Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Once again, apologies to the @$$holes themselves and to those of you who read their column. I boned it this week. Cormorant’s e-mail normally gets filtered into my “AICN BOX” automatically, and it didn’t because of the way I had to reset things because of that e-mail virus that finally seems to have stopped mass-spamming us, and... oh, hell, you don’t care why it wasn’t up. Point is, here’s the goods, and considering how kick-ass the column is this week, I feel doubly bad for keeping it from you.
Cormorant here with a quick 'n' dirty batch of comic reviews this week! Liz gets the ball rolling with a review of SPARKS, the mammoth, award-winning graphic novel that you haven't read yet; Buzz has some kinds words for Marvel's new CRIMSON DYNAMO, along with some deep reflections on the music of Wings; I jump in with the audacity to compare THE THING: NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET to Frank Miller's legendary DARK KNIGHT RETURNS; Liz reviews a new issue of KABUKI sporting a curiously spandex-themed cover; I jump back in to say that TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE is the poor-man's JLA/AVENGERS; and Village Idiot tries to make us all think for a moment as he reflects on Mark Waid's retooling of the father/son relationship for the original superhero in SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT!
Read on, damn you!
Slave Labor Graphics
reviewed by: Lizzybeth
It’s easy for a girl to identify with a character like Jo, since by reading Lawrence Marvit’s mammoth graphic novel SPARKS she’s already doing something that is generally assumed to be a guy thing. And I’ll bet some comic-reading girls could identify with Jo in other ways, since not only does she fix cars for a living, but she seems to relate much better to men in general than to any of the women in her life. Despite this, she has a lot of trouble meeting men to go out with, due to a chronic lack of confidence. “Who,” she figures, “would want to hold hands with a girl with oil under her fingernails?” Jo decides to make herself over as a more stylish, desirable woman, with consistently disastrous and humiliating results. It doesn’t help that her new female friends bombard her with advice seemingly designed to break her spirit, like “Do the cute thing rather than the sultry thing. Not too intimidating. Not too much in control. Not too sexy. Not too smart. Little girls are not threatening.” Jo’s family is even less helpful, criticizing every move she makes. Caught in the middle, Jo wants desperately to start over, go out and find a new and freer life, but she can’t find the will to do it. Not until the robot she made finds it for her.
Oh yeah, the robot. Probably my favorite comic-book robot design ever, sort of a cross between Scud: the Disposable Assassin and a roadster, with long metal-coil arms that enable him to swing through the city a la Batman. Put together from spare car parts in Jo’s garage, the robot comes to life "Johnny 5" style and has to maintain that electrical charge to stay “alive”. Feeling responsible for her accidental creation, Jo takes the creature (later dubbed Galahad) to her roof, maintains it, and teaches it to communicate with a Speak and Spell. We don’t see him typing his messages out on the Speak and Spell much after that, but we’re dealing with car parts brought to life here, so let’s not pick nits. Jo had put Galahad together in a moment of whimsy, imagining what the perfect man for her would be like, and Galahad despite being fairly literally a bucket of bolts decides to become that for her. But this transformation is also pretty disastrous, and leads to even more grave tragedy than anyone beginning this initially optimistic volume would expect.
Originally released as a monthly series, the trade collects the pre-existing issues and finishes the story off with an additional 170 pages (!!). It’s an intense and surprisingly fast read for its size. SPARKS goes places I certainly never expected it to go. I think I assume things when I see certain art styles, maybe projecting the limitations of the many books with this sort of small press “house style,” where the developments tend to be purely emotional and the scale comparatively small. It’s sort of ingenious how the congenial style of the artwork deceives you into expecting less, and prepares you to accept more. Characters are expressively designed, and action sequences beautifully composed, always coherent, and starkly gripping. I won’t give away any more of the plot, which ties off every avenue of the original story in the most unlikely ways. You think, okay, it’s not going to pursue that angle, and it does. And you think, ok, it won’t take that any farther, and it does. And you think, something so cruel couldn’t possibly happen here, and it does. And you think – and it does. And it does. Marvit is certainly willing to put his characters through the wringer. In a way it’s almost gratuitous; perhaps there’s a little too much pain. Life can certainly keep kicking you once you’re down, but the ever-escalating series of disasters befalling poor Jo can leave the reader feeling like a bit of a kicked puppy themselves. Still, the ending, though it couldn’t exactly be called happy, is satisfying in every way.
