Monday, February 8, 2016

POBB February 3, 2016

Pick of Brown Bag
February 3, 2016
by
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag drops in on A-Force, Angel and Faith, Barbwire, Batgirl, Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon and Groot.  If you miss the POBB, but need some quick comic book advice, I also tweet the reviews under: #PickoftheBrownBag.


Whereas in most fiction, magic is a force of nature, the magic of Magic Town is sentient.  As a result, several foreshadowed factors come into play for this issue of Angel and Faith.  


The Big Bad Archaeus attempted to persuade the magic to side with him.  So, the monster gave the magic a gift that all sentients require.

However, the way writer Victor Gischler characterizes the magic suggests that the gift isn’t quite the end all to be alls.  The magic mostly acts benign.  People don’t quite understand its actions.  That’s part of Archaeus’ plan.  Archaeus’ gift is the whisper in the magic’s figurative ear.  That the magic will never be accepted and it should become part of the Archaeus Family.  It’s the typical why serve in heaven when you can rule with me in hell trick.

Gischler doesn’t treat the magic as a threat.  Instead, he looks at the entity’s point of view and Nadira’s influence.  As we learned in previous issues, Nadira is a Slayer, but her instincts slant toward finding a peaceful/harmonious solution to all problems.  The magic as we learned likes to solve problems and be part of the solution.


The plot twist thus serves four purposes.  To redefine the magic of Magic Town.  Grant an extra level of cunning to Archaeus, while at the same time demonstrating the shallowness in his character and strengthen Nadira’s already inspiring resolve.  As to four…That would be telling.

In the action portion of the series, Angel confronts crooked cop Brandt.

I like how Gischler takes a Whedon cut-to-the-chase approach in this act.  Angel knows that Brandt knows.  Brandt knows that Angel knows.  Somebody needs to hurt.  Unfortunately for Angel, Brandt is a cop.  So, he’s never alone.


Angelus wasn’t a loner.  Angelus was in a league of vampires controlled by the Master.  Angel became a loner because he thought that was the only means to fight Angelus.  It would take years, but Angel became part of a family, and when he left that family, he built up another.  He would never be a loner again.  A trusted ally from the series became his partner in the comic book.  Faith.


Gischler uses the conflict that’s tied to the overall storyarc, to actually serve as an excellent introduction to how Angel’s and Faith’s friendship works.  

Angel and Faith are good together because of the humor, the pragmatism from both characters and the history of corruption from which both stars emerged.  Largely due to each other’s influence.

Angel and Faith is so well written that if doesn’t feel written at all.  Gischler seems to reconstitute the television series into the comic book as easily as Will Conrad and Michelle Madsen mimic the actors’ personages.

A midnight picnic and the growing romance between Batgirl and Batwing segues to fighting the larceny of hard-light hologram harnessing hoodlums.


The encounter’s totally familiar to Batwing but not to Babs.  Her eidetic memory once again fails, and this is the issue of Batgirl where writers Cameron Stewart and Brendon Fletcher resolve the gaps once and for all.

Though the story begins with a Batwing/Batgirl team-up, the lion’s share of the book belongs to the partnership on the cover.


Batgirl teams up with Black Canary to fight the enemy responsible for Babs' memory loss.

The superb story functions with a strong visual narrative courtesy of regular artist Babs Tarr.   The tale acts as a fair play mystery where suspects and clues introduced in past issues and this one bear scrutiny from the reader and the detectives.

Black Canary’s return to the cast adds much needed toughness and encouragement to a situation that’s turned Babs vulnerable and given her friend Frankie too many worries.  Dinah on the other hand comes onto the scene fresh and direct.


Canary picks up the slack.  She’s confident that Babs isn’t losing anything.  Rather somebody or some thing must be taking.  She’s out to protect her friend in the most violent way possible.  She’s in short a female character after my own heart.


The story flows to an action-packed conclusion that will more than sate the thirst of thrill-seekers missing the Dinah/Babs dynamic.

Barb Wire revisits Avram Roman, and discovers he's not the man she remembered.

Unbeknownst to Barb, she led the Feds straight to him, but in a juicy twist.  That was Avram's plan all along.


Avram intends to make a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid stand against government forces, but Barb's conscience gets the better of her.

Barb's participation turns what could have been tragedy or massacre, into a smart-ass comeuppance that even Avram couldn’t have predicted.  That’s entertainment.


