Tag Archives: Steve Orlando

New Comic Book Day June 3, 2020: My Pull List And Pick Of The Week

In general, I’m an optimist. When a new year begins, I approach it with the hope and desire to make it better than the previous year. After the first half of 2020, I may need to change my approach. As much an optimist I try to be, even I have my limits.

This year has sucked the biggest set of elephant balls that it’s possible to suck. I hope I don’t need to explain why. Between a pandemic that has shut entire parts of society down and major riots protesting racial injustice, this year has been a massive kick in the balls for every optimist that dared approach this year with a sense of hope.

That said, I’ve yet to abandon that hope entirely. I credit my long-time love of superhero comics as a reason for that. Beyond the marketing gimmicks and wish fulfillment, superheroes embody an ideal. They dare to envision how good we can be in a world that many are determined to destroy. I take real comfort and joy in that. It’s just part of what makes New Comic Book Day so refreshing every week.

I know the news has been awful on so many levels these past few months. I won’t say the worst is behind us, but I will encourage everyone to keep pushing through the despair. A fresh batch of comics isn’t a cure-all, but it can help lift our wounded spirits. To that end, below is my pull list and my pick of the week.


My Pull List

Action Comics #1022

2020 Force Works #3

Avengers Of The Wastelands #5

Birds of Prey #1

Catwoman #22

Detective Comics #1022

Justice League Dark #22

Revenge Of The Cosmic Ghost Rider #5

Wonder Woman #756


My Pick Of The Week
Wonder Woman #756

A true measure of someone’s honor is how they handle defeat. If internet comments sections and debates with creationists are any indication, people can get very ugly when they have no honor. With superheroes, there’s a similar dynamic. A characters heroism carries a lot more weight in defeat than it does in triumph. Those who don’t handle defeat well aren’t very heroic.

By that measure, Wonder Woman is in the uppermost percentile when it comes to honorable heroes and “Wonder Woman #756” further affirms that. Recent issues of Wonder Woman have really put her in questionable positions and these aren’t positions that she can fight her way out of. Where some heroes would’ve broken or whined, Wonder Woman’s unique capacity for honor and compassion continue to shine.

It has to against a foe like Warmaster. Writer Steve Orlando puts Wonder Woman in a difficult position. She lied to this woman. Even if it was to save her from her hateful upbringing, she lied to Paula Von Gunther. It wasn’t a small lie, either. Her entire life was a lie. Once the truth came out, she was not the least bit understanding.

Now, the same hate that Wonder Woman tried to save her from fuels her in a violent clash. Even for a warrior like her, it gets messy and artist Jesus Merino makes it especially visceral. As the fighting unfolds, one thing becomes painfully clear. The hate that Wonder Woman tried to protect Paula from has never been harsher. Now, everyone she loves is in danger.

In addition to fighting Wonder Woman, Warmaster’s plan starts to accelerate in Wonder Woman #756.” She’s not just targeting Wonder Woman. She’s joined the four Horsewomen to exact a bloody revenge on everyone she cares about. That includes both her home, Themyscira, and all her friends in the outside world.

A lot is at stake for her, but she still holds back. Even when Warmaster tries to force impossible choices on her, Wonder Woman keeps fighting. That’s what she does. That’s what makes her both a warrior and a hero. However, it’s still not enough. Paula’s hatred is stronger than Wonder Woman’s compassion in this case.

However, Orlando stops short of putting Wonder Woman in a dire position. If anything, the way she conducts herself while having to fight someone she cares about shows just how heroic she can be in these situations. At the same time, her willingness to love and connect with others proves critical in helping her rise up after the beating she took.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but the last page of Wonder Woman #756 offers the kind of uplifting catharsis that we all need right now. That’s what an honorable hero does, even after they’ve lost. They still find a way to inspire.

That’s what Wonder Woman does.

That’s what makes her Wonder Woman.

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New (But Still Limited) Comic Book Day: May 20, 2020

Another Wednesday is upon us. Sadly, the world is still an omega level clusterfuck. While some parts of it are re-emerging, the road to something more tolerable is nothing short of glacial. This extends to the world of comics, but there’s still some progress to note. Some is still better than none. At this point, the bar is just that low.

