Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: Superman #6


Superman #6 came out last week and was a very entertaining read.

From formatting decisions to plot progression to knock down fight sequences to emotional beats, this whole thing gave me a lot to mull over when it was done. And that isn't even mentioning the highly anticipated and highly dreaded cliffhanger ending.

But there was a story-telling moment that I have to admit surprised me and therefore impressed me quite a bit. When this grizzled and semi-jaded comic reader is caught off guard, it needs to be mentioned.

All of that means I must extend my respect to writer Brian Michael Bendis who has somehow made me interested in this Rogol Zaar story. I started out shrugging at this whole thing and looking forward to Action Comics much more. But these last couple of issues have really been standouts.

Of course, equal credit rests on the art team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. The book opens up with amazing double splash pages as Superman's conflicted thoughts surround the slugfest between titans. The art is just stunning. This is one of those issues where I paused before turning the page to make sure I was drinking in all the artwork.

Anyways, there is a lot to mull over in the details so on to the book.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Matrix Monday: Adventures Of Superman #444


Last week I began the idea of Matrix Mondays,  a spotlight on some of the pieces of the Matrix Supergirl's history which I haven't covered during the 10 plus years of this site.

First stop is The Supergirl Saga, the storyline which brought back a Supergirl to the DCU. Last week I covered chapter one in Superman #21. Today we'll dive right into the second chapter in Adventures of Superman #444, by writer John Byrne and art team of Jerry Ordway and Dennis Janke.

This was an interesting time in the DC Universe. The Crisis was only a couple of years in the past. The idea of something being pre-Crisis or post-Crisis was still fresh in readers' minds. And the long-reaching continuity ramifications were still being discovered. It also meant that if creators wanted to take one last look back, they could do so. Readers still remembered infinite Earths.

Ahhh ... but we should have been able to remember. There was only one universe throughout time after the Crisis. As a result, if you wanted to cobble together some sort of coherent patch in Legion continuity, you would come up with the concept of a 'pocket universe', a slice of time/space that wasn't a whole universe.

Please pass the ibuprofen.

Still, something had to be done to fix the Legion. So here we are.

This issue does what a middle chapter is supposed to do, filling in the details of a story while setting up a satisfactory ending. This issue is basically a flashback of the Pocket Universe Earth and what happened after the death of Superboy in the Baxter Legion book. It does give artist Jerry Ordway the opportunity to revisit Silver Age looking elements of the DCU. Nothing like old school Quex-Ul to make a long time Superman fan happy!

And we get just a smidge more of this Supergirl.

But this is an info dump in preparation of the finale's conflagration.

One last note. I love that the cover of this issue is basically the first panel of the story. Here is Superman kneeling at the graves of the Kents who on this world have passed.

On to the book.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: Supergirl #25


Supergirl #25 came out last week, a double sized anniversary issue celebrating ... I guess ... the title making it to the quarter century mark. It is amazing what passes as a high number in comics these days.

The book is made up of three stories. The first continues the current plotline with Kara investigating Rogol Zaar's part in the destruction of Krypton. Writer Marc Andreyko does a decent job here mixing in visions and reality, playing on a bit of Supergirl's history, and adding a new rogue to her villain list. The art there is done primarily by Supergirl veteran Emanuela Lupacchino and fits in well with the Maguire/Shaner look to the book.

The second story focuses on a past encounter of current shipmate Z'ndr Kol. We get a better sense of the sort of swashbuckling, Tomb Raider-like adventurer he is. But we also get some crumbs to deepen the current mysteries of this title. I don't know how much I can trust this guy. And there are so many apostrophes in his language that I can't help but think he's a Martian.

The last story feels like an inventory holdover for some never published holiday special. Dan Jurgens and Tom Derenick give us a story from Supergirl's past, clearly set in the Steve Orlando era, with a simple but beloved holiday message.

Overall I thought this was a very good issue but for one overused plot element that bores me.

On to the book!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sales Review: November 2018



Perhaps it is that everyone has less cash to spend because they are buying holiday presents.
Perhaps it is that everyone has less money to put to floppies because they subscribed to the DCU streaming service.

But comics sales went down pretty badly last month. And the super titles were not immune. As always, head to ICv2 for coverage here: https://icv2.com/articles/markets/view/42021/top-500-comics-november-2018


You might recall that sales on Supergirl #23 were ludicrously high, perhaps bolstered by a foil enhanced Artgerm cover.

I thought fan favorite Doc Shaner being on art for Supergirl #24 might keep the ball rolling.


Supergirl #24 not only sported that spiffy Shaner art but introduced a suave Coluan into the mix. It had some fun Kara/Krypto fighting sequences. And we even saw how quickly Supergirl can become non-super if she taxes her system and isn't bathing in yellow sun.

Overall, not a bad issue. And definitely easy on the eyes.

So how did it sell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Albatross


In Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge, a sailor who shot an albatross which had given the ship good fortune is forced to wear it around his neck as the boat sinks into a hell. The word albatross subsequently has become synonymous with a burden on someone, especially in the context of some sin or ill fortune that has fallen on them.

A rather literary start to a post on Supergirl Comic Box Commentary but bear with me.

Because today I thought I would comment on characters who have had an albatross placed in their continuity and how difficult it sometimes is to move past that burden, even in a genre where resurrections, retcons, and reboots are common. In comics, it is often a dark moment for a character where it is simply too hard to move on.

And I wonder if, when such a story element is being pitched, if the creative powers that be realize that such a plot point might be extremely damaging moving forward.

Let's start with the impetus for this post, Doomsday Clock #8 and poor Firestorm.


I have been sort of underwhelmed with Doomsday Clock as a whole. Time delays within each issue and a sort of plodding pace so far has made it difficult to embrace. While moments have been interesting (old green lanterns, Johnny Thunder, Rorscach II), I have read and bagged and haven't revisited. Even the back matter, which I am sure is filled with goodies has been skimmed and been mostly forgotten.

