Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Action Comics #889

With War of the Supermen just a few days away, we have basically reached the end of the 'Year Without Superman'. And that means we have reached the ending of the Nightwing and Flamebird storyline in Action Comics. What started as a seemingly simple action story - 2 heroes hunting down 6 fugitives - somehow mutated over the last 14 issues to an analysis of Kryptonian mythology and deities.

Action Comics #889 had the tough task of wrapping up this story in a short 22 pages. And there were 2 levels of this story to complete - the 'on the ground' story of heroes trying to stop the runaway Rao and the 'Kryptonian gods' story of Nightwing/Flamebird/Vohc. Both are big plots with big moments and, as such, I expected a big finale. Unfortunately, this arc ended with a bit of a whimper rather than a bang. I have seen understated endings in massive stories like this too many times to count ... the punched hole into a new reality in Akira, the school stage morality play in Neon Genesis:Evangelion, Supergirl's hug of the Carnivean in Supergirl #50 (vol 3), even the miracle machine ending of Final Crisis ... and I usually feel disappointed. And to be honest, I felt a little disappointed here too.

Back in the sands of the Middle East, combined heroes from the JSA and JLA as well as Flamebird just can't seem to get anywhere in their efforts against the Rao construct.

In fact, the 'godling' is so full of energy that he begins to form a gravity well, a sort of small big bang, which will destroy the world. As the heroes swarm around Rao, Flamebird and Vohc continue to spout venom at each other.

When things seem their worst, and some of the heroes are in danger, Chris shows up as Nightwing manifested and helps in the rescue efforts.

There are some interesting things here. While we have seen a lot of the Thara/Flamebird relationship, this is the first time we have really seen Chris/Nightwing. We read Nightwing's thoughts ... about how his 'hiding in the shadows' of the universe means he sees and knows all ... and how that sudden ascension in Chris is dismaying and difficult for the young Kryptonian. I like how the visual of Nightwing includes multiple shadows of himself lingering around.

Vohc continues to fume like a jealous school boy, how Flamebird spurning him will lead him to destroy the universe. While Wonder Woman and Dr. Fate try to beat the logorrhea out of him, Nightwing and Flamebird (the deities) are finally reunited. This reunion was a major part of the undercurrent of this title. Remember, in the past, their reunion has always led to either ruination or one of the two dying.

In the meantime, Rao final begins to manifest a 'black hole' like phenomenon around his body. The Kryptonian heroes fly into the swirling mass to get to Rao's 'twisted diseased heart', a dying collapsing star. Vohc is also in here and the three skirmish more.

Are those Rao's ribs? Are we literally in his body?

And so we come to the understated ending to this god-war.

While Nightwing hangs back for some reason, Flamebird dunks Vohc in the internal red sun, burning away the Vohc persona from Jax-Ur. Throughout the fight, Vohc continues to sound like a petulant kid with a crush. Even his dying words are that he just wanted something for himself, something that he could create that Flamebird would not destroy.

While I know that other 'gods' are often portrayed as overly emotional adolescents (the Greek Gods for instance), this tantrum seemed like a pretty silly reason to try to destroy the universe.

And then the second part of the understated ending. Chris/Nightwing simply absorbs the 'sun' threatening the Earth. So much for that threat. Seems like a little bit of a cop-out. But without it's heart, Rao simply falls.

Again, there is some interesting bits here. Nightwing casts the Vohc being and the sun into the new Phantom Zone. In fact, that explains the recreation of the Zone, as the Kryptonian 'builder god' goes back to building.

Nightwing also says that somehow he has changed, has become different. This might explain why the outcome of this reunion is somewhat different.

With the god-war over, Nightwing and Flamebird become Chris and Thara once more and share a kiss. Unlike the doomed lovers before, this Nightwing and Flamebird will be 'never apart'.

Since Kryptonians are still illegal on Earth, the JSA shoo them away.

The story ends somewhat ominously with Luthor somehow on scene grabbing samples of Rao.

So what can I say. Does this ending satisfy? I feel like this whole investigation into Kryptonian mythology was sort of a left-hand turn from where this arc started. And I don't know if the motivations of the gods translated well to this Rao-battle. And I don't know if some of the questions I was hoping to be answered ... Chris's age jumps, the new Phantom Zone ... have been answered.

On top of that, the understated ending with both threats sort of fading away seemed ... well ... underwhelming. And frankly, it wasn't the ending of Nightwing and Flamebird's story. They fly off happily; their story ends in War of the Supermen.

I looked back at my reviews of the first couple of issues of this run, the blood-soaked action-packed battles with Tor-An and Ursa. They were over-the-top giddy fun. These last issues just seem to have become a bit bogged down.

