Friday, September 29, 2006

Revenge and fun

Okay, while I plot my revenge on the interweeb for not telling me The Ultimates came out on Wednesday I'll direct anyone who likes Grant Morrison's Batman to M. Parkinson's Year One. It pretty much sums up my feelings on it.

And just so you all know - no, I don't look that closely at the rack when I'm picking up my books.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday's Loot Plus - 27 September 2006

52 Week 21
Well that was a pretty fun issue of Teen Titans and is it me or am I more pleased with all the little Easter egg moments more than the actual stories in this comic. I guess half the time I really like what is happening on the pages and the rest I like the little bits of spice and pizzazz that flavor each issue. Home made robots and another promise of Metal Men to come make me happy for unexplainable reasons. I’m a bit sad about the lack of back-up story this week though.
I rate this comic: A nice moment of Ralph Dibny using Gringold to his advantage and the promise of Lex being fulfilled.

Batman #657
Okay, is it me or was that moment with Batman and Robin talking about their relationship one of the funniest things you’ve read in a long time? I appreciate double entendre based on cultural understands as much as anyone, and the Batman and Robin have gay subtext is rarely done with such aplomb. The Batbrat is a great addition. I think that’s one of the few stories not attempted with Batman. What if he had a son who was just as crazy and violent as the criminals he fights?
I rate this comic: Over the top even without the ninja Man-bats.

Few Quick things

This will be a bit of a longer post encompassing a lot of recent books I’ve read – not necessarily recently published – and other moments of clarity. I'll be a bit more sporadic in posting as my wedding gets ever closer.

First up – Heroes

Did anyone besides me watch this? I caught the replay last night and really enjoyed it. Sure I can see the X-men movie parallels (and the melodrama from the comics), but this seems to me to be what all those Sci-Fi Channel shows aim to be but don’t have the budget for. Kind of how Xena could have been The Lord of the Rings if it had the time and budget.

I do have to say I was really impressed by it. The last time I enjoyed a new TV show was the first season of Lost when there was a possibility of dinosaurs. So I’m hoping that Heroes doesn’t turn into Lost where by the third episode of the second season I can’t watch it anymore because they showed the same episode 3 times from slightly different points of view (yes I’m still pissed off when I think about it).

I watched this with A and she really got into it. Although we were both a bit disappointed when everyone seemed to end up in New York instead of letting them remain around the world. I would have rather the international focus remain but honestly, it doesn’t bother me too much. I’m a sucker for the connections between the characters and the teasers for upcoming episodes a la 52. I’m looking forward to watching more and I usually only watch TV on DVD these days unless it’s Newcastle United or the NHL.

Second up – Uatu, The Watcher

Okay, you’re in the Marvel Universe. You’ve got great powers, great responsibility, and hopefully a great costume. Everyone else in a costume knows that this guy shows up for big time events that are usually turning points or nasty death scenes. He shows up when there’s a big rumble about to go down – why don’t you get the heck out of Dodge? Sure, sure, heroic responsibility, but seriously, if everyone left nobody would die right? I think the heroes and villains should make a rules of engagement that whenever Uatu shows up, everyone lays down their arms and goes away peacefully.

Third up – Reviews!

Superman/Batman – Public Enemies

I don’t care what you think this book was a lot of fun. It was like my brain was given pure sugar in comic book form. Sure I had a stomach ache afterwards but it was fun reading it. Everyone who has called this collection the action movie version of the iconic two was completely right. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it isn’t trying to change the core idea of superheroes but shit goes boom or gets a punch in the mouth, and that sir is enough for me sometimes.

This book is a bit of a mystery to me. Not in how I feel about it, I love it, but in that nobody seems to ever mention it – ever. It’s freaking amazing! Why doesn’t Marvels get more love? Is it just that people know it’s good, love it and can’t really think of anything more to say about it? Personally I think this would be one of the better gateway books for anyone older getting back into comics or new to comics but more or less know the popular history of Marvel characters.

