Thursday, December 31, 2009

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2009 Part Three (50-26)

CBR continues its daily countdown of the top 100 books of 2009 as determined by its staff with the first half of the top fifty, #50-26. Only one selection from my top ten list is in this group: Young Liars (#36). That it places so low is a little annoying, but I can certainly understand people not liking it as much as I did. Oh. Wait. No, I can't.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2009 Part Two (75-51)

CBR continues its daily countdown of the top 100 books from 2009 as chosen by its staff with a rundown of #75-51 and this bunch doesn't contain any books from the top ten list I submitted. But, on the books (Captain America) just missed the top ten, coming in at #11...

CBR Review: Punisher MAX Vol. 5

I recently reviewed Punisher MAX vol. 5 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The fifth oversized hardcover volume of Punisher MAX collects 'Long Cold Dark' and 'Valley Forge, Valley Forge,' concluding Garth Ennis’ phenomenal five-year run on the book that has defined the character of Frank Castle unlike any other writer’s work on the character. By the final page of this volume, it’s easy to see why some say they have no need for further Punisher stories, that everything to say and do with the character has been said and done, that Garth Ennis has, by taking the character to new heights of quality, ruined the character forever. It’s that damn good."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Splash Page: Comics and Wrestling (Part Two)

[A special holiday edition of the Splash Page that has nothing to do with the holidays. Read the first part over at Tim's blog and then come back here for the second half...]

Chad Nevett: What do you think of the matches themselves or the storytelling? The stories are usually quite basic, but have any caught your interest?

Tim Callahan: I'm amused by Sheamus's rise to prominence and this whole notion of whether he deserves the title or not, even though the pretty clear story is that he doesn't deserve the title and that's the whole point. But the other storylines I know of -- the stuff with Randy Orton and Legacy, the rise in popularity of Kofi Kingston, the betrayal/feud between Batista and Rey Mysterio -- these things seem compelling and yet utterly simplistic. I can see why kids can enjoy the theatrics of it, and I can certainly see the connection between wrestling and superhero comics, with the repetition, the clear good guys and bad guys, and the obligatory fights. But for me, wrestling is more akin to travelling theatrical troupes from the middle ages or early Renaissance. Taking their shows from town to town in a caravan. Entertaining the crowd.

And I think I like comics for the art more than anything else. The art of the storytelling. The style of the visuals. I understand that wrestling can have style within the matches, but the acting in the tv skits is just terrible, and the wrestling I saw in Albany was mostly boring. Not much high-flying action, just a lot of headbutts and crawling around on the mat. It was the equivalent of reading a Mark Bagley comic.

In wrestling, have there been any storylines with the depth of the comics of Grant Morrison or Alan Moore. Or Joe Casey or Warren Ellis? Or are they all Jeph Loeb stories, because that's what it seems like from my outsider's perspective?

CN: There have been stories that have gone beyond what's happening now, but not by a lot necessarily. Earlier in the year, the feud between Jeff Hardy and CM Punk was rather good with CM Punk winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania, which gave him a briefcase with a world title contract that he could 'cash in' at any time. He chose to do so after Hardy finally won the world belt off of Edge, which was surprising because Punk was a face at the time and that seemed a dick move. That began his slow turn to being a heel where they used his straight edge lifestyle as his selling point and he brought up Hardy's past drug problems. That was notable, I think, for them being willing to bring those real life personal problems up when a lot of kids probably didn't know about them. A feud between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels last year was amazing in its construction and execution. Normally, I don't get too invested in storylines beyond superficial enjoyment, but that one had me. Jericho is, by far, my favourite wrestler and he had me hoping Michaels would win the culmination of their feud, a ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship. That may not be as deep as some comics, but getting me to hope that the guy I like more than anyone else will lose, that's some damn good storytelling.

I think you're right that it is theatre and not as sophisticated as many superhero comics -- but that's because of the limitations of the medium/genre and that wrestlers use a style of acting that big and loud, which doesn't translate well to quieter moments (which is why backstage segments are often very bad). But, I also think that wrestling does action and violence better than 99% of the superhero comics out there. Even the quickest, most boring matches are more exciting, for me, than almost any fight I've seen in a superhero comic, if only because wrestlers know how to contruct a fight, a back-and-forth contest between two opponents, and writers and artists don't. Or, at least, the experience of wrestling gives them a big advantage that writers and artists seldom have. I guess we disagree there a bit. But, then again, the WWE doesn't often have amazing matches. I got the first Dragon Gate USA pay-per-view on DVD for Christmas and it was the best single line-up of matches I've ever seen. Lots of high energy, high impact matches with wrestlers from Japan and North America. Probably something more to your speed.

