Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Future State Legion Of Super-Heroes #1

Remember when DC completely rebooted the universe in the New 52? 

It's sort of a trick question. You might recall that the Batman books and the Green Lantern books, which were selling like hotcakes at the time, didn't reboot at all and just chugged along.

Or maybe you remember the 'One Year Later' jump forward in time with Infinite Crisis where all books jumped forward a year in their timeline, keeping the foundation of the books intact but giving us some plot mysteries.

I was reminded of those a little when I read Future State Legion of Super-Heroes #1. Writer Brian Michael Bendis is guiding the main Legion book. And this Future State book takes place on that timeline somewhere. As he has said, it might be a year, a week, 5 years in the future from Legion of Super-Heroes #12 which we just read. So this is our current Legion, living in the current universe and timeline, just nudged forward. As a result, I felt this book had a bit more skin in the game than the other 'possible futures'. In my mind, this is simply the next issue in the current volume.

And, as he has been doing in the current book, Bendis sort of picks through all the Legion histories, finds the good bits, and adds it to his plot soup. Whether intentional or not, this book had some undertones of the 5YL Legion book as well as the Abnett/Lanning Legion Lost book. That completely works.

Add to that the wild and innovative art of the Riley Rossmo and this is a very solid book. Rossmo brings a style that is wild and stylized but gritty enough to fit this sort of more dystopian future. I once described Frank Robbin's art on Marvel's The Invaders as 'beautiful ugly'. I think that works here too.

On to the book!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Back Issue Box: Guy Gardner Warrior #24

 Death Metal has happened and the DCU has been re-written. We are in a Future State. But as far as I can tell, Supergirl didn't have much to do with the victory over the Batman Who Laughs.

It got me thinking about Supergirl's place in other mega-events. Obviously, she played a huge part in Crisis on Infinite Earths. But otherwise? 

In 1994, DC rewrote the timeline again in Zero Hour. This time instead of Kara Zor-El heading into battle, it was Matrix Supergirl. And instead of a major role, this Supergirl was only seen in background shots of the main title. In fact the biggest role she had to play was in Guy Gardner #24, a Zero Hour crossover issue. And even in this, she is but one of many,

And remember, this is an odd time in Guy Gardner's history. He is a true warrior now, with Vulderian shape-shifting powers, making him a living weapon. The issue is written by Beau Smith, the main writer on the title. Art is by a smorgasbord of artists, many of whom are favorites of mine - layouts by Jackson Guice with pencils by Phil Jimenez, Howard Porter, and Mike Parobeck among those listed.

How does Matrix fare in a battle against time despot Extant? Well, let's take a quick good at the extent of her fight against Extant.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Review: Manhunter #6 & Suicide Squad Annual #1

Why did Mark Shaw become Leviathan? 

I have been looking at his history and trying to find clues in his background that twisted him into the commander of Leviathan. I know hindsight is 20/20 and I am picking out the things that make sense given the present. But in doing this deep dive, I am more and more impressed with Brian Michael Bendis choosing the character to head this new organization.

That brings me to Manhunter #6 and Suicide Squad Annual #1, a two part story which shows how shadowy organizations which keep secrets destroy lives and hinder humanity. These are important foundations to the Leviathan credo. So while this story has been pretty much forgotten, it is one more brick in the building of Mark Shaw, Leviathan.

Manhunter #6 is written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Pablo Marcos and Romeo Tanghal. Suicide Squad Annual #1 is written by Ostrander with art by Graham Nolan and Tim Dzon.

Let's just dive in!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Review: Future State Superman Worlds Of War #1

Future State Superman Worlds Of War #1 came out last week. Of all the Future State books, this was the one I was most eager to read. Phillip Kennedy Johnson is the writer of the main Superman story and as he is taking over the Superman books, I have been eager to see his take on the Man of Steel.

While the story has Superman in it for only a couple of pages, the story did a good job of giving me a feel for what Johnson thinks of Superman. At least for now, I am pretty happy. It is hard to know how much of this Future State business (if any) is going to trickle back down to the present day timeline. But the general respect for Superman is seen here. 

Add to that Mikel Janin very polished art and you have a very entertaining story. Johnson's script has Janin drawing it all, from human crowds sitting around a bonfire to Superman fighting demons to an almost deific Man of Steel. His art dazzles in all those arenas.

