Friday, April 29, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1042

Action Comics #1042 came out this week and was another crackling chapter in the Warworld Saga. The plot gets pushed forward. Some crumbs for future plot points are revealed. And most importantly, Superman acts like Superman, defending the helpless, inspiring, and showing how his humble upbringing can lead to the being a hero. 

Anyone who thinks Superman and his ethics and morals and passion for justice is 'boring' needs to read this arc. They will never think it again. That is about the highest praise I can give.

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson continues to show us a revolutionary Superman, fighting Mongul on Warworld and calling to arms the slaves and barbarians who have been slowly indoctrinated into this culture. I love the dialogue has Superman saying, showing how much he cares. And, as usual, there is some excellent Lois happening here. She is not forgotten.

Last issue took place over months, such that I thought it was almost an overview of Midnighter's role throughout the story. I was wrong. Johnson has rolled us through those months. Suddenly this story feels like a sprint!

 The art by Riccardo Federici is this wonderful sketchy work which evokes John Carter Warlord of Mars and Gladiator. This issue is a startlingly beautiful mix of monsters and mayhem. Beautiful mayhem! 

This book is one of the best on the racks right now. 

On to some particulars.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Phantom Stranger #40

I am continuing to work my way through the pre-Crisis Black Orchid Bronze Age adventures, looking at them through the lens of the fan theory that the Orchid was Supergirl in disguise. Certainly this has been a fun little side adventure and the stories have made the theory a bit more plausible. 

Last week, I reviewed the second part of a four part Black Orchid epic in the pages of Phantom Stranger. This was her last solo adventure before the Crisis re-wrote everything. 

Today I take a look at the penultimate chapter in Phantom Stranger #40

If there is one thing that I find fascinating about this story is that Black Orchid herself didn't appear in the first 2 parts. Yes, there are plenty of people dressed as the Orchid. But as far as we know, we haven't seen the real hero. Last issue would have been an interesting take on her origin, that many people act as the Orchid to stretch her legend far and wide. But revealing the women saying they were all Orchids as villains at the end of last issue made it less compelling.

Certainly, defining the Orchid's origin as a team would have squelched the Kara rumor completely. But the mystery of the Orchid was probably part of her appeal.

'The Black Orchid Conspiracy' was written by Michael Fleisher with continuity by Russell Carley. Art was by Fred Carrillo. 

We start out with 4 of the criminal masterminds enjoying a celebratory drink, knowing they have duped Ronne Kuhn into being their patsy for some criminal scheme.

One thing you cannot complain about with this story is the art. Carrillo brings such elan to the proceedings. The decorations in this place are so detailed. From the brickwork to the precise end table carving, this is great work. And the woman are all so expressive. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

George Perez Tribute

Earlier this year, George Perez posted that he was dealing with pancreatic cancer. The outpouring of love and admiration for the artist was staggering and appropriate. Perez is a legend in the field. He not only is one of the best artists in the medium, not only been involved with some of the most memorable stories and properties in the business, but he also is just a sweet and kind soul. 

Last week, DC unveiled a celebration they were planning for Perez. In June, the above image will be in all the company's books. Here is the link:

I was floored when I first saw the image. To get so many tremendous artists together in one piece shows you the respect that Perez has. Pieces like this always surprise me. Who knew I needed and Adam Hughes' Harbinger this much! Who knew I needed a Nicola Scott Kole!


Of course Perez drew Crisis on Infinite Earths, the ground-breaking series in which Supergirl died. Of course she would be here, in that era's costume. And there she is!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Review: World's Finest #2

World's Finest #2 came out this week and was another knockout winner of an issue. This issue, much like the last, feels like a love letter to the DCU. It is just about perfect.

I shouldn't be surprised that writer Mark Waid can capture, almost effortlessly, the voices of these characters. And by placing these stories somewhen in the past (and maybe even somewhere in the continuity of the DCU), he has a sort of carte blanche to go classic with these characters while still infusing some of their more current mores.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the issue is his wonderful characterization of Supergirl. I remember talking to Waid about Kara at a Boston Comic Con back in the day. I mentioned how his Supergirl in the Legion was so different from that time's 'current continuity' of Supergirl, the angst-riddled angry monster in the Loeb and then Kelly issues. It was clear in hearing him talk about picturing her smiling and flying that he and I shared an outlook. 

Here we have Waid doing it again. This Kara is there for her cousin, eager to help, capable and intelligent. Once more so different from the 'current continuity' Kara, the emotionally-devastated, angry monster of Tom King.

