Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Action Comics #900 Part 1

Action Comics #900 came out this week, a truly historic issue. And like many I was excited to read the main story by Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, and Jesus Merino as they wrapped up the Black Ring storyline.

But like many, it was the included short story by David Goyer that got my attention the most. In fact, it struck such a chord that I felt I needed to review it before the main story. I'll also review the other short bonus stories here as well.

'The Incident' was written by David Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda.

The story opens with Superman meeting the President's National Security Advisor in the middle of a snowy wood to talk about an incident Superman was involved in, one that has the US government worried.

Deep in the woods, military snipers have high powered rifles with Kryptonite bullets trained on Superman, fearing that he may have gone rogue.

So I have said it before and I will say it again. Recently there has been far too many stories with Superman fighting the US military. One of the main villains of the whole New Krypton storyline was the US military. One of the main villains in Superman:Secret Origin was the US military.

I don't need Superman to be a sycophant for the military as in Dark Knight Returns. I understand the above examples were the fault of the xenophobic General Lane. But the truth is the average soldier, the average person in the armed forces is serving this country and ready to defend my freedom. They are heroes too. I don't need Superman beating them up, or being fired on by them.

I  am just sick of images like this one, the cover of Superman Secret Origin #5.

Why does the government think Superman as gone rogue? He decided to be a participant in an 'incident' in Iran where a public protest was occurring. The demonstrators were rallying against the government. The military was there to quell the demonstration ... with force if necessary.

Superman decided that he was going to show up and stand with the protesters, a sign of solidarity. He states he would not engage no matter what happened, he was there as an act of civil disobedience.

Okay, so the truth is this idea of Superman trying to change the world in matters like this (or other examples he gives like world hunger or human rights) has been explored in many many different places. It never ends well. It is rarely done right.

Superman says he stood in that square for 24 hours, that he was vilified and glorified during that time.  During that time the protest crowd grew astronomically. And nothing happened. And Superman left.

I have to be honest, I think Goyer was pretty lazy here.  He takes the easy way out. It is easy to write this story when nothing happens. But what if Superman's presence scared the military so much they began to fire into the crowd? Would Superman really stand by and do nothing? And if his presence emboldened the protesters such that they began to lob rocks or fire on the military themselves would Superman intervene on behalf of the army? And if his presence led to a riot between both sides would he act? Or what if presence didn't matter at all and things got ugly? Would he hold to his vow and not 'directly engage' allowing the loss of human life?

And what happens after he leaves? What if the government continues to round up the protesters? Or fire into the demonstraters as soon has he leaves? Would he return? And what about the throngs of people who came to the protest when Superman was there ... do they continue to protest in the open ... or slink back to their homes, scared again? What happens later?

It is too easy to have nothing happen during and after this event. It also seems unrealistic. No one in the army got a twitchy finger. No one of the one million protesters instigated anything?

And then the fallout happens. Iran felt Superman's presence was an act of war. That's why Superman was called to this meeting.

Superman, tired of being construed an 'instrument of US policy', states he will revoke his US citizenship.



Given his global presence and his very recent (and unfortunate) dust-ups with the military, do people think he is really part of the government? A weapon? If he was a weapon, wouldn't he be used more?

And even if he does revoke his citizenship, do he think that will mean anything to the Iranian or any other government? Or will they think that the hero based in Metropolis is still acting in America's interests? Won't they think is simply lip service?

And isn't what he did the essence of the 'American Way' part of 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way'? Isn't the basis of the American Way the strive for freedom, to bring freedom to the oppressed? Isn't that the ideal of the American Way that we all should be inspired to reach for? Even if he disagrees with the politics of the current US regime, shouldn't he still want to be an American and to demonstrate what those ideals mean?

And doesn't America have a rich history of civil disobedience?

Isn't what Superman did in Iran very American? Being part of something like that to change things? Isn't what those protesters did very American, striving for democracy?

Shouldn't Superman be proud of his American citizenship since here we have the right to organize without tanks rolling out? That we have the right to voice our opinions and protest? That we live in a democracy? Shouldn't he be touting his American citizenship?

Isn't renouncing his citizenship almost ironic given what he did?

Superman says he has been thinking too small. He needs to think globally, not locally.

And he saw this happen as he left which made it worth it all.