There was a surprise in the Captain Atom back-up feature when an ogre who had been fighting alongside the hero revealed himself to be Mordru. When Atom realizes that he has aided a villain, Mordru says that the morals of Earth are different than those of Sorcerer's World ... what is evil on Earth isn't necessarily evil here.

It does remove Mirabai from the War of the Supermen story. It seems a little off that she was ubiquitous in earlier issues of the New Krypton world only to be removed in the back-up feature.

I don't envy the writers here. Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann brought the story up to the level of deities. Sometimes I wonder if writing about near omnipotent beings makes a tidy conclusion impossible. The art throughout the book ... from Alex Garner's spectacular cover, the Pere Perez' smooth lines, to Cafu's slick work ... was great.

I do hope we get to see some sort of conclusion to the Thara/Chris story in War of the Supermen. If they are only in the background and fade from the DCU, I'll be unhappy.

Overall grade: C

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SCBC Is Two Years Old!

About 2 and a half years ago I created a blog called Comic Box Commentary, the plan being to review any comic, movie, TV show, or anything else pop culture that I felt was worthy of some words. With a canvas that big, I never got off the starting blocks.

It was two years ago today that I decided I needed a finer focus. And what better focus than my favorite character Supergirl.

I renamed the blog Supergirl Comic Box Commentary (that name just does not roll off the tongue) and started posting. I had no idea, even with the new focus, if I would have the time or the tenacity or the talent to keep the site running in any sort of worthwhile capacity.

And yet, here we are.

I have had so much fun blogging about Supergirl that I can't imagine having not done it.

While Supergirl obviously remains the focal point, the scope has widened a bit to include reviews of the Superman titles and even Adventure Comics and R.E.B.E.L.S. It might widen a bit more if I review Legion issues like I plan to.

But this is primarily a Supergirl blog and I wouldn;t have it any other way. I feel like I have met many Supergirl fans here and made so many new friends. It has been great to finally realize that I am not alone in being a big Supergirl fan ... that there is truly a fanbase for Kara ... a group of people who follow her adventures and care about her stories.

To everyone who stops by and reads my rambling wordy posts, thanks you so much for visiting. If you take the time to post a comment, thanks so much letting me hear your thoughts. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the dialogue here.

To the 'regulars' who visit and post and make this such a great forum on Supergirl, thanks for keeping the discussions going and keeping me honest with my analysis and grades. I would thank you all individually but I am so afraid I would forget someone unintentionally. I think you know who you are. You are the best!

I feel I have learned so much about Supergirl and comics in general from everyone here. And I think I am a better comic reader because of what happens here. I love hearing the differing opinions and everyone's analysis and guesses. And I am glad you put up with my overly long reviews and super-analysis of panel composition and word play.

And thanks again to the comic professionals who have stopped by and posted - Sterling Gates, Jamal Igle, Landry Walker, Eric Trautmann, Cliff Chiang, Jake Black, Matt Camp, and Jimmy Palmiotti. I think fans are always thrilled to find out that creators are listening to their compliments and concerns.

With a somewhat set pattern of reviews, sales analysis, solicits, back issue trips, general news, and the occasional poll/shrine addition/commission post, I don't know if I have any 'bold new direction' for year 3 of SCBC. Still, I would love to hear suggestions on how to make the site even better for the Supergirl community out there. Is there something you would like to see that I am not doing? Something I should be doing more? Or less?

Anyways, thanks to everyone again for making the last two years so much fun. I hope you all have enjoyed visiting here as much as I have enjoyed blogging.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #15

After I read last month's conclusion to the Starro saga in R.E.B.E.L.S. #14, I wondered in just what direction Tony Bedard would bring the book. There was no need for 'bold new direction' here ... but the Starro story was the backbone for the first year of this title. With that conflict resolved, what would these characters do?

So I picked up R.E.B.E.L.S. #15 with more than the usual interest. I knew that Starfire was joining the book. And this beautiful cover of her certainly stood out on the rack. But what about the mainstays?

Would Dox be revered as the hero he claimed he was at the end of last month? With the threat of Starro and 'starfish assimilation' removed, why would any of the other team members (outside of Wildstar) stick around? Why should Ciji ... or Xylon ... or Adam Strange .. or Captain Comet ... why would any of them want to stay with Brainiac?

I was hoping I might get some answers here. I got some ... but not as many as I hoped. To be honest, I don't envy writer Tony Bedard. He basically has to completely reset the motivations and machinations of everyone and everything in this book. His biggest asset here is the character of Vril Dox. If any character can keep a book interesting, it's him.

So this issue acted as that sort of thematic reset button. We saw the beginning of some new plots, some new characters, and a new outlook for the team. In some ways, it felt like prologue. We are setting up the main plots that are going to be happening soon.

