Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Supergirl #2

It has been something of a slow news week for the Super-comics and it also is the 5th Wednesday of the month which means only a few comics are coming out. So I figured I would look at more 'Supergirl meets Superboy' moments.

I reviewed the Silver Age meeting here. And I just reviewed the Matrix/Metropolis Kid meeting here. And so I thought I would look at the first meeting of the last incarnations of the characters. And that means a  closer review of  2005's Supergirl #2 written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Ian Churchill.

I have a lot of issues with Loeb and his initial run and this issue showcases a lot of what I didn't like. Loeb certainly did do his best to make Supergirl powerful which is a good thing. But he may have made her too powerful for me. This is when there was some debate that she might be more powerful than Superman (who I just think needs to be the yardstick for the DC universe). But when Loeb has Kara effortlessly bash her way through everyone, it eliminates any concern for her, any feeling of conflict.

But more than her power level, I didn't like the personality of Kara here. She is moody, emotionally labile, but with a default mode of anger. She rarely acted heroic and was constantly fighting heroes. There was no sense of goodness or hope or compassion in this Supergirl. And that just didn't feel right.

As for Ian Churchill's art, I am of two minds. I think he really draws faces extremely well. But his sense of body composition veers to the impossible. And there is way to much cheesecake in these issues for me as well.

At this point in her life, Supergirl had barely met Superboy, just a one panel introduction in the last issue of her origin story in  Superman/Batman #13. After fighting Power Girl in Supergirl #1,Kara flies to Smallville to seek out Superboy. At this point, Superboy has gone into self-exile and simply wants to be left alone. So what will happen when 2 angry and isolated young 'heroes' meet for the first time?

Well, if you are a seasoned comic reader, you will know that they will fight.

As I said, Superboy wants to be left alone and doesn't take kindly to Supergirl's arrival, flying up to meet her before she can even land.

This being the Loeb Supergirl, rather than try to talk to him and figure out why he is so angry,  Supergirl antagonizes him, prompting a fight.

Now that top panel is great linework by Ian Churchill, very expressive.

After an exchange of punches and heat vision, Superboy grabs Supergirl. But she tosses him off  like a rag doll. And here is where all that buried anger Loeb had Supergirl have surges. She "will not be bound again!" It was this underlying attitude that bothered me most with this Supergirl. She doesn't even want the name Supergirl, implying it was forced on her by Superman.

And here is one of many examples of my problem with Churchill. Supergirl's skirt looks the size of a napkin, riding so low on her hips it should simply fall off, her torso elongated.

And remember, Loeb has made her extremely powerful. Without breaking a sweat, she defeats Conner, smashing him in the face and dislocating his jaw. In the prior issue she took out Solomon Grundy with one punch while the JSA as a team couldn't touch him. She beat up Power Girl. In 2 issues, she'll take out most of the Justice League.  There is little feeling of threat or conflict here. I don't mind a powerful Supergirl, she should be in the top tier of the DC pantheon. But I need some to think that things could go wrong to become invested in the character.

I say that big moments deserve big art in comics, but not here. We already had the double splash of her escaping Superboy. Did we really need a splash here.

Now here is a redeeming moment of this character. It isn't all bad in the Loeb issues. After this initial brawl, Supergirl extends the olive branch, relocating Conner's jaw and asking if the two can start over. 

This is an example of the frenetic personality Kara had in these issues. I mean she went from fury to happy in a couple of panels.

But this is also an example of a hero on the journey, making a mistake and trying to correct it.  That's okay.And remember, Conner did initiate this.

Unfortunately, the Titans suddenly arrive and a new fight opens up. The Titans attack both Kara and Conner.

Now I have talked about how this Supergirl was too angry and too powerful. Here is a great example.  She shrugs off Wonder Girl's magic lasso attack (despite it being magical). And Kara is filled with so much anger, she is able to usurp control of Cassie's god-given magic lasso. Just like that she sends painful feedback into Wonder Girl. It is sort of ludicrous. This was a lasso given to Cassie because of her heritage and magical. It simply shouldn't work for Supergirl.

And I don't know if this moment needs a splash page.

The skirt is drawn so short that it is distracting. But my big pet peeve on the artowork here is how Churchill draws legs. Look at those taffy like calves, stretched to pencil thinness. Look at those ankles ... or lack thereof. Impossible.

So she batters Conner. She shrugs off Wonder Girl's end move.

