Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Eve is often a time of self-reflection, a time to take stock of your life and resolve to change the things that you can.

In looking back at the last couple of months, it is clear that I have allowed pessimism to seep into this blog. 2013 wasn't exactly a banner year for the character. And a turn as a Red Lantern is just around the corner. It seems like such a wrong decision for the character that, in my vigilance to defend her, maybe I became filled with rage too.

So, for this blog, my New Year's Resolution is to go into the coming year of Supergirl stories with an open mind. I resolve to read these stories without expectations. I resolve to give this arc time to breathe to see if it is going in a direction that ends with a healthier Kara. And I will resolve to hold onto hope, to believe that all will be well.

That doesn't mean I won't read the books critically. It just means I will give the creators the benefit of the doubt. At least to start ...

Remember, this character has been down and out in the past, as recently as 2007.

As for DC Comics, I have a couple of suggestions for New Year's Resolution for the company.

1) Bring back some good old fashioned heroism and optimism into the DCU. Not everybody needs to be a jaded. Some people might be happy to help others. And some people might be happy to be helped.

2) Bring back a 'Young Justice' line of comics. Don't have the characters all be angsty teens. I don't need an art thief Wonder Girl. I don't need a despotic Superboy. I don't need a murdering Kid Flash. And I don't need a dark Legion. How about a comic with a teen, inspired to be a hero, and working hard to do what's right.

3) Make Superman super again. I can sense it in Superman Unchained and Action Comics. It would be great if Superman became the light again, the inspiration, the role model.

So time to put 2013 behind me. Hello 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Glimpse At The Future

I will admit that I haven't been scanning the internet closely over the last week as big holidays and a little work down time were the perfect recipe for me. Time was spent with immediate and more distant family and overall I was able to decompress.

Still, while on Twitter the other night I saw this link by Supergirl artist Yildiray Cinar:

One thing I love about Supergirl is her righteous fury, her fierceness that comes out when she sees injustice, when she defends those who need defending. And this certainly could be one of those times.

The art is beautiful.  But the subtlety of Cinar's art in comparison to Perez's. Look at the current Supergirl, face cloaked in shadow except for the visible grit teeth, evocative of 90's Image books; it makes me think this isn't righteous fury. This is rage. I suppose with Red Lanterns around the corner that makes sense. Maybe this is simply an early glimpse into what 2014 has in store for Supergirl.

Still holding on to hope.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Year in Review: Top Five Worst Supergirl Moments

Back in early December, I began to review the Supergirl issues of 2013 in anticipation of making my best of/worst of lists. As I began sifting through the moments and panels, it was clear that the worst moments were going to far outnumber the best moments. It seemed that month in, month out it seemed there were cringe-worthy moments. DC was committed to make Supergirl angry, isolated, and moody. They didn't treat her like a hero. And in crossover stories, she was either the patsy or an unhinged bloodthirsty combatant.

I didn't necessarily want to pick all the scabs of the year, so instead focused on the top five worst moments of the year. And since I don't want to be morose, I will do my best to infuse some humor into the proceedings.

Of note, perhaps the worst moment was the above announcement that Supergirl is abandoning hope, optimism, and love, instead embracing rage, and vomiting blood on her friends. Since these stories haven't happened, they aren't included in the list below. But anyone who sees those images and thinks 'That's Supergirl!' doesn't know the character very well.

On to the Top Five Worst Moments of 2013!

Number 5: The Poor Dad Award Winner: Zor-El

Poor Zor-El. In the post-Crisis universe he didn't exist. Then in the reboot of Supergirl he is a creepy vicious bastard, having his teenage daughter prance around him nude. Then he is pushed to an even nuttier extreme, having visions of spirits from the Phantom Zone possessing Kryptonians. He has Supergirl join him as they gun down her high school. Then he decides the only way the spirits could be defeated was for Supergirl to kill Kal-El.

Even after Geoff Johns washed away that past, bringing back a scientist Zor-El on a domed Argo City, Zor-El wasn't long for the world, killed by Reactron.

In the New 52, he becomes a desperate and secretive man using science and genomics to experiment on his daughter and trying to save Argo City. He leaves his wife in the dark. And his measures fail, killing everyone on Argo just months after the destruction of Krypton.

Now that would be a rough life across 3 incarnations. But things got worse in 2013.

As if being a dad that made his daughter into a potential world-killer wasn't bad enough, he is scooped up, barely living, by Brainiac and turned into the killing machine Cyborg Superman.

That's right, Zor-El is now a supervillain, oblivious to his earlier life as Zor-El and now eager to kill Supergirl. It almost seemed like a parting shot by Nelson, a last dagger to Supergirl.

Number 4: The 'Seriously' Face Palm Award: Supergirl in Krypton Returns

H'El has tried to bring Krypton back for no clear reason. He doesn't think Jor-El is his savior. He wants to rule Krypton. Or he wants to destroy Krypton himself. Or he wants to rule Krypton and then destroy it. Forget it ... his motives make no sense.

Regardless, H'El bring back Krypton has set off a Time Tsunami, a storm destroying the universe one star system at a time. Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy get sent back in time to stop H'El from successfully saving the planet to begin with.


So what does Supergirl think? She is actually happy that Krypton is back. Who cares if untold billions are dying as the tsunami destroys planet after planet. Who cares if the universe will eventually die.

She doesn't see what the big deal is!!!