This was a very entertaining read, not only for the actual plot but for the reassurance it has given me (for now) for the future of the Superman books. I haven't been able to say that I have enjoyed all the Future State stuff I have read. I can here.

On to the book.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #12

Legion of Super-Heroes #12 came out this week and it is a whirlwind of a story, wrapping up quite neatly all the plot lines which have been simmering in this title over this year.

One of the things that I struggle with on this site is reading a comic as a fan and reading a comic critically. Those are two very different experiences. And this issue encapsulates that conundrum quite well. 

As a fan I loved this. I have been waiting for us to see this Legion team as a whole fighting big bads. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives us tiny moments for almost all the teammates, showcasing them a bit. He continues to build a couple of future plot lines. Ryan Sook does all the art on the book and it is just gorgeous. And we end with a party. For someone who has craved a good Legion book on the shelves, this was a wonderful capstone to a fantastic first year.

As a critic, there are some things that lingered in my mind again. For one, this book has been simmering. This issue basically boils over. Everything wrapping up so quickly is a little jarring. I wonder how much of this accelerated pace was driven by the need for Future State to happen when it does. Second, and perhaps more a corollary of the first point, the big bads are taken care of with a quick fix, something we have seen with many big bads in the super-books lately. 

But I come to praise this book, not bury it. This was too much fun. I can only hope that Future State doesn't derail this book. I want more and I hope we get it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

DC April 2021 Solicits

The DC Comics solicits for April came out last week and I just get the sense that DC is in a sort of transition period for the Super-titles.

I have listened to interviews with Phillip Kennedy Johnson and he doesn't sound like someone who is on a long run on the Superman titles. We are coming out of Future State and it looks like some of the stories there are being touched upon now. And it seems like he is moving away from the Metropolis-centric Bendis feel to these titles.

Also, Supergirl isn't mentioned pretty much anywhere so I think Kara is on a bit of a hiatus.

For those interested, here is a link to all the solicits: 

 On to the super-books.

Action Comics #1030
backup story written by
backup story art by MICHAEL AVON OEMING
cover by MIKEL JAN├ŹN
card stock variant cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO

"Warworld Rising" starts here! A new chapter in Superman's life begins as the challenges of Dark Nights: Death Metal are causing Clark Kent to feel...a change in his powers. Is it possible the Metropolis Marvel could be losing a step? His struggles in taking down the creatures from the Breach would suggest as much! If he's going to continue to protect the people of Earth, he'll have to adapt—especially with threats like Mongul out there waiting to launch their biggest attacks on the Earth yet. That's right, those are Warworld battleships just outside our orbit, and they are heading straight for us!
Meanwhile, in the Midnighter backup story, the bad boy of the Authority has to figure out what Andrej Trojan is up to in the present if he ever wants to get back to Future State and swap places with the Midnighter of 2021, whom he left stranded on Warworld.

We have had Mongul show up a couple of times back in the Bendis run. When Superman was named the Earth rep for the UP, Mongul showed up. So it is interesting that we are heading back to that ground. Now I don't know anything about Death Metal. So is Superman depowering? Or changing his powers.

I am not a huge Midnighter fan but seeing the name Andrej Trojan, the implied baddie in FS Superman of Metropolis, is a nice hook. I don't know if Future State considered the future or a possible future. But I am glad some of the ideas will be played out in the current books.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Back Issue Box: Manhunter #5

Today I continue my deep dive look at Mark Shaw by taking a close look at 1988's Manhunter #5.

The first 4 issues set the stage. We see Shaw has set up his new identity as bounty hunter Manhunter.  We met his family. We see his father has a history of craving justice just like his son. We saw him fight with Dumas, a masked assassin who could be Shaw through a mirror darkly. And we meet the local police, hard-nosed Lieutenant Best.

Issue five is an interesting book, a stand alone story which deals more with Officer Sylvia Kandrey, a police officer who is savvy with early computer skills, akin to an early version of Oracle. Kandrey is slick with early databases but also shy. Somehow she gets trapped in Shaw's web. 

In fact, from a Leviathan viewpoint, that is the most interesting part of this issue. How could Leviathan convince an army to follow him like zealots? Well, when you see how quickly Kandrey falls to his charms, you wonder if his charisma is super-human. 

The issue was written by Kim Yale with art by Mary Mitchell. John Ostrander isn't around this time. 

