As Real as Michael Keaton's BatmobileA column article by: Ray Tate
Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. This week, the Doctor comes face to face with Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Batman gets a new writer. Jonah Hex reaquaints himself with Tallulah Black. Bat Lash returns. Aquaman and Black Manta go toe to toe. The Justice League meet their new foe Graves.
Pick of the Brown Bag
Star Trek Next Generation/Doctor Who #2
Scott & David Tipton, Tony Lee, J.K. Woodward
This issue of the most awesome team-up follows the points of view of the crew of the starship Enterprise. The story begins with the investigation of Federation engineering on a planet possessing valuable minerals. Because of the treaty, the aliens harbor a laissez-faire attitude toward Federation personnel. They will not in any way help them in their mining operations. This neutral attitude proves lethal when catastrophe occurs, but given the Federation's adherence to their own Prime Directive Picard and his crew do not press the issue.
Although unrelated to the main story, this prologue neatly introduces the crew to newbies. Doctor Who and Star Trek fandom does not always overlap. So, anybody can discover the behaviors of Picard, Riker, Worf, Data and Geordi as well as the overall "sound" of Next Generation. Whereas Kirk is improv jazz, Picard is by the book classical, as are his crew.
The Next Gen crew's comparative respect for the directive doesn't undermine the drama. Instead, the play is riveting. The opening act, all words and character interaction, constitutes an average day on The Enterprise. Geordi and Data talk about the ethics of upgrading. The crew meets some aliens. Talk about mining. You however hang on every word that describes the future setting.
The disaster furthermore allows the Tiptons to mimic the feeling of Next Generation.
The Unflappable Mr. Data
Data applies his android reasoning, strength and invulnerability to retrieve Riker. Riker bears an absolutely hilarious yet in character stunned look on his face as the at-sight scrawny Data hoisting him with one hand out of the impromptu flood.
After Dr. Crusher and her medical staff take care of the injured and the casualties have been catalogued, Picard suggests some R & R in his latest new and improved Dixon Hill hologame. The Doctor enters here, literally and figuratively.
Quickly discerning that he's on a holodeck because "reality is messy," the Time Lord begins picking out the crew from the simulacrums. The crew at first thinks that The Doctor's a hologram believing himself a real boy, but this confusion is dispelled easily enough by "ending the program."
The story becomes even more amusing when the Doctor, self-described Mad Man with a Box, clashes with the somewhat stable atmosphere of Enterprise. Worf for example wishes the Doctor would stop talking. Good luck with that. One of the Doctor's foes justifiably believed that he would have to beat The Doctor's tongue to death after he executed the Time Lord.
Time Keeps on Slippin', Slippin', Slippin' Into the Future
The Doctor in turn begins to remember Klingons. Unlike other time travel adventures where universes clash, time changes around the Doctor. The question: is time adjusting to its proper phase, or have the collusion between Borg and Cybermen altered the universe as the Doctor and/or Picard know it? There is a Federation in Doctor Who. We never saw all of it, and Picard and company certainly fit the profile of the Great and Bountiful Human Empire, the Doctor so loves. Future issues will decide.
Batman: Dark Knight #10
Gregg Hurwitz, David Finch, Richard Friend, Jeromy Cox
Easily the most improved book of the DCU. The embarrassing White Rabbit is gone. Bruce is no longer dating a barely legal girl who can barely fit into her shoes. Batman and Commissioner Gordon are on the same page. Gordon's developing alcoholism problem vanishes in puff of good taste.
New writer Gregg Hurwitz conceives a strong story that centers on the Scarecrow's attack on the children of Gotham City. Batman is particularly careful when questioning one of the victims; a little girl traumatized by her experiences, and in so doing, he reveals his humanity and his own nature as the hurt child that never healed.
Hurwitz firmly establishes Batman's more obvious aspects in a thrilling car chase; mind you, I never heard of a maternity ward as a place distinct from a hospital. It's however possible that the plug-ugly sped his car into the back of a hospital, and the administration had put some extra pizzaz in the maternity ward simply because it faced the street where passerby could bill and coo at the newborn babies. Still an odd thing.
Bruce's new love interest, a Ukrainian pianist is a remarkable creation. Through crackerjack dialogue and unusual knowledge, Horowitz swiftly makes Natalya the most mature romantic foil since Silver St. Cloud.
The depth of yearning in her characterization is simply astonishing, and she flummoxes Bruce, who although doesn't merely consider her a dalliance, cannot devote the time she seeks. It's a common problem, but with Natalya, you really sympathize with her. She doesn't get angry. Instead, she feels hurt and disappointed.
