Tuesday, August 15, 2017

POBB August 9, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
August 9, 2017
Ray Tate

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country.  Not Donald Trump.  Not Barack Obama.  It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

No idea what the last part means.  I don’t speak Nightmare Idiot.  Then we have.

“I'm sure there were good people in the groups that had various opinions on the removal or maintenance of the statue, but what they found when they showed up were groups from outside that showed up on both sides, looking for trouble." So sayeth White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert.

You see? These barely human offal are already trying to spin the “both sides” phrase to potency.  The logic is that if they say it long enough, it will some how gain greater strength.  Both of these cretins were outdone by a Tiki Torch.

“TIKI Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed.  We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way.”

Hello, and welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  My name is Ray Tate, the reviewer of Action Comics, All-New Wolverine, Doctor Who, Generations: Phoenix, Harley Quinn, Hellboy and the BPRD Secret Nature, Jean Grey, Justice League and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Red Sonja, Superwoman and The Titans.  Condensed versions and summaries of these reviews can be found on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

A human chess player trapped the Doctor by taking one of his Knights.  Namely, Captain Jack Harkness.  The message the Doctor and entourage received turned out to be a false one, meant to lead Jack on a journey of discovery, for an ulterior agenda.  

Jack is a Time Agent, and the agency took some of his memories.  He may have done some seedy stuff during his fealty to the agency.  Including assassination.

Memory wiping is a common practice in Doctor Who.  It’s frequently presented as a quite disturbing occupational hazard of time travel.  For example, the Time Lords erased some of the Doctor’s memories when imprisoning him on earth.  History itself tends to fuzz events, such as when incarnations of the Doctor meet.  This story is about the sale of the Doctor’s memories.  Naturally, several parties are interested.

But the criminal makes one mistake in inviting these gentlemen to the bidding party.

In a brilliant, surprising move writer Cavan Scott initiates a perfect double-cross that’s also emotionally devoid.  A supreme stratagem from the Cybermen.  The action though logical creates chaos, but the Doctor’s innocent attempts to find Jack become the perfect counter against the classic Doctor Who creature.  That the Doctor’s riposte is based on emotion makes the comeuppance that more delicious.

Scott in addition to creating a terrific conclusion to his well-orchestrated long game also implants the story within continuity without disturbing it.  Jack never regains all his memories on Doctor Who.  So, he shouldn’t acquire them here in the comic book.  To preserve the authenticity of his story, Scott could have solved the writing conflict perfunctorily.  Instead, he gives it meaning.  

The plus one comic book companion Tara Mishra who strongly contributes to the finale also gets a good send off, and the final tactic against the Cybermen will leave a grin on any older Doctor Who fan.

Hellboy and Dr. Woodrow Farrier his companion from the BPRD investigate some cattle deaths.  A done-in-one done right, Hellboy fuses Evil Dead and the legend of the Chupacabra with1950s racism.

The artwork by Shawn Martinbrough suitably animates the action, excels with the esoteric and produces some quite expressive reactions from Hellboy.  The latest Hellboy one-shot is certainly not necessary but an auxiliary purchase for those looking for a good read.

In the aftermath of the battle against Kulan Gath Red Sonja, lost her companion Max to the vagaries of time.

As you can see, he’s quite all right, but our present day company do not quite know that.  Sonja and her lady friends, Spike and Holly, decide to take a road trip to see if they can find a way to bring Max back and send Sonja home.  

Although Sonja may not wish to return to her proper place.  Regardless, the She-Devil with a sword soon finds honest work for an honorable mercenary for hire.

Red Sonja writer Amy Chu keeps the adventures light and bouncy but within the realm of exploitation staples, ably illustrated by Caesar Gomez.

The battle against the bikers promises to be an excellent chapter in Sonja’s present day adventures, and new consequences arrive in a somewhat Monty Python fashion.

In the latest issue of Harley Quinn, somebody has it in for our favorite borderline madwoman.

The assassins however pick the wrong day to end Harley’s life.

