World Comic Book Review

7th February 2023

Nothing Alien Here

Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion 1
DC Comics, March 2016
Writer: Tom Taylor
Review by DG Stewart, 18 January 2016

The Green Lantern Corps is a concept which borrows heavily from EE “Doc” Smith’s science fiction classics, known as The Lensmen series (1937-1960). The stories of both are founded on the idea that deep space is patrolled by benevolent aliens of different races, and that notwithstanding their differences both physically and philosophically, these galactic patrollers are united by altruism.

In Mr Smith’s books, the aliens are very alien, to the point of resembling looming monsters. In DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps (created in 1959 by John Broome with editor Julius Schwartz), the points of alienness have always been much less sophisticated. Traditionally the Green Lantern Corps have consisted of many humanoids with different skin colours or animal features. Some of the Green Lanterns are sentient earth-type animals. One high point of the possibilities of the concept of alienness within the Corps’ ranks came in 1985 when writer Alan Moore created (as a passing mention) a Green Lantern which was a super-intelligent mathematical concept. Another Alan Moore creation, albeit one first based in the same, semi-comedic story, featured a sentient planet called Mogo which was a Green Lantern. But setting aside such irregular bursts of imagination, most of these alien lawmen have been depicted as having only marginally more biodiversity than Earthlings.

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Fatherhood and Strangeness

Superman: American Alien 1
(DC Comics January 2016)
Writer: Max Landis
Review by DG Stewart 16 January 2016

“Superboy” was a title first published by DC Comics in 1949. The title focused on the adventures of Superman as a young teen. It was a popular title that was only cancelled in 1984, its appeal to teen readers who could perhaps better identify with a youthful version of their adult hero. Superboy had entirely mastered his powers throughout the series and wore an identical version of the costume made famous by Superman, with the only discernable difference in appearance being that Superboy was slighter of frame and possessed a rounder face. (Subsequent “Superboy” titles beyond 1984 dealt with the adventures of youthful clones of Superman.)

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Return of the Morningstar

Lucifer #1 (2016 series) [review]
DC Comic, December 2015
Writer: Holly Black
Review by Neil Raymundo, 21 December 2015.

In April 1989, the fourth issue of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” introduced the fallen angel Lucifer. Mr Gaiman initially modelled the look of Lucifer after David Bowie, and the character seemed languid and detached from reality. When the character returned in the acclaimed story “Seasons of the Mist” within the pages of “The Sandman” he was somewhat different: tired, resentful if unrepentant, the abdicating ruler of Hell.

In 2000 writer Mike Carey began the ongoing adventures of the character. This iteration of Lucifer was different again. Obviously patterned after the Miltonian version, Lucifer does not tussle with superheroes, does not have ridiculously overbearing supervillain monologues (Mr Carey deliberately shied away from internal monologue, preferring the story to be told from the perspective of various supporting characters), and – unlike other depictions of the devil in comics – did not hide his name behind vague nom de guerres in an effort to mollify religiously conservative readers.

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An Ongoing Redefinition: Justice League The Darkseid War: Shazam #1 (review)

An Ongoing Redefinition: Justice League - The Darkseid War: Shazam #1

Litigation between National Comics (the predecessor to DC Comics) and Fawcett Comics lasted for 12 years. The dispute was concerned with an allegation of copyright infringement by Fawcett of National’s intellectual property rights: that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. In 1951, the US Court of Appeal agreed. The cape, the super-strength, the power of flight: in contemporary times these attributes are so commonplace that they are regarded as archetypical elements of the classic superhero.

By 1980 DC Comics had acquired the intellectual property rights to Captain Marvel. Indeed the character was extremely similar to Superman and was not especially commercially successful. Trying to distinguish the two characters from each other in stories was a challenge for writers. In one amusing panel in a 2002 story featuring both characters, the villainous Despero cracks together the skulls of Superman and Captain Marvel. Amidst the violence, the faces, general physiology, and powers were identical, and only the costumes were different.

Now, in 2016, it seems DC Comics have decided to address this. Shazam, as the character has been called since 2011 (thereby avoiding the longstanding issue with Marvel Comics over the use by both publishers of the name “Captain Marvel”), has been disconnected from a mystic link to six Roman gods and Greek heroes of antiquity. Instead, the character draws new abilities from six fictional gods, one of which appears to be Martian. As a result, the character is no longer fast or capable of flight, and instead is immensely stronger than before and projects flame.

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