Sunday, 25 February 2018

Clean Room Book 3: Waiting For The Stars To Fall (#13-18)

"Fuck, oh fuck.  We're stuck here" - Chloe

Ah once again apologies for a late posting, been tech apocalypse for me lately.  Got the scanner working again, the laptop remains at the menders, anyway we wrap up this ladies month with a story by Gail Simone the final six isues of what promised to be season one of Clean Room, so apparently it's not gone for good except nothing bar a single tweet from Jan 2017 said Clean Room would be back.  This is a complex tale which revolves around two very different women.  The first is Astrid Mueller, when she was a young girl she had an accident that ever since has allowed her to see monsters that are disguised as people or living inside them or attached to them.  When she grew up she formed a Scientology style cult with the revelation of what lies out there given to those who attain the highest echelon.  The second woman involved is Chloe Pierce, whose boyfriend was a member of Astrid's organisation and killed himself up learning the awful truth.  At first Chloe was determined to figure out what the scam was being performed by Astrid but she gradually found herself part of Astrid's world.  One way is that she too can shape the visions of the titular Clean Room where patients of counselled about the terrifying thoughts and visions he creatures are giving them as Astrid manifests the beings inside there.  But last volume, Astrid was nearly assassinated by her brother Peter, Chloe is able to heal her via a friendly one of the aliens called Spark, who also saved  Chloe from the ministrations of The Butcher back in her home as well. The last book ended with two of Astrid's "rooks" implicated in the assassination attempt and Astrid looking at her baby niece and seeing a monster instead.  That's the most important stuff that happened, but these books really are cramful of events also you might notice that the main artist is no longer Jon Davis-Hunt but Walter Geovani, more thoughts on that in the conclusion.  Anyway, lets be getting along.

We start with a chubby middle-aged man called Mr. Tubbins being dropped off by a mountain path where he carries a briefcase to a muscular young man called Mr. Webber.  Tubbin's shows a picture of the mutated creature that is Astrid's neice.  When Tubbins tells Webber who the aunt is, Webber thanks him and tells him to do the right thing and as Tubbins throws himself off the cliff, Webber ponders the existance of "a child."  Then we get a full page of his face in which the left side is horrificially mutilated.

Back at Astrid's HQ, The Honest World Foundation in Chicago, Duncan and Killian the two Rooks who betrayed Astrid are called in to see her in The Room.  Both are forced to wear uniforms that newbies wear, and when confronted by Astrid, she quietly demands to know if they know what they have done.  When they tell her why, Ducan saying he wanted to save his boyfriend from "unimaginable torture" while Killian says they let the entity go free because he saved them:

Astrid: "No.  The answer is that you betrayed me."

She contemplates how to punish them and demands to know their worst memory.  Duncan says the first man who ever loved him was killed by a snipers bullet in Afghanistan, he had to as him off him.  Killian says it was discovering her mother dead from ovarian cancer aged fice.  Astrid stalks out leaving them in the room saying they are going to relive those moments.  But she can't go through with it and runs back into the room, she hugs them both saying "forgive me. Forgive me."
Astrid apologises to Killian and Duncan.
She pulls back and recovers her composure and tells them they are on probation, their previous loyalty and service has been more than adequate.  Io her assisstant is surprised, she's never seen Astrid apologise to anyone.  After checking out some potential new Rooks none of which measure up,  we cut to Chloe having a barbecue with the three Haverlin brothers who are her neighbours and Avil her new boyfriend.  They clink beer bottles and drink to "loyal trustworthy friends."

Then Astrid shows up with Io and Capone.  Chloe reacts badly to seeing her saying she has brought nothing "but death and misery to my life" so she should get lost.  But the Haverlins say she isn't being neighbourly and that everyone is invited to their cookout.  Astrid cautiously asks "I'd like a wiener please, kind sir".  When Io says she'll get her some water, Astrid says in fact she'll have a beer.

The two women with her are amazed because they have only ever seen Astrid do things like eat crackers with a knife and fork.   Astrid sits down and apologises for the interupting, she says Chloe has a nice life:

Astrid: "What you said about pain all around.  That is the cost, Chloe.  That is the cost of having your eyes opened.  I can't close my eyes again.  Can you?"

She goes on to say she has one friend in her life.  Her name is Anika from New Mexico.  The beings took her up at age seveteen and experimented on her for amusement.  Now her right side is that of a young woman and her left side that of a one hundred year old crone.  "No reason.  No motive.  They did it to be mean.  A lifetime of pain, waking up each day wanting to die.  It made them laugh".
Astrid attends the barbecue.
Chloe asks her why she is here now and Astrid asks her to come and be her Rook, "you have gifts they do not.  Come help me save the world." Chloe stammers that she can't leave the life she has here.  Astrid says she'll give the life she has purpose.  Chloe says will she answer her questions.  When Astrid says she'd have to be cautious about that, Chloe gets angry and straight out demands to know who the entities are.

Astrid pauses then lets out what she knows.  The entities come from another place, she isn't sure if it's another dimension, galaxy or even hell itself. But they have been here a very long time. Earth is a distant outpost, "their devil's island."  The entities they send here are the outcasts of their species, the sadists, the torturers and the rapists.  Their culture has no death penalty and so they are sent here where they can live without supervision, "because we are no sufficiently advanced to matter."

Chloe asks why they bother if they are so advanced, and Astrid says thet are bored, "thousands of years in a lightless cave, only us to torment.  Waiting for something."  She exhorts Chloe again to come with her and she'll show her what they've waited for.

We cut to the Clean Room. Inside is Astrid and Chloe and a baby of around a year old.  Astrid asks Chloe what she sees and Chloe says she sees a beautiful little girl.  Astrid addresses the child asking if she has something she wants to say to her?  The baby erupts into a monstrous being hurling threats and obscentities at her finally says "we're coming.  We're all coming, bitch monkey!"  Then it mentally forces the guard with them to shoot himself in the head before saying to Chloe, "Philip says hello". Philip being her dead fiancee's name.
Chloe meets hell baby Derica.
Outside the institute, a skinny man with long hair dyed like Astrid's and a pink T-shirt with "#1 Astrid Mueller Fan" on it holding a bunch of balloons with Astrid's face on them is trying to get into the building.  He is being rebuffed for not having an appointment but he says it's important she talk to him because he's her number one fan.

Back in the Clean Room, Astrid is her usual unflappable self while Chloe is freaking out at what the baby is telling them, that they plan to make a bridge out of humans.  She thinks to herself:

Chloe: "Just one time I wanted to be Lois Lane.  I just wanted to do important work.  Reveal the kind of massive truths that could actually help people.  I didn't want to see any deeper than that.  Not really.  Fuck me.  Too late.  Too late."

We get a lovely double page spread of said human-bridge with the baby saying they'll walk on their faces wearing shoes with nails in all the way home "and there are so many of us, Astrid. So many."
Red Flag! Red Flag!
Chloe demands to know why they hate humans so much, humans are already scared of them so what does this achieve?  The baby holds up a brick and says "because the cow goes moo, Chloe."  Then it tells her she was pregnant when her fiancee killed himself, and her baby is dead now "while a monster like me lives to do the most awful things".  Chloe finally now realises how Philip, who had seen so much brutality in Afghanistan and Iraq was unable to continue his life after finding out the truth behind the monsters, "I see it now, humanity gone, everything good in ashes and fire."

Then the hell baby causes the dead guard to rise up and start speaking with Philip's voice as it mocks Chloe.  Astrid decides it's time to put an end to this for now and orders a  "damn" big shockwave to be sent through the child monster knocking it out.  Astrid puts out a comforting hand to Chloe who suddenly notes she hadn't heard Astrid use a curse word before, "I think you were worried" she smiles at her.  Then she tells Astrid to repeat after her, "Fuck. Shit. Dick."  Astrid manages to say "Intercourse. Feaces. Thingie" and they embrace.
Derica gets zapped.
Chloe kisses her on the cheek and thanks her for shutting the hell baby up, "that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me. Maybe for anyone."  Astrid orders the hell baby to be taken back to the catacombs as it won't be out cold for long.  Then she is informed about the #1 Fan. His name is Artus Greenhand and he is obssessed with her.  He is in the "watch out for" file.  He maintains a website full of weird fanfic of him and Astrid being soul mates.  Astrid says she has no time for a deluded fan, but he knows about the child and he knows how to kill it, "but he says time is running out."

Astrid decides to get Chloe to evaluate Artus.  Chloe is the only other person who can bend the room to her will and Astrid is needed elsewhere.  Reluctantly Chloe agrees and takes Killian as her Rook to help her:

Chloe: "No more slacking on the job Killian.  You and I are going to fuck these space hemorrhoids up."

Inside the room, Chloe plants a big kiss on Killian's lips (Killian is a lesbian with a huge crush on Chloe).  Having done so she feels more confident while Killian is left somewhat weak at the knees "you could kill a girl with lips like that" she says.  Then Artus is led inside, his hands double cuffed, and he calls them "critters."
Chloe smooches with Killian.
Meanwhile Astrid is at the Institute Sick Bay where her brother Peter is securely strapped to the bed. He wakes with a start, and Astrid says she needs to ask him about Derica, the name of his neice the hell baby. He rages that she must keep her hands of her, that she is normal and fine.  Astrid says she is not and he knows she is not and he is going to help her figure out how to "kill her and burn the ashes".

Inside the Clean Room Artus is getting overwhelmed about being close to things Astrid has touched. He says he was expecting to be questioned by her, but Chloe says she is doing it so what does he know and how does he know it?  He says he is a hunter but one day:

Artus: "I got scratched  Dinged up right fierce. Almost bled out, right there. Since then, well I bin havin' all kinda revelations."

He says he can show them, so Chloe uses her ability and the Clean Room transforms.  To show a woman bound to a chair and gagged with lots of red haired wigs behind her.  Artus is seems is a serial killer of prostitutes, "they're just women.  Loose women.  Critters is what they are."

Then the Artus of the vision comes into the room with clippers ready to shave the woman.  Killian says they aren't ready to see this and to take them back.  But Chloe says they have to stick it out to find out what he knows about the child.  So vision Artus shaves the woman's head and staples a red wig to her scalp.  Chloe can't take his enjoyment anymore and punches real Artus then kicks him in the head when he is downed.
Artus gets a well deserved pwning.
Killian notes that's not how Astrid would have handled it, but she says "I heartily endorse your methods." Artus says he had a vision of the babe and how to destroy her, but he sees how it is.  Meanwhile Peter has admitted the terrible truth behind Derica, he joined an organisation which he thought was good and kind.  But they were all literally fucked by the aliens because they thought they were chosen ones. And Derica was born.

