Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Action Comics #45

Action Comics #45 came out this week, yet another chapter in the depowered, angry Superman trying to uncover the forces behind his current predicament. The cover continues the trend of this arc, placing one word writ large to highlight the theme. Here it is 'Injustice' and frankly I think it is the best word to grace the covers in this story so far.

Because what is happening to Superman is an injustice.

The book is co-plotted by Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder, the usual writer/plotter/artist team of this book. And throughout 'The Truth', these two have been a sort of light at the end of a tunnel, showing a still heroic, still good Superman trying to inspire. I have held up Action Comics as the jewel of the super-books.

Unfortunately, the overall arc compels Superman to continue to sink deeper and deeper in to darkness, to succumb to anger, and to lash out. Yes, in this book, Superman does good. And yes, I know that Superman is being influenced by Wrath.

But I am rapidly losing interest in this story. If you are going to deconstruct a character orradically change an established character, you better give me a fantastic story. When you give me an average story, or a confusing story, or an ill-conceived story, it just isn't going to fly.

(Allow me a moment to show you that I can deal with change and I am not always a grumpy old man. Alan Moore makes Swamp Thing a plant elemental, not a mutated man. He makes him a plant elemental. Radically different. Excellent. I was on board. Make Supergirl bitter, angry, and a high school killer and write it poorly. I'm out.Make her a Red Lantern and write it well and as a redemption, I'm in.)

Scott Kolins is on art here and does a nice job of mixing splash pages with pages with many inset panels. I am just not a big Kolins fan.

The book starts out well enough. We see a news report of Superman saving families and refugees from a hurricane. We hear that Superman is depowered, exposed, and only accepted by 23% of the country but he is still Superman.

Hooray. Thank you Greg Pak for shining the light and showing it to us on the first page. And it is a well constructed page by Kolins, the light shining down and Superman raging against the storm.

But that optimism is squelched pretty early. Clark is in a diner in Alabama and we get to see more of the response of the average Joe. The waitress tries to defend Superman. The cook derides Superman. They almost come to blows. And we see that Perry has gone on a tirade against his colleague diminishing the good he has done.

Clark thinks it is all the cloying influence of Wrath. Everyone seems quick to anger, even him. He douses the diner fight by using heat vision to activate the sprinkler system. I didn't realize he still had heat vision.

Clark talks about how hard it has been for him to control his own anger. He knows he has to find and defeat Wrath.

He has set up a mobile headquarters to review all the recent events of his life.

I actually like this sort of characterization of Superman. He is actually doing some detective work here. We know Clark is a smart guy. I am glad this wasn't him getting the information from Batman or another hero. All too often these days we hear Clark say 'I'm not a detective like Batman. I can pick things up and put them down.' Clark is an investigative reporter. He should be able to do this.

But then Hiro shows up. The Toyman has somehow tracked Supes to Alabama and comes in to try to help him.

Of course, Superman's reaction these days is anger. He yells at Hiro for hunting him down. He doesn't want Hiro around because he doesn't want anyone else hurt. So he roughly tosses Hiro out and blows up this backwoods CSI lab.


But I want my Superman to be better than this, stronger than this. Why not explain to Hiro why he is sending him away. Why do this 'scorched Earth' strategy of destroying all this work?

And did this deserve a splash?

Meanwhile, back near Clark's apartment, we see that Lee Lambert is no longer the local hero, local leader.

She is shunned because of her 'Wrath infection'.

Because hey, it's the DC Universe. We can't have someone be accepted as a hero and recognized for their good works. We need to be cynical and grim.


But can't we have an uplifting moment?

We do see what Clark has uncovered. In the guise of Archie Clayton, all slouched and fitted with a Waynetech facial distorter, he works for a laundering company. I like this description, how simple body language can fool people ... like glasses and poor posture.

Clark knows that Wrath in her Metropolis Mayor identity has been heading to Lyfegene, a biological technology company in Alabama. And his tours getting laundry have uncovered a secret lab that he needs to break in to.

