Stargirl TPB Review

There is a lot of negative media surrounding different creators and some discussion, though not without a lot of productivity, on how to address this. It is difficult to separate the artist from the art, it is difficult to reconcile that a morally questionable human being created so many great characters, stories or concepts. It is also difficult to be a victim. Can we separate the artist from the work? Yes. We have discussions like this, explain how a work can have a positive influence, even if we do not share the same values or views as the creator, and discuss why someone’s actions can and should have consequences. Their names need not be repeated in order to still appreciate their output or discuss them. Balances can be found.

Star-Spankled Kid, aka Stargirl would debut in the late 1990s, on the popularity heels of another young, blonde woman taking on the mantle of a hero. Courtney Whitmore while young and inexperienced as a superhero was also more than capable of handing things on her own, yet perhaps did so better, with a little help from her friends. This was paired with some great underused Jerry Siegel concepts (Star Spangled Kid & Stripsey) and gave us a modern spin on the sidekick/hero dynamic, the struggles of being a popular teen, and dealing with a new step-parent. Courtney Whitmore did in fact fill a big need in the DC Comics slate at the time; a relatable, down to earth young super heroine (Robin filled that role well, but his experiences were far different living in Gotham). Characters like Supergirl had too much baggage, the majority of the Teen Titan females had become women in their own right, and any other attempt at female teen characters as headliners were mostly failures (Anima).

Coupled with art by Lee Moder, the adventures of the young Stargirl were illustrated in a more cartoony fashion that works well to appeal to fans of both comic books and animation alike. It was also a great showcase for Moder, who at this point had largely pencilled Legion-related titles with a large cast of characters. A trimmed down cast for this title resulted in Moder being able to flex his visual talents more, giving us some of his best work to date.

Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. as a title that would ultimately not last long. Cancelled due to low sales within in its second year, it would not prove to be either the writer or the character’s undoing. Both would get promoted to a new JSA title, one that further created uniqueness for Courtney’s character; here was a new legacy hero with strong Golden Age ties. Under subsequent writers, Courtney has not only grown into a capable woman, she has also become a hero and even a role model. It is under this current stewardship we can see how some good came from… something.

Contains: Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. 0-14 & more!

Curated: Uncommitted DC

This list is meant to appeal to casual fans, curious fans, or fans who just want a good tale, but do not want to get bogged down in continuity or have to wait for the next collection to see what happens. This is stuff you could easily gift for new fans, or use as an introduction to a new character for yourself.

Batman: White Knight

What you need to know: You do not have been reading any of the current titles. This is an alternate take on the Batman, one that often feels a bit like a video game in its pacing. There are sequels to this that are currently ongoing, but Batman: White Knight stands incredibly well on its own. This series feels familiar and fresh in equal measure.

Collects: Batman: White Knight 1-8

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands

The first of a few year one/origin style tales on this list. This one is a bit unique in that the original creator has come back to do a modern retelling of his creation’s origin. It is fresh, both in story and in visuals as we follow the adventures of Jefferson Pierce, who is not exactly seen as a hero in the vein of Superman, Wonder Woman or others. Extremely satisfying storytelling.

Collects: Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 1-6

JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice Graphic Novel

Throughout the Silver Age and early Bronze Age, there was a tradition of yearly crossovers featuring the JLA/JSA. Now that both teams reside on the same earth, that tradition has largely been dropped. JLA/JSA Virtue & Vice takes a modern approach, giving us a big graphic novel with some fantastic storytelling. And then there are quiet moments featuring Superman and Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern that bookend this tale; comic book perfection.

Martian Manhunter: Identity TPB

Like Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, this a modern retelling of a classic character. This time the Martian Manhunter’s takes the spotlight with an origin tale possessing incredible depth and nuance, both narratively and visually. Truly one of the best stories DC has put out in recent readers, and it certainly leaves the reader wanting more, and wondering why they do not get more of these self-contained stories.

Collects: Martian Manhunter (Vol. 4) 1-12

Mister Miracle TPB

This one has been raved about by all corners of the internet, so if you are one of the few that has not read this recent epic, you should really just bow to peer pressure. In many ways, this series comes the closest to the original heart Jack Kirby’s, with some incredible modern flourishes.

