What Happened to the Sharks?

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. You've stopped by at the right time. This week, I have a bumper crop of reviews to share including Aquaman, Avengers Academy, Flash, Red Sonja, the She-Devil's team-up with Witchblade and Superman. We'll also start an excursion into the second issue of Adventures of the Brothers

 

The Pick of the Brown Bag 

 

Aquaman #6

Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis (breakdowns), Joe Prado, Rod Reis {c}

DC

Mera goes to town in order to get she and Aquaman's newly acquired canine some dog food. She instead encounters sexual harassment, a suspenseful standoff and experiences some interesting flashbacks, which cast a new light on her relationship with Aquaman and her origins in the New 52 Universe. Don't be alarmed. It's not that different.

Geoff Johns writes a completely pro-woman comic book, and I am speechless. After Johns' fantastic Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and early issues of JSA, he started doing some strange things to female characters. He consistently presented them as ignorant if not downright stupid. In Geoff Johns' oevre, women literally found themselves under the sword.

The Death of Phantom Lady

He is partly responsible for DC's unwelcome translation as Dead Chicks, and the way he killed these female heroes, through penetration, was often criticized as contributing to a chauvinist male's fantasy.

Mera's tribulations begin with this fellow:

Weasel

If you asked me a couple of months ago if such a cartoonish exaggeration of sexism if not downright misogyny could exist in the real world, I would have said no. However, even when eliminating Santorum from the mix, you still have Bishop Zubick and Congressman Issa who convened a panel on birth control that lacked a single woman speaker. So, yeah, the appropriately named Randy sadly represents a good approximation. The truth is that sexism and misogyny are two-dimensional concepts, and women-haters seldom exhibit complexity.

Unsurprisingly, the local authorities don't pin any medals on Mera for dealing with this jackass. Instead, the humans huddle around him and unite against the other. Never the less, this scene indicates a paradigm shift in DC's powers. 

Surrender

In the previous universe, the Powers appeared to let the villains of the DCU run roughshod over the heroes, who obeyed human law to the letter. These New 52 heroes are different animals and more inclined to obey a personal ethical standard. They acknowledge human law as a good start but imperfect. This is in fact similar to how the Golden Age and Bronze Age heroes behaved. They upheld the law, so long as the laws didn't interfere with their serving of justice. Case in point, when kidnapers abducted Jimmy Olsen, Superman threatened to wrap the Galaxy Building around Morgan Edge's head.

Violence Against Women

Mera's surrender is actually an elegant means that she exploits in order to reach the stand-off situation she overhears on the police radio. Mera once again interferes in a crime of violence against women, and the smooth transition indicates Johns' remarkable control of the plot. He seamlessly merges two marginally related set pieces into coherency.

What Fools These Mortals Be

Johns furthermore establishes the power of Mera in these scenes. He also shows that while Mera's more than willing to dish out punishment, she also will show mercy. 

    

 

Avengers Academy #26

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

Marvel

Although chatty, this is an engrossing issue of Avengers Academy. Christos Gage returns to issues he broached. Do superheroes do any real, lasting good? Honestly, when somebody mentions things like this in a story about capes and tights, I tend to roll my eyes, and there were a few places I rolled my eyes in this treatment as well. 

In reality, superheroes can comfort us as children and create larger than life role models to live up to. I doubt I would have pursued a life in science had I not read Batman's exploits. I doubt I would have taken up gymnastics as a kid. As such, I doubt that I would have become an atheist without the exposure to science, and I doubt I would have stayed in good health if not for the early gymnastic training. So, yeah, in the real world, superheroes do make a difference. 

Comic books are furthermore a gateway to reading, and that's not just superhero comics. A kid that read Little Lulu is likely going to pick up Harry Potter, and the adult just may peruse Elmore Leonard. Then there are fundraising possibilities currently being explored.

A Noble Cause

The questions Gage poses in Avengers Academy however pertain to a fictional world, and they don't really gel because I always imagined that the heroes actually did address real world problems. I can't believe that there would be drought in the Marvel version of Darfur because I assumed that Thor would call down a thunderstorm to replenish the soil. The Black Panther, with the technological wonders of Wakanda, probably eliminated most of organized crime in Africa. In an issue of The Incredible Hulk, Jeff Parker answered some of the issues Gage raises. In Parker's book, the Eternals closed up the Ozone Hole over Antarctica.

Characterization is what sets Avengers Academy above most philosophical discussions about people who don't exist. Tigra was a cop, and she's the one that dopes out Jocasta's new allegiances.

