Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Superman #1

Superman #1 came out this week and I had some concerns about this title. The Superman that is acting in this title is the status quo. This isn't the look back at the formative years like in Action Comics. This is the Superman of the DCnU and I don't know if I heard enough about the character leading up to this release. We heard all about the Morrison Superman, fighting for the little guy, depowered, channeling the Golden Age. But this Superman? Who knows.

Part of that concern was the creative team. It has been a while since I have read a George Perez written book. Was he up for the challenge of re-inventing the Man of Steel the way he re-invented Wonder Woman so long ago? We're talking more than the cosmetic changes of his costume. This is more than just Superman. This book is showing us the 'new' versions of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. This is the book that will show us if there is a Fortress of Solitude, what the Daily Planet is like, etc. And was Jesus Merino going to be able to smooth out his style into a Superman book.

But the question is 'who is the Superman of the DCnU?' And am I going to like him?

One thing that I did like about this book was that it was hefty from a story point of view. 25 pages long, packed with dialogue and exposition ... this gave us a lot to digest. We meet the historically most prominent members of the supporting cast. And we do get a taste of who this Superman is.

We learn the fate of the Daily Planet pretty quickly. The building with the big globe gets demolished making way for the newer brighter sleeker version of the paper.

The opening of the book is the celebratory gala for a new Daily Planet, part of the Galaxy Broadcast System (or GBS). GBS then renames itself as PGN, the Planet Global Network. GBS/PGN is run by media entrepreneur Morgan Edge (who is now African American). The company is not without it's blemishes as we hear Clark in a flashback remind Lois how GBS was the parent company for the Globe, a rival paper in Metropolis which seemed more like a trashy tabloid and used unethical and illegal measures at times to get information for their stories.

Most of the Daily Planet staff is at the party, celebrating this merger. But Clark is absent.

So a couple of things about this. One, the destruction of the old Planet is surely symbolic of the DCnU and the desire to break a bit from the past. And yet, they do that in an 'everything old is new again' way bringing GBS and Morgan Edge back. This was cutting edge stuff in the 70s.

I do like that (as we saw in Action) Clark once worked for the Globe. Was he there when it became an unscrupulous entity?

As I said, almost all the Planet staff is there. A young Jimmy Olsen is covering the demolition with his news partner and techie Miko. Jimmy and Miko are pretty active throughout the issue, witnessing news and getting pictures any way they can. Looks like Olsen might be Mr. Action again.

Clark isn't around because as Superman he is watching the demolition as well. It seems symbolic of the erosion of ethics as well. In another view of the flashback, we see Clark arguing with Lois about her ability to maintain journalistic ethics while working for someone like Edge. Lois retorts that is why she is doing it, to maintain the high standard the Planet is known for.

It is hinted here that Superman hasn't been in Metropolis for a bit and has become camera shy.  We'll see later that it looks like Perez might be building some distrust or dislike between Superman and the average citizen.

Lois' job in the new regime is as the VP of New media for PGN, handling the blogs and web streaming of the network's news. We also learn that she not only was a Pulitzer winner for the Planet but also an anchorwoman for GBS. I don't know if I like Lois as a newscaster. She should be in the thick of the news, not simply reading a teleprompter. Still, she seems smart and savvy here.

I did like that Lois offers Clark an anchoring job which Clark refuses knowing 'millions' of people would see him. I assume he turns it down not only on principle but also because it might endanger his secret identity. At least in that way, this GBS/PGN differs from the 70s version.

After that set-up, all hell breaks loose and the rest of the book is mostly a prolonged action sequence with Superman fighting a flame being.

Somewhere in the arctic, an alien blows an Armageddon horn of some sort which seems to bring this creature to life in the middle of the new Metropolis Astrodome. In the meantime Superman tries to stop 2 terrorists from crashing a tanker truck of explosive chemicals into city buildings.

One thing I did like about this sequence was that the exposition was told via Clark's article on the incident for the next day's paper.

We also meet more of the paper's staff. Perry White is still editor but looks more like Sarge Steel here. And the publisher is a hispanic woman named 'Izzy' Izqueirdo. The planet's staff looks like the planet, multiracial and multicultural.

And there is more mystery here. The flame being keeps going on about Krypton as it tries to burn the city down. What is that all about?

The Superman action sequences are nicely balanced with the reaction of Superman being back in town and this battle.

