Monday, October 28, 2013

POBB: October 23, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
October 23, 2013
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week we tackle a slew of comic books including All-Star Western, Aquaman, Beware the Batman, Catwoman, Doctor Who, The Flash, Futurama, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Superman and the new title Pretty Deadly.

In Futurama, Mom, the creator of the robot empire, needs a new heart.  Being evil, she already prepared for such a contingency by earmarking the cryogenic hopefuls for body parts.  I'm guessing that wasn't in the brochure.

It should come to nobody's surprise that the escapee in question is one Philip J. Fry.  

Unfazed by the setback, Mom hatches a new scheme to obtain Fry's heart.  She bamboozles him into accepting an internship at her corporation.  Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your unwitting organ donors next door.

Eric Rogers' story soaks the premise for all its worth and produces comedy by throwing a stone in a pond and letting the ripples wash over the antagonists.  It turns out that the previously established attraction between Mom and Professor Farnsworth catalyzes a surprising rapport between Fry and Mom.  As a result, Mom finds Fry endearing, and Fry tries to please Mom as if she were a favorite aunt.

Rogers' tale thrives on an undercurrent of sweetness, that anywhere else, might seem hokey.  Because this is a story less dependent on slapstick, it's the natural looking expressions and body language, within the Futurama model, from Nina Matsumoto that grant authenticity to the unlikely maternal love story.  

Pretty Deadly is a strange story from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Emma Rios.  The book opens weirdly with a gratuitous bunny killing before settling into a narrative about traveling performance artists touring the old west.  

The bards in question--Fox and Sissy--relate a fable about the personification of death, which just might be Alice who leads a less than merry band in pursuit of a paper mcguffin once in the possession of a former colleague.

Meanwhile, the consummate gunfighting skill of the blind storyteller, Fox, foils a robbery and generates intrigue.  His partner Sissy is a young Native American with one blue eye and one black.  Visually, they're a striking pair, and DeConnick fleshes out their characterization when Fox and Sissy take refuge at Fox's friend's abode.  

In terms of introductory chapters, Pretty Deadly is the best I've seen from DeConnick.  Things happen.  The cast are quickly established.  The plotting makes sense.  In addition, Emma Rios' artwork is attractive yet suitable to the gritty genre, and Jordie Bellaire's rich but earthen colors maintain a western atmosphere without relying on the perhaps overused Sergio Leone sepia.

Also in the old west this week, the Doctor solves the mystery of the mysterious, masked stranger that can kill with his finger.  Though a little slow, Tony Lee's story mixes historical personages such as Oscar Wilde with a  fairplay mystery that doesn't rely upon anything outlandish.  The story's other plot elements utilize just a tiny science fiction nuance and a big wedge of overt science fantasy, but the actual enigmatic slayings reflect comprehensible technology.  It's the face behind the weapon that's alien ugly.

The Doctor's foe only knows him by reputation, which presents an interesting twist in the atmosphere.  The Doctor either usually faces traditional enemies like the Daleks or nigh instantly makes new ones, the Slitheen for example.  

Lee also generates some fun in tangential scenes, such as when Clara, the Doctor's companion, confronts the TARDIS.  The TARDIS doesn't like Clara.  So for the faithful viewer, it's a hoot to see that kind of interplay reiterated, and for a new comer Michael Collins' artwork tells you what's going on through Clara's determined akimbo stance.

Both All-Star Western and Forever Evil are comedies, but only one I suspect was meant to be purposely hilarious.  That's All-Star Western.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray conclude time lost bounty hunter Jonah Hex's legal issues in the twenty-first century.  Those expecting a Perry Mason like drama in which we expound upon the subtleties of the law will be sorely disappointed.  The savvy Wayne legal team instead secure Hex's release from police custody by cynically playing the politics of the situation.  

Arkham however is wrong, and Gray and Palmiotti's captions which deserve their own musical motifs emphasize his lack of faith in Hex's ability to adapt to new situations.  

Hex and his lady friend Gina take the Easy Rider route.  On the road, Hex digs for the riches he buried in the desert long ago, picks up a new pair of weapons, takes in his internet fame and winds up at Burning Man.

