Tag Archives: Peter David

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #39 (2009)

The best plot twists are the ones you didn’t see coming but, in hindsight, they should have been obvious.

X-Factor #39 executes exactly that. I don’t want to give this one away—really, if you haven’t already, you need to read Peter David’s phenomenal X-Factor run (both of them, actually). The series that began in 2005, which focuses on Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man leading a terrific ensemble cast, is the greatest X-Men spinoff series I’ve ever read. And I have read many.

I’ll give away the basic setup, though. A while earlier, Madrox had a one-night stand with two women at the same time (his power is he duplicates himself, so he can literally be at two places at once). One of those women got pregnant. Issue #39 is the delivery. And in comic books, childbirth is seldom without complications.

David foreshadows the ending superbly, and yet it still blew me away. Absolutely fantastic storytelling.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Valentine De Landro

Inker: Craig Yeung

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Factor vol. 7: Time and a Half (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Aquaman #2 (1994)

How do you make Aquaman less of a joke?

Cut off his hand! That’ll make it much harder to laugh at him.

Writer Peter David did excellent work rehabilitating Aquaman’s character into a truly formidable, kingly figure, and one of his earlier steps was having Aquaman lose a hand in somewhat ironic fashion in Aquaman #2.

The issue itself is fairly standard stuff until the end, but it’s executed well. Aquaman and his friend Dolphin (a woman named Dolphin, not an actual dolphin, though he does have friends who are dolphins, too, of course…) are captured by an unhinged villain who wants to steal his powers. They get free, and Aquaman confronts the guy on land, near piranha-infested water.

Earlier in the issue, David clears up a misconception. Aquaman doesn’t control fish—he communicates with them. They’re independent creatures, so whether they obey him is another matter.

Aquaman is king of the seas, but that doesn’t mean his kingdom can’t hurt him. This issue’s development leaves him with a constant physical, visual reminder of his vulnerability…but also his toughness in becoming stronger after the loss.

I didn’t start reading this Aquaman series until later, but I’m guessing this had to be a genuinely shocking ending when it first came out, especially when it wasn’t immediately fixed the next issue…or in the next several years.

This isn’t the Superfriends’ Aquaman.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Marty Egeland

Inker: Brad Vancata

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Supergirl #75-80 (2002-03)

At last we reach the end of Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series, and the final storyline takes everything in a totally different direction. I suppose that’s what impending cancellation will do.

The original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, appears, and she’s ripped right out of her 1959 debut. Instead of her rocket bringing her to meet the Silver Age Superman, she instead arrives in the then-current DC Universe and meets its Supergirl, Linda Danvers.

David initially writes Kara exactly as a 1950s comic book character, utterly naïve in the modern world and totally ignorant about science. He mines Silver Age goofiness for plenty of laughs, giving us everything from Kara’s futile attempt to physically push the entire planet Earth out of the path of a meteor, to pink kryptonite having a peculiar effect on an old-school Superman.

But the story takes a serious turn as it brings us toward the series’ conclusion. By this point, DC Comics was relaxing its “No Kryptonians but Superman” rule that had been in place since the late ‘80s, so they were getting ready to bring Kara back into continuity one way or another. That meant it was time to dispose of Linda, one way or another.

I won’t spoil exactly how David writes her out, but I will give him credit for not going with the obvious.

These final last six issues are easily among the series’ best. The story delves into the nature of heroism in a compelling way, and there’s no better topic for a book starring Supergirl—any or multiple versions of her.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Ed Benes

Inker: Alex Lei

Cover: Rob Haynes

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Supergirl: Many Happy Returns (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #65 (2002)

Supergirl #65 is a change-of-pace issue with a couple of notable features.

Part of the issue is presented from the point of view of deaf children and adults, which requires the comic to rely more on the visuals…which works well, given this is a visual medium.

Supergirl, in trying to help out an imperiled school, acts similar to the earliest incarnation of Superman of the 1930s. No supernatural or sci-fi menace is at work here, just straightforward social injustice and corruption. She initially tries to resolve the matter the way 1938 Superman would—by being a bully to bullies and trying to force people to play nice.

Fortunately, writer Peter David has enough sense to realize such tactics don’t actually work, so Supergirl’s impulsiveness almost makes matters worse. But, with a little help from her super-friends, she manages a nonviolent solution, one that shows how superheroes can accomplish more than beating up bad guys.

Solid work all around.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #51 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_51Supergirl tries to find herself, literally. Previous events have split apart Linda Danvers and Supergirl, who had basically merged into the same person when this series began. The world believes Supergirl to be dead, and Linda is left with a portion of her powers as well as Supergirl’s overall good influence on her.

