Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More Jeff Lemire ... More Angry Supergirl



Justice League United #0 comes out today. This should be a cause for celebration for Supergirl fans. After all, it has Supergirl in the classic S-shield costume as a member of the League. And the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone, on paper, is a great one. I have enjoyed almost all of Lemire's work for DC.

Unfortunately, the press for this book makes it sound like Supergirl is in the book for one reason ... to act as a foil for Stargirl and Equinox. Kara will be the negative anti-hero making those two look all the better. I have covered prior interviews here and worried about how Supergirl will again be mistreated. After all, Lemire called her a 'bull-headed loner' and the opposite of Stargirl who is 'bright, optimistic, and the face of youth in the DC Universe'. Those are his words ... not mine.

On Monday, Lemire had another interview about the book, the last publicity before the book's release. Here is the link: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2014/04/21/justice-league-united-comic-book-series/7959551/

As always, it is worth reading the whole article. But here are the bits that stuck out:

Stargirl and Supergirl aren't too fond of each other either, Lemire says. "Stargirl is really eager and optimistic and trying, and Supergirl doesn't have much time for her."

Again, the inference is that Supergirl isn't eager or optimistic. Just like she wasn't bright. And of course Supergirl remains a loner. It pains me that this is the status quo of Supergirl in the DCU these days. After decades of being eager, bright, optimistic ... passionate about justice, she is relegated to being the dark foil to those same emotions.

"She's from a small community and has never really been outside of that, let alone seen any of this fantastic superhero stuff going on around her," Lemire explains. "But she's got a good sense of humor and she's become the most relatable character in the book so far."

So the new character gets to have a sense of humor and be the most relatable character. Again, Supergirl gets to be the loner who most likely is mean or negative to Equinox. I am not anti-Stargirl. I am not anti-Equinox. I am anti-dark Supergirl. If Lemire wanted someone to fill that role couldn't he pick someone else?



Before and after, Lemire is promising humor to go along with all that adventure.

"I've grown tired of the ultra serious, grim and gritty superhero stuff that's become prevalent lately," he says. "I want to get back to having some fun."

At least I got this. I am a fan of what Lemire has done in the past. So some fun heroic adventures will be a welcome change. But will Supergirl again be the downer in the group, sulking while everyone laughs around her? Or will she warm up to the team and become relatable again like Bedard and Soule promised.

"Manhunter is the heart of the team, and he has a relationship with everyone," the writer says. "He's the most alien character in a way and probably the most shocking to (Equinox), but also the most warm and welcoming."

Big stuff is on the way for Hawkman — "He will not be the same character he has been (since the New 52 relaunch) by the time the first arc's done, that's for sure," says Lemire, who's leaning into the character's spacebound background and reintroducing his old villain Byth as the main baddie of the first arc.

And it seems like he has a nice grasp on the other characters. It is nice to hear J'Onn described as warm and welcoming. And a more classic Hawkman (with Byth!) sounds great.

But let's try to raise Supergirl up in this book, not push her down farther.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Smallville Lantern #1


Smallville Lantern #1 came out last week, the first part of the next 'episode' of Smallville Season 11. Writer Bryan Q. Miller has done a great job on this book, bringing in more and more DC Universe characters to this particular Earth, creating great characterization for the main characters of the book, moving a long standing Crisis arc along with each episode, but also presenting a good stand-alone story with each episode that can be enjoyed on its own. I have been happily stunned by the quality of this book.

And Smallville Lantern continues that trend. If we have Flashes, and Titans, and Martians, and the Trinity in this universe then we need Green Lanterns. So Miller introduces us to his version of Jon Stewart, his version of Oa, and more importantly his version of Tomar Re and his ring's mission. And Miller does all of this with the usual nods to longstanding DC continuity while bringing his own wrinkle to the works. Fantastic.

Cat Staggs, as usual, does a great job on the cover, bringing us a rather willful appearing Super-Lantern. But I have to praise inside artist Marcio Takara. I have been drooling over Takara's commissions on Twitter and loved his stuff on Blue Beetle. Here he brings the same stylized, slightly exaggerated, flowing work to the linework inside. It really is pleasing to the eye and moves the story along wonderfully.

Now I will admit that I don't have strong memories of the last seasons of Smallville so I sometimes need to rely on the help of others for the show continuity odds.


For example, we open up with  a replay of the ending of Smallville season 9 (I think) where Zod and all his cloned Kryptonians are transported away from Earth to Argo in sector 2813. We have seen the colony as it is in the future in the Argo arc in this book.

