Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dragonball Book 1: The Monkey King (NSFW)

NSFW:  Naked teen girl arse ahoy!

"Let the adventure begin!! Yippee!!" - Bulma

So this is me being entirely self indulgent, and spending one post a month looking at one of my favourite manga series, Akira Toriyama's Dragonball. A series that pretty much defined the main "shonen" style for decades to come. This is probably the manga/anime series that was most well known in the west until fairly recently (though the complete DVD collection and this new edition of the manga has reiginited interest for a new generation) but it was more for the anime than the original 1984-1995 manga series.  Also, the anime portion that is most popular and influential actually starts some way into the series as a whole, after a five year time skip that saw the tone of the manga change from light-hearted, martial arts, fantasy whimsy to more serious, science-fiction, uber fighting mayhem.  Named Dragonball Z and first screened in the west in the late nineties and early noughties, it was a gateway drug for many young anime fans and also recaptured lapsed fans like myself with it's epic story-telling.  However this is getting ahead of ourselves. The first sixteen volumes were also turned into an anime series, but it's reliance on deliberately immature and parochial humour traveled badly meaning it was seen as a difficult sell to the west hence the jumping straight to the more serious Dragonball Z. 
Introducing Son Goku.
I personally didn't see the original Dragonball until I bagged the five mega DVD volumes a few years ago.  I find it to be utterly charming with a brilliantly crude sense of humour and a real childlike sense of wonder. It's fascinating seeing the characters before their Dragonball Z makeover and with this series being finally released uncut and with a better translation, I decided it was time to own the manga as well as the anime and am treating myself to a once-a-month look at each volume in turn.  There are forty two volumes in all (It's being released entirely under just the Dragonball name now as well.  It has been translated by Mari Morimoto and adapted into English by Gerard Jones), so we're gonna be doing this for a while! 

[Note:  This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left]

The first few pages establish the twelve year old Son Goku as a powerful fighter living alone in the wilderness, able to hunt and subdue tigers and bears for food. He has a monkey tail and a staff and his look is loosely based on Sun Wukong from the classic Chinese novel "Journey To The West". His path crosses with that of sixteen year old Bulma, a cosmopolitan sixteen year old girl driving a futuristic looking car which Goku mistakes for a monster and attacks. 
And here's Bulma.
When Bulma overreacts somewhat and fires a gun at him, the bullets just bounce off.  When she wonders aloud why he isn't dead he says those "little ouchies" couldn't harm him. He's fascinated by her because he has never seen a female before, but when he discovers that's what she is, he tells her his deceased grandfather always told him to be nice to girls, so he will honour his grandfather's wishes.

They go back to Goku's house and Bulma sees a small spherical object, an orange glasslike ball with four stars inside it.  It's one of the legendary dragonballs.  She found one in her basement and did some research on it and discovered that if you find all seven of them you can summon and dragon and make a wish, and she wants to wish for a boyfriend, she already has two balls and wants this one too. 
The Legendary Shenlong.
However Goku says she can't have it, it's all he has left of his grandfather, but she thinks his super strength will come in handy so asks him to come along with her on a heroic quest and that way he can keep his ball while they collect the rest (although secretly she has found out that once the wish is made the balls will fly off to random places on the planet).  He agrees and she shows him the Dragon Radar device she built herself to locate them and with that an enduring partnership is formed and they are on their way to the next location.

They ride together on a motorbike which Goku is totally unprepared for.  Then Bulma has to stop for a pee, and runs into the bushes.  A flying dinosaur type grabs her and flies off with her after tying a confused Goku up.  Bulma yells at him to rescue her so first he chases them on the bike.  When he can't reach them on that he commands his "nyoibo" staff to do it's thing and it elongates.  He cracks the flying dinosaur on the head with it and it drops Bulma.  Then Goku throws it so it pins Bulma to a nearby cliff, she is safe but has wet her pants in the confusion!
Talking dinosaurs exist in Goku's world.
They resume their journey until night falls.  Bulma pops a small house out the collection of small "hoi poi" capsules she has that contain everything from accomodation to various vehicles. Inside Goku is cautious and is suspicious of the light and the television.  Bulma says he smells and gives him a bath which he has never experienced before. 

When she gives him a good scrub she realises his tail is real and this freaks her out.  Bulma takes a bath herself and Goku wanders in and says she has "an extra butt" on her chest.  When he tells her his age is fourteen (he's wrong he's actually twelve we discover in book three) she hurls things at him calling him a "perv" and he races out.
Bulma ponders Goku.
Afterwards she gets out she gets them some food, Goku is unimpressed by coffee and goes and catches, kills and cooks a wolf, but Bulma doesn't wish to share it with him.  Bedtime comes and Bulma takes the bed, Goku the floor. When Bulma asks him about his parents Goku shrugs that he didn't know them, he was abandoned as a baby and found by his "grandfather". Bulma thinks he was abdandoned because he has a tail and is a freak.

Goku wakes early the next morning and contemplates Bulma sprawled on the bed.  He climbs onto it and lies with his head resting on her crotch like he used to with his grandfather.  He realises something is wrong and slips her knickers off.  He jumps back in horror and screams.  Bulma immediately wakes:

Goku: "Y-Y-You've l-l-lost your ba-ba-ba-ba..."

Bulma misunderstands and thinks he's talking about the dragonballs and rushes to check on them.  When she confirms they are still there she scolds him for freaking her out. This then instigates a running gag of Goku patting people's crotches to check what gender they are for the next couple of volumes as he genuinely has a hard time telling males from females.
The talking turtle.
Goku gets some exercise and Bulma starts getting ready.  He comes across a giant talking sea turtle who is totally lost and trying to get back to the sea.  Goku decides to carry him back there, much to Bulma's annoyance.  Before she can get changed out of her nightie she follows Goku on a bike until they reach the nearby coastline.

Full of gratitude the sea turtle tells Goku to wait and swims off.  He returns with a little old man on his back who introduces himself as Master Roshi "Kamesen'in.  The Turtle Hermit". For Goku's help he rewards him with Nimbus "kinto'un", a small, yellow flying cloud which only the pure of heart can ride. 
The magical cloud kinto'un.
Goku climbs aboard and gives it a test ride.  Bulma asks for something as well.  Kamesen'in says he'll give her something in return for a peak at her undies.  The turtle scolds him but Kame says:

Kamesenin'in: "Cut me some slack"  It's hard bein' the Turtle Hermit!!  I deserve the occasional undie-oglin!"

So Bulma obliges, thinking it's only her undies and gives him a real eyeful having not realised Goku took her knick-knacks off while she was sleeping.
This images is probably against the law, but hee hee!
Kamesen'in is pleased by this turn of events and when she spots a dragonball on a thing round his neck she asks for it.  When he seems reluctant, she flashes him again and he hands it over. As she and Goku leave, Kame says "It's good to be alive." 

They return to the capsule house and Bulma goes to get dressed and shrieks in horrified surprise when she discovers she is minus her pants.  When Goku admits to taking them off she fires a machine gun at him which just stings him a bit.  Finally she finishes dressing, pops the house back in it's capsule and they travel to the next village, Bulma on a bike, Goku on kinto'un.  The village is seems deserted though.

Goku calls out then smashes someones door and gets bopped on the head.  The person then pleads with him not to take his daughter, thinking Goku is someone called "Lord Oolong".  When they realise he isn't, the villagers come out of hiding.  They tell Goku and Bulma that Oolong is a terrible demon that has been abducting their daughters.  One of them has a dragonball, Bulma says in return for helping them with Oolong they want the ball.
Goku disguised as "Oolong" approaches.
She then dresses Goku up like the girl Oolong is after next and uses him as bait.  Oolong appears as a terrible horned demon.  He then turns into a handsome man and Bulma can't help herself as she runs out infatuated.  Bored, Goku goes and takes a pee against a nearby tree and Oolong realises he's a boy and turns into a huge bull.

