Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!

I have sung the praises of Mike Maihack in the past on this blog, showcasing his Supergirl/Batgirl comics.

Well, Maihack has done another wonderful comic with the two heroes, this time Halloween based. Here is the link to his site and the comic (seen above):

Maihack has always captured the classic personalities of the two heroes in these brief strips. Barbara is determined like anyone in the bat-family but maybe with a little light that is being hidden. And Supergirl is bright, sunny, and optimistic. Heck, Supergirl gave Killer Croc cookies and made him promise not to fight on Christmas in the last strip.

So in this comic Supergirl has to convince Batgirl that they should go trick-or-treating on Halloween rather than patrol. Batgirl agrees knowing that walking the streets is a patrol of sorts. They even capture the Penguin!

Far and away, my favorite panel is Supergirl mockingly saying 'Quickly Batgirl, to the candy!' with a faux seriousness on her face. Just perfect!

To see other Maihack stuff, you can search my site here: 

Or head to his site:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review: Adventures Of Superman #6

Adventures of Superman #6 came out last week and was another great issue in this 'out of continuity' series. The format forces a 'one and done' style of stories which is refreshing in this 'stretch an idea out for trade' style of the current market. The creative teams are fantastic and this issue continues that trend with writer J.T.  Krul and artist Marcus To.

But for me, the main draw to this book has been the more classic take on Superman that has dominated this series. This is a red trunked Superman espousing the more classic ethics and outlook of the Man of Steel. I haven't read any story in this series and felt the dim pessimism of The New 52. With no 'rules', I think these stories give us a look into the writer's mind ... who their ultimate Superman is.

And I think this story is no different. J.T. Krul gives us an early Superman story, before he has revealed himself to the world. He isn't sure who he is or what he should do. He is shown a couple of different paths he can follow. And then he decides for himself what type of man he is going to be. It is a classic take ... and wonderful.

The art is by Marcus To, someone whose art I have loved on Red Robin and the Huntress mini-series. His style suits this story perfectly. I wonder why he doesn't have a monthly gig somewhere.

As I said, this is an early Superman adventure. The public hasn't seen him even if he is active in a 'guardian angel' sort of way. The issue opens with him repelling an intergalactic warship from entering Earth's atmosphere.

He heads to the Fortress where he has a talk with Jor-El. This is a sort of Russell Crowe Jor-El I assume, a computer program imbued with Jor-El's thought patterns and able to respond to Superman's questions.

And this Jor-El is a bit haughty. He doesn't think Kal should stay on Earth. Earth isn't his home. The people of Earth aren't his people. Jor-El sent him to Earth to make Kal strong and leave Earth.

This isn't the Marlon Brando 'you can inspire them' speech. This is straight up 'you were meant for bigger things'. And it isn't what I am used to hearing from Jor-El. Interesting.

It is enough to make Superman question himself. Can he save mankind from themselves? He only wants to help.

And then we hear the crux of the story. Pa Kent told him that doing the right thing isn't always easy. So we get to hear the difference in the two fathers in his life.

I thought this panel was wonderful showing the two worlds Superman lives in at this point, the clean white pure Fortress (read Kryptonian) world, and the dingy brown troubled world of Earth. But Superman's pose shows he wants to look over us and help. Great stuff.

Then Kal hears from another 'ghost' from Krypton ... General Zod. Zod talks about his imprisonment in the Phantom Zone at the hands of Jor-El. Here Zod sounds almost like a freedom fighter. He thought the Science Council had a strangle hold on Krypton and he wanted to free everyone. Of course, villains think they are the good guys so who knows the truth.

But what Zod does do is again show Jor-El in the same haughty light. He acted as judge,jury, and executioner in the Zod case.

It has been a long time since I felt sympathetic for Zod. But Krul pulls it off, making me rethink Zod's crimes and realizing that an eternity in the Zone is cruel and unusual.

Moreover, Zod asks Kal a question. Why didn't Jor-El warn everyone that the planet was doomed ... even if the Science Council shot him down?

It turns out Jor-El kept the information hidden from the populace so that he could work on saving Kal. If he told everyone, there would be panic. Jor-El might be arrested. He needed to save Kal.

On paper it sounds good, a loving father saving his son. But the bigger picture is that he could have used his information to save more people. His pride, his dogged need to save his son and not others' sons and daughters, made him turn his back on his own people.

In older stories, it made it sound like Jor-El already had the rocket and didn't have much time to do a lot. But this view is new and interesting.