And then Doomsday Clock #8 happened and it just seemed to matter. Geoff Johns made the whole thing click. It didn't hurt that the issue basically revolved around Superman, something Clock was supposed to do from it's inception. It also helped that Superman was portrayed perfectly, from an implied beat down of an obstinate Black Adam to a friendly and inspirational voice to Firestorm and people in general. I was happy. But not everybody was.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #7


The Last Siege #7 came out last week, the penultimate issue of this extremely enjoyable mini-series.

I have been reviewing comics on this site for 10 years and there are a few sayings that crop up every so often.

One is 'big moments need big art', a statement I make when a splash page is utilized appropriately to convey the enormity of a moment.

Another is 'when words and art complement each other, comics is at its best'.

The former applies to this issue. The latter does not.

This issue portrays the title. This is the siege moment. This is Istvan's army storming Lord Aedon's castle. It is told in a series of two page spreads, one side a splash, the other side, panels conveying smaller moments of action. There is a thread in the book, a series of panels designed to build suspense in the tale, told through panels growing larger and brighter. This whole book is big art. And for the battle that has been brewing this whole mini-series, it is thrilling.

But, amazingly, this is a 'silent issue'. There isn't one spoken word. There isn't one text box. There isn't one 'meanwhile'. Words can't complement the story. There are no words. Instead, the art has to carry the story. The pace of the battle. The passing of time. That increasing suspense. The characters' thoughts and feelings. It all has to be shown, not told.

And it all works.

Even the cover is part of the story. A torn doll lying in the rubble of a castle under attack. It shows a loss of innocence. Queen Cathryn cannot be a child anymore. Not here. The image tells us that.

Kudos to writer Landry Walker and artist Justin Greenwood for this accomplishment. Congratulations to colorist Brad Simpson for his use of yellows and oranges for this fire-drenched battle. Amazing.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Matrix Monday - Superman #21


Last year I celebrated a ten year anniversary on this site, something I am pretty proud of.

But when I was putting together the celebration, what stood out to me was the stuff that I haven't covered here. The Supergirl Helen Slater movie. The Elseworld's Finest book. The Supergirl mini-series by Roger Stern and June Brigman. Even Action Comics #252. I'll get there; I promise.

One of the things that also stood out was that I never covered The Supergirl Saga, the re-introduction of a Supergirl character into the DCU in the post-Crisis era. I have exhaustively covered Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 in particular. So why not Supergirl's return ... okay a sort-of return of Supergirl?


This was brought a bit more into focus this summer when I met John Byrne at Boston Fan Expo (here's a pic of him holding my signed copy). I had grown to love the Matrix version of Supergirl, mostly in the post-Death of Superman time period, when she left Lex, became an independent hero, and ultimately an Earth Angel. I thanked Byrne for bringing Supergirl back and he looked at me wryly and said 'in way'. I wished I could have talked to him more about this decision but the line to see him was enormous. You got your 30 seconds of time and you left happy.

So I thought I would cover this three part story over the next few Mondays, Matrix Mondays if you will. Today we'll cover Superman #21, the first chapter as written and drawn by John Byrne.

And I'll do my best to go back in time and remember what I was thinking at that point in time. This hit the stands on May 17, 1988, almost 3 years since Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 was released. What were Supergirl fans thinking?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Adventures Of Super Sons #5


Adventures of the Super Sons #5 came out this last week and was a fun interlude in this rather bonkers title. Changes are upcoming for Jon Kent so Peter Tomasi is taking advantage of this series to expose the fun-loving sons to all the madness the DCU can provide.

As I have said in prior reviews, Tomasi has been inserting nods to prior DC history events throughout this series. There is a 'plot' of sorts; a young version of the Injustice League, fanboys of criminals from an alien planet who are basically cosplaying the real baddies is after the sons. But mostly this seems like a madcap race. That thread might be weaving through the book. But mostly this feels episodic.

This issue wraps up a two part peek at the horror anthologies of the Bronze Age. Stuck on the Planet of Mystery and Secrets, the boys are stuck in a spooky house and faced with potential future versions of themselves. There will be Easter Eggs! But all in all, the boys both learn a lesson and inspire. Not bad for kid heroes.

The art by Carlo Barberi is still wonderful, cartoony and stylish enough to fit the material perfectly.

As I have said before, it'll be a shame when this version of the sons moves on. On to the book.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Steve Rude On Supergirl ... What Might Have Been


Thanks to blog friend Jon Francis for pointing out a juicy little tidbit about one of my favorite artists, Steve Rude, and Supergirl.

In TwoMorrow's Comic Book Creator #18, Rude discusses what sounds like a near miss for being on the Supergirl title in some role. Whether it was regular artist, fill in artist, or cover artist, we almost had a Rude awakening on the book. But I guess it wasn't meant to be.

It's a shame because Rude has a clean style that I love. There is a classic feel to his stuff, timeless and beautuful.



In an article aptly called 'DC: Hello, Goodbye ... ', Rude talks about a this possible assignment.

As you can tell by the title, it ends with Rude saying goodbye to DC.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Supergirl Episode 408: Bunker Hill


Supergirl episode 408, titled 'Bunker Hill' was another very good episode for this season. As a 'midseason finale' (I guess the Elseworlds crossover is a stand alone event), this moved the overall plot themes of the season forward while also stuffing in a ton of small character moments, strong dialogue, and Easter eggs to keep the fan in me smiling. No big surprise given the fact that the episode was directed by Kevin Smith and written by Eric Carrasco and staff.

The title Bunker Hill refers to a sentiment from Ben Lockwood in the episode. He says that Bunker Hill was a case of losing a battle but ultimately winning a war. And that theme is going to play heavily into this episode's outcome. But it also resonates with how well the show has been handling this political topic of immigration and prejudice.

While it is clear the side the show's creators are on, I love how they haven't been heavy-handed in their presentation. In fact, they have done a very good job of showing how people don't consider themselves villains; they think of themselves as the hero in their own story. It shows how circumstances can breed hate in all sides of a problem. And it shows how when you look deeply, we still have a lot common with each other, enough that you think we would all care.

You can look at Ben Lockwood and Manchester Black as the same coin but on opposite ends of a political spectrum. You can look at Ben Lockwood and Supergirl as two people who believe in their personal definition of justice and have a 'secret identity' to protect their loved ones. And you can look at Supergirl and J'onn as people who can inspire, who keep trying to help people who are villains by their action but are rebuffed.