Back in the Clean Room real Artus rises saying he won't help them now and he's felt the room calling since he walked inside.   So he takes control of the room and going home and leaving them trapped inside with the vision version of himself which can now see Chloe and Killian who points a gun at them saying "well, well, well.  Lookie what we have here.  Critters."

We then take some time out for a look at how Astrid's organisation genuinely helps people in need, art by Sanya Anwar.  We see a man and a woman attending Trinity College.  The woman is reading a biography of Lewis Carroll, the man comes and flirts with her and when she says she never reads fiction he hands her Astrid Mueller's book then they go for a pint.  We get a whirlwind of images showing them together including getting married then we see her alone in bed "years later I knew what it meant to be bereft.  To be alone in a strange place".

Suddenly she hears her husband Ian calling her name, "Mary" and she sees him come into the room missing half a leg and with a smashed open skull, "and then I started screaming and forgot to stop, somehow."  She keeps seeing him again in her daily life, unable to let him go because he keeps coming back. She tried to read Astrid's novel which is three hundred words with no punctuation, "legend was that if you read it all, you gained tremendous personal power or went insane."  She decides it's not for her and gets Astrid's new book.

She also goes to therapy, "because this morning, in the shower? Ian handed me the soap".  Her therapist says it's grief related psychosis, her brain is putting him in places he used to be.  But Ian is standing behind her, and he's never been in this place before.  She gets prescribed anti-depressants. 

She loses her job and nearly loses her mind when she sees a meeting of the Honest World Foundation taking place.  She goes inside and they treat her with kindness immediately.  Ian appears and says he doesn't like this place, he sounds afraid like she'll abandon him despite that being exactly what she wants to do.
Mary is special!  Honest!
She sits in a one-on-one with a handsome young man.  He asks her some questions before hitting her with asking her if she has thought of fucking him since she came into the room.   She finally admits "a little".  He says that's fine and continues asking her innocuous questions mixed with personal ones.  Finally he checks her evaluation and is surprised and brings in some others.  Then he goes to her and says she has "unlimited potential.  Mary you could change the world."

Mary: "They looked at me and saw me for what I really am.  What I could be.  I couldn't wait to go through the adept program".

She journeys to the organisation's HQ catching Chloe leaving in a fury which happened in volume one.   Inside she is shown to a dorm room.  She is ordered aroun by a Rook called Terry but Astrid comes in and says to go easy on her as it's her first day.

Mary tells Astrid that she changed her life, Astrid gives her a long look then says she is glad.  Then she says she is there to achieve her potential and "enjoy your new life Mary". She attends meetings everyday, does visible volunteer work, hand out Astrid's books in the street a lot of which are taken by the homeless for warmth.  She is a "stone cold believer" by now.

When they hear one of their group is being made a Pawn, everyone celebrates.  But when he comes back to the dorm that night he doesn't smile and cries all night. Next morning he's gone and they weren't supposed to speak his name again.   Then she is told she is to do be an assisstant Eval technician.  They must listen to the person then say that the eval can't be right, then get a senior supervisory adherant and speak to them quietly then tell the person, "we've never seen a reading like yours.  It's off the scale.  Never even heard of one like this" and they then finish by saying they have unlimited potential and can change the world.

This reveal upsets Mary a lot and she starts crying often too.  Then she is called to meet Astrid and her new second-in-command.  She goes into the Clean Room and meets Astrid and Chloe.  She tries to explain herself but Astrid says it doesn't matter, she says Mary has been lying and time to see what it was all about.

The Clean Room changes to a bridge her husband died bungie jumping off, "the bereft day" Mary calls it.  As they look upon Ian and Mary about to jump Astrid tells Mary that Ian suffered from depression, delusions and more.  "His good natured spirit covered worlds of pain" she says.   Ian tells Mary that he's cut both of their lines so it will look like they were irresponsible "it's the only way Mary. The only way out".

Illusiory Ian jumps, but Mary doesn't.  Astrid says that was the only time she didn't follow him.  Real Mary says she should have jumped too.   They look upon Ian's broken body and Astrid says he wanted away from life that badly. "You can owe allegiance to love, Mary.  But this is not that" Astrid tells her.  Then she says she spoke to Ian, and he told her he's glad she didn't jump, "he wants you to be happy.  He wants you to be free."
Mary faces her worst day.
Mary jumps up mentally thanking God for bringing her Astrid Mueller. Astrid tells her to say goodbye and tommorrow they will find her a new place in her organisation. As Mary cradles Ian's body, Chloe says to Astrid she can't speak to the dead.  Astrid says she lied.

Astrid: "A kind person was being quietly destroyed by something that wasn't even remotely her doing.  Don't you wsh someone had cared enough to done that for us?"

And that ends this interlude with Mary making her peace over Ian's death.

We start the next chapter with Chloe talking with Philip outside their house.  He says beer, hot scary lovemaking and looking at the sun coming up, "it's never going to be anything better than this".  Chloe says he doesn't know that, he says if Astrid Mueller's right... but she cuts him off saying  can't he shut up about that woman and enjoy the moment?  He says her message seems to be enjoy what you have and make the most of every moment, but...

Philip: "Shame  I'm just the ghost of a memory and you're about to be shaved and slaughtered with a bad wig stapled onto your head. 'nother beer?"

And we return to Killian and Chloe trapped with the memory of Artus in his killing basement.  Killian says she thought the Clean Room showed memories not "timey-wimey bullshit" and she moves to take down Artus.  But Chloe tells her she saw someone attack Astrid with a knife in the Clean Room and when it became reality again she was still bleeding, "I don't know if it's a dream or what.  But dead is dead either way".  And Artus grins.

Elsewhere Astrid is visiting hell baby Derica.  The crib is wired up so "let's try and keep this civil."  Derica stands up and says she smelled Astrid's "stinkwater" as soon as she walked in.  Derica offers to show Astrid love and acceptance.  Astrid says she likes being alone.  She tells Derica she doesn't frighten her.  Derica says she will in time, they have such wonderful plans, "we were supposed to rule, but instead, we're exiled here with your filthy herd." They are going to "troll for souls... we're going to break you from the inside."
The Evil plan of Evil.
It'll start small but strange.  Twenty-four hours with no TV, internet or radio. Then they'll bring it back but with videos of what make them laugh. Then a plague of bus crashes around the world, including school buses.  Then dropping plans out of the sky.  So many shots of broken bloody bodies that people will get numb:

Derica: "They won't stop looking, but they won't really do anything will they? You are a spectator society."

The President will give a speech about the need for courage and declaring martial law before putting three bullets in his wife's head.   They creatures won't announce themselves we let humanity think they did it themselves.

As she starts to leave Derica says she's not the first person with the visions, how many people they have pushed over the edge into mental asylums. They did it by going after everyone they loved.   Quickly Astris calls Io and orders each Rook to be guarded by two Bishops and she wants Duncan and Killian around Chloe at all times.  Io has to break the news that Chloe and Killian are missing and Duncan didn't come in today.  All Astrid can say to herself upon hearing that is, "fuck."

In a hospital a doctor is called into a room by a nurse and is greeted by the sight of a man with a horse's head causing him to say "my God".. The nurse then slashes the doctor's throat saying "it's time for the opposition party"  Then the TV's go dead.  Elsewhere The Butcher has come for Duncan, but Duncan has set a trap for him with the three Haverlin brothers armed with baseball bats surrounding the Butcher as he stands before Duncan.

Calmly the Butcher says he thinks he can take all of them, but Duncan has a secret weapon "White Mist", the perfume Astrid wears. He splashes it into the Butcher's faces who screams like it's acid.  Then the Haverlin brothers lay into him with gusto.   After a sound beating which leaves his head crushed and mangled the Butcher cries for mercy.  Unfortunately that's not going to happen and beating round two commences.
Baseball bat time for The Butcher.
Ms Capone, another of Astrid's Rooks is met by two men who say they need to take her to a safe room.  But she blows the head of one who explodes into a monster, she takes it on while also taking a phonecall from Astrid who says she needs her.  Capone finishes off the creature and Astrid tells her to go to her private sick bay "please protect my heart."

We see Anika in bed, she of the half a body belonging to a one hundred year old.  And her loyal caretaker bears down on her saying she has  surprise for her, a secret she's been keeping a long time.  In the Clean Room Artus is ranting about leaving the "bitchcritters somewhere thet don't want to be".  Astrid's mission control, Raven, tells her what's happened and also that there is chaos in the building with several fatalities and some floors lost contact with, "they're here, Astrid.  They're in the building."

Astrid orders an evacuation and that everyone should get home to their loved ones.   She thanks Raven for his service to her and says goodbye to him.  In the sickbay the carer shows Anika the shoe she was wearing when the aliens took her up. She herself "personally supervised what we did to you.  To ruin you.  To rip open your soul."  The carer starts to transform, but gets an axe to the head courtesy of Capone. With the carer dead Capone says they are getting out of here, somehow.

Astrid enters the Clean Room and asks Artus what she can do for him.  He rambles on about the room speaking to him, but now they belong to a "godly man, as they rightly should." If Astrid agrees to be hims and lets him teach her how to behave proper he'll bring the others back.  When he says she ought to know how to cook, that it's the way to a man's heart she scowls and says "is it?  Let's just see."

We begin the next chapter in a normal suburban street, everyone's net and TV's have gone off and people have wandered into the street with an old man noting "there's something wrong with the stars."  Back with what's left of the Butcher who has been taped to a chair so Duncan can question him, he tells them it is going to rain blood.  Then everyone will eat each other alive. 

The Haverlins say that won't happen, people stick together. The Butcher says maybe they will but what about Duncan?  And also Astrid's kingdom is collapsing and she will burn.  Duncan uncorks more of Astrid's perfume and asks what they can do to stop the end from happening.

In the Clean Room Artus tells Astrid his story, that a "wildcat" got the better of him, and he died on the hospital table.  When the doctors saved him he could feel "the gears of the universe grinding all around me".  The Clean Room called to him, it wants him in charge not Astrid.  Astrid says she make him take her to them.  He sneers that this should be interesting.
Artus thinks he's in control...
In Artus's memory, Chloe tells him this isn't real just a thought from his future self.  Artus asks what does that matter?  Chloe says it means they can change things.   She starts to cut the bound and gagged woman free despite Killian saying she can't save someone who is already dead.  Artus jams his revolver into Chloe's back saying he'll be having fun with her.

