Monday, November 28, 2016

POBB November 23, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 23, 2016
Ray Tate

Loosen your belt and relax with the latest issue of the Pick of the Brown Bag.  I’m Ray Tate, and in this blog, I review the best and worst comic books.  This week it’s time for critiques of Batgirl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Futurama, The Mighty Thor, Scooby-Doo Team-up, Ultimates, Wonder Woman and Wynonna Earp: Legends.

Civil War screwed up a lot of comics.  This includes The Ultimates.  After writer Al Ewing tantalized the reader with a Galactus cured of his hunger, turned cosmic gumshoe and Life-Bringer, crap from the Civil War ensued.  I couldn’t have cared less.  Ewing and company must have realized what happened.  Because check out what they’re promising for the following year of The Ultimates.

You don’t promise a year’s worth of stories dealing solely with The Ultimates and their missions unless you’re cognizant about how many readers were lost to The Civil War, nor do you pick up where you left off before The Big Stupid Event Occurred.

How can we not know who or what bound Eternity?  If Ewing thought that the Civil War was actually worthy of Ultimates reader interest, he would have revealed these secrets during the last volume of The Ultimates.  Instead, he’s paying only lip service to the ramification of the Civil War.

Ewing summarizes the schism that split the Ultimates during the Civil War, and guess what? I still have no idea what went down, other than it involved Spider-Man and T’Challa’s ethics.  Still don’t care either.  Instead, Ewing draws upon Carol’s seldom used Cosmic Awareness and the Black Panther’s spiritual legacy dreams to take the baby steps to bring the gang back together.  There’s still one problem.

Carol as it turns out doesn’t need to trust Black Panther.  All the Ultimates have been selected by a higher power to return to their original mission, and it ain’t either of these two that’s going to lead that mission.  So, their opposing views mean diddly and squat.  

Outside of the elephant in the room, Ewing’s humor enriches the much improved artwork of Travel Foreman.  He seems more at home here than on Animal Man or Justice League United.  There’s some fascinating discussion about the workings of superpowers between the Blue Marvel, attempting to fill the void left in the Marvelverse by Reed Richards, and Monica Rambeau.  I’d refer to her as Spectrum, but she changes her name at the drop of a hat.  The big reveal involves the last actual Ultimate antagonist Anti-Man, given something good to do for a change, and hell, that whole setup leading to the very last page? Shivers.

Futurama surprises with a most unexpected sendup.  It all begins with Professor Farnsworth building a reversal gun, that does what it says.  It reverses the function of an object.  What might one do with such a ray beam?  The answer becomes apparent to Bender who takes steps to secure his future of loafing.

Fry being in possession of a special brain forgets about the gun and searches for a pack of ancient gum left behind at the cryogenics lab which catalyzed his trip to the future.  Fry being Fry becomes trapped once again in a cryogenics tube.  Only this time, he fires the gun while in transit.  The result is an unexpected yet delightful theme.

Futurama spoofs the swordplay of medieval times and all the media that exploited the era from Game of Thrones... Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The hilarious story features robot jousts with Bender mistaking Fry as a sorcerer.

And benefits from great art work by James Lloyd, Andrew Pepoy and Nathan Hamill.

The artists as you can see grant greater attention to the more realistic anatomy of the Futurama design.  A one-eyed, purple haired peasant hasn't ever looked this hot before.

In Scooby-Doo Team-Up Moltar and Zorak damage the Phantom Cruiser and force Space Ghost to land on earth to make repairs.  At the same time Fred, Shaggy, Scooby, Velma and Daphne happen to be visiting an Astrophysics Lab that receives a strange warning.  The clever ruse leads to a series of misunderstandings caused by Space Ghost's powers.  Some predictable yet funny others cleverly upending conventions.

More hi-jinks ensue when Space Ghost takes the Gang to the moon to deal with his enemies.

