Kung-Fu Rogue Cop

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. This week the Doctor materializes on The Enterprise. I delve into the history of Mr. Freeze. The Bionic Woman and Terry McGuinness return, and Futurama provides the laughs for the week. I'll also don my shades for the latest Men in Black movie.

 

Pick of the Brown Bag

 

Into the Future

 

Batman Beyond Unlimited #4

Adam Beechen, Norm Breyfogle, Derek Fridolfs, J.T. Krul, Eric Nguyen, Howard Porter

DC

The two main stories in the anthology title impress. In the first story, Batman joins the Justice League in fighting Kobra, which in the future becomes a formidable organization run by no mean foe. In the process, Batman gets a new set of old threads that doesn't impress everybody.

Everybody's a Critic

 

I've always like a cape on a superhero, and Aquagirl looks awesome with her father's trident and her battle armor.

Kobra invaded New Genesis and Apokolips while the Justice League rescued Amanda Waller and Micro last issue. The incursion creates a very unique situation of which writer Derek Fridolfs takes full advantage.

The second tale pits Batman against Adam Beechen's hilarious Judge Dredd inspired Mad Stan in a superb Norm Breyfogle illustrated dynamo.

Breyfogle must not leave Batman. This is where he excels. Batman Beyond gives him the opportunity to demonstrate the well-toned human body in frenetic wonder, depict outrageous expressions as well as more subtle comedy and reaction.

The shorts kind of suck. The artwork by Eric Nguyen and JLA's Howard Porter are uniformly stellar, but the secret origin of Warhawk, defies continuity and unceremoniously dumps a fan favorite Leaguer.

Warhawk is the son of John Stewart and Hawkgirl, but Stewart became involved with Vixen. In this issue, she's stabbed in the back by Shadow Thief. The reason why I'm spoiling this bit of "drama" is that it's impossible.

The Shadow Thief was revealed to be the manifestation of Hawkman's darkside, and Hawkman reabsorbed him. There is no Shadow Thief to carry out such a pathetic execution. Furthermore, Mari is just snuffed without rhyme or reason. Why didn't she use the Tantu Totem to call upon the regenerative powers of the snake to heal herself, or at least stabilize her condition? 

Vixen's death is an insult. It's something that you would see in a direct to video release at Blockbuster in the '90s. Something like the murder in Kung-Fu Rogue Cop. 

"He was a cop. His hands were deadlier than a gun. She was a ballerina. Her toes were twinkly. When the mob silenced her dance, their time was up... Kung-Fu Rogue Cop. Rated R."

In the second short, J.T. Krul introduces us to Lucinda, the secret daughter of Lex Luthor. Well, she goes from down on her luck Metropolite to would-be assassin of Superman in a heartbeat. Where's her rationale? Why does she hate Superman? Just because Luthor had a want to kill Superman doesn't mean Lucinda would automatically follow suit.

Fortunately, the shorts are brief enough to ignore and benefit from overall excellent illustration. The main stories are strong enough to support Batman Beyond Unlimited.

   

 

Futurama #61

Ian Boothby, John Delaney{p}, Andrew Pepoy{i}, Rob Stanley{c}

Bongo

Through a hilarious faux pas, Bender becomes a Scout Leader, Roboscouts, that is. When a mutant attempts to join them, her heart's desire dashes across the rocks of despair. This prompts Leela to form her own scout troop, mutants that is. Everybody has a scout troop, except Fry, but that changes with--No, it's just Fry. Scout Troop of one.

Boothby concocts a twisted satire on Survivor as all the troops meet up on an ever-changing environment breathtakingly depicted by Delaney, Pepoy and Stanley. Could this planet's protean nature have something to do with the delivery Planet Express is supposed to be making? Could be.

   

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who #1

Scott & David Tipton, Tony Lee, J.K. Woodward{art}

IDW

They said it couldn't be done. Some said it shouldn't be done, but here it is. Finally, Star Trek the Next Generation and Doctor Who, and it's good. Really, really good.

The Borg are the most obvious homage from Trek. Assimilating cyborgs determined to make all life Borg, they are the Ridley Scott/H.R. Giger reflection of The Cybermen, assimilating cyborgs determined to make all life Cybermen. Now, in the Tipton/Lee story, the Borg have teamed up with Cybermen.

While the Cybermen and Borg invade Delta IV, the Doctor, Rory and Amy race chariots in the streets of ancient Egypt. Their mission, to take out the alien lifeform trying to influence and ultimately control the local Pharaoh. In the process, the Doctor learns of the cyborg crossover.

Sounds Like the Alpha Quadrant Needs a Doctor

I can't say with absolute certainty that the Doctor section was completely written by Tony Lee, but it sure sounds like it. The Doctor is in fine spirits. Rory's in excellent voice, and curiously, only Amy seems out of sorts. The firecracker, flame-haired adventurer sounds more like she's in the doldrums. Her zest for time travel appears to have ebbed. On the show, Amy is more of an enabler of the Doctor's madness not an objector asking "is it safe." Still, the subject matter overrides practically any blip in the writing.

The Doctor sets coordinates for the Alpha Quadrant and materializes on the Holodeck in a facsimile of San Francisco. This is fitting since the very first official appearance of the Doctor in the Star Trek universe although not canonical occurred in Diane Duane's superb novel My Enemy, My Ally. The Doctor also met Kirk, Spock and the rest of The Enterprise crew in a serial by Jean Airey in the fanzine Enterprise. Long before the Internet gripped the world; this was the first published fanfiction of Doctor Who and a Star Trek crossover.