At Burning Man, trouble brews in the form of demons acting as harbinger to a much nastier boss.  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, Hex has help in the form of John Constantine.

Moritat's artwork is absolutely perfect.  It will be easier to see the way in which the illustrator handles the various moods in the collection of this time travel story, but for this issue, Moritat presents a theme of bemusement rather than ultraviolence.  His cartoony women exhibit a seasoned, expressionist burlesque and contrasts the grotesque countenance of Hex himself.  Though Moritat tempers even the hero's scarred surliness in a scene involving a lollipop that's at once unsettling and funny.  Not to be missed.

Forever Evil offers a different kind of humor.  It's just so over the top, you cannot help but laugh.  Ultraman comes from a planet where Lara and Jor-El barely tolerate each other.  The animosity couple send baby Ultraman to earth from a doomed planet Krypton in which escape is readily available if the evacuees can stop fighting over the pods.  

Lara and Jor-El kill their way through their fellow Kryptonians to secure a means for their son to travel because...well...let's go with gene pool survival.  They don't actually love their son.  Love is a five letter word on Krypton.  Everywhere else too, but that's not my point.  As young Kal rockets away from Krypton.  His parents give no words of comfort or encouragement.  

Klingons imbue more love and support to their children.  Our bony-headed samurai don't consider their itty-bitty children weak.  They see it as an honor to protect their babies until they come of age.  There is no way this Kryptonian civilization could have possibly formed.  Civilization depends upon co-operation and tolerance, not Tea Party ethics based on Ayn Rand egotism.

Kal rockets from the doomed planet Krypton, but the Kents he finds are far cries from the kindly, nourishing salt of the earth folk our Kal-El discovered.  Instead, we have a pair of gold mining reptiles from the opening of a pulp novel, with Martha Kent as an added bonus being a heroin addict.  Fantastic, and what the hell?

As we jump to modern times, Ultraman takes in the sights and sounds of earth one to examine how different his allies are.  On Ultraman's earth Jim Olsen is a photographer, but I'm guessing the earth three Olsen was a lot like the typically sleazy photographers from giallo.

His subject was apparently Lois Lane, Superwoman on earth three.  This is where we learn that Ultraman doesn't even like Superwoman.  He just sees her as a vessel for his heir.  The thought of these two mating would be the most frightening thing imaginable if not for the fact it's so riotously over the top.  

Superwoman also saw Ultraman as a primo sperm factory, but the whole thing just reads as a skyrocketing sendup of a soap opera.  If you've ever seen Roy Thinnes as an openly philandering doctor on General Hospital you know what I mean.  These slices of goofiness served as shorts for Mystery Science Theater.  That's how ridiculous they were.

So apart from this tour de farce of decadence is there anything at all that might, just might attract somebody not looking for a laugh?  Two words.

And now a couple for Justice League Dark.  This issue is entirely skippable.  J.M. DeMatteis substitutes for Jeff Lemire and/or Ray Fawkes, and his story can be summed up pretty quickly as Constantine tripping.  True, there's no drugs involved, but the narrative's a farrago of falsehood.   Every scene is just some hallucination caused by exposure from Pandora's Box and the setting being the House of Mystery.  The tale could be subtitled "It Came from the Editor's Inventory Drawer," and it's a pity that Michael Janin can do no wrong.  His art is as usual spectacular.  He rises above the shopworn writing, but there's simply no way I can recommend such a callous placeholder.

Of course, Justice League Dark if boring is at least coherent.  Beware the Batman is like Batman in a foreign language, French I would say.  Why is Katana Bruce Wayne's chauffeur? Is it because Kato's Japanese? Why does Alfred look like a dock worker from Liverpool?  Why does Anarky look like Phantom Girl after a trip to Sweden?  Why is Bruce Wayne's nemesis Metamorpho's Simon Stagg? How did Amanda Waller become the Mayor of Gotham? Who would vote for her?  What's with the giant, sad, puppy-dog eyes on every character? The only thing I can support is the design of Batman.  Long ears, flowing cape, dark leotard, substantial utility belt, glowing eyes.  Put him in something I can recognize, and I would read this title in a heart beat.