One thing I think Bedard did right is keep Dox away from adoration and respect. Despite having claimed to have defeated Starro on his own and saved the galaxy, Dox is actually shunned by the people of the worlds he saved. There is even a bounty on his head.

I am think this is the right way to go for this book. The name of the team is R.E.B.E.L.S. Dox should work outside the various administations of the galaxy. Plus, his character is so much more captivating when he is talking down to people, letting others know they are wrong and then proving it. If he was in charge and everyone agreed with what he said, that aspect of his character is gone. He is so much better as a sort of unlikeable and arrogant hero. It is that friction he brings to other characters that gives this book it's juice.

The citizens of the galaxy don't like Dox because his L.E.G.I.O.N. forces were the inroads Starro used to take over the nearby planets. Dox actually gets blamed for how successful the Starro wave was in the taking over the galaxy. If Dox had done his job, Starro would have lost long ago. Instead, Despero is given the hero's treatment.

In a great sequence, an assassin actually takes a shot at Brainiac. Dox asks Captain Comet to use his telepathy to find the gunman, but he can't. Almost everyone wants to see Dox dead. Comet can't initially pinpoint where the triggerman is over all the anti-Dox sentiment.

When the 'hero' of the book is wanted dead by the majority of a galaxy ... well that's just original. It is that dynamic that keeps this book vibrant to me.

Unfortunately, not much is said here about why these characters are sticking together. Maybe Xylon feels shame for losing his battles and that's why he isn't returning to the Dominion. But I still don't know why Ciji, or Amon Hakk, or Captain Comet would want to continue to hang around.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, a transport ship is boarded by Tamaranian pirates posing as L.E.G.I.O.N. officers. Like most pirates, they think they are to grab some booty. Instead they find that the 'booty' on board is Starfire (hee hee).

Of course, this is Starfire ... so she is drawn in a sexy way, in a state of undress. In some ways, it it gratuitous. In other ways, it is part of her character, that passion, that sensuality. Claude St. Aubin draws a pretty statuesque Kory here. I bet a lot of artists love drawing her character.

Unfortunately, I haven't read Titans or any of the other DC cosmic titles (like the Rann/Thanagar stuff) to know much of the back story here.

Apparently Tamaran has been destroyed, Blackfire has been Queen but has had troubles holding the refugees together. The pirates are deserters from the Tamaran fleet.

Being a warrior princess, Starfire makes short work of the pirates and decides to finish the trip to her homeworld's space on her own.

And I felt even more behind the times to find out Rann has been 'sterilized by a god-like being' and is currently a deserted wasteland.

Even desolate, Adam Strange thinks Rann would make a good R.E.B.E.L.S. base. He is also hopeful that maybe Dox can help revive the planet.

And as usual, Dox has a plan. But he only gets to it after dressing down Sardath, Rann's resident genius scientist. It is these moments, when Dox acts so smug to characters that just drives this book. I mean ... Sardath invented Zeta beam technology and protected Rann for years. You would think he deserves a modicum of respect. Still, Dox insults him calling him fatalistic and that he is 'lacking imagination'. Just wonderful.

It is even better when Dox does indeed state he has aa plan to save Rann, basically shutting up Sardath.

Meanwhile, 'galactic hero' Despero is about to decapitate Starro when the execution is suddenly interrupted. Astrild Stormdaughter and Smite have come to save him.

I wondered where Astrild Stormdaughter's alliance would lie once freed from Starro's rule. While all the Starro vanguards joined him of their 'free will', her joining (as seen in R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual #1) was also a complete mental and philosophical defeat. Unlike Smite who joined with the promise of power, Stormdaughter joined because she was traumatized into thinking Starro's viewpoint was right. I was disappointed but not surprised to see that she is still under her sway.

Smite realizes that Starro is still his best path to higher power.

I was also glad to see that Stormdaughter's 'life/death' vitality powers remain intact and weren't removed with the death of her homeworld. It makes her a more interesting character.

The two vanguards grab Starro and escape.

So Starro remains a presence in the book even if, right now, he isn't much of a threat.

The rest of the book is devoted to Starfire and her personal journey. Her time with the Titans and her relationship with Dick Grayson are touched upon. It is her strained relationship with Dick that made her leave Earth.

Starfire clearly is a very popular character, appearing all over the DCU ... Titans, Cry for Justice, JLA, Animal Man mini-series, and the other cosmic titles. I think her emotional personality should provide a nice foil to Dox here. My guess is they won't always agree on matters.

The book ends with something of a cliffhanger. A planet suddenly where Tamaran once was. Presumably this is Rann which has been shunted to Tamaran's orbit as a way to revitalize it.