I don’t understand why this book doesn’t make more lists of comics to help introduce people to comics with. The Dark Knight Returns did it for me, but this would have worked wonders as well. It is simply fantastic and there is an homage to The Spirit in there in a crowd of running people. The young J. Jonah Jameson was also a nice touch.

The different point of view taken in this book is a great way to interpret the Marvel universe. The eye of everyman shows us what it would be like to live for a few years in a world with creepy crawlies, hatred and cosmic invasions. Then they play with the Sub-Mariner a lot – he’s good, he’s bad, he’s good again, bad again, etc, etc. This was a great story that needs a bit more attention I think. Sorry I don’t have the brainpower to examine it a bit more. I hope to someday. Maybe after I read Kingdom Come.

Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years
I’d be shocked if Chris Sims hasn’t posted on this yet. I mean it’s a man, arguably at the top of his game writing and drawing a comic based on the books he loved as a child where Tarzan puts a lioness in a full nelson – to death. Also Tarzan fights a great ape and a great cat at least every four pages. This is comics in its purest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How I want Civil War to End

With the last issue of Civil War now on everyone's radar (sometime in summer 2007) I've started to wonder how it will all end. Besides it being the longest summer event ever. Hey, two summers wouldn't be too bad - I'm sure there's a record or something there, maybe a "no prize."

Here's 10 ways I want it to end:

1) Luke Cage just punches everyone in the throat until they shut up and limp off back to their regular lives.

2) Iron Man and Cpt. America kiss.

3) Tony Stark drunk under a lamp-post.

4) She-Hulk or The Vision joins the Fantastic Four.

5) Spider-man moves to Quebec and has to deal with the conflicts between language and culture.

6) Massive cross-over with Ultimate Hulk v. Wolverine.

7) The Beyonder saying "ignore that man behind the curtain."

8) President Clor, or at least Governor of California Clor.

9) All the heroes band together to fight the true threat to life on this planet - Global Warming (or drugs).

10) The Punisher gets married to Electra.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Ultimate Adventure in Decompression

So I’ve decided that since the library has the collections to Ultimate Spider-man and Ultimate X-men I will be taking on both titles as a challenge to myself. What I wasn’t planning on was that these books would be so dang popular. I have to say, someone is reading these books, and it can’t all be older guys like me, can it?

So I got the first volume of Ultimate Spider-man, and my first thought was “please dear god let this tattered copy not fall to dust in my hands.” Man, that was the rattiest comic I ever laid my hands on, so I’m assuming a lot of younger readers had it before me. The kind I’d call the police on if they had a party next door to my house on a Friday.

I have to say a few things here. I didn’t ever read these books when they came out the first time. I simply wasn’t buying comics then. I did, however, read most of this collection on when they had digicomics or something like that up there on their website. That was a while ago before they actually launched their digital comics (again). Yeah I don’t understand that either, but it’s Marvel, I just roll with it. So these were a bit familiar but I never actually sat down and read them page by page.

I remember there being a bit of a fuss about how Peter Parker never puts on the web-head costume for the entirety of the first issue. Now it doesn’t seem all that unfamiliar or unique. I suppose that since the issue originally came out this type of storytelling in modern comics has become a new sort of standard. There are longer drawn out character moments and we’re introduced to characters through their dialogue and interaction as opposed to the disembodied narration of Stan Lee. This forces the pacing of the story to slow down. We need to see Peter in the basement passing out and working on his web formula in order for them to be introduced later in the story. Without the “voice of Stan” we can’t go from panel one of Peter being bitten to panel two of Spidey swinging around with a caption explaining that when Peter awoke from a fevered sleep he inherently knew how to create spider webbing. That lead to moments of impressionable violence too quickly and too often...(that was sarcasm, which I find easy to say but hard to write).