I think this is the strongest season of this show so far in that they are giving us powerful stories. But this review will cover that and geeky moments too, so settle in.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

DCSHG: For The Girl Who Has Everything


I have been remiss in recent times to review all of the Supergirl appearances in DC Superhero Girls. Perhaps I am falling into a 'comic continuity' funk, knowing that Shea Fontana's version is going to be replaced by Lauren Faust's soon.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon the most recent episode, a Supergirl-centric tale available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJWCG4ZyTm4

It is a shame I lost track of this because it is a ton of fun.


The title is 'For the Girl who has Everything' and comic fans know that title as a riff on 'For the Man who has Everything', the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons Black Mercy story from Action Comics Annual #11. We know in that story the Black Mercy flower shows Superman his fondest desire, that Krypton did not explode and he has a family. Of course, he realizes (with the help of this friends) that this is a flawed 'perfect reality' and breaks free.

And this isn't the first time we have seen a Supergirl take on this story. It was part of Supergirl season one on CBS:
http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/2016/02/supergirl-episode-13-for-girl-who-has.html

So what is the DCSHG Supergirl's perfect world?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Review: DC Nuclear Winter Special #1


I had seen the solicits for DC's Nuclear Winter Special #1 and I saw the creator list included a number of names of creators who I trust. This includes but isn't limited to Steve Orlando, Paul Dini, Tom Taylor, Cecil Castellucci, Phil Hester, Scott Kolins, Jerry Ordway, etc.

That's a lot of names of people whose work I routinely love.

But then I saw the price point. $10 is a lot to shell out for a collection of post-apocalyptic, 'this isn't a holiday special', 'out of continuity book. I'd almost rather buy three monthlies and keep those titles afloat. It's like a $10 lottery ticket. It might be a winner. But it might not. And shouldn't that sawbuck go elsewhere?

Luckily I have friends who don't overthink things so much and had bought it. Those folks loved it. So when you say there are creators who you trust in the book and there are comic friends who you trust telling you to buy the book, you reach into your wallet and you plop the Hamilton down.

I am so happy I did. I won't cover all the stories here but they are all very good. But tucked in there is a Supergirl story by writer Tom Taylor with breakdowns by Tom Derenick and finished art and colors by dazziling newcomerYasmin Putri. The tale is absolutely wonderful. It certainly will make my top ten list. It leans into so many things I feel about Supergirl's history. It is hopeful, even in the nightmarish world it exists in. And it is beautiful. This alone would have made the book worth buying.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Action Comics #1005


Action Comics #1005 came out this week and was a crackling good time. This issue was a perfect sort of middle chapter for what we have been reading here, pushing forward all the plot threads organically, giving us new information, and making me want more. From its inception, Action Comics has been my favored Brian Michael Bendis super-book and issues like this is why. After last month's Lois problems, this issue righted the train.

Certainly Superman/Clark has a huge presence. He is the straw that stirs the drink. But the real power of Action is the supporting cast. From the individual mob leaders in the Invisible Mafia to the Planet staff, everyone builds on everyone else.  I want to learn more about these people and their motivations. I want to know the answers to the mysteries we have been teased with. This is an ensemble book with a superstar center and I love it.

Of course, the book is profoundly helped by the achingly fantastic art of Ryan Sook. Sook's stuff just leaps off the page. From the action sequences to shadowy crime meetings to seedy clubs to swanky affairs, Sook's page layout, panel design, and figures are about as perfect as you can get. I know he is working on some secret future project with Bendis but I need him on the super-books now and then. How about he is the perrenial Annual artist?

And I usual am horrible about not mentioning the rest of the artistic team, something I need to remedy. Brad Anderson's colors also help tell the story. The psychedelic colors of the opening scene evoke the 60's/Ditko-ness of it all. The bright colors in the posh party stand in contrast to the inkiness of the mob meeting held in darkness. And the letters by Josh Reed, especially the sound effects, add to the action.

Okay, enough gushing. On to the details.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #174


In Supergirl Episode 406, 'A Call to Arms', Supergirl fought a dragon.

Thanks to a comment on this site, I was reminded that this wasn't the first time Supergirl had fought a dragon. I was reminded that Supergirl fought a dragon in Superman Family #174. How could I not dip into the back issue box to review it!

Of course, that led me to review the other time Supergirl fought a dragon (sort of) in Adventure Comics #418.

So sit back and relax and get ready for me to review and try as best I can to makes some sense of the following story. Because it is one of the nuttiest stories I have ever read.


Superman Family #174 came out in late 1975.

In 1974, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane was canceled at #137. Supergirl's solo title was also canceled in 1974 at #10. And Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen was renamed Superman Family with #164. Those three solo books were basically consolidated into the 'new title' Superman Family.

Readers were given one story for each of the three main players. One story would be new; the other two would be reprints. The new stories would rotate and readers would know who was the star of the new material by who dominated the cover.

And so Superman Family #174 had 'Eyes of the Serpent' starring Supergirl as the lead and fresh story.  It has a sweet cover drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger showing Supergirl using her cape to block a dragon's nostril fire.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Supergirl Episode 407: Rather The Fallen Angel


***
A Brief Reminder:
I am writing reviews for this show but I will no longer be adding comments or responding to comments. 
Nor will I be baited into responding to personal attacks against me.
I will be deleting comments which I feel veer into fake news, personal attacks on myself or other commenters, and anything else I (as blog owner) deem vile.
I review a television show. This show is a political metaphor but I do not run a political blog.
Thank you.
***

Supergirl episode #407, 'Rather The Fallen Angel' was another very good show in this strong season. This season is clearly a referendum on immigration with the villain being a xenophobe and the good guys trying to stop a violent uprising based on hate.

But one thing the show has been doing very well is show how there are shades of gray between the starkness of white and black. Agent Liberty is too far gone now, a murdering extremist. But the events that nudged him down that path were real, showing how he felt like an outcast in his own land. Manchester Black we learn here is also too far gone, attacking humans who disagree with him violently. Neither of these people, politically diametrically opposed, are heroes. But they are the extreme edges.

