Storm Shadow took out Ravager, the daughter of Deathstroke, with one final cut and received a warrior's death.
Blades, bloodied in previous battles, are at the ready. They silently stalk one another, looking for an advantage without making a move. There's a definite respect between these two. They know that within a series of moves, one of them will soon be dead. A move is made and blood mixes with that of the fallen...
Green Lantern #59 - man that was a lot of talking. Yes, there was a lot of action surrounding the talking, but, you know, the action was irrelevant because you knew that Parallax wasn't going to kill or even hurt Hal all that much and you also knew that Hal wasn't able to hurt Parallax (or if he was he wouldn't hurt the possessed Barry Allen), so ultimately it was just a lot of jibba jabba leading virtually nowheres.
G.I. Joe/Cobra #11 - With all these different iterations of G.I. Joe out there I sometimes get confused as to who exactly Cobra Commander is (or should be), but this dapper-suited, intelligent, sensible Commander with a photographic memory is the first truly inspiring and competent leader of a global terrorist organization/legitimate business that the Joes have had. That doesn't mean he's not fun, but he's a different, non-buffoonery kind of fun.
Strange Tales II #3 - while I get a big kick out of the humorous takes on the Marvel universe, pointing out, repeatedly, the absurdity the the superhero genre is built upon, I think I appreciate the more straightforward - earnest even - takes on the characters. I liked best Alex Robinson's slice-of-life college-aged Ben Grimm and Reed Richards going on a double-date story as it used it's short story form to maximum efficiency.
Captain America: Man Out Of Time #2 - The first issue, truth be told was a little weak, as Mark Waid's updating of Cap's resuscitation ran over familiar ground but with minor tweaks. This issue, however, was solid gold, introducing the anachronistic Cap to a disbelieving Rick Jones, acclimatizing to the modern era and, quite frankly, reminding the audience what Captain America's appeal truly is (something, I personally, have always had a hard time understanding, but think I get now).
X-Factor #212 - X-Factor and Thor team up on a mission to hell, and that guy Darwin who hasn't had much to say or do since he first showed up finally shows some usefulness, and how.
Mighty Crusaders #6 - If I can say one thing to writers who know that they're working on the last issue of a series or line or company, don't end it by saying goodbye or the big bravado and bluster rallying cry "wherever there is trouble, we'll be there" type speech, because that's pure Camembert, instead, leave them wanting more. Hint at the next big adventure to never come, make it seem like there some big idea waiting in the wings that the audience will never see, make it memorable rather that awkward. Frustrate the hell out of them with a cliffhanger. As much as people say they want closure, people remember that which doesn't give it to them even more. I say this because dammit I want more.
Batman and Robin #18 - I was reading an interview by Paul Cornell over at CBR and Cornell notes:
It kind of is startling where you see reviews of my "Batman And Robin," which is supposed to be as dark as dishwater, going, "Oh, this is a light-hearted Silver Age adventure." I don't think of this as a Silver Age adventure, guys.
"Dark as dishwater"? Oh Paul Cornell, you're having us on, aren't you? This second part is as 60's as it gets, complete with a plodding bad-guy-telling-the-good-guys-their-origin which ate up a good chunk of the issue and felt more Stan Lee than Grant Morrison, less Alan Grant, more Roy Thomas.
Mighty Samson #1 - I thought I had some past connection to the old Gold Key Mighty Samson, but turns out I was full of it, because reading this issue, (which contains both Jim Shooter's remake and a reprint of the original Gold Key first issue) I don't even have a slight tickle of familiarity with the series. A post apocalyptic story set hundreds of years in the future as New York and New Jersey tribes square off. I haven't read Kamandi, really, so it would be interesting to hear someone compare the two. I also thought there should be more traces of the 20th century strewn throughout (hammer home the fact that we've made a lot of shit that's never going away).
It only took, what... 30 years for me to read Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali and guess what, really enjoyed it.
Thing was that as soon as I finished it, I wanted a sequel. No, not Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali 2 but the most natural extension of this iconic 1970's event, featuring the only comics character and historical figure worthy of iconic Treasury Edition treatment...
Had such a paltry week on December 1st (two floppies and a trade) that I decided to skip DNR last week... also I was travelling and Christmas shopping followed by catching up with gobs of work I'd been avoiding so I was otherwise preoccupied anyway. So with two weeks to catch up on...
Doom Patrol #17 - What was this all about again... oh, right, this was a weird one (which means it's a normal one for Doom Patrol). To compare it to TV series, it's kind of like Fringe by way of Human Target at the Doom Patrol go to a soiree loaded with criminal element types as bodyguard for the President of Oolong Island. Bad stuff happens... and Bumblebee can't find fancy attire.
Secret Six #28 - a muddled issue trying to resolve a far-too-complex situation far too quickly. Also, it had that conceit which annoys the living poop out of me whereby people (from opposing sides) stop and have a chat on the battlefied, and nobody else even attempts to take them out (and that happens here multiple times... gargalarg!)
The Incredible Hercules: The New Prince Of Power tpb - Combining two mini-series, "Hercules: Fall of an Avenger" (Spoiler Alert: Hercules is dead!), wherein a buch of heroes eulogize Herc (I find it hard to believe that an Altlantean princess would refer to anyone as "hot" though) followed by "Heroic Age: The New Price Of Power" (Spoiler Alert: It's Amadeus Cho), where in Amadeus Cho (notice how he's usually only referred to by his full name... some people are like that... mostly athletes though) takes over as CEO of Olympus Corp (or whatever it's called) and must deal with his first hostile takeover, all while actually trying to become a god so that he can find out where Hercules really is (Spoiler Alert: Herc's not really dead). This is a frustrating trade as it's all just a lead-in to the Chaos War event. (Remember the Adam Strange/ OMAC/ Rann-Thanagar War/ Secret Six etc mini-series that didn't have endings but only led into Infinite Crisis, it's just that annoying.. not bad otherwise).
Batgirl #16 - Batgirl's been framed for murder! Hardly original, but it's like pulling a cd off the shelf that you haven't listened to in 15 years... it's so familar, but time has made it sort of unfamiliar as well and yet kind of comforting.
Booster Gold #39 - Booster finally grieves over the loss of Ted Kord. It's sweet but Chris Batista's art has either gone way downhill or he's in need of a new inker, because this book is looking terrible (and really, after all the jokes, I still can't see Booster's bald spot).
Justice League:Generation Lost #15 - Like: Captain Atom time jumping, Booster Gold taking charge, Rocket Red and his tenuous grasp of English turns-of-phrase, Blue Beetle because he wicked awesome, Max Lord's aggrivated acknowledgment of the Wonder Woman reboot. Dislike: Ice and her new retcon which I guess is supposed to toughen her up, but, y'know, being a sweet, timid, pacifist superhero was really her appeal. It's basically lazy writing to completely reboot her character to explain her new personality rather than just develop her as a character. Winick you frustrate me so.
Red Robin #18 - Tim is in Russia, encountering an old Titans ally Red Star, who has been changed in recent years and has an alien spaceship sidekick (an actual inhabitable one, not like Skeets). Fabian Nicieza acknowledges how much of Russia's post-Communist development/prosperity has been a result of corruption and criminal underground, which depending on your level of familiarity with Russia may play as insightful or insulting. I'm not sure which, but it's a somewhat different story for Red Robin so far and I like it.
