Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Superman #30

In a couple of months Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. will be taking over the Superman title. That means that the Scott Lobdell era on the character is coming to a close. And it seems to be ending with a whimper than a bang.

Maybe that is being kind.

Because this isn't a whimper. It is just a lousy comic.

Lobdell must know that he is working on borrowed time because he tries to shove as many subplots into this issue as he can. But do all of these things need the time that is devoted to them? For me the answer was no. And do I wish some of these subplots just disappeared? Yes, I do.

Also, since we get a ton of subplots, the transition from one scene to the other is so jarring that there is no flow to the book at all. Things happen in a strange way to move a scene along. And there is little characterization here.

The internal art is by Ed Benes and his style is well known. But this is a 20 page comic that has 6 single splash pages. There are several 2 page spreads where the upper half of both pages are one big panel. Almost none of these moments require 'big art' to tell the story. If Lobdell had so much to cover, he could have tightened up the art for more description and depth to the scenes he wants to cover.

And while I don't bother assuming that covers have anything to do with content, Andy Kubert's cover showing a Superman thrashed in Smallville isn't even approached inside.

If there was any scene that truly frustrated me about this issue it is the opening one. We have 4 pages ... 4 pages! ... that's 20% of this book ...delving into the back story of a couple on their honeymoon. How they met. Their jobs. There struggles in staying together. Their undying love. How happy they are.

Then they are killed by Doomsday.

That is a lot of time spent on people we will never see again. The point of view of the average human in a world with metas has been a well-worn device to talk about how life is precious and tenuous. But 4 pages? And that is more backstory than we have seen for almost any of the true supporting characters of the book. The whole book includes the presence of an omniscient narrator who has some cringe-worthy, ham-fisted, sometimes inscrutable lines.

And, I may be off but Alistair looks sort of like Scott Lobdell.

Okay, 20% down. Two civilians dead.

We jump to Smallville. We have a page with 2 panels. The Welcome to Smallville sign. And police in riot gear searching the library. It seems that Smallville, as a town, has fallen into a coma. Sam Lane has been called in to help the military figure out what has happened.

We have a splash of Superman landing in the town, complete with some inscrutable text.

But I like this moment. Superman wants to know what is happening and the Colonel in charge storms off. I suppose her line is supposed to be a 'burn' ... but wouldn't she want Superman's help? And I would need to count off how many words the sentence is before I said it. Has she used that before? Is that her go-to exit line?

And it contributes to the 'world/military dislikes Superman' attitude that has been in this book. Amazingly Lane asks for Superman's help. But Clark can't get figure it out.

Lane wonders if new crop circles are a key. Turns out they spell out Doom in Kryptonian. As he flies around Superman sees something hiding in a silo. He heads to investigate only to have his powers leave him suddenly. It turns out the person making the crop circles, the guy brooding in a silo, is Lobdell's Eradicator, the living entity of Krypton's death. It was sent here in Krypton Returns. And yes, the picture of the Eradicator, sitting on hay bales, is a splash.

So ... green Kryptonite doesn't take away Superman's powers.

But moreover, why would the Eradicator sit in the silo for the time he has? Why did he write the circles? Didn't he want to kill all Kryptonians to complete his mission?

Turns out ... somehow ... the Eradicator has looked into the future and seen that the Earth will be destroyed by Superman! How does he know this? Is prognostication one of his powers? We don't find out.

After telling Superman this, The Eradicator tosses Kal into space and disappears. Was this a way to remind us (unfortunately) that this Eradicator exists? Because I don't know if it added anything.

And I don't know if I understand the Eradicator as a character at all. What are his motivations? Why did he stick around Smallville? Couldn't some of the page space used in large panels been used to fill us in more?

Cut to Metropolis where Lois is mind-locking people around her with her retained Brainiac powers.

Remember when the Parasite drained Lois of her powers and memories that Clark is Superman? I guess he somehow drained just the memories. Because Lois is again approaching 12th level intellect/psionic. Shouldn't she pick up that Clark is Superman again?

Remember when everyone else with Brainiac powers became hideous creatures with huge heads? I guess it doesn't effect Lois that way?

Remember when Lois was a valued part of the Superman mythos?

Anyways, she is now a herald for the Collector of Worlds. If any page deserved a splash, it was this one.

And, of course, we get more over the top bombast from the omniscient narrator.

Meanwhile, Superman has gone to his fortress to try to find Doomsday with Cyborg's help. On this page, we have a half panel outside shot of the Fortress.

Clark feigns illness so he, again, won't be doing any work for Clarkcatropolis.

I don't know what to think about Clark telling Cat that she often acts 'vacuous and self-centered'. Even if he says it is a schtick, it sounds like an insult.

Despite being in the Fortress, Superman doesn't hear the people in Kandor awaken and bang on the glass.

See how their fists make a 'doom' sign!! Okay, okay ... not subtle.

And the book ends with another splash page! This one showing the tropical island from the first scene, smashed apart.

