Superboy #26

I just finished Superboy #26. And just in case you haven’t heard, this was a big issue. Now that the original Superboy is “dead” we have a new Superboy: the son of a possibly alternate version of Superman and Lois in the future. Jon Kent, named after Supes’ earth dad, was kidnapped as a baby, raised to hate all super powered or enhanced humans, and sent to present-day earth on a mission to wipe them all out. Now, in a twist of fate, he is with the Teen Titans 1,000 years in the future, and they think he is still the original; they don’t know he died. In the past, when krypton was still around.

Yes, it is as confusing as it sounds. But basically, this just went from a book about a snarky teen trying to defeat the label fate has put on him (calling him a living weapon) and learning how to be a hero, to a book an evil little brute with no compassion whatsoever, crazy powers, and an almost literal thirst for killing superheroes. Big change. And a new creative team to boot.

Here are some really quick thoughts:

1. It was loaded with surprises and questions! It was also well-written, featured solid art, and did a great job at hooking me in with intrigue, which is good because…

2. I hate Jon! I think that’s the intended response though. He is, by far, the most twisted evil bloodthirsty character I’ve read possibly to date. Good thing they are banking this on interest over likability. Or no one would read it. That being said…

3. Jon is the best Superboy! At least in powers, not morals. He uses his tactile telekinesis better in this issue than Kon learned to do in the last 2 years! (Just to give you a gist, one of the few new tricks this guy can pull with his abilities is bending light as it touches him, so he appears invisible. Dang)

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All in all. I feel like a fool, because the questions (and answers) this issue brought up are so tempting that, even with a completely bonkers and bloodthirsty Superboy, I’m interested in what’s next.

Touché, DC, touché.

And P.S. I don’t know much about the Legion of Superheroes, but fans should read this, or at least ask me about if they don’t plan to read it. Just trust me.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, it isn’t new-reader-friendly. Heck, the backstory is barely reader-friendly. Still, it’s pretty well done, considering the plot-holey mess the creative teams inherited from the previous story.

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Action Comics #26

Action Comics has been through a lot over the last few years. After the reboot, it enjoyed an incredible, high-concept, go-for-broke run with Grant Morrison. It wasn’t the easiest book to enjoy for newcomers, but, if you really focused (and re-read the books every time a new one came out), you were rewarded with one of the most surreal, epic storylines and likable characters ever to come out through DC’s ambitious New 52 comic line. In the end, it was a solid 18 issues run with great callbacks throughout, and a surprising solid continuity even for Grant Morrisons’ standards.

Then we got some changes. Andy Diggle took the reins, and we all anticipated a different but great era of his work. His work on Action was good, but unfortunately, it got sucked into the irresistible pull of Scott Lobdell’s crossover machine. So, we only got 3 issues (Really 2 and a half) before Action entered an era of playing second fiddle tie-in, to Scott Lobdell’s stuff in his own Superman book.

Well, friends, That is now over as I give a quick review of Action Comics #26, the first issue under the guiding hand of Greg Pak.

REVIEW:

Action Comics is differentiating itself in a positive way from the other DC Superman books, of which their are plenty. Nonetheless, this side of Superman is similar to Greg’s other take on Clark Kent in run on Batman/Superman. That is, he seems to enjoy the “boy who grew up in Kansas and had a hard time fitting in” angle. I like that a lot! Anyone who argues that Superman is unrelatable should read this. It’s almost the way Spiderman related to me as a kid. This is a drastic contrast to Lobdell’s book Superman, which features a lot of focus on Kal-El the Kryptonian.

Not only does Greg do a great job of humanizing Clark, but he gives new readers a great starting point to the world of Action Comics and Superman. The coolest–and smartest–thing he did was give us a grown up Lana Lang, deputing for the first time, as far as I know, in the New 52. The cool and smart thing about this is that there are a lot of Superman fans out there who don’t read the comics and only know the Superman of the show “Smallville.” I personally know at least 4 of them. Including Lana Lang and what she is doing as of the grown-up Superman era is awesome because it lightly borrows a continuity and character that is familiar to a whole new generation of Super-fan. In fact there is a whole group of fans that know more about Lana than they do Lois! Shocking, I know. This issue could be the jump on for them! Is it the same continuity? No. But just putting a familiar name in the book will help a lot to ease those fans through the transition. Here’s to the new Action Comics! Let’s hope this writer sticks around sticks to the book longer than Diggle and Lobdell did.

