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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 9/3/8

Young Justice, Street Fighter II, Supergirl, The Trenchcoat Brigade, Yotsuba, and new Blue Beetle.

Employee’s Pick

Young Justice 46

[DC] Young Justice #44-49

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Todd Nauck

Oh boy, another crossover. This one’s centered on Young Justice, though, a five-parter that runs through Impulse, Superboy, and Robin, before concluding (sort of) in the main title. Something has altered reality. Young Justice still exist, but they’re radically different. Harm is Secret, Wonder Girl got her powers (and physique) from Dionysus, Arrowette wears black with an attitude to match, and Empress is naked. Part five brings an explanation, and clothes for Empress. Seems Bedlam, the kid behind JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, is back and repowered. How? Magic. The girls meet up with Impulse, a powerless Superboy, and an untrained Robin to fight Bedlam, a clone of Doomsday, and a traitor from their own ranks.

Once that’s dealt with, Robin rejoins the team and brings with him election fever. Between his absence and certain trust issues, Robin’s leadership skills have come into question. Wonder Girl thinks she’d be a better leader, Superboy thinks the strongest should lead (namely, him), and new member Ray thinks the eldest (guess who) should be in charge. Politics ensues.

Slo-bo 4

Followed swiftly by death. Ain’t it always the way? Baron Agua Sin Gaaz returns to kill Empress’ father, Donald Fite. David uses this story and his characters as mouthpieces to argue that death is a subject that shouldn’t be avoided, even in so-called kid-friendly entertainment. He’s right. It’s hard to marry serious topics with a lighthearted tone, to keep the grim and gritty from overwhelming the fun, but it’s far from impossible. Young Justice get serious, recruiting dozens of teen heroes to launch an assault on the supervillain nation of Zandia, where the vile Baron Sin Gaaz is holed up. Next time: Young Justice League.

New-Type Books

Blue Beetle 30

[DC] Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #30

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Now, this is more like it. Plot’s the same as last issue: mysterious baddie running drugs n’ stuff across the border, illegal immigration with a superhero bent. Jaime even fights the same villains. The difference is, where last issue there was exposition, here there’s comedy. Sturges found his feet quickly, and makes it clear in his second issue that Blue Beetle is going to continue to be a fun comic. I’m officially onboard for the forseeable future. The writing’s back around John Rogers levels, and Rafael Albuquerque’s the same as ever, with an art style I’ve come to adore. All we need now is consistency.

Did it with SCIENCE

Oh, and tighter editing. Sturges mixes up "inspire" and "aspire" on page two, and later has someone say "dressing up your brother up." The editor, Rachel Gluckstern, should catch such errors, see that they’re fixed before publication.

Back Issues

SF II 5

[Udon] Street Fighter II #5

Writer: Ken Siu-Chong
Pencilers: Alvin Lee, Chris Stevens

This is boring. Let’s talk about something else. I know! Street Fighter Legends: Sakura. Same writer as this series, yet far more entertaining. Why is that? Could be the comedy angle. SFII plays it straight. Neither comic has a deep, engaging plot, but for a humor book, a hot dog eating contest and farcical attempts at revenge are enough. Could also be the cast. Sakura has a small, focused cast. This book’s is huge, unwieldy, and in the case of Cammy’s Delta Red buddies, incredibly dull. They’re back again this issue, along with Thunderhawk and the Shadaloo Dolls. The Dolls at least are visually interesting, though devoid of personality by design. They’d make great action figures.

I think it’s the cast. The backup story with Gen and Chun-Li is good, as is the four-page SF Legends preview with Karin. Siu-Chong’s not the best writer around, but trying to juggle every character from the SF games and then some would drag anyone down. And comedy suits him. A series of one-shots and miniseries might work better than this regular series format. Focus on a few characters at a time and leave some out entirely.

Supergirl 5

[DC] Supergirl Vol. 3 #5
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Gary Frank

Supergirl vs. Evangelism! Sort of. This issue’s about faith and identity issues, subjects dear to Supergirl. She goes to see a shyster preacher with Ma and Pa Kent, then it’s back home for a very real fight with Chemo. The lumbering collection of chemicals reaches out to Supergirl, and she slaps it away. She’s not very nice.