Superman lies unconscious at the feet of the new 52 reboot of the Psycho Pirate, whose nutso agenda is to "free" humanity of rationality.  Without reason, the Metropolitians riot and revert to savagery.  Can anybody stop them.  Looks like it just might be Lois Lane.

Superman doesn't suffer from the same malaise that Forever Evil inadvertently caused Batgirl and Nightwing.  That's because Mike Johnson relates an entertaining tale that ends with an impact that's independent from the events unfolding in Forever Evil.  Accomplished artwork from Eddy Barrows helps sell the solid story.

The Flash is a great comic book.  Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato conclude the Reverse Flash tale with a satisfying reaffirmation of Barry Allen's heroism, thereby justifying his return.  

Flashpoint readers will grin at the the mention of time travel.  It was this incarnation of the Flash that re-established the new 52 after the post-Crisis Flash altered time and space by attempting to rewrite his mother's murder out of the continuum.  Manapul and Buccellato thus recapitulate the very first Flash story in the new 52 while giving a more salient explanation of just how the Flash repairs time.

Manapul and Buccellato relate their science fiction through powerful artwork that combines animated penciling and colorful finishing. Picking up The Flash results in being transported into a specific world with a singular look.  It's one of the few books on the shelf that visually imprints a sense of wonder.

Buccellato and Manapul end the Reverse Flash story in a few pages.  That's all they need.  They have plenty of space left over, and they address more issues within their Flash run.  What should have felt episodic instead rolls together in a sturdy framework.  

After the defeat of the Reverse Flash, Barry takes care of premiere pest Professor Elias Darwin.  Patty Spivot, Barry's lady love, attended her parents wedding anniversary.  Barry late, though not that late, attends the party, and in the narration expresses his love for Patty.  

I've been on team Patty since the beginning.  Buccellato and Manapul made it clear that despite her hotness, especially in a Flash costume, Iris will not be Barry's paramour.  At least not on their watch.  Iris blew her chance to become Barry's number one when she attempted to use him on behalf of her crazy brother David, the Reverse Flash.  In that moment everything pivoted even farther to the new 52.  

Patty has always been loyal to Barry, and it hasn't been easy, but Buccellato and Manapul characterize her as a rational woman, a fellow police scientist.  She is an objective observer hopelessly in love with Barry.  For that reason, she hated the Flash.  Evidence suggested he killed Barry.  Later, she learns about the one link in the chain missing from her investigation.  Rather than carp about a betrayal of trust, she readily accepts that the Flash and Barry are one in the same.  She understands the conflict between the hero the Flash appeared to be and his callous "murder" of Barry Allen.  Now, she can be with the man she loves wholly.

When Patty awakens, Barry's gone.  The Flash is about momentum.  Barry knows the mistake the Reverse Flash made cannot be repeated, and it's likely that this knowledge informs his decision to stop the post-Crisis Flash in Flashpoint.  Barry reopens his mother's murder case.  He pours over the details like a cop.  He doesn't even think once to go back in time to prevent the killing.

Patty finds the boxes of evidence on the floor, but no sign of Barry.  There's a plane about to crash into Central City.  Millions will die, but thanks to Manapul and Buccellato, the Flash is a quintessential hero, once again.

In Aquaman the Sea-King awakens six months later, which strangely puts him outside of the events in Forever Evil, a mini-series by Aquaman scribe Geoff Johns.  Maybe this is a means to clean the slate for upcoming talent Jeff Parker to take over the reins.  Whatever.  Vulko reveals the secret of Aquaman and the Atlanteans this issue.  So what?  

There are a lot of interesting ideas in this issue of Aquaman.  The Atlanteans share a common ancestor with other denizens of the sea.  The Atlanteans also appear to have already expressed the biological equipment needed to breathe underwater while living on land.  Else, how could some of them immediately survive the sinking? All these fascinating nuggets are mostly ignored in favor of an episode of submerged Game of Thrones.  

I can see a lot of Harlequin fans being angry at DC over the new 52 Duela Dent alias the Joker's Daughter.  Catwoman says it best.

Yeah.  This isn't Duela Dent from the pre-Crisis Teen Titans, nor the post-Crisis cameo girl.  DC just stole her name for an inferior character.  The same thing happened to Kathy Kane.  Don't worry about it.  Just ignore her until her star fades.

