Tuesday, February 17, 2015

POBB: February 11, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
February 11, 2015
Ray Tate

This week warm up to reviews of Captain Marvel, Harley Quinn Valentine's Day Special, Justice League United, Legendary:Red Sonja, Nameless, Thor, World's Finest, but first on the docket the latest issue of Smallville: Continuity.

The Monitors throw everything they've got at the heroes, but got bad news for them.

There's so much comic book richness in Smallville.  The story begins with the Monitors launching an attack at the Watchtower, where Chloe Sullivan plies her computer mojo.  Superman, Supergirl and the Martian Manhunter attempt to stop the monstrous machine, but to no avail.  This scene leads to one of the many examples of rousing cohesive teamwork.

Fortunately for all involved, writer Bryan Q. Miller births a new hero with venerable name.  Miller was clearly inspired by the happenings in the final issues of Earth 2, before End of the World or whatever it's called usurped the plot.  The guise is even more fitting for our mystery hero because of the name and the connection with the television series.  That's not really a spoiler since all but Batman, Wonder Woman and Babs Gordon have first been introduced on the show.

The ship that tried to kill Chloe spits out a Big Bad, and this is something that would have probably strained the budget and the time frame for completing an episode.  The entire Justice League lays it down against the monster, except Batman and Nightwing.  The team have a better idea for them.

What I like about the story and the characterization is that yes, what's left of the world is in danger, but the heroes still take the time to protect each other and their loved ones.  That's what gives the story its appeal.  In real life we would be horrified to see a mass of strangers slaughtered, but there's a disconnect in fiction.  We have to know these people in order to care.  That's why so many nameless mothers are consistently threatened in dramas.  By giving a character responsibility, she immediately gains more depth than a nameless childless woman.  Again, these examples do not apply to real life.  Just fiction.  A person with a conscience would be disturbed by a threat to either life.

Endangering a superhero is more the subject of fascination rather than abject terror.  That's because superheroes by definition are more resilient than we mere mortals.  Occasionally though, you are sometimes left wondering will this damage be enough to end the life of a hero?  

Superman poses an immense problem in this area.  He's Superman.  Miller however established in previous issues that Superman is one of many, which the Monitors already ended.  Their method of extermination is something that affects any creature, regardless of Kryptonian might.  That's why when the monitors decide to concentrate all their efforts on Superman, his possible last words are meta-chilling.  Miller also has the foresight to bring it all down home.

The idea of course is that Lois and Superman are so intertwined that they can feel when the other is in danger.  This apocrypha applies outside of fiction.  Many claim that they can sense when a loved one is in immediate peril, but they fail to remember all the times they sensed false alarms.  Nevertheless, it’s a nice little plot device, and who knows? Superman is an alien.  Perhaps living with an alien can transmit a beneficial infectious telepathy.  

Will Superman be rebooted?  How can he resist the fate to which so many other avatars fell?  Read Smallville and discover the best Superman book on the racks.

The Justice League make a good showing in this week's issue of Justice League United.  We begin in the middle.  Ultra, an artificially reproduced Multi-Alien, was shown his destiny by Silver Age Hawkman shape-shifter Byth.

Byth though is not currently fighting Hawkman.  In fact, he turned Hawkman against the Justice League.  Thus, a theme from the new 52 evolves.  The heroes don't just battle their typical Rogue's Gallery.  They duel foes outside their comfort zones.  Aquaman beat the crap out of Gorilla Grodd in his book, and in Justice League, Byth made an enemy out of Supergirl.  Scribe Jeff Lemire writes the hell out of Supergirl.

This is about as perfect an artistic sequence that you could want in the subject of Supergirl.  Neil Edwards' pencils can be seen in the powerful poses Kara strikes.  Inker Keith Champagne emphasizes the cast of shadows in the flexing sinew beneath Kara's uniform; these from her deadly heat-vision courtesy of colorist Jeromy Cox.  In a previous scenario inker Jay Leisten highlights another awesome Supergirl versus Byth moment.  Any chance we can get a Supergirl series from Lemire and company?

I've always been a Supergirl fan and always will be.  However, Justice League United doesn't just showcase The Girl of Steel.  We get strong spotlights on Bouncing Boy, Wildfire, Hawkman, Colossal Boy, Phantom Girl and the Martian Manhunter.  Justice League United is a must for Justice League and Legion fans.

In World's Finest Apokolips targets Metropolis and Gotham City with satellites orbiting Earth 2.  Seems to be an object lesson for you know who two.  The plan however backfires somewhat with Superman and Batman preventing most of the damage and loss of life, with assists from Catwoman and Helena Wayne...

...as well as a certain secret weapon.

Yep.  Thanks to Paul Levitz demonstrating the mother-daughter relationship and the dynamics of the World's Finest team, what could have been, should have been a routine potboiler turns into a simply, good yarn.  

I'm continuously amazed and delighted how much World's Finest entertains me.  It's got all the ingredients of something that shouldn't.  It's set in the past.  So I know the gist of what will happen.  I know who lives and who dies.  I know major plot points, yet despite having practically no reason to be dramatic, World's Finest defies conventional wisdom.

