Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: Superman #39

Superman #39 came out this week and was a heartwarming issue, a wonderful little human delight in the midst of the comic world. Since Rebirth, writers Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi (for the most part) have brought us a kinder, more inspirational, more down-to-Earth Superman. Issues like this one definitely fit that mold.

In many ways, this felt like the occasional Christmas issue we used to get with Superman, an annual issue where we saw Superman struck by the holiday spirit and spending an issue helping the common citizen as opposed to staring down galactic threats. Here, Superman enlists his JLA friends to give a number of pediatric cancer patients a day to remember. It might sound schmaltzy but for me, these things work. While I enjoy universal punch-em-ups as much as the next guy, I want my heroes to be linked ... to care for ... the average working person.

After the Mr. Oz issues and the battle on Apokolips, this was a pause to take a breath and remind me who Superman is and what he stands for.

The art on this issue is done by a favorite of mine Barry Kitson. His low-key style works very well for such a personal story. I don't need hyper-stylized art here. Kitson brings it here. The kids look like kids. The pages flow well. And our heroes look great.

This is one of those issues I think I need to buy multiple copies of, specifically to give to non-comic people I work with. On to the book.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: New Super-Man #19

New Super-Man #19 came out last week, a rest issue as the title reconfigures into the New Super-Man and the Justice League of China title. Last issue tied up all the loose plot threads of All-Yang and I Ching and the Ministry of Self-Reliance. So why not take a moment and give us a rest issue focused on a supporting cast member.

Writer Gene Luen Yang steps aside for Mariko Tamaki to pen the book. Tamaki wrote the Supergirl Being Super mini-series and is known for her YA writing. So why not let her build up the back story of the Lois Lane analogue in the book Laney Lan. I haven't thought too much about Lan before this, thinking she was as much an entertainer as a reporter, giving us fluff pieces. Here we see she has much more behind that slick exterior. If I have a quibble it is that this story takes place long ago in continuity. She has a secret she is keeping from Kenan. But it is a secret he has already learned. As a result, there sort of wasn't a 'ka-pow' moment.

The art is by Brent Peeples, the new regular artist on the book. As usual, his work is fine, solid story-telling. I wish there was more zest or zing to this book which is supposed to be overflowing with youthful energy.

Next issue is a bold, new direction. Let's hope it picks up right where the old book left off.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Supergirl Episode 310: Legio of Super-Heroes

Supergirl episode #310, titled 'Legion of Super-Heroes', aired last night and was an extremely entertaining episode, the perfect way to kick off the back half of the season. The midseason finale ended with Supergirl battered and defeated at the hands of Reign, beaten down when Supergirl took her sister's advice to be cold and alien.

But Nietzsche said it best when he said 'battle not monsters lest ye become a monster'. This Supergirl has been struggling with being human, with being emotionally vulnerable, with being Kara this whole season. But the answer was never going to be to match brute, unfeeling force. It was always going to be winning through empathy and humanity. And this episode does a near perfect job of illustrating that ... while also dropping in a Supergirl continuity bomb that has long standing fans purring with happiness.

The episode also was Legion heavy as well. Supergirl and the Legion are as close to peanut butter and jelly as you can get, two great things which are even greater together. And the writers lean into the Legion history pretty hard, name dropping planets and Legionnaires, giving us familiar tech, and showing just how powerful a Legion team can be. (If only DC Comics felt the same!)

Another real draw here was Brainiac 5, a character with major comic history with Kara. I was one of the people who really bashed the way the character looked in preview pictures. And I have to admit, this wild-haired, blue/purple looking Brainy isn't what I would have designed. But the performance by Jesse Nath was pitch perfect, the mix of hyper-intelligent, shy, awkward Querl who is smitten with Kara. His performance sold me, so much I looked past the odd makeup.

And lastly, all this wouldn't work without the evil of Reign. Odette Anabelle is crushing it as the caring mother/malicious judge combo. Now she isn't alone. She gains an ally this episode, showing long term story thinking by the writers, and we hear that maybe there are more World Killers out there, something very true in the comics.

Long intro I know. But excellent episodes get more commentary. Onto the details!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: Superwoman #18

Superwoman #18 came out last week, the last issue in the series. I am sad to see it go. I am surprised it lasted this long.

This book has been buffeted about this last year and a half. There was outrage when the book, apparently pitched as a Super-Lois book, turned out to be a Super-Lana book. The opening story arc was muddled, cluttered, and ultimately confusing. Then the entire continuity the series was built on, that Lana received her powers from the explosion of a dying Superman, was swept away with Superman Reborn.

DC made a good move bringing writer K. Perkins onto the book to try to right the ship. There was a ton of improvements in the book. Lana still struggled with insecurity but was clearly a hero. She had a squad with her of Natasha Irons, Terri Thirteen, and Maxima! And we had Supergirl come by. At times it seemed like Lana was the only hero in Metropolis. Those high points buoyed my interest in the series.