In the suburban street the people see an old woman with blood all over her front come walking up saying "bad dog.  bad dog."  You love and feed them and then they attack you and she reveals one of her hands is missing.  Back at the Institute Derica's guards have been killed and a man in a hoodie walks over to the hell baby.  It is Mr. Webber.  he says he sculpted his face to please the exalted one, ie: Derica.  Who asks to be taken to see Astrid once last time because she wants to rip her open.  Webber carries Derica away saying "your will be done mistress."

In the street the woman missing a hand has collapsed. Everyone is freaking out and a young boy points at one of the women can yells that he saw her skin change, that she was pink and had claws "she's not human."  Everyone backs away from her as she says it's ridiculous. One of the men whispers to his wife to go fetch his gun sharpish.

In the Clean Room Artus says he's going to take a trip through Astrid's worst memory.  We see young Astrid, still on crutches after the accident that triggered her ability to see the aliens. He father puts a hand on her shoulder, but he's actually a horrific monster. She says she will tell everybody about him, everyone will know the truth.  Her not-dad says who will believe her?  As for her father the  demon hugs her saying, "I ate him, darling.  Right down to his dirty fucking toes."
Artus mocks her and Astrid says that when she was twelve she took a kitchen knife and stabbed the creature twenty-one times.  Artus has one last chance or she'll disassemble him.  He says she doesn't scare him she's just a critter:

Astrid: "Yes.  That's apt actually.  Because sometimes you need a beast Artus.  And I am that beast.  And this room belongs to me."

And she regains control. Artus cowers in front of her and demands he tell her where they are and forces it out of him, "that wasn't so hard was it?"
...he was wrong.
They all end up in Artus's memory.  Chloe is so happy to see Astrid, Astrid says since meeting Chloe she has apologised to three people, intentionally embraced three people and uttered a vulgar curseword aloud, "how could I not come back for you?"

She demands to know from Artus how to kill the entities, he begs her not to make him tell.  With quiet fury she says she will MAKE him remember his death.  Right now his victim is going to stab him and he will die on the way to the hospital, "death is outside and his voice is thunder".  If he doesn't tell her how to kill the entities he will leave him in this moment for all eternity.

With her foot on his face he says "exoduction", the have to  abduct the child entity and then exorcise it.  Unsatisfied, Astrid leaves Artus at the mercy of a black spikey creature and the memory fades away with him trapped inside it.  Astrid, Killian and Chloe are safe back in the Clean Room.

In the suburban street the woman the child accused is being restrained while she protests she's been their neighbour for years.   She has a shotgun pointed at her and the man holding it demands she start talking.  We cut to the child who did the accusing and he's actually a monster himself.  He smirks to himself as three shots ring out telling his sister he's sure they'll be fine.

The Institute is being evacuated, but Avil, Chloe's police detective boyfriend runs inside to find her.  He meets up with several of the faithful who don't want to abandon Astrid, including Mary from the interlude.  In the Clean Room Chloe is a little shocked at Artus's fate at being left alone with his death.  There are moths everywhere. She tells Chloe she can see the entities not because she nearly died but because they reveal themselves to the people in the most pain.

Astrid: "It's grief.  A child in a coma. A woman whose fiance killed himself.. that's there catnip.  It's their heroin."

Chloe says they have to exorcise they child, and Astrid says they'll come to us.  Raven is still in mission control. She asks him to bring them two Earl Grey teas and to play some Chopin while they wait.  He says it would be his honour as he wipes away some tears.
Waiting for the end.
Chloe says that they are coming to kill us and that Astrid knew about this and she let people thing this was just a cult and she was a liar.  Astrid says people would never believe the truth.  She then tells Chloe her most pleasant memory in ages was having barbecue with Chloes boyfriend and friends, "hot dogs and potato salad and an ice cold beer, the night sky overhead.  It was so delicious it felt like my first meal as a free woman."  It was food people east when they can look up and see only stars and not carry those stars on their shoulders.

In Southern California, an automated warning has gone out from Astrid to her "Blue Utopians".  They have a card that will allow them entrance into a nearby sanctuary which is good for two approved persons.  They will be safe but the rest of the world won't be so fortunate.

Derica and Marcus Webber are walking through the institute, with Derica directing Marcus along the way.  Marcus says he worships her kind and waited for her birth.   He mutilated his face to present a more fearsome visage and emulate her race. "Very good.  And you will rip out Astrid Mueller's heart for me, yes?"  Marcus says it will be his pleasure.

Raven brings the tea, he asks if they should be evacutating as the building is on fire.  Astrid says she knows, she was the one who set the fire.  She wanted to to work in isolation with the people she... and she tails off.  "Trust?" says Chloe.  "Yes trust.  Thank you Chloe" says Astrid.  Then she says they're here.

Derica and Marcus are at the door to the Clean Room and Derica unleashes a torrent of vile abuse and threats to get her to open it.  Then Capone appears behind them and opens fire.  Inside the Clean Room, Astrid notes her "splendid loyalty."  Duncan and the Haverlins are also fighting their way through the Institute too battling the creatures as they appear.

Capone is getting beaten up, Killian asks to go out and help her, but Astrid says Capone knows she is expendable. Capone rips off Marcus's bottom jaw, then a knife flashes.  Astrid says it is time to open the door and thankfully the person outside is a battered and bloody Capone with a knife in her stomach.  She collapses over the threshold and Derica walks in past her saying "she killed my creepy pet Aryan".
Capone is severely injured as Derica enters the Clean Room.
Derica says she found her way in.  But Astrid says she actually let her in. She has a Dr Hagen on the phone and she tells him it's time to "blow their goddamn city into the Atlantic Ocean, please."  Hagen tells them he will do so, and from his large boat he fires a huge cannon blast into the sky (this isn't a total deus ex machina, we saw this is book one). Derica demands to know what she did:

Astrid: "Well, it's a bit complicated.  I waited until your mind was elsewhere, you see.  Then I had the worlds horniest genius blow a hole through yur invisible city.  It's going to the bottom of of the sea, I'm afraid."


She then tells Derica to be quiet, and they start to exorcise her by reciting Catholic rites at her.  A huge moster bursts out and says, "don't you try that Catholic shit on me Astrid Mueller! We wrote half that damn book." Then everyone else arrives, Avil, Duncan, the Haverlins.  Chloe is happy to see Avil but she grins at Killian and tells him "you might have to share a bit."

They then reveal the secret weapon they have, which is Spark the good alien.  And as Astrid recites more words of banishment, Spark completes the ritual and sends the being "to before there was time." Astrid tells Spark she may have misjudged him.  She orders Capone get medical attention and the fire get put out.  Chloe tells Astrid, "holy shit, you saved the world.  I'm still a reporter.  People are going to know."  But Astrid says that won't be the case at all.
Spark helps banish Derica to a time before time began.
And so Chloe, on Astrid's orders, became Judas Iscariot. Astrid didn't want Chloe to make her into a deity, she wanted her to destroy her.   Better to tell everyone she was a fraud than demons tried to kill everyone:

Chloe: "So I went on the box and said everything she'd said was a scam, a lie.  That she was a thief and common criminal.  And then I went home and cried for three days. And never quite liked myself again.  Not completely."

Killian and Avil come by and that helps, no one has seen Astrid in over a week.  She started reading Astrid's infamous novel, the one with no punctuation, the one that gives you either total enlightenment or drives you insane. She's halfway through, "can't wait to find out which way I go."  And this brings this volume and the series overall to an end.

I'll comment on the art first because I think losing Jon Davis-Hunt (poached for a higher profile gig I believe) hurt this story quite a lot.  His clinical detailed precision worked brilliantly for the ordered world of Astrid, and although Geovani gives us great monsters, his panels where people are just talking are ill blocked and lacking in detail. Narrative wise, personally I thought all the stuff with Artus dragged the story down.  I'd much rather have seen more incidents of the beginning of the apocalypse instead.  I also didn't like how passive is made Killian either, although I enjoyed Chloe acting on her attraction to her after two volumes of Killian's clumsy flirting.  That said there is still much to recommend here.  We are once again given a very strong female character in Astrid who can smack down serial killers and save the world with practised ease.  And was evern allowing herself to be martyred in the court of public opinion to explain what all the strange goings on where about.  I also would have liked to know abit more about Marcu Webber and how he came to know of the hell baby, his story seemed potentially much more interesting than Artus's.  But I carp on when overall I liked it, liked the different women in it, all badass in their own right and the premuise was imaginative and if there is no more Clean Room which looks likely, it did at least not end on a cliffhanger but wrapped its plot threads up fairly neatly.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Book 4: I Kissed A Squirrel And I Liked It (#7-11)

"Heed me well. Squirrel Girl. Your boyfriend now belongs to me!" - Mole Man

Ladies month continues and it's Valentine's Day as well.  So what better way to deal with this special day than seeing how Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl deals with the wacky world of online dating. Squirrel Girl has the strength and agility of a squirrel and can also speak to them.  She has a constant squirrel companion called Tippy-Toe as well.  In her non-superhero life she is a computer science student along with her best friend and housemate Nancy, who is a very down-to-earth normal human regularly dragged into Squirrel Girl's daft adventures.  Squirrel Girl picks up an unwanted admirer in the main three part arc in this book with a one-shot involving her dreaming about using her advanced math skills to defeat various villains and another a "choose your own adventure" where you, yes YOU can be Squirrel Girl. The series is written by Ryan North and is mostly drawn by Erica Henderson. Jacob Chabot draws issues #11 but manages to stay true to the style of the book.  As per usual, the previous issue's events are summarised by a twitter feed and the letters pages have been left inside the trade which I am going to say for the zillionth time is a brilliant idea that more comics should do. Anyway enough of that, let's continue with a chance to take a walk in her very comfortable shoes.
Stylish Galactus.
We begin with Galactus dressed in a smart gown supping on a cocktail.  He tells us that we are about to experience no ordinary comic, it is "nothing less than a Squirrel Girl Simulator".  We get to be Squirrel Girl and he gats to judge how well we do at it. If we're a sucky Squirrel Girl he'll eat the entire planet.  So the fate of the world rests in our hands...

It starts with her facing a villain called "Bonehead" causing trouble at a farmers market.   The choices are to physically attack him, which doesn't work or send squirrels down his pants which does work. Then Squirrel Girl checks her twitter feed and she has two options: help detective Corson take on Doctor Yes who wants to hold the world to ransom with a killer disease.  Or help him fight the eldritch god Quoggoth in Central Park, who "wants to bring gibbering madness to this fallen realm".

