Tuesday, 27 January 2015

JLA Ultramarine Corps (JLA Classified #1-3, Spawn/WildC.A.T.s #1)

 "These "no-nonsense" solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex world of jet-powered apes and time travel" - Superman

And so we reach the end of teambook month with a look at a miniseries containing the greatest team ever, the late nineties, early noughties era Justice League America.  The first story in this slim volume I'm looking at particularly because it functions as a prologue to next month where I'll be looking at Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers Of Victory series JLA Classified features the Sheeda and Neh-buh-loh who go on to play a significant role in Seven Soldiers, this appearance being a prepemptive strike by them. Fans of Paul Cornell's brilliant Knight and Squire miniseries should also be interested in this as the wonderful Squire, Beryl, gets a starring role here. The trade paperback also contains a bumper length one shot that, in a pleasing Alan Moore-esque "end leads back to the beginning" is a team up starring the WildC.A.T.s and like Spawn/WildC.A.T.s it's really not that brilliant. Although it's definitely better as it doesn't treat the reader like a moron, the art though completely average at least works sequentially and the JLA are far more interesting in their interactions with the WildC.A.T.s (especially since several of the WildC.A.T.s are rip-offs of them) than Spawn was.

JLA CLASSIFIED - This comic starts out with the International Ultramarine Corp's in action.  These are made up of characters created my Grant Morrison for the crossover event DC One Million.  The original core team of four are Warmaker 1, Flow, 4-D and Pulse 8.  They were artifically created to oppose the Justice League, but rebelled and now police the planet from their flying city Superbia.  Other members include Knight and Squire, Goraiko, Jack O'Lantern, Vixen, Olympian, Kid Impala, Tasmanian Devil, Little Mermaid and Fleur-de-Lys.  The main thing that sets them apart from the JLA is their willingness to use extreme violence and kill to deal with difficult situations, making them similar to the Wildstorm superteam The Authority.
Gorilla Grodd in action.
The story begins with the Ultra-Marine Corp battling the forces of Gorilla Grodd - a super intelligent, telepathic ape - in the African city of Kinshasa.  Squire, who is Knight's side-kick fills them in on Grodd, he is number three on the "global most wanted" list. Goraiko, who is a mindless construct controlled by a young Japanese girl manages to take Grodd down, but Warmaker (a disembodied presence inside an armoured suit) thinks there is more to come.

They find a mysterious cube and Grodd tells them he burned Kinshasa to attract their attention.  It's a trap!  Goraiko suddenly sends out an electro-magnetic pulse that takes out Superbia's power.  The cube starts to absorb 4-D to gain a humanoid shape while Squire escapes the crashing Superbia on a flying bike and Grodd smashes Warmaker's armour.

Narration: "Savagery is crowned King.  Civilisations defenders fall."

The action cuts to Batman, Squire contacts him via the Bat-Phone to Batman's Bat-surprise.  When he is filled in on the situation he goes to his "sci-fi" closet to get outfitted to go help.  He tells Alfred the rest of the JLA are off saving someone else's universe. Back with Grodd, he is ranting about using Superia to smash human civilisation. He asks Neh-Buh-Loh what's in it for him.  he responds that he is preparing a way for "my Queen of terror".
The sci-fi closet.  Note the Dalek there.
Back with Beryl, she is blasted off her bike by flying jet powered apes.  Luckily Batman catches her with the small flying saucer he is riding.  He uses a "boom tube" to transport the pair of them to a JLA base near Pluto.  There is the same universe cube that turned into Neh-Buh-Loh, which Batman refers to as the "infant universe."  He believes Squire, whose powers relate to communications can contact the JLA inside it, while he goes and fights Grodd with his robot JLA.
Squire Beryl gets saved by Batman in a flying saucer.  Aren't comics awesome?!
Inside the Infant Universe, which Wonder Woman names as Qwewq, the JLA are watching the super-villain "Black Death" go about his business of being an evil dick.   It seems this universe is devoid of superheroes of it's own.  Then a payphone rings which Black Death answers and says "wrong number".  It was Squire trying to contact the JLA and we cut back to her telling Batman she "had something there."

The action then returns to the Ultra-Marines.  Knight, 4-D, Jack O'Lantern and The Little Mermaid are barricaded in the armory.  They intend to go on the offensive but 4-D has a little Sheeda "spine rider" on the back of his head controlling him, and he makes tumours appear in the Little Mermaid to force the others to give up and they all end up under Sheeda control.
A Sheeda "spine rider".
Batman and the robot JLA attack, but are easily taken out. "That went well" comments Batman sarcastically, and Grodd grabs him saying he always wanted to eat him.  Squire finally gets through again via phone.  The JLA arrest Black Death who says his goal was to waste their time anyway so Grodd could enact his plan.  Superman speaks to Squire and they all Boom Tube their way out of Qwewq, which is about time as Grodd has Batman tied to a spit, all ready for roasting.

The real JLA arrive on the scene and Green Lantern engages 4-D who restores his weakness to yellow.  As he falls Flash creates a vortex that cushions him and sends him flying back up where he punches 4-D out.  Wonder Woman takes on several of the Corp, including Vixen and Tasmanian Devil. Grodd keeps rambling and ranting about the superiority of the gorilla race to Batman, who when Grodd's back is turned, breaks free and kicks Grodd hard in the groin.
Olympian takes down John J'onzz.
Martian Manhunter goes to take on Goraiko but is intercepted by Olympian who uses fire against him, John's only weakness.  Superman meanwhile makes his way to fight Neh-Buh-Loh.  Batman has disabled and tied up Grodd, Batman got free thanks to the help of Warmaker in his disembodied form.  Jack O'Lantern and Knight appear to attack Batman next.

Olympian attacks Aquaman, while Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to overide Tasmanian Devils mind control and lets him battle his teammates.  Aquaman knocks Olympian out, while Batman does the same to Jack O'Lantern.  Before he can fight Knight, Squire appears and appeals to Knight not to fight Batman.  Knight manages to pull the Spine Rider off the back of his head and crushes it.
But John is too badass to stay down.
Martian Manhunter breaks free of the fire he was trapped in and goes to find Goraiko.  But it has no mind of it's own that he can reach, luckily Aquaman finds it's controller and frees her from the Sheeda.

Superman reaches Neh-Buh-Loh and demands to know what he is.

Neh-Buh-Loh: "The seed of evil Black Death planted bore fruit in me!  I am Neh-Buh-Loh the adult universe of Qwewq".

He doesn't fight Superman, saying he has tested them, then he teleports away saying next time he will be back with his people and the takeover will be less ostentatious.  With the rest of the Ultramarines freed of Sheeda control and the gorilla's imprisoned, Superman scolds the Ultramarines.

Superman: "You were a disaster waiting to happen, Warmaker. 'Superheroes' who don't mind killing to achieve their ends can be dangerous in the wrong hands."

