Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mahmud Asrar Process Pieces

Thanks to everyone for letting me know about iFanboy's recent article with Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar. In the post, Asrar reviews his four favorite Supergirl covers as well as breaking down the process of creating the cover for Supergirl #65. Here is the link:
As always, please visit the site and read the whole piece. It is great to hear Asrar's ideas about Supergirl.

Now if there is one thing I love as a comic fan, it is process discussion. I love hearing about the evolution of scripts and art as they go from idea to completion. So this was my favorite part of the piece. Here is Asrar's discussion and my usual commentary.

Creating the Supergirl #65 Cover:

For this one, I had a tight deadline. Maybe just a few days. The idea for it was that Supergirl would be involved with a group called the Pajama Society and the editors wanted to convey a horror vibe. So I came up with a couple of sketches where Supergirl was trying to escape from this mob who looked like they were out to get her. The trick was we didn't want Supergirl beating up on these people, neither did we want her to look helpless. So I've tried to convey her agitation and distress while still remaining a powerful female character.

You can notice a compassion she has for people even though they're out to get her. This is in contrast of the new Supergirl cover of course where she looks stalwart, heroic yet a little distanced.

This explains why the cover doesn't necessarily jibe with the inside story. The Pajama Society aren't bad guys in the book. But here Asrar was told to give it a horror vibe and treat them as a mob. But I love how he talks about this Supergirl, distressed but powerful, not wanting to pound on these people. This distinguishes her from his approach to the DCnU Kara.

The cover has always reminded my of Action Comics #499.

As for my process, I initially come up with a loose sketch, either in my sketchbook or digitally. Sometimes both. Once it's approved and we've discussed further on it with my editors I move on to pencils. 

This is the stuff I love seeing. This is the thumbnail for the cover, the seed that grew into the final product. I wonder if there were other ideas tossed around before this one was settled on. When Josh Middleton was on the covers, he occasionally put process pieces on his blog including the thumbnails not used. I love that stuff.

When I ink myself I tend to do really loose pencil roughs. I just put in all the essentials for the figures, proportions, composition and lighting. 

Here are the loose pencils. The cover is there, but not polished yet.

The grunt work comes in with the inks where I finalize the image.

Amazing how sharp everything becomes once the ink is applied. I can't wait to see Asrar on interiors as well, especially given his marker approach. I hope we will see some process stuff on his own blog.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Action Comics #903

It was a very busy comic week for me with many books coming out to review.

One of those books was Action Comics #903 by writer Paul Cornell and penciled by Axel Gimenez.  This is the penultimate chapter of the Reign of Doomsday storyline (I think DC should have trademarked 'penultimate chapter' as a phrase given the relaunch). I have to say I am still somewhat confused about everything that is happening here, the motivations of some of the characters. But given the high energy, high octane action of this arc, I have been willing to go with the flow. It is sort of like seeing a Michael Bay movie in that respect.

Still, this is really the last storyline for this Superman in Action. So in many ways I was glad to see him flying into battle, risking his life and saving the world. I was happy to see him show his love for Lois. And I really loved seeing him inspiring the Superman family here. In fact, it is these moments of characterization that work best here, more than the crazy smash-up of the main story. Cornell does a fantastic job with those moments, with that dialogue, saying a lot in a few words.

But I still don't know if I quite get all that is happening here. So Lex created the Doomsday clones with their adapting powers to keep the Superman family busy while he searched for the black ring energy. Lex also dumped them onto the Doomslayer satellite/pocket universe which just happened to be floating in our solar system )how did he break in when Superman has a hard time doing the same?). And Lex was able to figure out some of the tech on the satellite. But Doomslayer is the captain of this ship and he hates Doomsday. So he allowed Lex to do all that despite his hatred of Doomsday? He let Doomsday stay imprisoned on the ship? And his hatred of Doomsday extends to the Earth? But then he sends the Doomsdays to Earth to fight for him despite his hatred of them? I don't know if that is all internally consistent. Or comprehensible. But this arc so far has been more about the battles.

There is no Kennth Rocafort here other than this great cover. I think Axel Gimenez does a great job on interiors. In particular, I thought his Supergirl was great.

As I said above, last issue ended with Doomslayer sending the three remaining Doomsday clones (imprinted with Steel, Eradicator, and Cyborg Superman powers) to Earth to run rough shod on the planet. I did like Doomslayer sending the clones to 'doomsday' sites, nuclear reactors, virus labs, etc. What better way to unleash mass destruction. It is at least quicker that Doomsday killing people by himself.

