Wednesday, September 30, 2009

December Solicits

A while back, Newsarama posted their complete DC December solicits ( In reviewing the month, it doesn't look like there are too many surprises. Outside of a couple of trades (one being a must buy) and World's Finest, it looks like December will have the standard dose of Super-titles.

Here are the solicits and some comments.

Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Matt Camp
Cover by Joshua Middleton

Uh-oh! The Silver Banshee is back in Metropolis! This time she’s after an artifact that could finally break her family’s eternal curse. When Inspector Mike Henderson gets involved, Supergirl is pulled into the conflict! Meanwhile, Lana Lang’s mysterious condition takes a turn for the worse. Will the Girl of Steel be able to save her only two human friends? Join fan-favorite writer Sterling Gates and guest artist Matt Camp (SUPERMAN: SECRET FILES 2009, Zero Killer) to find out!

After a near monthly dose of Reactron, it will be nice to read about another Supergirl rogue. Silver Banshee seems like a perfect addition. I hope this story cements her place as a Supergirl villain rather than a Superman villain.

I also like that we already hear that Inspector Henderson and Lana play big parts in the issue. This solicit reads like a Supergirl comic and not another chapter in the bigger Superman storylines. I like that.

I also like how Sterling Gates is now officially a fan-favorite! It will be interesting to see how Matt Camp handles the art.

Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Jamal Igle
Covers by Phil Noto

The Toyman has crafted the ultimate killing machine to protect himself from the Kryptonian menace, and Oracle has sent Supergirl and Batgirl to stop it. But when Supergirl faces off against the Kryptonite Man while the new Batgirl takes on Catwoman, they both find themselves in over their heads.This looks like a job for... Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers, both by Phil Noto, that can be ordered separately. Cover A will feature Supergirl. Cover B will feature Batgirl.

Let's see ... Sterling Gates, Jamal Igle, Phil Noto all involved in producing a story where Supergirl teams up with the new Batgirl.

Yeah ... that reads like an early holiday gift.

On top of that you add Catwoman, The Toyman, and the Kryptonite Man? Not that sounds great. I loved how Supergirl took out the Kryptonite man in the Up,Up, and Away arc in the Superman books.

Written by Greg Rucka; co-feature written by James Robinson & Greg Rucka
Art by Pere Pérez; co-feature art by CAFU
Cover by CAFU

When Lois tries to run the story that will clear Flamebird and Nightwing once and for all, she finds herself blocked at every turn. With the world’s anti-Kryptonian sentiment escalating to a near-frenzy, not even being General Lane’s daughter will keep her safe! Plus, to the shock and horror of Flamebird, the problems with Nightwing’s uncontrolled aging reach a critical juncture! And in part 6 of the new co-feature, Captain Atom squares off against his old adversary Major Force just as some troubling memories start to resurface – one word: Monarch!

I do like that Lois is getting pro-active in her attempts to uncover Project 7734 and its propaganda machine. As I mentioned before, I like the look on Cat Grant's face in the background.

I keep waiting for the eventual Sam and Lois reunion. I doubt that Lois will hug her Daddy the way Lucy did when they were reunited.

Plus, I am glad that Chris' aging problem didn't magically stop once he was in his 20s. The Flamebird/Nightwing legend always ends in tragedy. Could Nightwing die of old age?

Since I like Pere Perez' art, I was glad to see he is sticking around as the artist on Action Comics.

Written by James Robinson
Art by Fernando Dagnino & Raúl Fernandez
Cover by CAFU

Part 2 of Man of Valor! Metropolis gets a chance to see the new Mon-El in action. But now the stakes are raised even higher and the action escalates as Mon finally goes mano-a-mano against the Parasite! This is a battle that’s been brewing since Mon’s emergence on Earth and now it explodes into the streets and skies of the city. Plus, with Mon-El’s secret identity publicly known, how will the Science Police react to him now that they know he’s been living among them all this time? All this plus the return of Natasha Irons and the fate of Steel!

Sounds like a lot is happening in the Superman comic. Mon-El's identity revealed? Will his being Jonathan Kent somehow link back to Ma? I forget if they explained that he was a relative to the Smallville's Kents.

And I hope the 'new' Mon-El means something other than a new suit. For me, I would be pretty happy if the 'powers blinking on and off' part of the storyline went away.

Superman, for me, has been the weakest of the super-titles since the post-New Krypton stories began. I hope these changes help shake the book up a bit.

