Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to everyone!

I know ... it isn't Supergirl or DC or even comic book related. But here are the Dragon Ball Z jack o'lanterns I carved for the supergirls at home this year.

First Goku. This one was pretty straight forward. I went with a happy-go-lucky face for him.

Next, Gohan, as he is seen early in the series. Here he is in his 'scholar' outfit including cap with the 4-star Dragon ball. I think this one came out the best.

Lastly, Vegeta. I really really wanted this one to rock but I think my design idea of the 'floating head' didn't work as well as I thought it would.

Anyways, back to Supergirl and DC news tomorrow. For now, more candy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: Supergirl Annual #2

In what has been a highly anticipated book by me for some time, Supergirl Annual #2 did not fail to please. Written by Sterling Gates, the book re-introduces Supergirl to the Legion in a way that both looks back at the Silver Age and looks forward to the upcoming history of this incarnation of Kara Zor-El. As a long time fan, I am thrilled that the Legion aspect of Supergirl's mythos has been brought back; it was such an important part of her pre-Crisis history. We had been given a few hints about this back in Supergirl #52, the Last Stand crossover, so it was good to see those threads brought to fruition here.

As I said, this issue also is a nice look back into the Silver Age Supergirl/Legion stories. Sterling Gates obviously has a respect for those stories to include some hints of them here. The main antagonist here is Satan Girl, a riff on the villain from way back in Adventure Comics #313 (and don't worry I'll head to the back issue box to review that one soon). But even beyond that, there are a lot of Easter Eggs sprinkled through this book (and don't worry, like with Cosmic Adventures, I'll have an Easter Egg post of this issue). For old-timers and diehard Supergirl fans, these nods to her past are very appreciated.

It is clear that Gates has a solid understanding of Supergirl's history and her fans concerns ... it's all in this book. But for me, it was especially nice to see the rekindling of the Supergirl/Brainy romance.

The book sports a wonderful and dreamy cover by Amy Reeder. I like that Brainy and Supergirl are in a time bubble, a wink at their star-crossed and time-crossed relationship. The internal art is mostly done by Supergirl pinch hitter extraordinaire Matt Camp. His stuff is so incredible; I think he does a near perfect rendition of Supergirl. There are some pages done by Marco Rudy as well.

There really is a Silver Age magical feel to the story too, some things happen almost too easily or inexplicably, but I think that it worked given the tone of this book. This book also includes one of the best Supergirl scenes in all of Gates' run.

The book starts with Supergirl and the Legion saving Metropolis from a falling satellite. It is clearly an early version of the Legion given their members and their costumes. As such, I thought the very old Legion logo on the cover was more appropriate than the more modern one seen here.

Still, it was fun to see Supergirl and this young Legion team-up to avert this disaster. It really is all hands on deck as multiple Legionnaires are needed to slow the descent and save the nearby populace.

The satellite is some sort of orbiting lab of Brainiac 5's. He has been doing experiments on a 'Brocian hunting statue' that has been rumored to have magical properties.

In standard Brainiac 5 fashion, he has been a bit too caught up in his experiments to think of the downside. So he did not think about the potential adverse outcomes of bombarding the statue with chronon energy, he just did it. Unfortunately, it did result in this disaster. And worse, the statue becomes a 'magical time bomb', exploding right in the faces of Supergirl and Brainy.

That thirst for knowledge despite the potential pitfalls sounds like a young Brainiac 5.

That explosion reminds Supergirl of how she got to the future. The rocketship bringing her to Earth from Bizarro World also exploded mid-trip. The resulting explosion somehow flings Supergirl into the 30th century.

An explosion that catapults Supergirl through time? Sounds a little to easy, too lucky, too deus ex machina to get her into the Legion's time? Certainly that sort of stuff happened all the time in the Silver Age and this future feels like that future so maybe that makes some sort of sense.

One thing I did love was Supergirl's near immediate acknowledgment that this is not the 30th century that she had visited before. So we at least now know that she lived those 'Waid reboot' Legion stories. I don't know if that was ever 100% explained in a satisfying way so I am glad she said it.

I do have to say again (and probably will other places here) that Matt Camp draws a great Kara. That last panel is Supergirl.

The Legion are all too eager to have Supergirl join them for a time ... everyone but Brainy that is. At least here he recognizes the dangers of this 'experiment'. There are too many things that can go wrong with time travel, events that can be altered.

