Thursday, October 20, 2011

Week 4 of the New DC Comics: Part Deux!

This was the final pile of new DC books I read. The pile included All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Blackhawks, The Flash, and The Fury of Firestorm. This was a very strong group of books in comparison to the other books released in the final week. There were some weaker books, but overall each of the books hold an argument for continuing to read them. Also, I had not previously read any of these books on a monthly basis. From what I read, at least three of these books will be picked up again in the future: All-Star Western, Aquaman, & The Flash.

All-Star Western: This is a fun book to read! It is a wonderful break from the rest of the super-hero laden comics that DC churns out. Here we have the story of Jonah Hex, a mysterious bounty hunter of the late 1880's. Hex comes to Gotham city where he finds himself caught up in a Jack-the-Ripper style murder mystery. The story is great with wonderful nods to places and names that crop up in the modern Batman books, making you wonder if what happens in this book could affect the modern books. The art is by Jimmy Palmiotti, who is an artist I have loved for a very long time. This past summer at the Calgary Fan Expo, Palmiotti was in attendance and made the announcement that he would be joining the creative team on this book. His art is masterful here and shows how much his talent has grown over the decades. Highly recomend this book!

Aquaman: Doesn't Aquaman talk to the fish or something? This and other questions are all bluntly answered in this well crafted and highly entertaining first book!

Honestly, I have never been a fan of Aquaman. He's the but of most geek'ish jokes. Geoff Johns, the writer of this book presents a a character who is re-examining his past, left his previous role of King of Atlantis, and is trying awkwardly to fit in to life on dry land. The story also has a slight edge to it that feels as though this is how Quentin Tarantino would interpret the character provided he had to work within a PG-13 framework.

Johns' story does not explain the origin of Aquaman but instead plops the reader in the middle of this character's story where a new chapter in his life is being explored. This strategy has been found in a number of the new DC comics such as Swamp Thing and Hawkman, and as in the case here can be a great tool to satisfy older and newer readers by not discrediting the past while offering a clean slate for the new reader. In all, I really enjoyed this take on Aquaman and am very interested in where this character will be taken next.

Batman, The Dark Knight: Another Batman book is included in the New DC lineup. Thus far there have been Batman, Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, and the plethora of Batman spin-off titles like Batgirl. The high number of Bat books is rationalized if each of the comics focused on one aspect of Batman. In such a case Batman & Robin would be the relationship between the two, Detective Comics would focus on Batman solving crimes, and Batman would be a holistic book focusing on Bruce Wayne, alter ego of Batman, and interactions with secondary characters like Robin. However, what is The Dark Knight supposed to be about then? It would seem that this book focuses more on the private life of Bruce Wayne as the first issue explores a party that Bruce holds where a member of the police department says he is being investigated for financially supporting the Batman. If this book is to focus on Bruce Wayne, then I am left wondering if this is something I have ever wanted to read about or will this provide me an interesting angle on the complex world of Batman?

Overall, the story isn't bad but I do not find that it adds anything to the other Batman books and instead this book will get forgotten about. Even if the book is to focus on Bruce Wayne, I am unconvinced there is a need for such an ongoing book; instead, this might work better as a mini-series. The writing and art is provided by David Finch, who might be better than Tony Daniels who draws & writes for the Detective series. I recomend this book but would not doubt this book being canceled within the year because of its redundancy with the other Bat books, even if it is done well.

Black Hawks: This is not a bad book, but it makes very little sense in how it figures into the overall DC Universe. A team of UN sanctioned covert military agents are focused upon here where they combat various threats. In the first story we see the group stop terrorists (I guess that's what they are), a UN representative informs the Black Hawks that their cover has been compromised, and that one of their agents has been infected by something. Not a bad introductory plot, but without an explanation of how this fits into the realm of other superhero books I was left wondering what the point of Black Hawks will be. Is this book to be an isolated group of characters or will their actions have repercussions (and vice versa) in other DC books? Black Hawks #1 is worth reading, and I am tempted to read the next few issues to see where this book is headed. However, if the creators of the book do not explain the role /importance of this book soon I will also quickly loose interest.

The Flash: The releasing of the Flash during the final week of the New DC run was a misstep. The Flash was the central figure during the Flashpoint series that led to the re-numbering of the DC comics. As he was such a pivotal figure, one would guess the title Flash book would be massively promoted and included in the first week of books. This book, one would again assume, would be used to explain how things did and did not change in the DC Universe as the Flash was the reason why these changes had begun at all. Additionally, one might assume that the Flash would be one of the few characters to remember what the universe had been like and to recall what he had previously done. Instead, the first issue of the Flash provides none of this and leaves the long-time reader wondering how the previous Flashpoint and Flash books figure into the new Flash series.