Again, it is easy to write this story when the ending is trite like this. Almost saccharin. The truth is this could have turned very ugly, might still turn ugly.  What if the soldier hit the protester as he extended the rose? What if the protester spat in the soldier's face? What would Superman do then? Would he truly 'not directly engage'? Or would he put an end to it, acting just the way Luthor fears he would be ... a paternalistic safety net.

I hope ... no I pray ... someone buys Goyer Paul Dini's Peace on Earth, just about the best example of how Superman can't just insert himself into issues like this. How it is a job for everyone.

We have only recently and painfully learned in the early issues of Grounded that you better be a good writer if you are going to insert Superman into daily problems that are in our society. Can you really write a story where Superman tries to defeat hunger? Child abuse? Racism? Strife in the Middle East?Heck, even if you are a good writer, he can't really defeat those things, can he? Superman becomes ineffective ... or condescending ... or both. Who would want to read that Superman?

Superman belongs to the world, I know. But he is American. It was Ma and Pa Kent that made him the person he is. He should embrace that, be proud of that, not be irritated by it.

I pray that this story is simply swept under the rug, not regarded as canon, forgotten, and hopefully not the basis for any upcoming arcs. Because I can tell you, it simply won't work.

This whole story ... the snipers aiming at Superman, the condescending and overlord-like tone by Superman, the lazy and unrealistic protest scene, the vow by Superman to revoke his citizenship, the overly sentimental flower ending panel ... not one part worked for me. Every single part failed.

And really that is the main thing about this story. Regardless of the details, regardless of my politics, regardless of the rancor, I didn't like it. It is just another Superman story I don't want to read. And because of the publicity it is getting, now I can't escape it.

I have had to deal with years of Superman not being the star in his own books. I have had to deal with the missteps of the early Grounded issues. I have had to accustom myself to Luthor being the star of Action.  And now I have to deal with this. It is enough to make even a diehard Superman fan like me grow weary.

The rest of the supplemental stories are a mixed bag.

'Life Support' is written by Damon Lindelof and has eye-popping art by Ryan Sook. I think I would buy just about anything with Sook art.

This is a Jor-El story as he tries to get help from another Kryptonian scientist just prior to Krypton's destruction. He needs this man's help to provide for Kal-El on his journey. Now how a baby will know how to get food and water out of this device, let alone eat it, is beyond me. It is a touching story of how that unnamed scientist will help ... but only after spending time with his own family.

'Autobiography' is written by Paul Dini with art by Jimmy Olsen artist RB Silva.

This is an interesting story about a super-powered hippo like creature named Sarva who defended his planet until a supernova destroyed the planet. Rather than transport the population to a new harsh world, Sarva decided to make the world sleep peacefully and let the catastrophe happen. But he questions if that was the right decision.

My favorite short story in the book was 'Friday Night in the 21st Century' by uber-team Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It is a simple story. Lois wants Clark to have a 'typical Friday night', a night at home with friends. And so she invites the Legion over.

I love this 2 page spread showing the heroes and Lois relaxing. I especially love the peeved Ayla looking for the pizza while a worried Timber Wolf hides. And Lois must be telling some story!

Even the beginning pages, an exploration of Lois' disorganized desk and her clear love for Clark are wonderful. It's 4 pages, 2 of which are this spread, and yet it is a complete and sweet story.

The last story is 'Only Human', told in storyboard style by Superman director Richard Donner and Derek Hoffman with art by old friend Matt Camp.

This is another fun story where Lois learns about a new super-suit designed to give the average man powers. When a demonstration with Superman turns near disastrous, Superman has to shut down the suit and its pitch man. But amusingly, Superman is also a bit jealous because the pitch man seems to have won over Lois.

Camp's art is storyboard style which works here. But I would love to have seen this story with his typical finished meticulous stuff. I bet his Lois is wonderful.

Anyways, these extra stories in Action Comics #900 were a nice addition to the Cornell conclusion. The near perfect and wonderful 'Friday Night' is offeset by the 'Incident'.

Overall grade 'The Incident': F
Overall grade 'Friday Night in the 21st Century': A+
Overall grade everything else: B+/B

Friday, April 29, 2011

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary Is Three Years Old

On April 29 2008, I posted my Jim Mooney Supergirl commission and officially started Supergirl Comic Box Commentary.

Back then I had no idea about blogging or social media at all. All I knew was that I had a love of Supergirl and I wanted a place to put down my thoughts about the character.

Here we are three years later. Three. Unbelievable!

And that is why there is a collage of Supergirl #3's above.