This is classic Scott Lobdell Supergirl. Self-centered. Gullible. Stupid.

Amazingly, she was treated better in this arc than in H'El on Earth.

Number 3: The Irritated 'Ridiculous' Award - Ame Comi Supergirl

I am usually very happy to see Supergirl featured in as many comics as possible. When she is supposed to be prominently featured, I am even happier. In 2013, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and a bevy of artists produced an digital first comic based on the Ame Comi statues. This was an interesting world where there were no male super-heroes or villains, Power Girl was the equivalent of Superman, Jimmy Olsen was the Lois equivalent, etc.  I bought and reviewed the print version.

I didn't think I would enjoy the comic but it was a fun and fast little book with an Elseworld sort of feel. Plus, Supergirl was going to be featured and even have her own solo issue!

Imagine how sad I was when Supergirl arrives on earth and a couple of pages later is brainwashed by Brainiac, turns into Dark Supergirl, and fights on the side of the villains. She didn't get treated well in her own issue!

After being cured, she remains in a coma/stasis for several more issues. In the final big story arc, she is seen in the background and got very little screen time.

It was clear ... and appropriate I suppose ... that Palmiotti and Gray wanted Power Girl to shine in this series. But did Supergirl really need to be treated this shabbily? Ridiculous!

Number 2: "What did I just do" Face Palm Award: Trying to kill H'El

I could probably put all of H'El on Earth as one of the worst moments for Supergirl all time. Duped, a patsy, overly emotional, gullible ... it was a poison pill of a story for Supergirl. Looking back at that story, only Mike Johnson's issues of Supergirl tried to show Kara in some sort of favoring light. Otherwise, she is basically one of the villains for the bulk of the arc.

In Supergirl #17, after finally realizing that H'El isn't the dreamy prince she thought he was, Kara decides to take matters into her own hands.

That's right ... Kara decides to try and murder H'El, burying a shard of Kryptonite into his heart.

Now the naysayers will say it showed self-sacrifice on Supergirl's part as the Kryptonite was going to kill her too. And some will even say that this was a justified murder since H'El was going to destroy Earth.

But these are comics and these are supposed to be heroes. Supergirl is supposed to be a teenage girl striving to be a hero. I don't need to see her as a murderer. I don't need to see her burying a weapon into a villain's chest.

That isn't Supergirl.

And this is everything wrong with DC's understanding and branding of the character.

But this is number 2. What could be worse than this??

Number 1 - "Crisis #7" Face Palm - Supergirl Dying

I have talked at length over these 5 plus years about the things I love about Supergirl. One of the things is her bravery. Another is her tenacity. And yet another is her strength.

In Supergirl #23, Michael Alan Nelson brought a Kryptonite poisoned Kara onto the malleable world of I'Noxia, ruled by the Cyborg Superman. In that issue, she is battered about and finally brought into the Cyborg's main lab.

Utterly defeated, she kneels on the ground sobbing and crying, begging to be saved.

Imagine a Batman comic where that would happen to him. A Superman comic. A Wonder Woman comic. Imagine Captain Marvel, crying on the ground begging her enemies to stop.

It just wouldn't happen. It shouldn't happen.

Ah, but we can't end there.

Nope. Nelson has Supergirl actually die!

Crying, screaming 'no', in pain, she is completely disintegrated.

When Superman dies, it is as a hero fighting Doomsday. When Supergirl died in Crisis, she is saving the universe.

Here she is bawling, broken, and vaporized.

It is a terrible moment. And this is in the book she is supposed to star in.

Yes, she returned the next issue. Yes, Zor-El repents and saves her. But that means a good moment for him was predicated on an awful moment for her. And the way she dies is so demeaning.

And those were the worst Supergirl moments of 2013.

Anyone else have a scab they want to pick?

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Supergirl Year In Review: Top Ten Supergirl Moments

Settle in. This is a long long post.

You would think that putting together the 'Best of Supergirl' post would be a joyous blog entry. After all, it is looking at the past year and picking out the finest representations of my favorite character. In past years (I ave been doing 'Year in Review' posts since 2008), I have loved doing this, poring over the issues and picking out the pieces that I loved. In fact, many years I needed two entries - an honorable mentions column for almost top ten moments and the top ten themselves. In rereading those posts, I could sense that things were going almost too well for the character.

This 2013 'Best of' was my toughest one yet ... because it was hard for me to pick 10 moments that warranted mention. This has been a depressing year for me regarding Supergirl with her character being dragged down even further and a transformation into a Red Lantern right around the corner. In fact, the 'Worst Of' entry (up tomorrow) was easier to fill (I had many choices but limited myself to 5).

But before we get to the comics, let's review the 'outside' comics high points of the year. From that point of view, things continued to look up for Supergirl. From a merchandising point of view, Supergirl was immortalized in many DC Collectible statues including a new cover girls piece, a Bombshell statue, and both a SDCC exclusive and a more widely released Super Best Friends Forever figurine. She was a white pawn in the DC Comics chess set. She was featured in both the Superman: The Legend card series and the Women of Legend card series, garnering multiple cards and 'artist sketch cards' in both sets.

Perhaps most importantly, she was prominently featured in the Superman:Unbound movie. I very much enjoyed that movie and thought it did Kara justice, showing how determined she is to do what's right even in the face of great peril. Actress Molly Quinn did the voice of Supergirl in the movie and has become a great ambassador for the character, talking about her glowingly, representing Supergirl on the Superman 75th panel at the NYCC, and wearing the colors proudly.

