Pick of the Brown Bag
September 13, 2017
The short weeks continue with All-New Wolverine, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Runaways, Sheena Supergirl, Superwoman, Titans, Wynonna Earp and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Should you not have time for the full reviews, you can always head to Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.
It’s a big Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid showdown for this deceptively subtitled issue of Wynonna Earp. Though labeled Season Zero, all of Wynonna Earp’s allies join the fight against renegade bandit biker Keegan and his group of ex-soldier mercenaries.
The Wynonna Earp audience may be a little leery of investing in the comic book series, but viewers need not fear the print, especially for this mini. A schism between the two media exists, but it’s not as pronounced as the Supergirl divide. For example, Waverly Earp, Wynonna’s sister, became a Black Badge before Wynonna. The transition however will confuse nobody since Beau Smith’s and Tim Rozon’s story is a Your Ammo Monthly fueled action ride that’s peppered with hilarious dialogue and a few characterization gems. Artwork by Angel Hernandez offers a decided resemblance to Wynonna Earp's cast, and grants the breath of life to unique characters--such as Valdez--found in the comic book.
This issue of Wolverine concludes an intriguing story arc that began with an alien child dying in New York and unknowingly unleashing plague.
The child’s last words were Laura's name, which involved Wolverine in ways she couldn’t expect. Wolverine’s investigation led to writer Tom Taylor highlighting not her claws but instead her healing factor. The discovery led to a Wolverine Family jamboree with background vocals provided by Deadpool, Logan, Daken and Gabby. The next step in this horribly underrated miniature Marvel masterpiece led to Wolverine teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to find out who launched the dying child to earth in the first place and what was the nature of the plague. The answer appeared to begin and end with Brood. In the previous issue, the Brood took Gabby, and Wolverine wants her cloned sister back. That could be difficult.
The Guardians of the Galaxy read as fast and fun as the cinematic versions. That said. There’s more than mere satisfaction in satellite sabotage.
Wolverine acts bravely and loyally in Gabby’s defense, but she allows the Guardians to carry out their ultimatum and simply trusts in herself to either save Gabby or die with her. In such action, we find her fascinating persona. The way out centers on the very heart of this story, and the epilogue, meatier than most adds a layer of depth to the already rich tale. This includes an in synch moment between Laura and Rocket that’s quite insightful. In addition, Leonard Kirk’s artwork is simply wonderful. I’ve spoken before about my admiration for Kirk’s illustration in Supergirl and Justice Society, and he hasn’t lost any steam since those early excursions.
Sheena’s new debut impressed me with a strong voice and astounding artwork by All-Star Western’s Moritat. No change. The tale picks up where we left off. Sheena keeps encountering drones. Last issue, she killed one. This issue, she chooses a different tactic.
Surprsingly, the drones do not belong to the newcomers to Sheena’s jungle.
Writers Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo take some clever detours from the expected. They for example make these armed to the teeth men somewhat reasonable for armed to the teeth men. They also describe Sheena in different terms for different people, which adds to the complexity of characterization for this sublime basic archetype.
The custodians of the Savage Land staged a contest to attract the best and brightest computer science students. A trip to Marvel’s Jurassic Park was the prize. Nancy and Squirrel Girl of course made the cut, as did two Latverian students. Latveria for those not in the know is the land ruled by Victor von Doom.
Fantastic Four Annual #2
However, the custodians had an ulterior motive. They wanted the students to use their acumen to save the Savage Land, which is deteriorating. As far as ultimate agendas go, rescuing a slice of unique environment is pretty benign. The winners of the contest are more than happy to help. Add Squirrel Girl’s best friend Nancy and the Latverian Stefan crushing on each other and heaping helpings of Doom worship for color. Shake well, and you get an entertaining if not outstanding few chapters of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. The set up however led to a genuinely surprising reveal and the superb current issue.
Here, a deadly Avengers foe returns in a different form that delivers hilarity and forces an odd team-up indeed.
As evinced in past issues but established in Squirrel Girl’s debut, Dr. Doom loathes Squirrel Girl. The then neophyte hero memorably humiliated Doom. His Doombots are probably programmed to capture if not kill her on sight. Fortunately, this is not exactly a factory default Doombot. Created by Stefan to solve the Savage Land’s problems, Antonio, as he is named, runs with a few helpful apps.
This allows the Doombot to partner with Squirrel Girl and kick ass.
Supergirl just isn’t very good. Fortunately it looks like the badness circles the drain at the end of this issue. I can however recommend without hesitation Robson Rocha’s and Daniel Henriques’ artwork. If you’re a fan of either gentlemen, then you’ll want to add Supergirl to your collection.
Supergirl is packed with action and Rocha’s and Henriques’ wonderful expressive illustration swathed in a sheen of Michael Atiyeh’s masterful colors.
However, we’re stuck with this story and the ending to the split personality continuity that I discussed before.
The climax to Supergirl is the cover. Supergirl kills the Eye of Ekron, and the fact that the Powers That Be displayed what should have been kept secret so overtly I believe indicates desperation. DC knew that things weren’t working in Supergirl. So, they wanted everybody to know that they weren’t messing around anymore. This is the last issue of awful. Watch Supergirl rip the Eye asunder.
Before we get to that, the reader must suffer through another interminable chapter of the Cyborg Superman is really Zor-El saga. Don’t misread. This was not Steve Orlando’s fault. The identity of CySupes is not his doing. However, he could have just dropped it. Perpetuating this painfully stupid plot device is definitely on him. Making it the fulcrum to Empress’ schemes to discredit Supergirl is again courtesy of him. As I read the latest business, I kept saying to myself, I don’t care. In fact, I don’t think anybody cares.
