Wednesday, June 21, 2017

POBB June 14, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
June 14, 2017
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag opens with All-New Wolverine, Anderson, Black Panther and the Crew, Bug!, Bugs Bunny and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Betty and Veronica, Supergirl, Tarantula and The Titans.  Remember if you haven’t time for the blog, you can always check out my tweeted reviews: #PickoftheBrownBag. 

Capitalizing on the success of the Batman and Santo franchises, Rene Cardona in 1968 produced a one-off flick known as La Mujer Murciélago translated more famously as The Bat Woman.

Bat Woman is a bizarre, joyously absurd movie available on YouTube as well as DVD, from various outlets.  The film stars the holy crap physiqued Maura Monti as the titular Bat Woman and operates on the logic of every Lucha Libre film from the sixties.

Bat Woman is a world famous wrestler and a crimefighter, called upon by the police to investigate a series of mysterious murders.  There’s of course more to reveal.  

I own this movie.  It’s the perfect flick to perk you up when life kicks you in the teeth.  Creators/writers/artists Alexis Ziritt and Fabian Rangel Jr. tap into La Mujer Murciélago vibe to unleash Tarantula on the unsuspecting reading public. 

The story takes place in 1978, the year when people outside of Mexico started to take notice of Santo.  The tale begins at a literal orgy celebrating the re-election of Mayor Villalobos.  The Mayor is corrupt and tastes every crime being committed in his district.  Stylishly enter dangerous and sexy vigilante Tarantula.

Unfortunately despite being impressive, especially with a whip, she needs help.  So, Tarantula goes to her former mentor Senor Muerte.  

This is the point where you know that Tarantula is more than mere pastiche of Mexican wrestling films.  It’s in fact a successful blending of multiple psychotronic cinema feasts.  Though Tarantula goes to Bat Woman’s tailor, she’s not a wrestler.  Neither is Muerte.  They’re a surreal Batman and Robin.

Your first reaction to Tarantula may be to classify the work as a frivolous hodgepodge.  Your attitude should change once you begin reading.  

The writers portray the heroes as highly intelligent, sophisticated justice bringers.  These champions employ smart tactics strikingly visualized throughout the adventure.  The plot involving satanic rituals includes inventive flourishes such as special cards left at the scene of each murder.  

You can frequently encounter monsters in the world of Tarantula and Muerte.  Perhaps, these beast men are descendants of the original creatures made by crazed Mexican scientists in such giddy movies as The Doctor of Doom.  

An adjacent character arc produces a new hero, within the context of Tarantula’s and Muerte’s shared history.

Sombra is a mashup of the Shadow and the Punisher, and he’s out to kill the drug trade running rampant in Mayor Villalobos’ city.  The drugs however are no ordinary narcotics, and lace into the main plot quite readily.

Tarantula’s subject matter is pure exploitation heaven: psychotropic speedballs, devil worship, a smattering of nudity, whips, machetes and heady violence.

The handsome hardcover, with excellent paper stock and stitched binding is priced right by AD House, just fifteen bucks.  Wrapped in a thoroughly professional package, Tarantula nevertheless recreates the feeling of discovering a comic book talked about only in legend beneath basement floorboards in some dilapidated house about to be condemned.  It proudly emanates luridness, escalated by a crazy quilt horror of colors.

Last issue, a villain with a beef against Supergirl catalyzed a tear in the Phantom Zone.  Her friend Ben Rubel got sucked inside.  Batgirl and Supergirl swung and soared into the breach to save him.  

The Phantom Zone is a staple of Superman mythology and features in numerous treatments of the Man of Steel and the Maid of Might.  

Because The Phantom Zone is a Kryptonian prison and the people of Krypton were a humane species, the confines mimic the environment of Krypton.  So, Superman and Supergirl seem to lose their powers.  

Writer Steve Orlando gets the science behind the science fiction correct.  The natural Kryptonian ecosphere of the Phantom Zone doesn’t actually rob Supergirl of her abilities.  She simply now operates in a different frame of reference.  

