Thursday, 28 January 2016

Dragonball Book 2: Wish Upon A Dragon (NSFW)

NSFW:  Flash of bare boob.

"Augh!! What a diseased mind!" - Lord Pilaf

This is my cut n'paste intro for my end of month indulgence as I make my way through all forty-two collected volumes of the enduringly popular and influential manga Dragonball. The series used to be split into the fantasy and whimsy filled Dragonball and the more serious, sci-fi orientated strip it became after sixteen volumes known as Dragonball Z, but now the series is being released under the one "Dragonball" title again; uncut and with a spiffy new translation.  The series first ran in the famous anthology magazine "Shonen Jump" from 1984 to 1995 and was written and drawn by Akira Toriyama (It has been translated here by Mari Morimoto and adapted into English by Gerard Jones, the western publisher is Viz Media) and pretty much set the standard for the similar shonen manga and anime that came after like Bleach and Naruto.  It follows the adventures of the kindly if somewhat sheltered and simple "Son Goku" as he trains, goes on adventures and enters competitions all with the aim of making himself a stronger and better fighter.  Along the way he accrues a colourful cast of friends and rivals in a world where humans live alongside anthropomorphised animals, dinosaurs never died out and tiny capsules can contain vehicles and houses to be easily carried around.

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

Previously on Dragonball:  A sixteen year old tech genius called Bulma is hunting the seven "dragonballs", which when collected together means a magical dragon called Shenlong can be summoned to grant one wish.  Twelve year old orphan Son Goku holds the third ball she has found using the radar she built to locate them, and when he won't part with it, she invites him along with her to hunt them together.  In the process of discovering the fourth and fifth balls, Goku gets given a flying cloud he can ride by an old man called Kamensen'in, and they also meet a shapechanger called Oolong who Bulma adds to the team as well.  After tangling with the desert bandit Yamcha and his shapechanger friend Puar, they find themselves at "Fry-Pan" mountain. At the top is a castle belonging to The Ox King and where the sixth ball is located, but the mountain is on fire and they can't get to it.  What to do?  And now the continuation.
Goku, meet Chi Chi
Gyu-Mao the Ox King reveals that his old kung fu master "Muten Roshi" was also Kamesenin'in the man who gave Goku his cloud.  He also says that Goku's grandpa "Son Gohan" trained with him at the same time.  He then says that Kamesenin'in owns something called a "Basho-sen" which is a magic fan which could put the fire out.  He tells Goku to look for his daughter Chi Chi who he sent out looking for it as well.

The watching Yamcha and Puar realise this is the young girl Yamcha knocked out.  They speed back and find her still unconcious.  Yamcha gently wakes her up and apologises saying he was "crazy with love".  Then he sees Goku coming and makes himself scarce.  Goku tells Chi Chi to get on the cloud as she is pure of heart enough to ride it.  She grabs his tail as she climbs up and he howls in pain.

Goku: "Don't squeeze my tail will ya'?  It makes me lose my strength."

The watching Yamcha realise he can use this information against Goku.  Meanwhile Goku and Chi Chi zoom off.  Goku pats her crotch to see if she is female and she pushes him off the cloud in outrage.  But as he climbs back aboard, she thinks only a man who wanted her for a wife would do that.
They fly across the sea to a small house on a small island where Kamesenin'in lives.  Goku and Kamesenin'in catch up while Chi Chi, disbelieving that he is a kung fu master throws her helmet blade at him which embeds in his forehead.  He yells no one is fast enough to dodge that and shows her his driving licence which says he is an invincible old master and she apologises.

He says he'll lend them the Basho-sen on one condition.  That Bulma "boingy boingy" for him, the old perve.  Goku agrees so Kamesenin'in looks for the fan but then remembers he spilt soup on it and threw it out.  But never fear he can put the fire out himself.  He summons a flying turtle and they all fly back to Fry-Pan mountain.

Kamesen'in says to Gyu-mao that his treasures have "cost a few lives".  Gyu-mao repents his greed and says he destroy all his treasure. "Let's not go overboard" says Kamesen'in.  Goku says to Bulma that Kamesen'in wants to "pat pat" her chest as payment or he won't put out the fire.  She angrily agrees but only after he has done it.
There's more to Kamesen'in than meets the eye.
Kamesen'in pumps his body up into a hugely muscled form and then he fires a bolt of pure ki energy called the "Kamehame-ha"  It puts out the fire, but destroys the mountain as well!  They search the ruins for the dragonball, Goku wants to learn the move but Kamesen'in says it takes fifty years to master.  Goku however copies his movements and fires a small one at their car.

When Gyu-mao reveals Goku is Son Gohan's grandson, Kamesen'in realises it explains a lot and when he finds out Son Gohan is dead, he invites Goku to come train under him.  Goku enthusiastically agrees to come once they have found all the dragonballs.  Bulma finds the sixth ball and Gyu-mao gives them a capsule containing a hover car.  Before they can leave Kamesen'in demands his payment.

Bulma takes Oolong to one side and tells him to impersonate her.  Oolong does so and goes to Kamesen'in and flashes him a look at "Bulma's" bare boobs, much to his delight and Bulma's annoyance.  Chi Chi says to Goku that when he is old enough her father will offer Goku her hand.  Slightly confused Goku agrees to come back for it.  Then the gang bid Gyu-mao, Chi Chi and Kamesen'in farewell and zoom off still shadowed by Yamcha and Puar.
Oh Kamesen'in, never change.
They arrive in a small town and Bulma, still dressed in the outfit with bunny ears, is regarded with fear by the townsfolk.  She goes to buy some hoi-poi capsules which the frightened shopkeeper gives her for free.  Two thugs with rabbit ears come into town and start bullying the locals.  Bulma gets changed into some more normal clothes and everyone stops being scared of her.

The rabbit eared men threaten Goku and Bulma with guns.  Bulma casually says to Goku, "These are bad guys.  Beat 'em up for us."  Goku finishes his rice bun and sys "Okay".  A fight commences and he easily beats them.  One of them calls for their boss via a radio and a townsperson says Goku has bought "doom on us all."

Everyone flees leaving our heroes alone with the two rabbit eared thugs.  Their master appears, he is an anthropomorphised rabbit.  He offers his hand to Bulma who shakes it.  Yamcha pops up yelling not to touch him, that he's the "carrot master!".  But it is too late and Bulma turns into a carrot.
The "Carrot Master".
Goku tries to threaten him into turning her back but he says he'll nibble on her if he attacks him.  Then the two thugs beat up  Goku who can't fight back.  Yamcha tells Puar to turn into something that can swoop in and grab the carrot.  Puar does so, while Yamcha comes to Goku's rescue.  Goku whacks the rabbit with his Nyo-boi staff and the rabbit turns Bulma back to get him to stop.  Then Goku grabs the rabbit and his two henchmen and makes the staff grow long enough to deposit them on the moon.  The narrator says that "the rabbit in the moon" is a Japanese children's story.

With that sorted, they go on their way into a desert landscape.  A woman watches them and says over a radio to a "Lord Pilaf" that it is time to "commence the operation." Goku and the others are attacked by a dog headed person in a robot suit, it destroys their car and grabs the suitcase the dragonballs are in and flies off.  Goku gives chase on kinto'un.

