Tuesday, September 8, 2015

POBB September 2, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
September 2, 2015
Ray Tate

This week the Pick of the Brown Bag looks at Aliens vs Vampirella, Angel and Faith, Barb Wire, Bombshells, Doctor Who, Doctor Who: The Four Doctors, Futurama and Groot.

A rousing Angel and Faith ends the Big Bad's plans with aplomb and pluck in an all out dusting of the school boy vampires.



As it turns out, the arch vampire Drusilla was behind the whole shebang.    

She serves a new master who appears to be groomed to be the really Big Bad of this "season," or next season.

Bodies kept turning up in in Inspector Brandt's territory.  So, he recruited Faith to go undercover as a gym teacher, and in the best Doctor Who tradition Fred as a lunch lady.  

Yes.  This had to be on purpose, and by doing so Victor Gischler is upholding the fine tradition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel being extremely attractive prospects to Doctor Who fans.  Back in the day, long Doctor Who community threads developed on the shows' similarities.

Anyway, before you can say five-by-five, Faith and Fred rescue the McGuffin and new cast member Mary from Dru and her canine cadre.  

They do this with style and pointy objects as well as terrific psychological gambits, one of which presenting Faith at her very best.  The dissing outlines Faith's growth through the series, her intellect and her still a bad girl nature.

While the art doesn't have the photorealistic layers of previous stories, it's still good, honest comic book illustration by Cliff Richards that more often than not captures the likeness of the television stars.  If you haven't picked up this solid story in chapter play format, go for the trade paperback.

Aliens vs Vampirella is super cool and uses the title characters to good effect.  The story takes place in the Vampirella universe, not the anti-Trek Weyland Cosmos of the Alien franchise.

Writer Corinna Bechko draws upon a lot of Vampirella tradition.  Vampirella never possessed a secret identity, and works well with law authorities, but she's not a common occurrence like el Santo.

In the future, Vee is well known and makes no secret about who and what she is.  She's immortal, and...

It would probably be too much to ask, since her first origin story has fallen to the wayside, but Ella being the last survivor of the planet Drakulon would fit in so well here.  Anyway, the story follows the path of most Alien films: ancient discoveries;

Hidden egg chamber;

You can fill in the rest.  Bechko deserves special credit for sprucing up the dialogue to make all these necessities in an Alien story seem fresh.  Furthermore, our fledgling writer takes advantage of Vampirella's uniqueness, to generate one helluva cliffhanger.

Barbara Kopetski nicknamed Barb Wire was largely a successful bounty hunter, but in order to save her nightclub The Hammerhead, she must choose a much dicier path.

Barb is trying to bring down somebody who claims to be a god, and as a result, the legendary Barb Wire begins acquiring the luck of Jim Rockford.  That should be read as bad news.

Crafters of story, Chris Warner and Pat Oliffe relate an entertaining visual narrative that’s just dripping with comedy and action.

Barb enters the Wyvern’s den with a group that looks like they may have been just competing on @Midnight.  

They learn way too much about the quarry.  Embarrassing too much, and Barb’s secret weapon—amusingly rendered bright yellow—turns out to be useless.  This forces Barb into a battle-of-wits showdown with Wyvern, and you just wonder how long she’ll survive.  For any fan of street level female heroes.

Bombshells is a textured work my Marguerite Bennett, she of Angela and Batgirl fame.  The world-building resumes with a richer exploration of this universe's Wonder Woman.  Readers will find there's not much difference between the new model and the more familiar Amazon.

I've always questioned DC's insistence to convert Wonder Woman into a novice character.  My feeling is that Wonder Woman, only one, would exist already, introducing herself to the globe during World War II and that Superman and Batman would arrive far later.  Of course, history would have to change if you did that.  It would take a lot of time and energy to create such a parallel earth.  Probably why it hasn't been done, until now.

In Bennett's story, Diana is an immortal, and the story takes place during World War II.  So far so, good.  Bruce Timm and company were the first to suggest Diana was around during Ancient Greek times, and Bennett follows suit by juxtaposing Diana to Mera, her equally long-lived friend.

Mera in this realm is an Atlantean rather than an interdimensional water traveler who marries an Atlantean.  Her power is still domination over water, but now, it's a spell sung, rather than an internalized ability.

Or not.  Bennett is quite aware of the danger in turning her tale into a pure fairy tale.  So, she makes a few twists that signify modern sensibilities, such as Wonder Woman taking the Mickey out of magic.

Wonder Woman scales the island prison’s foundations to save Steve Trevor whom the Amazon's condemned to die in order to protect their society.  Diana in all good conscience cannot allow this to happen.  So she defies her Queen Mother and her society.  The sequence alters and preserves the original Amazon culture created by William Moulton Marston.

