Pick of the Brown Bag
October 9, 2013
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....
...it 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?
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.
What? But...Fine...It all began when I stabbed my brother's 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.
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.
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.