Are Terrorists Simply Trying Too Hard?

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. This week I'll be looking at Avengers Academy, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow and the pivotal sixth issue of The Huntress. Is this really Helena Wayne? Justice League International is also on the docket, and I have a few words to say about The Fearless, Static Shock and the final issue of Villains For Hire. Furthermore, we have another installment of Adventure! With the Brothers, a title from the sub-ghetto of '70s Christian Comic Books.

The Pick of the Brown Bag

Writer, Penciler {p}, Inker {i}, Colorist {c}

 

Avengers Academy #27

Christos Gage, Karl Moline {p}, Jim Fern {i}, Chris Sotomayor {c}

Marvel

What we have here is an outright Avengers Academy comedy, that's based upon accurate characterization and character interaction. Clashing and meshing personalities evolve the humor. There's no villain, just a quickly settled misunderstanding and a problem to solve. 

First up, we have Striker's gay orientation. The bisexual Julie Powers believes Striker needs understanding and support from his teammates as he slowly makes the transition. Striker has other ideas.

The conference puts a damper on the Runaways plan to pop in and ask for help, that and an over anxious reformed Sentinel. This leads to some slapstick superhero slugfests, followed by the hilarity in which Hank Pym meets a practically gushing relative.

The Runaways are fearful that the Avengers will force them to stay, but Hank and Tigra have learned their lessons. However, they do have a responsibility to the youngest of the Runaways, and given the youngest of the Runaways cooing over Tigra's painfully cute son William, I'm seeing baby-kitty sitting duties as the solution to the impending misconception.

Avengers Academy isn't just funny, it's smart. Coyly playing with her hair, a sure sign of interest in body language translation, Julie Powers makes a new friend, and this moment instills a superb, in-character response from Hazmat.

Yes. In this respect, we are.

Hazmat and the Goth girl with the scepter engage in some dueling literary references. White Tiger gets a fan and expresses grin-worthy disdain toward Captain America-loving Reptil, and in an homage to The Flintstones, a boy is reunited with his dinosaur. 

Karl Moline's excellent artwork probably turned out even better than he could have imagined. He had a ton of characters to illustrate. Every one of the Avengers is on-model. The design of the narrative, the propinquity of the cast demonstrates Moline's skillful understanding of space. Even when not orchestrating the dynamism he's known for in such works as Fray and Angel, he amply argues that he's no mean penciller but a master of the trade. 

My one caveat, that did not factor into the final grade. I'm not going to let up on this, and if there are any colorists out there reading this column, drop a note to Chris Sotomayor, please. Tigra's eyes are green, baby. Green. 

    

 

Batwing #7

Judd Winnick, Dustin Nguyen {p}, Derek Fridolfs {i}, Brian Reber {c}

DC

Batwing is pretty impressive this week. Overall, I've been enjoying this title much more than I expected, and this issue exemplifies why.

The first storyarc has been pitting Batwing, the fully endorsed African Batman, against Massacre, an armored, possibly empowered murderer who seeks revenge against the Kingdom, an African super-team, that actually looks like a force to be reckoned with. In fact, they look better than some of the fly-by-night super rosters that have graced the pages of both Marvel and DC.

The Kingdom

As you might have noted, I referred to Africa a lot in the above paragraph, and that's because Batwing is one of few books that actually captures an international flavor. 

Even American books set in England seldom reflect the culture, unless they've actually been written and/or illustrated by Englishmen. Judd Winnick, an American as far as I know, did his research, and as a result, Batwing's atmosphere and set of problems presented in the plot compare favorably to those of Bangalla spotlit in Moonstone's run of The Phantom. If you have read any of my reviews, you know that's high praise indeed.

In this issue, we learn what "crime" the Kingdom committed. As you may have gleaned from the quotes, the actual malfeasance is debatable, and that's a refreshing change from the usual deconstructionist drivel and dismissal of superheroes as fascists. You want to see fascism? Look at the Religious Right movement. Superheroes represent free will and optimism. Both concepts and their agents would be unwelcome in such a dumb, homogenous world.

With the "crime" revealed, Batman and Batwing coordinate with the first New 52 appearance of... drumroll, please... the Batman Family

Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin guest-star to locate members of the Kingdom that moved to Gotham City, and this is another example of why I think Batwing deserves your attention. It's a Batman Family book. 

