[For Supergirl‘s “Medusa” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]

The CW Summary:
A superhero crossover event begins with Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon from The Flash seeking Kara’s help with an alien invasion; at the same time, Eliza comes to town to celebrate Thanksgiving with her daughters, which seems like the perfect opportunity for Alex to come out to her mother. Meanwhile, Winn and James consider telling Kara the truth about the Guardian; and Kara wants to team up with Lena Luthor to combat a deadly virus unleashed by CADMUS.

I love a crossover…

When I think back to my earliest memories of reading comics at sleep-away camp I can still envision the cover of Justice League of America #107. It was “Crisis on Earth-X” and featured a world where Golden Age characters banded together as a resistance force against the Nazis, who had won WWII. I never read Justice League of America regularly (not until the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run) but I would go out of my way to find all the different “Crisis” issues where the characters crossed over between worlds to fight a common enemy.

Justice League of America 107
Justice League of America #107

Supergirl kicked off the first of four parts of a crossover for the CW last night. I have to admit I felt a little cheated. It was very reminiscent of buying the first part of a major story arc only to have it briefly introduced in the last panels of the comic. They teased the crossover as all the main characters — plus original Supergirl actress Helen Slater as Eliza Danvers, Kara’s Earth-mom — gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.

Fans of The Flash surely recognized a brief breach bursting open over the dining room table, interrupting a nervous Alex Danvers’ big coming out moment with her Mom and friends. (That talk would have to wait until later. But don’t worry, Eliza already kinda knew what was up based on Alex’s non-stop Maggie Sawyer-talk and was totally supportive of her birth daughter.)

Previously on Supergirl

  • CADMUS is trying to kill aliens.
  • Lex Luthor’s mom Lillian runs CADMUS.
  • CADMUS stole Supergirl’s blood.
  • The real Hank Henshaw is still “alive” and working for CADMUS as Cyborg Superman.
  • Cyborg Superman used Supergirl’s blood to unlock files in the Fortress of Solitude about Project Medusa.
  • J’Onn J’Onzz took a blood transfusion from a white Martian and is in danger of losing himself to their DNA.

Back to our show…

Mon-El is falling hard for Kara, as evidenced by his unwillingness to have meaningless alien sex with a cute alien at the unnamed dive bar frequented by those not of this (that?) Earth. Down the rail he notices Cyborg Superman, who has affixed something under the bar. Assuming it is actually J’Onn J’Onzz, Mon-El chases him down outside the bar. A fight ensues while the device inside the bar releases a gas that kills all the aliens inside.

Mon-El is also affected by the gas and lies near death inside the walls of the DEO. Kara realizes what her blood was used for and flies off to the Fortress of Solitude to assess the damage. There she learns that her birth father built a bio-weapon — codenamed Medusa — alongside the military guilds of Krypton. Medusa will kill anyone with alien DNA. She is devastated but brings the information back to the DEO to devise a cure.

After analyzing data from the Fortress they realize that CADMUS will need to use technology that only L-Corp* possesses. Supergirl saves Lena from an assault by Cyborg Superman (I thought that would get less stupid to type as I went on but alas it does not) and alerts her to her mother’s schemes. Lena turns cold to Supergirl and reaches out to her mother to give her exactly what she needs.

CADMUS loads up a rocket and prepares to wipe out all alien life on Earth. The DEO team tries to intervene. Supergirl chases the rocket. J’Onn transforms into a fearsome white Martian and battles Cyborg Superman. In the end, it turns out that Lena had duped her mother! When the rocket does explode it’s not only harmless to aliens but reverts J’Onn to his good old green Martian self.

Everyone gets to live happily ever after. J’Onn is green again. Alex and Maggie finally kiss. And Mon-El and Kara get back to their Sam and Dianne Ross and Rachel routine. Only then do we finally get a successful breach. Barry “Flash” Allen and Cisco “Vibe” Ramon appear in Kara’s living room to ask her help with an unrevealed threat.

In the epilogue we see the aliens that are implied by the title “Invasion” as they head to Earth. Their goal? Capturing Mon-El.

To Be Continued…

–bdm

* Formerly known as LexCorp but now run by his mysterious adopted sister Lena

Codename: Action #1

comiXology summary:
Codename: Action #1. During the height of the Cold War, unknown forces scheme to heat up a global conflict. As key officials on both sides of the Iron Curtain are replaced with doppelgangers, the infiltration threatens to disrupt the precarious state of world affairs. The security of the Free World depends on a young secret agent, one assigned to shape the world’s masked heroes into a force with singular purpose and unyielding resolve!