He suggests they all go into the universe of Qwewq and become the heroes that universe needs, which might stop it becoming Neh-Buh-Loh.  They agree and Boom Tube into Qwewq and we'll find out what happened to them in the upcoming Seven Soldiers Of Victory series.
Tune in next month folks to see how they do.
If I have one criticism to make of this mini is that it's very crowded.  An extra issue might have ironed out the leaps the plot takes in places.  But it feels a little churlish to complain when at the very least you're getting value for money with the amount of story crammed into these three issues.  The lighter Batman of this story is much more to my taste than the grim, humourless avenger running about the DCU these days, and Beryl (Squire) is always fantastic. The artwork by Ed McGuiness is particularly praiseworthy, it's a style I really like, ie. heavily cartoon-like with characters given a real weight and heft, as well as good sequential flow making it a pleasure to read.  The Sheeda and Neh-buh-loh are set up as intriguing villains leaving you wanting to know more about them, which was part of this mini's job as a prelude to Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Grant Morrison maxi-series I'll be devoting a whole month to in February.
Pictured: The 90's.
JLA/WILDC.A.T.S - The story starts with Wally West when he was Kid Flash running through the countryside.  Suddenly he is attacked by a cackling maniac in an armoured suit.  He tells Wally it's a 41st Century "telekinetically controlled, super-conducting, liquid polyalloy". He then introduces himself as "Epoch, Lord of Time".  Fortunately Wally is saved by his older self and his JLA compadres.  Epoch disappears saying he'll target another of them in the past.  The Flash notes the weirdness of briefly having his memory in stereo then they return to their time travelling cube-ship, leaving behind a bewildered Kid Flash:

The Flash: "Trust me on this Wally.  It's like kissing: just one of those things that won't make any sense until you're older."

They chase Epoch back and forth through time, foiling each attempt he makes to kill them.  Finally Epoch sends them into the future but keeps the ships time drive in the past. They end up stranded in AD 55, Batman realises the time drive might still be around but buried in the ground, so Green Lantern makes a plough and they dig it up, the other four hold onto Kyle's ring to boost the will that powers it and jump start the time drive. They return to the present (1997, the date of publication), but it's definitely not their right present.
Stuck in the Wildstorm Universe a year before it was cool.
The WildC.A.T.s ( Covert Action Teams) are busy fighting people who's latent gene-active tendencies have been activated by powerful fluctations in the quantum foam (oh Grant...), a disturbance which is coming from outside the universe.  Suddenly the JLA's timeship lands and the JLA come out to see what's happening. To stop the narrative getting too cluttered, the full roster of each team is not present.  There is Superman during his electric blue phase, Wonder Woman, Batman, The Flash and Green Lantern.  For the WildC.A.T.s there is Majestic, Zealot, Grifter, Void and Maul, part of the post-Alan Moore run line up of the team. 

When two superteams who are unfamiliar with each other meet there is always some fisticuffs over a misunderstanding before the inevitable team-up occurs.  When Majestic rather arrogantly says the following to a curious Superman:

Majestic: "I am Majestros of the Kheran Empire. These are the WildC.A.T.s and if you dare subject me to another electromagnetic scan, I intend to tear your head from your body".

Superman responds by punching him far outside the building they are in.  As Majestic is the WildC.A.T.s Superman rip-off (he was absent from Spawn/WildC.A.T.s I assume simply because he'd have been able to take out even a powered up Spawn easily) there is something quite satisfying about Superman's response to him, even if it does feel a little out of character for him.
Zealot versus Wonder Woman.
So Zealot takes on Wonder Woman, Zealot is also a "homage" to Wonder Woman, a proud warrior brought up and trained in the art of battle by an isolated sisterhood.  She isn't as super strong and resilient as Wondy is and she's also something of a humourless cow.  So all Wonder Woman does in the fight is defend herself while asking Zealot nicely to stop as she isn't really go to be able to hurt her no matter how hard she attacks.

Grifter isn't a direct copy of Batman.  He is the only WildC.A.T member with no superpowers so is alike in that respect, and he is probably the most "badass" of them too, also like Batman.  But he uses guns, which of course is Batman's big no-no, and he's intelligent enough to see just how much Batman outclasses him by the fact Batman managed to disarm him before they even started fighting and he correctly decides not to push his luck.
Flash and Void.
Void and the Flash are similar in that they both move at great speeds, but Void moves by teleporting herself and manages to stay a short step ahead of the Flash as they size each other up and realise they aren't a threat to each other.  This leaves the size changing Maul and Green Lantern battling, although they are definitely nothing alike.  Green Lantern is the only one of the JLA who really throws himself into his match-up and get's harmlessly disabled quite quickly by Maul as a result.

Superman and Majestic sort out their differences off screen, they realise they share a common enemy and finally Zealot calms down which she does out of respect for Wonder Woman's fighting prowess, they then try and work out what their next move should be against their reality messing, time-travelling opponent.

Batman: "We still don't know where we are.  According to the Grifter here this is 1997 but he's never heard of Metropolis, Gotham City or the Justice League."

Grifter: "Great name though guys.  Says what it means and it's not afraid to get laughed at."

Cheeky blighter!  I assume this is Morrison actually poking fun at the supposedly more "realistic" Wildstorm universe characters who are in fact just as silly as those of DC and Marvel.  Anyway, the Justice League set about the monsters that have just arrived.  Majestic is still a bit dubious about their tale of coming from a parallel universe, but Void, who's "thing" is space and time travel says it makes sense with what's been happening.

Void: "This 'Time Lord' they spoke of has disrupted probability so severely on their timewave that the distortions are leaking through to our universe, look!  This chaos will continue to accelerate unless we stop it at source."
Some metaphysical folderol.
They come up with a plan to cross into the JLA's universe to take on Epoch.  Void and Green Lantern both enter "Void-space" a trippy 4D place.  There are beings there who in return for Green Lanterns "concepts" which he doodles with his power ring will help them go back to the DCU.  It works and Void installs the technology into the time drive of the JLA's time machine.  It will make a bridge for them that will last a few hours, the WildC.A.T.s can help them for a short while but will have to return before the bridge decays.

They make it, but in the short time they have been away, Epoch fused with with the ultimate weapon of the 68th century, a self evolving supercomputer.  Now he can't tell where he ends and it begins.  He has used his power to summon troops from the future to subdue Earth, and he intends to convert the Earth into a huge time travelling engine with humans as it's slave population.
The villain "Epoch"
The JLA and WildC.A.T.s spring into action.  Epoch goes into high alert and downloads all the anti-JLA codes he has.  Superman absorbs electricity from the clouds then he and Majestic unleash powerful energy beams at Epoch's protective shield. Meanwhile on the ground Batman and Grifter and Zealot and Wonder Woman fight through the future army of monsters.  Maul grows to a huge size and smashes Epochs weakened protective shield.  Then Superman tells Majestic it's up to his people to finish dealing with Epoch as he has no defences programmed against them.

