Gaze Upon the Robin Williams Hairy Nude Glory of the Prince of Power

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. Our column-a-copia this week tackles every book in my little brown bag. That's a lot of titles. So, let's get to it.

 

Pick of the Brown Bag

 

Avengers Academy #29

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

Marvel

The book opens hilariously. Gaze upon the Robin Williams hairy nude glory of the Prince of Power. Hercules visits the Avengers Academy and with him, he brings the bare facts of the Olympics. Oh, the irony. The "scantily-clad sister" Tigra throws a robe on him.

Prude!

Alas, the velocity -- or, should that be one of the stupidest names I've ever encountered, Velocidad -- of the book wears when the X-Men arrive declaring Academy a tie-in book. 

I have zero interest in the Avengers/X-Men war. I daresay that I was more gripped by the real world declaration that the X-Men dolls are not human effigies, and my reaction there was the same as Tina Fey's in a "Weekend Update" bit for SNL. "Hey, guys. AIDS. There's still a lot of people dying from AIDS."

So, yeah, the X-Men arrive, and I will say this, Wolverine taking the kids out of the fight makes perfect sense in terms of character and conscience. So good for him. Ultimately though, Avengers Academy sheds more light on the Avengers/X-Men war that I wanted to see.

The entertainment curve goes up again with Christos Gage staging an impromptu Olympics pitting X-Men against the Avengers. If the Avengers/X-Men war was just this. Avengers against X-Men in sporting events, I would buy those books. Gage lightens the dour Big Stupid Event happenings with some awesome moments of whimsy. There's just not enough of them. 

On the other hand, one of those moments involves Loa, the Defender who became my summer crush in The Deep. Gage however wrongly traces her name to a harmless worm, and her powers do not gibe with those exhibited in The Deep. In the Cullen Bunn miniseries, Loa was clearly christened after the Voodo spirits due to her magic use, and the loa Gage refers to is actually a parasite of the biting-black fly that enters the eyes and blinds.

I was on the fence with this issue. So, ultimately, I looked at the content of love in this book, and by love I mean Tigra. The gorgeous Tigra lusciously rendered by Tom Grummett appears in 23 panels.

   

Finally! Green eyes! Yes!

 

Avengers Prelude: Black Widow #1

Fred Van Lente, Neil Edwards{p}, Rick Magyar{i}, Nick Filardi{c}; Steve Kurth{p}, Andrew Hennessey{i}, Felix Serrano{c}

Marvel

A completely perfunctory exercise, Avengers Prelude sends Agent Coulson from the movies and the Black Widow from whatever into Russia. Natasha doesn't have a real personality. Instead she has a big wig.

Bad Hair Day

I'm guessing Van Lente hoped the presence of larger hair would excuse the Widow's paper-thin dimensions. All it did for me is think of The Simpsons episode, in which Homer spies on his friends with a giant spy hat.

Homer and Apu, The Simpsons Fifth Season

To be fair, Natasha doesn't sport a camera in the wig. Instead, she bears teeth in them thar hills of hair.

Hair today, Gone Tomorrow

The art's the only thing I can recommend in the book. It you want to just admire the form of a muscular, scantily clad female any-spy in action this book is for you. If you're looking for a plot and distinction, I suggest you view Nikita Friday Nights on the CW or acquire Jennifer Garner's Alias.

 

 

Night of the Owls

 

Batwing #8

Judd Winnick, Marcus To{p}, Ryan Winn{i}, Brian Reber{c}

DC

Batwing reads like a really good tie-in book. The story's not vital to the core playing out in the more traditional Batman titles, but the tale is still an entertaining chapter in the Court of Owls saga. Furthermore, Batwing fosters some New 52 concepts that do affect the mothership.

Lucius Fox debuts in Batwing, and it's the Morgan Freeman Lucius Fox. Originally Lucius Fox was an executive director for the Wayne Foundation. He ran the financial end of the company and became one of Bruce Wayne's best friends in the eighties. That changed in Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan felt that Batman needed a high tech guru, and Lucius Fox was a character in need of an update.

Fox appears in Batwing to upgrade the Batman Family member's armor for aquatic use. Somali Pirate hunting is the intent. Batwing made a stopover in Gotham City last issue when he concluded his premiere storyarc, and he still flies in Gotham. The consistency is welcome.