Leaving the problems above aside, Flash #1 is a stupendous comic. It is loads of fun and features some of the best art in the DC Universe. Manapul utilizes grey washes over top a cartoony /anime style that works really well here; also reminds me of Tim Sale's work. The dialogue is also crisp and the pacing of the comic works very well, leaving a lot of story for developing characters but never making you feel bogged down with too much exposition. This is one of the best books DC has produced and should /will become one of their most popular books!

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men: This is hands down the worst illustrated book out of the bunch. Yildiray Cinar's art is horribly stilted and filled with poor anatomy. The faces feature two expressions: nothing or angry. The story was also generic and poorly structured with a secret group of assassins chasing after a mysterious product of a science experiment. The reader is taken on a voyage across the globe as this group brutally murders anyone associated with the experiment as they track down whatever it is they are looking for. Eventually their chase leads them to a high school in the United States where two teenage boys have the product and use it and become Firestorm. This is a very generic story that has been used for the retelling of too many other super-heroes. What makes the story worse is that it took TWO writers to come up with this: Gail Simone & Ethan van Sciver. I'm not familiar with Sciver, but Simone has produced much better stuff and recently gave us the pretty decent Batgirl comic. I don't know what happened here between these three creative persons, but I have no interest in seeing where this book goes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Week 4 of the New DC Comics!: Part Une!

 This is the longest post yet about the new DC comics. This length is due to the poor nature of many of the books DC put out in their final week of new books. In this post I only discuss half of the books DC released in their final week, and the other half will be discussed in a later post (probably next week). None of the below comics were ones I previously read and none are instant winners. Four of the comics did leave me interested enough to pick up a second issue and give the books another try, but overall this group of comics was a serious disappointment. From the group discussed here, I would recommend: Justice League Dark, I Vampire, Savage Hawkman, and maybe Teen Titans.

Green Lantern, New Guardians: On the plus side this book offered the kernels of an interesting story, a very brief reframing of the origin of Kyle Rayner becoming a Green Lantern, and that the art was OK. The biggest downside is that as a previous follower of the Green Lantern comic the story left me thoroughly confused as to what the heck has happened to the continuity of the Green Lantern comics and the DC universe as a whole. First off, why is Kyle not already a GL but everyone else previously shown in GL books are? In the previous GL books Kyle was already a GL, so I presume this book represents a complete reboot of Kyle's character, but why is he the only GL to have a reboot? In the previously released GL #1, the story picked up right where the previous GL story started. This lack of coherency in story has left me wondering where all the other new DC books fit into the continuum as it appears that books such as Batman have been left unchanged but books like the Blue Beetle have been completely altered. Is it me or did DC release a source book explaining all this that I missed?  A second and smaller problem is that Kyle is unaware of the presence of other Lanterns when he first becomes one, yet a random guy he saves on the next page is well aware of their existence. Furthermore, this comic appears to occur at the same time as does the story in the Green Lantern CORPS comic where the Lanterns are very well known throughout the world. So how the heck doesn't Kyle know about the Lanterns?

The issue of continuity problems has been addressed by many other online critics. It is a glaring problem with the DC reboot that boggles my mind as to how they managed to mess things up so badly. The blame settles upon the editors and should have been a simple issue to ensure not to happen. DC advertised their reboot as a clean slate to their heroes so new readers could begin reading their books. However, this clean slate and issue of reboot has only been applied to a select few characters with no explanation why other heroes were not included.

I, Vampire: Right away I was confused by this comic for the title is almost identical to another comic DC is producing under its Vertigo imprint. This other comic is called I, Zombie and is an absolutely exceptional book. The close similarity in name had me thinking these books would be connected in some way, but after reading 'I, Vampire' I discovered that there were no similarities other than the name and presence of classic horror creatures; but why use such a similar name? It makes no sense and is frankly a stupid move by DC.

One of the best parts of this book is the art. Andrea Sorrentino provides the illustrations that are strongly reminiscent of Jae Lee's work  with the usage of heavy and blocky blacks and scratchy /scribbly lines. This similarity is so strong that it leaves Sorrentino's art less memorable because of the lack of originality in style, but nonetheless the art looks good. What does work to Sorrentino's benefit is that no one else in the DC line of new books are using a similar style. While Sorrentino's art is not original, it is original in comparison to the other DC books.

i Zombie: confusingly similar names.
Going into this book I knew nothing about the characters or the previous usage of vampires in DC comics for that matter. The book opens with a conversation between two vampires, Andrew & Mary, and an ill described sequence of Andrew walking through a street filled with dead and weeding out the vampires from the dead that he then kills. The premise is interesting enough and a shallow depth of mystery this book provides also engaged my senses. However, I finished the book not caring about the characters. Such a lack of caring destroyed any sense of engagement the book had instilled in me. There is little depth provided to the characters and I, the reader, was thrown into the climax of the story without having a solid build-up to it. This book needed to start out much slower and allow the reader to become more familiar with the characters.

