Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Action Comics #976


What do you do in comics when character mistakes have been made?
Well, you can reboot an entire universe if the mistakes are continuity wide.
Or you can simply ignore the mistakes and have a new creative team just start writing the character a different way.
Or you can 'soft reboot' things, change a couple of key events here and there to smooth out some of the rough edges.

Action Comics #976, the last part of Superman Reborn, does the latter. And I loved it.

There was much of the New 52 Superman that I didn't care for. Outside of Morrison and Pak, the tone just seemed way off. The usage of the supporting cast, especially Lois, was terrible. And we went from an 'I'm here to help' character to someone who mercilessly beat his helpless opponents. It was wrong.

Then Convergence and Rebirth came along and a new/old Superman and Lois were brought into the fold. Building on pre-Flashpoint continuity, the two were in love, married, and brought a more classic feel to the book. Everything seemed to be clicking.

Unfortunately, it meant you were stuck with two of each of the characters. The New 52 Superman and Lois were killed off to make things easier to follow. But how could the older Lois simply step into the younger Lois' life. How could Clark White live on a farm while no Clark Kent worked at the Planet? How did other people handle a 'new' Superman being in the ranks?

It was getting a bit confusing. Even my reviews had to say things like 'pre-FC Superman' and 'N52 Superman' and 'older Lois', etc. Things needed to be smoothed out.

That's just what Reborn has done. It might seem a bit fast. It probable will leave a lot of continuity reshuffling to the readers. And it didn't really answer the how's of all this. We still don't know who Mr. Oz is or who the mysterious 'he' who is doing all this is. But we have one Superman now, disguised as a mild-mannered reporter working for a great Metropolitan newspaper, in love with Lois, and acting as a hero. And for that, I'm happy.

I'll add that Doug Mahnke is on art on the issue and brings a nice insanity to the proceedings. Energy beings, 5th dimensional imps, decaying fantasylands ... Mahnke brings a vibrancy to it all.

Enough dawdling, onto the book.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Flash Ep 217: Duets


I have been watching the Flash show since the first season's premiere and overall have loved the show. The characters, their interactions, the deep dives into the DCU, and the personal plot lines have all made the show a winner.

You knew there was going to be a but, right.

But this season has been a bit more morose than I am used to with this show. Yes, there has been a lot of drama and depression in the first two seasons, revolving around the death of Barry's mom, the multiple supporting characters dying, the betrayal of Zoom, etc. This season has really wallowed in the depression and sadness. Everyone seems a little more sullen. Everyone is carrying some emotional burden. Barry hasn't been acting the hero.

In other words, the charm of the earlier seasons hasn't been there this season. And it was that charm that made this show such a winner.

This week, the Flash aired 'Duets', the much anticipated musical crossover with Supergirl. (It is Kara's presence that has me reviewing the show here.) And thankfully, this was a rollicking good time. The charm was back. Characters were smiling. Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time. That fun and charm just oozed off the screen.

I love that we learn how much Kara loves The Wizard of Oz, a perfect musical for her, with a female hero trying to recapture her home after being sent to someplace strange.

And perhaps most amazingly, even though this was a 'side mission', the episode moved both shows plots forward.

Suffice it to say, the family and I basically grinned for an hour. Now it doesn't hurt that the Anj household likes musicals. Maybe we were the perfect target audience.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Supergirl Ep 216: Star- Crossed



Supergirl episode 216, titled 'Star Crossed' aired earlier this week and finally revealed just who Mon-El is. It also made him a more sympathetic character when you see just what Daxam was like and who his parents are. Any time you name something 'Star Crossed', you are aiming for a Romeo and Juliet feel. And that means doomed lovers. Certainly, Krypton and Daxam could be the planetary equivalent of the Montagues and the Capulets. And Mon-El hiding his real identity for this long certainly isn't a good foundation for a long standing relationship. So I wasn't surprised just how this all played out.