Collects: Mister Miracle (Vol. 4)

Robin: Year One

Often referred to in other reviews and even on another Curated List (Dick Grayson by Chuck Dixon), but that is the instantly accessibility of this four issue Year One tale. Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty ad Javier Pulido have easily created on the best Dick Grayson as Robin stories you will ever read. When reviewers refer to art pieces that are love letters to previous interpretations, this easily fits that mould.

Collects: Robin: Year One 1-4

Superman Unchained

Scott Snyder’s take on the Man of Steel, with Jim Lee along for the pictures. This blockbuster is surprisingly contained to just nine issues, including back up features. Even people who are not fans of Superman need to check this one out; it is well worth the read. Action packed, big storytelling and high-octane adventure.

Collects: Superman Unchained 1-9

Stargirl – S1 Ep13 – Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two Review

Written by Geoff Johns

Directed by Greg Beeman

It’s an epic battle between the JSA & the ISA in the stellar Season Finale!

After watching this finale episode, I can safely say that DC’s Stargirl is my new favorite DC live action television series. This first season has been a triumph in superhero storytelling in my humble opinion. Geoff Johns and crew masterfully brought the Golden Age heroes and villains to life in such a fantastic way. This show does an incredible job honoring the comics and bringing these characters to life in a more modern context. It is evident that this was a passion project for Johns. It also serves as a beautiful love letter to his late sister Courtney, who inspired the title character. Brec Bassinger and the entire cast have been a joy to watch on screen every episode. Each character has been complex, compelling, and masterfully portrayed. This finale was definitely a worthy close to this exciting first outing for the new JSA! Let’s recap!

“Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two” begins three minutes prior to last episode’s cliff hanger. The recently deceased Principal Bowin’s son, Isaac, aka Tuba Turd, attacks his bully with his tuba. The band teacher breaks up the fight and begins to take him to see his mother (not knowing she is dead). Before he can get far, the Synaptic Amplifier rises out of the middle of the football field. Every adult in Blue Valley falls under the control of Brainwave including the teacher, who fights it and dies.

In the tunnels, Pat (in S.T.R.I.P.E.) attacks Courtney, but stops when she gets through to him. She tells him that she loves and accepts him as her father. Pat then begins to fight the reprogramming.

Meanwhile, Beth and Chuck determine that the ISA are using devices to make themselves immune to their mind control. Furthermore, they realize that there are several signal blockers that are offline in the town. Gambler gleefully informs them that they cannot reverse what has already begun. Chuck suggests to Beth that they target the Gambler’s money in order to distract while they target the signal blockers. While Beth hacks into Sharpe’s holdings and transfers the money into charities, Chuck is able to activate the blockers and hold them long enough to free Pat, Barbara, and Justin from Brainwave’s mind control. The JSA regroups (minus Beth and Barbara) and faces an angry Jordan, who is joined by Dragon King, Sportsmaster, and Tigress. During the battle, Sharpe unlocks the cells releasing both Solomon Grundy (who looks incredible) and Shiv. Despite this, the JSA and the Shining Knight gain the upper hand over the ISA. Shiv betrays her father and kills him indirectly saving Justin from death by Dragon King’s blade. With Ito dead and the others incapacitated, Jordan leaves. Courtney is ambushed by Shiv while Hourman and S.T.R.I.P.E. take on Grundy.

Brainwave orders Sharpe to loop his reprogramming so he can help kill these kids. Wildcat rushes off to the machine, but on the way she faces Ito’s zombies. One of the zombies reveals himself to be Henry Jr, who explains that he survived his encounter with his father and wants to stop him for good. However, Yolanda slashes his throat when he says “Where are your friends?” Brainwave collapses and dies as Yolanda tells him “They were Henry’s friends too.”

Grundy begins tearing apart S.T.R.I.P.E. leaving Pat defenseless. Rick runs in and saves him and takes on Grundy alone. Pat runs off to find Barbara. After beating Grundy to pulp, Rick realizes that the creature is just acting on instinct and is simply a dumb beast. Gaining the closure he needed, he then decides to spare Grundy’s life and allows him to escape.

Meanwhile, Courtney and Yolanda find the machine and destroy it thus saving the town and the country from the ISA’s control.

