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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 11/26/8

New Ex Machina, newish Green Lantern Corps, not-so-new Green Lantern Corps, Hitman, ‘Mazing Man, and Manhunter.

Employee’s Pick

Hitman 22

[DC] Hitman #21-27

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: Steve Pugh (issue 21), John McCrea (issues 22-27)

Bit of a dropoff from the last arc, as Ennis returns to strawmen tactics in the five-part Who Dares Wins. First, though, Tommy and Tiegel get some alone time. Not as much as they wanted, just enough. S’funny what love makes you do. I wouldn’t blame her if she stuck to her first impression and avoided Tommy on account of his being a hired killer, ‘stead of letting him charm her out of her pants. Can’t exactly blame her for that, either.

Ve sing first

Then Tommy has to save Christmas by offing Radioactive Santa. The story’s narrated in rhyme, which is probably Ennis’ favorite style of writing next to Brit/Irish dialect.

The latter figures heavily in Who Dares Wins, as Tommy and Natt’s biggest mistake comes back to bite them years after the fact. While serving with the USMC in Iraq, they accidentally (and very stupidly) shot a trio from the British SAS. Now the Brits want revenge, and send four of their best after our hero and his friend. As everyone knows, British people are better than Americans, so Tommy and Natt spend the whole story running around, panicking, dropping their guns, barely diving away from grenades, and generally not dying by sheer luck. It’s their most embarrassing outing since the Hitman of Hitmen, Johnny Navarone, targeted them and would have killed them if not for Tommy getting off a lucky shot.

Yeah...

Same deal here. The SAS team only break down through infighting and implausible coincidences, the protagonist living to kill another day through no fault of his own. Aside from that, it’s a good story. The SAS are basically the heroes, only their leader’s not so noble as they thought and the job’s rotten to start with. Might’ve worked better as an unrelated miniseries. Here, it feels like the main characters are surrounded by an invisible forcefield. Tommy can’t die or the series ends, and supporting characters are easier to kill than build up, so you don’t want to waste too many of them. Most times, disbelief is suspended enough that Tommy surviving is more or less believable. Not so, here.

New-Type Books

EM 39

[DC] Ex Machina #39

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Tony Harris

Man, Trouble is messed up. Serious case of hero worship. She goes one on one with Mayor Hundred, who then receives an offer from the Bush administration. Vaughan’s changing history again, potentially replacing the ill-advised appointment of John "Ah hates them UN varmints" Bolton as UN Ambassador with the Great Machine, who couldn’t do a worse job if he threw up on Kofi Annan. Kremlin’s still scheming, and much as I hate to see that, this is one of the best reads in the series in recent memory. Hope the next issue’s as good.

GLC 28

[DC] Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2 #28
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciler: Luke Ross

Haven’t picked this up since issue one, so I’m pretty well lost. Huh. I’d like to say the dude swimming in a vat of eyeballs confuses me, but no, it makes sense in context. Why a killer would leave behind a bunch of eyeballs, I’m not sure. Makes for a distinctive calling card. So, Saarek, guy in the vat, covers himself in these eyeballs because that supposedly helps his talking-to-the-dead power work and he can then see the killer’s face. That or the artist wanted to draw a dude covered in eyeballs.

Someone’s killing the families of rookie Green Lanterns, and the Corps quickly discover that someone is from the Sinestro Corps, and there’s more than one. Just as quickly, the issue’s over. Eh. I’ll give it points for being relatively easy to follow, but this doesn’t make me want to read more. There’s little in the way of characterization, and although the violence is extreme, it doesn’t seem to be targeting a mature audience. The threat of the Sinestro Corps is very real, yet it’s considered taken care of after this one case. Hundreds die, and then nothing? No other yellow-ringed villains will do the same? If the SC are so great a threat as to declare war, tossing aside the Lanterns’ centuries-old "no killing" policy, you’d think they’d want to do more than plug the leak when this sort of thing happens. It’s said that when you kill a cop, the whole police force comes down on you with a vengeance. The GLC don’t send that kind of message here. It’s more "if you kill our loved ones, we’ll figure it out eventually, stop you, and maybe kill you but probably just throw you in prison." If I were one of the bad guys, that wouldn’t exactly inspire great fear in me. It’s standard superhero fare, except real heroes don’t mutilate and kill their enemies.

