Saturday, March 28, 2015

Matrix Supergirl Convergence Intro Pages


Despite losing the solo comic to the post-Convergence DCU, Supergirl fans have a lot to look forward to in the Convergence mini-series. There are three versions of Supergirl in the Convergence mini-series. We have Crisis Kara.
We have Kara from the Robinson JLA era.

And we have Matrix Supergirl, in her own mini-series, and apparently before the merge with Linda Danvers. Of all the mini-series, this one intrigues me the most. I have come to appreciate the Matrix Supergirl, especially her character post-'Death of Superman'. I also worry this mini-series by Keith Giffen might be awful. And judging by the cover, we are probably in a time at or around the death of Superman. She is still with Lex. Intrigued.

Well, Sue over at DC Women Kicking Ass got the exclusive release of the intro pages over on her site:
http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/114500409771/dcwka-exclusive-dc-comics-convergence-supergirl

Congrats to Sue for the scoop!

Lets take a look at the intro pages, catching us up p on her history. I'll try to fill in some details.


These early stories show a very naive Matrix. Her earliest story have her more like a Silver Age Supergirl, overly sweet and innocent.

After the lost battle on the pocket Earth, she lives on the Kent farm, a skittish waif.

In a nice plot twist, she takes Superman's place when he exiles himself to space after executing the Phantom Zone villains.  It is the first breakdown of her sanity.

When Superman returns, it is Matrix who leaves the planet, hoping to find herself.

(It is odd that they include a snippet of a cover from the Supergirl mini-series here, one of the last stories before the Danvers merge, a time when she rebels from Lex.)


These early years of Matrix were tough for Supergirl fans.
She becomes the slave of Brainiac.
She becomes the lover and dupe of Lex.

It is only when she becomes one of the heroes in Metropolis after Superman's 'death' that we see her begin to mature into something special.

So let's hear it Matrix fans!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Review: Red Lanterns #40


What do you do when you are a good person, trying to do good, but grow weary of fighting a battle that is truly never-ending? What do you do when fatigue sets in? When you lose sight of all the good you have done, instead focusing on everything else that still needs to be helped? What do you do?

Red Lanterns #40 strives to answer those questions.

It shows us a Guy Gardner who has just about reached his limit. He is a good man. He is trying to purge the world of Atrocitus' plague of rage. But no matter how much he does, there is always more madness, more rage, more death and horror. And despite realizing that he will never be able to win this war, he plods on. He is broken man, despondent, exhausted, trying to do good but about to lose hope.

Landry Walker writes this brilliant issue looking at a super-hero burned out from the fight. This is the last issue of Red Lanterns and so why not make it a character driven issue, focusing on Guy, and giving us an open-ended finale. I worry if this gem will somehow be lost on the racks, the forgotten 'last issue' of a corner of the universe about the be rebooted.

There were parts of this issue that truly resonated with me. There are times where the grind is about to finally pulverize me and then suddenly I am reminded  to keep my eyes on the prize.

And as usual, Jim Calafiore's thick lined is perfect for this book.

In the last three issues, we have seen Guy trying to root out all the pockets of rage left by Atrocitus. We have seen him wade in the abattoir of a destroyed town. We have seen him battle a rage vampire. Around every corner is some depravity, some reminder of how cruel and terrible humanity can be.

Even Guy realizes that wearing a Corps ring changes a person. Makes them someone different.

Being a Red, seeing all the things he has seen, exposing himself to this mad rage has changed him. Look at this panel with Guy sporting this mane of hair, those sullen eyes, that crazed grimace. He has seen too much and fought too long. He has been changed.


And who wouldn't be when day in day out you are exposed to scenes like this, a blood bath in an ice cream shoppe, a crazed elderly woman floating over carnage.

Who wouldn't grow tired of this fight if you knew the next round was going to be just as horrific?

He turns to his sister for some solace.

He is trying his best to rid the world of anger. He has been absorbing this rage. He is trying to save people. But all he sees is the next fight.

His whole body language, his unkempt appearance screams he is losing hope. He knows he has to keep fighting ... but how do you pick yourself up when life is pulling you down?

