Cammi and the rebirth of Drax

With the Guardians of the Galaxy movie coming out on Friday, I figured I could shamelessly increase my hits.  So for a few articles, let’s explore some of these weirdos and their wacky space adventures — that’s the theme of the movie, right?

We start with Drax the Destroyer.  Marvel history can be confusing (50 years of continuity will do that) so let me explain him as briefly and simply as I can.  Born a normal Earth man named Arthur Douglas, Drax’s car gets blown up by the cosmic supervillain Thanos.  His daughter Heather (now the superhero Moondragon) gets kidnapped as well.  The Titan god Chronos puts Douglas’ spirit inside a super cool new Drax body complete with all the usual superpowers. Now, Drax lives to kill Thanos again and again (because the dude keeps coming back to life).  We pick up in Drax the Destroyer #2-4, written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Mitch Breitweiser, as a young girl named Cammi watches Drax — currently a brain-trauma’d prisoner — fight off the other prisoners who crash landed on Earth.

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So that fight may have been strange without any context.  Sorry.  But Drax is dead.  Weep your tears, my friends, because as strong as Drax is, he can’t take a Skrull arm through the skull.  Though now a question is brought up that we don’t think about often.  What does one do with an alien corpse?  Does it eventually decompose?  Can we recycle it?  Our protagonist Cammi has an idea.

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Cammi gets a souvenir!  I’d like to announce that the young girl is a gifted astro-biologist prodigy, specializing in revitalize the blasted bodies of fallen extra-terrestials.  She’s not. Cammi has emotional issues and she wants a free alien corpse.  That’s pretty much the gist of it.  As far as presents go, it sure beats a Gameboy.

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A smoking corpse means a repairing corpse.  Let’s not worry about the how in this scenario. I don’t know how he comes back to life, and honestly, it’s not really explained.  But what we do get is a smarter, sleeker, tattoo’d Drax with no more energy blasts or flight or crazy amounts of super strength.  He makes up for it in sex appeal.

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It’s not Drax’s fault that he’s naked in front of a fifth grader.  She waited for him to pop out of his corpse egg — he didn’t hide in a bush with an open trench coat or anything.  When someone comes back from the dead, I assume they want some questions answered first.  Drax does that.  Then he gets pants.  In summary: first, all queries need to be completed to Drax’s satisfaction.  Second, cover up his penis.

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That grumpy, violent, hardened Drax we know and love?  He’ll be around shortly, showing his face more prominently in Friday’s article.  In today’s comic, with Paibok holding Cammi’s town hostage, it’ll be up to a (fashionable) Drax to save the day.  While he can’t blast Paibok in the face with laser hands anymore, he can always rely on the old fashioned methods.  Meet modern Drax, the Drax you’ll be seeing in the movie and the outfit he still wears today.

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Shirts are only for those without cool tribal shoulder tattoos.  This relationship between one of the galaxy’s biggest tough guys and a stubborn Earth child isn’t unique.  Menacing, scary superheroes have had child sidekicks since the beginning of comics (Hercules and Amadeus Cho, for example), but Cammi is unique as to her role as Drax’s tag-a-long buddy.  As in she contributes nothing.  She can’t fight, she has no superpowers, and she’s unabashedly rude.  I adore her.  She’ll become capable in time, but it won’t be anytime soon.  For now, here’s some violence to satisfy the quota:

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Next time, Drax and Cammi in space!  Also, a galaxy-enveloping war that threatens to wipe out all civilization as the two join the combined planetary powers in their struggle against Annihilus and Thanos’ bug army.  But mostly Drax and Cammi’s growing friendship.

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Jubilee’s baby, Pt. 2

Motherhood can begin with a surprise, like rescuing a baby from a terrorist meteor strike in Hungary. Most of the time I assume babies show up mainly from two people who love each other very much in the bedroom, but in the Marvel universe, freak scenarios occur far more often.  The X-Men’s resident vampire now has her own kid, officially and eternally hers, and as we pick up exactly where we left off last time — it’s time for a vacation.  The infant just become an official member of the X-Men, after all. Superpowers include random vomiting and sleeping 18 hours a day.

