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Monday, May 31, 2004
Because Daddy is a little hung, children, and still has to go to work today...yet for some reason still feels the need to tear down the hard work of other people, who are certainly geniuses, just unappreciated by the maddening crowd.
Ultimate X-Men #46: Ultimate Mr. Sinister=Ultimate X-Men officially jumping the shark (or your choice of over-used phrase to indicate that a concept has become worn and tired).
Caper #8: But, when I go to the club, they have an official "NO PHOTOS" policy...I mean, great art, ending seems a little contrived.
Conan #4: What is not to love?
JLA #99: I still maintain that it's a lettering error, and Byrne is just trying to cover his back.
Promethea #30: Treads very similair ground to Morrison's Doom Patrol, but approaches it from a very different angle and towards a very different end.
Supreme Power #10: I've seen Eros comics with less nuditivity.
Secret War #2: So, was Wolverine acting drunk for some reason that was never explained, or did Bendis not read the character bio in the back of this very book which clearly states the Wolverine is immune to alcohol? Speaking of those character bios, there's a good explanation of much of Peter Parker's motivations as a character there, but it would have been much more effective to have that kind of info stated in the comic itself.
Astonishing X-Men #1: Looks pretty. Reads like one of the over-hyped and ultimatly less-than-exciting typical Buffy episode. And Whedon appears to be making the mutant=gay metaphor that was implied in the films explicit here. Which, you know, I always like it when straight people talk about whether or not my sexuality is a choice, genetics or a disease. I like it even more when they use ham-fisted metaphors to do it. But Cassaday does draw a damn sexy Wolverine, even if he hasn't quite gotten the hang of Beast yet.
Witchblade/Wolverine: Pete asked me to get this for him. I swear.
Batman: Harley & Ivy #2: Uhm...how can I put this politely? The portrayal of women in the Batman animated universe has always struck me as border-line misogynistic. The intent of a book like this is to be playfully sexual, but it's hard to see that when we keep getting gratuitous crotch shots of Poison Ivy and see her having sex with plants. Add to that two gay villains, and I'm not entirely sure if this is still "playful" or not.
NYX #4: Uhm...yeah...I would have more respect for the creepy under-age prostitute if she had murdered the john.
Kinetic #3: Next to Hard Time this is probably the Focus book with the best potential to find an audience. We're three issues in, and just now is it starting to pick up the pace. I'm not so sure that decompressed storytelling is a good idea for new concepts in the current comics market. Of course, I also think that the whole Focus line is going to be reprinted in manga-sized digests, so maybe it will find an audience there.
Losers #12: Again, what is not to love?
Joe R. Lansdale's By Bizzarre Hands #2: As far from the previous issue that you can get in art and tone, which is probably a good idea. Who knew that a story about two old-people dying could be so...sweet?
DC: The New Frontier #4: So. It's good. A bit heavy-handed on the tone sometimes, but good. A lot of people are really excited about the portrayal of Hal Jordan in this series. I'm not. He seems self-centered and more than a little irresponsible. But then, he's only a fictional character and thus has whatever personality the writer wants him to have. Or maybe I just don't care one way or another what the status of Hal Jordan, vis-a-vis the DCU and the Green Lantern Corps is.
I'm going to be busy the next couple of days with work, barbeques, and watching my new Chronological Donald Vol. 1 DVD, so here's proof that shameless swipes aren't confined to American super-hero comics:
I mean, even the "Dragon Comics" logo is reminisicent of the Marvel comics logo of the time. Oh, and the Wolverine rip-off's name is Buffalock. If nothing else, that's a genius name for a character.
So, Morrison's reason for taking the X-Men out of costume was that people were comfortable with the super-hero paradigm and that if the X-Men looked like something people trusted, they would in turn trust the X-Men. But that didn't work, and so it was neccessary to look like something new. Whedon's explanation for putting the X-Men back into costume was that "people trust super-heroes, if we look like super-heroes they'll trust us to." Uhm...did Whedon even bother to read Morrison's run? Cause it sounds to me that the reason for putting them back into costume is the same logic that took them out of costume.
Someone really needs to get the message across to John Byrne that's it's not things like the Incredibles that cause the public at large to not take super-hero comics seriously. It's the super-hero comics themselves, and their defenders, that are causing super-hero comics to not be taken seriously.
I keep thinking about this thing with Marvel and retailers. I keep getting stuck on not trying to say the same things about Marvel's policies and how they are good for Marvel but bad for comics retailers that everyone and their brother has already said. What really bothers me are incidents where Joe Quesada brags about how great Marvel's sales are. But Marvel's sales are only that good because their primary customers, the retailers, are buying more Marvel comics than they really want to because Marvel won't reprint or over-print books, forcing retailers to not just order as many copies as they can reasonably expect to sell during a one month standard sales period, but to order as many copies as they think they can sell for all time. It's a system that inflates Marvel's sales. Speaking from personal experience, it's almost unheard of for us to sell out of a Marvel book. But we sell out of books by every other publisher all the time. On the flip side of that equation is the trade program. We do very brisk business in trades by every major and most of the minor publishers. Marvel trades, with the notable exception of the Ultimate line, sit on the shelves and collect dust. Marvel super-hero fans, as a general rule, simply will not buy trades. It's not in their nature. They'd rather spend money on back-issues, which are usually priced well above cover price, than buy a trade containing the same issues that often costs less than cover on those issues. It's baffling.
I also am less than enthusiastic about Marvel and DC's plans to reprint some of their material in digest/manga format. It seems like a plan doomed to failure. What they're counting on is the "looks like manga=sells like managa" phenomenon. What they're forgetting is that their work, while it may look superficially like manga, doesn't "feel like" manga. Oni's digest sized books, on the other hand, "feel like" manga. And anecdotal evidence suggests that Oni's digests do "sell like" manga. But Oni doesn't publish garish super-hero comics cynically formatted to resemble Tokyopop books. That's the crucial difference, I think.
And this leads me to something that not-to-be-trusted scoundrel Mike and I have discussed before. People seem willing to buy something if it "looks like" something they're already comfortable with. DC has a big back-log of material that is appropriate for children, and has the added benefit of actually being good, in their long defunct humor titles such as Three Mousketeers, Fox and the Crow, Sugar and Spike and Captain Carrot, and the like. People are comfortable with illustrated material for children being published in the "picture book" format. The tabloid and European album formats are so close to the picture book format as to be nigh indistinguishable. Would DC's children's comics back-log, we wonder, sell in an over-sized format?
Oh, and Dirk Deppey's first full issue as editor is not the "middle-ground" comics magazine people seem to want. Not yet. I thought Tom Spurgeon's review of the Ait/PlanetLar books was very poorly done. It felt, a couple of times, that he had personal grudges against some of the creators that clouded the reviews, and the over-all tone still reeked of the intellectual snobbery that turns most people off of TCJ. And the less said about the unintentionally funny X-Statix review the better. As for the rest of the magazine...the fixation on French cartoonists has rapidly become tres boring. The news articles have some meat to them, but I don't really want news from a monthly comic magazine. Sites like Newsarama, as problematic as they are as news sources, have pretty much made the concept of a comics news magazine moot. Work still needs to be done on the reveiws section. Too many pieces still read like clever grad students slumming in the comics commentary pool instead of working on their thesis. Nothing in Mark Waid's Fantastic Four run should require references to post-modern theory in order to communicate a point in a review.