A Talon, one of the Court of Owl's attack birds, penetrates a Batman Inc. function to assassinate Lucius Fox. Talk about unlucky. Just reborn in the New 52 and already a target for assassination.

Batwing is on hand to stop the Talon, and Judd Winnick takes advantage of the Talon's reanimated nature to beef up Batwing even more. We see Batwing use strategy worthy of Batman and then go to the extremes Batman has been employing against the Court of Owls in a pretty awesome moment.

Oh, that example is just the proverbial tip. You might say that throughout the story Batwing has a very disarming attitude toward the Talons, and the visiting art team of Marcus To and Ryan Winn milks Batwing's pruning techniques for all the ichor they're worth.

   

 

Detective Comics #8

Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea{i}, Tomeau Morey{c}

DC

The Court of Owls sets their big eyes on Jeremiah Arkham, but what they don't know is that he's more than mere psychiatrist. He's a megalomaniac with full hypnotic control over the Arkham Inmates.

The conflict between Jeremiah Arkham and Batman started in the now defunct title Shadow of the Bat. In the kickoff introduction story, Jeremiah attempted to mentally break Batman down. Batman placed himself in the Asylum to nab Mr. Zsasz, who escaped to kill only to return to his cell thereby securing the perfect alibi. Trouble is that Arkham couldn't accept the ruse and believed Batman was insane. He wasn't the first and won't be the last, but Arkham made a career of it.

In a fitting nod to his origin, Jeremiah first checks in on Zsasz. He then looks upon inmates new, old and obscure. Daniel uses the New 52 freedom to streamline one of Batman's classic foes. Basil Karlo, not successor Matt Hagan, is now Clayface. None of the residents however hold a candle to the insane king running the nuthouse.

In the New 52, Jeremiah Arkham is just as delusional as before, and that makes him as much of a threat as the Owls. I dare say in the old days, this tale would kick off a new arc in which Batman after defeating the Court of Owls must escape Arkham and the asylum, again.

This isn't the old days. This is the New 52 Batman, and what we see in Detective is a hero in command of himself. 

Next...

He recalls Michael Keaton's Batman facing three threats in Batman Returns. You have no doubt that he'll win. The entertainment evolves from the how.

    

 

Echoes of the Past in the Second Wave

 

Earth 2 #1

James Robinson, Nicola Scott{p}, Trevor Scott{i}, Alex Sinclair{c}

DC

This is more like how I remember James Robinson. Perfectly at home in an elseworld book and respectful of DC's proud legacy. The story begins in the middle with earth two at war against Darkseid. Judging from the promos, you might believe that the war begins at the same time as the formation of the Justice League, but as with the previous version of Earth 2, the heroes have aged. Time has moved forward. Some already have daughters. Others have already lost somebody they loved.

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman behave like heroes, and their long friendship serves the test of time as Darkseid schemes the conquest of the earth. Batman has a plan, but it's drastic and depends upon Superman and Wonder Woman holding the horde at bay. The ploy is worthy of the Dark Knight's acumen, and artist Nicola Scott imbues all the drama due to the impressive story.

While the heroes make their last ditch effort to save their earth, Supergirl rushes to the aid of Superman, and Helena Wayne on this earth known as Robin zooms the Batwing to save her father. At this moment, a quantum tunnel opens up to deposit Mr. Terrific. Simultaneously, the tunnel swallows Helena and Kara.

     

 

World's Finest #1

Paul Levitz, George Perez{p}, Scott Koblish{i}, Hi-Fi{c}; Kevin Maguire, Rosmarie Cheetham{c}

DC

The story darts around time quite a bit, but it properly begins in the future, where Karen Starr "borrows" Michael Holt's quantum tunneling technology. Her future self catalyzes her past self's and Helena Wayne's past self's entrance on earth one. All of this occurred in Mr. Terrific.

The event does not just represent an extraordinary consistency between three different writers: Eric Wallace, Paul Levitz and James Robinson. It also demonstrates a time loop worthy of Doctor Who. This is the kind of thing that DC comics royally screwed up all the time -- Monarch for instance, but this time the three authors get it right.

Because Karen searches for a way out in the future, Michael tests the quantum tunnel in his present thereby ending up on earth two in her past. The very same quantum tunnel transports earth two's Supergirl and Robin into Michael's past. It's absolutely wonderful. A smooth circle without a single hiccup. I was so happy, I think I shed a tear.