I suppose that the Smallville and Kandor plots are linked.

I just think this was something of a jumbled mess, jumping from subplot to subplot with no transitions or linking of any kind. Some scenes, like the opening one, are simply too long. That story hook of innocents dying could have been done in one page. Other scenes, like crop circles and the Eradicator, are meaningless, not adding much to the story ... or at least adding in a way that is comprehensible. Add to that a Superman that is disliked by the Army even in the face of a disaster and a Clark that insults his friends. It is rough.

In fact, the only subplot worth checking out is the Lois subplot. But to chew on that, I have to simply forget pieces of that subplot that have been lingering for a while now. I can't forget that the 'Twenty' died as misshapen beings. I can't figure out how Lois doesn't know Clark is Superman. And her current situation makes the Parasite issue (remember when Superman risked Lois' life to protect his interests?) even worse than when I read it!

Overall grade: D

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary Is Six Years Old

Today I celebrate six years of blogging.

Six years.

That's crazy.

It's been an interesting 6 years. When I started, Kelley Puckett was trying to rehabilitate Kara from the rough Loeb/Kelly beginnings. Shortly after that we had Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle recreate the character as a hero. At the same time Landry Walker and Eric Jones put together Cosmic Adventures. Suddenly Supergirl was off to the races.

She became a member of the JLA.
She was an important part of the super-family and  its crossovers.
She was in Tiny Titans.
She was a merchandising gold mine appearing as statues, busts, shirts, and in countless other collectibles.
She appeared in her first animated movie, a retelling of her origin.

When all this was happening, I kept saying that it was a golden age for Supergirl fans. And that we should appreciate it because there have been leaner times before and there may be leaner times to come.

Then the New 52 came out and all the progress the character made in the three years prior was erased. We were back to square one ... back to the depths that Loeb and Kelly had dragged her to. Suddenly Kara was once again a loner, not interested in being a hero or a good family member or a friend. And just when it seemed that writer Mike Johnson and artist Mahmud Asrar were turning the corner on that portion of Kara's life, that grief and anger might be behind her, H'El on Earth derailed the title. And then the two were off the book.

Michael Alan Nelson came on board, teased us with an excellent 2-parter with Power Girl showing a strong, funny, and smart Kara. But then he exiled her to space, had Zor-El become the Cyborg Superman, and then killed Kara off.

Now Kara is a Red Lantern. And Jeff Lemire calls her the opposite of optimism and bright and plans to make her the angry bull-headed loner of a Justice League.

There is a season ... turn, turn, turn.

That is a lot of ups and down I have covered on this site!And I have been glad to do so, championing the good and questioning the bad. But I couldn't do it alone.

As always, there wouldn't be an anniversary if it weren't for the community that comes here. I love the discussion that happens, especially when opinions differ and a true conversation happens. I especially want to thank the 'regulars'. You all know who you are. Thanks so much for coming here and talking Supergirl with me. I am thrilled to know that there is a fanbase for Kara that is strong and vocal.

And I would like to thank the creators who I have come to know through this site. I especially want to thank them when the drop a comment and interact with us here. It was great to talk to Mike Maihack about his Red/Blue Supergirl piece. And in particular, I would like to thank Scott Lobdell for coming by a couple of times and engaging me in a nice mini Q and A session in the comments section. I haven't always been kind to Mr. Lobdell when reviewing his books. So I appreciate his coming by and talking about things.

So thanks again for stopping by and talking Supergirl and all things Super with me. Thanks for putting up with my long-winded reviews and occasional rants. It is great to chat with all of you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Red Lanterns #30

I can admit when I made a mistake. I was pretty sure that the Red Daughter arc and Kara as a Red Lantern storyline was going to be awful. And I internally cursed about Charles Soule thinking up the idea to begin with. But ... so far so good.

I will say my usual caveats. I am unhappy that Kara was dragged so low that only a Red Lantern arc could purge her and rehabilitate. And, as always, it is the end of this arc, the redemption of Kara into a likable positive hero, that is the key for me. I reserve the right to denounce this if the intended goal of making Supergirl less bitter and more heroic doesn't come to pass.

All that said, Red Lanterns #30 came out this week and it had some great Kara moments. While I think Superman/Wonder Woman suffers in its characterization, Soule seems to have a great grasp not only of the Lantern squad but Supergirl as well. Last month we saw her question some of the methods of the Reds. This time she asks if she should remain an Red. But there is also depth of the other Reds. Whether it is Bleez' distress or Skallox' lack of conviction or Zox' strength of conviction, these are individuals, not a bunch of snarling lunatics.

The artwork remains perfect for the tone of the book too. Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore both contribute to this issue. Their inky thick lines work wonderfully with the story.

We start in sector 775 on the planet Primeen where we are introduced to a young girl named Sheko who hasbecome the youngest judge on the planet. Flash forward decades and you can see that time has eroded her once lofty sense of her position. There isn't justice on this world. Justice can be bought or manipulated in the court. When she decides to finally stand up for her principles by finding the world's prince guilty of heinous violent crimes, she is gunned down by her own bodyguard.