Superman and Supergirl derive their abilities from the earth’s physical properties such as lower gravity and the yellow sun that feeds our planet.  

This means that Supergirl is still more powerful than the average Kryptonian sentenced to the Phantom Zone.  Her cells still spark with solar energy.  Her stamina is still extraordinary, and the muscle she built over the years still applies.  Fighting Supergirl under a red sun would be like fighting a mixed martial arts champion.  

Supergirl begins with Kara acclimating to the Phantom Zone and discovering an unlikely rescuer.  His ruse purposely mimicking a swashbuckler from olden days.  The Big Bad fools nobody.  

The grain of truth behind his facade is that our main evil is a human trafficker of the worst kind, and his galleon is a prison ship.  I’m keeping the fellow’s name secret.  To me, he’s just another hyphenated jackass from Krypton spottily appearing in Batman and Superman, but he might mean something to a Superman snorting buff.

Orlando ties in some of the Big Bad’s mad scheme with pieces introduced in the Batgirl Annual where Supergirl guest-starred.  It’s a good twist, and the sudden shockwave naturally counters the depth of the villain’s aberrant brain.

The more I read Orlando’s Supergirl, the more I realize that I really like his version of Supergirl, and Batgirl for that matter.  It’s everything else around Supergirl I don’t like: Cameron Chase being an officious Waller wannabe, the handlers instead of foster parents, the superfluous school Kara attends.  Orlando’s Supergirl however is valid and spectacular when not encumbered by the DEO backdrop and regular supporting cast.  Supergirl is actually the opposite of the television series.

Legion of Super-Heroes and Bugs Bunny isn’t as good as you hoped it would be but not as bad as you feared it would turn out.  Writer Sam Humphries sets his team up in pre-Crisis Legion history.  Although I doubt it was on his mind at the time, this skeleton nevertheless creates a self-cleaning continuity.  Did this adventure happen? Sure.  The episode and all its consequences were unfortunately wiped out by The Crisis on Infinite Earths. Anyhow, Supergirl saved the Legion from the Miracle Machine at great cost and now lies in a coma.  Dream Girl sees the means of her recovery.

Superboy, asks you? Do the Legion mean Jonathan Kent? That sicko from Infinite Crisis? The leather jacketed clone of Lex Luthor and Superman?  Wait, they can’t possibly mean the heroic slice of Superman preserved by the Time Trapper?  Nope.  The Legion refer to The Adventures of Superman when he was a boy.  

Originally, Superboy linearly progressed to Superman.  He wasn’t another person.  I know.  How sublime.  It’s so simple that it’s insane.  Doesn’t matter.  The Legion do not transport Superboy to the future.

Instead, they take the wrong turn from Albuquerque to  Smallville where inexplicably Bug Bunny happens to farm.  Carrots of course.  With this framework, there are numerous opportunities for gags galore, yet Humphries for the most part misses them.  Humphries obsesses over thought balloons revealing the Legion’s angst.  He just can’t get enough, and he runs that joke to the ground.  His best joke is the antithetical simplicity of Timber Wolf.   Things get better if more predictable when Bugs pulls his shtick on the Legion.  The flexible reality of cartoons becomes mistaken for superpowers, and the Legion try to recruit the rabbit.

Humphries at least makes Bugs Bunny a stand-up hare.  In the end, to save Supergirl, Bugs makes a selfless sacrifice.  The best thing about Legion of Super-Heroes and Bugs Bunny however is Tom Grummett.  His art at times seems to pay tribute to, but not copy, Curt Swan and Dave Cockrum.  In addition, his cartooning is exceptional.  

This is easily the worst Dan Abnett Titans I’ve read, and it’s still not a complete waste of time.  Abnett’s characterization for Lilith Clay alias Omen is the strongest of all.  