While I don't mind Clark doing some investigating, Pak and Kuder make a bit of a jump. They tell us that Clark hacked an electric eye on the company grounds that when broken by a Lyfegene vehicle turns off all the power in the facility. How the heck did that happen? Give me one panel where he plans this. It felt all too easy. This is the villains' headquarters. How could it get shut down so easily.

Regardless, it works. Superman breaks into the lab and sees the Supremacists guarding the place. Evil scientists are working on people clearly effected by Wrath.

It is a creepy panel, people in stocks with inky tendrils, being poked and prodded. This did deserve a splash.

Clark goes ballistic, wading in and trying to free everyone while bashing the bad guys.

But then he runs into Lee, whose arm has turned all Tetsuo, large and horrific.

And that seems to accelerate whatever is happening in Clark. He goes all Wrath-Doomsday. Yet another story where Superman becomes something monstrous. Yet another splash page in this issue.

This issue was up and down. There are nice moments like the opening splash. I like seeing Clark use his investigative skills to track down and infiltrate Wrath's base. And I don't mind hearing the internal struggle he is having to keep his ire in check.

But I don't like when he gives in to the anger, chastising Hiro, blowing up his lab, and becoming this beast. While I can buy Clark doing the detective work, I don't know if this current Superman can hack an electric eye and disable a whole power system.

Frankly I think this is just going on too long. 5 months, 3 titles. And none of it has been particularly well done. And now Action, the one place where I thought I could find a more uplifting take on this new reality has instead gone dark.


But this isn't Superman to me.

Look, maybe this will turn around. Maybe when it is all done the world will embrace Superman again. That somehow his goodness will trump the cynicism of the world. But I haven't seen anything that makes me think it is going in that direction.

Overall grade: C

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Luke Daab's Supergirl Profile

I have seen Luke Daab's superhero profiles in the past and have always been impressed so I was thrilled to see his take on Supergirl here:

Luke had contacted me and others to ask what elements should be in a profile and came up with this great design. Here are Luke's words:

Ever since I saw the trailer for the upcoming Supergirl television show, I've had Kara on the brain. Doesn't it look amazing? I can't wait! To celebrate and manage my own anticipation, I created Supergirl's well-deserved Superhero Profile. (I may have to make shirts of this design!)

This piece received the help of internet friends Dr. Anj  and Keith G. Baker who suggested Argo City and Kara's rocketship as iconography for the design. My original concept included Comet and Streaky. I dread thinking what I would have ended up creating without their insights. Thanks guys! The biggest problem this piece posed was whether or not to include Kara's 1980's red headband. It's cheesy and dated. In the end, however, I opted to keep it. I'm not a fan of it in the comics, but I like the way the red breaks up the yellow from Kara's hair and skin tone.

Now that I've seen my first image of Red Tornado from the show, you can only guess who I may design next!

Thanks as always for your support!

I have to say that I love this look, a call back to a classic Supergirl. Argo City, Comet, a retro-looking rocket ... this all works. As for me, I think the headband works for the time and definitely works here. It does seem so add a bit of flash to the Kara figure.

Anyways, head to Luke's Patreon to see his works and be impressed. And Luke, I would be down for a shirt if you make them!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bullet Review: Grayson Annual #2

There weren't many books on my pull list last week and so I purchased Grayson Annual #2. I have heard decent things about the Grayson book. I enjoyed seeing Dick in the recent Batgirl Annual. And this book guest starred Superman. So ... why not?

Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King look at the current situation of these heroes and contrast them to the earlier lives and heroic identities. The current DC Universe is a bit off from the one I grew up with so this issue riffs on that change. They might be different in powers and surroundings. But have they changed internally.

The art is standard fare by Alvaro Martinez. There is nothing flashy here. But I was not distracted or unhappy with the art either.

This will be a quick review just looking at the moments that resonated.

We start early on with a flashback of Batman, Robin, and Superman teaming up to defeat Blockbuster. It is a nice look at their personalities. Superman easily defeats Blockbuster but remains a down-to-Earth hero, acknowledging that he was part of the team and fist-bumping the young Robin. 

And Dick is impressed. Dick calls Superman 'cool' and 'just a guy' as a compliment. Superman is approachable and friendly.

