Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Part 17! (Metal Men #21)

It's been a crazy few months, but I'm back! I'll try to post semi-regularly, but we'll see how that turns out. 

I've decided to skip ahead and pay attention to the better/more notable/more wacked out Metal Men stories as I come across them. It's a good thing they ditched the old "each issue feeds directly into the next one" gimmick (and it's weird to think that that was a gimmick back then), because that means there's no issue-to-issue continuity to worry about.

Metal Men #21 features another set of "evil Metal Men", which you may recall has been done about five or six times already, including the appearances of the Gas Gang. Still, it doesn't sound right for me to fault Bob Kanigher just because he likes to recycle.

The cover exaggerates the Plastic Perils' strength, and kind of messes up their character models too. Usually it's not a big deal when a Silver Age cover stretches the truth, but I'm used to the Metal Men being straight with me about this stuff. 

Okay, this is the most detestable villain we've seen yet, and it's only because he's a pompous little dick. 

Anyway, the story opens on Platinum bemoaning the fact that Doc has been making out with a new squeeze in his office all day. And the Metal Men open up a bunch of fan mail. For some reason Bob Kanigher was really into the idea that the characters themselves receive all the mail sent their comic's way -- it came up many times in his Wonder Woman stories.

Anyway, surprisingly enough the Metal Men single out the letters that are negative in tone. These real letters, with the writers named and everything, criticize the direction the comic's taken over the last several issues on a number of points. They're also really belligerent and entitled, in case you were wondering whether the comic book fandom has always been awful. The big criticisms are that the Metal Men fight too many robots, and more specifically that of late they're just fighting robot versions of monsters that, say, the Doom Patrol would fight otherwise.

They spend the first act of the issue looking in vain for some non-robot menace they can tackle, and even go to places like Central City and Gotham City. For some reason when they go to these places they're surprised when the Flash or Batman takes care of the problem, as though it's weird for Batman to punch a bad guy in Gotham at night.

For some reason when you look for trouble in Central City, the Flash tends to take care of it before you can. I'm sort of wondering why they came here in the first place, other than for the chance to basically tell kids to read the Flash. 

They take a few similar trips to Gotham City and.... Washington DC? That's where Wonder Woman lives? Anyway, they also go there and the local heroes take care of business ably, leaving the Metal Men high and dry.

Like a latter-day episode of the Simpsons, the plot switches a quarter of the way through. In this case, the shift occurs when the dejected Metal Men espy an armored car smashing its way onto their compound. 

It's a mad asshole/scientist named Dr. Bravo, who has created his Plastic Perils to rob places and junk. You know, The Graduate told me plastics was a profitable biz in those days, you'd think he wouldn't need to steal.

The Plastic Perils have pretty lazy character design -- they all have the exact same body mold, but come in different colors. And that isn't even kept consistent! Granted, I can't think of many ways to make them "read" as being made of plastic besides making them look like M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, which is basically what happened here. They also don't have any personality, but let's be real that's true of the Gas Gang, for instance, too.

Now, I'm honestly not sure if the Plastic Perils really count as "not robots" for the purposes of this story -- I mean, the members of the Gas Gang were considered robots, after all. Granted, they aren't anything like a robot spider, dinosaur, or centaur, so I'm sure kids reading this were welcome for any kind of change. And a group alike to the Metal Men but evil is kind of a classic concept anyway; I admit that I'm still not tired of that plot.

So Bravo's Plastic Perils beat the Metal Men, but he says he's not done looting and dares them to stop his crime spree. There's a brief stopover at the lab, where Doc is still making time with his latest fling.

The Metal Men split up to cover more ground, and while they each encounter the Plastic Perils they also all lose handily to them

This whole sequence takes me back to the past because it serves to teach kids about the various types of plastic, which is reflected in the powers of the various Plastic Perils. For instance, Dr Bravo goes on about the properties of Polyethylene as a gang of "Polys" defeat Lead -- they do this by luring him into the nearby ocean, because Polyethylene floats and lead, uh, doesn't.

