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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 10/29/8

Hitman, Supergirl, Mad Love, Birds of Prey, ‘Mazing Man, and new Blue Beetle.

Employee’s Pick

BoP 63

[DC] Birds of Prey #62-68

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencilers: Ed Benes (issues 62-65 & 67), Cliff Richards (issues 62 & 63), Michael Golden (issue 66), Joe Bennett (issue 68)

These issues are collected in the Sensei & Student trade, the second volume of Simone’s run. Black Canary’s sensei is dying, and someone’s hacked Oracle’s system, undermining her whole hero-helping operation. Tracking down the apparent mastermind of both women’s troubles leads to the unlikely trio of Canary, Lady Shiva, and Cheshire. As fun as it is watching Dinah keep Shiva from killing anyone and Cheshire from killing them both, the gem of the lot is issue sixty-six. A murder mystery starring Dinah’s mom, the original Black Canary, who uses impressive deduction (and a little help from a knowledgeable librarian) to find and thwart a killer who targets blonde women.

Huntress joins the team at the end of the main adventure, establishing the core roster of the book for years to come. Then it’s super happy fun times. Lunch in the park, Babs having dinner with her father, Jim Gordon, Dinah sparring with Wonder Woman in a nice teaser of how great a fit Simone would one day be for the latter’s solo title, and Huntress on a date. Bennett’s art is more pleasing to the eyes than Benes’, simultaneously sexier and less posey.

New-Type Books

Blue Beetle 32

[DC] Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #32

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Penciler: Andre Coelho

This is better. We get the origin story of the new Dr. Polaris, at once more and less believable than the standard super’s origin. He’s one creepy dude. The first Polaris was crazy, had some kinda split-personality thing going on. This dude? He’s just evil. Makes for a good counterpoint to Jaime, lending welcome gravity to the book. There’s more handwaving in the general direction of the immigration issue; I remain unconvinced that Sturges wants to do anything controversial here. Fine by me. It’s a lose-lose situation for Beetle or any superhero. If you can decide that fighting illegal immigration is the right thing to do – hardly clear cut – you still can’t win. You’d have to do something radical, like repair/rebuild the infrastructure of the Mexican government so that the US is no longer a far better option.

So, instead, Jaime fights a supervillain-led, undeniably naughty illegal immigration operation that puts immigrants, Jaime, and anyone in the vicinity of Dr. Polaris in deathly peril. We’re still moving at a deliberate clip here, but between the enlightening origin story, Traci 13 literally dropping in, and a well-balanced fight scene, it feels like more progress than last issue.

respect it

Fill-in artist Andre Coelho apes regular artist Rafael Albuquerque’s style well enough that it almost seems like the real thing. He’s not a very good storyteller, though, and several panels are less than they could be, particularly one where three characters are smiling all too wide while bantering. The DC website lists Albuquerque as the penciler for the next two issues, but it also credits him with drawing this one, so clearly not a credible source. Here’s hoping DC don’t keep him too busy with other assignments to work on this book. I feel compelled to mention that the editor once again fails at proofreading, leaving untouched the line "I was as ruthless as I’d always knew I could be." Such a simple fix…

Back Issues

'Mazing Man 6

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #6

Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciler: Stephen DeStefano

Drama! Something different this issue, a backup story about marital troubles. No humorous intent, here. Brenda’s feeling neglected at home and getting much more attention paid her by a certain handsome co-worker. Her husband is oblivious to her problem and his, so it falls to Brenda to decide what, if anything, to do. I normally prefer happy relationships to troubled ones. Bad enough it’s nearly impossible to go from single to happily married in fiction without the story ending at the altar. The one time you can have a happy couple, the "married prior to the story" set, you still can’t always keep them together. I welcome it here, though. Most interesting thing to happen in the series yet. Real conflict, tension, the chance that things might not turn out well.

The lead story is the usual fare. Better than average for a steady dose of Maze, who gets to do something heroic for once, but still pretty dull.

Mad Love

[DC] The Batman Adventures: Mad Love
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Bruce Timm

Poor Harley Quinn. Led astray by lies and token affection, Dr. Harleen Quinzel fell in love with the Joker. He yells at her, hits her, tosses her aside at every opportunity, and every time, she comes back. It’s pretty disturbing when played straight, so it’s a good thing it’s played for laughs. Truly, Harley’s no more sympathetic a character than the Joker. Less crazy, less murderous, more feminine, but no more able to change. It’d be nice to see the Joker treat her right, set her free, or even apologize, and it’d be nice to see Harley ditch the bastard for good, but neither one has it in them. Might as well ask Batman to settle down.

