The Owls Are What They Seem

A column article by: Ray Tate


Welcome to the first issue of Tate Necessarily So. I'll dispense with the introduction. Anybody that has perused Comics Bulletin knows who I am. 

Tate Necessarily So is a column-a-copia of reviews and essays. Up front, the Pick of the Brown Bag section will inform with my comic book reviews. In addition, I might have a few words to say about a movie, a book, a DVD or television show. The latest Previews may merit comment or the latest hubub over, say, Batman's costume in the Dark Knight Rises. Let's get that out of the way here and now. It sucks. 






This on the Other Hand is Pure Gold


There are no limits. However, as always, I will avoid spoilers at all costs.


The Pick of the Brown Bag


Avengers Academy #22

Christos Gage; Tom Grummett {p}, Corey Hamscher {i}, Chris Sotomayor {c}




It's the big dukearoo against Hybrid. Christos Gage, Tom Grummett and Chris Sotomayor pack this issue with action, action and action. Though the combatants clash, the colors never do, and Grummett, while keeping the panels filled with superheroes, choreographs the scenes so the costumed gladiators create a sublime aesthetic. Never does the tapestry of justice look busy.



This is an example of the perfect mesh that Gage and company weave. The future Reptil caused strife between Mettle and Hazmat by suggesting Mettle had eyes for X-23. The dialogue in this moment takes in account the main plot of Hybrid usurping the minds of the Cadettes as well as the time travel subplot. The speech is funny, character-specific, and kudos to letterer Joe Caramagna for creating the illusion of under-the breath grumbling. Artist Grummett furthermore illustrates some excellent reactions from Mettle as well as special-effects, enriched by Sotomayor's hues.


Special note must be made for the best depiction of Hawkeye sans mask to date. He still doesn't look like Jeremy Renner, but this is a cut above his usual metrosexual appearance and lilac sunglasses that would embarrass even Ru-Paul.




Batwing #6

Judd Winnick; Ben Oliver, Brain Reber{c}




Batwing benefits from a fluid narrative checking in with our hero at various points in his life. Writer Judd Winnick reveals the corruption in the ranks that impelled David Zavimbe to adopt a secret identity and fight crime. He also unveils the first meeting between Batman and the hero who will become Batwing.

While detailing the past, Winnick escalates the battle between Massacre and Batwing. He also drops a clue to the villain's identity, and he strengthens the bonds between Batwing and the Batman Family; paving the way to a well-advertised team-up between Batman, Batwing, Batgirl, Robin and Nightwing. 



Artist Ben Oliver renders a dynamic past adventure for David pre-Batwing, and he also introduces image-fitting accoutrements to the Batwing suit that recalls some of the Batman's practical wardrobe enhancements -- the Bat-eared motorcycle helmet, the hanglider cape, just to name a few.



Detective Comics #6

Tony Daniel; Sandu Florea {i}, Tomeu Morey {c}




Tony Daniel thickens the plot by looking into the family of Charlotte Rivers. As Charlotte attempts to find evidence linking the Penguin to crime, her ne'er-do-well sister plans to pilfer the Penguin's loot, as well as the funds of several outrageously goofy new villains that are straight out of the Dick Sprang playbook.



The League of Looney Gentleman

Daniel taps into a superb balanced attitude for Detective Comics. Charlotte's sister Jill Hamilton also known as Chase plays homicidal maniac Snakeskin against the champions of justice. Batman delivers terror to numerous lowlives as he tracks down leads. In the middle we have the Penguin offering his services as an illegal banker for the outré thieves of Gotham City.



Dark Knight

Daniel plies this balance to the characterization of Batman as well. He's at once a detective, a vigilante and human being. I never expected it, but Daniel's Batman, in keeping with the New 52 Universe, is the Batman I immediately recognize, and that's saying something. 



Light Knight

The visual representation of Batman is valid, even though I wish his ears were longer. When darkness takes Charlotte, Batman employs both aspects of his personality. As a creature of the night, he rains hell down upon Snakeskin and as a caped crusader he performs daring-do. His human side expresses his feelings over the fate of Charlotte and chastises himself for falling victim to a death trap that creates the breathless cliffhanger. An awesome issue.




Futurama Comics #59

Ian Boothby, John Delaney{p}, Dan Davis{i}, Robert Stanley{c}




The cover would suggest that the owls have taken over. That's not exactly true. Owls in the Futurama universe have become like pigeons -- or rather crows, in my neck of the woods. Indeed, a recent episode on DVD demonstrated the natural selection. Zoidberg and the Professor sat on a park bench in New New York and fed the owls live mice from a bag. Yum.



