Monday, April 21, 2014

Who's Who: Reactron


Folks who come to this blog enough have probably heard me talk about the Fire and Water Podcast a weekly comics podcast run by Rob Kelly of the http://www.aquamanshrine.net/ and the Irredeemable Shag of http://firestormfan.com/

As you can tell by the name and their blogs, the podcast is Aquaman and Firestorm centric although they often cover DC comics in general and other trending news. It is must listening for me on Monday mornings. The two also, as an adjunct, have a Who's Who podcast where they have been reviewing the 1985 DC Who's Who page by page, character by character. It is my favorite of their family of podcasts and are definitely worth listening to. I have promoted it before but I don't mind talking it up again.

And what better reason to do it than on this day when they are reviewing Who's Who The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Volume XIX which includes one of my favorite Supergirl rogues ... Reactron


Now don't ask me why Reactron is spooning with the Reverse Flash on this Ernie Colon cover. That looks like a invasion of personal space although Reactron's smile makes me think he's okay with it.


And here is Reactron's Who's Who entry, a half sheet just above Red Bee.

It is the standard Carmine Infantino pose for most of his Who's Who pages. But the surprint is a nice action shot of Reactron blasting Supergirl. The origin is brief recapping Ben 'Reactron' Krullen obtaining powers after radiation  exposure in Vietnam and then gaining control when he teamed up with The Council. It does ignore his connection to Tempest of the New Doom Patrol. Josh Clay served with Krullen.

Reactron is one of the true Supergirl rogues who has had some longevity. After Supergirl was erased from continuity in the Crisis, his history was linked to Power Girl. He then had numerous interactions in the Doom Patrol comic that emerged post-Crisis. Of course, he was then recreated by Sterling Gates around the time of New Krypton, playing a significant role in Supergirl's life ... killing both her parents! You can read my prior posts on Reactron here: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com/search/label/Reactron

I have not covered Reactron's Doom Patrol appearances. We just finished Psi-sightings. Should we do a run of Reactron Reactions?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Final Psi Sighting: Secret Six #17 & #18


Just when you thought it was safe to forget about Psi, the misunderstood empath from The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, I show one more Psi-sighting. I have really gotten a big kick out of this look back at the character, spurred by the reintroduction of her to the New 52 by Sterling Gates in Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S..

So we have seen her fight Supergirl as a dupe for Mr. Pendergast, trying to stem the tide of Decay. Then we saw her turn on Pendergast. We have seen her die on a mission for the Suicide Squad. And we have seen her resurrected as a Black Lantern.

So what did she do as a revenant? The sad answer is 'not much'.  Secret Six #17 and #18 were Blackest Night crossover issues, co-written by John Ostrander and Gail Simone. And art is done by Jim Calafiore, whose style perfectly fits the grimy mayhem of these issues.

The plot itself is an insane mix of action. Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad is trying to rein in and maybe even absorb the Secret Six, a similar group of super-villains. This brawl takes place on 2 fronts - one Belle Reve prison, the other in front of the Six's headquarters the House of Secrets. But added into the mix is a group of dead ex-Suicide Squaders, raised as Black Lanterns and led by the Fiddler. Brief alliances, back-stabs and treachery, retreats and attacks - it is all there in 2 crazy issues.

But I was so hoping that the Black Lanterns would have more lines. The Fiddler and Yasemine get the most. Psi unfortunately remains silent (Psi-lent?). And there would be so much fun there ... taking about decay, etc.


 Instead we see her (far right) tearing through Belle Reve guards and prisoners.


 And then taking the fight to the Secret Six outside the prison walls.


 Somehow this group - Bane, Black Alice, and my gal pal Nightshade - are able to hold them off until some back-up arrives. But these are Black Lanterns. Any physical damage done can simply be regenerated. This will eventually be a losing fight.


It is clear that both the Six and the Squad, now temporarily united against this common foe, have to retreat. They use Nightshade's shadow-path power to head to the House of Secrets.

Unfortunately, it is Black Alice (who has drained Nightshade of her powers) who opens up that path. And, like the novice she is, she leaves it open. Suddenly, the Black Lanterns, including Psi (over on the right) are there and ready to brawl.


Luckily, Amanda Waller has an ace in the hole. She has a partially powered old Manhunter robot. And she uses it as a Green energy grenade.

Now it has been a while since I read Blackest Night. Is this a valid weapon for Black Lanterns?