He even mentions some 'historical' events in Supergirl's life, none of which we have seen. Were these future stories that Sterling Gates had in mind before being lifted from the title? They all sound so interesting. 'The Scion of Superwoman'?? 'Lex Luthor's OTHER Son'?? 'The Deadly Day of the Doll-maker'?? Will we ever see those stories? Or will they merely be fodder for fan-fic?

As with Superboy, the Legion majority wins out and Supergirl sticks around having many adventures with them and ending  up joining them as a full-fledged Legionniare, flight ring and all! In other places like the JLU cartoon, Supergirl has felt more at home in the future time of the Legion, so maybe this extended stay is a reference to that.

But also, Supergirl recognizes that this is a more innocent time than her own. This is another chance to give herself some distance from the events in the present. There is no war here, or murder, or New Krypton. It seems almost like a vacation.

There is a great page of her early adventures with the group all of which I will review in the Easter Egg post.

But like many, I absolutely loved this panel, showing Kara's friendship with the other girl Legionnaires. I especially like how Supergirl tells Imra that her pink high-collared bikini is a good look. Could it be Kara is responsible for Saturn Girl wearing the Dave Cockrum costume of the 1970s?

I also like Kara's lounge-wear. The headband and S-shield off to the side evoke other versions of her own costume.

Despite being on this team of equals and the acceptance she feels here though, Supergirl still feels lonesome.

I think Supergirl simply realizes that her destiny is not here; she needs to eventually return to her time. She doesn't belong here.

That second panel is so fantastic, with Kara centered and small. You can almost feel the weight of responsibility on her. Again, how lucky we have been to have had Sterling Gates here for these last couple of years. He understood that there is this hidden aspect inside Supergirl.

I talked earlier about this issue having one of the best scenes from Gates' run and here it is.

While in the future, Supergirl visits the Superman Museum and meets the tour guide, an animatronic Jimmy Olsen who tries to get her to walk through the Hall of 1,000 Olsens. Instead, she walks to the Supergirl Memorial Hall. She hears how Supergirl, "during one of the greatest battles in history ... was killed stopping the worst threat the Earth had ever known, giving her life for her adopted planet." And then she sees how she dies. Look at the horrified look on her face. What a great panel by Camp.

Now the description sounds like her death in the Crisis ... but that has happened already right? And we don't see her death for obvious reasons. I am sure DC doesn't want to be handcuffed to some vision here. But more importantly, since we only see Kara's reaction it is more powerful ... more worrisome.

Since 1986, I think Supergirl fans have some sort of PTSD about her death. I think we are all worried ... always waiting ... for DC to kill her off again. By having Brainy talk about it in Supergirl #52, to address it so clearly here, Gates is poking an exposed nerve. The truth is, how can I not be happy with a creator who understands a character and her fanbase so well. This only adds to my appreciation of his run. I doubt that DC has any plans to off Supergirl again but this kind of picked at a scab and made the wound bleed a little bit again.

I absolutely loved this scene. Loved it. And that's without showing some of the Easter Eggs there as well.

Before Supergirl can process what she has seen, an emergency pops up calling her away.

Brainy's earlier experiment have somehow called S'tanicule Gyrstress ... or Satan Girl ... to Earth. Walking through the dimensional rift, she begins enslaving the population of Earth.

With little chance of defeating her and her minions (which includes some Legionnaires), Brainy activates an escape route device he has been testing, throwing Supergirl and him 4 days into the future. When they arrive, they find Earth aflame and in ruins.

In four short days, Satan Girl has simply taken over the world. Somehow hitting the statue of Satan Girl with time energy called the real thing to Earth. It looks like it is up to Brainy and Supergirl to save the day all by themselves.

As you can see, the pages of this 'Hell on Earth' are done by Marco Rudy who has a rougher style which I guess thematically fits the terrain. His style has a Sean Phillips/Jock vibe to it.

Unfortunately there isn't much time for them to formulate a plan. They are almost immediately attacked by a brainwashed original three Legionnaires. Despite Brainy getting mind-blasted, the two are able to beat a quick retreat.

During the Legion's assault, Saturn Girl, internally fighting Satan Girl's influence, is able to implant a message to Brainy and Supergirl. Satan Girl's 'Crimson Plague' (I love that and it's connection to the original Satan Girl story) spread over the world in a matter of days. Now, she is building a citadel to open up a rift for all her race. Supergirl and Brainiac 5 need to stop it.