All-Star Western #10
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, Moritat, Gabriel Bautista; Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Palmiotti and Gray pick up immediately where we left off last issue. Tallulah Black the horribly scarred, patched paramour of Jonah Hex took a one way trip out the window of Alan Wayne's casino. The Wayne blood runs true, and a couple of times I kept forgetting that Alan Wayne was talking and not Bruce. Mind you, had this happened in modern Gotham, Bruce would have probably saved Tallulah before she hit the ground. Therein lies the promise of the Waynes fulfilled. Alan can only act incensed and ban the corrupt Lucius Bennett from his establishment. Nevertheless, that's still strong action.
I'm going to let you in on a tiny spoiler. Tallulah lives, and because she lives, comedy ensues. Gray and Palmiotti lighten the mood with a goof on The Taming of the Shrew. Arkham really doesn't deserve any of the treatment he gets from Tallulah. His intentions were pure as he tended to her wounds and covered her in nightgown.
Alas, this is an example of a strong, unique personality becoming a force of nature that cuts through the niceties of civilization. Thus, we laugh with Jonah who's tickled pink by Tallulah, clearly a Greek scholar, placing Arkham between a rock and a hard place. Oh, and by the way, there are owls in the woodwork.
The backup story returns Bat Lash to the fold of the New 52, and it's a hilarious western farce that could be scored by Aaron Copeland. The legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is absolutely the perfect artistic choice for this antic. Garcia-Lopez defined the DCU on tee-shirts, lunch boxes and other products back in the eighties. His elegant lines defined the lines of graceful flying Kryptonians and added contemporary realism to the amazing world of DC.
Garcia-Lopez became a master of period detail, which he applies here, and one of the most winning qualities of his characters is that they're filled with celebratory life. His Batman often had a grim smile on his face, and Bat Lash sports a terrific grin. His women are sexy, dramatic beasts, and he represents these qualities in the short yet meaty burlesque.
Three is a Magic Number
Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis
When Aquaman seeks revenge, in flashback, for his father's death, the panels go red, and the enmity of Manta and Aquaman seethes scarlet. Rage boils over the pages. Atlantean strength pledges against Manta's twin eye-lasers. Mera's anger flashes as she interrogates the duplicitous Shin. A happy book this is not.
On the other hand, there's just not much story here. Putting aside the depiction of what Shin already worded last issue, Geoff Johns introduces the Operative, and it's a goofy introduction. During the elder Operative's battle against Manta's men, he slips up, but the fight's never the less fairly solid.
The Operative's trappings, Johns' background mythology for the character, are dubious. The Operative's headquarters lie in an airplane flown by his son. Good start, but then, there's the living room in the airplane that shatters the coolness factor to pieces. The duo in fact call the place the Living Room apparently with the hope they'll generate the same resonance as the Batcave. Try again.
The Flash #10
Francis Manapaul, Brian Buccellatto
Pretty darn rushed. Weather Wizard Marco Mardon's brother gets shot, forcing him to seek revenge. Meanwhile Patty Spivot, the Flash's winning New 52 love interest, lies tied up in a basement. The Flash like the audience comes in the middle of it all, and it feels like we missed an issue in between.
The art by Batwing's Marcus To and Ray McCarthy is strong, but the story's like a tear that's been hastily sewn back together. There's no time for the reader to look for clues or even follow the detective as he solves the crime. Weather Wizard doesn't even get a chance to bow for his entrance into this bright, new age.
Justice League #10
Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Gary Frank
More of a Justice League lesson than an actual adventure. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee speed to the present and reveal the histories of the New 52 heroes. It is a little interesting how they eschew the typical conveyance of exposition, choosing instead an original and suitable narrator of superhero connections.
Indeed, we discover the historical World's Finest team is intact. This was hinted at in the previous issue, and foreshadowed in the premiere. Wonder Woman has an old friend she visits. Her mother has been turned to stone by Hera. The Flash is dating Patty Spivot. All this suggests that Justice League is now more or less contemporaneous with The Flash and Wonder Woman.
The League will include new members. Zatanna is a Leaguer in the first issue of Justice League Dark, set farther in the future according to the new timeline, but the implication of break up and reordering never occurred. I'm even willing to tolerate Hal Jordan, whom you laugh at not with. Graves' attack on the League is a mere opening gambit, but it's promising that League remains unified.