I actually don’t know anything about Codename: Action as a title-title. I saw a solicitation announcement for it reading another Dynamite comic and thought this was a cool looking cover. (And hope you’ll agree.) What I do know is that this Codename: Action #1 cover by Jae Lee is a masterwork of elegant design and the use of negative space.

On Jae Lee…

Jae Lee, Jae Lee… What can I say about Jae Lee?

Lee hit my eyes and imagination in the early 1990s. I loved his work on a now-defunct WildC.A.T.S. title (“filling in” for a different J. Lee if you grok). In those pre-Internet days, I had to ask actual humans at the counter where I could find more Jae Lee. I bought all of it, and combed every local comics store to assemble his Namor work. I’m not sure if he was my “favorite” comics artist (or even my favorite “Lee”), but I do remember that when I was writing down my goals for a high school illustration class, I dropped his name as a role model.

Lee is one of the most distinctive artists on the planet, which is why he is so often tapped as a cover artist, more than an interior artist. He’s not the most facile storyteller, but his line work is unparalleled in its intention and precision. Part of being, there are so few lines.

I mean, there are probably fewer total lines on this Codename: Action #1 cover than the average square inch of the average Rob Liefeld! Any doofus can put a giant splotch of black on a panel or flood the gutters, but for my $1.99 almost no one touches Jae in terms of making something as 75% black as this look actually delicate.

And that foot!

It probably isn’t a surprise to you that BDM and I have bumped heads more than once over the years RE: what makes a good comics artist, or even just a good artist. As striking as his portraiture has always been, Lee has drawn criticism over his ability on hands and feet.

Personally, I love the interplay between the dancers’ hands… The combination of her consistently implied details versus the strategic line overload of his palm.

I wonder what BDM thinks of that foot. There is no mist rising up covering it; both the dancers have actual hands (and not claws).

But even if it were just claws / mist… It’d probably still look great from across a comics store.

LOVE
MIKE

Arrowverse Fight Club

In about an hour, Supergirl will premiere on the CW, presumably cementing Kara &co. to the Arrowverse proper. This gives Fetchland — or at least one opinionated comics fan — the opportunity to do a Top 8 list 😉

This Top 8 list is limited to their collective heroism, villainy, strategy, tactics, and fistfights in the extended Arrowverse — Arrow, Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and now Supergirl — only… Not four-color floppies, David Goyer movies, or, say, Injustice: Gods Among Us. So yes, Killer Frost has an unblockable Special 2 and — ahem — killer Passive, but when Barry and Cisco visited Earth Two, she was clearly no match for Zoom… Caitlin just doesn’t make our Top 8.

Honorable Mention: Superman

While a clear contender for the #1 spot, Kal-El (for whom I named my only son) has appeared in the Arrowverse only by text message so far. Sorry farm boy.

Dishonorable Mention: Firestorm

Another clear contender for #1 on pure power level alone (he can diffuse nukes with a wave of his hand or imagine us all into a room full of kryptonite), Firestorm in the Arrowverse kind of has never done anything worth making the elimination rounds. As a result BDM snarkily said “I’d sooner vote White Canary.”

Without Further Ado…

VIII. Supergirl

While long on power level, Kara stumbles a lot for someone with superhuman reflexes and presumably processing speed. During their crossover last season, Kara and Barry were presented essentially as peers; but Barry unquestionably has the edge in experience and confidence, and probably ceiling.

Hype aside, Kara is getting knocked out of the sky by a woman who is defeated thirty seconds later by a garden hose (?!?)

If she’s having problems with Live Wire or Silver Banshee, imagine Kara against Captain Cold or Deathstorm.

VII. Flash

Per the above, Flash and Supergirl were presented at similar levels in their one meeting; part of our relatively low rating for Kara is her (somewhat) lack of resilience given our assumptions on the Kryptonian physique. If we define heroes by their opposition, Kara and Barry are on similar ground with respective monsters of the week, but Barry also being tasked with, you know, Zoom.

VI. Ra’s al Ghul

Ra’s has seemingly everything for a top rating: unquestionable fighting skills (circa one hand to hand fighter better than him on the planet); limitless resources; a fanatically loyal, impeccably trained, army… Even a secret, unassailable fortress (oh, and immortality). Ra’s could squash most governments — forget about individual heroes — like bugs. Why “only” six?

Everyone else on the list is just that good, too (or even better).

