Archive for January, 2008

Author/Editor Interview: Mort Castle

I should probably mention that I have a couple personal connections to Mort Castle. For one thing, his 2002 WHC workshop in Chicago served as one of the purest experiences in honing my craft and introduced me to many folks who would be come my peers and dearest friends in the business. As another, Mort recently accepted a story of mine for Doorways Magazine whose fiction he edits, thus proving the age old adage that the student shall one day … well, remain a student. That’s why I’m here with some questions

[Continued on FearZone. Make with the clicky-clicky]

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

A Spiritual Perspective on Pop Culture?

“Whenever we meet heathen writers, let us learn from the light of truth which is admirably displayed in their works, that the human mind, fallen as it is, and corrupted from its integrity, is yet invested and adorned by God with excellent talents. If we believe that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth itself, we shall not reject or despise the truth itself, wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to insult the Spirit of God.” –John Calvin

Is pop culture a worthwhile read? I get this question fairly often, the thinking behind it being that we (I’m dragging my fellow reviewers at Hollywood Jesus into this) are glorifying movies that shouldn’t be glorified or have no redeeming spiritual value.

I don’t consider myself a Christian reviewer. One, because when the word “Christian” is used as an adjective, usually it’s the first red flag that we’re already off mission (yes, this goes back to my rantings about our Christian ghetto mentality). Two, because when I think of a “Christian Movie Review”, a certain kind of review comes to mind. We get the synopsis of the movie, followed by its rating, then descriptions of its violent content, sexual content (Boobies!), foul language, with a concluding judgment about its worthiness for family viewing. Counting cuss words and shots of exposed body parts (Boobies!) is no way to enjoy a movie nor do I think it should be our focus. So how do I approach writing “Christian” reviews?

I stand by the conceit that God is active in every culture. If that is true, we ought to be able to find redemptive elements almost everywhere in that culture. Slip into the mindset of thinking of yourself as a missionary to your culture. One of the first things a missionary ought to do is learn the stories of the culture. Granted, I consume a lot of pop culture (movies, television, comic books, books—but not music. Music has been dead to me since 1992. Nothing personal, it’s just that 1992 was the year music became noise and I realized I was on my countdown to yelling at kids to get off my lawn). But if we’re going to speak into a culture subversively, it has to be done contextually. We have to learn the language of the culture.

This sounds like a complete rationalization justifying how much time I spend in front of my television and it’s at this point that two Bible passages get thrown at me. Always in the spirit of Christian love and edification:

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11

I understand the fear that comes with the freedom we have in Christ and the importance of “guarding ourselves” when it comes to being “of the world.” When I come at this verse, the words “but rather expose them” jump out at me. Exposing is the work of an artist. True artists pursue truth, truth about themselves, truth about life, truth about things after this life. I think it is important to engage the artist and what they are trying to do.

Again, this goes back to one of the cornerstones of being a missionary: respect the natives, respect the culture, respect the natives’ stories and seek to understand them, and look for redemptive analogies .

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:8

That verse bolsters sermon after sermon of justifying a retreat from anything that may taint us. There is even value in withdrawing from such things, for a time, until they got their spiritual feet under them and are better able to discern what’s good for them. How do we learn to discern them to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22)? If I’m counting shots (Boobies!), that’s what becomes my focus. How is that spiritual?

I say this with all due caution and humility, as we mature, we, like the apostle Paul, can expose ourselves to culture, draw the good out from it, interact with it in such a way as to use it for redemptive purposes. Yes, we are called to be priests, to be set apart; but set apart, not for our own comfort and edification, but for a purpose: to join in Christ’s redemptive mission.

I am often saddened by the typical Evangelical reaction to films likening it to that of loud hypocrites. I think this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts: how often has a director seemed open to exploring spiritual themes until s/he crosses the Christian Moral Police and suddenly gets a bad taste in his/her mouth about religion?

Nor do I look at people and think “they may taint me with their worldly ways. Look at how violent he is or how much she cusses” and then retreat from them. Though too often, we as a church do that, too.

Stories resonate with us for a reason and there are redemptive elements in each of our stories. In all things, think redemptively, and let the renewing your mind be in finding God at work in the culture around us. I am reminded of how the Apostle Paul could walk around Athens, a city full of idols, and still find Jesus (Acts 17). Engage the artist, engage the audience of that artist, and let your words and deeds be salted with grace. Look for common ground, that’s how you start conversations. And with conversations, all things are possible.

