Thursday, December 31, 2020

Supergirl Best Of 2020 Part 1 - Honorable Mentions And Best Moments #10-#6

2020 has been the best of times and the worst of times.

Actually, it has mostly been the worst of times.

Unfortunately, for Supergirl, it has mostly been the worst of times. We started the year with her infected by the Batman Who Laughs and fighting Wonder Woman. We end the year with no Supergirl book on the shelves. In fact, the last two issues of her book were given the shameful demise of digital only release. And as the book ends, we have a Supergirl still wanted by the military, reeling from her possession and infection, and trying to find her place in the world.

These dark takes always end the same.

Supergirl is restored to the optimistic, bright, 'compassion for all' character and claims Earth as her home. In the 12 years I have been running this sight, I think I have seen her claim Earth as home 7 times. It's a little ridiculous.

But this is 2020. So we don't even get that!

Here Supergirl says maybe someday Earth will feel like home.

All right, enough lamenting. I come to praise 2020, not bury it. Thankfully, Brian Michael Bendis has always had a good sense of who Kara should be. His name is all over this list, predominantly from the last several months and the House of El. Hooray for that! But it also means there were slim picking from her own book.

Let's jump into the good stuff!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Review: Batman/Superman #15

Batman/Superman has been an interesting title to follow over this last year.

The title spun out of the Hell Arisen mini-series, drowning in the Batman Who Laughs, and initially didn't grab me. It all seemed like a side story to a crossover I wasn't collecting.

But when the first arc ended, Joshua Williamson devoted the series to smaller stories that really focused on Batman and Superman's friendship. Since that pivot, I have found the series very entertaining. Add to that a nice mix of excellent artists and this title has really become a consistent winner.

Batman/Superman #15 is another winner, a done-in-one story that again shows how these two heroes lean on each other's friendship and heroism. There is one big plot point that makes little sense but Williamson hangs a lantern on it and that made it way more palatable. 

The story has a bit of a Justice League Dark feel to it. Andrei Bressan's art has a thick lined eeriness that works well for the plot. I don't think I have seen his art before.

On to the story.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1028

 Action Comics #1028 came out last week, a much needed Christmas gift for me. 

This issue marks the end of the Brian Michael Bendis run on the Superman books. And while I haven't loved everything, it has been a very successful and entertaining run for me. I am sad to see it come to an end. 

Bendis knew when this was the end of his tenure and so we get a wonderful walk through Superman's life. It is the sort of warm, loving goodbye I think this run needed. It is what I needed. 

Throughout this run, Bendis has done three things consistently.

Bendis has shown Superman to be the inspiration we need him to be. Superman has always done what was right. He has always wanted to help people. And even when attacked, even when he wanted to lash out, he has always taken the high road. This was Superman.

Bendis has always treated Supergirl right. While others have shown her to be angry, angsty, or evil, Bendis has always shown Kara to be smart, caring, and bright. She has been fierce in her fights against injustice and has often been the one to save the day. And she has been shown to be almost a role model for the Young Justice gang.

And Bendis has, especially in Action, made the Daily Planet and the Superman supporting cast important. We have seen scenes in the Planet Pit almost every month here. Jimmy, Lois, Perry, Steve Lombard, and Trish Q have been key members of the book. Melody Moore was a new and important addition. We had a complete book.

So nothing but praise here.

One thing I like is when creative teams know when their time is ending so they can have time for an epilogue. So settle in as Brian Michael Bendis leads us on a stroll through the Superman world one last time.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas Maihack Style

Every year, Mike Maihack gives us a Christmas mini-comic of Supergirl and Batgirl.

This year's comic came out on the 23rd.

Look, 2020 has been a crazy year. And in particular, it has been rough for me. Truly the best of times and the worst of times. Thankfully, I have friends and family and love to see me through. 

Maihack captures that quality so well. 

Batgirl comes in from a patrol night just exasperated from the year.

But as she complains, Supergirl zips in and out giving Babs the simple comforts she needs. We all have needed the simple things and the support of others to get through the day.

And what better way to do that than by getting cozy in front of a fire and watching a Christmas classic.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! 

Hang in there! Stay Safe and stay sane!

And thanks again Mike Maihack!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #382

Hello everyone and welcome to the holiday season here at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary.

Today I thought I would review Adventure Comics #382. This was the second issue in the Supergirl run as head character in this book. 

As for the 'why' I am reviewing this issue, I consider it a gift. 

Recently on the Into The Weird podcast ( they did a Bizarro world episode, covering Bronze age DC weirdness as opposed to Marvel books. And one of the stories they covered was a Superboy story. When they discussed that book they wondered if other stories like it are out there and this one counts.

So as a nice holiday gift, I thought I would cover this here. Merry Christmas gents!

I won't mention it here, why spoil the surprise. You'll need to read on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Who's Who: Manhunter

I continue my deep dive into the history of Mark Shaw, Leviathan with a quick peek at Who's Who Update 1987.

This opens up the next chapter in Mark Shaw's life as he reclaims the moniker of Manhunter and tries to turn it into something noble.

I love the late 80's for DC. The aftershocks of Crisis had finally been stabilized. Legends had happened. And suddenly there was this fertile creative soil out of which tremendous and long lasting ideas and characters sprung forth.

Manhunter is one of them. 

I will remind people that Kirby's Manhunter issue happened in 1975. Englehart's ideas around it, tying a Manhunter cult into the Lantern Corps happened in 1977. 

