Pick of the Brown Bag
May 22, 2013
Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag. This week a special treat. The Top 21 Awesome Spoiler-Ridden Things in the Season Finale of Doctor Who. In the Order of Their appearance. As well, we look at the first issue of IDW's Doctor Who starring Clara Oswin as the Doctor's companion. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray give readers a taste of The Deep Sea, published by Dark Horse, and Nemedian scribe Eric Trautmann departs Red Sonja with a bang not a whimper.
Turning to DC Comics, The Others return in Aquaman. Booster Gold and Jonah Hex ride the dusty trail in the newest issue of All-Star Western. Despero attacks the Justice League while Dr. Destiny sets his sights upon Justice League Dark. The Reverse Flash begins his assault on the proper one, but first, we take a look at the World's Best team...
This will be my last issue of Batman: Dark Knight. On the one hand Gregg Hurwitz wastes a good character in a contrived, cliche moment that's artificially trumped up over the top drama. He really had to work hard to kill this character. He ignored the nonsensical nature of the death. He ignored the superficiality of the Mad Hatter. He ignored the sense of pacing he had in the early chapters. Batman should have caught the Mad Hatter two chapters ago, and the dead should never have been Hatter's target.
In response, Conan Doyle brought Holmes back in The Hound of the Baskervilles and returned him to the present in "The Empty House," the first of a series of Sherlock Holmes stories collected as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle Furthermore, continued to write Holmes practically until the day he died. Holmes' canon breached the twentieth century, and people have never stopped loving Sherlock Holmes.
Hurwitz's story isn't the only problem however. With the departure of Ethan Van Sciver, shadow puppeteer Szymon Kudranski emulates an anemic firefly.
Maybe I need special glasses to see these panels.
Nope. Still pitch black except for the instance I didn't want to see. With nothing for me to recommend, continuing Dark Knight would be an exercise in masochism. Oh, well. The Scarecrow saga was terrific.
A quick melee between Superman and Orion offers comedy rather than angst.
Superman's current paramour Wonder Woman guest stars and serves to smartly broker a peace between the two combatants. Before the calm however, Scott Lobdell and artist Aaron Kuder bring the storm.
I'll bet you did. As the battle progresses, Superman's and Orion's dialogue grows even more fun with Orion revealing himself to be a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A Big Hand for Colorist Blond
Unlike the majority of slugfests between heroes in any continuity you would care to name, this one actually benefits from a central rationale. It turns out that there's a cuckoo in the Kryptonian nest.
Lobdell plays up the absurdity of the villain. He wisely doesn't take the antagonist too seriously. Rather he demonstrates that the miscreant's power makes him dangerous. Although no longer to the Man of Steel once this adventure finishes.
Superman's "affliction" results in a bizarre alternate reality that plays out in the opening scene. It establishes the turning point where this incarnation of Superman flew in a new direction. The pivot spans multiple Superman cosmologies, and that gives the crux extra oomph. The altered state also reestablishes an old character from the Superman mythos. Previously in the new 52 this character appeared only in an Action Comics cameo.
Wonder Woman as well participates in Justice League. Diana wants to know why Batman possesses a kryptonite ring. The answer should surprise nobody. Superman gave Batman the kryptonite ring for precisely the same reason he always gives Batman kryptonite or allows the Dark Knight to retain kryptonite.
The only question now is whether or not "Dark Knight Over Gotham" still counts in the new 52, or if the Powers That Be decide to reboot the story in the Batman/Superman title. So far very little, if any, of previous DC continuity arrived in the new universe intact. Believe you me, I'm not complaining.
Batman does not only have a means to stop Superman. Like the Mark Waid story from JLA, Batman can prevent almost any mind-controlled Leaguer from crossing the line. This gathering of contingency plans however does not duplicate the wedge that stupidly split the League. More open and more of a team player, Batman reveals another secret to Superman.