At the very least, the new Duela Dent fits into the Gotham Underground, which is well weird.  At the same time, I'm having a difficult time believing that Batman can be unaware of a considerable number of multiple tribes living in the bowels of his city and allowing these potential threats--from pink biohazards to explosive blue diamonds--to manifest.

Ignoring the Batman factor, although this is difficult, the chapter gives Catwoman closure while shifting the focus away from one mcguffin in favor of another.  Well illustrated by Rafa Sandoval and with a special thanks to Scott McDaniel, getting around in the DCU lately, you could do worse than picking up Ann Nocenti's Catwoman.

Monday, October 21, 2013

POBB: October 16, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
October 16, 2013
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week, I review Ame-Comi Girls, Baltimore, Batman Beyond Universe, Batman and Superman, Birds of the Prey, Justice League of America, King's Watch, Rogue's Rebellion and Wonder Woman.

In Justice League, Batman and Superman met for the first time.  In Greg Pak's Batman and Superman, the two heroes meet for the first time.  What's more they meet their earth two counterparts for the first time.  The final issue of the first Batman and Superman storyarc solves the conflict in a traditional way, and that's where one of this title's problems lie.  

Batman and Superman is a very traditional book that was hyped as something different.  The title should have been momentous, but it changed nothing and did nothing special to explain the added dollar to the price tag.   The World's Best team's encounter in fact is less interesting than the interaction between the earth two Catwoman, Lois Lane and Wonder Woman, who have the rapport of old friends, because in this universe they are.  I'd rather  see a book based on them.

Art wise, Jae Lee went literally too dark on two issues, but for this chapter, he returns to a better balance of light casting, even a little brighter than his opening gambit.  As a result, we can enjoy the expressions of the characters and marvel at their musculature, especially the mid-air battle between Wonder Woman and a New God of mischief.  Hopefully the second story in Batman and Superman will spin a better yarn.

Batman and Superman's story was mediocre with a few good bits of characterization.  Justice League of America's scenario is bog-standard with practically no characterization.  J'onn J'onnz wakes in a super-powered prison that really shouldn't contain the more experienced heroes of the Justice League.  Wonder Woman, Superman and Flash nevertheless all remain impotent against the psychological succor of the high-tech jail.  They're just as easily suckered as Captain Marvel.  The issue is just really a puffy place holder consisting of empty calories.

I really like Diana's coat in Wonder Woman.  As for the story, it just establishes the status quo of the Olympians trying to make her sit in Ares' place, Strife plotting vengeance against Diana for slaying her brother and...ah...a lot of talking and no hitting.

Unlike Birds of Prey.  It's really great to see Batgirl in action again and with a partner.  Judging by the yellow bat symbol on her chest, this story occurs before the moment when she ripped it off, or maybe her Ninja costume is in the wash again.  Whatever.  The story's forgettable, but Batgirl behaving strong, confident and in charge is like a warm ray of sunshine on the face.

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray expand the Ame-Comi Girls femmeverse.  In the culmination of the first issue, the duo surprised the reader by obliterating their carefully constructed reverse genderfication of the DCU.  Their reboot wasn't all that inviting.  They introduced a kind-of, sort-of zombie Jesse Quick, which I wasn't all too keen about, a pretty weak group of horror show Teen Titans and space pirate Big Barda, whom I can take or leave.

In this issue, Palmiotti and Gray restore the Justice League: Batgirl, Robin, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Steel.  Our heroes however only cameo.  Still, it's nice to see the more familiar characters I enjoyed in the first volume of Ame-Comi Girls, alive and well.  The League are recruiting new members.  So they watch the updates in wrap around segments that integrate with the story, as opposed to acting like narration.

Gray and Palmiotti conceive an ingenious origin for the White Canary that incorporates the Canary Cry with a nifty little twist.  The authors hint that this particular short is akin to a grindhouse movie, and the Canary's origins mirror some of the street level elements of the genre.  Her martial arts mastery, which artist Adam Archer details with gusto, fits smoothly in the chop-socky intent, and the writing partners furthermore preserve Canary's history.  They institute a clever means to draw in the Canary's choker.  The 1940s Canary completed her classic ensemble with a silk choker that sported a hollowed out amulet containing whatever she needed to complete an adventure, usually a knock-out gas capsule or smoke bomb.

