Thursday, 30 October 2008

Superman 681 review

Part 2 of the New Krypton storyline running through the Superman family of books, kicks off with an attractive Alex Ross cover showing flying Kandorians, marred only by his usual chubby Superman, and a fugly event banner at the top. Not the unknown designer's greatest moment.

Inside, a dull page one - the cliched TV news montage - is succeeded by a fantastic shot of the Daily Planet city room. Artists Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalhaes give us dozens of little Planeteers engaging in the business of news gathering and it made me smile. And thanks to colourist David Curiel for not swathing everything in some uniform tone.

Of the Planet staff, Perry, Steve, Lois and Lola look fine, though Jimmy is a tad spooky, too wan-looking. The art team's Superman, though, is perfect; handsome, noble, troubled, powerful, thoughtful. And they do a sterling job with the various JLA and JSA guest stars who pop up to question Superman about the huge influx of super-powered Kryptonians. In fact, the entire illustration aspect of the issue is wonderful, right through to the arrival of the Last Page Shocker baddie. (And one reaction shot in a very busy 25-reaction shot page indicates that at least one Kandorian will be causing trouble.)

Writer James Robinson handles this chapter with grace, showing the world's reactions to the Kryptonians, Superman's desperate need to believe his people are a good thing for Earth and - because no one demanded it - the return of Agent Liberty. But the greatest moment in the book occurs away from Metropolis and Kandor, as the mourning Ma Kent gets a very good houseguest.

But action aside, the most exciting moment of the book for this old fart fan comes with the blurb at issue's end, for Adventure Comics Special 1. Dan Didio hinted at it in a Newsarama interview yesterday, as I write this, and it looks like one of DC's oldest books is indeed returning. Magic!

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1/35 (Make your mind up, Marvel)

Jackpot's secret revealed! She's an action figure who lives in Spidey's crotch. Well, according to the cover.

Inside we learn that, gasp! - the cover was merely a Mighty Marvel Impressionistic Masterpiece. Jackpot remains normal sized. Well done Mike McKone, you got me all excited there. And a huge well done to McKone and inker Andy Lanning for a superb art job within. This is one fluid Spider-Man, skittering this way and that like nobody's business. Too many artists forgot that Spidey moves in a certain way. It's also nice to see such Spidey touches as Peter talking on the phone while pacing his bedroom ceiling, and a Ditko-esque half-Pete/half-Spidey head. And McKone is, as ever, an ace storyteller - while there's style aplenty, there's not a moment when it isn't clear what's going on.

His Jackpot is what I believe they call a hottie, even if she does wear flares. Mind, her big, bouffy hair is very silly and pours doubt on the oft-presented idea that she could be Mary Jane Watson-not-Parker.

So is she? I'm not telling, as this is an entertaining issue made all the better by little touches - an old-school, witty splash page, complete with logo; clever chapter headings; and great use of flashback. The meat of the issue is a nice done-in-one tale by Marc Guggenheim, who shows his background in TV's Law & Order franchise with his pleasantly linear, but absorbing, potboiler. I loved seeing Betty Brant doing some actual reporting again, and Peter taking more of an active interest than usual. I also enjoyed a sub-prime mortgage crisis reference - very New York today, which is where Spidey should be.

A couple of wee quibbles: Peter has Betty use her police contacts to have a coffee cup fingerprinted, which seems odd given how much time the Spidey Brains Trust has spent establishing CSI Carlie Cooper. And the villains of the piece, the Mogul aka Walter Declun (apparently a refugee from Wolverine), Blindside and a Special Guest Obscurity are less than exciting. Then again, this is Jackpot's spotlight issue.

Sadly - the character just hasn't proven interesting to me. It's as if no one thought her through beyond 'let's have a new heroine who may be post-Mephisto MJ'. Still, there are scenes at the close of this story that we may see a more worthwhile Jackpot in future.

All in all, a thoroughly decent issue, never less than entertaining, but missing the wow factor. Face it Marvel, you just missed the Jackpot.

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns

Tell the truth, it's a big pity
Everyone now has a ditty
With Hal alone it seemed witty
But now it's gotten rather shitty


When I was a kid I read a story about the origin of Green Lantern Hal Jordan's oath. It explained that the point wasn't Hal's penchant for poetry, the recitation was a timing device to ensure the ring, held to the power battery, would fully charge.* Other Lanterns had oaths that were equally personal.

Did I moan when, in recent years, other GLs adopted Hal's oath rather than think of their own? I did not, despite this demonstrating laziness you'd not expect from supposed role models. But do I moan when it turns out that the first thing a batch of evil Green Lanterns - Red Lanterns, if you will - do when they get a power ring is come up with their own oath? I do.

For goodness' sake, this comic is called Rage of the Red Lanterns, not Poetry of the Pink Flashlights. We want elemental fury, not ethereal verse. Not that it isn't a scary ethereal verse . . .

With blood and rage of crimson red,
ripped from a corpse so freshly dead,
together with our hellish hate,
we'll burn you all, that is your fate!


Yes, the tautology of 'crimson red' is frightening.

Elsewhere, this book has writer Geoff Johns' trademark gory violence, with lots of GLs and the odd Sinestro Corps member eviscerated as Atrocitus' spanking new Red Lanterns make their move. They're out for vengeance against pretty much everybody
and attack as the GLs are moving Sinestro to his home planet, Korugar, for execution. Despite their general inexperience compared to the Lanterns, they discombobulate them, along with the Sinestro Corps members who got their ambush in first. Call it the power of rage. Or 'bigging up the baddies'. No doubt the Corps members will come through when we've spent enough money on the continuation of this story.

Oh well, the soppy sod in me is delighted to learn that Hal still has a thing for Carol Ferris, meaning the stupidly nicknamed Cowgirl can go chew the cud. And it is fun to see that precisely no one believes Hal when he says he's OK with the death penalty for Sinestro.

The artwork, by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope, is rather good - lots of intense people whether of green, red and yellow hue. The little blue Guardians of the Universe/Arrogant Numties, too, provide a masterclass in grimacing. Even the cutest little kitty cat you ever did see growls with anger as it - eek - vomits evil red gunk on a Sinestroller. For that's how the Red Lanterns manifest their hatred-filled red light. They spew on you. Nice.

At one point they chunder on Hal and somehow this leads to a surprise player in the battle manifesting. I can't see exactly how this happens - he may be appearing from inside Hal's ring, but the artwork is unclear here - yet the mysterious being shows up nevertheless. Behold the power of the Blue Lantern.

