Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Bother With the New JUSTICE LEAGUE. COMICS REVIEWS FOR THIS WEEK.

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JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Jim Lee (pencils) & Scott Williams (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics


***CAUTION: SPOILERS ABOUND***

Hold on a second...you're not just some guy in a bat costume are you? Are you freaking kidding me?!” – Green Lantern to Batman.

Well, as expected, I am clearly not the audience that this comic book is intended for. I really tried to just enjoy it on it's own merits, but it's such a lousy piece of work, I find it impossible to generate any sense of enthusiasm for it or for anything else on the horizon of the DC overhaul. I hesitate to call it a “reboot” or a “relaunch” anymore since nobody on staff there seems to be able to consistently define what exactly they are doing other than marketing it in contradictory ways.

This is the first issue of the JUSTICE LEAGUE. It is also the first issue of the “New” DC. DC 3.0 if you will. (DC 1.0 being everything up to CRISIS and DC 2.0 being everything post-CRISIS up to post-FLASHPOINT.) It is also one of the most stilted, disjointed inconsistent messes I've read from DC this side of FINAL CRISIS. The story, as it is, starts in Gotham City with Batman chasing after a monster (who looks somewhat like Sleez from John Byrne's ACTION COMICS days) who turns out to be some sort of minion of Darkseid and blows himself up for no real obvious reason. Well, I take that back. The reason is he is the plot complication that draws Green Lantern to Gotham so he can meet Batman. See, GL is the protector of this space sector and got tipped that an “extraterrestrial” threat had appeared in Gotham. So, he flew straight away to check it out.

Yeehaw! Green Lantern? Meet Batman. Batman? Meet Green Lantern. Much awkward exposition and insipid back-and-forths between the two of them. Apparently, in DC 3.0, GL is (or was 5 years ago, when this was set) is a moron and talks way too much. I had high hopes that in DC 3.0, maybe Batman wouldn't be an asshole. I was wrong. Batman 3.0 is a vigilante who works outside the law and there's a monster running across the rooftops, so understandably the Gotham City Police Department is chasing after both of them. Which is their job!! But that doesn't dissuade asshole-Batman from calling them “idiots”....for FRIGGIN' DOING THEIR JOB!!!!

Yes. Moron Green Lantern just said "It
combusted into fire." Next he's going to
tell us that an ice cube "Melted into
water" or that the water "Evaporated
into gas" or "Froze into ice."
The two of them, Batman and GL, make the brilliant deduction that since the suicide bomber was an extraterrestrial, then they should team up, hold on to the Mother Box left behind, and head to Metropolis to talk to that “Superman” guy that “they say” is an.......”alien.” Which also makes me wonder, looking at these pages again, just exactly how Batman realizes that the Mother Box is not a “bomb” but more like an alien computer. How much experience does this Batman have with alien technology? They just watched “Sleez” blow himself up, why wouldn't they be more cautious with that thing?

Interlude with Vic Stone. These pages of the football game and the spectators in the stands are the stiffest and most lackluster pages in the book. This is when this title could have really benefited from someone who has a stronger ability to move back and forth between action and personal/emotional moments.
The "Victor Stone" I recognize.

On into Metropolis where moron GL instantaneously gets his ass kicked by a red and blue blur. Last panel is our first “exciting” view of Superman 3.0.

This comic has a lot riding on it. Essentially, it sets the tone and spirit of the v-notched-high-collared DC 3.0. The world I found myself in was younger for sure, but it wasn't much different in tone or spirit than DC up till now. I found myself surprised that this was written by Geoff Johns. It didn't feel like Johns to me. The dialogue was terrible and the manner in which it unfolded just did not flow naturally or organically to me. It felt like it was cribbed off a flow chart of plot and character bits. I got no sense of passion or thrill. The interaction between GL and Batman was terrible. GL delivers exposition out the wah-zoo and comes off stupider than Ryan Reynolds' version of Hal Jordan. Batman just groused his way through the scenery with his grouchy, stubbly chin. This sense of each of these characters (GL, Bats, Supes) approaching each other like they're comparing genital-sizes rang false and immature. These are our heroes now. Are they supposed to be 14 years old? They seem to talk at each other like they are. The retelling of Vic Stone's pre-Cyborg life was dull and uninteresting. Whereas, in the original NEW TEEN TITANS series, the character of Vic Stone and his family dynamic was one of those elements that endeared him to me. In this comic, I didn't recognize him as the Victor Stone I once knew. It was just a generic “troubled” character.

I think Geoff Johns was attempting to swipe from SEVEN SAMURAI/MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to create a classic story of how 7 disparate characters could all get drawn together against a common enemy. However, with the use of Darkseid as an other-worldly “god” who winds up drawing our characters together, he actually absent-mindlessly just cribbed from Marvel's AVENGERS for the JUSTICE LEAGUE version 3.0 with Darkseid filling in for the Loki role.

I was really hoping for something more substantial and truly new in approach. This was, unfortunately, just the TACO BELL JUSTICE LEAGUE, where they look at the ingredients they already have on hand, mix them up and rearrange them, and claim an “all-new” menu. But it's really just the same old tacos and burritos.

Artistically, I found the comic to be mostly sketchwork-level with massively overdone coloring work. Much of the action was hard to follow. The flow of the work from panel to panel was inconsistent and was at times distracting. The details on Batman's annoying armored costume come and go from panel to panel. GL has irrelevant seams and/or armor on his chest and arms that makes no sense with the rest of the costume where the boots and gloves look like cloth. Either go organic like the recent film, or cloth like in 1.0 and 2.0, or go construct-armor style. The inconsistent blend of the two is distracting. Superman looks like Ultra-Man now.

I've seen some of Jim Lee's pencils, which were stronger than the stiffness and sketchiness here, so I may have to lay blame on Scott Williams' inking for some of my disappointment. The color work made some panels not only difficult to distinguish what was happening, but just plain hurt my eyes. I'm not sure why some modern colorists don't realize that just because you CAN do photoshop effects doesn't mean you HAVE to do them. In fact, that last page reveal of Superman is an example of terrible texturing and effects unnecessarily intruding on what should be the most exciting panel in the book.

I was honestly planning on getting the trade for this book because I usually like Geoff Johns's writing and Jim Lee's art. But now, I think I'll just move on to something else.

Reading this comic reminded me of a line from The Who when they sang “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss.” And remember the title of the song? I hereby nominate “We Won't Get Fooled Again” as the theme song for the DC Comics fans.


FLASH GORDON: INVASION OF THE RED SWORD PART 4: POWER
Writer: Brendan Deneen
Artist: Eduardo Garcia
FLASH GORDON?!” – King Crax of the Fire People
Uh..yep, that's me. Unless you want to kill Flash Gordon. In which case, I hate that guy too.” – Flash Gordon
In a week in which one major publisher hits blitzes the comic shops with their insanely over-hyped relaunch, there's a slight...ever so miniscule....chance that some lesser hyped comics might get overlooked. In this case, one that might get overlooked might be Ardden Entertainments current FLASH GORDON series. So, let me take a moment to remind you that this comic is also available today at your local comics retailer.
I hear a lot of grousing (and sometimes do the grousing myself) about the absence of fun and adventure in modern comics. I keep looking forward to this series every month precisely because it fills that void. It is possible to tell a serialized adventure series in comics without on panel rapes, graphic beheadings and amputations. It is possible to entertain the hell out of your reader without rotting corpses and psychopathic over-the-top villains. It is possible to tell a long-form story in serialized form that is complete on its own yet continues the larger story and it is possible to do proper character development without crossovers and tie-ins. FLASH GORDON demonstrates this every month, consistently.

As it should, this comic moves from cliffhanger to cliffhanger each month and is a thrilling ride every time. The invasion of the planet Mongo by the bloodthirsty humans of The Red Sword is in full force right now and our heroes (and villain) are separated and struggling to survive. As the anticipation builds in the story, so does the anticipation in the reader as to if and when our team will reunite and quell this invasion. More importantly, how can they rebuff the Red Sword without reestablishing Ming as the powerful Emperor of Mongo.

The difficult thing is to write about an issue like this without overly spoiling it, but at the end of the previous issue, Flash found himself abandoned by his “partner” Ming (no surprise there) to drown in a flooding cave. Since the comic is eponymously titled, it should come as no surprise that Flash figures a way out of his predicament, but then he finds himself once-again face-to-face with a fire-breathing dragon. This creatures seem to be rather common on Mongo.

Dale Ardden, Vultan, and his daughter Talon meet a race of men I, at least, am unfamiliar with – The Power Men of Mongo. Another fascinating extrapolation of beings in that The Power Men are cyborgs on the run from the brutal rule of Ming. Threads of story are picked up from the FG: MERCY WARS and Queen Fria of Frigia.

In other words, a whole lot happens in this one comic book. And this has been the pattern for the entire series. This is seriously one of the best paced books out there, as are all the Arrden and Atlas comics, in that it mirrors the active storytelling of the old movie serials but actually involves the reader in the lives and the personalities of the people of Earth who are stranded on Mongo, but especially those who are native to Mongo.

Ming is missing from this issue, but his presence is like an umbrella covering the entire proceeding. The series is called FLASH GORDON, but Ming is the character who keeps it focused at all times.
 
Every time I review this series, I always make a point of complimenting the art. The thing about the artist, Eduardo Garcia, is that he came on to this series following an artist who had already established the look and the style for it. That's a tough place to find yourself in as an artist. What I have noticed from issue to issue is that each successive issue begins to look less like Garcia is trying to match that earlier style and more organically Garcia himself. And that's a progression that I whole-heartedly approve of. I enjoy his work and he's a fantastic graphic storyteller. I also will take a moment to rave about the color work once again. It always strikes me how other-worldly Mongo seems. It really looks like the reader is viewing these scenes through the light of a sun and planet quite different from our own. And these color and lighting choices are deliberate and effective. If you're already reading this series then you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't picked it up yet, this is a good time to jump in because you can get all four issues and be up to speed before the next one comes out.

AND DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THESE AND OTHER COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEWS AT AINTITCOOL.COM

They are a great bunch of guys who really tell it they way they feel it,
and that's hard to come by in the comics reviewing market.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

High School Art *flashback* (Part 2)

Entertainment
In Part 1, I tossed up some art from Jr. High on into the early years of High School.  Now, I'm going to share some stuff from the latter half of High School (and maybe some College).  Just keep in mind that I was young and still learning! 

 This first pencil drawing was of "Snowball" from ANIMAL FARM.  He's the Lenin analogue in the allegory.  I am 100% convinced that the roots of my own conservative ideology can be traced back to my eye-opening encounter with Orwell's work through my High School English class.  *Thanks Mrs. Hopper!*

Other than girls and food, the things that primarily occupied my High School mind were comics, Star Trek, and vampires.  Slow time in class produced this Dracula sketch that I never finished. 

Star Trek was in the front of my mind after the incredible experience at that age of the death of Mr. Spock in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN -- which is where this sketch got its inspiration.  You'll note I started to lay down some inks on it and then never bothered to finish it.  Story of my life.

This ink sketch of Daredevil was done entirely using a croquill pen and india ink with no pencils at all.  Also done at school during some down time.
 Which brings me to something that I started doing in High School (and continues today occasionally when somethig gets stuck in my head).  That would be the costume redesign for popular super-heroes (something popularized online at Project: Rooftop) and original character concepts.

The original "MIMIC"
In this old, ragged X-MEN comic I had left over from when I was little, there was a story featuring a character called "The Mimic" and his mutant power was that he had all the powers of the X-Men themselves.   That means, he had wings like Angel, eye-beams like Cyclops, monkey hands and feet like Beast, ice-hurling powers like Iceman, and telekinetic abilities like Marvel Girl.

By the time I was in High School, the most popular comic book published by Marvel was The "New" X-MEN, which was primarily made up (at this time) of Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Sprite.  I thought, in my brilliant teenaged brain, that since the original Mimic had sacrificed his life to save the X-Men, that it was time for a "New" Mimic to show up and join the X-Men.  So, tis was my update of the original Mimic's costume with elements that demonstrated he was adapting the powers of the current line-up of characters rather than the original line-up.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

High School Art *flashback* (Part 1)

Entertainment
Digging through one of my old art portfolios I have stashed under my bed to post that old drawing I did of Iron Man back in 1980 got me looking through the whole thing.  So, I snapped some photos of a bunch of my doodles and such from my high school years (I also snapped some of my college years). 

What follows is a little trip down my cartooning memory lane.  For most pieces, I do remember what I was thinking at the time and will share that as well as the snapshot.  I was a weird kid with odd things that I would fixate on.  All of these photos should be clickable so that you can see them larger, and more clear...if you want.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Iron Man Art *flashback*

Entertainment
From 1980.  My attempt at drawing Iron Man.

