Monday, May 30, 2022

DC Comics August 2022 Solicits

The August solicits for DC Comics came out last week. Here is a link to Newsarama's coverage for the complete listing:

There are some fun things this month including 'swimsuit' variants on some covers. But there wasn't much new that grabbed me here. I really like the DC books I am collecting right now. I'd love to be collecting more. On to the super-books.

Backup story art by DAVID LAPHAM
Variant cover by LEE BERMEJO
Swimsuit variant cover by STANLEY "ARTGERM" LAO

The climactic battle for the fate of Warworld is fast approaching, and the Authority is finally reunited…but no longer as allies! As Superman fights to retrieve a mythical ancient weapon that can free the people of Warworld, Natasha Irons, Midnighter, and O.M.A.C. fight for the souls of their own teammates. Meanwhile, in the Fortress of Solitude: it's all hands on deck as the entire Super-family joins forces to recover the Genesis fragment from one of Superman's earliest classic enemies!

Now this is solicit!

We can start with the Kara swimsuit cover. Gorgeous!

But the blurb is great. Sounds like Apollo, Enchantress, and Lightray aren't fighting for the good guys anymore. And you know that Supergirl is going to be involved in that Fortress battle. Bring it on!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Review: Action Comics #1043

Action Comics #1043 came out this week, another excellent chapter in the Warworld Saga and an issue that had a back-up feature that I can actually get behind.

One thing I have been saying all along is that writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is world-building in this arc. We are learning about the history of Warworld and now the name Mongul. There is a lot to unpack here as more history is hinted at here. There are mysteries to solve here. There isn't much Superman action here. But there is a lot to digest as things get deeper and more interesting. 

What Superman stuff we do see is intriguing. It is one thing to see him leading rebel raids, being a man of ... well ... action. But I like seeing that he is thinking of Earth. And I like seeing him look a little uneasy as the mantle of tactical leader is thrust upon him. Inspirational leader? That's easy for him. Making military decisions? Maybe not so much.

The art is a solid mix between Riccardo Federici and his feathery pencils as well as Will Conrad and his heavy feel. This is really pretty to look at.

This is one of the best books on the shelves. On to the specifics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Adventure Comics #429

Could Black Orchid be Supergirl? It was a fan theory back in the 70s and one I have been exploring in depth over the last month or so here.

Today I look at Adventure Comics #429, the second appearance of the character in her initial 3 issue run in the title. 

There some things I have learned about the Black Orchid from these stories, some universal truths. 
One, she will always be in disguise at some point, impersonating one of the characters. So as a reader, you are always wondering.
Two, the stories tend to be bonkers, appropriate for the times.
Three, the art is always going to be gorgeous. I have yet to see a lackluster art effort on her stories.
And four, and most importantly, you can see why the theory would have some legs. It is pretty easy to retrofit these stories into some Kara history.

This issue keeps all those things true. But it is wild ride, so settle in. 

'Challenge to the Black Orchid' was written by Sheldon Mayer with art by Tony Dezuniga.

We start with a truly stunning splash. There is some balletic about this, as the Orchid soars above a dock. Underneath her, you see someone hunched behind crates with a rifle. It is very Noir.  Dezuniga is at the top of his game here.

If you read the opening paragraph, it could definitely be the opening of a Supergirl story. 

"She appears where there is evil ... she has the strength of a regiment, flies through the air like a bird of prey, and has the beauty and compassion of a young girl." (Okay, I snipped out the 'she disappears' bits. They don't fit the narrative.)

Monday, May 23, 2022

Review: World's Finest #3

World's Finest #3 came out last week and was just another wonderful issue of  super-hero action and character moments. I don't know if I'll be able to easily explain why this works but it just feels like all the fun and insane brilliance of the Bronze Age but polished up for the current world. 

Writer Mark Waid has such easy grasp of character voices. His Superman and Batman are best buddies and trust each other. His Robin  is young and brash. His Supergirl is intelligent and pro-active. But this is also some sort of tour through the DCU. We get the Doom Patrol and their old enemy General Immortus. We have a very classic Wonder Woman battling Dr. Alchemy. The Flash is battling the Mirror Master. And we get a couple of surprises at the end. While Batman and Superman are the hub of the book, this truly is a DC adventure. 

