Tuesday, January 26, 2016

POBB January 20, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
January 20, 2016
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag bursts onto the scene with reviews of this week’s comic book yield.  I’ll also be tweeting itsy-bitsy reviews on Twitter—#PickoftheBrownBag—later in the week.  Our contenders are American Monster, Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Devolution and Simpsons Comics.

Breasts, Cachongas, Knockers, Ta-Tas, Tits…I like them.  You like them.  Sometimes they’re the only good things to view in a lousy movie or off-main television show.  The following two comic books feature scenes of peeled melons.  They didn’t help.

American Monster starts out with a violent home invasion that’s easy to understand.  

Obviously this bloke is a hit man or an offender that harbors personal animosity toward the two victims.  He could also be a stranger getting his kicks, but that’s unlikely.  Even in fiction.

So far so, good until…

…cut to a convenience store where writer Brian Azzarello appears to be setting up a sort of Our Town of Idiots for this guy to show up.

The dude in red stands out as our protagonist.  Despite most of the characters assuming war wounds, I have no idea how he became rouge.  The story doesn't clarify.  

Red seems to be just moseying along through town.  The bit players though somehow get into a nonsensical fight while he’s there.

I’m at a loss.  What’s Azzarello shooting for in these scenes?  The Red Man is a catalyst of antagonism, or the extras have taken over the film?  Comic book.  I meant comic book.  This is not, repeat, not an overt storyboard for a movie pitch.  Yeah, it kind of is.  That wouldn’t be a bad thing, if I didn’t get the feeling of being totally manipulated by a pretentious cineaste.

After we get a taste of Red Man, Azzarello cuts to…Casting call—looking for actress in twenties to thirties on the young side willing to do nudity.  Must look about eighteen.  Seventeen preferable.

Why is this show-me-your-tits seesaw scene in American Monster? Why does this titty elation stream for four pages?  Yes, Juan Doe draws nice boobies, but what’s the point? Besides the nipples I mean.  I can only rationalize the Bobbsey Twins with the thinnest veneer of purpose.

Azzarello wants to distinguish the two witnesses.  The young voyeur observes not just the Doobie Sisters but exhibitionist Snow.

On the other hand, the perverted older man that apparently wandered onto the set dehumanizes Snow.

The head doesn’t matter.  Just the dumplings.  Dumplings.  Must have dumplings.

Nevertheless.  Why is this scene in your damn movie! Comic book.  I meant comic book.

As Monsieur Thomas Peeping tries negotiating for an NC-17 rating, somebody texts Snow to come and look at the Red Man drinking at the bar and grill.  The desperate segue leads to a discussion about what do you suppose? Proust? Shakespeare's treatment of women? A little too high.  You want the discussion to be about something but not too far outside the parameters of the genre.  So, let's try again.  Do they discuss the prose of Raymond Chandler? The underrated pulp cinema masterpiece Prime Cut?

This scintillating conversation just goes on and on until something blows up across the street.  There as well lies the problem.  How can I not like a book that spotlights boobs and an explosion?   Yet, there we have it.

Next, Devolution.  

Just look at that cover!  Wouldn’t you buy a book where a hot, lanky, cool-as-steel chick wields samurai swords against hordes of Beast Men?


First and foremost, the gorgeous artwork that’s just all kinds of awesome on the cover, isn’t in the book.

I know.   Instead, we get the Simon Bisley/Richard Corben influenced Jonathan Wayshak.  Now, Wayshak’s art is not bad, but it’s not Jae Lee, and that’s what I wanted.  You can’t go into a book expecting beauty, getting instead rough and dirty, and not be disappointed.

I also expected to be reading about the adventures of the character on the cover.  This poised survivor who’s wicked with the swords, not an unappealing grunge-Rey type named Raja that offers little katana action.  Grunge-Rey rather emulates Ash.


Not So Groovy

Or Alice

She who knows how to bathe.

Grunge-Rey travels through many new Coke prehistoric obstacles to reach what passes as civilization.  

Yes.  The Diet Tab Mountain Men that valorously invaded an empty Federal Compound is all that’s left of civilization.  How depressing.  I would shoot myself in the head if these were the last humans.

Despondent describes the whole book.  If I’m to judge from Devolution, writer Rick Remender hates people.

Wow.  Misanthrope, much?

Not too keen on horses either.

This is why gun control is a must.  Guns give too large an advantage to morons that would otherwise be distracted by jangling keys.

The militia of lost gray cells isn’t that higher on the intelligence strata as the Beast Men, who got that way, by…

So, let me get this straight  Lack of religion turned humans into beasts? Fuck you, Rick Remender.

Oh, and TNT, baby.  

By the way, all the plump pumpkin scenes in American Monster and Devolution erect from the male gaze.  Thanks for making it even easier, guys.

At least this unnecessary nude scene doesn’t go on interminably.  Devolution reminds me just how good Mad Max Fury Road was.  Actually, it makes me think that I owe Alien from L.A. an apology.

