Friday, April 30, 2021

Supergirl Show 605: Prom Night

Supergirl episode 605, titled Prom Night (another movie title!), aired earlier this week. This series has veered towards overly serious and overly topical at times. So I was thrilled to watch this episode as it was one of the most entertaining episodes I have seen in a long time.

Yes, it is a time travel episode and with that it is filled with the usual timey-wimey conundrums. And we already had an 'Arrowverse' time travel episode this season on The Flash.

This one rewards long time viewers of the show by leaning into the history of the characters. Obviously, it harkens back to Midvale from way back in season 3. It shows us some of the early moments of Kara as she tries to figure out her place in the world. But this is a post-Crisis history and so there are new elements to this history, changes, 

But it is the actors that make this episode as special as it is. Jesse Rath gets to let it all hang out, cut free of any reins he has had on him. Eliza Helm channels  Calista Flickhart as a young Cat Grant. And the absolutely uncanny performances by Olivia Nikkanen as young Alex and Izabela Vidovic as young Kara that makes this a delight. Seriously, Nikkanen does such a spot on Chyler Leigh, down to expressions and speech emphasis that I felt like I was watching Leigh. 

There will need to be some explanations about how this current history jibes with what we know to be true (Kara hiding her powers, Alex losing her way and getting recruited by the DEO, etc. But that can be worked out later. For now I'll just enjoy it.

On to the details.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary Is 13 Years Old!

Hard to believe but I celebrate 13 years of blogging today!

The blog has been a safe haven for me, a place to talk about comics and hear what the Supergirl fandom thinks about things that are happening with the character.

Throughout the 13 years, Supergirl's presence in the DCU has shrunk and grown and shrunk again. 

The last year has been a bit tough for Supergirl. Her character was dragged through the mud in Death Metal. Her book was shelved, the last two issues going out only digitally. The show went on a long hiatus. And then the Future State Kara Zor-El book was a non-Supergirl Supergirl book. 

It's okay. She'll be back.

Right now we are waiting for the Tom King mini-series, hopeful it will once again make Kara the hero she should be. The show is back on for a final season. And Sasha Calle has been named as the big screen Supergirl. 

So I don't think this blog will be going anywhere. 

The last year has also been one where the DC universe was soft rebooted. Brian Michael Bendis left the Superman books, ending a 2 plus year run of excellence. The Legion came back and finished its first two arcs. And I did a fun side mission exploring Mark Shaw in anticipation of his return as Leviathan in Checkmate.

Let's not forget that this last year was impacted greatly by the pandemic. So there were no 2020 conventions for me to comment on. There were no commissions to share. Hopefully all that will change.

Anyways, the best thing about this site is all of you who visit and chime in! I have made so many friends here and I appreciate all the comments I get. 

So here is to a baker's dozen of years of Supergirl Comic Box Commentary! Thanks for joining me on this ride!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter (Vol 3) 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday, a running series where I look at the history of Mark Shaw while looking forward in time to his becoming Leviathan.

I have gone through much of his history and I have been fascinated how themes of truth, deception, honor, loyalty, identity, and masks have played through. When you see those themes, the idea of Shaw becoming a charismatic leader whose identity is his mask and his cult, who is against secrets becoming Leviathan makes perfect sense.

We are rounding the last corner with Marc Andreyko's Manhunter series, the third volume bearing that name. And bear with me, this post doesn't have Mark Shaw in it per se. We are early on in this Kate Spencer series. She is just getting a handle on her super-heroing under the name Manhunter. She is trying to get a better handle on the tech she has purloined for her purposes.

But it is clear that Andreyko did his homework about that Manhunter name. You will see in this post that the Manhunter legacy is an important part of this series. In many ways, Spencer is the polar opposite of Shaw. He was a Public Defender. She is a prosecutor. No wonder he held a grudge in Event Leviathan. 

The art by Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina is wonderful. There is a fine-lined elegance to the proceedings. And the coloring is moody and evocative, giving this superhero book a sort of Noir feeling at times.

Let's dive in.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Review: Superman Red And Blue #2

Superman Red and Blue #2 came out last week and overall was a better issue than the first issue of this mini-series. I know that is an awkward opening sentence for a review but I was basically let down by the first issue and worried that this mini-series wouldn't be a celebration of Superman but instead using our hero as a plot point to celebrate others.

That unfortunately continues in this book. We get a Ma Kent story. We get a Val-Zod story. We get a Lex Luthor story. And we get a story about Ava, the sweet heroic school girl. And we get a Cyborg Superman story. Of these, Superman is really only involved in the last two. And of those, he really only uses his powers in the last one.

