Tuesday, October 27, 2015

POBB October 21, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
October 21, 2015
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week I review Agents of Atlas, Doctor Who, Justice League, Reyn, new book The Shield and the Uncanny Inhumans.  I'll also look at Emily Blunt's new film Sicario.  

The Time War comes into play as it did in Christopher Eccleston's Doctor Who Series One.  The warring species the Doctor met in previous issues reveal much more going on than a battle between alien races.

The Centaur People known as the Unon attempt to recruit the Doctor to help them in their ostensible altruism, and yes, reader you should doubt their word.  They too easily reflect the history of the Time Lords, and they possess Time Lord artifacts   The Doctor however has only one goal.

The other alien species The Lect captured Rose, and they reveal themselves to her in an uncomfortably Dalek fashion.  Are they however the enemy?

Writer Cavan Scott intrigues with dead-on characterization.  The scribe matches a superb translation of cast likeness into comic book art by Blair Shedd   This particular incarnation of the Doctor is most apropos for the comics.  Christopher Eccleston's avatar of the Time Lord rarely remained still.  Adherence to that peccadillo converts into a strong, action packed story.  Worth buying in chapter-play form.

Geoff Johns forges the new New Gods.

With Darkseid apparently slain in battle by Mobius, history seems to fill the vacuum with familiar faces.

Mainly a setup issue with striking Francis Manapul visuals, the story-so-far feeling changes when the spotlight turns to Lex Luthor.

The corruption of Superman leaves Lex no choice but to improvise survival and substitute himself in an ancient prophecy.  Of course, that just may prove hazardous, but every Pantheon needs its trickster deity.

There's of course much more going on here than meets the eye.  Writer Johns possesses vast knowledge of obscure DC continuity.   Adora the woman Lex Luthor meets in Apokolips is named after his wife from another continuity.

At the same time, Johns mixes Adora's identity with the Darkseid follower Amazing Grace from the early modern age Superman books.  What this means for Lex Luthor's future is anybody's guess, but Johns' nod to the past imbues Apokoliptan Adora with instantaneous resonance.  It's a neat trick, but I wonder if it's objective or subjective?  In other words does this technique impact the same way for new readers?  Johns sees this character as Adora wife of Lex Luthor.  So perhaps the identity allows him to confidently write her in a way that permits the perception to transcend novelty and/or unfamiliarity.

Agents of Atlas unfortunately is a Battle World book.  So none of what happens counts in the story.  As such, it's a supplementary purchase.  Tom Taylor does have a good handle on the Agents of Atlas, and if Jeff Parker’s no longer available to regale readers with more tales of this infectious group of 1950s heroes, then Taylor will do just fine.

The story takes place on an earth where Baron Zemo conquered.  The people are basically slaves geared to produce weapons for Battle World.  Hydra took over SHIELD of course, and we can presume Zemo killed any resistance.

In this Dystopia, only one group answers the call of the people.  The Agents of Atlas who are for those not in the know, Jimmy Woo, Namora, Venus, The Human Robot, Gorilla Man and Marvel Boy, also known as the Uranian.

The story is a classic in which Baron Zemo captures Jimmy Woo while the Agents of Atlas attempt to free slaves deemed unsalvageable.  In Nazi tradition, they’re sent via train to Zemo’s experimentation camps.

It’s this scenario that clues Zemo in on Venus.  Also in Nazi tradition Zemo intends to mate with her to produce ubermensch.

Venus as established in the previous Agents of Atlas is not actually the goddess Venus.  She is instead a siren.  That makeup will be important later in the story.

Taylor understands the team as much as artist Steve Pugh, doing straight drawing rather than painting, comprehends the group's body language.   So, yes.  This Agents of Atlas special means nothing to the canon, but it’s a  fun, done-in-one with great artwork and a potent narrative.

The Uncanny Inhumans has a beginning, a middle and an end.  Of the three choices, I liked the middle.  Medusa leads a team of young Inhumans in New York to battle Marvel movie villain, the Chitauri.

Yeah, more of this.

The beginning I’m guessing ties into Battle World.  Black Bolt, Triton and some other guy called Reader, seek Black Bolt’s missing heir.  

I don’t know who Reader is, and I don’t care.  I care even less about Black Bolt’s son.  Furthermore, why did Black Bolt take Triton with him?  He’s not Aquaman who’s a heavy-weight on land or sea.  Triton needs water.  Oh, and what’s Kang’s part in this? Never mind.  I don’t really care about that either.

The end in which Medusa admits to finding somebody else to love needs to go away.  I mean far away.  I don’t ever want to think about this ending ever again.  I’d like this disturbance in the force to go the route of Clandestine in which Alan Davis dismisses the brief abhorrent post-Alan Davis Clandestine as a nightmare produced from a bad burrito.  Yeah, the ending in The Inhumans is the deal breaker.

