Wednesday, May 24, 2017

POBB May 17, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag 
May 17, 2017
Ray Tate

Welcome to the Pick of the Brown Bag.  My name is Ray Tate.   In this blog I pick the best and worst comic books of the week.  

If you don't see a comic book amongst the contenders, it usually means mediocrity or ignored.  However, this posting of the POBB was an epic fail.  

I couldn't process all the reviews in one fell swoop.  Furthermore, a couple of covers threw me.  So, I actually missed titles not on my subscription list like The Flash that I've been following.  

The Tweets are all current.  Therefore, whenever I blow it, or you haven’t any time for the blog, and you need advice, check me out on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

For this installment of the Pick of the Brown Bag I look at Batman, Green Lanterns, Nightwing, Satellite Falling, Superman, Trinity and Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman.  

In the latest issue of Satellite Falling, Lily engages in a final duel with a representative of the racist earth.  Her alien ally Holden faces grave danger in the heart of space, and pirates attempt to scuttle her crew's journey home.

There's no disguising my disappointment with Satellite Falling's conclusion.  First, Stephen Thompson isn't on hand to illustrate.  

Martin Morazzo is a decent artist, but this new version of Lilly starkly contrasts her appearance in the first four issues.

I understand that each artist will have his or her own interpretation of the same characters, but these characters shouldn't look like different people.  Why are Lily's ears now so prominent? Why doesn't she have eyebrows? Why does she have a gap between her teeth?  None of these changes make sense.  Especially the gap.  It's the alien future.  Technology should be able to regenerate teeth.

Morazzo's choice of style is a valid one, but I'd wager Thompson studied illustrators like Virgil Finlay, Kelly Freas and Wayne Barlowe.  As a result, Satellite Falling became a stunning tapestry of pulp science fiction aestheticism and exotic diversity.  Now, it looks cartoony.  On the flip side, Morazzo's illustration of the rescue is above competent.

Both Stephen Horton and Morazzo deserve credit for the unseen pirate battle that's nevertheless exciting because of the staging and originality.  Overall however this isn't the best written issue of Satellite Falling.

What exactly happened in act one? I understand that the Ghostbusters Trap went kaboom off of the bad guy's forcefield, but why is there a Ghostbusters Trap floating in the book anyway?

Although the heroes-welcome-home scene makes sense, it and the moments that dovetail are a little too rushed.  The return to Satellite, the recognition, the consequences of the genetic weapon, the adoption, the where are they now reflection, the toast to lost comrades all squeeze together without room to breathe.  Each of these elements offers enough material for issues of exploration.  

Sam Humphries' Green Lanterns training day story is as entertaining as I hoped it would be.  Guy Gardner puts Jessica Cruz through the wringer.

Artist Eduardo Pansica creates a ridiculously over the top Guy Gardner.  Guy's anatomy is realistic.  His cheerfully horrible expressions are unlovely exaggerations.  

Jessica Cruz is a stunner.  That's been a consistency since her debut in Justice League.  However Pansica eschews cheesecake emphasis.  In each panel, Jessica is very clearly exhausted.  This just doubles the comedy.  

Your first reaction to Jessica is that she could be a model.  Guy's got her toting green engines on her back, on long treks up mountains.  The sight of Kilowog startled her last issue, but as you can see, Jessica learned there are worse things in the universe than Kilowog.  All of them named Guy.  Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner takes Simon Baz out of his comfort zone.

In other words, Simon encounters Freakazoid's biggest fan.  Kyle the most creative of the Lanterns humiliates Baz.  You'll also note that the rules Kyle sets down, reflective of Green Lantern history intersecting with Batman, become the enraged fuel for Jessica's revenge.  So there's a nice switch of roles in the plot.

Superman.  Oh, Superman.  I’ve been enjoying the hell out of “Black Dawn.”  So why did you pie me in the face? 

This chapter starts out so well.  What seems to be the Big Bad of the piece ensnares Lois Lane, but this isn’t the lousy Lois Lane from a couple of months ago.

This is the rejuvenated take-no-prisoners Lois Lane that’s a career woman, champion, wife and a mom.  She wears the glove from Batman’s Hellbat armor, which came in handy for loads of awesome tactics last issue.  Lois however contends against something no normal human can overcome.  Even one with a fistful of Batman tech.

If there’s a top ten list of stupid moves a villain can make, torturing Lois Lane must be number one.  When you hurt Lois Lane, you get this.

When Lois is threatened or worse, Superman’s an unstoppable force.  Even Batman would fail miserably against him.  Superman’s rage is palpable throughout artist Doug Mahnke’s panels, yet he’s still Superman and filled with mercy.  

This is in fact the very heart of the plot.  As the story plays out, events become stranger.  Superman and Lois Lane battle against the County of Hamilton and a slew of monsters manifesting from nowhere.  Writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason juxtapose the parents’ plight against a bound Jonathan Kent forced to watch.

Liar.  The speaker levies bullshit arguments as attractive as his cigar.  The monsters are all his doing.  Their behavior is a result of his chaos.  Superman cannot present a counterargument because of the alien sanctions, nor can he show Jon the monsters in their normal states.  The villain of the piece is a dim memory from Superman’s roster of sphincters and low-level foes bloated with power just to make them punchable.  I hoped never to see this utter twat again.  Alas.  

In Tom King's latest, Batman teams up with Swamp Thing to investigate a murder that's personal to the Champion of the Green.

Where to begin with this stand-alone masterpiece? Batman and Swamp Thing have a long history.  In the Bronze Age, Swamp Thing traces the murderers of his wife Linda Holland to Gotham City.  

