11/27/2008

Where My Money Went - Nov. 27th



Every Wednesday, I push the limits of my budget for my comic addiction. This is where my money went this week:


Brandon wrote about this yesterday, and really nailed it. The Jim Lee cover has something hilarious about it, the characters seeming completely different under his pencil: White Violin looks like a member of Gen13. The Umbrella Academy is more of a family than a super-team, where they feel connected to each other but work as individuals to prove to their "father" their worth. To sorta cement this, U.A. uses "Futura", the same font Wes Anderson uses in Royal Tenenbaums.


Superman has no problem beating the shit out of zombie-looking Vampires and feral Werewolves, but when he recognizes a face, he becomes this wimp. Superman and Batman vs. Vampires and Werewolves is secretly this great team book, where neither Superman or Batman are the main character. Green Arrow, Dimeter the Vampire, Janko the Werewolf, and now The Demon, are all fighting together. It feels like a Marvel book that brings old characters out of the white-box to make them exciting again. If only Kelley Jones drew this book...

The Thor one-shot series has gotten better and better with each and every issue. After reading DC Comic's The Ring of Nibelung it's awesome to see Thor and The All Father outside of super hero story lines, even if it's just retelling of myths. In this issue, Thor fights Brunnhilda, a Storm Giant, and his father Odin. It's more than a five minute read--like some of the Wolverine one-shots--making the $3.99 price point worth it.

Incredible Hercules continues to be my favorite monthly comic, even more so after the World War Hulk story lines have ended. Hercules, Namora, and Namor save Poseidon from the Amazons, but not the world, since they seek axis mundi, which will put them at rule of the planet. Marvel implants it's mythology-based characters into their own universe using their original tales as a basis, and then, building the story lines and current lives of those characters around that.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans has come to an end, but it's been left open for a new series, War Of Kings. Medusa and Crystal settle their differences and find the location of Black Bolt, who no longer needs their help. His connection with his son grows, Black Bolt's able to communicate with his child the same way he does to his wife. Escaping from his restraints, he blows a super skrull away with a fucking whisper and returns to his family. Crystal marries Ronan and the Royal Family realigns itself with the Kree, meaning that hopefully we'll be getting some more Marvel space comics. Great ending to a great mini-series. Here's some promo art to get you pumped UP:

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1

Umbrella Academy's already proven itself to be way more than a silly rock star vanity project, and Gerard Way's gone to great lengths to separate his musical career from his comics career, but there's undeniable rock star bravado to the whole project that ties it to to Mr. Way's lead-singer for My Chemical Romance day job.

It's interesting that a new issue of UA would come out in the same week as big, dumb, brilliant, musical statements from arty pop stars The Killers (Day & Age) and Kanye West (808s & Heartbreaks). Like those albums--and like My Chemical Romance's own work-- Umbrella Academy: Dallas is interested in big, sweeping statements that mix, match, and merge the personal, iconic, historical, political and everything else into a crazy statement that's not only okay with maybe falling apart, but gains power and brilliance precisely because it might just go up in flames.

"Dallas" kicks-off with John F. Kennedy consulting with The Monocle, the U.A's Professor X--the way rock stars riff on their influences and icons, Way does with legendary comics characters and creators--while the young UA battles a fire-breathing Lincoln Memorial who is ultimately killed by a marble John Wilkes Booth manifested by Rumor (or Number Three as she's known in her youth). Flash-forward to modern times, the colors are 50s bowling alley blue and a throwback Milk Man's shown delivering glass bottles of milk to the academy, which is in ruins. Even Bono or Madonna might wince at the amount of loaded innocence lost imagery being farted all around with there. But that's why it's so great.

Way's got a knowing--but not ironic--wink about the whole thing. Judging by the title of this series ("Dallas") this'll all somehow funnel back into the Kennedy assassination and all of the emotions and references that the historic tragedy entails. The same way Kanye or the Killers are making ego albums in quotes, is Way doing it big and important, but not because he can't control himself but because he's putting his foot down and being like, "Look, I know this all a bit too much, but hey man, sometimes too much works and when it works, it works real big, so get fucking ready..".

But before readers are ready, we have to be reminded of the slow, sad-ass burn that is the Umbrella Academy in their current state. Dazed, confused, grieving and happy to not have to deal with one another again, they've all split up after the White Violin fiasco: Spaceboy's watching dumb reality TV, the Seance is back to being a vain prick, The Rumor's grieving over Pogo, The Kraken's playing tough-guy superhero, Number Five's betting on horses, the White Violin doesn't remember anything. It's an interesting way to restart the series as both everything's changed and nothing's changed.

While not a whole lot happens in the issue, all of the set-up feels subliminal and so it's not one of those "this'll all pay-off soon enough and that should be enough to get you through this" issues either. Instead, it's Way's universe and Gabriel Ba's illustration of that universe that are engaging enough. The characters already have caves of history and personality behind them and it turns a couple pages of Spaceboy dumbly eating chocolate chip cookies into a scene of pathos. And that's what UA's about, that weird sad nothing when you're not fighting Abe Lincoln Memorials.

11/25/2008

Rape In Comics Continued...

While it was nice to see a response to Karen's excellent piece, it's unfortunate that Scott's response moves away from actual discussion back into obsessive, nerd data collection mixed with equally obsessive parsing out of words and phrasing. Despite the intention behind Scott's bolding of numbers, he must understand that when you bold two numbers and one is so much larger than the other, it would be quite easy to assume and implicit statement is being made about that disconnect. Especially when bolding numbers seems like an odd choice and not something that's frequently used on any of the blogs I read. But here I go, entering this parsing-out my words nerd realm.

The main point is, Scott's really condescending and there's an awkward contempt when he invokes "feminist criticism" towards the end of his little essay. I'm not even sure what his point is really, other than some nit-picking at Karen's phrasing and a lot of not-backed-up references to "lazy" comics bloggers. So, let's get this rape discussion back on track and away from another trip into a whitebox to find a bunch more characters that were raped or not raped.

Indeed, for better or worse, rape and abuse have long been a trope used to contextualize and dramatize female characters. It is hardly specific to the world of comics, as even a quick thought back to the books you read in high school English would reveal the beginnings of an exhaustive list. Extend that to films, especially pre-60s drama and melodrama and you've got an even bigger list.

And so, the same way say, Wolverine's essentially Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights or Cyclops is chock full of Malory's version of King Arthur, is say [INSERT RAPED SUPER HEROINE HERE] is based in Tess from Hardy's Tess of the D'urbervilles or Hester Prynne, who of course wasn't exactly raped but you get the point. These are long-standing literary tropes that comics writers have jumped onto whether they ever read the books mentioned above or not.