I could see where this was going. It is clear that she will be a new Red Lantern, born of rage out of this affront to justice. But I thought it was great to hear this back story as it shows that rage can spring from many seeds. Sheko is a 'good' person. She has ethics and morals. And yet she can succumb to rage and become a Red Lantern. It is fascinating and again elevates this corps above the presumed rabid beasts they were sometimes portrayed as.

And this sort of deep look into the psyche of the Reds continues with Bleez.

Sure she is filled with rage. But there is also sadness here. And maybe a hint of self-loathing. Bleez is upset that Rankorr is presumably dead from their battle with Atrocitus, Dex-Star, and the new Red Lantern they were teamed with. She also questions the justice of the universe if she and Zox remain alive while Rankorr is dead.

I have to admit I loved this bit of pathos here. I didn't expect it. And this attitude mirrors Kara's nicely. Inside Supergirl is rage. But also grief over losing her planet. And maybe some of the self-hatred that comes with survivor's guilt. Bleez suddenly becomes a sounding board for Supergirl.

Bleez also is elevated to a sympathetic character. I though she existed only for cheesecake, as a 'bad girl'. Now she has much more depth. And there is even more in this issue.

Bleez thinks the Reds should go after Atrocitus and try to save/avenge Rankorr. Guy thinks the Reds need to hunt down the extra 7 red rings floating around the universe. It is a battle of will and leadership. And the Reds don't believe in leaders. They are true libertarians.

But when Bleez tries to head back on her own, Guy pulls out his trump card. He calls Kara in to block Bleez' path. I like how Guy is trying to keep the Reds on track. No anarchy. Maybe more like controlled chaos.

And I like this shot of Kara, strong and smiling. And somehow the color scheme of this outfit works better than the red panty-shield on the classic New 52 costume.

As for Sheko, she is filled with rage over the mockery of justice that exists on Primeen. She is a red and she is angry. And with no blood ocean to calm her, she is in pure judgment mode. No one passes muster.

She carves a bloody path of death and destruction across the planet.

Again, I like how Sheko went from good soul worn down by hypocrisy to crazed Red Lantern. And frankly, this is what I thought all the Reds were like. This is a far cry from the more nuanced rage we see in the Ysmault crew.

Back on Ysmault, while Guy and the others scan for the 7 other rings, Bleex and Kara have a heart to heart.

It is the best scene in the book.

Bleez talks of suffering as a Red. While you may thrive with the rage, you also are in pain, wondering what life have been like if you refused the ring.

She seems more sad than mad here. She wonders why Kara would have accepted the ring. And Calafiore shines here. There is clear anguish on Bleez' face.

It is blunt and powerful. If Bleez ... a 'successful' Red ... is in such pain, who would accept the offer to join the Corps.

Again, my fear was Kara would be a vomiting mindless feral beast. Here we see there is more to the Reds than just crazed anger.

Their talk continues.

I really love this line from Bleez. For her, the Reds exist to make sure no one else feels so much rage that they would accept a ring. They exist to make sure there are no more Red Lanterns. That is noble ... to want a universe free of that righteous fury. Wonderful stuff.

And even better is Kara just outright asking for Bleez to be her friend. There is an odd warmth and understanding here ... again unexpected. And greatly appreciated. These two are kindred spirits.

Still, if Kara can ask Bleez for friendship, someone she barely knows ... why couldn't she ever ask the same of Kal?

That friendship and mentorship pays immediate dividends.

When Zox' scanners pick up the Judge, Guy mobilizes his entire Corps to intercept. The planet's military fires on them. This isn't a surprise. They wear the same symbol as Sheko who is incinerating everything in her path.

Their attack enrages Supergirl. But before she can lash out at them, Bleez tells Kara to calm down. This isn't a 'vomit first, ask questions later' group. There is a time to fight. And there is a time not to fight. It is a great moment as Bleez teaches Kara to control her rage, to think before she acts. That is amazing ... unanticipated.

And the art is excellent. You feel Kara's rage in that first panel.

Unfortunately, it isn't just the Judge that Guy and his forces will face. Atrocitus and Dex-Starr are also there.

Now that is a nice cliffhanger.

I have to say, I was very impressed with this issue. There is very good characterization here. Writer Charles Soule makes everyone feel three-dimensional, in particular Bleez, Kara, and Sheko. These Reds are more than monsters. They are individuals; and they have way more going on than just rage.

And I have to say, the Supergirl stuff was inspired. More than even in her own book you got that sense of redemption and growth here. Really wonderful stuff.

And, as I have said before, the art here really suits the tone of the book. There is an inky griminess to this book which suits the Reds perfectly. And if Alessandro Vitti isn't available, Jim Calafiore is a great stand-in.

Overall grade: A

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: All-Star Comics #58

I have been running this site for almost 6 years and I have done my best to truly concentrate on Supergirl as a character, keeping Power Girl out of the spotlights intentionally. I truly believe that Power Girl is a separate character altogether.

