Wednesday, May 23, 2018

POBB May 16, 2018

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 16, 2018
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag welcomes you to a fresh posting of reviews including All-New Wolverine, Aquaman, Athena Voltaire, Avengers, Batman, Infinity 8, Infinity Countdown: Daredevil, The Mighty Thor, The New Challengers and X-Men: Red.  If life has got you in a bind and you don’t know whether or not to add The Punctilious Gerbil Man to your weekly yield, consider my Tweets to steer you in the right direction: #PickoftheBrownBag.

In 1957, comic book phenom Jack Kirby created the Challengers of the Unknown.  These four men survived certain death from a plane crash but responded a little strangely.  

Ace, Rocky, Red and the Professor decided to use their borrowed time to partake in all sorts of weird adventures.

For reasons I cannot explain, and I’m a fan, the Challengers of the Unknown scratched a comic book itch.  They outlasted Kirby by decades.  The Silver Age return of the superhero didn’t phase their success.  Neither did the modernization of the DC titles.  

Like many, their book was a casualty of the 1970s DC Implosion—the comic book equivalent of the depression.  Up to that point however, The Challengers of the Unknown with very few changes appeared to consistently carry an audience. 

After The Crisis on Infinite Earths struck, the original Challengers made rare appearances in DC’s new Post-Crisis Universe.  Every once and again, a talent would try to resuscitate the Challengers of the Unknown concept, if not the characters.  Writers Scott Snyder and Aaron Guillesppe team up with artists Andy Kubert, Klaus Jansen and Brad Anderson for the latest attempt.  The New Challengers.

This is the section where I’d normally hash out the plot, but I’m not going to do that this week.  Mainly because the plot is paper thin.  The ideas in the comic book are more complex, but secured in a nutshell.

New Challengers claims to be tied into or arising from Dark Nights Metal.  Maybe so, but I didn’t read that maxi-series and after perusing New Challengers I didn’t feel I missed anything.  That’s a point in the book’s favor.  It’s independent despite branding.  You also don’t need to know a thing about the original Challengers of the Unknown, but I highly recommend the trade paperback collecting Jack Kirby’s entire association.

ISBN: 9-781401-277192

Snyder and Guillesppe change the gist of The Challengers of the Unknown.  

Though paying homage to the original four, Guillesppe and Snyder create a virtual army of Challengers working in secret throughout history.  Of course, all these new challengers could have been inducted after the originals.  Discarding the Post-Crisis miniseries and the Challengers’ subsequent appearances gives the writers about thirty years to play with.

Kirby’s “borrowed time” was a metaphor based on Red’s watch, still stubbornly ticking away after the crash.  In my opinion, that gave the Challengers inherent poetry.  Snyder and Guillesppe make the time limit concrete and demonstrate what happens when you don’t heed the hourglass.

I started to wonder if this isn’t a giant con, and that the host of this party known as Prof exploits the Challengers of the Unknown legend for his own gain.  The gimmicks that he employs could be science fiction flimflam.  So, the artifice of the hourglass tattoos and this previously unknown legacy could be purposeful.  Clues to the sleight of hand.  The number of each Challengers team also appears to be important. 

The why escapes me.  Quantity is more important with magic than science, but for some reason there must be four in this iteration.  

The adherence also explains the failure to mention Dr. June Robbins, a frequent Challenger guest-star introduced in Showcase number seven 1957She becomes an honorary fifth member of the team.  The status is no slight.  Had Kirby known fans would accept June so readily, he likely would have included her on the plane.  He rectified his initial trepidation when creating the Fantastic Four with Stan Lee.  Although differing in personality and intellect, June was Sue Storm’s precursor.  Ironically, the films progressively turned Sue Storm into a scientist.

Kirby included June in as many adventures as he could.  June’s absence amongst the Challenger imagery therefore adds to the suspicion of the Prof, whoever he really is, playing a scam.  June does however appear on the poster cover.

Only time will tell if this is merely a tribute to Dr. Robbins, a nostalgia bite or something integral to the plot.

So, we’re introduced to four Challengers—one amusingly a giant sized MacGyver stand-in.  Herbalist Trina Alvarez however serves as the spotlit.  The New Challengers are all  nice enough and visually striking, but it’s too early to tell if they’ll carry a book or not.  

