Monday, May 31, 2004
(For a good laugh, check out his AWOL! strip of last week)
This caught my eye:
You will see one noticeable difference, unlike most Japanese comics that are serialized in magazines first, most Korean stuff is produced for the Rental Library market.
(In Korea, you go to a comic shop, pay a couple or so bucks and either stay for several hours and read all you want buffet style or borrow a bunch for couple of weeks, just like a movie rental. If you ask to buy them and they'll just stare at you like an idiot. Unlike the Japanese, the Korean public has yet to experience the sheer American pleasure of buying something you'll read/watch once, that will clutter up you home for 20 years and end up at a garage sale for 50 cents. Japan does have a ton of used bookstores just for manga, where you can get the stuff cheap, and in bulk, but the publishing industry still bitch about them cutting into the sale of new comics.)
And so while serialized stories need to fit a 20~ page chunk per episode, the rental libraries deal in whole books, around 150 pages or so. Since you get paid per book, not per page, lot of the Korean cartoonist fit 3-4 huge panels a page and fit a whole arc luxuriously in to a novella, instead of the 6-8 tight panels for a ~20 page episode in some weekly.
Friday, May 28, 2004
THE PULSE 3: Thin Air, Part 3
After spending two issues setting up the premise for the series and for this story, Bendis and Bagley finally have both the main characters (Jessica Jones and Ben Urich) and the plot (Bugle reporter is killed by Norman Osborn) collide. And it's starting to be good. The scene where Jameson and Robertson gather the Bugle reporters to tell them about Terri's death is particularly moving; Jonah can't say it, he is genuinely upset. Robbie grimly tells his people to work this case and solve it:
"Jonah has asked me to tell you...that we take care of our own."
The small scene between Jessica and her beau Luke Cage is fun "You never cry. This a pregnant thing?") and the scene with Jessica, Ben and Kat (another reporter) imagining who could have dropped Terri into the river is simply brilliant:
Ben: "I got nothing."
Jessica: "Me neither."
Kat: "What were we just doing?"
The final scene is the money shot, however, as Ben finally realises who must have committed the crime. Fear grips him (kudos to Bagley on the art here) and he picks up the phone...and calls Peter Parker.
Mmmm. Roll on issue 4.
Ultimate Spider-Man 59: Hollywood, Part 6
The 'Hollywood' story ends, and Bendis has managed to turn it into something more than a crap movie tie-in. Yay! And since the job of beating up Doc Ock is done, we get to return to the interesting stuff: Peter Parker's 'real life', as permanant houseguest Gwen Stacy holds a gun in his face, having worked out that he is Spider-Man, and that he, therefore, killed her father...
This storyline really has been the more interesting of late. The Ock stuff was better than it looked to be, but was still fairly standard comics fare. The continuing Gwen plot has been a highlight of the book for over a year now, and it's good to see that Bendis isn't letting it stagnate. Now that Gwen knows his secret, there is potential for a million interesting twists on the Peter-MJ-Gwen triangle that is slowly developing.
Finally, the way that Nick Fury deals with Ock's arms is genius. Just genius. Presumably, this means that either Octavius has waved farewell to the Ultimate world, or that if he comes back, he'll be new and interesting...
Next, to prove that yes, I am a whore for Bendis, we have
Daredevil 60 (440): The King of Hell's Kitchen, Part 5
Finishing off this, I feel, ground-breaking Daredevil arc, Bendis finally has Murdock back in costume figting the bad guys, in this case the Yakuza who have been dogging him. By using three other Marvel heroes in the issue (Spidey, Iron Fist and Bendis fave Luke Cage), we get to compare DD to others and see that there really is a need for his brand of superheroic vigilantism.
Continuing the Spidey theme, we have J. Michael Straczynski's
The Amazing Spider-Man 507: The Book of Ezekiel, Chapter Two.
