Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: DC Comics Bombshells #2

The print version of DC Comics Bombshells #2 came out this week and continued to be an interesting look at the female DC heroes placed in the time of World War II. As I said in my review of the last issue, this is a title built on a merchandise line based on 1940's pin-ups. It could have been pure cheesecake. Instead, writer Marguerite Bennett continues to unveil the backgrounds and motivations of these characters in a serious manner. Yes, their outfits and the occasional panel are like Vargas pin-ups. But overall, these are serious proceedings. Good story trumps a lot and Bennett gives us something smart and entertaining.

This issue includes three of the digital chapters so we have separate storylines of Wonder Woman and Mera, Supergirl and Stargirl, and Zatanna and the Joker's Daughter. Each chapter has a different artist. Laura Braga, Stephen Mooney, and Ted Naifeh each have a unique style bringing a sense of individual aesthetic. Mooney's in the roughest of the group, sort of a Matthew Dow Smith/Matt Wagner feel that I think works well for the harsh Soviet backdrop his chapter is set in.

I also like the cover with a 'Join the Waves' tagline while we see dolphins carry Diana and Mera. The Waves, of course, were the women divisions of the naval reserve in the 40's. Perfect use of the tagline there!


On Paradise Island, Diana is nursing Steve Trevor back to health. He is a bit addled from his battle experience but he is able to tell her all about the war. He discusses Germany's expansion and atrocities and the resulting conflict.

Realizing that eventually Germany could look to Paradise Island, Diana asks her mother to have the Amazons join the war.

I like how Diana describes the weapons of man. Honeycombs that fire wasps of metal (belt fed Gatling gun?), tortoises crushing forests (tanks?), and the Nazi swastika described as a nest of thorns. I liked how she related the weapons to forces of nature.

Unfortunately, Hippolyta doesn't think the Amazons should be involved. And given that it is Trevor's words that are swaying Diana, the queen tells the Amazons to kill Steve at dawn.

Diana can't abide by that. She plans to free Steve, take the Amazons magic weapons, and join the war. And to do all that, she needs help. She enlists Mera to help out.

Mera seems like she is looking for something worthwhile to do. She is not in line for the throne. She is not doing anything important. She will join in whatever adventure Diana wants to lead her into, especially if it promotes good.

That is a pretty deep backstory for Mera who, at times, has been written more one-dimensional.


I really loved this scene. Diana goes to steal the tiara, bracelets, and magic lasso to use against Germany.

Initially Hippolyta's sentries defend them. But then they realize that Diana's tenacity, belief in justice, and willingness to sacrifice herself are all admirable. They are the true Amazonian tenets. They let her take the weapons.

Mera, Diana, and Steve all speed away from Paradise Alley to enter the war.

But I don't think this is going to be an easy transition for either Diana or Mera.


Meanwhile in Russia, Kara has revealed her powers in order to rescue Kortni. Unfortunately, the Russian higher-ups are immediately suspicious. Is she a spy? Or an Uberfrau? (Nice reference to another variant of Supergirl.)

When Kortni is threatened, Kara allows herself to be taken.

This shows that Kara's heart is in the right place.


At a military headquarters, Kara tells her origin. Kortni was born on the night of a 'falling star'.

That falling star was Kara's starship. She was brought into Kortni's family. Raised as a daughter. Taught to love her land.

I love this take on the art. It looks like wood carvings. Or maybe a children's fairy tale book. Just beautiful.

At least her, the military higher-ups realize that Kara is a daughter of the state and loyal.

When asked to show her powers, Kara destroys the lights and makes a tapestry at high speed of her vision of her and Kortni. Supergirl and Stargirl. Working for the Soviets. It is a bit secular and sexy for a Soviet state. But that is her vision and given her powers it will probably happen. (Although we haven't heard about the cosmic rod yet. Is this already a thing?).

Would a daughter of the state, living in those dorms, wearing uniforms, dream of something so provocative?

I have to say I like it in red more than the blue.