Arrow TV Show

I wan’t sure whether to title this post as a “review” or “raving hyped up fan post on the best episode featuring the best appearance of the best character ever.” In the end, I went with “review” because it was shorter.

I don’t usually do TV Show reviews on TwentyList, but last night’s episode of Arrow was so insanely well-done that I had to just sit down and write something! That’s right, when some people get really excited they jump up and down or throw things; I type.

WHAT HAPPENED

This section is pretty spoiler-heavy so just skip down to the next BOLD ALL CAPS headline if you haven’t seen the episode yet:

The episode opened with a murder that seems so impossible that it gets the attention of Central City’s resident SCI (Da, Da Daa!) Barry Allen. The thing that made this episode surprise me was how great a job Grant Gustin did at making me like his character even without any powers at all. It was like they wanted to first establish that this is who Barry Allen is. He is kind. He is a bit of a nerd. He really cares about people. He likes to play it safe and is careful(see the scene where he rearranges the dangerously put together shelf of chemicals). And he is an genius. It was so well-done that I could easily watch a crime show featuring Barry Allen in which he never actually becomes the Flash. Seriously.

In Flashpoint, Barry runs to the past to stop himself from running to the past to save his mom. Yeah, it's a little out-there. It was great though.

In Flashpoint, Barry runs to the past to stop himself from running to the past to save his mom. Yeah, it’s a little out-there. It was great though.

The most interesting reveal to me was his origin, in which he says that a “blur” came into his house and murdered his mom when he was eleven. Now, I don’t know very much about Barry’s past. Honestly, I only became a fan of the character during DC Comics’ relaunch a while back so that’s all I know. Maybe one of you guys can fill me in if I’m wrong, but the only “blur” I know of that went to the past was Barry in the Flashpoint story, and the Reverse Flash. If either of these is where the CW is going, then Arrow is about to lose it’s “super-grounded Nolan-style” status very quickly, which is fine by me! Adding time travel does seem a bit jarring to the style right now, but maybe over time the show will grow in a direction that could handle that type of story-telling. After all the current season is already much more Sci-fi heavy than the first one.

I really like that one of the Flash’s biggest moralities is the idea of living life forward. When he learned in Flashpoint comics and movie that trying to change the past (ie going back and saving his mom) only leads to more suffering, and instead, he should focus on not living in the past but moving forward in life, that really sold me. It showed the stark contrast between why Barry is the way he is as a person verses someone like Bruce Wayne who lives a life consumed by the past, even being chased by it. That mantra to keep moving forward, to keep living, to keep making choices and trying to learn new things, is a message that we all need.

The other nice nod was in a scene with Barry standing on a ladder rearranging some chemicals while talk to Felicity when he looks up and hears some lightning. That actually made me laugh! For second I thought they were just going to go crazy and make him the Flash all of a sudden, then he looks at Felicity to talk some more and the look on Grant’s face to the camera is like “Nope, not like this, guys. Sorry.” It was a great little nod to the old origin where he got struck by lightning and fell into a shelf of chemicals. Also liked the little nods like the red tie and sweater, and that he isn’t anything special in the speed/agility department. He is late to the crime scene, he is late to a party, and even tells Felicity that he “isn’t light on his feet.” I love that, because one of the great things about him as a character is that, not only is he really nice and genuinely cares, but that he knows that he isn’t anything special. He didn’t earn his abilities through either hard work (Batman) or through a bloodline inheritance (Superman). No, just an accident. His powers are an unearned gift that he will use to the best of his ability.

SPOILER-FREE BIT

Look at the face! I'd say he is having good time playing our favorite Scarlet Speedster.

Look at the face! I’d say he is having good time playing our favorite Scarlet Speedster.

If you haven’t seen the Arrow at all yet, just jump in and watch this episode. Seriously, you might be a little confused, but it is hard not to like Barry’s character, his chemistry with Felicity, and the awkwardness with everyone else. I don’t why DC isn’t talking about connecting this show with the movies in any way. This episode alone proves that, while they may fear it pulling the movies perceived quality down, as what happens when something starts to feel like it’s just “the tv show brought to the big screen” that actually it’s the opposite. The movie can only benefit from acknowledging a connection to this world. They don’t even need to have the same characters.