Despite that, I still don't know if I quite understand Superwoman's origins in this post-Reborn DCU. Seriously, I'm confused. How could she have been given powers if that Superman didn't explode? It seemed like Perkins was going to explore that giving us issues where Lana disproved her powers being tech-based, seemed to learn they were Red K based, and then fell back to the Super-energy based answer.  And, to make matters worse, I only have the vaguest of notions of Superwoman's powers. I know they are energy-based. That's about it.

Given the shaky foundation, I'm not surprised sales tumbled. It would be hard enough to recover from the clunky opener and new continuity!

And yet, as I said, I am sad to see this book go. And I can lay all that at the feet of Perkins who just made this book entertaining to read even if I didn't quite follow everything. I'll miss this Lana's voice, and Maxima, and that team.

The art on this issue is by Max Raynor, someone who I have never seen before. There is a sort of Otto Schmidt/John Timms leanness to the art which is very good. And that variant cover by Emanuela Lupacchino certainly has a funereal but hopeful feel.

Be prepared to be confused ... or maybe be prepared to explain stuff to me! On to the book.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Action Comics #995

I've been a bit of a curmudgeon lately with my reviews of the Booster Shot arc here in Action Comics. I am not a big fan of Booster. I am not a big fan of 'time traveling to Krypton' arcs. And I don't know if Superman debating changing history by allowing Krypton to not explode sits well with me. Add all that up and I just haven't been enjoying this book as much as I had been. I mean, even the splash page of a possible future El Family on Krypton didn't grab me!

Action Comics #995 was, for me, the best issue of the arc. The primary reason is that I got a deeper dive into Booster's character, giving me a touch more appreciation for who he is. From his internal monologues where he seems more unsure of himself than his outer demeanor, to Skeets giving Superman a recap of Booster's origins, to Superman realizing that his life with the Kents was extremely impactful, Booster seems brighter and more relatable after this issue.

I also like Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund as an art team and they bring a very polished style to the story here. The action stuff here really crackles!

My two complaints? There was so much Booster stuff in this that in some ways it felt like a backdoor pilot for a solo Gold title. And I don't know if the 'splinter' time line with a surviving Krypton is still moving forward or not.

On to the book.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: Supergirl #17

Supergirl #17 came out this week, another chapter in this current arc of a Supergirl on the run from the DEO. Despite the danger to herself and warnings from her parents, this Kara continues to put herself out there fighting threats sent out as bait. But this Supergirl knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

Writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser continue to craft a very solid book with a powerful and inspirational Supergirl and that makes me happy. Since Rebirth, we have seen a Kara who has put the welfare of others first, refusing to let others suffer loss. It isn't just punching. It is emotional support. It is trying to talk through a problem before bashing. And it is great. If you remember this Kara's negativity and selfishness in H'El on Earth, you'll realize how great it is. Thankfully, Orlando and Houser are building on what Tony Bedard and K. Perkins did.

What impresses me about this particular issue is how Orlando and Houser use other characters as foils, showing different paths and different viewpoints to emphasize Kara's actions. For example, Starshame is a sort of Supergirl 'gone wrong'. That contrast adds weight to the story.

Plus, we finally have a supporting cast with supporting cast plotlines. This is a pretty fleshed out book right now.

The art continues to glitter on the book as well. From Artgerm's cover of Supergirl helping a toddler cross the road to the Robson Rocha Carrie-esque main cover, the book pops on the rack. And the internal art by Rocha and Daniel Henriques is gorgeously intricate in its detail. As always, the expressive work adds to the emotion of the story. The back three pages are by Julio Ferreira whose style jibes nicely with Rocha's.

On to the book.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Artgerm Variant Supergirl #18 - Daring New Adventures #1 Homage

It is a little old but the Artgerm variant for Supergirl #18 was revealed last week. And it is a retro look at the Girl of Steel, right back to her holter top, choker, and hot pants costume. And it is a 'second later' cover, building off of the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #1 iconic cover.

There is almost too much to love. From the Supergirl title font to the painted appearance of the Chicago skyscape, even the 'weathered' appearance making it look like an old comic ... the details are fantastic.

And then there is Kara herself. Look, Artgerm is a good girl artist. So there is cheesecake here. But Kara looks so beautiful and happy here. She seems confident, with her clenched fists and arms cocked ready for action. Plus, those cascading locks! It is all gorgeous.

Now listen, this isn't the current Kara. This isn't the 16 year old in high school This is the DNAOS Supergirl, a woman in her mid 20s. She looks like that.

And as many know, I have been appreciating this costume more and more lately.