This story is what JMS hasn been working towards since he started on the book. All the questions from the early issues of hisrun, about Ezekiel, and about Peter and his powers, are finally answered. To be brief, Ezekiel's a bastard who wants to be Spider-Man. The Spider bit Peter because he was a "hunter without teeth." All the mystical badness that has haunted the last 3 years of the book has been hunting Ezekiel, but been redirected to Peter, and now comes the final showdown...
This is mainly an expositional issue, but that doesn't hurt it, 'cos not only is the exposition well-done, but it's also what we've waiting for. And as for the end...when is 508 out?
They said to would never happen...but it has.
NYX 4: Wannabe, Part Four is finally out.
Issue three shipped in December, and I haven't read any of it since then, so handily we get a wee bit of exposition from Kiden here. Okay, that's a lie. We actually get almost a whole issue of exposition. And more of X-23 in her underwear.
I'm bored. Although Josh Middleton's art is still very pretty.
I'll keep reading this book to the end of the first story, and if it improves, great. If not...well, there's always Chuck Austen...
That, to be clear, was a joke. Austen is the worst thing to happen to comics since Rob Liefield, and with his (and Chris Claremont's) current stranglehold on the X-books, we really need something special from the books they don't crap out.
So, do we have it from Joss Whedon and John Cassady?
Astonishing X-Men 1: Gifted doesn't fill me with confidence, I'm afraid, but it's at least a start.
First, let me make something clear. I LOVE Joss Whedon. I think the man is a tiny God, and I worship him as such. Simply for the creation of the Buffyverse, he is a Very Good Thing Indeed. However, his comics writing is rather patchier than his TV, more akin to his movie work (with credits such as Toy Story and Alien: Resurrection, he has a mixed bag there). Fray, the future-Buffyverse book was good, but in no way outstanding (I'm gonna talk about it another time), while his turns in Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires have been some of his best work. Ever.
His inaugural work for Marvel is, I feel, rather more Alien Resurrection than Toy Story. While it's not outright bad, and has a lot of that trademark Whedon brilliance, it lacks any real originality. The issue is structured thusly:
1) A mysterious prologue,
2) Kitty arriving at the (rebuilt) mansion, thinking about the past, trading barbs with Emma (Whedon's best-written character by a mile, as you would expect from someone who's written Spike and Anya),
3)An iteration of the new agenda for the school,
4) A touching Scott and Emma moment which ends with Wolverine on the end of their bed,
5) A Cyclops/Wolverine fight,
6) The big exposition scene, with the reason for the costume change,
7) A final intercutty scene with the X-Men gearing up while mutant terrorists attack rich folks and a scientist holds a press conference, declaring that she can cure mutation.
This final thing will be, I hope, where Whedon places his attention. Throughout his run, Morrison looked at the idea of mutants as the new race, with humanity dying out. Whedon seems to be taking a diametrically opposed approach, as Doctor Rao espouses:
"Mutants are not the next step in evolution. They are not the end of humankind. The mutant gene is nothing more than a disease. A corruption of healthy cellular activity. And now, at last...we have found a cure."
Dialogue triumphs? Too many to list, as you'd expect from Whedon, but top prizes to:
Emma: "This, children, is Kitty Pryde, who apparently feels the need to make a grand entrance."
Kitty: "I'm sorry. I was busy remembering to put on all my clothes."
Emma: "So gushingly glad you could join us."
Emma: "Superpowers, a scintillating with and the best body money can buy...and I still rate below a corpse."
Art? Gorgeous. John Cassaday has done himself proud here. Every page is a work of art worthy of being framed, but the big hero team shot takes first place for me. Cyclops' body condom might look stupid, but the two-page spread is just beautiful. His portrayal of Kitty throughout also deserves mention, especially as she looks to be the viewpoint character.
Also, it's nice to see that Whedon is taking all of Morrison's changes to the X-World on board and using them to further his own aims rather than simply riding roughshod over them like...certain other X-writers.
All in all, not the greatest of starts, but Astonishing X-Men shows a lot of promise, and is miles better than the other core X-books anyway.
