B.P.R.D.: 1946 #2
W: Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart
A: Paul Azaceta
This is only the second issue of Mignola and Dysart’s story of Professor Bruttenholm’s adventures in post-War Germany, and they’ve already revealed a number of secrets (which, of course, can only mean that they have a few doozies planned for the remaining issues of this mini-series). The less startling of these revelations involves Hitler’s secret plan to build an army of vampires. The Fuhrer’s project–Vampir Sturm–involved a meeting with the vampire Count Vladimir Giurescu. Once Hitler realized that an army of vampires would be dangerously uncontrollable, he had Giurescu and his six wives destroyed, but not before he drained all of the blood out of the Count’s sixth wife. That blood is then used to experiment on German citizens, turning them into vampires. Vampires are tricky. Well, maybe not…but creating a vampire that I like can be tricky. I don’t go in for that whole nancy-boy, fancy-pants vampire bullshit. I like my vamps to be creepy, slimy, and predatory. And, that’s the kind of vampire that Mignola’s given us.
The second revelation is slightly more exciting, and it involves the creepy little girl who’s in charge of the Soviet’s paranormal unit (from here on, referred to by name: Varvara). Varvara’s story begins during the reign of Russia’s Tsar Peter. Peter was in a bit of a spot. His empire needed a seaport and he was more than happy to take one from Sweden; unfortunately, the Tsar also has to deal with the Cossacks in his own country. Tsar Peter turns to black magic, eventually summoning three demons using an ancient Mongolian text. I know I’ve seen these three demons before in the Mignola canon (big, hulking guys with animal heads and tiny bat-wings), but can’t remember where (possibly in Darkness Calls). The three demons help the Tsar attain all that he wanted, but they exact a price: one takes Peter’s heart, making him a ruthless tyrant; the second takes the lives of all of the Tsar’s future sons; the third was supposed to take the Tsar’s soul, but decided to stay around and revel in the carnage around it. That third demon is currently masquerading as Varvara.
Once again, Mignola (ably assisted by Dysart) hits one out of the park. It’s nice to know that, even though Professor Bruttenholm dies in the very first Hellboy series, there’s always a chance that he may show up in a mini-series set in the past. Also, the Mignolaverse is so detailed that all of the bits and pieces (from Nazi occultism to Lovecraftian cosmology) blend together seamlessly.
Booster Gold #0
W: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz
A: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
When a comic publishes a #0 issue, it’s a special event that isn’t part of the book’s regular numbered run. These issues also tend to tell a story that takes place before the book’s first issue, sometimes expanding on a team or character’s origins. Although this doesn’t exactly illuminate on Booster Gold’s origin–although, there is a little glimpse of Booster before he became a disgraced football star–I think it serves as an origin for “The Blue and the Gold”: the new time-traveling team of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. Oh, and there’s the cameo by Parallax and Extant, which ties into DC’s old “Zero Hour” event.
I’ve enjoyed this series from the first issue, but I have to be honest, this issue really had my head spinning with all of the time-traveling, Back to the Future-y mumbo-jumbo. I can usually follow a time-travel story–I’ve seen Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure–but something about this issue threw me off.
There were highlights, though. First of all, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are positively adorable. A lot of comic book characters call one another “best friend”, but Ted and Booster actually make me believe it. You get the feeling that they really would die for each other (or, in Booster’s case, prevent the other from dying). If Blue Beetle and Booster Gold really become a top-secret team of time cops, it might very well be the funniest team-up ever. Unfortunately, the Future Blue Beetle still gives me a major case of the wiggins. I don’t trust him. There were also some really heartfelt moments between Ted Kord, Dan Garrett (the previous Beetle), and Jamie Reyes (the current Beetle).
Countdown to Final Crisis 11
W: Paul Dini, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
A: Mike Norton
This weekly series has had its ups and downs, but as the final act seems to be gearing up, Countdown gives us one pretty damned good issue. With Ray Palmer safely under the watchful eyes of Jason Todd, Kyle Rayner and Donna Troy, we seem to have completely abandoned the Multiverse and returned to the universe of New Earth. All of Countdown‘s various story-lines are coming together as the cast of characters all find themselves on Apokolips. Brother Eye and his O.M.A.C.s are assimilating Darkseid’s planet, which could be tied into both the “Great Disaster” and the “Death of the New Gods.”
We get a pretty kick-ass scene of Jason Todd swinging over Apokolips in a manner that would make Neal Adams weep (kudos to Mike Norton, for that) after he gets fed up with Ray’s whining and Kyle’s “flexing for Donna” and bails on the other Challengers. Jason’s been an obnoxious punk, but meeting Batman-51 and getting the Red Robin costume has lit a fire in the former Robin.