When reading these comics in a collection they work a lot better than individual issues. The decompressed stories don’t spend time recapping what happened a couple of pages ago. There is no time period of a month between issues when reading the story collected (unless you can’t fit it into your schedule). You have the time to get to understand these characters by how they interact and speak to one another. Simply put, the author has the time and space to have the characters interact, he isn’t limited to a complete story in minimal space. This isn’t a value judgment on new or old stories just an exploration of their differences. I think old school single issues work better as floppy comics. I find it hard to sit down and read Showcase collections in one sitting but Ultimate Spider-man was quite enjoyable, if not more so, in collected form.

I do have to say I enjoyed this story about the same amount I enjoyed the first movie. Yes, I know the story but I also enjoy different people’s interpretation of it. This was a really good update for a new audience. It makes Peter a young kid again who is awkward and going through the general malaise of a fifteen year old boy whose high-school is located on the sixth ring of hell. He’s still into the whacky science experiments like in the old-school cartoon, but it also makes the melodrama usually found in Spider-man comics not seem too far out of synch with the general reality of kids that age. Everything is the end of the world when you’re fifteen/sixteen and it is bloody brilliant that they set the new version of Spidey in that time of the hero’s life.

I like the more intimate portrayal of the character and the world he finds himself in. He’s awkward and feels out of place as much as he’s accepted and made part of the “in” crowd on a whim. It’s a fickle world, the fifteen year old world, but it is expertly captured in this series. It also makes the heroic action that Peter Parker takes feel that much more heroic. He is acting in a manner beyond his young years. While the people he is surrounded by are flitting away at teenage hijinx Peter is dealing with massive changes and is forced to mature really quickly. This is reflected in Harry Osborne and the way they both grow because of similar situations is a fun one to watch. Both will make mistakes but it is Peter who is living up to the what his parent’s saw in him unlike Harry who refuses to accept responsibility for his own actions. At the end of this collection we see Peter ready to grow into his new role where he begins to take responsibility for his own actions while Harry is placing all responsibility for the tragedy in his life on everything external to him.

It is a great parallel, and while the action is big it is tempered and paced out, but the drama is simply captivating. This series is a great read to get into later on than the vast majority of comic readers because it shows a fresh take on well known action and stories. This isn’t the deconstruction of the Spiderman mythos but a retelling of the stories with a focus on the character interactions. Sort of refocusing on the strength that was developed and became apparent as the “Marvel Way” of storytelling in the past.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wednesday's Loot - 20 September 2006

52 Week 20
John Henry Irons is back to heroics but is given some tantalizing information. Hopefully this leads to lots of punching with Lex's evil heroes. Then we're back in space to see some Animal Man action and is that Brainiac's ship? I'm not up on my DC character history, sorry.
I rate this comic: Another solid, if slow issue of 52.

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Astronauts of the Future and Dungeon Zenith Vol 1: Duck Heart

More French collections that have been translated and involve Lewis Trondheim (and Joann Sfar on Dungeon).

I'll start with Astronauts. Again, I don't know if it's just French cultural stylings or translation issues but this felt like it was a kid's book but had some problematic language at points. Not poor translation but swear words. I think the story is perfect for kids who are ready to move beyond kids stuff but not totally ready for adult books. But I think some parents wouldn't let their kids read this book because someone uses the word "ass."

That being said, I did love this story. It's about a couple of kids who are picked on in school and are generally geeky, but in a "I know I'm geeky and don't give a damn" way. While you know they'll sort of get along later, they do spend time playing off one another and thinking the other is "icky." It's about a boy and a girl who are sure that their parents, and everyone else in the world, is either a robot or an alien.

Then the plot takes a twist I didn't see coming. It was fairly traumatic and it actually did upset me. Forget Spiderman unmasking or Jason Todd rising from the dead, this was an actual shock. I kept waiting for the explination to be that these kids couldn't deal with the trauma of what happened but it never came. After this twist, the rest of the action seems fresh and exciting even if it has been done a lot.

I refuse to give away the twist because it really adds to the story.