In all, I Vampire is a curious book that has me conflicted about the art's originality, confused by the naming of the book, and left me not  interested in the main characters. Yet, the storyline had some interesting elements that could pan out to be a gripping yarn later in the year.

Justice League Dark: This is a fantastic comic because I LOVED the art and the story presented a unique cast of characters in an exciting premise! In this issue, a team is slowly comprised with a group of mystics such as John Costantine and Deadman. The team has not yet gelled but the characters are converging, with their importance foreshadowed with the defeat of three members of the JLA by the character known as Enchantress. The story is very dark and moody, with tons of foreshadowing. 

The book could do with one or two less characters as a group of six is maybe too much and does not leave enough time to develop each character. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the group of characters assembled here but feel that Swamp Thing too should be included (despite the fact the book would do better with fewer characters). The art inside the book is just as well rendered as the illustration on the cover. The art is provided by Mikel Janin who uses soft lines with a realistic style that reminds me of J.G. Jones and Adam Hughes. I don't think this book has received much attention and could easily become a sleeper hit!

The Savage Hawkman: I am most familiar with the character of Hawkman from cartoons and a handful of his guest appearances in other comic books. I have always liked the character but whatever reason never became a big fan. This first issue did not make me into a big fan but did pique my interest. The story is pretty simple with Hawkman conflicted about having powers, which then change and force him into retaining his powers. Hawkman's conflict over his powers is poorly explained and made me feel that I should've read earlier Hawkman issues. 

The second component of the story is a glimpse at Hawkman's private /regular life, and then the story's third act reveals a new villain. These last two components were presented well but did not leave any character development for secondary and tertiary characters as multiple pages were used up with a fight sequence in the final act. As for Hawkman himself, there is little exploration or explanation of his character. The only side of Hawkman we see is his anger, which is all fine and well if you're talking about the Hulk.

Turning to the art you find a very compelling reason to pick up this and future issues of the book. Philip Tan provides luscious illustrations that have grey tones that give the illusion of each page looking like a water color painting. I love the contrast of loose and angled lines and the minimalist approach taken on some of the elements like clothing. It really works and I look forward to seeing where Tan's art will go later in this book.

Superman: Who is Superman in light of the new DC? This is a question left unanswered in this first issue. It is not until the final few pages that Clerk Kent is provided a brief character sketch. Instead, we are treated to a long explanation of what the role of the Daily Planet, or lack thereof, is in the new DC universe. It is more of a commentary on the changing face of the modern news media with obvious references to the Rupert Murdoch scandal of unethical journalism. Considering that this comic is named SUPERMAN, and that the point of the renumbering of the DC comics was to reintroduce new and old readers to their characters, I am left bewildered why George Perez, the writer, took such a bizarre direction in the first issue. 

Another glaring problem with this comic is that at no point was there a sense of wonder or awe. These are critical elements in portraying Superman. He is the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, yet neither nickname find relevance in this issue. Superman is instead used as a tool to halt evil doers, but in an unremarkable way where any other superhero could have been swapped in for Supes. In all, I was left un-enthused with this issue and the treatment of Superman. I truly expected much better from this issue.

Teen Titans: I am very torn on how to feel about this first issue. To begin, a book entitled 'Teen Titans' does not have the feel of a group of 'Teenagers'. Instead, Scott Lobdell, the writer, introduced us to a group of superheroes that are in their early to mid 20's; perhaps the book should be called 'Young Adult Titans"? Problems of age aside, I found the dialogue some of the best and funniest yet in the new DC books. The dialogue felt genuine to each character, with good usage of stereotypes in the dialogues that set the characters apart from one another; for instance, Kid Flash speaks in a quick and arrogant fashion while Red Robbin speaks in a more deliberate and wiser fashion. The overall story itself is strong but nothing too original. On the plus side, the book briefly introduces you to all the characters that will join the team but focuses on only three of them. This allows the reader a slower introduction to the book which fosters greater character development and character likability. This was a strong move that Justice League Dark would've been improved by following. 

