Your Home for Toy News and Action Figure Discussion!

The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 8/27/8

More Young Justice, more Usagi Yojimbo, more Street Fighter II, The Unknown Soldier, Matrix Supergirl, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.

Employee’s Pick

Young Justice 40

[DC] Young Justice #38-43
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Todd Nauck

On the heels of one crossover comes another. Our Worlds at War barely finished, editorial insists upon a tie-in with Joker: Last Laugh. David treats it as a joke, appropriately, while addressing the more serious repercussions of the previous crossover. Impulse and Robin quit, and we learn what happened to Lobo back on Apokolips. His Czarnian blood grew a clone from each drop, all identical save one. Weaker, slower, more emo than the others, he hid to survive the inevitable slaughterfest when Lobo turned against Lobo, killing each other until only one Main Man remained. He’s alive but ashamed, claiming he’s not worthy of the name Lobo. Very well. We shall call him… Slo-bo.

With the team in turmoil, Red Tornado decides they need a mentor type, someone experienced who can relate to them better than Reddy himself. So he recruits… Snapper Carr. Yeah, um… it works better than you’d think. When Cissie goes back to school, she finds that neglecting plants from New Genesis has more dramatic consequences than a slow, withering death for the plant. Good thing she brought friends.

Issue forty is filler, a Christmas story in the vein of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, with words and pictures juxtaposed in a way that makes it more of a picture book than a comic. It’s set two years ago to get around the inconvenient roster changes of late, so the story features the team’s first six members (not counting Reddy), while the cover shows a group that had not yet been together at the same time.

The Ray joins in issue forty-one, then proceeds to do nothing for two issues as the focus of the book shifts away from the team as a whole and onto two little girls with very peculiar backgrounds. Secret gets a mentor of her own, in the form of The Spectre, the spirit of divine vengeance at that time controlled by one Hal Jordan. She also gets a proper origin story, finally, and a real name: Greta. Hal tries to teach her about her power, help her cope with being not quite dead and not quite alive at the same time. He makes progress, but it’s a difficult situation, and Greta’s brother, Harm, whom we learn was adopted, has found a way to continue making life (such as it is) hard for her.

Issue forty-three focuses on another adoptee, Red Tornado’s daughter, Traya. An intellectual prodigy, she’s had trouble fitting in with the older girls at school, and that only gets worse when one girl’s parents are killed by terrorists in Bialya. Traya herself is Bialyan, quite possibly the only good thing to come from that hateful nation, and teenage girls being a superstitious, cowardly lot, they get in their head that Traya is somehow involved. That she sympathizes with terrorists or even works with them as a spy. Like wild animals, they act on their fears, attacking Traya and pressuring her to leave the school. It’s a sad story. One girl loses the two people she most loved, who most loved her, and another endures torment for having the misfortune of being born in the wrong place. As if having lived in a wartorn country wasn’t torment enough.

New-Type Books

None this week. Next week: Blue Beetle.

Back Issues

Street Fighter II #4

[Udon] Street Fighter II #4
Writers: Ken Siu-Chong, Rey
Penciler: Alvin Lee, Sven, Rey

Forgot I still had these. It’s more of the same, I’m afraid, and I review it only to fill space. Gen fights Akuma, Ryu fights Gen, Gen fights Akuma again. There are superficial similarities between this and Usagi Yojimbo, but Udon’s work is in no way comparable to Stan Sakai’s. From the panel layout to the dialogue to the subtle details (or lack thereof), it falls short in every way. There are worse comics, and few others that have to do with Street Fighter, but I feel like I’m wasting my time reading this instead of something good.

Unknown Soldier 1

[DC] The Unknown Soldier Vol. 2 #1
Writer: Jim Owsley
Penciler: Phil Gascoine

This is something I’ve wanted to read since I was a kid, when I saw it advertised in one of the handful of comics I owned at the time. I’m not sure it was this version exactly, but considering the dates (this series began in 1988), it likely was. I found the concept of the Unknown Soldier intriguing. Could they ever discover his identity? Why all the bandages? It was sad just to think about, let alone read the story. I wanted to know what happened, but I never saw the comic and soon forgot about it. Then I see this in a quarter box. Not only is it a #1, it’s by Jim Owsley, better known today as Christopher Priest, one of the most underrated writers in comics. It pretty much has to be good.

And it is. Very good. The Unknown Soldier has a past and a face. No name, but names aren’t important. He has an identity, that’s what matters. He’s a hero, the kind who does the right thing whether he’s thanked or cursed for it, my favorite kind. The first issue reads like a breeze; I could finish the whole twelve issue maxiseries in no time if I had it. One more thing to track down.