Jan, Jace and Blip compare notes with Fred and company, countermeasures smartly thwart the schemes of Moltar and Zorak.  There was no way a Space Ghost and Scooby-Doo mash could be bad, but it didn't have to be this good.

Cavan Scott’s latest Doctor Who is a treat for any fan.  Scott grants us something we would have loved to witness on television.  The Doctor reunites with one his oldest, dearest and consistent friends.

As you can see by artist Chris Bolson’s dead-on accurate artwork, the Brigadier is in fighting form.  The same can be said for the Doctor himself and the Doctor’s companions including Harry Sullivan, a contemporary of the Brigadier.

Harry joined Sarah Jane and the Doctor during the Time Lord’s fourth era.  The gang’s all here to combat giant monsters that are somehow tied into astral projection.

The computer/mind interface ties in nicely with the continuity of human history in Doctor Who.  The scientific exploration of psychic phenomena was wildly popular in the seventies, and Doctor Who used the concept to kick off several stories in that period.  The pseudoscience reached a science fiction crescendo during the fifth Doctor episode “Warriors from the Deep.” 

In that story, humans were tasked to control the launch of a nuclear arsenal using their minds.  A bad idea any year.

Here we appear to see the beginnings, including the dependence on drugs to enhance mental ability and to withstand the stress of the process.

Scott also cannily notes the schism between UNIT and the British government.  As established in “Terror of the Zygons” The Brigadier though a Scotsman, doesn’t serve the English government.  UNIT falls under the auspices of the United Nations which is stated in their original acronym.  Thus, there’s a war between UNIT and the bellicose human powers often within the British government that want to advance warfare using preternatural means. 

Mighty Thor offers readers a Mission Impossible type tale in which Thor reforms the League of Realms with some familiar faces...

...and not so familiar faces, thoughtfully given a narrative introduction.

Notice that SHIELD agent Roz Solomon represents Midgard.  Sif stands for Asgard.  Technically, Thor doesn't belong to any of the Nine Realms.  She is the protector of all, but her seeking agents for each nevertheless slyly conceals her secret identity.

The mission should you decide to accept it is to rescue Queen Aelsa Featherwine from the Dark Elves that proliferated Alfheim.  Sound easy?  Obviously you're not aware how this type of story works.  

The participants have skills up the wazoo.  The plan is strategically sound with roles for one and all.  Something however always goes wrong.  Even Jim Phelps' ploys hit unforeseen snags.

Jason Aaron's tale is typical of the genre but unusual for The Mighty Thor, and this contrast provides a stand-alone amusement.  It also helps to have the sumptuous art of Steve Epting on hand.

Wonder Woman is a story about secrets.  So, I'll be speaking about the issue in even vaguer terms.  The story opens to explain what Sasha Bordeaux is doing in Wonder Woman.

I must admit.   I didn't expect writer Rucka to even acknowledge that Bordeaux never had been part of the Wonder Woman mythology.  I assumed he planted Bordeaux in the book because she's his creation, but it turns out that Rucka anticipated the questions and head scratching.

The second secret involves Veronica Cale.  Rucka created Cale to be a Wonder Woman adversary, but in the sense of a thorn in Wonder Woman's side as opposed to being a straight up villain out to kill the Amazon.  The wheel turns for Cale.  Perhaps Rucka envisioned Cale to eventually become Wonder Woman's Moriarty, but the continuity of DC made the transformation difficult.  Given. A new 52/Rebirth clean slate, Rucka's plans fruit.

The third secret pertains to Paradise Island, and this one obliterates Brian Azzarello's original master-plan, or at least it logically should.  The Finches adhered to that continuity.  They only added a Donna Troy Homunculus and unexplained crone habitation on Themyscira.  Donna Troy is currently benefiting from a good vibrations memory restoration in the Titans.  So, surprisingly whatever Rucka has cooked up for Paradise Island doesn't actually affect her, for a change.  Scott Lobdell in Red Hood and the Outlaws already stated that Artemis is Egyptian, though she does know Wonder Woman intimately.  So, we can say their rivalry, whatever lies at the root, is safe.  Whatever chicanery goes on, it's interesting to watch another writer unravel what has gone before.  You don't get the sense that Rucka is doing this out of spite or disdain.  You simply accept that this must be.

