||Comic Talk #25: Swamp Thing #2 and New 52 "tie-in stories" Discussion
Posted on: October 14, 2011 by joshuagreen.
So, I read Swamp Thing #2 and it is really good, putting this book a cut above Animal Man so far, in my opinion. Also, Animal Man and Swamp Thing alone make it evident that the DC books will be tightly interwoven (...probably more so eventually).
What made both issues of Swamp Thing really interesting for me, aside from the swell art, was the skillful balancing of straight-up comic nerdy (and interesting) plot/background explication (who/what is Swamp Thing, who is Alec Holland, etc.), with a horror-themed twist to spice things up at the end of each issue. Well played, Scott Snyder.
Basically, this book manages to pull together a classic DC superhero with some weird zombie army thing and still not seem tired or cliched.
Another dangerous/interesting thing about Swamp Thing so far is that I can see clearly how the writer, Snyder, is tying the Swamp Thing story together with a larger (likely DC Universe-wide) tale, even from only reading Animal Man and All Star Western of the other new 52 books. And, instead of making me sick with feelings of infinite tie-in cash-in crossover story nonsense, it actually kind of piques my interest in seeing the inevitable final showdown and its results.
Without spoiling anything, I can say that both Snyder on Swamp Thing and Lemire on Animal Man are writing about two different sides of the same coin in the DCU, and it is this link that will inevitably tie the stories together further down the line: basically, in Swamp Thing, there is much discussion of 'the green' (perhaps some sort of Star Wars 'the force'-like metaphysical energy/plane that connects all plant life on the planet). "The green" and those connected to it (like Swamp Thing) will obviously play some kind of role in whatever big events are being cooked up in the DCU for down the road. Meanwhile, in Animal Man (and even in Swamp Thing #2 where there is some mention of it), folks are discussing another similar, related metaphysical energy flow/plane called 'the red', which is a similar force that seems to connect all forms of animal life.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the green and the red are good, and there's some weird thing in between the two which is evil and causing trouble. Maybe? Though it's not clear what exactly is going on there yet - that is, what the relationship between all these weird forces is...
But anyway, despite that extremely bizarre recap, all I really want to say is, check out Swamp Thing. And if you REALLY dig it, check out Animal Man. These two seem like they will be some really cool companion books and an entryway into the slightly darker side of the DC Universe : )
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||Comic Talk #24: DC's New 52 continued... Animal Man #2 review
Posted on: October 7, 2011 by joshuagreen.
Hello FBC folks : )
Today I present to you my follow up on one of DC's new 52 books after having the second issue of it which came out whis week.
Animal Man #2
As you may recall, the last video review I did was of Animal Man #1
with art by the cool dude Travel Foreman and story by the super duper Jeff Lemire. In a sentence, basically what I thought about Animal Man so far was that, although it didn't totally blow me away, I thought it offered enough depth and hooks to keep me reading for a second issue.
So, I picked up the second issue and what do I think now? Well... it's still what I would call 'just good enough to keep me buying for now'. As I've said many times before, Lemire is one of my favourite authors (thanks largely to his work on Sweeth Tooth), so I'm sticking in it with this one. Don't get me wrong, this is a solid book. The book well-drawn (as I've said before) and interesting enough, but so far it hasn't really had much of an effect on me - the longer I read comics (or, at least, the more I add to my pull-list) the pickier I become, I guess.
What do I like about the comic? That Animal Man is a family man, and because of this he's not always flying off to the north pole to fight Dr. Blizzardo or something just before heading off to a secret moon base to fight the demented Professor Lunaris- he has a "regular" family which he has to deal with in addition to being a super hero, which keeps the book a bit more grounded and interesting for me. I think I tend to lose interest in books when they ask me to suspend my disbelief so much so that the world doesn't feel real or coherent enough to be interesting to me anymore. E.g. books that rely too much on magic and the supernatural as major plot points have a hard time keeping my interest- that may be why some of my favourite books have at least one foot firmly planted in reality at all times: Jonah Hex, Northlanders, Chris Ware books, and alternate history/future books that rely on science fiction like Sweet Tooth and Ignition City :)
So, the things that kind of bug me about the comic (or keep me, with all of my weird psychoses, from engaging with the story): although I LIKE that Animal Man's young daughter is one of the main characters (she starts to have some weird powers, troubling stuff), the way it is dealt with in the book is in a similar manner to those movies we've all seen wherein a slightly creepy, slightly mysterious, somehow all-knowing (or at least strangely clairvoyant) little kid plays a major role in driving the plot along. I.e. when a little kid (through mystical means) knows where to go and what to do - it's just never been a plot device I've been sold on. Just personal preference. Also, the book in the second issue seems to have perhaps gotten a bit more strangely metaphysical or supernatural, but the last few pages did simultaneously have me a bit curious to find out what's going on - so I'll be checking out the third issue :)
In any case, despite the somewhat negative tone of a part of this week's review, I wanted to write it anyway because I don't read many comics at all now that I'm overseas - so while I'd usually prefer not to write about a comic unless I REALLY dig it and want to recommend it to you all, I have to be sure I write about what little new stuff I am reading lately. That said, much respect to Lemire and Foreman for their work on the book (and to Lemire on his past books as well).
