Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mike Maihack & Social Distancing

First off, let me say that I love you guys.

Last Friday I posted how the lack of new comics and the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic might slow down my posts here. The outpouring of well-wishes, good thoughts, caring comments, and recommendations for desired posts was really inspiring and just the sort of shot in the arm I needed.

And one of the things I learned was that Mike Maihack had come out with a couple of new Supergirl/Batgirl comics that I hadn't covered yet. I have been a champion of Maihack's work. His SG/BG strips always bring a smile to my face.

So imagine my delight when he did one commenting on the sort of social distancing we are doing in this COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the link to the comic 'Self-Isolation':

In it we see  the cool, calm, and ever-collected Babs knitting as she waits out an isolation period in Gotham. Meanwhile, extrovert Supergirl is going out of her mind feeling cooped up.

Babs recommends knitting and Kara agrees to give it a shot. But super-speed knitting isn't the way to slowly, gracefully pass the time.

There is a lot to like about this, from the tiny Streaky drowning in new knitted wares to Kara talking about her new outfits, a frequent joke in these strips.

But for me, this hit home. I am like Kara, an extrovert. I like going to work, walking around and chatting, and hanging with friends. And this time of social distancing is a bit challenging. And I know that with virtual meetings, Twitter, texting, and FaceTime we aren't ever really alone, I still feel cooped up.

Anyways, this was another winner. I'll have another Maihack comic to talk about probably next week. And thanks again to the anonymous commenter who pointed this out to me! So much fun!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: Supergirl #40

Supergirl #40 came out this week.

That should be my review.

Supergirl is my favorite character.
This book is so terrible I am glad that the book starring my favorite character is being canceled.
The character assassination has to stop.
And maybe something surgical like this is the best way to end it.

Because this book is horrible.

It isn't a Supergirl book.

Why am I not surprised?

I actually don't fault writer Jody Houser or artist Rachael Stott. I wouldn't mind seeing what they would do with an honest-to-goodness Kara book. But they were handed this abomination and are probably trying to do their best with it.

I am a Supergirl fan.
I am glad Supergirl is being canceled.
That's simply wrong.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Supergirl Blogging In The Time Of COVID-19

Well, things sure are different in the world as I write this on the morning of March 27th 2020.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19.

The United States seems to be catching up to the rest of the world in terms of advocating social distancing, establishing a 'lockdown' on nonessential services, and promoting safety and sanity to the people. The shelves of grocery stores are barren in some places. Good luck finding bread, meat, orange juice. or toilet paper. For me, I was surprised to see that cooking oil is also a hot commodity.

And, oh by the way, the comic book market has basically dried up with Diamond Distributors stopping the shipment of new books indefinitely. My own LCS has closed their doors given my state's proclamation about nonessential markets. I was able to get this week's books. But that is going to be it for a while.

Will new books continue to be released digitally? Will the print copies all come out in a glut when the trucks start rolling? Or will the whole industry just hit the pause button?

And, oh yes, my 'real' job hasn't necessarily slowed down. In fact, it may have ramped up a bit.

Which leads me to this site ... and what I should do ...

I currently have the following books I will need to review: Supergirl #40, Action Comics #1021, Legion of Super-Heroes #5, Batman/Superman #8, and Amethyst #2. I also will probably do a quick peek at the Event Leviathan hardcover collection.

In a cursory look back, it looks like reviews of new books makes up about 40% of my material here!

Also, it is hard to know if any news about comic books will be coming out until the companies decide what they are doing.

I still have the new episodes of the show I can review. I have plenty of old stories I can review. And I probably can put together some think pieces. I also have a grandiose idea of reaching out to some creators but I am sure they are just as busy and stressed as the rest of us.

But the reality is that this site may slow down a bit during this pandemic and moratorium on comics. This site is many things but most of all it is a creative outlet for me and a way to stay in touch with friends and Supergirl fans. So I am not shutting the doors. But it may slow down to a 2x a week place for a bit.

Anyways, the hope is some time in the near future, things return to normal and I'll be firing on all cylinders.

In the meantime, let's all truly take the mantra of Supergirl to heart and bring 'hope, help, and compassion for all' into this wonky world!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Supergirl Episode 515: Reality Bytes

My reviews of Supergirl episodes this season have been relatively consistent.

First, they are always a little late. Like this post covering episode 515, Reality Bytes, which aired a couple of weeks ago.

Second, I have been pretty effusive in my praise of the show really digging into its own past and bringing up moments from prior seasons. This episode is no difference, referencing the show's premiere, a key second season episode, and some overall themes of the show in total. I love that in this fifth season we are seeing just how far these characters have come.

