Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight

[Warning! This post will have SPOILERS!]

This was the one movie that I was holding my breath for this summer. Sure, Iron Man was pretty great, and the Hulk movie wasn't as terrible as I thought it's be. I liked Hellboy II better than the first, but all of my hopes and dreams were riding on the potential greatness of the newest Batman movie.

I waited until Sunday to see it, and successfully avoided having it spoiled for me. I watched Batman Begins Friday night to kind of refresh my memory, and I'm really glad I did that.

So... The Dark Knight was pretty f-ing awesome.

The film, in my own private list of greatest comic book adaptations, quickly shot to the top. Right up there with the 1978 Superman (which kind of holds that permanent number one status, for me. It came out when I was at the right age for it to influence everything that came after).

Rather than spell everything out, I thought I'd just hit on what made it great:
  • It was a big and more complex than most films of its kind. It had the appropriate sense of epic-ness for the franchise's debut of the Joker, and fully embraced a morally ambiguous battleground as opposed to "good guys vs bad guys". Everything in this movie revolved around character, rather than action set-pieces. Even the supporting characters got a good moral conflict or two.
  • That said, they didn't skimp on the action in this movie. I liked how the Nolan's have kept everything just on the side of credible, real-world physics. I liked the skyhook move in the Korea sequence the best, I think. It was so Bondian.
  • Speaking of Bondian: I think this movie hit on the best balance of disparate elements of Batman history. From the James Bond-ish international Batman, to the detective, to the tortured avenger, to the pseudo-deputized vigilante, to the urban myth, this movie took so many inspirations from so many different iterations of the character and blended them seamlessly. Also, it seems that they even looked to the Burton version, and slyly addressed that version as well; I'm not alone in seeing parallels between the two movies in that last fight with the Joker, and the specific choice that is made in this movie. There was also that throwaway line to Fox about wanting to be able to turn his head, which made me chuckle.
  • I liked that this film picked up the threads and themes from the first movie and ran with them. Watching the first one so close to the second really paid off. The first one dealt with one man becomming an idea, because an idea is harder to defeat than one man. The second one dealt with trying get that idea to stand on its own two legs without the man. We see Bruce trying to establish a structure that will perservere without him as Batman. It was very Empire Strikes Back as we see that ambition fail bitterly on so many levels. All that's left at this point is for Bruce to realize that he's not the Batman, that it's the other way around.
  • Every actor in this one is fantastic. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a good replacement for Holmes, as I couldn't see Holmes handling the emotional heft that this movie had. Ledger, it goes without saying, is brilliant and tragically the most perfect interpretation of the Joker we're ever likely to see.

There's more, but that's what sticking with me right now. I'm excited to see a third movie from this creative group. Since the last scene of the first movie set the sequel up so succinctly, I'm looking to the end of this one to point a clue as to where they're going to from here. It makes sense that the third would involve a lonelier Batman (no more Rachel, no more Lucius, no more Gordon). With Rachel out of the picture, it would make sense that they would introduce a new love interest*. There's been a lot of talk about Catwoman (which Warner's would be a bit gun-shy on using since her solo movie tanked so hard) which would make sense, since she moves in Batman's world as opposed to Wayne's, and would follow the theme of Wayne crossing over into his alter-ego completely.

I'd humbly submit that Talia, Ra's al Ghul's daughter, would be a better choice. It would give Wayne a chance to revisit his original mission, it would give Ghul's illusion of immortality from the first movie a bit of credibility, and could possible close the thematic arc. Plus, no slight against Selina, but Talia can kick some ass.

*I use that term, but it's something else entirely, isn't it? The inclusion of Rachel provides something more than just object of the heroes affection/damsel in distress stereotype.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Comics: Week of May 14, 2008

Better late than never.

