Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. This week, Critter and Lord Baltimore return to the comics. The Birds of Prey go on safari. Nightwing sets up shop. Supergirl battles the Banshee. Wonder Woman escapes Hell.
Pick of the Brown Bag
Tom Hutchison, Fico Ossio
Big Dog Ink
Easily the least interesting issue of Critter, the tale picks up in the second half when writer Tom Hutchison runs the title hero through her paces against a flying foe. Fico Ossio's artwork is the most playful and effective in this scene. Critter behaves professionally, plying her experience against the aerodynamic thief and steering him into ignominious defeat.
The lion's share however involves Critter joining Purrfection: a ridiculous group of feline based celebrity superheroes. I get what Hutchison is trying to do. He's objecting over the media's habit of turning idiots into divas. In so doing, he addresses a pet peeve of mine. If Critter joins Purrfection, she will become Josie. DC did this in the Post-Crisis all the time. Kill, torture and/or cripple the original and bequeath the costume and name to just anybody. Mind you, it's Critter who is the legacy hero and the bona fide article. She would become lesser if she accepted the team name.
Given these themes, you may think I support Hutchison's endeavors. Nah. Making a critical point through the story in this case simply isn't very entertaining. It's like making a movie out of Saturday Night Live sketch. One joke stretched too far.
Furthermore, while I'll happily defend Ossio's artwork in regular issues of Critter, I find it difficult to do so in the current adventure. Ossio's art isn't remotely realistic. With his exaggerated hourglass hotties, his illustration alludes more to Tex Avery than Curt Swan. That said, emphasizing the T&A with such characters as the stripper pole hugging Pole Cat merely turns Critter into a bad burlesque.
Baltimore: Dr. Leskovar's Experiment #1
Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck, Dave Stewart
When last we left the awesome horror-fighting hero, Lord Baltimore, he had just killed Hitler who allied with Victorian charlatan Madame Blavatsky to "try to take over the world." This issue of a new miniseries starts with Baltimore crashing a plane on an island that hosts a whole bunch of new problems.
You've got to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you…punk.
Rescued by coastal dwellers marooned from a village infested with abominations, Lord Baltimore recounts what got him lost in the first place. A trap involving an egg that hatched a monster. With this twist, Golden and Mignola allude to the second Gamera film Gamera vs. Barugon. Although the beast resembles something from Lovecraft of course.
Upon recuperating Lord Baltimore sets off on his quest to rid the world of Haigus, the scar-eyed vampire that murdered his family. However, accepting the debt he owes to the kind strangers, he decides to take the scenic route. After several panels of well-timed silence and eerie desolation, the monsters pop out of every conceivable hole, and artist Ben Stenbeck is ready to turn Baltimore into a scythe amidst the wheat.
Birds of Prey #10
Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, Gabe Eltaeb
Tying up loose Owl ends, the Birds meet with Batman, and he's not all too thrilled with Black Canary:
"I know you think you're a force for good in this city. For some reason, Batgirl trusts you. But you're sloppy and dangerous."
Batman's attitude will change in the future, for in Batman: Dark Knight he saves Poison Ivy from the clutches of Bane and returns her to the Birds of Prey, whom he believes offers a better means of reform than Arkham Asylum. Batman's opinion thus remains consistent, especially his favorable decision about Batgirl.
This issue could be a pivotal one in Ivy's and certainly the Black Canary's growth. Ivy asked Black Canary to return her to the Amazon should anything happen to her. Black Canary keeps her word. The Birds are loyal to the Canary. So they back her up.
On the way to the jungle, an unknown force attacks the Birds with heat seeking missiles. The mid-air attack gives way to scenes depicting the Birds' resourcefulness as well as how their different personalities and histories impact upon an average Thursday.
Starling, who used to work for the Penguin, provides the shady transportation. Black Canary and Batgirl perform a winning double-act while Katana becomes a master chef, wielding an enchanted blade to toss walking salad. In an outstanding moment, Black Canary applies her sonic powers in a whole new way. I've said since the Pre-Crisis that Black Canary is one of the most stupidly powerful heroes, and now she gains a writer that knows. I look forward to seeing more examples of her versatility in sound.
Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, Geraldo Borgias, Eber Ferreira, Ruy Jose, Rod Reis
I can't believe I'm saying this, but Nightwing is actually cool. Embracing the legacy of the bat, while at the same time establishing himself as independent without whining about all the bad things Bruce did to him as a tyke, he acts as a skillful detective and a most excellent hero. Higgins furthermore gives him business acumen never once broached in any cosmology.
Daredevil Eat Your Heart Out
Somebody murdered brothers Logan and Miles Stayhorn and left Nightwing's escrima sticks, his weapons of choice, behind. The victims also bore distinctive tattoos.
Higgins follows the precept of Sherlock Holmes:
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
The Court of Owls unwittingly framed Dick Grayson for the murder of one of their targets, but this time, the escrima stick murders act as a classic plant, and the solution utilizes detective fiction standards for a rousing, solid mystery. Whether or not the enigma in question ties in with the discovery Dick makes by following the lead of the tattoo is anybody's guess.
Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Mahmud Asrar, Dave McCaig
Trapped in the realm of the Banshee, Supergirl meets the heroic New 52 Silver Banshee's brother Tom and though losing most of her power gains the upper hand in a nightmarish version of Krypton.
Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson mostly let Mahmud Asrar's artwork do the talking, and the sound makes one's jaw drop. Imbued with the ethereal colors of Dave McCaig, the crystalline Krypton truly seems like an alien world. A red hued updating of old pulp science fiction covers.