In the middle are people like Tom, the Children of Liberty member who realizes his error. And James, who was willing to compromise himself to save one person. And Lena who is willing to risk the lives of people for her research. Kara says it clearly at the end of this episode, the duality of people ... some mix of good and bad ... is making it more and more difficult to judge with the lens of simple 'good' and 'bad'. For a show that has worn its political heart on its sleeve in an over-the-top way, this nuanced approach is refreshing.

Agent Liberty was hurt as Ben Lockwood when he lost everything ... but his reactionary stance after was wrong. Manchester Black was hurt when he lost everything ... but his reactionary stance after was wrong. They are two sides of the same coin. But both sides have been scratched up. In essence, these were people who fell, like the fallen angels in the title.

Aside from a few plot conveniences which push the plot forward, the story here and the imagery was all very good. This is probably the strongest season for me in this show so far. On to the details.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Back Issue Review: Adventure Comics #418


Last week on Supergirl Episode 406, 'Call to Arms', we saw Supergirl fight a dragon.

It was one of the best sequences I have seen on the show in a long time. I flat out loved it.

As a result, and thanks to a nudge from someone who left a comment here, I decided that I should take a look back at other times Supergirl fought a dragon.

These are all in the fluxing time period of the early 70s. Comics were starting to get more serious. But there was still a bit of Silver Age lunacy that could mix in. As a result, the two dragon stories that I am going to review are pretty wonky. So settle in.


Believe it or not, the earlier of the two stories is the less insane one.

Adventure Comics #418 came out in 1972 and the Supergirl run as the headliner in the title was just a few issues away. This was a time when the Supergirl stories were trying to be a bit more mature. Mike Sekowsky started the 'new adventures' way back in Adventure Comics #400. But Sekowsky had left leaving a handful of other creators to pinch hit.

And so we have 'The Face of the Dragon', a story which might be trying to cash in on the Kung Fu craze happening in America at the time. It also is trying to mesh the odd mix of film noir with the four color escapades of a super-powered Maid of Might. Basically, your mileage may vary.

All that said, please pick this book up if you see it in the cheap bins. The Black Canary back-up has a story with ridiculously gorgeous Alex Toth art. That alone is worth the price.

But onto the Supergirl story!

Monday, November 26, 2018

DC February Solicits


Last week, DC released its solicits for February and I have thoughts. Here is a link to Newsarama's coverage of all the books:  https://www.newsarama.com/42789-dc-comics-february-2019-solicitations.html

Let's just say when I saw the cover for Supergirl #27 I felt a bit deflated.

I have been covering this character for ten and a half years. I have seen her character go dark and get redeemed at least 4 times over that period. Four times ... that I can think of.

It seems like every so often, DC's upper echelon thinks that a 'dark Supergirl' is what is missing in the world. And every single time the take fails ... because THAT'S NOT SUPERGIRL ... and someone has to come in and smooth things over. Sterling Gates, Tony Bedard, Mike Johnson and K. Perkins, even Steve Orlando and Jody Houser all have needed to bring Kara back from the dark and have her embrace Earth as home and swear to defend it.

So, of course, after Orlando and Houser have Supergirl back on the straight and narrow, DC pulls the plug and has Marc Andreyko send Supergirl away from Earth, away from her supporting cast, away from that role of hero, and sent her into space. From the get-go, I was nervous. But Perkins sent her to Crucible and that worked out so I took a breath.

Then I saw the first cover and read the issues. Gritty Kara, wielding a battle axe, on a path of vengeance and swearing she 'isn't Kal' ... I was worried we were back to Dark Supergirl.

I didn't know how good I had it back then.

Because now we have this Supergirl, de-powered, wielding a Liefeldian gun, shooting at some unknown foe while screaming in battle.

THAT'S NOT SUPERGIRL!

Look, you want to read Scarlet, Black Widow, or any of the other gritty female-led books with gun-toting heroes, go ahead! Heck, *I* read some of those books.

But who wants to read a Supergirl book with a powerless teenage girl shooting a gun?

Maybe this will all turn out fine. Maybe it's a stun gun.

But I am not happy. Supergirl shouldn't be powerless. Supergirl shouldn't be mowing people down with a rifle. So I know that Supergirl shouldn't be powerless AND be mowing people down with a rifle.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving Again! Sales Review: October 2018




As Supergirl fans, I think we should probably give thanks to Stanley 'Artgerm' Lau, someone who seems to be able to wave a magic wand over Supergirl sales. Amazing! So raise a glass of mulled cider or have an extra slice of leftover pumpkin pie today in his honor.

And why am I saying all this today?

Well the comic sales for October 2018 were recently posted. As always head to ICv2 for great coverage: https://icv2.com/articles/markets/view/41809/top-500-comics-october-2018

Now October had DC roll out special foil cover variants. So some of what I am about to discuss might be collector zeal for fancy, shiny covers.

Still the numbers are jaw-dropping!


Supergirl #23 was the third issue of the new direction by Marc Andreyko and Kevin Maguire.

Sales weren't exactly brisk with the bold, new direction. And one thing that had changed was that the Artgerm variant covers ended with Supergirl #20. Amanda Conner took over the variant job with the changeover. And hey ... Amanda Conner ain't a slouch. I love her work and her Supergirl work in particular.

Still, Artgerm gave us the above variant, the foil cover.

But Supergirl #22 had 22,115 units ordered through Diamond. This was a bit of an eye opener. We were two issues into a new run and sales had dropped 20% from Supergirl #21. I was waiting to see if the book was in free fall.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!


For those who celebrate, hope you have a great Thanksgiving day.

I am, as always, thankful for the audience this place has.

Thanks for heading here and talking Supergirl!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Supergirl Episode 406: A Call To Arms


Supergirl episode 406, titled'A Call to Arms' aired earlier this week and was another very good episode in this season's overall arch about prejudice and fear. While a few notes were a little shrill, overall this episode continued to show how complex this topic is. And for a show like Supergirl which has been holier than thou at times with ham-fisted scripts I have to applaud the writers and producers.

While the main theme for the season has been fear of aliens, a clear metaphor for immigrants and racism (or any of the other phobias of 'other' out there), I think a current coursing under the theme is just how far people will be pushed by their fear and anger. And the writers have to be commended for showing us a number of shades of gray.