Behold his face like a baseball.

So, what's the Final Crisis link? See page 1, panel 1, editor's note: 'These events take place between Final Crisis 1 and 2.' That's not all - Hal makes a quick reference to the 'deicide' in Final Crisis 1.

So, no fair saying the FC label has simply been slapped on to help sales, the big event is integral to, oh, at least three panels.

*Sadly, it didn't reveal whether or not the last line, 'beware my power, Green Lantern's light' demanded 'power' be pronounced as one syllable, ie 'pow'r', or whether it was said as it looks, 'pow-er', which would break the eight-syllable rhyme scheme. So if my last line, above, seems to have dodgy scansion, blame Alfred Bester. I may be overthinking . . .

Monday, 27 October 2008

The next Pa Kent

The latest death of Pa Kent has been getting a lot of attention, with Jonathan hailed as the person who made baby Kal-El the man he is today (poor Ma Kent gets scant credit).

He'll be back in a reality rewrite or two, but until then, who's the number 1 Dad at DC Comics? Alfred's pretty close, but he's always kept just that little bit of distance from Bruce, using the butler bit as a barrier to paternal intimacy.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . Alberto Reyes!

Who? You know, the father of Jaime Reyes, the current, teenaged Blue Beetle. Not only is he a loving family man, he's supportive of his son's superhero career, like Jonathan Kent. And like Pa Kent, he's full of homespun wisdom - in the latest issue, 32, Alberto points out to the naive Jaime that allowing a politician to railroad him into being his anti-illegal immigration figurehead isn't actually a great idea for a hero in the Latino community of El Paso, texas. And he doesn't simply lecture his son, he takes him on a road trip to help him understand more about his people.

More impressive still, after giving his son the information he needs to reconsider his decision, Alberto drives Jaime to his next mission, a battle with the goons of the new Dr Polaris. And he backs up his son, with cane - he has a gammy leg - and firearm. There's no 'leave this to the older heroes' from Alberto; he trusts his boy to do a good job with the powers he's been given by aliens, and the values he's been given by himself and his wife, Bianca.

And if that doesn't make Alberto Reyes a Pa Kent, nothing does.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Thor: The Truth of History

The current incarnation of the Thor book, by J Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel, can't be faulted in terms of vision. JMS has his notion of how Thor should be treated in the 21st century, and Coipel has diverged from the Marvel bible to make the god of thunder look more Scandinavian than previously. And it's well crafted stuff . . .

. . . but apart from the post-Civil War issue that had Thor put Iron Man in his place, it hasn't hooked me. It intrigues, but it doesn't excite. The approach is all thought, little heart. Having inherited his father's role as All-father (God-Father?), Thor is full of dignity and wisdom and far from the sparky, impulsive hero I loved to spend time with. Less Thor the God of Thunder than Thor the God of Ponder.

But now, for one week only, the Thor I love is back. Courtesy of writer/penciller Alan Davis, inker Mark Farmer and their creative colleagues, we get old school Asgardian drama by the bucketload. Sidestepping current continuity, The Truth of History is set a few thousand years ago, as Thor and the Warriors Three visit ancient Egypt, where the gods of Heliopolis rule. They wind up there via typical Volstagg silliness after an encounter with Nedra, Queen of Jotunheim, who's brimming with mischief and resplendent in typically towering Kirby goddess headgear.

Davis writes a wonderfully wise and witty Thor tale, giving us a noble, kind warrior god, while his take on the Warriors Three is spot on, with Fandral dashing, Hogun grim and Volstagg voluminous in body and personality. We also get a few brief moments with Sif and Balder, and it's so good to see the old gang together that it's a shame they never made the jaunt to Egypt.

The art is typically gorgeous Davis and Farmer, with just a single off panel (Thor bashes a monster and look like he's been on the gingold). Otherwise it's handsome and horrific figures in slickly choreographed action sequences to match the best of old school Marvel.

Actually, forget 'old-school'- this is timeless stuff, nothing more than plain old good comics. It may have been published with little fanfare, but The Truth of History is my favourite Thor story for years. If JMS and Coipel would be less shy of incorporating Silver Age Marvel attitudes and dynamism into their story we might see the magic their run has been missing.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Superman: New Krypton Special 1

Kicking off the big storyline that will integrate Superman, Action Comics and Supergirl, Superman: New Krypton arrives with a bang. An emotional bang, as Smallville says goodbye to Jonathan Kent, who died in the latest Action Comics after an encounter with a Brainiac bomb. The book's opening scene was sad, but I was distracted by a need to Google the apparent quote on Pa Kent's tombstone: 'We were put on this earth for a reason, but it's up to us to find it' And . . . Google is no help. Could it be an original Pa Kent quote I've missed? The guy was all about homespun philosophy, after all. Anyway, I've made a note for my executors - I'm stealing it.

This scene is followed by the image of the issue, as Superman fantasises a visit to Brainiac's cell, his stride purposeful, his eyes blazing with hate. It was a shock to see the subsequent beating he imagined giving the Coluan, but given that he was responsible for the death of his father, well, wouldn't you? I'm sure even the sainted Jonathan would.

Back on the farm (or still on the farm, as the Brainiac sequence may have been Clark flashing back), Lois tries to comfort Clark, but he's more interested in his Dad's keepsake chest. The sequence was mildly affecting, but unnecessary once the concluding shot arrived; a full-pager of Clark in a big empty space, sobbing.

While I'm sad about the latest death of Pa Kent, the loss of him allows Ma Kent to take on a richer characterisation. Previously she was simply Wise Head Number Two, but now she's showing a strong mind of her own. And I like that.

What I don't like is that Clark leaves Martha to visit the newly enlarged Kandor. Yes, he had to check in soon, but there are any number of other heroes who could deputise for him for a while. Wonder Woman, for example, with her diplomatic nous, would be just the person to keep those Kandorians in check while Clark spent some quality time with his bereaved Ma. Sure, she says to go do some good but, right then, she needed him more than his fellow Kryptonians.

Who, I must say, are already proving an annoying lot. I was brought up in the Silver Age, I'm not used to Kandorians with a mind of their own; they're supposed to say 'Yes Superman.' 'No Superman. 'Three bags full, Superman.' But here they are, headed by Uncle Zor and Auntie Alura, deciding to explore and beginning by carelessly killing a poor old whale. Mind, Zor does look good in his strictly Silver Age togs - and it's interesting to see that the poncy fashions from Krypton's House of Byrne still exist among a style-challenged contingent.

