Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No Ordinary Family (Tuesdays, ABC)

I've been briefly reviewing the new TV shows I've seen on Twitter (everything's brief on Twitter), but this one seemed like it belonged here.

I'll be honest; these made-for-TV not-from-comics superhero things cause a visceral negative reaction in me. I'm not sure if it's embarrassment or what, but I've never seen "Heroes" and even watching "Smallville" has been hit or miss (though I have warmed up to it lately). But Greg Berlanti, who co-created two of my favorite shows ever ("Everwood" and "Eli Stone"), and comic writer Marc Guggenheim (who also was responsible for "Eli Stone") are involved so I had to give it a shot.

I liked it. It's derivative for sure -- see the bullet in Chiklis' hand when he first discovers his powers -- but it was entertaining enough to overcome my bias. The family drama side is well done, as expected from the creator of "Everwood", and the process of learning about their (and each other's) powers was fun. (My favorite was the initial superspeed sequence. You can tell Guggenheim's practicing for the "Flash" movie.) The parents' powers are physical and the kids' are more cerebral, which I thought was a nice touch.

I'm tired of the narration gimmick in general, but it works here because Michael Chiklis is so likeable -- Even as awful Vic Mackey in "The Shield", people still liked him -- and his feelings of alienation as his kids grow up and his wife's career take off are believable. By the time Julie Benz starts talking to the camera, Chiklis had primed me to be OK with it. I liked that the family situation didn't change much at first even after the near-death experience that (apparently) gave them their powers, and I think it was a smart decision to focus mostly on the older characters in the pilot and leave the kids' highschool dramas for later.

The dialogue is mostly snappy (Dad, while the plane is crashing: "Everything's going to be OK. Have I ever lied to you." Daughter: nods Dad: "About anything important?" Daughter: "Yes!") with a few missteps. (It's just stupid that anybody in a board meeting of a research company would scoff at the idea that a plant found in the Amazon had commercial value, for example.)

It's not brilliant, but there's potential and there is good talent involved on both sides of the camera. I'm not completely hooked, though the twist near the end brought me a lot of the way there, but I'll watch it again. Given that I went in against the very idea of the show, I think that's a pretty impressive accomplishment on their part.

Monday, September 27, 2010

MARINEMAN

I have not been this excited for a new comic in quite some time.

In fact, there aren't many comics I've gotten this excited for ever. Tony Bedard's R.E.B.E.L.S. and Keith Giffen's Doom Patrol came close, I suppose. And there was definite excitement in the lead-ups to books like Chew, Final Crisis and The Archie Wedding. But they didn't compare to this.

Why am I so excited?

Because this is Ian Churchill, and he has a new style.

I liked his "classic" style well enough, I suppose. It was like Jim Lee, but cleaner, and his work was a pretty good match for covers by artists like Michael Turner (making their Supergirl run look pretty good, even if the writing...was not my favorite.) But I wouldn't have considered Churchill a favorite artist of mine, not by a long shot.

And then came his hand injury, and the revelation that his "classic" style had been requested by his editors, back when he first started out professionally. His original style was much closer to, say, Darwyn Cooke. You aren't going to get much more different than going from Cooke to Lee, really. And he pulled it off--his Hulk issues had some of the best work I'd seen by him. Were they perfect comics? No. You could see that he still had some problems. But it was a very, very good effort.

Facing the commercial reaction to his Hulk run (sales sort of tanked), I was worried that he'd go back to his more successful style--but then he seemed to vanish out of comics completely for a year or so. It surprised me, actually--he'd been so prolific, and then nothing.

Now I know why.

Marineman is the new, creator-owned book written and illustrated by Churchill, and the style he's chosen to employ is radically different from even his Hulk work. In fact, it reminds me very, very much of one of my favorite artists of all time--an artist that left us far too soon, leaving a huge, gaping hole in the industry's talent pool that has yet to be filled.

Can Ian Churchill be the next Mike Wieringo? I honestly think that he could.