This rape/abuse victim origin trope touches upon the forever-debated issue of gender and respect or disrespect when it comes to males writing female characters. Just a few years ago, there was a ton of debate about Lars Von Trier's "USA Trilogy" (Dogville, Manderlay, still-not-filmed Wasington) which was then, next to Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves, the third and fourth film in which Von Trier presented a loveable female character beaten down by the world. Feminism, sexism, masochism or both? There's some odd mix of sympathy, condescension, and masochism working itself out in those films. The same could be said of comics, as it's a bunch of imperfect comics writers imperfectly trying to portray characters as realistically as they can, and still be entertaining.

Comics are still pulp in many ways and as a result, they move toward what Karen called the "easiest" which doesn't have anything to do with the most "common" or factually-represented in the real-world version, but what's short-hand in the sense of working on long-standing literary and pop-culture tropes and being really visceral and kinda seedy.

And that's rape! It's an origin story or dramatic turn of events that allows a writer a lot of freedom and complexity without doing a whole lot of work. The character is harmed in a way the society at least pretends to see as sometimes worse than murder and therefore gains sympathy, rises above it and therefore becomes "strong[er]", and also, maybe some creepy boob-jiggling panels during the rape scene are in there which makes the whole thing kind of naughty and appeals to the ever-present torture porn aspects of our reptile brains.

There's a Dwight Shrute-ian strand of conservatism running primarily through comics fans--and best represented by SGL's original article--that likes to be both hard-ass and assured and superficially sensitive to the complexities of "minorities" (mind the quotes) but not too sensitive either. As Karen already pointed out, the dismissal of Skully as a positive female character because she was "the male character with the breasts" is the perfect example of where this pseudo-sensitivity goes wrong. The fascinating dynamic of X-Files was that it was Mulder who was the emotional, unpredictable one--in super-conventional gender stereotypes, he acted like a broad, not Skully--and Skully, the rational, skeptic. Both characters occupied the porous borders in which gender identity actually resides. Just because Skully wasn't overly feminine does not make her a male-with-breasts.

Lastly, there is the reality that comics or films and even literature is in part, an economic enterprise and as a result, the loftier, more complex goals of a writer's mind at some point, have to meet-up with giving an audience and corporate entity what it expects. The best work successfully navigates commercial expectations with smuggled-in insight and it's up to discerning readers to parse the work out and see which side the work ultimately falls. This kind of criticism is necessary whether talking about portrayals of rape or anything else in comics and will do us all more good than compiling data like big homey Scott or stumbling back into the kind of wretched, above-it-all complacency of SGL's article.

Alchemist's Zombie Rap Video For "Lose Your Life"

Animated by Devin Flynn, who does Y'all So Stupid and the credit sequence from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, and the animation parts of this which was posted awhile back. This is way better than any of those. It's maybe the coolest thing I've seen in awhile. Stuffy but fluid animation of faces melting and monsters attacking. Rapper Jadakiss rips his tongue out and wears it as a tie. Particularly affecting is seeing an animated Prodigy of Mobb Deep busting out of jail Mr. Hyde style (P's currently serving three and a half years in jail).

-swiped from Hater Player

11/24/2008

The Death of Irony? . . . no, just a Moratorium on Cynicism


Leave it to the geniuses over at the New York Times to sort of pre-empt my intentions here in their typically incisive fashion. Satisfied in my intention to present our readers with a penetrating expose on the need for a cessation of cynicism in dealing with matters reflecting the American political scene in comics, I happen to come across Andy Newman's report on the death of irony. It appears that irony is a lot like Superman, or maybe Robin, or any other superhero who has died and yet lives (only to die again, in this case), in that I seem to recall the proclamations of the end of the age of irony in the months and years following Terrible Tuesday of 2001. Of course irony is not the same as cynicism and reporting the death of irony is only cursorily related to demanding the end of cynicism. In any event, it seems that perhaps Joan Didion might need to read these words as much as anyone else, and with that in mind, I dedicate this post to her.


Parallels to the mainstream media aside, these ruminations came as a result of our discussion of Cable #8. In what was an otherwise excellent issue in a consistently excellent series, there was a scene in which Emma is subjecting Bishop to a particularly egregious form of telekinetic interrogation, the effect of which is described as feeling "like his brain is shutting down, one synapse at a time." The exchange between Beast and Cyclops at this juncture plays out like a set piece from the hopefully never-to-be-released Bush administration movie in which the shrinking violet Colin Powell character "stands up" to the sexier, more manly Don Rumsfeld character, only to find out he hasn't been cast in the sequel.

As Brandon pointed out in his comment to the post, the objection to this sequence has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the discussion or the way in which it is handled in this particular comic, but rather that in light of the election of Barack Obama and its implications for this country, continuing to call attention to the Bush administration's dubious anti-terror tactics feels cynical and ultimately sort of dishonest. Certainly the magnitude of Obama's victory has as much to do with the deplorable state of the national economy as it does with the backlash to Bush's morally suspect prosecution of the terror war. Be that as it may, Americans, for better or worse, still believe in the fundamental position the rule of law occupies in our country and this fact was no doubt reflected in Obama's convincing plurality.


The irony--if I may still use that word--of our original response to this issue is that both Brandon and I took particular aim at Brian Wood's DMZ in our expressions of indignation. DMZ is only the most visible of the numerous political comics that have dealt directly with the legacy of 9/11 and the conquest and occupation of Iraq. DMZ makes sort of an easy target because the stances it has taken have tended to the non-controversial in the sense that they comport neatly with those of the country's nascent pseudo-anarchist anti-war movement. It was only in retrospect--a result of Monique's expressing interest in the new series--that it occurred to me that far from ignoring the developments in the American political scene, Brian Wood has essentially been foreshadowing these developments through subtle shifts in the series' focus.

In addition to the details Brandon mentions in his DMZ House Party List post, one of the great things about this new story is how the subtle shifts in the art and narrative focus away from Manhattan, in favor of Staten Island subtly reflects the radical shift that the focus on the American presence in Iraq will be taking with the new administration. The hook of Wood's story is that the American and Free States forces stationed on or near Staten Island recognize that they don't really have any personal investment in this fight and that the war will be ending soon and when it does, they will have to go back to being neighbors with their erstwhile enemies. Thus, it makes more sense for the opposing sides to operate under an unofficial truce, which in turn allows them to enjoy their youth without the ever-present fear that each day might well be their last, than to continue meaningless hostilities, which will only result in pointless loss of life.

The connection of this construction to the emerging situation in Iraq is not immediately clear, and therein lies its particular genius. After eight years of George W. Bush effectively living every boy/president's dream of war president as international tough, Barack Obama will have to step in to do all of the unglamorous, and frankly boring work of pulling out and putting our military--and hopefully Iraq--back together. The soldiers on Staten Island have a similarly forward-looking--and similarly unsexy--attitude toward their deployment on the Island.

