Friday, August 12, 2022

Review: DC Vs. Vampires #8

DC Vs. Vampires #8 came out last week but I am just getting to the review right now. 

This is a 12 issue series seemingly told in two halves so we are in the second issue of this leg. While the first issue put the players on the board, this issue moves them into position. We end with a clear idea of three plot lines that will be moving forward. I think that sort of set-up needs 2 issues to get to where we are and so I'm glad we didn't rush. I think it is crazy for a human army as small as remains on Earth to split itself into thirds. But the characters leading these plots all spell out their reasons well enough.

Writers James Tynion IV and Matthew Rosenberg clearly have a good grasp on these characters as everyone feels right. Ollie and Dinah are clearly in love but in disagreement. Barbara can't get Nightwing out of her mind. And Supergirl has just the right mix of inexperience and confidence, that fine line she needs to walk, that it all works.

The art by Otto Schmidt is wonderful. There is a sort of grindhouse rawness to it that works. The fight scenes are appropriately monstrous. And yet, there also romance scenes and more poignant scenes that soften and shine off the page. I love his work.

On to the book.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Black Orchid Wednesday: Phantom Stranger #32

Welcome to the latest edition of Black Orchid Wednesday, in which I look at the pre-Crisis Black Orchid stories through the lens of a fan theory that she was actually Supergirl in disguise.

This has been a wonderful and most welcome diversion here on the blog. I have always been a Black Orchid fan so covering these stories has been a revelation. I also had to track down these issues so it gave me a little side mission in comic stores and conventions.

But mostly I have loved doing this because the stories and, in particular, the art on these Orchid tales are quite good. There is a sort of Film Noir aesthetic to most of them. And the Orchid is so mysterious that each story is satisfying. It also helps that there have been lots of nuggets in these stories to bolster the theory. So many, in fact, that I am starting to wonder whether or not it was true.

Alas, there were only 15 pre-Crisis Black Orchid issues and today's book, Phantom Stranger #32, is the last one for me to cover. But I think there was some Cosmic Comic Karma going on because this issue has one of the best panels to either bolster or break down the theory. So we are ending with a bang.

I'll probably have one or two more posts on this topic to wrap it all up. 

And it would be wrong to not at least mention the amazing cover to this book by Luis Dominguez. Definitely has a Fantasia feel to it!

On to the book!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Supergirl Through Two Different Lenses

I have been blogging about Supergirl for 14 years now, always with the intention of celebrating her as a character. There are so many aspects of her character and her history that I love. One of them is that I think, despite the tragedy in her life, she is bright and optimistic. She wants to help people. 

While I think that is the true foundation of the character, DC doesn't always agree. And over the course of my time blogging I have seen editorial fiat turn her jaded, dark, depressed, emotionally bereft, and empty. 

So when I see something which captures that quality I have to applaud.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Terrificon Recap 1: Gene Ha And Robert Venditti

The 2022 con season opened up with my favorite con, Terrificon, a couple of weekends ago. This will be the first of two recap posts as I go over interactions and purchases.

Terrificon has always been the best comic book focused convention in this area of the country and I love it. The show runner, Mitch Hallock, always brings in a great guest list of legends and current stars. And the set-up in the Mohegan Sun Casino convention hall is just perfect. The con is a short 90 minute drive from where I live so I happily attended all three days. And thanks again to Mr. Hallock for bestowing a Press Pass to this little site. Meant I had a little more money to spend on books and sigs.

There is definitely an energy to the place as you have a great comic creators, celebrities with ties to geek culture, and more vendors than I could count. I just love the feel of this convention.

The guest list was again incredible and I am always curious to see which one garners the longest lines. There were some guests that were new to me and folks I am a big fan of. So I definitely had a couple of missions in mind.

Today I'll cover two of the folks at the top of the list: Gene Ha and Robert Venditti.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Review: Dark Crisis #3

Dark Crisis #3 came out this week and was another sort of deliberately paced issue nudging us towards what is supposed to be a multiverse changing storyline. I am still a little befuddled about what exactly is going on here but I suppose there is still time for this series to turn the corner and reveal.

