Good Superhero Comics: Week of June 20

For turn-off-the-higher-brain-function action, The Brave and the Bold best fits the bill. The series seems to be plotted by lottery — and that’s not a crack on writer Mark Waid. It’s just that the teamup pairings are so loopy that they have that kind of random, anything-can-happen feel that characterizes the best superhero stories.

Brave and the Bold #4 cover

Issue #4 revolves around Supergirl and Lobo. He calls her a dumb blonde, she’s disgusted by his me-first drunken quest for money above all. Normally, I find Lobo a poor joke that’s been overplayed, but here, he’s in character and still funny. Mostly because he’s treated just like a redneck, complete with surprising bit of reassurance.

For me, the enjoyment is aided by the presence of old-fashioned Legion of Super-Heroes villains the Fatal Five. Batman has been merged with Tharok, the half-robot guy, leading to some impressive (and impressively detailed, of course) visuals by George Pérez. The images back up a significant reminder of what makes Batman an icon: his willpower.

There’s a lot of technobabble and exposition (at least two scenes’ worth) that I just skip over these days, because I won’t remember it anyway, and something of a convenient plot device scene change. I do hope all this running around the universe and superhero swap guest stars adds up to something eventually… nah, scratch that, it doesn’t matter so long as they can keep the plates in the air and spinning. Professional synergy, a wonder to behold. Next issue: the Legion! Woo hoo!

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #3 cover

Speaking of that team, The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #3 (ridiculous title, that) is already resorting to tryouts and the Substitutes. It’s only issue #3! You really needed to reintroduce all of these oddball characters already? I mean, I love the Subs, but it strikes me as simultaneously overkill and desperation to bring them in so soon.

Scott Beatty writes, Sanford Greene pencils, and Nathan Massengill inks. The art team keeps the characters on-model (a shame, in my opinion, since I’m not a fan of the creepy looks, especially on the girls). This is something of an achievement, since the story’s about power swapping, and the introductory headshots mix up the team’s features (Lightning Lad has Bouncing Boy’s size, Superman has Saturn Girl’s insectoid eyebrows, and so on).

Sadly, the text isn’t as good. There’s a page where, to introduce everyone’s abilities to the reader, the writer has the team brag about how cool their powers are while putting down the losers who didn’t make their cut. It’s unpleasant to read. I kept going because this issue introduces Infectious Lass, one of my favorites. I always liked that she had such a creative power, one with much more possibilities than many people saw, and it wasn’t a traditional “girls stand back and don’t get their hands dirty” ability like telepathy.

In response to a challenge from Superboy (yeah, yeah, they can’t call him that), she whips up a power-switching virus (I know, goofy plot device, but that’s the problem with trying to figure out disease in the far future), and just as the symptoms take effect, bad guys show up. Conveniently, since all humans look alike to them, having each other’s abilities allow the team to save the day. After adventuring with them, she decides to be a Sub until she can (cue the cliché) “better wield [her] abilities”. I’ll miss her.

The Highwaymen #1 cover

Also out this week, DC sent a copy of The Highwaymen #1. It’s a good caper film, political/spy/action thriller that involves two old guys, one white, one black, coming out of retirement to prevent some conspiracy. It’s written in a snappy fashion by magazine journalist Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, with art by Lee Garbett doing a detailed Frank Quitely impression.

The whole time reading it, though, I kept thinking “why bother?” It’s a miniseries. If it continues to be good, there will be a collection. If I wait for the book, and unforeseen circumstances cause delays, I won’t be losing track of the story trying to remember the issues. (That’s a likely occurrence with me even if it comes out monthly.) If the ending tanks, then I won’t have wasted my money. The only thing I gain with serialization is getting part of the story more promptly … but I don’t get around to my comics in a timely fashion anyway. (Witness this column a week late.)

I probably wouldn’t follow it anyway unless more women got significant roles. The operative presenting her butt on the cover (and doing rhythmic gymnastics with what should be a supporting rope) gets blown away rather graphically. Yay for the woman president, but I’d like to see another female main character, please. I’m not saying that writers have to meet a certain quota or that’s there anything wrong with their choices, just that there are so many comics out there that I use this as one of my selection criteria. I choose to read those that include major female characters.

7 Responses to “Good Superhero Comics: Week of June 20”

  1. Able Monroe Says:

    Wait until the next issue…and the one after that…and the one after that. The Highwaymen #2 thru #5 feature a kick ass female lead who more than holds her own.

  2. Steve Flanagan Says:

    On the “creepy looks” of the animated LSH: it’s Lightning Lad’s Heidelberg duelling scar that unnerves me.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Able, glad to hear it!

    Steve, hee hee, good point.

  4. Rob S. Says:

    I picked up Highwaymen on a whim (bolstered by some extra curiosity by your post on the issue’s strange returnability), and loved it. Having dropped Countdown that same week, it’s eveything I wanted in a replacement: clearly delineated characters in an action-packed story that really moves. A much better use of my $2.99 than the zombie-like buying of a crossover I wasn’t enjoying anywhere near as much as I wanted to.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, that’s right! Here’s the post you refer to. I’d forgotten that that was the series they were trying to double numbers on. And good for you for replacing comics you don’t enjoy with comics you do!

  6. Blockade Boy Says:

    “…the writer has the team brag about how cool their powers are while putting down the losers who didn’t make their cut.”

    Haw! That actually sounds exactly like the Legion to me! (And I might have to pick up this comic now, if only to see a Bouncing Boy-sized Lightning Lad.)

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