Justice League Dark #10
Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola
Get past the exposition about the Books of Magic and the House of Mystery, and there's a few scenes for the fans of individual team-members. The lion's share of the book is all John Constantine. So if you like the rogue, this one's for you. I never understood the appeal, and he tends to mock superheroes.
Power-Grip Black Orchid
I'm buying this book for Black Orchid. Black Orchid strangling Constantine is solid gold for me, and Janin and Arreola milk the moment for all its worth. The scene gives the reader an idea of Black Orchid's power. It also characterizes her as the stalwart superhero of the group. The character least likely to put up with Constantine.
Lemire's Boston Brand alias Deadman is a much more likeable character. He furthermore benefits from some amusing dialogue and exhibits greater altruism than he did in the Milligan premiere. I also like that his powers are more defined. He's still insubstantial. He can possess people like always, but everybody can see him now, presumably through force of will.
Dr. Mist, a character introduced in The Super-Friends, ultimately seemed like just another big cosmic muckety-muck. The black Merlin if you will. Lemire grants Mist a useful power and alludes to his bona fide hero cred by pairing him with Black Orchid.
Madame Xanadu and Zatanna are a bit nondescript in Justice League Dark. Andrew Bennett quickly vanishes from the scene, but older Justice League fans will enjoy the presence of the Big Bads.
Movies You Probably Ignored
The DVD of Priest went on sale, and I'm a fan of Nikita. Maggie Q co-stars with Paul Bettany, whom you might know as the voice of Jarvis in the Marvel films. So, why not? Got more than I paid for.
Paul Bettany is quite impressive as the title character. He convinces you of his strength and his faithful rebellion against the Church, but not God. The Sheriff played by Cam Gigandet acts credibly as Steve McQueen to Bettany's Yul Brynner. Maggie Q is of course terrific as a female Priest, ending vampires and their servants while conveying the wounding of the heart. She was in love with Paul Bettany's character. Still is.
The lackluster trailer to Priest did the movie no favors, and the opening with the CGI vampire attack worried me, but those worries soon evaporated. The vampires get a lot more effective looking as the movie progresses. Some are outstanding creations with the visual personality of stop animation puppets. The Big Bad of the film played by Carl Urban is far closer to Christopher Lee than the albino animals attacking the scant outsiders who live in the desert. The Renfields of the vampires, volunteer infectees, also benefit from actors being made up to parody humans. They sort of look like nostferatu light.
The film doesn't depend on CGI. Rather, it's a tool to be used. I found myself transported to a physical alternate universe. That's right. The weaponry is real. The sets are real. The super-cool motorbikes that travel from walled city to wall city across a desolate wasteland are as real as Michael Keaton's Batmobile.
Why do these people choose to live in walled cities? Long ago there was a war between vampires and humankind. The trouble was that though the sun was on humanity's side, not much else was. The vampires are nocturnal predators with super strength and speed. They diced most of humanity.
Seeing an opportunity the Church stepped in and created the Priesthood. They selected individuals with a knack and trained them in the ways of war. These Priests took vows of chastity and kickassery, and when they weren't needed, the Church promptly abandoned them and took over the survivors of humanity to create a corporate theocracy.
The underlying theme of Priest is ironically skepticism. "To go against the Clergy is to go against God." Wow. That sounds familiar. Even when dropping the overt religious trappings, the message becomes the government is telling you that you're safe so long as you obey. Our title Priest breaks his vows to save his niece, kidnapped in the first new vampire onslaught. The theocracy was willing to sacrifice the niece so long as their false sense of security remained intact. Thus, we have the filmmakers exposing the hypocrisy of the Church as well as Corporations and Totalitarian Governments and showing what kind of hell the world would be if all three of these forces combined forces. We're very lucky that most of the time they're at each other's throats.
From these anarchist ideas, Priest turns into an exciting western. Humans on the outskirts have been reduced to reforming a frontier styled life. Advanced technology only spruces wooden towns. Though they have no use for the clergy, they're still a god fearing group, but god's as useful as ever. The vampires run through towns like badmen of the west, and they dress that way as well. The Priests and the Sheriff ride their iron horses into the chaos to try to bring law and order. The climax occurs on a train.
Priest was an unexpected surprise filled with memorable moments, intelligent and imaginative scripting as well as resonant acting from the entire cast. I'm equally impressed by the stunt work and the judicious use of special effects. The credits indicate that Priest had been shot or converted to 3-D. I'm glad I missed it in theaters because I hate 3-D, and while the 3-D of Priest might have been more successful than say Prometheus the film clearly didn't need it.
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.