His display of her power impresses, and he does so without turning that power into something else: Jean Grey to the Phoenix.  Lilith’s rationale for risking her mind in the presence of Psimon, an even higher level psionic user, is pure altruism which makes her a richer and serious hero.  

Honestly.  Lilith’s former claim to fame was to join the Titans, leave the Titans, and rejoin the Titans at various intervals.  I never considered her a super-hero of any kind.  Just some ESP mascot.  Like a more useful Snapper Carr.  Abnett gives her dignity and credibility.    

Weighing against all these assets is the retread of an old, terrible Titans tradition of interpersonal relationships that generally lead down a blind alley and end up ruining characters like a buzzsaw.  Even Psimon refers to the themes as a soap opera.  I kept thinking while reading this drivel that nobody in their right mind cares about Titans hook-ups.  We want to see these friends join forces because they like each other.  They enjoy spending quality time while hitting bad people in their faces.  It’s manna.

Other Titans traditions threaten to overcome the fun mood of previous issues.  The new “Lazarus Contract” gets too much name-checking.  I couldn’t really get interested in the Deathstroke/Teen Titans/Titans crossover.  So, I skipped most of it.  Apparently, stuff happened and it impacts the Titans.  The only bit of continuity I could empathize with is Donna Troy discovering that she is a homunculus doomsday weapon pointed at Wonder Woman.  This revelation occurred in the Titans Annual.  That knowledge might put a damper on frivolity, but rationally this shouldn’t matter since Donna Troy thanks to Wally West possesses memories of a readjusted history that as a bonus excises her cloying, terrible former husband from another universe Terry Long. 

Anderson also stars a deft telepath, but the plot is far more entertaining.  Judge Anderson of course debuted a long time ago, on an isle far, far away in 2000 A.D, but Anderson is a sequel and spin-off from the movie Dredd.  This is easily discernible through the likeness of Judge Anderson to actress Olivia Thirlby, as well as the near future setting.  Dredd occurs in the foreseeable future.  It doesn’t match the comic book’s unique Dystopia; simultaneously hyper-futuristic and Mad Max styled post-apocalyptic.

In the first taut story by Alec Worley and Paul Davidson Anderson responds to the request for backup by another Judge.  She finds a man that appears to be possessed, but Anderson deems him just to be in poor mental health.  She uses her natural psychic abilities and her observational skills to deduce the cause.  At the same time, she fights the traumatic memories and feelings of being trapped and subjected to the promise of torture in the film.

The second story details Judge Anderson’s empathy with the innocent she is sworn to protect as well as her sympathies toward the victims of crime.  Still, she’s a Judge in an unforgiving system, and that means something.  The tale unfolds through a debriefing that will affect the rest of Anderson’s life.  If you’re a fan of the character and/or the film, you’ll want this one-shot in your collection.

Two comic books tackle the subject of gentrification by different means.  Neither could be more dissimilar to the other, and both leave you with the feeling that the lead up to a superior punchline should have been better.   In the case of Black Panther and the Crew.  It’s continuity time.

Man, nobody cares about these moments in your life T’Challa.  We care a little bit more about your history with Ororo, but not if they bring the book’s slow pace to a screeching halt.

As to Betty & Veronica, the third issue just seems to go through the motions of the first two with Betty trying to raise money to save Pops Diner, show off her cartoon strength in the more realistic art of Adam Hughes, Veronica turning into uber bitch and demonstrate the rivalry between the iconic blonde and brunette in an exacerbated fashion.

That said, Black Panther and the Crew’s revelation and cliffhanger is as good such a denouement in episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and the lengthy final act of Betty and Veronica perks you right up.

When an alien ship crashed on Roosevelt Island, New York.  The single occupant, a diseased child, says two words in English.  Laura Kinney.  That leads SHIELD to contact Wolverine for answers.  She has none, but events quickly spiral to reveal those answers.  Here Be Spoilers.  So, if you haven’t yet read this arc of Wolverine and want to stay safe, just know that Wolverine upends the traditional Wolverine story, features numerous guest stars from the Marvel Universe, weirdly builds the Wolverine Family, generates suspense and heroism while being damn funny at times.  A more detailed survey follows after the warning.