Written by Greg Rucka & James Robinson
Art by Pete Woods
Cover by Gary Frank;variant cover by Dustin Nguyen

New Krypton is a planet so fresh, it’s experiencing countless things for the first time. Its first spring. Its first blooms. Its first birth of a child. And now its first homicide. When an important figure in Kandor is murdered, the suspect seems obvious to everyone but Superman. But can he make Zod or the Council believe this is more than an open-and-shut case? And can he uncover the real killer in time to save the life of the accused? It’s a dark mystery, but R.E.B.E.L.S. star Adam Strange arrives in time to help find answers...even though the truth may blow apart the civilized trappings of Kandorian society in the process. This action-packed arc leads all the way to the series’ final issue, which itself sets the stage for huge happenings in the DC Universe next summer!

It was good to read in the solicit that DC realizes that this series is almost over. There is a lot to digest in this preview which makes me interested in seeing how this issue plays out.

First off, I am glad that some of the more space-themed DC characters are showing up in WONK. Thanagarians, Jemm, and now Adam Strange are welcome sights showing how a New Krypton would shake up the galaxy/universe. But I didn't know Strange was a star in R.E.B.E.L.S.

Next, an important figure on New Krypton is murdered? I wonder who it could be. I am going to cross Zod, Ursa, Non, and Alura off the 'potentially dead' list. I don't know if any other ancillary character has stood out enough to be considered a significant character loss.

Third, since Zod is listed in the solicit, he clearly does not die from his wounds. I hope we see a shot of General Lane being ticked off that Zod survived his assassination attempt.

And lastly, this series leads into next year's big event. Could it be that next summer is the Earth/New Krypton war we all have been expecting?

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank & Jon Sibal
Covers by Gary Frank

While everyone wants something from Metropolis’ first Super Hero, Superman must fight his first Super-Villain – someone who wants everything – the Parasite! Meanwhile, Lex Luthor turns his attention toward The Man of Steel... Geoff Johns and Gary Frank continue their bold reinterpretation of the origin of The Man of Steel for the 21st Century!

While the covers of this title are majestic, they don't have a lot of punch to make the average shelf peruser interested in picking up the book. And this shot of Superman with his Kryptonian parents doesn't seem to have anything to do with the solicit about the Parasite.

But I was so blown away by the first issue, I think I am nit-picking here. I think I am going to love this series.

Written by Geoff JohnsArt by Jerry Ordway; co-feature art by Francis Manapul
Cover by Jerry Ordway; variant Cover by Francis Manapul

Concluding the 2-part BLACKEST NIGHT tale of Superboy-Prime! The Black Lanterns have forced Prime to face his deepest and darkest fears, but what - and who - are they? And how will Superboy-Prime strike back after this devastating attack? Plus, Conner Kent faces off with Superman's greatest enemy in an exciting co-feature by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul. That's right: Superboy confronts Lex Luthor!

I think Superboy-Prime is really a polarizing figure in the DCU. There are people that love his power, his insanity, his threat to the universe. Others, like me, find him pretty tiresome and wish he would go away. I don't know anyone who thinks Prime is 'okay'. You either love him or hate him.

Could this cover really mean Prime is dead? Could Johns be still trying to rehabilitate him? Should I care? Nice cover homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 though.

I am more interested in the Conner story with him confronting his 'dad'. I still can't believe Johns and Manapul are off this title after issue 6.

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art and cover by Phil Noto

The 5-issue miniseries that pitted Superman and Supergirl against Maelstrom, the would-be bride of Darkseid, is collected! It's a battle that ranges from Metropolis to Apokolips and beyond – Don't miss it!

So Maelstrom is being collected in a trade form and I am on the fence if I am going to buy it.

I reviewed each issue of this miniseries as it came out and in the end I thought the book was overall average. The thing is parts of this book, some scenes in this book, were really great. Other parts, specifically the first issue, fell very flat. Were the high points high enough to warrant buying the book?

And yet, there is that gorgeous Phil Noto art throughout, almost reason enough to buy the book for easier reading than pulling out the floppies.

I think it will depend on how much money I have in my wallet when it is released.

Written by Landry Q. Walker
Art and cover by Eric Jones

It's an all-ages extravaganza as young Supergirl meets Belinda Zee, a new junior high adversary, in this title collecting the 6-issue miniseres. And that's just the start of the fun that includes super-powered pets and cosmic adventure!

And here is the must buy trade of the month!

At their request, I have been rereading the individual issues to the Supergirls recently and I am again struck about what a great series this was from beginning to end. This just clicked on all cylinders for both the Johnny DC crowd and the more grizzled Supergirl and DCU fan. I can't believe that we haven't heard about a sequel.

