Batman Looks Like a Leathery Transformer

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. This week, I look at Batgirl, Bionic Woman, Legion Lost and Mister Terrific


Pick of the Brown Bag


Batgirl #8

Gail Simone, Adrian Syaf, Vincente Cifuentes, Alitha Martinez, Ulises Arreola{c}


Alitha Martinez returns as Batgirl's guest penciller, handling the more realistic drama portion of the book, in which Barbara confronts her mother over her desertion. Martinez is an excellent artist, and her style meshes well with Adrian Syaf's style as you can see. So, the artistic partners create an uninterrupted flow in the visual narrative, thereby being an exception to the rule of too many artists in the studio spoil the scenery. 

While I'm certain Syaf could have illustrated Martinez's section with little diffculty and equal aplomb, I'm guessing that Syaf simply didn't have room in his schedule, possibly due to convention season. Fortunately, Martinez is a superb substitute, and her contribution to Batgirl should not be dismissed. Since Cifuentes inks his own pencils. His section of Batgirl is harder to distinguish from his and Syaf's teamwork. Perhaps that's the greatest compliment of all. He's invisible even when penciling.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Batgirl's costume reverses to its original colors. That's not an oversight. The first page displays the New 52 purple lining of her cape shifting to Yvonne Craig gold, as opposed to the Batman blue of the pre-Crisis. I suspect that rather than indicating a mistake, Ulises Arreola's metamorphosing hues reflect the tone of the book, which is part allusion to the Killing Joke. In other words, this is an example of artistic license being wielded properly.

Watch out for Bat In Gotham City

As I indicated in previous reviews, Simone has significantly reduced The Killing Joke. The only thing that happened during the crime is that the Joker shot Barbara through the spine and took pictures. He did not kidnap Commissioner Gordon, and we can also throw out the Joker's origin story painting him as an innocent victim, Batman's and the Joker's laugh at the end of the story, as well as the seamy side of the tale in which the Joker strips Barbara bare. 

If there are people out there that object to Simone's dissection of The Killing Joke, they can suck it. 

This version of the Alan Moore mythology makes far more sense, and it simultaneously redeems Batman as well as the Joker, in a strange sort of way. The Joker bringing a sexual component to his crimes makes him a different kind of predator. His shooting Barbara through the spine, leaving her for Commissioner Gordon to find as a personal attack against him as well as Batman is quite heinous enough. The idea that the Joker would take photos, possibly to include in a kind of scrapbook fits his belief that his crimes are a sick form of artwork and also allows him to follow other serial killer patterns by taking trophies. The victims would not need to be stripped to please his warped sensibilities. Indeed, might not the Joker consider adding nudity a slight to his art of suffering?

Simone however does more than merely reject and embrace bits and pieces of The Killing Joke. In the sewers, Batgirl battles Grotesque's henchman as well as her own personal demons. This is due to the fact that one of the criminals turns out to be one of the Joker's employees from The Killing Joke. However, rather than descend into the abyss, Simone draws some optimism out of the darkness. She adds something to the legend of The Killing Joke that arguably changed Barbara's outcome from crippled for life to healed crimefighter. 



Bionic Woman #1

Paul Tobin, Lee Carvelo, Mark Roberts{c}


The story begins with an "unknown" operative running with a former security man from OSI. They discuss Jamie Sommers as they run from a cadre of spies determined to find out the Bionic Woman's secrets. It would have actually been surprising had the mystery woman not turned out to be Jamie Sommers in disguise, but the story runs as one predicts. Jamie wants to determine what the OSI guy knows and what information he has passed on.

The disguise angle might seem new. The technique certainly is, but OSI usually sent Jamie in disguised on assignment in the old television series. Tobin simply uses twenty-first century science fiction to enhance the trope.

Tobin demonstrates the finesse for characterization that he did on the Marvel Adventures books. As he informs the reader about what's true to the new canon, he enriches Jamie's persona, revealing her likes and dislikes, habits, etc. He also exhibits her thinking and routine in regards to the mechanics of everyday operation. This allows him to introduce a new cast member to Bionic Woman continuity that serves dual purpose as friend and supplier. 


Paul Tobin introduces the Bionic Woman for modern-day comic book readers. If you've never seen the Bionic Woman on television -- either the Lindsay Wagner classic or the brief reboot starring Doctor Who's Michelle Ryan -- you'll definitely want this introduction. Others may want to wait for the second issue when things get a little more interesting. Indeed, while the lion's share tries to divulge exposition interestingly, it's the latter section of the book that gives you an idea of what Tobin will be doing in future issues. As to the artwork, it's decent but clearly rushed in places and needs sharper consistency.



Legion Lost #8

Tom DeFalco, Aaron Kuder, Brad Anderson{c}


Between the years 1945 and 1946 scores of Nazis were put on trial at Nuremberg. One such Nazi will live on in infamy even if his name isn't widely known.