Oh, and while this isn't the first time the Metal Men have turned into a gun, this is the first time they've been a goddamn tommy gun. Also wondering how inert tin leaves the barrel without any propellant or primer. And yes, even this failed to beat the Plastic Perils (or at least this specific one, Methacrylate).

Because Bravo constantly mocked them for lacking knowledge on the properties of various plastics, the Metal Men, still without Doc's help as he seems to still be smooching his lady, decide to do some research. Hey, kids: with the books in your local library, you can be a hero, too! Anyway they melt the Plastic Perils with molten slag scooped from a smelting pool and doled out by giant-ladle Platinum -- thus serving to also teach kids that plastic doesn't handle extreme heat very well. Big deal, I learned that one summer when I left my Thing action figure in the car.

Oh and Dr. Bravo gets scooped up by Platinum and probably dies seconds later.

Back at the lab, it turns out Doc wasn't in his office at all this whole time -- what the Metal Men saw was a cardboard stand-up of Doc kissing some woman, intended to make the Metal Men think he's busy so he can, uh, actually be busy doing work. Sometimes I wonder about this guy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fakemon: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I feel like doing something a little different, so I'm going to start a screenshot Let's Play series of Pokemon ripoffs and also-rans for the GBC and GBA. I say those systems specifically because those were Pokemon's original hunting grounds, and where most of the imitators made their homes as well; only Digimon, Monster Rancher, and Dragon Quest Monsters really survived into the DS and 3DS era, though a few (like Dinosaur King, Spectrobes, and Fossil Fighters) were created during that period. But DS games are kind of a pain to emulate so maybe shut up.

First up is probably the most blatant imitator, Robopon. Specifically, Robopon 2, which admittedly is very different from Pokemon in ways that usually aren't very cool; the original was about as close to Pokemon as they were legally allowed to be. Anyway, Robopon are all robots, and yet they seem to live in the wild or at least in caves and dungeons for some reason.

This entry's going to be a little sparse since I barely took notes or screenshots through the first few areas. Suffice it to say, you play the same character as in the original game, and you just won some national Robopon championship. You're invited to a big global tournament but you're a goddamn idiot and forget all your Robopon at home.

From what I can tell your task is to defeat contenders and collect their hidden X-Stones in order to advance in the national rankings. This isn't really spelled out for you, at least not very well -- at first I thought you only fought the first bad guy because he was being a dick.

The way Robopon fight and are acquired is unique relative to other 'Mon type games -- you combine batteries of various types to get Robopon, batteries being found in hidden places or acquired by battling. Robopon fight 4-on-4 and the fights are similar to, say, Dragon Warrior/Quest 3, or Final Fantasy IV without the action bar. They also don't evolve automatically -- they just become eligible for upgrades once they reach a certain level, and upgrading is a double edged sword and good god people say Pokemon is complicated.

Around his time I started to wonder if this game was making fun of me. And don't get me wrong -- I don't like the game, but the writing is surprisingly self-aware. They clearly knew nobody gave a crap about Robopon or recognized how ridiculous the game was, and they went wild with half-decent original jokes and 2002-vintage pop culture references.

Basically the first thing you do is go to a festival. You have to talk to everyone there before you continue: yippee. You get a free Robopon from talking to the Fortune Teller; I don't know if this is the same in every game, or even every Cross Version, but for me it was Train, the train Robopon

I'm still using this dude, along with the rocky starter Robopon SunZero, the sumo Robopon Sumito, and the cell phone Robopon Tokbot.

This seems as good a time as any to get into Robopon types, classes, and oil types. There are three types of Robopon: Boot, Move, and Arm. Classes mostly determine what parts a Robopon can equip and what moves it learns naturally (moves can also be taught via software, with exceptions noted in this next sentence). Boot types are hard-hitting and sturdy, but can't equip parts or learn new moves from software. Arm types tend to skew more average, stat-wise, and their abilities largely depend on their class, which can range from Knight to Healer to Gunner. Typically they have the most EP (this game's version of MP) and the most natural skills. Move types are speedy and are mostly based on vehicles like bikes, cars, planes, boats, and (duh) trains.