The Owls Are What They Seem

The owls do play a part in the B-story. They take the Wile E. Coyote role when Leela snatches some of their eggs to make breakfast. Leela's inadvertent declaration of war against animals reflects the classic Futurama episode The Problem with Popplers. It's just in Leela's nature to fight for the environment and destroy it simultaneously. 




The A story belongs to Bender, and through this A-story, Ian Boothby sharply buffoons the body politic. Mayor Poopenmeyer is in need of re-election. Bender volunteers, and he uses every dirty trick and falsehoods that current politicians use -- as well as a nod to Batman Returns.

Rick Perry, I don't know is he still running for the ticket on a trip to nowhere, wanted Texas to secede from the Union when President Obama's Health Law was merely a bill. New New York actually does this and leaves the planet for adventure, no actually disaster. Boothby sagely demonstrates why it's not a good idea for anybody to remove themselves from civilization. John Delaney's artwork looks smashing on the the thicker paper-stock, and it's also enjoyable to see a letters column and "The Bongo Beat" in the back of the book.





Green Arrow #6

Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens; Ignacio Calero{p}, Ray McCarthy{i}, Tanya and Richard Horrie{c}




This was a tough call. The guest artist Calero changes the look of Green Arrow. He makes him resemble a pugilist, breaking and healing his nose through the panels. 



Too Many Hits to the Face

Even with the Dan Jurgens breakdowns, this appearance is a far cry from the young, Esquired Oliver Queen portrayed previously.



Nice Set of Naomis

Calero also doesn't do any favors for Naomi, the smart, savvy computer guru that aids Green Arrow ala Chloe Sullivan. Calero turns the reasonably proportioned smart dresser into a typical comic book bimbo. On the other hand, Calero fulfills the action quotient quite nicely. 


In the end, the book earns a higher grade for the story itself. Giffen and Jurgens takes a turn here that you simply could not have predicted, and it's just sick enough that you take a step back and say, "What the hell?" In a good way.




Justice League International #6

Dan Jurgens; Marco Castiello {p}, Vinceno Acunzo {i}, Hi-Fi {c}




Justice League International is putrid. Toxic, even. Why was this issue allowed to be published? Batman returns to the real Justice League, after suggesting Booster Gold's future career as a quarterback prepared him to lead a team of super-heroes. 

The rest of the JLI split into smaller groups to clean up the mess from the previous issues. The scenes with Green Lantern, Rocket Red and Ice do absolutely nothing but take up space. At best, the moments with Godiva and the Crusty Chinese Guy pass the time. At worst, the story presents a threat to the JLI that's just not credible. That this danger stymies even Batman is woeful. Then, we arrive at the predictable scenario where the UN attempts to close down the JLI. Who gives a rat's behind? Oh, and although the artwork is a decent. It's not Lopresti, which would have given this book a second Satellite. As it stands:



3-Star Villainy

Both Fathom and Swamp Thing spend way too much time detailing the villains' plans or origins, and in the case of Fathom, it's really unnecessary since Nakamura's origin is a pedestrian affair involving revenge against Fathom's people the Blue.


The Adventures of the Brothers (Part One)

So, the Phantom of the Attic is cleaning out their warehouse, and they've got some doozies in the quarter boxes. As soon as I saw The Adventures of the Brothers, I knew I had to have these issues.



Oh, My...

I didn't know what to make of these things. Were they like the Supergirl Honda Giveaway? Comic book tie-ins dealers of all sorts used to hawk? Were they just a bizarre idea of generic kids fighting crime without a talking dog? It turns out that they were that rare breed of comic book known as Christian comic books and the brain children of Al Hartley.




Al Hartley wasn't as well-known an artist as say Jack Kirby, but Hartley was there from the beginning, working for Timely, which would morph into Marvel. He co-created one of Marvel's first jungle girls, The Leopard Girl.



Cover by Joe Manley

He took over Journey to Mystery when Jack Kirby left the title, but primarily he's better known for his work in Archie Comics. Around the same time, he contributed to burlesque comic strips found in men's magazines of the time.



When Mr. Hartley started experiencing marital problems, he became a Born Again Christian and started Spire Comics, comics for and by Christians.



Adventures of the Brothers lasted three issues, which just goes to show you that sales matter to Christian Comics as well. Next week, I'll take a look at the two issues I now have in my collection.



Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.


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