TC: Well, fight choreography is about movement, so it's no surprise that wrestling does that better than comics. Though I'd still rather read a Kirby fight scene, or one by Denys Cowan or Frank Miller, than watch a wrestling match, even one that's better than what I might see on WWE.

And since plot and character are less important to me than tone and style, I don't think I'll ever succumb to the wiles of wrestling. From what I've seen, the tone and style only allow for so much variation, while in comics anything's possible.

If you had to choose -- if you could only read comics or only watch wrestling -- which one would be your top pick. Which is more important to you and why?

CN: Comics is a medium, while wrestling is a genre, so I think the answer is obvious: comics. One big plus for wrestling, though, is that I can experience most of it for free on TV. That nearly makes it a tough call. But, no, comics is more important to me than wrestling. That's one thing I've really hated about this whole wrestling/comics thing at CSBG: I have to be far more positive about wrestling than I actually feel. It has a lot of faults like you've pointed out. Its storytelling is limited and relies exclusively on conflict whereas comics can tell stories that go beyond that. I don't agree about your assessment of how each handles the fights (I'd choose the best wrestling over the best comic book fight any day of the week without question), but beyond that, comics can do more than wrestling. Superhero comics can do more than wrestling. Wrestling is a very narrow and limited genre, which is fine, because it's very entertaining. But, it's fictionalised sport -- would you choose football over comics? Some would, of course, just as some would choose wrestling, but you can see my point: I'm interested in stories and how they're told and what they tell, and comics can do so much more than wrestling. Thankfully, I don't have to choose.

To end things, I just want to touch on comics about wrestling. Titan will be publishing WWE Heroes in March and I've got to know: will you be buying it for your son?

TC: God, no. I saw some preview pages of that and it looks like something Malibu Comics would have squeezed out in 1995. Only worse. So, no.

Not because it's about wrestling characters. Because it's drawn with the grace and dignity of wrestling characters.

Would I buy a Quitely-drawn wrestling comic? A J. H. Williams III one? A Chris Ware one? Yes. Let's make those happen.

CN: Most westling comics, particularly licensed ones, are pretty bad. I may pick up the first issue for reviewing purposes -- or if I can get a gig going discussing/reviewing issues, but otherwise, I'm avoiding it as well.

And that does it. I don't know if we actually accomplished anything or shed new light on any subjects, but it was fun.

CBR's Top 100 Books of 2009 Part One (100-76)

Today, CBR begins its daily countdown of the collective top 100 comics of 2009 as voted on by its writers. It begins with #100-76 and includes two of my picks: Dark Reign: Zodiac (#99) and No Hero (#84). I wonder if all ten of the books I submitted will make the list. I guess we'll have to see!

CBR Review: Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Fool's Gold #1

I recently reviewed Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Fool's Gold (gotta love colons!) #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "When Sisko dismisses her concerns as a sign that people aren’t afraid to come to the station, she visits Odo who is having problems with all of the visitors as they seem determined to tear the station apart in an effort to find something -— and are bypassing his security measures to do so. While the Tiptons don’t quite have the rhythm and voices of most of the characters down yet, the way they write Odo’s dialogue is so good that you can practically hear René Auberjonois’s voice when reading the issue as they alter the spelling of words to match his delivery. Hopefully, future issues focus on the security chief because of this strength."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

CBR Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #21

I recently reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy #21 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "You would think that after the previous story arc where half of the team was killed, Abnett and Lanning would take a few issues to slow things down and relax, but you would be wrong. Guardians of the Galaxy continues to be that rare mainstream superhero book that is not afraid to change the status quo and put characters in real danger to suit the needs of the story. You literally do not know what to expect when you turn a page and that’s refreshing."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Uncanny X-Men #519

I recently reviewed Uncanny X-Men #519 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Things have not been going well for the X-Men since moving to Utopia (the former sunken Asteroid M), which is their island home off the coast of San Francisco, with an attack by the mutant-eating Predator Xs, a sliver of the Void making its home in Emma Frost’s mind, and the recent discovery that Utopia is sinking. Guess Cyclops didn’t think things through entirely, eh?"

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Last Days of American Crime #1

I recently reviewed The Last Days of American Crime #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "At some point in the future, the United States of America is switching from paper money to exclusively electronic currency, a move that will effectively kill crime since, now, every transaction will be recorded, monitored. How can you pay for drugs or prostitutes or any other illegal service when the police can access financial records showing where the money went? Two weeks before the switchover, Graham has a plan to make himself and some associates quite wealthy by stealing one of the machines designed to credit people’s accounts under this new system."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CBR Review: Powers #2

I recently reviewed Powers #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The second issue of the third volume of Powers is an entertaining comic, but is a step down from the stronger first issue, as Bendis and Oeming devote much of this issue to a fight during World War II between the Daring Eagles and a giant Nazi robot instead of the mystery at hand: who killed Z, the former Daring Eagle and friend of Detective Walker? Instead of a simple flashback, the battle seems like padding. Entertaining padding, but still padding."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CBR Review: What If? Spider-Man: House of M #1

