Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Comics: 8/27/06

Catching up on some titles this week. Some brief thoughts...

52 Week 15 & 16 - I still think there's more to Supernova... get the sneaky suspicion that he's actually Booster, either an alternate timeline Booster or a version from a different point in time. It's time travel, folks... all bets are off.

There's been some buzz that Montoya may take over the Question's mantle. I'm a bit divided on that. It could be interesting, but I have an attachment to Charlie (mostly due to the underrated Denny O'Neil Question series from the 80's.

Astonishing X-Men #16 - Consistently good series. Beginning to see a convergence of elements from the beginning of Whedon's run. I smell a free-for-all coming. I love that Kitty's shown as strong enough to take center stage. I always felt like she never reached the potential she should have. She's always been treated either like the kid on the team, and the only time she's ever been developed on her own was as a sidekick of Wolverine's.

Beyond #2 - Just a fun title. The art's a little funky for my tastes, but fits the story. Feels like a throwback to my younger days as a Marvel Zombie. I'm curious as to the central mystery... whether this truly is the Beyonder or someone aping his style. The cast seems to be drawn from different points in continuity... or is that my misunderstanding.

Eternals #3 - Low key fun, though am anxious to see where this is going. Interesting that Stark remembers the Eternals, but there's no record of them.

Ultimate FF #32 - Nice characterization of Reed and Doom. Millar subtley reworking all the old tropes of the FF... the Doom/Richards mind switch was an old school classic. I loved the final shot of Doom... so much of his attitude in one line.

Wonder Woman #2 - Good issue, but the whole "first-it's-monthly-now-it's-bimonthly" dance puts me off a bit. Plus, if I'm waiting two months for a title, I'd like a bit more meat, you know? (though, the callback to the TV show at the end was pretty cool).


Friday, August 25, 2006

OT: Double Feature

So... that Snakes on a Plane movie... you know, the one with the snakes... um, yeah. We had to see it eventually, I guess.

I knew it would be bad, not even campy bad, but bad. It just oozed bad, from its specious origins, to its internet-as-cocreator, to its wonky website that doesn't display properly on any computer or browser I try. I just focused on the man... you know who I'm talking about. I figured HE just might pull it off. I like him, I like him a lot.

But, early on (say the first five minutes) I turned to my girlfriend and asked "does this seem like an SNL skit to you, or is it just me?" To decribe the "plot" as perfunctory is to insult the very notion of perfunctory.

Wow, just... wow. We shared the theatre with some teens who seemed to enjoy it on a wholly ironic level, so I know it's not just me.

We also saw World Trade Center... how sick are we? Good movie... could have been a little better, though I did leave with the same feeling as when I left United 93... there was a moment where we, as a people, could have changed the world for the better, and we squandered it.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Waited for the Trade: Ultimate Galactus

Timely as ever, I've been thinking about all the hubub concerning last weeks last-minute delay of Marvel's Civil War #4 and the ripple effect is has on all of the tie-in issues.

In the end, my main concern is for the retailers. Personally, I'd wait a reasonable amount of time to maintain the artistic integrity of the project, in fact I'd prefer it, so this really doesn't hurt me. I'm disappointed, especially since it Marvel waited until the eleventh hour to announce the delay and if the delay falls to the penciller, like they've stated, then they've had a pretty good idea this was going to happen for a while. In the end they threw comic shops under the bus, at least temporarily, sacrificing short term gains in order to gamble on the staying power of the eventual trade. By gambling I mean that they have the hope that the collected trade of Civil War will be a classic... an evergreen revenue source in future years, much like Dark Knight, Watchmen, etc...

All this happens as I manage to finish reading Ultimate Extinction, the conclusion of the Ultimate Galactus trilogy. The second series was already underway by the time I picked up the first trade, so I've followed this series exclusively through the trade format.

Overall, I found it to be a great story. I thought it was a bold reimagining of the classic Lee/Kirby tale. Ellis brings his love for hard science fiction to round off the aspects that don't hold up in the 21st century. I was mystified when I heard that Misty Knight would play a role, but when I finally got to read it, it made perfect sense. It's a disaster movie, essentially, and there's no main focus other than the Big Threat. Also, as the Ultimate line's first "big event", it provides a kind of walking tour through their world as it (maybe) comes to an end.

I don't know why the series was broken up into three separate minis when it could have been told in one maxi series. The cynical part of me thinks it's some kind of marketing tactic (more number 1's?)... which troubles me about Marvel lately. They're really angling for something bigger lately... don't get me wrong, they're a business and I can't blame them for looking to make some money. I'm just getting the feeling that if they thought they could make an extra buck, they would follow that extra buck no matter who they hurt. Today, it's the retailers. Tomorrow, who knows?

Friday, August 18, 2006

OT: Descent Review and General Feelings on Scary Movies

It is not manly for me to admit, but I am a big baby when it comes to scary movies.

There, I said it.

