Monday, August 13, 2007

Bite my tongue: Zaran and Machete were an improvement.

Way back around Captain America #302 or so, Batroc unveils the newest incarnation of Batroc's Brigade, which is less impressive than it sounds since it's just two other guys. To be fair, one of them, Zaran, has given Shang-Chi a hard time of it more than once; but with an Asian martial artist, a guy named Machete from south of the border that uses...machetes, and 'ze mastair ov savate,' they might as well have called themselves the Ethnic Stereotype League. (Pronounced 'Easel'? As in, when your evil plan can't stand on it's own, get Easel!)

They knocked Cap out?  Obviously hired but not trained by Batroc...
But this 'Brigade' is somehow less impressive, even though it has more guys. Probably because, it's just some guys. I had thought Captain America #149 was going to be their first appearance, but my issue is coverless, so I pulled it from GCD and it looks like it isn't. Were the Swordsman and the Living Laser called Batroc's Brigade when they teamed with him? If so, they need to have a serious talk with Batroc about billing.
Jesus, Nick, did someone put Vaporub on your eyepatch again or something?
This is kind of a weird issue all the way around: Cap is thinking things over hanging out at a S.H.I.E.L.D. installation, when Nick Fury asks him to join S.H.I.E.L.D. full-time. Cap declines, saying he needs to devote more time to his partnership with the Falcon; and Fury doesn't take the no graciously, taking a swing at Cap and declaring him persona non grata with S.H.I.E.L.D. This also effectively shoots Cap's love life in the foot, as Nick specifically forbids Agent 13 Sharon Carter from dealing with him. I don't know if there was an in-story reason for Nick flying off the handle, or if this was just another situation of a new writer trying to reset Cap's status quo as quickly as possible.

Leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. behind, Cap switches back to Steve Rogers, and reports to work as a cop, now assigned to a patrol car. Captain America, indeed, the idea of most super-heroes working as a police officer in their secret do I put this gently? Goddamn moronic? Is that too harsh? I know Nightwing was also working the cop by day, costumed vigilante by night angle: still, moronic. For one thing, I'm not sure an officer's shifts are that flexible, and it's hard to think of another job that would be more difficult to ditch out of for superhero hijinks. For another, it seems like the fast path to burnout, or confusing the two: hitting a jaywalker with your shield or reading the Red Skull his miranda or something. I know I've seen that guy  Piano bar?  Wanted poster, that was it, wanted poster. Lastly, I'm not sure how great a cop Cap's going to be, if he can't recognize Batroc out of costume. Seriously? How many people are roaming around with that mustache? Yukon Cornelius is the only other guy I can think of...I don't think Cap has ever seen Batroc unmasked--he mentions that one issue--and it seems like this has happened more than once: Cap sees a guy in plainclothes with a crazy mustache, but can't quite place him, Batroc shows up twenty minutes later. I'd just rough up everyone I saw with facial hair. Just in case.

For a comic girlfriend, Leila is pretty realistic, in that she's not overly sexualized, and she's horrible.  Dump her, Sam!In the subplot, the Falcon is taking an incredible amount of crap from his girlfriend while trying to track down some stolen children; who were of course stolen by Batroc, who naturally was working for the Stranger. Oh, well, that makes perfect sense...hey!

So the Stranger was stealing children.  Well, I guess that was bound to happen.
For those of you not familar with him, the Stranger made appearances in books like the original Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four back in the day, but is probably most recognized as a chair-filler whenever there's one of those big cosmic collections of omnipotent heavyweights like Eternity, Galactus, Master Order and Lord Chaos, and so on. Not a great looking character, and the shortest description of him would probably be, 'alien scientist dickweed,' as he's not above kidnapping lab rats for his experiments, which included Magneto at one point.

The other defining characteristic of the Stranger is that his origin is never the same twice, either because he's a lying bastard, or no one remembers his origin from one time to the next. He's been the condensed lifeforce of an entire alien race, he was supposed to be the back face on the Living Tribunal, and he always shows up at events like the Infinity Gauntlet, even though if he was so great, he probably wouldn't need a whole planet's worth of science fair exhibits. But, we'll save that for another time. Long story short, he's one of the last characters I'd have expected to turn up in Captain America #149, "All the Colors of Evil!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Sal Buscema, inks by Jim Mooney.

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