Tuesday, August 4, 2015

POBB: July 28, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
July 28, 2015
Ray Tate

This week in the Pick of the Brown Bag I look at three Doctors in three Doctor Who books and the same Batgirl in two Batgirl issues.  I’ll also examine the latest from Mythic and Scarlett Couture.

The Batgirl Annual is a shitty team-up anthology with a tiny frayed thread linking all the vignettes.  The story takes the form of a video game where a green-eyed Batgirl—for the millionth time Batgirl has blue eyes—and the Director…

…some ally of Dick Grayson must ascend each level of a tower, that has been taken over by a generic secret organization called Gladius.

Digest that for a minute.  The Tower’s been “under the control of different criminal organizations over the years.  Even Batman couldn’t clear it out completely.”  So how did these Hydra also-rans manage? 

It’s such a ridiculous thing to say.  Batman would have only had to jail whatever riffraff used the Tower as headquarters once.  He could have then as Bruce Wayne buy the edifice and replace it with a park.  

The fact that I never heard of this Tower before, gives it an even stronger game allusion.  Suddenly, a tower appears on the horizon.  Your character must retrieve, the golden lamb chop, and fight orcs, zombies, vampires…No! No! No! Wait a minute.  Rejects in hooded motorcycle outfits.

The big draw to The Batgirl Annual for some I suppose is the potential reunion between Batgirl and Grayson.  I know there are a lot of Batgirl/Robin shippers out there.  I’m not one of them.  Well, it doesn’t matter.  You’ll be disappointed.

Grayson’s subterfuge to stay out of Batgirl’s line of vision is the most tedious element of the mediocre Resident Evil/Judge Dredd knockoff.

In the end Grayson decides his best option is to disguise himself, stay absolutely still and German.  

Alas, Batgirl pierces his image inducer ruse by peering at his buttocks.

Because that is so fucking hilarious.  It’s as fucking comedic as when Chuck Dixon had Black Canary and Huntress recognize a felon by his buttocks in Birds of Prey: Manhunt

Batgirl is a detective.  The best you could come up with is an echo of another sexist moment undermining the intelligence of a female character.  I mean, you could have Batgirl deduce that The Man Called Grayson…

…is in fact Dick Grayson by simply noticing how tall he is, combined with vocal similarities and/or word use.  For bloody’s sake, she’s got a photographic memory, and you swine reduce her to identifying a guy’s butt.

Once the business at the Tower concludes, Batgirl en route to capture the fleeing Gladius mad scientist meets the Spoiler.

Courtesy of Green-Eyed Artist David La Fuente.

This is a mostly harmless partnership where Babs doesn’t do much but watch Spoiler’s mayhem from afar.  Cause that’s what I want to see when I pick up a Batgirl Annual.  Batgirl reacting to Spoiler's off panel action.

Will the next substitute Batgirl sign in please…

Batwoman has the personality of a toaster, takes up space and just serves as a reminder that she doesn’t need to be.  In short, perfect, and consistent with her previous characterization.  No missives, please.  I’m not against lesbians in the Batman Family.  I just don’t see why we need an additional character, given that Babs is fully healed and could have easily come out at any point in her history.  Babs has rarely been in a meaningful relationship or had much of a sex life.  In other words, Batgirl’s sexuality is essentially a blank slate.

The only other thing that Batwoman’s got going for her is a military background, which writers Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher blatantly remind readers.

Tina Nair’s tenuous connection to this whole affair, besides bare legs, or perhaps short, shorts, is that she may or may not know where the Negahedron is.  No, don’t ask.  The Negahedron is merely a McGuffin that’s a combination of a geometric object—Polyhedron—and the comic book esoterica of Nega-Bands, which took the place of “Shazam!” to switch Rick Jones for Captain Marvel and visa-versa.

This absolute rubbish allows Stewart and Fletcher to pull another crap villain out of their collective asses and allude to a superior movie.

So we’re saying Tina’s a virgin? That's rather said.

The best of the anthology occurs swathed in the lovely blue-eyed artwork of Ming Jue Helen Chen.