In this scene from Spider-Man 2, is Tobey Maguire...happy? sad? angry? hurt? confused? constipated? completely and utterly devoid of the capacity to emote in a recognizably human fashion?
2) I'll probably be writing a more thorough discussion of Alan Moore's Mirror of Love sometime in the next week. But I do want to say now that, speaking as a gay man, it does sometimes feel as if the poem was written by a straight guy. Which isn't to say that it's bad. It's...a little more complex than that. I don't think it's one of Moore's stronger works, no. The piece falls apart a bit at the end, once it shifts over to "contemporary" politics, and doesn't really recover from the mis-step I think Moore makes.
3) I had planned to do my "Why I Hate Indy Comics Fans" piece last week, but real-life kept me busy, so I'm hoping to get to that in the next couple of days as well. I'll give you all a little teaser: just because you like to think you've outgrown super-hero comics, that doesn't make your attitude any less obnoxious and short-sighted.
4) And in what I hope will be my final teaser, I'm pursuing a line of thought regarding the relationship between Marvel Comics and comics retailers, tentavily titled: "I Walked Into A Door Again. Or, You Don't Know Him Like I Do."
Angel Sanctuary vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki, published by Viz:
What if V.C. Andrews and Garth Ennis co-wrote the Book of Revelation? This book pretty much answers that question. Over-the-top violence, occult conspiracies, evil angels, and characters who are all either gay, transgendered, or incestuous. It's every negative stereotype about manga rolled into one, and it's loads of fun. Not for all tastes, certainly, but it's bad fun. You know it's not good for you, but you like it anyway. The plot rivals the most baroque of the old gothic novels. Setsuna may, or may not, be the reincarnation of the angel Alexiel, who was killed after leading a revolt against the other angels, notably her twin Rosiel, who spear-headed a campaign by the evil angels to slay all the demons and humanity. The human Setsuna is in love with his little sister, a love she clearly returns, and they have been seperated by their parents to prevent them from consumating their unnatural attraction to one another. Meanwhile, two cross-dressing demons are trying to reawaken Alexiel because Rosiel has been reborn in order to quell another rebellion in Heaven. Meanwhile, Rosial is more interested in revenging himself on Alexiel. And from there the story gets a bit complicated...
The art is a little on the generic side, so the real appeal of this book is the story. If you like sick, perverted, degenerate books, as I do, you may like this.
Tuxedo Gin vol. 6 by Tokihiko Matsuura, published by Viz:
I like penguins. Always have. I'm predisposed to picking up anything that looks humerous if it involves penguins. But I wouldn't have kept picking this up through 6 volumes if there wasn't a little more going on. The story involves a boxer who meets the girl of his dreams, only to be killed right before their big date. Luckily, he's reincarnated as a penguin and gets to move in with her as her pet, with a promise from his guradian angel that if he lives out the natural life-span of a penguin he can return to his old body. Most of the stories involve Gin trying to protect his love/owner Minako from lechers and others out to take advantage of her, while helping other out-of-luck folks in whatever ways an irritable boxing penguin can. The art is crisp and cartoony, very expressive and very appealing. Occasionally there's some T and A tease shots, but they're not the focus of the book the way they are with some other manga (such as, say, the inexplicably popular Love Hina). This is one of my favorite manga titles to come out since the big manga explosion hit and I highly endorse this book.
Tokyo Babylon vol. 1 by CLAMP, published by Tokyopop:
Well, it's a Clamp book, so it looks pretty. As I've mentioned before, I'm pretty much a Clamp completeist, but this book is so slight I'm kind of wondering why I bothered. Pete summed it up best I think when he read it: "I feel like I'm picking something up in the middle of a story." It's even substantially thinner than most other manga books. So, if you're a sucker like me, and you have to have everything Clamp does, or you're a big X/1999 fan and you want to read the prequel to that book, pick this up. Otherwise, don't bother. Very disapointing.
Fruits Basket vol. 3 by Matsuki Takaya, published by Tokyopop:
At first I thought the premise of this book was more than a little deriviative of Ranma 1/2, but the feel and tone are completely different. Tohru is an orphan who has been taken in by the Sohma family, only to discover that certain members of the family are cursed by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, and turn into those animals when they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Unlike that other title, you get the feeling that there's some forward momentum to this series, that it's all leading up to something, and that the characters are changing and learning as the story progresses. It's a sweet, unabashedly girly comic, with lots of pretty boys and girls and a broad mix of character types. The art has a manic pace, highlighting the broad humor of some of the stories, and while it's nice enough, it does tend towards the generic end of the manga art scale. If you have a low tolerance for pretty-boy stories, avoid this book like the plague, but you'll be missing out on an otherwise charming piece of work (even if the main character is a bit of a door-mat...)
Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi, published by Viz:
This is pretty much the series that got me interested in manga in the first place. Her artwork is clean and attractive. Her stories are entertaining, even if they do have a tendency to go nowhere and take their time not getting there. Gerard Jones does some of the best translations in the business, adapting them to a US audience almost seamlessly while retaining both the spirit and intent of the original work. There's a hyperactive energy to this title that never seems to diminish. One of the all-time best mangas in America.
Adventures of Superman #628 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark, published by DC Comics: One of my favorite sources for comics reviews that miss the entire point of the subject at hand pretty much dismissed this comic as having poor art and no story. Which I don't see at all, frankly. Superman is one of those characters who, like Batman, I find I have no interest in as a monthly comic, but can read in specials and mini-series. However, Rucka has given me a Superman that not only do I recognize as Superman (a rare feat for the last 10 years worth of Supes comics), but I find I actually want to read about this Superman on a monthly basis. And Clark's art is appealing. It's realistic without being over-rendered.
David and Goliath #3 by Jay Ju and Leonel Castellini, published by Image Comics: I can't quite bring myself to describe this as an all-ages book. It looks like one, with very engaging cartoon-style art, but the story feels a little...off, I guess. It doesn't quite feel like a book I can recomend to parents. And the book as a whole suffers somewhat from an over-reliance on caption boxes. As if Jay Ju, the writer, read "How to Script Comics the Chris Claremont Way."
Jane's World #13 by Paige Braddock, published by Girl Twirl Comics: Of the many comic books out there right now which exist only to republish newspaper or on-line comic strips, this, I have to say, is the best. The characters are charmingly befuddled and the art is emotive.
Demo #6 by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, published by Ait/Planet Lar: Has someone else already said that it seems like the powers the kids in this series get always seem symbolic of the emotional and social development of teens? So in this issues the narrator's feelings of impotence are expressed by having the voiceless enact his vengeance for him by proxy. Or something like that. Demo is still the best new book of the year, whether I read too much into it or not.
Seaguy #1 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, published by DC Comics: Everyone else is doing the in-depth textual analysis of this book that I wanted to do. So I think I'll wait until all three issues are out to go that route with my discussion. I will say two things: there's something very Freudian going on with this books symbolism, most notably in the very concept of the "anti-Dad" and in the vomiting up of Xoo. And second, I don't quite know why yet, but this seems more like a thematic follow-up on the issues raised by Flex Mentallo than those raised by Morrison's Filth or New X-Men.
Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom #4 by Ted Naifeh, published by Oni Press: Speaking of metaphors for teen angst...the appeal of this series is the use of magic and fairy lore given a contemporary, pseudo-gothic spin. And Naifeh's big-headed heroine. She's a little wench at times, but still manages to retain the reader's sympathy and identification.
I also finally got caught up on some of my manga reading, so I'll try to discuss those later.
Shrek 2 was very disapointing. But then, I wasn't a great fan of the first one, either. If you really like tired 80s refrences, the exact same jokes you saw in the first film, and needless slams against Disney, then you might like Shrek 2. The film's only saving grace was Puss In Boots, and I'm prejudiced by my fondness for the original story.
I've also joined the ranks of the damned and signed up for City of Heroes...it's interesting, suffers from the same fault all RPG-style computer games do, namely the fact that it takes forever for your character to go up in level in order to continue on with your missions, and I tend to get motion-sick if I play first-person perspective games for too long. But it's sort of fun anyway, and I've just barely gotten into it. Hell, I haven't even completed my first "real" mission.
No matter how Marvel spokespeople try to spin it, Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad selling off their stock shortly before the release of Spider-Man 2 should not be seen as an encouraging sign. Here we have the two most powerful people on the company's financial side basically dumping enough stock to cause a 5% drop in the price of Marvel. 12% and 29% of the total stock they owned, respectively.
Now, I will freely admit, I thought the first Spider-Man movie was crap. Poorly acted, scripted and directed, starring a man who couldn't emote if his life depended on it and directed by a man far more suited for movies with low budgets (because when you give him a big budget he invariably ends up making something that looks like it was done on the cheap anyway, so why not just give him less money to work with in the first place). Everything I've seen of the second film leads me to beleive that this second outing will be even worse. And anecdotal evidence suggests that the public is growing tired of super-hero films. I rarely hear positive comments about Daredevil, Hulk or Punisher, the box-office take on Hellboy must have been a little disappointing given how quickly it seemed to disappear from theaters, and it's looking like Catwoman may need to be sold as an ironic comedy if it expects to connect to an audience. And the only people I'm aware of who are really looking forward to Spider-Man 2 are small children and people like this.
But a lot of people have sunk a lot of money into expecting Spider-Man 2 to be a big money-maker. Marvel Comics has been flooding the direct market with comics featuring Doctor Octopus for months, in the hopes of having plenty of Doc Ock themed trade paperbacks in bookstores in time for the film's release. If those books get heavily remaindered or returned, that's going to hurt Marvel. And then there's Free Comic Book Day MkIII. Marvel essentially black-mailed retailers into moving the date back from May in order to co-incide with the originally planned release for SM2. When that date was moved forward it should have been taken as an object lesson in not fixing what ain't broke. I've lost track of the number of parents I've had to tell, "No, sorry, no free comics this May, come back in July." So moving the date has already lost us potential business. If the movie bombs, all those retailers who supported FCBD3 are going to be stuck with a lot of junk stock they planned to move that weekend. And Sony is already annoyed with Marvel over financial matters re: the Spider-Man movies. This sort of move could be seen as a perfect opportunity for them to dig a little deeper into Marvel's financials.
So, at the very least, Perlmutter and Arad owe the other investors a better explanation as to why they're dumping stock than "diversifying their portfolios." Hell, if Martha Stewart can be convicted of stock fraud on the basis of perjured testimoney, what sort of hijinks will ensue if outside forces take a serious look at Ike and Avi's financials?
Is it just me, or does Brian Vaughn and Mike Carey on Ultimate X-Men and (God help us...) Ultimate Elektra just feel like slumming?
Ultimate Nightmare features "hot newcomer Trevor Hairsine." It's been, what, close to two years since Cla$$war came out, hasn't it?
Ultimate Spider-Man #54: Arachnoman Variant sounds like something thought up by someone who's heard of the concept of humor, but has never actually seen it in person.
For some strange reason, the very fact that Thor and Iron Man comics are even still being published offends me. So, given that, I'm finding it very, very hard to care about this "Avengers Dissassembled" stunt. In fact, I find that I don't care even in the slightest. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland could take over Avengers and I still wouldn't give a damn, because it's only the damn Avengers and I just don't care. (see also Invaders and Secret War.)
So Thor: Son of Asgard is now an on-going. It seems to me that Thor alone has a hard time being profitable, and yet a spin-off series is perceived by the powers-that-be at Marvel to be neccessary. Weird.
Here, this is part of the solicitation info for the two issues of X-Men: The End shipping in August:
It's the epic finale to the story of the Children of the Atom as renowned X-Men scribe Chris Claremont joins with star artist Sean Chen for a trilogy in the style of the Lord of the Rings movies... Okay, let's break that down, shall we...first of all, this may be just me, but first and foremost, Lord of the Rings is a book. Yes, there was a film trilogy, but it was a derivitive work based on the novel. Secondly, don't make me think about a good book when you're trying to sell me your almost certain to be crappy book.
X-Force: insert snarky comment about Marvel going back in time to the early 90s here.
Both Runaways and X-Statix are cancelled. I'm mildy surprised to realize they were still coming out.
A Doctor Spectrum mini is spinning off from Supreme Power. Seems a bit early to be trying to make SP into a franchise, but again, maybe that's just me.
I'm pretty much guaranteed to pick up anything that gets published by CLAMP, the four woman comic collective. Which is odd, because as a whole their plots are slight, almost to the point of non-existence, and the characters in their comics tend to be fairly one-dimensional. What I'm most responding to, I think, is the elegance of the art-work, the gentle humor, and the, for lack of a better word, "sweet" nature of the stories and characters. Even when the material moves into darker territories, there is still an innocence to the characters that can be very appealing. Basically, CLAMP is what I read when I need a break from the grimmer, or simply more serious, comics/films/televison/books I generally spend time with. And to feed my hunger for all things CLAMP, Del Rey has inaugurate their new manga line with two CLAMP titles, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and XXXHolic.
Tsubasa is a sort-of-but-not-really sequal to CLAMP's earlier work Cardcaptor Sakura. The characters are the same, but these are the Sakura and Syaoran of another dimension. I was immediatly disappointed to note that Sakura, who in her own series was a dynamic character, is here much more passive and defined solely by her relationship with Syaoran and the need to "rescue" her from the fate which befalls her. Even the cover is bothersome in this regards, showing an apparently terrified Sakura clinging to Syaoran for safety. In this book, Syaoran is working on an archaeologoical excavation in the kingdom ruled over by Sakura's older brother. In the course of the excavation, the site is attacked by mysterious ninjas from another dimension and Sakura's magical powers/memories are stolen from her. To recover them, Syaoran must travel to the Time/Space Witch (co-incidentally, the star of XXXHolic), where he meets a disgruntled swordsman and a mysterious wizard who also require the aid of the Time/Space Witch. The story itself is a standard quest scenario, with the three heroes traveling from world-to-world to recover the pieces of Sakura's memories and get each of their wishes granted. It's apparent that this gimmick was mostly used as an excuse to create a number of cross-overs with other CLAMP titles. It's a cute gimmick, but it has the potential to get very old, very quickly. Unless you're already a CLAMP fan, then, this series doesn't really offer you much, and I wouldn't recomend it to someone unfamiliar with their previous work.