The final point to mention is the art, which is one of the undoings of this comic. Brett Booth provides generic artwork where everyone has the same body type and facial features. The environments are rendered with sufficient detail but the choice of framing is uninspired. For this book to succeed, Lobdell needs to rethink who his script fits into a book called 'Teen Titans', and Booth needs to spend more time on creating original and realistic art.

Voodoo: Wow DC. All I can say is wow, and I do not mean this in an awe inspiring kind of way. This book had a number of problems, the biggest of which is who DC believes the target audience of this book is for? Ron Marz provides the script and is a writer I enjoyed years ago for his run on Green Lantern where he first introduced us to Kyle Rayner as a new GL and the beginning of Hal Jordan's insanity and fall from the GL's. Marz was a trendsetter back in the 90's, but his work on Voodoo is the work of a teenager who watched the movie Species too many times. The first 3/4 of this book is situated in a strip club and the last little bit features a brutal killing. There are no warnings for how graphic this comic is. DC is advertising their comics for all ages, yet have ramped up the maturity of the content.

Getting past the over the top usage of sex and violence, Voodoo does very little to build interest in where this comic is going. The story feels very tired with the over-done story of alien who is hiding on Earth and a mysterious government agency that chases after such aliens. This is all too similar to the a fore mentioned movie Species, and many other franchises such as X-Files. This lack of originality definitely hurts the comic's ability to spur interest, but the lack of story development also does not help. The first 20 or so pages could have been slimmed down to 5 as the exposition was gratuitous. In consideration of the art, Sami Basri does a commendable job. There is very little detail in his art, resulting in people looking more like silhouettes with a few interior lines. The result of such a style are clean and easily understood illustrations while also not leaving a big impression upon the viewer for remembering the art. Basir does the job well, but not well enough to be remembered against other artists. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Design of Modern Movie Theaters: Encouragement of Privacy

Last night my wife and I saw The Help. It was a very enjoyable movie that suffered from the same malady as our previous escapades to a theater, restless and talkative audience. This got me thinking of why this is such a prevalent problem with the movies I've seen in the past decade and how I don't remember this being an issue when I was younger. To be fair, perhaps I am turning into a curmudgeon in my old age. Then again this might be due to something else: the changing design of movie theaters.

Black arrows represent the movement of staff while movie is playing. Note the limited amount of movement in a modern theater's design compared to the pre-modern design. The further you sit from the black arrows (staff presence) the greater the afforded privacy, and hence modern designs afford vast areas of privacy and ability to act against social rules.
Before the 2000's most movie theaters were designed with the theater sinking downward from where you entered the room. From my experiences, you would have two doorways at the back of the theater and another two at the bottom. These two entrances led to open pathways that split the theater along the sides, leaving the bulk of seats in the middle, similar to how modern theaters are designed. The difference between modern and earlier theaters is that the entrances now lead you to the middle of the room, where the back half of the theater is angled upward from where the entrance led you. This design breaks the flow of people entering the theater with people walking up to the back of the theater and walking down to the front of the theater. This results in the back of the theater being more secluded as no one needs to walk up to this area unless there are empty seats. Theater staff who check on the movie during a screening never enter the back half of the theater as their business is located in the front. As the staff only need to walk to the front (I don't really know what they do there) and the entrance opens in the middle of the theater, this creates a situation where movie goers know that the staff will never be walking near them. This adds a greater amount of privacy and freedom for them to act whichever way they wish.

I am not suggesting that a theater's staff would solve all the problems of rudeness in theaters. Instead I am suggesting that the possibility of staff entering someone's vicinity will create a sense of paranoia. I believe most movie goers know what is socially acceptable and not acceptable. Privacy encourages someone to act whichever way they wish for there is no fear of punishment. The possibility of the presence of staff removes the sense of privacy and has movie goers acting in a more socially acceptable manner for fear of punishment. By eliminating the traffic of theater staff to the back half of the rooms, designers have unintentionally created a space of privacy that allows for socially unacceptable behavior. The solution to making movie theaters a quieter and more enjoyable place is to eliminate private spaces and induce fear of punishment. To this end, staff must be sent in both directions from the entrance of modern designed movie theaters.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Less is More, DC Comics!

1 weeks worth of DC comics: too much?
I have enjoyed many of the DC relaunch comics but it would have been better if DC had started with only a few books instead of 52. Fifty-two comics every month is a lot of comics and would leave a new reader beleaguered. It would have been wiser if DC had relaunched with a dozen to 20 comics instead. As it stands you average 13 new issues every week, which will increase as DC unveils various mini-series and one-shots. A smaller number of comics each month also means a better and tighter focus on what you have, increasing the production value. It also means that readers will not be stumped on what to buy, granted due to there being less choice.