His sister decides that he needs a little tough love. That seems like the Gardner way.

But this is a bit of a 'pull yourself together' speech. He can't rid the world of anger because sometimes rage is a healthy response.

And calling Guy a pretentious jerk is cutting. When did Guy decide he had the right to speak for the world? Guy might always be a jerk. But pretentious? Never. He's down to Earth.

It doesn't work.

Instead all this rage that Guy has absorbed seems to overwhelm him. He is ready to release it all back to the Earth ... all of it and more. And with the world on the verge of being engulfed in madness, Guy sends his sister and the baby from last issue into a orbiting life pod.

The thing that got me here was the image of Guy on the pretaped message.

When was the last time we saw a clean shaven, crew-cutted Guy? That is a different Guy, one that hasn't seen what the current Guy has seen, hasn't done what the current Guy has done.

From space, Guy's sister still tries to help him.

He is attacking this problem wrong. You need to not dwell on the darkness, not be overtaken by it, not give in to it. Instead, help the world and see the bright side.

It all comes down to this one statement. 'Don't give up on yourself.'


And maybe ... just maybe ... this speech jars something in Guy. There is always hope. Before he lets the rage consume him, he needs to have hope in humanity. Of course he has hope. Otherwise, why would he keep fighting?

In a truly cathartic page, Guy vomits all the rage away, ridding himself of all of it.

That second panel is just sublime, just enough of a tint of blue in to give us that hint of hope.


With the rage gone, we see the Red Ring on the ground.

And then we see Guy again. Suddenly he is ... well ... he's Guy again.

And then we see the classic Guy smirk with hope to find a ring and use it for good. No more weariness. No more pain. No more rage. No more self-loathing. No more despair.

The name of this story is 'Hope'. Classic.

Overall grade: A

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Supergirl And The Legion Theory ...


In June, DC Comics won't publish a Supergirl book.

In September, CBS will air a Supergirl show.


And we know that DC has some plans for Supergirl 'later this year'.

Now the sentiment is that DC has paused Supergirl as a book to try to re-align the comic character with the television show character. I have questioned the rationality of that. We didn't need to cancel Green Arrow or The Flash or Constantine or Batman because of the shows Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham respectively.

But let's just say that the reason why DC is pausing the Supergirl book is to re-align things (which I think is the reason).

How do you go from 17 year old Kryptonian on Earth alone to ...


The 24 year old working woman.

How do you bridge that gap?


Well in the past, I had a theory that DC could shunt Supergirl into the future with the Legion. Let's say she spends 5 years in the future and then returns as a 22 year old. Suddenly you can align Kara and her TV character a bit more.

And you can leave those five years unexplored in continuity. They can be like the five years of the Five Years Later Legion or the One Year Later after 52.

It also leverages an existing historical association between Supergirl and the Legion. That might make older fans like more easily tolerate that we are missing out on part of the hero's journey.

But even that theory was something of a stretch at first. There was no Legion in the DCU. And there was no reason or rationale behind Supergirl heading into the 31st century.


But then we got this moment in Justice League United #10.

First off, Infinitus in JLU reestablished a Legion in the current Earth-0 universe.

But then we get this scene where we learn that Supergirl and Brainiac 5 have met before when he is younger and she is older. There suddenly is a history ... even if it hasn't happened yet.

Could this little side scene be a way that DC can explain or rationalize sending Supergirl into the future? That she heads to the future, joins the Legion. And then she has a falling out (maybe whatever happened with Brainy as hinted here) and that prompts her to return to the present? Could these 2 panels pave the way for my theory to come true??

I'd go 'all in' if this was a comic book high stakes poker game!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Batman/Superman #20


Batman/Superman #20 came out last week, the finale to the Superman's Joker. This has been an interesting story that showcases the differences between our title characters and their villains. After something of a slow buildup, we sprint to the ending. And it is a rough ending, a pyrrhic victory that truly felt more like a Batman story ... heck more like a Daredevil story ... where the margin of victory is slim, hope is an ideal, and losses are great.