The other two stories are okay, but the comedy in the Big Barda feature was a little too broad for my tastes.  Palmiotti and Gray rejigger Darkseid as an evil princess, but she just seemed like a  female cosplayer.  Miss Miracle is also a goofy concept; perhaps if I saw her without the full-face mask.  In the last tale, while Mera gains a crown independent of Aquaman, she doesn't quite radiate the potency of her new 52 counterpart.

Batman Beyond Universe just didn't pay off.  Last issue Terry, our future Batman, fought the originals Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl.  Frankly, there was no way I wasn't going to be disappointed with the explanation.  

The Superman side-B is just a bloody fight between The Man of Steel and Jax-Ur in the Phantom Zone, but stick with it, and Aquagirl gets her due in a spectacular moment.

Best book of the week.  King's Watch.  The second issue of the Defenders of the Earth redux features the same fantastic, realistic art that recalls some of the best newspaper strip illustrators.  The scenarios spotlight Flash Gordon and Dale Arden fisticuffs against the Cobra's minions in serial glory, a stunning manifestation of Mandrake the Magician, performing more than mere illusion here and The Phantom being a guide in the marvelously diverse African habitat.  

Jeff Parker doesn't so much recreate these legends from the newspaper.  Rather he returns them back to what they were, even cleverly absorbs the original polo background of Flash Gordon into this modern update.  He only makes changes to the figures that were the product of societal pressure.  

Lothar was always a bad example of stereotyping until most of society, those not in the Tea Party, grew up.  So Lothar becomes a mirror to his cartoon persona, albeit without the sort of action hero background.  Parker instead gives Lothar a more realistic avenue to pursue that's interrupted by the nightmare beasts seeping into the earth through quantum tunnels opened by science fiction devices so powerful that they follow Clarke's Law, a law that Dale Arden understands.  

Parker turns Flash Gordon's girlfriend into Sarah Jane Smith, although with an edgier personality.  Doctor Who fans will know that Sarah was a science reporter, and that role fits the new sophisticated Dale Arden to a tee.  To be fair this was neither the first time Dale became a reporter or fluent in science, but it's nice to see these attributes come back in a sophisticated package.

Second best dramatic comic book of the week.  Baltimore: The Infernal Train.  Finally, some action.  Too many Baltimore books were just dull, unconnected horror stories.  This one is pretty damn good, and pure Baltimore.

Our lordship duels the crazed inquisition priest Duvic as he affirms his stance.  Baltimore isn't an atheist.  He believes whatever force created the universe died.  This is a rational man, who when faced with insane horrors concludes that no benevolent deity could allow such terror to exist.  

In the eyes of Duvic, Lord Baltimore blasphemes, and his obsession to kill Baltimore through purification carries through the entire book.  Even when a greater evil presents itself, there's no throwing in with the enemy.  It's every man for himself and then I'll skewer you with my trusty sword, in god's name.  

Such craziness makes Infernal Train outstanding entertainment.  In fact, Duvic's mental issues often usurp the title danger, which is a pity, because it's a fantastic mash of the Doctor Who episode "State of Decay" and the bizarre cult classic Amok Train, which you should watch with somebody you love.

Rogue's Rebellion played out exactly as I thought it would.  The Flash Rogues are bank robbers who haven't any chance for survival in the superpowered dictatorship spawned in moments by the Crime Syndicate.

The Flash writer Brian Buccellato also relies on a personal reason for two of the Rogues to resist.  Lisa Snart, alias the Golden Glider lies in a hospital that the Syndicate orders to be razed to the ground. 

The Rogues are so off board with the Syndicate that they even release the cops, that were miraculously left alive after Grodd's slaughter of Central City.  This occurred in one of those lame "Villain's Month" fiascoes   So, I know nothing about it, but it's awfully nice of the monkey to keep the Flash's supporting cast breathing, for a fickle of reasoning.