Moreover, the spirit of cooperation between once fierce rivals also reflects the increasing commitment to peaceful coexistence between Sunni and Shi'a Iraqis that one senses is the real reason for the decreased tensions in that country--troop surge notwithstanding. The suggestion of the collapse of the island's utopian arrangement at issue's end, rather than nullifying the point being made, speaks to the fact that Wood is writing a comic book whose success turns on its ability to engender suspense and enjoyment on the part of its readers.

Wood's attention to the shifting winds of American politics doesn't begin with "The Island." The recently concluded series about the election of the populist hero Parco Delgado is at base a story of the power of the human spirit in the face of incredible tragedy. The fact that Parco's story is most emphatically not Obama's does nothing to lessen the series' prophetic power.

In his Defence of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley writes, in typically high-flown manner, that poets--and we include comics creators in this equation--are "the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration, the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present, the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves; the unacknowledged legislators of the world." That Shelley's, and by extension our own, ideals for the poet/comics creator are ambitious speaks to our shared confidence in the power of our chosen medium.

Curse of Sp-yawn


With the recent relaunch of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, I thought I'd share this poster from Cracked Super #14 which came out about ten years ago. Considering McFarlane's problems with both Marvel and DC, this breakdown of "Sp-Yawn" is pretty spot-on, especially given the speculative "inspiration" he used for Spawn taken from characters he had previously worked on.

11/23/2008

What's On Your DMZ House Party List?

DMZ #36 comes out this Wednesday and finishes up the mini-story "The Island" that started last month. Guest artist Kristian Donaldson brings something extra to the story of a bunch of soldiers going party crazy on Staten Island and Brian Wood's writing is really smart as usual.

The most brilliant aspect of "The Island" is the way all these soldiers partying feels--and is--exactly the same as every, a little too crazy beer party you attended in high-school or college: People puking, people not having a good time, people having too good of a time, fun fighting, not so fun fighting, everybody wanting to do it with somebody, etc. etc. It treats the soldiers no different than the rest of us beer-drinking goons, which happens less in representations of war than you'd expect. They aren't idealized and they aren't demonized.

One of the sub-highlights of the issue was Brian Wood's 'Vertigo Voices' column, wherein he admits that his experience with Staten Island, "aside from listening to old Wu-Tang cassettes, is limited to visiting twice" and quickly recounts a house party he attended, and then gives the column over to everyone that works on DMZ to drop a list of "top 5 beer drinking/house party/shout along/get fucked up/DMZ rock-out mix tape songs...". What's so awesome about everybody's list is how it's no bullshit. No one seems like they're trying to be cool or clever or snobby...everyone just picked great party songs that they liked!

Here are our lists, what's on yours?

Brandon:
-"Stay Fly" by Three-Six Mafia
-"I Like It" by Grand Puba
-"Die By the Sword" by Slayer
-"Broken Down But Not Locked Up" by Eyehategod
-"Starz" by Jaylib

Samuel Rules:
-"Work Out Plan" by Kanye West
-"Party Til You Puke" by Andrew W.K.
-"Doom Doom Doom!" by Latterman
-"Dance My Pain Away" by Rod Lee
-"Lose Control" by Missy Elliot

Jesse:
- "Boogie Shoes" by KC and the Sunshine Band
- "Testin' My Gangsta" by Three 6 Mafia
- "Ain't Talkin 'Bout Love" by Van Halen
- " Conversation" by Mannie Fresh
- "You and I" by Rick James

Monique R.:
- "Conceited" by Remy Ma
- "Get It Girl" by 2 Live Crew
- "Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody" by Kid N' Play
- "Tipsy" by J-Kwon
- "Born Slippy" by Underworld

Karen:
- "I Luv Your Girl" by The Dream
- "We Laugh At Danger (And Break All the Rules)" by Against Me!
- "Nu Autobahn" by Future Islands
- "Five Finger Discount" by Choking Victim
- "El Scorcho" by Weezer

David:
- "Bad Mouth" by Fugazi
- "Car Thief" by Beastie Boys
- "Youth Decay" by Sleater Kinney
- "I Am a Tree" by Guided By Voices
- "Letter To Memphis" by Pixies

11/21/2008

*Insert Internet Rape Joke Here*


This link went up today on Journalista concerning the question of just how negatively women are portrayed in comic books. It takes it's stance against this article from Stuff Geeks Love, claiming that one of those things is "strong female characters who actually aren't."

The first thing that irked me about the Stuff Geeks Love article is the accompanying photo of a horde of Princess Leias at some convention posing together next to a Jabba the Hutt with the caption "Strong, empowered women posing for men." I don't think anyone who wants to spend their free time dressing up like a fictional character gets a sense that they are being "empowered" by it. I think... well, I don't really know what they think, but to suggest that they're all being duped into displaying their bodies for creepy, leering fanboys is misleading. They're probably fully aware of doing that, and eating it up, obviously.

The rest of the article talks about how various other prominent female characters in science fiction are made weaker due to their gender, or have their gender completely ignored so that these issues don't come up. One of their examples for this "wo-man" syndrome is Scully from the X-Files, which is the only example of this I am somewhat familiar with. I'm sorry if I've taken one too many Women's Studies classes at a liberal arts college (and that would be one) but if you're going to argue that stereotypical "feminine" attributes are negative in a character, and the absence of them undermines her gender in a negative way, what are you looking for as a medium? I can see the problem in that sort of thing in intentionally overly dude-like female characters, but Scully? Isn't she awesome because she doesn't have to worry about breaking a heel while running from bigfoot and she can still get all kissy-kissy with Mulder?

Then they drop the bomb, "In the comic book world, if there’s an alleged strong female character, you can count on one thing: she was raped." I happen to be one to point out misogynistic overtones I see in comics I read, and yeah, sometimes it's wrong and sometimes things aren't meant to be taken so seriously, but a statement like that is wayyy too rash.

And so then we get this response. Leading off with some of the flaws of the aforementioned article, it is accompanied by a list of 67 female comic book characters who were known to be raped. To counter this, there's a list of 335 (yes, the number is bolded in the article because it's just SO MANY) female characters who weren't raped. Now I know these sorts of issues have great potential to slip from talking about comics to talking about the real world, so I'll only say this, but statistics on rape don't come out every year saying "This many women WEREN'T raped this year! Hooray!" And not that I have an extensive knowledge of female superheros, but the percentage of relevance seems way higher in the rape list than in the not raped, where it seems like there are probably literally hundreds of throw-away obscure references.

A sort of good point is made in a really stupid way in saying, "If we are to take Stuff Geeks Like at face value, we’d have to say that the blogger thinks that none of the women on the non-raped list are empowered role-models or that none are strong women" which is totally bullshit because of course that's not what they meant, but it's important to notice that rape as a means for female ascension to superhero ranks is just the easiest traumatic origin story that most writers can come up with for women. At least most women that are raped in comics make the better of the situation, and while it's still not totally cool, I think the cause of the frequency of rape lies in poor writing rather than intentionally misogynistic intentions.

