Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weekly Haul: June 17th

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 (DC Comics) I don’t know why Gotham City’s new District Attorney Kate Spencer was so excited to meet Commissioner Gordon in the Manhunter back-up. He’s, like, the worst policeman in the world. In the lead story, for example, he decides to let Harley Quinn walk away un-arrested from a jewelry store when he learns she wasn’t trying to rob the place, she only knocked out the proprietor when he refused her service due to her insane criminal past. I’m pretty sure punching a dude unconscious for refusing you service is still breaking some sort of law, as is taking jewels from a store and leaving a pile of money on the unconscious employee, not to mention throwing a police officer through the jewelry store’s glass door.

“No point,” Gordon says when asked if maybe they should, like, arrest the villain who just committed a whole bunch of crimes in front of them. “Gotham Central’s burned and Arkham is destroyed. We let her go, she’s one less headache for us.”

Pfft. Gotham’s top cop indeed.

The rest of Paul Dini’s first script for the first issue of this new fourth contemporary, ongoing Batman title is competent enough, checking in on a bunch of different characters to let readers know where they’re at after that Battle For the Cowl business and what direction they’re going in, and introducing a couple of conflicts that will presumably pay off in the short and long terms. (I coulda done without the child prostitution, though). Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolf’s art is pretty fantastic, and the only complaint I have about that is bigger than them; Nguyen’s Damian looks to be an older teenager, whereas Frank Quitely draws him like a little kid, and they can’t both be right.

The nine-page Manhunter back up by Mark Andreyko, Georges jeanty and Karl Story is predictably good, dedicated to setting Manhunter up as Gotham vigilante #62 and Spencer as the city’s new D.A.

The Brave and The Bold #24 (DC) I was pretty disappointed by this comic, but not necessarily because it was poorly done—I was just expecting a lot more out of it, given the historic-ish nature of the team-up. This is the first meeting between DC’s first black superhero character, Black Lightning, and the electricity-powered teen hero he obviously partially inspired, Static, formerly of the Milestone Universe.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly decent, and there’s nothing wrong with either Matt Wayne’s script or Howard Porter’s art, it just doesn’t really feel at all important, or sing the way I was hoping it to. It’s basically a rather run-of-the-mill Character A meets Character B superhero punch-up, one that could have starred almost any two characters. It was also remarkably continuity heavy, referring to B.L.’s time in the Luthor administration (Luthor was elected in 2000) and featuring a villain I’ve never heard of, who I assume must be a Milestone villain.

So, fire-powered villain Holocaust attacks Hemingway High School, where former education secretary and current Justice League member Black Lightning is giving the commencement speech. This is also the school Static goes to. Static doesn’t much care for B.L., given that he used to work with Luthor.

But he changes his mind after he watches B.L. battle Holocaust, and the two become more friendly afterward. There are some fun moments in here, mostly offhanded comments the two heroes make, but it’s still disappointingly ordinary.

Porter’s art seems to fall into a love-it or hate-it category; I’ve always been more of a love-it guy, perhaps in large part due to affection for his work on JLA with Grant Morrison, but even so far removed from that time period and my associations with it, I appreciate the kinetic weirdness to his lay-outs and panel designs. There’s a touch of Jack Kirby in Porter’s work, and he excels at big superhero action, even if his acting and character work isn’t quite so strong (He at least knows how to move an eye around a page though, so he’s head-and-shoulders above too many of DC’s art hires).

What’s up with this cover though? That image on the poster is a panel from inside the comic, re-used.

Question time! Has it been explained how the Milestone Universe was folded into the DCU yet? I didn’t read the JLoA issues wherein Dwayne McDuffie introduced the Milestone characters, but, based on this, it seems like the characters and settings were always part of the DCU…?

