Friday, 19 December 2014

Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman #19 review (DC Digital)

Pilot Angel Santiago, diverted from her regular duties in Afghanistan for a PR-friendly visit to a girls' school, gets caught up in a Taliban attack with male colleagues. It'll take a real heroine to get the soldiers home...

The latest Sensation Comics is a pacey, great-looking done-in-one from writer Amy Chu and artist Bernard Chang that offers a tad more realism than your average DC yarn. It's a different kind of Wonder Woman story, and definitely deserves your dollar - or rather, 99 cents. Chu's military unit feels authentic, the situation of the everyday Afghanis reflects what's going on and Diana plays an interesting role.

And it's great to see former Wonder Woman regular Chang back; I liked his work when he teamed with Gail Simone and he's only grown in skill. He balances the naturalistic and fantastic superbly, and gives us a bigger picture than the 20 pages would otherwise afford by including tiny inset panels providing extra information around scenes. I can't imagine a better artist for this issue. Wendy Broome's colours and Saida Temofonte's letters only add to a thoroughly satisfying tale.

Once more, editors Jessica Chen and Kristy Quinn have overseen a splendid offering from DC's digital department - I wonder if they'll give us something equally good next issue as a Christmas treat? 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wonder Woman #37 review

The Amazons are facing increasingly frequent attacks by man-eating metal birds of prey, attracted to Paradise Island looking for their commander, the God of War, and these days, that's Wonder Woman. Diana has been missing the attacks, due to her preoccupation with Man's World. As the latest assault occurs, she's sparring with boyfriend Superman and rebuffing his suggestion she talks about the many things on her mind. Instead, she yells about them. 

Back on Paradise Island, crone-like Amazon Council leader Derinoe, angry at Diana's neglect of her duties as new Themysciran queen, supervises a terrible ritual. A mother - apparently the hag's own daughter - allows herself to be slaughtered by a sorceress, her baby transformed via a stew involving the recently melted Hippolyta statue...

And if you want to know just who the child becomes, I'll get to that in a few paragraphs. It's a big deal.

Talk about surprises. Not just the character who shows up on the final page - and Lord knows, that was unexpected - but how much I enjoyed this issue. Yes, Diana is still a tad whiny, moaning about a clutch of responsibilities rather than prioritising and giving something up - I have sympathy with the Amazon Council when they demand she step up, or abdicate - but that's just one 
scene. The rest of the book is filled with an engaging atmosphere of dark unease as Diana's problems come home to roost. Said issues are literally embodied in the metal rocs that pounce on Paradise Island, birds Diana should, if she focuses, be able to control. But instead, she rushes off on Justice League business - remember the floods from last month? 

As I said, the Council has a point.

Not that any of it excuses the horrific ritual in which Derinoe partakes, along with a witch with an anti-Diana agenda and a terrifying look - that's a great design from artist David Finch, her head spikes recalling the Statue of Liberty, and the Silver Age Wonder Queen. And the result of the ritual?

The birth, fully grown, of Donna Troy.

One of the most beloved characters among longtime DC fans makes her New 52 entrance. She's obviously intended to be foe rather than friend, but will she wind up a heroine? You can bet on a sales bump next issue.

Meanwhile, congratulations to writer Meredith Finch for a massive improvement on her first script. This issue's second chapter of War-Torn is more focused in its plotting, not so melodramatic in its narration. The dialogue is less self-conscious. A problem with the statuesque Hippolyta is addressed. I'm genuinely gripped by the situation. Sure, an anti-Diana ritual by rogue amazons has been done previously, but when your lead character is in her eighth decade, situations are going to re-occur. It's all about the approach, and story and art mesh extremely well.

Penciller David Finch and inker Richard Friend's Diana looks less creepily doll-like than last month, no longer the startled child, more a full-grown woman who actually has a brain. There are some fine portraits throughout the issue, with a variety of Amazon faces, and the cheesecake quotient has gone down (Diana still has barrage balloon breasts, and the debuting Donna gets them too). 

