Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 8, 2013


Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week Batman, Fearless Defenders, Justice League of America, Legends of Oz: The Scarecrow and Smallville fall under scrutiny.

After defeating Batman in his Bruce Wayne guise, Basil Karlo a.k.a. Clayface tosses the Dark Knight alongside Lucius Fox in the Bat Trash Compactor.  

Even those that do not religiously follow the Star Wars franchise will get a giddy vibe from this homage to the first movie released in the seventies.  The "trash" offers Batman an easy out that's nonetheless plausible and above and beyond.  

The Dark Knight's ploy against Clayface is well devious, and worthy of "The World's Greatest Detective."  The means in which Batman protects his secret identity from the DNA-harvesting criminal exploits cutting edge science that's on the borderline of science fiction.  I'll wager however that Commissioner Gordon at least suspects Bruce Wayne's secret identity, and Lucius Fox must be willing blindness.  

Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo aren't just interested in the monster-of-the-week or super-hero traditions.  They address the loss of Batman's son, and their way criticizes and denies what's happening in alternate title Batman and Robin. 

Peter Tomasi in Batman and Robin characterizes Batman as a lunatic.  In the last issue of Tomasi's title, Batman disassembled Frankenstein to pursue a means to resurrect his son Damien Wayne.  

Snyder specifically states that Batman does not want to go down the same path he traveled when he believed Jason Todd died.  I'm thinking that undoing Frankenstein would fall into that category.  Snyder and Capullo instead show Batman grieving but also celebrating Damien's life, with Alfred.  It makes for a nice closing scene, literally.

James Tynion writes the backup feature.  He teams Batman and Superman.  He also synchronizes with Snyder.  The ghost in the story identifies Batman quite differently than most have it.

Apart from the characterization, Tynion describes Superman as Batman's best friend, paving the way for the new Superman/Batman title.  The short furthermore jibes with Geoff Johns' five year span of Justice League history.

Superman is in top flight for another title this week.  Smallville begins with Lois and Clark sharing a shower.

It's writer Bryan Q. Miller being clever.  Normally this kind of scene occurs in a television show or movie.  Disembodied double-entendres lace the dialogue.  When the camera pans to the action, the hypothetical couple turn out to be grouting the bathroom or engaging in some equally innocuous activity.  If the makers of the media really want to insult your intelligence, they'll include a musical farty sting.

The joke in Smallville is a good one.  First, Miller draws this faux television show consolidated into a comic book closer to the medium it imitates by employing a broadcast chestnut.  Second, whether or not Lois' apparently ecstatic outburst results from Clark doing her hair as suggested, we're still witnessing a scene of what pop culture believes to be the most wholesome of heroes taking a shower with Lois Lane, his historical intended.  Oh, and they're still not married.  Methinks the Church would be most displeased.

So, yeah, the old joke is in play, but if you think Lois and Clark didn't have squeaky clean athletic sex in a shower so large that it could have only been built to facilitate sexual activity, I'd like to sell you a fine parcel of land. Mind the gators.

Apart from the most awesome shower scene, Smallville is packed with guest stars galore and still manages to spotlight Superman.  Ostensibly it's Booster Gold who teams with the Man of Steel.  As well, Booster's erstwhile partner the Blue Beetle and a freshly resuscitated Tess Mercer cameo.  

Tess has the meatier part in this tale that employs numerous methods of time travel. When the Legion Flight Ring Booster wears undergoes a contingency protocol, Superman and Booster find themselves in the Legion of Super-Heroes' 31st Century.  Booster's robot companion Skeets catches up another way.

The Legionnaires show up in a classic Superman rescue.  The roster includes Lightning Lad and another team member who bears a striking resemblance to the actor that portrayed the character in Smallville.  

It seems that Earth has a beef with Argo City, a home for refugee Kryptonians, the ancestors of the Kryptonians that abandoned Zod and disappeared in Season Nine.  There's no Big Bad in this story, but the Little Bad, correction, the Wee Bad pisses off Superman something fierce when the Man of Steel learns who lies behind door number three.  The identity of our mystery guest will cause many a Smallville fan and fans of the comic book character to grin madly.  I'll be revealing the names of the persons of interest in the next review of Smallville.  Why wait? This book is fun, well-illustrated and the perfect dovetail to the television series.  Uncover the mystery yourselves.

Superman sort of guest stars in Justice League of AmericaSurprising nobody, Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman who fought the League of America during the fledgling team's search for the Secret Society turn out to be Professor Ivo's robots.

Geoff Johns really has a flair for writing Catwoman.  This is not to disparage Ann Nocenti, who finally appears to have her footing on the Catwoman comic book, nor Gail Simone who borrowed Catwoman skillfully for Batgirl.  Johns however makes Catwoman the smartest and most cunning human on the team.  She outclasses Vibe easily.  She's more devious than Steve Trevor, Katana and Hawkman.  As to the Star-Spangled Kid, bitch goddess from hell Amanda Waller precludes a comparison.

There's just no liking this woman.  Even when Waller does something that could be construed as heroic, her actions in the final issue of Team 7 for example, she still cannot emit the slightest shred of decency.  That's because she's filled with hate.  She embodies the neocon.

Turning our attention to Marvel teams, the Avengers…Ah.  No.  The Fantastic Four.  Nope.  The X-Men? Certainly not.  Misty Knight, Valkyrie, Dani Moonstar and Hippolyta with archaeologist Annabelle Riggs finish their bout against the Asgardian   Doomaidens.

During the melee, Valkyrie uncovers a secret hidden from her by Odin. Poor Annabelle falls harder for Val, and there may be some requiting going on since Annabelle's attention brings Val out of the remembrance of times past.

On the whole Cullen Bunn's and Will Sliney's Fearless Defenders is an entertaining diversion, and the last pages demonstrating a grin-worthy callback make it outstanding.

This week's Legends of Oz: The Wicked West was a little too chatty for my tastes.  Not so the superior ScarecrowI know what you might be thinking.  The Scarecrow in the story is mute. The book can't be chatty.  True, but it could have been dull, uninvolving, pretentious and/or unexpressive.

Writer Pat Shand comes up with a nice, integral short that's a thinly veiled treatise against racism.  The Scarecrow is as charming as ever and her body language which relates the story is expertly choreographed by artist Carlos Reno.  We also get the lovely, vivid colors of Kate Finnegan to boot.

The Scarecrow enters the town of Denslow where she's met with prompt hostility.  Her crime? Being a scarecrow.  Her wanderings take her to an encounter with whom appears to be the Good Witch of the North, albeit a younger version.

After this uplifting meeting, the scales balance with the introduction of a scarecrow that found a brain another way and decided to use it to lord over his people as well as the humans that inhabit the western regions of Oz.

Whereas the original Scarecrow of Baum's Oz sought a brain, this Scarecrow gained self-awareness and already possesses intelligence, even memory.  She's also kind, and it's that kindness that leads her to impede the subjugation of humanity.  The Legends of Oz books hail from Big Dog Ink.  Ask your comic book retailer about them.

No comments:

Post a Comment