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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 01/16/08

One more alternative for discerning comics fans. New comics, back issues, (mostly back issues) and a trade review every week.

Employee’s Pick

[DC] Major Bummer #1-15

Teenaged slacker Louis Martin receives, by error, a package granting the opener vast superhuman powers, and proceeds to change nothing about his life. The aliens who granted him his powers conspire to inspire in him heroic aspirations by manipulating and empowering criminals so that he has handy arch nemeses. Other new heroes seek him out after seeing visions of his likeness, a la Close Encounters. They mean to form a team, with Lou as their leader. Well, Lou’s having none of that. He just wants to get back to his normal, boring life where no one knocked him through walls or tried to eat his car.

Although it was published under the regular DC imprint, no DCU characters ever guest-starred in Major Bummer, and Lou took no part in the wider world’s sports. That and the fact that, after fifteen issues, Lou was still a directionless slacker make it less than surprising that the book was cancelled. Still, it’s a shame. John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, the team who created The Mask, made another quality funnybook here but couldn’t find their audience. If you’ve any interest in stoner jokes, Tyrannosaurus Reich, or characters who are nowhere near the best at what they do, you’d do well to track this series down.

New-Type Books

[DC] Birds of Prey #113

This is an odd book for me. Usually, I like to start with issue one and work my way forward. With BoP, I skipped Chuck Dixon’s opening run, going straight to the Gail Simone stuff. When that, sadly, ended, I didn’t bother with Tony Bedard’s fill-in issues, instead waiting for Sean McKeever’s much-delayed debut as the new ongoing writer. Now I’m wondering if I should skip that, too. McKeever’s among my favorite writers. He’s usually good, sometimes great, and I’ve never seen him be outright dreadful. His first issue of BoP, though, is worrisome. He starts by taking one of Simone’s dangling plot threads – that of mob princess Tabby Brennan, last seen getting away with murder right under the Birds’ noses – and appears to run it straight into a wall. If all is as it appears, then Oracle & Co. failed badly at an operation, causing massive loss of life and earning a lecture from Superman himself. But as any comic fan knows, things are often not as they appear. Clues throughout the issue point to possible outs, and I’m optimistic that McKeever will take at least one of them. We’ll see. If nothing else, there’s the pretty, pretty art, courtesy of Nicola Scott, a holdover from the end of Simone’s run.

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #14 & 15

Simone, meanwhile, is busy revitalizing DC’s most famous female hero. She didn’t need revitalizing before Crisis of Infinite Crises and One Vacation Later, but better this than leaving her to grow mold. Under Greg Rucka, Wonder Woman had a memorable supporting cast, formidable foes, and a clear mission. These were all swept in DC’s much loved (by them) continuity shakeup (part the first), and Simone replaces them now with… monkeys and nazis. Point, Simone. I still have reservations about the book, but things seem to be moving in the right direction, up to the high level of quality Wondy enjoyed with Rucka chronicling her adventures. And again we get lovely art, this time from Terry and Rachel Dodson, who draw a mean gorilla.

Back Issues

[Dark Horse] Perhapanauts #1 of 4

Here we have a ghostbust- er, paranormal investigations team book from Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau. Much like Hellboy’s BPRD, the Perhapanauts are made up of assorted oddballs. There’s a Bigfoot, a Chupacabras, a ghost girl… and they’re all so horribly generic it hurts. Bigfoot, who has no other name, is superintelligent, which is no more or less trite than if he were big and dumb. And it would be forgivable if there were anything to the character, or if he displayed real intelligence. The closest he comes is calculating how far in advance a deus ex machina needs to be set up. The Chupacabras also has no name, refered to by other characters as "Choopie," and is the resident comic relief. Only he isn’t funny.

For some reason, this issue’s story is titled "In Media Res." You know, when stories start in the middle of the action and you’re all "wha-huh?" and wondering if you missed an issue? Except Perhapanauts starts with a leisurely introduction, then plods along in a straightforward manner until a last-page "shock" ending. Loosest interpretation of in media res ever. I had no great hopes for this book. I was prepared to like it on superficial merit alone (I picked it up for the cute ghost girl, who was one of the book’s better points), and it still disappointed.

[Image] Elephantmen #1

From a boring comic by a writer capable of better to a comic you’d expect to be boring based on who wrote it. If the name Richard Starkings sounds familiar, it’s because he, along with his company Comicraft, has worked on thousands of comics before… as a letterer. Going from quite possibly the least creative job in comics to the most (neck-and-neck with penciling), you wouldn’t think he’d have anything interesting to say. Go figure, Starkings is a man of many talents. He weaves a tale of a genetically modified half-man, half-elephant, grown in a lab by a mad scientist in the farflung future and trained by the government to kill, who is now adjusting to normal life as best he can. As it jumps between the present and the past, the story switches from charming and funny to violent and frightening. Ebony – even an obvious name is better than "Elephant, Elly for short" – is a troubled character, and not easy to judge. Is he to blame for the people he’s killed? Can he move past it and have anything resembling a normal life? Would you trust him with your daughter? All questions I’d like to see answered.


[Devil’s Due] Street Fighter Vol. 1 digest

With Street Fighter, as with any of Udon’s solo work, I am forced to concentrate on the artwork. In the same way an oasis commands attention in a vast desert, Udon’s art is the only sustenance to be had. The writing is easily ignored at its best, annoying when it stands out. Fortunately, the art pulls double duty and the end result is as satisfying a comic as you’re likely to see with a fighting game as its source material. As you’d expect- nay, demand of such a comic, the fight scenes are expertly rendered. Characters leap about with inhuman grace, striking solid blows and showing off their respective special moves.

This first volume collects issues 0-6 and has us follow the Street Fighters as various plotlines converge before the big SF2 tournament. So, fighting that leads to more fighting. Deadpool would approve. The backup stories from the original comics are left out of the collection, and the pages are shrunken down for the digest format, but the price also shrinks. You might prefer the single issues to the collection. Either makes for a nice compantion to SotA’s action figure line, which is based largely on this comic’s art, or a diversion from more weighty comics; the equivalent of a brain dead action movie.


Major Bummer – Tragically slain at a tender age.
Birds of Prey – Bumpy start, shows promise.
Wonder Woman – Fixing things without falling back on the reset button. In the mean time, enjoy these monkeys.
Perhapanauts – Yeah… no.
Elephantmen – How many times can I say "surprisingly good" before I have to declare a moratorium?
Street Fighter – Yay now is fighty time!

Questions, comments, criticisms, and nitpicks are welcome.