He finds the robot suit empty and the dog man and the dragonballs gone.  He returns to Bulma who laments that they must have the seventh dragonball and now have them all.  Goku points out he still has his dragonball so all is not lost.  Yamcha and Puar pull up and offer them a lift while they track where the balls have gone.
Lord Pilaf.
The two goons have returned to the diminutive Lord Pilaf who wants to wish for world domination.  Goku and the others arrive at Pilaf's palace and sneak inside.  But they fall into a trap and end up stuck in a small cell.  Pilaf demands the final ball and grabs Bulma with a robot arm.  He says he's going to subject her to humilating acts and blows her a kiss.  Bulma laughs at him saying she expected much worse and lists them much to Pilaf's horror.

He dumps her back in the cell and then uses knock out gas on them.  His female goon goes in and takes the final dragonball and as Goku and friends recover, Pilaf gathers the balls together and starts to summon the dragon Shenlong.  Goku is able to make a small hole in the cell wall with his kamehame'ha, but they are all still trapped.

Puar and Oolong fly out through the hole to try and stop Pilaf but it is too late.  Shenlong asks to know what the wish is and as Pilaf starts to say his, Ollong wishes for "the panties of a hot babe!!!" A pair of panties land on Oolong's head and with the wish granted, Shenlong disappears and the seven dragonballs fly off in different directions.
The spectacular Shenlong.
Goku is upset that his grandpa's ball has gone.  Bulma tells them the balls become ordinary rocks for a year before turning back into dragonballs that can be tracked again. Over the tannoy, Pilaf says that their steel lined cell will heat up in the sun and cook them.  They try to break out again, but can't.  They all sit down, and lament their fate.  Puar flies up to the skylight and says she wants to see a full moon before she dies.

Goku says he has never seen a full moon because hes grandpa told him that a "horrible monster comes out when the moon is full."  His grandpa was killed when said monster stepped on him, he didn't see it because he was asleep.  His granpa exhorted him to "never look at a full moon."  The others realise what this could mean.  Goku admits he did wake up to go pee on the night his grandpa died.  Bulma then orders Goku to look at the full moon.
Goku transforms.
Goku goes into a trance and starts to change.  He grows bigger and hairier and becomes ape-like.  He bursts out of the cell and starts rampaging and smashing up Pilaf's palace. He doesn't respond to the others shouting at him to change back.  Goku keeps attacking them, until Yamcha has an idea and grabs his tail which makes him freeze.  Puar turns into a giant pair of scissors and snips off Goku's tail and he changes back into normal sleeping Goku.

As day dawns, they decide not to tell Goku what he turned into or that he accidentally killed his grandpa.  Goku wakes up and shrugs off his missing tail.  He goes to look for his nyo-boi staff in the ruins. Yamcha and Bulma realise that he is not scared of her, and that they would make a good couple.  So both their wishes have actually been fulfilled.
Were-Goku dealt with.
Goku comes back with his staff and Bulma says they are going to the city and would he like to come?  Oolong invites himself along as well.  Goku says he is going to train under Kamesen'in, and will they come and hunt dragonballs in a years time?  Bulma says she doesn't need dragonballs now, so she gives him the dragon radar so he can track them when they turn back into dragonballs.

They all pile into a small plane and wish Goku well and depart, he summons kinto'un and flies back to his home to collect some clothes and bedding before flying to Kamesen'in's house.  There Kamesen'in is perving over a TV exercise programme.  Goku attracts his attention saying he came for training and is hungry.  Kamesen'in directs him to the fridge and Goku eats a full weeks worth of food.

Once his favourite TV show is over, Kamesen'in contemplates his new young charge.  He tells Goku that before he starts to train him he needs to bring him a "hot girl".  He lists off all the attributes he is looking for much to Goku's bewilderment.  Goku flies off and returns with a female weightlifter.  Not quite what Kamesen'in had in mind.  And that brings this volume of Dragonball to a close.
The adventurers part for now.
As usual this was a lot of fun.  And it lays down some important continuity that will come into play throughout the series.  We haven't seen the last of Goku's were-ape form although it won't be explained why he changes for a long time yet.  His prodigious appetite will also be explained much further down the line as well and it's fascinating seeing how early these elements of the later series were first laid down.  The smutty humour remains a guilty pleasure, going to all the trouble of collecting the dragonballs only to have the wish spent on a pair of knickers is hilarious.  And it's very sweet that Yamcha and Bulma realise they don't need a wish anymore because of how the quest has bought them together.  The next volume will pick up the other major strand of the manga, training to improve ones body and mind and another rival/friend of Goku's will be introduced as well.  So join me next month for a look at just what Kamesen'in's training regime entails.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Batwoman Book 1: Hydrology (#0,#1-5)

"I will soldier on" - Batwoman

Although this is officially Batwoman's first volume set in the New 52 universe, it actually follows on from her pre-New 52 run in Detective comics which was collected as Batwoman: Elegy and which I covered here.  In that story we were told the story of how Kate Kane became Batwoman after being dishonerably discharged from the army for being homosexual.  She tangled with a villain called Alice who turned out to be her twin sister Beth who was kidanpped when she was a child although her Army officer father Jacob had told her she was dead which leads to a big rift between the previously close father and daughter.  Kate Kane in her civilian identity had also met the lesbian Gotham police officer Maggie Sawyer at an offical function and had a dance and flirt with her.  Now the big change with this new series is that Greg Rucka had left DC and so is no longer on writing duties, alas.  JH Williams III still provides most of the art and shares a writing credit as well with W. Haden Blackman.  Kicking off this collection is an odd little zero issue, not to be confused with the zero issues that every DC comic ran at the start of the New 52's second year.  I believe it was an aborted start to a Batwoman series post the Detective Comics run before it was decided to delay the start of the series and make it part of the New 52 launch leaving this issue orphaned as it were.  So having it collected here for completists sake is a nice touch.  So without further ado, let's dive into the murky and somewhat magical world of Batwoman.
Batman stalks Batwoman.
Issue zero is an reintroduction to Batwoman and Kate Kane.  Narrated by Batman/Bruce Wayne it covers him stalking Batwoman at night and Kate Kane during the day in varying disguises to support his hypothesis that they are the same person.  The pages are split horizontally in half, JH Williams III illustrates the Batwoman half and Amy Reeder the Kate Kane part.  Their styles mesh well, and in fact Amy Reeder will take on a future arc in volume two giving JH Williams III some breathing room and allow him to keep his output to the highest standard.

The Batwoman sequence is her fighting the Religion of Crime on a dockside over a sarcophagus which I assume either contains or she thinks contains the remains of her sister Alice who fell in the harbour at the end of Elegy.  Batman assesses her fighting styles with approval and notes she appears to use military training.  When it looks like she might have met her match and he thinks about stepping in, she uses some tech to overload the cybernetic arm of her attacker.  Unfortunately for her, the Religion of Crime keep her away from the sarcophagus long enough for it to leave by boat. 
Kate visiting her mother and sister's grave.
During his tailing her by day in disguise he notes she likes to go clubbing and hook up with chicks for one night stands.  He knows her mother was killed when she was young and her sister too (although we the reader know her sister survived).  He notes this tragedy is definitely an incentive to become Batwoman.

Lurking outside her building he sees that her father comes regularly but she refuses to let him in.  While she is clubbing, he feels a little envious that she can let herself go "in a way I can't".  Next day he contrives to bump into her in a bookshop and sees she is reading a book on Exorcism.  Finally he decides on one last test.  He comes up behind her and swings a baseball bat at her head.  She predicts the attack, flips and kicks him in the face.  Impressed he runs off, he decides his theory is correct, Kate Kane is Batwoman. and he thinks:

Batman: "...She has the one thing I cannot teach. That hole inside her that can never be filled, no matter how many criminals she takes down... it gives her the drive to do this.  It's time she and I have a serious discussion about her future.
La Llorona, the Weeping Woman.
The story begins proper with a look at a ghostly female figure.  She is abducting some children as their parents watch helplessly.  They are recounting this to Maggie Sawyer after the fact.  Apparently Batwoman crashed in but was too late, "she said she would save them, Batwoman promised" they say.  The kids and the woman vanish and Batwoman assures them she'll "save them all".