P.S. although this book deserves a proper review, I don't have time to write one right now- but I have to say, you should all totally check out the new Swamp Thing. Two issues out so far - haven't read the 2nd, but the first issue is a very strong one!
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||Comic Talk Quickies: The New 52 (DC's big re-launch)
Posted on: July 28, 2011 by joshuagreen.
Hello FBC folks,
I have been busily preparing for my trip to the Faroe Islands
this past week and so, sadly, I've had very little time to read any new comics books. I know, it saddens me too. But, while I'm away I'll be keeping a blog with pretty pictures and videos I'll be taking
. So, that's nice.
[caption id="attachment_1746" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Headed to this place on Sunday. Comics may be hard to come by..."]
But...I don't know how much I'll be able to write about "new" comics while I'm there - we will have to see. In the meantime, I didn't want to leave you folks hanging, so I wanted to say a few things about current/upcoming comics.
First, THE NEW 52 - This is what DC has been calling its massive re-launch thing, coming this August 31st. If you haven't heard, basically what is happening is that DC is resetting ALL of its major books back to number #1. So, yeah, Batman, Detective Comics, Superman- EVERYTHING in the DC line is "starting over" at #1. One motivation behind this is certainly to give new readers an opportunity to have a good jumping on point in some of these infinitely long and iconic series. So, that's cool.
More importantly to someone like myself, this also means other interesting (both good and bad...) shufflings and goings-on in the DC comics world.
Namely, Swamp Thing, the character really made famous by wacky old Alan Moore way back in the early 80s will be revived and shoe-horned back into the DC universe. It is my understanding that the character has been floating about, occasionally written and re-written into stories and so on over the last while, but that the significance of this is that now Swamp Thing is back in the DC universe (not in a standalone Vertigo book - vertigo being a subsidiary part of DC whose stories take place in a universe that is separate from DC continuity). So, that is interesting, maybe?
Personally, I'm most excited about "the new 52" for one main reason - one of my favourite comic creators, Jeff Lemire of Sweet Tooth fame (who I wrote about here)
, will be writing two new series for DC: Animal Man and Frankenstein.
Who is Animal Man, you say? WIKIPEDIA HOOOOOOOOOO! "
(Bernhard "Buddy" Baker
) is a fictional character
, a superhero
in the DC Comics Universe
. As a result of being in proximity to an exploding extraterrestrial
spaceship, Buddy Baker acquires the ability to temporarily “borrow” the abilities of animals (such as a bird
or the proportionate strength of an ant
). Using these powers, Baker fights crime as the costumed superhero Animal Man.
Created by writer Dave Wood and artist Carmine Infantino
, Buddy Baker first appeared in Strange Adventures
#180 (September 1965
) and adopted the name Animal Man in issue #190". The wikipedia comic nerds then blather on for some time about this and that reboot of the character, how he was written into a mature comic book hero with serious stories eventually by the cool Scottish writer Grant Morrison and so on. (P.S. fellow FBC contributor Greg Everett, the movie man, has a big man-crush on Morrison). But all you need to know is that Jeff Lemire will be writing this. So, it will be good. Lemire made 'Ultra the Multi-Alien' good, remember?
Ok, so, animal man. and what else is Lemire doing for the new 52? Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Yes, THAT Frankenstein. Like Animal Man, I've intentionally read almost nothing about these two "Re-boots" by Lemire because I trust this dude so much that I just want to see what he does with these weird DC characters. Im quite sure it will be good.
Ok, have a good time folks. And remember, Crossed: Psychopath recently turned into the most brutal, effed up, cant tear your eyes away from the trainwreck, series - so if you have the stomach, pick it up. ANNNNND, the new Northlanders arc has begun: The Icelandic Trilogy - it starts with a bang, I think you'll all dig it!
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||"I know better than they do": Movie Reviews, Week #5 - Jonah Hex
Posted on: June 10, 2011 by gregoryeverett.