Later in the story, Bombshells’ Zatanna appears, and here Bennett parodies Cabaret.  Zee entertains the Nazis, but of course there’s much more going on than seems.  Less interesting is the Supergirl/Star Girl dichotomy.  To be fair, it's difficult for me to become interested in stereotype Russians unless they happen to be chasing after "Moose and Squirrel.”  That’s the vibe I got from the Stalinites as they attempt to ply Supergirl to do their bidding.  Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

No review for The Four Doctors.  It still doesn't make any sense.  The Voord now behave like the Borg, and I don't buy any of the story, but I will give Paul Cornell this.  The French comic books Matt Smith's Doctor kept blithering about come into play at the cliffhanger.  So, clearly that version of the Doctor wasn’t just suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage, but keyed into something vital to the plot, such as it is.  That doesn’t excuse the rest of it.

The regular Doctor Who title concludes on a much stronger note, however bittersweet.  The Doctor once again contends against an Osiran.  Only this time, he has an ally in the Osiran who desperately tries to avoid being his father’s son.  His father is the Osiran that the Doctor killed long ago in his fourth incarnation.  Sutekh.

As much as I enjoyed the sequel to “Pyramids of Mars.”  In all honesty, I cannot fully recommend the story to newbies.  I found the dialogue riveting, but for recent Doctor Who converts, this is heady stuff.  That said.  I think that everybody can admire the way the story evolved and of course the artwork.

At first it seemed to be a straight-up, almost farcical romp where the Doctor crashes an auction of alien objects while Gabby, the Doctor’s companion tries to mend fences with her best friend Cindy.  The romp turns wondrous as a character gains a second chance.  The science fiction mingles with spy like action, until finally we reach here.  The philosophical and the cerebral sister of “Pyramids of Mars.”  With a tone resembling “Boomtown,” writer Nick Abadzis, illustrates Elena Casagrande and Rachael Stott deserve to take a bow. 

Eric Rogers weaves a technically well-written piece.  He exhibits affection for the cast of Futurama, and in the opening vignette they all relate.  However, Kif Kroker’s narration of a story within a story takes up the the lion’s share of the book, and this tale reveals the truth behind Zapp Brannigan.

The amendment to Zapp’s history seeks to gain sympathy for the devil by tampering with his purpose in Futurama.  

There’s an old saying.  Cream rises to the top, but that’s not how real life works.  Sure.  Some people deserve and work hard for what they get, but not everybody.  There’s an unfortunate tendency for idiots to acquire power, and a brain-damaged chimpanzee should never be in charge of the banana lever.  In Futurama, Zapp Brannigan is that chimpanzee.  

Zapp is not Homer Simpson.  Zapp should not have a crayon, yet Rogers shifts the blame Zapp warrants.   Zapp isn’t just the chimpanzee.  Those that enable him are also simian half-wits.  This lady in particular.

One of the cool things about Futurama is that it frequently defies science fiction conventions as often as it embraces them.  Aliens aren’t super-intelligent.  They may be advanced, but every species is plagued with morons.  Often these imbeciles take charge.  The DOOP High Commander keeps giving Zapp more and more accolades and more responsibility.  Despite his history of killing waves of men under his command.  Thanks to Rogers’ tale, her complacency becomes corruption.

What occurs in a spin-off doesn’t affect what happens in the source material.  So, why not just sit back and enjoy Rogers’ what-if? He doesn’t present it as one.  This is what really happened in Rogers’ framework, but it doesn’t feel authentic because it attacks the very core of Zapp Brannigan who symbolizes callousness and cretinism not victimization.

On the flip side, the optical quotient in this issue of Furtuama Comics is high indeed.  Right from the get-go, illustrators Tone Rodriguez, Phyllis Novin and Ralph Stanley treat readers to a new alien race, benign in nature and designed with creative verve.

Amy's remarkably sexy despite being a cartoon, and drawn that way.

The scope of the tale bears the wonder of science fiction, and the colors are simply amazing.

Finally, although the Marveleers are clear parodies of the Avengers, in terms of visual quality, they're aesthetically pleasing.  The art is easy to recommend.  The story though is probably not for the staunch Futurama fan.

The hilarious hijinks of Groot continues in high fashion as the tree starts gathering his Eagles to rescue Rocket Raccoon.

The highly strategized plan doesn't actually lean toward a Guardians of the Galaxy reunion.  Nor a gathering or lunch break meet for that matter.

Our heroes storm the bounty hunter's castle.  There is much rejoicing, but the ending is a shocker.  Fortunately a gut-busting epilogue sending up classic Marvel changes the mood for the better.

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