Seriously, and probably no surprise, the Supergirl stuff was my favorite part of the issue. But trust me, the rest of the issue is tremendous as you'll see. And it is clear that Waid is going to use our World's Finest duo as a straw to stir around the drink of the whole DCU.

Add to it the unbelievable beauty of Dan Mora's art and you have a winner. Last issue I said I wanted Mora on a Doom Patrol book after seeing his take on the classic team. After this issue, I want to see him on a monthly Supergirl book. His art sings, from the medical drama of the first scene to the brutal flashbacks of Devil Nehza origin, it all just leaps off the page.

Buy this book. 

On to the specifics.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Phantom Stranger #39

While the core of this site will always be Supergirl and the super-family, I do like my side missions. The deep dive into the history of Mark Shaw for instance. Or my latest little excursion, reviewing Bronze Age Black Orchid stories and holding them up to the fan theory that she was Supergirl.

Today I'll review Phantom Stranger #39, the second installment in a four part Black Orchid story that starts out like an origin tale! 

The story is scripted by Michael Fleisher with 'script continuity' by Russell Carley.  I am not sure what that job entails. Art is by Fred Carrillo bringing some 70's Alex Nino vibes again to the proceedings.

This is a standard middle chapter pushing the plot towards. As noted before, this ties into the Super Friends issue that Black Orchid guest starred in. E. Nelson Bridwell sure was the continuity wonk! 

While this chapter doesn't necessarily add anything to the Supergirl theory, it leads into that Super Friends issue which directly dealt with it and does add to the Orchid mythos. So off we go!

'The Legion of the Black Orchid'  starts with race car driver , stunt pilot, and member of the international jet set Ronne Kuhn in her home dressed as Black Orchid. We just met her last issue.

She is surprised when another Black Orchid flies into the house. 

Kuhn says she admired the Orchid's adventures and so made the suit on a lark. 

The other Black Orchid says she has something to show Ronne, scoops up the driver, and flies off to a remote headquarters. Is this flying Orchid our hero?

Monday, April 18, 2022

DC Comics July Solicits

The July 2022 solicits for DC Comics came out last week. Here is a link to the entire list:

This is another month chock full of Batman books so no big surprise there. There are a couple of Supergirl sightings, but both in books that aren't necessarily in current continuity. But both look like things to look forward to.

I don't know if I quite understand what Dark Crisis is about but I trust Joshua Williamson so I will at least give it a shot. And there is a new Superman prestige format book coming out that looks great. I am glad that DC continues to give Superman some life beyond the two monthly books. 

On to the books.

Written by MARK WAID
Art and cover by DAN MORA
Variant cover by FRANCESCO MATTINA

THE FIRST ARC OF WORLD'S FINEST CONCLUDES WITH A SHOCKING FORESHADOWING OF DCU EVENTS TO COME! The sinister machinations of the devil Nezha have run ragged the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight ever since he made his first terrifying debut in Detective Comics #1050…but what secrets does this villain hold for the future of the DCU? Clues abound for the next big DCU series in this climactic final chapter to the first arc of World's Finest!

I am glad I didn't make too hard a guess of the horned villain in the first issue. A new villain named Nezha. But a promise of clues for the next big DC series? Color me intrigued. I just love that everyone is smiling on the cover. 

Love that Kara is on the cover here. I suppose I can hope that the new series is a Supergirl book by Waid but given how he denied that exact thing on a recent podcast makes it unlikely.

And now the rest of the books that caught my eye.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #10

Superman Son of Kal-El #10 came out this week and was a solid issue, pushing the overall storyline ahead a touch while giving us some key character moments that raised this up a notch or two.

Writer Tom Taylor is giving us this socially conscious, socially progressive book, giving us a 'new' Superman. At times I have worried that the issues raised are treated superficially. I have said that Jon's solutions often seem too easy, with the book leaving the scene before anything real messy outside of the message gets delivered. 

But the strength of the book has always been the character moments. That is Taylor's forte. And this issue has several great ones, including a splash page that has been appropriately lauded on the internet already. Taylor's Lois is strong and unflappable. And Jon is growing.

I will say the last page's cliffhanger had me cheering, even if for personal reasons.

The art is by Cian Tormey, the new regular penciller. His work with Lois in the issue is powerful. There isn't much action in this issue but the rescue scene in Ireland is well paced. There is one panel progression in that scene which works incredibly well.