V. Slade Wilson

Slade v. Ra’s is a tough hair to split. If you want to go all the way to comics universe, Slade is “the bad guy Batman” (circa #1 himself, and capable of beating an entire Justice League squad alone)… Even in Arrowverse, Slade also has circa only one fighter ahead of him on the planet, also massive resources… and at his height, even the wealth of the Queen family!

Slade, like Ra’s, has a Sardaukar-like army at his command — deadly fanatics — too. The two main edges I’d give Slade over Ra’s are 1) Mirakuru versus not-Mirakuru, and 2) while the al Ghul army has swords and knives, Wilson’s has… um… Mirakuru. Edge to the supermen.

IV. Zoom

Here’s the thing about passionate, talented, individuals. You have to take the bad with the good. If a Golden State fan doesn’t like Draymond Green’s kicking opponents in the groin costing them their All-Star Forward for a game… Maybe blunting that passion would also neuter Green’s will to go after every loose ball and defensive play; maybe GSW wouldn’t be there to begin with. I don’t know if you can have the creative genius of Don Draper without the troubled spirit and drunken infidelity that formed him and give him all those million dollar ideas; maybe, but there is no evidence to the case.

The same problem is what keeps Zoom stuck in fourth place. Here is a guy who basically rules Earth Two; he’s in a position that no Earth One villain has ever attained (badass on a planetary scale)… But he has a fatal flaw… A kryptonite for asshole speedsters as it were.

Zoom has to play with his food.

Are you a world-conquering — worlds-conquering, even — Big Bad, or a pussy cat? Get your head in the game, Zoom! You gotta vibrate right through the opponent’s heart instead of vibrating him into a jail cell, or he is just going to travel back in time and punch you in the embryo. Or something.

III. Amanda Waller

Vast intelligence network. Unlimited resources. Secret prison on an uncharted island exclusively for Arrow’s vanquished playmates.

Complete lack of conscience.

Thank God she is on our side. Err… was.

II. Vandal Savage

In the comics, Vandal Savage is generally a threat on the order of Ra’s al Ghul, but comes off a little lower on account of being a brutish caveman. Both are immortals with long views of success. They have similar, Darwinian, agendas. Savage is typically more — ahem — savage (being a caveman in the comics), while Ra’s is the elegant swordsman. They are, as we said, very comparable and complimentary to each other. In Young Justice, Ra’s and Savage are close allies in the Light, with caveman Savage even entrusted as Earth’s envoy to Darkseid and Apokalips, a match for Flash-level speed due to countless years of disciplined martial mastery.

In the Arrowverse though, Savage borrows from the Hawk mythology — a mix of magic and Nth Metal — instead of being a cosmic caveman. Vandal is still quite old (if thousands of years younger than his comic self), and has been training in fighting arts almost continuously since the dominance of the Nile.

Distinguishing Savage from other players on this list is just how long and how influential he is shown to be. Savage’s bronze fist extends from ancient Egypt to the far future (with dominion over the Time Masters); in the present, then-Ra’s al Ghul Malcolm Merlyn served as his vassal, helping to resurrect a vanquished Savage from incineration (it is unclear if Ra’s proper would have acted the same way if he still held the title, but we’d guess yes).

It took the combined might of all the Legends of Tomorrow — and the sacrifice of more than one — over hundreds of years of conflict and detective work to take down Savage; though, granted, not one of those heroes made our Top 8 list. We’d guess it would only take over of…

I. Oliver Queen

This is what #1 brings to the table:

  1. Limitless wealth – Even after Ollie lost the the Queen billions to Slade Wilson, he ultimately retained access to his old wealth through his CEO girlfriend. He has at its heart the superpower of a-list icons Stark and Wayne.
  2. Super tactics – For want of a better term, Ollie is the Arrowverse’s Batman. He has a Robin, cool gadgets, a company, a hidden cave or three… And even an Oracle. Like Batman, Oliver is a master of thinking about a fight before the fight happens. Given planning, Ollie can overcome any superpower in combat between brain and bow; this is proven when he shoots the lightning fast Barry, twice… even after warning him he would. It’s not just that he’s that good (though he is): Oliver’s super tactics are what makes him capable of defeating so many more powerful opponents.
  3. Mary Sue – If you asked what Arrow’s key ability is, the simple answer would be “archery”. But that’s not the extent of it. He’s a super polymath. Oliver can manifest ANY skill, seemingly on demand. Need a super spy? He’s not just a trained Russian mobster, he has all the right contacts. Need to beat the world’s greatest hand-to-hand killer in a fencing contest? Call Oliver! How about a rogue sorcerer? Turns out Oliver’s many tattoos are mystically functional (didn’t I mention that?), he can harness the power of belief to negate another’s magic, and even John Constantine — a character famous for swindling demons and devils — is the one who owes Ollie a few favors. There seems to be no scenario where Ollie lacks the upper hand: it will just be revealed that he has the exact ability necessary to win the day, from linguistics to riflery, politics to carpentry.

