Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: DC Bombshells #9

DC Comics Bombshells #9 came out this week and, as usual, the book just sizzles. I have said over and over that I had low expectations for this book, based on cheesecake statues. I didn't even really like the Supergirl design. But I decided to pick the book up for the Supergirl and I am so glad I did. This book is so much fun and so entertaining.

Writer Marguerite Bennett has been weaving this story set in World War II, placing the heroes in key fronts of the war efforts, and slowly drawing them together. She also has kept this group diverse, having the heroes represent Britain, America, Russia, and more otherworldly places like Atlantis and Paradise Island.

But the style and the plots have thrilled me making this one of the books I look forward to every single month, certain it will be high quality.

This issue focuses on two of the plots running through the book. One is Wonder Woman who is fighting the Tenebrau army and the Baroness in the battlefields of Greece. The other is Supergirl, Stargirl, and Mera all fighting in the waters outside of London. Both progress the overall plot of a mystical dark army entering the fray. But each also has powerful character moments as well. The issue is therefore a rich experience.

The art on the book has been just spectacular, another reason why this book is great. Mirka Andolfo draws the Supergirl/Mera portions of the book and brings a nice, fresh style. She is solid in both the battle sequences and the quieter civilian moments. And Laura Braga continues to bring a gritty feel to the Wonder Woman pages.

On to the issue:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sighting On The Flash

The news of a Flash and Supergirl crossover spread like wildfire just last week. Everyone was giddy with the prospect of that episode of Supergirl, airing in late March. Would there be singing? A race for charity? Romance?

Well on this week's episode of the Flash, we got a glimpse into that reality. It was a fleeting moment but it made my night.

As Barry, Cisco, and Harrison Wells cross through the breach tunnel to head to Earth 2, they are overcome with visions of other realities.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Supergirl Episode 13: For The Girl Who Has Everything

The thirteenth episode of Supergirl aired this week and was titled 'For the Girl Who Has Everything". Comic fans will know that title from Superman Annual #11, the famous Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons story where Superman falls victim of the Black Mercy and has visions of a life on Krypton. Advance pictures of the episode showed Kara with the Black Mercy flower so we knew we were getting a version of that tale.

But it could have been titled 'for the fans who want everything'. Because this was the best episode of the series by far. Before the show aired, Jeremy Jordan tweeted that this episode was going to be the finale of the season until a second half was picked up. And this felt like a season finale. There were great action sequences. There were a few surprises. There were truly emotional, heartfelt character scenes. And for me, those were the best moments.

Everybody shines in this episode which focuses of family, love, and loyalty. Melissa Benoist, as always, shows incredible range. From the happy girl back on Krypton, to the distraught one yanked from that fantasy, to channeling Hank Henshaw in some scenes, Benoist is a marvel. This is as much an Alex episode as it is a Kara one and Chyler Leigh also shines. Flipping from bad ass to desperate, Chyler Leigh really shines. But everyone has a moment at some point. This cast is so strong.

And so we have this mid-season finale.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Adventures Of Supergirl #2

Adventures of Supergirl #2 came out yesterday and continued to be an absolute delight. Writer Sterling Gates and artist Bengal are really clicking together, meshing words and art in a way that elevates both side of the medium. This book is so much fun, so entertaining, and really builds on the television universe.

This feels like an early adventure for this Supergirl. Between her interactions with Alex, her use of her powers, and her interaction with Winn, I think this occurs around Livewire. Unlike the Supergirl in the current show who is dealing with some personal conflicts and tragedy, this is still a fresh-faced Kara. She is just joyous and smiling throughout most of this adventure, just happy to be helping out in public.

And I love how Gates injects some comic history and echoes of his original run on Supergirl into this book.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #6

Last week we saw Supergirl fight Rampage in Adventures of Supergirl #1, the new digital first comic linked to the television show.

But this isn't the first time we have seen those two fight each other. And since I like to tie in back issue reviews to current events, I thought it would be a good time to bring out Supergirl #6 from 1996.

Now anyone who has visited this site before knows that I am very fond of Peter David's Supergirl run. This was the Matrix Supergirl, a naive and optimistic protoplasm creature from a pocket universe, merging with Linda Danvers, a troubled and bitter young woman. And that mix of personalities led to a great story of redemption, humanity, and religion.