Batgirl searches Gotham Academy with focal characters Olive and Maps.

Why couldn’t we have had this for the whole damn annual! Why did we have to put up with a dubious team-up with Batwoman, a superfluous encounter with Spoiler and a lousy game of hide the buttocks and seek with Grayson!  Green fucking eyes! 

Why couldn’t we have a blue-eyed Batgirl alone investigating actual clues that would lead her to Gotham Academy where we would have had this absolutely perfect collusion?  I mean everything in this last chapter is there that wasn’t foreshadowed in the lousy ones.  You have secret tunnels, budding Nancy Drews with a mind-set Batgirl understands all-too-well.  You’ve got a sly mention of Batgirl’s librarian history.  You’ve got a clever explanation of what the whole fuss was about.  You’ve got Batgirl inspiring little girls.  Why! Why! Why wasn’t the lion’s share of this Batgirl Annual as good as these final seven pages!

The Batgirl Annual is a criminal waste of time and money.  I question whether these short stories which seem like writing warm up exercises and artist tryout pages were originally connected, but the lack of cohesion is the least of this bloated excesses’ peccadilloes.  Wretched thing.

Though Bruce Timm borrowed a sobriquet for Legionnaire Lightning Lad, Livewire debuted as a brand new Superman villain in the hero’s Animated Series.  She subsequently made appearances in the television series spin-off comic Superman Adventures.  Like the more successful, Harley Quinn, Livewire premiered in post-Crisis DC in Action Comics and made a few subsequent returns.

The new 52 debut of the villainess takes her right back to The Animated Series origin, which means you can consider Batman, the real one, and Superman in Batgirl's context to more or less mirror their animated counterparts.  

However, Batgirl does not follow the letter of the Animated Series continuity.  Batgirl for example never before encountered Livewire.  

She didn't team-up with Supergirl to battle Livewire, Harley and Ivy.  Presumably, this version of Batgirl only briefly met Supergirl in a Batman/Superman Annual.

The creative force behind Batgirl picks and chooses from both sources.  No matter.  Livewire makes for a better villain and better story catalyst than Gladius ever possibly could She also facilitate's better art and more exciting colors by Serge LaPointe.  Although those damn green eyes again.

The fact that Livewire sparks from animated works furthermore seems to grant artist Babs Tarr the opportunity to make Batgirl even more expressive and relaxed in terms of tone.

Accidentally released by a goofy tech cult, Livewire immediately returns to the task of gaining power for the sake of committing crime.  Batgirl must not only contend against Livewire, she must also face the new Batman, ordered to capture and incarcerate the Batman Family.  Due to the history of the man now wearing a bat-suit, this seems hypocritical, and Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher agree.

It's good to see the writers bestowing dignity rarely transferred to substitutes for Batman.  This one however deserves it.  Having Batman target Batgirl would have been stupid and/or melodramatic.  Batgirl fighting Batman would have been equally inane, but Batman leaves an ominous warning.

Batman walks a tight rope.  He's aware that Gotham City can't survive without the Batman Family, but he's beholden to the Powers Company for the suit.  He also knows that a less invested Batman-soldier would be far less lenient with the outlaws that are trying to good.

In addition to these glowing attributes, Batgirl benefits from smarter small points missing from the Batgirl Annual and most of the appearances of Batman.  Stewart and Fletcher not only address why Batman must maintain a pretense of hunting down the Batman Family, but they also explain what rationale he can give for failing.  Another member of the Batman Family gets a mention, and he's interlaced in the overall concern with the supporting cast.  Furthermore, a fan favorite cast member from Gail Simone's run makes a welcome return.  Fear not.  It's not Ricky the carjacking boy with a heart of gold caught in a bear trap.

Scarlett Couture concludes its first story with a satisfying culmination of espionage plot threads.  

Scarlett escapes her water trap only to be captured by the opposition.  Here we learn what this whole thing was about, and the answer is greed.  

As far as I'm concerned criminals only have two motives.  To gain money or to gain power.  It doesn't matter what their ulterior reasoning may be.  If you follow the train of thought, it leads to either greed or power.