Stargirl being Soviet right now, with that star, reminds me of Marvel's Red Guardian.

The last episode shows Zatanna being a singer/burlesque dancer in a German show house. Her boss is The Joker's Daughter, who is just scary.

But while dancing, Zatanna realizes that one of the customers is John Constantine, an English spy there undercover as a nazi.

The two get into an outright magic battle in the dance hall.


In the end, Zatanna wins, turning John into a rabbit.

And yet, you get the sense that Zatanna doesn't want to truly hurt John. She doesn't turn him over to the other Nazi officers. She doesn't snap his neck.

Maybe she wants him to be alive, to maybe help her at some point.

That thought gained some momentum when we learn that Zatanna is Jewish, saved from the ghettos because she is so talented.

This is a really interesting wrinkle to Zatanna's arc.

So overall, a lot of compelling stuff in book. We are basically moving towards them being an all-female All Star Squadron. I am all for it.

And luckily, the Supergirl stuff is solid. I like Kara's no nonsense attitude there.

Is it okay for me to admit I am surprised at how good this book is?

Overall grade: A

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 Fallout: Legion Of Super-Heroes #38


Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 came out 30 years and two months ago.

In July, I did my best to cover Supergirl's death in that issue, the decision, the issue, and the ramifications of that in the comic world.

I was supposed to put the Crisis behind me but somehow I ended up covering some of the fallout of the issue throughout the rest of the summer.

Today I finally end my coverage of the death of Supergirl from the Crisis by looking at one more nod to her heroism in a universe that was supposed to have forgotten she had existed.

In Legion of Super-Heroes #37 and #38, writer Paul Levitz tried to reconcile Superboy's place in the Legion mythos in the new universe where Superboy never existed. John Byrne wrote the Man of Steel miniseries in the summer of 1986. Shortly thereafter, Byrne created the Time Trapper's 'pocket universe', a place where Superboy existed.

In Legion #38, Superboy turns on the Time Trapper and ends up sacrificing himself to save the world. Despite being a slave of the Trapper, he aids the Legion and dies a hero. It is an interesting story, one of the many somewhat loopy arcs that came out in the immediate aftermath of the Crisis as DC tried to hammer some major continuity issue smooth in the new timeline.

This issue, sporting a wonderfully powerful Bill Sienkiewicz cover, came out in June 1987.


 The inside art was by then-current Legion artist Greg LaRocque. I loved LaRocque's work on this title.

Here is the end scene where Superboy's body is laid to rest and a Superboy statue is placed in the hall of heroes. After all, dupe of the Trapper or not, he was still the team's inspiration and he died to save them all.

But look in the background!




Yep!

That is a statue of Kara in the hall of heroes.

We are two full years away from her death in the Crisis and definitely well into a History of the DC Universe where she didn't exist.

I am sure that this somehow slipped by the DC editors.

But serious kudos to Paul Levitz and Greg LaRocque for slipping her in. She died saving the multiverse. She should be remembered ... honored.

And so ends my 30th anniversary of the Crisis review.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Howard Porter Supergirl



I have gushing a bit lately about JLA 3001 (and its predecessor JLA3K). For me, I have found it to be a multi-layered, relatively dense read that also has a bit of irreverence to it. I wouldn't call it a humor title but there is some Giffen flair in there. In some ways, it reminds me just a bit of the 5YL Legion book. There is a lot going on here and you better be on your toes as a reader.

It doesn't hurt that Howard Porter is on art on the book, bringing a nice energy to the proceedings. There is a sort of raw feel to the art which works well with the story. It doesn't hurt that he draws a great Supergirl.

With Porter on my mind, I thought I'd scour the long boxes for other times he has drawn the Girl of Steel (outside of the current JL3001 and the recent covers of the Convergence Matrix book).


In JLA #5, the League decides to have a membership drive and some usual suspects arrive to try out.