Now after reading Duck Heart, that volume of Dungeon: The Early Years makes more sense. I was right in a lot of my guess work. A lot of the characters introduced in that volume make an appearance here. The young idealist has apparently become a jaded old man with hints of Uncle Scrooge aside from the fact both characters are fowl. He's crafty as much as he is ingenius, not to mention being rich and paranoid.

What follows in this volume is an in some ways a reintroduction to the world of Dungeon (only now with an actual dungeon I assume the magic elves dug). There is a moment of mistaken identity when a hapless duck gets a barbarian killed but doesn't want to lose his job so fakes the barbarian's identity. The duck is sent to destroy some Lovecraftian evil things and is accompanied by a vegetarian Dragon warrior.

Again, this is a fantasy world that doesn't take itself too seriously which I find quite refreshing in a genre known for melodrama and unpronouncable names. The duck is stuck with a magic sword that can't be drawn unless the duck does three brave deeds with his bare hands (or is killed). If someone tries to take the sword from him the duck reverts to a former sword-bearer. This is used to hilarious effect in a cage full of warrior potentials as they want to see the trick again and again.

There are essentially two stories here. The war against the unnamed evil beings who are tired of their dreary skull decorated underground meeting places and the story of the duck trying to become a warrior in a kung-fu movie master/apprentice way. I have to admit that the master who has sewn himself into a sack because he already knows the world was an idea I appreciated.

I would have to say that although there was two distinct stories in this volume I did like it better than the Early Years volume. I do feel like I was missing a volume in between though so I'll try to find it at the library as that may explain things a bit more.

I think anyone who needs a break from World of Warcraft or anything D&D should give the Dungeon books a flip through. You'll probably appreciate it more than me, and I love them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm going to be a great (sitcom) husband

I totally missed the first year anniversary to this here blog. It was exactly one month (and a day because I didn't post this yesterday) ago on August 18th. To celebrate there's the next in a long list of mediocre comic reviews below and a bunch more will follow (comments remain nil).

- - - - -

I will add some bonus content in the form of what's distracting Jon these days:

  • Final plans for the wedding.
  • Dreading spending Christmas at my parent's house.
  • Video games have suddenly become boring to me. I'm trying to play Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay. It was a blast for a while but now I'm stuck and frustrated. I'm thinking about getting the new Nintendo Wii though, that looks like fun. Although I remember purchasing The Power Glove and it sucked ass. And my desktop computer has been pretty much a paperweight since I've been waiting for my copy of Window's XP to show up and haven't been able to get back into Civilization IV.
  • Zombies. I finally watched Romero's Dawn of the Dead and have Shaun of the Dead at home (again). I read The Zombie Survival Guide and I'm looking at World War Z (both by Max Brooks) longingly and waiting for the price to drop or someone to buy it for me. I am working on a project concerning zombies and I think it's actually original (shut up, I know that ship has sailed but I'm working on it anyway and someday I may bore you with the details on this site, I just need a bit more time to "flesh it out" - so to speak).
  • Board Games. I have absolutely no idea where this new obsession came from. I guess I just want something fun and not involving a screen. I picked up Carcassonne and while I like it A. can't see the point to it. She does want to pick up Fury of Dracula for Christmas though, so that may be fun. I'm contemplating Settler's of Catan or Ticket to Ride as Risk alternatives since we'll be stuck at my parent's house this year for the holidays. Any suggestions on two player games would be welcome. I'm thinking Hammer of the Scots (since she's part Scottish and likes kicking my ass at Risk) or Zombies!!! (naturally).
  • Trying to come up with a post that's more than a review of old comics that people have probably read. This probably won't happen for a while.

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Oh, I have found java versions of both Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan online here. They go by different names though, but if you're interested in either game, give them a whirl before buying either. Yes, I know I'm sad now that I'm blogging about board games.

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Ultra: Seven Days by The Luna Brothers

This is another book I picked up on a whim. I’m glad I did. Sure it’s the depressingly violent story portrayed as a realistic superhero drama but I think the story manages to get above that simple criticism. There were a lot of moments when I was thinking to myself this is Sex in the City but acted out with superheroines. There are some definite weaknesses in the storytelling because all too often the characters just don’t sound right. They sound like men are writing what they wish women spoke and acted like instead of writing women speaking and acting. And if you’re not in the mood for a story about superhero relationships with normals then this probably isn’t for you.

