Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Back Issue Review: Supergirl Annual #1 (1996)

Later this week, Supergirl #42 will be digitally released, the ending of the latest volume of Supergirl. Unfortunately, it seems like the volume will end on a bad note with the character reeling from a villainous turn and shunned by the public.

Not exactly a great legacy for a run which had a 'rebirth' to a more classic heroic turn earlier only to have Supergirl angrily take off into space and then infected by the Batman Who Laughs.

I have been thinking a lot about Supergirl's legacy these days. I think I know what Supergirl represents. But now I am wondering, given the more recent 'evil' turns of the character, that I am the one in the wrong. Maybe the characters has moved beyond my concept of Kara (or even Matrix), an optimistic, bright, smart, determined young woman who wants to fight injustice.

Somehow that led me to the long box and Supergirl Annual #1 from 1996. This was the summer where all the Annuals were under the trade dress Legends of the Dead Earth. Because this Annual actually has several tales about Supergirl's legacy and today I'll be covering one of them.

 We get a splash page explaining the foundation behind the annuals. Earth is dead. And in the far flung future in the vast universes, the Earth's legends live on.

I don't know, in our 'does the story matter' continuity obsessed culture that an idea like this could happen again. These are clearly just one offs, with a concept not likely to be revisited again.

Even more interesting is the timing of this. This is cover dated June 1996. That is two months before Showcase '96 #8.  And three months before the beginning of the actual Peter David scripted Supergirl title. An Annual before the actual book is released? Fascinating.

And already, in the story I am reviewing today, the concept of Supergirl as an angelic figure, a prime them in the PAD book, is mentioned. I wonder how much of where David was going was already known.

On to the book.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Flash Facts

As a kid, I used to love in Flash comics when the writer would drop in a Flash Fact, some scientific tidbit that helped explain why the Flash was able to do what he was doing. It often involved the color of the light spectrum and infra-red vs ultraviolet. But it could also be physics equations (Force equals mass times acceleration) or astronomy lessons (strength of gravity on other planets).  From Gardner Fox reprints to Cary Bates to even Grant Morrison in JLA, Flash Facts were and are appreciated

Whatever the Flash fact, as a kid, I would find a way to drop it into conversation with my dad (a science teacher) as a way to prove that comics were, indeed, a worthwhile hobby. (I would do the same with any big vocabulary word that I learned as well.)

So imagine my surprise to learn that DC is doing a while book of Flash Facts for the all ages group. Here is a link from CBR:https://www.cbr.com/flash-facts-big-bang-theory-mayim-bialik-graphic-novel/

The Mayim Bialik link seems to be more a way to get some mainstream buzz.

But putting the DC Superheroes into kids' hands is always a great idea.

Throw in the fact that Supergirl is going to be in there and I am very happy.

Nothing I like more to see than a smiling scientist Supergirl cruising around and learning. That is Kara!

Here is a blurb from the article. But I think I will be getting this to give to some younger relatives as gifts!

Under Bialik’s oversight, the short stories demonstrating various S.T.E.M. principles will star Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more DC Super Heroes and will be written and drawn by some of the most popular writers and artists in middle grade and comics publishing, including New York Timesbestselling author Michael Northrop (TombQuest, Dear Justice League), Dustin Hansen (Microsaurs, My Video Game Ate My Homework), Cecil Castellucci (Batgirl), Kirk Scroggs (Snoop Troop, The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid), Corinna Bechko, Sholly Fisch, Amanda Deibert, Vita Ayala, Amy Chu, and more to be announced.

Also, have to admit, that is a very impressive list of creators!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Review: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #11 came out this week and was another smashing chapter of what has to be the most criminally underappreciated book on the market right now.

I don't think I use the word 'genius' a lot on this blog. But what writer Matt Fraction and artist Steve Lieber are doing on this title is genius. Somehow they are able to tell us a story, a nonlinear story about an assassination attempt on Jimmy Olsen, while just simmering in the pure joy of the Silver Age and the Bronze Age. This issue is no difference, even crossing company lines at one place.