I may have been scarred as a child. One of my earliest movie memories is watching Jaws at the Burlingame Drive-in in my parents Volkswagon Bug. I think the scene where Dreyfuss goes down and finds the head popping out from the hole in the ships hull may have been it. Wasn't expecting that...

Maybe it was years later when VCRS were making their big splash, and as a family, we would be invited over to other peoples houses for movie nights. Thus, I was exposed to the likes of The Shining and Don't Look Now. Movies that my parents wouldn't have brought me to in the theatres, but now that they were on TV, somehow that decision-making process was short-circuited.

The real deciding factor, or nail-in-the-coffin (sorry), was 1978's Dawn of the Dead. I think I was about twelve or thirteen at my 6-year younger cousin's birthday sleepover. That movie just unhinged me... I can't watch a zombie movie, though I've seen most of them... it's a moth-to-flame kind of thing for me: I'm horrified and I'm fascinated. Maybe it's the theme of isolation, maybe it's the whole end of the world scenario... there's a doctorate thesis there somewhere for me.

On my own, I pretty much avoid most scary movies unless there's some kind of artistic angle I can get into... Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite movies, but more for its psychological dimensions and artistic execution than for the serial killer porn that it has since inspired. Somewhere along the way, I managed to hook up with a girl who LOVES scary movies, and not just scary movies, but gore too. I never would have known...

To maintain a healthy relationship, periodically I "man-up" and take her to a scary movie (I imagine this is the payback for taking her to see all the dumb, frat-boy humor comedies). Which brings me to Descent. [SEMI-SPOLIER ALERT]

Story-wise, it reminded me of Dead Calm. Woman suffers traumatic personal loss and has horrific, yet cathartic, adventure. (I find it interesting that horror/thriller movies with women protagonists always take on moral dimensions, and I wonder it that can be traced back to stuff like the Grimm fairy tales).

I really liked it. It deftly sets up the characters, giving them just enough realistic characterizations without over-explaining or tipping its hand too much. I loved the monsters... good, realistic flesh chompers that don't make an appearance until halfway through the movie. Once they appear, though, things pretty much continue as they would have anyway (I'm thinking about that other movie The Cave, where once the monsters appear, it turns into an action movie with big set pieces).

The movie just builds and builds the tension all the way to the end, but not in an unbearable way.

My only problem was the ending. The movie does so well... and out of nowhere we get a schlocky jolt as the very last shot of the movie. Only by doing a little online research did I discover, accidentally, that US movie-goers are getting short-changed. They pulled a Brazil (or Blade Runner if you will) and gave us a happy(er) ending. The US ending makes no sense, while the uncut one, though a bit ambiguous from what I read, actually pays off a lot of elements peppered throughout the movie.

Though, despite this, I heartily recommend Descent, flaws and all. It's a smart piece of film.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Kids Comics?

Finally managed to get into a comics shop proper this weekend, and discovered something disturbing, though not terribly surprising.

My girlfriend tagged along, and was making some purchases for herself, and decided she wanted to pick something up for her 6 year old niece. Her niece is starting to read, and we like to encourage that kind of thing.

We both started looking around the shop. I had just read some items on the CGS board about "gateway" comics... and remembered that it wasn't always superheroes for me. There was a period where I read a lot of Harvey and Archie comics as I got up to speed on the whole reading thing. It made sense to me... the non-genre stuff is more accessible to kids, especially girls. In my mind, I thought the Harvey stuff would be the most accessible: Richie Rich, Caspar, Lil' Devil...

All we could find, really, were some Teen Titans Go digests and some fairly expensive Disney properties... I thought the Scrooge stuff would be the best (natch) but the price point seemed a bit high. I asked the shop owner if they had any thing else appropriate for a 6 year old girl... I specifically asked if they had any Harvey.

I was told that Harvey hadn't been in publication for 30 to 40 years (which contradicts my memory of buying them in the early 80's, in some form, digest I think). They might have some back issues, but I imagine they'd be priced as collector's items. We were then shown the aforementioned Teen Titans Go and Disney items. Also some Justice League Unlimited and Marvel Adventures. The store employee told us, basically, that if they've seen the cartoon, they might be interested in the comic. We ended up walking away with an issue of Scooby Doo I found in the independents(?) section (Next to an issue of BPRD).

So, the message of the day is: If you're looking to get your kids into reading via comics, best soften them up by getting them to watch TV instead. Then, maybe, they'll want to seek out some expensive trades or digests with all that disposable income that 6 year olds have. And superheroes... push the superheroes.

Friday, August 11, 2006

TPB Reviews (and a little ranting)

Haven't been to the LCS lately to pick up new comics, but found myself in a Barnes & Noble and managed to pick up a few TPB's.

Before I begin, I would like to say I like waiting for the trade. I know, in some respects, it's a bad thing for the comics industry. It cuts down on the monthly income and some series get cancelled before they have the opportunity to get traded. I know it has affected the way some writers approach the monthlies (writing for the trade) but I believe that that trend started before trades were even that common (I'm thinking of the long story arcs in Swamp Thing by Alan Moore...). I like trades because I can get a chunk of story and not have to worry about missing an issue.