Of course, Batman isn't buying it. Superman is an 'unknown'. This is a universe where it is clear, Batman can't be friends with Superman.

Dick is in Gotham on a mission for Spyral. Clark is in Gotham as well, probably around the time he was there in Batman/Superman. The two run into each other and catch up.

You want to see how crazy the DC universe is? Read the recaps of recent times the two give. It sounds a bit ridiculous when you read it in such an encapsulated form.

Robin and Superman?


Agent of Spyral and Clark 'Superman' Kent.

The two don't have much time to reminisce. The Fist of Cain is in the city and they are looking to cash in by killing either of the heroes. And to make matters worse, the agents of Cain are hopped up on the blood of Blockbuster.

There are some cute moments as Clark and Dick go on the run and fight when they can.

For one, Superman talks about how he continues to wreck his motorcycles. But I love that he names them. This one is called Lana. That does sound like something Clark would do.

But it is clear that Dick and this depowered Clark are no match for this army. They have to hide out for a bit.

In another nice moment, Dick talks about picking the name Nightwing. If the legend of Nightwing is powerful enough to inspire someone as incredible as Superman than it is worth adopting.

I like this callback to some old school Kryptonian culture. There is some history in this universe.

And then another good moment. Superman looks at this Grayson who has become a bit jaded and calls him on it. Superman cannot believe that this world would somehow dim Dick's bright outlook.

Dick recalls that moment when Batman said that Superman isn't just a guy. And I think the point here is that Batman is someone who has let the world get to him. And it reminds Dick of what he used to be, way back, when he wore a bright suit and smiled.

Again, an inspirational Superman.

No surprise, the two defeat the Fist of Cain and Blockbuster ... albeit with a hand from Luthor. In fact, Luthor is sort of a deus ex machina, teleporting in the weapons needed to defeat the crew.

In the end, the two do get a quiet moment. Superman talks about how everyone has changed, can change. Because they aren't legends yet. They are just guys.

Is this Seeley defending the recent dramatic changes in these characters? Is it reminding readers that they can change? Is it just a callback to that early moment where Superman showed that even with immense powers he was relatable? Now, without powers, he is the same man?

It is a good issue with a good Superman. And I always liked these two characters interacting. So I would keep my eye out for this issue, especially if you are sick of the 'eye for an eye' Clark in Superman. While the price point might be a sticking point, keep it in the back of your mind. Maybe when it eventually hits the dollar bin or during a store sale?

Overall grade: B+

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Supergirl Sighting In Lois And Clark

I have been very intrigued to read Dan Jurgens Superman:Lois and Clark book which has sprung from the pages of Convergence. That Convergence miniseries which gave us back a married and happy super-couple was one of the highlights of that event.

But how/where does Lois and Clark exist in the new DCU? Are they on the main Earth? Is this Clark watching the New 52 Clark muddle along? Dan Jurgens answers some of those questions over on Here is a link:

But really what I wanted to share here was this page. That last panel shows a headband Kara. And clearly this is the scene from the main Convergence comic where Barry, Hal, and Kara had to head back to the Crisis to 'save it'. I was flummoxed by this when I read it. Where they stopping the Crisis? Making sure the Crisis happened as it did? Did they die again?

I don't want to pick the scab of Crisis #7 again but I hope that Supergirl still sacrifices herself to save the multiverse. As reviewed ad nauseum in July, I think that moment stands out as a special one in comic history. Don't retcon it.

But a Lee Weeks' drawing of Supergirl? That is a win!

Monday, October 5, 2015

DC Superhero Girls Now Live

A couple of months ago we saw the first visions of DC Super Hero Girls, a new website, cartoon, and toy line promoting the female superheroes in the DCU. The initial look had the flavor of Monster High or My Little Pony Canterlot Girls. But there was a nice mix of characters and personalities which made me happy.

Well producer Shea Fontana announced that the website is now more alive and it is worth peeking at:

Not only do you get to meet the characters again but there are games and pictures there now as well. One of the games is a sort of horizontal Temple Run, a way to grab coins and avoid traps. You start as Wonder Woman and can unlock BumbleBee and Supergirl later.

