Tuesday, May 30, 2017

POBB May 24, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
May 24, 2017
Ray Tate

Let me tell you something faithful POBB readers, after that killer two parter.  I’m almost glad there were so many mediocre books last week.  The review of comic books begins with All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, Angel, Batgirl, Batman 66 and Wonder Woman 77, Elektra, Jean Grey, the Old Guard, Scooby-Doo Team-Up and Star Lord Annual.  We’ll start however with the final books of the following week Nick Fury, Luke Cage and Thor, in that order.

Nick Fury is mostly still a case where the art by Aco makes the story completely immaterial.  

However, James Robinson adds a little more complexity to the proceedings.  With Aco, he creates a rival worthy of Fury.  Okay.  Nick Fury Jr.  However, we all know that black Nick Fury is supposed to be just Nick Fury.  These are the adventures of young Nick Fury via Samuel L. Jackson.

David Walker resuscitated Shaft for two Dynamite comic book mini-series, both literally and figuratively.  For Shaft Walker created the perfect grindhouse feel.  Walker spans the mystery genre when writing Luke Cage.  He opens with a private eye novel.

The zippy introduction segues to a traditional Agatha Christie styled setting where suspects introduce themselves in the drawing room of an old house.  Luke picks up clues here and at the funeral beforehand.  He just doesn't know it yet.

Lastly, we hit the spy drama.  The car chase is a staple.  When the gents behind the crash step out of the car, you can almost hear a James Bond sting in the score.  One of these fellows bears a sword that could have come from Q Branch.

Each of Walker's dominoes fall in the right direction and all of them point to Luke Cage.  It doesn’t hurt that Nelson Blake’s and Marcio Menyz’s art is mighty easy on the eyes.

The Shi’Ar Gods challenged Thor to a contest.  This resulted in two consequences.  First, Thor beat the snot out of the Shi’Ar Gods.  Second, Sif shamed the God of Fear, brother to Odin and Agardian regent, Cul Borson into waging war against the Shi’Ar on behalf of Thor, whom Cul loathes.  

The latter affected the outcome of the former, and the spoilsport Shi’Ar called forth the Phoenix, whom Jane Foster now faces.

Jason Aaron frames the Phoenix as overtly malevolent, and I’m a little disappointed in that.  It’s much easier to deal with the Phoenix if she's just a cosmic monster.  However, the history of the Phoenix doesn’t bear that out.  Keep in mind, I preferred the original story where Jean Grey just was the Phoenix, a telekinetic power gone amok.  That’s not however what Marvel kept.

In any case, Phoenix wants to eat Thor’s hammer.  Thor obliges, but not in the manner the Phoenix expects.  

Despite that, the Phoenix is now listed in the Who’s Who in Deities, and it takes the guest appearance of Odinson to turn the tide.  He’s on the cover.  It’s not a spoiler.

Afterward, there’s much rejoicing, but Jane makes a decision that affects the Congress of Worlds.  This at first causes uncharacteristic glee from Cul Borson, who hates Jane just as much as he hates Thor, even though clueless to her secret identity.  Alas.  His delight is short.

Ahhhh….for a minute there, after Jean dealt with the Wrecking Crew in her debut, I thought we were going to be blessed with an X-Men book that refused to delve into the unfathomable continuity of the X-Men.  Thank goodness.  The world is round.  We’re back to asking who are these people, and what’s going on, and why the heck does Beast look that way?

Jean consults with modern Beast who now appears to be a blue orangutan with mange instead of cool, classic Beast. 

Jean wants to determine whether or not the Phoenix vision she witnessed was real, or if she’s going nuts.  She doesn’t like Beast’s answer.

Of course, if you perused Thor you know that Jean isn’t seeing things, and the Phoenix is very interested in recruiting her as host. Jean cannot take the chance.  So, she decides to think askew and call in the experts.  All the mutants that wielded the Phoenix Force.  This is where I really just went to sea.

Colossus?  I never really cared that much about Colossus unless John Byrne happened to be illustrating him.  More importantly, I didn’t know he held the Phoenix Force.  Is the Phoenix that fickle?

What the hell are the Reavers? Obviously not the ones from Firefly, but apparently refugees from Mad Max or Tank Girl.  

Hope is the daughter of Cable, who’s the son of alternate Cyclops and alternate Jean Grey? I think that's right.  Okay.  Rachel I know from classic Excalibur.  That was so much easier to understand.  What’s his face from Thor.  Why is Illyana Rasputin here, and why is she so one-note?

So, presumably, the Phoenix likes to ride in Greys and Rasputins and whatever the hell what’s his face is.

Seriously though.  Although Jean Grey confused the hell out of me, I still kind of liked it because Dennis Hopeless makes young, time-lost Jean totally likable and a powerhouse of telekinesis.  

I liked how quickly Jean fled to aid Hope, who she doesn’t really know but wasn’t about to let be victimized by a cyborg Cuisnart.  As a side note, we should all use the Twamm sound-effect more often.

Oh, thank the cosmos, this story is finally over!  Dating/Pitting Batgirl with/against the Penguin’s son felt like being struck in the groin by a giant metronome.  Best scene in the book.

Perfect depiction of Batgirl by Chris Wildgoose, John Lam and Mat Lopes.  Bonus, I can’t really tell what color her eyes happen to be.  I’ll imagine the proper blue.

Most surprising thing in the book.  Batgirl uses only her eidetic memory and not the bogus hyperfocus, which felt like it should be part of Prometheus.   

“Oh, look.  Cave paintings.  Let me go into Hyperfocus.”
“Alien visitors.”
“Of course!”

The first four issues of Batman and Wonder Woman seemed to comprise a beginning, middle and end.  Marc Andreyko and Jeff Parker begin a sequel set in Wonder Woman’s 1977.  They imagine the Batman television series as if it had not been cancelled and evolved a unique continuity.

The story begins with Wonder Woman in her satin tights astride her motorbike fighting the Lizard.

Whoops.  That’s Killer Croc.  Sorry about that.  Easy mistake to make folks.  She encounters the blue-eyed Babs Gordon now Commissioner and looking Velma.

Parker and Andreyko add more feminized changes for the better, but I’ll leave you to discover them yourself.  Upon learning Batman retired, Wonder Woman attempts to talk some sense into a gracefully aged Bruce Wayne.

Batman is just too good.  Wonder Woman later teams up with Nightwing and Catwoman, depicted this time as Julie Newmar, to fight against Copperhead.

Nightwing is way better here than he is in canonical works predating the new 52.  He fits the seventies better, especially with the cycle.  Motorcycles reached a fad popularity in the seventies due to daredevil Evel Knievel.

The heroes confab at Catwoman’s.  I’ve always said that Catwoman’s schemes weren’t as potentially lucrative as some of her fronts.  She always had some kind of Kit-Cat Club or the like.  She could have made oodles of money if she invested the time.  That’s why in some ways the campy villains on the Batman television series were genuine portrayals of crazy.  They all had these wild hideouts and legitimate businesses as ruses that could have made them all rich.  Catwoman’s fate on Paradise Island began a long road to legitimacy.  Her nine lives are threatened when she hears why Wonder Woman happens to be visiting Gotham City.  That reason may just pull Batman out of exile.

Illyria takes she and Angel forward through time and space.  They end up on a slow boat to Australia where Angelus and Darla are Jane Eyring about.  It’s the mostly pleasant set up of a Chronos styled treasure hunt and the answer to Angel’s beetle-filled visions.

Arcade went all Suicide Squad on Elektra’s ass.  He clamped a collar around her neck set to go off, and if she doesn’t find the key to release the collar, she and her new friend Lauren are toast.  It’s not an easy task to begin with, but Arcade makes the feat harder to perform.  Elektra must contend against viral video obsessed assassin Screwball, who feels the need to prove herself as a credible foe.

The story’s all fun and games with Elektra being extremely heroic throughout each level of play.  Although artist Juann Cabal only illustrates half of the book, Martin Morazzo respects Elektra more than he does Lilly from Satellite Falling.  He gives Elektra the muscle that Lilly is missing.  As a result, his depiction of Elektra gibes with Cabal’s.  Mind, you his Screwball and Arcade look like mutants next to Cabal's elegant designs.

The second issue of All-New Guardians of the Galaxy places the Guardians at the center of a heist.

With a simple break-in scotched, Gamora comes up with a new plan, that’s hilariously undermined by Drax’s lack of comprehension, but going with the lady in green’s plan is what they do.  Just one problem.

The means of entrance involves and exit, and once inside, Guardians of the Galaxy mayhem ensues. 

The discovery of intruders allows for a superb depiction of Gamora in action, understated humor from Quill, Drax being Drax and the reintroduction of the Collector, much more impressive than his classic version.  See.  I can appreciate advancement when good.

Star Lord’s solo adventure begins when he crash lands on a Star Trek planet of the wild, wild west, or is it? By the end of the book, you question whether or not the cosmic trappings were just there for Quill’s benefit.  Actually, the Annual has three potential endings.  Straightforward, metaphysical and another that I’ll not reveal since it’s a spoiler.

Dealing with the straight forward, Peter finds a town plagued by powerful, humanoid locusts.

Soon, Greylight pushes one of the populace too far.  

Perhaps due to her complexion and fierceness, Quill mounts up and decides enough is enough.  Although things don’t play out as Quill expected, his love of pop culture saves him in the end as a drifter turns out to be his ace in the hole.  From the metaphysical point of view, Quill just made one very powerful enemy, and in the spoilerish viewpoint, Quill’s imagination is a potent tool.  Any way you roll the dice the Star Lord Annual is a keeper.

Scooby-Doo teams up with number one super guy Hong Kong Phooey to tackle an awesome group of baddies.

Now, of all the phrases, I never thought I’d read, that descriptor is one of them.  I am however glad this happened.  I mean.  Imagine passing from your mortal coil before hearing Ninja Kung Fu Dragons.  If you weren’t already dead, you’d feel grossly cheated.

The story moves along smoothly with Hong Kong Phooey contributing at first nothing and cat sidekick Spot doing little better.  It’s not until Daphne gets ahold of his Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu that things take a turn.  

Daphne fans will definitely want this issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up for her martial arts activity, first seen n the film as Sarah Michelle Geller.

A hodge-podge but interesting none the less, The Old Guard first demonstrates that the most ancient of the Immortals Andy has a heart.  She warms to the newest Immortal Nile, and relates the story of a man she fell in love with named Achilles.

Flashbacks are bound to appear in any series with a long-lived cuss.  The Old Guard is no different in that respect.  Yet, this one involves full frontal male nudity, so that is a break from tradition.  However, what makes The Old Guard so readable is Andy’s spiritual relationship with Modesty Blaise.  There’s just no shaking the feeling.  I admit.  It could be just me.

As the story continues, writer Rucka introduces some comedy to balance the violence that will occur later, and he brings about a strikingly good plot twist that few would have expected.  He however plays fair with a clue from Nile.

Good-Night, Mr. Bond.  May femme fatales sing thee to thy rest.

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