Back Issues

'Mazing Man 10

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #10

Writer: Bob Rozakis
Pencilers: Stephen DeStefano, Fred Hembeck, Bob Smith

Three stories, each with a different artist. The lead’s more of the same: Eddie joins the Big Brother program, and we almost get around to seeing our old friends conflict and resolution, but not quite. Forgettable. Then Zoot Sputnik. These past two Zoot stories have, amazingly, been worse than the earlier ones. Not only are they intentionally bad, but now whenever Denton tries to deviate from what his moronic editor wants, said editor hamfistedly rewrites the story’s ending. The joke was scarcely worth a chuckle the first time, and has been thoroughly run into the ground by this point. BC Comics makes terrible comics, all because their Editor-in-Chief is a slimeball who thinks comics have to be aimed at the lowest common denominator. Also, he pays Denton peanuts to churn this dross out. Hah, or something.

The third story’s shockingly decent, the best since the one where Brenda thought about cheating on her husband. This stars her and Denton’s sister, KP, eating lunch and talking for six pages. It’s not spectacular, but it’s not horrible, and that’s a step up. Next issue is sure to take a step or two back, though, as the series did after the last readable story.

GLC 1

[DC] Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2 #1
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Penciler: Patrick Gleason

Might as well cover this, too. It’s better than the Tomasi issue. More going on, and all of it better defined. There’s Guy Gardner being Guy Gardner, some tightly-wound Lantern fighting with his partner, Soranik Natu doubting her ring, and an assassination plot (heavy on the assassinating, light on the plot). Plus, Kilowog, a welcome addition to any story. It doesn’t stand out, but it’s pleasant enough. I especially like that it’s a multi-part story, as anything else would be too pat, as in the Tomasi issue.

Trade

[DC] Manhunter Vol. 3: Origins
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencilers: Javier Pina (issues 15-23), Stephen Sadowski (issue 15), Sean Phillips (issue 15), Rags Morales (issue 15), Shawn Martinbrough (issue 15)

As the title suggests, this trade features that most delightful of history lessons, the comic book origin story. We already got Kate Spencer’s superhero origin in brief, back in issue 1. She saw crime, she stole crimefighting gear, she fought crime. Now we get the gear’s history, starting with the power suit. For that alone, I love this volume; I’ve been wondering where the suit came from since the first issue. And bonus! We learn that the guantlets have a separate point of origin, as well as the power staff not quite belonging to Mark Shaw after all.

Then we learn Kate’s origins, as in her surprisingly famous grandparents and viciously psychotic birth father. Bit of a mixed bag, that. This is another nine-issue trade, and complicated origin stories and quasi-Oedipal complexes aren’t enough to fill all that space. Not even with kidnapping, DNA testing, and grandma-you-never-knew meeting thrown in. So Kate joins a superteam. Sort of. Very small, intimate group, kinda like the Birds of Prey. Her, Cameron Chase, and Director Bones of the DEO. You know him. Skull for a face, can kill you with a touch. Nice guy. And Kate fights Skorpio. And Dr. Moon. And Phobia, again. And Kilg%re, after Dylan, her tech guy, accidentally merges a snoopy reporter with a computer program. And there’s a killer on the loose calling himself Sweeney Todd, though his methods are more Jack the Ripper. And Kate gets roped into defending Dr. Psycho, for as yet unrevealed reasons.

And love is in the air. Damon Matthews, Kate’s assistant, and Todd Rice, better known as the superhero Obsidian. Cameron and Dylan add benefits to their friendship. Kate’s ex remarries and has a daughter. Even Dr. Moon and Phobia have what passes for love between crazy people. Kate, however, remains decidedly single.

All that going on keeps the pages packed without getting too cluttered. This volume isn’t as tight as the last, but aside from the Dr. Psycho trial, the dangling subplots are more or less wrapped up by the end.

I thought this was going to be one of those series where I understand why other people like it and don’t mind reading it, but don’t particularly enjoy it myself. Wrong. This is for me, too. If it weren’t cancelled, I’d start buying up recent issues, maybe the trades to reread later, and have one more comic to look forward to each month. Maybe I should anyways, hope it can get uncancelled and stop being part of the reason it got this way. If I thought it would work, I would, but I don’t have that kind of power. I can’t convince enough people to buy enough copies to save a dying book. Defeatist? or realist? I’m not sure. I know this is now one of my favorite DC series, and I wish it, like nearly all the others, were still going.

Truncation

Hitman – One of the weakest arcs in the series, and it’s still above average. Nice Christmas story, too.
Ex Machina – Hot women stalking you? Possibly not as good as it sounds.
Green Lantern Corps – Mediocre. Best part’s the one-page cameo by Ice.
‘Mazing Man – One decent story out of three. Worth the quarter, I guess.
Green Lantern Corps – Solid. Wouldn’t mind seeing how this arc ends.
Manhunter – Why must I love cancelled comics?

 


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