Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bernard Chang Art

A while back on Twitter, artist Bernard Chang ran a couple of contests to promote his work on the book Demon Knights.

The first promotion involved Demon Knights #16. If you purchased 6 copies of the book and could prove it on Twitter with a picture of you holding the issue and a scan of the receipt, Chang would send you one of the original art pages. There was even a drawing to see who would get the splash pages.

Now I am a big Bernard Chang fan from his work on Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and DC Comics Presents ... before his Demon Knights stuff. So I was going to do it. Alas, when I got to the comic store that afternoon, only 5 copies were left on the shelf so I was shut out.

The next month, Chang ran a different contest. If you bought 2 issues of Demon Knights #17 (with the same caveats of proof of purchase), he would send you a panel or 2 of original art. Chang was going to cut up his art pages to send to fans. Now I thought that was a great way to try to drum up some publicity for a great (if low-selling and underappreciated) title. Chang even asked that you give the second issue to someone who doesn't read the book ... a sort of 'pay it forward' move.

I bought the two issues and sent along the proof. I told Chang my favorite Knight was Sir Ystin and asked, if possible, that I get a Shining Knight panel.

Well the package arrived 2 weeks ago and inside was this 2-panel 1/3 of a page. That is 2 great panels of Sir Ystin, the steed Vanguard, and Exoristos. What an absolute treasure! Fantastic.

But there was more ...

Included inside was an entire page of Supergirl #62, one of the James Peaty books beautifully drawn by Chang.

He said he recalled my reviews of Supergirl and wanted to give me something of that run.

What a great page showcasing so much of that arc. We have 2 panels of Linda Lang walking with Jaime (Blue Beetle) Reyes and Damien (Robin) Wayne. We also have 2 flashback panels of Supergirl walking through the villain's wrecked lab coming across a 'New Kryptonian' who was being dissected.

Just a great page.

But there was more!

There was also a page from Supergirl #61, most noted for her confronting the 2 boys who were trying to get her picture and phone number by placing themselves in harm's way. There is also a panel of Alex regarding the robots he sent to fight Supergirl, returned to him in a flaming ball of wreckage.

I have to thank Bernard Chang for sharing such goodies with me. The Shining Knight panels alone were a great surprise in the mail. But tack on 2 great pages of Supergirl art and I was giddy!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Superman Family Adventures #12

After reading Superman Family Adventures #12, the final issue of the series, I was struck by the words of Kurt Vonnegut. “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been.” 

Because it pains me that this series is ending. We have heard from creative team Art Baltazar and Franco that they had plots scheduled up to the forties. So there were more stories to tell. And this was such a crazy fun primer to the Superman Family, showcasing old characters, slight satirizing Superman story arcs from the past, bringing a classic sensibility to the Superman family, and just being fun. I looked forward to this book every month as did the supergirls at home. 

So it is unfortunate that this book is ending. Moreover, I think this issue suffers a little bit for being the last issue from a pacing and story viewpoint. It is clear that Baltazar and Franco try to stuff as much of their future ideas into this issue as possible. With so much stuff thrown against the wall, the book has something of a scattershot feel to it. Not that I mind all of these images I am seeing ... I just wish they were given time to breathe, space to grow. These must have been future plots that these two wanted to explore, and without that opportunity, the decision was made to at least give the readers a taste of what they will be missing. 

The issue jumps right into the action. Last issue ended with Luthor bringing in Darkseid. This issue starts in the middle of a fight. Somewhere between issues, Darkseid has sent a massive meteor to destroy Earth. And Superman has gathered to Justice League to thwart him. The JLA are actually on the meteor, trapped in some odd rock structure and Superman is going toe-to-toe. It took me a while to figure out just what was happening.

I also have to point out the new credits between panels. 'Supergirl based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family.' I have tried my best to follow the Siegel family lawsuit but I have to admit I am no lawyer. I do wonder if this will be a tagline on all Supergirl stories moving forward.

It does allow the creators to bring the Justice League into the book. The side-burned necklaced Aquaman? A trousered Wonder Woman. Interesting.

But as fun as it is to see these heroes fighting Darkseid, I would have preferred seeing the Superman Family at the front lines.

And then we get some of those scenes that feel like previews for future episodes.

In a plot taken from Superman Returns, Luthor shoots a Kryptonian crystal encased in a Kryptonite crystal to create a Kryptonite Fortress of Solitude. Now this isn't part of the plot of this issue. So it must be shown here to show us what might have been. I wonder what the whole plot would have been.

