Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday

Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday came out last week and was one of the more intriguing books during Villains' month. Written by Greg Pak and drawn by Brett Booth, the book isn't necessarily about Doomsday as much as it is about the El family and General Zod.

Sure, we see Doomsday, hear how he earned his name, even learn a bit about his origins. But he seems more like a plot device than a character, something to move the plot along ... like a bomb threat or a natural disaster.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is the setting, Krypton several years before its destruction. We hear from all the Els about what Doomsday meant and how he effected their world. We see a loving Zor-El (something I didn't think existed anymore) and strong Lara. And then, in a sort of story curve ball, we hear about a prophecy for the El family, one which struck me as the most beautiful segment in the issue. It weaves some of the problems I have with the current DCU in with some nice Reign of Superman homages. 

Booth brings his usual style to the book, a kinetic feel to the action sequences, a soft touch to the personal moments. But the prophecy pages stand out, drawn as a sort of 'stained glass' giving it a mythic feel. Wonderful.

The book opens with Jor-El and Lara with Zor-El and Alura celebrating 'Remembrance Day'. But no one seems happy about it. This is a solemn day, remembering a day of disaster ... a Doomsday.

I actually like this play on words. Doomsday is a day which becomes synonymous with the creature that brought on that day.

One thing that does seem a bit out of place is the interaction between these four in comparison to the prior peeks we have seen recently. Things have seemed strained ... maybe hateful ... between the El brothers but here they are together and actually quite cordial to each other. Maybe they are on their best behavior sort of like visiting relatives you dislike on holidays?

Lara was on hand as a military person on the actual Doomsday. I still am getting used to this bad-ass version of Lara. She sees the Doomsday creature land in the city, destroying buildings, killing indiscriminately, impervious to anything Lara throws against it - hand blasters and such. She says Krypton had become complacent and it showed when Doomsday arrived.

I love this panel progression by Booth. We see the current Lara remembering, the cityscape in the background. And then suddenly we are in the past, her cowering in the same panel spot, the cityscape in flames, the panels rougher. Such a smooth transition.

Doomsday seems unstoppable until Colonel Zod shows up. Armed in ancient weaponry, he holds his own against the creature. But while he battles, the city falls down around them. Thousands were killed.

So is Zod the hero?

Or is this some sly commentary on the ending of Man of Steel?

But it is interesting that Zod somehow had access to weapons that seem to work.

Before we hear how this fight ended, the group hears a squeal from inside.

It's from Kara! She's inside.

Zor-El is sent in to comfort her and he assumes she was listening in on the scary Doomsday discussion.

This is about as friendly and paternal we have seen Zor-El act since the New 52. Sure, it is clear he had a special relationship with Kara in the early Green/Johnson issues but always around battle training.

We know that Zod is in the Phantom Zone at this point because he tells Kara that he can't get to her (sort of like a Boogey Man). Remember that Zor unknowingly helped Zod with the fake Char attack (as seen in the Zod issue). Even then he seemed moody and angry with his brother. So, while welcome, it felt a little off from the villain we saw in Cyborg Superman.

I am not against this in any way. I like this Zor-El, hugging his daughter and telling her he will keep her safe. This is better than the desperate man who experimented on his daughter or the bitter man willing to risk his family's lives to one-up his brother.

Still, Kara is bright and doesn't believe in the immutable happy endings her father tells her. And so he relays to her the prophecy of the house of El.

Booth's art changes to this more angular, darker, even more stylized motif, again giving it some sort of mythic feeling.

We hear of the Knight of El, sent from his home, always using his powers to help. Always.

That's Superman.

But the people the Knight helps fear him and shun him and hunt him. I can't help but think that this is also some commentary about the current DCU. In the current New 52 world, Superman is feared by the populace, hunted by the military.

Still, when a monster ... Doomsday ... arrives, the Knight does what he must do; he helps, he saves. But then he dies. So Pak is bringing into continuity the idea of Superman dying at the hands of Doomsday.

I like the aftermath of his death. People suddenly realize what they have lost with the death of their knight. They stood alone in a dark, cruel universe. Is this also Pak talking about the New 52. That if the true Superman, the ideal Superman 'dies' then the universe is a grim place.

But that death inspires. The 'glory of the word of El' ... they help, they die, others rise to do the same.

I love this splash page, a sort of riff on Reign of the Superman. When Superman dies, others rise. There are Supergirl, Power Girl, Superboy, Steel, even an Eradicator kind of guy.

I love this page, Supergirl smack dab in the center as the logical legacy.

Just great stuff by both Pak and Booth.