To be successful, Supergirl is going to need troops and the only ones available to her are the 1,000 Olsens from the Superman Museum. Suddenly Elastic Boy, Turtle Boy, Porcupine Boy and all the other versions of Jimmy Olsen help Kara break into Satan Girl's fortress. Why the museum would have actually given the robots powers is beyond me.  Again, this is a little bit of Silver Age silliness ... but that's part of the charm here right?

There is a decent brawl between Satan Girl and Supergirl, during which Supergirl actually wields a longsword. Nice!

During this fight, an enraged Phantom Girl wrecks Brainy's force field belt and he gets skewered by Satan Girl. Luckily, before he dies, he is able to save the day. He has cobbled together a device that will siphon of the time energy that they absorbed (remember they were closest to the 'magical time bomb') to shut the rift and revert things to the way they were. Hmmm ... even more Silver Age nuttiness, where answers were easy?

Brainy's device works and the time line is set straight. Suddenly Supergirl and Brainiac are back on the satellite, the Brocian statue is still an intact statue, and no beacon to Satan Girl has been activated. Brainiac 5 no longer has a penetrating abdominal wound. Just like that those days have never happened.

And since we are back to the Utopian future, Matt Camp's clean style resumes.

I love the sly look between Kara and Querl. Perfect.

Well maybe not as perfect as this. The Legion bring Supergirl back to the present and she shares a kiss with Brainy.


All the knowledge Supergirl gained from her time in the future, specifically how she dies, is mind0wiped by Saturn Girl. After the events on Bizarro World and this diversion to the future, Supergirl looks downright elated. She has been through a lot recently and come out the other side.

Brainiac 5 on the other hand has a much sterner countenance. He vows that he won't let Supergirl die alone like the history books say. Awesome.

There is almost too much that happened here to easily encapsulate at the bottom of this review. I can only commend Sterling Gates for bringing back so much Supergirl/Legion history here. There is more to cover from this book and I promise I'll get to it. But the kiss with Brainy was just a perfect capstone to this issue.

On top of that, Gates also brings back the specter of Supergirl's death, leaving it out there; there is something of a delicious dread with that ...we all fear it might happen again so why not play on that?

And on top of all that you get the nearly perfect art by Matt Camp.

Marco Rudy has a rougher less polished style which might work from a story point of view but when the art changed, it was a bit jarring. And there was that Silver Age simplicity and serendipity with some events here. As a reader, you either recognize that was part of the riff here or it might bother you.

Overall grade: B+

Friday, October 29, 2010

January 2011 Solicits

I have a bunch of comics to review this week and some other stuff I really want to cover but the news of the DC January solicits is getting a bit old. So I figured I would get this out of the way. Here is the link to the entire month of DC January releases:

There are some surprises here. And some questions. And some disappointments.

SUPERGIRL welcomes aboard writer Nick Spencer (JIMMY OLSEN, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, Morning Glories) and artist Bernard Chang (WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN) for a Girl of Steel story unlike any other! Someone is trying to kill the young heroes of the DC Universe! Who is this villain, and how can Supergirl stop him? Maybe her friends can help - namely, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, Static and...Robin?! Buckle up, folks, because this one puts the pedal to the metal on page one and doesn't let up for a second!

Well, the Nick Spencer era of Supergirl begins in January.

I have already let my disdain for the pink S-shield be known so I won't talk about it again here. But I am a bit disappointed that there is no variant cover for the book. This book is going in a 'bold new direction' so why not add a little publicity. I'm not a huge fan of variants but they do give a bump in sales and might make someone pick up the book for the first time.

As for the plot, I worry when the first issue already includes 5 guest stars. One thing that I thought held the book back in the earliest issues was the reliance on or inclusion of a monthly guest star, as if Supergirl isn't enough to hold up her own title.

Spencer, a while back, had this to say about the book on Twitter.

We're introducing a new villain that I really believe will be the next big deal "new face" in the DCU. And guest stars everywhere!! Batgirl, Damian, Blue Beetle, Static, Miss Martian, and a whole bunch of others we can't tell you about yet. Me and Bernard are gonna go all out. It's a BIG story, long term impact on the DCU. Lots of high stakes monster action set pieces in this.

Guest stars everywhere! High stakes monster action set pieces! I just hope that Supergirl doesn't get lost in all this. I hope she remains the star in her own book. I have to remain hopeful.

