Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #7

Superman/Wonder Woman #7 came out last week and acted as a sort of pause between the opening Zod/Faora arc and the upcoming Doomed storyline.

Writer Charles Soule does his best to use this issue to synch up this book with the mainstream DCU, particularly with Wonder Woman. In many ways, some of that contradicts the earlier issues of this book. That has been a problem for me since the inception of the New 52 ... and not just with Diana. The Wonder Woman in her main title is very different from the one in this book which has a different feel than the one we have seen in Justice League. The Superman in the Lobdell books is very different than the one in Greg Pak's Action which is also different from the one in this book. Reconciling all of this is tricky.
While I commend this attempt, it also irritates a bit.

On top of that, this issue slams the door shut on the Zod/Faora story a bit too quickly, a bit too easily.

Lastly, there is no Tony Daniel on art here and Daniel's work has been one of the consistent wins of this book. There is a very good triumverate of artists here - Paolo Siqueira, Eddy Barrows, and Barry Kitson. And the styles seem to meld into each other decently. I have enjoyed these artists on other books in the past, especially Kitson. However, there are some sequences where the art doesn't fully convey the story which made me go back to reread. It definitely re-emphasized just how important Daniel is to my enjoyment of this book.

So we start with a flash forward of a sort. We aren't picking up where last issue ended, our heroes almost killed by a nuclear explosion. Instead we are 'now'.

The question is 'when is now?' Is it pre-Doomed? Or is it post-Doomed?

My guess is that it is post-Doomed given that the London in the background is nearly leveled. Every corner is filled with cracked buildings, rubble in the streets, or construction vehicles.

If it is post-Doomed, then we know the particulars survive. We know London is nearly leveled. And we know that despite the clean-up, that Wonder Woman and Superman are going to take some 'me time'. I guess if a major battle has ended they deserve it. But it feels a little weird to see them happily cavorting while London tries to pull itself together in the background.

It also means, based on the dialogue, that Diana still hasn't said she loves Superman back. If this is post-Doomed that is really crazy. I assume Kal is near-death again at some point.

We cut back in time to the cliffhanger. Wonder Woman seems in better shape than the skeletal Superman. Maybe that invulnerable cape helped.

I will say that this is the first panel that I actually felt like there may be true feelings between these two. I may be wrong but I think that this is the first time she has called him Clark in this book. She has been confused about his need for his Clark persona, maybe even chided him a bit. Calling him that in this intense moment made me think ... for once ... that she actually cares about him.

But the plan works. The Phantom Zone, Zod, Faora ... all gone. But we only hear that in one word bubble. Seems like a let down from the actual build up of that confrontation. And what's to stop Zod from exiting again. The defeat of the villains happens off-screen, technically between issues!  I wanted more closure. But I guess with Doomed teed up, there isn't time.

I talked above about how sometimes the art doesn't necessarily convey what is happening making me have to fill in some info.

First Wonder Woman touches a button in the invisible jet which shoots a beam into the air. The clouds part and the yellow sun comes down onto Superman's hand. But I had to look back at those panels a couple of times to make sure I understood what was happening.

The same thing here. Ghost Soldiers attack Wonder Woman (synching up with a scene discussed in Action Comics #30). I assume that the second panel is Superman blasting them with heat vision (what else could it be). But we see Superman looking absolutely emaciated the panel before this. Could/should he be able to pull this off? Since I have no other explanation I guess the answer is yes. But I had to look at the panels again to make sure I had followed things, even making sure pages weren't stuck together.

And then it seems like Wonder Woman is worse for wear. The two struggle to fly off. But it is Superman that takes Diana to Hessia first, rather than she getting him aid. He looked way worse for wear initially. But by the time they get to London, he is looking plumper and less spectral.

Separately they heal. He goes to the Fortress for a sunbath. She gets some purple ray therapy.

But before parting ways, Clark again tries to drop the L word on Diana. She stops him ... saying she knows it. She doesn't reciprocate. Weird.

Meanwhile, Doomsday bursts from his Urchin-like cocoon and seems different. He seems intelligent, climbing out of the deep sea trench. And I don't know what this black energy/light he is oozing/emanating.