XXXHolic is something of a return to the darker world for CLAMP, though lightened by some very broad comedy (some of which doesn't really translate into English, more on that in a bit). A young man walking home is mysteriously drawn to a shop in which wishes are granted. He is coerced into working for Yuko, the shop proprietress, and in exchange she will, eventually, grant his wish, which is not to be able to see spirits and the supernatural anymore. What follows are several stories in which people come to Yuko for help and get not quite what they asked for. It's in the vein of DC's Phantom Stranger back-ups years ago, in which the Stranger was more of an prompter for other people to take action. Yuko is a bit more active than the Stranger, but the intent is the same. The reader is given little morality plays, in this case lying and internet addiction are bad, which, in all honesty, come off as rather trite and simplistic. For example, I don't personally think being run over by a car is a fit punishment for an habitual liar, but maybe that's just me.
Design-wise, I think this is probably one of CLAMP's finest efforts. The design work on Yuko is amazing, and the character has a decadent, art-nouveau elegance which manages to be both sexy and a little scary. Given that this book has several joking refrences to other CLAMP works, I can't unreservedly recomend it to new readers. But, if you like EC-style morality plays without the over-the-top grotesqueries, and espeically if you like elegant art and character design, I can say that you very well may enjoy this book.
And a note on format: I don't object to the right-to-left format that has come to dominate American editions of Japanese material. At worst, I have to re-read a page once or twice to understand the correct sequence of events. However, I do find it a bit fetishistic. It's an overture to authenticity that just comes off as pretentious more often than not. I can be more tolerant when it's a case of the author or artist specifically requesting not to have the art flipped or rearranged to read left-to-right, but there are many works which I think would benefit from the left-to-right format, particularly manga intended for young children. Del Rey, at least, doesn't compound the error by not translating sound-effects. They leave them untouched, but provide marginal translations of the sound, which is a vast improvement over VIZ, who have been putting sound-effects glossaries in the backs of their books, and Tokyopop, who doesn't even bother at all as far as I can tell. Without knowing what the sound effects are, I find I have a tendency to simply gloss over them, which for some reason gives the books a silent quality which I don't beleive the authors intended.
Batman titles: A three month cross-over? Wow, it's not just Marvel that's suffering from early nineties nostalgia...
Superman Adventures digests...all written by Mark Millar, which is odd, because I could have sworn that Millar said not too long ago that DC was refusing to publish any of his work because he "blew the whistle" on the Authority edits. Gee, he couldn't possibly have been talking out of his ass, could he?
Superman/Batman #13 has an actual variant cover, not just a seperate cover for a reprint edition. Again, early 90s syndrome strikes.
The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told trade reprints the truly awful Authority=bad story from Action #775. You know, it would be nice for someone to try to write a "why Superman is still relevant storyline" without resorting to the lazy straw man argument of "because more contemporary characters are bad role models."
Action Heroes Archive is all well and good, but where's my archive featuring Lou Fine's work on Black Condor? For that matter, where are any archives featuring any Quality Comics characters other than Plastic Man?
Peter David and Harlan Ellison are writing a Justice League story as part of the DC Comics Presents line. This should be...interesting.
Flash is already incorporating events from Identity Crisis into its storyline, and IC isn't even over yet (or out yet, technically).
"All the power and none of the responsibility" is apparently the tag-line for the Focus line...seems a bit late to be trying to come up with an advertising slogan to me.
My inner nerd is for some reason very pleased with the idea of a big knock-down, drag-out fight between the JLA and Deathstroke in Identity Crisis #3.
The JSA fight the all-new, all-different Sandman. Again, for some reason I find this amusing. And it's drawn by Jerry Ordway, so it'll look purty too.
Manhunter #1 marks the introduction of, what, the 20th or so character to be called "Manhunter" in the DCU. I mean, I understand the need to renew the copyright from time to time, but aren't there any other names available?
Weird Origins brings me the sort of thing I like...old, goofy, utterly nonsensical comics from back in the days when people understood that super-heroes were primarily for children.
I wonder if I'll have $50 to spare for Absolute Planetary, or if I should just get the Authority: Human on the Inside book for Pete? All things being equal, I suspect I'll get the book for Pete.
Astro City is one of the very few books that gets the concept of "super-heroes for adults" right. It's not always the best book out there, but I always enjoy it anyway.
I just want to say penultimate Promethea.
The DC/Humanoids collaborations start to be of interest to me with Cassaday's I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun and a collected edition of Deicide. Both are my sort of thing. Dark, a little cynical maybe, with quality art.
Transmetropolitan: Tales of Human Waste completes the Transmet library by reprinting the prestige format specials and the Winter's Edge story.
WE3 is going to depress me, isn't it? It's Incredible Journey only without Disney's involvement. It'll be good, but oh, man...it's not going to end well for the animals, is it?
I don't want to know who has a spare $350 for a Batman utility belt replica, do I?
Darkness: The New Horror trend continues, in which atmosphere and acting take precedence over FX and exploitation. I don't have much interest in the "child in jeopardy" genre of horror, but haunted houses are almost a sure thing with me.
Bride and Prejudice: I like Jane Austen. I like Chadha. I'm therefore predisposed towards the film. I wish there was a little more to the trailer, but what I see is a big Bollywood style update of an Austen perennial. It's hard to see how too much can go wrong.
Constantine: "Whoah...I know the occult." Could be an okay movie, could be an unmitigated disaster. I'm not holding out much hope, as Reeves has shown himself to be an actor of very narrow range. He's very good when he's playing a character who is supposed to be dim, or unaware of the full scope of the events going on around him. Neither of those are traits I tend to associate with John Constantine. And, to be honest, making the character an American just feels...wrong.
The Bourne Supremacy: The first film was a pleasent enough diversion, but it was one of those films in which the plot hinged on every single character in the movie being completely lacking in any kind of commen sense or ability to think. So, I'm not going to expect much more out of this one than I did the first.
Catwoman: I honestly don't think this looks like the genre-ending atrocity that some people seem to think it is. All right, yes, the costume is a little much, but if it wasn't for the fact that they're calling it Catwoman, thus giving fanboys all these pre-conceived notions of what the film should be, I don't think I'd hear anyone really complaining. It appears to have some entertainment value as a "girls-kick-ass" mindless romp of a pop-corn movie, and I dig those kinds of films.
The Incredibles: I wasn't impressed with Finding Nemo and I thought Monsters, INC was terribly over-rated. We won't discuss Toy Story. This...doesn't look funny. It looks tired, trite and cliche. Another excuse to sell action figures and Happy Meal toys.
Napoleon Dynamite: I've never been a big fan of the "relive those painful high school memory" movies. I just feel a sad sort of contempt for the nerd characters in those films, not a feeling of kinship or recognition. So, while this looks like it may have potential, I just don't think I can bring myself to see it.
Danny Deckchair: Oh, those wacky eccentric Brits, teaching us all how to love...Ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral made an obscene amount of money, it seems like the only comedies that are coming out of England are "romances" with stereotypically loveable and endearing characters, and frankly I'm tired of it. I want to see a comedy about despicable people doing horrible things to one another.
Edit: Ian just pointed out that this film is actually set in Australia. Which doesn't invalidate my argument about the sorry state of British comedy, but does set a bad precedent for Aussie films
Primer: I'm being told that this is a sci-fi film. Okay. Too bad the trailer doesn't tell me a damn thing about the premise or characters.