I was surprised that Diana apparently stops to change into armour as the metal birds are attacking ... or can she do that magically now? Whatever the case, it's great to see Finch nod directly to the chest eagle Diana wore for decades. The birds themselves look superb, while the settings are often sensational - I particularly like the council chamber. Colourist Sonia Oback brings real atmosphere to the pages and Dezi Sienty's lettering is pleasingly precise. I don't know if editors David Pīna and Matt Idelson are behind the improvements this month, but I enjoyed the comic, so well done to them too.

Diana looks better inside than on the cover, which would likely have been done awhile before the interior art - and that's one ugly claw our heroine has.

If Wonder Woman continues to get better by the month, I'll be one happy kanga. Meanwhile, I'm itching to see what the new deal with Donna Troy is. 

The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1

Monday, Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Sivanaday ...

There's a new day come-a calling, it's the one day of the week when evil Dr Sivana can defeat Captain Marvel. The 'synthetic' day is the result of the Sivanas of many worlds combining rare time-bending element Suspendium to alter fundamental forces as first step towards joint rule of the Multiverse.

And where did they get this idea? From a comic book, the Society of Super-Heroes, one of the chapters of Grant Morrison's Multiversity project, of which this is the latest.

And possibly greatest. I flat-out adore this comic, which takes us to Thunderworld - that's pretty much Earth S to us old-timers - where Captain Marvel is the World's Mightiest Mortal. And yes, that's Captain Marvel, wizard and protege alike get to keep their own names. Alongside Cap are Mary Marvel - clad in the white costume from Jerry Ordway's superb Power of Shazam series, Captain Marvel Jr., Uncle Marvel, the Lts Marvel and Tawky Tawny. On the other side are Sivana's kids Magnificus, Georgia and Thaddeus Jr, souped up after saying one magic word ... Sivana (Mag's sister Beautia isn't around, presumably because three is the magic number when it comes to taking on the prime Marvel Family). Also on hand are the Monster Society of Evil, big as life and twice as ugly.

While Multiversity motivates this adventure - titled, old-school style, Captain Marvel and the Day That Never Was - I pretty much forgot that. I was having such a good time with a classical Marvel Family story that I was 11 again, discovering the magic of CC Beck's creation for the first time. Sure, some of the alternate Sivanas are a tad creepy - I'm looking at you, Dr Saw-vana, and then running away - but so far as the Big Red Cheese and chums are concerned, there's no updating in the approach here, not a whiff of cynicism. Captain Marvel is appalled when he sees the type of thing that happens in the SOS comic, and instantly allows it to wash over him like a quick, nasty rain shower. If anything as nasty as that enters his world, well, he'll kick it right out again, with the power of the wizard, sheer goodness and a smile.

The inclusion of Suspendium made me smile - that was the device used in the Seventies Shazam #1 to explain the decades-long absence from the comics landscape of Billy and co after DC sued Fawcett over Captain Marvel's supposed similarities to Superman. I also grinned at Mary Marvel's choice of reading. 

And I laughed out loud at Billy Batson's boss's admiration for his TV reports, the stinker.  

Illustrator Cameron Stewart and colourist Nathan Fairbairn could not be more suited to this story. Stewart's compositions draw the eye in, while his open, clean linework is perfect for the Marvel Family and transformed Sivana siblings. There's not a panel that doesn't invite wide-eyed appreciation, even as Stewart's storytelling skills work with Morrison's absorbing script to propel you through the story.

I love the classic, unfussy Captain Marvel design, especially the crinkly eyes and snub nose. There's a lovely grace with which he soars through the air, an elegance shared by Mary and Jr, which follows through into their fighting styles. The sheer joy of the Marvel Family is back for the first time in decades.

And a big part of the visual appeal is Fairbairn's well-chosen, superbly applied, unashamedly bright colours. The red, blue and white of the Marvel Family uniforms blaze off the page, daring us not to fall in love with these delightful heroes. Cooler tones surround Sivana, while a transdimensional subway tunnel trip is sheer psychedelia, a paradise of pop art. I could show it, but it's such a wondrous moment in the narrative that it's best to discover it for yourself.

