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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 12/10/8

Battlefields, Manhunter, Hitman, ‘Mazing Man, Birds of Prey, and The Losers.

Employee’s Pick

BoP 78

[DC] Birds of Prey #76-80

Writer Gail Simone
Pencilers: Joe Prado (issue 76), Ed Benes (issues 76, 79 & 80), Tom Derenick (issues 77 & 78)

The Birds go on a series of missions to thwart female vigilantes, which turns out to be part of Oracle’s manipulative plan to turn Huntress away from vigilantism. It works, but then Huntress finds out, and she isn’t happy about being treated like "the bad kid," though that’s what she was.

In Dayton, Ohio, we see the first appearance of Black Alice, whose mother committed suicide, ashamed of her addiction to prescription drugs. Alice discovers she can steal magic from people like Dr. Fate and Zatanna, so she sets about killing off Dayton’s drug dealers. Not the worst idea ever, but a poor way to hold together what’s left of her family. She seems well-meaning but misguided here, though she gets a bit nastier in later appearances.

In Kansas we find Harvest, a vengeful spirit (or something like that; it’s not made clear) who was raped and killed (or just mutilated… with railroad spikes… eww) and through this trauma acquired superpowers. Like Superman-villain Parasite, she can drain the strength and abilities from people and things by touching them, or being near them, and she likes to use this ability to drain the life out of people. Killers all, whom she can mystically sense. Again, not the worst thing a body can do, and she uses the stolen energy to heal the sick. But we have a justice system for many very good reasons. Can’t have people running around killing dudes without a trial. Unless it’s Manhunter. Kate generally waits till after a trial, but it still seems hypocritical of Babs to work with her, as she does later in the series.

The team wind up in Metropolis to fight Thorn, who turns out not to have killed anyone, at least not recently. And only one person before that, at most. She’s still creepy, what with the split personality and all. I wouldn’t want to get in her way. Thorn gets gutshot, which, with Ed Benes on art, means her perfectly taut tummy gets a sprinkling of blood applied over top, like a dollop of ketchup. D’aww. Benes likes his women and men unmarred and identical from head to toe. Once in the hospital, Thorn needs protection from corrupt cops while she gets patched up without a hint of tension. Maybe Benes’ depiction of her wound isn’t so far off; you’d think getting shot in the stomach, having surgery, and being heavily sedated would make it hard to walk around a while after, let alone beat up cops. Simone implies that none of this affects the Thorn personality, only knocking out the weaker Rose, but I don’t see how that could work. Guess I’ll lump it in with "all supertypes heal abnormally fast and can be thrown through walls and windows without serious injury, even ones with no powers." Thorn has no powers, but she jumps through a window early on without so much as a cut, so it would seem this is a case of "don’t think about it."

The art’s mediocre throughout, making the story hard to enjoy. Doesn’t help that the Brainiac subplot is back. Or still around, I should say, as it hasn’t left yet. Oracle has a patch of tech on her stomach, kinda floating there above the skin, as Benes refuses to let anything interrupt the tummy tone, and she keeps putting on some high tech Oracle mask to traipse about the internet like it’s the astral plane. Also, it’s super secret, because Babs keeps forgetting she can trust her friends, and it’s making her irritable, though only a little. That’ll wrap up later, never soon enough.

New-Type Books

Battlefields 1

[Dynamite] Battlefields #1

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun

Part one of the three-part Night Witches, about a German infantry squad and an all-female Russian bomber regiment in World War II. It’s a brutally honest look at war: no exaggerations, no punches pulled. The Germans stumble across a Russian squad, carnage ensues. The Germans seem to fare better, but both sides suffer casualties. The Night Witches go up in their third-rate planes to bomb a recently-captured bridge, and they’re torn to shreds. I want to believe the Night Witches can succeed, because they’re the good guys, and they’re hot. Anna Kharkova particularly, the protagonist of the Russian half of the story. It’s not looking good so far, and Ennis has no qualms about delivering unhappy endings. There’s sure to be much sadness in the issues to come.

It is

Braun’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing artists Ennis has worked with. He can handle the demands of an Ennis script – lots of action and gore and frowning – as well as draw highly attractive women. It’s a nice package all around, and anyone who likes war stories would do well to check it out.

Manhunter 35

[DC] Manhunter Vol. 3 #35
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Pencilers: Michael Gaydos, Carlos Magno

Skipping ahead a few issues. I hate doing this, but I don’t have 31-34, and I need something to review. The upside is I can objectively say that you should not do what I did. Jumping into this six-part story arc in part five, even after reading the first thirty issues of the series, leaves me hopelessly lost. So, yeah, bad idea, as if that weren’t obvious. The writing seems to be on par with earlier issues. Kate’s in Mexico, doing something or other relating to a secret facility that’s producing new superhumans. This seems to be related to Kate’s guest appearances in Birds of Prey, as the Birds (specifically Zinda and Huntress) guest-star here, and both stories are set in Mexico, outside both books’ normal stomping grounds. I can find no indication in the issues themselves, however, of a crossover, the prison that kidnapped superhumans in BoP and the facility that makes them are clearly different, and the two stories were published more than a year apart. I guess they’re just really similar.