Maggie then tells them that twelve kids including their own have been abducted, she says it would be unethical for her to give them the same promise Batwoman did.  "But I promise I won't ever stop looking".  She takes them out to the lobby and they leave.  Waiting there for her is Kate Kane.

Kate notices a photo of Renee Montoya on the wall of rememberance for cops killed in the line of duty on the wall, and says to Maggie that she and Renee were involved for a while.  Now this is where the book strikes a somewhat sour note for me.  Although he didn't create the character, Greg Rucka in Gotham Central and later the maxi-series 52 spent a lot of time developing her, including having her outed as gay, getting involved with Kate, leaving the police force and becoming the new The Question.  So The New 52 not only undoes her becoming The Question, it also has her killed off as if to spite Greg Rucka for leaving DC (I think the parting was less than amicable).  Now when there was a backlash against this, DC said they'd bring Renee back when the time was right.  However she never returned until after The New 52 officially ended (yay!) after Convergence. She's now a Gotham PD cop again, her missing time being accounted for as being in Seattle.  Her relationship status with Kate Kane in the new continuity is as yet unknown as Batwoman was included in the mass wave of cancellations that ended The New 52 (boo!).
Kate Kane flirts with Maggie Sawyer.
Anyway, Kate asks Maggie if she wants to come out for "beer and a band?"  Maggie says it beats another night in a cop bar.  We cut to later on where Kate is getting into her Batwoman outfit and her cousin Bette into a pair of plain overalls.  When Bette asks where her "Flamebird" outfit is, Kate says she burned it.  Bette sulkily says she has a spare.  For now though she is going on patrol with Kate in a plain outfit.  She wants to know why Kate isn't talking to her father, Kate says it's not up for discussion.

We then are introduced to Agent Chase who works for the D.E.O or "Department of Extranormal Operations".  Her boss is Director Bones, a skeleton in a suit who smokes cigars.  He has some work for her in Gotham.  He wants to find out more about the Operation Jacob Kane covered up in Book One.  There is a new terrorist threat appearing there called "Medusa" and finally she is to discover Batwoman's real identity.
Agent Cameron Chase.
Back in Gotham, Maggie and Commisioner Gordon are at the site where some drowned kids have washed up.  This makes it six drowned, thirteen missing.  The only lead Maggie has is a local legend called "La Llorona".  A woman who let her kids drown then drowned herself and came back as a vengeful spirit.

Kate and Bette are back after their night patrol. Kate says she thinks Bette isn't taking things seriously and not pulling her weight.  Then her father appears.  She chews him out over lying about her sister then tells him to get lost.  Later that night as Batwoman she checks out the place where the drowned kids were found and Batman approaches her, "I have a proposition for you" he says.

Later Kate and Better are out crimefighting and Kate says she told Batman "I'd think about it."  She says Batman Incorporated is "either a stroke of brilliance or totally insane."  She doesn't like the idea of taking orders from Batman:

"I don't even want to think about the daddy issues that might imply."

Bette says her father will keep calling on Kate until she agrees to talk to him.  Kate says Bette gets either her or her father in her life and she needs to decide which soon, or "I'm going to take the decision away from you."
Kate and Bette fight crime.
Next day Maggie is confronted by Agent Chase who tells her Maggie is at the top of her "who is Batwoman" list.  She hands over her card so Maggie can contact her to prove otherwise or suggest an alternative.  Later in a church, the weeping woman La Llorona abducts another child.

Maggie and Kate are on a date flirting heavily with each other.  Maggie tells her about having to deal with the Weeping Woman while having a government bureaucrat breathing down her neck who thinks she is Batwoman.  Maggie then says she'd arrest Batwoman for intefering in her case.  Then she says "can we get out of here?"  They walk back to Kate's place and kiss goodnight.  Kate says she wants to see her again soon and they part.
More Kate and Maggie flirting.
Maggie is called to a crime scene where Agent Chase is waiting.  Some of the dead are were-people from the Religion of Crime.  Maggie doesn't recognise the uniforms of the other dead bodies.  Maggie speculates on how it all went down.  That the initial victim had his hand chopped off before being dragged away by one of the sides, but it is unclear which.  The watching Batwoman says "nice work babe".
Batman appears behind her and she tells him she hasn't made up her mind about joining his organisation.  She asks him what Agent Chase wants with her, he says Chase will tear Gotham apart to find her real identity.  He also advises her to keep Flamebird out of the Weeping Woman case.  "Murdered sidekicks tend to come back from the dead as super villians."

In a house on the pier, Batwoman is having a look round.  She is surprised by Maggie but says to her, "It started in the boat house didn't it?" before escaping.  Maggie calls Chase saying she knows where she can find Batwoman, who is currently exploring under the pier, and who then gets dragged under the water by a mysterious force.
Batwoman faces her past underwater.
As she is pulled under a voice says she is "such a sad little girl" and that "I can taste the deep scars on your soul."  She says Kate can leave it all behind and "you can sleep with me here forever."  But Batwoman breaks free and surfaces gasping for air.

She clambers out of the water and is greeted by Agent Chase and her people.  She says Batwoman is wanted in connection with a terrorist attack, that being the situation in Book One her father covered up.  Batwoman breaks free and knocks out the men guarding her motorbike and races off on it.

She's missed a date with Maggie.  She arrives back home and tells Bette she is done trying to train her, she "doesn't have what it takes."  She cruelly says that the only thing Bette ever lost was a beauty pageant.  Bette slaps her and runs off saying she's a control freak.

Kate: "You're a bitch Kate Kane".

She says sadly as she sits on the bed.  Meanwhile Agent Chase has gone after Jacob Kane next.  She asks about the cover-up but he refuses to speak about it.  She needles him about the way his daughter is living her life right now and if he is proud of her.  He says he will be proud when "she starts doing something worthwhile with her life."  He then asks Chase if her father would be proud of her and leaves.
Bette suits up to crime fight despite Kate's rejection.
She calls Director Bones and he says to forget about the father for now and concentrate on the sidekick next.  We then see Bette getting dressed up as Flamebird.  Kate goes to Maggie's place to apologise for standing her up, then ends up crying in her arms.  She says Maggie is beautiful and they passionately kiss. Then sex happens.

As Maggie and Kate make tasteful black and white love, Flamebird is fighting La Llorona and a large man with a sycthe for a hand.  He guts her and leaves her for dead.
Flamebird meanwhile is nearly killed.
In the morning Maggie and Kate discuss the case of the missing kids.  Meanwhile Chase finds Flamebird just clinging to life and has her taken someplace else.  Batwoman is speaking with a woman who worked at the morgue when two kids who were killed when playing in a disused boathouse were bought in.  Apparently the mother still reeked of gin when she came to identify them.  Her name was Maria Salvaje.

Back with Agent Chase she tricks the barely alive Bette into giving her a name so she doesn't die alone. "Kate Kane" whispers Bette.  Chase says that's an interesting coincidence, then orders Bette to be dropped off at Gotham Central Hospital.
Tricked by Agent Chase.
Batwoman has found Maria's father and he says she drowned herself to be with her children.  Agent Chase meets with Director Bones who has come to Gotham in person because she has "unmasked one of Batman's shadow soldiers..."

Director Bones: "...there's no way I'm missing what comes next."

