Look for the Union Label

The Goon #37

What we have here is not the typical funny, gross “Goon” story. This one is pretty dead serious.

Creator Eric Powell is a well-known liberal, but he’s also a big fan of unions. He takes a huge chunk of this story from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, where 146 people died in a fire that was made worse by nearly no safety regulations or systems. No one was ever punished for the disaster, but it helped lead to much stronger regulations protecting workers — something which Powell has surely noticed are in danger of being rolled back in the interest of enriching the “job creators” who never seem to create any jobs.

In this particular story, the sweatshop is called the Pentagram Girdle Factory, and it has tons of similarities to the historical sweatshop — nearly no safety precautions, fire marshals persuaded to look the other way, owners who turn a tidy profit off of the disaster thanks to insurance payouts, locked exits, trapped workers flinging themselves from the upper stories of the building, horrified onlookers powerless to help. After the surviving workers organize to demand better working conditions, the factory owner sends strikebreakers to beat down the protestors. But after the union goes to the Goon for help, the tide turns. The owner turns to the Zombie Master to use black magic to help him, but the Goon still beats down the bad guys. But is there any way to really hold the real villains responsible? Only in the comics, unfortunately…

Verdict: Thumbs up. An awesome change-of-pace — both educational and topical — with the great art and writing we’ve come to expect from Powell. I didn’t even realize this issue was coming out this week, but it’s definitely a great issue, though — if you haven’t gotten it, go pick it up.

The Defenders #2

Dr. Strange, Namor, the Silver Surfer, Iron Fist, and the Red She-Hulk are on the trail of Nul the World-Breaker, which recently possessed the Hulk and turned him into a tool of the Asgardian god of fear. They’ve tracked it to Wundagore Mountain, but find themselves under attack by the forces of Prester John. Iron Fist heals himself from a bullet wound to the chest, but the team soon finds itself outmatched by Prester John’s bizarre hyper-technology. Red She-Hulk eventually frees the heroes by getting Dr. Strange to scare her into turning back into Betty Ross, but is there any way to keep Nul away — and once he makes it the Prester John’s time machine, will anything be able to stop the destruction of the universe?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action and lots of great dialogue and personality work. Lots of team comics can only handle characterization for one or two characters per issue, so the fact that this one can handle it for everyone is definitely a good thing. The only sore spot for me is that I still didn’t really understand what Prester John’s scheme involved…

Justice League International #5

The giant Signal Men robots are slowly destroying the Earth while Peraxxus harvests the planet’s minerals while his ship shoots down anything trying to reach him to stop him. So the JLI has to make it from inside the planet’s crust into orbit, all without snarking each other to death. Godiva worries about her ability to work on a cosmic level when her only power is prehensile hair, Guy Gardner complains about everyone. August General in Iron and Rocket Red start to respect each other, and Vixen tells Batman to quit being such an ass. Can the team stop Peraxxus? And even if they can, will they be able to survive the trip back down to Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Better than I was expecting. I do think the dialogue is often very, very awkward, but I’m glad to see some personality development going on. I’m also fairly well impressed with the artwork and designs. None of the female characters has a silly costume, and when was the last time you could say that about a DC team comic? I’m also pretty happy with Aaron Lopresti’s work on the characters’ body language.

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