It is interesting to note that it is Tomorrow Woman, an android co-made by T.O. Morrow and Professor Ivo that gets the seat. It is also interesting to note that Plas, Aztek, that Green Arrow, and Steel all eventually are all formally in the League during Morrison's run.


There in the background is the Matrix Supergirl.

Wonderful.


The last storyline Morrison does in the book is World War III, a standard Morrison arc where an anti-god is going to destroy everything. Over the course of the issues, the New Gods get involved, then all heroes, and eventually a suddenly super-powered entire population of Earth join in the fight.

It is crazy Morrison magic. But with the entire planet in peril we get lots of cameos.

Here on this crazy page, Supergirl is flying up the stairs to join the heroes.


Later she is at one of the fronts, saving Lex Luthor from being possessed by the evil of the entity and generally kicking butt.


And then finally, while the world itself seems bent on destroying itself (hence the title World War III), the heroes have to unite to save the planet from destruction.

Supergirl is right there in the lead.


Great stuff.

I know Porter is heading over to Superman for a spell to relieve John Romita Jr. But I hope that doesn't mean he is leaving JL3001.

This is basically the only Supergirl we got!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Boston Comic Con 2015: Nick Bradshaw Commission


I finish my review of the 2015 Boston Comic Con by showcasing the last commission I obtained, this one by Nick Bradshaw.

My buddy had got a full figure Starlord commission from Bradshaw last year that was incredible. And I have always liked Bradshaw's art. But I hadn't planned on getting something from Bradshaw because I didn't think he would be available late in the con.

Then I heard that Bradshaw was doing quick and surprisingly affordable head sketches on the last day of the con. So I went to the table to see if he was still doing them.

I have to say, this was pure serendipity. If I hadn't heard about these head sketches from blog friend Firebird, I wouldn't have even approached the table. And yet, here I have this great sketch in my collection.

I love this sort of pensive Supergirl. There is something about the addition of some blush in her cheeks while looking through her hair that harkens back to a younger, simpler Supergirl. And I love that it is done in a maroon color. Just beautiful.


Again, I love the artistic process so I snapped a couple of pics of Bradshaw doing to picture. It is just amazing to a chronic doodler like me to see something beautiful just unfold before my eyes.

And Bradshaw was the nicest guy to talk to.

So overall this was a great convention, as it has been for some time now! It is amazing to see how it has grown. I am continually impressed by the guest list.

This year it was just great to run into long time blog friends in person.

 And one day, maybe, I'll get the grail piece!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Justice League 3001 #3

Justice League 3001 #3 came out last week and continues to be a very solid comic. I will admit that I was wrong for initially avoiding this book (and the first series JL3K) based on my impression that it was another look at a grim and gritty, dismal dystopian future. For a Legion fan who likes my future bright and Bgztl-y, I thought this book was truly a future's end.

Lured to he book by new cast member Silver Age Supergirl, I went got this title since the beginning and then went back and bought the whole run of the first title. This isn't a shiny Legion future and it is a bit grimy. But it is smart and layered and fun. And put those words together and you get an entertaining book which I fear isn't recognized by the mass market.

After a two issue story where the League fights Starro, this issue really sets up the future of this book, showing us the number of plots that are weaving their way through the book. There is a lot happening in this book, riffing on super-heroics, politics, and gender. Writers Giffen and DeMatteis are firing on all cylinders. As I said before, this is a smart book. Occasionally I have read these two veer a bit too much into slapstick 'humor' and fail. Not here.

And artist Howard Porter's art is as dense as the story, bringing in detail and background material that takes a while to drink in. I love his Supergirl (which makes me think I need to find all his panels of her in Morrison's JLA). And the use of splash pages worked well also.


We thought that Supergirl brought a quick end to the Starro enslavement of Wodin. But that victory is snatched away. Without Starro's hive mind, we learn that the Wodinians are primitive brutal people bent on killing each other.

The Office of Fathomless Bureaucracy (O.O.F.B.) approved the enslavement to save the planet. Save the planet by enslaving it. That sounds relatively loathsome. You would think that maybe these people could have come to some peace on their own, or with help.