10 years later, John Ostrander pulls Mark Shaw Privateer out of comic book limbo and makes a solo title out of it. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

DC Comics March 2021 Solicits

 The March solicits for DC Comics finally came out last week, answering some of the questions of  what lies ahead. Here is the link: 

There are lots of articles out there around this new Infinite Frontier DCU, how it is a refresh not a reboot. How creators are looking at Rebirth and trying to build off of that.

How can I believe that is true when all this Dark Metal stuff is about as far from the promise of optimism of Rebirth as you can get.

But here we are. I can only hope that something bright comes out of this. That said, no Legion and no Supergirl in these solicits. That's worrisome.

Infinite Frontier #0
wraparound cover by DAN JURGENS and MIKEL JANÍN
card stock variant cover by JOHN TIMMS

The next phase of the DC Universe begins here! Dark Knights: Death Metal presented the darkest threats of the Multiverse. DC Future State revealed what may lie ahead. Now it's time to look into the Infinite Frontier of the current-day DC Universe.

In Gotham City, The Joker jolts citizens awake with an attack even the Dark Knight never expected. In Brazil, a young woman discovers her destiny and her connection to the Amazons. In Belle Reve, Amanda Waller plots an invasion of Arkham Asylum. In the far reaches of space, Mongul dreams of galactic domination, while the Green Lantern Corps hosts a summit of its greatest enemies. At the Hall of Justice, the League joins forces with Black Adam. Beyond the mortal world, Wonder Woman settles into a new role in the godsphere. And somewhere in the DC Universe—it's the return of Stargirl, in an all-new tale written by Geoff Johns! This oversized, all-star issue kicks off the next great era of storytelling and excitement as top writers and artists reveal what's next for the World's Greatest Heroes and opens the door to some of the greatest stories of 2021.

This looks like a sneak peek at all the big titles out there. How great to see Jamal Igle's name up there! I'll probably buy this to see what the hubbub is around the DCU.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: Amethyst #6

Amethyst #6 came last week, just about 4 months since the last issue was put on the shelves. As such, any momentum the book had obtained in that last issue was blunted by the passing of real time. If any book needed a recap page or a page of exposition to catch me back up. Instead, the book picks up basically in the middle of the action. 

It is hard to know how I would have felt if this came out on time. But I can tell you that reading it now, it felt like a little bit of a rush to the end. A lot happens here, too quickly. And while writer artist does leave us with the possibility of a new direction for our Princess, I don't know if a sequel is on the horizon.

And it is bit of a shame. I feel like Reeder's art is just wonderful. (I have been a longtime fan.) In particular, I think her work is perfect for the Gemworld. But the story unspooled oddly over the six issues. Some scenes went on too long, others two short. I would love to see Reeder given another book of Amethyst as artist and maybe co-writer, or writer but with a strong editor to tighten things up.

Still, I will say, the art alone made this mini-series worth the cost. It amazes me how often Amethyst gets such a strong art team whether it be Ernie Colon, Esteban Maroto, and now Reeder. The Princess has always looked good.

On to the book.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Review: Superman #28

Superman #28 marks the end of Brian Michael Bendis' tenure on the title. As I have said before I am sad to see him leave. I think his run on this book and Action Comics had way more ups than downs. Bendis' knack with dialogue and character has made the Superman supporting cast as important as they have been for decades. And his take on Supergirl has been great.

So how did it all end?

Well, much like it began in Man of Steel with solid characterization, a great understanding of who Superman is and what he represents, and a cipherous over-powered villain with an unclear agenda who gets taken off the map suddenly.

Look, I am going to praise this run for years. I have honestly loved the last 3 years of Superman book. I want to make sure that is understood. 

But I am befuddled. What exactly was Synmar Utopica's plan? What was he so supposed to represent? What were the Synmar supposed to be? Why does Synmar Utopica fall? These are questions which will mostly be unanswered. I have my thoughts of course. And my intuition tells me he is a great foil for Superman, a dark 'what if'. 

But I was mostly befuddled.

At least this is this strong thesis on who Superman is. And there is Lois. Bendis always gets that right.

As usual, Ivan Reis and Danny Miki's art is gorgeous. There is grandeur here, palpable power. And Alex Sinclair's colors are brilliant, literally. 

On to the book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Bullet Review Back Issue Box: Suicide Squad #10

I continue my look back at Mark Shaw's history in the DC Universe and seeing if his past predicts his current persona of Leviathan. 

We close a brief chapter in the Shaw timeline by looking at Suicide Squad #10. Writer John Ostrander capitalized on the Manhunter craze of Millennium to rescue Shaw (as the Privateer) from comic limbo and bring him into the Suicide Squad.

Obviously, with an ongoing company hook of 'Who is a Manhunter sleeper agent?' readers must have wondered if Shaw was brought back only to be revealed once again as a Manhunter. Instead, he is shown as a debonair character who is also incredibly skilled in espionage. 

After having shown his true colors by helping the Squad destroy a Manhunter temple, and with the New Guardians formed, Shaw was looking for the next stop in his life path. And that is where this issue comes in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Bullet Review: Death Metal Last Stories Of The DC Universe

You know that DC has kind of lost me when I have had no interest in the latest Crisis-level event redefining the universe.

Redefining the DC Universe ... again. Hard to imagine but I think this is the 4th reboot (or Rebirth) since the beginning of this site! Insanity.

