Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Supergirl (vol.4) #1 (1996)

Supergirl (vol.4) #1 (September, 1996)
"Body & Soul"
Writer - Peter David
Penciller - Gary Frank
Inker - Cam Smith
Letterer - Pat Prentice
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Separations - Digital Chameleon
Editor - Chris Duffy
Cover Price: $1.95

Here's one that I've wanted to discuss for a long while now.  One that I purposely avoided simply because I wasn't sure which "volume" to mark this as.  Yeah, these are the things I worry about.  Like, do we count miniseries' as volumes?  Are they something else altogether?

I went with volume 4 here... and to help assuage my own self-doubt, lemme 'splain my process.  There was a volume during the 1970's, which we'll say is "Volume 1"... then the second half of the Daring Adventures of... series, which we'll call "Volume 2"... then, it gets sticky... the Reign of Tomorrow era miniseries... I guess we'll call that "Volume 3", but I'm a bit wary.  Either way, I've droned on about this far too long, and it's likely your eyes have already glazed over... so, let's just get into the issue.


We open with a swirl of blood circling the drain.  The girl we will meet as Linda Danvers is knelt under the shower washing the blood off her body as she ponders who might have done this to her... and, just as importantly... who she is!  Moments later, a woman named Mattie enters the apartment... and she is gobsmacked to see Linda there and, well, alive!  I ought to mention that Linda knows Mattie's name, so her's is more swiss-cheese brain than amnesia at this point.  Also, despite the bleeding out... Linda's body has nary a scratch.

While the ladies catch up... more like, while Mattie speaks and Linda gets her bearings, Mattie notices a puddle of pink protoplasmic goop in the bathtub.  What's more, ready your gag reflexes, she scoops it up with a towel... blech... to ask Linda what it might be.  Linda's too busy noticing that her formerly brown eyes are now blue... and her only reply is "I was empty".

While Linda dresses, she happens across a pair of jeans with a hole burnt in them.  She has a memory flash to meeting a man called Buzz in a bar.  The hole was a result of his cigarette... which he put out on her leg.  Seems like a nice fella.  Linda leaves the bar, refers to Buzz the way I do the flu "creeping crud", and is almost immediately nyoinked into a dark alley.  She is held by a pair of cultists with triangle-inside-circle markings on their heads, one of whom scratches her left arm... breaking the skin.  She is able to escape... or perhaps they let her go already having "marked" her.  Either way, as she runs, she catches a glimpse of Buzz.

Mattie shakes her out of her "zoned" state, and tells her they should call Linda's parents to let them know that, ya know, their daughter isn't dead.  This stirs up another flashback... in it, a markedly younger Linda is arguing with her father.  Just as it's about to get physical, she storms out.  When we return to the present, we see that she's also stormed out of the apartment.

We rejoin Linda as she is trudging down the streets of Leesburg, USA with a purpose.  She notices that she is continually moving faster... to the point where she is no more than a blur.  Nearby we find ourselves a jumper.  The police try and talk him down, but no dice... I dunno, maybe he's got Superman up there telling him to "jump if ya want", because the fella does just that.  Before he can go splat, he is saved by... well, that blur that Linda became!  Onlookers ask if it was the Flash... but he claims that it was an angel!

We catch up with Linda again as she skreeeeeeches to a halt.  She is, rightfully, confused.  She's not fatigued, hell... she's not even short of breath.  It's at this point where she tries to put everything together... but the answers aren't coming.  She recounts what she knows up to this point... but knows she's going to need more information.

Her next stop is the Leesburg Tribune, where some old receptionist tells her she can't read the paper for free.  Just then, the latest edition arrives... which Linda snags a bundle of (yes, a whole bundle).  The old woman yells that the news ain't free... thankfully, all Linda needs is the cover.  I'm pretty sure you're allowed to read the headline without paying... otherwise, I owe some back charges to a lot of newspapers.  Anyhoo, the front page reads "Supergirl Feared Dead".

She can't think on it too long because, um... ace reporter (?) Cutter Sharp saunters in to see what's up.  He immediately recognizes Linda as "Linda Danvers" the girl everyone thinks is dead.  He begs her, literally... on his knees, for a news story.

We shift scenes to a burnt out building surrounded by police.  Off to the side is our new friend, Buzz.  Behind him in the darkness of the alley is... well, a pair of demonic eyes who claim "she" disrupted their "entrance to this sphere". We're gonna assume this is important.

