Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Action Comics #260 (?)

I have been reserving Wednesdays recently to look at Black Orchid's pre-Crisis history, looking through the lens of a fan theory in the 70's that Black Orchid was, indeed, Supergirl.

I have one more Black Orchid story to review from the Phantom Stranger series. But before I review that last look at the Orchid proper, I thought I might review Action Comics #260, a story cover dated January 1960, a full 13 years before Black Orchid was introduced.

Now you might ask yourself why I am reviewing this book but that should all become evident by the end. Perhaps you are a long time fan and you already know. But I promise you, I will bring this home. 

"Mighty Maid" was written by Otto Binder with art by Al Plastino. 

This reads more like a classic Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, with Lois upset and frazzled that a superpowered female might become the love of Superman's life. We get a Lois rescue, some Lois shenanigans, and even the occasional <sob>.

But perhaps, best of all, it is a classic Silver Age story with enough insanity crammed into 12 pages than the average trade these days. 

It is all beautifully rendered by Plastino who brings a sort of angular beauty to all the people in the book. His women all resemble Joan Crawford.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Bullet Review: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen's Boss Perry White

Every so often, the comic world gives me a complete treat, a wonderful reminder of why I love the medium.

In 2020, creators Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber delivered a masterpiece with their Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen maxi-series, a book which swerved into the insanity of comics while also somehow embracing continuity. I was tickled pink and demanded a sequel.

Last week, a creative sequel of a sort, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen's Boss Perry White #1 came out. Included in it is a 7 page Perry White story by Fraction and Lieber, a snack of a story which completely recaptures the elan of the Olsen series. Now $4.99 for a 7 page story is a hefty price tag but brilliance comes at a cost. And DC does a good job of trying to support the price tag by including reprints of key Perry stories over the years, from the Bronze Age through to Bendis' run on Action. 

But the real magic is the new material. Set in the same Metropolis as the Olsen story (the giant lion statue prominently displayed in a panel), it gives us a little peek into Perry's mind while also giving us that wry humor that this wizened comic reader loves. Lieber's art is clean and cool and captures the feel of the universe especially on a 2 page spread showing different headlines that the Planet has emblazoned above the fold.

Hard to not give everything away in a review so I am holding back the ultimate solution and an absolutely brilliant closing page to the story. 

I'll only say that if you enjoyed the Jimmy Olsen book, you need to get this. And if you haven't read the Jimmy Olsen book you need to.

On to the particulars.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: Batman/Superman World's Finest #4

Batman/Superman World's Finest #4 came out this week and this book continues to just delight me. This book seems to be set in the late Bronze Age and I am solely basing that on costumes and personalities. But some of the story sensibilities also fold neatly into that era. Almost anything can happen and we just can chalk it up to 'comic book science' or 'comic book magic'. 

And for a Supergirl fan, this book is a revelation. This is the type of Kara I am hoping to read. Quick to action. Still young and learning. Young enough to be startled. Powerful enough to beat down the bad guy. I mean it when I say that this is probably the best Supergirl book I have read in the last few years. I know ... your own mileage may vary. But reading this is reading who Supergirl is to me. Thank you Mark Waid.

The rest of the story is fantastic. Superman and Batman's easy friendship and rapport. Nezha and his evil plans. Bronze age heroes under Nehza's spell. The cliffhanger It all works.

The art by Dan Mora is just as fantastic. The action sequences are spot on with an energy that sizzles. The expressive work is just fantastic, especially Supergirl. There is a composite World's Finest suit which demands an action figure. This is one of those books that I really linger over the art to drink it in. 

Seriously, this is a fun and entertaining book that everyone should be reading.

On to the particulars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Black Orchid Wednesday: Black Orchid And Satan Girl

I continue my look at Black Orchid and the fan theory that she was actually Supergirl. As I wait the delivery of Phantom Stranger #31 and #32 to arrive (to continue my look at the Orchid's solo stories), I thought I would tantalize with a little side idea that adds to the mystery. All thanks to friend Mart Gray for this idea and it is a doozy.