Now maybe I am transferring my own issues with the New 52 onto this myth. It could easily be interpreted as a Christ story with a death, and followers arising preaching the good word.

Still Kara can't get past the uplifting ending to this myth. She wants to hear the 'true story'.

Look at this loving Zor-El again, calming her fears, tweaking her nose, telling her he will always keep her safe.

I loved this scene.

The story does take a darker turn when we see that the reason Kara squealed is because somehow Zod is able to communicate with her from the Phantom Zone.

He created Doomsday to scare the Kryptonian populace into picking up the sword. He also created the Char threat to do the same! How many plots did he have to strike terror into the heart of Krypton. Not only did he slaughter real Char, he slaughtered his own people ... both at Doomsday's hands and his own from the aftermath of the battle.

Zod is creepy, saying he wants blood ... maybe Kara's. He says he will kill Zor-El if she talks.

I wonder how long this went on in her youth. Poor Supergirl ... psychologically terrorized by Zod's phantom on Krypton. Lied to by her father. Alone on Earth. Why must DC do the worst it can to her?

I do like that we see some of the fire in even a young Kara. She defiantly stands up to him. Great pose.

But Zod isn't thrown off. He is close to being free. Doomsday is in there with him. And that El myth ends with the death of the Knight. Things are not well.

I thought this was a very good issue. I love that it is set on Krypton with a young Kara and a loving Zor-El. This is more a Supergirl story than a Superman story. I love the 'myth' sequence, bringing into play some elements of Reign of the Superman and commenting on the current New 52. I like that the threat of Zod and Doomsday is suddenly real and palpable.

And I am a big fan of Brett Booth. I loved his Supergirl in his Justice League run. And I think this Doomsday is a monstrosity of spikes and brawn. On top of that, we I love the switch in styles to create that storybook feel to the Word of El.

It is hard for me to believe I almost didn't pick up this book. I am a believer in these creative teams.

Overall grade: B+

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Off To Granite State Comicon And Scribblenauts

Heading north early today to get to the con.

Hopefully I will have great commissions and some stories to recount next week.

Anyone else going to be there? Look for the guy getting the Supergirl commissions and say hi!

In the meantime, I came across this fantastic send-up to the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 cover over on CBR here:

I don't know if I fully understand Scribblenauts, a video game which now has a DC Comics edition, but I do love this cover. I assume the 'word bubbles' are seen in the game when a character is either sad or dead. But great stuff.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: Superman #23.4 Parasite

Superman #23.4 Parasite came out this week and was a very interesting read for me. Unlike many of the one-shots I have read this month which have been unbelievably dark, there was a sense of dark humor in this issue, a welcome sort of palate cleanser after seeing Deadshot's parents and baby sister gunned down, Harley Quinn kill countless people with bomb-laden gaming systems, and the Cheetah eating the heart of her victim.

Aaron Kuder does the writing and the art in this issue and brings a new take on the Parasite as a sort of slacker super-villain.And with that basis for the character, you know there will be some sarcasm and irony soaked in. It should be obvious from the cover where a chibi-style death skull floats in the bright background. That isn't blood or viscera.

But on top of the new origins, Kuder's approach to the art is excellent as well, giving us vertical panels, splash pages, and inset panels which add so much of the story. His Parasite certainly seems to be modeled on the Frank Quitely bloated tick in All-Star Superman and any time I am reminded of that book it is a good things. But perhaps the best effect is his use of words floating amongst the art to add to the tone.

The book starts with the Parasite discussing how painful a life of eternal hunger is and deciding to end his life. In the aptly named Suicide Slum, he throws himself off the roof.

So the book opens on a sort of depressing tone with a villain so upset at his lot in life that suicide is an option. This opening made me wonder if this book would be similar in tone to the Killer Frost one-shot which really revealed a sympathetic villain struggling with her doomed existence. That didn't seem to jibe with the day-glo cute background cover.

And then we have a flashback to the Parasite's origin. Joshua Michael Allen is a bike messenger in Metropolis. He has a sort of inflated sense of self, calling himself the bike messenger of the gods and bringing each package to it's destination in less than perfect condition. When people complain about it, he acts as if it is their problem.

I do like this opening scene, eating food from one of the packages, wondering why everyone in Metropolis thinks they are so important. We get an immediate sense of who this guy is. He hates this city, hates its citizens, and probably hates his lot in life.

The 'old' Parasite got his powers when doused with toxic waste.

This Parasite gets his powers in a very different way. Perhaps the most brilliant thing Kuder does is use the 'hybrid virus' monster from the Andy Diggle era on Action Comics as a catalyst. Nelson is scooped up by the virus and has the wherewithal to go on the attack, grabbing a power line and frying to monster and himself.

