Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Great Batman: Brave and the Bold Rewatch: Duel of the Double Crossers!

Season One, Episode Twenty-One: Duel of the Double Crossers!
Written by Todd Casey
Directed by Michael Chang

Plot Synopsis

Despero stands on a rooftop, preparing to throw a giant globe down on to bystanders. Batman communicates to the Outsiders(Black Lightning, Katana, and Metamorpho) telling them what to do to stop the villain. The Outsiders, though, are doing things their own way, which mostly involves lots of property damage and not much stopping of Despero. Only when they listen to Batman, working as a team, do they stop the alien conqueror, although the damage to the city is severe. It turns out it was all a simulation, and Batman tells them they'll keep doing it until they get it right, restarting the simulation.

Episode: In front of a large sunset, the bounty hunter Jonah Hex rides, heading towards a saloon. Only when we get inside, and see the saloon is full of aliens and not old west ne'er do wells, do we realize Hex is not in his native time or world. Hex sits down at a card table with an alien named Arges, and proceeds to attempt to take him, but Arges blasts him with an eye beam. Hex, with some help from his robot horse, captures Arges, and is teleported away to Warworld.

Upon arriving on Warworld, Hex confronts its master, Mongul, who welcomes Hex back, pleased with his new captive. Hex is less pleased, and demands Mongul send him back to his own time. Mongul says he will, but only if Hex delivers one more bounty to him, a warrior who will stand up too his sisters gladiators: Batman.

On Earth, Batman easily takes out the villain Zebra Man just before Hex arrives. Batman knows about Warworld, and knows why Hex is there, and the two men prepare to face off. Batman throws a Batarang, which Hex shoots out of the air, and the two face off, but Hex is able to lasso Batman.

On Warworld, Batman is led away by Mongul's guards, and Hex again tells Mongul to send him home. Mongul again refuses, saying that Hex is too valuable, and when Hex threatens to shoot Mongul, the alien warlord reminds Hex that killing him will leave Hex stranded in the present forever. Hex contemplates doing it anyway, but they are interrupted by Mongal, Mongul's sister and competitor, along with two of her guards, Lashina and Stompa, members of the Female Furies. Hex decides to stand down rather than fight the Furies, flirting briefly with Lashina, and threatens Mongul that he will help in Mongul's fall. Mongal scoffs at the idea that Batman could beat her champion, Steppenwolf, but Mongul seems more confident in the Dark Knight.

In the arena, we see Batman led out into the center, along with Arges, a Gordanian, and another alien. Mongul pronounces this to be Battle Arena Warworld, a combat entertainment with no rules and with only one victor. Batman tries to convince the others to work together against Steppenwolf, and they refuse, as the Apokoliptan general, Steppenwolf appears. Steppenwolf attacks, starting to easily take out his foes. Flash away from the arena to an irritated Hex, who shoots the screen showing the battle, as Mongal approaches him. She offers to send Hex home simply to screw with Mongul, and gives him a map to the time machine and the deliverance to send him home. He tips his hat and heads off.

Back in the arena, Steppenwolf has made short work of most of his opponents, leaving only Batman and Arges. Batman gets Arges to agree to help him, only for Arges to use Batman's distraction to escape. Batman now stands seemingly alone against Steppenwolf, but Hex arrives on robot horseback. Hex joins in the fight, and although he shoots his way through Steppenwolf's shield and disarms him of his axe, he is downed. Batman, adding techno-brass knuckles to his fists (which he refers to yet again as the Hammers of Justice), engages Steppenwolf in a fist fight. They trade blows, but Batman's superior fighting skills win the day, leaving Steppenwolf defeated. Hex rises, and the two head off.

Hex leads Batman to free the prisoners of Warworld before he heads home, They are confronted by Mongal and her Furies, and Batman and Hex engage the Furies in combat, Lashina calling Hex out. Batman and Stompa fight, but Hex and Lashina are continuing to flirt as they fight hand-to-hand. Eventually, the Furies are defeated, but that leaves them with Mongal. Hex is able to lasso her and tie her to Hex's robot horse before heading off again. Mongul sees his sister and laughs, but she tells him where Batman and Hex are going as she is dragged away.

At the cells, Batman and Hex arrive. The prisoners are overjoyed to see Batman, but angered by Hex. Hex tells them he's going to spring them and then head to settle his score with Mongul as Mongul teleports in. Mongul is able to sucker punch the heroes, but even after he no longer has the element of surprise, he still has the upper hand. Batman prepares to free the prisoners to join the battle against Mongul, but is told is he does he will destroy the time tunnel platform as well, stranding Hex. Hex agrees to it, knowing the consequences, and with the cells open, the gathered alien warriors attack Mongul and Mongal, who has conveniently ust been dropped off the the robo horse.

With the battle done, Hex prepares to send Batman home. Batman offers to have Hex come with him, and see if Batman can find another way to return Hex to his own time. Hex decides to stay behind, though, and see what's to do. Batman returns home, and Hex finds Lashina waiting by his horse, and the two ride off together.

Who's Who

Jonah Hex (Voiced by Phil Morris)
First Comic Book Appearance: All-Star Western #10 (February-March, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

Mongul (Voiced by Gary Anthony Williams)
First Comic Book Appearance:  DC Comics Presents #27 (November, 1980)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

Mongul is one of the great galactic conqueror villains of the DC Universe. While his origins have changed substantially depending on which timeline in the DC Universe you are following, his story is always tied to that of Warworld, a mobile planetoid battlestation, and the Black Mercy, the plant that attaches itself to a host and gives them a fantasy of their greatest desire. Mongul's best known origin has him as master of Warworld when Superman, travelling the galaxy, finds himself on the planet and forced into the arena to fight. Superman eventually defeated him, leaving him no fallen in the eyes of the citizens of Warworld. Mongul would go on to serve as a lackey to the villainous Cyborg Superman, and took part on the destruction of Coast City, Green Lantern's home town. The original Mongul would go on to be killed and replaced by his son, also named Mongul, who looked identitcal to his father, but more on that below in the notes. Mongul II would continue to be a nemesis of Superman and various Green Lanterns, and would briefly go on to lead the Sinestro Corps. Mongul has most of the traditional big galaxy conquering bad powers, like super strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fire energy.

Mongal (Voiced by Gary Anthony Williams)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Superman Vol.2 #170 (July, 2001)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

Mongal was the sister of Mongul II, and worked with her brother on various occasions. She eventually became ruler of the planet Almerac, but eventually went back to work with her brother, who in a fit of pique, murdered her because family was a weakness. She had powers identical to those of her brother.

Lashina (Voiced by Nika Futterman)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Mister Miracle #6 (January, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

First Comic Book Appearance:  Mister Miracle #6 (January, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

The Female Furies are members of the elite guard of Apokolips, the world of the evil gods ruled by Darkseid. Selected by Granny Goodness, the master of Darkseid's orphanage, for their ruthlessness and power, the Furies include Bernadeth, sister of Desaad, Lashina, of the metal whips, the superstrong Stompa, and the claw wielding Mad Harriet, among many others. Lashina is probably the most developed Fury, storywise as she became a member of the Suicide Squad under the pseudonym "Duchess" for some time.

Steppenwolf (Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson)
First Comic Book Appearance:  New Gods #7 (February, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

Uncle to Darkseid, Steppenwolf is one of the generals of Apokolips and its master's chief military adviser. He was one of the members of Darkseid's retinue when Darkseid personally attacked New Genesis, home of the New Gods, and slew the wife of Highfather. He has been one of the evil gods most prominently appearing since the new post-Flashpoint continuity, as one of the chief antagonists on Earth 2, and has appeared in other New Gods related stories. Steppenwolf will also be one of, if not the main, antagonists in DC's upcoming Justice League film. Steppenwolf has all the base powers of a New God, meaning he is immortal and has physical strength, stamina, and durability far beyond those of a mortal. He is also a master hunter, hand-to-hand combatant, weaponsmaster, and military tactician.

First Comic Book Appearance:  Detective Comics #275 (January, 1960)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-One- Duel of the Double Crossers!

The original Zebra-Man was a one off villain who appeared in one issue of Detective Comics, and is a classic Silver Age science villain, whose own science experiment backfired on him, giving him powers, in his case based on magnetism. Various other Zebra-Mans have appeared over the years, but they are all at best D-list villains who mostly appear in the background as parts of supervillain crowds.

Black Lightning (Voiced by Bumper Robinson)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Black Lightning #1 (April, 1977)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Six- Enter the Outsiders!

Katana (Voiced by Vyvan Pham)
First Comic Book Appearance:  The Brave and the Bold #200 (July, 1983)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Six- Enter the Outsiders!

Metamorpho (Voiced by Scott Menville)
First Comic Book Appearance:  The Brave and the Bold #57 (January, 1965)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Six- Enter the Outsiders!

Despero (Voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson)
First Comic Book Appearance: Justice League of America #1 (October, 1960)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Ten- The Eyes of Despero!

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

While Jonah Hex is best known for his gritty or occult themed adventures in the Old West, time travel isn't completely unheard of for Hex. Not onyl did the last arc of his most recent series, All-Star Western, have Hex come to the present DC Universe, but his first post-Crisis series, simply called Hex, have Jonah in a Mad Max-esque dystopian future. And in his Justice League Unlimited appearance in "The Once and Future Thing," where he encounters a time travelling Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, he identifies them as time travelers, and when Batman asks him what makes him think that, he simply replies, "I've had an interesting life."

The origins I gave for Mongul and Mongal above gloss over the somewhat strange connection between the two characters. The original Mongul died during the DC crossover event, Underworld Unleashed, in a way that was clearly set up to show what a threat the big bad of that series, Neron, was. And he stayed dead. When Mongul II appeared, it was convenient that he had the same name and an identical appearance to his father, to the point that the fact that he is technically the son of the original character stopped being mentioned, as if there had always been one Mongul. This is reminiscent to me of the season fifteen episode of The Simpsons, "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot," where the Simpson cat, Snowball II, dies, and after many attempts to get a new cat, they find an identical one and keep the name, which is played for comic effect. I feel Brave and the Bold made the right decision in simply avoiding that whole mess and combining the two characters into one.

Two of The Brave and the Bold regulars return this episode, with Kevin Michael Richardson, who previously voiced Black Manta and Despero, voicing Steppenwolf, and James Arnold Taylor, who voices Green Arrow, voicing one-off character Arges.

While I list this episode as Zebra-Man's first appearance, he did technically appear before in the dream sequence in episode nineteen, "Legend of the Dark Mite!"

Monday, August 29, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 8/24

Atomic Robo & The Temple of Od #1
Story: Brian Clevinger
Art: Scott Wegener & Anthony Clark

Atomic Robo is back! The pattern of Robo mini-series one set in the present and then one set in the past, and so this new series is a flashback to the late 1930s. Robo is tasked by the US military to go to Shanghai, which at this point was under Japanese control, and retrieve a Chinese scientist who has been taken by the Japanese and is developing a weapon using zero point energy, a source of power that is limitless and could destroy the world if used improperly. So, jet-setting adventurer Atomic Robo (that's his cover story, because really, how can you hide him) is off to Shanghai, and before the issue is over we have raids by Japanese soldiers, a motorcycle chase, Robo wising off at a dangerous time, and the return of a character from Robo's past. Now that we're into the eleventh volume of Atomic Robo, and that's not counting all the ancillary stories from Real Science Adventures, creators Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener have built a large and elaborate universe, with so many different characters from different eras in Robo's long life that it makes sense that a character like Helen McAllister, Robo's first love from the early 30s, would show up again during his World War II era adventures. And as with any Atomic Robo series, it's fun to look for the Easter Eggs the creators have placed throughout, as these are two guys who love their pop culture. Robo's arrival in Shanghai holds more than its fair share of nods to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with a shoeshine boy who resembles Indy's sidekick Short Round, and a nightspot called Anything Goes. The best thing about Atomic Robo for me, though, is that even though the settings are new and the plot is filled with twists and turns you can't expect, if you're a fan of Robo it's like coming home; Robo as a character has a very specific voice, and his stories do as well. And if you're a new reader, even if you've never touched the character before it has such a welcoming, pulp feel to it that you can't help but be drawn in.

Detective Comics #939
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, & Adriano Lucas

Tim Drake is my favorite Robin. I started reading Batman comics regularly right after Tim was introduced, and I grew up with him. And I have felt like the post-Flashpoint DC Universe has done the character a huge disservice, shuffling him off to the sidelines. That is until this current run on Detective Comics, which has brought Tim right back into the fold of the Bat universe. After escaping the Colony last issue, Batman, Batwoman, and their squad are trying to figure out what to do next. The issue starts out with some great character moments between Batman and Batwoman, as they discuss what Bruce may and may not have known about Batwoman's father's involvement with the Colony, and Tim coming to a decision about his future and discussing it with Spoiler. It would be easy, in the middle of an arc so packed with intrigue and action to forget about the characters and focus on the story, but Tynion takes time to give us a look inside the inner lives of the characters. But the action picks up as the team learns the Colony is sending armed drones to wipe out every possible member of the League of Shadows, the urban legend ultra secret offshoot of the League of Assassins, and damned be the collateral damage. And as ever, we see that Batman, and by proxy his allies, honor life above everything else, as they jump into action to try to save the innocent. In these scenes, we actually get one of the smaller, but one of the best, character moments in the issue, where Clayface has to scare a group of people out of their apartment to get them to safety, and he feels sad that his best way to act is still as a monster. Clayface has gotten the least page time of any of the characters in the series so far, but this little beat sets up his character arc, and possible hero's quest, better than any long speech could.And in Orphan's scene, we get a hint of something to come, something that might mean Colonel Kane isn't quite as off center about the League of Shadows as Batman believes. But I started this review talking about Time Drake, Red Robin, and I'm going back there for the end.Tim spends this issue showing first his tech chops, an aspect of the character that has always been present but has been played up a lot in the new continuity. I especially like that fact that Tynion is playing with the idea of what a guy in his late teens would do with an unlimited budget and a penchant for crime fighting. But more than that, the issue ends on an amazing cliffhanger, with Tim using his brain to put himself in a position where he'll have to use all his other skills next issue to survive. I don't want to give anything away, but it's an amazing ending, and one that sums up Tim Drake perfectly; he's a good kid with a big heart, who is willing to put himself in harm's way to protect others. I've said this with each review of this new run on Detective Comics, and I'll say it again: this book gets better with every issue, and if you're a Batman fan, you should absolutely be reading it.

Kingsway West #1
Story: Greg Pak
Art: Mirko Colak & Wil Quintana

I love alternate history mixed with science fiction or fantasy. And I love the comics of Greg Pak. So when you combine them, you get a comic I'm pretty much guaranteed to like. Kingsway West takes place in an alternate old west, one where the discovery of Red Gold, an ore that channels mystical energy, led to war between two factions in California: the Chinese Queen of the Golden City and the Mexican Republica de los Californios. But this isn't a story of that war. Taking place in its aftermath, we meet Kingsway Law, a renegade gunslinger and soldier from the Chinese side of the war. The story starts with him meeting Sonia, a Mexican woman who is also fleeing her life from the war. And it's not unexpected that when the comic flashes forward five years, they're married. It's a classic Western set-up, the gunslinger trying to escape his past with the love of a good woman. And Kingsway seems genuinely like he wants to be a better man. But when a woman from the Golden Empire arrives looking for Kingsway, with word of whole new vein of Red Gold, he hopes he can just avoid her, but things don't work out like that, and soon Kingsway has had to take up his guns again to save the woman from the Golden City Guard and to find Sonia, who has disappeared. This first issue does a solid job of establishing the world that Pak is creating, the personalities of his leads, and the driving force of the plot. But I will say alternate history comics are only as good as the artist who is crafting the vision of this different world, and fortunately Pak is working with one who has some serious chops. I was unfamiliar with Mirko Colak before this issue, so I came in with no preconceptions, but the art is absolutely stellar. The characters are all solid and distinct, and the animals that populate the world, these hybrids of real animals, as well as fantastic creatures like dragons, have great designs. And the fight scenes are very well choreographed, not just easy to follow, and exciting;  but brutal in a way that does not glorify the violence in the least, which works perfectly in the tale of a man who was trying to escape his violent past and is now being pulled back into it. If you enjoy classic Westerns like Unforgiven, or the strange sci-fi Western world of Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta's East of West, you should really try out Kingsway West.

Wonder Woman #5
Story: Greg Rucka 
Art: Liam Sharp & Laura Martin

Greg Rucka has a lot going on in Wonder Woman. Not only are there two A plots, stuff set in the present in the odd numbered issues and a Year One story in the even numbered ones, but the plot in the stories set in the present, like this week's issue, are packed with all sorts of threads and characters, making it a dense and rewarding read. There are three interconnected plots running through this issue, one featuring Wonder Woman, one featuring Steve Trevor, and one featuring Etta Candy and a surprise guest star who I'll talk about at the end. Wonder Woman and Cheetah continue their quest to free Cheetah from Urzkartaga, the god that granted her the powers of the cheetah, and who now seeks her death for betraying him. Cheetah's origins have always tied her to Wonder Woman as a former friend who went to the dark side, but as a reader, I've always known the two as nemeses only. Here, seeing the two of them having to work together, it deepens the relationship, gives us insight into their shared history, and makes the aspect of that history as former friends matter more. The deepening mystery of Wonder Woman's own history and the changes that have occurred in it, and what has happened to Olympus and Themyscira, remains front and center for Diana, and the slow trickle of clues and revelations keeps the reader guessing. Meanwhile, Steve Trevor has been captured by a warlord named Cadulo who happens to be a worshipper of Urzkartaga, and who is preparing sacrifices to the god to grant him power. Steve and Cadulo are cast as polar opposites, not just because one is the heroic type and the other villainous, but because they have very different definitions of masculinity. Rucka has never shied away from discussing his own views on society in his work, and with so many recent examples in fandom of toxic masculinity, it's not surprising for Rucka to call it out, going so far as to have Trevor actually use those words. Cadulo is the kind of guy who expects women to worship him, and Trevor is, to say the least, not. Trevor banters, even when captured, and I like how Rucka is giving this character more of a personality than he's been given in the last two decades. Finally, the third plotline sees Etta Candy, Wonder Woman and Trevor's friend and Trevor's current boss, going to seek advice in what to do with the captured Trevor, and the person she goes to? Sasha Bordeaux! If you don't know her, Sasha was a character created by Rucka during his run on Detective Comics, where she served first as Bruce Wayne's Wayne Enterprises assigned bodyguard and later one of Batman's partners, and became Black Queen of Checkmate when Rucka wrote the DC Universe spy title. And while Sasha seems helpful, there's far more to what's going on than meets the Eye (and yes, that capitalization is intentional if you know Sasha's history). I'm really excited to see Sasha back, and no one writes her like her creator. I also want to call out Liam Sharp's astounding art on this issue; he's an artist I always picture drawing monsters and horror comics, and that skill plays out well in Cadulo's den, but he also draws a beautiful Wonder Woman and a sleek Cheetah. This is Greg Rucka at his superhero best, and I haven't been this excited by Wonder Woman in a long time.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Five Comic Book Members of the Suicide Squad for the Inevitable Sequel

DC's next major motion picture opens today: Suicide Squad. One of my favorite properties from the 80s, the Suicide Squad is a team of villains forced to do covert ops for the US government. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'm not here to comment on it, but instead to talk about the comics, and casting. You see, the reason why the team is called the Suicide Squad is because there's a good chance that team members aren't going to make it back from these missions, which means high team turnover. So that means there are plenty of other options for team members, and I'm hear to talk about five possible characters who could join the Squad ion the sequel that will probably be coming.

It's important to note that, while the Suicide Squad has had many incarnations, both before and after, I'm drawing all of my choices from what I view as THE Suicide Squad comic, the 1980s series written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale. It is easily one of the best series DC published at a point of high creativity, filled with topical politics, all out action, and tremendous character depth.

Before I start, I just want to call out three squad members who didn't make it on this list not because they're not awesome and I would love to see them on the big screen, but because of some of the weird silos that DC has on many of its character, these three feature prominently as heroes or villains on the CW DC TV series, and so will be featured there: Vixen, who has been added to the cast of Legends of Tomorrow for next season, Count Vertigo, who is one of Green Arrow's principal foes and has appeared in various iterations on Arrow,  and the one non-Ostrander/Yale character I considered, King Shark, who first joined the team in the pages of Superboy and became a regular in the New 52, who has been a featured villain on Flash. I'd be thrilled to see any of those characters make the movies though, DC, so keep them in mind!

Now without further ado, five members of the Suicide Squad I'd like to see in the sequel, in mostly alphabetical order:

Bronze Tiger
Ben Turner was a skilled martial artist who was taken and brain washed to serve as a member of the League of Assassins. After the conditioning was broken, he willingly joined the Suicide Squad to atone for all the deaths he caused as a member of the League. He did appear on Arrow as a member of the Squad, but disappeared around the same time the fiat came from on high from Warners to remove the team, so I don't see any problem in him being used here. I'm picking Bronze Tiger for a couple reasons. He was one of the staples of the original '80s Squad, along with Deadshot, Boomerang, and Amanda Waller. He's got a great backstory, and his nobility makes him stand apart from the more sociopathic members of the team, while he still struggles with rage and doubt caused by years of mind control. Also, while I have to give the movie credit for having more diversity than a lot of superhero teams, it never hurts to add another actor of color to your roster. I also like the connection to the League of Assassins. Again, while used on Arrow, the League is primarily a Batman related property, and I think it would be interesting to do a Suicide Squad vs. ninjas movie, with a more comic book traditional Ra's al Ghul as the big bad, and adding in Bronze Tiger gives a connection to the League.

We already known that Darkseid and his minions are the big bad in this first phase of DC Universe movies, and it would make sense to have someone tied to that become a member of the Suicide Squad. Duchess was in reality Lashina, a member of Granny Goodness's Female Furies, who was betrayed by another Fury, Bernadeth, and left behind on a mission. She joined the Suicide Squad, claiming amnesia, but secretly spent her time on the Squad looking for a way back to Apokolips, and when it arrived she took it, bringing most of the Squad along with her and costing the lives of more than one member. I like the idea of adding to the cohesive nature of the shared universe in a less forced way then it seems DC has been doing, by naturally working a survivor from what I assume is the Apokoliptian invasion coming in the Justice League films into the roster. It would also be cool to get another physically imposing female figure in movies in general, and her particularly, since it would give the Squad a character who could go toe-to-toe with the Justice League's heavy hitters.

I have a soft spot for Tom Tresser, the spy code named Nemesis, first from his tme on the Suicide Squad, then his appearances in Gail Simone's run on Wonder Woman, and the two really trppy mini-series he starred in that spun out of Final Crisis. Nemesis worked with the Squad not as a convict but because he owed Amanda Waller and Rick Flag for saving his life. Since the Squad is theoretically a covert ops team, having a master of disguise on the roster always made sense to me. It's also interesting to have him on the team because, even though Rick Flag and Bronze Tiger are mostly good guys, they both are men who know how to make hard choices. Nemesis was a softer touch, and had more problems with the ruthless way the Squad was run; he provided a different angle on the Squad missions.

Poison Ivy
While Harley Quinn has become a staple of the Suicide Squad in recent years, her BFF/girlfriend Poison Ivy was a long standing member in the original series. Back when the series was written, Ivy had not been remade into the eco-terrorist/sympathetic villain she is now, but was instead mostly a master manipulator of men; she spent a good part of the run with Count Vertigo held in her thrall. I would expect a Suicide Squad movie to use the current, more well regarded version of Ivy. It would be fun to see the Harley and Ivy dynamic played out in live action and on screen, helping to bring some levity to things.

I went back and forth on this as a choice. One of John Ostrander and Kim Yale's principal achievements on Suicide Squad was taking the mess that was The Killing Joke and crafting Oracle, the Barbara Gordon who I grew up reading. I know that, now that Barbara is back being Batgirl again, many readers sort of want to move completely beyond Oracle since it brings up the somewhat ugly spectre that Killing Joke casts on the character, but I love Oracle. I love the concept that even when the use of her legs are taken away, Barbara Gordon is such a hero that she finds a way to still do good. I love the perseverance and strength of character that this demonstrates for Barbara. And I think it gives an opportunity for all sorts of stories and a different sort of representation, once we see even less of in movies. And there are ways to create Oracle that aren't as ugly as Joker's sadistic attack on her; there are enough differences between the DCEU and the DCU that the filmmakers could come up with a new story that still has the same effect. And after all the teasing of a possible Barbara Gordon in the BvS extended cut, wouldn't it be nice to get a real appearance in the DCEU?

The Supporting Cast
OK, so this takes me beyond the five I said I'd pick, but this is something that was really important in the original Suicide Squad series that has been missing in pretty much all the versions since. Ostrander and Yale built a sizable network of character who operated around the main Squad as support staff, and spent time making them all fully realized characters. I know this would be hard to do in a movie, or even a series of movies, but it would be great to try, or at least to give some nods to them. Characters like Flow Crawley, the daughter of Amanda Waller's cousin who worked in the administration of Belle Reve, and who gave Waller of less cold, more human side. Or Father Craemer, the prison chaplain, who Ostrander would go on to do amazing things with in The Spectre. Doctors Simon LaGrieve and Marnie Herrs could be put to excellent use, who would often try to convince Waller that members of the team weren't ready for these missions to no effect, giving a voice of compassion in a series filled with characters who are not compassionate at all. And finally there was Mitch Sekofsky, the mechanic for the Squad's transports, who was one of the first openly gay characters in DC history. The Marvel franchises have proven that you can build these kind of networks of supporting characters so we can hope that DC can move forward with a wide array of background characters.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Great Batman: Brave and the Bold Rewatch: Hail the Tornado Tyrant!

Season One, Episode Twenty: Hail the Tornado Tyrant!
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Plot Synopsis

Batman, driving the Batmobile,  gives chase to Joker in his Joker Mobile. Green Arrow catches up in his Arrowmobile, and the two heroes usual competetive streak comes out as they both try to catch the arch-criminal and see who has the cooler car. With Joker taken care of, they see Catwoman esacpe Gotham museum in her Catplane, and the two cars transform into planes as they give chase, still bantering.

Episode: Batman arrives at a laboratory, and finds a body under a sheet, only to be surprised by Red Tornado. Removing the sheet, Tornado reveals another robot. Tornado tells Batman he is about to activate the other robot, and Batman takes it to mean he wants to share the moment with a friend. Tornado says he has created an imporved version of himself, and Batman wonders about the creation of life, and what might go wrong. Tornado says he has installed a fail-safe of "my son" goes wrong, and Batman is shocked at the choice of words.

A blast of energy permeates the smaller robot, and Tornado Champion stands up, but does not seem to demonstrate the emotions that Tornado's improvements, the things he does not have, should have bestowed on him. Tornado wants to work together and fight crime to see if that might stir Champion, and finds that the villain Major Disaster is nearby.

Major Disaster is threatening the city with a hurricane as the heroes arrive. As they fight near a rollercoaster, Champion is able to direct Disaster's lightning back at him so batman can punch him out. But as the heroes are distracted after the fight, the still not entirely unconscious Disaster is able to blast Champion. Tornado holds his son, who seems fatally damaged, but a flash of light explodes from his face, and suddenly the previously emotionless Champion, smiles and calls Tornado, "Father!"

Back at the lab, Tornado analyzes Champion, and the younger robot is excited and filled with emotions. Batman looks on, seemingly doubtful. The two robots travel the world, stopping disasters and criminals talking about life and the meaning of it and emotions, all while Batman watches from the distance. Champion seems impatient and a little doubtful about some of Tornado's philosophical answers.

At a fire, Champion saves two children, but they are afraid of him and the crowd turns on him, calling him a robot, though Champion views himself as a person. He and Tornado fly off, and they talk about emotions, and Champion's not understanding why he is not accepted. When Tornado tells Champion he will be accepted someday, he scoffs and flies off, leaving Tornado alone. Batman approaches him, and Tornado reveals he knows Batman has been watching him, but remains sure that Champion is doing fine. Tornado detects Major Disaster attempting to escape jail, and the heroes head off to stop him.

Batman and Tornado confront Disaster in the prison yard, and while Disaster has the upper hand, Champion's arrival turns the tide. But this time it' Tornado who is wounded, and Champion turns on Disaster seeking revenge, beating Disaster with whirlwinds. Batman stops Champion from delivering a deathblow, and the two argue about the morality of revenge, before he strike Batman. Tornado steps in the way, and tells Champion to stop, but Champion says humans are evil and a disease. Batman is able to strike Champion with a Batarang, shutting him down.

Batman and Tornado are back in the lab, Tornado wanting to save his son, Batman telling him that Champion is too dangerous and must be shut off using the fail-safe. Despite Champion's pleas, Tornado decides the fail-safe is the logical solution, and Champion shuts down. The two heroes walk away from the still robot, only for his eyes to glow green as they exit, revealing he removed the fail-safe. He uses Tornado's equipment to upgrade himself, redesigning himself into the more sinister Tornado Tyrant.

On the beach at Coast City, where the boardwalk Major Disaster initially attacked rests, a tidal wave blasts ashore, devastating the area. Two survivors see Tyrant, who follows his handiwork, and says he plans to wipe humanity from the globe. Batman and Tornado head toward Tyrant, preparing to do what must be done to stop him. They confront Tyrant with a device Tornado is sure will scramble Tyrant's programming, but Tyrant puts up a considerable fight, knocking Batman and the scrambler away.

Tornado and his son face each other is a duel of the winds, but Tyrant proves stronger. Tornado begs his son to stop, saying humans deserve better, but Tyrant will hear none of it, and savagely attacks Tornado, crushing him between two cars. Tornado again tries to reason with Tyrant, telling him of humanity's good side, their quest to connect and love, but Tyrant is unmoved.

As Tyrant is about to destroy his father, Batman is able to snag Tyrant with a grapnel, pull himself up to the robot, and plant the scrambler in Tyrant's head. Tornado uses the opportunity to charge Tyrant, plants his hands inside the other robot, and use his wind powers to destroy the rogue robot, although he averts his eyes, unable to see what he's doing to his son. Tornado collapses to his knees as Batman walks up to him.

One final time at the lab, Tornado mourns his attempts to create a son, saying he should never have done it and he does not understand human emotion. Batman assures him, having heard what Tornado said about human life and love, that Tornado may have found his own humanity. Tornado says that he just parroted what he has seen and read, and has no insight into it, and uses his machines to destroy what is left of Tyrant's parts. He assures Batman he is ok, and as he stands alone, a single tear falls from his eye. Tornado observes it and says he must run a diagnostic, not knowing that it is a most human act.

Who's Who

Red Tornado (Voiced by Corey Burton)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Justice League of America #64 (August, 1968)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

Major Disaster (Voiced by James Arnold Taylor)
First Comic Book Appearance: Green Lantern #43 (March, 1966)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty: Hail the Tornado Tyrant!

Paul Booker has an origin that is similar to those of a lot of Silver Age villains. He was a petty crook who got his hands on advanced technology and decided to use it to become a super criminal. Starting out as a Green Lantern foe (Part of his origin story had him discovering Hal Jordan's secret identity), he would go on to fight Superman, John Stewart, and the Outsiders before becoming a member of the comical Injustice League during the Giffen/DeMatteis era, which reformed and became the Justice League Antarctica. After briefly returning to villainy (and getting his powers made a part of him by the demon Neron), Booker reformed thanks to the faith of Superman, he was recruited by Batman as a member of the substitute Justice League when the main team went missing. When the Justice League returned, he became a member of the Justice League Elite, a covert ops League. He would eventually be killed during the Infinite Crisis crossover, and has yet to appear in DC's new timeline. Major Disaster's power allowed him to create natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. After his deal with Neron, his power became one that effected causality, making bad fortune happen to people from still large events to smaller ones like tripping and falling.

The Joker (Voiced by Jeff Bennett)
First Comic Book Appearance: Batman #1 (April 1940)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Thirteen- Game Over for Owlman!

Green Arrow (Voiced by James Arnold Taylor)
First Comic Book Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

Comic book writer J.M. DeMatteis returns for his third episode as writer. It's cool that DeMatteis focuses on a different hero in each of these episodes, as opposed to tracking one hero. His first episode was a Green Arrow one, followed by a Green Lantern one, and now Red Tornado in his third.

The origins of Red Tornado from before the DC Comics defining event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, is as complex and knotty as those of Hawkman after the Crisis, but suffice it to say, he used both the identities of Tornado Champion and Tornado Tyrant at different points in his existence. I do my best to sum up this kind of thing here, but it's all so messy that I just have to refer you to Wikipedia to try to read it all. It's... really something.

Tornado Champion's initial design, with the purple cape and briefs, is actually one of Red Tornado's earlier designs before creators settled on his current, more well known, one.

Carl Lumbly, who voices Tornado Champion/Tyrant, is best known in DC Animation circles as the voice of J'onn J'onzz,the Martian Manhunter, on Justice League & Justice League Unlimited.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 7/27

Adventure Time Comics #1
Story & Art: Various

Boom! launches a new Adventure Time series this week, and it's totally mathematical! Featuring some of comics best cartoonists, this first issue features some of my personal favorites as well. This issue has four short stories, which vary from very light in both subject and continuity, to some deep dives into more obscure Adventure Time characters.

"Toothpaste Fairy" by Art Baltazar- Art Baltazar, co-creator of Tiny Titans and Patrick the Wolf Boy, brings us a story of Finn going on a quest for toothpaste! You have to imagine in the post-apocalyptic future of the Land of Ooo, toothpaste isn't exactly easy to come by, but fortunately there's a Toothpaste Fairy! It's a light, fluffy story (an apt description when you see all the clouds) and perfect if you've enjoyed Art's Tiny Titans stories.

"Stand Next to Me" by Katie Cook- Katie Cook, of Gronk fame, tells a story featuring some of Ooo's lesser known princesses. Breakfast Princess is the main character of the story, and I am reminded how awful she is; she's the Mean Girl of the princess set. She leads Pastry Princess and a cupcake person into the woods to retrieve a skeleton that is near Lump Space Princess's campsite because being near LSP is a fate "worse than death." The story shows that LSP, for all her usual craziness and narcissism, does have a good heart, and puts Breakfast Princess sort of in her place. I love Cook's art (I have a tiny commission of her's framed on my mantle), and I love her takes on the princesses and Ooo in general.