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else, we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say, like artists.” –Frederich Buechner

Double Act – A Review

“Ghosts of a False Self”

Double Act is a well-written novella from British writing team, LH Maynard & MPN Sims (Shelter, Demon Eyes). As Cocker and Hass, Walter Coker and Charlie Hass were a successful comedy double act in the 1950s London theatre scene in the twilight of their career. Unfortunately, the straight man and primary writer, Charlie, dies of a heart attack, leaving behind his funnier partner to pick up the pieces of his career as well as investigate the strange happenings and mystery in the wake of the death.

A writing duo writing about a comedy duo works almost at a meta level as they explore the secrets of a fairly successful professional and personal relationship.

“But life can’t be lived on what ifs and if onlys. You make choices and stand or fall by the choices you make. Sometimes the choices are the right ones, sometimes not.” –Carol Butler

The sins of their past comes back on them, from love affairs to pride and jealousy, in the form of a mysterious figure/force. A long time and well known philanderer, Charlie Hass comes to be seen in a new light, a more honest light though it only demonstrates how often we know so little about the people in our lives.

The least mysterious part of the journey of these characters is how easy it is to fall into a spiral of sin. They both begin with a lie that they tell themselves, about each other as well as themselves (because we are all the put upon heroes in our own story). From there, they harden their hearts by degrees to what they know is right. Then they find themselves having to hide the secrets that won’t stay hidden very long because truth has a way of being found out.

“If that’s what you’ve been telling yourself over the years to absolve yourself from blame, then you’ve been living a lie.” –Carol Butler

We know that the best relationships are built on openness and honesty, but we find ourselves creating a “false self”, a mask we wear that becomes part of us, in order to interact with others and the world. This constructed self, is defined by what we do, by what we have, and by what people think about us – and most times is a lie. We believe this lie and try to fix it ourselves, essentially creating a self-salvation scheme as we continue going about trying to re-create ourselves to the world around us. As Carol, one of Charlie’s mistresses puts it, “Once you start holding things back, they build up into an unbreakable wall that’s impossible to break down.”

Charlie’s false self takes form, haunting those he left behind from beyond the grave. This “monster you created”, left unchecked, destroys any good left in him and in his life, and leads to acts of ultimate selfishness.

At its heart, Double Act is an old-fashioned ghost tale, so low-key and without gore, the horrific aspect of the layered story goes almost unnoticed. The authors weave an emotionally intricate tale through the use of a strong, melancholy narrative voice. All about tone and mood, Double Act relies more on its disquieting atmosphere and disturbing, deeply human characters, moreso than any supernatural aspects. Its flaw lies more in its abrupt, bitter, and ultimately less than satisfying ending. Until then, it delivers the around the campfire creepiness and a study of compelling intensity, cloaked in the familiar garb of a good ghost story.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Fathering Fathers

I’ve always had my father in my life. Say what you will, since everyone has their faults, he has been a constant presence and 80% of parenting is simply being there. So it’s difficult to imagine how I’d feel if he’d walked out on our family or not been in the picture in the first place. I can’t imagine the profoundness of my sadness or how that might evolve into anger or how that anger might transform into outright rage or hate.

Too many of us don’t know how to be fathers because we’ve never had a real father or have never seen the importance of a real father due to the absence of one in our lives. I love my two boys and I plan on raising them to be the type of men they ought to be, and one of the conversations I have started to have with them (even though they are only in kindergarten and first grade) is that I’m not raising another generation. There will be no misunderstandings on this point: if they consider themselves grown enough to have sex, they will be grown enough for the responsibilities that come along with it.

They will be raising that child. I’m not the automatic babysitter and I’m definitely not going to be giving up my weekends so that they can continue to rip and run as if they don’t have a care in the world. I have done my time. And guess what? They aren’t going to dump all of the work of taking care of the child on the women they got pregnant. They will be a part of that child’s life if I have any say in the matter.