Dan Mora's art is just as important to the story. Every page is beautiful. I love the fact that we get to see Mora's take on so much of the DCU. With every guest star I keep thinking 'DC should put Mora on that book when he leaves World's Finest. I especially love his take on Supergirl and her Crisis-era costume. She looks like a young, healthy, determined, athletic woman. His action pages also sizzle. 

The Devil Nezha story takes a nice bump forward with us learning how the House of Ji defeated him in the past. Given the scope of Waid's writing, I think there is a clue there. Let the guesses start!

On to the book.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: Superman Son of Kal-El #11

Superman Son of Kal-El #11 came out last week and was a very good issue in a title that has been sort of hit and miss for me at times. I really feel like this issue sort of encapsulated all of the good things that I have liked about this book into one crisp tale. This felt like a 'done in one' even though it clearly is a chapter in the longer Gamorran arc. And it places Jon in the spotlight as the new Superman, complete with Superman like ethics. Well ... except for one piece which I hope will be addressed moving forward.

Writer Tom Taylor has seemed to make a name for himself by writing 'feel good' heroes who are as ready to fight social injustices as they are to trade haymakers with super-villains. This book and Nightwing both stand out for their progressive stances. He also has a knack of bringing warmth to these characters who for a while have been muddled in the grim and gritty. And perhaps best of all, he definitely leans into the past, building on continuity as he forges forward. This is a Jon who was involved in some tragedy as a kid, who lived in volcano being tortured for years, and is still trying to live up to the ideals of his father. All of that makes him who he is now. Add to that some great new twists involving Pa Kent and Alfred and this whole book really crackled from a character point of view.

Artist Cian Tormey brings solid work here. There isn't anything flashy. But the scenes roll out nicely. Anyone who can bring authenticity to a heart to heart between Batman and Pa Kent is doing the work. Like Taylor, I think it is the character work that sings here as body language and expression really amp up the script.

So bring on more issues like this please!

On to the specifics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

DC Round Robin 2: Superboy

A tip of the hat to blog friend Mart Gray for telling me about the Superboy The Man of Tomorrow entry into the DC Round Robin tournament. I haven't been following this particular promotion too closely. What I know is that readers vote for which premise seems more promising until finally one is given the cherished 'go ahead' to be produced.

Mart told me I should check out the Superboy entry and I am glad he did. And as a Conner fan, I am glad this one survived and advances.

Times have been a bit tough on Conner. He was sort of shunted off into limbo for a while. (The New 52 did few people favors.) He finally is brought back into the fold by Brian Michael Bendis in the Young Justice Reboot only to have the book get canceled. And with Jon now being Superman Son of Kal-El for the world, there isn't much room for Conner in the DCU. As a fan, I wondered about what the next steps would be or if this Superboy would again fade away into limbo.

Incredibly, that lack of 'space' seems to be the theme of the book. Writer Kenny Porter and artist Jahnoy Lindsay (both new to me) wonder what it is like to be a member in an over-stuffed super family. Maybe the answer is to head into space?

I find a couple of things interesting to comment on before I head into the story proper. One, I like the homage cover here to one of the first images of Superboy from way back in Reign of the Supermen. The title Superboy Man of Tomorrow seems to be akin to the Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow mini which just concluded, another story where a super-family member went into space. But unlike Kara's sob story in her book where she left out of depression and grief, Conner is leaving looking for adventure. Lastly, this take has some resonance with prior Supergirl stories where she wondered who she was in the great scheme of things. All interesting.

On to the book.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Justice League Vs Legion Of Super-Heroes #3

At long last, Justice League Vs The Legion of Super-Heroes #3 came out. It has been 2 solid months since the second issue. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will kill momentum like delays. And for someone starving for Legion material, 2 months felt like 6.

