Or – “And Seriously, Don’t Even Get Me Started On All The Buckys!”
Day two of the Major Spoilers Star-Spangled Weekend™, I’m freshly sunburnt from swimming, but still Ready, Willing and Able (Attorneys At Law?) to go over some of the high-points of last month’s comic book output. The Justice League of America, all-American Tony Stark and the styling of verdant Lanterns and Hornets take center stage as our Rapid-Fire Reviews continue!
Previously, on Everything: Following his debut in a backup feature in The Human Torch # 4 (Spring 1941), the Patriot appeared in the first of two Human Torch issues both inadvertently numbered #5, and known to collectors as #5[a] (Summer 1941), in a story by Joe Gill and artist Sid Greene. Concurrently, the Patriot began as regular feature in the superhero anthology Marvel Mystery Comics, making him one of Timely’s most popular characters in the second tier beneath stars Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner. The Patriot story “Death Stalks the Shipyard”, from Marvel Mystery Comics #29, was reprinted during the Silver Age of Comic Books in Marvel Super-Heroes #16 (Sept. 1968). When Marvel Comics revived the character Captain America in 1964, the story explained that he had been M.I.A. and in suspended animation since 1945. This discrepancy with his comic-book appearances from 1946 to 1964 was later explained as the result of replacement heroes taking on the mantle. As the third Captain America, Jeffrey Mace would have been behind the mask in Captain America Comics #58-75 (Sept. 1946 – Feb. 1950) and other comics during that period. Mace succeeded the second Captain America, William Naslund (formerly the Spirit of ’76), who was shown in What If? vol. 1, #4 (Aug. 1977) as having been killed in 1946. The Patriot first appeared in modern times in a four-part flashback story running through The Invaders #5-6 (March & May 1976) and Marvel Premiere #29-30 (April & June 1976), set during World War II which retconned him as a member of a newly created superhero team, the Liberty Legion. That team later appeared alongside Fantastic Four member the Thing in a two-part time travel story, set during World War II, in Marvel Two-in-One #20 (Oct. 1976) and Marvel Two-in-One Annual (1976). Mace appeared briefly in a flashback in Captain America #215 (Nov. 1977), with his death depicted in #285 (Sept. 1983). In a flashback, the Patriot co-starred in a World War II adventure with Captain America in Captain America Annual #13 (1994).
Green Hornet – Year One #3: Who the Green Hornet is and how he came to be! It has long been part of Green Hornet canon that Kato serves Britt Reid out of obligation for a debt long past, but this issue is the first time that I recall the story being told outright. As the Hornet moves against hoods in old Chicago circa 1938, we are simultaneously shown Kato’s fall from grace as one of the last survivors of the historic, controversial 1937 Nanking massacre. Kato executes his own corrupt commanding officer and goes on the run from his own countrymen, only to be saved by a globe-trotting Reid and his experimental weapons. At the end of the story, Kato writes home to his father, advising the man that he has finally found a master worth serving…
It’s a little odd to read a story without the usual conventions of 21st century political correctness, with relatively authentic 30’s slang (including a couple of racial slurs and some old-school blaspheming) and a gangster motif. The gruesome aftermath of Kato’s unit invading Chinese territory are shown in a bright red wash, emphasizing the horror, making me notice the coloring throughout the issue, emphasizing and supporting the art throughout. Matt Wagner’s usual historical detail is present as well as nice character work across the board. This book is my favorite of the current Hornet crop, playing with the expectations and history of the character nicely…
4 out of 5 stars.
Green Lantern #55: So, there’s this White Lantern on Earth… Nobody seems to know anything much about it, other than it’s a harbinger of great power and something something something dark side. At the end of last issue, intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo arrived to collect a bounty on Red Lantern Atrocitus and the inevitable fight kicks off here. It’s telling of how grating Hal Jordan has become that the presence of Lobo is a SOFTENING aspect to the book, but there you go. Hal steals Lobo’s bike, Sinestro goes toe to toe with the last Czarnian, and Carol Ferris gets sexually harassed. (I wonder if the Star Sapphires have an H.R. department?) The four Lanterns (Carol, Hal, Sinestro and Atrocitus) manage to unite long enough to send Lobo packing, but a last second reveal proves Atrocitus to be smarter than I gave him credit for.
This issue also provides the origin of Red Lantern Dex-Starr (the cute blue kitty-cat, who also gets in a few good shots on Lobo’s bulldog pal) and it’s actually touching, if somewhat manipulative in it’s emotions. It’s a stronger outing that the last couple of issues of GL, which have been meandering as Brightest Day tries to keep up with the post-Nekron DCU, but it’s still not quite up to the high standards set by Johns in this title’s past. I’m still onboard this title, even with my growing distaste for the protagonist, but this whole “Search For The Entities” thing has already dragged on longer than I suspect it should..
