Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back Issue Review: Action Comics #318 - Supergirl Heads To Stanhope


Starting in Supergirl #36 as written by Kate Perkins and Mike Johnson, Supergirl will be attending Crucible Academy, a school for people of cosmic importance and training them to be forces of good.

With Supergirl once more entering an institution of higher learning, I thought I would take a look back into other school days for Kara. Certainly, it looks like entering colleges and acadamies have led to some dramatic events in Supergirl's life and I am sure Crucible Academy will be no different. Now I have already covered Linda heading back to school at Lake Shore University in Daring New Adventures #1, so anyone looking for that story can head here.

So let's set back the time machine to 1964 and look at Action Comics #318, the issue where Supergirl first went to college.


"Supergirl goes to college" was written by Leo Dorfman and had art by Jim Mooney. Dorfman was the primary writer for Supergirl's adventures at this time. And, of course, Jim Mooney is considered by many to be 'the' Supergirl artist, drawing her back up feature in Action Comics for her entire run of Action Comics (outside of her introduction in Action Comics #252).

I am continually amazed at just how much story is jammed into these stories. In 12 short pages, Dorfman has Linda graduate high school, head to college, deal with 5 different hazing incidents, and basically change the culture of the campus.

Now some may read this as an overly sweet, overly sentimental piece of fluff. And it may seem quaint and dated. But I would ask the readers to take a step back and look at the character themes here with Supergirl helping others, remaining optimistic, using her intelligence to outwit her 'enemies', and seeing the best in people. That version of Supergirl is timeless.


 The story starts with a bang as Linda heads to her high school graduation.

I love how Linda is proud of this accomplishment even though her 'super-intelligence' made school somewhat unnecessary. She could have been the best athlete and student but she didn't think that would be fair.

And I can't help but love seeing Fred and Edna Danvers as well, proud of their adopted daughter.






That doesn't mean Linda was a slacker at school. In fact, she wins a 4 year scholarship to Stanhope College for her 'modesty and excellent character'.

It would have been easy to not give Linda a scholarship, or have it be for a high grade point average, but it is for character. And we will see that played out throughout this story. She accepts the scholarship and heads to school.


 After being dropped off on campus by boyfriend Dick Malverne (who won the high school award for excellence in Math and Science and is attending State Tech down the road), Linda sees some sorority hazing.

The president of Alpha Lambda, Donna Storm, is putting some pledges through the paces. One is forced to roll a peanut uphill with her hose. The other is forced to stand in a fountain. I love how Linda feels she needs to right even these small injustices. She nudges the peanut along with her super breath. And when the other pledge leaves the fountain, Linda warms her with heat vision.

Linda is already a semi-known commodity on campus. The other Alpha Lambda sisters feel Linda would be a good member of their sorority. But Donna feels Linda is a small town nobody unworthy of their hallowed halls.

Isn't Donna Storm a great name for a 'mean girl' Sorority queen?

 In fact Donna decides to humiliate Linda through a series of hazing incidents which go from ridiculous teases to outright Herculean requests.

The first request was to head to a department store and get a date with the model appearing in the store front window. It turns out that the model is a monkey. But in a double twist, the monkey turns out to be Beppo, the super-monkey. He flies around the town with Linda which makes Linda even more popular.

The next haze Donna plans is for Linda to wear a ripped and shabby dress to the pledge dance. As Supergirl, Linda flings a planetoid around to Earth so that it causes a lunar eclipse for the outside dance, dimming the lights and hiding the dress's flaws.

Then Donna asks Linda to get an animal mascot for the football game even though all animals are quarantined because of a virus. Linda shows up with Comet the Super-Horse. Hmmm... seems convenient that Linda can get Comet to come.


 It is enough to make Donna suspicious that Linda is friends with Supergirl who is helping her.

She makes Linda promise that she won't use Supergirl's powers to work her way through the next of the sorority's 'tests' to see if she is worthy of being a sister.

And amazingly, Linda promises. And she means to keep her promises ... which means not using her super-powers for the next challenges.

Now that is high character! She doesn't need to agree to this. But she does.

Kissing a monkey and wearing a shabby dress are one thing. Donna decides to up the ante and make the 'tests' ridiculous.

She asks Linda to figure out the nationalities of ten visiting students who are strolling around campus. Now she could have used her xray vision to read their passports. But she promised not to use her powers.

So instead she finds the flags from the prior year's international track meet and runs them up the flagpoles. The international students each stop at their country's flags and salute their nations.

That is pretty slick thinking by Linda.


 So Donna decides to make things even more impossible. Stanhope recently built a new library on campus, a short distance from the old one. Unfortunately, the school didn't budget moving the books. (I hope that the finance people of Stanhope get fired for such an egregious mistake.)