SPARKS is Lawrence Marvit’s first work in comics, and to my knowledge, the only thing he’s done since is the Spaceman story in Mike Allred’s upcoming trade THE ATOMICS: SPACED OUT AND GROUNDED IN SNAP CITY. Largely a word-of-mouth phenomenon as a series, SPARKS walked away with an Eisner award and was highly touted by critics (such as the awesome ladies of Sequential Tart) and yet I’ve never met a single person who has read the thing. So if you get the chance, read a few pages of this book and let it draw you in. It’s not quite a home run, but it’s a comic that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.
CRIMSON DYNAMO # 1
Written by John Jackson Miller
Art by Steve Ellis & Thomas Mason
Published by Marvel / Epic
But when the Crimson Dynamo / Finally assured me, well, I knew...
-- Sir Paul McCartney & Wings
My first Epic Book! I'm so proud! The good news is the book, about a Russian slacker who discovers a super-helmet while doing his community service, is well-written, well-drawn and intriguing! The writer, John Jackson Miller was some sort of comic book journalist (I'm not a detail guy, I'm more of a Big Thinker) and will be taking over IRON MAN soon. I might start reading IRON MAN when he does.
And the Crimson Dynamo / Came along for the ride ....
-- Sir Paul McCartney & Wings
One of my favorite parts was our hero, Gennady, trading instant messages with an American girl calling herself CajunAngel17. I hope they keep this device because it's an interesting modern touch. A supporting character that the hero never sees ... sort of like my relationship with the @$$holes.
I liked the supporting cast in general. The Dean of Gennady's school can join ANIMAL HOUSE'S Dean Wormer and the various evil principals and vice principals from the Shermer Illinois Unified School District (I think our own Sleazy G. is a product of the Shermer school system). Gennady's stepfather, Stepan, is a nasty asshole glued to his tiny TV. Steve Ellis draws both men exactly alike. They look like Kraven the Hunter from Spider-Man.
Eventually, we learn that the helmet Gennady finds controls a suit of armor that has kicked Iron Man's metal ass a few times. Gennady doesn't know this yet. Imagine the Hulk, on a rampage across Siberia, under the control of a kid of thinks he's stolen a cool new virtual reality game system.
This is the semi-good that has come from all of this Epic bullshit. A talented new writer gets a shot at a comic, we get a good book.
Of course, the Crimson Dynamo is a character that has been around since the Cold War, kind of like how in TROUBLE it's still Aunt May and still tied to Spider-Man. Where's all the innovative? Where's all the creator-owned? GUN THEORY is Epic and doesn't apparently involve established Marvel characters, at least. I've heard that now all Marvel is accepting are pitches involving characters they already own. So why have an Epic Line?
Magneto was mad ! / Titanium too ! / And the Crimson Dynamo / Just Couldn't Cut It No More...
-- Sir Paul McCartney & Wings.
BTW, just so Sir Paul doesn't sue me for using his lyrics, I'll also review the song. Damned good song, Sir Paul! In my book, songs about Marvel supervillains beat the shit out songs about Yoko!
THE THING: NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET #4 (of 4)
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Dean Haspiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Cormorant
Wow! I've got some mixed feelings on this one, but they're very exhilarating mixed feelings, and I think that's a good sign. You guys remember what I told you about this miniseries in my review of the previous issue, right? Four-parter with the Thing and the Frightful Four? Retro-Kirby art from Dean Haspiel and snappy writing from MILK AND CHEESE creator, Evan Dorkin? Old school veneer with some modern-day grit?
That's the one.
Well the previous issue ended on quite the cliffhanger: the Thing's new, streetwise girlfriend (well, his almost girlfriend) had been captured by a particularly nasty incarnation of the Frightful Four. Turned out she was actually the Sandman's ex-ladyfriend, and even as the Thing was reeling from this revelation, the Four (Frightful, not Fantastic) served him up a brutal ass-kicking. He resisted the torture (the bad guys wanted to know where the FF kept the famously powerful Ultimate Nullifier), but when they threatened to give the same treatment to the girl, he was forced to break into the Baxter building to steal it for them.