But this story is very early in that run. Supergirl is still trying to come to grips with her new life. Linda had a troubled relationship with her parents. She is trying to lead a normal life in Leesburg. Supergirl is trying to move away from the young woman who lived in Metropolis and was a dupe Luthor. Very few people know about this new reality. And since she is so unsure about it herself, Linda/Supergirl is keeping her new duality a secret from all sides.

The art here (and for the first 9 issues of the title) is done by Gary Frank and Cam Smith and is just gorgeous. This is before Frank began to draw everyone gaunt and overly rendered. I mean if I could drink Frank's art on this title, I would.

The issue starts with a great splash page of Supergirl and Rampage in pitched battle, falling from a bridge and into water. I always like when an opening page is grabbing, pulling me into the story. And there is a lot to comment on here.

First, you really feel the size differential of the two combatants. Rampage looks like she has twice the mass of Linda. And Linda's anguished face lets you know this is a true fight.

I love that the caption boxes are all askew, showing the frenetic and insane pitch of the fight.

And the Supergirl 'origin box' does a better job of explaining things than I did in the introduction.

After we see Supergirl and Rampage crash into the water and Supergirl left at the bottom of the river, David winds back the clock.

In Leesburg, Linda's mother Sylvia is trying to convince Linda to go out on a blind date that Sylvia has set up. We have seen that Sylvia is a devout Christian. Linda isn't sure if that is a good idea and declines. And that rather polite refusal fires up her father (homebound recovering from an injury he suffered in the field as a police officer).

Remember, we know Linda hung out with Buzz (a demon), was in a demonic cult, and may or may not have taken part in a murder. The Danvers has had it tough trying to reign in their daughter. But all that defiance and hate is gone now that Supergirl is sort of running things. So when Linda refuses the date, Fred assumes the worst.

I just feel for the parents here, waiting for the other shoe to drop, not knowing why their daughter is acting differently. They don't know about her new persona.

Meanwhile, Kitty (Rampage) Faulkner is in Leesburg for a science convention. We see Kitty talk to her assistant Christine, a young and beautiful woman. Kitty thanks Christine for helping get through a rough time period. Faulkner is still trying to deal with her reality of having a Hulk-like identity raging in her.

It is implied that these two are now in a romantic as well as a professional relationship.

This was 1996 and, for that time, David was incredibly inclusive in this book.

Meanwhile, Linda has stormed out of her house after her father's rant.

Sitting in park, she has an odd conversation with a young boy, someone we know, in later issues, is Wally/God. But here we don't know that he is going to be a recurring character.

Wally is wise for a kid. He talks about how people can be family or friends and still be strangers, hiding information. That strikes Linda/Supergirl who is still coming to grips with her reality. Is she play-acting Linda? Or living a real life?

It is moment of revelation, appropriate for a brush with the divine.

In the issue, we hear that authorities are after Kitty for having embezzled a large amount of money from her employer STAR Labs. Alerted about this Superman heads to Leesburg where he knows Kitty is.

STAR calls Kitty and lets her know about the missing funds. And then, putting two and two together, Kitty realizes that it is Christine who had access to all things and absconded the funds. Christine used Kitty, pretending to be something she isn't, fooling Kitty with faux romance in order to obtain passwords and account numbers.

This relationship is a sort of version of Linda's life. These two were lovers but really strangers. Christine was faking this life of enamored and respectful partner.

Coldly, Christine decides to walk out.
Angrily, Kitty turns into Rampage and begins stomping through Leesburg, chasing Christine who is racing away.
Heroically, Supergirl and then Superman fly in to stop Kitty.

And now we are caught up to that opening page.

Now I think David does at times force humor into his books. But I thought this was funny.

Rampage tosses Superman into the sign of a grocery store as he is telling her that stomping around as Rampage lacks subtlety.

Of course, subtlety only comes out in a panel with him next to the huge SUPER part of the store sign. It lacks subtlety as well.

Finally, the four characters of Supergirl, Superman, Rampage, and Christine, are together and talking.

Rampage wails about how she trusted Christine and let Christine into her life. She is betrayed. How can they understand.

But this Linda can understand. She trusted Buzz. She loved Buzz. And Buzz ritualistically killed her. She totally can understand. But there has to be a better way to deal with it than murder.

Surprisingly, Superman decides to let Rampage decide what to do. He says he won't stop her from killing Christine if she wants.

Luckily, Rampage does the right thing. She doesn't kill.

We learn that Superman would have flown over Christine if Rampage decided to kill.

But instead, he prayed that Kitty would do the right thing.

And that is another injection of religion into the book.

