Sunday, September 11, 2016

POBB September 7, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
September 7, 2016
Ray Tate

It’s a short DC week, with Aquaman, Batman, Harley Quinn and Supergirl being the subjects of my critical eye.  For those with no time in their schedule for my meaty reviews, the POBB is now on Twitter #PickoftheBrownBag.

So a funny thing happened on my walk home.  Nearly there, and I got caught in a downpour.  It came at me from all sides.  My messenger bag isn’t water proof.  Unfortunately, some of my comic books sustained water damage.  Chance favored Aquaman, Batman and Harley Quinn, but Supergirl took the brunt.  Normally, I’d replace the title next time I go to the Phantom of the Attic.  Free plug, guys.  I’m not.  Supergirl just wasn’t pleasant to read.  I had misgivings about the Rebirth Supergirl special, we’ll call it, but this “debut” has cemented those feelings.

Brian Ching’s expressive illustration and Michael Atiyeh’s vivid colors are Supergirl’s only assets.  Steve Orlando on the other hand through the voices of a multitude of characters just dumps on the Girl of Steel throughout the book.  

Bad enough, Kara’s got fake foster parents that reflect her real foster parents on the television series, but Orlando reverses Cat Grant’s favorable opinion about Supergirl and Girl Power to remake her into a bitchy pseudo Lex Luthor.

Cat’s not trying to kill Supergirl, at least, not yet, but she now shares Lex Luthor’s opinion that Kryptonians really aren’t needed to save the day and somehow undermine humanity.

Chase Cameron joins the chorus.  She chastises Supergirl for suiting up and preserving everybody’s life on the Metro.  Using faulty logic to do it.

Even if the Kryptonians were as Chase Cameron said.  You can’t just pigeonhole Supergirl in that same category just because she’s a Kryptonian.  

Now I can see the arguments raised against my criticism.  Oh, well, we’re trying to examine how real people would react if a Supergirl showed up to protect us.  Very well.  Let’s extend that reality to the guns being waved around on the train.

A gun in public view means that there’s a fifty/fifty chance of somebody getting shot.  

If somebody points a gun at you, there’s a ninety-nine point nine percent chance of being shot.  Guns are neither toys nor phasers.  They have no stun setting.  The woman on the train at a gut level knows she’s about to be saved.  She says the nicest thing about Supergirl, and it’s neutral.

Supergirl immediately takes out the guns.  She reduces the potential for gun violence to zero.  

Cameron's dumbass "where the bullets go next" argument doesn’t apply.

I don’t need this angsty rubbish version of Supergirl.  I have a superb Supergirl series to watch on television, for free, and I just bought the first season because I liked it so much.  Why would I want to pay for an inferior monthly comic book?

The cover says it all about Aquaman.  This is the one where Superman and Aquaman battle it out.  Normally, superhero slugfests depress me because seldom is there a reason for them to fight.  What makes the story in Aquaman different and worthy of your time is that this fight was inevitable, there's a point and it’s not actually the new 52 Superman waging the battle.  It’s the Superman from another universe making the call.  So, you’re not absolutely sure exactly how he’s going to interact with Aquaman.  Dan Abnett gives Superman the benefit of the doubt.  He in fact writes him as if he’s really Superman.

Naturally, this velvet glove doesn’t go anywhere.  Aquaman tried to operate by the rules of the surface world, even submitting himself to incarceration before Mera broke him out after determining that the U.S. just wasn’t going to listen to reason, and forget diplomacy.

Strangely the Government, especially Mr. Gantry sees this new Superman as an improvement on the old one, who really didn’t kowtow to politics.  This amenable Superman appears to serve their needs quite well, but he’s no puppet.

The art by Brad Walker stunningly evolves excitement from the fisticuffs.  Normally the artist is the most important person in these arrangements.  However, Abnett’s dialogue raises the battle beyond that of simple disagreement.  It feeds from the characterization of the cast and touches on the history of Aquaman.  Abnett furthermore reinforces the strength of former Aqualad girlfriend Tula and grants a reasonable explanation for Aquaman’s temporary stay of execution.

In a powerful epilogue to the Gotham and Gotham Girl saga, Batman tries to rescue Gotham Girl from her self-destructive survivor’s guilt and pain over a loved one’s death.

How often have you wished that a story went one way, the better way, only to end up disappointed by the author’s pedestrian conclusion? I started out thinking Batman was about the Watchmen attacking the Dark Knight and that Gotham and Gotham Girl may be Watchmen offspring.  Then I considered the possibility that Gotham and Gotham Girl were Legionnaires disguising themselves to protect Batman from the Watchmen’s machinations.  Both of these story ideas were good, but what Tom King conjectured was just as good if not better.

King didn’t go with continuity, even if continuity such as the return of Matches Malone encompassed the tale.  This last chapter after-note is no different.  King uses continuity to balance the drama and pathos of the main plot.  Gotham Girl during the worst night of her life runs into Batman rogue also-rans like Colonel Blimp, an obscure villain from the seventies whose roots date back to the 1940s.

That’s not important.  Although it does allow Ivan Reis, Marcelo Maiolo and an army of inkers to perform superhero calisthenics and evoke nostalgic moments such as a gay blade’s ruthless rooftop assault.

More important is how Batman touches others and conveys warmth and understanding. 

Though frequently accused of being no better than his enemies, Batman has always distinguished himself through empathy with the victims of crime.  My one dislike about this story is that Batman doesn't seek to bring Amanda Waller to justice.  She's the perpetrator that first pushed the snowball.  She should pay.

Harley Quinn reads like a quirky B-Story from Amazing Stories or any one of a number of science fiction pulps.  It’s got that classic feel of an astronomical comedy where the aliens know way more than we do, and our primitive ignorance actually exacerbates our own dilemmas.  

The story began with a plague of zombies.  The zombies stormed Coney Island, and that’s Harley Quinn’s territory.  A fight broke out with Quinn and the residents of the property she inherited way, way back in the debut defending themselves.  Poison Ivy, Harley’s on-again-off-again lover, showed up to the rescue.  I'm surmising this because I’ve got a real low tolerance for zombie anything, and I skipped the previous issue.  Fortunately, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner humor my primitive ignorance.  They summarize without belaboring the point.

The layouts are by legendary action babe artist Brett Blevins, finished by Harley Quinn regulars Chad Hardin and John Timms.  Both Conner and Palmiotti are artists, and they also probably have an indelible influence on the final product.   They no doubt mandated that women must be bitchin’ and dangerous.

Because it’s a “horror movie” that’s why.  

Apologies however are unnecessary.  Even without the shower scene and the lesbian text between Harley and Ivy, this issue of Harley Quinn would be worth reading for the pure giddiness of a zombie plague dispelled in an instant; the goofy Deadpool sendup juxtaposed against the survivors’ simple search for food and the cast’s realization that they’re in a horror movie and they shouldn’t do what the fools in horror movies do.  An actual realistic conversation between Harley and Ivy about taking their relationship to the next level is perhaps the weirdest thing of all in the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment