Thursday, November 20, 2014

February 2014 Solicits

The February solicits for DC comics came out this week and have been posted on the usual sites. Here is Newsarama's coverage: http://www.newsarama.com/22750-dc-comics-full-february-2015-solicitations.html

One thing we know is that convergence is happening in April and May. So I don't think DC wants to have any major cliffhangers in March. The usual titles probably have to be in a place where things can pause so that readers don't get antsy.

Here are the super-titles ... some of which sound very interesting.


SUPERGIRL #39
Written by K. PERKINS and MIKE JOHNSON
Art and cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by JOE BENITEZ

All-out war breaks out on Crucible over the fate of Superboy, as Kara faces new and old enemies.

So for one line of solicit, there are things that make this interesting sound gripping.

For one, we see Superboy, the "living weapon", the clone of Lois, Superman, and Lois/Superman. (Am I getting that right, I desperately wanted to forgot the awful treatment of that character in the New 52.) The feel here is that Kara is helping Superboy, a piece of growth from her initial reaction. So, I hope that we see a better Kon than we have before.

Second, old enemies is another phrase to grab hold of. How many 'old' enemies does this Supergirl have? The World Killers? Black Banshee? Tycho? H'El? Who can be re-utilized?

Then the new looks of Maxima and Captain Comet on the cover are fantastic. I really think Emanuela Lupacchino has stepped up her game.




But the real thing that got me was Supergirl's sleeves! Oversized! Pointy! Colored bands at the end! These all harken back to the prior Supergirl. Hopefully we will see a new costume on Kara, even if it is just slight tweaks like this!



JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #9
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by NEIL EDWARDS and JAY LEISTEN
Cover by ANDREW ROBINSON
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
1:25 Variant cover by MATTEO SCALERA

“The Infinitus Saga” continues as the team joins the Legion of Super-Heroes, a Thanagarian war fleet and a Rannian war fleet to battle the endless forces of Infinitus!

Could this mean a truce between Thanagar and Rann is happening, united against a common foe? Sounds cosmic!

I love this cover. It sort of feels like Dan Brereton. And Ultra in the background is a nice touch.  Beautiful stuff by Andrew Robinson. 


ACTION COMICS #39
Written by GREG PAK
Art and cover by AARON KUDER
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by NICOLA SCOTT and DANNY MIKI
1:25 Variant cover by JUAN JOSE RYP

The terror from Smallville has spread across the globe, and now Superman must make a sacrifice to save it! Don’t miss the final chapter of “Horrorville”!

This is the final chapter of Horrorville, meaning next month might be an epilogue or a 'done-in one' pre-Convergence. I wonder just how long the beard is going to stay.

The first issue of this arc was eerie and this cover continues that trend. Nothing like creepy kids to kick up the horror notch.



This also reminded me of how the Witch of the Wastes lost her powers in Howl's Moving Castle. 

I am so glad Pak/Kuder are back to running the ship.    



SUPERMAN #39
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR., and KLAUS JANSON
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by AMANDA CONNER
1:50 Variant cover by SHANE DAVIS

This emotional story reveals a rarely seen side of The Man of Steel as an ordinary person, as the super-star team of Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson continue their epic run on the series!

Not much to go on here. Is he powerless? Is he trying to solve some problem only as Clark? Does he still have his power but realize he can only do so much? 



BATMAN/SUPERMAN #19
Written by GREG PAK
Art by ARDIAN SYAF and SANDRA HOPE
Cover by ARDIAN SYAF and DANNY MIKI
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by J.G. JONES
1:25 Variant cover by JOE QUINONES

Superman and Batman have learned the devastating truth behind the identity of the unseen terrorists they’ve been pursuing. But will they recover in time to stop them from killing more innocents?

This solicit sounds like the 'next to last chapter' of this arc. We don't know what is going on and I don't recognize the people the heroes are attacking.

One thing I do like is seeing Supergirl right there. Pak has said he wants to include her in Superman's stories. Nice to see the cousins working together. 



SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #16
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA
HARLEY QUINN Variant cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL

Superman and Wonder Woman come face-to-face with the newest arrival to The New 52: MAGOG!

I have faith in Tomasi and Mahnke.

But I am sick to death of Magog. Kingdom Come was a reaction to the violent comics of the 90s! It was a cautionary tale! Not a blueprint!!!

Let's hope this works ... but I doubt it. 