However, with the new 52 Power Girl actually having been Supergirl on Earth 2, and with my reviews of Worlds' Finest appearing here, Karen has been nudging her way more and more onto the blog. And with the characterization of that Power Girl being neither Kara or Karen enough, neither classic Supergirl or classic Power Girl, I thought I would let Kara Zor-L bask in the spotlight again by reviewing her first appearance All-Star Comics #58. I was lucky enough to find this at a convention for $5 in decent condition.

It really is amazing how much of Power Girl's personality was already in place in this very first appearance! Writer Gerry Conway not only brings Power Girl around but also Star Spangled Kid and a new maturity in the Earth 2 Robin. Yes, this young trio becomes a Super Squad adjunct to the JSA. Karen is already shown to be fiery, determined, and strong. 

And as much as Conway shows the prototype Kara Zor-L, artists Ric Estrada and Wally Wood defined Power Girl's looks right off the bat. You can read this issue and immediately understand who Power Girl is and who she was for the next decades in the DCU.

The issue starts in a very classic way. The JSA has gotten word of three catastrophes that will strike the Earth simultaneously. Seattle, Peking, and Capetown are all in danger.

And in classic team comics style, the 6 JSAers split up into 3 groups of 2: Flash and Wildcat, Hawkman and Dr. Mid-Nite, and Dr. Fate and Green Lantern. Now I don't know if that is the best breakdown of teams. Fate and GL are the heavy hitters of this group. Maybe they should be on different teams.

And the villain of the piece is revealed early. Brainwave, the mad psionic, is going to lay waste to the world.

Some things that I love about this. Brainwave is obsessed with beauty since it was denied him in prison. So he is hoarding objets d'art on his satellite headquarters. At least it isn't a love of money driving him.

Second ... and 40 year spoiler alert ... this isn't Brainwave's real body. It ends up being a projection from his small spindly body. His love of beauty is so great he cannot deal with his real less-than-perfect looks.

But lastly, I love how this Brainwave look is eventually co-opted by his son Brainwave Jr. in Infinity Inc.

Now there is some fun stuff with Star Spangled Kid in Seattle and Robin in Capetown and the disasters thwarted there. But this is a review of Power Girl's first appearance.

In Peking, a volcano suddenly surfaces, spilling lava all over the place. I don't know just what Wildcat could do against something like this. And I don't know if the Flash could easily stop this. Hmmm ... wouldn't GL or Dr. Fate have come in handy here? (To be fair, GL and Fate fail in Capetown despite their combined might.)

Just when things look bleak, someone unknown appears on the scene, showing the lava back into the volcano, sealing it.

And there she is in all her glory, Power Girl. It is clear that how she looks has been defined from the very beginning. There are those urban legends about Wally Wood increasing Kara's pulchritude each inking session, baiting DC to tell him to stop (which they eventually did).

But there is so much to love here. She wants to be Power Girl to differ her from Superman, so there is no confusion. Unlike the earliest Earth 1 Supergirl, this one is her own woman from the get-go. And she also has been hidden away ... maybe as an emergency secret weapon?? She wasn't supposed to reveal herself quite yet!

Again, it feels like this is sort of the essence of Power Girl all in the first two panels.

The Chinese must take offense to the save, their military arriving and firing on the heroes. Despite Wildcat feeling like he can finally do something (slugging the Chinese soldiers), Power Girl ends the battle quickly with a super-stomp. Already Wildcat feels useless.

It set up an ongoing subplot of Wildcat being irritated at the 'liberated' Kara in the book. His 'old fashioned' attitude made him feel antiquated. Which was sad because I like Ted.

But things get even better. Power Girl. She sort of takes control of the whole situation. She already knows about the Capetown and Seattle disasters. And she can't understand why the JSAers can't handle the relatively mundane natural disasters happening. Hmmm ...

Again, this just is Power Girl.

She quickly mobilized Flash and Wildcat. It is time for them to regroup and attack Brainwave.

Something else great here. We are dealing with old-school Kryptonian powers. She can't fly but she can leap great distances. Fascinating ... and fun.

So there it is, the first appearance of Power Girl. And what a smashing introduction. It is incredible reading this to see just what a foundation this All-Star Comics run was for the character. I mean, this is a primer for Karen and who she has been ... that is up to this jumbled New 52 version. Impressive! She has grown as a character but the resolve and confidence has been a constant.

Overall grade: A+

But wait, there is one more treat in this book.

Holy cow there is a letter from Roy Thomas! A fan letter! From fan Roy Thomas!!

Okay, so Roy Thomas was already a prolific comic writer when this was released. But I love that he wrote to DC about this comic. Of course, Thomas ended up being 'the Guy' for Earth 2 writing All Star Squadron, Infinity Inc. and Young All Stars.