What's worse is this all started out as a trippy big story in Scott Snyder's Justice League. I actually liked the early issues of that title as it was like truly cosmic ideas impacting the Earth. These were monumental ideas, almost too big for my wee mind to comprehend. But because it was so insane, I actually liked the ride.

Three years later, we are adding even more inscrutable into a dizzier mess. Toss in The Batman who Laughs (so wonderfully called The Batman Who Bores by friend Mart Gray) and it became a massive disaster. When the big payoff turned out to be a rope-a-dope lead-in to Death Metal, I dropped the book.

Seriously, I felt like I had been sold a bill of goods. There was never going to be a conclusion in JLA. So my allowing the story elements to wash over me, thinking I would get answers, turned out to be DC soaking me.

So here we are, Death Metal seems to be interminable. But now we are getting all these one shots as the universe dies. Why is it dying? How is dying? Do people on Earth know its dying? It seems so because we hear half the world is in anarchy, the other half hunkered down with loved ones. 

Anyways, the heroes are off on a suicide mission, one that sounds definitively suicidal. So what does Superman do on his last day? Let's say that Mark Waid and Francis Manapul give us a great story which once again defines who Superman is.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Bullet Review: DC's Very Merry Multiverse

Finding Supergirl stories in this time of DC flux is pretty hard. So I'll take almost anything I can get.

I also love Holiday issues and will usually buy the DC version of them each year hoping to get stories that are inspiring and maybe even a wee bit corny. It's okay to get a little sentimental this time of year. 

This year DC put out DC's Very Merry Multiverse, an anthology of holiday-inspired stories on many different Earths. I was glad to see this play out in more traditional holiday fare than last year's rather dystopian Nuclear Winter special. This was fun and merry and bright with a whole smorgasbord of Earths visited.

But I decided to concentrate on the Supergirl story. Or maybe I should say 'Supergirl' story as this tale takes place on Earth-11, the gender-swapped Earth and the Supergirl there is Laurel Kent, the daughter of Superwoman. And while I liked Laurel, there was an even better young hero in this story worth contemplating.

On to this fun New Year's Even story.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Review: Endless Winter Superman Special

Times are strange at DC Comics, no doubt.

The beginning of 2021 is a two month experiment, Future State, looking at their characters in a possible (or probable or definitive) future. Those books must be the remnants of the proposed '5G' reboot where DC was going to replace all their main characters with new versions. I can only assume that AT&T squelched the destruction of their newly acquired IP. And so Future State instead of being *the* future state is a 2 month detour. (I do find it intriguing that so many Future State creative teams have been announced on oncoming titles come February.)

But to lead us into this new state, DC also took December off, running the Endless Winter crossover throughout all their major books. Creative teams are not present. Ron Marz and Andy Lanning are at the helm. And so we get a speed bump before the detour.

This is not a bashing of Endless Winter, a story that I am enjoying so far. It is a questioning of DC's editorial hierarchy. Three months away from the main universe in a questionable market seems like a gamble. Trust me, I have lived through periods where a new 'jumping on' point has been a potential 'jumping off' point for me.

But enough about DC's difficulties cultivating audiences. Let's talk about Endless Winter Superman Special #1. Written by Ron Marz and Andy Lanning with art by Phil Hester and Marco Santucci, this is a decent character piece looking at Superman in contrast to the Frost King, the cause of Earth's next Ice Age.

I have been around long enough to have read many similar character studies on Superman. But when done right, they make me smile. I liked this issue. So let's dive in.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #394

Every so often I need a little bit of a breather from reviewing critically modern comics. Every so often I need to slip back into the silliness of the Silver Age.

I wanted to cover a Supergirl this issue to keep the focus of the site intact. I was going to delve back into the world of the Earth Angel Supergirl. But as I was thumbing through the Supergirl collection I realized I hadn't covered an Adventure Comics story in quite some time. And boy, I could use a little bit of the insanity that was in these books.

I thought for sure I would review the cover story, 'Heartbreak Prison'. I mean, who can resist the girl prison cover by Curt Swan. 

But then I read the other story in this issue which is so insane that I needed to cover it.

If I was looking for a simple and fun diversion, this was it.

"The Mysterious Motr of Doov" was written by E. Nelson Bridwell with art by Win Mortimer. 

Readers surely picked up the gist of the story just based on this opening panel but there is an even bigger clue there if you look for it.

But Supergirl walking with a metal humanoid, an anthropomorphic beast, and an electric man? All while following the Crimson Trail? Yeah, this all looks familiar.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Back Issue Box: Suicide Squad #9

I continue my back issue box dive looking at Mark Price Leviathan by taking a peek at Suicide Squad #9. As I mentioned in my review of Suicide Squad #8, Mark Shaw was rescued from comic book limbo in this book. It had been nearly a decade since he had appeared in the Justice League. So John Ostrander was doing his best to re-introduce Shaw (as the Privateer) to the comic book world. And what better event to do that in than Millennium, the mini-series which thrust the Manhunters cult as a universe-wide threat.

In Squad #8, Shaw arrives as a vicious martial artist with a genteman's swagger and manners.

Here, we see him in action. The Squad is sent out on a mission to thwart the Manhunters. Shaw is one of a few new members on the team. One of the conceits of Millennium was that there were sleeper agents hidden in all books. I am sure when reading this book, there had to be some suspicion with Shaw as perhaps still being in the fold.