Batman #676 - As much as I love Morrison, I dropped this title after the first few issues when I started to hear that other writers would be filling in arcs and there would be some crossovers coming up. That's a scenario where I usually rely on the eventual TPB (see below) to catch me up. RIP seemed like a good time to jump back on board. Morrison's the kind of writer who really leaves nothing to waste; what seems inconsequential now will undoubtedly play a part later. This issue provided a good point for new and returning readers, as Batman has seemingly reached a new level in his career. It's the kind of place one reaches right before the fall, however. Batman RIP looks to mine some of the same territory that Morrison covered in his Seven Soldiers series; spiritual death and reincarnation. I don't really believe the rumors that someone else will be replacing Bruce (for long), but I do believe that we will see a new Batman that's going to be removed from the grim-n-gritty one that has been somewhat of a killjoy for the last twenty-odd years.

Casanova #14 - Didn't see that coming. It's a great creative leap that makes me want to read not just this album, but the entire series, over again. The first album ended with a fundamental character shift for the protagonist, and this second arc does the same. Fraction is putting Cas through his paces, giving me faith that he has a direction and purpose for this series. Also, sexy super-spy action, parallel universes, mystical crows, giant robots and mad scientists. Just when things are getting to far away from anything resembling reality, Fraction does a head-check like the reveal in this issue, which brings things down to a human level. In a way, Cas has become worse than a traitor to everyone who is connected to him, just as he's gotten to a point that he might actually care about what that means. The next album can't come soon enough.

Final Crisis Sketchbook - One those things I wouldn't have picked unless it involved Morrison and/or Jones. I would have hoped for a little bit more insight into either gentleman's artistic process, but otherwise I think it was worth the purchase. Looks like Morrison is tying Final Crisis into much of his previous DC work: Particularly his Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle series, plus shades of Darkseid from his JLA run with a little bit of 52 for spice. I skipped the Crime Bible series that spun out of Countdown, but now I think it might be worth a look. I remember that being one of the elements of 52 that I thought might be Morrison's baby.

Green Lantern Corps #24 - You've got to hand it to Tomasi and Johns for keeping their corner of the DCU on track and in harmony. While the main GL title slips into an extended secret origin story setting up the next big GL event, the sister title has been working in unison laying the contemporary groundwork for same.

Late to the Party: TPB Edition

I picked up a clutch of trades at Flying Dog Comics' going-out-of-business sale.

Batman and Son - Just as I suspected: Morrison's run reads much better in uninterrupted chunks. I admire the man's chutzpah in picking up on a stray, but important, bit of continuity that no one wanted to touch for the last twenty years. He does seem to leave a bit of doubt that Damien is who his mother says he is. Paternity aside, does it even matter? What matters is what Damien believes, to an extent. He believes he is Batman's son, and that informs everything. Also: Man-Bat ninjas.

Daredevil: The Devil Inside, Vol. I - After showing up late to his run on Captain America (and his most excellent Sleeper and Criminal series), I finally got around to his run on Daredevil. Overall, I'd rate this over his other Marvel work. There's a tension that remains firmly rooted in reality in his Daredevil work that's missing from his work on Captain America. Maybe it's because Matt's world is more ground level than Cap's, what with the secret agent stuff, cosmic cube and SHIELD and all. Bonus points for bringing in the forgotten Dakota North in a supporting role, and resurrecting the whole Michael Murdock identity. Also, was I the only one who thought the interactions with Frank Castle were touching. Personally, I thought it was a nice contrast, and deepened the character of the Punisher: while he has no qualms about killing criminals, he wouldn't want to see someone like Matt arrive at that solution.

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 6 - 9 - This series is like a great TV show. It's interesting that so many reviews compare it to Lost (and ironic... doesn't Vaughn write for that show?), because everytime I read a chunk of it, I think that Lost should be more like this book (or should have been... I dropped out midway through season 3... has it gotten back on track?). It's got a focused, forward movement and knows exactly when to disclose a secret or two. So far, I've remained unspoiled as to the nature of the series end... though I suspect it's not going to be a happy one. The last trade should be out in July, and I can't wait.

