Monday, August 26, 2013

POBB: August 21, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
August 21, 2013
Ray Tate

This week we inject a double dose of the Trinity War with reviews of Justice League Dark and Pandora.  We also look at the first issue of the new Batman Beyond title as well as the latest from Supergirl and Wonder Woman.  

While I was happily writing the latest POBB, Warner Brothers decided to break the Internet.  Everybody and his uncle thinks I'm going to explode over the news. 

The Powers That Be chose Ben Affleck to portray Batman in the Superman/Batman movie.  Sorry, to disappoint.  The news just forced me to write some more.

Warner Brothers exhibits a long history of not putting together superhero movies that they previously announced as done deals.  For example, Ryan Reynolds was never meant to be the Green Lantern.  He was slated to be the Flash, in a movie promised but never filmed.  The WB hired Joss Whedon to script a Wonder Woman movie.  They then decided not to move a muscle.  Warner Brothers filmed a Wonder Woman television pilot and pulled it before it ever aired; a tactic that mirrors the proposed Aquaman television series Mercy Reef.  Even more pertinent, a Superman/Batman movie proposal isn't new.  Warner Brothers tapped Wolfgang Peterson to direct Superman vs. Batman, but that never happened.  

There will be at least two more Superman films with the principal cast intact.  Of that I have no doubt.  They will likely involve Lex Luthor and Brainiac, respectively, but I'm confident.  Batman won't be anywhere near these movies, and by the time Warner Brothers decides to reboot Batman, Ben Affleck will be otherwise engaged.  What with the success of Argo, I'm guessing he's a busy man.

The fact of the matter is that one man, Joel Schumacher, crippled the superhero movie industry, and it never really recovered as a phenomena equivalent to Tim Burton's and Michael Keaton's Batman and Batman Returns until Robert Downey Jr. wowed every living thing on the planet as Iron Man.  Don't get me wrong.  There were successes in between, but until Iron Man, nobody outside of comic book readers took these films seriously.

But let's say I'm wrong.  Let's say "the wind's in the right direction" and Warner Brothers actually pulls off Superman/Batman.  How would I feel about Ben Affleck as Batman.  The same way I feel about Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.  Let's see some footage.  Then I'll decide.  

From what I glean from the Internet, the petitioners are judging Mr. Affleck by his other superhero movie.  You know what? Lay off the guy.  Daredevil wasn't entirely Ben Affleck's fault.  If you want to blame anybody for that mess, blame the writer, the director, the armorer.  Affleck made a good, believable Matt Murdock.  In fact I wanted to see more of him and his relationship with Elektra and less of Mr. Grumpy in the Red Suit.  Incidentally, he married Jennifer Garner.  So clearly I wasn't inferring the chemistry.

Something else should be kept in mind.  The fact is, I had to see Clean and Sober before I accepted Michael Keaton as a dramatic actor.  Until then, I only considered him an expert comedian.  Keaton in fact saw all the nay-saying as a challenge and delivered the best Batman ever.  He furthermore cemented his association with the character by not doing a third film.  He turned down a pile of money and refused to betray the character he evolved on screen.  He refused to kowtow to the real enemy of superhero films Joel Schumacher.  For that Mr. Keaton earned my undying admiration.  These are the reasons that Michael Keaton will be the quintessential Batman, no matter who dons the suit.  

Assuming this juggernaut is made, maybe Ben Affleck will follow in Keaton's footsteps.  Maybe he'll take the Internet's fury as a challenge.  Maybe he'll deliver a Batman that's at least second to Keaton's identification.  I'll tell you this.  He can't do any worse than Christian Bale with his Fat Albert imitation and lack of fighting prowess.

You'll want to read Justice League Dark before you read Pandora. Jeff Lemire returns to solo duty to solve the puzzle of how to deal with a Wonder Woman corrupted by Pandora's Box.