Greg Pak does a good job of showing us how difficult it would be for Superman to engage with someone hellbent on breaking him down both physically and psychologically. Trying to win, trying not to sink down to the level of your enemies, trying to hold on to hope ... it is interesting to see Superman struggle. As I have said about Pak, the strength of his stories has been the ability to place Superman in environments that are pushing Superman into the unknown. This sort of dark revenge tale by Dr. Xa-Du is odd for Superman, and that means it feels novel.

Adrian Syaf is on pencils here and does a fine job. Things are rougher and scratchier and more warped in places than I would hope. especially given the futuristic setting of Kandor.


To recap, Dr. Xa-Du has awoken the Kandorians from the suspended animation and using 'living death' has taken control of their minds. Filled with hate and distrust of the El family, the Kandorians (including Superman's maternal grandmother and maternal aunt) have been attacking both Superman and people he loves.

Now being shrunk, trapped in a bottle, and in suspended animation is bad enough. But Pak throws in a new wrinkle that makes things more horrific. The Kandorians were mentally awake while their bodies were dormant!

If that is true than the Kandorians have been stuck in their bodies ... locked in with only their thoughts ... for about three decades. They all should be stark raving mad even without Xa-Du.

That is crazy!


But how devastating it must be for Superman and Supergirl to be fighting their loved ones.

This fits into the 'Superman's Joker' idea. Would this be 'Death in the Family'? Or 'Death of the Family?'

Nice splash page here.


We get some exposition Lois and Ray Palmer. Floating in the Ant Farm, they give us some of the back story of Dr. Xa-Du. First Phantom Zone villain. Creator of the Living Death. Hater of the El family.

How the heck do you defeat this Kryptonian? Palmer has an idea...

I do love Xa-Du's design. The Negative Man bandages with the glowing head and tattered cape is a great design. It is just the right mix of horror and science fiction.


The book, for the most part, is a brawl between Superman and Supergirl versus their family and friends.

Of course, this is a Batman book too. So he shows up with a red sun baton which he uses to beat up an old woman.

I always worry when all these anti-Kryptonian weapons exist in the universe. In the 'War of the Supermen'/'World of New Krypton' time period everyone had Kryptonite bullets, red sun shackles, Red Kryptonite chunks. If all that stuff existed, and if the military was so fearful of Superman, he would be dead. So I worry about Batman having something like this ...

And I am a bit tired of the 'Batman is prepared for everything' idea. If he had this red sun truncheon, why didn't he break it out in the Doomsday arc? 

 In the battle, it looks like Batman is vaporized by Superman's aunt. One more death at the extended hand of Superman's Joker?

It shows just how much under the skin of the super-cousins Xa-Du has dug.

The only way to stop them is to beat them down. I can only imagine how hard it is for Kara, who has felt so alone during this New 52 universe, to pummel her friend.

With the city's bottle broken more and more Kandorians gaining powers under the yellow sun, Superman uses his heat vision to explode the red sun baton making it a red sun grenade. The mind-controlled Kandorians are temporarily incapacitated.


And in a stroke of luck, The Atom drives the Ant Farm into Xa-Du's brain, enlarging in just the right place to strip him of his powers and send him back to the Phantom Zone. (See what I did there with 'stroke' of good luck?)

Okay ... seems like an answer plucked out of the air, a sort of deus ex machina.

Too fast? I think I had no idea that this could happen so it fell a little flat.

But that's that. Xa-Du is gone as is his control over the Kandorians.


Well ... his control is gone ... mostly.

The bottle is rebuilt. The city is safe and it's citizens awake. But 1.3% of the population remains crazed for vengeance against the El family. Superman's relatives and Tali are in that group. Kryptonian scientists have no recourse but to put those effected into a medical coma.

So it is a bittersweet victory for Superman and Supergirl. They have defeated Xa-Du but at great cost, as battles with someone like the Joker often do.


But we end on a good note. The young girl struck down by the Kandorians, the amalgam of the suicidal teens in All-Star Superman and Grounded has survived.

And this time, she gets to say to Superman that he is stronger than he thinks. That he needs to keep on doing what's right. Because he saved her.

Okay, way to stick the ending Mr. Pak. It is nice to see the dawn after seeing the darkest times before it.