I’m perfectly fine with a Justice League movie without the Arrow or the Flash actually in it, but it would do wonders for making the world seem more alive if they would at least make plans to mention coexistence. For instance if Diggle could just mention that he was, perhaps, in Metropolis during the alien invasion, or if Lois in the next movie mentions a vigilante in Starling City who makes occasional headlines, that would just breathe life into the whole cinematic universe, without actually need to move actors around at all. Agents of Shield openly admits the movies are happening, and it works! I don’t think Arrow should copy Agents of Shield by any means. So far, Arrow is much better in my opinion–which doesn’t mean much considering that Arrow has a year long lead in terms of production–but one thing Marvel is getting right is faith that the show is good enough to call “canon”, and it only benefits the Marvel Universe as a whole to have it all in continuity. I hope DC gets this idea. Because that is the biggest thing they lack: a world full of history. Acknowledging Arrow in the next movie would instantly build the feeling of a bigger, richer, older world.

Anyway, that got ranty. Sorry. Go watch Arrow’s “The Scientist” then get back to comics.

And, Flash fans…

Keep moving forward.

Forever Evil Update

If you have been reading anything in the DC Comics realm for the past couple months, then you have, no doubt, come across the “Forever Evil” moniker written on most of the books. I thought that, given we are about half-way through this FE stuff, I would post this little update, letting you all know how this event is going: the good, the bad, and the David Finch. (Sorry, that was a cheap jab.)

The Good: The two best things to come out of this event were both very unexpected to me, but they have become very obvious as we’ve moved along. First, we are getting some really, really solid mini-books out of this thing! I can’t actually think of one that I don’t like. The mini-books that accompany any big event–that is, books that come out just during the event for 4 to 6 issues or so–aren’t usually worth reading. They are mostly throw-away stories about something happening on sideline that no one cares about, and it’s usually a story that feel inconsequential the the greater world, kind of like a very long, multi-issue annual. But all 3 of these minis are just great! I fully expected to drop them after about issue 2, but I was curious enough to, at least, give them a shot. Now they are all on my pull-list until they are done.

There are 3 of them. One of the them is A.R.G.U.S, which surprises me the most out of them all. I really didn’t plan on keeping this one, but it is doing such big, world-building type things that I can’t let it go! The reader gets to see deeper into how the government operates in the DC’s version of Washington DC as well as seeing how the top secret organization ARGUS works. It also is revealing things about Steve Trevor’s and Diana’s past that haven’t been revealed yet in the New 52. It’s just awesome! Then there is Rogues Rebellion, which I am begging DC–Hello, DC are you reading this?–for a permanent book featuring the Rogues. Come on, DC, the Flash has no other books besides his namesake; it is time to expand the Flash family with the Rogues. The characters are so freaking likable, that it has turned me into a total fanboy of these B-list super-villains or anti-heroes or whatever… people.  And finally there is Arkham War! With a name like that you have to use a exclamation mark; I’m pretty sure it’s a rule. This has been slower than I expected, given the premise which is an all-out war between Batman foes, but that’s not to say it’s been bad. It has a lot of dialog, which is a good thing whenever Tomasi is writing a book. The guy gets into characters’ heads so well.  Again, wow. They are all actually good books.

The second thing that surprised me was simply this: I am really digging Suicide Squad. Surprise! I did not expect it. I actually didn’t even preorder it like I do for all my other comics. I just grabbed it compulsively off the shelf because it was a tie-in. Now, I know that isn’t the best reason to grab a book–more on that in a minute–but in this case, it was worth it! It is being written with intelligence. It keeps me guessing every issue. It brought back some character that I though were gone from the New 52 for a long time. And most importantly, it is a fully legitimate tie-in. Given how this book feels so similar in arc to the minis, it could have just been called “Forever Evil: Belle Reve War” or “Forever Evil: Suicide Squad Rebellion” and been a mini. I think this is the only case where saying “It could have been a mini.” is actually a compliment.