With life again being in sector 2813, a dormant Green Lantern ring goes searching for a suitable host. Since these beings are 'synthetic' (and anyone who can clarify why) the ring rejects them. But it does recognize them as Kryptonian and so goes to find another. That was then ... it will take some time for the ring to find someone who fits the bill.

One thing I like are the small things that build up the depth of this book. Having a Kryptonian on Argo think the ring is Flamebird is just a nice little touch.


Things remain quite in Metropolis ... at least for now.

There is some playful banter between Ollie and Chloe. They are both out of the adventuring business now, instead vowing to be there for their impending bundle of joy.

It can't be a crisis without someone dying. At first I worried it was Kara. Then I thought Steph Barbara. Now, with scenes like this, it has to be one of these two. Maybe Ollie?


And Clark and Lois enjoy a quiet night at the movies. They also have some wonderful, playful conversation.

For folks like me, who think Clark and Lois should be together, scenes like these are perfect. I love how Lois says that even if there haven't been vows, the two are married.

I really love Lois in this book.


At last, the ring arrives and claims Clark.

I like how the armor has the S-shield, not the Lantern corps symbol. It shows just how strong Clark's will is. That his symbol is the primary one despite the ring's powers.

In fact, Clark seems to have an innate ability with the ring. He flies off and tries to take it off. And as he thinks of it, a variety of tools - crowbars, drills, etc - appear. Usually we hear how hard it is to will the ring to make anything. Here, subconsciously, Clark is able to make constructs.

He finally peels the ring off and flings it into deep space.


Meanwhile, the Lantern of Sector 2814, NYC police detective Jon Stewart, learns that someone on Earth is also wielding a ring. I like that it is Jon here. And I like that he is a little different, acting as a police officer.

But hearing that there were others ... fascinating.


Of course the ring doesn't accept rejection and returns and rebonds to Clark. Before he can remove it again, a tank battle erupts in Metropolis ... a bank robbery of all things.

Before he can even use his own powers, the ring must sense Clark's motives. Suddenly green energy missiles appear all around him. And when the tank fires, Clark must want the battle to end quickly. Because suddenly a huge construct Superman appears, smashing the tank to bits.

It is clear that Clark needs to learn to control the ring. I like the idea that he is naturally gifted with the ring as opposed to needing to work hard to activate it. Superman ... super-will ... right?

Stewart arrives and the two leave.


I have had many favorite moments in Smallville over the course of its comic run. This ranks up there. The bank robbery was a ruse so crooks working for Prometheus could steal something else. And this is one cruel Prometheus, gunning down people firing-squad style.

I am a huge Prometheus fan. The real Prometheus. The one who almost beat the JLA singlehandedly. Not the one beaten by Shiva or Batgirl or whoever.

I want a dangerous and deadly Prometheus, a true super-villain. I hope we get one here.


We next see Clark viewing Oa which is in a state of disrepair. Clark is getting a tutorial from Tomar Re, the GL who we know failed in saving Krypton. This is a message which gives Clark a thumbnail history of the core. The Manhunters, the possession of Hal by Parallax, the resulting war.

I love it all.

Is Jordan still around as Parallax? We hear from Stewart that Kyle took over after Hal. Then Jon got the ring. Does that mean Kyle is dead? And how did Alan Scott have his ring? All these ripples of DC lore here. I hope Miller explores it all.

And will Clark accept the role of GL of 2813?

I am interested in seeing how this history plays out in this universe. This is about as good a hook as any!


Except we get an even better one. Parallax obviously lives. Whether it is Jordan or just Parallax we don't know. But for whatever reason, it detects the 2 Lantern rings in sector 2813. And that enrages Parallax. He activates Manhunters and sends them to Earth.

Nice cliffhanger.

So overall, a great first chapter for this arc. We have the main plot of the Lantern ring. We have Parallax. We have Prometheus. And we have the usual characterization of the supporting cast.

If a first issue is supposed to intrigue the reader and grab them, this one did it!

And, as I said, Takara's work is just stylized enough to complement a more galactic/sci-fi natured story. I hope I run into Takara at a convention some time so I can grab a commission.

No complaints here.

Overall grade: A

Monday, April 21, 2014

Who's Who: Reactron


Folks who come to this blog enough have probably heard me talk about the Fire and Water Podcast a weekly comics podcast run by Rob Kelly of the http://www.aquamanshrine.net/ and the Irredeemable Shag of http://firestormfan.com/

As you can tell by the name and their blogs, the podcast is Aquaman and Firestorm centric although they often cover DC comics in general and other trending news. It is must listening for me on Monday mornings. The two also, as an adjunct, have a Who's Who podcast where they have been reviewing the 1985 DC Who's Who page by page, character by character. It is my favorite of their family of podcasts and are definitely worth listening to. I have promoted it before but I don't mind talking it up again.