I'm gonna have to read a few more times before I write about it, but for now...yes.
And the upcoming projects are eagerly anticipated, if only to see Morrison working with Quitely (JLA, New X-Men) and Bond (Kill Your Boyfriend) again. It's gonna be a good summer, folks...
Thursday, May 27, 2004
This gory splash page from We3 is brilliant, in a deeply horrible sort of way (the Barbelith kids all agree -- it's totally Hard Boiled), but I have to say that I'm even more impressed by this page from Vimanarama.
That's Philip Bond there folk, turning in an excellent slice of gonzo sci-fi! I was going to say that I can't wait to read this comic now, but since it comes out in January I guess I'm going to have to!
The following excellent excerpt from Seaguy #2 is too good for me not to post:
That not enough for you? Then check out this three page pdf preview of the first issue of We3 then.
It's excellent stuff -- very creepy and atmospheric -- and it looks like Morrison and Quitely are trying something here in terms of storytelling; as you'll notice, we never see a human face in close-up in these three pages.
Chris Ware did a lot of stuff in some of the earlier parts of Jimmy Corrigan where character's faces were pushed off-panel/obscured in order to emphasise the sense of isoltion that the story's main character felt, and it strikes me that a similar technique is being employed here, albeit with a slightly different purpose. It's a good way of putting you with the animals in terms of perspective and sympathy, no? I wonder how much of the rest of the book will be like this...
Anyways, that's enough enthusiasm for me from now. Much love to the Barbelith comics forum for keeping me linked up! Take care out there folks!
Whether or not Chubby is literally a manifestation of some areas of Seaguy's psyche, I like to think of him as working thematically this way. I'm really glad that Seaguy isn't being shown as being somehow more enlightened than "the media saturated masses" or anything like that: he's ended up on this adventure partly because of his status as a consumer (this is where that idea of Xoo as repackaged radicalism comes in), and partly because his own particular taste in escapism comes complete with an exaggerated need for "real" adventure (not necessarily a good thing). Whether or not Chubby and Seaguy are one and the same, they make an interesting partnership in this respect -- while Seaguy longs for to be part of something grand and romantic, Chubby seems more in tune with what's wrong on the ground level (or indeed just under the ground level!), something that is made somewhat tragic by his minute short-term memory.
Somewhat amusingly, given the whole "she'll never notice me" angle, She-Beard seems to be the character who is nearest to Seaguy's own personal frequency when it comes to her need for some sort of "real" heroism/adventure. Given that I've no idea how the plot is going to work out, I'm going to refrain from further comment on this front, but... there's something there, anyway.
Friday, May 21, 2004
First of all I'd like to point everyone in the direction of David Fiore, who has both compiled a nice round-up of all the posts that the first issue of this comic has generated in comics blogging circles, and has also written a damn good post about it himself.
If that hasn't sated your Seaguy needs, there's always this Barbelith thread, which is packed full of commentary from some of the more interesting Barbeloids, and also features more than a couple of guest appearances from series artists Cameron Stewart.
One thing that I neglected to mention in my previous post was quite how evocative Peter Doherty's colouring is; he gives this most bizarre of micro-universes just the right balance of lovingly textured brightness and murk, and his contribution to the series should definitely not be overlooked.
Well, that's me for now - take it easy out there folks!
Seaguy #1 by Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart and others, is just such a case.
Seaguy is a funny, surrealist romp through an allegedly utopian future, and as such it is full of all the things which Grant Morrison so clearly loves about superhero comics (which is to say, all that is amusing and insane about the worlds and characters they depict). Artist Cameron Stewart turns in a career best performance here, effortlessly bringing to life a vibrant, cartoony world packed full of wonders. This collaboration with Morrison also brings out a range in Stewart's artwork that had only been hinted at in his previous work; the ever present Mickey Eye is deeply unsettling, and there is a soft, melancholy quality to the body language of Seaguy himself that conveys a lot about the character in a very subtle way.