I'm glad that the Teri Flash even realizes that slavery is never the answer.


Of course, I love the fact that Supergirl is part of the team. And this is a classic Supergirl. She is proactive. She wants to do good. She doesn't suffer fools lightly.

So this weird new universe is hard for her to swallow. Earth is a prison planet. Superman is a jackass. The Headquarters is a castle, the League treated like royalty.

That last panel speaks volumes to me. Kara looks vexed, her arms crossed. This might be a 'Silver Age' Kara but this isn't the super-naive, super-sweet, super-innocent Supergirl. This feels like a 'middle of the Adventure Comics run' Supergirl, a bit settled and confident.

And as I guessed, Superman is jealous of Kara's power set.


Remember that Guy forged the papers that made the Starro enslavement seem illegal. But with that turning out to be wrong, the O.O.F.B. decides that someone needs to keep a closer eye on this league and so sends a Starro drone to be part of the team.

I have been following the gender politics of this Guy with some interest. Guy's DNA was put on a woman's body. So this becomes something of an internal conflict. The volunteer's biology and underlying DNA might be female but Guy's essence is of a man.

Meanwhile, Ariel Masters body has actually been possessed by Lois who is trying her best to kill the League. Each issue she becomes more and more exasperated at the League's survival. But L-Ron wonders if Lois protests too much. Maybe she likes the game too much to have it end. Lois' savvy should have ended the League by now. That is interesting ...

But I thought this nugget was too interesting to pass. Supergirl has been floating in space for 1000 years after she was engaged in a covert mission to Apokolips. Could that end up as another plot in this book? Hope so.


One thing missing in the New 52 was a feeling of World's Finest, of Superman and Batman being best of friends. It is hard for me to wrap my head around which is the 'past' for this League. This Batman and this Superman talk like they are imprinted as best friends in a more classic sense. I mean, we have Silver Age Supergirl, Bwa-ha-ha JLA, and this friendship. Continuity be damned ... I love it.

Here the two leave Camelot 9 to go to Takron-Galtos (Earth) for a secret meeting. Bruce can sense that Ariel isn't herself. I like this Batman who is as much a detective as he is a bruiser.


But the League isn't the only League operating in this universe. The original Hal from JL3K, one of the Flashes from JL3K, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Ice, and Fire are all operating here as well. It is only a matter of time before these two leagues square off.

And look who they battle here. Initially a giant turtle smashing the city, the monster devolves into Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy Olsen!!!

I think we are up to about 6 plot threads.


On Takron-Galtos, Bruce and Clark run into Sheriff Tariq. Turns out that Tariq is actually one of the Convert's many bodies. He has been kept alive and hidden by Lois to keep an eye on things there. But Lois is a stern leader. She has kept a body of the Convert's in stasis, one she can kill and therefore kill the Convert if he doesn't obey.

This is a conniving and diabolical Lois. After the way she has been treated in the main universe, I can see how she would become bitter and want to become the queen of the universe.

On Takron-Galtos, which is a sort of free prison world, a place where prisoners can wander around, a prisoner-on-prisoner mugging is thwarted. And when Bruce goes to investigate we get this splash page. There is another Batman, one operating here.

We see it's hand, which looks mechanical. So my money is on a Bat-robot like in Kingdom Come. Remember this is Earth so the Bat-cave is here somewhere. Imagine if this Bruce stumbles upon his past!


I told you that the Guy gender issue is an interesting side plot. I like that Diana finally calls him on his blase attitude about his situation. This isn't something he can simply blow off as 'not a problem'. This isn't something he can find a cure for.

So does Guy say she accept/want/know she's a woman? Or does he live his life as a man?

Whatever he decides, in these times, this isn't something that can't be ignored and needs to be addressed.


There isn't much Supergirl in this issue. But I love this end scene. Kara will bunk with Teri in the castle. And while Teri is super-excited, running around like an excited school girl and cleaning their room, Kara seems exhausted.