Batman guest stars in Harley Quinn's Valentine's Day Special.  The book costs five bucks.  So really the only question that needs to be asked: is it worth it?  I'd say yes.

Let's get the plot out of the way first.  Harley intends to win Bruce Wayne in a charity date auction.  The auction benefits animals, and Harley has a fondness for furry friends.  Harley’s intentions and actions lead to zany involved gags, non-sequitur jokes and actual sweet moments, worthy of The Simpsons or Futurama.  

The undercurrent of the story involves a subpar antagonist assuming the guise of…

He also has his sights on Bruce Wayne, but he doesn’t intend to date the billionaire.  Instead…

The kidnapping lays fertile ground for comedy and writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner make good use of every acre.  First, Harley needs to get fluid fast, and she comes up with a unique means to acquire the funding necessary for her goal.

It’s always rousing to see somebody get what they deserve, and Harley pays her target big time.  There’s a lot of cutting edge humor in the sequence.  Big Tony, Harley’s diminutive aide-de-camp, reveals a theory that rings true.  I never really thought of it before, but where do bankers keep their money? If they kept it in the banks that they own, they’d be risking their own capitol, and the one-percent seldom like to spend their own lucre.  

Anyway.  Harley now stocked to the hilt in greenery enters the auction, eliminates the competition and loses the prize to Mr. Mighty Carp.  How will she get Bruce Wayne back? With a little help from her friends.

Proof positive that Harley Quinn isn’t set in proper continuity.  Ivy began life as a femme fatale who had her sights on Batman.  Her infatuation grew into an obsession, until the fateful day that Bruce Timm turned Ivy into an self-confident, ecoterrorist.  Timm and company also brought Ivy and Harley together, implying a healthy romantic relationship.  Conner and Palmiotti suggested that Ivy and Harley are lovers, but the idea that Ivy isn’t the jealous type is just so way out there that it makes you choke.  As an inside joke, this made me laugh the loudest.

Harley finally gets her date with Bruce, and irony upon irony, it’s a really good date.  Bruce actually appears to be having fun with one of his greatest enemy’s former henchwench.  That is funny in a different sort of way.  Bruce turns up as Batman in the end, and the husband and wife creative team foster a definite outlaw vibe in Batman.

Red Sonja pilots her flying pirate ship into the city for shore leave.  She doesn’t get a bedmate.  Instead, she tangles with…wait for it…

…Frankenstein’s Monster.  Written by Marc Manhunter Andreyko and benefiting from the easy on the eyes illustration of Aneke.  Yeah.  The latest Legendary mini-series doesn’t need a review.  Just go and buy it.

The only thing I disliked about Thor is the guest artwork.  Jorge Molina substitutes for Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson, and the results are mixed.  While everything’s technically good: anatomy, visual storytelling, facial expression, the colors are just too dark, or weirdly lit; as you will seek in the examples.  

Jason Aaron’s staccato story darts from Midgard to Asgard to the Moon.  Thor beats up the Absorbing Man and gains respect from Titania in an amusing away.  You know.  I remember not too long ago when DC thought it was hilarious to turn Dr. Light into a rapist.  No, I'm not going to jog your memory with an unsavory piece of...Anyway.  By all rights, no female villain or otherwise should have worked with him afterward, yet they did.  Being bullied in her youth, Titania's always been about gender equality even when robbing banks. So I like that she admires the whole idea of a female Thor.  That makes sense.

Odin on the other hand rails against the woman who dared pick up Mjonlir, and his increasing anger as his sources of information dry up is a riot.  I'm of two minds when it comes to Odin.  On the whole the Odin of the comics has been a stand up kind of guy, wishing the best for his sons, his kingdom and the universe.  This is the guy that testified on behalf of Reed Richards.  

From Fantastic Four #262

It's only in recent years that various talent stained the armor a bit.  I can accept it here because Thor would be nettlesome to Odin.  In the end, he's going to be ordering up a hammer for her when Odinson reclaims his hammer, but in the meantime Odin's pomposity doesn't conflict with his previous characterization.

Odinson becomes an obtuse detective.  He’s got a list, and he’ll insult every woman on the list until he knows who wields his hammer.  It’s kind of like what happened on last week’s Agent Carter.  In addition, Freya has a heart to heart with Thor.  

All of these vignettes tie into the reintroduction of a Norse Big Bad and the best of Thor send offs.

Captain Marvel brings Carol back to space to confront pirates with cool strategy and a cool head.  Got nothing much to say about this title that I haven’t said before, but the minimal story packs a punch in terms of Kirk like imagination.  

Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick mentions the TARDIS, and artist David Lopez relishes the opportunity to goof with two Captain Marel’s newest cast members.

Last but not least, Grant Morrison’s Nameless.  By golly, I almost understood that.  A kind or private eye snatches designs from dreams, and for some reason, he’s being sent to space.  

This has nothing to do with the Mads.  Worth a second look.

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