Hope Larson concludes her first story for Batgirl with benign deconstruction.  Batgirl has one super power, that's found in real life, an eidetic memory.  For some, that's cheating, but eidetic memory is simply a tool.  I don't have an eidetic memory but I have a good memory.  That doesn't make me smart.  The application of memory demonstrates intelligence.  In this last chapter, Batgirl proves just how canny she is.  Since this also translates into kicking ass, Rafael Albuquerque has much to do.

In addition to this exploration, Larson shows Babs utilizing the culture and philosophy of those she battles.  Batgirl also doesn't roll with the strict letter of the law, despite her Commissioner's daughter upbringing.  Instead, she looks for an alternative fair solution to the juvenile delinquency that entangled her.  This further creates an opportunity for a good guest appearance.  In short, Batgirl is a multifaceted satisfaction.

I though I would try Buffy the Vampire Slayer again, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to plunge back into the world of the Chosen One.  The story opens with Buffy and Spike fighting “a worm said to be unknown to science.”

This is no accidental Sherlock Holmes references.  The new status quo frames the lovers as supernatural consulting detectives.  Later Giles will identify the worm as "mysterious worm" in Latin.

Faithful readers of the POBB will remember that a whole population of unfamiliar characters helped alienate me from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, post-Twilight, that is, which just made me seethe.  For this opener to Season Eleven, so far so good.  The spotlight rests on the characters from the television show.  Their roles are new but easy to understand.  Sherlock Holmes references.   The cops show up, but you expect the police, and Dowling is the only cop that gets a name.

The story next cuts to Willow teaching and performing magic with a new circle of Wicca.  No need for subtitles here and no introductions, thanks.  It’s also not a cold cut.  Buffy and Spike enter the apartment a few minutes later.  So, Willow sets the scene.  Spike and Buffy carryover.  We follow them up to the roof where Xander’s grilling for the rest of the Scooby Gang, mini-Giles and Dawn, who we discern from her dialogue that she is now legally Xander's love interest.

The discussion between the sisters only serves to reinforce their emotional bonds and assure the reader that nothing has changed.  Dawn doesn’t mention any specifics from the past seasons that are outside of the television series, apart from the Magic Council.  But hey, it’s in the phrase.  Buffy ran the Magic Council.  Done in one.  I furthermore appreciate Rebecca Isaacs designs for the more mature Buffy and Dawn as well as the remarkable likeness between Willow and actress Alyson Hannigan.

Writer Christos Gage brings out the Big Bad after the characters re-establish themselves, and for some reason, I think Gage was a fan of new American Godzilla.  Else, it’s pretty coincidental that a dragon attacks San Francisco.  Although, you do have a Chinatown excuse.  Isaacs demonstrates in this battle against the dragon that she’s not just about cartoony mirror images.  She draws Buffy the Vampire Slayer even closer to a traditional superhero.

Note.  Buffy wears a very cool outfit that’s a defacto superhero uniform.  She’s baring the Slayer weapon.  Throughout the duel against the dragon, she displays her powers as a Vampire Slayer, and in the aftermath, she and Spike do some pretty traditional superhero lifesaving.

All and all, the premiere of Season Eleven reminds me why I used to like this comic book.  So, maybe I can return this new run to the brown bag.

Wynonna Earp: Legends purports to focus on Doc Holiday, and yes, he gets some more dialogue and face time, but it’s really another Wynonna Earp series.   

If you haven’t been reading the comic book and lean more toward fanning over the bang-smack television show, Legends is the comic book for you.

I’ve been with the sporadic creator-owned comic book series since Wynonna Earp was a blonde nineties bad girl, and I’ve just been delighted with the success of the television show.  As I have stated in previous reviews, the television series differs from the comic book series, but it’s pretty clear that there’s an organic blending going on.  