So let's look at this done-in-one issue with a lens towards looking at a Leviathan future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Crisis On Infinite Earths Statue

Sometimes I feel lucky!

The statue commemorating Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 has been a sort of bucket list item for me. When this was issued in 1999,  I wasn't collecting things like this and the $125 price tag would have been extremely hefty for my resident salary. Still, there is no doubt this is a lovely statue by Tim Bruckner, capturing the famous George Perez cover.

But since I am a little older and have a Supergirl shrine, I have had my eye out for this in the wild.

I rarely see it at cons. And when I do, it usually is selling for more than twice the original price. So I usually defer buying. And then, as I leave the con with spending money in my pocket, I regret not splurging.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into my comic store and saw this statue, mint in box, with a price sticker for just the original $125!

And then imagine my even bigger shock when I saw a 'on sale 50% off' post it on the box.

That's right, this statue was on sale for $62.50. 

So naturally, it became mine!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Future State Superman/Wonder Woman #1

Future State has, for the most part, been a disappointment to me. But one of the issues I did quite like was the solo Future State Wonder Woman book which struck me as a sort of PG-13 Amethyst book more than the dark and dismal other things I have read.

With that in mind, I decided to get Future State Superman/Wonder Woman #1. This story clearly takes place before Superman of Metropolis and the Wonder Woman book. And happily, I will say this book puts a bit more of a glow on Jon. Unlike the rather dense and impetuous Superman we got in Superman of Metropolis, he really seems to have taken on the mantle of Superman nicely.

Unfortunately, I found this issue's take on Wonder Woman not to my liking at all. There was a certain naive energy and frenetic joy to her adventure in her own book. Here, she is a scowling social justice warrior who actually acts more like a villain to me than a hero. 

Take away her rather haughty and violent manner and you have a pretty decent team-up book showcasing our two titular characters in adventures which finally mesh at the end. Writer Dan Watters keeps the action moving. You get the sense this would be a sort of World's Finest style book were it to continue with Wonder Woman playing the gruff, 'punch first' foil to Superman's more polished demeanor.

Leila Del Luca is on art here. I have always liked here style and no difference with that here. Much of this story is just people talking, either amongst themselves or with an AI sun despot. But her style is vibrant and dynamic, so no complaints.

But I am glad that the sullen Wonder Woman I read here isn't necessarily the final take on the character.

On to the book.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Review: Future State Kara Zor-El Superwoman #1

Future State: Kara Zor-El Superwoman #1 came out this week and it took me a while to work out my feelings for this book. I suppose any book that has me thinking about it should be looked at as a win these days. Any book that has me re-read it the very day of purchase also should be looked upon as a success. It takes more and more to really hook me in these days.

In the end, I have conflicted feelings. I want a good Supergirl story. But I also, desperately, don't want a bad Supergirl story. And while this book is definitely not the latter, I am not sure it is the former.

Writer Marguerite Bennett at the very least doesn't make Supergirl angry or evil. This isn't the infected Goth Queen. It isn't even the Nirhodium-addled Kara from the FS Superman of Metropolis book. So hooray for that. And this is a Supergirl that seems to know who she is and what she wants. That gives her some agency. So you might think that I liked this book. And, as I said, at the very least it is far removed from takes on Supergirl we have seen too much of and which I definitely don't like. 

But then you realize that instead of angry angsty Supergirl, we have got sad, isolated Kara instead. This is a Kara that feels rejected or even hated by her family and the people of Earth. She is someone who has flown to a safe haven which hasn't exactly embraced her. She is someone who's emotional compass is a dog. And ultimately, she is someone who falls back into rage as a default. 

And all of that flies in the face of everything Brian Michael Bendis gave us in his books. A Kara respected by Kal and Jon. A smart strategic Kara who was a leader. The President of Earth in the future.

So better than her solo book? Yes. A good Supergirl story? Not quite yet.

The art by Marguerite Sauvage is very good. It fits the tone of this story nicely, an issue mostly of Supergirl talking with a new character. The muted color palette also works very well with the art as we get this almost idyllic feel to this haven. 

On to the book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Back Issue Box: Manhunter #2-4

Today I continue my deep dive into the character of Mark Shaw, looking for clues in his past that could have predicted his descent into Leviathan. I have reached his solo title, Manhunter. And as I said in a past post, I'll probably be a little loose with my coverage, not necessarily having a single post for each issue. Instead, I'll batch as feels appropriate.