Back at the American Dream, Icicle arrives and destroys the goggles and Chuck. He blasts Beth away when she tries to attack him. He then kidnaps Barbara and takes her to the top of the building’s tower. Jordan begs her to understand his point of view. He tells her to look at all the good he has done for the town and the world. He asks her to come with him and vows to protect Courtney and raise her as his own. When she rejects him, he attempts to throw her off the ledge, but Pat steps in and distracts him. Jordan scoffs at him saying he can’t stop him without powers. “How are you going to stop me?,” he says. Pat confidently replies, “With our daughter!” Courtney flies in and attacks Jordan. The duo prove evenly matched and are blown apart from their energies colliding. Jordan lands in the street while Courtney is caught by Yolanda. Before Icicle can attack again, he is hit by an oncoming car driven by Mike! The ice villain shatters into pieces.

In the aftermath, the JSA mourn the loss of Chuck, but plan to rebuild the goggles and get him back online. They also send Justin on his way. The Knight thanks them for helping him find his purpose. He tells them that he plans to find his horse and any surviving members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Pat tells him to report his findings as he would like to see his old friends again.

The news covers up the events claiming a massive earthquake hit Blue Valley as Sharpe wipes the ISA’s systems and escapes. The Shade returns and watches the news in the ISA’s meeting room. “Oh, Jordan. I told you it was folly,” he scoffs.

Meanwhile, in the Wizard’s storage unit, Cindy finds a diamond containing Eclipso!

Six weeks later, the Whitmore-Dugans along with Rick, Yolanda, and Beth celebrate Christmas. In a sweet moment, Courtney gives Pat the gift she had intending for her father ten years ago. It is a World’s Greatest Dad mug! The two embrace as Barbara looks on. In the closing moments, Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. watch over the city after enjoying a fly around. Meanwhile, in North Hollywood, a man claiming to be Sylvester Pemberton (guest star Joel McHale) searches for Pat at the latter’s old apartment building!!!

As I stated earlier, this episode was simply incredible in every aspect! A masterfully executed concluding chapter to a brilliant first season! Thank you to the entire cast and crew for your hard work and dedication to these characters and this world. This show has brought a lot of hope for people (including myself) during this difficult time.

I cannot wait for next season on the CW!

Thank you to everyone who has followed the season along with me through these reviews!

Stay tuned for more DC content here on Earth-9!

Stargirl – S1 Ep12 – Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part One Review

Directed by Toa Fraser

Written by Melissa Carter

It’s Part One of the Season Finale of DC’s Stargirl!

I can’t believe that the season is almost over! DC’s Stargirl, in my opinion, has delivered an incredible first season that rivals those of Arrow and The Flash. Geoff Johns and crew have done a brilliant job bringing the Golden Age of Heroes and Villains to life while giving them a bit of a modern upgrade. The story that has been told this season is exciting and compelling. This first part of the season finale sets the stage for the epic battle between the New JSA and the ISA as Project New America begins! Let’s recap!

With only eleven hours left until Project New America begins, most of Middle America is set to be reprogrammed by Brainwave, who prepares to test Dr. Ito’s machine, which the latter calls the synaptic amplifier. This device will allow Dr. King to reach and control all fully developed minds in the area. The ISA’s goal is to make people think like them and fight alongside them if need be when they secede from the Union.

Meanwhile, Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) and Tigress (Joy Osmanski) are “on the hunt” to eliminate the Whitmore-Dugans in order for the ISA to go through with their plans unchallenged. As Barbara and Courtney prepare to leave the house, they are attacked by Tigress, while Pat’s “old friend” “Crusher” attacks him at the Pit Stop. After an intense battle, Mike saves his father by putting a drill to Sportsmaster’s back. Elsewhere, Courtney is able to blast Tigress and escape.

The Whitmore-Dugans regroup at a remote cabin where they are joined by the rest of the JSA and Sir Justin (who comes with a feast). They then plan their next move while Rick works to decode his father’s journal.

Meanwhile, Icicle gets word of Sportmaster and Tigress’s failure to eliminate the Whitmore-Dugans and sends Principal Bowin to assist them in their second attempt. Before joining the “gym rats,” Bowin counsels her son Isaac, who is distraught following an encounter with a bully. Bowin suggests he fight back like his late father (the original Fiddler did) against his tormentors. Bowin then visits the Crocks at their home where the duo is nursing their wounds. Bowin tells them that she will immobilize their targets so that they will be easier to kill this time. “Crusher” isn’t fond of this plan. Bowin belittles them saying they are brutes only focused on violence. Bowin claims they are unfit to be parents. She then takes it a step further calling their daughter Artemis a wild animal just like her mother. With that, Tigress fires an arrow into Bowin’s heart, killing her instantly.