Patrick Zircher orchestrates the artwork, but you're unlikely to recognize Zircher's usually fine pencils or draftsmanship because Scott Hepburn and colorist Nick Filardi turn everything dark and nearly Vertigo strange in look.

Dark subject matter gets turned on its head in Ian Boothby's Simpsons Comics.  The long dormant Springfield Volcano erupts prompting Diamond Joe Quimby to make a life-affirming decision.  He decrees that the most innocent Springfielder will be sacrificed.  Innocence translates to dumb, and the candidates left include the following.

Numerous gags ripple through a contest of cretins.  Boothby keeps all the cast--however moronic--in character.  That includes a sweet little move by Chief Wiggum to save his son Ralph from the gaping maw.  The tactic once again exemplifies Wiggum's unconditional love for his son.  Putting aside the sugar, Boothby also makes time for hilarity symbolized by such tomfoolery as Cletis' kid catapult.

Though Boothby's tale is set in the normal stomping grounds, artists Phil Ortiz, Mike DeCarlo and Art Villanueva have plenty to do as slapstick strikes and weird non sequitur guests drop in for more laughs.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

POBB: October 9, 2013

Pick of the Brown Bag
October 9, 2013
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week, I focus on the sucking power of Batgirl.  I review old stalwarts Batman, Fearless Defenders, Nightwing, The Owl, Smallville and World's Finest.  I'll take a peak at the the new titles Coffin Hill and Rocket Girl.

Because of Forever Evil, Batgirl and Nightwing are mostly inconsequential.  Nevertheless, the writers can at least make their titles entertaining. Only one succeeds. 

Nightwing offers a few assets.  Although the story isn't a fairplay mystery, the plot makes sense.  The main germ gives Nightwing a problem that requires him to use his brain, and he does so admirably.  Former Buffy the Vampire Slayer artist William Conrad keeps Nighting smiling, recalling Dick Grayson's days as Robin, and this overall happiness better suits Nightwing's characterization.  Batman never wanted a younger version of himself as a partner.  He adopted Robin ideally to mitigate the same darkness that ate away at his own.

That said.  The Tony Zucco plot thread turns out to be as irrelevant as Nightwing extending his stay in Chicago.  We know that Nightwing returns to Gotham City in Forever Evil, but more importantly....

Y appears that writer Kyle Higgins intended for Zucco to be Nightwing's white whale.  Zucco turns himself in for the murder of the Graysons, but corruption in a broken legal system wipes his slate clean.  The erasure prepares Zucco's resumption of a life of crime that's sealed with mob approval.  

While Zucco might have been good for one tale, repositioning him as the Big Bad inheritor of the maffia's auspices is a terrible idea and promises only repetitive boredom.  Zucco simply isn't that interesting enough of a character to carry the weight of such a story.

Nightwing is flawed, Batgirl is toxic.

Hey, Babs, why so glum?
Ricky who?
He's a boy I met.
Where'd you meet him?

I met him in the parking lot.  I caught him trying to jack somebody's car.  That's when I rescued...the boy caught in the bear trap.

It all began when I snapped my brother's spine.

Spine.  Spine.

What? But...Fine...It all began when I stabbed my brother's eye.

Eye.  Eye.

Commissioner Dad Gordon blamed my secret life.  He put out a BOLO on Batgirl.  I couldn't believe all the strife.  That's when I noticed the boy I rescued from the bear trap.

I tore the bat symbol off of my chest.  I hoped its absence would quell my unrest.  I quit being hero and looked for a job.  I no longer needed the cape and cowl mob.  Ricky got himself an artificial leg.  He even started feeding homeless waifs. 

Waifs.  Waifs.  Waifs.  Waifety.  Waifs.  Waifs.  Waifs.

A May-December tryst wasn't in the cards.  Ricky's former gang wanted him scarred.  The hoods kidnapped Ricky's brother.  Knightfall supplied souped up lethal laser taggers.  Things looked bad for the boy caught in the bear trap.


I still needed to help Ricky.  Try to prevent his fate.  I dressed up as a ninja.  We'd never go out on another date.

Look out! 
Look out!
Look out!