The story plays out as expected up to a point.  Then it goes topsy-turvy.  It turns out that only one protagonist can handle the Box without being corrupted by it, which is a surprise and not a surprise when the reader thinks a moment.

No, no.  It's not Batman, but artist Michael Janin can really render him and every other hero beautifully.

Back in the ruins of ARGUS, blown up by Plastique, the Justice Leagues act proactively.

Plump or lean, there's just no liking this officious bitch.

I must admit that I'm not entirely convinced that Waller's behind all this mayhem.  The so-called Secret Society may be exploiting her well-known hatred of the Justice League.  Whatever Waller's motives, the idea of her leading a group of superheroes established to counter the Justice League is over.  The League now knows about her group.  The members in the group have already expressed doubts over their mission, and nothing has gone according to her plan.

With that in mind the Trinity War is indeed going to affect the rest of the DCU, assuming Madame Xanadu's visions do not come true, which would be a rarity.  The aftermath will nevertheless have consequences.

Normally, these company wide crossovers feel like free-for-alls that either shortchange the faithful fan of the title where the chapter occurs or deprive the overall fan with less than meaty characterizations of the heroes.  I've called Trinity War the best crossover since Final Night, and it accomplishes this without undermining the starring cast.

Lemire and Janin while giving every participant, however small, a good line or a good moment also emphasizes that this is still Justice League Dark's book.  Constantine plays an important part in the story.  As mentioned, Xanadu returns to the pages, and Zatanna fans will not want to miss this issue.  Lemire escalates her power of character, and he does so without plaguing her history with failure like Morrison did in his Seven Soliders of Victory mini-series.  Instead, Lemire shows Zee working the magic, being decisive and facing the enemy.

Probably the strongest Zatanna has ever been

Pandora is a brand new title to the POBB, but I have encountered the character before in the final issue of Flashpoint and as the star in a back up story in Justice League.  Pandora is actually the mythological Pandora.  I'll assume everybody knows her myth.  How she opens a box that contain all the ills of mankind, while clamping the box shut to keep hope, the last thing inside, alive.

That myth is the scrubbed version.  The truth of the matter is that as far as we know Pandora was created by a poet named Hesiod.  Hesiod if not a misogynist was definitely a sexist.  According to Hesiod, Pandora was sculpted from the earth by Hephaestus and Aphrodite, under the orders of Zeus, to punish mankind for accepting fire from Prometheus, the Titan, not the crap film.

Pandora existed to bring pain and misery to man.  She toted around an urn filled with evil.  She knew what was in the urn, and she reveled in the destruction she caused.  Though let me emphasize that this wasn't big budget spectacle type of damage but sown seeds of psychological torture.  If you see parallels to Eve and the Serpent, you're not wrong, but if you're looking for a grain of truth, I'm guessing Hesiod just struck out all the time with the fairer sex and decided to put his frustration to iambic pentameter.

Over the years, artists and writers tweaked the myth of Pandora: adding hope at the bottom of the urn; changing the urn to to a box; sometimes absolving Pandora, turning her from malicious as Hesiod intended to an innocent; eliminating her ties to the gods and making her an ordinary woman tempted by curiosity.

The new 52 Pandora released the Seven Deadly Sins from Captain Marvel's adventures.  Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family of course debuted in the titles of Fawcett Comics, absorbed by DC.  During the opening years of the post-Crisis, creators made an effort to, barring the odd team-up, isolate the Marvel Family from the rest of the DCU.  It was a sound decision.  The Marvel Family as they were really do not gel with DC.

Merging the Captain Marvel history with the new character Pandora is however a very clever use of shared-universe continuity.  Like the myth, DC's Pandora released evil into the world, the Seven Sins.  Pandora also like the updated figure of lore felt guilt over her actions.  Because this is a superhero setting, DC takes advantage of the longevity of the folklore and makes Pandora an immortal battler of evil.  To this extent, Pandora bears a resemblance to the first masked female vigilante The Woman in Red.  As such, there's a double joke in this.  First woman of some Greek myths.  First female vigilante.