So ended the previous issue. It was an action-packed chapter that was almost too violent for my tastes, considering the Silver Age window-dressing of the villains and the writing, but I rolled with it. There were too many memorable scenes not to. Besides, I figured, this miniseries was part of Marvel's "Startling Stories" sub-imprint, a line meant to push the edges a bit in non-continuity stories. This is the imprint where Brian Azzarello did the grisly "Hulk as mass murderer" story that was kinda/sorta redeemed by the great Richard Corben art. I didn't think much of that story, but I couldn't really begrudge it because it wasn't "official," and so no real damage.
Let me tell you, boys and girls, the non-continuity angle of the imprint turned out to be very important for me, because otherwise I would've had a real problem with how Dorkin turns on the darkness in this last issue. Jesus, does he turn on the darkness! Remember the first time you read Frank Miller's SIN CITY and it was just this insane roller coaster ride and you couldn't believe all the crazy stuff going on and somehow it still managed to smack you in the face with its outrageous, nihilistic, "see you in hell!"-style ending? Wouldja believe NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET does the same thing? That's right, this low-profile spotlight on the Thing, this project you've probably been ignoring, is the most god-damnedest hardboiled project that Marvel will put out this year! It's not as graphically violent as SIN CITY, not as self-aware in its attempts to subvert as THE ULTIMATES – and that's precisely why the wrap-up is so shocking. Here you are, coasting along Silver Age Highway, hitting a few "grim 'n' gritty" potholes but otherwise coasting along just fine, when suddenly – CRAP! DETOUR! – and the next thing you know you're on the Sin City Turnpike and there are fires in the street and overturned cars and, oh shit, that angry mob is heading right for you! It's like a sucker punch, but because the Thing has always been a pretty dark character beneath his schticky, "loveable tough guy" exterior…it somehow feels right. In fact, I'd compare NIGHT FALLS to Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS in this respect. DARK KNIGHT was overtly violent and subversive – far more so than any Batman comic before it - yet who can deny that it was one of the purest takes on the character ever? That while it might not have worked in the regular DC Universe, it felt right?
So let me tell you how this crazy detour comes to pass. Issue four opens with the Thing having retrieved the Ultimate Nullifier per the Frightful Four's blackmail. He's got it in a duffle bag and is walking it back to the bad guys' Yancy Street hideout, and as crazy a mixture of the cosmic and the mundane as that may seem, Dorkin pulls it off. It's night, the rain's coming down like a noir flick, and the Thing's moody, terse narration makes it plain that the bad guys have got him by the balls and that there's only the slimmest of chances that things are gonna turn out well. And suddenly, Yancy Street gangbangers are blocking his path, and it turns out they know more than a little about what's going on. What's this? Another revelation about the girl, Hazel? She used to actually run with the Yancy Streeters? Interesting. It's one more secret from her (with more to come), and it sets up a classic "honor among thieves" moment in which the gangbangers actually offer to help the Thing get her back. Where I knew this last issue was gonna break with the expected, though, was when the Thing told 'em "NO," told 'em to hit the bricks. For the rest of the issue, I kept expecting them to pop up to save the day, but it turns out NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET isn't a "save the day" kind of story.
What follows next you'll have to read on your own. Secrets are revealed, bad guys act very bad, heroic stands fail, and while the accompanying tooth and nail fighting is largely bloodless, in the context of the these characters drawn in their bright, classic Kirby costumes, it feels as violent as anything Frank Miller has ever produced. And the ending will still sucker punch you. I haven't read a lot of Dorkin's stuff, but I've seen enough to know that there's some startlingly real darkness, even misanthropy, beneath the cartoonish antics of his characters. He brings that to NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET, and while I have some misgivings about its appropriateness to these characters, I think I have to roll with it in the same way I did for the out-of-continuity DARK KNIGHT. If you're an old-school fan, though, expect to be a bit shocked at how events play out.
This is probably the most strange and interesting project to arise from Marvel's current fixation on the darker aspects of superheroes, and I can't say I'm surprised it's the most overlooked as well. But don't let it pass you by. Back issues shouldn't be hard to find, and they're worth poking around for because the series probably didn't garner enough sales to warrant a collection. It's still ten times tougher than any issue of THE ULTIMATES, though.
reviewed by: Lizzybeth
I’ve been waiting a long time for a new issue of KABUKI, and I’ve got to say: this is the best one yet.