And then Supergirl's inner darkness is so great that she cannot be contained by Raven's soul self. In fact, Raven seems more shaken by Supergirl being in her than Supergirl is for having been enveloped by Raven. So everyone's end move is useless. You would think that Raven should have some effect.

But someone whose father is a demon, who has battled with evil herself is repulsed and shaken by Kara's soul. What a horrible way to portray Supergirl. This 'is she evil' stuff wore thin pretty quickly.

So why did Titans come?

Cyborg says that they detected something heading to Kent Farm at high speed. They had to investigate.

But isn't there a better way to protect their lives and anonymity than by brawling in their corn field. Wouldn't this attract more attention?

With everyone arguing about Conner's self-exile and Supergirl's arrival, Kara suddenly become morose. Look at the glum Supergirl sulk away because 'everybody wants her to go away'. So we have even more labile emotions.And no nuance her ... she goes from full fury to full happiness to full fury to full despondence.

It was hard to figure this Supergirl when all this was happening. She had wild swings in her responses. But anger and hate seemed to be her fallback mood. Who wants to read that book?

Thank goodness these mood swings were explained away by Kryptonite poisoning.

I will say there is one nice moment here when Conner calls Kara his cousin for the first time. Kara seems touched by the sentiment, like maybe someone does care.

But before, she can leave Starfire arrives ... even more fun over the Kent crops! She wants Supergirl to go with her to the Outsiders. She has some answers for Supergirl. This, of course, allowed Loeb to let Supergirl beat up on that hero team in the next issue (even if while sparring). But that was the theme of these early issues, angry Supergirl looking for answers and beating up heroes. It just didn't work.

And we get another splash page, this one a pin-up shot of Kory.

Now this issue embodied a Supergirl that you didn't want to piss off, that didn't love humanity, that was hell on wheels. And this is despite having acclimated to Earth.

Frankly after rereading this issue, I realized that this Supergirl better fits the pre-release DCnU description of the Green/Johnson Supergirl. The current Supergirl is light years away from this. Even when confused and lost, the current Kara just seems to have more depth, more goodness, stopping when she thinks she is endangering innocents.

Since this was one of the first issues of the last incarnation of Supergirl, I suppose they are of medium importance to a Supergirl collection. They really set the tone for the first 20 or so issues. It is probably available for under $5.

But reviewing this reminded me that I didn't like this book very much back then.

Overall grade: C-

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DC Message Boards

Last week, over on the Source blog, DC posted a short but powerful post in which it was announced that the message boards on the DC Comics site were going away. Here is the link:

It seems as though the boards will still be around in a different format, linked to Facebook and Twitter.

As one of the few humans on Earth not on Facebook, I don't know how this will effect me. Hopefully, I will still be able to view the discussions there. While I didn't post often on the DC site, I did regularly read the threads.

I hope any displaced Supergirl fans looking for a place to discuss the character will find this blog and feel at home here until the DC boards are back up and running. Welcome aboard!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back Issue Box: Adventures of Superman #502

The DCnU versions of Supergirl and Superboy met for the first time over in Superboy #6. So I figured that it would be cool to go back and look at the first time other incarnations of the characters first met.

Back in 1993, the comic world was still reeling from the Death of Superman, we had just held a Funeral for a Friend, and the Reign of the Supermen was just starting to fall. Adventures of Superman was the home of Superboy and had a great creative team of Karl Kesel writing and Tom Grummett and Doug Hazelwood on art. In Adventures #502, this Superboy met Supergirl.

It is interesting to revisit this issue almost 20 years later. We had only just met this Superboy. He didn't know anything of his origins. He didn't really understand his power. And he looks oh so 90s cool with his fade and leather jacket. And like any young man with incredible power, he is pretty sure of himself.

As for this Supergirl, this was smack dab in the middle of the 'Pawn of Luthor' period for the Matrix Supergirl. You could start to feel the tide turning a bit for her. She had handled herself very well in Funeral and later in this arc goes against Luthor's wishes to aid the re-invigorated Superman. In just under a year, she'll star in her own mini-series and leave Luthor's side for good.

But all of those revelations come later. Right now, Metropolis doesn't know how to handle the Supermen claiming the name. And Luthor certainly wasn't going to stand on the sidelines. And so he sends his lackey in.

Getting back to the creative team, I think Kesel had a really great handle on the Superboy character here. He really has 'The Metropolis Kid' vacillate between overconfidence with and uncertainty of his powers as well as showing the impulsive nature of being a super-powered teen with few role models.