Batwoman goes to the boathouse and calls for Maria, who appears saying "you can't be here.  This is desecration.  This place is sacred."  Batwoman says it is the site of her suffering.  Maria says she will share her suffering with everyone starting with Batwoman.  She gets into Batwoman's head, Alice/Beth bursts out of Batwoman's body.  Maria says "now face what you have lost".
Batwoman faces down La Llorona.
Batwoman manages to break free of Maria's control saying she is not responsible for what happened to her sister, but Maria did choose, "to be a drunken careless mother".  She needs to look at what she has become.  In distress, Maria says "they made me do things".  Batwoman says she can atone by telling her where the missing kids are.  Maria turns back into a normal looking woman and fades away, just before she disappears she says:

Maria: "The others are in Medusa's coils. But you can still save them.  Please save them".

Then she is gone.  "Who the hell is Medusa?" says Batwoman to herself.  Then back at home she finds Director Bones and Agent Chase in her flat.  She goes to attack Chase who fends her off saying they know she is Batwoman.

She shows her Flamebird's blood-stained costume and tell her they found Bette bleeding out in an alley and that she is now in a stable condition at Gotham General.  Director Bones gets to the point, he wants Kate to work for the D.E.O and dismantle Medusa.  When she asks what it is, he says it is a criminal cartel getting a foothold in Gotham.  If she joins them she gets access to technology not even invented yet and her father won't go to prison for orchestrating the cover-up of the events of Book one.
Director Bones gives Kate no choice.
Thus blackmailed, Kate goes and sits by Bette's sickbed.  Batman is there as well, and Kate doesn't seem bothered he knows her identity now.  Batman says her working for the D.E.O will put her at odds with him.  She says she knows what lines don't get crossed.  Batman says Bones will "eventually force her into an impossible choice."  The book ends with Batwoman telling the parents from the start of the book that the Weeping Woman is gone and she will do everything in her power to bring their children home.

This is a good start to Batwoman's New 52 run.  It goes without saying that JH Williams III's art elevates the thing as a whole, even if the writing isn't as tight and focused as it was under Greg Rucka.  Giving Batwoman a more "magical" enemy to face off against makes her stand out from the run of the mill criminals and psychos that the rest of the Bat-family deal with and of course give JH Williams III carte blanche to go crazy depicting the ghostly and monstrous across gorgeous double page spreads.  Agent Chase, the D.E.O and Director Bones aren't new characters, in fact JH Williams III drew a miniseries they starred in early in his career and which I may feature on the blog at some point in the future.  The romance and instant connection between Maggie and Kate is well written and the love scene treated as erotic and sexy, rather than tacky and explotative.  Now I know some people will say that any sex scene between two women is pandering to the male gaze, but guess what?  Us lesbians quite like seeing two women fucking as well and I don't see why our fun has to be curtailed just because we share predilections with heterosexual men.  Anyway, Batwoman at this point was one of the high points of the New 52, gorgeous to look at and an enjoyable read, roll on the next volume "To Drown The World" which continues the hunt for the lost children and what exactly is Medusa.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Saga Book 1 (#1-6)

"You know for a pacifist you sure beg to get stabbed a lot" - Alana

So the internet had been bothering me lately about reading Saga.  I'd see it being covered in various places and the internet nagged me about checking it out.  The internet can be pushy like that.  I said I'd get around to it but kept forgetting when it was time to treat myself to a new comic collection.  Then I started reading Brian K. Vaughan's Ex Machina and found him to be an excellent writer, so when Christmas saw me with a book token to spend I took the plunge and baged the first two volumes of Saga.  It is brilliant.  I find myself saying if you are at all interested in science fiction and fantasy comics that you give this write-up a miss so you don't spoilerise yourself for it.  The series is still on-going as we speak though and a big part of me wants to sing it's praises and encourage as many people as possible to start buying it so it doesn't get cancelled before its time (not that I think that's likely to happen but you never know...).  In a nutshell, Saga is the tale of a pair of star-crossed lovers.  Two aliens whose planets are at war with each other who run off together and have a child.  The child is narrating the story from sometime in the future as her parents try and keep her safe from all kinds of threats.  What's notable about the series is that the characters all talk normally and in a fairly salty manner as well.  No high faluting language here, which really grounds it and makes the otherwise weird and wonderful characters all the more relatable.  The art is also worthy of massive praise, Fiona Staples draws the story beautifully and her art captures the characters emotions superbly as she is called upon to render all kinds of crazy alien creatures.  So lets take the plunge into the first six issues of Saga.

The story begins with the narrator's parents giving birth to her in a garage on a planet called "Cleave".  One is a winged female called Alana, the other a horned male called Marko.  Alana groans and says she feels like she is shitting.  Marko assures her:

Marko: "You have never been more beautiful than you are right now."

Finally Alana gives birth and Marko holds up the baby with tears in his eyes.  "It's a girl".
And with this image a few pages in, I fell in love with Marko, Alana, thair baby, Fiona Staples art and reaffirmed by love for Brian K.Vaughn's writing.  A gorgeous visual.
Marko bites her umbilical cord, Alana asks why he doesn't use his sword.  He says he made a vow never to draw it from its scabbard again.  Alana says they don't have to make a decision on her name until her "wing bleeding".  Marko says she won't be subjected to "barbarous religious nonsense."

Alana: "Are we really having a fight now?  Because that's how we ended up with this one."

Then suddenly some winged soldiers appear lead by an alien with a TV for a head.  Alana is to be arrested for desertion and aiding and abetting the enemy.  Then suddenly also appear some horned aliens after Marko, speaking an untranslated language.  Both sides exchange fire killing each other and miraculously Marko, Alana and the baby are left alive.
A one in a million survival.
The garage owner who betrayed them is dying and to make up for what he did, he gives them a map and shows them where they can reach the underground tunnels safely. Then he dies.  The narrator then tells us  her father is from "Wreath", and her mother is from the big planet it orbits called "Landfall."

Narrator: "If there was ever a time that these two got along, nobody remembers."

The war spread to unaffliated planets who bacame forced to pick a side.  We are then introduced to two TV headed aliens of the "Robot Kingdom" having sex.  They are on Landfall's side, "the highest bidder in the war of good versus good."
Gale and Prince Robot IV.
The male, Prince Robot IV is called to see a Landfall intelligence agent called Gale.  He shows them that Alana and Marko seem to be together volunteraly and the situation between them needs to be resolved as soon as possible.  The Robot Kingdom needs to show "It can sill pull its weight and deliver some righteous vengeance when the need arises."

Back with Alana and Marko, they are down in the tunnels.  The map shows them the way to something called the "Rocketship Forest".  Alana wants to go there to get a ship and escape the galaxy's war.

Alana: " I want to show our girl the universe."

Then we cut to a human looking man with a large bald cat walking with him.  He is a bounty hunter or a "Freelancer" called "The Will" and his cat is the "Lying Cat" that knows when people are telling fibs.  He meets with a horned Wreath alien who says the tablets of prophecy show Marko to be a huge threat and who will be responsible for the death of millions of souls. "Lying" says Lying Cat.
The Will and Lying Cat.
"Fine" she says.  She wants Marko and his "whore" eliminated for the good of troop morale, she gives him a card with money to spend as and when he needs it and tells him he is not the only freelancer she has hired.  He also needs to collect their offspring "alive and unharmed" to get his full payment.

Back with Alana and Marko, he says they shouldn't be travelling after dark as that is when "The Horrors" come out.  She dismisses them as imaginary and says the Rocketship Forest is close by just over something called "The Uncanny Bridge".  But they walk out and stumble upon a huge battle going on, blocking their way.