On to the comics.

The year started with H'El on Earth and ended with H'El's plot in Krypton Returns. What a lousy set of bookends. Mike Johnson was the writer and seemed poised to bring Supergirl around to a more heroic place in the DCU. He was let go and horror comic writer Michael Alan Nelson was brought on board. He talked about slowly bring Kara to a place of happiness and started off with a great story with Power Girl. Around this time, fan favorite artist Mahmud Asrar left the book and the art on the title since then has been variable. Unfortunately, things went darker and then Nelson was one of the writing team on Krypton Returns. After a couple of very depressing turns on the Supergirl book, Nelson was replaced by Tony Bedard. Bedard has a decent history with Kara and also promised making Supergirl likable only to have the Red Lantern announcement tarnish my optimism.

And so ... the Best of Supergirl 2013.

Honorable Mention: Superman Family Adventures by Art Baltazar and Franco

There was no one particular moment in the excellent Superman Family Adventures that stuck out to me. But I loved that title. Much like Tiny Titans, the team of Baltazar and Franco were able to put together a truly all ages book. It is silly enough for grade schoolers. It was fun enough for middle schoolers. And old timers like me loved all the Easter Eggs stuffed in.

The team also treated Supergirl very well. She was a young hero who wanted to be the best she could be. She loved her family. And she even had a secret identity!

I miss this title.

Number ten: Dark Matters - Supergirl #21

She is dying of Kryptonite poisoning. She has abandoned Earth and any ties she has to anything in her life. And in deep space, she picks up a distress signal and rushes to the rescue. I love this panel where Supergirl struggles under the weight of a falling building, hoisting it to save the innocents below.

But it was that sentiment, that despite trying to escape from everything she bolts to be the hero. She might want to escape but in her heart, I think she knows what she needs to be.

Number nine: Chatting With Dad - Action Comics #23.1 Cyborg Superman

This comic was basically a Zor-El story explaining how far he would go to save his people and his family. Yes, there are overtones of an overzealous competitiveness with his brother. And yes, he was a bit too private for his own good, dabbling in the forbidden sciences of Brainiac and World Killers and secretly experimenting on his daughter. But he never struck me as pure evil. More desperate and willing to compromise some ethics if the ends were justified.

One thing that comes out of all of the flashback scenes (both here and in the main title) is that Kara seems to have an easier relationship with her father than with her mother Alura. I thought this scene was nice in showing how open and trusting that relationship was. Here Kara, despite being a young teen, comes to her father, asking him to patch things up with Jor-El. She is worried about her father and she knows her mother is worried about him as well.

It shows a maturity in Supergirl.

Number 8: Kissing Krypto - Supergirl #16

There wasn't much about H'El on Earth that is worth remembering. Remember that story arc? Where Supergirl is duped, falls quickly into love, brawls with her cousins and the Justice League, then tries to become a killer. I can't believe this was part of 2013. I had put it far in my rear view mirror.

Anyways, I did like this moment in Supergirl #16 written by Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar. While fighting the Flash in the Fortress of Solitude, Supergirl is reunited with Krypto! She knew the dog from Krypton and clearly loved the pooch! There is a clear look of joy on Krypto's face and Supergirl is smiling while being licked! It was a rare moment of joy in Supergirl's life this year.

Number seven: Wardrobe Malfunction - Supergirl #20

Supergirl #20, the first issue written by Michael Alan Nelson, was a fabulous issue. Contrasting Supergirl and Power Girl, Nelson was able to show just how similar and different the two women are. Despite leading very different lives (Power Girl embraced her role as hero, loved her brother, felt Lois was a mother), the two actually get along very well, teasing and joking their way through this misadventure with Sanctuary.

There were several 'laugh out loud' moments but this might be the best. Power Girl slips into a more classic PG costume when her New 52 version was destroyed for the umpteenth time. I love the banter when Supergirl first sees her in it. "It's a bit much." And then Power Girl's defense that it came from Supergirl's closet. Of course Supergirl never wore it.

Asrar really shines here as well, the look of defensive surprise on Karen's face in response to the shocked and semi-disgusted look on Kara's.

More from this issue later.

Number six: Young Knight - Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday

As I said, this was a rough year for Supergirl. One more layer of the torment of her life was revealed in the Doomsday  issue during villain's month, written by Greg Pak and drawn by Brett Booth.

As a very young girl, Kara's nights are haunted by psychological warfare from Zod, communicating from beyond the veil of the Phantom Zone. In the issue we hear the myth of Doomsday and the story of the death of a 'Knight' who is replaced by others wearing his symbol (the briefest recap of Reign of the Supermen I have ever read). Zod focuses on the negative, that the Knight dies.

Sick of hearing his taunts, this young Kara stands up to him, her blanket draped on her like a cape, a look of fierce determination, as she rebukes him. I love this, probably the earliest time she shows the hero inside her, mustering strength to stand up to a ghost.


Number five: We Are Me - Supergirl #19

I touch on this in number seven, that comparison of Supergirl and Power Girl in early 2013 was a great story. Those similarities and differences were best shown in this page of Supergirl #19, written by Mike Johnson and drawn by Mahmud Asrar.

