by The Masked Bookwyrm

Miscellaneous (Superheroes) - "K" - "L"

Back to the main listings (including character sections)

cover by Mike ZeckThe Kingdom 2000 (SC TPB) 232 pgs.

Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, Mike Zeck, Jerry Ordway, Brian Apthorp, Matt Haley, Frank Quitely, Mark Pajarillo, Barry Kitson. Inks: various.
Colours/letters: various

Reprinting: Gog #1 (New Year's Evil) (1998 one-shot) and the seven part 1999 Kingdom mini-series comprised of The Kingdom #1, 2, The Kingdom: Son of the Bat, The Kingdom: Nightstar, The Kingdom: Offspring, The Kingdom: Kid Flash, The Kingdom: Planet Krypton

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Published by DC Comics

In this semi-sequel to Kingdom Come -- the critically acclaimed series that postulated the future for DC's heroes -- young and old heroes, from both the future and the present, team up against a menace that threatens the very nature of time and space.

Beginning years after Kingdom Come, a deranged, superpowered individual, Gog, convinced Superman is the anti-Christ, travels backward through time, killing Superman again and again and creating a time paradox that could threaten reality. Eventually Gog kidnaps the newborn baby of Superman and Wonder Woman (just shortly after Kingdom Come), causing the middle-aged Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman to pursue him through time (courtesy of Rip Hunter, Time Master) to 1998 where they join their younger selves, while Hunter mutters about protecting a secret of time-space that even his time travelling co-workers, the Linear Men, or the god-like Quintessence (comprised of various DC demi-gods like Shazam and Highfather) don't know.

Meanwhile, time has been so messed around with that the reality of Kingdom Come might disappear in a puff of paradoxes. A handful of second generation heroes, most seen in bit parts in KC, decide they want to preserve their reality, and they get their chance...thanks, again, to Hunter.

Got that? There'll be a test later.

The Kingdom is essentially two series. It's a time traveling tale about Gog and the familiar heroes that ask big questions and, literally, redefines the nature of DC Comics' reality (more on that later) told in the Gog one-shot and the two double-sized issues of The Kingdom. On the other hand, it's thoughtful, introspective pieces focusing on unfamiliar characters sandwiched between the two issues of The Kingdom. Ironically, it's the main story that's problematic, while the "filler" stories are the pieces that really make this worthwhile.

Focusing on characters in the 2020s, Kid Flash (daughter of the Flash), Nightstar (daughter of Nightwing -- the 1st Robin -- and Starfire), Ibn al Xu'ffasch (son of Batman, but protege of the nefarious Ra's Al Ghul) and Offspring (not seen in Kingdom Come, but the son of Plastic Man) and a non-powered waitress in the 1998-era Planet Krypton restaurant, these are nicely told tales. Faced with the imminent dissolution of their reality, each of the 2020 heroes tries to make their last hours productive while reflecting on their lives, with Waid showing four different perspectives on parent-child relationships. It's a mark of his ability that he can tackle the same idea four times and find four different ways to do it. Each of the stories effectively juggles the dichotomy of super-powered adventure with introspection, making them thoughtful, but not turgid. The Planet Krypton issue focuses on a troubled waitress who discovers something eerie at her place of employ -- it's a haunting mix of human drama and larger-than-life fantasy. All five of these inbetween stories are worth the read -- very well-drawn and nicely told. Although Mark Waid is considered one of the industry's top writers, and I loved Kingdom Come, a lot of his work has struck me as uneven, but these stories make me think he deserves some of the accolades.

In the main story, however, the character stuff is less well-realized. Waid has trouble juggling the plot while remembering to keep a human face on it. As well, there's a problem with his approach to the main heroes. Kingdom Come was about the dangers of superheroes losing touch with their humanity, but while his Kid Flash, Offspring, etc., are people with powers, his Superman and company are a little too iconic, lacking some of the sense that they are, after all, people.

The plotting is uneven (don't worry, no spoilers yet -- I'll let ya know before that happens). That's because this seems intended less as a story that happens to impact on DC Comics' reality than that Waid and company decided to re-shape DC's Universe (the company that seems to redefine itself every few years, each time claiming this is the big one, kids, no changes after this) and hastily cobbled together this to explain it. Motivation is confusing (the Quintessence gave Gog his powers, but their reasons seem shakey at best), the logic of how and why things happen is iffy, and much of the story is taken up with monlogues that seem more like lectures than dialogue -- heck, if Mark Waid himself was written into the comic addressing the reader, explaining his intent behind the series, it couldn't have been more obvious or contrived. As well, the action-adventure aspect is just uninspired fisticuffs. The art in the two main issues (by Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck), though not bad, isn't as striking as in the other stories. Zeck inparticular has an effective sense of composition, but marred by a more cartoony style than any of the other artists.