He demands the girl he was originally after, so Goku prepares to fight him. Oolong suddenly rushes off and when out of sight of Goku turns into a small pig-headed humanoid.  Turns out that is his original form and he can only shape-shift for five minutes at a time before having to recharge for a minute.  Once recharged he turns into a large knight and threatens Goku again.

Goku begins to suspect Oolong is full of it.  Ooloong challenges Goku to break three bricks to prove his strength.  Goku does it with his finger.  Realising he is completely outclassed, Oolong turns into a bat and flies off.  Goku chases him on kinto'un and sees Oolong change into a pig this time. 

He captures him and forces him to come back to the village and apologise.  Oolong then takes them to his lair where the girls he took are living the life of luxury and happy they don't have to do farming.

Oolong: "Why do you think I wanted a nice, shy girl?  These chick're wearing me out.  Take 'em home with you please."
The real Oolong.
With the fifth dragonball in their possession, Goku and Bulma continue on their way.  They have Oolong with them, as Bulma think his shape-shifting ability will come in handy.  Oolong is less than enthused by this turn of events.

Bulma gives Oolong a piece of candy which he eats.  They are in a boat now, but it soon runs out of gas.  Staying with them because Bulma has promised him a pair of her panties, Oolong turns into an oar and they row ashore.  Then Bulma realises she has lost her capsules and drops to her knees in distress.

Oolong takes this opportunity to run off as he doesn't want to go to "Fry-Pan mountain" their next destination.  Bulma however, whistles and this makes Oolong have the uncontrollable urge to poo.  Turns out the chocolate she gave him was a laxative that can be activated by whistling (!) and so this forces Oolong to come back to them.

He turns into a scooter, but they don't get far.  They start walking and end up in a desert.  Bulma goes for a nap in a shady area, while a small flying cat called Puar spies Oolong and Goku through a telescope and reports back to her master, a handsome young man called Yamcha.
Puar and Yamcha.
Yamcha and Puar ride out and confront Oolong and Goku, demanding all their cash and capsules or they won't leave the desert alive.  Oolong and Puar recognise each other from shape-shifter school, and Oolong got chucked out for being a perve.  Not surprising.

Yamcha and Goku begin to fight each other.  Yamcha recognises Goku's nyoboi staff as belonging to Goku's adoptive grandfather Son Gohan - a legendary martial artist.  With renewed respect for Goku's abilities they fight again.  Yamcha punches Goku a long way off and thinks he won the battle.
Goku's first proper fight.
Goku however recovers and they start fighting again.  Bulma wakes up and realises something is going on.  When Yamcha sees her, he freaks out and tells Puar they need to make a "strategic withdrawal".  And they zoom off on his hoverbike.  Back at their lair, Yamcha broods that he never knows what to say to girls because he finds them "so darned scary".

Night falls and Goku, Bulma and Oolong have dinner inside a camper van.  It turns out OOlong had an emergency capsule.  Yamcha and Puar make plans to get the capsule.  Puar wonders how they can do it with Bulma there.  They sneak up and peer in, unfortunately they choose the window Bulma is having a shower through and Yamcha nearly has a breakdown.
Yamcha gets an eyeful.
He and Puar then hear Goku telling Oolong all about the Dragonballs.  Yamcha decides he has to have them, so he could wish "never to be afraid of girls again!".  Meanwhile Oolong has druuged Bulma and Goku's drinks so he can have a peak at the sleeping Bulma.  She comes out of the shower, drinks and goes up to bed.

Goku nods off as well, and Yamcha and Puar sneak in.  Yamcha tells Puar to take Goku's shaoe and lure Bulma outside so he can grab the balls.  Puar obliges and "Goku" goes upstairs, Oolong is already up there and in a panic changes into "Bulma" and goes outside with "Goku".  Yamcha goes to Bulma's bed thinking the dragonballs are hidden there and pulls back the bedspread.  Sadly all that is there is a sleeping Bulma and Puar has to take him away as he boggles and stammers, "thuh..thuse...muh...mounds."

That morning Oolong tells Goku and Bulma he stood guard all night to keep Yamcha and Puar away.  Bulma asks if her clothes have been cleaned, they have not, but Oolong has some clothes her size upstairs.  Turns out to be a sexy leotard with bunny ears much to Bulma's non-amusement.  But she wears it anyway.
Why does Oolong have a spare bunny suit?!
They set off and Yamcha and Puar follow, and fire a rocket at their bus, disabling it.  Yamcha demands the dragonballs at gun-point, but Goku attacks him again and they fight until Goku knocks out one of Yamcha's teeth.  Yamcha runs off in distress.  Then he realise that it would be easier to let them find the other two dragonballs while he and Puar follow, so he rides up and tosses them a vehicle capsule and apologises to them.  Then he and Puar follow at a discreet distance.

Goku and the others arrive at Fry-Pan Mountain which holds the next ball but is also the home of the fearsome "Gyo-Mao", The Ox King.  The mountain is on fire and his castle is at the top.  The Ox King guards it from the bottom because the flames keep him from his own castle.  While Goku and chums and Yamcha and Puar contemplate how to get past the flames a new character is introduced.
Introducing Chi Chi...
A young girl about Goku's age is shown being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  She stops and hurls the blade from her helmet at it, decapitating it.  Then she fires an energy beam from her helm disintegrating what's left.  She is startled by Yamcha and fires the beam at him, so he knocks her out, she is too young to trigger his fear of girls.

Goku tries to fly up to the castle on kinto'un but the heat repels him.  Then a huge man appears, the Ox King and demands to know what they are doing.  But when he sees Goku has kinto'un he recognises it as belong to his old master Kamesen'in and eagerly asks if he knows where he is, bringing this first volume of Dragonball to a close.
...and her dad the fearsome Ox King.
For some of you this will have been everything you dislike about manga.  But for me, who absolutely loves Dragonball, who owns every single episode of all three series, who owns every single film and OVA, who is collecting this manga as it is being released, who owns several Dragonball T-shirts, who even has a little DBZ character hanging off her keys so I have a piece of Dragonball with me where ever I go this is great stuff.  When I think of anime and manga I don't think of Astroboy, Gundam or Studio Ghibli I think of the distinctive style of Akira Toriyama and Dragonball. It simply encapsulates everything I love about the medium, from these simple, fun fables to start with through to the epic clashes between gods, aliens and monsters it winds up becoming. Yes it's vulgar, yes it's silly, but you have to remember this was originally aimed at ten year olds who find this kind of humour hilarious, and as that's my mental age, so do I! Characters are plainly differentiated, the action is kinetic and flows superbly, with characters constantly breaking out of the confines of the panel borders and Toriyama easily establishes a world of wonders in the space of a few chapters. We're off to a humble start with this first volume, but it's already given us characters who'll be with us for the full forty-two volume run and established Bulma as the headstrong tech genius and Goku as the innocent abroad dedicated to always improving his combat skills, two elements that will drive the series from start to finish.  And I shall be blogging it every step of the way, join me in January (next month is a UK comics month) for my look at volume two.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Blacksad: A Silent Hell (#4)

"Weekly if I ever start acting like that, remind me to get the hell out of this job" - John Blacksad

Time to return to the tough but sensitive P.I. with Furry appeal, John Blacksad.  I covered the first Blacksad release a few months ago, a three issue volume that told some stories about a fifties America populated by anthropomorphised animals rather than humans.  Covering such hard hitting topics as gangsterism, racism and the Red Scare, it's all seen from the viewpoint of John Blacksad, a cat-headed, two fisted tough guy but also one with smarts and a heart.  The whole book has a noir sensibility about it and Blacksad sees the very worst that his animal brethren can stoop to on an almost daily basis.  Yet his struggles to discover the truth of the tangled webs of deceit he finds himself him mark him out as an unwilling perhaps but still a true hero, and now two more adventures have been released in the series, 2012's "A Silent Hell" and 2014's "Amarillo" in lovely hardback format. "A Silent Hell", the one I am covering today, takes him to New Orleans and he soon finds himself involved in sinister shenanigans against a backdrop of drugs, Jazz and Mardi Gras. "A Silent Hell" also contains a gorgeous art book called "The Watercolour Story" detailing the work that went into the visual design of the story, and some Blacksad shorts as well. But it's the main story I will be looking at, those are just nice, bonus extras to be kept in mind if you decide to buy it yourself (and you really should).  Still on creative duties are Juanjo Guarnido on art and Juan Diaz Canales as writer, both bringing their Spanish and thus outsider perspectives to American culture as expressed through the quirky observer of life character Blacksad. Begin!