Anyways, this would make a great holiday present for any young reader. Given the nature of the book, this is one where I would talk to my local comic book store to pre-order.

I wonder if DC is waiting on trade sales to decide about a sequel. I hope Landry Walker and Eric Jones still have their love of the character and would still jump at the chance to bring this Supergirl into the 9th grade.

An announcement for a Cosmic sequel ... that would be the best Christmas gift.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Superman Secret Origin #1

Superman Secret Origin #1 was released last week and began a six issue miniseries which will provide a reorganization of Superman's history as we move forward into the 21st century.

John Byrne's Man of Steel felt more like a reboot, removing key elements of Superman's mythos such as Supergirl, multi-colored Kryptonite, Superboy, etc. Mark Waid's Birthright brought back some of these more historical elements to Superman's origin but Infinite Crisis then blurred that story as well. Superman's origin was known in broad strokes but many details now seemed missing.

Here comes Geoff Johns and Gary Frank to the rescue. This first issue reads less like a reboot and more like a re-imagination of the Silver Age. It is a love letter to the Superman origins that I grew up with, bringing back small flourishes that I haven't seen in a while.

If any creative team is going to be able to pull this off, it is Johns and Frank. We have already seen them bring back several Silver Age elements into Superman's history, updated for current sensibilities. In the past couple of years in Action Comics we have seen the reintroduction of the classic Legion, including Superman being a member. We have seen a rethinking of Brainiac. And, of course, we have seen Argo, Kandor, Zor-El, and Alura all brought back in updated fashions, their Silver Age tarnish scrubbed away into something classic but modern.

So why shouldn't DC let Johns take a look back at the last 70 years of Superman stories and let him glean those things that work, reweaving the tapestry of Superman's mythos.

The book opens up with a pre-teen Clark looking to the sun, to the sky, as if he is looking at his destiny. But he is alone, surrounded only by a large field. He looks alone in this shot. And the truth is as the last Kryptonian he is alone.

The panel is a bit of a set-up as Clark is actually soaking in some rays as he plays football with his schoolyard pals. The game goes slightly awry as Clark's emerging powers lead to a Pete Ross broken arm.

And just like that we see that Clark's powers have manifested themselves early in his life, a difference from Byrne's vision.

The book's opening line is 'why are you here' and it is a pertinent thing for Clark to be thinking. Why is he here? What should he do? This opening scene with the backyard football nudged me to remember Pa Kent's line from Superman:The Movie ... 'you aren't here to score touchdowns'. There has to be a bigger purpose than that.

I do like the fact that this first issue starts in Smallville and not on the dying planet Krypton. The true origin of Superman begins in Smallville. Sure, his Kryptonian genetics give him his powers. But it's the Kents that made him Superman and not ... let's say ... Ultraman or Red Son.

We see the fallout of Pete's broken arm in school the next day when we are introduced to one of the most important people in Clark's early life, Lana Lang. Frank really draws her practically oozing 'girl next door' cuteness.

Clark has already revealed his secret strength to Lana. Here he tells her how he has manifested XRay vision ... how sickening it was to hear Pete's bone snap.

It turns out that Clark has already rescued Lana once from a wheat thresher, as seen in this flashback. I love this panel showing a super-confident boy of steel standing amidst the broken blades and shouting about his strength. Johns does a good job of showing the dichotomy of Clark's powers ... how they can be exhilirating and frightening at the same time ... how it tough to be both special and different.

In this scene, Lana kisses Clark, igniting his heat vision for the first time and setting off the school fire alarms. This hearkens back to an early episode of Smallville where Clark's heat vision is triggered by his lust for a sexy substitute teacher.

After the events of the last 2 days, Pa realizes that it is time to come clean with Clark about how he arrived on Earth. He shows Clark the rocket he crashed in.

Clark's proximity triggers a recorded message from Jor-El, embedded in crystals within the ship. We get a very brief recap of Krypton's destruction and Jor-El's plans to save his son. The look of Krypton is clearly based on the Donner movie right down to the crystal technology.

Of course when faced with his alien origins, Clark appropriately snaps, lashing out at the rocket with fists and heat vision before running away.

In one of the most powerful moments in the book, Pa consoles Clark. Clark cries that he doesn't want to be different, how all he wants is to be Pa's son.

And Pa tells him the truth ... he is his son. This splash page is a nice foil to that opening one. Here there isn't bright sunshine. Here things are a little darker. But most importantly, here Clark is not alone. His father is there hugging him.

With a sudden emphasis on protecting others from Clark's expanding powers, Martha adds a crucial piece to the Clark persona ... his glasses.

