SUPERGIRL: The Silver Age Vol. 2 by Jerry Siegel, Leo Dorfman and artist Jim Mooney starts with Supergirl, her powers restored from Kandorian scientist Lesla-Lar’s tampering, finally going public as Superman’s cousin and ally (there’s a continuity error in that Luthor learned about her in V1, but now he’s astonished she exists). This volume adds quite a lot of material to the Supergirl mythos: rather bland boyfriend Dick Malverne, Luthor’s long-lost sister Lena Thorul (very different from the CW show) and Comet the Super-Horse (what super-girl wouldn’t want a super-horse?) whose origin has to be read to be believed (he’s a centaur accidentally turned into a full horse, given super-powers by Circe, then trapped in space until Supergirl’s rocket ship freed him. Oh, and sometimes he can turn fully human and romance her). There’s also a new super-foe, Black Flame, a cunning admirer of Lesla-Lar (who shows up in this volume just long enough to die) but like her mentor, she didn’t see much use (she won’t return for another seven years). I enjoyed this, but YMMV.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: Neighborhood Watch by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson continues in the same vein as Animal Rites: supernatural forces are gathering around the Burden Hill subdivision and the local pets are struggling to keep the neighborhood safe. I don’t think this volume advances the overall series arc, but that’s okay. The stories are solid, the cast is engaging and I thoroughly enjoyed this.
I was disappointed, however, with UMBRELLA ACADEMY: Hotel Oblivion which brought back the Gerard Way/Gabriel Ba series after several years now that the Netflix series has given them a wider audience. The core of the story is the sinister Perseus leading an escape from the eponymous prison the team’s father-figure, Hargreeves, set up in another dimension. However there’s just too much going on to hold things together, including a space adventure, Viola learning to walk (apparently the old cliche that she just needs the will to get out of the wheelchair!), one character’s drug issues and a parallel world Academy. I’ll still be back for V4, but this wasn’t up to the first two books.
THE STORY OF ENGLISH by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil was the companion to a 1980s PBS series, chronicling how Indo-European begat Anglo-Saxon which despite the linguistic pressure from the Norman conquest began transforming into the language we know today, with contributions from imperial conquest, black slaves, the American frontier and Australian aborigines (though according to one of my phrase-origin books “kangaroo court” is an Americanism not an Aussie-ism), while linguistic critics wonder if they can stabilize the language before all these additions corrupt it (the last chapter looks at the ways English is spinning off into potentially separate languages such as Spanglish). While this lacks the advantage the TV show offered of actually hearing the language, it’s a lot easier to look stuff up in this version; while missing the past thirty or forty years of linguistic change (“rap” as a form of music doesn’t come up), I found it well worth rereading.
SEA MONSTERS ON MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE MAPS by Chet Van Duzer argues that the various monsters were less about realistic depiction of potential dangers and more about prettying up maps to make them more marketable. Van Duzer looks at several centuries of maps decorated with purely imaginary or supposedly real monsters (some depictions of a walrus look like a saber-tooth cat, and there’s one “octopus” that’s a giant lobster) which makes for lots of pretty images but nothing as fascinating in the text as other books on maps that I’ve read.
#SFWApro. Cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with current holder.