It turns out that the aliens weren’t just in the neighborhood.  These advanced beings deduced that Wolverine’s healing factor can wipe out the virus that infects them.  If there’s a flaw in this story, it’s that writer Tom Taylor doesn’t explain what happened to the aliens.  Did the alien child escape in desperation as her fellow species died, or did the aliens attempt to ask for Wolverine’s help and die on the way? Another possibility is that the aliens knew the virus would spread if not curtailed.  So they purposely sent the virus to earth in order to kill it once and for all.  Taylor’s not talking.  He’s more concerned with the terrestrial ramifications.

Wolverine simply but effectively in Leonard Kirk’s, Corey Hamscher’s, Terry Pallot’s and Michael Garland’s emotionally expressive artwork walks through the afflicted crowds and heals them.  Iron Heart and Gabby provide backup because too much healing will kill Laura.  This isn’t the only complication.  Taylor draws upon numerous ethical quandaries surrounding actual medical practice to add meat to his story.  

In addition, Taylor figures out that other people in the Marvel Universe possess Laura’s healing factor.  This establishes the Wolverine family.  He furthermore judiciously educes humor with the inclusion of Deadpool, here sounding perfectly like Ryan Reynolds.  I would read a Tom Taylor Deadpool series.

All of these concepts come together seamlessly in a strong story of science fiction and superheroes.  Taylor creates a plague as in The Andromeda Strain.  He demonstrates the wretchedness of survivalists, but the Wolverine Family curtails the despairing expected conclusion, and that in itself is a novel idea.

Bug! is a real hoot.  Forager escaped his encounter with the General only to be tossed through time and space where he lands in World War II.

He encounters more Jack Kirby influenced creations including the original Blue Beetle, The Sandman, Sandy the Golden Boy and the Losers.

Sandy mistakes Forager for a hilariously obscure, bad superhero, and extra points for the homage cover.

This leads to a slew of jokes that end with the Bee learning the ins and outs of the Losers’ mission, how it affects the future and why robots seem to be on the soldiers’ minds.  

The story becomes even more entrenched in DC history while still relating a coherent plot and entertaining through comedic dialogue and friction from the teammates.  I cannot recommend Bug! strongly enough.

Monday, June 12, 2017

POBB June 7, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
June 7, 2017
Ray Tate

This week the Pick of the Brown Bag follows the expulsion of Aquaman, the reflection in Batman, the initiation in Green Lanterns,  the devolution in Heathen, the Infestation in Justice League, the friction in James Bond and the resection in Unstoppable Wasp.  if you want the quick word, check me out on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

Justice League could have been an entirely forgettable, mediocre placeholder.  Instead, writer Shea Fontana does a helluva lot, especially when accompanied by Aquaman artists Phil Briones and Gale Eltaeb.  Fun fact.  Aquaman only appears as a hologram here.

However you shouldn’t think that Fontana wouldn’t be able to do something with either.  Judging by her treatment of the cast and guest-stars, Fontana can probably write some pretty wicked Aquaman and Flash vignettes.

Fontana starts off with the Green Lanterns.  Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are the newest members of the Justice League, and Jessica was formerly the host of a parasite before earning a proper power ring.  Needless to say, they both feel overwhelmed in the presence of legends.

Nobody wants Hal Jordan back, J-Bird.  Nobody.

That theme continues throughout the done in one comic book.  Batman to the Lanterns is Mr. Intimidation.  Wonder Woman picks them out of the line up to train them.  So, they think, but their fortunes turn at the conclusion in an uplifting way.

Fontana draws Lois Lane to the story.  Yet again, I’m impressed by how the writers paid attention to how badly Lois fared before Superman’s restoration.  For Fontana, she’s a consummate reporter.  

In a terrific scene she impresses Batman, whom she encountered recently in Superman, and she’s mother to Jonathan Kent, the precocious Superboy.