And yet, instead of this just being a parade of homages and silliness, it tells a compelling story. And one that could become a big part of comic canon. And a new mystery is brought into play! Let's compare that to other Superman based maxi-series out right now which haven't really showcased the title character or told much of a story.

Lieber is called upon to illustrate this madness and he continues to shine here. There is a fight scene where you have the Reign of the Jimmy Olsens, Enemy Ape, Arm Fall Off Boy, and Dex-Starr fighting robots. And yet, there is consequences and punch to that scene of insanity.

There isn't a lot to celebrate about 2020. This book deserves to be recognized for the joy it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Front Line Providers By Jesus Merino

We live in frightening a dninteresting times.
The world is in the middle of a pandemic.

One off-shoot of the pandemic has been the massive explosion of images of super-heroes in the mainstream, specifically front line workers being super-heroes along with our spandex clad favorites. From a physician answering a 'med signal' while Batman looks on to Superman handing his cape to delivery people and grocery store workers, the message is clear that in our real world, the people keeping the world running in the pandemic are heroes. I am sure you all have seen them.

Far and away, my favorite one has been this one by Jesus Merino. For one, this medical worker holding the heroes back with a sort of defiant 'I got this' look on her face is pitch perfect.

But more importantly, I love how prominently Supergirl is featured in this image. I mean she has a big a presence as Superman and Wonder Woman. Heck, Batman is sort of a floating head. I also love how she is sort of flying/floating. And she also has a determined look on her face.

Bring it on COVID!

I wonder if Kara is a favorite of Merino.

We have seen Merino's take on Supergirl back in Wonder Woman #48:

I wouldn't mind seeing him do more issues with her. He has a nice take on the Girl of Steel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Ben Dunn Commission

I thought I had posted all my Supergirl commissions on this site!

But I have recently moved and just got around to looking at my older commissions, back in the day when I had them done outside a sketch book and framed them for hanging.

Looking through the frames, I ran across this sketch by Ben Dunn (of Warrior Nun Areala fame) which I had commissioned way way back in 2007, a time when I wasn't even blogging.

I can remember that I had sent Dunn source material so he knew my preferred costume and I think all I asked for was an 'action shot' since all my commissions up to that point were either head shots or sort of static images.

He certainly delivered with this anime style shot of Supergirl slugging it out with a rather odd cyborg. The villain certainly has a 'Metallo from Superman:The Animated Series' vibe to him.

This is a wonderful piece with Supergirl in a good flying pose and also leading with her left hand, something she does for the most part in comics. I do like the dynamic feel Dunn brings here with the ruffling skirt and the bits flying off the cyborg's face.

A hidden treasure! Truly hidden! And overdue for showcasing here on the blog, especially in a year where I probably won't be going to any conventions and won't get any new sketches for some time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review: Young Justice #15

With no Supergirl book being on the stands and Amethyst just a mini-series, I have been picking my brain over what book I should review on this site next.

Young Justice it is! It has a Superboy in it, keeping with the super-focus of this place. And it also has young, optimistic heroes in it, something I love. So here we are.

Young Justice #15 came out last week and continued a current theme I am seeing in DC books, the acknowledgment by characters that their reality has been disturbed, rebooted, and reimagined. This time, the focus is on Conner Kent, the new/old/new Superboy of the DCU and how he came back to reality.

Brian Michael Bendis already showed us the aftermath of this issue in Action Comics when Conner met the Kents. Now we get the lead into that encounter and the wrap up of his return to Earth here. While Conner is the focus of the bulk of this issue, Bendis and co-writer David Walker also makes this group of Young Heroes an official entity with a roster and everything. That made me happy.

The art is by John Timms and Scott Godlewski. Both shine. Timms style is a perfect fit for the book, just stylized enough to bring a sort of energy to the proceedings, as he did over on Harley Quinn.

And I have to love the 'sort of homage' to Superman #15, the first part of The Truth. After all, this book is about Superboy's truth.

On to the book.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Review:Superman #22

Superman #22 came out this week, the finale of The Truth arc in which Superman reveals he is Clark Kent to the world and accepts the role of Earth Representative to the United Planets.

Just like Mongul to come crash the party with Warworld.

