Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nick Spencer On His Supergirl Run

In the aftermath of the Andy Diggle and Joshua Hale Fialkov, other creators who have been editorially squashed by DC Comics have started to come out of the woodwork and fan the flames. One of them was Nick Spencer who lasted one half of one issue on Supergirl, here on  Supergirl #60.

On his blog, Spencer wrote about his proposed story arc. Here is that link:

And here are the major parts of that post and the proposed story.

The idea for the story was pretty simple: Kara learns how to be a leader. She had, to that point, been almost exclusively used as either a solo character, or in a supporting role on a team. I felt like someone wearing that ‘S’ on their chest would find people looking to them for answers when things got bad.

The story beats that really stand out, to me:
I know I wanted to have a scene where the fight gets really hectic, and Impulse runs away, with Kara really calmly and sympathetically talking to her about it, just the two of them, in the aftermath. That was supposed to be the big moment that Kara comes into her own.

The entire team (except for Kara) were gonna get captured, and Kara would go to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman for advice— and from there, putting together ANOTHER team to rescue them (I forget who all was on that one- Black Alice, Klarion, Shining Knight, Arrowette, I think).

The whole thing would climax at the launch party for the Flyover app, and the last scene was Impulse pulling Damian onto the dancefloor.

So I don't know exactly what here was so objectionable to the editors. My guesses? The villain was to be a Luthor/Brainiac hybrid which might have been being saved for Superman. Or maybe this story, creating a team, losing a team, talking to the Trinity, creating a new team, saving the day was deemed too cumbersome?

With blood in the water, every major comic site covered Spencer's news and used it to prove DC editorial overreach existed back then ... even though there was not as much news of editorial overreach back then. We didn't hear these stories then which makes me think something must have been amiss for this to have happened. Now I do fault DC for giving the reins to Spencer too early if they hadn't heard all the details of his story. Isn't that the role of editors? 

As for that issue, the one thing that struck me about it was that a lot of time was spent showcasing not only 'Alex' (the villain) but his college friends. It seemed overly long and wasted space, almost like Spencer needed to show how pithy and snappy his dialogue could be. Those kids weren't part of the big story so why do I care that one of them has a new girlfriend?

Anyways, given the feeding frenzy against DC (something I am taking part of) I am not surprised to see how many people have come out and said 'I would have read that story about Kara becoming a leader!'

Yeah?? Where were you back then??

Because the truth is, James Peaty's story, which picked up after Spencer left, did just that. So they should go back and get the back issues because there are some great moments in Peaty's story. And the art by Bernard Chang is so beautiful. I have reviewed those issues (Supergirl #60-64) on this site so folks can go to those posts if they want. But let me give you some highlights.

Here is Damien Wayne telling Jaime that he is listening to Kara because she has proven to be a true leader. She has passed his internal test of earning respect. Damien!!

And then in the battle with Dubbilex (the stand in for the Lex/Brainiac villain), Miss Martian admits that she looked up to Supergirl ... was in awe of her.

Best yet, the whole counterattack against Dubbilex has been masterfully orchestrated by Supergirl. Despite all his intelligence and planning, he is soundly beaten by Kara. He was simply 'outsmarted'.

Look at how strong Supergirl looks as she sort of rubs in her victory.

And in the end, Supergirl knows she is ready. She is the leader of her generation and ready to take a place in the majors.

So if you are saying 'I missed out on a great story' because of Nick Spencer's post, go find this arc.

Anyways, hopefully DC gets there act together and lets creators breathe a bit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Superman #18

Superman #18 came out this week and with H'El on Earth behind us, I was hopeful that things might be moving forward and in a better direction.

I was wrong.

Now maybe I have been sensitized by Scott Lobdell to be hyper-critical with his books. I think his take on Superman is simply so far removed from what I think Superman should be that his books are always going to fail for me. There are parts of this book that just feel wrong. Superman shouldn't be feared by the world. He shouldn't sneer at Congress. Clark shouldn't be confused by 'Earth feelings'. Nor do I think that he should be approached at a club by two women looking for a threesome.

And maybe all of those things make me 'old-fashioned'. Maybe I am out of touch. I don't think so. I certainly like my anti-heroes in other titles. But Superman shouldn't be a grim avenger who frightens the world. Because that isn't Superman.

The good news is that there are some things in this issue that feel right. Supporting characters Orion and Cat Grant are written well. And there is a Lois sighting ... and she is doing some reporting! Plus Lobdell also introduces us to a perfect deus ex machina to eliminate almost all the things that bug me the most about the book.

The art of the book is split between Tyler Kirkham, who has a soft pencilish feel to his work, an almost Francis Manapul type vibe from his Senate scenes. And the New Genesis scenes of the book are beautifully rendered by upcoming artist Aaron Kuder who brings a more Frank Quitely/Geof Darrow detailed work on his pages. I think Kuder is coming on the book as regular artist. The nightclub scenes are slickly done by Robson Rocha whose work shines with inker Jaime Mendoza, looking sharper here than he did on Supergirl #18.

