Friday, April 3, 2020

Review: Adventure Comics #414

Last week, at the suggestion of Mart Gray, I reviewed Adventure #410 and the story in which Supergirl becomes a sort of foster mother to a super-powered alien tyke named Judy. By the end of that story, Jusy was revealed to be the vanguard of an alien invasion, was turned to the light by Supergirl's love, and then was stripped of her powers. Judy's stepfather, the invader, was killed by the good old American Air Force.

But what ultimately happened to Judy?

Well,flash forward 4 issues to Adventure #414 and the back up Supergirl story in that issue. Trust me, many of these Adventure Comics are bonkers and this issue gives us a heady double dose of insanity. The cover story, with Vortex, is bizarre.

But let's get back to our little angel Judy and her guardian angel Kara. Settle in, insanity happens!

"The Kidnapping" was written by John Albano with art by Bob Oksner, the same team that brought us the first Judy story. It is filled with the standard lush, and occasionally Good Girl, art that Oksner excels at.

But we are dropped right into the action.

As Linda Danvers, dressed in a mod outfit that Peggy Lipton would crave, heads for home, Judy is being kidnapped.

Now, you might ask yourself 'why would Linda leave an alien kindergarten-aged moppet home alone while she went shopping. But I don't think you'll come up with a good answer.

Also, it seems almost random. Why did the kidnappers hone in here?

Again, we can't dwell on the details. We have to just accept and move on.

Even worse, when the crooks ransacked the place, they discovered Kara's costume. He knows she is the Girl of Steel. And unless Kara does any number of crimes, Judy will be hurt.

She has to knock off a bank, grab some jewels, and bring a mink coat too.

Ahh ... the seventies.

The whole idea of the costume hanging in the closet revealing a secret identity is such a trope.

Now you would think that in this pre-Crisis universe, a time when Kryptonians can drop kick planets and conquer time, that Supergirl would simply scour the planet with her super-senses and find Judy.


Instead, her play is to get into a form-fitting Catwoman-esque body suit and go through with the crimes!! Now that seems silly.

If that isn't enough, her boss from the TV station, bohunk Jeff, calls to tell Linda that a UFO has been reported in the area. Linda needs to be on call for some reporting should something come of it.

The details of the crimes were clear. Supergirl was to drop the loot off at a certain place and then check out a phone booth for more details.

Inside the booth is a picture of Judy proving the little girl is still healthy and safe.

Now you would think the easiest thing for Supergirl to do would be to watch the loot from the upper atmosphere and follow whoever picks it up to where Judy is hiding.

But this is the 1970's. So instead she is able to make out a phone number written on the inside of the matchbook in the picture. Then, super-speed scanning the phone book, she is able to find the address of whom the phone number belongs.

Wow. That reads so dated. Matchbooks? Landlines?

Seriously, the clue on the inside of a matchbook is a pretty dusty plot point, right out of bad films noir.

The number leads to the kidnapper's girlfriend's apartment. And there is Judy, tied to a chair.

But check out the girlfriend. Smoking! Halter top! Bellbottoms! So seventies chic!

Supergirl busts in and confronts the woman. Initially, the woman reacts with violence reaching for a gun. But then she pleads she is an innocent in this ploy. At least Supergirl isn't buying the 'babe in the woods' routine.

But look at a brief peek at a dark Kara in that first panel. She is *aching* for a chance to take this woman apart. Grim and gritty stuff.

Okay, so far this is reading like a standard somewhat convoluted 70's Supergirl story.

But then things get a little crazy ...

The kidnapper returns but is basically cut in half by a laser beam shot into the apartment through the window.

I mean, that is pretty graphic. And it came out of nowhere.

Oksner throws in a little of his good girl art in that last panel letting us see Supergirl's assets as she turns around to look for Judy.

But who shot the man?

Well, whoever they are, they also gun down the girlfriend, perforating her in the middle of the street.

That's straight brutal!

And then the bloodthirsty murderers turn out to be ... Judy's grandparents! They have been looking for her!

Look at how middle america, tray of cookies cooling, sweet they seem. And Judy runs right into their arms. She is ready to go home. (I like how Albano includes a line about their ship jamming radar. Remember, Judy's father got killed by Air Force fighters when he entered US airspace.)

As sweet as they look, the grandparents just bisected 2 people in cold blood. I find it strange that Kara so easily lets these two killers take Judy away so quickly. But this is the seventies and this short story and this Judy plot need to be wrapped up.

In fact, the next day, Linda is still thrilled that Judy is home. She is smiling to the point that Nasty Luthor wonders just what is going on.