Third, the season has progressed nicely plot wise. There has been brisk movement on the main plot lines each episode. Unlike prior season which puttered along, this season is on cruise control.

Fourth, overall I have been pretty pleased with the episodes. This season has been pretty entertaining. I have liked the multiple big plots. I have liked the characterizations. And the Lena/Kara story is the foundation it is all built on. I can't help but think we will see redemption in the end when Lena joins Kara against the combined might of Lex/Leviathan (Lex-iathan?).

But this episode puts the plots on pause a little. We get a baby step forward but not much more. Instead, we get a a major plot about transphobia. The show has never shied from a political agenda. Last season, maybe they overdid it. But here, given how the show hasn't been immersed in that this season, I enjoyed this more. Nicole Maines does a great job showing the current issues and concerns for the trans community.

If I have a quibble, it is that once again Supergirl seems to be a guest on her own show. She does almost nothing super in this episode. But that does give Alex and Dreamer a chance to shine.

On to the episode.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: Adventure Comics #410

'Help, hope, and compassion for all' is the mantra that Supergirl has espoused in recent years, an indelible addition to her mythos thanks to Sterling Gates in his Adventures of Supergirl comic from a few years ago.

But Gates didn't just make that up. Those sentiments have been evident in Supergirl comics since her beginning.

Perhaps one of the sillier stories to prove that is from 1971'a Adventure Comics #410 in which Kara befriends an alien visitor to our world, becoming basically a foster parent herself. No throwing this young girl with powers into an orphanage. Supergirl is going to show compassion and help this moppet. I was reminded of this story recently by friend Mart Gray.

So settle in for a rapid fire story of the early Bronze Age!

And let's see Kara at her best ... maybe ...

Also, this book is semi-important from a Supergirl history viewpoint. But you'll see why later.

On to the book.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Unexpected #196

For those of you who don't know, in my other life I am an emergency room physician. We are in the midst of a global pandemic here in the real world and so my non-'Comic Box Commentary' life is a little stressful these days.

But I am also a lifelong comic reader and there are stories that struck me as a kid and stayed embedded in my brain. There was a parental purge of unbagged books at some point in my life and I have tried my best to find and purchase again these stories from my youth.

One such story is 'The Devil To Pay" from 1980's Unexpected #196. As a kid, I devoured DC's horror comics. Much of my own fictional writing is built on a life of Unexpected and House of Mystery, quick hits of horror and violence, often with a twist ending.

And given all the sides of me - lifelong comic reader, ER doc in a pandemic, and a blogger - I thought I would break mold and cover this story here on a Supergirl blog.

So settle in while we see if Satan is the answer to a plague!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Jimmy Olsen #9

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #9 came out this week. This book remains one of the absolute delights on the shelves these days, a long form nonlinear story filled with all things Jimmy Olsen. You get zaniness. You get mystery. You get intrigue. And you get humor.

Now I am a grizzled comic reader. I've read a ton of books of all genres. And when I laughed out loud, literally, at two different points in this issue, I knew I had a winner.

And, unlike the Lois Lane book, this book has plot progression and pacing! Those two titles were bound to be compared, solo maxiseries of Superman characters out at the same time. But whereas the Lois book has, at times, plodded along, this book crackles with crazy energy. It's just brilliant.

Writer Matt Fraction has really woven a complex story of an Olsen conspiracy and assassination attempt mixed with flat out Silver Age lunacy. And even if I guessed this issue's big reveal a while ago, it still comes off great.

And artist Steve Lieber has to bring all this bizarre action to life visually. From Calvin & Hobbes style childhood reflections to living porcupines to tense conversations, somehow Lieber brings it all to life.

I don't want this book to end. So everyone needs to enjoy it while it is around. On to the book.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sales Review: February 2020

I walked out of my comic book store yesterday with my usual  amount of books. But the store was pretty barren, perhaps due to the current social distancing people are doing. The store owner said they would be taking it day by day but were planning to stay open.

I came home and checked ICv2 for their sales coverage knowing it was about the time they review things. The news was as dismal as the empty store. Here is a link to their coverage.

Most of the comics I read are struggling, selling in the mid-30K. And, of course, by the time Supergirl #39 came out the news had broken that the series was cancelled.

You might remember Supergirl #39. In it, Supergirl fought Wonder Woman. She battled the US government. And in the end, she is twisted even more by the Batman Who Laughs virus, becomingless Eric Draven Crow and more of a grinning ghoul.

It's hardly a Supergirl comic.