This also was a similar 'crossover' episode with the Flash. We knew the musical episode of the Flash was happening the night after this aired. The teaser at the end of Supergirl is the bridge of her joining the crossover, much as the show proceeded in the Invasion crossover.

Lastly, since Melissa Benoist was probably busy filming Flash at the same time, much of this episode is focused on Winn and his relationship with Lyra. To the surprise of no one, she turns out to be a bit more nefarious. She's a villain of sorts, but the kind with a sympathetic background that makes you end up rooting for her even if she almost ruined Winn's life. Maybe this relationship was also star-crossed in nature.

As usual, Benoist really brings it this episode. She is emotionally devastated for much of this episode and she brings that sort of weight to the proceedings. Her expressions, her dialogue, her body language all screams her pain. 

I'll be concentrating mostly on the Supergirl/Mon-El plot in this review. Settle in.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art Of Gary Frank



Through the magic of the internet, I stumbled upon this image by Gary Frank, a promotional piece for a book titled GRAPHIC INK: THE DC COMICS ART OF GARY FRANK. The book is still up on the DC site despite being shelved. Here is that link: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/graphic-ink-the-dc-comics-art-of-gary-frank

I've been a fan of Frank's art since his early work on the Peter David Supergirl site. And while not from DC, I loved his work on Supreme Power. Just gorgeous stuff there.

Looking at this image, you can see the breadth of Frank's work in DC. Obviously he had some time with Superman with Geoff Johns. But you also see the Stan Lee Imagines Shazam, the Tangent Flash, Black Canary (he was one of the first artist's on Birds of Prey), and the actual Marvel Family while on Justice League (again with Johns). And his take on the Legion was great in that Action Comics run.

This is a great piece, worthy of a poster.

But you can guess the two characters that really caught my eye.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Super Sons #2


Supersons #2 came out last week and was a rollicking fun time. One of the themes of this book is clearing going to be to compare and contrast the personalities of the main characters. Jon is a bright, optimistic, sort of naive kid. Damien is a driven, sullen, but ultimately lonely dark knight in training. For someone like me who grew up with Batman and Superman being friends, I can imagine that this is how that relationship started. These boys aren't similar in any way other than their legacy and drive for justice.

This issue shows how their approaches to matters and their power set can complement each other nicely. They are solving a mystery and they are on the trail. But this is definitely an 'Odd Couple' situation. Can they get along with out beating each other up?

The story also introduces someone who could be a great arch-enemy for the sons. Are we seeing the opening chapter of a lifelong battle?

The art is just glorious by Jorge Jimenez. I love how gangly and kid-like our protagonists look. These aren't small adults. They are children and they look it. I appreciate it greatly! And the action is wonderfully rendered, stylized and snappy!

On to the book!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Superman #19

Superman #19 came out this week, the third chapter in the 4 part Superman Reborn, and it moved the story forward somewhat nicely. There are several storylines running through this issue and these titles right now and everything seems to be interconnected. Dr. Manhatten pulling the universe's strings. Mr. Oz and his machinations. Mr. Mxyzptlk and his revenge. The current split in the Superman identity. Who has done what ... if anything?

So now it is a matter of sifting through all the clues, teases, and feints to try to figure out what is causation and what is association. I am more informed, no doubt. But I don't think I actually know more. But it sure is fun trying to figure it all out.

And there is definitely the sense that we are going back to Superman Red/Superman Blue. From the next chapter's cover to the 'red energy' of Superwoman, to the coloring we have seen from the pre-Flashpoint Supes, maybe the 'split Superman' concept is back.

My review therefore will be trying to point out some of the images and interesting tidbits, both story based and metatextual, that were dropped in this issue. Creators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason bring us an insanely fast moving and surreal book. The art is wonderfully bizarre. And I ate the whole thing up like an eclair.

But how is all of this going to be wrapped up in one more issue??

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Return Of Superman Cards!


Hat tip to my blog friend @FKAJason (who runs the excellent Captain Atom Blog Splitting Atoms)  for sharing the Supergirl relevant cards from The Return of Superman card set from 1993.

