Saturday, January 31, 2015

The L.A.W. #3: The Past Is Always Present

Bob Layton and Dick Giordano are back with DC's take on the Charlton Action Heroes. Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, the Question, and the gang continue to wage war against the mysterious Avatar in "The L.A.W." #3.

Ted Kord is facing a dilemma. Dan Garrett the original* Blue Beetle has been swarmed by robots created by Ted's uncle, Jarvis. If they don't stop Jarvis he'll unleash the robots on the world, but Dan is quickly becoming overwhelmed by the mechanical onslaught. Help Dan? Take down Jarvis? What should he do...and why does this all seem so familiar? Easy. He's dreaming. 

Once Question confirms that the BUG was on autopilot, and they're not in danger, everyone relaxes a least for a moment. Rip Jagger offers Ted some advice, there are truths in the terrors of our dreams and if we have the courage to confront them, then we may be receptive to their message. Ted's ready to chalk it up to a microwave burrito, but before the philosophical debate can continue, Peacemaker radios them that they're approaching their destination...Avatar's stronghold!

In the Netherworld, the Justice League is frozen in time but Martian Manhunter uses his psychic abilities to try to reach out for help. There doesn't seem to be any response.

Meanwhile, in France, Eve Eden (aka Nightshade) witnesses the attempted kidnapping of French Ambassador Yves Forte. He's an old family friend, so she decides to step in as Nightshade. Good thing too, the kidnappers are actually Ravanan demons! Using a shadow cyclone she takes out the demons, then opens a portal to transport Yves and herself to safety. 

Justine and Steel quickly find out what Eve considers safety, as Nightshade teleports into Peacemaker HQ. Steel then gets a report of some radar anomalies in the flight path of Peacemaker One and the BUG, but it's too late...the heroes have flown into a trap!

Over the skies of Pakistan, Avatar and his demon hordes fly toward the heroes. How did he know they were coming? Well, probably that meeting with Dr. Bhattacarja last issue. There's no time for the heroes to figure it out, oddly Rip has time to don his Judomaster costume though. Avatar and his demons tear into the aircraft. Salt, Beetle, and Question battle the winged monsters. Peacemaker's ship, Peacemaker One, is destroyed and Mitchell Black is presumed dead. And all the while, Avatar simply watches...that is until one demon tosses Judomaster out into the air like an old doll. 

That gets the villain's attention. Shortly after the demons retreat, but not before Peacemaker makes a miraculous return and manages to tag one of them with a homing device.

As the heroes regroup, wondering the fate of the missing Judomaster, the powers that be decide to launch a geo-stationary operations and reconnaissance technology system...a sort of satellite communications translator, to help unite the world in it's fight against Avatar. Problem is, the device was developed by Dr. Bhattacarja and its launch is exactly what she and Avatar were counting on. Avatar then goes back to his Bond villain shenanigans by taunting Captain Atom again and revealing more of his plan. He wants to be the voice of the "lost children of a thousand wars" and punish the "so-called superheroes, costumed egomaniacs". The rant tires him out a bit and he decides it's time to hit the bottle...a bottle of Soma, an elixir of immortality! As he drinks he begins taunting another unseen prisoner until the issue's final reveal...that second prisoner is Rip Jagger, Judomaster. And Rip believes that Avatar is his long lost sidekick, Tiger!

Quite a bit of story progression this issue, several reveals, but not too much action. That said, at the halfway point of this mini-series, it's moving along nicely. 

*Original within the Charlton/DC continuity...they seem to ignore Fox's rookie patrolman Dan Garret 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blue Beetle #4 (Charlton)

Writer Joe Gill, penciller Bill Fraccio and inker Tony Tallarico are back with another Silver Age adventure of Dan Garrett. Charlton's Blue Beetle takes on "The Praying Mantis-Man".

Did you know that archaeologist Dan Garrett was also a chemist and a physicist? Neither did I until the first page of this story. I guess that explains why he was called in on the "Superstar" aircraft project last issue. So when sheep are dying in Baja, California from something that looks like a giant insect bite, Dan's just the man to assist Dr. Juanita Rivera, a Mexican entomologist. Wait, what?! Archaeology, check. Chemistry, ok. Physics, sure...but now biology too? I guess that's just the silver age, like writers giving Superman whatever power he needed. 

Dan and Juanita quickly find themselves on his private plane, and on a first name basis. When they land, Juanita hires some trucks to transport them and their equipment to a nearby field station, but before they arrive a swarm of foot-long mosquitoes descend on them. Dan takes a few shots at the bugs with his pistol, but misses. Luckily the noise seems to scare them off. 

The duo figures the big bugs must be responsible for the dead sheep The other scientists at the field station don't exactly agree...until one coincidentally flies into Dan's room and he manages to kill it with some bug spray. They discover an odd chlorophyll compound is responsible, and Dan excuses himself to investigate Blue Beetle!

From the air, Blue Beetle spots a densely vegetated canyon, populate by several buildings. Flying in for closer look, he encounters more giant mosquitoes, an enormous coral snake, and a gargantuan rat. He handles them all with the relative ease of a Kaji Dha powered punch, but is caught off guard when he encounters the Praying Mantis-Man! 

