DC ROUND-UP: Grant Morrison & Mikel Janín assemble SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY

THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for their monthly roundtable chat, where they discuss the the debut issues of Blue & GoldShazam!, and Superman and The Authority.

Note: This discussion contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.

Blue & Gold #1

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Ryan Sook
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover Artist: Ryan Sook

Joe Grunenwald: Team, welcome back for this month’s Round-Up Roundtable (that’s what I’m calling these now). We’ve got three big debuts from DC this week so let’s get right into it. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are in their own series at last. What’d you all think of the first issue of Blue & Gold?

Zack Quaintance: I like starting off on a positive, so I’ll say I thought it looked real nice.

Cori McCreery: It looks absolutely gorgeous. Ryan Sook was the best part of Heroes In Crisis, he was the best part of Legion, and he’s the best part of this. Guy can’t miss.

Joe Grunenwald: (Wow when the best part of a series is the variant covers…)

Cori McCreery:  (I loved those variants!!!!)

Greg Silber: I don’t have a ton of affection for these characters as I never read Justice League International, so I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in. The art by Ryan Sook is indeed excellent and he deserved better than Heroes in Crisis, but that’s best left for another Roundtable.

Cori McCreery: I don’t have affection for them from JLI, but from the much later Justice League America, when they were part of the first Justice League I ever encountered when they got steamrolled by Doomsday. Their interactions there endeared me to the way Dan Jurgens wrote them then, but it seems that it’s another case of “guy shouldn’t return to the characters after years off them.”

Joe Grunenwald: I really like the concept of this series. If anyone’s going to chase internet fame it’s going to be Booster Gold, though I’m not sure about casting Beetle in the role of long-suffering best friend, as historically I feel like he’s been pretty up for whatever Booster has in mind. And I agree that the art is great. But the script…left something to be desired for me.

Greg Silber: I desired fewer fake tweets.

Zack Quaintance: I agree with that, Joe. I actually liked the concept — especially the bit with randos weighing in on Twitter — but I wasn’t a fan of the execution. I don’t know if Jurgens was the right writer to pull something like that off. Those fake Tweets generally felt like they were written by someone who doesn’t spend all that much time on Twitter, and I think for that bit to work, you have to really understand the platform well and how folks use it.

Joe Grunenwald: They’re not tweets, friends. They’re Blisster messages. (Bleets?)

Greg Silber: I wouldn’t have minded some of the tweeting. It’s a fun conceit that like you said, works well for Booster especially, and other comics have used it as clever exposition. But it went on the ENTIRE comic and just got tiring. I loved Guy Gardner being a presence on the DCU’s version of twitter though. We all know Guy would be CONSTANTLY term searching.

Cori McCreery: The stupid fake social media was jarring. I understand you can’t actually use the real names of the things for legal reasons, but a 62-year-old man shouldn’t be the one trying to name them either.

Zack Quaintance: The other issue I had with this comic was that the entire arc of it felt tired and contrived. The whole ‘The League wants one but not the other’ is a really familiar bit that I saw coming I don’t know how far away, but it was a ways.

Cori McCreery: It’s a really played-out trope and really just annoying.

Joe Grunenwald: Agree 100% there. It also felt like an artificial way to set up conflict between Beetle and Booster down the road.

Zack Quaintance: And to do it in the first issue took away any weight it might have had if they went through a big new trial together, during which we saw Booster, I don’t know, doing something noble but being misunderstood. That’s still tired, but at least then it might have felt more consequential and less rote.

Cori McCreery: I do prefer the Justice League as written here to how they’re being written in their own book though, so that’s something I guess.

Zack Quaintance: For me the big question with this book (unfortunately) comes down to whether I prefer this over not having any new Blue Beetle and Booster Gold series at all, and I think the answer is that it looks so good that yes, it’s better than no book featuring these two, but it’s not an easy answer. Curious to know where the rest of you fall on that…

Joe Grunenwald: I’m all in favor of there being a Blue & Gold series, and Ryan Sook’s art is hard to pass up. It was enough to struggle through the scripting for.

Greg Silber: I mean, I’m happy for Booster and Beetle fans if they enjoy this. It’s just not for me. But it could shape up differently in future issues!