I recently reviewed What If? Spider-Man: House of M #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "One of the best and most heartbreaking parts of House of M was the ‘wish come true’ life that Peter Parker got to live and, then, that he would always retain knowledge of that perfect life where Uncle Ben never died, he and Gwen Stacey wed and had a son, and he was beloved and famous for being Spider-Man. The idea of exploring what would happen if the House of M Gwen managed to live past the end of House of M is interesting because of the conflict and emotional turmoil that seems to come with it, something that should work quite well. Sadly, neither story presented here manages to capture that or even tell an entertaining story."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Splash Page: The Plot and Characters of "Dark Reign" (Part One)

[We have returned and are trying to become better critics/dudes who talk about comic books. We may not succeed, but it should be fun to watch...

Chad Nevett: Normally, in the Splash Page, our focus is more on how stories are told (technique, style, and other elements) rather than what the story actually is. In discussing reviewing, Tim has revealed that he doesn't really care about what happens so much as how it is presented to the reader. Well, this discussion is going to change that as Tim and I have decided to discuss "Dark Reign" on purely plot and character levels (or try to, at least), talking about what we liked, what we disliked, and, really, let our inner fanboys out a bit. I already kicked things off (without meaning to) with my post on Noh-Varr and Dark Avengers annual #1, which was all about how Brian Michael Bendis has ruined that character in my eyes, so let's use that as a jumping off point: do you agree with my assessment of the use of Noh-Varr or do you like what Bendis has done?

Tim Callahan: Okay, let me see if I can keep this on purely a plot and character level: the plot of Dark Avengers annual #1 was no good. And neither was the characterization. And since we aren't getting into style, I won't bother complaining about the design of "Captain Marvel's" new costume. I mean, everyone has seen it, so I don't need to ridicule it any more.

Back to the plot stuff! Here's the thing: I'm not as proprietary about Noh-Varr as you are. I don't have any overwhelming compulsion to see the Morrison version of the character pop up in the comics of other writers, and if a writer has the character do something that seems out of place (which I guess is more of a character complaint than a plot one), it doesn't usually bother me much at all. I thought the Noh-Varr was dull in Young Avengers/Runaways, or whatever that comic was called, but I wasn't offended by what he said or did there. It wasn't good, but it wasn't the worst thing ever.

Noh-Varr's characterization and the plot of that Dark Avengers annual kind of did offend me, though. Not offend me, really, but annoy me. Because I don't know who that guy is in that comic, but it's not Noh-Varr, and it's not even Marvel Boy. It's some "stranger in a strange world" who's trying to grok the people of Earth -- some dorky, confused space-hippy -- when the character is supposed to be operating on a level that's way ahead of our current processing ability. He's ultra-kick-ass punk rock super-genius spaceboy. Or that's what he should be. That's what he was. Even in his watered-down non-Morrison appearances.

Until that ridiculous annual. That annual that has him somehow contact some version of the Kree Supreme Intelligence (I have no idea how that works within the context of Marvel continuity and/or parallel universes within that continuity). That annual that showed him not as a insect-laced super-scout from space, but a space-puppy. A nice little lapdog who couldn't be with Normy because he was naughty.

Am I even talking about plot and character here? I don't know how to do that without talking about the way the writer used these techniques. Plot and character don't exist without the authorial hand.

CN: Yeah, I know, I was thinking the same thing.

What surprised me most is that the internal logic of the story didn't make sense. Noh-Varr learns that these Avengers are bad guys: wouldn't that make him more inclined to return to his 'take over everything and remake it in Hala's image' plan? Obviously, the system is broken, humanity has screwed up and needs to be taken in hand to improve. I think where Bendis misses the point is that this character sees taking over and remaking the world as protecting it. He wouldn't just play superhero like everyone else, he's here to save us from ourselves. Sadly, the fake spoiler I gave at Comics Should be Good regarding Oubliette returning would have been far better. God, that sounds so sad and lame, doesn't it? "Screw you, Bendis, my version is better! PWND! LOL!" Shoot me now. Is this why we don't discuss plot and character specifically?

Going beyond that, how have you enjoyed "Dark Reign" in general? Have you been interested throughout or has it seemed like a year of kind of okay stories? Do you love or hate Norman Osborn? Ever want to see him in another comic again?

TC: I don't feel anything towards Norman Osborn, because he's a fictional character. But I have enjoyed seeing him play the Jerry-Lewis-as-Darth-Vader role in the Marvel Universe for the past year. I think it's safe to say that "Dark Reign" > Secret Invasion, mathematically speaking. I liked Norman Osborn's appearance in the Joe Casey-penned Zodiac series, and I like what's happening to him in the more recent issues of Dark Avengers. He ain't holdin' it together too well, that guy.