As I have said in the past, the Matrix Supergirl prior to the Reign of the Supermen storyline was something of a muddle, a being totally being used in all ways by Lex Luthor. Prior to that she had been insane, wandering the cosmos, and then finally a slave of Brainiac.

But once Superman died and Funeral For a Friend and Reign of the Supermen happened, Matrix started to turn more towards the light. She started to question Lex's motives. She totally realized the hero that Superman was. She decided she would become the hero and defender of Metropolis. And she followed him into the battle against the Cyborg Superman.

This card has a great art by Jackson Guice. I love ... and I mean love ... Guice's take on Matrix. Just great.


I love how this card stresses the fact that Supergirl has become Metropolis' new defender.

And I also love that they simply say 'born in a lab on a faraway planet' instead of trying to explain the Pocket Universe in the small amount of text space they were given.

"Her brillian psionic powers make her a formidable opponent for any who cross her path!" Nice.


And there is this card titled 'Boy Meets Girl!' which uses the cover art of Adventures of Superman #502.

This was something of a high water mark for the Superman books. Guice was on Action. Here we see Tom Grummett's work on Adventures. And the running arc of the four supposed replacement Supermen was a done very well.

The idea that one of the replacements was actually Superman in some way was a very good mystery.


And given the unclear future for Superboy given his impetuous nature, this card correctly states these two could be enemies, friends, or something more.

Thanks again to @FKAJason for sharing these! And I am glad that Supergirl got some mention in this card set!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: New Super-Man #9


New Super-Man #9 came out last Wednesday and was another step forward for this book. I have been enjoying this book a bunch and this issue really highlighted all the things I enjoy. There is action. There is humor. There are subplots. And this deep look at the Asian super-community has been truly entertaining. I try not to curse the darkness. So instead I'll light a candle to praise this book.

For starters, I really love what Gene Luen Yang is doing with Kenan Kong. Our young, kind of immature, kind of jerky protagonist is trying to improve himself and become a mature and more complete hero. So even though he still is a bit silly, his ultimate goals are much more noble. He wants to learn who killed his mother and is willing to do just about anything to continue his investigation.

And I also like that Yang continues to give us Asian analogs of the more classic DCU heroes. In this issue we meet the Chinese Flash and a new team as well. I welcome this expansion of the universe!

Lastly, Viktor Bogdanovic is back on pencils and he brings a nice gritty feel to the proceedings. I think Bogdanovic shines most in the action sequences of the book. There is a dynamic feel to the battles with a sort of ever present cloud of particulate matter which gives the proceedings a sort of dirty, 'down in the muck' feel.

On to the book!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Superwoman #8


It's hard to believe that it has been 8 months since Superwoman #1 came out. I didn't know what to expect with the title when it was announced. But I knew I liked Phil Jimenez and the concept of Lois (and then Lana) acting as a superhero seemed fascinating. And the first issues were fantastic, a rich read of inset panels and interesting characterization.

Where did the book lose its way?

The last couple of issues have been scattershot. Just as chock full of panels and stories, but no where near coherent. I still don't know exactly what Lena was plotting, what was going on with the Bizarros, and how she was thwarted. And the book seemed to be veering away from solid characterization to more 2-dimensional situations for Jimenez to get on his soapbox a bit. It didn't help that the book is solidly set in the Superman book universe but seemed to exist separately. When exactly did this storyline take place? Why is this Lex portrayed so differently from the one in the main books? When did Metropolis get taken over without any Superman around?

It all comes to a boil in Superwoman #8, the finale of this first arc and Jimenez's last issue. This is a long psychological look at Lana and her issues. It involves Lois and Clark. It looks like all of this book might end up being swept away with the rewriting of Superman history in his own Reborn series. And like last month's book it comes across as a little preachy.

All this story and confusion and politicking might end up never having happened. Weird for a new book.

The art is done by the interesting mix of Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia. They bring a sort of Perez/Jimenez flare that fits the tone of the book. But most of the book is people talking so there isn't much action for them to convey. Still the emotion is there.