On Earth 2, Supergirl was the 'secret weapon', trained and loved by Superman, embraced by family and friends, and willing to fly into hell to avenge her cousin. On Prime Earth, Supergirl is isolated, leery of Superman, and wanting to be left alone.

And yet, they both were rocketed to Earth, both raised by Zor-El and Alura (I would love to see an E2 version of them at some point), and both feel alone (Power Girl marooned away from her home Earth, Kara adjusting to Earth).  They are alike as they are different.

This splash page, vertically splicing the two Kara's, is great.

Number four:  Thanks - Action Comics Annual #2

I have been harsh to Scott Lobdell on this blog, picking at his stories as I try to follow the leaps and twists of the plot. In particular, I think he has been brutal to Supergirl in his stories making her gullible, irate, overly emotional, and icy. So I was pretty surprised to see a Lobdell moment so high on this list.

Just prior to heading back in time on the Oracles mission to stop H'El, Kara has an epiphany. She recognizes she hasn't been the best family member, she hasn't gotten close to Kal like she should have, and that she has complicated things since arriving. She actually thanks Superman for giving her some room to breathe but you can see she regrets being so distant. Everything about these two panels is right, even her shushing him so she can finish her thought. And they hug!

I was hoping this would be the pivot point as she turns the corner but instead one step forward, two steps back.

Number three: Long Live the Legion - Smallville Season Eleven #15

I love the Smallville comic, my 'go to' book for a more classic Superman and Lois. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear that the book was going to go into the future for a Supergirl & the Legion of Super-Heroes adventure.

The story is a bit uneven in spots but it does a nice job of showing how Supergirl is adjusting. While she is a true hero, part of the Legion, and willing to do what it takes for justice, she is still struggling to find a place she can truly call home. In this book she is torn between a New Krypton and Earth in the future. Neither are really an easy place to fit in.

In the end though, how could I not love this moment ... a classic Long Live the Legion splash with all the Legionnaires flying into space, ready to take on the universe's worst. And smack there in the middle is a smiling Supergirl, holding hands with her cousin, leading the charge.

In a mainstream DCnU that is without a Legion, without a happy Supergirl, without a 'super-cousin' healthy relationship, this was comfort food!

Number two: Scientist Kara - Supergirl #20

If only all of 2013 was a good as Supergirl #20. If only all of Michael Alan Nelson's run was as solid as that issue with Power Girl! This was a fantastic moment which echoed the best of prior incarnations of Supergirl, showcased one of the newer aspects of the new Supergirl, and showed just how intelligent Kara is.

With Sanctuary doing its best to kill her, Supergirl pulls out a very complicated physics question, figuring out how strong a frozen material is. She is thinking! And then realizing how strong frozen Kryptonian crystal is, she has Power Girl freeze the place from the outside while she Corona Wave sunbursts from the inside, shattering the fortress.

Kara as a very intelligent scientist has been a constant in the character from the earliest Silver Age stories to the Sterling Gates era to here. I loved this moment. And that was a rare feeling this year too. Great stuff!

Number one: Now That's Kara - Man of Steel Prequel Comic

I find it ironic that the best example of Supergirl for the year was in a Man of Steel prequel comic that was only available on-line. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised given that Sterling Gates was the writer of this comic. And it sports beautiful art by legend Jerry Ordway.

There isn't one moment that stands out in the book that is a moment. Throughout the story you see the things that make me a Supergirl fan. She is strong and smart, leading team of soldiers through a field test. She knows what's right, stopping a traitor from killing another corpsman and turning him in. She is smart and dedicated winning the highest honor available on Krypton (see above), and she ends up stopping the same traitor from commandeering a scout ship. During that last fight, she crashes the ship on Earth (hence the ship at the North Pole in the movie ... and the open life pod in the background as Clark explores).

I loved this book when it came out. It was everything I look for in Supergirl. Smart, funny, loving, fierce in her pursuit of justice, and heroic. It was a constellation we hadn't seen much in the main book. Thanks to Sterling Gates!

At the time it seemed to be a hint at the Man of Steel sequel, complete with Supergirl. But I guess with Batman, Wonder Woman, and who knows what other Leaguers, she won't be part of that film.

And those are my top ten moments. Thanks to everyone who is still reading! Let me know if there were any moments I forgot!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Soule On Red Lantern Supergirl

One of the things that has bugged me over the two-plus years of the DCnU has been the appearance of a haphazard approach to the universe, decisions being made, overturned, tweaked, and then redone at the last minute. We have heard creators say that an approach to character was pitched, approved, promoted, and then changed at the last minute. Some creators have gone so far as to declaring they won't work for DC anymore!

Unfortunately, it seems as though that hasn't changed. Last week, Charles Soule and Robert Venditti talked about Red and Green Lanterns over on CBR. The interview is worth reading, especially if you are a fan of the Lantern books as it discusses them in depth. But there were two questions about Supergirl's involvement in the Red Lantern book that caught my attention. 

CBR: Talking about the new Red Lantern, CBR spoke with Tony Bedard recently about how Supergirl is going to be a Red Lantern and join the Lantern corner of the DC Universe. Was this idea something you two and Tony had come up with together? Why include Kara in the Lantern universe at all?