So you can guess how it sold.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #366

The world is in the midst of a pandemic crisis with the COVID19 virus.

I continue to work in a busy emergency department but have been doing my best to socially distance myself as best as I can.

And as always, I try to think of interesting back issues to look at which either reflect current comic trends or even real life trends. With that in mind, I figured I could take a look at Action Comics #366, the end of the multi-part  Virus X storyline, which seemed somehow appropriate for the current times.

As this is a Supergirl site, the last chapter has the most Kara as well as standard bonkers Silver Age charm, so here we are.

To set the stage, Superman has contracted Virus X, a form of Kryptonian leprosy. Luthor got Clark to accidentally self-inoculate himself. It is unclear if the virus can be spread to humans (although we see Superman accidentally give it to a cat). So realizing he needs to get off Earth to save humanity from this plague, he rockets himself away. His plan is to cremate his dying body in the hottest sun in the universe.

This was a five part story by writer Leo Dorfman and artist Ross Andru, something relatively unheard of back in 1968. But Dorfman ramps up the drama during the story, having Superman avoiding loved ones, announcing his illness to the world, refusing to be sent into the Phantom Zone (for fear of infecting the criminals there), and looking back on his life.

Andru's pencils are solid throughout, especially on the 'melting face' afflicted Superman panels. And the whole arc comes with solid Neal Adams covers, including this one with Supergirl front and center.

On to the conclusion!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Supergirl Episode 514: The Bodyguard

I continue my better late than never reviews of the Supergirl show, looking at episode 514, titled The Bodyguard.

This was a solid middle chapter episode, pushing forward a lot of the subplots of this season, giving each character a moment to shine, and hearkening back to one of the strongest beats from season one. Moreover, we again see the show leaning into its own history, bringing back to minor characters from seasons past.

There seem to be two main plotlines this season. In one, 'hero' Lex Luthor with Brainiac 5 are fighting the potential bad of Levithan. Lex is quite charming as he woos Levithan and his sister all while working all his won angles. But his smooth words and guile can't forever hide his utter lack of compassion for humanity. He is out for number one, himself. Now I love the concept of Leviathan and I think Jon Cryer is an incredible Lex. If this was the only plot this season I'd be thrilled.

But the primary plot for me is the "temptation of Lena" as Lena Luthor walks on the knife's edge between misguided good guy and outright villain. I like Lena; I always have. But this season, she seems a bit dark. More important, she seems oblivious of her own turning. Perhaps her working with Lex is blinding her. Because for a moment this episode, she seems to realize she is in the wrong, only to have Lex nudge her back into the shadows.

Interestingly, given their reliance on Andrea Rojas and her VR Obsidian tech, both of these plots are going to intersect at some point. The theme of what is real and not real has certainly been part of this season as well. Hmmm..

Add to that good moments and character progression for Alex, Brainy, Nia, and even William and you have a fun episode.

Monday, March 16, 2020

DC Comics June Solicits

Last week DC Comics released it's June 2020 solicits. Here is a link to Newsarama's coverage:

First and foremost, for me, was that there is no Supergirl book on the shelves. June is the first month after her cancellation. It seems so foolish and shortsighted. But then again, I can't say that the book on the shelf has truly been a Supergirl book for a while ... so maybe this was the right move?

Just as bad as no solo title is that the Girl of Steel is nowhere to be found in the solicits. No talks with her cousin in either super-titles. No guest starring in Legion. No joining the Titans. No side mission with Justice League Dark.

Kara has been ghosted by DC Comics.


So here are the other super-books.

art and cover by JOHN ROMITA JR. and KLAUS JANSON
variant cover by LUCIO PARRILLO
Wonder Woman 1984 variant cover by FRANK CHO

The city of Metropolis has been rocked by Luthor’s latest attack and the drama surrounding Superman’s truth, and that gives the invisible mafia a new foothold to change the City of Tomorrow forever. Meanwhile, the Daily Planet is under siege! The fallout from Superman: Villains continues as Clark Kent steps out into the world as a reporter for the first time.

I guess I'll need to figure out how Luthor relapses from Apex Lex back to plain old Lex at some point. And the Daily Planet under siege? I am going to guess that it is from other news outlets and not a physical siege.

I keep hoping Romita's time on the book comes to an end.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Review: Superman #21

Superman #21 came out this week, the fourth chapter in The Truth. The book itself is split into two storylines. First, Superman is in an outer space brawl with Mongul, trying to keep the fledgling UP together. The second is Lois being confronted with the news that Superman declared himself the representative of the Earth in the UP. Both are pretty rollicking threads with great turns.