The book starts with Orion back on New Genesis, fighting a giant dinosaur-like crature which is threatening Undertown. Unlike his time in Wonder Woman, this Orion read like the troubled son of Darkseid, doing the right thing by defending the town but then yelling at those he saved for not fighting harder.

He has been called back to New Genesis by Highfather but he misses the complexities of Earth and its people. Interesting that a god would find us fascinating.

My worries here is that Lobdell's Orion will sound nothing like Azzarello's version. One of my bigger problems with H'El on Earth was the complete inconsistent characterization of the players. I can only hope Lobdell has at least flipped through WW.

Meanwhile, Superman has been called in front of the Senate. Our government has decided that the 'Fortress of Solitude' is probably just that ... a Kryptonian Fortress, a weapons cache from which Superman can start his plans of world domination. They throw his granted American citizenship in his face and demand that international inspectors get to see and catalogue the contents.

I mean, it makes sense that after 5+ years on Earth as a hero and having not done any imperial maneuvers, that Superman would want to conquer. Yeah, I am being sarcastic.

Then, to make matters worse, Superman not only refuses the inspectors (saying it is safer for inspectors not to know), he sneers at the panel and says all they will get is his word. Because that is what I want my Superman to do ... sneer at the US government and refuse to be open. Sarcasm again.

And this isn't new behavior as Perry White says Superman isn't a good diplomat. Because that's what I want my Superman to be ... a poor communicator who rubs people the wrong way. Sarcasm trifecta.

Everything about this felt wrong. And don't tell me because it is 'realistic'. You know what isn't realistic? A guy who can bench press islands with laser vision. I don't need pure realism here.

Lastly, how about ... given how much we see people who are afraid of Superman ... we see the other side. How about we see some Senators, citizens, international figures who come to the defense of Superman.

At the very least, we get to see that Lois has left her television producer's desk to return to her investigative reporting roots. While she still is working for Morgan Edge, she can still work for the Planet.

It is all too brief. But at least we see a Lois searching for Truth and not snarking about ratings and texting her boyfriend.

The bottom line is this Senate scene is nothing I want to see in my Superman. My Superman is 'here to help' and is considered the pinnacle of selfless heroism.

Back in Metropolis, Clark decides to meet Cat Grant at a trendy club to discuss their future together.

Read those captions and you will understand why I think Lobdell simply doesn't get Superman. "The longer he's lived on Earth, the more he's come to understand their desperate need to connect to one another."

Ummm ... he has lived on Earth all his life. This is his world, his country. He has nothing to compare it to.

And the fact the he says 'their need' speaks volumes. Not his need, or our needs, but their needs. Because he is different and considers humans different.

Now I know he is different. But part of the joy of Superman is that he was raised here, has the upbringing of the Kents to form who he has become, considers himself one of us, and embraces Earth as his home. Not looking at himself as different and above the petty clutching of those of us who aren't invulnerable. It is wrong.

And now Clark is being propositioned for a menage a trois. Because I want that in my Superman books too! Sarcasm quadrophenia.

Cat shows up in a little black dress and tries to talk to Clark about what they should do since leaving the Planet.

I suppose I don't know enough about their relationship but it struck me as odd that Clark immediately thought she was hoping to get romantic with him. Makes him seem a bit smug.

I don't want a snivelling, meek, 'running to the bathroom from stomach pains' Clark. But sure don't want a cocky one either. Where is the small town humility?

And after his passionate speech about truth in the Daily Planet, after the only person who stood with him was Cat, he belittles her plan to actualize it. When she shows Clark her idea of a news/entertainment blog call (and I thought Comic Box Commentary was a tongue twister) he says she shouldn't have wasted her time on a joke.

That just isn't being a good friend. And it is thinking the worst of people's intentions. All this after she supported him so much.

This is another one of those moments that shows how Lobdell just doesn't get Superman.

While on the rooftop restaurant, customers begin to jump off en masse forcing Superman to fly down and save them one by one. When he puts them back on the roof they simply jump off again.

Using his powers, he realizes that the music the DJ is playing is somehow tapping into the minds of these people. Stop the music, stop the roof diving.

So instead of hitting the off switch or unplugging it, Superman decides to immolate the music system. That is what our smart hero decided was the right move ... to light a fire on a skyscraper roof and destroy equipment. Now I know that unplugging something isn't dramatic ... but this seemed foolish. And the poor DJ. Hope he can afford a new rig.

And it seems like Lobdell has just decided to pile on.

The people that Superman saved from splattering themselves on the pavement think he pushed them They talk about how no one can stop him and about his 'ice dungeon'. Yeesh.

And, as if it wasn't bad enough that Clark snubbed Cat, Superman does as well.