Open Water: If you're going to make a film about divers lost at sea, try to avoid making it look like you shot it at the wave pool at Raging Waters, that's all I'm saying...
Collateral: Hmm...how can I put this best...AW HELL NO!
[The following was supposed to be posted Friday morning, but apparently I fell victim to the new Bloggers...quirks]
Teen Titans #11, by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone, published by DC:
At it's heart, this is a nostalgia comic. It's giving the audience exactly what they want, no more, no less. But it still manages to be consistently entertaining. This is the sort of super-hero book I can happily accept.
Action Comics #815, by Chuck Austen and Ivan Reis, published by DC:
With Rucka and Azzarello taking more mature approaches to Supes in their books, it's nice to have a Superman book I can comfortably show to parents. Not that the contents of the other books are "inappropriate," but this is something that will appeal to kids more: Superman pounding on bad guys with slightly cheesy dialogue. I'd prefer it if the book didn't dwell so much on past continuity (Darkseid, Doomsday, now Gog), but I suppose you've got to have something to keep the long-term Superman fans happy.
Spider-Man #2, by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson, published by Marvel:
Wait...is Electro saying he went gay in prison? I used to enjoy Millar's work, but most of his current projects seem like shock value for the sake of shock value.
Monolith #4, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Phil Winslade, published by DC:
This reminds me of some of those lower-profile books DC used to pulish in the 70s and 80s. It's set in the DCU, but it has so little to do with it that it may as well not be. The art by Winslade is gorgeous, as should be expected by anyone who's seen his previous work, and the Palmiotti/Gray team are criminally under-rated. This is a good book for people who aren't interested in spandex titles anymore, but still want some heroic action fiction in comic form.
She-Hulk #3, by Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo, published by Marvel:
This is a cute book. Not too heavy, not too slight, but cute. A little too heavily inspired by Wolff & Byrd maybe, but it's still early in the run yet. There's time for the book to find a more distinctive voice.
The Pulse #3, by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, published by Marvel:
Why do I like Bendis best when he's not writing super-heroes? An intriguing look at the non-powered residents of the Marvel U, but still...more padding than a padded thing that's padded.
District X #1, by David Hine and David Yardin, published by Marvel:
Oh, this might be interesting, sort of Marvel's answer to Gotham Central. The art is nice and the story set-up is intriguing and...is that Bishop? Oh, never-mind.
JLA #98, by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, published by DC:
Who exactly is Flash talking to as he's describing his actions out-loud? And why is the Martian Manhunter describing how his powers work? I've said it before in private conversations, but I need to say it now: the editors should not have allowed this story-line to be published before making major changes to the script. This is painfully bad and could be used as a primer in how NOT to write comic-books.
Blue Monday: Painted Moon #1, by Chynna Clugston-Major, published by Oni:
Ah, high-school, when people are horrendously cruel to one another and it's excused because they're just kids. This is such a great book I'm not even sure what to say. Nice art, beleivable charactrs, and motivations and behaviors that are recognizably human. A great, great book.
Gotham Central #19, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, published by DC:
Another consistently good title with great art. I'm mostly over the disapointment that the best crime-drama comic on the stands today has to feature Batman villains to keep itself economically viable.
And a note: over at die puny humans, it's fast fiction Friday. Short pieces by authors with something to say. Check it out. It's fantastic stuff so far.
1) Larry Young has posted a list of the bloggers he reads regularly. I have to admit, I was sort of surprised, and immensely honored, to see my name on that list with all those other people doing really good work (except for that Mike Sterling guy. I'd watch out for him if I were you. I hear he once killed a man for parking in front of his drive-way). Thanks, Mr. Young.
2) Hey, my first direct response to someone else's blog: I'm with Neil and Steve in wishing there was a middle-ground comics publication that combined the best features of both Wizard and The Comics Journal without the short-comings of those magazines. Which is really depressing, because I seem to recall that The Comics Journal used to be that middle-ground magazine, many, many years ago.
3) Pal Mark pointed out this site of photographs by Francois Nars, X-Ray. There's a certain sort of perverse logic in casting Jeff Stryker as Superman. Each, in his own way, is a pop-culture icon, the paragon of their respective fields.
4) Speaking of that sketchy character Mike Sterling, both of us are kind of confused by these comics:
Since when is the presence of the gold-and-yellow spandex version of Sandman a bonus? How is the presence of Wyatt Wingfoot a selling-point? We don't get it.
1) The packet of previews that Marvel sends out to retailers each week has hurt my head. Good lord. I don't think I'd fully realized just how bad the X-Men bookes were going to be post-Morrison, but man, do they ever look awful.
Sea Guy looks very good though. It's the sort of book that many people are going to complain about, because unlike other writers (cough-cough-Byrne-Claremont-Austin-Nicezia-Lobdell-Dixon-cough-cough), Morrison actually expects his readers to think about what they've just read and make up their own minds about what the book is about, rather than be hit over the head repeatedly with the "Meaning" of the book.
2) Regarding the big spoiler in Excalibur #1, yes, it appears that the character in question is indeed back from the dead. No, there is no explanation given. What confuses me more is why this book is called "Excalibur" when it neither takes place in England nor involves Arthurian myth.
3) And sometimes, comics just confuse the hell out of me:
Then he doesn't become the Punisher, now does he? Of course, the story is padded out to a full 22 pages, and in the end his family does end up dying. Whatever. I'm looking forwad to "What If... Peter Parker had stayed home that day?" and "What If...Reed Richards realized that not only was it a monumentally bad idea to sneak onto a military base to steal an experimental spacecraft, but to bring his girl-friend and her kid brother along is an almost criminal lapse in judgement?"
To be more precise: super-hero fans. For the purposes of this discussion, that's a more useful distinction than the generic "comic book fans." Not only do super-hero books dominate the current English-language comics market, but the fans of super-hero books are of a fairly recognizable type. There is a remarkable uniformity in thought and behavior, which indicates to a reasonable observer that there may be common factors in background and psychological make-up, certainly enough to make some general observations about the group as a whole.
As I see it, the prevailing psychological component of the super-hero fan's mind is reactionary conservatism. This doesn't necessarily translate into the political spectrum, as most super-hero fans tend to be fairly apathetic towards politics, as they are towards anything that they don't see as having any direct effect on their lives. What this does translate into is a fear of anything new or different and a nostalgic desire to return the world to the condition it was in when they were children. Or, at the very least, return comic books, which are the only things that really matter to them anyway, to the condition they were in when they were children.
Let's examine the fear of the new and different first. I've heard more casual, unthinking racist, homophobic and misogynistic statements come out of the mouths of comic book fans than any other group I've ever spent any time around. To examples come immediately to mind: “I’d like that Authority comic if it weren’t for the fags” and “I can’t believe they made Firestorm a colored kid.” And when their statements are challenged, super-hero fans seem surprised that anyone could think that they actually meant the things they said. Which is perhaps true? Most of the super-hero fans are heterosexually identified white males. And like most heterosexually identified white males, they seem to somehow believe that they don't have any kind of sexual, racial or gender identity. They believe, even if only on a subconscious level, that they are the standard to which others should be compared. So it's not as if they truly dislike someone of a different sexuality, race or gender. Other people are just "not like" them, and "not like" is the same as "bad." So they will use words like "gay," "nigger," "Jew," "cunt," and "bitch" as pejoratives without pausing to consider the wider social contexts of those words. Now, this is possibly a failing of Americans in general, not just of comic-book fans. But consider the loud wailing and gnashing of teeth that goes on whenever, say, a new creative team is announced for a book, or a different direction is taken. "Different" in all these cases is almost universally considered "bad."