Imagine, Kuder found a use for the Hybrid monster, an arc that DC might have hoped would fade in people's memories.

The downside is his leg gets broken. A bike messenger that can't ride is useless and so he is fired.

His girlfriend is upset because he can't pay her back for things she has given him so she dumps him. I love how the word parasite floats in the air, how 'dumped' is a panel to itself.

An opportunity arises when STAR Labs contacts him, hoping to test him for the residual effects of the virus and ... most importantly ... they pay.

Here he belittles the STAR labs staff member, calling her an overweight version of Velma on Scooby Doo. And the words 'jerk' and 'fool' float around him.

It is a pretty interesting character progression in the story for me. I started out feeling bad for the 'hungry' Parasite. Then I was bemused by the sardonic bike messenger who is sick of rich people and their yummy truffles. By this point, I am pretty much sick of this guy. He is a jerk and a jackass.

This middle section of the book when we meet the human Parasite is slickly ironic in tone.

Unfortunately, the STAR scans somehow unlock the Parasite powers. Big moments deserve big art. I thought this splash page was great. The cadaver-like Parasite rising from his seat (which has a coffin sort of feel to it), the drained workers on the floor, smoke billowing around ... great ghoulish stuff.

And the odd white squares on the Parasite? Cardiac monitors melted into his skin. Nice!

If there is one page that stood out above the rest it is this page, brilliant in design. We see the Parasite falling to his death as the story has caught up with the opening. Interspersed in those vertical pieces are inset panels which tell of the Parasite's sorry existence since the accident, draining people, and feeling horrible. But these insets feel like windows given the building background, windows into his past maybe? And the falling Parasite drags the readers eyes.

Superman rescues him without knowing what he is and the Parasite immediately swells. The morose deep purple becomes a vibrant electric pink. And his attitude changes dramatically. Superman is 'delicious'. The emptiness is gone. And the power ... this is probably what that bike messenger wanted in life ... power.

As I said, there is a definite Quitely Parasite feel here.

Superman quickly deduces that the Parasite absorbs energy and so a quick freeze ends things.

But the words here work so well, evoking a sort of drug addict need.

Suddenly this guy goes from a man willing to kill himself to end his pain to someone willing to do anything to get that next super-hit.

In some ways this becomes a very good book to contrast to the Killer Frost one. In that book, Frost needs Firestorm's heat to become normal. She hates what she needs to do to accomplish that, a victim of her need for energy. Here Parasite needs Superman's energy to feel better but he seems fine doing whatever he has to in order to get it.

With the CSA breakout at Belle Reve, the Parasite makes his way back to Metropolis.

The end scene is chilling as the Parasite forces a mom to drive him into Metropolis or he will drain her child to death. Now I really don't like this guy. Still, his ending line about how Metropolis has the best places to eat (Superman) is a nice wry line to end on.

So overall a very entertaining issue. I like the nonlinear story path. I like how Kuder manipulated my feelings of the main character from sympathy to hatred. And the art is fantastic, complementing the words perfectly.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Women Of Legend DC Universe Cards

The last thing my strained budget needs is an impulse buy item right at the cash register of my comic book store. But The Women of Legend trading cards have come out and I can't resist. Curse you Cryptozoic! Here is the company's page on the item:

Much like the Superman:The Legend cards, they are a tempting little treat to grab as I cash out on Wednesdays. I suppose I could buy another comic with what I spend but there is something nostalgic and kind of magical about opening that little pack and hoping you get the cards you want.

I picked up a couple of packs recently and was happy with what I got.

First of I got this card with Supergirl and Silver Banshee together, looking quite team-ish in poses.

The art is also very nice here.

But the winner was this Lois Lane card.

I love the pose and how the card says she has suspicions about Clark. All while she coyly looks away from an open window where a necktie is floating down.

Very nice.

The series has a number of bonus like cards. There are 'totally fabricated' cards which include a piece of fabric from the hero's costume. (I didn't get this one). Seems a little silly.

There are also 'Gail's picks', foil cards of the 9 women characters Gail Simone thinks are the most important in the DCU. Yes, Supergirl is one of them.

But for me the best aspect are the rarer artist sketch cards which are included in some packs. If you look around on the internet, you can see examples of them everywhere.

I love this one by Tony Perna with Supergirl in her classic Bronze Age costume flying with the Legion. Seriously, that is one beautiful card.

