Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
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Cover date: May 2004
Writter: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: George Perez
Inker: George Perez
"The Brave and the Bold"
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Krona explains the origins of Galactus to Metron and points out the differences in the creations of the JLA and Avengers' universes. He insists that there is a guiding hand to creation, but Metron is curious as to what he will do now. Krona tells him that he will learn the truth using the power items the Grandmaster had tried to use against him to merge the two Earths and force their animating spirits out so he will at last have the knowledge he so desperately craves. Metron asks him about the strain he is putting on the two universes and Krona replies that if they die they die. All that matters to Krona is the end of his long quest.
The two Earths continue to deteriorate as the heroes of two worlds and different time periods do their best to assist the authorities. In the lunar headquarters of the Justice League the Vision knocks back members of both the JLA and Avengers telling them that the whole situation is madness and that he is going home to his family. The Scarlet Witch eventually calms him down, explaining that the reality they know is not how it should be and that if they can't preserve how things are, which could change from moment to moment they should try to restore how things should be.
Afterwards Green Lantern briefs both teams on Krona and his capabilities. Hank Pym suggests that they need to find a way to get past Krona's defenses. Iron Man tells them that he and Barry Allen had been working on that but they're going to need Green Lantern, the Vision and the Atom to help. Superman suggests that Captain America should act as their commander and Batman concurs. After the Martian Manhunter confirms that the members of the JLA will follow his orders without question Captain America agrees and the two teams get to work.
The ship comes together quickly with both teams working together. Afterwards several of the heroes talk about how they feel about the fact that they are fighting for a reality where their lives turned out very different. Superman apologizes to Captain America for his behavior. Cap tells him not to worry about it and the two heroes discuss how Superman fears that the JLA does too much, denying humanity freedom of choice and how Cap fears that as hard as the Avengers fight in the end it is not enough. Cap informs Superman that their argument was not why he asked for him. In Captain America's opinion Superman is powerful, but not powerful enough to face Krona and will need an edge. He hands Superman his shield, which Superman takes and adds that he will do his best to wield it well.
Soon, using Thor's hammer and Flash's cosmic treadmill as a power source with a final push from the Scarlet Witch the heroes pass over to Krona's realm and discover the villain has set up base inside the remnants of Galactus. Krona watches and once the heroes are within range he sends his minions, made up of Parademons from Apokolips, AIM soldiers, Hydra agents and followers of the JLA villain Kobra after the heroes. The Parademons mock the human soldiers and say they will make short work of the heroes, but the Avengers and JLA arrive with the battle cry of Avengers Assemble.
Captain America gives his orders through a telepathic link courtesy of the Martian Manhunter with everyone following his orders except for Batman, who takes off on his own. Suddenly the heroes experience a time shift and different heroes from both teams' past rosters, including Green Arrow and Hawkeye who take on the Royal Flush game, who are under Krona's control. From his command center Metron commends Krona's efficiency while pointing out that his control over the villains he is bringing in is draining him further. Krona tells him that none of that matters because he has located that universal avatars but he must have his answers soon before they are destroyed. He asks Metron to help him, but Metron refuses. Krona is incensed telling him he can't back down now because they are both truth seekers. Metron cryptically asks what Krona truly seeks and tells him that he shall be watching and curious to know what the outcome will be.
Meanwhile another time shift occurs as Batman takes on Batroc the Leaper. More villains appear as the heroes continue to change from one era to another. Flash and Hawkeye are seemingly killed causing Hal to completely lose it as he changes from Green Lantern to Parallax and finally to the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern as the Atom sits on his shoulders and goes through changes of his own. The battle rages on as the heroes redouble their efforts. More time shifts occur with Captain America losing the telepathic link after the Martian Manhunter changes to Bloodwynd and disappears. As a team of assassins take on Batman the Justice League enemy Prometheus takes on Captain America.
Meanwhile Krona finally realizes what Metron was talking about. He believes that now that the truth that is within his grasp it is not enough. He believes the heroes, entire worlds and whole universes denied him his right and for that they will pay.
More heroes and villains appear and more fighting ensues. The Scarlet Witch pops back in just in time to see Eternity, the avatar from her universe, in an embrace with Kismet, the avatar from the JLA universe. Krona attempts to imprison them as the Scarlet Witch fights back without much success. As Green Lantern and Iron Man fight side by side Aquaman helps out a group of heroes, including Namor, who are under attack from denizens of the Avenger's universe Atlantis. Elsewhere Wonder Woman shouts for the heroes of both teams to press on and leave the villains to her. She-Hulk and Wonder Woman's mother arrive to give her a hand as Radioactive Man and Solarr attack Superman with Kryptonite and red solar energy respectively. Though damaged the Vision assists Superman by showering him with yellow solar energy. Newly energized Superman tells the villains that he will use the chance that Flash and Hawkeye gave them to take another crack at their master.