And with the premise of this title, we're even getting one of the dream projects that never happened--the closest thing to a 'Ringo Aquaman series that we will probably ever have.

I am excited. Are you?


Marineman #1 comes out from Image Comics on December 1st. A preview of the first issue can be seen at the Previews website.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

So...much...innuendo.

Generator Rex: "Operation Wingman"

Great adventure shows are strong enough to sustain an occasional out-and-out comedy. Last night's episode of Man of Action's Generator Rex, "Operation: Wingman", was their attempt at an episode like "This Little Piggy" (Justice League Unlimited) or "Mxyzpixilated" (Superman: The Animated Series) and it was hysterical. I can't seem to find a writing credit online, and I've already deleted the episode from the DVR, but great job somebody! (Edited to add: Duh, I didn't think to re-check the video after I added it below. The writing is credited to Eugene Son.)

Unfortunately, Cartoon Network doesn't seem to have a rerun scheduled, so if you're interested these YouTube videos will have to do for now if they last. (And possibly there are other sources if you know where to look.)

Edited Sunday to add: The videos below are dead, which I expected to happen. Rather than chasing links and updating this post continuously, if you go to YouTube and search for "Generator Rex Operation Wingman" or "Generator Rex Episode 11" you should still be able to find the show.





And in case the embeds don't work:

Part 1 (11 minutes)

Part 2 (11 minutes)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Comics (& Book) I Read: Hornets, Myths and Youth

Kevin Smith's Green Hornet HC Vol. 1: "Sins of the Father": Dynamite has a metric ton of Green Hornet titles, but this is arguably their flagship title. It's based on Kevin Smith's unproduced Green Hornet screenplay, but he's minimally involved since he was already paid for his work. Coincidentally, it's similar to what we've seen of the actual upcoming movie so far, with the layabout son of the original Hornet discovering and taking over his father's crusade after his death. Smith has an ear for snappy dialogue which works well here, and it benefits from not relying on the crutches in his R-rated movies. The adaptation is by Phil Hester, one of the best in the business, and it's well drawn by Project Superpowers artist Jonathan Lau. The son is a brat, but that works for this story because it gives him room to grow. I like the idea of a female Kato, as I did when it was first done in 1989, and the elder Kato is an interesting character too. I am disappointed, however, though not surprised that Dynamite released a book of just the first five issues instead of waiting to collect together however many issues the whole script will take. Not great value for the money, but I do like the book so far. Extras: 21 covers, including the Alex Ross alternates.

Thor 611-614: Rather than keeping things in limbo until Matt Fraction is ready, Kieron Gillen chose to use his post-Siege issues to tell a sweeping epic called "The Fine Print". The deals that Loki made with Hela, Mephisto and the Disir resonate even after his death, and Thor is forced to journey to Hell to save what's left of the Asgardian afterlife. There's some really beautiful character work in this arc. Gillen remembered something about Thor's mother that I had forgotten and used it to great effect, and the ending revelation about Loki's motives and how they affect one of the major characters from the JMS run took my breath away. My only (extremely) minor quibble is that there wasn't much room for Don Blake in Gillen's Asgard-centric run, and I hope Fraction uses him more. I think the book works best when there's a balance. This arc is getting collected in November with some 1966 Thor issues, and I highly recommend it.


Incredible Hercules 138-141: This book shouldn't have worked. Starring a second-tier hero and a brand-new character, and slotted into "Incredible Hulk"'s numbering after "World War Hulk", it wouldn't have been surprising if this book sank without a trace. But, and I hate to use the cliche but it fits, the whole of what Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have crafted is much greater than the sum of its parts and I irrationally love it second only to "Mighty Avengers". It's a buddy comedy and a heroic journey and a coming-of-age story and a father-son drama and a family betrayal soap, just to name a few. The last arc of the series deals with Amadeus Cho's destiny and whether Hercules has to die for that destiny to be fulfilled. My favorite moments of the arc: The Mary Jane "magazine" ad and the Quicksilver/Zeus meeting in #139, the full page of Herc and Amadeus jumping into the breach and their reaction to Haphaestus' trap in #140, and the recap page and Herc & Cho's last scene together in #141. There are two oversize hardcovers collecting the first two thirds of the run, and presumably another one is on the way to wrap it up. Buy them. There's something for everyone here.