It's certainly the most interesting version of Norman Osborn that I've ever seen -- this guy who took over the Thunderbolts and then became the maniacal Nick Fury of the upside down world. Though Bendis'a Osborn isn't quite as viciously interesting as the character in the hands of Warren Ellis, he's still visibly on the same end of the spectrum. (Unlike Noh-Varr, Morrison version compared to Bendis version.)

I really like the Hood, too. And his role in Punisher has been great.

Overall, I'm pro-"Dark Reign."


CN: I've enjoyed it on the whole. I liked that Bendis made a crack about Osborn going overboard and doing everything in an issue of Dark Avengers to poke fun at him being in every book. I've really liked Osborn when he seems genuine in his desire to make this work and do his job well. He's still a messed up crazy guy, but at least he's trying to do the right thing, which is far more interesting than him just being an evil smarmy bastard all of the time. It's a shame that far too much of the time is spent on him being an evil smarmy bastard.

Some people didn't enjoy the scene, but his first discussion with the Sentry in the third or fourth issue of Dark Avengers is still one of my favourite moments to come out of "Dark Reign" as Osborn half-manipulates the Sentry, but also comes down to his level and says, "I know you have problems, but so do I and look at me, I'm doing great, which means you can get better, too." It was a really humanising moment for Osborn and, again, made him interesting. Watching him struggle to keep it together and overcome the image that some have of him was usually the best stuff for me whereas typical supervillain behaviour left me cold.

[To be continued over at Tim's blog...]

CBR Review: What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra #1

I recently reviewed What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "One of the more radical reimaginings of the Marvel Universe in a while, What If? Daredevil vs. Elektra #1 offers an engaging story where a young Matt Murdock sacrifices his life to save Elektra Natchios and her father where, in the regular MU, it was Elektra’s father that died. The resulting story is a twisting of various elements of Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil with numerous allusions and in-jokes, but is still easily accessed by those who haven’t read Miller’s seminal work on the title."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Power Girl #7

I recently reviewed Power Girl #7 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "While the situation lacks originality, there are plenty of funny moments thrown in like the forecasting of the Blue Snowman’s death early in the issue or the revelation of the Snowman’s true identity. Kara also gets in a few zingers, while also trying to maturely deal with this creepy jerk. Gray and Palmiotti write her well as she tries to stop his advances without actually getting sucked into the game he’s playing. She keeps Vartox at arm’s length, treating him as the sort-of-crazy person he is."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Hulk #18

I recently reviewed Hulk #18 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ah, the self-contained retrospective story where self-knowledge is gained and we gain a greater appreciation of a character. These types of issues are always good to win over critics and fans alike as a writer really sinks his or her teeth into the inner workings of a character and deliver an equal measure of entertainment and insight. Oh, if only that were the case here, as Jeph Loeb and Whilce Portacio delve deep into the mind of Samson (no longer Doc) to reveal... daddy issues and a self-loathing related to his intelligence? Hulk comics are often lacking characters with those particular hang-ups, of course."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, December 18, 2009

CBR Review: The Authority: The Lost Year #4

I recently reviewed The Authority: The Lost Year #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The basic idea of this issue isn’t bad, but the execution is dull and haphazard as Giffen and Robertson cycle through a variety of scenes showing what’s happening in the world and how the Authority is reacting, but lacking any emotional impact. It’s all just going through the motions toward that end point where the setting can change and new adventures are to be had. Even the moral implications of the Authority’s actions are dealt with in a manner where the minimum amount of discussion is given before moving on. But, as I said, the end of this issue is done so well that it’s hard to blame them for wanting to just get there."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CBR Review: Gødland #30

I recently reviewed Gødland #30 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There isn’t much to complain about in Gødland #30, except, perhaps, that the scene depicted on the cover doesn’t happen inside. All this book needed was a plot where Adam Archer, the cosmically-powered former astronaut, finds himself oddly drawn to a planet that curiously resembles a naked breast. Dirtiest cover ever? Possibly. Then again, maybe it’s just me. Does anyone else see it?"

You can read the rest of it, which my editor Augie De Blieck, Jr. called "[S]imply the most bizarre review I have ever ever ever had to edit," HERE!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CBR Review: Dark X-Men #2

I recently reviewed Dark X-Men #2 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The biggest problem in this comic, though, is the pacing. The slow, plodding pace means this issue ends on a plot point where, ideally, the first issue should have ended on (since the spoiler of Nate Grey returning was out of the bag). Two issues of build-up and Grey barely appears. Normally, that sort of build-up makes a character look impressive, but, here, it doesn’t; it makes the comic read worse."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CBR Review: The Unwritten #8

I recently reviewed The Unwritten #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "If there’s a weakness in this idea being debated in this comic it’s that we know that the Tommy Taylor stories aren’t simply fiction. The series has been teasing about the nature of fact and fiction, and how the line isn’t so clearly drawn in this world, but that knowledge undercuts the focus of this issue. We know that Cosi’s devotion to Tommy Taylor isn’t entirely misplaced, but no one else really does, making her more sympathetic than her actions perhaps warrant."