Perhaps the best thing about that happened is this book is what didn't happen. The two didn't fight each other! 

And Grummett was the perfect person for this book. The Kid's adventures weren't as serious as say Steel's or the Eradicator's. So Grummett's more cartoony feel suited the book wonderfully. And I think he draws a very good Supergirl, fresh faced, young, and optimistic.

The issue starts with Superboy saving a convertible filled with young ladies from crashing off a Metropolis bridge. But then he himself needs a hand when he almost loses control of the very car he was saving. Luckily, Supergirl is there to save the day as well.

I thought this was a very nice splash page with a sort of unique composition, a hero saving a hero hoisting a car. There is a wonderful vertical feeling here with some unsteadiness implied by the art.

Of course, Superboy is a little distracted by Supergirl's ... umm ... charms. It is something of an innocent and natural response from a 16yr old boy who probably can't help himself. And it does open up the dialogue for the oft-used 'chest choking' joke.

Supergirl invites Superboy to have dinner with her and Lex and he agrees.

Of course, Superboy already has something of a working relationship with WGBS and reporter Tana Moon. So Moon is, of course, upset that Superboy would agree to meet with a rival.

Much of Supergirl's behavior is rooted in her allegiance to Lex. But I did like how she feigned ignorance of Moon and said she only got her news from WLEX ... all while on a live WGBS news feed. Matrix was sort of sly in her own way.

But again, she is simply a pawn of Lex. Here she is trussed up in a form fitting evening gown, vamping a bit to try to get Superboy to join Team Luthor. Lex seems to be parading her out as just another possession of his. I have said it before, outside of some glimmers of independence and heroism, this was a rough point to be a Supergirl fan.

Supergirl is charming however, getting Superboy to verbally agree to leave WGBS behind, work for Lex, go out patrolling with her.

Unfortunately, Superboy is pretty gullible and easy to manipulate. After Luthor's dinner, he meets with GBS president Vinnie Edge and formally agrees to be a WGBS exclusive newsmaker. On top of that, Edge hires the odious Rex Leech to act as Superboy's handler and agent. Leech is a pretty slimy character interested in turning a quick buck.

And Rex has a daughter Roxy who proclaims Superboy is cuter than Bon Jovi, Luke Perry, and Robin all together. But this innocent 'boy crazy' introduction turns about to be just as much an act as Rex' professionalism. She isn't a bad girl, just always looking out for number one.

Superboy really is being led on a leash here. Edge is only interested in cornering the news market. And if that means manufacturing the news, he will. He hires a supervillain to attack Superboy all while Tana is following and filming.

One of the better side characters in this is Tana. She is against anyone using Superboy and yet she herself is using him. Throughout the arc she has to come to grips with her own ethics and what side of the fence she is standing on.

While moving a locomotive engine, Superboy is attacked by the Stinger. The attack was pretty easy to set up given that Stinger was given the wheres and whens of Superboy's day by Rex earlier in the book. Overwhelmed by the attack, Superboy has to ditch the engine and tosses it into an empty park. I like how Superboy realizes he's pretty lucky that no one was there, even if the workers all think it was planned.

As I said before, Superboy is just learning the limits of his powers here. He still thinks he is simply a clone of Superman. He doesn't know about tactile telekinesis yet. He doesn't understand his lack of vision powers.

Since Superboy isn't exactly invulnerable, he is dazed and battered by some rather pedestrian attacks by the Stinger - bombs, cybernetic whips, etc.

Supergirl has actually been following the proceedings in invisible form and is about to step in and save the day when Superboy stops her. He lays out Stinger with one punch.

I think it again shows his somewhat brash and schoolyard persona. He doesn't want anyone's help.

The whole super-hero thing has been something of a game up to now for Superboy with people falling over themselves to be his friend. Suddenly, the whole thing becomes deadly real. Realizing he needs a distraction to escape, Stinger blows out the main support of the bridge, collapsing it and sending countless people to their deaths. Things aren't always rosy in the heroing games. Lesson learned. And great cliffhanger!

This initial meeting showcased the sort of naivete of both Supergirl and Superboy, as they both are just pawns in the nefarious dealings of megalomaniacs. But over the course of Reign, they mature, become part of the Superman family, and do their best.

For a Supergirl collection, this issue of low importance other than being the first meeting between Boy and Girl. It can be picked up pretty cheap in back issue boxes. And it does sport some great  Grummett art. I, for one, liked Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen and think both arcs are worth reading.