So if we can toss out all this rape debate as being part of insensitive, unimaginative writing, I think the bigger issue still lies in visual depictions of women in comics. Big titties and impossible proportions have long been ingrained into the public idea of what ladies are supposed to look like in comics, and that'll probably never go away. All I'm saying is, comic book reading dudes should be ready to level the playing field, a la some Simon Bisley Judge Dredd, where you can clearly see which way he decided to pack his dong into his blue leotard.



Comic dudes, you can have your scantily clad women, but if a little dong shadow is making your uncomfortable, just think about how we feel.

Comics Art vs. Fancy-pants, capital-"a" Art

I've been moving through the DC/Vertigo trade Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis, which collects all ten of the issues drawn by Bernie Wrightson and written by Len Wein, along with the first appearance of Swamp Thing from House of Mystery, and it's obviously a classic.

Frankly, before reading some Swamp Thing, I wasn't exactly sure what the fuss was about. Wrightson's work seemed really cool and impressive, but had always had this background as like one of the guys and in terms of comics history, comics discussion, etc. This had the odd effect of distancing his work from its context and focusing not on his comics drawing or his pencils but his illustration.

I had the fortune to see him speak as a guest of honor at the Baltimore Comic-Con this past fall, along with Jose Villarubia, and he came off as this incredibly modest, hard-working, auto-didact guy who more than once was basically like, "Hey, I just like to draw scary monsters and gore." It seemed an odd contrast to his reputation, work like his serious critic-bait Frankenstein book (that just got a nice re-release), and especially a slide-show to Wrightson's right isolating particularly Wow!-ish panels and trying to turn them into conventional visual art.

Like people who say rap or Bob Dylan lyrics are poetry, trying to frame Wrightson's work as Art is a disservice to his work and comics art in general. It simply is what it is and does certain things better and more effectively than say, Goya or whoever else you want to name could ever do it. One imagined those that put that slide-show together or the next author to write a "take comics serious" book scouring the Swamp Thing trade for particularly beautiful or compositionally brilliant pieces, when it's better and probably even necessary to scan the whole page or the whole damn book.

Pragmatically, choosing an illustration to represent the work just makes sense, but there's something that even us obsessive comic readers do with our eyes when we look and judge comics art. Our eyes shift away from the progression of panels, the visual narrative and try to spot that single, awesome or beautiful or just plain cool composition and it's something of a problem, I think.

11/20/2008

Redefining The Comics Canon: The Death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin


As one might expect, The Death of Captain Marvel’s main theme is the death of a super hero. Captain Marvel's death is particularly notable in the world of super heroes because he is dying from cancer. One of the tests for super hero comics over the years has been whether they could be anything more than adolescent fantasy. Many have tried, using serious real world issues as topics, but most end up coming off as gimmicky and clich├ęd.

On the surface, the choice to make Marvel's death come from cancer seems this way, but Starlin avoids gimmick by making the disease a cosmic scourge that plagues all the races of the universe. Some call it the "inner decay" and Marvel’s race calls it "the blackend". Giving these alien names provides a plausible explanation as to why a usually invincible fictional being could be killed by a real world disease and it also gives an emotional description of what cancer represents. Marvel mentions his race, the Kree, who outshine humans scientifically but have never searched for a cure because of their warlike nature. This point reinforces the theme that people often focus on things too late or only on issues that hit close to home. Starlin focuses on the reality of the disease and especially on the small things that happen to the individual, but also the community, when someone dies.
Starlin focuses mainly on Marvel’s psychological struggle with dying. Starlin uses the super hero genre and the feeling that super heroes are generally immune to death to play into our own feeling that we will somehow escape death. Marvel says, “I just never figured it would happen to me. Deep down inside me I felt that those special things that make me who I am would just live forever.” Starlin empasizes this feeling with his panel layout by pulling back and showing Marvel surrounded by darkness.

Marvel struggles with the idea of his legacy and what will happen to things after he cannot observe them. The opening scenes show him recording his memoirs and reflecting on his life. This is the super hero genre at its best, showing Marvel immediately trying to get a grip on his situation and deal with the problems at hand, and at the same time revealing his humanity through his fears.
As the book continues, Starlin focuses more and more on the humanity of Captain Marvel. In one scene, Marvel approaches his friend Eros and asks him to be a good friend to his girlfriend Elysius. The implication of this scene is that Marvel is giving Eros his okay to date her after he is gone. Marvel is still concerned with his legacy and trying to get his affairs in order before he dies. This scene is awkward and captures perfectly the strange way people act when death becomes real. The scene ends with a wordless panel of Eros crying, adding the random emotion that surrounds death.
Starlin never plays up the fact that super heroes generally do not have girlfriends. Elyisus’ presence never comes off as a stunt to sell books. She is simply part of the story because she is a major part of Marvel’s life. One of the most affecting scenes is when Marvel tell Elysius about his disease. The wordless panels and their slow pacing nail the surreal feeling to suddenly confront death.

The panels of Mentor, Captain Marvel's father figure, looking down on the scene from a balcony and slowly fading away only enhance the feeling of inevitability of death. He is a master of balancing the huge scope of cosmic powers with everyday moments like this one. The scene puts special emphasis on the relationship between Marvel and Elysius. The page before, Mentor explains their relationship but it falls completely flat compared to this scene. This is her first appearance in the book and gives it a weight that carries through to the end when she is constantly by his side when he is on his death bed

The super hero community helps show how death affects people and the dynamic of a group. They are on the cover of the book and make up a lot of the important scenes. Starlin shows how Marvel’s death affects each person and is careful to show many different reactions to his death. The Thing tells stories of the past, Reed Richards works as hard as he can to find a cure, while Spiderman's overcome with emotion.
Marvel's best friend in the story isn't a super hero but a kid named Rick Jones. When Jones comes to see Marvel on his death bed he is in awe of the super heroes asking if he needs to "take a number" to see Marvel. When he goes in and begins to cry, The Thing has to leave the room because he feels awkward and, to give them some time alone. The super heroes who normally defer only to people who are more powerful here give Rick Jones special treatment that sets him above them. The Thing’s reaction isn't as emotional as Rick's but has a special affect on us because we are used to seeing such a popular character battle villains and not feeling awkward about being in a room.

As the community gathers around Marvel, the narrator mentions how each hero thinks of how they haven’t looked for a cure for this dreaded disease before one of their own members was struck down by it. Of course, this calls into question the value of super heroes and reading comics about them, but what I think it really does is make the super heroes believable. It gives them a touch of reality: they have the same doubts and fears and weaknesses that everyone does. It also makes their efforts to achieve good that much more heroic.