SMALLVILLE SEASON 11: CONTINUITY #3
Written by BRYAN Q. MILLER
Art by IG GUARA, MARCELO DI CHIARA and JULIO FERREIRA
Cover by CAT STAGGS

An alien device streaks toward Metropolis and the Watchtower. As Chloe freezes in fear, her friends rush to her side! And no man escapes the Manhunters – but will Nightwing find a loophole?

The Titans!! Nice.

I know everyone already knows what happens here. But it is still a mystery to me. I will enjoy these last months of this book!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

February Is Harley Quinn Month


I'll be covering all of the February solicits soon. But I thought I would cover the variant cover theme now.

There seems no end to these monthly themes. In February, DC is taking advantage of one of its hottest properties ... Harley Quinn. And why shouldn't they? The Palmiotti/Conner Harley Quinn book is selling like hotcakes. They should plaster her on everything.

Here is a link to Newsarama's cover coverage which includes links to CBR, IGN, and Comic Vine:
http://www.newsarama.com/22728-dc-comics-reveals-february-2015-harley-quinn-variant-cover-theme.html

One thing I am thrilled about with this recent trend of variant themes, is that Supergirl finally is being included. She missed out on Monster month, Batman month, and who knows how many more.

But we have had the Lego cover, the Cooke cover, and now this.

Here is the variant cover of Supergirl #39 which has Supergirl carrying Quinn. It is done by Joe Benitez who has done some issues of the last incarnation of Kara. I think Supergirl's slightly annoyed expression works well with the insane look on Harley's face.


Here is the variant cover of Justice League United #9 by Mikel Janin.

I have to admit I like this one better. Janin's work has always impressed me. There is something more mischievous about this Harley. And I love the 'poster' of the JLU behind her. I would want to see that picture. So to have her deface it actually works.

Plus, I have always wanted to see Janin's take on Supergirl.

I have love hate relationships with variants. But I might have to get these too!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review: Smallville Chaos #4


Officially, Smallville Season 11 has ended, its last digital chapter released last week. But some of us are addicted to print and so have a little more time.

Smallville: Chaos #4 came out last week, the last chapter of this 'episode' and, as usual, it did not disappoint. One of the things that I think is interesting in this particular issue is that Superman doesn't necessarily do too much. This episode seems to belong to the Superman family and Lex. It is apparent from the cover, a great action shot of Supergirl, Superboy, and Steel Hank Henshaw.

We knew from the beginning that this season was ending with a crisis. We finally get there here.

Art is done by Agustin Padilla who bring a sort of angular feel to the proceedings which works. Lots of action here. His Kara looks fierce. I like it.


The book opens with the Super-family dealing with the Eclipso plague in Metropolis.

This is one of those small humorous moments that are common in Smallville. I'll miss these.

A news helicopter is covering the fight and it is implied that the female reporter is told by her boss (who assumes Supergirl is wearing a skirt) to get an upskirt shot of Kara. The reporter says it is idiotic and no one would fly wearing just a skirt. Of course it doesn't make sense to fly in a skirt.

It did remind me of the whole 'bike shorts' debate from years ago.


In the brawl, Hank Henshaw is somehow able to use his technology to mentally link to the Eclipso horde. And we are privy to the history of the black diamond from its discovery to the evil of (I assume) Mayan sacrifices. I do like that we get a little history of this cursed thing.

I don't know how a living computer program can telepathically link with people's brains ... but there you go.


That link does give Henshaw an idea. He can lure all the Eclipso gems out of the innocent citizens by offering it the super-powered bodies of Kara and Conner.

I don't know if I quite understand why it would take the bait. But it does.

I did chuckle at Kara and Con's 'eew' when Eclipso talks about making them into an Adam and Eve first couple ... meaning breeding. Eewww indeed.

Great art here though. Love that second panel, showing the heat of battle.


Meanwhile, in Antarctica, Lex continues to barter with the Monitors. Why destroy when they can simply recreate? And Lex's pitch has the Monitor's intrigued.

While Lois decries Lex for aiding and abetting the enemy, Lex has a much more tempered response. He is the only one who right now might save the world. Again, it shows some of the warped ethics of Lex. He thinks he is the good guy here.

Of course, there is some meta-ideas here, as rebooting universes has been happening in DC for a while now.


Now out in the open, the Eclipso demon's weakness is suddenly evident. Sound waves can shatter it.

Supergirl and Superboy ask 'for whom the bell tolls' and answer Eclipso!

The shock of the attack makes all the tiny shards recede and coalesce back into the true diamond form. Suddenly the epidemic is controlled.

Great Supergirl (and Superboy action here).