That should pick up, assuming things don’t go to Hell again, in the coming weeks. Both Marvel and DC Comics have finalized release plans for new books, some of which were originally set for release two months ago. That’s a long time to wait in the comic world. Even comic fans like myself have endured agonizing delays before, this is uncharted territory for the industry.

Will comics as we know it return?

Will the industry be able to change and adapt to a new marketplace?

Will stories, plots, and plans have changed as a result?

Will Wednesdays be worth waking up at 4:30 a.m. anymore?

These are all unanswered questions. A lot of it depends on the world becoming less awful in the coming months, which is hardly a guarantee. I’m not going to assume anything at this point. I’m just going to craft a pull list from the limited releases this week and make a pick.

Believe me, I want things to get better too. It’s just going to happen painfully slow. At the very least, New Comic Book Day is taking its first steps.


My Pull List

2020 Ironheart #1

DCeased: Unkillables #3

Hawkeye: Freefall #5

Red Hood and the Outlaws #45

Red Sonja #15

Star #4

Wonder Woman #755


My Pick Of The Week
Wonder Woman #755

Sometimes, it’s just not enough to have your heart in the right place. You could have the best of intentions and do everything you do out of love, but still end up the center of someone’s unflinching hatred. That’s a position Wonder Woman finds herself in more than most and “Wonder Woman #755” perfectly highlights the price that comes with that approach.

There are a great many superheroes in comics whose sincerity you can question, but Wonder Woman isn’t one of them. She’s a warrior, a demigoddess, a feminine ideal, and a beacon of wisdom and truth. You can usually assume that she does what she does out of sincere love and be right every time. For some characters, though, that’s just not enough.

That’s what makes Wonder Woman’s part in Paula Von Gunther’s story so tragic, but revealing. Paula, also known as Warmaster, is someone Wonder Woman attempted to save from a hateful environment full of hateful influences. She did what she did out of love and compassion, as she often does with everything. However, in trying to protect her from hate, Paula comes to hate her.

It’s a tragic setup that reveals what happens when Wonder Woman’s innate sense of compassion fails her. At the same time, Paula rightly points out that her compassion was still built on a lie. On top of that, she had no say in living that lie. Wonder Woman made that decision on her own and with no input whatsoever from Paula. Intentions or not, she had zero agency in this decision.

It poses some difficult questions that Wonder Woman cannot readily answer. Writer Steve Orlando puts her in a very strenuous position where she has to fight someone she cares about, but that battle is never more than secondary. Even as it plays out, courtesy of quality art by Jesus Merino, Paula uses her words to hurt Diana the most.

She’s still not the only target. While the battle is personal for Paula Von Gunther, there’s still a larger war for her to wage as Warmaster. It’s not just about Wonder Woman. She’s poised to wage war on the Amazonian homeland and she’s willing to sacrifice an American city to do it. She is a villain by her own admission, but she never comes off as a villain without depth.

What makes “Wonder Woman #755” great goes beyond the battles, the art, or the heroic struggle it explores. It dares to ask how much we’re willing to entrust our fate, our lives, and our agency in the hands of superheroes. Even if those heroes are as honorable and compassionate as Wonder Woman, is it still the right thing to do? Should heroes ever have that much say in how our lives play out?

These are profound questions. As Warmaster, Paula Von Gunther reveals how bad this can go. It’s a powerful message. It brings out both the best and worst of Wonder Woman, as well as the ideals she embodies.

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Jack’s Quick Pick: Wonder Woman #55

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I’m going to try a little something new here so please, if possible, tell me what you think. Every Wednesday, a crop of new comics come out. I’m usually up bright and early to read them, thanks to digital subscriptions through Comixology. It makes for many restless nights, but it’s worth it to start my day with an awesome comic. As such, I want to single out a particular comic that I feel really stood out.

This week, it’s Wonder Woman #55. Granted, I’ve written plenty about Wonder Woman and the many reasons why she’s an iconic female hero. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that she still has comic coming out regularly come out and this week, we got an especially wondrous treat.