Back at the Trib, Linda is answering some questions for Cutter.  Just as she's about to mention that she feels like she's really somebody else... Clark Kent's face appears before her.  He calls her "Mae" (short for Matrix) and tells her not to say a word about anything.  Hmm...

She changes course, and asks Cutter if there's anyway he can help her fill in the holes of her Swiss Cheese memory.  He mentions that the only thing Linda found meaning in was... Supergirl.  This flashes us back to Supergirl at the Danvers home.  Linda's mother made a televised appeal for her to help find their daughter.  The meeting is... uncomfortable, contentious even... Supergirl ultimately agrees.  Her search leads her to the cultists.  The triangle-inside-circle logo is everywhere.

Back in the present, Cutter goes to light a cigarette... which appears to be a trigger for Linda.  She shoves him away, and boy howdy, does he go flying!  By the time Cutter pulls himself together, and proclaims that he's gonna "marry that girl", Linda's already gone.  He runs outside, but neglects to "look up"... Linda's totally on the roof, by the way.

While up there, she indulges in another flashback.  We see Supergirl fighting off cultists... a fire-breathing demon... and Linda, on fire?

We next see Buzz slashing Linda in the gut with a blade... well, we don't actually see him stick a blade in her belly, but she recalls that he had.  With the blood on the blade, Buzz hurls it toward the gate the demon is emerging from... however, a psychokinetic blast from Supergirl causes it to shatter before it pierces the portal.  As the demon dissipates, Supergirl heads over to Linda's bleedin' and burnin' bod.

They join hands... Linda is able to eek out a few lines about not being ready to die... and the unfairness of the whole thing.  Supergirl thinks about everyone who has helped her over the years.  The ladies lock eyes... and something begins to happen. 

Back in the present, the Leesburg Police Department is delivering a press conference... during which, they have no new information on Supergirl's disappearance... just as they hold up Supergirl's empty costume... it is snatched away!  We wrap up by learning that Supergirl and Linda Danvers have become joined in one body!


Now, I suppose I ought to get this out of the way.  This was one of my very favorite series from DC Comics during the 90's.  It's one that I've revisited time and again, especially the first 50 or so issues.  Not sure if that has more to do with Supergirl, or the fact that Peter David is writing it... though, if I were forced to choose I'd more than likely go with the latter.

Supergirl, the character, never really captured my imagination... heresy to say during these CW days to some, but true.  This radically different take on the character and concept was just what I needed to become invested.

With that said, let's talk about the issue itself... and with my sole complaint.  It bugged me that the story didn't start here... in issue #1.  It started in Showcase '96 #8... and, while there's nothing wrong with that... when you crack open Supergirl #1, it's made abundantly clear that you've missed something... you're not coming in on the "ground floor".  Not that Peter David didn't fill us in, because he did... but, I'm a completionist nutjob, so I like feeling like I've got everything.

I really like the way the story was told.  I thought the "triggering" events were very well done throughout.  Having things that helped job Linda's memory made the story progress organically.  I also appreciate how we didn't receive all the answers right away.  We didn't even get to see Linda check in with her parents yet.  It's been a little while since I've read this one, and I was could'a sworn she visited her parents during this one... because that's the way things usually happen.

We meet our cast, and they're all perfectly likable.  Mattie seems like she'll be a good side character, and Cutter is charmingly annoying.  Buzz, outside of the silly name, will prove to be a pretty interesting fella himself.

Looking back now, it's still a bit astonishing to me that this series lasted as long as it did.  It was just so different... so unexpected.  A fun evolution for the concept of Supergirl.

The art... wow, the art.  This is Gary Frank before all of his characters started crash-dieting.  There's actually some meat on these bones, and it looks amazing.  I loved the David/Frank pairing on Incredible Hulk, and I love it here.  I really miss this Gary Frank... beautiful healthily-plumped faces instead of the sunken cheeks we get nowadays.  Awesome work.

Overall, I'd most definitely recommend this issue (and volume) of Supergirl.  In all my time reading comics it's been the only one to hold my attention.  For your convenience, this issue (and volume) is available digitally and has recently been reissued in trade paperback.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

LoboCop #1 (1994)

LoboCop #1 (February, 1994)
WriterCop - Alan Grant
Artist/ColoristCop - Martin Emond
SeparationCop - Digital Chameleon
LettererCop - Todd Klein
RoboAssistant Editor - Peter Tomasi
RoboEditor - Dan Raspler
Cover Price: $1.95

Well, here's something weird...