Steve Wands' lettering looks good throughout, but is never better than in the opening narrative, when the friendly, forceful font evokes classic Marvel Family adventures.

In a book of nothing but excellent images, this panel is an absolute standout: the sense of crazy motion, the trick with the word balloon, the planes of colour - it could be used as a visual calling card by all three artists. 

Other pleasures include Georgia's rubbish attempts at seducing Jr; a new take on the Rock of Eternity;
 and Sivana's crumpled magic lightning. The only off-note is Saw-vana's closing threat around Mary Marvel, which is incredibly at odds with the prevailing tone - no doubt deliberately so, but I'd rather it weren't there. 

Thunderworld Adventures being part of a big old Grant Morrison storyline, there's likely a rich subtext, arcane references and Easter eggs aplenty. I'm afraid I missed them all, if such there be - I simply wallowed in a smart, funny, charming Marvel Family tale. Chances are this is the only time Morrison, Stewart, Fairbairn and Wands will team up for a Shazam story - I'm so glad we got this one. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Supergirl #37 review

Kara Zor-El is settling into the Crucible, training academy for the best and brightest young super-beings in the galaxy. She's getting to know her study group members, Tsavo, Maxima and Comet, and learning that classes may be about more than they seem. 

Away from the lecture theatres, school heads Preceptor Amata and Korstus meet with the academy's high council and we learn more about what the institution is about. And someone has plans for the clone Superboy...

The Crucible storyline kicks into high gear here, as writers Mike Johnson and K Perkins give us a better look at Kara's fellow students - Kara's opening spread first impressions are speedily contradicted - while giving us the bigger picture. Maxima is torn between her own desires and responsibility to her home planet. Tsavo seems like a hot-headed bad kitty but he's desperate to bring peace to his homeworld of Ngo, riven by civil war. And Comet ... OK, we don't find out what makes him tick, he's a raging narcissist, though not necessarily a bad guy.

The writers are nailing it, so far as character motivation goes, with the teachers as multi-dimensional as the students. In one scene here, Amata seems to be the bitch towards Korstus, then we learn that Korstus wants to use the students in ways they never expected, then we see that he has good intentions, but ...

... who's right and who's wrong? I never expected such interesting questions; I thought this would be Heathers in space. It's wonderful to see writers find ways to bring in conflict without falling back on cliche.

And it's great to see that while she has an ensemble cast, Kara remains the star of her book. We're seeing Crucible through her eyes, getting more insight into her character through it, watching her develop as a person, as a heroine. The writers seem to have been inspired by the Red Lanterns storyline in their approach, though I don't doubt they'll veer off into directions of their own.

While we don't visit Earth this month, Kara's life there isn't forgotten, with potential boyfriend Mike getting a mention. I really want to know what's up with Silver Banshee Siobhan and the demon Blaze, hopefully we'll find out soon.

Emanuela Lupacchino matches the quality of the script with her thoughtful, dynamic compositions. She's obviously having fun with the designs, taking the opportunity offered by a cosmic locale filled with extraterrestrials to go a little wild. There's a pleasing variety of aliens on display, with this guy being my favourite.

Lupacchino never loses sight of the storytelling, though, paying particular attention to characters' emotions, such as in a scene that has Maxima challenging Korstus' history lesson. And while the script is wordier than most previous ones - something I like, I call it good value, see also Batgirl - the pages are never cluttered. Inker Ray McCarthy adds extra definition and flourishes, Hi-Fi colours with verve, Rob Leigh letters with dash ... this creative team is gelling nicely.

With a striking cover by Lupacchino and colourist Tomeu Morey (how I love Coffee Shop Kara) and a cliffhanger that teases one thing, then delivers another - phew - Supergirl #37 is another entertaining issue of a series that seems to be finding its feet.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Justice League United #7 review

We're halfway through the five-part Infinitus Saga, teaming Justice League United with the Legion of Super-Heroes. After an initial sortie, interstellar baddie Byth and his Cadre henchmen escape with the child Ultra, whose cosmic destiny is, it seems, to become a being named Infinitus and destroy the 31st century. Oops. Byth's plan involves seeding a space rift with Ultra, transforming the alien hybrid into Infinitus. 