Choosing to battle Quoggoth brings Squirrel Girl to a giant many tentacled being with lots of eyes.  Squirrel Girl says all those eyes make it have "100% weak points."  But Quoggoth wraps her in a tentacle saying he can stop her getting to his eyes.  It can't stop a hundred squirrels though and Tippy-toe and friends attack.  This defeats Quoggoth, releasing Squirrel Girl and allowing it to be arrested.

Choosing to take on Doctor Yes finds her facing off against a man holding the only sample of "Deathbringer 8000, a Doomsday virus of my own invention".  If his ransom demands aren't met he'll release it.  Squirrel Girl asks him if it works on squirrels.  Doctor Yes says of course not, so Tippy-Toe grabs the virus capsule and eats it.  Doctot Yes is arrested and Detective Corson says thanks no matter which path you took.  The other incident also being resolved "through good old-fashioned police work".

Squirrel Girl and Tippy-Toe carry on with their day.  Suddenly they hear a buzzing noise.  Squirrel Girl has two options, either investigate or go home and study.  The study harder path unfortunately leads to a non standard gameover as she forgets to fight any crime and also eat.

Investigating the buzzing noise takes her to the supervillain "Swarm" a man made up of a swarm of bees. He says he has done his research and knows her weaknesses.  He planned his attack for today when all other heroes had been lured away so by the time he returns he'll have taken over New York.   Squirrel Girl has two options, attack with punches; which doesn't work.  Or attack with squirrels, which also doesn't work.
Some choices to make.
So that leads to two more options.  One in which she gives up, "I've decided being awesome is boring and stupid! Apparently" and that leads to gameover as the bees take over the world.  Or she decides to never give up.  Two more options appear. To try and resolve the situation without violence or to eat nuts and kick butts.

Unfortunately he is resistant to both her rhetoric and her butt kicking capabilities. Squirrel Girl is vexed to find she is losing "this never happens" she says to Tippy-Toe.  But then she realises that they can summon a hero he wasn't prepared for, "the unsinkable Koi Boi".  He either ignores his phone which results in gameover, or he answers it and agrees to come help.

There are several options now.  Koi Boi and Squirrel Girl lure Swarm to the sea.  Or make like beekeepers and smoke Swarm out. Or use pollen to take control of the bees.  The smoke option doesn't work as it is used to make bees gorge themselves on honey from a burning hive and "there's no honey here, heroes!"  This results in a gameover as does the attempt to use pollen to break his telepathic hold on the bees.

Fortunately the option for Koi Boi to splash Swarm with a giant wave does work, weighing the bees down and causing Swarm to fall apart.  They sweep the bees into rubbish sacks and take them to the local police station saying the bees aren't bad just Swarm so if they keep the bees apart in a well misted cell with lots of bee treats they should be OK.  She also hands over the queen bee in a jar who she thinks Swarm lives inside.
Combined they beat the Swarm.
As they leave, Koi Boi asks how she got mixed up in all this and she has the choice of recounting the whole adventure including every single path where it could have gone wrong.  Or she says it's "kinda irrelevant right now".   She and Koi Boi agree they make a good team, then he says they have to get back to studying and she groans about why fighting crime has to be more fun than "achieving academic goalsets."  We also get a special cheating bonus ending by cheating, which is Squirrel and Tippy-Toe fighting Swarm in the Iron Man armour.

This issue wraps up by returning to Galactus eating Earth.  But he says it's actually a cake he decorated to look like a planet using the power cosmic. Also he doesn't need to eat planets now, he has a "life energy inversion thig going on".  Anyway he wasn't paying attention much but if we got this far we must have been a "pretty rad Squirrel Girl so good job on that."  He leaves us with a cut out n'keep coupon saying how rad we are at being Squirrel Girl and how the bearer of this card should be given free snacks.  "Thanks for reading my comic" he says, "Peace."
The New Avengers
The next arc begins with the New Avengers aided by Squirrel Girl's friend "Chipmunk Hunk" taking on a massive antlike creature.  They don't seem to be able to stop it.  Then five minutes later Squirrel Girl tells the others a story about a ship that in 1918 ran into some islands.  They repaired the ship and left but the rats aboard had swum to the island at ate everything living there "including a species of super-cute leaf eating bugs called Tree Lobsters."

But eighty years later twenty-four were found and so they were taken off the extinction list.  Scientist collected pairs of the lobsters and bred them in captivity.  The giant ant is listening to her story as well, and when she asks if it was born in a lab it nods.  And she asks if it accidentally got loose and exposed to cosmic rays which made it giant?  It nods again.  She says it's probably just hungry and it nods again.  She hugs its head and says "problem solved guys".

They supply it with some trees to nibble on and when asked how she knew all this, Squirrel Girl says she spends some nights refreshing wikipedia's random article page-link.  So they will keep it fed until Ant-Man arrives to shrink it back down, so the rest of the New Avengers will take it from here.  Squirrel Girl and Chipmunk Hunk take their leave, he's happy he got to tag along.  She says everyone is allowed the occasional plus one, Hawkeye once brought his dog and Power Man his high school English teacher.

She says they should go back to base but Chipmunk Hunk, real name Tomas, says he has plans. He admits he has a date and that renders Squirrel Girl speechless, then she runs off blabbering that she is super cool with that and to have fun.  We then cut to Doreen with Nancy as she yells "I'm super not cool with this, Nancy!!"

Nancy tells her straight that she's had a crush on Tomas for over a year and done nothing, "what did you expect would happen."  Doreen grumbles quietly that he'd ask her out, declare his undying love so she wouldn't have to be the first to say anything and risk rejection.
Nancy doesn't sugar coat.
Nancy says it sucks but it's time for Doreen to go on some "friggin' dates."  Doreen says she doesn't know anyone to date and Nancy says sarcastically:

Nancy: "Oh no! If only there were some way to meet romantic partners, perhaps some vast and international information network.  Here's how we're gonna solve your problem Doreen Green... you're going to try online dating".

Doreen gets excited by this saying it's going to be super great and she will go on some fun dates with boys.  Unfortunately she has some trouble writing a dating profile and tries to give the whole thing up as a "huge pain and boys aren't nearly worth it. The end."

Nancy and Ken aka Koi Boi are with her and Nancy says how hard can this be for someone who punched Galactus on the moon?   Doreen says she knew what she was doing then, but she has no idea what to say to make boys like her.   Tippy-Toe offers help as do the others.  They'll write her a profile each and she'll use the one she likes best.  Doreen agrees, offering some descriptive words she wants them to include.

The profiles are written, Doreen read them and puts her head in her hands.  She tells them it was sweet of them to help but she'd rather never kiss a dude again than deal with dating profiles.  Ken says it would help if they new if she was dating as Doreen or Squirrel Girl.   She says neither is  good option, either they want her because of her powers or they'll find out on the awkward third date.

Nancy says she will make two profiles and they can combine the best of the two of them.  With that done, Doreen can check out some profiles and message anyone who seems interesting and go on some dates.  Grumpily Doreen agrees.  Then asks the two of them how come they don't go on dates.  Nancy says she is focusing on her studies and Ken says he already dates with optimum efficiency.

We then get a two page spread of Doreen going on a bunch of dates.  This includes a villain called "Fancy Dan".  A boy who thinks squirrels are vermin.  Another criminal called "Boomerang".  The Human Torch who sets the sprinklers off on their date.  A man who is phobic of squirrels and a Sentinel.
Failed dates.
We join her on a date that actually seems to be going well.  She is at the fairground with a man called Brad, and she says she knows who he is with an online handle "HawkJock" and she reveals her tail to him.  He boggles then asks what cosplay she is doing.   She says he mustn't be coy she knows why he called himself HawkJock.  He says that it's because he's a fan of the basketball team the Hawks.

She says that he isn't a superhero with the powers of a hawk and a jock?  Just the jock part he says.  When she lists of traits hawks have he just responds with totally normal reactions.  Then he laughs saying she thought he had powers.  She admits briefly that she did.  He says he is into her cosplay:

Brad: "... you gotta know that all that superhero stuff is fake, man!  Superheroe don't exist."

Turns out Brad is a superhero "truther". He says he will email her some literature about how they put things in the water to make people believe in superheroes.  Doreen says she will take him to meet some of the people he doesn't believe exist then they will never date again.

But Brad keeps going saying Thor is just a series of paid actors all playing a role.  When Doreen says Thor is a woman now, Brad ponders that the previous dude must have found out something he wasn't supposed to.  Doreen starts to leave but then with a might boom a corkscrew points up through the ground with the aged "Mole Man" standing on it backed up by a multi-headed monster.
Mole Man crashes her bad date.
He demands to see Squirrel Girl and she quickly changes.  Mole Man's monsters grab Brad who films what is happening, "advanced animatronics are being used in so called 'superhero' false flag operations" he cries.  Mole Man says she must head him as he has her boyfriend now.  She attacks Mole Man yelling "He's! Not! My! Boyfriend!"

She gives Mole Man a punch and then consults her Deadpool Villain Cards to check him out.  As she fends off the multi-headed Mole Monsters she demands to know why he is even fighting her, he doesn't seem to have anything against squirrels or girls. He fights back calling her a "hoyden" which he has to clarify as a saucy or boisterous woman and other outdated slang.

We then get a page recounting how Squirrel Girl had tangled with Kraven The Hunter and at the end of their encounter she had persuaded him to go hunting underwater leviathans instead of spidered men.  But Kraven needed money to do this and went hunting in the employ of others but again Squirrel Girl stopped him and she persauded him to hunt those who hunt others and so Kraven has been a thorn in Mole Man's side ever since, "and it's all due to your meddling Squirrel Girl!!!"  It's bad enough the human world dumps its rubbish underground but Kraven is a bridge too far:

Mole Man: "...I can bear these indignities no longer.  I've thus taken it upon myself to end all such insults... by securing the destruction of the surface world!!"

Calling him Harvey, Squirrel Girl says that what she did to him was unintentional but he says it's just as bad if she did it through carelessness.

He says he is going to rend her and the world asunder, but she holds out her hand and says she is really sorry.  This throws Mole Man off balance.  He asks if she accepts his version of events and she says she accepts "the truth of your lived experiences and I'm not going to tell you that your feelings are wrong."  And they shake hands.
Mole Man is enchanted.
He asks if she is going to attack him but she says only if he goes around hurting people, but it sounds like he is mad at her and she'd like to fix it.  He tells her Squirrel Girl is a lovely name, uh oh.  She thanks him saying she understands why he'd be cheesed off, forgotten by the surface world with people messing with him without even realising it.