And then to make things even nuttier, Luthor shows he has created a clone of himself. But that is clearly Alex Luthor, the gold-suited red-haired kid I know best from Crisis on Infinite Earths. (I choose to forget Infinite Crisis.)

Now that is an issue I wish we could have seen!

As for the Superman Family, they seem oblivious to the Darkseid threat and are fixing up the Fortress of Solitude. How crazy to see Jor-El and Lara talking about making a baby room!! In fact they are only made aware of it when Jimmy hits the signal watch.

Unfortunately this is the only real moment for the extended family in the book. How I wish we would have seen them more in action.

But again, I think that Baltazar and Franco wanted to put as much into this book as they could stuff. Darkseid's meteor is stopped by ... the super-pets! So it is fun to see Krypto and Streaky again. And Super-turtle and Topo and Jumpa! And Ace!

Okay. That is fun. But seems like this was done just because it was the last chance.

And with the meteor carefully landed on Earth, Darkseid just gives up and goes home. And what of New Krypton? The planet that Brainiac has created and is enslaving the Kandorians on? Pretty much never mentioned or resolved.

Oh ... what might have been.

But there is something that needs to happen in the last pages.

Superman reveals he is Clark to Lois. Lois says that she knew all along (proving the nudge-nudge wink-wink nature of the Lois knowing about Clark seen throughout this book).

And so the book ends on this great panel ... Superman kissing Lois Lane!

I was hoping for a wedding. I was hoping for a proposal. But at least I get this!

Again, this was a super-busy issue of Superman Family Adventures. There is a lot here. And it pains me to see this end. If only all these dangling plots and future plots could have been seen in future issues!

Still, I have nothing but love for this book. I cannot thank Art Baltazar and Franco enough for this last year of fun and super-heroics. And, of course, for ending this book with the best happy ending ever ... Superman kissing Lois.

Hey DC, how about more of this?? Please???

Overall grade (issue): B+
Overall grade (series): A+++

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Danger Club - Series Review

It was over a year ago that I wrote a bullet review for Danger Club #1, the Image mini-series by Supergirl Cosmic Adventures creative team of writer Landry Walker and artist Eric Jones. At that time I praised the gritty nature of the series, the interesting hook that it had of a world's sidekicks dealing with the annihilation of their mentors at the hand of some unknown menace.

Unfortunately due to some delays and emergencies, Danger Club #5 just came out this month, about half a year after Danger Club #4 was put on the shelves. It had been months since I picked an issue of the book and without much thought I read Danger Club #5 cold. Something clicked in that issue ... something brilliant and glossed over the first time I read the earlier issues ... something that made me re-think everything that I had thought about the book. Instead of bagging the issue and throwing it into the long box, I instead grabbed the other issues of the title and read them all in one sitting, including rereading the fifth issue.

What initially seemed like a grimmer and more violent look at sidekick archetypes (Kid Vigilante for Robin, Apollo for Superboy, Jack Fearless as Bucky) has become something more complex, deeper. This isn't just a Teen Titan version of Straczynski's Supreme Power.

With the book turned on its head a bit, with some fantastic character revelations revealed, with a great cliffhanger ending reminiscent of a classic mini-series, I decided it would be worth bullet reviewing the entire series hoping I will convince some of you to find the issues and partake of the goodness. As this is a review of the first five issues, this is a long post. Since I don't post on Sundays, you'll have 2 days to read this. Sorry for my wordiness.

One of the charms of the series has been these retro-opening pages, drawn and colored like they are ripped from the Silver Age. Each page adds something to the story, giving slight insight into some crucial part of the story. For instance, in this one from the first issue we learn that Apollo is vulnerable to moon metal.

But as I would read these, I wondered exactly why Walker and Jones would choose to use this style as a way to clue us in to the plot points. Why Silver Age style pages? And did these stories happen in the past? How could these stories happen in the blood-soaked world we are otherwise being shown?

And it is a blood-drenched and dark world. The heroes of the world have all perished in some cosmic brawl leaving the sidekicks in charge. In something like a super-powered Lord of the Flies, most of the young heroes fall in line behind the extremely powerful and narcissistic Apollo.There is even a sort of Hunger Games arena set up, games for Apollo to witness.

Kid Vigilante is truly the Robin/Batman character of the book. The self-proclaimed smartest boy on the planet decides he needs to take matters into his own hands. Flanked by the other members of the Danger Club and armed with moon metal knuckles, he bashes Apollo to a pulp. It just has that "Kryptonite Ring" feel to it.