Batman and Swamp Thing meet again twice in The Brave and the Bold.  Most however are familiar with the edgier Batman/Swamp Thing encounters under Alan Moore’s aegis.  This issue of Batman marks their first partnership in the modern age, and it’s a true mystery.

King’s erstwhile co-creator Mitch Gerads evokes surreal imagery as the swamp comes to Wayne Manor.  Swamp Thing and Batman conduct an unusual dialogue, which seems to be exactly as weird and holistic as you expect.  It however punches with more impact at the conclusion.  After listening to Swamp Thing's case, Batman decides to help.  

Batman’s detective work is sharp and accurate.  He first move is to investigate the strange circumstance of the victim’s death.  This leads him to a mover and shaker of well known status in Gotham City.  From there he interrogates a wheeler and dealer.  Observation and deduction combined with the killer's signature reveals the identity of the culprit.  In one of the humorous undercurrents, Swamp Thing takes Batman right to the killer’s current whereabouts.  So it ends, but it doesn’t.

King’s finale is subjective.  Swamp Thing’s answer to why he came to Gotham is interpretive.  Batman’s reaction is priceless.  The final act incorporates drama and comedy.  Swamp Thing’s actions seem to return Batman to childhood.  He does the only thing he can.  A pyrrhic gesture at best.  What’s furthermore remarkable is that Swamp Thing and Batman smoothly switch definitions.  

I picked the most innocuous visuals in a book brimming with extraordinary panels to keep the secrets and safeguard the comic sensibilities.  In general, Gerads' art is perfect for King’s story.  Gerads adds an extra pulpy spin to the whole affair.  He creates a very human, textured Batman that’s contrasted with the strange beauty of Swamp Thing.  This is not to say that regular artist David Finch or Mikel Janin wouldn't have done as good of a job.  Gerads' rendering is simply different and apt for the quirky atmosphere.

Wonder Woman and Bionic Woman only becomes notable in the last act where Jaime, Diana and visiting Wonder Girl Drusilla breach the bad guys’ lair and fight Fembots.  The cadre of evil doctors though anticipated the Amazon’s arrival and programmed the robots to counter her interference.  This creates a strong cliffhanger.

To get here, we have to wade through an interminable amount of boring exposition, an embarrassing comparison of Steve Trevor and Steve Austin, a sleep-inducing tour of Paradise Island, with far too many introductions and a Big Bad jamboree of lifeless dialogue.  A skippable issue I’m sorry to say.

I avoided Trinity for the same reason I eschewed Superman and Wonder Woman.  I had no interest in the Superman/Wonder Woman romance.  Unlike some fans, I wasn’t vehemently opposed to the match.  I just saw no reason to become invested.  Superman and Lois Lane are eternal.  I felt the tryst was temporary at best.  With the restoration of Superman’s history, we now know that to be true.  

From Action Comics #978

According to the restored history, there never was a romance.  So, I can peruse Trinity, a comic series with a focus on Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, without any ephemeral distractions.

My original interest in Trinity originates from Francis Manapul as writer/artist.  I’ve kept my eyes open for Manapul.  Way, way back, Manapul illustrated Witchblade.  

His work adhered to the Image style of house-art.  A sort of skewed Anime leaning into traditional western comic book illustration. Manapul however stood out as an overall good artist.  His anatomy and expression were better than most.  The Powers That Be likely chose him to class up what once was merely T & A, to equate with a still highly regarded television series.

Manapul evolved over the years to what you see currently.  The unique look debuted in The Flash.  Because this issue of Trinity guest-stars the Justice League, you’ll get to see Manapul once again rendering Barry Allen spectacularly.

The story, “Dead Space” begins with the aftermath of an attack on the Justice League Watchtower.  Manapul gives the frequently forgotten Cyborg a moment to shine, for he is the one that alerts Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman to action.

The splash page is significant because Manapul knows that this is actually the first moment where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have reunited, with respect to Superman’s reconstitution.  On the Watchtower, Manapul characterizes the trio while demonstrating their talents and powers.

Trinity doesn’t disappoint.  In terms of writing and illustration, Manapul exhibits a flair for the three heroes, and his return to the Flash is as funny and eventful as you can hope.  The plot is simple though strong, and this issue is an excellent jump-on point for new readers.

Nightwing is a good, solid stand-alone team-up of once partners in justice Nightwing and The Flash (Kid Flash, if you prefer).  The reunion isn't breaking any new ground, but writer Luke McMillian exhibits empathy with the characters and knowledge about current events in Dan Abnett's Titans.

McMillian's recognition of the now allows for a more cohesive plot and lively dialogue.  His overall understanding of the heroes' strengths fortifies the plot even more.

The story begins simply enough.  Nightwing interrupts a hold up, but McMillian asks the question what if we twisted that ordinary superhero trope this way.  You get an unexpected outcome that requires the timely intervention of The Flash. 

After serving and protecting, Dick and Wally go out for a night on the town.  These scenes read ordinary, yet they're well-written because they still hold your attention.

Nightwing's reputation as a hound from the previous era thankfully diminished with the New 52.  It was extremely annoying how many female superheroes fell into that undeserving ass' bed.   McMillian presents believable occurrences such as instant attraction, but ultimate disinterest.  He furthermore demonstrates that because of Dick's and Wally's strong parental influences, they're kind of square.  Opting for sharing popcorn at a revival of an old pirate movie.

The movie acts doubly.  It's the perfect venue for extraordinary crime.  

McMillian proves himself capable of infusing new life into the typical superhero vs villain device.  I also like how the criminal's successes escalate his level of evil and the natural generation of risk McMillian evolves.  Nightwing's plot never seems forced, and artists Christian Duce and Chris Sotomayor are in perfect synch with the writer's aims.

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