Ma was able to fashion them out of some crystal shards from the ship. The crystals were able to block Clark's heat vision, effectively shielding the world should Clark's eyes light up suddenly. Once again, this is a reimagination of the Silver Age glasses composition (those made from pieces of the rocket's window). These glasses are horribly over-sized and were very reminiscent of the glasses worn by Christopher Reeve in the movies.

On top of the glasses, Clark doesn't want to break any more of his friend's bones, so he begins bowing out of football games. He uses the most anemic excuses ... pollen, new clothes, ear infections. It is the beginning of the mild-mannered Clark persona.

Earlier in the book we are introduced to Lex Luthor, showing that he most likely grew up in an abusive household. We even saw that he had a younger sister ... could it be Lena!

Clark meets Lex at the town fair where Luthor has set up a booth about extra-terrestrials. I love that Lex disparages Dr. Erdel's theories on aliens. Erdel, of course, brought J'onn J'onzz to Earth.

Lex has found a chunk of Green Kryptonite in the woods of Smallville and has brought it to the fair. The stone incapacitates Clark. As Clark faints, the jar the Kryptonite is in falls, shattering the glass and cutting Lex. I wonder if that is the beginning of a Kent/Luthor rivalry/feud.

Luthor already reads as arrogant and creepy.

A sudden tornado whips up forcing Clark to again rush to Lana's rescue. First off, his superhearing picks up her cries for help. Next, he is able to fly for the first time, soaring into the storm and taking Lana to safety.

Lana's thank you kiss does set off Clark's heat vision again proving Ma's theories on the crystal glasses properties.

That rescue triggers Clark's desire to use his abilites to help people. If he has been given these powers, he should use them for good.

It is a wonderfully warm scene as Clark overjoyed by his good deed announces he is going to keep doing it! It shows the type of boy the Kent's have raised.

Ma realizes that more acts of daring will mean a tattered wardrobe. Clark will need a 'work suit'. While she was examining the rocket, Ma received some images of Kryptonian culture. It is a nice moment for Ma who wants to help Clark be understand and be proud of his heritage. She has an idea to make Clark a Kryptonian outfit out of the blankets he was sent to Earth in. Clark will need to use his heat vision as scissors to help Ma craft the suit.

Again, I felt a wave of nostalgia as I read this origin of Superman's costume. This was the origin I grew up with, right down to Clark needing to cut the cloth.

And so we see our first look at Superboy!

As an old timer, I have to admit I really loved this book. It is as if Geoff Johns decided to grab some of the best parts of Superman's Silver Age origins and dust them off, polish them, and represent them in a sparkly new package. Yes, there isn't much completely new here. But all these small ideas need to be refit into current continuity and the modern world. Glasses made from part of the ship? A uniform from Kal-El's swaddling blankets?? It was such a treat for me.

I think the best thing that Johns does here is bring a sense of nostalgia for the established fan but not make it overwhelmingly saccharin. It doesn't read as a moldy retread of old material but rather as a recreation of a great story, the rougher patches smoothed over.

As usual, Gary Frank's art is perfect.

Overall grade: A

Monday, September 28, 2009

Alex Maleev Commission

The much anticipated Spiderwoman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. #1 comic was released last week by Marvel. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, this comic has been talked about for some time making its actual release alone worth talking.

The comic itself is pretty dark and brooding as we read about Jessica Drew trying to put her life back together after being replaced by the Skrull Queen for so long. The comic reads like it really wants to be an Ed Brubaker comic. It comes close but it isn't quite there. Still, I am going to stick around for at least a couple of issues. It might be worth a peek.

One thing that was a draw for me was Maleev's art. I like his scratchy style a lot and it does work for a noirish comic like this.

Here is the Alex Maleev Supergirl commission from my collection. As usual, a good friend of mine picked this up for me at the NYCC a couple of years ago.

I try to include artists with different styles and techniques in my collection to see a variety of interpretations of Supergirl. I wouldn't think of Maleev as a traditional Supergirl artist so I was interested to see what he would do and excited to add him to my gallery. I think this is a great piece.

I waver in my interpretation on it. Sometimes I think the dark is threatening to engulf Supergirl. Somtimes I think she is holding it back. Other times I think he just painted the background black.

No matter what, it is an interesting take on Supergirl and, as such, gets a lot of comments by people who view my collection.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Blackest Night Superman #2

As someone who really had been suffering from 'event fatigue', I have to say Blackest Night has been like a powerful stimulant. Okay ... maybe I haven't had 'event fatigue' ... maybe I had 'lousy events' fatigue. I mean I don't think I can say that I enjoyed Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, House of M, or Secret Invasion. And while there were snippets of Final Crisis that I thought were brilliant, the overall event sort of fizzled.

