Monday, May 31, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman #18

Batman/Superman #18 came out last week and was another fun romp through alternate universes and the machinations of Auteur.10. 

Writer Gene Luen Yang continues to spin this fun tale of Elseworlds and showcasing the differences between a world where Martha Wayne lived and Superman is a peak hero with one where Batman is fighting standard corruption in a world without the Man of Steel. Moreover, he shows how these two pieces of the World's Finest, even when from disparate universe, would quickly become friends and partners. I like that. I also like that some characters, particularly Robin and Jimmy Olsen, have a sort of refreshing innocence to them. A Boy Wonder should be happy, not grim.
But I also can't help but think that part of this story is a commentary on the Snyderverse, fanatical fans demanding their views be the only view, and how big media is trying to warp these characters into something mass marketable. If you look for the meta-text, it's there.
Ivan Reis is on art with inks by Danny Miki and everything just sings. This really is a sort of romp of a story and the art pushes that pace along. Wonderful.

On to the book.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Review: Action Comics #1031

Action Comics #1031 came out this week and was a crackling second parter to the Warworld Rising storyline by creators Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere.

I have to say this is probably my favorite issue by Johnson to date. The ever-present Father/Son musings have been muted here. The 'Superman is dying'/'Jon is becoming Superman' plot has also been put on pause a bit. I need to be clear. I don't mind those story bits. But at time in the Johnson era they have been a bit heavy-handed. I needed a breather and I got one.

And what a breather. The Warworld refugees plot is pushed forward significantly. But there are still some mysteries here, enough to make me stroke my chin and ponder a bit. A new subplot with Atlantis is put into play. 

Plus, and shame on me for burying the lede, Supergirl shows up and is smart, bright, optimistic, and caring. Pencil in some moment from this issue into the 'best of 2021' list. If this is how Johnson views Kara, shame on DC for making her drunk and vengeful. Let her stay here.

Daniel Sampere's art (with great colors by Adriano Lucas) really pops this issue. The opening battle sequences given energy, the quiet exposition moments given care. I wouldn't mind seeing him on something Supergirl in the future if the stars aligned.

On to the book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Eclipso #11, #12, And #13

We are rushing to the end of my Leviathan Wednesdays. Checkmate is coming out in two weeks. We will see just what Mark Shaw is planning on doing as Leviathan. 

Last week I covered Manhunter #14 and #15 in which we learned just how broken Mark Shaw was, just how devious the DEO was, just how horrible Shaw was used by the various espionage agencies in the DCU. No wonder he rebelled.

In that review we were shown how Manhunter was killed by a thrall of Eclipso. But that Manhunter was not Mark Shaw; it was another DEO agent programmed to think he was Shaw, including all the backstory.

Given I knew that Manhunter wasn't Shaw, I thought I could skip reviewing the Eclipso issues. But the truth is, if I was deep diving into Shaw's history, I thought I should cover it. Moreover, I ran a twitter poll asking if I should run it. God bless the 16 people who voted! 12 said cover the issues.

So here we are. Eclipso #11-13 was written by Robert Loren Fleming with art by Audwynn Jermaine Newman and Ray Kryssing. Succinctly, it is a bloodbath. Fleming has a unofficial Suicide Squad invade a tropical island under the complete control of Eclipso. Not many make it out.

Now I will try to look at this story from the perspective that this is Mark Shaw. I'll also look at it from the viewpoint that this is that nameless DEO agent thinking he is Shaw. Either way, Shaw has reason to be angry.

The art is very much 90's extreme. Newman and Kressing have a style that looks like a perfect amalgam of Erik Larsen and Bart Sears. Somehow it works for this story and it's crazy plot. 

On to the book. Settle in.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #412

Philip Kennedy Johnson is about to send Superman off to Warworld, reimagined as a place where Mongul has coliseum style barbarian battles. 

With that storyline starting soon and having already covered Supergirl's fight against the actual Warworld in DCCP #28, I thought it would be fun to review Adventure Comics #412, in which Supergirl is brought to an alien world to fight gladiator style. 

Like many of these stories in Adventure, which slide from the Silver Age into the Bronze, it is a wild ride. There are more twists and turns in these 22 pages than in a year's worth of today's comics. Just when you think we are cruising to the finish, we take another swerve.

