Saturday, June 30, 2012

Superhero Invasion: Kingdom Come, Thy Kingdom Come, Infinite Crisis & Final Crisis

No. You didn't just come to the wrong website. My manga blog has been invaded by superhero comics. In an attempt to broaden my comic reading horizons, I decided to give some western comics a try. And what better place to start than the iconic superheros that have come to define the American comics business. Here I'll give my thoughts on my very first foray into the world of superhero comics.

Billed as "The Greatest Superhero Epic of Tomorrow!", 'Kingdom Come', created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, takes place in the not too distant future of the DC Universe. With Superman and the other heroes of the Justice League retired, a new generation of super humans runs wild, fighting amongst themselves for a lack of super villains to deal with. The Justice League, forced out of retirement to deal with the chaos, we follow this story through the point of view of elderly pastor, Norman McCay, and his apocalyptic prophecies of a superhero civil war on the level of biblical Armageddon.
The art is gorgeous. Each page is like a nearly photorealistic painting, with the lighting and color palette that calls to mind 1950's advertising artwork. I didn't care for the Christian religion references, but I liked the theme of adapting to change and the different hero factions different philosophies on world peace were highly interesting. Being new to the genre, I'm glad I only needed a minimum amount of knowledge of the DC Universe to enjoy this and I'm sure you could get by without any prior knowledge at all, though you may miss out on recognizing the more obscure superheros. Strong dialogue, great art, and an intriguing story featuring all the iconic heroes that even new comic readers should recognize, make this a great first step into the world of western, superhero comics.

In the sequel to 'Kingdom Come', 'Thy Kingdom Come', the schizophrenic Starman accidentally pulls the 'Kingdom Come' Superman through a wormhole into an alternate universe Earth. Fearing that the same superhero civil war that happened in his universe will happen in this new universe, Earth-22 Superman sets out with the Justice Society of America to put a stop to the enigmatic "Gog".

I found this series slightly less accessible to a new reader, like myself, than 'Kingdom Come'. It seemed like a little more prior knowledge would have helped in some places. Some plot threads from past story arcs were mentioned, but I caught on pretty quick. Elements such as time travel and parallel universes added a bit to the confusion, but also added to the fun. Two Supermen? Yes, please. I found the artwork to be more conventional than it's predecessor, but it was still drawn very well, and I have to say, it was easier on the eyes. The fancy lighting effect in 'Kingdom Come' got hard to look at after a while. I noticed this series had more action than 'Kingdom Come', which I appreciated. It helped keep me interested throughout. But my favorite part was the well done introduction of some lesser known(to me) characters like Starman and Citizen Steel. I thought their characters were really well done and really served to pique my curiosity about all the other cool characters that I don't know about from the DC Universe. Despite some confusion, I found that this book had more entertainment value than Kingdom Come, and was a great "crash course" for learning more about the DC Universe and it's characters.

Umm....Errr....Uhh....Yeah......I don't even know how to summarize this one. Especially without spoiling it. I can't even name the villain because that is one of the big reveals. How about this: In 'Infinite Crisis', there is an intergalactic space war, a swarm of robots are going berserk on Earth, super villains are teaming up to take down the heroes, and infinite parallel worlds are popping up all over the place within the same universe, wreaking havoc on everything and everyone.

This book was really crazy and chaotic from start to finish. It definitely wasn't very accessible to readers new to the DC Universe. I felt confused and in the dark through most of the book. That being said, it was a pretty epic read. It had pretty much every popular DC superhero trying to save the universe from destruction. It also had a really great super villain. The action was top notch and surprisingly brutal. It was really exciting throughout the entire book. The art style and quality varied, and I can't say the conventional comic book style excites me, but it did it's job, and was fine overall. But yeah, I definitely don't think this is a good book for DC Universe newbies, but I'm glad I read it. It was confusing, but fun, and it helped me learn a little more about the DC Universe and it's large cast of characters.

And I thought 'Infinite Crisis' was confusing...'Final Crisis' takes the confusing infinite parallel universes and time travel up to 11. Again, I really have no idea how to summarize this story, because even after finishing it, I still don't really know what happened. I found it to be very bizarre and I think there must be some supplementary material that needs to be read to understand this book. So, it's not really good for readers new to the DC Universe. I can't even say I particularly enjoyed it because of how confusing the storyline was to me.

Also, the conventional, comic book style art is starting to wear on me. The quality varied a lot in this book. From very detailed, to kind of sloppy. And the full color is not always a good thing. I personally think the coloring can dull details. Sometimes I find myself wanting to see what the original penciling and inking looked like. Anyway, this was definitely not my favorite of the bunch, but I suppose a lot of that is my fault for diving in head first into random DC Universe crossover books without doing proper research.

So, there you have it. My first attempt at getting into the world of superhero comics. I've always wanted to take the leap, but with so many continuities and incarnations by tons of different writers, it was quite the daunting task. I never knew where to start. This time, I just decided to jump right in. I had a few hits and a few misses, but overall, I had a great time and I can now say that the DC Universe superheros have gotten a new fan in me. Don't be surprised if you see a "Superhero Invasion Part 2" in the future.

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