Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What It Means To Be A Woman In The New 52

It is the last month of the year, and here I am about to have yet another conversation about the much dreaded Women in Refrigerators plot device. It is my second time this year having this same discussion, and my third time this year addressing the comic book industry's (specifically DC Comics') problem with misogyny. My year simply couldn't end without having to revisit this tiresome topic one last time.

What triggered this latest discussion, you ask? Why, none other than the very book I stayed away from these past two months. The very book my gut feeling told me was going to trade women's lives for manpain, the very book I knew was going to be just the latest instalment in an ongoing narrative of superhero tragedy porn at DC Comics. I am of course talking about the terribly Apokoliptic (and frankly misogynistic) Earth-2: World's End weekly series.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Convergence 2015 First Look: The Pre-Crisis Earth-2 Returns!

Writer: Justin Gray
Artists: Claude St-Aubin and Sean Parsons
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Superman teams up with Power Girl, but can they stop a nuclear strike from Lex Luthor and Stalin of Red Son Moscow?

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Colorist: Felix Serrano
Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson fight side by side in memory of Bruce Wayne as they decide who will become the next Batman.

Writer: Jerry Ordway
Artist: Ben Caldwell
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
The young heroes of Infinity Inc. must choose between the path set for them by their parents or the one they’ve set for themselves as they face post-apocalyptic Jonah Hex.

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Tom Derenick and Trevor Scott
Colorist: Monica Kubina
Older and in full retirement under the dome, members of the Justice Society get the chance to regain their youths to stave off forces from the Qward Universe. But the promise of youth comes with a deadly price.

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Jim Fern and Joe Rubinstein with cartoons by Shannon Wheeler
Colorist: Paul Mounts
The Seven Soldiers of Victory regroup to defend their city against the Qward invasion, while cartoonist Scribbly Jibbet transcribes their adventures.

Newsarama released the solicits for Week 4 of Convergence today, and I have to say April and May of 2015 is looking like a promising two months for Classic DC Comics fans like myself. Not only is it refreshing to see some familiar faces again, but it'll be a nice breather from the constant Doom and Gloom of the New 52. 

I sincerely hope that Convergence is successful enough to lead to some much needed positive changes to the overall narrative of all of these characters, and especially bring back the much needed diverse storytelling that's so sorely lacking in the New 52. This especially rings true for the New 52 Earth-2 characters who have yet to have stories told about them, and not have their entire narratives centred on editorial mandates, Apokolips, or Helena Wayne's usurper grandfather, who by the way, is supposed to be dead, even on Earth-2.  

More importantly I really want for Convergence to be a really strong message to DC Comics, letting them know that we want recognisable versions of our favourite characters again! I know I'll definitely be subscribing to the Earth-2 titles when I go to the shop tomorrow, and hopefully everyone else who is a fan of the Classic Earth-2 does as well. 

The only complaint I have right now about these solicits is DC's constant obsession with needing to have a Batman character in every narrative that they have. The decision to rob Helena Wayne of her own narrative on Earth-2 in favour of her (supposed to be dead) grandfather in the New 52 was one of the many things that got me to stop buying Earth-2 after the Tower of Fate story arc concluded. The decision to completely mischaracterise Helena Wayne on top of that to advance the narrative of her grandfather was another bad decision that guaranteed I wouldn't give World's End a chance. 

Believe me when I say 'New Earth-2 Batman' is the last thing I want to see on the solicitation of a Helena Wayne story that she shares with her former Bat sibling, Dick Grayson. It's especially insulting that DC is going back to this idea of 'needing a new Batman' on the version of Earth-2 where both Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson explicitly decided against taking over her father's identity and mantle, reasoning that legends should in fact stay legends, and that--as Bruce Wayne's successors--they should create new legends of their own as Huntress and Robin respectively. This was literally the story of Adventure Comics #462, first published in 1978. I honestly find this idea far more appealing (and with stronger story potential) than needing another Batman character for editorial to obsesses over. 