The super hero community talks about Marvel in such high regard that it creates an emotional connection to him for the reader. Spiderman remarks, “I mean, this just can’t be happening. Captain Marvel is one of us. He’s a full blown card carrying super hero.” He addresses the common view that super heroes are somehow immune to death and at the same time creates a connection between Marvel and the reader. Captain Marvel has a history with these characters and the reader feels that history.
The attitude of the comic--and presumably Starlin's-- towards death and an afterlife plays into the realism running through. Marvel mentions a couple of times that he thinks after he dies that everything will just be over. Drax the Destoryer comes to visit him on his deathbed and tells him he has been across the veil of death and that it wasn’t that bad. Marvel blows him off by telling him he isn’t in a rush to find out. Drax reminds me of a priest coming to comfort the dying but Marvel to the end, doesn’t believe, so Drax's comforts are wasted.

Starlin makes it clear that Marvel’s final fight with Thanos is nothing but a coma-induced hallucination. Even though it is sort of a dream sequence, Marvel seems to come to grips with his death, accepting the kiss of death. The sequence ends with his enemy Thanos saying that death is only the beginning, but the book ends with Mentor covering up Marvel’s body saying, “He’s gone.”

The book could have easily ended on the optimistic note of a new begining but instead, he ends it on the grief of the community Marvel leaves behind. This ending gives me the feeling that it truly was a coma-induced hallucination and that after he truly dies, the grim reality of the situation sinks in. Starlin uses the back page of the book to once again reinforce the community aspect but to give us some closer from the abrupt ending of Mentor not quite hanging the sheet over Marvel.
Comics like this one end up being more real and affecting than comics like The Dark Knight Returns or The Watchmen, which everyone praises for "updating the super hero genre" and their realistic portrayals of characters. Starlin doesn’t have to inject his stories with extra blood or really pissed-off characters to achieve "realism". He gives each character humanity and tackles a subject that all good works of art deal with on some level: death. He takes the super hero genre and uses it to shed light on the personal and group psychology surrounding death.

The back cover is a good summary of the whole book. In the foreground, there is this dead branch laying on the dessicated alien surface. The super hero community stands in the middle and Marvel's star hangs above them all. The scary reality confronts us first with a somber reflecting group collected in the middle. Finally, a vision of hope is offered with Marvel's star remembered by all those assembled.

Where My Money Went - Nov. 19th


Every Wednesday I push the limits of my budget for my comic addiction. This is where my money went this week:


The entire Avengers Invaders series has been okay. Throughout the series, Captain America and the rest of the Invaders never seem frightened enough by the fact that they have time-traveled, writing everything strange and new off to being a Nazi trick. The art is baffling, Alex Ross out of his element, having to draw comic books like normal people instead of the boring poses he usually uses. The pencils are stiff and the coloring just puts another nail in the coffin. The colors and inks (oh wait, there aren't any...) make Ross' art look like paint-by-numbers.

Issue #6 revolves around the S.H.I.E.L.D. L.M.D.s (Life Model Decoys) becoming "aware", thanks to the Original Human Torch's anger towards the human's use of robots which makes him think of the Nazis he was fighting in his own time. The S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier's acting up as well, which leads us to believe Torch isn't the real force behind it all. It's nice to see the story not revolve around Captain America or Namor, since they are both still active members of the MU and you know, not dead, but with six more issues to go, I don't know if I'll care next month.

Samurai: Legend is still one of my favorite monthly comics, even at $5.99. Samurai comics are a hard sell to a lot of people, usually because they are generally in that really scary manga form, but this one is done by two European dudes which gives it a fresh feeling and makes it accessible to snobs who won't read backwards. Samurai: Legend's secret is that isn't a samurai myth or legend as it's name suggests, but really just an insane science fiction comic. There are people coming back to life, sacred tattoos, monsters and you know, titties. This issue, Takeo and his companions split up due to trust being broken, and the secret of Takeo's brother and lineage is about to be revealed. There's only one issue left! I literally counted pennies so I could buy this book, that's how good it is.

11/19/2008

Dragonball Z AMVs

AMV's are an internet phenomenon. I stumbled across AMVs not knowing what they were or their context with regard to the internet or anime fans. I only watched the ones that captured the emotions of the song through the editing of the anime clips.

Like these, probably the two best AMVs of all-time!
FLCL edited to Wilco's "Jesus Etc."

Akira edited to U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

In my case, AMVs could be attributed to helping me in my subsequent anime/manga selections which would probably seem counterintuitive to the true AMV fan. Thus, AMVs could be, on a small level, like a commercial for the manga made, unknowingly, by the fans. So, the types of songs the fans synch up to the anime have unintentional target audiences.

After reading the 16th volume in the Dragonball series, I dove headfirst into the world of Dragonball(Z) on YouTube. Dragonball Z seems to have a more diverse fanbase than most animes. This was apparent when I found many AMVs set to rap singles in addition to the typical Linkin Park and Orgy songs. Some of them were really popular singles I would have expected had I even expected to find rap used in AMVs, but others were slightly less popular songs that I'd have no reason to assume were being used in AMVs.

Conclusion: DMZ's fan base is partially made up of secretly nerdy rap fans.

Here are a few of the worth-watching gems I found:

Soulja Boy- "Crank That"

M.O.P.- "Ante Up"

Fabolous- "Breathe"

DJ Felli Fel featuring P.Diddy, Akon, Ludacris & Lil Jon- "Get Buck in Here"

Lil Wayne- "I Feel Like Dying"

T.I.-"Top Back"

T-Pain featuring Yung Joc- "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')"

DJ Khaled ft. R. Kelly, T-Pain, Lil Kim, Young Jeezy- "We Takin' Over remix"

Mesmo Delivery uh, Delivers?

The much-hyped, AdHouse-published Mesmo Delivery by Rafael Grampa should be enough to blow any comic book reader away. The story's some good, hazy revisionist Western/70s action movie stuff--bad-ass trucker has to deliver a mysterious haul, accompanied by a just as mysterious Elvis impersonating navigator--and the art is like a chunk of pretty much every mind-blowing comic artists/stylist's work combined together, precariously balancing visionary art with done-his-homework homage.

Most reviews have found a place for a reference to the great Geoff Darrow and there's no doubt a lot of that in here; that outsider-art obsession with detail, tons of crazy, beautifully-rendered violence, a profound mix of the cute and cartoony and ugly reality, etc. But there's some Blueberry style Moebius (back before he was Moebius) all over it, and the controlled chaos of the work of some of Grampa's friends, like Vasilis Lolos (one character looks like the kids from Last Call; it's gotta be a fun reference), Becky Cloonan, and Gabriel Ba (the book's dedicated to Ba and his brother Fabio Moon).

Grampa's visual narrative is flawless, something that's all the more impressive because in big, cluttered-art action books like Mesmo, each image is often the focus over forward-moving storytelling. The first few pages bounce between wide "shots" of ugly roads, industry, and crappy gas stations, and intense close-ups and medium shots of the truck's interior as well as Rufo, the over-sized trucker and creepy, Elvis-y Sangreco.