Now the warship from the opening scene was a vanguard for Mongul. And Mongul decides that squaring off against Superman could be fun. He shows up and starts tearing through the military, forcing Superman to reveal himself for the first time.

Imagine the shock to General Lane to have suddenly two immensely powerful aliens brawling on his turf. I love the wry ending line in this panel.

Mongul assumes that Superman rules Earth with his power. During the brawl, Superman realizes he can't defeat Mongul on his own so he allows himself  and Mongul to be struck with a nuclear missile. It wipes the two of them out sending them plummeting to Earth unconscious.

I have said I am sick of the military and Superman fighting. Krul at least has Superman leave rather than engage with the troops.

But it is such a great classic Superman moment. He states he doesn't want to fight the army. But he won't let them kill Mongul either. He gets labeled a Boy Scout by Lane. But it doesn't matter. Superman won't change his morals. He won't take part in this so simply grabs Mongul and leaves.

And then we begin to see just how little of Jor-El there is in this Superman.

He disparages Mongul's life mission of conquering everything. You can't conquer everything.

Superman isn't that big a fool. And that sounds like a rebuke of this Jor-El's mission for him.

And then, again moving farther away from Jor-El (much to Zod's surprise), Superman doesn't condemn Mongul to the Phantom Zone. He doesn't 'kill' him. Instead he calls on Green Lantern (who he hasn't officially met yet) to pick up Mongul and imprison him.

What do you call him? A friend.

Now that is a very classic take on Superman. He is a friend. He is here to help.

And then, my absolute favorite panels from the book.

Superman doesn't need to leave Earth to find out who he is.

He is someone who knows right from wrong and he can help ...right here on Earth. He knows who he is ... he's Clark Kent!

I love the coy pride in Pa's response.

It isn't that hard to realize is that this is who Superman is. Who Superman should be.

That would have been a fine ending to this story, but Krul and To give us a little dessert. They show us Clark heading to the Planet as a new reporter and meeting Lois Lane.

If there is ever a Lois Lane book or special, I want Marcus To to draw it.

This is just a wonderful story reaffirming the idea that Superman is more Clark than Kal. That he is someone who wants to help as many people as possible. That is the inspiring Superman I want to read.

So why can't the DC powers-that-be read this series and realize that it is this sort of Superman that most creators (and I think fans) want.

This series and Smallville are the best Superman books out there right now. Both out of continuity.

Overall grade: A

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Superboy Book Is Now A Villain Book

I have railed against the 'grim and gritty' New 52 for a long time. From it's inception with an isolated Supergirl, a distant Superman, a vapid Starfire, an art thief Wonder Girl, raping murdering Amazons ... I could go on ... I have been shocked that there is very little light in the current DCU.

There is no inspiration here. There is little heroism. There is almost no humor. And there is very little love. The whole universe is painted with the same dark brush. It is disheartening.

And, before anyone says I want the sticky sweet innocence of older times, I will reiterate what I always say. I like darker books and anti-heroes as much as the next reader. What I don't like is when dark anti-heroes are the only choice on the menu. I want to read other books, ones where heroes are heroes because it is the right thing to do, where heroes are respected for being heroes and do good because it is right to do so.

On top of the overall tone of the universe, as fans we have been faced with story after story of DC's editorial changing plots at the last minute, irritating creators and leading to a shaky foundation on characters.

Perhaps the biggest and best (worst?) example of that is the Superboy character.

Superboy started out as a clone of Superman and 'someone', created as a living weapon.
Then we learned that he was meant to be a weapon, created by Harvest, with a layer of subliminal brainwashing to make him want to kill Superman.
Then he escaped all that and became a bank-robbing playa! Living the high life on ill-gotten gains, he partied and hung out with other rich debutantes and princes.
Then we learned his DNA make-up was three strands - Superman, Lois, and the DNA of an evil son from an alternate future - Jon Lane Kent, a genocidal villain.
Then he became a joking young hero trying to do good.

All that in 2 years. There was even a couple of feints in there. There was a cliffhanger hinting at a more classic Superman/Lex genetic makeup.

As a fan, how can you back this character who has been changed so dramatically so many times in 2 years? There just isn't anything to hang on to. And this isn't character growth. This is flailing.

So what did DC decide to do with this character they can't figure out what to do with?

Kill him.

Perfect solution for the New 52. The only solution it seems. Dark and grim and gritty.