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Besides Wolverine’s female clone X-23, I bet he has dozens of other identical clones running around so that he can be on every team and in every story and travel to every location in every comic. Oh, and Jubilee doesn’t actually have full leg tattoos, those are just cool leggings.  Remember, she’s more fashionable than we are.  I imagine most of us dress like a shabbier Wolverine, and that’s just our facial hair.

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You ever wonder how the X-Men get so much money?  Professor X comes from a loaded family. Emma Frost is practically a billionaire.  Angel is a billionaire.  The X-Men students run Angel’s company.  The school even sits on a living piece of land — nuclear tests made it sentient, duh — named Krakoa that can grow diamonds.  So Wolverine and friends bankroll the entire school themselves, which includes replacing the exploded jet and paying for massive property damage every three issues or so.

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Jubilee worries she’s too young to have a child?  This girl has traveled the cosmos, fought world-destroying entities, saved the universe dozens of times with only a yellow raincoat and hand-blasted Roman candles. After all that, she can handle a baby.  More importantly, even if Shogo grows up and kills one or two people, she’ll still have done a better parenting job than Wolverine.  That dude’s offspring pop more psychopathy during puberty than zits.  Maybe that’s why dear Logan dotes so much on all the young X-Men girls.  Nothing pervy, just making up for a century of terrible parenting.

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Didn’t know Wolverine knew the real estate market, huh?  So before we begin our next section of the story, we should talk briefly about the X-Men crossover event Battle of the Atom.  As I explain this, no matter how insane this sounds, it actually turned out to be a wonderful story — lots of cool plot twists. I loved it and highly recommend it.  But recently, Beast went back in time to bring the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman) into the present, hoping they would convince present-day Cyclops not to be such a jerk.  Big mistake.  So in Battle of the Atom, two groups of future X-Men go back in time to the present to force the original five X-Men to go back to the past. Essentially, you have five groups of X-Men — Cyclops’ group, Wolverine’s group, the original five group, and the two different future X-Men groups — and SHIELD, all with radically different ideas about what to do with these original five.  I promise you, it’s a great story, no matter how convoluted it sounds.  Anyway, it gives us some important Jubilee/Shogo scenes.

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But all that’s not enough for me to warrant showing you scenes from Battle of the Atom.  Here’s what is: the future X-Men bring with it not only future Colossus with a Hulk Hogan mustache, but future super vampire Jubilee as well.  That and one more surprise.

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Aw, how delightful!  You get a glimpse into the happy-Shogo-and-Jubilee future!  Even with no superpowers, Shogo still gets an Iron Man ripoff armor to go fight bad guys with.  As for current developments in the Jubilee and Shogo adventures, I point you to the most recent arc of X-Men. Unfortunately, I can’t post it because it doesn’t actually end for another month in X-Men #17, but I’ll give you a tease from X-Men #13, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Clay Mann.

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Go buy the comics, because what kind of monster would you be if you don’t support mutant vampire Asian teenage mothers?

 


Jubilee’s baby, Pt. 1

As we end our series where I update you on what Jubilee’s up to lately (finally you can sleep easy again), she’ll be embracing a role far more dangerous than bloodthirsty vampire: mother.  While raising a child may be scary, raising a child in a world where dodging explosions is how most people get their daily cardio is downright terrifying. Today and Monday, we follow her arduous path in X-Men #1-6, volume four, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Olivier Coipel & David Lopez, to explain how her newest development came to be.  Spoiler alert: it’s an “oops” baby, but not in that way, you pervert.

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Note, this is the baby’s first appearance in comics.  I didn’t skip over any back story — it’s supposed to be all mysterious and confusing.  How did Jubilee end up with a child in Bulgaria?  You know how superhero powers work, they all get the ability to be in the right place at the right time.  With Jubilee in control of her vampire urges (I assume by this point since those are never mentioned), she can totally be a responsible vampire mother.  Plus, babies don’t have a lot of blood anyway.  Though I’m jumping the gun — we have to build up to Jubilee claiming the infant as her own.