We see Jimmy and Miko take over security cams to get footage. We see Lois pull back her helicopter staff so as not to endanger them for a story. Both are nice touches for their characters and hammer home the earlier feeling we got from them as people of action and integrity.

And we see a begrudging relationship between Superman and the Metropolis Police. The police lieutenant seems to be both happy that Superman is around for things like this, whether he likes it or not. Will this Superman have a working relationship with the law? Is there an Inspector Henderson? Or does Superman's early run-ins (as seen in Action) still carry some weight with the current police force?

The flame being is defeated when Superman carries it into space where a lack of air snuffs it out. But there is no body, no being. And the Astrodome seems none the worse for wear despite having exploded when the flame being emerged. So there is a lot that is unknown of this threat.

With the disaster over, Clark submits his story (he happened to be in the neighborhood when it all went down) and tries to patch things up with Lois. The prior flashback ended in a pretty heated fashion.

It is here we finally meet Lois new beau Jonathan. Now the thing that gets me here is why would Lois open the door? And why would Jonathan walk up without a shirt on. Seems a bit contrived as a way to introduce the character and see Clark's reaction. This felt a bit forced.

I also didn't like Lois telling Clark that Metropolis seems to be a target for mayhem because of Superman. That sounds way way way too much like early 'Grounded' and coupled with the camera shy/not around comments make me worry that Perez is going for the 'isolated from humanity' route which I think might be disastrous as a first run of this reintroduction of the character.

Of course, the counterargument to that is that he is here as Clark and it is hinted at that he loves Lois. That is a pretty human thing to be feeling, even if he is shut down by her (and driven farther away).

So a lot of story, a lot of introductions, some hints of the tone of the book as Superman not being the automatically loved and revered inspiration for man here. As with all these books, I need to read a lot more to get a better feel for the book. This was a decent opening chapter, showing that Clark is still (thankfully) a big part of the Superman character.

Jesus Merino does a good job handling Perez breakdowns. He seems to be channeling Mark Bagley throughout the book and I don't mind that.

I just hope we don't have an angsty moping alienated Superman right out of the gates.

Overall grade: B

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Poll Result: Supergirl #1 Grades

Well there is no doubt that the DC Relaunch did just what DC was hoping it would, get people to buy comics, talk about comics, and read comics. But there needed to be more than a one month publicity stunt for this to work. The product had to be good. Good stories trump everything. And while I have liked a lot of what I have read, there have been some clunkers in the DCnU.

As for me, I kept wondering just what Supergirl  would be like. Vowing to go in with an open mind despite some worrisome pre-release comments, I thought the issue was a good opening volley. We got a smidge of origin, a lot of action, some plot threads teased, and a nice cliff hanger. We didn't get a great sense of who Supergirl was but that added a bit to the mystery. I gave the issue a 'B'.

But what did everybody else think. I figured a poll would give me a nice lay of the land.

Thanks to everyone who voted. There was a good turnout to this poll with 78 people voting. And while that is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the tens of thousands of issues sold, I think that is a pretty good number maybe giving a sense of the public's feelings. (And yes I know it isn't powered enough to be significant.)

It looks like most people felt the same way I did, with a healthy majority voting either an 'A' or a 'B'. For a new comic trying to get people to come back, this is a pretty good breakdown. My guess is those people are coming back for more.

Around a quarter of the people voted 'C' but that isn't necessarily a fail.

There were a couple of  'F's mixed in there too.

Still, the creative team should be happy with the buzz of this first issue as it seemed well received around the internet and on this fan poll. I still am waiting to see just who this Supergirl is but there were some hints in this issue that made me hopeful.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rest Of My DCnU Week Three Purchases

Three weeks in and things are starting to sort themselves out in the DCnU and my pull list. And, because of some impulse buys, I bought more of the 'New 52' this week than I anticipated. Here are some quick thoughts and where the land on the 'long term', 'short haul', 'better grab me', and 'done in one' scale.

Wonder Woman - I have always been a Diana fan and have sporadically collected her title depending on the strength of the stories or who the creative team was. I am always hoping that I will read an excellent Wonder Woman book.

When I heard that the creative team for the DCnU Wonder Woman was Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang I had very high hopes. And when Azzarello said that the tone of the book would be more horror based, I felt even better.

My instincts were right as the book really crackled. Diana is called upon to protect a mortal carrying Zeus' baby. And it is clear that the gods have deciding to once again intervene in the world of men. Apollo, Mercury, and (maybe) Argus are all seen here, toying and playing with lives here.