Ahhh ... but then a ray of light parts the dark clouds.

Hector Hammond seems to have active brain waves when all this is happening. Maybe he is responsible for all this negativity. Maybe he didn't just make those people jump. Maybe he made them fear Superman too. Maybe he is making the Senate so wary. Maybe he is nudging Superman into be a jerk.

Hammond could be a reset switch, a deus ex machina to set things right.

Okay, I can hope.

And in another epilogue just as intriguing, a new Highfather shows Orion an image of Earth exploding, the result of a threat on Earth. The threat? Superman.

One thing I will say about Lobdell ... he aims big. Another planetary threat and now a New God gunning for Superman. There is potential there for a big story.

Still, the problem with this issue is that Superman, again, comes off as aloof and kind of angry. Clark comes off as a bit of a narcissist and kind of a jerk. And for me that will never read right.

On the other hand, Orion, Cat, Highfather, and Lois all read on the money. I am afraid this simply might be that Lobdell and I have very different views on Superman. As a result, I fear that his stories might never jibe with me.

Or he could play the 'Hammond card' and reboot!

Overall grade: C+

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Action Comics #18 Back Up

With the end of Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, so ends Sholly Fisch's back-up features. As I have said before, Fisch's back-up features have been the perfect 'after dinner mints' to Morrison's entree. Seamlessly bolstering the main story, Fisch has a knack for choosing a moment in the story and showing how it has incredible impact on not only Superman's life but his supporting cast as well.

Action Comics #18 ended the Morrison arc and included Superman unifying the world to help him defeat Vyndktvx. Superman is a true hero, inspiring and pure.

So how could Fisch follow that up?

With a perfect look at how Superman can inspire!

As with prior stories, Chris Sprouse's art is perfect here.

In the 23rd century, at a Museum of our Terran Heritage, a young alien boy sees a fellow child being bullied. A group of bigger boys has pushed a smaller boy to the ground and is standing over him laughing.

Afraid to stand up to the bullies, the young alien runs into the Superman wing of the museum.

While walking through, he hears snippets about Superman and sees images of him helping people. Look in the background and you can see the poster of Donner's Superman movie.

 And some of the lines are classic. 'Try again doc' from Action Comics #1 when a physician is trying to give Clark a vaccine. 'You've got me, who's got you?', the famous Lois line from Superman the Movie. 'It tickles' said too many times as Superman shrugs off lightning, bullets, bombs.

And this young boy sees Superman stop the locomotive and re-acquire his cape, a scene from this title's Action Comics #0.

It is inspiring.

In fact all the kids in that wing are inspired.

They return and stand up ... en masse ... to the bully. Even when facing that fist, he doesn't stand down. He is fighting his own never-ending battle here.

And like most bullies, when confronted, they leave.

As if the Superman/Krypto page ending Morrison's story wasn't perfect enough, the last image of this run on Action is a Superman statue winking.

There is no dialogue in this story, only these blurbs on the museum tape. But none is needed. Fisch and Sprouse tell us everything we need to know with just the pictures on the page.

Again, this was the perfect after dinner liquer, a sweet treat while digesting the main story. Even in the future, the idea of Superman can inspire.

Heck, aren't we looking for a creative team for Action Comics to come in after the Diggle/Daniels 3 issues?

Why not Fisch and Sprouse??

Overall grade: A+

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Full Supergirl #19 Cover

At long last, the full gatefold cover of Supergirl #19 has been revealed over on MTV Geek. Here is the link:

And the new solicit is brief:

Supergirl #19
In a battle of equals, which girl will reign supreme?

It is a nice piece of art. Supergirl squaring off against Power Girl, Lex, and the unnamed brute working for Lex (I still think it is General Eiling). Asrar shines.

But the content??

Haven't we seen Supergirl fighting Power Girl a billion times already. It, unfortunately, harkens back to the earliest issues of the Loeb/Churchill book and the tenor of the series then. Remember that isolated angry Supergirl? I guess we are going to see it again. Sigh. It is funny but I complimented to cover of Supergirl #20 because it didn't show Power Girl fighting Supergirl.

My only hope is that somehow this is happening inside Kara's mind. I mean Lex looks like he is flying. Rocks are floating like a Dragon Ball Z episode.

But Power Girl vs. Supergirl?? Again?

Hopefully this is brief. Hopefully Nelson means it when he says Supergirl wants to be happy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #18

Legion of Super-Heroes #18 came out this week and continued the breakneck pace of the Fatal Five storyline which started in earnest last month. Like the best of Legion books, writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen are able to juggle a large roster of characters throughout the book, giving each sub-group of Legionnaires time to shine in their corner of the story. And by shifting the focus of the plot quickly among those groups, it really gives the book some kinetic energy. As a reader, I can't get too comfortable when the scene keeps shifting and so I also got caught up in the action as well.