Will I drop as much money on this product as I did with the Superman cards? Probably.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mahmud Asrar Commission Of Variant Costume

As a Supergirl fan and a commission junkie, I love when Mahmud Asrar posts the commissions he has done for upcoming conventions. Earlier this week, he posted this on his blog:

I have seen soooo many great commissions there. I would love to get one from Asrar. But seriously, this group, with Poison Ivy and Scarlet Witch, makes me think he would do any character justice. I have even seen fantastic ones of Saturn Girl and Dawnstar on his site.

Anyways, the Supergirl one in the back caught my eye.

Asrar posted it in total yesterday on his blog. Here it is up close.

That costume in the commission is one of Asrar's costume designs for the New 52. I talked about those costume designs last year here:

Kudos to whoever asked to this commission from Asrar. That is slick and original!

I will never get sick of seeing Mahmud Asrar draw Supergirl. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Action Comics #23.3 Luthor

Action Comics #23.3 Lex Luthor came out last week, another look into the devious mind of Superman's arch-enemy. One thing I have noticed about the current Luthor is that he is truly an amalgam of the Silver Age super-scientist and the slick manipulative business man of the Byrne era. So he can be designing Bizarro monsters in one minute and destroying companies financially in another.

Most importantly, we needed this issue to bridge the gap between a orange-jump-suited, scarred imprisoned Luthor in Superman to the black suited, unscarred, free man in a helicopter in Forever Evil #1.

The story is written by Charles Soule, who has been working on Swamp Thing and is the upcoming scribe of Superman/Wonder Woman. I haven't read anything of his and I am on the fence about trying Superman/Wonder Woman so I was looking forward to reading this to get a sense of his style. He certainly has a grasp of Luthor and his feelings of being above it all. I don't know if I like this Luthor so casually killing someone himself. If you are going to have a Godfather-like CEO aspect of him, he would never get his own hands dirty on some simple underling.

The art by Ryan Bermudez is fine, mixing in good close-ups for emotion and wider shots for the action sequences.

The book opens up with Lex walking out of Hypermax prison a free man thanks to all of his lawyers.

I do like how Luthor has some very strained interactions with the guards as he leaves, showing how much they absolutely fear him despite his lack of obvious physical power.

I don't like that it was this easy for him to simply walk out. At least we know why he would stay. We get some lines about him using the time to clear his head and have things happen while he had an alibi.

This is my favorite writing in the book.

Luthor has such a bloated feeling of self-importance that he wonders why Superman isn't there to be part of his walk to freedom. He thinks Superman doesn't care about anything else but Luthor. There is some echoes of the recent Jor-El obsession by other villains. But it shows just how skewed Luthor's thinking is, how he thinks the world revolves around him. Nice.

But if Superman isn't going to show up, Lex will make him. He has his assistant, a young woman named Casey, initiate Project Ghost Town.

Back in the comforts of LexCorp tower, Luthor picks up where he left off.

He lines up starlets for dates, rejecting the advances of others.

He also casually set up to destroy another businessman, Noel Spheeris, who is trying to take over a Lexcorp subsidiary.

He has surgeons remove the scar tissue. (I wonder why he didn't do that earlier?). I also think it isn't wise to have surgery in the middle of a foyer as opposed to the sterile environment of an operating room.

There is a good dollop of vanity, of narcissism here ... Lex preening before a mirror.

And with his face fixed, Luthor begins surveying the other projects he is working on.

He walks by the B-0 project, the eventual Bizarro. We get another kernel of this story. It sounds like the cloning process is a 10yr deal. We are 5 years down.

At least now we know why Bizarro will be Bizarro. It isn't an imperfect duplicate. It is an underdone clone. Just when will Bizarro get released? Somewhere in Forever Evil right? I would love to see an Ultraman vs Bizarro throwdown.

Wouldn't that be a great twist? You heard it here first - Luthor needs to save the world (or himself) from Ultraman and so has to free Bizarro earlier than he wants.

Evil business man, squashing competitors. Check.
Evil scientist, trying to clone Superman. Check.

Evil scientist wearing battle armor. Check.

It even has the classic green/purple color motif. I do find it amusing that part of the practice targets are Superman mannequins.

Project Ghost Town turns out to be firing a shuttle up into orbit and having its engines fail. The Lexcorp crew hit the airwaves asking Superman to save them.

Of course, the crew thinks that they can reignite the engines. So when Superman doesn't show up, they hit the switch. But this is Luthor we are talking about. The engines don't reignite and the shuttle crashes to Earth, killing the crew.

And throughout the issue we see Noel Spheeris slowly destroyed ... first financially, then personally, and finally physically and the shuttle debris hits his mansion, killing him. To be honest, I thought that this last touch was just a bit too much, too over the top for someone like Luthor.