David Mack’s tour de force project following a beautiful, introspective, and disturbed young lady-warrior has been on hiatus for some time, allowing Mack to pursue cover work and guest slots on high-profile Marvel titles. While I never suspected that his skill had waned in the interim, it’s sure a relief to see him returning to form this week. It’s a spectacular issue on par with anything in METAMORPHOSIS, with just as much attention to detail. It has many of the familiar motifs of previous Kabuki collections, such as the image of a little girl at a piano, a child’s drawings, scrabble letters, handprints. But it manages to add a few new elements (like the guy in a red costume on a few pages) and a whole new storyline following Mack’s creation Maya (or “Echo”), who first appeared in DAREDEVIL’s “Parts of a Whole” story. Like most KABUKI issues since Circle of Blood, the action takes place almost entirely in the protagonist’s head, as she plays through her memories of childhood, of her father (who was murdered by a man she trusted – Wilson Fisk), and her discovery of the hearing world denied to her. Maya’s deafness, like Ukiko’s scars, holds her apart from most people, as does her ethnicity (her father was Native American, her mother’s identity remains unclear). This separateness encourages her, like Kabuki, to develop her peculiar brilliance. She is a performance artist, a painter, and a skilled fighter, one of Mack’s multi-aptitude and poorly-adjusted geniuses. One wonders what the two characters would make of each other.
David Mack has gradually been introduced to the Marvel crowd, with his ALIAS covers and his DAREDEVIL guest pencils, but this will be many readers’ first taste of the multimedia experience that his writer-artist works provide. One couldn’t ask for a better introduction - what gorgeous artwork! Mack buries his panels beneath layers of words and imagery, combining paintings, pencils, photographs, and collage into a fantastic explosion of color. As always he is fascinated by the human forms that dominate each page, framing them in borders of watercolor swatches, lace, feathers, musical staffs. Faces are disembodied, surrounded by memories rather than mere material settings. To read KABUKI, one must immerse themselves completely in the artwork, searching out the words that tell the story. Picking through such a fantastic landscape may sound like too much effort, but the pure physicality of his bodies makes it work. They are perfectly rendered, to a degree rare in the amateurish Marvel comics stable. These figures have bones, muscles, and tendons, and light brings texture to their skin. Their faces are lined with age, or glistening with youth. And in the most fantastic passages, they are recast in the form of familiar paintings (my favorite being the magnificent Klimt tribute on p.26). This is an intelligent and imaginative start to Echo’s story, one I’d love to see continue with or without the red guy. This is comics made with both skill and passion. This is exciting stuff.
It’s just too bad it has to have the word DAREDEVIL on the cover to sell.
TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE #1
Writer: John Ney Reiber
Artist: Jae Lee
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Reviewed by Cormorant
My friends, I have heard your cries! It seems a few vocal TalkBackers out there are feeling put-upon by our more offbeat reviews and want to see more coverage of mainstream titles. I wonder if these guys have ever met the few vocal TalkBackers who're pissed we don't cover more indie titles? I'd like to see these groups get together for tea and beating each other senseless. That way I can get back to reviewing IRON WOK JAN one week and FANTASTIC FOUR the next without being yelled at. But, dammit, you're TalkBackers and it's your right to bitch, so this week I'm going out of my way to appease the mainstreamers, and you can't get more mainstream than a heavily-promoted 80's nostalgia title right? Yep, I have in my hands TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE #1!
Of course it's terrible.
Let's backtrack before we get into specifics: I have to admit, I actually had a bit of interest in TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE based on various previews. Unlike the concurrently running G.I. JOE/TRANSFORMERS series from Image (see, they flipped the title around to differentiate 'em), this Dreamwave series had the high concept that not only would these two 80's toy juggernauts go toe-to-toe, but they'd do it during World War II! Okay, that sounds like a ridiculous complication to add to a story already sure to be labyrinthine in its contrivances, BUT...I saw Jae Lee's design sketches, and they were honestly pretty damn cool. I was a G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS geek back in th' day, and seeing the Joes re-imagined in World War II regalia and the Transformers re-imagined as turning into Panzers, Spitfires, and the like, was a kick. Jae Lee, whom I've always disliked as a sequential artist, seemed to be pretty kickin' with the pin-up stuff at the very least. This makes sense – after all, Lee's career began in the early 90's when the house style of every comic in existence revolved around pin-ups, and I'll always remember an interview with him where he cited 80's glam poster artist, Patrick Nagel, as a major influence.