Joker amused

Mad Love tells Harley’s origin story and shows some of her sad attempts to win the Joker’s heart. For a sixty-four pager, it’s a breezy read, full of laughs and Timm artwork in original style of Batman: The Animated Series, before it turned all wonky.

Supergirl 3

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

The sun went out. I’m no expert on DC history, but it’s hard to remember a time in the past decade or two when editorial weren’t piling on the crossovers. Fifth week events where the entire world/universe/Gotham City would surely perish if yadda yadda Superman fixed it already. This time it’s Final Night. The sun gets eaten or whatever, so everyone has to pretend they’re totally doomed and stuff. Seems like Peter David has to deal with this crap more than anyone, or maybe it’s that he does so well under the circumstances. You have lemons, he has sugar.

Heart of Darkness 2

On top of the sun going out, Gorilla Grodd shows up in Leesburg with a macguffin that only works during a total eclipse. Normally, that’s like a minute of chaos. Now, he gets days to wreak havoc, turning most of the populace into snarling beasts and letting them do as they will. It’s deliciously evil. Nudge people in the wrong direction and society’s prone to falling apart. How many people are good, and how many repress their evil nature? The answer given here is that most fall into the second group.


Hitman Vol. 1

[DC] Hitman Vol. 1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John McCrea

In 1993, DC decided to have a companywide event called Bloodlines, part of their "why do we have annuals again?" policy and a cheap way to manufacture a ton of new characters. It was stupid. Very, very stupid. Most of the characters created were soon forgotten, or like Gunfire, became walking jokes. But Bloodlines ran across every title, and it so happened that Garth Ennis was writing The Demon at the time. Not only did Ennis get a great character out of it, he wrote a solid story, idiotic aliens aside. Gave hitman Tommy Monaghan the relatively low key powers of x-ray vision and telepathy, named him after his occupation, and parlayed it into a regular series no less tongue in cheek than his lip service to the event.

not that

DC only published five trades, collecting less than half the series. This one contains The Demon Annual #2, The Batman Chronicles #4, and the first three issues of the regular series. Monaghan gets up to a few wacky adventures here. Funny, gory ultraviolence. It’s as dark as any comic I know, but with a lighthearted bent that keeps it from falling into the trap of grimdark bleakangst. Some of Ennis’ pet themes pop up early. Tough women, strong friendships, honor, nazis, freaks of nature, holy guns and mystical beings who are all about killing people with guns, 90% of characters smoking and drinking liberally…

wrong guy

McCrea followed Ennis from The Demon, through The Batman Chronicles, to Hitman, and I can’t imagine anyone else drawing these characters. For that matter, McCrea draws what is, in my mind, the definitive Etrigan the Demon, though he didn’t create him. Anything too far from McCrea’s version doesn’t look like Etrigan to me. The Demon is vile, vicious, conniving, and McCrea captures his essence. So, too, does he capture Monaghan and his colorful cast, while excelling at all the things Ennis artists need to excel at: storytelling, facial expressions, gore, and bizarre creatures.


While I prefer heroes who have a strict "no killing" policy, I can’t help liking Tommy Monaghan. Maybe because policies like that are unrealistic, arguably crazy. Maybe, as much as I admire those who can adhere, I find it easy to forgive those who can’t, even if they don’t try all that hard (or at all), knowing that you don’t have to be a saint to be good. Maybe he’s so damn charismatic I don’t care what his code is. I wouldn’t want to be him, we’d never be friends, but I can root for him from afar. That’s enough. No redemption necessary. Keep me entertained and let the blood flow.


Birds of Prey – Great stuff. Stories within stories, well-structured, with a relaxing break after the action.
Blue Beetle – Carrots of justice! Traci 13 needs to be in every issue, for serious. Could stand to have more going on, here.
‘Mazing Man – Perhaps the best issue yet, but for the wrong reason. Not funny enough to be this shallow, and the hinted depth won’t be explored.
Mad Love – Laugh to keep from crying.
Supergirl – Does Grodd damn you, or do you damn yourself? Maybe you damn Grodd. That’s not very nice. I think you should apologize. Grodd has feelings, too. He just wants love. Monkey love. Monkey hate. Monkey see. Procreate.
Hitman – Sees you when you’re sleeping? Check. Knows if you’ve been bad or good? Check. …!!! Hitman is Santa Claus! Goodness’ sake!


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