While this human drama occurs on earth, an alien adventure evolves on the Justice League satellite. Despero invaded the headquarters last issue. Instead of the Seven, he found recruits: Atom and Firestorm. Element Woman materializes this issue to make it an uneven trio. Unfortunately, her versatile powers prove to be no match for the extraterrestrial despot.
It takes a guest star to beat the crap out of Despero, and he wrings out the triple-eyed menace in both mind and body. This battle while lasting only but a few pages, gains a lot of momentum from Gene Ha's artwork.
Sorry. No visuals. Spoilers.
The guest-appearance foreshadows the secret of Rhonda Pineda, the one and only Atom. Ray Palmer you see never wore a costume. He instead became an agent of SHADE, Frankenstein's organization.
The Atom's narration and thoughts highlight the battle, and we discover the Atom's secrets as well as her unwillingness to betray the League, at least on purpose. As a result writer Geoff Johns creates a quite enjoyable little character, swept unwillingly into the world of espionage.
The Flash also appears in two books this week: his own and Justice League Dark. Both titles are excellent platforms for the Fastest Man Alive.
In The Flash, the Reverse Flash kills another character gifted with Speed Force abilities. What I love about this story twist is that Barry learns of it in this issue. There's no dickering about for four or five chapters before the Flash gets a hint of what's going on. He also sees the pattern and runs to the next likely target. He learns more information from his colleague, but not before a train derails, allowing artists Francis Manapul and Bruce Buccellato to ply their considerable skill in presenting their unique visual for The Flash.
On the home front, Barry grows ever closer to significant other Patty Spivot, but Iris West continues to gravitate to Barry Allen, in his new unenviable position in the Central City PD. The clerk of a kind of cross between a cold case room and X-Files storage facility.
Barry benefits from being Patty's paramour. The status gives him the leave to conduct a thorough investigation of the Reverse Flash's victim, and that sets up the meeting of the Teen Titans next issue.
In Justice League Dark the Flash quickly deduces that he can wipe out Dr. Destiny's nightmares by attuning his frequency. For an encore, he then locates the captured House of Mystery by simply searching everywhere in the city.
While this is a very Flash-intensive issue of Justice League Dark, and that may put off fans of the title, League Dark does get a pretty decent showing: John Constantine being snarky, Frankenstein acting his own estimable self, with Dr. Destiny benefiting from a strong new 52 reboot that ties into Madame Xanadu's history; Perhaps, it's not the most vital issue to add your collection, but it's fun and above average. Flash fans will definitely enjoy the Speedster's cameo.
Despite the cover credits, John Ostrander and Manuel Garcia team up for Aquaman, and this issue is neither talent's best, I'm afraid. Part of the problem lies in the void of resonance from the Others, but this cannot excuse mediocrity. When the Others debuted, their creator Geoff Johns gave them a fighting chance; the heroes displayed some strengths in their characterization and a previously undisclosed history with Aquaman that appeared natural.
I don't know if Geoff Johns left any notes about the Others, or if the Powers That Be gave Ostrander the freedom to flesh out the team in whichever way he wanted. Regardless, the Agent becomes a cantankerous old man leading his grandson into danger while insulting his daughter or daughter-in-law. Unlike a certain elderly madman in a blue box...
the Agent is completely unlikeable.
Ya'wara we learn is a lesbian or bisexual. I'm all for gay rights and diverse representation in comics, but given that Johns made a big deal about the friction between Ya'wara and Mera over Aquaman, Ya'wara's taste for women comes out of left field, and she never seemed all that broken up about the alleged object of her desire's demise at the hands of Black Manta. Rather she expressed anger for a friend and teammate. The Prisoner barely registers, and as for Aquaman? He's not hosting the party. Instead, he employs the Others as repo men out to recover the dry-docked Atlantean weaponry stolen by the Scavenger.
The Others in many ways mirror Justice League Detroit. They were stand-ins, waiting for something better to come along. Namely the Justice League, and they have no clear mission statement. I can fathom no reason to exclude the League from a search for Atlantean weapons. The premise doesn't make sense. Batman could have co-ordinated efforts on land to retrieve the objects.
