Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Superman Secret Origin #3

Superman Secret Origin #3 was another excellent issue of in what has been a really wonderful miniseries. It's hard to believe that we're already halfway through.

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank really seem to be clicking on all cylinders here. It seems as though the two of them are picking the best parts of all prior versions of the Superman's origin and are creating some sort of hybrid, some sort of creative alloy. I definitely see pieces of the Silver Age here; there are definitely pieces of the Donner films here. I even think I see part of the animated series here.

It is as if Johns wants to create a fundamental origin story which all fans of Superman can come to and enjoy.

But there is no getting away from the character of Superman and what he represents. And I think that is as important a part of this miniseries as the action scenes and introduction of characters. Superman represents the best that man can be; he represents hope. And that really is an underlying theme here.

Now I don't often get variant covers. Okay, maybe I always get them with Supergirl.

But I don't usually get variants unless the cover is so striking that I feel that I would want it in my collection. And this cover fit the bill.

This is such a great picture of Superman saving what was that first time. It certainly grabbed me as I was scanning the shelves. Plus, it wasn't that expensive.

The issue starts years after last issue ended. This isn't Clark as a young boy in Smallville. This is Clark arriving in Metropolis for his first day as a Daily Planet reporter. In many ways this mirrors the Silver Age in that Clark's college years were sort of the lost years in his history. That transition from Superboy to Superman was hinted at now and then. But he was never chiseled in stone.

This opening panel tells us so much.

First off, Clark's simple response of "golly" sets up how he will be portrayed by Johns here. This isn't John Byrne's mild-mannered but confident reporter, the man that was a high school football star and had a weak bench in his apartment. This is Clark as the small-town man who has moved to the big city.

But for me, the bigger thing was just the appearance of Metropolis here. This is not the shining City Of Tomorrow. This is something more akin to Gotham. Trash is flying around. Graffiti is seen on the buildings. A lifeless tree adorns the sidewalk. And people are walking with little regard for each other. In fact, Clark's first interaction with a citizen of Metropolis is someone who accuses him of trying to steal her purse when he was only trying to help her. A newspaper is seen trumpeting Lex Luthor's position in the city. (Ironic that it is the Daily Star reporting this, the original newspaper from Siegel and Shuster's strip.)

It is as though without Superman's presence, Metropolis is just another dingy big city plodding along, mired in it's own decay.

That sentiment of a hopeless city is hammered home in the next scene as Clark walks to work. A throng of people are lined up outside of Luthor's tower. It seems that Lex has a tradition of coming out each morning at 8AM and picking someone in the crowd to grant a 'miracle' to. Many people in the city are in need and so they come to 'worship' in hopes of getting a boon from their god. Some of the people even look like they are praying!

Isn't that disheartening?

It is as though people there can't help each other or help themselves. It is as though salvation is something arbitrary and not something that can be worked for. It is as though their 'god' is capricious and with nothing else to hope for the people still flock to his temple.

And that is a city without hope.

More than any other scene in this issue, this small one stuck with me. For one, it showed me just how much Metropolis needed Superman. But more importantly, it should me just how much an impact Superman has on the city as a whole. With Superman as a role model, we know this city will change.

As this is a new origin, we get to meet old characters for the first time again.

I was pretty impressed with how Johns re-created Rudy Jones as a beggar of sorts. He truly is a parasite as he talks Clark out of his lunch and 20 bucks.

This scene also reinvents Clark is being a somewhat clumsy person. I don't know if I need to see Clark tripping and falling all the time. But historically this was one way that he differentiated himself from Superman.

And we also get to meet the Daily Planet staff for the first time as well.

Jimmy is once again a fledgling photographer, interning at the paper.

Steve Lombard looks a bit younger and more fit than we have seen him recently.

But most interesting was seeing Cat Grant. She doesn't have the - ahem- pulchritude we are used to seeing. But she is still flaunting her sexuality a bit telling Steve that she works out but not in gyms.

We see that Perry White is the embattled editor of the paper. He is the one who wants the paper to be the bastion of "truth, justice, and the American way." But it seems as though he crossed Luthor in the past and as a result the paper has been blackballed. They have no advertising money and are on the brink of bankruptcy. It is clear that White has no love for Luthor and knows what Lex is. Unfortunately, it seems as though the flight is out of him.

The star of this issue though is clearly Lois. We see that she is still a pit bull of our reporter, willing to do just about anything to get her story. And it is clear she wants to uncover Luthor for what he is. But the paper's owners aren't allowing her to cover him anymore.

But there is more to Lois here than just her spirit. Perry tells her that she is too cynical, that she can't see the good in anything. Just like Metropolis, Lois needed Superman to shed her total negativity and be all that she could be.

Lois is introduced to Clark and befriends him. She also uses him a bit and she concocts a scheme to get into a Luthor demonstration.

She brings Clark to her desk. It looks like a disaster perhaps showing the disarray in Lois's life. We also see that she has a suitor as flowers from someone named Jon are delivered to her desk and promptly thrown out. Who is that?

While it is clear that Lois is using Clark here, she didn't belittle him or try to lose him. I am glad she was open to working with him as a colleague.

Since the Daily Planet reporters are no longer allowed to cover Luthor events, Lois uses Clark is a diversion. She climbs over the fence while Clark flashes his press badge at the front gate.

It is kind of fun to see just how spunky Lois is in these early days. I wouldn't expect the current day Lois to don a blonde wig and sunglasses and scale a fence to get a story. But I can definitely see how doing that here would make her into the reporter that she is now.

The Luthor event is to show off a new military battle suit constructed of Metallo, a new metal with remarkable properties when exposed to certain radiation.

I thought that this was a subtle nod to Superman: the Animated Series as it was at a military battle suit unveiling that Superman revealed himself there. The pilot of that battle suit in that episode turned out to be Metallo. I thought this was a nice homage.

