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The Non-Marvel Action Hour 1/28/9

Brubaker times three. Catwoman, Deadenders, and Catwoman, plus Birds of
Prey, Superman/Batman, and the newest Blue Beetle, just in time for the
next issue.

Employee’s Pick

Catwoman 8

[DC] Catwoman Vol. 3 #5-9

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Brad Rader
Inkers: Cameron Stewart (issues 5-7), Rick Burchett (7-9)

Curious Crispus

Selina gets her first archvillain. Uncovering a drugrunning operation that uses children as mules gets mixed results, as Selina’s good intentions accomplish little good. Brubaker pulls off a remarkable feat in the second issue, part one of the four-part Disguises, using a typical internet chain letter as the basis for a character study of Selina’s sidekick, Holly Robinson. It’s a high point in Brubaker’s consistently excellent first twenty-four issues. Other books’ supporting characters should be so lucky, to get a spotlight issue like this one.

Holly 1

Holly uncovers another drugrunning scheme, this time with cops. Goes back to the same guy as the last one, and he goes back to the big boss: Black Mask. Catwoman’s Red Skull, the man who lives to kill her and destroy her way of life. Slam Bradley and Crispus Allen pitch in for a story much like you’d see in Allen’s own Gotham Central, only with Catwoman as the lead to add some color. Corruption, fisticuffs, policework, danger.

I'm crushing your head

The art’s directed so well, it hardly seems to drop off from Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred. Stewart provides a preview of his later run as penciler in inking Rader. Brubaker’s script and the talented men implementing it keep the action flowing and organic at all times, from Slam and a housecat waking up together on Selina’s couch, each reacting to the new day as though he’s equally important to the story, to Catwoman clinging to the top of a train for a ride, simply because she can.

New-Type Books

Blue Beetle 34

[DC] Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #34

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Jaime dies! But he gets better. When the titular character appears to die while the title’s still going, it’s a safe bet he isn’t dead. This time, he was, killed not by Doctor Polaris, but Khaji Da, the scarab, who decided the best way for Jaime to avoid permanent death was to die temporarily. Rightly believing his foe vanquished, Polaris leaves to kill more people, while the scarab revives Jaime. As with the Dr. Mid-Nite issue, the science here is spot-on. Shame to see such a well-researched comic get cancelled, but believable jargon isn’t a big sales booster.

Given time to prepare, the scarab devises a plan and we get a real fight. Immigration continues to lurk in the background, vaguely resembling an issue, while Paco and Brenda get some quiet time together. Albuquerque inks his own pencils. If I’d only seen it in this issue, I’d say he should never do it again, but it worked very well in Superman/Batman. Maybe he was rushed here, as it’s far from his best work.

And that’s Sturges’ first story arc. Six issues to tiptoe around immigration and fight the new Doctor Polaris. It was nice enough – Sturges probably had little to do with the book’s abrupt cancellation – but this didn’t need to be six issues. Four at most, and we could’ve had another full arc before the end. I hope he plans to pick up the pace for the wrap-up; I want to squeeze as much goodness out of Jaime’s supporting cast as possible in the final two issues, as we might never see some of them again. Mind, I don’t mean that he should devote so much as a single page to a "where are they now" look into the possible future fates of Brenda, Paco, Milagro, et al. Better to leave their stories openended, even if there were zero chance of a canon follow-up.

Superman/Batman 52

[DC] Superman/Batman #52
Writers: Michael Green, Mike Johnson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

Enter: the li’l Injustice League. Lex Luthor, Joker, and more major miniature miscreants cross over into our world. Discovering that evil has a chance here, they set about bringing darkness to the li’l Justice League.

Enter: Two-Face

Good ending to a fun story. It speeds past, though, and I have to wonder, would I like to see more? What we get here is a tease. Two quick issues focusing on Bats and Supes, with not nearly enough of the rest. Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe they shouldn’t appear again. The li’l leaguers come from a world where evil literally cannot win, ever. The heroes don’t get hurt, and everyone is mentally a child. It’s a nice change of pace from the GrimDark that permeates all too much of the DCU, but a regular series like this would probably be too far in the other direction. They should make a second appearance, though. There’s more mileage yet in the concept.