Sadly Alana says she "was stupid to think we could outrun this retarded war."  Marko says they can find an alternate route and this time they have with them "Hope".  Alana smiles and says if he wants to call their daughter that she wants a divorce.  But she does like something beginning with "H".  And they share a passionate kiss.
Snogging while under the watchful eyes of something...
The Will calls his agent and discovers the other Freelancer that has been sent is someone called "The Stalk" who he appears to have a bad history with.  He decides to go and max out the card he was given on a planet called "Sextillion" and abandon the job as "if The Stalk is on their trail... those kids are already dead."

Meanwhile Alana and Marko are being attacked by living vines.  Marko says he needs a secret to use in a spell against them and an embarrassed Alana admits she likes the taste of her own breast milk.  Now free, Marko queries this and she says "Hazel" threw up in her mouth earler.  Exhausted they snuggle up and sleep together for a while.

Prince Robot IV arrives on Cleave and is greeted by Lance Corporal McHenry.  He asks her about Alana, she says she mostly kept to herself and read books.  Before she left she lent her favourite one to McHenry, and Prince Robot IV wants to see it.

Back in the forest, Alana and Marko wake up to a noise approaching.  Marko announces that they mean no harm, "we have renounced violence in every form".  He lays down his sword and asks "may my family pass in peace?"  He comes face to face with a woman/spider hybrid, she is The Stalk and she stabs Marko through the shoulder with her tongue and he collapses unconcious.
The Stalk.
Alana pulls a gun on her saying she'll kill her.  But The Stalk says it's just a stun gun. She tells Alana her employers want her "creepy mutt unharmed."  She tells Alana that Marko was "quite a vicious piece of shit back in the day."  Alana says she is lying then she holds the gun to Hazel's head saying at this distance it will kill her because she'd rather that than have her "ending up with an evil cunt like you."

Then some weird moaning noises are heard.  "It's the Horrors" says The Stalk and she runs off.  Alana runs over to Marko who is bleeding badly.  Then a voice says "Hello.  We've been watching you.  Looks like you could use a hand".  And the speaker is revealed as the top half of a teenage girl ghostlike figure with similarly badly injured looking ghosts with her.

Alana begs them not to hurt them.  The half girl says Marko isn't dead and she knows because "we're fucking ghosts."  They are the indingenous people of Cleave who when they die get to live on as "'the spiritual defenders of Cleave'" says Izabel somewhat sarcastically with air quotes.  They were wiped out when the two armies went to war on Cleave, Alana says they have nothing to do with the war now.
The other ghosts leave, with just the half girl staying.  Marko regains conciousness and ALana asks if he can cast a healing spell, but he needs snow as an ingrediant.  The half girl says she can take them to where there is snow for a price.  She wants to leave the planet as much as they do, if she is bonded to the soul of a native she can go with them.  As Hazel was born on Cleave she would be the pefect candidate.

Prince Robot IV goes to interrogate a Wreathian prisoner.  He shows him the book that was Alana's favourite, it is a cheesy looking romance novel called "A Nightmare Smoke" by a one "D. Oswald Heist".  He asks if Alana shared passages from it, but the prisoner doesn't respond.  He then asks him if he knows why Alana only escaped with Marko.  The prisoner asks him if he was  "Threshold".  Prince Robot IV says he was, why? The prisoner says he remembers "how many of you ass heads we bury there."  Prince Robot IV punches him across the room.
Prince Robot IV and the possibly seditious book.
Back with Alana, she is carrying Hazel in one arm and has Marko slung over her back.  She is being followed by the half girl who says she is being stupid, that she knows a shortcut and all she wants is to "hitch a ride with your kid."  She says her name is "Izabel" and they arrive at a cave entrance.  Izabel says to follow her inside.  "Inside the ominous caves of doom?" says Alana dubiously.

Izabel: "Or you can take your chances out here.  But fair warning, not all the loals are as awesome as me".

The Stalk is under attack from some indigenous creatures and she puts in a call to The Will.  He says he is "never picking up for that bitch again".  Lying Cat says "Lying" and The Will takes the call.  The Stalk says she could use a partner on this mission, but he is still mad at her for something that happened on a previous one, and he refuses and ends the call.
Hazel and Izabel are bonded.
Alana is led deeper into the cave until the reach a river.  Izabel says she died when she stepped on a landmine, and finally Alana agrees to the soul bonding.  She asks if it will hurt Hazel.  "Only on the day it ends" says Izabel.  There is a whirl of light and Hazel and Izabel are now attached by the souls.  They get into a boat to where some snow will be, but Marko says deliriously, "...tell Gwendolyn I loved her so much."

Alana: "Who the fuck is Gwendolyn?"

The Will is welcome to Sextillion, a pleasure planet, by two giant female heads on legs.  He is told he must leave Lying Cat behind, and Lying Cat slinks off back to the ship with The Will's weapons, in a sulk.

Alana watches the prone Marko who is lying in the snow casting the healing spell.  Alana threatens to cut his heart out when he recovers because he never told her he used to be married.  Izabel says it doesn't matter now, he has her and Hazel.  But she wants to know what else he is keeping from him.  Marko sits up and with a start spots Izabel.  Alana reassures him Izabel helped them, now he needs to tell her about Gwendolyn.  "Ah. Fuck" says Marko.
The Will is not impressed by the sex going on.
The Will walks through a building where many aliens are engaged in orgies.  An alien who appears to be some kind of manager comes up to him and says he looks "disappointed".  The Will says it all seems "a little safe".  The manager says he looks like he is a man who had his heart broken by a strong woman, what he needs now is a "slave girl" and he'll take him to one.

Back with Alana and Marko, Izabel is cooing over Hazel while they sit and talk.  Marko admits he and Gwendolyn are fiancees.  His marriage was arranged with her when he was in High School.  But during the war he grew apart from her.  When he first left Wreath" he was a "gung-ho kid" who wanted to make his family proud.  But all that changed when he first saw action.  He tried to tell Gwendolyn this but she'd just responds with letters telling him "to fight the good fight."

Marko: "I was becoming this completely new person, but she was frozen in place."

Alana demands to know why he didn't tell her about he.  He says that Alana said all the people they had been with in the past shouldn't matter.  Alana say it sounded like he still loved her.  Marko says he was delusional, and Alana is the only woman for him. 
Marko reassures Alana.
He then admits Gwendolyn might want her rings back. "You gave me another woman's wedding ring?!" yells Alana.  Marko says they are enchanted with a translator spell so he thought they could put them to better use.  Mollified, Alana forgives him when he reaffirms she's the hottest woman he has ever slept with.

The Will is led deeper into the pleasure palace and the creepy manager alien introduces him to the slave girl.  She is a six year old human looking girl.  The Will silently regards her, then tells her to close her eyes.  He places his hands on either side of the managers head and crushes his skull like an egg.  The slave girl hugs him and says "thank you".
Take that creepy paedophile groomer alien.
Alana and Marko are out of the caves, it is daytime so Izabel is gone for now.  Suddenly Alana detects a ship coming after them.  It is a "Royal Vondertank".  They don't have time to get back to the caves, so Marko finally draws his sword saying "we fight."

Sitting on a toilet, Prince Robot IV reads the romance novel.  His wife calls him and he grumbles a bit about what's been going on, saying the only thing he "is close to catching is a staph infection."  He starts to tell her about the book, but she interrupts and says she is pregnant.  This makes him very happy, but his father won't allow him home not even for the birth until he completes his mission.  McHenry then rushes in saying a scout ship has spotted something.

