Tuesday, March 1, 2016

POBB February 24, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
February 24, 2016
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  I’m your host/writer/creator Ray Tate.  This week I’ll be looking at All-New X-Men, Bart Simpson Comics, Black Magick, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Futurama Comics, Hellboy BPRD 19534, Justice League, Mythic, The New Avengers, Patsy Walker is Hellcat, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and a kind of brand new series Wynonna Earp.  As always you can find my tweets via #PickoftheBrownBag.

This is one of Futurama's most unexpected send ups.  Ian Boothby brings in an interstellar Daddy Warbucks to naturally find his Little Orphan Annie.  

I'm not going to explain Little Orphan Annie because the Wikipedia entry is far more informative.  You'll thank me for it because the fate of the comic strip is as surprising as this issue of Futurama

The alien one percentile falls for Bender's scheme, which involved shaving Fry bald.  Bender instead of finding his sugar daddy discovers himself in another classic.  This time from cinema.  As usual, I won’t be spoiling anything.  Suffice to say, good one.

To find the B Story, Boothby follows through with Bender's ruse.  The new bald Fry reveals that he's a little prejudice toward the hairless.

Naturally, Hermes sends Fry to a baldness sensitivity class.  This leads to Fry being surrounded by famous bald individuals, some of whom shared a newspaper page with Little Orphan Annie.  It all goes back to Boothby's peculiar Jones for Annie.

Just when you think Boothby's done with you, both sides of this particular coin fused, he next ties up the one loose end in the story.  

You can be forgiven for thinking that this was an isolated gag.  So did I.  Once more Boothby relies on a Hollywood classic to arrive at a solution.

Bart Simpson Comics ends its enviable run of one hundred issues on a high note that parodies Doctor Who.  Through bizarre means...

...Bart finds himself positioned as the Doctor in Professor Frink's time traveling Port-a-Potty.  His goal: to stop a future version of Monty Burns from destroying Springfield.

This finale is a lot of fun with oodles of inside jokes from the comic series and the television series.  

Bart's time traveling sends him careening through numerous comedy episodes, mostly Geek based.  For example, writers Nathan Kane and Boothby, again, acknowledge the first time traveler.

They also tackle such film as Clash of the Titans as well as comic books like The Crisis of Infinite Earths.  

In the end, it takes a collusion of forces to stop Mr. Burns, including Mr. Burns.

You would think that characterization would suffer given a plot like this, but Kane and Boothby create sweet reminisces as well as strong in character dialogue.  

Artist Nina Matsumotto, Andrew Pepoy and Art Villanueva combine talent for one last explosion of color and cartooning.  This took a lot of work.  The background visual gags are plentiful, the characters on model and animated.  Different versions also manifest, yet still they bear an evolutionary Simpsons stamp.

The conclusion to the time twisted Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a doozy.  For those that just entered the wonderful world of Doreen Greene alias Squirrel Girl, something transported our heroine to the 1960s.   Ironically, because of the Marvel Universe's sliding time scale, the heroes that were created in the sixties contextually burst onto the scene much later.  Thus, the era is devoid of Marvel's champions.

Squirrel Girl is something of a genius.  So, she arranges a message in the bottle for her friend Nancy who is one of the only people on earth that remembers her.  The other person that knows her is Dr. Doom, who wants to get even for his ignominious defeat.  Doom is actually from Nancy's past.  He arrives in the present soon after he first encountered Squirrel Girl.  His being in the time stream explains why he still remembers and despises Squirrel Girl.

Nancy logically convinces Doom to go back in time and help Squirrel Girl, but once in the past, Doom realizes he can conquer the earth before any heroes arise to stop him.  Squirrel Girl is the only fly in the ointment, but he intended to kill her anyway before Nancy talked him out of it.

Writer Ryan North brilliantly characterizes Doom.  Although Squirrel Girl is a funny book, North treats Doom with the utmost respect.  How smart is Doom?  He just began his plan, and he's winning.  