Overall grade: B

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More About Lauren Faust's Super Best Friends Forever

Over on io9, there is a great article and interview with Lauren Faust about her upcoming SBFF shorts on the DC Nation block. Here is the link to the article:

Faust seems to 'get it' and even those these are really going to be shorts (around a minute), it sounds like the characterization will be right on. Here is what she had to say about Supergirl.

In terms of reinventing these characters, she built on what she'd seen in the comics, and embellished on it. For example, she imagined Supergirl as out to prove herself. Everybody in the world knows who Superman is, but not everybody knows about Supergirl. And even though both Kryptonians have the same powers and com e from the same place, everybody treats Supergirl like "chopped liver" compared to the celebrated Kal-El. "She doesn't get the same amount of attention" as her cousin, notes Faust. "If you were going to apply that to a real teenage girl, she'd probably be pretty mad. She's really got something to prove."

I really like this take on Supergirl, making her more determined than ever. I hope the 'chopped liver' part doesn't stand out too much. But part of Supergirl's characterization has always been trying to live up to the S-shield as well as stepping out of Superman's shadow.

And it has been tackled before in comics. From the earliest issues where Supergirl was kept hidden, to Paul Kupperberg (in Superman #376 above) having her consciously become her own person, to Gates and Peaty having her be the role model for her generation, Supergirl has always had to prove something to herself and others and has (for the most part) succeeded. And part of that has been stepping out of Superman's shadow. That sentiment certainly explains the 'can do' attitude we see in the Faust pic above.

Faust goes on to talk about how Batgirl is something of a fangirl having grown up around the Bat family. And here she talks about BFF's friendship.

And unlike some other depictions of superpowered teens, Faust sees these characters as real friends who "are supportive." There will be three supervillains featured in the series, but the focus will really be on the three girls who are friends with each other and their relationship, and how much fun they have being superheroes.

I am glad that they will always have each others' backs. This is Trinity:The Next Generation. So I am glad that they will always help each other out, even if their personalities are different.

So let's start guessing about the villains. Will they be BFF versions of Trinity villains? Or their own. I would love to see Nasty Luthor as Supergirl's foil. Please let me be right!

And then what? The Cheetah? The Silver Swan? Catgirl? Duela Dent? All could translate well into a cartoon like this. The mind boggles!

And then Faust talks about her ambitions and My Little Pony.

It's been my personal lifelong career ambition to make great entertainment for girls, and about girls. And you know, when it's really good, I think it transcends gender, and people other than girls will watch that. And we've seen a little bit of evidence for that with the fanbase for My Little Pony — the really surprising fanbase for My Little Pony

So I guess I have to call my self a Brony. When the Supergirls at home told me they thought I would enjoy MLP, I had my doubts. But this show is must see TV for all of us. And I can't get me enough of Rainbow Dash.

But the show works on multiple levels. One thing that I do like is that the main characters here, though very different, really are friends and help each other. I can't help but think that same vibe is going to happen on the Super BFF shorts.

As much as I am looking forward to this, I have seen clips of the Larry Drake Negative Man, Shade the Changing Man, and Amethyst. And I have always liked Young Justice. So this whole block seems like a can't miss.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Superman #6

Superman #6 came out this week, the last issue of George Perez's short run on the character. The issue is given some extra pages to get to its finale, no big surprise given that last issue didn't get us where we needed to be. As a result, this issue is very heavy on exposition and explanations. Perez's issues have all been very dense, but this one felt the densest because we have several pages in a row at the end where Superman basically explains what has been going on. What is worse is that this was a strange resolution to the arc. Despite pages of explanation, I don't know if I quite get it.

But perhaps my biggest problem with this story is that it hinges on the ending of the Collector arc in Action, an arc that hasn't ended yet. In some ways, this issue needed a spoiler alert because now we know some of what Morrison is going to give us next issue. I don't need this crossover this soon. And, it some ways, as I'll explain below, it felt forced.

Add to that, some of the things that Perez has started here, some things that might be carried forward in this new era of Superman, have been wrapped up already. I don't know what to say. I didn't think Superman needed to be rebooted in the first place. But if you are going to do it, let some of the new elements breathe a bit.

The one thing I will add is that in this issue Supergirl looked wonderful. Nicola Scott does great work here. And it is amazing how little things like adjusting the corners on the red aspects of the lower costume can make a difference. Can we start a petition to just have the seam be straight?