Oil types affect which Robopon are targeted by multiple-target healing skills

Anyway, I'm getting off track. I had some computer trouble when I was playing through this next part, so I don't have any screenshots, but suffice it to say it was tedious and unintuitive as crap. You have to defeat the #7 contender Maskman, a fake pharaoh who lives n Egyptian ruins and attacks the nearby towns for laughs. He's a relatively funny pathetic bad guy, but the puzzles in his dungeon are idiotic. Oh, and at one point you have to resort to time travel in order to make a tornado disappear. And while I haven't played too much further from this point, time travel seems to be a recurring element.

Incidentally, there's a recurring villain who is probably going to be the final boss or something: This guy, Dr. Zero. He was the final boss of the last game and had a cameo in the prologue; apparently he still hates you for taking his place as champion, and he's enlisted his brother to help make your life suck.

Later you're infiltrating the next contender's evil circus, and I hate to gloss over this part too but it's REALLY dull. There's also an ungodly amount of backtracking. You have to go back in time to rescue a kidnapped kappa from a nearby enchanted forest (er, the forest is where the kappa is from, you rescue him from the circus), and on the way you run into this.

Luckily I'm not actually done with this part so I'll have more on this later.

Next time: More info on my Robopon! More substantial plot details and more screenshots! Information on what combat actually look like! Brief explorations of items and parts!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men Special Edition! Brave and the Bold #55!

It's been a while, and I figured I'd jump back into this with the Metal Men, but to help me get excited about writing I'm gonna go off the main title and do the first of the team's many, many BatB appearances.

For whatever reason, the Metal Men were among the most frequent guest stars in Brave and the Bold, second only to the Green Arrow. They featuring in 8 issues, 6 of them with Batman (the other non-Bats team-up was #66, with Metamorpho. More on that guy to come, by the way)

The Atom's a character I sort of didn't get the appeal of before I actually read his material, but once I got into that... well, it's hard to dislike Gardner Fox and Gil Kane, you know? You can argue that maybe the Flash or the Martian Manhunter could've also defeated the Bug-Eyed Bandit, but I still say the Atom's pretty cool.

Sadly, as you'll see, the issue doesn't really give you that impression; the Atom plays seventh fiddle to the Metal Men throughout. And yeah, that's right, it's an Evil Metal Men plot, seen previously in (link to prev issue post here) and to a certain extent with the Gas Gang as well. I find it weird that most of the time there's some evil counterpart to the Metal Men, it's usually Doc himself who is behind it in one way or another. I wonder about that guy sometimes.

As the story opens, the Metal Men are entertaining some children, and I don't know about you but it seems like that's all they do in their spare time. I get that maybe their talents would also be wasted if they were just Doc's lab assistants or something, but there's got to be something else for them to do.

What soon follows is, oddly, an unintentionally hilarious series of deaths-by-accident. Most of these are caused by momentary dizziness -- Platinum falls onto some electrical generator, Gold into a vat of aqua regia, etc. Upon examining their lifeless husks, Doc discovers that their atomic structures have each been altered in some way that prevents him from reviving them as he usually might.

In the grand list of Metal Men deaths, this issue has a lot of the more embarrassing ones. Lead takes the cake in that department, as he actually explodes while reaching for something on a high shelf -- Doc says he stretched past his limit, but no matter how you justify it it isn't Lead's proudest moment.

When all the Metal Men are gone, Doc's pretty broken up about it, and he actually says they were like his children. The children he neglects, withholds affection from, and in one case always flings verbal insults and emotional abuse at, but still, children. Anyway, as you an no doubt imagine, it's all the work of Uranium.

Yeah, Agantha. What's wrong with "Agatha", if you really have to give her a "real" name? 

So, it's flashback time! Uranium was the original Metal Man, created before the others. But he was crazy -- he liked to blow stuff up with bombs and screw up Doc's experiments by bombarding them with radiation. Doc turned him into regular uranium, but when the government used him for an atomic test he came back to life (it's a comic book, get over it). Uranium forces Doc to work for him, because he's into irony.

Doc manages to send a coded signal to the Atom, whom he knows I guess, for help. Thus enters the Atom, just under halfway through the story. He infiltrates Uranium's lab, uncovers the means by which he corrupted the Metal Men's atomic structures and even figured out how to fix it without running into any real trouble.