The Kingdom lacks the epic grandeur of Kingdom Come. That's partly due to the absence of Alex Ross' painted art (Ross either declined to be part of the this, or wasn't invited -- either way I'm not sure it was an amicable split) but also because of the writing. This is more comicbooky, and less of a story unto itsef. Thus there's an irony. It'll be disappointing for fans expecting Kingdom Come Part II, but might be confusing in spots if you haven't read that story: relationships aren't always articulated, nor characters identified (Magog, from KC, appears in a bar...dressed just like Gog, but nowhere is Magog identified as being someone other than Gog).

O.K. SPOILER TIME. How does this re-shape the DCU? By introducing Hyper Time (better known to older readers as alternate realities). DC used to have them, like Earth 1 (Silver Age heroes) and Earth 2 (Golden Age heroes), but supposedly it was confusing, so in 1985 DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths which eliminated the multi-verse concept, killing off a lot of beloved characters and ideas, and leaving a lot of fans with their noses out of joint even as other fans welcomed it as necessary house cleaning. Crisis wasn't quite the fix-all it was supposed to be, subsequently followed by patch ups like Zero Hour which were meant to clean up messes left by Crisis, and DC almost immediately introduced its "Elseworld" line of, yup, alternate reality stories, but the official line was that DC was now one Universe, indivisible under God. The Kingdom changes that. Some fans have howled, complaining that Mark Waid's wrecked everything by turning back the clock by 15 years, while other fans smiled smugly, feeling DC has finally owed up to the fact that their "one universe" concept was a bone-headed idea and disrespectful to generations of fans, creators, and characters (and as Waid asserts in the story -- at least through his characters -- it was creatively limiting).

What the immediate fall out has been, I'm not sure (or rather: was ~ I first posted this review in 2000, and am simply doing minor edits 2013!) I don't think DC fell all over itself to release Earth 2 Justice Society stories (in fact the earth 2 name was recently appropriated for another reality entirely in JLA: Earth 2) or Superboy-when-Superman-was-a-teenager stories. Quite probably, it never will. In a way, The Kingdom could be seen, not as bringing back old characters and ideas, but as a way of giving them a more respectful send off (such as the Golden Age Superman who appears at the beginning and end of the series), allowing the characters to continue to have adventures and triumphs in their own little universes, even if we never read about them. And as a way of opening up possibilities for DC's writers.

The five inbetween issues are well written and well drawn, though the main storyline is maybe of more interest for its impact on continuity than as a story unto itself (a significance, naturally, lessened as the years go by).

Cover price: $__ CDN./$14.95 USA.

Kingdom Come
  go here for a review

Lady Rawhide: It Can't Happen Here 1999 (SC TPB) 120 pgs.

cover by Mike MayhewWritten by Don McGregor. Pencils by Mike Mayhew. Inks by Jimmy Palmiotti.
Black & White. Letters: Michael Delepine, Kenny Lopez. Editor: Renee Witterstaetter, others.

Reprinting the first Lady Rawhide mini-series (#1-5) from 1995-1996 (which was originally published by Topps in colour)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Image Comics

First introduced in the pages of Topps Comics' 1990s Zorro comics (and long before TV's "Queen of Swords"), Lady Rawhide is a masked, sword wielding heroine existing in the same period: early 19th Century Spanish-held California. This, her first solo story, has her visting San Francisco, then a tiny port town rather than the modern metropolis. She rescues a Russian sailor from a mob who thinks he's a murderer of young women, then she investigates the killings, suspecting the killer might be connected to the wealthy family with whom she is staying.

It Can't Happen Here is oddly structured, spanning a day and two nights -- a kind of modest timeframe (particularly as, when originally published as a bi-monthly mini-series, it was stretched over 9 months!). The plot is mayhap a bit slight, but still entertaining. Don McGregor brings his usual penchant for talky characters and introspective captions, spiced with odd humour, giving the thing a well-rounded feel, even if the cliched serial killer plot seems beneath his talents. To his credit, there are only a couple of murders over the course of the story, and McGregor is one of the few writers who actually takes the time to contemplate the repercussions of such violence (without seeming to be exploiting or trivializing grief).

The art by Mike Mayhew and inker Jimmy Palmiotti is attractive and pleasantly restrained, though there are a few spots where panels are confusingly arranged.