As a voice in the wilderness, I take solace in the small ripple the following statement will make: despite any claims as to my expertise in film-watching, or any other sort of self-professedness, I don’t get out to the movies that often. As such, I haven’t seen Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures’ Jonah Hex (2010), because after hearing the terrible reaction of, well, everyone who saw it in theatres, nobody but a crazy man would watch it at home. Ponder that while I suck the squid-ink out of my lamp-wound. I eat snakes; three hundred, four hundred, a thousand a day. Sometimes in the cloakroom I paint my eyelids black and I can smell the colour twenty-five. In any case, this week I watched Jonah Hex, in my home; here’s the quick and dirty:
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Writers: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, William Farmer, with ‘characters featured in DC comics’ credit to Tony DeZuniga and John Albano
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovitch, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, and Will Arnett
[caption id="attachment_1608" align="alignnone" width="222" caption="I'm honestly sad for Malkovitch."]
In all seriousness, I watched Jonah Hex because I prefer naysaying to fact-finding, and rather than going out to watch the new comic spawned movies that are being released, I wanted to remind all you fanboys of how they might end up. Our resident Comicbook Guy Josh Green reviewed Jonah Hex in print a while back
and advised against judging the comic on the movie. I’m going to go ahead and endorse the opposite as well, not only as a defense of the quality of the comicbook, but in keeping with my personal dogma concerning transference from one medium to another. So, as a movie, just how IS Jonah Hex?
In a word: terrible. My notes on the film devolved into a list of criticisms. The ancillary details that can redeem a bad flick, like the cinematography, the set design, and the pacing, are almost not worth mentioning. Almost. The cinematography is simply utilitarian; there’s nothing remarkable about it at any point, they just needed to film the things that were happening and they filmed them. Same goes for the set, the costume, and all the props: there’s no character to any of it, nothing that really forms a connection, it’s only there to give the story a time and place to happen. The story itself is rushed at the beginning and the end and drawn out in the middle, as though they were in a hurry to get the movie started, but realized it was shitty once it hit full swing and wanted to finish it off as quickly as possible. I could end this review right now by saying “This movie is a waste of time, don’t watch it,” but I’ve got five or six hundred words left, so I’m going to go on about why you shouldn’t watch it.
[caption id="attachment_1609" align="alignnone" width="504" caption="Find me a town that looks more like it was built to be ridden into."]
I’d like to give you a little taste of my raw notes:
its embarrassing seeing john malkovitch say these lines
the movie looks really amateurish
beginning dialogue is terrible
"we need to let people know jonah wasn't supporting slavery; why doesn't he have a black friend, AND the black friend can say jonah wasn't supporting slavery?!"
seeing the fort called resurrection was like hearing 'unobtanium' in avatar
jesus christ, a superweapon designed by eli whitney?
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly drawn into the movie. And to be honest, the movie never once encouraged me to take it seriously. The origin of Jonah Hex is rushed so that we can get to a scene where he mows down a settlement using gatling guns strapped to his horse. The train robbery is written and shot like a modern heist movie, totally unbecoming of the aesthetic the film (feebly) attempts, and is interspersed with a scene in the president’s office so that the plot behind the train robbery may be revealed. Inelegantly. Through dialogue that sounds like the original plot pitch. The progression of scenes feels like the cinematography; as if they needed things in the movie to make it a western, so they put them in, simple as that. The scene where the hero is portrayed as heartless; the scene where he confides in a whore and shows he has a heart; the scene highlighting the bad guy’s ruthlessness; the sub-tier bad guy giving a speech on morality right before he’s killed; and so on and so forth.
[caption id="attachment_1610" align="alignnone" width="504" caption="Hi-ho gatling silver, away!"]
I should probably stop here, but I won’t. The flashbacks are unnecessary and repetitive; they’re still reminding us of Jonah’s motivation fifty-five minutes in. The dynamite guns are pure pornography. The only time I came close to liking or even identifying with Jonah was when he beat down the dog-abusers and befriended the German Shepherd. The confrontations between Jonah and his nemesis, as well as his sub-nemeses (such as the Irish guy, whose name I never cared to look up) come out of nowhere with no buildup whatsoever and are boring and anticlimactic. Malkovitch seems like he cares less about the dialogue than I do. The explanation of Jonah’s status as ‘half-dead’ and his ability to talk to corpses is half-assed. The rich Virginian and all of the scenes with him are completely unnecessary. The real final showdown spliced with the imaginary one detracts from both. The climax of the movie is weak and might as well not have happened. The parting speech with the president is stupid. The parting speech with Megan Fox (again, another character whose name I didn’t care to look up) is stupid. Jonah’s final lines in the movie are stupid. The ending voiceover is stupid.