Void manages to disable the forcefield around Epoch and they hit him with energy beams, bullets and a sword. Before Epoch can overload and destroy Earth the JLA arrive with their time cube which they have programmed to follow a circle in time, a temporal prison.  Epoch screams that the records promised he would be master of the earth and he disappears locked in a timeloop for all eternity.
The WildC.A.T.s save the day.
The JLA and WildC.A.T.s bid each other farewell.  Superman says he and Majestic should meet again and talk some day.  Majestic isn't sure they would have much in common, but he does think Superman should wear a cape.  Batman tells Grifter he doesn't need guns to fight with,  Grifter says he'll still use them, but gives one to Batman as a souveneir and as they disappear back to their home universe he says it was a "pleasure and a privilege working with you Batman."  The story ends with a page showing a totally insane Epoch trapped in the timeloop forever.
And they return the their own universes.
JLA/WildC.A.T.s is a bit of fluff.  It's a fairly bland and flavourless read but has some nice moments sprinkled here and there.  It does throw into sharp relief just how uninspired most of the Wildstorm characters are when placed in a story with the iconic DC characters they emulate.  Grifter comes out of it best, mainly because Morrison writes him as a pseudo Batman type and he gets the pick of the good lines.  The art by Val Semeiks is... uninspired to say the least.  Oh, don't get me wrong, it's not full of confusing splash pages nor sequential fails like Spawn/WildC.A.T.s and the female characters are drawn with respect. But this is another Morrison "cosmic" tale and the art doesn't really capture the spectacular weirdness parts of the script seem to call for. Of course one is left with the question of how the Wildstorm Universe can exist when at this point in the DCU timeline there was one universe and one universe only.  But I pick nits.  Buy JLA Ultramarine Corps for the lovely JLA Classified mini and enjoy JLA/WildC.A.T.s as a decent bit of extra value.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam Powered Stories

"Remember that science rhymes with compliance! And you know what doesn't rhyme with compliance? Neurotoxin." - GLaDOS (Lab Rat)

Well, teambook month sees the return of the posts I know you all enjoy, the videogame tie-in. And it's time to stop playing the harpsicord to my falcon and to adjust my cravatte and put in my monocle, because this isn't just any videogame tie-in.  It's a Valve sponsored videogame tie-in, a company well known for their infrequent but superb games such as the Half Life and Portal series.  Just the presentation reeks of quality, it's a gorgeous, oversized hardback volume with thick glossy paper and superb reproduction.  It contains stories from Left For Dead, Team Fortress and an interquel between Portal and Portal 2.  You'd think from the name that Team Fortress would be the one I would be highlighting, but these stories are only half stories, they were designed so the they could be finished by how you played them online and thus are impossible to sum up if you have no in-depth knowledge of the game.  But they sure look pretty and a must if you are a dedicated Team Fortress player.  Luckily the main event here is the Left For Dead story "The Sacrifice" and this also involves a team so it's the one I am going to cover with a look at the Portal story (which is a team-up.. sort of) as a bonus extra.  Ready?

LEFT FOR DEAD - THE SACRIFICE: Left for Dead was an extremely successful zombie horror game released on the Xbox 360 and PC in late 2009.  You pick one of four characters - Francis, Bill, Zoey and Louis and fight your way from safehouse to safehouse against hordes of normal and "special infected" zombies. There wasn't much of a story provided in-game but Valve provided more background on it's website culminating with this 190 page comic filling in the backstories of the team thrown together by extreme circumstances as well as telling the story of the early days of the infection and the titular sacrifice made by Bill to save the rest of his friends.
The end of Bill at the start.
The story starts with a badly injured Bill stating he'd kill "another hundered people to keep you safe" regarding the rest of the team.  He's then attacked by three "tanks" (super powerful zombies) and goes out with one last smoke. We then flashback to a week ago where the team are having a fight with a gang of zombies.  The military arrives, hooray!  Falling back the team take out more special infected including a tank and make it to the prison vehicle.  It's a good scene that gives each of the four a chance to look badass killing zombies.  Inside the escape vehicle Francis sends out a note of cynicism, that they have been rescued three times before and it always went wrong.  The others try and dissuade him from his negativity but he just says that even if they do get to safety, "nothing will ever be the same again".
Zoey, Louis, Bill and Francis
We then get get a flashback to two days after the virus started.  Louis is at work in an office but he is the only one there.  He is talking to another collegue who refuses to come in because of the infection.

Louis: "What if this green flu burns itself out in a week? What if everybody got all excited for nothing? And the only two guys who stayed calm and kept the place was you and me!"

His colleague refuses so Louis goes to the bathroom and there has his first encounter with a zombie, who he manages to batter to death.  Then he goes and looks out of the shattered office window and the implications of the virus finally hit him.
Louis's story.
Back in the nearly present the team upon reaching the safezone are greeted by masked gunemen.  When Bill says something smart, one of them smashes him in the face with a rifle butt and they are told if they make a break for it they will be shot. Next the action cuts to two of the military discussing what to do with the segregated survivors.  One says he sees their very existence as "an act of aggression" and wants them killed.

In a jail-like cell, Francis and Bill start telling their guards about all the crazy special types of zombies there are.  We then see the man - Lt. Mora -who coordinated their rescue trying to deliver a report to a man called Everly about the things he saw, Everly says it's like a work of "fiction"  and tailor made to foster "dissension in the ranks."  Mora stubbornly says he saw what he saw and the survivors should be cut loose.  Everly disagrees and dismisses them.  Lt. Mora though starts plotting something, saying he has no intention of sacrificing his platoon.
The awful truth
Zoey is being seen by a doctor, she tells him she's been "bitten, scratched, bled on, puked on" but she and the others are immune.  When one of the soldiers agressively asks her to show one of her wounds to the doctor she grabs his gun and demands to know whats going on.  The soldier is terrified of her though.  Another gun toting guard arrives and Zooey gives up the gun.  The doctor finally is honest with her, they are not immune but they are carriers, and most likely have been spreading the virus as they travelled.

We then get a flashback to when it all turned to shit for Zoey. Her divorced parents after arguing over her decision to drop out of film school. Her father says she can join the force like him and that she is really good with firearms.  Suddenly a zombie appears and rips a chunk out of her mum.  her dad shoots it but another appears and bites him.  He shoots that one as well.  he then tells Zooey if she remembers the part in all the zombie films where one person had to shoot the bitten person before they turned.  And so she kills her father to prevent him becoming a zombie.
Zoey's tale.
Back at the military base, the doctor reveals himself to be a survivor too.  He wants their help to escape.

Doctor: "It's already not safe here.  Some of the soldiers.. They'll keep us alive as long as they think I can stop this.  When they figure out I can't... They're going to put us up against a wall and shoot us."

Then a lound alarm goes off.  Zoey says it will attract infected from miles around.  Lt. Mora and his soldiers are tooled up and relieve Everly of his command saying they have sounded the alarm for evacuation.