What I do think is crazy is that the Tower, which supposedly released Doomsday, thinks they can simply scoop him up and contain him for their purposes.

Will this be a super-intelligent Doomsday? A thinking Doomsday? Or simply a monster?

I talked about the awkward panel progression in the invisible plane sequence and the heat vision sequence. There was another.

The Tower submarine closes in on Doomsday. Then there is a panel with THOOOM. Then there is splash of the submarine exploding.

Now I can assume that Doomsday leapt out of the shark that had swallowed him, swam to the submarine, and destroyed it. And that would be a fine guess. But I wish I could say I knew that. At first I didn't know what was happening in that second lower panel. Was the sub firing on Doomsday? Or Doomsday heading to the sub? As a reader I don't know in what direction that action is happening.

Again, I have to commend Soule for trying to reconcile the disparate takes on these characters. It is a shame that writers have to deal with such diverse representations of popular characters. You would think the higher-ups at DC would lay out a plan or template for writers to follow.

So while London smolders, Superman and Wonder Woman catch up while sitting on a rooftop. She divulges that she is now the Goddess of War, and she hopes to use that change mankind's views on the topic.

Might be hard for Superman ... at least the Superman I know ... to be comfortable with that.

But this scene at the end of the book, again trying to streamline all the presentations of Diana, made me question if Soule went too far.

Remember, in the Wonder Woman main title, writer Brian Azzarello has shown Diana in street clothes listening to rock music at a club. That Diana hasn't been seen anywhere else ... especially not here. Soule has had Wonder Woman questioning Superman's love of humanity. She has asked him why he has a civilian identity. She has talked to her friends about why he would have a secret identity. She has even tried to talk Superman out of being Clark in this book. It is one of the things that has made me think these two aren't meant for each other.

But then Soule has Diana take Clark to a club to dance. It is a club she is a regular at ... the bouncer knows her name, tells Clark she has never brought a beau with her before. She slinks onto the dance floor, telling Clark how much she loves to dance. And he is happy they have this night.

But .... ummm .... how can someone who for 6 issues has said she doesn't understand civilian time turn around and be a regular at a dance club? A regular! They know her name!

It is this sort of uneven characterization that has plagued the New 52 all along, especially Superman and Wonder Woman. I would have actually liked it more if Soule kept portraying Diana as he saw her. At least this book would be internally consistent.

I have to say, between the easy ending of the Zod arc, the off storytelling, and the schizophrenic Diana, this should be my last issue of this title. But I will stick around through Doomed. If only to see the Tony Daniel's art.

Overall grade: C-

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Supergirl Mego Figure??

If there is something of a grail piece for me in my Supergirl collection, it is an original Supergirl Mego figure. Way too expensive. Way too rare. I haven't even really seen one in person. Would I ever be able to claim one of my own?

Well, what about a sort of pseudo-Mego figure? The Figures Toy Company is putting together very limited edition two-packs of Mego style figures. Over on the 13thDimension.com, they have the card of available figures. Here is the link: http://13thdimension.com/figures-toys-goes-all-in-on-mego-like-line/

I am drooling over the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez artwork. But I am amazed at the figures being offered! Mary Marvel! Yellow outfit Kid Flash! Captain Marvel Jr. (now Shazam Jr)! Early 70s Catwoman! Just beautiful.

And look at the Superman figures!

There is a bunch, including Supergirl. It is hard to see if this is a mini-skirt or hot pants! Either way ... I want one!

How about a 2-pack of Lois and Kara? Perfect!

Surprisingly, this could be relatively affordable. A 2-pack is $59.99. Just need to start squirreling away my nickels and dimes now. Here is an ordering page, including just Batman 2-packs: http://figurestoycompany.com/8inchlimitededitiondcsuperherotwo-packs.aspx

Hat tip to Rob on Aquaman Shrine for bringing this to my attention!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Preview of JLU #0

Justice League United #0 is coming out in a couple of weeks. Newsarama, however, was able to give us a sneak peek, showcasing the first couple of pages. Here is the link:

Now this is a 'zero issue' and we jump right into the team working together in deep space. So this must be a flash forward sort of set-up. Maybe this scene takes place in the second arc? Or maybe this issue ends with a 'how did we come so far?' question from one of the characters, allowing JLU #1to flash back and get us here.