I also find it interesting that while Luthor is such a key part of this issue, he's only physically seen once, in this panel, and his face is covered. Is he bald? Does he still have hair? Is he wearing a wig?

Unfortunately, Lois is discovered before the demonstration can even begin. And as she runs away from the security guards, she actually trips and falls off the roof.

Clark, on the street as he'd been turned away, hears her screams. He makes a fateful decision to reveal himself and save her.

I love this panel as well. This is, in essence, the first time that Clark strikes this iconic pose, ripping off his clothes to reveal the S-shield. Wonderful.

And then in the most apparent nod to the Donner films, he not only flies to Lois' rescue but he also catches a helicopter which had fallen off the roof as well.

This panel is a near mirror image of the similar scene in Superman: The Movie. I almost expected to Lois to say "you've got me, who's got you?"

I have said it before and I will say it again. I never knew that Donner films had such a huge impact on current comics creators. I find it all very interesting.

This dramatic rescue unfortunately lets the genie out of the bottle. The citizens of Metropolis flock to Superman begging him to save them, give them something, tell them how he can fly. It's sad.

They don't even know Superman and already they are asking him for a miracle. This city is in dire straits with a completely hopeless population.

And Clark has no idea how to respond to this. This is not what he expected. And he wonders if he has made a mistake.

I am not surprised to see Clark questioned his decision to reveal himself given the bizarre response of the citizens. How can he possibly help or save everybody? How can he save the people he needs to if others are in no way hoping he can help them with their more mundane needs? Here is where he needs to realize that he has to become a symbol of hope and selflessness, that only when people help each other as he does can the city become a better place.
I thoroughly enjoyed this issue. Like I said at the beginning, there is so much in the story that is familiar but there are subtle nuances that update these classic elements. We saw this in the 'Brainiac' and 'The Legion' storylines in Action Comics ... classic pieces of Superman's origin and history refurbished and reenergized.

And I don't think that I can gush anymore about Gary Frank's art. Yes, at times I find his rendition of Clark as Christopher Reeve a little bit distracting. But everything else is so perfect that I can live with it.

We're halfway done and already I can get the sense that this will become "the" Superman origin for some time. This will hold up for the usual 20+ years that these things usually do when they are done right.

Overall grade: A+

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Review: Cry For Justice #5

It was a very busy week for the Super-titles with four books coming out on Wednesday. World's Finest, Superman, Superman Secret Origin, and Justice League Cry For Justice all came out. It was a difficult choice deciding which title to review first. And while I feel that Superman Secret Origin was the best of the lot, Cry For Justice #5 had a couple of big moments which made me decide to review it first.

Of course, as a Supergirl fan, I have been interested in reading about her growing relationship with Captain Marvel. It has been a while since Kara had a legitimate love interest and Freddy seems like a natural fit. So when I saw the cover for this issue, I thought that their relationship would go from one of coy flirting to something more significant.

Unfortunately, this is the classic "tease cover" since this kiss does not happen within the book.

As has been the case throughout this miniseries, James Robinson's script has a few odd and off-putting moments in it. It is as though he feels that some moments that could be played in a quiet manner need to be exploded into something super-dramatic.

And, as has also been the case throughout, Mauro Cascioli's artwork is unbelievably spectacular. One thing that bothers me somewhat is that he seems to favor two body types: overly muscular men and very sexy women. Almost every man has 20 inch biceps. And while his artwork nears cheesecake at times, it is lovely to look at.

The issue opens with Congorilla and Starman visiting Animal Man's house. Congorilla had teamed with Buddy in the past when they were part of the Forgotten Heroes. Knowing that Prometheus is planning something so huge and realizing that his trail had gone cold, Bill turns to Animal Man to see if he and Starman can get some help.

As luck would have it, they arrive at the house on the same day that Starfire and Donna Troy are visiting and frolicking by the pool. I do like that Robinson is acknowledging the fact that Starfire and Buddy have a special relationship given the time they were alone together in space in 52.

The poolside scene seems like a convenient excuse to let Cascioli paint the two Titans in their bathing suits. That said, there was nothing overly sexual or prurient in their positioning or this scene. They look the way two beautiful women would look at the beach. I applaud Cascioli for this. I can only imagine how this scene would have looked if someone like Ed Benes did this book.

When Congorilla explains what he has uncovered, the decision is made to go straight to the JLA.

Hal and Ollie also realize that their group needs help with this Prometheus plot. So they decide to go to the JLA for help. The current JLA agree to helps this splinter group.

Supergirl is definitely painted quite lovely in this miniseries. But her dialogue is so wooden. Remember in an earlier issue she said "I'm not bad. I'm good." Here she gets to say the awful line "Yeah, plus he's gotten his hands on weaponry and science." Supergirl being in this book is the dreaded double-edged sword. I am glad that Supergirl is represented here as it exposes her to new readers. And from an action point of view, she actually has been shown to be quite strong. But that dialogue... yeesh.

Anyways, the actual JLA has also noted that something isn't quite right. They have noted that some super villains are acting strangely. They are attacking different cities and different heroes. The Justice League has wondered if there is an underlying pattern.

During this discussion, we finally get a Batwoman sighting. I had forgotten that she was supposed to be featured in this miniseries.

She joins the discussion saying that she stopped a super villain named Endless Winter in Gotham. Unfortunately, before this 'Killer Frost wannabe' could answer any questions, she was killed from afar with a Suicide Squad embedded brain bomb.

I guess that Batwoman telling Supergirl that she saw the Cry For Justice group in Gotham but was not seen gives her a little bit of street credibility. She is that good.

As reports of B-list superheroes fighting C-list super villains pour into the satellite, one catches everybody's attention.