Overall this was a good issue. After last month's big Starro climax, you can understand the need for the title to pause and take a breath. The playing field needed to be reset a bit. And with a title that has as many moving parts as R.E.B.E.L.S., that's a lot of pieces to place back on the board. Plus some time needed to be devoted to Starfire ... some exposition to explain how and why she made it to this corner of the DCU.

While I am glad to see Starro remain alive, I hope he stays away from the book as the main villain for some time. We need a bit of a break from the would-be universal conqueror. We need some new adversaries here.

With Andy Clarke now at Batman and Robin, my guess is Claude St. Aubin is now the monthly artist on the book. He has a good grasp of the team and their look. He also looks like he is having fun with Kory and her voluminous hair.

And Tony Bedard does a good job of keeping Dox as the central figure even in this issue despite the other plotlines he needed to touch upon.

Overall grade: B+/B

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Boston Comic Con - Cameron Stewart Commission

The Boston Comic Con this year was really a treat for me especially when it came to getting commissions. Sometimes I feel like I catch a break and get lucky when it comes to adding to my collection.

Cam Stewart, of Seaguy and recently Batman and Robin fame, was at the convention and was on my short list of artists to approach for a commission if possible. He was doing head shots for $40 and whole body commissions for $100. Rather than taking a list of commissions to do at the beginning of the day as many artists do, Stewart was doing commissions on a 'first come, first serve, as you wait' schedule.

The first day his table was absolutely swamped to the point I couldn't even see what he was doing. My sketchbooks were in the hands of Steve Rude and Joe Michael Linsner at that point so I wouldn't have anywhere to put a commission anyways.

On the second day, I had my sketch books back. Stewart's table remained busy but not as swamped as it had been. I was able to see the tremendous head sketches he was producing ... mostly of Batwoman. Later in the afternoon, as I continued to wander the floor, I walked by his table and Stewart was just sitting there. Not one person at his table. To be honest he looked a bit bored.

I still had some money left over and so asked if I could get a Supergirl head sketch. When an artist is only doing head sketches, I always ask if they will add the S-Shield so that the commission is of Supergirl and not 'Anonymous blonde girl'. He agreed and then sat down and drew this absolutely tremendous commission.

As a frequent purchaser of commissions, I have to emphasize that any added color is considered bonus ... like leather interiors in a car. So when Stewart pulled out red, blue, and yellow markers, I knew I was in for a treat. Three colors in a convention commission is basically unheard of.

There have been times I have paid for a commission and have felt that I have overpaid. This time I felt like I was underpaying. I gave Stewart the $40 and told him I felt like I was stealing by only having to pay that little.

This was definitely one of the scores of the convention.

Monday, April 26, 2010

July 2010 Solicits

With Last Stand and War of the Supermen in the rearview mirror, the Superman titles in July look like they will be re-establishing the Man of Steel as the prominent character of the DCU.

Here is a link to all of the DC solicits for the month:

I looks like it is going to be an exciting time for Supergirl and Superman fans. Here are the Super-specific solicits.

Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle continue their bold new direction for The Girl of Steel! When a vicious new threat arrives in Metropolis, it’s up to Supergirl to stop the monster. But, boy, is she in for a surprise when she finds out just who this thing is and where it’s from!

Given that this is the first month after the long New Krypton storyline, DC might feel that readers staying away from the super-titles might want to jump back on board. But can we really say that this is a "bold NEW direction" by Gates and Igle? This is their 20th issue! I might have said "bold direction" (which I agree with). It amazes me that it has been 20 issues! Time flies.

Anyways, the first thing that stuck out here is the cover by artist Shane Davis. I loved Davis' work on Superman/Batman as Final Crisis:Rage of the Red Lanterns. This is a great eye-grabbing cover. Three issues in a row now without Josh Middleton. My guess is he doesn't have cover duties anymore. This cover looks like a piece that DC may have had in storage somewhere and may not be specifically about this issue. So who will the new cover artist be? I wouldn't mind any of the artists we have seen on covers recently - Igle, Camp, Davis. I would love to see a David Finch cover.

And the solicit has Supergirl back on Earth and in Metropolis. No mention of Lana. And what of this monster? Any guesses on the who and where? Power Boy and Apokolips? Bizarro Supergirl from Kandor? Hmmm ...


Michael Straczynski begins his highly anticipated run on SUPERMAN! After the devastating events of WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, how can Superman possibly continue his battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way? Find out here in “Grounded” part 1 and get in on the starting line of a modern-classic SUPERMAN story!

My guess is that DC is really doing everything in its powers to get some publicity for Superman now that he is back wearing the Big Red S and starring in his books again. They really have assembled some powerhouse creators.