With this issue, Batwing becomes one of the Batman Family. Winnick and company never attempted to do something traditionally stupid like have Batwing come into conflict with Batman because "he's his own man." That's some serious dumbassery. Having the approval of Batman, learning from Batman is the best thing a hero can do. Batman has been recognized by the Shadow and Sherlock Holmes as the rightful heir to their crimefighting empires. You distinguish the character through personality not through a separation from the very character that inspires him. Batwing proudly defines himself as a member of the Batman Family, and in one entertaining scene he displays the instincts he's honed under the tutelage of the Bat. 

Bat Synch

Kudos also go to Batman Beyond team Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs and colorist Brian Reber. The art is uniformly striking, capturing the emotion and the dynamics of all the characters, and there was only one moment of anatomical inaccuracy that made me cringe.

    

 

Detective Comics #7

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

DC

My, my, my. What we have here is nothing short of a fast-paced hardboiled crime novel. Criminal after criminal double-crosses the other to forge a plot so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of it, and the only thing stopping the book from becoming depressing noir where even innocent characters circle the drain is Batman. In short, perfect.

When last we left the Dark Knight, he tended to the wounds of Charlotte Rivers, current paramour and ace reporter. Unfortunately, Batman's concern over Charlotte allowed him to fall victim to a deathtrap set by the face changing Snake-Skin, partner to Jill, Charlotte's cyborg sister.

Our book opens with Jill violently chastising Snake-Skin for killing her sister, but eventually she, being a cold bitch straight from the cunning, cigarette-smoking, gun-wielding chippy mold, quickly comes to terms with the death of Charlotte and carries out her plan to assassinate the Penguin and steal his funds as well as the money entrusted to him by low-level wannabe criminal masterminds like the dreaded Mr. Hypno.

Would You Trust This Man With Your Money?

While Jill and Skake-Skin carry out the scheme, Batman orchestrates an impressive rescue. No, spoilers I guess, Charlotte lives because this is Batman in Detective Comics. His method is based on solid medical knowledge as well as his willingness to do the outrageous in order to serve justice, thus preserving his status as a vigilante. 

Once, Charlotte's safety is a certainty, Batman sets his sights on the bad guys, and as he does he deduces the entire convoluted scheme. Yes, Detective Comics in addition to being a clever Batman story and a smart game of criminal one upmanship is also a fairplay mystery. 

As you can see by the samples, the tale also looks like it could have been the basis for the third Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman film offering up a hypothetical return of the Penguin. 

How could I not give this book...

    

 

Huntress #6

Paul Levitz, Marcus To {p}, John Dell {i}, Andrew Dalhouse {c}

DC

You've heard the hype. Huntress #6 is supposed to introduce Helena Wayne back into the mythology. The hype is true. 

Reading this story, the narrative told in Helena's point of view and seeing all the acrobatic stunts that she performs while smashing the remains of a sex-trafficking ring there is no way in this world that writers and artists Paul Levitz and Marcus To could have convinced me that the star hero was anybody but Helena Wayne. She's simply too effective and too skillful to be the generic Huntress. 

 

Don't misread. They could have written the generic Huntress this way, but they would never have sold this character to me as the generic Huntress, even if co-creator Joe Staton were illustrating. I'm even willing to agree that this was the plan all along. Paul Levitz fully intended to reintroduce Helena Wayne to the New 52 Universe

I haven't read the past issues of this mini-series, something that I will rectify soon, but the way the Huntress acts and sounds in her dialogue strongly differs from the traditionally bland speech and attitude of the generic Huntress. It's in fact only when writers such as Grant Morrison purposely mimicked the pre-Crisis relationship of Batman and Huntress that you took notice of Helena Bertinelli.

Indeed, this Huntress has a fire in her that was always missing from her ersatz imitation. At the same time, Levitz takes advantage of the New 52 Universe to rework his co-creation's characterization. This is not the Helena Wayne from the pre-Crisis, nor incarnation from the Geoff Johns one-shot JSA introducing a new earth that mirrored the old Earth 2. 

The new Huntress is Helena Wayne, the daughter of the Bat and the Cat, but the newest avatar of the legacy takes after the Cat more than the Bat in terms of personality. This Helena Wayne is spicier. What she gains from her father is a natural aptitude for strategic thinking as well as an intellect that she wields as a weapon sharper than the arrows of her crossbow.