He says he'd be happy to be forgotten if surface dwellers left him alone. Squirrel Girl agrees with him saying all the stuff that gets buried must be a pain, even graveyards.  He rants that "anything the surface world tires of gets tossed in a dump, and when that's full? Why, they just cover it with a layer of soil and call it a day".  Squirrel Girl says he must be sick of it. 

Mole Man: "You... you understand me in a way nobody else ever has."

Run Squirrel Girl, run!  But she doesn't run, she tells Mole Man that connecting with people is "kinda my thing".  She says she is glad they are getting along and he agrees calling her "my lady".  Red Flag! Red Flag!

Squirrel Girl tells him they can get the Avengers to help get rid of waste that doesn't involve burying it, "Thor throws things into the sun all the time" so they can set up a system were he does that with nuclear waste. She asks if he'll free Brad now, the man who is totally not her boyfriend.

She asks if Brad believes in superheroes now, but he yells that it'll take more than one staged operation to fool him.  If the government believe this will stop him blogging they've got another thing coming.  Squirrel Girl rolls her eyes then asks Mole Man if they have a deal?  If she deals with the dumping, he'll stop attacking the surface world.

Mole Man agrees but then he starts to tell her how no one has really understood him before and who could answer the challenge of living underground.  His life below ground has been a solitary one which "has left certain matters of the heart... well buried".   But Squirrel Girl has awakened something inside him.  Squirrel Girl finally realises what is happening and tries to leave.  But he kneels before her saying her grace, acceptance, kindness, strength, beauty and tail are intoxicating and captivating.

Mole Man: "I am but a simple Mole Man, but I swear I can give you a life unlike any other. I offer you my riches, my kingdom, my endless underground empire.  Will you give me a chance? Squirrel Girl... will you be my Mole Ma'am?"

We then jump forwards to Doreen recounting the tale to Nancy and Ken.  Ken asks what she did next.  Doreen says she let him down gently telling him it's not you it's me, that she had commitments on the surface world and school is busy so she doesn't have time to date right now, "anything I could think of."
Doreen relates the incident.
She says he's just an old man who no one has been nice to in decades, their conversation was probably the first one he'd had in ages.  Nancy snort that's it's incredible he thought he could sweet talk her into marriage have only just met her.

Doreen says it all ended OK though, she told him squirrels don't live underground, there from two different worlds and she thinks he accepted that.  Ken says the Brad story would have been amazing on his own.  Doreen groans that after Mole Man left Brad pulled on her tail like he thought it would come off, "it was the worst date ever in time.  I should have stuck with the Sentinel".

Suddenly the ground shakes, Central Park is sinking.  Doreen and Ken suit up as Squirrel Girl and Koi Boi chasing after Nancy as she runs to look.  Squirrel Girl pick Nancy up and they jump down into the hole which the trees have dropped into.   And it turns out it was Mole Man, who is delighted that Squirrel Girl came, saying she understood his gesture's intent.
Central Park a few meters lower.
He tells her that now squirrels can live underground, but she did not account for "my adoration and mining genius".  But once he realised how important squirrels were to her he knew he would defy the fates, the very gods themselves for her.   He tells her this is an engagement gift and takes the speechless Squirrel Girl's hand.  But Nancy steps in and slaps him.

Nancy: "Don't you ever touch my friend without her permission, creepo."

Hooray for SJW Nancy! Squirrel Girl tells Mole Man that Nancy is her friend and she is protective of her, "oh, you'll see how protective I can be Johnny Grabby Hands.." Nancy threatens.  Koi Boi arrives and Mole Man warns him off from asking Squirrel Girl out, which infuriates Nancy, "Oh my god, I'm gonna slap that grin right off his.."  But Squirrel Girl says she has this under control.

Squirrel Girl explains that there is no right words or romantic gesture he can make, he can't cajole or debate her into loving him.  She says she is sorry.  Mole Man says he understands, "I understand that your so-called friends have been poisoning your mind against me!!"

He orders his "Moloids" to attack them, Squirrel Girl tosses Nancy out of harms way as she and Koi Boi battle the pale and skinny creatures.  When they are defeated, Nancy drop back down, caught by Squirrel Girl.  Mole Man says enough, he understands that his gift was not appreciated and was the wrong way to go about things.

Koi Boi asks if he'll put Central Park back, Mole Man says any fool can fill a hole have the authorities contact him if they can't figure it out. Squirrel Girl tells Harvy that there is someone out there for him and he won't need to convince her when he finds her.  Mole Man thanks her and walks off alone into the dark.

The next day Doreen and Nancy are walking by the sunken Central Park, Tippy-Toe says the squirrels are enjoying actually, lots of new places to hide nuts.  Nancy say she's won't apologise for slapping Mole Man, Doreen says she isn't asking her too, she finds it so hard to say no to people and Nancy is the world champion at that.  Then the ground rumbles again.
I don't normally include the interior covers but this made me laugh so hard when I turned to it that I nearly dropped the book in the nice hot bath I was having.  Tip that fedora Harvey!
The Empire State Building has been sunk, and checking her phone Nancy discovers other world landmarks have been sunk as well.  Then Mole Man hijacks the undersea communication cables to broadcast his demands, he will claim one building every twelve hours until Squirrel Girl agrees to go on "one single date with me".  He wants to kiss and make up and as for everyone else, they know his terms and he ends the broadcast.

Doreen: "Shut up.  Oh my god. Shut up... I'm going to kick his butt Nancy.  To the moon. I'm not even joking.  I will literally kick his butt so hard that it would land on the moon."

Two days later Squirrel Girl and Mole Man are still all over the news.  People are complaining that their lives are being ruined because she refuses to go out on one date with him.  A man on an audience participation show says that who does she think she is to turn down a man she barely knows and not even think him worth a single date. He starts saying "not all men" before the channel is changed to J.Jonah Jameson who is offering five grand to any photgraphic evidence of Squirrel Girl going on a date with people of lower caliber than Mole Man.

Nancy: "I think it's awful that whoever a particular woman chooses to date is now a matter of worldwide speculation."

She is telling this to a report then leaveswith Doreen who is muffled in a face scarf and big hat. Doreen can't believe J. Jonah Jameson wants "creeper pics" of her on dates, "who does that?"

Nancy says she could make a cool five grand by staging a photo herself.  Doreen says she totally should and then get a job working for him as a photographer who always gets amazing pictures of Squirrel Girl and never wonders why. They overhear two men moaning about what'll happen when Mole Man starts sinking buildings they care about and why cant "Woodchuck Chick" kiss him already.

Annoyed Doreen says they should ditch class and deal with the Mole Man thing, but todays lesson is "The Physics Of Punching".  And so one totally amazing physics lecture later, Squirrel Girl returns to the sunken Central Park.  She hides in the trees from the media gathered there but they spot her and she shoots off saying "this was a horrible idea, bye!!"

Back at her and Nancy's place she says the media means she can't even get close.  Nancy says she should go as Doreen but Squirrel Girl says they have figured out heroes have secret identities and are checking everyone who comes with a face scanner.  She just wants to talk to the guy but she can't do it with "literally the world's media in my face".

Nancy decides that it's "time to get fancy and watch Nancy".  She'll go down there and solve the friggin' problems.  Squirrel Girl says it's dangerous, but Nancy says she will be OK because she is close to Squirrel Girl so he won't hurt her.  She's seen Squirrel Girl talk down dozens of bad guys, so she knows she can do it herself.

So they get changed and walk to where the media are in Central Park.  As Squirrel Girl faces a barrage of questions Nancy sneaks off and jumps down one of the holes.  She finds herself faced with Mole Man, the Mole Monsters and Moloids and Mole Man himself.
Nancy tries to sort things out.
Nancy tells him that he has to find someone else.  But he says he has evidence that Squirrel Girl harbours feelings for him.  He words of comfort and understanding were words of attraction, "moles may be blind, but we're not deaf".  Actually he goes on, moles aren't blind either.  He asks Nancy to speak to Squirrel Girl on his behalf.

Nancy gets mad saying she has come to tell him she is not interested in him, Mole Man says would she deny her "the love of a nice and gentle man? You would refuse my request?!"  Nancy says absolutely she is refusing his request, "move on".

Mole Man: "I should have realised.  Squirrel Girl is so kind.  So loving... so understanding.  A paragon of virtue.  Of course you'd be in love with her too."

Nancy pulls an amazing WTF face.  Mole Man says she is here to sabotage her because she want Squirrel Girl all to herself.  But her jealousy will be the cause of her never returning to the surface world.

Nancy says she is not getting kidnapped today and opens her bag, unleashing a horde of squirrels led by Tippy-Toe.  As they distract Mole Man's minions, Nancy climbs out and meets up with Doreen.  When Nancy tells her Mole Man described her as a "paragon of virtue" Doreen says she is ending this "now. Tonight".  And to avoid the press, she is going to burrow her way down to him.

And she digs her way down grumbling about the situation the whole way.  She is irritated that showing basic human decency has made him think she owes him something:

Squirrel Girl: "Plus, how are you a nice guy if the only reason you're being nice is because you think it might make me kiss you?!"

She breaks through saying she is "so over making your feelings my problem.  They're your feelings, dude!  You deal with them!"
Tricephalus admits her love.
But she is attacked by the three-headed "Tricephalous" who says she won't let her hurt the man she loves.  She has loved Mole Man for many years, ever since they first met and he was not afraid of her.  She has kept her feelings underground knowing that it was a love that could never be.  Now Squirrel Girl is here to hurt him, "he's too good for you, Squirrel Girl.  You don't deserve him. Nobody does."

Mole Man alone fights the surface dwellers to protect the underground and her kind,  how could she resist falling for him and have feelings grow deeper every day?  Mole Man is surprised to hear this confession.  He ddn't realise it was possible for a Mole Monster to love him.

She says if their love is to be, he must love himself first, he has internalised much of what the surface world has said about him, he even still calls them monsters.  Squirrel Girl has bewitched him "and I will not allow her to darken our realm again!!"  Tippy-Toe points out that Mole Man is letting Tricephalous do all the fighting while he watches with fascination.  So Squirrel Girl has an idea.

