Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Superman Stories

With Man of Steel coming out in less than a month (!), some people have been asking me for suggestions on what Superman comics are best to read. Here's a list.

Superman: Birthright
Birthright was DC's 2004 attempt at making a modern reboot for Superman's origin story. Apparently the last version of the origin, published in 1986, was too ancient to still be used. Fortunately, Birthright is anything but a by-the-numbers retelling of the origin; it's a fully fleshed-out story that stands on its own. It introduces the primary Superman characters—Clark, the Kents, Lois, Lex Luthor—and makes them real people, not mere caricatures. Furthermore, the way it establishes the Superman/Lex Luthor dichotomy is essentially perfect. It takes the best parts of every past Superman mythos—even the Smallville TV series—and weaves them together into a story that you can't help but love. I'm not going to say that it's literally perfect from top to bottom, but I can say with certainty that it's my favorite Superman comic story of all time.

Superman: Secret Identity
This is almost not even technically a Superman book. It's an alternate-universe story that is, for all intents and purposes, set in our world, where Superman is a fictional character. The story centers on a boy coincidentally named Clark Kent who lives in Kansas... and develops Superman's powers. Secret Identity covers this boy's entire life, from childhood to old age. It's surprisingly heartwarming, with emphasis on family and the normal trials of growing up.

Superman: Red Son
Yet another alternate universe story, this one deals with a world where baby Kal-El's spaceship didn't land on a farm in Kansas; he landed on a farm in Russia during the Cold War. Instead of being an American hero, Superman becomes a Communist icon—and yet, he is still the same hero he always was, merely in a different country. Red Son shows many heroes in this bizarre alternate world—Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern—but focuses primarily on Superman and his struggle to do the right thing in a world hostile to his values. This story illustrates Superman's character regardless of circumstance, and for that reason, despite the twisted nature of the premise, Red Son makes this list.

Kingdom Come
Several decades into the (possible) future, many things have gone wrong. Lois Lane has died, Superman has gone into isolation, and the world seems to have moved on from the ideals of the superheroes of old. So-called "heroes" and "villains" now kill each other without a second thought, turning city streets into war-torn battlefields. After finally emerging from his reclusion, Superman must rally together the heroes of the world to rectify the shattered state of the world. As tensions rise between Superman's army of morally-upright heroes and the forces of the corrupt, events seem to be paralleling  things foretold in the book of Revelations. This could literally be the end of the world.
Kingdom Come can be a bit grim, but the fact that it pushes our heroes to the brink illustrates who they really are. The trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman get particular focus, and their characterization really shines. This is easily one of the most iconic and important comics ever made; everyone looking to get into superhero fiction should read this at some point.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim is a 6-volume comedy/romance/action comic series with a movie adaptation. The story goes like this:

Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old lovable geeky slacker. When he begins dating a mysterious girl named Ramona, he finds that he is required to defeat her seven evil exes in epic video game-style battles.

The incredibly well-done off-the-wall humor of Scott Pilgrim (present both in the comics and the movie) is endlessly entertaining—even on multiple readings/viewings—and the ongoing plot of Scott's dating life is genuinely captivating. It's been said that in the world of Scott Pilgrim, people break into superpowered fights the same way that people break into song for no reason in musicals. It makes all the sense in the world and it feels perfectly amazing.
Of course, moreso than the fantastical elements, what really makes Scott Pilgrim work is the relatability of Scott's life. The characters in the story actually live relatively normal lives for 80% of the series; the fighting doesn't even show up until the very end of the first volume. This is, essentially, a comedy/drama about a group of young people, enhanced by fantastical elements. It's been said that both people in a new relationship must fight the ghosts of each others' exes; it only makes sense that Scott must literally fight Ramona's exes in this heightened-reality world.

If you've ever considered yourself a geek in the slightest, you will love this series. If you've ever been a young person just living life, you will love this series. I honestly don't care who you are; you need to read this.

The movie is pretty decent, though it does have some major flaws (like casting Michael Cera). AMAZING music, though. I recommend reading the books first, then watching the movie afterwards.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things I Love

I've decided to do a series of blog posts detailing my favorite movies/TV shows/games/books/universes/etc and why they're amazing. As I post new things in the series, I'll tag them "Things I Love." You'll be able to find all the posts via the tag link here.

This is just the list of stuff I've thought of thus far; more is almost certain to be added:

Star Wars
Star Trek
Doctor Who
The Lord of the Rings
DC Comics
Marvel Comics
The Last Airbender / The Legend of Korra
Indiana Jones
Scott Pilgrim
Power Rangers
80s Sci-Fi movies
The Legend of Zelda
Kingdom Hearts

Honorable Mentions:
Harry Potter
Battlestar Galactica
Final Fantasy