Rather than cancel the book, DC decided to continue it. But now put the villainous murderous son of Clark and Lois at the helm. Starting in Superboy #26, Jon Lane Kent is the star. Marv Wolfman has been tagged as writer and this is what he said in an interview on Newsarama (here is the link: ). I am not going to copy much from this interview because it sickens me a little. But here are two blurbs that caught my eye.

Nrama: So you're approaching this new Superboy as a villain?
Wolfman: Yeah, he's a villain. Least we know he is. But that doesn't mean everyone knows. Nyaaa haa haa!

We have read this sort of response from so many creators and editors on so many books. The hero is dark, conflicted, or an outright villain. This isn't edgy any more ... because everyone is on this edge. Remember when Bobbi Chase laughed when she talked about how dark Supergirl was going to be as if it was funny.

I mean right now we are rooting for some villains because 'Evil is Relative'. 

Are no other styles and themes possible in DC anymore?

Grant Morrison looked in the crystal ball saw this and left. I think of this panel whenever I see another hero, going dark for no good reason. "They built a violent, troubled, faceless anti-hero concealing a tragic secret life."

But then this caught my eye as well, showing once more that DC has no faith in their creators and changes things on the fly.

Nrama: How has it been working with Andres Guinaido and the rest of the creative team on Superboy?
Wolfman: Superboy #26 was the first time we worked together, and it was a very different experience. There had been a previous script done and layouts were already finished. So we used about 8-9 of the layout pages and I wrote a new story around them, which leads into where we're going with #27 and on. So I got to see his art on something I was only partially responsible for and really loved what he did. But then I handed in my page/panel breakdowns to him, so I then got to see how he interpreted my ideas, and they were wonderful.

The original solicit lists Frank Hannah as the writer and has Superboy (again!) discovering something shocking about his origin. But that was a story written for Kon and already laid out!

So DC changes things, puts Jon Lane Kent in as hero and makes Wolfman re-write the script to fit the pages with a completely new leading man. Amazing in a bad way. But not surprising.

The bottom line is this.

I am not going to read this Superboy book. I am dropping it. 

And therefore you won't be seeing reviews here.

I cannot support this book which butchers the Clark/Lois relationship, sets up the son of Superman as a homicidal maniac, and puts yet another villain as the headliner of a book. This book as a whole could be used to show everything that is wrong with DC comics over the last few years.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: Superman #24

Superman #24 came out last week, the 'finale' of the Psi War storyline that Scott Lobdell has been weaving through both super-titles recently. Lobdell has backed off this story the last couple of months, maybe so he could write all of the upcoming 'Krypton Returns' books. Our old friend from Supergirl, Mike Johnson, once again steps in as writer on this chapter. I do wonder if Lobdell plotted this finale. Johnson does a fine job here, wrapping things up and tidying up some of the hanging questions I have about the plot.

Eddy Barrows is on art here and does a great job. I'm not surprised. Barrows stuff is always sharp and slick. It just seems he can never stay on time with a monthly title. With the wild psionic action and crazy physical brawls in this finale, Barrows really is able to shine here.

I put 'finale' in quotes above because while the acute problem of the various psionic factions vying for control of Metropolis was stopped, all the villains escape, slinking away to plot more. Also it is a brutal issue with some horrific imagery when the Psycho Pirate cuts loose on the citizens of town. It seems a bit much for a Superman comic. Lastly, there is one key panel which shows the new 52 attitude towards the man of steel, something mirrored in the recent movie.

I still think this was one of the better arcs in the 2 years of Superman stories in the New 52 (Morrison's run is exempt from inclusion in my mind). These villains with mental powers just pose a bigger threat in my mind than Mongul for instance. And Lois has a decent sized role here, albeit with powers. I want to see Lois the reporter more than Lois the novice psionic.

The book opens up right where the last book ended. Lois, infected and energized by psionic power, battles the Psycho Pirate who simply shut down Superman last issue.

There are some leaps here. The Psycho Pirate is powerful enough to have defeated Hector Hammond and Queen Bee. He is strong enough to be battling Superboy in a High School somewhere (still idiotic given what he is doing here. What would he gain from antagonizing teenagers). And he is replete with power having sucked Superman dry. So how Lois, who just inherited her powers, is able to parry effectively for a bit.

This opening splash is a great representation of Barrows' work here. The snakes from the Medusa mask, the cityscape. The odd angle, putting Lois and the Pirate upright when really they are at wild angles (Superman being the 'ground' X axis) all works.

And this page works as well, the panels formed by the splayed out psionic snakes. That is nice. There is even a sort of 'emotional spectrum' here, with the panels colored vividly with one major tone.