After a page where we are read our (copy)rights, we jump into an expositional news segment to set the table for us.  President of OllyConsumerStuff, Olly, is upset at the high crime rate of "Old Detrout", and has called off his urban renewal project.  To further set the mood, the newscast is interrupted by a commercial for the (toll-free?) celebrity sex line 1-800-STAR-F... um, ya know what... never mind that... let's get to Lobo.

Who is lurking in a the seedy Metal Bar in the midst of a five day bender.  Now we know Lobo to be a violent fellow... turns out, he's a violent drunk as well.  In his stupor he has taken out the entire Detrout Police Department.  He decides to guzzle down a... giant steaming barrel of booze, let's out a thunderous belch... then, dies?

Olly, from earlier arrives on the the scene with a woman.  Turns out he's not only the President of OllyConsumerStuff, he's also the chief of police... and probably, at this point, the only boy-in-blue left!  Lobo is declared dead... due to, get this, having partied himself to death.

The pair get it in their head to use Lobo's pickled brain for a top-secret police project... which has thus far been wildly unsuccessful.  Ya see, they're trying to create the, ahem, Future of Law Enforcement by placing a human brain in a great big robot body... all earlier subjects turned out to be hippies.  Not sure what or if that's supposed to be a commentary on anything... so, we'll just leave it there.

Now, they get Lobo into the office... and saw open his head.  Inside, his brain is wearing headphones and listening to some "atavistic rock".  The nurse removes the headphones, and gets mauled by the tiny brain for their troubles.  LoboBrain then leaps into the RoboBody... and demands its headphones back.  That's an easy enough bit'a business to follow, ain't it?  Olly decides that he can control LoboCop better through the headphones, so it's a win-win.

Time passes, and we shift scenes to a morbidly-obese crew of bikers holding up a tiny grocery store for their unpaid "street tax"... and so, they blow it up with a missile.  It's... that kinda story, don'tcha know.  During their attempted escape, they wind up before... LoboCop!  They're all declared "guilty", and dealt with in some gruesome ways.  The folks inside the smoldering Mario's Groceries call out for help... to which LoboCop finds them in violation of the local noise ordinance... and kills them too.  Yeah, it's that kinda story.

Later, LoboCop is called to a crime in progress... a spindly, and possibly nude, man is fleeing through the alleys from a group of angry transients.  Lobo vaporizes the "baddies", then kills the running man for excessive use of alliteration... man, I hope LoboCop never reads this blog.

Over the next little while, LoboCop rules Old Detrout with a pair of iron fists... for which, the people at large are less than grateful.  A quarter-million Detrouters have signed a petition to shut the Main ManCop down.  Now, Lobo don't dig paperwork, so he shoves the entire list down a demonstrator's throat!

Then, he... ya know, kills everybody.

Turns out this is exactly what Olly had planned... ya see, he wanted to clear Old Detrout, so he could buy it for a song and turn it into a gigundous parking lot.  Fifty-Seven Million spots charging $12.95 an hour to park there.  He then offers his female companion two thousand spots for a roll in the hay.  Okey doke...

With LoboCop's mission accomplished, the concrete trucks are brought in to pave the city over... with the no-longer-needed LoboCop as part of the pavement!  Olly arrives to inform him that this was all part of the plan... and so, Lobo flips him off... while he sinks in the cement.  Now, remember how Lobo's pea brain really dug listening to its tunes?  Well, turns out that concrete ain't the best conductor of radio waves...

and, well...

Olly and Whatsherface realize they need to turn to their fail-safe measures... namely, blowing up Lobo's brain.  Well, knowing Lobo like we do, we know it's gonna take a lot more than an exploded brain to put him down.  LoboCop carries Olly and the lady back to the, er... top secret police hospital (?) to have his brain put back into his normal handsome skin... after which, he uses a rusty butter knife to decapitate them... and attaches the heads to the old LoboCop body.

The story ends with Lobo appearing on the news... and killing the newscasters.  He rides away into the sunset as the LoboCop body (with its two human heads) explodes.


You remember that episode of Saved by the Bell where the gang forgets it's Screech's birthday?  And so, to make it up to him they concoct a way in which he becomes Hall Monitor?  They wrangle the position from a sophomore who had to be at least forty years old.  Anyhoo, after a rocky start, he rules the halls of Bayside High with an iron fist... and actually references RoboCop... remember that?  Remember how horrible that was?  Well, this wasn't quite that bad.

