Tuesday, July 18, 2017

POBB July 12, 2017

Pick of the Brown Bag
July 12, 2017
Ray Tate

Guess who? Congratulations and Welcome to the new Doctor

Jodie Whittaker

Guess what? It’s the Pick of the Brown Bag, a weekly review column that slags the bad and lauds the good of the comic book world.  POBB tweeting can be found via #PickoftheBrownBag.  For our current exploration, I look at Bug!, Doctor Who, Jean Grey, Mighty Mouse, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Supergirl, Titans, Wonder Woman and Wynonna Earp.  But first a brief review of Spider-Man Homecoming.

So, did we need another Spider-Man movie?  Yes.  Because Sony burned everybody with the death of Gwen Stacy.  Amazing Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man 2 starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone weren’t the comic book series for the entirety and then dumbasses decided to emulate the comic books in the worst way possible.  People were so pissed off about the move that the reiteration gave birth to the parallel world arachnid Spider-Gwen.  Don’t say it didn’t.  That’s zeitgeist, baby.

Anyway.  Tom Holland makes a terrific, funny, very young Spider-Man.  The film rejiggers the comic book series in inventive ways.  Marisa Tomei is easily the best Aunt May. 

Don’t care how, Marvel, but incorporate younger, full of life Aunt May into the Spiderverse proper.  Michael Keaton is tremendous as the Vulture, easily the most realistic Marvel villain in cinema.  

The movie’s big, episodic and also despite being a Sony/Columbia production an important addition to overall cinematic Marvel continuity.  Iron Man isn’t just there for a meaningless cameo.  The plot takes some daring turns, and the acting and directing offer an entertaining night at the movies.  Go see it on the big screen.  Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for a clever Batman joke.

Onward and upward.  As the new Doctor is announced, Bill Potts in the form of Pearl Mackie debuts in the Doctor Who comic book.

The story and artwork are solid, but some plot elements are repetitive.  Nothing really matches the promise of that cover, and the character with the most interesting dialogue and striking look is this Viking woman with a tongue twister name.  
Ingigeror Ragnvaldi

Not the Doctor, Bill or the classic Doctor Who baddie. That's not to say that the Doctor doesn't do anything or isn't necessary to the adventure.  He participates, but his involvement isn't that engrossing.

Forager also time travels…

specifically to the world of Atlas.

The Atlas elements are for the die-hard Kirby fans.  Kids from the seventies will recognize the character from house ads, and newcomers to worlds of Kirby will still enjoy the dim but not dull language of Mike Allred’s muscleman.

Atlas is an astoundingly obscure character, but his raison d’etre is summarized quite readily in later scenes.  In addition, Allred makes excellent use of Atlas' traveling companion and Bug! villain Chagra.

Chagra is another Kirby creation that debuted in that First Special Issue, but having never read Atlas, I can’t say whether or not Allred’s twist is original or reminder.  Either way works.  Allred's being incredibly creative or knowledgable.  Both aspects laudable.

Suppose however you’re actually in this book for Forager? No worries.  

Allred is all about Forager.  In the story, Forager learns what happened to him after he died, and the lesson promised to Orion.  He argues humorously with the talking Teddy Bear and expresses continued bafflement over Kuzuko, the spooky child whose knowledge of things far surpasses her apparent age.  There’s comedy, drama, action and some very interesting protocols to separate certain science fiction tropes.

Shea Fontana’s debut Wonder Woman is inauspicious.  Fortunately, her writing of Wonder Woman is much, much better in Justice League #22.  So, readers can distinguish what  Fontana wants for Wonder Woman and what reads as warmed over Rucka leftovers.  

For instance, the story’s split between the present and the past.  The reader tunes into Wonder Woman as a tot fretting over dolls vs. swords, and in the present saving lives at a refugee camp.  The story bounces next to a wedding where Diana spends some time with Rebirth Etta Candy and a precocious youngster.

I didn’t hate Wonder Woman but I wasn’t really engaged either.  The art was also hit or miss.  

I want to get...physical.  Physical.

On the one hand, you have a well-depicted, unusual moment like the one above.  On the other hand, why is this young woman pretending to be an old man with a mustache?

Seriously.  She has no wrinkles.  She has feminine eyes.  She moves like a woman.  The walrus mustache just looks like she’s overdoing the disguise.  Unlike Drew Barrymore. 

Oh no! Someone super is dying in Red Hood and the Outlaws.  Nobody buys Bizarro’s meeting with the Grim Reaper.  He does “die” honorably though.  Just enjoy the paste-up of Solomon Grundy fighting Jason and Artemis in a horribly unbalanced Celebrity Death Match.  

It’s also weird that writer Scott Lobdell rescued Batman villain Ma Gunn from obscurity to turn her into a kind of mirror universe version of Leslie Thompkins for the seedier Outlaws.  The constant mockery of Solomon Grundy’s nursery rhyme dialogue amuses, and the surprising cliffhanger offers a fairplay way out of Bizarro’s predicament.