1:10 Variant cover by DAVID MACK
The final chapter of “JLA Omega” arrives as the World’s Greatest Heroes and the Crime Syndicate struggle for survival. But the Syndicate’s betrayal of their own pact results in a final, savage confrontation – and Ultraman does some betraying of his own! Can the JLA defeat Omega Man, the harbinger of death? Can they save the Crime Syndicate’s world and the Tangent Universe? And in the midst of this war between good and evil, which side will Dark Supergirl choose?

Well, Justice League has a variant cover, the slick David Mack Dark Supergirl cover.

Maybe Dark Supergirl is the Supergirl of Earth Two rather than some manifestation of Supergirl. But I also heard rumors that Dark Supergirl will be starring in the JLA moving forward. I hope that isn't in place of Supergirl. It would be lousy to have Kara drop off of this title.

I have to remain hopeful.

1:10 Variant cover by JO CHEN
In a small town near Omaha, Nebraska, Superman discovers that everyone is terrified of something, but they won't say what - they just want The Man of Steel to leave as fast as possible. Find out what horrible secret awaits Superman as "Grounded" continues!

Well, Superman has a variant cover.

We'll be 7 issues into 'Grounded' at this point (but really 5 issues when you count the prelude in #700 and the 'interlude' this month). This solicit doesn't tell me much about the issue other than he is in Nebraska and therefore about halfway across America. How will I feel about 'Grounded' then? Who knows?

The last place Lex Luthor expected his quest for the Black Lantern energy to take him was Arkham Asylum - specifically to the cell of The Joker! What clues about Lex's quest could The Joker have to offer, and why on Earth would Lex trust him? Get ready for a one-of-a-kind confrontation between comics' two greatest villains, as brought to you by the twisted minds of Paul Cornell and Pete Woods!

Lex's trip isn't as staid as Superman's in 'Grounded' but he is taking a tour of the darker corners of the DCU. This arc has been growing on me so I am pretty excited to read this issue. Any time the Joker and Luthor get together, it is usually a fun ride. Nice cover by Finch here.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Cover by PHIL NOTO
1:10 Variant cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN
It's just another day at Smallville High - girl trouble psychic attacks, gym class, lunch with Kid Flash, study hall and alien terrorists from the future!

Well, Superboy gets a variant cover.

I am a big fan of Phil Noto, so I think this cover is pretty slick. I think this book is going to be a lot of fun. This issue sounds more over-the-top than I expected in this book. I thought this was going to have a sort of Twin Peaks feel to it, a seedy environment bubbling under small town Smallville's Rockwell exterior.

I like Kid Flash so glad to see him turn up here.


Written by STEVE LYONS


John Henry Irons is a normal human being who managed to overcome all odds and become a hero who Superman considers a peer and colleague. What kind of determination drives a man to reach such heights? Find out here as a battered and bruised Steel defiantly stands as the only thing between Metallo and the destruction of Metropolis! Doctor Who novelist Steve Lyons and artist Sean Chen (ACTION COMICS, SALVATION RUN) deliver a story that shows why Steel is a true DC Universe icon!

First surprise of the month, a Steel one-shot.

I haven't seen much of Steel since War of the Supermen. In that whole New Krypton arc, he kind of was standing in the background. His biggest scene was getting the snot kicked out him by Atlas. So I am glad he is getting a little spotlight time. I don't know Steve Lyons at all so I guess I'll be surprised.

And lastly, the announcement was made about this three-part Superman family statue which will be coming out in late 2011. The Supergirl/Steel component is the second section to be released and I think it coming out in summer/fall of 2011. I like Supergirl's pose here ... sort of a happy confidence feel about her.

So this definitely feels like a 'new year' for Supergirl. Hopefully it will be as tremendous a year as 2010 was.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Justice League Of America #50

Justice League of America #50 came out last week, a double-sized issue by current creative team James Robinson and Mark Bagley and sporting a nice wraparound Ethan Van Sciver cover. I have been more and more impressed with Robinson and Bagley's efforts on this book. It feels like they are on the precipice of some very good stories despite this quirky 'sort of the big & but not really' team composition.

With the 'Dark Things' crossover finished and the roster stabilized, the time was right for Robinson to spin a huge JLA story for this team, something to solidify their stature as a team, something to make this feel like this is a book for these characters ... not simply them holding the spot warm for when the original members return. And what could a better way, a bigger way to show that this IS the Justice League than to put them into a classic 'Crisis on Earth ___' style story, a proven and somewhat nostalgic theme for the JLA.

And if this League is trying to prove themselves worthy of the name then defeating the Crime Syndicate of America is a nice bench mark. This issue read like a modern Gardner Fox story and that is high praise.