That’s right.  Harley's friends through the clown queen an impromptu birthday party, and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner provide a plethora of hi-jinks courtesy of expected guest stars…

…and unexpected arrivals--revealed at the end of the post should you rather not chomp at the bit.  

The comedy derives from the idea of circus folk and criminals bringing a heavily armed able team of killers to their knees and the consistently absurd dialogue borne from Harley’s frankness.  

Happy to say that there’s very little contribution from Red Tool, and returning artist Chad Hardin’s more realistic artwork creates the kind of contrast that helps make these gags hit home.  The story wouldn’t be quite so funny with a Harvey Kurtzman kind of look.

Sometimes to understand what’s going on, you’ve got to take a hit.  Today, the hit is Superwoman.  

Superwoman is not a bad comic book.  It’s better than many.  It’s not great, but it’s got a plot.  The characters are likable, at least in flashback, and writer Mike Perkins runs with the idea of Lex Luthor genuinely trying to be a hero.  

I’ve already covered the Bronze Age version of Superwoman.  This review concerns the Lana Lang iteration.  

I stayed away from Superwoman for numerous reasons.  One, I didn’t need to follow the concept.  Supergirl exists.  Two, Lois Lane was the original Superwoman of the new 52, and while that might have been fun for a little while…Three, the powers were always going to kill her, which they did.  Sort of.  Lana Lang assumed the role during Superman’s restoration, and I ignored her mostly.  Which is not to say that I didn’t like the new 52 Lana Lang.  It’s just that as Superwoman she seemed to lack a purpose.  Greg Pak on the other hand knew what to do with a non-powered Lana, and his intentions suited the character better.

The idea of Lana possessing powers is nothing new.  She became Insect Queen after acquiring a ring from a grateful alien whose life she saved.  The Lana Lang of Smallville gained a suit from Lex which drew her closer to Clark's level of power.  Amusingly, this improved their love life immensely, but the gotcha involved the suit’s power source, Kryptonite.  That Lex, what a joker.  Seriously though.  On Smallville, the episode was filled with pathos ably conveyed by the cast.

The current issue of Superwoman returns to Smallville.  Perkins fleshes out Clark’s, Lana’s and Lex’s time in Kansas.  Lana and Clark were friends, at first.

Both knew Lex, but not in the same capacity as the television series.  

No mention of Pete Ross or Chloe Sullivan by the way.  The new status quo differs from each era of comic books.  Originally, Lex and Clark were best friends.  The first Superman reboot Man of Steel changed the arrangement.  Superman meets Lex Luthor as an adversary in Metropolis.  The new 52 re-established Lex Luthor in Smallville, but as hardly more than an acquaintance.  In Superwoman, the pendulum swings back.

Perkins also borrows one of the dumbest ideas in Smallville, but comes up with a better explanation for acquisition.

That’s right.  The Kryptonite necklace reappears.  Only, it’s not a reminder of Lana’s parents being obliterated by a Kryptonian meteorite.  It’s a little more logical and red.

The Superwoman material is much weaker than the flashbacks to Smallville.  It’s the Smallville section of the tale that merits interest.  Although the whole romantic angle between Lana and Clark is completely worthless.  It’s not that it’s not well done, but it’s like showing a flashback with James Bond romancing Honey Wilder while being with Colonel Wai Lin.  Superman is married to Lois Lane.  They have a son.  The Lana/Clark ship sailed.

Rob Williams in Action Comics pits the Man of Steel against the villain known as the Machinist.

Although looking like a Dr. Doom cosplayer, the Machinist has a different shtick.  The Machinist creates Doombots using people.  The presumably lead lined armor is basically meant to conceal the identity of the poor victim under the Machinist’s influence.  The Machinist controls these individuals through the use of technology.  This time around, the tech bears a familiar logo.

Thus, Superman teams up with his traditional enemy Lex Luthor to stop the Machinist’s current rampage.

