Monday, February 27

Superman/Supergirl Thom Zahler Triple Shots

A few weeks ago, Thom Zahler, the creator of the charming Love and Capes series (volume three reviewed here), announced a new offering through his Facebook page – at least, that's how I learned about it, but I guess if you follow his website or blog you would have found out about it as well, e.g. the original announcement. To quote that announcement, “They're a chance to see the whole drawing process, from pencils to inks to colors. They measure 5.5” x 17” and feature a reproduction of the pencils, the actual inks, and then a colored version of the art.” I thought, “That sounds cool,” and jumped into his first week's set of on-line offerings, asking for a sketch of Supergirl. I was right. It is cool. So a couple weeks later, I asked him for a sketch of Superman, already having a plan. The result:

Super-cool, huh? I had kind of hoped to put them in a larger frame with a blue 11"x17” matte cut-out, but there was no such thing in my small-town Wally World, and I got the last frame of any kind that was available this morning that would have been suitable. I'm satisfied, though. 

 I can definitely see myself picking up some more of these in future. I already have in mind another framed pair of Aquaman and Mera, maybe even a “Triple Shots Triptych” of Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Jr.

Thanks, Thom! ... and Cheers!

Sunday, February 26

DC Comics – March 2012

Wow! For a second month in a row, I'm finished with the previous month-end shipment of comics before the end of the month, and with a week to spare as I begin writing this! Maybe I can work on catching up a backlog of collections and graphic novels.

One thing I'm a bit disappointed about. Here we are, five issues into the New 52, and the letters columns, just reintroduced sometime within the past couple of years after most of a decade's absence from the pages of DC Comics, are nowhere to be found. I know the argument is sometimes made that in today's world of message boards the idea of a letters column is antiquated nonsense, but I disagree. Yes, message boards are a good way to see what current readers are thinking, but how easy is it to go back a couple of years and see what then-current readers were saying about the comics they were reading? Not very. Especially when, as reemphasized just tonight (Wednesday, 22 February) that existing message board might go poof at any time. (In announcing a total website revamp, the DC Source blog advised, “As part of its online makeover, DC Entertainment will be shutting down the current message boards in early March. Active board users are encouraged to save their favorite conversations leading up to the closure.”) A well put together, published letters column is, by way of contrast, a snapshot of a point in time, preserved for the future. I've mentioned but not elaborated on the library-bound volumes of comic books I had put together within the past few years. For a couple of years before the chaos of last year that was my current comics obsession. This blog is of course my now-current obsession, but I do intend to get back into binding. And I do still intend to put together a survey of my library bound comic collection some time … maybe that's what I'll do during the slack time I anticipate before the February month-end shipment arrives. (Until I do so, to get an idea of what I'm talking about, see the message boards here and here, as well as my bindery of choice here.) … Anyway, although some of my fellow comic binders discard the letters pages from their old comics in the process of prepping for binding, I don't. I specifically leave them in there, because I always get a big kick out of going back and reading them for their historical value. I am an historian after all. Sure, they're not really impartial representations of current reactions, filtered through selection and editing as they are, but they are something. It's cool going back and seeing today's creators' comments from when they were fans, published in old comics. Gives me kind of an “I knew them when...” feeling. It's also cool for me to be able to point to the letters page in Superboy [starring the Legion of Super-Heroes] #202 (Jun 1974) where my name has the distinction of appearing right next to Dan Jurgens' as we both pointed out the Easter Egg appearance of Mr. Spock in issue #200 (Feb 1974)!
* * *
Justice League International #5
The Signal Masters”

Booster Gold's force field and Guy Gardner Green Lantern's ring save the team from the destruction that seemed so certain at the climax of last issue, then they manage to take Peraxxus on in space, successfully penetrating his ship. The others distract him while Batman and Rocket Red find the Control Room. Rocket Red takes control of the computers and crashes the ship. Peraxxus teleports away, vowing to return (of course he will); our heroes, working together, manage to get out of the ship … Briggs doesn't seem very thankful: “This is how you solve a crisis? … By crashing an enormous starship?” Booster Gold stands up to him, “Let's step back and analyze the situation, Briggs. … Did we prevent Earth's destruction?” – “Yes.” – “Once the ship took out the giant, did the others cease to function?” – “Yes.” – “Were any major cities destroyed? Was there a massive loss of life?” – “No and no.” – “Do I consider this mission a success? … Damn straight.” But we end with an ominous panel – they are being watched by person or persons unknown on a monitor: “Amazing. They succeeded. I can't abide that. Accelerate plans for their demise.”

Overall, however, this was a rather ho-hum ending to a ho-hum story. I want to like this comic more than I do. It has some good stuff. I like the characters, I like the writer (um … Dan Jurgens – see above). But it really hasn't caught me. Effective with this month's pre-order, in fact, I'd dropping this to a digital purchase. I may regret it if it gets better, but I'm looking for places to start cutting my monthly pre-order bill, and this is one of the first that came to mind.

