Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finally, a book for everyone.

Kampung Boy
By Lat

In many ways this book reminded me of The Little Prince, only the basis comes from Malaysia rather than the western Euro-centric world view. It’s the story of a young boy growing up in a Malaysian village (Kampung) in the years up until he leaves to boarding school. The book documents the frontier of that region and the culture coming into direct confrontation with the industrialized world. In many ways it is the Malaysian mash up of works like Anne of Green Gables and Peanuts.

This isn’t totally a coming of age story but an exploration of the Garden of Eden that is childhood. You have little cares in the world other than having fun and exploring your ever growing boundaries. And that is what you get here. A boy who, as he grows, experiences more and more of the world, moving from his home to his Kampung to the surrounding countryside in an ever increasing circle. His concerns also grow as he does from hearing a distant monster to finally seeing a tin dredge in action to “stealing” tin in the shadow of the factory.

As the main boy grows his idealized setting slowly disappears just as that way of life has slowly being swallowed by increasing industrialization. It is fascinating to read and the economy of language used to tell the story allows for the story to contain more meaning than an overly verbose description or enough language to beat the message over your head.

The artwork is compared to Charles Schultz by Matt Groening. I can sort of see the parallels because of the rough style and the economy of line but I’m not totally sold on that. Where Schultz simplified his characters into clean lined versions of an exaggerated human form, Lat is much more loose and rough around the edges. The settings are much more defined but the entire perspective is always slightly childish in the same way that Bill Watterson used to stylize the day dreams of Calvin. This is exceptionally stylized work but it always catches the action and emotion perfectly. There is a great sense of wonder and love here that can’t help but remind you that this story is presenting the idealized world of a child to the reader. I can only imagine that it helps younger readers identify with the work themselves as they see their own drawing style mimicked in the pages.

I really enjoyed this book, both for the message and the art. The only thing sort of bothering me is figuring out the audience for it here. It’s not totally directed at people my age although we’re the closest audience since we’re buying comics and comic art already. But the story is for kids and would really be something worth while to get a new reader, especially one that is interested in the wider world and wants to be an explorer or traveler. I can imagine this being picked up by precocious parents who only let their kids listen to world music but it would be worth while if the non-wankerish set figured out that this is well worth any young reader’s time.

This is one of those small books that just sits on your shelf reminding you that bigger isn't always better.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Last Wednesday's Loot: Part 2 - The Lootening

I’m going to do the quickest reviews I can for the comics I picked up. As you’ve know doubt noticed I’m not creating a flood of content these days. No real reason other than lack of inspiration and noticing I’m repeating myself a lot. So here goes:

Godland #19

As much as I love this kooky yet hip space-god comic it is starting to feel like it’s treading water. I feel as if I’ve been reading the same story for just one too many issues. But I still like it more than most comics I could get so there you go. Spoiled by riches I guess.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5
This issue seemed a bit more slapdash than the rest. I find myself not as excited about this comic as I once was.

Batman #666
Morrison really likes his son of Batman idea doesn’t he? I don’t like it as much, but what I do like is that Morrison is playing with the notion that Batman as a character can survive and thrive in many different and often contradictory interpretations.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #3
This is just good comics but great for young readers too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday's Loot: Part 1 - 25 July 2007

Okay I've got quite a few more comics than I'm used to and little to no time to actually read them. I got through two today at lunch and hope to get a few more read this week while I start the process of fighting a parking ticket in Ottawa, which ironically will involve a lot of driving.

The Spirit #8
Who else but Darwyn Cooke can mix up a comic with a LOL CATZ! joke and a classic men’s wear joke? This is still top notch comics that is as fun as the golden age stuff but perfect for the modern fan. You don’t need to know the original material but it can add an additional layer of appreciation. It’s beautiful, it’s fun and it’s what comics should be.

Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil #4
And more great comics here. Yes bright colours and a mash up of classic with the modern all brought through a lens of fun. The ending leaves the door open for a series, which would be welcome if it could come out on a regular basis. Fun stuff here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not quite the finest, but darned good

Hi all, I'm back from the east coast and while my beach days got rained out I swam in the ocean none the less (including a jellyfish sting to the back of my right knee) and got to see rebuilt Bounty.

I didn't read any comics until last night and I've got a whack waiting for me at the shop I'm sure.