Those interior panels feel cramped the way being stuck in a car for long drives do, and provide a new piece of information in every frame. You get more details of the truck or the setting and you slowly get a proper sense of Rufo's size, with each frame revealing a different piece of his body. It begins with his hat, moves to his sausage fingers, reveals his lower-half as he gets out of the truck, his broad shoulders as he enters the bar, and then finally, when you turn the page, a panel-less, image of Rufo from the front, hardly obscured.


Grampa brilliantly does all of this within conventional panels and framing, and builds atmosphere or immediacy through really innovative angles. Look at the image above, which is Rufo getting out of his truck--it's the first time we see his lower half--and it's not only a cool, sexy, angle--I think it was Cassavetes who quipped that the easiest way to make a nice "cinematic" shot was to stick something obstructive in the foreground--because it's so well-rendered, that you feel like you can hear the truck idling, and Rufo's boots crushing grains of dirt underneath them.

There are also these kind of match-cut panels, where Grampa will brilliantly transfer to a flashback through really cool visual cues. In a fight with a guy who it looks like he could take when the bet's made (only the find out, moments before the fight, the guy has an oversized hand to fight with...), Rufo recieved an upper-cut that sends him in the air and to the ground, knocked-out. Grampa inserts two panels that put Rufo in boxing clothes but in the same position, and then returns to Rufo's head hitting the ground, blood spurting from his nose. A few pages later, we'll learn that Rufo is a failed boxer and so, besides being a fun stylistic exercise, it's a brilliant way to hint at his past.


Another match-cut comes when the big-fisted dude that beat Rufo up, opens the back of the truck. In a wide-shot from inside the truck, we see the doors flung open and the guy shocked. Grampa cuts-off revealing what the guy sees and what'll happen to fly to a flashback of Rufo being hired to carry the mysterious cargo, the angular contours of a desk and office coming close to matching-up with the floor and sides of the truck.

Perhaps the most brilliant use of angle and in a way, the place where Grampa's innovation meets-up with his interaction with artists of the distant past, is the way he depicts a decapitation. Again, yeah, this is all super-awesome comic book violence, but the fact that Grampa goes one step further in a comic that's forever going one step further, right when the previously slug-like Sangreco finally acts gives it all some added power.

We're going back now, to the part where the big-fisted bar guy opens the back of the truck. Well, out comes Sangreco, wielding a knife, and he slowly chops-up every asshole bar patron. The kills--and this action sequence--are then punctuated by the decapitation of the from-a-Lolos-book character. Rather than explain it all and then show you, I'm going to do it panel by panel because what's going on really deserves it.

So here, the angle is low and we see in the background Sangreco, ready to chop on his way down.


The next shot is a sort of close-up of the Lolos guy screaming.


Then, we get an even closer shot and you see the inevitable slice of the knife going through the back of his head.


Now, the head is disconnected from the body, little pieces of flesh and muscle sag and sway in the direction of the knife slice. Notice how this shot is even closer as you can barely see the uvula of the man.


Here, we're again even closer and we see the aftermath, as a torrent of blood gushes from his neck.


And finally, we go to a different shot, with the man's head bouncing off the ground.


Yeah it's crazy and cool, but there's something really strange going on with the angles and panels here. Even though a lot of comic book artists themselves use the term "camera" when speaking of the presentation of their images, it has always seemed weird and problematic because visual narrative came before cinematic narrative and camera, in the "movie" sense should connote motion and comic books even at their most visceral are going to read like really precise, really kinetic photographs. But not here! Grampa's really doing camera-work.

It's as if he has a tiny, tiny camera on an invisible dolly because what happens is, in each successive frame, the camera moves further into the screaming Lolos guy's mouth but stops short of being struck by Sangreco's knife so that we clearly see the entrance and exit of the knife. And it's like, at the point where the knife enters, the camera's connected to the guy's head because it then kind of moves backwards with the head as if flies off. Does that make sense? Probably not. It's sort of the same effect as when in a Spike Lee movie a character will be walking and then suddenly, they are like, attached to the camera and it seems the camera--or really the dolly--is walking for them, only the camera becomes connected to the person.

And here are both pages as they appear in the comic:


In terms of comic book history, it's the cover of Hard Boiled that I've babbled on about here but taken even further. And so, it all goes back to Darrow. Not to imply Grampa's work is derivative--this is the problem with describing art, it's easy and pragmatic to compare it to other artists--but because he has the same feeling of fuck-all fun and insanity of yeah, Hard Boiled and Rusty & Big Guy but especially Darrow's solo book Shaolin Cowboy. Like Shaolin, Mesmo is a genre pastiche that does the um, pastiche-ing (?) so well that it just turns into something way more insane and crazy than the thing it started out trying to ape.

If anything, the prestige-like, near-trade quality of the book, to stylish but kinda "Hot Topic" cover design, and just the fact that AdHouse is putting it out, puts the book out of context. This is trashy, silly, fun, done with a ton of enthusiasm and expert precision. In that way, it again, goes back to weird 70s movies, the kinds that put enough violence or nudity in them to get drive-in showings, but usually had some other, heavy, smart stuff bubbling in the background.

11/18/2008

Powerful Panels: Dragon Ball: Volume Seven By Akira Toriyama

After I bought the big collection of the first three volumes of Dragon Ball on a whim, pretty much all of us started to pick up the series, and while I can’t say I speak for everybody, it’s probably the greatest thing ever.

So far my collection of the series is comprised of the two VIZBIG Editions (which cover volumes one through six), volume seven of the more recently published Shonen Jump Manga, volume eight of the older Viz Graphic Novel collection (where it’s not broken up between Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z), and issues five through ten of part four of the monthly Viz Comics run, which pick up somewhere in the middle of volume eight of the manga. With all that material (which is really such a small fraction of the Dragon Ball world) it was pretty difficult to pin down one particular moment which captures the series so far, but volume seven undoubtedly comes the closest in providing such a scene-with the exception of something that happens an issue or two later, but I’m not trying to spoiler alert anyone on that.



Let’s be real, Kinto’un is probably one of the best characters of Dragon Ball. He’s always showing up at the right times and because you know he’s always working for Goku’s pure heart, you always get a sense that the good guys are totally going to win whenever he’s around. A big part of the appeal for me is remembering watching Dragon Ball when I was in 4th grade, and how blown away I was then over this kid who got to ride on this fast as shit cloud. From remembering how it looked on TV, and how that translates to the layout and movement within the panels, I still have that same sense of wonderment, and am still just as jealous Goku has Kinto’un and I don’t.

