Friday, 31 December 2010

Flash #8 review


After last issue's focus on one of Barry Allen's super-villains, this issue focuses on ... one of Barry Allen's super-villains.

Is there a problem here? I know writer Geoff Johns loves the Rogues Gallery, but after dumping Wally West to bring back Barry, it'd be nice to get to know the guy again. As it is we've had six issues of super-speed time travel adventure with the odd Barry scene, followed by an irrelevant recap of Captain Boomerang's origin, and now another villain focus with a heavy emphasis on time travel.

For this issue is setting up the coming Flashpoint event, which will again go heavy on chronological chaos. Is Johns missing his days as writer of Booster Gold? Sure, Barry had his share of time-centred tales in his original three decades of publication, but I'm starting to suspect that time twisting is now the official theme of the book. At the very least it seems to be the default setting. Green Lantern went from being a book about a guy who happened to have a certain power set and met varied villains to being about a ringslinger who only ever meets other ringslingers. I dropped that book and I can see myself dropping this one if every issue centres on time-spanning speedsters.

'Reverse-Flash: Rebirth' isn't actually bad. As villain focuses go, it's pretty good, showing us that Eobard Thawne - Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash - has always been a sick puppy. A series of scenes show him as a hubris-heavy young academic, becoming ever more bitter, all the while receiving a murderous helping hand from his future self. Rather than straightforward super-speed crimes, Zoom's shtick now is to constantly revise the past, editing time. He's the ultimate rewrite man, having recently given Barry Allen a tragic beginning contradicting previous history. My hope is that the continued emphasis on this aspect of Zoom's operation - he's the only speedster able to change history - will lead to the restoration of Henry and Nora Allen, Barry's parents, as a happy couple. I wouldn't put it beyond the tricky Johns.

The 25th century as imagined by Johns and artist Scott Kolins is a rotten place, one which considers itself forward thinking while being horribly oppressive. 'That outburst has been registered in the family log,' snarls Zoom's father as Eobard has a spat with his annoying little brother. It's a wonder more people don't crack (thank goodness Booster Gold escaped into the past!). The moments when future Zoom steps in to help/shape his past self are very effective, and really rather creepy. Kolins has a knack for showing a character's rage and frustration which, combined with his skill at depicting super-speed, makes him perfect for this story.

Overall, this is an entertaining look at one of Barry's classic villains. I do hope that one day Barry gets a similar spotlight.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tiny Titans #35 tiny review


If there's one thing I can't resist, it's a parallel Earths cover. Look at those cute Tiny Titans, and their opposites from another world. But are they good or evil, that's the question.

That's the question which shouldn't detain you for a minute - all the kids who show up this issue are thoroughly good humoured, though there is one ongoing argument. To wit: 


Fair questions, and ones which intrigue a decidedly cute Anti-Monitor when he overhears the conversation while wandering past the Batcave. As for what happens next, check out the comic. It's a delightfully amusing, breezy all-ages read from Art Baltazar and Franco. I've been a little cool after previous dips into the world of Tiny Titans, but with this issue, something has clicked. 

Aw yeah!

Action Comics #896 review


Crivvens, there's a lot going on this issue as the Secret Six bids to protect Lex Luthor from Vandal Savage. The immortal villain, you may recall, is trying to decipher the meaning of a prophecy that Lex will make him very happy. He's focussing on Lex's knowledge of the mysterious black spheres, which is the last thing Lex wants to share. Which means Lex is likely to get his head bashed in, hence his need for super-powered protection.

This issue's instalment takes the form of one big tussle, involving not just Lex, the Six and Savage, but a Mr Mind Jr-possessed Amanda Waller, a bunch of hapless Lexcorp executives and a fighting-mad Lois Lane robot. And bubbling away in the background, the mystery of who's really out to get Lex. It's a spiffy read - not only does writer Paul Cornell capture the characters of Gail Simone's Six at his first attempt, he has me aching for a spin-off featuring Vandal Savage and daughter Scandal and their hilariously twisted relationship.

Artist Pete Woods captures the action and emotion superbly, with any panel featuring Lois-Bot being a highlight. Brad Anderson's colours add an extra dimension, while Rob Leigh's lettering is to be applauded. And David Finch, Batt and Peter Steigerwald provide a stunning cover, one which simply screams 'suitable for framing'.

The Jimmy Olsen back-up ties into the Lex strip, with the red-headed reporter's rival, Sebastien Mallory, referring to that rather wild board meeting. The pair are at a charity date auction, Lois - the real Lois - having cajoled Jim into going along to stop him moping over his break-up with Chloe Sullivan. Of course, Chloe's there too, but so is a young lady who's very keen on getting to know Jimmy.

I'm happy to say I guessed her Silver Age-style secret before Jimmy - may I be Superman's pal, please? The story ends on a great cliffhanger for the coming Jimmy Olsen Special tying up the storyline as Action Comics becomes a $2.99, rather than $3.99, comic once more. I'll be there, as writer Nick Spencer and artists RB Silva and Dym serve up the tastiest slice of Superman Family nonsense in decades. The hugely refreshing stories manage to reference Jimmy's Silver Age adventures while giving a nod to modern continuity. This panel is a perfect example of that - if you've kept up with recent issues of Supergirl, you'll know exactly what Jim means (click to enlarge):
The 'team-up' between Lex and Jimmy makes for a terribly sharp, entertaining comic book. Both features combine comedy and drama, with the balance making all they difference. I shall miss having both strips in one place.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 review


Batman is upset that his long-lost love has gone missing. Julie Madison? Silver St Cloud? No, silly, Dawn Golden.

Oh aye, Dawn Golden, she went to college with Bruce, broke his heart, we all remember her. 

Errr ...

Anyway, it must have been a more intense than lengthy relationship, as we know Bruce never went to any college for more than a term, being busy travelling the world picking up Vengeance 101 skills. And it must have left a terrible scar, as he's never mentioned her in thousands of previous appearances.

That's comics for you. Best just accept that in some recent cosmic realignment or other, Bruce gained a girlfriend (or Daredevil's memories of Elektra Natchios). And lost a few brain cells.

For writer/artist David Finch kicks off his Batman book with a story in which the world's greatest detective fails to note that his ex's name reverses into that of a notorious cult. A cult whose most famed member was 'world's wickedest man' Aleister Crowley. And what's the forename of April's father, whom Alfred Pennyworth tells us gave the 'sullen and aloof' child 'a suspect upbringing'? Aleister.

Apart from the opening flashback sequence, Dawn remains off-panel, victim of who knows what, although Killer Croc does basically admit raping her ('Afterwards she was pretty upset').

Yeah, Killer Croc again. And at the end of the book, the Penguin again, who, despite the sharpest of teeth, doesn't add up to much of a cliffhanger.

I suppose there's nothing inherently wrong with putting a couple of old favourite Bat-villains in the first issue of a book, but neither generate much excitement. Penguin doesn't seem to be up to much bar protecting his safe from burglar Batman, while Killer Croc is off his scaly head on Venom. And Dawn is a plot-generating concept rather than a person - her name may as well be Betty Maguffin.

A terribly expositional Alfred seems sad that Batman doesn't want to hang out. Batman risks lives by cutting the power of several city blocks to grease his mission (and forgets he's meant to be travelling the world setting up Batman Inc). Some melodramatic bums get a page to themselves. And so on.

This is a perfectly competent Batman comic. Finch's dialogue is a notch above that of many more experienced writers - a scene with Commissioner Gordon and his team comes alive - and he can put together a decent fight scene. Batman's narration works well, I could believe these are his thoughts, they're not overwritten. Finch's pencils look very nice under Jim Lee's regular inker, Scott Williams (if I'd not known this was Finch I'd have said this was Lee and Williams). I especially like their moody, rain-streaked streets. The new Batman suit looks hideous, so they're obviously illustrating that properly - why have a sleek, iconic look when we can have a 'realistic' fetishist's fantasy, all seams and codpiece and, apparently, a flashlight on the chest?