You can read the rest HERE!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CBR Review: X-Men Forever #13

I recently reviewed X-Men Forever #13 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I came into X-Men Forever #13 expecting the worst. Amid reviews where even the most fervent of Chris Claremont supporters felt torn on the merits of the series, what hope did I have? It’s actually not that bad, though. It’s not great either, but, in this issue, Claremont delivers an issue packed with action, drama, and a few subplots. While it doesn’t feel like a comic from 2009, it’s still a solid read that engages the reader."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, December 11, 2009

CBR Review: Magog #4

I recently reviewed Magog #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There’s almost certainly a point of some kind to this comic book, but damned if I could find it. The plot seems unimportant as very little happens. The same happens with character development. There is a focus on scenes as nice little pieces of entertainment unto themselves. And the art is ugly and unable or unwilling to move from one image to the next with any sense of flow or logic. Magog #4 looks to be a perfect example of a comic published, because that’s what DC does: it publishes comics."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Serial Storytelling, Format, the 22-Page Comic Book and Television

A couple of things that have come up this week have caused me to consider the 22-page format that comics are released in from the big superhero publishers. The first being the recent round of 'comics aren't as good as they are now' bitching that, well, Tim and I participated in (and possibly kicked off... this time) where commenters will point to the 22-page pamphlet format as one of the negatives of the books and a reason to look elsewhere in graphic novels or waiting for the trade or other publishers that don't feel the need to release story in 22-page chunks. The second being DC's announcement of the two "Earth One" OGNs instead of the traditional issue-to-collection publishing strategy that's used the rest of the time where, again, the question of the use of the 22-page format is raised, particularly from a creative standpoint.

I want to begin things by saying that I like the 22-page format. I do. I think a standard format/structure/limitation is good, especially from a creative perspective. I look to the serial comic's closest creative relative, the serial television series to see just how successful a strict structure is, particularly when it comes to serial storytelling. A serial story requires consistency, for the audience to come back each time and know what they are getting, and one method of maintaining that sense of consistency is page count. Every issue (with some exceptions) is 22 pages. I know exactly what I'm getting.

Beyond that, look at television where shows are divided, basically, into two formats: the half-hour (22 minutes) or the one-hour (42 minutes). Even on HBO or other cable channels, they mostly stick with those formats, because it's what people expect. Granted, on non-network channels, episodes will vary by length a few minutes in either direction, but, by and large, the amount of time an episode takes is set out in advance.

Why do I never hear people bitching about that?

Even those who wait for the DVD collections of show don't complain that it's because episodes are too short or episode lengths are arbitrary, it's either about wanting to see the full, larger narrative in a short time (for shows where there is one) or that they simply find it difficult to watch the show every week, especially considering skip weeks where a rerun airs or pre-emption for sports and other special events.

Now, obviously, 22 minutes of television and 22 pages of comics contain very different storytelling possibilities or qualities, but if there is a problem with how much/how little is being done with the single issue format, why is that the format's fault? That format has been in existence for a long time and it was only recently that complaints arose over it not being enough (at least from the general reading population). Hell, I was online when that happened, basically. The rise of the trade paperback shifted storytelling from a focus on the issue to a focus on the storyarc...

Except, that also happened with the rise of the DVD: more shows now tell larger stories that take up chunks of seasons, complete seasons, or numerous seasons... But, even then, most of those shows still deliver satisfying complete episodes that don't leave people feeling they've been cheated. If they wait for the DVD, it's not because the single episodes are flawed, it's simply that they want to experience the entire story at once. When people say they've given up single issues, the desire to read the full story at once is there, but with the implication that single issues aren't satisfying or enough.

Maybe it is the format's fault... but, then again, think about the various series that have cropped up that delivered fantastic single issues that work both as a single unit and as part of a larger story (Young Liars, much of Grant Morrison, Joe Casey, and Garth Ennis's output), or, even, two recent series that actually went for shorter issues and managed to tell complete stories in single issues (one of which also delivered a larger story): Fell and Casanova.

Also, would things be different if there were two formats like television uses? What if issues came out in 22- and 44-page chunks? Or 16- and 32-page issues? Is it that there's only a single format that causes problems? Obviously price is an issue as well where it isn't in television, but I really do have to wonder: is it the format or that those working in it don't know how to make it work?