Donna's next test for Linda is to have her move all the books from the old library to the new. These are rather insane tests for a sorority pledge though ... don't you think?

Amazingly, Linda uses her intelligence again as well as tapping into the unbridled power of school spirit. She holds an emergency campus meeting where she implores every student to check out 10 books from the old library and return them to the new one. With such a bucket brigade method, the new library is soon filled with books.

Suddenly Donna Storm isn't thinking that Linda is friends with Supergirl. She thinks Linda is Supergirl.


 In fact, Donna's belief is so great, she pulls a 'Silver Age Lois' maneuver, taking Linda for a ride on a winding mountain road and then intentionally driving the car off a cliff.

Using her super-speed, Linda hypnotizes Donna to sleep, catches the car as Supergirl, places it on a nearby haystack, and then becomes Linda again. This is a miracle that the car just happened to land on a giant soft pile of grass! There is no way that Linda could be Supergirl.

But look at the result. There is some introspection by Donna who realizes she was a snob who resented Linda for being so plucky and upbeat. She simply couldn't break Linda's spirit, tarnish that award winning character. Donna apologizes.

And Linda, again showing that character, accepts the apology without snark, superiority, or schadenfreude.


And, finally accepted into Alpha Lambda, Linda asks that all hazing stop and  the sisters agree. Now that is progress!!

Supergirl is barely in this story. This is a story about Linda. But we see that same hatred of injustice, that fierceness in fighting it, that intelligent mind here ... despite it being with the campus cuddle-bun hair and not the s-shield and cape. I love this story. I mean ... hazing is something I would expect Supergirl to hate.

Will there be a Donna Storm at Crucible Academy? We shall see.

As for this issue, I would hold it of high importance in a Supergirl collection. Linda graduating high school is a big deal in and of itself. But Stanhope as a school is a huge part of not only this Supergirl's history but others as well. We see Stanhope in an issue of Peter David's Supergirl. We saw it as a prep school in Cosmic Adventures. This is a key to her history and therefore crucial.

There is another academy that this Supergirl attended between Stanhope College and Lake Shore University. I'll take a look at that school soon.

Overall grade: A

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back Issue Review: Supergirl #13


We recently learned that Supergirl is undergoing a creative change with new writers coming on board in a couple of months.

That led to my looking back at the writers on the last incarnation's  67 issues: Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly, Tony Bedard, Kelley Puckett, Will Pfeifer, James Peaty, Sterling Gates, Nick Spencer, and Kelly Sue DeConnick. 10 writers in 67 issues!

And now looking at the current incarnations (looking forward to Supergirl #36), here are the writers: Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Frank Hannah, Michael Alan Nelson, Scott Lobdell, Tony Bedard, and now Kate Perkins. 7 writers in 36 issues (and I'm not even counting Justin Jordan's credit on one of the Krypton Returns issues)!

It is an amazing amount of turnover of creators and I think speaks that the current DC management doesn't understand Supergirl or know what long term direction they want her to go down. Will newcomer Kate Perkins and her space school concept last any longer?

And so that brings me to this back issue review: Supergirl #13 from 1997. Why am I reviewing this issue? Because it is written by Darren Vincenzo. It is the only issue of that run's 80 issues (and the 1,000,000 issue) that isn't written by Peter David.

One issue! Out of 81.

You might not like the 'protoplasm from other universe merging with a human girl and gaining angelic powers' idea. But it had legs. And DC trusted Peter David to complete a story arc and idea. As for me ... I loved it.

So I thought looking back at this 'other writer' issue of that volume of Supergirl was worth looking at, if only to contrast it to the merry-go-round of directions the character has been on since Loeb first brought back a true Kara Zor-El.

One thing to note here is that Vincenzo walks in stride with David's vision, enhancing the subplots and characters that David introduced. This wasn't some weird, 'is it in continuity' issue like Wil Pfeifer's 'who the heck is that Zor'El' issue from the last incarnation of Supergirl in issue Supergirl #30. Vincenzo only wrote a handful of issues in his career as a writer but appears to be a pretty prolific comic editor.

And this issue marked the first time Leonard Kirk was artist on the book. He did the bulk of the title up until Ed Benes took over with "Many Happy Returns".

On to the issue.


Now at this time in the book, David had set up Leesburg as a quiet sort of middle America small town. Linda Danvers was a troubled soul who was redeemed/revived by merging with the Matrix Supergirl. And while there were definitely the beginnings of religious overtones (demons, Wally the god-boy was showing up, souls), Supergirl hadn't fully manifested her angelic powers.

So to see a story called Incubus, with an opening image of a ghostly figure caressing a young woman, was sort of par for the course here. Vincenzo is building on the tone of this book already.