Soule: I was at the Superman group summit, I think right before New York Comic Con, just a couple of months ago. We were talking about the Superman group -- it's always fun when working with these characters to shake things up. To do things people wouldn't expect, but do them in a way that makes sense -- that when you think about it, you go, "Oh, I want to see how this works out." A good example of that was having Guy Gardner join the Red Lanterns in the first place. He's the Lantern who it makes sense to have on that team. Of the Superman group, Kara has some rage issues. The way that she's been depicted in the New 52 so far is that there's a lot she's resentful about: Her cousin is Superman, the fact that she basically woke up and realized her planet was destroyed. There's a lot of stuff she's been working through, and the idea of bringing her to the Red Lanterns is to explore and develop that and see what we can do to help her with this -- I call it a therapy session. A very strange therapy session! [Venditti laughs] When she leaves the Red Lanterns, I think the idea is that they really developed her in an interesting way, and not the way you would expect. I really like the way it's developing. Tony is doing a lot of cool stuff, I like writing Supergirl -- she's a really fun character, and I think people will be pleased.

So this is bothersome to me. And here is why.

It was in September that Tony Bedard and Yildiray Cinar were announced as the new creative team on Supergirl. Bedard was doing  interviews about  how he wanted to make Supergirl more likable, less moody. And even curmudgeons like me were feeling a glimmer of hope. I assume that Bedard went to DC, told the powers that be what he wanted to do with Kara, and got the green light.

Now a month later (NYCC was in early October), Soule pitches Kara as a Red Lantern and gets a thumbs up. He doesn't sound like he wants her to be likable. He says she has 'rage issues'. And that she has a lot to be 'resentful about'. And suddenly we jump the tracks. We aren't on Bedard's rehabilitation road anymore. We are on a path to someplace even darker. Now maybe Bedard jumped on board thinking it would help him tell the story he wants ... but it does sound different from what he talked about in regards to the character.

And I can't stand how Robert Venditti laughs when Soule talks about taking Kara darker into a 'strange therapy session'. It reminded me of this interview when Bobbi Chase laughed about how dark Michael Alan Nelson was making the book. From that interview in February 2013:

Harras: I think Supergirl in the New 52 is a very interesting character; she's certainly not the character as she's been portrayed before, and that's really what we want to explore. What is it like to be a sixteen-year-old girl who wakes up one day to find her planet is gone, her world is changed and she's not very happy about it and she feels very isolated?
Chase: It's a little dark! [Laughs]

As if making Supergirl a dark book is something humorous to them when most hard core Supergirl fans think it is a bad decision. That an isolated unhappy Supergirl is a joke.

Imagine if the conversation was this:

Editor 1: I think Batman is an interesting character. We are going to portray him very differently. We want to explore a new take on him so from now on, he will be a happy-go-lucky guy, joking his way through his adventures, and peacefully dealing with his villains.
Editor 2: It's a little light-hearted! [laughs]
Writer 1: It'll be a funny group hug!
Writer 2: [laughs]

First off, creators, stop laughing about making the book dark and then darker! It is condescending to fans who love the character and don't agree with that take. It is as if you are laughing at us.
Second, that fake conversation just makes no sense right? You can't expect people to easily accept a dramatically different look at a character that goes against what the fanbase wants.

And to know this all happened so suddenly, despite prior recent decisions to let Bedard do his book, reinforces the idea that DC simply doesn't know what it is doing.

CBR: Will Kara be part of the "Red Lantern" supporting cast, or will she be a character who pops in every now and then from Tony's book?
Soule: No, she's a Red Lantern. Red Lanterns are not the kind of people you want to shuffle around, they're dangerous, and you have to keep an eye on them -- and Guy Gardner feels fairly responsible for her. He's not the reason she's a Red Lantern, but at the same time, she's someone that he wants to keep an eye on, so she's there, she's part of the cast, for sure.

Sounds like she will be active in the Red Lantern book so Supergirl fans who will remain following this arc will need to add this book. But I worry that Guy 'keeping an eye on her' makes me wonder if she will be a loose cannon even on that crew, the worst lunatic in the asylum.

I really think this direction is utterly wrong.

Happy holidays ... New 52 style.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Mike Maihack Style

In what is becoming a very nice holiday tradition Mike Maihack has written another Supergirl/Batgirl Christmas comic.

This has been out for almost a week but I think it is deserving of being posted on this site on this day. It is amazing to me how Maihack is able to capture the spirit of these two characters in all of these strips whether it be Christmas themed or otherwise.

There is something over-the-top about his Supergirl. She has this infectious energy and always is willing to go that extra step to do what's right. Last year it was giving Killer Croc cookies and making him promise he wouldn't kill anyone.

Here it is decorating an entire forest of pine trees for Christmas! And I love the Christmas-themed costume, all white fur and candy cane leggings!

One of the ongoing gags is how Batgirl is trying to be all 'dark and moody' but vexed by Supergirl's optimism and joy. Two years ago, Supergirl made Batgirl a santa-style Bat-costume. This year she sleigh-ifies the Bat Cycle. Batgirl's exasperated expression in the last panel is the perfect contrast to Kara's wide smile.

I can't thank Maihack enough for making these strips and hope we keep getting them. This was a great gift for Supergirl fans!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: Vibe #10

About a year ago it was announced that Vibe was coming the the New 52 and was going to get his own book. At the time it seemed like an insane decision, another one of Geoff Johns fever visions of a world where people were clamoring for the Detroit JLA. And even if that were true, Vibe?? Wouldn't there be a bigger market for Steel? Or J'Onn?

