Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Review: Superman, Son of Kal-El #2

 Superman #2 came out this last week and some of the worries I had about the first issue have only intensified with this issue. This looks like it is going to be an agenda book with Superman and not a Superman book with an agenda. 

I trust Tom Taylor and so I am going to try and stick this out. But it is clear that Jon Kent is going to try and fight 'real world' problems. We are going to hear about all the hot button issues plaguing the world right now. And maybe we all need to hear about them more.

But there are two problems.

One, I already know about these problems. I already think about these problems. These problems already plague me. I turn to comic books so that for the brief time it takes me to read them, I can forget about these problems. I can escape.

Two, there is no simple way for our hero to solve these problems. Well, one way is for Jon to take over the world Elseworld style and enforce his will one everyone. The other is to show how he is stymied by flawed humanity from doing good and therefore become diminished as a hero in my eyes. Neither of those solutions work for me.

Yes, comic books have always been political. And people will tell me this like I don't know it. But for every early Superman story, for every 70s GL/GA, for every Watchmen, there were dozens of other titles with issues of simple fantasy. 

For every issue of Teen Titans looking at the drug problems or runaways, there were issues where the Brotherhood of Evil was hitting them with a de-evolution ray or Brother Blood sent a giant spider after them.

Comics are supposed to be the fun part of my life. And being preached at is rarely fun. If these were the occasional story, I might be able to deal. If this felt like Taylor was writing Superman I could do it. But I feel, at least with these two issues, Taylor is writing op-ed pieces about social issues that happen to have Superman in them. 

Most importantly, and for emphasis, I am not saying comic books can't  or shouldn't comment on social issues. For people who want to read this, I am glad it is here for you. I am only saying that I don't know if this is for me.

I will say that I love John Timms artwork and this is solid work by him.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Review: Checkmate #3

Checkmate #3 came out this week; we are officially halfway through the series. After a couple of issues resetting the chess board and playing with time leaps, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev give us a solid espionage issue. This is for the most part linear storytelling, or at least less confusing storytelling, with plot advancement and solid characterization.

For one, we at least now know, through the deductive reasoning of Lois, what Leviathan is after. I mean, Mark Shaw has demolished all other spy agencies and has his own country now. But he isn't resting on his laurels. He still wants to change the entire world.

While he has this plan in mind, including a few intriguing twists and embedded agents, the Checkmate crew are still getting their feet underneath them as a team. They don't necessarily have a strategy. We hear them debating what steps to take next. And their leader, Mr. King, is basically absent. It all leads to an engaging read where I continue to try a figure out what will happen next.

Which of course brings me to my  #KingTheory. As recently posted, I think Mr. King is going to end up being the Paul Kirk Manhunter in some form. But I have a few back up theories. Expect an odds board soon. 

Maleev is solid on art as always. He seems to do better in the more shadowy scenes than the major super-power blow ups. But the stuff shines. His Superman is beefy and is a presence. His Lois is cool as a cucumber. 

On to the book and some clues.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Review: Action Comics #1034

 Action Comics #1034 came out this week and again was another gripping, highly entertaining issue. This title has really been firing on all cylinders. I have been extremely impressed with this story that Phillip Kennedy Johnson has been crafting here. And that means something when I already know that the end of this arc is Superman off-world, a result I wasn't too keen on.

In particular, there are a couple of plot points that I really like. 

 For one, this is a bit of an angrier, more pro-active Superman than I am used to. You can see how the idea of a planet of tortured slaves existing is such a problem to him, such a horror that he simply can't stand by. He has to act even if it against his usual pattern. From his slamming his fist on the JL table last month to things he does in this issue, he is almost unhinged ... at least for him. 

I also love how Kara is being portrayed in this arc. She is often the smartest and most mature hero in the room. I love how in this issue she calls Superman out for his actions, wondering if there was a better way. This is such a different person from the angry, sulking, loner who feels so disconnected she left Earth to get drunk in the current Woman of Tomorrow mini-series.

Christian Duce is on art this issue. Duce really shines in the action sequences. Also, his expressive work on Superman definitely conveys the frank rage Kal is feeling over some of the politics at play here.

On to the book!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Supergirl Show 608: Welcome Back Kara

The Supergirl show finally came off hiatus this week. The second half of this ultimate season for the show started with an episode titled 'Welcome Back, Kara'. Given that the first half of the season for the most part had Supergirl trapped in the Phantom Zone, keeping her separated from her Earthly family (while reuniting her with her birth father Zor-El), I was looking forward to this episode, bringing the great cast together and starting the last great arc.