The issue starts off with this great near splash page of Supergirl, saving Billy McCoy, the anti-Superman reporter that was pitched off the Planet building last issue. This works on a number of levels. It has a nice POV as Supergirl streaks towards us, the street in the background. Supergirl looks determined and ready for action. And again, the lower costume looks so much better without the unnecessary corner cutouts where red meets blue.

She was headed to Metropolis to talk to Superman about Superboy, the clone she just me. Luckily she arrives as McCoy is plummeting. The thing is it is tough to shoehorn this into her even brief history. Many of the people and reporters on scene act like this is the first time they are seeing her but  Jimmy also says this is after her post-World Killer battle in Manhattan. So that seems odd.

I also like Kara's confusion here. She is still trying to figure out who she is and what her role is on the planet. She has met Superman once but knows he defends the Earth. So seeing him pitch people off skyscrapers should be odd.

Again, look at how sleek the costume looks here.

Unfortunately, the phony Superman seems more powerful than Supergirl and begins knocking her around. She is able to hold her own briefly but is soon overwhelmed.

But then the real Superman begins responding to Lois' phone call to Clark, a call he is receiving on a phone built into his uniform. The phony Superman also hears that call. And somehow that rattles this creature.

On top of it, a psychic link that exists between the real and phony Superman is now open, allowing Superman access to fake's memories just as the copy had access to Kal's. I don't know if I buy it, or why Lois' call is the trigger, or why it is even a two way street ... but there it is.

 It turns out the fake Superman is composed of alien nanites from the planet Jazuur. And these nanites had a symbiotic relationship to everything on the planet including life forms. These things cured all the ills on the planet, repairing damage to structures, the people, etc.

It was captured by the Collector but somehow could not be maintained in one of it's bottles. They exploded, the remnants of the city destroyed ... well ... mostly destroyed. A couple escape.

Again, we haven't really met the Collector yet. 

And now even more spoiling.

One of the nanites landed on the cermonial armor which now we know Superman finds on the Collector's satellite. In fact we even see Superman in the blue uniform land on Earth the first time here. I am assuming that this is a big moment in Action Comics. Now it is going to have much less of an impact. It simply doesn't make sense to link up these stories, five years apart in continuity.

More importantly, it means these nanites lived within the uniform all this time.

In the meantime, the U.S. Military isn't going to let Superman and 'this unknown girl' tear through Metropolis. They are ready to strike and are going to send in fighters. What good will that do? Other than add to the collateral damage?

General Lane calls to warn Lois to leave but she says no. Even she realizes that an air strike probably won't harm either combatant. I like the combustible relationship between the Lanes, two strong personalities.

Just as the real Supergirl is about to be killed or 'assimilated' by the nanite construct, the real Superman arrives. Superman scoops up his doppelganger, shows that this 'evil' Superman isn't him, and shouts down the incoming fighter planes. He then takes off to the arctic with the nanites in tow.

Why it's enough to make McCoy sing a different tune! But this also felt too early. I didn't like this 'distrusted' plotline, but it is here.You can't wrap it up so easily. McCoy could just as easily continue his original argument that Superman's presence brings threats the the city, now a very personal threat. It makes no sense for this plotline to be stopped so quickly. That said, it shouldn't have been started in the first place.

What we get next is a lot of explanation from Superman while he beats the nanite-creature to a pulp. And I don't know if I get it.

The short story. The nanites' programming to adjust and salvage and eradicate threats (as on Jazuur) was corrupted by the explosion on the Collector's satellite.

Awakened recently the nanites tried to conform to their environment. The first ones were shed in Superman's heat vision creating the first heat being. Subsequent use of supervision and hearing lead to the invisible one. Using his super-breath led to the creation of a cold one. These nanites thought these environments were the norm. They used humans to try to recreate the 'symbiosis' it had with the planet's populace (like on its home planet). But then it realized that Superman was an imperfection that must be removed. It thought the best way to do that was to replace Superman while making him doubt himself.

I can echo Superman in the last panel. 'How did that make any sense?'

But why did it take 5 years for these things to shed? Did they just live in the uniform during that time. Will I be thinking of these nanites whenever I read one of Morrison's stories from the past?? Should I?

And why not just assimilate with humans like on the home planet? Why not repair? Why do all this chicanery with becoming a mean Superman? I don't know if I can wrap my head around it enough for it to work.