Hercules: Fall of an Avenger 1-2: So the title kind of gives away that Herc doesn't exactly make it out of his own series alive, but is he really dead? I prefer the art style of the regular series to the painted style here, but the tales told at the funeral in #1 are great, and the battles in #2 are fun especially Amadeus vs. Phobos.


Heroic Age: Prince of Power 1-4: Amadeus Cho, left alone after the events of the issues above, teams up with Thor to gather the items necessary to tap into the power necessary to get Hercules back. (Title of issue #4: "Omnipotence for Dummies".) On the way, they're opposed by someone fans of Peter David's Hulk run will recognize. The way Cho and Thor see each other and how they interact is much different than the Hercules/Cho relationship -- Thor: "Quickly boy, the book -- which way to this tomb you mentioned?" Cho: *shrugs* Thor: "I hate you." -- the contrasts are interesting and the insights are rewarding. Reilly Brown's art is more to my taste for this material, and it's actually structured so that you can pick up from #1 without having read "Incredible Hercules" (but we've already established that you should.) A great continuation of the story of this amazing partnership, and I look forward to "Chaos War" which this directly flows into.


Batgirl 9-14: I like how Stephanie comes into her own with the "Flood" arc in #9-12, starting with a nice Commissioner Gordon scene in #9, fighting some (zombified) allies in #10-11 and ending with her getting her own version of Oracle since Babs will be (mostly) busy in "Birds of Prey". Normally the crazy computer virus jumping to people stuff would drive me nuts, but in this case I'm (barely) willing to suspend disbelief on the explanation that it's Apokolips technology. I'm less thrilled that it's basically just a tech explanation to do zombies, but it's well enough written by Brian Q. Miller that I accepted it. Long time Stephanie fans will enjoy her character's evolution here. ("I don't break promises. Not anymore.") The Clayface story in #13 is fun (love the cover), and the characterization of Supergirl in #14 was so on point that I actually went back to the credits to see if regular Supergirl writer Sterling Gates had written the issue (he didn't).


I messed with the blog design again. Blogger added a new "super simple" layout that I thought suited our text-heavy blog well. Please let me know if you disagree.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Comics I Read: Theme-free edition

I’m going to be discussing only complete storylines here from now on, or at least large blocks of issues, now that almost everyone is either reading only trades or receiving mail-ordered issues on a delay. I’m considering briefly reviewing issues on my Twitter feed as I read them, so please follow jmetzner there if you’re interested in that.


Amazing Spider-Man 635-637 “Grim Hunt”, parts 2-4: Any conclusion to a year-long storyline is bound to not quite live up to the anticipation, but Joe Kelly gets pretty close. It’s creepy and terrifying, and the ending works well for both Peter’s “family” and Kraven’s.


Amazing Spider-Man 638-641 “One Moment In Time”: Speaking of anticipation, here’s the story with all the answers about the “Brand New Day” changes, from what Mary Jane said to Mephisto, to what happened on Peter & MJ’s wedding day, to how Spidey’s secret identity was erased from the world. By it’s nature, this kind of story has to be somewhat fussy and contrived in places to answer all the questions, but it needed to be done and I think it was gutsy and smart of Joe Quesada to write this himself. The emotional framing sequence of Peter & MJ in the present day is the part that worked best for me. I’ve seen some complaints online that Paolo Rivera’s characters were too “off model” in these pages, but I thought he “acted” the characters well. The explanation for what happened the day of the wedding is a little mundane, but using the pages from the original annual and filling in the gaps with new pages was clever. In the flashbacks, I most liked seeing the way events after “Civil War” played out a little differently. I didn’t need to know the mechanics of how Spidey’s identity was erased in as much detail as given, but I liked who did it and why. Overall, not everyone’s going to be happy with this -- best to avoid it if the whole “One More Day” idea still makes you apoplectic -- but I was satisfied and I like the place Peter and MJ are left in at story’s end.


