Tuesday, December 1, 2015

POBB November 25, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 25, 2015
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag returns for a weekly discussion of the things we hold dear.  Comic books.  Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, because it's time to stuff yourselves again with reviews of All-New Wolverine, Black Magick, Groot, Hellboy and the BPRD 1953, Henchgirl, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Justice League 3001, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and We Are Robin.

Just released on DVD, Digital and Blu-Ray.  I went with the combo.  If you need a memory jog, I reviewed the Man From Uncle when it was on the big screen.  Follow the Link.

Oh, no! 

I'm in the comic shop and I don't know whether or not to pick up the latest issue of Vanadium Knights! 

Not to worry.  Just pull up the Pick of the Brown Bag on your iPhone.  

Ray never steers me wrong, but I don't have time to read all of this, especially the Tigra parts.  

Hey, no worries.  Ray now tweets: #PickoftheBrownBag.  
Oh, thank goodness.  He finally made it to the twenty-first century.

And now to the reviews...

We Are Robin entertains with the young charges fighting over a Talon looking to roost in Gotham City.  This is mostly one big fight that goes how you expect it until the Robins work as a team and control their anger.

This however is a Talon, and it takes Alfred, their benefactor, and the wonderful toys of Batman to turn the tide of battle and prevent tragedy.  Good issue.  Excellent fight choreography.

In the thirty-first century, on the prison planet Takron-Galtos, Batman attempts to gain custody of Tina Sung, the fifteen year old girl readers met in a previous issue.  Tina attempted to fill Batman’s shoes by donning a suit of bat armor and taking names.  Turns out, She may have a greater claim to the bat goodies than the well-meaning Cadmus symbiote.

As you can see, Supergirl accompanies Batman on his legal quest, but unlike Batman and the other members of the Justice League, Kara is the real deal.  A second hibernation-facilitated trip through time and space dragged Supergirl into the future with respect to Kal-El’s present.

Supergirl is the only draw to Justice League 3001.  Don’t get me wrong.  Keith Giffin’s Batman is enjoyable, and despite his being some weird fusion of a host and Bruce Wayne DNA, Supergirl defers to him as she would Batman.  So, he’s about as genuine a Batman as you can get without invoking time travel as a plot device.  The Leaguers are all just as ersatz.  Guy Gardner however since gaining a female host is far more complex and genial than he was.  The Flash only possesses the speedster’s powers, and this issue Giffin cleans house.  He recognizes that one of the Leaguers really isn’t doing anything to advance the cause.  So he removes the offending party in a signature plot. 

Extremely powerful robots with dialogue that recalls the Goofy Gophers attack Batman and Supergirl.  This is a classic Giffin strategy.  Just because the villain acts in a comedic manner doesn't mean that his actions will be funny.  Batman calls in the League, but they may not be needed since under the legendary Colleen Doran’s fight choreography, Supergirl kicks a lot shiny metal ass.  

Remember what I said about she being the draw? It’s a damn shame that this is the only book on the comic book racks featuring the Girl of Steel, but so be it.  Doran of course could be considered another overall asset, but take away Supergirl and you’re left with a substitute Justice League.  So my argument stands.  

Clones figure in the series All-New Wolverine.  The story begins with a send-up of Man of Steel.

The warders of this particular prison seek Laura’s help in corralling her murderous clones, but there are two sides of the story.

Needless to say Tom Taylor’s tale doesn’t break any new ground.  Instead, he concentrates on the fulfillment of a promise begun in Avengers Academy.  Taylor turns Laura into a genuine hero.  She fights for individualism; protects the innocent and turns on authority.  Taylor conveys these attributes through the use of her powers, which differ in nuance from Logan’s abilities.

David Lopez and David Navarrot handle the artwork, and I haven’t seen such beautiful flexibility in a character since Norm Breyfogle’s Batman.  Colorist Nathan Fairburn in addition brings out a lot of vividness that helps define All-New Wolverine as a superhero book.

Laura’s comrades the X-Men cameo in the episodic and lovely Groot.  This is the final issue of Groot, but no worries.  Marvel is just retitling the remarkable series to give Rocket Raccoon billing.  

Having just escaped the clutches of no mean bounty hunter.  Groot and Rocket take a tour of the riches that earth has to offer, based on the advice of friends.

The story spins out of the bullet points on the checklist when Groot and Rocket take Kitty Pryde’s advice.  

Best.  Least Confusing.  Least threatening.  Appearance.  By the X-Men.  Ever.  Thank you, Brian Kesinger.

The X-Men aren’t just in Groot for fun’s sake, or for cheap grandstanding sake.  Nope.  Groot actually needs no boost in sales from the X-Men.  By connecting with the X-Men, writer Jeff Loveless allows Groot to telepathically communicate with Jean Grey.

Best.  Least Confusing.  Least threatening.  Appearance.  By Jean Grey.  Ever.  Thank you, again Brian Kesinger and Jeff Loveless.

The conversation gives Groot the opportunity to reveal his origin and unveil the final piece of the puzzle.  How does Groot allude to the Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby original menacing tree-thing.  The conclusion is really quite sweet, and shame on you if you miss it.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl begins a new story in which Doreen travels back in time to the 1960s.

Historically speaking, the 1960s should be lousy with superheroes.  Because of Marvel's sliding time scale, the fictional cosmos does not mirror the historical run of comic books.