The Atom repairs the Metal Men successfully, and this marks the end of his significance to the story, sadly. Yeah, from here on out it's basically a regular Metal Men story. Oh, the Atom gets a few lines later, but they could have just as easily gone to Doc. I like the Atom , I think he got a raw deal here. The Metal Men start a scrap with Uranium and Silver (not dignifying the name 'Agantha', sorry), with Platinum mostly taking care of Silver by herself. Also, duh, something silly happens.

This is Uranium's special power; unlike the others, even Silver, he doesn't seem to be able to take other shapes or anything like that. Instead he has some radioactive bullet dudes in his chest. I'm beginning to see why Doc wasn't in love with this design. When Lead starts blocking the rays, Uranium thinks it's time to jet and runs away. Mercury gives chase after some quick modifications courtesy of Doc and the Atom.

Uranium is ultimately left a glowing pile of radium after his rays bounce back at him twice. See, the Atom had the idea to amalgamate Mercury with Lead in order to confer Lead's resistance to radiation to Mercury, as a way to trick Uranium into blasting away, blah blah. I don't know a lot about chemistry, so I learned that uranium turns into radium under certain circumstances, at least. 

As team-ups go, this wasn't great; the Atom saved the Metal Men in the middle, and all, but his contribution to the story is pretty light and he could be written out of it with little effort. Of course, the whole "team up" angle was sort of new at this point, having started with #50; it's likely they were just getting into the swing of things. Even so, I think the story did a weak job of pitching the Atom to kids who picked it up for the Metal Men.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What the Hell is up with Forever Evil #5?

Man, I am really not into David Finch, I don't think I've mentioned that, but jeez, man. Anyway, last issue ended with Sinestro showing up and menacing Power Ring. Let's see what's up with that plot thread.

And, see, the yellow border serves as an ironic statement about how fearful he is, when he's running from the leader of the Lantern corps that is powered by fear! I feel sorry for anyone who actually finds this clever, and yes this includes Geoff Johns himself. Power Ring's pitiful retreat from Sinestro has some boring Luthor narration over it, when we cut back to Luthor and his Legion of Doom (along with Batman and Catwoman) staring down a Syndicate hit squad led by Deathstroke.

A fight breaks out, duh, and Luthor spends a lot of time courting Batman's favor for some reason, as if having Batman as his enemy right now would mean anything when he's got friends like Black Adam and Bizarro. Then we spend a little more tine with Sinestro/Power Ring, for character bullcrap with Power Ring's ring insulting him and ordering him around. 

Luthor is so sweet on Batman right now that I'm sure thousands on tumblr are trying to reconcile it with their obvious shared lust for Superman. Another sudden cut to the Sinestro/PR fight, which seems to be pretty back-and-forth so far...

I'm still not sure I get why Sinestro is even here -- is it just because of the connection to Hal Jordan, does he care about Hal that much? Is Hal such a bewitching personality that his greatest enemy's every thought is devoted to him? I just remembered who is writing this comic, so probably. Back at the Luthor plot thread, Deathstroke's hit squad is taken care of one by one, until Luthor manages to convince Deathstroke to turn on the Syndicate and save Batman.

Oh, so I guess he couldn't actually handle Copperhead? I can't really say I buy Batman almost getting killed by a C-Lister like that. Hell, Copperhead clearly had him on the ropes and would have finished him off without Deathstroke's intervention. I'm all for a vulnerable Batman, but generally speaking I'd say he actually should be able to take out Copperhead single-handedly.

Also, Geoff, copperheads are venomous snakes, they don't constrict their prey, they just bite it. Although I guess bats don't exactly throw boomerangs, so maybe I'm nitpicking. Also note that Copperhead can't help but lovingly refer to Luthor's brains as "big" - nice character shilling there, Johns.

Anyway, the scene cuts back to Sinestro vs Power Ring. The fight doesn't last much longer, as Sinestro gets as tired of Power Ring as I am.