Cori McCreery: I don’t think I’ve ever really clamored for either of them to show up more regularly, so it’s better than when they were in Heroes in Crisis, but not necessarily something I search out at all.

Greg Silber: Cori you don’t have to keep bringing up Heroes in Crisis, we’re all having a good time here.

Shazam! #1

Writer: Tim Sheridan
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover Artist: Clayton Henry & Marcelo Maiolo

Joe Grunenwald: Moving right along then. Billy Batson’s back in a solo series as well this week. How did you all find the first issue of the new Shazam! miniseries?

Greg Silber: It’s better than that Future State one, at least!

Cori McCreery: Well I answer that with the same question that Zack just asked: Is this better than not having Shazam! content, and honestly this time I think the answer is just no.

Zack Quaintance: For my part, I’ll keep on with talking about stuff I’m tired of tonight, and say that if I never see another “oh no, something’s up with my powers!” comic, it will be too soon.

Greg Silber: It’s not a good comic, but I’m relieved that it’s not off-puttingly bad. Just… run-of-the-mill bad. Dull. I did like Clayton Henry‘s art, though.

Zack Quaintance: Clayton Henry’s art is very good. I’m a fan as well.

Joe Grunenwald: I appreciate that DC is trying to find a space for Billy. He’s redundant with the Justice League now that it has both Superman AND Black Adam, and there’s no JSA for him to pal around with, so putting him with the Titans is as good a place as any. And I did enjoy Clayton Henry’s art quite a bit.

Cori McCreery: The art was good. I absolutely hate how Billy was characterized.

Joe Grunenwald: He’s kind of a snot, isn’t he.

Greg Silber: He felt more like the Billy from the Shazam movie than comics Billy. Which is not a fun move, as much as I like that film.

Cori McCreery: “I can’t physically help my best friend with magic, so best not to go see him when he desperately needs friendship more than anything.” is gross and ableist.

Greg Silber: I’m with you about the ableism, Cori. This was written pretty thoughtlessly in that regard.

Cori McCreery: It’s a no-win situation, because using magic to cure Freddy’s disease is also bad and ableist, but doing this is just spiteful and mean.

Zack Quaintance: Here’s another question I have for you all: where do you fall on this first issue versus the Geoff Johns-penned era of Shazam we now seem to be through with?

Greg Silber: I never read the New 52 stuff, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Rebirth run. I don’t like Geoff Johns’ writing very much but I what I read of his Shazam was maybe the best Johns I’ve read

Cori McCreery: As much as I’ve soured on Johns recent work, I did like the Rebirth era Shazam! series, and that’s something I want more of. I like the Shazam! concept because of the found family and the idea of sharing one’s power with those you love.

Joe Grunenwald: I’ve never been the biggest Captain Marvel fan to begin with, so I actually took a pass on both the New 52 and Rebirth runs of the character. This first issue didn’t make me a big fan, though.

Cori McCreery: Honest talk? The movie, which pulled a LOT from Johns, is what made me want to experience more, and it’s on my “TBR” list to read some Golden, Bronze, and Modern Age Shazam! books that I’ve picked up recently.

Greg Silber: We should probably clarify here that the Shazam comic we read this week was written by Tim Sheridan, not Geoff Johns.

Joe Grunenwald: Yes, it’s a tie-in to Teen Titans Academy. I will say that I enjoyed this comic more than I’ve enjoyed Teen Titans Academy so far.

Cori McCreery: Yeah, it’s an upgrade, though not much of one.

Joe Grunenwald: Maybe it’s just Clayton Henry elevating the material. I really do like his artwork. But there’s only so much elevation you can do.

Greg Silber: It’s cartoony in a way DC Comics didn’t seem to allow themselves to be for a good long while.

Joe Grunenwald: So are we calling Shazam! a straight-up Pass?

Cori McCreery: Yeah. I can’t in good conscience recommend it.

Greg Silber: Same here. If you like the character you have better options elsewhere.

Zack Quaintance: I am also passing on Shazam!