But, consider the redundancy. There are a total of four Batman books and another SIX Bat-related books (eg. batgirl); there is definitely room for downsizing! A new reader would have little idea of what Batman book to choose. How would you choose if you've never read a Batman book before but loved the movies and decided you wanted to read the source material!
Compilation of Batman & Batman affiliated comic covers.
DC missed what a lot of the readers were asking for: fewer books and more concise stories. The more books you have for one character, the more difficult it becomes to follow the story arc of that character because inevitably the story crosses over from one book to the next. I will grant you two things: that Detective Comics and Batman have been around forever and it would be sacrilege to cancel either one: and that affiliated books have readers of their own, like Batgirl, and present very different stories and styles of stories. However, I fail to see a reason to publish both 'Batman the Dark Knight' and 'Batman and Robin' when both books discuss concepts already covered in 'Batman' and 'Detective Comics'. It is overkill!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Media Companies Out of Touch

Media companies are out of touch with the economic crunch most people are feeling. Prices for entertainment have gone up while the average wage has stayed the same and the economic fear machine has marched its way inside most people's noggins.

The average new DVD movie costs over $20 and closer to $30 if on blue ray. If choosing to rent it, you will be looking at a price tag of at least $5 for a new release. If you choose to go out and see the movie in a theater then you're looking at between $13 and $18, depending on the type of screening -eg. regular or 3D. The music industry has not changed much either, with concerts and CDs at or above the price level of the 1990's. Sure you can buy someone's music on iTunes, but that only saves you maybe $5 while not actually receiving a physical copy of your purchase.

Even though the media industry complains that their sales are falling they continue to produce a product that they sell for a higher rate than they did previously while so much of the world cannot afford it. If your market audience cannot afford your product and you are loosing money, then the logical step is to produce a cheaper product that can therefore be sold more cheaply. The other side of the coin is to produce a product with additional value for the same price. However, neither step has been taken. I find this odd.

Even Obama is into Star Wars!
The media industry also complains about people pirating their products. To a degree I do not blame them for their complaint. The companies produce a product that is in no way a 'need' for consumers. They produce wants, and they do so to make a profit so they can continue making the things you enjoy. The problem lies in that their product has become a 'need' in our society. Film and music have become integral threads to our society and to be a part of our society one must have some knowledge about this thread. Ask yourself how many people you know have no knowledge about music or film? Secondly, ask yourself how it would be to hold a conversation with someone and never be able to discuss film or music or the entertainment industry as a whole? I myself often use film and music as conversation starters. When meeting someone new the most obvious connection we could have would be found in music and film.

Pirates! Ahr!
Because the product of the media industry has become a need and the prices are high in reflection to what the average person earns, people are turning to stealing the product. I personally do not pirate music or movies for a number reasons. One, I am not savvy enough to know how to download music and movies; I'm a bit of a Luddite really. Secondly, I feel that pirating is stealing and I like to financially support the artists I appreciate. Nonetheless, I understand why some people are pirating media products because they are components of our cultural reality.

What I hope to see is that the media industry begins to lower the prices of their products to reflect the economic climate we are in today. Perhaps this means the industry will need to spend less money on their products, such as slashing movie budgets. This would not be a bad thing as movies of generations ago did just fine with smaller budgets. Secondly, the media industry cannot expect to make as large of profits as they do now when their consumers have less to spend. It makes little sense for companies to be expecting to make more when their audience has remained virtually the same size and has less to spend. Where do they expect their extra revenue to come from?

Prevalence of the entertainment industry in today's culture & society.
I don't claim to be a financial or economic expert. What I do claim is to have a solid knowledge of culture, and in this instance pop culture. I understand that the media industry's products are vital to many people's lives but in the end we can always do without them. However, to strip ourselves of this product would also mean stripping a thread out of our cultural milieu; for instance Star Wars has become an important and influential component of our society, much like other products like Twilight, Guns 'n Roses, and the Simpsons. The media industry (I hope) must understand that their products need to be produced with less money, sold for less money, and to recoup smaller revenues from their products. Otherwise more people will continuing utilizing alternative ways of obtaining their products and looking for alternative and hence cheaper forms of media products such as Youtube.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Generations in the Movie Theater

My wife & I recently saw the Lion King in 3D at the movie theaters. We saw the matinee show on a weekday thinking it wouldn't be too busy but would have at least a few families in attendance. Originally, we wanted to see a late night screening of the movie as it would have fewer kids and hence be quieter. However, due to her work schedule we were forced into choosing the matinee.

When attending a family-friendly movie during a matinee time, one should expect children to be also be in attendance. One should also expect child-like behavior. What one should not expect is child-like behavior coming from the parents.