After reading American Monster and Devolution, perusing Batgirl felt like a cold blast of fresh air.  It’s not even the best issue of the series, yet Batgirl is still way, way better than American Monster and Devolution.

I know by saying that I’m in danger of inviting criticism from my faithful readers.  I normally wouldn’t think of comparing and contrasting wildly different genres.  Yet, in terms of basic storytelling, Batgirl wins out.  

Batgirl relates a story with a beginning, middle and an end despite being one chapter in a longer story.  Beginning with a team-up between Batgirl and Spoiler.  They infiltrate Gotham PD in the middle and at the end overcome a baddie that’s just powerful enough to cause trouble.

Batgirl’s plot is a mostly linear narrative.  After the rooftop meeting, Batgirl zooms off into the night to consult with her source of information.

The scene not only pushes the plot forward.  It voices Jim Gordon’s role in her life and his opinion of Gotham PD in general.

Batgirl’s mood is playful and optimistic, but it bears a dramatic edge.  This can be seen in the finale where Babs once again feels the violation of her dreams and a hack of her memories.

The impact of this attack alludes to the entire story.  It’s not the odd man out.  Rather, Babs believed there to be a mole in Gotham PD.  That mole, she thought, ratted out a confidant’s son.  The truth is much more questionable.

As I stated, this isn’t the greatest issue of Batgirl.  Batgirl’s and Spoiler’s masquerade as police officers borders on the silly.  

The way they’re drawn they look like little girls playing dress up.  I think that’s because gritty All-Star Western artist Moritat opted for a cartoony look that synched with previous art.

While I’m sure that female officers frequently face sexism, I’m pretty sure it’s a little more realistic than this.

I’m not absolutely sure if the sexist cop is supposed to be sexist or supposed to be funny, given his little mustache.  He just comes off as taking space.  The story could have gone on without a hint of unprofessionalism, since that aspect is poorly addressed.

Batgirl starts with a team-up between Batgirl and Spoiler.  They’re joined by former Lisbeth Salander stand-in Harper; she adopted a mask in Batman Eternal and became Bluebird.  I’m not honestly crazy about Bluebird, but no matter if I like her or not, she gets the short shrift here.  So I question whether or not she was needed in the first place.  For the record, I prefer Bluebird over the Man Called Grayson.  I can't remember the meeting between she and Batgirl, but I never bought the entirety of Batman Eternal.  So, I might have missed it.  On the flip-side, Batgirl may have only met Harper as Harper and not in the guise of Bluebird.  Then again, this foggy memory from somebody that has an eidetic memory could be another reference of something mucking about in Batgirl's mind.

Simpsons Comics is another winning anthology.  The first story by Michael Saikin, Rex Lindsey, Mike Rote and of course Art Villanueva take Bart and Lisa to an abandoned amusement park.

The sign only makes them want to go even more.  The story allows for an unbridled artistic flow of imaginative and colorful settings that serve as a backdrop for another variation on The World's Most Dangerous Game.  This time the chase makes perfect sense.

All the dangers present on a private island can be found in an amusement park.  The theme recreates the venue within the confines of Springfield.  It plausibly generates danger and obstacles for the hunters and their prey.  Due to the nature of the beast, the story's also funny.  Humorous, characteristic dialogue enhances the somewhat exciting tale.  The peril is real.

In the second story, Carol Lay reminds people that Bart, Milhouse and Lisa are little kids.  They like to imagine like any other child.  In this case, the trio parody and pay homage to Doctor Who.

A destructive man like the Doctor would appeal to Bart.  So his being a fan is no surprise.  Like some playtime, reality can't be too far behind, and Milhouse's Houdini imitation as well as Bart's choice of Sonic Screwdriver turns into a bad situation.  Lay however doubles-down on time travel and finds a Springfield solution to reverse disaster.  Thus exemplifying Lay's mastery of Simpsons knowledge and overall fun plotting.

The final story by Dean Rankine flashes back to the seventies for a rousing look at Springfield PD and the ne'er do wells that keep them in business.

As you can see, the story works as a Starksy and Hutch send-up.  Do you suppose that back then Disco Stu was just known as Stu?

Surprisingly, that's it for this week's Pick of the Brown Bag.  I perused Captain Marvel and Hellcat, but the books were just okay.  Both however rocked in comparison to American Monster and Devolution.  

Captain Marvel filled in some blanks regarding her association with Alpha Flight.  A-Force and The Ultimates refer to Carol's membership in the Canadian team.  I also found this scene amusing.  I would have probably ignored it if not for the boobification in American Monster and Devolution.

See.  Puck is making a joke.  Jean-Marie (Aurora) reacts perfectly to Puck's little gibe.  She's been his teammate for years.  Captain Marvel ignores it all and takes her shower in the co-ed locker room.  Puck probably turned his head away, or Carol didn't care what he saw.  In any case, notice how she's portrayed in the shower.  No objectification.  No nudity, and nudity could have been excused in the moment.

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