In dramatic fashion, Vigilante tells the other sidekicks. that the danger from space is coming. The sidekicks who followed Apollo can help, stay out of the way, or get taken out.

At the time, I thought this was a great premise for a book. What happens when the sidekicks become the upper echelon? What lines will be crossed?

But then the second issue happens. And we suddenly see that the plot isn't going to be that easy. It isn't just going to be Kid Vigilante whipping the frothing young heroes in line to face off against Galactus.

The book opens up with a flash forward of Jack Fearless shooting Vigilante in the head at close range, a shower of brain and blood exploding from Vigilante's skull. That seems so out of place for your standard Crisis story. But before you can process it, we flip back in time to the end of issue #1 again. We get to see what Vigilante is planning.

In a great scene, we see some cracks in the emotional armor of Kid Vigilante. Almost everywhere in the book he is the steely immutable hero. But here, his ex-super-villain girlfriend with him, he returns to the 'Bat-Cave' equivalent. But in this world, it isn't costumes in tubes to help commemorate fallen heroes. It is the actual heroes. Vigilante's brother, Kid Victory, weakened by a neurological disorder, is alive in stasis in a tube. This isn't a heroic death or an assassination by a super-villain. It's just life that has taken him out.

With the world on the brink, Vigilante pulls the plug on his brother and breaks down. This is the only time you see just how much being the cold-hearted hero must weigh on someone.

But as I said, things aren't always what they seem. And I suppose the opening to Danger Club #2 should have told me that this wasn't going to be a straightforward narrative.

We learn at the end of the second issue what Red Vengeance (Kid Vigilante's mentor) saw right before he died. It is implied that it wasn't some cosmic threat.

And then in Danger Club #3 we learn just who the villain is. The President of the United States, the former Captain America-like American Spirit, shows his true colors. A sidekick named Moonlight shows up to inform him about Kid Vigilante's plans. Spirit kills Moonlight, cackling about it was he, the American Spirit, who killed the heroes ... not some cosmic entity. So now we know that ... and we assume Vigilante knows it too!

Now that revelation is a nice twist and would probably be a good enough left turn plot-wise to jkeep me happy as a reader.

But what bothers me is that on first reading I sort of blew right by this line. The Spirit remembers everything that has ever happened and everything that no longer happened. There is something even more about this plot than simply a good hero turned bad.

Maybe it didn't sink in because Walker and Jones continue to show me just how depressing and dark this world is. Remember, these heroes are basically kids.

Jack Fearless takes some of the 'Danger Club Reserves' on a side mission to investigate a super-villain lair. There, they are psionically attacked, forced to face their inner most fears. This school age hero, Gravity Girl, is so overwhelmed by her reality and the attack that she kills herself.

It once again shows us how horrific this place has become, a stark contrast to this almost-sweet retro opening pages. That dichotomy (along with the Spirit's words) should have bothered me more, should have made me think more about what is happening here.

So in three issues we have had three very good plot twists - dead heroes to main hero being killed in the future to the heroic President being the villain.

But we still aren't done.

Not so much a plot twist but more like a mysterious pause happens in Danger Club #4. Armed with the knowledge that the American Spirit is behind everything, Kid Vigilante develops an intricate and possibly deadly plan to set things right. We aren't told what the specifics are but the inherent danger is felt.

Last issue, we saw Kid Vigilante return to Apollo, still weakened but regenerating, and grabs some of Apollo's blood. Even here, Apollo says 'no matter how many times you kill me, you can't escape Hades'. Is Apollo just talking about these two beatings? Or has this scene replayed itself? Is Apollo aware of time repeating itself?

The Magician inoculates himself with the blood and enters some sort of spell world, flying through 'bubbles' which show again scenes we have seen from the earlier issues as well as some scenes we haven't seen yet. Crawling through the memories, the Magician finally finds one of the heroes just prior to their deaths and seems to absorb them into his wand. He then mutters the word Apocatostasis.

So what is that all about? I have some ideas below.

Finally, the latest issue came out last week.

The cover is a brilliant use of negative space showing Jack Fearless' eye patch alone near a blood streak. You know something bad is about to happen.

Now Fearless is interesting in that his character has evolved over the book. At first I thought he was a sort of Kid Nick Fury, with eye patch and cigar. In the second issue, we see him equipped with robot arms and we see him listening to the President right before killing Kid Vigilante. So then I thought he was a sort of Bucky equivalent. Then we saw the eyepatch actually covers a robot eye. And now in this issue, we see even more evolution to his character.