Even if they are calling themselves the JLA, the heroes are still becoming a team. They may be comrades, but they aren't family yet. They need to still learn about each other, become comfortable with each other, to truly become a team. So the opening scene of Jesse Quick and Supergirl racing around the satellite was a nice way of showing that growing familiarity.

That lighthearted sprint takes a more serious turn as the two realize that they are more alike than they might know. Both might be legacy heroes, but they also are both dealing with loss, and had to face off against Black Lantern abominations of their fathers. I like how Jesse talks about it without realizing that Kara had to deal with the exact same thing.

This whole scene felt very natural, as if it is obvious that these two would be fast friends (no pun intended).

In fact, everyone in the League is dealing with some sort of loss. But together they are a team and can help one another.

Dick might be Kara's big brother on this team but I think Jesse is going to be her best friend here.

Their conversation is cut short when the Tangent Universe Green Lantern suddenly appears, injured and claiming her world is dying.

In another scene showcasing the growing team spirit, we see Donna and Dick sparring. Of all the relationships on the team, this one is the most established. These two have been fighting together as teammates since the earliest days of their adolescence. Despite the presence of Supergirl and Congorilla, it is clear that Donna considers herself the muscle of this team. And I love the faith she has in Dick's ability to lead them.

The one thing I hope to see is some change in their interactions, even if subtle. They aren't Teen Titans any more. They are adults and have gone through a lot of changes since they were Nightwing and Wonder Girl. They have basically inherited the legacy of their mentors. Their friendship should also evolve a bit too.

The arrival of the Tangent Green Lantern is a crisis so an emergency meeting is called. In a simple way to keep the symmetry of the battle simple, Starman and Congorilla are unavailable. So we get the 'big 5' - Batman, Donna Troy, Supergirl, Jade, and Jesse Quick.

The Lantern talks about the threat to her world. It is a bit of exposition but necessary. Alexander Luthor had planted a doomsday device on Earth Two which is causing a wave of death energy to sweep over that planet. In an effort to stop the death of their planet, the Crime Syndicate figures out a way to siphon off most of that energy and send it to the Tangent world. Earth Two is still dying, albeit more slowly. But the Tangent world is nearly dead. And the CSA needs another world to send this energy to. And they are on this Earth to scout it out.

As soon as the CSA's presence is revealed, the villains crash into the Hall of Justice to battle.

Well, I have to say it seems a little dark for Alexander Luthor to have planted a cataclysmic bomb like that ... assuming we are talking about the Luthor from the Morrison Earth Two graphic novel. He was trying to be a hero. I doubt he would want to kill off so many innocents. So that seemed a bit off.

The Syndicate was expecting the usual League but quickly square off with their opposites. Superwoman and Donna brawl inside the hall while Supergirl and Ultraman take the fight to the sky.

I am so used to seeing the Superman/Ultraman fight and the Wonder Woman/Superwoman fight that I thought this really felt new and is a nice way to showcase the abilities of this League. One thing that did fall a bit flat was Supergirl calling the Syndicate 'bullies with big mouths'. She isn't ten.

With the lines drawn and the battle unfolding, we get a flashback to fill in the gaps about the Crime Syndicate's time on Earth. They came to this Earth to try to figure out a way to save their own. But while they try to achieve that goal, they may as well have fun. In fact, it seems they are having a lot of fun as we see the end of a ... ahem ... romantic interlude between Owlman and Superwoman. She wonders why they should bother trying to save their world when they could simply conquer this one. Ultraman (who also arrives) agrees with her.

Owlman reminds them both that the energies of the universe are such that they simply cannot win here. They need to save their Earth. And they have a plan ... resurrect Alexander Luthor and convince him to save their world. I have to admit I was a bit confused here ... the Alexander Luthor from Morrison's Earth Two? Or the crazy Alexander Luthor from Infinite Crisis?

I do like Owlman's obsession with saving their Earth if only to continue to torment his father. It is that conviction that makes Bruce (either Batman or Owlman) who he is.

The whole Syndicate is on the Earth including the original Power Ring and the original Johnny Quick. Both of those characters died recently and yet here they are again. Ultraman sums it up nicely. How are those guys back? He even remembers that he died (and he did, getting staked when he was Mandrakk's herald in Final Crisis). I have a theory here ... but later.