While the battle in this issue and how Xa-Du is defeated were sort of missteps for me, the rest of this arc was pretty meaty. This was a dark trip for Superman. We saw him have to deal with a darker sort of villain. And now we have a real Kandor to become part of the Superman mythos.

Overall grade: B

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Supergirl Show: Vartox And A Theory


There has been so much news and leaks from the Supergirl TV show that I am drowning in optimism. From seeing director Glen Winter with Supergirl movie director Jeannot Szwarc, to hearing Winter say he believes a girl can fly, to Geoff Johns talking about an iconic shot he witnessed, everything has been tantalizing! Just what publicity should do.

Now the latest casting news has come out.


Actor Owen Yeoman will star as Vartox in the series. Here is one of many links:
http://screenrant.com/supergirl-cbs-vartox-owain-yeoman

I don't watch the Mentalist so can't comment on him there. And I did watch Extant but can't place his character there either.

He certainly looks rugged enough to be Vartox. But all the links describe Vartox as a villain.

I never fully subscribed to Vartox as a bad guy. He was sort of the Superman for his world before all sort of tragedy struck him.

I can imagine him being some sort of pheromone powered alien Lothario. This will give the producers an excuse to put him in something akin to his comic book costume.

But with him being listed as a villain,  I am beginning to see a pattern in these casting and character announcements. All of the villains are aliens!

I wonder if the running story for the season is going to be Kara dealing with an undercover alien invasion of Earth. Or an extra-terrestrial cabal trying to control the planet.


I have wholeheartedly jumped on Count Drunkula's guess that The Commander is going to be Commander Blanx.

He'll be the head of this alien organization.


And we already heard in leaked Lumberjack audition tapes that the Lumberjack is an alien as well, someone with three hearts, someone where on 'his planet' women know their place.

With this idea of aliens being the set up for bad guys I wondered who else we might see.


Maybe Maxima?
Or Byth as a shape changer?
Maybe a Naltorian who can predict Supergirl's actions?

And all this will dovetail into Hank Henshaw feeling that humans are outmatched by these visitors from other planets. He'll start to distrust them all. And he'll feel that he needs to improve himself to combat them ... slowly becoming a cyborg super man.

You read it here first!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Superman #39


Superman #39 came out this last week, the final issue for the mega-team of writer Geoff Johns and artist John Romita Jr.

With the Ulysses storyline in the rear view mirror, Johns decides to slow things down and give us a character-driven issue. Living without his powers (because of his super-flare energy depletion), we get a day in the life of vulnerable Superman. And with Jimmy in on Clark's secret identity, we get to see how Superman's Pal reacts to not only the secret but also to who Superman is, what he represents.

One thing I feel is that Superman has been diminished a little over the last few years. The initial New 52 Superman had feet of clay, wasn't inspirational, and as a result I struggled with caring. In recent times, with Pak on Action and Johns on here, we are reapproaching the sort of Superman I need to read. And this issue brought me back to a simpler time where Superman was bigger than life, the person we should aspire to be like, a hero.

I am also one of those people who feels that Superman is the mask and Clark is the real person. I think that Superman would emphasize the 'man' part of his name. And it is Clark's upbringing, the lessons Ma and Pa gave him, that shaped who he is. We have seen Superman without powers before and we have seen him fight for truth and justice without powers before as well. But this issue, in the context of the New 52, felt fresh.

Romita and inker Klaus Janson's art is blocky and relatively ugly. But at least there is some meat on the bones here. There aren't many of those needless splash pages that have eaten up story space in this issue. And the one oversized paneled two page spread has an artistic resonance.


I don't know if Johns was planning for his run to be short because he is leaving a pretty big subplot open.

Remember that cloaked man who was observing Superman fight Ulysses and talkd about 'teaching' Superman? I thought it was going to be some version of the Eradicator. Or maybe a robot Pa Kent. Or something else.

Well, at least we now have a name. Mr. Oz. And in what looks like mind control, he has someone mail a package to Clark at the Daily Planet. The person has a tattoo that could be a Z superimposed on an O. (At first I thought it was Adrian Veidt's Nostalgia Perfume bottle.