Today, I'll cover Manhunter #2-#4, completing the first arc in this title. We saw the set-up in Manhunter #1. Shaw has moved on from super-heroing into bounty hunting. His family has mixed feelings about it. A reclusive actress named Olivia Vancroft has taken in interest in adding the Manhunter mask to her collection. And she has hired Dumas, a masked assassin with shape-changing abilities to procure it for her.

This storyline brings Shaw to Japan under false pretenses, has him wanted by the police, and gives us some needed backstory of his family. But most of all, for me, it begins to show how secrets, deceptions, and masks play huge roles in Shaw's personal history. You can see how his hatred of secrets and his understanding of the powers of masks is cultivated.

Writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale infuse a lot of Japanese culture into this story, a nice way to play into the shogun style costume Shaw wears. And Doug Rice and Sam Kieth bring the same energy to the book they brought to the opener. 

On to the book. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #210

Last week I reviewed Future State: Superman of Metropolis #1, another in a litany of DC books where Supergirl is angry, borderline murderous, and the pawn of a villain. 

I'm sick of it.

Whenever I need a little palate cleanser, I head to the long boxes and look for some joy. I also have been nursing some sport fan ennui. My college hoops team is struggling. The Patriots didn't make the playoffs. 

So why not find a Supergirl sports story.

And so I give you a 40 year old comic, Superman Family #210,  with a wild Supergirl story with some dated references, some crazy sports action, an odd villain who seems like he would be at home in the present, and a rapid denouement. Plus, if you need a primer on Bronze Age, check out the other stories. Clark typing the future? Lois gets a puppy? Jimmy has doubles?

Buckle up! Here we go!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sterling Gates/Sarah Leuver Supergirl Show Comic

Happy New Year!

I know we are more than a week into 2021 but this little gift from Sterling Gates and @comickergirl Sarah Leuver gave fans of Supergirl and the Supergirl show a true gift, a 6 page mini-comic. Gates explained he did it as a gift to the producers of the show. But for Kara fans and show fans, it is the best present.

I'll present the pages as is with a little commentary at the bottom. 

"Remember Me" covers so many of the best things of not only the show but Gates' run on the title lo so many years ago.

This quick tour of Kara's life by looking at a week is just a delightful mix showing how complicated she is. Free spirit, singing Katy Perry. Fierce warrior fighting supervillains. (Love the Facet namedrop, the antagonist in Gates' Adventures of Supergirl comic.) Survivor of loss, remembering her parents and wondering if she upholds her original culture. And role model, espousing and truly living the motto of 'Hope, help, and compassion for all.'

This is her life.

And frankly, its the life I want to read. 

 Add to that Leuwer's great art, fun and breezy, expressive and soulful. She really captures Kara (and Melissa Benoist's) emotions.

I won't complain about other takes on the character. I'll just say that DC should take note of this as a template for whatever they have planned next for Supergirl. Heck, get this team on the book. 

Thanks again to the creators. Amazing stuff!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Review: Future State Superman Of Metropolis #1

DC's Future State experiment happened this week, the look at possible futures born out of the end of the seemingly interminable Death Metal event.

Fandom had heard about DC's 5G reboot, a recreation of the DCU with new characters in familiar roles. When the 'forever' 5G timeline was truncated to a couple of months, we ended up with Future State.

I am grateful. Because if the Superman I read in Future State Superman of Metropolis #1 was going to be the new reality, I might have to finally jump off. This is written by Sean Lewis, a name I don't know. We still get Jon Kent. We still get Supergirl. But their characterization and intelligence is way off of anything I would want to read long term.

Jon, the bright and smart Superboy, is reduced to an impetuous young man, acting first before thinking. 

Supergirl is an angry hot-head, screaming about wanting to murder her cousin and fighting first. And while there is a story element to explain her actions, I simply don't care. I am sick of reading mind-controlled evil Supergirls who come within an eyelash of murder. We went from the respect Brian Michael Bendis gave Kara to this grim caricature. Honestly, I am just sick of this presentation of Kara. I am not surprised by it any more. But I am sick of it.

And it is a bit of a shame. Because the artwork is by John Timms. I really like Timm's take on Supergirl. He really gives her a polished look. He does a great job with the action here. And even the villain looks like a nice sort of Keith Giffen-y creature. Give me a Timms book with a happy, heroic  Supergirl!