These are all fine stories. They all have something to say. And they all give us their message very nicely. Unlike last issue, this doesn't feel like every story has an important social message to tell that a tangential Superman story is bolted on. But this felt more like a Superman family book than a Superman book and that isn't what I am hoping to get out of a six dollar prestige book titled Superman Red and Blue. 

Maybe the Bolland cover alone is worth the price. Love it!

On to the particulars.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Review: Justice League #60

Justice League #60 came out this week and was simply a great issue. We are in the Brian Michael Bendis era of the League and we are in the early stages of his team coming together. There is an underlying plot, the incursion of powerful aliens from Naomi's home dimension. But for me, the juice of this issue, like the one before, is the character interactions as the team comes together.

This issue we get some fun Naomi moments. We get some great Hippolyta moments. We get some informative Black Adam moments. But the axle the book spins around is Superman. I suppose I am biased but I am loving how Superman is the inspirational leader here. And I love seeing how people around him respond. 

I loved how Bendis wrote Superman so I am thrilled to still get him on the character.

David Marquez remains on art and his stuff is just wondrous. I love the expressive work on the characters. You can see what they are thinking easily. The action spots are kinetic and dynamic. And it all is so smooth. Dazzling. 

A solid start to a new direction! I am very happy.

On to the book.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Supergirl Show 604: Lost Souls

 Supergirl episode 604, titled 'Lost Souls', aired this week and was another fast paced, 'hold on I have a crazy comic book explanation' episode which already seemingly tied up one of the major plots of this young season, the plague of phantoms on Earth. Alas, I can't think of a movie title which ties into the episode title.

As I said, we wrap up the Prime Phantom plotline here but with the most insane science a Bronze Age writer could shake a pencil at. Whether it is soul percentages, Ghostbuster homages, mirror portals, soul chrysalis, or DNA sensors, you just have to roll with it. Astonishingly, it all works. I grew up on comic book science. It is fun to see it on the small screen.

Outside that, the strength really has been the character development we have seen in this handful of episodes. It is great to see Kara act the hero here, pulling her dad forward. And it great to see that inspiration still impacting her friends on Earth. In fact, like last week, Katie McGrath kills it as Lena Luthor with several excellent scenes. 

And it was great to see the old series opener again with Kara talking of being a refugee and referencing her saving Alex's plane! It made me nostalgic. 

On to the show.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

New Tom King Tweet

When Tom King was announced as the writer on Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, I was a little worried. Okay, maybe more than a little worried.

And then he tweeted about how great his new character was going to be in the mini-series making me nervous again

Earlier this week I read his Superman Up In The Sky trade and was surprised at how he seemed to understand Superman. 

And yesterday Tom King put out this tweet. And for a second, there was hope.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter (Vol 2) #12

My Leviathan Wednesdays are taking the final turn on the track as we head into Checkmate in June. 

Today I cover Manhunter (Vol 2) #12, the last issue the Manhunter series which sprang from Zero Hour. This was the mid-90s and everything was EXTREME! And everything was very Image-comic-esque. We had lots of big weapons, big spikes, big capes, and insane violence! 

In all honesty, this is the only issue of this volume of Manhunter I have read recently.  I read Manhunter #0 off the racks but didn't read any more. And as of this post, no other issues other than the zero issue is available on DC Infinite. What I do know is Chase Lawler,  to save him and his girlfriend, summoned an elemental type force called The Wild Huntsman. compelled to hunt, he became the Manhunter.

I sought out this issue solely based on the cover which shows Mark Shaw, the true focus of Leviathan Wednesdays. I assumed this wouldn't have much to add to my combing Shaw's history to uncover why he became Leviathan. But I was surprised with what I read. And I know that in the next volume, things we see here are pushed even further.

But overall, this reads like the extreme sort of comic you'd expect it to be. Writer Steven Grant and artist Vince Giarrano give us this insane ride which brings us a wild left hand turn about Shaw's history. So get settled in and get ready to be extreme!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Review: Challenge Of The Super-Sons #1

While it has been out digitally for some time, Challenge of the Super Sons #1 came out as a true issue last week and I was eager to pick it up. From the initial monthly to the 'Adventures of ...' mini series, writer Peter Tomasi has always swung for the fences with high energy, amusing, and often touching stories of Jon and Damian. And Tomasi has had the luck of being teamed with some of the best artists in the business on these books.

Challenge of the Super Sons #1 maintains that vibe, a perfect palate cleanser from the dark and 'true to life' comics of the modern age. I always smile when I read this book and goodness knows we need more smiles in this world.

