Saturday, September 05, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: September 2

Aliens: Salvation (Dark Horse Comics) When I first heard that there was a Dave Gibbons, Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan comic book in existence (published before I'd seen any Alien movies, or knew who Mike Mignola was), I immediately ordered a copy of Aliens Omnibus Vol. 3, which collected it. Then, a few days later, when I was in the shop and saw this new version on the counter, I just couldn't resist Mignola's new cover, so I bought it. I'm glad I did. I have a much fuller (i.e. an actual) review of it over at Robot 6, if you'd like to listen to me sing its praises at some length.

Bat-Mite #4 (DC Comics) Writer Dan Jurgens and artist Corin Howell have Booster Gold and Skeets seek out Bat-Mite's aid in finding the new mystery villain Gridlock, a comics reader/collector/fanboy stand-in who has appeared in previous issues. In this issue, our heroes invade his home base, where they find comics and other collectibles perfectly stored to keep them in perfectly mint condition. The masked villain's exact agenda isn't precisely clear just yet, although he is clearly opposed to change and the march of time, trying to keep things as they were when he was a child.

When Booster attacks Gridlock, telling him that he can't stop time, the villain responds: "No, but I can stop the effect. The years can pass! I'll age-- --But I'll preserve the world at the point it was best!"

"Best for ten-year-old you, maybe," Booster counters (while kicking Gridlock in the stomach), "But you don't get to force your culture down the throats of the young."

It's all pretty obvious, and the criticism might bear a little more weight were it not coming from Dan Jurgens, who has been writing DC superhero comics almost as long as I've been able to read. And he's been writing Booster Gold and Skeets, who Jurgens created almost 30 years ago, off and on for years, frequently returnint to the characters (The title of this story is even "The Gold Standard," with the "G" in "Gold" crossed out so it reads "The Old Standard.")

That's just rubbing the hypocrisy least if you're a reader who knows who Dan Jurgens is. (A  much more elegant criticism of the same phenomena can be found in the Teen Titans Go! episode "The Return of Slade," in which Beast Boy and Cyborg insist that Robin hire a clown to entertain them, and when they find they don't enjoy clowns as much as they did when they were children, they decided the fault lies not in that they've outgrown clowns, but that the clown must be made more mature and adult–the even dunk it in an "X-Tremification" vat–to suit their current tastes. Sorry if I've been talking about Teen Titans Go! too much lately; it's just that it's the best thing ever is all).

Booster and Skeets show up on Bat-Mite's (borrowed) doorstep because they are trying to find and defeat Gridlock, whose efforts to stop progress are apparently deleterious to the timestream itself, and together the three of them tackle the villain, who naturally escapes...and then Booster and Skeets just drop it and leave, having not actually accomplished anything (but if Bat-Mite is capable of teleporting to wherever Gridlock is, then they could just pursue him to wherever he went, and keep doing so until they defeat him, right? Right. Although that wouldn't fit the demands of the book's format, which is essentially that of a  Bat-Mite Team-Up comic).

Bat-Mite's redesign of Booster Gold (who does have an extremely dumb name, and one I've never actually heard explained) is kind of funny, as is his new codename of "Black Gold." Surely "Booster Black" would be funnier still, as it changes the non-lame part of his codename, and more logically swaps out one color for another. An actually cooler name would be Black Star, but that's taken by at least one manga character, and I have a feeling if I Google it, I'll find at least one DC character and probably a Marvel character with that name. But I'm not going to Google it, because I don't actually care that much.

The funniest part of Bat-Mite's attempts to fix Booster Gold by giving him a cooler costume is that DC unironically did the very same thing during when they launched the ill-considered Extreme Justice title, in which Booster got a new look that just made him look like a Rob Liefeld redesign of NFL SuperPro, wearing blue and yellow.
Bat-Mite's Black Gold is nowhere near as ridiculous an attempt to make Booster Gold cool and relevant as that was.

DC Comics Bombshells #2 (DC) A bad news, good news situation, this second issue of DC's digital-first series based on a line of collectible statuettes is absent the work of Marguerite Sauvage, whose work was one of the reasons (the primary one, really) that the first issue was so damn good.

That's the bad news. The good news? It's still based on Ant Lucia's winning designs, it's still written by Marguerite Bennett, who did a fine job of starting to tell a World War II story tying those diverse character designs to characters in a single narrative, and the three artists who draw this issue ain't bad. They are, in order, Laura Braga, Stephen Mooney and Ted Naifeh. Braga's artwork is probably closest to exact design style of Luca, and it looks the closest to the work of Sauvage, and I've long liked the work of Naifeh, who I really wouldn't mind seeing doing something on a more permanent basis than popping up in occasional digital-first DC comics like this one (he's also drawn for Legends of The Dark Knight and Ame-Comi Girls). The second of the three passages, by Mooney,is the weakest, as something apparently got muddled between the scripting and drawing. I have no idea what was supposed to have happened in that segment in which the portrait of Bombshell Supergirl and Stargirl (in Soviet red, rather than blue) appeared...did Supergirl paint it with eyebeams, or at super-speed, or...what?