Superboy #2 - Y'know, I like this book, but I don't love it. In the same way I like old Silver Age comics, but I find them also incredibly difficult to take seriously. Superboy has a very Silver Age feel, and it demands an almost total shift of modern-reader mentality to not balk or dismiss it, because when you succumb to it, it's damn entertaining in that ridiculously goofy way Silver Age comics were. Remote control Parasite frogs indeed.
THUNDER Agents #2 - This was a very well-written character piece, but as much as I liked it (even at $3.99) I'm almost worried that the THUNDER Agents aren't going to have much in the way of story and instead be almost solely character focused... it's almost as if JMS were behind it.
Teen Titans/Little Archie #3 - What can I say about it, except I'm sad that it's over. It's pure pop bubblegum, sweet and chewy.
At work, we've been using a sort of guide book for "civilians" who've been coming in looking for comics with similar sensibilities to current TV series, movies and books. Thought we'd share to a wider audience:
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead comic and TV series (Image Comics), you may like:
Chew Vol. 1 through 3 (Image Comics):
Vice cop Tony Chu lives in a world where, after a global epidemic of avian flu, all poultry is illegal. Chu also has a secret; he’s a “cibopath,” a person who gets psychic impressions from the things he eats. While investigating an illegal chicken smuggling operation, he tastes a bowl of chicken soup, finding himself on the trail of a serial killer.
If you’re a fan of the current Batman series of movies, you may like:
Batman: Year One (DC Comics)
The skill of leaping from rooftop to rooftop while dodging bullets isn’t something you learn overnight. No, there’s a definite learning curve. This book explores the forging of a man into a hero. Batman: Year One is what many believe to be Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City writer/artist Frank Miller’s stronger Batman work.
If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, you may like:
Scalped Vol. 1 through 6 (Vertigo):
Bearing nunchucks and an attitude, Dashiell Bad Horse returns to the Prairie Rose Reservation he left fifteen years ago. A lot’s changed in the years, he’s been gone, meth labs litter the area adding more misery to the already crushing poverty. Soon, a 97 million dollar casino will open on this land, headed up by Lincoln Red Crow, a man from Dash’s past who’ll also play a major hand in his future. With brilliant characterization and sharp dialogue, Scalped is simply of the best books being printed today.
If you’re a fan of TV’s Mad Men, you may like:
Richard Stark’s Parker series by Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing):
Parker is neither hero nor villain. He knows exactly who he is. He’s a thief, simply out for his next dollar. What makes him the character so interesting is that when it’s all said and done, you’ll respect the character’s honesty. Adapting author Richard Stark’s singular character is master storyteller Darwyn Cooke ofDC:The New Frontierfame. Art-wise, Cooke builds a world reminiscent of the time in which Mad Men is set while maintaining the stylistic flourishes comics fans have come to appreciate within his work. Look for both The Hunter and the newly released, The Outfit.
If you’re a fan of James Bond and The Jason Bourne series of books and movies, you may like:
Queen and Country Definitive Editions One through Four (Oni Press):
Tara Chace is an operative within The British Secret Service. The work is rarely glamorous and rarely involves traveling to exotic locations, sipping martinis. When the assignment does come, it usually involves being sent to some far off place with the express knowledge that you may be being sent off to die and knowing that if you live, you may need to drink to forget the things you’ve done. You’ll never see the espionage thriller in the same way after reading this.
If you’re a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, you may like:
Tiny Titans (DC Comics):
Full of good, simple fun and drawn in an art style accessible to young and old, The Tiny Titans are the child sidekicks of some of superherodom’s most famous heroes. Robin, Superboy, a couple of Wonder Girls, a Kid Flash and few super-pets, among others, hang out in a clubhouse while keeping the world safe for whimsy.
If you’re a fan of the Iron Man movie and comics series, you may like:
Secret Avengers (Marvel Comics):
Following the events of the Siege mini-series, Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, realizes a need for a more pro-active team of Avengers; one that takes the fight directly to any potential threat. Featuring Avengers mainstays such as Black Widow while utilizing mission specific and insanely clever additions such as Shang Chi, The Master of Kung Fu, Secret Avengers is what happens when childhood fave G.I. Joe meets the storied Avengers franchise.
If you like True Blood book and TV series, you may like:
American Vampire Volume One, co-written by Stephen King (Vertigo Comics):
Skinner Sweet is sick. Sick of aristocratic vampires trying to run the world. Sick of the romanticizing of what he is. Sick of vampires who seek the light. Skinner Sweet is an outlaw and vampire turned during the height of The Wild West. Skinner Sweet does not sparkle. Under the stellar writing of Stephen King and Scott Snyder, he shines.
If you’re a fan of political thrillers, you may like:
Ex Machina Vol. 1 through 10 (DC/Wildstorm)
Following his actions during a pivotal moment in American history, Mitchell Hundred has become the first superhero ever to be elected Mayor of New York. Operating in real time, Ex Machina follows this man through his four years in office. One of comics’ best series, Ex Machine opens with a first chapter that will leave you absolutely stunned and a final chapter that will leave you speechless.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series of books, you may like:
The Books Of Magic (DC/Vertigo)
Tim Hunter, a bespectacled, young British orphan is taken on a tutorial through The Books of Magic by some of the world’s greatest magicians. Will he reject or embrace his destiny to become the world’s greatest magician? Released in 1990, a full seven years before the first Harry Potter novel, The Books Of Magic is written by Sandman and American Gods author Neil Gaiman.
If you’re a fan of the recent Green Lantern trailer, you may like:
Green Lantern (DC Comics)
Hal Jordan is a test pilot, ne’er do well and possessor of the most powerful weapon in the universe, the Green Lantern Power Ring, a ring fueled by the only thing he has in spades: willpower. The only thing that can stop Hal Jordan is the one thing he’s never known: fear. When the two meet, a battle of truly universal importance will take place and a legend will be born. To get your best look at just who Hal Jordan is; the trade paperback collections of Green Lantern: Secret Origin and Green Lantern: Rebirth are both highly recommended.
(a feature dedicated to the stack of comics, old and new, languishing beside my bed)
Who's Who #2
If it weren't for Who's Who, I probably wouldn't be the DC Comics obsessive I am today (or should I say "was, until about 5 years ago"). I had, before the end of the 1980's, managed to acquire every Who's Who issue (and thoroughly scoured them time and again, at one point even tracing the images within, creating mash-up characters, such as Rad Dude, the skateboard hero who had (Golden Age) Red Tornado's soup-pot head, Reactron's body and, for some reason, Heathcliff's legs).
Anyway, for some reason, issue #2 of Who's Who always eluded me... "for some reason"... I know exactly why... because issue #2 was the Batman issue, and it always fetched a much higher price than the other issues and was nearly impossible to find in most back issue bins. So it was with much excitement this year when I found it in a dollar bin at the Toronto Fan Expo, it's blue-background George Perez cover smacking me giddily in the face. The coveted prize was quickly escorted home where it was tossed in the pile beside the bed to be left, unloved, for many more months.
But I've now read it, and my knowledge of the DC Universe circa 1985 is now complete... completely out-of-date. Alas. Some notes:
"Automan" - there was a tragic-looking Tron-rip-off TV show from Glen A Larson (Battlestar Galactica, The A*Team) called Automan back in the 1980s. I seem to only recall seeing it on French-Canadian tv as a pre-teen. This isn't him. This dude looks kind of like Robotman, only dorky.
