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A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. It's a DC bonanaza this week as I review Batgirl, Mr. Terrific, Legion Lost, My Greatest Adventure and The Ray. I'll also look at Saga the new Image book from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples and the latest issue of Simpsons Comics from Bongo. We'll also check in with the Brothers.

 

Pick of the Brown Bag

 

Batgirl #7

Gail Simone, Adrian Syaf {p}, Vincente Cifuentes {i}, Ulises Arreola {c}; Alitha Martinez {guest penciller}

DC

Batgirl encounters a new villain christened Grotesque. His personality reminds me of that of Jim Moriarty from Stephen Moffat's outstanding BBC series Sherlock.


 

Grotesque's shtick to steal only the best of the best echoes the modus operandi of Silver Age Batman villains. Catwoman wouldn't just steal ordinary diamonds like she does nowadays. She would steal the feline jade pendant of Katmandu. 

Batgirl's Wisdom

Simone makes Grotesque's target far less kitchsy. In the real world, connoisseurs attribute value to bottles of wine. So, Simone's setup is perfectly reasonable, and her outline of the bottle's history grants further verisimilitude. Attaching homicide to the theft turns Grotesque into a threat that must be addressed.

And That's Why Batgirl is Awesome

The opening battle in the sewers is a grueling duel to the death that ends quite suddenly with Batgirl's unexpected move scoring the revelation of an interesting psychological quirk. The fight allows artist Adrian Syaf, Vincente Cifuentes and Ulises Arreola to strut their stuff. Their display, however, is far too brief, as another artist illustrates the sagging middle of the book.

Dark Knight Damsel in Shining Armor

While Alitha Martinez's figures are a little stiff and in the case of Barbara's mother quite different from Adrian Syaf's models, they are still palatable. Part of the problem I think is that Martinez takes the idea of body armor too literally. 

Black Canary voices admiration for the armor's elegance, and even in the real world, that would be true, Martinez adheres to a more realistic design that gives Batgirl less freedom of movement. Adrian Syaf molds Batgirl's body armor to her body and makes it as science fictiony as Batman's body armor. That allows for greater pliability and a fluidness in her movements.

In any case, Batgirl's visit and subsequent bout with Black Canary honestly just takes up room. The scene is too similar to Batgirl's sparring against Nightwing in a previous issue, and it's far too soon to rehash a friendly fight scene. Ostensibly this scenario is geared to serve as an energetic delivery system to foreshadow Barbara's post-traumatic flashback to events from The Killing Joke, but it doesn't quite add up. Babs is in absolutely no danger from Black Canary. She is in a bubble of safety. She is not helpless because Canary will let up if Babs decides to cry uncle. Why would she flashback to The Killing Joke?

While foreshadowing in a story is usually a good thing, I don't think that it was necessary in this case, and Simone should have just dropped this middle section in favor of a full-blown fight scene in the sewers leading to the genuinely surprising conclusion that does have ties to The Killing Joke.

  

 

Mr. Terrific #7

Eric Wallace, Giancula Gugliotta {p}, Wayne Faucher {i}, Mike Atiyeh {c}

DC

DC is canceling this book, and that's a darn shame, but writer Eric Wallace isn't through yet. The current issue of Mr. Terrific presents a standalone adventure that spotlights the hero's strengths. It's also a very neat little tale that ties up loose ends in a surprising manner and demonstrates its place in the New 52 Universe by building on the revelation in The Huntress

That's one of the best things about the New 52. The new DC books can be read individually, but if you read them all, you see connections. Some in the most surprising of places. I'm not going to spoil any surprises here. Instead, I'm going to break down the main story which exemplifies the uniqueness of Mr. Terrific, and his science-oriented cases. Frankly, I think DC should give this book above all those slated for cancellation, a longer lifeline.

A cruise ship materializes out of thin air in the Los Angeles Harbor. Is this yet another Philadelphia Experiment where a supposed Naval experiment sends a ship spinning through time and space? Nothing so far-fetched. The ship registers some wicked rads, and the police call in Mr. Terrific to solve this mystery and prevent a potential threat to Los Angeles. Instead of a dirty bomb, Mr. Terrific discovers a sophisticated cobalt nuclear device, but there's more.

Writer Eric Wallace creates a plausible means for the the science mystery to occur. He fashions an excellent motive for the, not threat or even ultimatum, but actual intent to unleash holocaust. These crazies actually want to set off the bomb. Fortunately, Wallace also conceives of a means for Mr. Terrific to live up to his name. Without the cloak, the terrorists find themselves surprisingly vulnerable to the athletic Terrific, the fight a dynamic doozy illustrated by Giancula Gugliotta.

Terrific Action

While Mr. Terrific battles the horde of terrorists, an internal struggle occurs at Holt Industries, and Wallace creates a surprising turn of events for one character that's completely unexpected, yet extraordinarily fascinating. 