I'm not supportive of this new facet to Batman's mythology, but like it or not, he co-ordinates a global organization called Batman Incorporated. The Flash could certainly retrieve the Atlantean relics, but no, we're stuck with the Others in a lame story.
Ostrander exploits Native American stereotypes, adding nothing novel nor insightful. The villain of the piece is plain boring. The dialogue clunks. Ostrander can write way, way better than this. One needs to only peruse Legends to see the difference.
Manuel Garcia's artwork is usually much more distinctive than what's seen in the Others. His stylish illustration on Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four and Avengers was elegant and attractive. I'm guessing he purposely altered his style to better emulate Paul Pelletier. As a finished product, Aquaman just looks like weak-tea Pelletier and bears none of Garcia's flourishes.
Those aren't Garcia's trademarks.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray introduce readers to The Deep Sea. This appears to be a rejected Sea Devils project. Don't misread that. I like the Sea Devils, and rejected reboots can often lead to some fairly interesting things. John Byrne's Next Men began life as a pitch to DC comics.
In the 1960s, a group of sea-diving daredevils intend to descend to the bottom of the Trench, eye-blinks away from the actual historical exploration by The Trieste bathyscaphe. What they find there is anybody's guess, but when the group resurfaces in the present day, monsters follow.
The story is technically well-written, the characters likable enough, but I kept recalling other stories and other films with similar premises. The monster alludes to really terrific science fiction like Deep Rising and Z-Grade Mystery Science Theater 3000 experiment Devil Fish. The team's ship echoes to The Core. Not the bad science. Just the ship and the atmosphere.
Looks More Expensive than Prometheus, That's for Sure
There's greater mystery however if you scratch the surface. I find it very suspicious that Viviane, the female naval liaison survives close encounters with the beasts, and she acts a little odd. Of course, maybe that's just relief.
In any case, what's really surprising about The Deep Sea is that there isn't any more. The story doesn't really have an end but finishes on the mystery of the crew's return, leaving many questions unanswered.
Gray's and Palmiotti's partners in this endeavor include Tony Akins and Paul Mounts. Akins appears to be determined to prove that he is not merely Cliff Chiang's substitute on Wonder Woman, and he does that admirably. His constructions of sea-worthy vessels is fantastic. He really imbues a sense of Cousteau-like wonder to all that's happening. I'm almost sorry that the monsters attack.
Red Sonja on the other hand is Marcio Abreu's masterpiece. I've been observing this artist's work since he arrived on the title. Already, Abreu grasped how to construct a visual narrative that would enhance or at least compliment Eric Trautmann's mimicry of Robert E. Howard, but his faces and proportion bore a rawness that would grow only better with time and experience. This final issue exemplifies a strong mid-point in the artist's development.
The remarkable tapestry of action fills pages and pages without a hint of falter. That skill for building on a visual narrative becomes richer and richer, and rather than rely on a sameness to the artwork, Abreu instead punctuates Trautmann's climactic tale with dramatic beats, such as a multitude unleashing a surprise attack, an unexpected assassination and a surprising duel to the death. This is a visceral Red Sonja finale and shouldn't be missed.
All-Star Western opens up in a strange, seemingly contradictory way. Last issue Hex teamed up with Booster Gold to hunt down the Clem Hootkins gang. This issue Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray break the expected formula by demonstrating how dangerous and unpredictable the old west could be.
Hex and Booster still follow the murderous gunslingers, and while on the trail there's much banter and hilarity as Hex begins to accept Booster's story about being a time traveler. Indeed, Booster knows more about Hex than a man of his period could, and the revelations agitate Hex.
The weird thing is that Hex likes Booster more than Arkham.
The writers' creative partner Moritat illustrates the new Big Bad awesomely and produces another of his nymphettes that belie extreme hazard, this issue of All-Star Western also grants him the opportunity to render actual superhero action, albeit in a weird context that you really don't expect.