However, Scarlett Couture is not so transparent.  As the chapter continues, we discover that the Big Bad of the piece was a greedy pawn sacrificed to acquire motive number two.  Power.

It doesn't hurt to explore these facets amidst the terrific artwork of Des Taylor.  The whole comic book looks like a really gorgeous set of cartoon cells spread in a photo-book.

In the Peter Capaldi Doctor Who book, the Doctor landed in early nineteen-sixties Las Vegas.  The mob owns the town, the Rat Pack rules the clubs, and a group of Octopoid Invaders intend to rule the earth.

Ah, but the Time Lords met these creatures before, which explains how the leader of the species obtained Rassilon's Demat Gun. 

Excellent use of the Judoon

Can the Doctor free Clara, save the earth and win in a deadly game of Rassilon Roulette?

Of course.  It shouldn't surprise you that the Doctor will win this game.  It's a book based on Peter Capaldi's Doctor.  When that Doctor regenerates it will be on television, or perhaps in theaters.

Writer Robbie Morrison still puts in enough twists and surprises in his tale of alien takeover to make a plot that cannot threaten the Doctor with death interesting.  

The nature of the weapon, the whimsy, the homage to Mars Attacks and the gruesome cards that inspired the film combined with excellent characterization of the Doctor and Clara all make this issue of Doctor Who entertaining.

On the other hand, maybe you can kill the Doctor in a comic book.  The surprise attack on Christopher Eccleston's Doctor certainly lends to the possibility.

The truth is though twice did outside media attempt to kill the Doctor and regenerate him into a new form.  The first was the Doctor Who comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine.  The other was a novel, but the difference is that both works were attempting to break the canon when the Doctor had stayed as Paul McGann.

We were cheated out of a series with these two.  The result of behind the scenes dickering between Fox and the BBC.  That 1996 special informed the new show with Eccleston, debuting as the Doctor.  His ties to the eighth and the John Hurt Doctor get a stirring mention in Blair Shedd's and Rachael Stott's artwork.  The death of the Eccleston Doctor also creates a terrific little impetus for Rose.

This combined with Captain Jack Harkness' canny bit of time traveling give the whole chapter a strong feel for the Christopher Eccleston era of Doctor Who.  

David Tennant's Doctor Who intrigues with a science fiction puzzle and unrequited love between Dorothy Bell, formerly aging star and her companion Vivian.  In addition, Cindy, Gabby's friend finally believes her fantastic tales about the Doctor.

The Doctor is in good form for the issue, and a cult would like to see that form lying bleeding in the gutter.  In fact it's willing to kill whomever gets in their way.

The central mystery of what happened to Dorothy Bell is somewhat old hat, but writer Nick Abadzis understands many a read reader will figure things out.  That's why he builds on the enigma by generating uniqueness in the technique Dorothy employs.

He also creates a neat little moment explaining how companions get sucked into being.

It's pretty hard not to enjoy this Tennant Doctor Who book.  Like all the others, it benefits from a tone of the series.  Tennant's Doctor was filled with righteous anger for those who abuse power, even for the most proper of reasons.  One hopes Dorothy will either learn to be this new merged creature, or retains some of the abilities necessary to rejuvenate or at least heal her diseased body.  The Doctor is keen on separating the two, and the cult is the wild card making what should have been an easy task hard.

Last book on the subscription list this week is Mythic.  The weirdness continues.  Mythic presents a world that we have completely misunderstood with our science.  It actually functions on superstition.

Mythic itself consists of a group of Field Agents touched by the crazy of the world.  They know the score, and occasionally work with benevolent deities such as the giant baby on the cover.

Complicating matters is a nutty counter intelligence group trying to bring the world to an end.  They are currently behind the recent chaos forcing Mythic into overtime.

In addition to a fascinating premise, Mythic's Field Agents are more than just ciphers.  The dialogue peels back the layers of the Oracle, exposing her as a lonely immortal.  There's a sadness in the facts of life in the reuniting of granddaughter with grandfather, and even the deities are filled with liveliness and a modern comprehension. 

They're Blue, Baby.  Blue. 

No comments:

Post a Comment