Action Comics #5
Rocket Song”

The lead story is mostly told by baby Kal-El's ship's Brainiac Artificial Intelligence, and provides some interesting twists on the often-told story of the Origin of Superman while keeping the essence. Among those twists is Jor-El's initial plan to take refuge in the Phantom Zone, and Krypto's sacrifice when the villains threatened the desperate family. (Really? That's always bugged me, Krypto's name, I mean – I can actually see Superman renaming his dog from the old homeworld after that homeworld, but would Jor-El really have named a pet after the planet they lived on? It would be like me naming my dog “Earthy,” wouldn't it?) Jonathan and Martha's role in throwing off the government authorities who almost immediately investigated the crashed space ship is new, and provides a clever way to explain the hexapedal “alien” creature that Luthor thought must be Clark's real form. That must have been some messed-up DNA for the government not to have quickly perceived something fishy was up, though! What follows I found a bit confusing, but I think the gist is that somehow Kal-El's rocket ship created the Age of Superhumans through the catalyst of the Coming of the Collector...? Action shifts to the Fortress, where the ship, now crystalline, is the target of a break-in by the “Anti-Superman Army” … Who exactly are they?, and what happens to them? Their long-time waiting for revenge on “the House of El” first made me think of Phantom Zone villains, but I don't think so. They steal the Kryptonite engine with ominous portent. Then appear, too late, an older Superman and the three founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Time Trapper gets name-dropped along the way.

I have to say that, much as I generally like Rags Morales' art, I like Andy Kubert's more.

Baby Steps”

Like last issue, this back-up story essentially plays off of a scene in the lead story. Overall, it tells the back story of Jonathan and Martha Kent leading up to the moment the rocket ship crashing. It mainly focusses on their futile attempts to have a child before baby Kal-El literally falls into their lives. My main question here is: What kind of Baptist church is that? It's identified as “First Light Baptist Church,” but the overall architecture and décor is all wrong. Since I'm almost three decades away from having been Baptist, I consulted with my sister-in-law, who also grew up Baptist in North Carolina and attends a Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas. Here are some excerpts from her response when I sent her a scan of the main page depicting the Kents' church:

Baptist churches are not usually so ornate or elaborate with all the stone work and beauty of other churches … inside or outside. I've found they are pretty basic in general.

[Reacting to the depiction of the same preacher in robes at Jonathan and Martha's wedding earlier in the story,] The pastors don't usually wear robes. In more formal churches, the pastor will wear a suit and tie …. In more casual churches, the pastor will wear a basic solid-color shirt with khakis or jeans.

There are mixed race Baptist churches in Kansas and elsewhere …. I'm not sure what the time period is for this comic but it was probably not common to see a lot of mixed race churches if this was an earlier time in the 20th century. [There certainly weren't to my knowledge in Louisiana during the 1960s-early 1980s when I grew up Baptist.]

In conclusion, I agree that it looks more Methodist than Baptist.”

Thanks, Kristal!

Just for interest's sake, here's a couple of pictures of the Baptist church I grew up in, in north Louisiana. Note the plain cross, lack of ornateness. Take away the tacky square banner at left and screen at right and it still looks just like it did last time I set foot in it in the early 1980s:

And here are a couple of pictures of Methodist churches from the American Midwest. Keep in mind that there can be quite a bit of variety in church décor and architecture:

Yes, the Kents' church looks more Methodist than Baptist, which tallies with how they have been traditionally portrayed. has an excellent overview. I think this is just an error on the creators' part. It is just my own quirkiness that finds it a particularly annoying error, when creators, as good as their intentions may be in accurately portraying the positive source of strength that faith would probably have provided to rural Kansas farmers like the Kents, nonetheless don't have the background or do sufficient research to differentiate between various flavors of Christianity. (Similarly, early in this second season of The Walking Dead, the group comes across a small rural Georgia church … identified as a Baptist church – with a big ol' crucifix complete with a corpus front and center. Cross, yes. Crucifix? – Not in any Baptist church I recall ever seeing!)

Despite which, overall, Action Comics continues to WOW me and remains probably my favorite series of the New 52. Actually, I don't think there's any “probably” about it. Both stories are excellent, introducing tweaks to the Legend that work – at least as Grant Morrison plays them. How much remains canonical (until the next reboot) remains to be seen....

Detective Comics #5
Wheel of Misfortune”

What did I say? – Yep, a Joker cult. Which looks like the form that “Occupy Gotham” takes in the DC nUniverse. Sounds more likely to me than the cartoon (?) my colleague has on his door.  Anyway, a new player crashes a criminal transaction that Batman was staking out, and a clue points Batman toward the new Iceberg Casino. Bruce stands up the date he has for the opening, but she's just as happy – she's really an investigative journalist investigating the Penguin. Too bad she doesn't know the short guy's on to her.

Russian Roulette”

Maybe this trend where back-up stories play directly off of the main story is a new DC standard. I doubt it, because supposedly both Batman and Detective are about to be telling stories having to do with Batman's “Court of Owls” plot. In any case, this one does. Here we meet a son of Hugo Strange in a short tale tangential to the lead story in that it partially concerns the Russian mobster whose transaction Batman was staking out. Eli Strange mainly serves as a plant working with Catwoman who wants to teach the Russians a bit about the crime hierarchy in Gotham, but Hugo is observing and narrating the story, and decides to take his estranged son under his wing.