It's all fine. But it's all generic - while the craft on display is far beyond competent, there's nothing we've not seen dozens of times previously, no unique selling point to justify starting a new title. Even with a couple of coming cancellations there are enough Batman books that a creative vacancy would have come up before long. And when Finch leaves within a year or two, as always happens when books are created to take advantage of a popular creator/massage egos (see Macfarlane's Spider-Man, Grant and Breyfogle's Shadow of the Bat and so on) no one would have had cause to ask why the comic continues.

Fine as the internal artwork is, Finch's cover is ugly as sin, with a fey, fat Batman posing on a piece of masonry (though for once, it's not a gargoyle, but an angel). Evidently, Finch is a better penciller than he is a painter. 

I can't see buying future issues of Batman: The Dark Knight  unless Gotham PD tackles a subtle mystery set up this issue - what the heck has happened to Detective Harvey Bullock's hair? 

From this ...
... to this?

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas #46 review

It's going pretty well so far, family well, turkey cooking, the priest told a good joke at church, nice pressies I don't deserve ...

One such was The Art of Vintage DC Comics Featuring 100 Postcards from Chronicle Books. And among the timeless gems was the above image by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. I love these cute covers.

Have a lovely day, thanks for being around this year!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes #8 review



Well, there's no doubt about it after this issue. Shadow Lass has lost her mind.  Bad enough she's sleeping with new member Earth-Man, a xenophobic killer forced on the team after trying to destroy the Legion. That could be considered a private foolishness. 

But here she votes for him to be Cosmic Boy's successor as leader. At the very least this is an insult to those colleagues he hurt; at worst, it's putting members' safety in the hands of one who has yet to earn widespread trust.   

Earth-Man, for his part, votes for Polar Boy, whose arm was torn off during the conflict with his so-called Justice League. As possible apologies go, that's not bad, showing a hint  of rehabilitation.  

Neither, though, bets on the right guy - Brainiac 5 almost takes the leader gong, but he's pipped to the post by Mon-El.  

That would be Mon-El, who left the team last issue to be the local Green Lantern. Oops. Oh well, a little wrinkle such as this - the in-story result follows a real-life reader vote - will keep writer Paul Levitz on his toes.  

Serves him right, he's been making writing this comic look far too easy. He does it again here, deftly juggling groups of Legionnaires engaged in a conflict with shape-changing assassins. The Durlans worship recently murdered Legion backer RJ Brande, and they're out to kill United Planets politicians and get revenge on Cosmic Boy, whom they feel failed to save Brande. 

Happily, Cos holds his own against the Durlan impersonating Science Police chief Zendak until reinforcements arrive in the shapes of Invisible Kid, Element Lad and Phantom Girl.  

Elsewhere, Dream Girl, Colossal Boy, Earth-Man and Shadow Lass defeat a Durlan who attacks Brande's assistant, Pheebs. While Colossal Boy rags on Dreamy for not predicting the attack, he can't criticise her fighting ability - she almost takes the Durlan single-handed. 

Also around this month is Tellus, whose psi skills come in handy after he takes the injured Dawnstar to Medicus One space hospital. And his forthright nature proves useful in cutting through the bureaucratic nonsense of Dr Gym'll.  

The team's own Durlan, Chameleon Boy, cameos with Brainiac 5, who points the under-attack Cosmic Boy towards the Clubhouse store of Cancellite, which prevents Durlans from shape-changing. 

Just what Cancellite is could be better explained - you either have to work it out from context, or have read elderly issues of Adventure Comics. On a more positive note, the Durlan storyline is rattling along at a cracking place, with pretty much the whole team engaged in entertaining fashion. Members are likeable and use their powers smartly in sharply choreographed fight scenes. 

The leader election is handled well in a two-page vignette towards the end, showing just who voted for whom. I'm surprised to see Mon-El come out on top, as he never seems to have much fan buzz. Perhaps his recent run in the Superman title was more popular than I thought. Or maybe his status as Earth-Man's most outspoken critic secured the win. 