The big moment for me this issue was the reintroduction of Lois' sister, Lucy Lane. I've been wondering about her status since her post-Crisis hubby, tyro Planet hack Ron Troupe, turned up recently as the Planet's grand old man. And here she is, still young but no longer a young housewife - look at the uniform, she's an air stewardess again . . . she's not? Army you say? Bah, where's the fun in that? Oh well, a uniform is a uniform, and Jimmy Olsen always liked her in uniform. I'm assuming she's no longer married to Ron and never has been. The shame here is that means that she no longer has a baby - I rather liked Lois and Clark as auntie and uncle. Gotta love those Infinite Crisis waves, I suppose.

The drama between Lois and Lucy was terribly soapy, all that 'you never loved Dad' palava, but it's been so long since Lois has had a plot to call her own, and I'm so pleased to see my old pal Lucy (anyone else remember the time she was magically, tragically turned into an old lady?), that I can forgive.

I'm less forgiving about the ending. Sam Lane still alive and revealed as the army fella out to get Superman. Oh come on, that's too much in the way of symmetrical soapiness - Pa dies, Sam rises? And makes a pact with Lex Luthor? It reminds me of when Wonder Woman's mother was resurrected and immediately condoned the murderous Amazons Attack. If DC are going to give every reborn parent an evil personality, I'd rather they left them to fester in the ground.

Apart from the return of the 'read in this order' triangles - now a shield, truth be told - the cover of the issue I have is pretty poor. Sure, Gary Frank's illo of Superman is good, but Kandor is coloured so icily that its appearance has no impact.

The art inside, though, is all over good, with Action Comics illustrator Frank joined by occasional Superman artist Pete Woods and current artist Renato Guedes, plus various inkers and colourists. Whether we're in Smallville, Metropolis, Stryker's Island, Washington DC or Kandor, it's stylish stuff filled with convincing 'actors'. And their partners in words, Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, provide a nicely paced, well-dialogued teaser for the next couple of years worth of Superman Family comics.

Now, if only they'd toss stupid Sam Lane back in the ground.

Final Crisis 4

Evil has won and the heroes of the DCU are organising to take back the world. Not the biggest heroes as, refreshingly, Superman and Batman are MIA and Wonder Woman is batting for Darkseid's team. So it's up to a few members of the JLA, JSA, Metal Men, er, those Chinese fellas with complicated names and powers, and sundry others (I think I saw Negative Woman, for the first time in years) to fight on. Stepping up big time is the current Tattooed Man, having popped over from this week's Final Crisis: Submit.
And then there's the Ray who, with his light spectrum powers, is proving equally useful at search & rescue and spreading news of the resistance.

The news comes courtesy of a Daily Planet produced from Superman's Fortress of Solitude, what with the electronic media having been drafted by the forces of Apokolips to spread the anti-life equation. As an old hack, I find it heartening to see the print medium still has a role in the shiny new DCU.

From pre-publicity I was expecting this issue to be something of a gloomfest, but we learn that the heroes have set up a series of watchtowers around the world and, marshaled by Alan Scott, are fighting on. The world has darkened but the heroes have set themselves up as shining beacons, led by the original Green Lantern - I like that.

Courtesy of the excellent art of JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, we see the heroes fighting against Darkseid's brainwash shock troops, the Justifiers, on several fronts; the absence of the Big Three allows Black Canary to actually do some JLA leading; and Barry Allen is reunited with Wally and Iris.

This last scene is lovely, as a kiss from the Silver Age Flash breaks the Apokoliptian spell his wife is under. Yeah, it's corny as hell, but that's Barry for you, and the power of love has been a theme in the Flash legacy ever since Wally took over, so it's great to see Barry - short-hair and all - get in on the act. If we have to have a cheese-free explanation, let's say it's his link to the Speed Force or something (perhaps he should run round the world and snog everyone?).

While the reunion with Wally is pretty understated as these things go, Barry gets at least one killer line, as he discusses 'the curse of the Flash Family': 'Everything gets done on the run and life happens in the rearview mirror.' Smart stuff.

Elsewhere, Darkseid's minions squabble over who he'll be most pleased with when he finally takes over Ben Turpin's body. This was entertaining, but I'd rather the space were given over to an explanation of why he's chosen a frail old guy.

Random things I liked: The evil internet, the √únternet; Flash fact; Uncle Sam, inevitably corrupted as America fell; Kara as leader of one Watchtower faction; further confirmation that Black Adam is a waste of space.

Finally this reads like a Crisis comic. Certainly, previous issues have been intriguing and entertaining, but mainly in the way a puzzle is entertaining. Here we have a very linear instalment offering big battles between heroes and villains, accompanied by plenty of contextual material. It's a meaty, good-looking read, and bodes well for the rest of this series.

Amazing Spider-Man 574

Oh dear me. This is a stunt comic. This is Marvel's tribute, according to the final page, to the 'men and women who serve, have served and will serve in Iraq and Afghanistan with bravery and honor'.

God bless Marvel for trying to do a good thing. But I wish they'd think these things through a tad more. In order to provide a poignant ending to this tale - and yes, I'm spoiling more than I like to in a review, but it's necessary - Flash Thompson has his legs amputated in Iraq.

What's that, you say, didn't Flash Thompson serve in Vietnam? Wasn't he last seen working at Midtown High as a PE teacher? Yes, well, forget the Vietnam thing; comic book logic demands that while his previous stints in the military are referenced here, the details are glossed over. All we need to know is that as of Brand New Day he's re-enlisted to do his bit.

So, as the issue begins, Flash is in an army hospital, telling his tale to a general who's gathering information to justify the medal the US plans to award him. Interspersed with his story of self-sacrifice are non-narrated memory images showing that Flash has been inspired by Spider-Man every step of the way. So hey, despite the jettisoning of regular storylines, characters and milieu for the sake of a stunt story, this is a Spider-Man issue after all.

Poor old Flash. Marvel's apparent desperation to find some character they can involve in Iraq has seen him not only sent back to a hot zone years after he's been discharged, but maimed to boot. What's he meant to do back in the US? In real life it would be years of agonising rehabilitation. Likely Marvel, not being deliberately crass, will follow this path too, but readers will always be wondering: when will Flash be tempted to let Dr Octopus make him cybernetic legs? Surely Doc Connors could help him grow new limbs with lizard serum? And so on.

For Flash (an off-colour scene this issue 'explains' how he got the nickname) is not an ordinary soldier, like Army medic Jim Guering, whom editor Stephen Wacker writes about in a text piece. He belongs to the fantasy world of the Marvel universe, and if he's going to earn his keep as a supporting character, he must be fully involved in Spider-Man's world. And that means embracing the wacky.

