Monday, June 6, 2016

POBB June 1, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
June 1, 2016
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag, a weekly review blog of comic books.  This week I look at several Rebirth titles: Batman, Superman and Green Lantern, ain't got nothing on on me...Oh, lost my train of thought for a minute.  Must have been a tunnel.  I also review the latest issues of A-Force, All-New Wolverine, Rough Riders and Satellite Falling.  As always should you be caught in a trap of time, you may also peruse the tinier reviews on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

Two out of three Rebirth titles are absolutely useless.  So save your money.  Don’t buy either Batman or Superman.

In the pre-Crisis, the Calendar Man was a boastful kook named Julian Day who based his crimes on the history, culture and mythology of the calendar.  The Calendar Man through his perpetrations became the first cosplayer in fiction.  He changed his costume to fit the scheme.  For example, Calendar Man committed a caper on Wednesday and dressed as Odin, complete with Laser Eye.  The word Wednesday formed from Odin’s alternate spelling Wodin or Wotan.  You can see it.  The wodn and the wend in Wednesday.  

The concept survived the post-Crisis.  Shadow of the Bat employed this version of the Calendar Man, but The Long Halloween came along and changed the Calendar Man forever.  After that, he wasn’t just some gimmicky bank robber.  He became a creepy Arkham Asylum habitué.

The ever so bleak new 52 took the Calendar Man out of continuity entirely, gave him some meds and positioned him along side of former Baron Blood acolyte Bethany Snow, Sean Connery’s cosmic clone Vartox, and, he needs no qualifier, Ambush Bug.

Writers Tom King and Scott Snyder flip Calendar Man back to continuity proper.  They combine the goofier Long Halloween version with Mr. Dress-Up.  Check out the hoodie.

Many would say the presto-chango version was the goofier of the two.  I disagree.  Taking a felonious funky fashion-plate and twisting him into a sorta serial killer is just silly.  

Snyder and King bizarrely amend the Calendar Man’s modus operandi once again.

The new Calendar Man reflects a sort of horrific version of Time Lord regeneration meshed with The Hidden's slimy body puppetry.

This new diversion turns Calendar Man into an even greater distraction.  I mean, you wonder what the Powers That Be will do next to the poor fellow.

Snyder and King ram this dopey, meme mash of a story through the days of the week, which also represent an artificially produced cycle of seasons.  Though this may have seemed like a good idea, the technique undermines the pace with a choppy feel.  

Mikel Janin’s artwork isn’t quite as spectacular in Batman Rebirth as it was in Superman.  Apart from the detailed backdrops, there’s no superpowers for Janin to play with, and that’s where Janin’s heart lies.  The most impressive moment he provides is when Batman does an insane Batman thing to kill the Calendar Man’s magic spores.  Why does the Calendar Man have magic spores? I have no idea.  Neither do King and/or Snyder.

Remember that time when Superman died at the hands of Doomsday?

Here it is again.  That image is from Superman Rebirth by the way and not the original Doomsday book.  It turns out that Superman in Black is the post-Crisis Superman or a reasonable facsimile.  

When he meets the new 52 Lana Lang in Superman's tomb, he cannot help but reminisce about the time Doomsday killed him and he came back from the dead after multiple Supermen took his place.

That's it. That’s all Superman Rebirth is.  A blatant rip-off with lip-service to Lana Lang’s new 52 persona.

Green Lantern Rebirth is actually your best bet.  It's informative.  It's entertaining and it's well illustrated.  Green Lantern unveils two new Green Lanterns to protect Sector 2814, where our planet orbits.  Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.

Simon Baz isn't actually new.  Geoff Johns introduced Simon midway in the new 52, but according to seasoned Lantern Hal Jordan Simon only started one week earlier than Jessica.  So, "The Darkseid War" happened in a week? Holy crap!

Johns introduced Jessica Cruz in Justice League.  An alien parasite known as Volthoom victimized her.  This interdimensional leech took the form of a power ring, but the Justice League instead of abandoning Jessica let her join the team.  The Flash believed in her, and as a result Jessica started feeling confidence in herself.  The ring appeared to totally overwhelm her, but in a crucial moment during “The Darkseid War,” Jessica overcame the ring and aided the Justice League.  As a result, a Green Lantern ring chose her as its bearer.

Jessica is at heart an introvert, and this story by Johns and Sam Humphries gives you an idea of how much.  They continue to break down her personality for the reader and forge what may be the most multifaceted Green Lantern.

Jessica possesses the proverbial mortal feet of clay.  She's not a badass, at least that's not how she thinks of herself.  But Johns and Humphries demonstrate that she's willing to step up for this new role.  The role of a life time really.

Hal Jordan reveals himself to Simon and Jessica, and he arranges a partnership between them.

The overall plot that's apparently running through all the Green Lantern titles is less interesting.  A lost Guardian.  A new ring, wanted by one of the Lucky Charms Lanterns.  These attributes however may appeal to a die-hard Lantern fan.  For me, the characterization and interaction of cast proved to be far more engaging.