Hopping on as guest to pencil about half of the book is Daniel HDR (who sounds like a 31st-century robot), and he does a lovely job with the storytelling. Regular penciller Yildiray Cinar handles the pages set on Brande's island. As ever, Cinar offers plenty of great-looking illustrations, lit up by fine 'acting' and vibrant action. There's one splash page of Colossal Boy facing off against a Durlan that's just gorgeous, and a panel in which dramatic shading on the hero's face builds tension as to what the Durlan is turning into.

The only quibble I have is that we don't see what happens to Pheebs - on the sidelines of a fight, he suddenly appears badly injured or dead. I hope he survives, as the alien has a terrific visual. Credit also to Wayne Faucher and Bob Wiacek, who ink the pages with √©lan, letterer Sal Cipriano and colour house Hi-Fi. 

Cinar also supplies the lovely cover, with expectant members looking as surprised at their new leader's identity as Levitz likely was. It's going to be fun to see what he comes up with. 

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wonder Woman #605 review



For five issues we've followed a new Diana, one wandering the world with a scowl on her face, anger in her heart and nothing beyond a tiara on the brain. 

A smile finally appeared at the end of last month's instalment and, wonders never cease, it's firmly in place as we rejoin Diana. More surprising yet, our girl's back in New York ... I'd gained the impression that the Odyssey arc was going to have her globetrotting, gathering her traditional weapons, discovering her full  powers and tracking down the Amazons' oppressors. 

But no, 'Runaway Fate' opens with Diana entering a New York mansion inhabited by the Amazons. We're introduced to several of her sisters, including a new take on military leader Phillipus and a priestess transformed into a talking cat (the masonry is also chatty). 

We meet triple war goddess the Morrigan, flash back to Diana's childhood, see her pawn Amazon treasure to help an abused woman begin a new life, watch as men become monsters and join Phillipus as she leads an investigation into an urban temple that's reminiscent of her people's architecture. 

May I just say, phew. All that incident, yet none of the scenes feel short changed.  And room is found for characterisation - as well as Diana's winding-down routine, we see her attitude towards education, and a compassion rooted in childhood that informs the older Diana's activities.  The pawn shop moment, though, shows that despite the more likeable young woman we've met this issue, new Wonder Woman is very much a work in progress. For her handling of the pawn transaction places Diana firmly in the role of bully, brutalising her way to the best 'deal'. Diana must learn that when a man says 'no', he means 'no' and good intentions don't excuse trampling on weaker folk.  

Answering a common criticism of previous Straczynski issues, the Amazons are not only named, they're differentiated, with quirks of personality  and belief. They're not hiding underground, they're engaged with Man's World while remembering their warrior ways, giving them oodles of potential as supporting characters. 

Also oozing promise is the Morrigan. Comprised of Celtic, Roman and Greek goddesses, they reek of evil, and I look forward to seeing what happens when Diana meets them. 

Good Lord, I said 'look forward' - optimism breaks out. I don't know what proportion of #605's story is built on Straczynski's notes, but it's fair to say Hester brings a refreshing energy  to the Odyssey storyline. Despite dark drama, there's a brightness to the narrative. I was hoping to see Straczynski's story wrapped up sharpish, but on the basis of this script,  I'm happy to see Hester take his partner-predecessor's notebook and run with it. 

The art's rather nice too. Seven artists this time - three pencillers, four inkers, and somehow the book looks good. Always decent, occasionally excellent. I think I know which pages are by meant-to-be-regular layout man Don Kramer, but DC doesn't deign to separate pages out in the credits. Anyway, the other chaps pushing lead are Eduardo Pansica and Daniel HDR (eh?), well done fellas. 

Oh, there is one more artist this issue, a little lad who gets Diana's head spinning with his crayon drawing of a traditional Wonder Woman. His first name is Harry, his surname may be Peter, with a G separating the two. There's another tribute to old friends of Diana in the name of the pawn shop, George and Phil's. I do enjoy a good, not-too-showy nod. 