The story begins with Pandora in the thick of things.  She stands in the middle of the Trinity War, and unknown to the superheroes, the Seven Sins are feeding and fueling their actions.  Pandora cannot stop these creatures who refer to her as "mother," a clue to their defeat.  As she tries to combat these manifestations, she remembers her past.  A natural traveler, Pandora sought wise men and women to help her learn to fight the monsters she unleashed.

Writer Ray Fawkes establishes her character swiftly and strongly.  Whether in the past or present, Batgirl's Daniel Sampere and Vincente Cifuentes instill beauty and realism to the vignettes as well as aberration to the Seven Sins re-imagined in ways that differ from all other interpretations, especially the innocent original.

I don't know if Pandora is a mere mini-series or an ongoing, but the creative team behind her makes me want more.  The potential in this creation as a continuing protagonist is vast.  

Wonder Woman contends against the First Born's Hyena Men in London.  The First Born is exactly that.  He's the first son of Hera.  He's angry because Zeus did that old Dad magic on him and wants his rightful position on the throne.  Rather than wait for elections or a recall, since the sun god Apollo recently claimed Olympus, The First Born intends to wage a bloody coup.  He'll first though need to go through Ares, his mother Hera, Orion, Zola and Zeke in addition to Princess Diana of Paradise Island.

Writer Brian Azzarello guides Wonder Woman into new territory.  He employs some of the new 52 tweaks to her character that he introduced in previous issues and relies on the characterization he evolved for those past twenty three issues; this is actually issue 24 because of the zero issue.  If you've been reading the title from the start, some scenes will really surprise you just because a character behaves marvelously differently than you expect.  That's because the character hadn't reached a point of understanding in the beginning. 

Indeed, Azzarello breaks a long, long tradition in the climax of the story, and keeps Wonder Woman moving rather than maintaining a status quo.  

I've spoken about Wonder Woman's protean nature last week in the Smallville review.  Here again is an issue of her own title that exemplifies that Wonder Woman can play so many unusual roles throughout her long history--spy or space pirate for instance--and they all still stick.  I think this ability reflects an integral immortality introduced in the character from day one.  Wonder Woman is eternal, and while writers never really played with that aspect in terms of having her walk through time and watch the flow of history.  It's still there.

Azzarello appears to recognize it.  I said as much in the new 52 premiere where we encounter Wonder Woman in a hotel in London.  I remarked then that London would welcome a renowned Nazi fighter from history.  Azzarello hasn't explicitly suggested Diana's long life.  He instead hinted at Diana's resonance and detailed nuanced experience as a warrior through tutelage under Ares, perhaps other gods.  That comprehension leads to the startling finish to the story that once more changes Wonder Woman.

Supergirl this week rocks.  Michael Alan Nelson dusts off the hoary plot of a hero confronting his demons literally.  Because of the manifesting powers of the Big Bad--in this case Cyborg Superman II Electric Boogaloo--Supergirl battles imagoes of her memories.  

Normally writers present such phantasms as formidable creatures that tell uncomfortable truths about the hero or as powerful as the hero makes the foes.  Then the hero goes through a journey of self-discovery as he or she gets battered by the enemy for about three or four chapters before accepting his failings and either reabsorbing the demons or successfully banishing them somehow, usually peacefully.  Not in Supergirl.

These bouts are nothing like fair fights.  Supergirl totally denies anything her opponents say to psych her out, and she pretty much pastes each homunculus that dares to confront her.  

The truth is that Supergirl is actually a champion who is dying from kryptonite poisoning that she voluntarily accepted to save planet earth from H'el, a Kryptonian nutcase.  She fought the good fight.  She's dying because of self-sacrifice.  Anything the creations say are mere words.  Supergirl is all action.