So we see Steel and Superboy doing their best to each slow up one of the Doomsdays. And we get this great shot of Supergirl, strong and determined, lashing out at the Cyborg Doomsday. It is just a fantastic shot and I love the snarky quip. Great work by Gimenez there.

While the Superman family deals with the clones, Superman himself has the original Doomsday in STAR labs, hoping some weakness can be discovered. Now just last issue, Supergirl tossed the 'real' Doomsday into orbit. The heroes knew Doomsday was awakening. And they know he is invulnerable. So taking him to Earth seemed like a bit of a risk, and off given the 'orbit' idea last issue.

Luckily, when Doomsday awakens we find out that the Eradicator 'possessed' Doomsday via the Luthor tech on the monster. And now he can join the fight as Doomsday. Okay ... it seems a stretch for that to happen. But I'm an Eradicator fan so I'm glad he wasn't outright killed.

Superman figures out that the Doomsdays are a feint and the real threat is the Doomslayer ship which is now floating in our atmosphere.

And Doomslayer confirms this. On his satellite (complete with expandable pocket universe), we hear him plan to send his ship to the Earth's core and have it grow until the planet cracks. The thing here is our lack of understanding of the Slayer and this ship. Who made it? How does it have such properties like an expandable pocket universe?? I hope we learn this stuff.

Now one of the odder moment of the book is Superman playing human cannonball to get into the Doomslayer satellite. We don't hear any discussion of this anywhere. We just see Superman climbing into this gun, stating he needs the extra speed to slip through the ship's defenses. It is weird.

But around that moment is a better moment as Lois again admit to be afraid of losing her husband, wondering if he can wait for back-up, but knowing that he is doing what he must do. I love Superman's response. There is no fear in his voice. He says something as banal as 'I'll be back for dinner', such an everyday response as if he was going for a walk, a simple way to assure Lois he will be back.

In the mean time, the Erad-doom-cator joins the battles on the ground. I am a sucker for team shots, so I thought I would include this splash page.

This is a good team to fight off a Doomsday. Fate, Zatanna, Alan Scott ... big guns. And Hawk, Dove, Cassie, and Jessie Quick are decent super-powered brawlers. I don't know the impact Batman and Ravager will have. But still, a very good squad.

The human cannon works and Superman bursts into Doomslayer's satellite. But rather than fighting the Slayer, Superman flies off into satellite, presumably to stop the ship from functioning.

Doomslayer's response is intriguing. What does this mean? What is he? More on this later.

Again, the book is filled with great battle scenes. Supergirl has really shined in this storyline and here looks fierce as she leads the charge. She has always seemed to rise to the challenge when Doomsday is involved, even as far back as World of New Krypton. That is a great panel. I love the battle cries, rallying the troops.

And this is another good anti-Doomsday team: Supergirl, Captain Atom, John Stewart.

But the other team fighting the other Doomday? The Dick Grayson Batman, Congorilla, Raven, Rocket Red, and Steel. That is definitely not a good anti-Doomsday team. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.

It turns out that Superman is trying to get to the ship's engines and shut them down. But as he is flying around he sees the Superboy-based Doomsday clone that Supergirl tossed into a bottomless tunnel in this internal universe last issue. Now time is weird inside this place so Superman sees that the clone has been falling for a million years raging away. Could Doomslayer be this clone? Eventually this clone will hit some exit, emerge perhaps evolved from the million year fall, and filled with self-hatred?

It is no easy feat to beat Doomsday, even clones of Doomsday. The Era-doom-cator certainly helps, but he feels he is losing control as the real Doomsday's mind tries to assert control.

But this is such a great sentiment. The team needs to be like Superman, to strive to be worthy of Superman's name and shield. And with that rallying cry, the heroes fly again into the fray. That is the legacy of this Superman (and most Supermen) ... to be the inspiration for other heroes.

And the plot thickens. Near the engines, Doomslayer worries Superman will figure out what the Slayer is. Afraid of that, Doomslayer fires up the engines of the ship, immolating Superman.

I will say that while the motivations of the Slayer and Luthor's part of this plot is pretty muddy right now. And the cannonball scene was somewhat strange. But the upside of this issue, the small moments of characterization, the fun bruising fights, and the Superman Family team in action (with some wonderful Supergirl moments) made this a very enjoyable issue. It really felt like a summer blockbuster movie with crazy battle sequences and scenes of mayhem. Cornell does a great job of showing us these characters, these individuals in action rather than simply the action. It adds much to the story.

And, as I said, I liked Gimenez' art here, shining in the big moments of destruction and the quieter moments.

I hope all my questions get answered next month. I did not think I would like this arc at all. Despite the difficult holes in the plot, this has been a lot of fun. This is Superman, until the next incarnation.

