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Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Random Gripes and Reviews
I spent nine hours doing inventory yesterday. Every Monday I do the cycle-sheets and pull all the indie, Image, Dark Horse and Wildstorm comics that have been out for over four weeks, in order to make room for new releases. Due to the boss and his wife, who normally does the Marvel and DC cycle-sheets and pulls, going away to San Diego for a week, I had to do the Marvel and DC inventory in addition to my normal tasks. Nine hours. Of staring at comic books, counting them, and trying to arrange shelves to make room for the coming week's releases. And this is in addition to all the other maintenance and customer service tasks I have to perform on a Monday. Like dealing with people who refuse to believe me when I tell them that the Haunted Tank never actually had its own title. It was one of those days that really makes you hate comics, in other words.
Continuing the theme of hyper-sensitive parents these last couple weeks, I did have a woman come in on Monday with two young boys, who had to have their hands disinfected before they could touch anything. Her primary concern was whether or not we had any "G rated" Archie comics. Yes, there are apparently people out there who think Archie is just a tad too racy for kids these days... The other head-scratcher was the parent who came in over the weekend and felt that all manga, regardless of content, was "inappropriate" for her teenage daughter...but Fillerbunny comics are a-okay!
Reviews Last week's comics largely failed to excite me. It was a fairly standard assortment of episodes for the titles I normally buy. Superman #219: I'm somewhat baffled by the format of this cross-over. One of the better elements of the "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" minis is that they've been self-contained. And so a four-part series that takes place between issues of Omac Project feels grafted on. Especially if, as the structure of this installment and this week's Action Comics indicate, we're going to see three "hallucination" episodes make up the bulk of each issue, with only a page or two at the beginning and end to actually advance the plot. It could be interesting, creating a kind of "Rashomon" effect for the story-line, but this first installment feels very by the numbers and rote.
Firestorm #15: I would say that this issue was actually a bit better than the previous one. Now that the new status quo has been established the actual story can begin. Here we get a decent super-hero fight scene, some opening teases of a potential new element to the Firestorm origin, and a cliff-hanger which makes promising use of the most distinctive new supporting cast member.
Wildguard: Fool's Gold #1: Now, this is fun. A good mix of humor and action with original characters and a strong world back-ground. This is the kind of fun super-hero comics that people should be checking out. Especially those who make a habit of complaining about the lack of good, fun super-hero comics.
Gotham Central #33: This works for several reasons. It presents a compelling mixture that well exploits the meta-narrative aspects of the DC Universe. We, as the readers, know that this can't possibly be the real Robin, but within the parameters of the fiction that assumption can't be made. The police simply cannot trust Batman at his word when he says that it's not Robin. So the real mystery, from the reader's perspective, is who is dressing up as Batman and Robin, and why. It creates an interesting disconnect between the mystery that the characters are trying to solve and the true, larger story going on around them that they are still unaware of.
Ocean #6: And so Warren Ellis' engaging sci-fi story ends as an action movie. And, given the set-up, that's a fair and appropriate ending. The issue doesn't quite work as a discrete unit, and it benefits strongly from a re-reading of the prior issues. Ellis is fond of characterization by implication, and he does enjoy his exposition, but I would have, for myself, preferred a more explicit examination of Kane's reactions to the aliens under the ice. How would a man who has made his life's work the taking away of weapons from people react to learning that the human race is the genetic inheritors of a race that exists only to kill?
I'd like to say something about the Fantastic Four film, but it's very hard to work up either any great enthusiasm or disdain for it. I thought it was middling and dull, with far too little action for a super-hero adventure. Jessica Alba was typically wooden, and she managed to drag the performance of Ioan Gruffud, who actually is a talented actor, down to her level. Michael Chiklis seemed to inhabit his role well, but the costume never worked for me. It never stopped looking like a foam rubber suit. The highlights of the film were Chris Evans enthusiastic portrayal of the Human Torch and Julian McMahon's sly Victor Von Doom. Both actors seemed to relish their roles and it came across. So, that's some decent acting, but not terribly much to be excited about otherwise. An unrelentingly mediocre film that it's hard to like or really dislike. It was nice to see lots of naked Chris Evans though. And if he didn't before, I suspect that the few shirtless scenes Michael Chiklis had has won him many new gay fans.