And yet, here we are with Blackest Night which so far has been a great ride. Sure the main book reads a bit like a Green Lantern Auxiliary title but it should. The War of Light is a Green Lantern issue.

What does impress me is the quality of the tie-in mini-series. These aren't crossovers in name only, marketed as such because a Green Lantern is seen in one panel. These books really immerse the characters into the Blackest Night main story in a way that shows how the dead rising would effect the heroes.

That brings us to Blackest Night:Superman #2. I was very impressed with the first issue of this series. I continue to be impressed with it after this chapter although I have one small question nagging in my brain. But overall, James Robinson and Eddy Barrows have really brought their A game to this book.

To start off, I thought the cover showing an undead Zor-El standing over his beaten daughter was chilling. Yes, I know it shows a defeated Supergirl. But this book has been about dread and this cover elicits that feeling.

Whereas the first issue had a slow buildup of the reveal of the Black Lantern Kal-L, contrasting his vile acts with the inherent small town goodness of Smallville, this issue jumps right into the action. Superman and Superboy are trying to beat back the monstrosity of Kal-L who is vowing to raise Pa and kill Ma.

Throughout the book, Kal-L berates Superman, telling him what a failure he is for letting Pa die, how alien he is despite his time in Smallville, etc. It is as if the Black Lanterns need to bring out a certain emotional state in their victims before they can harvest. We saw last issue that when Superman had feelings across the emotional spectrum, rather than falling into one color, that he was his most effective in combat. And in Blackest Night we heard how when Mera stayed focused and calm she lost the Black Lanterns following her.

So if being on an even emotional keel keeps you safe then the sudden appearance of the Black Lantern Psycho Pirate in Smallville should spell disaster. He begins roaming the town and forcing his emotions onto the populace. He basically begins placing people into one of the seven colors of the ring spectrum, although rage, avarice, fear, and lust are his obvious favorites. The town begins to tear itself apart.

But this is the one part of the book that I questioned in my head. There is no problem with the way it is written or drawn. But why would the Psycho Pirate be there? He has no history with Superman per se. Was he sent there by Nekron?

This is a three issue mini-series with a Black Lantern Kal-L and a Black Lantern Zor-El. Aren't they big enough villains to fill up three small issues? I just felt that adding this other villain would take away from the Superman and Supergirl plots from the books.

Sorry for this small scan but I liked this little sequence.

Kal-L tells Black Lantern Silver Age Lois (perhaps the creepiest Black Lantern in my book) to kill Ma. Conner flies to the rescue, heat visioning off Lois' right arm temporarily saving Ma.

During this fight we see that the Black Lanterns have regenerative powers as Lois simply reattaches her arm to her shoulder stump.

While Connor goes to save Lois, Kal-El and Kal-L brawl through the streets of Smallville. It is a Hell on Earth, the idyllic little town is shown on fire, buildings falling.

One of the things that we once again see is Superman's emotional center. With Black Lantern Superman destroying Smallville, we see Superman's response of fear, will, rage, and hope. I can't help but notice that the bottom corner is a tad orange. Avarice? Maybe Superman feels Smallville is 'his' town and no one should do anything to it except him?

While the two Superman are bringing physical destruction to Smallville, the Psycho Pirate continues bringing emotional chaos. Superboy flies over the town witnessing acts of violence and depravity until he succumbs to the Pirate's powers as well.

As if Superman didn't have his hands full with Kal-L, a suddenly jealous and enraged Conner attacks him as well. Again we see how Superman reacts. Fear of Conner's condition. Love of his friend. Compassion that Conner might feel avarice and rage against Superman deep down. Hope to help Conner. Will to survive. I think this multi-colored look at Superman's demeanor only shows how he is the greatest hero. Most other people we have seen in the Blackest Night books seems to radiate only one or two emotions.

I do hope that the Psycho Pirate was not brought in simply as a tool to somehow set up a Superman Superboy fight. I am sick of heroes fighting each other.

After all that time in Smallville we finally make it to New Krypton to see what is happening there.

I have to say that the Supergirl scene in this book is fabulous, really one of the strongest representations of Kara I have seen in a while.

First off, I have to comment on Eddy Barrows art. When he is on, his stuff is jaw-droppingly spectacular and his art here is great. In particular, he really draws a wonderful Supergirl in this book. For one thing, I love the longer shirt with the huge S-shield. I really feel that the S should be massive and absolutely dominate the shirt which is tough when it is a half shirt. But more importantly, this looks more like a costume and not a cheerleading outfit. The small rim of belly keeps the Turner feel present but does not make her abdominal musculature overwhelm the total presentation. If we are going with a Turner style costume, I wish it looked like this all the time.