The presence of a second Squirrel Girl from a future he will create does not immediately deter his goals.  Doom furthermore judges both Squirrel Girls to be genuine threats to his plans.  He manhandles them as he would any young, male superhero.  Age and gender mean nothing to Doom.  Women who step up to interfere with his plans get smacked down.  The rules of chivalry which Doom follows do not apply.

The way in which the Squirrel Girls continually feed into Doom's plan furthermore describes Doom's quick mind.  He's a sponge.  He absorbs and adapts in an eye-blink.  

The means in which the heroes finally defeat Doom depend upon strategy that goes way, way outside the box, TARDIS that is, and actually modifies a classic Squirrel Girl ploy.  This three part arc is not to be missed.

Hellcat recently defeated a wannabe villain who was really just misunderstood.  He needed to apply his power in a constructive way.  The turn of events catalyzes Hellcat's goal to create a business that specializes in finding everyday roles for super powered individuals that lack the thirst to fight crime.

Patsy ended up rooming with the dread Ian.  All however is not copacetic, the landlord isn't really keen on having tenants; odd behavior given the vocation, and he consistently throws out lessees.  All of the evictions are legal however because the landlord has a secret weapon that Patsy experiences first hand.  The escalation and scam fuels Patsy's visit to an old friend.

If I were a cynical person, perish the thought, I'd argue that somebody has a movie looming on the horizon, but Patsy was a member of the Defenders.  She is friends with Stephen Strange.  So his cameo isn't gratuitous.  As it was in All New Wolverine.

The combo of Stephen and Patsy is sure to warm the nostalgics of the comic book buyers.  The nature of the foe neatly fits the new mantra of Patsy Walker Hellcat.  The friendly artwork creates an aesthetic that has one foot in toons and the other in straight forward superhero style.

Previously in The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage we learned of a husband and wife ghost hunting team.  Shan Fong and Hwen starred in a television series that detailed their excursions into the macabre.  They are not superheroes.  Instead, they are adventurers more in the line of an occult investigative Modesty Blaise, an impression stamped more so with the art of Roberto De La Torre.

Actually, only Shan fits this description because Hwen is dead.  He exists as a ghost that only Shan can see, which brings us to the current series.  Shan is keen on granting Hwen substance. In conjunction with her quest, Shan sought out a scroll that purportedly could mass the massless.

It turned out that a sorcerer Denis De Walt based on historical figure Alister Crowley secreted himself in the scroll, and now he seeks to destroy the spirits of the world to grow more powerful.

The quest to stop the specter leads the duo to Clara Keene, De Walt’s last victim.  She relates the charismatic power of De Walt.  At the same time, she gains a voice that turns her from plot device to character.  

Writer Jen Van Meter takes the unusual and pleasurable tactic of relying on Dr. Mirage's professionalism to offset any potential threat the sorcerer poses.  Thus, the mood winds up being quirky, with Shan being totally unimpressed by the spook's ability, and Hwen being more than a match for the apparition.

The monster hunting Wynonna Earp returns to comics thanks to a new television series soon to be released on Scyfy.  You might remember her looking like this.

Now she better resembles actress Melanie Scrofano.  On a purely personal level, I think the change is a good one.  Mind you writer/creator Beau Smith already had begun to steer Earp from Bad Girl territory.

Smith's setup might be considered postmodern.

What he's really doing is taking an implicit fact in horror fiction and making it explicit.  Monsters needing money is as old as the fable of the dragon hoarding gold or if you prefer Dracula buying a house in England and needing a real estate agent.

The more radical idea is transforming the U.S. Marshall Service into a creature killing agency.  Earp as she demonstrates through the book is quite adept at task, and the creative violence entertains throughout.

Smith once again lucks out in the art department.  Even in her Bad Girls days, Earp benefitted from unsung talent from Joyce Chinn to Enrique Villagran.  Now artist Lora Innes keeps Wynonna Earp lively.  An excellent premiere.

In the latest issue of Black Magick Rowan Black visits friends.  Each visit yields different consequences.  Her dinner with her partner Morgan and his pregnant wife Anna appears to be all relaxation and no threat, but the mood changes when Anna reveals her fears to Rowan.  Rowan speaks more than words.