There is a lot to digest here. McKone's art is slick.

The team is working as a team.

Alanna is now a person of color!

But you know what caught my eye.

There is Supergirl, working with the team, in her 'classic' red and blues, and smiling!!!

I am trying to be optimistic about the 'bullheaded loner'.

Looking forward to this book. Hopefully Lemire picks up the tone of Bedard's book.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Worlds' Finest #22

We are approaching the two year mark for Worlds' Finest, a book I had very high hopes for.

But as people who have read my reviews of this book know, this book has been frustrating. There have been some nice character moments. The flashback sequences are wonderful. But the overall progress of the story and the characters has been pretty lackluster. It seems every time I read this book I think of the phrase 'treading water'. I just keep waiting for something to happen which will nudge this book into excellence. I'd even be happy with 'very good'-ness.

I really thought that the First Contact storyline was just what this book needed. Linking Huntress and Power Girl to their mentor doppelgangers on Prime Earth seemed like just the catalyst to push this book forward. There is so much potential for stories there. Karen could talk about her Kal's greatness, his love for Lois. This Bruce might see Helena as another Damian, either becoming overprotective or trying to convince her to stop heroing. Etc. Etc. Unfortunately, between the shipping gaffes and the sudden ending without any emotional punch (the two pairs just walk away from each other?), First Contact failed.

Okay ... okay ...

Worlds' Finest #22 came out this week and looks like we might finally have some plot points that will change this book. Writer Paul Levitz sets up some big changes here. And we get another flashback sequence of the Huntress' early career with some splendid art by Yildiray Cinar. While this sequence is very good, I don't quite understand why it was in this book except to fill pages.

As much as there was some optimism ... just a smidge ... it was dulled a bit by the further murkiness of RB Silva's art. It looks rushed and ugly here. What is going on?

Standing in the rubble of the Gammoran lab, the portal the Earth 2 blown to bits, the two heroes confront each other angrily. We have learned that Kara wants to return to Earth no matter the cost. She doesn't believe her Superman could be evil. She wants to defend her world. And this isn't the time for Helena to be cautious.

I do like how these two characters have different approaches in life. Much like the Superman/Batman dynamic, there is enough friction in the friendship to craft stories. While Helena's cautious approach mirrors Bruce, Kara here is just a force of nature. Here the Huntress has to reign Power Girl in whereas I feel sometimes Batman has to spur Superman into being more proactive.

I do like how Power Girl simply can't believe that Helena would stop them from going home since that has been their primary goal since coming to this Earth. Despite Helena's concerns (this might be yet another Earth, they can't simply charge in), Karen isn't listening. In fact, she questions Helena's motivations.

Even for someone as fiery as Karen, this seems like a low blow. But in the heat of disappointment, emotions might be running high.

Before the argument can continue, ARGUS troops swarm in. Assuming the heroes are villains, they attack. Thus we get another comic where the super-heroes of a title fight the military and a peace-keeping organization like ARGUS.

And like many friends, the tiff is forgotten as the two take out the infantry and fly away friends again.

Okay ... take a look back at these three panels I have posted.

Now compare it to some representative panels by Silva way back in 2011 when he was on Superboy. Look at the clean lines, the unique style, the innovative page construction.

Then look back at the muddy, rough work here.

I loved Silva's work on Superboy. But this new style of his doesn't work for me. 

And then, with little resonance to the story at hand, we flash back 4 years to Helena, pre-Huntress identity but masked, trying to stop some men from sexually abusing some women. Unfortunately this is Helena 4 years ago. The scene opens with her hog-tied.

As usual, I like these scenes when we hear Helena's internal voice and commenting on how her parents would respond.

But why this scene here? And now?

While something of a rookie, she still has talent, coming close to escape. Cinar's work shines here. There is a more pencil-y shadowy feel here that adds to the feeling that this is in the past.

But this is close to an escape. She is quickly knocked out again.

There is a little magical thinking by Levitz here. Rather than kill Helena because a gunshot wound can be traced, they leave her alive, tie her to a tree slowly bleeding, and hope the wolves eat her.

I can think of many ways this is poor thinking by them.