The green beast zaps him with eye beams that seem to sap his strength, but in a last ditch effort he throws a mighty punch scaring the insect away. He decides to investigate the buildings, and finds that at least one of them is the lab of Hunter Mann, famed naturalist. Quickly switching back to his identity of Dan Garrett, he decides to check in with Mann. It seems that Hunter Mann has been experimenting with...duh-duh-dunn...chlorophyll to stimulate cell growth. 

The experiments have also turned his skin green! When Dan tries to probe for more detail, Mann quickly shows him the door. No sooner is he back outside, then he sees the Praying Mantis-Man take to the sky. Dan says the magic words Kaji Dha, and as Blue Beetle hurries to alert Juanita. 

The warning comes too late as Juanita has already been cornered by the Praying Mantis-Man! She tried, unsuccessfully, to defend herself. She even had the help of some field station guards, but their bullets just bounced off the creature. 

Blasting them with his eye beams, the Mantis-man made his getaway before Blue Beetle ever arrived. Once on the scene though, Dan discusses his findings with Juanita, and the duo head off to Mann's lab to end this once and for all. The villain is ready for them though, and attacks on sight blasting Blue Beetle with his eye beams. Blue Beetle blasts back, but is distracted when a giant lizard approaches Juanita. No sooner does he save her from the reptile, then they're attacked by another giant rat, then a bee. Dan decides to take the fight to Mann's lab, right as the mad scientist is preparing another batch of his chlorophyll formula. Mantis-Man tosses chemicals, trying to distract the hero again, but only angers him more. Dan whirls about, destroying the lab and "traveling faster than sound" lands a mighty punch with a thunderous "KAPOW"! Without the Praying Mantis-Man and his chlorophyll formula, the creatures of the canyon return to normal and Dan travels home, in search of his next adventure.

Well...that came to a somewhat abrupt end. Still, a giant Praying Mantis-Man was a fun, apropos, rogue for the Blue Beetle. What's in store for that next adventure? Check back next month! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Secrets: Part One"

Last issue Jaime revealed his powers to his friend Brenda, then rescued her and his buddy Paco from Groot-like creatures before calling for a meeting with the Mexican meta-human gang known as the Posse. Now Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Duncan Rouleau take us for that south of the border meeting, in "Blue Beetle" #5!

While waiting at a bus stop for Paco, Jaime is approached by "a stranger". The stranger seems to know Jaime, and even knows about the scarab! Removing his sunglasses to reveal his pupil-less eyes, he tells Jaime he's there to determine if the boy is part of the "new age of magic". He's not, but he is tied to another's fate. With that cryptic message delivered the man stands to leave, revealing himself to be the Phantom Stranger!

Paco arrives, with Posse member Damper in tow, and the trio cross the border into Mexico. Cloaked by Damper's powers they make their way to the Posse's headquarters. Damper makes it clear that after their last meeting, several members are not to happy about the meeting with Jaime. Bonita, Damper's girlfriend, was pregnant with their child...and Jaime, unable to control the armor at that time, broker her arm. They think he's crazy. It doesn't help that neither Paco or Damper saw the Phantom Stranger. They figured Jaime was talking to himself. To make matters worse they don't hear the scarab either. 

As they walk, a mysterious figure alerts Diviner that the "target is alone". Diviner was out for Jaime last issue...looks like he's after someone else now.

Back home Brenda enjoys a nice lunch out with her aunt (secretly La Dama). It's seems like friendly conversation, but she's trying to get info out of on Jaime. 

In a dark alley, Diviner makes a deal with Bottom Feeder, a hulking Quasimodo type who is constantly going on about good and evil, angels and demons. La Dama wants Damper and Bonita's baby, a rare child of two magic based meta-humans, and Diviner is outsourcing the job to Bottom Feeder. 

At Posse HQ, Jaime is upset to learn that Probe (the no eyed girl from issue #2) isn't around. She disappeared after their last encounter, another reason the Posse aren't huge fans of Blue Beetle. Part of the reason he asked for this meeting was in hopes she could help him. At that moment, Bonita bursts in! Someone took her baby, Alina! Jaime offers to find the child, using the scarab's ability to home in on its DNA. 

He quickly tracks Bottom Feeder to a bridge near the border, but zealot that he his the behemoth thinks Blue Beetle is a demon and panics. He throws the baby into traffic, as a sacrifice to save his own skin. 

Jaime manages to save the baby just as Bottom Feeder is hit by a truck, causing a multi-car pile-up! Bystanders ask for Blue Beetle's help, but Bottom Feeder is back on his feet and looking for a fight now. Beetle can't fight and carry a baby! Luckily, our tattooed motorcycle riding Peacemaker happens onto the scene and grabs the baby. 

Bottom Feeder is a truly odd character, who isn't fighting to, he wants Blue Beetle to kill him so he can "die in combat in the name of my lord." Jaime holds back, as the scarab and Bottom Feeder urge him to fight to the death, before unleashing a huge energy blast that throws the villain into the river below...just as Paco, led by a news helicopter, arrives on the scene.

Well...that was...interesting. Another issue that was full of character and story development, but a little light on the heroics. That said...when the heroics did kick in, it was 8 pages of action! What happens next? Check back next month for part two of "Secrets"!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Blue Beetle #3 (Fox) Part 2

Return with me to 1940, when "rookie patrolman" Dan Garret walked the beat by day and fought crime by night as...The Blue Beetle!  Issue 3 contained two 30 page adventures. I posted part one already, and now for your reading enjoyment I present...part 2.

(click the pages to enlarge)