As many Supergirl fans know, in Adventure Comics #313, Supergirl is hit by red K and splits into a second persona, Satan Girl. 

What Martin so astutely pointed out to me is that Satan's Girl outfit, all dark purple and magenta with a flowing cape looks like Black Orchid if you squint. I mean a character named Satan Girl should be garbed in reds and scarlets adorned with horns and pitchforks. Instead we get this color scheme. 

Even this issue is all about Satan Girl keeping her identity a mystery. Hmmm ...

Monday, June 20, 2022

DC Comics September 2022 Solicits

The September solicits for DC Comics came out last week and it looks like autumn will be kicking off with a busy month. 

Here is a link to all the solicits over on Newsarama:

The Warworld saga seems to be steamrolling to a close. The opening arc of Superman Son of Kal-El looks like it is nearing an end. And there are plenty of other books out there.

Supergirl is only mentioned in one solicit. She appears on a couple of covers but mostly variants. But I remain hopeful that Phillip Kennedy Johnson is going to do her right in Action Comics. This month is also the middle of Dark Crisis but the main titles of the DCU seem to be churning along despite the main characters being 'dead' in that mini. I remember a time when I knew DC's timeline!

On to the books:

Variant cover by MARIO "FOX" FOCCILLO
1:25 foil variant cover by MIKEL JAN├ŹN

It has all led to this: the final battle between Superman and Mongul, and between the Authority and Mongul's Unmade Champions! The identity of the hooded stranger has been revealed, uncovering a shocking betrayal that threatens to crush Superman's rebellion forever! But as the fate of Warworld relies on Superman, the last chance to return his powers now lies with Natasha and John Henry Irons. From the visionary creative team of Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Brandon Peterson, and Will Conrad, empires fall and rise and the fourth world is reborn in this jaw-dropping final chapter!

We come to an end of the Warworld Saga with a stand alone final battle issue. I love this variant by Mikel Janin but the main cover looks like a sci-fi barbarian movie poster.

Looks like we won't know the traitors identity until this issue which is fascinating. I like how Steel and Natasha are a key element in the finale. I like John Henry and feel we haven't seen as much of him as we should.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Review: Superman Son Of Kal-El #12

Superman Son of Kal-El #12 came out this week and was a quick read which only nudged things forward. This issue felt like we were treading water in some ways. I get it, President Bendix is a bad guy, turning people into super-human drone warriors, and blowing them up when they serve their purpose. I get it, Bendix is willing to go after the Kents. I know that Jon and Jay are a couple and are starting to team up. We just get that recapitulated this issue. 

Tom Taylor does a nice job linking this book with Nightwing again. Both books are socially progressive. Dick has decided to mentor Jon. It makes sense for them to help each other. But even this team-up has been done recently.

Even the addition of Krypto, an element I usually love, felt a little forced. Almost like Taylor needed to add a cute dog in the mix. 

The art by Cian Tormey and Ruairi Coleman is solid throughout. There is a lot of zany action here. That includes a craziness with a sort of Cthulhu style monster battle in the Senate. It flows nicely. 

But I was hoping for something more here. This felt a bit like more of the same. 

On to the book.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Bullet Review: Dark Crisis #1

I was recently called a Boomer on Twitter which I think makes me sound extremely old. I don't think I count as a boomer by strict definition. But maybe I count as a comic book boomer? I have been reading comics for more than 40 years and that puts a lot of miles behind me. 

It also means I have read a lot of DC company crossovers. A LOT OF THEM. And while some have stuck most of the more recent ones have sort of come and gone and not really stuck in my memory. Heck, I completely skipped Metal.

So when Dark Crisis was announced, I sort of stifled an eye roll. It feels like DC has rewritten their universe on a bi-annual schedule. How often can we reset a timeline before it just melts like butter left on the counter?

