Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Comics: 9/20/2006

Bought some regular titles this week, and found myself picking up some untried titles as well. Also found myself diving into some fifty-cent bins, and found a few items I had previously missed. This review covers what I was able to read last night, and I'll get to the others later. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

52 Week #20 - Again, I couldn't wait. Nice to see that Lobo's Achilles Heel come into play. Somewhere, he's taken an oath to uphold this religion he's a part of, and for once, he hasn't figured out a way to turn it to his advantage. We get a glimpse of what's going on in Gotham with Batman's absence, and maybe a clue/red herring as to the identity of Supernova (his knowledge of the Bat-Cave, his longing look at Robin's costume... I'm holding on to my zombified Superboy theory). Also, at long last, we're getting an idea as to he origin of the Eye of Ekron.

Astonishing X-Men #17 - I just love this title, and feel sad that there are only seven issues left. My theory that Whedon is playing out some ideas from the Morrison run on X-Men is still on the table with the revelation that it was Cassandra's protoplasmy form that was locked in that container. I liked this development because it kind of explains why she stopped being such a massive threat since Morrison's run. I have speculated elsewhere that the "evil" Emma may be Esme, the bad Cuckoo, from the same run. Sure, she died, but you know how hard it is to kill any comic book character, especially anyone connected to the X-Men.

Also, the fact that Kitty named her imaginary child Michael made my inner fan-boy tingle. Seeing the way Kitty's been built up in this series, I sure hope someone takes notice and puts her in the forefront again. She's a great character, and Whedon is showing that's she's got unlimited potential. There is a shortage of female characters like her in comics.

Civil War #4 - Seems like anyone can do is crab about the wait for this issue and speculate if it was worth it. I will offer a resounding "Sure". To some, the "big" death this issue was a disappointment (there's a pun there, but I'm going to restrain myself... well, maybe not).

I thought it was fine. I hadn't heard the buzz about the death, so I was shocked to see it. Plus, the death of an underdog/c-lister makes me sadder than if it was someone with a higher profile. They'll bring back Thor... you know it, I know it... but they probably won't bring back Goliath.

Cap seems to be going into wartime mode and, for the first time, the anti-reg side of this debate lost a little favor for me. Not that I agree with the pro-reg side, but now both sides seem a bit equal in their unsavory attitudes.

The letter from Sue near the end was quite touching and surprisingly adult. Love, and its many complexities, usually gets short shrift in superhero comics. Millar gets extra points for showing that it doesn't have to be that way.

Justice League of America #0 & #1 - Playing a bit of catch-up here. I actually read #1 first (#0 was nowhere to be found for a few weeks). I actually liked #0 better, even though it was all set-up. I liked the openess, the acceptance of all eras of the JLA and the peeks into the future. I'll probably give this series a chance through its first story arc... I think Meltzer's a decent storyteller, but I long for some action with this title, plus the art by Benes is not really my cup of tea.

X-Factor #10 & #11 - I'm looking forward to a resolution to this whole Singularity Investigations/Damien Tryp thing. I think David is one of the best writers in comics, but the title feels a bit off the rails. There's too much going on and too many loose threads out there. I'd like to see some answers soon and have things quiet down enough so that we get some character development again.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

OT: Black Dahlia

The second movie we took in over the past weekend was Black Dahlia. The good news is that it is chock full of noiry goodness. The bad news...

I have mixed feelings about this movie. Elmore Leonard, Brian De Palma... they're no slouches, and here they kind of luxuriate in all of their personal pet themes. As a fan of both men, I can appreciate the chance to see how their storytelling styles mesh and play off of each other. De Palma, like most of his generation lately, seems to be performing a kind of greatest hits. There are shots and sequences that seem cribbed directly from his previous films*.