Louis and Francis are still locked up and (somehow) find out they were spreading the virus as they went.  Louis think this is why previous rescue attempts failed, that they infected those rescuing them.  Then they hear the alarm and he and Francis desperately try and talk their way out of their cell.  Then a Witch appears, she's a zombie who is insanely strong but will not attack if attacked first.  The soldiers heed Francis and Louis's advice and leave her alone.  For their expertise they are released, they then proceed to take down a Spitter earning the soldier's respect.
Louis and Francis get stuck in.
Bill and Zoey are fighting their way to the armoury using improvised weapons.  Once at the armoury they meet up with Francis and Louis and the soldiers with them.  After some good natured banter they and the soldiers plan their escaped from the compound.  One of the soldiers says their planned direct route to the train depot is suicide.

Bill: "Jeff, the four of us walked here from Philadelphia.  I think we can make it across a courtyard."

Francis then admits that the zombie apocalypse is the best thing that's happened to him.  And we get a flashback to him two days after the infection started.  He was something of a villain, robbing a store for a flatscreen TV.  hanging out with his gang, he goes for some alone time with a woman.  But she pukes on him and turns into a zombie.  His fellow gang member shoots her, and when Francis realises a full blown zombie apocalpse has started and hundreds are coming over, he makes his friends drag a jukebox up onto a nearby roof so he can have music on while he shoots them.
Francis's tale.
In the military storyline, Lt. Mora get's his mask ripped off and his squad refuse to take their chances with him and leave him to die.  Our zombie slaying team now fully armed set off for the train depot.  The bump into the armed but slowly zombifying Mora and Bill lays him out with a punch and they move on.  Mora is still alive, at least until the zombies catch up with him.

They bump into a Tank, Louis grabs a vehicle with a leaky petrol tank and rams it with it, bailing before it blows.  The survivors and the soldiers seperate and our heroes reach the train station under heavy zombie attack.  Back at the base the soldiers are being overwhelmed by zombies.  Zooey want's Bill to stop the train so they can save some. He refuses.  Later she confronts him.

Zoey: "Damn it.  I trusted you!  We let a doctor die, you asshole.  We let soldiers die.  And for what?  So we can run off to some island and hide?"
Bill makes a hard choice.
She says they could save more people with the train.  He says that they tried things her way and got locked up and nearly killed.

Bill: " We gotta look after our own or we will die.  That is as simple as I can make it."

She angrily says she wants her world back and who else is he going to leave behind to save himself.  This triggers Bill's flashback to just after the zombie infection began. He was in a vetrans's hospital undergoing an undefined proceedure.  Just as he is being sedated, zombies attack.  He manages to kick one of them's head off while still on the operating table.  Then after arming himself with some improvised weapons, he heads off out into the zombie infested night.  Which brings us back to the nearly present.
Bill's tale.
As they battle through the zombies, Zoey tells Francis she is furious with Bill but also that she thinks of them all like a family. They find a yacht but it is full of zombies and Louis gets his leg messed up finding this out.  So they find a less ostentatious craft with guns and a dead man aboard.  They need to lift the bridge blocking the harbour exit.  They find a generator and start it up and run back to the bridge as the noise of it rising brings them to the zombies attention.
So near, yet so far.
The generator stops when the bridge is half up and many, many zombies have congregated below them.  Realising they are out of options and not wanting the others to die, Bill leaps down and leads them away, getting to the generator and starting it up again.  He tries to get back but a Tank punches him hard and badly injures him and this is where we first came in with Bill dying from his wounds and under attack.  Realising he is dead, the other three sail away sadly, hoping to find a zombie free island to go live on (hopefully it won't end up like the Dawn Of The Dead remake for them).  The End.
Off into the sunset they go.
PORTAL - LAB RAT:  Portal and Portal 2 are both games that are difficult to characterise.  Viewed from a first person perspective you use a "Portal Gun" to create two portals in a room and teleport between them solving each rooms puzzle, often with the aid of special cubes and moving on to the next.  What has made the games so well loved was the quality of the script.  Your character, Chell never speaks, but you are constantly being hilariously needled by a homicidal computer AI called GLaDOS who is obssessed with testing, and you are her only test subject left. In the first game she even promises you cake. This turns out to be a lie though and she tries to kill you instead.  At the end of Portal it looked like Chell had escaped the facility, but Portal 2 starts with her in waking from some sort of suspended animation a long time in the future.  This comic tells the story of what happened between games as well as solving the mystery of the strange "dens" you find in some rooms covered in graffiti and rubbish.

Ratman: "Reality is a story the mind tells itself. An artificial structure conjured into being by the calcium-ion exchange of a million synaptic firings.  A truth so strange it can only be lied into existence.  And our minds lie.  Never doubt it"
Ratman, present and past
These are the thoughts if the main character ins this story, A schizophrenic scientist called Doug, or "Ratman" as he is known to gamers  He was an employee of the company that created the portal gun, testing chambers and GLaDOS.  He takes anti-psychotics to keep his head straight but because he has been eluding GLaDOS for weeks, he's had to ration them and has taken to carrying a Companion Cube around with him that talks to him.

His mental state is cleverly represented by the art and layouts.  In the flashbacks the story is neat, the panel borders are straight and simply aligned, there is only one colour used.  In his agitated present the panels are bright, chaotic and jumbled together. As Chell makes it to GLaDOS he takes his last precious pills to get his head straight.  His Companion Cube says "this will be the end of us".

As GLaDOS dies Ratman remembers back when they first built GLaDOS and how she would instantly try to kill all the scientists.  Later flashbacks shows they built a conscience for her (didn't work) and that the neurotoxin she used to kill everyone with was supposed to be for a run of Shrodinger's cat investigations.

GLaDOS: "Do you know that thought experiment with the cat in the box with the poison? Theory requires the cat be both alive and dead until observed. Well, I actually performed the experiment. Dozens of times. The bad news is that reality doesn't exist. The good news is we have a new cat graveyard."
With GLaDOS dead, Ratman can finally leave...
Ratman and his Cube reach the surface and "Freedom!".  But then he spots the unconcious Chell being dragged back into the facility by robotic arms. His Cube says he doesn't have to go back in after her, he says he must. "Then you really must be crazy" it says.  The Cube's voice begins to fade as the pills start to work.  He sees Chell asleep in a cryochamber but life support is offline.  He goes to where he can switch it back on and gets lasered in the leg and falls down a hole.  We get a final flashback to the time where GLaDOS has killed the other scientists but him, with GLaDOS somewhat peeved by his survival during the weeks since the deadly neurotoxin incident.  He breaks into the file room and searches for a suitable candidate to take GLaDOS on and highlights Chell's name.
....but he can't leave Chell behind to die.
Back in the present, Rat Man wakes up and talks with his Cube.  The Cube wants to know why Chell?  Ratman says he had a hunch. The Cube tells him he can patch Chell's life-support into the reserve grid:

Ratman: "But even if I do, there will be no wake-up date.  She'll be in there indefinitely.  So it's the long sleep.. or the long sleep.  And I don't know which is worse.  Forgive me."