Overall grade: B+/B

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sales Review: June 2011

I have to say that I have been spoiled over the last couple of years by ICv2, the site I use every month for my market watch. They do such a great job of breaking down the sales of comics by units sold, ranking titles.

For some reason, the site has not posted that level of breakdown for June making my review less than complete. I was able to find a breakdown of sales on The Comics Beat site, one of my usual haunts, a great resource, and extremely helpful here. Here is the link to their list of the top 300 for June:

 And here are the sales for Supergirl #65, the first issue of the Kelly Sue DeConnick/ChrisCross three part arc, the last story for this Supergirl pre-DCnU.

So without an issue count, it is hard to fully grasp these sales figures. Supergirl #64, the last Peaty/Chang issue ranked as the 82nd ranked comic in May. Here in June was see that Supergirl #65 is now the 116th best selling title. Was there a freefall in sales? Was there a 'this story doesn't matter' ennui that led to people dumping the title?

Or is this more a matter of there being more comics out there. Every Flashpoint crossover outsold Supergirl. There were a lot of Fear Itself minis above her too. Did people buy these new titles instead of Supergirl? Or as well as Supergirl? A number would be helpful.

Anyways, I hate to see Supergirl ranked so low regardless of a flood of 'event comics'. It also makes me happy that DC remains confident in the character enough to continue some version of Supergirl in the DCnU.
But it would be a shame if prior fans are missing out on this fun story by DeConnick and Cross. If you have left, come back!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #15

Legion of Super-Heroes #15 came out last week and like all the DC titles careening to the relaunch, this was the penultimate chapter in the current arc, here the LSV vs LSH story.

One of the things that I have felt in other books has been the feeling that these story arcs feel rushed, moving to the conclusion more quickly than I would like to meet the impending August deadline for the current DCU. While I think that this arc has always been expected to be this long, there have been times during this storyline that I have questioned the pacing. We have had some things teased (Captain Marvel being released from the Rock of Eternity). We have had some things unexplained- who is the blue flame entity, who is Harmonia Li, why the planets need to be destroyed to aid the villain. And we have had plenty of brawls between Legionnaires and super-villains.

Unfortunately, despite some nice small moments, this issue continues that path. We still don't know who Li is, who the entity is, why things are necessarily happening. But we do get a lot of brawling.

I will say that the smaller moments show why Paul Levitz is so great on this book. He is able to give each character their own personality and desires. And Yildiray Cinar really shines in this issue with great action sequences.

 Last issue, Harmonia Li gave us some of her origin, that she is from the World of Wisdom. Using the multiverse energy in Star Boy, she forces open a portal to her home world so that the Legion can battle the villains there and save the world.

While most of the Legion flies to the planet, Li and Thom stay back to keep the passage open.

We know a Legionnaire dies next issue and it was hinted that it might be Thom (Dreamy having a vision of being at a funeral and talking about him). Even though he looks wiped out here, I doubt it is Star Boy who dies. My guess for the dying Legionnaire later. But I bet Thom has to close this portal from the inside next issue, putting him forever on the Wisdom world, keeping him from Dreamy and the rest of the Legion.

And yes, the Legion shows up in force and starts to battle Saturn Queen and her cronies.

I love that Ayla goes right for Mekt. It is that undercurrent of family bitterness that makes this such a great running storyline for the characters. We have seen Ayla defeat him in the past. But amped up on the Blue Flame power, Mekt gets the upper hand. The second panel is really powerful, Ayla's fear exploding off the page.

We do get more hints about the Blue Flame entity. I kept thinking it might be Dark Opal from Amethyst. But Diogene says he is 'the nemesis of Oa, the doom from our original sin'. Is it really going to be Krona?? We just had him as the big villain in the 'War of the Green Lanterns'.

Something else interesting here is Dawnstar's sheer anger at the evil she is sensing. Even though it is well known that Saturn Queen is more powerful than ever, Dawnstar flies off to skirmish with the telepath. I don't know if I am used to seeing Dawnstar be so impulsive as I have seen in this arc. She has flown off in the face of danger time and time again. And while that might be the sign of a hero - doing what needs to be done even if there is danger - Dawnstar could have paused and brought some back-up with her each time. At least Tellus realizes that he needs to follow and help out.

Good thing he does. Saturn Queen very quickly takes control of not only Dawnstar but also Tellus. It is subtle, but it lets me know just how powerful Saturn Queen has become. She overwhelms Tellus with ease.

Tellus has brought friends though. Gates shows up and blips all the Legionnaires away to safety. I think I would like to see Tellus and Gates form a friendship, the most 'alien' looking members of the team.