Luke McDonnell remains on art and brings his usual rough and tumble style to the book. As I have said before, McDonnell's look is perfect for this title, a bit rough and raw, consistent with our characters.

On to the book.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Review: Batman/Superman #14

I'm a little late in my Batman/Superman #14 review as this came out a couple of weeks ago. 

I have been pretty pleased with this title overall. Each arc has had a unique feel. And we have moved far beyond the Batman Who Laughs nonsense. We actually have what feels like a World's Finest book, adventures of two heroes who are friends. 

This arc has been a treat with Batwoman and Steel being the back-up World's Finest as our main team try to outwit their own AI. 

While this arc has an understated ending, it does have a nice peek into our two heroes' thoughts. Each tries to talk down the villain in their own way. 

But, to be honest, the big win here is the art by Max Raynor. Nicely stylized. Dynamic. And the pages within the electronic universe are pretty dang cool. As I said last month, I wouldn't mind seeing Raynor on a Batwoman monthly.

On to the book.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Bullet Review: The Other History Of The DC Universe #1

The Other Side of the DC Universe came out last week and it has been appropriately lauded as a look at marginalized groups and their place in the classic DCU.

Written by John Ridley with inventive art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, the book looks at the early career of Black Lightning and how he struggled as an African-American in the DC world. As a long time fan of DC, Ridley really hits my sweet spot of the Bronze Age, showing us scenes pulled directly from the original Black Lightning series and the classic Justice League of America 2-parter where the JLA invites Lightning to join their team, but do it in the most terrible way. I read those issues off the racks. But now I am looking at it from a different viewpoint.

Ridley puts us firmly in the mind of Jefferson Pierce and how he responds to the world around him. In particular, Pierce's thoughts on Jon Stewart and how Green Lantern acts in the DCU is fascinating.

 I am glad this book is on the shelf.

And I was glad that we got a Supergirl moment. For me, it meant that Ridley considered her an important part of the DCU. It even leans into more Silver Age Kara history and that makes me happy.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #33

I sometimes worry that I need to rebrand my blog since I don't have much current Supergirl stuff to write about. Can I call this a Supergirl site when most of what I cover is Superman and Leviathan?

I never wanted this site to be an index site either. I didn't want to methodically go through Supergirl's stories here. Instead, I wanted to use current stories as a springboard to look back at her history. 

I was struck recently that Rogol Zaar is back in the pages of the Legion of Super-Heroes. He made quite a splash when Brian Michael Bendis introduced him in Man of Steel. And Zaar became a focal point of Supergirl's story with Marc Andreyko with Kara becoming the 'Mistress of the Axe' and heading into deep space to research Zaar's origins.

I also have been intrigued with Synmar Utopica in the Superman book as he seems to be judging Superman.

Both of those vibes resonated with me when I recently re-read Supergirl #33 during the Peter David 'Earth Angel' run. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Back Issue Box: Suicide Squad #8

I continue my look at the corruption of Mark Shaw/Leviathan by looking at Suicide Squad #8 from 1987. 

Suicide Squad was one of the many new ideas which sprung from the immediate post-Crisis DCU. It felt like DC was really creatively clicking on all cylinders around this time and this book was one of the better things during this time to hit the racks. 

John Ostrander had written Legends and in that series put together this new concept Suicide Squad. Super-villains were being pressed into duty for their country. With bombs implanted in their necks, the bad guys had little choice but to try and survive risky missions and shave time off their sentences. All this was done under the thumb of the newly created Amanda Waller.

The rumor (and I would love to ask him if it is true) is that Ostrander thumbed through Who's Who to find C and D list characters to add to the every rotating cast of characters. Sure, there were regulars - Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, the Enchantress to name a few. But there were plenty of villains who met their end in this book too. It gave it an edge.

We see Mark Shaw in this issue, his first true post-Crisis appearance. Did Ostrander find him in Who's Who and advocate for his inclusion? Was he already toying with the idea of the Manhunter solo book which is just around the corner? Or was this a sort of mandate by DC given Millennium and all the Manhunter nonsense there was around the corner?

With a couple of missions under the team's belt, Ostrander slows things down a bit with this issue. 

'Personal Files' (note that it isn't personnel files) is written by Ostrander with art by regular artist Luke McDonnell and inker Bob Lewis. In it, Simon LeGrieve takes a look at recent character interactions. There isn't much super-heroing happening here. No mission. Just a look at the characters personal lives ... hence the title.

I can't help but wonder if this was an homage to the famous 'A Day in the Life' issue of the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans, also coincidentally the eighth issue of that book.

As for McDonnell, I can only say I love his art. It is gritty and rough, perfect for this book and it's themes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #11

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 came out this week and was another rapid-fire romp around a few worlds of the United Planets. Between the action and the big font planet names, it sort of felt like one of the Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movies. I had a  blast reading this. Brian Michael Bendis does a great job of leaping from planet to planet, squad to squad, and giving us both plot and character progression. Now that is a Legion comic.

What is interesting is that all the plots seem of equal weight. Classic Legion had the A, B, C plot algorithm. Here, thrown into this new continuity. They all seem equal and all seem weighty. It really keeps me engaged with all of them. And I can't help but feel that The Great Darkness, while a sub-sub-plot now is really going to surge and dominate the book at some point.