I have been blessed to not only have my biological father in my life, but also other men who have been models of what true fathers should be. I think I had underestimated how much he has shaped and formed my life. I also realized the great debt that I owe them for the man that I’ve become and how much I love him. We should all be so lucky to have such fathers.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

The Death of the New Gods – A Review

Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Starling
Published by: DC Comics
Price: $3.50

“Rival Gods”

Let me start out by naming my bias: I have never been a Fourth World fan. The world of Jack Kirby that brought us the New Gods, the Forever People, I just never got into it. I found his artwork clunky and garish – I simply never got him. However, what was plain to recognize was the epic level on which he operated. His were cosmic tales, carefully constructing a pantheon of newly minted gods set against powerful storytelling. From John Byrne to Walt Simonson, different writers have come along to put their stamp on the huge mythology and mythology is the right word in every sense. Echoes of this story could be felt in his Marvel creation, The Eternals.

The story of the New Gods sounds deceptively simple: a planet called Urgrund was split apart millennia ago after the death of the old gods during their Ragnarok. The planet separated into two planets forever connected. New Genesis, a technological garden of Eden, ruled by the benevolent and wise Highfather and Apokalips, its dark twin of fire pits and foul machinery ruled by Darkseid. The dwellers of New Genesis live in close proximity to the Source, the primeval energy of the universe, guarded by The Wall, the Final Barrier between man and the Creator.

Jim Starlin has toiled in this wheelhouse before, most notable in the mini-series, Cosmic Odyssey. The Death of the New Gods picks up some of the plot threads left dangling from Countdown in which Lightray was killed off and Jimmy Olsen began investigating his death. He ends up witnessing the death of another Fourth World creation, Sleeze. Someone is killing off the New Gods.

It would be easy to see their story as part of the behind the scenes cosmic battle between the angels of New Genesis and the demons of Apokalips. However, I am more intrigued by the idea of Armageddon, the death of the New Gods.

“Though we don’t worship it … the Source is the cosmic force that holds our universe in order. It is omnipotent power with a nearly indecipherable intent.” –Darkseid

As I read through the Old Testament, one of the ideas that get lost in our modern and postmodern readings of it is that the people of the time seem to believe there are other gods. As the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity were taking hold, they did so within the paradigm of nations who worshiped pantheons of gods. Biblical faith—the narratives in the Old Testament—overlap and parallel the contemporary pagan religions. We have to do something with verses like “all gods bow down before him” (Ps 97:7).

In his book, God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church, Gerald R. McDermott poses some challenging ideas. Maybe there are some real other gods, subordinate to God, much like angels and demons worshiped with misplaced faith. Maybe religions are communities of conversations each with some claim to truth that points to a greater truth.

“It is said the value of any quest is in the journey itself … seeking enlightenment is like playing recklessly with a double-edged sword. The truth can be a marvelous boon or a devastating realization.” –Darkseid

Religions, pagan or otherwise, are an attempt to get at some truth, be it of a greater reality, a better way to live, or ultimately God. If God is sovereign and can use all truths to point to Him, the various religions of the world must be within His Providence.

“The Source strives for the creation of a better universe … perhaps that all endings are but the beginning of something new.” –Himon

If we believe that all Truth is God’s Truth, then any pursuit of Truth should lead to Him. God wants Gentiles to know Him and His people can learn from pagans and we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss other religions as “wrong”. “Wrong” is the point. Coming into a relationship with Him is.

I can think of no more eloquent way to say this other than Jim Starlin is writing and drawing his butt off with this mini-series. The Death of the New Gods easily represents some of his best work in years. He understands the symbolic status of the New Gods, their depth, their pathos. Better than most comic book writers, whose stories you can feel being stretched to accommodate their eventual consolidation into trade paperbacks, Starlin writes for the individual issues, his ending panels propelling you into the next issue. The art is dense and detailed, an homage to George Perez in scope. I can’t wait to see what the end of the Fourth World gives rise to.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Hebrewpunk – A Review

“A vampire, a Wandering Jew, and a Rabbi walk into a story …”

It’s no joke, it’s the premise of the linked short story collection, HebrewPunk, by Lavie Tidhar. I am late to the Tidhar party, writer of weird fiction in such places as SciFiction.com, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, PostScripts and Aeon. With this second collection, he combs through Hebrew mythology to come up with a sort of League of Extra-ordinary Mythic Figures. These action-driven horror tales mine new, scratch that … mine ancient legends and mythic traditions unfamiliar to the majority of us.

