Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Majestic: Strange New Visitor Trade Paperback Review

Majestic: Strange New Visitor
DC Comics
168 pages
$14.99 (2005) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401204839

Contributors: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Karl Kershl, Ed McGuinness, Renato Guedes, Oclair Albert, Richard Horie, Tanya Horie, Carrie Strachan, Phil Balsman, Rob Leigh, Ken Lopez, Nick Napolitano, and Dexter Vines

Reprints: Action Comics #811, Adventures of Superman #624, Superman #201, and Majestic #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: Majestros is an immortal Kheran warlord stranded on Earth for millennia while battling a secret war against another alien race called the Daemonites.  Super-intelligent, immensely powerful, wielding ocular energy beams, and the ability to fly, in the modern era he goes by the superhero moniker, Mr. Majestic.  The war ended and Majestic remained on Earth.  While investigating a long-abandoned Daemonite science-base he stumbles upon an apparatus which opens a gateway into The Bleed.  Something causes him to fall in and he disappears from reality.
McGuinness gives us a Majestic version
of an old favorite!

"Strange New Visitor" - Superman has gone missing from Metropolis and a devastating reality storm is raging above the city.  Lois Lane is worried about her husband Clark Kent (aka Superman).  The other heroes of Metropolis band together to deal with the storm, but they're having a very difficult time.  They include Dr. John Henry Irons (formerly Steel), his daughter Natasha Irons (the current Steel), Superboy (Kon-El), and the Eradicator (an ancient Kryptonian machine which takes a semi-humanoid form).

Rumors emerge of a new hero who strikingly resembles Superman and saves innocent people caught in the storm.  Lois investigates in the hopes it's Superman, but discovers the hero is actually a stranger named Mr. Majestic.  He is displaced from his own reality and doing what he can to help people in immediate danger.  Lois presents Majestic to the other heroes, but they meet him with varying degrees of skepticism.  Is his reality-displaced presence causing the storm somehow?  The group of heroes don't know what to make of Majestic, but they can all agree on not trusting him.  When they turn on him it could mean the end of Metropolis!

"Grounded" - Majestic is trapped on a parallel Earth, but he doesn't stop being a hero.  His methods are deemed too harsh by this world's heroes including Superman and the two have a discussion.  Superman suggests Majestic gain some perspective as a regular human and he takes it to heart.  The next day Jim McArest rents a room in a small suburb outside of Metropolis.

Superman and Majestic have a chat over coffee
He befriends Ellen and her son Elijah, but finds it hard to assimilate into regular life and keep his superhero identity a secret.  How can he hold back when witnessing an injustice and do nothing?  Not only that, but something followed him from The Bleed and it threatens to destroy the small bit of real life Majestic has made for himself.  Will he be able to protect it?  Then the Eradicator shows up wanting to settle the score with Majestic after the events of the reality storm in Metropolis. It's not looking good for this fish out of water.  

Pros: Abnett and Lanning nail Majestic's character and give him much-needed depth as a hero, Kershl's art is surprisingly detailed and excellent, the book has the same creative team throughout, McGuinness turns in some good covers, very nice Wildstorm/DC crossover which is actually in-continuity, classic meeting between Superman and Majestic in a diner, character progression for The Eradicator

Cons: Actual plot is very basic and follows the typical crossover formula, Kershl's Lois Lane was not very metropolitan and appeared to wear over-sized (baggy) clothing, no noteworthy villain in either storyline, no Superman vs. Majestic battle
We get to see Majestic's memories
from Khera

Mike Tells It Straight: I found the Majestic crossover in Superman to be a daring move which predated the consolidation of the Wildstorm Universe into the DC Universe by seven years (it happened in the New 52).  At the time it was unheard of having an in-continuity crossover and  the writers, Abnett and Lanning, worked hard to make it unique.  They did a great job nailing Majestic's character while adding some much-needed depth. The two are known for their cosmic superhero stories and really did a great job here.

Kershl's art was highly competent and shone in several areas.  Great storytelling and lots of detail.  I really liked that the main creative team was consistent throughout the two storylines.  My only gripe was his baggy clothes-wearing Lois Lane.  A far cry from the cosmopolitan reporter I've grown accustomed to.  I guess it was a little disappointing to not have a big brawl between Superman and Majestic, but the crossover wasn't typical and I wouldn't trade the diner scene with the two for anything. It was classic.