I know, I know, I should have a pull-list... I just hate the idea so much. The best thing about buying comics, aside from reading them, is seeing them up there on that shelf, and being able to decide right then and there if I want to buy them or not. Picking through Previews and calculating what I want to buy three, four months from now has never been an exciting proposiiton. I like the surprise of seeing something new on the shelf... I also like the idea that I can drop a title immediately if it's not doing anything for me.

Which brings me to Hellboy: Strange Places. At last, I have the complete story to the minis contained within (2002's The Third Wish and 2005's The Island). I love Mignola's art, I think he's an artist's artist, but I've always been a little wary of his storytelling. I've never been all that confident that he's taking the reader somewhere... which is fine. Hellboy is a great excuse to draw all the monsters and creepy things that one would want to.

What pains me is waiting years for new Mignola art. I know he's been working on movies and what not, but it's kind of pissing me off. I think the nail in that particular coffin was The Art of Hellboy that came out a while ago. I was disappointed, really. I thought it was a great opportunity to share his creative process with his fans, but in reality, just a high-priced pin-up book, with a few sketches scattered here and there.

With that said, I liked Strange Places fine. I actually thought it was a good end to Hellboy, story-wise... Mignola says it's the end of the first chapter, but given his output, I'm thinking it may be the end, unless he's willing to turn over the art to someone else. I don't know. This probably sounds worse than I'm intending, but I just... no matter how good the story, no matter how good the art, sometimes it's just not worth the wait.

Moving on to Green Lantern Corps: Recharge. Fun, fun, fun. I've always liked stories about the Corps over the main Earth lanterns. I always thought that there was such potential in the concept. This series did not disappoint. I liked the interplay between all the different personalities, especially Kyle and Gardner. I think this is the first time I actually looked at Gardner as anything but a bullying, macho foil for others. He's actually heroic, without compromising his long-established image as the loud-mouthed buffoon. This series adds a dimension to him that I find compelling, the poozer that he is.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Who Wants to be a Superhero? - Part II

Okay, while still standing by my original thoughts on this show, I thought that the twist at the end of this episode was cool, in a very comic-geek way. I didn't see it coming, but once it happened, I actually slapped my forehead for not seeing it.

I still think the show's a bit cornball, and I still think it puts out a negative image of comics and comics fans, even though it's not about comics or comics fans.

And the makeover segment... there were some where I strained to figure out what they actually "made-over". It reminded me of the home makeover shows where they have a budget of about $20, so everything is put together with felt and staple guns. This Week: Iron Enforcer gets shiny patches on his pants! Monkey Woman gets new bananas! I think that they tried to encourage a little modesty in respects to Creature's mini skirt, though it looks like she alters it later in the episode to pre-makeover peek-a-boo length.

Crap. I'm going to end up watching the whole thing, aren't I?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who Wants to be a Superhero?

Missed the premiere, but caught a rerun of SciFi's Who Wants to be a Superhero? last night with the girlfriend. I've never been so mortified (this includes the time I rented this gem and convinced her it might be good).

There's a good show in there somewhere, it's just buried under what the producers think, or don't think, of superheroes in general. Stan Lee gives a dopey, "what-it-means-to-be-a-superhero" speech, and though it's scripted and he's a bad actor, it rings true, and I could see a good show from that premise. Too bad that premise is buried under a ton of artifice and willful distortion. The production definitely treats the contestants as weirdos, and has little empathy for them.

And who would? My girlfriend had an excellent point in that they should have done this show with kid contestants, and I agree. Kids would be natural, free from the cynicism that plagues adults and they would have a greater wealth of imagination. They wouldn't look like the freaks/opportunists that populate the show now. Plus, there wouldn't be the creepiness of watching adults dress and act like this, coming across as infantile, emotionally unstable closet-cases.

This show puts out a bad image... it reflects badly on fans of superheroes and, by extension, comics. I don't believe any of the contestants are really fans of comics, but they are there representing us. Stan Lee's "performance" is cringe-worthy... and a little out of character from what I've seen of him in the past (I've really never seen him as a scold). Also, and this is just me, but does anyone else out there get the feeling that the contestants have no real interaction with him, that his scenes are filmed entirely separate from theirs? It was the way he responded to Nitro G's plees in that "I'll take that into consideration" way that made me think it was a prescripted, generic response. It came across like they filmed all of Stan's bits already, that the winners have mostly been decided upon by the producers.

I don't know. I could almost enjoy it on a camp/train-wreck level, but it's hard to ignore the damage it does all around. Stan Lee has made a career out of bringing comics to the masses. The difference is that when he started, he started out with college crowds, elevating the perception of funny books by courting the hip and the literate... with this show, all I see is a pandering to the lowest common denominator by selling out one's lifelong career of inspiring imagination.