I hope this issue does portend that we are past the gratuitous gore of the first story arc. I actually found the second story more interesting than the first, even though the art (not by Daniel, who both wrote and drew the lead but only wrote the back-up) muddy and confusing. This does remain probably my least favorite Batman book, probably would be slated for culling were it not a Bat-book.

The following reviewer savaged this comic. I honestly can't argue with him:

Huntress #4 of 6
Crossbow at the Crossroads, Part Four”

This was another solid, enjoyable issue, with good writing and good art, that I nonetheless can't find much to say about. The main movement of the issue is when Helena single-handedly take's on Moretti's yacht, captures him, and leaves him to the tender mercies of a couple of his female victims whom she has freed. I think the little “SPLASH” beside the boat doesn't bode well for him, although its placement on the panel is a bit odd.

One thing I do want to comment on: I really get the feeling that Levitz and/or the artist Marcus To did a bit of on-site research for this miniseries. There is an aura of realism here for the locale of Amalfi that is very similar to that of the ruins of Pompeii last issue. I like it!

I don't remember where I saw it, but I think we have now had confirmation that this is indeed the Earth-2 Huntress who will be appearing in Levitz's upcoming Worlds' Finest. Bravo!

Stormwatch #5
The Dark Side, Part 5”

A representative of the Stormwatch Shadow Cabinet “kills” Adam One, which means they assume him into the Shadow Cabinet – uhh... Huh? The newly appointed leader is Projectionist, which is not to the others' liking apparently. Meanwhile, Midnighter and Apollo have skedaddled, and have a little bit of alone time. Yes, it's gay flirting, which I knew was coming since Cornell said that aspect of their characters from the original Wildstorm series would be carried over. Anyway, a proximity alarm goes off and Apollo launches off into hyperspace – remember, that's where the Stormwatch space station is located. Midnighter finds Swordsman engaged in a bit of sabotage. In the end, Projectionist ends up taken by the Swordsman just before the station explodes. “Stormwatch HQ, this is Harry Tanner [Swordsman] – a recorded message from me, anyway. … I want you all to know – especially you, Angie – I felt I had to set a device to blow the alien horn. … It's the quickest way to destroy the Eye. … And in that confined space – Your deaths should be instantaneous.” So. The horn. Next, “2012: The End of the World Starts Here!” With consequences in Stormwatch #6, Superman #6, and Grifter #6.

I don't get Grifter, don't intend to. Here's where we'll find out if a connected story will be comprehensible without all the connected titles. And, the fact is, Stormwatch is probably about to fall out of my monthly pre-order … Not that I'm disliking it, but I'm deciding it's just not that essential to my overall DCnUniverse reading even though there are more hints regarding how extensive Stormwatch's activities have been and may continue to be – in a “reborn” form as blurbed for next issue. I'll probably stick with it digitally, but.... (Bear in mind the time lag inherent in the pre-order system. If I drop it from my next pre-order, I think I will still receive through issue #7 before actually dropping back to digital for issue #8.)

Superboy #5

The Superboy (don't they always generally put the definite article on it now? – reemphasizing that he's an artificially created being? – or is that just Templar?) is showing more independence and arrogance. By the way, this issue takes place before the confrontation with the Teen Titans in that title.

Briefly, in this issue, Superboy rescues Caitlyn from the transport to “the Colony,” we find out there's a bit more to the weird head honcho Templar, and there are hints toward the new storyline to come with references to “the Culling.”

Batman and Robin #5

Parent-of-the-Year Bruce has driven Damian away completely, to join Ducard. Bruce's ruminations during his desperate search give us back-story on the Ducards. Ducard tests Damian in a raid against human trafficking centered in an embassy, building to a cliffhanger ending where he demands proof of Damian's sincerity – he must kill the perpetrator.

I'm not sure, but I get the feeling – hope? – that this is indeed all a ruse by Damian ….

Batwoman #5
Hydrology-5: Evapotranspiration”

Kate figures out a way to disperse the murderous water spirit. It's a bit harrowing that she must face her own ghosts in so doing, but she succeeds – and also gets a cryptic clue regarding where the missing children are. What is Medusa? Then, in her own home, she gets a surprise visit from Agent Chase and Director Bones, who know her identity beyond any doubt. Kate learns of Bette's condition, which is critical but stable, and in the end accepts a deal to fight for the DEO rather than have her dad, estranged though they are, going to prison. At the end of the issue, she visits Bette in the ICU, where she is warned by Batman that working with the DEO will inevitably put Batwoman at odds with him, then she goes off to swear to the parents of the missing children that she will find their kids.

Broken record: Beautiful art. Is Kate slightly less pale here? … Continuing with something that struck me after my write-up for last issue. In the context-setting recap (?) that most if not all DC Comics begin with, generally identifying the characters very briefly in case there's a totally new reader coming aboard (despite the fact that, lamentably, most issues are not very first-time-reader friendly), it ends with the statement: “Now [Kate Kane] is many things: estranged daughter, grieving sister, proud lesbian, brave soldier, determined hero. … She is BATWOMAN.” – “Proud lesbian”? Sorry, I get the sense she's a bit of an emotional wreck, and has been for a while. Is that directly attributable to her sexual orientation? Maybe, maybe not. I get the sense it's part of it. In any case, is that really so central to such a short intro to the character? Yes, it's essential to her history as written, but putting it forward like that just seems needless to me. By all means let it be part of the story where appropriate, but making it a defining characteristic? Isn't she so much more than that? I think it's a disservice to a generally well-written, compelling character.

