Tuesday, November 10, 2015

POBB November 4, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 4, 2015
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag, in this blog I pick the best and worst of the weekly comic book yield.  I also, when I remember, post itsy-bitsy review under the hashtag #PickoftheBrownBag on Twitter.  The candidates this week are Angel and Faith, Barb Wire, Justice League Flash and Scooby-Doo Team-Up. New to the racks Doctor Who, the eighth Doctor that is, the Hangman and James Bond.

The eighth Doctor returns to comics in this latest mini-series from Titan, and I'm recommending it mainly because of writer  George Mann's excellent characterization of Paul McGann's Doctor; his interaction with his new companion Josie Day and the inventive circumstances in which they meet.

Also this is really unique and attractive  Doctor Who from Emma Vieceli and colorist Hi-Fi.

Did you know the Doctor owned house? Well.  No.  He doesn't, but Mann supposes a good reason why he would have.  The Doctor is a renegade Time Lord.  He stole a TARDIS and went exploring only to constantly interfere in history.  When the Doctor is forced to contact his people at the end of "War Games," the Time Lords punish him for breaking their laws.  They sentence him to an indefinite exile on earth and in conjunction nullify his ability to use the TARDIS unless they wish it.  

According to the series the Doctor basically lived in his lab at UNIT headquarters, but it's not unreasonable to suggest that this Doctor would want to live outside of the constant reach of UNIT's protocols.  In other words, he would need to hide from the paperwork, and even if he tried to escape in the TARDIS' infinite architecture--something that could have also been constrained--he would need to come out sometime.  At the very least, he could have used a new address to distract the bureaucracy.

So, yes.  I like the concept that Mann proposes, and I approve the incarnation that signed the lease.  I also like Mann's insight into the third Doctor, his drive to disassemble technology in the hopes of retrofitting the TARDIS to break free.

The way in which the Doctor casually accepts Josie's squatting defines several of this Doctor's characteristics.  He's smooth.  He's subtle and sly.  He's actually the magician of the Doctors not Peter Capaldi.  Paul McGann's Doctor frequently engaged in sleight of hand and trickery.  Switching vital tech with a Jelly Baby, and disappearing before Grace's distracted eyes only to reappear in her car.

Josie Day took up residence in the Doctor's house for peaceful reasons, and because he's the Doctor, the Doctor is instead of being upset or fearful, amused.  The rest of the story is unfortunately bog standard and derivative of the Zygons' second attempt to take the earth in "The Day of the Doctor."

We start out with the hunt for a killer.  The hunt involves a tiny gun exchange that evolves into a shovel fight.  That's right, a shovel fight.  

Two men.  Two shovels.  Only one guy is coming out alive.  The moment would probably lead up to the Ba-da-dat-da-da-da-da in theaters followed by a killer song by--oh, let's say Florence and the Machine.  

The agent engages in some verbal foreplay with Moneypenny as he sashays to M.  M reprimands 007 after doing the worst thing you can do to him, make him wait.  He then gives the operative what should be a simple assignment that will likely blow up into grand proportions.  

In other words James Freakin’ Bond!  The way it's supposed to be done.  I've missed you, James.

It's Halloween and writer Sholly Fisch is celebrating with high spirits, literally.  This uproarious Scooby-Doo Team-Up starts out with the clever premise of an unknown force capturing all the heroic ghosts of DC  comics.  

Only Deadman and ghost-in-theory The Phantom Stranger remain.  So, the oft-partners naturally go to the nigh original ghostbusters, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and of course Scooby-Doo.

Using a little geometry, thus reinforcing the Gang's employment of science versus superstition, the gang trace all the kidnappings to one source.

From there events go from good to great to eleven.  The culprit makes perfect sense.  The twists, turns and somersaults in the plot generate comedy and daring-do.  

In a terrific moment, Shaggy demonstrates his deeply hidden bravery, and there's a nice little out for the skeptical team of ghost breakers and fans who prefer their Scooby-Doo straight; without the spooky addition established in the movie.

Dario Brizuela's artwork is just phenomenal.  Scooby and the Gang are on model, extra animated for this adventure and prone to a wide array of wonderful wild takes.  Brizuela imagines how the Ghosts of the DCU might look beneath a Hanna-Barbera lens. 

Kid Eternity steps out of the same mold that produced Buzz Conroy.  The Spectre, Dead Man and the Phantom Stranger draw upon the very essence of their designs. Brizuela mostly ignores any modern flourishes.

