Pick of the Brown Bag
March 23-March 30
Your Brown Bag Master was under the weather for a few days, but I’m back with brand new reviews of Batman, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Doctor Who, Patsy Walker is Hellcat, Hellboy and the BPRD 1953, Tomb Raider, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ultimates and X-Men 92. If you haven’t time for the in depth reviews. Check out #PickoftheBrownBag on Twitter.
If you haven't been paying attention, Batman fought the Joker one last time. The consequences of that fight included the death of the Joker, an amnesia-induced vacation and having sex with Julie Madison. Pretty good result if you ask me, but Gotham City needed Batman.
Dionseium is like the friendlier version of a Lazarus Pit. It's a big red button you press when you want to reset Batman. Ah, but what about the memories? Not a problem. Batman's concern for Gotham City's future resulted in his constructing a big memory restoring Doohickey. He intended it as a repository of knowledge for the next Batman, but apples and oranges. The consequence of all this is a mostly engaging return to the form Scott Snyder perfected in The Court of the Owls.
The story is also reflective of Batman #1, believe it or not. What is Bloom if not a modernized version of the original Professor Hugo Strange. Strange introduced Lovecraftian body horror to Batman. He turned possibly innocent mentally unstable escapees into his Monster Men. Bloom creates a new kind of grotesque. While his seeds affect regular Gothamites, his army consists of wastes of skin. Batman deals with this sort of twisted human form with extreme prejudice.
Thus, Snyder demonstrates the difference between Batman and a top cop in a Batman suit. Batman is willing to do damage. He’s not bound by the law, nor does her fear the repercussions of Internal Affairs.
The abomination of human anatomy isn’t the only proper homage to things past. The return of Batman turns into a kaiju battle, which is a definite nod to all those silly science fiction Batman stories from the nineteen sixties.
However, there’s subtler allusions for Batman researchers.
This scene calls back to Detective Comics #31 where Batman faces the Monk, by far his weirdest foe.
The difference lies in the novelty. Batman was an unknown quantity to the public. Now, people know what Batman is. Only, in Gotham, he’s a welcome sight.
Although Snyder and artist Greg Capullo give ample evidence why Batman needed to come back, they don’t besmirch beleaguered Batman substitute Jim Gordon. They give him more than a few heroic moments and smoothly transition back to the familiar status quo without hurting the Batman/Gordon dynamic. Yes, the mustache will return.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith travel to Victorian England to catch a Wild West show. Something savvy in the art of time travel however detects their presence.
The veiled lady packs more than acumen and anachronistic equipment. As you can see, her muscle is unusual, but far more than meets the eye.
The premiere of the newest Titan Doctor Who ongoing starts strong. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are in excellent character as they become inveigled in a mystery that resets mythology in modern times, if that modernity occurred in period England.
Dr. Mirage concludes its second mini-series with a satisfying, dramatic curtain call that saves the world from the Aleister Crowley inspired Denis DeWalt. DeWalt secured himself in an ancient scroll, which allowed him to soak in the spells needed for an encore performance. DeWalt despite being quite powerful still made enemies along the way. One of those nemeses is Clara.
Clara was one of DeWalt's first victims, and she proves to be vital in stopping the fiend. As does Hwen and Shan.
The latest Death-Defying Dr. Mirage provides closure for the husband and wife team of ghost breakers. Jen Van Meter's original miniseries dealt with Shan rescuing Hwen from the underworld, for lack of a better word. This miniseries focused on Shan attempting to restore Hwen's physical form. The tale concludes with Shan and Hwen accepting their new situation and Shan also evolving in her role as a celebrity occult investigator.
Tomb Raider fights some fierce mushroom hunters who want her new found ally to uncover a very special fungi for their employer. Much mayhem ensues, and writer Mariko Tamaki drops the reader into a Tomb Raider adventure that's related in action language of artist Phil Sevy. Everything Lara can do in the game translates here. She rides Wildcat's motorcycle.
Probably as well as if not better than Wildcat.
Lara tries to lose her pursuers in a museum. Apropos for the Tomb Raider, but her enemies are persistent. Forcing her to improvise.