The bad: Okay, there isn’t much I can complain about. This whole thing has been awesome. This has to be the best time for reading DC Comics right now. Between all this stuff, and Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, and everything Charles Soule, Greg Pak, and other new guys to the New 52 are doing, it is getting really hard to walk into a comic shop and pick up a bad DC book. If I were to have one little complaint though, it would be this: All of the (ahem) “Tie-ins”. Teen Titans, while actually becoming a pretty cool book lately, isn’t a tie-in. Yes, it says “Forever Evil” at the top, but that is just an ironic acknowledgment that Johnny Quick literally kicked the Teen Titans out of Forever Evil crossover! Seriously, they were in Forever Evil for like two pages, and it was like Geoff Johns realized that if they stayed anywhere remotely near the event, then that would mean he would be working with Scott Lobdell, so…boom!… the 31st century! I am just teasing about the Lobdell bit. His stuff is actually becoming better and better, but that is another story. Again, it’s not Forever Evil related. Now, as of December, Phantom Stranger is going to tie closely to FE, but those past two issues… sorry… they were good, but the only reason that they even say “Forever Evil” on the cover is because in one panel–one freaking panel–a guy looks up and says, “Hey, check out that eclipse…huh.” That isn’t a tie-in! That’s a teeny bit of world-building at best. Again, Phantom Stranger is one of my favorite books, but there was no reason to read the last two issues if you just wanted to follow the FE storyline. In fact, the only reason that he is going to be tied-in now is because at the end of the last issue, Constantine cast some sort of “crossover spell” over him and Pandora. Seriously.

The Ugly: I have just one thing to mention here. I think that the ball has been dropped on the art quality for the namesake FE book, as well as the JLA tie-ins. I like the style of it. The dark tone works, and David Finch is a very capable artist. But there has been, at least, one jarring slip up in art in every issue of the main book. In one of them, Lex is talking with Bizarro, who is wearing the shirt he put on in the beginning, then a little later, for one panel, he has on Superman’s New 52 armor. There is no reason! After that panel, Bizarro is back in his t-shirt. No one notices or says anything. The issue after that, in JLA, Stargirl gets a blue stomach for one panel. Really!? The overall tone is really good. The style, and camera angles, and paneling is all great, but there needs to be some quality control happening, especially on the main book of the entire event!

Alright. That is what Forever Evil is like right now. If you ‘d like to pick up Forever Evil, I’d recommend getting the minis, although you don’t need them. They are all just great stories! Also, grab the Forever Evil event book and Justice League, as well as JLA beginning with issue 24. That should be all you really need. Happy reading! and Aeternus Malum!

Top picks for Marvel Now!

As we approach the next wave of Marvel Comics “Marvel NOW!” initiative. Here are my top picks for potentially great books from the February solicitations. Yes, you are reading this right. I am about to recommend  some Marvel titles! Don’t worry, I still plan to cover all my favorite DC stuff, but some of these Marvel books are looking really tempting, and a soft reboot is just what I needed to give some of these a try. Here we go:

1. She-Hulk #1

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I know little to nothing about She-Hulk. I learned that she is smart and was a lawyer at one point from reading about her in the current FF book. But that’s it. So why do I care? Because of that writer. Charles Soule has got to be one of the best new writers out right now. His writing put DC’s book, Red Lanterns, on my regular read list. And don’t like the Red Lanterns! Well, I can’t say that now, I guess. If Charles Soule can sell me a Red Lanterns book, then I’m in for this book too. Plus, he has mentioned that She-Hulk’s other job as a lawyer will be a part of the book… and guess what Charles’ other job is, besides comics… He’s a lawyer! I think this is just too intriguing to pass up.

2. Fantastic Four #1

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This is the second Marvel NOW book I am following because of the writer’s previous work at DC Comics. But James Robinson isn’t the only reason. I love the Fantastic Four! I have always said, even during my anti-Marvel days, that Stan Lee’s premise of a related family of heroes with no secret identities is a great concept! Granted I tried–I mean really really tried!–to like the previous run of  Fan Four, but the writing was just too weird for my taste. I didn’t get that either, because usually Matt Fraction writes such grounded stuff. Oh well, onward and upward with James Robinson!!