All in all, this is a huge improvement on the last few issues. Diana feels like the star of her own book, and it seems that the book is going somewhere. Phil Hester, I give you the Amazon Salute. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Time Masters: Vanishing Point #5 review


Vanishing plot, more like, for anyone persuaded to buy this six-issue series by the Seach For Batman subtitle. Bruce Wayne has barely been referenced in this mini, which has chums Superman and Green Lantern joining time masters Rip Hunter and Booster Gold to rescue him from wherever Darkseid's Omega Beams sent him in the Final Crisis book.

For the heroes were immediately waylaid into a team-up with obscure DC characters Claw the Unconquered and sword and science gal Starfire II (Teen Titan Koriand'r being the third, a Supergirl villain the first) against a Time Trapper wannabe, a sultry sorceress and some annoying aliens. Elsewhere in time, the villainous Black Beetle gathered versions of Despero, Ultra-Humanite and Per Degaton in his plot to get one over on rival Rip. After four issues of pointless semi-presence, the trio were sent back to whence they came by Booster's ancestor, Supernova. Beetle didn't care, having rescued the Linear Men - Rip's colleagues turned opponents - from a prison in which Rip supposedly dumped them. So far, Rip's team hasn't even been made aware of Beetle's brigade, never mind encountered them.

This issue Claw and Starfire are sent home by Rip, while Professor Zoom shows up for his cameo. And next? Nobody finds Batman (a safe assumption given he's already back in the DC Universe without the aid of Rip and co).

So far this mini is a textbook example of that old comic book adage about the illusion of change - five issues filled with action, all of it inconsequential. I've no doubt that at the end of Time Masters everyone will be at exactly the same place as they were at the start.

But I don't regret buying the series. Writer/artist Dan Jurgens may have been told to maintain a holding pattern, but events have been entertaining. Granted, I've not enjoyed his Superman, who has come across as grumpy and arrogant, or Hal Jordan, a humorless ass. But they're barely around - this is Rip's story, and Jurgens has slipped in new information about his boyhood with dad Booster Gold. It's been great to see Claw and Starfire again. And Booster is, as always, well-served by his creator.

Jurgens' pencils look great under inker Norm Rapmund - clean, expressive and dynamic - and the Hi-Fi colourist has a ball with the vibrant energies of the timestream. An impressive creative team is completed by Travis Lanham, who jollies the narrative along with his lettering.

I could never recommend this comic as unmissable - for a series that roams through all of time, it steadfastly refuses to go anywhere. But as a pleasant diversion for fans of Booster Gold and Rip Hunter with spare cash, it's worth a read.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Oh. My. Lord.

I've been a vocal supporter of the new JSA run by Mark Guggenheim and Scott Kolins, but I really do have to point at the upcoming cover for for March's issue #49 and jeer a little.
Alan Scott takes his Green Lantern title too literally. The man looks like a flying coal scuttle ...

Monday, 20 December 2010

Batman and Robin #18 review


It isn't easy for a new Batman villain to bed in. Most creators seem dead set on giving us their Joker story, followed by their Joker story sequel, and maybe a smattering of Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler and Scarecrow tales. It's rare that new characters are used often enough to become staples of Batman's rogues' gallery. Ventriloquist, Black Mask, Killer Croc ... they're among the lucky few created since the Seventies to have caught on with both writers and readers. Whether Red Hood and Hush, who have been shoehorned into numerous Batman stories over the last few years, stay the course remains to be seen. 

I don't know if The Absence, the villain created by Paul Cornell for his three-issue run with penciller Scott McDaniel, will prove to have longevity. But should Batman and Robin #17-19 turn out to represent her one day in the sun, well, it'll have been a day to remember. 

For some new villains don't get even one good story before vanishing, and The Absence is getting a splendid starring role.

Actually, oblivion would suit her down to the ground, given what we learn of the character - real name Una Nemo - in this issue. McDaniel's striking visual shows her with a massive hole through her head, and that's not artistic licence - a genuine medical syndrome combined with a robber's bullet sends her down a dangerous path. And it's a path for which Bruce Wayne should take some responsibility - or so she (quite reasonably) thinks.