She makes a vow, and that's more important.

Rowan next checks up on fellow Witch Alex, who as a favor was delving into the depths of the lighter, which Rowan borrowed from evidence.  The lighter belonged to the hostage taker, the so-called Rowan White, from the debut issue.  As you will see, there’s considerably more to the first crime than first believed.

This is a classic type visit to a netherworld.  Something that you might see on The Night Gallery.  The “special effects” in the visuals are primitive but effective.  The witch is a vision of ghastly make up courtesy of artist Nicola Scott.  The entrance in the pool is a camera trick.  

Rucka and Scott convey the drama with acting and make up.  We see the witch scratch Alex in the netherworld.  The damage shows up in the real world setting as sudden maiming on Alex.  This subdued attention to magical manifestation facilitates Black Magick’s verisimilitude.

The White Tiger isn't so much a hero, but a mystical necklace.  The story began with the necklace falling into the deadly hands of three martial artists known as The Sons of the Tiger.

The necklace's shtick was to unite the heroes psychically so they would fight in unison.  No idea why teamwork wasn't enough, nor what difference it makes getting beaten up by three separate individuals or one mystical Voltron.
Alas, even with the addition of a female member to the team, The Sons' antics failed to ignite the hearts of fans.  So, the characters retired from magic and crime fighting.  

The Sons returned when in the Marvel magazine The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Hispanic newbie Hector Ayala combines the abandoned three talismans to become the first White Tiger.

The White Tiger sticks around until eighties Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man.  There Hector becomes addicted to the necklace's power, like a junkie.  Their metaphor.  Not mine.  Hector gets rid of the trinket.  

The next White Tiger shows up in the mid-nineties in Heroes for Hire.  Actually a Bengal Tiger turned humanoid by Doctor Moreau's biggest fan the High Evolutionary.  She has nothing to do with the amulets and gets her power naturally.

Marvel hired fantasy author Tamora Pierce to breathe life into a new White Tiger.  The richly characterized FBI Special Agent Angela del Toro broke a passport counterfeiting ring and did so with rare literary sensibilities.

Lastly, a relation to Angela, Ava, turned up in Avengers Academy.  When that White Tiger appeared, I was a little confused.  I purchased this week's New Avengers to find out what exactly happened to the Angela, in my opinion the best of the Tigers, in no small part to Pierce's skill.  I am not a happy man.

Angela died at the deadly hands of a shitty writer.  That said.  I cannot blame New Avengers writer Al Ewing for this miserable discard.  He didn't make Angela a literal Hand puppet.

Ewing's story is actually quite good.  The continuity not so much.  The tiger tale begins with an evil version of Reed Richards freeing Angela from prison and handing her a brand new set of jade pendants, which he snatched from an alternate universe.

Richards intends for Angela to kill Ava.  His rationale is unknown to me.  Ava currently enjoys a gelato with Power Man in Italy.  They may or may not be on a date.

That point is moot because soon war breaks out between Tigers.  Ewing throws a lot of chi around, and I have a personal dislike for such hocus-pocus due to nurses in the nineties believing they could manipulate chi in the form of therapeutic touch.  I know.

Hot nurses performing massage on you.  What on earth could be wrong with that?  You see.  They didn't actually touch you.  They waved bye-bye over you.  In other words, not only had you not reached second base, you were penalized and sent to the dugout.

Anywho, chi irritates me, but again, not Ewing's fault, and it's a mainstay in cheap martial arts films.  White Tigers are all about that.  So, it's a fair annoyance.  That said.  Connecting the new Power Man's ability to chi is damn stupid.  Not Ewing's fault.  Power Man is complete rubbish.  He's like a superhero some scholastic association might create for edutainment.  Nevertheless, the idea that Angela can use chi to stop him cold is a perfectly valid twist.  In chopsocky films, a master of chi fighting can puncture a heart without touching his opponent.

So you take the bad with the good.  Al Ewing's story is good.  The continuity is bad.  The art by J. Cassara and Rachelle Rosenberg pretty.