Then there are Oliver’s physical gifts: Beat Deathstroke — including with Mirakuru — more than once. Killed an immortal Ra’s al Ghul (after first being killed by him… magical plant resurrection being yet another arrow in Ollie’s quiver). Punched master assassin Damian Darkh to death. Incinerated Vandal Savage (with magic, of course).

Three of those are contenders for #2 meelee combatant on Planet Arrowverse.

Unfortunately for them, there can be only one #1.

The Martian Manhunter has a different vote. We consider him biased:


LOVE
MIKE

Luke Cage

Who is Luke Cage?

Posted by michaelj | Comics

WARNING: There is a wee bit of nudity down the page. You have been warned. -mf

Luke Cage is one of the most badass heroes in the Marvel Universe, and probably my favorite Avenger. All of this is remarkable because prior to the early- to mid-aughts he was kind of a cliche-ridden goofball born of the 1970s in a ridiculous disco superhero “uniform” ejaculating SWEET CHRISTMAS each issue as his catch phrase.

Luckily I don’t know anything about any of that. Despite his first appearance in 1972 my serious concept of Luke is the thoroughly modern one… 2001 at the earliest. If you go through these Top 8 Badass moments I hope you learn to like him as much as I do (and just in time for his Netflix debut, tomorrow). He really is something else.

Luke Cage’s Top 8 Badass Moments (according to Mike):

VIII. Luke Cage makes the All-Star Team
Luke Cage makes the All-Star Team

Little of the rest of this list would be possible without Luke’s improbable ascent to Avengers All-Star in Brian Michael Bendis’s “Breakout” story.

To give you some context if your concept of the Avengers is all billion dollar summer blockbusters with Chrisses Hemsworth and Evans staring each other down in shirtless blonde Greek* god pose-offs, when I was growing up the team was like Namor’s fish-eyed green ex plus a fat, bald, Stephen Strange wannabe named Dr. Druid; or, right after, the Eternal duo of Sersei and — I shit you not — “the Forgotten One”. Nothing supreme; utterly forgettable.

Legend has it the baby version of Mark Millar liked Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all, but didn’t have enough pocket money for all their books. Luckily DC’s Justice League of America let him read about all the top heroes with just one title! This — some thirty years later — was a revelation for Marvel decision makers, and the concept of an Avengers All-Star team was born. For the first time iconic Avengers Captain America and Iron Man adventured alongside Marvel’s unquestioned ace Peter Parker and most popular berserker, X-Man Wolverine…

… And Luke Cage.

Bendis’s affection for Cage was apparent to anyone who had read his street-level superhero books Daredevil and Alias [aka Jessica Jones], but given the shot on the larger stage, Luke stepped up.

Never again would he be a trope; he became not just an Avenger, but THE Avenger. A leader of men, gods, women, and squirrels.

VII. Luke Cage Beats Up the Wrecker, Everyone Else, with the Wrecker’s Crowbar
Luke Cage Beats Up the Wrecker, Everyone Else, with the Wrecker's Crowbar

Hold on… Luke Cage is an Avenger?

THE Avenger, actually. Get with the program already.

What’s this about a crowbar?

Uru weapons in the Marvel Universe are super special and super powerful… Rare, but not unique. Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, is the must famous Uru weapon but even in the cinematic universe you get the feeling Odin has a whole basement full of hand-held WMDs behind the Rainbow Bridge. Beta Ray Bill carries Stormbreaker (essentially the exact same hammer as Mjolnir, but yellow instead of gray), and in the climax of “Fear Itself” seemingly the entire MU from Iron Fist to Red She-Hulk are transformed into godlike versions of themselves, armed with Uru swords, claw extensions, or Stark-brand power suits. Uru is stronger than vibranium or adamantium, such that when Cap’s shield cracked, a little Uru glue was said to make it even stronger.

Cage taking an Uru weapon (crowbar here instead of hammer in the pantheon of magical construction equipment) from its owner and then using it to pound an entire [Dark] Avengers team is roughly the equivalent of beating up Hemsworth, somehow lifting his toy, and then going to town on the bad guy equivalents of Renner, Jackman, and Maguire Garfield whoever is playing Spidey these days, ultimately to spit in Willem Dafoe’s eye**.