The premiere of Satellite Falling introduced a cosmopolitan alien world, also inhabited by one human.  Lily, a bounty hunter with numerous tricks up her sleeve to get the job done.  Some of those tricks use tech to assume alien forms.  Others involve piloting a flying cab to lure unsuspecting criminal fares.  

Lily mostly works for the police.  The alien Chief of Police has a yen for her and doesn't mind changing his gender to suit her needs.  A moment of lovemaking however doesn't make a couple.

The second issue of Satellite Falling follows Lily trying to extricate herself and an alien girl named Joulya from a slave labor camp for drug production.

That description however fails to depict the beauty of the artwork and the excitement of part two.  Illustrator Stephen Thompson designs and animates air/space vehicles as well as he crafts exquisite form and expression, from all species.  

Writer Steve Horton keeps Lily raw and unforgiving as he instills conflict in her want to be lover.  The variegated colors of Lisa Jackson facilitate the diversity of the denizens of space, and the plot lands Lilly into a big surprise cliffhanger that packs an emotional wallop.

Tom Taylor’s All-New Wolverine prominently sports the Road to Civil War II banner, but there’s not one iota of friction between guest stars Iron Man and Captain Marvel.

Gabby pretty much sums up the plot and the story so far as much as Marcio Takara’s panel exemplifies the fun to be had.  Note the curious look on Fin Fang Foom.

Agents of SHIELD acquired a box, and rather than do something smart like not open the box…

It turns out that one of the agents was Old Man Logan, and the box contained a pheromone that attracted none other than the most famous ancient Marvel Dragon.

The story allows for some phenomenally grin-worthy moments and some enticing, original imagery.  The dynamic between Wolverine and the other heroes is often hilarious as well as respectful.  Her personal relationships also generate depth.  Old Man Logan's last words in the chapter evolve confusion and depth.

A-Force began during Battle World where Marvel’s universes collapsed and Dr. Doom saved the survivors by forming a chain of leftover worlds.  Or something like that.  In one of those worlds, A-Force banded together.  Those earths are dead or closed off, but sometimes more than their memories linger.  

Singularity a hero transformed into a cute, blue wormhole manifested in space proper and catalyzed the creation of the current team consisting of She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Runaways witch Nico, Medusa and Dazzler.  

Last issue, Singularity led the team to a battle royal side by side with Thor against a huge dragon.

Thor looks different because she’s not exactly from around from these parts.

As you can see from the conversation, she arises from the same realm as Singularity, and she also happens to be Alison Blaire’s parallel pen-pal.

The dragon turns out to be a visitor from another domain.  Think, Maleficent via Asgard.  She seeks universal domination.  Because Thor’s enemies no matter from whence they come do not think small.

This issue we find A-Force in the local jail and powerless, but not without humor.

After Alison frees them from their cuffs, A-Force makes a play for escape.  She-Hulk tries to reason with Nico, and Ben Caldwell expertly displays the inner turmoil she faces as she tries to wrest herself from the Countess’ control.

The Countess however is no mean foe.  Despite coming from nowhere, a usual recipe for loser villain territory, writer Kelly Thompson characterizes the Countess’ cunning and her power.  Throughout the story you see the potential for arch-nemesis.

The two words Nico speaks opens the door to trouble for A-Force as they are forced to fight one of their own to safeguard the populace.  Thralls to the Countess but innocent.

You would think having a Thor in their midst would at the very least even the score, but Thompson uses current Thor lore to stymie the Thunder God.  Technically, she’s not a god at all but empowered by Dr. Doom from another time and space, but why quibble? Her hammer was literally forged from a star.

The comedy and the light touch to the artwork gives way to high drama as things get decidedly worse for A-Force, and the expected turnabout doesn’t happen.  The cliffhanger is a doozy, and it demonstrates Ben Caldwell's and Kelly Thompson's balancing act.

The Rough Riders stride onto a beach in Cuba.  Teddy Roosevelt, yes that one, leads Annie Oakley, Houdini, Jack Johnson and Thomas Edison, yes, all of those.  Clearly, this isn’t history’s Rough Riders but adventurers from an alternate timeline.

Roosevelt recruited these personages to investigate the sinking of a U.S.S. Maine.  There was more to its demise than just a fire, and the movers and shakers of the world like Carnegie and Rockefeller want Teddy, already outed as a crusading vigilante, to get to the bottom of this.

Roosevelt and his team split into twos.  Annie Oakley and Thomas Edison seek to learn from the survivors, but not before they get reacquainted like old friends.

The movies Annie Oakley refer to are available thanks once again to the internet.  It's not just for cats and porn.  And this blog.

Later she accompanies Roosevelt to a soiree in the hope to use her feminine wiles to entice loose lips.

Houdini and Jack Johnson try the Cubans.  Johnson pumps for information a little differently than most.  Houdini scores more parlay with a sneak-thief.  This leads the duo into the Cuban tropics where the whole affair becomes even stranger.

Yeah, you’ll never guess who that fellow with the machete may be.  Discard the obvious choices.

Writer Adam Glass’ brilliant plot and characterization of the Rough Riders tip-toes through history and draws upon science fiction traditions as well as archival oddities.  Artist Pat Olliffe creates portraiture that suits the figures as well as the pulpy action.

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