Monday, January 31, 2022

Review: Justice League #71

Justice League #71 came out last week, concluding the Royal Flush story.

The issue comes out at an odd time. The Death of the JLA has been announced for Justice League #75. We know that in many ways this book is in some decaying orbit. We have barely got to know this team and I feel like we never will. It's a shame. The addition of Black Adam and Hippolyta added some edge to the team. Bringing in Naomi added some youth and another way to spur the plot along. 

We still get a few more issues with Brian Michael Bendis as writer. Last issue we had the Royal Flush Gang steal the Fortress of Solitude. The issue also felt like a side-sequel to the Checkmate mini-series. This issue finishes that story, the whole plot of how the Fortress was stolen left to our imagination. But there are the usual great moments in the book. As always the character beats are what make a Bendis book sizzle.

Phil Hester is on art and really gets to stretch his legs here. We get three back to back to back double page spreads of interdimensional super-battles. But there is a quiet Superman moment in the middle of this book which is presented so perfectly, so memorably. The art somehow fits the story.

I don't know if I am up for another dead JLA story. So I will enjoy this mini-run while I can.

On to the specifics.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1039

Action Comics #1039 came out this week and was another superb chapter in the Warworld Saga. Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is not only giving us a Superman we need right now, but he is also building a complicated and multilayered new world for us to explore. 

The main plot is a depowered Superman playing Spartacus in the arena of Warworld, inspiring hope and ultimately I assume revolution. That part of the plot is impeccable as we see a Superman sticking to his ethics while supposedly in deathmatches. We see him turning people's hopelessness around. It is fantastic. 

But Johnson is really world building here, both metaphorically and more literally. We are starting to learn about Warworld itself, it's origins and layers. We have already learned about the culture and patriarchy of the Mongul clan. Now we are also learning about the traditions and lives of the arena fighters. We see snippets of hymns sung to Thaklis. We learn about the Phaelosians.  Meaty stuff.

This also marks the beginning of Riccardo Federici on art. Every artist on the Warworld Saga has been spectacular and Federici is no exception. His work brings a very detailed finely penciled look to it that sings off the page. Every sinew, every tendon, every crag on a warrior's face is visible and palpable. It reminds me of the ultra-rich Sunday comics of yesteryear. It isn't exactly Hal Foster or Alex Raymond but it evokes the lushness of them.

As I have said many times on this blog, I want good stories. If you tell a good story, even if it is in a direction I didn't think I would like, you still got me. I didn't know I wanted an Earth Elemental Swamp Thing until I got it. I didn't know I needed a flame-winged Matrix Supergirl until I got it. I didn't think I wanted Superman off-Earth on Warworld when I first heard it. But I am thrilled I am getting it. This is great storytelling.

On to the specifics.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Bullet Review: Detective Comics #1050

Detective Comics #1050 came out this week, a landmark issue! Detective #1027 and Detective #1000 were also landmarks. As the basis behind the DC of DC Comics, I suppose the title deserves it.

I read this issue specifically for the 10 page preview of the upcoming Batman/Superman World's Finest title by writer Mark Waid and artist Dan Mora. As I have said many times, I like the concept of Batman and Superman being friends and partners. I have always enjoyed Waid's works. And Mora's work is impressive.

Add to all this that these are 'classic' adventures, with a blue-caped, yellow-encircled Batman costume and Dick Grayson as Robin, I figured I would love this.

No surprise, I loved this. 

There are some interesting things right off the bat. First off, I read (or maybe heard on a podcast) that Waid was going to concentrate on Robin in these stories as an important go-between and touch of levity. We get that here. Second, the idea of a big bad manipulating things behind the scenes is always a fun mystery. 

Perhaps most interesting is that some of what we get here seems lifted from the Bruce Timm animated universe making me wonder just what world/continuity this takes place on. 

Lastly, from a story view, my guess is there will be a nice Silver Age pastiche to the proceedings given the importance of Red Kryptonite to the plot.