What makes matters even wonkier is that DC continuity right now is pretty soft. Remember when I thought having Doomsday Clock, Snyder's Metal, and Event Leviathan all overlapping was weird? That was a walk in the park. Right now Superman is dead, on Warworld, and in the 31st century ... all at once. It is this sort of overlapping event phenomenon that kind of cheapens or lessens each of them. We have this Great Darkness and THE GREAT DARKNESS in Dark Crisis. Confusing.

All right, enough griping. What about this issue.

Well we are halfway through this mini-series and I don't know what's going on. The 'Vs' confuses me in the title although in the end I think the Gold Lantern is going to be a dupe for whoever the bad guys are. That will probably lead to some conflict.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis brings his usual snappy patter to the book. It reads very well with some humor and some solid character moments. In a riff on classic JLA team-ups he has split the teams into small groups. But I just don't know if the plot has advanced enough here for the halfway point. Will this come to a solid conclusion or just sort of peter out?

Scotty Godlewski really is singing here. I love his take on these Legionnaires. And his expressive work and body language is nuanced. You can read the feelings here without them being exaggerated. 

On to the book.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Review: World Of Krypton #6

Work and life in general has been hectic here so I am just catching up on comic reviews. 

Today I'll look at World of Krypton #6 by Robert Venditti and Michael Avon Oeming, an issue which came out 2 weeks ago.

This is the last issue of this mini-series. And let's admit it, as readers we all knew where this was going. There ends with the destruction of Krypton. That's the origin.

And yet, the creators do something interesting, at least for me. I assumed we would be ending this mini-series with a classic shot of Jor-El and Lara looking up as a rocket streaks away from the exploding planet. After all, I just said that is where this story ends. Instead, Venditti ends this mini-series a bit more open-ended. Yes, the planet will explode. But there is still some time left, some stories unsaid. As I have enjoyed this mini-series, it left me clamoring a bit for more. Always a good sign.

I also think that Venditti has done a good job mining the past, picking up pieces of the established history that work, and then crafting this fresh take on things. The mirrors into our own current world are there, no doubt, but not presented in a preachy way. This is more a parable of frankly where we are in the world today. 

Oeming's art is an acquired taste but it has grown on me throughout the series. The use of electronic panel borders still works for me, giving this a feel for some discovered found footage file by Kal on Earth. His sassy young Kara continues to amaze me. And the action sequences, and there are many in this violent filled finale, flow well with palpable strikes.

I am sad to see this series end and wouldn't mind seeing these creators hook up again. Maybe for an old-fashioned 'Tales from Krypton' back-up in one of the Superman books?

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a shot of the variant cover by Cat Staggs showing Kara holding baby Kal. I assumed we would see this sort of thing in the series as well but we just never get there.

I will point out that the outfit Kara is wearing is Staggs' design for the Smallville book. Just a great variant.

On to the story specifics.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Adventure Comics #428

With Supergirl nowhere to be found on the shelves post-Tom King's brutal portrayal in Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow, I have needed to fill some blog space with other content. Recently, I have been looking at Black Orchid, specifically through the lens of the 70's theory that she might be Supergirl in diguise. 

At the recent Wicked Comic Con, I was able to finally purchase Adventure Comics #428, the first appearance of the Orchid. I was pretty pleased to find a copy in decent condition and at a decent price! This has been a smallish grail book for me for a while so I am happy to be able to check that box. 

So what better place to go in my mission than this very issue and see if the clues are there from the beginning. As always, I am trying to fit Kara into the flowery suit so speculations will run wild. So buckle up. And remember, when this book came out, Supergirl volume 1 was on the shelves and half way through it's 10 issue run. So it makes the thought that the Orchid was Supergirl initially less likely.

Let's start with the great cover by Bob Oksner showing the Black Orchid. in the light of the full moon, looming over a dark window filled with gun-toting thugs. Oksner knew layouts and this one is beautiful. It showcases this innovative costume nicely. But there is no way to glean from this image just how powerful the Black Orchid is. This looks more like a Black Widow cover.

Still, it does catch the eye. And I love the font for her name.