But finally, finally the light switch turned on in my head. This issue's retro page shows the American Spirit fighting a villain humorously named Dr. Tik-Tok. The Spirit fought someone with a time machine! Suddenly remembering 'everything that has happened and hasn't happened' makes much more sense. The Spirit has been abusing time, changing things, keeping himself in power while changing history.

Suddenly everything takes on a different light.

Maybe these retro pages did 'happen'. Maybe this simpler life was the reality on that planet until the Spirit changed things. Maybe everything that we have seen has happened before innumerable times but with subtle changes. These no longer become interesting opening pages to help move the plot ... they become apocrypha for a time that never was.

And it makes the Magician's trip through memories and time even more important. Was he gathering moments in time to save them, remove them from the timeline, make them 'permanent'?

Last issue we saw Kid Vigilante reveal his plan to Jack Fearless. And we saw Fearless, shaken by the suicide of Gravity Girl, question the sanity of the world, the feasibility of the plan. Fearless seems to betray the Danger Club, bringing in Kid Vigilante.

And then, before the world, we see Fearless shoot Vigilante ... the scene we were shown 3 issues ago. Time, such a key part of this book, has caught up.

Somehow I get the feeling that this murder of Vigilante is actually part of his plan.

Because shortly after that killing, Fearless attacks his old mentor. I love how the Spirit says he knows the truth about Fearless, a truth we learn throughout the battle. Despite appearing weak, the President easily defeats Fearless, ripping off his arms and then showing us that Fearless is, in fact, a brain and single eye in a robot body, a truth hinted at in this issue's retro page.

Fearless has completely evolved ... or de-evolved ... over the course of the book. He isn't at all what I thought he was physically in the first issue. He has gone from Nick Fury to Bucky to Robotman! Can you be a 'teen sidekick' if you are a brain encased in a robot? Can the brain of someone who was a kid in the 40s fighting Nazis still be a 'teen'?

And finally the President reveals his plot. The time machine from Dr. Tik-Tok is the ultimate weapon allowing the Spirit to change the world over and over to favor his rise to power, his immortality.

I probably should have sussed this out earlier. But when I am surprised, or when surprises are slowly hinted at before the big reveal, it thrills me as a seasoned reader.

But what of Vigilante's plan? What about the Magician and 'apocatostasis'?

Well, the Spirit engages the machine again, this time to create a 'new beginning'. The end of this issue reminded me immediately of the last issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, a slow erosion and whiteout of the panels as things are erased completely, the destruction of the universe.

Except the Danger Club members remember what 'he' (I assume Vigilante) told them to do. They all say 'apocatostasis' while the universe unravels. I have to figure that somehow that word seals them off from the universal changes, a stasis state during the apocalypse, a way to still be around to try to fight the Spirit again.

But more than that, I have to go back to the Magician absorbing the older heroes while in the time stream. Those heroes have to return again, brought back to fight the Spirit at the beginning of time maybe? Could it be that they all fight and die in a battle against the Spirit, somehow fulfilling the phony story of them dying while staving off a cosmic threat? Will the world return to that Silver Age simplicity but with these rugged and damaged sidekicks still around, remembering the trauma of their world while living in Pleasantville? Is Vigilante dead, a sacrifice made to keep his plans on track? How many times have these scenes replayed themselves as a new history unfolds?

And does the fact that time can be so fluidly changed make the events of the earlier issues sort of moot? Why do I feel I need to reread the issues again? And isn't that the mark of a great book ... the desire to reread??

It seems as if Walker and Jones have created a much more intricate tapestry of a story than simply bloody fights between sidekicks. And here is the kicker ... there are three more issues! There have been insane twists and turns here and we are just over the halfway mark!

This is a far cry from Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade. But it is tremendous. Sincere kudos to the creative team. These issues are well worth finding, buying, reading, and re-reading. The first issue is available digitally for free here.

Overall grade: A

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Superman #19

Superman #19 came out this week and was a different sort of issue than we have seen recently. Why is it different? I actually enjoyed it!

Now I have been very critical of Scott Lobdell's work on this title in the past thinking that his characterization of Superman was off, that Clark was rarely seen and when he was he was portrayed poorly, that Lois was a nonentity, that the supporting cast weren't being utilized.

This issue, which concentrated mostly on Clark and the supporting cast, actually did a much better job with that characterization. Now, admittedly, it is seen through the haze of psionic hallucination and decreased inhibitions, but that allows us to maybe see deeper into a character than we would typically see. By removing a layer of stoicism, you get to see the passions and truths that lie underneath.

