Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pick of the Brown Bag


Ray Tate

Congratulations to Representative Todd Akin for nabbing the Republican Tiara of Sphincterhood.

We at the Pick of the Brown Bag hope one day that he'll be hogtied and anally gang-fisted by the American Bar Association, thereby finally proving that yes, you can be "legitimately raped."

Unlike women who Akin apparently believes can transmute their genitalia into something like this…

In a Vagina Dentata, Baby

…men sadly have no natural defense against sexual violations. So, lie back and try to enjoy it if you can, Congressman.  Remember any offspring resulting from such traumas are "broken gifts."  Wait, what? I'm being informed that men cannot get pregnant.  

Dude? Really?

Well, color my face red.  I guess I'm just as ignorant about the human body as Congressman Akin.  Thank goodness neither of us are on the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

All right, all right.  All kidding aside.  This poor excuse for a man needs be working for the local Girl Scouts car wash.  He should never have held any office, let alone a Congressional seat.  Missouri, this is your second chance to remove a bone stupid cyst.  Don't blow it.

Let the Games Begin

All-Star Western #12

This is basically Black Tullulah's issue of All-Star Western as she goes hog-wild against the Crime Bible Cult.  The Cult foolishly captured she, Jonah Hex and Professor Arkham last issue and decided to torture them rather than end their lives right then and there.  Well, it's a common flaw in villainy,  one that the Cult will regret--that is of course if any of them survive the night.

Tullulah kills without remorse.  She's near unstoppable, and it's a pleasure to see her rip through the Cult and their corrupt cohorts on Gotham City PD.  While this is a bloody chapter in the story, artist Moritat isn't interested in presenting torture porn to the reader.  Rather, his imagery is similar to the giallo, the stylish genre of Italian mystery that also influenced the spaghetti western.  With an aesthetic quality to blood flowing across the screen and poetry in the shedding of life, the giallo makes murder artful. 

True murder is ugly.  There is no art or style to it.  It's humiliation and violence all wrapped up in a diseased shroud.  If you see it on the news, you look away.  If you see a graphic in the paper, you wince.  Take a look at old photos of Jack the Ripper's victims.  You'll see no saucy beauties, nor will you see delicate rips to the throat and a spatter of blood perhaps cgi'ed into a butterfly.  There's just death.

Some might argue that's disingenuous, but then the entirety of cinema and any entertainment is at its heart a lie that we accept to spice up our lives.  There is no, never was, a spy like James Bond.  Even Riley, the so-called Ace of Spies on whom some say James Bond is based, is fabricated for the Sam Neil PBS series.  The banalities of life are reduced to cut to the chase.  The wrongness of taking a life evaporates if the killer does so with gusto.  Black Tullulah has gusto.

Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray do however give each player a moment in the sun.  The usually timid Arkham explodes words against his captors, and because of his psychological insight, he strikes hard.  Jonah Hex pushes Alan Wayne to make a decision that will shape the Wayne Legacy for years to come, and in the end result in the Batman.  The Wayne blood runs true in All-Star Western, and while Tullulah slays in inventive ways, Hex still gets a few shots against his enemies.


Batman Dark Knight #12

The story in Dark Knight plays as you expect with the Scarecrow's origin virtually unchanged, albeit bloodier, and common insights into Batman's past.  

The Scarecrow captured Batman last issue, and we find out that the cunning straw man abducted Commissioner Gordon as bait.  The Commissioner wasn't his goal at all.  Using a gag first exploited in The Simpsons but having a real world basis, the Scarecrow drugs Batman and forces him to re-experience the loneliness of his childhood.  Yeah, we've kind of seen this before, but the punchiline gives this book...


Scarecrow drastically misreads Batman, and once again because it's the new 52, Batman's emotional history doesn't result in a traditional outcome.  When Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch pull the reveal, the music swells, and we realize that we're in the hands of masters, not of fear but characterization.