We're in New Orleans.  We get a page of some mysterious hands grinding up strychnine tablets, then we see reflected in the bottle, someone putting on a red cloak and horse skull helmet.  Then we cut to Blacksad and his friend, the small ferrety newspaper reporter "Weekly" who he teamed up with in the first collection.  They are watching a strip show which Weekly is enjoying immensely.
Weekly and Blacksad enjoy the sights.
Blacksad decides to leave, their contact "Junior Harper" hasn't shown up so he's going to the "Ebony Lounge" to ask some questions.  Weekly wants to stay and watch the show, but Blacksad packs him off a hotel where he says Junior is holed up after he got out of prison. Weekly sulks that he wouldn't have got Blacksad the "job" if he knew this was how he'd be treated. Then we cut to Weekly walking with a goat headed man he calls Mr. Lachadelle, but who tells him to call him Faust.  They are in the local prison yard, where Junior Harper is.  This is a flashback, Weekly had originally been sent to New Orleans to cover the music scene.

Junior Harper is a Rooster headed person playing a banjo, Faust says a lot of musicians on his record label end up in jail.  Harper tells Weekly that Faust owns the local law enforcement authorities, then as a clearly ill Faust decides it's time to leave, Harper sneers that he should come back sometime "an' talk about the good ol'days." 
Weekly, Faust and Junior Harper.
Back at his home, Blacksad has arrived and Faust asks him and Weekly to help with a private matter.  While he speaks to them a voodoo priestess performs spells on him.  He has cancer and is dying, the voodoo seems to be keeping it at bay for now, but he is still dying.  He wants them to find someone called "Sebastian 'Little Hand' Fletcher".  Blacksad perks up, he has heard of him "I love his music" he says.

He's been missing for months and is a heroin addict.  Faust worries that he has done something stupid.  Faust says losing him would be like losing a son.  After some back and forth, Blacksad agrees to take the case. Afterwards, Weekly questions his "tough guy bit."

Blacksad: "It's all marketing, Week.  You've got to play the part.  The hard-boiled P.I. It's what they expect."

They are then confronted by a large hippo gentleman who introduces himself as Ted Leeman.  He was intitally hired to find Fletcher but Faust fired him.  Because he asked for more money and tried to blackmail Faust say Weekly and Blacksad.  "Lies" says Ted, knocking back some booze from a flask.  He leaves them annoyed that they have taken Faust's "side".
Ted Leeman, a real private dick.
In the present, Blacksad goes to a shady bar where heroin is dealt which he's been watching for a few days now.  After questions nearly get him a baseball bat to the noggin, he gets rougher.  He wants to know who "the guy in the mask" is.  The bartender doesn't know, just that he wanted Sebastian Fletcher to be sold some bad dope.  So they sold him what he passed on, "straight up rat poison."

Later the same day a heavily pregnant dog woman called Hannah boards a tram.  She is surprised by Sebastian.  She says she never thought she'd see him again.  He says he wants to come home and "start over."  She tells him Faust has been looking for him and wants him to record a new album.  This frightens and angers Sebastian.  When she says how helpful he's been, Sebastian runs:

Sebastian: "All lies!  If you're on his side, you just forget about me comin' home.  I'd rather hit up a million times than work for that monster!"
Sebastian and Hannah
He flees the tram car and Hannah starts to suffer labour pains.  She gets home and starts to go into labour proper, another goat headed man appears at her doorway and calls her name.

Another flashback, Blacksad is in a record shop, so is the goat headed man from Hannah's place. Blacksad hears some singing and playing coming from outside and goes to investigate. It is a one legged, horse headed man called Lenoir.  He knows Sebastian, he rambles that he, Sebastian, Junior Harper and "poor Joachim" were all in a street band together.  The war interrupted their progress as Joachim enlisted and it was never the same when he came back. But then he confesses he hasn't seen Sebastian in years, then he yells in some impenetrable dialect at some kids who have stolen stuff off his cart.

Thomas: "It's Gullah a southern dialect they speak in Caldonia.  Lenoir was born there.  Just like Joachim, Junior and Sebastian.  And my father too."

The goat headed man who tells Blacksad this then intoduces himself as Thomas, Faust's son and he takes Blacksad to lunch.  They have a pleasant chat.  Thomas says Faust's illness has affected his mind, using voodoo to stave off death is ridiculous.  Blacksad says his passing will be bad news for all like him who love Jazz.
Thomas introduces himself.
Thomas says his father was a "mediocre musician" but a great producer with a "sensational knack for new talent."  He admits that Faust was like a father to Sebastian, but "genius doesn't give you carte blanch to act like an idiot."  Blacksad says it seems like he doesn't want him to find Sebastian.  Thomas says he was like a little brother to him but he abandoned his pregnant wife of his "own free will."  He asks Blacksad to drop the case, so Blacksad leaves without another word.

In the present, in a club called "The Wild Note", Sebastian is begging the owner to be allowed to perform his new song "Pizen Blues" that night.  The owner is dubious due to Sebastian's drug habit affecting his performance in the past.  Sebastian promises to stay clean for tonight and the owner relents.
Not the best time for an interrogation.
Blacksad goes to question Hannah, who has had her baby successfully.  Thomas is there looking after her and when Blacksad tries to question her, he tries to deflect him.

Blacksad: "Don't play the good Samaritan with me Thomas!  This kid is about to be left without a father and you haven't lifted a finger to find him!"

Thomas: "One can live without a father."

Blacksad says that's the real Thomas speaking, "the jealous, abandoned son".  Hannah says Sebastian came to see her earlier that day and said he'd come home tonight for good.  She says she has some song lyrics he wrote some time ago that might have a clue in them, they're in the Galluh dialect and when she showed them to Faust he became very upset.

We then cut to a flashback of Hannah, slightly showing her pregnancy and Sebastian having a picnic in a park.  He gives her the lyrics to his new song "Pizen Blues" and says it'll blow the minds of people.  He also wants his baby to be called Joachim if it's a boy, after a friend of his who died a few years ago from tuberculosis.

In the present, Weekly reaches the hotel Blacksad sent him to at the start.  Unfortunbately Junior Harper is dead, he's been thrown out of his hotel window and killed.  Weekly phones Blacksad to tell him:

Weekly: "Bad news, John.  Seems Harper tried to fly out the window, but forgot he had a bum pair of wings.  Suicide?  I'd say murder more likely..."

Blacksad tells him to go check every club where there is music tonight to try and find Sebastian, he's off to ask Faust about something.
Harper becomes an ex-rooster.
Another flashback, Faust and Thomas are on board a riverboat talking.  Thomas tells him his wife is leaving him and taking everything, even the house which is in her name.  Thomas says the only thing Faust has ever cared about is the fact Thomas won't give him grandchildren.  Faust accuses him of spending no time in getting close to Sebastian's wife, then says he'll give him cash if he needs it. "Goodbye dad" says Thomas and walks off.