Luthor's assistant thought the Ghost Town plan was for Luthor to don the battle armor and save the shuttle himself. But Lex had different ideas.  Why risk failing when this can be a pure disaster for Superman as it is.

Casey is so shocked by this complete disregard for human life that she tries to call the police. Luthor tosses her off the roof of his skyscraper.

Again, I think this is just a bit too much. Luthor wouldn't dirty his own hands like this. Instead, Casey would simply disappear.

Ryan Bermudez' art was solid throughout but this panel was absolutely wonderful.

Luthor is drawn small before the skyline of Metropolis, before the very sky itself. You would think that this would make Luthor seem little. Instead, Bermudez is able to connote defiance in Luthor's body and stance. He isn't small against this world, he is staring it in the face ready to conquer it. I like how Luthor is looking up at the heavens as if to say 'here I come'. There is a sort of 'David vs. Goliath' feeling her which works

I certainly have read plenty of stories recently - in Adventures of Superman, in Sholly Fisch's Bizarro - that shows just how callous Luthor is, how he considers most life simply below him.So there wasn't necessarily that much new here. But the linking of recent history to Forever Evil was appreciated. And this last panel raises it above just a smidge. And the Bizarro reveal (and prognostication on my part) also elevates this a bit.

Will this make me buy Superman/Wonder Woman? I was on the fence for even trying it. This was solid enough that I suppose I will be in for the first arc and will readdress after that.

Overall grade: B/B+

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tony Bedard On Newsarama

The big recent Supergirl news has been a creative team turnover with Tony Bedard taking over as writer and Yildiray Cinar taking over on art. This'll be the third creative team on the book in the first 2 years, a sign that DC is still trying to figure out exactly what they want to do with the character as well as stabilize sales.

We had a year and a half of Mike Johnson (and initially Michael Green) with Supergirl landing on Earth and being lost, learning about her troubled past. Michael Alan Nelson took over on issue #20 with a great Power Girl cross-over only to bring the series to an even darker place than before.

It just seemed to me that every time Kara was about to turn the corner in the book, start to embrace Earth as home, and maybe become a hero something made the book backtrack. First it was H'El on Earth. Then it was Zor-El and Cyborg Superman. Most likely Krypton Returns won't help matters.

Anyways, Tony Bedard is taking over and started the publicity trail with an interview on Newsarama. Here is the link:

As always, it is well worth reading the interview in its entirety so head there please. One of the things that I like here is that Bedard immediately says he wants to make Supergirl likeable and to move her more towards the light. Unlike past interviews about Supergirl, it isn't backed up with the caveat 'but it's dark ... really dark'! I still am a bit riled when Bobbie Chase laughing as she says the title is dark when Nelson was announced.

Okay enough dwelling on the past. Let's hear what Bedard is thinking.

Newsarama: Tony, as a writer, what do you think is the most compelling thing about writing Supergirl?
Tony Bedard: As a creator, any time you take on a character with that big "S" on their chest, you've wandered onto holy ground. Superman is the superhero, the one from which all others descend. So it's both thrilling and a little intimidating to handle one of the Superman family characters, and I've never been more committed to doing a character justice. I guess the trick is not to let my reverence for Kara keep me from taking chances with her. I want to be true to her roots and yet surprise readers every month by showing what makes Kara Zor-El unique in the Superman universe.

Remember, Bedard wrote Supergirl before, in the last title and in R.E.B.E.L.S. Both of those quick stops showed that he seemed to grasp who Kara was (or should be). And so I am not surprised to read that he as a reverence (!!) for Supergirl as a character. To hear him say he is committed to doing a character justice is also reassuring for me. Incredible.

I would love to ask Bedard if he has been a Supergirl fan in the past. I bet if I asked him about her, he would talk about prior runs. Unlike other writers who seem to have no sense of her history, this sounds great! He wants her to be faithful to her root but surprise people.

Nrama: A lot of your fans will remember that you've written Supergirl before (although it was a different version of Kara). What is it about Supergirl as a character that's appealing to you as a writer (making you want to take another shot at writing her)?
Bedard: Well, despite her pedigree, Supergirl remains a bit of an untapped character. She's mostly been defined by her relation to Superman, and I want to do everything I can to make her special in her own right. If she can emerge from Superman's shadow the way Nightwing did from Batman, that would be the ultimate success. But first let's just get her back to Earth and remind everyone how much there is to love about the Girl of Steel.

I really got the sense that the last Supergirl was finally out of Superman's shadow. Between Sterling Gates' stories and her stint on the JLA with James Robinson, she really seemed to be grasping her own destiny.