On the other hand, if I look past all of that metatextual frippery, the movie is problematic. I can jibe with the whole fiction-within-nonfiction genre. It's a great way to tap shared cultural experiences, and use them to underscore one's narrative. Here, I feel that the event is too close, and because of that, one cannot sustain any kind of suspension of disbelief. It's not Jack the Ripper... It's not 100 years in the past... that one could present a fictional account, purporting to reveal the "real" culprits. Elizabeth Short was a real person who met a horrible fate, and it wasn't that long ago. It's one thing to use a story like this as a backdrop for context, but it feels quite different and disingenuous to use her story as the central backbone for a fictional one.

I understand how her story, and the fictional one, serve to strengthen the ideas of the movie: Dreams make one vulnerable, dreams break, Los Angeles was built on dreams and most importantly, there is no shortage of people who would be willing to profit from one's dreams. This movie feels like it's fulfilling these truths more than illustrating them. I can enjoy this movie only when I put the facts of it out of my mind. They never caught her killer.

*There's a shock cut right near the end that's right out of the Carrie playbook. You'll know when you see it, and you'll wonder like I did: "Why on Earth would you do that?"


OT: Idiocracy

Took in a few movies over the past weekend, so as a public service, I post my reviews and thoughts, such as they are.

My pick was Mike Judge's Idiocracy, and because it was my pick and I try to maintain as healthy relationship as possible with my girlfriend, I have forfeited picking movies for the foreseeable future. The short of it is: it's bad, really bad.

I was interested in seeing this movie based on the strength of Judge's past work. Office Space is a flawed movie, but I still enjoy it. I enjoy King of the Hill when I catch an episode, and I think parts of Beavis and Butthead are sublime genius... remember, I said parts.

Idiocracy has a great concept behind it, and for that alone I wanted to see it. The premise, essentially, is that stupid people breed more, while educated people breed less. Throw this into the Darwinian formula, and you arrive at a distant future where mankind has grown increasingly dumb. Factor in greedy corporations, and their ability to capitalize off of that dumbness, and the scenario gets turned up to 11. Idiocracy tells the story of a government experiment in suspended animation gone awry, and an "average Joe" gets catapulted into this distopia to find that he's suddenly the smartest man on the planet.

Great concept, you have to agree. Ripe for all kinds of political and social satire.

Unfortunately, what the viewer gets is poop jokes, some prostitute jokes, a heavy dose of gay jokes... the "satire" is pretty limp, and I've seen it done better in half a dozen other films. It seemed to me, as I endured the icy stares from my girlfriend*, that this movie is only really funny to the people that it is making fun of. After the movie, I thought long and hard about Beavis and Butthead and why exactly I liked it... or parts of it...

On it's face, it was a stupid show, and I can kind of enjoy it on that level. Where it shines for me were the brief segments where the boys were watching the videos inbetween whatever was going on in the "plot". Bringing these two idiots and the insipid MTV videos together managed to finely pop the balloon of pretentiousness of the video, and also revealed that maybe the two weren't as dumb as they seemed. (I don't know if I've ever laughed as hard as when Beavis, while watching an Amy Grant video, asks if he's just stumbled into a comercial for Clearasil.)

Idiocracy is along the same vein as that show, but where Beavis and Butthead would sneak the satire by, Idiocracy brays like a mule, spraying you with bits of half-eaten potato chips, and really saying nothing new.

Meanwhile, I'll be watching a lot of period dramas and romantic comedies in the coming months*.

*Kidding, honey!


Thursday, September 14, 2006

New(ish) Comics: 9/13/2006

Didn't really see much at the old LCS this week that was new, so I picked up a few items I missed in the last few weeks. I got Justice League of America #1 and the second issue of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters... but I'll read those later.

52 Week #19 was the only "new" comic I picked up this week, and the only one I read right away. I thought I was ready to read it as a stand-alone, forsaking my established policy of waiting until I have at least two weeks in hand. Wasn't ready, as it turns out, though it's getting better.

This Booster story ain't over, and I'm wondering what the hell's going on with Skeets. It seems like he/it has an agenda, and I'm wondering what it is. Meanwhile, a new dimension has been added to the possible identity of Supernova... something that hadn't occurred to me.