2 out of 5 stars.
Green Lantern Corps #49: The emphasis on John Stewart’s Marine background continue here, as he infiltrates the Alpha Lanterns’ new homeworld to find out why all the Alphas have been on a mysterious recruiting gig lately. Green Lantern Stel’s homeworld has been overtaken by Alpha Lanterns, and a task force consisting of Kyle Rayner, Soranik Natu and Ganthet set out to solve the mystery. Of course, the whole thing turns out to be a plan by Cyb0rg Superman to take over the cybernetic world of Grenda and create his own Lantern Corps to overthrow the Guardians.
Seems like we’re back to business as usual here, with 90’s villain Cyber-Supes giving the climax a bit of anti, and a JLU-inspired John Stewart, but much as with the sister book, it feels like we’re spinning our wheels here. Stel just became GL Drill Sergeant and now he’s out of action already, while Cyborg-Superman did something similar with the Manhunters just a couple of years ago during the Sinestro Corps War. I know it’s sometimes hard to get back in the swing of things after a huge crossover like Blackest Night, but the Green Lantern books seem to be suffering hard from post-Event Fatigue. Here’s hoping it gets better before it gets worse…
1.5 out of 5 stars.
Hawkeye And Mockingbird #1: The Avengers: Reunion limited series was a pleasant diversion during a particularly dull chunk of Dark Reign, giving us character-driven espionage tales with a new hard-edged Mockingbird and a Hawkeye who was cast into the alien role of cautious one. This book takes that up again, and can hopefully put the Green Arrow/Black Canary parallels to rest. Barbara Morse has secrets within secrets, Clint Barton discovers the truth about his former wife’s family, Dominic Fortune stirs up trouble, and the Captains America make a cameo. Line of the month, from Hawkeye to Steve Rogers: “Good to have both of us alive at once. Seems rare lately.” Heh.
Hawkeye is a character that’s always fascinating (his last series and West Coast Avengers especially so) and Mockingbird is practically an empty canvas, and her new costume is pretty phenomenal-looking at that. I have high hopes for this book in the post-Dark Reign Marvel Universe, and I would love to see it become the next Iron Fist or Moon Knight, achieving critical darling status. This is a good kickoff, setting things up clearly, drawing the characters and setting up the villains. My only complaint is that Crossfire is kind of old hat, but even that won’t be an issue if the book stays this well-written…
4 out of 5 stars.
Incorruptible #7: Last issue left Max Damage’s partner Jailbait badly injured, and this one picks up right from there, with her in the hospital, the Diamond Gang (a group of White Supremacists who believe that the Plutonians devastation is actually ethnic cleansing) in play, and Max Damage suffering from sleep deprivation. A big secret about Max’s powers is revealed, and power plays are made on both sides of the equation. Even Annie (the of-legal-age stand-in for Jailbait from a previous issue) makes an appearance, stealing the leather costume and setting herself up to be Max’s new partner, in theory. We also get Max and Jailbait dealing with the fallout of their sundered relationship, something that is creepy and touching all at once.
Incorruptible and it’s sister book, Irredeemable, aren’t written as the standard “we have a story to tell and then we’ll trade paperback it and be done” paradigm so often seen these days from independent publishers, instead embracing something like the 70’s Marvel storytelling style, where things don’t follow a convenient arc but unfold more like real life, where things aren’t always tied together with neat little bows. It’s nice work, and this is a good issue, adding depth to our protagonist, and showing his weaknesses, both physical and otherwise.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Invincible #72: Invincible, Kid Omni-Man, Allen The Alien and Omni-Man confront a squadron of Viltrumites, led by the battle-scarred veteran called Conquest, a man Invincible believes dead. The fight gets really ugly and personal quickly, as Conquest goads ‘Vince into a blind rage, while Allen ends up being the only one left in the fight. Invincible and Conquest crash to a nearby planet, and our hero literally chokes the life out of his foe, but not before being grievously injured (disemboweled on panel, and by the way, EWWWW!) We end the issue with Nolan and his two sons abandoned on a remote planet while the war goes on without several of its heaviest hitters, leading into #73, which Stephen reviewed earlier.