The book leads directly into the new World's Finest series focusing on the adventures of Huntress and Power Girl. Levitz leaves you without a doubt when Karen Starr guest stars, and he answers the question we've all been wondering since Karen guest-starred in Mr. Terrific.

    

 

It's Time to Play... What's! Worse!


 or 

Well, DC let out two stinkers this week. Both Green Arrow and Justice League International are vile, fetid comic books. That's right. They're so bad that they have an aroma, and it's not pleasant.

 

In the Green Arrow, deadly triplets first screw the hell out of him then screw him over. On the plus side, well, there's the screwing. Green Arrow gets triplets in the sky, making him King of the Mile High Club.

That's so Hot, er, I think…Um…What exactly is going on?

I'm supportive of any depiction of sex that's shown to be fun and positive, even if it's a honey trap. Does Green Arrow deserve sex with triplets? Well, the previous universe's archer deserved to be dragged through a cactus patch, but this incarnation of Green Arrow hasn't even met Black Canary let alone cheated on her. So, he has a clean slate, and a man with a clean slate deserves sex with triplets. Of course the artwork could have been a little more explicit, like actually show somebody strip rather than imply it. I'm not asking for full on nudity. Just a bra scene to serve as a guidepost. Thankfully, the dialogue is less suggestive and more concrete.

In Justice League International, after last issue's explosion we find a group of energy constructs picking off the survivors. Well, my jaw dropped, after reading this. What sort of offal…This is a book that belongs in the previous universe. It's as depressing as conceiving of a Rick Santorum presidency. I mean it's true that I didn't like Briggs or his assistant, but I didn't want them blown to smithereens. However, as I predicted, one of the superpowered cast dies. Hint, it's nobody important.

The most amusing thing about Justice League International is that Batman is the optimistic motivator. He's the one directing the healthy members of the team. He's the one personally conducting a rescue operation, cradling Godiva as if he were an uber-protector, which he is, and she a vulnerable maiden fair, which she shouldn't be. Batman's the one pursuing the big bad in the end. He's probably the one suggesting Batwing drop by, but Batman should have deduced an attack on the UN last issue. He is supposed to be "The world's greatest detective," after all. In Jurgens hands, however, these heroes seem less than what they're supposed to be, and that kind of realism doesn't really belong in any Justice League book unless it's Justice League Average.

Justice League International is only slightly palatable because of Aaron Lopresti's artwork. The man can draw up a storm, and his Batman is easily one of the best from the new guys. 

On the other hand, should women really look this good after an explosion, and should their costume be ripped and torn to expose skin rather than the carnage of the real explosion? In this case, verisimilitude would have bolstered the plot.

I'm Too Sexy for Soot

I think I would have been happier had Bea actually been ravaged by this damage or simply escaped unharmed; she is a fire being. Her still coifed hair and her comely looks after being at ground zero seems more geared for arousal than explosive aftereffect. The niceness, the unblemished heroes makes Justice League International all the more out of place.

Ack!

Green Arrow on the other hand has artwork that can induce epileptic fits. The artist's style is a strange clash of Art Noveau and Rob Liefield homage. You can get physically ill looking at this comic book. The proportion is horrendous with not just breasts being sized in terms of melons but also heads being too small for bodies and hair looking like tentacles. The reflective surfaces of PVC suits and body armor add to the overwrought display. The whole choreography is strange and disturbing. The pastel colors help nobody, and about the nicest thing I can say about Green Arrow's art is that together the illustrators cobble together an excellent depiction of a hummingbird.

The Best in Show

The plot by veteran Ann Nocceti is as thin as Mitt Romney's conviction, and she cribs the hummingbird's purpose from Batman:The Animated Series' "Almost Got 'Em." Hey, if you do want to steal, steal from the best. On the other hand, I've got to say it is surprising and daring to see a female writer introduce herself to new readers by having the male lead engage in a foursome -- in the air no less.

Ultimately, I've got to say that Green Arrow and Justice League International are equally and remarkably bad for different reasons. Green Arrow could have used Aaron Lopresti's art; imagine how nice that foursome would have looked. The morose Justice League International could have used the energy and the fun in Green Arrow's shallow plotting. Overall, Batman should have prevented the bombing by warning the UN last issue, and Green Arrow... No, actually, he behaved pretty intelligently this issue. Never the less, both issues felt like...