Teen Titans 84-86: This went way downhill after the Static arc. I would avoid anything between those issues and the upcoming start of the new creative team of J.T. Krul and Nicola Scott. I would have dropped the book by now, but Nicola Scott is brilliant and I’ll buy anything with her work in it. Current writer Felicia D. Henderson is moving on to a new “Static” ongoing, which hopefully will be good because I did enjoy the arc where she focused on him in this book. (And Static co-creator Dwayne McDuffie says he has confidence in her.)

Wonder Woman 600-602: I have mixed feelings about the new direction. I adored Gail Simone’s run, and her story with George Pérez in #600 is a beautiful and moving coda to her run, to the Pérez era and to a certain stage of life. The issue is also filled with gorgeous pinups of Diana in her “classic” outfit by some terrific artists, including the aforementioned Nicola Scott, showing there’s still life in that portrayal. On the other hand, they do have to sell the book and JMS, whose work I also love, gets attention. His story is intriguing so far, and the new costume looks much better with the jacket off as seen for the first time in #602. But I’m not adjusted yet: It doesn’t feel like Wonder Woman to me yet. I’m on board for the long haul, and I think the new direction is well worth your time, but I haven’t quite gotten over my feelings for the previous run.


Secret Avengers 1-4: Awesome to have Brubaker writing Steve Rogers again, and he plays him to the hilt here especially in #4 where the scene on the cover actually occurs. The mix of characters is good and so are their reasons for being on the team, and I loved that the scope of the story went beyond Earth with some ties to classic Avengers history.

Red Robin 13-16: Fabian Nicieza follows up very well on Chris Yost's run (which I loved). I like what we've seen of Tim's plan, and Nicieza writes Damian so well I almost wish the book was "Robin" instead of "Red Robin". (Tim: "He drains my optimism.") I also liked Tim's solution to Vicki Vale's suspicions from "Battle for the Cowl" and "Gotham Gazette", and I missed Anarky so I'm glad to see him back (even though it's not the original one) and I love his new motivation. Anarky's arrival, fittingly enough, totally messes with Tim's careful planning. (Tim: "...at the end of the day I have to accept that I can control everything...except the things I can't control...") Marcus To's art suits the book perfectly.

Punisher/Franken-Castle 12-20: I'm sure the purists are up in arms about Rick Remender's conversion of Frank Castle into a Frankenstein-like monster, but I've actually really enjoyed it. (The purists have the MAX series if they want straight crime stories.) It's well written -- I defy you not to be moved by the Moloid scene in #12, for instance, for which kudos also must go to Tony Moore's art -- and true to the character, which I know sounds strange but trust me. There's even some evolution in his character, as shown in the scene with Henry at the beginning of #17 (this time by artist Roland Boschi.) The rematch with Daken in the "Dark Wolverine" crossover issues is also well done, if a bit unsatisfying. What somewhat ruins this arc for me, oddly enough, is how short it will be. Frank's already back to normal in Shadowland and Remender is on record that this run ends with #21. Going "hey he's OK again" so soon, even though there's an explanation involving a classic Marvel artifact, makes the whole thing seem like kind of a lark when I was taking it seriously and would have liked to see it explored for at least a couple of years. That said, I still recommend this when it all comes out under one cover in December.

That's all I have time for today. More later in the week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Darwyn Cooke Video

I was going to wait for Shane write about this first, but he's super busy. So, Darwin Cooke gave a brief, passionate convention interview at Fan Expo last weekend and caused controversy on some of the comics blogs. You can watch the 1 minute video here and scroll down a little bit to see his follow-up comments. There's also some polite opinion about Cook's comments here and some not-so-polite comments here. I encourage you to at least watch the video before reading my reactions below. Go ahead, I'll still be here when you get back. (The video is bleeped, but it and some of the reactions are arguably not safe for work.)

