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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 3/19/8

Young Heroes in Love, Blue Beetle wears gloves, Batman in Batman in Detective Comics, the latest Wonder Woman, and a double dose of Ex Machina.

Employee’s Pick

Young Heroes in Love

[DC] Young Heroes in Love #1-6
Writer: Dan Raspler
Pencilers: Dev Madan (issues 1-3 & 5), Mike Manley (issue 4), Sergio Cariello (issue 6)

Another underrated 90’s series. Despite guest-stars like Superman and Scarecrow, Young Heroes lasted only a few issues longer than its peer, Major Bummer, and has as much impact on the present-day DCU. Which is a better fate than the members of Young Justice or JLI got, cruelly punished for the crime of being a lighthearted romp through a grim n’ gritty world. Young Heroes is, at its core, about sexy fun, albeit with a disturbing undercurrent of mind control. Seven people, less superheroes than they are normal people with extraordinary powers (and colorful spandex costumes), get together to form a team. Because, hey, seems like the thing to do. Being human, the girls notice the guys, the guys notice the girls, and they all notice the car. Off-Ramp’s car, which, in conjunction with his ability to open teleportational portals, acts as the team’s somewhat goofy mode of transportation.


The rest of the team? Bonfire, who’s your standard redhead with fire-based powers, though she doesn’t have an especially fiery temper. More of a bubbly personality. She thinks Thunderhead’s cute, but develops a deeper attraction to Frostbite. Thunderhead, the poor lunk, has eyes only for Bonfire, and is the obligatory big guy. Super-strength, limited invulnerability, and later, electric powers. Frostbite is an elfish dude who largely eschews clothing in favor of body piercings and has ice-based powers. He’s also cold, personality-wise, or rather, he puts up a cold front. Snrrrrrk. The team’s only other female member, because it makes so much sense to have guys outnumber gals five to two in a romance book, is Monstergirl, a shapeshifter who thinks her only power is to take on a specific monstrous form. That beats Junior, who has the amazing power to… be six inches tall. Not shrink to six inches, nor grow from six inches, he’s just six inches tall, all the time. Good for spying, but not so great in a fight, and Off-Ramp’s portals double as looking glasses, rendering him virtually useless. They’re led by Hard Drive, a powerful telekinetic and telepath who we learn likes to use his powers in less than noble ways. He brings the team together with lies and subterfuge, mind-controls Bonfire into ignoring her feelings for Frostbite because he fears a messy breakup, and shortly after he meets Monstergirl, they’re sleeping together. She seems to be genuinely attracted to him, but considering the scruples he displays elsewhere, I wouldn’t put it past him to rape her.


Issue two has more flirting, stronger implications that Hard Drive and Monstergirl didn’t hookup naturally, and the team’s first fight, as they tangle with a giant mummy. They do surprisingly well for a team who’ve barely worked together, neutralizing the threat with ease. There are subtle hints that the mummy’s not as evil as he appears, as well as the first sign that Hard Drive has childlike notions of good, bad, and superheroics. Those notions are pushed to the fore in issue three, when he throws a fit and runs off crying after Superman politely declines his invitation to join the Young Heroes. Issue four introduces Zip Kid, a tiny woman who, unlike Junior, can shrink, grow, and fly at tiny-size. She joins the team just in time for her (and everyone else’s) powers to go haywire during the megacrossover Genesis.


Raspler seems to have gone to the Chris Claremont school of storytelling. Along with the heavy use of mind control, there are slow-burn subplots galore. Hard Drive has a brother whom he keeps telepathically sedated since, according to him, "he’s delusional and paranoid," as well as ridiculously powerful. Monstergirl might be two-faced or two people, and one of those people could be more manipulative than Hard Drive himself. Junior nearly quits the team, but ends up sticking around to watch the drama unfold. There’s not much in the way of superfights in this series, but every issue has a ton of stuff going on. The only drawback is, after six issues, most of the subplots remain unresolved. Which, of course, is how you get readers coming back for more. Only I’m not sure I want to read more about characters using their powers to trick people into having sex with them. If that’s what’s going on, and between Hard Drive’s telepathy and Monstergirl’s (or someone impersonating her) shapeshifting it certainly looks that way, then that is hell of creepy. I hope it’s not as bad as all that, because overall it’s a fun read. I love Bonfire’s geeky knowledge of superhero history, and the love triangle between her, Thunderhead, and Frostbite would be interesting if it weren’t artificial. As could the Bonfire/Frostbite relationship if it were allowed to blossom.

New-Type Books

Wonder Woman 18

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #18
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Bernard Chang

I’ve read this issue twice, and I still feel like I missed something. In an awkward opening scene, Diana informs Tom Tresser, aka Nemesis, that she’s now ritually courting him. That’s the last we see of him, as he’s abed in the hospital after his run-in with Captain Nazi a couple issues back. Diana steps outside to find a shipful of Khunds, who want revenge for… some JLA thing she was part of. I dunno. They’re aliens, they invaded, Wondy & Co. stopped them. There’s a short fight, then the same Khund who was shouting "kill her!" not two panels ago is telling Wondy to stop, and saying all that "kill kill kill die die die" stuff was their way of paying tribute. This is what I’m talking about. Warlike race thinks waging war is a good way to honor someone they respect? I can dig it. But it’s like they came here to kill her, and after they got pasted and their ship was destroyed, they’re all "Woah, woah, hold up! We were just kidding." Oy. Maybe the shouting was part of the act? ‘Cause the giant statues of Wondy on the Khund homeworld put to rest any doubts that they’re being truthful about their admiration, and they reach said homeworld by beaming up to another spaceship, so… Oy.