That said, I have been pretty impressed with writer Joshua Williamson's writing throughout the DCU. And the approach to this Dark Crisis seems to be tugging at some threads that make this comic boomer happy. It leans heavily into Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Pariah and the idea of a multiverse dying a large part. The main baddie seems to be the 'absence of light', the Dark Thumb from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing #50, a comic which I bought off the rack and wrote a high school religion class paper on. So heavy nostalgia there. And most importantly, Williamson is really leaning into the entire DC history, showcasing images and homages from the entire DC run. He acknowledges the 'big bads' from other Crises but says they were nudged by this ultimate darkness. And there is a feeling of freshness to the proceedings because he eliminated the Justice League out the gate meaning legacy heroes, a staple of DC, have to pick up the ball. I even like how he is making Hal Jordan seem to be a big player. Jordan has been on both sides of light and darkness in prior crossovers.

Daniel Sampere's art is fantastic all around. I love how he grabs those homage pieces by the throat, giving us polished looks at history. I love his crowd scenes and his fight scenes. And there is enough gravitas in some of the bigger moments to make me happy.

This review will look mostly at things from a Supergirl angle with some overall plot points. Overall, this issue seems almost like a prologue to the main story. Perhaps that's why this is a 7 issue mini, not the traditional 6?

On to the book.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Belated Anniversary - Comic Box Commentary Is 14 Years Old

I will be brief in saying that 2022 hasn't been an easy year for me. To give a little perspective, 2021 was a walk in the park.

So I am not surprised that some things on the periphery of my mind were lost in my mental attic.

One thing that I missed? This blog's anniversary! My 14th year of blogging about Supergirl, the Legion, and the super-family was way back on April 29th. I just realized it last week. 

Never too late to celebrate an accomplishment.

This last year was sort of a standard year for the site.  I loved being here and interacting with you all. And I reviewed comics and shows. And there were a few side adventures that kept things interesting.

So what happened in the last year of this site?

Friday, June 10, 2022

Review: Dark Knights Of Steel #7

Dark Knights of Steel #7 came out this week. We are heading into the back half of this story and we are still getting new plot threads and new ideas being introduced. I find the whole book very entertaining so bring it on. For all I know, sales are good enough to warrant a sequel. We already have learned of a one-shot 'Tales from ...' issue coming out later this year.

Writer Tom Taylor continues to ramp up the heat in this medieval take on the DCU with the world seemingly careening towards a world war. But there is a mystery here. One I think I have cracked. But that plot is only nudged forward in this issue which instead concentrates on introducing us to the Titans of this world and their interaction with Ra's/Etrigan. I suppose they could have a big part to play in the main plot. But I do wonder if this was a backdoor pilot for Dark Knights II. As always, Taylor's medieval concepts for the characters work very well, including a nice take on the Kents.

Yasmine Putri isn't on art. Instead Nathan Gooden steps in. I don't think I have seen Gooden's work before. His art is vaguely Putri-esque so it flows well with the book so far. And as this is almost a stand-alone side mission, I think it works well. And Dan Mora's cover certainly grabs the eye.

Another winning issue of this maxi-series. I think this time I'm right. On to the specifics.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Black Orchid Review: Adventure Comics #430

Over the last couple of months, I have been taking a look at the pre-Crisis stories of Black Orchid through the lens of a fan theory at the time that she was Supergirl. It has been an interesting and highly entertaining exercise for me. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Today I conclude my look at her initial three issue trial run in Adventure comics by reviewing Adventure Comics #430. A big thankful shout out to my friend Ryan Daly  who sent me this issue recently. I was missing this issue and was going to have to go hunting. And then, one day, it magically appeared in my mailbox.

I have to admit that while I love the character and love art in these stories, I can see why this trilogy didn't cement her status as a star. The main thing that differentiates her is that she is a complete cipher. So in these stories, she is more of a catalyst than a protagonist. Each issue the reader does have to try and deduce which character is the Orchid in disguise. But outside that, there isn't much to her.

Still, that air of mystery certainly adds to the theory. Since we still don't know much about this Orchid, she still could be Supergirl!

On to the book!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Supergirl In Dark Crisis Justice League

There was a time when I used to head to Bleeding Cool almost daily for comic gossip and previews. I'll admit that I head there less and less. But I was sent there last week for an interesting news about Supergirl in Dark Crisis.