At least in this book, it is.

The Black Lantern rings connections are severed and the zombies blow away like ash.

And that my friends ... I promise you ... is the last we saw of that Psi.

I wish we could have had some lines from her in this form!


Outside of the Psi sighting, these issues are a wild romp. And if you see them in the 50cent box, you should buy them just for the action and some excellent moments. I wanted to share a couple.

First off, look at Nightshade just hammering away at Bane. He can't lay a glove on her. I love how she is shown to be strong and battle-savvy.


But this was my favorite moment.

Yasemine looks at Deadshot to see his emotional energies. I love how Deadshot has buried his emotions so deep inside his psyche that we only see cracks of will and rage. Just a nice little characterization moment.

So this certainly isn't important from a Supergirl point of view. Heck, it isn't even important from a Psi viewpoint. But it is her last moments. So, for completeness sake, I figured I would finish off the Psi-sightings.

Hope you enjoyed this look back at this purely Supergirl rogue.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Supergirl #30


Supergirl #30 came out this week, the second part of the Red Daughter arc and the first issue with new artist Emanuela Lupacchino. I have been giving this arc and it's counterparts in Red Lanterns relatively high marks as it has felt that writer Tony Bedard (as well as RL scribe Charles Soule) has been moving Kara towards some revelation, some redemption, some understanding that she has to give up this anger and isolation. This issue, while decent, didn't seem to have the same progression towards wellness in Kara that I have seen in the prior issues.

And I have said all along that I will reserve the right to regrade this arc if the ending of Supergirl becoming likeable, relatable, and heroic isn't actualized.

That isn't to say there aren't nice moments in this book. There are. Bedard does a nice job of putting in subtle hints that Kara is still a bit confused, trying to figure things out. But there is still a harsh edge to her, harsher than I have seen in the prior issues, and that felt like a step backwards.

Lupacchino's art looks a bit more raw than her highly polished covers have been. But the work itself is very slick. Their is an energy to the art here that brought me into the story. There are maybe a few too many poses where Kara seems to have a broken back but nothing so insane as to drag me out of the plot.

And Kenneth Rocafort's cover is very eye-catching. I did cringe at the 'We're Red, you're dead!' tagline.

The issue starts with the Lanterns defending a planet called Grax from a group of warriors called Diasporans. The Diasporans have been given a belief from someone (I am assuming it will be World Killer #1) that destroying a race's planet and sending them to the stars makes that race stronger. So we see them slaughtering the Grax without care.

That is until the Reds show up.

The first thing we hear from Kara is that she finally feels like she belongs. She was chosen to be part of the Corps. So despite having powers and being Supergirl on Earth ... she just didn't fit in there. I wonder if this is rationalization a little bit by Kara. I think she is grabbing on to the fact that the ring chose her as equaling her fitting in. She didn't really try to fit in on Earth. And maybe she would have if she did try.

I do like the name Diasporans. Nice little play on diaspora.


But there are parts of Kara's interaction with the Reds that makes me think she actually doesn't fit in with this group. This is where I think Supergirl, being desperate for acceptance, is trying to convince herself this is where she belongs rather than feeling it.

For instance, Supergirl chides Skallox for yelling at this young Grax about the death of her mother. That sounds like what a Red would say. But Supergirl doesn't think so. And in the battle, Zilius notices that Supergirl is using her Kryptonian powers rather than her ring's powers to fight. Maybe she isn't totally accepting her new life?


The Lanterns drive off the Diasporans and accept the cheers of the Grax. It is good ... I suppose ... the see Supergirl defend something so passionately, acting heroically. She even talks about how she will pummel anyone that threatens this world again.

So ... this is where I have to wonder about long term characterization. Remember when she called Earth a sweating ball of mud? Where she said she didn't care about Earth at all as long as Krypton came back? Why does Grax rate higher?

I'm happy she wants to defend Grax. I just wonder why it has taken 30 issues for us to hear something like this from Kara. Why she didn't have the same resolve on Earth. I hope Bedard talks about this change of heart.

This is one of those 'brokeback poses' from Lupacchino.


Bedard does do a good job keeping the subplots smoldering.

Blaze not only is on the loose in the Block, she is able to use her magic to convert a computer into some sort of scrying device. She asks it to find the 'angry girl' and it answers Supergirl and Banshee. It then leads her to Queens and Siobhan's home.