This is directly comparable to the idea of anything "new." What are the best selling comic books in direct market stores right now? Revivals of older properties, tie-ins to other media products, and the same titles that have been published continually for the last thirty to sixty years. New concepts launch with low numbers and rarely survive any length of time without being tied in some way to a recognizable and well known element, such as a popular creator or links to a title "family" such as X-Men or Batman. "New" is, at a basic level, the same thing as "different" and therefore "bad."
Why do super-hero comics appeal to this personality type? One of the primary failings of the super-hero genre as a story-telling medium is that it presents a world in which the primary goal of all of the characters is to maintain the status quo at all costs. There is the illusion of change, small trivial details may be changed to reflect current tastes, but the basic story never deviates from the central premise. It doesn't matter whether Batman is fighting the Joker this month, or the Riddler. The structure of the story will never change: man in tights fights criminal, criminal is put in jail only to escape again. Repeat ad infinitum. Real change, on those rare occasions when it does occur in super-hero comics, occurs on a geologic scale. It took sixty years for Clark Kent to marry Lois Lane, and forty years for Aunt May to find out that Peter Parker is really Spider-Man (and on some message board somewhere, I can almost guarantee that somebody is complaining about even those changes). This is a world, in short, in which it is impossible for characters to learn or grow or reach any kind of conclusion. Because as soon as they appear to, it's time for the next issue to come out and they start all over again at the beginning. It's a comfort world, in which the reader can be reassured that no matter how scary the real world is, and no matter how rapidly things change, this little world will always be there for them and nothing there will ever change.
This brings us to the nostalgic nature of the super-hero fans. For most super-hero fans, the titles they enjoy were always at their best at the point at which they started to read them. Everything that has come after is but a pale imitation of the title's glory days. The examples are frankly too numerous to list but let's touch on a few of the more common ones. Any golden age comic is a good case to examine this claim. Have you read many golden age comics? The art is terrible and the stories make absolutely no sense. The golden age Green Lantern comic is particularly painful to look at. Yet the “Golden Age” is considered to be the greatest period of all time for super-hero comics because the children who read them at the time grew up to write the histories and early critical studies of comic-books. The Marvel titles of the 60s are another good example. The majority of the titles were tepid rehashes of earlier concepts or specific attempts to emulate the success of DC's super-hero revival. Stan Lee's scripts often bear little to no relation to the illustrations and beggar all common sense or internal consistency. And the art on the titles often appears rushed and half-finished. And moving into more contemporary work, Alex Ross seems utterly incapable of drawing a DC character in anything other than the costumes they wore in the 70s. Because that's when he started reading DC comics. These readers are unable to move beyond their childish attachments to the characters. So they campaign to have their favorite, long since cancelled titles brought back, and then complain when they are brought back because "they're not like they used to be." No Green Lantern other than Hal Jordan will ever be acceptable. No group of Teen Titans other than the originals, or at least facsimiles of them, will ever be acceptable. And God help you if you try to publish a new version of an older title that doesn't pick right up from where the old series left off. About the only super-hero title that did possess the illusion of forward momentum was the Legion of Super-Heroes, and marketplace demands eventually required starting over from scratch on that title so that it more closely resembled the Legion that super-hero fans grew up reading.
All of which has lead me to a disturbing realization about some super-hero fans. Asperger's Syndrome is a mild form of autism which is characterized by an inability to socialize with peers and encyclopedic knowledge of a very narrow field of inquiry. They are unable to read social cues such as eye contact and smiles, and have very little familiarity with the concept of "personal space." They have a lack of empathy for others, an inability to understand that other people have feelings or opinions of their own that are as valid as those of the person with AS. They prefer "sameness" as one researcher puts it, and dislike anything new or changes to their routine or the world around them. This sounds remarkably like a number of super-hero fans I've come into contact with over the years. I think a great deal of what gets chalked up to "fanboy" behavior and attitudes may actually be symptomatic of undiagnosed cases of some form of mild autism, not necessarily Asperger's Syndrome, but something like it. If this is true, this explains a great deal about the market for super-hero comics and the appeal of super-heroes in general. They're an almost ideal entertainment medium for those who are unable to adapt to their environment or form meaningful relationships with other people. They never change, and can be a refuge from the changes in the outside environment.
This is not to say I’m trying to pathologize super-hero fans and their behavior. Take this as anecdotal evidence and a broad, preliminary hypothesis based on that evidence. Most super-hero fans, I'm sure, have no developmental disabilities of any kind. But if the more obnoxious of the stereotypical "fanboy" behaviors are indeed symptomatic of an autistic disorder than this places the behavior in a more useful context than "that's the way nerds act." And this is also not a plea for “mature” super-hero comics. If anything, super-hero comics are an ideal entertainment for children and child-like minds. And after “Watchmen” there really isn’t much more to say about the subtexts of the genre. Further attempts along that line can only pale in comparison, especially when all the recent examples of “mature” super-hero comics, notably “Supreme Power” and “Ultimates” don’t say anything new about the genre.
Coming soon in this series:
Why I Hate Indy Comics Fans
Why I Hate Manga Fans
Why I Hate Comics News Sources
Why I Hate Webblogs
There's a good chance that my next post will alienate just about everyone, so I offer this as a pre-emptive apology:
"Gee, Mr. Superman, we're sorry our desire to broaden our horizons and see the world outside of the North American hegemony has temporarily inconvenienced you. I mean, it's not like rescuing people is your job or anything. Guess you'll just have to fight Lex Luthor for the 1,000th time tomorrow."
Morrison is one of the few folks on the short list of "I Will Buy All Their Work." I'm still looking for a copy of Lovely Biscuits and waiting for The If to maybe be released someday, perhaps. (Those aren't gratuitous hints at all, by the way.) Of the statements he made in this Newsarma interview, this is stands out to me the most:
I've been looking back at stuff like Don Quixote and Candide for the atmosphere of Seaguy. The poetry of Wilfrid Owen. Medieval symbolism - Chubby da Choona stands in for the ‘questing beast' of the Grail romances, Seaguy is Sir Perceval.
Even putting this quote through my "Morrison Filter"=about 90% of any given interview with the man appears to be him winding fan-boys up, I still can't imagine any way that deliberatly comparing the characters to those of Arthurian Romance isn't a great way to sell the book.
David Cross: It's Not Funny/ Jonny McGovern: Dirty Gay Hits
David Cross: It's Not Funny: The trite response would be to say something like "oh yes it is," but that would require a level of self-involved smarm that I simply don't possess. Cross is actually a difficult comedian to review. If you're familiar with his work on Mr. Show and his stand-up work odds are good that you already find him funny and topical and dead-on in his righteous anger at stupid people, mostly politicians, and thus you don't need me to tell you the album is good. Or, you think he's offensive and unfunny and should just shut up and stop making fun of the President like any good American should. In which case, well, I have no response that isn't rude and abusive, so I won't say anything to you. So if you're not familiar with his work: Cross is a member of the "angry at politics and society" school of comedy, like Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks. He's foul-mouthed, manic and lacks subtlety. And he's funnier than hell. In this album he takes particular aim at the great racists and homophobes of the Republican party, Dennis Miller's continual descent into irrelevance, and why exactly Paris Hilton's prominence is distressing. The liner notes included in the album are hilarious as well, and the track listings are thinly veiled digs at other comedians stand-up routines. It's well worth your time to check this out.