As an added bonus, we get Ryan Sook interiors for the second issue in a row. Sook is just fantastic. The book flows so well. The pencils are gorgeous. Give me 6 Sook issues a year and I'll be thrilled.

There is a lot to unpack here, so on to the book.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1027

Action Comics #1027 came out last week, the penultimate issue of both the House of El story arc as well as the overall Action Comics run by writer Brian Michael Bendis. I will be sad to see him go. 

This issue pretty much wraps up the Invisible Mafia plot which has been running through this book since Bendis first took over. I have to say that things wrap up almost a little bit too quickly, a little bit too easily. Is this because of the whole Future State/5G/DC Bloodbath? Did Bendis need to clear the decks quickly and so the villains needed to get taken off the map rapidly? Or was this always the plan?

But I might be burying the lede a bit for the focus of this site. As always, Bendis treats Supergirl exceptionally well. She is clearly 'second in command' of this group and in prior issues might be looked on as the strategist. She clearly cares about her cousin and her extended family. And there is a moment that makes me optimistic of her future. I can't always say that. I can only hope that Bendis has something to do with a reinvigoration and reimagination of  Supergirl in the near future.

Also, there are two pages in this book which really made me smile. In the midst of the action there are two 9-panel grid pages. The story being told on those pages turns on the center panel, almost like that is the axle the sequence shifts on. That is clever.

John Romita Jr. is on art and his stuff is pretty rough for me. He has a lot to do here with shifting scenes of huge actions amid quiet interrogation scenes. I don't care too much for the stuff. But the layouts are actually quite nice.

On to the book.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Black Friday: Future State Magazine

 Yesterday I had some optimism, giving thanks for a couple of new Supergirl trades being released in the summer and hopeful for a new monthly.

Today I talk about my pessimism, specifically about how history seems doomed to repeat itself. Because we hear a little more about the upcoming Future State 2 month event at DC. The company released a promotional magazine found here: 

 Now there is plenty of information in this about all the titles and the Superman books. So it is worth perusing if this intrigues you.

 And we get some nice art including this design pic of Supergirl's (or Superwoman's) future costume by Marguerite Sauvage.

But it was the words of Marguerite Bennett, writer on the Superwoman book that gave me pause. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving - Supergirl Trades

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the states and those that celebrate.

It has been a while since I have had Supergirl content on this here Supergirl blog so I am thrilled to give you this news (and hat tip to excellent friend Mart Gray for sending it my way!).

There are two new Supergirl trades coming out in the near future! 

Here is a link to Bleeding Cool's coverage:

Now the trades themselves are great, showcasing most of the Supergirl stories in the DCAU comics, those based on the Bruce Timm animated shows. 

But for me, and maybe I am grasping at hope or maybe I am looking to give thanks for something, but I have to wonder the timing. Why release two Supergirl specific trades in the near future?

And the only thing I can think of is that there is a new monthly on the horizon. 

How better to promote a new Supergirl book than to put out Supergirl trades showcasing her.

I can dream, can't I?

Even if there isn't a new monthly, I will definitely grab these books. I have covered some but not all of them here over the years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Back Issue Box: Secret Origins #23

 It was the late 80's and mega-crossovers in comics were still in their infancy.

In 1985 DC had given us Crisis on Infinite Earths, redefining the DCU.

In 1986, DC gave us Legends, a wellspring of ideas and excellent new comics and characters.

In 1987, they gave us Millennium

The concept seemed sound. The Oans and the Zamarons were going to leave the universe in the hands of New Guardians. Their old foes, the Manhunters, were going to stop them and take over instead. And to go about this task, the Manhunters were going to activate sleeper agents they had sprinkled throughout the universe. Who was actually a Manhunter? It was a mystery.

Unfortunately, the actual event fell flat. How flat? Flat enough that I must have given away Millennium at some point. It is no longer in my collection. (And I still have Countdown!)

But one of the things DC must have realized is that the Manhunters as a group weren't well known. How could they be a universal threat? Who the heck were they?

So to bolster the main event along with the crossovers, Secret Origins #22 would focus on the group giving important background information. 

And this is where I come in because this was the post-Crisis reintroduction of Mark Shaw, ultimately Leviathan. With the Crisis behind us, changes could be made to continuity. Who was Shaw? Did things play out the same?

Let's find out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Who's Who XVIII - The Privateer

In my quest to review the history of Mark Shaw as (hopefully) the sequel to Event Leviathan is around the corner, I recently showcased his story in the Justice League of America comics from the late 1970's. 

Within a year, writer Steve Englehart and artist Dick Dillin had rolled the Jack Kirby 1st Issue Special Manhunter idea into Green Lantern mythology. He then re-introduced Shaw as the Privateer only to have him turn villain.

That was 1977!

So where did he turn up next?

Well, in Who's Who, the Definitive Handbook of the DC Universe.

For 9 years Shaw stayed in comic limbo.

And even when he showed up, it was only as an entry in this, not a story. The art is by Stan Woch and is a decent representation of the Privateer identity. I do like that the surprint shows us Shaw in his Manhunter gear as well as the Star-Tsar.

It wouldn't be until Millennium in late 1987 that Shaw shows up again, predominantly in Suicide Squad and then his own book. 

No surprise it is Millennium we see him again. It is, after all, a Steve Englehart story about Manhunters. I'll be looking at Shaw's Secret Origin one more time as well as his time on the Suicide Squad.