That should do it for last week's haul. I know I was supposed to have a new Comic Shop Project entry up this Monday, but real life got in the way. I'll be making it up by having a two-fer next week. Thanks for stopping by.



Monday, May 12, 2008

The Comic Shop Project: Earth 2 Comics

After my experiences last Saturday, I wanted to start this project off with a positive note, so I chose a shop I frequent fairly often. I found it a few years ago, and drop by whenever I find myself with a little money and some time to kill. If I still lived in the San Fernando valley, it would most definitely be my primary shop.

I'm talking about Earth 2 Comics in Sherman Oaks. The shop is clean, well-lit and smartly organized. The owners proudly display their 2007 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer of the Year award, and rightfully so.

  • Selection: They've got a fairly wide selection of new material (though no manga). The shop is divided near equally between trades and floppies, with some toys and shirts thrown into the mix. They don't have a whole lot on the floor as far as back issues, but I get the feeling (due to the presence of Silver Age titles) that they have more in storage for a customer who is looking for something special.
  • Cleanliness/Organization: It's a very clean and organized shop that feels lived in. The decor has a nice balance so that the shop doesn't feel sparsely impersonal or cluttered and trashy. There the feeling of a discerning eye in the choice of decor. Personally, I like the Steve Rude Nexus skecth that they have up on the wall. When I visited Saturday, they had some kind of lifesize replica of Ultimate Thor's hammer on the counter. It was intimidating, but in a cool, geeky way. Definitely a conversation starter for many who entered the shop. I like that they have separate sections for the trades, in that you can look at one shelf and find titles in alphabetical order, or you can look on a separate shelf and see trades grouped by creator. For someone like me, who tends to follow writers over characters, this is a welcome tweak.
  • Staff: Probably the model staff one could wish for. They are always ready to help, but never too intrusive. I've always been greeted or acknowledged when I've entered the shop. They possess a level of professionalism and enthusiasm that I wish more shops had. What really sells me is the way they interact with all walks of customer; I've seen them walk a non-comics person looking for a gift for someone else in the most courteous manner as well as talk to hardcore fans about the smallest continuity details. It's all about enthusiasm and thinking about who you're talking to.
  • Bonus/Incentives: Aside from the friendly atmosphere, they offer a 15% discount on pull lists of at least 10 items. They also have something they call the Free Trade League. It's a card you get stamped every time you purchase a trade. When you have 10 stamps, your 11th trade (up to $19.99) is free. Great incentive for readers like me who buy more trades than floppies these days.

So, in short, Earth 2 is a shop I can't recommend highly enough. It's got a great vibe. It's one of few shops I would feel comfortable bringing my girlfriend to. Hell, I'd feel comfortable bringing my mother there.

Not that I would... I'm just saying.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Emergency Comic Shop Project

I didn't plan on posting my first Comic Shop Project until Monday, but this is an emergency.

Anyone reading this in the Los Angeles/Ventura area will want to make their way to Flying Dog Comics. The store is going out of business after about two years. I was out driving today, looking for new comic shops when I found it. Too bad my first visit will also be my last.

Seems like a good store. Long story short, the owner's selling everything in stock for 50% off. A competitor is buying his leftover stock after the store closes for 25 cents on the dollar, so he's trying to burn off as much as he can before then, and two quarters beats one.

The selection is great. Sadly, this is a young store, so everything is fresh and clean. I ended up buying a bunch of recent floppies and four trades. I'm kicking myself already for what I didn't buy.

So, if you like a deal, and want to help this guy out, get yourself up there. He said that the sale would go on through Sunday and that the store closes Tuesday, most likely. I don't know if the sale will continue past Sunday.

Flying Dog Comics
9820 Topanga Canyon Boulevard
Chatsworth, CA 91311
(818) 700-0200‎

[EDIT 5/11]

The shop was closed Sunday, so there may have been some misconception on my part. It might be worth a call to see if the sale will continue Monday and Tuesday.