The Pirate is impressed enough with Lois to leave her alive. He tells her she must decide quickly ... join him or be killed by him. It is a bit of hubris on his part. Perhaps that is his flaw. But off he goes to strip the citizens of Metropolis of their civility and let their emotions run wild.

Lois uses her new powers to jump start Superman's mind. He is shocked by her appearance and her willingness to fight the Pirate. Before they can dwell too much, the other villains show up.

First Hector Hammond arises.

And then we see the Queen Bee in her real form. I have to say I was very happy to see this. All of the Twenty, those touched by psionics, have slowly mutated into monstrous forms with bulbous brain-heads. I wondered how the Queen Bee could be so super-model perfect. Turns out that was just her glamour. She actually looks more like the Aliens Queen. So thanks to Johnson for removing that slight problem I had.

With the Pirate being the biggest threat amongst them, Superman and Lois decide to team up with the Queen and Hammond.

Sure I have read Superman stories where he has briefly teamed up with villains to fight villains but it is usually with a wry smile. It usually ends with Superman imprisoning all the villains, even his temporary allies. We don't see that here.

And I suppose the Pirate is a bigger threat. Hammond and the Queen simply want to enslave the city. Heck, the Queen wants them to be fodder for Brainiac. These 'allies' aren't saints.

But the Pirate is the more pressing issue. He has removed all civility and reason from people. And it is here that we see some terrible imagery. People fighting and shooting and looting and lighting fires. Okay ...

But children becoming cannibals? Gnawing on the recent dead like the Vendol from The Thirteenth Warrior? It seems excessive. It reminded me of the horror we saw in the last arc of Alan Moore's Miracleman. This seemed gratuitous.

And now my biggest problem with the book ... once again we see Superman willing to kill if the threat is big enough. Or at least willing to consider a killing move before exhausting all other options.

Lois deduces the mask is what is making the Pirate so powerful. Superman has to remove it.

Look at his face as he acknowledges that removing the mask might kill the Pirate. She even says it might effect the crowd. So what does Superman do? While the Queen and Hammond distract the Psycho Pirate, Superman flies and rips off his mask.

It might kill the Pirate. It might make things worse for those he controls. But that is the first thing he does.

Not fly him away from the crowd. Not fly him up to the thin air to see if he can knock him unconscious. Not fly around him like a cyclone to shock the air out of his lungs. Not use his superbreath to make him hypothermic. Nope ... head straight for the jugular, human life be damned.

It is a subtle change in Superman isn't it. Now it is implied that if the threat is big enough he could kill.

And it feels wrong.

Of course, it doesn't kill the Psycho Pirate. But that isn't the point. The point is Superman was willing to do it knowing it might kill him. Especially when other options hadn't been explored.

Then a very nice wrinkle.

The mask seems to have a will of its own and tries to seduce Superman into putting it on. That would be a decent wrinkle alone.

But then psionic Lois uses her power and influence to have Superman take it off. And she ends her plea by calling him Clark! Shaken free by her voice, he removes the mask and incinerates it with his heat vision.

But Lois knows Superman is Clark! Was it her psionics? Did she 'know' deep in her heart and her psionics revealed the truth to herself? Who knows? But that is a great twist.

Of course, with the adrenaline rush over, Lois lapses back into her human form and her coma.

So we get this scene at the end where Superman proclaims that Lois is his best friend. So tell me, is this a case of him protesting too much? Trying to convince himself not to be in love with her because she is with someone else? Or is this DC shoving the Clark/Diana thing down our throats more, pushing Lois away more?

I suppose best friend is better than enemy or absent.

Lois ends up back in the hospital, brought there as Clark who happened to 'stumble upon her'. As for the villains ... they all get away. All of them. Sure, they are hurting and weakened. But Superman let them all escape to wreak havoc later.

So it is sort of a non-end. The Pirate and Lois know now that Clark is Superman. And Superman is willing to use a kill option to end a threat.

The action scenes were engaging and the art was vibrant. So overall this ends up being a decent issue. The ups are high. The lows are low.

Overall grade: B/C+

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Art Baltazar Commission

We finally reach the last commission from my trip to the Granite State Comic Con, a real sweet commission by Art Baltazar.

As I have said, I always strive to get commissions from artists who have a history with the Supergirl character or will have an interesting take on the character. Baltazar has both of those aspects.

Sure, there is a simple, very cartoony style here ... unique. But Baltazar has drawn Supergirl a lot. There is a big connection here.