Flash forward to last week and me lamenting the cancellation of Vibe. That's right, DC stealth canceled the book; Vibe #10 was the last issue. I have written about it before, and echo it with each month's review but it is true. Vibe was a great book and a rare bright spot of optimism in this darker DCnU. Writer Sterling Gates captured the classic 'young hero working hard to be a hero' style book that used to be so rampant in comic books. Here was a kid, inspired by his brother, with a strong set of ethics, working in a cynical world, and reminding more jaded people that goodness exists.

In a universe where almost everything is dark, where evil is relative, where Supergirl is about to be a Red Lantern, couldn't there be a little sunlight? Unfortunately, sales were never great ... maybe a reflection of preconceived notions of Vibe as a character? ... and the plug was pulled.

And with only 20 pages to finish off all plots, Gates sprints to the end. Art is by Derliz Santacruz and is fine standard fare.

Last issue ended with Vibe turned into a living Vibe-bomb by Gypsy's father. This issue starts with Vibe storming into Amanda Waller's office, burying Rupture's scythe into her desk.

This is a different sort of Vibe at first, angry and intimidating (at least trying to be intimidating).

But that internal goodness of Vibe, that sense of right and wrong, can't be overrun by his anger. While initially seeming threatening to Waller, he softens when he hears the jailbreak from A.R.G.U.S. ended with some of the ARGUS troops dead.

It shows how even in this cynical world, even when he is feeling used and enraged, there are parts of him that can't be tarnished.

With the meeting with Waller a bit calmer, Vibe is able to tell her what happened on Piradell.

I am sure that Gates had more to say about the closure of this story but things have to wrap up here.

First off Rupture ends the danger of the Vib-omb by burying his blade into the chest device that had been placed there by Breacher. I suppose this makes sense. Cisco being a bomb was to help Breacher's side of this war. Rupture works for the opposite side.

I do think that Gates does a good job of showing that Armando is slowly breaking through his brainwashing, remembering more and more of his pre-Rupture life. Here he quotes their high school football coach.

It is hard to know how long that Vibe has been on Piradell but with the book ending, we are told some surprising things about this world.

For one, Vibe has been fighting for the oppressed people on this world. It turns out that THERE ARE NO PEOPLE!! I suppose it makes it easier for Gates to let Vibe walk away from this world without feeling remorse. But you would think Vibe would know that by now. And how about the other members of his little rebel force?

Still trying to save his brother, Vibe decides to throw down with Armando, hoping to blast away Mordeth's conditioning.

While retelling his story, Vibe tells Waller that he knows that Earth is the nexus world of many dimensions, a hub to all other worlds. This is why Mordeth wanted to conquer Earth, to use it as a launch point for her interdimensional war. Mordeth just needed to Gypsy's power to break through. Amazingly, Waller already knew this. That is why she imprisoned Gypsy, to keep her from Mordeth.

I do like this explanation as it explains why so many breachers land on Earth.

Anyways, on Piradell, the brawl is a stalemate although it does seal up the open energy wound on Cisco's chest. I suppose it is another easy answer to a problem that needed to be solved.

Mordeth shows up herself and attempts to kill Vibe. Seeing his brother dying breaks through the last mental walls placed in Rupture's mind. He decides to lash out against his mistress, slashing her in two with his sickle.

Looking at her, she is also a Raptor of some sort, made up entirely of nanobots.

This battle in the war is over more quickly than I would have thought. But now the brothers are reunited.

While her humanoid body is destroyed, the Mordeth persona exists and begins to animate the entire nanobot world. The brothers fight together briefly and rescue Gypsy.

In a heroic sacrifice, Rupture ... now free thinking again ... sends Vibe and Gypsy back to Earth. Armando needs to repent for all the death he brought about as Rupture. And the best way to do that is to fight Mordeth, alone, in this dimension.

One of the things I liked about this comic has been Vibe's drive to be a hero, to live up to the inspiration of his brother's sacrifice in saving him back in the Darkseid invasion. Here we see those family ethics, why Armando is hero. It shows why Cisco would be inspired by him.

And so we get the hooks for an ongoing Vibe story for the future. Will it be played out in JLA? Will it never be mentioned again?

Regardless, it shows some of the growth in Cisco's character. He will continue to work for ARGUS, stopping the breachers who get to Earth. But he will only work with Dale Gunn. And, while he works for Waller, she will help figure out the mechanics of Rupture's scythe. When it can be used to head back to Piradell, Vibe wants to head back to rescue Armando!

Vibe's inspiration is now not to live up to Armando's name and actions. It is now to rescue Armando. And on his terms!

It shows that Cisco's naivete may be gone, but his morals aren't. He is still a young hero trying to do what's right.

Cisco thinks he has won with Waller accepting his terms.

But Waller is devious. It turns out she has Dante in her back pocket. He will spy on Cisco ... or else.

I like how Waller is never truly 'defeated'.

So who knows if this will ever be looked into. But at least is out there to be picked up if possible.

What I did very much like was the last page, a sort of nice ending for this title.

Vibe maintains his outlook on life, his desire to do what's right, and his ability to look past the cynicism of the world and be a hero.

This book ended way too soon. Because it is this sort of hero that is desperately needed in the dark DCnU.