"Azrael" - not the Bat-universe Azrael, but some flying dude with wings who appeared briefly in the Teen Titans.
"Babe" - I have to wonder why the Atari Force, wonderful though it was, was given individual entries for each character in the series. It was out of DCU continuity and lasted less than 25 issues. Surely just one "Atari Force" entry in the first issue should have sufficed?
"Batman" - This was 1984 and Batman's Origin was as so:
Now and orphan, Bruce Wayne was placed in the care of his Uncle Philip. Since Philip Wayne was a world traveler, Bruce spent his formative years under the guidance of Philip's housekeeper, the kindly Mrs. Chilton (who was secretly Joe Chill's mother, a fact Bruce has never learned).
WHAT THE WHAT!
"Ben Boxer" - Never heard of him before but he sounds totally awesome and is an instant new favourite obscure character. One of Kirby's extras from Kamandi, which I should really give a gander one of these days.
"Big Sir" - man, he really didn't come unto his own until Giffen/DeMatteis/Jones got ahold of him.
"Black Canary II" - I honestly had no idea the Dinah's origin was this damn convoluted, but given DCU continuity it doesn't surprise me.
"Blackhawk Island" - Reading this reminded me that "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is basically the Blackhawks movie which nobody seemed to want or care all that much for.
This issue is a pretty neat time capsule of the confusion that resulted while Crisis on Infinite Earths was just beginning (it ran in parallel with that series for the first 12 issues, which was probably the biggest problem with the series). I think the writers/editors knew that changes were in the offing, but couldn't really write about them yet (there were no "Spoiler Alerts" back in them days, kids), so they were stuck trying to make sense of incredibly convoluted histories or bridge the differences between old and new (the Batman and Black Canary entries really highlight this). It's interesting reading, also from the standpoint of how diverse DC's offerings have been over the years, from non-continuity projects like Atari Force and Barren Earth to alternate-realities (but in-continuity) like Warlord and Amethyst to future and space heroes where characters like Automan and Ben Boxer came from.
Teen Titans #79 - I loved Nicola Scott's work on Birds of Prey and moreso on Secret Six, where she's still sorely missed, so while I was attracted to the last issue of Teen Titans and the debut of the new creative team, I just wasn't enthused about it. That changed this issue with the addition of Damian Wayne/Robin to the team and I have to say JT Krul handled it perfectly, even if it's kind of incongruous as Damian isn't yet a teenager. The action of the issue was decent but Krul nailed the emotional aspects wonderfully and has a total bead on Damian's character. Going to stick with this for a little while at least.
Detective Comics #871 - Speaking of new creative teams, Scott (American Vampire) Snyder and Jock (the Losers) climb on board the figurehead title at DC and I have to say I'm surprised and a bit blown away. Snyder not only brings the "detective" back to the title, but he totally geeks out, seeding in plenty of nods to Dick Grayson's past as well as various DC stories (like Gotham Central). While Morrison's Batman and Robin was pretty great, I think Snyder may have an even better grip on Dick Grayson. I guess we'll see.
Batman and Robin #17 - Speaking of Morrison's Batman and Robin, well, it's no longer Morrison's Batman and Robin. It's Pete Tomasi's Batman and Robin, but due to some scheduling stuff, it' won't be for another three issues. In the interim it's Paul Cornell's Batman and Robin, and it's entertaining enough but Scott McDaniel's art looks terribly rushed (as it most likely was, since they were a last-minute filler creative team) and I'm not sure Cornell has Damian's voice right.
Batwoman #0 - Yes, it's pretty slight, but it's also pretty pretty. It's gorgeous, and I've always like the split-story issues like this. I'm sure DC was hoping to have this ready for the "Bruce Wayne: The Return Home" stuff last month where Bruce was spying on all his allies, because it certainly reads like it. There's lots of tiny nuggets for future Batwoman stories here, I particularly love the idea of Batwoman having her own "Robin" with her cousin (and former Titans West member?) Flamebird under her wing.
Captain America #612 - Prison fun for Bucky, while the politics and press of the situation are really bringing Steve Rogers down, man. If Brubaker pulls it off this will either be a fully rewarding tear-down and build-up of Bucky-Cap or a wacky cheese fest with America giving Buck a hug and a "we're sorry" at the end. Or Mephisto gets involved and makes everyone forget.
Justice League: Generation Lost #14 - As I pointed out in the not-review of Booster Gold last week, the Giffen Justice League often had Marvel analogs, and here Judd Winick presents a "Days of Future Past"-riff with Captain Atom time-jumping (probably the best aspect of his character, sparsely used since it was re-introduced in Armageddon 2001) to a future where OMACs replace the Sentinels. It's hands down the best issue of the series so-far, and sort of a great read on its own.
Avengers vs The Pet Avengers #2 - Last month I mentioned how straight this series played the talking animal thing, well, sadly, I must rescind because there's a horrendously groan-inducing sequence of Tony Stark-as-a-frog leaping "comedically" from one troubling situation to another. Too cute, Chris Eliopoulos, too cute.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 4: Realm of Kings - In the scheme of my 30-years of reading comics, I've only *just* started to care about the Marvel cosmic (all started with Annihilation), but man I nearly spit my grilled cheese sandwich out my nose when Phylla-Vell cut Thanos out of that cocoon. Sad for the end of GOTG and Nova, but the big hardcover of the Thanos Imperative comes out in January and I'm totally ready.
Yo Gabba Gabba: Goodnight Gabbaland and Yo Gabba Gabba: Gabba Ball - The aforementioned Chris Eliopoulos did the latter while J. Torres and Matthiew Loux write and draw the former, two 16-page board comics from Oni Press riffing on the delightful characters from the hipster-kiddie show. Hopefully we'll get Gooble in a subsequent book, because that sad ghost is hilarious.
Batman: The Return #1 and Batman Incorporated #1 - Two peas of the same pod, you can't read one without the other (whoah, analogy break). Batman: The Return isn't so much about welcoming Bruce Wayne back to the fold, but instead establishing the new status quo as Bruce hands out his marching orders, and thus the new direction for the bat books. As much as what went on previous was a grand orchestration, it is, at this point, irrelevant, and, to Grant Morrison's credit, he truly makes this a fresh start. So if you'd missed "RIP" and Final Crisis and Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman and Robin and all the other bits in-between, it doesn't matter. All aboard, enjoy the ride. First stop, Tokyo.
Green Lantern #59 - oh, hooray, two dull, should-still-be-dead heroes having an argument and, in typical Geoff John's fashion, bluntly laying out the character traits of one another in a conversational manner like noone ever does. And Barry keeps a wallet in his tights? How does that work without lumping?
Legion of Super-Heroes #7 - Two stories. In the first, Tyroc shows off some new abilities as Durlans attack. Murder mystery solved. In the second, Brainiac 5 has trouble with his time bubble and Paul Levitz must have said Candlejack while writing the script, because that was as abrupt an end to a chapter as I've seen.
Tiny Titans #34 - This issue is devoted to a little meta-commentary on Franco's delightful-yet-simplistic cartooning, as both Superboy and Zatara have the same haircut and therefore look interchangeable... and they have some fun with it. I'm never not impressed by this book.