Overall, Dragon Ball is great because it has the perfect mix of intense fights, awesome adventures, and a million jokes about boobs. In volume seven, Goku, Bulma, and Kuririn get chased into an underwater cave by the Red Ribbon Army, who are also after the dragon balls. After having all of his squad killed off by some booby-trapped hallway (which is dealt with in a goofy enough way to keep things from getting too heavy), General Blue comes head to head with Goku, and is only eventually beat because he’s too big a queerby to deal with a mouse running around in a cave.

In return, Goku saves the mouse as the cave is falling down around them by shoving it in his mouth and Kamehameha-ing their little submarine out before they’re crushed to death. Toriyama’s handling of these super-stressful events in a fun, light-hearted way is what really drive the series, and what makes the panel of their escape so perfect.

BONUS:

Unknown Soldier #1

The fact that it's connected or working-with "Unknown Soldier" comics of the past no doubt, promises readers future cool comic book stuff, but issue #1 of Joshue Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli's Unknown Soldier is sophisticated comic book journalism/reporting minus the rather abject autobiography that political comics generally fall back on.

Writer Dysart modestly notes his own visit to Uganda in the back of the comic, but he's wisely created a main character, Dr. Lwanga Moses, that's born in Uganda and raised in America. It's interesting that even award-winning films about places like Uganda fall back on the white person from the West as the main character bit, but there's appropriately, hardly any white people in Unknown Soldier.

Nor does it fall into the other places it so easily could've fallen. Dysart could've taken the route of self-loathing Euro-American, taking white people as a whole to task or he could've done the equally frustrating--and safe--thing and presented himself as some implicit understand-er of it all, in contrast with the rest of the masses, but he does neither and enters Uganda on its own terms.

One of the best parts of the issue is the contrast between Moses' speech at the "2002 Kampala Conference on Humanitarian Affairs" and the speech by Margaret Wells--a blonde, white woman--that follows. Moses' speech is sincere but also has all the required, grand-standing B.S that a speech has to have and when he goes back to his seat, he quips to his wife, "I sounded like fucking Mussolini up there." Wells' speech is running on pretty much the same bunch of bullshit; the difference is, this is how Wells talks all the time or rather, she doesn't have the right amount of pragmatic irony needed to do good things and get the kind of publicity necessary to continue to do good things. She speaks in cliches swiped equally from Grad School classes and the Oprah show and buys into both of them.

This is a brilliant scene because the focus is not the obvious white/black or frankly, American White/Ugandan dynamic that it could've easily played off of, but more about how each person with their own rarified concern for Uganda decides to play off of or on that concern. Both are playing the game, but only Moses realizes it or is willing to admit it.

Another interesting dynamic on race and gender comes later when Moses essentially blacks-out with rage, fear, and whatever else when confronted with an AK-wielding African teen. Dysart weaves a series of gruesome nightmares throughout the issue and does a really economic reversal when Moses himself "succombs" to violence. At this obvious turning point in the issue, it's the violence that is real and the dream that's pleasant. Moses and the reader are sent to a lush supermarket. A sign that declares "The Best Values in America" becomes disgustingly ironic now that the comic's been transported to Uganda and we're shown an aisle abundant with food. The setting becomes disgusting when coupled with even the most rudimentary knowledge of famine throughout Africa.

But the truly fascinating part of this dream or anti-dream of Moses' is that he's standing in this supermarket, staring down the aisle of fruit, canned goods, and rice at a conventionally "sexy" white woman. It's odd because this little detail doesn't need to be in there and it's placement doesn't reveal some deep psychological truth about Moses, rather it's this quick like, tossed-in comment on his character.

That comment though, isn't something about reverse racial fetishization or something, because Moses has a wonderful and attractive wife who he can clearly joke with ("fucking Mussolini"), it's more of a quick, acknowledgement that Moses is still just a dude who looks at hot girls. If this dream reveals a "flaw", it's not a genuine flaw but rather some failing that the respectably hard on himself Moses projects. That it comes just as he's also "betrayed" his pacificist values and entered the Heart of Darkness, and comes right before he disfigures his own face--the original "Unknown Soldier" was disfigured in war, Moses does it to himself--is some weird comment on Moses' complex character.

The Unknown Soldier is born in the final pages of the first issue, only after the context and psychology have been firmly established. In that sense, it follows the structure of so many other "origin" issues, all the while being way more sophisticated and complex than most too. In a back-page write up, Dysart promises to bring the "pulp" soon enough and one gets the sense that it's getting all comic book not only because it's supposed to, but because after #1, the comic's earned it's way to mess around and make comic book out of real-life.

11/17/2008

Beyonce As Wonder Woman?

There's been recent talk, "buzz", whatever you wanna call it, about a "Wonder Woman" movie starring Beyonce Knowles. Probably because I'm not a big, dumb racist, but my first concern had nothing to do with the color of Knowles' skin but that she's sort of specialized in this really awesome, quasi-robotic, stoic pop star thing and because of that, she seemed less than ideal to carry a superhero(ine) movie. While her performances in movies haven't been terrible, she certainly coasts along, doing what she needs to do to seem convincing and nothing more, which works, but isn't anything spectacular.

And then I realized that Hollywood--and indie-wood too, but they don't make superhero movies--won't cast a good or interesting actor as Wonder Woman anyway and Knowles is way more fascinating than pretty much any other choice I could think of. This is further proven by the counter-rumors/reactions about some broad named Megan Gale playing Wonder Woman and about the only thing Gale has going for her is she looks a lot like Linda Carter who played Wonder Woman in the 70s. This is the bane of Hollywood casting, the tendency to find a person who first and foremost looks like the character/icon/famous person and worry about talent or context or anything else, second. Everybody sorta accepted it because it worked so well, but one of the many brilliant aspects of Iron Man was the rather daring choice of Robert Downey Jr. Not because of his drug problems or this or that but because while he was a white dude with facial hair, he didn't fit the super-hero role which of course, is what Tony Stark and Iron Man are all about.

Beyonce would make a pretty cool Wonder Woman. Physically, she's appropriate as she's obviously beautiful and charismatic, but also because her body's thicker and bigger and more in-line with how most women are drawn in comics and especially appropriate because of Wonder Woman's Amazonian roots. Sub-point real quick: Beyonce is short though--her physicality and charisma trick people--but she's only 5 foot inches. There's also a strange outsider-ness to Wonder Woman that I think Beyonce could tap into and the movie would have to focus a lot on the Diana Prince side of things, which Beyonce could do really well. Again, like Iron Man or even, the non-action, downtime in the Hellboy movies, what would make a "Wonder Woman" movie would be a focus on the non-superhero side of things. Some kind of weird 70s soap-opera meets Sex & the City pseudo jet-setting would be really kind of awesome.




Basically, the movie should look and feel like this and she should occasionally go fight crime or be worried about an impending super-villain crisis or some shit...