We return to Alana and Marko.  The soldiers have disembarked and Marko says to Alana "no killing".  The soldiers order them to "step away from the baby".  They open fire and Alana is hit in the shoulder with a stun blast.
Marko can kick serious ass when provoked.
This sends Marko berserk and he takes down all the soldiers in a flurry of kicks, punches and headbutts and cuts one of them's hand off with his sword.  He raises his blade saying "cut of their fucking heads" But Alana fires a stun blast at him, knocking him down and bringing him to his senses.

Marko: "What would I do without you?"

Back with The Will and the Slave Girl, he is trying to get her back to his ship, but he is brought to a halt by a blue alien called Mama Sun who is the Slave Girl's owner and who is holding a gun to Lying Cat's head.  She says to him:

Mama Sun: "So it's morally acceptable to execute people of any age, but only make love to a select few?"

The Will says whatever, she is coming with him.  Mama Sun says the Slave Girl is her property and every new "hire" on Sextillion is injected with an elixir and if they are removed before their term is up it hardens their arteries and kills them.  Lying Cat backs this up.  The Will asks if he can buy her.  Mama Sun says he can and she costs "six hundred and fifty thousand" which is more than The Will's ship.  She takes the girl away while The Will frantically thinks of ways he can raise some cash.
Mama Sun wants her property back.
On board the scout ship they have captured, Marko and Alana discuss the fight they just had.  Marko wonders if the binding spell he left round the men will last until they are discovered.  Marko says violence begets more violence, "sooner or later our family will pay for what happened here today."  Hazel laughs much to their delight:

Alana: "Well, the spoiled brat's got a lot to be happy about.  We're alive.  We've got each other, and the rocketship forest is right around the corner.  Face it, today was a good day."

The Stalk comes across the soldiers bound together by Marko's spell.  The Will calls her, asking if she still needs a partner as he needs some fast cash. Then Prince Robot IV and McHenry appear on flying horses.  McHenry thinks she sees The Stalk go for a gun and Prince Robot IV blasts a hole right through The Stalk, killing her while she is still connected to The Will over the phone.
The Stalk is killed.
Alana and Marko arrive at the Rocketship Forest, it's night time and Izabel reappears.  The forest is a blasted heath, but Izabel says it's an illusion that her people are responsible for, "us floaty types are masters of misdirection remember?" She reveals a huge rocketship shaped tree right in front of them.

Prince Robot IV realises he has killed a Freelancer by mistake.  He picks up her phone and reports this fact to The Will.  With cold anger, The Will says:

The Will: "Listen to my voice, boy.  I aim to murder you right after I murder everything you ever loved."

He hangs up and Prince Robot IV says, "Good lord.  Psycotics, the lot of them".  The Will puts his head in his hands and silently weeps.

Alana is filled with trepidation about taking to space in something made of wood.  Marko assures her that it is safe and will be invisible to modern instruments.  Izabel says they have to make a sacrifice to the ship, to leave behind something of real value.  Marko offers up his sword.  Alana says no, he used it to save them before.  But Marko says:

Marko: "When a man carries an instrument of violence, he always finds the justification to use it.  If we really want to escape this war, we have to stop bringing it with us."
Marko sacrifices his family sword.
He smashes it over his knee and the rocketship opens up and they go inside.  It then takes off. Alana asks Izabel who is steering it, Izabel says "you don't steer a rocketship.  You ride it."  However the ship will be open to suggestions if it likes them.  So Alana says she wants to visit Quietus where they'll find "the smartest person in the universe."

Back on Cleave, Prince Robot IV realises they have left the planet.  He goes back to base where special agent Gale calls him up about the dead Freelancer.  Prince Robot IV says she was after the couple as well and this means Wreath high command know about the baby.  He says the father is a "force of fucking nature, but it's the mother who really frightens me."  He takes out the romance novel and looks inside and sees the author resides on Quietus...
Hazel's first home.
Marko and Alana make themselves at home on the rocketship.  But suddenly Marko detects magic incoming and a male and female Wreathian teleport on board.  Marko says smashing the sword let them track them.  One of them zaps Izabel and disperses her. Alana fires the stun gun and hits one, but before the fight can escalate, Marko yells at them in their language and holds up Hazel.  The pair stop attacking and the male says, "Oh".

Hazel: "And then my grandparents came to live with us."
Meet the grandparents.
And that brings Book One to a close.  What a brilliant start to what I hope is a long running series.  In six issues Vaughn brings us a world of fantastic creatures and aliens and a lead pair who are adorably in love despite all the hurdles against them. The use of naturalistic speech really helps identification with beings such as Prince Robot IV who can't show emotion on his face.  The banter between Marko and Alana is sweet and hilarious and leaves you really pulling for them to survive the odds against them. It's amazing how quickly you accept them having a "babysitter" who is bisected teenage girl and also a ghost because she's such a likeable yet snarky being.  It's a tale where a humanlike man can be in love with a half woman, half spider and it makes perfect sense, with his threat of vengeance being a possible future plot strand. A wider universe of conflict is also lightly sketched in via dialogue, and I'm sure we'll get to see more of the war as the story continues.  Hazel seems very important to both sides, setting up another possible on-going plotline as does Prince Robot IV's concern over the romance novel and author Alana is a fan of.  And the art is amazing.  No matter how bizarre the creature, Fiona Staples imbues it with personality and emotion beautifully.  Backgrounds are sparse, but that's fine because this is a story that is fully about relationships and Fiona Staples makes sure we always have the characters front and centre. This is a fantastic start to a compelling story that has so far been collected in five trade paperbacks and is still ongoing.  This is as much a fantasy series as it is science fiction and so has huge cross genre appeal so if you are at all interested in either, dive in, you won't regret it!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Doctor Thirteen: Architecture And Mortality (Tales of The Unexpected [2006] #1-8)

"So sue me.  It's just that other peoples troubles right now can't compare to mine" - Doctor 13

So it's time to get meta.  Really, really meta.  Like Grant Morrison times a hundred, which is an apt comparison as Morrison himself makes an appearance in this comic. Yes this comic breaks the fourth wall.  In fact it doesn't just break it, it smashes it to pieces and catapaults the fragments into the sun.  This is nothing more or less than Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang having some gentle fun with the state of the DCU post Infinite Crisis and the four "architects" of it - Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid who were collaborating on a huge weekly maxiseries called "52" as well as writing the company's top characters. Azzarello and Chiang use a gaggle of weird and wonderful characters to do their commentary with in a story that ran as a back-up to a Spectre miniseries, Tales Of The Unexpected. The star is Doctor Thirteen who is an old DCU character. Debuting in 1951 he is a living irony. A professional sceptic and debunker who lives in a world where magic is real, fantastical creatures and aliens walk amongst humans and gods most definitely exist.  He was killed off in the Zatanna mini of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers crossover event but one assumes (and it is heavily hinted to be so) it was the changes to the DCU in the wake of Infinite Crisis that bought him back to life in the DC "reality".  A nerdy point to be concerned with maybe, but because this is a story of DC characters living on the fringes of the shared universe and forced into a situation where they must justify their continued existence in it, it becomes an important one.  Who decides who makes the cut?  The architects of those grand repurposing events and the new status quos they bring about of course! So this is a gleefully tongue-in-cheek tale by Azzarello, and the art by Cliff Chiang is absolutely gorgeous.  It has an almost pop art sensibility about it and manages to easily keep pace with the frenetic inventiveness of the postmodern script. Let the silliness begin.

