Sunday, August 23, 2009

Purple Jump Suits to the Rescue!

And...I'm back. You would have had a nice picture of where I was if Pops wasn't such a blog dictator. I had a nice picture of the cruise ship I was on up for last Sunday, but such is life. I actually wasn't on the ship by then. I was recovering from the trip. A funny thing, actually, as we did so little while on the trip, but it was stinkin' hot in the Caribbean. I can see clearly how my ancestors didn't evolve there. Sun rips the skin right off, even with sun block. Good thing there are Underarmor shirts.

Back to the matter at hand. A shallow dive into the Comics Cabinet today. No trips back 10-20 years. Today, it's Mark Waid's 12 issue The Brave and The Bold story line. It's recent, but really good, so what the hell.

In one sense this was a return to The Brave and The Bold from when I was a kid, which featured team ups of DC superheroes, usually Batman and someone else. The first issue of this series sucks you into that idea by featuring Batman and the Green Lantern. (A total aside: Why is GL ripped? His power comes from his ring and his will. As far as I can tell, being a test pilot doesn't involve hundreds of sit-ups a day or bicep curls until your arms are about to fall off. So why is GL sportin' six pack abs like John Basedow?)

Unlike the old The Brave and The Bold, there's no one and done story. Shocking, I know, in this age. Instead, we have a year long story. So, while it's sort of like the old The Brave and The Bold, it's not really. This is a good thing, though. Once the Waid story ended and other writers came in with short stories of an issue or two, the title lacked a lot, and I dropped it.

In the first six issues, which features art by George Perez, Waid presents a time and space spanning story of a battle against The Luck Lords who are trying to use the Book of Destiny to seize control of Earth in the 31st Century by extending the Rann/Thanagar war from the present, where it was likely to end shortly, all the way to the 31st Century. In the end the Luck Lords are defeated and the Legion of Superheroes as we (most recently) know them are back to the world they knew and not the semi-apocalyptic world of the Luck Lords. It's a throw away story, in terms of its long term, or even short term, effects on the DCU, but it's a well written story with a lot of charaters who are used well by Waid.

Before I get into who's featured on the hero side, let's take a look at our villians. Not the various small fry like the Rannian general who steals the Book of Destiny or the Fatal Five who come back to the 21st Century to try to change the future. I mean the Luck Lords. Only in comics or the original Star Trek would you see villians depicted like these guys. Star Trek at least had the excuse of low budgets. What possessed Waid and Perez to depict these guys as a head size eye, with no head, on a painfully fleshless body clad in robes is beyond me. What evolutionary process could possibly lead to a species whose entire head is simply an eye? A single eye with no bones or any other tissues, not even an eyelid, to protect it. It's like they saw the unblinking eye of Sauron in Lord of the Rings and thought it would be a good idea to just get rid of the flames and stick it on an anerexic body. For me, their appearance was a distraction from the threat they presented. These guys are supposed to be smart enough to think through a centuries, even millenia, long plan, but where would their brains be? They're all eye! Just too goofy for me.
Good thing they don't actually appear all that often in the story. Waid focuses on the heroes trying to out maneuver people who have a book that tells them what's going to happen before it happens. Makes it hard to sneak up, let alone wage a frontal attack. Our heroes are the aforementioned Batman and Green Lantern, Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Lobo (after a fashion), and The Legion of Superheroes through the first six issues. The key to defeating the Luck Lords turns out to be to bring in The Challengers of the Unknown, four otherwise normal adrenaline junkies who cheated death and, as a result, don't show up in the Book of Destiny. At the end of that arc, they have possession of The Book of Destiny to search for Megistus, a name that keeps popping up in random attacks in history.

Megistus is an alchemist of indeterminate but centuries long age. With his red hair and beard, as well as his helmet, he looks kind of like Alex Luthor of the old alternate Earth where Luthor was the only good guy and all the JLA reflections were bad guys. Probably intentional in some way, since Ultraman, the evil opposite of Superman from that world, makes an appearance in issues 11 & 12 (where Jerry Ordway takes over the art work from Perez). Unlike the Luck Lords, Megistus isn't trying to rule the world. He's a pure scientist, or in his case, an alchemist. He's trying to bring some red space cloud to earth that will alter all living things in some unknown but unpleasant fashion.

Fighting him are Wonder Woman, Power Girl (who makes a great foil for Wonder Woman), The Flash, The Doom Patrol, Blackhawk, The Boy Commandos, The Metal Mean, Dial H for Hero, Hawkman, The Atom, Superman, The Silent Knight, The Teen Titans (the original bunch), Aquaman, Ultraman, and, of course, Green Lantern and The Challengers of the Unknown. Waid tells a diffferent tale in the second six issues than the first. The time travel is to the past, though not usually in the sort of episode where a present hero travels to the past. That does happen with Superman and the Silent Knight, but the others are stories of past heroes in their proper setting, be it WWII or the late '60s.

The various heroes come off wonderfully individually fleshed, though their appearances are generally fairly brief. The Doom Patrol is an amusing and sad family of damaged goods. Power Girl is irked by the "perfection" of Wonder Woman. The Boy Commandos and Blackhawk are perfectly stereotypically portrayed, not to mention the obvious lack of creativity in naming people who are supposed to be emblematic of their nation. As is often the case in good storytelling, it's the little things that make it really enjoyable. An ability to create individual voices for the multitude of characters doesn't hurt, either.

The parallel of the Challengers of the Unknown being key to the defeat of the villian in both stories is nicely done. Though that parallel runs through the stories, the how of the defeats of the Luck Lords and Megistus are entirely different.

Aside from the depiction of the Luck Lords, my only complaint is that Perez wasn't able to do the art for all 12 issues. Ordway's never been a favorite, but he did well here. Just not to the same level as Perez.
Naturally, in this age you can get all 12 issues in 2 trades, no sweat. If you missed the boat, it's easy to get back on board.

ADDENDUM: I noticed Waid also wrote issues 13-16. Showing off, I'd say. Three separate, stand alone stories in 4 issues is like the old The Brave and The Bold, only better writing than most of those. These issues had one and dones featuring Batman and the Flash (Jay Garrick) and Superman and Catwoman, with a two part story featuring Green Arrow and Deadman with Nightwing and Hawkman. From a corporate stand point these sorts of stories aren't much good because they don't keep you coming back for the conclusion of a long running story, but with the quality of work Waid put in, I'd keep getting more, no matter that the stories are unrelated. Unfortunately, he was done after 16 and the dismal Wolfman stories followed, which killed it for me.


  1. Lee deleted your picture!

  2. Thomm - That is the way the Luck Lords were portrayed from their introduction back in the sixties in the LOSH. I guess they decided to keep it the way it was for fun, as that was what Waid's run on Brave and Bold was all about. I also dropped the book after he left and will start again when JMS comes in the book in a month or so.

  3. See, I looked up the Luck Lords and didn't find any reference prior to this series. Stupid internet. You try to research stuff and it lets you down.

    So, I have a dictatorial duo now? Sheesh.

  4. That's right, I deleted the post and was happy to do it!

    The rule, as officially stated, is: If we can cover any vaction day with actual comic news or daily life then we do so.

    Puny, "I'm not here" posts aren't up to the high quality standards of this blog.

    Yes, as hard as it is to believe, we do have standards.

  5. What, and deprive all those fans who want to know what I'm doing with my life?