Then Asrar reveals the dragon, and what a striking beast it is. The Asrar McCaig creation is so unlike what we think of as dragons — green, frequently crowned firebreathers. Asrar grants the beast a reptilian slink that makes its nature unmistakeable. The far from amorphous black grants it an alien quality, and the "magic" arises from the dragon speaking. In accompaniment to our dragon, Asrar clads Supergirl as a Knight of Krypton and forges her as a stunning swordswoman ready to do battle against the beast.
Green and Johnson bestow conviction to Kara as well as intelligence. Supergirl quickly dopes out her reality as being virtual, and she indicates that she accepts the words of her cousin. She can feel it. Krypton died. Her fight against the Banshee leads to an ample demonstration of just how Mighty this Maid is.
Wonder Woman #10
Brian Azzarello, Kano, Tony Akins, Dan Green, Matt Wilson
I've been lax when reviewing Wonder Woman. Truth is, almost every issue would have received a 5 or 4 rating. I haven't been including the book in Tate Necessarily So because too many reveals occur, and I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free. Time's up. Spoilers ahoy.
Wonder Woman is out to save Zola from a family feud between the gods. Zola is one of Zeus' many human paramours and carries his demigod lovechild. Subsequent issues revealed that Wonder Woman is in fact another daughter of Zeus, this time impregnating Hippolyta.
Hera, the cuckolded wife of Zeus, is the Big Bad behind all attempts to kill Zola and her child. You kind of sympathize with Hera, but talk about an abuse of power.
Wonder Woman tricked Hera into magical imprisonment. Zola would be safe. However, in order to entrap Hera, Wonder Woman had to make deals with the other gods in the Pantheon. One of those deals included marrying Hades.
Hades believes Wonder Woman does not love him and only marries him to save Zola's life, in which case, he will kill Diana and Zola. So before the marriage occurs, he binds Diana with her legendary lasso of truth and asks her the question. Does Wonder Woman truly love him?
The answer exhibits Brian Azzarello's extreme cleverness as well as an understanding of Wonder Woman's characterization and history. This particular facet of Wonder Woman remains unchanged from the day that William Moulton Marston created her. Marston devised Wonder Woman to be an alternative to the brute force of Superman and the logic of Batman, and while Wonder Woman has probably undergone t
he most reinventions, Marston's spirit always endured.
In addition to the cunning of the answer, Azzarello draws upon Diana's Amazon roots, catalyzing the astonishing subplot propelled by arch ratiocinator Hephaestus. It's a testament to Wonder Woman's acumen that she figures out his ploy to deliver the coup de grace.
Cliff Chiang has been an infrequent artist on the title, and that may deter some readers who have been burned in the past by substitute doodlers. Tony Akins already impressed me with his dynamic choreography. Akins returns this issue, and my, oh, my if his imagery doesn't exceed previous forays.
Into the Mouth of Hell
Second guest artist Kano, who did some post-Crisis Superman titles before Wonder Woman also works some magic for Wonder Woman's more existential travails in the Underworld.
Horse of Hell
Both artistic styles compliment each other, and Matt Wilson pulls it all together with a fantastic color scheme suitable for the outré tastes of a death lord.
Thunderbolts…Er…Dark Avengers…No, wait…Damn, it Marvel. Pick a Horse! #176
Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, Terry Pallot, Frank Martin Jr.
How old can you go? That's the question Jeff Parker asks in this week's Thunderbolts. The team for the past several issues found themselves unwilling time travelers, visiting Marvel's past. This issue, they go way back. Primeval soup back.
Finally, the team gets some answers but not before blaming each other. Remember, they're super-villains and misfits. Only slightly reformed.
Perhaps the Thunderbolts will get a XXX Parody
Now, of course, there's nothing more boring than visiting your ancestors when they're still just amino acids waiting for the spark. So, Parker borrows a pretty famous time traveler to spice things up. Hint, it's not the Doctor. Marvel lost those rights a long time ago. Mind you, there is a Doctor Who connection as well as a Columbo motive to his actions.
Man-Thing fans will not want to pass up this issue, since ol' "Whatever Knows Fear" shows up when you least expect it. Since the Thunderbolts found themselves in this predicament, Manny's been vegging out.
Terry Pallot brings some classical inking to the title to enhance Kev Walker's already excellent pencils. Frank Martin Jr.'s colors emphasize the warmer hues of the spectrum to complete the aesthetic.
Simpsons Comics #191
Ian Boothby, Phil Ortiz, Mike DeCarlo, Art Villanueva
Despite reusing two plot lines from televised Simpsons stories, the convoluted masterpiece from Ian Boothby offers non-stop laughs and originality in the jokes. It all begins with Lisa.
The Agony of Defeat
Surprisingly, Bart is not responsible for Lisa's dejection. He in fact will supply her elation in a most odd way. After the money-strapped Springfield Elementary reneges on their promises to the masterful mathematician, Bart and Milhouse head for the Kwik-E-Mart, and here, the first plot line emerges.
Boothby takes the worst case scenario unexplored in the television series and lands Bart a spot in Apu's personnel pool. It turns out that Bart is actually good at the job, and among the rapid fire gags, Boothby sets up Bart to bring in the punchline as well as the bacon.
So what happened to Lisa? She's out raise money the only way she knows how. It appears that there's an underground Math Club ala Fight Club operating in Springfield. This makes perfect sense given the oasis of intelligence in the largely bone stupid Springfield.
Watch as the artists design original multiple poindexters and familiar eager to learn faces as they match wits against an increasingly spiraling Lisa, her calculating depravity expressed in a mere twist of Phil Ortiz's and DeCarlo's line above the eye and a Villanueva just dark enough shade under the eye.
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.