Linda believes Supergirl is still out there somewhere, and she’s been tasked with following a “Chaos Stream” to find her. Unfortunately for her, the only individual who can track the Chaos Stream is a depowered former demon named Buzz—the guy who convinced Linda to join a deadly cult right before she became Supergirl. So these two nemeses are forced to tolerate each other on their cross-country quest. It’s almost like a fantasy version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Issue #51 sets up the new status quo with a trip to Metropolis. The humor remains as strong as ever, and Linda’s struggles to adjust to her lower power levels provide an excellent source of comedy. She’s basically set at Superman’s original 1938 levels (leap an eighth of a mile, faster than a train, no actual flying, etc.), and she hastily pulls together a new costume that matches the animated version of the character that was in circulation at the time.

The series has evolved into something different than it was in #1, but it all feels like a natural progression. This is certainly a title that never got stale.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #50 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_50A 50-issue saga reaches its climax as Supergirl saves Heaven and, in turn, everyone on Earth.

Writer Peter David pulls together various threads that have built up over the course of the series, and the result is suitably epic. Taking in the full scope, it’s impressive work. This could almost be a series finale, but it establishes a new status quo that promises ample entertainment going forward (or for the next 30 issues until it gets cancelled).

David absolutely succeeds in distinguishing Supergirl from Superman and giving her room to breathe as her own character (characters, technically). If anything, he goes too far in that direction, to the point where this story would have worked almost as well if he had created an entirely new super-heroine for it.

In any case, this has certainly been a memorable and unique Supergirl, and an engaging read from the start with consistently solid artwork.

And now for something completely different next issue!

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #42 (2000)

supergirl_vol_4_42This series continues to build nicely. Again, you shouldn’t start in the middle, but it rewards you for sticking around from the beginning.

Writer Peter David juggles various plot threads and characters, making all feel important and organic, as demonstrated in issue #42. He plays around with familiar tropes, such as a secret identity interfering with a date, and he includes less common concepts, such as a new church that worships Supergirl as an angel. All are compelling, as is that fantastic cliffhanger.

I’ve neglected to compliment artist Leonard Kirk, who has drawn most of the series thus far. He’s got a nice, clean style that’s not the least bit exploitative. Whether she appears in superhero form or as regular Linda Danvers, Supergirl looks like a person, not an adolescent’s fantasy version of a woman. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Some of the themes are too mature for younger children (i.e., religion), but you could comfortably show these comics to a middle school–aged boy or girl. And you could read them yourself and not feel the least bit embarrassed.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #34 (1999)

supergirl_vol_4_34The problem with having two identities is sometimes they need to be on different continents at the same time.

The fun continues in Supergirl #34, which gives us not only secret-identity hijinks, but also a classic Superman villain, a cameo by some young super-whippersnappers, and major progress and a major setback for Linda’s professional life.

The issue kicks off on a creepy note, as a trail of desiccated rats leads law enforcement to the voracious Parasite, and then it’s on to art. Linda’s sculptures are debuting in a Parisian venue, which gives us a welcome reminder that Linda isn’t just a vessel for Supergirl—she’s got her own goals and interests that have nothing to do with superheroing. Unfortunately, however, Supergirl is also scheduled to give a speech in the U.S. at the same time. Hijinks ensue, along with the Parasite.

This particular incarnation of the Parasite serves as a nice counterbalance to this particular incarnation of Supergirl, as he also has absorbed someone else’s consciousness into his own. Between the two of them, they’re enough people to form a club.

Fun times indeed. I’m still enjoying rereading this series, though I certainly would not recommend starting in the middle.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Supergirl #23 (1998)

supergirl_vol_4_23As I continued reading through Peter David’s Supergirl series, I came across an issue that’s probably not universally adored.

David has never been shy about tackling controversial topics from time to time, and he does so in Supergirl #23, which makes the case that freedom of speech applies even to abhorrent speech.

A college has scheduled a speaker who holds blatantly racist views and justifies them through his academic research, so the students protest and demand the event be cancelled. Even special superhero guest star Steel shows up and endorses the students’ position, proclaiming in practically the same breath that he believes in the First Amendment but feels it is not absolute.

So Supergirl has to make a decision, and whatever she does, it’s going to be incredibly uncomfortable for her.

It’s tough to pull off a comic that tackles delicate subjects, but David succeeds by putting good people on both sides of the speech issue while making it clear no one supports the bigoted views (other than the one bigot himself). Plus, action and character development help minimize the preaching.

The comic entertains and makes you think a bit. Always a winning combination. And you don’t even have to agree with David’s stance on speech—you’re free to express your own position on the matter.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Leonard Kirk

Inker: Robin Riggs

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #371 (1990)

incredible_hulk_vol_1_371It’s a Defenders reunion special in the pages of The Incredible Hulk. Doctor Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner work together to defeat a possessed Hulk, and Bruce Banner assists from the inside.

The action combines magic, psychology, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs, and the book never forgets its sense of humor (writer Peter David gets bonus points for working in both a Doctor Who and a Star Trek reference early in the issue). And it advances the Hulk’s ongoing storylines, leading to an unexpected cliffhanger that sets up a rather unconventional romantic obstacle for a comic book character.

A fun time all around.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Dale Keown

Inker: Bob McLeod

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up