Inside the Monitor ship, which is in the Bleed between universes, the Monitors decide to kill their captives. They throw Superman out of the ship where the chaotic environment will kill him.

He is resilient though. He flies to the other side of the ship and breaks back in, albeit significantly injured. Superman knows the Bleed environment will kill the Monitors too. His only hope is to get Lois into an escape pod, disable the ship and head to Earth.

You have to love the Smallville Lois. She won't back down to anyone. When the Monitors acknowledge they underestimated Clark and Lois, Lois says 'you bet your ass you did.'

I will miss this Lois.


Back on Earth though, there Hank Henshaw realizes the only way to protect the Earth from the Eclipso diamond is for him to take it into deep space. He leaves the planet ... thanks to a little boost of Green Lanterns ... taking the gem with him.

Remember, Henshaw went a little nuts earlier in the series. It is great to see him turn it around and become a hero, inspired by Superman. He leaves for space because he knows that is what Superman would do. Nifty!

As for Lex, his Yellow Lex Corps decides to go rogue. Skeets is able to help free Booster Gold, Michael Holt, and Ted Kord.

But Lex has the ultimate defense against his own troops. He also wears a yellow ring, the master ring which controls everyone elses. He has the rings self-destruct (unfortunately his own as well) killing his troops.

There is no honor among thieves.


Superman and Lois are able to escape the Monitor ship and land on an Earth. Clark is badly wounded.

And things don't look like they will be getting any better. The Monitors' ships have arrived on the Smallville Earth. It is the beginning of the Crisis.

We knew that this 'episode' was the set-up for the final Crisis. We finally get to the big event, the one hinted at back in the first issue of this series. As a result, things do need to wrap up a bit quickly. The Eclipso ending, the destruction of the Yellow Rings, Superman and Lois returning to Earth ... they all happened fast and a bit loose in this issue. But that said, there is so much fun, so much character progression, so much depth to the characters here that I am able to roll with it a bit.

(In my head I compare it to Lobdell's Krypton Returns where plots were very loose and things happened fast AND there was bad characterizations and lack of progression. That I could not simply roll with.)

And so I get to cling to Smallville a little longer.

Overall grade: B/B+

Monday, November 17, 2014

DC All Access With K. Perkins


We are only a couple of days away from the release of Supergirl #36, the first issue by new writing team of K. Perkins and Mike Johnson. And DC has been doing its part by drumming up the publicity. That included a live interview between DC All Access host Tiffany Smith and Perkins herself. Here is the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9yA81miMI4&feature=youtu.be

For me, this was similar to prior interviews as we learn about Crucible and hear that Kara has finally embraced Earth as her home. But there were a couple of things I loved here.

One, I loved that Supergirl's 'Humanity' class is her time on Earth. It is sort of like on the job training. As someone who went to a liberal arts college and was immersed in the 'Humanities', I loved this statement.

And to hear Crucible described as the child of Galactica and Hogwarts made me smile. That is an odd and sort of explosive conglomeration.


On top of those tidbits, we also get a couple of new images from the issue.

That includes this picture of Maxima ...


And this picture of Maxima!

Wow! She looks fantastic. Between these images and the pictures of Kara in the coffee shop, I think that artist Emanuela Lupacchino has really kicked up her game a notch. Unbelievably beautiful!

2 more days!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Convergence


News of DC's Convergence has spread like wildfire throughout the internet and I will begrudgingly admit to being interested in some of what is happening.

Here are links from the usual sites to discuss.

http://www.comicvine.com/articles/dc-announces-10-convergence-titles-featuring-steph/1100-150368/

http://comicsalliance.com/dc-comics-announces-its-2015-event-convergence-but-what-does-it-mean-for-the-dcu/

http://www.newsarama.com/22683-dc-s-convergence-week-one-donna-troy-oracle-married-superman-montoya-question-more.html
 
For someone like me who simply hasn't fully embraced the New 52 universe, who miss the original Wally, and Donna Troy, and the Steph Brown Batgirl, and the Supergirl of Sterling Gates and James Peaty, this Convergence stunt is a little balm.

It's not that I like all the universes they are bringing back (Flashpoint? Really?). But seeing the Silver Age Charlton heroes, old school JSA, a true Marvel Family, and Freedom Fighters is great.

And now they have announced some of the titles happening over those 2 months. Here are the ones that grabbed me.


JUSTICE LEAGUE
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
When Supergirl, Zatanna, and Jade went to Jessie Quick's baby shower, they didn't expect to be taken to another planet for a year, or to be attacked by Flashpoint Aquaman.