Apart from awesome, accurate science fiction, what does World's Finest offer. In short, everything. I only lifted my boycott of DC comics because the Powers That Be healed Barbara Gordon. They surprised me by also restoring her as Batgirl. I never expected that DC would give me a bonus. The return of the bona fide Huntress, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman of earth two. To be sure, she's not the same Huntress. She doesn't share the original Helena's history, but she's close enough.

Paul Levitz reunites Huntress and Power Girl, a sobriquet that she chooses in the present this issue, as partners in fighting crime as well as the closest of friends. Levitz grants Huntress and Power Girl the kind of intelligence they should possess. One of Huntress' parents was the smartest man on earth. Her mother was a cunning jewel thief. Kara possesses a Kryptonian intellect. 

It doesn't take either hero too long to figure out that the shock they experienced on earth two transported them onto earth one. Helena's resourcefulness soon sets them up on earth one to hopefully stage their comeback on earth two. Her actions accomplish several story needs: addressing practicalities like shelter, clothing and food, cutting to the chase, and providing evidence of the characters' intelligence. I suspect however that Helena has underestimated Batman. He will find out about the money she drew and keeps drawing out of his accounts. I furthermore believe that Levitz is setting up the World's Finest's future encounter with the Dark Knight, possibly backed by the Man of Steel. I look forward to the day.

World's Finest Legacy

Paul Levitz creates two superb personalities for the Dynamic Duo. They joke around. They share each other's hopes and dreams, and they admire each other's skills. Levitz in general paints Power Girl as the extrovert optimist. She believes they will find a way home. Huntress on the other hand is an introvert pragmatist. She doesn't believe they'll get home, but intends to make the most of earth one by plying her training against criminals. A taste of that skill given already in the highly recommended Huntress miniseries.

Thanks to the presence of George Perez, the level of detail is high as one expects. Scott Koblish's line work makes it even more so, but Perez adds something to the book that's missing from his other work. These are not angry Avengers, whining Titans or serious Justice Leaguers. This is Helena Wayne and Karen Starr, Huntress and Power Girl, who know each other and grew up together. As a result, Perez's artwork however ornate jibes with Kevin Maguire's streamlined style, and we all know that Maguire is known for being the Chuck Jones of superhero art. Because of the characters, both artists frame each scene in ebullience and bemusement. 

    

 

Superman Family

 

Action Comics #8

Grant Morrison, Gene Ha, Art Lyon{c}

DC

I consider President Obama a dynamic figure, exhibiting far more steel than anybody believed possible. This is the man who gave the order to the SEALS to kill Osama Bin Laden, and despite what the Conservative Party would like you to think, not every President would have executed such action or with such flawless tactics. Obama was just as concerned with the SEALS having the appropriate amount of backup to facilitate the safe return home. He's shown more spine outside of military action as well. When the Conservatives told the President they wanted to defund Planned Parenthood, Obama resolutely told them: "Not going to happen."

Don't like President Obama for some reason? All right. Let's turn back the clock to 1936. Determined to prove Aryan superiority, Hitler saw the Olympics as the perfect opportunity. Enter Jesse Owens. At first, he refused to participate because of Hitler's racism, but the Powers That Be convinced him to enter. Owens outperformed Hitler's ubermensch, and when the dictator refused to shake hands with Jesse, he exposed himself as the weak, petty sick mind that he was.

Each of these Black supermen are far more interesting than the black Superman Morrison presents. He just comes off as boring, vanilla Superman, and I liked Morrison's JLA Superman as well as his All-Star Superman. Both are far more riveting characters than this two-dimensional alternate. Indeed, Lex Luthor, who Morrison doesn't change an iota from the pre-Crisis nutter, steals Superman's thunder by being far more entertaining.

Both characters however find themselves in a piss-poor goofball story that's more like something Carlos Castaneda would write. The musical conjurations of a magical horn substitute for drug-induced visions. The alternate Jimmy, Lois and Clark pass the horn around like it was a joint, and let me just say, if this is what your get together looks like, you could be duller than Superman.

The weirdness continues with this bizarre exchange from eyepatch Lois and Superman.

Hate-Powered Wha?

So, kryptonite is emotional now? I give up.