It starts with a prologue showing prehistoric creatures fighting.  It apologises for starting with one, "a rather sophomoric attempt at giving said story an importance it just lacks." Yeah, it's gonna be that kind of book, you have been warned.  The prologue finishes with a caveman character called "Anthro" daubing the cave walls with "Prenez Garde Aux Architectes".
Doctor 13
Doctor 13 then introduces himself listing all the things he doesn't believe in.  Especially not ghosts, but he finds himself holding onto one dressed as a Buccaneer (Captain Fear) and shouting "don't die!".

But that's not for a while now, in the present he is having a dream.  He is on a tropical beach with a young boy called Genius Jones who'll answer any question for a dime.  Before he can ask one, his daughter Traci wakes him up telling them there is a call for him.  It is an old school acquaintence who used to refer to him as "Le septic" which he reasoned was French for "The Skeptic."  His friend wants him to investigate some strange goings on in the French Alps so he and Traci travel out there.

Once there they investigate a downed plane.  Apparently the survivors took to cannibalism to survive.

Doctor 13: "According to the survivors about once a week one of them would disappear.  Afew days later, they would find the person... headless, skinned, gutted and bled dry.  Butchered."

He says it was a story to save the soul.  "Which doesn't exist by the way" while Traci rolls her eyes having heard this all before.  Traci asks if they crashed in a plane would he eat her.  Doctor 13 doesn't answer, he just notes the survivors said the monsters responsible are "architects".  But they can't be because monsters don't exist.
Doc 13 with his daughter Traci.
Suddenly a Yeti rears up in front of Traci.  Doctor 13 says there is no such thing, it's a hoax.  So it has unnatural strength, "so do junkies gooped up on gop."  He approaches it and it grabs and starts to throttle him, revealing a human underneath the costume.  It is Andrew Bennett from "I Vampire."

We get another flash forward to Captain Fear "dying" in Doctor 13's arms.  A mystery woman comes up to him and says "our fearful quest is done."  He then wakes in a cave, Traci says he fainted, Doctor 13 insists he just passed out.  Standing close by is Bennett.  Traci ignores him and points to the French cave graffiti.

Doctor 13 reasons that because French is a relatively modern language it can't have been done by cavemen. "Beware The Architects" Bennett says with a flourish, before introducing himself as a four hundred year old vampire.

Doctor 13: "You goths sometimes take your role playing games a bit too far."
Andrew Bennett.
Bennett snarls at him and shows his fangs.  Doctor 13 tells Traci to watch out, he doesn't believe in vampires but he does believe in crazy people.  After a short argument about how many times Bennett has died, in which Doctor 13 likens him to a cat sarcastically.  Traci wanders off while they bicker.  Then Doctor 13 hears her scream and rushes outside to look for her and gets punched in the head by a furry arm with a swastika armband on it.

He finds himself back on the tropical beach with Genius Jones.  He gives him a dime and asks him where he is.

Jones: "In a dream.  It's a safe place to be because reality isn't real.  A wrecking ball as big as the universe has destroyed it.  It's being rebuilt again.  Without you in it this time."

Doctor 13 gives him another dime and asks how he knows all this.  Genius Jones simply says he is very smart.

Back in the Alps, Doctor 13 wakes up and asks Bennett to come help him.  Bennett says he can't leave the cave because of the sun.  "You really are delusional" says Doctor 13.  Bennett asks him to explain the large footprints leading away from them, Doctor 13 crouches to examine them, then brushes the snow away to reveal he frozen body of Anthro the caveman. As he ponders that this "could really be something" a pirate ship appears floating in the air behind him.
Some serious denial here.
We jump forwards to Doctor 13 on the prow of the ghost ship.  "None of this is happening" he repeats to himself, before yelling it.  Captain Fear, who is in charge of the ship has also been joined by Bennett now it is dark and the still frozen in a slab of ice body of Anthro.  It seems Doctor 13 told Captain Fear the direction Traci had been taken in leads to gold.

They sail over the mountains to a jungle, which is an odd thing to find in the middle of the Alps.  There they also discover a Nazi compound where Traci has been tied up by talking Nazi gorillas.  One of them fires a rocket at the ship, but it passes harmlessly through.  Captain Fear jumps down to battle their leader who introduces them as "das Primate Patrol!"
Talking Nazi gorillas of course. Captain Fear goes on the offensive.
Another gorilla fires a machine gun through the ship and riddles Bennett with bullets, although that doesn't really affect him.  As the battle continues, Doctor 13 insists to himself this isn't real, he must be dreaming.

Doctor 13: "This is just my brain dredging something embarrassing up from my past.  Blood-suckers, freebooters - architects; metaphors.  That's the way the brain works when the eyes are closed."

He says to himself he needs someone to pinch him as he balances on the melting iceblock containing Anthro.  Anthro is able to give him a pinch and in surprise Doctor 13 falls off the ship and lands by Traci.  Gesticulating with a banana, he says she can relax because this isn't happening.

Then Genius Jones appears and waves at them.  Traci grumbles that she hopes it is she who is dreaming.  Then a ghost Confederate General on horseback leaps into the compound and introduces himself as "James Ewell Brown Stuart" and he will "not stand idly by whilst the virtue of a young lady is assailed."  Doctor 13 still insists none of this is happening and gets hit in the face by some ghost horsecrap. "A metaphor!" grins Traci.

The Haunted Tank also turns up to help out and a huge fight ensues.  Doctor 13 unties Traci and admits to all the strange things that are happening before he says "I have no idea what's going on!".  The ghost general advises Doctor 13 to get Traci somewhere safe.  A Nazi gorrilla tries to stop them going into one of the buildings, but Anthro - now fully thawed out - attacks him.  Traci thinks Anthro is kinda sexy.
Genius Jones.
Doctor 13 seeks out Genius Jones and offers him a whole dollar to answer his question.  Jones says he wants a dime, or ten dimes.  "I can't help you.. if you won't give me a dime" he says apologetically.  The Nazi gorrilla's leader appears and holds them at gunpoint while he tells them his story.  He was captured by the Germans and trained along with many others to be super-soldiers.

Doctor 13: "Hmm.  I suppose that's just as plausible as doping a scrawny four-f milktoast with steroids and vita rays."

The Leader goes on to say that after one skirmish they were abandoned by the Reich.  He then asks Traci if he would like to create the Master Race with him. She is understandably grossed out.  Doctor 13 stands protectively in front of her and the Nazi gorilla suddenly vomits all over him.  Then Infectious Lass from The League Of Substitute Heroes appears, she used her power to give him an upset stomach and take him down.
Infectious Lass to the rescue.
In walks a bullet hole ridden Bennett who says "thank the heavens you and your daughter are safe."  This turn of phrase irritates Doctor 13 and he snaps:

Doctor 13: "Sure, why not?  Thank the heavens, thank the hells, thank the purgatories... and lets not forget the limbos where the little babies are.  But let's not thank you!"

The Nazi Gorilla recovers enough to see their statue of Hitler part destroyed and poking out of the ground and kneeling cries, "Got damn you awl to hell!"

Then Captain Fear holds a sword to Doctor 13's throat saying the Doctor lied about there being gold here.  Doctor 13 admits there is no gold, "they took something even more precious.  My only daughter."  Traci rolls her eyes again.  The ghost General tells Captain Fear to leave Doctor 13 alone.  Captain Fear calls him a yankee which enrages him and the General and the Captain begin to fight.
Ghost fight!
Infectious Lass says that in the future they learned that team-ups always start with people on the same side having a fight first.  Doctor 13 goes sifting through the wreckage looking for dimes, because he saw men at the door before with a handful of them.  The mention of silver gets the Captains attention and he stops fighting.  They all find some dimes and have questions to ask.

