Your Home for Toy News and Action Figure Discussion!

The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 7/2/8

New Ex Machina, the final volume of Y: The Last Man, Fables, Young Justice, Inferno, and Action Comics.

Employee’s Pick

Young Justice 4

[DC] Young Justice #1-7
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Todd Nauck

This series starts with David parodying some of his other comic runs, having Robin, Superboy, and Impulse dream that they undergo the same radical changes he inflicted on Aquaman, Supergirl, and The Hulk. Christopher Priest did something similar to open his run on Deadpool, poking fun at his propensity to toss out what the previous writer had established and wind up getting the book cancelled. He then proceeded to toss out what the previous writer had established, though the book managed to stay afloat until a couple years (and more than a couple writers) after he left. David didn’t bring sweeping change to the characters in Young Justice. If anything, he brought stability. Characters in Young Justice didn’t get maimed, or killed, or transformed. Well, not much. For the most part, they just were. They had adventures, they did the hero thing, they formed friendships and fell in love. There was little in the way of angst, and although there was real danger, it didn’t come in the extreme grim n’ gritty form you see in all too many comics. This was a fun comic.

Demented whimsy

When the boys wake from their nightmares, they’re all together, having a sleepover at the Justice League Cave. Pizza and cookies and soda and sleeping bags… Adorable! The book’s aimed at a young audience, teens and the like, so your more adult subject matter is skirted around and the humor tends toward the punny. You have characters like special agents Fite n’ Maad and archaeologist Nina Dowd, who gets turned into largebreasted catgirl Mighty Endowed, her impressive rack forever obscured from view even though she’s fully clothed.

Explosive nunsClick to enlarge.

The boys acquire a Super-Cycle from the Fourth World and have to fight ludicrous four-armed baddie Rip Roar for ownership. Then they get a visit from fifth dimensional imp, Mr. Mxyzptlk. Issue four’s where it takes off, when the boys meet the girls, when Wonder Girl, Secret, and Arrowette join Young Justice. It’s also the introduction of their first proper villain, Harm, a sociopathic teen whose purpose in life seems to be finding formidable foes to challenge him and being evil in general. It’s one of the darkest stories in the series, ending with Harm’s death at an unexpected hand.


Issue six has the JLA show up to take the team to task. After the boys thwart a nerfed Despero, the League deigns to allow them to continue using their cave as an HQ. That was just a warmup, though, as issue seven sees Young Justice get a visit from their parents! Or not. The various parents and mentors get together to discuss the whole Young Justice thing, while the kids go on a campout. Mothers clash, daughters bond, and we learn a little about each character as they answer the question, "Would you give up being a superhero if you could?"

New-Type Books

Ex Machina 37

[DC] Ex Machina #37
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Tony Harris

Trouble, the thrillseeking miscreant introduced last issue, strikes again. First it was a parachute with a nasty message about George W. Bush. Now, skyscraper graffitti with a nasty message about George W. Bush. Also, a bit of assault. The rest of the issue is given over to talk and investigation of who and where Trouble is, as well as how her protests will affect the upcoming Republican National Convention, to be held in New York City. Frankly, it’s as exciting as it sounds. Looks like another drawn-out storyline with little advancement of character-related plots. At this point, I’m not sure I have any reason to still be buying this other than not being able to say it’s bad. It’s technically excellent. One of those things you almost have to read. But all this talking head business? Not interesting. The arc with the Pope only got good once Mitchell tried to kill him, and I expect this one will continue to be dull until the showdown between Trouble and… The Great Machine? Probably not him, but someone. Maybe Mayor Hundred in his civilian ID, which is the same thing minus the jetpack and raygun.

It doesn’t need action to be exciting. Hell, there are two action scenes in this issue. The aforementioned Trouble assault, and the standard flashback to the Great Machine days every issue has. The latter is the best part of the issue, but that’s not always the case. It needs less filler. Less sitting around talking about the situation in real-time. More plot advancement, more character interaction, more tension. Trouble hardly feels like a legitimate threat. Maybe she’s there to flag up the issue of anti-government protests and what measures are acceptable in curbing violent protesters. The last page implies as much, though I’m not sure there’s much of an issue there. Trouble’s protests are extreme and illegal in and of themselves, and on top of that she’s assaulted three people. Certainly, some force is warranted in taking her down, and use of lethal force would be as justified as with any criminal. If a common thief tries to beat up a cop, that cop and any fellow police around will attempt to subdue her.