Why not choke her and then leave the body to the wolves? Why would they place her in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death? Maybe their boss is Dr. Evil?

Huntress' thinking isn't much better. After she does escape, Helena decides the best thing to do is to light the house on fire.

Umm ... aren't the women you are trying to protect in there? Maybe these creeps have tied them down so they can't escape?

Luckily they aren't. The occupants run out and Helena thrashes the men.

Okay, this is a younger Helena. I'll give her a pass.

And, as I said, wonderful art by Cinar.

At the very least, Levitz mentions the meeting between the two World's' Finest groups in this scene.

Helena hooks into Batman's computer system to try to figure out if the portal actually did open up to Earth 2 or not. She talks about thanking him with a package of pastries to her 'not dad'.

But is that all there is?

I wish ... wish she was in the cave, talking to Bruce, working closely with him. Wouldn't he like to know about what is happening on Earth 2 given Darkseid's prior attack here?

I don't know if I have learned enough about Helena's emotions over meeting this Bruce to understand her viewpoint. Does it hurt too much to see him?

And Karen?

There is some major character movement with her. She finally has regained all of StarrWare after the attempted takeover by Desaad.

But just as quickly as she regains control, she opts to sell it all. She needs money ... and fast. She is going to recreate that portal. And soon.

I like the fiery persona of Power Girl here. From the beginning, her one goal has been getting home.

And I think the end of this arc is going to be them getting there.

It turns out that Helena's investigation does turn up some proof that the other world was in fact their world.

She is on board to finally strive to get home. But ... I thought she was on board all along?

Could this be the big change I have been looking for? Will the book shift to Earth 2? Will I continue to read it if it does? Shouldn't I be happy??

The art on the end pages seems smoother making me think a different inker did these pages.

So, all in all, another okay issue of Worlds' Finest. We get a nice flashback sequence ... without a clear reason why. We get a move towards a big shift in the book. And maybe we'll get a new artist.

But I don't know ... it still feels like treading water until we get the potential change.

Overall grade: C+/B-

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Supergirl Bombshell Variant Cover

Recently DC Comics announced that they would create variant covers based on the Bombshell statues line. Here is that announcement as covered by CBR: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51487

Now, while I like the idea of seeing the DC heroines represented like WW2 Bomber paintings, I'm not interested in buying the Supergirl statue for my collection.

Artist Ant Lucia has revealed a few more of the covers, now available in print form. Here is the article over on IO9:  http://io9.com/show-your-love-for-dc-comics-heroines-with-these-dreamy-1560615092/+charliejane

The Supergirl based cover, seen above, is nice. I like the idea of portraying it as a magazine cover with story headlines. Sad that this is one of the few covers with a happy Supergirl ... and she is 'saving the day'.
It is an interesting commentary on DC's commitment to Supergirl that this is her cover but it won't appear on her book. The list of titles that this could be for are  Action Comics #32, Justice League United #2, Superman/Wonder Woman #9, Batman/Superman #12, Superman #32. I assume the Stargirl cover will be for JLU. So that means the Supergirl cover will be on a Superman title rather than her own.

Don't you think DC should be promoting her book with her variant cover??

Anyways this cover pulls off the bombshell look better than I thought possible so kudos to Lucia.

I would much rather own a statue of Cliff Chiang's 'Atomic Bombshell' version of Supergirl.

 I will say I really like the Wonder Woman and Black Canary covers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lemire And Soule On Supergirl

The creators who are guiding Supergirl into the next stage of her life have been hitting the interview circuit and as a Supergirl fan I have been watching closely. This feels like a crucial part of Supergirl's history in the New 52. It seems like DC realizes the relentlessly angry and isolated Kara is not sustainable. The Red Daughter story has been labeled a transformative story, a way to turn things around. So let's see if that hold true.

First, Justice League United writer Jeff Lemire was recently interviewed on The MarySue. Here is the link:
http://www.themarysue.com/interview-jeff-lemire-equinox-justice-league-united/   As always, there is a lot to read there so head over and take in the whole interview. But here was the Supergirl question.

