DC, Joe Kubert Presents #1, 3-6, written by Joe Kubert, Sam Glanzman, Brian Buniak, Paul Levitz and Pete Carlsson, drawn by Joe Kubert, Sam Glanzman, Brian Buniak, Brandon Vietti and Henrik Jonsoon, 2012-2013
If you didn’t catch Joe Kubert Presents as it was coming out, you probably forgot that it exists. Just as we lost Kubert in 2012, we were treated to this final hurrah. It wasn’t planned as a series in memorial and it doesn’t read like one either, until the last issue. This was Joe Kubert giving us the finest stories he could, showing us creators he admired that he thought deserved more attention–making comics the way he thought they should be made. At the ripe age of 85 this man was still creating absolutely beautiful works without a thought in the world of slowing down. This is powerful stuff, regardless of the real-world loss.
Let’s start with the first constant throughout, Sam Glanzman’s “U.S.S. Stevens” World War 2 stories. Generally, I don’t like to read war comics (I don’t like to watch war movies either). They’re usually powerful, moving pieces of media, but I simply can’t handle it. Even the most inspirational tales are set against the most depressing of backdrops. Reading about war is fascinating, eye-opening and important, but it truly bums me out. That being said, I loved Sam Glanzman’s work. It was depressing, you better believe it, but I found myself completely enthralled. There’s a mix of important facts, character studies and first-hand experiences and it’s all written very matter-of-factly. My favourite story revolved around an eccentric navy man who seemed to be in a different realm of reality. It’s all drawn with a deft hand and looks beautiful, realistic and sometimes terrifying (probably as a product of said realism). If you like war stories, Glanzman’s features throughout all 5 issues (you’ll see I don’t own, and therefore am not reviewing issue 2) are worth the cover price alone. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t want to read any more war comics.
The second constant is Brian Buniak’s “Angel and the Ape”. Now, Buniak didn’t create these characters and it feels strange to me that in an anthology that feels so personal we’d get an ongoing feature from a DC licence. I started out really liking these stories, but gradually found the writing to falter. Buniak’s art is brilliant—he’s a cartoonist of the highest calibre, there’s no doubt. Really, there’s a lot to like about the drawings, but the stories aren’t interesting. Worst of all, the jokes constantly fail. I finished the series reading these stories only for a sense of completion, which is a shame. Buniak has a lot of talent; I wish I could have appreciated it more.
And then there’s Joe Kubert. He starts the series with a bang, giving us a classically styled Hawkman story and introducing us to his tragic orphan, Spit. Now, nobody draws Hawkman like Kubert did, and I suspect nobody ever will. It’s a sight to behold. The story in these pages is heavy on the environmental messages, but it’s all very tasteful and thought-provoking. Spit’s storyline continues throughout and becomes a tale of whaling on the high seas. It starts off being drawn in beautifully rough pencils and eventually ends in full-coloured art. I enjoyed Spit immensely, but the ending didn’t entirely satisfy.
Kubert also includes the first two chapters of his long-lost work, “Redeemer”, and it’s just wonderful. Apparently this supposed to be a signature series from DC in the 80s, but never materialized. I wish it had, because these first two chapters simply skim the top of the wonderful concept Kubert created. His Redeemer is a man out of time, living through various periods unaware that he is the redeemer of mankind. We get a sci-fi opening and a civil war chapter, but that’s it. I should note that the tale was first introduced in issue 2 of JKP, the one issue I’ve yet to collect. But hey, that’s what the bargain bin is all about! If only “Redeemer” had been completed… I’d snatch up each and every back issue I could find.
Oh, and there’s plenty more as well. Kubert writes and draws a one-off inspired by his eldest son entitled “The Biker”. It’s a neat, short little ghost story with more substance than meets the eye. He also collaborates with Paul Levitz for his final Sgt. Rock story—a wonderful “in remembrance” tale. There’s a short origin story about Sargon the Sorcerer co-written with Pete Carlsson that doesn’t amount to much and a Kamadi-meets-The Demon tale with art from Brandon Vietti as well. Vietti’s art looks like stills from an animated show and again the story fails to really convince us of its purpose, but it’s a nice inclusion anyways.
There is a lot of material here. It’s hit and miss, but the hits make it all worthwhile. I highly recommend getting the entire series and absorbing it slowly. It ends on a sad note, but boy does it ever make a case for the brilliance of Joe Kubert. And Sam Glanzman, I can’t stress how much I appreciated his contributions!
DC, Mr. Terrific #1-5, 8, written by Eric Wallace, drawn by Gianluca Gugliotta and Scott Clark, 2011-2012
Ahhhhh… where to start…
I didn’t have high hope for this one, being a quickly cancelled New 52 title that clearly didn’t catch on. I figured it might be due to the obscurity of the character; or maybe it got pushed out by better selling titles. I was thinking positive. I know I liked the Old 52’s Michael Holt (our Mr. Terrific), and J.G. Jones covers are always a good thing… how bad could it be?
Well, it starts off with a modicum of promise. I didn’t hate the first issue, though it certainly didn’t impress. We’re introduced to our titular character, his supporting cast and thrown a neat “brain bug” type villain. The set-up wasn’t bad, really. In fact, the way Mr. T flew around with his T-Spheres and solved problems in unexpected ways, it felt almost like I was reading a Mister Miracle book. Wouldn’t a new Mister Miracle book be awesome?
First impressions are important, and Gianluca Gugliotta’s art did the trick. At first I figured I wouldn’t care for his work, but it won me over fairly quickly. Everything reminded me of a more accessible, neater Greg Tocchini. If there’s one aspect of this series that exceeded my expectations, it was the art. Even Scott Clark’s fill-in issue (#3, I believe) was enjoyable!
So where did they go wrong? Oh, so many places.
Michael Holt is no longer a likable character. His origin was tossed together too quickly to have any dramatic impact and his reason for super-heroing isn’t convincing. And what are his solutions to villainous plots and various disasters? It could have been cool focusing on the scientist more than the fisticuffs of any average comic book hero, but Eric Wallace gives us too much pseudo-science and supplements the stuff that we’re supposed to buy into with gratuitous fighting anyways. There are no clever plots; just simply “I can adjust this gadget to solve the problem”. The first story arc had a decent build but the ending tried to be something it wasn’t. The next arc… oh boy.
Issue 5 was one of the most heavy-handed comic books I’ve ever read. In issue 4 Mr. T gets swept up by some aliens for some reason and then stages a prison break. It’s all very fast and pointless—but wait! In issue 5, while working with some strangely co-operative aliens to overthrow his captors, they come across a transgendered alien who came from an intolerant alien society. There’s a quick after-school special rundown of the alien’s out-of-touch upbringing, Mr. T mentions America’s history with slavery for seemingly no reason and in the end “believing in yourself” saves the day. Oh and then Mr. T makes up some teleportation device (because he’s smart so whatever) and swings back to our world. This comic book was painful to read.
I didn’t find issues 6 or 7, but I don’t care. In ending in issue 8 was lame, with a special appearance from fellow cancelled launch title Blackhawks and some politics that attempt to seem relevant. Yuck.
While I bemoan the loss of some of my favourite New 52 launch titles like Resurrection Man, O.M.A.C., and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I’m convinced Mr. Terrific should have never seen the light of day. It rubs dirt in the memory of the once great character of Michael Holt. Go and read some of Geoff Johns’ J.S.A., now that was good stuff.