For me the juice of the book is the interaction of the characters. Damian is young, vicious, jaded 'son of assassins' who is just starting to soften at the edges. Jon is high energy, brash, good to a fault, and sort of naive. Seeing these two pick up each others better traits and learn to be friends has always been special. This time they are caught up in some crazy super-heroic hijinks that make no sense other than to be fun. I'm all in.

This time the art is by Max Raynor who I recently praised for doing a spectacular arc in Batman/Superman. His art has a little more whimsy to it this time. 

I'll say it again, I miss these guys. I am glad DC is letting Tomasi tell us 'lost stories'.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: Superman #30

Superman #30 came out last week, the next story in the Phillip Kennedy Johnson era on the books. 

Once more, Johnson gives us a story involving Superman and Superboy, leaning into the relationship of a father has with a son. Johnson has already showed us how this is going to be a theme in his works starting with the 'Golden Age' discussion of when a child realizes their parents are vulnerable. Here it is Superman trying to hold onto the memories of good days, trying to work towards a day when every day can be perfect. As a dad of 'kids' who are now basically adults, this resonates. But if we keep heading to this emotional well, I wonder if it will start to feel trite. 

The story also takes us off-world where we see that Superman is a universal legend, helping a far off planet rid itself of a planetary threat called the Shadowbreed. In some ways, this reminded me of Bronze Age stories I read as a kid where Superman was a presence seemingly everywhere with alien races recognizing the S-shield and knowing how he is a hero.

The Shadowbreed sounds like a serious threat, a sort of smaller version of a Suneater. Will this mega-threat feel a bit more long lasting than any of the others which we have seen recently? Or will seem to fade in my consciousness once the story is over like Ulysses, Rogol Zaar, Synmar Utopica? One thing that I find a bit interesting is that Superman seems to willing go along with killing Shadowbreed. That seems like a sort of misstep.

The art is done by Scott Godlewski and is vibrant. Godlewski is a rising star in my mind. He certainly conveys the alien environment and their rituals dynamically. But for me it is the quiet scenes on Earth that really sparkled.

Finally, on to the book!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Supergirl Show 603: Phantom Menaces

'Phantom Menaces', the second episode in this last season of Supergirl, aired earlier this week. If the first two episodes are any indication, things are going to happen fast. Some of those things might have explanations. Some may not. But whatever you do, don't blink.  But will the pace detract?

Like last week's, this episode has basically four plots. One is the heroes dealing with the new threat of phantoms on Earth. There is a lot of quick exposition about the phantoms. What they are. How they conquer. How they replicate. And there is a lot of talk about the soul. If you thought the phantoms were curt rate Dementors last week, you'll think their actual Dementors now.

Then there is the Lena and Lex subplot which brings Brainy along for the ride. I have to say, this plot had the best acting of the three. In particular, Katie McGrath really crushes it this week. She brings it. She holds her own against Jon Cryer's Lex and that is no easy thing.

Then there is the characters continued response to Supergirl's absence. Whether they are grieving or burying their emotions or just missing her, Supergirl being gone is impacting our heroes.

But let's not forget whose show this is. The last plot is Supergirl in the Phantom Zone, finding a friend and continuing her struggle to get free.  Melissa Benoist just sparkles.

Last thoughts before digging into the show itself. One, the Phantoms in the Zone remind me a little bit too much of the phony Phantoms Zor-El claimed haunted the Els in the dreaded Joe Kelly run of the Supergirl comic. Also, given last week's 'A Few Good Women' and this week's 'Phantom Menaces', looks like our episode titles will all be riffs on movie titles.

On to the show!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #23 And Manhunter #24

Welcome back to Leviathan Wednesdays where I look at the character of Mark Shaw in hopes of figuring out why he turned and became Leviathan.

We are about to close a pretty big chapter in his timeline. Manhunter #23 and Manhunter #24 are the last issues of his solo title from the late 80s, closing out the Dumas storyline and wrapping up any number of lingering plotlines. 

In retrospect, I can see why this book only lasted a couple of years. For the most part, Shaw is ineffective, getting routinely beaten up by the villains and never seems to improve in his game. 

On the other hand, when I reread this book, I could easily see how Shaw became Leviathan. The themes of the title are fascinating from that viewpoint. It has to do with identity and masks. Loyalty and charisma. Technology and truth. All of those are seeped into the Leviathan character. 

All that makes Shaw a complicated character. One that I know gets explored a bit more in later volumes of Manhunter, some of which I will cover here as part of this side mission. 