The build-up to the Viltrumite War has it’s seeds in the very first issues of this book, and the cast assembled is a fascinating one (save for Tech-Jacket, whom I’ve never had any particular affinity for, and whom I find to be a bit of a Mary Sue) and once again, Kirkman and Ottley aren’t afraid to show the real toll of battle, right down to blood and icky guts and consequences. Conquest’s death seemed a bit sudden, bordering on anti-climax, but seeing Mark get his revenge is still a visceral thrill, and this is still one of the strongest titles out there month over month.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Irredeemable #14: The Paradigm has been taken into custody, but Bette Noire breaks them out, only to find that her husband Gilgamos has already broken out… by cutting off his remaining wing and picking the lock with his own bones. That… is HARDCORE. The team comes together just in time for Orian the demon and Survivor to return from beyond, and they all discover what Bette did with the remaining wax from the candle that makes Plutonian mortal: she has forged a bullet. Bette, Gilgamos, Survivor and Gilgamos set out to find the Plutonian, only to find that the Plutonian is looking for THEM. And he’s not happy…
This story is a compelling one, but structured in an odd way, as Plutonian has been off-screen for most of the last several issues, and the seeming heroes of the piece are so side-tracked with their own betrayals and situations that they haven’t even really addressed the fact that their world is being systematically destroyed by a giant alien from beyond. It’s the most realistic take on superhumans since DP7 was cancelled, lo these many years ago, and it’s a really fascinating read to boot. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I’m perfectly happy to go along for the ride. I wonder if it’s eventually going to come down to a battle between Max Damage and the Plutonian? It would be pretty ironic if the biggest villain on the planet had to take down the greatest hero.
3 out of 5 stars.
Invincible Iron Man #27: Salvador Larocca has finally gotten a lot of the disquieting simian aspects out of Iron Man’s helmet in this issue, but man, the eyes have gotten HUUUGE. Pepper Potts insists that Tony rebuild her Rescue armor so that she can be a superhero again, and Tony refuses, then relents. Mrs. Arbogast (of the legendary Michelinie/Layton run on the book) comes back into the fold, while Detroit Steel goes into action in Tokyo. War Machine and Iron Man (and wasn’t Rhodey a cyborg about seven minutes ago? Did I miss something?) set out to take the villain down, while the Hammer girls continue stealing Stark technology from various places around the world.
This book is one of the more fabulous things to come out of the Heroic Age for me, giving me an Iron Man that (while highly influenced by the Robert Downey, Junior movie) I can at least root for, and allowing him to rebuild his business and his supporting cast in a way that will make the eventual success of the business that much more entertaining. There are some problems for me with the characterization of Rhodey and Pepper, but it’s less problematic than it is intriguing. It’s a strong middle chapter, even if not a whole lot actually happens during the issue…
3 out of 5 stars.
Justice League – Generation Lost #4: The Brightest Day continues as Max Lord discovers issues with his powers (see what recently happened to Aquaman in the sister title) and the remaining members of Justice League International (Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and Blue Beetle) face down the threat of Rocket Reds in Russia, only to find that the original Rocket Red has a protege floating around in his old Apokaliptian-style armor. Rocket Red and the team engage the Reds in battle, and Booster angrily yells that he knows Max is listening. One of the Rocket Red’s speakers crackles to life, and Max’s voice is heard. “What would you like to know?” asks Lord as the team goggles in amazement.
The transition from mostly-benevolent-capitalist to all-out-evil-thing was a slow one for Max, but it’s good to see him being at least kind of human again here. The use of these characters together is as much a repudiation of the JLI book (since the tone here is NOTHING like that book) as it is a celebration, but it’s good to see these mostly sidelined characters getting respect. It’s sad that we had to destroy some of their new backstory to get there, but at least it’s good stuff to read. I’m really hoping that Brightest Day shows it’s cards soon, and that the reveal is worth the time getting there. This issue is getting better, but it’s still got room for improvement.
2 out of 5 stars.
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine: Here’s something interesting for you. Gold Key Comics (best known for cartoon adaptations and things like Doctor Solar and Magnus) taking on the work of the Beatles in comic book form. The Peter Max-style Beatle designs are fascinating to look at, and this comic, while not exactly like the movie, uses the limitations of comics coloring to it’s advantage, with deep reds and blues and a remarkably artistic take on things, even in the cover. There’s even a very pretty foldout poster in the middle of the book, and SEVENTY pages of stuff going on as the Beatles foils the plans of the wicked Blue Meanies. It even ends with a moment similar to the movie, wherein John breaks the fourth wall and warns the reader to start singing, lest the Meanies come for them.
Adaptations are a curious beast, but this one is brilliant. The art (by comics stalwart Jose Delbo) is note-perfect, and the lack of songs doesn’t detract from the story at all, due in part to the strength of the material, but also due to what seems like an appreciation of the movie and the Beatles by the writer and artist. This is that rarest of beasts, a movie adaptation that that is as interesting in it’s own way as the movie itself. A fun book that anyone could enjoy. Great work!
5 out of 5 stars.
Hmmm… Once again 3 out of 5 stars overall for the lot, which makes me wonder if I’m always going to run right down the middle? Either way, it’s not a bad batch, and those darned Bee-At-Ills probably skewed it heavily in favor of happiness. Happy Fourth of July to those that celebrate, and regular Fourth of July to all those for whom it’s just an average Sunday. Either way, stay tuned for more fourth-anniversary awesome as the Major Spoilers Star-Spangled Weekend™ continues!