This is a riff on James Robinson's Justice League. This was the 'legacy' League with Dick Graysonas Batman, Superman, Jade, Donna Troy, and Jessie Quick. (It also had Congorilla and Starman.) So I will happily revisit this group. I miss all those characters.

Too bad we couldn't get Stering Gates or Robinson (currently at Marvel) to handle these issues. I guess one of these blondes is Kara and the other is Jessie.


I think I liked that run more than many. Kara was the muscle and her relationship with Batman was great. And Donna was just fierce.


SUPERMAN
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist Lee Weeks and Dan Jurgens/Norm Rapmund
Superman and Lois deal with the impending birth of their child as he is called in to protect the city.

Don't like Superman being with Diana? Wish he was still married to Lois? Wish Dan Jurgens was still on the super-books? Like Lee Weeks' art on the recent Sand Superman crossover in Futures End?

Well this book is for you! And for me! Huzzah!


BATGIRL
Writer: Alisa Kwitney
Artist: Rick Leonardi and Mark Pennington
After a year in the dome, Stephanie Brown is not sure she wants to be Batgirl again. But when Flashpoint Catman attacks, Red Robin and Black Bat call her back into service.

I miss the Steph Brown Batgirl book so much. So I am happy to see that she is coming back albeit briefly. And Black Bat and Red Robin are there as well! Too fantastic.

Nothing against Alisa Kwitney but how can you do a Steph Brown Batgirl book and not have Bryan Q. Miller write it??

So despite snubbing my nose at the idea when it first was announced, DC has sprinkled enough old glory out there to make me interested.

Insane.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: Justice League United #6


Justice League United #6 came out this week, continuing the Infinitus saga and re-re-reintroducing the Legion of Super-Heroes to the New 52 universe. So far, writer Jeff Lemire has been able to walk a fine line of classic and contemporary. He has mixed in Silver Age charm, established classic characters, and even Bronze Age bruisers with the modern sensibilities of comic story-telling. He has juggled the cast of characters, moving characterization forward without stalling plots. And most of all, he has kept a sense of whimsy in the book, adding in humor and banter.

This was a classic middle chapter of a 'saga', mostly action with brawls between the good guys and the bad guys happening on 2 fronts. The action sequences are well executed and choreographed. But for me, it was the character moments that still stood out amid the fisticuffs.

Neil Edwards is on art here (with inkers Jay Leisten and Drew Geraci). His style is smooth and clean, which meshes well with the book's tone. I love Edward's Legion and his Supergirl is strong and impressive.


The crux of this arc is Ultra, the Multi-Alien. The Legion believes he is destined to become the galaxy-eating entity called Infinitus. Their solution to this future threat is to come to the present and kill Ultra.

One of the aspects of this League that I like is that there is good mix of veterans and newcomers to the hero-ing business. Animal Man, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow are all established. Supergirl and Stargirl are neophytes. And Equinox and Alana Strange are pure rookies. Even in this scene, we see that while the League and Legion battle the Cadre above ground, Equinox has been sent into the base with Ultra as much for her protection as his.

This small scene though spoke loud to me. Here both Ultra and Equinox talk about their fears and concerns. And Ultra reaches out to her.

I can't help but think that this acceptance of him by J'Onn and now Mii is going to somehow impact the future.

Half the League is a galaxy away though, trying to find Hawkman and Byth. It is here on the moon of Ryngor that one of the fights breaks out.

Now Lemire has commented that Supergirl is head-strong and maybe overly confident of her abilities. Here Byth wonders if it is all a front. Could this bullish, sorta angry exterior by Kara be a mask for a frightened little girl who feels all alone?

While I don't think she is cowering in her mind, that sort of tough outside masking a vulnerable inside makes sense for this Supergirl. And is better than her being a disaffected loner.

Of course, Byth might just be playing mind games.

And then he literally gets a little handsy with Kara who appropriately calls Byth 'utterly vile'.


I don't feel the need to cover the battles in depth but this did sort of stick out to me.

With Stargirl apparently injured by some of Byth's acolytes, Animal Man goes all 'Sabertooth', sprouting mutton chops, forearm hair, and claws. And he seems to mow them down, ripping through them in a bloody swath.

I don't know if I want a Buddy who so casually goes berserker. It doesn't seem to fit his easy-going nature.

Now he has seen his own son die. Maybe he is overly protective when in father mode. But this seemed a little too blood-thirsty for me.


During the ongoing skirmishes, Black Mass (who seems to be teleporter in this new incarnation) whisks Equinox and Ultra to the Ryngor moon. He then sends Supergirl back to Earth. Suddenly, the battlegrounds are dramatically changed.