Had Nelson simply gone through the motions with these things making Kara feel bad about herself, the story would have felt tired and dull.  Instead, watching Kara rip through these simulacrums and "hearing" the certainty in her voice as she reinforces the idea that she's actually valiant results in an invigorating experience, especially when wrapped in Diogenes Neves exciting illustration.  Neves takes delight in finding novel ways to impress with Supergirl's power.  Each battle reads fresh as a result.

Nelson isn't finished with the reader.  Supergirl still must face the Big Bad, the subject of Villains Month, the new Cyborg Superman.  The old one was just Hank Henshaw, a defacto Reed Richards that lost his good looks and his three friends to radiation.  No fantastic foursome here.  This Cyborg Superman isn't even human, and just knowing that fact isn't going to spoil the surprise at all.

Nightwing's Kyle Higgins takes over the writing duties for the Batman Beyond Universe.  Does his presence indicate an improvement? Possibly.  For one thing, Batman Beyond was never a bad book.  It's Joker King story went on way too long, but it benefited always from Norm Breyfogle's artwork.  The Justice League and Superman as back up features were frequently involving.  So what does Kyle Higgins do? He kills the Mayor in what appears to be a fairplay mystery.

If I'm right, all you really need to know to solve this puzzle occurs in a single panel.  Of course, this high profile murder draws in Commissioner Barbara Gordon and Terry McGuinness.

Terry really has grown into the role of Batman, and with Higgins' changes to the cast lineup, Terry's independence will continue to flourish.  Of course, that's only natural.  Terry was born to be Batman; do yourself a favor and rent or download "Epilogue" from Justice League Unlimited.

Artists Tony Silas and Andrew Elder mingle sensibilities of art nouveau and art deco for a decidedly attractive stretch in the animated stylishness of the Batman Beyond television series.  This allows for a wide range of expression and evocative action that includes Terry carrying out classic Batman tactics.

Christos Gage assumes the writing for side B starring the future Justice League.  In this one, somethings screws up Superman's powers royally.  This has happened before, but Superman's solution is a unique one, and it allows Gage to examine the man behind the S as well as Lois Lane who appears in a flashback.

Gage appears well versed in the brief continuity of the title and the television program.  For example, Barda replaced Wonder Woman on the League.  This was largely due to DC telling Bruce Timm he couldn't use Wonder Woman on the show; another bizarre move on the conglomerate's part.  The Flash, introduced in a past issue of Batman Beyond is somehow in communication with all the speedsters that were empowered by the Speed Force, and those who get a kick out of Superman's new guise as a firefighter will enjoy Gage's touch.

Iban Coello and Andrew Mayor contribute more traditional artwork, but this is not a drawback, especially when rendered with such skill.  Coello's illustration is remarkably fluid and imbues the illusion of individual movement.  The Flash moves differently than Barda, for example.  Both Coello and Mayor produce excellent visions of personality.  This is no more evident in a portrait of Lois and Clark.

I can't say that I'm ready to return Batman Beyond to my subscription list, but I am willing to try a few more issues to see what Higgins and Gage have in store for the future.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

POBB: August 14, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
August 14, 2013

Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag explores Avengers Arena, Batgirl, Batman, Doctor Who, Fearless Defenders, Justice League of America, Nightwing,  Red Sonja, Smallville, World's Finest and The X-Files.

Avengers Arena?  What pray tell could have warranted my purchasing Avengers Arena?  

'nuff Said?

I don't care about the story, but it's painfully well structured by Avengers Academy's Christos Gage.  I don't care about surfer-dude Arcade, nor the beautifully characterized couples and hero teachers.  I don't care about the alleged snuff movie nature about the whole affair, which Gage let me emphasize had nothing to do with.

All I care about is that Greer Grant Nelson comes out alive and looks good doing it thanks to the fantastic art of Karl Moline.  Gage furthermore lovingly transplants a brain between those gorgeous furry ears.  A must for Tigra fans.  Tigra is love.