Geoff Johns really did the de-arm-ifying spot again. Power Ring's ring reports irreparable damage and flies off in search of a new host, evidently unaware that he has a spare arm handy. Sinestro finishes him off, but he dies happy because the asshole ring is finally gone oh boo hoo. Sinestro joins back up with the main Legion of Doom and they start talking truce with Batman. Bats is cowed by all the big-league powerful villains, but seems to convince them to go along with his "Rescue Dick Grayson" plan.

Meanwhile, the Crime Syndicate is at the Batcave, rooting through Batman's stuff. Apparently Ultraman was interested in Batman's kryptonite ring, which is, according to Owlman, the last remaining Kryptonite on the planet. I really think removing Superman's weakness from existence is a bad idea in a lot of ways, especially in a narrative sense. It turns out the Syndicate had no idea Batman was still alive, so they actually believe/d that they killed the Justice League. Then they get word of Power Ring's death, and then...

Yes, he really did the Fleischer Superman thing again. The interesting thing in the sky is some kind of whatever that killed their own reality BUM BUM BUUUUUM

There's not a lot to like about this comic, at least not in my opinion. I find all the characters obnoxious at best. The writing, the plotting, is uneven and even schizophrenic in places. I'm just a regular consumer, too, I'm not an expert and this is the vibe I'm getting:"Dull and idiotic". 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Big Bang Presents: The Whiz Kids

After the end of the monthly Big Bang title, Big Bang characters continued to appear in a series of one-shots. There were only a handful of these: two each starring Ultiman and the Round Table of America, one Summer Special featuring the Knights of Justice, and this right here, the Whiz Kids. The Whiz Kids, as you might remember, are the Big Bang equivalent of the Teen Titans, and this issue has stories featuring both an Original-Titans style story and a New-Teen-Titans style one.

Starting with the Titans Classic, the Whiz Kids are chilling at their swingin' pad. The writing is intentionally hokey, with the Whiz Kids mostly talking in song lyrics. The art is shaky, and this is clearly not intentional, sad to say.

Anyway, the Whiz Kids head to Florida to Moray's beach house on her invitation, with Moray having retired to attend school full-time. She also has an asshole boyfriend that Cyclone doesn't get along with, a former Navy SEAL and underwater demolitions expert called the Aquamarine. Oh and there's been a rash of shark attacks featuring a huge black shark.

Cyclone survives an encounter with the beast, and the Whiz Kids soon divine that it's actually a robot that looks like a shark. Moreover, it doesn't eat people, it takes them to an underwater plantation where they slave away under the tyranny of a creep called the Great Black Shark. It's a Black Manta thing, and they really go the whole hog here with that theme.

I don't think Manta was ever a black supremacist, at least not to this degree, but let's all agree that enslaving whites isn't the way to make the world better for black people. GBS is one of very few black characters in all of Big Bang, incidentally, but that's a byproduct of BB's focus on adapting the notoriously whitebread Silver Age. Anyway, the action-packed conclusion is a little muddled and clumsily-excecuted, but they trick the GBS into blowing up his own underwater city and get all the prisoners out by way of the mechanical sharks. Moving on...

Above are the new Whiz Kids, or as the team would come to be known with their membership, the Whizzards (I know, awful). In this story, drawn by none other than Chris Samnee (!), the Whizzards face down a threat from Captain Nemo. This guy's backstory is boring enough to not bother you with, but as minor as his role in the story is I think he's one of the more interesting parts.

Gargoyla, Sheborg, Black Power, and (not pictured) Hot Pink join Cyclone in foiling his evil plot. Totem is somewhere else for all this. We get a look at these new characters, their powers, their personalities. They're all basically what you'd expect - Gargoyla is a shrinking violet, Hot Pink is a flighty showoff, Sheborg is cold and rational, etc. 

Yeah, "pep pills", sure. Black Power is half the Cyborg of the team based on appearance and demeanor alone, but his powers seems to come from that alpha-belt he wears, with which he can punch in various combinations to get different powers -- sort of like a voluntary Hero Dial. This strikes me as making him a little overpowered, but whatever. The Nemo plot thread is resolved fairly quickly, but internal strife (and the death of founding member Bubbles the chimp) take a toll on the team's veterans. Ultimately, this causes leader Cyclone to tender his resignation. This is the real "meat" of the whole issue, Cyclone talking about how stupid and awful he feels; I certainly care more about this than the Great Black Shark's white slavery ring.