This main plot reads like a reverse 'Magic Wars' story. Instead of magic destroying technology and causing chaos throughout the universe, it is 'old tech', used by Tharok, to destroy any 'quark based' technology. With all machines on planets not working, the worlds rather rapidly descend into anarchy. Everyone is caught off guard here.

And, like any big arc, there are deaths and major changes in characters. This really feels like a different Legion book than the last few stories.

The one complaint about this issue is the art. Last issue's art was done by Giffen and included many 6 panel pages stuffed with appropriately muddy art. This issue, the art is split between Tom Derenick and Scott Kolins. It just doesn't seem to work as well as Giffen's did last issue. I am intrigued to see how Francis Portela fares with this arc moving forward. I think Portela shines in drawing the sleek beautiful 31st century world. How will he handle this universe filled with detritus and catastrophes?

On Earth, civilization seems to be crumbling. The lack of technology seems to have lead to explosion, fires, rioting, and the gathering of mobs. That didn't seem to take too long.

Interestingly, at least some citizens are blaming the Legion saying only they had the power to bring about this apocalypse. Now why the Legion would do this, who knows. Mobs are unruly. At the very least, the mob should see that the Legion are suffering too.

I did like the combo of Harmonia Li and Dragonwind to calm the crowd down. Li wants to use words. Dragonwind wants to use fire. Nice dichotomy.

It is interesting that Harmonia was elected the deputy leader. And I like that she lashes out with tornadoes when Brainiac 5's sanity is called into question by the mob. I do think it is fascinating that she is romantically interested in him.

As I said above, it is 'quark' based technology that Tharok seems to be able to shut down. Older technology seems to be able to work but is harder to find because it has been replaced.

A team from Earth including Rokk, Mon-El, Lightning Lass, Vi, and Shady are trying to get a cruiser functional to help out off-world.

As a long time Legion fan, I love the Weber's World comment. Sort of the seat of power of the UP and a man-made machine world, it is probably in big trouble if not destroyed. So seems like the right place to start.

The stress from this anti-tech attack seems to be hitting the Legionnaires as well. Rokk asks Ayla if she will use her lightning to power up the ship. Seems reasonable to ask and certainly something I have seen her and Garth do in the past.

Vi seems to take offense to the proposal, at least until Ayla says it's okay. Of course, way back in the Legion Annual #1 from the last series, it was hinted that Vi might be possessed by the Emerald Eye. We haven't seen the Empress yet in this arc. Could Vi be an embedded Fatal Five villain? Maybe, even unwittingly, she is trying to stymie Rokk's efforts?

The Rimbor team of Ultra Boy, Cham, and Glorith figures out a way to get off the planet which is in complete disarray. Glorith can use her magic to open up a portal back to the Wizards' World and Mysa, the Black Witch.

Of all places, the Wizards World might be the least effected by Tharok's ploy. It might be the perfect place to make a last stand. 

One thing I like about the Legion is the sense of internal history and the breadth of its characters. In this issue we hear Shady talk about the barbarism of her home world. We hear Cham talk about the devastation of the 6 minute war. These heroes have such diverse histories; interesting to hear it still impact them during times of crisis.

Meanwhile, on the Promethean Giant world, the team of Phantom Girl, Polar Boy, and Invisible Kid continue to mourn Sun Boy's passing but also keep trying to figure a way off the surface so they can help out.

Even here some of that Legion history comes out. Phantom Girl wonders if she will be thrown out of the leadership spot because of this massive attack.

I love how Polar Boy supports her while sheepishly rubbing his own head. His tenure as leader wasn't that easy most remembered for him trying Brainy for violating Legion code and an internal conspiracy within the group to kill the Time Trapper. He was blamed for all the stuff that happened while he was leader. He would know about crushing self-doubt.

And on Earth, some other Legionnaires are also trying to but together a working cruiser. When the protesters break in, the Legionnaires (Brainy, Element Lad, Chemical Kid, Dream Girl, and Star Boy) actually need to make a break for it. They jump into their barely functioning cruiser.

In dramatic fashion, Star Boy is crushed at the doorway, right in front of Dream Girl.

I have been saying for some time that Star Boy wasn't long for this world. His yearning to retire. His walks through the garden of statues of fallen Legionnaires. It was written on the wall.

It also might set up the Dreamy/Brainy romance I have been saying is coming since they were kidnapped together.

Now that is a lot of stuff going on in this issue. But it ends with an unexpected cliffhanger. The Promethean Giant has awakened, is trying to literally scratch the Legionnaires off him, and ... somehow ... is being controlled by Tharok. He really does seem to be a sort of Cyborg Superman now. And I suppose I should just roll with this massive increase in his power level? Or should I hope for more of an explanation?

So, another good issue with a lot of action. The one thing that I liked about this was the Legionnaires ability to continue to keep their eye on the big picture. With death of friends and devastation all around us, they continue to be goal-oriented, to try to get into the action and stop the Fatal Five. Their will be time for mourning. But later.