Steve Orlando and Raul Allen capped off a story that began several issues ago that had Wonder Woman reunite with her renegade Amazon sister, Artemis of Bana-Mighdall. While this isn’t the first time they’ve clashed, this particular comic beautifully demonstrated what sets Wonder Woman apart from her fellow Amazons and so many other heroes in general.

While Wonder Woman’s power set makes her one of the most powerful figures in the entire DC Universe, even those immense abilities don’t reflect her greatest strength. Sure, they come in handy whenever Darkseid invades Earth, but those are not the most important weapons in her arsenal.

More than anything else, Wonder Woman’s greatest power is winning battles with truth and compassion. She doesn’t seek to solve problems through domination. She seeks peace through truth and loving submission, a theme with some kinky undertones. She wields that power with effective grace in this, albeit not in too kinky away.

I could go on and on about the non-kinky aspects of the story that make it so awesome, but I’d rather let the book speak for itself. That’s why I’m proud to make this comic my first quick pick. Even if it doesn’t make you submit, it’ll fill your heart with Wonder Woman’s love and compassion. Any comic that can do that is a true wonder.

Wonder Woman #55

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A (Non-Preachy) Lesson In Tolerance In Supergirl #19

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Growing up, every TV show that aired between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. seemed air some sort of pro-tolerance, anti-bigotry message. These shows assumed, rightly in my case, that a lot of kids who’d just gotten home from school would plop themselves in front of the TV and rather than doing their homework. In terms of targeting a market, it was pretty brilliant.

Having been fed those messages for over two decades now, I think they’ve been belabored to the point where most kids and young adults have gotten the message. Some are even annoyed by it. Even I admit there’s only so many times I can hear some poorly-rendered cartoon character say that tolerance is good and bigotry is bad.

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In recent years, especially with the rise of certain regressive elements within popular media, these pro-diversity, anti-bigotry messages have gone to distressing extremes. It’s no longer enough to just send the message. It has to be angrily protested by media critics, internet mobs, and hyper-sensitive crowds that push political correctness way past its previous extremes.

I could spend fill several blog posts of instances of people whining about a lack of diversity or complaining that political correctness has gone too far. I can understand the frustration of both sides to some extent. Both see a problem with the way tolerance is being promoted within society and they want to fix it. They both want to make society better and that’s entirely commendable.

Instead of focusing on the frustrations, though, I want to highlight an example of a pro-tolerance, anti-bigotry message done right. By that, I mean it sends a message in a way that doesn’t sound preachy, heavy-handed, or denigrating to another group. As it just so happens, it unfolds in a comic book, a medium that has provided me with many deeper messages in the past.

In this instance, the comic is Supergirl #19 by Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala. Being a fan of the “Supergirl” TV show and of beautiful, lovable female heroes in general, I’ve been following this comic since it relaunched in 2016. It’s a series that deals with heroic conflicts typical of DC Comics and anyone remotely associated with Superman. This issue, however, takes a moment to get personal.

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The story itself is a brief, self-contained narrative often referred to as a one-shot. You don’t have to know the full story of the character or even the events of the past several issues to understand what’s going on. You don’t even have to know the first thing about Supergirl to appreciate the message that this issue conveys.

It’s built around a personal story told by a character named Lee Serano, a character whose life Supergirl recently saved. That, in and of itself, isn’t too remarkable. Supergirl, Superman, and pretty much every major DC hero saves the life of a random character in almost every issue. However, it’s Lee’s struggles beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time that make her note-worthy.

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Lee identifies as genderqueer or non-binary, a concept that tends to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. More often than not, stories about people who identify with this label are only identified as a way to point out how far political correctness has gone. It’s often a classification that certain people cite when making fun of those who think there need to be over 58 genders.

Whatever your attitudes towards gender, it’s still generally a dick move to ridicule and degrade someone for identifying that way. Throughout Supergirl #19, Lee doesn’t come off as someone who is just craving attention by identifying as some extreme minority. She comes off as someone who is genuinely conflicted with her gender and is afraid how it’ll affect her.

That’s where Supergirl comes in and this is where the anti-bigotry message gains some unexpected, but welcome dimensions. Like any good hero, Supergirl goes out of her way to help Lee beyond saving her life. She offers her both consolation and sincere affection, as any decent person would to someone who is in distress. The fact she has superpowers is basically an afterthought.