Again, Byth needs Ultra on this spot so that Infinitus can manifest himself within Ultra.

I will admit, adding in Zeta beams and teleporters during ongoing battles keeps things fresh. Supergirl was the muscle on this moon. Just like that, she is gone.


Not that Equinox is no slouch. Even on this moon, her elemental powers are strong enough to blow the villains away with a gust of wind.

I have decided that Equinox's costume is going to change colors with the seasons. Blue during winter. Green during Spring. Red in summer. Orange in fall.

We'll see if I am right.


I will admit that Lemire knows how to reel me in with good cliff hangers.

On the moon, Ultra seems somehow befuddled or mesmerized by the space rift that Byth is opening up for Infinitus. And while looking up at the sky, Ultra fires a beam that seems to open up this bleed. And suddenly energy demons/angels come pouring out.

Immediately these beings attack the league, and with seemingly overwhelming numbers.

Now how the heck did that happen? Intriguing? Yep!

I hope we do get some sort of explanation about this.


And that flood of energy makes it difficult for Sardath to teleport the Earth-bound heroes to this new front. (The Cadre have been defeated on Earth by now.)

But Brainiac isn't phased. There is a Legion 'away' team en route. And we see that they have arrived to join the fight against Byth. It is the Legion Lost gang! There is Wildfire! And Dawnstar! And the rest of that crew.

It looks like Lemire is reuniting the team! (Is there any question that we won't be getting a new Legion book within the next year or so?) And what could be a better cliffhanger than this.

As I said above, Lemire and Edwards do a great job with this middle chapter, turning up the action to 10 while moving the plot and the characterization forward as well. Outside of the slight misstep with Buddy, I thought this whole thing clicked ... from Supergirl's fierceness, to Byth's comments about Kara, to Equinox's insecurity ... and her ability to overcome it and be a hero.

I hope Hawkman's brainwashing ends soon (a Saturn Girl mind scrub?) and the two distinct fronts end up uniting into one location. And while the action was great, I hope we see less brawling and more plot next issue. But for now, for this place in the plot, this issue clicked.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sales Review: October 2014



Sales numbers for October have been released over on ICv2 and, as usual, there are some interesting things to notice. Here is the link to the sales chart, definitely worth reviewing in total: http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/30159.html

This was the last hurrah of Doomed in the super-titles and that may have effected the sales. But these were Doomed tie-ins in trade dress only. Maybe tangentially we hit upon that crossover but otherwise these 'aftermath' issues weren't crucial.


Supergirl #35 was not only a Doomed Aftermath issue but was also the last issue of Tony Bedard's run on the title. After two plus years of wandering, wallowing in anger, and essentially being lost, Bedard redeemed the character, putting her back on Earth and making her heroic.

In this last issue, we see Supergirl embrace her new attitude, reject 'the bad boy', and find a little romance. It was a better epilogue to Bedard's run than it was an aftermath of Doomed.

So how did it sell?


The issue sold 26,371 units, another solid month for the book. Supergirl #35 sold  26,510, essentially the same amount.

Now pre-Doomed, the book was drifting into the 22K range in sales, making me a little nervous about cancellation.

And let us not forget, next issue is a bold new direction by K. Perkins and Mike Johnson. Will sales go up? Stay steady? Go down? Certainly, DC has done the publicity to pump this up.

Thanks again Tony Bedard!


Given the upcoming bold new direction of Supergirl, I thought I would look at a real bold new direction.

Batgirl #35 came out last month, the upheaval and soft reboot of the Barbara Gordon character by Cam Stewart, Brandon Fletcher, and Babs Tarr.

Now this book got a major push by DC and the publicity went viral. The change in costume was a nice way to mark this as a new direction as well. And just that seemed to set the net on fire. We had comic artists drawing Batgirl in this new outfit. Cosplayers were posting pictures. People were asking where they could buy yellow Doc Martens.

Seriously, never before had I seen a creative shift like this be so universally embraced and explode across fandom. And this was a team replacing Gail Simone! And sort of de-aging Barbara a bit, putting her back in school, and luring in new readers. I thought for sure this would sell 100K.


It didn't hit that mark. But it sold just under 63K! Amazing.

I do wonder if DC saw the buzz of Batgirl and pushed the Supergirl direction through faster.

I can only imagine how happy I would be if Supergirl sold 62K. But even the 'Hogwarts in Space' tagline didn't grab the buzz this new Batgirl direction did.