For me, one of the best parts of this show has been the Danvers sisters. I still hold out hope that Supergirl and Brainy will find love. I have loved the dastardly Luthor family, Lex and Lillian, doing their best to destroy the world. And I have missed Melissa Benoist interacting with everyone. She *is* the best part of the show. 

I mean, can you imagine a young girl who has seen Benoist's hero, talking about 'help, hope and compassion', heading into a comic store and reading Tom King's Kara? Two different Supergirls. I guess maybe I needed Benoist and her take on Kara more than ever.

I suppose I would have been a bit more upset about the 3 plus month hiatus if Superman And Lois hadn't been such a great show, filling the need for a super-show on the small screen phenomenally. 

This episode was a nice way to get back into the show again. We have supporting character subplots. We have the end of the Zor-El story. We have Alex and Kara supporting and caring for each other. And we have so many Supergirl standards - couches, balconies, battles, and  hugs. It felt like I was slipping into a warm bath. I will say Supergirl doesn't get the best action moments. But the team does well. Suffice it to say I was a happy fan to have the show back on and to dive into this version of Supergirl again! 
On to the show.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Review: Superman And The Authority #2

 When the Superman and The Authority miniseries was announced, I knew I was going to buy it. I mean I will always buy Grant Morrison books. And Morrison Superman books never fail to entertain. And Mikel Janin on art? Brilliant. 

 It was 'the Authority' part that worried me. I have never had too much interest in the group and never read the book. But the concept of a future Superman putting together a group of misfits to be his away team sounded too good. Manchester Black corralled into being a good guy? This I needed to read.

Superman and the Authority #2 came out last week and was simply one of the best books I have read in a while. What is Morrison's game here? Is Morrison poking fun at the comic book industry? Himself? Is he laughing at us fans? Or with us? 

I don't care.

This book is just seeped in metatextual comic and fandom stuff that I had a silly grin the whole way through.

The team is barely formed and we are halfway through this brief 4 issue series. I hope we get to see them in action. But if all I get are 2 more issues similar to this, I'll be just fine.

The art here is predominantly done by Janin who draws an older Superman looking like sturdy Tom Strong. The internal chapters are done by Travel Foreman, Fico Ossio, and Evan Cagle. The book flows well under these artists, each chapter improved by the style of the artist. 

Let's dive into the fun.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

DC Comics November 2021 Solicits

The November solicits for DC Comics came out earlier this month. 

Here is a link to Newsarama's coverage of the entirety of the DC Comics slate of books: https://www.gamesradar.com/dc-solicitations-november-2021/

There are a couple of surprise new books on the docket, one covered here. As usual, there are plenty of Batman books. I recommend perusing the whole list. Lots of interesting stuff out there.

But I am here to cover the Super books.

Written by TOM KING
Variant cover by AMY REEDER

Supergirl steps into an ancient trap, stranding her and Ruthye on a planet of nearly perpetual night. Now, the woman of steel must call on every remaining ounce of strength to combat the monsters left on this world to kill any super unlucky enough to end up on its surface.

We are approaching the end of this mini-series. The Amy Reeder variant is lovely.

I enjoyed the third issue more than the first two so I am hoping this book is moving into a better direction. And I will again trumpet the artwork by Bilquis Evely. Just gorgeous.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review: Superman Red And Blue #6

Superman Red and Blue #6 came out this week and was a great send off for this mini-series. I have to say, each issue of this thing seemed to get better and better. I am glad DC gave Superman this chance to shine.

This issue finally gave us some Supergirl, albeit in a Streaky story. But the fact that we got a Streaky story made this worth the money. 

Outside that we get a story about the difficulties of being Clark Kent, unable to cover his own exploits as Superman. We get a story about the mainstay of Smallville and how she has witnessed Clark's life  through the years, impacting him more than our hero knew. We get some farm life wisdom seeping into big city life. And we get to see how Superman's revealing of his identity inspires a young man. 

There wasn't much action in this issue. But I don't mind. Many of my favorite stories are about Superman being an inspiration. Or how his Smallville life formed his morality. Or about Supergirl and her super cat. For me, this was the perfect last issue. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this Doc Shaner cover. This should be a t-shirt, a poster, and a mug. This should be everywhere. I love how we get Supergirl, Power Girl, and Krypto right there. Heck, Comet and Streaky are there too. Doc Shaner can do no wrong. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Review: Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #3

Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #3
came out this week. I can say without pause it was the best issue of this mini-series so far.

Now knowing how I felt about the first two issues that isn't exactly the highest praise. I believed then, and still believe, that this really isn't a Supergirl story. 