But there is definitely a Twin Peaks feel here, this undercurrent of weirdness bubbling beneath the quaint innocent little town. In fact, at this time a 'chaos stream' was flowing beneath the place.

Three young girls in the town have been having the same odd dream. A sweet/creepy suave/scary latin speaking Lothario named Daemon appears in their dreams. It feels oddly pleasant but also draining. The girls are scared and aroused. But they worry what it all means.

Now it feels a bit retro, even for 1997, to think that three high school girls would run to Mrs. Danvers, a religious woman working in the local church, for help. (I never lived in a town like Leesburg so maybe it does happen.)

Linda overhears them talking to Sylvia and decides to follow them and ask them some questions.


She knows about Daemon. In this flashback to her pre-Matrix days, hanging out with Buzz and his devil cult, she saw Buzz call for Daemon. Linda saw the succubus/incubus swirl around this namely girl and feed on her psychic energy.

These flashbacks are key to building up who Linda was, how flawed and quasi-evil she lived. It makes her redemption by Supergirl that much more powerful. It makes her turn to heroism and optimism that much more significant.

We don't see too much of these pre-Matrix days. So seeing this adds substance to Linda, even in this rest issue.


Daemon's powers are relatively vague. But one thing we know is that he can induce sleep. This is actually a dream sequence with Linda bewitched and sleeping under a tree. Within those dreams, Daemon can be throttled. But he also can shapeshift, become smoke, etc.

Here he tells Supergirl to stay out of his business or he'll harm her family.

This also is significant. We have learned that the pre-Matrix Linda had a very rocky relationship with her parents. For this to be a threat she needs to care, a moment of growth in the character that we had seen growing in the earlier issues of this book.


We do get a very nice conversation between Linda and Sylvia in the middle of the book. Sylvia has some working knowledge of demons, gleaned from the bible. She wants to help and isn't sure how. She turns to prayer.

And Linda is supportive of her mother. Sylvia is a bit 2-dimensional here but we know that David has her as a complex character in the book, dealing with addiction, crises of faith, and anger.


But Linda doesn't want to leave things just up to prayer. She wants to help. You could say this is a foreshadowing of her angelic state.

This scene smacked a bit too much like early episodes of Buffy with Linda hitting the local collection of occult books and doing some research. Would a place like Leesburg actually support McGavin's Occult Books? A place with skulls and tarot cards?

But McGavin seems like a nice guy, allowing Linda to borrow the books rather than buying them. He knows she is using them for good. We never see him again and in some ways I'm happy. A local repository of occult facts might be too easy of an deus ex machina.


And so Linda researches and reads and learns some things before falling asleep.

I used to love these scenes in this title. Remember, Linda 'becomes' Supergirl, a taller, blonder, more curvy and adult appearing person. (There is a running gag later in the series where Linda is simply Supergirl and people are wondering why she isn't as 'chesty'.)

There are a handful of scenes where we see Linda in the Supergirl costume, the shirt loose and hanging on her. It is a subtle way to highlight the physical differences.

I really miss Linda.


It turns out that Linda/Supergirl figured out Daemon's weakness. And so she lured him into this dream-trap.

Within Linda's dreams, Linda controls things. And so she tells Daemon to be quiet and hold still. And then she says the sprinklers in her dreams spew holy water.

And that is the end of Daemon.

I suppose it is an easy sort of answer but it does show a thinking Supergirl. She didn't outpunch this demon, she trapped him with her smarts.

So, despite, being the one issue on this title by a writer not named Peter David, this 'rest issue' slips into the mix nicely, bolstering a lot of what we were learning about the town and characters while having Linda be a hero once more. For that I give kudos to Darren Vincenzo.

And Kirk's work is beautiful here. While I missed Gary Frank's work on the title, Kirk was great on the book.

For Supergirl collectors, outside of this being Kirk's first issue, this is of pretty low importance. But I appreciated it for what it was ... a rest issue that didn't upset the apple cart and flowed nicely with the tone of the book.

If only DC would run with a Supergirl idea for a long enough time for the readers to feel comfortable. Even long term fans of the character are starting to get twitchy. Why should we care when things are only going to be different in half a year.

Overall grade: B

Monday, August 25, 2014

Boston Comic Con Recap #2: Chris Burnham Commission


Boston Comic Con is slowly receding in the rear view mirror but I will be beating the drum for three more weeks, sharing commissions and stories from the con. Expect 'commission Monday' through the first weeks of September.

As I mentioned in the last post about the con, I felt pretty lucky to get commissions from the creators I was aiming for.

Here is the commission from Chris Burnham, a really beautiful full color action shot.