This then, is a comic book about what happens after evil has apparently been defeated (in the form of the splendidly named Anti-Dad). Seaguy presents the reader with a world of unhinged theme parks, where the rides are either terrifying or merely a stand-in in the absence of any "real" thrills; a utopia where everyone seems to feel depressed, scared, displaced, or numb, and where there is most certainly something very wrong going on. Seaguy is a about a guy who wants to be a part of some sort of grand adventure, and from the look of it he's going to find out quite how much the reality of this sort of thing differs from the fantasy. I have no idea where this comic is going, but this much I am sure of; it's going to be an upsetting journey in more ways than one.
I can't stress enough how effective all of this is, in terms of execution; there's clearly been a lot of energy and enthusiasm invested in this book (both visually and verbally, Seaguy is a pleasure to read) and the odd, stilted nature of the world it takes place in seems all the more shocking for it. Morrison has always had a good eye for ideas and images that are both silly and charged with a sort of irrational horror, and in Cameron Stewart he finds the perfect artist to bring this out.
While you can clearly break down what a lot of the elements of this comic are supposed to represent (Chubby and She-Beard seem to me to reflect, among other things, elements of Seaguy's inner world, while Mickey Eye and Xoo are obviously part of an absurdist commentary on capitalist society and the modern superhero comic), Seaguy as a whole still seems somehow inexplicable. Morrison and Stewart have created a light, breezy adventure story that is, rather fittingly, anything but light and breezy, and I'm ready to praise the hell out of them for this. Roll on issue #2!
Friday, May 14, 2004
The short version: I enjoyed it more than I felt I should when I was reading it.
The slightly longer version: I'm not sure whether or not I think the set up (an inversion of the typical superhero story wherein our hero is haunted by at least one dead parent figure) is clever or just screamingly obvious. The truth is that it's probably a mixture of both. There's something very schematic about the whole thing -- what if you were right when you were fifteen and your parents really had been evil all along? isn't a question I'm that interested in answering, to be honest with you. This is a problem I have with the comic in general; some of the characters are a tad too obvious (the cute goth chick! the jock! the little girl!), but... I dunno, there were enough idiosyncrasies in the execution to keep my interest peaked throughout. What can I say -- I found it very compelling, and if Scott picks up the next collection, I'll probably check it out. One thing though -- the pacing was just right for this digest trade, but I think it would have felt a little slow to me in single issues. That's not the most original criticism in the world, but that doesn't mean it's not true in this case.
I'll admit that I'm at something of a loss when it comes to finding something to say about Adrian Aphona's artwork -- it's... very fitting, I guess, in terms of general stylistics. It's slick, slightly manga-influenced, and the colouring has a nice sort of texture to it. My only big complaint would be that every now and then his facial expressions seem slightly off, but on the whole I guess I just wasn't that bothered by it either way.
On the whole then, yeah -- it's a fun comic book, if not one that I've got a huge investment in. The digest format is excellent though -- not only will it slip in nicely among all the manga books, but it's the perfect size to read on the bus too! That's all for now, folks. Take care.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Hellboy: Seed of Destruction
I know what you're thinking. I do, really. You're thinking "Graeme...you've never read Hellboy? What the...?
I'm sorry. I repent now of that sin. Why I haven't read this genius (yes, I said 'genius' in reference to a book involving John Byrne!) before is beyond me. I have, at this juncture, three things to comment upon:
1) Mark Chiarello's colours. I was reading this on a bus on a nice sunny day and as the sun streamed through the windows (or as much of them as it could, given the grime) the colours blazed to life! Really! I think it's all the blues and purples and other dark colours. They look all shiny in the light. Graeme like shiny thing. Hehe. The especially shiny (and therefore good) bits were where the Sorcerer's head is looming out of the darkness behind Emma Cavendish. Lovely stuff.
2) The art in general. Lovely and moody. And shiny, of course.