Honestly, DC, let these legacy characters be the stars of their own narratives. Let Helena Wayne take over her father's job as the Huntress. This idea was already successful in the 1970s and 1980s. She was, in fact, one of DC's more popular characters in the Bronze Age. I really don't see why this same concept can't still work or be successful in the year 2015, especially as the daughter of DC's second popular flagship couple, Batman and Catwoman. Additionally, I don't have any problems with Dick Grayson reclaiming his Robin identity on Earth-2 either. Sure, update the costume so that the colours aren't all over the place and that it looks more appropriate for an adult male, but let him keep something that always belonged to him. Earth-2 does not need a new Batman to replace Helena's father, Bruce Wayne. Let me me repeat that:


Helena Wayne and Dick Grayson can take over her father's job just fine on their own.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Best of Power Girl: Showcase Presents Power Girl #97-99

Title: Showcase Presents #97-99
Story: Power Girl
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Andrew Vinson, Zor-L, Allura In-Z, Brain Wave
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Joe Staton (artist)
Publication Date: February-April 1978
Available In: Print

Introduction: Continuing our discussion on the origins of Power Girl as a character, we now get to the most important story in her history: her actual origin story. As I mentioned in my last review, Power Girl has always been much more than just 'an alternate version' of Supergirl. She was--more accurately--a different interpretation of a previously established character complete with a similar but ultimately different origin, a completely different personality, and ultimately a different narrative. What if Kara Zor-El had left Krypton as an infant instead of as a teenager? What if Kara Zor-El had been raised by her cousin, Kal-El, alongside his superstar reporter and wife, Lois Lane? What if Kara Zor-El had taken on a different superhero identity that wasn't Supergirl? What if Kara Zor-El functioned as a software expert by day and protected Gotham City by night? These are all questions that are answered in these three issues of Showcase #97 through #99!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Best of Power Girl: All-Star Comics #64

Title: All-Star Comics #64
Story: Yesterday Begins Today!
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Superman (Clark Kent), Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Hourman (Rex Tyler), Star-Spangled Kid (Sylvester Pemberton)
Creators: Paul Levitz (writer), Wally Wood (artist)
Publication Date: February 1977
Available In: Print | Digital

Introduction: After Power Girl's smashing introduction in issues #58 and #59, it only made sense that we discuss the origin of her Power Girl identity, and specifically why she refused to wear a 'P' logo for a long time. One of the more regressive changes that was made to Power Girl in the New 52 was the initial decision to incorporate a 'P' logo to her costume in addition to wholly repurposing her Power Girl identity in a way that effectively removed its feminist origins. In contrast with the Power Girl of old who simply wanted to be acknowledged as an individual and not as an appendage to her cousin from the get-go, the New 52 Power Girl started out as Supergirl on Earth-2 and only became Power Girl when she got stranded on an alternate Earth alongside her best friend, Helena Wayne, at the end of the Apokolips War. As you will discover, many of the changes that were made to the Earth-2 Power Girl (including to her personality) in the New 52 have been fundamentally backwards for her character, and many of those changes have come from a place of internalised misogyny on behalf of the current DC leadership rather than a place of progress.

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Best of Power Girl: All-Star Comics #58-59

Title: All-Star Comics #58-59
Story: All Star Super Squad/Brainwave Blows Up
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Dr. Fate (Kent Nelson), Wildcat (Ted Grant), Brain Wave, Per Degaton
Creators: Gerry Conway (writer), Ric Estrada (artist)
Publication Date: February-April 1976
Available In: Print | Digital