And what better reason to do it than on this day when they are reviewing Who's Who The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Volume XIX which includes one of my favorite Supergirl rogues ... Reactron


Now don't ask me why Reactron is spooning with the Reverse Flash on this Ernie Colon cover. That looks like a invasion of personal space although Reactron's smile makes me think he's okay with it.


And here is Reactron's Who's Who entry, a half sheet just above Red Bee.

It is the standard Carmine Infantino pose for most of his Who's Who pages. But the surprint is a nice action shot of Reactron blasting Supergirl. The origin is brief recapping Ben 'Reactron' Krullen obtaining powers after radiation  exposure in Vietnam and then gaining control when he teamed up with The Council. It does ignore his connection to Tempest of the New Doom Patrol. Josh Clay served with Krullen.

Reactron is one of the true Supergirl rogues who has had some longevity. After Supergirl was erased from continuity in the Crisis, his history was linked to Power Girl. He then had numerous interactions in the Doom Patrol comic that emerged post-Crisis. Of course, he was then recreated by Sterling Gates around the time of New Krypton, playing a significant role in Supergirl's life ... killing both her parents! You can read my prior posts on Reactron here: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/search/label/Reactron

I have not covered Reactron's Doom Patrol appearances. We just finished Psi-sightings. Should we do a run of Reactron Reactions?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Final Psi Sighting: Secret Six #17 & #18


Just when you thought it was safe to forget about Psi, the misunderstood empath from The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, I show one more Psi-sighting. I have really gotten a big kick out of this look back at the character, spurred by the reintroduction of her to the New 52 by Sterling Gates in Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S..

So we have seen her fight Supergirl as a dupe for Mr. Pendergast, trying to stem the tide of Decay. Then we saw her turn on Pendergast. We have seen her die on a mission for the Suicide Squad. And we have seen her resurrected as a Black Lantern.

So what did she do as a revenant? The sad answer is 'not much'.  Secret Six #17 and #18 were Blackest Night crossover issues, co-written by John Ostrander and Gail Simone. And art is done by Jim Calafiore, whose style perfectly fits the grimy mayhem of these issues.

The plot itself is an insane mix of action. Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad is trying to rein in and maybe even absorb the Secret Six, a similar group of super-villains. This brawl takes place on 2 fronts - one Belle Reve prison, the other in front of the Six's headquarters the House of Secrets. But added into the mix is a group of dead ex-Suicide Squaders, raised as Black Lanterns and led by the Fiddler. Brief alliances, back-stabs and treachery, retreats and attacks - it is all there in 2 crazy issues.

But I was so hoping that the Black Lanterns would have more lines. The Fiddler and Yasemine get the most. Psi unfortunately remains silent (Psi-lent?). And there would be so much fun there ... taking about decay, etc.


 Instead we see her (far right) tearing through Belle Reve guards and prisoners.


 And then taking the fight to the Secret Six outside the prison walls.


 Somehow this group - Bane, Black Alice, and my gal pal Nightshade - are able to hold them off until some back-up arrives. But these are Black Lanterns. Any physical damage done can simply be regenerated. This will eventually be a losing fight.


It is clear that both the Six and the Squad, now temporarily united against this common foe, have to retreat. They use Nightshade's shadow-path power to head to the House of Secrets.

Unfortunately, it is Black Alice (who has drained Nightshade of her powers) who opens up that path. And, like the novice she is, she leaves it open. Suddenly, the Black Lanterns, including Psi (over on the right) are there and ready to brawl.


Luckily, Amanda Waller has an ace in the hole. She has a partially powered old Manhunter robot. And she uses it as a Green energy grenade.

Now it has been a while since I read Blackest Night. Is this a valid weapon for Black Lanterns?


At least in this book, it is.

The Black Lantern rings connections are severed and the zombies blow away like ash.

And that my friends ... I promise you ... is the last we saw of that Psi.

I wish we could have had some lines from her in this form!


Outside of the Psi sighting, these issues are a wild romp. And if you see them in the 50cent box, you should buy them just for the action and some excellent moments. I wanted to share a couple.

First off, look at Nightshade just hammering away at Bane. He can't lay a glove on her. I love how she is shown to be strong and battle-savvy.


But this was my favorite moment.