But as I dive in so much of Event Leviathan begins making sense. His speech pattern. His claiming to be a hero. His hatred of secrets (maybe hitting too close to home?). His talk with Plastic Man. 

This has been fascinating and I think I have just started peel back the onion.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Back Issue Box: Superman #371, Private Life Of Clark Kent

Hard to believe that I am double dipping on an issue but today I will be looking at Superman #371 again. This time I'll be looking at the back-up story, a Private Life of Clark Kent feature by writer Bob Rozakis and artist John Calnan.

In my early years of reading comics, I loved these Private Life stories, whether in Superman Family or in the main titles as back-up features. These were usually stories with Superman outwitting someone but in his Clark Kent persona. It often involved Steve Lombard getting a come-uppance. But as a kid I liked how Superman occasionally needed to use his wits instead of his fists. 

They also were nice little palate cleansers after the more usual super-heroics that existed in the rest of the issue.

In retrospect, it is interesting that little Anj liked these quiet stories so much.

Now in the last issue of Superman, our hero was depowered and offput by being under an orange sun. So I thought the Private Life of Clark Kent in this issue would be fun to look at.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

February 2021 Solicits

February's DC Solicits were released last week. While there is a glut of Future State books, the second of this two month experiment, there are a few other books out there worth peeking at. But this is a Supergirl blog so here is a link to those books: 

Now I don't think I am going much of this side trip to future worlds. In fact I am way more interested in seeing March's solicits. That will be the new norm for DC after the recent layoffs. And looking at the Future State books I do worry that these are books that have agendas. It takes something special to make books with an agenda be story-driven and not agenda-driven.

But here we go.


card stock variant cover by ALEX GARNER

The moon colony built around Superwoman's Fortress of Solitude is under siege! Shape-shifting aliens have come to this place of peace in search of Lynari, a refugee from their homeworld. It's a bad move on the part of these intergalactic bad guys: if Kara Zor-El offers you sanctuary, there's no way she's going to let anyone get their monstrous hands on you. Let's just hope this gamble is worth it, because Lynari's secret—the one that got her in trouble in the first place—could mean bad news for everybody!

So perhaps this is an agenda book about refugees, undocumented aliens, and the need to welcome people running to freedom from oppression.

The question for me is 'will this be a Supergirl story'? Or is this a story about refugees and undocumented people?

We shall see.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League Of America #150

Get ready True Believers because I am about to finish the first leg of my deep dive into the character of Mark Shaw, aka Leviathan, as I prep for (hopefully) Event Leviathan Checkmate

This leads us to Justice League of America #150, cover dated January 1978. This is the big turning point for our character. It is here that I feel you get the foundation of his turn to Leviathan. Of course, hard to know if any of this actually happened in current DC continuity. But the overall feel of the character is there. 

This also is the beginning of Mark Shaw's comic book hiatus until 1987!

Interestingly enough, this is also the end of Steve Englehart's run on Justice League of America. I don't know if this was by choice or by edict. In some ways the Shaw story here is wrapped up exceptionally quick which makes me wonder if Englehart wanted to draw this out that plot a bit more.

As usual, the art here is done by JLA veteran Dick Dillin. You get the feeling that Englehart put some bonuses in here for Dillin given it was the writer's last issue and it is #150, a sort of Anniversary number. But there are also parts of this story which are completely bizarre, allowing Dillin to open up a little bit.

So ... what happens to Mark Shaw aka Manhunter aka Privateer ultimately Leviathan. Let's find out.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Review: Superman #27

Superman #27 came out this week and was another example of why I will be missing Brian Michael Bendis when he is off the super-titles. Throughout his run, we have seen Superman as a symbol of hope and goodness and this issue is a perfect example of that. You want to root for this Superman. You want to be this Superman. 

All that characterization is folded into the Synmar Utopica storyline. While this arc is an interesting way to compare and contrast the concept of super-men analogues, I haven't warmed up to the Synmar character yet. I don't quite understand his motives. I don't understand his powers. I don't know what happened in the conclave of his people that spurred this whole thing on. (Although I have a theory I will share at the end.)

I have complimented Ivan Reis and Danny Miki before on their art on the title. But they continue to stun me. This is a crazy issue in choatic dimensions and alien environments. This is a slugfest. And then in the middle we have a quiet scene between Lois and Lana. It all just sizzles on the page. Once again, I have to mention Alex Sinclair's colors. Synmar is vibrant. His halo energies dazzling. And there is one sequence of space travel which is just brilliant.

Just one more month. Will this all get wrapped up?

On to the book.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Marie Javins Named Editor-In-Chief


The DC bloodbath was a couple of months ago. At the height of the pandemic,Dan Didio and senior editors were shown the door. Comics were canceled. The '5G' future was scrapped (sort of ... you can't convince me that Future State isn't some grab at material already produced). And I began to wonder if DC was in trouble.

It didn't help that there was no inkling at all about what is happening post-Future State. Will we pick up where we left off? Is Death Metal a death knell for the Rebirth timeline? 

Finally, this week, some good news came out. Marie Javins was named Editor-In-Chief. Here is a link to Variety's article: 

 For me, this was a great announcement. It might sound dramatic but I thought to myself 'this is a great move'.

