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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 5/28/8

Doom Patrol, Maintenance, Sonic the Hedgehog, Highwaymen, Static, and Superman.

Employee’s Pick

Doom Patrol 2

[DC] Doom Patrol Vol. 3 #1-6
Writer: John Arcudi
Penciler: Tan Eng Huat

Ah, the Doom Patrol, one of several DC teams/characters hopelessly mired in a morass of continuity. I’ve no interest in learning it all, whatever that would accomplish. Only checked out this incarnation because I like the writer and found the whole twenty-two issue run in my LCS’ quarter boxes. Arcudi delivers an offbeat book focusing more on the characters than superheroics, similar to his other work and Giffen/DeMatteis’ Justice League International. Businessman Thayer Jost puts together a superteam called Jostice Inc., but this group’s not ready for primetime. Their leader can’t lead, and the rest have poor control of their powers. Along comes Robotman, veteran superhero, who’s taken a job at Texoil doing hazardous work in the boiler room. Jost recruits him and the team blossoms under his direction, taking up the Doom Patrol name to bolster their marketability.

Their first mission goes off without a hitch, but after a rescue op in Sarkhan finds the Doom Patrol saving the American staff of the US Embassy and leaving the Sarkhan natives behind in a typhoon, Robotman has a crisis of conscience and quits the team. The others quickly follow, using the money Robotman got for signing over the Doom Patrol license to carry on superheroing without corporate control.

reassuring Robotman

Jost responds by fielding a new Doom Patrol, made up of Metamorpho, Elongated Man, Beast Boy, and the female Dr. Light. The two teams compete to bring a thief to justice; a freaky eyeless dude who’s setting up for a mysterious ritual. The Doom Patrols fail to to stop him, and he calls into the world seven ancient spirits. Demons who had been imprisoned in enchanted armor centuries ago. After a couple fights, the Doom Patrols manage to banish the demons using the awesome power of the refund. Then Robotman disappears. Turns out he wasn’t the real Robotman. That’s explained later.

Not sure what the other Doom Patrols are like, but this one at least is interesting. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer. Maybe it was the name, or the deemphasis on action, or the art. Huat has a cartoonish style that works well for Robotman and things like power displays, but stinks for facial expressions and human faces in general. The characters could stand to be more disparate, too. There’s Ted Bruder, aka Fast Forward, the original leader. He stands out for being boisterous, selfish, overly negative, and practically useless in a fight. See, his power lets him see into the future… up to sixty seconds. A good chess player can make predictions further ahead than that. I personally like the other three newbies better, although they aren’t as complex as Ted. There’s Shyleen Lao, aka Fever, a bubbly blonde with fire-type powers. She’s a sensitive, caring type, and takes it worse than the others when Robotman poofs. Vic Darge – Kid Slick – has the most original power: he can create a frictionless surface around his body, acting as a forcefield and enabling him to zip around at incredible speeds. Ava, the aptly named Freak, has, um… prehensile hair? Or something. It’s complicated. The linking theme is that they all have flaws in their powers and personalities. Slick runs into predictable difficulties when subtracting friction from his life, Fever has ongoing control problems, Fast Forward’s prescience is extremely limited, and Freak’s just weird. Vic and Ava barely say anything at first since they’re so shy, slowly opening up over time as they develop an interest in friendship and more with their teammates.

New-Type Books

Maintenance FCBD

[Oni] Maintenance Free Comic Book Day Special
Writer: Jim Massey
Penciler: Robbi Rodriguez

Carver's legacy

I was half-dreading reading this after some of the dreck I’d gone through from this year’s FCBD haul, but it’s the gem of the lot. Unlike many FCBD books, this issue contains a full-length story, twenty-four pages in black and white. Two maintenance workers at a mad scientist lab have hilarious adventures involving kooky scientists out to conquer the world one wacky way or another. Also, cavemen with jetpacks. Not as cool as Jetpack Hitler, but then, what is? Good art, too; fits the humorous tone. I kinda wish it wasn’t so impressive; don’t need another comic to collect right now, but knowing how good this is, I’ll have to get around to it sometime.

Sonic 1

[Archie] Sonic the Hedgehog Free Comic Book Day Edition #1
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak

More of a back issue, really, as Archie Comics went all the way back to 1993 to find the first issue of Sonic and reprint it here. The evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik is scheming to kill Sonic and friends, as usual, when his underappreciated robot underlings he comes up with the idea of filling the forest with robot plants. Oh ho ho ho! Then he traps Sonic in a giant pinball machine. There are also three one-page shorts and four bumper stickers that readers are encouraged to "clip and tape to your family vehicle." All in all, it’s not very good, but it’s a decent kids’ book, and a fun read if you ignore certain things. Like the way Sonic’s band of freedom fighters overcome the robotic plant menace: by shorting them out with water. Makes sense, right? Except that causes an electrical fire, and they’re all over the forest… One thunderstorm later, the forest is conveniently still standing.

