Tales From Earth-6: A Celebration of Stan Lee #1 – Michael Uslan, Mark Waid, Stephanie Williams, Becky Cloonan/Michael W. Conrad, Kenny Porter, Collin Kelly/Jackson Lanzing, Zac Thompson, Meghan Fitzmartin, Steve Orlando, Jerry Ordway, Writers; Lee Weeks, Kevin Maguire, Belen Ortega, Pablo M. Collar, Karl Mostert, Juan Ferreyra, Hayden Sherman, Anthony Marques/Mark Morales, Max Dunbar, Jerry Ordway, Artists; Trish Mulvihill, Rosemary Cheetham, Jordie Bellaire, Dee Cunniffe, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Nick Filardi, Dave Stewart, Sebastian Cheng, Glenn Whitmore, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: One of the most unexpected projects to come out of DC in years, this tribute to one of the fathers of Marvel Comics spins out of his only DC project—a unique but largely forgotten Elseworlds that filtered all of DC’s top heroes through his own pulpy, 1960s style. Unlike the Tangent universe, which created new heroes from only the name and had out-there twists like Green Lantern being a cosmic being who could raise the dead, these reinventions hewed a little closer to the originals, but with unique origin twists and personality changes. Now, ten creative teams give each of these creations one more spin in this oversized anthology.
First up are Michael Uslan and Lee Weeks on “Choked,” featuring Batman. This Batman is a wealthy black man and more of a bare-knuckle pugilist than Bruce Wayne. Existing in a city filled with both criminals and poorly trained rookie cops ready to shoot him, he wears a more animal-inspired Bat-costume to take on the “Choker,” a mad strangler with a vaguely clown-like aesthetic. He gets an assist from Commissioner Hal Jordan, but otherwise seems more lonely and on-the-edge than our Batman. It’s a decent story, but doesn’t break any new ground with alternate Bats.
“Make War No More” by Mark Waid and Kevin Maguire focuses on our Superman, a former alien lawman who keeps his Supermansion in the middle of Beverly Hills. But this Superman is not a nice man. He’s not evil, but he’s a narcissistic egomaniac who bullies his memoir-writer Jimmy Olsen and resents Earth for not having the space program he needs to return home. He decides that the fault lies with humans spending all their resources on war, and decides to torment the country’s top war profiteer before realizing that the problem is much larger. This seemed a little off at first, but winds up cleverly paying tribute to Superman’s golden age roots.
Wonder Woman takes the spotlight in Stephanie Williams and Belen Ortega’s “To New Beginnings.” This one seems to diverge the least from the classic version, with this Wonder Woman also being a shining warrior princess who deals with troubles from “Man’s World.” But she has a secret identity as Maria Mendoza, works as a reporter, and has a budding romance with her co-worker. This version of WW has the same compassion for villains that her main universe counterpart does at times. The story seems to take its cues from old romance comics to a degree, emphasizing how her work as WW effects Maria’s personal life. It’s fun, but doesn’t feel like it breaks any new ground.
Cloonan, Conrad, and Collar take on The Flash in “Palindrome.” This version of the character is the most radical divergence yet, with this Flash being a young woman named Mary Maxwell. But Mary finds herself in a similar situation to the Flash we know too well—trying to travel back in time to save a parent. She gained her powers thanks to a serum her dying father injected, and now she’s trying to use her powers to prevent his death. This is more complicated than it looks, but before long she’s managed to find closure in another way. The story is a bit familiar, but the writers manage to pack a good emotional punch.
“Behold Nekron” by Kenny Porter and Karl Mostert, focuses on Lee’s Green Lantern, Len Lewis. A scientist bonded to the spirit of the World Tree Yggdrasil, he faces off against a massive avatar of death for the fate of humanity. This story pays tribute to Lee’s love for cosmic battles—he is the man who co-created Galactus, of course—and this story has some fun visuals. This is a story well-suited to the writer behind DC Mech, but it also feels the most Lee-esque of any of them so far. It’s got a lot of old-school writing and maybe a little too much infodumping, but it’s still highly enjoyable.
“The Contingency” by Lanzing, Kelly, and Ferreyra, is focused on Shazam—such as it is. This is easily the most radical divergence yet, turning Shazam into a Hulk/Doomsday-inspired beast that is shared by a pair of government agents as their protector. The bearer of Shazam, Robert Rogers, finds himself up against a ruthless psychic villain named Mister Mind and has to unleash the beast, leading to plenty of carnage. This one looks great and is tensely plotted, but it feels like Lee unfortunately just completely didn’t capture the essence of the character like he did with all his other reinventions.
“Titan’s Tempest” by Zac Thompson and Hayden Sherman is another story that pays tribute to the pulp roots of the 1960s, with an Aquaman who can literally turn into water and faces off against a strange supernatural rain threatening to flood the city. This feels like the shortest story in the volume, mostly thanks to its fast pace as our young hero infiltates a villain’s headquarter, rescues a whale, and figures out how to break the laws of nature in quick succession. It doesn’t really resolve its main plot, but the kinetic energy and great art do enough to keep this story engaging.
Catwoman is up next, in “The Cat and the Canary” by Meghan Fitzmartin and Anthony Marques. This one might hew closest to the original hero, as this Catwoman is still a sharp-clawed vigilante—although Joanie Jordan is a model and has a superpowered connection to her pet cat. Desperate to book a gig after her latest gig is poached by her rival Dinah Lance, she takes a shady gig—and winds up trapped in a sick old man’s criminal conspiracy, along with Dinah. This one has a fun, pulpy vibe that ends with the promise of an unlikely team-up in the future. Not too many risks taken here, but none really needed.
Sandman gets the penultimate story, in “Not Only In Dreams” by Steve Orlando and Max Dunbar. This one keeps its hero at arm’s length, only fully revealing him by the end of the story. However, his presence is felt in a series of surprising and sometimes horrific visuals. It’s interesting to see a character whose power is over dreams—and nightmares—to be played as a hero, and the ending of the issue where he liberates a criminal from his demons is surprisingly touching. However, of all the heroes in this volume, this is the one where it feels like we were the most in the dark if we didn’t read the previous books.
Finally, Jerry Ordway takes on “Trust”—and the entire JLA with it. The acclaimed writer-artist puts the final chapter on this anthology with a story that gathers the entire group of heroes along with reporter Lois Lane for what seems like a dysfunctional family meeting. The League is dealing with PR problems, and a chance battle at a conference seems to offer them a way out—but not everything is as it seems. While Ordway’s art is great as always, this story seems to accent that this world is oddly cynical at times, and its version of Lois Lane in particular doesn’t seem to do justice to the character.
A series of profiles in the back give a little more background on the characters, and I feel like they would have been better in the front. Overall, there are some good stories and fun characters in this, and it’s great to see DC paying tribute to one of the GOATs. But these versions of the characters didn’t catch on when they were released, and I can sort of see why.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.