She goes into battle with Tricephlous and lets her be beaten by her including getting stomped on.  Squirrel Girl declares herself defeated and Mole Man cancels his date with her.  Tippy-Toe says it worked while Squirrel Girl grumbles that losing fights is "the worst."  Mole Man and Tricephalous start making out so Squirrel Girl and Tippy-Toe leave them too it.

And so Doreen and friends start helping to restore Central Park.  One of them is Tomas's girlfriend who Doreen is surprised to find she likes.  Doreen then apologises to Tomas for being weird about his dating.  Soon all the worlds landmarks are restored and Nancy says that the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl finally lost a fight.

Doreen says this has all made her realise that she was setting up dates for the wrong reason because she felt like she was falling behind. "But I've got nothing to prove" she says, "I'm a rad lady and everyone just has to deal."  Nancy asks what she is going to do now and Doreen says she is cancelling her last internet date and go home and call to order "Mew Club".  Mew being Nancy's cat she gives Squirrel Girl a hug and they spend the rest of the evening hanging out at home while Mole Man sleeps snuggled up to Tricephalous.
Happy endings all round.
This final story I'm going to skate over a bit as it contains both computer programming and mathematics, two of my major weak points.  Squirrel Girl is fighting Doctor Octopus in the snow, using programming language to describe what they are doing. The tussle continues until Squirrel Girl uses her tail to grab a clock off a nearby wall and knocks him out with it before tying him up with his tentacle arms.

Squirrel Girl then says to Tippy-Toe that the fight was strange how their fight kept illustrating basic computer science concepts.  Tippy-Toe says it's more strange because Doc Ock has been dead for two years.  Squirrel Girl wonders how she forgot that.  Then she realises she forgot same way it's snowing in August, "this is a friggin' dream."

And a goth looking being shows up saying he is "The Nightmare Man". He says he here to take her sanity from her, everytime she sleeps she'll enter a bespoke nightmare where he will beat her.  She says she took down Doc Ock easily enough so "bring it on."  Nightmare Man then conjures up Count Nefaria.
Nightmare Man invades Squirrel Girls dreams.
The man in question appears and challenges her to "dactylonomy" a counting-on-your-fingers challenge.  He wants her to count to ten using only one hand.  She says no problem, she can count to thirty-one on one hand and 1023 on two.  It is using binary and she goes on a lengthy eplanation that I don't understand of how to count in binary.  When Count Nefaria gets it, he departs saying thankyou to her, "never have I been so engrossed in my own hands!!"

Nightmare Man appears, extremely annoyed at this.  He accuses her of ruining everything, Nefaria isn't into counting he says.  So why is his name "Count Nefaria" she responds.  Nightmare Man yells at her for not knowing more about the strongest human in the entire universe. "I dunno" says Squirrel Girl, "he seemed to me like a Dracula who's big into counting."

She smugly tells Nightmare Man that she is fast asleep and still beating all the draculas he throws at her.  So he decides he'll take her on directly and he manifest the Venom symbiote around him.  Squirrel says Venom is a good guy now, but Nightmare Man says that's only in the real world.  Tippy-Toe tells her to escape from him into another bad dream.

So she shifts the scene and find herself in an exam for a class she doesn't remember taking and haven't studied one bit for.  But she is able to defeat this dream by going to Kraven the College Administrator telling him to remove her from the final which is for a class she never attended or submitted any work for and thus it was an error putting her in for the exam.

She and Tippy-Toe then discuss how they can use Venom's weakness against sound and fire to defeat Nightmare Man.  But then the tree grabs her as Venom pops out. She shifts to a nightmare where she is surrounded by squirrels who are upset that all the worlds trees have stopped producing nuts.
Sonic Squirrel attack!
But using a computer algorithm so they can hit Nightmare Man Venom with a sonic blast.  As Nightmare Venom drops in, she unleashes the sonic cries of the squirrels at once and the Venom Symbiote fades away leaving just Nightmare Man behind.  He sighs that he'll leave her alone from now on.

Squirrel Girl: "And hey. I trash-talked you before, but you've actually got a pretty good domain here in the dream world!  People love it here!  Maybe hang out with people while they are having fun dreams insetad of giving them nightmares, huh?"

When he says he prefers nightmares she says dreams are fun and takes off flying with him in tow.  And he starts to smile as he follows her over the city.  In bed, we see Doreen asleep and she is "such an incredible force for good that one time she defeated a bad guy in her friggin' sleep."  The end.

As ever, this is wonderful stuff.  So packed with jokes I can barely do it justice.  The Choose Your Own Adventure issue was marvellous and great fun, and although I didn't understand much of the techical stuff in the final story I liked how Squirrel Girl got use out of what she is studying to best her foes.  But the three issues dealing with Mole Man were brilliant. And very pertinent to what happens to a lot of women these days. Hell it even happened to me when I was a university twenty-five years ago.  My Nice Guy wasn't a hipster, they hadn't been invented yet but he spent all his time being nice to me in a way I thought was because we were friends.  It was when he started writing poetry dedicated to me and giving me roses that it suddenly clicked, and  had to sit him down and say "dude I am the gayest gayer that ever gayed.  I value you as a friend but you're not going to get any further along with me than that."  And he left the course at the end of term so, oh well.  Taught me a valuable lesson that when dealing with potential men as mates, declare my sexuality as soon as possible.  That seems to have worked since. I also liked to fact she was being excoricated by the manosphere for not acceeding to Mole Man's demands because those people need to be shown for the dickheads they are and need taking down a peg or two.  "Not all men" indeed.  Making a woman's sexuality public and the matter of debate is also a pertinent point to have made, maybe even more so in the wake of #metoo.  I just like how Squirrel Girl can deal with potentially heavy topics with a sharp but humourous touch and also find it in its heart to still give Mole Man a happy ending while Doreen realises she'd been dating for all the wrong reasons.  All-in-all this was another winner for me, it made me genuinely laugh out loud several times and as per usual Ryan North's punchy writing and Erica Henderson's characterful art make this one of modern comics real jewels.  Join me in a few days where we reenter The Clean Room.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Black Canary Book 2: New Killer Star (#8-12, Gotham Academy #17)

"I've been in a real bad situation, making bad decisions.  I didn't want to tell you" - Dinah Lance

Ladies month returns to a happier time with more from the DCYou, yes there is still stuff there I want to cover and no I'm not letting it go, with a look at the second and final volume of Black Canary.  Black Canary is a character with a very long history in the DCU and you can read about it here.  This incarnation actually has Dinah Lance as lead singer of a punk rock band called Black Canary, with her still having awesome martial arts prowess and a superpower in her "Canary Cry" sonic scream.  In the first volume we spent our time showing her on the road with her band and being stalked by a woman in white ninja get-up.  At the end after Black Canary beat an alien called The Quietus the ninja revealed herself to Dinah and that was the cliffhanger of the previous volume.  This final five issues unfortunately tries to wrap up several plot threads that were obviously expected to run over a much longer period than five issues and so everything feels somewhat rushed as the music takes a back seat to Dinah searching for the truth about her monther and unlocking her ultimate martial and sonic art.  There is also a single issue crossover with the wonderful (and cancelled of course), Gotham Academy which was also written by Brendan Fletcher and which shows band member Heathcliffe hooking up with Black Canary.  This volume has a few artists who manage to keep to a style consistent with the prior volume and give the comic a nice punky vibe.  So let's wrap up this incarnation of Black Canary.

We begin with a fanzine article telling us that Dinah is missing, the lead guitarist is presumed dead and the rest of the band is being held for questioning by the police, "it seems like Black Canary is all but done."  We then cut to the interrogation room where we are told the band have been questioned for two weeks and they still say they have no idea where their lead singer "D.D." has gone. 

The lead cop says that their old singer "Maeve Tivana" is behind bars and the promoter is pressing charges, the only reason they are being kept free is the lawyers their record label has sprung for them.   The lawyers finally arrive and Byron says are they free to go now?  The cop says they shouldn't count on being free for long thanks to property damage, injuries, missing persons and possible deaths.  They are not to leave Gotham because they'll want to speak to them again soon.

The band leave and outside the police station one of their lawyers says that Kurt Lance sends his thanks for keeping "Ditto" the lead guitarist out of it.   Ditto is "an alien made of living sound" and is hiding out at Kurt's place.   Kurt is apparently convalescing in a remote area.  He wanted them to have something urgently, it's a message saying Dinah is in Berlin and needs their help.  A cabaret performance will be their cover, all travel and accomodation has been arranged for them.  So they are back on tour.
Dinah fighting ninjas.
We cut to Dinah fighting and beating a whole bunch of attackers.  Then a woman dressed like Adam Ant in the "Prince Charming" video orders her to be sent back to the cells.  Dinah is caged up with a black woman who asks if the woman in charge was wearing her totem necklace?  Dinah gives her a thumbs up, seems she cannot speak.  The black woman is actually a hero called Vixen who wears the totem necklace to give her the power of any animal she wishes.

Dinah has a bad cut on her upper arm so Vixen rips her skirt to bandage her up as she explains about her necklace to her.  Then the white ninja appears on top of the cage saying she could free them right now...

Ninja: " But them my neice might never find out what happened to her mother."

Vixen demands she set them free but the ninja says she has searched a long time to find Dinah and she loves her and trusts her to get the job done.  She had taught Dinah new martial arts forms and "there were times I almost believed I was looking at my sister."
Dinah's aunt.
If Dinah keeps fighting they'll believe she has what they want and they'll bring her before "Headmistress Ravanahatha" and then they can strike and make her talk.  Vixen says she didn't sign up for this "weird ninja-cult family drama" and she is going to get out with them or in spite of them.

The ninja tells Vixen that she doesn't understand what's at stake here.  Before Dinah was born she was one of the worlds most talented martial artists.  She founded this institution with her friends making it a place of learning.  She left it in safe hands and built a family but a terrible evil began to grow up in the school.

She left her family to sort things out at the school, "she never returned."  Her schools former teachers are now turning up dead and these warrior women would not fall easily. The killers were looking for something and they think they have found it in Dinah.   They'll make her fight until they see her use the "Five Heavens Palm.  Her mothers secret technique".   That had something to do with her mother's disappearance.  Dinah allowed herself to be captured to get closer to the truth.  Vixen asks where she had been all these years and the ninja says "family business" and departs.

We then cut to the rest of the band on their way to Berlin by plane.  On board they bump into Maeve who has been released and is also coming to Berlin, she is here to help and make sure no one messes with Ditto who smiles at her.  Back in the jail cell Vixen admits to being a big Black Canary fan. She says they both have a lot in common, both raised in foster family, both with jobs in the public eye as she is a model.  She believes they can be friends.