On to the book.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Action Comics #975


Action Comics #975 was labeled a super-sized anniversary issue and certainly delivered a bombshell of a story, revealing at last who the 'new' Clark Kent actually was. I would have never thought this person could be Clark but he was on DC's short list of suspects in an ad from last week and, sadly, the identity was leaked a day before the issue dropped.

Still, even forearmed with the knowledge that Clark turned out to be Mr. Mxyzptlk, the issue read very well. The book is split into two sections. The first story is written by Dan Jurgens with art by Doug Mahnke and show how Clark and Lois learn that Mxy is Clark and has kidnapped Jon. The second half is written by Paul Dini with art by Ian Churchill and gives us Jon and Mxy interacting in some other dimension. The halves read as separate stories but both build on one another. The reveals of Mxy's escape in the second story inform some of what happens in the first and vice versa.

As a fan of Mxy, I liked how Dini really does a good job showing all the manifestations of Mxy as if he is bigger than any universal reboot. He certainly feels a bit more malevolent in this issue. But we see all the stuff Mxy fans want to see and more. We also get him impersonating all sorts of people in Superman's past, one of whom has me scratching my chin.

So we are halfway through Superman Reborn. We know who Clark is. But how does all this roll into the Super-men and who the Man of Steel really is? I have no idea yet.

One last intro comment. I wonder if Clark being Mxy makes my guess that Oz is Vyndktvyx have better odds. On to the book:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Supergirl #7


Supergirl #7 came out this week, the first issue since the opening Cyborg Superman arc ended. Written by Steve Orlando with art by Matias Bergara, the issue is a nice breather after the intensity of that opening storyline. If you want an episode to give someone to let them see who this #Rebirth Supergirl is, this is a fine primer.

From the very beginning, Orlando said that his take on Supergirl is of a young hero who will stop you from committing crime but then check in on you to make sure you are getting better. She is someone who will throw a punch but also someone who cares deeply. We have already seen it with her visiting a the crook she threw into jail. In this issue, Orlando gives us the follow-up to his Supergirl Rebirth #1 story of Lar-On. In that issue, Kara promised she would help Lar-On. Here she shows she meant it.

The story takes place in Lar-On's mind which means it is something of a fever dream. The landscape is chaotic, ever changing, and the frightening. But it also gives Kara the ability to look into Lar-On's psyche and try to help alleviate his troubles. Lar-On's issues resonate somewhat with Kara's life which gives the book an extra level of emotional weight.

And Orlando has clear respect for the DCU history as well. We get the usual dose of references and homages which just show how rich the mythos is.

The art in the issue is by Matias Bergara. His style is semi-similar to Brian Ching's so there is a nice sense of continuity in the proceedings. Bergara really gives a sense of movement with his work. There are plenty of panels where you can feel the action  play out.

On to the book.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

DC Superhero Girls Mini-figure


As I was walking through Target to buy some last minute Valentine's Day gifts earlier this month, I stumbled across this DC Superhero Girls mini-figure of Supergirl.

I had seen this toy on Twitter when blog pals who purchased it showed it to me. But this was the first time I saw it in the wild and knew I needed to buy it.

I love this thing to pieces.

First off, the packaging is just delightful with the stars both outside the box and inside the box. It is a very engaging package.


As for the figure itself, it really just exudes joy.

This is a smiling, happy Kara flying in the clouds. The pose of a hand raised and cape flowing is wonderful.

But it is the expression that gets me. Who wouldn't be this thrilled and elated to be among the clouds!

Fantastic.

The back of the toy is pretty simple. There are nice lines to the hair and cape. But the magic of this thing is the front.

I do like the hair swooshing to the side.


The figure found an immediate home in the shrine. There is suddenly a little nook of DC Superhero Girls merchandise. This one slid right between the official toy and the Happy Meal figure.

This costume of the golf shirt and Chuck Taylors has always worked for me. On this figure it works wonderfully.