The rest is mostly good. The Klingons Khund are being wiped out by something called the Ichor, and no one wants to help them ’cause they’re jerks who go around conquering worlds for fun. Perfect story for Diana of the boundless compassion. But, several moments of disconnect throw me out of the story, making it hard to enjoy. The fill-in artist does a good job for the most part, but his Wonder Woman makes me miss the Dodsons terribly. She looks like a housewife from the 70’s, which puts an unintentionally humorous spin on her comments about "midwestern courting rituals." If she weren’t dressed as she is, I’d believe she genuinely intended to take Tom bowling, don’tcha know.

Blue Beetle 22

[DC] Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #22
Writer: John Rogers
Penciler: Rafael Albuquerque

This was a smooth read, despite my having missed issue 20 and with it important plot developments concerning Peacemaker. Danni Garrett returns, with Ted Kord’s airship, the Bug, to help Jaime investigate the Reach. Lotta parallels between this and WW. Both issues have alien invaders, a guy in the hospital who we don’t see after a few pages in the beginning, and a fight with someone who isn’t the main character’s enemy but comes very close and could be either friend or foe later. In Beetle’s case, that someone is Tovar the Lava King, whose origin and part in the Reach’s plan for world domination are related to Jaime’s. A cool new character, plenty of supporting cast action, the return of the Bug, and a healthy dose of humor. All in all another good issue.

less talk


[DC] Ex Machina #30
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Tony Harris

Oh boy, religion! Because war and drugs weren’t controversial enough, now we get to talk about god. Mayor Hundred’s been invited to visit the ailing pope, flagging up this book’s unique relationship with the time/space continuum. Although this story was written and published in 2007 and set in a reality where nearly all historical figures and events are the same as in our reality, it takes place in 2003, when John Paul II was still alive, or something like it. So, Hundred’s off to Italy, but that’s next issue. This issue is taken up by talking, the usual flashback – this time to a failed attempt at playing Santa Claus from Mitchell’s Great Machine days – and a nefarious plot to kill the pope! Using, uh, a mouse and a joystick. Dun dun dun!

Joystick of...

Back Issues

Detective Comics 623

[DC] Detective Comics #623
Writer: John Ostrander
Pencilers: Mike McKone and Flint Henry

Two stories in one, and two artists to tell them. Mike McKone handles the main plot, an all too realistic hunt for a serial killer who leaves Batman’s name in blood at the scene of his killings. The subdued tone of McKone’s art and the murder mystery is contrasted by Flint Henry’s illustrations of an unauthorized Batman comic being published in the DCU. Henry shows us a bizarre vision of a Batman with magic powers and a Joker who represents Evil itself. It’s a disturbing read, as it was when I first read it at age eight. Violent, gory, and riddled with metaphors about the death of hope and innocence. Henry goes all out in reimagining Batman through the eyes of someone who only knows him from news reports and rumors, setting the fictional Detective Comics apart from any real Bat-title.



Ex Machina

[DC] Ex Machina Vol. 6: Power Down
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Tony Harris

Ah. This trade takes a bit of a break from politics for a classic hero-loses-powers story. A mysterious visitor from an alternate reality arrives and accidentally knocks out all the power in NYC. Somehow, this also turns Mitchell’s powers off, which is another mystery since he can normally communicate with machines whether they’re on or not. Now he can’t even talk to battery-powered devices. After the recent revelation that he can’t turn his ability to hear machines off, it’s no surprise that he takes this development quite well. If I could hear clocks counting off the seconds, I’d have climbed a belltower ages ago.

Fear!Click to enlarge.

The strange visitor drops some hints as to the origin of Mitchell’s powers, but no mysteries are solved. We basically get four issues of setup and subplot advancement, with only the blackout resolving itself. It’s a less than satisfying package, and with a $13 pricetag, I wish I’d gotten the individual issues instead. There’s an extended look behind the scenes, called "Inside the Machine," in addition to issues 26-29, so if you like that sort of thing the trade’s a good deal. Me, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Kremlin’s trying to force the Great Machine back into action, January is helping him but seems to have her own, more sinister, agenda, Mitchell continues to keep everyone at arm’s length, and now there’s a looming threat from who- or whatever gave him his powers. That and a dozen other subplots lurking in the background.


Young Heroes in Love – Sexy fun… or is it?!
Wonder Woman – Confusing and worrisome, but future issues should be better.
Blue Beetle – Continues to be one of DC’s best books.
Ex Machina – Pope!
Detective Comics – I wouldn’t let my eight-year-old self read this now. Nor should I. Not because it’s so disturbing, but because I couldn’t appreciate the craft that went into it then.
Ex Machina: Power Down – Still good, but a light read this time around.

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