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It’s here where Lee stands up for Supergirl in a way that might catch even the anti-PC crowd by surprise. She acknowledges that there are those who look at Supergirl and only see this blond-haired, blue-eyed, traditionally beautiful, able-bodied, cis-gendered woman with superpowers. Her very presence is seen as part of the problem.

The fact she acknowledges this has an important context. This issue takes place at a time when Supergirl is trying to regain the trust of the public. Unlike her more famous cousin, she hasn’t been around long enough to earn everybody’s implicit trust when she makes a mistake. The extent of that mistake is covered in previous issues, but you don’t need to know them to get the message here.

In one of the most revealing scenes, Lee confronts the argument that certain regressive types would use against Supergirl if she ever tried to get involved with gender minorities, social justice, and everything in between. She makes this important comment that sets the tone for the entire story.

“People are out there talking, saying Supergirl’s dangerous, that she can’t be trusted. Saying that her hiding her dad – trying to help him get better – is wrong. I heard the talk. Believed it for a while, even. I mean, she’s the “All-American Ideal – blonde, white, pretty – and she can fly. She MUST think she’s better than us – above us,” and, “There’s no way she could understand,” right? But that’s not the truth.”

This statement is critical in that it highlights the most frustrating part of discussing these issues with the overly-regressive crowd. Their politics and attitudes are so skewed in one direction that they see anyone who doesn’t line up with their particular group, however eccentric it might be, as somehow unworthy of being part of the conversation.

It often happens in discussions involving race, gender, religion, and most other minority issues. For certain people in those discussions, often the angrier, more radical wings, just associating with the majority is seen as fraternizing with the enemy. It doesn’t just limit the conversation. It dehumanizes the opposing side.

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Supergirl #19 takes the opposite approach in that both Supergirl and Lee are humanized to the upmost. Lee isn’t some confused, attention-seeking teenager. Supergirl isn’t some arrogant, stereotypical stand-in for majority. They’re just two individuals, connecting like mature individuals do to help one another in a time of need. It’s basically a template for simple human decency.

Contrast that with those who claim white people shouldn’t contribute to conversations about race. Contrast that with those who claim beautiful people shouldn’t contribute to issues surrounding body shaming. Contrast that with those who claim men should shut up when discussing women’s issues, scorning anyone who dares to follow Matt Damon’s example.

These instances don’t just take the anti-bigotry, pro-tolerance message to an unhealthy extreme. It angers and alienates those on the other side of the argument. It gives them no reason to listen to what someone who considers themselves gender non-binary has to say, relying instead on prejudices and assumptions.

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Neither side benefits from that approach. Nobody helps anyone when two sides of an issue harbor so much animosity that the very presence of another is seen as an insult. Yes, Supergirl does check most of the boxes for someone who faces far fewer issues than a non-white, gender non-binary individual in the United States. That doesn’t mean she’s part of the problem.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of Supergirl #19. Like other comics I’ve singled out in the past, I’d rather people take the time to read it in order to experience the breadth of the story. It’s a story worth heeding during these contentious times. I would argue it offers something far more important than those old after-school PSAs.

More than anything else, it emphasizes treating people as individuals and not lumping them into a particular group with a particular agenda. Lee points out that people just assume Supergirl thinks and feels a certain way because of how she looks and acts. That’s a flawed assumption that dehumanizes and denigrates her.

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It doesn’t matter if Supergirl, or anyone else who gets involved in contentious social issues, looks a certain way or doesn’t check the right boxes. She’s still a human being, albeit one with alien origins. Unless you can actually read her thoughts and feelings, as some DC characters can, then making those assumptions is just a different form of bigotry hiding behind the guise of anti-bigotry.

Supergirl #19 is a solid story with an important message. I would argue it’s more important now than it would’ve been in the days of after-school specials. It’s a good thing to promote tolerance, but not to the point that it inspires intolerable attitudes. Supergirl’s compassion helped Lee in her time of need. Her life and Supergirl’s are better because of it.

The fact that Supergirl didn’t even need to use her powers that much to help Lee is a testament to her character, as well as an inspiration. If she can help a total stranger that much, just by being decent and compassionate, then what’s our excuse?

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