I have to say it out loud. I am hoping that the search 'angry girl' is more about Siobhan and her internal demon than Supergirl. Maybe that is me being old fashioned.


The actions shifts back to Ysmault where Guy is trying to rally the corps around the impending fight with Atrocitus. Part of that means talking to Kara and trying to rein her in. This heart to heart talk gives Bedard some rope for some exposition. Supergirl tells Guy about all she saw when in the Blood Ocean. It is a nice way for us as readers to see Kara's true feelings.

Lupacchino really shines in this section, made even better but the muted colors in this section by Hi-Fi.

Much of the vision is a flashback to Krypton and Zor-El. She sees the World Killers in his lab. Finally, we hear some sympathetic words from Supergirl. She finds the very idea of World Killers abominable. As an orphan from a dead planet, she can't tolerate that. (Again, it flies in the face of the Supergirl who was willing to let Earth die in both H'El on Earth and Krypton Returns. But let's forget about those stories ... please??)

We also learn that she doesn't remember that Alura tried to 'save her' from being rocketed off.


I normally don't scan a whole page, but this was the key of the issue for me. And I counted it as 'three panels' in my internal barometer of what I feel comfortable sharing.

We relive the battle with the World Killers from way back in Supergirl #7. (I am pretty sure people in Manhattan cheered for her at the end like the Grax).

But here are the things I liked about this.

One, Kara says the Killers were goading her by saying only a World Killer could defeat one. Back then, I worried that Kara might therefore be the first World Killer. Heck, Mike Johnson certainly hinted at that. By changing it to a taunt, it makes it less likely. Hurrah.

Then we see that resolve of the 'daughters of the house of El'. Alura is a leader who doesn't quit. And Kara wants to live up to that example. That is also very good. We need to distance Kara more and more from the increasingly odious Zor-El.


But as great as these moments were ... Kara wanting to save people, using her powers not the ring, thinking differently from Skallox, thinking World Killers are horrible, wanting to be like Alura ... Bedard kind of pulled the rug out from under me.

Just when I think Supergirl is realizing her true nature, she devolves back to a snarling Red, vowing to burn the sector clean. I do like Guy's expression, realizing he has his hands full.

I know, this is a whole arc. I shouldn't expect things to be the way I want ... let alone in a couple of months. But I was hoping that the trajectory we saw in the earlier issues ... the trek back to a S-shield Supergirl fighting villains on Earth ... was maintained.

Still, there is progress here. And I guess I should be happy about that.

Overall grade: B/B+

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sales Review: March 2014



March was another month of slow comics sales as reported over at ICv2. As always, that sites coverage of comic sales is superior and worth looking at in total. Here is a link: http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/28315.html

I think everyone has been wondering if we are on a slow march to death of this medium. I have been saying it for a decade so I doubt we are close. But slow sales is worrisome. I do wish there was some report about digital sales.

And this day and age, we seem to be in a world of sales erosion. Each month it seems a title loses some readers. And when things reach a critical point, rather than going in a 'bold new direction' and keeping the numbering, companies now seem to cancel, pause, and resolicit. More #1 issues!


Supergirl #29 lost some readers from its last month ... that is true. But it had also picked up more readers last month with the initiation of the Red Daughter storyline. While it lost some sales, it retained more of the gain than it lost. We are still up from Supergirl #27's sales.

I am looking at the positives. Or trying to.

But it pains me that this book is hovering at the 100 mark. DC has really harmed this character over these 3 years. I crave a change and hope sales will follow.

Red Lanterns, Kara's other book, is selling a bit healthier at around 25K in sales.


As usual when I do sales reviews, I try to champion a book that I think should be selling better. Some examples from the past have been R.E.B.E.L.S., Danger Club, and Vibe.

It amazes me that Action Comics would be in this slot.

We are talking about ACTION COMICS!!

Yes, the book has suffered with Lobdell and the Diggle/Daniel upheaval.

But this book has been phenomenal since Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder took over.

PHENOMENAL!


Somehow this book is only selling 34K. Some book called Avengers World is outselling it. A Forever Evil mini-series is doing better!

It pains me.

If you think Pak and Kuder are doing it right, sing their praises everywhere! I don't want DC to yank them from the book!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Romita Is Coming! Is He The Next Great One?


I read last week's comics and was surprised to see this ad page.

I'm not the biggest JRJR fan so for me it isn't such a dramatic announcement. In fact, I would think that Geoff Johns returning to Superman would be the bigger announcement.