Around this point it's revealed that, in case you were wondering, the founding Whiz Kids (and Thunder Girl) are nearing 30, though Thunder Girl's powered form still looks like the idealized version of her old teenage self. Cycolne nominates Sheborg replace him as leader, and after saying his goodbyes (and lamenting the missing Moray), Cyclone takes his leave. On that melodramatic note, the issue ends, but not without promise -- Thunder Girl and Cyclone leave together, though TG remains with the team

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Senses-Shattering Saga of the Metal Men! Special Edition -- Justice League #28

I figured this would be a great way to get back into the Metal Men groove -- with the first New 52 appearance of the team. Being a Geoff Johns joint, I'm going to try to rein in any inherent negative bias and take a look at this in the most impartial way possible.

The story opens during Forever Evil; Cyborg is consulting Dr. Will Magnus about bringing the Metal Men in to fight the Syndicate and save humanity. Doc isn't sure about this plan, and a flashback to six months ago tells us why...

In some military complex, a general and the Secretary of Defense are picking on the misanthropic agoraphobe Doc, a twentysomething super genius who hates human contact and thinks robots are cool because they're so logical and obedient. He refuses to talk to them or let them into his lab because this is the start of his character arc and that means he has no redeeming qualities yet.

Doc goes about his business, finally ready to put the finishing touches on his Metal Men. He dips the responsometers he developed into vats of pure metals, and what comes out is... surprisingly emotional and full of personality.

The Metal Men are basically the exact same characters they've always been, except for tweaks to Platinum (getting to that in a minute) and Gold. Gold, who I think we can all agree was a rather flat character before, is here characterized as narcissistic and uber-confident. He gave himself hair, for crying out loud. His status as the leader is justified by having him appoint himself to the position, reasoning that he should be in charge because gold is obviously the best metal. Not 100% sold on this, but I don't hate it. Anyway, the rest are very much recognizable -- Tin stammers, Lead is dim and speaks haltingly, etc.

They even do the "talking about the properties of their metal" thing from their earliest appearances. Oh, and I give special mention to Iron, whose personality is the same as ever but comes on a lot stronger

That left panel was like 3/4 of the page before I cut it down, practially a full body shot, just in case you couldn't tell what she was getting at. Two awesome things about the new Platinum: 1. She clearly likes Doc but isn't a goddamn lunatic about it or anything 2. She's called "Platinum". I always hated the nickname "Tina", I mean really. Doc is baffled by all the emotions, unique personalities, and distinct physical appearances the Metal Men exhibit -- this wasn't part of the plan at all. He eventually lashes out and gives us an old-Doc chestnut: "You're robots, you can't feel anything!"

Things go downhill from there; Doc quickly reconciles with the Metal Men but his military employers bust in and demand he fork them over. When it's clear that the military wants to use them as assassins instead of rescue workers, they bust a move and get out of there, only to resurface in Doc's apartment. And then Chemo shows up.

As Do says, Chemo was created with a stolen prototype responsometer. It's not clear who was behind this, but they clearly knew about Doc's work so it was likely someone at the military compound. The Metal Men burst into action immediately, focusing their efforts solely on clearing the area of civilians before anything else. Ultimately, they rely on a Metal Men classic strategy -- a suicide attack -- to take care of the menace.

Doc was touched by the selflessness of their actions - they saved a lot of people from Chemo without ever considering their own safety, and gave their lives to bring an end to Chemo's rampage. In the present, Cyborg pushes Doc about his reasons for not wanting to bring them back -- in the brief time he'd known the Metal Men, Doc had come to care about them, and he isn't willing to lose them again.

I think that's pretty cool; old Doc usually didn't think much of popping everybody into the Metal Recovery Chamber, though the Metal Men themselves tended to act as though every death was final. Anyway, Cyborg manages to convince him to help out because it's what the Metal Men would want.

