I’ll preface this post by saying that I’m going to be walking on eggshells a bit in this post. I want to go full-on NERDRAGE here… But I know it isn’t fair, to either Jeph Loeb the creator, or Jeph Loeb the person.
In fact, I almost made an accidentally inappropriate cancer joke in my post about Ultimate Spider-man which I deleted… mainly because the layers of it were incredibly offensive, both as a comic reader, and the spouse of a cancer survivor.
To me, Jeph Loeb’s career is one of the saddest stories in modern comics. Let me be clear: I’m sure there are people that still read and enjoy Loeb’s work. Great! I’d love to talk to you about it. Seriously! I want to know because I’d love to be able to enjoy anything he’s done recently. But I don’t. And it saddens me greatly.
My exposure with Jeph Loeb began with one of his many collaborations with artist Tim Sale in the Batman story The Long Halloween (1996). I loved The Long Halloween. So much. When Loeb gets with Sale, they can give birth to an excellent story (more on that in a bit). The follow up to Long Halloween, entitled Dark Victory (1999) is also excellent. Both stories have a mixture of superheroes and film noir that give them a distinctly different feel from a typical Batman story.
Then there’s Hush. Oh boy, is there Hush. Unlike Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the Hush story arc took place within the confines of current Batman continuity (running through issues 608 and 619 of the Batman monthly comic in 2002). These stronger ties to the ongoing continuity of the Batman tales meant that Loeb’s creations and storylines, such as the villain Hush, would be available to all other writers and artists in the future… well… until the New 52 wiped all that away, I suppose.
But Hush was great too! It had Batman against a large collection of rogues, involved in a mystery with murder, intrigue… and Superman’s there too! The writing was solid and the art, provided by the incomparable Jim Lee, was an excellent companion to Loeb’s dialogue and pacing. One of my favorite modern Batman stories!
2002 also brought us another Tim Sale collaboration: Spider-Man: Blue and the following year brought Hulk: Grey, another team up for Loeb and Sale. Both great stories about classic Marvel characters. The color theme for Marvel characters began with Daredevil: Yellow (2001), which I haven’t read because… well, I have no interest in the character. Hate me now!
But here our troubles begin.
2003 brought the fairly inconsistent, if entertaining, Superman/Batman comic. I’ve read the first 12 issues or so and there’s nothing particularly wrong with the story… there’s just nothing terribly outstanding from Loeb in the first couple arcs. Maybe it comes from my not-so-subtle distaste for ongoing caped-hero stories, maybe I try to hard to compare it to Loeb\Sale’s excellent 1998 miniseries A Superman For All Seasons. I don’t know. I just don’t I didn’t particularly care for Superman/Batman.
Superman/Batman #25 was the last issue written by Jeph Loeb, but not the last written by a Loeb. His son, Sam Loeb, wrote issue #26, but passed away from cancer before it was completed. The issue includes a back-up story entitled “Sam’s Story” written by Loeb and illustrated by Sale.
The cynic that lives right below the surface of my mind wants to be cynical about the issue, particularly the back-up, but… I just don’t have it in me. It’s a wonderful tribute to a young author who was never able to fully realize his dreams.
Late 2007 into early 2008 gave us Ultimates 3 which suffers from many issues, but the most glaring and painful is how forgettable it is… which is particularly bad because the first two volumes, written by known mad-man and possible future-Grant-Morrison-hit-target Mark Millar, are spectacular (well, mostly). But I could forgive Loeb for that if it weren’t for Ultimatum.
I’m not going to go on and on about the faults and issues present in Ultimatum (November 2008). Honestly, someone much funnier and much more well-versed in comics has already done so. But suffice it to say that even for someone who has only thus far attached to the Ultimate versions of Spider-man and Hulk… Ultimatum is almost enough to turn me off the rest of the Ultimate universe forever.
That said… if Loeb gets back on Batman or another title I rather enjoy… I’ll still give him another chance. His 2007 tie-in to the death of Captain American titled Fallen Son was roundly well-written… and obviously comes from the depth of sadness Loeb had after his son’s untimely passing.
Plus, as head of Marvel Television, Loeb is at least partially responsible for bringing us the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes which is fun, quick-witted, and well plotted… there are individual episodes, but most of them contribute to a larger, over-arching plot that covers the whole first season.
So Jeph… well, OK, Mr. Loeb… please team up with Tim Sale again. Give us the story we’ve been waiting for. Something introspective, thoughtful… maybe a little bit of a noirish sort of feeling. Toss in a bunch of villains, shake well and remember… We want to enjoy your work as much as you want us to enjoy it.
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