However when these people came after her they attacked her manager and abducted her in this death cult prison.  She then head butts the bars and falls to the ground yelling that Dinah is trying to kill her.  The guards arrive and call for advice from "Master Greyeyes".  They open the cage and Vixen attacks, knocking them all out.  But before she can escape the ninja kicks her back into the cell telling her to stay put.

The guards keep beating on Vixen and Dinah can't take it so she knocks the rest out and activates a button on the wrist of one which releases the collar round her neck so she can speak.  The ninja says it's good to hear her voice even if "your actions have put all of our work in jeopardy."
Vixen busts them out.
Greyeyes appears and Dinah tells the ninja, who she finally names as "aunt Rena" that she is packing away her emotions right now.  And she unleashes her Canary Cry on Greyeyes and knocks her out.   Vixen takes back her totem necklace and unleashes the power of an elephant, smashing her way through the building's wall to the outside.

There are a lot of ninjas outside and before Dinah can shout them down a chain wraps round her neck cutting her off. The chain is held by Greyeyes and she and Dinah trade insults then Vixen takes on a bear's power and punches Greyeyes so she releases the chain.   Greyeyes then powers up a ball of energy which Dinah matches with her cry and she knocks Greyeyes unconcious.  Dinah wants to go back for Rena but Vixn says she is using her and does she even have proof she really is her aunt?

Dinah then takes on the ninjas and beats them all saying she needed to get that out of her system.  Vixen takes on an eagle's power and flies them away.  They land some wayaway and Dinah says she needs to get back to Gotham and Vixen says she needs to get back to Rome and find out if her manager is OK.  She asks where they are and Dinah says outside Berlin.

Dinah says she wishes she could tell the rest of the band where she disappeared to, but she knows they'd come after her.  And "I refuse to put Black Canary in danger.  Never again".  We then cut to them arriving in Berlin missng Dinah as she buys a ticket to Gotham at the same airport.   Maeve is excited that "Izak Orato" the coolest 80's dude ever will be at the club although another one of the band tells her not to get too excited, "this club is not what it seems."

We begin the next chapter with Dinah hanging out with Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl.   Barbara is a big fan of the band, though Dinah says the person on stage isn't her.  Barbara says it is, just another her.  Dinah tries to shut down the conversation about her but Barbara keeps pushing when Dinah admits that meeting aunt Rena.

Barbara: "I get it.  You finally found some real family to hold on to and it's causing you to doubt who you really are."

Dinah doesn't want to talk about it. Barbara says their old team, the Birds of Prey disbanded, she ran out on her band, lost Kurt a second time and finally she's found a relative who redifines who she is as a person. Dinah says it makes her "feel like punching something."
Out on the town with Dinah and Babs.
So Barbara gets dressed up as Batgirl and they go out and punch some criminals.  They fight in a record shop and the gang leader surrenders so his precious records don't get broken.  Dinah then confesses to Barbara about getting suckered into joining a ninja death cult by her aunt and recounts what had happened to the school her mother set up  She had come back to Gotham to figure out what happened to her mother.  When the gang leader realises she is D.D. from Black Canary he asks if she can sign his black eye for him.

Later Dinah asks Barbara to use her photographic memory to think back to her dojo before it burned down and find the photo on her desk.  Barbara says her memory doesn't work that way but she does remember asking about the photo which is apparently the only one Dinah hasd of her mother.  Written on the back was several names, one of which was the name of Vixen's manager and another two had been assasinated in recent months. They need to track down "Judy Slade" another name on the back of the photo, so Barbara gets her friend Frankie on it.

Next day they visit the studio where the picture was taken, it's now owned by a "Juniper Vega" and has left it how it was when the photo was taken.  Barbara asks if her mum was in a band too, Dinah says she wasn't as far as she know so she isn't sure why she and her friends were here.  Then she finds a photo showing her mum as a dancer.  Her teammates too.

Dinah: "This can't be right.  You don't go from teaching martial arts to dancing in videos."

Barbara picks up a picture of a goth looking guy named "Izak Orato" and Barbara asks if she knows who he is.   Barbara remembers her mother saying she didn't like his videos.  They find a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes ad start listening to them.  Babara thinks her mum was right about Izak's music.
Izak Orato
Dinah is watching one of the old Izak videos on Barbara's phone.  It's definitely her mother, she moves just like Dinah and she is in quite a few of them too.  Then Barbara finds something on one of the tapes, Dinah's mother is being threatened by Izak on it but the tape cuts out before they can hear much more.

Dinah ponders that her mum and dad were working somekind of angle with this Izak fellow.   Her father was a P.I. so Barbara figures that her dad was investigating Izak and her mum jumped in to be his inside guy but when they got close things got serious so she called in her old kung fu buddies.  Then Dinah's father was found dead and mum ran off to Berlin to fight a ninja death cult, "it doesn't add up" says Dinah.

Then Frankie calls and tells them Judy Slade was murdered over twenty years ago.  She was alive on the set of a Izak Orato music video one day and a "dry shell of a body the next."  The M.E.'s report says it was liked the life was sucked out of her.

Suddenly a bunch of shurikens are thrown at Dinah and Barbara.  It's Greyeyes who has managed to track them down.   Dinah tells Barbara they are after the Five Heavens Palm her mum made up.  But Dinah doesn't know it.  Barbara is always prepared and has attached a small explosive to the drumkit which she sets off.   There is a mega brawl and Greyeyes manages to get ahold of Barbara and chokes her into unconciousness.
Another ninja brawl.
With Barbara slumped at her feet, Greyeyes says she could kill her right now to provoke Dinah into using the "technique you're going to great lengths to conceal."  Greyeyes asks what it would take, how desperate would she have to be to finally use it.   So Dinah says she gives up, she'll reveal it but Greyeyes must be alone, so Greyeyes orders her ninjas out taking Batgirl with them.

Greyeyes tells Dinah she wants to take her down.  She knows how gifted she is but she watched her every move and knows she can beat her.  The headmistress has commanded Greyeyes get the technique even at the cost of her own life. Now Dinah must perform the Five Heavens Palm or Batgirl dies.  Dinah makes a move but it's the "Silent White Crane kata! Liar!"  Knocked down, Greyeyes yells for Batgirl to be killed but Dinah isn't fazed as Batgirl renters saying Dinah knows she can take care of herself.

Dinah starts punching Greyeyes saying they should fight with no Canary Cry or electric powers, Greyeyes agrees and a physical throwdown starts.  Dinah beats Greyeyes and demands to know who the headmistress is.  Greyeyes says she is  called "Ravanahatha" and many years ago Dinah's mother injured her. Dinah asks if she killed her mother.  Greyeyes says her mother was pushed in the fight into using the Five Heavens Palm which left her mistress broken and she requires it again to make her whole.

Greyeyes them powers the electricity power up, grabbing Dinah's leg demanding she use the move.  Barbara yells at Dinah to get away, Greyeyes is going to blow.  She uses a grappled to swing across and get ahold of Dinah and swing them both to safety as Greyeyes goes boom.
Greyeyes combusts.
They watch the fire from a short distance away.  Barbara can't believe Greyeyes killed herself for kung fu.  Dinah says it can apparently save the life of the person she follows.  She says aunt Rena said the headmistress could tell them what happened to her mum.  Barbara wants to know more about aunt Rena who Dinah never mentioned before. Dinah says she didn't know about her until a few weeks ago and she's a world class fighter.

Barbara is suspicious, referring to a villain who had convinced everyone he was a friend of hers until they realise he was actually rearranging their memories, "people coming out of nowhere tend to be bad news.  I'm sorry Dinah."  They return to Barbara's place and Frankie tells her that the band Black Canary are in Berlin.  When Dinah realises the club they are playing in is owned by Izak Orato, it has to be a trap.  But Black Canary need her and Dinah needs answers so it's back to Berlin with her.

We begin chapter three with Dinah back in Berlin with Frankie on the phone to her. Dinah is outside the club saying the place "reeks of villain's lair."  Barbara is on the line too, they've contacted Vixen to come help but no response from her yet.  The drones they have tapped into have picked up some people, "they appear to be armed and waiting for you."  Barbara pleads with Dinah to wait for Vixen rather than take them on alone.  "Sometimes it's like you don't even know me, Batgirl" grins Dinah.

Jump cut to Dinah standing atop a pile of unconcious bodies. Barbara can't get a scan of what's in the club, they are blocking signals inside  It stinks of being a trap, and Frankie backs her up saying when Dinah walks through the club's door she will be on her own.

Dinah: "Wouldn't be the first time.  Won't be the last.  Thanks for the hand ladies.  Canary out."

And into the club she goes.  She is confronted by Izak Orato on stage with the Black Canary band behind him looking somewhat hypnotised.
Izak Orato and Black Canary.
Izak says that now their vocalist has arrived they are ready to begin their headline performance.  Dinah says she isn't here to put on a show, she's here for a friends.  Izak says they are free to go anytime "but they live to entertain". Dinah says she doesn't entertain, she's a soldier.  But he says he is going to remind her of her true nature.

Izak: "Now, birth sounds that stir the hearts of men to dream memories of stardust newly formed... reveal to me your true heart Dinah".

Dinah gets up on stage and sings, then realises Ditto isn't there.  The rest of the band come around and are surprised to find out where they are and what they are wearing. Apart from Maeve the others hug Dinah, then she tells them they have to go.

Izak says there is at least one song left in the set.  Dinah orders Black Canary to run. As the weird horned ninja attack, Maeve takes the rest of the band to safety while Dinah confronts Izak who says he just wants her and they drop through a trapdoor.  As the rest of the band fight their way out, Byron says that Dinah can look after herself when Heathcliffe says they need to go help her.

Dinah is now in a hall of mirrors. He tells her that he hasn't hurt her friends, she did by abandoning them.  "You truly are your mother's daughter" Izak says. She starts to say she was trying to protect them, then she gets slashed across the upper arm and sees a reflection of her mother in the mirrors, "walking away from little Dinah again... and again.. and again.."

Izak says her blood is delicious, "I need another taste."  Dinah asks if that is why he brought her here to ffed on her like he did on Judy.   He says she was a small morsel,  those women stalked him and pretended to be his entourage, his dancers. He would have given them the world, but then he drank the life of their friend.

He slashes Dinah again, and she tries to goad him into coming out and facing her one-on-one.  He says she sounds like her mother "the women who wanted to destroy me."  Dinah says her mother was not a killer she just wanted to stop him taking more lives.