On to the specifics.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Phantom Stranger #38

There is no Supergirl book on the shelves. So what is Supergirl Comic Box Commentary to do?

Well, one little side road I have decided to walk down is looking at the Bronze Age adventures of Black Orchid. Back then, there was a fan theory that Black Orchid was Supergirl. So why not take a hard look at those stories to see if that theory held water. 

I covered Phantom Stranger #36, which looked at a famous story where Black Orchid supposedly had X-Ray vision. I looked at Super Friends #31 in which writer E. Nelson Bridwell picked up that rumor and ran. 

In that Super Friends story, the villain was Lisa Patrick, a villain who impersonated Black Orchid. I figured looking at that story would be fun.

And so I present to you 1975's Phantom Stranger #38. The back-up Black Orchid story is the first part of a four part epic. In fact, this is the last story for the Orchid until that Super Friends issue. So does this story turn up the heat on the Supergirl theory? Or cool it down?

'The Secret of the Black Orchid' was written by Michael Fleisher with art by Fred Carrillo.

Like stories did back then, we start with an opening panel which is a taste of the story. And here we see Black Orchid flying in, disarming a crook while bashing him across the chin, while other thugs run away because they are 'outnumbered'.

I love the lead-in caption box stating the Orchid has brought wonder, awe, and speculation! Where did she come from? That line alone would make me think she had to come from somewhere special.

I did not Fred Carrillo before this issue but he has that style that feels similar to artists like Nestor Redondo and Alex Nino, that school from the Philippines. I may need to do some research.

On to the story, with my holding up a magnifying glass to the tale to see if the Supergirl theory remains valid.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Wicked Comic Con Wrap-Up and Ben Templesmith Commission

This last Saturday I went to the inaugural Wicked Comic Con at the Westin Seaport in Boston.

I had a blast.

This show was put together by some of the organizers of the original Boston Comic Con and definitely had a 'primarily a comic show' feel to it. As such, I felt completely at home. I went armed with a heavy backpack filled with books to be signed by the great creative roster at the show and with the hopes of maybe landing a commission or a key book. 

I definitely had a budget I had to keep to and I had not set up any commission beforehand. So this was something of an old-fashioned crap shoot with me heading to the tables of creators I was hoping to get a sketch from without knowing if they were sketching or how much one would cost. 

But I don't want to underplay just how great it was to head to a comic show, meet some creators and talk about their works, and just browse. I'm very thankful.

On to some of the specifics!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Review: World Of Krypton #5

World of Krypton #5, the penultimate issue of the mini-series by writer Robert Venditti and artist Michael Avon Oeming, came out this week and set us up nicely for the inevitable conclusion of the planet. We all know that Krypton is going to explode. So it is really the characters that are going to drive this.

As someone who has been reading comics for over 4 decades, I have read the destruction of Krypton and Superman's origins many times. The buildup has been anything from a few panels to whole mini-series like this. I have read different takes and the main characters have had different motivations and outlooks on life.

One thing I like about this series is that Venditti is really looking at the classic interpretation of the characters but putting something of a modern spin on things. Jor-El is the scientist who knows Krypton is doomed. But instead of being laughed at, his work is being sort of denied or ignored. Lara is still the loving wife but she has agency here and is a true partner to Jor. Zod is still an extreme fascist but this story makes it seem like he is nudged down that path rather than it being inherent. And Zor-El is the loving father just trying to save his family. But that desperation has at least a whiff of the more recent interpretations of Zor as something of a madman. Even Kara here is bright and intelligent with a little sass to her, another welcome return.

In other words, the essence of these characters remain intact here but in a way that makes sense for this 2022 reader. The evil Jor-El who became Mr. Oz never jibed with me. The Zor-El who was seeing phantoms and killing people never made sense. The Zor-El who drugged and rocketed Kara away in the New 52 didn't work for me. And the morose Supergirl, crying in a sun and living in pain, certainly doesn't either.

I guess this is a long winded way of thanking Robert Venditti for this tale. It is clear we are reading an allegory of Earth as it is unfolding right now. But it isn't preachy or overwhelming. 

Oeming's art is an acquired taste. It definitely is a wild style especially effective in the riot sequences in this issue. From embedded panels and action progression, things zip along. It can be 'cartoony' at times. But it kind of dazzles in its own way. I have really enjoyed his take on the young Kara from baby to toddler to school age girl here.

On to the show.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Con Autographs And Upcoming Wicked Comic Con

This weekend I will be attending the brand spanking new Wicked Comic Con here in Boston. 