Back in the present, Blacksad arrives at Faust's and takes the offered bourbon.  Faust is still being attended to by the voodoo priestess.  Blacksad tells him someone is trying to kill Sebastian and it has to do with his new song.  What does "Pizen Blues" mean?  Faust says "Pizen" means "Poison".  He thinks Sebastian is referring to heroin and it is a "farewell note" from a drug addict at death's door.  Blacksad tells him Junior Harper is dead and Thomas wants him to drop the case, he then leaves while Faust frowns and looks angry.

Another flashback to a couple of days ago during Mardi Gras.  Blacksad has been staking out the drug bar, "The Ebony Lounge" and sees a person in a horse skull mask and red cloak hand over the rat poison and some cash to one of the dealers.  Blacksad then chases the cloaked figure but loses him in the main Mardi Gras parade.
Just gorgeous artwork in this book.
In the present, Blacksad is walking down by the docks trying to put it all together.  He thinks Thomas might be responsible, wanting to kill Sebastian out of jealousy and getting to Junior to stop him being able to tell him where Sebastian is.  Then he stops and feels dizzy and realises his bourbon was drugged.

The hippo man, Ted Leeman confronts Blacksad and goes for his gun.  Blacksad gets his first and shoots Ted three times in the gut.  Ted headbutts Blacksad off the dock into the water and Blacksad sinks, having a vision that melts into one Sebastian is having.  Then Sebastian is called on stage to perform his new song.  Meanwhile Blacksad has been rescued by a buff and handsome ginger cat with mermaid tattoos who claims to have met Blacksad before maybe in one of his other nine lives, then walks off enigmatically.
Mystery cat...
Weekly is in a bar and gets chatting to a beautiful woman who has actually heard of him and wants to spend some time with him as she is a fan.  But fate intervenes as Weekly overhears people saying Sebastian is going to be playing at The Wild Note club, and so Weekly abandons the woman with reluctance and goes looking for Blacksad.

We're then shown Lenoir the one-legged horse's run down bedroom.  Someone is under the covers and the injured Ted Leeman comes in sweating and in pain from the gut wounds he sustained.  He tells Lenoir that Faust has hired him to take care of the troublesome witnesses at twice the price he hired him before.  Then he goes to strangle Lenoir who turns out to be Blacksad, they fight and Blacksad takes Leeman out.  Then Blacksad calls in Lenoir and asks him to tell him all about the story behind "Pizen Blues" as he holds up a tatty leaflet for something called Dupre's "Life Everlasting" Tonic.

The story is told via a sad looking Sebastian sitting at the piano at The Wild Note telling it to the waiting audience, while Blacksad, having been told it already by Lenoir goes to confront Faust about it.
Sebastian's tale of woe.
Joachim, Harper, Lenoir and Sebastian grew up together in a small town called Caldonia.  Also living there was a "Dr. Dupre" who sold a flu remedy called the "Life Everlasting" tonic, which turned out to be dangerously poisonous causing a wave of deaths, miscarriages and birth defects, although it seems in general people there especially the dirt poor, didn't know it was the tonic that was responsible.  The town survivors went their seperate ways "afraid of what might happen if they broke their silence"  for some reason.

Dupre also left Caldonia and changed his name to Faust Lachadelle, building up a very successful record label on that name.  Sebastina, Lenoir, Joachim and Harper had stayed friends and formed a street band, but Joachim was drafted during the war and the band fell apart.  Enter Faust, first he gave Harper a deal, but his records didn't sell well.  The along came Sebastain:

Faust: "He had talent so bright it outshone the sun.  After only two albums he became Lachadelle records' star and a household name in Jazz circles."

The trouble started when Joachim and Lenoir met up again.  Joachim was dying of the delayed effects from the poisonous tonic.  He knew who Faust really was, and knew it was the tonic that had caused all the troubles having got the truth of the story via another Caldonia native he met during the war.  Lenoir knew that no one would believe the word of a "crippled black tramp", but two famous musicians might be listened too.
The truth comes out via Lenoir.
He told Sebastian and Harper, who tried to blackmail Faust but the authorities were in his pocket again and Harper got sent to jail.  Sebastian didn't want to lose his career and status so kept quiet, but started using heroin to numb his guilt.

Sebastian: "...only to realise that you can put your conscience to sleep, but you can't kill it."

Then Sebastian sings his new song "Pizen (Poison) Blues".  We don't hear him though, Blacksad instead talks to Faust asking how someone dying of cancer could treat others "so cheaply".  Faust say he isn't dying of cancer, he has a rare genetic disorder "my blood is poisoned, rotten" and he's spent a fortune looking for a cure so his son Thomas won't suffer the same way.  He wanted to keep the case of the Life Everlasting tonic closed and so was bumping off everyone who could speak of it to prevent himself being financially ruined because of lawsuits.  He wants his name to continue, he wants grandchildren.

Blacksad: "A legacy handed down under a fake name and stained with innocent blood?  I hope that Thomas has other plans for his future."
Faust has plenty to feel guilty about.
Then Weekly bursts in and tells Blacksad that Faust is playing at The Wild Note, realising what's going to happen when he's done playing, Blacksad goes pelting off to stop him.  We then get a couple of pages narrated by the Ella Fitzgerald song "Summertime".  Thomas is with Hannah watching her feed the baby and smiling, while Sebastian is dead having shot up the rat poison he was dealt earlier that day Blacksad having got there too late.

The story wraps up with Blacksad and Weekly discussing the case.  Seems Blacksad got paid, but he handed the cash back to Thomas saying he'd need it more than Blacksad does and that Thomas' life is in danger.  Weekly says that's funny coming from a guy who was nearly drowned, then strangled, it's like Blacksad has a guardian angel.  This makes Blacksad smile and although it's not shown, you know he's thinking about the ginger catman who saved his life at the docks...
Blacksad knows the score.
And that's about as happy an ending you're going to get in the murky world of John Blacksad.  This is a gorgeous book, while I do have one complaint, that being it's a little hard to figure out what is a flashback and what is in the present in places. However the book screams to be read multiple times, it is simply gorgeous and very textually dense (unfortunately no specific translator is credited this time).  Despite looking a little thin, it's no quick read, and that's good because it forces you to linger and just wallow in the sumptious artwork.  The America of the fifties is brilliantly depicted, both in the background to the events that take place and authentic dialogue married to some of the finest and most obviously well researched artwork you'll ever see in comics.  The decision to use animals is once again vindicated by the sheer amount of personality and emotion even the smallest bit players are imbued with and John Blacksad remains a compelling noir protagonist, taking his licks but still dedicated to uncovering the truth no matter what the cost.  With the addition of the art-book and two shorts, this volume is well worth picking up, for fans of good comics, fans of detective fiction and fans of antropomorphised animal people this shouldn't be missed.  Join me in January when I tackle the last Blacksad release (so far), "Amarillo".

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Batwoman: Elegy (Detective Comics #854-860)

"I'm doing what you taught me.  I'm soldiering on" - Kate Kane

You know what this blog needs?  Even more lesbians!  And the highest profile lesbian hero I could think of was DC's Batwoman.  She's not my favourite lesbian character, that would be Scandal Savage from Secret Six, but she is still pretty cool in my opinion. This actually was the second volume of Batwoman I read, I made the mistake of reading the volume numbered "one" first (Hydrology) and being totally confused by it.  Turns out when DC began the New 52 with its universal reboot of every character's history, some characters didn't get rebooted as hard as others. Kate Kane, alias Batwoman was one of them, and it is this volume which collects her appearances in Detective Comics that her New 52 adventures followed directly on from.  Of course like with Batman and Green Lantern also not really rebooting either it threw a massive spanner in the whole "heroes only started appearing five years ago" rubbish that The New 52 launch was based around but who cares about that now?  Anyway, this unumbered, preboot, seven issue trade paperback fills in her backstory and relationships and is required reading if you are going to move on to her forty issue New 52 run.  It goes without saying that with JH Williams III on art duties the whole thing looks utterly gorgeous and Greg Rucka crafts a well-rounded and interesting character in Kate Kane and her double life as another of Gotham City's Bat inspired heroes.  Also I just noticed The Magnificent Kevin is sandwiched between Captain Marvel and Batwoman, lucky bloke!