At the ISA’s lair, Brainwave meets with Dr. Ito to discuss the machine. With deep conviction, Dr. King tests the amplifier despite the risk of death. It is a success and he is able to hear the thoughts of millions!

Back at the cabin, Beth has Chuck scan for energy surges or anything abnormal. Meanwhile, Rick is busy trying to decipher his father’s journal. Sir Justin joins him and offers to help as he likes a good puzzle. However, he is not much help as he randomly decides to go clean the bathroom!

Outside, Courtney and Mike share a sweet brother-sister moment talking superheroes. Mike wonders if the staff would’ve worked for him if he had found it first. He then tries it, but the staff doesn’t respond. He still says he wants to help despite not having any abilities. In another sweet moment, Pat and Barbara talk about the recent craziness. Pat explains that he never wanted any of this to happen. He never told them about his past as he wanted his superhero days to stay there. He asks her if they are ok. She understands and says she hopes they can be.

Pat goes upstairs and finds Rick still slaving away with the journal. The young Hourman is frustrated as all of the numbers ( for the code key) he has tried have not worked. Pat suggests he try the year of Rex’s favorite car: his 1966 Mustang. The number works and they discover that Rex had a map of the entire underground ISA lair. Using this and analysis from Chuck, the JSA devises a plan to take down the machine and the ISA. Dr. Mid-Nite and Barbara go to the American Dream where they can hack into the network and monitor the progress of the amplifier. Courtney and Pat (in S.T.R.I.P.E.) enter the lair through the river entrance while Wildcat, Hourman, and Sir Justin enter from another entrance.

With only thirty-five minutes left, Beth uncovers the ISA’s manifesto which isn’t all that bad. Project New America aims to stop Global Warming, embrace solar and wind energy, and eliminate all forms of discrimination based on race, sex, gender identity. This causes them to question if they are really on the right side. Beth via Chuck realizes that the cost of the reprogramming will be approximately twenty-five million people! Before the JSA can locate the amplifier, Gambler (guest star Eric Goins) hacks their hack. He gleefully informs them that they are helpless to stop them. The amplifier isn’t going to power on in thirty minutes, Brainwave will be finished reprogramming everyone in that time! Thus the process has begun! As Brainwave reaches the minds, Barbara and Justin fall into a trance while Pat finds himself controlled to fight Courtney!

The stage is set for what is sure to be an epic finale! This was yet another stellar episode that featured exciting action, top notch humor, and heartwarming character moments. Neil Hopkins and Joy Osmanski once again crush it as Sportsmaster and Tigress (no pun intended). The duo bring so much charm to their characters that sometimes makes you forget they are dastardly villains. I also found the family bonding moments to be incredible as well. Trae Romano, Brec Bassinger. Amy Smart, and Luke Wilson continue to deliver incredible performances with each episode!

I cannot wait to see how this fantastic season concludes next week!

Stay tuned for my recap & review of the Season Finale of DC’s Stargirl here on Earth-9!

Stargirl – S1 Ep11 – Shining Knight Review

Directed by Jennifer Phang

Written by Geoff Johns

Spoilers Ahead!

“Heroes can come from anywhere.”- Pat Dugan

Following the death of Henry King Jr., Courtney is put through the ringer yet again when someone from her past unexpectedly shows up at her doorstep.

DC’s Stargirl delivers yet another incredible episode! “Shining Knight” is a beautifully emotional piece about family and discovering/rediscovering your identity and self worth. This incredible episode delivers an important message that anyone can make a difference for good. A hero can come from anywhere. While this is not a new idea in comic books and adaptations, it is done masterfully here. Brec Bassinger and Luke Wilson deliver heart-wrenchingly brilliant performances in this episode. Pat and Courtney’s father-daughter relationship is the beautiful heart of this show. This episode reminds us of this as it introduces Sam Kurtis, Courtney’s biological father, whose arrival shatters her confidence. In addition, “Shining Knight” officially confirms what many have suspected: Janitor Justin is the Shining Knight himself! Justin’s journey in this episode is incredibly heartbreaking. Let’s recap!

The episode opens with Justin (guest star Mark Ashworth), the Blue Valley High janitor, visiting a local ranch. He, admiring the horses, politely asks the ranch for a “gallant white stead with fire in its eyes and victory in its heart.” The rancher angrily chases him away. A distraught Justin then sees the American Flag which triggers his memory of Stripesy. He then begins to seek him out for help restoring his mind.