 

 

Smallville #1

Bryan Q. Miller, Pere Perez, Randy Mayor and Chris Beckett{c}

DC

All my dreams have fallen down. Crawling around. Somebody Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Let Your Warm hands Break Right Through! Somebody Saaaaaaaaaaave meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. 

In short, this is everything a Smallville fan can want. The full cast returns. Everybody sounds in character, and Pere Perez's artwork more or less recapitulates the likenesses of the actors to the pages.

A Pair of Queens

Plot wise, Bryan Q. Miller links the Smallville comic book with the Christopher Reeve films just as the series did with the Salkind quartet. The prologue checks in on Oliver and Chloe-Sullivan Queen. It darts to Lois Lane with some hilarious dreamy dialogue, and "chapter one" demonstrates the new paradigm with Superman in full costume -- yay! -- rescuing a Russian spacecraft, just as he did in Superman IV. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but I liked Superman IV. Check out my review. Should be on the site somewhere.

The story returns to earth with a glimpse at non-married life with Lois and Clark; their wedding as in the television series has been perpetually postponed. Miller also takes the surprising path to re-establish Lex Luthor and Clark's friendship. Season Ten looked to be building Luthor up for a hypothetical Season Eleven to be Superman's number one foe, and that's it. Miller instead teams Luthor and Clark up again.

Luthor doesn't comprehend why, but he instinctively knows Clark to be a friend just as much as Superman is the enemy. Whereas in the television series I though Luthor's memory loss was an acceptable trope to set the counter back to zero. His memory loss in Smallville "Season Eleven" catalyzes a much more satisfying schism between Luthor's feelings about Clark and Superman that at the same time keeps him in the dark about the secret identity.

Clark's true friend in Smallville was Green Arrow, and that's how it is in the comic book. It's simply great to see these two pal around out of costume and in costume, and the Green Arrow here is a far more likable character than Ann Noncenti's Emerald Archer. The book ends with the cousins Lois and Chloe at the Watchtower. Perfect episode.

    

 

...And the Rest.

Swamp Thing #9

Scott Snyder, Marco Rudy & Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn & Val Staples{c}

DC

It looked bad for the world. First, Alec Holland refused to become Swamp Thing. Second, Arcane Jr. started wielding his muscle. Third, Abigail Arcane appeared to succumb to the Rot, and fourth, although Alec finally agreed to become Swamp Thing, his decision appeared to come too late.

Scott Snyder I understand can write nail-biting horror. I haven't sampled any. So I can't say. What I can say is that he understands that the DC heroes change the equation. So we can imagine this story without Swamp Thing in the same way "Turn Left" shows us a universe without the Doctor. 

Without Swamp Thing, the tale of the Rot quickly turns into an apocalypse. With Swamp Thing however Snyder's tale is actually suffuse with optimism. The cleverest sleight of hand plants the seeds that save the planet. It can be summed up in three words, and it might be hammy, but so be it. Love conquers all.

Up the Greensleeve

So screw you, Arcane Jr. 

The talented artists work so smoothly together that I can barely tell them apart, and when blooms begin to fill the pages, the lively colors starkly contrast the necrotizing blacks, ochres and reds.

    

 

Green Arrow #8

Ann Nocenti, Harvey Tolibano, Mike Atiyeh, Richard and Tanya Horrie{c}

DC

This is my last issue of Green Arrow. After escaping the weirdo father of the blonde triplets the Green Arrow slept with, the Arrow decides to take the battle back to the hirsute maniac. At least, I think that's what's going on. 

The Arrow's so badly characterized and the art is so horrendous that I can barely keep track. This is what Epilepsy probably feels like, and it could be what the world looks like when epileptics suffer an attack. For truer Green Arrow action, dialogue and personality, pick up Smallville.

 

The Spider #1

David Liss, Colton Worley

Dynamite

I had low expectations about this latest interpretation of Richard Wentwork a.k.a. The Spider, and they pretty much panned out. Writer David Liss makes the Spider violent, blowing holes in criminals with two big .45 semi-automatics, and nutty, burning his symbol on the brow of his victims, but it all seems so ersatz.