Despite the odd plot turns, Supergirl shines throughout. Whether it is fighting for what's right or teaching compassion or even giving folks the benefit of the doubt, she really shines. Writer John Albano really does a wonderful job giving us a true hero.

Art Saaf and Bob Oksner are on the art. Their art is beautiful, veering closely to cheesecake but not too much. From the compelling cover to the action scenes, the art is fantastic.

On to the book.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Review: Superman Red And Blue #3

Superman Red and Blue #3 came out this week and was another fun little anthology with multiple solid stories about the Man of Steel. 

I suppose many creators have what they think is their 'Superman story' in their heads. What I am finding most interesting in this series is that every story seems to be focusing on his polite manners and helping hand. It is nice to see that these creators aren't treating those traits with derision, or making him seem old-fashioned, out of touch, or naive.

But after three issues, I am hoping there is one 'I'm nice until it's time not to be nice' throw down story. Show me how Superman unleashes when the time is right and the crime too big.

Still, I shouldn't complain. The parts that are being highlighted are what I love about Superman. I am glad this series is exploring them through the eyes of different writers and artists.

On to the book and brief looks at the stories.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Review: Justice League #61

Justice League #61 came out this week and was a standard sort of middle chapter in a long form story like this. We get some progression of the story but this is really a sort of slow roll. I don't mind it too much. I think going into a 'part 3' of a 6 part arc, I'm usually ready for this. It doesn't hurt that there are good character moments and great art.

We are back on Naomi's home world in this arc and it feels a bit different than the Earth we are used to. What is interesting to me is that it seems that Brutus isn't a native to that Earth but somehow stranded there. That makes me wonder just what has happened to that Earth before.

There also is a bit of an old school feel to this issue. The heroes land on this Earth but for some reason are separated and so need to escape some danger to reform. It gives writer Brian Michael Bendis a little breathing room to showcase his take on the different characters. 

One thing that is a bit chin-scratching is the still unanswered 'what are Naomi's powers' question. She can fly. She's strong. But why is she considered a mega-power? I hope we get some significant answers before the end of this arc.

Finally, David Marquez is on art and as usual his stuff is gorgeous. His action stuff feels energetic and dynamic. His quiet moments show good expression and body language. I hope he is able to keep up with the work.

On to the book.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #14 and Manhunter #15

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday, my look at Mark Shaw's history and how it led him to become Leviathan. 

Shaw's history took some significant turns in the Marc Andreyko Manhunter book as we discovered that he was brainwashed by the DEO into become a killing machine. The Manhunter cult and the N'Lasa being were all part of  his programming, artificial memories implanted into him. And we also learned he had the Dumas personality built in as well, being two assassins in one, a perfect weapon for a corrupt secret organization. 

Trust me when I tell you things are going to get weirder in today's post where I cover Manhunter #14 and Manhunter #15. The first issue sort of wraps up the major Shaw storyline as he confronts the OMACs and makes a sort of ally with Kate. Manhunter #15 is a bit crazier as it opens up yet another can of worms about Shaw's history. 

In fact, for those of you who manage to get through these long posts, I am going to ask you an important question at the end. (I will bold it for those who want to just scroll.)

As I have said, Andreyko really embraced the Manhunter history in this arc and I appreciate it. And Shaw is such a compromised human, abused and tortured and unstable, and all because of the superiors of the shadowy organization he worked for. No wonder he wants to take them out. No wonder he hates them. No wonder he became Leviathan.

But the art on these two issues is just incredible. In #14, you have Javier Pina bring his smooth, organic, clean style to the book. In #15, you get flashback tales from two current superstars, Rags Morales and Sean Phillips. Sean Phillips is a personal favorite. In his story we learn that Kate Spencer's gauntlets belonged to the Azrael Batman. So seeing him draw an issue of Manhunter was a treat.

On to the books. Settle in.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Review: Challenge Of The Super-Sons #2

Challenge of the Super Sons #2 came out last week and continued a fun romp with the title characters before Jon was aged for the Legion. 

As usual with the print issues we have two stories, both written by Peter Tomasi.  

The first is a straight continuation of the Sons mission to save heroes secretly from a fate predicted on the Doom Scroll. This story features Wonder Woman being unknowingly stalked by a minotaur. The sons do their magic to save Diana all while quipping back and forth. This is pure entertainment with some standard friction and admiration between the two. Max Raynor is on the art here and his stuff is glittering. Last time I talked about Raynor I said DC needed to put him on a Batwoman book. Now I think I'd like to see him fill in on a Wonder Woman issue now and then.