The story begins with a woman being pursued by Batwoman.  The woman, cornered, asks what Batwoman wants.  "I want your secrets" she says.  "I want where and I want when.  I want her name."  The woman doesn't know "her" name, just that she is coming and they'll kill her if she talks.  Batwoman tells her to whisper in her ear.
Meeting with Batman.
She then meets up with Batman and they compare notes.  Apparently "all twelve covens have increased activity this week."  Batwoman says the "Religion of Crime has a new leader" and also that there are thirteen covens.  Batwoman leaves, as she does so Batman says her long hair is a liability in a fight.

She returns home and takes off her wig and changes back into Kate Kane.  She goes and meets her date but her date is angry that she is late and leaves thinking Kate has been "tomcatting around". She walks off saying "Call me when you've decided to grow up."

We cut to Kate waking up, her father - Jacob Kane - is in her flat, and is obviously in the military as he tells her it's "long past Revielle". She tells him she spoke to Batman and starts working out.  She has been hurt and her dad says she's been pushing herself too hard.  Apparently she was recently stabbed through the heart.

She says not a day goes by when she doesn't remember how it felt to be drugged and helpless.  Her dad hugs her and says "we soldier on". Hey, where are Kate Kane's Daddy Issues?  Can't be a lesbian without massive Daddy Issues, silly Greg Rucka! Jacob then shows her a new type of gun the military have been trying out that he has got a hold of.  She takes it.  Then he asks her if she'll come to dinner with him and her step-mother, her cousin Bette is in town.

But Kate says the Religion of Crime's new leader arrives at midnight and she is going to be there to get some answers as to why they tried to carve out her heart.  She changes back into her Batwoman garb and leaves via motorcycle to where the Religion of Crime's thirteenth coven is waiting to greet their new leader.
Alice, the Religion of Crime's new leader.
She beats some of them up and then demands to know a name.  A woman dressed all in white, old fashioned clothes appears and says her name is "Alice."  Batwoman points the gun at her and says she's been looking forward to this moment and fires.

She hits Alice in the chest twice with the non-lethal ammo. "What a peculiar feeling" comments Alice before starting to coug uncontrollably.  The rest of the coven go to help her, but Batwoman grabs her and bat-grapples away to the top of the nearby building.  She gives Alice something to dispel the pepper spray she was shot with then demands to know why Alice wants her dead.  Alice feigns ignorance even as Batwoman dangles her over the edge of the building.

Batwoman: "Why, dammit?!  Why do I matter to you people?"

She pulls Alice back up and comments that the new leader of the Religon of Crime is a "lunatic" who thinks she is Alice Liddell.  When Alice asks how she knows she's a lunatic she says it's because she speaks "fluent crazy".
Chatting with Alice.
Batwoman tries to question her further but Alice reveals a razorblade held between her teeth and slashes Batwoman's face with it.  It is poisoned and Batwoman starts to hallucinate.  Alice grabs her hair and pulls away the wig, giving Batwoman a chance to get away into the house's grounds.  She has some trippy visions of her mum and some masked men restraining her as a child.

Back at her flat, her dad checks the computer and sees that the GPS tracker on her is reading "Warning" in regard to her bio-signs.  While he travels to Batwoman's location, the thirteenth coven swear alleigance to Alice and refer to Batwoman as "the twice named."  They say they'll bring her heart to Alice if she wants, Alice says she "can do without" and shoots the man who was talking to her, then opens fire on the rest.

The inhuman members of the coven who are left go with Alice to track down Batwoman who is still incapacitated in the house's gardens.  She is found by her father then by Alice and they both open fire on each other.  Then suddenly some werepeople appear.

The werepeople attack Alice as Jacob tries to rouse Batwoman.  The werewolf slings Batwoman over his shoulder and tells Jacob to follow him.  They return to Jacob's truck and he injects her with an antidote. The werewolf asks the wereoctopus where their colleague is and is told she went to lure Alice and her goons away.  The werewolf turns back into a human and tells Jacob to go.  Jacob asks who they are, "true believers, once upon a time at least" says the man.  He tells Jacob Batwoman must survive.  Alice and her coven watch as Jacob drives away.
Abbott the wereperson.
Next day a recovered Kate tells her dad the werewolf is called Abbott and he quit the Religion of Crime.  Jacob tells her she should take the night off and come to an official function that night.  Kate reluctantly agrees.  That night she arrives at the fundraiser in a tuxedo, her stepmother accuses her of trying to draw attention to herself, but her cousin Bette says she looks great.

Lesbians going to official functions in a tuxedo is a bit of a cliche, but it has truth to it.  My on-off girlfriend who was in the year below me at university took me to her Valedictory Ball at the end of her final term.  She wore a tux, while I decided to have some fun and femme it up in a frock, we made a lovely couple.  Although thinking back I wasted way too much time on having a rocky relationship with her when I could have been out shagging other fit birds while I was still relatively limber.  She was a real clit tease.

Hrrm.  Anyway, another woman in a tuxedo appears and introduces herself as Maggie Sawyer, Captain of the Gotham Major Crimes Unit.  They instantly start flirting with each other and Maggie asks Kate is she would like to dance.

Kate: "We're offending my step-mother".

Maggie: "Is that a problem?"

Kate: "You kidding? I live for it."
Just beautifully laid out, such amazing compositions.
As they dance, Maggie says she's been Out for a long time and anyone who has a problem with it knows better than to say it to her face.  Kate comments that no wonder so many lesbians become cops and alludes to her previous cop girlfriend, Renee Montoya.  Maggie asks for her number, then someone cuts into their dance, it is Abbott.

He tells Kate that Alice isn't after her, she's after Gotham City, and she plans to destroy it.  Kate realises this would take some kind of WMD and calls her father who had been called away from the fundraiser earlier.  Unfortunately Alice has him and he's been beaten up.  She answers his phone and says to Kate:

Alice: "Hush!  The game's going on rather better now."

One of Alice's goons wants to kill Jacob Kane, but Alice stops her.  When the goon demands to know why, Alice says "it's exactly like a riddle with no answer."  Back at the fundraiser, Kate tells Abbott Alice has her dad.  Abbott says it's because of her and also because of the army clearance he grants.

Kate goes to change into her Batwoman get-up, the code Jacob managed to shout down the phone at her told her to be ready for a chemical and bio-weapon.  Apparently there is a stockpile at his base being made ready for disposal, that would be enough to kill everyone in Gotham. 
Alice is the most ungrateful leader.
At the base a soldier who is part of Alice's coven lets her in and they go to where two more members are loading the canisters onto a plane.  Alice shoots one of the canisters and the gas kills the two men who loaded the plane.

Alice's plane takes off with Jacob and a couple of coven members aboard.  One flying the plane, one guarding the canisters.  Batwoman and Abbott on a motorcycle arrive at the base and board a plane being piloted by the werepeople.  Jacob yells at Alice that she'll kill everyone, she says she is determined.  Suddenly Jacob seems to recognise her, "my God.. Beth...?" he says.  She quickly covers her face.

Batwoman skydives out of the plane she is in and onto Alice's plane.  She climbs into the open back and takes out the guard.  Then she goes to the cockpit and incapacitates Alice temporarily and takes out the pilot.  She frees her father so he can safely land the plane, then goes after Alice who has gone into the back of the plane.

Jacob: "Batman rule in effect Kate.  Don't kill her."

Batwoman: "I'm always on Batman rule, sir."
Batwoman switches planes.
Batwoman and Alice fight, Alice demands to know "who am I then?"  She gets knocked out of the open back of the plane and ends up hanging from Batwoman's hand who tries to haul her up.