The Guardian has stopped a villain named Plunder from setting up a device in Metropolis. As this whole plot involves super-technology, the JLA decides to bring the machine on board for further study.

The League's scientists decide that the machine is a massive teleporter that could dump a large area, even city sized, anywhere in time, space, or other dimensions. But it would require a massive amount of energy and computer power to work.

Hmmmm ....

Where do you think Prometheus will find that amount of energy and computer technology? Maybe on the JLA satellite? It seemed to me almost immediately that the Justice league are getting played here. They are bringing the big weapon to the only place it would work ... their own headquarters.

And as if to pick at a scab that was just healing, we get to see another headless Supergirl body shot.

While this huge conspiracy of super villains is being uncovered, Robinson decides to show us the more human side of being a superhero.

He shows that Black Canary is still hurt by the fact that Green Arrow left with Hal. She feels betrayed by him.

He retorts by telling her how productive his group was. His group actually caught a number of villains. Still, she seems stung by the whole incident, even more so when he reveals that he would not have come back if not for the Prometheus plot.

It does seem like an odd time to begin this discussion but I suppose that if Dinah is hurting that much, she would bring it up then.

Before the conversation can continue however, Animal Man arrives with Congorilla, Starman, Starfire, and Donna Troy. Almost immediately, Congorilla smells something he doesn't like it goes off. At the same time, Supergirl has gone off looking for Captain Marvel who has gone missing.

Unfortunately, while Supergirl noted Freddy's disappearance a few pages earlier, he is shown in the middle of a group shot right after animal Man arrives with his comrades. It is those small gaffes that bother me.

Supergirl and Congorilla meet up in the hallway and join together in their hunt.

There was really no reason to post to this panel other than to show how fantastic Cascioli's Supergirl is.

Unfortunately, before they find Captain Marvel or whoever Congorilla sensed, they come across Red Arrow whose arm has been ripped off!!!

Well I have to say that this was a big surprise. Grisly. Shocking. Almost unbelievable. And I suppose that is what Robinson was hoping for. It certainly grabbed my attention.

Of course after that initial shock, the continuity nerd in me took over. I am trying to figure out exactly where this miniseries takes place. It is after Final Crisis. It is obviously before Blackest Night as multiple people who have been killed there are present in this story. So now I'm trying to remember if I have seen Red Arrow with a robot arm or no arm in Blackest Night. I know... I know... I shouldn't be so hung up on things like that.

Still, it was a shocking moment ... a good moment in this book.

Congorilla makes sure that the two heroes stabilize Roy before tracking down whoever did this to him. Kara quickly cauterizes his arm with her heat vision.

Bill lets out a loud battle cry and that you take off. His scream alerts the rest of the League that something has happened. They go to investigate and come across Roy's body.

This is where one of those odd moments really took away from the issue.

When Ollie discovers the body, he is obviously distraught. He clutches the body and initially he states that he won't leave it. Dinah convinces him that they need to find the person responsible.

So that part I can understand. Roy has been like a son to Green Arrow. Of course, seeing him like this would stun anyone. I can understand why he would momentarily pause before taking action.
But would the rest of the heroes just stand there while Ollie dealt with his grief? Wouldn't they continue on to find whoever dismembered Red Arrow? And as if to hammer home the point, we actually see a shot of Starman, Starfire, Hal, and Donna standing there with their arms crossed. Wouldn't that group be fanning out looking for the villain? Even if that moment was only 5 seconds, isn't that 5 seconds too many?

These are veteran heroes who I think would realize that while Dinah and Ollie should stop, that they should move on.

The issue ends with a great cliffhanger.

It looks as though the villain is Captain Marvel! Or at least someone who is disguised as him.

I love this shot of the Supergirl about to engage with Freddy, Congorilla and The Flash battered behind them. Supergirl looks furious, eyes glowing. I love it! I can't believe it's actually Captain Marvel. So is it Prometheus? Or one of his agents... someone like Black Adam or maybe another shape shifter?

There is something almost nostalgic about this ending. Here was Supergirl's love interest who suddenly turns out to be the villain. As someone who has read a lot of Silver Age Supergirl stories, that was an ongoing theme. If she fell in love with someone he usually was some space criminal.

Too bad, I was actually looking forward to a Freddy/Kara relationship.

So we are nearing the end of this miniseries and the overall technology plot has been moved forward a bit here. There are some dramatic moments. There are some overly dramatic moments. Supergirl plays an important part in this issue. She also has some pretty lousy dialogue.

And, the artwork is just stunning. I can understand why DC would be willing to wait for Mauro Cascioli to complete the artwork here. The finished work is wonderful.

So I guess this is another up and down issue in an up-and-down miniseries. But I think this one was more up than down.

Overall grade: B

Friday, November 27, 2009

February Solicits

It has been a couple of weeks since the February 2009 DC comics solicits were posted on Newsarama. Here is the link:

This looks like it will be an exciting month for DC comics in general as we are approaching the end of Blackest Night. In fact, a number of covers for the month have not been unveiled most likely secondary to spoiler concerns.

Still, there are a lot of interesting non-Blackest Night solicits worth reviewing.

On Sale February 17 • 56 pg, FC, $4.99 US

Written by Sterling Gates, Helen Slater & Jake Black • Art by Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal & Fernando Dagnino • Cover by Michael Turner • Variant cover by Joshua Middleton

Special celebratory 50th issue! Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle reunite to tell an epic, oversized battle royale between the Girl of Steel and a mysterious, diabolical new foe! Still reeling from last issue’s harrowing events, Supergirl is put to the test when she uncovers a terrible secret about her friend and confidant, Lana Lang.

Plus! A look into a day in the life of the Girl of Steel written by Jake Black and Supergirl herself, actress Helen Slater!

