Sunday, June 29, 2014

POBB: June 26, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
June 26, 2014
Ray Tate

Reviews of All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman, Flash Gordon, Justice League, Justice League Dark and Superman comprise a thin week in terms of quantity and quality for The Pick of the Brown Bag. 

Batman consists of communication engineering porn.  Characters whisper a litany comprised of signal rerouters called vampires, detail signal blockage, signal bouncing, radio blackouts and specific signals to missiles.  It's a wonder that the Signal Man didn't appear.

It's as if somebody took a technical manual and crossed out every word that wasn't jargon and replaced it with Batman.  Then, Snyder told Greg Capullo to go draw Batman and Gordon in some service tunnels.  Last issue, Batman fought lions.  This one is a big let down.

The slog through the overwhelming fount of technobabble quickly exhausted my good graces.  When Batman finally reached the Riddler's lair, I couldn't have cared less and just felt angry that the story hadn't ended.  There had better be one helluva payoff next issue.

Batman's one panel cameo in Aquaman is better than the entirety of this week's Batman.  Writer Jeff Parker plays on the legend of Batman and simultaneously recreates the heroes' old friendship.  

After the Dark Knight flies off stage to meet up with Frankenstein in Nanda Parbat, Aquaman encounters a creature that attacks the Sea King where he lives.  

Aquaman is a fantastic read.  The trouble is I can't be sure if I'm ecstatic about the book because of its inherent awesomeness or if it's simply far and away better than than this week's Batman, Superman and Justice League.  Oh, who am I kidding...

That is a monster using suckers to rip apart flesh as brilliantly imagined by artists Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons.  I've never seen anything like that in a comic book before.  Yet if such trauma could happen, this is what it would look like.  It's positively grotesque and riveting, with extra gooey colors by Rain Beredo.  I salute your understanding of monster mayhem sirs and madam.

It's not just Aquaman vs. Science Gone Awry either.  Parker and company also commit a considerable amount of attention to Mera defending the throne.

Believe it or not, Mera's demand?  That's just the sauce.  The battle pitting Mera and Tula against the would be usurpers is a loving testament to submerged violence.  And there's giant crabs.  Now this is a comic book.

A new creative team on Superman means...urgh...turgid wheel-spinning.  Poor Superman.  He has nobody to talk to. 

Are you there, Bruce? It's me, Margaret.

His super-hot superhero date and his dark best friend are out, except when he's teamed up with either one of them in Superman and Wonder Woman or Batman and Superman.

Can the blonde Eternal wannabe Ulysses fulfill this void in the Man of Steel's life? Will their bonding over the beat down of a big blue bug last? I care about this why?  

Superman doesn't get much succor in his secret identity either.  Perry White is concerned that Clark is distancing himself from people.  

So, what the hell, Perry? You let Clark be fired.  You watched him move one by partnering with Cat Grant to establish a new newsblog, Clarkcatopolis, for what purpose exactly? Kicks?  You know, I don't remember Perry being such a dick.  The rest of the staff don't do well in this soft reboot either.

Thrill to the exploits of Lois Lane drinking with a friend at a bar. 

Then grab onto the horns of a fiduciary dilemma with Jimmy Olsen.  I hate Jimmy Olsen.  I always will, but even I think he deserved a better subplot.

Yep.  This latest volume in Superman's life has me pining for the good old days when Superman had a mullet or when Superman was all electrified.  Those books sucked a lot, but at least they weren't boring.  

Can Geoff Johns contaminate Justice League with this week's theme of ennui? Why, yes.  Yes, he can.  Lex Luthor figured out that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but he can't get Bruce to admit it.  The rubbish plays out even worse than you expect since Johns reiterates the Frog-Scorpion fable popularized by Alan Moore's Killing Joke, and just to add insult to injury, Doug Mahnke draws the bloody thing.

DC proudly presents...

The Adventures of Frog, Scorpion and Bat.

Now, you might be saying, hold on a minute, Ray.  Johns invigorates the expected tedium with a surprise twist to the fable and in order to fully grant the impact, it had to be drawn.  Peel me a grape.  This whole exacerbated stretch could have been avoided had Johns done something spectacularly novel:

"Bruce, you're Batman."
"Come on.  You gave it away when you beat the crap out of me for momentarily killing Richard Grayson."
"Okay.  Okay.  My cape was showing.  You got me.  What do you want Luthor?"