Unfortunately, the interiors confirmed my long-held belief that Lee's not much when it comes to storytelling. His figures are pretty nice, if overly shadowy and stiff, but when it comes to putting them in action? He's weak at best and sometimes downright indecipherable. Example: one scene has two soldiers ogling some female cuties from the G.I. Joe team…except the women were so lost in the murky shadows that I had to re-read the scene to figure out who these guys were talking about! How about Lee's establishing shots? This is the part that kills me. There's a superficial air of slickness to the proceedings, but damned if I can really tell where events are taking place - I mean, really get a sense for how these scenes are supposed to be blocked out. Every setting seems to have the same generically muddy lighting – think of the scene in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN where the platoon holes up in a church at night - whether it be a military office, a Cobra base, or a bombed-out ruin. The few panels with detailed, photo-referenced backgrounds are still diminished by this distancing look of "sameness." I submit that even the hackiest artist on the 80's G.I. JOE comic (for the record: Frank Springer) outranks Lee as a storyteller.
Ah, but can the writing redeem Lee's tragically hip poster art? Well, the writer's John Ney Reiber, so…uh…that's not a good start. You might remember Reiber as the guy whose most recent accomplishment was to infuse CAPTAIN AMERICA with a sense of hand-wringing malaise in the wake of 9/11. He also writes TOMB RAIDER. Well, I'm vaguely happy to report that Reiber's TRANSFORMERS/G.I. JOE mini doesn't bear the weight of his misguided CAPTAIN AMERICA efforts – it's merely workmanlike, which is actually a compliment when it comes to nostalgia books. He does turn out a few howler lines, though, in his efforts to infuse this geek-fest with some Dubba Dubbya Two somberness. From the narration of the Joes' First Sergeant, Duke:
"They've all proven they can fight -- as individuals. But when it's blooding time -- will they fight as one? We'll leave our bones here. And the future of our world will be broken and scattered with us -- if we don't stand together -- as one."
The series' basic premise is simple enough: bad guy organization, Cobra, rather than being a terrorist outfit, has been retrofitted to play the role of the Axis powers as WW II approaches. Apparently Hasbro balked at having their properties, even their villains, associated with the real Axis powers. I find this particularly amusing since the Transformers, of course, originated in Japan. Anyway, the G.I. Joe team is formed up to bring down Cobra and their recently excavated Decepticon allies who're currently overrunning key European fronts. The first half of the issue is set-up for both the good guys and the bad guys, and the second part is a stunning display of listlessness as Jae Lee tries and fails to depict an action-packed skirmish.
Oh, it's not all horrible. Reiber actually serves up some fun jargon and colloquialism-heavy dialogue as the Joes are introduced, and has a decent military/macho vibe going on. Lee's characters look cool and nicely designed whenever they happen to emerge from indistinguishable shadows, especially Snake-Eyes, Lady Jaye, Scarlet, and all the Cobra no-goodniks. I won't buy another issue of this series – well, unless Reiber pulls off something really outrageous like introducing World War II counterparts to Cobra's Australian biker gang henchmen, The Dreadnoks - but I would buy a collection of G.I. Joe or Transformers pin-ups from Lee. They really are nice redesigns when you can see them.
Now go buy this very bad miniseries, anyway. It's not like I ever hold out hope that poor quality will dissuade the nostalgia crowd.
SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT #3
Mark Waid – Writer
Leinil Francis Yu – Pencils
Gerry Alanguilan – Inks
Dave McCaig – Colors
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Village Idiot
At first, BIRTHRIGHT #3 didn’t create too much of an impression. After reading it, I stopped by the usual review thread on the “Superman” message board at the DC Comics forum, and casually posted the following message:
“In short, not bad. Nice to see the nuts and bolts of the identity explained again, and with more verisimilitude (considering the circumstances). Of course, the book was somewhat in line with my "Pa Kent Takes It On the Chin Yet Again In Keeping With Post-Modern Attitudes Towards Fathers" theory; the actual narrative thread seemingly riffed from Loeb's Superman For All Seasons, but extrapolated to the point where Clark actually has to enlighten his dad.
But overall, not bad.
To tell you the truth, right now I'm still riding the buzz from JLA/AVENGERS.”
