Wednesday, January 18, 2017

POBB January 11, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
January 11, 2016
by
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag welcomes you to comic book reviews of new title The Deep, Earth 2 Society, Flash Gordon, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Justice League, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Red Sonja and Titans.   No time for the POBB? Check me out on Twitter #PickoftheBrownBag.


The latest issue of All-New Wolverine was good but nothing special.  Tom Taylor however when going the creator-owned route with The Deep, produces an absolutely lovely book that combines the Fantastic Four, Aquaman and Hanna-Barbera cartoons.  


I suppose you can argue The Deep also incorporates elements from the Silver Age Sea Devils from DC comics, but I feel The Deep’s premise goes way beyond scuba-diving.  I like the Sea Devils by the way.  No bones to them.


Co-Creator James Brouwer as you can see imbues an inviting cartoon style to the narrative.  The character design throughout excites with a singular look that expresses action, interaction and expression.  As well, it grants scope to the wide blue and a Blue Whale that becomes the crux of the crew of The Aronnax’s investigation.

The Aronnax alludes to Professor Pierre Aronnax, the narrator from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  In case you’re keeping track this is the third recent reference to Jules Verne in pop culture: NEMO is the evil organization from Aquaman and Nemo Holmes lies on one of the farcical gravestones at Musgrave in the latest season of Sherlock.  No worries.  That’s not a spoiler.

When we first tune into the crew of The Aronnax it’s a tit-for-tat dialogue between sister Fontaine and little brother Ant in a comedic training session.  Kaiko their mother puckishly interrupts their argument and later joins her husband Will.  Will demonstrates where Ant gets his pluck and imagination.


And it’s off to search for sea monsters.  The purity of this family of explorers is just so engaging that they’ll charm your socks off.


Tom Taylor also applies his talent to an unexpected team-up between the Justice League and the Might Morphin Power Rangers.  As I mentioned in another blog entry, I didn’t just glom onto everything as a kid or adolescent.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers never appealed to me.  I just saw them as Americanized Japanese sentai, which I found out, later, that yeah, that’s exactly what they were.  


They reminded me thematically of Godzilla.  It was a case of producers deciding that Japanese heroes wouldn’t appeal to stupid Americans.  So, they needed to insert representatives of the U.S.A.  I preferred the original Ultraman and the Science Patrol.


Anyway, Taylor’s introducing me to the Power Rangers, and he does a good job of it.  They’re nothing awe-inspiring but neither are they loathsome.  Kids gifted with superpowers that protect the earth.  I’ve heard worse.

Taylor’s story opens in the future where the Justice League and the Power Rangers already established a rapport.  I’m guessing Taylor did this to assuage readers; although the Rangers and the League will fight, they will quickly ally.  Audiences are tired of superheroes trying to kill each other.  They’ve been tired of it for years.  Sure, we like hilarious squabbles like those in Captain America: Civil War, but not an outright duel.  Unless it has contextual dramatic impetus, like the one in Captain America: Civil War.  I guess what I'm saying is that Marvel movies always get it right.


Our team-up then shoots to the past where the Rangers teleport to various places in search of their missing robot.  It’s a trap of course, and this allows Taylor to strut out the villain of the piece.


In the classic tradition of Star Trek, a transporter accident sends the Rangers to the Justice League’s earth.  Not wanting to waste time, Taylor unleashes the big guns.


First Turtles and Now…

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Justice League is a fun, inventive mash with appealing artwork by Stephen Byrne.  If you’re a fan of either one of the teams, you’ll definitely want to pick it up.


The Sandmen sweep over the world to intercept the Justice Society in Earth 2 Society.  This is nothing more or less than page after gorgeously illustrated page of a big battle between the minions of evil and the forces of good.  


In between our heroes save lives.  Batman plots out the solution to the problem, and the Big Bad throws off the veil to a surprise cliffhanger.  I eat this kind of stuff up.  Seconds, please.


The Titans on the other hand is a laid back kind of issue.  The tale begins with Titans Wally, Donna and Roy fighting a giant in Manhattan.