The Titans fight a Multiplex-Man at HIVE headquarters in an effort to recover Bumblebee’s stolen engram.  Another sentence that only makes sense in comics.  What could have been a nice little demonstration of super-heroics gets weighed down by typical Titans schmaltz involving hook-ups.  This is usually the part where I leave, but Wally West’s evolution of power intrigues, and I’m kind of interested in finding out if Nightwing’s cliffhanger pronouncement carries any weight.

Supergirl and Batgirl whisked into the Phantom Zone by Xa-Du, a master Kryptonian criminal.  His goal to exploit the peculiar transformation one experiences in the Phantom Zone to drain every last iota of energy from all the convicts and make his escape.  Of course, when free, he’ll come back for everybody.  Right.

In addition, Xa-Du intends to revenge himself on the House of El by murdering Supergirl in the most horrible way.  The suit he wears is made from boiled Kryptonians.  He intends to turn Supergirl into an ascot.

The key to his freedom lies with Psi, whom Supergirl and Batgirl broke out of Cadmus in a particularly good Batgirl Annual.  As her name implies, Psi’s a veritable Jean Grey, but with a DC fashion sense.

Xa-Du tortured Psi, but she would not break.  Supergirl’s presence catalyzed her revolt.  Turning into a psychic dragon, Psi ripped through Xa-Du’s castle, and now on the raw Phantom Zone planes, Batgirl battles Xa-Du while Supergirl attempts to reach Psi.  

This conclusion to an impressive story, teaming-up old Bronze Age friends but new Rebirth pals satisfies on a number of levels.  Steve Orlando’s dialogue for each hero characterizes them perfectly.  One is the symbol of hope.  The other is a streetwise crimefighter whose knowledge is the most dangerous weapon.  The switch against the obstacles is old school effectiveness.  

Batgirl makes an enemy out of Xa-Du, who unwisely dismisses her as a powerless human.  Supergirl who wishes not to use her might against Psi, instead exposes her own vulnerabilities with the hope of empathizing with a young woman who can shred the Phantom Zone.  Orlando re-establishes a legendary camaraderie, and at the same time, he’s aided by artist Brian Ching who provides just the right blend of cartoon and realism to the tableau.

The second issue of Mighty Mouse bears much more action fruit.  Mighty learns of his dilemma and how fragile we humans are.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up writer Sholly Fisch tries his hand at a more mature science fiction exploration.  He honors the legend of Mighty Mouse and produces a fascinating take on the stranger in a strange land.  What’s more, Fisch comes up with some terrific gags for fans, and he also imagines the consequences of the opposite effect.  What happens to a world without Mighty Mouse in it?  

Igor Lima’s utlra-realism serves as a backdrop for the more outlandish Mighty, and it’s actually a double joke since Mighty and the Mice of Terrytoons were actually straight up characters rather than zany cartoon designs.  

Jean Grey uses the teleporting imp Pickles—think of a mini-me Nightcrawler—to transport to Jottenheim in order to find the artist formerly known as Thor.  What she discovers first is an army intent on killing Odinson.

Jean seeks out Odinson for his advice on wielding great power to stop the Phoenix from possessing her, but the encounter seems to morph into a drunken brawl.

Dennis Hopeless makes the book fun to begin with, and there’s a very sly Bronze Age Superman joke included for the watchful.  However, by the end of the story you realize you’ve been had, and Odinson is a lot more worthy than his title would have you believe.

Wynonna Earp’s Season Zero begins, but that’s kind of a lie.  The story is actually an advancement of Wynonna Earp continuity, an alternate spin on the television series.  Or, visa versa. 

Writer/Creator Beau Smith teams up with actor/writer Tim Rozon, who portrays Doc Holliday, to relate a very good jump-on point that also details Wynonna’s past.  Where the Season Zero part comes in.  The story begins with the Earp sisters in a pensive mood relating the new setup along with colorful anecdotes from their shared past.

The story next cuts to Shorty’s Bar, one of the staple settings of the Wynonna Earp television series.  There we meet the aforementioned new owners Doc and Valdez.
Technically, the duo aren’t the owners.  Black Badge Division, the sub-organization of the U.S. Marshals Service that fight the things that go bump in the night, own the bar.  Doc and Valdez, unofficial and official operatives, merely maintain the ruse.  In the bar, Season Zero comes crashing into present.

The bleeding gentleman is a friend of Wynonna’s.  From the way Lonely Dave speaks about the gal, you may misconstrue the dialogue to be an homage to say Full Moon or Troma products, but in fact Smith vacillates from the grindhouse tongue to very thoughtful and funny passages.

Whereas many flashbacks don’t really go anywhere or seem necessary, Smith’s fleshing out of Wynonna’s past is fascinating.  First and foremost Wynonna's memories support the idea of Wynonna being a black sheep, to quote Gin Wigmore; she sings that song in the memorable conclusion to the debut episode of Wynonna Earp.  The history furthermore creates two absolutely hilarious bikers named Doug and Kenny.  Their dialogue reads like sports commentators.  Only the sports could be anything ranging from a biker bar fight or setting ordinance.  Highly recommended. 

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