Jonny McGovern: Dirty Gay Hits: I saw the Soccer Practice video and thought it was cute, if a little low-budge. The same is true of the Lookin' Cute/Feelin' Cute video. I downloaded the MP3s of Soccer Practice and Electroboi and thought that while they were mediocre at best as dance tunes, the lyrics were smart and funny. So I bought the full album. And, well, while I still think the lyrics are, for the most part, smart and funny, the music really is sort of generic and mediocre. Which isn't to say that I don't like the album. The music is secondary to the lyrics in this case. And dance music really isn't something I can usually get excited about anyway. A little goes a long way for me, sort of like rap and country. So, overall, I'm left feeling a little disappointed by the album in its entirety, but the songs individually are clever and entertaining. See the website, Gay Pimp for more details. (Man, I wish I'd thought of that name first...)
Hard Time #4, by Steve Gerber and Brian Hurtt, published by DC Comics:
It's not quite Oz-lite, but it's close. In this issue Ethan earns the gratitude of a child molester, receives a surprising letter from the last person he'd expect, gets bad news from home, and witnesses a horrific act of violence. And it's all set-up for the next issue, in which it looks like everything will really hit the fan. Of the Focus books, this is the one I think works best and should have the most chance of appealing to the widest audience. The muted colors of the entire line give each issue a distinctive look, and in this book in particular it makes the coloring of the strange force connected to Ethan especially unearthly.
Plastic Man #6, by Kyle Baker, published by DC Comics:
This book is completely insane. I love it.
Ultimate Spider-Man #58, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, published by Marvel Comics:
I'm not particularly a Bendis fan. I find his story-telling gimmicks a little trite and heavily over-used. For example, this issue is padded out to about twice the length it really should be, thaks to all the close-up panels and characters talking over each other. But even given all that, this is still the good Spider-Man book currently being published. It's fun and usually enjoyable, and those are fairly rare traits in super-hero books these days. The sequence in which Peter tries to get home, realizing he has to beat Aunt May home in the process, is great. And it ends on a strong, compelling cliff-hanger.
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: X-Men 2004, by many, published by Marvel Comics:
The ten year old in me, the one who bought every issue of Who's Who, thinks that this is a pretty neat idea and long over-due. The grown-up thinks the execution smacks of fan-boy wankery.
Alpha Flight #3, by Scott Lobdell and Clayton Henry, published by Marvel Comics:
Ugh. (I bought it for my boy-friend, I swear!)
Van Helsing: From Beneath the Rue Morgue, by Joshua Dysart and J. Alexander, published by Dark Horse Comics:
Good Lord this is bad. Muddy coloring, an almost completely incomprehensible story, and it looks as if it was drawn over a week-end. It desperatly wants to be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, throwing in gratuitous references to Drs. Jeckyll and Moreau, and it partially succeeds in matching the quality of the film version of LOEG but without the wit and charm. The package as a whole comes damn close to killing my interest in the film, despite my Hugh Jackman fetish, which should be taken as the real indication of just how bad this comic is.
Scurvy Dogs #4, by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, published by Ait/PlanetLar:
Best comic of the week. Freaking hilarious. Damn them for reminding me of Anson Williams' existence, but I'll forgive it because this book is just that damn good.
1) One of the most frustrating things to deal with in comics retail is the over-protective parents of some of our customers. There's a lot of frequently misplaced concern over "inappropriate" content in comics which are presumably aimed at children. The one that paricularly confuses me is the complaints we sometimes get about the Star Wars line of comics from Dark Horse. The objection is never that the comics ae too violent, which is somewhat surprising given the ever-popular "dismemberment by light-saber" motif in the Star Wars films. No, the complaint is always that the comics are "too risque" in comparison to the content of the films.
So, I must be the only person who remembers this scene:
The lesson I've learned from this? It doesn't matter what kind of material a comic actually contains, someone somewhere is going to be offended by it.
2) My boy-friend is an even bigger comics-fan than I am, so I always seem to be buying more comics than I actually want to read. At this point, almost every single comic that comes into the house featuring spandex is his. Which means of the 17 comics I bought this week, the only four I'm really looking forward to reading are Y: The Last Man, Hard Time, Scurvy Dogs, and Van Helsing. And that last one was purchased mainly as a result of my Hugh Jackman fetish.
3) The cover feature on this week's Video Watchdog is an interview with Eyes Without A Face star Edith Scob. That movie scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Looking at the stills reproduced in the magazine still give me the creeps. Naturally, I had to buy the magazine.
Uncanny X-Men #444 will be on store shelves this Wednesday, and all I can say in regards to it is: we lose. "We" being those of us who enjoyed Grant Morrison's run. What we've lost is even the pretense of forward movement on the X-titles. For all practical purposes, Marvel may as well have called this stunt "Rewind" rather than "Reload." For example, let's take the cover. I'm not usually one to complain about the pin-up/poster style covers which are currently in vogue, but what exactly does this cover tell us about the content of the book? Is Nightcrawler's tail somehow integral to the plot?
And we can already see which character is going to be done the greatest disservice by the new creative teams. Emma Frost, while Morrison was writing the character, was compelling and multi-layered. We're only a few pages in and already she's been reduced to a flat stereotype of the home-wrecking bitch.
And as for the conflicts dealt with by the book, it looks as if we can expect a return to the "people in spandex hitting each other" model. Why, look, it's a gratuitously Arabic villain. I'm sure we won't be seeing any over-simplified metaphors for real-world political issues popping up in this run.
But what really gets me, is that both Bishop and Phoeni-er, Marvel Girl are appearing in this book. Two characters from two different and contradictory alternate futures. That doesn't require being intimately familiar with all the nuances of the last twenty years of X-Men continuity to understand at all. I guess even the pretense of making the books accessible to new readers has been abandoned.
And, as usual, you can tell Claremont wrote this book, as his usual over-reliance on captions and expository dialogue is on full display. At least the Alan Davis art is gorgeous, which is to be expected. And man, does he draw a sexy Wolverine!
Fair Use Press is selling a mini-e-book for $1, titled Sue Me, Asshole. It contains a threatening letter from Arnold Schwarzenegger's attorney. It also features a photo of Little Arnold in all it's, uhm, glory. Why are they doing this, you may ask?
Because The Gropenator doesn't like it when people make fun of him and sell satirical products bearing caricatures of his likeness.
So, I spent a buck on a PDF. If you don't like it when politicians try to get around the First Amendment, maybe you should too.
Planet of the Capes, by Larry Young and Brandon McKinney, published by AiT/Planet Lar.
