Tuesday, May 24, 2016

POBB May 18, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 18, 2016
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  This week  I review All-New Wolverine, Futurama, Future Quest, Micronauts, The Simpsons and Superman and Wonder Woman.  If you haven’t time for the regular reviews, check out #PickoftheBrownBag on Twitter.

Superman and Wonder Woman spotlights Supergirl on the cover.  Yup.  She’s more popular than Batman right now.  Come to think of it.  So is Wonder Woman.  Is Kara actually in the book? A little bit.  Last two out of three pages.  She’s still at a DEO Lab in National City trying to boost her powers.

The real eyebrow archer though is when she refers to the researchers at the DEO as Jeremiah and Eliza.  Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers portrayed by former Superman Dean Cain and former Supergirl Helen Slater are Kara’s adopted parents on the television series.

As with previous chapters, the interest in these easter eggs and the characterization surpasses the main plot.  That’s not to say that the main point of Superman and Wonder Woman dulls the reader’s senses.   Wonder Woman demonstrates some amazing feats of strength through the ancient art of kickassery.

Batman transports Lois Lane to safety, and she immediately goes for the phone to call in the story, which is exactly what Lois Lane would do.  Meanwhile, the most confusing facet of the tale, the married Superman in Black flies alternate Lois Lane and son Jonathan to the Fortress of Solitude. 

Is it possible that all three of the depicted avatars are Superman? Perhaps, he split apart somewhere down the line.  Each aspect has a basis in comic book history.

The energy Superman echoes the Superman Blue era.  In one cosmology, Superman married Lois Lane.  Our more familiar model from the new 52 is the quintessential Superman.  Alas, he’s still dying, which of course refers to the drunken moment when the Powers That Be created Doomsday to kill Superman.  Perhaps, Rebirth will merge all three slivers of steel.

The cover to Wolverine also deceives, but readers benefit from writer Tom Taylor sticking to his guns and not touching even a hint of Civil War II Electric Boogaloo.  I’m delighted and saddened that I can still use that joke.

The story starts with Luke Cage teaching a kid how to shave.  Whoops.  I skipped a page.  The story begins with SHIELD interrupting a mad scientist about to open up a bad box.  We cut to Laura Kinney alias Wolverine sharing quality time with her clone Becca as she walks her pet wolverine.

The dialogue between “sisters” is at once funny and meaningful to the personal continuity of the characters.  The running joke evolves from the conversation and carries through to the meeting with shitty SHIELD agent Maria Hill.

Hill cons Wolverine into helping SHIELD and alternate original Wolverine Old Man Logan.  SHIELD needs to find out what’s in that the box, and when Laura finally opens the box, she finds something with a familiar scent.  This opens the door for a surprising guest star that will leave a big grin on your face.  Kudos also go to artist Marcio Takara.  The illustrator’s depiction of the famed Marvel character is as impressive as his take on Laura and Becca. 

The followup to the premiere of the Micronauts excites with a freefall escape from the exploding space station.  Our heroes drop to a nearby planet where things get worse.  Although the personable R2D2 homage Microtron joins the party.

R2D2 gave rise to numerous diminutive robots: from K-9 on Doctor Who to The Black Hole’s VINCENT.  Microtron was merely one of many.  The plucky robot and hero Oz stare up at an exploding space station protocol that means bad news for the planet’s many inhabitants.

Bunn here displays Oz’s intelligence and resourcefulness, which can be defined as cunning based on time.  He quickly discerns a means to prevent genocide.  Despite Oz operating in the futuristic trappings of the Microverse, he finds a fairplay method of dealing with the menace.  

That’s of course not the end of it.  Bunn drops his heroes into a thick gag of toy-based mayhem that leads to a complete rethink of Baron Karza’s intended opposite number.  Micronauts satisfies the fan and the pure science fiction aficionado.

Kicking off with what appears to be the origin story of Spaaaaace Ghost, Future Quest is a romantic kiss for fans of the Hanna-Barbara action/adventure series.

The idea behind Future Quest is that characters such as Johnny Quest, Space Ghost and Biiiiiiiird Man share the same universe.

The story's crux begins with soon to be Space Ghost's battle against a Cthulhu type beastie.  Though ostensibly destroyed, that thing continuously tries to reform itself.  It’s time the thing tried its regeneration on earth.  The creature however has been noticed.

Yes.  Dr. Benton Quest.  Writer Jeff Parker almost need not work to position Quest as the earth’s smartest individual and most likely to discover a monstrous incursion.  Benton's genius was established twenty years ago.

Quest’s arch-nemesis Dr. Zin recognizes the creature for what it is.  Dr. Zin's interest in the monster prompts familiar attacks on Dr. Quest's sons and Race Bannon.

The plot to Future Quest is so smooth.  Every moment operates like a note in Mozart work.  In addition the characterization and artwork hold their own appeal.  Writer Jeff Parker captures the daring of Johnny Quest and his camaraderie with Hadji.

Parker also uses the Bibles of each series to provide detail that most people will find surprising.  Then there’s the art shared by Evan “Doc” Shaner and Steve “the Dude” Rude.  Both students of the Alex Toth/Doug Wildly technique of design.

While Toth is well known, some may not know that Wildly was the artist responsible for Johnny Quest’s singular look.  A visual quality I might add that helped propel the cartoon into the hearts of millions.  Needless to say Future Quest is highly recommended.  It’s perfect.

In a decidedly different type of future, DOOP officer Kif discovers he is soon to die.

Deathism follows in the tradition of Futurama’s lovingly ludicrous and lazy Bonitis. 

Meanwhile, Bender contends with the future version of the Roomba.  Their battle of wits looks very familiar.

Despite the slapstick nature of the B-Side, this is another story in which Futurama depends upon actual characters, not just walking jokes.  Writer Ian Boothby treats Kif’s and Amy’s relationship as real.  Thereby granting dramatic impetus.

Of course, Futurama is meant to be a funny book.  Boothby finds gallows humor in a tour-de-farce of future death accoutrement.  At the same time artist Tone Rodriquez, Phyllis Novin and Art Villanueva concoct a wonderfully sepulchral serpent.

As the story progresses, Boothby brings the two fuses to the A and B stories together for a sudden twist.  Thoughtful, laugh out loud funny with insider science fiction gags, this issue of Futurama is a keeper. 

A superior issue of Simpsons Comics begins with a clever contest promoting Itchy and Scratchy Live.  Through the process of elimination, Bart succeeds where others fail.

However, as the story progresses, clues fall from Ian Boothby’s dialogue and Rex Lindsey’s body language for the cast.  In the end, the sharp-eyed and eared individual will enjoy a satisfying conclusion, but there’s also some pondering.  Is it possible that Bart employed his pranks and unsporting tactics for good rather than mischief?

The second tale is a brilliant comedy focusing on Moe and Otto, as they learn how green the grass is on the other side.  The big joke is fantastic.  In addition Tony Digerolamo’s smaller gags within net big laughs as well.

The Simpsons creative pool once identified Moe as the ugliest character on the show, and in the story Mike Kazaleh doesn’t waste the opportunity.  Moe is ugly from so many of Kazaleh’s angles, and it’s even worse when he spruces up.

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