Pick of the Brown Bag
February 7, 2018
Do you wake up every morning and say, “Crap. That mangy, orange yeti is still sitting in the President’s chair.”
Looking for a way out of that funk? May I again suggest that you watch Crisis on Earth X?
This crossover makes you smile. DC superheroes beat the tar out of Nazis from a parallel world and inspire instant hope that maybe we can defeat the Nazis rising now. As of this writing, it’s still free to watch on the CW ap.
Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag, this week in comic book reviews, I look at Green Lanterns, Legenderry Red Sonja and Spirits of Vengeance. Please note that I will be referring to Red Sonja as just Red Sonja, and Legenderry as Legendary. It’s also tagged such. I realize Dynamite wants to trademark the title, but misspellings irk me. I also have a few words to say about Batman, Harley Quinn, Monstro Mechanica, Superman and VS on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag. The books excluded in the blog just don’t rate a full review.
I know what you’re thinking. Did he, or didn’t he dare to try another X-Men book? He did.
X-Men Red is comprehensible and good. I can scarcely believe it myself. You don’t need a flow chart to understand what’s going on. The same crystal clear plotting that Tom Taylor employs in All-New Wolverine can be found here. The story begins with an attack on a mutant girl.
Don’t worry. She’s rescued spectacularly under the auspices of former Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar. This time, he's rendering X-Men Red. X-Men Red consists of Jean Grey, Wolverine, Honey Badger, Nightcrawler and Namor. Two other X-Men, Gentle and Trinary, complete the team, but I’m unfamiliar with them. I’m sure Taylor will inform me painlessly on their who, why and what.
Right now though, Taylor turns back the clock to explain the events leading up to this newest wave of hate for mutants. The first involves a carjacking gone worse.
As the situation escalates, Wolverine and Honey Badger attempt a rescue only to demonstrate their amazing mutant healing powers. Fortunately, Jean Grey shows up to quell the damage.
Wait, that’s not young Jean Grey. It’s mature Jean Grey. Isn’t she dead? Apparently not, and guess what I don’t know how she’s alive. Come to think of it. I don’t know how Jean Grey died either. Probably Phoenix related. In any case, Taylor doesn’t explain. Instead, he focuses on what Jean’s doing here and why.
Black Panther is the star of from what I hear is a phenomenal movie, but his appearance isn’t gratuitous. Jean needs the Black Panther and his status support when she speaks at the United Nations.
Alas, an old X-Men nemesis wrecks what could have been a momentous step for humanity’s and mutantkind’s mutual benefit. No, this time it’s not Magneto.
If you’re new to the world of Legendary, don’t worry, all will become apparent. If you’re new to the world of Red Sonja, don’t worry, she’s very easy to understand. The Red Sonja of the comics is the She-Devil with a Sword. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? The world of Legendary is steampunk. So, probably, Red Sonja will also be packing other weaponry like rail guns or flintlocks depending on the mood of the author. The Steampunk genre ostensibly began with the reimagining of the Victorian Age. The devices you see in old issues of Popular Science arise in this science fantasy world despite the limitations imposed by that old spoilsport physics. Bill Willingham created Legendary, and Manhunter writer Marc Andreyko contributed the previous Red Sonja mini-series involving Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Captain Nemo. You don’t really need to know this in order to enjoy the current mini-series, but you should really check out Andeyko’s first Red Sonja foray. It’s smashing.
The new story begins as many Red Sonja stories do, in a tavern. The proper Sonja is an infrequent card player. More of a drinker than a gambler. This Sonja is much more civilized, and she quickly roots out cheater Thorne. You’ll find that many of the Legendary figures mirror other literary sources. For example, Vampirella mixed with The Prisoner of Zenda characters. The Phantom and Flash Gordon plied their trade in the world of Legendary. I’ve reviewed most of them. So, if you’re looking for more opinions, just hit the tag.
Tobias Thorne appears to be a whole cloth creation. He is not Rupert Thorne from the Batman series, nor inspired by Rupert. He reflects the Dickensian type of crime lord that forces Sonja to retreat in lustily portrayed illustration by Igor Lima.
The plot and characterization orchestrates her escape across the rooftops until writer Andreyko introduces a facet of Red Sonja that may surprise readers of her regular titles.
The first mini-series details Sonja’s acquisition of The Nautilus. Once aboard Sonja’s troubles fail to ebb. It turns out that somebody needing Sonja’s help witnessed the exchange and decided to follow the She-Devil. Not a good idea, and the execution is just insane.