I have a mega-theory about this guy ... but I'll save it for the end.

Last issue ended with Clark revealing he was Superman to Jimmy.

Here we get to see Jimmy's response, from shock to wide-eyed to more shock to more wide-eyed. Even the progression from darker to lighter color in the background works nicely. This is a great moment for Jimmy and it is getting brighter the more he thinks about it.

I thought it would be Perry that Clark would reveal this too. I would prefer it was Lois.

But I don't mind Jimmy. There is some youthful energy here.


And then Jimmy wonders why he didn't notice it before. Why didn't he see that Clark was Superman?

Is it the glasses?


I had to include this moment because it reminded me of one of the wildest books of my youth, Superman #330. In that issue we learn that Superman is constantly using low-level super-hypnosis when he is wearing Clark's glasses, skewing their perception of Clark to something a little less Super.


And so begins a day in the Private Life of Clark Kent. It is a day where he is vulnerable.

He shares with Jimmy what it is like to have powers. He tastes differently. He hears differently.

But even without his powers, Clark is willing to sacrifice himself, hurt himself if necessary, to help others.

That includes diving to the ground to catch a kid falling out of a tree. Nice.

At least in his time on the book, Johns puts Clark back at the Planet.

I would love to see some sort of office fallout from this. Remember, Clark gave a 'holier than thou' speech in the Planet as he stormed off to ClarkCatropolis. Wouldn't there be some ill will? Or schadenfreude that he is back?

I did like the return of some journalistic rivalry between Lois and Clark. This felt retro and classic and welcomed.


We then get a great scene in which Superman, even without his powers, confronts a crook who is holding a gun to a hostage's head. A bullet could kill Clark at this moment. But he won't stand down. We have to help. Not only help the man being held. But help the crook, help him see how pulling the trigger would make things much much worse.

Without blinking, without pausing, Superman makes his way through the police and asks the man to put down the gun. The man will pay for his crimes. But pulling the trigger would be crossing a horrible line.


And that frank talk, that inspirational presence gets through to the man.

He hands the gun to Superman.

The crisis is over. Without a punch. Without powers.


Afterwards, Jimmy questions why Superman would risk his life there.

Superman says that he doesn't jump in front of guns because he has powers and won't get hurt. He does it because it is what is right.

"What choice did I have?"

Indeed.

Maybe Zach Snyder should read this.

Having been exposed to the sun for the day, Superman's powers finally return.


As I said before, Romita reins it in this issue with several 9 panel pages and standard page layouts.

But the end has Superman and Jimmy sharing a snack on the Planet roof, a 2 panel, 2 page splash. While printed horizontally, they are oriented to be held vertically (see the fold in the scan).

While the majority of these pages is a building, I thought this use of space worked well. This whole story is how Superman was human for a day. Here he says that he didn't feel that different. He was the same person with or without patient. It shows his humanity.

And here, we see Superman as a small element of the page. This isn't a huge heroic iconic pose, bigger than life. This helps bring across the point of his humanity. That in many ways Superman is a guy with big ideals and ethics, who has powers that help him.

In the end, Mr. Oz package arrives, a blank notebook with an S-shield cover. The future is yet to be written.

Okay,  I think Mr. Oz is ....Geoff Johns.

Oz is someone manipulating things behind the scenes, behind the curtains (like the Wizard of Oz). Here, Mr. Oz seems to be viewing Superman from somewhere else, like a movie. Oz claimed to teach Superman important lessons like not 'punching down'.And, of course, the blank notebook meaning Oz isn't writing anything moving forward.

Johns, as a real person who wrote Superman, would be seeing things from a distance, pulling the strings by writing the stories. He did teach Superman lessons as his writer. As the writer, he has 'mind control' over characters like the person on the first page. And he is off the book. His pages are empty moving forward. Maybe Oz is somehow Johns responding the Superman stories that came before him, trying to reteach him those lessons. Heck, the first thing I thought of when I saw the Oz tattoo was Veidt's Nostalgia. Maybe Johns is nostalgic for the sort of Superman he wrote.

I'll say it again. Mr. Oz is Geoff Johns.
Or is that more a Grant Morrison thing?