Superman and The Authority #1

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Mikel Janín
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artist: Mikel Janín

Joe Grunenwald: The last big debut for the week is years in the making: Grant Morrison and Mikel Janín‘s Superman and The Authority. A Morrison-written Superman comic is always an exciting thing, and I thought this one didn’t disappoint on that front.

Cori McCreery: Hey look, Joe, it’s that Superman costume you were wondering about months ago!

Joe Grunenwald: <Just the longest and heaviest of sighs>

Greg Silber: Readers, Cori is referring to an inside joke among the DC Roundup Crew. Pay no mind. Anyway, I’m a huge Grant Morrison fan, especially when they’re writing Superman. So before I say what I think of this comic, I want to share something I don’t think I’ve shared before: it took me several tries reading All-Star Superman #1 many years ago before I finally got into it, and it became a comic that I’d later credit with saving my life. I’m saying this because while Superman and the Authority #1 didn’t work for me as well as I’d hoped – probably largely because I know Superman well but not The Authority – I have a lot of faith in Grant to turn me around on this.

Cori McCreery: I too am less sold on the Authority, but I will always be interested in more of Grant’s Superman. And Grant’s Manchester Black was a right bloody bastard. I appreciated that.

Zack Quaintance: The issue as a whole was a pretty thorough mix of setup and banter between Manchester and Superman. I think I’m probably the one who has read the most Authority comics in this group, and there’s very very little Authority in this first issue.

Joe Grunenwald: I’ve read some Authority comics as well, and none of them appear in this one. The most Authority things, I thought, were the references to ‘A Finer World.’

Zack Quaintance: That’s right…but one thing I was thinking about as I read it was the scuttled DC Comics timeline. Grant has said in interviews they wrote this script a few years ago, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the opening bit with Superman and Kennedy was supposed to tie in with the timeline former publisher Dan DiDio was teasing before his departure in early 2020.

Greg Silber: That definitely was jarring to me, but also knowing Grant, it’s the kind of thing they’d be interested in exploring anyway

Joe Grunenwald: It was jarring, but I also thought it was a really lovely scene between Superman and JFK. I just took it as ‘This is maybe taking part on a different Earth in the omniverse.’

Cori McCreery: And I think by the end of this series they’ll do a fine job of tying everything together, though it may be something that needs a couple reads to fully parse.

Joe Grunenwald: Feel like that could be said of most Morrison work.

Greg Silber: Definitely.

Cori McCreery: I took it as time travel shenanigans, though I don’t remember what in the story actually made me think that.

Zack Quaintance: Backtracking just a bit on what I said earlier, a superhero interacting with a real world president actually might be the most Authority thing, given the conceit for that book was superheroes influencing global order. I don’t know what the book plans to do with it, but that’s a realization that just hit me now.

Greg Silber: There are VERY few creators I’d trust with that sort of conceit, but Grant is one of them.

Joe Grunenwald: So I will come right out and say that I hate Manchester Black. Haaaaaaaaate Manchester Black. He’s a character who was introduced as a parody of a thing who then just…crossed over and became the thing he was parodying. The fact that he’s now a part of The Authority when the team he was introduced as a part of was commentary on The Authority itself is kind of hilarious to me. This issue didn’t make me hate the character any less, but I did really enjoy the interplay between him and Superman.

Cori McCreery: You’re supposed to hate him though. So I take that as a success on Morrison’s part.

Joe Grunenwald: That’s a very valid point. And Superman trying to pull the good out of him is the most Superman thing he can do.

Greg Silber: Yeah, that’s something that’s been done before in one way or the other, but I’m always a fan of that trope.

Cori McCreery: It’s a trope that I’m not tired of unlike the tropes used in the other two stories we talked about this week.

Zack Quaintance: I think…think…I read an interview with Grant where they said the idea was to replace the Authority characters with existing DC characters who fit their roles on the team…with the exception of Midnighter and Apollo.

Joe Grunenwald: I’m curious, given this is only a four-issue series, how the rest of it will play out considering this first issue is solely about Superman bringing in Manchester Black. There’s other characters to bring in, including some brand-new ones, and I worry about the decompression. But at the same time if the rest of the series is as good as this issue was I suppose I don’t really care if all four issues are just Superman assembling the team. Because if I haven’t made it clear up until this point, I really enjoyed this issue.