X-Factor #211 - after last month's interlude, it's nice to get the story back on track. Every issue PAD gives the reader at least one capital-m Moment., Madrox's plebs-eye-view of Thor is definitely it this issue.
GI Joe/Cobra #10 - Oh, I'm so glad to see Antonio Fuso back, but I should probably admit that when the first G.I. Joe/Cobra mini-series came out I wasn't too enthused by his work. But I can honestly say that it sometimes takes a bad artist to make you appreciate a good one. Also, nice to see the return to Chuckles' story after four issues of meandering around the Cobra/Serpentor cult, which was interesting but overlong.
Sixth Gun #6 - I could tell that this series was barrelling towards a sixth-issue conclusion (makes sense afterall), but I kept noticing that there was never an "of 6" on the cover, which implied that it wasn't just a six issue limited series. Given that there's a 7th issue cover printed in the back, I'm super-excited that Sixth Gun is continuing on, but I should also say that this issue is a definite end to the current storyline and it is a fantastically orchestrated, totally widescreen battle. Dapper caps off to Misters Bunn and Hurtt. Monocle Smile.
Warlord of Mars #2 - Oh, get to Mars already John Carter. (Note: I'm pretty sure he'll be there next issue).
It Came From Beside The Bed
Classic G.I. Joe Volume 9 - for all the ham and cheese that this series seemed to revel in, every so often Larry Hama delivered an honest gourmet sandwich of an issue - a turkey breast with pancetta, arugula, asiago and garlic aioli spread oasis amidst the mountain of cheap if satisfyingly salty pressed pig and Kraft singles. This volume actually features three of the best tales from the series, including "Weeding Out" (perhaps the best of the series?), "SFX" (a redux of the infamous "Silent Interlude" wordless issue #21) and, though lesser so, "Not Fade Away" anniversary issue which brings in the original G.I. Joe (and G.I. Jane) and puts them amidst a rather entertaining heist plot. I should say there's a rather dire clunker or two in the midst of the usual bologna outside of these three, and the art is a wild ride from the fantastic (but perhaps ill-suited) Marshall Rogers, to the oversimplified Tony Salmons, to surprise work from M.D. Bright (whom, it would seem, took over as regular artist, and will handle the bulk of the art in Volume 10 and 11)
New Acquisitions, Future "It Came From Beside the Bed" fodder
Grant Morrison's 18 Days HC - less a comic and more an art and process book looking at Morrison's proposed (in-the-works?) animated project based off eastern folklore. I like Morrison, I'm interested in process, and this think looks really, really pretty. I'm going to have trouble with the character names though, I can tell you that much off the bat.
DC Comics Presents: Batman #2 - A quartet of Ed Brubaker-penned Batman tales from around 7 years ago for 8 bucks. Sure, why not.
Me: So, now that leaves us at Civil War. Things get wacky a little for me at this point so bear with me. The government wants all the heroes and the villains to register to become heroes.
Customer: Hold on. So, does the government want the Marvel villains to be villains?
Me: So... Cap opposes this and Iron Man doesn't and somewhere in this and is appointed The Secretary of Defense...
Me: Yes. So, because Cap is against it, Stark brands him a traitor and hunts him down and while all of this is going on Captain America hijacks a fighter jet and decides to surf on it.
C: (puzzled look)
Me: Trust me, it makes no sense but it was one HELL of a visual. So, Cap gathers together a band of rebels in opposition to Stark's plan...
C: Wait! Was all of this going on during the Iron Man movie hoopla?
Me: Kinda but no one who actually went to see the movie would care, anyway. There's a huge fight between Cap and Iron Man and Cap admits defeat when a mailman, a policeman and a firefighter try and beat him up.
C: (Mouth wide open)
Me: I know. The civil service.
Me: Seriously, it's called "ham-fisted," son.
C: So, then?
Me: Well, Tony Stark takes over S.H.I.E.L.D. and arrests Cap and parades him out onto the streets where he's promptly assassinated.
Me: Don't worry, it was only a time displacement bullet.
C: (raises eyebrow)
Me: And then Stark recruited Reed Richards to build concentration camps in space. OH, YEAH! And THEN, they fought The Hulk and shot him into space. He was PISSED, conquered a few worlds, impregnated an alien and when his baby's mama got killed by Stark's rocket thingy declared war on Earth but nothing really came of that.
Batgirl #15 - Barbara gives Wendy a history lesson using a wonderful Tiny-Titans-esque cartoon interface which highlights new artist Dustin Nguyen's visual dexterity. Hope Babs had Wendy sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Meanwhile, there's a new Grey Ghost (see Batman: The Animated Series for future reference). Brian Q. Millar is firing on all cylinders. A thoroughly fun book.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 - That sound you just heard was my head exploding (see Justice League: Generation Lost #13 for a visual representation of what that looked like).
Birds of Prey #6 - This issue was, to quote Doug Benson, fucdiculous. The resolution was so outrageously "everything works out for everyone, hooray" in a Tempest fashion. There were a few nice moments (Shiva giving Huntress a new moniker springs to mind), but overall it was hideous to look at and not much more pleasant to read. Teetering on the "drop pile".
Booster Gold #38 - You know, until a few years ago, I didn't really realize that characters such as Mr. Nebula, Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress and General Glory from the much beloved Giffen/DeMatteis run of Justice League were analogs of Marvel characters. Yes, I can be kinda dense sometimes. Anyway, this is a wacky WWII caper involving Booster Gold and General Glory and it's the first issue of the GifDeMat run on the title that feels 100% like the old JL (except the art is a little clunky). I'm still trying to figure out if that's a good thing or not.
Justice League: Generation Lost #13 - Holy poopies. Some stuff actually happens this issue. Like (SPOILER) shooting (SPOILER) in the face with his (SPOILER), and making his (SPOILER) go all 'splodey. I honestly didn't see that one coming, mainly because Geoff Johns isn't writing this book and he's usually the one to dismember and 'splode people. I've long objected to Max Lord being d-bag #1 in the DCU, but I'm starting to enjoy disliking the a-rod.
Mighty Crusaders #5 - Wow, Inferno's a T-800. I would say "SPOILER" but nobody's reading this book so I can pretty much give away anything that happens and apathy towards it will continue to abound.
Red Robin #17 - If my wife weren't picking this (or Robin prior) I can't say I'd be reading this with any regularity, but with the exception of the first few issues of this new series, I'm actually really enjoying it. Nicieza really does well managing Tim Drake: Teenager, Tim Drake: Wayne Enterprises figurehead, and Tim Drake: Superhero, now merging in elements of Tim Drake: Playboy, and Tim Drake: Son.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 - Don't think I didn't notice that both licensed-properties books that came out this week (also Mighty Crusaders) were $3.99, DC. Then again so was Return of Bruce Wayne #6. I'm not sure anymore what the connection is. As for the book itself, it's a very Greg Rucka-esque presentation (a good thing) featuring more of the behind-the-scenes aspect of a UN sponsored super-powered fighting force than the men (and women) wielding the power. Not sure if it'll continue like that (I'd like it to), or if it'll take a turn into more conventional, follow-the-powers story. I'm on board, and curious about the old stuff, since I know, literally, nothing about the original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
Tiny Titans/Little Archie #2 - okay, issue one was fun, but this one is full on "aw yeah!" Josie and the Pussycats are invited to Pet Club (where the first rule is, naturally, to not talk about Pet Club), and a party breaks out in the Titans treehouse, as Captain Pureheart and the Archies-as-heroes gang show up. It's utter crossover madness, with more puns than you can shake a stick at. Directionless, but absolutely delightful.