While the breadth of this blog has grown a bit to include the other Superman family titles, JLA, R.E.B.E.L.S., and the Legion, I always strive to keep Supergirl as the focus of this place and I think I succeed. It helps that her character seems so popular now. There always seems to be enough news going on to keep Supergirl front and center.

For me, the best part of my doing this blog has been meeting and talking to so many Supergirl and comic fans here. It is great to get a sense of just how big Supergirl's fanbase is.  I know I can be wordy, my posts lengthy, and sometimes overly analytical on things like panel composition or turns of the phrase. I also know I can be something of an easy grader in my reviews. So I want to thank everybody who comes here, reads my posts, and takes the time to comment. I truly appreciate the dialogue that happens here. I have said it before but I'll say it again ... I have become a better comic book reader because of the discussions here. That is truly the best part of this place.

And to the regulars who stop by and comment frequently (you know who you are), I can't thank you guys enough for making it feel like a little community here. Thanks for keeping me on target with reviews and points of view, showing me things I missed, and pointing out when you think I am off the mark. You all are the best.

I'd also like to thank the creators who have stopped by here for interviews or comments over the last year. A very big thank you to Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle for all they have done here. And another big thanks to James Peaty for his recent interview. And thanks to Jake Black, Dean Trippe, Bernard Chang, Matt Camp, and any other creator who has stopped by here to read and comment. As a fan, I appreciate knowing that the voices and concerns of Supergirl's fans are being heard.

With a steady rotation of monthly reviews, sales and solicitation previews, and the usual Anj commentary on previews and interviews I read, I think there is a backbone structure to this place. Add in the occasional back issue review and commission/collection addition and I am usually busy. But I am always interested in hearing if there are things I could be doing more of, less of, or differently. Is there anything I should be doing that I'm not?

Anyways, thanks again to everyone for making the last three years so much fun and for talking Supergirl and comics with me. I hope you all have enjoyed visiting here as much as I have enjoyed blogging.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #12

Last week was a big week for me when it came to comics and so I am still wrapping up my reviews. The second to last issue to review from last week is Legion of Super-Heroes #12, written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Yildray Cinar & Jonathan Glapion.

As I have said before, this comic is growing on me. I have always been a Legion nut and I am ready to be reading a very good Legion comic again. The beginning part of the Waid/Kitson reboot came close. But this current run, picking up on the continuity that I grew up on, is really hitting its stride with the current LSH vs LSV arc.

After a whirlwind of plot progression in the LSV one-shot and last issue, this issue takes a sort of baby step forward in the plot progression. We know that Saturn Queen's LSV is looking for the 'world of wisdom' to destroy. And at the end of the issue she is still looking for that world, or maybe she has found the world. Otherwise, this issue just further sets the stage for the upcoming battles.

And, as always, Levitz tries to juggle all the plot threads that he has set in motion. It is hard to do with a cast as large as this books. Unfortunately, that means some plots that I really want to see played out weren't mentioned here.

The issue starts with Lightning Lord and Atta trying to recruit new members for the Legion of Super-Villains staring with someone named Stegus. I do think it is somewhat strange to have Saturn Queen split her small team up so quickly. Wouldn't she want the muscle here available on Colu? I suppose she needs an army to fight of the LSH so that might be the impetus here.

I also have to say that I like how Colossal Boy is really treated as a power in the Legion. Unfortunately, Atta and Mekt are able to subdue him before battling with Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl.

One of the plot lines that is out there is the return of Star Boy to his right time. I absolutely loved this panel where the 'multiverse' energy is being drained out of Thom. We see the Silver Age Star Boy, the Legionnaires Star Boy and the Waid/Kitson Star Boy in visions above him while the machines do their healing. Dream Girl's irritation at Brainy's 'experimenting' on Star Boy is perfect.

With the machines on auto-pilot, Brainy decides he is more needed elsewhere, specifically on the now 'radio silent' Colu.  Unfortunately that means that Brainy doesn't question the enigmatic Harmonia Li and here recent revelation that she has caused all of these problems. That is the plot line I was hoping would be more explored here. I mean Brainy leaves without even asking her what she meant. Hopefully answers will be forthcoming soon.

I have to say that I am enjoying seeing this more sadistic Saturn Queen and her plots. With Questor not able to find the information about the World of Wisdom on his own, Saturn Queen rips the knowledge from this Coluan's mind, killing him in the process. Look at that look of glee on her face as she crushes his 'delicately wired' mind.