Or something. 

It's all to do with Byth's personal beliefs, death cult stuff. The details have likely all been spelt out but I'm enjoying the ride so much that I'm OK with a few of them eluding my grasp. Because writer Jeff Lemire is giving us the best darn pure superhero comic of the DC line, a wild ride that I don't want to end. Sure, we've had the opening drama gambit of the Legion wanting to kill Ultra, as the only way to save the future, but this issue Stargirl cuts through the moral morass with simple idealism

Everyone falls behind her - if Ultra is going to be killed you can bet it'll be the last resort. The teams use brains and brawn as they attempt to save the future, fighting Byth's plan on three fronts. While focused on the task, there's plenty of room for the teams to interact - to the JLU, the LSH are strange visitors from a reality that's hard to conceive; to the LSH, the JLU are their inspiration. This gives us some fine character snippets, alongside the humour that has become one of this series' trademarks. 

Best of all, I have my Legion back - big and shiny and noble, and looking great as pencilled by Neil Edwards, inked by Jay Leisten and Keith Champagne, and coloured by Jeromy Cox. I might knock a point off for Lemire having sonic screamer Tyroc speak while using his power, though as he's been doing that since the Seventies, maybe it's part of his skill set. Basically, this is the Legion as I want them - a massive group blending abilities and personalities to fight for what's right. Big and shiny and darn impressive. Edwards is knocking himself out with some wild layouts, packed to the gills with powerful, pretty people - and that includes Tellus, the sexy old fish fella - in eye-popping action. There's no skimping on the detail - faces are individual, action makes sense from panel to panel, backgrounds are present and impressive ... DC should be promoting the heck out of Edwards. 

And while the excellent Andrew Robinson gifts the Legion the cover slot, they don't take over the book - the JLU are front and centre, sharing the action. 

So, two more months and then, what? With luck the Legion will get a series following DC's Convergence event, with Lemire and Edwards at the helm. If anyone has shown they deserve a chance to make the Legion of Super-Heroes great again, they have. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Action Comics #37 review

The Haunting of Smallville storyline continues with Superman's ally the Toyman arriving in town and thrilled to bits by the teleportation effect that sends anyone trying to break through a bizarro barrier bouncing from one end to another. Superman, who's been having less fun with the phenomenon, finally comes to a stop in a cornfield where apparently possessed locals shut him down.

He flashes back to an incident in his boyhood, then awakens in the Lang home, where he, Lana and John Henry Irons - the superhero Steel - try to work out what the heck is going on.

The rest of the issue sees the mystery further develop, as hints are dropped as to what's happening. It's likely we're seeing an incursion from the Phantom Zone, home to alien beasts and psychic Kryptonian killers, meaning that knowing what's up is a long way from resolving the situation.

It's mindboggling that DC should be currently pushing the 'superstar creative team' of Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr while pretty much ignoring the excellent work of Action's Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder. Sure, Johns and Romita have big fanbases, but is there a law saying DC can't promote two Superman books at once? Because if there were more eyes on this run, were more readers to experience the incredible storytelling chops of Pak, Kuder and hugely talented colourist Wil Quintana (just look at how tones add to this spooky autumnal scene), sales would soar. Over in Superman, Johns and Romita are telling their story ever ... so ... slowly; here we're getting a run of similar length packed to the proverbial gills with action, incident and character.

I'm not trying to play one team off against another - it just saddens me that great work is being sidelined because more easily marketable names are on the supposed main title. Pull your finger out, DC!

Superman's a little fuzzy of head this issue, as the possessed 'Smallvillains' (great title!) noodle around in Superman's noggin, but he's still starting to put things together. And with Steel, and Lana and her zap gun, at his side, he's far from alone. But the menace gets bigger and bigger, leading to a tremendous final page that really demonstrates Kuder's way with monsters.

