The Plausible Dialogue of a Child

A column article by: Ray Tate


Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. The Cult of Crime wages a war against the Court of Owls, and Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black are caught in the middle. Manta scores a victory while the Others feel forgotten by Aquaman. The Flash adjusts to life as he abandons his Barry Allan identity for Al the Bartender. A member of Justice League Dark betrays the team. Batman searches for the kidnaped Commissioner Gordon, and the team of Red Sonja and Witchblade save the world. 


Ride, Sally Ride, Upon Your Mystery Ship


A true hero, Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. She died on Monday, July 23, 2012 from pancreatic cancer. I regret her passing. She was the biggest deal in the eighties. Justifiably so. She was an icon of science and rationality, but also passionate in inspiring a thirst for knowledge in people everywhere. Not just an astronaut but also a physicist, Dr. Sally Ride was awesome. We need more Sally Rides in the world.


Pick of the Brown Bag


All-Star Western #11

Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat


"Two secret societies cannot cannot possibly co-exist in a single city."

I never read the year-long, weekly series 52 nor accepted Batgirl substitute Batwoman. As a result, I know very little about the Crime Bible or the disciples of the book. Gray and Palmiotti make it very easy for me to understand. The Bible is a guide to that organization for the criminal element. The Followers of the Crime Bible are merely pre-cursors of organized crime. They're easily identified by skull rings. No Phantom in the DC universe, obviously.

The Crime Bible Cult finds itself at odds with The Court of Owls. Of course, we only know the Court as enemies of the Batman Family, but if you look at the Court's rationale -- vigilantism -- the animosity between the secret societies becomes easy to understand. They're at the opposite ends of the secret society spectrum. The Owls are also arguably nuttier.

Tallulah Black is out for simple revenge against the land baron that killed her family. Jonah Hex is here to help his former student, but the man behind these deaths happens to be Lucius Bennett, an acolyte of the Crime Bible. That catalyzes many a problem.

There's so much fun, imagination and originality in this weird, western tale. Tallulah narrates, and her unpolished speech hides a critical thinker. She's more than capable of escaping from an ingenious death trap introduced later in the story.

Hex acts as Tallulah's backup man, but his willingness to take a backseat to Tallulah speaks volumes for the taciturn bounty killer. He also displays surprising faith in Tallulah's tenacity and viciousness, which isn't really what you expected from this hero/protagonist. 

In addition to the rich characterization, the plot twists like a snake. Hex ignominiously ends the previous spotlit character Mr. Baroque. The Court frames Hex and Tallulah for the murder of a Crime Bible proponent. His cohorts set upon the trio by using the corrupt police force of Gotham City, thereby giving a glimpse of how bad things traditionally were before Gordon and Batman arrived.



Aquaman #11

Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Rod Reis


On the one hand, this can be a very a good issue of Aquaman if you suspend your disbelief. Primarily the suspension occurs in the drama category. The action category, Ivan Reis fulfills with the flying colors of Rod Reis. The art on this book never wavered from being outstanding. The art team in fact do their damnedest to sell the conceit that Johns is trying to peddle.

See, there's a very good reason why Arthur abandoned the Others for the Justice League. Until the Powers That Be conceived of the New 52, unlike the Justice League, there were no Others. It's sort of like Doctor Who. I mean, there's a very good reason why the companions leave the Doctor. The actors and actresses leave the show. In the context of the new television series, however, the writers have taken the opportunity to suggest deeper reasoning that enriches the Doctors and the companions' characterization.

Does Aquaman pull off that kind of sleight of hand? I'd have to say no, but to be fair television is at heart a more persuasive media than a humble comic book. As good as an artist may be, he's still not going to match the emotion a flesh and blood person can convey, and in this week's yield of comic books there are quite a few artists out to challenge that, Reis included. 

The Others are actually quite entertaining, and they possess a lot more thought and care than lesser made-from-whole cloth groups or even cookie-cut-for-a-new-soulless series team. So, the Others resonating at all is actually quite a feat, and the talent behind Aquaman can take their bows. Add that to the brief but strong battle pitting Mera against Manta and Dr. Shin's surprising moral fortitude, and you have a superior issue of Aquaman that deserves…



Batman: The Dark Knight #11

Gregg Hurwitz, David Finch, Sonia Oback


Although Gregg Hurwitz just started his run on Batman: Dark Knight he already demonstrated a command over the the world of Batman. Hurwitz daringly didn't just stay within the borders of what has already passed and developed his own characters, filled with depth and reason, to expand and enhance the Dark Knight's lore.

Natalya, the Ukrainian classical pianist, attempts to get through to Bruce Wayne. Natalya acts patient but also aggressively parries to draw Bruce out of the shell he seems to have calcified around him. While other ladies have tried, Natalya displays insight few of Bruce's paramors possessed. Hurwitz parallels the two would-be partners by adding a sad history to Natalya's repertoire. She didn't grow up with wealth or ease. She is instead a successful escapee from post Cold War chaos. 

David Finch's expressions of action and Batman symbolism give Dark Knight potent visual impact. Finch however is not merely an artist tailored for adventure. Just take a look at the subtle degree of change in Natalya's countenance.

After opening the book with a personal moment in Bruce Wayne's life, Hurwitz quickly cuts to the chase, literally, and employs Batman as a detective. The Dark Knight's keen skills and resources quickly lead him to one inescapable conclusion. The Scarecrow kidnaped Commissioner Gordon. Gordon isn't the only victim of the Scarecrow's machinations.