Hurray!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Supergirl Episode 215: Exodus


Supergirl Episode 215, titled 'Exodus', aired this week and was very good episode, the perfect sort of rebound episode I needed from last week's clunky fare.

My biggest gripe last week was that it seemed as if no character was thinking clearly about Jeremiah. The DEO, a black ops group that has dealt with shape-shifters and traitors just let him walk into their midst without a decent physical or mental scan. This week it felt as if there were definitive repercussions from the events of last week. People are up front and critical of each other when it comes to drawing a line between work and family, duty and loyalty. With last issues speed bumps addressed, I felt I could move on.

This season has also been interesting in how it has been using the alien metaphor to react to the current political climate of the day. With undocumented aliens being rounded up and deported in the USA right now, this episode where Cadmus is rounding up and planning to deport extraterrestrials felt all too real.

But for me, the biggest bonus of the episode was the fact that after a couple of episodes where Kara and Alex felt like they were drifting apart, we saw them come back together. In the rare combo of an action sequence and a highly charged emotional scene, the sisters reunited in a way.

Add to that a moment that made Lyra almost too good to be true, a very nice brief scene with Lena, and a small redemption for Jeremiah and you had the series get back on track for me.

Lastly, once again Chyler Leigh slaughtered it in this episode, running the emotional gamut believably and showing how savage a combatant Alex is. Seriously, I hope her performance this year will be noticed by the Emmy's.

On to the particulars.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Who is Clark Kent?



So last week DC posted this house ad claiming these are the 'prime suspects' for who the doppelganger of Clark actually is.

Now the main suspect these days seems to be Superboy Prime ... and he doesn't appear here. I suppose they said 'prime suspects' and not only suspects.

But given this list, I wonder who is most likely to turn out to be Clark.

And I wonder who you think he is. It's been a while since I put a poll up on the site. But thought I'd get a pulse check on who the leading suspect is. And since this list could be a feint, I included a Someone Else choice (although I'll ask that you leave a comment with who).

On to my thoughts about these candidates.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: DC Bombshells #23


I've been collecting Marguerite Bennett's DC Comics Bombshells from the beginning and, for the most part, I have loved it. As I have said before, this is a comic based on cheesecake statues. I wasn't expecting much. But what we have been given is an engaging war story. The initial arcs, told in the style of film genres of the time was particularly brilliant. And, no surprise, it was the portrayal of Supergirl and Wonder Woman I found most intriguing.

It all came to a head when the Bombshells finally gathered together to fight a demon battering London. Stargirl sacrificed herself to bring about victory. That issue was so powerful that a Supergirl moment landed at #2 of my Top Ten Supergirl moments of 2016.

But with that victory over, at least for me, the book sort of lost its way. Suddenly it was all about Batwoman and Catwoman. We were away from the front and on side missions. Supergirl and Wonder Woman weren't in the book at all. And there was a subtle feeling that the book made the switch from a character driven book with an underlying agenda to an agenda driven book that has some characters in it. Those books usually don't succeed with me.

It felt like I was collecting the book out of habit, reluctantly. Never a good sign for longevity.

Bombshells #23 came out this week and finally brought back Supergirl and Wonder Woman. Their chapter was a deep dive into their characters, looking at how each looks at grief. It is drawn with some grit and some grandeur about Matias Bergara. And suddenly it felt like I was reading 'my' Bombshells book again. Thankfully.

The cover is a fun look at Diana and Kara relaxing on a beach. The omnipresent 'Keep Calm and Carry On' is emblazoned in the corner. It is a beautiful image by Marguerite Sauvage. But it hardly mirrors the tone of the book.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Superman #18

Superman #18 came out this week, the first part of the highly anticipated Superman Reborn storyline. This arc supposedly will answer all the questions about the nature of the current Superman ... or maybe I should say Supermen. Between the now dead New 52 Superman, the pre-Final Crisis current Superman, and the Clark doppelganger, it is hard to keep track of who is who and what is what. Added to all this mystery is the idea that has been floated around that maybe they are all the same person somehow split. Remember, the New 52 Lois actually said she understood everything that was going on, albeit right before she died.
 