That being said it is the perfect distraction for anyone looking for a new take on the same old superhero stories. I’m happy that there is at least some male creators attempting to write a superhero book where all the leads are strong female characters. The presentation is quite original and stunningly beautiful to look at. The covers are replications of different magazines through which we normally read about female celebrities. There is a fun little syncopation of medias in the presentation of the story of female celebrities dealing with their private and public lives in an era that is eroding that division. The magazine covers remind us of our own desire to see celebrity at its worse and to have unending bits of meaningless information presented to us non-stop.

We get to see the ups and downs of these characters through their private moments and their public personas. In the end the story is as much about whether or not there is a difference between the public and private person as it is about the development of the characters and the actual plot. It is good distraction from other “realistic” superhero books because it strives for something more than a simple good guys win but compromise their morals. Here, the heroes don’t compromise their morals in terms of how they do their job but in their private lives. It is a slightly tweaked formula but a nice change none the less, and the art is stunning.


Dungeon the Early Years: Night Shirt - Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim

This was an interesting book. After reading The Rabbi’s Cat and loving it, then not really enjoying Vampire Loves as much as I probably should have, I was interested in checking out this series by Joann Sfar. I’m glad I did since it appears to be a healthy mixture of what worked well in both books mentioned above. I felt that Vampire Loves was just a bit too much stream of consciousness or allowing the story to go off wherever it lead but when Sfar has a direction and edits towards it the stories are better for it. I’ve read a bit too much Kerouac that needed to be edited for me to truly enjoy pure unedited stream of consciousness stories.

What this story has is, and I’m guessing a bit here, is the introduction of some of the characters that will play a larger role in the development of this world and the series. I’m waiting for a few more collections in the Dungeon series. It’s an anthropomorphic fantasy world with a young idealist meeting the corruption and stench of a big city. He takes on the ideals of justice in a manner befitting Robin Hood, the Scarlet Pimpernel or the Three Musketeers. If you like swashbuckling fantasy stories with a bit of humour then this is a good book to pick up.

If you’ve never come across Sfar’s artwork before then you should definitely check out the book before purchase. It is crude but not bad. It is simple without being poorly executed. In other words it is very very French. It has style and doesn’t particularly give a shit about being anally retentive about rendering and being perfect. If the art could speak it would look at you saying it was bad and it would spit at you and tell you it will piss on your mother because it doesn’t need to waste time trying to impress someone so uneducated and banal. It is simply fun because it looks like it was drawn by an enthusiastic child – granted it’s a child who is unbelievable consistent in character design and who creates fantastic backgrounds and city designs.

The protagonist is Hyacinthe (I think - he's the Dungeon Keeper in the rest of the series) who is either a duck or a chicken or some kind of fowl. He’s the country boy sent to the city so is able to see it for what it is. He isn’t a part of the system so he can see the hypocrisy of it all as well as how easy it is to be swallowed up by it. His adventures include jokes about his inability to write in his journal on horseback (we get scribbled narrative boxes) to upper-classmen necromancers at the university trying to impress girls by pulling out his heart only taking a lung accidentally. He’s in love with a sexy assassin and gets schooled in fencing, love, power, sex and politics. When he finally dawns his mask to take on the quest for justice, Hyacinthe is sort of recognized, but he is also wearing his nightshirt. He spends the next few pages struggling to come up with a cool sounding name but is eventually referred to as Night Shirt. You can’t stop popular culture, it’s organic.

This is a fun book. It’s overly clever but isn’t a totally cerebral comic. They play with the form making visual jokes and referential jokes that are only applicable to the comic book medium. I quite enjoyed it and I’m glad I picked it up on a whim since it is one of few translated Bandes Designe available in the library. If you’re looking for a new fantasy based comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously then this is it. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Smax because it is aware of the medium but doesn’t fall prey to the melodrama that is present when the fantasy genre tries to get “serious.”