So this is obviously a key issue for Power Girl fans and I would say Supergirl fans and I would even add DC fans. It introduces Power Girl but re-introduced Earth 2 to a monthly comic world. The Huntress would be added soon after and the books kept coming.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Secret Origins #1

I have a love of the DC Universe and have always enjoyed the Secret Origins books when they have been part of the publisher's line. I not only like rereading the origins of my favorite characters ... amazed that creators can add a new wrinkle ... but the ones I don't know very well also. So when DC announced a new Secret Origins, I was very happy. And when Supergirl was announced as part of the first issue, I was thrilled. Sure she isn't on the cover. But she is there. And this issue was very very good.

I will briefly cover the Superman and Robin stories but this review will be mostly about the Supergirl story.

We are at the beginning of Tony Bedard's soft reboot of Supergirl. He has said he wants her to be more heroic, more likable, less angry and isolated. And while we don't see a whole heck of a lot of movement here, we definitely learn a few key things about Kara's past. And those things make her have a better foundation than the 'I don't care' Supergirl that has dominated the early years of this incarnation.

The issue starts with a flashback to Krypton where Supergirl saves the lives of a couple of other young Kryptonians who have violated some camp rules as they prepare for the trials of citizenship.

It is a brief scene but it shows that this Kara cares about people and is already heroic enough to risk herself to defend them. She bashes this wild animal despite knowing her weapon isn't powerful enough to incapacitate it.

She will defend people! She cares ... even if she doesn't know someone.

Interfering actually gets Kara in trouble. She lies to try to defend the mistake the others had wandering off and that is frowned upon. Luckily, Alura is able to give some words of wisdom. Doing the right thing can have unwanted consequences. But honor the house of El by always doing the right thing.

I love that Bedard is going to make Alura a role model and inspiration for Kara. And I like that she says Els always do what is right. That is great. It seems like a nice foundation for a fierceness in the pursuit of justice that the original Supergirl had. But it doesn't have to come with a horrible edge. She can be bright and fierce.

Of course, you might think that Kara might see Kal 'always doing the right thing' and warm up to him.

We get even more Alura information. It turns out she is a 'peace praetor' of Argo City. That is either police officer, judge, or politician. But regardless, she is in a position of power and a defender of the people. It makes her an even better role model for Supergirl.

And now onto a nice little side view of the origin. We see Zor-El in his lab. He definitively says that his World Killer experiments could not unlock any powers in Kryptonians.

There we have it.

Kara is not the first World Killer.

Hurrah! And thank you Mr. Bedard.

Back on Earth, Kara rescues North Korean astronauts who are in a falling satellite. When she brings them to North Korea, the army fires on her.

She doesn't care. Saving the astronauts is the right thing. Superman arrives unfortunately to confront her about the messiness of this save. This was an international incident. Rather than ask him how she could have done better, she gets angry. Shoving a finger in his chest, she says doing the right thing sometimes has consequences. And she will learn her own way.

It is a shame. If a wise Kryptonian like Alura can teach her, why can't Kal. Sure saving the guys was right but maybe he could tell her how to do it with less consequences.

Her being on Earth, in her costume, and willing to save people, seeing that as the right thing, seems to be a step in the right direction. But this felt like she is a .... sigh ... bull-headed loner. She will do what she wants no matter what someone else says. And she will do it her way.

 I hope Bedard can keep moving her towards likable hero and not just a hero.

Still this was a good origin. The Krypton scenes and Alura/Zor-El info add a nice foundation to the character.

The Superman origin is nicely revisited by Greg Pak and artist Lee Weeks. In it we hear voice overs from both Ma Kent and Lara as they talk about how they hope their love will make Kal/Clark become the man they want him to be.

Pak does a good job of weaving in scenes from both his Action run and Morrison's as key points were Clark is shown love and then uses that love to be Superman. Nice stuff.

And the Robin (Dick Grayson) origin is also excellent. Writer Kyle Higgins and artist Doug Mahnke retell the Grayson tragedy at the circus followed by the introduction of Robin. This was my favorite scene. Here Dick sees Robins and decides they will be the basis of his costume. It is a nice reflection of Bruce's own decision to become a bat. But instead of brooding inside when a bat flies in, Dick is outside, in the sun, hearing birds sing. Very nice. (I also liked that his flying Grayson's costume looks similar to his Nightwing one).

Anyways, great issue overall. Kara's transformation looks like a marathon, not a sprint. But still, progress is progress.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, April 24, 2014

July 2014 Solicits

The DC July solicits came out over this week and I have to say there are some pretty significant ups and downs that month. While I am relatively thrilled with the Supergirl proceedings, the whole Doomed storyline looks like it is heading down a path I won't be thrilled about.

Here is a link to Newsarama's complete solicits:

And now the super-solicits!

Written by TONY BEDARD

“Red Daughter of Krypton” – the finale! Faced with a threat from Worldkiller-1 and staggering allegations about her past, Supergirl is forced to question her role as a Red Lantern – and as a hero! Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to this epic adventure – and its shocking final pages!