3. Ms. Marvel #1

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I have no idea whether this will be a good book or not, honestly. But it is certainly getting the most press of the whole Marvel NOW lot. I do find it interesting that the character is made of two minority groups who don’t get solo books very often. She is both female and a muslim. I both appreciate how Marvel is showing that they really believe in their female character’s ability to carry a book, and is willing to show a character with (possibly) certain religious views, even if they don’t happen to be the same as my own. I just hope that aspect is written with a fair amount of research, intelligence, and respect. About fact that she is a girl, we could always use another book led by a female. The male-led books far outweigh the female ones, so this is a nice positive step. Now, about the writer and story… I have no idea.

4. Loki: Agent of Asgard

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Again, I don’t know much about the writer or the story. But there are two things about this book that intrigue me. First, the solicit takes time to mention that Loki was a young avenger who has now grown up. If this is linked to that relaunch of Young Avengers then that’s a good sign. The other sign is just that it is based in the Thor universe, which has been hugely successful lately. This is probably why they are expanding the Thor family of books. As for whether this is as good as Thor: God of Thunder, we shall see.

Other books worth checking that aren’t launching with a #1 but are getting an easy jump-in issue are Thor: God of Thunder, Superior Spider-Man, and Nova.

Now we wait until February.

Superman #13

This issue marks some big changes for the Superman franchise: new writer, new artist, and new career change! In this review, let’s just brake those down one-by-one.

New Writer

First off- I’m a huge fan of Scott Lobdell! He truly seems to enjoy what he gets to do for a living more than any other writer out there! He is always answers questions, doing interviews, and basically talking about the characters that he loves to write! That being said, I have not been a big fan of his writing in the past. I got on board with Teen Titans- which, thanks to this book, I have picked up again to give another shot- and tried superboy. Neither really held my attention, so when I heard that Mr. Lobdell was coming to take over Superman, I had mixed feelings.

Luckily, I had nothing to fear after all! This new story by Scott is great! It’s full of fresh energy, it’s got some great dialogue and monologue (more on that in a minute). There is even a narrator’s voice, which doesn’t get much explanation. It could be Clark, writing a blog or something. It could be whomever the planet hires to cover the Superman stories, since that job is now officially available. Or it could just be Scott Lobdell getting a little “Golden Agey” by adding an unexplained omniscient narration. Who knows? The bottom line is that this is the light at the end of the New 52 Superman tunnel that we have been waiting since Perez was on the book, But I don’t think Scott is the only one to thank for the new finally-enjoyable Superman book.

New Artist

Kenneth Rocaport brings such a fresh look to the Superman book, that it feels like finally coming up for air after being submerged for, say, 12 months. For some reason the art in this book has had this old 90s look to it since the relaunch. I held on for a long time, because I like the character, but it has been rough! This guy’s style is just what the book needed. The crazy thing is that he bring back a really old idea to the comic, but manages to keep it cool: Thought bubbles. Before you say anything, yes, I mean he uses the little clouds that float out of each characters head when they are thinking. If the old artist tried this, it would have been a last straw. But here, it’s interesting and fun. Since the rest of the book looks so fresh and new, the thought bubbles don’t age it as much as give it a certain quirky style. Now, can anyone tell me why Rocafort always gives his character shiny nose tips? Seriously, go look for yourself. they all have them if you look really closely.

Clark quits the Daily Planet.

Since it was on the news yesterday and all, I don’t think it spoils anything to say that Clark starts off this new chapter of his life with a new writer by quitting the Planet! I won’t say how, except that a certain boss that I abhor finally gets told off… and it’s great! What will Clark do next? Some folks think he will starting blogging his own news, or start his own new company. Either of those could be likely as they would very much update the character to our current world, since more and more people who can’t find jobs are choosing to start their own small businesses.

Bottom Line: Loved it! Great new direction! 100% new reader friendly, and sets up the next story really well. (I can’t wait for H’el on earth!)

Justice League #13

Issue 13 of Justice League marks the introduction of Cheetah to the New 52. I must admit that I don’t know much about the “original” Cheetah, but this one is a great villian! She is fast and powerful… and a god, which makes her not only a match for Wonder Woman, but Superman and the rest as well. Obviously there was some great action in this issue!