This current Supergirl just seems completely lost right now. Heck, she is crying alone and disintegrated as I write this. So I hope that Bedard is able to finally bring her into the spotlight. The Nightwing analogy is the best one. After all, they were the World's Finest in the JLA run.

Nrama: Over the last two years, we've been seeing Kara figure out what her role is on Earth. Is she still figuring that out as you take over? Where's her head when you start your first story?
Bedard: I pick up Supergirl just as she's returning to Earth from the events of "Krypton Returns" that will run through the Super-books this Fall. I'm not going to spoil anything that happens there except to say that Supergirl plays a big part in that event and the experience is emotionally wrenching. And if you've been reading Supergirl from the start you know that Kara's life was already one heartbreak after another since she got here. So she shows back up on Earth on the brink of breaking down and her only friend, Siobhan (aka Silver Banshee) is still mad at the lousy way Kara ran out on her a few issues ago. Kara will end up seeking the counsel of a major new player in the Superman Universe and her clash with Lobo will push all her buttons.

Can I say that I am completely scared that 'Krypton Returns' is going to be awful? To hear Bedard say that she is emotionally wrenched makes me even more worried.

I can only hope that from the ashes, Bedard can have her rise above.

But I do like that Kara will seek counsel from a 'major new player' in the Superman universe. Who could that be?

Nrama: Are there any areas that are going to get a focus once you take over Supergirl? Which concepts/characters/corners in Kara's world are you hoping to give the spotlight?
Bedard: I think it's natural for a sixteen year-old, even an alien sixteen year-old, to have her share of angst and uncertainty, but I don't want her to be Super-mope. I'd rather remind folks why she is likable and not have her come across as whiny or bitter. We need to see an upside for Supergirl, and her friendship with Siobhan is one good way to get there. Yeah, they still have to patch things up after Supergirl basically ran off to go die in space, but Siobhan is a real human connection for Kara — a way to feel like she does have a place on Earth and someone to care for. I'm not saying that Kara's life is suddenly going to be a cakewalk, but making Kara likable and building up her rogues gallery are the two big missions I'm focusing on at the moment.

I think this answer stands on its own. It does echo exactly what I have been feeling.

She shouldn't be a mope; she needs to be likable. She shouldn't be whiny or bitter.

It won't be a cakewalk. (I call it saccharine.)

Great stuff.

Nrama: As long as we're on the subject of rogues, it looks like the first rogue to go up against Supergirl is Lobo. What can you tell us about Lobo as you're writing him, and what's it like when he mixes with Supergirl?
Bedard:  [...] At the end of the day, though, this is not a story about Lobo. It's Supergirl's book and it's her story. Lobo is there as a sort of dark reflection of her. They're both super-powerful loners left over from dead planets. Lobo has channeled his power and rage into becoming the most dangerous bounty-hunter/assassin in the galaxy. Supergirl's still trying to figure out what to do with her power and her lot in life. Tangling with Lobo will show her one path she might go down. It's really a cautionary tale for her, and she'll come away knowing that she could easily end up like him if she doesn't get her act together.

There is more to this answer. But I included this paragraph because I thought it was great. The idea of Lobo being a dark reflection of ..., a cautionary tale for ... Supergirl is great. It shows a depth of thinking here. His actions will make her get her act together! Again, Reign could have been that character. In fact, I thought that after she saved Manhatten from the World Killers I thought the triumphant Supergirl would move forward. Instead she became more mired.

And I am not a Lobo guy, so silly bruiser biker of svelte killer ... it doesn't matter.

Nrama: Any other goals you have for the Supergirl title that you want to tell fans as they look forward to your run?
Bedard: It's still early days and I'm talking through the possibilities with my editor Rickey Purdin, but we have some very cool ideas for who to pit Supergirl against down the line — stuff you wouldn't expect and villains that say a lot about who Supergirl is and who she isn't. Who knows, maybe she'll even find someone to date who isn't trying to destroy the planet behind her back? Plus, there's the all mani-pedi issue. Just kidding about that last one.
The truth is that over my career I've had my brightest spots doing either cosmic stuff (Negation, Exiles, R.E.B.E.L.S., Green Lantern, Green Lantern: New Guardians) or books with young female protagonists (Route 666, Rogue, Birds Of Prey). Supergirl gives me a chance to combine the two and I couldn't be happier about that.

So Rickey Purdin has been editing for a while ... albeit with Eddie Berganza. Will Berganza force his 'bad grrl' vision on Bedard?? I hope not.

