Wednesday, June 4, 2014

POBB: May 28, 2014

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 28, 2014
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  In this column I pick the best and the worst of the comic book yield for the week.  Before we begin our reviews.  I want to speak about a very important issue.  Net Neutrality.  Simply put.  Cable and phone companies want to destroy the internet.  This isn't hyperbole, but I can't explain this issue better than the gentlemen pictured below.  So take a look at John Oliver;  lodge your comments to the FCC at FCC Comments and come back.  I'll wait.  Oh, and spread the link.  If not the POBB, definitely the comments link and John Oliver.

 John Oliver on Net Neutrality

Now, on with the comic books.  This week we look at All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman, Captain Midnight, Catwoman, Flash Gordon, Futurama, Future's End and Justice League Dark.

The Riddler took over Gotham by cutting out power and flooding the city.  He distracted Batman with a killer named Dr. Death.  The Dark Knight's battles against the biohorror resulted in his collapse from extreme exhaustion.  Batman only awoke a few issues ago, but he caught up to speed, and started orchestrating the reclamation.

The Riddler acts as a deadly quiz show host.  He claims that he'll restore Gotham City if a brave soul challenges him to a duel of wits.  All somebody must do is riddle him a riddle that he cannot answer.  Lucius Fox is ready to sacrifice himself, but Batman has a better way.

Although Batman rocks, it's still not as good as The Night of the Owls.  There are some really great moments in the story.  Batman fights lions in a makeshift colosseum... 

and inspires the people of Gotham City. 

However, the story's a little too forced, like a rebooted movie where the creators feel they must hit certain touchstones like Lucius Fox and Commissioner Gordon.  

Still, there's no way, shape or form that this is a bad Batman book, and I've read plenty of those.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo  maintain a level of quality within quantity that would have been unheard of pre-new 52.

Former visitor to past Gotham City, Jonah Hex finds his fortunes reversed.  After encountering DC's resident time traveler Booster Gold, Hex wound up in the present of the new 52, where a whirlwind tour took him through the major cities of the DCU.  He met Bruce Wayne, Superman and made an enemy out of John Constantine, which demonstrates Hex's finely honed instincts when spotting a crooked man.

In addition to making his mark in the present, science removed several marks of his.  His face is no longer scarred.  That doesn't make a difference for Tullulah Black, his erstwhile bounty-hunting partner...

Or a group of scumbags who realize too late what hell they have just unleashed.  

The sheriff that pops in to investigate the ruckus finds Hex's story quite implausible since there's a half-scarred owlhoot wanted dead or alive for multiple crimes against humanity.  It's a twist nobody expected, and promsies even more.

Though Jonah Hex is the A-Side feature of All-Star Western, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray also conceive a meaty B-Side with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Madame .44.

Last issue, a scoundrel persuaded by a period prostitute's poon tang caved a mine in on his father's old friend and the old friend's daughter, Jeanne.  All in the name of greed. 

Jeanne didn't die.  Instead, she explored a strange light and swam up into a netherworld where demons ride the infernal storm.  

This is the dominion that births the deadly Madame .44, an old DC character given new life by the All-Star Western team.  

As per usual, the story's never quite as straight-forward as one initially assumes.  For instance, is it a mere coincidence that Jeanne picks up the same hat and six-guns from the remains she discovers? Is it serendipity that she looks like the enemy that the Big Bad dispatched? I look forward to the conclusion of this highly recommended tale of vengeance.

Jimmy Palimotti turns up in the weirdest places.  This week, he's not just writing All-Star Western, he's also spoofing Italian stereotypes in Futurama Comics.

Professor Farnsworth sends the Planetary Express crew to the Sauce Planet, and Palmiotti immediately uses that pastafication as a double-entendre.  

The spicy meatballs immediately set their sights on Bender, Fry and Leela, Barbarellified by artist John Delaney clearly relishing the opportunity to add some sexiful motifs to the visual narrative. 

Yes, please.

The trio aren't all that taken with the Earthans.  They need a tactical diversion to scheme a goofy crime, that's, given the environment, astoundingly plausible.   At it's core, Futurama is actually a bizarre detective story.  The plot thickens like cheese and its gooey nature ensnares our hapless heroes.  

Palmiotti identifies himself as a fan of the Futurama series through an integral knowledge revealed in third tier cameos and the significance of the cast's trademark behaviors.  So, when you read Futurama, it won't feel like a Jimmy Palmiotti pie with Futurama toppings.  Instead, the ingredients smolder within the crust.

Captain Midnight time traveled to the present via Bermuda Triangle outré.   Since arriving in our time, he discovered the daughter of his Nazi arch-enemy established herself as a respected business woman that exploited the technology Midnight invented.  Subsequent issues revealed that Midnight's old sidekick Chuck Ramsey turned bad.  He made a deal with Fury Shark back in the jungles of the sixties.  He would help her forge a new identity, and together they would reap the economic benefits from Midnight's genius.

Chuck is no misunderstood piker either.  Last issue he killed Captain Midnight's new team member Rick Marshall.  He identified himself as the employer of the teleporting assassin Helios and the mastermind behind all of the government's problems associated with Captain Midnight.  This issue, Captain Midnight kicks Helios' ass.  

What I loved about this book-length fight is that I just read about another invigorating duel against a teleporter in Birds of Prey, but the art by Fernando Dagnino and the setup by writer Joshua Williamson brings a freshness to the table.  Instead of feeling repetitive, this baby is visceral and distinctive.  Furthermore, the creative team take the time to explore the emotions of the characters moment by moment.