The Crime Syndicate has been working with Dr. Impossible (remember him ... the anti-Miracle Man from Metzler's first run on the book) to create a resurrection machine. They just need to fetch the corpse of Alex Luthor from the villain morgue in the Hall of Justice. I still think that morgue is a bit creepy. I also think that since the corpse is there, it has to be the Luthor from Infinite Crisis.

I have loved the bubbling subplot about Jade and the hidden darkness inside her since absorbing some of the Starheart. It shows in her battle with Power Ring. She drains his ring ... and him ... of energy, bringing Power Ring to the edge of death.

I like how haikus accompany her draining him. I assume this is his ring, powered by Eastern enchantments and Volthoom, talking to him about his impending death. Nice touch.

But Jade looks downright giddy as Power Ring writhes in pain. Creepy.

Dr. Impossible is seen scheming in the background with some teammates of his own. But it is clear that the fight in the Hall is a distraction so the Syndicate's real plan can unfold. Dick realizes that all isn't as it seems when he notices that Owlman has left the fight. It can only mean he is up to something even bigger.

As with the rest of the fights, it was great to see Dick square off against Bruce! Now there is some serious depth to this fight.

But before we can learn who would win, Dick is blasted by Dr. Impossible's cronies.

I will admit though ... I loved seeing Supergirl going toe-to-toe with Ultraman. I think some writers would have had her being overwhelmed almost immediately. So kudos to Robinson for letting Supergirl show her prowess here.

But, as said before, the fight is simply a ruse to keep the JLA away from the Resurrection machine to bring back Alex Luthor. Set up sort of like one of the multiverse tuning forks from Infinite Crisis, people from different universes are set up in areas around the machine to power it.

Before it is activated to bring back Luthor, Dr. Impossible double crosses Owlman, removing Alex's corpse and instead bathing Impossible's crony Hunter in energy. I admit I don't recognize the characters that Impossible is working with. But Hunter looks like an Orion analogue.

But instead of bring back Darkseid, as Impossible's teammates think the machine was going to do, it brings back someone else ... a new threat ... the Omega Man. Did Impossible know that? Who is this guy? Since Hunter was a version of Orion, is this a version of Darkseid?

Overall this was a very good issue. I have really enjoyed watching this group grow together as a team and as friends. I love that their first big adventure as a team is something huge like fighting the Crime Syndicate, needing to save multiple worlds, and facing a new villain. That is what the JLA should be about ... massive threats.

Now my theory. How did those CSA members come back to life? Well, the Tangent Green Lantern's power is to raise the dead to finish a task. Maybe she is in on this plot. Maybe she brought them back. Maybe she has turned towards evil.

My growing fascination and appreciation of Mark Bagley continued here. There is a nice kinetic feel to his fight scenes here.

And James Robinson, outside of a slip here and there in dialogue, really has a nice grasp of these characters as they each have a unique voice and personality. This was one of those issues where I wished the next part was coming out now as opposed to a month from now. That is always the sign of a good issue.

Overall grade: A

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: DCU Legacies #6

DC Universe Legacies as a series has really been a love letter to the DCU, reviewing all the major storylines of the Universe from the eyes of 'everyman' Officer Paul Lincoln and his family. As an old-timer and amateur DCU historian, I have really enjoyed this series.

Now the series has temporally caught up with me, reviewing the major plots of my adolescence. It really has been fantastic to look at these major events again, from a different angle, and with a slightly different slant. Legacies #6 continued to look at the events of the Crisis and beyond and sported this fantastic COIE cover by George Perez. I mean what could be more fantastic than seeing Anthro stabbing Starro with a spear?

Well, I know what is more fantastic ... seeing that Supergirl flying into the fray, ready to lay the smackdown on the Anti-Monitor.

Even if it is in the background or a tiny piece of the cover, it was great to see the Earth-1 Kara again. She was such a hero in Crisis and yet she 'never existed'. So how could she be seen here?

I think writer Len Wein does a great job sort of sliding over the inconsistencies that sprout from trying to force the events of the Crisis into the current timeline. Since the Crisis muddled with time, everyone doesn't remember it's events exactly the same way. How could there be a second Superman? A Supergirl? That Wonder Woman? There really can't be. But people probably have some vague notion or memories of those heroes. It is a nice little way to recognize the acts of those heroes without saying specifically they were there.

This issue wrapped up the retelling of the Crisis, touched on the Detroit JLA (although the timing seems off, they were formed pre-Crisis), and then did a good job reviewing the events of Ostrander and Byrne's Legends mini-series, an underrated and oft-forgotten 'event' that I love.