In fact, it actually was difficult for me to decide how I wanted Baltazar to draw Supergirl

Did I have him draw the Tiny Titans version? Or do I got for the quasi-New52 version from Superman Family Adventures? Or I do something else?

Well Baltazar had drawn a more classic Matrix style Supergirl in the super-pet books, not the comic books but the chapter books in the book store. And so I asked for that style.

It is a sweet commission. I especially like the blue skirt harkening back to the earliest Supergirl. But with gold trim. This was a marker and crayon drawing but done with some love.

I got to talk to Baltazar about Superman Family Adventures and the premature cancellation. He was pretty bummed because he had long term plans for the book. Too bad that book is off the market. I loved it and so did my kids.

Baltazar's commission is the perfect bookend for this  Franco commission his partner on Tiny Titans I obtained a few years ago.

Granite State Comic Con was a great time. It is a show that certainly has grown.

Friday, October 25, 2013

January 2014 Solicits

I swear ... I think DC knows people might have gift money to spend after the holidays. Their January solicits always seem heavier than usual. The complete solicits are up in multiple places. Here is the link for Newsama's coverage:

As usual there are lots of standard comics. But this month has a number of surprises, including some Annuals which look very interesting. Here are the issues suitable for commenting on here.

Written by TONY BEDARD

Part Two of Kara’s confrontation with the deadly new Lobo. After last issue’s shock ending, this issue we discover an even greater threat in Shay Veritas that will force Supergirl to make a deadly choice!

So we enter the second issue of the Tony Bedard era of Supergirl and the story sounds interesting. I don't care about Lobo but the prospect of Dr. Veritas becoming a villain ... and a Supergirl villain to boot ... would be a great thing. That is a fantastic!

And the cover is a nice homage to the Dan Jurgens cover from the Dead Again storyline, an arc where Brainiac convinces the world that Superman remained dead after the Doomsday fight. Nice.

On to the rest of the month.

Written by GREG PAK
Art and cover by AARON KUDER

Superman takes on the brutal Beast Lord as startling revelations are made about our Earth’s underground world! Plus: more on the mysterious Ghost Soldier!

I like the look of this Beast Lord character with his armor made from creatures he has dispatched.

I have to say, I am really looking forward to the Pak/Kuder team on this book.


The Parasite can’t be stopped—and he hungers for the power that Lois Lane possesses. Is there anything The Man of Steel can do, or will he lose his best friend? The answer will surprise you!

We heard about this issue in the NYCC. And, as predicted, The Parasite is going to try to purge the Brainiac psionic energy from Lois. Should we be happy that Lois is in the book in some form?


The son of Superman finds himself trapped with the Teen Titans in a future that may kill all of them.

This is it! The first issue of the Jon Lane Kent era of this book. And frankly, Marv Wolfman has one issue to grab me. I hate this concept. I feel for Superboy fans. And I don't think I am going to stick around too long.

I mean, when was the last tome a Marv Wolfman book grabbed me like that? 1987?


The secret of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is out and the world’s reaction is mixed, but that’s the least of the power couple’s worries as Zod seeks to release Faora from the Phantom Zone!

We knew that the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship was going to leak out, probably on ClarkCatropolis. Maybe that story is what keeps the blog (and Clark and Cat) financially afloat.

Now Zod and Faora as another 'power couple' are worthy foes. I just wonder if it might be too soon from the Ultraman/Superwoman fights to feel fresh.

Written by GREG PAK
Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND

Batman versus Superman! Trapped by the Toymaster and Mongul, our heroes turn on each other! Who will save Batman and Superman if they can’t save themselves? This epic issue is presented in a special sideways format!

Batman vs. Superman has been done so many times it feels pretty played. I am hoping that the presence of Mongul will make this story crackle.

Written by GREG PAK
Art by JAE LEE, ED BENES and others
Cover by ED BENES

It’s the first meeting of Supergirl and Red Hood, Steel and Supergirl and more as the competing Batman and Superman families must battle for the control of the missing Mongul’s fortress! And at the heart of it, Batman and Superman deal with their grief over their fallen comrades.

But this annual really grabbed me. With the specter of the recently dead legacies, Superman and Batman and their families - Batgirl, Supergirl, Steel, and Red Hood - team up to fight off some new version of Warworld.

Supergirl teaming up with Superman. And really teaming up! That's a great thing.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ

Desperate times call for desperate measures as Power Girl and Huntress reveal their true origins to this world’s Superman and Batman! 