Orlando entertains the reader more when he turns his attention to present day Fatal Five members Magog and Selena pitted against the Kryptonian Lycanthrope Lar-On.
This scene is genuinely funny. First, I like the whole idea that the high and mighty Magog, a dorky villain if ever there was one, bit off more than he can chew. Second, the disposable sorceress Selena knows a werewolf is outside of her weight class. She owes no loyalty. So, she does the smart thing. Third, she steals Magog’s hat on the way. The pragmatism and theft actually imbues Selena with greater depth than a third tier character should have. As a result, I hope to see Selena again.
I’ve already suggested through reviews of the recent Batgirl/Supergirl team-up that Orlando can be a good writer when not adhering to continuity, mostly his confectionary. The whimsy with Selena is another exemplar, and not the only one within Supergirl. Shay Veritas, reintroduced previously, contributes the kindness I wanted to see consistently. Orlando finally dumps that idiot Cameron Chase, and he better gels the Danvers’ with the Danvers from the television series. His finale introduction of a new antagonist promises better things on the horizon.
Supergirl guest stars in Superwoman, and though the narrative would benefit from better construction, it’s an interesting issue for a number of reasons.
The least of the story involves clean up of the Friend You Never Heard of is a Red Kryptonite monster plot point. Lana Lang is also part of the mess.
The jump cut between issues is one of the faults in the structure of the title’s literal continuity; as opposed to defining continuity as fictional history.
The previous issue ended here.
It appeared that there would be a Lex and Supergirl team-up, with the goal of restoring the Red K Superwoman to Lana Lang. Writer Mike Perkins eschews the slugfest and speeds to the inevitable conclusion. Supergirl and Lex overcame Superwoman off panel and talked her down. The end.
Perhaps, Perkins had no investment in the tale and wanted to conclude the chapter quickly to reach this friendlier interaction between Lana and Supergirl.
Lana Lang and Supergirl rarely crossed paths. Supergirl may have said hi to her in the Legion when Lana became an honorary member as Insect Queen. So there’s a bit of historical value in the cousin of Superman meeting one of the classic cast members in Superman lore.
The history of the Superman cast indeed provides the crux of the plot. Lana Lang existed to be Superboy’s love interest. The crush before Lois Lane, dubbed “Superman’s Girlfriend.”
Lana Lang essentially was a sex fantasy. To a lesser extent so was Lois Lane. These characters were not sex fantasies in the traditional sense. Rather they exhibited the characteristics of a 1950s Republican ideal. Their sole purpose in that period was to provide the impetus of imagining them as Superman’s wives to produce babies. Reading these comics is an excruciating experience and can only be enjoyed in the same way one enjoys bad movies.
It would be ten years before Ian Fleming unwittingly emancipated women in pop culture with his James Bond novels turned to movies. Before that women were portrayed as husband hungry because a woman could not, would not have sex except in the capacity of a wife to make babies.
Any openly sexually inquisitive woman was considered a hussy, a Jezebel, a lesbian or a woman from the wrong side of the tracks. I’m not saying that any of these definitions were true. Rather the public pretense characterized a repressive era. You can trace the roots of fundamentalist hatred of women to the want to recapitulate this remarkably terrible facade in history. Thanks to misogynists, the idea of women only being grateful baby making machines has never gone away, and this issue of Superwoman addresses the nauseating stereotype with the character of Maxima.
Maxima created in the post-Crisis was alien royalty that followed her society’s demands for her to marry and mate with a suitable candidate. She is a horrendous idea. Here is a powerful woman whose assets are many, but her sole function is to produce a child.
Superwoman speaks out against the antiquated zeitgeist through the voice of Supergirl, never meant to be a sex fantasy, and Lana Lang who was Betty to Lois Lane’s Veronica.
In a surprise stroke, Perkins draws upon Maxima’s more recent incarnation from the pages of Supergirl for the purpose of contrast and to demonstrate an enlightened twenty first century opinion about women.
Women are baby producers by a default of genetic chance. Men could have easily evolved for this task. Women are complex individuals not simplified roles. That’s the whole point of Superwoman. That's what makes this issue notable.
When Lex Luthor prevailed in saving Bizarro’s life, he catalyzed a strange transformation in his creation. Red Hood and the Outlaws features the first Brainy Bizarro outing. The story’s nothing but a fun outtake of rocket packs and a TARDIS like headquarters. The cool toys way in which Bizarro thanks his teammates. Bizarro’s state will likely not last, but Red Hood and the Outlaws' consistent entertainment value probably will.
Bombshell dropped. Nightwing is the cuckoo in the Titans' nest. Is it for real? Is he a doppelganger? Did the Court of Owls gain influence or perhaps a spy organization? Dan Abnett arrives at a satisfying sci-fi answer, and his restructuring of HIVE creates intriguing potential.
I don’t know beans about the Runaways, but it’s issue one, and the art by Kris Anka looked sweet. So I took the premiere home. I do actually know a little bit about the Runaways because of their guest appearance in Avengers Academy and the central sorceress Nico helping to establish A-Force, a casualty of Big Stupid Events.
The beauty of writer Rainbow Rowell’s story is that you don’t really need to know jack about the Runaways in order to enjoy their latest series. The stakes are really simple.
Somebody Nico knows is dying, and that somebody requires magical help. Having been forced to endure twenty five years of Barbara Gordon being crippled, it was a distinct pleasure to watch Nico whip spell after spell to do exactly what should have been done to heal Barbara’s spine. Rowell doesn’t give Nico an easy out once, but she accepts that magic, science fiction technology and even time travel exist in the Marvel Universe. These fantastical notions do not undermine the drama of survival.