Chiang's art has evolved over time and is a bit scratchier than stuff from a couple of years ago. But it works well here. And Diana is just as she should be, confident, strong, a warrior and a defender of the helpless. This could be a big win.

Initial rank: 'Long term'
Verdict: 'Long term'

DC Universe Presents Deadman - Much like the 'Classified' titles, this Showcase-like book will be on my pull list depending on the characters and the creative teams. DC Universe Presents opens out of the gates with two of my favorite creators: writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bernard Chang. Those two were enough to let me overlook that the star of the book is Deadman, a character I have never been keen on.

There is a bit more of a redemption theme in this story. Turns out Boston Brand was a bit of a jerk when he was alive and needs to make amends for that. To become the man he should be, that good man, he needs to cross this gulf. The only way to get there is to help people in their lives.

Perhaps what I liked best here is that Deadman ends up hopping into the lives of 'normal' people. It isn't all team-ups with Batman. It is being a death row prisoner, a stripper, a wheelchair-bound war veteran. Can these ordinary stories be compelling in comics? We'll see. This was a solid opening chapter and Bernard Chang just brings it. Wonderful stuff whether it be the mundane or the fantastic.

Initial rank: 'Short term' (this arc)
Verdict: 'Short term' (this arc, but definitely in)

The comic I was most unsure about was Captain Atom. Written by JT Krul and drawn by Freddie Williams III (a favorite of mine), the book had some creative clout. But I really don't know too much of Krul and the Captain hasn't been a favorite of mine.

Williams has changed up his style for the book, giving it a softer, pencilled feel. Some things are also a bit more warped or stylized than his prior stuff. Williams was the main reason for me to get the book and I don't know if this new look has grabbed me.

Add to that, Atom goes from simple energy blaster to have some more Firestorm-like abilities such as unraveling atoms. He also seems a bit more disconnected, a nudge more like Dr. Manhatten.

I don't know if I like these changes to a character I already don't like that much. So this one is on a short leash.

Initial rank: "Better grab me"
Verdict: "Better grab me next issue or I am out"

Green Lantern Corps: As I said in prior posts, I have been wondering when the Green Lantern books were going to hit the wall. I had collected the GLC book before the relaunch when the focus was Kyle. I do like Guy. I decided that GLC would be my second GL book for the first month mostly because I was a bit exhausted with the Spectrum Corps.

This issue didn't do much to grab me. The opening parts show how Guy and John Stewart are trying to fit into normal Earth life, applying for jobs, etc. They don't have much success. As a result they leave Earth a bit perturbed. Meanwhile, on Oa, an unseen threat kills some new Lanterns and then massacres a whole planet.

It might just be that my GL battery is on empty. But nothing really grabbed me in this issue.

Initial rank: "Short term"
Short term: "One and done"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amanda Conner's Women Of DC Supergirl Bust

Just under the gun of the new Supergirl costume in the DC Relaunch, DC Direct released the latest Women of DC Series 3 Supergirl bust, this one based on a sketch by Amanda Conner.

This is a very nice mini-statue with Supergirl in the famous 'Kryptonian busting out of chains' motif we have seen many times before. It also shows a very happy and strong appearing Kara. The flying chains and hair swooshing gives it a pretty dynamic feel, which works very well here.

The back of the statue is very nice as well with the intricate chain links nicely rendered as well as a very nice cape.

One thing I like about all the Supergirl Women of DC busts is that they have a very similarly themed base, a sort of skyscraper appearing block. We have seen similar takes on the Adam Hughes and Terry Dodson busts as well.

This is probably the last merchandise with this version of the costume for some time so I am glad it captures the look of the later stages of that version of Supergirl so well.

I definitely like the pointy gold sleeve endings, evocative of Amazonian bracelets. And the gold trim on the rest of the outfit and cape look perfect here.

Here is the sketch by Conner on which the statue is based, a nice addition to the packaging here.

Conner really needs to be on a DC book.

The statue is $60, the standard price for things like this. It really is an appropriate goodbye card to the last version of Supergirl and will be a nice addition to my collection.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #1

Perhaps one of the things I am most grateful for in the midst of this DC relaunch is the simple fact the Legion of Super-Heroes is not being rebooted. After multiple recreations over the last decade, I am happy to settle into one Legion and not have to 're-learn' everyone again. Of course, the converse is also true. One of the perceived problems with the Legion is that it is hard to jump into the book given it's history and large cast. So this relaunch isn't a true jumping on point as we pick up right where the last Legion book left us. (I always laugh about that perception of Legion being tough for new readers. No one ever says that about the XMen.)