In a way you can describe Action Comics as a standard Superman adventure, but actually there’s more going on here than meets the eye.  This is the restored Superman so he’s filled with a love for humanity.  Superman no longer jumps to the conclusion that Lex is an evil mastermind.  Indeed, as you can see in the graphic, Superman is somewhat bemused at the thought of partnering with Lex.

Before the restoration, the new 52 version of Superman and Batman intended to bring Lex down for vague crimes lacking a whole lot of evidence.  The stern more conservative Superman from another universe attacked Lex outright, but this Superman is willing to accept Lex’s innocence and his want to do good at face value.  On the flip side, Lex’s determination to kill Superman waned after he saved his life at the conclusion to Forever Evil.  Even if not wild about the Man of Steel, Lex seemed to arrive at an epiphany.  The planet needs Superman. 

Lex Luthor guest stars in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but the narration--often hilarious--belongs to Bizarro as he lays dying.  The mix of Bizarro's Superman and solo memories leads to an adorable rendition of Superman's life enhanced by Bizarro's simplistic description by artist Dexter Soy. 

Scott Lobdell's story is remarkably sweet as he reveals kindness in all the characters.  Lex appears under the aegis of protecting Lexcorp property, namely Bizarro.  Anybody that read Forever Evil, knows that Lex thought of the first Bizarro as more than an object.  

Lobdell uses that memory to draw out humanity from Lex Luthor.  These moments only revealed when Lex is alone.

In addition, Lobdell reinforces the bond Bizarro has with Jason Todd and Artemis.  It's not at all one-sided.  While Jason was overt in his feeling for Bizarro, Artemis appeared more aloof.  Not so as flashbacks from Black Mask's holding cells reveal.

This instance is the less of the spoilers.  The previous panel depicts Artemis teaching Bizarro the ABCs.  This cannot be missed.  The final fate of Bizarro at once comedic and uplifting promises a new chapter in the lives of Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Dan Abnett pulls the Titans out of imminent cancellation from my pull list.  It turns out the things I always hated aren't returning to pollute arguably the best Titans series of the bunch.

The story begins in the middle, with the Titans beating the crap out of old Aqualad enemies.  I know.  Aqualad has enemies? Who would have thought.

Aqualad is Abnett's focus character for this issue, and I was wondering when he would get to Garth.  Abnett writes Aquaman, but for some reason, he primarily avoided Aqualad.  Here, Abnett builds on Aqualad's budding relationship with Lilith, his magic skills, which he finds distasteful, and as I said a Rogue's Gallery.  Aqualad also saves the day when the Titans order pizza during their quarantine.

It's a funny scene but it also demonstrates how quickly the Titans could have all been killed without Aqualad.  It's furthermore plausible.  All the Titans are otherwise human.  Nobody would have been able to detect the poison.  Given that the crab women, or as they refer to themselves the Titan Three, intended for the pizza distribution to be widespread, the Titans actually save millions of lives.

The Titans' self-imposed exile existed to determine who among them will betray the team.  A prediction made by Psimon, an arch enemy but is he lying?

Abnett provides an answer this issue and leaves a lot of questions in the wake of stunning cliffhanger.

Nothing wrong with Jean Grey’s title book.  She goes to Psylocke to learn how to create telekinetic weapons like she unwittingly did while visiting Asgard.  Oh, for those not in the know.  Jean travels like the other X-Men, with the help of miniature Nightcrawler Pickles.  

Not being an X-Men fan, I haven’t a clue where they picked up the critter, or if he’s related at all to the actual Nightcrawler, but there you have it.  A plot device that produces a few notes of humor every issue or so.

Psylocke attempts to teach Jean meditation and fails miserably.  She then tries for a more festive atmosphere before finally coming to the conclusion that Jean need to play a real life video game with nuisance Ninjas the Hand.

Exactly how many of these dudes are there?  Well after this issue, there won’t be that many left.

Cullen Bunn who jokingly has referred to Jean Grey writer Dennis Hopeless as his archenemy, offers a meatier excursion for the character in the Generations crossover series.  Those expecting a deep, philosophically based adventure will be disappointed, but those looking for a fun Bronze Age Marvel styled throwback will be delighted.