Writing

Not only that, but I found the dialogue to be really enjoyable too! The team is final getting tight. In fact, I think this is the closest I’ve seen them in the New 52 thus far! You can see the friendships. You see who is close to whom, and where the tensions are; All in great dialogue that runs throughout the issue! I also think that this is a great “jumping on” book because of it. They explain everything that is happening of importance, and the new villain’s appearance all come together to make this a perfect first issue for someone you have been wanting to get into Justice League.

Art

Tony Daniel is guest artist on this two-issue story. He is awesome on this! My first introduction to his work was Detective Comics #1 and, though the art was good, the writing was not my cup-o-tea and it severely shaded my opinion of him. This just legitimized him as a fantastic artist in my eyes. The way he moves your eyes through the panels is great. And at some panels, I just had to stop reading a stare. (WW and Supes staring across the bridge of the watchtower with earth in the background, for instance)

“On the Outs” back up story by Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire

This was worth mentioning. There is a great little intro to the new Justice League of America book in the back. I love that Jeff Lemire is working with two of my favorite writers nowadays! He and Geoff give you a great little convo in a bar with Green Arrow and Colonel Trevor. I really like how G.A. is handled here better than in his own book. I am already looking forward to JLA, and this just got me more excited! If you want to read it, here it is. DC released it online, no doubt, to promote the upcoming series.

About Jim Lee’s Superman

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When it comes to comics, I am usually more of a “writer” guy than an “artist” guy. By that, I mean that I find the writing to be what gets gets me excited about a book, not necessarily the pictures. But since “Man of Steel” is coming out next summer featuring one of my favorite writers, I thought I’d pick up some work by the artist and see what his take on drawing Superman is like. Jim Lee is the artist here. And, apparently, Man of Steel isn’t his first super-rodeo. He did a run with Brian Azzarello called “For Tomorrow”. I picked it up and just finished it. So here is my review, looking specifically at the art:

Jim Lee was a genius! He took the Superman costume, and made it his own without actually changing a single thread of it. By using a lot of dark scenes, he made Superman look dangerous and imposing! Speaking of this decision, Jim said in the back portion of the hardcover, “Most people imagine Superman to be always in the light… I wanted to challenge this notion… He may be a preeminent good guy figure, but where does it say he can’t look intimidating? He should look elemental, when necessary, like a force of nature.”

When dropping Superman into shadow, though, he tried to keep the “S” logo and cape colored, since they are such defining features for the costume. When he started experimenting with that, he discovered that it would give the “S” a sort of glow. It looks awesome!

And as far as trying to make Supes look intimidating, it works really well! When he drops in on one villain from above, in the dark, S and eyes glowing, I freaked out! What a great take on the superman design! Now, I can’t wait to see what he does with the New 52 costume! Judging by the teaser image, it should be every bit as awesome as the For Tomorrow book! Notice how the S logo pops when surrounded by black. Just awesome! I can’t wait for summer to get here!

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My Comic Book Caveat

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had a new caveat to the assembly of my new pull-list; comics that I, personally, don’t care to read, let alone pay for. In order to explain, I must first say that this is a personal thing and that I don’t expect others to think the same way nor do I look down on those who don’t.

 

Death isn’t heroic. Taking life isn’t a display of strength. I don’t know about other countries, but in the states life isn’t very important. And redemption doesn’t go very far. We kill the most guilty of us by lethal injection, and the most innocent of us before they are born. We bomb those who may kill us. And only heal the ones of us who can pay for the medical services to do so.

I believe in life. I believe that redemption, like mercy, should be new every day. Books in which the “hero” takes life are in direct antithesis to those convictions. So, I have no time or money to waste on them. By contrast, books in which sparing life is seen as, not weakness, but true strength; And characters who never give up on the possibility of redemption, are true heroes. These are the kinds of heroes we need more of. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against fans of Deadpool, Punisher, Deathstroke, or Red Hood. And I don’t believe in boycotts. It’s just a matter of personal conviction. We need more stories that affirm life. Characters like Superman, who is powerful enough to kill with a mere thought, yet chooses the much more difficult option of protecting all life, even misguided life; And Batman who never gives up on the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation for enemies like Harvey Dent; or Animal Man and Swamp Thing, who’s very natures and abilities are forces of life and creation: These are stories I want more of. So, that’s what I’m looking for.

I don’t mean to be so serious about it. But I do mean to be clear. Anyway, with all that said, Let’s read some comics!