CBR Review: Pilot Season: Murderer #1

I recently reviewed Pilot Season: Murderer #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Another problem is in communicating the thoughts of others. Kirkman and artist Nelson Blake II make good attempts at showing the mix of words and images that make up thoughts, but it’s not entirely effective. Often, what Jason hears/sees is confusing, perhaps purposefully so, but, if that’s the case, then that confusion should be more explicit. As it stands, the thoughts Jason hears/sees are not presented clearly, particularly the thoughts of a woman that motivate much of the action in this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Future is Mundane and Oh So Typical

I gave Dark Avengers annual #1 four stars in my CBR review. And I genuinely believe that, when read from an objective (or as objective as one can get) and within the proper context, it deserves that rating. Had I delivered my subjective review of the comic, it wouldn't have gone so smoothly, obtaining probably something in the 2-2.5 range. I'll admit that it didn't raise my ire as much as previous Bendis depictions of Noh-Varr, but it did irk me. It shouldn't have since it's been so obviously apparent that the Noh-Varr of Marvel Boy was long gone since Zeb Wells brought him back during "Civil War" to fight the Runaways and Young Avengers. Instead of the young, radical alien from a culture that legitimately is more advanced than ours, he was simply an angry young Kree that was sometimes from another dimension, sometimes not. There was no advancement of his cause to recreate Hala on Earth. No moral quandries. No sex and disgust for humanity. No sign of him being anything other than a misguided youth in need of a stern lecture from Representatives of the Status Quo. And they called him Marvel Boy.

Marvel fucking Boy.

If ever there was a sign that people didn't really understand what they were dealing with, it was saddling the character with the title of the comic in which he appeared during which the words 'Marvel' and 'Boy' did not meet. Am I being nitpicky? Sure. Am I acting like an entitled fanboy, one who thinks he has some sense of ownership over the character? Probably. Is it just a fictional character, so getting upset or outraged is somewhat sad? I suppose so. But, I don't care.

What happens in Dark Avengers annual #1 isn't character growth, it's magic. Noh-Varr has grown a little bit over his time in the Marvel Universe, not quite so ready to take over and change everything, but his progression to that point was too quick. Wow, the Illuminati give him some bullshit speech about how his alternate reality caveman ancestor Mar-Vell was a good Kree between letting Namor sucker punch him... a Skrull imposter of Mar-Vell got Stockholm Syndrome... Noh-Varr couldn't figure out that he was on a team with a bunch of criminals despite learning extensively about human (specially American) history/culture upon his arrival...

Where in this would it be entirely logical for him to care about humanity? I'm truly wondering. If anything, all of that should make him hate the simplistic and stupid thinking that abounds in humanity. They put thugs and criminals in charge! They think they're heroes! If that isn't a system in need of a complete overhaul, I don't know what is. No, instead, he wanders around and wonder what humanity wants... why? That is like me finding myself in past by several thousands of years with the ability to remake society in a superior manner and caring what they think. Who cares, they're backwards-thinking apemen who obviously don't know what they're doing! That is the mind of Noh-Varr... the End of the Way Things Are...

The only way to get him from that point to where he ends up is via the Supreme Intelligence of his universe (and to show how advanced he is, he builds the means to communicate with his homeworld in another dimension from spare parts), which declares that he will protect this Earth. I believe the Kree Empire of that universe deciding that, because their behaviour in Marvel Boy is very much of the benevolent protector, searching the multiverse for ways to make things better... and, thus, they transform Noh-Varr, alter him, make him something different...

Make him mundane and typical. A round peg in a round hole where once he was square. I won't even get into that awful, boring costume design that doesn't fit into the Kree designs we've seen to date...

In the end, he stops being Noh-Varr, he becomes the new Captain Marvel. To be fair, he stopped being Noh-Varr when he returned at the end of Civil War: Runaways/Young Avengers #2. He was Marvel Boy then. He's since become Captain Marvel. And it's boring. If his journey had actually been that of the hero -- if he had actually encountered situations that caused him to mature and change his way of thinking, I would buy it. But, that didn't happen. In fact, the opposite happened as he encountered reason after reason to tear it all down... until he was transformed into thinking differently.