Lethal force is obviously a last resort. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but so far I don’t think I’ll feel too bad if Trouble gets gunned down. Most likely, she’ll have brought it on herself, leaving authorities little or no choice in the matter. Maybe not. Maybe Vaughan’s using so extreme an example to give the feds a good argument. If all she does is kick some people around and vandalize buildings, shooting her is extreme. If use of force is the angle Vaughan’s going for, though, I have to say I liked it better the first time, when he had a cop shoot and kill a kid for running away from a checkpoint during a terrorist hunt. Confusion and minor drug possession led to death. The kid didn’t know why he was being stopped, the cop didn’t know why the kid ran. Both made what seemed like a good decision in the heat of the moment but turned out to be the wrong call. It happens. That played out over two issues as a subplot. Trouble is the main plot, going on three issues now, and it looks like it’ll summarize as succinctly as that subplot.

Fables 71

[DC] Fables #71
Writer: Bill Willingham
Penciler: Mark Buckingham

New story, this time a two-parter. Odd that Buckingham’s on art – there’s usually a guest penciler for the short arcs – not that I’m complaining. Superspy Cinderella is on a secret mission to retrieve an important package. Said package turns out to be another fable, escaped from the Homelands but unable to make it to Fabletown without help. Writing like this always makes me wonder. In my Ex Machina review, I complained about how dull it was between action scenes. Here, the "doldrums" are easily as entertaining as the action scenes. It’s all great. Cindy’s the consummate badass. There’s some slimy political maneuvering with the current and former Mayors sidestepping the electoral system to juggle positions. It feels like anything could happen and I’d love it.

Cinderella 1

So, what’s the difference? Are the action scenes integral to the tone of the story? That could be why I enjoyed this so much more, because it’s more tense and exciting. But Ex Machina had its most exciting scene at the start, then switched to talking heads. Fables starts slow. It quickly shifts gears, but it had me from the start and held me throughout. Could it be the mystery? The identity of the "package?" That helped, but no, I think it’s the pacing. This is a tightly written two-parter that could possibly be stretched another issue or more without the quality suffering. Possibly not. The point is, it leaves me wanting more. Whether I get more (beyond, of course, the second part), or it’s in my best interests to get more, isn’t as important as the desire. Ex Machina has, of late, been poorly paced, full of long story arcs that I can only guess are being written for the trade. It’s a nasty example of decompression, a device that is not inherently bad but tends to be used to stretch a thin story out and fill the space with nothing of note. I hate to rag on Vaughan – he’s a great writer, easily on par with Willingham – but I don’t feel I’m getting enough for my money lately. Characters talk about nothing, nothing happens, move on to the next issue. Three bucks for setup? Contrarily, I’m more than satisfied with this issue of Fables. I might still be glowing when I review the next one, even if it’s only so-so. If I’d paid double for this one issue, it’d still be an OK deal. So good.

Back Issues

Inferno 4

[DC] Inferno #4
Writer/Penciler: Stuart Immonen

Turns out my first impression was correct. Inferno beats the… fear-vampire thingy, and that’s that. She learns A Valuable Lesson and mellows some as a result, but wow, that did not require four issues. Even compressed it wouldn’t be all that good a story. It’s maybe the beginning of something. Like a pilot for a regular series. If an ongoing was pitched, DC was right to turn it down. I’d kinda like to see more of Inferno, but I seriously doubt she could carry a solo title. Still not sure she can play well with others, either. Nor am I sure how much there is to her aside from her pointy exterior. Once you get past that, is she worth knowing? Because my interest in such characters is the hope that they will get past that, become a team player or a good friend or whatever, and that they’ll still be interesting. There’s something to be said for the disruptive malcontent type, but that something isn’t that they’re likeable.

Action Comics 842

[DC] Action Comics #842
Writers: Kurt Busiek (script, plot), Fabian Nicieza (plot)
Artist: Pete Woods

I love unorthodox team-ups. Superman gets captured along with a bunch of other metahumans, leading to a loose assemblage of mostly-powerless costumed types trying to break out of a superprison. There’s Livewire, the Supes Rogue; Blue Jay, who I haven’t seen since the JLI days; Skyrocket, from Busiek’s Power Company; that young Aquaman dude, from another Busiek book, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis; The Veteran, whom I’d never heard of; the Jason Rusch Firestorm; and Nightwing. They squabble over who should lead, whether Superman, who had disappeared for a year of comic time thanks to DC editorial, is the genuine article… And most of them can’t use their powers, so they’re reduced to strength of character and hand-to-hand fighting skill. Nightwing’s the most use in a fight, but Superman being Superman, it’s ol’ Clark who rises to the top as a leader by example. It’s great stuff. If there were only the one Superman comic and I could depend on it being this good month in and month out, I might buy it regularly. As it is, I’ll try to track down the end of this story (this is part two of three), then get back to largely ignoring the character.