I'm very excited about the con as it has some of my favorite creators on the docket, some who I have met before and others that I haven't even seen listed at cons before.

As usual, I will hope to get a commission or two, get some books signed for me and friends, and maybe do a little back issue shopping.

One thing that has cropped up over the last few years is creators charging for signatures on books. And more importantly, the price for signatures has sort of sky-rocketed over time.

I don't blame the creators. Their signature probably increases the value of the book, especially if 'witnessed' and then slabbed. Plus, why shouldn't they act similarly to the other celebrities which attend bigger cons, like cosplayers, wrestlers, and voice actors who charge.

In the old days, I would usually pick around 5 issues to bring for a creator to sign, usually some 'big' issues but also I would try to bring a favorite issue. But know, I don't know how many issues to bring, if any. Am I willing to dole out $30 for a signature? $10?

What is even stranger is that there doesn't seem to be a clear landscape on who charges and what. Dan Jurgens was free. Joe Rubinstein was $10. Tim Sale was one for free if personalized, $5 otherwise. 

As a result, with no foreknowledge, I don't know what to pack. And that is irksome.

Bigger cons will often post the price for signatures or photo ops with the celebrities. So why not do the same for the comic creators? That might help me figure out how much money to bring or how many comics to bring.

Then I wondered if I was the only one thinking about such a thing.

As an experiment, I posed the question on Twitter. 'Would you like the cost of creator autographs posted on the convention website?'

98 response. 

84 people said yes.

So what do you say convention hosts? Time to start doing this?

I shouldn't lump this conversation with Wicked Comic Con.

I will be there.

I'll probably be wearing a t-shirt with the blog's banner on it for anyone there. Hope everyone locally heads there. This seems like a con that should be supported!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #308

Tom King recently rearranging of Supergirl's timeline in Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow mini-series to be a sort of mash-up of her Silver Age original beginnings and some of the more modern turns that have taken place since Kara was re-introduced in the DCU.

With that in mind I have been reading over the back issues to find other points in comic history where her earliest adventures or memories are delineated further.

On that mission, I re-read Action Comics #308 which includes the tiniest little nugget of information about Kara's journey from Argo City to Earth, something which is an interesting factoid which I believe has never been mentioned again. 

"The Super-Tot from Nowhere" was written by Leo Dorfman with art by Jim Mooney and is a typical bonkers Silver Age story with more plot turns in this back-up feature than many multi-issue arcs have in current continuity.

Supergirl is flying over a 'jungle country' when she is astounded to see a young girl falling from the sky. Our hero swoops in and catches the toddler before tragedy strikes. Scanning the skies, Supergirl sees that several planes have passed over the land recently. She assumes this girl, named Candy, fell out of one of them.

But this certainly is a 'thrown into the story' moment. The first panel of the actual tale is Supergirl seeing the girl falling to her death.

I did love how back in this era, the first panel was usually a teaser for the story. I like the exasperation in Kara's words as she realizes being a parent to a super-baby is tough work.

Friday, April 1, 2022

There's No Such Thing As A Black Orchid Blog

It seems almost an annual occasion that I get so disheartened about DC's handling of Supergirl that I wonder if I should keep running this site. It seems like it is always around this time of year I begin to think if I should be focusing on someone else.

The Tom King mini-series completely misinterpreted  the character and how I view Supergirl. Unfortunately, I think this take is going to stick for a while. How can I cover the heroic young woman who is bright and optimistic and fierce in her battle against injustice when currently DC thinks of her as an incredibly damaged and depressed person, wallowing in pain?

At the same time, I have toyed with the old rumor that the original Black Orchid was indeed Supergirl. I have covered some of the foundation of that idea. 

I have always like Black Orchid, a sort of mystery woman in the DCU with an exceptional look.

So why not turn this place on its head and become a Black Orchid blog.

The title of the blog is 'There Is No Such Thing As A Black Orchid Blog', a play on the tag line 'There is No Such Thing as a Black Orchid' used to promote the 1988 Black Orchid mini-series written by Neil Gaiman with painted art by Dave McKean.

This was Gaiman's first major work for DC after a couple of smaller stories in Secret Origins. This was pre-Vertigo but just as the British Invasion was about to explode all over DC. It was a re-imagining of the character. And it seems like the perfect place to start this site. McKean's painted work is brilliant.

There'll be more. The early Adventure stories and the Phantom Stranger back-ups. Her appearances in John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. The new Orchid in JLD. 

But let's jump in right here with Black Orchid Book 1.