As for the story, just as Kal-L is doing, Zor-El is really being emotionally cruel to Kara. He tells her that she needs changing ... as if he is not happy with the person she has become. This, of course, rings completely false. Remember some of his last words were how proud he was of her.

Her response to the zombie Zor-El is actually right on target as is her emotional registry. She hopes to somehow cure him, bringing him back to his old self. She feels love for Dad, hopeful that he can be restored, compassion that he has been reduced to this form, but fearful of him. Given that Alura is seen unconscious on the floor shows that Zor-El has lashed out at his family here. She should be afraid.

Zor-El continues his verbal assault on Supergirl. His speech is completely hateful. He calls her a complete disappointment, weak, stupid, pathetic. It is everything that Supergirl would be fearful of. It touches on all her insecurities. Yes she is crying again but it makes sense here.

Now I feared that this verbal beatdown would result in another scene with Kara crying to the point of being unable to act. I braced myself for the worst.

Instead I get this picture of righteous fury as Supergirl, angry tears streaming, immediately recognizes that regardless of this Black Lantern's form, he is not Zor-El. He is not her dad.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see this. Remember this is written by James Robinson who made Kara cry at an off-putting comment by Hal Jordan in Justice League: Cry For Justice. The same James Robinson who made her say some clunking lines like 'I'm not bad. I'm good.'

To see this strong, confident, caring, well-spoken Supergirl was a great treat.

As was this shot of her smashing Zor-El's face with a left hook.

Look at the determination on her face.

Simply spectacular! Readers who are new to Supergirl might be tempted to buy her book when they see this sort of characterization.

Unfortunately we see Zor-El begin to regenerate. This isn't going to be an easy fight.

Meanwhile, back in Smallville, Ma Kent decides to get a bit medieval as she plans her own attack against Black Lantern Lois.

It's hard to believe that these stories are all going to wrap up next month. My guess is that the plots will remain somewhat open-ended with the ultimate finales occurring in the Blackest Night main series.

But I think that James Robinson and Eddy Barrows have really put together a fantastic book here. These Blackest Night tie-ins should be a terrifying ride; they should be eerie. They should show the emotional effect that the dead rising would have on these characters. We really see what it would mean for Superman to face Kal-L, for Supergirl to face Zor-El. We really see what it would mean for madness to engulf a small town like Smallville. And it is frightening.

And Eddy Barrows art really captures that horror. He really contrasts the brightly colored heroes with the black and decaying Lanterns. This is probably the best art I have seen him produce.

I hope everyone is getting this book.

Overall grade: A+

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: Supergirl #45

Supergirl #45 represents the second part of The Hunt For Reactron. Despite the name of the arc, we haven't seen that much Reactron yet and I am okay with that.

While there is some early action, this issue is really focuses on two more character based plots. One is the unsettling feeling on Earth secondary to the events of Codename:Patriot. The other plot, and the one I am really enjoying, is the exploration of the Kara and Thara relationship. Sterling Gates and Greg Rucka have been able to show just how deep the rift is between them ... a rift created by the death of Zor-El and widened by Thara's religious conviction/insanity.

One thing that I definitely like about the last few issues is the re-emergence of Cat Grant as a foil for Supergirl. While Supergirl #34 really set up their prickly relationship, Cat has had to settle into the background because of the more off-world action revolving around New Krypton.

So seeing her speaking so hatefully about Supergirl with Morgan Edge put a smile on my face. I think Cat is going to be an interesting character in Kara's life for a while and so seeing her sharpen her claws makes me anticipate the characters' next interaction. I mean Cat really fires with both barrels calling Supergirl 'violent', 'unstable', 'a plague on Metropolis' and an 'embarrassment for Superman'. That is pretty rough.

Unfortunately, Cat's words probably ring true to the average citizen as footage is being shown of Supergirl battling Squad K, throwing the soldiers around like rag dolls.

I especially liked to read how heavy Cat pours it on. She is an evilly efficient speaker. By calling Alura the 'Queen of New Krypton' she appeals to the patriotism of most Americans since we revolted to free ourselves from a monarchy. It also means Supergirl is a 'princess' with all the spoiled petulant baggage that word can sometimes.

She even says calls Supergirl 'without a doubt a threat to every man, woman, and child on this planet'. Unbelievable. Somehow I don't think Kara's response is going to be crying on a rooftop like she did in Supergirl #34. I think Supergirl's response is going to be more of shock and smoldering anger.