It starts with the villain Ben Lockwood, pushed towards anger and hate by a series of unfortunate events which left him fearing for his family's life. Warped from a reasonable person to a hate monger, he has a line he has drawn. He won't kill humans. Will his crossing that line show him the errors of his ways?

Meanwhile, the opposite side of the coin is Manchester Black, a man who loved an alien and had become a man of peace through his love. Now with his fiancee killed, he has also been twisted into a hate, killing and torturing his fellow humans to get what he wants.

And there is Kara, the beacon of hope who is constantly being asked to stay out of the mud. She has had moments of self-doubt that maybe she is too optimistic. Will she be dimmed.

But the most intriguing person might be Colonel Lahey, a side character who at times seems like a clear-thinking person, assessing threats. At other times, she is just as slimy as Lockwood. Which way will she turn? Can she be redeemed? Shown the light?

While all this was there in this episode, we also got Helen Slater, Thankisgiving dinner at the Danvers, mysterious stuff about Nia, and a fight with a dragon. Just wonderful.

On to the details.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Julius Schwartz Memorial Lecture - Brian Michael Bendis


On November 8th, I had the luck of driving just a few miles from my place of work to MIT. And there, I was able to take in the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program 2018 Julius Schwartz Memorial Lecture. Past lecturers have been Neil Gaiman and J. Michael Straczynski.

This year it was Brian Michael Bendis.

The lecture was open to the public and held in a big auditorium style class room on campus. It looked like about 100 people were in attendance.

Given that he is now on the Superman books and has written a bunch of books I loved, I was thrilled that I was able to attend.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Superman #5



Superman #5 came out last week, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

I have said in the past that Action Comics has been more enjoyable to me recently. But the last two issues, Bendis has really brought it. There is a lot here that I loved. There is humor. There is plot progression. Bendis picks up a plot thread that has been hanging for a while. Heck, I even like General Zod in this issue. I haven't been interested in Zod in about a decade. Just amazing.

Two moments stand out. There is a moment of Ma and Pa wisdom at the end which made me sit up and cheer.  And there is a Lois mention that showed me that maybe Bendis gets the Kent/Lane relationship at its foundation. They happen back to back at the end of the book and I was thrilled. Pitch perfect ... you'll see.

Add to that the usual stand-out art by the team of Reis and Prado. There is something so classic about their approach to the material. Whether gleaming spires or ruined zones, the two bring it. In particular, Superman looks pretty ragged here, appropriate given the fight he has been through. I also love Adam Hughes' cover, riffing on the classic Superman #32 cover from the 40's.

On to the book.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Supergirl #24


Supergirl #24 came out this week and I won't bury the lede. It has Doc Shaner art.

Since I discovered Shaner's art I have wanted to see his take on Supergirl and he doesn't disappoint. That is not to say that Kevin Maguire hasn't been killing it on this book; he has. But there is something just magical, just gorgeous, just grin-inducing about Shaner's art and his take on Kara that elevates this issue tremendously. Expect me to gush throughout the review even though I have already blasted you with superlatives.

The story in the issue is good, advancing the plot of detective Kara trying to uncover what Rogol Zaar and 'The Circle' had to do with Krypton's destruction. I feel like the first three issues have been something of prologue, starting Kara out on this intergalactic journey. Now, out in space, writer Marc Andreyko can start to put the rest of the pieces out on the chess board. A couple of new characters are introduced. And we continue to move forward on Kara's quest to reunite the crystals Appa Ali Apsa.

Sure, Kara seems more of the angry, 'punch first' Supergirl of past years. The cover touts her 'path of vengenace'. It seems like a step back in her characterization. At least, at times, she seems like the bright, inquisitive Supergirl we have seen recently.

But the big win here is Shaner's art. It is just a fill-in. He has no other planned issue of Supergirl ahead. Maybe the hue and cry of the common folk can bring him back as designated pinch hitter?

Onto the book.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bullet Review: Justice League #11

 I feel like it is a little bit of a cheat for me to review Justice League #11 because I am not getting the entirety of the Drowned Earth storyline. I am not getting the stand alone issues. I am only getting the main title books. So I don't know if it is fair of me to review interval chapters rather than the whole arc.

That said, I have been reviewing and lauding this book since it's premiere and I didn't think it felt right not to review the book.

So ultimately I decided that I would include a review of the issue, at least showcasing the elements that I liked as well as hitting on moments that impact plot points brought up in the earlier issues.

Scott Snyder continues the keep things moving forward at warp speed. A lot of ideas and plot progression happens here. But what I loved about this issue is the sneaky character moments that if you blink or gloss over, you'll miss.

Francis Manapul is on art and really shines here. There is a thicker, harder edge to his stuff. I usually think of breathier, more pencil-y work with Manapul. But the style works here with this world-threatening incident unfolding.

So I won't go too in depth here. But there are moments that are too good to not share.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Supergirl Episode 405: Parasite Lost


I have been very pleased with this season of Supergirl. The first four episodes were quite tight, with good character moments, good action, and very solid story-telling. Prior seasons and prior episodes have been heavy-handed or clunky. And I haven't had to say that this season so far.

Episode 405, titled Parasite Lost, was a decent episode. It progressed the overall plot. There were some nice character moments. Alex Danvers ultimately saves the day with Supergirl acting more as a bystander. While Kara the reporter gets a boost, her role as superhero is again diminished. Kara again isn't the hero in her own show. There was a great moment at the end for J'onn J'onzz which elevated this episode a lot for me.

And once more, there is a nuanced approach to the metaphor of alien as immigrant. We saw a more sympathetic view of Agent Liberty a couple of weeks ago. Here we start to see signs of how hate can drive people deeper into evil. In fact, I think two themes of the season are starting to percolate a bit.

After such a solid beginning, I felt this was a bit of a 'treading water' episode, a mini-step back from the excellence we have seen before. Good is still good. I thought this was solid. Just not as fantastic.

And we don't get a single mention of Mercy and Otis. I still don't know if they are dead!

