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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 6/11/8

More Doom Patrol, Street Fighter II, and Inferno. Vertigo Pop! Tokyo, Leave It To Chance, and the newest Fables trade.

Employee’s Pick

Doom Patrol 13

[DC] Doom Patrol Vol. 3 #13-18
Writer: John Arcudi
Pencilers: Tan Eng Huat (issues 15-18), Seth Fisher (issues 13 & 14)

After explicitly stating the old Doom Patrol wouldn’t be coming back, Arcudi brings the old Doom Patrol back. Or rather, he sends the new DP back in time to possess the old team’s bodies and fight the Brotherhood of Evil. It’s a pleasant detour with lovely art by the inimitable Seth Fisher.

Back in their own bodies, the team promptly dissolves. Robotman can’t stop questioning his purpose and, after intrateam squabbles turn violent, can no longer stand the DP’s fractionary nature. He leaves, and the rest of the team splits in two, with Vic making the unfortunate mistake of going along with a distraught Shyleen. When Fever can’t control her emotions, she can’t control her powers, and the current climate has both in turmoil. Vic winds up in the hospital with severe burns. Ted tries to push his clairvoyance beyond the sixty-second limit and ends up with visions of numerous possible futures. Fever gets it in her head that she’s better off doing nothing, which gets her powers under control but also lands her in jail. Basically, the DP are utterly lost without Robotman, who’s trying to find himself on the road.

He finds his brother, and nearly runs into the freaky eyeless dude he didn’t meet before in the book’s early issues. Eyeless Dude, Tycho Bray, relates the story of six magical breastplates forged by a sorceror-blacksmith. We heard this tale earlier, but it’s expanded upon here, and the DP inject humor into it by "acting" as various characters in the story.

There were only four issues after that, which I’ll cover next week. Robotman and this version of the Doom Patrol were constantly searching for a purpose, fighting amongst themselves, and breaking up. It was a good comic, but when the team themselves don’t know why they’re together, it’s no wonder it lasted less than two years. The Doom Patrol are somewhere between a conventional superteam and a loose assemblage of freak-fighting freaks. The former appeals to me more than the latter, but they wouldn’t be the Doom Patrol without a minimum level of weirdness. Most of their conflict is centered on themselves, is the problem; they spend relatively little time fighting baddies, and despite having much of each issue to devote to personal issues, the various character-related subplots are all on a slow burn.

Technically, you could say they don’t fight any villains at all in the six issues under review here. Issues thirteen and fourteen have them fight the Brotherhood of Evil, but not really. It’s some sort of faux time travel deal that’s never fully explained. Issue fifteen has them fight each other. Issue sixteen has no battles, unless you count Ava vs. a door. Seventeen has Robotman get mixed up and think he’s fighting a criminal; turns out to be a misunderstanding. Then the Doom Patrol move over to the side while Tycho Bray spends the bulk of issue eighteen telling a story that, by his own admission, is largely fictional. Again, the DP aren’t really involved. At most, there’s the one faux fight in fourteen, with the other five issues having only the barest whiff of supervillainy.

New-Type Books

None this week, sorry. Next week: Wonder Woman and Fables.

Back Issues

Vertigo Pop! Tokyo 1

[DC] Vertigo Pop! Tokyo #1
Writer: Jonathan Vankin
Penciler: Seth Fisher

This is something of a curiosity: a Western comic with more untranslated Japanese than you’ll see in any manga. I can suss out some of it, having gleaned a bit from anime and such, but many words are simply… foreign. None of it’s integral to understanding the story, but it’s odd that the writer chose to put things in that are consistently translated to English when works native to Japan are imported to English-speaking countries. It seems the idea is for the reader to identify with the main character, Steve, a technophile who moves to Japan to be closer to the latest advances in gadgetry. He speaks about as much Japanese as the average American, so he’d be confused reading this, too. Steve gets involved with a Japanese schoolgirl, whose brother is a gangster, and who wants to be a rock star. So far, she’s just using him to practice her English, which fits nicely into the bilingual format, but the narration implies there’ll soon be more to their relationship. It’s certainly not dull, not least because of Seth Fisher’s intricately detailed art.

Street Fighter II 3

[Udon] Street Fighter II #3
Writers: Ken Siu-Chong, Rey
Pencilers: Alvin Lee, Mark Lee, Rey

I’ve four more of these. Might as well go through them. Nice cover image, featuring the twelve dolls. Bison’s trying to steal Cammy back, Ryu’s training with Dhalsim, Cammy and Chun-Li are in Mexico to meet Thunder Hawk. This issue’s better than the last, especially if you ignore the various convenient plot devices, but it’s still meandering around doing unnecessary setup. I doubt I’m in the minority when I say I don’t want to see Street Fighters beating up nameless thugs. I want to see Street Fighter versus Street Fighter. I want to see the tournament, and I get the impression that after six issues, the tourney still won’t have started.