I loved Burnham's style on Batman Inc. as it reminds me of Frank Quitely while maintaining its own original feel. Everything about this commission works, from the confident expression on the face to the effortless feel to her hoisting this meteor, to the shadings of the colors to add depth, the that one wisp of hair blowing in front of the left arm while the rest flies behind. I even like the crumbs of the meteor falling away, adding some gravity and direction to the piece. Just lovely.



As a bonus, I scanned my Marcio Takara commission to Takara who then colored it and posted it on Twitter. Just beauutiful! Takara is going to NYCC and has opened up his commission list. Anyone going there should head to his table!


As for the con, I mentioned that it has grown over the years that I have been going. And nothing shows that more than coverage from Bleeding Cool. The place was mobbed and lines were long so I am not surprised ... but sort of disappointed ... to hear the rumor that it might have to move to the Boston Convention Center next year. I really loved the Seaport location. Of course bigger and busier usually means better future cons. Would love to see the con grow big enough to get more creators ... more writers ... and maybe a Marvel or DC booth next year.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

November 2014 Solicits Part 2: The Rest of the Issues


So I spoke about the solicit for Supergirl #36 and the new creative team here. Now it is time to cover the rest of the DC solicits for November.

Here is the Newsarama link to view all the solicits: http://www.newsarama.com/21907-dc-comics-full-november-2014-solicitations.html

Between Multiversity, Worlds' End, a New Gods Green Lantern crossover, and a ton of new non-Batman Batman stuff, DC is making a mark. But outside of Multiversity, Batgirl, and Gotham Academy, I don't think I can afford anything else to be added to my pull.

On to the super-titles.


JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #6
Written by JEFF LEMIRE

Art by TIMOTHY GREEN II and JOE SILVER
Cover by ANDREW ROBINSON

Retailers: This issue will ship with four covers. Please see the order form for details.
The Infinitus Saga continues as a displaced Legion of Super-Heroes tries to prevent the destruction of the 31st century by killing Ultra the Multi Alien! Complicating matters is the fact that Multi is a young innocent in the current time period, forcing the Justice League United to stand in the Legion’s way!

I have absolutely loved this title so far but this solicit has me a bit worried.

 No Legion I know would ever willingly be looking to kill someone, even a threat. It is in their constitution! It is grounds for expulsion from the team. I am thrilled to see the Legion again. But a murdering Legion?? Not so much.

Second, at the Boston Comic Con, I learned from Mike McKone that he was off JLU. I don't know if I would have chosen Timothy Green as someone to take over. Green's style is so rough and warped. It worked fine on a quasi-horror book like Animal Man. But a Silver Age-y book like JLU needs someone whose style is smoother.

I need this book to remain awesome.


ACTION COMICS #36
Written by GREG PAK

Art and cover by AARON KUDER

A new epic begins! The deck is stacked against Superman when Smallville is poisoned by the appearance of dark magic and ancient horrors! Can Superman figure out what’s going on and save his hometown before this evil epidemic spreads across the entire world?

Doomed is over! Pak and Kuder remain on the book! A phenomenal iconic cover! And a mystical new story. 

Hurrah! Hope this book gets back to the excellence we saw pre-Doomed.


SUPERMAN #36
Written by GEOFF JOHNS

Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR. and KLAUS JANSON

Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. continue their stunning work on SUPERMAN with “THE MEN OF TOMORROW” chapter five! Superman and Ulysses are an unstoppable team, thwarting the plot of one super-villain after another, but when Ulysses sees a larger menace threatening Earth why does the Man of Steel refuse to help him? Plus, Superman is about to undergo a metamorphosis...but what is it?

I have liked the first couple of issues under Johns/Romita. We have seen some return of more classic Superman ideas here. Thwarting super-villains sounds like big action! So glad to see both Superman main titles have some solid creative teams and plots.


BATMAN/SUPERMAN #16
Written by GREG PAK

Art by ARDIAN SYAF and SANDRA HOPE
Cover by ARDIAN SYAF and DANNY MIKI

New artist Ardian Syaf joins the hit series as a mystery begins! An unseen terror launches deadly strikes against major cities…and the only clue is Kryptonite! Can Batman and Superman bring an invisible foe to justice before more damage is done?

I am not surprised that there is a new artist on the book as Jae Lee (while superb) seemed unable to keep up with deadlines. I liked Syaf's work on Brightest Day and Green Lantern so he should be great on this book.


SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #13
Written by PETER J. TOMASI

Art and cover by DOUG MAHNKE

Welcome the new creative team of writer Peter J. Tomasi (BATMAN AND ROBIN) and Doug Mahnke (JUSTICE LEAGUE)! The unity between Superman and Wonder Woman will be tested as never before as a mysterious group of villains make their New 52 debut – but first, Atomic Skull and Major Disaster cause trouble for our favorite heroic couple!