My Dad led a hungry police pack.  He pulled out his police issue Glock.  There would be no turning back.  This all began as such a lark.  Why the hell did it become so dark? Dad shot down the boy caught in the bear trap.

Batgirl shouldn't be a 1950s tragedy song.  Batgirl is this:

Oh, yes, and Batgirl is this:

Gail Simone needs to look back at why she wanted this gig in the first place, or DC needs to hire somebody else.  

"Please, help me.  I don't know where I am." 

I don't know what's going on in Fearless Defenders.  Some bald guys, who according to the narration, work for Thanos try to snatch pods with people in them.  Why there happen to be pods with people in them is anybody's guess, but one of them contains a dancing lesbian, our point of view character, with the dubious power of Witchblade claws.  The trouble is she cannot will the armor away like Sara Pezzini can.  So, she's stuck with the worst power a lesbian can have.  Unusable fingers.

Menace--as in Dennis--Caroline Le Fey is on hand to combat the bald Thanos guys with a new group of villainous D list hirees. I'm guessing she objects to the whole snatching pod people thing and sees them as a resource for her army of rejects.  The Defenders show up, and the lesbian dancer with the razor fingers makes a friend in Annabelle Riggs, resident lesbian fused with Valkyrie.

I support the diversity, but the vicious blades have got to go.  That conjures up some really nasty imagery, and you know that if Cullen Bunn leaves Fearless Defenders and somebody decides to kill Annabelle Riggs, some sphincter of a writer, maybe Bendis, is probably going to have Annabelle's soon to be lover eviscerate her in the nastiest, possible way.  

Aside from bedroom logistics, the pod people plot's meaningless unless you're into whatever the hell Big Stupid Event Marvel's got going for it, and the Defenders are the weak link in their own title, appearing only in the third act.  

Furthermore, I cannot get a bead on the bald guys.  There's no benefit for working for Thanos.  The dude literally wants to do Death.  The Chitarri in the Avengers film were unaware of Thanos' ultimate goal, but in the comic book Marvelverse, Thanos' sick desires should be cosmically renowned: from the lowliest Badoon to the gods of Asgard.  Galactus probably gives Death more inadvertent orgasms than any creature in the universe, but he would look at Thanos askance.  So, yeah.  I want to work for the guy with the lousiest health plan on the books and zero chance of advancement.  Fearless Defenders is just a confusing mess.

She came from a wealthy family.  She studied the black arts for kicks.  Now she's a cop.  Tragedy shot her off the force.  Now she's going back home.  Eve Coffin was a witch.  She was a cop.  She's a witchy cop...Coffin Hill.  Coming this fall to NBC, right after the new Ironside.

Rocket Girl by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclair is a fun, unpretentious science fiction adventure which posits a teen police force in the future and time travel.  That might sound like the Legion of Super-Heroes, but Reeder and Montclair give Rocket Girl a different attitude.  If anything Rocket Girl resembles Sukeban Deka, a Japanese television series in which the police recruit girl orphans to battle crimes with special Yo-Yos.

That's not as far fetched as you think.  The Yo-Yo is traditionally a weapon, not a toy.  Dayoung, Rocket Girl, doesn't carry a Yo-Yo, but she is armed with fighting skills, high intellect and an unerring sense of justice.  All of this makes the character as inviting as the Sukeban Deka girls.  

Dayoung travels back in time to prevent a perversion of history in the 1980s.  The 1980s is of course the home of the me generation, Reaganomics and Margaret Thatcher.  So, the contrast should be very interesting as the series progresses.

At the moment though, Dayoung is relatively unscathed in terms of culture shock.  Sure things are slower, but she appears in the labs of young scientists and departs when she hears about a crime.  

Being an honest police officer from the future, she naturally wants to help her fellow brothers in blue.  They're not so keen to accept a flying girl's aid.  This leads to the predictable but necessary and realistic convention of the attempted arrest of the hero.  If the police had said, "Yes, flying future girl with rocket pack, please help us." That would be unlikely.  Oh, and the terrific art inside the book, as you can see, matches the exciting promise of the cover.

World's Finest pits pits the Huntress and Power Girl after the new 52 update of a classic Justice League of America foe.  Ostensibly, the plot orchestrates one big exciting chase with Helena Wayne taking the lead in an investigation of the arson of fashion houses.  