Y: The Last Man Vol. 10

[DC] Y: The Last Man Vol. 10: Whys and Wherefores
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Pia Guerra

Yorick Brown is the last man on Earth. A mysterious plague killed every other male on the planet simultaneously, leaving only Yorick and billions of women. That’s the premise, and Vaughan’s execution of it was good enough to grab my interest. The writing stayed good throughout, and Guerra’s flawless pencils went a long way towards immersing me in Yorick’s world. Two out of three so far on the good story checklist. Good start, good middle. That leaves the question most comics from the big two never answer: how does it end?

Fairly well. I was disappointed by the way some things turned out, and didn’t care for the epilogue at all, but the quality never faltered. Endings are arguably the hardest part of a story, especially a long-running series with numerous subplots and a large supporting cast. If you’re wondering what happens to them – to virtually everyone who played a role and hasn’t had their story tied up yet – this volume is required reading. I’d almost rather have skipped the final issue, though. The story’s basically over after issue fifty-nine, this volume collecting fifty-five through sixty, with sixty serving as an epilogue. There, we fast forward years, decades, jumping back and forth between the distant and not-so-distant future as we watch everyone grow old, die, or both. Good times. Any tension or drama is relegated to the background or subtext, the climax having been reached and passed at this point. It’d be a stretch to say the epilogue feels tacked on, but… it’s an epilogue all right. Kinda sorta but not really essential to the story. Like an extra chapter but not. It’s a tad surreal, almost like an alternate future, though only because we don’t see the threads leading from the past.

This series raised many questions, most of which were answered in time. Two rose above all else: Does Yorick survive? and What caused the plague? The dramatic emphasis was placed on these early on. Yorick’s life and liberty were in constant danger, as were, to a lesser degree, those of his stalwart companions. If you became engrossed in the story, you wanted to know whether he lived through each deadly encounter, whether he wound up imprisoned and made into a living sperm bank. Especially since it’s a finite series; you can only ever pretend that Batman might die this time, the next time, or ever, but Yorick and friends could all perish. You also wanted to know how everyone else died, if only because it wasn’t immediately explained. Answering the first would be too much of a spoiler, but I think it’s worth noting whether the cause of the plague was ever revealed. Well?

vaguely unsatisfying

Yes and no. We’re given several answers, but for whatever reason, Vaughan declines to confirm any of them. Instead, he has two characters argue about whether the cause matters. They each make a fair case for their side, though neither is particularly convincing. I want to know, and someone telling me I don’t need to or wouldn’t like the answer anyways doesn’t change my mind. If you don’t care, you probably still won’t after hearing the other side of the argument, that the past matters and even a silly reason like "god hates cloning" or "anal skrulls" would be acceptable. Certainly, there are more important things to consider when determining this story’s quality; one unsolved mystery shouldn’t kill your enjoyment on its own. That said, it’s a fair complaint. As much as this was a character-driven story, the mysterious plague was set-up as a Big Deal. It was part of the hook and a major plot point for most of the story.

That’s the only question I have now that I’ve read the whole story. This trade wraps up all the various plotlines. Yorick’s search for his girlfriend, Beth, whom he hadn’t seen since the plague hit; the Israeli soldiers hunting Yorick to capture or kill him; Agent 355’s less than professional feelings for Yorick, the body she’s been guarding these past few years. Everything’s tied up nice and neat. A little too conclusive. I find I no longer care what happens to the characters next. I know already, at least the rough details, and their various fates range from sad to boring. That’s the problem with rising action. It invariably leads to falling action, after which you either get more rising action or the story ends. It ends because a story needs a certain amount of drama to warrant telling. I suppose this is why I still read superhero comics, with their sliding timelines and neverending stories. Although my preference is for stories that end, with longer tales taking aging into account and no one being immortal unless said immortality is clearly established as part of the character (e.g. Batman has to age and die, Thor doesn’t), endings tend to be disappointing in one way or another. Even a good ending, like this one, can leave me wondering how much I enjoyed the journey. I’ll probably reread all sixty issues at some point, to pick up on anything I missed by reading it in chunks over a period of years. After that… I don’t know. It was well-written, well-drawn, fairly enjoyable. I certainly got my money’s worth. It’s one of those books I respect more than I like. I wanted to see what happened. Now I have, so… yeah.


Young Justice – A fun teen team book. Winning combination, that.
Ex Machina – Sooooooooooo slooooooooow. Thinking of dropping it or waiting for the trades. The Angotti spotlight issue and high production values give me second thoughts, but…
Fables – Continues to be one of the best comics around.
Inferno – Waste of time.
Action Comics – Solid Superman story.
Y: The Last Man – A good ending to a good story, and yet…

Additional Links