Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: Supergirl Being Super #2

Supergirl Being Super #2 came out last week and was a very moving chapter in this Elseworlds take on Kara Zor-El. Mariko Tamaki is known for her coming of age stories and this seems to fall into that mold. There are super-powers and Kryptonite and S-shields on blankets. But really this is a story about life changes for this Kara.

Last issue seemed to concentrate on the awkward feeling of 'otherness' that most teens feel. People are defined in few words. The jock. The feminist lesbian. But Kara doesn't seem to know who she is. Add the layer of otherworldliness to her and you definitely have someone trying to figure out their place in the world and where they are going. But even the characters who seem to have it figured out, like 'Jen the Jock' still have all these insecurities and questions. What if they aren't who they think they are? I don't know any teenager who didn't have these questions. Heck, I still ask myself some of them.

This issue seems to be all about grief. We start with a tragedy. And then we see the emotional fallout. How do people respond? Do they reach out? Or retract from the world? Do they openly weep? Or become withdrawn and seemingly numb to the world? It is Kara who we see struggling with her feelings and we see her interact with everyone else.

Toss in the superheroics and it is a heavy and well conceived book.

The art on the book is brilliant stuff by illustrator Joelle Jones with vibrant colors by Kely Fitzpatrick. Jones continues to shine, bringing in kinetic panels of action with some slightly warped anatomy and perspective to accentuate matters. But the quiet sad scenes also really explode of the page as well. Wonderful stuff.

On to the book.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Action Comics #974

Action Comics #974 came out this week and really ramped up one of my favorite recent storylines, the mystery of the new Clark Kent. Who is he? Where did he come from? I have a couple of theories ... a Mr. Oz creation, a normal human changed by a discharge of super-energy by the dying New 52 Superman, even some version of Matrix on this world ... but they are pure guesses. If writer Dan Jurgens has dropped any significant hints, I have missed them.

What is clear is that this Clark is more than what he says he is. And the way he has been drawn in certain panels gave him something of a malevolent feel. This issue puts that sort scary behavior on display for us front and center. This Clark has a temper and doesn't like to be made a fool of.

Do I have a better guess at who Clark is after this issue? No I don't. But I do know I am a little more frightened of him. And I am even more intrigued! That makes me happy!

The Clark mystery isn't the only plot in this issue. We get more of Superwoman's recovery and we get a new thread in the re-emergence of Blanque as a threat. So this certainly felt like a full issue, in a very good way.

Patch Zircher and Steve Segovia (with Art Thibert inks) split the art here. Zircher's work on the Lois/Clark pages are just wonderful. Zircher really gives us a wonderful Lois. And, as usual, his page layouts guide the reader's eye nicely. Segovia gets a bit of a more comic world canvas to work on with Fortress settings and alien armor. The different art styles on the differing locales made the whole thing feel pretty slick.

For me, the best thing about this issue was the slow turn of the fake Clark from mild mannered, clumsy, nice guy to scary threat. And nothing conveys that more than this cover by Gary Frank. Clark lurking in the background is eerie. This looks like a horror movie poster.

On to the book!

Last issue ended with a dying Lana being brought to the Fortress to be saved. Initially, it seems like nothing will be able to help Lana from death.

I am assuming that this takes place immediately after the end of Superwoman #7 when Lana just defeated Lena. And I suppose the 'I just saw you there' comment would be because she saw Clark frozen in one of Lena's chrono-cubes.

But that doesn't make sense if Lois is about to go out on that date with Clark, set up in an uneffected Metropolis.

So maybe this is after some other Superwoman adventure? But that doesn't sit right with me either.

These are the things that a group editor is supposed to oversee.

Meanwhile, Lois has set up something of a creepy wall about this new Clark. She is trying to figure out just who he is (aren't we all!!!). And she realizes the only way to get closer to figuring it all out is to get closer to him. We see her preparing for this date with Kent. Zircher shines in these quiet moments of Lois getting ready.

But Jurgens gives us all these new facts about Clark's backstory. His birth parents died in an explosion (interesting) and he was adopted by the Kents. But really what I want is a little more. How deep does this conspiracy go? Are there adoption papers? I suppose with Superman dead, all the existing Clark photos or papers could be attributed to this guy.

Clark shows up for the date ... early. Usually I would chalk that up to a faux pas or a pre-date nervousness. But somehow it comes across as a little bit dark. Was he trying to catch Lois in something? Or catch her off guard?

He then leads her out to an idling limosine. Whoever he is, he doesn't have the 'down to Earth' style of the real Clark. Lois says it. The limo heads to an expensive, exclusive restaurant. And inside, Lois is led to a private room, extravagantly decorated. And then Clark proposes! Proposes!!