 

The Professor and Mary Ann...

 

I know that Fearless is a Fear Itself tie-in, and that in itself is hilarious since Fear Itself ended years ago, but let me give you one counterargument.

Valkyrie

This is essentially Cullen Bunn, the guy who gave us the magic that was The Deep, a defacto Defenders book better than the current Defenders book; Paul Pelletier, artist on Youth In Revolt and Mark Bagley, whoever he is, raising Valkyrie to prominence. Want to see Val kill a grotesque of monsters? They've got you covered. Want to see Val behead one of them? Right here. Care to watch Val bitch-slap Crossbones? Uh-huh.

   

The seventh issue of Static Shock is a fun, done in one romp pitting the teen against an intangible thief who uses robots to distract him while the sisters Sharon attempt to determine which one is real and which is the clone. Static uses actual science to win the day, and Hardwire provides the upbeat ending. The thief however is anything but altruistic, and his rationale is quite interesting.

   

Finally, Villains for Hire turned out exactly how I predicted. So how can I possibly be disappointed? Misty Knight played the Purple Man like a cello, and the villains fall like dominoes. The art by Renato Arlem and the colorists is just the right amount of gritty and traditional superhero fare. Perfect to capture a group of losers about to lose even larger.

   

 

Adventure! With the Brothers

An Embarrassment of Riches

Last Issue, the Brothers took their mini-sub to a neighboring island in order to investigate the claims of a pretty castaway they somehow rescued from sharks. There, they found a cache of gold, sadly not from Goldfinger, which would have been interesting, but from an even less likely source.

The Gold Suppliers

Yeah, teens have gold bouillon just lying around. That's why so many of them work for McDonalds. They carry 100 dollar bills in their wallets as well, just like Romney. 

Before encountering the teens, the Brothers decide to engage in a little sabotage.

Twist Propeller A and Pull Off Axle B

I would have said that they're going to put a spanner in the works of the cult leader, but apparently they don't have one, and they don't need one. You see, on gunboats, it would appear that you can just use your bare hands to spin the propellers off a boat. I'm speechless.

Are terrorists simply trying too hard in the quest to bring down western civilization? I mean, all they need do is learn how to swim and pry off the propellers of the 7th Fleet. What? What's that you need special equipment? Sonuvabitch! Adventure! With the Brothers, you've led me astray again!

One questions whether Al Hartley researched any of this, but common sense tells you that you're going to at least need a wrench to undo nuts and bolts that hold the propellers onto a boat. I mean, if the Brothers can pull a mini-sub out of their collective asses, surely they can produce a wrench. Too vaguely phallic to be included in their arsenal? Don't want something stiff and long to loosen nuts?

The Brothers return to shore where they meet the cult leader.

"Oh, the Deuce You Say."

Yeah, he looks like I don't know somebody you would find hiding under a monster suit in a Scooby-Doo mystery. Of course, this fellow is a bit nastier than the real estate con-artists that end up being scraped off the shoes of those meddling kids and their zany dog.

No! Not Threats! Please Not Threats! Say it's not so!

The Brothers make contact with yet another pretty cult victim.

First, why the hell did Pete or Tom ask the girl if she loved Jesus or not? Is their aid predicated on the victim's belief. 

"What? You're a Buddist in need of help? Well, screw you, sister."

"But I really need help."

"You should have prayed to Jesus instead of lard butt like Buddha."

Second, what the hell is a Christian Colony? Bad enough they're in America, now they're colonizing? Third, how stupid is this girl? Oh, and why is she still wearing clothes? Shouldn't she be in some rags or a sack she fashioned into a dress? What kind of cult lets you keep your own then fashionable Barbie wear? What kind of cult lets you keep cosmetics? She's wearing lip gloss, Maybeline and sporting pencilled in eyebrows.

I know what you're thinking if not for the Brothers, this would have turned into a funky exploitation movie where the cult leader uses his victims as prostitutes for well-to-do-men. No, sorry. I don't think Al Hartley thought that far ahead of the game. 

This cult leader is woeful. He's clearly letting his acolytes get away with far too much freedom, and he doesn't have a clue how to exploit his victims to their fullest. With guys like this pitted against the Brothers, we're never going to get rid of them, which means will be exploring another part of this wretched comic book next week in Tate Necessarily So.

 


 

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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