Monday, February 19, 2024

Action Comics 2023 Annual #1 (February, 2024)

Thy foes sought slaves, to scrape and kneel.
Not fighting men of hell and steel.
I swear, you bring The Demon Etrigan into a story arc to spout a couple lines of doggerel and then get taken out by a super-kid with a sword? What are you even doing? And I have to cop to not knowing, because I only grazed the first three chapters of this serial to make sure that I wasn't missing any other Bloodwynd content. Like for instance, I though Blue Earth were just domestic super powered xenophobes, but are they from an actual Earth-Blue in the multiverse? I mean, this book starts on "Earth Al Ghul," a quasi-medievel fantasy setting and the base from which the "Empire of Shadows" conquered countless worlds in the "Dark Multiverse." I put quotations not because these aren't real things in the current DC continuity, but to speak of them mockingly from a place of ignorance, as elders do. All you nerds to brayed about how you weren't confused by multiple Earths before the Crisis? I hope you're lapping at this like a pig in slop. Then as now, you can have at it. I have always, will always, side with the Anti-Monitor on this anti-matter. That's a pun, son. Y'see, stories should matter, but when there's infinite variations on the same old crud, it's the opposite of mattering. Get it? You're a lost cause, boy.

Superman, Bloodwynd, and Etrigan saved a family from execution for defying the bad guys, hence the pull quote. Then Bloodwynd and Superman ran interference against the evil forces while The Demon advanced to the castle to save The Man of Steel's adopted daughter from being corrupted/possessed by the alternate universe granddaughter of Ra's al Ghul. *sharp inhale* But see, Etrigan stabbed in the back with Cloud Strife's ridiculously outsized sword (that's a Final Fantasy VII reference, dear child. This dumb visual had a clear cultural origin point.) by *checks Wiki* Otho-Ra. It's a lousy name, but don't worry, they recite the same Kryptonian fable twice here after having done it last issue and I saw at least once before with full visuals in a prior issue to let us all know her handle will be Starchild and her twin brother's Red Son by the time this is all over with. Nothing like completely exhausting a trademark. Just ask Strange Visitor.

There's a bit in here where Otho-Ra's arms are wrapped in chains that are said to be formed of links derived from each fallen foe, which I guess is where the new Bloodwynd also gets it from, since he's vaguely tied to Janan al Ghul's access of Earth-Zero via Hell. I didn't realize Earth-Zero was the new Earth-One, or Earth-Prime? I can't even keep track of something as basic as which Earth the name brand heroes are supposed to be on anymore. Thanks DC. It's like how I don't know if Blue Earth is an actual Earth, because those guys were also in the first three issues of the new Power Girl series starring a Gen-Z author-insert with no personality traits in common with the character I used to know, and I'm not checking for Bloodwynd there. What I do know, is that the chains hurt the minimalist Space Ghost indebted design that is arguably the best thing about the Bloodwynd concept. Kind of like how being a brash feminist with over the shoulder boulder holders was Power Girl's trademark, rather than crippling insecurity. These clouds aren't going to shout for themselves.

Giant energy portal in the sky unleashed massive space vessel flanked by faceless invaders and Man-Bats, in case things weren't already Marvel Phase Four enough around here. Blue Earth saw their two-faced leader Laura Ingraham "Norah Stone" was really Sister Shadow, and rather than doubling down by buying merch under the new branding, were convinced to repel the actual invaders alongside the Superman Family. Least realistic story element, based on our current political hellscape? After contributing little more than poor rhymes, Etrigan and Bloodwynd-- like-- gestured at the portal and made everything incoming on our side of it burst into flames? Maybe lead with that, guys. Also, The Demon claimed Janan al Ghul's soul for Hell, because something something her portal had left her indebted something infernal. Also, Bloodwynd and Etrigan stopped appearing at this point. I don't know what their deal was in this story, overall and specifically at this point.

Again, I skimmed most of the story line, so I don't know if I'm supposed to know who the construction worker who used to be a super-villain and his son are supposed to be, except the guys who tell us how awesome the Superman Family is as a capstone to the lauded recent run of the title. Which based on what I just read, was either well past the point of ending on a high note, or the kind of people willing to pay $4.99 for a monthly comic are so beaten down that this junk rates. You guys, am I just too old for corporate super-hero comics? Am I the one who needs to leave?

"New Worlds: Part Five: The Conclusion" was written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Max Raynor. It's funny how for decades artists lusted after paper quality that would allow for true blacks, and today they happily turn them back into limp grays with lame digital effects meant to make up for their inability to properly ink their own work. The visuals are otherwise fine, though necessarily a comedown from a relatively name talent like Eddy Barrows, big enough to rate actual embellishment by other hands. One thing I do find deeply annoying about both creators' work though is a tendency toward double page spreads... of narrative. Double splash pin-ups were a nuisance in the '90s, but this is horizontal multi-panel narratives throughout the books. Since it bridges writers and artists, I have to assume this comes down to editorial, or maybe a trend in the mainstream comics I don't read anymore. There's a lot of this in Rogue Sun, an Image title I was following, so maybe the latter. I hate it, because it leaves everything on a flat, narrow plane like a newspaper Sunday strip. I think they're shooting for Hitch-style "widescreen," but it has the exact opposite effect. Nothing pops, there's no surprises, plus I have to read into the staples. It's anti-comics, seemingly made for a sideways slung tablet, and even then that shrinks the image. I want nothing to do with any of this. Too much exposition and running snark this time, so no room to discuss Bloodwynd II's vague red energy zapping abilities and general pointlessness. Next week, then...

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