In terms of story, the first chapter featuring Wonder Woman and Mera diverges rather dramatically from Wonder Woman's Golden Age origin, which is only noteworthy because the Wonder Woman section of the first issue was pretty much a straight re-telling of it, albeit with cooler, more modern designs. She's joined by ocean princess Mera, who alludes to a sister and her sister's husband (no idea who either of them might be, although I suppose it's possible the husband is Aquaman) who rule the sea. Wondy and Mera team-up to break Steve Trevor out of Amazon jail and join him and his country in his fight against the Axis powers. I've already mentioned the Soviet passage featuring the characters who will become Supergirl and Stargirl and, in the final pages, we meet two new Bombshells...and the first real male DC hero. This Naifeh-drawn section is set in a German cabaret, where a scantily-clad Joker's Daughter (who looks flawless, as long as she doesn't smile) introduces a scantily-clad Zatanna, who performs and then has a brief magical battle with an undercover Englishman posing as a German soldier: One John Constantine.

Providence #4 (Avatar Press) This is "The Dunwich Horror" issue of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' weird tour of H.P. Lovecraft's body of work. I had previously referred to their Providence as a sort of League of Extraordinary Gentleman-style take on Lovecraft's bibliography, imagining a shared universe for all of the characters. Between this and the last issue though, which cover two of the stories I'm most familiar with (and/or understood the easiest, as they were among the more straightforward, with "Dunwich" reading almost like a pre-Hollywood horror movie of sorts), I realize that a more apt comparison to something else in Moore's own bibliography may be Lost Girls. Like Lost Girls did with the children's writing of Lewis Carrol, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie, Providence seems to be imagining a version of the real world that could have inspired Lovecraft's cosmic horror mythology. Unlike Lost Girls, which reverse-engineered scenes of high nursery fantasy into real-world sexual experiences, the "real world" of Providence is still fairly fantastic; Moore is imagining a world that Lovecraft could have fictionalized, but not by much...while simultaneously meticulously rearranging Lovecraft's stories so that they are all inter-connected.

It's as much intellectual exercise for Moore himself and the readers as it is entertainment, I suppose, but it's on a subject matter I've always been interested in/amused by, and in a medium I enjoy reading. The presentation is the same as that of the previous issues: Our reporter character wanders to a locale, chats up the surprisingly loquacious occultists for a book he's writing and never takes a single note. Dude must have a photographic memory.

It's not as good as the story it's pulling characters from to de- and then re-fictionalize slightly, which would have been disappointing had this been the first instead of the fourth issue (at this point, I knew what to expect going in). There's a brief "appearance" by the less human of Lavina's sons, who isn't normally visible. That's one of the elements of that story I liked the best, that story and all of Lovecraft's stories, the way his horrors or "marvels" (as he sometimes called them) were invisible, while interacting physically in the real world. Was it in a Lovecraft story, or a story about a Lovecraft story in which Alhazred was said to have been eaten alive in a crowded market by invisible animals...?

Man, I wish this book was coming out when I was in college and more up on all this stuff...

As always, there are a bonus too-many pages of prose in the back, which likely adds a great deal of context and texture to the comic, but I didn't read them, because I bought a comic book, dammit, not a book-book, and if I wanted to read words without pictures I would not have bought a comic book (dammit!).

We Stand On Guard #3 (Image Comics) Jeez let's hope the U.S. government never develops the sort of realistic brain-hijacking that Brian K. Vaughan imagines they have for use of torturing people in this issue and, if they ever do, no one involved with interrogating detainees ever reads this particular comic, because holy shit. Vaughan and Steve Skroce effectively render a scene in which a lady who can take being burned over and over in a pool of flaming gasoline breaks within a second or so of just anticipating something more horrible still, and, the scariest part of the scene is, it's not hard to imagine us actually using such tactics, since they occur only in the mind, and thus don't seem to violate our recent-past legal parsing of the difference between pretty much torture ("enhanced interrogation") and actual torture ("torture").

This issue also actually lays out why the U.S. and Canada could coneivably go to war some day (water; the two countries do currently share the Great Lakes, after all) and features a hobo; I am always happy to see a hobo turn up in my comics.


Anonymous said...

Not that this would make a difference if it came up in the real world, but...the UN Convention Against Torture explicitly covers physical or mental suffering. So hypno-torture or whatever -- definitely still torture

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Caleb: when President Reagan introduced to a huge crowd after Booster saved his life, when asked his name by the press, he first was going to say his nickname in the 25th Century, then Goldstar, and by trying to fix it, Reagan just jumped in and called him Booster Gold.

I also remember that BG was the first new hero introduced post-COIE.

doron said...

If I recall correctly Booster wanted to be called Goldstar but when he was going to be introduced he made a mistake and gave his name/nickname Booster(its what everyone called him) then tried to switch to Goldstar but people just heard Booster Gold