Superman makes short work of the villains and arrives at the final doorway, which he cannot break through. Thor throws him his enchanted hammer. Superman catches it and is filled with more power than he had ever felt before and uses it and Captain America's shield to break through the last of Krona's defenses. Once there the heroes are thrown back by Krona, who finally reveals himself. He attacks the heroes before turning his attention to Eternity and Kismet.
Suddenly he senses a shift in power as Flash and Hawkeye reveal that they had faked their deaths to throw Krona off. While Flash distracts him Hawkeye fires a T.N.T. arrow into the source of Krona's power, which destroys it. Krona's power and plan unravel and the Justice League and the Avengers return to the original roster both started the crisis with. The proper reality begins to reassert itself as the heroes watch as the Hal Jordan Spectre separates the two Earths.
As reality continues to return to normal, Galactus begins to reform, causing both teams to step up there efforts to return home. Superman tries to hand Thor his hammer but finds that he can no longer lift it. Confused, Superman asks Thor why. The Thunder God replies that the enchantment put on the hammer by Thor's father Odin makes it almost impossible for others to lift, except under special circumstances. Thor adds when Superman possessed it the hammer was in good hands.
While Flash and Quicksilver spin around their respective teams to begin their journeys home Superman and Captain America salute one another certain that while they may do too much or not enough they keep trying. The Scarlet Witch adds that while they have come together, worked out their differences and overcome their challenge they are still forced to return to incompatible worlds. She realizes, though, that it must be that way and as Kismet and Eternity part the story comes to an end.
From the void Metron watches as all of the power sources are returned to their homes leaving a cosmic egg at the heart of which is Krona's essence. One day, Metron muses, it may hatch a new universe and Krona will have all of the answers he seeks. The not-quite-dead Grandmaster agrees. Metron asks him what it was like to be dead and Grandmaster replies that it wasn't an experience he wanted to repeat. He adds that he had never played a game where all sides won. Metron is skeptical at first, but finally agrees adding that he will watch the egg carefully. He also tells the Grandmaster that they should play another game sometime. As the egg begins to glow Grandmaster concurs and the two return to their homes.
Story - 4: Read now how I can have my cake and eat it too.
If I were less of a writer I would now point out the fact that after reading the last issue of JLA/AVENGERS (or AVENGERS/JLA depending on who the publisher was) feels a lot like eight o'clock Christmas morning. Wrapping paper is everywhere (except in my house where my borderline obsessive/compulsive father would put the paper in a trash bag immediately after I or one of my sisters would open a gift), the coffee is on, Mom and Dad are nodding off on the couch and you're left with all of your gifts ecstatic to have received them but also feeling a bit let down that all of the waiting is over and you finally have what you had wanted and maybe dreamt about for months. This, of course, is the easy comparison to make and points to a lack of originality on the part of the writer. It feels like when a reviewer of a movie uses an adjective in the title of a movie to describe said movie. So I'm not going to make that comment outright, just talk about it here to get my point across.
What that says about me as a writer is of course entirely up to you. I just wanted to find a way to have it both ways.
All kidding aside there is a bit of a let down with the last issue of this series. There was so much hype and there was so much time from announcement to publication that it's hard not to feel that way. First issues are always the best in terms of satisfaction (though not always in story) because you've been waiting so long that at last something is here and some of the anxiety that goes along with the anticipation is sated. Where JLA/AVNENGERS (or AVENGERS/JLA depending on who the publisher was) succeeded was that unlike DK2 or ORIGIN it had a solid plot and fantastic artwork throughout the series. The second and third issues gave most readers exactly what they wanted in terms of the two teams interacting, whether the more quiet get together scenes of the third issue or the all out battles of the second.
One area where the let down doesn't affect was how Busiek used the last of the crossover cliches. Most crossovers have the same beats; the villain (or villains) are introduced, the different characters meet, they have a misunderstanding, they fight, they realize what morons they've been and then team up to beat the villain (or villains). While the team-up happened in the last issue the particulars of this element played out this issue. Busiek threw in some nice character bits while the heroes were building the ship with the usual, "Hey, we have something in common," dialogue, but it was the scenes afterwards that transcended the cliches. The quiet moment between Wanda and the Vision, the horror Hank Pym feels at what he witnessed, the conversation between Barry and Hal and most of all the moment where Captain America hands Superman his shield (which is kind of like handing someone your child to take care) is where this issue was strongest.