Last issue, X-Men villain mainstay The Blob killed a poor mutant beast to feed his face.  Causing a commotion at the restaurant, the Blob attracted the attention of Wolverine and Angel.  Despite the Angel being the voice of reason, Laura intended to take out the Blob herself.  He promptly beat the All-New Wolverine to death.

Writer Dennis Hopeless tries to keep things light in All-New X-Men.  The young time-hopping X-Men never met the modern day Blob.  So, Hopeless and Bagley try to make their first encounter a violent lark.  At the same time, Bobby Drake appears to be as gay as his older self, but he's having problems coming out of the closet.  Meanwhile, the temperature controlling mutant known as Equinox yells at The Christian God's icons.

Sounds like fun doesn't it? It kind of is, but nothing really takes because all of the frivolity lies in the shadow of this emotional scene.

Wolverine is not dead.  She's just recuperating.  Bagley, at an all-time artistic high, displays the consequences of the healing factor through Angel's point of view.  It's painful to watch.  Painful to "hear" and just overall painful.  The demonstration is remarkable.

Mythic balances drama and comedy.  Our world according to Mythic runs on superstition, that’s facilitated by Mythic.  Mythic on the surface is a slick operation conducted by professionals.  What’s beneath the surface are gods, sorcerers, ghosts and legendary immortals, all in the company uniform and logo.

Recently, Mythic discovered a pattern of interference.  What they could not predict was a foe that’s dedicated to bringing the world back to rationality.  A laudable goal, but the execution leaves for much to be desired.  In the fluster of activity, Cassandra, the Oracle, fired the newly appointed Nate.  No doubt part of a clever plan.

This issue begins with the bad guys revealing themselves and the comedy of a double cross the Midgard Serpent should have seen coming.

The story continues with the appears to be finished Mythic member Waterson, and an homage to kaiju with the big dukeraoo between diapered god Asha and Surtur, who needs no explanation, thanks to being a recurring villain in Thor.  Writer Phil Hester juxtaposes these large scale events with Nate’s attempt to re-enter Mythic.  Solid and entertaining, Mythic tackles well trod territory but in a wholly unique manner.

This is easily the best issue of Hellboy I’ve read in a long time.  That’s because the Hellboy of 1953 is the Hellboy I first read about in the premiere issue.  At this point in time, Hellboy is liked and accepted by his teammates as well as the general populace.  He’s fighting monsters, and his already impressive experience gives him a convincing attitude of victory.  

In the continuing saga of “The Darkseid War,” the Justice League finds itself accepting a disturbing truth.  They cannot win against the Monitor Mobius.  They must team up with their former interdimensional enemies, the Crime Syndicate.

For those not in the know, the Crime Syndicate consists of Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Volthoom, Power Ring and Grid.  These are the analogues of the Justice League.  They are not their parallels.  Owlman for example is Thomas Wayne, brother and killer of Bruce Wayne.  Superwoman is not Diana of Paradise Island.  Only Ultraman can claim a certain amount of isomerism.  That however is a nuance.  Neither character acts the same, even when Superman has been corrupted into the God of Strength.

Mobius attacks Gotham City, and you know the situation’s bad when he unleashes Shadow Demons.  These were the things that unmade the multiverse person by person.  They’re meta gone mad.

Fortunately, we have a more powerful Justice League, and I don’t mean the minor upgrades.  I’m talking about the return of majesty.  The idea that if the planet is threatened, these are the individuals you want on your side.  You can say that about any hero I suppose, but no group of heroes resonates with such history than the Justice League, and that echo through time means something, turns the Justice League into more than marketing, more than trademarks, it turns them into American mythology.

Putting all of this emotional connection aside for the moment.  This issue of Justice League is simply well written.  Johns hasn’t failed once in creating an engrossing chapter of “The Darkseid War.”  In addition to the collusion, Johns brings in special guest stars and draws upon the scattering of the Apokoliptan prophecy that he setup in a previous issue.  The foreshadowing of a birth comes to fruition, and accompanying Johns on this fictional epic artist Justin Fabok gives his all.

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