Tigra is Love

Veil already knew that Striker was gay. Although under the influence of a newfound jealousy over X-23, Hazmat is willing to sacrifice her happiness for Mettle's happiness.

Hank Pym

Hank Pym expresses a truth about himself that most would not, and the possible future that we've seen for our heroes changes into something a little more optimistic, or has it?

Tom Grummett and Corey Hamscher illustrate a book that's for the majority a group of people just talking with each other. For a lesser artist that would be a death sentence, but Grummett bestows distinctive body language to the cast even when each hero is at ease, and Hamscher's inks ehance the overall depth and perspectives at work in the panels. 

As usual, Avengers Academy is one of Marvel's most colorful books, and Chris Sotomayor makes a discussion pop, but I do object to Tigra's purple eyes. They're green, baby, green.

   

 

Flash #6

Francis Manapul {also p}, Brian Buccellato {also c}

DC

Last issue, the Flash learned that his use of the Speed Force caused tears in the fabric of space and time. Objects from the past would actually fall into the present day. That paradox also caused the EMP pulse that crippled the city.

The consequences of the Flash's power play a part in Cold's decision to seek vengeance. It's not the only trigger. The Flash shut Cold down everytime, for five years, and these cumulative defeats set up him up for the final straw, however tragic.

Cold Shoulder

The Flash and Cold are now more evenly matched, and this equality feeds into the idea that the Flash of the past always feared his rogues discovering how powerful they actually were. The threat Cold now represents endangers Barry Allen's loved ones and potential paramours. How this pans out is anybody's guess, but writer Manapul includes an out that would be extremely upbeat. The question is will Cold and Flash stop fighting and start discussing the situation before it's too late.

The new cold designed by Brian Buccellato is a pretty slick update on the old eskimo Cold and also combines some of Darwyn Cooke's ideas from his New Frontier visuals. This version of Cold is younger, and the manifestations of his power offers some neat effects ably illustrated on the pages.

Warmth

Surprisingly some of the best art arises from the scenes depicting Barry's relationship with Patty, his CSI partner.

More Than a Flash in the Pan

This is not to say that the Flash fight scenes scenes are boring. Far from it, but I just like how Buccellato educes warmth from the characters and admire the twists of form that are perfectly in proportion.

   

 

Red Sonja #64

Eric Trautmann, Walter Geovani, Adriano Lucus{c}

Dynamite 

Hey, wait a minute, Mr. Postman

A sorcerer's occult servants literally carry away Red Sonja and her comrades to an ancient city under the sand. There battle will be had, and magic will rob Sonja of an easy victory.

Sand Castle

This visual captures the scope of imagination inherent in the Robert E. Howard Weird Tales. Unfortunately, somebody was hankering for breakfast when illustrating.

Freshly Squeezed

When Walter Geovani and colorist Adriano Lucus turn their palettes to Sonja the Red, they maker her as breathtaking as the city. Sonja is a beautiful, statuesque woman who wears a chain-mail bikini--perfectly practical this time around given the dry, desert clime. 

Walk the Walk

There's simply no way possible for an artist to draw her in such a way where thoughts of t & a do not cross the mind. Comportment is where Geovani and Lucus differ. They grant Sonja dignity. The way she walks in this scene evokes regal bearing. The artists impart guile to the scarlet-haired brigand when Sonja draws her sword. 

The Avenger

The parlay before the battle ratchets the tension, and writer Trautmann grants a history to the Horn of Nergal that bears the verisilimatude of the Hope Diamond. 

While much of the story relies on events that occurred in past issues of Red Sonja, Trautmann doesn't make that knowledge a reader requirement. The exposition about the past ties into the dialogue, and Sonja's determination to save a little girl creates an easy to understand goal. The history of the girl is immaterial.

   

 

Witchblade/Red Sonja #1

Doug Wagner, Cezar Razek{p}, Troy Peteri{i}, Marlon Ilagan{c}

Dynamite

Sonja appears in a second book this week, and Witchblade/Red Sonja. The story occurs in two time periods. Sonja in fact meets the period bearer of the Witchblade, a blonde named Nissa, while on the vengeance trail. Seems that somebody has been abducting and killing daughters. Sonja promised the surviving fathers that she would punish the culprits. Thus, Wagner preserves Sonja's feminist hero roots without introducing misandry.