It works and an exhausted Ratman decides its time for him to sleep too and he climbs into a cryo-pod possibly to die.  We finally see why he picked Chell, her evaluation report is left behind and it shows her tenacity is almost off the charts and that "Test subject is abnormally stubborn. She never gives up.  Ever."  And thus the mystery of Chell's reappearance in Portal 2 is solved in a rather melacholy little tale.  The End.
I wish we could have saved him in Portal 2...
So there we go. Starting with  "The Sacrifice", we have a perfectly enjoyable slice of zombie nonsense that can be enjoyed if you like zombies, even if you have never played the game.  The brooding, brown palette suits the story very well and the script is well written showing the affection this disparate group of people have come to feel for each other, while the backgrounds of them are brief slices of a world going mad and fallen over the brink of disaster.  If you are a fan of Team Fortress, the comics are great fun and highly recommended.  Actually though the most vital story here is the team-up between "Rat Man" and his Companion Cube.  How Chell ended up in suspended animation in the actual games is never alluded too, making this tragic little story the most interesting of the lot.  It is an expensive package overall though, as I said the presentation its gorgeous. Only Valve die-hards need apply here.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E (#1-12)

"Monsters to beat up! Things to blow up!  It's the best job in America! Nextwave go!" - Monica Rambeau

It wasn't until a friend of mine pointed it out that I suddenly realised I have done no original Marvel US comics at all so far in this blog's lifetime.  This I assure you, was purely an oversight on my part helped along by the fact that of the Big Two, I mostly collect DC because DC was the company my favourite UK artists and writers moved on to from 2000AD and also the fact that my local newsagent only stocked DC comics when I was in my initial phase of reading anything comicwise I could get my hands on.  I do have Marvel US stuff in my bookcase but it's mostly pretty well known things like Grant Morrisons New X-Men which has already been discussed ad infinitum. But I feel there is a Marvel shaped gap I need to fill, so it's time to look at the greatest team in the Marvel Universe, no not The Avengers, pshaw, I'm talking about NextWave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

Nextwave in fact turned out to be the comicbook that rid me of my last vestiges of snobbery towards the superhero genre.  Linkara, of Atop The Fourth Wall fame gave it a glowing review and he's someone who's opinion I trust so I picked up the trade paperback and loved it.  It boils the superhero narrative down to it's very essence - superheroes locate threat, superheroes beat threat, lots of things explode, but thanks to Warren Ellis's hilarious script and Stuart Immonen's wonderful artwork this simple structure proves a sound base to hang lots of silliness from making the act of reading it a pure guilty pleasure.

The team is made up of five characters, four of whom are well established C-listers (Monica "Captain Marvel", "Photon" Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, Aaron "Machine Man" Stack and Tabitha "Boom Boom", "Boomer", "Meltdown" Smith) and one who was made up for the series (The Captain).  Inititally is seems that more Marvel faces were due to officially appear in the storyline, their former boss Dirk Anger and his organisation H.A.T.E are pretty obviously parodying Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D, while plenty of other minor Marvel villains get a parodic outing. Because I don't follow the Marvelverse as closely as the DCU I admit some jokes were lost on me, luckily the thing Ellis does best which is write witty, sharp dialogue and jokes carries me along instead while giving Immonen plenty of daft situations to bring to life so pleasingly.
Left to right: Elsa, Monica, Aaron, Dirk, Tabitha and The Captain
Interestingly, our heroes are actually renegade Agents of H.A.T.E (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort).  The light fingered Tabby stole the "marketing plan" of the parent company the Beyond Corporation and found they had were actually part of a terrorist group who planned on using UWMD's (Unusual Weapons Of Mass Destruction) upon the general population to extort money from the government.  Using that Marketing Plan they steal a state of the art airship and go to where the UWMD's are being unleashed and fighting them.  The director of H.A.T.E Dirk Anger is dead set on stopping them, while also in the throes of a nervous breakdown.  Hilarity as they say, ensues. The Nextwave team are another one who prefer to use real names rather than codenames.  Monica, their leader is a little reluctant because they used codenames in The Avengers (who she led for a time, you know). 

Monica: "The Captain kept his codename."

Aaron: "The Captain can't remember his real name. Ellie Bloodstone never had a codename. Tabitha has had about nine."

Tabitha: "And they ALL sucked!"

The first two issues serve mainly to introduce the concept and show us what powers each of the team has.  A giant dinosaur monster called Fin Fang Foom is excavated in "Abcess, North Dakota" and because he was born with no genitals but the burning desire to mate, he starts destroying buildings and eating the crunchy and delicious inhabitants out of frustrated irritation.  Tabitha is first to attack with her ability to cause explosions, but Fin Fang Foom grabs her and goes to put her in his pants.  Luckily The Captain can fly and is super-strong and he rescues her.
Noooo not the pants!
On the ground, the super strong and invulnerable Elsa (who is also English) takes on the Beyond Coporation's attacking cloned broccoli henchmen (known as the Human Resources) by kicking their arses.  Monica, who can turn herself into any energy on the electromagnetic spectrum tries zapping Fin Fang Foom but he is too big and his hide can't be penetrated.  So she commands Aaron to jump inside him and use his array of robotic things to attack Fin Fang Foom from the inside.  Reluctantly he does so, and the first UWMD is destroyed.
Swiss Army Aaron
The next UWMD is to be found in "Sink City, Illinois".  A corrupt policeman who is due to retire does the rounds of the various people he is extorting money from, including drug dealers and a brothel.. He finds a black cat-like thing and it jumps at him and buries itself in his chest. Tabby out chatting on the phone comes across him hunched across a car which he throws at her.  She makes it explode, then she is attacked by Human Resources which she also makes explode.

When more attack the rest of the team come to her rescue. Elsa goes after the policeman and finds him heading for the "Sink City Very Small School With Lovely Children Inside" to feed his change.  She rams him with a car and it explodes but the smoke clears to reveal him, now part machine standing there.  The Captain arrives and punches him far away, but he lands on a scrap heap. We then get a brief flashback to how The Captain got his powers - he was drunk one night and aliens bestowed them upon him.

The policeman uses the scrap to grow into a large Transformers like being with a huge gun which he fires at The Captain who decides to wait this one out under the huge bullet he was hit with.  But the bullet explodes knocking Monica out.

Aaron: "She's not moving"

Tabby: "Monica! Quick! Captain America just called to invite you back to the Avengers!"

Aaron: "...nothing"

Tabby: "She must be unconcious."
Tabby versus Robocop.
Tabby then confronts the robot and uses her powers to set off several explosions on his body which causes it to come apart and reveal the original policeman and the cat like thing that "infected" him.  Tabby incinerates the cat thing and the Nextwave team leave the policeman in the care of the local community... which just so happens to include all the people he was ripping off.

