Tuesday, May 17, 2016

POBB May 11, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 11, 2016
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag, a weekly review of comic books.  I’m Ray Tate, the guru of the POBB.  My current batch includes: Action Comics, Catwoman, Doctor Who, Starfire and The Ultimates.  I’ll also look at the latest issue of Gwenpool, new to the POBB, and the debut of Satellite Falling.  I’ll also peruse The Adventures of Supergirl, based on the fantastic television series that premiered on CBS but now moves to the CW.  

Congratulations to Melissa Benoist on her win at the Saturn Awards for Breakout Performance.

Stop me if you heard this one.  Three identical Supermen walk into a bar.  One Superman is composed of pure energy.

The other is a farmer married to Lois Lane.  With Lois he had a son.  E-I-E-I-O.

Last but not least is a young, more familiar Superman dying from being Superman.  The punchline I suspect is Rebirth.

There's no meaty story to review here since Action Comics smells like a setup issue.  For what it is, it’s not terrible.  The art is decent and Tomasi makes the information easy to swallow.   It’s difficult however to be concerned about anything in Action Comics.  We know, or strongly suspect, it’s servicing something else.  

Tomasi's comprehension over how Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman play together is the book’s greatest asset.  No surprise there.  It’s in these scenes shared between the heroes that Tomasi's words comes alive.

Superman’s cousin soars in The Adventures of Supergirl.  For the first issue, writer Sterling Gates pits Kara against Rampage.

This brute isn’t John Byrne’s original creation:  STAR scientist Kitty Faulkner who transformed into a solar powered orange She-Hulk.  Gates puts an alien spin on Rampage that ties into Fort Rozz, a Kryptonian Intergalactic prison from whence aliens-of-the-week arise.  Sometimes the cons are familiar.  Other times not.  

Rampage wasn’t the only of her species to escape Fort Rozz.  Gates motivates Rampage with a sister to form a parallel dichotomy against Supergirl and her human sister Alex Danvers.  

Artist Bengal seems much more in synch with Supergirl than when illustrating Batgirl.  Neither Kara nor Alex looks like Melissa Benoit and Chyler Leigh, but they bear their general features.  Manga often eliminates heterogenous faces and reduces characters to avatars.  In Supergirl, the Girl of Steel is a frequently smiling sunny sky god, and Alex the swathed in grit earthling.  The sublime of light and dark works better in Bengal’s style than a more visually complex character like Batgirl.

Those looking for an experience similar to that of the television series won’t however be disappointed.  Gates spotlights Kara’s point of view and more often than not mimics the delivery of Benoist.  He consistently conveys the underlying bond between Kara and Alex.  He furthermore dignifies Kara’s perseverance.  

So we come to another end to another Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner series.  Another person may suggest they’re cursed.  I think it’s instead bad timing.  They just create these marvelous comic book titles at the point where DC decides it’s time for another earth-shattering event.  

Starfire will be experiencing a Rebirth.  So, it’s time to pull up stakes and tie up loose ends before she flies off into…I don’t know…Red Skies?

Whether it’s because both Conner and Palmiotti are consummate writers with an instinctive knowledge of what works and what won’t or because of experience, Starfire is heartfelt and final.

Elsa Charretier’s remarkable artwork captures the bittersweet mood that underscores the entire story.  Palmiotti and Conner leave no stone turned.  They create a situation where Kori literally will have nowhere to go.  There cannot be any second thoughts.

Despite what could have been a repetitious, somber finale, Conner and Palmiotti vary the moods and create a variety of situations that end Kori’s associations.  At the same time, they keep Kori in the perfect character that they started with.  She’s an alien who doesn’t quite understand the intricacies of human culture, but she’s intelligent and empathic.  

She knows what’s needed and liberal in giving others choices.  Frequently, she’s a sounding board in this last story, which is something I particularly liked.  Because that’s kind of how you feel when you’re about to leave something.  Distant.  As if people are fading from view.

UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, calls upon the Doctor and Clara to investigate multiple disappearances of people.  UNIT suspects aliens.  The Doctor doesn't want to jump to any conclusion.

A very, very meta Doctor Who by regulars Robbie Morrison and Rachael Stott reveals an old hidden foe and nothing I can talk about without spoiling the milk.  However, this stand-alone antic is insanely entertaining and demands a strong illustrative hand.  Fortunately, we have Stott for that.  One of the greatest finds of the year.

I knew she would be fantastic the moment I saw her version of the Peter Capaldi Doctor on a tee-shirt that purchased immediately.

New book Satellite Falling posts a human cabbie on a world filled with diverse aliens.  Lilly's there for more than just a fare.

The reveal opens the door to an intergalactic drug trade that must be curtailed, but the methods the police use are questionable.

Scott Horton's story is rich with character depth.  Lilly's reasoning for being on Satellite is unique and makes sense.    Her empathy hones her into somebody to root for.  

When Lilly  succumbs to a sweet succor for her heartache, the strange and selective nature of science fiction engages and adds gravitas to the plot.  Horton corners this character that you already feel for, thus, increasing the importance.  In other words, why does this story from Lilly's history need to be told? Because it's unlike her other tales which to her are routine.  This vignette however is a turning point in her career.

After a wrenching viewing of time itself, The Ultimates regroup.  Carol Danvers voices concern for the future.

You can argue that Carol's words foreshadow the new Civil war, but I also think you can suggest that writer Al Ewing didn't see the glimmer in Bendis' eye, and he just expressed Carol's dismay over witnessing some quantum tomfoolery, emceed by none other than Galactus.  

After her philosophizing, Carol deals with a bit of cosmic political maneuvering that winds up warning her of Bronze Age darling Project Pegasus.

Carol's kibosh on the Cube seems to be resolute, but I don't know if that will be the case since Thanos shows up at the cliffhanger seeking Cube.

Meanwhile, the other members of the team, specifically Blue Marvel and Black Panther debate the fate of the Anti-Man, Blue Marvel's frenemy.  Blue Marvel created a physics bending holding cell and sees a trial by jury in Anti-Man's future.  Black Panther looks at the situation differently.

The potent words punctuate the Panther's ruthless calculation, but for some reason America Chavez, the Ultimates' powerhouse and spiritual descendent of Miss America takes the Mickey out Black Panther's words.  It's a nice moment of camaraderie.

Christopher Hastings' Gwen-pool is basically Harley Quinn.  She's a figure of hit-and-miss comedy.  For some reason, she's hooked up with MODOK's assassination bureau.

The group's current target is a crazed sorcerer named the Black Druid, and because his knowledge can help save an elven realm, Thor enters the picture.

Thor acts as straight person when dealing with Gwen-Pool, and though the banter is entertaining, the real reason you're picking up Gwen-Pool is because of this.

Yeah, that's Batroc Ze Leaper trying to French foot fight Thor.  It's another moment where you just sigh and say to yourself or maybe aloud, "This is why I love comic books."

Last but certainly not least, Frank Tieri continues his Catwoman pulp in high style.  After he shocking reveal last issue, Selina tracks down White Mask and demands answers.

The White Mask and Catwoman have a confab that takes Selina back to the past when she worked heists with a boyfriend David.

Tieri through the device meshes Selina's fate with Black Mask, even more so than Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart.  In those stories, Black Mask was just a thug trying to take over the gangs in Selina's territory.  

In the new 52, the original head of the False Face Society, a throwback to the Golden Age Batman's Terrible Trio, hired Selina to steal the fabled Black Mask.  With it, Sionis would secure his power.  Things go twisty, and it's an enemy that shares the truth.

That of course is Black Mask.  Tieri uses the meeting to demonstrate the difference between Catwoman and a super-heroine.     Black Mask's argument is practical, but champions are made of stronger stuff.  They're not practical.  They will see justice done no matter what.  Catwoman on the other hand can act selfishly and pragmatically.  It's beautiful dramatic exemplar.  

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