A note of disclaimer: I've probably bought about half of the books published by AiT, so I'm predisposed to enjoy their product. I like the OGN format, and AiT and Oni get a lot of my money thanks to the quality of their books and their very attrative price. By now, everyone knows that this isn't really a book about super-heroes. So going into the book I knew to look at the characters as metaphors for the comics publishing business. As a polemic, I think the book does an excellent job of diagnosing the state of the comics industry. I, for one, wasn't as concerned with trying to match up characters on a one-to-one basis with certain publishers, nor do I think that that level of detail is really neccessary to understand the book's intended message. Where I do think the book falls a little short is that it doesn't really seem to offer any positive reslolutions for the comics industry. Or, to be more specific, the super-hero publishing industry. Which at this point, sadly, is most of the English-language comics publishing industry. I think my goal with this book is going to be to try to get some of the "I only buy super-hero comics" customers to pick this up. Since it looks like a super-hero book, I might be able to use it as a gateway to some of the other AiT books.
Blacksad 2: Arctic Nation, by Juan Diaz Canales and Guarnido, published by ibooks.
Guarnido is an incredibly talented artist. Put aside all your preconceptions about "funny animal" or "furry" comics. They don't apply in this case. The animalistic characters are used here as caricatures of recognizable character types. It's a brilliant short-hand for stock characters in pulp drama. And that's unmistakably what this is. I've read other reviews of the Blacksad books whose authors apparently thought that the pulp mood of the books is somehow a sign of wear writing on Canales part. I strongly disagree. I'm very familiar with pulp-era detective fiction, having written my senior thesis in college on the subject, and what Canales does is use the stock. stereotypical characters and elements of those stories to celebrate the style. And did I mention Guarnido's art? It bears repeating. The faces are more recognizably human and expressive than most of the artists drawing supposedly "real" human figures.
Both of these books are well worth your time. Pester your local comic store for them at your earliest convenience.
So, Micah Wright (no relation) lied about being an Army Ranger. And every comics related web-site in the world goes completly ape-shit crazy over it. But, here's the thing. It doesn't change the quality of his work one bit. And the only person he's hurt by lying is himself. I can think of at least one person who lied about their military service record to the possible detriment of others, but that person ain't Micah Wright.
And really, these people seem to have far too much time on their hands.
(There, I talked about this non-issue, can we all move on now?)
Reviewing movie trailers is one of the things I occasionally do to amuse myself and my on-line pals. It gives me an excuse to be snarky, while summing up how succesful the trailer is in advertising the film to me.
For this batch of trailer reviews, the rating system I will employ will be as follows: "willing to pay full price," "willing to pay matinee price" and "will catch it on cable if I'm sick and too lazy to change the channel."
Full Price Latter Days: I'm fairly certain that I've seen a porno movie with this exact same premise. A mormon missionary falls in love with a WeHo party boy and romantic drama ensues.
Hero: A big, grand romantic epic with people kicking each other. The kind of movie Quentin Tarantino wishes he could make, if only it weren't for that pesky lack of talent. I'd attempt a summation of the plot, but really I was too busy looking at the fighting to notice there was one.
Garden State: This looks gorgeous and strange and compelling, all things I value in movies. Pity I can't tell a damned thing about what it's about from the trailer.
Matinee Price Super Size Me: It's too bad this is a documentary, and therefore too "weird" for American audiences, because frankly the trailer alone should be enough to put people off fast food. A man goes on an all McDonald's diet, and films the process of his health and body deteriorating.
You Can't Stop the Murders: A strange Australian comedy about serial killings inspired by the Village People. What's not to love?
Two Brothers: Somewhere deep inside my black little heart there must be an eight year old girl, because something makes me all giddy when I think about seeing this movie. Two tigers have adventures in India during the British occupation.
Cable Godsend: What better way to discuss the ethical and legal implications of cloning than in a "thriller" starring a slumming Robert DeNiro! Yuppie parents replace their dead child by cloning him and spookiness ensues.
The Day After Tomorrow: Boy does the entire premise of this film seem unlikely...oh, wait, that's right, it's based on a book by noted crank Art Bell and noted liar Whitley Strieber. Never mind.
Wanted Dossier: Millar's Wanted is a slight, but enjoyable book. It requires no heavy thinking and the most strenuous intellectual activity it requires of the reader is figuring out which DC villains the characters are meant to be. This book opens with three pages of plain black text on white paper and closes with five pages of ads. Already I feel cheated out of content. The text accompanying each profile is minimal and several of the art pieces have a hurried, sketchy appearance. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd say this was rushed out to meet demand for the title while the regular artist plays "catch up" on a dead-line. But that would be needlessly cynical of me.
Ulitmate Fantastic Four #5: As I've said before, there's nothing wrong with big, dumb, goofy super-hero comics. There's too many of them, yes, but there's nothing inherently wrong with them. This is a good example of a well-done, big,dumb, goofy super-hero comic. And it's the first time I can think of since Kirby and Lee did the FF that Ben Grimm has been written well.
Batman #626: I have a suspicion that this book may get over-looked. It doesn't have the super-star cachet of Jim Lee anymore, nor the indie cred of Brian Azzarello. And for some reason I keep hearing fan-boys complain about Wagner's covers. But what this most reminds me of is late 70s, early 80s era Batman comics. And what I mean by that is, it's not taking itself too seriously or pretending that because it's a Batman comic it needs to be excessivly dark and grim. Hell, for the first time in a long time it's a Batman comic other than an animated series tie-in that I can tell parents is appropriate for children, and that's saying something.
Ministry of Space #3: How long has it been since the last one came out? And I still had no trouble jumping into the story or remembering where things left off. Which is more than I can say for:
Too Much Hopeless Savages #3: I enjoyed the prior Hopeless Savages minis, but I was completly lost with this issue, and it hasn't even been nearly as long a wait as I had between issues of Ministry of Space. I think I'll be waiting for the final issue to ship before I attempt to finish reading this issue.
Uncle Scrooge #329: I like Duck stories. I like Don Rosa. I like Don Rosa Duck stories. But sometimes, when Rosa delves into Scrooge's past, writing stories that "fill in the gaps" or are intended to be sequels to Barks stories, I can't help but think that Rosa is performing a lingham massage on Duck fans. With release. His work is much better when he's doing something new or original with the Ducks, rather than retreading old territory. And speaking of which:
Conan #3: This is a perfectly acceptable sword-and-sorcery comic. In the early 80s I burnt out at least two VCRs playing videos of sword-and-sandal movies over and over again. All those movies about well-muscled men, wearing nothing but loincloths and baby oil, are probably one of the factors that influenced my sexuality (that, and He-Man toys). So, I dig this. Which is why I was kind of annoyed to go to the letters page to read the latest installment of the Robert E. Howard biography comic, The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob, and see at the top of the letters page a writer chiding Dark Horse Comics for having the temerity to create stories that "fill in the gaps" between Howard's Conan stores. Because as we all know, there's absolutly no precedent whatsoever for the creation of new Conan stories.
Caper #7: There are times when I feel that I must be the only person reading this book. Which is a shame, because this is probably Winick's best writing outside of Barry Ween. I'm one of those horrible people who actually thinks Winick's a good writer, just a bit wasted on super-hero books. And it's drawn by John Severin, the man who drew the best Nanny Dickering ever! That being said, the revelation of the real killer should come as no surprise to anyone with a pulse, nor should his apparent motives be.
I've been enjoying UFF more than I'd really like to admit. It's proven to be big, goofy fun so far. Straight-forward, unpretentious superhero comics, when done well, are a joy to read. And that's what I've been getting in UFF so far.