Supergirl 2

[DC] Supergirl Vol. 3 #2
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Gary Frank

This is the version of Supergirl where a blob of protomatter called Matrix merged with Linda Danvers to save her life. This issue, we find out Linda was no innocent. She was, in fact, quite evil, and killed more than one person herself before her more evil boyfriend tried to sacrifice her to free a giant demon kitty. Now she’s Supergirl, and Gigantus Felinus is still trying to cross into our world, with a bit more success this time.

It’s hard to hate anything Peter David writes, but it’s hard to identify with Supergirl. She’s all kinds of abnormal. Art’s nice, though it’s hard to see Frank’s pencils through the godawful, airbrushed coloring by Digital Chameleon.

LotDK 65

[DC] Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #65
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciler: Joe Staton

This is part one of Going Sane, in which The Joker uncracks. The Clown Prince of Crime returns from… wherever he was, to sow chaos, murder innocents, and laugh at Charlie Chaplin films. It starts out like your average Joker story. Joker’s a force of chaos, Batman’s a force of order, they play the game… Only this time, Batman loses. The Joker kills him, or thinks he has, and that begs the question: if your whole purpose is to terrorize Batman, what do you do when you finally kill him? If you’re The Joker, you go sane, get a regular job, give up the whole crazy clown act.

It’s an intriguing dilemma. How much of The Joker is true insanity, and how much an act? Would he exist without Batman? Could he live a normal life? It’s amazing the things people can push themselves to do. Some lose themselves, but others remain true. Others can take the mask off when the show’s over and go back to how they were, more or less. It’s hard to believe someone as vile as The Joker could be faking it, but there exists the possibility. It bears exploring.


Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 7

[Fantagraphics] Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 7: Gen’s Story
Writer/Artist: Stan Sakai

Book seven starts with the introduction of a new friend, the performing thief, Kitsune, and the return of a not-so-friendly face, the gambler, Hatsu, last seen in volume four. Hatsu’s loaded dice get him in trouble again, and that trouble falls upon Usagi and Kitsune as well.

Then we flash back to li’l Usagi, traveling with his sensei, Katsuichi, who taught the longeared ronin everything he knows. That comes later, though. At this point, Usagi was an impatient kid in need of many lessons. It’s odd seeing him this way, but he’s unmistakably Usagi. You can see the beginnings of his personality in the way he reacts to things.

The third story is about suicide. Seppuku, to be precise, the honorable taking of one’s life in the way of Bushido. It’s also a ghost story, one of many times the supernatural world encroaches upon Usagi’s more or less realistic life. These stories are sometimes used as filler, but this one is tied tight to continuity. Usagi remains in character and the ghost is a general he served with back when he had a master. The general took his life upon learning of the death of his lord, but was unable to finish the ritual before enemy soldiers cut him down. It makes sense in ghost world.

This is followed by a short tale of what happened to Usagi after the same tragic battle. Fleeing enemy soldiers, he comes across an evil ghost what tries to kill him. This one is left open-ended as to whether the events were real, but considering how often the supernatural pops up, it probably wasn’t a dream, as Usagi theorizes.

Chapter five gets us into the main story with the return of everyone’s favorite bounty hunter, Murakami "Gen" Gennosuke. Turns out Gen’s father was a great general, who devoted a great deal of his life, and all of Gen’s youth, to hunting down his lord’s murderer. The lord’s widow also seeks vengeance, and has been wandering these past twenty years in search of it. As usual, Gen wants nothing to do with other people’s problems, including his estranged father’s, while Usagi is only too eager to help. Then the murderer, now the town magistrate, shows up. Chaos ensues.

Kitsune returns for more goodnatured pickpocketing, inadvertently intercepting a letter warning a crafty oil merchant of an impending rebellion. Usagi and Gen rush to Kitsune’s aid, then have to decide what to do with the letter and the news it brings.

The book ends with a farewell to one of its best characters, the blind swordspig, Zato-Ino. Ino retired to simple farm life after the events of volume four, but after an attack by bandits he lies dying from an arrow wound. Usagi and Gen do everything they can to save their foe turned friend, hoping to give him peace in life before death.

It’s another excellent volume, in the same league as the first four. I don’t care for the slightly sketchy art used for the flashback sequences, but that’s a mere quibble.


Young Justice – An issue of filler and another crossover notwithstanding, this continues to be an excellent series.
Street Fighter II – Fight fight fight.
The Unknown Soldier – Wonderfully tragic.
Supergirl – An OK issue from a troubled series.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight – Thoughtprovoking.
Usagi Yojimbo – Good as it ever was.

Additional Links