Superman: Brainiac

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Gary Frank

Eaglemoss DC Graphic Novel Collection #27

I don’t get it.

From what I understand from this volume alone, Superman has fought Brainiac and recovered the bottled city of Kandor at least once before. So what’s going on here? Is this basically just a re-write of earlier stories but set in some new, post-DC-every-second-week-reboot continuity?

The storyline itself doesn’t make a great lick of sense in the technical department.

Brainiac steals Metropolis, but when Superman puts the micro-sized city back where it came from and it returns to normal size… what? All the roads, pipes, tunnels etc. line-up perfectly?

And when Superman fights Brainiac, he keeps punching him, but accomplishes nothing. Then he punches him again and suddenly wins. Oh, and then he’s a brutal maniac because morality only applies when you’re dealing with other people, right?

It was all a bit of nonsense…

… but the art was wonderful. Gary Frank’s work has always been outstanding, especially when handed to the right colourist. I was really impressed!

The “classic” issue included in this collection, featuring Superman’s first encounter with Brainiac, was way better than the Geoff Johns story taking up the rest of the volume; and it managed to do a hell of a lot more in a lot less space.

Howard the Duck Vol.0

Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Penciler: Joe Quinnones
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This series completely misses the point of Howard the Duck. But it is funny, at least.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Howard, and haven’t read too many of his past appearances, but the guy has always had, for me, a pretty clear role in the Marvel Universe. He’s “trapped in a world he never made”, and clearly sees the absurdity of this world (which bewilders us, since we think a talking duck is absurd).

Aside from being an agitated, talking duck, Howard has always been quite normal. He learned kung-fu (sorry, “quack-fu”) at one point, but that’s his only really remarkable trait. In a world full of spider-men, magicians, gods of many different pantheons, worlds being erased and re-written on a whim, where all these things are just normal now, he sees how weird it all is.

Just look at the cover of this volume – it’s Howard, looking normal, and sort of exasperated, as heroes fly by. You and I would be amazed by this. He sees it as normal, but weird at the same time. It’s the weird world he’s had to just become a part of.

This comic completely misses the point to all that by adding absurd things. Like a teenage girl with giant hands, or a group who got shape-shifting powers from eating aliens masquerading as cows isn’t weird enough – it just keeps compounding it with more weird stuff (the Collector goes to CosmicCon, the final issues is full of references to bizarre, absurd adventures that never happened) and characters just keep cracking-wise.

Howard is meant to be the straight man in a world as funny as bizarre as it already is. That’s what shows how bizarre the Marvel Universe is – that a talking duck is the most normal thing in it. It doesn’t need Zdarsky making stupid jokes.

Actually, that’s unfair. Some of the jokes are quite funny. But most are just awful.

But,  yeah, totally misses the point. I’d say it isn’t worth reading, but the handful of funny jokes make it ever-so-slightly worth it.

Meet Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

Author: May Gibbs
Illustrator: May Gibbs

ISBN: 978-1-7436-2171-4

Cuddlepie is not a smart gumnut.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – two “gumnut babies” who are neither babies, nor gumnuts; their species and society is not explained – go on an adventure to see a human (“but only from a distance”, said Cuddlepie).

Along the way they meet a lizard and a “blossom”, which seems to be exactly the same as a gumnut baby, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

They then find a baby possum trapped in a cage. The baby possum tells them a human put it there. Another human comes along, bemoans traps, and frees it. Then the friends go their separate ways and the book ends.

Oh, I left out the bit where Cuddlepie wonders if all humans are so kind (um, the baby possum told Cuddlepie it was trapped by a human, so obviously not) and the possum thanks the gumnut babies (for what? they did absolutely nothing).

I have no idea what the point to this book was, and the plot was about as interesting as a brick.

Pokemon LeafGreen

I did indeed “catch ’em all”.

Sorta.

Depends what you mean by all.

This review will really be divided into three parts, because I have more to discuss than usual.

ME AND POKEMON

I was 12 or 13 when Pokemon was first released. The anime was on TV just before I left for school, so I had little choice but to watch it (unless I wanted to watch the news or kindergarten programmes). I thought it was okay, so when the game came out, I rushed to go get it. I finished it after only a few days and really loved it.

I never got particularly hooked on the anime (although I did see the first two movies at the cinema), but the Generation I games (specifically Blue) really kept me interested. I somehow managed to discover things like MissingNo. and the item cloning trick and the truck near Vermillion City all by myself!

But I didn’t really play beyond that.