Kitty is distraught. Used, betrayed, presumed criminal, she doesn't know who to trust. Can she even trust Superman to help her.

But she needn't worry because Supergirl is getting the information out of Christine to get the funds back.

I liked this sort of fierceness in Supergirl. She doesn't take injustice lightly. She has a bit of fire in her. And while she doesn't threaten to drop Christine, this is unnerving.

Is this Supergirl? Or maybe some of Linda peeking through?

Earlier in the issue, we saw that the Danvers are in the dark about Linda's nature.

Here we see that Supergirl keeps the Superman side of her family in the dark as well. She says she simply decided to live in Leesburg. Even though Superman says that the Kents are worried about 'Mae', Supergirl just flies off saying there is nothing she needs to tell. She is lying, being a stranger, not trusting anyone with her new identity.

So this isn't much of a book if you are looking for a wild brawl between Supergirl and Rampage. But if you want to read a layered story about honesty and identity, this is a great story. Reading this again, I reminded of all the issues of this first year. The Chemo issue where she talks about what it feels like to be a 'thing' wondering if it is truly alive. We see the origin of Linda and her descent into evil. We see how civility can be scrubbed away to reveal the beast in all of us. And we get the ultimate redemption when the soul of Linda says Supergirl is more human than most.

I loved this book.

This is reprinted in trade, a trade resolicited soon. The issues are probably in dollar boxes. And they are worth it for the art alone. I can't gush enough about Frank in this time. But the story is deep and complex and meaty. Well worth it.

Overall grade: A

Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Action Comics #49

We are a month away from The Truth ending. It frankly can't come fast enough.

Action Comics #49 came out this week, and much like last week's Superman, feels like huge plot turns are happening. Things are being said and being done to get us to an ending. But these story contrivances and twists make me question so much of what came before. This reads like a sprint to the end. And plot holes are being hurdled or avoided.

Unfortunately, next month brings the Pak/Kuder time with Superman to an end. And that I will lament. When I think of this run, I'll think of their first issue which reintroduced us to Lana. A book where Superman learned the limits of his power. I'll think of Subterranea and I'll think of haunted Smallville. Because when left alone, Pak and Kuder brought it. Heck, even their chapters of Doomsday and TThe Truth had some merit.

Instead this run will end with a whimper not a bang as Pak brings us to this conclusion.

Remember Hordr_Root and his information city? Wrath trying to take over Metropolis with rage? Superman's time in a wrestling group? Hordr_Root captured for a page or two. Smallville turned upside-down? The President being swayed by Angle Man? A Nazi gunship under the ice? A portable sun? Almost none of these plots seem to matter to this ending. We weren't building up to anything. We weren't building on things. It all seems random and meaningless now. Hardly the 'changing' arc this was portrayed as.

Kuder isn't even on art this issue. Adrian Syaf brings a straight forward art style to the proceedings.

The book starts with a gangly kid in North Dakota being picked on by bullies. The Black Mass bombs of Wrath's explode overhead. The child mutates into something monstrous in size and bulk. He is a son of Vandal Savage, the effects of the bomb prove it. And so we have a new character in the mix.

If you reread the original Wrath story, you see the Metropolis mayor and police filled with ire and trying to convince the city to turn on Superman. That was when wrath dealt with wrath. Later, we learn that Wrath is trying to have the black ink make people not be wrathful, which sounds weird especially when you just had an arc making people feel wrath. You even had a temple to wrath built.

Now we have learned that the black Wrath is to find Savage's kids. That makes no sense. Even if it made sense, it makes no sense to unleash it in Metropolis as it had been earlier.

And this gathering of his kin that Savage is doing now. We haven't heard why now and not a millenia before. We haven't heard why about much of anything ...

Last issue of Superman, we heard Clark suddenly tell us that his cells were mutated not to absorb energy and he needed Kryptonite to kill those cells like chemotherapy. That came out of left field. We didn't know how Clark learned that about his cells.

Now he is charged up with Kryptonite energy. He yells at the Puzzlr that it was Savage who mutated his cells.

When did he learn that? Is he figuring that Hordr_Root was working with Savage?

This is a big plot point. And we don't know how we got here.

The Puzzler takes off and Clark has to assess his condition.

The mutated cells are being effected by the Kryptonite. But they are fighting it by absorbing the K-energy. I guess I have to just accept that as the way Kryptonian immune systems work.

So while he is powered by Kryptonite, the absorbed Kryptonite energy is killing him.