The Mission Impossible atmosphere coincides with Agents of SHIELD.  Such as when the Prof drops a well-equipped box of Challengers into the ocean.

As such, New Challengers actually seems like an update on the Secret Six, not the Challengers of the Unknown.

That doesn’t make it a bad comic book just not what’s advertised.  As of this writing, I’m still ambivalent.

The same goes for the newest iteration of The Avengers.  The art by Ed McGuinnes is a knockout, but only a few things in the book made me stand up and take notice.  I got my wish.  More She-Hulk interaction.

I’ve never seen a visceral fight between Ghost Rider and the Hulk, and this is a neatly choreographed skirmish.  Unlike many hero-on-hero duels, the battle makes sense.  The modern version of She-Hulk lost her coherency.  Ghost Rider in turn is just trying to stay alive.

The Celestial teleported She-Hulk to the Ghost Rider in an effort to stave off the cleansing of humanity.  She-Hulk however did not know that, or she forgot when she gained distance from the Celestial’s mind.  Whatever the reason, when you teleport a Hulk without permission, “Hulk Smash” is usually what you get on the other end. 

I also loved the Rock-Em-Sock-Em Celestial action.  That’s a rarity.  The Celestials, created by Jack Kirby, aren’t known for their violence.  They’re instead famous for standing like monoliths and accidentally destroying things when they casually move.  The kaiju is new or at least newish.

As to the rest, the main Avengers bore me because they’re all doing precisely the same thing.  Attacking a honking huge “robot” and failing at it.  The attacks lack finesse and distinguished power usage.  So, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel and Captain America just blend together.  Lastly, the surprise guest-star doesn’t come as a surprise at all.  The narration makes his appearance obvious.

The Mighty Thor is not the debut of Odinson’s return to power.  Instead, it’s a doublet.  The first is a tour de farce with Thor’s rambunctious time traveling granddaughters: Frigg, Atli and Elisiv.  

Beautiful artwork by Jen Bartel and Matthew Wilson accompanies a sweet story that honors Jane Foster's impressive recent run as the Mighty Thor.  

The second stars the Dark Elf Malekith.  Can't say I gave a rat's ass about Malekith.  He relishes being evil and gloats about his gains in The War of the Realms.  His promise to bring hell to Midgard, Earth, made me wish for a Beta-Ray Bill vignette instead.  Frankly, a focus on Volstagg's wife, who's a fourth tier character at best, would have been more welcome.  So, only the easy-going tale with the ladies makes The Mighty Thor a wise choice when it drops in price and lands in the bargain bundles.  

In her latest miniseries, aviatrix Athena Voltaire protects archaeologists Dr. Mordido and Dr. Peters as they search for the pieces of an ancient tablet constructed by the historical magician/scientist Pope Sylvester.  Last issue, after fierce battle, the Nazis absconded with the tablet and left Athena in the dust.  This issue Dr. Mordido dopes out their likely whereabouts through cleverly constructed clues that fit into the ancient world.

In Morocco, our team retrace Pope Sylvester's final steps and confront more puzzles to decipher.  Up until now, everything in Athena Voltaire can be explained scientifically.

For example, the speaking mask or bust can be the result of a wax cylinder recording hidden inside clockwork.  Secret doors and invisible texts are the tried and true trickery of alchemists and scholars of elder times.  

As the story rockets to the finale, there can be no doubt that Bryant takes Athena into the realms of magic.

The menace’s nature is a nice surprise.  Thanks to Indiana Jones, you cannot help but connect Christian mythology and the Nazis that covet relics of power.  Bryant takes a different and lively approach to decidedly older lore.

Because of the sheer omnipotence of the being involved, you must ponder how a mere, albeit skilled mortal, like Athena Voltaire can escape such certain doom.  Bryant plays fair with the reader, and as a result generates a satisfying finish.

Athena Voltaire furthermore benefits from an expertly played wild card that in lesser hands would have acted as a dues ex machina.  Instead, she seems a natural part of the setting.  Likewise the double agent planted amongst the Nazis, smartly curtails revenge against Athena and maintains his cover while serving the Crown.