Squirrel Girl and Tippy-Toe adapt to their new surroundings while making efforts to contact their present via a trick picked up from Aquaman in Challenge of the Super-Friends and later employed in Star Trek the Next Generation and Doctor Who.

As the story progresses Squirrel Girl encounters other time lost strangers and begins to see a plot afoot.  Meanwhile, not even Doreen's parents are aware of their tailed wonder.  Only Doreen's best friend Nancy knows that Squirrel Girl exists.

The hilarious Squirrel Girl doesn't shoot for the slapstick mostly.   Writer Ryan North instead aims for overall amusement and a comedic clash of contingencies that leads to an outrageous cliffhanger featuring the metal-masked fellow on the cover.  At the same time, he displays the ladies' acumen, and Doreen's adaptive experience honed from a life time fighting bad guys.

The second issue of Henchgirl details Mary's plan to infiltrate the rich bachelor Greg Gains' costume soirée and shake him down for all he's got.  Thus sparing a hit on the orphanage.  Things go askew right from the start.

Mary instead of hobnobbing with the rich guests and no doubt picking their pockets finds herself demoted to the downstairs where she encounters an old friend.

The follow-up to the recommended premiere is actually more structured.  The debut of Henchgirl was episodic.  Now that triple-threat creator/writer/artist Kristen Gudsnuk introduced the cast and the dynamic between them, she expands with the plotting of a crime; Mary's continuing schism between good and bad as well as the inherent laziness of criminals.  She does this without losing the initial freshness or the frivolity of the first issue.

Behind the boobalicious cover of John Carter Warlord of Mars lies comparatively chaste anatomy lessons by Ariel Medel.

The ballyhoo breasts furthermore obscure a really good swordplay survival tale featuring on the opposing end one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' more weirder creations.  Excellent all the way through.

The second issue of Black Magick lacks the action and adult situations that may have enticed wary readers to the first chapter.  However, Greg Rucka's and Nicola Scott's work is still worth reading because the story deals with consequences of what occurred.

A hostage taker lured Detective Rowan Black into the fray, and through a spell, she set him on fire.  Decisively ending the standoff.  Rucka strongly implied this isn't how Rowan normally accomplishes her police work.  Instead, the perpetrator knew Rowan's secret, and appeared to be part of something bigger.  She had to silence him.  

Never the less, Rowan is a police officer, and as such she must answer to the protocols that hold officers accountable for every situation.  We see abuses of police power frequently on the news, but that's not how it's supposed to work.  Every police bureau should have an Internal Affairs Department.  They're the cops that investigate cops, and as such, they're not well liked.

Rucka follows police procedure, and that's one of the things that makes this issue of Black Magick interesting.  We watch Rowan Black mostly tell the truth about her encounter with the hostage taker.  She has the burns to prove that she wasn't involved with something untoward, but Rucka and Scott still generate tension with the simple knowledge of the IAB's job being rooting out the truth.  In addition Scott and Rucka deepen the characterization of one of Rowan's circle and in general dramatize events subtly to create a satisfying police fiction, tinged with magic set in the present day.

Hellboy didn't begin with profoundness.  Hellboy began as a meat-and-potatoes hero chipped from the same vein as Ben Grimm beating the snot out of monsters from legend.  That's really all Hellboy was.  A demon raised as a human who fought against his kinfolk.  

Creator/writer/artist Mike Mignola started exploring Hellboy's hidden depths.  He became focused on the iron hand Hellboy wielded and the prophecies other characters associated with Hellboy.  Mignola could have just decided to ignore these prophecies as the ravings of madmen, but he saw the potential in them and followed his own words to the logical and somber end.  

I think Mignola made a mistake.  Despite all of the good stories that came out of this path, he started to lose the essence of what attracted readers to Hellboy in the first place.  That's why Mignola keeps revisiting Hellboy's past.  It's a simpler canvas on which to work, yet very rarely have these retrofit past stories been as satisfying as the originals.  The more Mignola tried to recapture the magic, the less genuine it felt.  This double feature is a rare exception.

In "The Witch Tree" Hellboy and his adopted father Professor  Buttenholme visit Sam Burke and Dr. Dixon.  A witch cursed the former, but unlike previous journeys, this isn't one where Hellboy and the Professor merely observe and listen to a narrative.  

This story packs the power of Hellboy's punch and fosters an anything-can-happen attitude common to the original stories.  While the nutcase behind this dance macabre mentions Hellboy as a prophecy, the freewheeling mood is so fun that you can dismiss these lunacies.

The first story makes some dubious claims about the monster in question.  That doesn't undermine from the enjoyment, but Mignola readers are usually used to more research.  No worries.  "Rawhead and Bloody Bones" is based on the solid grounding of fairytales, not Clive Barker as some may have thought.

As they did in the first story, Buttenholme and Hellboy visit a couple with an odd story.

The story of course turns out to be truer than thought, and Hellboy and the Professor rather than engage in combat  against the demons, find a quirkier means to end their reign.

Only one story stands out in this issue of Bart Simpson Comics.  "Career Day" is too derivative of other episodes, and I couldn't make heads or tails out of "Back Words."  Christine Seghers hilarious Peggy Carter/spy spoof though is a welcome treat where she casts Bart as a Blofeld type madman and Malibu Stacy in the role of Evelyn Salt.  Still waiting on that sequel.

The short consists of trap after trap and Malibu thwarting each one with clever parodies of spy gadgetry.  Because of the nature of the beast, the art by Mike Kazaleh  is extra cartoony as you can see but still on model and allowing for animated mastery.

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