Friday, September 15, 2006

In Stitches

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

I have to admit my shame at not having read Persepolis. I really want to but I also want to own the damn thing and can’t afford it at the moment so I haven’t reserved it at the library simply to read it. But Embroideries I had no problem checking out. I figured it would give me a sense of her style and esthetic. I have to say I’m glad I didn’t purchase this collection. I wouldn’t stop anyone from doing so, I do think you will get your monies worth and it is great material to go back to for inspiration. If you’re judging worth by how long it takes you to read it, then this is a lot of money for a relatively quick read.

That being said the time you spend with these characters is defiantly time well spend and highly enjoyable. I did have the feeling that this was essentially a one act play or a scene in a larger text. Actually I think that is a great approach to this text. Think of it as a one act play and you won’t be disappointed at all. It’s about women, friends and relatives who get together and discuss their love lives and the general hypocrisy of the men in their lives. There is a plethora of wonderful and highly entertaining women here. From the free living free loving artist Aunt to the slightly rebellious grandmother (I think, I returned the dang book before double checking) and the heartbroken neighbour. It was fascinating for someone like me who has no connection whatsoever to Muslim women or much of Muslim culture in general.

I believe a lot of the Western audience will be fascinated by this take on what appears to us as a mystery. We wonder how women can function in what we perceive as a repressive society and what we’re given here is something that dispels a few of our own myths and confirms others. I find it hard to relate to things when I can’t interpret it through my own reader’s lens of experience. So while I can’t relate on some levels on others I definitely can. We’re shown love stories that are really universal and that are essentially timeless.

I loved hanging out with these women. I felt like I shared in their collective tragedies and joys. This is a very heart warming book in many ways with a visual layout akin to Eisner's The Plot. Free form borderless settings with disembodied heads and characters. It helps reflect their relationship to one another as being primary over their relationship to the outside world.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Slightly Negative Reviews

Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire

I have to admit that I don’t understand all the praise this book has on the back cover. I do quite like the art. I’m a fan of simple line work and the woodcut look to shading reminiscent of Crumb’s comix but the story is a fly-by-night affair. A mouse made golem with a bad attitude gets into a few random adventures. My favorite part, outside the classic look to the artwork, was the pirate ship. That thing was pretty cool but not enough of an idea to make me heap glowing praise on it.

Salamander Dream by Hope Larson

As much as I like to support Canada’s cutest comic book couple I couldn’t finish reading this book. I liked the art a heck of a lot but it’s simply not my thing. I would have thought it was brilliant when I was twenty and probably have given it to my girlfriend back then but it doesn’t speak to me, as I am these days. I wanted to like it but found I couldn’t and now I feel a bit of shame because I want to support Hope Larson and encourage people to read her stuff. I did look at each and every page though because it's beautiful.

Wednesday's Loot - 13 September 2006

52 Week 19
Okay, I love evil Skeets almost as much as the advertisement for Skeetles Candy. And I'm pleased with the space faring adventure as well. Again, another part of a long story that opens up some fun and interesting story potential for the next arc in the year long stories. Yes, I'm finding it hard to write reviews of comics I like. Shut up it's been raining here for two days and without the sun to power my brain I'm helpless. Rain is like my Kryponite or water to the wicked witch of the west.
I rate this comic: The only one that kept my interest for this week.

Yes, I've dropped Aquaman and DMZ. I'm trying to minimalize my expenses and 52 is the one book that is guaranteed to be decent week in and week out. And I'm probably one of few comic fans who isn't reading it to simply see when DC will cack it all up. I think it's one of few comics these days that actually captures the old school feeling a lot of people yearn for. It's not perfect and it has human errors but it's fun and on time generally with a bit of a back story (yes I'm counting these profiles as back stories). I did enjoy DMZ quite a bit and think it was just hitting its stride so I'm glad to have left it on a high note and, well, Aquaman was always sort of on the verge although I did quite enjoy it as well. Finances rule these day.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Totally New Content - The Push Man and Other Stories is at the end of the ranting update

If you don't realize by now I usually update this site first thing in the morning when I arrive at the office and nobody else is around. Sure it's a bit of an abuse of office internet but I figure it makes up for the lack of decent living wage. Needless to say content has been limited recently. This is because the office moved and I was without internet and phone for the last 3 business days (and power for 2). Yes, it's a professional organization they just can't organize anything professionally.