Regardless, Superman literally punches the nanites to bits and throws them in the sun. Sort of an 'yeesh' moment.

With the battle over, Supergirl arrives for a wrap-up conversation. This is only the second Supergirl/Superman meeting. The last one ended with Supergirl taking off. This one seems much more cordial and comfortable. Maybe too cordial and comfortable? Shouldn't there be some awkwardness here given the heated way things ended. I keep hoping the cousins will become friends. But it should feel natural.

Anyways, Supergirl looks wonderful here. DC, please note how the costume looks here!

And just like that, all is well. Everyone seems happy with Superman again. And everyone is normal. The nanite effected people are back to human.

Heather is glad that Clark is visiting but understands that he doesn't love her. And a Lois/Clark relationship is strongly hinted at in the end. In a short time, we have gone a long way away from a naked guy in Lois' apartment in issue one. But, much like with the 'distrust' plotline, why open up the can of worms of Lois dating someone else and someone being interested in Clark, only to semi-shut the door on it. I actually was hoping to see more of Heather and Clark.

But this issue felt like Perez was cleaning the deck for the incoming Giffen/Jurgens team.

So, suffice it to say, I had some problems with this issue ... from the upcoming Action scenes, to the muddled explanation of the nanites and their aspirations, to the truncated plotlines (even if unwanted plotlines). Nicola Scott's art helps lift the overall grade a bit.

Overall grade: C+

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shrine: Flamebird Figure

I recently purchased at a very low price the Flamebird figure from the DC Armory action figure line. As this is a Supergirl figure ... and more importantly cheap ... I thought I should have it as part of my collection of Supergirl memorabilia.

I have to say it is a very striking figure. It comes with two heads, a Kara head and a Flamebird helmet head. I have opted to have the Kara head holding the helmet triumphantly. Unfortunately, the Kara head gives it a very long neck.

 The armor is pretty detailed. And the design of the head and hair is very nice. It is a much better figure than I anticipated.

The wings clip in as a 'ball in socket' which should mean pretty wide range of movement for them and lots of posing possibilities. Unfortunately, my figure (and therefore I assume all) has very shallow sockets meaning almost any movement has the wings pop off.  The position they are in here is pretty much the only position I can have them in. Still, there is a nice sleek metallic look to them.

Here is a pic with the Flamebird helmet on for completeness. It really is an intricate figure.

When this figure initially came out I didn't buy it because I pretty much hated the Candor story arc finding it nearly incomprehensible. This was the 'Kill Kal-El' Kara, the edgy bitchy unlikeable sort of grrrl that just didn't seem to fit Supergirl.

And, of course, given this was that Supergirl, it ends with her abandoning the people of that Kandor completely. Not exactly a hero. And this was the 'One Year Later' jump on point! Not a very nice way to introduce people to the character!

But you know what Candor did have a lot of ... needless, meaningless fan service.

Look at topless Kara get a tattoo!
Look at Kara take a shower!!
Look at naked Kara almost kiss Karen !!!

Look at Kara burn a boob window into Power Girl's Nightwing costume with her heat vision !!!!
Look at Preus grab Kara's butt!!!!!

And people wonder why I dislike the first 2 years of that comic.

Yeesh. Horrible.

But, like all the earlier warts, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle acknowledged this ugly chapter by having the Flamebird helmet be in the Closet of Solitude. That creative team had Kara put those troublesome times behind her and had her become a great hero.

Anyways, it is a nicely crafted figure and well well worth the few bucks I paid for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #6

The 'renumbered but not rebooted' Legion of Super-Heroes, as a whole, has been a mixed bag for me. It has been somewhat a comfortable comic for a longtime Legion reader for me. I know these characters and all their history; I know what is going on and I am able to fill in some of the gaps in the story in my mind. But it hasn't been exciting. And it hasn't been spectacular. This isn't a new 52 that a new reader could easily pick up.

Legion of Super-Heroes #6 slips into that comfort zone again, although writer Paul Levitz begins to put out some feelers for upcoming stories. I think that Levitz often has a long term plan in mind for the Legion, and sometimes a single page scene is there to not only catch up on some characters but to plant a seed for later. At least, I hope so. Parts of this issue also makes me think that some of the unexplained matters from the first Dominator arc, things that I wanted to see explained in LSH#4 before the arc ended, will be eventually explained.

