Not a great week for comic-book TPBs …
SUPERMAN: H’El on Earth by Scott Lobdell and various artists has Superman’s lost kinsman H’El show up on Earth and enlist Supergirl’s help in restoring Krypton—without admitting the energy involved will suck the Solar System dry. The action is pretty good, but Superman’s personal problems (drama with Lois, and quitting the Planet to start a blog) is not — and that aside, Supes comes off as a pompous jerk at times, while Luthor seems almost as loony as the Joker.
And then came SUPERGIRL: Out of the Past by Lobdel, Michael Alan Nelson and various artists. As a result of H’El on Earth Supergirl is dying of kryptonite poisoning so she flies off into space and encounters a weird planet of polymorphs run by a Kryptonian cyborg with a secret. All of that is okay but nowhere near as good as the first two volumes — and then comes a continuation of the H’El story which (as I read this first) made no sense at all (and even after reading H’El on Earth, it’s clear there’s a few issues collected elsewhere). Seriously, if they’re going to throw in two issues of some crossover unrelated to the main story arc, couldn’t they at least provide a recap?
I had the same problem with BATGIRL: Deadline by Gail Simone and (again) various artists: the first story appears to be a dream sequence (fun but as pointless as every It Was All A Dream comic is) but it’s actually the crossover Gothtopia, stripped of context or any sense. Beyond that, the final showdown between Batgirl and Knightfall is good, but ends with a sequence that couldn’t work anywhere but Victorian melodrama. This was the last Simone collection, followed by Batgirl of Burnside—I can see now that the latter dropped a whole bunch of plot threads.
THE FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders has a team including Samuel Clemens and Nikola Tesla coming up with a plan to end war forever, only to fall foul of the evil science team of Andrew Carnegi, Thomas Edison and Marconi. Twenty years ago this would have been mind-blowing but now it’s just a third-rate steampunk/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen crossover. And I get very tired of the constant iconization of Tesla, which turns him into the same wonder-worker Edison was considered a century ago (i.e., I don’t think criticism of Edison’s many failings really shows us becoming smarter about judging our historical heroes, we’ve simply picked a different guy).
THE DAY WALL STREET EXPLODED: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror by Beverly Gage looks at the 1920 bombing of JP Morgan’s Wall Street offices, which with its 38 dead marked the worst terrorist attack in America before Oklahoma City (and never solved, though Gage sides with one theory about Italian anarchists). Gage sees the attack as the last major gasp of the anarchist/labor radical wave of “propaganda of the deed” that began several decades earlier, and so examines how dynamite made it possible for the workers to rise up against their bosses with extreme prejudice, as well as looking at the crime and its aftermath. Unsurprisingly foreshadows both McCarthyism and the war on terror in showing an America willing to imprison first and ask questions later, the general loathing for the radical left and the FBI’s willingness to push the boundaries to get what it considered the job done. Good work (all rights to cover with current holder)