'Flashbacks' isn't actually a bad story, taken on its own terms. Writer Mark Guggenheim, artists Barry Kitson, Mark Farmer and the rest of the creative team have worked hard on this issue, researching the scenery, uniforms, tech and so on. Craftsmen all, they provide a good-looking, entertaining - if predictable - read. And were this a special produced purely for armed forces distribution, I'd be all over it like a rash. But it's not, it's an out-of-nowhere chapter in the life of Flash Thompson.

Final Crisis: Submit

At last, a big change courtesy of Final Crisis - Black Lightning has his hair back. Suits him, too, as does the role he plays in this issue of inspiration to a deadbeat villain. Said deadbeat is the current holder of the Tattooed Man title, whom Wiki assures me I've read about previously, despite my having no memory of him. As we join Mark Richards, he's not being villainous, he's trying to protect his family from Darkseid's Justifiers, the brainwashing shock troops who have overrun Earth. And he does a good thing in saving Black Lightning from them, as the hero arrives to investigate a transmission sent by Richards' daughter.

He does a bad thing in being totally irritating for the rest of the issue, continually needling Black Lightning, Jeff Pierce, for being a superhero. Apparently the heroes have never done much for him.

Maybe because he's a villainous hitman who's worked with the Dark Side Club and Secret Society?

Anyway, his attitude, the way he treats Jeff as The Man (''the world never belonged to people like me, superstar'), is reminiscent of the way Jeff carried on in the first few years after his Seventies debut. Superman and the rest of the JLA? White honkies who didn't understand him because he was from the Hood/Suicide Slum. Perhaps that's the point of letting him share the spotlight in this special. Thankfully, Jeff's long since moved on. Tattooed Man, though, he's stuck in a Denny O'Neil relevancy comic.

Mind, it's Grant Morrison who put him there, and it's Morrison who gets him out again, having him learn a lesson in heroism and preparing him for the role he plays in this week's Final Crisis 4. Poor Jeff, though, isn't so lucky, being in dire straits by issue's end. Before that, though, he shows why he deserves his place in the Justice League, proving smart, imaginative in the use of his powers and, most of all, inspirational. Morrison reminds us that Jefferson Pierce was a teacher before he was a superhero via speeches that are rousing without winding up cheesy.

There' some wonderful dialogue here as, for example, Black Lightning explains that 'I make electricity dance like Beyonce' and Richards asks, 'why the hero pose?' Less successful is Mrs Richards' assertion that her husband 'was a superhero all this time'. Hmm, tell that to all the people he's hurt, robbed, even killed.

Matthew Clark, Norm Rapmund, Don Ho, Rob Hunter and the Hories provide striking visuals - Darkseid's devil dogs are terrifying, Black Lightning and Tattooed Man are imposing and young Leon Richards looks a right prat in his builder's bum jeans. And, not wanting to leave anyone out, Steve Wands provides lovely clear letters.

In all, this book is a great tie-in, providing strong character work and new information about Earth After Evil Won, but not so essential that it should have been part of the main Final Crisis book. It's called Submit but was all about resistance, so it'll be interesting to see what angle the forthcoming Final Crisis: Resist takes. If it's as good as this (cue trite end line), I'll happily submit to its charms.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Amazing Spider-Man 573

Whoa, a little heavy on the brow, nose and jaw there, Mr Romita. Norman Osborn looks less like the Green Goblin than the Pink Platypus.

Cover apart, John Romita Jr provides first class pencils this issue, as he has in the other five parts of New Ways to Die. Kudos, too, to inker Klaus Janson and colourist Dean White for their parts in making this one seriously good-looking comic book. I'm not a big fan of extra splash pages, but there's a stunning shot of Spider-Man and Anti-Venom high above New York, and another of Spidey surprising Goblin. The smaller moments are equally rewarding, whether it's a surprise for Petey or a shock for Aunt May.

In terms of the script Dan Slott also keeps to the standards he's set in the rest of this arc, giving us pitch-perfect characterisations amid a rattling ride to the conclusion. While the main storyline - the Thunderbolts' pursuit of Spidey for someone else's crimes and the return of Norman Osborn to the webhead's rogues gallery - are tied up nicely, little mysteries continue to build. I'm especially keen to follow Harry's story, after a few comments from his dear old dad, including one that makes it clear that he's still been comics-dead, which confirms that he was still a Green Goblin once upon a time.

So that's Book Six of New Ways to Die, a terrific comic.

Oh, what's this? A back-up? I love back-ups, they're a nice way to help justify an extra-priced issue . . .

. . . oh. It's a self-conscious, self-indulgent bit of brown-nosing towards one of Marvel EIC chief Joe Quesada's pals, Stephen Colbert. I know he's the guy all these distracting posters in Marvel stories have been referring to, but on the basis of this Mark Waid/Pat Olliffe short, God knows what the fuss is about. Isn't Spider-Ham a pig?

Whatever, this is an irritating imposition on an otherwise first-rate issue. Do even American readers give a toss about this ongoing Marvel in-joke? I know I don't, but from the self-congratulatory note on the letters page it's like the Spidey editorial team has cured cancer. Make this a one-off, please, Marvel, and concentrate on telling new tales of Brand New Day Spider-Man - you were doing so well.

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge 3

And so the first Final Crisis spin-off mini winds up. The Rogues' quest for revenge against teen clone speedster Impulse for persuading them to kill Bart Allen concludes. And it isn't pretty.

It is pretty entertaining, though, with tons of excellent character moments for Captain Cold and company, a turning point in the life of Zoom and an insight into Final Crisis baddie Libra's abilities. The big problem with this story - and it's a tad fundamental - is the Rogues' assertion that Inertia deserves to be put down like a dog for Bart's murder, and they don't. Yes, he persuaded them to do the deed, but they're all equally culpable. If anyone could try for a spot of mitigation, it's Inertia, a kid among adults.

Not that I'd forgive the murderous little snot, but he's a psychologically disturbed clone, whereas the Rogues are presented as capable of evil acts, yet strangely likable. Cold killed his dad but the old man was a git. Weather Wizard slew his brother but he was desperate. Heat Wave set fire to his home and watched his family die, but, hey, he's a pyromaniac. And so on.