Zack Quaintance: I was definitely surprised that we didn’t get anywhere past Supes and Manchester Black in this first issue, but I also am in the camp that it doesn’t matter all that much because I dug it.

Greg Silber: We should acknowledge Mikel Janín on art duties, too. This is the best work I’ve seen from him in some time.

Cori McCreery: Yeah, all three books this week had good art, but Janín was next level this time around. Salt and Pepper Superman is a good look.

Joe Grunenwald: Mikel Janín is a magnificent artist, and I love his Superman, even out of the traditional suit.

Cori McCreery: I feel like this will really bookend Morrison’s Superman with Action Comics, down to similar costumes.

Zack Quaintance: Jordie Bellaire coloring Janin here is just so fantastic.

Joe Grunenwald: Yes, I was just going to say, Zack, Bellaire’s colors are beautiful. I loved the bright primary colors and the tone effect used on the 1963 pages.

Greg Silber: He’s still very recognizably Superman, which you don’t always get with non-traditional Supes costumes. He’s also, it must be said, extremely handsome.

Joe Grunenwald: Is Superman a daddy or a zaddy? I forget the distinction between them.

Greg Silber: No clue, I just know he isn’t a himbo

Cori McCreery: You are both menaces.

Joe Grunenwald: Get me pictures of Daddy Superman!

Zack Quaintance: Anyway. I have yet another question!

Joe Grunenwald: Fire away!

Cori McCreery: 42!

Zack Quaintance: It’s tough to look too far ahead with any Morrison work, but do you all have hopes for this series? Just kind of want to take a read on where we think the last 75 percent may be headed. There have been some indications in solicits that this may set up a new status quo…

Cori McCreery: It’s clearly set in some nebulous future, so I’m unsure of how it can set a new status quo, but Morrison’s one of my favorite writers, so whatever happens I’m sure it will be worth reading.

Greg Silber: Well, I understand this is Morrison’s last DC work for the foreseeable future (even though it was actually written a few years ago), so I kind of hope things get wrapped up nicely. That said, their comics have a habit of introducing great ideas that other creators don’t take the baton from… until many years later in some cases with the likes of Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando. But I’m with Cori. I just love Morrison and look forward to their final go at Superman.

Joe Grunenwald: Agreed there as well. I pretty much just hope to be entertained.

Zack Quaintance: I too hope to be entertained. I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you all but I do enjoy being entertained.

Greg Silber: Whoa, me too! Who knew?

Joe Grunenwald: That’s on the record now, Zack.

Zack Quaintance: I said what I said.

Joe Grunenwald: Bold talk! (I know, Cori, this is bold talk.)

Greg Silber: Joe famously prefers pain and suffering.

Zack Quaintance: I’m also maybe projecting here, and connecting dots that aren’t meant to be connected…but I feel like DC is moving toward a Superman as wise big space problems protector (maybe with a team) while Jon tackles problems back at home? That’s what I’ve gathered from Action Comics, the soon-to-launch Tom Taylor comic, and some pieces of hints in solicits, anyway.

Greg Silber: I’d be into that.

Joe Grunenwald: I haven’t read ahead like some people here have but I agree, that seems to be where Superman is headed, and I’m into it.

Cori McCreery: That’s definitely what it feels like.

Zack Quaintance: I like line-wide that DC is doing things just a bit differently, or at least altering status quos in ways they haven’t done for a good while. It reminds me of way back when I was a lad, and you could open a comic and find something new or surprising. I think the old editorial team was averse to that, assuming it would alienate readers, which is maybe a disservice to people who read these comics. ‘Superman protects space now’ isn’t that tough to grasp, and it’s, more importantly, just different enough to feel fun and exciting. That’s getting away from this individual book though. So to bring it back, this is a definite BUY for me.

Cori McCreery: Agreed on that front. BUY from me as well.

Greg Silber: BUY, and buy every other Grant Morrison Superman comic too. Not that you need them to understand this, they’re just good is all.

Cori McCreery: Especially the one where he wrestles an angel.

Greg Silber: You ever read the one where Superman tells the cops to go back to cop school? That was neat.