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 tidied up some of the plot threads from the last volume and started a couple of new storylines so it's not like we are in a middle chapter. And writer Paul Levitz does a good job of giving all the Legionnaires some screen time while focusing on a new Dominator-centric plot.

The real joy of this new title is Francis Portela on art. I have enjoyed Portela's work wherever I have seen it and his style seems perfect for the Legion with it's futuristic landscapes. Really beautiful stuff here.

The main plot of the book is Cham (here in the shape of a military man on the left) leading a semi-espionage squad to the 'world watcher' planet Panoptes (get it ... 'all eyes'). Panoptes is supposed to be keeping an eye on the Dominators but the UP has lost contact with the world. So the Legion is sent in to investigate.

It is an interesting sort of stealth team. Sure, Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy don military garb to blend in. But Jo has never struck me as an understated 'quiet' Legionnaire. And Chemical King and Dragonwing are fresh from the academy. Their role here is to play young lovers who have lost their way, but seems risky to take them along.

I suppose with the LSV story still in the recent past, other Espionage members like Vi and Invisible Kid might not be available. I do like the faux bravado and military stuffiness by Tinya and Jo. These are seasoned Legionnaires who know when to poke fun at Cham.

As I said, Levitz gives us a quick peek around the Legion roster here including Colossal Boy.

In the aftermath of the LSV war and with Chameleon Girl marooned in the past, Gim has decided to leave the Legion and join (re-join) the Science Police. Colossal Boy was a SciPo recruit when he got his powers so seeing him go back to the force makes some sense.

And then Levitz brings up to the Legion Headquarters where Mon-El and Brainy are catching up with all the squads currently deployed. It is a quick way of showing the entire roster to the new readers, including the text boxes with names and powers.

Portela does an excellent job here adding slight flourishes to members of the team, with some body language clues that give them some depth. You can feel Shadow Lass' pain as she deals with Earth Man's death. You know Comet Queen is excited to be with the big club. Dream Girl has a quiet confidence about her. Glorith is mourning Variable Lad's death. And Star Boy is just tired. It's all very nice.

Back n Panoptes, we see how Dragonwing is dealing with the death of Variable Lad. If things go wrong, she isn't going down alone.

I wonder if she is going to take the role of 'hot-head' on the team now that Wildfire and Timber Wolf are stuck in the past.

I didn't think I would care for her but she is showing me some depth. I don't know if I will ever like Chemical Kid.

The Panoptes team moves in with Cham becoming a bug to do some recon. It's a bit risky but he does find some information about the 'Renegade' giving orders.

Any thoughts on who that could be?

I was a bit confused about Cham saying that a telepath isn't on the team. Is Saturn Girl back in retirement?

And we catch up with Star Boy, Dream Girl, Glorith, and Harmonia Li.

We finally learn about Harmonia Li's powers. She is a 'nature elemental', whatever that is. We see some of her powers as she conjures up a wind to cool everyone off.

But the more chilling part of the discussion is Glorith saying she is so distraught from Variable Lad's death that she would like to go into the past and change things. So whenever I hear someone named Glorith talking about manipulating time, it makes me worried. Remember, Glorith was the 'Time Trapper' equivalent in the '5 Years Later' Legion. Hmmm ... could she be the hooded woman in all the new 52's?

Finally the Panoptes team sheds its disguises when it discovers technology that proves the planet is sending information to the Dominators. The Legionnaires skirmish with the troops and try to destroy the communication array only to discover Panoptes' secret weapon. A Daxamite is working for the Dominators!

I have to say that I liked this issue. I am a Legion fan and know all these characters so I am sure that helps. But the last story arc with the Blue Entity and Saturn Queen seemed to plod along, spinning its wheels a bit. This issue felt more energized. And Levitz is at his best juggling the large cast of the book, keeping tabs on everyone in a natural and unforced way. This issue showed that.

And Portela is a great addition to the book. Just solid and slick stuff here, adding a wonderful sheen to the story.

Overall grade: B+

Saturday, September 24, 2011

December 2011 Solicits

The December DC solicits have been released. Here is the link for all books:

Not too many surprises this month as the DCnU settles in. It is interesting to read all these solicits when some stories haven't even started. Here are the super-titles.