Featuring a cover by the man who redefined Supergirl for the 21st century, Michael Turner, SUPERGIRL #50 is an extra-sized extravaganza you won’t want to miss!

I've already talked at length about how excited I am for Supergirl #50. I am pretty happy that DC is doing so much to promote this issue.

I really can't wait to see who the new villain is that Kara will be fighting in this issue. And I hope that we will get a sneak peek at some point of the Joshua Middleton variant cover.


On Sale February 3 • 12 of 12 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by Greg Rucka & James Robinson • Art by Pete Woods & Ron Randall • Cover by Gary Frank • Variant cover by Ladrönn

Now that the conspiracy involving New Krypton’s council has been brought to light, can Superman keep his people from tearing each other apart? And what does a skull-shaped ship flying towards New Krypton mean?

Well this certainly sounds interesting.

First off, the cover of this issue is such a wonderful contrast to the earlier covers where a smiling Superman was waving the Kryptonian flag proudly. Here we see him standing amid a disaster. Storm clouds, spy drones, a torn flag ... this doesn't look like a happy place to be.

On top of that we hear that indeed there is a conspiracy in the leading council. And it also sounds like Brainiac is on the way to reclaim the knowledge that he lost.

Somehow this all has to lead into the presumed Earth/New Krypton war that we have been told is going to happen. I do wonder exactly what the state New Krypton will be at the end of this issue. Will Superman have left the planet to return to Earth? Will we have resolution to all of the subplots that have been occurring in this title? Or are we going to see this storyline continue with in the Superman books for the foreseeable future?


On Sale February 24 • 5 of 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Gary Frank & Jon Sibal

Superman versus Metallo – for the first time! Witness the origin of one of Superman’s most-feared foes, as an attack by Lex Luthor goes awry and gives birth to the evil of Metallo. Can an inexperienced Man of Steel handle a foe with a heart of Kryptonite? Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Perry White are close to revealing Luthor as the monster that he is – but are they willing to pay for that truth with their lives?

I certainly have been enjoying Superman secret origin as a miniseries. And while the first two issues have been squarely located in Smallville, it is clear we are approaching the present day with this issue.

Here we see Lex Luthor, Metallo, and the Parasite all in Metropolis. Gary Frank's interpretation of the Parasite and Metallo just look fantastic. But the real villain here of course is Luthor. It will be interesting to see exactly what happens to Perry and Lois as they dig around in his past.

I also wonder exactly where this miniseries is going to end in Superman's timeline. Is this going to bring us to his first year of adventuring in Metropolis or drop us off somewhere else. Regardless, I think this is going to be a very worthy origin story that will stand the test of time.


On Sale February 10 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann • co-feature written by James Robinson & James Rucka • Art by Pere Pérez • co-feature art by CAFU • cover by CAFU

Nightwing and Flamebird race the clock to capture Jax-Ur, the most dangerous of Zod’s sleeper agents. And in the Captain Atom co-feature, our hero explores the horrors of his past with the help of Mon-El and Starfire!

Here we are in November and in the last issue of Action Comics, Nightwing and Flamebird are about to find Jax-Ur.

And now in this February solicit, we see they are still fighting him. My guess is his true nature is not revealed in the current plot line and that he is uncovered later on.

I don't think any of us thought that Nightwing was going to die of old age so seeing him on a future cover doesn't necessarily count as a spoiler.

My guess is that Jax-Ur is the last sleeper agent to be found. In essence, this will end the Flamebird and Nightwing story line setting up a return of Superman to this title now that World of New Krypton has ended.

In some ways I'm going to be glad to see Superman returning to this book. But I do think that the Thara/Chris relationship provided good stories in that Action Comics maintained high quality in this year without Superman. So in some ways I'm going to be sad to see them leaving the book.


On Sale February 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Written by James Robinson • Art by Bernard Chang • Cover by CAFU

“Man of Valor” Part 4! With the Legion of Super-Hero members in the 21st century now revealed to Mon-El, the Man of Valor learns of a greater destiny he and Superboy share; one that ties directly in to the fate of New Krypton and Kal-El!

With Kon-El now vacating Adventure Comics, I am glad to see that his story has not been completely shelved. I would still have preferred his story to continue under the Johns/Manapul team.

I am glad that this Legion story which has been percolating through the Superman title is finally getting some up front time. We have seen Tellus, Sensor Girl, and Element Lad in the 21st century and I am sure I am forgetting some others that have been shown to be here. I also think that there is some Mirabai/Mordru connection.

Still, if this Year Without Superman is winding down I hope that the many Superman title plot lines begin to coalesce.


On Sale February 24 • 7 of 7 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by James Robinson • Art and cover by Mauro Cascioli

This is the big one! After the catastrophes seen in issues #5 and #6, a hero loses control, leading to an unexpected ending that will fundamentally change the lives of the World’s Greatest Heroes forever. This issue launches a major storyline in the DC Universe and is not to be missed!

After all of the delays ... both starting the series and between issues ... it's hard to believe this series is going to be over.

Robinson and Didio have said that this series will definitely impact the DCU as a whole and this solicit seems to hammer home the point. And now a blacked out cover and a 'hero losing control'. Any guesses who will be shown on the cover?


On Sale February 10 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Written by Tony Bedard • Art by Travis Moore • Covers by Francis Manapul


I just don't know how long I am going to stay with this title. I like Tony Bedard. But Superboy Prime sort of annoys me. And now he is a Black Lantern. Yeesh!

I probably will stay with the title because I am a Legion guy and look forward to see what Paul Levitz does. But I don't know if my reviews will continue.


Kara Zor-El can’t resist smiling at herself when she finds this side-view mirror on the streets of Metropolis.

Sure to be just as popular as the sold-out, original Ame-Comi version of Superman’s cousin, Supergirl (V.2) is a non-articulated PVC statue, standing approximately 8.75” tall, including a base and packaged in a 4-color window box with J-hook.