On to this book!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Back Issue Bin: Manhunter #1

I continue my deep dive into Mark Shaw's character in anticipation of the upcoming Leviathan Checkmate mini-series. Our next stop is the Manhunter series from the late 80's. 

Today I will cover Manhunter #1 as a solo post. The point of this deep dive is to look for historical clues in Shaw's life that might lead him down the path to Leviathan. I don't know if every issue will contain enough to be it's own post so I may cover several at a time. 

But given this is the first issue and sets up the title, I thought it deserved the space. And honestly, I have only read the first two issues of this back when it came out. So I will be discovering this along with you. 

Manhunter was part of an explosion of new titles coming out from DC in this time period.  Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Doug Rice and Sam Kieth. Sam Kieth!

Ostrander was writing Suicide Squad at the time, a sort of darker take on the underbelly of the DCU. Unlike that book, Manhunter looks like it will have a more jovial nature. Shaw here seems to be more of an easy-going, wise-cracking hero. So it will be interesting to look forward and see if things change in tone.

Rice and Kieth bring a sort of manga style action to the proceedings here. There is some pizzazz here, some energy which very well with the action.

From Manhunter to Privateer to Star Tsar back to Privateer and now back to Manhunter. Let's get ready for this chapter of the character!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Supergirl Pin

2020 impacted just about everything in the comic world and my Supergirl Shrine collection wasn't immune. I have paid off a Supergirl statue at my comic store that hasn't been delivered or re-solicited. A Frank Cho statue was solicited by DC Direct. But then DC Direct closed up shop with the AT&T merger.

The only addition to the collection was a DC Superhero large mug which I stumbled upon at HomeGoods. Supergirl is just a teeny part of it and it is in my cupboard, not in the Shrine. Heck, I use if for cereal.

Would 2020 be a year when I wouldn't add anything?

The answer is no! 

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Russell Burbage, founder and caretaker of the Legion of Super-Bloggers , friend, and all around good guy sent me this Supergirl pin just before the new year came around.

It's just the best little thing. I like that it is the Rebirth costume!

I can't thank him enough. 

But the big question in my mind was what do I do with it? Pin it to my white coat at the hospital?

Monday, January 4, 2021

Review: Death Metal: The Secret Origin

I say it often but I'll say it again. I am very thankful for the community of comic fans that I call friends. Often times, they will tell me about books I should be getting and reading.

For the umpteenth time, I have to thank blog friend Martin Gray for tell me that I shouldn't pass on Death Metal: The Secret Origin. I have, for the most part, been avoiding the Metal event. When I saw this was a Superboy Prime book, a character I never thought I would want to see again, I figured this would definitely be a book to keep on the shelves. 

Instead, what we get is the redemption story this character needed. 

As someone old enough to have bought the DC Comics Presents issue which introduced Prime, I liked his innocence and his role in Crisis on Infinite Earths. So I definitely was miffed when he was turned into a sadistic monster in Infinite Crisis and beyond. (Don't get me started on the tarnishing of the Earth-2 Superman.)

I came to hate this character and all he represented for DC. He was the poster child of the darkening of the DCU.

But I trust Martin so I plunked down my money and read this book. It certainly has a deep bench of talent attached to it. Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Francis Manapul, Jerry Ordway, Paul Pelletier, and Ryan Benjamin. That's talent. 

So let's dive into this book, a delightful surprise.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Supergirl Best Of 2020 Part 2 - Top Five Comic Moments of 2020!

Yesterday, I posted the first half of my Year in Review, looking at the best Supergirl comic moments of 2020.

As I said then, while Supergirl's own title was something of a disaster for me, she had some very nice moments in the main Superman books. It amazes me that Brian Michael Bendis is the writer of 7 of the Top Ten Moments. That shows you how little Supergirl was seen in 2020 and more importantly how well she was treated in books outside Bendis' purview.

But as I said, I am here to praise 2020, not bury it. 

There are some very nice Supergirl moments to report. In particular, the top two ran so neck and neck that they may as well have been 1a and 1b in my mind. Also, one of the moments today is actually doesn't have Supergirl in it! How is that going to be possible.

So let's jump right into it! Here are the top 5 Supergirl comic moments of 2020!