From an art standpoint, Mora really shines here giving us great action beats. Metallo is appropriately horrific given the DCAU feel of him. And his Ivy is menacingly beautiful. And how great it is to see these classic costumes (even if this Robin is wearing long pants). 

On to the specifics.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

DC Comics April Solicits

The DC Comic solicits for April 2022 were released last week. Here is a link to the entire list over on Newsarama:

We are in the post-'Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow' so no Supergirl anywhere to be seen.

Perhaps most surprising is the lack of Supergirl being mentioned anywhere in the 'Earth Prime' mini-series set in the CW universe. There are individual issues for all the current shows on the CW and a team-up issue at the end. But no mention of Kara or her crew anywhere. Such a bummer. 

It also turns out the be the 10th anniversary of Flashpoint so there is a mini-series sent in that world. Something I'm not interested in. It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago! But it was the precursor to the New 52 roll out. Hard to believe I covered some of the mini-series here!

Also, I have to check again but I didn't see Justice League Vs The Legion solicited this month. 

On to the super-books.

Art and cover by RICCARDO FEDERICI
Backup art by ADRIANA MELO
Backup written by SHAWN ALDRIDGE

The origins of Mongul, his mysterious champions, and Midnighter's underground rebellion stand revealed! When another of Superman's truest allies is killed, will the tragic loss end the rebellion before it begins? Or will it be the spark that finally unites Superman's forces against the unstoppable Mongul? The Warworld Revolution begins! Also featuring the finale to the epic Martian Manhunter backup series!

First off, what a cover!!

Definitely liking how this story seems to be playing out. The stakes are real as we keep hearing of deaths. And the origins of Mongul's champions makes me intrigued. Will they be characters we know that have been corrupted?

I'm really loving this arc. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #7

Superman Son of Kal-El #7 came out last week and was an interesting issue, a perfect microcosm of whatI like, sort of not like, and wonder about this title.

What do I like? I like that Jon is a younger, brasher Superman. We see how he has the foundation of his father and his mother's ethics. He wants to help. He cares about everyone. And he wants the truth to be known. There is a scene here where he saves a young boy that might be my favorite moment in the book. 

What do I not like? Well, this is a socially progressive comic and so every issue is going to cover a 'ripped from the headlines', real-problem. I get that comics have always covered political or environmental issues. How did I learn about the dangers of nuclear waste as a kid? But these days I hope to escape in comics. I understand and worry about these real-life issues already. This comic has given us a sort of simplistic, one-sided view of these issue that make them seem too easy to solve. This issue Jon comes face to face with water pollution. Thankfully Superman leading a school walk-out to protest climate change isn't in the issue. I'm not dropping $4 to read that. 

What do I wonder? Well, I continue to wonder if Jay Nakamura is a sort of villain here. I think he is manipulating Jon. It would be bold to have writer Tom Taylor make Jon's boyfriend be duplicitous. But relationships of all sorts can be sour. I'd applaud it in some ways. It wouldn't need to change Jon's sexuality; it would just mean he was dating a jerk.

John Timms isn't on art here. Cian Tormey invokes enough of Timms' style to give the book the same feel of the others while giving us some solid action. There is a nice use of negative space here on one page that works well. 

On to the book.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Review: Supergirl Woman Of Tomorrow #7

Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow #7 came out this week, the penultimate issue in this mini-series. 

I don't think this is a good Supergirl story.

 And while the laudatory reviews and awards keep heading towards writer Tom King, I'll be the madman, living in the wild, surviving on honey and grasshoppers, and trying to tell you my truth. 

This isn't a good Supergirl story.

The issue revolves around two events happening simultaneously. One is Supergirl trying to fend off Krem's brigand army in space, hoping to hold off the varlots from rescuing him. The other is Ruthye left alone with Krem on a planet, trying to fight her urges to kill Krem. Neither seems to go exactly as planned.