I used to get angry about this sort of thing, but I can't bring myself to care anymore. Writing this has just killed it. After a while, how could I not just give up? After all, the future was once x-rated and, now, here we are, nearly ten years on and it's just mediocrity and safe and boring... It's not my character; it never was, but, now, it most certainly is not. Enjoy your Captain Marvel. I'm done caring.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

CBR Review: Existence 3.0 #1

I recently reviewed Existence 3.0 #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The opening of the issue is very strong as it juxtaposes Jenny’s waking up as Marina then, and an attack on the people responsible for her kidnapping and father’s death now. The coloring sets the two time periods apart, and Salas’s art is exquisite as moving between them, playing off each time period to further both. You can see for yourself in the preview pages that he does an excellent job of building up the action in each and delivering the pay-off in each together. It’s an incredibly strong opening and is executed almost flawlessly by all involved."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: glamourpuss #10

I recently reviewed glamourpuss #10 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The latest issue of glamourpuss is something of a disappointment, as the normal focus on photorealistic art, techniques, and the relationships between artists is replaced by a long meditation on Stan Drake’s second marriage to a much younger woman and the various elements of scandal that came with it. It is, perhaps, the weakest issue of the series yet."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, December 07, 2009

CBR Review: The Boys #37

I recently reviewed The Boys #37 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The telling of the story is where the humor lies. The Frenchman tells it with such earnest sincerity and sentiment, but what we see are absurd and, dare I say, stupid events. Jousting on bicycles with baguettes while wearing cloves of garlic? He returns to town with his friend behind him playing a concertina. The images Robertson draws for his remembrances to his summer of love with Marie and his childhood feud with Black Pierre are so graphic that they subvert the expectation of innocence that’s in the Frenchman’s words."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Splash Page: The Decline of Quality in 2009 (Part Two)

[The first part of our conversation can be read at Tim's blog...]

Chad Nevett: I agree. Something is missing. I don't know what. One thing that I think it may be, and this is just my personal feelings, is that I'm kind of sick of the weekly grind of comics. Every single week, there's more. There's always more. TV seasons aren't year-round every week affairs. Movies are always coming out, but whether or not there's one you want to see is debatable. As well, there isn't that constant need/pressure to keep up -- and, movies aren't serial. Seeing a new movie or two each week doesn't get stale, because it's always something new. With comics, it's the same thing over and over again. Going to the shop becomes a habit, not a joy. Some weeks, it is a joy because of a book or two that's special, but, for the most part, it's habit. I've actually been looking forward to the December 30th skip week, because it means there is one week out of the year where I don't have to care about comics. I love comics, but sometimes it feels a bit much. This ties to the event stuff, I'd argue, where companies have tried to make it more and more like everything they release is important and you must know right away and, as I said, Secret Invasion and Final Crisis both left people unsatisfied and killed that mood, made people less willing to buy that idea.

The quality of the books aside... I'm not sure the quality is less. I genuinely think Bendis and company did great jobs with the Dark Avengers annual and Siege: The Cabal (although my personal feelings towards the treatment of Noh-Varr were kept out of my review as much as possible since that's one of my big biases). Would they have gotten the same reviews a year ago? I can't say, but I think so. I know that it's a sliding scale and is very much of the moment, star ratings not being an exact science, but I think they would have got the same reviews from me.

You bring up Iron Fist, Captain Britain & MI:13, and Ghost Rider, and maybe those are missing: where are the critically acclaimed books that no one is buying except for us? Looking through my box of comics that I'm currently buying, there are the Vertigo books, the Marvel top-sellers, the two Bat-books, some mini-series, and... Secret Warriors. Is Secret Warriors all that's left of the cult books? I know people talk up Incredible Hercules, but I tried it and didn't love it... is what's missing the third-tier books that we point to when people say superhero books from the big two are crap to say "But they publish this!"? Or am I just missing out on these books somehow?

Tim Callahan: I stuck with Incredible Hercules for a while, but I've grown tired of that as well. The art started to become hammy sometime this year, and it's like hitting every joke with a rimshot, which is neither funny nor un-annoying. (Speaking of that, and I don't remember to exact review or message board post, but someone on the CBR forum complained about one of my reviews because I complained about the art tonally matching the comedy of some story, and the poster said something like, "oh my gosh, imagine the art matching the story!" But, yeah, it is stupid when the characters are exaggerated to add exclamation points to the comedy sometimes. Unless you think that the epitome of comedy is watching Jim Carrey ham it up, then you know that sometime -- usually -- it's funnier when the humor comes with the straight-faced delivery.)

Secret Warriors is good, true, though last issue was more of a connect-the-seemingly-unwoven-continuity-threads issue than a real Hickman romp. Speaking of Hickman, his Fantastic Four is damn good. So that's a glimmer of hope in the superhero landscape.

I don't think the weekly grind is the problem -- for me at least. I love looking forward to Wednesdays, still, after how ever many years. Let me calculate this. I've been a regular Wednesday comic shopper since at least 1986. That's 1,196 Wednesdays. I've missed a couple during that time, but I bet I've missed no more than a dozen total in all those years. But it is true that my normal Wednesday visits used to contain more diversity. Now it's pretty much all Marvel and DC, and I get the independent stuff in trades from Amazon or at conventions. Comics may have more diversity than ever right now, but you wouldn't know it from the Wednesday doses.