So I spent the last few weeks essentially reading a lot of good comics, or if not good at least I was reading a lot. I mean A LOT! So much that I don't remember all the ones I read and since I didn't write up anything on them no reviews will appear here. But I did spend yesterday and today writing up a crapload of reviews on the books I did remember, so there will be content here for a while.

I have to say that just sitting around and reading comics is quite a lot of fun. It was a nice break but I'm going to see if I can keep up my enthusiasm and continue to post over the next few stressful weeks.

So without further ado here's a review:

The Push Man and Other Stories

I really have no idea how to describe this collection of stories. They were captivating but I can’t really use “good” or “enjoyable.” They are successful in what they are trying to achieve but their focus isn’t exactly on happy endings and decent people. Every single one of these stories focuses on some outcast or down trodden individual. They are all clinging to something off the beaten path and seem to have a view of sex that doesn’t match up to the suburban ideal.

There is a lot of sad and desperate people and actions. There is a lot of dead babies and a lot of human life wasted in general. That is sort of the point of the stories. They aren’t here to make you feel happy about life. They focus on the bad bits and how the people in these desperate situation survive anyway and find a form of happiness that I can’t identify with.

Then there is the artwork. It’s sort of the evil twin of Tintin comics. It’s simple character designs appearing in realistic backgrounds and settings. The art is brilliant and so utterly streamlined that it feels like no single line is out of place. It’s sort of the Hemmingway version of drawing. Draw the picture and remove anything that doesn’t need to be there. That’s essentially how Hemmingway wrote. Write a sentence then remove all the words that don’t need to be there. Only this has more in common with John Fante or Charles Bukowski (not that I’ve read any Bukowski so I can’t say for certain) than Hemmingway. It’s about the down trodden, so be ready for that before you jump into these stories. If you’re not expecting that you could be either disappointed or disturbed.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wednesday’s Loot – 06 September 2006

...presented on Friday.

52 Week 18
Some of the best opening credits yet in this series. I love the play on “House of Mystery” as well. Ralph’s story has definitely taken a turn I wasn’t expecting and I do hope it lives up to more of its potential than the whole Cult of Conner which seemed the only misstep so far in the series. I’m also looking forward to see what happens with the Black Adam and Isis/Question and Montoya team-up.
I rate this comic: Solid stuff.

Agents of Atlas #2
This is your general second issue in a miniseries. The plot moves forward a little bit more as we’re introduced to “the team” and given character moments to help establish each of them. It’s exactly what I was hoping to get. How often does one get to say that when reading comics?
I rate this comic: Best space-toilet joke EVER.

Detective Comics #823
Dini gives us another fantastic done in one issue of a comic that took the stripped down approach to new and wonderful levels. I simply love these stories that take the same approach the writers took towards the animated series and give it to us, a more mature audience, as pure storytelling goodness. I think what I appreciate most about Dini’s work in these three issues so far is that he’s dropping in new ideas and characters in a manner not seen in a long long time. Sure Hush is new, but these new rogues are introduced and “dispatched” in one issue. So if response is negative you’re not saddled with five more issues revolving around compost-character X. Fun stuff indeed, and I realize I miss this type of story simply because I’ve completely forgotten about it and how well it can be done.
I rate this comic: The alternative for done in one goodness if you’re getting tired of Jonah Hex.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Form of Comedy

Plastic Man: On the Lam

(Yet again I can't seem to get images to upload)

I was shockingly satisfied by this collection. I thought it would be an annoyingly cartoony book with a boatload of bad puns and off-colour commentary passing as humour. I was dead wrong.