One character who has really benefited from this arc is new character Sun Killer. He has been in a lot of pages and showcased on a couple of covers. He again fights Timber Wolf (maybe a grudge is forming between these two) but this time is able to defeat Brin.

In comes Sun Boy who overloads Sun Killer with solar energy. I don't know if I exactly follow why this happened but with all the excess energy, Sun Killer shorts out, reverting to his real form.

Again, the small moments work best here. Here we get a nice scene showing some of the depth of Polar Boy. He not only helps heal Timber Wolf, he shields the injured Wolf when the battle spills over near them, and he also is willing to jump into the fray.

I still get the sense that Polar Boy still has a bit of an inferiority complex, as if he still hasn't shed the Substitute Legion tag.

 Saturn Queen brings in more recruits to her LSV. With the portal open, I guess more of the Legion pours in. As a result we have an all out war going on. Big moments need big art. Cinar shines here. Radiation Roy! Spider Girl! Black Mace!


Finally, the Blue Flame shows up and chastises Saturn Queen for not finishing the job of destroying this planet. And then he tells her that she has the best weapon in her grasp, Earth Man. I am going to have to look back but somewhere along the way I guessed Earth Man was going to be the dead Legionnaire, sacrificing himself to save the Legion. I would bet money on it.

I thought this was an okay issue overall. The art is slick. The small moments of Legion characterization work very well. But I was still hoping to learn more about the plot here. There are still a lot of holes to fill next issue. Can it all be wrapped up? Legion is one of the few titles minimally effected by the reboot, so I suppose Levitz can wrap up any lingering questions in the new title.

I also will be a bit disappointed if the villain turns out the be Krona. Maybe it is because he was the big bad in Trinity and Green Lantern recently. But he seems a bit played out (even if this takes place 1000 years later).

Overall grade: B

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SDCC Supergirl Fallout (And Some Superman Stuff Too)

I doubt I will ever be able to attend the San Diego Comic Con but it remains a dream of mine.

The comic book world has been exploding with news coming from San Diego Comic Con 2011 and that information is all over the internet. There is almost too much information to cover and so I will leave the indepth analysis of each panel, quote, and picture to the bigger sites and blogs. As usual, Newsarama, CBR, and Bleeding Cool all did a great job. From a blog point of view, DC Women Kicking Ass did a great job of almost real time blogging about the news from panels. Unreal work there.

With that much information out there, I figured I would concentrate on the Supergirl stuff although I will have a couple of comments about Superman news at the end of this post as well. It is funny. If anything, the news from San Diego seemed to help with my waning optimism about the relaunch although it was more of a war of attrition. It seemed like for every three things I read that I liked, I  read two things that were disheartening. Still that is more optimism than pessimism.

So here we go.

Above is a new picture of Jim Lee's redesign of the Supergirl costume. I was shocked to see that Supergirl and Batgirl's redesigns were the showcased costumes in the TV Guide Comi-Con Special. Not Batman and Wonder Woman. Not Superman's new costume. Supergirl and Batgirl. That is some pretty broad exposure for Supergirl so it shows me that DC has some faith in the character, some interest in showcasing her to the general public. This was also seen in the free publicity comic handed out last week in comic stores and shown in the DC Designing the Relaunch panel.

I also have to say that the costume looks pretty good here. Even the boots don't seem as absolutely foolish as they have before. I'd still prefer plain old boots though. Kara looks determined and strong here, never a bad thing.

Some Supergirl preview art by Mahmud Asrar was also showcased at the SDCC Superman panel and boy, does this stuff look good. First off, this splash page is really eye-catching. I like the sort of gray tone/copic marker feel here. Adds so much depth. And Supergirl looks great.

The costume seems cut a bit higher in the thigh area, more than in the Lee pic above, the only thing that seemed a bit off to me.

And here is another page, this time just pencils. I admit I haven't seen too much of Asrar's work but this makes me eager to see the book. This is just fantastic. Might be a bit too much 'side-butt' for my liking, but that is really picking at nits. This stuff is beautiful. I mean achingly beautiful stuff.

There has been a lot of discussion about the relaunch of Superman but I thought the best place to see a lot of information was from the Superman panel at SDCC. Here is that link for the transcript:

First the Supergirl relevant blurbs. Mike Johnson, co-writer, was on the panel answering questions.

First off, glad to see that there were cheers for Supergirl. I don't think that means anything more than she has vocal fans. I always hope that there will be excitement around the character.