Of course, Smith already changed Wynonna Earp to run with the times and chose artists like Enrique Villagran to reflect that shift.  For Legends it’s Wynonna Earp’s lovely Chris Evenhuis he of the on the money likeness of Melanie Scrofano and Tim Rozon.

This Legends series is the closest you’re going to get to a comic book similar to the television series.  I suspect this is a natural transformation.  Beau Smith probably had a hand in writing the Bible for the television series.  Else, he’d never be able to use the ideas prevalent on the series like the Black Badges, or Marshal Dolls.  It’s not a giant leap from U.S. Marshals Special Division to the sexier Black Badge.  Nichole Haught a county deputy on the television series showed up in the comic book as a Black Badge.  And so forth.  So, Smith could have been ready to evolve Wynonna Earp again when the television offer passed the green light.  

Anyway, this slick new Wynonna Earp series opens with the Black Badges hunting for a new demonic perpetrator.  We don’t exactly know what he is, but they find him all right.  

Smith takes this fellow to new heights of depravity, and he makes him one of Wynonna Earp’s more philosophical antagonists.  Surprisingly, he doesn’t actually kill everybody he meets.   It's  possible that he is simply amoral as opposed to immoral.  He doesn't care who lives and dies.  It's up to chance.

Wynonna's gun Peacemaker has been aglow since the very first episode of the show.  Here again, is another fusion, and although she confronts the demonic being on the rooftops.  It's Valdez that takes the prize.  

Valdez, is Beau Smith's Wonder Woman.  He even jokes about it in the story, with Evenhuis visually joining in on the fun.  Smith has always wanted to write Wonder Woman on a regular basis and even fully scripted the Xena/Wonder Woman team-up that DC killed in the post-Crisis.  Go ahead and scream.  I did.  Smith introduced the immortal Valdez in the pages of Wynonna Earp.  Maybe we'll get to see her in the flesh second season.  Like Doc, Valdez gets more lines, all of them funny.  

Perhaps, Smith chose Legends to better describe a Wynonna Earp thematic ensemble book.  For whatever the reason, the engrossing user friendly tale draws in all the principal players and concludes with a fascinating, apropos addition.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

POBB November 16, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
November 16, 2016
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag, a weekly review blog, gives thanks to Aquaman, Batman, Betty and Veronica, The Micronauts, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Wolverine.  First, a review of Ether.

Ether is a new book from Dark Horse by writer Matt Kindt and artist David Rubin.  It introduces a human scientist named Boone who travels to a magical realm called Agartha.

The big fellow is named Glum.  He’s the guardian of the Crossroads, and he’s why this trip to Agartha is a little different than a sore keister.

Before we get to the Mayor’s favor, Boone and Glum stride through a local bazaar, where the reader can enjoy a broad scope of Rubin’s Muppet-like aliens.

The favor is actually straightforward enough.  The Mayor wants Boone to solve the murder of Blaze, essentially the peacekeeper of Agartha.  Kidnt’s story posits a locked room mystery but with “magical” trappings and clue reflective of Rubin’s and his imagination.

Ether’s not a bad book but I couldn’t really get into it.  Boone is hard to take.  He comes across as an arrogant Adam Strange with Glum’s amusing method of transport substituting for the Zeta Beam.  There’s no Alanna.  So there’s no love story, the backbone of Adam Strange’s adventures.  While the art’s pretty, the focus on Boone is just off-putting.  The more interesting characters surround him in a sort of Nightmare Before Christmas motif, but the difference is that Jack Skellington was rich enough in characterization to stand out amongst the “we’re not mean” monsters of Halloween Town.  Boone is just a human, and not exactly one of our best or brightest.  

During IDW's license-fest crossover, the Micronauts traversed the Entropy Cloud and made it to earth, where they were promptly captured and fish-tanked.

It’s the classic kind of thing that scientists do to aliens, friendly or volatile, but some of the scientists on earth are real bastards.