Alice: "You have our father's eyes"

And she stabs Batwoman in the arm and lets go, plummeting into the water of Gotham harbour below, while Batwoman looks down, deep in thought about the Daddy Issues she now has. That concludes most of the present day part of the story and is where The New 52 Batwoman picks up from. There are still three chapters left though, dealing primarily with Kate Kane's past.
The truth revealed.
We flashback to twenty years ago.  Kate Kane and her twin sister Beth are living on an army base, their mum is in the military as well.  She is scolding them for pretending to be each other in school and that they have to come clean to their teacher.  She tells them it's their responsibility, "and when you act wrongly, you have to answer for it... without complaint."  It's integrity, something she and their dad believe in.  We get a glimpse of him on some unamed battlefield, then he is home and kissing his wife while the twins sneak a peek at them.

Some time later Kate and Beth are wrapped up for winter.  Beth tells Kate that a boy thought she was Kate and said he liked her.  Kate is more concerned with the fact their dad got his promotion.  Kate doesn't want to relocate to NATO in Belgium.

Kate: "I don't want to leave."

Beth: "We've got each other Kate.  We'll still be together.  We'll always be together."
A happy family.
The action then cuts to the present.  No sign of Beth's body has been found by the Gotham police led by Commisioner Gordon and Maggie Sawyer.  Jacob Kane tells them to clear the area as there is a possible chemical threat.  Kate returns home and silently cleans her arm wound, outside Jacob shouts into the intercom that he needs to speak with her, but she ignores him.

Back in the past, Kate and Beth are sulking as it's their twelfth birthday and their dad isn't there like he promised.  Finally their mum convinces them to come with her for a slap up treat.  But once outside their car is rammed and men grab the three of them and drag them back inside.  A hood is put over Kate's head and she hears gunshots.  When the hood is taken off by her dad she catches a glimpse of her mum with a bullet hole in her head.

Jacob: "Don't don't want to don't want to see."

But Kate has seen and is already hardening herself to deal with the loss of her mum and sister, as her dad for some reason also tells her that Beth is dead, when actually she's been abducted for who-knows-what reason.
The not-so-happy family.
Seven years ago, Kate is now in the military herself.  She's a cadet and she also has a girlfriend.  One day Kate is called into a Colonel Reye's office and he tells her there has been an allegation made about her conduct, "violation of article 125 of the uniform code of military jsutice."  He says that he's obligated to investigate but he has some discretion.  If she says she was just goofing and it'll never happen again she'll just face disciplinary action, but she'll also be able to stay in the army.  But Kate refuses to lie.

Kate: "I'm sorry sir, I can't.  I'm gay."

Being gay in the military, well in the US military, was at the time of publication (2009-10) still grounds for being kicked out with a possible dishonourable discharge.  I had a girlfriend in the US armed forces who was posted to the UK and the strain of trying to carry out a secret homosexual affair under the threat of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" took an enormous emotional toll on her.  Unfortunately 9/11 happened and she got redeployed to Afghanistan so the relationship had to end.  Bad times. 
Kate and her girlfriend.
Back in the present, Kate has taken a DNA sample from herself and what she recovered from the fight with Beth.  She wants a scientist friend to test them to confirm they come from twins.  Meanwhile, Abbott the werewolf is preaching to his bretheren that the prophecy about Kate was wrong, it was Beth "the Dark Madame" who was destined to die.  Kate finds him and punches him for keeping Beth's identity from her.  She leaves saying she better not see any of them again or she'll "kill every last one of you."

In the past again, and Kate goes to tell her dad that she's been "seperated from the army". When she tells him it was for homosexual conduct and she couldn't lie about it, he says:

Jacob: "Then you kept your honour and your integrity.  I'm proud of you.  Your mother would have been too."

She then loses herself in a life of aimless partying.  One day she is pulled over by a beat cop called Renee Montoya and they end up having a relationship with each other.  We see them together one morning and they have an argument about what Kate is doing with her life, Kate accuses Renee of being a closet case and Renee storms out.
Kate is inspired.
Later when coming out of a bar, Kate is trying to get in touch with Renee via her mobile.  A mugger attacks her, but she disables him easily.  Then Batman appears and she falls over in surprise.  Wordlessly he offers a hand to help her up then he grapples away leaving her looking up at the Bat-signal in the sky.

Four years ago, Kate is in a sleazy bar that Renee and Harvey Bullock are looking for someone in.  Renee chews her out for being there, but Kate says she doesn't need anyone to look after her, Renee says she does, just not her.  Later, Kate in full combat gear takes down some crooks with tear gas and a good battering.

Back in her flat she is showering and when she is done she walks out to find her dad there. He has discovered all the stuff she has stolen to help in her war on crime.  He wants to know why she is doing this.

Kate: "That bat they shine in the sky.  Civilians think it is a call for help.  The bad guys think it's a warning.  But it's more than that.  It's something higher.  It's a call to arms.  I finally found a way to serve."

Her dad realises she is serious and decides to help her.  But she'll need two, maybe three years of advanced training in specialised urban and non-lethal combat.  And he'll be her support, "we're in this together."

There is a training montage then we return with Kate to her father's home after a couple of years away preparing.  He is pleased to see her and asks if she has seen her flat yet.  She hasn't so they go together.  He has turned it into a nerve centre, then he shows her the Batwoman costume, minus the bat logo he has had made for her.  She puts it on and he then attaches the bat logo, "so everyone knows whose side your on."
The uniform is nearly complete.
And we return to the present for the final time as her scientist friend confirms the DNA samples come from twins.  She finally goes to confront her father and he tells her he couldn't tell her that her sister had been abducted back then, he also did everything he could to find her.  He says Alice is not Elizabeth, not her sister, her sister is dead.

Batwoman: "I know, colonel.  I watched her fall.  I killed her."

And she leaves.  But the final panel of the book shows Alice's head emerging from the water and then the book finishes.
Alice/Elizabeth lives?
Batwoman: Elegy is seriously good stuff.  Every page is a visual treat thanks to JH Williams III's incredible art.  The script by Greg Rucka is excellent in and of itself but add in the lavish presentation and you have a book that stands head and shoulders above the common herd.  Kate Kane is given a rounded personality and has many parallels with Batman.  Like him she lost a parent (and while growing up thought she lost a sister as well) at a critical age, the violence never satisfactorily explained or understood by her.  She lives like a feckless rich girl by day, but by night stalks the mean streets of Gotham as another caped avenger, though crucially not one affiliated with Batman despite having been inspired by him.  Her involvement with the magical elements of the city will continue into her New 52 series, which picks up where this one left off, and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer will blossom into something special as well.  Her lesbianism is dealt with in a subtle and non-prurient manner and having an out lesbian character as part of DC's line up at least until Convergence happened struck quite a blow for positive representation and it was incubated here and in the previous weekly series 52 with Greg Rucka's brand new take on an old and then unused DCU character who has quickly become one of my favourites and whose red bat-logo I wear on my chest with pride. So join me next year for my journey through the ups and downs of her New 52 career why don't you?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin (#1-5)

"Why does an anarchist superhero come looking for help from a bird at British Intelligence?" - Kev Hawkins