The second is a flashback setting up the premise for the arc. Superboy and Robin are thrown back in time to meet the real villains of the piece, Felix Faust and Vandal Savage. I think I will definitely get a time travel story headache from the proceedings given the premise. The art is by Jorge Corona, a new artist for me. His work is a bit more stylized than Raynor's. 

This book is fun and breezy and I love it. On to the book.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Review: Superman #31

Superman #31 came out last week, the next chapter in the Shadowbreed storyline by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Scott Godlewski.

The overarching theme of father/son relationships has been heavy in Johnson's plots from the beginning. We have seen Superman's love for Jon, watching him try to hold on to his young son while letting him grow up. And we have seen Jon's love for Superman, coming to terms with the realization of his father's mortality. But the relationship is one of love and mutual respect. It is one of support and caring.

This issue we see the other side of the coin, what comes out of a father/son relationship gone wrong and the toxic outcome of such a thing. 

There is also the plot of the Shadowbreed. I don't exactly know what the Shadowbreed is exactly. But it seems to be a living organism that Superman is all to eager to wipe out. I don't know if there is a strict 'no killing' rule with Superman these days but this has me scratching my chin.

Scott Godlewski is on art again. He is inked on some pages by Norm Rapmund. The art is fine but the different inking styles are clear. It is jarring. But Godlewski does make this place quite alien.

On to the book.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Superwoman: Woman Of Tomorrow - I've Seen This Movie

If you look hard enough around the internet you can find the first 8 pages of Supergirl:Woman of Tomorrow #1. For example, here is Bleeding Cool's coverage:

I have tried to be optimistic about this series.

This preview has gutted me a bit.

Now you might say that seeing a suddenly aged to 21, drunk, off-earth Supergirl in bar fights might be bad enough. And trust me, that is bad. For all the obvious reasons.

But really what makes me upset about this preview is that it is basically is an exact copy of True Grit. 

Like, enough is different to make it not be plagiarized. But if you watched the Coen Brothers movie, this preview can be seen pretty easily.

Here is the Wikipedia synopsis of True Grit: Feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) hires Cogburn (Bridges), a boozy, trigger-happy lawman to go after an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Brolin) who has murdered her father. The bickering duo are accompanied on their quest by a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Damon) who has been tracking Chaney for killing a State Senator. As the three embark on a dangerous adventure, they each have their "grit" tested in various ways.

 Now go and read the preview. I will highlight some pieces after the break.

Supergirl Show 607: Fear Knot

The mid-season finale of Supergirl season six, titled 'Fear Knot' aired earlier this week and I have to say I was pretty entertained by the episode.

First things first, for a midseason finale, our title character Supergirl  is barely in the episode. Like, barely. 

Now it is hard to know just how much of this was dictated by Melissa Benoist's limited availability. But after the two flashback episodes of Midvale, 2 episodes I thoroughly enjoyed, I was hoping for some Supergirl time.

All that said, this was a very solid episode for the rest of the team as they embark on a very dangerous mission into the Phantom Zone and face down their greatest fears. There is some callbacks to prior plots and character histories. There are some possible callbacks to prior episode moments. There is even an obvious monster movie homage.  And it laid out in an innovative way with a nice swerve that set up things up nicely. 

I have to point out the solid performances by old friends David Harewood and Chyler Leigh. Each have very great moments. 

And lastly, we have a nice cliffhanger to bring us into the back half of the show. 

Now we only have to wait until August!!

On to the show.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter #12 and Manhunter #13

Welcome to Leviathan Wednesday where I look at the character of Mark Shaw to see how he could become Leviathan. And trust me, if you were going to read one segment of this Supergirl blog side tour, it would be this one. Because if you want to see why Mark Shaw might hate secrets and spy agencies so much that he became a super-villain/anti-hero, this is the one. 

Today I look at Manhunter #12 and Manhunter #13. As I have said, writer Marc Andreyko really leaned into the history of the Manhunter legacy with this series. Sure Kate Spencer picked the name but it seemed random. Now, stuff is going to get real.

Andreyko does take a few liberties, re-writing a lot of what I have covered here before. But the re-imagining of the Manhunter timeline somehow works here. The question really is what is the actual DC history of Mark Shaw in the current post-New 52, post-Rebirth world? This probably has some impact given Shaw's hatred of Spencer in Event Leviathan. Hmm ...