We had heard about JMS and Eddy Barrows being on Action. Just recently DC announced superstar artist John Cassady being on covers. Wow! This cover is so strong. One, Superman is small on the cover, and given his powerful appearing stride showing that he feels the symbolism of the shield is more than the man. And within the big shield we see faces of people. That's what the S-shield stands for ... helping people. (I always worry I am overthinking these things.)

Of course, why would he be walking on the cover? The title of the story arc is 'grounded'. Maybe Superman loses his ability to fly and suddenly finds himself on the ground with everyone else. Maybe that gives him a new perspective. I am looking forward to this book immensely.


When Lex Luthor finally regained control of LexCorp, he thought he had everything he wanted. But in BLACKEST NIGHT, he briefly became an Orange Lantern and got a taste of true power. Now he’ll do anything – anything – to get that power back. Buckle in for a greatest hits tour of the DCU’s most wanted as Lex Luthor begins an epic quest for power, all brought to you by new ongoing writer Paul Cornell (Dr. Who, Captain Britain and MI-13) and artist Pete Woods (WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON), with covers by David Finch (BRIGHTEST DAY, Ultimatum)!

And here on Superman we get another great team of creators. First off, new DC star David Finch is on covers and here we see a great Luthor as Orange Lantern piece. Fantastic.

Pete Woods continues on a super-title and I have praised his work too many times to do it at length here. I am glad he is sticking around.

I didn't post about the sudden switch on writers here when it happened. Marc Guggenheim was announced as the new writer and sounded excited about it. Here is an interview Guggenheim did when announced:

But then Paul Cornell was announced because Guggenheim said (and I am paraphrasing here) that he couldn't do the story arc justice. As with Guggenheim, I have no prior experience with Cornell although everyone seems to rave about his work. Does anyone have a suggestion of something of Cornell's that I could pick up to sample?

The story itself sounds like it will be a blast. There is nothing like a Superman/Luthor slugfest ... and a super-powered Luthor is always a fun thing to see.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by GARY FRANK
Variant cover by GARY FRANK

The reimagining of Superman's early days concludes as he faces his toughest foe yet – his childhood friend Lex Luthor! The victor will be Metropolis's hero. If you think you know how this plays out, then you underestimate how much Luthor wants that title…

And at last we get the end of Secret Origin. I'll be a bit sad to see Johns and Frank walk away from Superman completely. But this series has been great ... a nice amalgam of the many variations of Superman's origins.

It looks like it will be a bright new day for the Superman family this summer too!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

DC Kids At C2E2

I read with great interest the many many posts that were posted on the usual comic websites regarding the C2E2 event in Chicago.

From a DC point of view, a lot was discussed about Brightest Day and Blackest Night. There was also some significant Batman talk.

Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot said (or at least reported) on Superman or Supergirl ... either War of the Supermen of the post-New Krypton books. In one of the panels, Dan Didio at least admitted that Superman was out of his own titles for too long and in retrospect maybe 6 months would have been enough.

I did find a couple of interesting nuggets to report about at the DC Kids panel though.

Here is the link to the whole discussion courtesy of Newsarama:

First was an upcoming issue of Tiny Titans, “Crisis on Infinite Toddlers” with the accompanying image of tiny Supergirl holding a baby Kid Devil and the other characters arrayed behind her in a clear homage to the famous George Perez Crisis on Infinite Earths cover. Baltazar explained he “loves Perez’s art and wanted to do this for a long time.” And that “it’s the story of Supergirl trying to get the younger Tiny Titans to go to sleep.” When the chuckles of the audience died down he continued, “We try to make ourselves laugh.” “So you write to your own level?” DiDio shot back.

I love Tiny Titans and I am glad that Supergirl gets some time in the book even though her Titans career has always been sporadic and brief.

And we can add another entry to the long list of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 cover homage list.

This issue is currently scheduled for a June release.

And then there was this question in the Q&A session afterwards.

A mother in attendance asked about another Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade mini?

DiDio: “We are looking into it; there will be something for the kids, either Supergirl or Superman”

I wonder if Didio means it when he says that DC is 'looking into' a Cosmic Sequel. When I start to hear 'non-answers' like this I figure the real answer is 'no' which is a shame. I think Cosmic was very well received and a fiscal success.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Supergirl #52

After much anticipation, Supergirl #52 came out this week. And as promised, it brought Brainiac 5 and Supergirl together again ... for the first time. (I have always wanted to say that.

Some of the preview comments about this issue make it seem like Brainy might know Supergirl from another timeline ... maybe the pre-Crisis Earth-1 Kara? But I didn't think that at all. I thought we were dealing with characters from different time periods who are interacting with each other at different points in their lives, but all on the same timeline. I know ... I am confused typing it and I wrote it. I'll try to explain what I mean as this review moves along. The good news is there is more interplay between the two characters to come ... guaranteed.