Last we have an inconsequential epilogue.  It clues the reader into Gorgon’s condition, which is frankly hilarious given the technology of the Inhumans.  It’s Batgirl all over again, but more hirsute.  No.  I'm not going to institute a boycott like I did for Batgirl.  Gorgon is a third tier character at best.  Besides, this is the new, shiny Marvel.  He's likely to be crippled for a few months, tops.  

The younger Inhumans are blank slates to me, and the only question I have about Inhuman SHIELD agent Frank McGee is whether or not he’s related to Jack McGee.

The Shield returns to comics, and this time I think Archie has got something.  Originally The Shield and Captain America were conceived with similar origins at about the same time. 

The second Shield from the 1950s was a tongue-in-cheek character crafted by Simon and Kirby.  He was a combination of Doc Savage and Superman.  Although his adopted farmers were more like the Kettles rather than the Kents.

With the newest version, authors Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig opt for a serious tone.  They portray the Shield as an immortal female named Victoria Adams; thus breaking the tradition of all male Shields.

Christopher and Wendig grant their character a complement of powers that make Victoria a street-level Supergirl.

Unlike Kara, the Shield is not invulnerable.  She has died many times, and she feels pain when directly assaulted.  Not however when she performs feats of strength.

The means in which her powers work may in fact reflect the name.  A shield after all can be dented in battle but not break.  It can be reworked until whole and continue to protect the wielder.  A shield can be shattered, but the pieces re-forged.

All well and good, but what makes The Shield different is the way in which Christopher and Wendig relate a dramatic presentation that few would associate to Archie Comics.

Victoria manifests in modern day Washington D.C.  I make the distinction because we don't exactly know how she arrived or if she had always been there.

However, we don't actually find out about the Washington booking until a few pages after a memory of being the Shield in different periods and dying in those same eras.  

The simultaneous nature of the onset establishes this new series as something different.  If The Shield were a novel, the memories would have unfolded in chapter one.  The booking would occur in chapter two.  The comic book format however allows for a flow of continuous narrative; thus observing that the memories happen at the same time as the physical questioning.  It's unique, and demonstrates the authors' understanding of the medium's strengths.

Drew Johnson weaves the visual, and he never stops arresting the eye.

As the story continues, the writers inject further novelty to the framework of the tale.  While you may predict that D.C. detective Simmons will be our point of view figure.  Learning about the new superhero at the pace of the reader.  In fact, she knows more about The Shield than Victoria.  Victoria is the reader's companion.  We learn about her the same moment she learns about herself.  This is an unusual way to relate a comic book, and if the writers continue to surprise with these twists to protocol, and a nonlinear narrative, The Shield will be a welcome addition to the picks of the brown bag.

The ninth issue of Reyn continues to explore the strange feudal world that actually decayed from an advanced technological universe.  

Previously, the alien lords known as the Venn kidnapped Reyn's companion Seph, a Techno-Witch.  Now, they demand a piece of their ship that Reyn stole.

The way I'm describing the story seems pretty straightforward.  At least to any science fiction fan.  Writer Kel Symons however enlivens the plot with riveting dialogue between the Venn and Seph and plots an exciting lead to an unforgettable cliffhanger.  Don't even look for a spoiler.

Artist Nate Stockman and colorist Paul Little fill the in-between with more of the same type of visceral action that attracted me to Reyn in the first place.

These scenes are sauce for the goose, and it's a very plump bird indeed.

The Emily Blunt Film Review

The Emily Blunt Film Review section of the POBB is brought to you by Fox and FriendsFox and Friends, proud purveyors of shit since 1998.

Sicario is a thriller that exposes corruption associated with the war on drugs.  Now, I have no idea if this is what American agencies do in real life.  Sicario is a movie not a documentary or a docudrama.  It’s a movie however that convinces you that the war on drugs is a cancer that doesn’t just exterminate human lives but also erodes human dignity.  Neither is that war black and white.  It’s mud.

Emily Blunt stars as Kate Macer an FBI special agent that’s an expert in missing person cases.  When she and her partner Reggie discover unexpected terror during an FBI raid, Kate’s invited to be part of a task force meant to net the criminals responsible.  What she gets is an eye-opening look at intra-agency operating procedure.  It’s a horrible and often surreal vision that offers the audience excruciating moments of suspense.  You frequently feel that any character can die at any moment.  Including the stars.

The cast is phenomenal.  The acting is so natural and matter-of-fact that you really forget who is taking part in the film.  Thus, Emily Blunt easily assumes the skin of Kate Macer, an all-too mortal female agent authentic in every move.  Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Torro, Daniel Kaluuya, Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan and badass Jack Bristow himself Victor Garber barely register as themselves and just become their parts.  It’s doubly amazing when these roles are so antithetical to most of the characters they played in the past.  Well worth seeing on the big screen.

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