"Goliad Gets a Break" by Tony Millionaire- Taking one of Adventure Time's odder characters, the powerful psychic candy beast Goliad out for a romp is none other than Tony Millionaire, whose Sock Monkey and Maakies bear a similarity to the odder and darker corners of the Adventure Time mythos. Millionaire clearly knows his Adventure Time, cramming in cameos by such minor characters as Choose Goose, Ricardio, and the Orgalorg. Millionaire's style is no less cartoony than the rest, but has more of an edge, which fits the darker nature of the story, although it is still lighter than many of the recent episodes of the animated series.

"Good Shelf" by Kate Leyh- Kate Leyh has done some Adventure Time shorts before, and is a co-writer on Lumberjanes, so she knows how to write friendship, so it's nice to have her round out this inaugural issue with a tale of Finn and Jake, with Finn building things out of wood he found. Being this is Ooo, though, boards you just happen to find aren't usually just boards, and Finn's good nature and naivete lead to a bit of an issue. It's a fun short story, and like the best really short stories (only three pages), it has plenty packed into it without seeming cramped or rushed.

Batgirl #1
Story: Hope Larson
Art: Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig

Batgirl enters the "Rebirth" era with a solid new status quo and a fun opening issue. After the trauma of the end of the previous volume of her series, Barbara Gordon is taking a trip "Beyond Burnside" (the title of the arc) to do some soul searching. Starting her travels in Japan, Babs is there to investigate the story of one of the world's first superheroines, the Fruit Bat, who fought crime in 1939 Japan, and who is now a one hundred and four year old woman. But Barbara starts off at a hostel where her roommate is a guy named Kai, who coincidentally was a friend of hers when the Gordons lived in Chicago. Barbara seems to take this at face value initially. Hope Larson gets Barbara right from the get go; Babs can't stop calling her friend Frankie back in Burnside to check in on things, even thought she's been gone for less than a day. Babs is fascinated with the history of superheroes. Babs is a good friend. Larson absolutely gets all the aspects of Babs as a character. But Larson doesn't hold back on the action, which is part of what makes this a great first issue. She finds a nice balance between establishing Barbara's new situation with a great action scene as sailor suited clown make-up wearing girl attacks Kai; Babs immediately knows that Kai, who was a kid with a past, is not saying everything about his innocent trip to tour Asia. And the mysteries of the series are deepened when we see that, despite being a centenarian, the Fruit Bat still has some moves, and sets Babs on the next leg of her journey. And I'm glad Rafael Albuquerque is the guy drawing it, because it looks amazing. It's been so long since he regularly did superhero work, except for a short run on Animal Man, that I forgot how great a superhero artist he is; I think of him as a horror artist thanks to American Vampire, forgetting how much I adored his Blue Beetle run. His style has so much energy, so much flare, that Batgirl practically jumps off the page. There's a bit with a thrown knife that flashes from panel to panel on a grid and another of Barbara thinking of how to take down the clown girl with a thrown ball that are absolutely stunning. If this first issue is any indication, the new volume of Batgirl picks up from the last one and maintains the air of fun and adventure while setting its own direction.

Detective Comics #937
Story: James Tynion IV
Art: Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, & Brad Anderson

When will I stop reviewing the Rebirth Detective Comics? When it stops being the best Bat book on the shelves and a love letter to Batman fans! Each issue, writer James Tynion IV packs in more references to classic Batman stories and continuity while still making a series completely accessible to new fans and fans of the characters on Batman's team who might not be mired in years of Batman minutiae. While last issue focused entirely on the team, this issue starts off with and focuses mostly on Batman himself. Imprisoned by the Colony, the military organization using Batman's tactics, we watch as Batman breaks his way out of their imprisonment and gets an idea of what the military is doing using his name. We see the base, the toys, and the man designing it all: Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, better known as The General. A creation of Chuck Dixon, the general was a villain who moved on to be one of Tim Drake's arch-foes, a teenager with a brilliant military mind, and Tynion has him working for the military, designing Batman type weapons for the Colony. It's a great turn, and a great use of a character I love. There's one panel in particular, as Batman watches a video of the Colony do a wetwork mission, where The General offers to see a more gory video in delight, and Batman's one panel, shadowed, "No." radiates rage at the perversion of what he does. As things continue, we get the confrontation between Batman and his uncle, Jake Kane, the man behind the Colony, and again we see why they call Batman the world's greatest detective, as we learn how much Batman already knew before even recruiting his team. Speaking of the team, they have their own pages here, as we get to see the strengths of two of their members: Batwoman's indomitable will as she prepares to stand up to her father, and Red Robin's brain. As a life-long Tim Drake fan (his life, I suppose, as I was nine when he was created, but still he and I go way back), it's cool to see what Tim has been up to and designed in Gotham's underground, and how it also features another nod to one of Chuck Dixon's creations, the Bat-Rocket, the subway vehicle Azrael-Batman drove around. There's another bit of Batman continuity that gets a call out, but it's a mystery for now, a nod to other media Batman and to things to come that I don't want to discuss yet as it would be a spoiler of sorts, but I like that Tynion is building a whole long form narrative; I can't wait to see how it pays off. Seriously, if you're a fan of Batman in general and you're not trying out Detective, do yourself a favor and pick up the series now, because you're in for a treat.