But at least here, there are places that I see a Supergirl a recognize. A defender of justice who sometimes gets fierce. Someone inspired by Superman but maybe not as polished. Someone who cares. I see that here. Yes, she still curses way too much for me (that just doesn't ring true for the Kara I know). And I don't like how she seems to be denying her history as Kara Zor-El and embracing only the Supergirl identity. But there are some good things here.

It is the plot of the issue that seems a bit off. There is the tiniest bit of progression for the main plot of this mini-series. But this really feels like a side mission or a 'done in one' issue in an ongoing. This is a story about prejudice and genocide, about violence and horror. That is Tom King's sandbox. But I don't know if this is needed for this mini-series. The only thing that 'happens' is Ruthye starts to see how terrible the universe might be. My guess is in the end you can skip this issue in the trade and the story will read fine. 

One thing that has been consistent in this mini-series is the artwork. Bilquis Evely's line work is breathtaking. I am just gobsmacked each issue with just how gorgeous the art is. From the action to scenes like diner eating, everything is just sumptuous. And the colors by Matheus Lopes really give this a pastel, Western movie feel. The variant cover by David Mack is equally striking. Just unreal. 

On to the details.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Checkmate: Who is the King? #KingTheory


Settle in.

Hard to believe it was two years ago that Event Leviathan was on the stand and 'Who is Leviathan?' was a mystery that consumed me. 

I had my Leviathan Theory. I was wrong. 

Then about a year and a half ago, Leviathan Dawn, a one-shot epilogue to Event Leviathan hit the shelves, moving Leviathan's plans forward and introducing us to a new Checkmate and the announcement of a Checkmate mini-series.

 That led me into the deep dive into Manhunters and Mark Shaw as I waited for the new book to hit the shelves. In retrospect, were there clues to point me to Shaw?

Then Checkmate #1 hit the stands and I realized that there was a new mystery to solve! Who is the King in this new Checkmate? 

Unlike Leviathan, where clues were sprinkled in the Superman books for months before the actual Event Leviathan mini, King was introduced in the Dawn special and has only been seen on a couple of pages of the Checkmate series. I needed at least a few clues and a few ideas before I could come up with my King Theory.

Alas, he didn't appear in Checkmate #2. But after rereading the above issues and doing the last dive into the Manhunter pool I have decided on who King is.

Read on.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Review: Challenge of the Super Sons #5

Challenge of the Super Sons #5 came out last week and was another fun chapter in this all too brief mini-series. As always, writer Peter Tomasi has a great handle of the interactions of these two characters at this stage of their lives. Just as fun is the way people react to them at this time period too.

We get another mini-adventure as they, sight unseen, rescue a Justice Leaguer from the curse of the Doom Scroll. That side of the issue also has a very nice cliffhanger/plot twist. I am very interested to see where that leads. The art on the front half is done by Max Raynor who has brought an incredible style and energy to the storyline. I can only hope that DC gives him regular work somewhere. His stuff is electric.

The back half is in the distant past (you might recall that the boys were teleported to ancient time and faced off against Felix Faust and Vandal Savage there). In this chapter, Rora shows her true colors and says how she has been inspired by them to be a hero. The art here is by Evan Stanley and has a very cartoon, almost My Little Pony feel to the proceedings. It is a little jarring to go from Raynor's classic comic book action to this. But it is a feel good chapter so the art seemed to complement the story.

On to the book.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Mega Bullet Review: Suicide Squad #6

I have been reading Suicide Squad since the relaunch earlier this year. 

I had read Robbie Thompson books in the past and enjoyed them. So this seemed like a no-brainer.

But I had one problem become pretty evident in the first issue.

Conner Kent, back in jeans and a black t-shirt, was on the team and under the thumb of Amanda Waller. I wasn't sure how he got there. Or why he would join. Or what Waller had on him to keep him there. And he seemed like a different character than the eager young hero I read in the Brian Michael Bendis Superman and Young Justice books.

But the book was solid. There is dark humor. The characters are interesting. And it seemed like Conner was almost on a secret mission within the Squad so continued to buy.

Glad I stuck it out.

The last issue had the Squad invade Earth 3.

Superboy is a bit unhinged on the world. He seems addled. Waller says he needs to leave the planet and definitely needs to take some 'medicine' when he returns to Earth 0 to heal.

She gives him a pep talk about how he isn't a killer, even for her.

He leaves the battle and teleports home.

Again, at this point, I was relatively annoyed that one more Super character was being darkened. It seems like these days only Jon gets any love.