Fearless Defenders improves big time.  Last issue Valkyrie atoned for her crime of murdering Annabelle Riggs by magically fusing with the formerly deceased archaeologist.  This issue explores the ramifications of that mystical merger.

Hah! Actually, this issue is all awesome kickassery in which Misty Knight, Valkyrie and Elsa Bloodstone team-up with a weird rebel Brood to decimate the ninja flunkies of a Big Bad refugee from a period Shaw Brothers film, who is by the by genetically engineering Brood to serve as her army.

Elsa Bloodstone, Ninja and Brood.  Who could ask for anything more?

In Justice League of America, Dr. Psycho conducts his bizarre experiments in my home town.  However, Justice League of America are on hand to find out what he's up to.  It doesn't go well for Dr. Psycho, and it's difficult to feel sorry for the little monster.

Meanwhile, Plastique makes finding evidence from the fallen's corpse nigh impossible.  This begs numerous questions, such as how did she get past League security.  The Atom believes she has an answer.

In the entangled portion of the story, Batman, Deadman and Zatanna arrive back in the material world; Superman's still suffering from some unknown malady, and Pandora consults Lex Luthor, who ironically also does not buy Superman killing a Justice League of America member.

This chapter in the best company wide crossover since Final Night concludes with writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke getting together for a memorable Wonder Woman moment.  Strong chapter, recommended.

Remarkable artwork from Emanuela Luppachino sets off a terrific story in World's Finest from series writer and co-creator of the Earth Two Huntress Paul Levitz.  World's Finest has benefited from uniformly talented artists, but let's put Luppachino on permanently.  This newish talent has a flair for the ladies, educing strength, smarts and sinew from each while accenting all the badness of Apokolips in Desaad.

Luppachino's choreography of Levitz's story begins with Power Girl following Desaad through a Boom Tube.  Desaad captured Helena last issue, and Luppachino captures the determination in Power Girl's search for her friend.  She as well livens up the fisticuffs with a smooth visual narrative that flicks back and forth between the teammates' predicaments.

Luppachino ably dignifies what could have been a spicy pulp situation, and Levitz also detracts from the feeling by demonstrating the differences between Batman's and Catwoman's daughter and the average heroine, like oh, I don't know, the post-Crisis Huntress.  The daughter of two of the most cunning escape artists on earth two isn't going to be trapped anywhere for long.

World's Finest is the most consistently entertaining book DC publishes. Switching artists just leads to more great artwork.  Paul Levitz steers a steady course, and it's just fun to watch these two super friends interact.  World's Finest should be a staple publication on every subscription list.  

Cat Staggs is becoming the go to gal for art.  Smallville's cover is amazing.  That can be nobody but Wonder Woman.  Superman being reflected in her bracelets is an image that one can imagine would have been on the television series.

Ms. Staggs isn't behind the artwork inside, but that's quite all right.  Jorge Jimenez does an astounding job detailing Bryan Q. Miller's rich introduction of Wonder Woman via Smallville.

Warner Brothers has a love/hate relationship with Wonder Woman that's well known midst the comic book reading public.  The Powers That Be at Warner Brothers believe Wonder Woman is too complex to introduce in a movie or television series.  I think they're a bunch of whiners lacking balls.  Miller demonstrates that not only is Wonder Woman easy to reintroduce to the world; her very protean nature makes her a natural fit for any period.

Miller drops the red, gold and blue "satin tights" and opts for the secret agent white of the sixties.  The difference is that Wonder Woman retains her powers and intellect.  If he had done this for the television series, the free publicity would have been enormous, and unlike the pants Wonder Woman, it would have been good publicity.  Every news agency would have pulled Dick Giordano covers and Mike Sekowsky art from their files.  People would have learned a glimmer of the character's history and affect on pop culture.

Miller evolves his reintroduction of Wonder Woman in two periods.  It all begins on Paradise Island where Princess Diana finds Steve Trevor washed up on shore, but here's the thing about that.  Miller's version is totally different and funnier than any version of the well known myth.  Jimenez's artwork in this portion of the book is positively charming.