Mixing pulp tropes and rich historical settings, not all the stories work equally well but did get progressively better. “The Heist”, a forgettable caper tale, was the weakest of the lot for me. “Transylvania Mission”, set in World War II Transylvania, pitted a vampire against S.S. werewolves. “Uganda” mixes alt-history with the unknown story of a proposal to settle Jews in East Africa in 1905 (and was a favorite). “The Dope Fiend”, set in the drug underworld of 1920s London, was a tour-de-force.

“The Old World was dying; its dark forces powerless in the face of what later philosophers would call the banality of evil. Humanity could provide more evil, more pain and suffering and humiliation, than any legend up in the Carpathians.” (51)

So often, the rules—both within genre literature and without—are defined by the dominant culture. After awhile, the tropes become stale thus it is great when they are interpreted through a different cultural lens. Crosses and holy water should have no affect on a Jewish vampire. Not all mages are going to speak Latin. Elves and dwarves are fine denizens, but not everyone lives in Middle Urth and other cultures have other tales to tell.

Like all great fantasy, HebrewPunk brings along and explores both a sense of history and identity. Its menagerie of characters—from the shape-shifting Rat to the Golem to the Tzaddik—live outside the realm of conventional norms and lead lives of rarely told stories. Yet, their stories are ultimately universal in what they convey and wrestle with.

“Devil, the dead kings were shouting, and Hell. It was as if they had finally encountered a kind of evil they couldn’t understand, a precise and tidy kind, one that didn’t gloat over its mutilated victims but rather sat down to note the fact in volume after volume of leather-bound ledgers.” (48)

Evil is universal and transcends both race and culture. Evil is failing to live up to what we were created to be, eikons/image bearers of God. To not live up to that or, more on point, to turn your back to that is evil. In short, evil is that which dehumanizes us and in so doing, allows us to dehumanize others. Evil has a variety of faces, both human and not. Everyone has to grapple with the Dracul, the Devil, in their respective worlds, be it a Mengele, spiritual heir to Tepes/the Impaler/Dracula, or other creatures that go bump in the night.

Steeped in Jewish culture and tradition and combined with pulp adventure, HebrewPunk makes for a thrilling ride. Its heroes, like the Rabbi “a man of arcane knowledge and appetites who evokes unsavoury stories from those who know him” like a Jewish John Constantine, are every bit as memorable as the Doc Savages of the pulp era. It certainly stands to breathe new life into the more tired conventions of the fantasy-horror genre and will hopefully inspire others to explore their own cultural history, culture, and stories and share them with us.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Hey You Girl

I was walking through the neighborhood the other day and I overheard a boy call out to a girl, each all of 6, “hey you, girl.” The girl in question stopped what she was doing and quickly attended to the boys’s query du jour. Oddly enough, it occurred to me that the level of dialogue between the sexes doesn’t improve much with age. Normally I’d ask “Men, how are we talking to women?” though this time my question is “Women, why do you answer?”

We’ve allowed some parts of our culture to drag us all down, especially in a celebration of the deprecation of women. It’s easy to blame hip hop, it’s everyone’s favorite boogie man. It’s a loud, brash, often obnoxious target, and if only all of society’s ills could be vanquished if the worst parts of it were to cease. However, too often, however, it’s every bit the mirror we don’t want to stare into. Maybe it’s time to move beyond hip hop to the elements of our culture that inspire and fuel it.

We’ve become numb to much of the racism, homophobia, and sexism in our language and call it entertainment. Our entertainment may degrade, demean, and debase, but as long as it’s to a good beat, we don’t say much.

We are sold images. Now we’re sold and packaged as images for mass consumption fueled by (low) expectations of us. Our men little more than drug-dealing thugs and our women treated as if they all dance on a pole or are all out to get into men’s wallets.

My point is that women are at least complicit in the objectification. Ladies, all I’m asking is that you consider a few questions: How much should you tolerate? What do you support? What does accepting poor behavior and conversation say about you (or how you see yourselves)?