Of course, you need to be consistent in that sadism ... something which might be hard to do as we'll see soon.

Another of my favorite Legionnaires getting some screen time is Timber Wolf, who is hunting Sun Killer. Here we learn something about Sun Killer's origins. He is a solar power vampire. He needs sunlight to live. Cue the sequence where Shadow Lass defeats him ...

But another thing I liked here was the SciPo officer asking Timber Wolf if he is off-duty. I don't think Brin has had a love interest since Ayla way back in the 80s. It would be nice to see him finally moving on from that heartbreak.

The battle against Atta and Lightning Lord continues on Rimbor. This is just a great panel showing Phantom Girl take out Atta with a flying kick. The whole issue shows how powerful Phantom Girl can be by moving in and out of phantom mode quickly, even solidifying parts of her body while others remain ghostly. Phantom Girl has really been seen a lot in this book. I wonder if she is one of Levitz' favorites.

Perhaps my favorite moment in the book though is when Ayla shows up to fight Mekt. These two have such a long and painful history. Remember, Mekt tortured her the last time the LSV teamed up.

I really love Ayla ... just such a strong character, powerful, opinionated, decisive.

Unfortunately it's a non-fight as Zymyr teleports the villains away. Too bad. I hope we see that fight eventually happen.

And another plot line we see is Mon-El working with Dyogene as he tries to aid in the investigation. He ends up heading to Oa where I am sure he'll meet up with Sodam Yat.

I do like that Mon-El equates the Legion with Dyogene's long lost Green Lantern Corps. After all these years, I don't think anyone should underestimate the Legion.

Maybe Yat will be able to shed some light about the 'blue entity' that is behind Saturn Queen's plans.

Here is where I think Saturn Queen's current persona is troubling. Brainy shows up with Earth Man to stop her from leaving. Incredibly, she easily overpowers both Querl and Earth Man, telepathically freezing them in their tracks. They are helpless ... but she simply leaves them saying she doesn't have the time to do more. And yes, I see Tellus being teleported in. But after all we have seen of this Saturn Queen, wouldn't she do more to them ... if not kill them than injure them more? This is a woman who rubbed the blood of the slain on her lips while playfully picking of fingers from her clothes. Wouldn't she tell them to kill themselves, a move we have seen her do already? Of course, that means we would have a couple of dead Legionnaires. Maybe I am looking for too much realism here. Instead, she takes off with the information about the World of Wisdom. So

She is a big threat though, eliminating one of the Legion's most powerful minds while taking out Earth Man who mimicked her powers.

So overall a very good issue, filling out the overall arc while not moving too forward. I think splitting up Saturn Queen and Lightning Lord here only is further proof that they will clash somewhere down the line. And I think this is a very good story with mysteries, action, and lots of characterization. Too bad the Harmonia Li one was left temporarily hanging. And I was hoping to see more of Dawnstar's quest.

Still, this is a Legion comic I am enjoying right now. I really can't ask for more.

Overall grade: B+/B

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Justice League Of America #56

Justice League of America #56, written by James Robinson with art by Brett Booth, came out last week. A middle chapter in the current Rise of Eclipso arc, the issue is something of a big slugfest with very little movement in the overall plot. The art is beautiful, there are a couple of nice character moments, and the plot revelations are all interesting. But in many ways this felt like a sort of pause in the story.

Last issue, Eclipso and his army came to the moon and kicked the snot out of the citizens of the Emerald City and the JLA. This issue Eclipso and his army, which now includes a possessed Jade, continue to kick the snot out of the characters. And that is sort of the bottom line.

The one thing that I have said about the last year of this comic it is that Robinson really has done a great job of putting together huge threats for the team to battle. There isn't Doctor Destiny and the Materioptikon vying to control a city. We have had the CSA, the Omega Man, the Star Heart, and now Eclipso. And Robinson does a very good job of justifying these threats as real threats. So maybe an issue like this is done to prove that once again this JLA is up to the challenge.

With Batman and Starman away in space with Supergirl dealing with Doomsday, Donna Troy is stuck holding her own. And now she is facing off against Jade.

Jade has certainly showed a dark side to her persona, especially since she absorbed some of the Star Heart's energies. So her being possessed so quickly makes internal sense to me. She also has been shown to be extremely powerful since her resurrection. So this can't be good for Donna.

And Donna realizes that the Emerald City is now ... crap city. Really ... Donna called it crap city?