And now an unexpected surprise.

I haven't been a big fan of the Ame-Comi line of statues. I didn't like the first Supergirl statue they put out. And many of them seem outright creepy. (The Wonder Girl one, for example, gave me a cringe.)

In comparison to some of the earlier Ame-Comi statues, this Supergirl one is downright modest. Sure, it is a micro-mini and my guess is seen from behind there will be some 'fan service'. But she is more covered and less racy than most of this line. I still don't think I am going to get it for the shrine.

Anyways, February seems like it is going to be a good month! I can't wait for Supergirl #50.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the USA!

I keep looking through my collection for a specific Supergirl Thanksgiving moment but I still can't seem to find one.

So I figured what better way to give thanks than to show a picture of Supergirl simply laying the smack down on Darkseid. I am thankful for moments like this in comics.

The above scene takes place in Justice League Unlimited #7 written by Adam Beechen and pencilled by Ethen Beavers. The story compares Orion's struggles with his father to this Supergirl's struggles acclimating to living with the Kent's. It isn't a bad story for a Johnny DC book and showcases Supergirl nicely.

And ... as always ... just a thanks to those who visit and contribute here! Hope everyone has a great turkey day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: Adventure Comics #4

It has taken me a week to get up the energy to review Adventure Comics #4.

I realize I am in the minority ... but I just don't like the character of Superboy Prime. I think he has been overused. I think he has become something of a caricature, a joke. And I think breaking the fourth wall when done right (Morrison's Animal Man or even to some extent Byrne's She-Hulk) is interesting but when done wrong is disastrous.

So despite being written by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates, despite Jerry Ordway's art, I just couldn't get that into the Prime story here. It didn't help that we had just had 3 superior issues about Conner in this title before this cross-over.

The highpoint of the issue was the Legion back-up story which featured my favorite Legionnaire Wildfire in a nice story about his relationship with Dawnstar.

The issue starts in Superboy Prime's basement where he turns and begins talking to the audience.

Surrounded by his long boxes, his action figures and trade paperbacks, his computer open to the DC message boards. He is shown to be reading Adventure Comics #4, the very issue I am reviewing. We get a sense of what may happen later on in this issue when he begins to comment on what he reads. He even wondered why he has been included in the Blackest Night event to begin with. I guess I echo his sentiment.

But something that happens at the end of the issue frightens and angers him. He rushes out of his basement.

Could it be that my dislike of Superboy Prime is that I see a little bit of myself in him? I also have an area in an unfinished basement where my comic books, commissions, and action figures are displayed. Or is it that he represents the stereotypical comic fan too much ... in the basement surrounded by their treasures but alone in the world.

We then bear witness to the resurrection of Alexander Luthor. One thing that I have enjoyed about the Blackest Night crossovers have been these resurrection scenes. They usually come with a "memory download" set of pages which gives the reader some important back story. Here, we are shown Luthor's parts in both Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as Infinite Crisis. One panel I enjoyed was seeing both Prime and Luthor looking at events on Earth when DC was in a dark phase in the 90's. We see shots of Superman's death at the hands of the Doomsday. We seek Bane breaking the back of Batman. We see Wonder Woman fighting with Artemis. We even see Hal Jordan as Parallax. That was a weird and dark time.

So it is no wonder that Luthor is a candidate to be a Black Lantern.

And like many of the Black Lanterns that have arisen, he has a target in mind. He wants to go after Prime.

In the meantime, Prime demands that his parents drive him to his local comic book store so he can read Adventure Comics #5. He wants to find out what happens!

Remember, his family is aware of everything that he did ask Prime in Infinite Crisis. They know that on Earth-0, their son was a ruthless killer. His mother let's him know that she is afraid of him as they drop him off at the store. When Prime runs in, they drive away.

This is the one area of the story that I find somewhat interesting. Prime clearly thinks of himself as a hero, someone trying to right the wrongs in the DCU. But to his family he is a killer. But the people he killed were merely characters in a book his parents read. Are those characters real? Is murdering a character still murder? Are his comic book actions crazy enough to warrant 'real world' fear? Isn't that like judging someone on what their D&D or WoW character does?

Prime runs into the store only to discover that Adventure Comics #5 doesn't come out until next month. Ummm ... couldn't he have looked on-line at home to see when it was supposed to ship?

With no issue to thumb through, he gets on-line in the store hoping to get some spoilers. His web surfing is interrupted by none other than Black Lantern Alex Luthor. Luthor states that he needs Prime to feel the rage he felt before so that he can absorb that emotional energy. As a regular old Earth Prime human, Superboy doesn't carry enough punch. So Luthor somehow recharges Superboy so that he has his powers in this 'normal world'.
And this is where I get sort of lost. Is the world where Prime is right now 'our arth' or does Earth Prime represent something else? Do I really want to see these characters apparently fighting here?

Superboy than attempts to resume a career as a hero. He uses his newly regained powers to fight Luthor.

Throughout the fight, Luthor goads Prime by calling him a bad character, the villain, etc. He hopes to bring out that rage that Prime has felt in the past. Not surprisingly, Superboy falls for the insults. He is full red on the emotional spectrum in no time.

And that is when Luthor springs his trap. He has brought along some friends for Superboy to battle ... all the heroes that Prime has dispatched in the past. The issue ends with the cliffhanger Prime saw earlier on ... with Luthor promising that Superboy will die.

I suppose I could have read this issue in the same way that I watch movies like Army Of Darkness. I could have simply said to myself that Prime is a silly crazy character and this issue is meant to be over the top. Maybe I should roll with everything he does, tongue in cheek.

But my guess is that the creators don't want this to be read that way.

Again, I don't like Superboy Prime. So it was unlikely that I would enjoy this.