I'm wondering if Supernova is going to become more central to the overall plot of 52. He could be a lot of people... I thought he might be Booster, Wonder Girl thought he was someone else... and with all of the missing heroes, he might be a MacGuffin, or he might even be the Big Bad (though that might piss me off... so predictable). If 52 is about the whole year- without- the- trinity- but- not- a- year- without- heroes idea, then Supernova, the new, unknown hero, seems likely to take some kind of central role.

Plus, it'd be cool if he was some kind of zombified Superboy under there.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Audio: Mark Millar Interview

I just finished listening to this interview on Word Balloon with John Siuntres.

I was kind of one of those readers who were on the fence about Millar since I read Wanted. That work, in particular, seems to divide readers as to whether its genius or a poke in the eye to comics fans. I personally liked it, but always felt shaky as to why... it's hard to come away and not feel a little mocked by the last page of that miniseries.

I've come away from hearing this interview with more of a mental picture of the writer, which is always helpful. Millar comes across as charming, humble and, most importantly, his love of comics is fully evident (maybe it's the Scottish accent).

Siuntres, as always, does a great job. They don't go into the whole Civil War lateness issue, which is fine by me. My favorite part is when Millar discusses his first experience reading Spiderman as a kid. I won't spoil it, but it made me laugh, then it really made me think about Millar's work in general, and how he's carried that experience through his work over the years.

Anyway, if this is your kind of thing, give it a listen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Comics: 9/9/2006

52 Week #17 & #18 - It seems like things are settling in, and the writing is lingering a bit more on each separate story, which is good. I'm feeling less and less like I need to wait until I have four issues in hand before I continue reading. Favorite bits: I never really liked him, but I'm oddly happy about seeing Lobo again. I also liked how Buddy's story is being incorporated, mainly his experiences under Morrisson's run... Who says once you go Vertigo, you can't come back again?

Agents of Atlas #1 & #2 - I always liked the idea of that old 50's team. This is a pretty fun comic, and it looks like they're playing with the unreliability of the Marvel Universe a bit... which could work. I have the feeling that all of the characters have some kind of relationship, some connection that existed before they teamed up.

All-Star Superman #5 - Consistently good, if not great. Each issue stands alone, yet moves the larger plot along.

Beyond! #3 - Something needs to kick into high gear soon. Not that I'm against a good cliffhanger, but it's getting a bit monotonous... and the only major development is happening on the last page of each issue. I'd like to get an idea of where this is all going, where this randomness is going.

The Escapists #1 & #2 - Nice post-modern bit of storytelling. I always liked Chabon's conceit that Kavalier and Clay were real, after a fashion. It makes sense since he borrowed so much from real comics creators. I haven't read a lot of BKV, but I might want to check out more of his work now. I thought this was a pretty inventive. The previous series seemed bogged down by the fictional history of the character, so having new creators come in and try to revive the character makes my metacontextual senses tingle.

Tingle, I tell you.


Monday, September 11, 2006


I don't have much to say today that hasn't been said better by others before now. The other side of that coin is that I feel strange just letting this day pass without some kind of reflection, some acknowledgement.

Even five years later, the events seem too big to fit in my head, too big to properly understand. It sounds trite, maybe a little immature, but I could only relate to that day in terms I was familiar with, that I had at hand. The fake realities that I had immersed myself in since I was a child had abrubtly made a leap from their four-colored pages, and super-villainry was made real.

The world is rarely as black-and-white as it was that day. I mourn the losses we suffered that day, and every day since. I ask: Do we honor those fallen with our actions?

There was a moment, and it bears reminding, there was a moment in time where we could have changed the world for the better. We had the entire free world on our side, and we could have worked with them to make great changes. As much as I mourn the fallen, here on that day, and abroad since, I also mourn what could have been. I dream and I ask the fundamental question of all dreams:

"What if?"