We have heard the 'mystery' about her arrival. I hope it isn't a lingering mystery. I don't want this to be a 'is she real' or 'is she a dupe of Darkseid' or 'is she really Kara ... or is she Lesla Lar??' or anything like that. Let's just meet Supergirl and see how she goes on this journey.

Does this mean I have bought into this reboot? Not yet ... not when I have just been part of 3 years of superlative Supergirl stories in the current title. But as I keep saying, I am going in with an open mind.

I don't know what to make of these comments anymore. I have seen Johnson/Green say they were writing her as a brand new character. I have seen them say they were reading Showcase and Cosmic to get a sense of the character. I have heard them say this is a 'new' Supergirl. And then I read Johnson say he is not completely divorcing everything that has come before. I guess a reboot is a reboot. But I hope the template of Supergirl .. heroic, hopeful, learning ... is still there.

Lastly, this comment was the one that brought the most optimism. I worried the book might be a dour, angst-laden, mope-fest. The fact that he talks about humor being in the book is worth noting. Of course, Kelly probably thought that Kara joking with Boomer about his staring at her ass was humorous.

Another reveal was that Silver Banshee will return as a villain in the Supergirl book. I guess the Banshee really is a Supergirl rogue now.

As I have said before, it is time to just read the books.

As for the other Superman titles, there are things that caught my eye.

First off, the more I hear Grant Morrison talk about Action Comics, the more I think this will be a winner. At first I was worried that Superman was going to embrace his Kryptonian heritage in the book but Morrison says that Supes knows very little about Krypton at the beginning. I really think this is one book that will probably work for me.

After reading many of the Superman posts, I worry that Lois will end up more as a plot point than a fully realized character. Lois needs to be a strong character in her own right.

I didn't particularly like Superman:Earth One by JMS and his discussion about the second part makes me think I probably won't buy it.

As for Superboy, at first I worried that this might be a 'new' Conner but it sounds more like he has been kidnapped to open his new book. I don't like that he is said the be the villain in the first year of Teen Titans (although maybe it is reverse-engineered clones rather than the 'real' Conner). Scott Lobdell hints at a redhead coming back into Superboy's life. Maybe Knockout?

Lastly, I am glad to read that Steel is still around and will show up in Action.

But enough talk. Let's get to September already.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Justice League Of America #59

Justice League of America #59 came out this week, the end of the Rise of Eclipso story arc and the second to last issue for James Robinson on his JLA run. There have been a lot of versions of the League over its history. Robinson's was another version without any of the Big 7, let alone one of the big three.

But this team was a sort of quasi-Big 7 with some analogues of the old time League as members. And what it had was an old-school flavor to it as the League fought one major threat after another. They didn't fight Amos Fortune here. They fought galactic threats, universal threats, deicide threats. Nothing was easy. And, after saving the world for the last year, this team will fade in the mist of the DCnU.

I feel for Robinson. For one, I really think he was just getting his feet under him in how these characters were interacting with each other. I also think he probably had to rush to end this Eclipso story before the September reboot. I suppose he could have used the last 2 issues of this run to complete this story. Instead he wraps up the story in this issue allowing himself an epilogue for the team next issue. The former would probably be easier. But I am glad he did the latter because I think this team needed an issue to pause, breathe, reflect.

But that decision to finish the Eclipso story here means that things happen fast ... fast and without much room for explanations. The story suffers a bit for it. But it would have been hard to wrap this up in many ways no matter what. Once you get into dealing with near omnipotent beings, it is a challenge to reach a satisfying conclusion.

And Brett Booth isn't here for the art, most likely sent away to get ahead on the new Teen Titans. Daniel Sampere steps in and does solid work here, less stylized than Booth but with more weight to his characters.

Last issue ended with Donna being impaled on Eclipso's sword. She was supposedly the hero's last chance here. And with her death we open up to this scene of Eclipso, seated on a throne made of his enemies, gloating about hisvictory. I have to say that having Eclipso sitting on the Spectre's cloak, one last insult thrown to God's Angel of Vengeance, was a nice touch.

Over the next few pages we see that the death of Donna turned the tide for Eclipso. We see pages of the moon falling, then the Earth, then the universe. Darkness has swept over everything.

Now the 'death of God' aspect to this plot seemed a little but over the top. But the moon's destruction did cut off the Earth from God's love leading to this victory for evil. It again shows the scope of Robinson's stories. The JLA vs someone who can kill God? Crazy.

We again go back in time to hear the League's plan, including the discussion with Donna. This is the third (maybe the fourth) time we have seen this scene, each time with more and more added.