Amazingly, the Red Daughter  storyline actually looks like it will be only a few issues long. And it sounds like the right sort of solicit with Kara rediscovering her role as a hero.

And trust me I was thrilled to see this cover with the ring off her finger. Hopefully this arc purges the character of much of the angsty baggage she was carrying and will make her start a true hero's journey.

Advance solicit • On sale SEPTEMBER 17 32 pg, FC • RATED T 3-D Motion Edition: $3.99 US 2-D Standard Edition: $2.99 US Orders due May 29 • Not offered on FOC  

At last, Supergirl reconciles with her father, Cyborg Superman – in the most horrific way possible!

Now DC is also doing Future's End issues in September with lenticular covers like last year's Villains Month. And to get ahead of order snafus that plagued them a year ago, DC is advance soliciting. There are no covers or creative teams.

But there is a blurb about the story. And we get a reconciliation with Zor-El. Now a horrific ending sounds bad but I am hoping that isn't something horrible. How about Zor breaks his conditioning and has to sacrifice himself?

Now plenty of this Future's End business sounds dismal. But I am just happy to see Supergirl be part of the event!

So many questions hang over this nascent team. Will Hawkman sacrifice himself to save Rann, one of Thanagar’s enemies? Will Alanna and Adam ever be reunited? Can Miiyahbin face her fears and become the hero she’s meant to be? And the answer to all of this spells death for one of them.

 The jury is still out on this title and for me it will hinge on how Supergirl is used in the book. If she is a brooding Hulk or Wolverine character, there to make Equinox and Stargirl all the sunnier I'll be unhappy.

And that would be a shame because I think that Lemire probably has great stuff in store for this book. I just don't want him to misuse Kara.

ACTION COMICS #33 Written by GREG PAK Art and cover by AARON KUDER
Superman finally succumbs to the Doomsday virus and transforms into SUPERDOOM! Is anybody in the universe safe from his vast power and fury? How can Superman possibly find a cure for his condition when the Monster of Steel has completely taken over his mind?

And then we move to the Doomed issues.

Just what the DCU needs, more problems to make humanity distrust and hate Superman.

Can even Pak and Kuder make this right? Can't we have a heroic Superman? The inspirational hero?

As an epic space battle rages above the Earth, how will humanity and the other heroes of the DC Universe cope with this Day of Doom?

And it sounds like, of course, the other DC heroes have to unite to defeat Superman. In The Death of Superman, Superman was the ultimate hero, coming in when the other heroes failed and sacrificing himself. Now, the roles are actually reversed. Superman is the monster.

What is wrong with the DCU??

SUPERMAN #33 Written by GEOFF JOHNS Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR. and KLAUS JANSON
It’s up, up and away as the titanic team of Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson continue their epic run on the Man of Steel! In their second issue, we learn more about the mysterious Ulysses and what his emergence will mean to Clark Kent and the world. Meanwhile, a mysterious figure is targeting Metropolis with strange mechanical creations...but why? And what dark secret from Clark’s past does it connect to?

No surprise that the Johns/Romita book is kept separate from Doomed. 

I loved Johns' Superman stuff in the past. I am hoping he can continue to fix Superman's image. Let Pak and Johns bring the classic hero back!

It’s all going to hell as cosmic-level war breaks out! The full truth of who — or what — Wraith is finally comes to light!

I talked about this last month. I'll believe it is coming out in July when I see it.

Twelfth level intellect Lois Lane uses all her new Psi Power against the God of War, Diana, in the ultimate showdown! And Superman must go up against the new Cyborg Superman as an invading armada arrives in space!

Hmmm ... Cyborg Superman showing up. I wonder if Supergirl gets involved at some point.

But the main thing is that we get the cat fight that DC has been angling for ... Lois vs. Diana. Terrible. 

Lois hasn't been a big part of the New 52. Now she is a villain. Fighting Superman's girlfriend. Terrible.

Only an Annual could contain this chapter of “SUPERMAN: DOOMED”! It’s an all-out assault by the heroes of Earth (superpowered and not) on the God of War, Wonder Woman, who’s leading the charge against all manner of alien attackers. The monstrous Superman smashes through everything friend or foe as his de-evolution reaches a critical stage. It all leads to their best hope: the Phantom Zone?!

And then things get even crazier. Now it sounds like the heroes of Earth are attacking Wonder Woman. While Superman smashes friends and foes alike.

There hasn't been one thing about Doomed that has made me think it is going to be good. 

BATMAN/SUPERMAN #13 Written by GREG PAK Art and cover by JAE LEE
A new arc begins following the events of “FIRST CONTACT.” The worlds of Batman and Superman come to an explosive clash as something terrible happens to the World’s Finest team, and a Dark Knight who is not quite himself must team up with Lois Lane to find a missing Man of Steel. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle encounters a person of amazing strength who has no idea who he is.

Another issue which has been resolicited so many times I don't think I need to cover it. I am hoping this book also rights itself, coming out more consistently.