There is also a personality quiz. Turns out I am most like Wonder Woman.

To further promote things, there is an article on USA Today with a brief video: 

I love the discussion with Geoff Johns talking about the essence of the characters. This picture seemed to capture it for me. And I can only hope we have a great Batgirl/Supergirl friendship here.

And the introductory video, looking at SuperHero School was a blast. The student body is pretty deep in DC heroes including Killer Frost, Black Orchid, Mary Marvel, Beast Boy, and Hawk and Dove.

Thanks to blog friend Uncle Screensaver, I saw this pic of the toy run based on the show.  Something else for the shrine?

This whole thing feels like win!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: Superman #44

Superman #44 came out this week and closed the opening arc of 'The Truth', catching this book up temporally with what has been happening in the other titles. I haven't been a fan of this overall arc as those who have read my prior reviews know. This has been something of a mess with inconsistent characterization all around.

I am a bit of two minds when it comes to this issue. I think that this has been Yang's best issue of the run and does a fine job of showing just what the fallout of this major reveal would be. This would be a game changer and while I think the stories in Action, Superman/Wonder Woman, and Batman/Superman have shown that, there is something about this issue that made it hit home. Maybe because we are still in the transition time when Clark is still trying to live as Clark. And we really see how this reveal effects just about everyone from friends, to villains, to the average person living in Metropolis.

That said, we are still stuck with some wonky characterization and further devolution of Superman into something that is moving further and further away from the character I have loved. It truly feels like we have been in a decade rut with Superman with just a few arcs here and there rising to greatness.

John Romita Jr is on art here and is ... well ... John Romita Jr. There are a couple of panels that I actually mulled over and thought were very good. But overall, I think his work is rushed and unpolished.

The issue starts with Clark walking home and being attacked by a new version of the Royal Flush Gang. They know he is Superman after all.

Alas, they are still the Royal Flush Gang (or some reasonable facsimile of them). Superman takes them out in short order.

During the squabble, '10' sees the writing on the wall and surrenders. But before being taken in she thrashes King for his behavior towards Ace.

She gives a line which will set the tone for the issue. Violence is the only way that people can protect their own. Without Superman's level of super-powers, it is the solution.

Now you would think that Clark Kent would shake his head disapprovingly. Or tell her that maybe if she wasn't in a supervillain gang, she wouldn't be in this predicament. Instead he sort of looks on, takes it in, and as we'll see, agrees with her.

Unfortunately, Clark has to keep running because he hears about a hostage situation at the Planet.

Safely away from the action, Lois is talking with her father, General Lane.

In a sequence I did like, Sam thinks that Lois has revealed Clark's truth as a way for Superman to be besmirched, hunted, captured. He is proud of her for what he thinks is a betrayal of sorts. And the General isn't too quick to run to Superman or his friends aid. He seems almost smugly satisfied to let things get messy for the man of steel.

Lois' expression of surprise is great here, one of the panels where I thought Romita succeeded. No one seems to understand that she revealed this secret for the right reasons ... to save her friend.

The Planet staff has been captured by Livewire, Killer Croc, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, and Shockwave. Sort of a motley crew.

After some snarky banter with Livewire regarding Steve Lombard (again, a bit out of character for Clark), he proceeds to pound his way through the group. Even slightly depowered, this group can't hold back Clark.

Clark finds the rest of the staff being held at gunpoint by a crazed Planet employee.

This employee's wife died in a Titano attack on the city. Now the man thinks that his wife was singled out because he worked with Clark. This reveal is effecting even those remotely affiliated with Clark/Superman. It has caused this man to crack.

So while I might not like this direction, I have to say that this look at just how massive this reveal is, how it's ripples endlessly. We saw this more positively in Lee Lambert and the tents around Clark's apartment. Here we see a very personal negative response.

In that skirmish, Perry is shot.

There is a lot I don't like about The Truth. Perry's attitude is one of the things I like the least.

Could you ever imagine Perry slapping the glasses off of Clark? 