At this point, it seems prudent to call it quits. I hated Jonah Hex, that much is obvious if you’ve read this far (thank you if you have). The inelegance of the movie has spilled over; my review, instead of being an artful, entertaining gem like the rest, has the same feeling as Jonah Hex overall. I knew I had to write a review, I knew what needed to go into a review, and I put it in there. So, like my review of the Simpsons
, my article this week has a moral (or a warning, or what have you): anticipate all of the upcoming comicbook movies cynically as hell.
And don’t watch Jonah Hex.
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||Comic Talk Week #3: Northlanders
Posted on: April 7, 2011 by joshuagreen.
This week things get dangerously manly as I discuss the first of two different comics in which vikings features prominently! Next week, Viking
by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein, published by Image.
is an extremely unique comic series written by Brian Wood and drawn by a different artist every time the author changes story arcs (which is often, stay tuned, you'll see). The covers, however, are always done by the absolutely amazing Massimo Carnevale (get a load of this stunning artwork):
Getting down to business, what Brian Wood does with Northlanders
is that he takes a very basic idea and then runs with it - all over the place. Specifically, Wood writes a variety of entirely unconnected story arcs that share only the common theme of being about people/events in "the North" (usually northern Europe) in the past (usually about 1,000 years ago, give or take a century). While this sounds like a bit of an odd idea for a comic series, a medium which is most often used to either tell a single connected story through a set number of issues (e.g. Y the Last Man
) or to tell one potentially infinitely long story (Batman, Superman,
etc.), Wood makes it work most of the time with consistently interesting characters and diverse situations and settings.
"What sort of characters and settings?", you might ask. Well, here's a brief summary of some of the major arcs as I remember them (maybe one will pique your interest): Sven the Returned
(about a viking raider who returns to his homeland to take out the trash and reclaim his inheritance), The Shield Maidens
(about some vikings' badass wives resisting the bloodthirsty Saxons), Lindisfarne
(about the famous viking sack of a Christian monastery), The Plague Widow
(about the trials of a widow and her daughter in a quarantined village during a harsh Russian winter), Metal
(about a badass Norseman who decides to reject/resist Christianity by killing Christians), The Girl in the Ice
(about an old Icelandic settler who finds... a girl underneath the ice), and, the most recent arc, The Siege of Paris
(guess what this is about! yeah, the little-known year-long viking siege of Paris by from 885-886 A.D.). If none of this turns your crank, well, I just don't know what to tell you.
But seriously, to deal with the nitty gritty, because of its extremely ambitious nature (i.e. completely different characters and plots every several months), the result is that Northlanders
ends up being a consistently good comic, and, occasionally, a great comic. The subject matter and even, perhaps, the genre of the comic varies quite widely (from the arguably pure "drama" genre of The Plague Widow
, to the more battle-oriented arcs like the "action/drama" of Sven the Returned
). However, Wood is able to keep readers engaged with his use of interesting locales, semi-historical
settings, and, primarily, through his knack for writing usually compelling characters.
A note on the semi-historical settings: for me, a unique draw of Northlanders
is that Wood goes out of his way to do enough historical research for each story arc that, not only do the settings and characters seem quite believable, but also you might learn something (or, at least, become interested enough in a period of event to look something up about it yourself). Cool!
As a closing note, I can say about Northlanders
that if you are at all interested in the series after reading this, do yourself a huge favour and check out the series' first arc, Sven the Returned.
It remains, in my opinion, the high point of the series and I also consider it an exemplar of skillful character development in a monthly comic form (e.g. you start off hating Sven, and probably end up rooting for him)...oh, and by the way, Wood writes in entirely modern language, complete with common modern slang etc. - this has positive and negative sides, I think - it can both remove the silly artifice of fake old English typically associated with fantasy and semi-historical fiction ("thou shalt not taketh mine life tonight, knave!") but, conversely, too slangy or hip dialogue can sometimes detract from the authentic kind of feel of the story, setting, and characters.
See you all next week : ) and BTW, if anyone is reading this, why not gimme a comment? Even if I don't hear from anyone, I'll keep writing about comics anyway because it is fun.
P.S. if you wanna get the low-down on the giant marvel super event thing, Fear Itself
, please check out this cool dude's post http://comicstheblog.com/?p=1854
about the first issue. I'm gonna read this issue later tonight, if I reaaaalllly dig it, I'll let you fine folks know next week!
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