The Flash #12

In The Flash, the eponymous Scarlet Speedster's rogues almost combine forces to gain the Golden Glider's revenge.  Lisa Snart owes her life to the Flash and her brother Captain Cold.  In a previous issue, we discovered that Lisa lay dying, and the electromagnetic pulse that crippled Central City interfered with her recovery.  Cold blamed the Flash for the emp but in subsequent issues we discover the Flash to be innocent.  In fact, his running prevents things like that from happening.  Thanks to the Flash, Lisa got better, and somewhere down the line she became the Golden Glider.

The original Golden Glider fixated on the Flash because he allegedly killed her psychotic boyfriend the Top.  Her shtick involved skating in the air, but as goofy as that power might have appeared, her rage made her extremely dangerous.  She was just as nuts as the Top.  Maybe a little more.

The new 52 Golden Glider represents a drastic departure from tradition.   Her figure skating routine was an honest one.  Lisa Snart was a former ice dancer.  This Golden Glider does not skate.  Her powers appear quite different, and the Top is not involved.  

Lisa seeks revenge against Dr. Elias, the brain guy that at first seemed to be the Flash's ally but as fast as you can say Professor Hamilton, turned on him in an eye blink.  

Still the Flash can't let Elias die because the Speedster's just too darn good.  However, Golden Glider wants her pound of flesh, and she just may get it because while she threatens Elias, the Flash's other rogues run distraction after distraction.

Golden Glider hates her brother Captain Cold.  She plans to kill him as part of her plan, but other rogues haven't boarded the Glider special.  Some are opportunistic.  Others are merely addressing debts.  This variety of rationales complicates the plot even more and sets up an outstanding cliffhanger.

Francis Manapul is also back on art duties with Brian Buccellato, the pastel colorist and co-scripter.  Their return educes an ethereal Glider to pages and pages of angled and fluid panels that increase the pace and enhance the mood.  

The complete redesign of the rogues updates them without changing their essence, and it's kind of nice to see that the Rogues still exhibit more ranges of emotion than snarling to lunatic.   


In this issue of Justice League Dark, Jeff Lemire attempts to flesh out the team members and play with DC's history of magic and sorcery.  I'm not exactly spoiling this comic book, since it's not really a plot-based issue, but for those wanting to preserve all the surprises, Justice League Dark earns...


It's by no means a bad book, but it's a setup/establishing issue.  Dark might be a good jumping on point for new readers, although I do have a few qualms with some of the dialogue and behavior of the characters.

Lemire first explains Dr. Mist.  Dr. Mist was created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon for The Super-Friends comic book as a kind of quasi-Doctor Strange.  He existed to sense and explain some weird happenings and recruit the Justice League to combat something nasty.  Post-Crisis, Dr. Mist sans super-hero accoutrements became the leader of the Global Guardians, the team's individual members also created by Bridwell and Fradon for The Super-Friends.  

The new 52 Dr. Mist is very much like the new 52 Mr. Terrific.  However, shattered by the loss of his wife, Dr. Mist turned to the occult rather than science, and unlike Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mist believed that he would find a way to bring his wife back from the dead.  It's this belief that catalyzes Dr. Mist's betrayal of the League and his throwing in with Felix Faust, himself the partner of another Big Bad hidden in the shadows and pulling the strings.

That Big Bad knows John Constantine, which isn't really saying much because the new 52 is a tabula rasa.  It honestly wouldn't be any revelation to me if the shadow man did turn out to be an old enemy from the Constantine files, since I've never been a fan of Constantine.  So, I wouldn't know any of his enemies if I tripped over them.  That said there is one figure suspiciously missing from the usual suspects in sorcery, and that's Dr. Thirteen.  My other thought is Lemire pulling a Valeyard, where the figure is an evil future version of the cad.

In All-Star Western a miscreant highway man on the gallows curses the turn of the century Dr. Thirteen and all his descendants.  In the real world, curses are bunkum.  In the new 52 however magic works.  So, who's to say?  Perhaps the curse corrupted the Dr. Thirteen that would have been, and the new 52 modern day Dr. Thirteen is in fact a villain.  Given that Dr. Thirteen was really just a nondescript foil for the Phantom Stranger, merely a lame take on Scooby-Doo, the blackening of his soul is an improvement of sorts.