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I like to think Kitty Pryde said the words “oh my god” as opposed to only announcing the letters.  That girl must be in her late teens by now, not halfway through middle school.  Also, notice the accusations in Storm’s questions?  She straight up thinks Jubilee swiped a baby from some random lady.  But this child has no parents, so finders keepers, I guess.  Welcome to the X-Men, baby.

Oh, and that suspicious man following her?  He’s supervillain John Sublime, hunting his sister Arkea. She’s a technological bacteria.  I’m serious.  And she takes over bodies with her super tech powers, especially those that the X-Men would never suspect.

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Arkea switches from the infant to cyborg superhero Karima Shapandar, the Omega Sentinel.  You saw Days of Future Past, you know what those sentinels can do.  I include the next page only so you can see the gorgeous picture of our vampire and her baby sleeping.  Jubilee looks like a 1970s coke dealer.  And her polka dot socks.  I love it.

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As the X-Men go on the super dangerous mission of hunting down the Omega Sentinel/Arkea combo, I’d like to list off the current team roster: Storm, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, John Sublime, Jubilee, and a baby.  And why name the baby Shogo?  It’s a Japanese name (because the child’s Japanese — Jubilee herself is half-Chinese) and from an interview I found with the writer Brian Wood, it’s just a name he liked.  Why not?  You create a character, you name him or her whatever you want. Much like our pets.

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Now it’s official — Jubilee’s a bona fide mother.  Don’t fret that little Shogo’s not a mutant, he’ll still be allowed to live and flourish with the X-Men.  If we’re going to get technical, Jubilee’s not a mutant anymore either and Wolverine still lets her crash at the school.  What’s a vampire among rock monsters, psychics, alien insects, and a boy named Glob Herman?

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With Google coming up empty (especially considering she has no idea the child’s real name and the whole finding him next to a terrorist meteor explosion attack), Shogo will forever remain firmly in the loving hands of dear Jubilee.  On Monday, we have a bunch more updates on these two.  I won’t leave you in the dark when it comes to infant-related news.


The friendship of X-23 & Jubilee

X-23 spends most of her solo series slashing and moping.  That girl may be many things, but happy isn’t one of them.  It sorta comes with the territory of being a Wolverine clone.  Well, that and the test tube birth and being raised since birth to be a merciless killer child.  So now that she’s free of all that evil lab experiment Winter Soldier-esque stuff, dear X-23 (real name Laura Kinney — kind of) has the task of forgiving herself, picking up all those shattered self-esteem pieces, and figuring out her new path in life.  And shaving her back — she’s a Wolverine clone after all.  Gambit accompanies her on her find-herself journey and today in X-23 #10-12, written by Majorie Liu and drawn by Sana Takeda, our cajun role model figures maybe she could use a pep talk.

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See Laura’s slash-first-ask-questions-later policy?  What better proof do you need that she’s Wolverine’s clone?  He claws dudes for ordering light beers at bars, much less possible vampire attacks.  But Wolverine showed up not just to force Jubilee on her — possible friend her age and whatnot — but for that brief moment of sage advice a fellow Wolverine can bring.

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The point Wolverine attempts to make to girl Wolverine lies in our two protagonists teaching each other.  Jubilee needs to learn how to calm her newly spawned killer instincts and X-23 must learn how to not be a sad sack every moment of her life.  By the way, because there’s no other place to put this — the two will meet again in the penultimate issue of X-23 and they go dancing at a club.  Jubilee still has her famous yellow raincoat on amid all the rave lights and attractive people grinding, so my only conclusion is that’s part of her skin now.

Oh, and now X-23 does some questionable.

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Aside from X-23’s recent attempted suicides (healing factor can’t really kill her, so it’s more of an emo teenage girl cutting scenario), her sacrifice serves a greater purpose.  For one, she can’t turn into a vampire due to her being a Rule 63 Wolverine.  But because the Marvel universe can bend the rules on the limitations of mythical monsters, every vampire bloodsucker also absorbs the memories and thoughts, like a creepier version of Rogue.  Or maybe just her.  I’m not an expert on this.