TMS: Supergirl has been through the ringer in the New 52. She thinks Superman is a jerk and they’ve fought nearly every time they’ve met, often physically as well as verbally. On top of that, she became a Red Lantern recently. How is she going to adjust to working in a group like this?
Lemire: Supergirl is a very interesting character to write. She starts off being what she’s been in the New 52 universe so far. She’s an angry loner who doesn’t get along with everyone. But then I want to take her somewhere completely different. I want to see her grow and change and become part of a family rather than just being a member of a team. She’s going to have an arc. You’ll see her evolve and become part of the universe more.

So this book's continuity has to be post-Red Daughter because Kara is back in her Kryptonian garb. And I was hoping that post-Red Lantern we would have the 'new' Kara, the anger and isolation behind her. I imagined that her joining a team was an easy way to show that. She is looking to be in the DCU, to make friends, to be in a group.

Instead ... again ... Lemire says she's is an angry loner.

And then he talks about taking her somewhere differently, having her grow and become part of the family. He even says she will have her own arc.

Which I suppose is fine.

But can't DC just get there? Can't the creators be on the same page?? If Bedard and Soule are rehabbing her in Supergirl/Red Lantern, why isn't that seen here?

Lemire is a solid writer. I just hope things turn around quickly. I am sick of 'angry loner' Kara. It makes no sense.

And Charles Soule talks about his work over on Comic Book Resources: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=51913     Same advice ... read the whole thing ... but here are the Supergirl questions.

CBR: Let's move to "Red Lanterns" -- that seems like a neat title to be on, because unlike everything we've just been saying, there really isn't much in the way of expectations for what that book means. It's been around for a couple of years, but it's a relatively new prospect, and it seems that you can do a lot there. Is that a big part of the attraction for you?
CS: Yeah. I like Guy Gardner, personally. He's one of my favorite characters in the DCU, and the idea of writing a book built around him was a big deal for me. Supergirl just joined the team -- it's funny, they're not like a team in the traditional sense, they really are more like a gang. So she's become a part of the gang, and a lot of tension and conflict is happening. The last issue that just came out, Guy tries to pawn her off on Superman, and both she and Superman aren't particularly thrilled about that -- somebody gets hit with a tanker.
You get to do crazy things in "Red Lanterns," which is neat. It's open in that way. 

I will say that Red Lanterns has been something of a surprise for me. It is a really fun comic. Yes, they are rage-y but they aren't necessarily villains. They seem to have the right goals; they just get there in a darker way. And lastly, they seem like their biggest drive if for people to have the personal freedom to do what they want. Does that make them anarchists? Or civil libertarians??

It is interesting that Supergirl has so quickly become 'one of the gang'. She was basically palling around with Skallox and Zilius last issue. Hopefully that is the first step of ending this isolated Supergirl.

CBR: Let's focus a bit more on Supergirl in "Red Lanterns" -- it's an idea that sounds crazy at first, but then you think about it and it has a lot of fun potential. What inspired that, and how have you enjoyed seeing it through?
CS: I will take credit for this one, for better or worse. At the Superman summit last October, when we were talking about the Superman line and building the "Doomed" crossover, we were talking about what to do with Supergirl. I was writing "Red Lanterns" at the time, and I'm like, "Why doesn't she join the team? I think she'd be a good fit, it'd be interesting, we could do something cool with her, build her up in a way and change her character around a little bit." Change is important to these characters -- you want to keep them familiar, but you also want to bring them to new places and do new things with them.
It seemed like this would really work, and as soon as I said it, people were like, "Huh, that could be OK!" It took a little time to put all the pieces together, but now it's humming. It's like "Superman/Wonder Woman" -- people weren't sure what to expect, but now that they're reading it, I've been hearing nothing but good things. 

We have heard this story before of Soule joining the Superman summit and recommending Kara joining  Red Lanterns. What is new is hearing the follow-up sentence where Soule says he wanted to 'build her up and change her a bit.' I would love to hear more about this from Soule. Was this a spur of the moment idea? Did he know anything about Supergirl before this meeting? Is he a fan? Did he know how he wanted to change her?