Kudos to Kim Yale, John Ostrander, and Grant Miehm for picking up the baton that Steve Englehart passed off. 

Also, I have to love the cover to Manhunter #24, a clear riff on the iconic moment of 'Spider-Man No More' in Spider-Man #50.

On to the books.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #309

I have been thinking about Action Comics #309 a lot recently and it finally occurred to me that I should formally cover it on the site.

First, I'll say that I first read this issue in the phone book style Showcase Supergirl trades from years ago. Only recently did I read it in color thanks to the DC Infinite app. I have never seen it in the wild but more on that later. 

I began thinking about covering it here when I guest starred with Mart Gray over on the Fire and Water Podcast network to discuss Gene Colan's work on the Phantom Zone mini-series. Here is a link to that discussion:

Kudos to Ryan for keeping me and Mart on task. One thing I didn't go into at length in that review was the character of Jer-Em. He is seen throughout the story and has a unique history with Supergirl, one here in this issue. I figured I should fill that in.

Second, the Supergirl show has brought back Zor-El, saying he has stayed alive in the Phantom Zone. That resonates with this story.

But more importantly, I was listening to Tom King talk about his upcoming Supergirl run on the most excellent Word Balloon podcast, hosted by John Siuntres. Here is that link:

In that interview, King calls Kara a survivor. He sort of squishes the newer origins (Kara born years before Kal and grew up on Krypton and witnessed its destruction) with some Silver Age aspects of her origin (living on the floating Argo City, the ground becoming Kryptonite, the meteor shower that exposes the lead covered K-soil which ultimately kills everyone). He describes that as three distinct threat about excessive loss, basically three traumatic experiences,  that Kara has had to deal with.

Of course Tom King would focus on the trauma. Hopefully, for once, he has the character come out of it with a healthier outlook. Supergirl should be optimistic and helpful.

But it made me think of this story as a potential 4th trauma Kara lived through. And I wonder if King has read this story.

 On to the book.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Tom King Tweet

News continues to leak out about the upcoming Supergirl:World of Tomorrow mini-series.

Last week, Tom King posted this alternate cover of the first issue drawn by Gary Frank as well as an interesting tidbit within the tweet itself. But more on that later. For now, let's look at the cover.

First off, I am a long time Gary Frank fan, especially his take on Supergirl. I was there when Peter David's solo title hit the racks with some great Frank art. And I loved his take on the new Kara in Geoff Johns' Action Comics run, including the Brainiac storyline.

More recently, I have thought that his characters look a bit gaunt and haggard. Not so here.

Supergirl looks strong, fit, and healthy. I like that her hair looks like the wind is blowing through it, her cape billowing. And she looks fierce.

We finally get to see the 'vengeful young girl' who is the key to this mini-series. She looks very young, despite the Amazon-like armor. And the alien vegetation and the barbarian archer in the background gives us a sense of the planet she comes from.

But poor Krypto! He looks outright despondent. Maybe he is sad that Kara once again is going off-planet and wondering about her life. Can't I get a Supergirl series where she is simply an Earth-based super-hero, bright and inspirational?

Anyways, on to the tweet.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Supergirl Show #602 Review: A Few Good Women

Supergirl episode 602 came out this week and was titled 'A Few Good Women'. My guess is the title is a bit of a riff on the movie 'A Few Good Men'. In that movie, Tom Cruise tricks Jack Nicholson into admitting his crimes and thus making sure some justice is meted out.  We'll see how that plays out here.

Basically, the episode has three plots running through it. 

One is the remaining heroes trying to rescue Supergirl out of the Phantom Zone by breaking into it. This is a solid plot showing how the loss of Supergirl has impacted all of these supporting characters. I think I said it here but my sense is this season will have a bit of a 'Funeral For A Friend' feel to it. We will learn what these characters feel as they cope with the loss of Supergirl.

The second plot is Supergirl adapting to the Phantom Zone and trying to figure out a way to break free. She meets someone close to her within the Zone in a twist that has a sort of comic relevance to it. Guess it isn't spoilers to say it here in the introduction. She meets Zor-El. And that is pretty cool.

But it is the last plot which I find truly fascinating. Lex Luthor is on trial. We see how Andrea, Lena, Lillian, and even Eve Tessmacher are dealing with this.  This is definitely setting up one of the major plots of the season. And given the political bent of this series, no surprise it has a Trumpian feel to the villains.