When the chapter concludes, an inferno will blaze, and Lara will conclude that the best way to eliminate the Big Bad is to deprive him of his heart's desire. Lara will find the mushroom the Big Bad wants so much and steal it before he gets wind of the spores.
In 1953 Hellboy and the BPRD investigate a giant dog prowling in suburbia.
The dog proves to be more a creation of science than of sorcery, which fits the time frame and takes Hellboy into a different kind of investigation. Those with PETA sensibilities may take heart in knowing that although likely an innocent victim. The dog is a menace with very disgusting un-canine attributes.
His cohorts distinguish themselves by providing firepower and in the case of Sue psychic sensibilities. At the same time, Hellboy becomes a celebrity and sex symbol.
The nineteen fifties of Hellboy is very different from our paranoid, Red-fearing 1950s. Part of the tolerance can be explained by the public’s knowledge of Hellboy and the BPRD. It’s difficult to justify gender and racial disparity in the presence of a devil-spawn from another dimension who raised as a human boy likes pancakes and Baby Ruths.
Magic fuels the latest issue of Hellcat. Patsy Walker’s old enemy Casiolena sends her minions out to ensnare Hellcat, but these servants find Patsy a little too flinty to chew.
Patsy calls in another favor and a sense of duty to finally confront the Asgardian Enchantress wannabe, but how will this affect her 4:00 meeting with Heddy, the entrepreneur that turned her life into a series of comic books?
Though somewhat episodic, the set-pieces connect better than any previous issue. Even Howard the Duck waddling in as a cameo doesn’t break the rhythm and kind of makes sense in that the book goes out of its way to portray a magical, Marvel universe that’s mostly loads of fun.
Howard the Duck guest stars in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Howard’s been hired to find a missing cat named Biggs. Since all cats look alike to Howard, he mistakenly steals Mew, Nancy’s cat. This naturally involves Squirrel Girl.
When Squirrel Girl meets Howard the Duck, it’s pun at first sight. Squirrel Girl totally needles Howard with some obvious one-liners and some less overt teasing that gets under his feathers. Somehow, this whole thing ends up as another variation—albeit a kooky one—of The World’s Most Dangerous Game in which a rich dame named Sugarbaker, clearly a tribute to Designing Women, captures animal-like humans or humanlike aliens to hunt them on her grounds. Not to worry. I haven’t really spoilt anything. She is not the mystery “villain” of the piece. Rather Sugarbaker is a brand new character, about to be beaten by Squirrel Girl.
X-Men 92 is illustrated and written with a cartoon sensibility. Charles Xavier attempts to restart the School for Gifted Youngsters, with his former X-Men as teachers.
The Beast’s lesson plans keep getting interrupted by explosive situations that include Gambit blasting Rogue through a wall, Wolverine also getting blasted through a wall, and a fellow of Wolverine’s acquaintance named Maverick smashing through a window.
The grave warning involves the Von Struker siblings uncovering a Russian World War II secret weapon. Out to stop Maverick from divulging Russian Secrets, Russia’s only super team in the Marvel Universe.
This naturally, despite Red Guardian attempting step up and be the sensible Captain America type, devolves into a fight. The repartee, the nostalgia and the fisticuffs leads to undeniable fun. Even if you weren’t a fan of nineties comic books, and why would you be, you’ll enjoy this because of the anti-nineties artwork. This is the closest you’ll get to the X-Men cartoon in the comics, and Jubilee isn’t a vampire. So, it’s all good.
The Ultimates gets back to exploring some mind-blowing ideas. Writer Al Ewing thankfully pushes the Antimatter Man story aside and reiterates why the Ultimates undertook this mission in the first place.
Galactus now thanks to the Ultimates is the life-bringer to worlds. He unleashes a glimmer of cosmic insight to the adventurers, explaining that time is not damaged at all. It is as it always is, was and will be. Ever changing.
The story appears to conclude the whole excursion, but as Galactus pulls back layer after layer, he presses the limits to his own knowledge cosmic and discovers a new mystery that needs solved.