Monday, July 20, 2009

Comix Reviews for the Month, pt. 1

The Brave and the Bold #24 and 25
DC Comics, 2009
SPOILERS CONTAINED
DC Comics’ The Brave and the Bold is an anthology series featuring team-ups with various characters from the publisher’s fantasy universe. #24 allows Static and Black Lightning to meet and team-up for the first time. Teen hero Virgil Hawkins (Static) is resentful that the reputedly corrupt Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) is the keynote speaker at his high school’s latest commencement (Virgil is still an underclassman). Flame-throwing villain Holocaust shows up to kill Pierce on the assumption that he took a bribe without proper ‘kickback’ (he didn’t, but many villains aren’t known for their deep insight). Since Pierce’s identity as Black Lightning is publicly known, the fracas starts right away—after young Virgil changes into his costume (his identity is secret), Static joins the fray and the pair join their electricity-driven powers.
#25 gives the spotlight to two technology-heavy superheroes: Hardware and Blue Beetle. Both Hardware and Blue Beetle wear high-tech suits of armor which assist them in fighting crime. Their story involves Hardware tracking down shipments of armored battle-suits being sold to gangsters and terrorists. Since the action starts off near the teenaged Blue Beetle’s hometown, he joins the fight, to the sardonic Hardware’s chagrin. The two get off to a rocky start, but start to get used to each other when the Beetle helps Hardware recover from being short-circuited (with literally shocking results).
These issues give welcome attention to ethnic minority heroes: Static, Black Lightning and Hardware are African-American; the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, is Latino. Indie publisher Milestone Media recently entered an agreement with DC to integrate (no pun intended) their characters (like Hardware) into the DC canon to fight alongside such longstanding crusaders at Batman and Superman. These are a pair of good done-in-one stories, hopefully leading to more appearances from these characters in the near future.
Punisher #7
Marvel Comics
Writer- Rick Remender
Art- Tang Eng Huat (pencils/inks), Lee Loughridge (colors)

SPOILERS CONTAINED

The latest issue of Punisher continues the second story arc from series author Rick Remender, paired with pencils & inks by Tan Eng Huat. The story involves protagonist vigilante Frank Castle—the Punisher—taking on New York City’s legion of super-criminals, who are largely led by Parker Robbins, a.k.a. the Hood. The Hood’s vast supernatural powers have enabled him to resurrect 18 formerly dead super-criminals, who are then charged with killing the Punisher or returning to the grave. The resurrected villains include a baker’s dozen of ‘Z-list’ crooks like Mirage, Turner D. Century and Birdman who were murdered in a long-running Captain America series subplot in the 1980’s. Most of them are portrayed as simpletons with little but bungled bank robberies in common. Female members Letha and Lascivious step up as de facto leaders within the group. However, Basilisk and Death Adder have already defected, kidnapping former federal agent G.W. Bridge and coercing him into helping them track down the Punisher.

The conceit of the series—so far—is that the Punisher has shifted his focus away from purely human gangsters to super-powered scoundrels. Castle’s chief assistant is Henry, who in this issue starts chafing with his boss’ s monomaniacal focus on killing targets. A brief scuffle is abruptly stopped with an ultimatum by Castle, who means to kill more criminals before the day is over. The issue closes with a look at the Human Fly, an insect-powered villain whose mental faculties have clearly been drastically affected by his mutation. After the Fly makes short work of a group of policemen, the Punisher appears in the last panel, offering himself as a substitute for Spider-Man.

Author Remender has a good handle on Frank Castle, pitting him against costumed criminals on a regular basis. The magic-powered Hood has become as legitimate an adversary for the Punisher to overcome as the various Mob bosses that have come and gone since the Punisher’s adventures first became a regular series in the 1980’s. A subplot involving tension between sidekick Henry and Castle seems to be reaching a boiling point; something to keep a look out for in future issues.

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