Monica:  "You'll be fine with these people.  The nightmare is over officer."

Policeman: "pppplease, nnnnno."

The two-parter ends with a nearly naked Captain rejoining them, with Monica saying she should make him walk around like that all the time because he looks stupid and then she hears a gunshot coming from where they left the policeman.

The next two-parter sees our erstwhile heroes finally get into a scrap with Dirk Anger's ship when they travel to the fields the cloned broccoli "Human Resources" are being grown and start destroying them.

Tabby: "Sorry broccoli murder dudes. You grow up to be, like, too harsh you know."

Elsa: "I swear to God, nowhere on Earth do they talk the way you do, Tabby."
As you can tell, this is a very silly comic.
Then Dirk Anger's ship arrives and the rest of the two-parter is him releasing increasingly ludicrous forms of attacking monsters, starting with the "Drop Bears" or "widdle, cuddily  bears of death?" as Tabby puts it.  Next are the Combat Pterodactyls who take on Monica in the air, but she fries them with an electro-magnetic explosion when one of them injures her. Dirk then drops the "Samuroids" on the ground which the Elsa, Tabby and The Captain start fighting.

The Captain then blasts his way through the ships engines, which results in him falling unconcious to the ground.  Monica bathes the ship in low level radiation which she says next time will be strong enough to render everyone on board sterile. 

Monica: "Back Off Dirk"

Dirk: "Like Hell!  Homicide Crabs!"

Aaron meanwhile has figured out how to stop this battle, he sneaks aboard and steals a dress from Dirk Anger's quarters.  Hovering outside the ship he says he will set the dress on fire if Dirk doesn't stop attacking them.  Dirk, in great distress orders his crew to stand down.  He gets the dress back, but Aaron rejoins the rest of the team wearing a bra and bloomers which he also stole.  The two-parter ends with a full page shot of Dirk wearing the dress mumbling "It's all right mother. It's all right."
Dirk's dark secret.
The next issue begins with The Captain, somewhat despondant at being knocked out in the last two fights explaining to Aaron that the reason he is only called "The Captain" is that all the other Captains are taken.  Meanwhile Monica and Elsa try to figure out what the reference to "magic" means on the stolen Marketing Plan they have.  In fact one of the broccoli henchmen uses a dark magic ritual to summon Rorkannu, who unleashes his "Mindless Ones" minions on the town of Shotcreek Colarado.  The gang arrive to find the local police trying to fend them off. They start to get stuck in themselves.

Elsa: "Oh my God.  They explode!  My life has taken on new meaning".

Elsa, who in her normal existence is a monster hunter, recognises what they are and says there wil be a magic circle somewhere that if broken will get rid of them. The Mindless Ones overseen by Rorkannu keep coming through the magic circle.  Meanwhile on Dirk Anger's ship he is about to hang himself.  When he hears The Beyond Corporation want to call in "The New Paramounts" he changes his mind but falls off the stool and hangs himself.
Rorkannu is summoned.
The Captain finds Rorkannu and beats him into the ground with various implements he finds in the public toilets they are in, including a toilet brush.  He proudly states that he beat it like a regular hero to the others when they come looking for him. With the rest of the Mindless Ones defeated and the town cleared the team return to their ship.

The next issue kicks off a four parter that ends the series.  The Nextwave team following the Marketing Plan find themselves in a deserted city.  Meanwhile the issue keeps cutting to various characters being offered a chance to become superheroes by a mysterious off-screen voice.  Then an upside castle in the sky appears where our heroes are, and a being that looks like a broccoli henchmen declares himself The Chief Executive of the Beyond Coporation, Number None and that he has lured them into a trap.
Yes, they are meant to be upsidedown.
He then releases several super-teams at them, who also turn out to be broccoli.  But the four people he offered a chance to become heroes too aren't.  They are "The New Paramounts" - Charlie America, Giant Sam, Bulk and Forbush Man - all created to match the Marvel parodies in the comic Not Brand Ecch, which he has copies of.  Our heroes start battling all the weird and wonderful heroes attacking them, broccoli and human. 

Forbush Man turns out to be the most powerful one of the lot when he uses his mental powers to trap The Captain, Monica, Elsa and Aaron in nightmarish alternate existences.  Unfortunately for him, Tabby doesn't have much of a mind to work with and she blows him up freeing the others.

Monica: ".. the hell was that?"

Tabby: "The little guy did something to you heads.  I gave him the explodo because I am clever."

An enraged Monica blasts a good chunk out of the floating castle and when it starts to beat a hasty retreat, she tells the rest of the team they are going to follow it and take the fight to the heart of the Beyond Corporation.
Tabby saves the day.
They follow it to Nevada and find a huge floating mobile base.  Back with Dirk Anger who is now a zombie, he tries to ram their ship, but they fly it down a maintenance tunnel and escape, although their ship explodes in the process.  They find themselves in the bowels of the floating base and come under heavy attack which in a wonderfully cheeky way is rendered across seven wordless double page spreads!

Caption: "NEXTWAVE: Blatantly wasting your money since 2006"

But it's forgivable because the spreads are so well drawn and filled with such wonderful amounts of detail that you end up looking at them for as long as it would take to read a normal page anyway. The penultimate issue ends with Aaron being impaled by Number None.
Stuart Immonen is an amazing artist.
Aaron points out that you can't kill a robot by stabbing it through the chest and punches Number None's head off. Then they rip open it's chest to find a baby M.O.D.O.K (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) inside controlling the body.  The M.O.D.O.K squeaks that he was responsible for developing the Beyond Coporation and that he'll be noticed now.  before teleporting away.
MODOK revealed.
Aaron can read the trail it left and follow it into a large, spherical part of the ship.  The M.O.D.O.K is shot to death by a figure obscured by clouds, until he reveals himself as none other than Devil Dinosaur to the Nextwave Squad.  He goes into a long rant about restoring the world to how it was before humanity fouled it up, while our heroes subtley start to plan on how to take him down.  Monica steps up and asks the real reason he is so angry with humans. After strenuously denying it, he finally breaks down and shows her a comic with him in it being ridden by the monkey like Moon-Boy and how humiliated it made him feel in retrospect.

Devil Dinosaur: "Moon -Boy hated me.  Moon-Boy had to die. Moon-Boy tasted bad and gave me some considerable rectal distress. I do hope you and your friends aren't so hard on my guts."
The Mastermind behind it all.
But he is attacked in turn by each of the team after Aaron has checked the structure for weaknesses.  Monica lets out a blast of energy, Elsa shoots his gun hand.  Then they run outside while Tabby lays down a curtain of fire and The Captain  gives the sphere and almighty kick and it rolls off the floating base and plummets two miles before exploding with Devil Dinosaur still inside.  Triumphant, the team ponder their next move.

Monica: "What do you do with a vast invisible floating base full of God knows what technology and supplies?"