Dylan’s been kidnapped by the Joker as a consequence of coming to his girlfriend Cameron Chase’s rescue, and Kate’s gotten chummy enough with her grandma and grandpa to let them watch her son. That much is easy enough to follow, despite how different those situations were five issues ago. There’s some business with the Crime Doctor and Suicide Squad that’s more confusing. It seems the Doctor blackmailed the Squad or got them to work for her some other way, and the Squad, not being the bad sort, didn’t do what they were s’posed to, leading to a confrontation when they return to HQ and are unable to convince CD that they are bad enough dudes to rescue the president kill Manhunter.

The art here’s terrible. Gaydos fits well enough with the book’s house style, but Magno, who is credited on the interior but not on the cover and whose thirteen pages outnumber Gaydos’ nine, hurts. It’s not Larry Stroman or Humberto Ramos bad – people still look human – but it’s terribly crude, like it was drawn as quickly as possible with just enough effort that DC said "yeah, OK," and handed him the check. If I’d paid full price for this issue, I’d feel ripped off. Fortunately, he isn’t called upon to draw anything too important; I doubt the scenes with miscellaneous superthugs flailing about would be much better with good artwork. I’d enjoy them a bit more, but there’s nothing about those scenes that begs revisiting. They’re a small part of a larger story that (I hope) reads better as a whole. Gaydos gets the good parts, which in this case happen to not feature Manhunter. He tackles the supporting cast and the Suicide Squad interlude while Kate punches things in the blurry periphery.

Back Issues

Hitman 34

[DC] Hitman #34

Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciler: John McCrea

One of the greatest Superman stories ever told. Tommy meets Supes on a rooftop in Gotham, and they talk. About Superman failing to save someone, about ideals, about America’s potential. Ennis frequently pokes fun at America’s foibles, but it’s clear from his writing, especially here, that he loves the country. Less what it is than what it can be, what it has been at times. He loves the great Americans, like John Wayne and Superman, who stand for something, who do the right thing and don’t get a big head about it. He doesn’t like most superheroes, but most superheroes aren’t Superman. He stands apart.

'Mazing Man 12

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #12
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciler: Stephen DeStefano

Everything’s changing! Black is white! Up is down! In is out! Or not. Denton’s turning thirty, and he notices things aren’t how they used to be. Doesn’t get out enough, I guess. Oh, yeah, and the series is cancelled. Somehow, a comic about a superhero who almost never does anything heroic, is only a co-star in his own comic, and together with his cast has no more adventures than the average sitcom character, failed to catch on. I believe this is the least unjust cancellation I’ve yet reviewed. I could see a similar concept succeeding, or being worthy of success, but you have to have stuff happen. This series has a guy who acts like a superhero for no apparent reason, and a guy who’s apparently the only anthropomorphic dog in the world, and they just are. Because. The cast make a few jokes about it, but that’s about it. There’s a dog dude as a source of occasional humor. Oh boy. This was a decent story, aside from the rushed art, but I can’t recommend it or any other issue. They’re not worth your time.


The Losers 2

[DC] The Losers Vol. 2: Double Down

Writer: Andy Diggle
Artists: Shawn Martinbrough (issues 7 & 8), Jock (issues 9-12)

After the events of the first trade, the Losers have split up for R&R. Clay visits the General who put their unit together in the first place, back before things went south. Cougar heads to Mexico for female companionship and peace of mind. He finds one. Pooch goes home to his wife and kids, tries to apologize for being away so much before taking off yet again. Aisha drops in on some old friends, one of whom has gotten herself in serious trouble without realizing it. Jensen stays at HQ to decrypt the hard drive they picked up on the last mission; he has nowhere to go anyways.

may he forgive you

The hard drive leads them to Montserrat, and a fireproof safe buried under ash and rock by a still-active volcano. They hope what they find there will take down the mysterious CIA agent known only as Max. Meanwhile, the CIA are launching their own investigation. Old man Stegler’s on the case, and he quickly runs into problems. Max doesn’t want to be found out, and he has many means to dissuade detectives. Violent means. This trade’s full of violence, unsurprisingly. Explosions abound. Good times.


Birds of Prey – Oracle: not very smart sometimes. Worth slogging through the art for the story, but not Simone’s best.
Battlefields – Moving war story. The start of what looks to be a memorable tale.
Manhunter – About what you’d expect of the fifth issue in a six-part story. Unexceptional, and makes little sense out of context. Read the rest in order, and beware bad Magnos.
Hitman – Love note to Superman. An essential part of every comic collection.
‘Mazing Man – a ho hum ending to a ho hum series.
The Losers – There’s supposed to be a movie of this in the works. Don’t know if it’ll ever come out, but the comic reads like one already. Like a damn good film.


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