And I wouldn't mind seeing Supergirl in a cosmic style story at some point. But I really think that she needs to become much more established on Earth before we move there.

Bedard certainly has a pedigree that I like. And he sounds so optimistic about Supergirl. Not cautiously optimistic ... not optimistic but in a dark dark book. But optimistic!

So onwards and upwards!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Granite State Comic-Con

Next week at this time, I will be heading up the highway to Manchester New Hampshire for the Granite State Comicon, one of my favorite local conventions, and one (like the Boston Comic-Con) that seems to be growing each year. Here is the link:

This used to be the con I would head to so I could buy tons of comics. The mission was always to thumb through dealers boxes and buy and buy and buy.

But each year more and more artists are coming and this turns into another convention where I am trying to line up commissions! And there are a couple of great ones coming ... so we'll see if I get lucky.

Aaron Kuder is going to be there. Kuder will be taking over Action Comics as artist soon, joining writer Greg Pak. But I have liked his art style on Legion Lost, Lobdell's Superman and Green Lantern New Guardians.

After seeing his rendition of Wonder Woman, Dawnstar, and Yera, I think his Supergirl would be great.

A Kuder commission is my number one goal for this con.

Jeremy Haun will also be attending. Haun is best known for his work on The Darkness but he also was recently named as the artist on Batwoman once JH Williams time is done.

So Haun is also someone I will be hoping to grab a commission from as well.

And Art Baltazar, of Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures will also be there. I loved both of those books, especially the love that they showed Supergirl. I met Franco Aureliani at the Boston show a couple of years ago.

I would love to get a Baltazar commission. The dream would be a page that had both the Tiny Titans and the Superman Family Adventures version on the same page.

So those are my top three commission hopes.

But in case some of those don't happen, there are plenty of other creators who grab my attention.

JK Woodward, who was the artist on most of the IDW Fallen Angel series, and did the series in paint (!) will be there.

I consider Lee as some sort of Elseworlds Supergirl so I will at least have some issues for him to sign.

Renae DeLiz will also be there. DeLiz is the guiding creative force behind the Womanthology projects and is currently doing a Kickstarter Peter Pan book. A while back she posted pictures of an Amethyst reboot she wanted to do. Now that is a book I would buy!

I don't know if DeLiz does convention commissions but it can't hurt to ask.

And Ethan Van Sciver will also be there. I already have a couple of Van Sciver commissions, so I doubt I will get another, but he would be a premier artist for someone else to pick up!

The list goes on - Rebekah Isaacs, Joe Eisma, Mark Texeira, Dan Parent ... etc. And I haven't even mentioned the My Little Pony group - Katie Cook, Andy Price, and Amy Mebberson.

Anyways, this will be a busy con for me and that is a good thing.

Anyone else going?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review Superman #23.3 H'El

I have been pretty blunt in my assessment of the arc H'El on Earth which ran through the super-titles several months ago. It was at times inscrutable. The characters were often written in ways that did not jibe with their personalities. H'El had little or no back story, little or no description of his powers and there was little discussion about how he was accomplishing his plot. Despite the heroes' efforts, H'El accomplishes his goals. And, as I have said over and over, Supergirl really drew the short straw, being played as an overly emotional, ignorant patsy who tries to kill the villain in the end. Suffice it to say, I wish H'El was even farther in my rear view mirror.

Then I heard that Scott Lobdell was writing the sequel to H'El on Earth called Krypton Returns. And the first chapter would be a H'El origin story in Superman #23.3 H'El. The announcement didn't exactly thrill me. H'El on Earth was a disaster. Why would I want a sequel this quickly? And with Lobdell driving the ship, including co-writing the Supergirl issue, I have to worry that Supergirl will be mistreated again.

H'El #1 does give us some of H'El's origins, although it adds a bunch of questions as well. And it also piles on the latest DCU trope - that Superman's enemies are often completely obsessed with Jor-El. First we had Cyborg Superman/Zor-El. Then we had Brainiac. Then we had General Zod. And now we have H'El. It is pretty strange to see so many villains have this psychological flaw.

Perhaps what is worst of all is that Jor-El gets sullied a bit in this story as well. It was bad enough he built a mind control machine in Lobdell's World of Krypton arc. Here, he is cocky and condescending. He's the smartest man in the room and he is going to let you know it by putting you down if you disagree with him. This is a young Jor-El but a far cry from the noble and staid scientist I am used to.

Dan Jurgens and Ray McCarthy provide the art for the book and they bring a quiet crispness to the story, a sort of easy and comfortable art that lets the story unfold nicely.