Children can be little shits at times, but it is the role of the parent to teach their child what acceptable social behavior is. My stance here means that I do not blame a child for being a shit but I also do not condone a child being a shit. A child needs to be educated on how not to be a shit. That education comes principally from the parent. If the parent is not providing this education, then I blame them when their kid is acting like a little shit.

Bad parenting comes in many forms.
While watching Lion King, two families with kids in tow sat behind us. There were many families throughout the theater. For the majority of the film the children were very respectful. The children were quiet and still. When the children broke the social rules, such as talking loudly, their parent quietly corrected them. Sometimes a child could be heard loudly asking a question, which often times were pretty damn funny because it was an innocent kid kind of question. This is actually one of the fun aspects to seeing a kid's movie with kids: they ask funny questions that somehow make the movie that much more enjoyable. However, there is a limit to these questions and the way in which they are asked and handled.

The families behind us allowed their kids to do whatever they wanted. The children flailed and carried on as if they were watching a movie at home. But this is not their home! Again, I do not blame the kids for how they were acting, I blame the parents. The father constantly laughed whenever his child did something socially inappropriate and when speaking to the child did so in a loud voice. Often I could hear the father telling his wife how funny the kids were being, in which she also responded in a similarly loud voice.

Are we producing a generation of Lohans?
I won't go so far as to say these families ruined the movie for me, but  obviously it ticked me off. It costs a lot of money to see a movie and it pisses me off to have it soiled by ignorant people who obviously have more money than I do as they don't care about spending x amount of dollars at a theater, only to sit through the movie talking and laughing. The financial aspect is definitely one reason why this upset me, but a second is that I worry for the kids. Yeah, here's my sensitive side dammit. I worry how those kids are going to grow up without a social education. Their parents have failed to teach them social etiquette. This is more worrisome because if the parents couldn't teach etiquette in a movie theater then what about more important social arenas such as classrooms and workplaces? The lack of education in the theater is just the tip of the proverbial ice-berg.

An additional thought gives me a glimmer of hope: much of human behavior is cyclical. Music for instance runs in cycles with rock music being predominant for about 13-16 years and is then replaced by pop music for an equivalent amount of time. This makes me wonder if parenting styles also run in cycles, with one generation being firm and the next loose? If this is so, then we are in a loose style of parenting. However, I have also sensed a level of apathy and 'don't give a shit' mentality that I am unaware of from previous generations of parents. It would seem all too often that current parents, particularly older parents with very young children don't give a shit about actually raising the kids. It would seem they only want the ability to say they have kids and to spend marginal amounts of time with their kids. In these cases I suggest the parents purchase a chia pet as it would be safer for everyone involved; I would have suggested a dog but I wouldn't wish that kind of life upon such a noble creature.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 3 of the New DC Comics: Part Deux!

In this post are my brief comments about the other half of the comics released in the third week of the New DC line. None of the six comics discussed below were previous monthly reads, and only one of these was a book I had really read at all. After reading these six comics, four of them were so good I want to continue reading them, while two of them were so God awful I want to ask for my money back!

Green Lantern CORPS: This was a book I had little idea of what to expect from. I read the monthly Green Lantern series, but none of the supporting GL books. This book centers upon two of the Green Lanterns, Stewart & Gardner, who are the only two GL's from Earth who do not have private identities. The book immediately focuses on the issue of their public identities while to a lesser degree builds up the back story of an entity that is murdering GL's from other sectors. I liked how the two main characters came together over how to maintain a normal life on Earth when it was public knowledge that they are GL's, which is counter to most comics that discuss the problems of maintaining a secret identity. In all, the story was enjoyable and I sense a lot of great potential in the book. The art is also also enjoyable with solidly rendered pages. This could easily become one of the sleeper hits of the New DC line!

Legion of Super-Heroes: Welcome to one of the bigger messes that DC put out! This book made very little sense as the reader is thrown into some kind of covert operation involving characters the new reader has no clue about. The story continually flips between three different groups of people without no explanation as to who they are; and no, a listing of their name and super-hero is not enough to build a character from. The art is also sloppy and does not clearly demonstrate what is occurring in each panel. The book also references a book that came out in the first week of the New DC (Legion Lost) that I had not read, which left me even more confused as to what was happening! This book would have been greatly improved with the story focusing on one or two groups of people and more explanations provided for why these events were taken place.