Power Girl and Huntress return to the ruins of Earth 2, but they question whether their trip was worth the effort as they discover the state of their former home and friends.

Finally heading back home! They shouldn't be too shocked at the state of their former home as they saw it through the portal in First Contact. I don't think I am going to get the Earth 2 weekly. So will this be a jump-off point for me??

I keep waiting for a new creative team. I like Kirkham fine.

Fighting a pitched battle against the strength of Parallax, John Stewart is able to regain his Green Lantern will. But will the change come in time to defeat Parallax’s minions?

Loving this series. This sounds great. But when ... when!! .... will the Crisis happen!

When a giant robot from outer space crashes into Metropolis Harbor, Superman makes the shocking discovery that the robot was built by none other than his own father, Jor-El!

I love Marz work. I love Doc Shaner's work (check out Flash Gordon!). So this seems fine. Although it seems like a lot of the Adventures seemed to mine Krypton and Jor-El for ideas.

Still. I am going to enjoy this book while it is around.

The Tiny Titans journey to the Fortress of Solitude, where they meet up with the Man of Steel! Can he help them get their treehouse back? Only if he’s not super-busy!

A super-issue with all the Titans sporting S-shields! I am there. This will be a nice palate cleanser after a month of Doomed.

So will Kara shedding the ring be enough to offset Doomed? We shall see!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More Jeff Lemire ... More Angry Supergirl

Justice League United #0 comes out today. This should be a cause for celebration for Supergirl fans. After all, it has Supergirl in the classic S-shield costume as a member of the League. And the creative team of writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mike McKone, on paper, is a great one. I have enjoyed almost all of Lemire's work for DC.

Unfortunately, the press for this book makes it sound like Supergirl is in the book for one reason ... to act as a foil for Stargirl and Equinox. Kara will be the negative anti-hero making those two look all the better. I have covered prior interviews here and worried about how Supergirl will again be mistreated. After all, Lemire called her a 'bull-headed loner' and the opposite of Stargirl who is 'bright, optimistic, and the face of youth in the DC Universe'. Those are his words ... not mine.

On Monday, Lemire had another interview about the book, the last publicity before the book's release. Here is the link:

As always, it is worth reading the whole article. But here are the bits that stuck out:

Stargirl and Supergirl aren't too fond of each other either, Lemire says. "Stargirl is really eager and optimistic and trying, and Supergirl doesn't have much time for her."

Again, the inference is that Supergirl isn't eager or optimistic. Just like she wasn't bright. And of course Supergirl remains a loner. It pains me that this is the status quo of Supergirl in the DCU these days. After decades of being eager, bright, optimistic ... passionate about justice, she is relegated to being the dark foil to those same emotions.

"She's from a small community and has never really been outside of that, let alone seen any of this fantastic superhero stuff going on around her," Lemire explains. "But she's got a good sense of humor and she's become the most relatable character in the book so far."

So the new character gets to have a sense of humor and be the most relatable character. Again, Supergirl gets to be the loner who most likely is mean or negative to Equinox. I am not anti-Stargirl. I am not anti-Equinox. I am anti-dark Supergirl. If Lemire wanted someone to fill that role couldn't he pick someone else?

Before and after, Lemire is promising humor to go along with all that adventure.

"I've grown tired of the ultra serious, grim and gritty superhero stuff that's become prevalent lately," he says. "I want to get back to having some fun."

At least I got this. I am a fan of what Lemire has done in the past. So some fun heroic adventures will be a welcome change. But will Supergirl again be the downer in the group, sulking while everyone laughs around her? Or will she warm up to the team and become relatable again like Bedard and Soule promised.

"Manhunter is the heart of the team, and he has a relationship with everyone," the writer says. "He's the most alien character in a way and probably the most shocking to (Equinox), but also the most warm and welcoming."

Big stuff is on the way for Hawkman — "He will not be the same character he has been (since the New 52 relaunch) by the time the first arc's done, that's for sure," says Lemire, who's leaning into the character's spacebound background and reintroducing his old villain Byth as the main baddie of the first arc.

And it seems like he has a nice grasp on the other characters. It is nice to hear J'Onn described as warm and welcoming. And a more classic Hawkman (with Byth!) sounds great.

But let's try to raise Supergirl up in this book, not push her down farther.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Smallville Lantern #1

Smallville Lantern #1 came out last week, the first part of the next 'episode' of Smallville Season 11. Writer Bryan Q. Miller has done a great job on this book, bringing in more and more DC Universe characters to this particular Earth, creating great characterization for the main characters of the book, moving a long standing Crisis arc along with each episode, but also presenting a good stand-alone story with each episode that can be enjoyed on its own. I have been happily stunned by the quality of this book.

And Smallville Lantern continues that trend. If we have Flashes, and Titans, and Martians, and the Trinity in this universe then we need Green Lanterns. So Miller introduces us to his version of Jon Stewart, his version of Oa, and more importantly his version of Tomar Re and his ring's mission. And Miller does all of this with the usual nods to longstanding DC continuity while bringing his own wrinkle to the works. Fantastic.