For an unknown reason something throws Jean Grey back through time to meet her older self, now under the influence of the Phoenix.  Not really though.  This older version of Jean Grey is actually the Phoenix perfectly mimicking the body and mind of the true Jean Grey, who is healing from massive radiation trauma in a cocoon at the bottom of Hudson Bay.  She will be found by Namor and freed by Reed Richards.  Lo—X-Force is born.  Ray with knowledge of X-Men continuity? I know. It’s a little strange for me as well.  However, this whole episode occurred in Fantastic Four, and I loves me some Fantastic Four.  Anyhow.  The Phoenix quickly susses out Jean’s attempts to hide herself from the telepath supreme.

This leads to a confab between different incarnations of Jean Grey, with that above caveat.  The fact is that the Phoenix tricked herself into believing she was Jean.  So, for all intent and purpose that’s what she is.  So, the meeting of the minds is valid, and it also explains why Mastermind, who young Jean Grey can spot quite easily can mess with old Jean’s mind.  Incidentally, if Marvel ever decides that young Jean is in fact THE Jean Grey, they’ll really have to mind wipe her.

After the mostly harmless interaction between the Jeans, the Phoenix takes Jean to the stars.  Ostensibly, this is just for fun, but the Phoenix or Jean—at this point its difficult to tell which—sense that young Jean is afraid.  You really don’t need to worry too much about this.  What you can really dig is an encounter with Galactus and his loser Herald Terrax the Tamer.

At this point in time, the Phoenix is above board.  She’s really trying to be Jean Grey, an X-Men and a superhero.  So she intervenes on behalf of an innocent world.

This action forces young Jean to make a decision.  Should she tell old Jean about her tragic future to prevent it from coming to be, or does young Jean keep the information secret and preserve history?  Whatever her decision, it’s apparently momentous.

Yeah.  The Watcher.  More Bronze Age goodness, or whacky depending on your viewpoint.  The Watcher back in the day could show up anywhere, in any book not just the space books: Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man, Sub-Mariner.  The Watcher could break in at any time.  His presence here just adds to the fun.

Wolverine continues her team-up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to slice and dice the Brood.  These subpar Alien rip-offs have way too much of a half-life in the Marvel Universe, and last issue they snatched Gabby, Wolverine’s clone-sister.  That’s bound to irritate our Laura.  

Drax tries to reason with Wolverine, but in the end he must essentially use a fastball special to get her to safety.  The safety involves an alien outpost which uncovers the answers to numerous mysteries, including the mysterious visitor that started the whole ball rolling.

The information is welcome and makes sense.  Another member of the Wolverine Family also happens to be among the aliens.  Fang, who I don’t know but wears an old Wolverine costume.  Space Wolverine?  All of this however is just getting in Laura's way.  Laura decides to mount a rescue operation for Gabby.

The rest of our tale consists of Leonard Kirk illustrating an eye-catching foray and the repulsive torture on Gabby’s end.  At the same time, Tom Taylor adds a little color and spice to the dialogue to keep things interesting.

The latest issue of Justice League/ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is filled with amazing moments.  The Justice League traveled to the Power Rangers universe to stop the collusion of Brainiac and Rangers foe Zed.  They clearly never known a girl like Wonder Woman before.

The reaction is perfect.  The response equally so.  Meanwhile, back on Ranger Satellite, the League and the Rangers deal with the aftermath of a possessed Cyborg.  No match for the Rangers, but that leaves a dire consequence for Victor Stone, if not for Batman.

This is something you really don’t expect in a more or less continuity free company crossover.  Batman admits to studying Victor's system.  He treats a human mind as no more than a really advanced computer program.  Batman is at this moment pure Batman.  The smartest man on any earth.  The supreme skeptic, at once scary and hilarious.

Batman isn’t the only Leaguer who rates in this book.  The Flash becomes pivotal, and Superman does something proper.  The whole comic is just a big meaty glob of entertainment.  

Will Our Mystery Guest Star from Harley Quinn Sign In Please