Monday, January 26, 2015

POBB: January 21, 2015

Pick of the Brown Bag
January 21, 2015
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag, a weekly review column.  My name is Ray Tate, and here are our contenders: Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Holy F*ck, Ivar the Time Walker, Star Trek/Planet of the Apes, Reyn, The Valiant.  First, I examine the latest issue of Simpsons Comics.

Ian Boothby glides two intertwining stories in Simpsons Comics, both parts laugh out loud funny.  The narrative begins off tangent.

Once Skinner determines the perpetrators of the Stink Bomb incident, he sentences them.

Meanwhile, Homer reinvents the vacuum cleaner.

And here lies our premise.  With the astonishing amount of free time on his hands, Willie becomes a college graduate in the field of education.  Guess what? He’s actually good at teaching.

The way Boothby interlocks these two seemingly incongruent vignettes demonstrates sheer brilliance that also restores that all-important status quo elegantly.

My review only scratches the surface of the comedy to soak in.  There’s a terrific little telepathy motif inadvertently raised that’s enhanced by lovely sight gags.  Gil shows up when you least expect it.  Doctor Nick treats a malady that enervates Gil enervates for hilarious effect, and artists Rex Lindsey, Dan Davis and Art Villanueva have a field day rendering the many moods of Willie.

Outrageous, absurdist  humor can be found in Nick Marino’s and Daniel Arruda Massa’s Holy F*ck.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  A nun has a vision that sends her off looking for the Messiah.  The long-haired, bearded chap on the cover.  Yes, the one with the gun.  

If a Christian fundamentalist got ahold of this book, he would probably spontaneously combust.  I would therefore like to recommend a massive airdrop of Holy F*ck to churches all over the world.  

Our Sister of the Oracles foresees the end of the world courtesy of the Legion of Doom as portrayed by old Pagan Gods like Zeus and Isis.  The nun gets captured and tortured before…

This is the least blasphemous depiction from Holy F*ck I can display.  The riotous comic book, which I’m about to add to my subscription list is even more politically incorrect than Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.

Reyn took me completely by surprise.  I didn’t really think I would like this book so much, but Kel Symons creates a rich medieval fantasy world that involves wayward knights, fighting Tech witches and evil, lusty Salamanders.  

The Salamander is doing exactly what you think he’s doing.  There’s no pretense about it.  These amphibians are screwing human females because they like it.

Our tale however begins with an attack on a farm.  Don’t worry it’s not a giant prairie dog.

Enter Reyn, a knight dubbed a Warden in this series.  Though he converses with a goddess, you shouldn’t mistake him for a noble Galahad like figure.

There’s something about a book embracing monster-fighting and bawdiness that just tickles me.  It’s like a grindhouse version of sword and sorcery.  Sort of Roger Corman films with unlimited budgets.

After sampling the family’s bounty, Reyn moseys to Ledwain, the home of the Salamanders.  It’s there he encounters Seph, a Tek, which I’m going to deduce relates to technician.

It’s very clear to me that there’s a lot more going on in Reyn than just monster-fighting and monster-loving.  However, Symons with artists Nate Stockman and Paul Little don’t let that underlying, possibly Doctor Who-related, theme get in the way of the action or the saucy subject matter.  What a wholly entertaining book. 

To be perfectly honest, I was going to drop Batman and Robin because I have no interest in Damien Wayne.  A flip-through indicated that scribe Peter Tomasi hadn’t abandon the de facto Brave and Bold nature of the title entirely.  A cameo appearance by one of the Justice League adds shared universe continuity and overall depth to the account.  That however isn’t the only reason why I’m recommending Batman and Robin.  It’s just a lot of fun.

Robin exhibits grand exuberance for somebody recently dead.  He’s making up for lost time with his newfound superpowers.  Mind you, it’s like pitting an elephant against a poodle.

In addition to Damien’s night on the town, Alfred steeps the story with dry wit, and for the first time I’m enjoying the little tyke.  His love of animals, which, no matter how small, he would never harm in particular.  

Batman/Superman’s latest arc began by giving Superman a Joker.  A villain who acts irrationally and has no clear-cut motive other than to screw with his target Superman.  To do this, Superman’s Joker kills the things that mean the most to Superman.  Although, it’s more than that.

The Bat speaketh true.  It’s still unusual to see DC writers look upon the crippling of Batgirl as a crime and a tragedy.  For thirty-five years, the Powers That Be considered Batgirl in a wheelchair to be sunshine and lollipops.  Finally.  Over.

So far, Superman’s Joker killed Regan, the girl he rescued in All-Star Superman just by listening and caring.  He also murdered a Superman impersonator who tried to bring cheer to the local children’s hospital.  

