Saturday, June 10, 2017

Black Panther, Superman trade paperback reviews

Marvel Studios released the first trailer for the "Black Panther" film last night during Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

(Can you believe those Cavaliers? What an onslaught of offense. It was great seeing the Big Three have big games at the same time! The dream of a championship repeat is somehow still alive. …)

Fittingly, "Black Panther" (out Feb. 16) appears to focus on the dangerous political environment of Wakanda, the African country ruled by King T'Challa. The footage is short on action but long on breath-taking cinematography and of course, shows off just a bit of Black Panther's immense acrobatic and fighting skills.

A longer, more detailed look at the trailer may yield a slightly different perspective, but for now I'm grading the footage at "B-" (mostly based on the colorful costumes and sets). My anticipation level is low.

Ironically, about a week ago — not knowing at all that Marvel would release film footage soon afterward, I discovered the trade paperback BLACK PANTHER: NATION UNDER OUR FEET: BOOK 1 at the library. Not being terribly familiar with T'Challa's solo history outside of what I've read in Avengers comic books, I checked it out.

Most often I read trades based on what looks the most interesting — or even fans' recommendations — on the bookshelves at my local library. (Having read a large majority of them over the last decade or so, I seek out titles I haven't read or new ones that interest me.) Critical praise is why I selected NATION UNDER OUR FEET, as the new BLACK PANTHER series by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze had gotten a nice review from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

As I said, most of what I know about Black Panther is what I've read in various AVENGERS titles. Here I received little additional insight into his supporting characters or backstory since I couldn't follow what was happening or why it's important. All I could figure out is there's an uprising and power struggle in Wakanda, but its intricacies were lost on me, which honestly could have as much to do with my lack of knowledge of African culture as anything else. Stelfreeze has the characters and the technology they use looking good though.

In this trade I learned as much about Black Panther from the short previews of other important storylines through the years as I did Coates' story; I plan to find some of T'Challa's Bronze Age adventures.

Grade: C

SUPERMAN ACTION COMICS VOL. 1 - PATH OF DOOM: Another DC Comics continuity reboot, but the same ol' Superman.

Writer Dan Jurgens goes back to what he knows best with the Man of Steel — penning a story centered around a character he co-created, the powerful rage-beast Doomsday, who was engineered to sense and hate Kryptonians.

The only twists here to anything else we saw in Jurgens' and Co.'s dynamic "Doomsday" and "Death of Superman" storylines from 1992-'93 are: Lex Luthor has donned a supersuit with the 'S' shield in Superman's absence and possible passing; Clark Kent has married Lois Lane and they have a super-powered son named Jonathan (and they all seem to be from a different place or time); and a very human Kent mysteriously shows up in the middle of Supes' downtown Metropolis fight with Doomsday. Superman's costume is a tweaked version of what he wore during the New 52 era, minus that useless and awful collar.

At least Jurgens and DC have steered Superman and Wonder Woman (looking fierce in a sweet, Amazon warrior outfit) back toward friendship instead of their eye-rolling and barely tolerable romance in the New 52 issues. The art is a treat for the eyes, but the stale storyline breaks no new ground and borders on cliché. This is far from an interesting Rebirth.

Grade: C-

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