Boy, this Clark has acted close enough to the real thing before this issue to have me perplexed. Even I have wondered if he might somehow be a version of the real thing.

But this display? And the quick proposal?

This isn't Clark.

So who is he?

Meanwhile, when all Earthly treatments fail to stabilize Lana, Clark turns to otherworldly cures. If her powers are somehow Kryptonian based, maybe Kryptonian medicine will help.

In a nice look back at history, Superman puts her into his old Battle Armor. That suit has a sort of  fluid matrix healing egg chamber. Thankfully, once inside, Lana stabilizes.

It is a nice callback to the Return of Superman arc from way back when. Given that Dan Jurgens was one of the drivers of that historic story, I guess it isn't a big surprise to see it mined again.

In that story, the 'dead' Superman did stay in the fluid healing chamber of Kryptonian Battle Armor while recovering from his fight with Doomsday.

Nice continuity!

Lois, of course, walks out on Clark after his proposal. She wants nothing to do with it.

And he seems genuinely surprised.

Some of what he says is interesting.

One, he promises to be good. That is an odd statement. Does he mean as opposed to being evil? That he won't do something wrong? It just sticks out as strange language.

But he also says that he feels they need to be together. Is he channeling the history of the real Clark? Does he sense they should be married? That would be specific to the current Clark and not necessarily the dead New 52 Superman who never really clicked with Lois. 

This made my theory about an energy avatar Superman both more and less likely.

When Lois leaves, the tone of Clark changes. And things get a little creepy.

First off, there is that line again about being good. Weird.

But then things change and Clark seems to dehumanize. Suddenly you don't see his eyes through his glasses anymore. He is something else. That look of confusion becomes a stern look, an angry look, a scary look. He vows to destroy who gets in his way.

And then we pan back to see that no one is driving the limo. Great slow reveal on the page. Wonderful art by Zircher,


Cue the Twilight Zone music.

So who is he? We know he has been scanned and is human. So no robot or Eradicator? And what's with the anger ...

Best page in the book! 

I've been ignoring one of the subplots coursing through the issue. Early on, Superman gets notified that Hank Henshaw's group is breaking into the Himalayan Fortress. However, his devotion to Lana and his confidence in his defenses lead him to stay in the Arctic.

I don't quite know how Henshaw's agent gets past the vaunted defenses but he does. And he is telepathic controlled to  release the ultraviolent psychic  Blanque who quickly blows the whole thing up.

In some ways I'm happy. The two Fortress world was confusing. Glad we're consolidating.

And Blanque was a big threat in Lois and Clark. He is a big threat. I'm excited to see what happens next.

Back in Hamilton, the Whites have a standard family dinner.

What is interesting is that Clark downplays what he did with Lana. And Lois doesn't even mention what she did with 'Clark'. 

It is odd to see these two maybe hold back on the truth. Maybe Lois thought that her Clark might be unhappy with the chance she took? Maybe Clark doesn't like to talk about any Lana with Lois?

Or maybe they just don't talk business in front of Jon?

Unfortunately the doppelgänger Clark followed Lois. He sees the real Clark and Jon and knows they are with Lois instead of him.

Suddenly this Clark looks outright violent. And blue energy spills out from behind his glasses. Does that make him more of a Dr. Manhatten construct?

Whatever he is, he is terrifying. Great cliffhanger.

I will say, if my guess of Mr. Oz being Vyndktvyx turns out to be true than this Clark could be a simple 5th dimensional construct. But I simply don't know.

In case you can't tell, I loved this issue. This 'Clark' plot grabbed me from the beginning. And this issue pushed the pedal all the way down. We are t seeing the well intentioned buffoon in this Clark. We seeing someone unhinged and almost unreal. What is he??

And the art shows that subtle transformation perfectly!

Dang, I love a good comic mystery!!

Overall grade: A

Thursday, February 23, 2017

DC Superhero Girls: Tales From The Krypto-Mites Part 1

DC Superhero Girls has entered its third season of shorts on their website. As I noted in past posts, it seems this season will be something more of an ongoing show with running plots as opposed to silly one and done episodes.

And we didn't have to wait long for this to be apparent. The third episode of the season is called 'Tales from the Kryptomites, Part1'. The very fact that it says part one shows the website is thinking more long form while not heading more into feature length DVD films.

I also love that Supergirl seems to be a central part of this arc. The main bad is Lena Luthor (or perhaps here Lena Thorul)! And clearly that history of being a Luthor is part of the plot. I also like some nods to the past within the episode (although I admit that I might be reaching here.