So, to answer your question about underappreciated third-tier books, the stuff that we can point to as highlights of superhero comics beyond the big-name stuff, well, there's...I don't know. Agents of Atlas is basically done, right? Looking at the stuff that's selling less than Secret Warriors just goes to show how much junk is being published right now. Teen Titans. New Mutants. Brave and the Bold. Magog. Power Girl looks great, but the stories are weak. X-Men Forever. War Machine. Black Panther 2.

The Outsiders. Good thing the dynamic duo of DiDio and Tan are coming in to save the day on that one.

Man, these are some bad comics. We should review more of these bottom-of-the-barrel just to see if they're as bad as they were last time I read them. Maybe they've improved?

CN: I'm always up for reviewing crap comics. Those are the fun reviews to write. But, it seems that a lot of the recently-launched series that aren't selling well aren't getting good reviews either, which is odd. Those books always exist, but there's usually a good mixture of very good comics thrown in for everyone to point to as examples, but recent launches like Magog, Doom Patrol, New Mutants... they've all gotten, what, three stars at best? Even a book like SWORD, which seems ripe for 'cult hit' status didn't really knock either of us over with its first issue. We went through a long period of rather good superhero books going all the way back to 1999 or so with the altered Wildstorm line of books and then right on through to Quesada/Jemas at Marvel and... well, the ride had to end at some point, right? Or maybe it's just a lull. A six months to a year where we all just take a breather before things pick up again. In the past year, Marvel switched their focus to a lot of mini-series (specially the Dark Reign variety) and only one or two of them have been anything more than decent; DC continues to flounder as books come out to sounds of silence as no one cares. I'm kind of curious to see what happens after both of their events are over. That could be the turning point...

I honestly don't know what the problem is. Of course, people will tell us that we're just reading the wrong comics or are wrong to not appreciate the brilliance of Magog, but, come on, this general sense of 'who gives a fuck' isn't isolated to us. The only time people seem to get excited is when it's time to trash a horrible comic like Cry for Justice. Otherwise, it's mostly 'Read some decent books, nothing to say about them really, what else is new?'

I don't know...

TC: I guess the only thing to do now is put out the Callahan/Nevett Creator Challenge, open to all comic book writers and artists. Here it is: "Make really great comics.You know you want to. Enough with the mediocre. We've been through that already."

Um, that's really the extent of the challenge. Winner gets our undying love. Losers get, well, I guess they just keep getting work.

CN: That challenge wasn't in effect already? Why the hell not?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

CBR Review: Dark Avengers Annual #1

I recently reviewed Dark Avengers annual #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s been six months since Noh-Varr disappeared from the pages of Dark Avengers after discovering the criminal nature of his teammates. Aside from an appearance in the Wolverine List issue, he hasn’t shown his face since. Finally, answers about his whereabouts and activities since fleeing Avengers Towers are given in this week’s Dark Avengers Annual #1 as Norman Osborn turns his attention to finding his little runaway Kree soldier."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Siege: The Cabal #1

I recently reviewed Siege: The Cabal #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "On the first Wednesday of December 2008, Secret Invasion #8 shipped, concluding that event and beginning Dark Reign, so it’s fitting that, one year later on the first Wednesday of December, the book that begins the story that will conclude Dark Reign comes out. Siege: The Cabal kicks things off well, setting up a clear point of conflict not just between Norman Osborn and the heroes, but also between Osborn and other members of his Cabal, most notably Dr. Doom."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CBR Review: What If? Secret Invasion #1

I recently reviewed What If? Secret Invasion #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "When Secret Invasion ended, many argued that the resolution of Norman Osborn being put in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. (only for it to become H.A.M.M.E.R.) was out of step with the mood of the audience, so why should the “What If?” issue devoted to the event be any different? Where the original felt too dark and cynical after Barack Obama’s election for many, this What If? issue feels out of place for an audience that is clearly tired of Norman Osborn being at the center of every comic they read. The past year has had Osborn in the majority of Marvel titles, making everyone rather sick of him and, yet, despite his relatively minor role in Secret Invasion prior to the final issue, the character is, again, front and center in both of the stories that make up this issue, only one of which actually makes for a somewhat decent read."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Criminal: The Sinners #2

I recently reviewed Criminal: The Sinners #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The combination of Phillips and Staples makes this book a visual treat. Every panel is considered and planned and is methodical in its choices. It is both realistic and unbound by realism, willing to forego it if the mood of a scene demands it or if, honestly, it’s simply better. The visuals reflect an understanding that the sort of stories Criminal tells is about mood and feeling as much as they’re about accuracy or reality. Emotions are heightened through the visuals, ‘naturalistic acting’ used only when it works, and, as a result, it is a gorgeous comic that is also one of the best from a technical perspective."

You can read the rest HERE!