On to the show.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Back Issue Review: Action Comics #340


Just this week on the Supergirl show, Agent Jensen was turned into the Parasite to vex our hero Kara and the DEO.

Now most people, myself included, jump to Rudy Jones as being the Parasite. So when someone named Jensen was introduced on the show way back in the premiere, I didn't think to much of it.



Then Supergirl fan extraordinaire @kara_querl that the original Parasite, from Action Comics #340 was named Raymond Jensen. Supergirl staff writer Eric Carrasco confirmed this had been planned since the first episode.

Feeling myself like a bad fan for not remembering this on my own, especially given that I actually own the issue in my collection, I decided that a back issue review was warranted. So get ready to read about the first appearance of the Parasite!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #4


The Last Siege #6 came out last week and continues to be an ultra-dramatic story racing towards its conclusion.

I have said all along that this movie has been playing out in my head like a film, Braveheart meets The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly meets Seven Samurai. From the pacing to the panel composition to the plot, it all feels like a Spaghetti Western hopped up on mead. And I have loved every minute of it.

Writer Landry Walker has done a great job bringing this tale up to a roiling boil. After issues of set-up and back story, the pieces are all on the board. And now the board is on fire. Incredible. Along with this deliberate ratcheting up the action, we still get great character beats. We learn the history of Tomislav and Istvan both within the illustrated comic and in the text pieces in the back. We see Lady Cathryn go from innocent silent girl playing with dolls to wounded combat leader rallying the troops. This has been a meaty read from all angles.

Artist Justin Greenwood continues to bring us a bleak gritty landscape with his inky work. But one thing I have appreciated along the way has been his ability to convey information through body language. In this book, you can feel the weariness in the beaten warriors' bones. You feel the nervousness of the characters fleeing the carnage. So much is said without words.

Rounding out the team is Brad Simpson on colors. Given the amount of gore and fire in this chapter, we get a brighter palette than the usual one for this book. We are bathed in yellows and oranges that bring the story out of the shadows. We also have Pat Brosseau on lettering and he brings his usual panache.

I've been thrilled with this book so far. The end is nigh!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: Adventures of the Super Sons #4


Adventures of the Super Sons #4 came out this week and continued this hilarious romp through the DCU. From the beginning it was clear that writer Peter Tomasi was going to have fun with this series. Jon Kent was going to be changed by Brian Michael Bendis. This interaction and this duo would never be the same again. So why not just let it rip and have a blast.

I have said in prior reviews that this seems like a tour through the history of the DCU, a mix of Silver and Bronze age pastiche barely held to by a plot. But I don't care. Last issue we got a take on Superman Red/Blue and an appearance from Space Cabbie. This issue we have dialogue that is lifted from movies to a possible Marvel homage to a riff on DC's Bronze age horror anthologies. It's perfect. I am having so much fun with this book. I'm not expecting War and Peace. I am expecting a fun ride. And that is what Tomasi is giving us. It is almost perfect that this book came out a week after Halloween because this was a sweet treat, a confection.

Carlo Barberi continues to bring a zany energy to the book walking the fine line between stylized and over stylized. The somewhat cartoony like look clicks with the Looney Tunes plot. And his Sons are perfect. This is how I picture them in my mind. And that homage to DC's past is evident right from the cover, a classic horror comic motif (see cover of House of Mystery #174 of The House of Mystery treasury).

It is a shame we only have so much of this book and this dynamic left. On to the issue!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Supergirl Episode 404: Ahimsa


Supergirl episode 404, titled 'Ahimsa', aired this week and was another strong character episode in what has been a very strong season. Yes, there was action, one might say 'Marvel-ous' action. And yes there was plot progression. But this was again about looking at how the plot of alien amnesty and xenophobia is effecting people. I am thrilled with this season so far.

This is also the episode with the suited Supergirl, probably because Melissa Benoist was so far away on Broadway. The DEO is trying to clear the air of Kryptonite. And I might be looking to deep for metaphors, but each character has something weighing on them as well. They need to clear the air, revealing their problems and working through them. Some make perfect sense, like Alex suddenly dealing with the weight of leadership. Or Brainy dealing with uncertainty and how his emotions make working through that doubt difficult. Others make less sense, like J'onn saying he has lived his life 'steeped in rage'. But overall it worked. And that's all that matters.

As for the action, some of the villains' actions and motivations are a little wonky. But they are appropriately scary and nefarious. I like seeing the smooth words and charisma of Ben Lockwood coming to the foreground of the main plot.

On to the episode.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rhode Island Comic Con Wrap-Up


I consider myself a con veteran. I prepare meticulously and try to be ready. I often have the experience mapped out mentally as I enter. Yes ... I know ... insanity.

And every so often I am delightfully surprised.

I went to the Rhode Island Comic Con this weekend with very little expectations. There weren't many comic creators on the guest list. And I only had a couple of issues for signature from that limited guest list. I honestly went more because it is an annual trip for me and my brother (he is a huge Star Wars fan so we cover a swath of cons like this).

My plans were simple.

Meet Laura Vandervoort again, have her sign a Smallville comic, and not be a nervous blathering idiot like I was the first time I met her.

Meet Kevin Nash, founding member of the NWO and one of my favorite wrestlers.

Get single issues signed by Kevin Eastman and Bob Layton.

A commission wasn't even on my radar but luck favors the prepared so I chucked my main sketch book into my bag and off I went.

Bear with me because the best stuff happened at the end.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Bullet Review: Superman #16


Through cosmic alignment more than cerebral intent, I have been thinking a lot about the reintroduction of 'Supergirl' to the post-Crisis, Byrne-era DC Universe. Much of that probably was born from my recent review of what I will call 'Matrix' in  Superman #19 .

In looking back at the site, I realize that I also briefly touched on her third appearance in  Superman #20, the first time that Matrix met Ma and Pa Kent as she was trying to work her way through her muddled 'pocket universe' memories.

Heck, I've even covered the John Byrne promotional poster.

While I know that an Elseworld's Finest review is due. And a long overdue viewing of the Supergirl movie and a review of that is also due, I think I need to scratch this Byrne itch. In the end, I think I'll need to review the 'Supergirl Saga', the last Byrne storyline which changed so much of the books moving forward. (Hard to believe I haven't reviewed that before either.)