Batgirl #5
A Candy Full of Spiders”

In rapid succession – the opening splash-page of this issue and the cover of Legion Lost (below), we see something that really bugs the hell out of me. Why do (male) artists so frequently depict heroines in poses with their legs spread  immodestly – and sometimes even inhumanly – widely? That is a rhetorical question, by the way! – I think we all know the answer and it does not reflect very well on the creators' own sexuality, I think. Nor does it reflect very well on comic book readership. I'm embarrassed for my wife to see me reading things like this. (Having those images shoved at me in quick succession given the order I read my comics, I initially jotted down a note to address this issue regarding Dawnstar on the Legion Lost cover, but I think the Batgirl splash page looks even more ridiculous.)

Rant over. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity for similar diatribes in the future, though. (See some of my previous discourses on the inappropriate, overly sexualized depictions of the teen-aged Supergirl, e.g. here.)

Anyway, in this issue more hints are dropped as to how Babs got the use of her legs back – reference is made to “neural implant surgery.” Reference is also made to when she was “briefly Batgirl the first time.” We find out that Jim Gordon never married after his wife, Babs' mother, left – and they do seem to be her parents. So, no marriage to Sarah Essen, nor the emotional devastation inflicted by her murder by the Joker during No Man's Land (which, of course, may never have happened). Oh – Jim seems not to have a clue that Batgirl is his own daughter – he puts Detective McKenna in charge of bringing her in, which I don't think he would do so blatantly if he did. It's always been an open question, I think, as to how much he knows, how much he chooses to ignore – similar to the question of whether he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. I think it's less a question now. When he calls McKenna, she's been working out – if those are meant to be drops of sweat running down her cheeks, they are unfortunately placed to look like tears. Hey, we get another version of “Occupy Gotham” – which seems quick a bit more respectable than the Joker groupies in Detective Comics.

Other stuff: Babs and her mother have a heart-to-heart, we are introduced to a new villainess called Gretel, some mystery surrounding the numbers “338,” all culminating in Bruce Wayne attacking Batgirl. As Babs says, “Oh, bad.”

Demon Knights #5
The Traitor”

… Turns out not to be Horsewoman. She had a perfectly reasonable motivation for shooting Exoristos, and knew she wouldn't kill her. Just wanted to hurt her and show her how mad she was at getting the little girl killed last issue. Of course, the Amazon exile is also dealing with the guilt of talking the girl into a suicide mission.

The core of the issue is Mordru and the Questing Queen appearing in some kind of astral form to each of the warriors to tempt them away from the coming battle. All refuse, except ….

The Traitor is Vandal Savage. Dang, it was just this morning (actually the morning before I read this comic a week and a half or so ago) that I told a colleague how my favorite character in this book is, surprisingly, Vandal Savage, for whom I've frankly never had a whole lot of use for. Then we get to see how thoroughly evil – or just plain amoral – he is. He murders a boy who had come to idolize him while making his escape from the village. Kids don't fare very well in this series! And Savage returns to the Questing Queen to lead her army. Can't like that guy … and yet this is still the best Vandal Savage characterization I've ever seen!

Despite which, I think this title is probably going to join Stormwatch in the digital purchase queue. Same reason – not bad, just not that essential either. I think both of them may well end up reading better in trade, which may actually be the way I end up going.

Legion Lost #5
Under Pressure”

Regarding the cover, see Batgirl above. Continuing the rotating narrators, this issue is narrated by Tellus, beginning with himself and Dawnstar vs. Alastor and being forced to call for help from their teammates – who are in the middle of their confrontation with the police. Wildfire and Tyroc head out, leaving Timber Wolf behind – he managed to get away. We finally get some history on Alastor, and Tellus ultimately perceives an unintended benefit to the human race provided by the hypertaxis pathogen. He was of course trying to pre-empt the development of human anti-alien xenophobic terrorism that had claimed the life of his sister Maryessa by unleashing the pathogen in the past and destroying humanity. Tellus: “You seek … 'justice' for Maryessa's death … but those you punish now … have yet to commit … the crimes which you blame them for. … In truth, you have … given the human race … a great gift … You have freed them … ultimately enabling them to elvolve … from their culture … of species segregation … In the centuries to come … they will never become … xenophophes … For the hypertaxis will … eventually eliminate … the barriers of skin color … religion or … geography. … You have turned a race … of diverse, diffident, diffuse Homo Sapiens … into a unified future race of Hypersapiens... Rather than reviled … as their scourge … you will be revered as their savior … the man who created the race … that will one day … change the stars. … As punishment … for their crime … you have rewritten history … and made the human race … the best hope … for a better future ...” Alastor's response: “NOOOOO!” The issue thus ends on a note of hope, especially since Gates unexpectedly makes his reappearance. But the cliffhanger has Timber Wolf picked up by the Martian Manhunter, who is in full-on Stormwatch aggressive mode.