Unwritten #19 - ahem, still not caught up yet. Residing comfortably with a pile of Unwrittens stacked neatly beside the bed.
Chew #15 - a lovely "Last Supper"-esque gatefold cover adorns this interlude issue in which Tony goes home for Thanksgiving and we learn all about his family and his family troubles. Plus, a serious game-changer ending which will either mean exciting changes or an unwelcome shift in the story.
Tron: Betrayal #2 - So very surprising that a comic book interlude actually accomplishes anything, but Betrayal actually develops Kevin Flynn in a way that the first Tron never did, observing as he struggles with his corporate life, his family life and the virtual reality world he built. The Grid is also grown from seed to, likely, where it is at when Sam Flynn arrives in the new movie. It's not a perfect story, but it is pretty darn good, add that to the new trailer my already unbridled enthusiasm for the new film has grown exponentially.
It Came From Beside The Bed
Classic G.I. Joe Vol 8. - I've been slowly working my way through the highly ridiculous Classic G.I. Joe comics (though not nearly as ridiculous as the 80's cartoon), but I've fallen behind with volume 9 and Special Missions vol 1 & 2 still waiting. But I powered through volume 8, which contained an arc which at up half of its ten issues. In a crazy case of mindboggling overkill, Serpentor and Cobra Commander (who's really a dude named Fred) are locked in a civil war on Cobra Island (a land mass created a few volumes back from a "Superman Returns" style plot) and somehow Serpentor managed to get the Joes on his side. Toss into the melee Destro and his own private army, and it's a three-way tug of war. After it all ends (in but a whimper) the Joes are livid and seek to take on their handlers who forced them into the fiasco. But virtually the entire (now mammoth-in-size) Joe crew are arrested and publicly called out for treason while a few underground Joes scribble together an A-Team like plan to clear their name and expose the politicians who are behind it all. It ends abruptly with a one-panel appearance by Destro who swings in to save the day (seriously). Larry Hama is not a great writer, but for some reason his unintentionally screwball take on highly unrealistic characters and situations hits a certain ironic tone with me and, especially when it comes to G.I. Joe, seems to fit it like a glove.
Man, been slowly whittling away at this DNR for a week, but sickness and family time have kept me from completing it. I at least got it pushed out before I pick up this week's books.
Batman & Robin #16 - sweet sassy molassy, Bruce Wayne's back and kicking ass. How'd he get back? Well, I don't really understand that part... but it was all very grandiose and exciting wasn't it? I'm still rather annoyed that many of the turns of this book (eg. Dick and Damian staying on as Batman and Robin, the new "Batman, Inc") were spoilered months in advance, but there was still two other turns in this book (one minor involving the Joker, one quite a bit bigger involving a speech by Bruce) that made me rather excited.
Doom Patrol #16 - As a change of pace, Keith Giffen works the pencils and is joined by a new co-writer, and I don't think I've liked a single issue of this book half as much as I liked this one. I can easily say, with the action, humour and character drama, best issue yet. This series has really been picking up steam in its second year, and thus it'll more than likely be cancelled soon.
Secret Six #27 - I think if I was a Warlord fan I'd be totally crapping my pants in excitement over this issue. As it stands, I'm not, but I still really enjoyed it. Amanda Waller has a moment that proves once again why she's one of the best character in superhero comics.
Superboy #1 - I don't have any great affinity for Superboy, but I do like fellow Torontonian Jeff Lemire, and if ever there was a guy who should write "superheroes in a small town", it's Lemire. This issue: a little clunky in establishing Connor Kent's status-quo and supporting cast (with heavy homage to original Superboy setting and structure) but doing so immediately might mean less time spent doing so later on. Sticking around this one for a while.
Tron: Original Movie Adaptation #1 - I'm not sure what the purpose of this is, and yet I bought it anyway. There's some nicely written narrative elements from Peter David and a different take on the storytelling timeline, but otherwise it adds nothing to the film, the art is stiff and the colors not nearly vibrant enough. The rational man inside me is wrestling with the completist over whether to buy the second issue or not, as I own the film and thus this comic adaptation is redundant.
Strange Tales #2 - It's probably not good that I just read this and I can't remember anything much from it. In general, though, I like that Marvel's bringing in indie creators to play with their toys however they want to. It would be interesting to see almost any of these creators cut loose on a full issue story or mini-series.
Captain America: Man Out Of Time #1 - It's not a retcon... Mark Waid excels at the retrofit back story (see his Flash and Superman: Birthright), and Captain America: MOOT should solidly uphold that tradition. I'm not really sure what to make of the last few pages. What just happened to the rest of the Avengers, how is he sending off communications, and can you get any more cliche than the rescue-the-girl-from-the-thugs-in-a-back-alley (though there is a bit of a twist on that one).
Invincible #75 - My wife's the Invincible fan, but I only casually read the odd hyper-violent issue from time to time, just to see what's happening. This issue, I didn't so much as read as flip through it, thinking that this extra-sized, extra-pricey 75th ish celebration was the big conclusion to the latest storyline, but, apparently, it's not, and all the extra pages are there for some other Invincible-less Kirkman creations.
Slamarama #1 - 2 - Originally titled Squared Circle, I actually discussed the first issue previously, but creator Dave Howlett has self-published a new, full-colour version with the new title as well as a second issue, which were must-haves for me. Colouring on indie-books tends to generally be weak, but Howlett nicely sticks to basic colouring and doesn't overwork the gradients. Being a child of the 80's wrestling scene, there's a nostalgic aura to this fictionalized wrestling action-drama, complimented by some well executed wrestling sequences as engaging melodrama. If you're not up for hunting down physical copies, you can always read it on-line and in full colour at the Slam-a-rama blog.
Scenester: The Inevitable Collected Edition - The aforementioned Howlett also has made available in a compact collection his first self-published series, Scenester, about a quartet of Halifax 20-somethings trying to get a pop-culture zine off the ground in the pre-internet age. Having tried numerous times to do the same thing (mostly on-line) it's all very familiar territory, and rings very true. Howlett only did three issues and was just hitting his stride (in terms of characters and comedy) when he gave up on it, which is too bad, but high quality stuff with a cornucopia of easter eggs on every page.
Hello Second Printers. First, news before (un)reviews. So it looks like Devon and I are no longer writing for "Comics Reviewed" over at JoBlo.com as the entire column has been scrapped due to, apparently, lack of reader involvement. Our hard work and dedication (which by and large was our comrades Adam and Jeb's hard work and dedication) just wasn't gelling with the Maxim-esque readership there. But not to fear, we've landed on our feet, and will be returning to the review game in a few weeks...
And now, the goods:
Captain America #610 - Holy poopies, Bucky's done got arrested. This is looking like the best storyline the title has had since the switch back to "original numbering". Brubaker does pretty well with action generally but his political stuff is more his strong suits. Also as much as Daniel Acuna's art is vastly different than the consistent-feel of Steve Epting, Luke Ross, Butch Guice etc teams of the past, he's actually quite a welcome shift. The title could still stand to lose the Nomad back-up, though. Feels like dead weight.