Introduction: When I decided to go back in time to cover Huntress and Power Girl's comic book Golden Age, I realised I couldn't begin this coverage without discussing the first female member of the Justice Society since the actual Golden Age: Power Girl. Not only was Power Girl the most prominent female character fronting the Earth-2 Justice Society books during the Bronze Age, but her membership into the Justice Society also led to creation of (and subsequently, the character's first meeting with) the Huntress, Helena Wayne. While Power Girl would undoubtedly become an important person in the Huntress' life as well as one of her most enduring friendships, this friendship would also become of equal value to Power Girl for reasons that will be explored in these first set of reviews. Beginning with her first appearance in All-Star Comics #58-59, we humbly explore the origins of the Earth-2 Kara Zor-L, better known to everyone as Power Girl.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Helena Wayne Meets The Usurper Wearing Her Father's Symbol On Earth-2 And She Is Not Pleased (And Neither Am I)

This week started the World's End story arc, the narrative that's going to reveal to us the final fate of Earth-2 potentially leading up to the events of Futures End.

In this week's issue of Earth-2 written by Tom Taylor and Marguerite Bennett with art by Marcus To and Andy Smith, we got to see some great flashback sequences with some very heartfelt character moments between the Super and Bat families of Earth-2. It is also the issue that--along with Earth-2: World's End #1--deals with the reintroduction of Huntress and Power Girl back into the Earth-2 narrative.

While I still don't like Lois Lane existing as a robot on Earth-2 for very obvious reasons (most blatantly validated in Futures End), her reunion with Kara Zor-L (Power Girl) actually felt more natural than Helena Wayne's first meeting with her once believed dead grandfather. Even Kara's reunion with her childhood friend Val-Zod felt more natural than the awkwardness of Helena finding out that the usurper wearing her father's symbol on her world is the grandfather her father made her believe--for 20 years--had died in a crime alley. If anything, the latter reinforced just how very out of place Thomas Wayne's Batman is on Earth-2, and how it specifically robs the legitimate female successor of Batman of her own narrative in a very significant way.

While I didn't expect to like the forceful inclusion of Thomas Wayne's Batman into the narrative of Earth-2 following this first meeting with the Huntress anymore than I did when he was first announced, I was nonetheless letdown by how quickly it was dealt with (in a rather inorganic way) and how downplayed Helena's reaction was to the whole situation. In addition to validating many of the concerns I had about Thomas Wayne operating as 'the New Batman of Earth-2,' it also lessened my confidence of how Helena Wayne is going to be used in World's End. Before we get into those details, however, let's first discuss everything that is wrong with the current premise.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Huntress/Power Girl Future Coverage and Six Month Hiatus

Well guys. This is it. This week is the last week we'll be seeing Huntress and Power Girl as the stars of their own book before it switches over to their daddy and cousin respectively. Since I have no interest in another Batman/Superman book at the complete expense of these two women (even if it is the Earth-2 versions), I will no longer be buying, reading, or covering the book.

In addition to losing the only Huntress/Power Girl book we have to the two most overexposed male characters of the DCU, we're also not going to be seeing them in any other books outside of the World's End weekly that's coming out next month. And honestly, guys? I think this is my stop.

At best, I will try out the first few issues for Marguerite Bennett's take on Huntress and Power Girl alone since I do like her writing, but I'm not making any promises of any further investment beyond that. If the series does manage to surprise me and it turns out to be good, I may decide to cover it in a monthly review. If it turns to be the complete and utter shite I expect it to be, I simply won't bother. The most you'll probably get in the latter case is me posting my favourite panels of Kara and Helena on my Tumblr, but that's about it.

A narrative about war, pointless death, and destruction as a major selling point of the weekly during a time when militants around the world (and I do mean the real world) are brutally murdering civilians as a way of forcing whole governments to act does not appeal to me. An Earth-2 that doesn't have the Justice Society, is a complete dystopia, and marginalises its two most prominent women in favour of two men is not an Earth-2 I care about. An editorial leadership that persistently markets the 'badassery' of the usurper of Batman's legacy on Earth-2 while teasing the potential death of the legitimate female successor of Batman is not a direction I am going to support.