Before we get into details, I have to say the acting in this episode was brilliant. Melissa Benoist is just a superstar, showing great emotional depth. Chyler Leigh wears her heart on her sleeve when dealing with her sister's absence. But Branda Strong and Katie McGrath steal the show with their cunning Luthor-ness.

On to the details.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #22

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday where I look at Mark Shaw's history to try and see how he eventually becomes the mega-villain (or mega-hero depending on your viewpoint) Leviathan.

I have been reviewing the 1980s Manhunter series recently and have been intrigued about how much of it revolves around honor, masks and hidden identities, stolen technology, and cult behavior. It has really been a good foundation on why Shaw would take the turn he did.

Based on the perceived importance of the storyline in this series, I have reviewed several issues or just one.

Manhunter #22 is an issue that demands being viewed upon on its own. Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Grant Miehm, this issue is, in a word, crazy. I have read it several times and I am not sure I follow exactly what is going on. We get a new retelling of the Manhunter army origin, a new wrinkle added into the mix explaining the Lionhead Shan which is key to their organization, and a sort of revamp/polishing of Shaw's character.

To be honest, using retrospect, I actually wonder if this story takes place mostly in Shaw's mind, which would dovetail nicely into the Leviathan history. 

Buckle up for a psychedelic, hallucinogenic ride! Here comes Saints and Sinners part 5!

Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: Future State Imperious Lex Vs Superman #3

Future State finally came to an end last week with Superman Vs. Imperious Lex #3. I have to admit, I enjoyed each issue of this mini-series more than the last and this ending was pretty much pitch perfect. I know I sort of was irked at the first issue as an 'agenda book with a story' but now I wonder if I just didn't have enough coffee that morning I wrote the review.

It is clear that writer Mark Russell is writing this with Lex as a Donald Trump analogue. It isn't subtle. But 20 years from now, with Trump hopefully less in the news cycle, you can read this simply as showing how a dictator and propaganda can warp people's minds. Still, with Trump still fresh in my head at least, the metaphors are obvious.
And while this is a one-sided story, Russell puts enough in the narrative to basically say that anyone inundated with one viewpoint of news is going to become lost. In fact, it is Superman who continues to be the beacon here, talking about mercy and keeping your mind on what you are fighting for, while still recognizing sometimes you need to fight.

Steve Pugh is solid on art. His page construction with panels and shadows is nicely done showing the craziness of the story and people's mindset. 

Get ready to dive into political allegory!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Supergirl Show 601: Rebirth

The season premiere of Supergirl season 6 aired earlier this week, an episode titled 'Rebirth'.  We have learned that this will be the last season of the show as well as a shortened season as well. 

I am sure I will have a lot to say about Supergirl as the season and the show wraps up. But I will start out by saying that I am delighted that we got this. Supergirl became well-known, a household world, and was portrayed magnificently by Melissa Benoist. Sure things were clunky in places. But who cares? I got to see my favorite hero on the screen for 6 years. Not everyone can say that, even in this super-hero heavy day. 

This season also has the uphill task of wrapping up last season. The pandemic made season five rush to a conclusion, and maybe not the best one. So this premiere has a dual task. It has to finish last season and it has to start up the main storylines of this season.

In many ways this felt like more like a finale and not a premiere. The cliffhanger at the end of this episode would have been brilliant as a cliffhanger at the end of a season. I wonder how much of this was filmed last year. And a lot needs to happen in this episode. Much of the things which happen are given little explanation or maybe a hand wave. We get a lot of comic book science. I give credit to the writers for this whirlwind. And I give big credit to the stars for pulling it off while giving us some emotional character moments.

And get ready for many deus ex machina that keep things going. 

Buckle up!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Hot And Cold Comic Box Commentary - A Celsius Blog

I am approaching my 13th year anniversary running this site. 

Some believe 13 is unlucky. And maybe it is.

Because as the Tom King series approaches and I am faced with yet another weapon-wielding space-bound Supergirl who is either angry or sad or both, I realized I can't do it anymore. Because it is clear that the Supergirl I want to read doesn't exist anymore. Not in the minds of DC.

But I like blogging. And I like rooting for the underdog.

So why not switch things up. 

Welcome to Hot and Cold Comic Box Commentary, a Celsius blog.

Now I am going to be upfront here. Celsius is a problematic character. 

Her origin has not aged well and says a lot about how far we have come on this world. I'll review that origin here today. Let's get it behind us.

She also can be grating and one-dimensional.

But let's face it, she is a woman of color. And she led a super-hero team in the 1970s. We should be celebrating her. And that is what I intend to do here.

Again, fair warning, I am about to review her cringe worthy origin. Let's get it behind us.