Cat Staggs, as usual, does a great job on the cover, bringing us a rather willful appearing Super-Lantern. But I have to praise inside artist Marcio Takara. I have been drooling over Takara's commissions on Twitter and loved his stuff on Blue Beetle. Here he brings the same stylized, slightly exaggerated, flowing work to the linework inside. It really is pleasing to the eye and moves the story along wonderfully.

Now I will admit that I don't have strong memories of the last seasons of Smallville so I sometimes need to rely on the help of others for the show continuity odds.

For example, we open up with  a replay of the ending of Smallville season 9 (I think) where Zod and all his cloned Kryptonians are transported away from Earth to Argo in sector 2813. We have seen the colony as it is in the future in the Argo arc in this book.

With life again being in sector 2813, a dormant Green Lantern ring goes searching for a suitable host. Since these beings are 'synthetic' (and anyone who can clarify why) the ring rejects them. But it does recognize them as Kryptonian and so goes to find another. That was then ... it will take some time for the ring to find someone who fits the bill.

One thing I like are the small things that build up the depth of this book. Having a Kryptonian on Argo think the ring is Flamebird is just a nice little touch.

Things remain quite in Metropolis ... at least for now.

There is some playful banter between Ollie and Chloe. They are both out of the adventuring business now, instead vowing to be there for their impending bundle of joy.

It can't be a crisis without someone dying. At first I worried it was Kara. Then I thought Steph Barbara. Now, with scenes like this, it has to be one of these two. Maybe Ollie?

And Clark and Lois enjoy a quiet night at the movies. They also have some wonderful, playful conversation.

For folks like me, who think Clark and Lois should be together, scenes like these are perfect. I love how Lois says that even if there haven't been vows, the two are married.

I really love Lois in this book.

At last, the ring arrives and claims Clark.

I like how the armor has the S-shield, not the Lantern corps symbol. It shows just how strong Clark's will is. That his symbol is the primary one despite the ring's powers.

In fact, Clark seems to have an innate ability with the ring. He flies off and tries to take it off. And as he thinks of it, a variety of tools - crowbars, drills, etc - appear. Usually we hear how hard it is to will the ring to make anything. Here, subconsciously, Clark is able to make constructs.

He finally peels the ring off and flings it into deep space.

Meanwhile, the Lantern of Sector 2814, NYC police detective Jon Stewart, learns that someone on Earth is also wielding a ring. I like that it is Jon here. And I like that he is a little different, acting as a police officer.

But hearing that there were others ... fascinating.

Of course the ring doesn't accept rejection and returns and rebonds to Clark. Before he can remove it again, a tank battle erupts in Metropolis ... a bank robbery of all things.

Before he can even use his own powers, the ring must sense Clark's motives. Suddenly green energy missiles appear all around him. And when the tank fires, Clark must want the battle to end quickly. Because suddenly a huge construct Superman appears, smashing the tank to bits.

It is clear that Clark needs to learn to control the ring. I like the idea that he is naturally gifted with the ring as opposed to needing to work hard to activate it. Superman ... super-will ... right?

Stewart arrives and the two leave.

I have had many favorite moments in Smallville over the course of its comic run. This ranks up there. The bank robbery was a ruse so crooks working for Prometheus could steal something else. And this is one cruel Prometheus, gunning down people firing-squad style.

I am a huge Prometheus fan. The real Prometheus. The one who almost beat the JLA singlehandedly. Not the one beaten by Shiva or Batgirl or whoever.

I want a dangerous and deadly Prometheus, a true super-villain. I hope we get one here.

We next see Clark viewing Oa which is in a state of disrepair. Clark is getting a tutorial from Tomar Re, the GL who we know failed in saving Krypton. This is a message which gives Clark a thumbnail history of the core. The Manhunters, the possession of Hal by Parallax, the resulting war.

I love it all.

Is Jordan still around as Parallax? We hear from Stewart that Kyle took over after Hal. Then Jon got the ring. Does that mean Kyle is dead? And how did Alan Scott have his ring? All these ripples of DC lore here. I hope Miller explores it all.

And will Clark accept the role of GL of 2813?

I am interested in seeing how this history plays out in this universe. This is about as good a hook as any!

Except we get an even better one. Parallax obviously lives. Whether it is Jordan or just Parallax we don't know. But for whatever reason, it detects the 2 Lantern rings in sector 2813. And that enrages Parallax. He activates Manhunters and sends them to Earth.

Nice cliffhanger.

So overall, a great first chapter for this arc. We have the main plot of the Lantern ring. We have Parallax. We have Prometheus. And we have the usual characterization of the supporting cast.

If a first issue is supposed to intrigue the reader and grab them, this one did it!

And, as I said, Takara's work is just stylized enough to complement a more galactic/sci-fi natured story. I hope I run into Takara at a convention some time so I can grab a commission.

No complaints here.

Overall grade: A