In the post that followed, somebody challenged my comments about Pa Kent’s portrayal, and then I responded, and he and various others responded to that, and then four message board pages and various tree shakings later (including at the John Byrne Message Board and private emails to @$$holes and non-@$$holes alike), we come to this review, a review that I didn’t originally intend to write. (I wanted to talk about FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE. Sigh.) But my position on BIRTHRIGHT has moved enough; from “not bad” to “bothersome,” “disappointing,” and yeah, “bad enough to talk about and hopefully make something interesting out of talking about it.”
In BIRTHRIGHT #3, Pa Kent takes it on the chin, figuratively speaking, when his introduction into the revamped Superman mythos of Mark Waid is marked by his problems with Clark. Clark has been gone for seven years and returns home to Smallville to create his new persona as Superman. Ma Kent, with whom Clark seems to have a strong rapport (even addressing his expository emails to her in past issues), is helpful and wise about the situation, encouraging him on his road to self-actualization. Pa Kent, on the other hand, takes a bitter, passive-aggressive stance against it. Soon things reach a boiling point when Pa suddenly takes a baseball bat to the Kryptonian spaceship, accidentally bringing the barn down around him. Clark saves him and later confronts Pa about his problem. Pa reveals that he's feeling neglected and that he's insecure about Clark adopting his Kryptonian identity. Clark enlightens Pa to the fact that he's just blazing his own trail the way Pa did when Pa was a young man, and that this is just the natural progression of things. Pa's concedes, and joins Clark and Ma as they put together the new Clark Kent persona.
After discussing the story and my misgivings with the various people I mentioned, two main questions seem to arise: A) Does this portrayal indeed offer a “weakened” version of Pa Kent?, and B) If yes, how does this weakened version bear on the story?
I’ve been told by some of the fathers that I’ve had this discussion with that the portrayal of Pa is quite true to life in terms of the problems that real fathers have to go through. Indeed, credit goes to Mark Waid for creating a more emotionally realistic, even challenging portrayal of characters that are by now (at least nominally) so familiar. But Waid’s execution is not really at issue - rather the choice of what he executed. He gave a good paint job, but perhaps he used the wrong color. For whatever reason, he chose to make Pa’s first interaction in the story, the first statement about who the character is, one that stems from his insecurity about who Clark wants to be. In the difference between positive and negative impressions one could create about the wisdom of the character, this emphasis has to fall on the negative side. Pa (unlike Ma) lacks the awareness, or is too hampered by his own insecurity, to see Clark’s development for what it is: the full and healthy realization of his potential The fact that it results in a violent and reckless outburst, and the fact that it takes Clark to offer the solution simply makes the cheese more binding. Overall, the choice and placement of this plotline is a negative statement that undermines Pa Kent’s overall status as a moral authority.
But then so what? Why does Pa Kent have to be a “moral authority” in the first place?
For this, let us briefly discuss Robert Bly and his book, IRON JOHN. Some of you may remember Bly as the poet and progenitor of the “men’s movement” of the nineties; that brief phenom where men would go out into the woods and bang on drums and bond over the tales of the emasculation of civilization (a theme later picked up and channeled into a different direction by Chuck Palahniuk). But really, Bly had more to offer than just the occasional dazzling of Bill Moyers; he talked about the importance of archetype in myth and covered much of the same territory of that other Moyers-dazzler, Joseph Campbell. Within this framework, Bly talked about the important connections between fathers (or father figures) and sons; the moral tutelage of the hero under the elder; and what the tradition of these relationships have always meant to the emotional health and wisdom of men, and how the men relate to the world; and how the values behind this archetypical relationship play out in myth and the hero’s journey. Arguably, there’s a classic and valuable, perhaps socially transcendent resonance there.
And to varying degrees, it existed in the Superman myth. The Superman myth usually presented Pa as Clark’s expressive conduit to morality and the outside world, most famously in the death bed scene included in origins up to 1986. Even after ’86, Pa continued to be Clark’s first line of moral and psychological guidance, revealing his origins to him in MAN OF STEEL, and saving him in the afterlife in the post DEATH OF SUPERMAN stories. I submit that these versions maintained and replicated much of the mythological relationship described above.
BIRTHRIGHT seems to be breaking out of that pattern as part of the overall effect of what I’ve described. The question then becomes: which is more valuable, Waid’s well-written emotional dynamics, or the more mythological resonance? The message that “Dads are people (flawed) too” or “Dad's are here to help you and they often know what they're talking about”?
At the end of the day (and at the end of the review), I vote for the latter.