While it would be even less popular of a choice--and show why it's more tradition than race that worries comics fan--my vote's for talent-less, celebutante, Kim Kardashian. Like Beyonce, her body type and physicality match comic book proportions and she just kind of looks awesome as Wonder Woman in these from-the-gossip-pages halloween photos.

11/14/2008

Wolverine #69: "Old Man Logan"

The devolution of Mark Millar's "Old Man Logan" began last issue when instead of the road-movie at a rapid pace feeling of the series, readers got an unnecessary detour, spending all of issue #68 stuck at the "new" Kingpin's headquarters. It was presumably, an issue that further outlined Millar's fun-disturbing version of the Marvel universe without heroes, that also gave Hawkeye some back-story, but it slowed the series down, and replaced the series' hard-assed tone with out-and-out cynicism.

The hook of the issue and what was intended to be shocking and emotional, was Hawkeye's attempt to save his daughter Spider-Girl from all of this. Instead, upon saving, she mutters played-out Millar-isms about taking over Kingpin's turf and uh, next, taking aim at her dad. Throw a really silly arena fight and you've got a series that was already on shaky ground and seemed tumbling towards this weird, self-congratulatory misanthropy.

This isn't the first time Millar's writing has gotten distracted or morphed into self-parody in three issues. Earlier this year, the complex emotions mixed with fun ultra-violence and meta-commentary on ultra-violence in Kick-Ass from #1 and #2 just became goofy violence and stuff like having a little girl say "cunt" in #3.

Before that point, the comic was good enough that Millar's uncomfortable misreading of crime, race, and American city-living was excusable, just as before Part Three of "Old Man Logan", the weird white-trashploitation of it all rolled off my reading back because, it was on some real road movie, two dudes past their prime emotionality shit mixed with uber comic nerd revisionism. And McNiven's art was awesome and still is, but not good enough to keep reading.

As Jesse discussed in his (positive) review of the last issue, Millar noted about the series' success: "I really think we've stumbled onto something very iconic here.” But the previous issue and especially this month's issue--both of which really, should've been edited into one issue-- feel more like Millar trying to make something "iconic" than stumbling upon something iconic. Millar's in Frank Miller "Dark Knight Returns" territory which is probably a positive to every comic reader except for me.

The series began as being all about minor events that slowly built to something bigger in terms of character development and presumably some interesting pay-off, but in issue #69 we've got Wolverine crashing through a building, stumbling into a Moloid-created earthquake, and then, a series of Marvel in-joke shockers--Loki crushed by a skyscraper, the symbiote spying on them from the mountains, Red Skull on Mt. Rushmore--that were "Woah" in the first two parts but now seem forced into a series that doesn't even need them anymore. Granted, the Red Skull one is pretty cool and especially effective as a two-page spread, but it's also the one that has a context besides cute in-joke.

The issue ends on the now-pacifist Wolverine coming super-close to losing it and rushing outside, upset both by his actions and the messed-up memories it brought back, and teasing us with exactly why violence now freaks him out so much. It's a weird cliff-hanger because it assumes readers really care why Wolverine's gone pacifist when there's so many bigger questions readers are asking, and shows how deep into its own myth-making "Old Man Logan" has fallen.

As I said before as an aside, this issue and last could've been cut down here and there and turned into one fairly successful issue. Skimming back through the issues, notice how again, in typical road movie style, events were underplayed and given five or so brilliantly concise pages and compare it to all the time wasted on the Spider-Girl sub-plot. This issue's pacing is better, but with no rewards, another cliffhanger, and the extra month to wait, "Old Man Logan" seems to have bought into it's own purposefully sorta silly mythology.

I think it's especially interesting in lieu of Cable's continued, kinda inexplicable brilliance. What Cable has going for it more than anything else is consistency. It's been a slow burn since the first issue, but one crammed with enough weirdness and interesting characterization and the right kind of cliffhangers--the kind that doesn't seem to promise too much or end up as a boner-kill--that reward constant readers and don't alienate new ones.

11/13/2008

Where My Money Went - Nov. 12th


Every Wednesday I push the limits of my budget for my comic addiction. This is where my money went this week:


Karen actually started picking up Avengers Fairy Tales and I pretty much shat all over it. After reading the first three I bought the fourth and final installment "for Karen", a story about She-Hulk getting knocked out by Whirlwind, and awakening in the World of Oz. The best part of the Fairy Tale books is that the characters aren't always easy to figure out. The casting choices are obvious Cap as the Cowardly Lion, Thor as The Scarecrow and Iron Man as Tin Man. It's fucked up to look just a little closer though and realize that without his Bravery Captain America is just a strong dude, Thor without his brain is just another viking but with you know, lightning and Iron Man without a heart is...well alright, Iron Man needs a heart.


Superman and Batman Vs. Vampires and Werewolves knows exactly how stupid it is, and that's it's strength. Batman screams the words "Superman, NO--you don't understand! It's--MAGIC" and then a giant snail monster knocks Supes into a building with one of his tentacles. Batman investigates and Superman punches Vampires and Werewolves while Werewolves and Vampires eat people. Then Green Arrow saves the day. This comic rules.


A Magneto origin story cleverly masks this powerful Holocaust historical narrative. Trying to protect his family, young Magneto becomes a smuggler and attempts to save his family but pushes them closer and closer to the camps. I have a hard time reading this comic because as much as I want his powers to manifest in that issue, once I start reading I only worry about his well being.


Without a doubt in my mind The Joker in Batman Confidential:Do You Understand These Rights? is based on the Mark Hamill Joker from The Batman Animated Series. He never speaks straight and is in love with Batman's polar opposite insanity, plays with puns and is a total mystery to everyone around him. On his way to his trial, Joker manages to steal a pen and kills the correctional officers driving him to the court house and steals the armored car. Being an upstanding citizen, Joker drives himself his hearing. One-faced Harvey Dent stands for all Joker has killed as a sad public defender attempts to make sense of the most nonsensical dude ever. Oh, and Joker kills the judge with a peanut.


After all the delays I'm so excited this book wasn't shitty. Wolverine #69 picks right up where #68 left off, not missing a beat. Wolverine saves Hawkeye, the two weirdos riding in the Spider-Mobile being chased by dudes on dinosaurs. Seriously, dinosaurs!! We see the Mole People's true nature, eating the flesh off of bodies that have fallen into their huge holes. The most messed up thing about the comic isn't even the story, it's the backgrounds. A hundred foot tall Loki in the middle of North Dakota (renamed Electroville) lies as a skeleton crushed by a Manhattan skyscraper. Think about that, North Dakota, Manhattan. Who the hell threw that building at Loki? Mount Rushmore has a new face mounted on it, Red Skulls thin layer of skin over his jagged bone head sits right next to Abe. The issue ends with Wolverine finally opening up to Hawkeye about what changed him, one page after the most powerful Wolverine panel ever. It's not often you see Wolverine cry.