So another turbo-fueled issue of Legion. And about these monthly Legionnaire deaths, to quote Fleming "Once is happenstance, Twice is coincidence, Three times is enemy action." I fear there will be many more.

It is a shame that Giffen is leaving so soon after revving up the title. That said, I will be thrilled when Francis Portela is back on art.

Overall grade: B+

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Action Comics #18

Action Comics #18 came out last week and was a phenomenal pitch-perfect ending to Grant Morrison's run on the title. In fact, it was so good that it took me this long to put my thoughts together to discuss my review. It took this long to look through the book and decide which panels should be included in the review. It took me this long to try to temper myself so I didn't simply gush.

After the earliest issues of this title, I started to get a sense that this story wasn't so much a story about an evil 5th dimensional imp as it was a commentary on Superman himself in this grungy world of current comics. More and more metatextual snippets were being put into the book including but not limited to the inclusion of creator rights, Silver Age visuals, Golden Age sensibilities, a sense of the timelessness of Superman, and the vile Super-Doomsday - a warped Superman which would fit in perfectly in the New 52 DC world. How can Superman perform the impossible and remain a symbol of good, inspiring humanity while being one of us? How can he survive a comic world where the dollar seems to be mightier than a pure hero?

With that sort of timeless feeling of Superman, Rags Morales and Brad Walker make the perfect art combination bring a sort of 'steady' feel to the book, a more understated look at Superman in this age of crazy panels and wonky stylizations.

If you like Morrison, if you can deal with some of his zaniness and go along for the ride, if you can believe a man can fly and call upon the spirit of humanity to defeat the devil you should not miss this book.

As I said since he was first seen in Action Comics #9, Super-Doomsday has to represent Morrison's thoughts about the current comics market. Here is a 'corporate approved' anti-hero filled with hate and angst. He has killed other incarnations of Superman. He is an unstoppable force of power and symbolism cloaked in his omega signs, swastikia/dollar sign S-shield, and copyrights. Heck, in this current market where books have Superman punching a pregnant Lois to death aren't we an angstrom away from seeing this.

And yet, despite the K-chains, the Anti-Superman squad, the crushing mental attacks of Vyndktvx, Morrison's Superman continues to fight the never-ending battle. Incredible.

I also loved the small flourishes here, the backwards credits hinting at the ultimate solution.

As I said before, Morrison infuses this issue with as many visuals from early Superman stories as he can, a way to remind us of his great history. Vyndktvx's attack happens at all times at once. So why not the Silver Age and the Golden Age.

So when the Red-K woman member of the Anti-Superman Squad gives Superman a kiss, he suffers from vicious hallucinations. They include a lion-headed Superman and an ant-headed Superman, classic images of the wild Red Kryptonite stories of the Weisinger era.

But then Morrison turns it on his head a bit. The ant-head, the sign of a drone worker, a pawn to make money on. Can Superman defeat commercialism, a desire to make him easier to sell?

I still think the Red-K woman is Maxima ... but she is never named.

And even Ferlin Nyxly, Mxyzptlk's son, shows up. With Mxy recovering in the hospital, Ferlin ... a music therapist ... shows up to badger his father for ruining his life. Saturn Girl tunes into his mind and makes a weird discovery.

Perhaps in the biggest twist of all, Nyxly is called a 'limb of Vyndktvx', somehow the son of Mxy and a 'damaged edge' of the 'little man'. Could Mxy be the villain in this piece all along? Maybe a part of Mxyzptlk?

As for Ferlin, he is another part of this universal look by Morrison at the history of Superman. I review Ferlin's first appearance here. It is just another delicious nugget in the book.

And even more of the breadth of the DCU and Superman's influence arrives. In this battle for the soul of the world, he needs as many allies as possible. Captain Comet shows up with a spruced up version of the Wanderers, a small army to battle the Anti-Superman Squad.

The Wanderers!!!

Super-Doomsday ends up being some sort of puppet of Vyndktvx as he starts saying the lines that the imp is saying. One of the plot points from last issue was that Vyndktvx asked everyone on Earth to turn their back on Superman, to deny him help.

With the Earth collapsing and people dying, Vyndktvx/Doomsday links Superman with the mind of humanity hoping their fear will further demoralize the Man of Steel. Instead it is the key to Vyndktvx's defeat.

But how great is this line by Superman?  He is the opposite reaction to an unstoppable evil. He doesn't give up. He can do the impossible.

And with everyone linked, he asks the world to do the impossible. Everyone needs to say there name backwards to send Vyndktvx back to the fifth dimension. And, no surprise, everyone does it.

Look at some of those names there. Morrison is there. As are a number of the people who have worked on the book. Talk about smashing the fourth wall from this direction into the book rather than the other way around.