Friday, May 09, 2008

New Comics: Week of May 7, 2008

Here's what I ended up bringing home:

Avengers/Invaders #1 - I know Spider-Man's thing is the nervous banter... but there was a little too much here. It became downright annoying. Other than that, this issue provided pretty much what I expected. I can see the writer trying to draw a parallel between Peter and Bucky with the dual internal narration, but given Brubaker's retcon of Bucky's character during wartime, it just seemed a little off. Also, like with all of Marvel's projects lately, I'm having trouble discerning when this all takes place. Post-Civil War, sure, but Pre-Secret Invasion? Who the hell knows. It's kind of frustrating, really. Wondering if Ross just gets to make up his own stuff on projects like this.

Invincible Iron Man #1 - Strong start. Fraction hits the ground runnning, bringing a lot of brains and (surprisingly) sex to Stark. Kind of a mix of the fast pace readers expect from Cassanova with a little world building from Immortal Iron Fist. For a second, I almost thought this was going to go the way of Armor Wars, but it quickly veered into something new. I loved the connection that's made between the advanced tech of the armor and the (formerly) advanced tech behind the camera phone. Very smart, very relateable.

Small note: I am wondering about the timeline here, just as with Avengers/Invaders, but care less. Doesn't seem as tied into current (what passes for) continuity, other than Stark is director of SHIELD now.

Secret Invasion #2 - Some of the shuttle escapees turned out to be red herrings, just as I suspected, though at least one appears to be the real deal. I actually liked that part of this issue, despite the rest.

The part that threw me out of the story might seem incidental, but kind of wraps up my problem with the writing in a nutshell: Emma Frost using the word "guys" indescribing the other group. She also using the term "brainwaves". This sounds like a) every other character and b) nothing like any incarnation of Frost that I've ever read. Sure you could write it off that she's a skrull, trying to blend in with the humans, using the vernacular. Just bugged me, and yanked me right out of the proceedings.

Also, am I not all that up to date on Jessica Jones. I know Bendis retconned her as an Avenger at some point, but never really named her alter-ego. If that's true, I thought it was interesting that she was missing from the roll call on the first page. Also, I'm wondering if she's the real thing, and Bendis is going to risk invalidating everything he did with Alias by making her a skrull. Also, it would give him an opportunity to reestablish her as a costumed superhero, building her up as a major player. It sure worked for Sentry!

I did kind of like that last shot of the issue, and all of the different hybrid skrulls. Interesting that some embody whole teams, and even adopt helpful design tweaks on their uniforms to inform us of such.

Young X-Men #2 - What? I feel old. What's going on? Still no real grasp of any of the characters. Think that Cyke is probably not the real deal, but other than that... I got nothin'. The only conceivable hook for me at this point is to find out what has happened to the former New Mutants. The last page reveal did not make me want to seek out the next issue. I love Paquette's work, but somehow he always ends up on projects I'm not all that interested in reading (Bulleteer excepted).


DC Universe Special Justice League of America - Did not see this on the stands.

War That Time Forgot #1 - Looked good, until I saw Bruce Jones was writing it. I'll hang back on this one.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin TPB & JLA Presents: Aztek the Ultimate Man TPB - Saw both of these on the racks. May wait til this weekend to pick them up. I have a trade discount coming up, so this may be my last bit of leftover birthday splurge.



Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Comic Shop Project

Lately I've been thinking about the "death of the comic shop". There's a lot of talk floating out there predicting it, though I don't know if I could subscribe to any of it. Certainly there's a lot to be anxious about. Online subscription services, big box booksellers, competition from free online content... either singularly, or taken together, have been seen as the harbingers of doom to many.

For me, the shop represents too much for me to do away with. Sure I pick up the occassional trade while browsing in Barnes & Noble, and sure I like a good deal on my comics, but these facts don't trump the fact that I value my LCS, and try to spend more time and money there than anywhere else.