Better get my excuses done first, because this volume co-stars The Midnighter who is gay and a few homophobic slurs get thrown around.  If you find this "triggering" don't read on, this 2005 Garth Ennis penned miniseries is not for you.  I however found this to be fucking hilarious for reasons I'll elaborate upon in a moment.  Now I am a gay woman myself, always have been, always will be.  Never even kissed a bloke, I only sleep with women.  I have lesbian and gay friends, I've marched during Gay Pride, I shop in gay shops, used to go solely to gay nightclubs and pubs.  Basically I'm a big ol' 41 year old lesbian who is old enough to remember some pretty homophobic times.  But I also have a very crude sense of humour and this Ennis story is designed specifically to try and push every "offense button" going when it comes to homosexuals.  However, while it depicts homophobes, I don't believe it is homophobic.  The Midnighter is one of the few superheroes Ennis seems to actually like (and I covered the Ennis penned initial arc and one-shot as part of the Midnighter's first on-going solo book here), and he is never shown in a poor light.  Also I like the fact that the kind of people being homophobic are just who would be in real life, homophobia doesn't just disappear overnight.  Yes we can get married now and serve in the military and so on but old attitudes die hard and this book confronts them head on, amongst all the other wonderfully offensive stuff going on in it. I also think of all the comics I have read this one says "cunt" more than any other.  I won't quote every cunt that gets spoken, but I am going to institute a "cunt counter" to keep a running total of how many times it crops up.  Just for my own amusement really, you buncha cunts!
You have been warned!
The Authority was a group of superheros in the Wildstorm universe created by Warren Ellis. An offshoot of Stormwatch, they were to be proactive against threats to humanity and they live in a huge spaceship called "The Carrier" travelling through a dimension called "The Bleed".  But really only Midnighter has anything to do in this mini, he's an artificially created super-soldier with incredible strength and healing powers, who is the husband of the Superman analogue Apollo. This isn't the first time the titular Kevin and The Authority have crossed paths.  His wikipedia page summarises his career pre and post this adventure; but basically he's a S.A.S member who has tangled with them twice prior to this time. First killing them under orders, but then getting them resurrected to handle an alien invasion. After that he got mixed up in a plot concerning an alien fugitive and nearly blew them up with an atom bomb by mistake.  The Midnighter took a dim view of Kev's homophobic remarks and beat him up first time, then next time told Kev he'd been letting other people's homophobic views colour his own and he needs to start thinking for himself. 
Kev's sci-fi fantasy
Now, with all that done, it's time to begin.  No wait, quick word about the art.  It's by Carlos Ezquerra, co-creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, he's usually a pretty fantastic artist.  But his collaboration on one arc of The Boys with Ennis was very disappointing visually and I wondered if he was losing his edge.  I was wrong, his current run on Strontium Dog is brilliant and the art in this miniseries is great as well. Lots of detailed backgrounds and dynamic layouts this, artwise at least (for those of you feeling sniffy about the writing), this is Good Stuff.

The story begins with Kev having a sci-fi sexual fantasy, with himself as a super soldier.  As he fantasises he has a good wank.  Walking through the windows are the I.R.A (Irish Republican Army - Catholic) and the U.V.F (Ulster Volunteer Force - Protestant).  Both are there to kill Kev for the deaths he caused while undercover in Northern Ireland.  They each burst into his bedroom at the same time, but shoot each other instead while Kev finishes himself off.
The Troubles still not over for Kev.
Aboard the Carrier, the Midnighter and Apollo are arguing about becoming more overtly super-heroic.  Then a strange goblin like creature appears, says "I'm a vagina!!!" and hits Apollo in the face with a cream pie which stays stuck and disables him.  Down at Kev's house, his co-worker, an older man called Froggett is there coordinating the clean-up at Kev's house.

Kev: "I'll tell you what I'd like Frogett.  Ten minutes in a locked room.  Just you, me and a baseball bat with a big fucking spike in the end."

Froggett just smiles and says he wouldn't be a pushover and leaves Kev to answer the phone, and he's told a friend of his has committed suicide.

On the Carrier, one of the female members, a be-winged human called Swift is singing a song to herself about her position in the team:

Swift: "Now I have often heard it spoken... that on this team I'm just a token...The rest are white but that's OK, because not one but two are gay.  It sure can leave you poor... when you're the ethnicity du jour. When you're an Asian chick.  Asian chick!  The way I get used to it makes me sick, trapped here with this buncha dicks. Because I'm an Asian chick."

The song goes on longer but you get the gist.  Then the goblin appears and hits her in the face with a cream pie too, taking her out.
The phantom flan flinger attacks.
Back with Kev, he is with his S.A.S buddies down the pub talking about what might have put their friend Tiny over the edge.  Could have been Bosnia, Uganda, Iraq or all three.  Kev's retired friend says they want to get out of the job because it's hard to cope, there's no support and before you know it you've got "a nine milli in your mouth". His other friend also worries that one of these days he'll be asked to kill kids as part of a mission.  Kev admits that their friend from a previous adventure went A.W.O.L with Kev's help, and he looks somewhat despondent as he weighs his options.

On the Carrier all but the Engineer and the Midnighter have been incapacitated by the pies. They start trying to prise one off, but the goblin pops up and pies the Engineer.  It attacks the Midnighter who opens an airlock sucking them both outside into space.

Kev is called to his superior's office, a severe looking woman tells him The Authority are in trouble.

Kev: "Oh, not that shower of cunts again."

(Cunt Count: 4) He complains that the Midnighter can't take a joke and is the worst of the lot of them.  But his boss says The Midnighter has landed somewhere in the British Isles and says Kev is the only one he trusts.  He needs medical help so Kev will take him to the nearest Intelligence post.  When Kev protests, she says he'll do it or she'll have him strung by the balls from Waterloo Bridge.
Kev travels out to the coordinates he's been given, the Midnighter is hiding in a cave and creeps up behind him giving him a fright.  The Midnighter is badly wounded and as Kev helps him to the car he fills him in on what happened.  For some reason his wounds haven't healed which is why he phoned British Intelligence for help.

He asks Kev if he can guarantee his safety, Kev says he can until he drops him off.  Woozily The Midnighter asks Kev how he came to join the S.A.S.  Flashback time, we see Kev as an aimless youth in Luton.  He signs up to join the regular army, the recruiter assures him that it's 1986, "who on earth would the British army be at war with these days".  Then we cut to Kev's team caught in a riot in Belfast being pelted with rocks.

However, Kev admits to The Midnighter that he did enjoy being in the army, especially the camaraderie.  One day in a soldier's bar he sees two men the rest are treating with utmost respect, they are in the S.A.S.  Kev thinks no more about it, he's more concerned with the fact that women go wild for the uniform.  And one day he is caught sleeping with a woman by her irate husband.
Kev in big trouble.
Six months later, his regiment gets a new C.O. and it turns out to be the cuckolded husband.  And so kicks off the "worst six months of my life" as he is assigned all the menial and dangerous jobs.  He then decides to join the S.A.S to escape.  His C.O. yells that he'll never make it through the selection process and calls him a "cunt!" (Cunt Counter: 6). He does make it through though and we get a flashback to training where a fellow squad member called Mick is kicked out.  The Midnighter then says that Kev basically became a member of the S.A.S because he slept with someone's wife and Kev agrees.

Kev then says the are being followed.  He runs the pursuing car off the road and pulls a gun.  Suddenly his car is surrounded by more cars and helicopters, they are there for The Midnighter.  The Midnighter isn't angry or surprised at this turn of events, he simply tells Kev to look up an M.I.5 file called "Danny Boy".  Then he is taken away.  The man in charge turns out to be Mick who was "Kicked out" so he could keep an eye on the likes of Kev.  Kev leaves in disgust when Mick asks what he cares about "what happens to some turd burgler."
It's a trap!
We then get an interesting chapter based on a job Kev's S.A.S team was assigned to in Northern Ireland. I sometimes see on US forums people whining about why an Irish writer like Garth Ennis would demonise the IRA and their great crusade against the evil British occupiers etc etc?  Well for a start, (and not to keep beating a dead horse, but damn the horse is still asking for it so out comes my beating stick) he's a NORTHERN Irish writer, as in he comes from The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not the entirely seperate country of Ireland.  Secondly coming from Northern Ireland and as a staunch atheist he has his own perspective on The Troubles which seems to match mine. That being, no one involved in the armed part of the struggle was innocent.  Catholic terrorists killed Protestants and placed bombs aimed at civilian targets both in NI and mainland Britain.  Protestants killed Catholics and also bombed civilians, though obviously didn't target the UK mainland.  And the British military (as depicted here) carried out secret executions and invented many of those fun "enhanced interrogation" techniques the US Army seems to like using on Muslims now.  There were no "good guys", only bad guys of varying degrees.  Hundreds upon hundreds were killed and the road to peace was a long and bloody one.  But compromise and forgiveness won out in the end and while things aren't perfect over there and there are still sectarian rivalries in play, at least people aren't dying in huge numbers anymore. *gets off soapbox*

Anyway, back to the comic.  It's 1994 and Kev's S.A.S team is being sent on a mission to take out four targets, two Republicans, two Loyalists, taking out those implacably opposed to peace.  Their involvement must never be discovered, and they formulate a plan to take out all four quickly in one night.
Taking out a target.
They split into two teams of two, Kev and Tiny take out the first target and stuff him in the boot of their car, the other two take out the next and stuff him in the boot of their car.  Unfortunately they run into a problem with the last two, a Republican and Loyalist.  They are both in the same room in a house full of I.R.A members.  They are tied up and being tortured.  Kev's team burst in and kill all the I.R.A including the target one. 