In the backup tale, Gray and Palmiotti amuse with multiple tributes to various sixties and seventies horror films in an adventure with the 1800s Stormwatch: consisting of Jenny Freedom, Adam One an avatar of the immortal Merlin, Master Gunfighter and Dr. Terrence Thirteen.
Doctor Who brings Clara Oswin to the comics, and there's not much I can say about the debut except, well done. Andys Diggle and Kuhn hit all the right Clara notes.
Diggle replicates the delivery of actress Jenna- Louise Coleman, and Kuhn mimics her body language to produce an authentic Clara-centric adventure in which she gets lost in the TARDIS, surprisingly not at all repetitive of the television episodes in which she does the same.
The runaround in the TARDIS is however a mere hors d'oevre for the opening of a chapter in which a mechanical, steam-powered world awaits.
21 Awesome Spoiler-Ridden Things About
Do Not Read Unless You Have Seen the Season Finale
You've Been Warned.
1. "What kind of an Idiot Would Try to Steal a Faulty TARDIS?" What kind of idiot indeed?
2. The Doctor AND his granddaughter Susan steal the TARDIS on Gallifrey. Hear that high-pitched shriek? That's the sound of volumes and volumes of lousy books from the nineties being kicked repeatedly in the groin.
3. We've seen old footage of the Doctor before, but it's a real surprise when the first Doctor interacts with Clara.
4. What's Clara doing on Gallifrey? More importantly, how did she get there? It turns out that Clara isn't a trick or trap. She's the Impossible Girl, born to save the Doctor.
5. I never tire of Madame Vastra. An earth reptile solving crimes in Victorian London with her Cockney wife and loyal Sontaran muscle is such an absurd concept that should not have worked but does so brilliantly. I would gladly watch a spinoff of Madame Vastra Adventures.
6. "The Doctor has a secret that he'll take to his grave. It is discovered." That there is some mighty fancy writing.
7. The telepathic Conference Call that spans time and space. It's such an elegant plot device.
8. "I was in the middle of destroying some very pleasant primitives." Strax vacations in Glasgow where he beats up Scotts and gets beaten up by them.
9. "What is it, girl?" The Sontarans are a clone race. Strax isn't the first Sontaran to not recognize different sexes, but Strax doesn't in such an endearing way.
10. "Oh-no. Not the one with the gigantic head."
"It's hair, Strax."
11. River Song's answer to how she turned Vastra's tea into wine. "Disgracefully."
12. "Have you gone a darker green." If there's one thing that can be said about new Doctor Who when compared to old Doctor Who, it's that new Doctor Who is frank with sexuality. Old Doctor Who got away with some very subtle nods to biology, but new Doctor Who's embrace of the Doctor having potential love interests raises the level of drama and of course the comedy.
13. "I never realized you were a woman." River is actually quite accepting of the Doctor's odd behavior--"He doesn't like goodbyes"--but this is the one thing she can't accept. Alex Kingston expresses River's crossness with the Doctor in brief, sublime perfection.
14. "Sorry, Ma'am. So Sorry. I think--I think I've just been murdered." And a single tear streams down Jenny's cheek. Didn't our hearts sink.
15. The maestro behind the macabre: The Great Intelligence. Taking part historically in only two stories that truly were lost to time, The Great Intelligence is only known to Doctor Who fans through novelizations and audio recordings of the lost episodes. Stephen Moffatt and Richard E. Grant turned this ephemeral character into a magnificent work of evil, far beyond what the adaptations detail.
16. The Doctor outmaneuvered unthinkable creatures that proclaimed themselves gods and seemed to have the assets to back up the fiats, but he can still be tricked by children.
17. The remarkable suite of music that plays as the Doctor learns the truth about the trap set at Trenzelor.
18. "This won't hurt a bit. I lied."
19. "Trenzelor is where I'm buried." The one place where a time traveler cannot go. His grave. This episode is another exemplifying just how completely out of whack the universe became without Time Lords. Had the Time Lords survived the Time War and, you know, not gone completely insane, they would have stopped this entire story from happening. Mind you, they would have likely sent the Doctor on a mission just as deadly once they used the Time Scoop to snag he and his companions.
