Monday, May 29, 2017

POBB May 17, 2017 Part II

Pick of the Brown Bag 
May 17, 2017
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag's continuing coverage of the mother lode of comics books on the week of May 17, 2017.  For this installment, I review Aquaman, the Deep, Justice League and the Might Morphin Power Rangers, Monsters Unleashed and Red Sonja.

Aquaman looks surprised on the cover, and that’s a fitting reaction.  While he investigated the reappearance of the monster Deep Water in “H.20” a recommended “Who Goes There?” homage, the terrorist group, the Deluge took over Atlantis under their leader Corum Rath.

The Deluge are a group of racist Atlantean kooks.  They do not accept Aquaman as the rightful king of Atlantis and abhor the surface world.

Aquaman has been deposed before, but what makes Dan Abnett’s story different is that it reflects current political climate.  

The Deluge mirror the technologically savvy racists that elected Donald Trump.  They do not accept Arthur as King much in the same way Birthers refused to accept Barack Obama as President, American or human.  Unlike Birther vs Obama, Arthur’s humanity disgusts the Deluge, and they believe his heritage diminishes his right to rule Atlantis.

Corum Rath is of course Donald Trump.  Added to what Mera said and an eternal bad hair day, he exhibits the same kind of treasonous bent, such as the desire to destroy Bill of Rights.  

Aquaman and Mera would dispose of Rath and the Deluge quite easily if the loons weren’t enabled by the Council of Elders and goofy fortune-telling cult the Widowhood.  

You can argue the Atlantean high muckily-mucks add a congressional and religious component to the parallel, but that doesn’t quite work.  The Council of Elders are comprised of learned men and women.  The Widowhood consist entirely of women.  These attributes obviously counter real life.  

The Elders are fed up with Aquaman's want to play super-hero.  Do your job as King, Aquaman.  That seems like a valid reason for the usurp.  In truth, Aquaman's role as a champion of justice preserved Atlantis from being wiped off the face of the earth.  Although technologically advanced, Atlantis would not have withstood the horrible might of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Indeed, Aquaman's hands-on approach to ruling always benefits Atlantis.  His regent Tula handled the day to day activities. Furthermore, Aquaman's mutant abilities--yes, he's a mutant--make his activity less risky in comparison to true life warrior kings or modern day officials protected by operatives.

Abnett also draws upon Brexit's isolationist attitudes and the overall general idiocy associated with global politics.  However, thanks to the artistic input of Scott Eaton, Wayne Faucher and colorist Gabe Eltaeb Aquaman is much more exciting than "Stupid Watergate."

For all-ages action at sea I recommend Tom Taylor’s and James Brouer’s The Deep.  The focus is on a family of aquanauts: Will, Kaiko, Fontaine and Antaeus Nekton.  Last issue, they discovered the island of Taratuga, off the coast of Brazil, is free-floating.

Usually, when somebody discovers such a thing Gamera can’t be too far behind, but I don’t see any kaiju behind this anomaly.  

This island is inhabited.  The denizens civilized.  The governor’s so civilized that he’d like the Nektons to not upset the tourist trade.  So, it’s up to the family of voyagers to find out what’s going on delicately.

The old man positioned behind Will is named Nereus.  They picked him up in the last adventure when he posed as an ordinary fisherman.  He appears to be a Merlinesque figure, but there are limits to his knowledge.

The Deep is impeccably researched.  Although Taratuga doesn’t exist, the map to which Will refers does.  The ancient map suggests that Taratuga always has been a free-floating island, and Will decides to find out why and how it may tie-in to his holy grail of research.  Meanwhile, Ant and Fontaine go spelunking.

I like that the parents don’t coddle their children.  Ant and Fontaine are explorers and budding scientists.  They send a positive message about both aspects in life.  Though they get into trouble, they don't actually look for it.  Ant and Fontaine are cautious but curious. It’s a long way down the cavern, and brother and sister have a chat about what happened last issue.

Ant taught his fish Jeffrey how to fetch, and that came in handy when the Nektons were trapped in a ravaged mini-sub.  Fontaine has yet to live it down.  She thought it impossible to teach a fish to do anything.  Ant of course lords it over her in hilarious scenes as they descend.  Their rappel-conversation is somewhat reminiscent of Batman and Robin talking as they climb up and down the side of a building ala Adam West and Burt Ward.  