Hurwitz exhibits remarkable insight that Finch fluidly translates to the pages. For a brief moment, as the Scarecrow's antidote washes over the Master of Fear's young victim, the little girl's innocence touches Jonathan Crane's conscience, just for a flicker. Hurwitz distinguishes the insane from evil. The Scarecrow is insane. 

As we see in disturbing flashbacks, Jonathan Crane's abusive childhoood motivates his actions, especially this latest scheme. Unlike the Joker, the Scarecrow's still human enough to feel something other than contempt. 

Through these scenarios, Hurwitz grants the Scarecrow an aspect to be pitied by the reader. The characteristics make the Scarecrow's attack on the children of Gotham City more horrific. He's not just an evil man acting according to a for all intent and purpose alien nature. He's an abused child that's in a twisted way attempting to protect children against the very abuse he endured. 

Some consider Batman a psychotic or at least not exactly normal. When compared to the Scarecrow, Batman seems extraordinarily well-adjusted, and it's in this comparison that you see Bruce uses his childhood trauma to become a force for pure good.

In order to discern Crane's whereabouts, Batman must question the Scarecrow's first child victim, but he doesn't interrogate her. He doesn't exploit the Dark Knight he uses to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. Instead, Batman connects to the little girl through her stuffed animal, a real world tactic employed by many professionals when attempting to reach young victims of abuse or criminal harm. Batman is very tender with the little girl. He mollifies his image and his mystique.

When Batman finds what he's looking for, a clever clue relayed in the plausible dialogue of a child, he finds Crane to be a canny foe. You almost can see what Crane's thinking in these wordless, suspenseful moments. He has got exactly one shot at defeating Batman. He's got to be incredibly fast. He has to surprise him. He has to trap him and take him into his world. Batman is not like an innocent bystander. He's dangerous beyond dangerous. 



Flash #11

Francis Manapul & Brian Buccelato, Marcus To, Ray McCarthy


In a decent issue that covers Barry's abandoning of identity, the real story is the return of the Rogues, and in a form that's relatively unchanged.

Oh, sure they're spiffed out with a different look, but Captain Cold and Heatwave are similar to the characters that we knew from the past. Captain Cold even complains about the "shades of gray" in the world and misses the old days when there were "good guys" and "bad guys."

The Flash infiltrates the bar as the new tender, securing the job after he discovers his wallet has been pick-pocketed. He's hot on the trail of an arsonist targeting Keystone City, twin sister of Central City, but with only one Flash. Naturally, suspicion falls on Heatwave, but Heatwave blames Captain Cold for the arsons. Curioser, and Curioser. 

As the Rogues' disagreement escalates, Flash tries to talk them down as an old friend might, but in the end he silences them with a classic Flash trick. 

Just before the book ends writers Francis Manapul and Buccelato introduce a new look for an old Rogue, and Batwing artist Marcus To and classic inker Ray McCarthy, more than makes up for Manapul's sitting out for the artwork. Buccelato's colors however continue to be a boon.



Justice League Dark #11

Jeff Lemire, Mikel Janin, Ulises Arreola


Lots of good stuff in Justice League Dark. Constantine makes his play for the Books of Magic. Faust pulls a fast one by revealing a plant on the team. No worries. It's not the Black Orchid.

Mikel Janin and Ulises Arreola help balance the occult esoterica with kickass scenes like the above, and the spellcasting from Zatanna as well as the possessed acrobatics of Deadman raise Justice League Dark above the chattiness you expect.

Along the way, the creative team premieres a new Johnny Peril -- who looks strangely like Clark Kent. DC fans from the '90s will also recognize the flavor of that year. Can Mr. E be far behind?



Red Sonja and Witchblade #5

Doug Wagner, Cezar Rezek, Marlon Ilagan


While Sara Pezzini delivers the coup de Grace to fallen angel and raving lunatic Ragniel, this issue belongs to Red Sonja, all the way.

Nissa, the bearer of the Witchblade in Sonja's time recovers from her mortal injuries. These injuries forced Sonja to merge, however temporarily, with the Witchblade. Nissa's recovery isn't just a feel-good moment for the reader. It's perfectly plausible that despite the damage, Nissa would still be standing at the end of this adventure. The warrior women of Sonja's time were hearty stock. They had to resist disease without antibiotics as well as physical harm. In addition, the Witchblade probably fortifies its wielders.

Without the "trinket" as Sonja refers to the Blade, the She-Devil goes off to face Ragniel, and here's where the book takes unexpected turns. Last issue, Ragniel reanimated Sonja's father. This issue her father gladdens Sonja's heart while saddening her spirit.

Though vengeance motivates Sonja, she tamps down these feelings only to exact a price from Ragniel. Sonja exhibits a highly sophisticated comprehension of space and time, not to mention logic. In her mind, she has already won by playing her part in the future that the Witchblade revealed. Red Sonja and Jonah Hex would probably get along just fine, trading time travel stories in a saloon or a tavern.

Wether your in this team-up for Sara or Sonja, Cezar Rezek and Marlon Ilagan pulls out all the stops for the finale. Sonja is a cunning, beautiful streak of red fire, and Sara supernatural green death. Ragniel, despite looking like an occult Golden Gloves didn't stand a chance.



The Coolest Thing Outside of the 2012 Olympics 


Doctor Who on the cover of an American mainstream entertainment magazine.



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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