This is one of those comic issues that really made me smile, yet another reminder of why I still read comics after all these years. As usual it is one of those perfect storms of art and words that make this medium so compelling to me.

We'll start with the writing. The book basically is split between a massive brawl in space between Superman and Mongul. Here, Superman's internal dialogue spells out his thoughts on Mongul and his people. He also recalls a Supergirl moment from (maybe) another continuity and respects Kara for her ingenuity. Perfect. While she isn't here, it is a Supergirl moment to shine.

The other half is a more pitched grounded battle of wills between Lois Lane and Cameron Chase as Lois deals with the fallout of Clark's reveal. It is both tense and relaxed in tone, a wonderful representation of the power and cool of these women.

And then there is the art by Kevin Maguire. It is brilliant. For one, the page layouts for the space battles are varied between long vertical panels, cramped horizontal wide screen panels, and splash pages. Each page of that fight is palpable and dynamic and the cramped or open layouts help add to the feel. Meanwhile, the Lois pages play out with more normal panel sizes, perhaps a cue to make us differentiate the two struggles. It is just fantastic.

And I would be remiss if I didn't also comment on the smashing cover by Ivan Reis, a sort of reverse homage to the loving protector of Earth cover of All Star Superman #10.

On to the book.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Review: Amethyst #3

Amethyst #3 came out last week, some time since the last issue was released. I have been waiting!

Amy Reeder continues to push this story forward nicely. This is a six issue mini-series and so we are holding the turning point. We are halfway done here. And one of the things that this issue does nicely is continue to provide small crumbs of the current Gemworld mystery of House Amethyst's disappearance while showing us some glimpses to more classic Amethyst lore.

In fact, things seem to happen almost too fast. We are really pushing things quickly, introducing new elements of the culture and running through the lands as she rushes to a confrontation with Dark Opal. I almost wish we had a couple of extra pages to let some of these scenes breathe and give us information more naturally rather than an info dump.

That said, I am most interested with the characterization of Amethyst. She is angry here and because of that she is the one driving the pace. She is upset about what is happening to her House, she has just learned her parents might be alive, and she needs to know why! As a result, even when friends are being friends or people are warning her to be cautious, she snaps and moves forward. I am not used to seeing a snippy Amethyst but given her age and the circumstances, it makes sense. There is room for her to grow here emotionally and my hope is we get there.

The art here is, no surprise, sumptuous. Reeder creates a magical land with beasts and mystical landscapes and gems gems gems. But the thing that struck me the most was her expressive work. I want to live in a world where people emote the way they do in an Amy Reeder comic. Beautiful.

On to the book!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: Supergirl #15

Today I complete my look at the three part Blackstarr story which took place in the (Daring New Adventures of) Supergirl #13-15.

Supergirl #15 is the conclusion of this arc which has pitted Kara against an immensely powerful super-villain in Blackstarr as well as the evil of prejudice. We have a story which has both intense personal level events (Mrs. Berkowitz, a concentration camp survivor dealing with her daughter being alive and a Nazi) as well as super-heroic events of Supergirl battling someone with the entire universe's energies in their arsenal.

By flipping back and forth, from the planet-level threat to the personal emotional trauma, writer Paul Kupperberg is able to weave a solid story. It is easy for Supergirl to fight someone throwing energy blasts. It is harder for Supergirl to fight racism. You can't punch that as a whole. But we know how Supergirl feels. We know she will battle prejudice in all forms. And for that alone I love this story. It does wrap up a bit easily but it is satisfying.

The art by Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner is once again up to the task here, mixing in civilian scenes of Linda Danvers with impressive scenes of elaborate galactic level energy. I can remember disliking Infantino's work on this when I first read it as a kid. But as a 'grown up', I have really come to appreciate it.

On to the book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

DC September 2020 Solicits

The September solicits for DC Comics came out this week and I was immediately caught off guard. That's because Newsarama, the site I usually leave a link for was technically not there. My bookmark for Newsarama led me to Gamesradar.com!

So here is the Gamesrader link to see the whole month's solicits:

It is a bit of a lean month as by this time the Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen maxi-series will have completed. And, lest we forget, there is no Supergirl on the shelves.