Superman is strong and smart. Clark is likeable. Incredibly, this even gave me a moment where I actually liked the Clark/Diana romance. And I also think it nicely showed that despite the power couple, Lois still holds a pretty big place in Clark's heart. Now this isn't a perfect issue by any means. But it is far from the incomprehensible and muddle H'El on Earth.

If there has been one thing that has been stable on this book it has been the incredible art of Kenneth Rocafort. This issue is just beautiful, chock full of crazy designs, good action, and nice smaller more human moments.

The book starts out with Superman battling the 'Sunturians', an alien race composed of red sun particles. I love the imperial pomp of this race, adorned in their Incan like helmets and armor. There are several things I like about this fight.

First off, it sounds as if the Sunturians sought out this fight simply because they heard the reputation of Superman and wanted to prove they were tougher. While I love Superman as being an Earth hero with Earth values, I also grew up with stories where Superman was a universal entity, known in all corners of space.

Second, I like that Superman actually outwits the aliens despite their obvious advantages over him. It is an easy solution - water snuffing them out briefly - but it is more that he started his plans before he interacted with them, being proactive in implementing his plan.

I thought this was a fun scene showing Superman's presence, powers, and intelligence nicely. Plus, Rocafort's designs here are wonderful, especially the languid lying Solaratrix.

The battle with this force delays Clark from being on time for Lois' housewarming party. The party is to celebrate Lois moving in with Jon, something which can't be easy for Clark to see.

Of course, he has brought his own date ... Diana Prince. Diana arrives before Clark and stuns the crowd with her presence. No one has met Clark's new 'girlfriend' and everyone is shocked into silent staring. Diana certainly has a physical presence to her, both beautiful and regal, so I thought this was a fun response. I mean, I am sure no one expected simple Kansas Clark to bring someone like her to the party.

It must take a lot to shock Lois Lane. I think she must still be harboring some feelings for Clark as well to be frozen like this.

Now if there is one thing I am having a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around it is the characterization of Perry White, who suddenly comes across as an aging Don Draper from Mad Men. Now we learn soon that everyone in the party (maybe the city) are being subtly affected by some mind control, losing their inhibitions and actively hallucinating.

So maybe this player Perry is some deeper layer of his personality. I do like how Diana parries his advances by swiftly bringing up his more 'mature' state of being.

But I always thought of Perry as being a hard core newsman, not such a schmoozer. And there is more to come.

Now along the way we learn that Hector Hammond's EEG has flatlined. He is officially brain dead. But his psionic presence is enough to bring Orion in to investigate. Remember in the last issue Orion was shown that Superman is a planetary threat that must be stopped.

But Hammond is obviously behind the wild feelings and hallucinations that everyone is dealing with.

For example, when Clark finally arrives, he is greeted by Lois dressed up in a Wonder Woman costume, all winks and open arms. Lois as Wonder Woman? Clearly Clark still has feelings for Lois, blurring the lines between the women in his life. Even at the door he says he is nervous around Lois.

Tawdry? A little. But it shows just how conflicted Clark's heart must be, shown front and center in this telepathic dream state.

Because that Wonder Woman Lois is only a mirage. In fact, the door opens up again to reveal a more normally dressed Lois. Now it is time for us to maybe get a glimpse into Lois' true feelings. She asks for Clark's blessing in regards to Jon and tells him that she loves him. It is fascinating. How deep is this bubbling under the surface.

Does it lessen Lois a little, seeking approval from Clark. Maybe a smidge. But these are the feelings we try to hide or bury or protect ourselves from. I think it strengthens the Lois and Clark relationship more than hurt it.

Nice of Clark to pick up on the fact that something strange is happening, the only explanation for his visions and Lois' actions, so unlike her. Again, it shows a savvier Superman.

Now a lot of time is spent on these fever dreams but I thought a couple more were worth looking at.

Again, I am going to have to get used to this swinging Perry White. Three ex-wives and an enlarged prostate?

But again, it is what is slipped in to the dialogue that is interesting. Perry implies that he knows that Clark is Superman, although he back-pedals a bit, saying he knew Clark was a guy who isn't afraid. But then he also slips in an insult, calling Clark a sanctimonious punk.

So how much of these conversations are pure fantasy versus buried true feelings versus drunken rants? How much of this should I be paying attention to? I have to assume that there is some kernel of truth in all these things. It smacks too much about stuff that people keep hidden until intoxicated.