Best Scene in the Book

The Spider was one of the most unique characters in pulp fiction. He was at once perfectly normal and perfectly insane. Whereas Doc Savage was a humanitarian everybody knew and the Shadow was a mysterious dark force using various guises to rip through criminals as assuredly as a scythe through wheat, the Spider was a rarity. Perfectly sane as Richard Wentworth and completely off his rocker as the Spider, like this chap.

Still Crazy After All These Years

Liss muddies Wentworth by making him a chain-smoking alcoholic pining for Nita Van Sloan because she's married to Commissioner Kirkpatrick. I had a feeling this was going to nettle me, and it did. 

Feh

Because, none of this is necessary. The whole point of the Spider is that he joyously kills criminals in imaginatively ghoulish ways. His enemies were the most repellent creatures ever conceived, and he made them wet their pants. The Spider knew exactly where the line was drawn. He didn't just step over it. He did a little jig, laughing maniacally, as he crossed.

The Moonstone Spider was far more accurate. The DC Spider was an inspired reboot. The Columbia serial Spider on which the Dynamite Spider's visual was based perfectly blended the two successors in the stalwart form of Warren Hull who performed admirably as Wentworth, the Spider and criminal alter-ego Blinky McQude. This is weak tea when compared to any of the three.

 

 

Red Sonja #66

Eric Trautmann, Walter Geovani, Salvatore Aila Studios{c}

Dynamite

Having escaped the horrors of her own blood lust, Red Sonja freed a captive little girl in the heart of wizard Omar-Bes' citadel. Now, she possesses the Horn of Nergal, a cursed object of sorcery.

Surprisingly, Red Sonja is the second book this week involving a horn, and it's the best. Trautmann once again emulates Robert E. Howard by turning magic into malady. Sonja uses the horn in a desperate bid to save she and Yazmina's life, but it's not so much a triumph as a torrent of an unstoppable force of supernature.

Breathless

While Sonja takes out an army in a most unique way, the citadel deteriorates creating yet another dilemma to contend against. Fortunately, heroism arises in strangest places, and while some might object to the cavalry coming to the feminist warrior's rescue, it's a far more believable outcome. Besides, Trautmann sweetens this twist with the unexpected nature of the rescuer, and he precludes any feel good finale with a brutal revisit to a cat Queen's abode.

Accompanying Trautmann on the journey, Walter Geovani creates sumptuous artwork. Geovani's Sonja is a powerful figure, exactly who you would want guarding your life. Sonja's beauty is also evident, but it takes a back seat to the startling imagery of hordes hacking away.

    

 

Witchblade/Red Sonja #4

Doug Wagner, Cezar Razek, Marlon Ilagan{c}

Dynamite/Top Cow

Looks like the Big Bad is after Hope, Sara Pezzini's daughter. It's a classic mistake that never wears out its welcome. As the disciples of evil abduct Hope, were-gorillas harry Sara in full Witchblade gear. You know, not long ago, the bearer of the Witchblade was a t & a figure. Now, she's more like a demonic knight.

Shield and Wings

Because of the abduction, Sara must contact a bearer of the blade who hurt the Big Bad before. This at first appears to be Nissa, ally to Red Sonja, but writer Doug Wagner orchestrates a fine little twist I didn't see coming. This atones for the somewhat predictable mortal wounding of a too good to be true character.

I'm not referring to Nissa. She belongs in Sonja's world as well as Sara's realm. Back in Sonja's time, the Red She-Devil attempts to stave off the forces of nature and darkness to save Nissa's life. I kind of hope she succeeds, but the odds aren't in her favor. Wagner's little surprise however may change the outcome.

Artist Cezar Razek and Marlon Ilagan are at home in either warrior's milieu. They create clashes of the gorgeous against the grotesque that symbolize the similarities in Witchblade and Red Sonja.

Twas Beauty That Killed the Beast

A Little Stronger Than Salt

The average team-up gets a boost from Wagner's cleverness. Nudging a two story to three. The accomplished art kicks the book up to a solid four.

   

 

Ode to American Ninja Warrior

 

Fuck You American Ninja Warrior,

your concept is hardly new. Michael Dudikoff

in the eighties made an ass out of you.

 

 

Four American Ninja movies were made, each

with better production values. 

Stay out of my comic books, American

Ninja Warrior. Stop interrupting the story's flow. 

American Ninja Warrior I hate you so. 

Batman complimenting you. That's a laugh. He

would be better off hawking Hostess Ho-Hos.

 


 

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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