Brian Michael Bendis again has a good handle on dialogue here. First we have a Superman who worries about how he sounds when he takes charge or angry. That is an interesting little look into his persona and how he wants to be perceived. Just as interesting is Lois' quick switch from being surprised by a question to turning the table deftly and showing how strong her personality is.

Outside of dialogue, the action is well done with good banter. There is a slight deus ex machina that jolts the proceedings. But otherwise the story here is strong.

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado really do a great job on the art this issue. From particular pages with narrow vertical panels to show tremendous action to interesting angles in the Lois sides, things are just beautiful. And the cover has a sort of Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 vibe.

On to the book!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Supergirl episode 513: It's A Super Life

I continue to catch up on my Supergirl show reviews and that brings me to the 100th episode of the show, a magical number which means we will soon be seeing the show in syndication! I can't wait to revisit some of the earlier seasons, especially to remind myself where we were and where this show is now.

But outside of the magical number, I also have to say this is my favorite episode of Supergirl to date. The episode is titled 'It's a Super Life', a riff on Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' and following that movie's plot of seeing where the world would be if the main character made different decisions (or didn't exist).

As such, this episode leans heavily into the history of the show looking back several seasons and recreating the looks of those particular episodes to a tee. All along this season, I have been cheering the fact that the writers are looking at the show's history as ... well ... history and playing the past events up. Here the double down and it is wonderful.

And this episode answers the question we all have probably screamed at one point or another in past seasons. 'Why didn't Kara tell Lena her secret identity [then]!' when the [then] is the moment you felt it would best be done. For me, it was the plane rescue last season when Lena and Kara were flying out to find Red Daughter. The show even gave me that moment as a possibility!

One thing this episode shows is that whatever decision we make in life, there are consequences, some of them unforeseen.

I really loved this episode. I hope you all did too!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Supergirl Episode 512: Back From The Future Pt 2

I know I am woefully late on this review. For some reason, this season, it has been near impossible for me to post weekly reviews of the Supergirl show. And that's on me. It also is a shame because I think this might be the strongest season so far for this show.

For me, there are a lot of things which have stood out about this season that have made it incredible. The turning of Lena, making her into a villain ... or at least someone misguided into thinking they are the hero ... has been the straw stirring the drink. Add in Lex and Leviathan and you have a plot driven season with strong stories to build on.

Add the incredible Crisis on Infinite Earths midseason event, resetting the stage of this world, and you have an almost blank canvas on which to scrawl your stories.

And yet despite that reset, more than ever, this season is leaning into the continuity of the show. We are seeing references that go back to the earliest episodes. Surprise guest stars and homages have made this feel like a true history. (This is even more evident in episode 513.)

This is still a show with a political viewpoint but unlike last year when it was driven home with the subtlety of a bus crash, this year it feels like it is story first. The messages are there but they are not the driving force. As I have said, I like stories with messages, not agendas that a story is built on.

Which all leads us into episode 512, Back From the Future, Pt 2, an episode which leans into the character of Winn, comments on his history, and gives us some closure. I have to say, it felt good to have Jeremy Jordan back on the show. I realized that I missed the energy he brought to the proceedings.

On to the episode.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Review: Lois Lane #9

Lois Lane #9 came out last week, marking the 75% mark for this title.

This ninth issue has many of the same problems that I have had with this book since about the third issue. It is an excellent Question book, with Renee again having the best scenes and lines. There is a tiny little bit of plot progression but not a lot. And there is a political agenda to the story but one that seems to be forced into the story instead of being the foundation of the plot or even crucial to it. Greg Rucka is certainly rolling things out slowly if at all. A reminder, the first plot we heard about ... the death of a Russian reporter similar to Lois ... hasn't been touched upon in a while.

That makes it sound like I don't like the book. And that isn't necessarily true. I do. Just not as much as I hoped I would. I really wanted a Lois-driven book. While I like Renee being a sort of operative for our titular character, it feels more like a team up book than a solo title with a supporting character.

Mike Perkins continues to give us excellent visuals here. As I have said before, Perkins would be my first choice on a Montoya Question book. Perkins gives us superb and moody night-time scenes. And this time his expressive work is right on the money. And this is a nice cover showing how the hundreds imprisoned in detention centers are essentially dehumanized and faceless.

On to the book.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: Superman Villains

Superman Villains came out this week, the bookend to last week's Superman Heroes. The focus of this book is to see how Superman's villains are responding to the news that he and Clark Kent are the same.

And I am a bit torn about this book.