But the best part of this issue was the back-up story by Len Wein and Keith Giffen and starring the Legion.

In a replay of a very important scene in the DCU, we see the classic original Legionnaires showing up in Smallville to recruit Clark to join the Legion. I have read this story many times, seen it in many comics. I thought this was going to simply be the origin of 'Superboy and the Legion'.

But then the story takes a very amusing turn, as other versions of the Legion also show up at the same time. Here, the current, older Legion arrives trying to convince Clark to not go to the future. It is funny to see multiple Saturn Girl's trying to take charge. While it seemed out of character, I especially loved the younger Imra wondering why she would ever sport that buzz-cut hairstyle. I mean, this can't be in continuity ... a little levity is okay with me.

The parade of different Legions continue to show up with more and more time bubbles arriving and more and more Legions asking Clark for help.

Even the Waid reboot Legion arrives with Supergirl trying to recruit Clark. I sort of miss that Ayla costume. Funny how Supergirl is in a Silver Age sort of uniform here.

The Legions then begin to bicker about which version Clark should go to the future with. Supergirl thinks the 'S shield' trumps all the others and that Clark should return with them. The younger Legionnaires think he should join them because they were there first. It is absolutely silly.

The story has a great ending with Superboy refusing them all. I think he was sort of turned off by all the in-fighting. How can the Legion be champions of some high ideals when they can't agree amongst themselves? Maybe this is the beginning of the Legion streamlining their beliefs, or even starting the constitution.

Or maybe it's just an amusing way to acknowledge all the Legion reboots and eras. I thought it was a very nice read with a humorous tenor. Certainly this was a slick contrast to the review of the darker chapters of the DCU seen in the front half.

I am not blown away by this book but I have consistently enjoyed it.

Overall grade: B+/B

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: Superman/Batman #77

Superman/Batman #77 came out last week and was a great read. Written by newcomer Josh Williamson and drawn by Ale Garza, this was a nice surprise in the middle of my comic pile last week.

The issue is yet another look at how Supergirl interacts with the Batman Family.

We know that Dick acts as a big brother (as seen in JLA); we know that both Tim and Steph consider Kara a close friend and colleague. Damien, on the other hand, isn't too easy to be friends with. He is opinionated and cocky. He isn't warm and fuzzy. And he definitely would be a tough person to easily team up with. He would want to run the show. The last time Supergirl and Robin interacted was in the excellent World's Finest mini-series where she chastised him for calling Steph 'Fat Girl'. They wouldn't be easy pals but can they be crime-fighting partners?

Williamson seems to have a nice grasp of the motivations of these characters and an appreciation of their histories. In particular, I thought he really 'got' Supergirl. And this isn't always the case when it comes to these stand alone issues. Sometimes they read a bit 'out of continuity' (remember the awful Supergirl/Raven Brave and Bold issues a while back). So when a story like this seamlessly slips into continuity and reads true for the characters, I appreciate it.

This issue was a mix of horror and humor, perfect for Halloween. And it was much more of a treat than a trick.

The issue opens with Supergirl coming across a crime scene in the Suicide Slum area of Metropolis. A mass grave of young victims has been discovered, their corpses in a state of decay. With Superman on his 'walk', Supergirl has been left as the hero of Metropolis. Already we get the sense that this is happening 'now' in the DCU. And nice that Supergirl is acting as the city's champion with 'Grounded' taking Superman away.

The police officer on the scene is sort of disrespectful to Supergirl, telling her that this street crime is below the usual bar that super-heroes respond to. Supergirl should find a 'monster' to fight and leave the grunt work to the police. I get the sense that he wouldn't talk to Superman that way ... but maybe he would; maybe this is the bedrock that 'Grounded' is built on. Superman isn't considered an ally to the police anymore as he is above it all.

Supergirl vows to help get to the bottom of this horrific sight and realizes she will need the help of someone who is a better detective than she is. She flies to Gotham. I didn't mind this at all. She recognized her limitations and the Bat-family' strengths. It isn't weakness to ask for help.

In Gotham, she comes upon Damien fighting Killer Croc. It is a great page with Supergirl crashing onto the scene and taking out Croc with one punch. She 'saves' Damien, although he was holding his own.

They aren't exactly buddies as they act cold and prickly to each other. He calls her 'alien'. She says she she is looking for someone to help her with a problem in Metropolis. The tone of this early scene felt right given the prior World's Finest encounter. These two would not be easy allies.