And Superman says his name backwards ... both Clark Kent and Kal-El. And that is key to me. Because I believe Superman is more Clark Kent than Kal-El. I want him to say his name is Clark Kent. I want Clark and his upbringing and the Kents to be a crucial part of his story. This was another great panel and great solution for me.

But it isn't just that world magic that does it. Remember Ferlin Nyxly is a limb of Vyndktvx. So he says his name backwards and it is Xvtkdnyv!

Still how can he be that?

Well, we see a glimpse into that world. Vyndktvx is hauled off to 5th dimension jail but vows he was et up by Mxyzptlk. And indeed, it looks like this was the biggest trick of them all because Mxy rises to king. The Jester as King. Incredible.

I do wonder if Vyndktvx is some sort of corner of Mxy himself, the evil parts of him expunged so he can become the harmless jokester he is while ascending to the throne.

But the circles inside circles inside wormholes continue to rock this story. This tale of Vyndktvx ultimate fate, of Mxy's painful time on the throne, and Mxy's love for his daughter turns out to be a fairy tale Jor-El tells Kal-El. The secret to defeating the 5th dimension incursion told to Superman as a baby!

Alas, we see the first rumble of Krypton's destruction play out in front of us. Just wonderful.

Meanwhile on Earth, Superman must continue to do the impossible, including hoisting the self-destructing Super-Doomsday off Earth, saving the day again.

Recovering from the blast, Superman has one more vision. With the all-knowing sun above him, he again sees Mrs. Nyxly. She has one more wish left, but since she escaped death in the red of his shield, it must include red. Anything Superman wants.

Hmm ... he could have wished on the red sun of Krypton, wishing the planet never died.

He could wish on the blood of his father, saving Jonathan's life.

But instead, Superman accepts his life as it has unfolded. He is happy with who he is. And so he wishes for the base on the red planet Mars to survive. Selfless. Perfect.

Now why Red/Blue Superman other than to include some more pastiche from his history, I don't know. But I loved it.

If there is one thing that I haven't liked about this whole Action arc by Morrison, it has been the very limited role Lois has played.

But she is savvy here. She heard Superman say 'Kralc Tnek'. And she doesn't seem too surprised by it. Maybe she has suspected all along. With Superman 'missing' since taking Doomsday off-world, Lois calls Clark. If he doesn't answer, maybe he is Superman after all.

This being comics, he makes his way back to Earth just in time.

And after surviving this battle for his life, his soul, his home, he relaxes with his dog accepting a loving lick and smiling.

Is there a better ending for this story? A smiling Superman and his dog sharing a quiet moment of joy?

This hasn't exactly been a story to set up the New 52 Superman for the future. It hasn't been the equivalent of Byrne's Man of Steel. It has been a typically magical, quirky, and psychedelic ride of Superman's history, the durability of the pure hero and the concept of Superman, and the defeat of a villain threatening the universe throughout time. I seriously don't know if this would appeal to someone trying to read Superman for the first time.

But guess what ... I really don't care right now.

Right now I am going to be selfish and devour a Superman who inspires humanity, unifies the world, does the impossible, and defeats evil.  I will enjoy all the nods to the past, smiling whimsically with each one. And I will cherish this story.

Because I don't know how many more Superman stories like this I will get.

Overall grade: A+

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Scott Lobdell On CBR

This post seems a bit ridiculous in the aftermath of Andy Diggle's announcement and my rant about it. But here it is.

About a week ago, Scott Lobdell did a sort of wrap-up interview on CBR, discussing the end of H'El on Earth and the future of the Superman title. Here is that link:  It is well worth reading in its entirety as Lobdell touches on a lot of things.

I think I have bashed H'El on Earth enough here and I am eager to put it in my rear view mirror. In particular, and no big surprise, I am eager for Supergirl to move away from the way she was portrayed there. Maybe this is the darkness before the dawn. Maybe Supergirl will be a more heroic, friendlier, character moving forward. And surprisingly, Lobdell actually hints at that a bit here. Here are some blurbs I thought were worth commenting on.

CBR News: Scott, "H'el On Earth" just wrapped up, and "Superman" #17 teased some dark days coming for Superman, with Supergirl in dire straits from Kryptonite poisoning. How will Supergirl's self-sacrifice impact Kal in upcoming issues?

Scott Lobdell: I think the whole ordeal is going to bring them closer together -- remember, up until this moment they really hadn't shared many experiences. (Even being orphans from Krypton manifested itself in two entirely different ways: Kara having lost her friends and family and the only world she ever knew, and Kal never having known friends and family or that world first hand.) So while things that happened with H'el were certainly traumatic, it may all wind up being for the better if Kara and Kal can wring a relationship out of it.
Regarding the Kryptonite poisoning and its effects on Kara, I understand that will be dealt with over in her book. The only thing I wanted to stress in the hand-off was that New 52 Kryptonite should be horrific, and its effects should be lingering for Kara who actually held it in her hand for a few moments, to her heart. Gone at the days when Lex would open a box and Superman would fall to one knee and then Lex would pop it closed and Superman would exclaim, "Phew!" Kryptonite should be scary every time it shows up!