Black is my favorite color in Justice League Dark.  I've always been a fan of Black Orchid, the original super-hero version, that is, originated by Sheldon Mayer and Tony DeZuniga in Adventure Comics.  She's the Tigra of the group.

In this issue, Orchid doesn't do much but look pretty in Michael Janin's and Ulises Arreola's brushstrokes.  The awkward conversation she has with Constantine in which she tries to find out his standing with Zatanna suggests a personal interest in him, and frankly, I find that repellent.  She can do much better.  For example, I understand that Grant Morrison will be re-introducing Krypto on earth soon.  

Anyway, Zatanna and Deadman offer the best from the group.  Their away team offers the reader humor and a natural comarderie that may involve a history with the League or an association with Batman.  Whatever the reason, their dialogue made me smile.

Speaking of history, we discover what happened to some of the magic users from DC comics.  Zatanna's father Zatara suffers a different fate; that's not a pun.  Dr. Fate does not appear on earth one.  Dr. Occult shows up in a pivotal cameo, and Lemire also mentions Sargon the Sorcerer, one of the low-rent magicians that made his mark by appearing in the Alex Toth treasury edition of The Super-Friends.  Yes, everything does seem to lead back there, doesn't it?

I've been a fan of Alan Davis' artwork since he debuted in Detective Comics.  Technically, he started on Maze Agency--a massive favorite series of mine that also launched the career of Adam Hughes--but we didn't see that until years later.  

Most will remember his cute depiction of Catwoman, and why not? She was genuinely cute.  However, when Batman loses her to the Joker's machinations, Alan Davis cuts loose with one of the fiercest Batman depictions in comic books.  

After that Davis went on to illustrate Batman and the Outsiders and co-creating Looker.  With so many gals on that team, the title sealed his reputation as a master of the cute.  That's really not a bad way to be remembered, but Davis is more than that, and in this week's Wolverine Annual he reminds you that his artwork can be quite affecting.

I forgot that Wolverine actually can feel pain, but the seasoned Alan Davis taps into his youthful self's spirit--the same kind of drive that created such a bracing Batman--and combines that energy with the professional story crafter facet that he has honed over the years on such titles as Justice League: The Nail.  

It's not just that rendering of Wolverine that makes you feel for the Canuck, nor the masterful illustration of the mutant's struggle to rise in that last panel.  Kay's reaction to what's happening to Wolverine injects more potency into the tapestry.  The fact that the admittedly egocentric Kay can empathize with Logan impacts dramatically and defies the shallow persona she displays with the brilliance of a peacock's tail.

It's this fusion of artistic talent with experience in visual narrative that gives Wolverine it's…


Big Dog Ink was kind enough to send me the first issue of Ursa Minor.  Imagine a world filled with werewolves, vampires and fairy folk.  Throw them all together in a blender.  Puree.

It's not that Ursa Minor lacks any good ideas.  The switcharoo that's central to the plot is elegant and inspired.  The creators depict vampires as the cunning, diabolical top rung of the undead legions, as they should be.  The way a waitress fends off these vampires is clever, and the full color art's solid, although some might be offended by the T & A.  It is a strip club after all, and this isn't an all-ages book.

My main problems with the story spring from the prolonged origin of this world.  I really didn't need to know any of narrative in the opening pages.  The creative team should have begun at the strip club and let the reader figure things out.  We really didn't need to know that some werewolves conducted an assassination years ago to unwittingly instigate a supernatural purging by humans.  We don't actually know why the lycanthropes assassinated the President anyway.  Did the Commander-In-Chief slap them on the noses with a rolled up newspaper when they were pups?

In any case, it's too early to tell whether I like Ursa Minor or not.  The characters are a little thin, and none of them make an immediate impression.  That may change as the story progresses, but right now, I'm giving the debut.

And there you have it.  The first issue of the new Pick of the Brown Bag.  If you like what you see, come back again next week.


  1. Haven't read the Wolverine annual yet, but I read the Daredevil and Fantastic Four (also by Davis), and those were great!

  2. I thought the Daredevil one was terrific. The FF was weird. Beautiful but weird, and I would have liked to seen more interaction between the Human Torch and the Thing. Still these Alan Davis annuals actually feel like Marvel books.