Art and cover by MAHMUD ASRAR

Trapped and powerless aboard a space station, Supergirl is at the mercy of an ingenious new foe who wants to learn everything there is to know about her. But Supergirl is more than just her powers, and she’ll soon show this foe – and all of Earth – what’s she truly capable of! Plus, more on the Girl of Steel’s mysterious origin!

The cover makes me think that sunstone technology has retained a place in the new DCU. The 'more than just her powers' phrase is intriguing. Hopefully they'll keep the i'ntelligent member of the Science guild' feel to the character.

I do wonder about the 'mysterious' origin. Does that mean that Argo City surviving the destruction of Krypton is back out of continuity? I still think, based only on the preview pages, that Zor-El has plugged her into a VR 'educational' program. That's why she thinks that stuff is a dream. What programs has he been feeding her though?

Variant cover by GREG CAPULLO
1:200 BandW Variant cover by RAGS MORALES

Is your mind prepared for an encounter with the deadly Terminauts? What awful master do they serve? What horrible fate awaits Superman and the city of Metropolis? The true scope of Grant Morrison and Rags Morales’ ACTION COMICS run begins to come into view, so get those sunglasses ready, ‘cause it is gonna be blinding!
And in a backup story from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Matt Camp that spins out of ACTION COMICS #2, John Henry Irons takes his first steps toward becoming the hero known as Steel!

I have to say that this solicit 'sounds' more like a Morrison run. The Terminauts serving an awful master. Sounds about right. My guess is it is the 'teetotaler' who was with Glenmorgan in the opening scene of Action #1. He seemed too happy to slip out of that office, and had swiped Glenmorgan's tie to boot. I am really looking forward to seeing where Morrison is going with this.

Glad to see old Supergirl friend Matt Camp back on a Super-title. And very happy to see that Steel is going to be around in the DCnU.

Breakdowns and cover by GEORGE PEREZ

Discover the origin of the new foes who have been making The Man of Steel’s life so painful and chaotic lately. What are their ties to the current ACTION COMICS epic? Plus, Lois Lane uncovers a tragic secret from Superman’s past!
** Not final cover. Previous interior art shown.

Pretty nondescript cover/not cover and solicit here. Don't know what to make of this.

Art by R.B. SILVA and ROB LEAN

Superboy has learned the truth about what he really is...and he’s not taking it well. Alone in New York and surrounded by holiday cheer, it’s a struggle to keep his emotions and his powers in check...and he’s on a crash course with a dangerous pair of murderous young metahumans who are more like him than he might want to admit!
** Not final cover

I still get the vibe that DC is trying to streamline this version of Superboy with the angry, confused pod-boy from the Young Justice cartoon. But do we need to see him standing in front of a burning Christmas tree? Are we that desperate to make him appear bad-ass that he'll ruin Christmas?? What's next, attacking Santa?

The first issue was good so I am hoping that will be the level of quality here.

Art and cover by ROB LIEFELD

Following last issue’s ultra-brawl with Condor and Swan through the halls of the White House, Hawk and Dove have more questions than answers! Luckily for them, they’ve taken a prisoner! But even as they begin to question him, sinister forces align with a new target in mind: Dove’s boyfriend, Deadman! Can Dove protect the man she loves, or will her ghostly lover fall into darkness?

Fiigured I'd plug Hawk and Dove here. I like the characters a lot, thought the first issue was fun, and think Gates probably has a big mythos of the avatars he is building here. I keep wondering what Condor and Swan are avatars of.

Nice cover here, even if it doesn't hint that much about what is inside the issue.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Supergirl?


I was truly honored to be contacted by the great dcwomenkickingass blog to guest post about Supergirl on her birthday. If you don't visit DC Women Kicking Ass, you should. It is a fantastic site. As for me, I got a bit philosophical with the request.  I figured I should cross post here. So here is my short essay titled 'Why Supergirl'.

Why Supergirl?

It’s a question I get asked all the time. Someone asks me ‘who is your favorite comic book character?’ And I answer ‘Supergirl’. This seems to stun the asker. They usually look at me with a quizzical eye, trying to size up my response. And then I hear it, almost incredulously …

‘Why Supergirl?’

