This week’s round-up comes solely from Marcus Hammond, but he’s sure got plenty to say about three very different books. Superman has a new writer in Action Comics #22 and we’ll see whether or not this benefits the Man of Steel, and in Pandora #1 we’re finally given a glimpse of who DC’s most mysterious character really is. First though, Marcus takes us into the seedy, behind the scenes world of 1950s children’s television with Image’s Satellite Sam #1. Take it away, Marcus…
SATELLITE SAM #1/ Written by MATT FRACTION/ Art by HOWARD CHAYKIN/ Letters by KEN BRUZENAK/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Satellite Sam #1 brings together Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin, two giants of the comic book industry, to delve into early 1950s television production. Much of the first issue seems frantic, like watching the production process first hand. As Fraction keenly develops the atmosphere and pacing, he also works to sow the seeds of sexuality, deception, and mystery that makes this a very intriguing comic.
The book opens as a live production of Satellite Sam is about to air, and the lead actor, Carlyle White, is missing. Fraction exposes a whirlwind, gritty behind the scenes atmosphere as the tide of stress elevates by constructing realistic dialogue that quickly shifts between director, production manager, actors, maintenance workers and investors.
While the turbulent behind the scenes production develops, Fraction also begins dropping small seeds of mystery and deception as Carlyle White, Satellite Sam’s star, is found dead in his apartment. This leaves Michael White, Carlyle’s son who works on the show, to piece together his father’s secrets and demons while standing in as his replacement as Satellite Sam.
Howard Chaykin’s heavily detailed, black and white inking provides a nostalgic tone within the story. Chaykin draws everything from the production booth, and light rigging above the set, to the bulky cameras in a way that reminds the reader nothing was streamlined in 1951. The emphasis on time period details is clearly important throughout the issue.
Chaykin’s character work fluctuates between extremely detailed to blotchy, which readers familiar with his work may find to be standard for the artist. In one frame a production engineer’s concerned scowl blends into the microscopic wrinkles and worry lines to shadow any interpretation of emotion. At other points, Chaykin’s detail is so dexterous that character detail draws the reader into the atmosphere of each frame.
While Fraction and Chaykin’s first issue of Satellite Sam feels frantic and blurred at times, the atmosphere and plot twists prove to be highly engaging. The mystery of Carlyle White’s death combined with the eventual end reveal that shatters Michael’s preconceptions of his father work together to make an excellent debut issue of this series.
ACTION COMICS #22/ Written by SCOTT LOBDELL/ Art by TYLER KIRKHAM and ARIF PRIANTO/ Letters by CARLOS M. MANGUAL/ Published by DC COMICS
Action Comics has seen success under the creative guidance of Grant Morrison and, to a lesser extent, Andy Diggle. Now that Diggle’s short-lived three issue stint is over, Scott Lobdell takes over for three issues. The outcome sadly shows a marked departure from the creativity of Morrison and Diggle and acts as a continuation of Lobdell’s Superman story involving H.I.V.E and Hector Hammond.
Action Comics #22 begins sometime after Hector Hammond’s escape from STAR Labs in Superman #21. Its overall story is a basic hero versus unknown threat, smash and bash extravaganza. Superman attempts to communicate with Straith, a warrior from Pax Galactica, since he helped in stopping H.I.V.E and Hammond from using a weapon of mass destruction. The overall result, however, is a fairly standard fight between Superman and Straith with a limited amount of unintelligent dialogue. Superman questions, “Do I look like I’m playing? I’ve never heard of Pax Galactica and until I get some confirmation that you’re doing something noble…” To which Straith responds, “You dare question me?! I will kill you for this affront!” This type of exchange creates a singular focus on strength instead of the complex reasoning and character development seen from Morrison and Diggle.
One of the biggest disappoints in the story is that Lobdell uses it as a cheap advertisement for the Hector Hammond storyline he is creating in the main Superman title. Hammond lures Superman into the conflict with Straith through an oddly sarcastic conversation where he calls Superman his lap dog and is completely forgotten.
Kirkham’s art throughout is average. There’s really nothing to get excited about in his boyish interpretation of Superman; it’s a pretty standard interpretation. Where Kirkham shines is in the body detail used to construct Straith’s body armor. The shadowing and line work emphasizes the brute strength that is needed to go toe-to-toe with Superman.
On the upside, this issue of Action Comics does present the third installment of Frank Hannah’s World of Krypton story that uncovers some of the drama and action revolving around Jor-El and the last days of Krypton. The drama created by the warring science and military factions on Krypton provide character depth and intriguing drama that is missed in the main story.
It’s disappointing after the strong runs from previous creators that Lobdell ends up presenting Superman as a superficial bruiser involved in a story that creates little to no interest.
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Two years ago, Flashpoint completely altered the DC universe and Pandora had an integral and mysterious role in that event. Now as DC’s next large event, Trinity War, looms, Ray Fawkes begins developing Pandora’s background. Fawkes excels at building intrigue as he unravels the mystery behind the mother of all sin and her role in the upcoming war.
Pandora #1 acts as a basic origin story, yet develops into a tale of revenge that begins to shed light on how Pandora becomes involved with the Justice League. The issue opens with a young girl searching the woods, where in she finds a skull shaped box, and inadvertently unleashes the seven deadly sins upon the world. As punishment, she’s condemned to spend eternity witnessing the devastation she released upon the world.
Fawkes develops the plot of this issue in a chronological format that follows Pandora’s attempts to counteract the demons she released over several millennia. Fawkes focuses on the suffering and helplessness Pandora experiences by structuring the issue in this way. Doing this allows the reader to experience these emotions alongside Pandora as she scours the land to find a weapon capable of having any impact on the Sins.
The artwork throughout this issue is split between the team of Daniel Sampere, Vincente Cifuentes and Patrick Zircher. The different artists do an excellent job of interpreting the physical and mental suffering that surround Pandora through detailed facial expressions and frenzied violence. There is a clear difference between the eight pages drawn by Zircher and the twelve pages penciled and inked by Sampere and Cifuentes. The differences occur within the use of shadows and color to conceal or accentuate character features. In Sampere and Cifuentes sections the shadows are minimal and the coloring is muted, while in Zircher’s section the colors are rich and the shadows are heavy. While noticeable, these differences help emphasize the different tones within the issue.
Trinity War will mark a major conflict between the various Justice Leagues. Fawkes starts the event off with a well written origin story that reveals just enough of Pandora’s motivations to create an intriguing prologue. If the following issues are as well developed as Pandora #1, Trinity War will not disappoint.