John’s presence aboard the Watchtower facilitates Fontana’s callback for Cyborg.  Cyborg started in the New Teen Titans as a kind of Thing stand-in.  He was self-conscious about his appearance and rather dour.  That changed when he met a group of kids with prosthetics and their cute teacher.  Fontana using that history generates nice chemistry between Cyborg and John, that’s original yet character specific.  

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Fontana is good at handling the also-rans, but she probably eschews characterizing the Big Three.  Nope.  She gets in a quite a few good World’s Finest moments, and her Wonder Woman is multi-dimensional: funny, warm and regal, giving the artists challenges to meet.  Which they do.

Our tale called “Lost in Space” began when the Green Lantern Corps whisked Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz to the living planet Mogo. 

Also a Green Lantern.  Makes sense in a cockamamie way. 

The rings pick the Lanterns, but Lanterns still must be trained.  So, adjustments are made.

This also makes sense.  According to established history, the Guardians first created the Manhunters to bring justice to the universe, but the robots turned on their masters.  The Guardians wouldn’t want another a.i. however magical to have such autonomy. 

It’s really Jessica that needs training.  Simon isn’t a new Lantern.  He’s newish.  Sam Humphries though finds a nice excuse to parallel his next level course with Jessica’s basic.

This inspiration allows for all sorts of Kyle Rayner mischief that carries through to current issue.

Jessica on the other hand gets the gym coach from hell.  If you can survive Guy Gardner, you should be able to survive the extremes of anything space throws at you.

Last issue, Jessica snapped and decked Guy.  This is of course in keeping with the tradition of Justice League.  Jessica in fact invokes the infamy in a hilarious moment.  Guy though actually evolved from the post-Crisis certifiably insane right-wing fruitcake.  He’s now about on the level of his pre-Crisis persona.  Which isn’t horrible.

The very fact that Guy recognizes Jessica has worth is an improvement in character.  His willingness to give Jessica a chance despite committing an unforgivable infarction makes Guy almost likable.  It simultaneously characterizes him as a different Green Lantern without going way off the deep end.

In addition to the main story, Humphries builds on the secret behind Volthoom.  Volthoom was originally the “magic” word that the earth three Crime Syndicate spoke to transport the League to their home in order to disorient them.  In the new 52, Volthoom became a sentient parasite living inside the Power Ring.  After the events in Forever Evil, Volthoom chose Jessica Cruz to feed upon, but Jessica proved too strong.  So strong that she became a Green Lantern.  

Humphries started to peel back even more layers about Volthoom, and these secrets involved the very first Green Lanterns.  They all debut in this arc.  For this issue, Humphries introduces a different sort of Martian Manhunter, with his own origin story succinctly told.  Next question, is Sam Humphries a Duran Duran fan?

A different artist took the reigns of each chapter of "Lost in Space." Normally, that would be cause for concern, but all of the artists render beautiful and/or evocative narratives.  Ronan Cliquet illustrated the first part of the story to produce elegant linework and a plethora of alien lifeforms.  It doesn't hurt that his Jessica Cruz is smoking hot.

Eduardo Pansica illustrated the second chapter, which was far more sweaty and emotional due Guy Gardner wringing out Jessica Cruz during training sessions that would make most men cave.  

This issue Carlo Barbieri takes a swing.  Barberi gamely continues the duel of creativity between Baz and Kyle and escalates the Cruz/Guy contest. There are times when Jessica looks too waif-like, but I’m willing to argue this is a case of scale in conjunction with Barberi restraining his normal cartoony style.  When alone and in battle, Jessica looks appropriately powerful.

The visual narrative to Batman opens with Catwoman, but the prose consists of a dialogue between Batman and Gotham Girl, freshly recovered from her ordeal against the Psycho-Pirate.

Catwoman’s suiting up for a night on Gotham City.  It’s treated with a certain amount of ordinary.  The costuming isn’t overly fetishistic, nor are the glimpses of flesh.  This is just Catwoman’s normal.  