Back Issues

Highwaymen 1

[DC] Highwaymen #1
Writers: Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman
Penciler: Lee Garbett

I suppose it’s a sign you’re a proper critic when most of your favorite books sell like crap. I’m part of the problem most times, not getting around to trying out a book until after it’s cancelled, but buying titles like Major Bummer and Livewires when they first came out didn’t magically boost their sales by more than one. All a fan can do is talk the book up, hope word of mouth spreads like a virus, and maybe enough people buy it to keep it afloat. Honestly, though, I think your best bet is to do what I’m doing: track down the remainder of this five issue miniseries as cheaply as possible and not worry overmuch whether it ever gets a sequel. There’s a trade out now, which at $18 is a bit pricey. If you can get a good discount on it, it’s worth picking up, but it’s not hard to find all five issues for fifteen bucks or less.

Why should you bother? Well, if you’re a fan of fast-paced action movies, there’s plenty here to like. In the near future, 2021, two retired secret agents are called back into action by now-dead ex-president Bill Clinton. This leads to a glorious chase scene involving a bus full of senior citizens and creative use of a wheelchair access ramp. There are more of such scenes in the second issue, which I reviewed some months back, and presumably in issues three through five. It might be too late to save the title, but it’s certainly not too late to enjoy it.

Static 21

[DC] Static #21
Writer: Ivan Velez Jr.
Penciler: Wilfred

Some comics shouldn’t keep going, and more and more I’m thinking this is one of them. It got cancelled eventually, but it probably should’ve stopped with the departure of the last remnant of the original creative team, writer Robert L. Washington III. Virgil and friends go out to see a movie and, coincidentally, the Blood Syndicate go to see the same movie at the same theater. Plenty of opportunity for humor, both in the lead up and at the theater, but Velez fails to capitalize. Instead, he has Virgil play the part of the whiny fanboy, crying racism over the film not showing in Dakota until he’s told that theater owners aren’t showing it because they fear the very real threat of gang violence. Aside from that, there are several attempts at humor, but most fall flat. It’s a shame seeing a promising, fun book fall into mediocrity.

Trade

Zee zee zee

[DC] Superman: Redemption
Writers: Kurt Busiek (Superman 659 & 666), Fabian Nicieza (Superman 659, Action Comics 848 & 849)
Pencilers: Peter Vale (Superman 659), Carlos Pacheco (Superman 659), Allan Goldman (Action Comics 848 & 849), Walter Simonson (Superman 666)

I tend to avoid Superman stories for various reasons, like the fact that you can’t just pick up a trade and follow his adventures from earliest to latest. He’s not the sort of character who has a rigid, linear history. Trying to piece it all together would take more time than I care to devote to a single character. Superman’s strength, however, is that you needn’t know his full history to enjoy his best stories. This volume, with its odd grouping of four issues related more by theme than number, is an example of both.

The first story has Superman thinking back to one of his early adventures, when saving one Barbara Johnson from drunk drivers led the religious Miss Johnson to believe Supes was an angel, and that she could call him down from heaven with the power of prayer. This has predictable results, as there comes a time when Superman can’t make it, and Barbara, having grown reckless with imagined power, gets herself in a fix she can’t get out of without help that never comes. It’s not a tragic tale, though. Rather, it’s about inspiration and the difference one woman or one Superman can make, setting an example for others to follow.

Redemption takes up the middle half of the trade, collecting a two-parter from Action Comics about a hero who gains power from belief, and who uses that power to spread the teachings of his church. Superman’s confrontation with this hero causes him to question his own faith, as Supes is the man he is now thanks to his modest rural upbringing, an upbringing that included regular trips to church on Sunday. It’s a rare story that includes religion without being preachy, without demonizing all who have faith.

The last story, The Beast From Krypton, is the best and worst of the lot, cracktastically delicious. Superman kills Lex Luthor with superspit, obliterates his many enemies, drops the Daily Planet on Perry White’s head, vaporizes a pregnant Lois Lane, and gets revenge on Jimmy Olsen for his many uses of the infamous signalwatch. Of course, it’s all a dream, a sinister plot by a demon from Krypton’s version of Hell to corrupt Superman and fuel the demon with power. In the wrong hands, this sort of story could be abominable, but Busiek doesn’t try to trick readers into believing Supes really went on a rampage before revealing the "shocking" twist ending. The result is basically the same – the status quo remains intact – but the journey is fun instead of annoying, well worth taking.

Truncation

Doom Patrol – Good start to yet another poor-selling, prematurely-cancelled title.
Maintenance – Yet another comic I should be reading. Good thing there are trades.
Sonic the Hedgehog – Decent comic for kids.
Highwaymen – Yet another overlooked Wildstorm book.
Static – The book’s nadir, or one more step on the way to the bottom?
Superman: Redemption – Three good Superman stories, each dealing with faith and religion.

 


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