Maybe it speaks to a lack of respect for ourselves. All of us, damaging ourselves starting with the way we speak to one another. Women, it’s hard to say “respect me for my mind” when you have your minds out on display and flopping all over the place accessed by anyone who shows even the slightest attention. Demand respect, get respect, attract what you put out. Respect starts early and needs to be taught, reinforced, and most importantly, needs to be modeled.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Hulk – A Review

Written by : Jeph Loeb
Art by: Ed McGuinness
Published by: Marvel Comics

“IncREDible Anger”

Coming off of the World War Hulk comic event, the Hulk is popular enough for Marvel to attempt to have him sustain a couple titles, not including She-Hulk and other “Hulk Family” books. Say what you will about World War Hulk, it gave fans what they wanted, plenty of “Hulk Smash!” action (with enough semblance of a plot to string together issue after issue of said mindless smashing). Jeph Loeb (Supergirl) and Ed McGuinness bring us the Hulk, or more specifically, begin the mystery of who is the red Hulk?

The Hulk persona has undergone many transformations over the years, especially during Peter David’s epic run. It was like a split personality, originally appearing as gray during the first issues of the original title’s run (a personality revisited often by Peter David) and with varying degrees of intelligence. The promotional ads of a red Hulk has fans busy trying to figure out what the latest implication means. And this issue is more set up of the story than any sort of explanation.

We have Doc Samson (the Hulk’s gamma-powered, one time psychiatrist), She-Hulk, and General Ross investigating the latest outburst of violence, presumably from the Hulk, like some sort of gamma-specialized C.S.I. team. All evidence of the rampage points to the Hulk, with the disturbing revelations that 1) the Hulk is red and 2) it’s not Bruce Banner.

The Hulk persona is no more than a “rage-aholic,” someone addicted to anger and rage. Be it some biochemical switch or the inner undisciplined tantrum-ing two year old of frustrated want, he simply wishes to rage. A lot. Everyone gets angry, many of us even let anger often get the better of us and do things we later regret. What separates us is how we choose to deal with those impulses of unchecked aggression. Some of us struggle with rage, either bottling it up, acting it out, or repressing it. That unpredictable behavior, that inability to express ourselves short of “Me Smash!”, be it verbally or physically, shatters relationships like so many buildings on a Hulk rampage.

We continue to burn with hatred and murder in our hearts and suddenly a just and wrathful God who would smite loathsome man with pain, suffering, humiliation and eventually death and eternal punishment makes sense to us. As if that was the end of the story.

Like an addiction, we must find a way to contain our inner Hulk, as it were. Wrestle with the underlying demons that undergird it, find appropriate ways to express that anger, or abstain from angry behavioral outbursts. Ultimately, we need to put aside our rage and hatred, to lose that trust in ourselves and our way and find somewhere else to place it.

We must continue to examine ourselves, acknowledge our mistakes and sins and hopefully realize that we don’t want to be that raging monster, hurting those in our path. Maybe realize that the path we are on wreaks destruction wherever we go. Maybe realize that we’re not smart enough, courageous enough, self sufficient enough or good enough to make up the rules as we go along. And as the journey of Bruce Banner/the Hulk demonstrates, this is easier said than done.

The issue looks great, something you’d expect from Ed McGuinness. There’s the obligatory gratuitous battle with the Russian version of the Avengers, the Winter Guard where he gets to shine. Loeb does his job by leaving all sorts of questions dangling without answers: is this Rick Jones? What happened between World War Hulk and now? However, this is by-the-numbers story-telling. We’ve seen this story done a bunch of times and just because the Hulk is red doesn’t mean much besides having a new action figure to market. Hopefully Loeb is setting us up for a major payoff, if not, well … meh.

Living the Dream – The Growing Place

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.

It’s easy to sit back and criticize what folks should be doing or how they are screwing up what they are doing. It’s easy to complain and be disappointed in folks. It’s another thing to become involved and participate in being a part of the solution. So we at The Dwelling Place Faith Community have encouraged our people to dream big, to try and find ways to be a missional blessing to the world. The strategy is simple: find what you are passionate about, what you are gifted at doing, and then find either what is not being done or not being done enough. For me it meant the on-going experiment known as Creative Space. My sister had other ideas.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

In light of it being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ro Griffin (ne Broaddus) and Laura Garcia found it appropriate to launch The Growing Place. They simply wanted to continue to live out his legacy. Demonstrating more faith than I have, the two quit their day jobs to pursue this endeavor full time. They worked with several families in their careers in the public school system, but saw far to many people falling through the cracks and even more disconnected from the system, but couldn’t find a way within their vocations to do anything about it. Laura put it this way: “God has given me skills and gifts and I want to use them.”