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While X-23 has the the PTSD childhood that would make the sternest therapist cry, she makes a good point to Jubilee while simultaneously knocking off any possible responsibility for the lesson.  X-23 totally understands the desire to kill everyone, that’s pretty much her whole gimmick.  It’s good for both of them to have someone relatable to hang out with.  Wolverine spent decades perfecting his zen — accepting and forgiving his past mistakes — something teenage girls can’t do with a wrong number text much less a former murder spree.  But since we’re reading a superhero comic, we’ll soon get to an incident that requires superhero intervention.  Though first, dress shopping:

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And now the superheroics:

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Let’s talk about trigger scent for a minute.  You know how Wolverine goes into his “berserker mode” anytime someone hits him with a bazooka or smokes his last cigar?  That primal attack-everyone-aiming-for-squishy-parts with his loved ones screaming for him to stop?  The scientists who created X-23 developed a gas that causes the same reaction to her, and as you can suspect from the massive foreshadowing above, our protagonist inhales a whole crapload of that stuff.  Here’s Feral X-23 vs. Vampire Jubilee:

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Jubilee can’t beat X-23.  Sure, the vampire blood makes her faster, stronger, and more undead than Laura, but X-23 has adamantium claws and a lifetime of combat training.  Luckily, the adults won’t let children slice open other children, much like myself when I taught middle school.

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Happy ending for all except Wolverine’s kidney.  Jubilee feels a fraction of a bit better for her predicament and X-23’s about to receive her own marginally improved emotional stability from our dear mall rat.  The irony in Jubilee being undead is that no one enjoys living more than her.  A zest for life that can only be brought from (formerly) shooting fireworks from your hands.

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Jubilee turns into a vampire, Pt. 2

As we left off on Friday, Vampire Jubilee and Vampire Wolverine put a hamper into the X-Men’s plan to defeat this undead enemy — and also have none of them turn into vampires.  Sadly, that solitary neck chomp also brings it with an evil personality devoid of all the good stuff that sunshine, puppies, and such provide.  Well, Cyclops won’t stand for it.  Remember his new ideology of the X-Men being less of a school and more of a highly-trained heavily fortified army?

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Bad guys don’t listen to the threats of Ol’ Laser Eyes (whose eye lasers are not compressed energy but instead portals to a universe that doesn’t follow the laws of physics — or something like that). Plus, Cyclops hasn’t smiled all arc.  Masterminding the potentially greatest slaughter of vampires ever known can be quite stressful.  But Xarus, being a traditional supervillain who doesn’t realize that the superheroes always emerge victorious, attacks the X-Men base Utopia with the full vampire force because he has to learn his lesson the hard way.

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Vampire Wolverine has the benefit of being unfiltered and evil as opposed to his normal unfiltered and curmudgeony.  Nowadays, the X-Men preside as the Batman of the Marvel universe, in that they have plans for every single possible scenario — poor planning prevents the extinction of the few hundred remaining mutants against almost ten thousand bloodsucking monsters and Vampire Wolverine. Anyway, they win.  Go buy the book for all that.  Most important to today’s topic:

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Yes, now instead of a being a powerless nobody, Jubilee now gets to walk the streets as a hungry, bloodthirsty night demon.  It might have been better for her emotional health if she stayed useless. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, there’s no going back — vampirism doesn’t cure if someone doesn’t possess a healing factor or the writer no longer wants her to be a vampire.

We jump five issues to a simpler time, where Professor X still had that shred of kindness and teacher-ness deep inside him before all that uncovered psychic manipulation tainted his reputation.  We start with an angry Jubilee, as most people who are turned into vampires against their will tend to be:

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In this issue, he tells a long story from his pre-Magneto past where he tracks hunters in Africa.  The story itself doesn’t become relevant until the final scenes, when he meets a special man.  Or used to be man.