Una spends several pages recounting her bizarre past to Dynamite Duo Dick and Damian, and while big infodumps can often stop a story dead in its tracks, her narrative transforms an absorbing tale into compulsive reading. Una's thoughts, her motivations and plans make perfect sense given what we see of her relationship with Bruce Wayne. He treated her like an empty-headed girlfriend, someone who could be used as part of his disguise. He was half right. No idiot, she put two and two together and made 'beard', and everything went downhill from there.

All credit to Cornell  for taking advantage of the new Gotham set-up to tell a story that wouldn't have been possible a month or two back - Una's actions turn on Wayne's recent Batman Inc revelations. What results is a clever story that in no way reads like the fill-in it technically is ... it takes place at the same time as Bruce Wayne's Japan trip in Batman Incorporated, and feels far from throwaway.

Una's narrative means there's less room than usual for Damian's dialogue gems, but every panel we do get of the little tyke counts. Dick is as perfect a Batman as ever, as concerned about the safety of Una's gang as he is their own. And Una is a treat to spend time with, delivering lines that reference her schtick without a single slice of ham ('We've a lot to get through'; 'Nothing's going to happen').

Sharing the pencils with McDaniel is The Batman Strikes! artist Christopher Jones, and I could barely see the join - the illustrations are big and clever, and well-inked by Rob Hunter, Art Thibert and Andy Owens. Guillem March provides a wonderfully nightmarish cover, capping a very strong package.

When is a fill-in not a fill-in? When it's a great comic.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Mobile makeover


Courtesy of those nice folk at Blogger, you can now read Too Dangerous For a Girl in a lovely mobile phone-friendly format. The home screen offers snippets, leading to the full blether. It seems easier to comment than previously, too. And it's in a rather neat red & white colour scheme which I may just nick for the regular version of the blog.

While there's no official app, simply call the blog up in your phone browser, hit 'add to home screen' and there you go!


Avengers Academy #7 review

It's been a couple of years, so Hank Pym gets a new look. Mind, it's based on an old look, to go with an old name. Bye bye Wasp II, hello again, Giant Man I. The reasons for the change make good sense, and I'm happy to see Hank embrace a large part of his history. Plus,  I love colossal heroes and there's already an Ant Man running around the Marvel Universe.

In the second issue of this book to focus on the older Avengers rather than the students, Hank's not the only veteran to get a great big dollop of characterisation. Tigra's emotions run riot as she learns the genetic identity of son William (named after her late husband), and Hank is caught in the crossfire.

Hank has problems of his own, as he must decide whether to bring the Wasp, currently in cosmic stasis in another realm, back to physical life. The risk is that Jan's mind will be shattered after her extra-dimensional ordeal. But Hank misses her so very much ...

The action this issue comes courtesy of an encounter with the Absorbing Man, who shows the cocky Academy kids just why he's survived so long in the super-villain game. He's not present simply to punch things, though - Crusher Creel casts light on Hank's various issues, and highlights his humanity.

Christos Gage produces another script that's as intelligent as it is entertaining. And it's very entertaining. He's doing a great job of sharing out the limelight over time, rather than attempting to shoehorn everyone into every issue. So Quicksilver and Speedball aren't around this month, but Justice is shown to have Hank's respect while Jocasta ... well, let's just say I'm not sure I trust her advice right now.

Tom Raney provides fantastic superhero art - he does action, he does emotion, he does cute cat-human hybrid babies. It's a real shame that a production error credits regular artist Mike McKone with the pencils. Inkers Dave Meikis and Scott Hanna keep the visuals looking sharp, while Jeromy Cox and Andrew Crossley's colours are a pleasure to look at. And Joe Caramagna makes calligraphy look effortless. 
Topping off the latest issue of Marvel's finest Avengers title is McKone's cover homage to 1969's Avengers #63, by Gene Colan and George Klein, which is pure delight.