I will admit the Red Lantern Supergirl stuff has been much better than I anticipated. That said, I will withhold a final verdict until I see the finale. I want a likeable Supergirl to be the denouement to this mega-arc.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bullet Review: Stormwatch #30

Stormwatch #30 came out last week, the final issue of a series which I don't usually buy. I will admit that I did buy Stormwatch #1 when the New 52 began but dropped it when it didn't grab me. Since then, I have followed the trials and tribulations of the title on the usual sites. Like many of the New 52, the initial pitch had no lasting power, a reboot was done which also struggled and so the plug was pulled.

So why grab this book, let alone review it?

Well, Sterling Gates is a writer who has never let me down and so I thought I would buy this. It didn't hurt to hear from reviewers who I trust (like Martin Gray) sing it's praises. So I grabbed it

I am so glad I did. From the outside looking in and with very little proof, I have always felt that Stormwatch was going to be something of a grim version of the JLA, dark and nasty. This issue was anything but ... an optimistic, almost Silver Age romp with a spunky young protagonist who steals the show. Jenny Quantum is simply wonderful here.

Gates does a great job here with this stand alone issue. He effectively introduced me to all the characters and let me know their power set in an organic way. There is a nice chemistry and zip to the dialogue amongst these teammates who know each other well. And, again, Jenny Q is such a positive and upbeat hero that she outshines them all. This was a pleasant ray of sunshine in the otherwise drab DCU.

Add to that the remarkably vibrant art by Jeremy Roberts and this issue is near perfect. Roberts should be on a monthly. Looking at this I want him on Worlds' Finest as soon as possible. I would love to see him on the Legion if that book was still around.

While the book opens with Midnighter and Apollo fighting aliens and beheading Queens, the bulk of the book is told from Jenny Q's perspective. Being a 14 year old super-hero isn't easy. Not when things like a teenage date are so nerve-wracking!

Gates' does a great job of showing how emotions can run from high to low in a millisecond in this age, with Jenny alternating between life being awesome, not awesome, and awesome again at breakneck speed.

As others have said, Jenny invokes the feelings of a young Donna Troy ... and that is definitely a good thing!

Despite being on a 'date' with the cutest boy in school, and running the gamut of awesome to not awesome as he doesn't seem to share her affections, duty calls. Jenny has to abandon the date to spring into action when a City is running amok.

If I had to pick one page that would symbolize why this issue succeeds, I would choose this page. There is a certain Silver Age wackiness about this, a Mxyzptlk-ian level of lunacy and peril, that makes it a complete win. And yet, this isn't laughed at like back then. There is serious dialogue and definite danger here. It is a mix of Silver age sensibilities and Modern gravitas that works.

I miss the days when there were comics where a young hero who wants to do good because it is the right thing to do would go out and fight animated buildings. It is escapism at its finest with a sense of right, wrong, and responsibility. This is what comics can be!

How do you beat a city? You call in all team members.

So The Engineer hunts down The Projectionist who is soaking in a tub sipping wine.

Okay, I only included this panel because the name is Anj is used, even if it is for the buxom Engineer.

It turns out that an enemy device is controlling Stormwatch member Jack Hawksmoor into making the city go crazy.

What I love is how Jenny defeats the device is with the 'most dangerous thing a fourteen-year-ol girl has in her arsenal' ... EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL.

Yes Quantum has immense powers, but she talks Hawksmoor out of his stupor. I thought it was a great moment. While it might not work in an older character like Supergirl, this works for a 14 year old. So fun!

And when Hawksmoor let's up, she uses her beams to destroy the device.

And then the wrap-up.

Jenny knows she can't necessarily be a normal 14 year old with normal 14 year old worries. She can't worry about cute boys like Toby. But her exuberance is infectious. Life is awesome again. She kisses Toby but then leaves him to live his life.

But the best gag is Midnighter telling him to stay in school! Hysterical.

And is there any better way to end a series than a classic team shot, vowing to never stop fighting?

And it is made even better by having Jenny front and center, the leader (?!) of this team.

I doubt the whole book had this sort of atmosphere. I certainly would have heard of it I'm sure. So this was an unexpected treat of entertainment. And most of all it was fun! I can't say that about many comics any more. It is rare for an comic to make me smile.

So continued kudos to Sterling Gates. And a welcome to Jeremy Roberts whose art here was streamlined bliss.

Overall grade: A