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:

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.