One thing that I completely haven't liked about the New Krypton storyline is the necessary introduction of things that can harm Kryptonians. If there is going to be any sense of conflict, the military needs to be able to hold their own against Kryptonians. That said, Superman is Superman. The Army shouldn't be able to easily hurt him (or any Kryptonian).

So here Squad K has 'screamers', sonic weapons which hurt Supergirl and Flamebird. They also have a 'white dwarf grenade' which Chris is able to detonate with his tactile telekinesis. The grenade does seem to at least slow down the Metropolis 3, although it also provides them access to an underground railway tunnel through which they can escape.

Another thing that I have been intrigued with recently is Lois and her current strained relationship with Kara. Yes, she is angry at Supergirl and blames her for Lucy's death.

And yet, she also rushes across town to dress down Cat Grant for her jingoism. It doesn't look like Cat is able to take it as well as she gives it. She looks downright stunned into silence when Lois call her a propaganda tool.

Sure Lois never comes right out and defends Supergirl. But since Cat's whole spiel was an attack on Kara, Lois' counterattack has to be looked upon as a defense of Supergirl.

I like the fact that Lois is a presence in this book right now.

This issue also catches us up with Lana who, like Cat, has melted into the background of this title since New Krypton. With no where else to go, Supergirl brings Chris and Thara to Lana's apartment.

One small thing I like is that when Lana hears the three enter, she asks if it is Linda. Not Kara. Not Supergirl. Linda.

If the secret identity aspect of Supergirl's character is going to take root, it needs small things like this to happen. I think of the Silver Age Supergirl as Linda first, then as Kara. I still think of the current Supergirl as Kara.

While hiding out, the Metropolis 3 try to figure out what their next best step is.

Chris realizes that the best way to clear their names is to ... well ... clear their names by capturing Reactron and getting him to confess. Lana thinks Lois might be a useful ally in digging up where to go next.

Lana's illness as a subplot also hasn't been addressed in a while. In this issue, we see that she is still suffering from nosebleeds (brain cancer?). She looks like she is being drawn a bit more gaunt by Jamal Igle. In what is a nice moment, Thara manifests the Flamebird persona and is able to detect that something is not right within Lana.

I think at some point Supergirl is going to see that Flamebird persona emerge and suddenly her doubts about Thara's mental stability are going to vanish. We haven't seen any physical aspects of Flamebird since Agent Assassin attempted his mind meld. I hope we see more soon.

Lana and Chris leave to talk to Lois and get her aid.

With Lana gone, Thara tries to tell Kara that she detected Lana's illness. The problem is the delivery. While Thara thinks she is being a good friend, her harsh look and religious overtones('something is corrupting her' rather than 'she is ill') push Kara away.

It is a shame. In its own way, that was an olive branch Thara was holding out.

But the name of the arc is The Hunt for Reactron and so we finally get to see Supergirl's arch-enemy. His radiation leak from last issue must have been repaired as General Lane decides to cut him loose to go after the Kryptonians.

In my review of Action Comics #881, my complaint was that I didn't quite understand how or why the Metropolis 3 got released from the clutches of Project 7734. Remember, all three had been overwhelmed by Metallo, Reactron, and Mirabai. Why would Lane release them?

It was suggested that he did it to help spread fear and distrust and certainly the early parts of this issue show that he was successful in that. So it was strange to hear him call Supergirl, Nightwing, and Flamebird as loose ends. If they are loose, it is at his discretion.

Of course, Lane has lied to lots of people to serve his purpose. Maybe he is simply feeding Reactron a line.

The issue ends with a great splash page of Reactron vowing to kill Supergirl. Fantastic.

Again, this issue is mostly character driven as we see the more personal responses of all the main and supporting characters to the event of Codename:Patriot. I appreciate issues like this as they flesh out the characters, let's us learn more about their motivations and feelings. The story here and in Action Comics should have a major impact on the characters outside of them simply punching people. It is important for us to see these moments as well. And Gates and Rucka have such a great handle on their respective characters, the scenes just flow beautifully.

As usual, the art by Jamal Igle is great. Whether it be the two page spread of the skirmish at the Eiffel Tower or close up expressions of Cat Grant, his art really resonated this issue. I hope Matt Camp is bringing his A game these next few issues. He has big shoes to fill.

I can't wait to see where this story goes next.

Overall grade: A

But wait ..... one more thing ....

I don't care how great a reporter Lois Lane is, she shouldn't be pushing Jamal Igle out of the way like that!