The thing starts well on a foggy night, with Lady Rawhide and her rescued sailor running from the mob for two issues -- action and atmosphere. Granted, read as single issues, there's not a lot of progression, but in a collected volume they make good chapters. As the story progresses, things occasionally bog down in over long scenes and wordy conversations that contribute to the period milieu and the characterization more than to the plot. And there's a flaw with a story that's supposed to be a mystery but doesn't introduce us to suspects until halfway through!

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of Lady Rawhide is the sexploitation angle, with some critics dismissing the character out of hand as tawdry tripe. Ironically, that's what McGregor and the gang was going for, hyping Lady Rawhide as a sexual "bad girl".

Both McGregor and his critics may be exaggerating, at least somewhat.

Sure, Lady Rawhide is dressed scandalously, but not really moreso than your average comicbook heroine (she wears less than Wonder Woman, but more than Vampirella). She's certainly no "bad girl", a designation applied to the comics sub-genre featuring underclad, buxom babes given to snarling and brutal violence. Lady Rawhide is a level-headed, likeable character, lacking a vicious streak...and her physical dimensions are rather modest when compared to other heroines.

The main "sex" aspect is in the writing, occasional use of words like "cleavage", or in the way characters comment on her appearance, asking how come her "breasts don't come popping out" of her skimpy costume -- dialogue that can be inappropriate in ssome scenes, motivation-wise, and seem more like the stuff of sophomoric school boys ("wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more," as Monty Python would put it). But all McGregor's doing is drawing attention to the conventions of superheroines in general, rather than anything extreme about his own creation. In the entire book, there's only one scene that seems like it maybe strays a little outside of what you'd expect to see in, say, a Wonder Woman comic. And, admittedly, Lady Rawhide is depicted in a few blatant "cheesecake" poses, bending over for no discernable reason.

Don't misunderstand: there's certainly a sexy element to the book, but nothing extreme.

Hardly a ground-breaking plot, and a bit slow in spots, but it benefits from the atmosphere, the unusual (for a superhero comic) historical setting, McGregor's usual thoughtful, literary prose (when he's not indulging in snickering innuendo) and nice art. The mini-series was originally published in colour by Topps, and it's a shame Image was cheap and reprinted it in black & white, particularly given the price tag.

This led to a follow up comic by McGregor and artist Esteban Maroto that has, I believe, suffered from an erratic publishing history (and jumping from Topps to Image).

In deference to the salacious hype, I could give the book a "mature readers" caution, but more for the way the characters talk about sex than for any depiction of same. Ironically, there's a bit of gore in a scene involving some dead animals that makes me more cautious.

Ultimately a modest but appealing read. Nice ambience, moderately sexy and intelligent (when it's not being sophomoric), but a tad slow. Attractively more ways than one (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in Lady Rawhide comics.

Cover price: $__CDN./ $16.95 USA.

The Last Days of Animal Man
   see review here

Legends: The Collection - cover by John ByrneLegends: The Collection 1991 (SC TPB) 150 pgs.

Plot by John Ostrander. Script by Len Wein. Pencils by John Byrne. Inks by Karl Kesel, with Dennis Janke.
Colours: Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford. Letters: Steve Haynie. Editor: Mike Gold.

Reprinting: Legends #1-6 (1986 mini-series) plus gallery of covers from the crossover issues of other titles

Rating: * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Re-reviewed July 22, 2009

Published by DC Comics

Darkseid, DC Comics' resident super-villain's super-villain, plots to conquer earth by having one of his minions, Glorious Godfrey, stir up anti-superhero sentiment, turning humanity against their living legends.

Legends features an assemblage of respectable comic professionals working on an intriguing premise featuring a number of DC's heroes. There's a baseline of competence to the thing that can't be shrugged off.

So why does the word "awful" keep echoing in my head?

For starters, I never got the sense anyone working on this actually...cared. The behind the scenes story was that DC wanted a follow-up -- though not a direct sequel -- to the Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series. This time, instead of dramatically altering things as had the Crisis, they wanted to kick start things, re-introducing characters and spinning them off into new series (like the Suicide Squad and a new version of the Justice League). So a V.P. calls an editor who calls a plotter who calls a scripter, an artist is hired who suggests some plot elements, then the whole thing is run by the editorial community at DC to make sure it gels with what's going on in other titles -- things are switched around, characters that were intended to be used are dropped, or their parts cut drastically because their participation would clash with what was happening in their own series (like Wonder Woman), others added. The result seems a corporate-driven, rather than creative-driven, product. Oh, I'm sure everyone was happy to collect their pay cheques.