Writer Tom King then switches the focus to Gotham Girl.  If you haven’t been following Gotham Girl's tale, I recommend you go and read the past volumes of Tom King's Batman.  Still there's a certain amount of self-containment for those not familiar with the story so far.  King summarizes the whys and hows of Gotham Girl.

Gotham Girl is at a crossroads.  With a new lease on life, she now must decide what to do.  She consults with Batman whom mentored her and her brother Hank, but her questions dig deep.

Due to an extra-dimensional encounter, also co-written by King, Batman found himself pondering the questions asked by Gotham Girl.  In a fever dream brought on with his duel against Bane, the Dark Knight found himself experiencing a deep contemplation to answer the question whether or not he is actually a good man.  In Tom King’s debut story, Batman, certain he is about to die, asks Alfred whether or not his parents would be proud of him.  All of these moments feed into these scenes with Gotham Girl.

King is a smart enough writer to know what people expect Batman to say.  However, Batman if far more honest and richer in character than he was in the post-Crisis.  He possess greater depth and exhibits a surer understanding of psychology.  Claire pokes some fun at that.  Because they both know that there’s no going back.

Gotham Girl's and Batman's discussion very much mirrors Sarah Jane Smith’s "School Reunion" with Doctor.  The satisfaction of saving lives replaces experiencing the “splendor” of the universe.  The back-and-forth leads to some fascinating imagery where Claire indicates that she sees right through Batman because he risked everything to save her from the brink of death.  The bond grants her rare insight, and Claire comes to a decision.

That’s the practical, easy solution to the problems she and Batman hash out, but Claire isn’t letting Batman off the hook.  She really wants to thank him for saving her life.  So she’s hoping that their connection will allow Batman to reach an epiphany gently pushed by Claire’s optimism and empathy.

There’s no disguising my love for this story.  It’s so inventive and moves Batman forward in a positive direction.  It justifies Gotham and Gotham Girl.  It once again frames Tom King as a unique talent who treats Batman as if it were this living, breathing saga.  Every tale thematically returns to events and people introduced in previous chapters.  King has been using a very small cast in giant sized plots reduced to humanistic terms.  Gotham and Gotham Girl were grateful for Batman’s original rescue.  Amanda Waller loathes Batman and Gotham City.  Gotham Girl’s innocence and sanity fall victim to Waller’s malicious ineptitude.  Batman invades Santa Prisca with Catwoman as his lieutenant to save Gotham Girl.  The story behind Catwoman’s crimes takes a different turn.  Batman staves off Bane while Psycho-Pirate unravels the damage done to Gotham Girl’s mind.  Gotham Girl grateful to Batman helps him heal.  Secure in Batman’s knowledge of the true nature of the crimes she’s accused of committing, Catwoman returns.

Aquaman begins with our title hero swimming with the kronosaurus.  The why is up for interpretation. Could be that stellar artist Scott Eaton was just itching to draw some kronosaurus action, or perhaps this is one of Aquaman’s future countermeasures against Atlantis’ escalating attacks against him.

The real story begins with Aquaman pondering whether or not he should abandon Atlantis, leaving them to their funky haired tyrant.  Yes, it’s a Donald Trump metaphor.  

Rath is just a wee bit smarter, or maybe not.   Atlanteans in general are more advanced than surface worlders.  So, really he’s just smarter than a land walker.  He’s stupid for an Atlantean, but that’s what Atlantis wants this month.  

Aquaman does have another choice.

If you ask me, Aquaman is a fool for not hightailing with Mera.  The Atlanteans do not want him.  So, let Rath attack the surface world.  Watch how the Justice League doesn’t hold back when Aquaman isn’t part of the equation.  Aquaman knows what’s up.

However, Aquaman will not go gentle into that good night.  

This is a mistake, but Mera is confident that Aquaman will come to his senses.