I don't always include Worlds' Finest in my monthly solicit post. But I had to include both WF books this month here as both are key and touch on things I want to see. The first is that finally Huntress and Power Girl decide to let the E1 Batman and Superman know they exist.

I have been waiting for that for a while.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ

In one of their first adventures together, Earth 2’s Supergirl and Robin team up to face their world’s Wonder Woman!

But this is the one I am really excited about. I have been wanting to see some of the pre-Earth 2 destruction Supergirl and Robin adventures. We have seen a little of them in the first issues of Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest. We saw more in Worlds' Finest #0. I can't wait for this. Levitz seems to have a feel for 'classic' Kara so let's hope this matches my expectations.


Avert your eyes! Down on the ground! It’s not a bird! It’s not a plane! It am Bizarro!

The Bizarro stories in Adventures have been fun so far. What could be better than a classic take on Bizarro!

Written by BRYAN Q. MILLER

When Superman revealed himself to the world, he knew some repercussions would be out of his control. He never expected this, though! Meanwhile, Lex Luthor’s trip to Russia brings him face to face with a Monitor—and his own mortality.

I have been waiting ... waiting for this book to move closer to the eventual crisis mentioned way back in the first issue. So a Monitor means we are getting close.

The cover is interesting though. Is this someone who accidentally killed themselves pretending to be Superman?

Written by BRYAN Q. MILLER
Art and cover by CAT STAGGS

Jay Garrick has opened a school for youth with special talents and abilities, to train a promising new generation of Super Heroes. However, things fall apart as a mysterious foe, determined to take down the new Titans team, attacks the San Francisco Pier—pushing these young heroes to their absolute limits.

And then an added bonus! The introduction of the Smallville Titans. Miss Martian! Superboy! Blue Beetle! Arrowette. Seems like the Young Justice crew! And Jay Garrick too!

Plus internal art by Cat Staggs!

Art by MAHMUD ASRAR, SAMI BASRI and others

In these stories from issues #13-19, H’El convinces Kara that he intends to return them to Krypton prior to its destruction. When presented with the opportunity to return home, Kara fails to see that H’El’s plan will leave the Earth in ruins. Wonder Woman and The Flash must show Kara in the truth before it’s too late! 

Now this seems like a foolish trade to put together, given that it includes the 2 chapters in the H'El on Earth in the middle of this. I can only hope there are some extras in the trade to make it worth the while of the Supergirl fans.


Hex’s journey through the modern age continues! Guess whose attention Hex attracts as he makes his way to Metropolis! 

And then the last and weirdest item. Superman teaming up with Jonah Hex??

So all in all a packed and expensive month.

Alas, probably the last Superboy month for me unless something dramatic happens.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Vibe #8

Vibe #8 came out last week and represents the last of my 'catch up' reviews from my week away.

And in some ways this is a sad review to write as we all learned recently that Vibe was 'stealth cancelled' by DC. Vibe #10 will be the last issue even though the solicit doesn't call it the finale. I have talked about my love of this title and its old school optimism and young heroism in the past. No need to reiterate it. But sales are sales and the book simply never took off despite what I felt was good word of mouth.

I don't know if writer Sterling Gates knew he only had a couple more issues on the book when this script was submitted because it doesn't read like a creator rushing to the finish line. And I am glad. I would rather read this book as it was intended, with a long term plan in mind. We meet new characters, deepen existing plotlines, and spend a nice side trip on Gemworld. That's all good stuff.

Artists Andres Guinaldo continues to do great art on the book. This title can lend itself to some Shade the Changing Man like surrealism with cracks in reality and peeks into other dimensions always creeping into the stories.

It is a shame this title is going away, another tick off the DC ledger of my monthly books.

Last issue ended with Rupture (Vibe's brother Armando) stabbing him in the chest with a sickle, draining Vibe of his powers. Rupture then grabbed Vibe and Gypsy and headed back to her home dimension.

En route, Armando releases Vibe's body, letting it float between vibrational realms. We get a couple of pages were we get to see Gates and Guinaldo cut loose. We see the Superman from Earth 23 from Morrison's Action Comics run. We hear General Zod from the Man of Steel movie asking if someone (Superman) 'was trained on a farm'. And we see other crazy dimensions.

Bleeding vibrational energy and near death, Vibe's body naturally seeks out someone somewhere who can help him.

That need leads him to Gemworld where Vibe is able to temporarily stabilize himself by draining Amethyst of some of the vibrational energies she has inside that allows her to move from Earth and back. Before things get too far, Breacher shows up to try to settle things a bit.