 

Is There a Doctor On the Bridge?

J.K. Woodward contributes gorgeous painted artwork that's nothing short of lively book covers set in the confines of comic book panels. The artist in a way alludes to the Frank Bellamy's Radio Times illustrations of Doctor Who and the Gold Key Star Trek. Ace!

    

 

Bionic Woman #2

Paul Tobin, Lee Carvhalo, Mark Roberts{c}

Dynamite

An altruistic cyborg works her magic in Bionic Woman. This second issue by Paul Tobin and Leno Carvalho is far better than the premiere. The action-packed tapestry in which Jamie Summers beats the snot of mercenary harvesters of bionic parts is a riveting, exciting adventure.

Even when the bad guys seem to get the upper hand, Jamie appears confident that she'll defeat them. That confidence mirrors the performance of Lindsey Wagner who always had this sort of nonplussed attitude in front of the camera.

The implacable aspect of the Bionic Woman shifts drastically when she finds the group of tech-ghouls targeting a child.

Never Piss Off a Bionic Woman

At that point, the kid gloves come off, and Jamie's anger is a force as powerful as a strike from her bionic fist.

    

 

Night of the Owls

 

Batman Annual #1

Scott Snyder & James Tyron IV, Jason Fabok, Peter Steigerwald{c}

DC

Mr. Freeze arrived in Detective Comics as Mr. Zero in 1959. 

Because of the television series, his name changed to Mr. Freeze and first appeared in that guise in 1968. It would be another ten years or so before he returned to comics.

Despite being a fourth tier villain, two well-known and well-respected actors as well as one famous director portrayed the villain on the 1960s television series.

George Sanders

Elli Wallach

Otto Preminger? The Otto Preminger? What the Hell?

For the modern age, Mr. Freeze really only gained resonance in Batman: The Animated Series. A tragic figure, Mr. Freeze devoted himself to his wife Nora, cryogenically frozen in ice. Even his kidnaping of Barbara Gordon for an organ transplantation couldn't make viewers hate him. Victor Fries was done dirty. He was to be pitied, especially when voiced by actor Michael Ansara. 

When DC attempted to capitalize on Mr. Freeze's success, they found that, because of continuity, they could not replicate that same gravitas the character issued in his televised appearances. In the DCU proper, he was a bank robber, plain and simple. When DC writers tried to sidle Nora into his story, the addition just confused readers.

Scott Snyder and James Tyron try again in the New 52. They take the basics of the Batman: Animated Series incarnation and twist it into a horror story with some shocking moments from Victor Fries' childhood at the core of his madness.

Frankly, I'm of two minds on this one. It's a good story. It preserves the tragic nature of Mr. Freeze while creating a unique villain for Batman to face. The problem for me is that this story still pales when compared to Batman: The Animated Series

In the cartoon, Mr. Freeze is a somewhat noble figure with a rationale that's comprehensible. In Batman Beyond, Mr. Freeze almost reformed, and young Terry McGuinness rooted for him, with the audience. The heinous acts and the almost heroic acts Mr. Freeze carries out in Batman: The Animated Series as well as the many volumes of spin-off comic book series all elegantly arise from the same source, Mr. Freeze's pure as snow love for Nora. Snyder's reboot just doesn't carry as powerful an impact and unnecessarily complicates matters.

The art is the one thing that I can whole heartily support in the rebirth of Mr. Freeze. Jason Fabok and Peter Steigerwald forge striking iconic images.

Dark Knight Served Over Ice

Freeze always wound up with artwork that did him no favors. Artists just weren't keen on the character until Timm and company did a retro spaceman look for him that arose straight from the pulps. Fabok and Steigerwald pattern their Mr. Freeze on that visual and give him a cyberpunk twist when out of his suit of armor. Nightwing fans will also want to pick up the issue since he and the new Robin are in fine fettle for this special one-shot, and the Penguin cameos in his New 52 role by way of Burton/DeVito. 

The one group that can skip this book entirely are those following the Court of Owls arc in the other Batman Family titles. Mr. Freeze's reintroduction has nothing to do with the Court of Owls. Mention is only made.

  

 

The Saturday Matinee

 

Men In Black 3 is not just a comedy. While it is funny, it's also a thoughtful science fiction film with a sense of wonder that furthermore has the heart from the first Men in Black film. 

The story begins with a breakout and a vow to change time and space through the elimination of K, whose impact on the planet is far more profound than being mere intergalactic policeman. It continues with J trying to preserve the time stream by traveling back into the 1960s to stop the criminal. Mostly the time travel elements work smoothly without breaking logic in two.

Josh Brolin portrays the younger K. If the Academy is still giving out Oscars for imitation, as they passed Rooney Mara by for Meryl Streep's apery of Margaret Thatcher, then surely Brolin deserves one for his dead-on embodiment of Tommy Lee Jones. There are moments when you forget that you're watching Smith and Brolin and instead enjoying the chemistry between Smith and a younger Tommy Lee.

The story builds on Agents J's and K's bond in unexpected ways and changes them by the end of the movie into better people. The changes actually occur while J fights for the future in the sixties. Time is already morphing around him, even-though he doesn't know it. His memories of K shift as well. Amidst all of this, Rick Baker creates superb old school make-up for the aliens scattered across the film, and I don't know how some of the more explosive moments manifest, but if CGI, it's very good.

    

 


 

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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