Added to all these assets along with smashing art by Ishmael Canales and Emily Elmer, is the cast.  Bryant takes a moment to address Athena’s personal life granting her more depth in the process.  He demonstrates Agent Desmond Forsyth’s loyalty to Athena over the mission as well as the Professor’s moral backbone.  If you haven’t followed Athena Voltaire certainly pick up the forthcoming collected edition.

Infinity 8’s first story ends on a nice gooey pulp note with Agent Keren escaping her cannibalistic pursuer in a bio-ship graveyard.

Her vengeance against the miscreant is vicious and comedic, but nothing personal.  When the alien comes to his senses, she’s willing to work with him.  Well, what’s left of him.  

Yeah.  Keren isn't stupid.  This is a hilarious sequence and should not be missed.  Underlying the pursuit and pulchritude, Sagoss the alien besotted with love finally gains Keren’s respect.

This mutual understanding allows Keren to display a thin layer of softness beneath the composition of a personality mostly awash in pragmatism.

As the story reaches its finish writer/co-creator Lewis Trondheim brings up the superpowers of the alien captain of the starship  Infinity 8.  Indicating a wild standard operating procedure to eschew catastrophe.  

The epilogue remarks on the events that unspooled in the past two issues as well as this one and in such a way that nothing seems like a cheat.  The remarkable art by Dominique Bertail draws upon the classic look of science fiction covers found on Astounding, Amazing Stories and Argosy.  Don't pass this by.

Tom Taylor’s final issue of All-New Wolverine is a winner.  Far into the future, Laura Kinney is the Queen of Madripoor, and her dying wish is to go Latveria, kill Dr. Doom and free her second clone sister Belladonna.  

She intended for this to be her last solo mission.  Her first clone sister Gabby alias Honey Badger alias Wolverine has other ideas.  She calls in the cavalry, and Laura begrudgingly admits that working with the team is a better idea.

Also great for the reader.  Through Laura’s interaction with Captain Marvel, The Wasp, the now mature Honey Badger of course and Kate Bishop, Taylor generates thematic humor and tactical cleverness.  What a boon to have artist Ramon Rosanas on board for the finale.  He illustrates all with unique faculty.

Nevertheless, Taylor delivers on his promise.  It all boils down to Wolverine and Dr. Doom.  Taylor first acknowledges Doom’s contingency planning.  It's a classic.

Taylor in a brilliant fair play move counters Doom’s alarming intellect with something foreshadowed that he simply could not predict.  That it’s characteristic of Laura makes the comeuppance that more juicy.

The original Wolverine is coming back to comic books, so Laura will be resuming the X-23 code name in a new eponymous title by former Tomb Raider writer Mariko Tamaki.  Tom Taylor however does not intend to leave Laura and Gabby Kinney’s world any time soon.  With artist Mahmud Asrar, Taylor counts both wolverines amongst the roster of X-Men Red.

An X-Men villain from the past sabotaged Jean Grey’s attempts to broker a peace between Homo sapiens and Homo superior.  This time the nemesis makes an error in taking over Storm.

The team overcome Storm, but leaves the powerful mutant alive in the process.  This grants Jean and new mutant Trinary the opportunity to discern what’s going on.

Taylor demonstrates that Jean doesn't actually need the Phoenix to be impressive.  Taylor imagines Jean to be so experienced in the use of her power that she can be the most versatile and awe-inspiring.

As Jean’s team gets closer to uncovering the identity of the opposite side, they realize that Wakanda is no longer a safe haven.  Fortunately, Jean and her team have another option.

The excursion to Atlantis allows for numerous funny and light moments as the team gels and becomes more seasoned about the enemy they face.

X-Men Red is that rarity of X-Men titles that will please the newly invested and the die-hard X-Men fan.  Taylor treats the X-Men as superheroes and widens their appeal with the inclusion of familiar faces and all-together new creations.  Though the problem is mutant related, it’s an easily understood attack that’s linked more to straight up science fiction rather than esoteric continuity.

Murk, loyal to the throne, nevertheless could not follow orders and kill Aquaman.  He instead wounded him out of commission and hid him in the undercurrent of Atlantis.