Now most people know that I am pro-Lois and think that there should be more tension between her and Clark. And I think those earlier scenes show that there is still something there.

I also don't think there is anything too interesting in the Clark/Diana relationship. But this panel actually made me think there might be something more substantial there. Again, while fueled by whatever mind control is happening, Clark and Diana head to the balcony for some kissing.  But while out there Diana says that meeting Clark's friends makes their relationship more real. And I have to agree.

There really can't be a long-term relationship built on the adrenaline of super-heroics and physical attraction. There has to be more to it for me to think about this romance more realistically. So I was glad to see that line. She even teases him about being too serious as Clark. It shows there is more to these two than just circumstance.

Now I still think this is all wrong. But at least the relationship is being explored a bit.

Before the smooching can commence though Superman is pulled away ... literally. Orion tugs on Superman's cape tossing him into the river. The dunking snaps Superman out of his psionic haze. But Orion isn't there to talk. He is going to fight Superman.

After months and months of basically complaining about Superman, I was thrilled to finish this issue and feel entertained and satisfied. This was a well-paced issue, opening with some action, showing some good (if addled) character development, and ending with a good cliffhanger. As I said before, it is hard to know just how much to make of all the odd conversations in the party ... but I think that something is there. At the very least, I get the sense that Clark and Lois still have intense feelings for each other even if they aren't openly admitting it to each other.

And Kenneth Rocafort really crushes it here. The art throughout the book just sizzles.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Superman Unbound Preview Scenes

Another scene from the upcoming Superman:Unbound movie has been released. This one focuses on Lois Lane and Supergirl. And man, this clip makes me want to see this movie even more.

For those who haven't seen it, here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddl0zPqNgwE

The film is based on Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Brainiac storyline, an arc which began to reclamation and rehabilitation of the Supergirl character. The story has Kara run the gamut of emotions from frightened traumatized young girl to heroic saver of the Earth.

From what I have heard of this movie, there is an added plot of Supergirl wanting to be more independent and less beholden of Superman. As a result, I think we are going to see a spectacular rendition of Supergirl in this movie.

This clip also showcases another part of the movie which has been mentioned and that I am eager to see. There is a stronger relationship between Kara and Lois. Here we see Supergirl save Lois from a kidnapper. We get only a taste but I think we are going to see a healthy dose of Kara-tharsis in the movie.

And Lois seems calm and poised even in the face of danger, just the way she should be!

There also is a Superman and Brainiac preview scene as well!  Here is that link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tgx-hcc7AA

So mark your calendars. May 7th!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ale Garza Commission - Boston Comic Con Wrap-Up

It has been a trying couple of weeks in the Boston area with the terrorist bombings and subsequent manhunt for those responsible. I am proud of my city, my state, and my country for the handling of this situation.

An unfortunate consequence of this tragedy was the cancellation of the Boston Comic Con. I was looking forward to the show. As I said in earlier posts, there were plenty of creators I wanted to meet and greet. I have been a fan of the show since it started and understand the chaos this must have caused. Hopefully, all those affected - fans and creators alike - will be patient as things get sorted out.

Now luckily, some of the local stores around the area decided to contact some of the creators in town and set up some in-store signings and appearances.Comicazi, Friendly Neighborhood Comics Larry's Comics, and Comicopia all had 'mini-cons' and some of the guests appearing in their stores.

I decided to head with a friend to Comicazi to meet the guests that were there. The announced guests included Tim Sale, Ming Doyle, Dan Rosa, Tim Seeley, David Mack, and Agnes Grabowska. I had little to get signed by those folks but I wanted to thank those creators for sticking around and helping the community.

Amazingly, more artists just showed up including Ale Garza and Nick Bradshaw. While Ale Garza drew some of the 'crystal hell, kill Kal-El' story arc, he has history with Supergirl, one of the criteria for me to grab a commission. I also thought his anime-flavored work was pretty dynamic, raw in some place in a vibrant way. So out of sheer luck, I was able to grab a commission this weekend.

This is a nice addition to my collection, a mix of pencils, black ink, and copic gray marker highlights. I especially like the expression of Supergirl's face

Thanks to Comicazi and the other stores for putting these last minute mini-shows together.

This was the first time that I have been to this store and I was pretty impressed with it. It is a narrow store but every inch ... I mean every single inch ... of it is filled with merchandise to peruse and purchase. It has an enormous toy section and a very comprehensive trade section. There is a modest back issue section. Definitely worth checking out if you are a comic fan.