But there is something familiar about that simple proclamation that 'Romita is Coming!'


Way back in the 70's, DC lured Jack Kirby away from Marvel and DC included a similar advertisement.

In fact, they didn't even name check Kirby at first, simply calling him The Great One! I love that it starts with "the word from high is ..." Almost religious!

Of course, Kirby came on board and was cratively prolific. He unveiled the Fourth World, the Demon, the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, OMAC, and a variety of 1st Issue Special properties.

But I think Jack Kirby coming to DC warranted a "____ is Coming!" ad more than JRJR.


If you didn't know The Great One was Kirby, DC took care of you.

They also had a true 'Kirby is Coming!' advertisement, half pagers touting his coming on board the Jimmy Olsen book.

So ... does Romita coming to DC merit a Kirby-esque push?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #7


Superman/Wonder Woman #7 came out last week and acted as a sort of pause between the opening Zod/Faora arc and the upcoming Doomed storyline.

Writer Charles Soule does his best to use this issue to synch up this book with the mainstream DCU, particularly with Wonder Woman. In many ways, some of that contradicts the earlier issues of this book. That has been a problem for me since the inception of the New 52 ... and not just with Diana. The Wonder Woman in her main title is very different from the one in this book which has a different feel than the one we have seen in Justice League. The Superman in the Lobdell books is very different than the one in Greg Pak's Action which is also different from the one in this book. Reconciling all of this is tricky.
While I commend this attempt, it also irritates a bit.

On top of that, this issue slams the door shut on the Zod/Faora story a bit too quickly, a bit too easily.

Lastly, there is no Tony Daniel on art here and Daniel's work has been one of the consistent wins of this book. There is a very good triumverate of artists here - Paolo Siqueira, Eddy Barrows, and Barry Kitson. And the styles seem to meld into each other decently. I have enjoyed these artists on other books in the past, especially Kitson. However, there are some sequences where the art doesn't fully convey the story which made me go back to reread. It definitely re-emphasized just how important Daniel is to my enjoyment of this book.


So we start with a flash forward of a sort. We aren't picking up where last issue ended, our heroes almost killed by a nuclear explosion. Instead we are 'now'.

The question is 'when is now?' Is it pre-Doomed? Or is it post-Doomed?

My guess is that it is post-Doomed given that the London in the background is nearly leveled. Every corner is filled with cracked buildings, rubble in the streets, or construction vehicles.

If it is post-Doomed, then we know the particulars survive. We know London is nearly leveled. And we know that despite the clean-up, that Wonder Woman and Superman are going to take some 'me time'. I guess if a major battle has ended they deserve it. But it feels a little weird to see them happily cavorting while London tries to pull itself together in the background.

It also means, based on the dialogue, that Diana still hasn't said she loves Superman back. If this is post-Doomed that is really crazy. I assume Kal is near-death again at some point.


We cut back in time to the cliffhanger. Wonder Woman seems in better shape than the skeletal Superman. Maybe that invulnerable cape helped.

I will say that this is the first panel that I actually felt like there may be true feelings between these two. I may be wrong but I think that this is the first time she has called him Clark in this book. She has been confused about his need for his Clark persona, maybe even chided him a bit. Calling him that in this intense moment made me think ... for once ... that she actually cares about him.

But the plan works. The Phantom Zone, Zod, Faora ... all gone. But we only hear that in one word bubble. Seems like a let down from the actual build up of that confrontation. And what's to stop Zod from exiting again. The defeat of the villains happens off-screen, technically between issues!  I wanted more closure. But I guess with Doomed teed up, there isn't time.


I talked above about how sometimes the art doesn't necessarily convey what is happening making me have to fill in some info.

First Wonder Woman touches a button in the invisible jet which shoots a beam into the air. The clouds part and the yellow sun comes down onto Superman's hand. But I had to look back at those panels a couple of times to make sure I understood what was happening.

The same thing here. Ghost Soldiers attack Wonder Woman (synching up with a scene discussed in Action Comics #30). I assume that the second panel is Superman blasting them with heat vision (what else could it be). But we see Superman looking absolutely emaciated the panel before this. Could/should he be able to pull this off? Since I have no other explanation I guess the answer is yes. But I had to look at the panels again to make sure I had followed things, even making sure pages weren't stuck together.