As if aware that there isn't that much difference between the adult Rogues and Inertia, writer Geoff Johns ups the latter's evil here, having him do something truly unspeakable. It makes for terrific drama, but the Rogues leave this series, if anything, seeming nastier - and certainly more self-deluded - than they entered it.

Artist Scott Kolins just gets better with every outing; the definitive interpreter of Keystone City and its inhabitants. From the hyperkinetic Trickster cover through to the ominous final splash, this is a masterly performance. His artistic choices up the impact of Johns' impressive script, for example when the Pied Piper makes his big entrance, and Mirror Master shows the true extent of his surveillance capabilities. Colourist Dave McCaig adds his own layer of goodness.

These three short issues haven't redeemed the Rogues to the semi-cuddly - roguish, I suppose - position they occupied when Johns was writing them regularly, but it has emphasised what a powerful collection of villains they are, in terms of armoury and personality. And it's whetted the appetite for next year's confrontation with the returned Barry Allen who, for a speedster, is a long time coming.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds 2

As a massive fan of the Legion, it's safe to say I've been looking forward to the continuation of this Final Crisis semi-tie-in. And it doesn't disappoint, being a fast-moving romp across the 31st century in the company of colourful, powerful heroes and villains.

It does take awhile to get the Legions of three continuities together - after the end of last issue, I was hoping for a speedy gathering - but there's plenty going on before that. Gasp at the courage of Rond Vidar. Marvel at the passion of Cosmic Boy. Applaud the Legion spirit of Polar Boy. Laugh at the unconditioned hair of White Witch.

Finally, when the teams do unite, we get possibly the funniest scene of the month as three Brainiac 5's match wits:

Querl 1: 'I am Brainiac 5.'

Querl 2: 'What? I am Brainiac 5.'

Querl 1: 'Yes. Albeit a very short copy.'

And so on. It's a much-needed moment of levity as apocalypse approaches. I also laughed at Superboy-Prime daring to accuse someone else of being a whiner.

In a comic book full of great scenes, I was disappointed that Superman doesn't actually have a clue as to how he'll 'redeem' Superman Prime. All he has is a dim hope that he'll see the error of his ways - little things such as mass murder and this issue's killing of a Legionnaire - and turn himself in. Much as I hate the modern trend for heroes effing and blinding, I don't blame Lightning Lad for his liberal use of $!*?&. Superman came across as a tool, and not a useful one.

I was also underwhelmed at the last page reveal of some big help for the Legions -one of Geoff Johns' pet GL characters. The Lanterns had their moment in the sun last year, whereas this is a Legion event in their 50th anniversary year. The legend of the Green Lanterns has been polished, it's the Legion who needs the spotlight now.

I was whelmed - if that's not a word, it should be - by the artwork of George Perez and Scott Koblish. They give us even more characters than last month, several of them in new costumes. Happily. Perez's mastery of composition and pacing means the story always flows smoothly. And there are some wonderful individual shots, such as the moment he actually makes Mordru intimidating (now that's magic!) and the coolest use of Dawnstar's wings ever.

Despite my quibbles, this series is living up to its billing as a blockbuster, giving us huge events crafted by top creators at peak form. Yes, I have the odd quibble, but that's bound to be the case in a story this ambitious. Legion of Three Worlds isn't perfect, but it's sure as heck better than 95 per cent of the superhero comics out there. Long Live the Legion!

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen 1

It's been a few years since Jimmy Olsen had his own title - well, three decades - so as a card-carrying member of the Fourth Estate, I'm glad to see him get another shot at glory.

The cover illustration is a rich confection, courtesy of Ryan Sook, but it's too retro for this comic, with Jimmy dressed for the Silver Age rather than the hard-hitting mystery provided by writer James Robinson. Mind, it does give us our first look at the story's bad guy, and Jimmy gets a cracking new logo. The story is a spin-off of Robinson's current Superman work (and moves on to the upcoming Superman: New Krypton Special 1), with Jimmy attempting to track down the floating fella who blasted Supergirl when she tried to help her cousin against Atlas.

There are twists and turns aplenty in a tale that hearkens back to the days when Kirby was King and Jimmy hung out with the Newsboy Legion and Guardian at Project Cadmus. There are also a few shocks and the surprise return of a character from the Seventies' First Issue Special series - given that Robinson has already revived Atlas and the blue Starman, I guess he liked that book.

Another thing Robinson does here which he's done before, and I couldn't be happier, is invent a new city for the DC Universe, Warpath, a place as tough as it sounds. Luckily it has a guardian angel, another character from DC's past. I'll keep a watch out for more of both in DC's titles.

I was wary, as I began this book. I've seen too many comics in which Jimmy is presented as a clod, but here Robinson gives us the best Jimmy in years, one true to Olsen at his best. He's a young man not entirely sure he's worthy of playing with the big boys at the Daily Planet but once he smells a story, his instincts take over and he's like a dog with a bone in his pursuit of truth. The narration rings true, with Jimmy coming across as a smart, likable fella well deserving of his own book, or at least the occasional special. The dialogue's snappy too, with a scene between Jimmy and the mayor of Warpath a real sizzler.

One thing I liked here was seeing that he reveres Clark and Lois almost as much Superman, which makes sense - they're heroes to him and, unlike Superman, they win their victories without powers. It's clear from this issue that the knowledge of Clark's secret ID Jimmy gained in the execrable Countdown series is forgotten, but Jimmy's amazing transformations are acknowledged, and used for a clever bit of story business.

It was also good to be reminded that Jimmy has pals his own age and isn't pining over his stupid Countdown alien bug girlfriend or waiting for some DC god of continuity to write Lucy Lane back into his life (given the recent unexplained ageing of her husband, Ron Troupe, I wouldn't be surprised were she to show up as the little old lady she was for a while in the Seventies).

Steve Lombard appears in this book and that's annoying; there's no way a guy with his boorish, sleazy attitude would be tolerated in an editorial meting, never mind one presided over by Perry White. Lois is given a killer rejoinder to his harassment, but that's not the point.

The biggest quibble I had with this cracking book was Jimmy's signal watch. I'm delighted that Superman didn't appear here to save Jimmy, but some reason should have been given as to why our hero doesn't use his zee-zee signal, at least early in the story, when things get really tough.

The artwork, by Jesus Merino, Leno Carvalho, Steve Scott and various inkers is a treat, with the workaday sequences carrying an everyday truth and the action moments appropriately powerful. Favourite bits include Perry's summons to Jimmy, drastic action to escape pursuit and the dignified demise of . . .