Murk hoped Arthur would recover, take Mera and get out of range to make a new life far away from Atlantean politics.  He felt Arthur made a lousy king, but knew him to be a good man and a good superhero.  This is precisely what worries him in his new collusion with Arthur to oust Trump like usurper Corum Rath.

The odd couple dialogue is the main draw to this issue of Aquaman.  Writer Dan Abnett clearly loves writing for Murk.  He’s made him an entertaining submerged Klingon throughout the Aquaman saga.

Neither Aquaman nor Murk knows what Rath has become in the interim of their fight and reconciliation.

Rath used the dark magic of Atlantis to, inadvertently, transform himself into a monster.  The development offers an out for Arthur’s noble ethic.  Even Batman killed monsters.  Will Arthur be forced to do the same?

Tom King brings the latest interlude with Booster Gold in Batman to a close.  As with previous issues, I can’t actually say what happened.  All of the events are spoilers.  Vaguely, this final chapter is an arch farce of time travel clean-up.

Though as darkly comedic as previous chapters, in this last act, King gives Booster genuine pathos.  Throughout "The Gift" Booster Gold benefited from one saving grace.  He didn't mean for any of the hell that transpired.  His gift-giving was sincere.  It just blew up in his face.

Batman’s and Catwoman’s silence as Booster relates his mistake is more expressive than words can convey.  "The Gift's" covers made you laugh with a "Booster Gold must die" meme, but Batman's actually not like that.  Especially now, since he found happiness.  King's Batman is pensive and caring, and you get the impression that Batman feels genuinely sorry for Booster and understands the weight he carried.  Catwoman probably feels the same, and she doesn't even know Booster as well as Batman does.  Not just another in the long line of great King Batman stories but also one of the best Booster Gold tales.  

Gerry Duggan’s Infinity Countdown: Daredevil is quite frankly disappointing.  It’s not bad.  It simply isn’t funny or moving.  It’s just kind of there.

Duggan is the mastermind behind Guardians of the Galaxy.  Almost every issue of Guardians earned my praise.  That’s because Duggan frequently reaches the hilarious heights of the cinematic Guardians of the Galaxy.  He also nuanced the comedy with character and emotional depth.

In this Daredevil one-shot, Duggan plays it straight.  He wastes the comedic potential of long time Daredevil nuisance Turk possessing an Infinity Stone.  Furthermore, Duggan makes Turk almost competent, and he's not. 

Even with an Infinity Stone, Turk proves no match for DD.  I presume that the best Turk can do is mentally push Daredevil away.  Else Daredevil let's Turk keep the Infinity Stone, and that makes no sense.  If you're a fan of artists Chris Sprouse, Phil Noto or Lee Ferguson you may wish to add this one-shot to your collection.  Nobody else need apply.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

POBB May 9, 2018

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 9, 2018
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag returns with reviews of The Green Hornet, Oblivion Song, Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Rough Riders, Runaways, Savage Tales Vampirella and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  The POBB can also be found on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

Oblivion Song by Robert Kirkman intrigued me enough that I put it on my pull list.  The second issue was a flashback story, mostly, with foot rubs.  Nary could two issues be so different in tone.  

For the third, we’re back to exploring a monster-filled dimension with scientist Nathan Cole.  Nathan is also seeking his missing brother, but he never loses sight of his role in the greater scheme of things.

Suggesting that the monsters are just innocent animals despite their devouring human life is the kind of the thing a scientist would argue. Nathan jumps into this masterfully illustrated kaiju to rescue people trapped there not to execute the beasts.  

I also like how phenomenal artist Lorenzo De Filici emphasizes the Red Cross medical kit.  It’s a constant reminder that Nathan is here to help.

The Lone Ranger bids you an adios and disappears with a hearty “hi-ho silver.” Kirkman examines the consequences after the rescue.  Nathan and his team question whether or not he should be saving people that have lost their humanity to a horrible environment.

In this sense, Oblivion Song is actually like Terry Moore’s Motor Girl.  Kirkman accurately exposes the vagaries resulting from PTSD making it a thoughtful exercise amongst the monsters.

