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Supergirl #49 [Review]

Death & the Family

Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Matt Camp
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover: Joshua Middleton
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

In many ways, the cover kinda spoils this issue. Then again…perhaps that’s just comin’ from a guy who sees an image that is rather “iconic”–not really in and of itself, but in the sense of an almost archetypal image. It could also be a bit of a cultural thing, at least here in the US. Supergirl collapsed on the floor, her back to us, facing the double-doors reading “Emergency” and the “red cross” signifying “hospital” (and the all-too-familiar hand-rails along the walls). Knowing the Lana Lang subplot that’s been going on in this book for awhile, it’s easy to put two-and-two together and come up with “something bad happens to Lana.”

This issue opens in such a way that if you didn’t have the familiar names of the Superman-family cast of characters, one would not be blamed for thinking this was a comic-book version of House. Lana’s on the phone with Perry, leaving her apartment, and while the doorman hails her a cab, she collapses, bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth, and no one quite knows why (though the reader is shown a clue).

We then get back to the Supergirl/Silver Banshee battle where Supergirl has been possessed by the spirits of the Banshee’s ancestors, turning her into a counterpart of the Banshee. Once this threat is dealt with, Supergirl and Inspector Henderson face another threat, and then converse on a rooftop overlooking the city. Public emergency over, Supergirl’s super-hearing picks up on Lana’s plight, and the personal emergency begins as Supergirl rushes to her friend. The clue at the beginning of the issue somehow lessened the impact of this scene, and that feeling of disconnect built as Supergirl dug a bit deeper into the situation, and the issue ends with a cliffhanger that should have seemed extremely obvious from the beginning.

The art for the issue’s pretty good overall. My main gripe is with the colors–for a comic, far too much seems too “shiny” for my tastes. While this may–in some ways–lend to realism, there’s something distracting and off-putting about it. Despite that, the visual style’s good, and does what the art for a comic should do.

The story’s decent, though less impactful than I’d expected going into the issue. If my suspicions from the end of the issue are correct, it represents even more of what I’m disliking about many DC books the last couple of years. Still, the actual execution adds to the characters and the development of the ongoing story, and is still definitely worth reading. Also despite expectations not being met, after reading this week’s Green Lantern #50, I should note that this issue falls into a similar well: years ago, this would’ve been a “gimmicked” cover given the supposed enormity of the interior story, AND this would be issue #50…and the final sequence would be in the next issue and not this one. As-is, the story is thus coming across much more AS story, and not like it’s being entirely padded to occur in a certain issue-number for the sake of happening in a given issue.

New readers may be lost if this is the first issue read…but it’s not impossible to get into the issue. I suspect, though, that one is just as likely to read this as “the latest issue” as to come back to pick it up after they read #50. While #50 remains to be seen as to its own worth, this issue is worthwhile reading if one’s interested in the character and her story.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

The Atom and Hawkman #46 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Superman #696 [Review]

Man of Valor part three

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Cafu, Santiago Arcas
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

I continue to read this book, though I’m a bit anxious to see if it improves once Superman (assumably) actually returns to it. Mon-El is a character I’ve never cared for all that much–what little I’ve known of him–and given that, I much preferred him as “Valor” from the early 1990s. But that’s from a different continuity and reality, apparently…at least since Infinite Crisis…so we’ve got what we’ve got. Mon-El–despite being written by James Robinson–remains almost entirely uninteresting (aside from the fact that I look forward to him facing off with General Lane). I’m also not much more interested in the Guardian. After the set-up of his apparently having a “daughter” to care for–who has hardly been referenced in I-don’t-know-how-long) and the confusion I have as to his identity (to this day, I have not figured out if this Guardian is a clone of the Guardian I read in the 1990s Superman titles, or if this is that same Guardian, with his origin played up more than ever before). Yet, I don’t really care enough to find out, as neither option thrills me. I also care very little for Nightwing and Flamebird. Despite their potential, there just hasn’t seemed to be much in the way of satisfying development with them…I feel like they’re just pieces being pushed around a gameboard for some inevitable endgame or arbitrary “big sacrifice” or other role in coming events.

This issue continues the “Man of Valor” arc from Action comics…which at least in itself is kinda refreshing–though it renders the cover “shield numbering” fairly irrelevant (Parts 2 and 3 of this story are “shield #23” and “shield #25” respectively). Mon-El, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Guardian make sure everyone is ok after the blast that seemingly took ’em all out. Mon-El and Guardian send Nightwing and Flamebird away, preparing to hold off General Lane’s forces while the Kryptonians make their getaway…unfortunately, the two lovers double back fearing for their friends, but ultimately leave at Mon-El’s urging. While Mon-El and Lane trade words, Guardian finds someone apparently named “Control,” and Mon-El rushes to their side to face the horror of what has happened to this character.