Supergirl #59 review

Having kidnapped gossip columnist Cat Grant, the deadly Dollmaker reveals a surprising motive. Supergirl deals with the new villain with glorious efficiency ... with a hand from Cat. And the Kents and Langs celebrate Christmas in Smallville.

A round of applause, please, for writer Sterling Gates and penciller Jamal Igle, for rounding off their two-and-a-half-year-run in fine style. As well as the above they find room to put a kind of cap on the Superwoman subplot, via one of the best Lois Lane scenes in years, and end the book as they began in #34, with a Cat Grant opinion piece on Supergirl. It makes for a satisfying read. And even though it's the pair's last issue, new readers could start here, as they take care to recap everything we need to know to get into the book. While the Dollmaker - heretofore unrevealed son of  Winslow Schott, the Toyman - is no real threat to our heroine, he's a whiz so far as casting light on the characters of Kara and Cat is concerned. Plus, he's twisted enough that you can almost feel sorry for him - I hope we're not completely Schott of young Anton. 

Igle's pencils continue to define Supergirl for today, giving us a determined young woman, pretty but not unapproachable, powerful but not an Amazon. His pages quietly find the drama, drawing us into the story without drawing attention to themselves as Art. The Dollmaker design is excellent, a cross between a midget Lex Luthor and Little Orphan Annie, and there's a terrific panel in which we're shown how Anton sees the world (click to enlarge).  
Regular inker Jon Sibal - also a key part of this run - is joined by Supergirl veteran Robin Riggs, though it's not a join I can see. The lines are sharp and ready for the winter tones of colourist Blond. Travis Lanham's letters are as perfect as ever, while Amy Reeder, Richard Friend and Guy Major deliver a stonkingly good cover - I want that Supergirl doll!

The only thing I didn't like about this issue's visuals was quite how mousey Supergirl wound up looking as Linda Lang - I realise Clark, Conner and co tend to keep the specs on even in private, but Kara's still new to this and shouldn't take quite so easily to the Super-Spinster look. 

Gates and Igle took a character in need of love and attention and made Supergirl one of DC's finest heroines. She still has doubts, but she's not defined by them; she's a caring, competent heroine, as shown throughout this issue. They're leaving this comic in much better shape than they found it and I'm going to miss these guys. I suspect Supergirl will miss them even more.

Just one question, though - what did air stewardesses ever do to Sterling Gates?




Thursday, 16 December 2010

Superman #706 review

As J Michael Straczynski walks away from the less-than-popular 'Grounded' storyline, Superman gets its second fill-in in three issues, which is rather pathetic. Still, as a fan of the Daily Planet staff, an issue checking in with them doesn't sound like the worst thing ever.

And it isn't. Not quite.

As with the Lois-centred #705, writer G Willow WIlson is tasked with entertaining disaffected Superman fans - a Green Kryptonite-tinged chalice, if ever there was one. That issue had some decent moments, but suffered from an apparent lack of familiarity with the series.

The same can be said for this go-round. First of all, the premise doesn't fly. Perry White is alarmed when some local Wikileaks dares to suggest the Daily Planet has a special relationship with Superman. That's the Daily Planet which has boasted of the fact a million times.

There is the wrinkle that some creative accounting suggests - if you use a lot of imagination - that the paper has a fund to pay Superman for exclusives. But even if you accept that the Planet might be a tad naughty, would the Metropolis public believe this of the hero for a second? Superman, who has a million ways to make money without resorting to dishonesty?

Then there's the portrayal of Perry White. He's presented as a bit of a dinosaur who wouldn't know a blog if it bit him on the bottom and at best, an idiot who doesn't know the name of his staff and at worst, a casual racist. He physically manhandles a new photographer. Oh, and he doesn't say 'Great Caesar's ghost,' he yells 'Great Caesar's goiter' or 'gallbladder' as if he's in an episode of Lois & Clark circa 1993, then refers to himself as 'The Editorator', which is simply painful.

And political wonk Ron Troupe, who has worked at the Planet for years, is awfully ready to believe ill of Perry, Lois and Superman.