Captain Midnight isn't then just about fisticuffs.  It's a book about a time traveling hero learning the complexity of the new world his technology helped usher forth and coming to terms with the corruption of what he thought was incorruptible.  His friends also experienced a mixture of feelings as the lark of adventure hardens into something a little more serious.

So, here's the deal.  I wasn't going to review Future's End.  I intended only to read the Frankenstein bits and be done with it, but then I remembered that I don't just publish this blog for myself.  I do it to save readers money.  Frankenstein has attracted a helluva fan base in a short time.  So, Frankenstein fans are likely to hover to Ryan Sook's remarkable cover like moths to the flame.  Will they get burned? No.

The truth is that I enjoyed Future's End more than Batman Eternal. Frankenstein fans will find this book entertaining, and he's in the tale for six pages.  They're good pages.  They're fueled on Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE and Justice League Dark continuity.  Father Time isn't dicking Frankenstein around either.  She's on the up and up, and her new Agent of SHADE is Amaya, also known a Princess Amethyst.   Though you may not recognize her.

These are probably the ugliest characters Aaron Lopresti ever illustrated, and it's doubly funny since he rendered Amethyst as charming pretty princess warrior in Sword and Sorcery

Father Time intends to send Frank and Amaya on a mission into space to investigate the destruction of Stormwatch's ship.  This is probably the catalyst to the whole shebang, but I couldn't tell you for sure.  In any case, the remainder of the book deals with a thinly disguised Dick Grayson living a new life as Cal Corcoran.  At first I thought this gent was the depowered Superman from Batman Beyond, also assuming the name Cal, but it's definitely Dick.

Nighwhiner Returns!

Other than Dick Grayson and the Agents of SHADE, the book also base touches with the Key and Plastique for some reason, Grifter does a Grimm.  I've read much worse, but none of these moments makes me want to follow the entirety of Future's End.  My advice.  Pick and choose based on the amount your invested hero per issue.

There.  I just saved you four bucks.

You can tease all the nudity you want in Justice League Dark, it still won't make the story any less wordy, dull and static.  Crummy is a good word to describe J.M. DeMatteis' latest.  

League Dark attempted to contact the spirit that's been haunting the House of Mystery, and an impromptu seance called her back to the land of living.  She's Alice Winter, the naked girl seen above.

It turns out that the Nightmare Nurse, J.M. DeMatteis' creation, possessed the younger Alice Winter long ago.  Alice identifies the Nurse as an evil entity.  So, Zatanna goes into Alice's memory to discover the truth.  There, she encounters Nightmare Nurse, who rather than doing the smart thing like explaining herself, decides to do battle with the arch-sorceress.

Like Aquaman, Justice League Dark banks on a tiresome, needless battle.  If Asa has a case to state to Zatanna, she should be smart enough to know that fighting isn't going to warm her to anybody's heart.  Batman knew that when he confronted Frankenstein last week.  He knew that he was way, way out of line when he first met the monster.  So, he did the only thing he could have done to display his good intentions.

Asa should have invited Zatanna to virtual tea like the Lady Vastra did for her conference call with Clara, River Song, Jenny and Strax.  

Instead, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, it's a boring magic duel.  

Asa somehow inveigles John Constantine back into the fold, and why do I get the feeling that this yo-yo move is only due to the fact that Constantine is getting his own television series?

I love how they describe the show.  "Scrappy Hero."  Really? Have you read a single issue of the "scrappy hero's" chicanery? 

To be fair, when Constantine first debuted in the new 52, the Powers That Be were in fact trying to make the new incarnation into a reluctant hero, but the intent soured.  DeMatteis himself hammered the final nail.  In the recent past, Constantine exhibited remarkable cowardice, abandoned the world to demons, and House of Mystery revoked his lease.  

With all this recall and supernatural padding going on, there's not a whole lot for Deadman and Swamp Thing to do other than eat fruit.  I wish I were kidding.

There is much beauty in the Swam--House.

Bah, I say! Bah!

Swamp Thing guest stars in Jeff Parker's Aquaman, and here again is a fight that didn't have to happen.

Does Aquaman listen to what Swamp Thing has to say? No.  He just continues to strike out against him, and it doesn't help matters that he brought the Rima stand-in from the Others to help.

Parker gives no explanation for the mad on that Aquaman fosters.  The Sea King was actually more genial to the Karquan, the giant, highly destructive monster in Parker's debut; cannier when fighting the beasts that escaped from a sophisticated magical prison and also showed more compassion for the gone round the bend Hercules.

What puzzles me even more is that Aquaman read Batman's file on Swamp Thing, and the detective must have deduced that Swamp Thing is on the side of justice.  Aquaman is also aware that Superman met Swamp Thing, but he just tears into him anyway.  I just cannot comprehend Aquaman's unreasonable actions.

At least the action in Aquaman allows artist Paul Pelletier to cut loose, but Pat Olliffe gets stuck with the slowest race I've ever read about.  Catwoman's "Race of Thieves" tampers with pacing that should have been lightning quick but instead moves with all the velocity of congested snail.  

Who Are These People?

Ann Nocenti hamstrings the rapidity of her story by cutting away from the chase, segueing to non-sequiter flashbacks, flipping the point of view to other characters, peering in on pointless figures and their pedantic dialogue and pairing up dubious partners.  The twin graphics I'm including are just samples of the tedious lengths Nocenti will go to put the car into neutral.  Seriously.  This time I mean it.  Last issue of Catwoman I'm buying on Nocenti's run.

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