I'm not saying that other writers and artists haven't had interesting takes on these apparitions, but it's satisfying to see Bizuela manifest them as they were just tweaked a tad for a sophisticated all-ages audience.

In the last issue of Angel and Faith, Drusilla and her band of vampire football hooligans kidnaped the mysterious Nadira, the tour guide of Magic Town, but in this issue we discover is much, much more.

So, there’s really not a helluva lot to say about Angel and Faith except that it’s so effin’ good.  The dialogue between Angel and Dru drips with psychological ramifications and assails Angel with guilt.  

Dru never was just a batty Spike sidekick.  She has always been a mistress of the mind.  She twists people to her side.  Don’t fret if you think Angel and Faith is all depth no meat.  Oh, there’s meat.  Being sliced off necks.

Yeah.  The action continues well after Angel and Faith and company finish with the opposition. 

Writer Victor Gischler introduces the Big Bad of the current “seasons” of Angel and Faith and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  This fellow looks disgusting beneath Cliff Richards careful rendering of anatomy and authenticity.  Unfortunately he’s tied in with Nadira, and I can only reveal a certain amount of his plans and her response.

This will whet your appetite, but suffice to say that Gischler and Richards have surprises in store that translate to a visceral ballet through the panels.

The first comic book hero to die in the comics was an Archie Crusader called the Comet.  His death catalyzed the birth of the Hangman, in reality his brother.  The Hangman wasn’t like the Shield or the Fly.  He took great pleasure, almost sadistic pleasure, in living up to his name.  Essentially, he was a Spider knock-off with a dose of Batman thrown into the mix.

Archie brings back the Hangman in a new series flying once again under the Red Circle banner.  Like The Shield, this isn’t a book you expect from Archie.  There’s sexual innuendo, blood, violence, murder and rats, lots of rats.

The story takes a literary turn by not even focusing on the Hangman.  Don’t worry.  He appears.

He’s just not the center of attention.  The spotlight falls on family man Mike.  You expect this gentleman will turn out to be the Hangman, and you’re completely wrong.  This is not The Big Heat nor even Dark Justice.  Mike exhibits untold depths in the story, which I really cannot speak about.

So, let’s turn our attention to the brief moments with the Hangman.  Writer Frank Tieri recasts him as a Spectre rather than a Spider, but the method hasn’t changed.  He’s still as you can see hanging criminals with a song in his heart.

Hangman also gets a new costume courtesy of artist Felix Ruiz and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick.  Gone are the garish green and blue-black mask.  The illustrators switch these shades to brown and black and do the Hangman a world of good.  The new look gives him an earthy feel as if he just arrived and hadn’t brushed the Old West dust off, which is the period most think about when considering the hanging method of execution.  Technically speaking, the Hangman doesn’t actually do a proper hanging.  He lynches criminals, which is much worse.  Again, a grim offering that’s not what you expect from Archie.

Justice League Flash written by Rob Williams takes a fannish approach to the subject.  Williams asks how could the Flash be taken so easily by the Black Racer in the flagship title?  The answer is that he couldn’t.

The whole special occurs within milliseconds.  It explains everything while giving those unfamiliar with the current state of Barry Allen a rundown.  Basically, if you watch the television series, you’re good.  Although you may just ask why Iris happens to be white and Barry happens to be blonde.

In any case, artist Jesus Merino shows an aptitude for the Scarlet Speedster and tackles the Black Racer-Flash with aplomb.  You can do much worse than Justice League Flash, and if you’re concerned that the story may zip through the treads of a classic Ghost Rider, in which Johnny Blaze races death, don’t worry.  This is an original, compelling story that can be read as a stand-alone or tethered to events occurring in Justice League.

Last but certainly not least, the latest issue of Barb Wire continues to drop Barb in a downward spiral known, especially to Jim Rockford.

A simple bail assignment turns into another brush with super-powered hell.

Having already defeated the infinitely more powerful Wyvern Stormblud in the first arc, this bald Crusher Creel wannabe should be easy, right? 

Nah, and writer Chris Warner has even worse plans for the Bounty Hunter.

The men in black show up to drag her back to headquarters for questioning.  The interrogation is loosely tied to the previous arc, but mostly it’s just the government agents being sphincters as they try to force Barb into helping them retrieve Avram Roman, a figure from her past.

Pat Oliffe is happily still providing Barb Wire with stellar artwork, and thanks to the flashback we get to see two versions of Barb.

This punk offshoot is more than just a hairstyle.  Oliffe grants her a youthful exuberance that the current model rarely expresses.  It’s a lovely and subtle contrast.

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