Lending credence to the upstart blog's juicy assertions that Superman has an especially close, and improper, relationship with Lois Lane is a photograph showing them embracing. Given that Lois and Clark have been meeting for on-the-road nookie, that seemed entirely possible. Sad, then, that the picture is explained away in a most unconvincing fashion.

Superman shows up briefly and tells Perry that the internet scares even him. Perry is ready to believe Superman and Lois might be having an affair. Eventually he offers an intern's position to the blog's editor, because 'You've got the chops for this business, son. You just need a little help refining your craft.' Obviously, checking your facts, having a reason to trust sources ... that's not something an old school journalist such as Perry would demand.

Really, this isn't a good story. I know that she's contributed to various publications, but it seems that G Willow Wilson has as little familiarity with newspaper people as she does with the Superman family. Perry and co act neither like themselves, nor their real-life counterparts. And the threat of Superman and Lois's true relationship being exposed is dangled, then dismissed. 

Fill-in artist Amilcar Pinna does a decent-enough job, though he's hobbled by not having anything particularly dramatic to draw. There are only so many ways to show Perry and co looking surprised and appalled, and he finds them all. He deserves extra credit for not stinting on the backgrounds, filling the pages with people and things.

John Cassaday's cover is a tad odd, evoking the image of Superman as a vampire flashing the United States. Still, it's different, and well-coloured by David Baron. 

If DC aimed to give us a story to rank up there with the rest of Grounded, they succeeded. Unfortunately.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

SPECIAL GUEST REVIEW She-Hulks #2

The saga of the She-Hulks continues as Jen and Lyra find their personal lives overshadowed by their quest to apprehend the Intelligencia. Meanwhile, Jen reconnects with John Byrne era beau Wyatt Wingfoot (click on image to enlarge).

This becomes unpleasantly clear to Lyra, who receives detention when last issue's mission to capture The Wizard causes her to be late for class. After being pummelled by her entire gym class in dodgeball, Lyra finds solitude in the locker room, where she turns green out of sheer frustration with school. Unfortunately, local mean girl Amelia secretly captures Lyra’s transformation on a borrowed camera phone. 

Listen carefully and you can actually hear the theme from Love Story playing in this panel.

Unfortunately, their reunion is cut short by news from the Hulk that Intelligencia alumnus The Red Ghost has been located in Russia. Jen and Lyra have a brief argument on the trip over, with Jen expressing disappointment at Lyra getting detention on her second day of school and Lyra questioning why she has to be there in the first place. As they assault his hideout in St. Petersburg, The Red Ghost is swiftly taken down, whereas his Super Apes offer stronger resistance. While Jen gets punched out of the neighborhood by a deceptively cute chimpanzee, Lyra displays her fighting agility (that her human form lacks in dodgeball) and contempt towards opponents she'd just as soon order from a menu. Amelia, who had followed Lyra to the ship, soon finds herself being rescued by her from an ape. The issue ends with Jen scowling at Lyra for allowing them to be compromised by the stowaway.

She-Hulks #2 is a fast and enjoyable read that ends sooner than you want it to. Longtime She-Hulk fans will be pleased to see Wyatt again, and one hopes his reintroduction will be more than a simple cameo. While minor costume changes for Supergirl generate pages of spirited debate on message boards and blogs, little has been said on Jen and Lyra’s new outfits. While I am partial to Jen’s purple and white leotard, her new costume look great on her. The same can be said of Lyra’s red and yellow outfit, for it is an improvement on her first costume, which looked borrowed from She-Ra’s wardrobe.

As She-Hulk’s 30th anniversary year ends on a high note midway through this enjoyable mini-series, fans can look forward to two more issues (and hopefully more after that) next year from the capable hands of writer Harrison Wilcox and penciller Ryan Stegman. With She-Hulks #3 due to be released in the first week of January, picking that issue up is one New Year’s resolution that I plan to keep.
EUGENE LIPTAK

Eugene Liptak is a librarian and author who really enjoyed this issue, but wished Jen or Lyra could have quoted Charlton Heston at least once while fighting those damn dirty apes.