Colonel-General Alfred Jodl, Hitler's strategic advisor for the Russian campaign, mounted the defense of "superior orders" at Nuremberg. That phrase will be translated throughout time as "I was just following orders." It didn't work then. It doesn't work now. That's because following an unlawful order is a crime. Jodl hanged in 1946.

I bring up history for the sake of this scene found in Legion Lost.

I see only three options for the inclusion. Number one, Tom DeFalco is woefully ignorant of the Nazi allusion. Number two, Tom DeFalco has lost his mind. Number three, Tom DeFalco is equating a Legionnaire secret mission apparently known only to Yera with Nazis committing genocide. 


Mr. Terrific #8

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


A couple of weeks ago, in Action Comics Grant Morrison introduced the New 52 Universe Brainiac, and in this last issue of Mr. Terrific writer Eric Wallace transforms his antagonist from Michael Holt's business life into a Braniac substitute named Digitus. I've got to say between the two versions, I favor Digitus.

The madness fueled by personal and career jealousy makes for better motivation. Morrison turned Brainiac into an insane speculator. The fully realized abomination looks more dangerous than the goofy, alien Braniac caterpillar with a human head. Digitus is humanoid but with some nastiness and threat in his comportment courtesy of Gugliotta.

While I enjoyed Superman's defeat of Brainiac, it took a long time to get here. Wallace's Mr. Terrific moves like an electrical pulse and still has enough room to reinforce a theme of the New 52 Universe that was missing in the higgledy-piggledy that was.

These heroes are not screw ups. They're deterrents to those that would dominate the world or exploit the innocent. These heroes are vigilantes but only to the governments that wish to the control them. To the people, they are champions. 

Morrison understood this, and its no fluke that his JLA will stand the test of time because of his comprehension. He even stated in an interview that the normal response to power is that it corrupts, but "not these guys," referring to the JLA. They seek to serve and protect. They're Ayn Rand's nightmare. Individuals that have achieved great things through intellect and ability, clearly beyond us, but each having a social conscience that binds them to humanity. Intriguingly, clashes of philosophy create an underlying theme in Mr. Terrific.


Wallace introduces some new elements in Mr. Terrific that evolve some dare I say terrific moments in the book. It turns out that the United Nations, including the Security Council on which the United States sits in real life, wants the technology of Mr. Terrific's T-Spheres. There has been a lot of debate in real life about the technology of superheroes, and one of the reasons offered to explain a hero's secrecy, his unwillingness to share with the world, is that a hero fears that his technology might fall in the wrong hands. I've always felt that the argument had merit. We trust the champions but governments are leviathans, made of many men, and women. Different men and women. Different often horrific agendas.

In order to secure the T-Spheres, the U.N. send the new Blackhawks after Mr. Terrific, and rather than have this confrontation degrade into a slugfest, Eric Wallace takes a novel turn. 

Wallace makes the media more like the fourth estate that it's supposed to be, but rarely is. I tend to agree with Jon Stewart and suggest that the media just doesn't get it. They're supposed to be the seekers of the truth, not just the reporters of what happens. 

In Mister Terrific, a reporter leading a group of ordinary citizens questions the motives of the Blackhawks attempts to arrest Mr. Terrific. His past history of saving the city of Los Angeles resonates with the citizens who do not believe the Blackhawk leader's claims of Mr. Terrific being a dangerous criminal, nor do they accept the Blackhawks' authority to arrest the hero or their supposed right to confiscate the technology which they claim is a weapon of mass destruction. In short, a journalist questions the mainstream, just as he or she is supposed to do.

Believe it or not there's still more room in this normal-sized, normally priced issue for Mr. Terrific to discover Karen Starr's breach of Holt Security last issue and for Mr. Terrific to solve the equations necessary to create a quantum tunnel leading to his new home Earth Two. Here I feel is where the book could have gotten boring, yet Gugliotta's artwork, his lean Mr. Terrific, his choice of staging evolves tension and suspense when there's traditionally none. Gugliotta finds a means to make calculation and research playful and entertaining, as it is in Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes.


I'll miss Mr. Terrific and his terrific creative team.


Entertainment Weekly

Well, Batman is all over Entertainment Weekly week, and the magazine's invaluable summer movie planner has wet my appetite for the summer movie season from Men in Black III to Dark Shadows of all things. I certainly do want to see Dark Knight Rises. Christian Bale isn't my Batman. Michael Keaton is and always will be, but Bale made an okay Batman in Batman Begins. It's not like the James Bond franchise, which destroyed its continuity, but I do have one thing to say.

I hate this costume! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!

This Batman looks more like a leathery Transformer. Awful.

It's a short week. Sorry about that, but the Red Sonja/Witchblade crossover and Saga amounted to shoulder shrugs and warranted little comment. 'Til next week.



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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