The Gemworld pages are a treat for me. I would love to read a Gates' Amethyst title because I think he could effectively update the character while keeping the core and sense of the original intact. This Amethyst sounds like Amethyst.

Vibe still sports an open wound spilling vibrational energy. Breacher shows up and slaps some sort of stabilizer on Cisco's chest. And it works, stemming the flow of energy and saving Cisco's life.

I can't help but see Iron Man when I see him sporting that round thing on his chest.

We then get a bit of a recap of Vibe's origins. Cisco and Armando were bathed in vibrational energies.

But that incursion did more than just let Darkseid in. It weakened those dimensional walls. That is why all those creatures in the Circus slipped into our reality.

Cisco's body adapted from that attack. It took a while for him to absorb the vibrational energy.

Armando had them right at the outset. But he was blasted to Gypsy's realm and twisted by Gypsy's mother. We see the absolute devastation that Armando has wrought, destruction and death on a biblical scale.

I really really like this wrinkle that Gates has thrown in. Honoring Armando is the whole reason why Cisco adopted this hero persona to begin with. He wants to help people. So seeing his inspiration as a cold-blooded genocidal maniac is just wonderful grist for the character mill.

What will this do to Cisco and his aspirations? Remember, part of what I love about this character is that optimism, that internal urge to do good. Will this affect him, turning him from the path? Or secure him more as a hero, atoning for his brother's sins?

Arrgghhh! Can't we have more of this book!

But I have also liked the maturation of Vibe over the short time of this book too.

At first he seemed to take everything people would tell him as fact. He believed ARGUS. He believed Gunn. He believed Kid Flash. He believed Gypsy. I won't call him naive ... just trusting. As if he didn't want to believe people would lie to him.

Now maybe he isn't so trusting having been lied to by so many.

In fact he lashes out against Breacher, not wanting to believe his brother could do such things.

This just feels so natural, like character progression rather than action for action's sake or Vibe attacking a hero to be dark. Heck, in Supergirl, Gates had Kara lash out against a lot of folks when the time was right.

And then we end with a wild cliffhanger.

Breacher is Gypsy's father. And he is more vibrationally unstable then Cisco. With his helmet off he is leaking  portals all over the place. So Cisco needs help. And more than that, they need to rescue Gypsy or Mordeth and Rapture will invade Earth.

There is something about him that reminds me of Waverider. I know that was time and this was dimensions.

I get the sense that this arc will end with Cisco more resolute on his mission to be a hero. It is a shame that that will be the end of his story. I wonder just how far in advance Gates had this comic planned.

I refuse to be gloom and doom. I love this book and that's what mattered.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Batman/Superman #4

I continue my 'catch up' on comic reviews by looking at last week's Batman Superman #4 by writer Greg Pak and artists Jae Lee and Ben Oliver.

I have been very happy with this book and this first arc. The contrast between the World's Finest teams of the two Earths has been very perfect, showing the mature veterans and brash youngsters trying to understand each other. I have had my issues with the New 52 Superman and the 'new universe' in general. I thought it was a shame that the Earth 2 original 'wonders' were eliminated before we really got to know them. So to turn back the clock like this and play the characters off each other has been fascinating. Pak really seems to be able to get to the core of these characters in a short time. Within a few panels, I 'knew' the Earth Two Superman and (as impressively) that world's Lois.

And Jae Lee has absolutely brought his A game to this arc. While the backgrounds have been sparse, it has allowed me to instead soak in the characters. That and the amount of surreal detail in hair, capes, etc really have given this story a dream like quality. Which makes sense given that the whole thing is forgotten by the characters in the end, a dream to them.

Ben Oliver pitches in for the epilogue wrapping things up. He has a less stylized, more realistic style which works well given this is the 'real' part of the story.

The last issue ended with the two sets of heroes meeting at a military installation where a 'magical crystal' is being used to make an anti-Superman weapon. The chaos goddess Kaiyo has said the crystal is needed to defeat Darkseid. The older heroes want to take control of this situation. But the younger guys want to have a say too.

I  love that the younger heroes feel pretty confident about who they are. They don't like being talked down to, scolded by their older versions. In fact, their distaste for their elders is so powerful that they two younger heroes, formerly prickly with each other, decide they need to form a unified front.

The older heroes recognize it for what it is .. something potentially destructive which should be destroyed. But the younger heroes think it needs to be used ... controlled ... and not destroyed. It is the difference between the heroes. Who wants power? And who is trying to protect people?