Despite some sloppy art/editing inside – Does Dawnstar have or not have a pair of black bands spanning the deep V-cut (to her navel!) between her rather ample breasts? The cover doesn't show any such bands, of course, but on pages four and five in quick succession we are treated to first a shot with the bands, then one without, then one with again! – Even more ludicrously, the latter two images are paired shots at the bottom of the respective pages, in which her torso is in almost the same pose right side by side (with her breasts thrust out, of course), which means it is, I think, impossible not to notice the artistic inconsistency. Did he say 'Hypersapiens'? – can I say 'hypersexualization'? – and sloppily executed?!
page 4 bottom
page 5 bottom
Argh! Editor Brian Cunningham, Assistant Editor Darren Shan – do you two even look at this stuff? (Hey – is that the same Darren Shan as in Cirque du Freak? – not that I've read any of those books, but my kid has.)

Wow, that paragraph got totally derailed! … what I meant to say was: Despite some sloppy art/editing inside, this was an unexpectedly better issue, a pleasant change. Too bad it's most of the way through writer Fabian Nicieza's run, because even if he's finally getting a handle on this book, next issue is his last. His replacement by Tom DeFalco was announced a couple of months ago.

Justice League #5
Part Five”

The brand new assembly of heroes vs. Darkseid … who hands them their collective butts. Superman is captured. Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan have a heart to heart, well worthy of quotation: Batman: “Waht are you trying to prove?” – GL: “I'm not trying to prove anything.” – “Then who are you trying to live up to?” – “Don't act like you know me. You don't.” – “I bet no one really does.” – “Is that your superpower? Psychoanalysis?” – “We're just somewhat … alike.” – “You and I are nothing alike,” GL scoffs. – “We're alongside an alien, an Amazon, a human lightning bolt, a cyborg and an Aquaman,” Batman explains. “As far as I can tell, you and I are the only normal people here.” And there we have the explanation for why the early focus of this series has been on these two characters … the only “normal” humans in the midst of demigods. (In Wonder Woman's case, I mean that literally, although at this point in her history even she does not know that – remember, this is five years ago.) Not that GL necessarily buys it: “Wearing a batsuit is normal?” – “No, it's insane,” as Bruce starts to peel back his mask. – “So you're taking it off? Now?” – Bruce stands unmasked: “My name is Bruce Wayne.” – GL's reaction?: “Who the hell is Bruce Wayne?” So, just five years in the past, one of the richest men in the DCnUniverse can stand unmasked and unrecognized?! Wouldn't that be like Donald Trump standing unrecognized in front of somebody in our world? Or maybe Hal Jordan is that dumb and uninformed?

Anyway, Bruce goes on to let himself be captured to save Superman – sending GL to rally the others. Actually, GL is maturing rapidly as a character: “Stay focused, Barry. This is the End of the World, remember? This isn't about me.” Which dumbfounds Flash: “This isn't about you? I'd say hell had frozen over … if it wasn't right in front of us.” Of course, the “hell” they face is nothing compared to what Bruce ends up in – Boom Tubed through to Apokalips!

Then there are more sketch pages: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Do we finally get a back-up next issue? Please?

Wonder Woman #5

This issue introduces a new character called Lennox who claims to be Wonder Woman's brother. He tasks her with being on the Tower Bridge in London at a certain time, where appears Poseidon … who looks more like a cross between a squid and Boss Nass from Star Wars Episode I. We find out some more about the fallout of Zeus' supposed death.

A couple of random notes. Wonder Woman refers to Zola as her “aunt.” Wouldn't she be her “step-mother,” in a sense? The art in this issue is not By Cliff Chiang; it looks okay except for Wonder Woman's eyes which look “off,” a bit goofy-looking.

This is a polarizing series, it seems. There are people who loath the series, there are people who love it. I'm somewhere in the middle. I've generally been enjoying it, but it doesn't seem to be going much of anywhere real fast. One thing I really didn't notice so much until after reading reviews of the earlier issues, but the self-consciously “clever” wordplay is starting to annoy me now that my attention has been called to it.

I'm strongly leaning toward dropping this comic back to digital.

Supergirl #5

The red sunstone leads Kara to a blue star system, where she finds the dead Argo City – and then starts telling her the story left by her father when he put her into suspended animation in a pod before the death of Krypton. Then, just before the sunstone's recording plays out, she sees her father evidently killed – after shouting, “<You! How did you get in here?! … What are you doing? Stop! You can't – >” An alien appears, they fight – this girl fights a lot. It turns out the female creature that attacks her is one of the World Killers – which leaves her for dead, pinned like a fly against a wall, and heads for Earth.

The World Killer is not alone if the opening page's dialogue is any indication. A couple of questions: So her powers are weakened under the rays of a more energetic blue sun? I thought previously the idea was that blue suns “supercharged” Kryptonians' powers? That mysterious “heat power” appears again – and Kara makes conscious use of it. But she could have accomplished the same thing with her heat vision, right?