Tom Taylor is also behind Justice League and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Although I never could count myself among the fans of MMPR, Taylor made this book fairly user friendly.  The kids are all right.  Even Batman approves.

Batman’s really an old softie when you think about it.  He’s gruff and grim because he cares, especially about teenagers that might be biting off more than they can chew.  Chalk that up to his experience training Robin.  However, the MMPR proved their skill and want to do good, and that’s good enough for the Dark Knight.  

Some may object to this personality, and prefer the automaton from the post-Crisis.  I am not one of those people.  I grew up with the Justice League in the Bronze Age of comics and the Silver and Golden Age reprints.  I found the Silver Age to be somewhat silly but acceptable.  The Bronze Age however is cogent, a fine strike between sophistication and the gee-whiz childhood wonder of the Golden Age.  The Bronze Age informs the New 52.

Throughout the series, Taylor builds on Black Ranger Zack’s characterization.  In this issue, we see him experience a horror courtesy of Brainiac.  Taylor creates an excellent reason why the Justice League cannot interfere with Brainiac’s collection process.  Brainiac’s m.o. furthermore sets the ticking clock.

For me though, the coolest thing in the book is without a doubt the moment that the Justice League need to heft the Cern Large Hadron Collider.

Artist Stephen Byrne creates the perfect moment demonstrating that the Justice League isn’t just any supergroup.  They do the impossible.

Like The Damned Cullen Bunn’s Monsters Unleashed is a mess, but because of Marvel’s history, it makes perfect sense and entertains to no end.  In fact this could be a really amazing animated series.  The newcomers to the Marvel mash are Kei Kawande known as Kid Kaiju and his monsters and robots, which literally breathe life from the pages he illustrates.  Kid Kaiju’s creations are distinct and gorgeously drawn to scale by David Baldeon.

Elsa Bloodstone is his bodyguard.  Elsa brings her terrific cynical personality to the mix.  It’s the perfect tonic to the wish fulfillment element.  

As the "pasty toads" may have clued, Kid Kaiju’s not behind all the monsters.  They instead battle the Leviathons, creatures from elsewhere that attacked the earth in the former miniseries.  The Mole Man now commands the Leviathons, but he’s only one in a cadre of mad geniuses.

Wonder Woman and Bionic Woman tried to do something similar.  Shebang all of their bad guys for a mad roundtable.  All we got is a round of boring exposition and biographies.  Bunn and Baldeon do it right.  We’ve got backstabbing, betrayal and threats as each bad brain hold it together while being forced to work with inferior intellects: MODOK, Mr. Sinister, The Thinker and the Leader.  Monsters Unleashed is rated T for teen, but I think this is great stuff for comic book fans of all-ages.  It's how the Hanna-Barbera Godzilla cartoon series should have played.

In a battle against Red Sonja, Khulan Gath cast a spell that transported the and his adversary into the future.  Gath arrived earlier than Sonja who dropped into a present already influenced by Gath, a financier of great renown.  Sonja met Officer Max Mendoza who learns of his own secrets.  She finds the new world she inhabits strange but amenable.  Sonja makes new allies and renews her enmity against Gath, who tries to kill her by sending a dragon at the museum where she and Max confronted Gath.  Gath is certain the She-Devil is now dead, and opts for random carnage.  

Sonja and Max survived the onslaught and now with their friends including, Amy Chu apparently being a G.I. Joe cartoon fan, Lady Jay.  Who was one of the coolest Joes.

As you can see, a new artist helps regular illustrator Carlos Gomez.  Marcio Fiorito has a vastly different style, and a greater love for intricate detail.  I still prefer Gomez’s fluid anatomy which creates a unique frisson.

However, Fiorito still renders within the tradition’s demands, and does it beautifully. 

The whole of the book details the formation of a plan to end Gath’s reign and save the city from the dragon.  Max’s attributes trigger ideas from Sonja’s sharp allies, while she and Max provide the lure.

Gath cannot resist smiting Sonja himself, but this is a trap in progress that Sonja and Max must first test.  This issue of Red Sonja is another winner, filled with interesting interaction between an eccentric cast of characters.  The plot fascinates because its all a test phase, and Chu emphasizes the bravery of the players because they don’t know if their plans will work at all.

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