Bad

Ass

VI. That Time Luke Cage Bought the Avengers Mansion for $1
That Time Luke Cage Bought the Avengers Mansion for $1

Tony Stark sold Luke his ancestral home — and that of his team — to Luke, allowing Cage complete autonomy over his own Avengers squad.

Neither Luke nor wife Jessica Jones carry cash, though, so Cage had to borrow the buck from longtime partner Iron Fist. LOL

V. That Other Time Luke Cage Sold the Avengers Mansion Back to Stark for $5
That Other Time Luke Cage Sold the Avengers Mansion Back to Stark for $5

Wanting to focus on family (and get his daughter Danielle out of the line of fire) Luke briefly retired from the Avenging business, so sold the mansion back to Tony… At a 400% profit.

IV. When Luke Cage (and Thor) Literally Ripped Deadpool in Half
When Luke Cage (and Thor) Literally Ripped Deadpool in Half

Ew

Gross

Deadpool Annual #1 from 2013 is a hoot. Heroes lament how hard it is to beat “healing factor guys”, Thor reduces one to ash with an Uru-summoned lightning bolt, and multiple Avengers sip lattes while dancing on rooftops, surrounded by the corpses of a dozen failed ninja assassins. A hoot! I told you!

… Oh, and Luke and Thor rip Deadpool in half.

Don’t worry though. Healing factor guy, etc.

III. Luke Cage Eats Three Eggs
Luke Cage Eats Three Eggs

The 2002 Cage series by Brian Azzarello and Richard Corben is a real treat. Cage shows us a-list creators (one of which is the writer behind crime masterpiece 100 Bullets) lending their collective pencils and pens to a hood-based story of urban gentrification and warring ethnic groups years before Luke’s big graduation to punching Skrulls instead of street level gang bangers.

Cage has Cage depicted as tough, mercenary, and overwhelmingly charismatic (a quality he would carry into Alias). It opens on the universally accepted idea that “shit happens” … But for Harlem residents with “bank” Cage — operating out of a local strip club –can be their toilet paper.

I read Cage when it came out, and despite some truly classic one-liners, like “Bullshit. She inta BOYS she inta GANGS[.]” and “Yeah… Pull that trigger… SEE who dies[.]” plus a killer three-sentence summary of Luke’s secret origin*** — at least prior to writing this — had little specific recollection of the details.

Except the eggs scene.

What makes it badass? Memorable even?

Is three eggs even a large number of eggs to eat? (Does Azzarello think it is?) Is it because Luke just got done humping an at-this-point-still nameless Korean bartender? Both?

I think this scene is meant to highlight a combination of Luke’s appetites, masculinity, and cross-demographic appeal, none of which have eroded in the fifteen years since.

II. Luke Cage (and Jess) Pop Doc Ock and Kick Him Off Their Team
Luke Cage (and Jess) Pop Doc Ock and Kick Him Off Their Team

Doctor Octopus is a bad guy. Given some of the other escapades on this Top 8 list, cracking the spectacles of a b-lister might not seem like a big deal. But Doc Ock was possessing Peter Parker’s body at the time.

Luke even stood up to him with words before he rose up with fists. He didn’t know it was Doc Ock; he thought he was doing the right thing by getting up in the grill of the moral center of the MU.

Total Neville Longbottom moment, this.

I. The Ascent and Career of Doreen Green
The Ascent and Career of Doreen Green

We started with Luke making the Avengers All-Star team. I think that the appropriate closure is Luke’s paying it forward for another goofball character.

So Luke and Jessica — new parents of future Captain America Danielle Cage — found themselves in need of a nanny. And because they are the kind of people who might have terrorists, alien invaders, or angry / riled-up mutants attacking their mansion, they were in need of a super powered nanny. They ended up choosing Doreen Green, also known as Squirrel Girl.

Doreen’s ascent ultimately mirrored Luke’s. Squirrel Girl was an explicitly not-serious character, even joining joke superhero team the Great Lakes Avengers just so her squirrel sidekick could die in an arc satirizing comic book deaths. However as the nanny to Danielle Cage, Doreen was — like Luke — given a spotlight on New Avengers. She beat Wolverine one-on-one and got to flex a little heroism. Today, the onetime joke character is headlining her own title, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is the darling of comics critics while helping to expand the genre’s audience, and even puts in time on Sunspot’s Avengers Idea Mechanics team.