The Federation would never do this kind of thing, and that’s what differentiates the Utopia of Star Trek from everything else.  Starfleet approaches each species as possibly sentient and tries to communicate with them.  They represent humanity’s full potential.  

The humans in The Micronauts exhibit greed, paranoia and hostility, which is a sad judgement and despite recent events not what I believe to be our true nature.  Still, it does make for some good entertainment when Acroyear struts his stuff accompanied by crackling honorable warrior/Klingon dialogue. 

Occasionally though, Acroyear finds something that even he is not big enough to chew on, and he needs a little help from his friends.

There’s more to the escape than meets the eye of course, but no the Transformers have nothing to do with it.  If however you skipped the Revolution crossover, you still won’t feel lost in a strong issue of The Micronauts.

In The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, a bizarre, obscure villain named Enigmo inexorably took over the planet.  It was however a quiet takeover.  He has the ability to multiply copies of himself into infinity.  

The most surprising thing about these issues is how writer Ryan North approached the subject.  North first somehow tripped over the short-lived Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation from The Thing where Enigmo debuted.  Thanks, wikipedia.  

Many writers would have used such a tale with such an antagonist as a stopgap story to wedge between something bigger and louder.  North though built this situation up naturally from a Squirrel Girl vacation that seemed to be a typically fun but dismissible done-in-one.  Instead, North ended part one on a cliffhanger and kept writing.  Rather than treat Enigmo as a D-Lister, North considered the consequences of such a power, turning him into a contender against the Avengers, the Defenders, the X-Men, everybody.

While creating chapter after chapter of increasing problems for Squirrel Girl and company, North nevertheless kept the humor high.  Thus, this is another of North’s and cartoonist Erica Henderson's rare but successful multipart comedies with potentially dramatic ramifications.  It's similar in unbalanced tone to Squirrel Girl’s rematch against Doctor Doom.  Ironically, another nut trying to take over the world.

For the conclusion, Squirrel Girl comes up with the idea of a heist, to steal back the planet from Enigmo.  Current Ant-Man Scott Lang a former career criminal intends to disabuse Doreen from the belief that fictional heists work.  He conceives a counter ploy using the rare good Enigmo.  The heist of course falls apart.  Heists always self-clean, even modified ones trying to be realistic.  The solution to the problem in fact rests with science.  A running theme in Squirrel Girl.  North wittily employs a well-known scientific property reader and hilariously distinguishes it from the real world applications via "the miracle exception" perpetuated by James Kaklios in The Physics of Super-Heroes.  It's the perfect punchline to a superb comedy.

The current Wolverine is the clone of the more familiar Hugh Jackman alter-ego.  She bears a lot of his attributes, but genetic meddlers turned her into a killer through different means.  They introduced a pheromone trigger that sends her into Logan’s natural berserker rage.  Last issue, an unknown subject mailed a sample of that trigger to Wolverine as a warning shot across the bow.  Wolverine responded by smartly running away with her miniature clone/sister Gaby into the woods.  Alas, the monsters have money, and soon pheromone was in the air.  A town would soon be dead.  SHIELD was not happy.

This issue deals with the baby-steps of SHIELD’s investigation into what went down and Wolverine’s subsequent escape from SHIELD custody.  All in all, it’s not a spectacular, groundbreaking issue of Wolverine, yet it still has merit.

Nick Fury is in charge of SHIELD, and he’s not willing to assume Wolverine just killed the town for fun.  There’s no bad writing trope of clean slate here.  He’s aware of Wolverine.  He’s read reports about her and studied her history.  He doesn’t believe a superhero just wakes up one day and says “Screw it.  I’m a villain now.”

Writer Tom Taylor respects Fury’s intelligence.  As a result, we get a smarter story.  The dominoes still fall in a way that feeds into expected drama, but nobody is insulted to excuse the needs of that drama.