I really think Sterling Gates does a nice job with the two characters here. I just get the sense he has an appreciation for the history of Supergirl and Brainiac 5 together.

One thing I was worried about was that Supergirl might be lost in this Last Stand issue (the way she was sort of a bystander in the Supergirl issue of Codename:Patriot). Those worries were unfounded. While this is a Last Stand issue, and it does move the bigger story arc forward, Supergirl is the primary focus in the book.

We start the issue looking at the big picture of Last Stand. As seen at the end of Adventure Comics #10, Zod and his soldiers have escaped Kandor, enlarged to normal size, and free on Brainiac's ship.

I can't get enough of Ursa. She is deliciously malicious, saying the wailing cries of fear from the bottled cities are 'motivating'. But look at that smile. I think she is thinking they are 'stimulating'. She is a predator. She doesn't deal in deception and guile like Zod. You always know where you stand with Ursa.

With that stage set, we finally see Supergirl and Brainy. And immediately we get the sense that their relationship will have the headaches and paradoxes that 'time travel' stories usually do.

After a standard condescending Brainiac 5 comment, Supergirl thinks to herself that he is a jerk.

Then Brainy thinks 'she told me the first time she met me she thought I was a jerk.' So this isn't the first time he has met her ... even though this is the first time she has met him. Classic time travel craziness.

Brainy's arrogance and aloofness leads Supergirl to think that the Coluan doesn't like her. Odd, since he chose her to go with him on this mission when the Legion split up. She just senses he has a problem with her.

That couldn't be farther from the truth.

In a brief moment alone, Brainy reveals how hard it is to be near Supergirl ... how much he loves her ... how hard it was when she dies.

Wait ....


Her dying?


My first reaction was maybe he was remembering the death of the 'original' Supergirl, her dying in the Crisis.

But then I realized that Brainy is looking back at Supergirl's life historically. Of course he would know Kara dies at some point. What is hard to know from his words is if he was there when she died.

But I don't know any Supergirl fans who want to hear about her dying again. We are all a bit antsy after the Crisis. We don't even joke about it.

After being omnipresent in the book for almost a year, Reactron hasn't been seen in Supergirl #47. At the end of that issue (which feels like a lifetime ago given everything that has happened in this book since), Alura had faked Reactron's death so she could torture him for information.

It turns out he has been tortured ... and hasn't given Commander Gor the information he wants.

In a sudden turn of the tables, Luthor shows up in the miniaturized Kandor. Lex wastes no time in perforating Gor's chest, killing him. I have to say I won't shed many tears for the boorish and sadistic Gor who always seemed to have the wrong thing to say at the wrong time.

In what is a surprise, this turns out not to be a rescue mission. Luthor isn't there to release Reactron. He is there for something else.

Chances that something else is Reactron's Gold Kryptonite heart? 95%

But more on Luthor later.

Battling their way through Brainiac's satellite, Supergirl just can't shake the feeling she has met Brainiac 5 before. Brainy tries to figure out if indeed Supergirl has met him already but that her memories of the future are being masked by Saturn Girl's mental blocks. I wondered if it was some memories from her time with the other Brainiac 5 (from the Waid/Kitson Legion). Or is it some resonating feeling from prior continuities.

At the very least, they may be memories from the first time Brainy (a younger him) met Supergirl ... a story teased for this fall's Supergirl Annual #2. Two stories representing both sides of 'the first Brainiac5/Supergirl story'? Sounds perfect for such a convoluted chronal relationship.

At least we know what is in store for the Annual. If Jamal Igle is too busy, any guesses on who the artist should be?

Brainiac 5 continues to deny having met Supergirl, even to the point of saying no records of her career exist in the future. Be he slips, calling her Linda Lang and Superman's cousin. It would be hard to know those facts if no records are around.

How is it that a 12th level intelligence make such a boneheaded mistake? Maybe he is flustered around her. Historically, we have seen Brainy stammer and sputter around Supergirl in many stories. Why should this incarnation be different?

Supergirl doesn't like the deception though. Maybe Brainy is hiding something? Maybe he is a threat? There are some nice echoes here back to that first comic meeting in Action Comics #276.

Before she can deck him, Brainiac I flushes them out. Staying one step ahead of the satellites defenses (the dreaded Visper Phages), Brainy divulges why he needed Supergirl with him. Only she would have the power to smash the satellite's power core. Not an elegant plan by any means.

I love how Brainy tries to rationalize it by saying "you can't outhink a fist." And I love Kara's exasperated response "what does that even mean?"

It reminded me of Kurt Russell's character Jack Burton in John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China. Burton was always befuddled at the 'wisdom' being thrown at him. He also said 'what does that even mean' when someone told him 'China is here, Mr. Burton.' I can think of no higher compliment than if someone's work reminds me of Big Trouble.