One other question comes to mind. Could these work as action figures? ‘Cause I want some. They need articulation, though, and that’s not likely at their size (two to three inches in 1:12 scale). The Japanese might be able to engineer something that’s functional and looks good. Max Factory or Kaiyodo or Takara?

Back Issues

Birds of Prey 97

[DC] Birds of Prey #97

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Paulo Siqueira

Is Black Alice evil? crazy? ridiculously overpowered? Could be. The Secret Society of Super-Villains attempt to recruit her, while the Birds try to stop them. Alice lashes out at both, as is her wont, and the creepy ending raises more questions than it answers. She’s a potentially interesting character. Normally, I’d say evil characters can have as much depth as good ones, but in Alice’s case I think she has to wind up being some kind of hero, or at worst chaotic neutral, to be worth reading about. As a villain, she’s an annoying brat, throwing fits because she can. And she has immense power, seemingly without limit. It would take a great force to oppose her, or a sly assassin, depending on how much of a threat the writer wants her to be.

Catwoman: Secret Files & Origins

[DC] Catwoman: Secret Files & Origins
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencilers: Michael Avon Oeming, Cameron Stewart, Eric Shanower

One of DC’s best ideas, one-shots for their myriad series full of background info and bios. It’s like the Who’s Who, only more focused and with most of the info coming in the form of legitimate comic stories instead of text or clumsy exposition. They’re a treat for fans of a specific character or team, and a great intro to the cast. This is one of the best examples, naturally, as it’s from one of DC’s best series.

The first story has Holly recounting her history with Selina, while a group of mobsters play back their own encounters with the gray-shaded lady before she gives them a new story to tell. Second is a team-up with hard-bitten P.I. Slam Bradley, who displays his tough exterior and squishy center between haymakers. The highlight of the issue, Why Holly Isn’t Dead, doesn’t offer an explanation. Instead, it has fun with the idea of continuity and retconned resurrections – a Brubaker staple – while Selina goes through half a dozen skimpy costumes in the background. Black Mask cranks the creepometer up for the final story, torturing fences for fun and profit, and setting up the next storyarc by busting an old friend of Selina’s out of prison. Nothing here is technically essential reading, in the sense that it’s needed to follow the plot of the regular series, but if you enjoy the series at all, you’ll love this.


Deadenders Vol. 1

[DC] Deadenders Vol. 1: Stealing the Sun

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Warren Pleece

Early Brubaker. Not his best work. Not as polished. Our story takes place in a vaguely post-apocalyptic future, several years after a mysterious event referred to as the Cataclysm. Society’s not entirely in ruins, but it seems to be propped up by illusory means. The rich sectors use technology to simulate an unaltered world, while the poor sectors are… not that different from impoverished areas in our America. Drugs, crime, corrupt policemen… the strangest thing about this futurescape is all the people riding around on Vespas.

And the visions. Certain people – the protagonist among them – are afflicted by periodic visions of the world as it once was. At first these are aural hallucinations, then optical as well. That plot is only begun here; the resolution lies later in the series. It serves as a device to add danger – from the men looking to capture our "hero" and study his peculiar ability – and some small explanation of how this world differs from our own, while the real story takes place within the margins.

The title of this trade is less figurative than you’d think. The amphetamine-addicted, hallucinating, Vespa-riding main character sets out to steal an artificial sun – a weathermaker – to fulfill the childhood wish of a dying friend. This requires a perilous journey into one of the rich sectors, where he risks capture by the authority figures looking to kidnap him, and arrest for the numerous crimes he and his accomplices commit, including a stop to fulfill the duties of his regular job as a drugdealer.


Catwoman – Top notch superhero noir.
Blue Beetle – The big finale. Not bad, but too slow in getting there.
Superman/Batman – Supercute goodness meets supercute evil.
Birds of Prey – Black Alice raises questions that may or may not be worth answering.
Catwoman: Secret Files & Origins – A must for fans of Brubaker’s Catwoman.
Deadenders – A story of fleeting happiness, and the things we do to get it.


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