We also get yet another mega-beefy bad guy to slip into the Rogol Zaar/Doomsday/Imperiex/Mongul mold. Will this one have staying power? I guess we'll see.

But let's not bury the lede. We do have a Supergirl sighting!

Action Comics #1025
Written By Brian Michael Bendis
Art And Cover By John Romita Jr. And Klaus Janson
Variant Cover By Lucio Parrillo

Welcome to the House of Kent! Superman’s truth is out there—and now it’s time to rewrite the rules! The invisible mafia has taken advantage of the chaos that’s descended on Metropolis, so the House of Kent is going to talk to them in a language they’ll understand. It’s a new adventure featuring Superman like you’ve never seen him—or them—before, in a story guest-starring Supergirl and two—yes, two!—Superboys!

It looks like there is going to be a bit of a brawl. What other language does the Invisible Mafia but violence.

I am just happy to see Supergirl back in the family. After all, this is a House of Kent arc. I wonder what she'll think of Conner.

I have always enjoyed the way Brian Michael Bendis portrays Supergirl so I am really looking forward to this and hoping she is redeemed from the ending in her own title.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes #6

Every now and then a comic crosses my path that reminds me why this hobby remains a crucial part of my life. You know what I mean I'm sure. That sort of issue that is a perfect mix of words and images. Great words. Superior art. A plot that reminds you that heroes exist. And twist maybe you weren't expecting that works. The kind of issue that even at an advanced age like me makes me get goose bumps.

Legion of Super-Heroes #6 by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook is such an issue.

I am a lifelong Legion fan. I have been waiting a long time for a Legion book that feels both classic and fresh to cross my path. I crave a Legion book I can get behind. I have been aching for it.

Classic and fresh? Sounds impossible.

But so far this book's creative forces have been walking that tightrope. A true Legion of heroes? Lads and Lasses? Superboy? RJ Brande forming them? A United Planets? Mordru?  A Ferro Lad mention!Classic check check check.

New heroes? A not so nice Brande? A shattered Earth? A Ferro Lad mention! New.

And here in the 6th issue we finally get to see the force of the Legion when the team is unleashed. We get double page spreads where we see our heroes battling the Horraz. I don't want to understate this. Two page spreads of delicious Ryan Sook art showing the team bashing and blasting. So scrumptious I almost ate the book.

Add a little plot twist that maybe I should have foreseen but didn't which just sticks the landing of this issue.

A Legion book I can get behind. Amazing.

On to the book.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Review: Lois Lane #11

Lois Lane #11 came out this week and I am finally willing to admit that I am ready for the maxi-series being over.

Because, as has been shown throughout this title, it *really* isn't a Lois Lane book.

This is a backdoor pilot for a new Renee Montoya Question book. Maybe writer Greg Rucka has had a Renee story germinating in his mind and used Lois' book as a way to tell that story. But I was really looking forward to a Lois book. It has been too long since we had one.

Instead, we get this book which instead concentrates mainly on Renee and her relationships. We get a callback to a book that was on the shelves over 10 years ago. And Lois is just a sidebar. To make matters even worse, the book is confusing and sort of clumsily presented.

Moreover, all the plots which are Lois-centric have basically been pushed aside. Detention centers? Dead Russion reporters? Grief over Sam Lane? Changes over Clark's reveal? All of that hasn't been touched on in a while.

The art remains very solid by Mike Perkins. He is the perfect choice for a street level Question book, inky and moody and dynamic. And this variant cover by Joelle Jones is just beautiful.

But where is the Lois book we were all clamoring for? Because this isn't it.

On to the book.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Bullet review: Wonder Woman #756

Last week Wonder Woman #756 came out and continued a very solid run on the book by Steve Orlando.

For me, Orlando has brought a sort of classic feel to the book again.

To start, Wonder Woman is talking a lot about loving submission a lot in this book. Gone is the 'sword and shield first' attitude that has permeated Diana for what feels like forever. Loving submission was a main topic of the original Marston run. I have always liked Diana being an ambassador first, warrior second. So this works for me.