Pay it forward, Luke Cage.

LOVE
MIKE

* Norse, fine; Norse.

** The Green Goblin (wearing StarkTech) at the time claimed to be in charge of the Avengers, but just had Bullseye dressed up as Hawkeye, Venom masquerading as Pete, etc.

*** When I was doin’ my big in the joint, a doctor made me an offer. / Said be my MONKEY. Let me experiment on your black ass. I’ll either KILL YOU, or SET YOU FREE. / I said hand me the BANANA.

**** You know, like YT.

Batman #47

comiXology summary:
Batman #47. While Jim Gordon is in the fight of his life against Mr. Bloom, Bruce Wayne discovers a shocking secret about his past that will change everything in Gotham City!

This Alex Ross cover was actually an alternate for a relatively recent* issue of Batman. Because it wasn’t the main cover I wouldn’t consider Batman #47 a “bait and switch” on characters in the same way I criticized All-New Inhumans. This is beside the fact that Batman isn’t even Batman in this issue (a moustache-less Jim Gordon was filling in for an amnesiac Bruce Wayne at the time).

But what makes this a noteworthy cover? I mean, there are alternate covers to some book or other essentially every week, right?

The first reason is just that this is an Alex Ross, and any mainstream Alex Ross is probably worth a second look, even if we don’t end up lingering on it. That’s not the real reason, though; at least not for me.

This Batman #47 alternate, with it’s “Harley’s Little Black Book” titling, is a sequel of sorts. One of the best — or at least most famous — depictions of Harley Quinn was done by Ross back in 1999 for Batman: Harley Quinn #1. Though Harley’s entire character arc had essentially been played out between her first appearance on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and its last episode (months earlier in 1999) she had never — never — appeared in a mainstream DC Universe comic before Batman: Harley Quinn #1!

So bringing Harley (who would ultimately become one of DC’s most famous and popular characters) to comics was kind of a big deal. DC tapped Ross for this classic:

Batman: Harley Quinn #1

When I first started working, and first figured out how to change the desktop background on my PC, this is what I chose.

So what did I love about Batman #47? Check the white flower over Mr. J’s left breast; the tux… all of it. This is the direct sequel to the classic.

LOVE
MIKE

* “Relatively recent” being about Christmas last year, given a stated print release date of December 9, 2015. With DC’s “Rebirth” event Batman has since been renumbered at #1 under The Vision scribe Tom King.

All-New Inhumans #9

comiXology summary:
All-New Inhumans #9. Gorgon stands trial! What crime could Gorgon have committed to land him in an Inhuman jail? And what does Ana Kravinoff have to do with it all?

The bait and switch 🙁

Last night at FNM (writeup coming to a Fetchland near you) I saw this week’s cover… All-New Inhumans #9.

Look at that cover for a second. Quick-like; like you were passing it on a comic shop rack, mayhap on the way to your second round of Standard. Note this is a Marvel comics cover. Seriously: What character do you see?

Wolverine, right?

I immediately moved to the rack. I thought Wolverine was dead* in Marvel Comics**.

I mean, I wasn’t necessarily going to jump into All-New Inhumans with the ninth issue, but I did want to know what was up with Wolvie. Curiosity, you grok?

How could it be anyone else?

I mean, the cover is an obvious homage to the various Marvel Comics Presents covers that Barry Windsor-Smith did in the early 1990s. There are many, but this seems like the most direct inspiration:

Marvel Comics Presents #78
Barry Windsor-Smith’s cover to Marvel Comics Presents #78

No beef with cover artist Stefano Caselli; seriously… But that All-New Inhumans cover sure smells like a lift homage to BWS’s classic, doesn’t it?

TLDR: IT’S NOT WOLVERINE ON THE COVER.

Per the ComiXology summary, it’s Inhuman Gorgon on the cover; I guess you would know that if you were a regular reader of All-New Inhumans… But as a comics cover (i.e. something that is meant to draw in potential readers who are not regular subscribers of a comic on a monthly basis) I didn’t know it was Gorgon. I thought maybe I’d get the DL on a once-central character who has been dealt a really raw hand in the comics universe [that in other circumstances would have grown right back].

Boo, All-New Inhumans #9 cover!

Boo… And well played.

LOVE
MIKE

* Except for Old Man Logan; another time.
** Wolverine being Marvel’s more-or-less most popular character… Whose film rights are owned by someone else.

Animal Man #6

comiXology summary:
Buddy Baker must face off against invading Thanagarians looking to conquer Earth! Can Buddy Baker stand up to the winged wonders or will he become the first casualty of war? Grant Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN epic continues!