Notice that Fury knowing Wolverine's healing factor tries to incapacitate Laura not kill her.  He’s a good enough marksman to hit her in the head, but he doesn’t.  That probably wouldn’t be fatal by the by, but a headshot would put Wolverine down for an hour or two.  Wolverines are probably the only science fiction creation that can laugh at Xander Harris’ advice to “Kill the head.”

Upon escape, Wolverine heads back to the cabin because nobody really knows that location.  She reconnects with Gaby and tries to do the mature, responsible thing that never works in fiction.

Taylor wisely eliminates this cliche through logic and characterization.  At the same time, he precludes the trap of having a character talk to themselves for the rest of the chase/manhunt, and includes a welcome spot of humorous imagery for Nik Virella to carry out.

On the surface Wolverine is a typical example of the misunderstood hero escapes plot line, but Wolverine is anything but typical and well worth your time.

When last we left the gang at Riverdale, Betty Cooper intended to save Pops’ Malt Shop from extinction.  Veronica Lodge on the other hand decided to throw out with her pals.  Her father is in fact behind the end of Pops.  The whole affair though sinks deeper.  Betty and Veronica while friends are also rivals, and moments such as big business taking over the little guy's station emphasize their frequent oil and water relationship.

Betty and Veronica is unbelievably beautiful thanks to Adam Hughes, which should no longer be considered a name and instead a descriptive of artwork that doesn’t have a right to be so utterly gorgeous.  It would work something like this.  Oh, wow.  I’ve never seen a sketch of a girl looking so Adam Hughes.

Hughes’ illustration isn’t just breathtaking.  His visual narrative structure is impeccable.  It enhances humor in an aesthetic museum quality good girl style.

That’s a legato.  Each panel represents a moment of time as well as an instant of emotion.  The flow of the scene leaves the reader in awe of Veronica’s machinations and her snark.  Seen in Betty’s POV, the sequence is filled with power and horror.

Alcoholic snowballs aren’t the only aces up Ms. Lodge’s sleeve.  The dark haired vixen draws upon a gamut of vices, which though brought to realistic life are none the less Archie styled squeaky clean.

Authenticity of anatomy usually translates into a plausible, common range of motion, but Hughes creates comedy from contrast.  He still operates within a comic strip exaggeration despite the characters now bearing extraordinary depth and validity.

You probably wouldn’t see a woman however young and limber hop up onto her knees on a countertop, and that’s one of the many elements that makes Betty and Veronica laugh out loud funny.

From the very start of Rebirth, writer Tom King related one story.  The advent and demise of Gotham and Gotham Girl, characters he created at a time when Legionnaires and Watchmen were charging up the DC Universe for a payoff far away from now.  The backdrop helped ground the optimistic heroes’ creation.  You couldn’t help think that they were part of the overall plot.  

Subsequent issues showed that Gotham and Gotham Girl, a brother and sister duo, manifested out of gratitude toward the Batman.  They were not Legion nor Watchmen.  They were just here to help Batman, to protect the city.  Once again, Batman had allies, but this would be brief.

Unbeknownst to the trio of heroes, Amanda Waller engaged the services of Hugo Strange and the Psycho Pirate.  Both villains escaped and went to Gotham to cause havoc.  Waller decided to erase her mistake by ending Gotham City.  Instead, she catalyzed the death of Batman's young hero compatriot and the insanity of Gotham Girl, a consequence of being exposed to the Psycho Pirate’s Medusa Mask.

Batman saw only one option.  Find the Psycho Pirate and the Medusa Mask.  Reverse Gotham Girl’s condition.  The trouble is that Strange sold the Psycho Pirate to Bane.  So, Batman being Batman dealt with the devil to form his own Suicide Squad.