Now I am a big Donna fan and I remember when she was the voice of reason in the Titans. And I know that she has gone through a lot since then ... retcons, loss and gain of powers, death of husband and children, death and rebirth herself. I know that her history has made her angry and fierce. Robinson has definitely shown this aspect of her throughout his stay here. And I know that he has shown that she is self-aware of her anger, and how she is sick of being angry.

But when she has been reduced to anger and punches and cursing and lines like 'crap city' we are veering just a little bit too close to Lobo territory. I hope that once this 'dark' adventure is over, Donna can come to terms with some of the things inside herself.

As much as I am kind of annoyed at Donna's characterization, I am thrilled with the new World's Finest of Batman and Supergirl. Robinson really has done a great job of showing Dick and Kara's relationship, how it has grown, and how much they care for each other ... the same sort of loyalty and friendship seen between Bruce and Clark.

Batman learns that St. Walker cannot detect where Supergirl went and he also learns about the Eclipso attack. With  some reluctance, Batman knows he is needed more on the moon than searching aimlessly in space. And he hopes Supergirl can hold her own ... wherever she is. It is a nice moment.

In one of the revelations in the issue, Donna is stopped from defeating Jade by the Shade, a Shade who still seems to have his faculties about him. Unlike the silent drones fighting for Eclipso, the Shade still has his debonair voice. But despite this free will, he tells Donna that he is serving Eclipso.

Why do I get the feeling that he was really saying 'I serve my lord .... for now.' There definitely is going to be some sort of turnaround by the Shade in this arc.

Before Batman, Starman, and St. Walker can get to the moon, Congorilla shows up with some JLA reserves: Cyborg, Dr. Light, Animal Man, and others.

Eclipso mocks the team as the 'oh so mighty JLA'. We saw in the earlier arcs here that Robinson seemed to be going out of the way to say that the current roster is *the JLA* going as far as having Superman say it and a throng of heroes cheer the team when they defeated the Omega Man. Is this another jab at this team? A way that when it is over they can say 'yes we are the JLA'? Or is it more a comment on these reserves?

Now you would think that Dr. Light would be an excellent hero to have fight the shadow army. But unfortunately these heroes not only get beaten ... but possessed! It seemed too quick.

Even Zauriel is brought up to the moon to fight Eclipso. It would make sense. Eclipso is a formed spirit of wrath. Zauriel is formerly of the heavenly host.

Unfortunately, I think that Zauriel has become a 'yard stick' character, his only purpose to show how tough a how is when they defeat him. I suppose I am supposed to say 'wow, Eclipso is so tough he beat Zauriel'. But I can't do that for him anymore than I can for the Spectre. I can't remember the last fight either of them one.

Finally Batman, Starman, and St. Walker arrive and join the fray. Unfortunately, the team is woefully outnumbered. Eclipso's army has only grown on the moon.

Another nice piece of characterization here is Robinson's use of St. Walker. Even in this situation, he doesn't lose hope. And he is so disgusted by Eclipso that he jumps for the chance to fight him one on one. I don't recall that sort of pro-active nature in Walker before. It was refreshing.

What's more is that for some reason his ring is able to manifest constructs on the moon. Is that because of Jade? Or the vicinity of the Starheart? Or the fact that Alan Scott is somewhere in hiding on the moon.

I have never been a fan of St. Walker before this issue. This is the first time I actually cared about what he was doing.

Just when it looks like all hope is lost, the JLA surrounded, they are engulfed in darkness by Obsidian. It looks like he might be working for Eclipso with the 'as you command' but the comic book veteran in me says this is a last second rescue.

Since we know what will happen if Jade and Eclipso merge, I am glad he is going to take off with the crew. Unless merging with the possessed Jade is some way to save her ... hmmmm.

I was sort of disappointed that we did not see any of Jesse Quick this issue. Her revelation last issue that she is slowing down was the most interesting hook from that book. She must be the hero of next issue. I just hope she doesn't get depowered or worse ... killed.

Anyways, this was a decent issue although it felt like a sort of 'treading water' issue. Overall I am enjoying this arc but I was hoping things would progress a bit more. Still, some new threads were added to this storyline.

Brett Booth continues to do an excellent job here, conveying the action in a very dynamic, high-octane way.

Overall grade: B

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bullet Review: Justice League Of America 80-Page Giant

Over two weeks ago, the Justice League of America 80-Page Giant was released. To be honest, I don't know how this slipped under my radar. So I know it is belated but I thought I would quickly review the Supergirl parts of the book.