In modern times, Wonder Woman debuts in Washington D.C. of course. She safeguards Senator Martha Kent from the forces of an old DC Big Bad whose ties to Diana can be found in the Bruce Timm Justice League.

Naturally an attack on Martha Kent brings Lois and Clark to the fore.  What amazes me still is how easily Miller juggles his cast and never loses sight of each character's depth or humor.

Miller takes Lois and Clark to Martha's home, and there we have more great characterization, interactive dynamics in addition to the fantastic subtlety of Jimenez who here takes a page from the sublime expressions of Chuck Jones animation.  This is the Superman book you have to own.

Kindly ignore the pretentious cover of Batman Year Zero. The Dark Knight puts on a glove, oooo, I'm having a geekgasm.  The story inside is way better.  Scott Snyder opens his gambit with the Red Hood torching Bruce Wayne's apartment and beating the billionaire with medieval weaponry.

The scenario exemplifies how technology improved comics.  You couldn't have graphic novels without such pixel-free colors given more texture through digital blends.  These vivid hues by FCO Plascensia just weren't available back in the day, and they enhance Greg Capullo's already startlingly good artwork.

I'm stunned at how beautiful Capullo makes Martha Wayne.  The new 52 Martha Wayne is a helluva lot different from all the previous versions.  Traditionally, Martha sported raven hair, and writers and artists tended to present her as a mere rich girl dedicated to her wealthy doctor husband.  A nice person, certainly somebody you wouldn't want to see fall in Crime Alley, but nothing special.  In the new 52, Martha's hair as you can see takes on a reddish brown luster.  The changes however are more than superficial.

In previous Batman issues, Snyder fleshed out Martha Wayne into a lively do-gooder philanthropist.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray further nurtured the Wayne Family tree in All-Star Western.  The end result is that these faces resonate.  The Waynes are not merely memento mori.  We can understand now that the loss Bruce felt isn't abstract.  Martha's not some archetype or plot device.  She was Batman's mother.  That's who was snuffed out.

In dialogue Bruce's father gains substance, and it is he, concern filling his voice, that pulls young Bruce out of the bat cave.  Most characterize Thomas Wayne as an older looking Bruce Wayne.  Capullo brings an almost Dick Van Dyke friendliness to Bruce's dad.  It softens the edge in the relationship Batman previously had with his father, which seemed to be a sort of old world respect.

This is the first time I really got the sense that Bruce's parents would be horrified by what Bruce turned into.  They would have preferred that he enjoy a normal life, grow beyond their deaths.  They seem less like harbingers and more like people.  They wouldn't want their son to be Batman, yet they would be proud of Bruce's dedication for others.

Snyder I felt stumbled last issue, but this issue is as solid as the opener.  The non-linear narrative takes advantage of something that comics as a medium does extremely well; juxtapose events in the same story at different times with a natural split screen.  The way in which the characters behave seems more authentic.  Bruce isn't dense.  He's lost.  He doesn't know how to yet fight Gotham's more colorful criminals, but by the end of this issue, he will.  The speed of his evolution into Batman also surprises me.  This is only the third issue.

There's another aspect to Snyder's work that must be acknowledged.  His adherence to the mythology of the Batman.  This is especially evident with the birth of the Riddler.  He gets fired.  He loses his name.  He becomes a criminal outlaw.  That's all there.  Snyder just uses different means to relate the knowledge.

Nightwing pours on the grue for a cover that belies the truth of the pages.  This is actually the best Nightwing's read since he arrived in Chicago.  There's more daring-do and swashbuckling adventure than a dark pursuit of Tony Zucco.

Nightwing is back to joking around like Robin.  So, it's almost as though writer Kyle Higgins woke up and looked at the sub-par stuff he has been writing.  Higgins even reminds the reader that Nightwing isn't operating in a vacuum.  As the Prankster's war in Chicago explodes, and Nightwing's presence becomes known, Sonia Zucco becomes the target of news reporters.