Brainiac 5 implores her to destroy the reactor while he attempts to hold off the Phages. Supergirl adds her own wrinkle to the plan. Assuming that Brainy's force field belt can take the punishment, she carries him with her as she become a battering ram, smashing the satellite's power core. Mission accomplished.

I was glad to see that Matt Camp's great cover was based on an actual event in the book.

Success doesn't make Kara forget all the earlier subterfuge by Brainiac 5. She wants answers and is willing to wring them out of Brainy if she has to.

He tells Kara that she needs to trust her friends who care about her. And she needs to trust him. That said, he can't tell her anything about her future. She needs to live her own life. After hearing so many people tell her how she should be living her life, it must be nice for Supergirl to have someone say she needs to discover her own future.

Supergirl finds it and his brooding ways 'kinda cute'. And while she might not say that, Brainy knows she finds it cute and starts to trust him from there on because at some point in his past (and her future) she told him so.

I can imagine it is hard to write these scenes ... trying to capture that initial magic and chemistry that leads to attraction and romance. But I think Gates does a good job showing how Brainiac 5 could pique Supergirl's interest.

And thanks to her efforts, the reactor is shut down, Brainiac's satellite's force field is down, and Superman is suddenly back on the playing field. On board, Luthor emerges from Kandor and grabs a bottle city for himself.

This was such an interesting issue for me and I credit Sterling Gates for keeping me guessing. As an old school Supergirl fan, I was ready for a Kara and Brainy to be together again. And I was hoping that this would be an old-fashioned romance .. a happy reimagination. Instead, we get just the earliest sparks from Supergirl. We also get outright fatalism from Brainiac 5. In his mind, the relationship is literally over before it has even begun.

This wasn't rainbows on roses and whiskers on kittens. This was bittersweet ... bordering on sad. That was unexpected ... and therefore appreciated. And I can understand that sadness in Brainiac 5. I have seen it in the immediate post-Crisis issues.

It reminds me so much of this panel from JLA #12 (by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter). When time travel gets involved it can be difficult to explain variances with 3 dimensional language. I cannot give a comic a higher compliment than to say it reminds me of Morrison's famed JLA run.

While I know we have the remainder of Last Stand and the next Annual to look forward to, but I sincerely hope we see even more of this relationship. Brainy certainly talks like there is 'history' .. not just a couple of adventures together.

Outside of this interesting first take on the Brainy/Kara romance, I would be remiss if I didn't say that this was another good Last Stand issue with things continuing to move forward.

Guest artist Ivan Rodriguez does a fine job here. His Supergirl looks more like a young woman. I also like that he tweaked her S-shield, making it a unique symbol for Kara.

Overall grade: A/B+

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Boston Comic Con - Joe Michael Linsner Commission

I have been remiss in not posting the other commissions I obtained a couple of weeks ago at the Boston Comic Con.

So here is the one I obtained from Joe Michael Linsner.

As I have said in the past, sometimes I opt to get commissions from artists who I think will have a unique interpretation or a distinct style that would be intriguing to see applied to the subject of Supergirl.

So when I saw that Linsner was going to be at the Boston Comic Con, I put him high on my list of potential commissions. Linsner is best known for his character Dawn. His work on Dawn is sexy and he could probably be labelled as a 'good girl' artist. I wondered just what his Supergirl would look like.

I think this is a great piece. It is a classic pose, Supergirl flying in the sky but with a playful sideways 'come hither' look, curvy with some serious thigh being shown.

It is clearly a Linsner Supergirl piece without being so over the top cheesecake that I would feel embarrassed to show it. It is just what I wanted ... Linsner's interpretation of the Maid of Might. It is a very nice addition to my collection.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #276

Later today Supergirl #52 is being released. I think most Supergirl fans are eager to see a modern take on the classic romantic relationship between Supergirl and Brainiac 5.

In particular, I have been interested in seeing how Brainy's knowledge of other Supergirls in other timelines affects him. We never saw a Supergirl/Brainiac 5 romance materialize during the Waid/Kitson reboot of the Legion. In fact, I think the closest we have seen one recently was the Brainy/Laurel Gand relationship in the '5 Years Later' run ... and let's face it, that wasn't really Supergirl even if some of the story beats echoed the Kara/Querl dynamics. So I am looking forward to seeing this part of the Supergirl mythos re-explored.

After reviewing the last Supergirl/Brainy stories from the Levitz/Giffen years on Legion, I thought I would take a look way back to their very first meeting ... the very first Brainiac 5 story. Action Comics #276 includes a Supergirl story with a creative team picked from comic book royalty ... writer Jerry Siegel and artist Jim Mooney. The story tells how Supergirl met Brainiac 5 and joined the Legion.