In scenes reminiscent of Stephen King film The Mist, we see hell unleashed on Earth, with Superman and his allies very much on he backfoot. Pak's script builds tension throughout, both in the big mystery and the relationship between Lana and Clark. All in all, this issue is another great read, with the only negative being yet another flashback to a lesson learned by the boy Clark. I'd happily purchase a proper Superboy book - ie young Clark Kent, not killer clones - but I'm bored with flashbacks in the Superman books. Attractively presented as this moment was by Kuder and Quinta - softer than the present day sequences - let's hope this is it for a while.

The artists are also responsible for the instant-classic cover - talk about an iconic image. It does, though, make me laugh that the currently beardy Superman gets shaved for his cover appearance.

If you've been looking for a good Superman book, and not yet tried Pak, Kuder and Quintana's Action Comics, grab this issue. You'll be up to speed in a minute, and enjoying the wild ride.

Secret Six #1 review

What is the secret? 

That's the question on which this debut issue turns, as writer Gail Simone brings a fresh take on her superb Secret Six series to DC's New 52 line. Fan favourites Catman and Black Alice are present and perhaps a little different, along with Strix from Birds of Prey, the Ventriloquist from Batgirl and new characters Porcelain and Big Shot. 

The book opens with an extended sequence showing the capture of Catman by persons unknown at a desert bar. The fact that he's ultimately beaten doesn't take away from what's come before - this is one bad (and, it seems, bisexual) kitty. The claustrophobic Catman - Thomas Blake - finds himself in a large, locked room, with the rest of the cast. They're given 15 minutes to answer a question - 'what is the secret?' - while having no idea what the query actually means.

I see the confusion. If you have six strangers to one another in a space, and you really want information one has, wouldn't you give a little more in the way of a question? Some context, a hint as to what's being sought? This has me thinking the answer to 'What is the secret?' is teamwork. Someone may be trying to forge six very different souls whose paths would never normally cross into a team. If that's so, and they succeed, well, I can't see this bunch of rebels and misfits dancing to anyone else's tune.

We shall see. I'd be happy to be proven right, yet happier to be proven wrong; I love surprises in comics and Simone is one of the few writers clever and considerate enough to give them to us. She loves a mystery, and I cannot wait to see where this classic locked room set-up takes us.

It's good to see Catman and Black Alice back, as their personalities always add spice and their abilities are undeniably useful. Porcelain, who can make things brittle and shatter them, has the assuredness of former Sixer Scandal, along with a playfulness that's her own. I like her already, and the same goes for the affably downbeat detective Big Shot, who can bloat his body to Hulk proportions. I'm not a fan of the Ventriloquist, finding her far less charmingly goofy than the original Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle version, but I wouldn't put it past Simone to flesh her out into something more than psycho-ripper. 

As for Strix, she's a former Court of Owls assassin who communicates by Post-It note (death by 1000 paper cuts?). She's the hardest sell for me but again, Simone is a massive talent so I'm happy to wait and see how the elements she's selected work together before writing them off.

And I wouldn't be surprised were one or two of this bunch to be quickly removed - there has to be someone in the room who knows more than they're telling, that's the classic set-up. Black Alice and Porcelain, for example, would both seem to have the clout to break through a heavy metal door - OK, I could buy that magic borrower Alice is too much the space cadet to focus, but Porcelain seemingly has but to touch something to break it.

Penciller Ken Lashley goes for looser layouts than I've seen from him previously, then lends a rougher finish with his inks that's followed through by co-inker Drew Geraci. The approach suits both the savagery of Catman in the first scene, and dark mystery of what follows. The colours of Jason Wright - one of Simone's regular collaborators on the previous series - play well to mood, while letterer Carlos M Mangual keeps the sound turned up.

Another former creative team member, Dale Eaglesham, supplies the clever, eye-catching cover, for which Wright adds the tones.

If, like me, you were a fan of the previous Secret Six, you'll likely eat this up. If you've never read an issue, ditto - while containing some familiar elements, the new team and new story makes it extremely reader friendly.