King tries to build up the heroics of Supergirl here. At one point he says she lived a life of kindness. In another place he says that Supergirl 'doesn't hate anyone'. We learn this space pirate fight is one which has become legendary in song and poem, even having the planet renamed in Kara's honor. And all of that seems fine.

But if you take a step back, you realize this is King once again 'telling us', not showing us. Yes, we saw her kindness in issue #4 when she nursed aliens back to health. But where was her kindness when she watched someone get stoned to death? Where was her kindness when she let Ruthye witness that stoning? Where was her kindness when she stomped on the arms of the foe she had defeated already in issue #2? You can't tell me she lives a life of kindness and show me the opposite.

King has Supergirl say that as Supergirl she doesn't hate anyone but he follows that up with some text that makes it clear she is lying. 

And he doesn't exactly do her any favors in the story. Usually the hero of the book defeats the villaind. In this issue, he has her lose to a ship of space pirates. You would think, given her powers she would just disable their engine or cut down their mast and have them drift until the law shows up. But instead he has her engage in hand-to-hand and lose. Once more she has very little dialogue in her own book. The only lines she has are at the end of the book when she has been defeated, her lines trying to keep Comet from coming and rescuing her.

On the planet, Supergirl has left Comet with Ruthye so the young girl won't kill Krem. But Supergirl leave Ruthye with weapons at her disposal. And Krem is simply tied to a tree. If you are worried about Ruthye's bloodlust, why not take the weapons away? Super-speed build a prison cell to keep Krem and Ruthye apart? Put him in a well ventilated cave and collapse the entrance? Is Krem being tied up even safe enough to insure Ruthye is going to be okay?

I read this book hoping that maybe we would finally get Supergirl as a hero in her own mini-series. Instead she barely talks, wades in like the Hulk without thinking, and loses. There are plot points that make little sense that seem to be done to move the story in a certain direction.. You can't tell me this is a good story for her. 

What's worse, I think there is almost no place to go with this take on Supergirl afterwards. Who wants to read a monthly adventure book about the extremely depressed, PTSD victim who is simply going through the motions of life?

As always, a saving grace to the mini-series is the art. Bilquis Evely and Mateus Lopes continue to stun me with their beautiful art. It is a gorgeous book to look at.

On to some specifics. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

DC Superhero Girls: Double Danvers

I have been enjoying myself recently in discovering and, in some cases, re-discovering, the second season of DC Superhero Girls. I can't explain why covering the show dropped off here. But I plan to rectify.

As I have said with each episode I have reviewed, the Supergirl here isn't your standard version of Kara. She is brash. She is hot headed. She is impetuous ... okay maybe that is classic Kara. But this version seems more like Power Girl than Supergirl. In any case, she has her heart in the right place, is definitely a hero, is the tank of the team, and is a laugh riot. 

Today I'll look at an episode called #DoubleDanvers, a pure Supergirl episode with a dash of Bizarro Supergirl. In it, Kara tries to skirt some responsibility by sending Bizarro in her place. You can anticipate the madcap hijinks that ensue. 

I love the concept of Bizarro Supergirl, mostly from incredible BizarroGirl arc from Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. In this show, she is more misunderstood and mostly harmless and that is true here.

But this is a DC Superhero Girls episode. There is a lesson here. You have to be true to your family and honor your promises. 

On to the show.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #326

These are interesting times here at the blog as I approach my 14th year posting. Supergirl is starring in a critically acclaimed mini-series which I find distasteful. The television show is off the air. And outside of reviewing current books (which don't star Supergirl), I have been trying to find some sort of enthusiasm or avenue for new posts. In the last few years, things like Black Orchid or Mark Shaw have been good side projects to keep my energy up.

One of the things I have been mulling around is the 'new' timeline Tom King has pushed forward in Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow. He has sort of mashed together all the minor variations of her origin but amping up all the possible psychological trauma she could have witnessed. For King, she is alive when Krypton explodes and therefore has to deal with all the terrible things which happen to Argo City.