Here is Action Comics #276 and 'Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends'.

The story starts off at the Midvale Orphanage where two of the other girls are chatting about their boyfriends and favorite TV stars.

Linda (still in hiding as Superman's emergency secret weapon at this point) feels isolated because she has no one to talk to about her 'hopes and worries' without endangering her cover as Supergirl. She has bigger concerns than the mundane ones her friends have but they have to stay bottled up.

This theme of loneliness in the early years of the Super-family members is well-traveled even to this day. We saw it as recently as Geoff Johns' Legion issue in Superman Secret Origin #2.

Shedding tears in the orphange garden, she suddenly receives a mental message that she is not alone.

She heads to the nearby creek where she is initially greeted by a mystery 'super girl-friend' who is wearing a lead mask to hide her identity.

Two more girls arrive making it a party. The mystery friend reveals herself to be Saturn Girl who brought along new Legionnaires Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl. They hope to convince Supergirl to try out for the Legion again. (She failed once when Red K made her too old for the age limit in the Legion Charter. Couldn't they have just waited the 48 hours?)

Supergirl is thrilled at the chance to not only try to get into the Legion again but also to suddenly have some super-confidantes, young women who can understand where she is in life and what she is dealing with.

It won't be easy to get into the Legion this time. Look at the competition she is up against! That's Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Sun Boy all trying to join.

And there is one other applicant ... Brainiac 5!

Brainiac 5 is up front about his villainous ancestor and seems ashamed of the original Brainiac's acts. But Supergirl isn't so sure just yet.

We then hear the original Brainiac's ultimate fate. He was shrunk to nothingness when he was hit by his own shrinking ray while fighting Superman. Funny how it played out like that in Superman #338 when Superman finally enlarged Kandor.

Supergirl aces the competition by digging up heroic artifacts from the past.

But as she is presenting the items, Brainiac 5 hurries and hands her his force field belt. He had seen a Green K meteor falling on to the group right at that moment! Serendipity?

Despite the risk to his own life by giving up the shield, he saves Supergirl. With that selfless act, Supergirl realizes that this Brainiac can be trusted. She even thinks he's sweet.

Despite going up against the three future Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 and Supergirl are chosen the winners of the competition and inducted into the Legion.

They are even thrown a victory parade!

At last we see the seeds of their romance. When Supergirl prepares to return to her time, Brainiac 5 begs her to stay and 'be his girl'.

But Supergirl's loyalty to Superman and her responsibilities in the past come first. She leaves him, telling him she'll return to see him again. Awwwww ...

When Supergirl returns to the past, she realizes she still has the force field belt. And Brainiac 5 made it so it would only work for her; suddenly she is immune to Kryptonite. She is mightier than Superman.

This plot twist, Supergirl being stronger than Superman, was seen several times in the early Silver Age. Remember when her powers were suddenly magic-based making her immune to Kryptonite? I wonder if this idea is the genesis of Jeph Loeb's early stories where Kara was said to be even stronger than Kal.

Alas, Supergirl cannot remain stronger than Superman for long.

The trip through time has weakened the belt so it can only work for a brief time.

Back at the orphanage, Linda stammers when she is asked by her friends if she has a boyfriend. She couldn't really tell them about Merro the Merman or Brainiac 5, the Coluan from a thousand years in the future.

So in one spectacular issue we have Supergirl join the Legion and meet Brainiac 5.


But there is so much more to this issue than just those things, no matter how big they are for a Supergirl fan.

We can start out with the great Curt Swan cover showcasing the Girl of Steel battling a swarm of tiny Superman. That is Silver Age goodness.

In the main story, Supergirl plays a crucial part in helping Superman preserve his secret identity after he accidentally revealed it to a gangster. So she plays a big part in both stories in the book. And we get to see legendary Superman artist Wayne Boring's version of Supergirl in the Superman story. Boring was the artist for Superman in the 50s and early 60s. That broad-chested Superman is the look for Superman in that period. So it is great to see his Supergirl as well.

And this issue is also the first appearance of a half-dozen (!) Legionnaires: Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Sun Boy.

Plus those key events ... Supergirl joins the Legion and begins her relationship with Brainiac 5.

When I review issues like this I try to place them in some sort of context of their importance to a Supergirl collection. Given everything that happens here, I would rank this issue as having the highest importance for a Supergirl collection.

The cover scanned above is from my collection's copy. I include that scan only to show that my issue is pretty beat up; I think it cost me $25. It is the only actual copy I have ever seen. So it might not be easy to find and it certainly will be pricey if it is in any decent condition. Luckily, it is reprinted both in Supergirl Showcase Volume 1 and Supergirl Archives Volume 2.

Overall grade: A (there is just too much happening here to grade it anything else.