Though they had a dream of one day launching such the kind of ministry they had in mind, the timing never quite worked out. Now, it was time, they said, and their jobs were the final tie they had to cut in order to jump into this. Ro said, “I’m finally listening to God and myself rather than listening to everyone else who said I can’t do it. They want me to be safe, but there are no guarantees in life.”

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Growing Place is a multi-faceted ministry that will roll out in several phases. The first phase involves teaching English, Spanish, and offering tutoring. They break up the days with scrap-booking lunches and Saturday nights offering “parents’ night off” babysitting. Then comes the pre-school, GED, and citizenship classes.

They are also working with The Dwelling Place and Outreach Inc, organizing a thrift store/pantry, by being a care package distribution point on the northwest side of the city. Pure and simple, there are a lot of poor families in our community and not enough laborers. These ladies continue to impress me.

“Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.” Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measures of Man, 1959.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Supergirl – A Review

“Finding the Mission”

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Drawn by: Ian Churchill
Published by: DC Comics

One of the things you want in a “number one” issue is an easy jump on point for new readers (as well as something satisfying for long time readers in the case of a title re-starting itself). There have been several iterations of Supergirl, her continuity not helped by Crisis on Infinite Earths or Zero Hour or Infinite Crisis, or whatever crossover event that serves to disrupt/re-start the superhero universe. Supergirl #1 attempts to reconcile some of the confusion in her origins.

“It was all at once my life ended.” –Supergirl

Back in 1996, Peter David (Incredible Hulk, Stephen King’s Dark Tower), began an 80 issue run reimagining the mythology of Supergirl. Her alter ego, Linda Danvers merged with a shape-shifting being from an alternate universe which had been Supergirl and she became an earth-born angel (many speculated that she took on the name Lee and he continued telling her story as Fallen Angel).

With Supergirl currently being seen on this season’s Smallville, it was time to properly place her in the center of DC continuity, reintroducing her as Kara Zor-El cousin of Kal-El (Superman’s true, Kryptonian name as opposed to Clark Kent, his Earth name). Debuting in a story arc in Superman/Batman, also written by Jeph Loeb, Supergirl has tired of being confined to Paradise Island (homeland of Wonder Woman) and has ventured out into the world to learn more about herself. She begins her journey by trying to make a connection to Power Girl, currently known as … Superman’s cousin.

Yeah.

Power Girl’s convoluted history also has shifted several times to allow for changes to established continuity. So, Power Girl’s powers fluctuate and wane in Supergirl’s presence which leads to that age old super hero tradition of a slugfest, in this case, between Supergirl and Power Girl. Unfortunately, it feels like a distraction from the thin feel of the story being told.

Supergirl faces the very human sense of isolation, desperately in need to connect with others, to find purpose in her new situation. She struggles to answer the first questions we all have to ask ourselves: “who am I?” and “why am I here?”. Our identity determines not only how we see ourselves and how others see us, but helps shape our choice in mission and how we live our lives

“You wear that ‘S’ – it comes with, I don’t know … obligations.” –Stargirl

In Supergirl’s case, her search for identity revolves around the obligations of wearing the “S” insignia. The example of her cousin looms large, not only in her world, but is a standard that all heroes measure themselves against. In finding a mission in the idea of Superman, she has a legacy to live up to and feels the need to earn the right to bear the “S”. While anyone can call themselves a hero, a hero is defined by their actions. It’s similar to how Christians choose to follow Christ. People can call themselves what they want, but it is what comes out of their mouths and lives that truly defines who and what they are.

As far as the art goes, Ian Churchill, he of the Rob Liefield school of art, loves to draw female superheroes. Or I should say, he knows what horny fanboys want (Supergirl’s costume was never practical, but come on. And at this point, Power Girl’s bosom simply defies the laws of physics). In some ways, his long, heavily muscled bodies are a metaphor for this launching point. Supergirl #1 is lean and action packed (gratuitously so), and every bit the empty vessel our heroine is. She is rife with potential conflict, her youth and inexperience balanced against the legacy she has to live up to. It takes a nuanced writer to take advantage of it. In light of her ties to Superman, Loeb fights an uphill battle to make her a distinct character. This first issue shows promise, one that will hopefully be soon realized.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.