Of course, in the original timeline, Kara is not alive when Krypton explodes. She is born on Argo City and lives there peacefully until she is rocketed away in her mid-teens. It made me wonder just how much of Kara's life on Argo we saw in the Silver Age. Certainly looking back at this blog, I have covered several stories filling in some of her youth.

And then, as luck would have it, my LCS had the hardcover Supergirl Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2, a hole in my collection. (Even better, it was 50% off.) There are a lot of stories in there I haven't read and I am just starting to scratch the surface of this new material. One of the stories I did read was the Supergirl back-up in Action Comics #326.

Written by Otto Binder with art by Jim Mooney, 'The Secret of Supergirl's Suitor' is an insane story with so many plot twists that it would take up a 12 issue maxi-series these days. Instead, curveball after curveball is thrown in the last several pages, making it a dizzying read.

It plays up one of the more interesting tropes of Silver Age Supergirl, her miserable love life where every man she falls for hard has some backstory which makes it impossible. Poor Dick Malverne and Jerro ... they can never seal the deal.

It also plays up another common theme of this time, Supergirl trying desperately to get Superman's approval and respect and coming up short. I love this opening panel of her looking sheepish as she bails out her new criminal boyfriend Al Mintor, all while Superman derides her.

All this plus a look back at Argo!

On to the book!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Review: Justice League Vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Justice League Vs, The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 came out this week, a book I have been waiting for since I first heard it was being released.

I know Brian Michael Bendis' Legion run wasn't universally loved but I found it to be a perfect amalgam of classic and new. I was sad to see it's run come to an end when Future State raised its fearsome head. The book was just coming around, the team victorious over Mordru, Rimbor, and UP oversight, they were just about to investigate the Great Darkness.

That universal threat finally arrives in this book, a very Crisis-like problem, attacking the universe in all places and all times simultaneously. 

Bendis does his usually great job with dialogue here and gives us a book which is very Legion but also reminiscent of the classic JLA/JSA annual crossovers. It is clear the Gold Lantern is somehow going to play a major part in this mini-series. For the first time I see how similar his uniform is to Naomi's and it makes me wonder if they aren't somehow connected.

The art here is by Scotty Godlewski with colors by Ryan Cody. Godlewski either loved or hated this job based on the number of characters and two page spreads he needed to do. But my guess is, based by the joy coming of the page, he loved it. For me, the favorite page is a 2 page of the Legion and the JLA just talking. 

In particular, there are three back-to-back double page spreads. One is nearly wordless and almost completely black, showing the threat of the Great Darkness. The next one is the ultra-bright future of the Legion, all pale blues and packed with people. The last one, the JLA fighting a Legion of Doom, but more normally colored. Because the current day isn't that bright but isn't that bad. This was a nice turn.

I really enjoyed this book. So let's get to the specifics.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

DC Superhero Girls: #TheAquamanCometh

It has been a long time since I have reviewed DC Superhero Girls here on the site. And I have been remiss in not mining this show for the joy it brings.

I sought the show out and have been accumulating episodes on the DVR with plenty of fun stuff that made me smile. I don't know if I will review every episode but certainly there will be some that rise to top and need some coverage here. There is a little nugget of possible Supergirl history in this episode that made me laugh. (I may be reading to deep into it though.)

And I will again point out that this is a kid's show with mostly one-dimensional looks at these DC characters. This brash, mischievous, rule-flouting Supergirl is a hoot. I don't know if I would want this to be exactly how I would want her in the continuity-based comics. But for this medium and this show, he is a laugh riot.

The episode I am covering is called #TheAquamanCometh.

One thing that has been fun to see grow over the seasons has been Kara's friendship with Garth. On this show, Garth is a late bloomer and no powerhouse. But he has become Kara's gaming buddy and I have seen episodes where she is very protective of him. This Supergirl makes fun of geeks but she is in fact one herself. That is a fun little side story on the show.