Sonja, Nissa. Nissa, Sonja

Since the culprits turn out to be monsters, with some interesting habits, Cezar Razek, Troy Peteri, Marlon Ilagan enjoy an opportunity to cut loose. The horrific and fantasy imagery is at an all time high as is Sonja's flashing blade.

Sonja vs. Troll

Likewise, the artists orchestrate some tremendous moments devoted to the bearers of the Witchblde.

Puff This Ain't

    

 

Superman #6

George Perez, Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens {speech}, Nicola Scott {p}, Trevor Scott {i}, Jesus Merino {finishes}, Brett Smith {c}

DC

Somebody Save Me

Last issue, the doppleganger Superman dropped tabloid reporter William McCoy to his doom. Thanks to Kara Zor-El, McCoy lives to apologize to the Man of Steel.

Supergirl vs. Bizarro

This issue of Superman ultimately nothing more than a big dukearoo pitting Kara against Superman's double. If not for Kal-El's involvement in the latter half Superman would be a defacto issue of his cousin's book. That suits me fine since I'm a huge fan of Supergirl. Others might find this focus objectionable, hoping instead to find a more Superman-themed entertainment. 

The Mind of Steel

In defense of what many will feel is a Supergirl centered review, when Superman does fly onto stage, he does not disappoint. The dialogue by Giffen and Jurgens suits the Big Red S, and his acumen is just as important as his super-strength, speed and soaring. 

Superman vs. Bizarro

McCoy's apology to Superman indicates a shift in opinion toward the Man of Steel by the media, and so Superman gains an important ally, not so much in the authorities.

That said, Superman is really a more important Supergirl book. This is the moment when Kara announces herself to the world. Before Superman, the public in general did not know of her existence. So, there won't be any teasing in the New 52 Universe. Given Supergirl's actions in Superman, the world will likely greet her in a favorable light. McCoy especially should send her chocolates on the anniversary of her rescue. 

Supergirl's actions in this story echo her purpose in the original Silver Age stories. Supergirl was meant to be Superman's secret weapon. A lifeline for moments when he succumbs to kryptonite; a successor should the unthinkable occur and a contingency plan to stop him should he ever be possessed. While Supergirl isn't actually fighting Superman, she still fullfills her original incarnation's destiny. 

Although it's clear that Giffen and Jurgens will be fully capable to delight readers with enjoyable Superman stories, it's also apparent that they don't mind sharing Superman with the rest of the New 52 Universe. Supergirl's appearance in fact comes as a surprise, yet it makes perfect sense, and their dialogue for her is equally suitable for the Maid of Might.

Artist Nicola Scott engenders her best work to date. Beneath the colors of red, blue and gold and the superb inks of Trevor Scott, she galvanizes a duel to the death. Although, Supergirl doesn't know the creature's intent.

    

   

 

The Adventures of the Brothers

Our story begins with Pete and Tom surfing. They spot somebody in need of help. I would be remiss in idenitifying Pete's and Tom's most admirable quality. While they are smug, and they may be acting for all the wrong reasons, they are without a doubt willing to help anybody in trouble.

Trouble Thy Name is Surfing

The weird thing about this scene is that Tom points out and the panel depicts sharks about to turn the hapless girl into chum, but then as if by magic, the next panel shows everybody safe and sound.

Ruh?

What happened to the sharks? I mean, what's stopping the sharks from eating Pete and Tom? Those surfboards offer little protection from big, shiny rows of teeth, and the thing about sharks is that their teeth regenerate. So even if we imagine a bit of digestive issues. The teeth would simply come back. No, I can't see any way where Pete and Tom can actually make this rescue. On the other hand, perhaps sharks don't attack Christians, or maybe they prayed the beasts away.

Pete and Tom take the poor girl back to their island retreat, which they share with their father Dr. Brothers, a once brilliant, rich medical practitioner that threw it all away for a simple missionary life. The girl tells a tale of a cult on the island of Takaho, not a bad name. This makes Tom and Pete itchy, but it's dangerous, says Dad. Rightfully so, yet somehow, Pete and Tom convince their father that they can deal with the hazards of a deadly cult.

This brings to mind a possibly different interpretation of The Adventures of the Brothers. Perhaps, Dr. Brothers lost his medical practice and his license. Perhaps, he went bankrupt, and this whole missionary scheme was to isolate the danger-seeking boys on an island without constabulary. I suspect Dr. Brothers has Pete and Tom heavily insured.

Next week, the story continues, and you will see Tom and Pete perform more feats of daring do by resourcefully pulling things from their asses.

 


 

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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