Unlike the Superman 80-Page Giants, this issue is one long story, the bulk of them written by Adam Glass. The chapters have members of the JLA teaming up in different parts of hell. Each chapter save the last is named after one of the seven deadly sins. It is an interesting mash-up of any number of JLA incarnations. So we see the big seven and the current JLA but also Fire, Zatanna, and even the Bulleteer.

'Lust', written by Frank Mastromaro with art by Vicente Cifuentes, has Supergirl teaming up with the 'new' Wonder Woman. I don't know much about the current Diana and this story makes some sense if it was the 'old' Wonder Woman. So I am hoping that someone reading the Wonder Woman title now can tell me if this makes any sense. I stopped reading that title after a couple of issues.

Supergirl basically finds herself suddenly in Hell, surrounded by souls in agony. Off in the distance, she sees a human form which she assumes is whoever is responsible for bringing her there.

It turns out to be Wonder Woman.

Supergirl recognizes her immediately. But as far as I know, and I may be way off, Supergirl doesn't know this Wonder Woman. Or has Diana become well-known?

And at least in the issues I had read, I thought the Amazons weren't on Paradise Island any more. Maybe they have gone back?

Before too much more conversation can happen, the two are beset upon by powerful demon hordes, armies of monsters that the two cannot seem to harm or defeat.

Luckily, Batman arrives and dispatches them easily with a few well-aimed batarangs.

Is it Bruce or Dick?

Well, he says he is both and more and can be everything the two women want him to be if they join him.

Now we know the lust aspect of 'Lust' as a torrid passionate relationship with Batman is offered to both Diana and Kara.

I know that the old Diana and Bruce had a relationship a couple of years ago but is that still happening in the current arc. Has she met Bruce?

And Kara doesn't have those feelings for 'big brother' Grayson.

Maybe that's why the two can so easily walk away from this offer?

Wonder Woman calls them 'latent hidden desires' for Bruce. But the real Batman would never act like a player (or is it playah?). So she knows it's a ruse.

And Kara knows Dick wouldn't act like that. Is 'icky' the right word? Felt right.

Regardless, Supergirl gives him the cold shoulder ... a cold shower ... freezing him.

Letting Diana smash him into pieces. Nice teamwork.

The last chapter is called 'Purgatory' written by Adam Glass with art by Scott McDaniel. It turns out that each chapter had the JLA members defeating a threat and bringing a small piece of the Hell Mask to purgatory. These adventures were orchestrated by Lord Satanus, trapped by Blaze in Reign of Hell, and trying to get the mask so he could regain his position. The mask supposedly can even kill God and thus was scattered throughout hell.

Before Satanus can put it on, Plastic Man does. While he first is overwhelmed by its power, he regains control of himself and asks the League to blast him and therefore the mask to pieces. The mask is broken and its pieces go back to where they came from. And Plas obviously survives.

Nothing exceedingly special here, although this is the first meeting of Supergirl and the new Wonder Woman. Cifuentes art on the Lust chapter is nice, detailed in a sketchy kind of way, layered with nice ghostly backgrounds. And the coloring in that chapter works well, bathed in oranges in reds.

McDaniel has a different style, thickly bordered and inked. It would be interesting to see him draw Supergirl. I don't know if he did in his parts of the weekly Trinity series. But $5.99 might be a bit much. Might be worth a peek if found cheap at a store sale of convention.

Overall grade: C

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fund Raiser For Jake Black

Comics have been a big part of most of my life, providing me with entertainment, escapism, education, and even a sense of right and wrong. So if I can give a little something back to the industry by promoting a good cause on this site, I will. In the past I have talked about Ordinary People Change the World and their fundraising to save the Siegel house. I have promoted the HERO Initiative as well.

I recently learned that a fund-raising site has been set up for comic writer Jake Black to help with his medical bills. Here is a link to the site:

Black was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2008, fought the cancer, and won. That battle left him with $25,000 in medical bills. Black is hoping to raise money to help him with those costs. The site allows people to directly donate with the click of a button. As they say, every little bit helps.

I am a fan of Black and his work. He is definitely a Supergirl fan, having written with Helen Slater the great back-up story in Supergirl #50. I talk about the story in depth here; it was a wonderful story showing what a hero Supergirl is.

He also wrote the book that accompanies the Eaglemoss Supergirl figurine.