Here Garth is upset because he has been writing to Aquaman about his school life and has been fibbing. He has said he was everything from the Homecoming King to the star quarterback to the school paper's editor to ... well you get the idea. Impressed by Garth, Aquaman is coming to visit.

So Garth turns to his friend Kara, surprising her and making her drop her 'mystery meat' cafeteria sandwich.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #6

Superman Son of Kal-El #6 came out last week and moved the storylines of Gammora forward nicely while giving us some solid character moments as well. 

I haven't always liked the way the politics of the storylines here have been told, finding them a bit too easy in presentation and summation. This issue things are much more straightforward in their super-heroics with a touch less preaching and a bit more unifying. 

Writer Tom Taylor has promised to give us a progressive Social Justice Superman and we see that here as Jon isn't going to let marginalized people be kidnapped and used as lab rats by the bad guys. But this isn't a left or right wing issue. People shouldn't be taken. Hurray for super-heroes being heroes.

We also have the more personal subplots of Jon getting romantic with Jay Nakamura. I have had my concerns that Jay might be a villain in disguise, or at least a well-meaning vigilante manipulating Jon somehow. Here he comes off as more sympathetic with a more defined backstory. 

And we get to see how Jon is as Superman but also as the son of Clark and Lois. I see so much of those two in him. Clark and Lois don't always see eye to eye. Seeing the amalgam in Jon is probably my favorite part of the book. 

The art by Jon Timms remains flawless. I love the expressive work. The super-hero battles and powers are really energetic and eye-catching. And even his costume design - here Jay sports a sort of stealth suit as well as his on-line presence - is great. 

So this might be my favorite issue of the book mostly because it felt and read like a comic book. And that's really what I am coming to this media for.

On to the book.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Review: World Of Krypton #2

 World of Krypton #2 came out last week, written by Robert Venditti with art by Michael Avon Oeming. This is the latest version of Kryptonian history leading up to the planet's destruction and so far I have to say this book has been well worth reading.

Venditti is already hitting a home run over on Superman '78. Here he is doing a deep dive in to the El family in the years leading up to Kal and Kara being rocketed off. He seems to have a good grasp of the characters voices. Jor is a well-intentioned, highly moral scientist, steering us away from the haughty, quasi-evil one we saw in the Mr. Oz arcs recently. Zor seems to be his brother's best friend and scientific partner, not the angry rival we have seen recently. And Zod is a scheming, power-hungry soldier ... pretty much the Zod we always see. These feel like classic and because of recent renditions fresh. 

Add to the family storylines important events like the discovery and utilization of the Phantom Zone and the idea of escaping the planet's doom, and you have a solid and rich tale. With climate control and pandemics impacting our world, there are reverberations here of Krypton being a cautionary tale.

Oeming's art has a unique style but seems perfect here. Specifically, the anguish seen on those in the Phantom Zone, the actual shunting of someone into that dimension, and the consternation on everyone's faces, and the art complements the plot very well. Oeming also has brought us his take on Kryptonian architecture and fashion, clearly modeled after prior takes but all his own. Mico Suayan brings detail and depth to the more realistic covers. 

I do wonder if this is going to be "the" history moving forward. If so, it will be interesting to see how Kara's history and timing jibes with the mishmash of history Tom King has given us recently.

On to the book.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #3

Dark Knights of Steel #3 came out this week and kept the pedal down on the progression of plot. This is an interesting Elseworlds, a mix of DCU and something like Game of Thrones, where no one is safe and it seems like characters die every issue.

Tom Taylor certainly has a flair for the dramatic. He effortlessly brings in mainstream DC concepts into this storyline only to remove them almost immediately with death! One thing I can say three issues in is that I have never said 'this book is treading water'. We are a breakneck pace.

One thing that is clear in this issue is that the prophecy stated in the first issue as captions over pages is going to be a major plot point. Not that I mind going back and re-reading but if I had one request it would be that the prophecy get restated in each issue, maybe in an old school 'scroll' text box?