I'll look forward to the re-planned Boston Con as well!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bullet Review: Vibe #3

Let's start this bullet review off with an confession. I never ever ever ever thought I would be buying a comic with Vibe as the lead. One, I never thought that there would be a Vibe comic. Two, I had no interest in Vibe at all. I thought he was something of a joke in the Justice League Detroit book. And I really didn't like the Detroit books to begin with. So two major hurdles would need to be cleared for me to even try an issue.

And yet, here I am bullet reviewing Justice League of America's Vibe #3.

Why am I here?

For one, Sterling Gates took over as writer with this issue. As long time blog friends know, I loved Gates' run on Supergirl. Vibe is a young character, just developing his powers and learning the ropes. Thematically, it sounds like it is right in Gates' wheelhouse. So how could I not try this book. Knowing Gates' was coming on, I bought the first two issues, penned by Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns.

Furthermore, Pete Woods is on art and he is one of those artists whose work is so appealing for me. I have loved his work on everything he's done so right writer and right artist to grab me!

But also, I have to say I am a bit intrigued with this version of Vibe. This isn't just a kid with sonic powers. He is vibrationally attuned to the planet. He can detect incursions from other dimensions and as a result can be used to detect invasions. With Apokolips having done some major damage to Earth years ago, the government wants to be prepared. If Vibe is going to detect these interdimensional incursions, it means we, as readers, might see a bunch of older DC characters. Characters stuck in comics limbo might end up back here.

So those are the reasons I am here. Here is a brief look at the last issue.

I think DC must realize that they have an uphill battle convincing the comic audience that Vibe is something new and different and important.

So opening scenes like this with Amanda Waller walking through ARGUS and telling Dale Gunn that Vibe is a crucial player in the defense against interdimensional breachers. Not only can his powers potentially shake the Earth apart but he could become ... wait for it ... one of the world's greatest heroes.

I don't mind hearing it this early in the series but I hope it won't become a monthly statement. Remember when every issue of James Robinson's JLA that he had someone pointing to Congorilla and Jesse Quick saying 'THIS IS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!' I get it. And I am willing to accept it!

But one thing I like about this is the dichotomy of the book. On one side is ARGUS wanting to train (and control) Vibe, using him as a soldier in their war. On the other side is the sort of innocence and optimism of Cisco who wants to embrace his new super-hero persona by patrolling and representing.

This isn't an angsty teen weighed down by his powers. This is someone who wants to use his powers for good.

Unfortunately, Cisco has been keeping his powers and new role with the JLA and ARGUS from his father. The problems of a secret identity are part of the undercurrent of the book. It is a classic conundrum for the young hero.

Now the main story here is Waller sending Vibe to face off against Kid Flash. While not a breacher, Kid Flash's speed is vibrational and Vibe can hone in on him. Somehow this cross-reactivity allows Vibe to psychically link with Bart, peek into his history, and learn about him.

Despite being told to 'bring him in', Vibe breaks rank figuring the right thing to do is to help Kid Flash.

For me, this is going to be the gold of this series. Vibe is going to continue to run into problems with ARGUS; he is going to realize that maybe ARGUS isn't 100% on the level and he is going to need to follow his own moral compass. That is an angle that I hope will be explored more and more.

Again, we hear how powerful Vibe is, even if he doesn't realize it. There could be negative feedback of this connection that could unravel time!

But my favorite part of this book is 'The Circus', the area of ARGUS where breachers have been imprisoned. In the first issue, we saw some familiar faces. Pariah! A Scissorman! And Gypsy.

Gypsy gets the most face time and is clearly going to be a player here. When Vibe's powers, from a distance, temporarily knock out the power grid at ARGUS, Gypsy uses her powers to escape. It is the oldest play in the book for a shapeshifter, appearing as a captured guard. Once freed, she takes out the real guard and takes off. Now Gypsy, in the old DCU could camouflage herself. Here she is something new.

Who else is down there? I have some suggestions!

So not a bad beginning for a title I am surprised to be buying. The friction between Vibe and ARGUS's goals is going to be the big draw for me. The possibility of classic inter-dimensional characters showing up is some nice spice. And Gates' sensibilities on a young hero along with Woods' slick art.

Pretty good!

Overall grade: B+

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #19

Legion of Super-Heroes #19 came out this week, another chapter in the Fatal Five storyline, another episode filled with death and devastation.  While I certainly applaud the breakneck pace of this arc, especially given the doldrums it was in earlier, I hope that writer Paul Levitz doesn't fall into the lazy trap of thinking that more death in a comic means more 'relevance'. Or even worse, that more death equals more publicity and more sales.