The Captain: "I give.  What do you do you do with a vast floating invisible base-thing"

Monica: "Anything we want."
Only fitting I end this with an explosion.
And on that note, Nextwave ends.  It was too beautiful to live.  Literally.  Although it sold decently and attracted a loyal fanbase, Marvel wanted artist Stuart Immonen on a higher profile book because his art is so good.  Rather than continue with another artist, Warren Ellis chose to end the book there.  And maybe that's a good thing, with comedy it's always a danger you can hammer a joke into the ground and perhaps twelve issues was enough to leave people wanting more without exhausting the concept.  Even though it's not official Marvel canon, many writers have incorporated elements of Nextwave's characterisations into their versions of the characters, most notably the beer fueled antics of "Machine Man" Aaron Stack. Even if you're not a dedicated Marvelite you can still enjoy this collection, speaking as a DC woman myself I absolutely love it even if I am aware of missing some of the jokes and references. It's daft, it's silly, it has it's tongue rammed firmly in it's cheek, but it's always nice to see a team with a majority of women in it and Monica manages to be portrayed as a smart, capable leader despite all the chaos going on around her.  If you have even the slightest interest in superhero comics, check it out. NOW.  Go on, off you go.  No excuses. Read it.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Doom Patrol (version five) Book Two: Brotherhood (#7-13)

"We're still here, so I guess we won.  And a crappy time was had by all" - Cliff

This is the second and final volume collecting issues from Keith Giffen's run on Doom Patrol. Despite what wikipedia has to say, sadly the third and final volume has been avaliable for pre-order only on Amazon since 2011 so I'm guessing the likelihood of it being released is zero now.  Luckily this volume does end on the completion of an arc, so it we aren't left hanging too much and I have enjoyed these two volumes enough to hunt down the rest of the run as single issues on eBay at some point. Anyway, we last left the Patrol in the middle of the DCU wide crossover Blackest Night/Brightest Day.  Elasti-woman, Negative Man and Robotman or Rita Farr, Larry Trainor and Cliff Steel as they are more commonly known had been zapped away from their base on Oolong Island fighting zombie versions of their ex-teammates, while their crippled mentor/leader Niles Caulder was left with his fate uncertain.  If you want to know how the crossover resolved itself, well, the good guys won.  What a surprise.  You can tell Giffen's wasn't totally enthralled by having to incorporate the Patrol into this crossover as he hurries through the resolution and quickly moves onto quirkier stuff. There's a real feeling that with the Patrol reintroduced, a crossover dealt with and all their history back in DCU continuity job done, Giffen finally gets to write the Patrol exactly how he wants to and this volume is very much more recognisably his work.

The story begins with a man called Thayer Jost interviewing Amanda Beckett, she of the human/botflies from volume one.   He wants to givce her a place on his new superteam we later find out he calls the "Front Men".   He is a multi-bilionaire who is "covetus of the metahuman condition" as Amanda put it.   Although later it becomes clear Thayer is being possessed by someone with his own agenda.

Back with Niles Caulder, he is recovering in hospital and Father Leslie tries to talk to him about the loss of his legs, which Caulder doesn't seem to concerned about.  Then Father Leslie is called to the isolation ward as their has been an "incident".  The action then cuts to Dayton Manor, a former Doom Patrol base, and a character called Oberon a member of Mister Miracle's cast who has started his own removal firm for metahuman resources.  They are collecting stuff to go to Oolong Island, including a Portal that appears to be on the fritz.
Crazy Jane
Back at Oolong we are introduced to the "incident", it's Kay "Crazy Jane" Challis.  She is a superhuman who was an abuse survivor, she developed sixty-four personalities to help cope with that abuse and all of them have superpowers.  She was introduced during Grant Morrison's run and became a very popular character, as well as having a lovely, tender friendship with Cliff, the only "man" not a sexual threat to her.

Elsewhere a man called Dr. Larsen is holed up in a diner, he is also known as Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man and after he transforms and breaks out, a strange, unspeaking porcelain doll like woman hands him a phone with Jost on the other end, who says if he doesn't cooperate life will become more difficult for him.  Finally we find the Doom Patrol returned from fighting the Black Lanterns, they share a moment of camaraderie then it's back to Oolong Island for them.
A rare moment of relaxation for Cliff.
Later Cliff is briefly recounting what happened to a woman called Dusty.  He says seeing his old body in action finally helped him come to terms with his condition:

Cliff: " I don't want it no more Dusty gal. I mean I want it, but..."

Dusty: "It's not you anymore?"

Cliff: "Yeah something like that."

At Oolong's airport, Oberon's delivery is being held up by the military. Suddenly there is an explosion from the plane. Larry and Cliff run to the scene, Rita does the same even though she was just on the verge of confronting Steve.  Back with Crazy Jane, she hands Father Leslie a brick and tells him "if you build it, he will come."  The brick is all that's left of Danny the Street, another character from Grant Morrison's run, he's a sentient transvestite street who travels about inserting himself into the streetplans of cities, and was where Crazy Jane went to live when she left the Doom Patrol.
Alien land grabbers.
At the airport, two blue aliens have emerged from the portal, which was a method of travelling to Danny given to the Patrol.  One of them says, "We are short one brick."  The two beings then discuss what's going on in heavily bureacratic speech and a hovering purple head appear and tells them that this area has been appropriated and all residents must vacate.  Then a giant purple dog thing appears to go looking for the brick.

Rita and Larry stay at the airport to deal with the aliens there while Ciff chases the dog alien to the hospital fighting it as they go.  When they reach the hospital, Cliff notes Father Leslie has a brick and upon the brick appear the words:

Danny The Brick:
"I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers."

Cliff grab's Danny and races off, still followed by the dog alien.  At the airport Rita and Larry hold off the blue aliens.  Larry manifests a new ability where he becomes Negative Man but retains his humanoid shape and does some punching. More aliens arrive through the portal. Cliff leads the dog alien back to the airport where he finally manages to take it out. 
Danny, partially resurrected.
The aliens demand he surrender the brick, they appear to be predatory real estate agents who take areas by force before selling them on. "Pan dimenisional gentrifiers" Crazy Jane calls them. The Patrol and the aliens continue to fight, amusingly Larry drops the brick down the front of Rita's top to keep it safe.  The aliens then pause their attack and when Rita retrieves the brick from her top she is freaked out when it greets her by name.  Crazy Jane then phones Ciff and after they talk, Cliff hurls Danny back to her, she tosses it into the air where she is by the beach and it transforms into Danny The Bungalow.

The aliens decide the loss of profit in having to fight for the brick and take over the Earth is not worth it and they depart through the portal, which the Doom Patrol go to destroy.  Father Leslie asks Crazy Jane who was going to come, now Danny is a bungalow.  Crazy Jane say's she forgot to ask, but very soon Ambush Bug turns up.  He is a Keith Giffen created character with some history with the Patrol and most well known for his fourth wall breaking antics.  He becomes Danny's new resident.
Ambush Bug arrives.
Cliff and Jane do some catching up.  Jane is going to stay on Oolong Island for the time being now Danny is just a bungalow. Niles Caulder is having an argument with the President of Oolong Island who says the German government want to extradite Mr. Black Hole, which Caulder says would be "unwise" as they have an agreement.