   

 

Legion Lost #7

Tom DeFalco, Pete Woods, Brad Anderson {c}

DC

The Legion acclimate to their new 21st century digs, and a telepathic call for help turns out to be a false alarm set off by a 21st century patient trapped by the limits of twenty-first century medicine, or so the argument goes.

On the bright side, Timber Wolf exploits somebody who spied on the Legion's arrival, courtesy of Gates' teleportation. The spy's knowledge of the territory gives Timber Wolf a work out, facilitates his ability to deliver pain to a group of drug dealers and a means to score some cash for his comrades. During his act, Wolf also tosses off a funny Batman comment. It's actually pretty awesome that the Legion know of Batman.

On the down side, we have a tragedy just obviously set up to illicit sympathy, but DeFaclo forgets to incorporate some important factors. As a result, he hasn't convinced me that this character needed to die. 

A young victim of a car crash, she's in the hospital, but she's clearly telepathically conscious despite being in a coma state. So, what is it about her condition that the doctors failed to address? DeFalco doesn't say. That reticence is detrimental for the scene. If she were bleeding internally for example, then she would have gone back to the OR. She could have died on the operating table due to osmotic shock or an unforeseen complication, like an infection in the theater. The doctors just appear to give up. Did these doctors get their degrees in the post-Crisis from a Gotham University? 

Unlike brain-dead coma victims, this character is able to contact Telus and mentally scream for help. So, what exactly is wrong with her body that prevents her from regaining consciousness? It doesn't make sense. If she were in a state of mental death, then I can understand. If she can think, then her injuries need to be better defined in order for me to buy her body shutting-down, especially in a case of an on average stronger teenager.

  

Mainly for Pete Woods' spectacular artwork and the trippy colors of Brad Anderson during the mindscape sequences.

 

My Greatest Adventure #6

Matt Kindt, Scott Kolins; Aaron Lopresti; Kevin Maguire

DC

This anthology title has been an off and on pick for me. The feature that's almost worth the cover price is Robotman. Writer Matt Kindt and artists Scott Kolins and Atiyeh have really given Robotman a New 52 Universe rethink.

Robotman is still former race car driver Cliff Steele, but everything else is different. There is no Doom Patrol. Cliff works as a troubleshooter with his partner Maddy Rouge. Le what!?! you say.

The Original Madame Rouge

Like I said, it's a big rethink. The idea of turning Madame Rouge into Robotman's partner and would be lover sounds astonishingly bad, yet it actually works. This is partly because the creative team make Maddy a sweetie and without a single tie to her old incarnation. 

The New Maddy Rouge with Robotman

You sort of root for the couple. Although, when you think about it, Robotman could satisfy Maddy in some ways. I mean I'm sure he could add certain attachments actually superior to the male parts that he had, but she would never be able to return the favor.

In this chapter of Robotman's adventures, he discovers who sabotaged his race car, leading to the crash that turned him into a brain housed in a robot body. The reason behind the attack is ice-blooded, not just cold-blooded. To say that Cliff's not pleased is an understatement.

However, Robotman cannot kill a human being, and that raises an interesting philosophical question that in the brief pages Kindt explores quite thoroughly.

Batman and Muckman

The second feature is Muck Man. Honestly, it's a low-rent Swamp Thing bolstered by writer/artist Aaron Lopresti's superb illustration, but Batman guest stars as he has in several previous chapters. So, a Lopresti Batman is not to be missed, and his in character behavior is a bonus. Makes me wish Lopresti wrote as well as drew Justice League International.

Tanga

The third and most curious feature is essentially Kevin Maguire wants to write for and embellish a sexy, purple chick. Now, honestly, it's more than that because if you've read Kevin Maguire's extensive interview in Modern Masters, you know that he's more than just about sketching sexy chicks. The artist possesses ethical standards that might have been higher than most.

The trouble is that Tanga is an enigma, and the clues add up to little. She seemed Kryptonian until she started exploding. Ah, well. It's nice art, even if the story could use more depth and detail.

  

 

The Ray #4

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Jamal Igle {p}, Rich Perrota {i}, Guy Major {i}

DC

 

An intriguing turn of events. Chanti Kapoor ends the life of the reality-changing Big Bad. You know, you just automatically think guys that powerful would also be invulnerable, but I'm betting he subconsciously made himself susceptible to mortal damage.

That's the gist of the entire issue. Is this murdering, world twisting villain truly evil, or is he actually insane. We banter with the two designations, but Palmiotti and Gray distinguish the two types of criminals through the villain's breakdown, and the Ray's decision to help the man. He really does help the man. The technique he uses can only work if the recipient is willing.

Before the Ray gets to the antagonist, he must deal with the would-be globe gutter's servants, and in this case, the writers leave the task to artists Jamal Igle and colorist Guy Major. Igle caught my eye with the action packed series Race Against Time, and Major has been a reliable Buffy the Vampire Slayer colorist forever. Needless to say, they're more than able to detail the dynamic reflection of the Ray.