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You can probably guess his secret.  Hint: it starts with a “v” and ends in “–ampire.”  Like all mythical monsters, you get the good and the bad populating a universe with billions of other fictional people. Take DC’s sword-wielding Frankenstein.  DC’s ghost Deadman.  Half of Blade.  So when Professor X assures Jubilee that her actions from this point have no influence from the vampire baddies of the past, he has proof.  That and the only vampire to ever wear a tank top.

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On Wednesday, we’ll read more Vampire Jubilee stuff, because I’m never afraid to beat a dead horse well beyond the point of embarrassment.


Jubilee turns into a vampire, Pt. 1

I mentioned briefly that Jubilee currently prowls around the Marvel universe as a vampire and mother. The latter is a story for another day, but in a fictional universe with mutants and space gods and mole people, why not throw in the classic monsters as well?  Jubilee joins the ranks of vampire-hood (the scary kind) in X-Men #1-6, written by Victor Gischler and drawn by Paco Medina, as well as X-Men #11, written by Gischler and drawn by Al Barrionuevo.

Before we begin, it’s important to know that all that’s about to happen spawned from the Marvel event House of M.  At its conclusion, Scarlet Witch wipes out the genetic mutation of all but 198 mutants (mainly those Professor X protected).  Jubilee unfortunately misses out on the professor’s gift, rendering her among the millions now powerless.  No more fireworks for our dear mall rat.

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You see, we expect vampires to remain as old fashioned and Victorian as their myth dictates.  But of course they adjust to new technology and skills.  In today’s modern world, couldn’t something (or someone) be created to mimic the effects of a bite without all that hassle of the romanticization and allure of a neck puncture?  Vampires use Facebook just like the rest of us, or in this case, manufacture biological weapons that accomplish their goals under the guise of a terrorist attack.

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No going back now.  Our girl’s on her way to vampire-dom.  Want to talk about vampires in Marvel comics?  I guess if not you could always skip this paragraph.  The mythical creatures first appeared in the Marvel universe in the early ’70s, as Marvel comics’ version of Dracula received his own comic book.  Morbius the Living Vampire technically premiered before him, but Morbius is also technically not a vampire.  The Comics Code Authority finally allowed comic books to return to their horror roots, and they jumped on that with a fury you’d expect from an easy way to make bijillions of dollars.  Thus the series The Tomb of Dracula ran for over seven years and seventy issues.  The superhero Blade premiered in that series as well.  He’s a major character in this arc we’re reading now, but I’m skipping him in favor of Jubilee.  Note: it’s worth buying the book just for Blade’s Hulk Hogan mustache.

So the vampires’ plan?  Hint: it involves delusions of grandeur.

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She can officially stamp her vampire card.  Definitely no going back from that.  I’m not happy about the weird pseudo-seduction of the young Jubilee by an ancient creepy vampire (Dracula’s son Xarus), but I guess it wouldn’t be a good vampire story if we weren’t all weirded out.

Up next you’ll witness a beautiful exercise in a slow burn.  Not like an insult, but the overextending of a scene to heighten the effect of the ending.  And of course Xarus is right: the X-Men’ll totally rush to save their precious former X-Men.  No one more than Wolverine, who collects teenage girl protégés faster than matted back hair.

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For all of Wolverine’s unpleasantness, his father figure-ness towards the younger X-Men almost compensates for his many, many, many faults.  Sure, he may smell like meat, drinks too much, needs anger management, and murders every other person he talks to — but you see how much he cares about the kids?  He’s tortured, not evil.  Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor, and the rest are objectively better people for knowing him.  Now remember this for our slow burn.

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What a jerk.  Can Vampire Jubilee redeem herself?  Maybe, but at least she’ll have her buddy Vampire Wolverine.  Now when he goes to the bar, it’ll bring a whole new meaning when he orders a Bloody Mary.  Right?  Sorry, I promise I won’t do that again.