I just don't believe they cared.

It's a loose mess, with scenes that don't really go anywhere, fights for the sake of fights, and precious little characterization, or even participation, of most of the characters. When we get to the end -- it doesn't really seem like a particularly dramatic climax.

To make matters worse, this was one of those "cross-over" sagas. Y'know, once companies realized that, even as they're losing casual readers, they can milk extra dollars from hardcore fans with mini-series that spill over into the regular monthly series, forcing readers to buy a lot of comics they wouldn't normally? This may've been billed as "six part"s, and the basic elements of the story are contained herein, but characters utter lines that make no sense, fly off back to their own series never to be seen again here, or one chapter has Darkseid vowing to battle Superman...and then the next issue contains only a passing reference by Superman indicating the fight had taken place in his own comics. Though ironically, that story, serialized over Superman (2nd series) #3, Adventures of Superman #426, and Action Comics #586, was a decent enough tale set on Apokalips!

Here -- the original Captain Marvel is given the most dramatically charged storyline. Darkseid causes him to believe his powers killed someone, leading his alter ego, Billy Batson, to vow never to become Captain Marvel again. Except, the same hand-wringing scene is repeated every issue, with no real progess or embellishmnt, until Billy finally decides, oh heck, he might as well become Captain Marvel after all. Adding to the irony is that as this follows on DC's re-booting of its "universe", Captain Marvel is supposed to be a brand new hero -- so why does Darkseid act as if he is already a "legend"?

And what's missing is a point.

The story has the public turning against their heroes. Various metaphors pop into mind, from racism (with the superheroes representing a presecuted minority) to comics themselves, the latter a pretty blatant interpretation with kids remaining true to their heroes even as the adult world rejects them. But none of those fully fit.

Instead one is left with an uncomfortable feeling that the series is really an attack on egalitarianism. The heroes are "better" than "normal" people -- literally the ubermensch -- and Godfrey's harangues harp on a need to bring equality back to the world. Godrey is a villain, the public are mindless sheep, while only the master race of superheroes deserves our undying worship and devotion. Hopefully I'm misinterpreting. After all, with talk of the "heroic ideal" certainly an aspect to this is the notion of the mob denouncing the idea of characters who strive to live up to by higher ideals -- but in order for that to work, Ostrander and Wein needed to better explore the notion of nobility. Instead, it rings a bit hollow (what with Guy Gardner or the anti-hero team The Suicide Squad among the "heroes", and particularly as this was on the cusp of the "dark n' gritty" movement in comics anyway). The problem is what I initially one knew what it was about, so it ended up this odd, unfocusd mess.

Or, at least, that the project itself was too rushed, both in terms of pre-production, and page count, so that the creators didn't really have time to properly develop the potentially interesting ideas.

Wein's handling of the characters is uneven, which is odd since he'd written for many of these characters in the past. While Byrne's art is a little too uniform. He and Kesel are great at depicting Darkseid's planet of Apokolips, but overall, everything looks the same. But in a story mixing such disparate characters as Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate and others, an artist needs to evoke the different characters' milieus, and blend them seamlessly.

A side point: There's been a war in the last few decades in comicdom as to whether comics should be written for a new reader (with dialogue and panels reiterating common knowledge information) or just for the fan with his insider knowledge. Ironically, Legends wastes an enormous amount of page space recapping previous issues, as if the creators are just padding. But in other ways, the hardcore fanboys are winning out, making comics increasingly incoherent for casual readers. Presumably the reader was already supposed to know that Glorious Godfrey had the super power to mass brainwash people. If you didn't (as I did not when I first read this) much of the story, involving the escalating anti-superhero mood, just seems implausible. Another curious sidepoint is when the comic throws in a joke villain meant to be a riff on Marvel's Star Brand character. Why they decided to do that, I don't know. Maybe it was meant as all in fun (after all, Byrne himself had worked on a few issues of Star Brand) but it seems as though meant as a pretty snide swipe at the character -- ironic if you compare my opinion of the inhereht artistic quality of Legends with Star Brand

Ultimately, Legends was a marketing ploy more than an artistic statement -- at times feeling like those comic book inserts used to advertise a line of toys (or those old Hostess Cupcake one-pagers!). It led to various spin-off titles, some of which were successful (the new Flash comic), many which, at least in the long run, were not.

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in the Legends mini-series.

Cover price: $__ CDN./$9.95 USA 

< Back    Next >

Back to