Now, you can take a step back and say that in many ways, the beginning of Judy's story was like Kara's. A young girl, rocketed away from a doomed planet and sent to Earth. So maybe she is thrilled that Judy could go back to her family unlike Kara herself. But still, so fast ... and so bloody an ending.

I am glad I got to review this. I owe Martin an extra thanks for getting me to smile again about Supergirl in these weird times for her character and our world.

This is a low importance issue for a Supergirl collection. But as always, worth a buy if you find it cheap.

Overall grade: B

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1021

Action Comics #1021 came out this week, the ending of the Metropolis Doom arc and the end of the Apex Lex/Scott Snyder Legion of Doom/Perpetua storyline as well. For me, that is a good thing. And thankfully, we finally get a line where the timeline of all the events in the Superman lines are settled a little.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis stuffs this issue with a lot of plot amid the major super-powered brawl in Shuster Park. There is the mystery of the original Young Justice and Conner Kent. There is the enigma of the Red Cloud and her loyalties. And there is that Legion of Doom/Perpetua plot hanging over everyone's head. (I will admit that I was on board for the Snyder story until that ending.)

But I don't want to bury the lede. For me, the biggest thing Bendis did in this issue is, again, show how complex and interesting Leviathan is as a villain. There is a populist feeling to his rhetoric. He is calling out to the common person in the DCU to join him. And while he initially said he wanted what Superman wanted, my guess is Leviathan is growing tired of Superman's reluctance to join the future. I might have been wrong about who Leviathan was but I love the character.

As usual, my biggest complaint is the Romita Jr. art. I know he has his fans but his work doesn't work for me. As a result, the issue which could be a big win falls just a little flat.

On to the details.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Starfire Comic Box Commentary

What do you do when your favorite character is misunderstood by the comic book company in charge of her stories?

What do you do when your favorite character isn't on the stands any more?

What do you do when you want to run a blog about a strong woman character, learning the ropes, and trying to do what's right and your favorite character no longer embodies that?

What do you do when you like blogging as a creative outlet and want to continue to do so?

Well, you change the focus of the site to a different character.

So welcome to Starfire Comic Box Commentary ... no not that Starfire.

Welcome to a blog dedicated to the 1970's sword and sorcery spitfire Starfire! Written by many writers but drawn exclusively by Mike Vosburg, this Starfire makes her way through a strange land,  and discovering her independence and inner strength.

I will miss Supergirl, But I can't say that I'll miss covering her exploits given how she was portrayed the last couple of years.

So instead, get ready to hear crossed swords and laser fire. It's a whole new world!

Starfire #1 was a great find from the dollar box and was worth the price for any number of reasons.

First off, writer David Michelinie (who I know mostly for Iron Man and Spiderman) casts a pretty unique star in the book, especially given the time it was published. Starfire is half-asian and a woman. Certainly that must have stood out in 1976.

Second, artist Mike Vosburg really shines here. Starfire is beautiful and attractive in her barely-there off unitard. But there isn't that much overt cheesecake in her renditions in the book. She comes across as athletic and strong more than anything else. And the theme within this story, of Starfire taking control of her life, realizing that slavery is utterly wrong, is nicely conveyed here.

Lastly, I am always into the explosive combination of science and sorcery whether it is Thundarr the Barbarian, Thundercats, Mento and the sorcerors in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing #50, or here in Starfire. What could be a better cover than a sword-wielding warrior woman towering over an ogre, while spear wielding monsters and spaceships litter the background. Slick.

Lastly, you should notice that there is no Comics Code Authority seal on the book. While I have read that it was an oversight, the content of the book - especially the end - might have been a bit tough for the CCA to approve.

On to the story.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mike Maihack & Social Distancing

First off, let me say that I love you guys.

Last Friday I posted how the lack of new comics and the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic might slow down my posts here. The outpouring of well-wishes, good thoughts, caring comments, and recommendations for desired posts was really inspiring and just the sort of shot in the arm I needed.

And one of the things I learned was that Mike Maihack had come out with a couple of new Supergirl/Batgirl comics that I hadn't covered yet. I have been a champion of Maihack's work. His SG/BG strips always bring a smile to my face.

So imagine my delight when he did one commenting on the sort of social distancing we are doing in this COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the link to the comic 'Self-Isolation':

In it we see  the cool, calm, and ever-collected Babs knitting as she waits out an isolation period in Gotham. Meanwhile, extrovert Supergirl is going out of her mind feeling cooped up.

Babs recommends knitting and Kara agrees to give it a shot. But super-speed knitting isn't the way to slowly, gracefully pass the time.