In contrast I absolutely loved the Legion back up story.

In this story, Blok decides he needs to go to the Sorceror's world to see Mysa -the once White Witch, now Black Witch. With little chance of stopping him, Wildfire and Dawnstar decide to tag along.

Talk about to eerily similar couples. It is clear that both couples love each other but cannot easily express that physically. Blok sums it nicely - there are many stories of star-crossed lovers.

We see the Black Witch sitting on a throne surrounded by the petrified remains of many of the most powerful magical characters in the current DCU. What a great image.

She tells Blok that she needs to keep this evil magic inside her because she can control it better than anyone else. It is better for the universe if it is housed in her rather than roaming free. And she knows that she is sacrificing herself for the better of all.

She tels Blok that she can handle it better if he is there with her. Blok agrees to stay. They actually kiss. It is a nice moment.

I have always felt bad for the White Witch, a character that is always seems to get a raw deal. In particular, she was put through the wringer in the '5 year later' Legion run.

Wildfire and Dawnstar leave realizing that both Mysa and Blok have sacrificed much for the good of everyone else. They have each other ... but it is not ideal.

Wildfire in his own stilted way confesses he would do the same for Dawnstar.

One of the best parts of the Legion has always been the relationships of the characters. This was a nice little story focusing on four Legionnaires and their romantic conundrums. I thought this was great.

So half good ... half bad. It is a shame that the Conner story was sidelined in this title; I was really enjoying it.

Overall grade: C

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ethan Van Sciver's Supergirl As Indigo Lantern

Sometimes I think I am lucky. This is one of those times.

At the recent Boston Supermegafest, I was able to get a full commission from Ethan Van Sciver. I had pled my case on this blog last week, so anyone who passed that plea on to Van Sciver I thank you.

I knew I wanted to get Supergirl as a Lantern Corps member and going in I was really torn between an Indigo Lantern (the Corps I think would try to recruit her) or a Red Lantern (my favorite Corps). I feared profuse vomit as a thematic element if I went Red, so in the end I decided to opt for Indigo and I am sooooo glad I did. This is a remarkable commission.

There are plenty of details that I love here. First off, two parts of the Matrix uniform I love are the pointed sleeves and the pointed belt. Here, those parts of the costume are actually used as part of the Indigo Lantern symbol on the costume. I also love how the S-Shield has been morphed into the Indigo sigil as well. That is just slick!

I also love how the clouds behind Supergirl are the Indigo symbol as well.

And lastly, Supergirl herself is lovely here ... no surprise.

My one regret is that I was unable to really thank Mr. Van Sciver in any meaningful way. This convention promises free sketches from Van Sciver so the line is unbelievably lengthy. As I was just dropping off the book on Saturday and then picking it up on Sunday, I sort of cut that long long line. Trust me, the crowds were not happy to see me walk right up to the table. But I didn't know if I needed to be waiting in line for 3 hours either. So Sunday I simply walked up, got the sketch book, peeked at the commission, and shook Van Sciver's hand before the crowd turned and pounded me. I could feel the angry eyes of them on me.

So, Mr. Van Sciver ... if you read this ... I am absolutely thrilled with this commission and wish I could have looked it over with you and commented on it like this at the convention. This is such a unique and timely piece and I think it will be a signature commission in my collection. Hopefully you had as fun a time creating this as I am going to have looking at it. Thank you!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Supergirl Movie Anniversary

I can't believe I missed the 25th anniversary of the release of the Supergirl movie.

A number of friends have reminded me that the movie was released on November 21, 1984 and I had planned to post on that day. But it just slipped my mind.

However, I do think that the occasion warrants a post of its own. So forgive me for being two days late.

If there is one hole in my Supergirl knowledge, it is the movie. I have said it many times on this blog and unfortunately I have to say it again. I haven't seen the movie in its entirety in probably two decades. I have seen bits and pieces of it on the Internet. And I've always planned on buying the DVD but I've just never come around to it.

It doesn't help that I know that there is a special version of the DVD out there with multiple extras. Clearly that is the version of the movie I should own but it is also the most expensive.

As a Supergirl fan, I can remember loving the movie when it first came out. And it is clear from the scenes that I'm able to see on the Internet that I would probably still enjoy it today albeit in a different way ... more nostalgic.

One thing that is pretty obvious is that Helen Slater was the perfect choice to play Supergirl.

For one thing physically she seems to be the perfect embodiment of Kara Zor-El. But it's more than just having that perfect look. She also played the character with a mix of grace and courage, confidence and exuberance that really marks the Supergirl character. And she struggled, and failed, and got back on her feet and fought on in a believable way. And that is another important aspect of the character.

It is clear when you read interviews about Supergirl with many fans and comic creators, that the movie (while a financial flop) was a major influence on them. I can remember reading in the earliest interviews with Sterling Gates when he had just been named as the writer of the title where he said that he absolutely loved the movie and that was one of his first exposures to the character. Well I don't think that the Supergirl movie has reached the legendary status of the Richard Donner Superman movies it clearly has a fan base.

So happy anniversary to the film, its stars, writers, director, and producers.

And specifically, thank you to Helen Slater for being such a wonderful onscreen presence of Supergirl and for remaining in important and active part of Supergirl fandom.

As always, I would love to hear other people's thoughts or memories about the film. And, just like I did last year around this time, I will try to obtain the film and watch it with some of the holiday loot that I get.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dan Didio Talks Streaky!

Is it just me or does Supergirl get a lot of play on Dan Didio's Q&A sessions over on Newsarama? He has answered questions about Linda Danvers and Cosmic Adventures recently.

And then there was the most recent column:

1) ICleverMan wrote:
Yes, I am one of those freaks who adore the Legion of Super-Pets -- I own every appearance of each of them, including all Krypto stories.