Having said all that, I will--as of today--be taking a six month hiatus from the New 52, or however long it takes for DC to finish breaking their characters and continuity for laughs. I will come back to covering the New 52 as soon as Helena Wayne and Karen Starr are treated with better respect, are given their book back under a better creative team, and are given a better direction than they've been previously given. I will come back to the New 52 when the quality of their books actually improves and the characters are given more meaningful narratives that lead to legitimate character growth. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing Marguerite Bennett getting the full reigns to the Huntress/Power Girl book.

In the meantime, I've got plenty of pre-Crisis Huntress, Power Girl, and Justice Society books to get through for documenting the entire pre-Crisis history of the Huntress. I already started working on that a long while back, but now I'll actually have time to finish it. Obviously the part that takes the longest is citing the sources, but at least the stories are more fun to read than any of the rubbish that's being passed off for a 'narrative' at DC these days.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Worlds' Finest: Futures End #1 Preview

Uproxx has an exclusive preview of Worlds' Finest: Futures End #1.

Levitz' ham-fisted dialogue aside, this actually looks better than Earth-2: Futures End #1, which was a bloody waste of $3.00 I am never going to get back.

I am officially sad for Power Girl though, because if anyone's been following the Futures End weekly, we already know what happens to Kara in that series.

Hopefully Helena (with the help of Tanya) gets her girlfriend back and gives the Cadmus folk a hell of an arse-beating.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Earth-2: Future's End: Things You Need To Know

In preparation for the September Future's End event, here are the important details from the weekly series you need to know regarding the Earth-2 narrative from the five year timeline:

The Earth-2 Story Arc

At some point during Earth-2's final battle with Apokolips, Earth-1 got involved in the war.

 The heroes of Earth-2 were unable to save their world from the destruction of Apokolips and sent their surviving citizens to Earth-1 via vehicles known as arks.

 During the exodus, Big Barda's ship of Earth-2 refugees made it safely to Earth-1, and the remaining ships were seemingly destroyed by Apokolips on their way through.

 We learn from Emiko Queen (Green Arrow's sister) that the ships believed to have been destroyed by Apokolips did make it to Earth-1, but its inhabitants were captured by Project Cadmus and were subsequently imprisoned on Cadmus Island. The island itself is hidden from the rest of the world in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

 Confirmed survivors of Earth-2 include Hawkgirl, Aquawoman, Doctor Fate, Fury, Huntress (Helena Wayne), Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Captain Steel, Red Tornado, and Icicle.

 With the exception of Big Barda who evaded capture, all the surviving Earth-2 heroes are imprisoned on Cadmus Island for experimentation.

 Deathstroke and Fifty Sue are also greatly interested in the Earth-2 superheroes, and recruit Grifter to help them identify which ones have powers. Their interest in the Earth-2 heroes has yet to be revealed.

 The Earth-2 heroes themselves do not know what Project Cadmus intends to do with them, though a woman named Rita believes that Cadmus plans to dissect them.

 Hawkgirl learns that Fifty Sue has been scaring the imprisoned Earth-2 heroes with rumours of their dissection and dehumanisation. She tells Rita not to take her seriously.

➤ Mister Miracle keeps a projection of himself present in his prison cell to fool the OMACs while he cloaks himself and spies on the Cadmus team to tip off the other Earth-2 heroes on their plans.

We learn from Mister Miracle that the Earth-2 heroes have been implanted with sensors that feed a stream of their bio-data into Cadmus' database, and the sensors themselves are 'growing.' Exactly what that means hasn't been specified.

➤ The Cadmus scientists themselves do not appear to understand what's really happening with the sensors in the Earth-2 prisoners' bodies, or why they are growing. One of the scientists is attacked by an OMAC before he has the chance to find out.

➤ It is revealed that someone (or something) has been messing with the Cadmus systems, and Deathstroke believes Grifter can identify the culprit using his special power.

➤ Grifter is unable to identify the culprit and posits that whoever is messing with the systems is doing so from the outside, not within Cadmus Island as is popularly believed.