While I played Blue multiple times, I only ever played Yellow and then Silver on an emulator, and even those I never finished. The interest just wasn’t there.

POKEMON TODAY

Skip ahead almost twenty years, and two things have changed: Pokemon GO has been released, and I just like that sort of game in general, so I was and am keen to play; and my youngest niece has become quite enamoured of Pokemon (she says it is because I bought her the first season on DVD when she was very little, which I did, but I think she just likes it in general – that and anything else to ever come out of Japan).

We were talking about Pokemon, and she’s been playing Alpha Sapphire. I said I’d play again, and we could trade, battle, etc., but when looking into it I discovered that it is now possible to transfer or trade all the way from Generation I to the new Generation VII games!

Given that I loved Generation I, it seemed as good a place as any to start.

The thing is, to trade up from Generation I, you need the eShop versions of the games for the Nintendo 3DS, and I don’t play console games. And it wouldn’t let me do it in order – I’d have to skip Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald eventually. So instead I hunted down a Nintendo DS with a Game Boy Advance slot and decided to start with the Generation III remakes of Generation I: specifically, LeafGreen.

My intention is this:

  1. LeafGreen
  2. Emerald
  3. SoulSilver
  4. Platinum
  5. White
  6. Black 2
  7. Y
  8. Omega Ruby
  9. Red, Blue, Yellow
  10. Gold, Silver, Crystal
  11. Moon

POKEMON LEAFGREEN

I think starting with LeafGreen was a great decision, because it was familiar enough (plot, locations, Pokemon) to be easily accessible again, but also included lots of features from Generation II and III. I could easily engage with those new features because they were the only new things to grapple with.

I also really loved the VS Seeker. I remember the bad old days of having to fight the Elite Four again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Gah.

I really enjoy the basic premise of the first Pokemon generation games, although the story is a bit lacking in certain places: the story often fails to tell you where to go and what to do. Instead, the story unfolds as a consequence of you exploring every doorway, etc. You wouldn’t get Aerodactyl or Eevee, for example, unless you were hell-bent on exploring every passageway, or cutting down every cuttable tree. There aren’t any clues directing you to where they are, or even telling you they exist.

Aside from that, though, it is a heck of a lot of fun all around.

I managed to catch every Pokemon accessible in LeafGreen – every Legendary, every one only available via in-game trades, everything. The only Pokemon I don’t have are the other two starters (and their evolutions) and ones only accessible in other Generation III games, because unfortunately you can’t do the necessary trades when playing it on a DS. That said, I did find a cheap-ish Game Boy Advance SP, and my niece already has a Game Boy Advance SP, so we could possibly fill in those holes (if I can’t fill out my Pokedex in the later games).

Honestly, I give this game the highest possible rating. They even went to the effort of remaking the truck! I still don’t know why it was there in the first place, given that you can only access it through clever trading/beating the system.

Really top stuff, and I look forward to regaining all the Pokemon I caught in LeafGreen once I get back to Kanto in SoulSilver and grab them from the Pal Park.

Champions Vol.1

Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Humberto Ramos

ISBN: 978-1-3029-0618-4

How can six issues be 136 pages? That’s only 22 pages per issue. Yikes. But I guess they have that stupid page showing a handful of tweets about the series…

Whatever.

Look, I have very mixed feelings about this series.

On one hand, it is entertaining. Mark Waid writes very good dialogue, and I generally like teen heroes. And the art is pretty neat. I generally don’t like Ramos’ style of art, but it makes the teen boys look lean, lithe and lanky, and that I do like.

But then there’s everything else. But worst of all is the fan reaction/support, inside and outside of the comic.

Here’s the thing: the Champions are a bunch of childish, silly little thugs.

What do we get in this volume? The Champions illegally entering another country, then physically assaulting people (and possibly putting them in situations where they will die) because they disagree with them, all while spouting off about how physically assaulting people because they disagree with you is bad.

And it isn’t like they have no choice.

We just get event after event like that, and I keep waiting for an adult to turn up and put them in their place – but nope, no such thing happens.

At best, the Champions should be “grounded”, superhuman-style – prevented by the Avengers, or SHIELD, or whoever, from going out bashing people and otherwise breaking the law. At worst, they should be locked up.

They’re selfish bullies who completely lack the ability to see the point-of-view of other people, and very clearly think that might makes right.

If you’re a fan of them, you’re a thug.

And you know what? Both outside the comic (well, inside, via letters and “tweets” pages, showing feedback from the real world) and inside it, there are countless fans who blindly support this horrendous attitude.