Apart from the lackluster game of "Are not"/"Are too." Captain Marvel uses the lightning to summon a ping-pong table while Cyborg goes on Monitor Duty.  Monitor Duty.  That's a good way to energize the story.  

The best part of the book occurs when Captain Cold summoned by Lex Luthor finds himself in an unfamiliar favorable spotlight, but Cold's anxiety isn't enough to excuse the lackluster confrontations and the dearth of action.

Justice League Dark infuriates me.  This issue is a really good read, but J.M. DeMatteis could have combined the most recent two chapters in the Night Nurse's origin to present an altogether superior medium.  The last part of the story was just a waste of time and coin.

Previously, we learned Night Nurse possessed the body of Alice Winters, years ago.  Alice appeared to be the victim, but Alice could have disabused the team of that idea: "Hey, it's not exactly what you think.  I'm dying, you see.  I agreed to the possession to save my life."  

Such an admission would have influenced the entirety and precluded the dumb, pointless magic melee in the previous installment.

Night Nurse isn't exactly a warm personality.  Despite her aid, the team wouldn't automatically trust her.  Zatanna could have delved into Alice's mind to verify the facts just as she did in the last chapter.  

Night Nurse Asa could have naturally been attracted to the sorceress and by magical magnetism.  So, the ends of this issue could have been more or less preserved without the dim, trite means.  Occult yo-yo John Constantine, who was thrown out of the House of Secrets, also might not have been needed. 

That could have easily been Frankenstein holding a special blade, provided by the House itself.  

DeMatteis could have let the reader in on some vital details without hurting his story.  The aforementioned sickness.  The fact that Night Nurse Asa, despite her monstrous appearance, has at least one respectable sponsor.  

The otherworldly threat could of been recapitulated as well as the loving that comes after the battle.

All right.  All right.   That wasn't exactly a gratuitous lesbian kiss.  It's likely as lascivious as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  
In short, what the sharp plotting in this issue of Justice League Dark proves is that it could have been so much better without the drag of a padded previous issue.

Flash Gordon upon seeing Ming's monster-making machine goes into action, damn the consequences.  Because it's the right thing to do, not to mention hilariously thick headed.  Writer Jeff Parker imbues the merging of merriment and morality in Flash's characterization and as a result cuts to the chase.

As soon as Ming identifies the pilot as his hated enemy Flash Gordon, he begins his scheming, and you cannot help but laugh at this.  Ming has already fallen to his own hubris.  He should have killed Flash right then and there, but he just cannot help making the mistake all good villains make.  Parker though demonstrates a sort of evil holistic evolution of Ming's arrogance. 

In the arena, Flash doesn't stand a chance you think, but the gregarious Flash Gordon never shuts up, and you can imagine how annoying his opponents find him.  Parker's no dummy though.  He knows that being out numbered by monster-men should have signed Flash's death warrant, but he evens the odds through three clever means.  One, as promised, he introduces the Lion Man from the cartoon series into the modern Flash Gordon adventures.

Two, the fools give Flash weapons because...there's that smugness again and three Prince Barin makes a move that reveals some unexpected foreshadowing from previous issues.  Brilliant and fun with enough excitement for ten books.

This week's All-Star Western is a subdued affair in terms of Jonah Hex.  Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray present a comedy of errors in which a simple bounty hunt goes completely wrong.

Along the way, Gray and Palmiotti allude to such spaghetti westerns as If You Meet Sartana Pray for Death and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, which is amusingly recounted by Tulullah Black in a bizarre homage to Wonder Woman's original tales.  William Moulton-Marston and H.G. Peters related stories revealing how Diana found her Invisible Plane and Magic Lasso.  Tullulah divulges how she acquired her lucky shotgun.

Those expecting a cool backup of Madame .44 illustrated by the fantastic Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez will be sorely disappointed.  Most of the DC books this week preview the riotously stupid Grayson.

Ruh-oh.  Somebody forgot to send prostituted writer Tim Seeley the memo about Forever Evil not killing Dick Grayson afterall.  So no resurrection needed.  Sorry.  

Blonde, James Blonde

What puzzles me is why Grayson warrants such treatment.  Is DC really one-hundred percent behind this dumbass thing? It seems more like a book that was made out of desperation than design.  In any case, here it is for all to see.  Nightwing is blonde.  He's maskless.  He's an operative for Charlie...whoops...a spy in the employ of The Matron, and there are Russians.  Hopefully too good to be on this book Mikel Janin will soon return to Justice League Dark, and Grayson will be just be a curious bit of trivia.

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