I don't think this is an irritable Supergirl, a dark, nasty bad girl. I think she expects better from heroes. Her role model is the classic Supergirl. She probably has heard about the Legion. I would probably be irked if the future was this cesspool with these warped caricatures of the heroes. I love that last panel! Perfect.

So let's see.
Lois in Ariel.
Supergirl in future, maybe with an old Apokolips plot.
Two Leagues working in same time.
New Batman on Takron Galtos.
Jimmy Olsen.
Guy's gender.

And also Starro drone in the League, Lois' possible conflicted motivations, Tariq as Convert, etc.

I mean this is a complex book which has a lot of balls in the air. But it pulls it off so well, mixing the plots in and out, adding in humor in places, and keeping me engaged as a reader. And it has a Supergirl I recognize and love.

Please try this book if you haven't!

Overall grade: A

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: Superman #43


The Truth, the major new landscape of a depowered Superman whose secret identity has been revealed to the world, is now officially 3 months old. But it is only now, three months in, that we finally see how the world learned that Clark was Superman.

Superman #43 came out this week, written by Gene Luen Yang with art by John Romita Jr. and inker Klaus Janson. And this is a tough issue to review. We have known since the end of Convergence that it was Lois who was responsible for the reveal. We have seen Clark snub her. We have seen this action labeled a betrayal. And we have been dealing with a New 52 universe where Lois has been pushed to the background so far that fans are waiting for her character to be sullied even more. This issue is basically a Clark and Lois issue, a full story of these two characters interacting.

Amazingly, Yang writes a great Lois in this issue. We see how much she cares for Clark. We see how strong she is. We see how great an investigator she is. We see how smart she is. This read and felt like Lois. And that made me happy.

Unfortunately, this is contrasted by Yang presenting Clark as being stubborn and, frankly, stupid. And I mean ... I don't understand almost anything Clark does in this issue. He simply gives into the villain, doing everything Hordr asks him to. He doesn't listen to Lois. I'm not asking for the super-intelligent Silver Age Superman. I'm asking for a seasoned hero using some common sense. And there was none of that here.

Yes, Yang does a great job inserting some super-Easter Eggs. From Quarms to Boeuf Bourgignon, there are some cute touches. But this Clark ...

And the John Romita Jr. art here looks completely rushed and rough. I have never been a fan of Romita's work. But this looks almost like rough layouts in some places.


Last issue, Superman brought down Hordr's base with yet another super-flare. And we saw him drained by some sort of odd energy creature. This issue opens in Lois' apartment where Superman has been unconscious for days recuperating from that flare. Lois, Jimmy and Condesa are there as well.

The passing of these days seems to have softened Lois a bit. Last issue she was angry that Clark would keep this secret. Now, after seeing images of Superman being tortured (a flashback to early Morrison Action), she realizes that she can't be part of 'brutalizing' Superman.

She promises to keep Clark's secret.

The tears might be a little much. But it shows how much she cares.

It is pretty simple. She likes Superman. She likes Clark. She almost fell in love with Clark. And if she can like them separately, she can like them together.

Of course, Yang has this Clark immediately think that Lois is making a play for him. I love how Lois shuts that down, maybe in a little bit of a snarky way. Again though, this really is a nice moment for Lois.

One thing we learn here is that despite the time off, Superman still hasn't completely regained all his powers. He can be stabbed with a fork. He can't fly.

Hordr isn't going to go away easily. Jimmy vomits up a tiny little Hordr-bot he had inadvertently ingested. And this bot co-opts Lois' phone.

Using it as a communication device, Hordr shows Clark that he still has copies of all the images that would reveal his secret identity. Superman has to show up at another secret base or else.

Clark immediately agrees.

It is up to Lois to remind him that he doesn't need to give in completely to Hordr's demands. Why not investigate Hordr a bit? Why not find a weakness? Why not go a bit slow? It all sounds reasonable. Because why would you give into Hordr without pause?