And a great addition to DC's quickly improving line.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Harley Quinn #12 review

It's 2009 all over again. Harley Quinn graciously steps aside as Power Girl stars in the type of adventure typical of the deliriously delightful first year of her sorely missed series by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner. 

Peege first dropped in - literally - last issue, amnesiac and pretty much Harley's plaything. This time, with the ladies cast into a weird space realm by bad guys Clock King and Sportsmaster, it's more Kara's ballpark. Harley is happy to accept sidekick status as they first face a cosmic queen, then her humongous hubby and finally, an alien dictator with all-powerful rings who isn't at all Thanos, oh no sir, it's ... Manos. 

The chaotic plotting at the heart of any good Harley story isn't a million miles from the splendid daftness of the old Power Girl series. With Conner and Palmiotti in charge of Harley's scripts, it's no surprise they'd grab a chance to play with Peege just one more time. And it's like their Kara never left, as she goes from one bonkers situation to another, wrinkling her nose and punching her foes. The ever-manic Harley makes for a decent complement, with the pairing jarring only when she - oops - murders a guy. 

The whole issue is a hoot, with the Peege/Harley team's return to Earth teasing an unseen extra adventure. 

Darn, I'd love to see that one. 

Regular artist Chad Hardin is around for only the first and last pages, giving fill-in fella John Timms a chance to shine. And he grabs it, drawing Harley and Peege stylishly and producing epic outer space scenes populated by loony characters with enough menace to annoy the girls. Well, apart from the Living Pizza. 

And I love the first appearance of Manos which, if memory serves, is a direct homage to some Jim Starlin work. 

Colourist Alex Sinclair adds extra vibrancy, and letterer John J Hill has fun with Arthur the Giant Dog's dialogue. 

If you missed them, go back and grab last issue and this, and enjoy Power Girl as she was before DC's New 52 revamp sucked all the joy out of her legendary décolletage. 

Where does this issue fit in with Power Girl's current Earth 2 storyline, in which she's fighting for the life of her home Earth?

La la la I can't hear you!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Gotham By Midnight #1 review

The revolutionary rethinking of the Batman line continues with another new series, following on from the likes of Arkham Manor, Grayson and Gotham Academy, and the revamp of Batgirl. So after the villain comic, the spy comic and the school comic, line editor Mark Doyle brings on the spooky comic.


And very spooky Gotham by Midnight is, with its tale of little girls lost, found and lost again. Julie and Francine Attwood, kidnapped from Gotham Heights, are home, but strange ... distant, speaking in an unknown language. Detectives Jim Corrigan and Lisa Drake investigate, taking along Internal Affairs guy Sgt. Peyton Rook, who's planning to shut down the GCPD Detailed Task force. Will demonstrating what the cops and consultants of Precinct 13 actually do persuade him to change his mind? Maybe ... if he survives.

Gotham by Midnight immediately justifies its slot on the shelves with a Gotham story like no other. The mood is eerie, but not vague - there's a sharpness to the characters and scenario. Ray Fawkes' script sketches them in so efficiently that new players such as Lisa and Rook, forensics man Dr Szandor Tarr, expert '... in these things' Sister Justine and chief Lt Sam Weaver grab the attention as much as the rather more established - 75 years more - Jim Corrigan. The latter's other self, The Spectre, doesn't appear here, but there is darkly amusing evidence of his presence in the shape of a pillar of salt propped up in the squad room. I hope the Spirit of Vengeance doesn't appear often, as a glowing green god makes everyone else pretty redundant - happily, it looks as if Fawkes will play it so Corrigan bids to keep the unpredictable Spectre at bay.

The book's structure is pretty traditional, with the new guy's first day motivating introductions to characters and set-up, and it works well - a straightforward entry into the world before the weirdness really kicks off. And there's a page one 'trailer' pitching the set-up to any TV producers out there wondering if Constantine was the best idea. I'd buy it.