The Impulse and Batman team-up

No two superheroes have less in common than Impulse and Batman, except maybe a mutual respect for Batman.  The child speedster arrives in Gotham to play a prank on Robin — that’s his entire motivation for coming to the city and almost a perfect summary of the character himself.  And you know Batman already, the scariest man in the DC universe.  Today, they team-up against the Joker and it’s absolutely delightful.  Let’s read together Impulse #50, written by Todd Dezago and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver.

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Note the brilliant difference in art styles.  Impulse is drawn like a living cartoon with a larger noggin and softer features while Batman has his standard gritty lines and indulgence in shading.  Unfortunately, despite Impulse’s superpowers and Batman’s over-reliance on solo work, there’s one more solid reason for Impulse to run on home.  Y’know, it’s in his superhero name.  Also, you can really see the clear gorgeous difference in the art on these pages:

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Witness Impulse’s first conversation with the Joker.  The poor kid has to keep Joker busy long enough for Batman to disable all the traps.  Luckily for all the Joker’s unpredictability, at least he’s always terribly verbose.

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Joker’s bad grammar aside — it’s almost impressive for the Joker to bring about that level of fear in those he’s around.  The guy has no superpowers, no real alliances, an above average but not genius intelligence, and fairly middle-of-the-road martial arts skills.  Though I guess anyone would pick up a few fighting tricks getting bashed in the head monthly by Batman for the past decade or two.  So what would any good supervillain do with a speedster at his disposal?

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You can click the picture for a larger version of the montage.  And you should, because it’s fantastic. Note all the jokes: the two notes he starts to write his real name before crossing it out, that gleeful panel of Batman and Impulse cackling like mad scientists, Impulse’s poses as he takes pictures for Joker, etc.  For all the darkness and extreme-ness of comics in the ’90s, we can’t forget that glimmer of silliness and fun hidden beneath numerous pouches and leather jackets.

Also, three great jokes on the next few pages.

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There’s a three page fight scene after this, but you can buy the issue for that.  The important life lesson comes at the story’s conclusion, where all young superheroes experience growth through the tribulations of working with their elders.  Most importantly, Batman does something that’s his own perfect character summation.  He manages to give a compliment and an insult at the same time, thus bringing Impulse’s feel-good status back down to neutral.  You wouldn’t want the kid to get a big head, right?  I mean, a bigger head than he already has.

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We’re back to Robin on Wednesday because Tim Drake holds a special place in my heart.  He makes out with Jubilee.  How’s that for a tease?


Impulse and the library

Every weekend from 2003 till the reboot, the DC superheroes would ship their child sidekicks off to San Francisco to bond or whatever.  Maybe Batman just needs a break.  Maybe he wants some time without have to worrying about being a good role model or wearing pants in Wayne Manor. In Teen Titans #1-7, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Mike McKone & Tom Grummett, we get to see the teenagers’ days off from fighting crime.  Which they use to fight crime anyway.  But the idea of Teen Titans?  Fantastic idea, and good for personal growth or at least two days a week that Flash doesn’t have to deal with the DC universe’s annoying kid brother.

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Let’s talk about Bart Allen for a moment.  It’s weird and complicated, so I’ll try to explain the best I can.  Bart comes from a thousand years in the future, but unfortunately all that speed juice or genetic abnormality started to age him prematurely.  Like that Robin Williams movie Jack.  His family raised him in a video game-esque environment to keep his metabolism in check (hence Flash stating that Impulse treats everything like a video game with continues, extra lives, etc.), but it didn’t work.  Taking the next logical step, his mother sends him back in time to our day where medicine doesn’t have the ability to fix a future disease.  The Flash (Wally West) races Bart Allen around the world and the crazy speed fixes his metabolism.  Look, I’m not a scientist, but that’s comic books for you.

Now he’s the superhero Impulse, saving a yacht from a mysterious bad guy.

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The Teen Titans’ arch-nemesis Deathstroke is an old man.  His hair is white and he rocks full facial hair.  Yet he spends his time battling teenagers, like the ultimate elderly dude yelling at kids about stepping on his lawn.  Sure, he occasionally blows off kneecaps and slices people open with swords, but we can’t forget that he loses constantly to superheroes with a median age of 15.