And then it seems like Wonder Woman is worse for wear. The two struggle to fly off. But it is Superman that takes Diana to Hessia first, rather than she getting him aid. He looked way worse for wear initially. But by the time they get to London, he is looking plumper and less spectral.

Separately they heal. He goes to the Fortress for a sunbath. She gets some purple ray therapy.

But before parting ways, Clark again tries to drop the L word on Diana. She stops him ... saying she knows it. She doesn't reciprocate. Weird.


Meanwhile, Doomsday bursts from his Urchin-like cocoon and seems different. He seems intelligent, climbing out of the deep sea trench. And I don't know what this black energy/light he is oozing/emanating.

What I do think is crazy is that the Tower, which supposedly released Doomsday, thinks they can simply scoop him up and contain him for their purposes.

Will this be a super-intelligent Doomsday? A thinking Doomsday? Or simply a monster?


I talked about the awkward panel progression in the invisible plane sequence and the heat vision sequence. There was another.

The Tower submarine closes in on Doomsday. Then there is a panel with THOOOM. Then there is splash of the submarine exploding.

Now I can assume that Doomsday leapt out of the shark that had swallowed him, swam to the submarine, and destroyed it. And that would be a fine guess. But I wish I could say I knew that. At first I didn't know what was happening in that second lower panel. Was the sub firing on Doomsday? Or Doomsday heading to the sub? As a reader I don't know in what direction that action is happening.


Again, I have to commend Soule for trying to reconcile the disparate takes on these characters. It is a shame that writers have to deal with such diverse representations of popular characters. You would think the higher-ups at DC would lay out a plan or template for writers to follow.

So while London smolders, Superman and Wonder Woman catch up while sitting on a rooftop. She divulges that she is now the Goddess of War, and she hopes to use that change mankind's views on the topic.

Might be hard for Superman ... at least the Superman I know ... to be comfortable with that.


But this scene at the end of the book, again trying to streamline all the presentations of Diana, made me question if Soule went too far.

Remember, in the Wonder Woman main title, writer Brian Azzarello has shown Diana in street clothes listening to rock music at a club. That Diana hasn't been seen anywhere else ... especially not here. Soule has had Wonder Woman questioning Superman's love of humanity. She has asked him why he has a civilian identity. She has talked to her friends about why he would have a secret identity. She has even tried to talk Superman out of being Clark in this book. It is one of the things that has made me think these two aren't meant for each other.

But then Soule has Diana take Clark to a club to dance. It is a club she is a regular at ... the bouncer knows her name, tells Clark she has never brought a beau with her before. She slinks onto the dance floor, telling Clark how much she loves to dance. And he is happy they have this night.

But .... ummm .... how can someone who for 6 issues has said she doesn't understand civilian time turn around and be a regular at a dance club? A regular! They know her name!

It is this sort of uneven characterization that has plagued the New 52 all along, especially Superman and Wonder Woman. I would have actually liked it more if Soule kept portraying Diana as he saw her. At least this book would be internally consistent.

I have to say, between the easy ending of the Zod arc, the off storytelling, and the schizophrenic Diana, this should be my last issue of this title. But I will stick around through Doomed. If only to see the Tony Daniel's art.

Overall grade: C-

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Supergirl Mego Figure??



If there is something of a grail piece for me in my Supergirl collection, it is an original Supergirl Mego figure. Way too expensive. Way too rare. I haven't even really seen one in person. Would I ever be able to claim one of my own?

Well, what about a sort of pseudo-Mego figure? The Figures Toy Company is putting together very limited edition two-packs of Mego style figures. Over on the 13thDimension.com, they have the card of available figures. Here is the link: http://13thdimension.com/figures-toys-goes-all-in-on-mego-like-line/

I am drooling over the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez artwork. But I am amazed at the figures being offered! Mary Marvel! Yellow outfit Kid Flash! Captain Marvel Jr. (now Shazam Jr)! Early 70s Catwoman! Just beautiful.

And look at the Superman figures!


There is a bunch, including Supergirl. It is hard to see if this is a mini-skirt or hot pants! Either way ... I want one!

How about a 2-pack of Lois and Kara? Perfect!

Surprisingly, this could be relatively affordable. A 2-pack is $59.99. Just need to start squirreling away my nickels and dimes now. Here is an ordering page, including just Batman 2-packs: http://figurestoycompany.com/8inchlimitededitiondcsuperherotwo-packs.aspx

Hat tip to Rob on Aquaman Shrine for bringing this to my attention!