➤ Just as Grifter says that last part, the culprit (not shown on page) releases the Earth-2 prisoners, and telepathically 'commands' them to attack the Cadmus scientists, prompting their escape from Cadmus Island. It is also shown that Grifter himself is not immune to being telepathically influenced. (Brainiac?)

Big Barda and Emiko Queen's Story Arc

 Following the events of the Apokolips War, Barda escaped to Vancouver, Canada where she works as a volunteer at a soup kitchen to atone for her involvement in a war that resulted in massive casualties between Earth-1 and Earth-2.

➤ The rest of the Earth-2 refugees are treated as invaders by the majority of the Earth-1's population and are also imprisoned.

 Native Earth-1 citizens possess (at least in Metropolis) 'Earth cards' to identify them as natural citizens, and to capture any remaining Earth-2 refugees who have evaded capture. It is also learnt that Earth-2 refugees can buy (through a black market of sorts) the identities of their Earth-1 doppelgängers to pass themselves for them.

➤ Emiko Queen locates Barda at the soup kitchen where she volunteers, and recruits her to go with her to Montréal. Her plan is to meet with Lois Lane in Metropolis, believing that she can help them.

 Deathstroke and a clone of Fifty Sue locate Barda and Emiko in Montréal, and attempt to capture them. Emiko wounds Deathstroke and subsequently kills Sue's clone, allowing both her and Barda to escape.

 Weeks later, Emiko and Barda return to Vancouver to meet with Oliver Queen's friend, John Diggle.

 With Deathstroke after both her and Barda, Emiko states that they need to change their plan, rationalising that both Lois Lane and themselves are bound to meet at the same destination: Cadmus Island.

 Barda at this point asks for answers. Particularly she wants to know why Emiko needs her and what her plans have to do with Mister Miracle and the Earth-2 superheroes. Emiko reveals that the same man who is holding the Earth-2 heroes captive is the same one who killed her brother months ago. She plans to go to Cadmus Island with Barda with intent on killing him.

Lois Lane's Story Arc

 The Lois Lane of Earth-1 (now CEO of her own news site, The Fast Lane) receives a mysterious box (presumably from Emiko Queen) containing various items: a red arrowhead, a small green pyramid, a box of matches from the Wounded Duck pub, coordinates to Cadmus Island, and a note telling her to go alone and trust no one.

 The box of matches leads Lois to the owner of the Wounded Duck pub, who is revealed to be the adult Tim Drake who survived the war with Earth-2. Following the death of the rest of the Teen Titans, Tim retired from his life as a superhero and settled down with a woman named Madison.

 Lois then travels by plane to the coordinates specified in her box, and finds herself in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She is unable to locate Cadmus Island--which again is cloaked--and concludes that there is nothing there.

 Back in her office at The Fast Lane, Lois activates the green pyramid in her box, which reveals to her the fates of the Earth-2 superheroes. She witnesses the bisection of Red Tornado and learns to her horror that the robot contains the personality and memories of her deceased Earth-2 counterpart.

➤ Lois tries to recruit the masked Superman (later revealed to be Shazam) to help her understand the clues she was given.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Earth-2: World's End: November Full Solicitations

EARTH 2 #28
On sale NOVEMBER 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
With the world around them on fire, the heroes of Earth 2 were met with the worst villains they’ve ever encountered: the Four Furies of Apokolips! But what shocking connection do Famine, Pestilence, Death and War share with the larger DC Universe? Find out here as their origins are revealed!

On sale NOVEMBER 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
As Earth 2 burns, Green Lantern battles Grundy!

On sale NOVEMBER 12 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Power Girl, Batman, Red Tornado and the new E2 Superman take on the Super Clones of Apokolips!

On sale NOVEMBER 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Mister Miracle and the World Army prepare their final assault on Apokolips!

On sale NOVEMBER 26 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Welcome John Constantine to the chaos and fire of Earth 2 – he’ll be right at home! Continued from this month’s CONSTANTINE #19.