And we end on a nice cliffhanger, making me want to come back.

Go ahead and can watch the episode here.

In the meantime, here are my thoughts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Supergirl Episode 213:Mr. & Mrs. Mxyzptlk

I have been eagerly awaiting Supergirl episode 213, titled 'Mr. and Mrs. Mxyzptlk' for some time and for many reasons. For one, as a big Mxyzptlk fan, I knew this would be a wild episode filled with craziness and fun. But I also knew that Supergirl comic writer Sterling Gates (along with Jessica Queller) was writing it. If anyone has proven they understand Supergirl, it is Gates who has written some definitive stories about Kara. Gates is also a huge comic fan. And I thought (and was correct in thinking) that this episode would be filled with comic references and homages. Just think back to his digital Adventures of Supergirl comic which was set in this continuity and touched on just about every age of Supergirl as well as comics in general.

But there is more to this episode then just 5th Dimensional romantic hijinx. We get progression of all the romantic subplots of the series and even the beginning of another. That's perfect for a Valentine's Day episode. I don't know if I agree that Kara would fall for Mon-El ... but the chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood is undeniable. And Mon seems to be striving to be better which I gues works in his favor.

The best thing for me about this episode is that this is a pure Supergirl adventure. No one else really comes in to save her. She both outsmarts and outpunches all her foes. And she handles herself with confidence and strength. Just last episode I complained about J'Onn needing to come in and save her. No such scene here. Kara deals with all the emotional and super-heroic stuff all on her own and comes out victorious. Of all the great things buried in this episode, that is the shining star above it all.

Before the episode, I told myself I would need a pad at the ready to write down all the references. I was right.

On to the episode!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Toyfair 2017

News from the New York Toy Fair 2017 was released this last week and once again Supergirl has been well represented. As I have said for a while now, I am still a bit surprised to see Supergirl as popular as she is these days. It makes those lean years seem a distant memory.

You can find tons of coverage of the Toy Fair but I include some links where I obtained the pictures I am posting here.

Above you see the Supergirl Rebirth action figure which will be released some time this year. I think this is a great figure. I have always been a fan of the Rebirth  style as it has so many of the elements I look for in 'my' Supergirl costume. But throw in a heat vision head and multiple hands? True bonus! Can't wait for this one.

But wait there's more!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: Super-Sons #1

Supersons #1 came out last week and was exactly the fun sort of romp that I thought it would be. If people think that Batman and Superman would have a hard time being friends, they should read the interactions of the two young heroes Robin and Superboy. Damien's abrasive personality, flaunting of rules, aggressive heroing, and and overall superiority complex contrasts wonderfully to Jon's rule-following, optimistic, and otherwise good behavior.

How and/or why would these two hang out?

While those personalities seem to clash, both are young legacy heroes trying to figure out who they are in this crazy world. There is more in common than not. So I can see why they would seek each other out as well. In my head canon, Damien is lonely and wants someone his age to pal around with.

Writer Peter Tomasi does a great job in this first issue. We get a hint of an upcoming villain. We get a flashforward of a battle, a taste of things to come. And we get a compelling opening adventure which does a nice job of laying out who these characters are. When the issue was done, I wanted more. That is what a first issue should do.

I have praised Jorge Jimenez's art in the past but he really shines here. His style is starting to get a little more daring in my mind. I am starting to get a sort of Chris Bachalo/Humberto Ramos sort of feel, a sort of bending of the art away from realism and into something more interesting.

Super-entertaining and Bat-tastic. Count me in.

On to the book!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Superman #17

Superman #17 came out this week, a one and done horror story focusing on Jon and Kathy and the dealings of the nearby Deadman's Swamp.  In a current comic world of six issue arcs built for trades, I love the one and done. And I especially love it when it stands alone *and* builds on overlying arcs. In this instance, the Deadman Swamp plot point hadn't been touched on since Superman #10. And there is more hints that Farmer Cobb is more than he says he is. So this issue worked for me and worked well.

The Superman title has been the more family-centric title of the super-books, so focusing on Jon also was welcomed. There was a little bit of Stranger Things in this issue so I wonder if storytellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason were trying to plug into that zeitgeist.

And the art by Sebastian Fiumara is perfect for the material. There is a sort of Bernie Wrightson feel to the proceedings. From the swamp surroundings to the moldering mansion to the monstrous animals, this really brought back echoes of the original Swamp Thing series. And that is always high praise.

I have a couple of theories about the proceedings, better said during the review. But the idea of Deadman's Swamp is a nice wrinkle of horror in the otherwise sci-fi tone of the book.

On to the book!