Captain Britain and MI13 #14 (Marvel Comics) In the last issue, Dracula had completely conquered Great Britain and decimated the ranks of the titular team. This issue, Paul Cornell throws a curve ball at the reader, a twist dramatic enough to perhaps lean toward playing unfair with the reader, but I’m going to withhold throwing a yellow flag on it, since the elements were all previously in place before, and since Cornell piles on the surprises so quickly this issue (I will not, however, withhold mixing sports metaphors).

In this issue, the good guys strike back against Dracula and his army of vampires and that’s all I really want to say, so as not to risk spoiling anything. I will note that now I kinda regret not having picked up the recent Captain Britain and MI13 annual, which bore a Greg Land cover (those affect me much the same way crosses effect Dracula), and that a scene in this story even redeems the titles too-long, too-slow second story arc a bit.

By the way, Killpower? That’s a pretty funny name.

Marvel Adventures Avengers #37 (Marvel) I think I’ve mentioned my personal distaste for the stocky, big-footed, big-handed Super Friends character designs seen in DC’s Super Friends title before. Actually, I think I’ve mentioned it every single time I read an issue of the book. I mention it again now because this issue is penciled by Dario Brizuela, who has drawn Super Friends before, and Brizuela transfers that style here.

Yes! This month’s MAA looks an awful lot like a more detailed issue of Super Friends, complete with short, stubby superheroes with trunk-like appendages and giant feet, only printed on slick paper.

This is, of course, a travesty. More of a travesty than usual, since this story, guest-starring The Invaders, is entitled “Doll Winners Squad” (Get it?!) and involves The Puppet Master using dark matter-infused radioactive clay to summon mind-controlled Golden Age heroes from the past. Pretty awesome premise, huh? Too bad the interior couldn’t look a little more like the cover, or the interiors of past MAA issues, or anything other than Super Friends, damn it!

Well it’s 1954, and Golden Girl and a blond Miss America* are seeking out their missing comrades. Whizzer shows up to help out, but then promptly disappears, and they follow him to the present. There the Golden Age gals team up with Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man to stop the Puppet Master’s nefarious plan to conquer the past using its greatest heroes.

It’s another decent script from Paul Tobin, although a little lighter on humor than previous issues. He does offer a pretty clever strategy for combating super-speedsters though, one other writers may want to steal.

Oh, quick question though! Shouldn’t the part set in the past be occurring in 1944, not ’54, given that it occurs around the time Cap disappears/“dies”? Not that it much matters, given that this is out of continuity, it just struck me as curious.

Marvel Pets Handbook#1 (Marvel) I actually haven’t read this whole thing yet. So far I’ve mainly flipped through it to make sure favorites of mine were included (Son of Satan’s steeds Amon, Hecate and Set? Check), and read the more insane looking entries (Hellcow, Hellhorse, Giganto, Moleman’s Monsters). But it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like—one of those prose-with-pictures, fact-heavy guidebooks Marvel publishes in the size and shape of comics books now and then, this one focusing on the various pets and pet-like animals throughout Marvel history. (There are a surprising number of winged horses).

I love books like this, even if they don’t quite fire my imagination the way they would have when I was younger and in school and thus more given to spend long periods of time daydreaming and wondering about things like whether or not Zabu or Old Lace would win in a fight.

I’m not sure if a recommendation is necessarily in order or not. If you’re interested in reading synopsis of Marvel animal characters prominent or obscure, then you’ll be interested in this; if not, you probably won’t. I’m really digging it so far, and while it’s been a while since I’ve read one of Marvel’s handbook projects, this one seems better designed than any I remember, and makes good use of a lot of classic art by taking the figures out of panels and putting them on a white field, so they retain the personality the artists who drew them infused them with, but all seem to share the same world, since visual context, background and coloring don’t play such a strong role.

Hey, have you ever seen Kirby’s drawings of Agatha Harkness’ cat, Ebony?

That is some scary shit.

Power Girl #2 (DC) I really, really want to like this new series, since I dig artist Amanda Conner’s work so much, and co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti seems like such a genuinely nice guy (and is a fellow contributor to Blog@), but he and his writing partner Justin Gray sure aren’t making it easy.