And, as I said, there is more death in this issue as well as some gruesome maimings. It is hard to believe that Levitz or even DC wants to pare the Legion roster down this much but who knows, I suppose.

Paul Levitz is the writer here but Keith Giffen gets a sort of co-plotter credit. I can recall the Giffen announcement followed quickly by the announcement he was leaving. Was he one of those creators who left because of editorial control? I wonder if he wanted more death or less.

The art is done by Scott Kolins and his crude and rough pencils fits the content of this story. The universe is unraveling as technology erodes around people. I don't know if Francis Portela's clean lines would evoke the sort of griminess of the situation as well as Kolins' art does.

We have seen three of the Fatal Five before this issue. Now we finally get to see number four, the Emerald Empress. She is on Weber's World, terrorizing the diplomats and generally causing mass destruction.

But this doesn't feel like the Emeral Empress I am used to. The old Emerald Empress was cold, distant, regal in that 'I am simply better than you' sort of way. Sure, she killed and destroyed before but it always felt as if she couldn't care less about it. Her victims were like insects to be squashed. That was the royal air she gave off.

This one is much more unhinged, much more drunk with blood lust. She seems eager to kill, to get her hands dirty, and is enjoying this work. There isn't any of that aloof regal feeling in her at all in this issue.

And she looks different too, moving away from the more staid and stately Empress I have seen. Clearly Kolins is channeling Jack Kirby here. She looks like a cross between Morgan LeFay and Mad Harriet. But her busting out all over, her speech, and her ludicrously huge hair gives her a much different feel.

It has been a while since I have seen the Empress. Did the original die? Is this a new Empress anyways?

The gatefold cover promised a battle between the Empress and Mon-El and we sure do get one. This is extreme power against extreme power. And the melee doesn't let the reader down. It is massive and brutish.

Again, I think the Empress does seem to relish this confrontation more than I would expect her to in prior incarnations or stories.

Meanwhile on the Promethean Giant world, Tharok continues to have the giant try to crush the Legion team on the surface. In another death stroke, it appears that Polar Boy and Invisible Kid are crushed by the giant's fingers.

After seeing her teammates die, Phantom Girl prays for the release of death.  This also seems like a departure from her typical personality. Yes I know this is a stressful time and she has witnessed the death of three of her friends. But one of the reasons I think she won the election is that she has been portrayed as a very level-headed Legionnaire, a sort of no-nonsense seasonsed veteran.

I hope she has not died. That might be too painful.

This issue at least gives me the best idea of what Tharok has become since this story opened. He seems to be some sort of disembodied technological spirit which can possess machines. Now how that works on a Promethean Giant, I have no idea.

Here we learn he needs to concentrate to maintain that control. Somehow I think that is a bit of foreshadowing. Somehow he must lose control and the Giant retaliates.

I also like this scene where the Persuader says he will follow Tharok ... for a while. The Fatal Five were never a real team, just criminals thrust together from time to time.

Back in space, Mon-El gets the worst of the fight, all while Brainy and his team of Legionnaires stays huddled in their disabled cruiser. This is a gruesome end for Mon-El, battered and literally fighting for life and limb. I don't necessarily remember the Eye wielding this much raw power.

Who knows if he will survive? If he does, he won't be the first Legionnaire sporting a robot arm.

If he does die, the death toll is starting to mount. Maybe we should start a death pool raffle?

The other Legionnaires decide to risk flying out of the cruiser to engage ... just a bit too late for Mon-El.

Amazingly, Element Lad puts a quick end to the fight, encasing her in two layers of inertron. Why didn't he think to do that earlier?

Lastly, it does reinforce my belief that Element Lad just might be the most powerful Legionnaire of them all.

The fourth member of the Fatal Five to appear is Validus, deployed on and tromping about the Sorcerors' World. There shouldn't be the chaos here that we have seen elsewhere. I doubt they are using quark tech here. But I don't know if that matters given that we are talking about Validus.

If we had a death pool raffle, I would put all my chips on poor Blok, living on the planet as Black Witch's consort.

But where ... in all this ... is Mano?

Boy this is a fast moving story. The death numbers keep climbing. But I worry that this might be overkill, no pun intended. I don't need less Legionnaires to make this book better. I need the right interplay and the right stories. I mean ... how many more will die in this arc.

And I suppose I have to wonder if Levitz will make the next leap in 'relevance' and have a Legionnaire kill.

But Phantom Girl and the Empress seem not quite themselves in this issue.

Overall grade: B