Not to bury the lede, she has replaced Mary Marvel as a member of the new Justice League. Here is the link:

Bleeding Cool even had some pics to share of a splash page introducing the team and Kara now penciled in where Mary Marvel was originally.

I won't guess exactly why it happens.

Although I think the original schedule for the Campbell/Shaner Mary Marvel mini-series was supposed to be done by this time until it was pushed back to better align with the release of the second Shazam movie. My understanding is that in that mini-series, Mary picks up the full mantle of Shazam/Captain Marvel.  

Perhaps with Mary's main story still yet to be told, DC decided a pinch hitter was needed.

And if you need a character to simply slip into Mary's role without undoing a script, Supergirl fits the bill. After all, she seemed to be modeled off Mary to begin with back in the day.

As a Supergirl fan, I thought for sure the melancholy drama of Supergirl:Woman of Tomorrow was a death sentence. Hard to tell meaningful super-hero stories when your main character is as damaged as she was there. So this seems like an emergency reprieve, a phone call from the Governor stopping the character execution that Tom King (in my opinion) committed.

Plus, Supergirl has always been a strong member of the League when she has been part of it, either in a guest spot or as the muscle (like in James Robinson's run.) 

So I feel sorry for Mary's fans. But I am glad Supergirl will have some role in this company event. Of course, you say 'Supergirl' and 'Crisis' in the same sentence and it does conjure up some bad memories.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Review: Action Comics 2022 Annual

Action Comics 2022 Annual came out this week and was a very good, very entertaining issue which just bolsters the Warworld Saga by instructing the reader about Superman and Mongul. This is Mongul's secret origin as the cover states but it also a contrast tale. Superman isn't Mongul and Mongul isn't Superman. And a lot of that difference is based on the values they were raised with. 

Writers Si Spurrier and Phillip Kennedy Johnson throw us a little bit of a curveball here. We get flashback stories of Superman and Mongul's younger years. So much of Superman's values are given to us in the form of 'Pa Kent Wisdom'. We know about Mongul's lineage is based on sons killing fathers and taking up the mantle of Mongul. Now in this issue we get what might be the biggest dose of Ma Kent Wisdom I have ever seen. We see how Mongul's mother raised him to never love and always think of himself. So both parents have impacted their sons' lives. That is pretty brilliant.

The art is a wonderful mix. Dale Eaglesham brings his thicker line and grittiness to the Mongul pages. Meanwhile Ian Churchill brings his finer line to the Smallville pages. The bright Kansas pages differ from the red-soaked Warworld pages. Both styles are different enough to contrast but somehow similar enough to keep the book's flow intact. Even the cover, a rougher looking picture by Francesco Francavilla adds to the feel. Here Mongul is separating Superman from his family (albeit it the Kryptonian parents) perhaps to show how important family is.

If you're looking for a story to inform you of who these opponents are but more importantly why they are who they are, this is a great story. 

On to the particulars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Supergirl Strong Berry

It is a well known and rather obvious fact that I am a huge Supergirl fan. 

What might not be as well known is that I am a huge Cap'n Crunch fan. I love Crunch in all it's formulation but Crunch Berries are my favorite. Seriously, tweet search @dranj70 and Crunch and you'll see my history.

So imagine my surprise when blog friend Greg Araujo showed me that in his region of the US there were boxes of 'Strong Berry', a Supergirl Crunch Berries!

Frankly, I was stunned. It felt almost cosmically karmic. These are two of my favorite things and now they existed together. Imagine if two things you absolutely loved, that resided in two different spheres of your life, were suddenly smushed together. It would be like me finding Talking Heads Peanut Butter on the shelves! Or Phillip K. Dick Tater Tots.

As if telling me about the cereal wasn't enough, Greg was extremely generous and sent me a box! Amazing!

Look, way back in 2008 one of the reasons I started this blog was because I felt the character of Supergirl was underappreciated and relatively unknown. Now in 2022, she is on her own cereal box. We have come a long way!

Thanks again Greg!

Supergirl Crunch Berries!