Since Krypto's return has been such a success, what are the possibilities we can see reinterpretations of Streaky, Comet and even some variation of Beppo (totally discounting the Peter David attempt at Comet)?

Wow ... a question about Streaky! The little guy sure has been getting a lot of publicity recently! Here is Didio's answer.

DiDio: I never like to say never on anything, because there's always a writer who tends to surprise me. The funny part about Streaky is they showed Streaky in Wednesday Comics. Amanda Conner did a beautiful job with Streaky and Krypto in that book. And I think anybody would love the character except for the character's name, which always seems to get more giggles than anyone wanting to embrace the little kitty.

On Beppo, probably not. I think what happened is that, we start to get a little too deep. One or two of those characters is interesting to see, but I think once you get a little deeper into a list of characters, it starts to weaken the brands or weaken the franchise too much because it doesn't seem like you're taking yourself too seriously.

Because of Comet's origin and the way Comet was played, in the last incarnation of Supergirl, Peter David found an interesting way to make Comet work. But at this time, there's no particular plans to do that again.

I can understand the decision to exclude Beppo. And I like that again the Peter David Supergirl gets a shout out. I did think that PAD's Comet was a very interesting and unique character.

But Streaky has become something of a mainstay in the DCU. Yes he (there she) was a big star in Wednesday Comics.

But he also made his reappearance in the Supergirl title and was even in Final Crisis!

Streaky deserves to be a small part in the Supergirl world. I don't need him to don a cape and have powers, but I think he should be a pet for Kara.

I still can't believe that Didio talked Streaky!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Supergirl #47

Supergirl #47 came out this week and marked the "end" of the long-running Reactron storyline. After several months of Supergirl issues linked very tightly to New Krypton, this issue was a sort of breather. Sure, Reactron's fate is a key part to the bigger story and the overall arc in the super-titles, but this issue felt like a turning point in the Supergirl title.

Truth be told, this really is an Alura issue, with Supergirl acting as a background character. But I didn't mind that one bit.

Alura has been one of the more complicated and therefore more interesting characters I have read recently. She's been cold and cruel at times. She has been morose and despondent at times. She has been confident at times but nervous and frail at other times. Her behavior has been so erratic, I thought for a long time that she was suffering from Kryptonite poisoning.

This issue really provided some back story to Alura, putting the spotlight on key scenes in her past and showing the readers that her feelings are well established and not secondary to some bolt of Kryptonite energy.

The book opens up on one such flashback, a scene before Zor-El and Alura are married, a scene in which Zor-El is telling Alura how much she loves her. She tries to repress her own feelings, saying that the Science Guild believes that love is simply a chemical response to external stimuli. To acknowledge love therefore would be to deny who she is trying to become. And yet she does love him.

But before we hear her say those words, this scene transitions nicely to her voicing her hatred of Reactron.

That technique of showing how a scene from the past is impacting current time, is contrasted to current time, is played out throughout this whole issue. It really shows us the inner feelings of Alura and again showcases how conflicted she is.

I do find it very interesting that Alura who has always been portrayed as a very passionate and emotional character, was at one point trying to bury her feelings under a cold logical persona.

When Reactron plays the 'tough guy' in his jail cell, Alura promises him that she will be the last person who will claim to be his executioner. It will happen; he will be executed.

Throughout this "Year Without Superman", I have really loved the little origin logos. This Alura one is particularly lovely, with Alura written in the Action Comics font.

As it turns out, Alura has kept Reactron's presence on New Krypton a secret. She knows that many Kryptonians will want revenge ... will want to kill him outright. And she plans to bring him to trial.

As always, there are small things in comics, artistic nuances that make me love the medium. Here Kara and Alura are flying next to each other. But their flying positions say so much. Kara simply looks graceful, one leg bent, hand outstretched as if she's reaching for the future. Alura, by contrast, is flying with her legs straight, almost rigid and her leading hand is a closed fist. These subtle differences remind the readers that the two are very different people.

Back in her office, Alura's fears of Kryptonian sentiment about Reactron are confirmed. The parents of one of the men Reactron killed in the assault in the Arctic have come looking for justice. They have heard that Reactron is on New Krypton. When they begin to badger Alura about his whereabouts, she responds with force.

This physical confrontation is more powerful when contrasted to that opening flashback. Alura went from a young woman trying to suppress her emotions to someone who lashes out because of them.

That evening, Alura recalls another scene from her past, a scene in which Zor-El again tells Alura how much he loves her. He grabs Alura's hand and places it in the middle of his chest so that she can feel his heart beating. That memory has now been tainted by the more recent tragedy of Reactron's hand on Zor-El's chest.

It is that juxtaposition of memories, those two different hands on Zor-El's chest, which really provide the reader with some valuable information about Alura's state of mind. What should be a cherished memory is now associated with the most painful memory possible. She cannot remember that night with him without immediately thinking of how Zor-El died.

We see Alura place her hand on the empty half of her bed, the place where her husband should be, and we see her cry. She is still grieving.

The following day is Reactron's trial. He is brought before the Council for a preliminary hearing to establish that he is mentally competent to stand trial.

In what I think is one of the best scenes in the book, the entire trial is questioned by Reactron's defense attorney. Dyn-Xe, the lawyer who defended Superman in World of New Krypton, believes all the charges should be thrown out and Reactron returned to Earth.

He appropriately points out that his client is not of New Krypton, is not bound to the rules of that planet, and is merely a soldier who followed orders. While he understands Alura's desire for justice, he feels that this is not the forum. He even insinuates the improper nature of this trial by pointing out that Kal-El isn't there. He wonders if Superman is even aware that Reactron is on the planet. Dyn-Xe knows that Superman is a man of honor. Superman would point out that this is a sham of a trial and would not allow it to continue. Dyn-Xe even go so far as to question Alura's state of mind, her ability to pass judgment. He wonders if she is too close to this case to be objective.