At first it sounded like DC wanted to keep these two as separate as possible. In fact it seemed they wanted them to be angrily estranged from each other.

Now we hear that the trauma of H'El, that her nearly dying will somehow bring them together. That makes sense emotionally. Sometimes it is dramatic events in life that bring people back together. Maybe after this near-galactic death episode and Supergirl dying from K-poisoning will make the cousins realize that family needs to stick together.

Hmmm ... Kryptonite poisoning being drained from Supergirl and she then has a better personality ... I have read that somewhere before. I am amazed at how in interested in seeing this new Kryptonite It sounds like a big deal in the DCnU.

CBR: One of the images Kenneth Rocafort drew is pretty reminiscent of the iconic cover from "Crisis on Infinite Earths" #7. Was this a direct parallel you hoped to draw with this issue?

SL:No, I am afraid you are fishing, my friend. I suppose Kenneth could have drawn the page with Superman tossing Supergirl over his shoulder fireman carry style-- but, the howls? I could hear them already! No -- he was just cradling his wounded cousin in his arms.

I totally commented on that here!

I will begrudgingly agree with him on one point. If Supergirl was slung over Superman's shoulder like a bag of flour I would be typing some fiery adjectives right now.

I guess there is simply no avoiding the memory of Crisis #7.

CBR: In the coming months, it looks like you're digging into a number of aspects of Superman, including a look at Clark Kent's life as a reporter away from The Daily Planet. After the action-packed "H'el On Earth," has it been easy to transition to the more mundane aspects of Superman's life?

SL:Interesting you would phrase it that way -- to a Superman (and I have to guess here, as I am not one), saving the world and the entire solar system might actually be the "mundane aspect" of his life.
But, no, I love Clark and I love Cat and Lois and Perry and Jimmy and even Morgan Edge (a little) -- I think the longer a Superman story goes without dealing with Clark and his real life adventures, the less interesting the story is most likely going to be. I know what is planned for Clark in the coming months, and I'm never surprised when I get a note from editorial telling me I'm spending too much time with Clark and not enough time on Superman. 

There isn't much more about Supergirl in the article but those were enough. Could there be some thin ray of light shining through the black clouds of H'El on Earth?

There is a comment on Clark Kent, or the lack of Clark Kent in the book. I have bashed the early presentation of Clark here as well. Reading Lois' texts, acting like a jerk, etc.

I think there has been far too little of Clark and Lois in the New 52 to begin with. I am of two minds of seeing more Clark. I want more Clark. But I want it to be a good presentation of him. Like many things, Lobdell sounds excited about Clark and all the supporting cast. But I need to see Lobdell do these characters justice. I guess I need to hope here as well.

Anyways, a Supergirl/Superman familial relationship might be around the corner. That makes me happy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Supergirl #18

Supergirl #18 came out this week, the first issue post-H'El on Earth and the penultimate issue before new writer Michael Alan Nelson comes on board. I was, of course, eager to read this issue to see just what the post-H'El landscape for Kara would look like. Would she be vilified for her early alliance with H'El? Would she finally realize that Krypton isn't coming back? Would she be sad? Or angry?

Like Superboy #18, some of the bigger plot points from H'El, some fallout from the arc, are ignored in this issue, hopefully just being put on the back burner. The biggest plot point, the K-poisoning that Kara is suffering, takes center stage. That plot point does seem to plug Supergirl more firmly into the Superman mythos and I applaud that move.

This issue isn't without its quirks. And that starts with the original solicits and the expected creative team.

You might remember that the first cover solicit was Supergirl crushing the world, the thematic opposite of the nurturing cover of All-Star Superman #10. I talked about the original cover here. That sentiment, an angry Kara squashing Earth, is nowhere to be seen in the issue so I am glad it got scuttled. Frankly, I don't want that image to be how Supergirl is written, drawn, or marketed.

And, despite being on the cover, Mike Johnson did not write this issue and Mahmud Asrar did not draw it. The writer is Frank Hannah. Apparently this is his first comic ever, at least according to There are some highs and some lows here but overall a strong first issue.

The artist is Robson Rocha whose work I know best from his work on Demon Knights. His work is fine-lined and very different from Asrar's. It works fine here.

As I said above, one thing that I like about this issue is that it starts to establish Supergirl as a part of the Superman Family. Before I get killed, I don't want Supergirl to be under Superman's control, subservient to Superman, or have her act as 'Superman in a skirt'. But there is no denying she is his cousin and she should run in the same circles that he does.

That immersion into Superman's world starts with her catching the attention of Lex Luthor. Inside this tesseract device, embedded in his eyelid, the imprisoned Luthor keeps tabs on the world with his underlings. It is a nifty idea, explaining how Luthor seems to know everything that is going on outside his four walls.