Overall grade: B+ (for rushing to end line)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sales Review: November 2013

The sales numbers for November are out and up on ICv2 and they are fascinating. One of the things I have noticed over time has been how the market share of the big two has been slowly eroding as independents and other publishers pump out better stories and lure away great creators.

The actual ranking of the November sales are available on ICv2 here: http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/27445.html

Supergirl #25 was one of the middle chapters of Krypton Returns, the big super-crossover event and sequel to H'El on Earth.

I talked about the quality of the story during the reviews and to put it succinctly, I wasn't impressed.

And yet ...

Sales went up last month!

The book was up 8% to 25,377. And I can only assume that is due to the crossover and not something else. The only thing noteworthy in the month was the further discussion of her change to a Red Lantern. I don't think people would jump on this early.

I always like to look at another comic's sales.

Jeff Lemire recently announced that Animal Man is being canceled because he had told all the stories he had in him about Buddy and his family.

I was surprised because after slogging through the overly-long Rot storyline, the book was hitting its stride again.

That said, in looking at the sales, the book has dipped below the 20K mark. I thought it was one of the 'surprise books' of the new 52. I haven't been following this book's sales closely. Was this a slow erosion? Or was there a point it dropped off precipitously. I will admit, I almost dropped it during the Rot arc.

Surprisingly Marvel's Captain Marvel is down there too. We know this book is also 'canceled' ... more like on hiatus. It is coming back with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick back on as writer. This is a book with a strong vocal audience who have formed a CarolCorps. Looks like Marvel was listening in assuring it is coming back.

Maybe we need to form a KaraKorps.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Supergirl Bits Of News

Just a couple of news stories which tangentially touch upon Supergirl which I thought were worth briefly reviewing.

I was very happy to see that DC Entertainment bought the pages of Al Plastino's 'Superman's Mission for President Kennedy' and donated them to the JFK museum. Here is the official press release:

I talked about Plastino last month and how saddened he was to discover the pages were in the hand of a private collector. I am glad his wish of having them housed in the museum has happened.

Long time super-editor Wil Moss, who edited Supergirl during the Sterling Gates era and beyond has left DC to head to Marvel. Here is a link to Bleeding Cool:

Much of the last couple of years has been fans grousing over DC comics suffering from editorial control, not allowing creators to achieve their stories and last minute plot rewrites happening. I am sad to see Moss, who helmed some great books, moving away from DC.

Over on Twitter, Sterling Gates applauded Moss and I echo it.

I miss those times on Supergirl.

Finally, Bleeding Cool announced some of the upcoming creators on the Adventures of Superman book. Here is the link: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/12/17/ron-marz-fabian-nicieza-b-clay-moore-jock-jump-in-on-adventures-of-superman/

Now there are some names I am happy to see there. Ron Marz. Fabian Nicieza, Jock. Love those creators.

But Max Landis!

DC shouldn't let him within a sniff of their characters. Now I ranted about Landis before when reviewing his story in Action Comics Annual #1. Maybe I ranted too much on rereading. I didn't hide my thoughts about Landis at all. But the bottom line is someone who has made a name for himself by insulting Superman shouldn't be allowed to write him.

Maybe I'll skip that issue.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Supergirl #26

The Michael Alan Nelson era on Supergirl is over. The new creative team of writer Tony Bedard and artists Yildiray Cinar are on board. Bedard has gone out of his way to say that he wants to make Supergirl a likable character again, a hero. But we know that the 'Red Lantern' arc is just two months away.

It is in this tumult of change to the title that Supergirl #26 was released this week.

I have faith in Tony Bedard who seems to understand the spirit of the Supergirl. I don't know if I understand the Red Lantern idea. And unfortunately we will need to work through that storyline to see if Bedard means it when he says he wants to rehabilitate Kara.

One of the problems with Supergirl is that her character has been treated unevenly throughout the two years of the New 52. With different creative teams, Lobdell crossovers, and varying degrees of angst, it is hard to know who the 'real' Supergirl is. The last we saw her, in Krypton Returns, she was hugging Superman and apologizing for holding him at arm's length and then hearing Superman say that they needed to honor Superboy's sacrifice in the story.

In this story, Supergirl's emotional pendulum seems to have swung far away from anger. In this issue, Supergirl seems forlorn and depressed. There are lots of tears. At first, I thought that this seemed extreme. But on second reading, I think this was simply the wall of anger and angst that Supergirl has built around her finally crumbling under the weight of grief. And we also see some glimpses of maturity and growth in Kara, a welcome change from some of what we have seen recently.

As for the art, Mahmud Asrar is a hard act to follow but Cinar simply shines here. He has a nice smooth style and draws Supergirl wonderfully. His expressive work adds nicely to the words of the story as well. I am thrilled he is on the book.

The book starts in Bangkok with the new svelte Lobo trying to track down the massive muscle-bound brute who has been using his name.

There is an undercurrent of smoldering malevolence in this new Lobo. He isn't over the top, talking about fraggin' and being the main man. But when he talks to the Rhialla, the person who sent him to Earth, complaining that lead was a bust, and that he might be coming to her to let her know he is displeased, you get the sense he means it. There is certainly enough carnage around him.

I have never really been a Lobo guy so I don't know if I have much of an opinion about this new version. I will say the 'floating blue mustache and eyebrows' or whatever they are just confuse me and don't add much to the design.