I agree with him wholeheartedly. I don't think the Kryptonians would be happy if one of their people were brought before a court on Earth and subjected to our laws. There were no extradition papers. There was no discussion with Earth government to bring Reactron to New Krypton. This seems more like a witchhunt more than a trial. That said, when Reactron was given to the appropriate authorities on Earth he was promptly released. Alura may feel this is the only way that he can be brought to justice.

Before the trial can go any further however a group of Kryptonians, led by the mourning parents from earlier, burst into the courtroom. They have only one thing on their minds. They want revenge.

Shockingly, as the lynch mob train heat vision on to Reactron, it is Supergirl and Alura who jump to his rescue. They dive in front of the heat vision barrage, saving him. Despite his brash exterior, Reactron again shows his cowardly nature. He begins bartering, saying that he can give the Kryptonians information.

I was not shocked to see Supergirl jump to save Reactron. That is what a hero would do. It did shock me however that Alura would rise to defend him. This would've been an easy way for her to get what she was hoping for. And she would've been above reproach.
Instead she says that the mob simply cannot kill Reactron. Just when I think I understand Alura she throws me a curve ball. It is this sort of diametrically opposed feelings within one person that make her so intriguing. How can she promise him that she will be his executioner on one page and then leap to his defense and state that he cannot be killed a few pages later.

I bet Alura is a very fun character to write.

We get some background into those feelings as we are shown another flashback. This is a much more recent flashback, only back to the Brainiac storyline. Here Zor-El and Alura are still in the bottled city of Kandor watching Superman and Brainiac fight. We see those giant figures in the background here.

Alura says that she hopes Superman kills Brainiac. This statement shocks her husband. You can see on Alura's face that she is filled with hate for Brainiac. She thinks it is ironic that the artist Zor-El is telling the scientist to be less emotional. But that is not what Zor-El is saying. He's saying that Alura may have those feelings but she should be above them. He doesn't think that they should succumb to hatred.

I love that last panel. As Zor-El says that they need to be true leaders in the background looming large is the family crest of the House of El. People who wear that Shield should not be hoping that anyone gets killed.

While I have been talking about how these flashback scenes give us a better sense of who Alura is, I also have to say that the scenes really flesh out who Zor-El was. We didn't get to see much of him before he was murdered. You really get the sense that he was a good man.

And you also get the sense that Alura's emotional instability was present long before she was struck by that Kryptonite bolt when Kara was cured. Alura's behavior isn't Kryptonite poisoning. This is who she is.

And yet back on New Krypton, we see her try to espouse Zor-El's ethics here. He thinks they should be above wanting revenge. Perhaps that is why Alura is saying that Reactron cannot be killed in this manner. Maybe she wished to honor who Zor-El was, what he stood for.

Unfortunately in the skirmish, Reactron is apparently killed. Commander Gor reports to Alura that Reactron attempted to escape and was vaporized..

And just like that the Reactron story seems over. It is an anti-climactic ending. There doesn't seem to be any catharsis here.

The characters just wander away.

Supergirl leaves New Krypton to return to Earth. Alura is unable to stop him from leaving.

The last scene of the book shows Alura in Zor-El's tomb. She is talking to her dead husband.

And what I think is just a delicious turn of events, we learn that Alura did not try to save the Reactron because she wanted to honor her husband's feelings. We learn that she wanted Reactron kept alive so she could get information out of him. And if she needs torture to wring it out of his body, she will torture him. In fact, she puts Commander Gor on the job and he seems like just the sadist who would get some pleasure out of it.

I don't know if I can say that Alura is evil. But I know that I cannot say that she is good. She may be trying to do good but the ends rarely justify the means.

In her heart even she knows that this isn't the right thing to do. She collapses before Zor-Els casket hoping that the information she obtains is worth this erosion of her morality.

Again, the fact that this panel is drawn in the perspective that it is adds a lot to the ending. Not only do we see Alura as a very minute component here, echoing her own sentiments of feeling small, we also see it in the context of the Zor-El's tomb which is just bathed in light. That light emanating from him, reminding us of who he was, is such a wonderful contrast to her statements.

I know that one of the recent concerns about this title is that the Supergirl character has been lost in the New Krypton storyline. At times it is felt that this isn't really a Supergirl title but more of an adjunct to Superman. I think that this issue turns the corner. Yes this was an Alura issue but clearly her character impacts Supergirl greatly. We have seen tension between Kara and Alura throughout Sterling Gates' run on the title. This issue really adds dimension to that relationship. We really get a better understanding of who Alura is.

And as much as I have talked about how Brainiac 2 is one of the best characters in comics today, I really feel that Alura is right up there as well. She seems like such a roiling cauldron of conflicting emotions, she has been through so much trauma, and she seems to want to do the right thing. I don't know if I can easily explain my feelings for the character. At times I like her and at times I don't. But I usually feel some sympathy for her and I think that is a tribute to the writing of this book.

While the Reactron story clearly isn't over at least this chapter of it is. The next issues all seem to be dedicated to Supergirl and her activities on Earth and I'm looking forward to those greatly. But my guess is that when I take a look back, that this character driven issue focused on Alura is going to be one of my favorite issues in Sterling Gates' run.

As I have mentioned above, comics work best when words and art come together. I have nothing but good things to say about Matt Camp's art in this book. It is a very clean and detailed style which suits this book well. I have to say in some places it reminded me a little of Geof Darrow. That is high praise. I also thought he did an excellent job in making subtle changes to Alura's face which clearly showed how she has aged from those earlier flashbacks on Krypton to the current events on New Krypton. While I look forward to Jamal Igle's return on Supergirl #50, I think the book is in more than capable hands.

Overall grade: A