3) HB himself. If he was Ace Rimmer, I'd be saying 'What a guy!' But he's not. Ah, hell, I'll say it anyway. What a guy! The moment I came to love Hellboy? The second backup story, with him falling into von Klempt's lair yelling "Freeze! I don't know what you're doing...but I don't like it!" Excellent stuff. Despite John Byrne. Ho hum.
Runaways: Pride and Joy
The 'Marvel Age' digest of the first book of Runaways. It's fairly standard Marvel fare really, but entertaining nonetheless. Some characters with potential, although will someone PLEASE shoot the goth girl already? I mean, come on...she has a BIG ROD that can LODGE in her BODY. Subtlety please Brian K. Vaughan!
The idea is kinda cool, and 'The Pride' is interesting. Not being a huge Marvel buff, I don't know if this is an established organisation or something new, but it has potential, I feel, for further work.
If volume 2 tones down the angst (yeah, right), this could shape up kinda cool. As it is, at the low, low price it comes at, I'll definitely be picking up a copy. Sentinel and maybe even Emma Frost are also options (although I'll feel like a pervert if I buy the latter...that cover is AWFUL!)
And so we move onto...
Alan Moore's Top Ten, Book One
I don't know why, but whenever I'm talking about an Alan Moore book, I feel the need to call it "Alan Moore's whatever." Maybe it's because Alan Moore's V For Vendetta is what started me reading comics a few years back. Ah, well...
I loved Top Ten. Absolutely, totally. It has just the perfect blend of action, characters and balls to the wall insanity for me. Much like New X-Men in that regard. The Gograh stuff especially cracked me up, as did the "Libra killer" being a former superheroine porn-star from Antares. Classic stuff.
The art is lovely and shiny (there I go again) and I swear to...well Alan Moore I guess, since I don't believe in God, that within a few minutes of reading this, I felt like I'd known Neopolis and all that comes with it forever. It's really good. Really. Read it. Now.
Scott is currently out of the country on a top-secret mission to rescue David, who has been captured while trying to get access to advance copies of Seaguy, and is currently being held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay...
Okay, so that's a lie.
The truth is that David's internet connection was frazzled by a big old bolt of lightning on Monday, so he is currently out of service, and Scott is working. Since he works for the post office, that equals exhaustion. So you have...me. Sorry 'bout that.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
For the moment, while I still don't have my thoughts quite together, I'm gonna talk a little on Brian Michael Bendis' (now finished) MAX series 'Alias'.
I've had some difficulty obtaining the first two volumes of this series, so I've only read 'The Underneath' and 'The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones' thus far. It's really rather fun. It reads like Bendis pissing about in the Marvel U. and enjoying himself immensely. I mean, Madame Web?
More to follow once I re-read the books.
Superman did not become Superman...Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he is Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red S is the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears -- the glasses, the business suit -- that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.
Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak, unsure of himself...he's a coward.
Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."
From 'Kill Bill' vol.2
Friday, May 07, 2004
Because it's a website, dummy, which means it's on the internet. And the internet, as we all know, is good for only two things: pornography, and spam.
But why does the spam come to me?
Because your Dylan Moran impersonation is both terrible and probably meaningless to most of your readers?
That's not it, smartarse.
I know, I was just teasing.
So, will the internet eventually evolve into one big spam message then?
Yup. One big spam message for one big porn site.
You're pulling my leg.
Anyway, are you going to post anything interesting today, or are you just going to talk to yourself in public again?
The latter, I'm afraid. Though I'm not sure that the line between talking to yourself and writing something interesting is as well defined as you seem to think it is.
I think you'll find it is.
I'll take your word for it then.
And so you should. Is there anything with substance to it on the horizon?
With any luck, I'll be writing posts about X-Statix, Runaways, and Sleeping Beauty in the next week or so.
Good, good. Wait a minute, isn't this is a group blog?