In the new episode of Top 8 Magic (that comes out next week, actually) BDM and I talk about DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the Dwayne McDuffie-driven Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited cartoons. Hawkgirl (or Hawkwoman) in some of her various incarnations is a central cast member of all those teevee shows.

That said, the woman swinging the Nth Metal Morningstar at Buddy Baker in this week’s Superficial Saturdays cover is not actually Hawkgirl, rather a Thanagarian soldier name of Kol (not Hol, or “Hall”)… But I doubt the marketing department or cover editor would have minded much character confusion… Any more than they would the shamelessness of that Thanagarian uniform.

You see, Animal Man — though considered the apex of Grant Morrison’s writing career by some critics — was not exactly a hot seller. As good as the story is considered — and as well as it is thought to hold up over two or even three decades now — interiors penciler Chas Truog is widely panned as the weakest artist Morrison was ever paired with on a regular book.

No problem for Superficial Saturdays fans, though! Brian Bolland handled covers for going on three years (this is, of course, not the first time Bolland has been the subject of Superficial Saturdays).

Lots of stuff I love about this one:

  • It’s nakedly eye-catching; Thanagarian uniform and everything else.
  • Bolland’s line work is impeccable, as usual. Check out the delta between foreground and background wings, the precision on the Nth Metal Morningstar spikes, and Buddy’s jacket… especially in contrast to the shadow across his right leg
  • The colors, circa three years before the garish explosion of “computer coloring” onto the industry, is subtle. Not perfect by any means, but subtle. One thing to keep in mind is that with 1980s level of coloring technology a penciler (or penciler / inker like Bolland) had to be way more skilled to look not nearly as good. Bolland accomodates, per usual.

To the surprise of no one, Brian Bolland won 1992’s inaugural Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist, largely due to his work on Animal Man.

LOVE
MIKE

Starman #33 by Tony Harris

comiXology summary:
Starman #33. Solomon Grundy lies dying and now Jack Knight, Batman, Sentinel, and the Floronic Man must band together to save the reformed criminal. However, to save the pale giant, they must face past incarnations of Grundy, all of which are evil to the core.

Okay story time RE: Starman #33:

It’s probably about 1997. Starman is one of my two favorite comic books that come out every month (along with Preacher; and they typically come out the same day). Haven’t heard of Starman? I’m not particularly surprised. Jack Knight is the son of Golden Age hero [also] Starman, and Starman is the story of Jack taking up the superhero business after his brother David (interim Starman between daddy and Jack) is killed. Jack doesn’t really want to be a superhero. He runs a second-hand shop and mostly gets tattoos. To give you an idea about a typical story, at one point his second-hand shop is attacked by a maniacal villain-to-be as Jack unwittingly has a Hawaiian shirt that is a magical teleportation portal in inventory.

The battle is resolved by, um, Jack selling the would-be villain the shirt.

Starman was offbeat and heartwarming. Sure there was violence, sacrifice, murder, and even galaxy-spanning space adventure, but it was a largely a comic book of small stories, albeit perfectly executed by James Robinson (who would later execute Sean Connery’s movie career as the screenwriter for LXG) and Tony Harris (Harris would later become my favorite active comic book artist). Today’s Starman #33 cover is of course by Harris.

So here’s the story:

In the mid-1990s comics were in a very different spot than they are today, fueled as they are by billion dollar blockbuster films coming out of Marvel Studios. The entire industry was coming down off of the 1992 bubble boom driven by the breaking of the Bat, the Death of Superman, and infinite chromium variant covers coming out of Image and Valiant. The nostalgia wave would not hit for another five years, and Iron-Man for another maybe eight after that. Comics for comics sake were in a precarious position, and telling small — if great — stories about a second-hand store salesman and his ex-superhero pops needed *ahem* some sales if they wanted to stay buoyed at studio like DC.

How do you bolster sales?

Look at that g-d cover.

Notice anyone standing behind ole tattoo’d Jack?

Starman #33 sold out basically everywhere.

That’s great, right?

Um… The average comic book store ordered like two copies of Starman every month. Some people — like yours truly — were the avid and loyal readers of this aforementioned title Starman. And these Batman fans bought up all our copies!

Even my friend Brian K. Vaughan — who had never read Starman once in his life — bought a copy of #33 (which I’m guessing even twenty years later he never even read). “What can I say? I buy any book with Batman on it.”