One thing that remains great on this series is Mahmoud Asrar's art, especially Kara's facial expressions as waves of emotion crash over her.

Batman #5
Face the Court”

Whoa! The core of this book cannot be adequately summarized, just described in vague terms. Weakened by a week's captivity in a maze of horrors, maddened by hunger and thirst conveyed very well by an almost desiccated look to his face, thirst that can only be slaked by reluctant sips from a fountain that he knows is drugged, Bruce is being driven slowly insane. There is an effectiveness in the depiction of this that can't be reproduced here; Capullo uses even the orientation of the page to convey his faltering grip on reality. The drawback is that this issue could have really used page numbers at a couple of points … when you're reading a book that is inverted 180 degrees, turning the right page takes you backward in the story.

This tale is bookended by Gordon and Bullock's helpless vigil by the Signal, which Bullock has christened “Siggy.” Gordon meditates aloud why they keep hanging on to hope. He mentally surveys “the other guys” – Batman's allies – although this is done from the point of view of an omniscient narrator unless we are to understand that Gordon knows one of those allies is Bruce Wayne's butler. I doubt that's the case, at least explicitly. … Then the Signal burns out, and …

Robin says “Please.” I had to mark this on my calendar!

I can definitely see why this issue created such a buzz. The following review assesses it a perfect ten out of ten.

Birds of Prey #5

Confusion reigns, and not just for the reader. The Birds have different memories of what just happened. Is this now a dream or an hallucination? The issue is narrated by Black Canary, therefore would it be hers? Whatever, after beating back an assault on them, they go their separate ways, which allows for some good character development. Black Canary does think she knows what's up with the overall plot. They regroup, but Starling does not show – she has gone to a different location where she is ambushed – and thinks Canary set her up. (That last bit's not narrated by Canary, which seems to blow my hypothesis – I don't think it was strong enough to be a theory anyway.)

The only think I didn't like in this issue is an old issue I don't think I've commented on – the coloring around our heroines' noses. They're always red, looking like they've all got ths sniffles. Take some Claritin already! – I said “in this issue. For the first time, I really don't like the cover by Finch. Although painted, it looks too manga-esque, and I particularly don't like Starling's face.

Catwoman #5
This has got to be dirty.”

Selina manages to save herself from her half-mile fall – the physics are unlikely, but …. We find in her inner'logue that it's been a few weeks since the death of her friend Lola, and exactly what she was up to becomes a little clearer. She manages to defeat Reach, who graces us with a verbal explanation of her power – regarding Catwoman's survival, “That was impressive. And this is coming from a metahuman who fires anti-gravity beams from her hands. … You can imagine that I'm not easy to 'Wow'.” Anyway, Selina nonetheless puts her down, seteals her bag … and later finds to her astonishment that it is almost a half-million dollars. She'd thought it was about ten grand. Sometimes March's art is priceless – the look on Selina's face as she's just counted the money. Unfortunately, she doesn't know that it's dirty Gotham cop money, which brings down overwhelming force which succeeds in capturing her. In the meantime, we do get to see her briefly living it up, treating herself in a spa.

Yep, this book continues to be a bit of a dirty pleasure.

Nightwing #5
'Til Death Do Us Part”

My initial note said, “New Orleans, but I don't think that specif[ically] plays into story.” I was wrong. Where else would you put a story that is driven by a black voodoo witch? With that realization, I kind of just have to sigh at the cliché.

Anyway, as to the overall plot being developed, Dick is still mystified over the Book of Names. He fights a demon and its (black voodoo witch) conjurer who is trying to take one of the clowns from Haly's Circus who had apparently made the mistake of marrying her then leaving. Maybe he found out she was a voodoo witch? Ho hum as far as that goes. But in the last scene of the book, it turns out that Raya – Dick's old redheaded friend in the circus he's been hooking up with but who's now giving him the cold shoulder is actually conspiring with the villain Saito (from the first couple of issues) – who is revealed to be one Raymond, one of Dick's old circus friends, whom he thought was killed in the same incident (I think) as the Flying Graysons.

Legion of Super-Heroes #5
One Day a Thousand Years from Now...”

I'm pretty sure this is the first time the great Walt Simonson has drawn a complete issue of Legion. According to the Comic Book Database, he did a couple of things during the 1990s Reboot era, but just short stories such as in that current iteration's Legion of Super-Heroes #100. I must admit that, as much as I like Simonson in most things he's done – Thor in the 1980s, Orion ca. 2000 most specificallyI don't think he's a perfect fit for the Legion. It's not bad, by any means. Just not quite right. In my opinion. It may partially be the inkers, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, this issue is a bit of a break, an hour-by-hour day-in-the-life tale, one- to two-page vignettes focussing on individual or small groups of Legionnaires. It's something Levitz has always done well, balancing character-development pieces with progression of plot and hints of things to come. Do we see every current Legionnaire? – The absence of XS is distressing to me! Please bring her back.