20. "I owe it to them. Vastra. Strax. Jenny, if it's still possible. They took care of me during the dark times. They never questioned. They never judged me. They were just kind. I have a duty."
21. "The TARDIS has figured out where she's going. She's against it!"
22. "I see you have repaired your pet." I like this line a lot because it's delivered by the villain of the piece. Years ago when the Doctor kissed Dr. Grace Holloway full on the lips and I suggested that maybe they had the hots for each other, what with there being three kisses, flirtation and Grace's acknowledgement "I finally meet the right guy, and he's from another planet" as well as the Doctor and Grace asking each other to "come with me," multiple fronts compared a Doctor/Grace relationship indeed any Doctor/human relationship essentially being the same as a human/chimpanzee relationship. Doctor Who promotes a philosophy of love being blind to gender and species, as it always has. There's that shriek again.
23. "The Doctor will have other names. The Storm. The Beast. The Valeyard." All the older fans experienced chills up their spines when the Great Intelligence spoke that line. The Valeyard has long been a continuity mystery. Introduced in "The Trial of a Time Lord," the Valeyard prosecuted the Doctor. This however was no ordinary Time Lord. In the final episode, the Master revealed the identity of the Valeyard: "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor. Even you. The Valeyard is the amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature. Somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation." While hypotheses have been offered ever since, the Powers That Be never pinned down the Valeyard. We only knew that he wasn't exactly the Doctor because a corrupt High Council of the Time Lords offered him the Doctor's then remaining seven lives. So the Valeyard though linked somehow to the Doctor cannot be the Doctor.
24. The homage to The Invisible Man.
25. Clara's memories return to her. The day that was wiped out in a previous episode resurfaces, and Clara's ties to the Doctor become stronger. The chasm between them present in some of the episodes vanishes, and she becomes his companion.
26. "Jenny." I love how the Doctor acknowledges Jenny. He doesn't have to say how glad he is to see her alive. You just know it from how he says her name.
27. Come now. You really didn't believe they would reveal the Doctor's name? Clara however did learn The Doctor's identity in "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS," and she didn't seem to be too shocked. My guess is that the Doctor's name is just really embarrassing. Perhaps names were bestowed upon Time Lords by the High Council not the parents, who nicknamed their children. It would explain Romanadvoratrelunder.
28. "The Tracks of my Tears." The Doctor's final form is an energy helix. Probably Artron energy. I like this idea. It ties in with the Time Lords ultimate plan to rise above a scorched universe as energy forms. The Doctor's description of course refers to the song written by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It's not the first time the Doctor has alluded to popular music. The first Doctor was a Beatles fan. The seventh Doctor loved jazz. The ninth Doctor grooved to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Janis Joplin we learn gave the tenth Doctor his coat. So this description is very much in character.
29. "He's being rewritten." "Time can be rewritten," it's been the mantra of the show since Matt Smith took over the role. How ironic.
30. Clara figures out the puzzle of her existence. Even the Doctor himself couldn't understand what was going on.
31. "A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bares thinking about."--The Master from "The Five Doctors"
The stars go out once again. On a smaller scale we learn the Doctor's personal significance to Vastra.
32. Despite the consequences, the Doctor still tries to stop Clara from sacrificing herself.
33. "Run. Run you clever boy, and remember me." This is Clara's finest hour.
34. "Doctor. Sorry, but you're about to make a mistake. Don't steal this one. Take that one. The navigation is knackered, but you'll have more fun." Clara replaces the Great Intelligence. Time is restored.
35. "I have to get her back." Yeah, most people would have quit.
36. "God knows how that looked." The final moments between River Song and the Doctor are at once powerful, bittersweet and hilarious.
37. The Doctor does something completely insane to save Clara.
38. Oh…and this little nugget….
The mind reels. Just in case you think I'm being biased? I thought that Neil Gaiman Cybermen story was terrible.