And I guess it’s a legitimate question. Why would a middle aged man list a (usually) teenage girl as his favorite character? Why not Batman or Green Lantern or Wolverine like so many of my peers? Why pick a character which lives on the fringes of the comic universe, usually belittled or forgotten?

I wish I could answer it with one sentence. But to understand why, you have to understand Supergirl and what she represents.

You see, when I started reading comics I was immediately enamored with Superman. He had the best array of powers. He was invulnerable, unbeatable, the very symbol of truth, justice, and the American Way. Heroes loved him, wanted to be like him.

He was perfect.

Maybe too perfect. I could aspire to be Superman. I could hope that one day I would have his immutable ethics and the uncanny ability to actualize them. I could strive to be respected by everyone around me, a role model. But the truth is, even in those early years, I knew I could never achieve that. You can hope to be Superman (and by this I mean what he represents) but you can’t be him. You can’t look too long at the sun, you know?

So I couldn’t relate to Superman but I liked his powers. So I looked around for other characters with similar powers who maybe was a bit more like me, a bit more relatable.

Superboy? Lived in the country and helped at the general store in what felt like the 1950s.

Ultra Boy? Too much of a jock type, and lived in the glittering future.

Spiderman? Not with those powers.

Well what about Supergirl?

Trust me, as a young boy, it isn’t easy to tell your friends that you are collecting Superman Family for the Supergirl feature. But I was collecting Superman Family for her and then Daring New Adventures of Supergirl.

You see, Supergirl had all the powers of Superman. So that was cool.

But she also had everyday troubles. She was worried about her love life and couldn’t find a significant other. She didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career – reporter? Guidance Counselor? Actress? Grad student?

She still had that sense of justice that Superman did. She still knew what was right and what was wrong, what she needed to do. And she did everything in her power to help people. That was really the underlying theme in those earliest stories that I devoured. She seemed to embody hope … going the extra mile to do what was right.

And even though she knew what to do, she wasn’t always immediately successful . She could fail. She might get angry or frustrated. She might mess up. But she always dusted herself off and tried to finish the job. She always learned from her mistakes.

For an early adolescent who didn’t think the opposite sex knew he existed, who thought he wanted to be everything from an English teacher to a physicist to a physician, for someone who tried to do what was right and occasionally struggled, Supergirl was someone I could relate to, someone I could aspire to be like, someone who was on a journey through life much like me.

Based on those early stories, I followed Supergirl around the DCU. I was there when she died in Crisis (saving the universe like a hero should, holding on to hope no matter what). I was there when she became Linda Danvers under Peter David, when she also was flawed and yearned for redemption for everything that she had done. I went back to the earliest tales in Action and Adventure when she was a young girl trying to be a good daughter and cousin, trying to be a superhero, a time in her life where she loved an ordinary guy named Dick Malverne. I was there when Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle put her back on the hero’s journey, had her struggle to fit in, to find her place in the world, to deal with the tragedies that life can hand you, and to continue to work for the betterment of all those around her. And I was there when Landry Walker made her the new kid in school, struggling with being different but always being the hero.

It hasn’t always been pretty. There were years when she wasn’t around. There were times when Matrix was insane or enslaved by Brainiac or the duped lover of Lex Luthor. There were those tough early issues of the last volume of Supergirl where she seemed bitter, unlikeable, and hardly heroic. But those were just bumps in the road. The ‘true’ Supergirl … the young hero trying her best, working through adversity, and doing what’s right … has always returned, shaking off the ashes of misguided stories.

And that is ‘why Supergirl’.

Happy Birthday Kara. I can only hope the new Supergirl is worthy of the name, is a hero, someone likeable, someone people can relate to and try to emulate.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Supergirl #1

Well, Supergirl #1 finally arrived yesterday, re-introducing Kara Zor-El to the DCnU. There has been a ton of promotional information about the book, much of which I found disheartening. And I think I have covered much of that uneasy feeling here.

But one thing I promised myself about this book was that I would read it with an open mind. The last three years of Supergirl has been one of the creative high water marks for her character in my mind. I am sad to see that Supergirl erased from continuity. But I owe it to the character and the writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson as well as artist Mahmud Asrar to judge the book on its own merits.

And, I have to admit, for a first issue, Supergirl #1 was a decent introduction to this version of the character, starting right at the beginning, with Kara crash landing on Earth. We get a lot of hints about her background and who she is. And I didn't see any of the 'edgy' Supergirl that we have heard a lot about, the character with no affection for humanity.