But those future threads are just the filler of this issue. The main story in this issue is about Dragonwing and I was glad to see it. We learned a lot about Chemical Kid and Comet Queen's personalities in their time in Adventure Comics, but 'Wing always seemed to be in the background. The problem is that since we know so little about her, some of the events in this issue don't have the same impact that they might if we had more of a backstory.

One consistent thing about the Legion book has been Francis Portela's great art. I was glad to see him back on art duty here.

The issue starts with a team of Legionnaires on a mission in China, dealing with an environmental crisis and a power station off line. While Sun Boy deals with some of the heat fallout, Element Lad helps Chemical Kid kickstart the station.

I do like how Element Lad seems to be taking Kid under his wing. As I said before, their abilities complement each other very well making them a wildly powerful duo if working together. But I think it would be more interesting to read if Kid was the same brash loudmouth he was in the Adventure Comics, a good foil to the reserved Jan. However, in the last few issues, Kid seems to be suffering from an inferiority complex and shyness, the complete opposite of his earlier characterization. Too bad.

On Earth, Dream Girl fends off some amorous advances by Star Boy. With Mon-El and Brainy away on Pantopes, she has work to do.

This is one of those subtle seeds I think Levitz is planting. Remember, Levitz always had Dream Girl be smarter and more mentally strong than she lets on to be. He had her as one of the four most powerful minds in the Legion way back in the Universo Project. So my guess is she is going to uncover/discover something of import here.

Back in China, Dragonwing goes home to see her sister Bao only to discover the apartment empty and a Red Dragon sigil floating in the air.

So this is one of those things that I think fell a little short. I know almost nothing about Dragonwing. I don't know anything about her sister. Without that background, I don't know how to respond. It clearly upsets Dragonwing. But is she surprised? Disappointed? Did she have a good relationship with her sister? A bad one?

What this comic needed was a six panel flashback from 'Wing giving us broad strokes about her early life, her sister, the state of where she lived. Given her return to her home, some introspection wouldn't be awkward and is much needed. We don't see exposition like that too often anymore. Too bad.

On Panoptes, Brainy and Mon-El clean up the Dominator/Res-Vir mess.

The resolution of the Res-Vir part of the first arc was one of the things that irked me. We didn't know the hows or the whys or the whens. Here, some minor gaps are filled. The Dominator serum which gave Res-Vir his power increased his strength but would have 'burned him out' in a couple of months. As for the other soldiers following Res-Vir, they weren't telepathically controlled by Res-Vir, but were 'imprinted' by the Dominators.

Does this mean that the Dominion has sleeper agents throughout the UP? 'Imprinted' people following their commands?

We know from solicits that the Dominators are the main upcoming villain in the book. Levitz gives us a gruesome look at their culture here. There is a rule in their culture that everyone is 'food'.

Here the leader of the defeated Dominator fleet at Panoptes abases himself and is subsequently killed. It is implied that there is some cannibalism here as the slain Dominator's 'blood will serve'. Brrrr ...

Dragonwing ends up finding her sister Bao who seems to have hooked up with some bad elements in China, joining some sort of gang/political movement called the Red Dragon looking to 'Restore the Middle Kingdom'. But again, I don't know anything about her. Does she have powers. Are those her wings or tech? What is the agenda of this group she joined? Without knowing the relationship between the sisters or the particulars of this Red Dragon, I don't know how to react as a reader.

In one nice surprise, 'Wing's sharpei dog turns out to be Cham in disguise.

And when Bao's gang starts to threaten the Legionnaires, the heroes strike back. Dragonwing punching out her sister should have some resonance but as I am sort of flying blind about their relationship, it doesn't carry the same punch (pun intended). Maybe I need to go back and reread the Legion Academy issues she was in. Am I forgetting stuff?

Anyways, imagine the same above panel but with Ayla punching out Mekt. We know all about them so it would mean more.

Lovely art by Portela regardless, really great stuff.

We end with something of a cliffhanger as the leader of the movement, 'the phoenix fire of China's rebirth' shows up and he has brought numbers.

So again, I feel a bit lost here. I don't know enough about any of these characters to have any empathy for them right now. For all I know, this guy is going to say he runs a soup kitchen for the poor. So, much like last arc, I have more questions than answers and it has impacted how much I could enjoy the book.

Still, it isn't like I hated the book, because there is enough of that 'warm bath' Legion-ness here to keep an old-timer like me content. But I don't want to be content with comics. I want to be blown away.

Overall grade: C+