We get to see some of Majestic's origin on Khera when he falls in love with a beautiful princess named Elan (that's the name he keeps calling Ellen).  I felt the only thing really missing was a worthy villain in the story.  The focus was on characterization more than anything else and the writers validated Majestic as a true hero (instead of just a Superman knock-off).  I liked the momentum they built for the character which launched him into a regular series.  I'll post a review for it soon!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Promethea Book Three Hardcover Review

Promethea Vol. 3
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
150 pages
$24.95 (2002) Hardcover
$14.95 (2002) Trade Paperback
$99.99 (2010) Absolute Edition Vol. 2
ISBN 9781401200947

Contributors: Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray, Jeremy Cox, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Promethea #13-18

Synopsis: Sophie Bangs is a college student in a future New York City where technology has advanced at a faster rate due to the influence of science-heroes.  Modern society prizes its sophistication, but Sophie learns of a deeper philosophy which has existed since the beginning of time - magic.  She seeks information on a forgotten heroine and falls headfirst into the underlying tapestry of the universe by becoming that heroine!  Now Sophie shares an existence with Promethea, a demi-goddess of imagination who lives in the Immateria.  Many incarnations of Promethea have existed throughout history and their spirits educate Sophie in her newfound abilities.

Barbara Shelley was the previous Promethea and passed the torch to Sophie.  The two became friends for a brief time, but Barbara succumbed to a mortal wound.  All of the former mortal hosts of Promethea appear in the Immateria after death, but Barbara doesn't.  Sophie decides to find her spirit in the after-life to make sure she's all right.  She leaves the material world behind in search of Barbara and sets up her best friend, Stacia, as her replacement while she's gone.  Stacia bonds with a former Promethea and the two become the new protector of New York.
Sophie says goodbye to Stacia before setting off on her journey
Sophie has been studying magic with a prominent wizard named Jack Faust (for a price, oh, what a price!) and has learned many secrets to expand her perceptions.  She manifests into Promethea and moves through the various planes of reality in search of Barbara.  The journey begins in the lands of the dead, but changes to something more profound as Promethea elevates.  Will she find Barbara amid the myriad levels of reality or will she succumb to their strange mysteries?  Why did Barbara bypass the Immateria and head into the after-life?

Meanwhile on the physical plane in New York Stacia is picking up the slack where Sophie left off.  The only problem is the former Promethea she's paired with is proving to be too powerful to control.  Despite battling crime and keeping the city safe from villains Stacia is helpless to curb the violent tendencies of her Promethea counterpart.  This Promethea teeters on the edge of becoming a greater threat than the menaces she thwarts.  Can the Five Swell Guys reign her in before it's too late?  If Sophie survives her tour through the universal architecture she may come back to a complete disaster!
Sophie and Barbara get stuck on an infinite loop - I'm still dizzy!
Pros: Complex and varied art by Williams, high concept writing by Moore and the infinite loop sequence was particularly imaginative, Stacia's real world actions are a good balance to the metaphysical stuff Sophie is exploring,  origin of Sophie's mom and Barbara was good, no more creepy sex with old magicians

Cons: Majority of the book is high concept and preachy metaphysical themes from Moore, Williams' art can be difficult to visually read (it's complex after all), book ends without resolving the story arc (to be continued...)

Mike Tells It Straight: In this third volume of Promethea the partnership of Moore and Williams gels together and the two hit their stride.  Moore perfectly balances his existential lectures on planes of reality with exciting action in the real world.  Williams' art hits a new high as he channels various styles and truly shines.  Impressive work and I'm beginning to see why this series got the Absolute treatment (over-sized deluxe hardcover format).
The pair stumble into the devil's web
The storyline slowly progresses with Sophie taking us on another tour of reality with each issue dedicated to one plane of existence.  Each one is intriguing and Moore does a nice job of educating us to the true workings of the universe.  This topic is obviously a labor of love for him and this book felt a lot less like an academic lecture than the previous one.  Stacia's predicament is entertaining and I liked how the two storylines intersected.
Trade Paperback Cover

Promethea is a unique series which deals with a lot of theories on the universe and how reality works.  Both the art and dialogue are densely imaginative.  I'm enjoying it so far, but the issues dedicated to one heavy concept after another can get tedious.  The quick action scenes with Stacia's Promethea are a welcome respite from the constant intellectual concepts.  The series already feels like a classic and has a lot of replay value as certain parts can strike a different chord depending on the readers' maturity levels (as we're all perpetually maturing).  It certainly breaks the mold of traditional 'superhero' stories.  I might be jaded to the philosophical ideas Moore emphasizes after so many issues dedicated to them.  It's a lot to take in hence the high replay value.  Highly creative and thought-provoking - I'm looking forward to the next volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations: