Here’s what I read during the week of November 28. Includes ALL STAR WESTERN #14, THE FLASH #14, BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #10, and ADVENTURE TIME #10.
The extended cameo from Robert Louis Stevenson’s eminent literary work continues in ALL STAR WESTERN #14. In an example of retroactive history, we learn that The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was not a mere work of fiction in the DC universe, but rather based (loosely) on real events. Namely a real Doctor and his formula that makes him into a villainous monster, and their run-in with our old anti-hero Jonah Hex (et al). So naturally the issue starts with a closeup of Hyde’s scowling face.
I pity those coming into this series at this point and having their first glimpse of the story be this guy. I pity such new fans for many series, but for vastly different reasons.
In between Hyde being menacing and eying Jekyll’s hired help – in more ways that one – Hex and Tallulah Black finally meet up with Yanmei Tsen, the Barbary Ghost. Remember her? She starred in one of the earlier side stories, currently questing through the seedy Gotham underworld for her mother, who was sold into what basically amounts to sex slavery. What would cause such unrelated characters to team up?
A mob of drug-addled, Jekyll-potion-poisoned Chinatown residents. Also Hex takes time out of his busy schedule to call Amadeus Arkham a pansy for wearing a sleeping “gown”. “A gown’s a dress, Doc. Ya sleep in women’s clothes.”
Returning to the backup story angle, this issue continues the adventure between Tomahawk, classic American Indian western comic character, and the treacherous forces of Washington’s army. Tomahawk’s family was just slaughtered by the Yankees, and the commander of the Indian Confederation calls upon his old British allies for covert help. All does not go as planned.
What I like about this story is the way Tomahawk and the British Colonel interact with each other. There’s the definite sense these two have known and worked alongside each other for many years. Makes the story turn that ushers in the beginning to the last chapter all the more tragic.
Moving forward, THE FLASH #14 depicts the showdown between the Fastest Man Alive and a speed force enhanced Gorilla Grodd. The Flash does poorly in the face of a foe who appears immune to all rapid offense. All as Central City is in the midst of Grodd’s gorilla invasion. The Rogues continue their battle against the simian forces, noting that a number of humans have been captured. Their purpose: help power a psychic shield that makes the rest of the world think Central City is a nuclear crater.
Meanwhile, the sometimes villain, sometimes hero Turbine aids Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s love interest, in finding the last protagonist. But such will only be given in return for finding the one being who knows what’s going on in this superspeed mess: Solovar, classic Flash character who is only being formally introduced in this issue.
Which becomes kind of a moot point later on, but I digress.
As one can probably gather, the plot in THE FLASH grew rather complex in the last several issues. Not that there’s anything wrong with complexity. Just feels like I’m reading Homestuck again, if that webcomic were somehow condensed and broken into individual issues. Then again, I love Homestuck, so take from this what you will.
BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #10, as always, is a towering testament to juggling storylines – in the process putting All Star Western to shame on a focused day – with three plots: one that’s coming to a close, one that seems just about to end, and the beginning of a new story.
First is the future!Justice League story, and the end of the ten issue epic that is “Konstriction”. A ten issue storyline that somehow has twelve parts. This has been bugging me for a while, but since it’s concluding the problem is moot. Batman, faced with a monster not even the New Gods could visibly damage, decides to use the magical option Old Man Wayne presented as a last resort. That resort? Making Terry trade places with Etrigan so he can kill the serpent.
As a fan of Demon Knights, I can only smile. If I were more pedantic than I already am, I’d call this a cop-out Deus Ex Machina. But the option was set up beforehand, and Etrigan does have a long history in the DC Animated Universe. And he’s amazing as always, so who cares?
Also Mr Miracle survived being swallowed. This is in no way a spoiler, because the guy is the master escape artist. It was never in doubt he’d find a way to get out, regardless of how little chance he had of survival in the belly of a space snake on account of lack of oxygen alone.
Is it possible for me to do a retrospective on one storyline in a series? Especially one I continue to read? Konstriction felt long enough to warrant a massive retrospective, even though it probably only comes down to five, six issues at best.