The young Bruce wants to keep it, bring it to Earth One. And the older Bruce thinks they should be confident in their own skills to repel whatever is needed. 

This, of course, leads to the usual skirmish where they 2 Supermen fight and the two Batmen fight. It is a pretty uneven match with the elder Superman schooling the younger.

But that sort of darker take on heroism, so prevalent in the New 52, is thrown in the Earth Two heroes faces again. E1 Batman talks about needing something like the crystal to stop Superman should he 'lose control'. Heroes that distrust each other, that only become friends when faced with a bigger threat, a universe where we cheer on villains because there are worse villains and 'evil is relative' ... it paints a sad picture of Earth One.

And frankly, I am sick to death of this Batman is destined to fight and kill Superman trope. Enough. It's played out.

But another thing that Pak hones in on is that friendship and love are crucial to the lives of the Earth 2 heroes. We have seen a lot of this world's Catwoman, Bruce's wife, here. And we have seen a strong Lois here.

I mean what could be cooler than Catwoman and Lois in a batjet trying to help Wonder Woman battle Kaiyo. I thought this was great.

And I love Kaiyo's grappling, monkey like fighting style. It's hard to punch someone who his wrapped around you like this. Beautiful art in this whole sequence.

The crystal is some sort of wish machine, a magical item that can bend reality. Something like this is almost too powerful.

And we see that played out when the Earth One heroes actually touch it and activate it. And the 'wishes' the machine grants are windows into the souls of these characters.

The machine resurrects the dead Kents from Earth One and brings them to Superman. His wish is that his parents were alive. That is wonderful. But it grants that wish like The Monkey's Paw bringing them back to life but not rejuvenating them, their moldering corpses staggering like a nightmare. Creepy stuff by Lee here.

And Batman ... his wish is to become even scarier. He transforms into a true bat-like creature of the night. Frightening that that would be his dream.

Luckily the pairs of heroes are able to stop the petty fighting and actually get down to some heroing.

The Earth 2 Superman uses a Waynetech satellite to send the crystal's energies back onto itself, destroying it.

And the Earth 1 Superman flies for the first time, grabbing the crashing Batjet, saving Lois and Selina.

The page set-up is great, putting narrow horizontal panels next to each other on a two page spread showing the two Supermen dealing with their threats, similar yet different. Very visually engaging.

And then the great wrap up. Kaiyo stops fighting and basically 'ends' the story. She wanted to know which Earth had what it took to repel Darkseid, because that is the Earth she wants to live on. It is where she thinks she can hide and survive.

So even though the Earth Two heroes 'won', destroying the crystal and unifying to fight Kaiyo, they 'lost' in her mind. It was the ruthless, raw, and dangerous that have what it takes to defeat Darkseid. They wanted the power.

I will again say it is a sad commentary on the state of the New 52 ... but it is an accurate commentary. The heroes or Earth One are raw, ruthless, and dangerous. They crave power.

Those aren't the heroes ... the inspirations ... I hope to see in comics. If the modern take of Superman is ruthless then maybe it is time for this aging comic reader to stop reading.

I suppose I shouldn't be so glum.

There is a great moment between the two Supermen. The elder Clark reminds the young Clark that even when tempted he did the right thing. He needs to remember that. Old Superman wants Young Superman to emulate him.

But then Pak turns things on its head. Young Clark tells Old Clark this is a teaching moment! If Old Clark wants to survive, he needs to emulate Young Clark. Now that is great moment because we know that Earth Two failed to stop Darkseid completely. Lois is going to die. Wonder Woman is going to die. And Superman will become a mockery. Maybe Old Clark did have something to learn here.

Great small scene in this book. It is the small moments that give action books their punch.

Kaiyo ends up sending everyone back to their right worlds, removing the memory of the whole things. But something reverberates.

Bruce and Selina enjoy a raucous night on Earth 2 because Bruce feels the world might be ending soon. Clark and Lois on Earth 2 enjoy a nice dinner with the Kents.

And the Earth One Bruce and Clark. They seem to have a begrudging respect for each other now.

What a satisfying book and arc. This is one of those times when words and art complemented each other so well that the total of the book is more than the sum of its parts. The way the two worlds play off each other throughout the story is the electricity that gives the plot its juice. And Lee's dreamy painted style adds a lot to this 'imaginary' tale.

It all works. Hopefully some of the good intentions of the Earth 2 heroes has embedded itself in these younger versions.

Overall grade: A