Now here’s the thing about super speed — it also means super recovery.  Impulse can heal fully within minutes, but like in the real world and not in the world where running fast cures metabolism issues, if the knee heals in the wrong place then Impulse can kiss walking goodbye.  Plus, all the surgeons retrying after the healing ruins their surgery gives Impulse a long time to painfully think about his own life mistakes.  Remember when his mentor said that he doesn’t believe in him?

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Impulse is the only Flash-like character with perfect memory.  Flash or Max Mercury or Johnny Quick can learn how to repair a skyscraper in the time it takes for the first brick to fall, but weeks later the skill’ll be removed with football stats or however superheroes spend their weekends without their kids. Time for poor Impulse to grow up.

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Robin solos Deathstroke next.  And as I’m a former English teacher, I’d be remiss not to mention that for all of Robin’s skills — martial arts, detective logic, weapon training, years of on-the-job experience, and a costume full of Deus Ex Machina gadgets — his life today gets saved because of books. Beautiful, glorious, spectacular books.

If knowledge is power, than Impulse now has the power of the entire San Francisco Library.

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You can click the image above for a larger version where you can actually read all the text.  Like many Pokemon evolutions, the Flash title takes two promotions to obtain.  He starts as the immature and annoying Impulse.  After he proves himself (with knowledge), he graduates to the second level Kid Flash.  That’s the same title Wally West used before he became the real deal.  In a few years, Bart’s Kid Flash finally gets his precious Flash moniker (for thirteen issues before he dies, but that’s a whole other story).

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Oh yeah, the kids battle their superhero mentors, but you can buy the book for all that.  As we end today, I want to mention one more time how delightful and refreshing real superhero growth is.  I totally get that superheroes almost always must go through temporary change or personal growth with no future impact on the story — comics are a business and sales must remain steady.  Though I guess the New 52 is out to prove me wrong.  We should root with all our heart that this reboot succeeds because there’s no going back.  Readers’ delusions of an “oops” and shift back to 2010 isn’t healthy. Buckle up for the long haul and enjoy the ride.

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Robin’s school shooting, Pt. 2

Being a superhero, Robin has an advantage that normal people don’t — namely superhuman detective skills and kung fu-ing faces.  With his classmate dead, it’s time the teenage murderer pays for his crimes.  Through kung fu-ing him in the face, mainly.  Robin and his buddy Spoiler have all the information they need, and all that’s left is the bruising and the arresting.

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I’m not totally an expert on teenage behavior, but two colorful vigilantes bursting through a gang’s door invokes less fear and more apathy.  We forget that Batman’s the scary one.  Robin’s the lighter side of crime fighting.  Since children can’t be as frightening as Batman hopes, Robin’s bright colors allow the bad guys to underestimate him.  He wins the fight through psychology.  Or because Robin’s color scheme has been around for over 70 years and it’s too late to make any considerable changes to the costume.  Giving Robin pants were a nice touch though.

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You know Robin doesn’t belong in that area when he counters the thug’s threat with Gatsby’s catchphrase. Some hidden benefits of being a gang leader is your own theme song, like a half dozen highly armed men pounding a drum line for foreshadowed walks down the hallway.  You know how Batman always wins because of his incredible level of preparation?  Robin and Spoiler spend the next pages dodging a nonstop stream of bullets and other situations they’re not ready for.  The chase eventually leads outside:

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Daddy has a lecture planned.  I know in the movies, they always show Batman’s eyeballs, but the white slits make for a wildly more intimidating Batman.  Time for Robin’s life lesson this arc.

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Batman’s right, of course, except for one tiny detail — the whole fear of Batman prevents crime thing. Maybe in a real life society, a giant man in a bat costume dropping from the sky to punch all your friends would give you some hesitation before committing the next illegal act.  But Batman lives in a world where he needs stories to fill four or five monthly books — Gotham isn’t lacking in repeat offenders.

We pick up twenty issues later.  Bad guys continue to rob banks and steal and kill and poison the water supply and tear people in life while wearing luchador masks.  But today, we get the conclusion to Robin and Young El’s tale.  One of them didn’t learn the first time.