In an effort to keep Lobo off her back, Rhialla sends him to Shay Veritas, someone who knows a lot about aliens on Earth and is more than merely human. Now I will have to go back and look but I think I have been saying that Veritas has been a closet villain since her first appearance when she was making moon eyes at Superman. She seemed liked the 'new' Maxima.

After 6 pages of Lobo, I was reminded that this is a Supergirl book.

Supergirl has returned to Earth from Krypton Returns and heads to The Block, Veritas' lab in the center of the Earth, hoping to confirm she has been cured of her Kryptonite poisoning.

The creepiness factor of Veritas is kicked up a couple of notches when the workers in the lab turn out to be .... her. Or some version of her housing the personae of other scientists. Veritas states they aren't clones ... but never goes further. Could they be some sort of adaptoids/androids like Dr. Bedlam uses? If so, it seems narcissistic to make them in her own image.

But look at Cinar's work! I love that simple panel showing Kara's shocked face. Just beautiful.

It turns out that Supergirl has been gone for weeks.

Realizing this might be a jump-on point for some readers, Bedard has Supergirl review the ups and mostly downs of her life so far in a very nifty 2 page spread. From crashing on Earth to meeting her 'sanctimonious' cousin, falling for H'El, dying of Kryptonite, fighting the Cyborg Superman, and then watching Krypton die again, it hasn't been a bed of roses. In fact, it has been a bed of thorns.

I did like this part of that recap. I wondered if Kara felt self-conscious when running into Power Girl, who seems to have it relatively together. I am glad Bedard voiced that.

And I don't know if I liked or agreed with the sanctimonious tag she puts on Superman. He has tried to help her and given her space. He hasn't tried to control her or even interact with her. I wish he would have continued to reach out to her!!! It also doesn't jibe with the hugs we saw in Krypton Returns.

That's right, things haven't been easy ... at all ... for Supergirl since she arrived on Earth. Some of that could be laid at her own feet. She hasn't been that open herself.

Turns out things haven't been easy since she returned to Earth either. Knowing that she needs to talk to someone ... anyone ... about her feelings, she headed to Siobhan's place first. However, it appeared that Siobhan had a new roommate. And then the pity party continues, with Kara saying her friend is better off without her.

On first read, I thought this seemed too extreme. Maybe this is just a friend visiting? Maybe Siobhan would let her crash on the couch? I am sure Siobhan would love to see Kara again and talk. Why would Supergirl assume the worst and fly away.

But on reread, I realized that this scene is supposed to show us the depths of Kara's depression. Anger can only go so far. Now the pain of her life isn't energizing her, it is dragging her down. I mean ... she hugs Veritas in the first panel!! When was the last time we saw that sort of raw emotion in this Kara.

The tears, the hanging outside and peeking in windows at people having a good time, the 'I don't belong anywhere' ... it  reminded me of this. That isn't necessarily a good thing.

It is a major change to her personality and drive. I suppose it might help explain the Red Lantern decision, that she is so worn down by life that she needs to lash out.

Despite that despair, there are glimpses of a growing Supergirl.

When Veritas is warned by Rhialla (who seems to be dealing from the top and bottom of the deck) that Lobo is on the way, Supergirl actually responds with some maturity.

Why should she immediately go out and fight Lobo. She should talk to him first. They even have something in common ... both members of a near extinct race.

How nice to see Supergirl thinking again, not just angrily reacting ... at least at first.

But her attempts at civility are shut down pretty quickly. Lobo doesn't want to talk to her. He even is somewhat smarmy, calling her honey.

I love the look of surprise on Kara's face. And the hushed 'honey?' by her is priceless.

Even if Supergirl doesn't want to fight, Lobo wants to get to Veritas. And Supergirl is in his way. And so, a brawl erupts.

Again, there is a sort of controlled mayhem in this Lobo. There isn't a lot of yelling and stomping. There seems to be more stealth and calculation. For me, that makes him more interesting than the old one.

After a little back and forth, Supergirl has finally had it and gives Lobo a wicked right hook, breaking his neck, and presumably killing him.

Of course we know this isn't going to happen. But from a Supergirl point of view I liked this for 2 reasons. For one, the emotional buildup of this issue leads to this punch. I think the purpose of this issue was to show that Kara can't ignore her feelings anymore, can't just put them behind a wall of cynicism, she has to deal with them. We see her respond in extremes this whole issue - flying away from Siobhan assuming she's been 'replaced', hugging Veritas, decking Lobo with all her might. I really feel Supergirl is on the edge. So this attack seems within the realm of someone in mental anguish.

And secondly, she immediately regrets hitting so hard, saying she didn't want to kill him.

In that way ... well in some way ... it reminded me of the beginning of Supergirl #34, Sterling Gates first issue, in which Kara has simply hit rock bottom and needs to start working her way back up to the light. That is about as high a compliment I can give this.

Of course this being the New 52, the lows here are lower than Gates' lows of a mean editorial and a soda to the face. And, this being the New 52, we know this isn't the first step towards repairing things. She has to go lower still. It is a shame because this would have been a springboard for that transformation to 'likable hero'.

So overall I thought this was a good first issue for Bedard. He shows us all the things that Supergirl has been subjected to, humanizes her by making her react in a way besides rage or snarkiness, and adds a couple of new pieces to the board.

If only ... if only ... things went up from here instead of tail-spinning into this Red Lantern nonsense.

Overall grade: B+