Clearly, many fans are idiots.

So I’m torn. On one hand it is a pretty and well-written comic. On the other, it makes me question where all the grown-ups in the Marvel Universe are (well, we know where most are – either being serial killers, or paedophiles, or both, but where are the rest?).

So far there has been nothing in the comic to suggest that otherwise sensible characters have fallen for this nonsense. If we do see such a thing, I’ll drop the book as quickly as possible. Until then, all we are seeing is characters reflecting what the letters and tweets pages show is the real world – a bunch of stupid, thuggish bullies thinking they can punch people into doing what they want.

Although I do wonder about that. I’ve sent letters after every issue except #6 articulating the same things I’m talking about here, and none have been published (I’ve had hundreds of letters published in comics over the years, so it isn’t a lack of articulation on my part). Maybe the editors are only showing the ones that support the comic. That would not surprise me at all, since it is Marvel in 2017 we’re talking about.

Cropsey (2009)

Directors: Barbara Brancaccio & Joshua Zeman
Writer: Joshua Zeman

The poster says “the truth is terrifying”, but this film doesn’t tell us any “truth”. At least no new “truth”.

The film gets a bit confused at certain points, but it appears to be about some unsolved child disappearances (and one confirmed murder) in the late 1970s and 1980s. The man convicted of the murder was a cleaner at a mental hospital in the woods nearby who, when the hospital was shut down, ended up living in the woods surrounding it (as did a number of the patients, apparently, although no proof is given of this).

The two filmmakers talk about growing up in the area when these things were happening, and hearing of the urban legend of “Cropsey”, a man from the area who would take them away and kill them. They set out to find out the truth… and accomplish pretty much nothing.

They show that the mental hospital was run quite disgracefully… by showing footage from an old Geraldo Rivera report on the facility. They show that some people have lived in the tunnels beneath it and the woods surrounding it, but don’t do anything to show that these are former patients or staff, they just say it as though it is a fact.

They speak to people involved in searching for the missing children, who all seem upset. But what does that prove?

They then show some letters exchanged with the man who was convicted of the murder. His letters become increasingly bizarre (but it seems a bit like they’ve baited him into this) and then suggest that somehow this is proof of him kidnapping the other missing children. (Which is weird, because a large portion of the film seems bent on suggesting he was a scapegoat.)

They just kind of say some stuff that isn’t particularly new or interesting, and then draw conclusions without any evidence to back them up. It is really a waste of time, frankly.

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

Writer: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Julie Vivas

ISBN: 978-1-7429-9149-8

Every Australian child reads this at some point. Usually more than once. But reading it as an adult, I felt it had a lot less going for it.

The plot is pretty cool. Grandma Poss does “bush magic”, and uses her magic to make her granddaughter, Hush, invisible. This allows Hush to have a lot of fun, but most importantly, it protects her from predators.

One day, Hush asks to be made visible again, but Grandma Poss can’t remember what the spell is – only that it involves eating human food. So the two possums go on a trip to Australia’s capitals, eating lots of different human food, and Hush becomes visible again bit-by-bit.

The explicit story is interesting. The possums initially try certain popular foods, with no effect. It is only when they start trying food that most people consider “Australian” (like Vegemite sandwiches) that Hush starts becoming visible again. The story introduces children to a lot of different Australian animals, most Australian capital cities, and many different “uniquely” Australian foods.

But there’s some more subtle stuff going on.

There’s a long history of Australians being somewhat ashamed of their own culture, and even claiming that there is no Australian culture – that we just keep trying to copy Europe and, later, the United States. This has certainly become the case since the late 1990s, but this book was written in 1983! What gives?

I really think that what Mem Fox was trying to point out is that there are many things that are either uniquely Australian, or at least most commonly associated with Australians, that together form our culture. At the beginning, we see Hush behaving like any other random child, with no awareness of her own culture – but as she explores Australia, and encounters many uniquely Australian things, she (her/our culture) becomes increasingly more visible.

It really surprises me to know that many Australian children haven’t read or heard of this book. Admittedly, it was only a few years old when I first read it, in primary school, in the early 1990s. But this book introduces a lot of information, and a lot of meaning, in a very simple, easy-to-read text. I’m amazed parents and teachers aren’t pulling it out often – unless, of course, they don’t know about it themselves. Many parents and teachers these days are of the slightly-younger-than-me vintage that speaks and acts American, so…

The book has a few minor faults, but is very much worth reading, Australian or not.