The art in Manhunter #12 is by title regular Javier Pina and has the usual polished, clean feel. Love the cover, an homage to the classic Infantino Batman and Robin pin-up.  Manunter #13 has Brad Walker as a penciler. This is probably early in Walker's career. The art is really slick in that chapter, detailed and vibrant.

Settle in. A lot is revealed in these two issues but they work best reviewed together. On to the books.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What Might Have Been - Justice League #160

Sometimes there is a sort of comic cosmic karma.

Since the initiation of the JSA Presents show on the Fire and Water Podcast Network, I have been more interested in seeking out the JSA/JLA crossovers from the Bronze Age.

I am always on the search for Supergirl history nuggets in comic history.

SO imagine my feelings of luck and serendipity when Professor Alan sent me a comic care package including Justice League of America #160, the second part of 1979's JLA/JSA crossover.

It is a completely bonkers story with other heroes ripped from time, like Jonah Hex and Miss Liberty, joining in the fight against The Lord of Time. Don't expect much to make sense here.

But it was the letter column that really caught my eye.

The beginning of the letter column states that Zatanna will be joining the League in the next issue. I can tell you that Justice League of America #161 is a sentinel book from my youth, important enough that I talk about it on Fire and Water Power of Fishnet podcast here.

What I didn't know before getting this issue is that Supergirl was in the running to be the next member!

Turns out she came in fourth place in a reader poll of who should be the next member. She garnered 36 first place, 26 second place, and 21 third place votes.

Yes, that was a far cry from the votes that Zatanna got. But that's a decent showing for the Girl of Steel. 

I can only imagine how great it would have been to have Kara be a part of the preeminent superhero DC team, interacting with the big hitters and being in the spotlight. It even could have resonated with the fact that Power Girl was on the JSA at this point.

But honestly, I was surprised to see her do so well here. If I am reading this correctly, the poll was open to any character the letter writer wished. That means of the myriad of heroes, Kara came in fourth! 

If only she had won!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman #17

Batman/Superman #17 came out last week, the second part in a very entertaining story pitting our heroes and other versions of our heroes against Auteur.10, a seemingly extremely powerful being trying to rewrite the DC Universe through film.

Now as someone who has lived through #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hysteria and actually watched the 4 hour Snyder Justice League movie, I have to wonder if this is writer Gene Luen Yang's metacommentary on that whole thing. 

I mean, Auteur.10 thinks the current DCU is a rough cut and his vision is much much better. He has an army of archivists who want his films to be completed. It all could fit.

But the films the Auteur is making feel more like 1940's movie serials. They are fun and silly in some places. And the villain himself looks and feels more like Otto Preminger. Maybe Yang is poking fun at old stodgy folks like me who want to go back to the old ways? And as an old movie fan, I ate this up.

Doesn't matter. It is very entertaining.

Ivan Reis is again on art and Reis continues to dazzle. He is bringing us three worlds each with different environments. And it is gorgeous. Plus, I'm a complete sucker for the tagline 'Together again! For the first time!'

On to the book.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Supergirl Show 606: Prom Again


Supergirl episode #606 came out this week, ending a two-part Midvale flashback story which straightens out the post-Crisis Supergirl history while pushing forward the present day storyline with a Maguffin of Kara DNA.

I loved it.

As I said in last week's review, the key here is the acting. Izabela Vidovic, Olivia Nikkanen, and Eliza  Helm eerily channel Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, and Calista Flockhart here. Almost too well. I honestly felt like I was watching younger versions of the actors. And Jesse Rath and Nicole Maines also contribute some fun scenes here, overacting just enough to keep this light and fun.

Just as importantly, given that this is a new timeline, I wanted this episode to fit into continuity. We need to understand why Kara is working for Cat Grant and not using her powers in the pilot. And why would she be doing that if she is already 'supering' here in high school. For the most part, I think this episode provides that link in the chain.

But most importantly is that every character in these episodes has an arc and grows in some way. Given we are talking about 6 characters, that means it is extremely well written. 