While Brett Booth's art was decent, it was also a little brooding.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Will Conrad and colorist Andrew Dalhouse take a different approach.  There's almost always a smile on Nightwing's face and a spring in his step as he kicks a bad guy in the face.  This is definitely more like it.

With Batgirl, you can easily judge the book by its cover.  Snarly Commissioner Gordon, and goofy symbolism in which Batgirl is strangled by scene-of-the-crime yellow tape.  How on earth can this be any good?

It's like Gail Simone forgot every brilliant thing she did in the first two volumes of Batgirl, from characterization to basic technique.

So, Commissioner Gordon's got a Jones on to kill Batgirl, his daughter.  He's seeking revenge for the memory of his psychopathic son James Junior, who Gordon believes Batgirl slew.  James Jr. however is still alive, singing "Top of the World" and serving on the Suicide Squad. That part is not Gail Simone's fault.

Babs has taken a break from Batgirl because she's suffering guilt over killing her lunatic brother, who is still alive, singing "Walking on Sunshine" on the Suicide Squad.  So, while she was on holiday, Babs decided to jump start her social life with former criminal lesser mind Ricky. That is Gail Simone's fault.  This issue, we say good-bye to Ricky in the most unwittingly hilarious way possible.

To get from point A to point B in this story required multiple contrivances from the hack writer's notebook.

First you need to care about a character before you lose him.  That didn't work at all on me, by the way.  Simone tried to make the reader love Ricky by forcing the former carjacker down a Slip N' Slide on the reform rapids.

I was willing to accept that that one bad day shifted Ricky's outlook, however far fetched, but now the sudden change of heart appears to be part of a poorly executed plan, rather than punctuated equilibrium.  So any good will I may have possessed over a low-rent criminal turned humanitarian just fizzled.

Next, you must somehow circumvent the unconvincing pesky altruistic calculus you had the character amass in order to place him in a ridiculously, lethal situation.

Season Four? What Season Four?

Ricky receives a call from the gang leader of the Sixty-Eight Kings who were hospitalized by Babs last issue.  The gang leader uses a gun that Knightfall gave him to hold his brother hostage.  Now, there's absolutely no reason why he needs a space gun in a situation like this, but he's got one, courtesy of extremist vigilantes who apparently grant "amnesty" to thugs occasionally.

You probably thought I was exaggerating.

What the hell? No, really.  What the hell? This is a group of lunatics that set bear traps for carjackers, and suddenly, they're giving out space guns to groups of criminals that they deem, I don't know, less evil than themselves?  And it wasn't even necessary.  You can kill Ricky's bound brother with one of any number of items.

The Sixty-Eight King threatens Ricky's mom and his girlfriend.  Why not threaten his dog while you're at it, and he demands that Ricky show up and take his space gun medicine.  So, Ricky being the new Renaissance man that he is grabs his brother's ordinary pistol and does his poorest Gary Cooper imitation.  He calls Babs to say his goodbyes, and oh, just as he's about to leave the cops show up.

Roh! No!

So, Ricky turns into the great escape artist.  That's right.  Ricky just trumped Talon.  With one good leg, mind you, our heart of gold former felon manages to stealthily slip out onto the fire escape, in the rain.  Detective McKenna is there waiting for him.  Somehow, however Ricky, the one legged man, in the rain, mind you, manages to overcome a competent police officer, who ends up incapacitated.

With Melody knocked out, Ricky can now plunge deeper and deeper into the abyss Simone has dug for this by all accounts loser of a character.

While this has been going on, Babs gets her Ninja on.  She can't be Batgirl you see because she doesn't believe she deserves to wear the symbol.  What with her killing her brother, who is by the way singing "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" over in Suicide Squad.