I had more fun reading this book than I’ve had reading superhero comics in a while. Yes it was goofy and the art is cartoony. The brightness and cartoon based nature of the art work in perfect conjunction with the whole basic idea of a man made out of plastic. It’s not necessarily about Plastic Man being able to shape himself into anything he likes that works with the art style, but the fact that the character is based on exaggerated movement, expression and emotion because of his physical properties being exaggerated. Plastic Man is the ultimate squash and stretch character so he works better when presented in a form that allows for stretching and squashing.

Now, I know his original books were more serious in tone, but I think running with the outrageousness works in this presentation. I mean, there is generally a reason that these books win awards. It’s because they are actually as good as people think they are (well occasionally something will sneak by or differ from your personal tastes). Kyle Baker understands comedy and shows it here. I don’t mean he just knows what is funny but the whole form of comedy. Strap on the edu-caps.

Comedy is only obtainable when there is an intimate distance between the characters and the readers. We need to connect with the characters and see ourselves in them but we must also be distant enough so we don’t see their pain of existence. It is a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Both involve physical peril but our distance form the situation allows us to interpret these forms differently. To help force our perception, comedies will present full body shots a lot more than tragedies will. On the flip side, Tragedies will have a lot of intimate and close up shots. Watch a black and white comedy sometime (anything with Chaplin) and you’ll be able to see all of him for most of the movie. He’s far enough away so we can see him trip and land on his arse. If we were closer we’d be able to see him wince in pain and the comedy of the situation gets reduced or removed.

This book follows that rule as well. We pretty much see all the characters all the time. But just like movies, when we want to amp up the emotion we get a close up. Watching someone cry at a distance can be funny with their exaggerated motions but zooming into the person’s face and it becomes a lot less funny. Same with this book. There’s a lot of physical humour, then you’re struck with some genuine emotion in the middle that you didn’t see coming and it makes everything that much better. The tragedy is that much more tragic because you were so distant from these characters for so long and you get to know them that way. But the humour remains as soon as the camera is pulled back, so to speak. I do realize there isn’t a camera in comic book creation (well at least not with this artist).

The humour isn’t all physical, thankfully, as that can get tired rather fast. There is a lot of playing with the form of comic books and the history of comics as well. There’s some mystical monks who seem a bit familiar (there’s four of them). And there’s a great deus ex machina at the end which is wonderfully executed because it is so bloody obvious about being a deus ex machina. Again, one of the characteristics of comedy is that the end must put the world back into harmony. Ever read a Shakespearean comedy? They all end in the wedding of the two people who need to be together because they reflect the harmony of the world. Same here. Superhero comics are only harmonious with the illusion of change. The good guys need to win but without becoming something completely different. The sidekicks need to be there and so does the love interest. Now, this isn’t Shakespeare, don’t get me wrong, there isn’t enough puns to be Shakespeare, but it is almost a text-book example of what a Comedy should be and needs to contain.

Hey, if you want a plot synopsis you’ll have to go somewhere else.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Last Wednesday's Loot - 30 August 2006

I'm almost back on track. In the meantime this is a fast and dirty recap of what I bought last week and maybe one complete sentence on each.

Ah the space bound. I like Animal Man and I've always thought I'd like Adam Strange so having them together is like old sci-fi fun to me. I know a lot of people are ragging on Adam's eyes reappearing every now and again, well to me this is like when Superman's boot was yellow in a panel or Thor was purple. It's like old time comics because they're keeping a tight schedule. It's something I appreciate and, quite frankly, enjoy more than a late comic.

All-Star Superman
Great Clark Kent action and a creepy Luthor, not because he's evil but because he's evil in shorts he stole off a Hooter's waitress in a maximum security prison. I like these toned down episodes as much as the smashy-smashy.

Evil side-kicks and a great meta-texual moment about Aquaman not being seen at his full potential.

This was just fucking weird.