Trenchcoat Brigade 1

[DC] The Trenchcoat Brigade #1
Writer: John Ney Rieber
Penciler: John Ridgway

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I think maybe it’s a good story. There’s a drunk Russian in the future babbling about how he didn’t mean to blow up the world, or that it wasn’t his fault, or whatever. There’s John Constantine, the Phantom Stranger, Rose/Dr. Occult, and the half-mad Mister E, all trying to prevent the apocalypse, however it happened. They make their familiarity with each other clear, but there’s little in the way of introductions for the reader. I feel as though I’m intruding on a private gathering and should go away until I’ve retroactively known these people for years.

Trade

Yotsuba Vol. 2

[ADV] Yotsuba&! Vol. 2

Writer/Artist: Kiyohiko Azuma

More delightful adventures with Yotsuba, the little green-haired girl. In this volume, Yotsuba discovers criticism the hard way. Obviously, I’m a proponent of criticism, but it’s hard to say when and how best it should be delivered. Telling a five-year-old that their crudely drawn picture of a duckie is, in fact, terrible? Probably not a good idea. Of course, Azuma isn’t using this as a forum to argue for or against criticism. It’s all about the wacky hijinks, the hilarious results when Yotsuba’s friends scramble to repair her injured feelings at the cost of honesty.

Then Yotsuba sees a gangster movie and acts out the brutal drama with a squirt gun. It’s pure, unadulterated magic. Imagination and reality clash, and for the most part, imagination wins. In a way, it reminds me of Muppet Babies, except that Yotsuba never "leaves" reality to go into some imaginary world full of costumes and make-believe trains. She’s in the real world the whole time, relying entirely on other people to play along, and although most are surprised at being assaulted by a squirt gun in the middle of the day, it works as well as any fantasy. This is what Yotsuba‘s all about: reminding people that you’re never too old to play, to see the wonder in everyday things.

cake

In further chapters, Yotsuba buys cake, is put in charge of the household for the day, goes to the pool, and catches a frog. There’s also a 99% Yotsuba-free chapter, focusing on her neighbors, the Ayases. It’s a simple story of the eldest returning from a trip with souvenirs for her mother and two younger sisters. From there, events flow naturally. It’s a change of pace from Yotsuba’s manic escapades – some might say it’s boring – but I find it fascinating. You get to look in on a more or less realistic family, except they’re nicer than any family I know. I envy everyone who gets to be a part of Yotsuba’s world. They’re awesome by association.

I’m a writing-first guy but, as with any good comedy, the visual here is equally important. Manga artwork often appears crude, with any effort put into backgrounds and intricately detailed costumes undermined by the lack of detail in the most important area: the face. Azuma uses simple faces, too, but not only does it suit the tone, it doesn’t feel lazy; you can tell a great deal of effort went into the art as a whole, and the faces are uniquely expressive. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Composition is more important than technical skill or anatomical accuracy, as Azuma clearly knows. Case in point: the cover of this volume, which shows Yotsuba walking alongside Fuka, showing off her frog-catching gear. The image contains elements from three separate stories inside, none of which intersect in continuity. There’s Fuka, returning from the store with her bike and purchased goods, from the Yotsuba-free story. Yotsuba herself has her frog-catching gear, which she never encountered Fuka while carrying, and her squirt gun. They did meet while Yotsuba was wielding the gun, but here she has it holstered. So you have three of the seven chapters represented, three separate adventures that don’t directly relate but easily could, two characters who didn’t interact as shown here, but who react to each other as naturally as if it were an excerpt from a specific story. It doubles as a preview of the book and a bonus image. We don’t see it happen, and since Yotsuba’s adventures tend not to repeat, it might not have, but we don’t know that it doesn’t. Anyways, it’s pretty, and sums up the book well without getting too busy.

Truncation

Young Justice – Magic, politics, and murder. Despite all that, as good as ever.
Blue Beetle – All is well. Sturges can stay.
Street Fighter II – The short backup stories are better than anything from this or the previous four issues.
Supergirl – So mean.
Trenchcoat Brigade – Back again for the very first time?
Yotsuba – Hilarious.

 


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