We don't see that characterization because this issue really has a confused Supergirl reacting to what is happening around her. So the true make-up of who this Kara is will happen in future issues when she has a second to breathe and be herself.

Still, my template for a first issue- decent action, some piece of an origin story, some future plot threads teased at, and a good cliffhanger to hook me in - were all met here. And for that, I have to be happy.

The book opens with Supergirl falling to earth. Much like the last version of her origin, it appears that her rocket has somehow been embedded within some of the planetary residue of Krypton. It looks more like a meteor than a sleek alien rocket ship.

But the more interesting part of this initial fall is that she starts out landing in Kansas, not far from (I presume) Superman's landing site. That can't be coincidence. Whoever rocketed her there, presumably Zor-El, wanted her to end up where Superman ended up.

The bigger question that still needs to be answered is when was she rocketed. Was she supposed to land when Superman landed, sent from the planet Krypton as it exploded (as in the Loeb version). Or was she sent from Argo City (like the original origin and Geoff Johns' New Krypton revision)?

The rocket's momentum unfortunately allows it to burrow through the Earth so that it ends up surfacing on the other side of the Earth in Siberia. The military people tracking her arrival send out an intercept force to bring her in.

In the meantime, Supergirl awakens and crawls from the wreckage. She is immediately confused and wonders if she is still in a dream. I have some theories on this.

Allow me to start complimenting Mahmud Asrar's art here. This is just a great splash page, a nice first reveal of the character. You can feel her confusion and sense of disconnect from her expression.

That is ... nice except for that awful lower portion of the costume with its crazy corners and ludicrously high cut.

 We learn a bit more about her background as she acclimates herself.

We learn that, at least in her mind, her mother and father are alive, alive enough for Supergirl to be talking about them in the present tense.

And the costume is something she shouldn't be wearing now. It is some sort of ceremonial garb only fitting to be worn after some graduation ceremony, something a year away by Kara's calculations.

And snow hasn't fallen on Krypton in over a decade, a small but subtle reference to the planet's instability.

My guess is that this is some sort of citizenship uniform, some way of recognizing the transition to an adult, upon graduating lower school and picking a guild. The 'if I graduate' line is worrisome because I don't think Green/Johnson would make it because she isn't intelligent. My guess is it is more misbehavior that has graduation in jeopardy.

Still uncertain if she is in a dream, Supergirl is confronted by some military mecha, battle suits armed and ready. If this is a dream, Zor-El would like it.

Okay ... here is my guess and I might be stretching it a bit.

Part of Kryptonian education is some in virtual reality, 'dreams' where students encounter things and learn from them. Some of those 'dreams' are also self-defense or game like scenarios (like this military encounter).

Knowing that their planet (or Argo City) is doomed, Zor-El and Alura put Kara into an extended VR/suspended animation where she continues to live life as she normally would. That's why Kara thinks that her folks are alive, that she was just on Krypton, that she shouldn't be feeling snow the way she is. That's why she is in the uniform. He parents had written enough VR to take her to that point of graduation, knowing when Supergirl awoke she would have thought enough time had passed that she had earned the costume.

Unlike other versions of Supergirl's origins where she has always known her planet/city is doomed, always awake to witness the destruction, this one appears oblivious. And that is going to make learning about that tragedy tougher to swallow, more difficult to comprehend.

 Luckily, before the battlesuits can apprehend her, the yellow sun rises and Kara's powers kick in. She can barely control them and doesn't quite know how to use them. She blasts one with heat vision and pummels another, punching it miles away.

Again though, Supergirl thinks she was just with her friends. I suppose that suspended animation would also make time feel off. But my guess is some 'education' was happening during that ride.

 I am going to try to concentrate on the story and the character but I again have to say that the lower costume is just going to distract. We saw a lot of half-butt this issue ... a lot of it. And the extra inguinal skin folds seen around the red crotch shield seem gratuitous. I suppose if the alternative is the treatment we saw of Selina in Catwoman or Kory in Red Hood, I should be thrilled.

Still, this will only pull people out of the story. Some people will love it, I am sure. But I don't think it adds anything to the story.

Supergirl's powers continues to manifest themselves including super-hearing. Overwhelmed by the cacophony of Earth (including some lines from other DC books - nice touch), Supergirl collapses.

And there is the mysterious glowing Flashpoint woman, rearing her head again.