. . . sorry, not telling! This is the type of special that could easily be overlooked and if I can intrigue a few people enough to buy it, great. That way, I might get more Jimmy Olsen - did I tell you he's my pal?

Batman and the Outsiders 12 review

'AN OUTSIDER DIES' screams the cover.

'No one cares,' sighs the reader. Seriously, there are a few Outsiders who have maintained a presence in the DCU in between this book's many cancellations because they bring something different to the party. Katana (tempestuous mystical swordswoman), Metamorpho (conflicted chemical king, Geo Force (mass-moving prince) . . . heck, even Looker (badly made-up slapper vampire mentalist) has her fans.

Then there's Grace (angry strongwoman), Thunder (dull mass inducer), Remac (quirky red Omac) and so on. And yeah, it's one of this latter list who buys the farm this issue. There's some attempt by writer Frank Tieri to make us think the member to die will be someone else, but you'd have to be a pretty new comics reader/Stepford Wife to be fooled.

The book starts at the funeral, with the corpse unrevealed, and then moves back in time. First it's 'Now' before we flash back to 'Two days ago', 'Earlier that night' and 'Two days ago' again (as if 'Earlier that night' wasn't 'Two days ago). It's ineffective and annoying; if you want to see how well the basic idea can work, track down a copy of UK teen TV drama Press Gang's 1991 episode Last Word part 2. Writer Steven Moffat - Dr Who's new showrunner - creates suspense and viewer empathy by skilfully switching between the funeral and the events that led to it, showing us, one by one, which of the regulars is still alive before we finally reach the flashback scene showing the victim's demise. It's a fantastic piece of drama and has been copied a few times since, on both sides of the Atlantic.

And I've spent too much time recounting it, but you know what? The memories are more fun than this comic, which basically features bickering and hysterical heroes failing to do anything useful. Things perk up when Robin shows up and reveals a proper link between this issue's attack on the Outsiders and the Batman RIP storyline trumpeted on the cover, but basically, this is the most missable of comics. Sure, someone dies, but even if they have a fan, they know they can be brought back very easily.

Oh, this book did generate one emotion in me - annoyance at the continuing depiction of Metamorpho as his late 'twin' Shift. This makes no sense - the shapeshifting Rex Mason has always fought against being the freak, and there's no way he'd choose to look even uglier than usual.

Providing the ugly are penciller Ryan Benjamin and inker Saleem Crawford. They do a decent enough job with Tieri's by-the-numbers script, though there's the odd glitch. One page, for example, has Thunder telling Remac he doesn't look so good, at the same time he's grabbing her menacingly. In the previous panel she'd been behind him, so how she could see how he looked? Obviously, he turned round, but the transitional panel was missed out. We should have seen him looking weird.

This is a truly mediocre book, not even interesting enough to be considered actively bad. Never mind Batman, it's RIP my interest.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

TEENAGERS FROM THE FUTURE: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes (Sequart, $26.95) Now here's a terrific book, a bunch of fan essays on my favourite team. It's a meaty read, taking in such subjects as architecture, the Legion rulebook and Paul Levitz' debt to film-maker Robert Altman.

Most of the articles are plain fun, reminding us of the highs, lows and sheer nuttiness of the LSH back story. Occasionally things get a tad high-falutin' for my taste . . . you can make a case for comics having cultural significance without overthinking – just look at film box offices, the widespread acceptance of such terms as 'bizarro' and the growth of graphic novel sections in bookshops.

Then again, the whole point of the Sequart organisation is to argue for the acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form, so a little intellectualising is par for the course. And there's always a nice line of argument present, with readability to the fore.

My favourite essay is Martin A Perez's Fashion from the future, or 'I swear, Computo Forced Me To Wear This'. It's written at the level of a great fanzine article - light, entertaining and insightful.

The editing of the book is a bit lax at times, particularly in Julian Darius' Revisionism, Radical Experimentation, and Dystopia in Giffen's Legion. From that unnecessary comma in the title onwards, it made me want to get out the proverbial blue pencil. Never mind the odd use of the term 'revisionism' – Giffen and the Bierbaums weren't reinterpreting Legion history, they were telling a new story with a darker tone – there was a heck of a lot of repetition, with phrases and ideas repeated almost wholesale time and again. Perhaps that's meant to reinforce an argument, but if the the reader is considered bright enough to allow an intellectual approach to the Legion, they should be credited with the ability to hang on to a thought for a paragraph or two.

There's also the odd comment that makes it sound as if being gay is among the worst things that can 'happen' to a person, for example:

Perhaps most memorably, Shrinking Violet, a cute and innocent girl with the power to shrink, was shown to have been at the same battle [Venado Bay], which left her horribly psychologically and facially scarred. She further sported short hair, rather than her long and glamorous flowing hair of years past, and seemed to be a lesbian.

Oh my god, poor Vi! By the end of this commendably ambitious piece, it's obvious that Julian Darius isn't anti-gay, which makes such comments all the more puzzling. Hopefully tighter editing of any revised reprint will sort this out.

Overall, though, I can't imagine any longtime Legion lover failing to appreciate this book. It's written with affection and knowledge and is full of fascinating detail and intelligent observation. If you're a Legion fan and haven't already bought it, order it today.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Wonder Woman 25 review

Wonder Woman 24-25's 'A Star in the Heavens' comes at us like a breather, a lightweight two-parter in between the meaty action of the preceding 'Ends of the Earth' fantasy worlds storyline and the upcoming, much-hyped 'Rise of the Olympian' multi-parter. After all, the hero in Hollywood bit has been done many times previously, with shallow LA types failing to 'get' a character, or just plain disregarding the truth in a bid to make a buck.

That's the basic set-up here, with the unique selling point being the inclusion of Tsaritsa, Queen of Fables, writer Gail Simone's wicked stepmother of all fairy tales. She uses the movie as a springboard from which to attack Wonder Woman, whom she believes to be her nemesis, Snow White.

Diana duly triumphs - no great surprise there - but she does it with such confidence and smarts that this issue is a delight from start to finish. The internal monologue positions us with Wonder Woman as she figures out what's up, and how to tackle the mad monarch. Her dialogue with the Queen shows us Diana's personality - confident and cocky, without being arrogant. And happily, the Queen's reality-bending abilities make it reasonable that while she's up for the challenge, Diana doesn't take it for granted that an easy win is in the offing.

Thus, arena battles with armoured, axe-wielding centaurs and the morphing Queen herself have enough tension to carry the story forward. These follow a tussle with the 'storybook' versions of Diana who appeared at the close of last issue, including, appropriately enough, the Cathy Lee Crosby TV movie Wonder Woman (sadly sans mule). That's a lot of action for one issue, but the conflict always conveys character, and that's comics gold.