Nightwing: This was a very enjoyable book with solid art, although it did appear that the artist, Eddy Barrows, gave more attention to some pages over others (mainly the middle pages). This book begins a new chapter in the life of Nightwing, aka Dick Grayson, who had recently left the mantle of Batman. Previously, Bruce Wayne had gone international with seeding the world with his versions of Batman. I'm not sure why, but Wayne stopped doing this and returned to Gotham to reclaim the mantle of Batman which left Grayson to go back to being Nightwing.

This first issue examines Dick Grayson's past and introduces a new villian, while also providing a narrative about how being Batman changed the way he now handles being a super-hero. I really enjoyed the development and introduction of Nightwing's character and I see promise in where this story is going. My only complaint is that I am still confused why some characters in the New DC comics have their origins redone in the first issue while other characters are presented as coming straight off of where they were left in their previous books. This is most evident in the Batman books where it seems very little if anything has actually changed in the character's lives except that a new chapter in their lives is being presented -not a reboot as DC said would happen. Furthermore, as an avid reader of the Batman books, I find it very disappointing that DC is not spending more time on exploring Dick Grayson's departure and Bruce Wayne's return as Batman. If DC is not going to be wiping the slate clean on the Bat books, then they need to at least clean up the issues left unresolved; instead, it seems DC wants us to ignore the whole thing! Nightwing, while being a strong book from DC's new line, is frustrating for there is little reason for the book to have been renumbered and waters down DC's reasoning for the relaunches -to reboot their comics so they become accessible to new readers.

Red Hood & the Outlaws: Welcome to the second book I discuss which was a disappointment. To be fair, this book is far superior to the Legion book and the principle reason this book fails is because of its depiction of the character Starfire. Kenneth Rocafort pencils the book with a loose and angular style that stands out against the other DC books. This is a compliment as I really enjoyed this book's art but did wish that backgrounds were filled in more (too much negative space), and some of the paneling did not use up as much of the page as they could have (again, leaving too much negative space). The story line was fun and I greatly enjoyed the concept of the book and the introduction of the mysterious background of the Red Hood character. However, the character of Starfire is presented as some floozy bimbo with Superman 'esque powers and wish to sleep with any man in a 100 yard radius. This was a weak move by  Lobdell, the writer, as the other two main characters (Red Hood & Roy Harper) are bold, funny, and dynamic. It feels that Starfire was an afterthought of a character and is no way a flattering example of what a female super-hero can be. This is highlighted by how great other female characters have been used in the New DC comics such as Catwoman, Batwoman, and the to be mentioned Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

Supergirl: Holy crap this book blew me away! I read this book in under a minute partially because there was very little text and partially because the introduction of the character Supergirl had me in a headlock of awesomeness! The dialogue was brief for sure, but the combination of the brief dialogue and the engaging art made for a truly worthy read. While the dialogue was brief, the plotting of the book told another side of the story, which was told very well and demonstrated how well the writer, Michael Green, and the artist, Mike Johnson, worked together. The art, by the way, was really incredible. Supergirl's new costume looked really great and is an appreciation of a more modern design that incorporated the classic elements of Superman with a more alien, angled lines. I also appreciated how this book was a relaunch /reboot of the character. The reader needed no previous knowledge of the character when beginning this book and was exactly what expected from DC in their New 52 line of comics. This was a superb comic that I will be adding to my monthly collection for sure!

Wonder Woman: Yet another hit by DC comics! In contrast to Supergirl, Wonder Woman #1 presented a much longer and more involved story, but like Supergirl this issue began a story that the reader needed no previous knowledge base. Wonder Woman was presented as a secondary character who acted as a detective for the character Zola who was attacked by mysterious, supernatural like creatures. Wonder Woman's origin was not divulged in this issue and it seemed to be picking up from wherever the previous book left off, however this book did not seem to reference any previous events of the earlier story lines. The story also featured some great action sequences and some truly grotesque moments that are superbly rendered by the highly capable artist of Cliff Chiang. Again, this was a very strong book that I greatly enjoyed despite it not seeming to be a true reboot.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week 3 of the New DC

Encouraged with how much I enjoyed the few comics I read of the initial two weeks of the DC comics relaunch, I decided to go for broke (literally) and buy all of the new DC comics that came out in the third and fourth weeks of the relaunch. In this post I briefly discuss 6 of the third week issues. Out of the 6, only one (Batman) was a comic I previously collected on a monthly basis. Going forward I will also be collecting Catwoman on a monthly basis and will try the next issue of Captain Atom as these were the two strongest, besides Batman that I talk about here.

Batman: Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, this was a great read that like the previous Detective Comics issue, brought the Dark Knight back to his roots -as a gritty detective! I loved how the book opened with a great fight scene in Arkham Asylum and the narrative text discussed how the citizens of Gotham viewed their city. Their view had become bleak and Bruce Wayne was determined to change that view through the utilization of both his personas!