Anyways, stories like this are few and far between these days, a rest issue showcasing the character of Superman. While old timers like me remember this selfless Superman who emphasized the Clark within him, we haven't seen this too much recently. Of course, I loved it.

This issue was the highlight of Johns' brief run for me.

Overall grade: A

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Supergirl Villains I'd Like To See On The Show



I have been reporting on the Supergirl show, covering the news about casting, leaked plots, etc.

But I haven't really done too many posts about what I am hoping to see in the show. My plan was to do that as the show neared.

Blog friend Count Drunkula recently asked me to post about the top 5 villains I would like to see on the show. I was struck my the muse.

So here are the 5 villains I would like to see appear on the upcoming Supergirl show. I will put a caveat to this post. I wanted to post about Supergirl specific villains that I want to see. I could, for example, say I would want to see Poison Ivy. But Ivy isn't a Supergirl villain. I also wanted to include villains that have had an impact on the character as well, appearing in different incarnations of Supergirl if possible. And I also wanted the villain to have the power to stand up against a Kryptonian.

First off, a tip of the cap to the also-rans who didn't make it to the top 5: Lesla Lar, Black Flame, Nasty Luthor, and Brainiac.

We'll go in reverse order, leading up to the villain I want to see the most.


Number 5: The Gang

Okay, the Gang is a little known villain group from the earliest issues of Daring New Adventures. These were humans who somehow gained powers. Brains has her intelligence. Ms. Mesmer can hypnotize. Bulldozer can run into people and bowl them over. And Kong is super-strong.

Outside of the Daring New issues, we only saw them in 2 panels in Sterling Gates run.

However, they are often the butt of jokes for Supergirl-haters. So I would love to see them on the show to get a little respect. Also, I think one of the things that could hamper a Kryptonian is numbers. A true Gang of super-humans would have more of a chance against Supergirl.


Number 4: Blackstarr

Blackstar also was first seen in the Daring New Adventures run and had the pure power to stand up to Supergirl. Blackstarr had solved the universal equation of physics and as a result seemed to have some command over matter and energy. She fought Supergirl to a standstill a couple of time. As a result she is a proper villain who could challenge Kara.

And the idea of Blackstarr survived. In the panel on the left, from Action Comics #850, Supergirl fights Blackstar (in a possible future). She also was seen in the background of a panel in Sterling Gates' run as well.


Number 3: Satan Girl

Now we are getting into the cream of the crop of recurring Supergirl villains.

Satan Girl has appeared in three different incarnations of Supergirl's history. She has, albeit in different forms and identities, fought the Silver Age Supergirl, Peter David's Earth Angel Supergirl, and even the Sterling Gates' Supergirl.

While the name is a little wonky for television, you could definitely figure out how to put her in the show. The latter two incarnations are magic-based villains. A magic-based villain could definitely stand up to Supergirl and battle her.

Since she has been around in different incarnations, I would love to see her on the show.


Number 2: Reactron

Reactron is another villain who started out in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl (boy, Paul Kupperberg put his stamp on the character). A nuclear based powerhouse, he was able to hold his own against Supergirl and even the Doom Patrol back then.

In the Sterling Gates' run and during the World of New Krypton mega-arc, Reactron returned as a gold-kryptonite powered assassin. He played a huge role in the super-books throughout that storyline. In particular, he became a nemesis for Supergirl, killing her father Zor-El, and hounding Kara for years.

While I doubt that Gold Kryptonite would make it onto the show, you certainly could make him science based or nuclear powered. He could be a decent enough threat to make him interesting.

And my number one hope to appear on the show ...


Number 1: Silver Banshee

Banshee is a magic-based death demon and as such can be a true danger to Supergirl. We have seen the Banshee encounter Supergirl in Peter David's run, the Sterling Gates' era Kara, and even the New 52 Supergirl. She has been a sympathetic, a friend, even a frenemy. You could play up any or all of those characteristics.

She is visually stunning.

But most of all, she has a power set that would make her dangerous.

And so that's my top 5 villains I would like to see appear in the Supergirl show.

Who would you like to see?