Then I hit the last page!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Bullet Review: Crime Syndicate #6

Crime Syndicate #6 came out last week, the end of a very interesting and new take on Earth 3. I came to this mini-series on the recommendations of friends. I leave this mini-series greatly saddened.


Because it seems that Supergirl fans can't really catch a break.

You might remember that last issue, Ultragirl was introduced. I was thrilled because this was a heroic Supergirl analogue, fierce and almost overly exuberant in her pursuit of goodness. In fact, I found it odd that she would be so good on a world where the heroes were evil. Did that mean something? (Writer Andy Schmidt said it didn't.)

In a world where the main Supergirl became a pawn of the Batman Who Laughs, then disappeared, and now is sullen, drunk, and sleepy as the supporting character in her own book, I was delighted to see a heroic Supergirl somewhere, even if it was Earth 3.

But Supergirl aren't supposed to be happy it seems. Because all that comes to an end rather abruptly.

I really liked this mini-series. I did. Schmidt created a world that wasn't as simple as 'evil is good and good is evil'. This was a place where the entire world seems gray, most people being closer to the evil side of the midline. And Kieran McKeown definitely put a great artistic feel to the place. Heck, even the overall story is great ...

Except for the Ultragirl part.

Read on...

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Review: Justice League #66

Justice League #66 came out last week continuing the United Order story arc pitting the UP version of the League against the freed Synmar Utopica. It also is a sort of side crossover with the ongoing Checkmate book as well. 

It is always hard to judge an arc by a middle chapter. The plot has to be nudged along. There has to be action. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives us a decent chapter. We learn the motivations of the bad guy. We see how powerful he is, adding some uncertainty to the proceedings. And we end with a very solid cliffhanger.

And I think there would be a major moment in this issue, the first time we see Naomi unleashing her power. But I think a page snafu muted it to the point that I don't know if I saw what I saw. And the Checkmate side plot sort of has an odd moment within it that makes me wonder about those characters.

The art is by Phil Hester and he brings a sturdy realism to the proceedings. The flow and movement of this issue felt better than the recent Superman story Hester did. There is a tangible feel to the fights and the damage. 

Still, I am a bit reeling from the ending and that Naomi page. Help me out.

On to the book!

Monday, August 9, 2021

Bullet Review: The Other History Of The DC Universe #5

 The Other Side of the DC Universe #5 came out last week focusing on Thunder. It was an interesting capstone on the series since we started with a look at Black Lightning and his dealings regarding race. Now we see the look from his daughter who is dealing not only with race issue but sexuality as well. Kudos to writer John Ridley and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli for putting this issue and this series together.

As a big fan of DC history, I have found this to be an excellent series overall looking at the history of this comic universe from a different perspective. Hey, I am still learning. And as steeped in DC lore as this was, I could appreciate the story angles as it pertained to the cultural issues.

I don't know if I like hearing Black Lightning is a homophobe. That seemed a bit out of left field. But I did like seeing him as an overprotective dad. That I empathized with 100%.

I will freely admit that the Outsiders is a sort of blind spot for me. So I don't know if I knew any of the story references in here. I do wonder what people who read all these stories thought of this.

But I come here today to wonder once again if John Ridley is a Supergirl fan. She had already been mentioned pretty significantly in both Other History #1 and Other History #2. And here in this issue, she is name-dropped.

And as this is a story from the 90s, we are probably talking Matrix here.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Terrificon Wrap-Up

 Last weekend was Terrificon, my first con since 2019 and I had a blast.

I had been looking forward to the return of conventions for a long time and the guest list was great so I knew I would be going. And I am definitely glad I went.

This definitely was a unique con. COVID isn't over so it did impact the con experience a little. I am vaccinated but this was indoors so I wore my mask inside the con pretty much all the time. There seemed to be fewer guests and fewer exhibitors than in the past. Some creators were masked, others not. I figured no harm in me wearing one if it helped others feel more protected.

This was also a con I went to alone. My usual con-buddy partner was unable to attend. Half (if not more) of the fun at cons is the camaraderie as you wait in lines with each other, share stories, and show each other what you bought. Without my pal, I was basically all business, in early and out early.

That said, I feel very grateful for meeting a new friend, Clint from Maryland. He was very much a kindred spirit with sketch books and organized issues for signature. I waited in line pre-con with him on Saturday and Sunday and the time went by quickly. He isn't much for social media but if you read this Clint, cool meeting you.

But let's not bury the lede!