Of course after an underwater melee, Aquaman returns home to Amnesty Bay and makes sweet love to everybody’s favorite Xebel rebel.  Tula, who’s all-in for the Aquaman Family, wisely decides that it’s time to gets some of that chowder that everybody is talking about.  Except.  That's not what happens.  Aquaman goes completely off the rails with one unbelievable plot twist after another.  Abnett upends everything that you counted on in previous issues.  As a result, the last act is surprising and thrilling, with a cliffhanger that leaves you holding your breath.

Aydis made the mistake of being gay in the manly world of Vikings.  When she kissed a girl, the villagers demanded that be married, to a man, or killed.  Her father who loved his daughter more than stupid social mores instead set her free.  Aydis then hatched a plan to change the world.  She freed Brynhild from her ring of fire and granted her freedom.  Brynhild’s replacement in the Valkyrie service, the goddess of love, kidnaped Aydis.  Although, we discover that her motive is in fact altruistic.  Aydis now attempts to free Brynhild and Sigurd from the curse of Odin.

Heathen lives up to its name with the Valkyrie Brynhild teaming up with Sigurd to find Aydis but stopping on the trek to do good on behalf of the heathens of the world.  In this case, the heathen weighs as much as a duck.

Writer/Artist/Creator Natasha Alterici attacks the Christian faith, infamous for facilitating the burning of people at the stake.  Yeah, I know that there are plenty of modern Christians who do not subscribe to hate, but the history of Christianity is rife with practitioners being outright assholes.  So, this is fair and ballsy.

I love Brynhild's reaction.  So she's a witch.  So what.  Big deal.  She's been out of action for so long that she isn't aware of Christianity's new hold on the people.  Byrnhild learns what's what and doesn't offer a solution.  She just goes full-on Valkyrie and shakes the crap out of these backward idiots.  It's immensely satisfying.

The Red Room is a bit of recent Marvel history that I could do without.  It was created by one of the best Black Widow writers, and the insinuations in Peggy Carter were acceptable, but I have no love for this artifice.  I liked Black Widow long before the Red Room.  Black Widow didn't need this to be cool.

Anyway.  Nadia Pym escaped from the Red Room and the Russians that run the nightmare hole.  She now seeks to prove she really is the daughter of Hank Pym and to challenge the male scale of geniuses with her own group of girl thinkers.  The Red Room’s head of operations didn’t take kindly to Nadia’s defection.  

So she sent Nadia’s best friend Ying to kill her.  This didn’t go as planned.  Ying’s friendship for Nadia was too powerful, but Mother had an ace up her sleeve and a bomb in Ying’s head.

Nadia makes a deal.  As Nadia Pym meets Mother, GIRL attempts to find a means to remove the bomb placed in Ying’s head.  Both stories are exciting and funny simultaneously.  Mother reminds me of Davros.  She looks pathetic, but she is dangerous, and Nadia’s backup plan is an ingenious diversion.  

Mother however came up with an even better agenda that I didn’t foresee.  The truce between foes shtick is a well known chestnut, but Jerome Whitley thinks farther ahead and concocts a scheme that fits Mother’s characterization as well as her situation.  As the story continues, you’ll see girl genius Taina’s sister return to the fray in the nick of time, a Daredevil cameo accompanied by hilarious ballyhoo, a terrific moment of action from Nadia versus a Red Room thug, and an ingenious method for bomb disposal heralded by Jarvis’ bravery.

Chases with tricked out cars.

Near death escapes.

Sexiful encounters.

It must be Bond, James Bond.  

So giddy, that the skeletal plot on which these set-pieces hang matters as much as the literal McGuffin of the title.  A black box that holds every government's secrets.  Every agency wants it, and I couldn't care less.  As long as it provides an excuse for this sincere homage.

I met Adam West at the Civic Arena at a car show when I was a small child.  He was big man, still in his prime with a grip like a vice.  At that moment, I was shaking hands with Batman and in awe.

Goodbye, Old Chum.