I mean, there’s an Austin Powers (1997) reference from our heroine/narrator right there on page two, there’s this use of heat vision which I don’t understand and I’m afraid they’ve completely lost me in terms of continuity. This issue is mostly devoted to Ultra-Humanite’s origin, and thus underlines the importance of his story, making it extra-difficult to just roll with it.

First, I was pretty sure Ultra-Humanite died at the end of the “Stealing Thunder” arc of JSA, in a pretty final, hard-to-come-back-from way. Without opening up a long box and checking, I thought his disembodied brain was flopping around on the floor, and someone—I want to say the Crimson Avenger II—shot it full of holes.

But whatever, that’s not too big a deal; he was more recently in a team called “The Time Stealers” in Booster Gold, so maybe this is supposed to be an Ultra-Humanite from a prior point in his timeline. No big deal, with time-travelers really. But! In telling his origin story here, Gray and Palmiotti place him at age 21 in a college lab with a female assistant named Satanna who is wearing a belly-exposing tank top reading “C U next tues.” A lab that’s being protested by PETA, which was founded in 1980. Given that (Post-Crisis anyway), Ultra-Humanite was a Golden Age villain who used to fight the JSA in the 1940s, that can’t be right, can it?

Also in this issue, a woman fucks a gorilla. Off-panel of course, but still. I read three DC comics set in the DCU this week, and one featured a child prostitute about to get pimped out before a vigilante intervened, and another featured a woman whispering to a gorilla with a man’s brain implanted into it how she’d really like to go do it with him.

Tiny Titans #17 (DC) In this issue, Raven uses a book of magic spells to summon Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, the Tiny Titans try to wrest Batman’s cape and cowl away from a cow in “The Battle For The Cow,” Robin’s teammates try to have a costume intervention with him at his birthday party, and there are a couple more stories too. Art Baltazar and Franco’s Tiny Titans remains the jewel in the crown of the Johnny DC sub-line of comics, and I think their Bat-Mite might just be their cutest character yet; it’s hard to tell if he quite out-cutes Lil’ Barda or not.

(Above: Can you guess which one was published in 2009?)
Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) Marvel could probably just go ahead and continue to publish these special on a weekly basis from now on and I’d be as happy as a clam. A comics reading clam. That’s really enjoying the comics he’s reading.

This one features Bucky, Toro and the boy gang of stereotypes they used to pal around with in the pages of Young Allies: Fat Buy, Black Boy, The Smart One and Monkey-faced Asshole. Roger Stern writes it, and Paolo Rivera (!) draws it and holy shit Paolo Rivera rules! Seriously, everyone of these I read, it’s almost always the very best-looking book I buy that Wednesday, and that’s certainly the case again this week.

Roger Stern sets this one in the present—sometime between November of 2008 and late January of this year to be precisely precise—as Bucky “New Captain America” Barnes visits Arlington National Cemetery and decides to look up his old Young Allies. Two are still alive, and he visits them, along the way flash-ing back to some period adventures. First, it’s the time he first met the boys and they all took on The Red Skull and then, later, how they all met up again in Paris, when each was serving in the war in some capacity.

It’s all quite sober, and surprisingly effective. I even felt a little choked up here and there, it was so dramatic. A great deal of credit is certainly due Rivera, but Stern has turned out a hell of a script here. This might be the best Roger Stern story I’ve ever read (or at least the only one I remember liking htis much). Oh, and he even explains why the kids seemed like such crazy stereotypes in the comics rather elegantly. Those were comics produced as propaganda from the clueless crooks that were running the comic book industry back in the day; the real Young Allies were obviously much more, well, realistic.

Oddly, the back-up comic isn’t a Young Allies story (boo!), but instead features Terry Vance, The Schoolboy Sleuth, and his pals cub reporter Deadline Dawson and Dr. Watson, a monkey. There are also some period ads encouraging kids to join Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty pyramid scheme/cult, and a pair of prose stories by Stan Lee which, surprise!, aren’t very good, but holy shit are they full of exclamation points! Try reading them out loud.