Paul Levitz highlights Helena's relentless nature.  She pursues the antagonist with the determination that her sobriquet suggests.  Along the way, Levitz reintroduces the characters to a new audience.  Despite relying on continuity as its core, World's Finest is one of the most welcoming of the new 52 titles because Levitz subtly reminds readers where Power Girl and Huntress came from, another earth, and explains their heritage in action and dialogue rather than exposition.

The faithful reader enjoys the reminders because each one builds on the character and plays a part in their lives.  You can see Helena's heritage in her verve to fight crime, and every scene exhibits Levitz stepping up his game.  Huntress does things only the daughter of Batman and Catwoman could do.  That means Levitz is writing at his peak to demonstrate an uncanny intelligence in the character he created with Joe Staton and Bob Layton.

Levitz directs novelty at Power Girl.  He orchestrates her recovery from the machinations DeSaad wrought on her company, Starr Technologies.  Meanwhile, Power Girl backs Helena up as her vastly potent partner.  Levitz introduces a fluctuation in that ability, but readers can still enjoy a multitude of Kara's feats of strength.

This issue Scott McDaniel contributes breakdowns for R.B. Silva.  That means the fluidity of the narrative is at an all time high.  McDaniel can sometimes get a little too out of control with his character designs, but nobody can dispute his lank figures lending an illusion of velocity to the panels.  Silva benefits from the burst of energy.  Not to say that Silva's artwork is lethargic.  Far from it.  These two simply make a dynamite team.

That's Wonder Woman in Smallville.  Why the hell aren't you reading this?

Batman is a love letter to every good Batman interpretation there ever was.  First and foremost, this is Snyder's version of Batman.  There's a man beneath the mask who cares about the innocent.  At the same, he's a brilliant strategist that employs whatever tool he must to fight crime.  That means Batman uses his calculating acumen, his mystique, his fighting skills, the equipment from his utility belt and a wry creepy sense of humor in equal fashion to combat the Red Hood Gang.

Year Zero is aptly named because not only does Snyder rebuild Batman from the ground up.  He also recreates Alfred, who sees a need for Batman and doesn't want to see Master Bruce give up his dual identity for a life of peace and tranquility.  Instead, Alfred mans the bridge, offering his advice and skill.  Particularly of interest, Snyder incorporates the much used device of Alfred's theatrical background efficiently and uniquely.  

Although Batman and Bruce Wayne are one, Snyder remolds the second half of Batman's personality.  Bruce Wayne is not a playboy dilettante or the amateur sleuth of old.  Rather, he becomes a true visionary, the prodigal son and inheritor of a philanthropic legacy that Gotham knows and respects.  His eloquent speech touches on numerous arguments people have made before in regards to Gotham City and its inhabitants.

When the defiance turns to Ace Chemicals, Snyder and Greg Capullo, whose contributions cannot be overlooked, recall Tim Burton's and Michael Keaton's Batman, yet it's a Batman movie as seen through the looking glass.  The basic threads are there, they just weave the pattern a little differently, and the confrontation between Batman and Commissioner Gordon gains even more edge, with canonical gun imagery that has plagued Batman ever since Bob Kane put it in the original books.  

Kane only meant this moment to be a visual gag to pay homage to Batman's predecessor, the Shadow.  While Batman does use guns mounted on the Batplane in another adventure, he doesn't habitually carry a pistol.  Batman indeed only packs heat to end the undead existence of the Monk and Dala.

The gun Batman carries in Year Zero is decidedly non-lethal, and it's not the only nod to the past.  The redesign of Batman's costume alludes to the original costume, right down to the little purple gloves.  I honestly prefer this revamp over the new 52 reboot.  Little purple gloves and all.  The double-sized Batman is well-worth the seven dollar asking price.  Don't wait for the trade.

Finally, the Owl concludes his first foray into the present day.  Having met his partner Owl-Girl's granddaughter, the Owl tried to steer her from the vicious path she tread.  Alas, this issue concludes on a sad note, but it's a well related tale that features a couple of unexpected twists and promises more for Nick Terry, alias the Owl.