The action then cuts to Thayer Jost, the china doll woman has teleported to Oolong Island.  Dr. Larsen (Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man) is with him and Thayer wants him to kill the Titan Gar Logan, who is Rita Farr's adoptive son.  The china doll woman appears at the Doom Patrol base and attacks Caulder.  Mr. Black Hole protects him with a forcefield.  She manages to get inside Cliff so Larry zaps them both.  She keeps reconstituting herself, so Larry enacts a plan.  He zaps her again and then Rita dumps a pile of soil and rubble on her to keep her from putting herself back together. 
Scary doll woman.
While they ponder what the woman wants, Rita vanishes. Jost calls Larsen saying he doesn't need to target Logan anymore.  Then a woman in a mask called Toy appears and says she is sorry for being late.  Jost says on the contrary, she "couldn't have arrived at a better time" and we see Rita inside Jost's base fighting off scientists.

Later she is subdued, while china doll woman is also in captivity.  She is being held by the Oolong Island scientists, much to the annoyance of Niles Caulder, who wanted him for his own experiments. Jost gives a press conference blaming the Doom Patrol for an unprovoked attack and also complicity with all the deaths in Germany, as well as condemning meta-humans as a whole for their "self righteous arrogance."  Meanwhile Larry and Cliff decide to rescue Rita now they know where she is. They grab Ambush Bug who has the ability to teleport himself and other and off they go.
The search for Rita.
At Jost's headquarters, Dr. Beckett and Dr. Larsen are in costume, Jost say's his "Front Men" will come out of fighting the Doom Patrol well when they arrive to take back Rita. We then get a montage of places Cliff, Larry and Ambush Bug are teleporting to.  Cliff finally asks why haven't they just teleported to Jost's home site.

Ambush Bug: "I was saving that for last."

Cliff: "Saving?! Last?!"

Ambush Bug: "It's always the last place you look."

Before Cliff can lamp him, Ambush Bug zaps them to the toilets in Jost's headquarters and immediately they get into a fight with Dr. Larsen. Larry finds Rita, but she's covered in Dr. Beckett's botfly people and Beckett says if they don't stop fighting the botflies will strip Rita to the bone.  Back with Jost he has Toy restrained in a chair, and goes on a two page rant about becoming a "somebody" after being a "nobody".  Then he crushes Toy's head and reveals who he really is, once Mr. Nobody, leader of the Brotherhood of Dada (antagonists during Grant Morrison's run), now Mr. Somebody in control of Thayer Jost's body and financial empire.
Mister Somebody reveals himself.
Ambush Bug the zaps back to Oolong Island and grabs china doll woman and returns her to Jost's headquarters where she is traded for Rita. The Doom Patrol have figured out "Jost" isn't who he says he is, so Mr. Somebody reveals himself to them.  Then suddenly the Doom Patrol are punched out of the building by Dr. Larsen and Dr. Beckett. Rita and Dr. Larsen battle at huge size while Larry and Cliff take on Dr. Beckett and her minions.

Mr. Somebody starts editing the fight footage he's receiving from tiny airbourne cameras in the area to make his Front Men look good.  Larry continues fighting Beckett, while Cliff takes on the china doll woman.  Suddenly Larsen slices into Rita revealing not skin and bone, but that she's made up of pink goo.
Back on Oolong Island, Caulder is reviewing the footage of the battle which is indeed making the Patrol look bad.  "Thayer" contacts him and tells him that each of his Front Men's uniforms is primied to kill the wearer in a manner that will make it look like the Doom Patrol did it, if he does not call the Patrol off.  Their usefulness to him is at an end.  So the Doom Patrol do indeed run off and come back to Oolong Island.  Cliff wants them to talk things out when they get home, not all retire to their seperate corners.

Cliff: "We just got played big time.  Again!  We got played. Us."

Rita: "If you hadn't come after me..."

Cliff: "What?  The world'd still love us? Rita, the world never loved us."

They share a bonding moment, while Caulder reviews the footage of the Patrol leaving the battle and Jost's call for meta-human regulation.

The final chapter in the book spotlights Rita and gives us the background on how she became made of goo.  When she died, Caulder combed the area she was blown up at (the first time the original run of the Doom Patrol ended) and found a piece of her skull.  It was enough to pull DNA from and Caulder improvised a synthetic protoplasm to bond with the DNA and grew her from scratch.  Rita bitterly tells her friend Karen that Caulder wanted a more "durable" model Rita.

Rita: "He brought me back to life as a mass of sentinet protoplasm.  Silly putty with a sense of purpose."

Bad mornings for Rita. Squick.
This is an interesting turn of events as the reason Grant Morrison gave for not resurrecting Rita for his run on the book was that she was too normal for a team made up of freaks.  Now she's as freakish as the rest of them.  When she sleeps her sense of self receedes and she wakes up as a blobby thing and has to look at photos of herself to fine-tune her appearence.

Karen asks if Steve knows, and Rita says how could he not.  His mental image of her is crystal clear while he took her out for test drives in her sleep.  Rita then goes to Steve to confront him over the mental stalking, Cliff and Larry discuss her and how much they care for her.  Larry says she's the only reason he came back to the Patrol.

Steve returns home to find Rita waiting.  We get a short flashback covering how Rita mark one got her powers which was exposure to strange gas during fliming of a movie she was starring in.  Back with Steve she tells him that he has to stop getting in her head.  He goes to get her a drink and says he couldn't help it and only wanted her to be happy, but he'll stop.  Then Rita realises he knew she wanted a drink without asking and this sends her into a rage, she grows huge and grabs him and on that image the book ends.
Alas for the books this was the end.
This version of the Doom Patrol was, through no fault of it's own, well... Doomed.  Even if it hadn't been cancelled to make space for the slew of miniseries tying into the 2011 crossover series Flashpoint, it would have died a few months later when The New 52 universal DC reboot took hold.  The fact that far more obscure series have been resurrected (and swiftly cancelled) since then without the Patrol get a book of their own, only compounds the injustice.  The Doom Patrol do officially still exist in the new DC universe but only as guest stars in other books so far.  It's also a real shame the rest of this run was not released as a third trade paperback, it was really hitting it's stride with this volume and carving out an identity of it's own.  In fact it's a real pity that apart from the original sixties run and all of Grant Morrisons intellectually taxing but rewarding run, the rest has either not been collected fully (this run) or not collected at all (the rest of them). I hope at some point in the future this changes, I'd certainly be putting my money where my mouth is and buying up anymore Doom Patrol collections that DC sees fit to bring out, hear that DC? Until that happens, I will at least pick up the rest of this run as single issues via eBay and may come back to it at some point in the future when I have done so.