And I have to wonder what Supergirl has done to DC management to have her treated so badly. Yes, I know, this is an Elseworlds AND this is Zala Jor-El (not Kara Zor-El). But the character is the Supergirl analogue and she is villainous. Her body count is growing. Can't I get a heroic Supergirl somewhere?

The art by Yasmine Putri is simply gorgeous. I love the detail she puts into the work. I love the gore she puts into the battles. One thing I love is this cover. The background is an image of Jor-El, killed in the first issue. Doves fly across the cover but one is covering Jor's left eye. That is the eye struck with an arrow, killing him. Blur your vision a little and the dove could be a wound. Nice imagery there.

On to the book.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Review: Superman '78 #5

Superman '78 #5 came out last week and was an excellent penultimate chapter in this six issue mini-series. The second to last chapters have an important job in stories like this. They have to move the plot forward enough so that the story can be wrapped up in the finale. 

Here writer Robert Venditti and artist Wilfredo Torres bring us to the brink. Superman is brought back from Kandor, He meets Brainiac in battle. We get a decent cliffhanger. But Venditti also brings us, as he has throughout this book, wonderful personal moments and solid character beats. 

Wilfredo Torres also gets to shine here. The back half of the book is the sort of brawl I wished to see in a Reeve Superman movie. He tosses in a bunch of Easter Eggs too ... Richard Pryor (from Superman III), Barney Miller, and Shaggy. His likenesses are spot on with (for me) his Jackie Cooper the best. 

There's a lot to be wrapped up next issue. What happens with Brainiac? With his cities? What happens to Lex? Will we see a Lois/Superman romantic moment? But I think the way this issue plays out, there will be plenty of room to cover all the bases.

On to the book.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Review: Justice League #70

Justice League #70 came out last week, a continuation of a story where the Royal Flush Gang actually give an extremely powerful version of the League. The Royal Flush Gang ... you know ... those bank robbers that fly around on giant playing cards?

Writer Brian Michael Bendis seems to be wrapping up some of his Event Leviathan storylines here in his version of the League. Indeed, Mark Shaw Leviathan plays a big role in this arc despite us knowing he is already dead in the Checkmate mini-series. I have been a big fan of the Shaw character and I think this story shows how he can be charismatic and cunning while also irritating and polarizing. 

Here, I think the Royal Flush Gang are using one of Shaw's ideas to do a snatch and grab against Superman. They seem to be punching out of their weight class here, stealing the Fortress of Solitude and taking on our heroes. I wonder if this was some ploy within a ploy from the mind of Shaw.

I'll add that Bendis flair for dialogue and comic history are also on display here. As is his nonlinear story-telling as we flip back and forth from the Gang prepping to steal the Fortress to the aftermath.

Phil Hester remains on art here and brings his angular, singular style to the story. He is put to his paces here as the script flips between scenes of people arguing to a brutal knock-down brawl in the streets of an abandoned town. 

I freely admit my fondness for Leviathan probably will pump my grade up a letter. On to the book.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1038

Happy New Year to all!

What better way to ring in the new year than by posting my review of Action Comics #1038.  Action Comics has really been hitting on all cylinders recently and this chapter of the Warworld Saga is no exception. 

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is bringing in a multi-layered epic that will probably stand up for years to come. He has taken Superman off-world. He has weakened him. These things I am usually wary of. But Johnson also is bringing us new myths to the Superman legend, the Phaelosians and their culture are at the very least Krypton-adjacent. He is showing us a truly inspirational Superman, bringing hope to the lives of the downtrodden. Add to this some insane action, appropriate for this title, and you have a winner. The ending of this issue gave me goose bumps.

Miguel Mendonca's art is perfect for the arc. Somehow Mendonca gives us polished art that is somehow at the same time gritty. That works for a storyline set on the dingy arena world of the Warworld, filled with grime and blood while also elevating Superman as a hero. Clean and gritty? How?

On to the specifics.