Kicking off the latest volume of Rough Riders, the legendary magician/escapist Harry Houdini uncovered a supernatural plot that threatened the world.  He called together his old comrades the Rough Riders: Monk Eastman, Annie Oakley, Jack Johnson, Thomas Edison and President Theodore Roosevelt to thwart the menace. 

It appears however that this was all a trap.  Roosevelt’s ancestor wronged an innocent person.  

In Baron Blood tradition, the spooks answer the curse put on the Roosevelt line.  Fortunately, the Roosevelts are notoriously tough, even tougher in the steampunk world of the Rough Riders.

Alice Roosevelt was Teddy Roosevelt’s only daughter.  Writer Adam Glass introduced her into the tale innocuously at her wedding.  She seemed to exist in the story to demonstrate strife between she and the President and add more historical context to the book in general.  Little did the reader know that Alice would play such an integral part in the current series.

Artist Pat Olliffe conjures Alice’s accurate likeness with the same skill he did and does for all of the Rough Riders.  He furthermore seems to relish cutting loose with turn of the century styled Iron Man suits, Evil Dead themed demons and demonic possession and a particularly explosive comeuppance for Thomas Edison, who betrayed the team in the first two volumes.  

I still think Nikola Tesla was beyond Edison.  I will always admire his genius more.  However, the historical Edison differs strongly from Glass’ schemer.  Look him up if you want the truth.  

Rough Riders is an action-packed horror story of excellent vintage.  In addition, as you can see by the scene above, the characters exhibit more heart this time around.  Unlike the flawed previous volume, I can recommend this entire series, and if Aftershock ever collects all three volumes in one nice hardback, the entirety would be well worth the price.

Savage Tales is the name of a classic black and white Marvel Magazine that featured such Robert E. Howard creations as Conan and Kull.  When Dynamite inherited Red Sonja from Marvel, they also acquired the Savage Tales title.  An odd acquisition since Savage Tales later became the home to Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil.  So, it wasn’t as though Marvel was just using the magazine for licensed properties.

Literature’s first altruistic vampire headlines this Savage Tales one-shot.  Vampirella began her adventures in the sixties.  She since operated in the present day, of every era hence.  In Savage Tales, Vee is thrust into the Hyborean Age.

The story by Erik Burnham showcases Vee’s abilities while Anthony Marques and J. Bone, reminds readers that Vampirella is not for kids.  

Though Marques adheres to a cartoon style, the fullness of Vampirella’s figure is straight out of the spicy pulps.  Mind you.  Vee exudes dangerous curves.  She’s certainly not sylph-like.

Traditionally bards, authors and script writers treated vampires as the ultimate corruption or the ultimate sin.  As a result, vampires frequently preyed on children.  For example, Dracula feeds his brides with a freshly snatched baby.  At least that’s the presumption.  Stoker isn’t explicit, but the scene in Dracula was enough for filmmakers to fill in the blanks.

What better way to show Vee’s differences from the normal bloodsucker than to pair her with a child?  Wait.  I guess Vampirella is for kids after all.

Fernando Ruiz provides the artwork for this chapter, and though in early scenes he depicts Vampirella as a hooded “Northerner” he gets the chance to strut his stuff when Vee discovers not the conductor of the danse macabre but at the very least a percussionist that’s styled as a Robert E. Howard villain.

Amusingly, Vampirella tries to eschew violent confrontation, but lucky for the reader, our Big Bad wouldn’t have it any other way.

The remainder of Savage Tales reprints a serial from the Dynamite vault called “Valaka.”  Valaka is not exactly Vampirella, but the artist took some license to depict her with the same dress sense and blood thirst.  Although, Vampirella usually feeds on blood from a bottle not a throat.

“Valaka” fits the definition of mostly harmless.  The warrior that teams up with Valaka is mostly forgettable if not for the anachronistic soul patch, memorable for all the wrong reasons.  

The story also features a double-edged sword of how to hide nudity.

The design of the woman’s hair is beyond bizarre, but that it should accidentally fall upon her breasts thus hiding her nipples is astounding.  

The whole point of the blood rite is to combine sexuality with violence.  That’s why a lot of the followers attend.  To see naked women bound and killed.  Hammer styled cults are evil.  Why on earth would a self-respecting High Priest allow such modesty?  