Once again, we hear how Donna is the key. Since she has overcome much darkness in her life, she can bring the power of light to Eclipso. One thing I have said I did not like in Robinson's run was just how crass Donna had come, cursing and walking a fine line between heroism and barbarism. Those are now dismissed as simple defense mechanisms. Robinson made Donna the hero in Cry for Justice. Glad to see that same respect for her here.

But then we get the first little stretch in this issue, the first thing that seems too easy, to come out of left field. Saint Walker now not only can show people their biggest hope (I didn't know they could do that) but given the Starheart boost he is enjoying, he can make that hope appear to have been obtained in the mind of the person too! It makes him almost like a walking Black Mercy flower. That was a bit too simple. It also somehow diminishes Donna's role. Now she isn't the last hope, she is merely a diversion for Saint Walker to do his Jedi mind trick.

Neither Donna nor Saint Walker will be able to do much if the Shade continues to aid Eclipso with his shadow-controlled army. That is where the Atom and Starman come in to play. Remember, they were shot into the Shade's mind to rid him of Eclipso's control. With a couple of blasts the shadow-spiders are disintegrated and the Shade is free. I thought it was amusing that one of the spiders is wearing a top hat.

But once the Shade is freed, Eclipso's army regain their free will. Suddenly Eclipso is alone, with no support.

Everyone is freed. Even Jade, another one of the big guns under Eclipso's control. This was just a great near splash page showcasing Sampere's work. I really thought this was beautiful.

Jade has had a role to play in all the JLA stories. I just wonder if she was meant to have a bigger role in the DCU given her spotlight in Brightest Day.

Without his troops, without their psychic strength, and caught in a mind trip where he thinks he has won, Eclipso is suddenly vulnerable.

All the light based characters on the moon blast away while the physical characters pummel him. And just like that Eclipso is defeated.

Again though, we see how things are happening fast here. Here we learn that Jessie Quick has recovered her speed. We don't get an explanation now. Was this to have been a reveal down the line? A longer story? The basis of a whole other arc? We'll never know. My guess is this is one of the things that Robinson simply needed to truncate. Hopefully we will get some explanation next issue.

Blasted by light, Eclipso fades and his human host Bruce Gordon re-emerges. I have to say this was my favorite part of the book. Gordon delivers a great line about how he is being punished, cursed as the host of Eclipso and forced to keep him at bay. It is ominous. It sounds like Gordon might snap under the pressure.

Too bad this won't be explored any time soon.

And here is another quick leap forward. Jade and Obsidian hug, suddenly not compelled to merge and become an agent of chaos. This without much explanation. This despite a whole issue devoted to showing how they were cursed forever, every timeline where they touch ending in disaster.

I doubt this was how Robinson intended this plot point to end. Did he have bigger plans here?

And on cue Supergirl arrives to catch up with everyone.

Remember though, the moon was cracked in half last issue. The heroes fly off and ... surprise ... the moon is fixed! Off screen! Again, was this just too easy??

After the clean up, the Atom pauses to once again praise this team for everything they have done. This moment has happened a couple of times in this run. It is as if Robinson needs everyone to hear that this roster is worthy of being called the JLA. I don't know if we needed to hear it again.

Still, it was nice to hear the Atom talk about how the other heroes just weren't around to take on these threats. Superman was Grounded. Bruce was funding Batman Inc. Wonder Woman was in another timeline. Hal was on Oa or in space. Someone needed to be there to fight the CSA, Omega Man, and Eclipso. This team did! And won!

The last page is Dick calling a meeting of the JLA to disband it.

While this issue felt rushed with a lot of slapdash plot endings, I still have to say I enjoyed Robinson's run. These were big stories with a 'Little 7' team fighting big threats. This whole run was better than I expected, certainly better than the League was portrayed in Cry for Justice. And all these characters ... Supergirl, Bill, Mikaal, Jade ... they were all treated as top tier heroes. Not sidekicks or offshoots of main characters.

Frankly, I can't wait for next month's epilogue issue. It will be time to say goodbye to this group. Heck, it'll be time to say goodbye to these characters as they will change or be gone in the DCnU. Will there be a Donna, Jessie, Jade, Bill, and Mikaal in the DCnU? Will the new Supergirl resemble this one at all. I am sure Robinson is going to send them off well.

Overall grade: B- (but with expected A+ next month)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

October Solicits

The second month of the DCnU Superman family solicits are now up on the DC Comics site. Let's say that this doesn't necessarily help my waning optimism although I still am going into these books with an open mind. With news and blurbs being reported from the Comic Con, I don't know what to think any more. Maybe it is time to just get the books in my hand and let the work lead to the final verdict.