The main story ends with a great scene involving the screenwriter, Diana's Gorilla City associates and a pair of Aviators that's one of my favourite Wonder Woman moments ever. After that we get a coda that's excellent in a different way, a moment of quiet drama that sees Diana visit Allison Condera, the Hollywood counsel introduced last issue who was surprisingly hostile to Diana. As I suggested in my thoughts on that book (http://dangermart.blogspot.com/2008/09/wonder-woman-24-review.html - shameless bid for traffic), she's neither a post-Amazons Attack memory-wiped Themysciran nor anyone else from Diana's back catalogue of friends and foes. Nope, she's just an ordinary. hard-working single mom who's resentful of the hero worship her daughters reserve for Diana. A very human response to a larger than life figure.

She's also an alcoholic, something Diana intuited, but Allison is on the wagon. Diana and Allison make peace and the story ends with Super-Heroine Number One meeting two very lucky girls, and a subsequently broody Diana (tying in with last month's scene in which Hippolyta urged Diana's love interest/victim Nemesis to provide her with grandchildren).

I loved the Allison vignette to bits, as it was pure Marston Diana, with Amazon interacting with the ordinary woman, and making a friend of an antagonist. The perfect capper to a splendidly realised two-parter which sees Simone continue to redefine Diana. The heroine's voice is slightly more relaxed from the occasionally starchy narrator of recent months, while still recognisably the same woman.

And while not your actual big arc, as I said at the top, this two-parter advanced continuing plotlines and themes while providing a big old fun ride for heroine and reader alike.

A big part of the success of this issue is Bernard Chang, who earns his place as the great Aaron Lopresti's pinch hitter via vibrant layouts and delightful character work. A nod, also, to colourist Kanila Tripp, a new name to me. She takes full advantage of the fantasy backgrounds to give us yellow skies on Movie Paradise Island, green skies above the arena and more realistic hues in the real world sequence. She also paints the people pretty!

A few questions and comments - what's the back story on Allison's wee girls being of different racial mixes? OK, they could have differing dads, but they look the same age. And I can't see Simone (apparently) setting something up without a pay-off planned in good time.

The Movie Amazons biggest reason for their hatred of men was hilarious ('...They leave the toilet seats up!').

The sort-of return of Wonder Tot was just brilliant, and Chang channelled Silver Age artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito superbly.

Diana notes that she never really got along with centaurs, which means that her Wonderdome/dumb era advisor Chiron was either an aberration or - please! - has been retconned away.

I loved Chang's very occasional use of page borders to add to a scene's mood - at once intelligent and attractive.

The metatextual comment by Diana on the possibility of a good Wonder Woman film was a cute wink at the never-ending real-life 'will there be a Wonder Woman movie? saga.

Lopresti's cover is an instant classic - sweet, evocative and cleverly executed, with the DC Comics indicia's incorporation.

All in all, Wonder Woman 24-25 comprise two of the most delightful entertainment experiences I've had in quite a while. Who needs movies?

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Pl'se st'p it!

Koriand'r of Tamaran, M'rissey of the Legion, D'spayre of, er, Hell, would you like to borrow a vowel? Really, I have a plenty to spare. Then you wouldn't be so iritating with your cutesey little apostrophes. I mean, why do we need apostrophes replacing missing vowels when the name is an English version of an other-worldly/dimensional name? We can see what the sound's supposed to be, so be consistent and use the English alphabet.

We don't. So stop it. Here, I give you two Es and one O to go. Use them wisely.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Batman 680 review

Batman, brain addled but fighting back as the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, takes the battle to Arkham Asylum, where the Black Glove and his Club of Villains are using the helpless Nightwing in a game of deadly chance. And Joker is the wild card.

Batman RIP has really kicked into high gear for me in the last couple of issues, so much so that I'm sad the main course is over next month. Before that, though, there's plenty to savour here - the villainous perversion of Le Bossu, the hilarity of Bratboy Damian, the best explanation of Batmite we'll ever get . . . and most of all, the sheer, bloody-minded determination of Batman not to let evil men prevail.

Plus, there's a Joker who's far scarier than any previous comic, and certainly any screen, version of the Clown Prince of Crime. Writer Grant Morrison writes him some terrifying moments, but it's the artwork of penciller Tony Daniel, inker Sandu Florea and colourist Guy Major and letterer (yes, letterer) Randy Gentile which truly brings him to chilling life here. The cover design is rather good, but never mind a fight club scenario, Alex Ross' Batman is a refugee from Fat Club. Get a new model, man!

If you've not been following the storyline, and this little precis intrigues, don't seek out the single issues. Hang on for a collected edition, because that's where this complicated tale of the Batman will really fly.

Terror Titans 1 review

I wasn't going to buy this comic, what with it starring a bunch of pretty generic, second generation villains with no apparent motivation for their rotten behaviour. But an interview with writer Sean McKeever mentioned that some teen characters I do enjoy - Aquagirl, Zatara, Terra and Offspring - would be in here. And here they are, along with a new Star-Spangled Kid (male, a la the original) and some little fella I don't know named Molecule.

There's no point remembering his name, he's sliced in two pretty early on, courtesy of the Persuader's atomic axe. Lots of blood, ooh shocking.

Or is that boring? It's certainly boring when another teenage character, former Doom Patroller Fever, is murdered later on in the book, even though this is someone I'd followed during her brief moment in the DCU sun a few years back. Boring because it's so predictable. It's also predictable that she'll be back in a few years, so I won't worry too much about the whole dead thing.

I do worry a tad that DC seems happy to market this on the back of how evil and ruthless the characters are, and how much blood is spilled. Well, with the exception of Dreadbolt - who looks set to turn on his fellow Terror Titans and wind up with the Teen Titans, if he doesn't actually wind up dead - they are pretty vile. That also makes them pretty one-note, and while we're promised a bit of depth before the six issues are up, I'm not inclined to stick around.

After all, does the world of comics need a second Persuader? A teeny Copperhead? A new Disrupter - who was the first, again? As for the seeming star of the book, sometime Teen Titan Ravager (the second, of course), she's nothing but a Deathstroke knock-off, and he don't impress me much in the first place.