Second, in an Event Leviathan quasi-crossover, Orlando reintroduces a version of Paula Von Gunther. Von Gunther was another major villain from the earliest days in Wonder Woman comics. So this also feels very classic. Adding the wrinkle that she is somehow a daughter of the Valkyries and looking for revenge against the Amazons adds a threat level the prior purely human Von Gunther sort of lacked.

So I have been enjoying this. Add in some Donna Troy and I think this is a winner. In fact, Troy is why I am bullet reviewing this. More on that at the bottom

On to the book.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #14

Supergirl #14 continues the Blackstarr storyline mixing incredible super-heroics with the backdrop of racism and prejudice. Feels like a good time in America to review this story.

Writer Paul Kupperberg focuses on Nazis and anti-semitism but the truth is any organized and systemic prejudice is villainous and this is just one example. and Kupperberg has a very goo approach. There are basically three levels to this story. One is the story of the Nazi party organizing in Chicago and how the city is responding. There is the superhero story of Supergirl fighting the immensely powerful Blackstarr, the leader of the Nazis. And then there is the personal story, how this is effecting Kara's landlord, Mrs. Berkowitz who survived the camps in Nazi Germany. By giving us all these perspectives, we get a full and enriching story.

The art is by Carmin Infantino and Bob Oksner who continue to bring their style to the affairs. They need to show their chops given the story layers as well. You need to convey crazy powers on top of personal scenes. These guys are legends so it flows seamlessly. But the show stopper is the Gil Kane cover which dazzles. I am not a Gil Kane fan usually but this one feels dynamic. Kara looks like she is feeling that blast.

On to the book.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Review: Batman/Superman #9

Batman/Superman #9 came out this week, starting a new storyline. Like many opening chapters, it starts the plot and gives us just enough crumbs to grab us.

The first couple of arcs have been pretty tightly linked to the histories of either Batman or Superman as well. The Batman Who Laughs, the Infected, General Zod, Ra's Al Ghul all have been involved in the first 8 issues. So I am actually a little thrilled to see this storyline involving the Ultra-Humanite. Show me an old school adventure where the World's Finest teams up to fight a threat which isn't tied too tightly to event comics.

Writer Josh Williamson has done a good job so far in this book giving us the inner thoughts of our two heroes and specifically denoting how they think of each other. I am a little weary of the text box inner narrative approach to story telling which is so common place these days. But here, given the friendship of such two very different main characters, I have been pretty pleased.

The art is by Clayton Henry, an artist whose style I like. Bodies seem big and wide, a sort of modern style Wayne Boring. And there is a polish here that I like. And colors by Alejandro Sanchez are vibrant, especially given the colors and energy of the Atomic Skull who is featured here.

On to the book.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1022

Action Comics #1022 came out this week and was a pure joy. In a time where I need something uplifting and something to fill me with joy, this issue hit the mark.

This issue tries to answer a thorny continuity question. Who is Conner Kent Superboy? How can he exist. In the end, writer Brian Michael Bendis seems to say 'who cares as long as it makes you happy?' There is a lot of talk of reboots, crisis changes, timelines, multiple Earths or multiple versions of one Earth. All the jargon is tossed in. But in the end, what we get is a happy reunion and an great addition to the DC universe. (Maybe it would be better to say two additions to the DC Universe!)

Put aside the Conner Kent storyline and Bendis continues to stir the pot about the Invisible Mafia and the revelation that they have run the Daily Planet. I have always loved the Planet-centric nature of this comic and seeing the best supporting cast in comics commanding some pages makes me very happy.

John Romita Jr is on art and I'm not the biggest fan. His work here is solid enough. But many of the panels are close up profiles of Jon/Clark/Conner. And, maybe to highlight a point, all those faces look similar. I sometimes had to pause the read to figure out who was saying what.

But there is no denying. I loved this issue. On to the details.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The End Of Convention Season Before It Even Began

Self care.

In 2020, I have come to understand the term more than ever.