Babs intervenes as Gotham P.D. somehow tracks Ricky down, in the rain.  Of course, maybe they're just after any guy in a drenched hoodie, which means Morbius better watch his own bad hoodied self.

Inside the Sixty-Eight Kings' hideout, we learn that Knightfall, the extreme vigilante maniacs who set out bear traps for carjackers, haven't just given out one space gun to a gang they granted amnesty to.  They generously supplied a whole cache of space guns.  Thank goodness because as it so happens, they need them at this moment against Barbara.  Funny they weren't packing these things last issue.  Oh, well.  Space guns.  With Babs hopping around to escape the energy beams, she can't contain her enraged father, who bursts in and starts shooting.  What will happen I wonder?

The latest Gail Simone Batgirl is manipulative crap.  Sheer unadulterated crap where you can so easily see the hand of the writer up the asses of the characters who act like complete dullards.

Apparently I'm due for some karmic payback. All those really great reviews I consistently rendered unto Batgirl needed some sort of cosmic balancing of the scales.  Gail Simone doesn't just write one craptastic book this week.  She writes two.

If you think I'm going to spend six or more issues watching Sonja suffer in some bizarre merger of barbarian times and chick flick coughing, you're out of your mind.  The second issue of Simone's foray into the chain-mail bikini fashion world feels a lot like:

That said, artists Walter Geovani and Adriano Lucus are entirely blameless.  Furthermore, many female illustrators decided to lend their talent to Sonja's covers.  Jenny Frison produced the current one depicted above.  It's exceptional work.  The foreshortening on Sonja's leg is perfect.  Her anatomy is wonderful, and the pose is singular.  What a pity that the story couldn't be as stirring.

Last issue of X-Files, writer Joe Harris brought back the Lone Gunmen, and it just felt like bad fan-fiction.  This issue the Cancer Man returns, but there's a huge difference and his resurgence works within the story.

X-Files aficionados will remember that once a band of aliens took the guise of a grown Samantha Mulder in triplicate, and that's what I believe is happening here.  The Lone Gunmen however really were just brought back to life.  Our Cigarette-Smoking Antagonist I believe is made of alien pixie dust.

It looks like I was wrong about the whole cult thing.  I mean cult of aliens, but that doesn't really count.  Artist Michael Walsh contributes an exciting battle between rival factions of spacemen and Scully, while another old friend from The X-Files appears to meet her maker.

The most surprising thing about the characterization however can be found in Mulder's dead-on persona yet totally opposite reputation.  He's the most skeptical of all in this story.  A clever turnabout.

The Time War is basically Doctor Who porn, and that's when writer Andy Diggle begins.  Back in time on Gallifrey, the Doctor's home world, the Time Lords tending to the Matrix, a gestalt of deceased Time Lord minds introduced way, way back in the fourth Doctor story "Deadly Assassin" try to preserve their massive charge.

As this past piece unfolds, Diggle explains his idea of the Time Lords' and the Doctor's relationship.  I foster the opposite opinion.  I've always held that the Time Lords were always out to get rid of the Doctor, frequently redirecting his travels to suicide missions.  Yes, they wanted him to succeed, but hey, bonus if the adventure finally offed the troublesome meddler.

In any case, it makes sense that the Matrix found refuge in the Doctor's TARDIS to escape the Time Lock the Doctor installed around the Time War.

Of course Diggle gets that one of the Doctor's weapons is his unconditional love of humanity.  It's Clara, whom the Matrix predicts too late, that delivers the unexpected blow, rendered absolutely perfectly by artists Andy Kuhn and colorist Charlie Kirchoff.

With the credible plotting comes Diggle's ear for dialogue.  The Doctor explains the whole enchilada with his usual dramatic flair, and if you could close your eyes and still read the comic, you would definitely hear Matt Smith's and Jenna Louise Cooper's delivery.

As well, Diggle maneuvers his story to a spectacular, optimistic end that neatly solves the paradox of the information the Doctor freely gave to the trapped World War II crew.