Tag Archives: Justice

This Week’s Finest: East of West #33

“First I’ll build a sword
Get some words to explain
It’s a plan, brother, at least
And I’ll pretend that everybody here wants peace”

Jenny Lewis, “The Big Guns”

East of West 33 Nick Dragotta
Nick Dragotta

By Jonathan Hickman, Nock Dragotta & Frank Martin

With nearly three dozen issues published, it is instructive to glance over the pacing of Jonathan Hickman’s creator owned series, East of West. The first two arcs were densely plotted, bursting with exposition yet simultaneously possessing a full-throttle forward momentum. Character beats would explode into bristling action set-pieces viscerally rendered by co-creator Nick Dragotta. Then Hickman reined in the violence a little, shifting focus to the various political machinations of key players. The series did not grow tamer as much as take a breather while various characters gathered their strength. At the same time, Hickman sowed plots and divisions amidst the parties, steadily ramping the tension back up again. In recent issues the simmering pot approached full boil as several conflicts come to a head, resulting in this week’s rampant carnage. Yet, in the midst of this hectic activity (stunningly illustrated as always by Dragotta) Hickman delivers a thoughtful script which continues elaborating on the themes of his story.

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Alan Brennert & Batman’s Search for Justice

“Everyone whose life has ever been touched by random, tragic chance has come away from it changed . . .” –Alan Brennert

Detective Comics 500 splash Dick Giordano
Dick Giordano

In 1989, as part of their celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of Batman, DC printed a series of testimonials about the enduring importance of The Dark Knight. These ran in the back pages of Detective Comics #598-600 as postscripts to Sam Hamm and Denys Cowan’s Blind Justice serial. Most of the remembrances covered the familiar territory of how Batman stood apart as the non-powered hero who was most relatable to the average reader. A couple stood outside the pattern, though. Stan Lee, as if he were auditioning to write a Demon series, turns in a rhyming poem which somehow manages to be silly and grandiose at the same time. Adam West reflects on the then rare privilege of playing a superhero on screen. Writer Alan Brennert took a different track. His focus is not on the tragedy of Bruce Wayne, but the ideals of the Batman. For him, the hero’s sense of justice is what makes him so popular. It is not the anger which defines him; it is how he “channel[s] that anger into something constructive.” Batman is a creature of justice, not madness.

Alan Brennert has had a long career writing for different mediums. His most prominent work has been as a producer/writer in television, where he won an Emmy for L.A. Law. He has authored several prose novels as well. His contributions to comic books are sparser, yet, significant. His handful of issues include two of the all-time great Batman tales: “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” and “To Kill a Legend.” “Autobiography” (The Brave and the Bold #197, 1983) remains the best treatment of the long, tangled relationship between Batman and Catwoman. “To Kill a Legend” appeared in 1981 as the lead tale of Detective Comics #500. In it, Brennert delves deep into the origins of The Dark Knight, emerging with a fresh, fascinating take on the iconic character.

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A Black Hat Review Adventure (Part One) – The Avenger Special 2014: The Television Killers

Avenger Special 2014BH1Chapter I: Three Comic Books

Millionaire playboy Sage Tyson put on his robe and crept out of the bedroom, careful not to wake the three exhausted naked women who slumbered in his bed. Tyson could not recall their names, and trusted that his manservant would see them home. He had important matters to address before sunrise, and could afford no distractions.

In the mansion library, he sat on a divan and lit a cigarette. His mute Kurdish manservant Azu entered the room in his usual stealthy fashion; despite his enormous muscular size, Azu made no sound as he handed his friend and employer the three comic books that Tyson had requested.

“Thank you, Azu,” Tyson said. “Please see to the ladies in the morning, would you?”

Azu nodded, and left the room as quietly as he had entered, leaving Tyson to peruse his reading material. Tyson enjoyed reading comic books, and was keen to read the four-color adventure magazines he now held. Published by Dynamite Entertainment, the three comics featured pulp adventurers righting wrongs, so similar to Tyson’s own mission. He took his time reading them, enjoying his quiet respite while smoking cigarettes.  Tonight he would face a dangerous adversary, and Tyson feared he might not have the chance to read other comic books.

When he was done, Tyson exited the library through the hidden tunnel that led to his secret lair. He was soon dressed in a black suit and cape, and donning a domino mask along with his signature black hat.  His two .45 pistols were holstered at his hips.

Tonight, the mysterious villain who called himself “The Astrologer” would face justice from the masked vigilante known as the Black Hat.

Chapter 2:  Pondering The Avenger Special 2014: The Television Killers

The Black Hat turned off the lights of his custom black Rolls-Royce motorcar as he drove up to the abandoned waterfront warehouse.  There was no activity, and the vigilante would have to wait for his prey.  While he did so, he thought of The Avenger Special 2014: The Television Killers comic book that he had read earlier that night.

The comic is written by Mark Rahner and illustrated by Edu Menna, with colors provided by Adriano Augusto, and features the adventures of a diverse team seeking justice – Justice, Inc.  The wealthy Richard Henry Benson, also known as the Avenger, is the leader and founder of this group; after his wife and daughter were killed by criminals, Benson’s skin and hair turned stark white from the stress, and his skin became malleable so that he can mold his features, making Benson a master of disguise.  Benson now uses his skills to help people.

In 1939, the Justice, Inc. team works two cases – something is turning people into cannibalistic zombies, while singer Billie Holiday reaches out to Benson for help, because a racist gang leader is threatening to kill Holiday in order to prevent her appearance on the new broadcast medium of television.

The comic has a lot going on, and the creative team uses the story to resolve not only two separate cases, but also introduce readers to the various team members of Justice, Inc. and their personal motivations for justice.  Rahner’s script does a great job of making the characters compelling, so that even readers unfamiliar with past Avenger stories can follow along quite easily.  The story is clunky at some points, but Rahner’s script is entertaining, and the writer has clearly done some good historical research on the 1939 World’s Fair and Billie Holiday.

The art team does an excellent job of distinguishing the different characters and depicting all the action in the comic book.  Menna’s art is clean and crisp, and Augusto’s colors are bright and bold. The Avenger Special 2014: The Television Killers is a comic that tries to tackle big issues involving racism and a modern consumption culture, and while it has some narrative flaws, the comic is entertaining.

Chapter 3:  The Murder Golem

The Black Hat’s musings were interrupted when his car was suddenly attacked by one of the Astrologer’s robots.  The lumbering behemoth’s gigantic claws ripped the door off the Rolls-Royce, and the Black Hat quickly jumped from the car and ran to the robot’s side, pulling his pistols from their holsters.  The robot turned to pursue its quarry.  The Astrologer’s murder golem charged at the Black Hat.

Behind him, the Black Hat could hear the maniacal laughter of the Astrologer.

The Black Hat review pulp novel continues here