The S-Joker’s bullets are nigh unstoppable.  They’re so powerful that they almost felled Supergirl.

In this issue of Batman/Superman writer Gregg Pak reveals the nature of the bullets, and I’ve got to say, the revelation is the cherry on top.  It’s clever, cool and deranged.  Don’t even think for a second that I’m going to spoil this truly unique twist.

Even when putting the nature of the bullets aside, there’s still a lot of amusement to be had.  For example, Supergirl’s presence imbues levity and level-headedness to the situation.

Supergirl gels nicely in Batman/Superman.  Pak characterizes a Supergirl that has reached her potential.  When Kara first arrived on earth, she was a neophyte, and she didn’t particularly like her cousin.  This friction was a callback to Power Girl’s relationship with the Golden Age Superman.  

Supergirl’s attitude furthermore overtly contrasts with the original version, who some have accused of being meek and too accepting of her cousin’s perceived male chauvinism.  

Looks bad, doesn't it?  Superman's actually playing it up to enhance the surprise of a party.  
It's Supergirl's Birthday

I didn’t really get that.  I understood the real-world reasoning behind Linda Lee Danvers’ adventures and the contextual rationale.  I liked the original Supergirl, and I like this Supergirl.

Batman and Superman take center stage in this week’s Justice League.  The Caped Crusader gains super-powers, but it’s kind of cheat that he uses the sonic-cry of the Black Canary better than the Black Canary did.   

Ah, well.  He’s Batman.  We’ll let that slide.  

Justice League is solid, but the previous chapters were far more diverting and meaty.  There’s a lot of artistic posing and recapping this issue.  The new information mainly involves Lex Luthor and his relationship with Superman.  

Lex explains why he would create an Amazo Virus in the first place, and his rationale rings true.  Besides, if Lex were lying, Superman would be able to tell by listening to his heart-beat.  Captain Cold also gets a good moment to shine.  He reiterates his stake in this whole enterprise.

I know Captain Cold is a Flash villain, but he makes for a good protagonist.  I’d like to see the League keep him on the payroll even if Lex Luthor departs the team.  Lex though makes a better anti-hero than super-villain.  In my opinion Lex Luthor stopped making sense as soon as the Powers That Be started emphasizing his rationality over the certifiable insanity that motivated the Golden Age and Silver Age avatars of Lex Luthor.

In other cosmologies, Ninjak enters the saga of The Valiant.  Ninjak debuted in the nineties when you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Ninja.  Writers Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt are testing the waters to see if Ninjas will work in modern times.  

I’ve always found Ninjas generic, burning out in Daredevil.  Putting the K on the end of Ninja and adding a little purple doesn’t make me feel any warmer toward the archetype.  Whatever.  I didn’t buy The Valiant for Ninjak, and he’s not annoying.  Just there.

I like the cohesiveness of the Valiant Universe and the cogent setup.  The story kicks into high gear with Kay, the Geomancer, a beauteous version of Swamp Thing, running for her life.  Kay finds herself stalked by Mr. Flay, the elemental monster of fear that slays all the Geomancers.

Giliad the eternal warrior failed to protect the previous holders of the title.  He’s determined to keep Kay alive.  If this all sounds like you might need a playbill, don’t worry.   

Kindt and Lemire make The Valiant real easy to follow, and Paolo Rivera’s artwork is the kind of elegant evocation of reality that gives one the option of not reading the words at all.

More nostalgic coolness arises from the Planet of the Apes and Star Trek crossover.  Kirk and the crew of the starship...Enterprise followed the Klingons into a breach that separated parallel earths.  What they found is fascinating.

Kirk and his crew naturally dope out things pretty quickly, and there's a whole lot of Star Trek classic going on.  For example, Spock's disguise relies as always upon a winter knit hat.

A pretty, previously unseen guest star emerges from the science department, and because of Rachael Stott's incredible artwork, she looks like an up and coming actress performing a role on this new thing called Star Trek.

These facets may not impress casual Trekkers, but for that group, the Tiptons and Stott instigate conflict through the appearance of George “Get Your Hands Off Me You Dirty Ape” Taylor.

People who saw the edited version of The Planet of the Apes on television may consider Taylor the hero of the series.  Those who viewed the uncut versions of these films know better.  In fact the only hero in Planet of the Apes is Caesar, who leads the revolt of the apes in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and becomes the mediator between humans and apes in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.   Compared to Kirk, Taylor transforms quite easily into a classic Star Trek villain.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I wrote a Doctor Who novel.  I wrote the book during a time when Doctor Who was in limbo. 

Paul McGann had finally broken the time delay, but BBC and Fox dickered over how to bring the show back.  BBC wanted a full series.  Fox offered to make more Doctor Who specials.  In the end Fox chose Sliders.  The BBC opted for silence.