Joe Grunenwald: A unanimous BUY from the team!

Round-Up

Joe Grunenwald: Does anyone have any final thoughts about any of these three books, or any of the other new DC books for the week?

Zack Quaintance: This was a very strong week, I thought. Catwoman has a last page that will have folks talking, The Flash was a stellar single issue, and Nightwing remains a must-read comic.

Cori McCreery: Nightwing continues to be an ABSOLUTE blast. I love it so much, it’s the book Tom Taylor was born to write and Bruno Redondo was born to draw.

Joe Grunenwald: Nightwing is so good, and now that the first arc is done and we’ve all collectively agreed to move past The Unpleasantness, The Flash is great.

Zack Quaintance: oh oh oh can we talk in brief about Superman: Red and Blue?

Joe Grunenwald: Yes! Please!

Cori McCreery: THAT JUDD WINICK AND IBRAHIM MOUSTAFA STORY. GOD.

Zack Quaintance: I LOVED this week’s issue of Superman: Red and Blue.

Cori McCreery: I have been WAITING for that story, and since this issue came out my Birthday week, I am counting it as my birthday present from DC.

Greg Silber: I’m behind but oh boy am I excited.

Zack Quaintance: The Winick and Ibrahim Moustafa story about Krypto put tears in my eyes, and then the Daniel Warren Johnson story about Pa Kent in church that bookended the collection put them right back in too.

Joe Grunenwald: The Winick and Moustafa story was really nice. The one that hit me right in the gut was the Daniel Warren Johnson story.

Zack Quaintance: Yes, me too, in a big way.

Joe Grunenwald: I’m getting a little misty just thinking about it, to be quite honest.

Cori McCreery: Judd has been among my all-time favorite writers since the early 2000s, and I’ve always loved Moustafa’s art. So just them being announced as a pair for this book made me extremely excited. And yes, that Pa Kent story was also fantastic. This is honestly the best issue yet of Superman: Red & Blue.

Greg Silber: I was just telling someone at work today who was talking about old school The Real World: that comics guy from one of those early seasons is doing pretty damn well for himself now as a creator.

Cori McCreery: Makin’ the big bucks on kid’s books, and good for him!

Zack Quaintance: I liked the other stories in this collection a lot too. The Jimmy Olsen favorite photo story, and the story about Clark stopping the armed robbery were both wonderful.

Joe Grunenwald: I appreciated how well the art by Valentine De Landro on the Clark story channeled Christopher Reeve as well.

Zack Quaintance: It really did.

Cori McCreery: That Clark story reminded me a lot of my favorite episode of Supergirl, so I also loved it.

Greg Silber: I feel like for a while Superman comics were consciously trying to shed the Reeve image, and I’m glad we’ve come back around on embracing that interpretation

Joe Grunenwald: And it felt like a nice sort-of tribute to the recently-passed Richard Donner. Any final thoughts on any other books for the week?

Cori McCreery: I still hate Tom King’s Supergirl.

Zack Quaintance: Have you considered writing about that on multiple websites and also Twitter? Might be time.

Greg Silber: Oh, I just remembered something else I meant to bring up about Blue and Gold. This is an extremely mild spoiler considering how prominent the trope is, but a villain declaring their desire to kill the protagonists is not the cliffhanger so many writers seem to think it is. It’s a superhero comic. We all assume that at any given time, there are villains who want to kill the heroes. And it’s especially meaningless when the villain is (to the best of my knowledge?) not someone who’d been previously introduced.

Joe Grunenwald: The fact that it was a new character left me mostly baffled.

Greg Silber: Okay, so it wasn’t some obscure figure from JLI 35 years ago?

Joe Grunenwald: If it was it went right over my head.

Greg Silber: Well, glad we’re on the same page.

Joe Grunenwald: Alright, if no one has anything else, I think we can adjourn.

Zack Quaintance: Great chat as always!

Joe Grunenwald: I don’t know how to end these things.

Cori McCreery: <Uses a giant hook to comically drag Joe off stage>

Final Verdicts:

Blue & Gold #1: BROWSE
Shazam! #1: PASS
Superman and The Authority #1: BUY

Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!

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