Get ready for a super-smackdown as Supergirl fights her cousin, The Man of Steel! What could cause these two to come to blows? Can the teenage Supergirl hold her own against the adult Superman? Well, let's just say she's got a trick or two up those fancy new sleeves of hers...

Boy, it seems like the template that the new Supergirl comic is using is the earliest issues of the last volume. Second issue in and Supergirl is battling another super-hero. And it's Superman! Is this supposed to make me eager to read the book? Not only does she have no affection for humanity, apparently she has none for super-humanity! Maybe I should start a running tally comparing how many heroes Supergirl fights in this run as opposed to Loeb's. But this is such a well traveled road that this doesn't seem new or fresh or accessible or any of the adjectives DC has used about this new universe.

Okay, maybe I am being too snarky. But in all honesty I think it is too early in the DCnU to pull out this trick. We barely know this new Superman. We probably have no idea what sort of relationship he has with his cousin. So without having a good understanding of what they think of each other long term, how can this resonate as being a big deal? Are they friends? Do they like each other? Hang out with each other? Stay away from each other? This fight probably won't impact me as much since we don't know the foundation of their relationship.

I have been pretty consistent in saying I am sick of seeing Supergirl fight other heroes. But maybe this Supergirl isn't a hero.

Written by GEORGE PEREZ; Breakdowns and cover by GEORGE PEREZ; Art by JESUS MERINO

The all-new adventures of Superman continue! Everyone can see the new villain who's attacking Superman – except The Man of Steel! How can he stop a threat that none of his super-senses can detect? Meanwhile, a Daily Planet reporter starts digging up some dirt on Superman, including a secret that could ruin him forever!

Not much to go on here. But the idea that human eyes can see an enemy that mega-spectrumed Kryptonian eyes can't doesn't make much sense. I guess we'll hear the explanation.

And is the Daily Planet Reporter Lois? I don't think so. Maybe Jimmy isn't Superman's pal any more.


Written by GRANT MORRISON; Art by RAGS MORALES and RICK BRYANT; Cover by RAGS MORALES; Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER; 1:200 Band W variant cover by RAGS MORALES

In his weakest moment, Superman is taken down – but by whom? And if the world wasn't ready for a man with super powers, they're utterly unprepared for the rage of a Superman cornered! The cornerstone character of the new DCU continues his debut adventure!

Hmmm ... Superman, put in an electric chair, guns pointing at him (presumably by police), and enraged.

Is this the Superman I want to read? I guess Superman would need to build a relationship with authorities before he is a trusted hero. It does, again, go back to those Golden Age roots when he was more a hero of the people - stopping spouse abusers, shady safety inspectors on mines, war profiteers, etc.  I just hope that it doesn't take too long for him to start being an accepted hero.


Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has put a lot of effort into creating their Superboy, and they intend to make sure he performs to their standards. And what better opportunity for him to demonstrate his raw power than to throw him into an alien prison riot? Good luck, Superboy… you're going to need it!

Still no idea about this comic. I don't know who this Superboy is. I guess I am going in with no preconceived notions.

I am sick of all the pre-DCnU droning. Now I just want to stop wondering/worrying about the books and read them instead.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Supergirl #66

Amidst all the hue and cry about the DCnU and my waning optimism about Supergirl in the relaunch, Supergirl #66 was released. This was the second part of Kelly Sue DeConnick's three part 'This is not my life' arc, the final story for this Supergirl, a mere 7 years after her introduction.

I will say up front that I thought this was an okay issue, not as great as last issue. I think the thing that detracted from this issue were the somewhat jarring scene transitions. There were a couple of times I had to go back to make sure I didn't accidentally skip a page. That might be more a product of this being the middle chapter of a three issue story. The middle chapter has to fill in almost everything from introduction to conclusion. DeConnick had to stuff a lot of progress into 20 pages. As a result, the lead-in to some scenes might have needed to be truncated.

But there is still a lot of goodness here. As someone who applauded the creation of the Linda Lang  secret identity (here undercover as Linda Lane), I was happy to see Kara acting as Linda. For the most part, prior to this story, the Linda identity has been pushed to the background without much story actually showing Kara being Linda. Sure there was a scene here or there but never this much. It also has been fun to see Linda interacting with non-powered people that are her age. No 'feeling alienated or isolated' here, no 'lack of affection' for humanity. Linda is a girl in college, with friends. Add to that some humor and this works. There was just a hint of 'Daring New Adventures' here, Supergirl as Linda with classmates and friends.

I also thought the best part of this issue was how Lois was handled. Now I know that Supergirl should have the best moment in her book but as a Lois fan, I'll never complain when the reporter is treated well. In fact, between James Peaty and DeConnick, Lois has had her best moments of the last year in Supergirl.