Every time I think I'm out they pull me back in.

I thought I might be leaving this book once Tony Daniel left the book. But then DC goes ahead and puts a great creative team on the book. I have liked Tomasi's writing on Batman & Robin and Green Lantern Corps. And I think Doug Mahnke's art is fantastic. So looks like I'll be sticking around here a bit.

And some classic villains too!




SMALLVILLE SEASON 11: CHAOS #4
Written by BRYAN Q. MILLER
Art by AGUSTIN PADILLA
Cover by CAT STAGGS

As Supergirl and Superboy battle the Eclipso-infected horde in Metropolis, Hank Henshaw takes the battle into the Hive-Mind that controls them, while Lex’s soldiers make plans to avoid the blame! As usual, Lex is one step ahead of everyone else – except Superman.

Hmmm ... sounds like Supergirl might be leading the way in this issue. So no complaints there! Seeing Supergirl and Superboy fighting back to back harkens back to the days of Team Superman in the late 90s and early 00s!

Beautiful cover by Cat Staggs here. I love that Supergirl costume!



TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #6
Written by ART BALTAZAR and FRANCO
Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR

In this final miniseries issue, Cyborg uses his connections to the Justice League to build an awesome new tower! But it just doesn’t feel like home. Can anything be done to get the old treehouse back?

And lastly, some fun!

It's the last issue of the Tiny Titans. This book has given me some smiles ... some much needed DC smiles. Love the look of the book. Check out the Donna Troy costume - a sort of dress version of her red jumpsuit costume! And a Wonder Woman wearing pants ... that looks good!

Hope this sells well enough to come back in some form or another later.

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Supergirl #34


The timing couldn't have been worse, more ironic, more strange.

On Monday, DC released there November solicits including the reveal that there was going to be a new writing team on Supergirl.

On Wednesday, Supergirl #34 was released, the first glimpse at what Tony Bedard had in store for Supergirl. Gone is the red ring. Gone is a reliance on rage. After 33 issues of an often angry and isolated Kara, this issue turned the corner. Instead we see a heroic Supergirl, helping people, and gaining a friend ... maybe a love interest. It felt like a new beginning. Instead, it turns out to be an ending. Ironic.

Despite being labeled a Superman:Doomed crossover, this is a Supergirl story. The events spurring the story along are linked to Doomed but don't overwhelm the narrative. I am glad that DC linked the book to Doomed if only to bring in some completists who might not read the issue otherwise.

The art on the book is done by Karl Moline who brings a nice style to the issue. It is close enough to Emanuela Lupacchino to keep the feel of the book intact. It really showcases a young and fresh-faced Kara. The cover is done by Cam Stewart. I don't know what I like less - an angry Supergirl or a gloomy Supergirl. Here we see the latter, Kara in a rain-soaked, Kryptonite drenched world.

The bottom line is that I loved this issue. But it is a bittersweet experience. Frankly, I want to read more of this Supergirl, finally acting like the Kara I have loved. And just like that it is gone.

 The last issue of Supergirl had her rid herself of the ring, destroy World Killer 1, and swear to make Earth her home. Unfortunately, the Earth isn't too hospitable right now. It is swaddled in a Kryptonite cloud making it literally toxic to Kara.

Now I could comment on how strange it is that the military had a K-Bomb this powerful waiting in the wings. Given the lack of trust in Superman just about everyone has in the New 52, I'm surprised it hasn't been used before! And just how much Kryptonite did they have that they could envelop the planet??

Instead I might comment on how prior to this K-cloud, Supergirl acted like Earth was poisonous to her. Now, just she is ready to embrace the world, it truly is poisonous.

And I am old enough to like the title of The Girl Who Fell To Earth, a nice riff on the Bowie movie. Here Kara has fallen into a building in Queens NY, where a wheelchair bound boy named Michael has been trying to reach his parents in Metropolis.


Seeing Kara incapacitated, Michael realizes the Kryptonite is hurting her. He takes her into the old bomb shelter in his building's basement and covers her in lead blankets. With the Kryptonite effects blunted, Kara awakens. Bedard takes the time to give us a quick recap of Doomed, first from Kara and then from Michael.

I loved this panel. Knowing he needs to leave Earth, Superman tells Supergirl that the world needs her. Earth needs her help. It shows how much he trusts her. It shows how much he believes she can become a hero. And, for a long time Supergirl fan, it sort of harkened back to her role as an 'emergency secret weapon' for Superman, when he wanted her in reserve to protect the world if something happened to him.

Supergirl seems shocked that Michael didn't call the police or army to come scoop her up. She even is surprised that Michael isn't frightened of her.