Captain Marvel leads Alpha Flight on an exploration of an unknown spaceship, and the craft proves to be full of surprises.


This issue of Captain Marvel doesn't break any new ground when it comes to science fiction, but it uses the traditions well.  The starship backdrop serves to flesh out the cast and examine their shared history.

Aurora as first imagined by Chris Claremont and John Byrne suffered from multiple personality syndrome.  She seems a lot better now, and apparently turned her flirtation with Sasquatch into a full blown romance at one time.  That's over now, but Sasquatch apparently still harbors feelings for the mutant hero.

The relationship between Sasquatch and Aurora is a kind of anchor in an otherwise brand new group, less Puck and our title hero.  The new characters deserve some examination.  Wendy Kawasaki for example is vivacious and curious.


The heroes by the way do not stay in the dark throughout the story.  Instead, artists Kris Anka and Matthew Wilson step up their game with striking visuals that will be familiar to anybody who to their sorrow watched Prometheus.


I’m not suggesting a direct correlation.  Rather, in general, Captain Marvel takes and admits the Alien franchise as its inspiration.  At least early on, with the red lights and organic ship, it’s a favorable comparison.  When the lights come on though, Prometheus gets a good kick in the shins.

The last issue of A-Force was instantaneously better than the first volume since writers Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson focused on actual Marvel heroines, rather than confusing, ersatz doppelg√§ngers.  This issue of A-Force is better through the virtue of being damn enjoyable to read and bearing the stunning art of Jorge Molina and colorist Laura Martin.

A cosmic blue being appeared in the Marvelverse.  She's a refugee from the previous volume of A-Force dubbed Singularity.

She was friends with versions of Marvel's female champions.  Singularity's first instinct was to seek out her allies, but something else noticed her.  Christened Antimatter, the being wants to kill Singularity because she causes him pain.


Though not friends with Medusa, She-Hulk or Captain Marvel, Singularity quickly becomes at least liked by the heroes, who defend her out of principle.  Well, almost.


Of course, Medusa quickly sobers up and remembers she was one of the Fantastic Four.


This is just one of Medusa's impressive moments.  Indeed, the creators of A-Force build up all the team.

At a certain point, Singularity, She-Hulk and Medusa seek out Nico, of the Runaways.  Nico and Singularity were in fact the best of friends in the prior universe, but strangers here.


I'm not overly familiar with Nico or her powers, but Wilson and Thompson quickly inform through and during the comedy of a wedding gone awry.  


I know enough now to say that I like Nico and appreciate the limits of her abilities.  I’m a tough sell for any magic-basis.  Giving the sorcery boundaries that affect the character and make a sort of sense is a big incentive.

Thompson and Wilson demonstrate that each of the heroes is capable of combatting Antimatter but not getting rid of him permanently.  This at once does justice to each character and explains why they must band together with Dazzler...


...to once and for all eliminate the threat to Singularity and the earth if not the universe.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot is losing me fast.  Under the conceit of a campfire story, writer Young hacks out a story that lacks the charm, warmth and humor of the solo Groot miniseries.  Essentially this tale posits that Groot lost Rocket Raccoon during Battle World or Secret Wars and has been looking for him ever since.


Two questions.  Why do the Guardians of the Galaxy believe Groot and Rocket to be dead, as seen last issue, when the heroes of earth could have just informed the Guardians that Groot, at least, is alive?  Why does everybody all of a sudden understand Groot?  Nobody understands Groot’s language except Rocket.  Former Groot writer Jeff Loveness spent a whole Brian Kesinger lovely issue of Groot explaining just how Rocket picked up Groot’s tongue.

Anyway, Groot believes he found Rocket in the raccoon tyrant.

Maybe, but who wants to read about an amnesiac raccoon torturing his friend?  I'd rather retread scenes from Groot such as this:


From Groot

And this.

From Groot

And this.

Best Silver Surfer Ever in Groot

Groot, just Groot, is superior to Rocket Raccoon and Groot by parsecs.  Young isn't giving me anything entertaining.  So, no, Marvel I don't "want to know what happens next.”


Groot is now available in a sweet twenty-four-ninety-five cents hardback.  ISBN # 978-0-7851-9552-8.  By not buying Rocket Raccoon and Groot thus far, you can invest eight dollars into buying that hardback.


Yup.  This scene is in Groot as well.



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