A reaffirmation of what Doctor Who is nevertheless should have forced a reboot of the Doctor Who book continuity.  Instead the authors did what they always did.  They smashed the dank history, ethics and biology they had created for the Doctor against the television series’ wall.

This is why I wrote the novel in the first place.  I wasn’t saying I want to be a part of this.  I was saying.  You’re doing it wrong.  Here’s how it should be done. 

If that sounds arrogant and petty, I’ll own it because I won.  The show came back even better than how I imagined it. My Doctor, the Doctor that was William Hartnell to Paul McGann, not the book Doctor, came back.

My novel was fairly examined and rejected by a group of people that I didn’t respect.  So good on them for actually reading the synopsis and chapter I sent and giving me honest feedback.  I hold no grudges.

I’m bringing the novel up for a reason.  I know how hard it is to create a time traveler that is not the Doctor.  I failed.  I thought I could just design a new time traveler and salvage the novel.  Not possible.  No matter how hard I tried.  I ended up with a female Doctor.  So I abandoned the effort because I didn’t want to copy Doctor Who.  That would be like a betrayal to the show I so dearly love.

Ivar, Timewalker is just the Doctor in another guise, and you know I can see it.  I can see how Fred Van Lente was trying not to make Ivar the Doctor, but ended up with the Doctor anyway.  He calls Ivar Timewalker instead of Time Lord.  Yeah, my gal’s enemies nicknamed her the Time Witch.  Good luck with that.

Ivar gains a comely companion.

Ivar uses anachronistic, advanced technology.

He even sounds like the Doctor.

The moments where you see him perform outside of the Doctor’s parameters are really just rarities in the Doctor’s lives.  For example, the Doctor doesn’t use guns like Ivar.  Except when he does.  

Well, the Doctor doesn’t murder people like Ivar.  Yes, he does.

Anybody who doesn't accept that the Doctor killed Solomon is in denial.

Ivar, Timewalker’s originality arises in a complicated method of time travel.  Wormholes open and close throughout the space time continuum.  Ivar can detect these portals and dart through them.  As time travel methods go, it’s not bad.

Ivar and Neela run through these portals to avoid capture by the Terminators.  They’re called something else, but you be the judge.

There’s also a massive plot twist at the end of the book, but honestly, this as well has been brokered first by Doctor Who.

I wanted to like Ivar, Timewalker for its originality, its freshness, perhaps even its inspiration from Doctor Who, but it’s just Doctor Who and The Terminator smooshed together with some really gorgeous artwork.

The Top Ten Time Travelers that Are Not the Doctor

1. H.G. Welles’ Time Traveler.  Simple logic.  He predated everybody.  Rod Taylor’s Time Traveler was too rugged to be the Doctor.  H.G. Welles in Time After Time was too sweet and bookish.  Guy Pearce’s Time Traveler in the update is suspect.

2. The Flash.  Two of the Flashes predated the Doctor.  All the Flashes were time travelers, and you never mistook them for being the Doctor. 

3. The Federation.  When Kirk, Spock and McCoy, or any of the other Captains, travel through time, they never behave like the Doctor.  I think it’s the military thing.

4. Marty McFly and Doc Brown.  Obviously not.

5. Time Bandits.  Clearly not.

6. Tru Davies.  Eliza Dushku’s superb, underrated Tru Calling intrigues with the premise that a morgue attendant can re-live the day and prevent a wrongful death.  Tru has an otherwise very ordinary life.

7.  Dr. Tony Brown and Dr. Doug Phillips.  Three years after Doctor Who, Time Tunnel America’s first time travel show focused on two sixties scientists inadvertently taking part in a government-funded time travel experiment.  They were very much men of their time, and they were bounced through time and space without any control of their landings or departures.

8. Voyagers.  The Voyagers were normal people taken out of their time, trained and educated in science so they would be smarter than their periods’ comprehension would allow.  Their job was to fix history.  They traveled with watch like devices called Omni(s).  This great show sported hit-or-miss research but terrific performances from John-Erik Hexum as Phineas Bogg and Meeno Peluce as Jeffrey whom Bogg accidentally snatches from the modern era.  Later in the series, Bogg gains a Master-like enemy who was also a classmate, and he saves the Mona Lisa from going down on The Titanic.  So, this series as well was becoming Doctorish.

9. Sapphire and Steele.  Part perfume commercial/part ghost story.  Damn strange.  Ironically, Joanna Lumley who portrayed Sapphire would become the Doctor’s final incarnation in The Children in Need Doctor Who satire “Curse of the Fatal Death.”  David McCallum essayed Steel.

10. The dude from Time Trax.  Too stupid to be the Doctor.