In a great moment, Michael brings up one of my favorite moments of the New 52 Supergirl - her victory over the World Killers in Supergirl #7. He knows she saved everyone that day. And that he doesn't need to be scared of her.

The follow-up to this panel is Supergirl with a stunned expression saying that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to her.

I applaud Bedard for incorporating the past of this book and dealing with it rather than just sweeping it all under the rug.


 We get a little back story of Michael as he talks to Supergirl. He injured his spine when he was involved in a car wreck. He actually was briefly dead until he was medically revived.  He has been in the wheelchair since then. But he didn't let that event, that pain, that loss mire him down into anger or despair. Instead he has decided to dedicate his remaining life to make the most of things.

It is, of course, a reflection of Supergirl's life. She has lost everything. She is in pain. Maybe it is time to shed all the emotional weight and instead embrace life. Maybe it is time to make the most of things.

This isn't a ground-breaking literary trick. But it works. And it is the perfect follow-up to Kara's decision to shed the ring. This was the biggest moment in the book.


 Now here is where things unfortunately get a bit fuzzy from a continuity point of view. Remember that this is a Doomed crossover. Right now Brainiac is making the people in Metropolis comatose, draining them of their energy. And Michael's parents are there now. Supergirl decides to find them.

In the Doomed main issues, Brainiac has kept everyone alive even if comatose. The cars simply stop. The planes stay aflight. In this issue, when suddenly comatose, people have crashed their cars. Planes have slammed into the ground. Subways have derailed. As a result, this seems out of synch with the rest of the story. This continuity gaffe will probably knock the book review down half a grade.

But it does give Supergirl an opportunity to show just how much she has changed. After a solar recharge, she flies to Metropolis and tells the police that she is there to help. It again smacks back to classic Superman. A simple declaration of being around to help people. It sways the police who are there.

 And Supergirl is able to help out. Some of the crashes have landed outside the 'coma zone'. And so she is able to help the rescue parties and find survivors.

It is a simple montage of panels but it is wonderful. Hoisting a crashed jet. Ripping the doors of the twisted subway. The police and fire fighters beside her.

These are classic images of what super-heroes do.

Wonderful.


And as a bonus, Kara is able to find Michael's parents alive and relatively unharmed. She flies back to tell him the good news and ... ahhhh ... l'amour.

Can I say that Supergirl falling for an 'ordinary' person, a non-super being, is also classic and wonderful. Now I might call Michael extraordinary. But if this was the romance that Bedard was going to bring to the book, I am said to see it go.

It definitely cements an embrace of the planet, to love one of its people.


We know that Brainiac eventually forces all of Earth into a suspended animation state. Kara watches helplessly as Michael and those around her succumb. It makes her look skyward where she sees the Brainiac ship and the Cyborg.

She has a history with both. But I like how Bedard makes Brainiac a historical bogeyman for Kara. It resonates with how Johns' treated them in his run. And I think that Supergirl would have a feeling of fear and anger for the collector.

And she also has some outright anger for the Cyborg given that he killed her in the Michael Alan Nelson issues.

But this Doomed cliffhanger didn't have the impact that the first part of the issue did. It is Kara, her interacting with Michael, her drive to help, that kiss ... all of that is what I loved in this issue. For the first time, in a long time, this book read like Supergirl. And that made me smile.

I can only hope that Kate Perkins and Mike Johnson don't take the character backwards in characterization. This is the Supergirl most fans of the character want to read.

Overall grade: A- (nudged up)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #11


Superman:Doomed ....

Will it never end!

I must admit that my interest in this mega-arc has waned dramatically over the last couple of weeks. As the plots spin out of control, as the infection waxed ... waned ... waxed ... and then was cured because Baka believed in Superman (an overly easy answer to such a key plot point), I have just grown fatigued with reading this story. There is too much happening, too many plots and subplots, and too many feints by the creators. I don't know what is important. And I can't believe that the Doomsday virus was cured by good feelings.

This week Superman/Wonder Woman #11 came out, one of the final chapters of the arc, and writer Charles Soule basically continues the cycle I have described above. Last week's cliffhanger turns out to be a fakeout (like the Cyborg Superman cliffhanger was something of a fakeout, like the incurable Doomsday virus has been something of a fakeout). There is some action sequences that seem like filler. And yet another new plot element is added. Does DC think this bloated storyline is going to be easily wrapped up in this month's Superman:Doomed #2?

Tony Daniel is sadly not doing art on this book, most likely because he is hard at work on the new Deathstroke comic. So newcomer Thony Silva does interior. Silva's art is stylized. His characters look gangly and angular. And Superman oddly never has pupils. I think I would rather see this style on something like Deathstroke and bring Tony Daniel back.