I am struck (stricken?) by how much things have changed in a generation or so (really, has it been almost forty years? Good Lord!). Way back in 1974 there was a definite sense that Dave Cockrum was sneaking something naughty by the Comics Code Authority with what looked very much like Star Boy's head poking out from the covers in Dream Girl's bed.  (“The Silent Death,” p. 2, Superboy [starring the Legion of Super-Heroes] #201, Apr 1974 – of course, SB must have been sleeping pretty deeply not to have been awakened by her “SHREEKKK! A Legionnaire is dying!!” And, of course, I wasn't thinking of such things as twelve-year-old me was gazing in pubescent lust at her negligee! How practical was it? – I didn't think of such things, either, just drooled....) Now there are routine multiple, clear indications of sexual relations between the various Legionnaires, both heterosexual and homosexual. Sometimes, when I think about it, it's a little creepy that fifty-year-old me is reading stories about Whatsit Boy and Whosit Girl containing such elements. Of course, they are not drawn as “boy” or “girl” at all.

Aquaman #5

(Like how I included the Atlantean glyph in the title just as it was on the page?) This issue is mainly a character piece. The US Navy calls Arthur in. They have retrieved the “black box” from the crashed ancient Atlantean ship in the Trench and it's doing weird things, giving off a piercing shriek. Atlantean raiders attack; Arthur pursues them. The airship they're making a getaway in blows up, and Arthur falls out of the sky, landing with a great THOOMM in the middle of a desert. (Okay, a little geography here: The Trench was in the Mid Atlantic, right? The Navy would doubtless have taken their find to a base on the eastern coast of the US, right? Atlantis is in the Atlantic Ocean, right? – So how come the Atlantean “aquajet” flying over a desert?) Aquaman – lost in the middle of a desert – that ain't good. Or, as he himself puts it: “Uh-oh.” He finds the wreckage, and some water, as well as the “black box” – which activates, displaying a holographic record of the ancient Atlantean ship's last message. And gives hints that there is more to the sinking of Atlantis than Aquaman ever knew. Conveniently, the Navy shows up and rescues Arthur – leading to humorous headlines and more fodder for comedians' jokes, e.g., “Did you hear about what happened to Aquaman? … He got lost in the desert. … Talk about a fish out of water. … So what will he do next? … Take a nap in a tuna net?” Returning to the lighthouse, he finds that Mera has gone out for dog food. Next issue focusses on her adventures there....

The character development here is provided in the context of Arthur's time in the desert, where as he grows more and more dehydrated he has hallucinations, his insecurities come to the surface. One thing – I don't think the old hour-out-of-water limit works any more. I may have commented on this before, but he and Mera seem to sleep on in a regular bed in an air environment. I'd hate to have to get up and go get a drink (breath?) of water every hour just to sleep in a regular bed! Also note that both he and Mera seem to be amphibious. The Atlantean raiders, on the other hand, wear water-filled “space-suits” for their foray into the surface world.

Superman #5

Is Superman insane? Has he gone fascist? These are the questions that Metropolitans ask themselves as he tears through their city, “cleaning up” loose ends (that is, captives from past adventures) by wiping them out. He's displaying elemental type powers as he resorts even to murder. Incidentally, the plaintive look in Titano's eyes just before Superman fries him is truly moving.  
That's good art, good storytelling. Kudos to Nicola Scott! Clark is, of course, nowhere to be found – and his coworkers, including Lois, try frantically to find him, culminating in her screaming out “CLARK!” just as Superman drops his most vehement media critic from high in the Metropolis sky. Look, I don't know, but the way I read it there's a strong hint she knows Clark and Superman are one and the same.

The last page – floating in orbit around the Earth, covered with the “roaches,” Superman hears.

You know, the only thing I don't like about George Perez's run opening the New 52 Superman, which is ending too soon with the next issue, is the overall theme of distrust of superheroes. I just don't think that was the way to begin. But it's being carried off very well.

Batman: The Dark Knight #5
Handful of Dust”

Scarecrow torments Bruce with his fears, especially that he won't and can't save everyone. Then he hits him with the new toxin and flees. Superman arrives as Bruce goes into full-on 'roid-rage mode. Is the shot of his blow to Superman's jaw as a double-page spread really necessary? – or just egregious story decompression? It really doesn't add anything to the story, which I think would read just as well jumping from the page before to the page after. The same is arguably true of the single-page pinup shot of Superman gazing down on Bruce right after he arrived. Oh, but really, this book is more about Finch's art than anything else. It's certainly not about story-logic. Superman graciously declares his regret as he knocks Batman from high up in the sky – how'd they get 'way up there, anyway? This issue is just a lot more prettiness that doesn't hold up so well. “Prettiness”? We didn't get our shot of the White Rabbit or Jai this issue. Darn.

Review: which has a hilarious summation of the dialogue in this issue.

Justice League Dark #5
In the Dark, Finale: There was a Crooked Man”

One question that occurred to me when reading this was, “How can Deadman be seen and communicate with people without a host-body?” The explanation is here.

All this story ends up being much ado about nothing in a certain sense: Madame Xanadu created the crisis to bring the team together to confront some greater but still unspecified menace – but only succeeded in alienating them. Tragically, June ends up back in Enchantress and all is “well” on that front, but worse is now coming ….