It took me maybe four months to hunt down a copy of Starman #33 to even out my collection. This was super shitty because the next issue was the beginning of a new story arc; also because Batman — who had been written as maximally grumpy while visiting Opal City — finally cracked a smile and revealed his favorite Woody Allen movie (Crimes and Misdemeanors, natch).

So if the definition of great comics cover is to sell more comic books — especially by attracting readers who wouldn’t normally pick up your title — there is no better exemplar than Starman #33.

LOVE
MIKE

The Batman Adventures #7

comiXology summary:
A new mobster enters Gotham City looking to make it big. But when Batman tracks this fugitive from Chicago underground, he encounters something else lurking in the depths: Killer Croc!

So Suicide Squad came out yesterday.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I know one thing… It’s got Killer Croc!

See?

Killer Croc

Poor Croc. Is he a super human freak? A regular fellow with an unfortunate skin condition? A cannibal? A pretty nice guy who happens to live in the sewers? “Throw a rock at him [Batman] once”? In the comics and cartoons he’s been variations on lots of those things; but what crime did Croc commit to make it into Amanda Waller’s eponymous ‘Squad?

I don’t know either.

But they sure made him bumpy for the movie.

Anyway, in honor of the movie opening (featuring Croc) I decided to peel back the veils of years to a 1993 cover by Kelsey Shannon. 1993! I was in high school! Taylor Swift was four! Killer Croc was strangling the World’s Greatest Detective on the cover of The Batman Adventures #7!

I love this cover.

It is so g-d unpretentious.

Has Croc got scales? Not on the cover of The Batman Adventures #7 he doesn’t (explicitly). Shannon kind of lets you use your imagination on this one. Croc certainly has bumps on the top of his head; and the name “Croc” probably signals you that he is kind of lizard-y, skin-wise. Certainly his coloration is unusual.

The “acting” on this cover is also great.

I am so So SO a fan of form over detail. Shannon used minimal lines on this image. There are probably fewer lines on the entirety of The Batman Adventures #7’s cover than are contained in one square inch of the average Rob Liefeld pinup. But it doesn’t matter! With minimal lines Shannon is able to deliver so much drama.

We know Croc is strong. How can we know without infinitely rendered pectoral-deltoid-rectuses? Because of the pose, the angle on Batman, the implied bulge of tendons across Croc’s forearm.

We know Batman is desperate. How can we know without a bunch of narrating first-person word balloons? Because his teeth are grinding together, and his face is being compressed, and he is futilely trying to pry that left Croc-arm from around his esophagus.

The color is mostly flat. It’s not exactly flat; there are some gradations and implied shadows… But it’s pretty flat. I am a fan of flat color over “computer coloring” (or at least the look of what was called computer coloring in the early 1990s)… I point it out here because in 1993 it would have been really easy to fall into the garish trend coming out of Image and the X-Men books; but Shannon didn’t.

We thank you.

Batman thanks you.

And 23 years later, so does an immortal Killer Croc.

LOVE
MIKE

comiXology summary:
It’s a cosmic calamity as Rocket tries to fix his past… er… bad calls! Next stop, the dreaded Winter Planet! Winter all the time? Worst. Planet. Ever. Rocket Raccoon rockets into our hearts with the series beloved by Marvel fans everywhere!

There are multiple schools of thought around what makes a good cover. BDM likes a cover to tell a story. He is fine with word balloons all over it. I think that is his idea of good comics art bleeding into an idea of what makes good comics cover art.

For my part, I see the cover as the last refuge of portraiture in comics; static images; doesn’t necessarily have to tell a story… Fine if it just looks cool.

That said, I — and you probably know this if you know anything about my biases in Magic deck design — tend to be positively inclined to things that are different. Different-good better than “different for difference’s sake” but still willing to entertain a conversation around just different, especially if it pushes the design envelope.

Rocket Raccoon #7 brings together a lot of these threads and ideas.

For BDM… It kind of tells a story. Look at that image for a second. What do you see? “‘Rocket Raccoon in a snowstorm’ for $500, Alex.” Yes? Yes. Yes of course. Guess what happens in the comic?

What’s really cool in my mind is how minimally Skottie Young is able to accomplish all this. He uses, what? One color? That kind of teal? Not only that, but he incorporates the same design limitation to the Rocket Raccoon trade dress, and moves it from the typical top to make sense, almost as part of the cover’s landscape. Different; pushes the design elements; and a bit of story:
Rocket Raccoon #7 gives us an unassuming little cover (that happened to be on one of the most popular comics in the known universe Galaxy).

LOVE
MIKE