Kara understands that her future isn't set in stone. She has decisions to make and a life to live. 
Alex knows that while she still needs to protect her sister, Kara can hold her own and doesn't need smothering.
Brainy learns that emotions can be tough to deal with but also important. You need to endure and embrace them.
Nia learns that she is powerful and that her knowledge of her powers will continue to grow as she does.
Cat Grant learns she needs to be free of the cage of drivel Perry White has locked her in and needs to find her destiny.
And heck, even Kenny Li learns that he is just a human. And while Kara inspires him, he needs to shy away from danger now and then.

That's a lot of plot to revolve around a prom!

The bottom line is I am sad because this is probably the final time we will see Vidovic and Nikkanen as these characters. Unless the CW does something smart like put out a 'Young Kara' movie event next year.

On to the show!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter (Vol3) 10 And 11

Welcome to another segment of Leviathan Wednesday where I look at the history of comic character Mark Shaw.

I started this out as a simple diversion to bide my time until the Checkmate sequel to Event Leviathan hit the stands. But as I have read more and more of Shaw's history, I have been amazed at how convoluted his history is and how complex his character is.

We are now into the Kate Spencer Manhunter series and starting in Manhunter #10, Shaw becomes part of the narrative. As we saw last week, someone is out there killing Manhunters. It is only a matter of time before the assassin turns their eyes onto Kate. And this is wonderfully depicted in the cover of Manhunter #10 with the chalk outline of dead bodies on the ground, the Manhunter masks demarcating who has been or may be killed.

Marc Andreyko clearly embraced the Manhunter name and it's history. As we saw last week, he went back to the original Manhunter and the extreme 90s version of the character. So no surprise we see that there are a few more potential victims out there.

Javier Pina is on art and has a very organic and smooth style which keeps the narrative moving in a polished way.

But we are here to learn about Mark Shaw and we see that since his last adventure, he seems to have hit on tough time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

DC Comics July Solicits

The July solicits for DC Comics came out last week and they were certainly interesting. Here is a link to all the books as posted on Newsarama:

DC has decided to revamp and reinvigorate the Super-titles again and I am both fascinated and a little bit dismayed. You have to hand it to DC, they certainly know how to confuse and confound their fans.

But most of all, it seems like the '5G' reboot which was going to happen, then wasn't going to happen then sort of happened with Future State is actually slowly but surely going to happen, in some sense. 

Jon is Superman. Clark is on Warworld. it is all coming to together ... I guess?

Let's dive into the books, starting with Supergirl.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #2
story by Tom King
art by Bilquis Evely
cover by Bilquis Evely
variant cover by Lee Weeks

After the shocking conclusion of last issue, Supergirl and her new friend Ruthye find themselves stranded with no way to pursue Krem, the murderous kingsagent. Each moment this fugitive roams free, the more beings become dangerously close to dying by his hand. There is no time to lose, so our heroes must now travel across the universe the old-fashioned way…by cosmic bus!
Little do they know, their journey will be a dark one filled with terrors that not even the Maid of Might is prepared to face! Can Kara Zor-El lie low long enough to ensure their safe passage?

A startling ending to the first issue? The name of the villain is Krem? Perhaps he will be the Creme de la Creme? A dark journey filled with terror? I keep trying to be hopeful. But will this end up being just another King deep look at pain and stress? I'm going to remain hopeful.

One thing I do know without a doubt, the art is going to be beautiful. Evely is going to kill it here.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Review: Action Comics #1030

Action Comics #1030 came out last week and once again showed how new writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson has a nice understanding of the inherent goodness of Superman. His Superman has acted and has sounded like the way I want Superman to be.

Even in Future State, Johnson showed us a true Superman, selfless in his never-ending battle to free the slaves of Warworld. We were told as fans that the events of Future State were possibilities but more and more it seems like they are destined to pass. One thing that I sort of don't like is how quickly we are dealing with those Future State arcs. Already it seems Superman is going to be heading off Earth to Warworld and Jon is going to take the mantle. I would have loved to give Johnson maybe 6 months to settle into his style before closing the Future State gap.

As with his earlier issues, Johnson is also leaning heavily into father/son relationships. Here we get to see contrasting relationships of this nature in an interesting way. It also made the hair on the back of my head stand up, fearful of a possible plot turn. Please ... this time ... let's hope I'm wrong.

Daniel Sampere provides the art. His stuff is beautiful. This issue runs the gamut from dungeon to space, from rooftop discussion to open sea robot battles. It all looks gorgeous. Sampere really has some range.

On to the details.