But before I get there, I figured I better cover the first appearance of Matrix in the DCU, as seen in an explosive cliffhanger in Superman #16. And I have to say I have a little movie-based theory about this first meeting.

As many know, I was lucky enough to meet Byrne at this summer's Boston Fan Expo and got some issues signed including this one. I thanked him for 'somewhat' returning Supergirl to comics and he shrugged and said 'somewhat'. And that little interaction meant a lot to me.

On to the book.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Superman/Top Cat #1


 This October had five Wednesdays which meant that there would most likely be slim pickings on the comic shelf. While DC did put Heroes in Crisis #2 and a Batman Secret Files out there, we also got the next wave of goofy team-ups between DC characters and Hanna Barbera properties. Thus Superman/Top Cat #1 by Dan Didio and Shane Davis was available for review.

Now I had a lot of expectations for this book. For one, prior recent DC odd team-ups with cartoon characters (things like the wonderful Bugs Bunny/Legion of Super-Heroes or Batman/Elmer Fudd) were very well done, exceeding what I thought possible.

Also, I am a huge fan of the old cartoon Top Cat, watched on reruns in my youth. Here I met that smooth talking Top Cat, always trying to get rich quick. There was a Phil Silvers analogue; there was a Cary Grant analogue. They always seemed one step ahead of Officer Dibble. Top Cat is a relative unknown these days so I was thrilled to see him back in action with the Big Red S.

Unfortunately, the book was sort of a let-down. Top Cat in this comic could have been any number of cartoon characters. He wasn't 'Top Cat'-ish enough to capture the cartoon. None of the other characters appear here. And outside of some puns and some sarcasm around vegetables and Amazon, there wasn't much fun to be had here.

On to the book ...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Back Issue Review: Omega Men #3


The solicits for January 2019 were released earlier this month and the solicit for Supergirl #26 had a very interesting line in it.

Supergirl…super-captured! Still recovering from radiation poisoning, Kara finds herself in the clutches of the Citadel and its ruthless leader Harry Hokum, who is eager to experiment on one of the last Kryptonians in the known universe. 

Given the mention of Harry Hokum, I thought I would comb the back issue box and review The Omega Men #3 from 1983, an issue which is notable for being the first appearance of Hokum!

Okay, that isn't true, While this is the first appearance of Hokum, this issue is most famous for being the first appearance of the Lobo. While this is Lobo in look, this is not the Main Man most people are used to reading about. Here he is a calculating bounty hunter who sports a 'Goober Grape' one piece costume, a far cry from the cigar chomping, hog-riding, brutal killer of the current DCU.

Hokum is a pretty impressive villain here, a displaced Earth man who is somehow in the Vega system and a political manipulator from behind the scenes. He looks a bit like Vermin Vundabar of Fourth World fame. But despite his slight frame, he is able to stand up to violent leaders of The Citadel and become part of the inner circle of the fascist regime.

The book is written by Roger Silfer. But the main draw for me is the Keith Giffen art, still sporting his ultra-clean, organic look of his early Legion days. All I can say is 'wow'! I am always amazed at how Giffen's art looked back in the day. And given this was a direct market only book, he is able to get a little more r-rated here and there. I was lucky enough to get the issue signed by Giffen at Terrificon 2 summers ago. (The label is on a comic bag, not the actual book.)

Onto the issue!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2018 Jack O'Lanterns


Happy Halloween to every one who celebrates the creepy holiday!

I love the day for it's inherent fun. Costumes and candy! There is no downside.

But my particular niche of Halloween is jack o'lanterns. Every year I plan out a couple of pumpkins to carve and I try to elevate my game. I usually try to include one specific comic character having done Supergirl (duh), Flash, Reverse Flash, Rocketeer, Sensor Girl, and Wildfire in the past.

This year, blog friend Ryan Daly recommended that I honor the passing of Steve Ditko with one of the lanterns. Folks know that I love Ditko's DC stuff - Shade the Changing Man, Hawk and Dove, the Question, and Stalker are all faves of mine.

But this is Halloween. So it seemed more appropriate to pick something more horrific.

What could be more nightmarish than The Dread Dormammu!

I am pretty stoked about this lantern as it tool a lot of fine and delicate knife work. That head is basically floating except for the horn connections so that it precarious and unstable. One of my favorites no doubt.

So what else did I do?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Supergirl 403: Man Of Steel



Supergirl episode 403, titled 'Man of Steel', aired earlier this week and was a very interesting episode for this show. I am going to very intrigued to gather up all the reviews of this episode to see where consensus falls.

First off, this is an episode completely dedicated to the villain. It shows us how Benjamin Lockwood, upstanding and open-minded family man was radicalized into becoming Agent Liberty. Our main characters are present but often as ancillaries to their scenes, more as a way to showcase how they impacted Lockwood's descent. Now some might call this a sympathetic look at the villain. But for me it was more of an opening for a redemption arc. This isn't me forgiving Liberty or understanding him. He is the villain in this piece right now, burning down factories and killing innocents. And the show certainly had a pretty clear message on toxic masculinity. He isn't sympathetic. He isn't misunderstood. He is a person twisted into something horrible by fear, hatem and circumstance. He is evil.

But already in two episodes we see how one of this season's themes is Kara as an inspiration of hope, a beacon of truth. We hear Alex say Supergirl can change people's minds. There is no doubt in my mind that the season finale is going to be Supergirl changing Agent Liberty's mind, or maybe his followers' minds. For us to believe that Kara can break through, we need to understand his roots.

As daring as this villain's episode was, it was just as impressive regarding the internal continuity of the show. Lockwood's story starts with a reference to Supergirl's 'Hope' speech from season one's finale and meanders through the big events of the first three seasons. From Alex's long hair and claiming to be an FBI agent to shots of Cat Grant to seeing James as acting CEO to wardrobe continuity, the Supergirl staff just nailed it. This show has a history that can be leaned on so why not do it. I was amazed.

The message of the episode is clear. But it is well-told and nuanced, not ham-fisted. I appreciated that.