'Black Orchid' was written by Sheldon Mayer with art by Tony DeZuniga. This is a moody story for Mayer I feel. But it is right in DeZuniga's wheelhouse. The women are gorgeous. The Noir-ish setting is grungy beautiful. And if looking for some links to the Supergirl theory, It is interesting that DeZuniga did his share of Supergirl stories from the prior Adventure run for the Girl of Steel. Hmm ...

The story opens with this fantastic panel showing her in her glory, flying around an old creepy mansion bathed in the full moon. I love the almost lack of significant detailing on her costume here, giving the Orchid almost a ghostly feel. 

The caption box is actually a summary of the first half of the story.

But 'impossible strength' ... hmmm.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Passing Of George Perez

George Perez passed away last week, another legend lost. My condolences to his family, his friends, and his many fans.

When the news broke, my social media timelines were flooded with unbelievable words of respect and love. It was unbelievable and unprecedented. Perez was universally beloved and rightfully so. 

I had the honor of meeting Mr. Perez at the Boston Comic Con in 2013. He was incredibly nice and personable. There was a huge line waiting to see him but he took the time to chat with fans. He was even doing quick sketches for an incredibly reasonable price. I got this sketch from him there.

I told him I was a long time fan. I talked to him about how I loved his art and the times he drew Supergirl. And I talked about how that while I didn't agree with Supergirl needing to die in Crisis that I couldn't have asked for a better story or art for her to leave the DCU in.

He took the time to talk with me and then did the same for everyone behind me. He was one of a kind.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Phantom Stranger #41

 I have been reviewing the Black Orchid's Bronze Age adventures with a focus on the fan theory that she was actually Supergirl. Today I will be reviewing Phantom Stranger #41, the last part of a 4 part adventure. 

There is a lot for me to like about this story. There is a lot to mine here if you like the Supergirl fan theory. This story directly sets up the Black Orchid guest spot in Super Friends #31. The art work by Fred Carrillo is beautiful and detailed. And it is a fun little adventure spotlighting all the things that made this Orchid so mysterious and intriguing.

This was her last adventure in Phantom Stranger because the book got canceled after this. And after the Super Friends issue, her next adventure in the DCU was actually a quick appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths #5!

Now I don't think this is the end of my reviews of the Orchid. I still have her original Adventure Comics run to go through.  But let's dive into this!

'Will The Real Black Orchid Please Stand Up?" was written by Michael Fleisher with script continuity by Russell Carley. 

As we saw last issue, a gang of highly intelligent and capable criminal masterminds have decided to imitate Black Orchid to commit their robberies. They even have high-tech gear to mimic the Orchid's powers. 

To rip off the gold bullion in the World Bank, they trick Ronne Kuhn, daughter of the Bank's president, to turn over the plans of the safe. Without blinking, they turn on her, tying her to the vault door loaded with explosives.

This is a very fetching opening panel by Carrillo.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #6

Dark Knights of Steel #6 came out last week, marking the halfway point of the maxi-series. And this one ended, as much of this series has ended with a great cliffhanger.

I have been very impressed by this series so far. Sure, this is just another Elseworlds take on the DCU, this time set in medieval times. But writer Tom Taylor has kept his foot on the gas the entire time. Things happen pretty fast in this book, with deaths, plot twists, and declarations of war happening in each issue. Add to that solid characterization and new takes on classic properties. 

In this issue, the fire is stoked for an all out war between the House of El and the House of Lightning. But more and more it is becoming obvious that there is another power lurking in the background, manipulating these two kingdoms into battle. I am still putting my bets on White Martians. We'll see if I'm right. At the very least, it looks like Zala Jor-El, the Supergirl analogue, is probably not a killer. 

Yasmine Putri is again on art and everything is just gorgeous. There isn't necessarily a heavy action issue. Instead Putri gets to show off her expressive work here. The looks of shock, horror, and anger throughout the book are spot on. So much of the story is told by the art here, not words.

And this Supergirl-centric Joshua Middleton cover is just gorgeous.

I am having a ton of fun with this book. It hasn't missed yet. 

On to the details.