The story starts where H'El on Earth ended, with a wounded H'El being discovered by and cared for by Jor-El. Physically incapacitated by psionically roaming, H'El nurses his physical wounds.

I have to laugh at H'El's pining over Kara's 'betrayal' when he lied to her and physically abused her. So the fact he still is questioning how she could reject his love is ludicrous.

I also think that it is amusing that Jor-El talks about Kryptonite so matter-of-factly since we know Kryptonite was created by the force of the planetary explosion. Did he just name the substance right there? How do people know what he is talking about?

It is small things like these inaccuracies and inconsistencies that add up and detract from my ability to enjoy the story.

At least we finally get some understanding of how H'El got his powers. He is definitely Kryptonian. And his cells are crackling with many different types of galactic energy. As a result, he has psionics and telekinesis and time travel powers as well as the usual complement of strength, etc. It opens up some possibilities for Superman and Supergirl, maybe even explaining her solar flash power.

Since those energies aren't on Krypton, H'El must have gone out into space. And since Kryptonite could only be created by a planetary explosion and H'El had some, he must also be from the future. But when?

It is one thing for Jor-El to be happy about his theories. It is another for him to tell his partner Orla he doesn't care to hear from people who disagree with him.

And then we get some Jor-El love.

When Jor-El runs off to the Science Council to discuss his findings, H'El follows along psionically.

His talk of Jor-El almost sounds like a bad love poem:
"The smartest among them
Are forever in the shade
That is his blinding sun."

I can imagine Jor-El standing in front of Brainiac, H'El, and Zor-El and saying 'you're all pretty!'

Jor-El then heads to the council and tells them everything - about the Kryptonite - meaning Krypton is doomed. Of course, this is the inherent problem with time travel ... for all Jor-El knows H'El is from a millenia in the future. So without concrete evidence, it seems a bit foolish to try to whip the council into action now.

One interesting piece is the council saying that Jor-El is only on there out of deference to his father. Have we ever heard much about Jor-El's father? And how interesting that it would be Jor-El on the council, not the elder Zor-El. Even more familial jealousy.

Now here is the most cringe-worthy panel in the book.

Remember, H'El is trying to stop Krypton from exploding. Jor-El just gave the council their first warning about Krypton's destruction only to be rebuffed.

H'El thinks about killing the council members ... but he has to be careful not to have his 'actions alter the future.;


Your whole purpose is to alter the future! That is all why you are in the past!!! 

It is ridiculous to have him say that.

Despite not knowing when Krypton will explode (remember it could be any time in the future), Jor-El decides to push forward a secret project he is working on. He decides that he will create a sort of time capsule of Kryptonian artifacts ... as well as some Kryptonian cells ... and send them into a whirlwind tour of the galaxy to see what will happen when the cells absorb all the different energies. (One of the 'artifacts' looks suspiciously like the Codex skull from Man of Steel.)

Jor-El tells Zod of his plans and Zod doesn't actually try to stop him from going through with the plans.

H'El, there astrally, sees the 'time capsule ship' and realizes it is 'his' ship. The ship's name is House of El ... truncated it is H'El. The memories H'El being sent off by the masses, as a life of an astronaut, as a life as friend with Jor-El ... none of that actually happened.

That's right, everything was a lie. Suddenly he sees the truth.

Enraged and irrational, H'El jumps out of the medical bay, slaughters the scientists and guards around him, heads to Jor-El's lab, and kills Zod! He then alters the cells on the ship to be his cells. And so we finally see how H'El gained his powers. It is his cells which drink in all the other energies.

So he creates himself. Ahh ... time travel paradoxes.

But ......

But somehow cells in a petri dish grow and form a fully grown man? One that learns Kryptonese? Was he ever a toddler?  Where did those pants come from? Why does he think he lived on Krypton? Why travel the universe to get to Earth? Why not use his temporal powers to go back in time right then?

And why carve the backwards S into your chest?

This origin makes less sense than the astronaut one.

And then he suddenly changes his tune. He doesn't want to save Krypton ... he wants to rule it.

He kills Jor-El! And then, I assume, heads back in time to start to take over in the past.

So lots of things need to be fixed in this new mangled timeline, explaining why the upcoming story is happening. Interestingly, the rewrite could also be a reboot. Maybe time gets changed so Zor-El isn't so awful. Maybe Jor-El will have less of an air of superiority.

I doubt any of that will happen. But this opening chapter doesn't make me think that Krypton Returns will be any better ... or easier to comprehend ... than H'El on Earth.

Maybe, if I am lucky, when the timeline is righted, H'El will never have existed!

I couldn't be that lucky.

Overall grade: C-