“10,000 Clowns” comes around, Batman and his various quasi-allies join forces to mop up what remains of the Joker suicide bombers (Jokerz bombers?), and we finally learn the motive behind all this madness. The reason why the Joker King, brother of Terry’s girlfriend Dana, enacted all this death and destruction.
Nihilism. Grade A nihilism. That’s about it. Not a bad motive all things considered. Just wish we’d spent more time in the last few issues establishing such an attitude first. What confuses me more about the Joker King is his costume choice. Pick a color scheme and stick to it, dude! At least the original Joker had the decency to restrict his wardrobe to mostly green and purple. He also didn’t paint a huge “LOL” on his chest, but I’m certain that was kind of the point.
Here’s a thought, would kids in the future even know what LOL is? I’d think they’d evolve more esoteric, abstract net lingo. Or use Nadsat a lot.
The third part of this issue is Superman’s show, where he begins his new life as a firefighter. And of course having a civilian identity as a firefighter inhibits his ability just put the fires out with his freeze breath. Why did Superman need a new secret identity again?
Anyway, as usual there’s the standard question of how much Superman should be doing to help Metropolis. Should he be doing so much as to put regular people in the emergency response field out of work? No wait, they’d be government employees so nothing would change except them getting a lighter work load.
Also something about aliens discovering Superman lives on Earth, with an apparent ax to grind with him. Like you do.
So am I going to keep reading, this far in? Obviously, since the comic has the out of sync plotlines going for it so I never have a good place to jump off. Plus, nothing beats Bruce Wayne in terms of gall, even as he’s medicated, ancient, and dying of liver failure. Believe it.
The final book for this pull is ADVENTURE TIME #10 (though not the last we’ll talk about this week, trust me). It’s not just any Adventure Time though. It’s CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE TIME! Number ten.
It is basically exactly what you think it is, assuming you know what a Choose Your Own Adventure is. For those unfamiliar with the sub-genre of literature, a CYOA is a story that starts off like normal – though often from the Second Person Perspective – until it reaches a point where the reader decides what the main character does from a list of possible options. They are directed to a page somewhere in the book, and continue from there. The story will usually turn out radically different depending on the choices made.
This issue basically takes that premise and does it in comic form. The initial premise is that Finn and Jake have come under a curse by the Ice Kind, the effect being that their free will is now subservient to the will of another – in this case, the reader. What follows is one of the mist interesting and convoluted experiences I’ve had in comics. It’s a web of comic panels strung together by arrows of decision, up to the reader to make it through.
Never have I seen any comic do this sort of thing outside of a flow chart, and I doubt any other comic but Adventure Time could have pulled it off. Not that it pulls it off all that well, since the format necessitates (or resulted in due to complexity) very stilted dialogue. Nothing on the level of anything from the Gold or Silver Age of Comics, but not exactly natural at times. It’s evident the creative team had their hands full wrangling the premise in, so it’s amazing we got as good as we did.
I don’t recommend this issue as a jumping on point, on account of it being so unlike the rest of the series or indeed like any comic you’ve ever seen. But if you were/are a fan of Choose Your Own Adventure stories, this is a wonderful blast of nostalgia. Finn and Jake’s in-comic counterpart Adventure Tim even shows back up. It’s nice to see a comic adaptation adhere to its own internal continuity at least.
There’s a backup story (because we hadn’t had enough of those this week) with Ice King having an estate sale, and it has a colored pencil drawing style, like it was drawn by some kid on sheets of lined notebook paper. And it’s kind of weird. Seriously, what was with the “Orphan Ice Prince Timothy” business at the end? Ice King also spends the entire story saying lines that blatantly violate established universe continuity. Although he has been known to poorly recall his past, so that could all just be orbital wobble.
Does anyone remember Choose Your Own Adventure? Does anyone remember the Barbary Ghost? Is the Flash’s plot getting too convoluted for your tastes? And what’s your opinion on nihilism as a villain motivation? Got any other questions or concerns? Leave a comment below, it really helps.
Next time we meet, it’s my First Impressions of the My Little Pony: Friendship is magic comic. No kidding.