I think the whole scene works well in showing just how disorienting this whole situation would be. Is it a dream? Is it real? Is it snow? Why is she wearing what she is? Why powers? Confused, Supergirl continues to lash out against the people attacking her.

 I always say that when the words and art mesh that comics are at their best. Here is an example of that. In the midst of fighting the soldiers, Kara wonders just where her parents are, where she is. But that forlorn expression, by softening her here for that moment, you know that maybe the realization that her life as she knew it was over is hitting her.

This panel could just as easily shown an angry appearing Supergirl, teeth grit, eyes clenched or smoking. That would have been in line with the angry, 'Hell on Wheels', alienated character we heard in all the publicity blurbs. But we didn't see that. And more than anything, this panel gave me hope.

I also have to add that the warning about Zod is a nice little hook for the entire super-family in the DCnU.

And then the battle is over with a red and blue blur. Superman has arrived. We know by the solicit for next month that the two fight which takes a smidge of the previously earned hope away.

So we have been introduced to Supergirl but I don't know if I would say we have met her. We have scratched the surface of who she is and how she got here. And while we don't know her personality yet, nothing about this issue added to my worries, nothing felt wrong. And there are mysteries here to solve, things to learn. I am not saying I am sold on this new version yet.  But I was worried that I was going to hate this issue and I didn't. I want to read more of this reboot in hopes that it will be a Supergirl that I can like.

And as I thought all along, Mahmud Asrar's work is very good here. It is rougher in some places that I thought it would be but it works in giving the action scenes a kinetic feel. I do wish that the lower portion of the costume gets some minor revamping. It can be as subtle as when Jamal Igle lengthened the skirt and belly shirt.

I put a poll up to see what grade you all give the issue. Here is mine.

Overall grade: B

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Rest Of My DCnU Week Two Purchases

Here are the other DCnU books I picked up last week, including some initial thoughts and where they land on my 'long haul', 'short term', and 'better grab me' rankings.

Green Lantern #1 - So one thing that I don't really like about this DCnU is the 'relaunch' not 'reboot' nature of it. That means the Green Lantern and Batman books continue without a ripple while Supergirl and Superboy fans have to wring their hands yet again. What it does mean is that the 'get new readers' chant doesn't count for those books.

Because does DC really think that someone who has never picked up a Green Lantern book is going to want to read about Sinestro being GL while Hal is buried under bills? And do those new readers even understand what all that means?

I know I am being meta-textually critical. I also hope this might be the first step in having Hal stick around on Earth for a bit (hopefully as GL).

One thing I didn't like was the characterization of Carol Ferris. I mean, she is so upset that slacker Hal didn't propose to her that she throws her drink in his face and leaves him stranded. That felt a bit like a step backwards for a woman who has been flying around the universe.

Initial rank: 'short term'
Verdict: 'short term' still

Batwoman #1 - What can I say. The art by JH Williams III is absolutely beautiful. He really does a great job of altering his style in the book based on the scene - the Batwoman scenes looking painted and ethereal, the Kate scenes more thickly inked and concrete.

The story about 'The Weeping Woman' stealing children from Gotham has a more eerie supernatural feel to it than the usual Batman book which I think suits the character and the art nicely. Add to that a Mr. Bones sighting and I was happy.

The one part of the book I don't like (which I don't think is going away any time soon) is Kate training Bette Kane as her sidekick Plebe. To me, Batwoman is still a relative rookie in this game. It felt to early for her to be training someone.

Initial rank: 'long haul'
Verdict: 'long haul' as long as Williams III and Reeder are on board, I am too

Demon Knights #1 - Based solely on his Action Comics work and his comments on the book prior to its release, I decided to give this book a shot. This feels like a team book akin to Shadowpact but set back in medieval time.

It is a very nice mix of characters. I have always been an Etrigan and Madame Xanadu fan. But also Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight from Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers books is also on the team. That is fantastic! There seems to be an Amazon on the team named Exoristos. And the villains are Mordru and Morgan LeFay. All nice. The one character in the book I don't like is Vandal Savage. At least he seems to be on the good guys' side.

I also liked the sort of classic 'Avengers' feel to the team's origin. They all just happen to be in the same pub when Mordru's forces attack. Now that the chess pieces are on the board, it seems like next issue will be the team 'forming'.

Diogenes Neves are is fine for the material. I look forward to seeing where this book is going.

Initial rank: 'Better grab me'
Verdict: Promoted to 'short term'; consider me grabbed!