He knows that she is looking for help with the mass murder. I love his response when Supergirl seems surprised that he knew why she was there. That slow 'son .. of  .. Batman' is just what Damien would say. This is Robin writ large, showing off the more obvious parts of his personality and not as nuanced a characterization than we see in Batman and Robin. But in a one issue story there isn't time to look at the minutia of a character. You need the broad strokes. And the feel is right. He is very sure of himself.

He somehow convinces Supergirl to let him help her. The rest of the Bats are busy. And Supergirl realizes that any help is better than no help. But she won't help him get to Metropolis. He needs to find his own way.

At the Metropolis morgue, it is discovered that all the bodies in the mass grave were young people who died of heart attacks. Supergirl's scans with her super-senses doesn't uncover any cause for these strange deaths. In a nice barb, Damien thanks her for using her senses for him, as if she was a tool for him to exploit. Even better is him saying that Bruce did it to Clark all the time.

Luckily Damien finds a connection. All were LexCorps interns from a local college. A quick trip to LexCorp HQ clears the company of being any ill will. In fact, Luthor's second-in-command Spaulding seems sad, calling the interns the future of the company.

Luckily, another lead pops up. The interns were all invited to the college's Halloween party.

In some ways I was impressed with the ease with which Damien put these clues together. I understand that the plot needed to be finished in 22 pages so there was little time for investigation. But I thought Robin was written in the sort of uber-Bat style where he was always a step ahead.

The two go undercover to the costume party. This whole thing is perfect. First off, Damien's choice as going as a 'young Matches' Malone is really spot on. Of course he would want to be cool and slick and be in his father's image. I also like how he puts Kara in a giant pink bunny suit, a ludicrous thing for her to be in. Given the somewhat abrasive nature of their relationship, that seemed right on the money.

Scanning the crowd with her super-hearing, Supergirl comes across someone who is neither talking about the murders or acting nervously.  He has to be the perpetrator.

In a nice change, Damien recommends caution and a calculated take-down. Supergirl simply runs off grabbing the alleged criminal. It is a nice reversal of the usual encounter between Batman and Robin. Usually it is Damien who is wading into battle without careful thought.

Again, this reaction by Supergirl was the right one. After all the trauma she has seen, she isn't going to waste time. She wants to mete out justice.

The criminal turns out to be the Scarecrow and does Kara with his fear toxin.

The resulting madness in Supergirl was the high point of the issue for me.Supergirl's fears unfold before her. The resurrection of Reactron. Her parents complaining that she wasn't able to save them. Superman saying Superwoman is stronger and a better partner for him.

Those would be her fears. She isn't afraid of harm or monsters. Her fears are that she has let people down. Her fears are more emotional than irrational or physical fears. I tip my hat to Williamson for having that understanding of Supergirl and her current feelings.

While panicked, Supergirl thinks Robin is Reactron and tries to attack him.

Another part of this scene that I thought was great was how Robin finally begrudgingly shows his respect for her. He tells her to snap out of it because 'she's Supergirl dammit!'.

And with that, she does snap out of it.

With Supergirl in command of her senses, the Scarecrow gets quickly captured. It turns out that he hates Lex because during Blackest Night Luthor stole the Scarecrow's Yellow Lantern ring. And now the Scarecrow craves that power, that sensation of fear. He dosed the interns with fear toxin causing them to die of heart attacks. He then simply dumped the bodies in the slum. I hope this vendetta continues forward in the DCU.

With the case finished, Supergirl and Robin finally bury the hatchet a little bit. He calls her Supergirl ... not 'alien'. She carries him back to Gotham rather than making him fend for himself. They probably aren't best friends but they can work together.

In my second favorite scene, Dick talks to Damien. I love how he first says Supergirl is way out of Damien's league. And then ... in a great deduction ... Dick realizes Damien has a crush on Supergirl. It makes sense. Damien would want a strong, powerful, intelligent woman who would stand up to him. He respects her. He might deny it ... but it feels true.

I think Joshua Williamson did a very good job here with the characters. It is a fast paced and engaging story with a lot of whimsy. How often do you read a 'fun' comic these days. Despite the horror elements, this was fun. Between the high quality of  Batgirl #14 and this issue, I think we need a 'Young World's Finest' mini-series.

I didn't really like Ale Garza's work on the title in the past. It looked a bit to scratchy and blotchy then. Here, his J. Scott Campbell-esque style looks much more polished. I think his art is something I appreciate more in doses than on a month to month basis.

Overall grade: B+/A