And he wrote the Supergirl documentary included in the Smallville Season 7 DVD set and re-presented on the Superman/Batman Apocalypse DVD.

Black hopes to give something back to the people who donate by giving out weekly prizes like Batgirl issues signed by Bryan Q Miller. The first prize (for the week of 4/25-4/30) is a copy of Supergirl #50 signed by Black and Helen Slater. Now that is awesome.

 Details about the fundraising site, prizes, as well as other news can be found on the fund-raising website above as well as Black's blog here: I hope people check out the site and give if they can.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sales Review: March 2011

Recently, ICv2 posted comics sales numbers for March 2011. As always, ICv2 does a great job crunching the numbers and are worth a close look. Here is the link:

FF#1 was the biggest seller, clearing 100K and Marvel continued to dominate in dollar sales. DC did have 7 of the top 10 books sold, a mix of Green Lantern books, Batman books, and Brightest Day which has continued to sell well throughout it's run.

I have promised optimism here and I will hold to that promise.

Despite the overall downward trend of comic sales, and the relative upheaval on the creative side of Supergirl's title, the book's sales remained pretty stable. Supergirl #62 sold 21,786, down just 1% from the prior month. In this market, that has to be looked upon favorably. Of course, I wish that number was much higher, much healthier.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Peaty's run ends and Kelly Sue DeConnick takes over. Will the new writer effect things? Or are the 21K of us currently buying out there here for the long run?

And what about after DeConnick's three issue run? Is a three issue run going to be looked upon as a sign of an uncertain future? I really hope DC hands the reins to a writer long term. I think this turnstile approach to creative teams on the title can't be good. And I do hope that the Brian Wood rumor is true. Would be nice to see what he could do with Supergirl.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Supergirl #63

Supergirl #63 came out this week, the penultimate chapter of James Peaty and Bernard Chang's 'Good Looking Corpse' story arc. That also means we are nearing the end of the Peaty/Chang's tenure as creative team on the title. Despite all the issues surrounding their run ... taking over from Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's prolific run, the sudden departure of Nick Spencer ... the team has put together a compelling and entertaining story so far. It's hard to believe that it's already almost over.

As the second to last chapter, Peaty has work to do here, lining things up for a satisfying conclusion. That means revealing who the villain is ... because we know there is more to Alex than meets the eye. It also means keeping the Lois subplot moving along as well, something I have liked about this arc very much. This is definitely how I picture Lois being characterized and with her near absence in Grounded, it has been nice to see her in action.

While much was revealed in this issue, I still need a little bit more on the villain's backstory, a little bit more of some of the character's motivations, which means next issue has a lot to cover in a short period of time.

It was nice to see Amy Reeder back on cover duty here. You can really see the fear in Supergirl's eyes here. I know that I was worried that the hand clutching her here was Comet's hand, from the PAD run on Supergirl. While it would be nice that Comet would be back in continuity, it might also have opened up a can of worms. Suffice it to say, it isn't Comet.

Last issue, Alex had knocked Supergirl unconscious and teleported away to his lab, leaving Kara alone with the insipid Harvard students from the first issue. Their continued presence at least in some ways justifies the pages of conversation we had from them in the first issue, although I still think too much time was wasted on them there. There is more to them than meets the eye here.

This is a small piece of a nice 2 page spread with long horizontal rows of panels, showing Supergirl awakening, gathering herself, and zooming off to find her friends. Bernard Chang really is doing spectacular stuff here.

As Supergirl tries to fly away from the evacuated Harvard grounds, she finds the university covered in a force field. Now, if she really wanted out, she could burrow underground and see if the dome is a sphere. But there is too much mystery to be solved on campus. She is trapped, alone save for the students we know are Alex' friends.

The issue's art work is an interesting mix of panels. After the two page spread above with many small panels with tight focus, we get several large splash pages like this one. I always say big moments deserve big art. I also say that spalsh pages sometimes means less story is being told. I don't know if this warranted all this space, no matter how beautiful the art is.

For me, the best part of this issue was the Lois subplot, her dealing with Cadmus employee Catherine Devereaux. Devereaux told Lois about the Cadmus project back in Supergirl #60 only to discover that Alex had killed her son Jason in response.

I like that Lois has the compassion to follow-up on this end of the story, to see how Devereaux is holding out. It also gives Peaty an opportunity to flesh out some of the backstory here. I liked this line where Lois tells Devereaux about a friend who also lost a son, obviously talking about Cat Grant. Devereaux asks 'did she survive' and Lois says 'in her own way'. Just the most perfect response to that question. Cat has survived, but not unscathed.