And, unlike many of the stories I read, I actually feel that DeConnick brings the story to a place where an effective ending is possible next issue.

ChrisCross art is solid here. As with last issue, some of his characters' expressions are a bit exaggerated and somewhat odd looking. But the panel perspectives are interesting. And I also liked that his panels seem to be laid out on a template with an S-shield. Novel idea.

Last issue ended with Henry Flyte's apparent kidnapping, the latest in a run of highly intelligent college students suddenly going missing. It turns out that Henry, charming rogue he is, was merely trying to trick Linda and her roommate into thinking he was grabbed while he slipped into some of the catacombs below Stanhope.

Unfortunately while in those tunnels, he actually is kidnapped. So I chuckled when the guy said 'Henry!'. It reminds me of old Tom and Jerry cartoons when that usually meant a giant muscle-bound rooster was going to pummel Tom for a bit.

But I also liked that Linda is using her super-senses to try to get to the bottom of what was going on secretly.

The Gardner couple seen last issue working with Professor Ivo, kidnapping the best and the brightest, turn out to be on the administration of Stanhope. The woman is the President. The husband is on several of the university's boards. And they discover Lois snooping around their file room.

I loved this scene as we see Lois start off friendly and unassuming then baring her journalistic fangs. It is like watching a snake circling her prey.

So first this opening salvo, putting the Gardner's on the defensive asking them why they should look guilty. Wonderful.

Lois continues by saying she is concerned for her niece Linda's safety given the rash of disappearances recently. She opens up the wonderfully saccharin line that she is there 'for the children'. Cross works well here with Lois having her go from friendly and unassuming to confrontational and bold.

Lois quickly brings up Charlize Yue, the rescued girl from the beginning of last issue. Look at Lois now, brow furrowed, pointing in an accusatory manner while denying she is making an accusation. This is the Lois I know, asking the tough questions. Just a great scene seeing Lois operate.

But it is too much for the Gardner's and Lois is shown the door.

Lois' investigation pushes the Gardner's timetable up. Whatever they are planning with these kids, they need to do it now. Even with Flyte captured (we see him tied up), Ivo needs more children to complete this experiment.

Ivo is sort of a funny character.  Here he is flummoxed by the change in plans wondering how he will get more student material for this plot. Should he wiggle his nose like Bewitched? And then, magically, there is Linda and the crew searching for Henry. Of course, I don't think these other students have the CV that the other kidnapped students have. Is silly Shirley really the cream of the crop?

Ivo sends out a mob of robot rats to surround the group. Thinking quick, Supergirl douses the rats with some nearby water and makes it appear that someone else's dropped flashlight shorted them out, all while she circles at superspeed, frying them with heat vision. Nice double page spread here.

It has been a long long time since I have seen a Linda using her super-powers secretly to stop a disaster while maintaining her secret identity so I liked this.

But it is suspicious to the students who at first didn't even know the rats were robots, let alone wondering how 6 volts of energy from a battery powered flashlight could have enough juice to explode anything.

But as fun as it was to see Supergirl work stealthily, it all ends the next page. She hoists this giant cabinet on her shoulder to block a passageway teeming with more rats.

While I thought it was a bit of a misstep, I did laugh at the internal 'whoops'. With the rats blocked off, Supergirl is able to breakaway and try to save Henry.

Ivo does try to comply with the Gardner's request, tossing Henry into his test tube menagerie. Henry is something of a hoot, singing his Faerie song even in the midst of danger. I know I was never that cool in college.

I still think the goal of this is the create a 'perfect child' or maybe a 'perfect student' for the Gardners. Maybe some Amazo-like college kid to sit on the Stanhope College Bowl team? Or the Gardner's hoping to have a perfect baby from a genetic point of view?

And then a great hook at the end, Supergirl busting into Ivo's lab. This was an all-Linda book except for this last page which I am fine with. But I am ready for some Supergirl action next time. And the panel of her bursting in as well as this one, heroically hovering over the Ivo's robot army are both really great.

So the middle chapter did it's job and we are set up for a Supergirl-style smack down next issue. DeConnick really writes a great Lois so toss her name onto my long list of people I would love to see write a Lois series. And her Supergirl here is smart, wants to do what's right, but isn't perfect, is still learning the job. That's okay with me.

And then, after that issue, this smart, strong, heroic Supergirl, still working towards of her destiny as a hero, will simply go away.

And I'll get to meet (re-meet) a bitter, angry, isolated Kara who either doesn't care or feels above it all.

Can't wait for next issue.

Overall grade: B/B+