Izak: "She fought me!  Hurt me in ways I didn't think possible.  For the first time in a millenia I felt true pain. But ancient beings don't falls so easily, nor do we forget."

Dinah asks if killing her is his revenge.  He says no, he wants her to fix him, to heal him.  He needs the Five Heavens Palm.  Her mother tore him apart with it, he needs Dinah to put him back together.

Dinah says she doesn't know it.  Izak tells her it taps the very fabric of the universe on a microscopic scale. Vibrating in perfect harmony manipulated with great power and cocare by a master artist.   He knows Dinah is such an artist but she might need careful influence to find her power, he thought performance might be the key but perhaps it demands something more traumatic.
Dinah gets pissed.
He then shows Dinah how he killed and fed on her father, taunting Dinah by saying how he still dreams of the taste of his blood and watching the life flow from him.  Dinah throws Izak's aura off her and powers up as he is finally revealed.  They fight and Izak opens his chest vertically to reveal a mouth full of spiked fangs. 

She escapes from him to where Vixen and her manager, one of Dinah's mother's friends Sandra McCanlies, are battling the horned ninjas.  Then aunt Rena appears, accusingly she says Dinah betrayed her and turned her bac on the mission. She was guiding her down a path that would have led them to uncover the Five Heavens Palm.  Vixen then drops a bombshell:

Vixen: "That woman is not Dinah's aunt!  That's one half of the demon Ravanahatha."

And the demon imapales Dinah through the stomach with a katana.  As Izak appears behind her along with the not-aunt they hiss that now she has no choice but to use the Five Heavens Palm and it will make Ravanahatha whole again.  It tells her she is all alone, but as she lies dying, Ditto comes up to her and whispers "you're not alone.  You've never been alone."
That's no aunt!
We now go through a voyage into Dinah's psyche.  We see her performing her final gig saying it's the last they'll ever do.  One yea later, she is being interviewed on TV, the presenter says she's lost a lot of her glitter in her new act with Izak Orato.  He says that having met her she feels more like an off-duty superhero.

Dinah says that isn't too far off, the presenter says that he knew a lady who said she didn't want to meet Dinah feeling that she is into kung fu magic and it would make her nervous and others she her as a skilled performer who changes from time to time.  Dinah says she was picking up the pieces her mother left behind, "she was a performer in another life..." The interviewer asks if she taught her the moves she uses, Dinah just says she's putting on a show. The interviewer asks if it wouldn't be better to use those skills to help people, "why keep singing when the world is falling apart around us?"  Dinah is silent.

Another year later Dinah is in the studio with Izak, and various groupies lounging around, who says that music gives them meaning, "there's little more we can do for a fellow sentient being than bring them joy."  Dinah says nothing.  Then mumbles they need to go and Izak says she doesn't need the distraction of flesh, "let me bring you back to life."

Two more years later, Dinah is solo now and listening to playback on a track he just recorded.  Then Wonder Woman teleports in looking beaten up.  She asks Dinah to come and command them in battle "save the world".  There is a war going on between the Justice League and a villain called "Ravedeath".  They need Dinah, but she says that she can't help.  What she is doing now is important, Wonder Woman says "your friends will die.  You'll be alone".  Dinah just says she has to get back to work because her future depends on it.
Dinah refuses to superhero.
Six more years later, Dinah has had her first mainstream hit with her first dance album, "Scream Heels".  Her past work has been critically well received but didn't breakthrough.   Dinah appears at a press cobference. She tells them that times are hard in the world, so if her music can bring joy then she's done her job. She tells them she won't go back to experimentally stuff, nothing but hits from now on.

Four more years later, she is being interviewed over the phone about her recent albums, her most recent being "like your first peice of purely commercial art."  When the interview starts probing into her past work saying they sounded like she was searching for for a way to connect with her mother after all these years. The interbiewer says that she told a magazine in the past she had found a frequency that allowed to communicate wth her mother.  Dinah snaps that this interview was supposed to be about her new record.  The interviewer presses her saying did she find out Izak Orato wasn't responsible for her death and that's why she agreed to work with him. And was there any clue he'd become Ravedeath in the early days with him?  Then the interveiwer asks her about the new album.

Six more years later, Dinah has Paloma and Byron round to ask if they want to reform Black Canary.   She says she hasn't been feeling the music in so long, "so many soulless stadium shows."  We wants to feel the energy again.  She snuck into Gotham to watch them play saying it took all her willpowet not to run up to the stage and do a song.  Paloma gets up to leave and Byron apologises saying it's not the right time for any of them.  Dinah asks where Ditto is, Byron says she has no idea who she is talking about.

Seven years later on, she arrives heavily pregant meeting with Barbara and Diana (Wonder Woman).  They have a serious message for her though.  Her husband Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow was serving the Justice League again at Barbara's request.  Ravedeath was spreading throughout the universe and they didn't want it to strip other planets like it did Earth.  And Ollie was killed in deep space, when he was supposed to be with his family.  "I'll never forgive your for this Babs.  Never" she says coldly.

Sixteen years later, her daughter is a teenager and tells her mum she is not supposed to be out of bed.  Dinah eppears to still be recording despite being ill.   She gets into bed and her daughter tells her to "leave the music now.  Just close you eyes." Dinah says when she closes them her daughter isn't there. Suddenly the rest of Black Canary appear and tell her she is not alone and never have been.  Ditto appears and tells her "time is flexible".

Black Canary surround her saying she's alive and she is going to be OK.  Dinah remembers that they are in so many places at once and there is that hum again, "everything's buzzing".  Then a vision of her mum appears and clasps her hands.  She tells Dinah she remembers how powerful she was when she left, "that power inside your cry is everything, love." The vibration is the music of the heavens and the music of the universe and she taught her to channel it.
Time gets wobbly.
She was shown how to use it as a child and she learned though she did not know, "use it.  Fight for your life and the lives of your friends and family."
Dinah: "The Five Heavens Palm!"

And with that she returns to the present, she pulls the katana out of her belly and stands with Ditto putting her hand on her wound and it heals up.  Black Canary all give her a big group hug as Maeve notes Ditto brought them back to save Dinah.

But there is still the matter of Ravanahatha to deal with.  Both halves, Rena and Izak say they will become whole again now she has unlocked the power. The demon joins together although not fully, they are still powerful though when attached to each other.  A big brawl ensues with Black Canary joining in as well as Vixen and her manager.

Ravanahatha: "Youuuuuu can't win. If you use the Five Heavens Palm we will let you live. We will even give you yor hearts desire.  Fame!  Fortune! Family!  We can make sure you're never alone again."

Dinah says she has never been alone and if it wants her power it can have it. But she warns it that the Five Heavens Palm won't put it back together it will be it's death.
The Five Heavens Palm.
Five Black Canarys appear with they palms all pointed inward.  Ravanahatha lets out a terrible scream and disperses.  The rest of his ninja cult run when they realise their master is gone.  Dinah asks if she did that and Vixen says she defeated an ancient kung fu demon with a secret technique her mum buried inside her, so yeah she did do it.

She accomplished what her mother didn't.  It would have sucked the world dry, and her mum split it in half but Dinah actually destroyed it.  Sent it to the place between time and space. Dinah says she saw her mother and other instances of herself. She is told to trust what she knows and that she is a superhero.  Dinah apologises to the band for getting them involved. Byron asks if the can go home now.  Then Dinah thinks about her husband Kurt.

We cut to her laying a flower on his grave.  Amanda Waller, she of the Goverment superhero black-ops agencies arrives to pay her respects.   She asks what the future holds for Black Canary.  Dinah says she has her eye on a new pair of boots.  She asks Amanda what her intentions with Ditto.  Amanda pretends she doesn't know about her and just says "who?"

We end this story and this truncated series with Dinah announcing at a concert that she is quitting the band. It woun't be the end of Black Canary, they will be having their original vocalist back, Bo Meave. She and Bo are going to duet but before they do she says she knows there are many possible futures but nothng can stop her "loving these women like my own flesh and blood.  Aren't they incredible?"  She counts the song in one last time and sings her final song.

She walks down backstage and changes her high boots for a part of buckled combat boots. As she walks out of the venue the narration asks who is Dinah?  A singer.  A daughter.  A  friend.  A fighter. Each tones of a complex chord.  Made stronger by those ringing with it.  Made stronger still by those against it.

Narration: "That's the power behind the voice of Dinah Lance.  That's the sound of Black Canary."

The end of this chapter of Dinah's life.
The end.  Well not quite, there is issue #17 of Gotham Academy included in the trade, which recounts how Heathcliffe hooked up with the band.  But as I am also covering that series on this blog it makes more sense to write about it when I reach that volume of Gotham Academy.  There is also a sneak peek of Dinah taking the Black Canary identity and  becoming part of The Birds of Prey again as part of the DC Rebirth.  All very safe and samey and typical of DC to try something new with a character like this version with Black Canary being a band and Dinah its lead singer, then panic and pull their head back into their shell and just return to the same old, same old stuff.  Oh well.  Anyway as for this story, it does indeed suffer from obviously having to resolve itself in too few issues, but it still manages to be remarkably coherent.  I'm a huge martial arts buff so I enjoyed the fight scenes and of course the search for a super special technique that was in you the whole time is a martial arts movie trope it was fun to see used here.  I'd like to have seen more of the band as they were definitely sidelined in the issue, although the team-up with Batgirl made up for it.  Also nice to see Vixen again, she is one of those charaters who has bounced round the DCU for a long time, never finding a comic of her own just guest starring in other peoples.  The rushed ending also meant we didn't get to see  Ravanahatha do something more heinous that would really warrant revenge, I mean it was evil don't get me wrong but I feel it could have been shown to have done even more eveil things than just snacking on Dinah's father.  And interestingly she never actually tracked down her mother, only seeing her in her vision.  That seemed to satisfy her at anyrate, but maybe they'll continue her hunt in Birds of Prey, though that's doubtful considering the clean slate approach the DC Rebirth took. The art was excellent all the way through, Sandy Jarrell, Moritat, Annie Wu and Wayne Faucher all worked hard to keep the style consistent and writer Brenden Fletcher's writing was naturalistic despite having to contain some egregiously huge infodumps.  I could have read a lot more of Dinah the lead singer of Black Canary but alas it was not to be.  Anyway, join me again on Valentine's Day when Squirrel Girl has to deal with her toughest adversary yet.  A Nice Guy...