’ll make things safe.” It’s a perfect summation of who Superman is.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Superman For All Seasons (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Solo #1 (2004)

Anthology series are a tough sell. It’s much easier to get invested in ongoing sagas than short stories (and comic book short stories are super-short). I’m plenty guilty of overlooking them, even knowing full well the gems that may be hidden within.

But I actually did pick up one anthology book when it was new—the first issue of DC Comics’ Solo. The series was designed to spotlight the talents of renowned comics artists, and each issue “starred” a single such artist. Tim Sale headlined issue #1, joined by writers Darwyn Cooke, Diana Schutz, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Azzarello (and Sale did some of the writing himself).

The issue’s stories span genres, from superhero to noir to ordinary slice-of-life, but they’re all love stories in their own way. Catwoman takes Batman on a “date” by having him chase her across Gotham, though she’s actually chasing him. Supergirl recalls her first love. Martha Kent narrates a story about Clark trying to be a good person on his prom night. A hitman remembers a dead lover and his current loneliness. And so on.

Throughout the book, Sale demonstrates the range of his talents, bringing kinetic energy to Catwoman and Batman’s “dance” across the city, innocence and sadness to Supergirl, quiet grandeur to a young Clark Kent, pervasive bleakness to a hitman, and more.

“Solo” may be a misnomer, given all the talent helping out. Name aside, though, it’s a solid anthology that allows you to appreciate not only the storytelling possibilities of the artist, but of the comic book medium in general.

Of course, foolish me, I never picked up another issue, and DC cancelled it after #12. (Clearly it’s all my fault…or DC’s for setting the price tag at $4.95. Probably the latter.)

Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Diana Schutz, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Azzarello

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Solo: The Deluxe Edition (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Superman #165 (2001)

superman_v-2_165All I remembered about Superman #165 was that it involved Superman visiting his JLA teammates one or two at a time and giving them amusing little gifts. Tube socks to the Flash. Jewelry polish to Green Lantern. So I was thinking, oh, yeah, that’s a cute one.

I totally forgot about the substance of it.

This takes place shortly after Lex Luthor was elected president of the United States in the DC Universe, and Superman has been struggling to come to terms with the results. How could the American people cast their votes for a man as despicable as Luthor? And what, if anything, should Superman do about it?

Talking with friends and listening to their diverse viewpoints helps Superman come to some sort of peace. He’s still not happy about it, and he’ll remain vigilant about what Luthor does in office. But as Wonder Woman says, “If you let this turn into an obsession, then Luthor has already defeated you.”

So he decides not to let this consume him. His life will go on. He’ll enjoy Lois’s company in a weekend getaway in the bottle city of Kandor. He’ll continue to fight the good fight for truth and justice, and somehow or another, the American way will prevail in the end.

It’s a nice little “quiet” issue, and it takes an excellent direction for a Christmas special. Sometimes you just need to spend time with your friends and loved ones to get some perspective. The world’s problems won’t go away, but they’ll seem more manageable.

The issue features several guest artists—a different one for each of Superman’s visits with his teammates. Normally, the drastically different styles would be jarring, but it suits the structure of this particular issue rather well and adds to that whole “holiday special” feel.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artists: Various

Cover: Ed McGuinness

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Superman: President Lex (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Nova #1 (2013)

nova-1-2013Marvel is on a roll with the teen books lately. I’ve previously praised the new Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man a few times each…but now it looks like, as Yoda once said, there is another.

I’m not overly familiar with Nova. I could pick him out of a lineup. I could tell you he has something to do with an outer space–based police corps of the same name, not entirely unlike the Green Lantern Corps. I’ve seen this young new Nova in All-New, All-Different Avengers. And that was the extent of my knowledge as I began Nova #1.

We begin on Earth. The previous Nova—now working as a high school janitor—tells his son Sam stories about his glory days saving the galaxy as a member of the Nova Corps. Naturally, Sam thinks he’s making it all up—his unreliable father is no hero in his eyes. And Sam is feeling stuck in his small hometown, hoping to escape someday.

It’s a great entryway into the fantastical outer space adventures to come, making it all seem too good to be true.

The book includes many essential ingredients of a successful teen superhero book. We’ve got the bleeding of fantasy into reality, a flawed but good-hearted parent who isn’t making the teen’s situation any easier, and a powerful desire to escape life’s limits and do something amazing. We also get a cameo by some of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

Very strong start here.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Penciler: Ed McGuinness

Inker: Dexter Vines

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Nova vol. 1: Origin (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13 (1996-97)

batman_the_long_halloween_1Seems to be an appropriate time of year for Batman: The Long Halloween, though anytime near a major holiday would work. This Batman story is, as the title implies, long in scope, spanning a full year early in the Dark Knight’s career. A serial killer is targeting gangsters, but only on the holidays, giving Batman a mystery to haunt him for a full 365 days.

It’s a busy year in which we see many of our favorite Bat-villains, including quite a bit of Harvey Dent as he transitions into Two-Face. Early on, Harvey, Batman, and Commissioner Gordon make a vow to bring down the crime lord Carmine Falcone, a.k.a. the Roman—perhaps with bending some rules, but never breaking any, Gordon insists. You can spot the DNA of the excellent Dark Knight movie in that and other moments throughout. In Gotham City, doing the right thing takes a toll—but it still needs to be done.

Certain writer/artist teams seem to bring out the best in each other, and the quintessential example is frequent collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the writer and artist here. Sale’s panels are big, uncluttered, and consistently a little rough, which suits Batman’s world rather well, and Loeb writes a lean, efficient script that covers up a minimum of the artwork. Interestingly, the story has plenty of room to breathe over thirteen issues, but it still feels stripped down to its essential components.

And another plus—the story requires Batman to be a detective. That facet of him tends to get overlooked sometimes, particularly in other mediums.

The miniseries deserves its status as a classic. I wouldn’t call it the best Batman story or anything like that, but it certainly is something special.

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: The Long Halloween (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up