There is a lot to like about this, from the tiny Streaky drowning in new knitted wares to Kara talking about her new outfits, a frequent joke in these strips.

But for me, this hit home. I am like Kara, an extrovert. I like going to work, walking around and chatting, and hanging with friends. And this time of social distancing is a bit challenging. And I know that with virtual meetings, Twitter, texting, and FaceTime we aren't ever really alone, I still feel cooped up.

Anyways, this was another winner. I'll have another Maihack comic to talk about probably next week. And thanks again to the anonymous commenter who pointed this out to me! So much fun!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: Supergirl #40

Supergirl #40 came out this week.

That should be my review.

Supergirl is my favorite character.
This book is so terrible I am glad that the book starring my favorite character is being canceled.
The character assassination has to stop.
And maybe something surgical like this is the best way to end it.

Because this book is horrible.

It isn't a Supergirl book.

Why am I not surprised?

I actually don't fault writer Jody Houser or artist Rachael Stott. I wouldn't mind seeing what they would do with an honest-to-goodness Kara book. But they were handed this abomination and are probably trying to do their best with it.

I am a Supergirl fan.
I am glad Supergirl is being canceled.
That's simply wrong.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Supergirl Blogging In The Time Of COVID-19

Well, things sure are different in the world as I write this on the morning of March 27th 2020.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19.

The United States seems to be catching up to the rest of the world in terms of advocating social distancing, establishing a 'lockdown' on nonessential services, and promoting safety and sanity to the people. The shelves of grocery stores are barren in some places. Good luck finding bread, meat, orange juice. or toilet paper. For me, I was surprised to see that cooking oil is also a hot commodity.

And, oh by the way, the comic book market has basically dried up with Diamond Distributors stopping the shipment of new books indefinitely. My own LCS has closed their doors given my state's proclamation about nonessential markets. I was able to get this week's books. But that is going to be it for a while.

Will new books continue to be released digitally? Will the print copies all come out in a glut when the trucks start rolling? Or will the whole industry just hit the pause button?

And, oh yes, my 'real' job hasn't necessarily slowed down. In fact, it may have ramped up a bit.

Which leads me to this site ... and what I should do ...

I currently have the following books I will need to review: Supergirl #40, Action Comics #1021, Legion of Super-Heroes #5, Batman/Superman #8, and Amethyst #2. I also will probably do a quick peek at the Event Leviathan hardcover collection.

In a cursory look back, it looks like reviews of new books makes up about 40% of my material here!

Also, it is hard to know if any news about comic books will be coming out until the companies decide what they are doing.

I still have the new episodes of the show I can review. I have plenty of old stories I can review. And I probably can put together some think pieces. I also have a grandiose idea of reaching out to some creators but I am sure they are just as busy and stressed as the rest of us.

But the reality is that this site may slow down a bit during this pandemic and moratorium on comics. This site is many things but most of all it is a creative outlet for me and a way to stay in touch with friends and Supergirl fans. So I am not shutting the doors. But it may slow down to a 2x a week place for a bit.

Anyways, the hope is some time in the near future, things return to normal and I'll be firing on all cylinders.

In the meantime, let's all truly take the mantra of Supergirl to heart and bring 'hope, help, and compassion for all' into this wonky world!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Supergirl Episode 515: Reality Bytes

My reviews of Supergirl episodes this season have been relatively consistent.

First, they are always a little late. Like this post covering episode 515, Reality Bytes, which aired a couple of weeks ago.

Second, I have been pretty effusive in my praise of the show really digging into its own past and bringing up moments from prior seasons. This episode is no difference, referencing the show's premiere, a key second season episode, and some overall themes of the show in total. I love that in this fifth season we are seeing just how far these characters have come.

Third, the season has progressed nicely plot wise. There has been brisk movement on the main plot lines each episode. Unlike prior season which puttered along, this season is on cruise control.

Fourth, overall I have been pretty pleased with the episodes. This season has been pretty entertaining. I have liked the multiple big plots. I have liked the characterizations. And the Lena/Kara story is the foundation it is all built on. I can't help but think we will see redemption in the end when Lena joins Kara against the combined might of Lex/Leviathan (Lex-iathan?).

But this episode puts the plots on pause a little. We get a baby step forward but not much more. Instead, we get a a major plot about transphobia. The show has never shied from a political agenda. Last season, maybe they overdid it. But here, given how the show hasn't been immersed in that this season, I enjoyed this more. Nicole Maines does a great job showing the current issues and concerns for the trans community.

If I have a quibble, it is that once again Supergirl seems to be a guest on her own show. She does almost nothing super in this episode. But that does give Alex and Dreamer a chance to shine.

On to the episode.