Tuesday, June 2, 2015

POBB May 27, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 27, 2015
Ray Tate

Welcome to The Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week I review Bart Simpson Comics, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Frankenstein Unbound, John Carter Warlord of Mars and Scarlett Coulture.

Based on the cover you may expect John Carter Warlord of Mars to read something like this:

And John Carter opened up Dejah Thoris’ floodgates as she screamed, “Take me, John Carter.  Take me.”  

So, yeah.  They do have sex, but and here’s the more attractive point for comic book buyers.

Oh, yeah.  There’s more where that came from, buddy, and the above gutting is merely a tiny sampling of the aesthetic mayhem that artist Ariel Medel spreads across the pages.  Modernized for the Xena-set, Dejah can take care of herself and her husband John Carter.  A pack of chortling Warhoons, the four-armed green men of Mars, is a walk in the park.  The site of them laughing by the way is totally hilarious.

In short, it’s a day in the dangerous life of a Jeddak from Jasoom, which is Edgar Rice Burroughs terminology for a ruler from earth.  Ron Marz knows his stuff.

Frankenstein Unbound turns into Mike Mignola’s fascinating treatise on the hollow earth.  Although most of the scientific community upon finding ample evidence to the contrary dismissed such fancy, the hypothesis of a hollow earth took hold in the Victorian Age, of course, and didn’t let go until the nineteen seventies.  Even crystal new-agers didn’t accept the idea of aliens arising from the crevices of the earth at least when lucid.

Mignola posits a broken down Shangri-La as Frankenstein’s destination.  Naturally, thar be mole people down below, and a rather larger bloke to give the creature a run for his money.

All of this seems like general Mignola madness, until these gentlemen show up.

Kudos to artist Ben Stenbeck for designing them in the vein of the softer side of Hammer seen in Columbia pictures.  These fellows would be quite at home surveying the moon and fighting Ray Harryhausen’s Selenites.

However, don’t let their benign miens fool you as they relate the story Frankenstein learns that they’re bat-shit crazy, and this won’t be an entirely scientific expedition after all.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad splits me right down the middle.  On the one hand, it looked like our heroine Abigail Bullion was about to head on to the last round-up, courtesy of Native beauty and beast Onawa.

She gets an easy out, and that bugs me because it just seems Disneyfied.  I would have preferred Abigail finding her own solution, or Onawa actually making good on her promise.  For all intent and purpose, killing Abigail only to find that the fall was less than lethal.  Abigail would then fight her way back to health like the Man with No Name in A Fistful of Dollars.

On the other hand, Onawa and others aren’t really hardened criminals.  They’re freedom fighters for the working man.

So their behavior makes sense given their characterization, yet it all seems muted somehow.  The kind of western that Hollywood spat out on a daily basis in the 1950s.  The clean kind where nobody got mucked up, women were women, men were men.

The story takes diversions that no oater of that type would however.  Onawa’s story is remarkable in its realism.  It represents a banality of evil.  Even her rescuer is a blind, corrupted white man.

The central figure of a brave female gunslinger isn’t anything new, but what makes Abigail original is the sense of rebellion against her father.  It’s far more irreverent than the polish would lead you to believe.  Big Thunder Mountain railroad is feminism vs patriarchy, but feminism itself isn’t under attack.  Rather, the patriarchy is callous to all.

Des Taylor’s Scarlett Coulture doesn’t reinvent the spy genre.  He simply relates an attractively illustrated spy story that’s rich with characterization.  In this issue while investigating the death of a high-fashion model agent, Scarlett reveals more of her history.

She also demonstrates the assets that made her a natural for the job.

The cypher in the photo is a nice little twist in the seemingly vanity obsessed fashion world.  Taylor turns every disadvantage and trope into a positive.  Great-Cosmos looking women with vapid personalities.  All an act.  They’re spies.  Selfies are actually coded messages.  Model agencies are actually the headquarters of intelligence gathering services.

Bill and Marty of KBBL are the shrewd geniuses that obtained an elephant for Bart, after he won their previous radio contest.    In the first story, the dunderheaded duo offer the prize of a dream bedroom makeover.

The story’s all right with some killer jokes on the playground, but the tale falls apart when Bart and Lisa imagine way too much that’s structurally sound.  Nevertheless that gives Rex Lindsey, Andrew Pepoy and Art Villainueva the opportunity to cut loose.  Bart’s dream bedroom by the way looks remarkably like Diabolik’s headquarters.

The second story is much more interesting and on numerous levels.  Lisa realizes that she needs help being assertive so she signs up for a class to teach her willpower.

Naturally Bart jumps at the chance to show up Lisa, but he’s far out of his depth.  Since, Lisa’s taking skydiving to boost up her courage.

This is an example of Bart Simpson Comics and the rest of The Simpsons tie-ins being tangent to the continuity of the television series.  Skydiving is a skill that would have to be retained, but naturally, the kids didn’t learn skydiving on the television series.  So it doesn’t count.  It may not even count in the next issue of Bart Simpson Comics.

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