And the article and a quote from Javins only bolstered that feeling.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League Of America #149


Today I continue my look back at the origins of Mark Shaw Leviathan by reviewing Justice League #149. I have been looking back at this year in Justice League as writer Steve Englehart and artist Dick Dillin were doing some mind-blowing stories. Honestly, there may have been drugs involved.

Englehart really was diving deep into the DC mythology in this run, both bringing back old villains and adding new wrinkles to DC history. He brought Commander Blanx into continuity, changing the JLA's 'first mission'. He made the Manhunters part of the Green Lantern history. He brought back the Key and Snapper Carr. And, most importantly for this run on the blog, he brought back Mark Shaw Manhunter, a one-shot wonder by Jack Kirby who now was enmeshed in League business.

Since Justice League of America #140, Shaw had been showing up in the books. After learning the Manhunters were a corrupt group, Shaw dons pirate gear and becomes The Privateer. While not a League member, he sure pushes himself into their business. In fact, he get close enough that some even consider bringing him on board. Others aren't so sure.

In this issue, we again see Shaw sticking his nose into League affairs, showing his mental capabilities and his fighting prowess. We even get a truncated take on his origin with some new tidbits. 

It is all fascinating and we are approaching another turn.

Dillin continues to dazzle here. The main villain here is Dr. Light who has many different weapons which have bizarre effects. He seems as much the Mirror Master here as Dr. Light. And Dillin brings it, bring some almost Ditko-esque insanity to the proceedings.

On to the book.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: Young Justice #20

Young Justice #20 came out this last week, the last issue of this title which I am very sad to see end,  I have enjoyed almost every book under the Wonder Comic imprint but this book, to me, had the most promise.  There were old school characters - Superboy, Robin, Wonder Girl, Spoiler,  and Impulse. There was a reimagined Amethyst and Wonder Twins. And there were new characters - Teen Lantern, Jinny Hex, and Naomi. They each had unique personalities. There were mysteries and back stories. And most importantly there was chemistry. This book crackled.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis brought a lot of fun and snark and witty repartee to the proceedings all while dancing around the main mystery ... how did the main characters exist when the countless recent reboots seemed to erase them. I loved every issue of this series even when I wished the underlying plot would move along quicker.

And now, before we even get to answer to the mystery, the book is ending. DC is purging and cancelling in rapid fire. We have another '2 months off' event after Dark Metal finally rusts and crumbles away. And who knows what the future holds? 

In the end, like many books, I have to just be thankful I got what I got and return to it when I can.

The art in this issue is by Scotty Godlewski and his style (like cover artist John Timms) is perfect for the book. I love his take on these characters.

On to this series' finale, chock full of goodness.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Review: Batman/Superman #13

Batman/Superman #13 came out last week, the next part in the Planet Brainiac arc. I liked the first part in this story as it gave us a sideways World's Finest pairing of Batwoman and Steel. And the art by Max Raynor was very polished.

The overall plot is intriguing. Batman has written a program to predict where super-villains will strike so he and Superman can be more pro-active rather than reactive. But then a Brainiac program worms its way into the program and decides that to be the best prediction tool it needs to understand both the villains and the heroes. On the dark side of the moon, Brainiac pits Batman and Superman against a never ending parade of robot versions of the villains, all while learning.

But the intriguing bit is hearing Brainiac trying to figure out our heroes. He must know that robot dupes won't be a real threat. Instead, he uses them to engage our title characters in a conversation about their motivations and histories. Brainiac wants to know they whys ... why do heroes become heroes and why do villains become villains. And those conversations are pretty well done. Kudos to Joshua Williamson.

Sure there are things about this issue that are wonky. But the action is fast and furious and the dialogue is crackling and the art is slick. I buy comics to be entertained. And I was very entertained. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League #143

I continue my look back at the history of Mark Shaw Leviathan with a peek at Justice League of America #143

I recently reviewed JLA #140 and JLA #141 where the history of the Manhunters was upended and retconned by Steve Englehart.  While Englehart was done with the Manhunter androids, he wasn't done with Mark Shaw.

In this issue, we see that Shaw wasn't done with his quest for justice. But he wanted to shed himself of the baggage that came with the name Manhunter and the distinctive armor. He creates a new super-heroic persona for himself. And while not invited into the League, he certainly interacts with the members a lot.

But the bigger story is the League battling a mind controlled Wonder Woman, the Injustice League, and The Construct, Steve Englehart's malevolent sentience of all the communication waves going around the Earth. I know the Construct from JLA #142 (an issue from my youth) and as a Red Tornado rogue (dubious distinction at best). I won't cover the Construct side of this issue too much as I want to concentrate on Shaw.

Dick Dillin is on art and as usual, his stuff is gorgeous. 

On to the book.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Back Issue Magazine #123 - Hey, That's Me!

I have sung the praises of Back Issue magazine in the past on this site. For anyone who loves comic book history, especially of the Bronze Age and Silver Age, this is the magazine for you. 

Maybe this is one time where Back Issue sings the praises of me!

This month's issue is the Superhero Romance issue with articles on superhero weddings, Batman's love interests, and Star Sapphire just to name a few.

But there is also a retro-review of Superman #415, a Crisis cross-over issue which prominently features Supergirl.

Remember, Supergirl had just died saving the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. There was a feeling that maybe this was a last chance to tell a Supergirl story, so Cary Bates and Curt Swan put together this issue.

I started this blog in April of 2008. Superman #415 was one of the first back issues that I reviewed on this site. Here is a link:

I never revisit those old posts. I didn't know what I was doing back then.