 

Friday, August 12, 2011

MICKEY #1 Coming Soon from the House of Ech

Entertainment
MICKEY #1

Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Mickey! #1! Eisner Award winning writer Greg Rucka and rising-star artist Marco Checchetto set the Disney Universe’s deadliest mouse back out onto the streets! Mickey is locked and loaded for his most violent mission yet as he takes aim on New York City’s newest criminal organization, Warner Bros! Can Disney’s one man war machine mow down the entirety of Warner Bros or will they prove to be too much for Mickey to take on alone? With every clip He empties into the guilty he gets further away from being able to find the mouse he used to be…and he has absolutely no problem with that. Get a view from behind the crosshairs as Disney’s newest Big Shot unleashes his brand of justice, only in Mickey! #1!

Mickey! #1 (JUN110657)
Written by GREG RUCKA
Penciled by MARCO CHECCHETTO
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
Variant Cover by SAL BUSCEMA
Variant Cover by NEAL ADAMS
Blank cover also available
Parental Advisory …$3.99


*Tip o' the hat to Charles K. for concept and writing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today's "THE WAY THING'S OUGHTTA BE" MOMENT OF ZEN...

Entertainment

A Review of DAREDEVIL #1 and some Ardden & Atlas Comics...

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DAREDEVIL #1

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera
Publisher: Marvel Comics

"Eventually I had to leave the city, my legal practice, my friends. But now I'm home, determined to put it all behind me and start fresh...because it's either that, or succumb to insanity.

Again."
-- Matt Murdock

Pardon the pun, but I went into this comic blindly and came out feeling like a kid again. My formative comic-reading years were the Frank Miller years on DAREDEVIL and as far as I was concerned, the story of Matt Murdock came to a pretty definitive close in 1987 with the "Born Again" storyline. I've never held any interest in any run on DD since then. So, that would make it, what? 24 years since I've picked up a DD comic? Just about. I did pick up THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR retelling of his origin by Miller and John Romita, Jr. (loved it) and I did eventually pick up the trade of the Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada story where Karen Page got killed (didn't love it, though the art was pretty good).

So, what happens when someone weaned on the gritty and dark world of the Miller version of DD comes back to try out this relaunch? He finds one of the most enjoyable pure super-hero comics he's read in a long time. Without the need to retcon out the last 20 or 30 years of increasingly horrible events in Matt's life and the utter lack of humor and fun in his exhaustingly depressing existence, Waid embraces it all with great humor and a positive outlook.

Basically, DD is at a point in his life where he either spirals into a suicidal depression or decides that it's not the world that needs to change, but his own outlook on life. Matt Murdock has rediscovered the joy of life and it spills over into an enthusiasm throughout the entire comic and a whimsical approach to his derring-do that has been missing for way too long.

This does not mean that there's no danger or that the comic has slipped into parody zone. What this means is that Matt remembers who he was before his world started falling apart around the time that Elektra reappeared in his life. Yes, he has lost everything, including his secret identity, over the years (over and over) but he has decided to step up his game and start moving forward in control of his life rather than letting circumstances control him.

What this means for the reader is that we feel the enjoyment that Matt is feeling. It is infectious. Rather than being frustrated by those around him trying to continually bring up his DD identity, he instead just relentlessly holds the position that he is not DD and just smiles. The logic here is that really, only a few people "actually" know Matt is DD for sure. The rest of the people have "heard" it or "read" it, but we shouldn't believe everything we read on the Internet and in papers *wink*wink*. To the public, DD doesn't appear to have any special powers, so how in the world could he be...blind? It's a great way for Waid, as writer, to deal with the loss of identity and eventually be able to remove it from the platter of plot complications.

I just really enjoyed everything about it. I loved the creative way that DD prevented the kidnapping at the start of the book. Waid took an otherwise lame villain and turned him into someone who should be almost impossible for DD to defeat. The cleverness and quick-thinking of DD used to be one of charms of the character. It was a thrill to see that in play here. The visual representation of his radar sense was fascinating to see (and read). I particularly loved the "voice-over" monologuing of Matt throughout the book. It helps the reader truly see the world through his "eyes." The visual choices made in this book demonstrated some serious thought and consideration on how to visualize this aspect of the character.

Paolo Rivera does an amazing job, as artist, with this comic. Amazing. Flawless artwork and storytelling from cover to finish. The cover, particularly, is an astounding work of art and sums up DD in a single, smiling, image. The backup story by Waid and artist Marcos Martin was a brilliant piece of work to catch up any new readers on exactly what this "radar sense" actually is and how Matt uses it in his daily life.

I loved the one-page origin recap by Fred Van Lente and Martin. That is the way to do it. Get in; get out. On with the story. Sweet cliffhanger moment too at the end. My highest recommendation for fans of super-hero comics.