As in the Terror Titans' debut, Clock King is running the show, and out to take over the Dark Side Club. He reminds me of Cliff Carmichael from the original Firestorm run, an unattractive smart guy who hates anyone who doesn't wear spectacles. We're told he gave the young baddies their powers, because they're related to existing villains. Right, yes, that makes much more sense than just giving the abilities to proven career criminals. Maybe the motivation for choosing these people will be made clear in subsequent issues, but not even the promise of Static's first DCU appearance proper, or nice art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson, will ensure my presence. I've just no time for Clock King and his crew.

Supergirl 34 review

Poor Superboy. First he's killed in the Crisis of the Week. Then his jeans are ripped from his body to be worn by girlfriend/stalker Wonder Girl. And here, Tim Drake gives his Conner Kent glasses to Supergirl for her secret identity to be.

What next, Krypto starts wearing Superboy's tighty whities?

Anyway, say hello to Linda Lang. Lang? Not Lee, or Danvers? Nope, the current Supergirl has been taken under the wing of Lana Lang, newly divorced, even more newly sacked from Lexcorp, and looking for her place in the world. And if she can't pal around with the married Superman, she sure as heck can put herself in danger every second Tuesday by hanging out with his cousin.

Oh all right, I'm being facetious, this isn't the Silver Age Lana, who duplicated pesky Lois Lane's 'Will Dive from Tall Building for Hero' schtick. This is the modern woman, who has mostly avoided the more dangerous side of Superman's life. Okay, she did recently have a run-in with Insect Queen, and there was the time she was kidnapped and brutalised by Luthor. Oh, and she was a Manhunter agent for years, but it's not like she knew at the time, and we don't talk about it anyway . . .

OK, let's start this review again, and try to get things right this time.

Which is pretty much what the new regular creative team do this issue, after nigh on three years of idiotic and senseless stories. Writer Sterling Gates gets the story, 'Why the world doesn't need Supergirl', off to a good start with Daily Planet gossip columnist Cat Grant's front page tirade against Supergirl. In her eyes, the Girl of Steel is reckless, unworthy of wearing Superman's colours. Translation: she got a black eye when Supergirl was busy saving lives and wound up with a black eye.

Supergirl's reaction to the story shows how she's changed since being reinvented by Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner - that Supergirl would have tracked down Cat and given her a mouthful. This older, calmer Kara Zor-El worries that Cat is correct, and, chastened, has a heart to heart with Superman. It's here that the suggestion she adopts a secret ID comes up, with Superman pointing out that the stress of being Supergirl all day and all night could be too much - she needs a place to relax, another person to be.

Before settling on a new name, Kara talks to the Teen Titans (nice to see she's comfortable with them, after the verbal kicking Wonder Girl gave her a few months back) and that's where the glasses come in. She also has a wee team-up with Wonder Woman, who shares her own perspective, having recently become Diana Prince. And of course, she speaks to Ma and Pa Kent, who have been through the super secret-ID thing with Clark, Conner and (if it's still in continuity, which the current Reign in Hell mini series suggests it is) Matrix-Supergirl.

(The latter heroine also links back to Lana - she was originally an alternate Earth protoplasmic blob with that world's Lana Lang's looks and memories, but that's about as likely to be brought up as our Lana's Manhunter moments.)

The scene with Kara and Lana sharing their woes is lovely, these two have a chemistry; they immediately seem to fit in a way that Kara and, say, the Amazons never did when Kara was sent to Paradise Island for some warrior training. The dialogue is natural, works for the characters and makes for a lovely vignette.

And this scene shows just how good Igle is for this book - Supergirl is pretty and smart, Lana, older and wiser yet vulnerable (inker Keith Champagne adds an appealing Jerry Ordway quality to the faces here). The body language is wonderful, and the storytelling smarter than the average artist, from page one's 'photograph' of Supergirl onwards.

Look at the scene with Cat and the Planet staff on page two - in three panels we see Cat drink her coffee, place it on the desk as she touches her dark glasses, and raises them to reveal her shiner. That doesn't sound much, but Igle's choices are perfectly aligned with Gates dialogue, words and pictures are in synch, ensuring an easy flow that lets the reader relax into the story. (And if all this was in Gates' script, well, Igle translated it all to the page brilliantly.)

Other highlights include a baseball fan's caffeinated response to Supergirl's fun fight with a creepy/sexy Silver Banshee, the depiction of super-speed and Lana Lang's childhood bedroom . . . doesn't sound exciting? Well, the attention to detail is, with Igle filling the room with an ageing television, ancient phone, Smallville High photos and so on. And outside the old homestead, Gates cleverly has Igle position a Lexcorp advertising hoarding that reminds Lana she isn't with her toddler son (I think he's with ex-husband/President Pete Ross . . . unless the Manhunters are busy programming him). It's subtle, and I missed it on first reading, but it's there and I look forward to young Clarkie Ross showing up soon.

I adored Kara's witty note to Cat, 'Cat, don't call me if you ever get stuck in a tree', accompanied by a cute doodle of a kitty by a keyboard, claws poised to write a nasty story. Cat smiles to herself and mutters, 'You can try, blondie'. Intriguing. Had she, in fact, all along been trying to give Supergirl a push in the right direction? We know Cat isn't actually stupid or a bitch - witty yeah, cutting, but not as shallow as she looks - her tarty clothes and demeanour are her own secret identity.

Random thoughts: brilliant cover from Josh Middleton (though I prefer Kara with non-blonde eyebrows). The 'since 1959' by the Planet masthead was a sweet touch.

It's 2008 and Perry White still gets to smoke in the office - that guy has power!

'Tsk, that skirt's indecent' says Cat of Supergirl's outfit - pot meet kettle, and it's not like the skirt isn't longer these days.

New resident colourist Nei Rufino is a find, as proven by the gorgeous skies of Smallville, Kat's Far East-style printed dress and the attention given Kara's belly . . .

There's a third scene with coffee - is Mr Gates an addict?

Nice to see other heroes get to do the gargoyle-sitting thang - but by now Metropolis should have gargoyles based on Mongul, Doomsday and the like.

I like the Kryptonese cursing - can Supergirl remember any 31st-century stuff?

Hurrah, for the first time since the Bronze Age, Lana is working in journalism.

Is Jamal Igle the first ever comic book artist to actually have seen a newsroom, with the wall-screens and general chaos.

Linda should immediately dump the glasses - they're too Clark, and it's not like she hasn't got hair and make-up options, she could have a different look every day.

All in all, this was a terrific first issue - now, can we get her into an approximation of the Seventies Bob Oksner costume? If Supergirl's going for cute, that's the classic. Oh, and the old squarey logo. And maybe a comb that's charged with electrons . . .