If part of this arc is to show extreme reactions to this incredible revelation then Yang is bringing it. But this seems off.

And this is one of my overall problems with Superman comics these days. Clark isn't acting like Clark. Perry isn't acting like Perry. Lana isn't acting like Lana. People aren't recognizable.

I am not saying that characters need to be frozen, immutable. But they need to act in a way that makes sense for who they are.

With this ugly situation behind him, Clark broadcasts a movie from the rooftops. If anyone tries to hurt his friends, he will hurt them 1000 fold.

How horrible.

Not 'you will be stopped'. Not 'my friends and I are ever-vigilant and will capture you'.

I will hurt you 1000-fold.

It is so dark that even Luthor, watching the feed, smiles. He knows that suddenly Superman isn't the symbol he once was.


Oddly enough, the one character who has been portrayed well in this story is Lois, even though she got a lot of the internet hate regarding this arc.

She calls Clark out for this bloody justice he is threatening. 'That isn't how Superman is supposed to work.' At least somebody recognizes it!

Instead, Clark lashes out at her and blames her for this. There is no acknowledgment of the Quarmers draining him, of the dead body in Hordr's lair, of how she saved his life.

Clark decides that to wallow in anger and bitterness is the better path. He says what Ten said earlier. Over the top violence is how he will protect his own.


The issue ends with a 'big reveal'. Hordr Root is the son of someone with a history with Superman. His father has forsaken him. And Hordr will prove to his father that he can live up to the family name and remake the world

Let the guesses start!

I initially was thinking he is Vandal Savage's son. Savage would certainly not know of all his offspring. And remaking the world could be some time-travel story. Maybe that is how the undo this whole mess, change history?

Then I thought Hordr would be the perfect son of Hank Henshaw's Cyborg Superman. Loading himself into computers and masks, hating Superman, hating his father. Then I remembered that Zor-El is the current Cyborg Superman. If this arc changes that I will be happy!

And I thought that this was the sharpest written issue by Yang, moving along nicely with good transitions.

All of this said, I am sort of sick of this 'new' depowered angry Superman. I am sick of the bloodied knuckles, snap judgments, and alienation. I want my Superman to rise above things, to solve the problems in the best way. Not slowly descend morally to the point that Luthor is pleased.

Overall grade: C+

Thursday, October 1, 2015

John Byrne Action Comics #252 Homage

My comic book store recently put out a glut of $1 books that required some degree of patience as I flipped through the jumbled collection. One of the things that I came across were nice crisp copies of all three parts of 'The Supergirl Saga', the formal introduction of the Matrix Supergirl to the post-Crisis DCU. The copies in my collection were somewhat dog-eared from the multiple readings. So I splurged the $3 to buy a more pristine set, putting the older original ones in the 'readable' pile, a longbox I have of beloved issues, out of bags and boards, and available for reading in almost any environment.

I haven't reviewed this story properly on the site, something which feels like an oversight that I should rectify at some point.

But until that day, I thought I would share one panel from Superman #21 which is a nice homage to Supergirl's first appearance.

In the issue, Superman feels he is being followed and so does some fancy flying to end up face to face with ... Supergirl?

Surprised, he says 'Great Guns! A flying woman in a variation of my costume! Is it ... some kind of illusion ..?'

Those words sound awful familiar

Looking back to the classic cover of Action Comics #252, we hear Superman say something very very similar. 'Great guns! A girl flying! It - uh - must be an illusion!'

Changing the 'girl' to 'woman' makes sense given the time and the character of Matrix.

But there can be know doubt that those words were chosen very carefully by Byrne. How often does Superman say 'great guns'? These sort of Easter Eggs are appreciated by this old time fan.

Writer/artist John Byrne always had a healthy respect for the source material and often would do nods to the past like this one. I have talked about how this Bizarro story was very similar to Bizarro's first appearance in the Superboy book. And over on Too Dangerous for a Girl, I talked about Byrne's reimagining of Lori Lemaris in the new universe. So this little nod to Supergirl was recognized and appreciated.

So should I review this story in the usual in depth Anj fashion?