On to the show.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Bullet Review: Superman #19


One of my missions recently has been re-collecting the earliest appearances of the Matrix Supergirl in the John Byrne run of Superman. I wasn't collecting Superman books on a monthly basis until Panic in the Sky and many of these issues were lost in 'the Parental Purge' so finding them again has been something of a fun little side mission.

This week I was lucky enough to stumble on Superman #19 in the dollar box. This is definitely an early appearance of this 'Supergirl'. We first saw her frozen in ice at the end of Supergirl #16.

So get ready to meet this mystery woman again!

Down in Antarctica, she has been thawed and is very much awake.

She is downright ginger and totally Lana-ish. That is completely appropriate given who this Supergirl turns out to be.

But she is also confused. She know she has a mission and she knows she needs to get to ... Smallville.
Back then, we Supergirl fans were as confused as she was. We had heard over and over, and seen over and over, that Supergirl was she was in the pre-Crisis DCU was gone. Heck, we weren't even supposed to mention her name!

And yet, here was this woman.


I wonder if this was a coloring error but I like the look of the blue leggings on this panel.

It reminds me very much of what Landry Walker and Eric Jones had her wearing in Cosmic Adventures. Of course in the very next issue, this flipped to the standard skirt that we are used to.

And this is also a rather mature appearing super-woman here.

Interesting, in looking at the site, I have never reviewed The Supergirl Saga, the end of the Byrne run on the Superman books. Hmmm ...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: Action Comics #1004


Action Comics #1004 came out this week and it was the first issue of the Brian Michael Bendis run on this title that left me a little cold. One of the biggest problems I have had with the reboot has been the removal of Lois and Jon from the book. This issue brings back Lois but does it in such an awkward and odd way that I had to wonder if Bendis has been reading Superman at all.

After a couple of years of a truly loving super-family in the Tomasi and Jurgens written Rebirth books, eliminating Jon and Lois seemed short-sighted. Still, I have very much enjoyed Action Comics since Bendis took over. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he would be able to bring back the Kent family in a way that I could understand and appreciate.

Instead, in this issue, we find out that Lois basically 'needs space' and decided to stay hidden without talking about it with her husband. It is only after he 'discovers' her that she opens up with her concerns. Now you might say that plenty of couples have ups and downs and this could ring true to real life. But Lois never really is able to explain what it is that was missing before. She says she needs room to write but she wrote when she was with Clark as a couple, prolifically. Two books as Author X as well as her Planet stuff.

Even more perplexing, Clark just seems to accept it. You would think he'd have more questions.

And the Jon stuff is glossed over. Remember, their kid is now alone, in space, with a mass murderer who tried to foment chaos on Earth to convince Superman that humans are horrible and worthy of genocide. Not exactly good parenting 101.

All that said, Ryan Sook's art is so wonderful it just sings on the page. From the brief action scenes to the conversations in the Planet to the heart-to-heart Clark/Lois scenes, Sook's work is superior. His expressive work is just wonderful. That alone elevates the book.

Still, this just left a sour taste. On to the particulars.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thom Zahler Commission


I am continually floored by the generosity of the comic community on line. And I have been lucky enough to find myself in a section of fandom who are the nicest and most generous group of people I know. Just last month, the Sutherlands sent me a great Ron Randall commission.

Yesterday, I received a package from The Irredeemable Shag, one of the co-founders of the excellent Fire and Water Podcast Network. At the Baltimore Comic Con, he saw this original drawing by Thom Zahler and picked it up for me. What a tremendous gift and what a perfect commission.

There is so much to love about this. This is classic Bronze Age Supergirl and Brainiac Five. There is a playful feel to the piece. I get the feeling that Supergirl is trying to sneak up on Brainy to give him a hug but he knows she is swooping in and has put his force field on. Her dreamy expression and his self-satisfied half-smile say so much. The addition of the force field line adds a little kinetic feel as you get the sense Supergirl as kind of bumped into it.

Add to that a feeling of depth with the color palette, from the shades of purple in Brainy's worksuit to Kara's hair, and you get a superior piece.

Given the addition of Brainy to the Supergirl show, this piece feels even more relevant now than usual. Of course, long time Kara fans love this relationship. Heck, even as an old man I can say without shame or embarrassment that I ship them.

I loved Zahler's Love and Capes comic and just found his Warning Label comic on-line. Totally visit his site for fun stories too!

But the real story here is the generosity of Shag. Thank you so much for the gift! Totally unexpected and appreciated! I owe you one!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Supergirl Episode 402: Fallout


Supergirl episode 402, titled 'Fallout', aired this week and truly was a show about the fallout of the reveal to the world that President Marsdin is an alien. With this Earth already torn about alien rights, this was, as Otis said, the perfect fuse to light the bomb. Certainly, this episode leaned heavily onto the theme of this season. It looks like the main storyline will be about respecting and accepting people who are different than us, assuming their actions are good. So while it might seem that aliens are an easy substitute for immigration issues, I think this can apply to other marginalized groups who feel attacked.

One of the things that I liked about the premiere episode was that it set the tone and the theme of the season in motion without being too heavy-handed or preachy. This episode sort of continues that mode. Certainly, people speak with weighted words which sound more like a script than normal conversation. But the writers here do a good job of showing both sides of this issue while clearly standing up for one. For me, I applaud them.

Let me start out by saying that this Earth has every right to be worried about aliens since for three seasons an army has come and tried to brainwash, take over, or kill everyone. The planet has been subject to alien army invasions and terra-forming. People should be nervous. That said, not all aliens can be painted with the same villainous brush, nor should they be. At the very least, the show comments on all of this. The bottom line is clear, as said by Supergirl in this very episode. People, alien or not, should be judged on what they do, not where they come from.

Political agenda aside, the episode also is entertaining to watch. This isn't a documentary; it's a super-hero show. We see Supergirl in action. It is clear she is a big deal on this world, hanging out with the President and addressing the world. We see her hiding her powers while acting as Kara, a nice fun lift in the middle segment. We see character growth in all the mainstays. But this is most apparent in Nia Nal who goes from nervous cub reporter to open force for justice. And seeds for future plots are planted.

I liked this episode a lot, albeit a little less than last week's. Onto the particulars.