By the way, speaking of the Young Allies, did you know if you put "Young Allies" into the search bar at, you'll see this?
And then you won't be able to un-see it, no matter what.

*What’s the deal with her hair anyway? On the cover of Miss America #1 and last week’s Miss America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 she’s blonde; in the interior of the latter she’s a brunette, just as she is in X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl. Why are women so fickle?


Hdefined said...

"And then you won't be able to un-see it, no matter what."


Also, I'm surprised that very few reviewers out there are commenting on just how shockingly bland and inept Power Girl is. Who thought we needed another generic superhero book that was neither cleverly plotted nor cleverly written?

Anonymous said...

I'll make sure to tell Janelle you dug Manhunter. I'm pretty damn proud of that lady right now.

Dean H. said...

Power Girl has been really disappointing so far. I have no idea how this title is going to be different, or even interesting. Given the strong creative team, it is borderline shocking.

My feeling is that the Ultra-Humanite was a mistake as the lead-off villain. Power Girl really needs to establish an identity of her own that is distinct from the JSA and her tenuous connection to Superman. The best way to do that is to give her a series of antagonists that don't relate to either. Instead, they led off with one that connects to both.

The better approach would be to look back at the part of her DNA that isn't already represented in the DCU: Wally Wood. It seems like a pastiche of "Cannon" would make a natural PG antagonist. Follow it with an homage to "Sally Forth", to whom PG could be a sister. Maybe rework a few horror and/or sci-fi stories to provide some threats. Maybe have Karen Starr's software company get mixed up in a legal fight with the Challenger's of the Unknown over a space project (or maybe that is too meta).

It seems like you could spin a year of stories that way without breaking out "Who's Who".

Unknown said...

a belly-exposing tank top reading “C U next tues,”

REALLY!? When I think back to the shitstorms that have broken out over much tamer stuff, I can't believe an editor let this stay in. Holy shit.

Kid Kyoto said...

"In telling his origin story here, Gray and Palmiotti place him at age 21 in a college lab with an assistant named Satanna and a belly-exposing tank top reading “C U next tues,” "

That's not what women scientists wore in the 40s?

Unknown said...

"this use of heat vision which I don't understand"

I don't understand anything on that page, at least not without re-reading it several times. I suppose it's got some sort of panel flow, but at first, second, and third glances it looks like a random assortment of images of the characters fighting. And I totally didn't get it until you talked about it, but I guess she's using her heat vision to propel her head backward into him? Weird.

Also, was it the guy or the assistant wearing the belly-exposing tank top? I'm confused, and that question is going to keep me up at night.

Caleb said...


Ohhhhhhh... I didn't even think of it as an acronym. Is that, like, a thing? Because, if so, wow.

Kid Kyoto,

Admittedly, I wasn't around then. She did have a lab coat on over it though! That part at least looked pretty scientist-y.


That was an unlettered version of the page, but the dialogue didn't refer to the action at all anyway. Yeah, she apparently used her eyes as little rocket engines to shoot her head backwards...? I know nothing about physics or even comic book physics, but I didn't think beams of heat worked like that.

Oh, and it was the female lab assistant lady who had the shirt on. I rewrote that sentence, as it was so vague.

Tracer Bullet said...

Even if heat beams worked like that, it would still mean she was basically punching somebody with her eyeballs. That has to hurt.

LurkerWithout said...

Ultra-Humanite popped up in Blue Beetle in the issue where Jaime teams up with Guy Gardner...

And yeah Holocaust is a Milestone character, former member of Blood Syndicate and regular Static foe. They even had him in the cartoon, but they made him a red head and IIRC used the Pyre name he went by briefly in the comics...

Austin Gorton said...

...wondering about things like whether or not Zabu or Old Lace would win in a fight.

Old Lace for the win, methinks.