It's really not "bad" by any stretch... what it is though, is a joke that becomes played out about a quarter of the way through the issue.  By the time this story ended, I had long since stopped caring.  Early on, I can't say that I actually chuckled or laughed or anything, but I enjoyed it for what it was... an overly-violent, and wildly crude Lobo comic.  But, that only gets ya so far... at some point, I feel like we need a bit more than that.

Now, if this was a 6-8 page backup strip... I think it'd been fantastic.  As a 24-page feature though... it's a bit of a slog.  At least for me... and I actually dig Lobo!  I know there are folks with an aversion to the character, but I really don't mind him in small doses... or in his "small" form during Young Justice... which was revealed to not really be him, but we don't need to discuss that right now.

The art here was... suitable.  I can't say that I was a fan of it... and I can't say it was overly-pleasant to look at, but I can't argue that it fit the tone of the story.  It felt grimy and urban-decayed... characters were ugly, sound effects were bombastic.  Perfectly fitting for a story of this kind.

Now, even with my misgivings... and reservations, I can't rightly say you should avoid this.  It's great as a novelty... and it's a fun parody to RoboCop... or at least I assume it is, I never saw it.  If you come across it for a buck-or-below, I'd say it's worth grabbing.  Wouldn't pay cover price though.


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Monday, June 26, 2017

Superman: War of the Supermen #0 (2010)

Superman: War of the Supermen #0 (June, 2010)
"War of the Supermen, Prologue"
"Filling in the Blanks"
Writers - James Robinson & Sterling Gates
Pencillers - Eddy Barrows, Julian Lopez, Aaron Lopresti, David Finch, Gary Frank, Cafu, Ethan Van Sciver & Diogenes Neves
Inkers - J.P. Mayer, Bit, Joe Weems & Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists - Rod Reis, Blond
Letterer - John J. Hill
Assistant Editor - Wil Moss
Editor - Matt Idelson
Free Comic Book Day

Today we're gonna look at one of my, relatively-recent Superman blind spots... and I'm going to complain about contemporary Free Comic Book Day offerings.


We open with a rather peeved off Superman bursting through a wall.  He has arrived at a Kryptonian Military Installation located one mile below the surface of New Krypton.  He's there to... you guessed it, talk to Zod.  Can't have a Krypton story without him... unfortunately.  To fill us in a bit, Zod was made General of New Krypton's army (seems a stellar idea, don't it?)... and Superman had left Earth for a time to serve in that army... and make sure Zod doesn't act all Zoddy.

Speaking of acting "Zoddy", Superman is here to confront the big Z has because he's declared war on Earth.  The two exchange punches for a bit, until Ursa (who I initially mistook for Zaora) slashes Superman across the chest with a Kryptonite knife!  She claims it hurts to even hold the thing, but the satisfaction wielding it brings outweighs the pain.

Superman blasts the knife away with heat vision before once more, stepping to Zod.  Zod's having a grand old time, and brings Superman up to speed, advising him he was about to surrender... and I am pleasantly surprised and thankful Robinson and Gates didn't resort to using this to shoehorn a "hilarious" "Kneel before..." reference.  As Superman approaches, he is crushed from above by the body of Non (who I mistook as Quex-Ul).  Zod always seems to have one big dude and one lady as his seconds.

With Ursa and Non holding Superman at bay, Zod reminds him that on New Krypton, he's no "super" anything... he's simply one of one-hundred thousand... all with the same powers.

He continues running through his justification for the war declaration.  It appears General Sam Lane and his spies were responsible for the death of Supergirl's father, Zor-El.  Zod's own spies claimed to have uncovered Earth/Sam Lane's own plans to declare war on New Krypton... before they were killed.  It all feels very he said/he said... but whattayagonnado?  Zod does wrap up his monologue by ensuring Superman that this isn't just about New Krypton's safety/sovereignty... it's also personal.  He hates the House of El, and is still looking for revenge.  If he can destroy Kal-El's adoptive home, and kill everyone he holds dear... well, that's all the better.

Superman breaks free, swearing to stop Zod before he can initiate the plan.  As Ursa and Non tackle our man again, Zod just laughs and goes all Ozymandias on us... ya can't stop what's already happened, Clark... everybody knows that.