I think what irked me about Cooke's comments was not the alleged disrespect to lesbians, which really isn't there if you watch the video instead of reading a transcript (although I maintain he should have been smart enough to know that using "lesbian" and "something decent" in the same sentence was going to come back and bite him), it's the disrespect for his fellow creators. I mean, I'm a big fan of not caring whether people like you or not, but there's no reason to be a jerk about it. Maybe he'd have a point if there were any "characters that have been straight for over 60 years becoming lesbians", but I think it's a thoughtless comment to make about Greg Rucka and JH Williams' exquisitely crafted new character. I assume Cooke is just reacting to the lesbian idea, maybe from the NY Times article, because I can't imagine a professional who's actually read the book calling the people who worked on it "stupid" or "uncreative". (Not that everybody has to like the book, but you can't argue with its level of craft.) Plus, it's just a crappy way to treat a couple of colleagues. I respect Cooke's passion, but if he's going to badmouth fellow pros in public he ought to have at least read the work. Would he want Rucka criticizing "New Frontier" after only watching the cartoon? That said, Cooke does seem to have read "All-Star Batman and Robin" and he's right about how excessive it is. I don't think it should have been marketed under that name compared to "All-Star Superman", which is about the showing the best that character can be. (And see also the Comics Alliance article I posted earlier about how Grant Morrison's Batman inspires others to be heroic.)


I agree with the idea of creating new characters that are gay or lesbian instead of imposing someting on existing charcters that doesn't fit (though this blogger has a good point about that), but I can't work up a lot of sympathy for the original Batwoman who was an embarassingly outdated female stereotype even when I started reading comics as a kid in the '70s. (She carried a "utility purse" with lipstick gadgets and the like and her goal was to marry Batman.) I could see his point if it was Dick Grayson or someone like that, but it's not like the original Batwoman has an illustrious publishing history. She's been "dead" since 1982. She's an anachronism. It's like complaining that there's a new Bat-Mite and he's an imp instead of a sprite.

Yes, there are characters like Obsidian and Northstar that have been made "retroactively" gay (and Shatterstar I guess, though it seems he just wants to shtup everything that moves), but Cooke is an old school DC guy and I can't imagine he gives a crap about those characters. And remember, until not that long ago all DC characters were generic white people. (Yes, I know Brainiac 5 was green and Shadow Lass was blue in the '60s. Sorry, doesn't really count.) In order to make them interesting to a modern audience, you have to invent new things about them. Colossal Boy was made retroactively Jewish years ago. So what? It made him more interesting. (Marginally, but you get my point.) Is that what his creator intended? I doubt he even thought about it. (Same with Obsidian, whose personal life was basically a blank slate before Marc Andreyko came along.)

The argument, in Cooke's follow-up comments, that creators should be making new characters instead of mining the old ones is a good one. Of course, the current market won't buy new characters, which is why I agree with his point that it can't survive on the tastes of the 40-something nostalgia readers -- Mike Manley derisively calls them "babymen" -- even though I am one. (In age if not in attitude -- I like to think I embrace the new instead of expecting things to be like they were when I was a kid. And I don't think I'm "perverted".) Clearly, all of Cooke's comments come from passion, which is cool. I love comics too and I want them to survive after I'm gone (even if the print medium doesn't). If that means they have to outgrow me, I'm OK with that. And who knows, maybe I'll grow with them. (Certainly all the great people I've met through comics have enriched my life beyond measure, but that's a topic for another day.)

Postscript (one day later): Gail Simone said online today that Cooke was actually referring to Renee Montoya, but that doesn't change my argument. Renee's not a 60-year old character, she was created for "Batman: The Animated Series" in the '90s if memory serves. She was pretty much a cipher, other than as a foil for Harvey Bullock, before being established as a lesbian years before she became The Question. The Question isn't a 60-year old character either, and the version that Renee replaced was not the original Steve Ditko version. To me, that's just good long form storytelling. (Albeit not planned from the beginning.) Again, if you picked up an issue of "Nightwing" someday and Dick Grayson suddenly decided to stop dating women then Cooke would have a point. But nothing like that has happened.