Before the story ends, Palmiotti and Gray hint at a new life for an old cast of characters in the New 52 Universe of DC Comics.

   

 

Saga #1

Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Image

I like the premise to Saga. Star-crossed lovers from warring families and all that. Marko and Alana come from two different species at war. They fall in love. They get married and have a baby. Both alien races want them killed.

Typical of the Pro-Life Movement

After Alana and Marko deliver their child, the aliens, like the bear, pursue them. Less by skill but more by luck, they survive.

That's It For Them

Before he dies, one of the victims of the massacre, perhaps feeling a pang of conscience, gives the couple a map to a rocket graveyard.

That's what I like in Saga as well as Fiona Staples' remarkable artwork that facilitates expression, anatomy and alien worlds. I didn't like the scatological humor. I seldom enjoy that type of lowbrow comedy, and I realize that both creators were attempting to take the mystique out pregnancy, showing it to be a biological process as well as an emotional roller coaster, but they could have done that without particulate commentary.

Likewise, I could have done without the television heads having graphic sex. I'll never be able to unsee that image. On this front, I have no idea what the creators were thinking or smoking for that matter.

  

 

Simpsons Comics #188

Ian Boothby, Phil Ortizv {p}, Mike DeCarlo {i}, Art Villanueva {c}

Bongo

Lisa's quest for a new mouthpiece catalyzes the story. Due to Homer's squandering of funds, Lisa must get an afterschool job at the music store in order to earn enough to fix her beloved saxophone. As a result, she encounters Springfieldians with atypical lyrical requests.

Geek Quota

Lisa's position allows Marge to buy Homer and she an album--even she's surprised to see they still exist--that features their song. Homer's initially delighted, until he discovers Flanders sang his and Marge's favorite. This creates a unique problem for Homer.

Mustache is Gonna Tickle

Ian Boothby involves the reader by basing Homer's dilemma on a psychological block that affects the core of the family. At the same time, he creates comedy with Homer's onus.

Boothby's tale kept me guessing. I had no idea exactly how Homer would overcome this obstacle, and he had to surmount it. Otherwise, the Simpsons would be destroyed.

Ortiz and company give Homer an innocent and noble air as he secrets his struggle from Marge. This is a thorn that he must pull, and he cannot and will not hurt Marge's feelings, which is rather sweet.

  

 

Adventure! With the Brothers

 

In our last exploration into the cesspool of Christian Comics, Pete and Tom despite the sharks rescued an escapee from a cult, that apparently lured good Christians into the darkness.

Now, I've trashed this series pretty thoroughly, but today I say something nice to say. Christian comic book or otherwise, the above panel choreography is absolutely beautiful. It really looks like the work of the professional that Al Hartley was. It's the content of the panel that makes one ill.

The colorist should be taken out and shot. The zebra shirt might look good at a game or the local Foot Locker, but as is it's troubling. Slam it against the purple pants, and you've got an ensemble that would have Tim Gunn curling up into a fetal ball on the floor.

In addition to the horrendous haute coutre, Pete and Tom suddenly have micro-radios. Once again, their super power is the ability to pull things out of their asses as needed. We also must argue whether Hartley is actually even trying to embrace some form of realism since these "micro-radios" are even more sophisticated than the kinds Dick Tracy used and were complete fantasies in the seventies, which boasted walkie-talkie use.

Not Your Average White-Haired Cult Leader

One of the other things that bugs me about this is that the leader of the cult previously demanded his followers to give up their "jewelry, rings and watches." Apparently, Pete's watch slipped his mind, as well as Al Hartley's. Oh, and that lion's den comment. Pete knows that Romans threw Christians to lions to die, doesn't he? I mean if you're going into the lion's den and you're a Christian, that should be your Kryptonite.

The Cult Leader's retort is actually a pretty good one. You might actually think he has a shot of beating these snots, and he certainly looks pretty ominous and clever in this shot. Sadly, he hasn't anticipated the Brothers' ability to achieve wildly unlikely victories from any situation.

Where on earth did Tom find all those boars? Male boars of which these are, you can tell by the tusks, are loners. They don't cavort together in packs. I know what you're thinking. Maybe the Cult Leader had a pen of them corralled from previous hunts. What kind of cult serves its flock bacon! I mean, if every breakfast the cult members dine on bacon, it kind of takes the sting out of the whip. Why on earth would you try to escape an island paradise that serves bacon all paid for by the junk jewelry that's just taking up space in your dresser? Is this a cult or cabana with a slightly eccentric director?

Pete of course has other ideas where the pigs came eventhough he saw Tom leading the drove. 

Next week, the end of Adventure! With the Brothers and my final thoughts on the lousy series.

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