They then question the tied up Loyalist who admits that he and the I.R.A member were in business together selling hardcore pornography videos.  The I.R.A had found out and was trying to beat the location of their money out of them.  Then more I.R.A members converge on the house and Kev's squad head upstairs leaving the tied up Loyalist behind.  He is dragged outside and his head squished with a large rock.
A firey escape.
Kev's squad signal for back-up but nothing happens.  So they take the gas canister out of a gas fire and throw it downstairs and ignite it so the house catches fire.  They then escape the burning building via the rooftop skylight and the I.R.A are left none the wiser.  Back at base their commander congratulates them, and when asked says he ordered no response to their call for back-up in case it blew the whole operation.  The team share a drink and Kev says to Tiny:

Kev: "You never say much do you Tiny?"

Tiny: "Maybe you just don't listen, Kev."

We return to the present with Kev checking out the M.I.5 file he was told about by The Midnighter and his eyes widen in shock, "Jesus fuck."

Later Kev infiltrates a secret intelligence facility and finds a room full of retarded "superheroes".  He pulls a gun on one of the scientists and tells her to take him to The Midnighter now.  As they walk he gets her to tell him that they have been trying to create superhumans but the whole programme has been something of a failure so far.  He is then reunited with The Midnighter, who has been stripped and shackled to a table and jammed full of wires.
Crucified on the altar of science.
Kev tells the scientist to unhook him and get his clothes.  Once dressed The Midnighter says he wasn't sure Kev would come for him.

Kev: "Yeah well I read that file you told me about, didn't I?  I might be a cunt, but there's no way I  was sitting still for that sort of shit."

(Cunt Count: 13) The Midnighter is still injured and gets into a wheelchair.  He says they can't leave yet, there are kids that are also being experimented on.  The Midnighter wants them rescued too.  Then The Midnighter is shot through the hand by Mick who suddenly appears saying a poof shouldn't allowed near kids.  Kev asks how he can support what is going on and tells him what he found in the file.

Nine years ago Apollo and Midnighter heard of an "operation by a bloke called Bendix who was a right fucking cunt" (Cunt Count: 14).  Bendix was in the UK and experimenting on kids trying to turn them into superhumans.  M.I.5 also showed up the same night Apollo and Midnighter went to rescue the kids, although Bendix escaped.  They were led by Kev's female boss.  She promised Apollo and The Midnighter the kids would be looked after, but later institgated her own operation looking into creating superhumans and had a load of kids from a state run orphanage transferred into M.I.5 custody.
Apollo and The Midnighter rescuing the first lot of kids.
The Midnighter says he never trusted her, and thought she was a "sneaky little cunt" (Cunt Count: 16). She put a virus in the Carrier's computer system and triggered it a few days ago, disabling them and taking out his bio-implants too which is why he hasn't been able to heal.  They needed him because they want biological matter from a real superhuman.

Mick is unmoved by the story, not even by the exploitation of kids.  He sneers that Tiny was a "pathetic cunt" (Cunt Count: 18) who couldn't hack the job.  In a rage Kev attacks Mick and they fight which ends with Kev beating Mick to death while screaming "fucking, fucking cunt!" (Cunt Count: 20) at him.

Then his boss appears and tells him the place is surrounded and Kev can get himself out of trouble if he shoots the Midnighter dead as they can still gather the material they need from his corpse.  But The Midnighter is surrounded by the kids, who form a protective wall round him.  Kev's boss tells him to kill them too, and Kev, remembering the qualms his friend had spoken of before,  shoots her through the head.

Kev: "Christ all-bloody mighty.  What have I fucking done?"
Boss meet bullet.
The Midnighter and Kev start discussing how to get out of this mess.  Kev has an idea and lets out all the mentally challenged superhumans who go shambling out to face the soldiers outside.  They refuse orders to shoot them and Kev, The Midnighter and the kids manage to sneak into a van while the soldiers are distracted and escape.

Kev: "I hereby declare Operation Poof Rescue a success..."

Realising The Midnighter is gay, the kids freak out chanting "poofter, poofter" and saying he'll have their bums.  They accuse Kev of being gay as well. "Queerbash him, children.  Then I can die happy" says The Midnighter.  They then leave the kids in the van outside a childrens home.
Hee hee!
Now in a car, The Midnighter says that in seventy-two hours the Carrier's failsafe kicks in.  Trouble is he needs to be aboard to order the virus eliminated.  He also tells Kev he allowed himself to be captured because hiding in a cave for three days he would have died of blood loss.  They use a phone to teleport aboard the Carrier and the goblin immediately attacks, but The Midnighter yells "System Purge!"  And the goblin turns into a naked Froggett as the hostile program is dealt with.

Froggett admits he jumped at the chance to beat up a group of superheroes, he used the Carrier's technology to create an illusionary construct to neutralise The Auhority and/or flush them down to Earth.  Kev asks if they have a room and a baseball bat with a spike in it and takes Froggett off for a beating.  Then drags him to an airlock where he and The Midnighter press the eject button together and Froggett explodes in the vacuum.
A battle forged friendship.
Later the Midnighter asks what Kev is going to do now he's on the run.  Kev doesn't really know, and the Midnighter hands him a box with something in it to help him fly under the radar.  Kev leaves, and a recovered Apollo queries The Midnighter about why he let him go after Kev's previous homophobia had provoked him so much.  But The Midnighter says:

Midnighter: "There are billions down there and they'll take a long time to change their ways.  Most never will.  Something to think about next time we set out to change the world."

Back down on earth, Kev is drinking in a pub and decides to open the box The Midnighter gave him.  Inside is a comedy pair of glasses with a nose and mustache attached.  He laughs and puts it on, agreeing with a strangers comment that it makes him look like an "arsehole".  The end.
A cunning disguise.
This miniseries is a lot of fun.  It's barely an Authority comic, Ennis is much more interested in Kev's misadventures.  His journey from ignorant homophobe to a more enlightened person is quite sweet, especially when he confirms The Midnighter's belief in him by rescuing him despite the danger he places his own life in, and indeed sacrifices his career to do the right thing.  The chapter on The Troubles feels like a statement Ennis has been wanting to make about them for a while now and Kev proved to be the best person through who's eyes to see it. Ennis also proves his mastery of writing authentic and naturalistic dialogue and thumbs up for using the word "cunt" so many times.  Kev had one more adventure after this one, then the Wildstorm universe was merged with the main DC one for the launch of the New 52 and Kev hasn't been heard of since, though I like to think he still exists, happily retired, somewhere on the Prime Earth.  I may be returning to Kev at a later date when I can track down the volumes before and after this one, but for now I found this refreshingly irreverant and downright hilarious in places with the fantastic art by Carlos Ezquerra being the icing on the cake.