After talking more, Devereaux reveals that not only did she learn about the project, she help set Alex free.

Meanwhile, at his secret base at an abandoned Cadmus site in Central City, Alex begins breaking down the spirit of the heroes he has captured. He has already seized control of Miss Martian and Blue Beetle, enslaving them telepathically. Interestingly, Damien's mental training makes him the hardest to break down. But Alex finally worms his way in to see what Damien fears.

Here is another splash page, this one deserving of the space, as we see Robin's fear is that he will embrace his role as Ra's Al Ghul's heir and slaughter the entire Bat-family. Powerful piece.

Of course, the motivation here seems off. At first in this arc, Alex seems hell-bent on killing young heroes. So why not simply kill the ones he has under his control. While draining them of secrets might help his cause, once that has been done wouldn't he just slaughter them? I know, knowledge is power and right now they are serving him. But I would have liked one line from Alex saying it rather than me having to infer it.

Back at the hospital, we learn more about Alex. Here Devereaux talks about how she felt for this clone being made, born and reared in a tube, trained to loathe the heroes, but basically unloved. To a mother like Devereaux it was more than she could bear to watch. She felt for Alex.

Even if Alex promised to cure her son Jason of his leukemia (that is part of why she freed him), she still thought Alex deserved better.

Per Devereuax, he was named Unit X.X.X. and lived in a test tube, raised by an artificial intelligence father, and basically lacked the upbringing a child needs. She thought that was inhumane.

Now Alex has telepathic powers which might have nudged her to have those feelings and free him. And, of course, since her own child was dying, she might have been an easy target for him to control. But none of this seems entirely consistent with the woman who went to Lois in the first issue afraid of what was being made. Unless, after freeing him she realized what he was.

That said, before the scene ends, Devereuax, now sporting the Alex-controlled pink eyes, says she is still close to him and seems to prepare to attack Lois. I hope these differing sides of her character - worried whistle-blower and surrogate mother - are explained a bit more. Maybe his mental control on her is spotty?

In my favorite Supergirl moment of the book, Kara realizes it is a little too convenient for only three students wiped of their memories to be on the campus with her. She is suspicious. And using some parts remaining from the battle drones she has defeated, she jury-rigs a machine with the fly-over app on her phone that shows that Alex' friends are also cloaked drones. It is a nice moment, reminding me of the tinkerer Supergirl who was part of the Science Guild.

It also shows that Alex might be free from Cadmus but he is just as alone. Even his friends are fake. In fact we see what I assume are the real students in some suspended animation device in his lab.

With the force field over Harvard about to run out of power and no one to delay Supergirl from bringing the fight to Central City and Alex' 'primary hub', Alex decides to face off with Kara.

After a couple of pages of him tossing her around like a rag doll with his telekinesis, a battered Kara lands in his clutches. He even tells her that there is only a little Kryptonian genes in his make-up, just some 'extra spice' as he puts it. (That at least explains the heat vision we have seen.) And then we have the big reveal ... it's Dubbilex.

So a couple of things here. Supergirl shouldn't be defeated by being tossed around a room unless there was some telepathic attack on top of the physical beatdown. Maybe this is a ruse by Supergirl to get close to him?

Secondly, I don't think this is the Dubbilex. This must be Unit X.X.X., something built off the template of Dubbilex. Does that mean he's Triplexxx? I have to say I never guessed this ... and that always makes me happy. I like to be surprised. Clues were there though ... a Cadmus built clone, with telepathy, and a name with X ... maybe I should have guessed it. I think I was still trying to shoehorn another human in there too much, first Lex Luthor, then Maxwell Lord, and then Sam Lane. So this was a nice reveal.

Overall this was a good chapter, setting up the big finale. I definitely like how Lois is being used here. And Supergirl continues to shine here. In this arc we have seen her trash robots imitating super-villains, leading other heroes, and here use her science know-how to stop another threat. Sure Alex has beaten her the last two issues but that means he is a viable threat. There are some minor characterization problems here but all in comparison to the opening chapter which was co-written by Nick Spencer. I wonder how much of these speed bumps come from that writer discrepancy.

Peaty continues to craft a very good Supergirl story. And Bernard Chang is just doing sparkling stuff here. I hope both of them find work at DC after this story.

Overall grade: B+