But, for me, the best part of this issue dealt with Harley, Holly and Mary. After following Granny Goodness through a Boom Tube, our girls get into an all-out slugfest with the Female Furies. While Harley and Holly do some fancy hand-to-hand acrobatics, poor powerless Mary can do nothing but bite the nose right off of Mad Harriet’s face. Our plucky little Mary Batson can also hear the voices of the gods on Apokolips.
Will Mary follow the voices of the gods and prove herself worthy of being reconnected to the power of Shazam? Who’s the mysterious figure who interrupted Pied Piper’s attempted suicide? Where did Jimmy Olsen get those abs of steel?
W: Simon Oliver
A: Carlo Barberi
While Caitlin Fairchild is strapped into a memory-helmet and forced to relive her less-than-perfect childhood, the other members of Gen13 are unwilling approaching the final act of “15 Minutes”, also known as death. The Powers That Be at IO correctly theorized that the kids of Gen13 are unstoppable when they are together, that the only way to conquer them is to divide them. I won’t lie, if this was supposed to be a giant plot-twist, it failed. I’ve had a feeling that was where this arc was going since the beginning. That being said, the ride’s been fun.
And now a word about Barberi’s art. The very nature of who Caitlin Fairchild is, as a character, means that she must be drawn in a certain way. Her powers turned her into a woman of Amazonian proportions, literally. That means that she must be depicted with certain attributes, but she’s still a young woman, barely out of high school. Although Barberi’s Caitlin retains her more statuesque qualities, you can still see her youth in her face. Of course, a bit of credit goes to whoever decided to let the poor girl wear pants.
Gotham Underground #5 (of 9)
W: Frank Tieri
A: J. Calafiore
Before I talk about the story in this issue, I need to discuss what Calafiore has done with the art. I don’t like clever. In my opinion, most people think they can substitute clever for talented. There’s nothing wrong with telling a straight-forward story, as long as it’s a kick-ass straight-forward story. But, Calafiore’s proved that he’s both talented and clever. The panels of this issue are presented as interlocking puzzle pieces, not as the regular boxes we see in most comics. Moreover, key information (such as the face of the young girl who Penguin gives the Spoiler costume and equipment to) is obscured by a “missing puzzle piece.” To make a long story short, Calafiore’s art in this issue blew me a way.
Now, on to the story. Shows like Heroes and Lost have shown us that it’s sometimes better to reveal what’s come before in flashback, rather than having a bunch of people standing around and singing the “Exposition Song.” In this issue of Gotham Underground, we see how Johnny Stitches gets his name when he betrays Tobias Whale and is rescued by Bruno Mannheim and brought to Apokolips, where he’s stitched back together by Desaad.
The flashback also reveals that Penguin is working with Checkmate and the Suicide Squad, helping them round up Gotham’s super-villains. Why? He’s been on the lowest rung of Gotham’s criminal ladder for years. With maniacs like Two-Face, Joker, and Killer Croc running around, Cobblepot’s little more than a punchline. In return for his help, Checkmate gives Penguin a crate full of confiscated super-villain paraphernalia to hand out to Gotham’s thugs, crooks, and junkies–an army that will help Penguin fill the vacuum left by the departed Rogues.
Green Lantern Corps #21
W: Sterling Gates
Supposedly this new arc of Green Lantern Corps is going to explore the new Alpha Lanterns in greater detail. That’s something I want. I want to learn more about the creepy new cyborg Lanterns. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it’s being executed in the best way possible.
This issue tells the story of Boodikka, one of the Lost Lanterns who fell in battle against Parallax, and was chosen by the Guardians to become an Alpha Lantern. She turned her back on her family when she was first picked to be a Green Lantern and, now as an Alpha Lantern she’s been sent to investigate her sister, Zale, who’s also been chosen as a member of the Corps. As much as I want to know more about the Alpha Lanterns, I don’t give a damn about Boodikka. I know nothing about her. What happens to her has absolutely no emotional impact on me. When Hal Jordan became Parallax, it meant something. People knew who Hal was, they knew what kind of person he was. Same thing with Kyle Rayner. A hero falling only has weight when you care about that hero. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Boodikka to care, and this hokey sister vs. sister angle probably isn’t going to change that.
Nelson’s art doesn’t really add much to the story, either. I’m not sure if he was rushed or overwhelmed by the task of drawing vast alien landscapes and countless alien species, but in my humble opinion, the art in this issue felt static and, in places, unfinished.
Quote of the Week:
“I look ridiculous with a mustache. In fact, everyone looks ridiculous with a mustache.”–Ted Kord, when Booster Gold suggests he grows a mustache to avoid being identified, in Booster Gold #0.