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.