At the recent SDCC, writer Joshua Williamson declared Dark Crisis as the direct sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, a crossover event I remember fondly. At this point in Crisis (let's say the middle of issue #5 percentage wise) we hadn't even learned about the Anti-Monitor. So if I can let COIE unroll at a certain pace, perhaps I should give this book the benefit of the doubt.

Still, in COIE, there was a feeling of momentum. We knew the threat. We had seen it. We knew what the Monitor was trying to do with his tuning forks. Here, I am still trying to hash that out in my head. This issue sort of helps. But not really. And the same nitpicks I had about last issue are still here in this issue. Why aren't the heroes more organized? Where is the great JL that Jon formed at the end of the first issue? 

One thing that is clear is that Williamson is up on his DC history. He seems to be rolling lots of major crossover plots into this one, making this the ultimate hash. There is obviously COIE. But there are whiffs of Blackest Night, Kingdom Come, Zero HourLegends, and even Forever Evil in this book. 

Daniel Sampere's art remains tremendous throughout. There is a nightmarish splash page near the end which could be a poster. And his fine line brings out the emotion you need for some of the more personal scenes.

We're rounding the corner here. On to the specifics.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Black Orchid Wednesday: Phantom Stranger #31

Welcome back to Black Orchid Wednesdays, where I look at the pre-Crisis appearances of Black Orchid through the lens of a fan theory that she was actually Supergirl undercover.

I am down to the last two stories I have yet to cover, the Orchid's first two stories after her initial run in Adventure Comics. Today I will cover Phantom Stranger #31. Next Wednesday I'll cover Phantom Stranger #32. After that, I think I will have one or two more posts on this topic.

I have really been enjoying reviewing these Orchid stories as they all have been artistically incredible. They have a sort of film noir aesthetic. And the added mystery of who the Orchid is and what her powers are bring in another layer of complexity. How these haven't all been bundled into a nifty little trade is strange. 

As for this story, it doesn't add much to the Supergirl theory other than a passing word here or there. It follows the same format of the other stories. Someone in the tale is Black Orchid in disguise. What this issue does hint at is a possible weakness, something that would detract from the fan theory. But we'll get there. On to the story itself. 

"The Island of Fear' brings the original Black Orchid team of writer Sheldon Mayer and artist Tony DeZuniga back together. 

The Orchid is seen flying over an uninhabited tropical island. On the shore, a desperate woman is trying to get a message in a bottle off to sea in hopes of rescue from the hated Mr. Barstoe.

As usual, DeZuniga's art is spectacular. The Orchid looks like a flower cruising in. And the woman is gorgeous. 

As for the theory, the opening text description of our hero is interesting. She appears like an avenging angel. Back in the Silver Age, Supergirl described herself as a guardian angel to the kids in her orphanage and the town of Midvale. 

We again see the text describing her strength as that of 'a regiment' but with the sweet appearance of a flower. These are pulled right from the Adventure stories.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Review: Superman Space Age Book One

Superman Space Age Book One came out last week, a big 80 pager at the hefty cost of $9.99. It is an interesting book, a sort of Elseworlds. But I don't quite know if it is my cup of tea. And at nearly $10 a book, I was hoping I would really love it.

Writer Mark Russell gives us an Elseworlds look at a DCU where the heroes ascend in the early 60's. As such, you can put it in the same category as New Frontier. But there is a different feel to this one. The Superman here isn't the Superman I know. The origin and the upbringing is starker. And as a result, there is a void in this book of love and even hope. In particular, Pa Kent is very different here, almost Snyder-esque. And that pains me. This is the first book, of course, so maybe things will get better as Superman enters the prime of his career. The best bits are seeing Lois as a reporter in the changing times of the Sixties.

Russell is a known commodity and so if you like his works this probably will work for you. I have found him a bit hit and miss and right now I am on the fence here.

One thing I can say is the book is beautiful. Mike and Laura Allred are at the top of their game here. I suppose Allred is also a known commodity. If you like his art, which I do, you'll love this book. 

As always, this is an alternate reality, an alternate Earth. So I don't have to worry about these things sticking. Because, at least after this issue, I don't know if I would be a Superman fan if this was who he is.

On to the book.