Avengers vs Pet Avengers #1 - While the Pet Avengers are kind of cute, it's not generally a funny animal comic. It's a full-blown superhero adventure comic which just happens to be quasi-but-not-really anthropomorphised animals. Here, they're facing off against Fin Fang Foom whom is unironically sporting his purple undies (must shop at the same place as Bruce Banner), and trying to enslave humanity with his dragon pals. Damn fun.
Beasts of Burden/Hellboy One-Shot - Evan Dorkin (with limited Mignola input) crafts a tale that is equally suited to the styles of both parties involved, and while Hellboy doesn't intrinsically fit in with Jill Thompson's watercolor style she uses on Beasts, she captures him fairly well throughout, though he does get rendered rather cartoonishly in the occasional panel. The coda felt a little detached from the main story, but otherwise it's a wonderful pairing (though I would like more Beasts adventures in the bag before a follow-up)
Justice League: Generation Lost #12 - I'm curious to know if this is ret-conning Ice/Ice Maiden's history or if it's actually a tweaking of continuity that was previously ret-conned. I seem to recall that Ice Maiden used to have icy-blue skin (see Global Guardians in DC Comics Presents), so that's not completely out of question for the character, but I do seem to recall her visiting her royal icelandic family (at some point during the late-90's Dan Vado run on Justice League America which I'm sure most people have forgotten) and that, you know, she wasn't a gypsy. Gypsy's a gypsy.
Supergirl Annual #2 - I was curious to see how they reintroduced Supergirl to the Legion, whether it would be in-continuity with the Levitz-Legion or if they would throw her back to the Mark Waid Legion (of which she was a part of as Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes earlier in the decade). But I guess, post Legion of Three Worlds, they're trying to forget about anything but the Levitz Legion (though there is a passing reference here where S-girl narrates that it's not "her Legion"). This is the first Supergirl story I've read from Sterling Gates and she seems in good hands. Also, Marco Rudy's pencils really missing Mick Gray's inks here.
Deadpool Team-Up #888 - yes, my second Deadpool book in one month. I should get my head examined. But to justify, I have three reasons why I bought this: 1) I love love love team-up books and figured I should at least give this a try; 2) It guest-stars The Thing, which means I can pretend it's an issue of Marvel Two-In-One; and 3) It's written by Cullen Bunn whose The Sixth Gun and The Damned are just awesome. Verdict: A fun issue. Bunn is obviously a big wrestling fan as he captures all the tropes perfectly. That said, I'm still not getting the allure of Deadpool, however I may give another issue of this series a try depending on the guest star and the writer and/or artist.
G.I. Joe/Cobra II #9 - I noticed that the regular artist, Antonio Fuso, recently did a Vertigo Noir graphic novel, hence why the past five issues have been by this guy Sergio Carrera. I'm hoping he's back next month (or someone else takes over) though because I'm not sure I can stand the line-traced photograph art of Carrera for another storyline. It's uncanny valley illustrating and it's not my cup of tea, at all. (And looking him up on Comic Book DB, I remember him from Boom Studio's High Rollers where I quite disliked his work as well).
It Came From Beside The Bed...
(comics/trades I finally got around to reading/finishing)
Warlord of IO - James (Rex Libris) Turner's epic space adventure-comedy about a young heir to a galactic empire who's usurped from his post by a warmongering dictator-type. Turner switches his illustrative style up here into something more cartoony that screams kid-friendly, and while the book is a clean read, I personally think it might be too dense for younger readers. No, the appeal here is to a literate Daily Show-style audience who understand the juxtaposition of kid-friendly illustrations and politic-heavy humour. But if your kid is smart, or enjoys the Clone Wars this may not be as challenging as I suspect. Look, what I'm trying to do here is backtrack from my statement, which essentially is "your kid is dumb"... oh, and also to say the book is a hell of a lot of fun. Think I'm going to read it again right away.
Nova vol 6: Realm of Kings - Woah, I completely forgot I didn't read the last chapter of this trade, which is the (temporary?) end of the Nova series. I have to wonder why though, as far as I was aware Nova was selling well and getting fairly positive reviews. Did D'n'A simply burn out with the sheer amount of Marvel Cosmic they were dealing with every month? Or was it because Brubaker stole Nova for Secret Avengers? Is this whole time-displaced Namorita thing going to resolve itself somewhere? And when did she die, anyway, wasn't she in the Incredible Hercules not too long ago?
Wow, really late this week on doing these. Could this be the looming death of our only currently regular feature at Second Printing? Well, at least I got it out before the next batch of new releases hits the stands. I didn't get around to reading B&R #15 until Saturday, and on Monday I realized I hadn't read Sixth Gun #5 yet. I blame Netflix.
Batman and Robin #15 - Damn, I love looking at Frazer Irving's art. I'm not sure what it is about it, but it's absolutely unique in almost every respect, from his figure work to his color palette, it's just so... interesting. Which reminds me, when's Gutsville coming back?
X-Factor #210 - sort of a 'tweener issue with a lot of plot but not so much action. Loved the Rictor/Rahne/cabbie conversation, which is one of my favourite comic book moments of the year.
Sixth Gun #5 - this is a serious game changer, this issue, really setting out (or at least really implying) what the stakes are and what the deal really is with those guns. And for Lost fans, there's a hatch! Even if none of the characters resonate all that strongly with me, I still love this book.
Super-Soldier #4 - I don't like it when stories end with an opening for further stories, because just as often they don't materialize. I enjoyed Super-Soldier (even at $3.99 a pop) but why is it only a mini-series? Why not ongoing? Surely there's enough room for a Bucky-led Captain America book, and a Steve Rogers-led Secret Avengers team book, AND a Steve Rogers-led solo book, no? Or is this just leading to a new plot for those other two books to cross over with one another?
Legion of Super-Heroes #6 - What I find remarkable is that this relaunched Legion is centering around a Bill O'Reilly-like conservative blowhard super-hero, and actually making a real go of it, really getting to the meat of "Earth-Man" and his views. He's not just a caricature of the extreme right, but made understandable, even if you don't agree with his viewpoints. It's astonishing, really, and I'm surprised that the right - well, Colbert especially - haven't glommed onto this book and trumpeted the hell out of the most prominent identifiably conservative superhero currently on the stands.
Older stuff I finally got around to reading:
The Anchor Volume 1: The Five Furies - Phil Hester is one of my favourite writers out there. I assume he's more interested in his own work than work-for-hire since he's not really written for any of the books at DC and Marvel (despite having a long illustrative past at each), but then I do know that he's worked rather extensively on Top Cow books which I just can't bring myself to read no matter who writes or draws them. The Anchor is another really fab original idea from Hester and super-enjoyable. Volume 2 is a must-find for me.
Dr. Id - I found this curious one-off from 2006 recently in the bargain bin of a small indie comic shop in Vancouver, and it looked both fun and well illustrated, and it is. A satire of the Doctor Strange ilk, wherein the mystical Dr. Id takes on various physical manifestations of the psyche. It's funny, trippy and quite entertaining. The glorious black and white art is a hybrid homage of both Kirby and Ditko, and the whole premise that this is a "best-of" collection of a classic, forgotten character is well worn but otherwise inviting.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 - I think I want to like this series more than I actually like it... for now. Once it's done, and I read it all in one sitting, perhaps two or three times over, perhaps with another complete reading of Morrison's Batman run and Final Crisis, then maybe I'll like it more. Sometimes Morrison's dense structural style and call-back-ed-ness makes for too challenging a read. This is almost Invisibles-level mind-numbing.