Hee hee.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: Wednesday Comics #12

Wednesday Comics #12 was released yesterday, the last issue of the ground-breaking retro series of serial strips. It was sort of a bittersweet release for me. I had become quite accustomed to flipping through the paper each Wednesday night, catching up with the characters. I definitely had a nice feel of nostalgia for me.

On a completely different level, the format was conducive to some good Daddy moments. I also read the Supergirl strip to the supergirls at home each week as well. When I would come home with my bag of comics they always asked if Wednesday Comics had come out. And while not every strip would be suitable for them, they all read most of Superman and the eldest read Green Lantern with me as well.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see Supergirl as the featured strip this week. The super-cousins acted as bookend stars on the cover, Superman being showcased week one. Entering this week, the four strips that had not been in the 'big circle' were Supergirl, Teen Titans, Demon/Catwoman, and Batman. I would have bet that Batman would have been in the the big star here.

That said, the Supergirl strip has been routinely listed as one of the best strips in the anthology over the internet so maybe Kara earned first billing.

Unlike prior weeks, the opening panel featured the super-pets rather than Supergirl. This week's emotional theme seems to be 'satisfied' and both Krypton and Streaky appear quite pleased with themselves. I think it is appropriate that the pets be seen here. In some ways, they are the stars of the strip.

I also like the Kryptonian pet tags seen here. Translated they say:

My name is {Krypto or Streaky}. If found, please contact Kal-El or Kara Zor-El, Planet Earth.

Last strip ended with Supergirl being pummeled by the aliens weaponry while the pets flew in for the rescue. This week we see Supergirl slip into unconsciousness as Krypto and Streaky disarm the aliens.

When Supergirl comes to she sees the aliens talking to the super-pets. Krypto and Streaky have somehow explained to the aliens how their dumping of their waste into the sun is effecting Earth. Aware of the harm they are doing, the aliens agree to move elsewhere.

In fact, the waste the aliens are unloading are actually the weapons from their world now that the races on their planet have finally achieved peace.

I love the upper panel with three small inset panels of Supergirl. One thing I have loved about this strip is the expressive art of Amanda Conner. I love how Kara runs the gamut so quickly there.

Once Supergirl, Krypto, and Streaky fly off, the aliens take off their helmets and talk about their interaction with the Earth-based heroes. The 'warring races' on their planet were cats and dogs. They assume that Streaky is Queen of Earth and Krypto is the King of Earth. Even better, they think Supergirl is their pet.

That is just a nice cute twist to this adorable comic.

The strip ends with what may be my favorite panel of the serial. After their zany adventure, Supergirl and the pets head home for a quiet evening of television. Looks like Supergirl had some ice cream, Streaky had some tuna, and Krypto enjoyed a steak. I love how they are all curled up into each other. This was the perfect ending.

What can I say? From the beginning Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner said they wanted to do a cute, adorable, funny strip and they succeeded. I also think that, unlike some of the other strips, each week's Supergirl page had a it's own mini-story, advanced the overall story, and ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. That is what a weekly comic should do.

And I would feel remiss if I didn't mention the excellent coloring on the strip by Paul Mounts. Whether it be the space backgrounds or the multicolored sky at sunset with Aquaman or even the subtle color changes on the couch seen above giving it texture and depth, this was a superior job on coloring.

I really have loved this strip and have just become enamored with Conner's interpretation of Supergirl. Kudos to the whole creative team!
As for the rest of Wednesday Comics, the strip all had to come to an end and many of them included one last spectacular panel to take advantage of this unique format.

All along Kamandi has been one of my favorite strips. This ending huge panel is phenomenal. Its composition really evokes a feeling of isolation with Kamandi. He is the last boy on Earth ... or is he? I went into Wednesday Comics with no interest in Kamandi at all. Gibbons and Sook put together a great story here and got me wrapped up in the character. That is a sign of good art.
And Strange Adventures and Green Lantern were just as good, producing a great strip week in, week out.

Deadman also had a huge panel worth showing as well. I really liked this one where Deadman has to face the facts that he screwed up when he killed Kalak, the demonic jailer of the female spirits.

As I have said before, some strips really rallied and were overall very good stories. In particular, Hawkman, Batman, Superman, and the Flash all really improved over the weeks and formed the middle tier of stories, the silver medalists of Wednesday Comics.

Metamorpho, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Metal Men, and Sgt Rock never really grabbed me at any point although each had nice moments.

I think that DC really had a winner here and I hope that they consider another volume of Wednesday Comics. Assuming the creative teams were of equal artistic weight, I would definitely be there.

Overall grade (Supergirl): A
Overall grade (Wednesday Comics): B+