Inferno 2

[DC] Inferno #2
Writer/Penciler: Stuart Immonen

This popped up in the quarter boxes again, so I figured, what the Hell. Inferno’s still being all growly and there’s still an angst monster trying to feed on her "delicious pain." Also, talking panda. Inferno flirts with happiness as she trades barbs with some mallrats. It’s the uneasy start of a friendship. Too early yet to tell whether she’ll form any lasting bonds, or if she’s capable of doing so. We’ll see.

Leave It To Chance 1

[Image] Leave It To Chance #1
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Paul Smith

Wouldn’t you know it. I dig out my Starman trades, and the next thing I know I find this in a quarter box, the other 90’s series James Robinson’s famous for. Our story opens with Lucas Falconer defeating some demon or other, then holding a press conference. Seems he’s the resident protector of the town of Devil’s Echo, which has as many supernatural threats as its name implies. But the comic’s not about him, it’s about his daughter, Chance, who figures it’s time she started training to take up the Falconer legacy. Her father figures it’ll never be time, on account of she’s a girl and girls don’t get to play action hero. Good thing he’s not writing this comic. Chance disobeys and quickly finds herself on the wrong end of a cliffhanger ending. Will she escape? Well, yeah. It’s an ongoing series, or was, and ran… thirteen issues? Huh. Thought it went longer than that. Anyways, it’s a decent read.

Trade

The Good Prince

[DC] Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince
Writer: Bill Willingham
Pencilers: Mark Buckingham (issues 60-63 & 65-69), Aaron Alexovich (issue 64)

Fables is a series you have to read from the start. It also helps if you’ve read plenty of fairy tales, as the characters – the titular fables – are taken from verious stories in the public domain. There’s Aladdin, Mowgli, Snow White, Rose Red, The Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and many others, including lesser known characters like Kay from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen and Trusty John. Most live in a small section of New York City, dubbed Fabletown, exiled from their true homes by the evil Adversary. This volume starts off with a recap. That’s great, but just as I advise reading the first nine volumes before the tenth, I advise reading the story here before referring to the recap pages. That is, if you don’t want part of the story spoiled. The recap contains short bios for a couple dozen characters, and naturally they all play a significant role in the story. Problem is, some of these characters haven’t been seen in a while, and their common location gives a certain plot point away in advance. It’s a good idea, though. Any Fables trade ought to come with a pamphlet for all the characters and their long histories. Before I could read this one, I had to dig out an earlier issue to remind myself how the protagonist du jour regained his memories. Something involving Santa Claus telling him to be a man.

The Good Prince is the Frog Prince, better known as Flycatcher, Fabletown’s resident janitor who had forced himself to forget the death of his wife and child for centuries. He manages to get turned back into a frog, the memories come rushing back, and even Santa can’t make them go away again. He does, however, arrange to restore Fly’s humanity. After a good deal of moping, the Frog Prince sets out to do what was half the reason he and the other fables never wanted him to remember: go back to the Homelands, fight the Empire’s massive armies, and inevitably be overwhelmed and killed. Boy Blue talks him out of that plan, but he happens upon another, better plan. One suit of magical armor and a sword of legend later, he’s off, and that’s when the tale truly begins. It’s an epic journey, as Flycatcher reinvents himself as King Ambrose, rising from hapless janitor to noble hero in a surprisingly believable manner. Along the way, he faces treachery, makes allies of enemies, delivers pardons, and broadcasts his adventures to the fables back home via the magic mirror from Snow White. While Ambrose founds Haven, a refuge within the Homelands, the denizens of Fabletown prepare for war.

Most of them. A certain pack of wolfcubs are busy celebrating their shared fifth birthday, a story that appears as a break in the middle of Ambrose’s epic, with art by Aaron Alexovich. Like any artist who isn’t Mark Buckingham, Alexovich’s take on the fables feels out of place. But, like Mike Allred’s guest issues, it’s a minor stumbling block. Alexovich does a better Bigby Wolf than most, and his cute style fits the tone of the story well. Rose Red and Boy Blue have a delightfully awkward conversation, combat training gets underway, and the cubs learn a secret.

It’s a great story, its only "fault" being that it doesn’t quite stand up on its own. It’s reasonably new-reader-friendly, but being part of an ongoing series it contains numerous details you won’t catch if you haven’t read the earlier stuff. Fly’s transformation, for instance, though in part from background character to major player, doesn’t have the same resonance if you haven’t seen him lurking about the background before. Also, I should mention that James Jean does unbelievably gorgeous covers; they add so much to the feeling that you’re reading an old-fashioned epic fairy tale.

Truncation

Doom Patrol – Pacing’s a bit on the slow side, but still entertaining.
Vertigo Pop! Tokyo – Worth getting just for the art. Writing’s good, too.
Street Fighter II – Not half bad.
Inferno – Angstastic.
Leave It To Chance – Solid start to a short-lived story.
Fables – Perhaps the best yet in a long line of wonderful stories.

 


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