Booster Gold #37 - I'm a huge Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League fan. That series has had the biggest and most lasting impact of any pop-culture experience in my life. I was afraid that yet another dalliance in JL territory by the writing team would further dilute my affections (ala the moneygrubbing Star Wars onslaught of the 'aughts), but I find this to be perfectly charming, full of the heart that I remember the series having if not exactly being as witty (it feels kind of forced). It's hard to resolve this quasi-buffoonery with the serious goings-on in Generation Lost, but I still like it.
Bruce Wayne, The Return Home: Batgirl #1 and Bruce Wayne, The Return Home: Red Robin #1, given that "The Return of Bruce Wayne" isn't finished yet (another Morrison series delayed? *gasp*), these feel like they've jumped the gun a little bit. Both, however are like bonus issues of their respective series and they tie loosly into one another in the whole "Return Home" thing whereby Bruce tests the mettle of all his former associates. I'm curious about his "Amazo-suit" and I really liked the bit about Cassandra Cain (Brian Q. Miller is doing a bang-up job on Batgirl). Red Robin (here and in issue 5 of ROBW) is drawn as far too grown up for his own good, though.
Green Lantern #58 - I've officially dropped Brightest Day from my pull list, but I can't help but be totally agog over Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy's work here. I don't care about Hal Jordan, I'm seriously surprised at the popularity of Larfleez, and where the hell did John Stewart disappear to? But I am happy that Atrocitous will be the big bad of the first season of the Green Lantern cartoon. I like that dude.
Justice League: Generation Lost #11 - I miss Giffen's breakdowns on this title, as I really dig me the 9-panel grid. That said, I think Winick is doing a decent job with the story without him, and the art has been pretty decent as well. The fact is I want to hate this because it's another dumb "let's make Kingdom Come part of continuity" story, but I don't and that's surprising. Plus, loving the Cliff Chiang covers.
Mighty Crusaders #4 - Two more issues to go and I don't think we're going to see the Archie heroes in DC Comics for at least another decade. It's too bad though, because this is a fun little team book (even at $3.99) full of heroes taking on invading aliens and bizarre villains.
Unwritten #18 - oops, I've kind of let a stack of these pile up beside my bed (I haven't read an issue since #12), but one of these days I'm going to have an absolutely fantastic time catching up (I saw that last issue was a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style book which seems crazy awesome.
Strange Tales II #1 - The usual mixed-bag of great, good and utter crud, but I like these indie-twisted takes on mainstream characters, the opening Wolverine story (who the hell did that anyway, they didn't sign their work) was a standout (outstanding!).
Warlord of Mars #1 - I liked this so much I might actually read the books...someday... but not now... I'm busy y'see... yeah... busy...
I'm pretty proud of myself. I've just parsed through 8 months worth of unsorted comic at the side of my bed. I think that's the longest I've ever gone without collating, bagging and boarding, creating a Hoarders-like pile of unnavigatable space on the West side of the bedroom. This, however, isn't what I am proud of, but instead it's my rather paltry pile of false starts (series of which I bought the first issue/first few issues then gave up on). Regularly reviewing comics I tend to try out books on a regular basis, and this leads to a lot of unwanted odds and sods in the comic stack, but I've been more prone to reviewing things in trade or rather just reviewing things I'm already interested in. It kinda cuts down on the clutter. Oh yeah, I also just realized we had a lengthy hiatus between reviewing gigs, so I guess that accounts for some of it too.
I have a venue to write reviews about comics (see last post), but I don't get to just geek out about them very much. Now, given my busy schedule juggling work, family, and consuming of popular culture in whatever time remains, the luxury of being able to really geek out over things has all but disappeared, so I'm creating "Definitely Not Reviews", a new feature for myself and the gang (hi gang) to throw down our list of what we purchased in any given week and drop a few poorly composed lines of praise or knee-jerk criticism on said titles and hopefully engage you, dear, faithful Second Printing reader to tell us in the comments your own list of books you bought this week and maybe your own quickly-formed opinions therein.
Brightest Day #11 - This was it for me, do or die... do or Deathstorm (Deathstorm? Ugh). Since the 3rd issue I've been finding it a tedious, dull read, with only my quickly waning affinity for most of the resurrected characters and the almost all-round fantastic art carrying me through. But with stuff like that scene where Jason Rauch's dad is standing there lamenting his relationship with his son right before Deathstorm kidnaps him... beyond ridiculous. Couldn't he just have been watching TV? And Aquaman hopping into a big rig...perhaps if the next chapter of that story were told from the trucker's point of view it might be a little interesting, but I'm bored, quite frankly. Am I alone, here?
DC Comics Presents: Jack Cross - Reprinting the 2005 4-issue mini-series from Warren Ellis in a 100-page, $8 special, rather than a $10 or $12 trade paperback. I say BARGOON! The remarkable thing about this compact espionage tale is how much of it is talking heads, one of the most difficult things to pull off in comics, but it's really quite good, and artist Gary Erskine makes it all quite exciting. I'm sorry I missed it the first time around but glad to have this affordable opportunity to pick it up again. I've kind of avoided Ellis' Red (for no particular reason), is it as strong as this?
Doom Patrol #15 - I've had such a difficult time with this series, with each issue since the end of the Metal Men co-feature sitting on the threshold of being its last. It has a manic energy to it but that leads it to feel unfocussed and I have a hard time reading it, but there's been enough each issue to keep me coming back for another. I really liked this issue, we'll see how next issue does.
Secret Six #26 - I'm a devoted Secret Six fan, and I think it's one of the most exciting and entertaining capes'n'tights books on the stands (and it's a sharp contrast to DeadpoolMAX in how to wright a book that features both graphic violence and comedy), but I'm really, really, really disliking Jim Calafiore's art. I remember him from X-O Manowar back in the Valiant days when they had a Bob Layton-inspired house style that most of the art team adhered to, and I liked him then (that was, what, 15 years ago?) but not so much now. Seeing Nicola Scott's gorgeous work in the Teen Titan's preview in the back of the book only underscored my longing for a pretty artist to get on the Six.
S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 - oh my, I love this book. Nobody in comics juggles multiple eras like Hickman. There are elements reminiscent of Earth X and his own Pax Romana but this is a really fun stroll through the secret history of the Marvel Universe, that, really, doesn't even need to be set in the Marvel U to be all that entertaining. Oddly enough, though, I'm not 100% into the art. Dustin Weaver's drafting skills are quite impeccable and he provides at least two absolutely jaw dropping, inspired moments in each book (usually more), but there's something about it (digitally inked maybe?) that just doesn't connect fully for me.
With my folks in town, thus babysitting made handily available, the wife and I finally made it out to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World last night. I was looking forward to us getting out to a film (which we hadn't done in a long while... we're hoping to hit Inception later this weekend), and while I was hopeful for a good time with Scott Pilgrim, I wasn't exactly expecting it. I'm not really certain what I was expecting from the film, being a longtime Edgar Wright fan, but also given the generally positive (but not glowing) reviews, as well as the disappointing box office returns, and my own misgivings about Michael Cera in the lead role.