I don’t know who this “Control” is, though I suspect she is just one particularly forgettable character that never made any real impact on me whatsoever in my reading. As stated above, the writing inspires no real sense of connection to any of these characters, nor any interest in them.

The art comes across as better than some recent issues, though it’s still not something I’d categorize amidst my favorite work.

I can’t help but wonder if this story being more of a “crossover” with actual Story Name and chapters crossing from Action Comics is an effort to tie things together, get things over with quicker, or both.

If you’re already following the events of this ongoing “World Against Superman” mega-arc or the Superman/Action Comics Man of Valor arc…this issue’s probably worth getting. Otherwise, nothing special or spectacular here to warrant picking up outta the blue.

Story: 5/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Blackest Night: JSA #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

Archie #605 [Review]

Will You Marry Me? part 6 of 6 – Archie Marries Betty: “Happily Ever After”

Script: Michael Uslan
Pencils: Stan Goldberg
Inks: Bob Smith
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Glenn Whitmore
Managing Editor: Mike Pellerito
Editor/Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick
Published by: Archie Comics

I bought into the hype from two angles. One…it was Archie #600…and the title had gotten there legitimately. No reboots or restarts and funky number-playing across multiple series that were intentionally made distinct for the purposes of renumbering, mistake or otherwise. Two…it was the story of Archie FINALLY choosing one of the girls, and doing the right thing by her. He was choosing Veronica, for better or worse (I’ve always rooted for Betty). So imagine my surprise when the story swerved at the end of Chapter 3, showing that instead of 6 issues of Archie marrying/being married to Veronica, we were actually getting two 3-parters under the banner of “__ of 6.”

Also of note is the title of the story. I’d initially thought it was “Archie Marries Veronica” based on the cover; but as said above, obviously that changed halfway through. This issue states on the cover “Archie Marries Betty” and the chapter title, as well as the “Part 6 of 6.” Inside the issue, however, we find an ad for the graphic novel Archie in “Will You Marry Me?” billed as “The complete 6-issue story arc!” at the top of the page. There’s also the fact of that ad existing–here, in the final issue of the story, the company is trying to get the reader to order the collected volume of the story they’re holding. Sure, I expected this–I bought these single issues despite knowing full well there’d be a collected edition–I had to wait for that edition on the recent Freshman Year arc, and if they collected that I knew they’d collect this. Still…the Archie books being what they are, chances are that many people buy just a random issue here and there, and so would not have all 6 chapters.

“Gripey” as that may sound, it’s not much of a gripe. This is a decent conclusion to a decent story. Why it’s not “great” is that it’s something that can’t truly matter long-term in the Archie comics without radically altering the status quo and the nature of the series. This puts me in mind of the silver-age Superman stories focusing on one of many alternate Earths; such as the one with the “Super Sons” or any where Superman actually married Lois. So, this is an “imaginary story” within the Archie universe. And as has been said of these “imaginary stories”… “Aren’t they all?”

Archie and Betty have returned to Riverdale after their year away…both to teach at the high school. They reunite with old friends, and discover a number of other changes. Jughead and Midge are married (and Jughead bought Pop’s as Pop was retiring); Moose is calm and mature…and Reggie and Veronica just got engaged. The story follows the young couple dealing with these events, and then the birth of their twins, Veronica and Reggie’s wedding, as well as life afterward–dealing with “grown-up stuff” in the form of juggling work, the kids, and some sort of social life. And then the story ends on the reverse note the 6-parter opened with…perfectly fitting.

The story is fairly simplistic and formulaic, of course. There’s some drama, but nothing that’s really drawn-out (if it were, I could imagine this one issue getting stretched to 6 issues itself!). There’s a lot of character stuff and forward momentum, and even time for that ending. While hardly complex–and certainly not apologetic about the means by which the story was achieved and then left behind–I really don’t feel cheated nor let down. Heck, this story is one that would make a great tv mini-series of sorts…basically do a pair of movies that make the one big movie. One movie for each of the girls as the bride of Archie. It’d be great if the story was “timeless,” but there are some elements thrown in that date the story–including a reference to “stimulus money,” which firmly roots this in the present. Aside from those references, though, the story is fairly timeless, not actually giving any hard dates for things…just a walk on Memory Lane.

The art is standard Archie style; none of the “New Look” stuff (good as those stories are). The only real complaint I have with the art is the cover–something about Archie’s proportions seems “off” a bit, and overall, he doesn’t look quite right, and I’m not sure why.

I don’t recommend specifically seeking this issue out if you haven’t either been following since #600, or #603. However, if you’re at all a fan of Archie, Betty, and/or Veronica…I highly recommend considering the graphic novel.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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