Maybe (probably) it's a generational thing: before I had my own mode of transportation and my own source of income, I got all of my comics from the local 7-11. My buying habits were limited to what that vendor received in any given week (and more often than not it was completely random). I remember discovering my first comic shop, and it was a wonderful thing that I had no idea existed; a store devoted entirely to comics. It was a huge (in my memory) shop in Davis, California, near the college. We were on our way back home from a summer boating trip, and I bought two graphic novels (I had no idea they existed either): God Loves, Man Kills and The New Mutants. We lived no where near Davis, but as soon as we got home, my mom was game enough to find a closer shop and bring me there frequently.

"Better this than drugs" she reasoned.

Oh, if she only knew.

So the shop has a strong emotional ressonance for me. It shaped the way I chose the titles I bought. Able to browse a much larger pool of publications, my own reading experience expanded and deepened. Also, I got a giddy sense of anxiety on the drive to the shop. What would I find on the shelves that day? That probably doesn't sound all that special, but take into account that this was pre-internet, and going to the shop was an adventure unspoiled by... er... spoilers. To a certain extent, I still like to be surprised at what I will find. At the very least, when I have a little extra money, or feel a little bored/adventurous, I like to browse through what's there. I've resisted pull-lists, even, adding a little bit of unpredictability to the experience. In a way, there's nothing better for me than to learn I've missed something, and now have to hunt it down.

Lately I've been trying to visit as many stores as I can. At first, it was an effort to locate shops with dollar bins, but it's grown into something else. I don't know what it is, but my girlfriend convinced me I should write it all down. Seeing as this blog has been a bit directionless for the better part of a year, it might be a good way to generate content when I don't want to talk about the books themselves. My goal is to visit as many shops as I can in the greater Los Angeles/San Bernardino/Ventura areas, and review them. Through a combination of Google Maps and the Diamond Store Locator, I've started with this:

I've visted/frequented some of the shops already. Some I haven't. I'll try to rate them all on a common criteria:

  • Selection: What kind of comics are carried? Mainstream superhero, alternative, manga? New comics, back issues, trades?
  • Cleanliness/Organization: A big one, though I'm not too prissy. Sometimes I like a grungy shop... it usually means they've been in business for a while and have a lot of hidden treasures. Some of the newer shops I've run accross are too antiseptic and cold. I draw the line at filth, though. And bugs.
  • Staff: Probably the biggest pet peeve that I have. I'm not that needy; I don't need to be handheld. I do like to be acknowledged. Snarky hipsters put me off. Also, some sense of professional conduct is appreciated.
  • Bonus/Incentives: What's going to bring me back to the store? Discounts on pull-lists, dollar bins, trade programs, etc? Anything above and beyond just stocking and selling comics.

I'm probably leaving something out, so I reserve the right to revise my criteria in the future. Also, if there's anything you feel I've overlooked, please leave a comment. I'd appreciate any advice or insight. As I usually try to get to a new shop on the weekends, I'll be running this new feature on Mondays.

The list so far (in alphabetical order):

3 Geeks
4 Color Fantasies
A Hidden Fortress
Amazing Comics & Cards
Astounding Fantasy Art Books & Comics
Beach Ball Comics
Brave New World
Bunky Brothers Comic Books
Candy Comic Books
Chamber of Comics
Collectors Asylum
Collector's Paradise
Comic Book Guys
Comic Bookie
Comic Bug
Comic Castle USA
Comic Cellar
Comic Connection
Comic Ink
Comic King Store
Comic Madness
Comic Odyssey
Comic Quest
Comic Vendor
Comics & Fun
Comics Factory
Comics Plus
Continental Comics
Corner Store Comics
D J's Universal Comics
Dong Boo Comic Book Store
Dream World Comics [Simi Valley]
Dream World Comics [Venice]