Don't be so cheeky -- Scott's exams haven't finished yet, and Graeme doesn't have internet access at home, so...
You're on your own for the time being?
More or less.
Fair enough. Now lets call an end to this little back and forth -- people are starting to talk.
And what are they saying exactly? That my bargain basement Flann O'Brien-isms are characterless exercises in self-indulgence?
Among other things, yes.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Link via this Barbelith thread.
This is the first of a three-part story that will, according to this bit of press fodder, focus on "the troubled sex-life of a confused, obsessive, Japanese-American male in his late twenties, and his cross-country search for the perfect girl." If that sounds a little boring and clumsy, then rest assured that the actual finished product is imbued with all of the easy grace that Tomine's linework has attained over the years.
And truly, Tomine has developed a wonderful artistic style for himself. It's reminiscent of many other indie artists (Dan Clowes is the one most people mention), but yet touched with a lightness that is very much his own. This issue is drawn with a smooth, minimal elegance that could be called slight were it not for the fact that Tomine's pages always seem to be just as full as they need to be; his backgrounds are fleshed out, but not cluttered, and his characters are models of well observed simplicity. This approach carries on into the story itself; Tomine is clearly tackling a lot of tricky material pertaining to race and culture in this story, but so far this has all remained neatly embedded in the messy interpersonal relationships that give this comic its drive. There are a couple of scenes in this issue where everything falls away and you're left with little more than a couple of people talking in the shadows, and it's here that Tomine's skills are most evident. The dialogue between his characters is always emotionally loaded, but thankfully it never gets too earnest -- there's a finely tuned quality to the words and situations Tomine comes up with that is both emphasized by the art, and also mirrors it. Tomine's style has developed to the point where it can sustain stories such as this with ease, and I look forward to seeing where this is all going. Expect a more involved analysis when we find out!
You can read a five page preview of the comic here, and there's a good, if somewhat short, interview with Adrian Tomine up on Bookslut if you're interested.
Monday, May 03, 2004
"As for We3, a tad more about the three-issue miniseries was revealed, including that it’s a view of The Incredible Journey as only Grant Morrison could imagine it – three ultimate cyborg assassins: a dog named Bandit, a cat named Tinker, and a rabbit named Pirate, armed with missiles, poison gas, state-of-the-art computer technology, rapid fire chain guns and unbreakable exo-skeletons.
Described as a “heartbreaking adventure,” the three issue mini is drawn by Frank Quitely."
To which all I can say is -- what? That's a good sort of "what?", by the way. I wasn't expecting this, but I'm hella curious to see what this comic is actually going to be like, I can tell you!
And, in case you're interested, here's a link to a bigger version of that image.
(This info brought to my attention by Benjamin Birdie on this Barbelith thread).
There's a wonderful take on Ellis' recently completed Ministry of Space series over on John's Commonplacebook right now. Most reviews of the series have focused on the massive delay between issue #2 and issue #3, pegging the story itself as being little more than a prettily drawn version of the initial pitch, but John makes a good case for it being more interesting than that. Furthermore, in doing so he offers up maybe the most accurate summary of Ellis' ideology and technical skills as a writer that I have ever read.
In other Ellis news, you can check out his first issue as the writer of Ultimate Fantastic Four for free here. I'll have to give it a read over, but on first glance it didn't really do it for me, though it was in keeping with what I've read of Bendis/Millar's take on the characters.
I dunno... I guess I feel weird about Ellis as a writer. I like him, but I think all of the criticisms John offers up in that livejournal post I just linked to ring true for me. That said, I did very much enjoy the latest issue of Planetary (issue #19, I believe) -- it was, in many ways, just business as usual, but I dunno... the pacing just seemed better this time out than it has in a while. There was a big spectacular event, and lots of cool little snippets of dialogue, but it also brought quite a few things together, and there was a certain novelty in an issue of Planetary on an exciting cliffhanger, dontcha think? Lets just hope that Ellis, Cassaday et al back it up in the next issue!