Anyway, I read Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude's World's Finest last night. I needed a bit of a break from Harry Potter you see (plus it's due back at the library today). My thoughts are that the story was a bit too hard to follow for what should be such a simple plot. I mean I understood the plot but it just felt awkward to actually know the finer details. But the dialogue and interaction of Batman's crew with Superman's crew was superb for the most part. I think there is a great understanding of what makes these two icons tick and it manages to hit the majority of their supporting casts on the head for the most part, but the exposition just seemed lacking.

Making up for that in spades was Steve Rude's artwork. Simply put, it is stunning. The colouring and inking make the pages pop and give off a classic vibe along the lines of Mike Allred or Darwyn Cooke but it is the character design and acting that just makes this book look better than anything I had expected. Rude manages to capture the classic feel of these characters and the look of both the Joker and Luthor, not just Batman and Superman, makes you believe you are reading the golden age versions. You don't need to be told anything about the characters to know what age is being evoked. As someone who is drawn a lot more towards plot than art the highest compliment I can give is that this book is worth it just for the artwork alone. It feels achronistic and looks simply beautiful. I need to find more of his stuff now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

And for 7 days, he rested (after delivering a punch to the face)

Well folks I'm off to the East Coast of Canada after work today. Going to spend time swimming in the Atlantic if the sun stays out and watching the tall ships during my few days in Halifax (including the Bounty from that movie starring Anthony Hopkins and that guy I don't mention anymore).
So before I go I just have a few things to post. Firstly, I have a bunch more trades and OGNs to more or less ready to go. I've read a lot but haven't had time to write reviews so expect the following reviews at some point (Goodbye Chunky Rice, Chicken with Plums, Kings in Disguise, Tor, Vader's Quest, World's Finest and I'm starting to re-read the Sin City collection because I'm sort of untimely like that).
Secondly, no new comics for me this week. I've cut down my purchasing habits which makes me happier and more likely to own a house one day.
And finally, since I won't be here tomorrow when Bahlactus commands it, I'm providing you with rule #5 about comics.
Jedis can punch you anytime they like.

That's right folks. That's a blinded Luke Skywalker punching out a dude with a crossbow. Only in comics can we experience the awesomeness of of blind Jedis beating up medieval aliens. (Okay, maybe in movies, novels, cartoons and video games does this also happen, but they're less awesome - mostly).

And for good measure, since it's highly unlikely I won't be here next Friday either, here's the best fight between heroes without a punch being thrown. The other hero - Green Lantern Kyle Rayner doesn't even need to be in the panel to know who won.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Green and Important

Green Lantern: My Brother's Keeper

I heard about this story in the regular press long before I started reading comics again. I've since learned (i.e. kind of remembered some vague recollections) about the history of the Green Lantern and Green Arrow team-up to fight the problems of the day. This was a decent continuation in that vein of story.

I'm glad DC put out a story dealing with homophobia and didn't make the cause Brainwave the way the story started. I like how it pushes the new GL to a point where he's just unsure about whether or not people are worth saving if this is what he's working so hard to protect. Sure, looking back it's a bit of an emo reaction but the core of the story is solid and the message was handled well.

It's always a bit worrisome when something known for being glib entertainment tries to tackle something important but this was actually done well. It's weird for me to say this, but I'm more relieved than anything that they avoided the afterschool special approach to the subject.

All that considered the rest of the story has some fairly decent superhero action as well. All in all it was a decent read that didn't advertise the "Very Important Issue" too loudly outside of the introduction and in the various text essays. It doesn't cheapen the story or the message that way, which is how these stories need to be handled.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Last Thursday's Loot - 5 July 2007

All Star Superman #8
Bizarro speak am easy comprehend. Jon hate All Star Superman and no go for hard joke review. Fireworks rocket most boring and lame. Me really no like tragic idiocy of Bizarro world.
I no-rate comic: Am terrible and me hate most of all.

Detective Comics #834
Oh the Joker. You're ever the showman. I'm glad your back and I don't really care if you synch up with other Jokers in other Batman comics. They're seperate books so everything can be self contained. I've always liked Dini's Joker with his penchant for elabourate death traps and Joker Gas but when they don't work he's not above slicing somebody with a scythe. And, most shocking of all, a relatively decent ending for the whole mess between Batman and Zatana which I thought DC would either ignore or never try to really fix.
I rate this comic: It's Batman and the Joker, so what's not to like?

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers
I was at the barber shop last Friday reading these books and my turn came up before I could finish more than a couple of pages of this one. I know there were guys riding lizards and the people were about to call the Avengers with some rock. I'm sure it'll be just as entertaining as the rest of this series has been but I'm getting ready for my vacation and haven't had the time to pick this book up again.