No need to look him up.  He’s nobody and dealt with that way.  His defeat however isn’t a proper victory.  Now that the feel goodness of Wally’s return has become the norm, the Titans can do what they do best.  Argue.

From that Titans tradition, writer Dan Abnett segues to the idea that the Titans are not really a tradition on this earth.  The smooth transition and blending of plot and characterization just made me want to weep.  Abnett’s intriguing notions of what constitutes authenticity interweave through this title and Earth 2 Society.  At times he seems to be saying that memory and experience is more important than corporeal history.  This also explains his ready embrace of Lois Lane as the Red Tornado.  Titans is philosophical science fiction even when it’s not trying to be.


Abnett is probably the second best writer of this version of Superman.  He already guested him in Aquaman and treated him fairly as nevertheless a different Man of Steel.  You see, you can write this guy as an acceptable avatar of Superman.  You don’t have to turn him into a prick.  Superman knows Wally.  He lays down some good advice while having fun and enjoying the Titans’ return.

Juxtaposed against this is a laugh-out-loud funny tour of the new status quo.  Lilith (Omen) uses her phenomenal telepathic skills to find out how many new forms the Titans need to fill out.  Nightwing reveals their new transport.  Abnett’s dual writing of Titans and Aquaman allows him to give Aqualad more depth than anybody, and it’s all wrapped in a bow for the reader by neoclassic realist Lee Weeks.  So pretty.


Red Hood and the Outlaws concludes with Jason Todd defeating Black Mask in a fairly clever way.  The team in addition gels, but the really impressive thing about Red Hood and the Outlaws occurs after all that.  Jason confronts Batman, and the reaction is a little different than what you might expect after watching so many histrionic fits from Nightwing and a stoic Dark Knight during the post-Crisis.  Scott Lobdell understands what Batman is about, and he is easily the best man for Jason Todd.


Ming the Merciless finds a superb means to conquer the earth.  It turns out that by using the Gatestone, a wormhole creating device, he can move bits and pieces of Mongo to our planet.  Flash, the Phantoms, Mandrake, Dale and Zarkov investigate one such satrap, and they find themselves betrayed by the government.  The look on their faces, courtesy of the superb Jesse Hamm, really say it all.  Jeff Parker’s dialogue underscores the hopelessness of their situation.  

As you may expect, the Defenders of the Earth are not blown to bits.  During that scene the creative team creates a moving panel involving a little girl listening to a radio broadcast of what transpires.  The moment neatly frames what’s at stake.  I actually had that look on my face when I saw The Day After.  Still the most realistic nuclear holocaust movie ever made.


The Defenders recover and find new menaces from Mongo to fight.  At this point you realize that Parker is now detailing the long history of animosity between Flash and Ming.  Technically speaking, most of the role call in King’s Cross have known Ming just as long as Flash Gordon, unless you factor in the movie, television, serials, radio programs and of course the original comic strips by Alex Raymond.  

That’s what I think Parker is doing with Flash Gordon King’s Cross.  He’s adding to that history.  He planted the seeds in the first series.  Ming sees Flash as a distraction and challenge.  Flash is actually too innocent to hate anybody, even his nemesis.  So, he can in fact compliment Ming on his tactics while still thinking him as an evil menace.

Last but not least, Amy Chu’s and Carlos Gomez’s new take on Red Sonja builds on the mysteries and the antic of last issue.


Yes.  That lunatic Kulan Gath sent the She-Devil into the twentieth century.  Here, her reputation remains unknown, and she cannot ken the strange tongue they speak.  Curiously though, somebody can understand her.


Sonja is not a super-being.  She’s super-healthy, especially the way Gomez draws her.  So, it’s no surprise when she finds herself overpowered.  Chu uses this natural advancement of the story to display Sonja’s intelligence.  Much as Conan did in an issue of What If? Sonja begins to comprehend the world around her.


This knowledge however cannot help her in a strait-jacket, but Chu adds a new twist to what typically happens when the fictional clashes with the real.


Chu’s energetic stranger in a strange land comic has more fun in store for the reader.  Alas, though Sonja gains a coat.  I knew this would happen.


No, no, no! Don’t zip up! Awww…Damn it.

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