As good as this issue continues to look, I'm leaning strongly toward it joining some of those other titles as digital purchases....

Teen Titans #5
Over Before It's Begun”

The answer to the cover question is, No. This issue is one long fight. The new “Teen Titans” are not a team, but rather fight a series of individual battles. Impulsive Kid Flash is taken out early. Superboy ultimately wins, but between Red Robin and Solstice's exposition, enough doubt is instilled in him to send him against NOWHERE wanting answers.

One interesting turn of phrase in here: (Don't-Call-Me) Wonder Girl boasts that her lasso is a “grift” from the gods. The little thief! Is she still the daughter of Zeus? If so, when is Hera going to show up...?

See previous comments … despite which, I'm liking this series. It's not the “Teen Titans,” no matter what it's called. Which brings to mind something that occurred to me since last month. I haven't checked back, but didn't Superboy and the creepy Templar refer to them as “Teen Titans” early on in the Superboy series … and yet at the end of last issue Tim seemed to be naming them something out of the blue...?

Legion: Secret Origin #4 of 6
Coming Together”

The threats both through the wormhole near planet Anotrom (does that name have anything to do with Trom, Element Lad's homeworld?) and against R. J. Brande on Earth escalate. The Security Directorate seems to do a lot of talking but not much else until they call in the young Legionnaires for help. Even with new members such as Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy (Admiral Allon's son), and Invisible Kid, they need more raw power. Phantom Girl is the one who thinks of recruiting Superman from the past.

Continued solidness. I think, as is often the case, it will read better in whole, though.

A comment and a question: I like the reference to an Asimov circuit as something that supposedly keeps robots from harming humans. Somebody remind Brainiac 5 to put one in COMPUTO, all right? Speaking of B5, since when is his force field belt unique technology? That means there's only the one, right? Now, Booster Gold from the 25th century but currently in the 21st century still sports a Legion Flight Ring he stole from a museum, along with one of Brainiac 5's force field belts...? Oops.

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #4 of 6 (IDW)

The two mixed teams in different times ultimately find the two points of temporal disturbance: 1) In the deep past, Brainiac 5, Spock, Chekov, Saturn Girl, McCoy and Cosmic Boy find cave-man Vandal Savage with futuristic technology (the question is begged: Has the Legion ever gone up against Vandal Savage?); 2) on this alternate 23rd-century Earth, Kirk, Sulu, Uhura, Lightning Lad, Shadow Lass, and Chameleon Boy find Emperor Flint. I think Savage and Flint are the same guy, indicated by the final page where each team realizes who they are up against being split right down the middle of his face. There is some interesting repartee between the respective crews in their mixed groups, some of it predictable, some of it a bit stilted. So far, for all that this is a dream pairing, and Roberson's a good writer, this story is not so impressive. And the art is still disappointing – Moys, did you forget how to draw since you had what I considered to be a very good run on the 1990s Reboot Legion? And colorist – Lightning Lad should be a ginger, not have sandy brown hair as he does here.  And editor(?)   Timber Wolf, shown on the cover, is not appearing in this series.

Questions and Comments: Is Emperor Flint's Castellan supposed to be a Vulcan? Or a Coluan? His features look Vulcan, but the skin is more Coluan emerald green. And hasn't Brainiac 5 been established to have red blood in past LSH stories? No, I don't have a reference, unfortunately – except for a fan fiction piece published long, long ago in The Legion Outpost which would not be canonical. Well, here Dr. McCoy is non-plussed to see that he has green blood too.

(Random Rambling: Maybe Coluans and Vulcans are really the same race in alternate universes? I actually had thought 'way back when Star Trek: Voyager came on that a deeper green skin color like a Coluan's would have been a more … er, logical … racial variant for a Vulcan than the black African skin tone of Tuvok. By the way, I wonder how many people really pick up on the fact that Spock is supposed to actually have a light green cast to his skin and was usually made up that way. He's certainly not colored that way here, where his skin tone is the same pinkish as his Caucasian human companions.)

I am liking some of the background and design work here. In the spaceport on Earth, several different models of (30th-century) Legion Cruisers can be seen. The uniforms of the Imperial Planets Star Fleet are like the movie Trek (23rd-century) in cut, actually a bit cooler looking in the blue-grey color here; what I take to be Marines have uniforms much like (30th-century) Science Police.

There's a lot to like here – but mainly because I'm predisposed to like it because I love both properties. With two more issues to go, chances are waning to ramp things up to something more than pedestrian.

* * *
Digital comics, with a common Bat-theme this month ....

I, Vampire #5

This issue is narrated by Tig, the girl accompanying Andrew and his human friend  Tig being the girl who would just as soon see him dead as all the other vampires.  They are in Gotham City, where of course Batman is immediately on to them, but they end up in an uneasy alliance and face to face with Mary....

Batwing #5

Batman goes to Africa to help David with the guard unit in the opening of a new museum to the Kingdom, which of course ends up destroyed.  But David continues to follow clues toward Massacre, toward Giza.  Of course, this is Africa.  We must see the pyramids.

Cheers! And thanks for reading and reading and reading and reading and reading.....

Wed 22 Feb-Sun 26 Feb