All told, I'm very happy with the New 52 incarnation of the Metal Men. They're all essentially the exact same characters (except Gold, who let's face it didn't have much of a character in the first place), they do the same things, act the same way, and have the same relationships with one another. The new Doc grated on me at first because I thought he'd stay the misanthropic asshole he was at the start, but we ended up with a version of Doc who thinks of the Metal Men as his only friends and family, who cried when they sacrificed themselves to stop Chemo. In a lot of ways I think it improves on the group as previously depicted -- Platinum seems interested in Doc but is absolutely not a weirdo about it, for instance, and while I admit I'm not crazy about Gold the preening narcissist it's better than the dull "standard sci-fi hero" personality he had before.

I could go on forever -- this incarnation of the Metal Men is the best yet. It's very faithful to everything I loved about the Silver Age version, with all the stupid parts (Crazy Platinum, the nickname "Tina", Doc's awful treatment of Platinum, Doc's paternal detachment from the group, boring Gold, and, most of all, 'Nameless') surgically removed. I'm very surprised at just how much I enjoyed this issue, and I really love what Johns and Reis did with these characters. I know Geoff Johns isn't much-beloved these days, but after this and his great Aquaman run, I'm reconsidering hating him so much. Reconsidering.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Peacemaker: Why Peace, Love, and Understanding Seemed Funny

I'm no expert on Charlton comics, I have fairly limited experience with their material and even most of their characters -- most of my knowledge comes directly from Who's Who. Not that that's much help in this case, as the Peacemaker had two profiles, one pre- and one post-Crisis, that are completely at odds with each other. His big claim to fame, as with most of the more notable Charlton heroes, is that he inspired a Watchmen character (namely the Comedian)

The thing about the Peacemaker is that, as a kid, I thought the concept as lined out in Who's Who was pretty laughable; a guy who digs peace and thus fights for it. It doesn't help that he has what is in my opinion the most unenviable costume in comics, bar none, with special mention going to the toilet bowl-esque helmet. I'd go so far as to say he was the world's lamest superhero until DC's Bloodlines event introduced a whole score of new crappy all-stars.

Peacemaker is Christopher Smith, a US peace envoy living in... Europe... somewhere, who is always solving trouble caused by never-named Soviet states (usually vaguely implied to be Eastern European or one of the Soviet -stans). His origin is all but non-existent, but check out hisr. arsenal of weapons.

First off, let's make this clear -- the Peacemaker is not a pacifist, and isn't even close. He basically never shoots anyone with a gun, this much is true, but he's culpable in hundreds of deaths by the end of his five-issue run. He knocks a frogman out and breaks his breathing apparatus before leaving him to drown; he uses his forehead-mounted laser to block off a rocky mine passage only to cause a massive explosion that kills dozens.  He even intentionally ruptured a nuclear sub's reactor, dooming most of its crew and all sea life within a 50 mile radius. There's nothing this man will not do in the interest of peace; he'll attack you in bed, he'll use chemical weapons... He's the worst peace-lover ever. 

His primary weapon is the laser mounted on his stupid helmet, as well as a jetpack on his back. None of that other crap in the diagram above is ever used, though he has an annoying habit of pulling just-the-right-gadget out of his Peace Cavity (such as a knock-out pellet intended for sharks, or a freeze gun). The laser is the worst peaceful weapon of its kind since Dr. Venture's Oo-Ray -- in the first two issues both times he uses it there are massive casualties

Peacemaker is an odd duck because he was clearly created in response to real-world fears of World War III, but his adventures quickly turn fantastical -- in the final issue of his series, he's fighting lava monsters and sporting an even worse helmet.

And, I'm just noticing, a different chest insignia. I suspect this was some attempt to retool Peacemaker into something other than a murderous, jackbooted thug; the villain of that piece was, after all, a more direct supervillain than any of the characters he'd faced before. Alas (or who am I kidding, thankfully) 'twas not to be. Peacemaker went on to make zero appearances of note in DC, except I hear for one of the Final Crisis Aftermath minis or something. Which is just as well, since nobody was clamoring for an encore with this guy.