The last issue of Doomed ended with another cliffhanger ... Non and Mongul leaving the Phantom Zone! Yet another new element added to this incredibly overly complicated mega-arc!

But I should have remembered some of the other cliffhangers in this arc, threats or events which quickly downshifted or disappeared. Here Non and Mongul see that Earth is being overrun by Brainiac. And despite their combined might, neither of them wants to face that threat. They actually retreat back to the Phantom Zone! So much for that cliffhanger.

I suppose I should be happy that they weren't added given my concern that there are too many moving parts here.

I did like how Mongul tries to explain to Non that he isn't scared of Brainiac as he is retreating.


And Lana continues to become smarter and smarter. Somehow she is able to figure out that Brainiac is draining neurological energy from the populace of Earth. But it is a progression from higher thinking to the most primitive neurologic impulses until everyone is dead.

Now how an electrical engineer can figure out an alien genius' neurologic draining mechanisms I don't know.

Look ... I love this Lana. But let's not make her too unbelievable. I would have had less of a complaint if Shay Veritas said this line.


Superman realizes that he needs to head to the Fortress and reorganize the few troops he has left. So Steel, Lana, J'onn, and Superman all head to the north pole to try to figure out a plan.

In one of the nicer moments, Cyborg stays behind to hold off the tough Brainiac drones so the others can leave. It is a nice page and a nice moment ... albeit brief. Very quickly, Brainiac adapts his mechanism to drain Vic's half robot brain as well.


If you count it up, only 7 free minds remain on the planet - Superman, J'onn, Steel, Lana, and these three: Bruce, Diana, and Lois.

Batman realizes that it simply isn't enough to defeat Brainiac. They need help.

So I don't know why Lois is green here when she had her normal coloring last issue.

It would have been nice to see some of the other telepaths on the planet to see how they fared. The fact that J'onn and Lois can shield people makes me wonder why others couldn't do the same.


But if it is true that only 7 are free and they need more firepower there are only a couple of places they can turn.

Superman turns to the mentally caged Doomsday. Why not let the monster take control again? After all, despite issue after issue of hearing how the virus was spreading, how this was an infection, all it took was the Ghost Soldier to tell Superman that people believed in him for the Man of Steel to cure himself.

I am so confused about this infection. Is it an infection? Like a disease? A mental problem? How can good feelings cure it? How can Superman willingly suffer the relapse? This whole ending of the Doomsday virus threat weakens the foundation of the entire conflict of this arc.

I also don't know why Silas never drew Superman with pupils.


And Wonder Woman goes searching for more firepower by heading into the Phantom Zone. Looks like she will try to lure Mongul and Non out to help fight for the cause. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

And it looks like Wonder Woman is willing to use Warworld as a bargain chip to get Mongul into the fold. Boy, I know that Warworld is a Death Star analogue. But this sure does look like a certain 'fully operational battle station'.

Well, another chapter down. The plot moved forward a bit. And we are set up for the final part (outside of the Supergirl crossover issue). Superman:Doomed #2 will be out soon and this arc will be over. And I will be thankful. I am hoping this will erase the last bits of Lobdell plot threads from the super-titles. I am hoping that Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder can get back to the sort of stories they were doing before this arc. And I hope I never have to think about what this Doomsday infection was all about. Because my head hurts from trying to figure it out.

Overall grade: C

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

November Solicits Part 1:Another New Supergirl Creative Direction


The November solicits for DC Comics came out earlier this week and had major implications for the Supergirl book.  Because in November, Supergirl has new writers ... again.

In fact, that news is so big that I am splitting the solicits post into two. There will be this one covering just the Supergirl solicit and one later this week covering the other books. To look at all the solicits, here is a link to Newsarama's coverage: http://www.newsarama.com/21907-dc-comics-full-november-2014-solicitations.html

So here is the solicit for November's Supergirl #36 including the news of a new writing team.

SUPERGIRL #36
Written by MIKE JOHNSON and KATE PERKINS

Art and cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO

The new writing team of Mike Johnson and Kate Perkins enroll Supergirl in the Crucible Academy! Against her own will, Kara has been selected to join the mysterious academy, which promises to train her and other beings of cosmic importance to serve the forces of good in the universe. But who’s pulling the strings behind the academy? And what are Kara’s chances of survival if she decides to drop out? Guest-starring Superboy!

Where to begin.


Let's start with the new team:


Kate Perkins is a name I don't know from comics and has no list of prior works on comicbookdb.com. There is a very brief blurb about her on CBR which describes her as a New York playwright breaking into comics. I am glad that DC is bringing a woman onto the book. And on her website, she does have an interesting CV. While these works can't be read or viewed directly from there, the blurbs about them sound interesting.