Still, Superman can fly again, is invulnerable again, albeit fueled by poison. And he seems giddy about the whole thing. He is smiling and wallowing in the power. While I can understand him being happy to have some power back, it is in the context of his friends being held captive by Savage. You think he might stay on task.

He meets up with Diana to try to form a plan of attack. She can tell he is dying from the Kryptonite but he knows he had to sacrifice himself to save everyone else.

I did like this dialogue, a nice exchange between ex-lovers. He says that she is so inspiring that anyone would try to be more of a hero around her. This is my favorite panel of the book.

It also turns out that the Kryptonite energy effects Superman differently than yellow sun energy. He has new powers such as seeing energy waves.

He is happy this occurs because he can see what Savage is doing. It's not like Savage has a truly massive satellite city in the sky. Good thing we have this new power to help.

Syaf really makes Superman seem manic with this power, another thing that struck me as odd.

Before Superman can fly to the Savage's satellite, he is attacked by Savage's son from the opening scene. Despite being dressed up like a barbarian (the child's favorite book character), he really is just a kid.

We get several pages of the two smashing into each other.

If only those pages could have been used to explain some of my questions about the current plot.

Meanwhile Wonder Woman couldn't get on the satellite before it teleported away.

Before leaving, he shot Jupiter with energy, increasing the planet's mass. This is a new plot point.

Is this to make Jupiter a second sun? Attract the comet that gave Savage his powers by making a gravity well? I guess we'll find out.

The huge satellite teleported from orbit into lower orbit. It is sucking the Fortress of Solitude up.

I don't know.

I know my tone has been snarky here. But I feel like this story rushing to any conclusion is worse than giving me a later but decent conclusion. So much information is dropped in one liners in the last two issues, important plot points suddenly revealed. We have fight scenes that are meaningless, robbing space to give me more exposition or explanation. The earliest stories are sort of invalidated by what Savage is trying to accomplish here. And all that is wrapped up in the angry, punch first, powerless Superman who is beating up shackled prisoners, avoiding his friends, and generally acting unlike the Superman I know.

I am sad to see Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder go. Because I bet they had great Superman stories they wanted to tell.

Overall grade: C/C-

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Supergirl and Flash To Crossover!!

When the Supergirl show was first announced and Greg Berlanti was named as the producer, one of the first questions asked was if the show would crossover with the Flash. After all, Berlanti produces that show as well. It was revealed that it was in the contracts that such a crossover could happen. The question seemed less about if it would happen and more of a 'when will it happen'.

Well now we know. Yesterday afternoon, CBS announced that the Flash will appear on the March 28th episode of Supergirl. Here is a link and a blurb:

The Flash is speeding to National City! THE FLASH star Grant Gustin, in his role of Barry Allen/The Flash, will cross over to SUPERGIRL in an episode to be broadcast Monday, March 28 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Details of the episode will be announced at a later date.
“We are so incredibly excited to announce something that we have dreamed of happening since we starting making SUPERGIRL – THE FLASH and SUPERGIRL are teaming up!” said THE FLASH and SUPERGIRL Executive Producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg.  “We want to thank Grant Gustin for making the time to come visit (on top of his already immense workload) and all of the folks at CBS, The CW, Warner Bros. and DC for working this out. And finally, thanks to the fans and journalists who have kept asking for this to happen. It is our pleasure and hope to create an episode worthy of everyone's enthusiasm and support.”
I don't think words can convey the joy I experienced when I read this.

First off, I think it is great that Berlanti acknowledged the fans as helping to drive this. We're here for you!

These two shows are just so fantastic. They show just how fun and cool and inspiring comic books and superheroes can be. The stars are phenomenal and the episodes well acted. Grant Gustin is perfect for Barry Allen. And Melissa Benoist is just perfect as Kara.  And now I get to see them team-up.Putting them together won't be additive joy, it will be exponential joy.

Given that both are Glee alums, there better be a karaoke scene. And there better be a race.

Since the above pics from a May issue of Variety I have been wondering when this would happen and assumed it would be next season.

But like everything with this season of Supergirl, it is happening earlier than I anticipated.

And then the title page of the script got leaked.

Worlds Finest is a great name. No apostrophe means we are talking alternate universes, more than one world. But it plays on the classic comic name perfectly.

Someone on line said this was going to be the opposite of Batman V. Superman. I don't think it is coincidence that it is airing the Monday after that movie is released.

I simply can't wait!!