I liked the graphic novels enough - at times loved them, even - but I'm just not one of the fawning devotees to the series, and I've only given each volume the once-over (so far). In fact, I've had more than my fair share of conversations with the backlash contingent, and I can't help but consider their complaints towards the series in my own assessment of it. As well, being a Toronto set series (which is rare in popular culture), there'd been a literal media blitz locally discussing the end of the comic and the launch of the movie, hitting saturation point rather quickly, perhaps even tipping into overexposure. Thus, after finishing Volume 6 shortly before the film's arrival in theatres, my own response to the whole Scott Pilgrim phenomenon was confused and uncertain as was my enthusiasm for the film. Essentially, I wanted to see it just to say I had, and hopefully have an opinion on it, the comics and the phenomenon.
I can make this simple. About four or five minutes into the film, after a barrage of scene transitions and information deluge, with Knives Chow sitting bug-eyed on the couch next to Young Neil, and Kim Pine counting the band in, the scene's thrust into forced perspective as Sex Bob-omb bursts into a pulsating (digitally enhanced pulsating) rendition of whatever song it was Beck wrote for them to play, and I turned to my wife and said "I'm in love with this film."
As the opening credits played, I could have wept with joy. Though it only reached my ears and eyes, it was almost like I could taste, smell and feel the film (it tastes like maple fudge, smells like vanilla and feels like 600 thread-count linens). As the film flowed forth, spewing out its mishmash of romance, comedy, teenaged/twentysomething slacker angst, video game violence, and a spectacle of visual wonders I reconnected with the source material in my head, but not to measure them against one another, instead to revel in the joy I experienced with it once, and now again.
This is not to say that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a true adaptation of the comics, because it's not. They share the same spirit, they share the characters, they share some dialogue and trajectory, but the comics are Brian Lee O'Malley's vision 100% and the film is, like, 80% Edgar Wright's vision of that vision. In a way it's a bastardization, it truncates and expedites the story of Scott Pilgrim, but does so using a medium that is ripe with (potential) advantages over the comic book. Any story can be twisted and warped to fit any media, but it takes a true visionary in control of their form to make it work, and Edgar Wright is such a man. He didn't do it alone, naturally, but it's undoubtedly his minds eye that crafted this film, and it's monumental, something transformative, and, at present, unique. Like the glut of bad Tarantino knock-offs after Pulp Fiction, I don't look forward to seeing the poor man's versions of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that come down the line, all those hack directors to come that take "inspiration" from this film, but don't have background or talent or resources or conviction to pull it off.
If the poor box office performance of SPvsTW has a bright side it's that studios will be less willing to support derivative films, as well the pressure for a sequel is now mercifully off, thus, hopefully, preserving this film's uniqueness for a longer period of time.
If it sounds a little magnanimous, I know for a fact it is. I unabashedly had a great time watching this movie, laughing heartily throughout, but I recognize that this film isn't geared towards everyone and there will be some who just don't get it. That's fine. On top of that, I acknowledge that there are weaknesses in the film, that it's perhaps 10 mintues too long (though I can't think at all about what I would cut, it just feels that way), and the story is overly simplistic and its message perhaps a little muddy (many seem to define it by Scott and Ramona's romance, but it's truly about Scott's journey into maturity (or rather journey out of immaturity)).
Then there's the Michael Cera factor. If you're burnt out on Michael Cera, I don't blame you. The dude's been in at least two films a year for the past three years since Arrested Development ended playing variations of the same character, and Scott Pilgrim at first glance doesn't seem much different. To tell you the truth he's not. But Scott Pilgrim is a character unto himself, and Cera does inhabit him fully. He's not the exact same Scott from the comics, who seems to have an abundance of confidence in spite of himself, but Cera's Scott portrays the exact level of shallowness and lack of self-awareness the character needs, while also keeping the Cera-stammer (which, now that I think of it, isn't that far off from the Bob Newhart stammer) in check. What Cera brings to the role is a deft awareness of comedy and indeed comedic timing. So much of the comedy is a result of what Wright does in the editing room, but Cera's posture, his nuances, his facial expressions all have major contributions. Is he Scott Pilgrim? Hell yes, he's THIS Scott Pilgrim, and not Brian Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. Also, Cera knows how to rock out, and even his ridiculously scrawny physique managed to cut an impressive action hero pose dozens of times throughout the movie. Outside of Cera, every single member of the cast is perfect, with Johnny Simmons' Young Neil and Keiran Culkin's Wallace Wells being my favourite two interpretations side characters (my wife assured me that the only reason I disliked Anna Kendrick as Scott's sister Stacey is due to my utter contempt for Up In The Air). Scott battles both Superman (Brandon Routh in a delightfully anime douchebag vegan psychic warrior) and Captain America (Chris Evans as the gravelly-voiced box office egocentric superstar Lucas Lee), and Michael Cera even beats up his old Arrested Development girlfriend Mae Whitman (Her?), all of which adds weird little metatext to the proceedings.
As I noted, I'm not a scholar of the comics, and I'm sure the variations between the two entities are beyond numerous, but I don't even want to enter an academic contrast between the two. As far as I'm concerned, they're similar but separate entities. Forced to choose, however, I loved the movie immeasurably more than the comics. I suppose that it's unfair to pit millions of dollars in special effects against simplistic black and white line drawing, but life isn't fair. Special effects alone, however, don't mean a thing unless they're used properly and Wright's flourishes pop off the screen in a way O'Malley's purposefully 2-dimensional art never could. Throw in a ripping soundtrack, a handful of original Beck creations and metaphorically capturing the power of a live indie rock show and the contest is over.
Where O'Malley's series does have the advantage is in time, the ability to let the story and characters breathe (the audience, nevermind the characters, rarely has a chance to catch their breath with the film) and really get at the heart of Scott's transformation. Scott's growth in the film is almost there just because it has to be. The greatest contrast between the two, and the books biggest success comparatively (and perhaps it's just because it's fresh in my mind), is in the final act, Volume 6, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour which varies wildly from the movie and is, in fact, more grandiose in scale than the film achieves. That the sixth book wasn't even started by the time the film had begun shooting is the main cause for these variations, and while O'Malley provided Wright with an outline of where Volume 6 was going, Wright's interpretations of what the characters would do feels slightly out of synch (cinema Scott's lack of closure with Envy Adams is probably the most glaring omission). Wright still gets to the same end point as O'Malley, but it's not as beautiful.
The fact that the story was set in Toronto (where I've lived the past decade of my life) added a special little charge to the comic, but actually seeing Toronto represent "Toronto" in a major motion picture was a genuine thrill. For years Toronto has played the role of any number of American cities (doubling rather pathetically for New York in the Incredible Hulk for instance) so for the city to get its due was rather special, especially as it is brought to life as I've known it accurately by Wright and company.
There was a definite feeling of elation leaving the theatre, smiles amidst the dozens of faces exiting the seats. My immediate impulse was to watch it again. This is a special film, an experience to be sure, one that may not have set the box office alight, but one that will live on where the novelty of that film amassing 80's action heroes has since died. As a result, here we have an immediate cult sensation rather than the anticipated pop phenomenon, one that revival houses will delight in showing for years.
Are there better movies that have been released this year? For sure. Are there any that provide an experience that remotely compare to this one? None at all.