 I finally got an Amanda Conner sketch!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Review: Batman/Superman #20

Batman/Superman #20 came out last week, the next chapter in the Auteur.IO storyline of a visionary being/story god who is looking to create the 'perfect' universe in a multiverse where that isn't possible.

It has been a fun ride with writer Gene Luen Yang giving us a Fleischer Studio style Superman with a Silver Age Batman and Robin teaming up with other alternate versions of DC heroes. Meanwhile, the 'real' Batman and Superman remain trapped in Auteur.IO's Phantom Zone crystal.

I have really enjoyed this arc. Yang has really used the other Batman and Superman to give us a very classic feel to the heroics. They read like the heroes of my own youth. He also has been giving us a sort of meta-commentary on current comics and movies. Whose vision is 'the' vision? Which is the 'perfect' vision? Does there need to be one take on these characters? Does the audience get to dictate the story? All things that I find fascinating.

As a double pleasure, Ivan Reis is on art and his stuff remains impeccable. As we are traveling from one film universe to another, Reis has to jump from environment to environment. Sci-Fi? Western? Horror? Metropolis and Gotham? It all looks great. And when you add in the film reel motif of the story, you get a difficulty multiplier. Seriously, there are two double page spreads in the middle of this issue which must have induced either a migraine or a hand cramp or both.

It makes me sad to know this book is ending. Because it has been a real treat on the shelves.

On to the book.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #1

Superman Son of Kal-El #1 came out this week, a move which puts Jon Kent as the headliner of one of the primary super books on the shelf. Born out of 5g and Future State, the aged up Jon is now Superman, his father presumably off world.

I have been a fan of Jon's both as the Super Sons tweener rascal and the older Legionnaire. But does he have enough characterization to shoulder his own book? I was unsure. 

When the creative team was announced, I was definitely buoyed with some enthusiasm. Tom Taylor has written some of my favorite books out there. His run on All-New Wolverine is a favorite of mine. His take on Supergirl in the Injustice books has been great. And even his new run on Nightwing has been a 'feel good' oasis in the sometimes dark world of comics.

John Timms on art has had an incredible run on books for me including stints on Harley Quinn and Superman. His stylized work flows beautifully. I love the energy he brings to the pages.

Then I read the issue. And I am a little worried.

It is clear that Taylor is going to bring a socially conscious bend to this book. His Jon is going to fight for a better world, and that means taking on big problems, not just the Toyman. And I am not against socially cognizant stories. 

The thing is I just want good stories. I am fine with stories that have an agenda. When people have an agenda that they force into a story, it reads flat and preachy. When taken to extremes it twists the idea of heroism into something worrisome.

Please understand, I know all about Superman's history. I love Superman. I know about the early stories where he fought war mongers, slum lords, and mine owners with poor working conditions. I read all the PSAs as a kid and learned from them. 

But this is a tightrope to walk. I hope Taylor and Timms are up to the challenge. 

 On to the book.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: Checkmate #2

Checkmate #2 came out last week, the second part of the 7 part mini-series putting Leviathan on the map as a DCU threat and re-forming the counter-terrorism Checkmate group. 

I am ready to love this book. I want to love this book! But this issue was just okay. And I crave so much more.

The cover is a brilliant red showing ... someone. Is that Mark Shaw Leviathan? Is it Ollie? Is it Merlyn? Is it Daemon Rose? I don't know. Someone tell me. The cover also says "Who is Daemon Rose" but we learned that in the last issue of Justice League and Rose isn't in this issue at all. So this isn't an auspicious beginning.

The story inside is told in a nonlinear timeline labeled 'weeks ago', '2 weeks ago', and 'now'. But I am having a bit of a hard time following all of these timelines as what is happening in each isn't distinct enough to be obvious. (I am thankful for the bylines so I can try to orient myself.) It also makes me think I need to reread last issue to place that issues timeline into place with this one ... and the Justice League events. Maybe I will scan all the issues at some point and put them in chronological order. There is one turn of events where I thought I was missing a page, never good.

Outside of the way the story is told, not much happens here. We get a reveal about a potential weakness in Mark Shaw. Damian gets put in his place a bit. But otherwise, we sort of tread water a bit. Mysteries from last issue aren't progressed at all. And a lingering Event Leviathan mystery is only tangentially touched on.

One thing not to quibble about is the art. I like Alex Maleev's art and he brings the action here with a number of in close fighting sequences. The colors are brilliant, showing us nighttime scenes, dark scenes of fighting in dimly lit rooms, and brilliant daytime sequences.

Still, I enjoyed the book because I enjoy the overall story. I just want to be floored. On to the details.