There are several stories that I actually love. There is the reintroduction of Ma and Pa Kent into the DCU (post Doomsday Clock). There is a hilarious short with Lex Luthor. There is a giant plot progression that will certainly dramatically impact the main books. And there is a redemption of super-villain, spurred along by the inspiration of Superman. All good. Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction have such a handle on these characters now that it just all clicks. Add solid art, with particularly effective visuals by Cully Hamner and Michael Gaydos, and you think this would be a win all around.

But there is a downside, one that particularly stings for me. Supergirl has a story here, explaining why she is doing what she is doing in Smallville in her own book, a prologue to a story that is now 3 months in. And she is doing it because she is angry at Superman, a response to his reveal.

I want you to think that last paragraph over. Realize this, in a book called Superman Villain, a book looking specifically at his foes response to his Truth, Kara is the lead in a story. Supergirl is a Superman villain right now.

That is inherently wrong. It is simply terrible.

And yet, once again, here we are. Same as it ever was.

That is such a monumental failure for me, on all levels, that I can't help but have it muddy my feelings on the rest of the book.

It is ridiculous.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review: Amethyst #1

I have always been a fan of Amethyst, so much that she took over this site once.

I have always been a fan of Amy Reeder, since I first saw her work on Madame Xanadu and Supergirl through her recent Rocket Girl book.

And I have always known that Amy Reeder and Amethyst would be a peanut butter and chocolate unification, so much so that I recommended her on Amethyst during a 'Wednesday Comics 2' dream post 5 years ago.

So when an Amy Reeder Amethyst book was announced as a mini-series under Brian Michael Bendis' Wonder Comics imprint I knew I was going to be in.

Last week Amethyst #1 came out and did not disappoint. Reeder writes, draws, and colors the book meaning this is a labor of love for Reeder. And the story, art, and colors are crisp and lush. I was smiling a ton as I read this book and can't wait for the next issue.

Reeder seems to have a grasp of the character and her history, leaning into at least the original mini-series plot. She also shows just how difficult it must be to live two lives. If you could be an ordinary Earth teenager or a magical princess, who would pick the former? And how does that affect your Earth family? But we are mostly in the Gemworld here and this is a good opening chapter with a mystery and a threat already having happened. How will our Amy save her people when she seems to be nearly alone in her quest?

The art and color show the same dynamism I came to love in Rocket Girl with action and page layout really complementing each other. Dripping in purples, the whole thing is just easy on the eyes too!

On to the book!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Review: Batman/Superman #7

Batman/Superman #7 came out this week starting a new storyline by Joshua Williamson with art by Nick Derington. It is a very story again showcasing the alliance of the world's finest heroes this time trying to stymie an ongoing war between two of villains:Batman's Ra's Al Ghul and Superman's General Zod.

Williamson again shows the inner thoughts of the heroes and why they are natural partners. It is interesting to see each dealing with the other's rogue. Ra's may be an extreme threat to Batman but to Superman he's just a guy.

It also builds on the death of the Kandorians in Brian Michael Bendis' Man of Steel. In that book, I thought for sure that Rogol Zaar literally trampled the mini-Kryptonians underfoot. But here they are intact ... just dead. And perhaps, as such, they are ready to be raised and repopulate New Krypton. That's a decent plot.

Derington's are is wonderful. It is both classic in feel but with a sense of flair. I think he is better suited for the Batman side of the proceedings than the Superman stuff but that's just me. I loved his work on Doom Patrol and it is just as spectacular here.

Thankfully, this also means infected Joker Batmen are not present. Progress!

On to the book!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1020

Action Comics #1020 came out this week and was another great chapter in the Metropolis of Doom storyline. I am sick to death of the Apex Lex/Perpetua/Legion of Doom storyline, especially since we have seen it's downbeat ending and the upcoming 'Metal' sequel. But I am a sucker for team-ups and I am a believer in the power of Superman's hope and I have become fan of Leviathan. This issue is chock full of those things, which make this a winner.

Brian Michael Bendis makes this almost a DC Comics Presents Superman and Young Justice issue. It is amazing to me how easy and breezy Bendis' Young Justice reads. So, of course, I loved seeing Superman immediately recognize them as a force for good and put them into action. That means we also get a meeting (again ... for the first time) between Superman and the Conner Superboy! It's about time!

Moreover, questions I had last issue about Leviathan's motivations to join the LoD are answered at the end of the book. Any time I get more insight into the new menace of Leviathan, I'm a happy reader.

The one downside again, for me, is the art by John Romita Jr. It just doesn't flow for me. Even this cover, with that odd right leg, just seems off. Unfortunately, for a medium which requires the use of both words and art, I felt pulled out of the story a little.

On to the book!