What’s weird is that the artist actually pulls off a really good hiding of the nudity by creating the depicted gutter break in the panels.  

“Valaka” is a passable story with a few notable scenes of vampire action.  Combine it with the better Vampirella tale at the forefront, and Savage Tales would be a good purchase from a bargain box.

Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man, Peter’s maybe sister Teresa Durand and J.Jonah Jameson visited an alternate timeline to gain knowledge from the Tinkerer.  This in order to stave off an alien invasion in their home continuum.  Unwittingly Spidey changed that timeline’s future.  Young Peter Parker overheard his older self speaking of the tragedies in his life, and Peter wanted none of it.  So, Peter gave up the webs for good.  The timeline changed, naturally for the worse.

With Norman Osborne and Doc Ock in charge, the whole world seems at peril.  Fortunately, Spidey has an ally in Peter Parker.  Guess again.

Okay.  Fortunately, Peter has an ally in Gwen Stacy.

Yes.  Absolutely.  Once again, we have the two Amazing Spider-Man films with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone to thank.  

Although the Marvel Adventures titles sharpened Gwen Stacy’s character, it wasn’t until Emma Stone’s rich performance as somebody best remembered as the girl that goes off the bridge that called forth a zeitgeist.  

A universal hatred of Gwen Stacy’s needless death killed a third film, allowed Marvel to buy back the rights to Spider-Man and evolved the creation of Spider-Gwen.

Scientist Gwen Stacy—just like Emma Stone’s essay—helps Spider-Man gain access to the resistance.  These heroes consist of exactly who you might think and reveal the fates of others.  The story also grants Jonah an epiphany.

The way Jonah phrases the tone of the alternate timeline neatly expresses what ephemeral qualities a Spider-Man gives to the world.  Before Deadpool, Spider-Man was the hero with all the wisecracks.  He’s the one who humiliated his opposition and brought hope to anybody who saw him swing through Manhattan skyline or crawl along the wall.  Spider-Man really is your friendly neighborhood hero.  While you could be saved by Thor, Cap or Iron Man.  Chances are it’s a Spider-Man that’s coming to your rescue.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl gains a stellar new artist in user friendly illustrator Derek Charm.  Meanwhile, steadfast writer Ryan North advances Doreen Green’s and Nancy Whitehead’s vocations.

I don’t mind admitting that I found this entire explanation of binary involving The Library of Babel absolutely fascinating.  I wish somebody had explained binary to me in this way before.  Doreen’s course serves as a catalyst for a very naturally sounding off-tangent topic.

This gets Doreen thinking about Kraven the Hunter who serves as a frequent guest-star in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

So for those of you not in the know, Kraven is one of the few Marvel antagonists that defy Marvel’s sliding-scale of time.  Everything in Marvel once occurred six to ten years ago.  You can use the same scale for the first cycle of James Bond films.  For example, James Bond ends with Pierce Brosnan.  Brosnan’s Bond met Honey Rider and experienced the events in Dr. No, ten years ago.  He fought the Roger Moore Bond villain Zorin six years ago.  The same applied to Marvel, but Kraven doesn’t work that way.  Kraven is a family.  The Kraven in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is no fan of Spider-Man, but he’s not the same Kraven that buried Spider-Man alive in Kraven’s Last Hunt.  He can’t be.  This is also not the Kraven that humiliated Tigra.  Mind you.  Tigra’s presence among the Kraven clan appears to be indelible.

Squirrel Girl and Nancy want to keep Kraven on the straight and narrow.  So they feel that if they spend time with him outside of fighting crime, they’ll help him feel self-worth and become a better person.  Doreen is so determined to keep Kraven honest that she’s willing to give him knowledge of her greatest secret.

It’s absolutely charming that Doreen thinks that her identity is so carefully calculated when any fool should be able to figure it out because Doreen doesn’t wear a mask.  To that end, they invite Kraven to an Escape Room, and along with their other friends, they have a lark.

That is until our mysterious bandaged man learns that actual super-beings comprise the latest contestants.  Good job on concealing this fellow’s identity.  I haven’t a clue.  