Lois convinces Clark to bring her with him when he goes so she can help.

So hooray again for Lois.


Inside Hordr's lair, Clark is led off to meet with Hordr.

Lois also sneaks in and snoops. She comes across a body, burned out, drained, tied to a chair.

My initial thought was that this was Ulysses, captured somehow by Hordr and sucked dry of all his hyper-energy.

But it is clear, what ever this chair does, whatever this process is, it is lethal.


Clark is led into a room that looks eerily similar to that last one. Clark allows himself to be strapped to a similar looking chair. He is surrounded by Hordr's Quarmers, energy storage experts. And Hordr asks Clark to demonstrate his solar flare power again.

And here is the thing ... Clark agrees.

Despite knowing that one of these things drained him and changed him (remember, stabbed by a fork moments ago), despite knowing that giving Hordr this energy will give the villain incredible power. Despite basically aiding Hordr, Clark agrees.

Insanity.

Yes it is great that Yang names them Quarmers, a throwback to the Sand Superman story I love so much. But why would Superman do this?


After seeing the drained dead guy and now this set up with Quarmers surrounding Superman, I was reminded of the scene in Howl's Moving Castle where the Witch of the Waste is drained of all her power.

And so Superman flares and the Quarmers (who now look like the Destroyer in the first Thor movie) drink in all that energy.

Lois runs in and knows that this could end up with Superman dead like the body she tumbled upon. If his identity being a secret is the only thing keeping Superman in that chair then she will take that stumbling block away. She send the pictures of Clark changing into Superman to the web.

She posts the story to save him

Not a betrayal. Not because it is a huge story.

To save him.

But the art here is so sparse. That Lois panel is pretty rough.


Knowing his identity is revealed, Clark breaks out of the chair and bashes the Quarmers. Hordr teleports out.

So all that is left is Superman being angry at Lois. Even as she tries to explain why she did it, he just keeps yelling. His friends will now be in danger. But Lois knows, that his friends would put themselves in danger to save him. And that he means so much to her she is willing to do that.

On cue, General Lane and the military shows up. How the heck did they know that is where Superman was? Were the helicopter engines idling on a nearby base so they could streak there? It seemed fast.

And before Lois can talk about the burned out husk of a man tied to a similar chair, before she can explain it all, Superman leaps away saying having Lois in his life is a mistake.

Ugh.

So I started out saying that this was a tough issue to review. It is a tough issue to grade. Because finally ... FINALLY ... we got an issue truly starring Lois. And Lois is presented wonderfully. So hooray for that. Truly.

But this is undone by the inane presentation of Clark who is willing to stick his head into the lion's maw, to do whatever the villain wants him to, to not listen to his friends, to not think through the problem.

And the art doesn't elevate this story at all.

Overall grade: C

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 Fallout: Legion Of Super-Heroes #31

I have been looking at Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 over the course of this summer. With coverage of the issue itself over, I have been looking at some of the fallout from Supergirl's death.

Remember, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 came out in July 1985. When Crisis ended, the history of the DCU was rewritten. Supergirl never existed.

And yet in Legion of Super-Heroes #31, a book which came out in November 1986, still had a piece of Supergirl history.

Now it is one thing to have this happen in the immediate aftermath of the Crisis when creators were dancing through the raindrops of continuity issues. But this is a year later ... and months after John Byrne's Man of Steel, a book which cemented Superman's history as being Kara-free.



Here on the opening splash page of LSH #31, Sensor Girl is walking amidst the monuments of the fallen Legionnaires.

And there in the background is Supergirl's statue!


How great that writer Paul Levitz and artist Greg LaRocque snuck this little beauty into the background.

I wonder if editorial saw it and decided to keep it or if it snuck under the radar.

At least this book recognized Supergirl as the hero she was, saving the multiverse and being a valued team member.

It wasn't the last time this very book thumbed their nose at continuity and included a Supergirl reference. But that'll wait for next week.