PPS (two days later): I'm pretty much over this now. Actually, I feel bad about the whole thing. I said often during the last presidential campaign that nobody could stand up to having their every word parsed for meaning like everyone did to both candidates. So, I'm disappointed in myself that I got caught up in the moment and did the same thing to Darwyn Cooke over a one minute sound byte. Still, I think it's worth exploring that it (however briefly) elicited a strong reaction from me so I decided to share what I had written anyway and see what you all think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article: The Double-Batmen of 'Batman, Inc.'

I try really hard not to be "link guy" on this blog, because I figure those of you who are interested are already following some or all of the news sites in the sidebar. However, the article below by Chris Sims at Comics Alliance (a site a little off the beaten track) is really well written and it crystallizes my own thoughts about the Batman characters recently so well that I had to share it with you:

The Double-Batmen of 'Batman, Inc.': What Does It Mean for the Dark Knight?

Bat and Dog meet again!


As somebody who owns the original crossover on video, I had to love this news from Comics Continuum:

Scooby-Doo will appear in an episode of Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold titled "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases!," The Continuum has learned.
The episode will be similar to the "Legends of the Dark Knight" episode of Batman: The Animated Series in that three different incarnations of Batman will be featured.
Scooby will be featured in one of the three segments, along with a guest-star playing himself, as was often the case in the early Scooby cartoons.
The episode is written by Paul Dini and directed by Ben Jones.
Hopefully, they'll use the gang from "Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated" (pictured above), which is currently running on Cartoon Network and is actually quite good.

THE SIXTH GUN #3: weird western worth seeking out

THE SIXTH GUN #3 (August 2010, Oni Press)  written by Cullen Bunn;  illustrated and lettered by Brian Hurtt

          Perfect in every detail, THE SIXTH GUN deserves a bigger audience.  As long as it maintains this level of quality and entertainment value I’m going to write about every individual issue here.

          Issue #3 is a very important piece of the storyline, as more essential details are revealed and events that writer Cullen Bunn has been building up to get the spotlight turned on them.

6th Gun 3

          The power of the sixth gun that has bonded to Becky manifests itself first in her dreams and then whenever she holds or uses the gun for any length of time.  But it has more than one usage, as the concluding pages of the story reveal yet another ability.   Each gun has unique attributes and properties that transfer to the user.  These are all briefly explained, and we learn that the five other guns are in possession of General Hume’s four enforcers as well as his creepy wife.

          The properties of the sixth gun were directly responsible for the battlefield successes of General Hume, which is one of the reasons he wants to re-gain possession of it now that his body has been revived.   We also learn more of Drake Sinclair’s former association with General Hume and why he may not be the most trustworthy protector of Becky.  Both he and crusty companion O’Henry seem to be mapping their escape route/activities based on visions revealed to them by the mysterious Gallows Tree (first seen in Issue #1). 

          And the trio seem to be moving towards a mysterious Fort located in a swamp and surrounded by temporary grave markers, with an even darker secret excavation behind its walls.   These glimpses of the future/past are shaded by artist Brian Hurtt in tones of red and black only, in extreme contrast to the highly colorful panels depicting current events.

            Hurtt’s marvelous work on inks and colors really shines in this issue.  His realistic backdrops of the Western skyline are a perfect wash of colors, all the more remarkable for his abilities to include this much art/detail in a small panel format evocative of  1950’s EC horror books.

          There is much to admire and enjoy in THE SIXTH GUN.  If you like reading horror comics, dark Westerns, mystery or just enjoy a well-developed storyline that slowly unravels and gains depth as it continues - - then you should be reading this title.  Quit waiting for the as-yet-unannounced trade to come out  - - you’re missing too much fun.   Get it now either through your local comics shop, online source, or directly from Oni  (www.onipress.com)  - - before the values go up.