Our back-up is framed around Lois Lane writing a story for the Daily Planet... nothing we haven't seen before.  This is pretty good stuff though... it serves to fill all of us Johnny-DC-come-latelies (and, read-this-stuff-so-long-agos,-we-can't-remember-what-happeneds) in on the New Krypton clusterschmazz.  Of course, we open with a page telling us about that fateful day a rocket was sent from Krypton with a "baby on board" placard.  Seems we can't go more than an issue and a half anymore without reading about that.

We jump ahead years later to Superman and Supergirl rescuing the Bottle City of Kandor from Brainiac.  Upon enlarging it, they discovered 100,000 new Kryptonian brothers and sisters.  Humans would invade the city (Which apparently wasn't destroyed-to-dust upon enlargement like the first time this story happened) and Supergirl's father Zor-El would be killed.  This led to Zor-El's wife Alura creating a new planet for the Kryptonians... a New Krypton, if you weeeeell.

For protection, these New Kryptonians would turn to... no, not Superman... General freaking Zod.  Ya kinda get what you deserve sometimes, right?  I don't understand the logic of grabbing a fella you imprisoned... for e-ter-ni-ty... and asking him to protect you.  Gotta figure there might be some sour grapes there, no?  Anyhoo, this is where Superman decides to move to the new planet, and join its army.

While away from Earth, Superman made arrangements for his adoptive home to be protected.  This crew includes, Kon-El, Mon-El (and, I just realized their names are only one letter apart!), Steel, Krypto, the Guardian, and Nightwing and Flamebird.

Lois next discusses Project 7734, which is a military black-ops organization focused on countering potential alien invasions.  It is being run by her father, ol' General Lane.  She talks about some of the operatives, which includes some 1st Issue Special love in Atlas... also, Lois' own sister Lucy Lane is now somehow a "Kryptonian killing machine" going by the name Superwoman.  I don't remember that at all.

She begins to wrap up her article, discussing the death of her pal and co-worker, Jimmy Olsen!  It appears he "got too close" while investigating Project 7734, and was found at the bottom of the harbor.  If only that were true... because a few panels later (a still wet?) Jimmy arrives with all the information Lois was looking for.  He claims that Natasha Irons rescued him and kept him out of sight (but not dry).  Now, Lois can learn the whole truth about her father.


Man, whatever happened to DC Free Comic Book Day issues that meant a damn?  All we get these days are garbage reprints with zero context aimed at people who only go to the comic shops one day a year... if they remember "which Saturday in May" they get free crap handed to them.

This is how ya do it!  What a great way to kick off a story... a free issue front-loaded with prologue, and back-loaded with everything you might need to jump into the impending event.  Both stories promise "to be continued... in four days".  If you wanna get readers (new, old, lapsed, whatever) interested and excited, this is the way to go.  You don't promise something "in thirty days" or "Summer 2017" or with a nebulous "Next", you give them less than a week.  You remind some of them that comic book shops are open more than one day a year... and you also catch shop regulars who may not necessarily be into Superman... but decide to give him a go after checking this out.  It's crazy, it's almost as though DC thought this one out!

For the story itself... well, it's called a prologue and that's precisely what it is.  We learn of our threat... and it ramps up to the point where it's about to boil over.  A great bit of storytelling that sets the stage for whats to come.  I'm still no fan of Zod... I find him kind of a bore.  I'm just thankful there were no requisite cutesy "Kneel before..."s in here.

The backup was really well done, even if framing a story with "writer writing about something" is a bit tropey.  I suppose things become that way for a reason.  This worked well for me, as a lapsed reader... who, if I'm being honest, walked away from the Superman books early/mid-New Krypton... so a bunch of this was new to me.

The art throughout the issue was another high point.  Another really good use of the platform (and opportunity) that Free Comic Book Day can (and should) be.  I hope I'm not coming across too angry (or old-manny) sounding here, I just feel pretty strongly about using things like FCBD as ways to promote comics and comic shops... not whatever movie might be coming out.  Contemporary "throwaway" offerings, like an issue of Suicide Squad without context or a half-decade old (and no longer in continuity) issue of Action Comics are part of why I sometimes refer to the event as "Pretend you care about Comics Day".

Overall, if I were to have read this during that weekend in May, 2010... I'd be totally psyched to check out the War of the Supermen and the entire New Krypton schmazz.  Having read it in 2017... I only wish I had the time to!  If you're interested in checking this one out, you've got no excuse not to... it's available digitally FOR FREE!


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