Interior page.
On a side note, I loved Greg Capullo's art. I remember his art from his earlier days working on Spawn back in the 1990's, but haven't seen anything he's done since. In Batman he's retained his Todd McFarlane (creator of Spawn) inspired style but provided it with cleaner lines. My only negative comment is that Capullo tended to make some of the characters too similar looking, such as Bruce Wayne and the new character of Lincoln March.

Birds of Prey: This book presents more or less what I was expecting from the DC relaunch: a book that starts from the beginning. The above mentioned Batman did not do this, but did present the beginning of a new Batman story. Birds of Prey however, presented the formation of a new team. The team is presented as an entity that had been previously established but has to now find new members.

The story is of a group of female crime fighters that all have ties to other superheroes, which kind of makes the ladies here seem like sidekicks to their male superhero counterparts (eg. Canary is from the Green Arrow comics). Regardless, this team can kick some but and showcases strong female characters. The storyline is interesting but does not stray far from the status quo of comic stories. The artwork is also solid but not too flashy. This is a book I could go either way on for reading again in the future; as in, if it's a slow week at the comic store I may pick up another issue.

Blue Beetle: I absolutely love this character from the cartoons but am not too familiar with the comic book source material. The first issue was great for someone like me who was not familiar with the character as it starts with the origin of the character. The story is told well but lacked the humor I expected from the cartoon, making the story feel dry. In the comic, the main character obtained his power in a happenstance and non-memorable way, unlike other characters such as Spider-Man who was bit by a spider or the Hulk saving a person's life during a gamma bomb test. Those are memorable origin stories and the Blue Beetle origin story was weak in comparison. Additionally, the story was rushed and did not have sufficient build-up for me to care about the characters that were being affected. While a reader would likely expect, and perhaps demand the appearance of the Blue Beetle to appear in the first issue, in the case of this comic I feel it would have worked better if the first issue was spent instead on building the foundation for the characters and storyline and then introduced the Blue Beetle in the second issue.  However, the story has some potential and I liked how most of the characters are Latino, which is a nice surprise to see in a comic book as the vast majority of the characters are white.

In regards to the art, it was solid but more care was needed in inking as the lines were muddled. I hate it when inkers use too thick of brushes when the lines need to be crisper.

Captain Atom: This was a surprisingly great read! I was not familiar with the character of Captain Atom and didn't know what to expect. What I found was some very well illustrated pages by Freddie Williams II and a very interesting story with loads of potential by J.T. Krul. The story throws the reader mid-way through the career of Captain Atom, with the superhero already well established in the world. However, his powers had become unstable. From there the book begins the deconstruction of the hero. I had the impression that the book did not want to start from the beginning of the character's story as the deconstruction of the hero would only be successful if it started off with a pre-established foundation of who the character was, which was quickly established in the first few pages of the book which explains the situation to new readers and notifies older readers that what they previously knew of the character was still true. In all, Captain Atom is a book I will read for a few more issues at least!

Interior page.
Catwoman: Hands down the best book out of the bunch I'm discussing in this post and is one I had not previously collected on an ongoing basis. I was absolutely floored by the beautiful artwork of Guillem March. His style seems as though it's a mesh of Joe Kubert and a sketchier form of Manga. His inks are dripping with style and I loved his usage of perspective; Guillem really thought out how he would illustrate this book! On the side of writing, Judd Winick presents a powerful female character. A woman who is confident, sexual, and loving -a real and well rounded character. I really appreciated as to how Winick gives us a female character that is anything but a stereotype! This is a character who is situated in a very complex story told in under 30 pages. Of these pages, the final few will make you open the window as it gets really steamy! This is definitely one book I will be reading on a monthly basis!

DC Universe Presents: Deadman: I am not familiar with the character of Deadman and was interested to see that DC chose this character as one of their leading heroes in the new 52 line. This book retells the origin of Deadman through narrative flashbacks and starts off a new chapter in the character's life. The character is conflicted and begins to question his role as an individual who must aid the living with their problems in order for his own soul (?) to be saved; kinda reminds me of Quantum Leap actually. The art  by Bernard Chang is clear and straight forward, but the covers have fantastically powerful illustrations by Ryan Sook. The writing is also engaging and I like where they are headed with the character. However there is something missing from the book that didn't draw me in. I can't place it, but I was left feeling very 'meh' about the character and where the story was headed. Perhaps I would have been more favorable towards this book if it had not been for the other comics I read before it. The competition in this group of week 3 books was too stiff, and in particular Captain Atom and Catowman presented much stronger stories.