Nor is Andreyko serious. He imbues a lot of comedy to the story. He christens the girl Tesla. She is one of a pair of star-crossed lovers that inveigles Sonja into their affair.
No, no. It’s not a triangle. The girl’s woeful tale is pure Romeo and Juliet plunged like a neckline into the world of Legendary Red Sonja, and Sonja is not accepting any pleas, until of course she makes the stupid mistake of turning back on reason, which adds to the caper.
Spirits of Vengeance started out strong and finishes strong. The story began in a bar where Johnny Blaze met an odd man with a bullet in his gut.
This led to the formation of a team of seriously dark heroes. Johnny sought out Damien Hellstrom. He in turn called in his sister Satana and the vampire hunter Blade.
Wait, says you. Isn’t this a magic-based book, and isn’t your reviewer a tough sell on magic? An even tougher sell on Christian mythology? Absolutely. This should give you an idea at the amount of work that went into the making of Spirits of Vengeance.
I find magic-based media weak because magic seldom has a basis in reality. That’s where writer Victor Gischler began his pitch. Angels and demons exist in the Marvel Universe. Their exact nature is debatable, but they do exist. Gischler suggests that a Covenant exists between them. One Angel and One Devil meet to broker a peace in their eternal war. There’s a flaw in the protocols. The Covenant doesn’t bar humans. That’s where the fun begins.
The laughing arch-demon is Damien’s and Satana’s father, and he just explained the plan to them like any old villain, but Gischler adds depth to the standard reveal because of the tumultous father-siblings relationship. I mean. He’s just being petty and gloating over the oneupmanship he seems to have pulled on his kids. Spirits of Vengeance mostly reads as a pure drama leaning toward crime. There’s a “patsy,” a scheme to upset the peace between two rival families and a group of tainted do-gooders trying to stop the whole explosive situation. Of course, the boss’ goons try to ice them. These goons just happen to be out of town talent. Way out of town.
The angels act as policeman who rather than sit traditionally on the sidelines recognize the good work of the protagonists and clean up the larger mess. Thus, like the classic turn in pulps. The private eye can focus on getting the Big Bad.
Monsters Unleashed’s David Baldeon furthermore adds to the worth of the book. Originally, magic-based books were drawn like every other book, but that changed when Vertigo entered the fray and started to employ unique visions that balked against tradition. These maverick illustrations became tropes in themselves. Baldeon’s cartooning is refreshing. Satana always looked hot as hell in comics, and her usual uniform comes from the same bolt as Vampirella’s swimsuit. She’s a sexiful feast for the eyes. Being a succubus, she’s supposed to be. Baldeon with his lank designs and unembellished anatomy turns Satana’s tease into something else. Satana is still beautiful, but she’s as well unearthly, elfin. She’s a creature of myth and her exotic clothing is a second skin worn in complete comfort.
When Gischler invokes magic, it’s often disguised mythology. In one issue, Gischler detailed the origin of the silver used to make the bullets that can fell angels. The weapon is forged in a rationale for a sensible curse. The smithy in a previous issue mentioned his ties to Norse works. The fallguy’s henchwench Razan arises from Egyptian lore. Then there’s "The Purloined Letter" aspect to Spirits of Vengeance. Gischler laid out how the conclusion would play in the title.
Tim Seeley’s Green Lanterns starts out superbly with a group of heroes banding together to stop an everyday disaster and alleviate the victims’ lives. Some in the comic book world see superheroes as no better than the fascists they fight. Others see them as various metaphors. I imagine how better the world would be with superheroes in it. Humans are fragile. We can die in so many ways. None of which we wrought. A superhero can do more than just stop a bullet. She can clap her hands and dispell a hurricane. In this case, the champions of DC divert a flood.
Afterward, Green Lantern meets up with the Bulleteer, one of Grant Morrison’s and Yanick Paquette’s Seven Solodiers. She's based on the Golden Age Fawcett heroine Bullet Girl. Seeley paints upon Bulleteer’s essential blank slate. She knows the Night Pilot.
The revelation leads to all sorts of things. Jessica becomes acquainted with Caper, the superhero version of Tinder. Her swipes open up the book to Seeley’s humor; playing with conventions of male/female partners in crime and the fluidity of sexual orientation. Mostly though it draws the Lanterns attention to a human trafficking ring that deals in low-powered, manageable superheroes. Even if Green Lanterns fostered the worst art in the world, the title certainly doesn’t, I’d have to give it points for a highly original storyline.
I would however like to know what the hell is Power Girl doing on earth one? She went home to earth two a long time ago.