Meanwhile, Sam Kurtis (guest star Geoff Stults) arrives at the Whitmore/Dugan home much to the shock of Barbara and the rest of the family. Kurtis got Barbara’s email and decided to come to Blue Valley to get to know his daughter. Courtney is shocked and devastated upon seeing her father. Noticing Sam’s locket, she realizes that he is in fact her real father. She runs upstairs and Pat follows her. In a tense conversation, Courtney tells him that if she isn’t Starman’s daughter, she is responsible for the deaths of Joey Zarick and Henry King Jr. and her whole hero identity is pointless. Pat tells her their deaths were not her fault. Mike interrupts their conversation trying to figure out what’s going on and once again gets shut out. Pat snaps at him and tells him to leave. He immediately realizes that he has been treating him poorly by keeping secrets from him.

Meanwhile, Sam tells Barbara that he is here to get to know his daughter before it is too late. Courtney comes downstairs and agrees to talk with him.

Back at BVH, Justin struggles to remember his past. He hallucinates and sees himself as a Dragon King drone. He snaps out of it and then sees an advertisement for Pat’s garage.

Meanwhile, Sam apologizes to Courtney over breakfast. He admits that he is a bit of a screw up, but wants another chance to make it up to her. He invites her to come visit him in Los Angeles so they can get to know each other.

Pat meets with Rick and Beth at the Pit Stop. Their meeting is interrupted by a distraught Justin, who with sword in tow. The troubled former hero hallucinates once more and sees Pat and crew as Dragon King and his minions. Justin attacks them, but Pat is able to talk him down. Justin breaks down and asks Stripesy for help. Pat explains to the kids that Justin is the Shining Knight, the leader of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Justin is from the days of knights and dragons. He reveals that he was a stable hand for the King Arthur and Knights of the Roundtable. On his deathbed, King Arthur bequeathed the legendary Excalibur to Justin. Justin begins to remember that he followed the Dragon King to Blue Valley and was captured. Pat offers to help him and brings him to his home. Pat later tells Barbara that he believes the ISA is planning a massive brainwashing.

Back at the American Dream, Jordan meets with Henry Sr., who remembers everything and is eager to kill Courtney and Pat. Jordan hesitates due to his feelings for Barbara. Henry reveals that upon his son’s death his own powers have increased. He promises that Project New America will reach half of the country instead of only six states. Brainwave tells Jordan to make up his mind or he will do it for him.

Back at the Whitmore/Dugan home, Sam and Courtney talk on the porch. He tells her that their lockets are valuable. If he sells them, he can get a nice place in LA so that she can come visit him. Courtney tearfully gives him the locket and buys what he’s selling. With the locket in hand, he bids her farewell and leaves. Courtney comes inside and finds Pat. Pat offers himself as a target for her anger, but gets something else. In an emotionally charged moment, she breaks down and embraces him. All she needs from him is unconditional love and support.

Pat finds Sam walking down the street and confronts him. When Sam makes a crude remark about both Courtney and Barbara, Pat punches him.

Back at the house, Barbara finds Courtney in the basement with the staff, which seems to no longer work for her. Courtney is heartbroken. She tearfully tells her mother that the staff is not meant for her anymore and she is ready to leave Blue Valley.

Meanwhile, Jordan has Sharpe unlock Barbara’s work computer. He then discovers that Barbara is investigating him.

At school, Courtney tells her friends that she can no longer be Stargirl as the staff has disowned her. She apologizes saying she can’t let anyones else get hurt because of her silly delusion. They then attend a memorial service for Henry Jr in the auditorium. Sr. delivers a speech during which he telepathically threatens the JSA and dares them to go after him.

In a panic, Courtney rushes home and tries to activate the staff once more. It still does not work. Pat gives her a moving pep talk. He reminds her that heroes can come from anywhere. She then realizes that she has two parents who love her and has their full support. She asks them to join her and with their support the staff shines even brighter than before.

Elsewhere, Jordan orders Brainwave to murder the entire Whitmore-Dugan clan even young Mike. “We don’t want a legacy running around do we?” Mahkent remarks. Twelve hours remain until Project New America launches!

The stage is set for what is sure to be an epic two-part season finale! As I mentioned earlier, this episode was a truly beautiful piece about family and believing in yourself. It showcases the strengths of the series: top notch acting, compelling characters and masterful writing. Truly one of the best episodes of the series so far.

Stay tuned for more recaps and reviews here at Earth-9!