Earth 2 Comics
Epic Comics
Flying Dog Comics
Funny Business [Moved]
Geoffrey's Comics Comic Cult
Golden Apple Comics
Golden Apple II
Heroes & Villains
Hi De Ho Comics
House of Secrets
Jeff's Comics
JNJ Comic Books
JPM Comics
Kemp's Komics & Kards
Kings Comics and Cards
Korean Comic Book Store
Legacy 1
Legends for Fun
Mega Comics [now Dream World?]
Meltdown Comics & Collectibles
Metropolis Comics
Michaels Comic Book Shop
Mini Melt
Mini Melt Too
Orange Comics
Orbit Comics & Cards
Otherworld Comics
Players Comics & Cards
Pulp Fiction
Ralph's Comic Corner
Secret Headquarters LLC
Shooting Star Comics
Solomon Comics
The Flip Side
The Realm, Games & Comics
The Third Planet
Treasure Island Sports Cards & Comics
West Coast Fantasy

P.S. This list is by no means complete. Leave me a comment if there's a shop that I've overlooked. I'd hate to think I missed something wonderful (or awful).


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Punk'd by Wizard

Brought to my attention via the Blog at Newsarama from Wizard's list of events that impressed Wizard:

48. THE SENTRY HOAX (June 2000)
When this magazine broke news that Stan Lee had created a heretofore-unseen superhero in his 1960s heyday, fans practically lactated with excitement. Only problem: it wasn’t true. Acting in collusion with then-Marvel Knights honchos Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, Wizard told the fallacious story of the Sentry, a hero devised by Lee and fictional artist Artie Rosen; writer Paul Jenkins “found” the embryonic documents and formally introduced him to the Marvel Universe. Roughly a year later, we all came clean. Bet you’re still pissed.
I wouldn't say pissed. Just sad. Sad that you think being a tool of the man is "journalism" in any sense. Also, the fact that you thought anyone was fooled at the time is double sad.

Also: "...lactated with excitement"? I don't think that word means what you think it means. Do you really want to paint a picture that fanboys were secreting excitement from their mammary glands, most commonly through their nipples?

Wizard staffer: I congratulate you on the purchase of that thesaurus but, man, check the definitions once in a while.


Prospective New Comics: Week of May 7, 2008

Some items that are arriving in shops this week that caught my eye. Final decisions will be made at the shop.

Avengers Invaders #1 - Maybe. I loved the old school 70's series from my youth. I'm curious on how much of the charm will be sucked out and replaced by humorless "realism". Also, it's got Captain America, back from the dead, kinda... Can't imagine he'll be too pleased to find out what's in store for him and Bucky in the future. Awkward.

DC Universe Special: Justice League of America - Are they starting up with these already. Man, they really are trying to soak the readers of the big events nowadays. I'll check it out in the shop. If it's got a writer or artist I'm interested in, I might pick it up. Otherwise, pass.

Invincible Iron Man #1 - Totally on board for this one. I get the feeling Fraction will know how to make Tony someone I can relate to again. Also, it probably kicks ten kinds of ass. P.S. - Son of Stane!?

Secret Invasion #2 - Sure. I liked the first issue enough, though I get the feeling that this is going to go off the rails pretty early. Just a hunch. I'm already tired of trying to figure out who's a skrull and who isn't. Feel like the reveal in the first issue may be a kind of red herring. I don't think all of those folks on that shuttle are the real deal.

War That Time Forgot #1 - Dinosaurs and World War II. Worked before and it's going to work again. Surprised that this didn't happen, say, right after a glimpse of it in New Frontier.

Young X-Men #2 - Felt conflicted about the first issue. May peek between the covers to see if it develops anything interesting, like characters.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin TPB - Heard good things about this series, plus the covers were just gorgeous. May see how much the trades running and/or start poking into dollar bins for back issues. Unsure. It'll probably come down to packaging.

JLA Presents: Aztek the Ultimate Man TPB - Managed to find the first three issues in dollar bins. Surprised to see this coming out now. Wondering if it's just because of Morrison's role and stature at DC right now as God of All Comics or something... more. Morrison kind of wrapped up this character in his run on JLA, so it would seem like a dead end, promotion-wise. Could Aztek be coming back in some form or another in Final Crisis? Wouldn't put it past him... or them.

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