Infectious Lass asks Genius Jones his name, which he finally gives them.  He says he was shipwrecked on a desert island with every book in the world.  He read them all and now knows everything.  Infectious Lass tells him she used to be in The Legion Of Superheroes, but got demoted to the Substitute Legion because her power was thought to be not that good.
A titanic team-up!
Captain Fear asks if there is any gold.  Jones answers in the negative.  Traci then asks "why are we here?"  Doctor 13 says that question has no answer but Jones responds:

Jones: "Because the Architects don't believe we need to exist."

The General hands over a dime and asks who the Architects are.  Jones says they are the ones who decide "who's who and who isn't."

Jones: "They are the official guides to the universe.  When it was decided that the old one fashioned by the architects that preceeded them didn't make enough cents.  They knocked the old one down and built a new one.  This is the fourth time it's happened."

He then goes on to say that there is another universe this one is at war with.  One that reinvents itself each summer and promises "'nothing will ever be the same again'".  Marvel's universe obviously.

Doctor 13 decides it's time to find and confront these Architects.  He will go with Bennett to look for them, the rest will stay on the ship.  Doctor 13 discover the Nazi gorilla leader is still alive and let him join them on their quest.  They find a hole with a ladder in it, but before they can descend, Mount Rushmore attacks the floating ship.
Love the attempt to portray Grant Morrison's accent.
Leaving the ship fighting Rushmore, Doctor 13, Bennett and the Gorilla descend into the hole and arrive on some train tracks.  Bennett gets splattered by a train.  Back at the Rushmore fight, the General and the Haunted Tank join in.  They hit it several times, but Traci wonders if a mountain can be hurt.  The mountain says it can't then starts to remould its face into those of the Architects.

Although he has been squished flat, Bennett is still alive/undead.  He just needs some blood to help repair himself.  Doctor 13 refuses, but the gorilla offers himself up, he also finally introduces himself as Julius.  The Architects meanwhile, grab the ship and says to those aboard, "nothing personal, but we never loved you. Sorry".  Then Traci uses magic to conjure up a huge sheet that covers the Architects and they crumble away.  The gang look at her in shock.

Traci: "Um.. don't tell my dad I did that OK?"

Doctor 13, the recovered Bennett and the now vampire Julius arrive at Times Square station. Doctor 13 goes up to the surface to check and see if it's still daylight on behalf of the vampires.  He comes out to a deserted and surreal landscape where all the buildings have been replaced by giant clocks.  "It's safe" he says.
Literally "Times" Square.
The pirate ship comes sailing underwater then into the sky to look for Doctor 13.  Meanwhile he is with the two vampires exploring further and they come across a man running a find-the-lady card scam.  Julius wants to play, but Doctor 13 says the game is rigged.  The man then flicks the pack of cards at them revealing images of all the major DCU characters on them.

On the ship, Infectious Lass tries to think of a way to use her power to find Doctor 13.  She then slumps and says "my power sucks", but Captain Fear comforts her and love hearts blossom between them.  Jones says Traci could use her magic powers but she says if her dad found out "he'd ground me forever!".  Infectious Lass says she shouldn't deny who she is.  So Traci casts a spell and all the buildings point in the direction they should go.

The man running the card game and the three spectators stand revealed as the four Architects, each wearing a mask of the main character they were writing at the time (Grant Morrison as Batman, Geoff Johns as Superman, Greg Rucka as Wonder Woman and Mark Waid as The Flash).  Doctor 13 wants to know how he can be talking with them if he doesn't exist.  One of the responds that Doctor 13 talks to his companions but doesn't think they are real. Doctor 13 says he merely questions who they are.
Meeting the Architects.
The Architects say they need to "reinvigorate" the stories because if nobody buys it, the universe ceases to exist.  They say they have some use for Doctor 13 and his companions.  They debated about keeping the Nazi gorilla, but when he became a vampire as well, they definitely still wanted him.  Though he needs a name change to something like "Primaul".  They tell Bennett that as a normal vampire he isn't interesting enough, "I'm.. I'm really gay!" says Bennett desperately.  The Architects say to Doctor 13 they can save his daughter.

But then the pirate ship swoops into view, the Architects attack it with a green light which crashes the ship and turns Captain Fear into a withered corpse who crumbles to dust in Doctor 13 arms as we saw at the start of this adventure.  Genius Jones says they are all doomed now, but standing outside the Daily Planet building, Doctor 13 resolutely says "the only way we are history is over my dead body."
Travelling to the final battle.
All of them bar Julius/Primaul cram into the Daily Planet's lift and go on up.  At the top they are attacked by a horde of empty costumes.

Traci: "It's an army of costumes!  What would you call that?!"

Jones: "A 'war' drobe."

Groan.  They all get wrapped up tight, but Infectious Lass infects them with moths and the costumes disintegrate.  Primaul appears and the Architects order him to grab Traci and he does so, flying her up to the floating platform they are on.

Doctor 13 wants their reassurance that Traci has a place in their new universe.  One of them responds that "one thing this meaningless story has accomplished was giving Traci 13 a new lease on life."  Doctor 13 says she is the "only thing I believe in".  One of the Architects surrounds Doctor 13 and his companions in a circle of flame saying they are no longer a part of this universe.

Doctor 13: "Let me tell you something about the universe, as someone who's gotten used to being ignored by it for a long time.  We.. meaning vampires, cavemen, dead - now really dead - pirates, civil war spectres, precocious little boys and - unfortunately - girls who can give you diseases... we all have a place in it!"

He asks why they are doing this.  They say because the future of the universe is at stake.  Doctor 13 says to Genius Jones that there were architects before these ones, so there will be more afterwards too.

Doctor 13: "You don't believe in me? Big deal!  With better reason I don't believe in you!"
The Architects are foiled.
And he walks through the flames.  A whirlwind starts to swallow the architects up, while Primaul swoops in and rescues Traci.  As they are swallowed up one of the Architects says Doctor 13's steadfast denial destroyed them.  "But your story will end!  No matter what happens to us everyone's does!."

They leave behind a comic with Anthro on the cover.  Traci hugs her dad and says he is cool. Doctor 13 knocks a button which runs some footage of Captain Fear encased in a huge bar of chocolate being handed over to Black Manta.  They all decide to make their next quest a mission to rescue him.  As they gather in the lift, Doctor 13 frantically leafs through the comic.  "The architects were right!  Our story.. my story.. this story!"  and as the lift door closes he yells "STOP!" he turns to the reader and says "our lives are at stake! Please! Don't turn the pa-"
Seriously DC, why wasn't this team given their own comic?
And that brings this glorious romp to a close.  I have to say, if you're not massively steeped in DC lore both recent and of the past, much of this story will go over your head.  But the writing is smart and funny, Doctor 13 has many internal monologues about the nature of belief and his personal history that are funny even without the postmodern context so it's not totally unnapproachable for newbs.  And the art is so, so good.  Clean, simple linework that somehow manages to be extremely expressive at the same time.  The central premise which is how a fictional character might feel upon being written out of continuity during a linewide reboot is a compelling one and it also contrasts the gleeful daftness of the older characters with a modern comic universes desire to be more "relevant".  Perhaps my one quibble would be that Grant Morrison loves that kind of crazy shit, he's the man who put Tawky Tawny in another linewide crossover for goodness sake.  That said he also killed off Doctor 13 so maybe that balances things out.  If you're a DC fan and enjoy meta-commentary this is a truly enjoyable book, if you aren't you should probably give it a miss.  I love it!