I have always been someone who has, in times of stress, simply put my head down and worked harder. In times of stress, I have always put the needs of others ahead of my own. While noble sounding, it has sometimes got me into trouble. (In fact, this very site was created out of a need for self-care, a creative outlet to talk about something I loved. A way to get away from problems in my life for 45 minutes.)

If I ever needed self care it has been 2020.

In late 2019 I began divorce proceedings, proceedings which are still on going.
I have been living on my own for the last 6 months.

More than any other year, I needed self care. And something that has always provided me some important 'me time' has been the summer comic convention season. And more than any year, given a newfound sense of individuality and (frankly) freedom, I needed this year's con season.

And then, in 2020, the COVID pandemic hit the United States. That carries its own stressors. Add my profession and there is an added layer.

Sadly, that meant that conventions, such as Terrificon (my favorite con), have been canceled. That meant this little slice away from it all ... a time to hang with friends, a time to meet creators, a time to just be Anj ... was gone.

And now, there is the frank reality of systemic issues within our national police forces as well as civil unrest rampaging across the country. 

More than ever I would love to go to a place where I feel united in a group. But cons aren't happening.

It seems foolish even to be talking about this.

No Terrificon.
No Fan Expo Boston.
No Plastic City Comic Con.

These were things I have been looking forward to for months, maybe selfishly.

It sounds so privileged to be talking about this when tear gas is being fired. 
When people are dying.
When events like the death of George Floyd keep happening. 
When protests to create change become riots with stores being looted.
When people are still dying from COVID.

I can only hope the world is a better place in 2021.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Back Issue Box: (Daring New) Supergirl #13

One of the decisions I made when I set up this site was that I didn't want it to be a sort of index show where I would review Supergirl's stories in order. Instead, I have tried my best to review older issues which somehow reference current comic or world events.

Once more in the United States, we are divided. Protests over racial inequalities have erupted around the country. And once more I simply worry about the future of this great nation. We just can't seem to get together over basic concepts as life, liberty, and equality.

With that in mind, I decided to look at 1983's Supergirl #13. With this 'anniversary' issue, the title sheds the 'Daring New Adventures Of ..." part of title. We get a new costume for Kara and this rather patriotic cover by Ed Hannigan.

And this is an interesting issue because it has two very different tones in these 22 pages. The front half of this issue is a sort of celebration of Supergirl, recently victorious from a near fatal battle, she is entering a new chapter of her life.

The back half is a solemn story about antisemitism and prejudice and how the fringes of hate can suddenly become mainstream. It is oddly prescient. This issue would be relevant today, 37 years after it was published. In fact, given the rise of white nationalism and the further divide in our country, this feels even more relevant today.

Kudos to writer Paul Kupperberg  (who autographed my copy, seen above). This issue shows us the pain of prejudice on a very individual level. This was a time when you could look at superheroes as pure role models. I learned the concepts of right and wrong from comics.  No big surprise, Supergirl hates Nazis.

Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner bring their usual great art here. The villain of the piece has a sort of Gene Colan feel to her. And overall, as usual, there is a high polish to the Linda Danvers pages here.

On to the story.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Bullet Review: Hell Arisen #4


New comics!!!

As strange as it seems given the more recent history, my comic story was sort of open this week! I was able to get new comics, including the print versions of Lois Lane #10 and Jimmy Olsen #10 which I purchased digitally during the closure of the stores during the pandemic.

And look at that fat stack! Hooray for me!

Tucked into all this new goodness was Hell Arisen #4, a book I threw in my pull folder prior to the store closing. But I forgot that I had held it aside and didn't purchase it way back in March. As a result, it sat there festering.

But this was the ending of Kara's infection and I felt I need to read it to complete that story in my head.

I did not get the first three issues of this. So I don't know much. I do know that between Justice League and Batman/Superman I knew enough of the concurrent Perpetua and Batman Who Laughs storylines that I was glad reconciling the two competing plots in one book.

Or were they?

Turns out that this mini-series ends as the prologue for the upcoming Death Metal mini-series. Nothing is necessarily ending here.

At the very least, the infections are over. But does the solution make sense? Perhaps someone who did read the beginning of this series can answer that for me.

On to a quick Supergirl-centric bullet review.