Mike Johnson should be a familiar name to everyone as he returns to this book after a being away for a  year and a half. I really felt like Johnson was turning the corner with the character, making her more heroic and more likable on his own before that vision was completely derailed by Scott Lobdell and H'el On Earth. I have to say I'm happy to see him back.


I wonder if Perkins is the main driver on this team with Johnson bringing some experience in comic writing to keep things moving along.


Now on to the solicit itself:

Kara is now joining a cosmic super-school called Crucible Academy. Certainly, putting Kara in a school solves one major problem the book has suffered from - lack of a supporting cast. I am sure we are going to meet friends, enemies, frenemies, and all sorts of professors. And the concept of a school training heroes is an interesting one. 


Now I have hoped beyond hope that the New 52 Supergirl would one day embrace Earth and become a hero on the planet. I somehow don't think that a cosmic super-school will be located on Earth-0 which means Supergirl is going to be off-planet again. While making Supergirl a more intergalactic hero is a fresh take on the character ... even expanding her horizons, I still prefer the idea of Kara as a young hero, growing into the role on Earth. I don't know if we will ever get there.

Still, it is completely different. I will go in open-minded and optimistic.




Lastly, I just have to wonder if this completely new direction is somehow coming off the overwhelmingly positive buzz on the new 'Batgirl of Burnside' direction over on that book. I can imagine the conversation sounded something like this:

DC editor 1: Wow, everyone is talking about Batgirl and Gotham Academy. How can we cash in even more on this topic immediately making it less fresh and unique?


DC Editor 2: Well, Supergirl is a young female protagonist. Why don't we send her to school?


DC Editor 1: I know! Let's make it a school .... wait for it .... IN SPPPAAACCEEE!


DC Editor 2: And if it doesn't work, we can always make her angry, angsty, pissed off, and disaffected again!


Maybe I am wrong. But it seems weird to suddenly take on yet another completely different take on the title, another creative direction, just as the last one was finally moving forward. And it seems so spur of the moment, like when Charles Soule said 'let's make her a Red Lantern' at a meeting and it suddenly changed everything Tony Bedard was hoping to do initially.

Which leads me to my next topic.

The Big Picture and Tony Bedard:

I literally just did a post where Newsarama interviewed Tony Bedard who talked about his long term plans about Supergirl. So this seems to imply that he didn't know that things were changing so soon. Why would he talk about the future after Futures' End issue when he is off the book after that crossover?? I can't help but be reminded of Sterling Gates' piece in Superman #700 where he laid out his plans for the next year (!!) only to have Nick Spencer take over the book shortly thereafter.

Much like Mike Johnson in his first go around, Bedard finally seemed to be bringing the ship around, set on the direction he wanted the book to go, only to have the book taken away from him. The whole Red Daughter story arc seems less important now. Part of that storyline was to rid Supergirl of this unnecessary rage DC saddled her with, to have her finally look at Earth as home, to finally have her patch up her relationship with Superman. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new life. We even had subplots bubbling - Veritas, Siobhan and her roommate, and Blaze.

And now, if this Crucible Academy is in space, none of that seems to matter. Once again she isn't looking at Earth as home. She isn't having a family relationship with Kal. She isn't being a hero on Earth. So Bedard's future stories of a well-adjusted Supergirl being a young hero in Metropolis are now in the 'what might have been' files.

From afar, this completely new direction makes the book look like it is once again on shaky ground despite sales being remarkably stable. Let's look at the 36 issues of this book and the writers: Green/Johnson then Mike Johnson then Frank Hannah then Mike Johnson then Scott Lobdell then Tony Bedard and now Perkins/Johnson. 6 different writers and writing teams in 36 issues! Compare that to the stability of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, the Green Lantern books, Justice League, and Aquaman. There have been one or two writers and directions on those books. DC has let those creators tell their stories. DC seems to know what to do with those characters. And yet, they seem to flail with Kara.

What I want on this book is some stability ... some consistency. I want Supergirl to be likable, heroic, and optimistic. I want her character to be at the center of things, not some crossover which takes the emphasis off her. I want a rogues gallery, a supporting cast, and character growth. And we haven't had that on this book. Unfortunately when there was consistency, it was the angry bitter Kara. Now just as she seems likable and heroic ... finally ... we are going somewhere else. Now maybe ... hopefully ... Johnson and Perkins build on what Bedard did and don't take a step back.

But to put it simply, I just want a Supergirl book that truly is a book about Supergirl.

Now the Perkins/Johnson run may very well be fantastic. In fact, I hope it is going to be fantastic. And if they are reading this, understand this isn't a comment on their story or direction. This semi-rant is a comment on DC and their treatment of this character and this book.  

I am looking forward to reading this story. I am hoping Kara isn't the angsty  angry brat that has weighed her down these three years. 

See you all in November.