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See?  What a great dilemma!  Young El will need Robin’s help to survive his mistake, but Robin will be assisting a known murderer — and a personal tragedy in Tim Drake’s life — only to have Young El break the law later down the road again.  While people rave about characters who “put down” their villains, of course Robin’s going to attempt to save Young El.  He’s better than us.  Batman’s better than us.  Superheroes have to be morally superior, as it goes with the cape-and-underpants territory.

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We end our Robin stories today, and like the other two articles, this one also ends unhappily.  That child gets wrung through the emotional ringer.  Thank goodness poor Tim has the composure to suppress or deal with trauma (and it certainly helps that he’s a fictional character) or else his father wouldn’t need to find the costume to discover Robin’s secret identity — he’d just have to listen to the daily night terrors and massive therapy bill.

In summary, Tim Drake’s the best Robin.  I think that’s the message I’ve tried to convey this week.

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Don’t worry, Robin’ll smile on Monday as we cover an Impulse moment from Teen Titans.


Robin’s school shooting, Pt. 1

As a teenager, Robin’s going to come across the normal teenage dramas as well as occasionally batarang-ing Two Face or Penguin or whoever.  Even Tim’s mentor can’t help with high school issues as unfortunately, Batman spent his own youth training as a ninja in the Himalayans.  Vengeance takes decades of prep, y’know.  So poor Robin has to get thrown into the inferno of improvised problem solving today in Robin #25-26, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Mike Wieringo, and Robin #46, written by Dixon and drawn by Cully Hammer.

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Get ready for another after-school special with bo staff beatings, because hopefully nerdy ’90s teenagers would pay attention to stuff Robin does.  Though it seems a bit patronizing in 2014, I’m okay with this type of story.  While kids can’t totally relate to school shootings (well, maybe now but not so much in 1996), they do understand impossible choices and it’s nice to have their fictional hero attempt to tackle that type of problem.  I might just be overly simplistic, but I think we can all agree that in summary, being a teenager totally sucks.

Tim enlists his dad to go talk to Karl’s dad.  The conversation goes exactly as you expect.

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Have you noticed how perfectly comic book characters’ hair grays?  It only reaches the temple and never expands into the precious moneymaker at the top (see Hal Jordan, Mr. Fantastic, Alan Scott, etc.).  Just a touch of distinguish-ness to show old age and a full, beautiful heap of hair above.  Do comic book characters only ever have a thick, gorgeous head of hair or none at all?  What about the balding superheroes and villains?

Oh yeah, and Karl’s rebuttal to Tim the next day also goes exactly as you expect.

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You don’t have to be Martian Manhunter to figure out what’s coming next.  That and the title of today’s article gives it away.  Robin has no problem snitching on his classmate — it’s to save his life, after all. Did Karl really think Tim wasn’t going to say anything?  The dude spends his nights handing over tied up bad guys to the police by the dozens.  He has battled every psychopath, monster, and criminal mastermind that Gotham City can throw at him — and won every time.  Robin ain’t scared of bullies. Though like all dramatic and sad superhero moments, our hero’s just a moment too late.

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Why is this moment so upsetting compared to the rest of Robin’s career?  Batman’s partner has seen hordes of dudes gunned down, women and children horribly killed, and the absolute core of Gotham’s evil.  So why one dumb bully from his school?  Simple:

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Robin and Tim Drake are separate entities, and they have to be for a teenage boy to handle the stress and sights of being a vigilante crime fighter.  Kids worry themselves sick over algebra tests, much less dodging machine gun fire.  Robin keeps all that potential PTSD locked away behind that mask — something Batman doesn’t do.  For a superhero who we all claim as a non-powered human, there’s very few human characteristics about Batman.  Now Nightwing, he’s more of the perfect balance.  I know it’s a little brief today but it’s a good stopping point for the second half on Wednesday (mainly because 30 images in one article gets draining) and Robin’s attempted revenge.  Spoiler alert: it’s sad.

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