Monday, July 09, 2007

For some reason I can't title this post.

I just watched it on DVD and I really really like Superman Returns for exactly all the reasons people don’t like it. It’s a movie that is intimate and introspective starring the most powerful being on earth. They do all the things you don’t expect or probably shouldn’t do with Superman and it works beautifully for me.

He’s the outsider. He has a kid. He abandons the Earth to find out more about himself (sort of selfish). He’s made human and he’s also made more powerful than he’s ever been.

I’m not a huge fan of the bumbling Clark Kent or the goofy Luthor but I like that they follow the movie history of the characters. The only character I didn’t like was Lois Lane. I didn’t dislike her either but I just like the Lois from the animated series so much more. I just didn’t see a career woman here who is a better journalist than anyone else at the Daily Planet. Then again having the love of your life and father of your child return from a five year space journey would probably throw anyone. If I tell myself she was just sort of mixed up by his return then it works – and I hope that’s what they were getting at.

I like that this movie is slow and isn’t like any other superhero movie out there. I like it because of that, I just have no idea what they can do with Superman and child for a sequel. But if Singer is there I’m sure it’ll be done well.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Night Fights: You thought I was done? You thought wrong punk.

Last week I took a sucker punch and missed the mark. Well I'm here to remind you of Rule #4 of comic books - "Seriously, don't talk shit to The Spirit. " You'll also see a prime example of my second favorite punch, the cross, with the uppercut being number one on my list.

Bahlactus didn't miss me though, he's putting a lot of pudgy pukes through the paces, making them jump rope, do wind sprints, work the bags and if they're lucky enough, sparring.

Let's recap those rules so far:
  1. Always punch Hitler.

  2. Don't talk shit to The Spirit

  3. Batman will punch you really really hard.

  4. Seriously. Don't. Talk. Shit. to. The Spirit.

Stay tuned, I've got a few more that will appear in a relatively random order of discovery.


Oops, accidentally posted this on my other blog first - stupid dashboard, stupid no coffee yet.

Last night I went to an hour long car/US forces commercial that was filmed and acted like that Pearl Harbor movie but it ended with a great Transformers fight. Yeah, it was a stinker that would have been as bad as Pearl Harbor if it wasn't for the awesome robot fight scene. The robots are really done well and the free-way fight was totally awesome.

Otherwise it was a very long commercial for American Made Automobiles and the US Military where they eschewed standard movie protocols like "dialogue" in favor of "explaining things in excessive detail to the audience as if the actor were reading from a textbook." Which helped stink up Pearl Harbor - well it's back, en masse here.

But the robots are cool, even if you can't really tell them apart except for their colors and maybe size. If I was the age I first discovered Transformers and saw this movie I would have loved it. As an adult who just wanted to see robots punching each other I had to wait entirely too long with too many meat puppets reading textbooks at me about phosphorous ammunition - but they never explain why the Transformers actually, you know, transform (or for that matter why names like Bumblebee and Jazz are popular on Cybertron).

If you have a young son who likes the toys - go. If you like awesome 3D animation of robots - go. Otherwise, brace yourself for episode one.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Diodes is a good word

NYC Mech: Let’s Electrify
Written by: Ivan Brandon & Miles Gunter
Drawn by: Andy MacDonald

A world full of robots and it’s not Cybertron. For some reason that seemed important to me at first. I didn’t really get this book when I started to read it. I started to project my own ideas onto it, which isn’t such a good thing to be doing. I just didn’t get the point but after the first story I realized there wasn’t a point to be gotten, just one to be missed.

This is a collection of stories that imagines New York repopulated by inorganic life. A bunch of hipster criminal robots to be more precise. Okay, not all of them are criminals but there are quite a few and a bunch of other unsavory characters to go on top of that. The stories are hit or miss depending on your mood. Heck even reflecting back onto this collection I’m still indecisive about whether I actually liked the stories or not. I did, and I didn’t.

The real treat here is Andy MacDonald’s artwork. It is simply stunning. It’s a bit disorienting at first but it has a precision and flow to it that is larger than life. It’s a fantastic mixture of stylized action and movement with utter minute details thrown in for good measure. It’s human robots so there is the fine lines of the metal meeting and the diodes and bolts with the movement and organic flow of people. It moves, it pops and it’s sort of off putting because it just shouldn’t work so well together yet it does.

If you’re looking for a bit of a break from exploding robots and people on the summer screens and are more in the mood for a few short stories – mostly crime/noir stories – where the players are robots. This is for you.