Now I have friends who have had articles in Back Issue, with a byline and everything!

But I was still pretty chuffed to see my name mentioned in the article.

I stand by my assertion that this issue is best forgotten. This isn't the capstone we want for Kara's life. The story doesn't make much sense. 

Still, pretty cool to see "Anj" mentioned in a Supergirl article!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes #10

Legion of Super-Heroes #10 came out this week and was a great walk around the team as we explore several plot lines which have begun in the book. The recovery of Earth's ocean is behind us. The 'Trial of the Legion' is behind us. We have met a lot of the Legionnaires through the last two issues page-by-page storytelling. The future is now.

And there is a lot to unpack in this issue. The romance between Superboy and Saturn Girl and their side mission to find Mordru is here. The current state of Rimbor's politics is here. The impending Great Darkness and the current state of Oa is here. And boy oh boy is New Krypton here. And each of these storylines throw in a lot of hints and clues for the future that whets my appetite for more.

I also love how my favorite Legionnaires get some screen time. Lightning Lass has always been a favorite and her scene in this issue might be my favorite.

Ryan Sook provides the art here and his work is just fantastic. There is so much fun here. The breathy ethereal landscape of the mind's eye of Imra's telepathy is beautiful. Monster Boy's minotaur is fun. Cham pretending to be Krypto and Streaky when on New Krypton is a hoot. He might have based a character in here on a British actor. It is just beautiful. 

Get ready to dive in because I have thoughts and ideas!

I am so happy that a good Legion book is on the shelves!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1026

Action Comics #1026 came out this week and was another extremely entertaining issue in the House of Kent storyline. This is the last story arc in Action Comics for writer Brian Michael Bendis. His time on Superman is coming to an end. I will be sad to see him go. His Superman has always been the shining inspiration that the Man of Steel should be. He is the friend, here to help, and  the moral and heroic star to guide our ship.

But also I am going to miss his take on Supergirl. While Kara has been mistreated and misrepresented and downgraded in her own title, Bendis understands her. She is a young woman, bright and optimistic, smart and strategic, and a natural leader. Who defeated Rogol Zaar in Man of Steel? Supergirl. Who figures out how to defeat the Parasite in this issue? Supergirl. I can only hope somewhere down the line Bendis gets to write Supergirl again.

John Romita Jr's art remains a blocky, scratchy tableau for my tastes. But one thing I love about this issue's art is the layout of the book. This is mostly a knock-down, drag-out fight between the Superman Family and this Uber-Parasite. And with such a tremendous fight, you need to feel that chaos, that action (apropos for the title). The book unfolds with pages tumbling, with vertical two page spreads that will literally have the reader flipping the book over in their hands. In my mind it was the equivalent of a frenetic hand held camera shot in a movie. You are part of the action.

There is more to this issue than just the fight as the Invisible Mafia arc is nudged forward with the Red Cloud and mob boss Leone still trying to get the upper hand.

Buckle up. Here we go!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 Jack O'Lanterns

Happy Halloween everyone!

As many know, I love to carve jack-o-lanterns around Halloween time and try to challenge myself with semi-complicated designs. 

I am no artist but I am always chuffed with the results. And I have recently decided to try and do a Legionnaire when I decide on doing a comic related carving. I will post pics of those below.

This year I thought I would celebrate the new Legion of Super-Heroes by picking one of the new recruits! So here is my attempt at a Monster Boy carving.

No one will know who this is on the block. But I don't care. I am pretty happy. 

And Arune Singh (who Monster Boy is based on) and Brian Michael Bendis were pretty pumped when they saw this on Twitter.

I also decided to do a Bride of Frankenstein carving this year and this also came out pretty good. 

I don't think there is mistaking for anything but the Bride! 

My hope was to do a Frankenstein one as well but as of this posting I haven't got to it yet.

From 2016, here is Wildfire!

From 2014, here is Sensor Girl!

Have a safe Halloween in this pandemic 2020!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Back Issue Box: Justice League #141

I continue my deep dive into Mark Shaw Leviathan by looking at his second major story in Justice League #141.

Last week I reviewed JLA #140 in which Mark Shaw, Manhunter brought Green Lantern into custody. It seemed Hal had destroyed the planet Orinda and that galaxy was demanding justice. With GL, Green Arrow, and Black Canary held at the Manhunter stronghold as hostages, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash went out to see if the claims against GL were true.

Out of this crazy story spins a pretty important piece of DC history. The Green Lantern Corps was not the Guardians first attempt at an inter-galactic peace force. Instead it was the android Manhunters they sent out with small green energy batteries and stun pistols. These guys have been plaguing DC for as long as I have been reading comics so it was truly fascinating for me to read this issue for the first time.

I assumed these android Manhunters predated the 1st Issue Special Manhunter issue. I thought Kirby was tweaking a known property. I also didn't realize that the Paul Kirk Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter even predated that. In my head, the Manhunters created by the Oans were created somewhere in the early GL issues.

So for me this was a true revelation. 

And it shouldn't surprise me that Steve Englehart is the writer here, forming this new legend for DC. After all, he was the writer for Millennium, the mega-crossover which brought the Manhunters and their agents back in a big way. 

But how does all this reveal impact Mark Shaw? Well, this might redefine the Manhunters but it is only the first chapter in Englehart's look at Shaw. So more to come ... for sure.