Though I’m not a fan of Runaways I could not help grinning at the humor from this issue.  There’s a big joke involving Doctor Doom who’s on the cover so hardly a spoiler.  His interaction with the Runaways is unexpected, and writer Rainbow Rowell explains how this situation coalesced for those that came late to the story.  Rowell furthermore demonstrates that each Runaway possess certain skill sets that offset their juvenile and occasionally thoughtless behavior.  Visiting Julie Powers experiences the latter in spades, and the subplot involving Molly and a special cupcake blooms into something darkly funny.

Artist Kris Anka and his sometime inker Craig Yeung create entrancing body language for Doom, who was my original draw to the title.  Doom is just wildly entertaining in every element of the story.  His dialogue is brilliant.  His movement so watchable.  His function to the plot hilarious and surprising.

Mulan Kato is the newest Green Hornet.  She takes over the role when current Green Hornet Britt Reid disappears.  In truth, Britt has been working undercover to expose the new machinations of an old foe.

Britt comes from a wealthy family.  That wealth derives from a silver mine in the old west.  Heh.  The fact is only tangential to the story.  When Britt was a younger lad, before he founded The Daily Sentinel, he fell into a crowd that could nicely fulfill the dreams of conspiracists. 

These are the men behind the hostile takeover attempt at The Sentinel and the bombing of Britt’s friend Sebastian’s boat.  Home grown hero Oko makes a startling discovery.

Oko appeared the same time Britt disappeared.  It seemed like writer Amy Chu implied that perhaps this was indeed Britt Reid donning a different garb.  Chu quickly dispelled the notion.  I’m wondering if Oko connects to the Espada at all.

Oko appears to be framing the Green Hornet, but Mulan or Britt could have lost the hornet during the fight.  The Green Hornet gets the blame for numerous crimes.  Remember.  The Green Hornet pretends he’s a criminal.  This is an occupational hazard.

After an exciting chase executed perfectly by artist German Erramouspe, the Hornet and Kato induct Kato’s friend Tai into the fold.  Tai is a great character that provides comedy relief and a common person’s perspective.  

The television series emphasized that the Green Hornet and Kato were not ordinary men.  They never seemed to rest.  Their lives always filled with danger and speed.  The frantic speed of The Green Hornet matches the thrills of the television series.  

Red Hood and the Outlaws splits the trio up for a kind of anthology.  Jason Todd alias the Red Hood sets up the Penguin and meets with Faye Gunn, granddaughter of Ma Gunn.  A reformed criminal with a link to Jason’s past.  The portion is the least interesting of the three vignettes.  In terms of writing, Artemis takes the cake.  Scott Lobdell creates a very interesting and plausible scenario.  Artemis number one was a hit woman.

Number two, she worked for Lex Luthor.  Lobdell characterizes Lex Luthor and Artemis superbly.  You do not doubt this new continuity because of the characterization.

Lobdell established that Artemis was not entirely heroic.  He created a rivalry between she and Wonder Woman arising from her post-Crisis history.  You can see a twisted version of Wonder Woman in Artemis’ path.  

She’s no fan of Diana, and she would work to be the least like her without giving up a sense of honor.  Sword for hire suits that intent.  Aligning with Lex creates status and distinguishes her farther from the sterling Wonder Woman.

The old Lex is just the kind of guy that would get off on suborning a warrior woman.  It would exalt him to a level of prestige few men can attain.  

Originally, Lex Luthor was casually sexist.  He for example underestimated Supergirl because she was a girl.

In the post-Crisis, John Byrne sometimes focused on Luthor’s outright misogyny.  Lex Luthor tortured Lana Lang to force her to divulge Superman’s secrets.  A short Lex Luthor story depicted Byrne’s version of Indecent Proposal with a hint of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde in Lex’s characterization.

While the New 52 hinted at Lex Luthor’s villainy, mostly Lex has been above board, albeit not exactly a white knight.  More of a mud blotched knight.  It’s that Lex Luthor that Artemis appeals to and that Lex Luthor that responds.

Lastly, while the ways in which Bizarro says goodbye to his failing intelligence peek one’s interest.  Dexter Soy is the star of the Bizarro portion of the tale.

His Bizarro looks like Christopher Reeves’ Superman.