This newest arc in which King explores the relationship between Catwoman and Batman in fact streams straight and true from his previous stories.  The Suicide Squad factor endangered Batman.  Gotham and Gotham Girl appear to save him.  The Suicide Squad factor blows back in Gotham and Gotham Girl’s faces.  Batman confronts Amanda Waller.  To save Gotham Girl, Batman lead a new Suicide Squad to Santa Prisca.  It all just rolls from the same source.  I’ll still be keeping quiet about what actually happens in the book, but suffice to say.  This story redefines the relationship between Batman and Catwoman.  

Catwoman began as an expert, but simple, jewel thief.  Unlike Batman’s other rogues, Catwoman was merely greedy and of course relished the thrill of glamorized crime.  She followed in the shadow of gentleman thieves like Raffles, Arsene Lupin and Flambeau, defying that old chestnut about honor.

Batman #2 Summer of 1940

Catwoman adhered to a moral code of conduct for the lion’s share of her history.  In the waning days of the Bronze Age, Catwoman actually reformed and became romantically involved with Bruce Wayne.  She eventually even learned Batman’s secret identity.

Each new universe produced a new life for Catwoman.  The new 52 retained Selina Kyle’s criminal past and her sense of decency, but the Powers That Be dispensed with the idea that Batman and Catwoman could not be involved.  In fact, in the new 52, they are younger but in contrast much more mature on-again-off-again lovers.  The fact that Catwoman is a criminal doesn’t faze Batman at all.  That’s because Batman is far more interested in pursuing murderers and city/world destroyers not somebody that steals from the one percent and frequently commits crime against criminals.

Either the editors of the Batman books or Tom King himself conjectured a new beginning for Catwoman that would restore the schism between Batman and Selina.  Batman and Catwoman are clearly in love.  The heat is palpable from Mikel Janin’s terrific artwork, but there’s a new obstacle in the way of a relationship, and Batman must obey the law.  Whereas it was perfectly plausible that Batman, a vigilante, would let a thief that caused no real harm go.  King places Batman in an impossible predicament.

That dilemma dictates Selina’s descent into a betrayal of Batman and her teammates.  Either that, or this is one of the cagiest ruses I’ve ever read.  Both possibilities make Batman a must buy.

NEMO, a very old criminal organization that controls the black market seas, made war with Aquaman by framing Atlantis for the slaughter of seamen from U.S. shipsThe setup couldn’t have come at a worst time.  Aquaman hoped to use embassies like Spindrift to open up a line of formal communication with the surface world.  The Sea King instead turns himself in.  Mera decides enough is enough.  She breaks her husband free, and Aquaman becomes a fugitive.  Mera not being remotely human is just an otherworldly criminal.  Things get so heated that the U.S. government engages the more receptive to authority Superman from another universe to stop him, but a show of Atlantean Force buys Aquaman some time to clear his and Atlantis’ name.

On the flip side of the coin, Black Manta engages a hostile takeover of NEMO.  He decides to launch a Shaggy Man attack against Amnesty Bay, Aquaman’s home, but things don’t go as planned.

The attack sends Aquaman to the hospital, and that should have given Black Manta a happy.  Except he seemed to reverse Aquaman's fortune.  For now it would be a pr disaster to run our scaled hero down.  So, the government backs off, and Aquaman basks in the glow of Amnesty Bay’s love for their hometown hero.  They’re even willing to tolerate the ever personable Murk.

Mera just learned of Aquaman’s plight last issue, and in this issue, she is concerned and pissed.  In natural sounding dialogue she chastises her consort and demonstrates her love for him.

At the same time, she voices less enthusiasm in marrying Arthur because of the Widowhood, a weirdo gyno-cult from Atlantis that foresaw the Kingdom’s downfall should Aquaman marry the Xebel Mera.  Yeah, there’s racism involved.  Don’t say there’s not.

This kind-of epilogue issue is nevertheless pretty spectacular.  There’s a resurgence of Aquaman’s strength in the eyes of the people, and the reaffirmation of his status in the Justice League.

Because it's Barry :)

At the same time, Aquaman gets closer to NEMO, but too late the hero, the story ends on a magnificent splash of surprising strategic violence perpetrated by Black Manta and his group.