His 'generals' are an odd mix. 'Alphine' is this Ursula-like octopus robot-woman. Appex is the blue energy construct; he might be the Blue-K member of Vyndktyvx's Anti-Superman Squad. And the last looks like the General Eiling/Shaggy Man amalgam.

As for Supergirl, Luthor is intrigued by her Kryptonite-devastated condition and so he wants to keep a close eye on her, follow her treatment, etc. It seems just a bit off. Luthor pocketed Kryptonite "5 years ago" in Action, created different colored Kryptonite waves, and created the Kryptonite Man. So he should know about how it works ... unless this is the 'worst case' of K-Poisoning he has seen.

Kara, in the meantime, is trying to burn the Kryptonite poisoning away. Standing on a satellite designed to focus yellow sun energy, she is bathed in energy.

And clearly she feels physically fine.

The captions here are a bit heavy but get the point across that she isn't only suffering physical from K-poisoning. She has been suffering mentally from all the loss in her life.

This treatment has been arranged by Dr. Veritas who I guess has taken the role of Emil Hamilton or Jenette Klyburn in the New 52. Despite Kara feeling wonderful, Veritas knows that this isn't a complete cure. Kara needs more testing. Kara objects and actually storms off, taking out a few robot drones in the process.

What I love about this scene is Kara's words in that first panel. She almost says she wants to go home before catching herself and saying she wants to head to Earth. It is the first time that we have almost heard her call Earth her new home. Sure, she hung out with Siobhan. But this means that reality is really starting to set in ... even if she backtracked. Nice.

What I didn't love about this scene? The complete absence of Superman, even by name. Couldn't there have been a line from Veritas saying 'Your cousin has been asking for you?' Or couldn't Supergirl have said 'Tell my cousin I will be in touch.' Or couldn't Superman have been there? The last image of the two in H'El was him cradling her in his arms. I just think this was a missed opportunity to again show their relationship was improving.

If that 'almost home' moment was my favorite moment of the book, this was my least favorite.

Karen Starr is watching news footage of Supergirl fighting H'El (of course which labels Supergirl as brash and unstable). And she wonders why she feels a connection with Supergirl.

She wonders why she feels a connection with Supergirl??

She WAS Supergirl on Earth-2. Of course she should be familiar with herself. This read really off.

But this also makes it sound like this is the first time that she has even seen Supergirl. We know this isn't true.

We know she has a grasp of this Kara. She doesn't want to meet her (as seen in Worlds' Finest #6). And that small caption box implies it is something that she has thought about and has avoided.

So that curiosity about Supergirl by Power Girl just read wrong for me.

Kara ends up heading back to Earth and realizes that the K-poisoning hasn't been burned away from her body by the concentrated sun rays. While she feels incredibly powerful, she also has a bout of dizziness and lightheadedness as well as weakness.

In another classic comic book coincidence (like Plasmus robbing the same bank that Superboy is in), Supergirl decides to fly through magma flows underground. And, in her weakened state, she is surprised by the lava woman from Superboy #3. Why she chose to fly through lava and just happened upon this woman is a question for the comic book gods.

In Superboy, this unnamed woman cursed all Kryptonians and so it is no surprise she attacks Supergirl.

And, weakened by the Kryptonite poisoning, Supergirl is defeated by this lava woman. But when troops show up to retrieve Kara, the Magmaid decides that escape is the better part of valor. Remember, she was a prisoner in a N.O.W.H.E.R.E. facility. She knows what might be in store for Kara and she wants no part of it.

This skirmish has been being watched by Luthor as well. Could Alphine be the 21st century Nasty Luthor?

And Karen Starr seems to be connected to Kara's condition. Once before, and now here at the end, when a surge of K-poisoning symptoms weakens Kara, Karen is effected as well. Hopefully we will have more of an explanation on this. I don't want them linked like the Corsican Brothers. I don't want them to 'short circuit' in each others' presence like they did early in the last series. So hopefully we hear just why this is happening here and why it hasn't been happening over the last months that both have been active on the planet.

So, overall, I think this was a decent issue. Yes, Supergirl stormed out of Veritas' care. But she also almost called Earth home. The fight scene is standard fare although it was nice to see Supergirl continue to fight despite being nearly incapacitated by the Kryptonite poisoning. The inclusion of Luthor and his generals into the story is a welcome addition.

The only moderate complaint was Karen's comments. Maybe I am reading it wrong?

Since we know that Michael Alan Nelson's first issue features Power Girl in her Supergirl outfit and Kara 'dying', it looks like this story will simply meld into Nelson's run. In some ways it keeps the title feeling seamless as we move forward. On the other hand, I would have loved a sort of epilogue issue by Mike Johnson, wrapping up his thoughts on the character.

Overall grade: B