Yasemine looks at Deadshot to see his emotional energies. I love how Deadshot has buried his emotions so deep inside his psyche that we only see cracks of will and rage. Just a nice little characterization moment.

So this certainly isn't important from a Supergirl point of view. Heck, it isn't even important from a Psi viewpoint. But it is her last moments. So, for completeness sake, I figured I would finish off the Psi-sightings.

Hope you enjoyed this look back at this purely Supergirl rogue.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Supergirl #30


Supergirl #30 came out this week, the second part of the Red Daughter arc and the first issue with new artist Emanuela Lupacchino. I have been giving this arc and it's counterparts in Red Lanterns relatively high marks as it has felt that writer Tony Bedard (as well as RL scribe Charles Soule) has been moving Kara towards some revelation, some redemption, some understanding that she has to give up this anger and isolation. This issue, while decent, didn't seem to have the same progression towards wellness in Kara that I have seen in the prior issues.

And I have said all along that I will reserve the right to regrade this arc if the ending of Supergirl becoming likeable, relatable, and heroic isn't actualized.

That isn't to say there aren't nice moments in this book. There are. Bedard does a nice job of putting in subtle hints that Kara is still a bit confused, trying to figure things out. But there is still a harsh edge to her, harsher than I have seen in the prior issues, and that felt like a step backwards.

Lupacchino's art looks a bit more raw than her highly polished covers have been. But the work itself is very slick. Their is an energy to the art here that brought me into the story. There are maybe a few too many poses where Kara seems to have a broken back but nothing so insane as to drag me out of the plot.

And Kenneth Rocafort's cover is very eye-catching. I did cringe at the 'We're Red, you're dead!' tagline.

The issue starts with the Lanterns defending a planet called Grax from a group of warriors called Diasporans. The Diasporans have been given a belief from someone (I am assuming it will be World Killer #1) that destroying a race's planet and sending them to the stars makes that race stronger. So we see them slaughtering the Grax without care.

That is until the Reds show up.

The first thing we hear from Kara is that she finally feels like she belongs. She was chosen to be part of the Corps. So despite having powers and being Supergirl on Earth ... she just didn't fit in there. I wonder if this is rationalization a little bit by Kara. I think she is grabbing on to the fact that the ring chose her as equaling her fitting in. She didn't really try to fit in on Earth. And maybe she would have if she did try.

I do like the name Diasporans. Nice little play on diaspora.


But there are parts of Kara's interaction with the Reds that makes me think she actually doesn't fit in with this group. This is where I think Supergirl, being desperate for acceptance, is trying to convince herself this is where she belongs rather than feeling it.

For instance, Supergirl chides Skallox for yelling at this young Grax about the death of her mother. That sounds like what a Red would say. But Supergirl doesn't think so. And in the battle, Zilius notices that Supergirl is using her Kryptonian powers rather than her ring's powers to fight. Maybe she isn't totally accepting her new life?


The Lanterns drive off the Diasporans and accept the cheers of the Grax. It is good ... I suppose ... the see Supergirl defend something so passionately, acting heroically. She even talks about how she will pummel anyone that threatens this world again.

So ... this is where I have to wonder about long term characterization. Remember when she called Earth a sweating ball of mud? Where she said she didn't care about Earth at all as long as Krypton came back? Why does Grax rate higher?

I'm happy she wants to defend Grax. I just wonder why it has taken 30 issues for us to hear something like this from Kara. Why she didn't have the same resolve on Earth. I hope Bedard talks about this change of heart.

This is one of those 'brokeback poses' from Lupacchino.


Bedard does do a good job keeping the subplots smoldering.

Blaze not only is on the loose in the Block, she is able to use her magic to convert a computer into some sort of scrying device. She asks it to find the 'angry girl' and it answers Supergirl and Banshee. It then leads her to Queens and Siobhan's home.

I have to say it out loud. I am hoping that the search 'angry girl' is more about Siobhan and her internal demon than Supergirl. Maybe that is me being old fashioned.


The actions shifts back to Ysmault where Guy is trying to rally the corps around the impending fight with Atrocitus. Part of that means talking to Kara and trying to rein her in. This heart to heart talk gives Bedard some rope for some exposition. Supergirl tells Guy about all she saw when in the Blood Ocean. It is a nice way for us as readers to see Kara's true feelings.

Lupacchino really shines in this section, made even better but the muted colors in this section by Hi-Fi.