To be honest, the mystery of 'Who is Clark Kent?' has been one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Rebirth run, mostly because I haven't been able to decipher the clues. Just when it all seemed to come into focus, that he is a depowered Superboy Prime, DC threw a curveball. Prime wasn't even listed as a candidate on an official house ad. Putting all this together with the growing and now lengthy Mr. Oz enigma and you have a gripping and very entertaining Superman Family of books. While I have been enjoying all this, I am eager to get to the end and have the curtain pulled away. I want to learn who Oz is!
 
It all starts in this great opening chapter by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The creators have been focusing on the family life of Clark/Lois/Jon throughout their run and this issue is no different. We see just how their blissful their cozy life in Hamilton is, that is until disaster strikes. Those quiet opening moments make the rest of the issue feel that much more frightful. The Clark mystery remains just as baffling. All this blue energy crackling about - is it Dr. Manhatten? A Crisis riff? Magic?  And the issue starts with another look at Oz's realm. There is some information given here, images that should be stirring the pot a bit. But I remain just as perplexed.
 
Gleason is on art here. His work has that Rankin/Bass gloss that works in some scenes but seems a bit too cute in others. Still, nothing is so offbeat to pull me out of the story.
 
On to the book.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sales Review: January 2017


The sales numbers for January 2017 have been released and, per usual, I will link to ICv2 who do a great job evaluating the numbers. Here is a link to the list of the top sellers:
http://icv2.com/articles/markets/view/36797/top-300-comics-actual-january-2017

Last month, Supergirl #5 was released, the penultimate issue of the opening arc involving the Cyborg Superman. For me, this was the best issue of the series to date. It involved a dedicated and fearless Supergirl standing up to a misguided Zor-El.

So how did it sell?


The issue ranked #96 in the top 300 sellers, a slight drop from the 92nd slot Supergirl #4 resided.

The book itself sold 29,030. This was a slight drop from Supergirl #4 which sold 31K.

For me, this was actually a good sign. The book's sales had dropped pretty precipitously prior to this. I felt that Supergirl was going to be a 25K book or so. So seeing things stabilize even a little was nice to see.

Plus with the opening arc behind us, we'll see new adventures and more subplots with the supporting cast.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Supergirl Episode 214: Homecoming


Supergirl episode 214, titled Homecoming, aired this week and was, in my mind, the weakest episode of the season. That kind of surprised me. This was the episode that marked the return of Dean Cain as Jeremiah Danvers. It looked to put the major Cadmus plot line back in the spotlight. And it came on the heels of the Mr. Mxyzptlk episode which I thought was one of the strongest so for. As a result, I had high hopes for this area.

Unfortunately, I had some issues with most of what happened within the episode. There are some plot holes within the episode which are just too big to simply ignore. There are some interactions between some characters which seem two-dimensional or clunky.

But most of all, my issue with this episode was the Mon-El and Kara relationship. I understand all too well that this has been a hot button issue for this season. I get that some people look at Mon-El as a toxic personality who is slowly bullying Kara into a romance. For me, I have been able to slide by with it because, despite their differences, the two characters (I guess in reality Melissa Benoist and Chris Wood) have had tremendous chemistry on the small screen. I guess ... until last night.

This episode, more than any, showed how two very different personalities like Kara and Mon-El simply wouldn't work together. In this episode, Mon-El goes against Kara's personal wishes for privacy. And then, while prudent to be suspicious of Jeremiah's return, goes about discussing it in a bristly and boorish manner that I cringed. This was the first episode that I honestly didn't like the guy. And if you are pushing this romance at us, you need both sides to be likeable.

Now that isn't to say there weren't good moments. Chyler Leigh continues to burn up the screen with her range of emotions. The actions sequences are very well done. And Helen Slater returned and gave an honest portrayal of what Eliza must be going through.

Still, this was hardly the romp of last week. I'm not pulling any punches so this is a long review.