Another element that made this more than just a normal crossover was the fact that the villain actually realized that what he was after isn't what he was really after. Krona had always claimed that he had the thirst for knowledge and nothing would stand in his way and thanks to Metron he saw that vengeance was also at the heart of his endeavors. By doing this Krona became more than a two-dimensional villain and his attempts to destroy those that stood in his way made a little more sense. Also this explained Metron's role in the series because up until now I was a little confused by his motivations. Of course Metron has been one of the most mishandled characters in the history of DC Comics, not because no one has handled him correctly but because every writer has a different take on who he should be.
If this issue had any faults it was that it went by too fast. The set-up took three issues and while I don't think there should have been another one I feel that maybe too much focus was placed on getting the heroes together than them accomplishing what they needed to accomplish. The pacing of the series was fine, it's just this issue flew by. Well, in terms of story it flew by. If you spend as much time as every page needs to see all of the characters used than it took some time, but this was the shortest synopsis I've written out of the four issues.
And this is where the let down comes in. I wasn't disappointed, mind you, it's just once you get to the end there's this feeling that more should have happened. There were some really great moments; such as Superman getting Thor's hammer and using that and Cap's shield to break through Krona's defenses, but it all went by so fast that there is little time to appreciate it. In terms of the story as a whole the pacing was fine, but with this issue in particular it felt rushed.
The dialogue was also a little rough at times. Certain lines didn't come off well, especially Superman, who after receiving Cap's shield tells the Star Spangled Avenger that he will wield it well. That's a mouth full and comes off a bit clunky.
Other than that this was a satisfying ending to a very solid series. Some of the hero/villain fights were good, especially Batman vs. Batroc and Captain America vs. Prometheus. I especially liked the dialogue and narration at the end. It gave the series some closure while leaving the possibility of a sequel. Not that I think there will be a sequel, but I have been wrong before. Back in 1996 I told a good friend of mine that I didn't think this anime thing was going to last, so what do I know?
Art - 5: Do you want to know what my favorite piece of art in this entire issue was?
It's a hard question to answer. This issue was so thick with art that it was easy to just get lost. Perez once again shows that he is the best in the business at choreographing a large number of characters and has them look distinctive without losing the story.
The quiet moments were just as good, if not better than the action scenes. The layout for the conversations between the different heroes on pages ten and eleven was pure genius as each sequence blended into the last with the character watching or passing each other. The Vision and Scarlet Witch holding each other was especially powerful.
While those panels were great the battle scenes were still cool. The changing of the characters from one era or version to another was fun and made for some neat little panels. The initial panel of the combined forces of the JLA and the Avengers storming Krona's fortress was one of the better images, though I think Superman could have looked a little better.
My only real complaint is that the panels where the JLA and the Avengers salute one another were too small. I would say that would have preferred a full page for it, but since Perez was somewhat injured I won't. It just doesn't seem right to me.
As fantastic as the art was there was one image that sticks in my mind and is my favorite. It wasn't Superman catching Thor's hammer, though that was good. It wasn't the many panels where the teams kept changing, though those were nice too. It wasn't the ship the heroes built nor was it the splash page of the Fortress Galactus.
So what was my favorite image?
Look at page forty, third panel. In the background the JLA member Despero takes down the JLA villain Despero.
That was just cool.
Cover Art - 5: The first issue of this series had a pretty decent cover. Not my favorite Perez artwork, but it was still good. The second issue had a fantastic cover and while I didn't agree with the specific match-ups I liked it so much that I have it as one of the wallpapers on my computer. The third issue was amazing. Flat out amazing. It was so amazing, in fact, that it caused Perez to be late getting this issue finished. The common theme among the covers is that more and more characters appeared per comic. So you would think that the final issue would be brimming with heroes.
It wasn't and man was it a solid cover.
It wasn't the best cover, mind you. That has to be the one for the third issue. I mean you can't ignore all of those characters and it would be a travesty to say that this cover was better than that one. Nevertheless this is a really striking cover. A battle ravaged Superman standing red-eyed with Cap's shield, chipped and cracked, along with Thor's hammer, which is radiating power giving the reader the "So, who wants to slam dance with the first born son of God?" look as he stands on some patented Perez rubble. It sticks out from the rest of the series and makes the buyer want to read the comic.
This cover has a "Grab Me" factor of ten out of ten.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.