Ben Templesmith's art is a massive boost for this series, making it look like no other Gotham-set book. His full-colour illustrations bring that round-midnight tone; figures are exaggerated just enough to be off - check out the sisters' stick-thin arms - while even suburban homes become as threatening as swamp cabins. One issue in and I can barely imagine anyone else drawing this series, though I fully expect Doyle to have some eminently suitable subs in his Rolodex (Frazer Irving, for example, whose work on the much-missed Xombi has a similar feel).

Gotham By Midnight, while merely skirting the edges of the Batman's world - so far as appearances by the man himself go, a page worth of panels is pretty much it - will hopefully be sampled by the legion of bat-fans. And by anyone else who wants something different from DC Comics, an engrossing drama starring the people who see the world at its scariest, but fight to hang on to their greatest weapons - faith, idealism and a belief in redemption.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Supergirl #36 review

Having recently decided to make the best of life on Earth, Kara is making real efforts to integrate. She's taken a job in a coffee shop, doing her own laundry, getting the shopping and basically trying to fit in. A tough day at work - why are coffee steamers sooo delicate? - isn't helped when cousin Clark drops by with a lecture about getting more training.

Kara, politely, tells him where to get off - after all, she's been mastering her powers, and it's not like he hasn't had control problems of late, what with turning into a death-irradiating Doomsday creature and all. Later, she's wandering home, missing her old friend Siobhan, when she's teleported to another world. There she's ambushed by three superbeings in turn, before being told she's worthy of being trained at the Crucible Academy, school for young heroes.

Well, I know what I'd tell 'em - if a school wants to recruit me, let them do the selling, not the attacking. But, Kara's a calmer, smarter soul than when she first arrived on Earth, as proven when she quickly overcomes her surprise, assesses the situation and thoroughly whomps each assailant, then listens to the headmistress, Preceptor Lys Amata. We readers know Kara's going to be with the school for several issues, but I wouldn't be surprised if she lays down her own terms for staying.

Because returning writer Mike Johnson and new co-writer K Perkins continue the great work of recent author Tony Bedard in giving us a more centred Kara. She's hugely likeable this issue, dealing with Clark firmly and, despite their rather heavy way of introducing themselves, listening to Crucible's eventual sales pitch. She's the adult in her own book, and I like that. I also like that Perkins and Johnson aren't forgetting Silver Banshee Siobhan (who may need Kara, as last we saw there was a demon stalking her). I could do without Clark being an oaf, not giving Kara credit for her growth, but there's nevertheless an understated warmth between the cousins from Krypton - this is how family is, sometimes. I love seeing them hang out outside the coffee shop.

Heck, I heart the cafe full stop. Anyone for a Supergirl: Coffee Adventures in the Eighth Grade book? No? Oh well, at least there's likely something of the flavour of Landry Q Walker and Eric Jones' superb series coming in this run, as Kara mingles with the likes of Maxima, Comet and Tsavo, the senior students who razz her here (they apparently learned their recruitment techniques from Adventure Comics #247).

While the writing team is new, recent regular artist Emanuela Lupacchino sticks around, drawing a wonderful Kara and co. She's tweaked Supergirl slightly, softening her facial expressions and lengthening her hair to match the character Kara has become. The harsh edges are going, replaced by a sophistication. Sharpness, though, is the stock in trade of inker Ray McCarthy, who works well with Lupacchino - whether it's the cutely bearded Clark, the New York scenes, the otherworldly vistas, the character designs for the Academy crew or the refreshingly modest Kryptonian armour - the artists produce inspired work that reflects the inspired script. Letterer Dezi Sienty and colourists Hi-fi similarly acquit themselves rather well.

And I really appreciate Lupacchino's nicely composed cover, strikingly coloured by Dan Brown - too many of this run's covers have seen Kara scowling, or half dead, or bleeding, but here she is, smiling, enjoying the adventure. More please.

I was nervous at the idea of yet another new direction for this series, but quality craft and a smattering of style combined with respect for what's gone before has me very happy indeed. This run is going to be good.