Pick of the Brown Bag
June 29, 2016
Hello, I’m Ray Tate, and welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag. DC took a holiday this week. So the pickings are mighty slim. This week I look at the conclusion to the Eccleston Doctor’s reacquaintance with the Slitheen in Doctor Who, the third issue of the Micronauts, the very first Spider-Gwen Annual, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Wynonna Earp. No time for the blog? I’m on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.
Previously, Slist a daughter from the Slitheen crime family, impersonated the Doctor.
The purpose was to bamboozle her species into a hostile takeover of the home planet’s wealth. The Doctor’s companion Rose tumbled the scheme, but the Raxans weren’t grateful at all.
Needless to say, the Doctor and Jack intend to save Rose Tyler. It’s another great issue of Doctor Who which takes the form of The World’s Most Dangerous Game, but isn’t.
Rose and Slist are on the run from various hunters of different members of the Raxas Alliance, but this occurs only in a few panels. The exercise is actually a stage set for a mass assassination. It’s not important if hunter or hunted die. All of them need to go.
The plot twist regards the apparently global traits of impatience, excitement and possibly bloodlust inherent in the alien race.
However, as portrayed on Doctor Who, even the Slitheen aren’t true monsters. Rose, with her honor and her humanity, shames Slist into becoming another black sheep. That attention to personal detail isn’t isolated to the Slitheen.
It’s a given that the Doctor will fall in love with Rose. Writer Cavan Scott and artist Adriana Melo heat up the Doctor’s and Rose’s chemistry. They don’t see what’s already etched in continuity as a limitation. Rather they use rock-solid to grant the story emotional impetus. It’s a romantic subplot in a mass murder story that works because Doctor Who’s tradition of genre spanning.
The Micronauts are of course based on one of the best line of toys ever created. In that line of toys, the opposite number of the evil black armored Baron Karza, was the white shelled Force Commander.
Image from The Micro Outpost
These were designated brand names. Marvel utterly ignored the importance of Force Commander to the—heh—forces of good. Writer Bill Mantlo already chose his hero in Commander Acturus Rann the Space Glider. The current Micronauts series doesn’t ignore Force Commander, but they certainly zig-zag away from the intended toy use.
Force Commander was supposed to be the hero of the story that you created. Alas, the freedom of imagination stymies the wants of toymakers. Of course, Hasbro probably wasn’t married to the idea. They merely created a loose framework to market the Micronauts. White armor—good guy. Black armor—bad guy.
In Cullen Bunn’s Micronauts Force Commander heads the Ministry of Science the opposite to Baron Karza’s Ministry of War. You still can’t get misty-eyed about him. Judging by the way he treats his friend Oziron the Pharoid, he’s as much of a threat as Karza.
The story places Oz and his band of outlaw troubleshooters, who happened to rescue a planet from Force Commander’s experiments, into custody. In jail, Oz reveals more about his people and how he came to “befriend” the Force Commander.
Bunn fuses two Micronauts into one. The clear plastic, silver faced Time Travelers and the super cool looking Pharoids, designed to take advantage of the Pyramid Power fad of the seventies.
Meanwhile, in the dark side of the Microverse, Bunn uses one of the most underrated Micronauts toys in an attempt to assassinate Baron Karza. This is Antron. Not the most imaginatively named Micronaut, but still.
Antron in the Marvel universe inspired the wonderful creation Bug.
We don't have a Bug in the current Micronauts series, and because of the signature look to the character, as well as the originality, it's unlikely we'll see Bug ever again. Though I wouldn't put it past Bunn to create his own Bug. On the other hand Bunn reconfigures Marionette for dark purposes.
The Micronauts line never featured a female toy, and Mantlo needed a female characters for balance and love interests.
Marionette was the feisty female who fell for Acturus Rann. Bunn creates a Baroness, a kind of female Gestapo agent for Baron Karza to be paranoid about and in love. She was as depicted the master of spies, and as such, her duplicitous nature makes for interesting reading.
Both sides of the same coin offer an engrossing and entertaining exploration into a dying, science fiction space opera cosmos. The Ministry of Science seeks to observe. The Ministry of War seeks to conquer, but both are impotent against a field of entropy destroying everything it touches. Oz and his rapscallions are stuck in the middle.
Spider-Gwen Annual is an anthology of short stories set in various periods of Gwen Stacy’s life as Spider-Woman all by series writer Jason Latour and a group of web-weaving artists.
In the first tale illustrated by Chris Brunner and colorist Rico Renzi, Latour revisits two pivotal events in Spider-Gwen’s life then twists them for frequently comic effect. First, Spider-Gwen, like Spider-Man, attempts to enter the world of prize fighting. Instead, she finds only trouble.
The irony is that a living Uncle Ben inspires Gwen in a completely different way. This tale though isn’t just a simple alteration of comic book history. Latour packs a lot of continuity-building punch in the short.
