Friday, April 04, 2008

Comics: Week of April 3, 2008

Not many new comics to write about lately, but here's the new(ish) things I picked up this week.

Casanova #12 - Yeah, I'm only an issue behind. In my defense, I didn't get into this series until I picked up the first volume hardcover, so maybe that predisposed me to reading this series in chunks. I sat on issues 10 & 11 until just recently, just in time to see volume 2 start to come together.

Really an unexpected and heart-wrenching shift in story in this issue that was fully telegraphed in the backmatter in the previous issue. I'm starting to think I need to track down floppies of volume 1 just for the backmatter. It always struck me as superfluous and a little self-serving, but I was wrong. What the backmatter does accomplish, for me anyway, is providing a kind of transparency on Fraction and Co's creative process. It makes a series about parallel world travelling secret double agents far more intimate than one should expect, and also goes a long way in inspiring confidence in the story and its tellers.

Secret Invasion #1 - I'm of two minds on this whole thing: A) Secret Invasion is a great idea on paper and B) it will all come down to its execution. I could go on and on, but everybody else already has. I love the idea, but am worried that the fallout will reverse any kind of gains. If not handled well, this kind of thing will drive the fans bananas (ala Clone Saga).

From what I see on the page, it looks like they might be pulling off something that was done in Rom all those years ago, where they introduced a separate sect of the shape-shifting Dire Wraiths that relied on magic as opposed to technology. I remember that change significantly amped up the creep factor of the series and probably went a long way in that series lasting as long as it did. Introducing a mystical sect of the skrulls would help lend credibility to the fact that they've been sneaking around undetected for so long.

I just hope there's a reveal that the sleeper agents actually believe themselves to be who they are impersonating. That might take the edge off of finding out that for the last 30 years, say, Logan's been a skrull. If that skrull thought he WAS Logan, then well...

This sure is a weird hobby, isn't it?

Young X-Men #1 - Like many comic readers, in my younger days I would have bought anything with an "X" or "mutants" in the title. I pretty much gave up on them after the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover. My favorite mutants just weren't speaking to me anymore. I've only ever gravitated back to these titles when I've follwed a favorite creator (Morrison, David, Whedon, and, more recently, Millgan). Young X-Men represents a kind of cold pickup, a comic I knew little about beforehand, but found attractive enough to bring home (perhaps Paquette's art pushed it over the top).

I kind of liked that it was an homage to Giant-Size X-Men from back in the day, but then I thought that it was part of the problem too. Giant-Size was all about taking a mostly failed title and reinventing it with a new cast. Here... I don't know. Do the X-Men need another reinvention? Honestly, it's become the least attractive aspect of the X-titles; the constant churn of memberships and mission statements. I admit I'm an old fart, but I didn't recognize anyone here (other than Cyclops and the New Mutants on the last page... are they villains now?). Also, I'm not too crazy about the new (to me?) characters.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Movie Review: Confessions of a Superhero

This is a lovely movie. Maybe more for comics fans than anyone else... I don't know. It's really for anyone who dreams of being more than they are, but constantly feels the sting of falling short of that ideal.

The documentary follows four Hollywood "characters", the term given to people who dress up as superheroes, movie and/or cartoon characters and work the tourist-trap portions of Hollywood. By work, I mean they make themselves available to pose in tourist photos and hope that said tourists will tip them. They legally can't ask for money, so they are entirely at the mercy of tourists for their income. The late Johnny Grant, honorary mayor of Hollywood, refers to them as dirty panhandlers while they see themselves using this gig as a stepping stone to their own Hollywood dreams.

As the documentary progresses, we get to know the real people behind the masks and costumes, and what led them here. There's real pathos, and things aren't always what they appear to be. Early on, I was struck by the obsessiveness of Superman Chris, a man that seems to be buried by the Supeman identity (along with a virtual warehouse full of Kal-El ephemera). Watching him talk about Superman, I couldn't help but think of myself and wonder if I sound like that when I'm talking about comics. How obsessed am I? Am I that far gone?

Ulitimately, I realize that I'm not one to judge, no one is. Everyone has their own private passions and demons to deal with. The documentary ends with somewhat of a resolution for each character, though questions linger. The film gets under the skin of its subject much like Crumb does, and finds the unexpected. It challenges the viewer to overcome the natural reaction to dismiss these people, and actually empathize with them.

It's a beautifully shot film that makes a canny use of still photos in between segments. The photos are slightly oversaturated and framed to look like decades-old slides, borrowing the intimiate feelings of nostalgia, and a time after one's prime. The film makers also have a good eye for what to look out for, it seems, teasing out hints dropped by their subjects. In the end, I found it uplifting, like that there is hope for all of us.

Also (there's a bit of it in the trailer) my favorite part is when Superman Chris takes it upon himself to briefly mentor an newer character on the scene. The conversation between Superman and Ghost Rider goes pretty much like any comic fan should expect.