Much of the vision is a flashback to Krypton and Zor-El. She sees the World Killers in his lab. Finally, we hear some sympathetic words from Supergirl. She finds the very idea of World Killers abominable. As an orphan from a dead planet, she can't tolerate that. (Again, it flies in the face of the Supergirl who was willing to let Earth die in both H'El on Earth and Krypton Returns. But let's forget about those stories ... please??)

We also learn that she doesn't remember that Alura tried to 'save her' from being rocketed off.


I normally don't scan a whole page, but this was the key of the issue for me. And I counted it as 'three panels' in my internal barometer of what I feel comfortable sharing.

We relive the battle with the World Killers from way back in Supergirl #7. (I am pretty sure people in Manhattan cheered for her at the end like the Grax).

But here are the things I liked about this.

One, Kara says the Killers were goading her by saying only a World Killer could defeat one. Back then, I worried that Kara might therefore be the first World Killer. Heck, Mike Johnson certainly hinted at that. By changing it to a taunt, it makes it less likely. Hurrah.

Then we see that resolve of the 'daughters of the house of El'. Alura is a leader who doesn't quit. And Kara wants to live up to that example. That is also very good. We need to distance Kara more and more from the increasingly odious Zor-El.


But as great as these moments were ... Kara wanting to save people, using her powers not the ring, thinking differently from Skallox, thinking World Killers are horrible, wanting to be like Alura ... Bedard kind of pulled the rug out from under me.

Just when I think Supergirl is realizing her true nature, she devolves back to a snarling Red, vowing to burn the sector clean. I do like Guy's expression, realizing he has his hands full.

I know, this is a whole arc. I shouldn't expect things to be the way I want ... let alone in a couple of months. But I was hoping that the trajectory we saw in the earlier issues ... the trek back to a S-shield Supergirl fighting villains on Earth ... was maintained.

Still, there is progress here. And I guess I should be happy about that.

Overall grade: B/B+

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sales Review: March 2014



March was another month of slow comics sales as reported over at ICv2. As always, that sites coverage of comic sales is superior and worth looking at in total. Here is a link: http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/28315.html

I think everyone has been wondering if we are on a slow march to death of this medium. I have been saying it for a decade so I doubt we are close. But slow sales is worrisome. I do wish there was some report about digital sales.

And this day and age, we seem to be in a world of sales erosion. Each month it seems a title loses some readers. And when things reach a critical point, rather than going in a 'bold new direction' and keeping the numbering, companies now seem to cancel, pause, and resolicit. More #1 issues!


Supergirl #29 lost some readers from its last month ... that is true. But it had also picked up more readers last month with the initiation of the Red Daughter storyline. While it lost some sales, it retained more of the gain than it lost. We are still up from Supergirl #27's sales.

I am looking at the positives. Or trying to.

But it pains me that this book is hovering at the 100 mark. DC has really harmed this character over these 3 years. I crave a change and hope sales will follow.

Red Lanterns, Kara's other book, is selling a bit healthier at around 25K in sales.


As usual when I do sales reviews, I try to champion a book that I think should be selling better. Some examples from the past have been R.E.B.E.L.S., Danger Club, and Vibe.

It amazes me that Action Comics would be in this slot.

We are talking about ACTION COMICS!!

Yes, the book has suffered with Lobdell and the Diggle/Daniel upheaval.

But this book has been phenomenal since Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder took over.

PHENOMENAL!


Somehow this book is only selling 34K. Some book called Avengers World is outselling it. A Forever Evil mini-series is doing better!

It pains me.

If you think Pak and Kuder are doing it right, sing their praises everywhere! I don't want DC to yank them from the book!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Romita Is Coming! Is He The Next Great One?


I read last week's comics and was surprised to see this ad page.

I'm not the biggest JRJR fan so for me it isn't such a dramatic announcement. In fact, I would think that Geoff Johns returning to Superman would be the bigger announcement.

But there is something familiar about that simple proclamation that 'Romita is Coming!'


Way back in the 70's, DC lured Jack Kirby away from Marvel and DC included a similar advertisement.

In fact, they didn't even name check Kirby at first, simply calling him The Great One! I love that it starts with "the word from high is ..." Almost religious!

Of course, Kirby came on board and was cratively prolific. He unveiled the Fourth World, the Demon, the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, OMAC, and a variety of 1st Issue Special properties.

But I think Jack Kirby coming to DC warranted a "____ is Coming!" ad more than JRJR.


If you didn't know The Great One was Kirby, DC took care of you.

They also had a true 'Kirby is Coming!' advertisement, half pagers touting his coming on board the Jimmy Olsen book.

So ... does Romita coming to DC merit a Kirby-esque push?