She-Hulk in this universe predates Spider-Gwen. The story requires it. Following the sequence of creation in comics isn’t necessary because a new continuity should grant anybody unbridled freedom.
Emi Lenox only gets a page to strut her stuff, but she doesn’t waste it.
Chris Visions teams up Spider-Gwen and Captain America.
Although, calling it a team-up is a real stretch. Rather in defiance of comic book tradition, Gwen hangs out with Cap to talk about Captain America comic books.
Cap notices eerie similarities to her true life adventures. So she goes to visit some guy named Steve Rogers who in the Gwenyverse became a comic book writer/artist. Neat twist, eh?
This is also the adventure that turns Donald Trump into MODOK and where Captain America belts Trump in the head. How can you not love that?
Olivia Margraf illustrates the galactic misfortunes of the Gwenyverse’s Watcher, who becomes obsessed with the Mary Janes and their lack of ambition to become the top band on the earth.
There are two philosophies about the Watcher in comics. Some feel the awe of a Jack Kirby character who is bound to observe but frequently takes action—in the slightest of ways—on behalf of humanity. Others think of the Watcher as an absurd joke of a character, and that’s primarily what we get here; overblown dialogue, alien frustration and a decidedly human reaction to the Watcher’s sacred duty.
In the final story, a week in Gwen Stacy’s life as Spider-Woman creates a hilarious running gag that reflects the mortal feet of clay Stan Lee oft gave to Spider-Man.
When creating Spider-Man, Lee meant for him to be the squarest super-hero in the biz. Although he had amazing powers, pun intended, a cold brought him down. He would screw up the coloring of his costume with a bad washing, and he was never meant to be Spider-Man. Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen share a catalyst, and that spider could have bitten anybody in attendance at the science fair. Peter Parker is randomly Spider-Man. Just like Gwen is randomly Spider-Woman.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl encounters the classic Fantastic Four misanthrope the Mole Man.
I like that Squirrel Girl doesn't just fight the Mole Man because he's a miscreant. She questions the attack. She doesn't actually want to fight, although unbeatable. As it turns out, the Mole Man corrects Squirrel Girl's ignorance of her slight.
Squirrel Girl’s willingness to accept responsibility is only one of the cool things about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
Writer Ryan North gets the Mole Man. He paints him as a bizarre hermit-like figure who is the champion of monsters. He furthermore runs with his wizened nature to alter his dialogue into a thesaurus of old-timey language. Similar to the phraseology of Mr. Burns.
North’s characterization of the Mole Man extends to the creature’s hyperbole of behavior. Mole Man lacks a middle, gray area, and Squirrel Girl discovers this facet rather quickly.
That’s right. The Mole Man misconstrues Squirrel Girl’s fine intentions and goes way too far. As he always does. Mole Man isn’t what he is because he’s ugly. He’s inherently freaky and creepy. If you saw him walking down the street, you would shiver instinctively.
Wynonna Earp finally approaches the television series. I don’t mean in terms of quality. Wynonna Earp always had magnetism. The main character is a neoclassical badass from the nineties. Even when blonde, she shot bad things. What’s not to like?
What I mean is that the story elements reach those in the television series. Doc Holiday for example retrieves the cursed weapon of Wyatt Earp and gifts it to Wynonna. In the series, she gets that gun episode one and fishes it out of the well herself.
In this way, Wynonna Earp the comic book is to the TV series like Elmore Leonard’s Raylan is to Justified.
For those not in the know, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens only appeared in two novels and a short story. Leonard in fact wrote the third Raylan Givens novel because of Raylan’s suggestion.
Timothy Olyphant suggested Leonard write another book so the producers of Justified could pick out some authentic story elements. For that reason, Raylan reads like an alternate universe Justified. Wynonna Earp reads like an alternate universe Wynonna Earp.
We get the Revenants from the television series, the gun, but in an original move, Wynonna’s creator Beau Smith also introduces time travel and in a surprisingly elegant and witty way. Almost like a dust-shrouded Doctor Who.
This is not what you associate with traditional ballsy Wynonna Earp. So, perhaps in reflection of the television series, Smith added more humor and a more nuances to the female star.
Smith’s inclusion of Doc Holiday mirrors the television series. Originally, Wynonna Earp didn’t benefit from such a large cast of characters. Smith centered his story on the heroine. Anybody that came along in the way that didn’t get killed was left in her memories. Part of this can be explained in the sporadic nature of independent publishing.
It doesn’t necessarily make sense to create a Buffy-like tier system of roles if you’re publishing limited series whenever and wherever you can. So you focus on the main man, or woman in the case of Wynonna Earp.
Smith however makes Doc Holiday a part of his Wynonna Earp by relying on history—Doc’s tuberculosis—and meshing supernatural elements. Creating a betrayal explains the curse on Wyatt Earp’s gun, while maintaining the honor of Doc Holiday. The curse also explains why Wynonna a descendent must suffer the same fate as all the other Earps. Decidedly good people. Of course, Wynonna is just ornery enough to break the curse and get the hell out of dodge.