Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tokyo Ghost Volume 1: The Atomic Garden REVIEW

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Of all science fiction subgenres, cyberpunk has the shortest shelflife. That’s not to say there aren’t any timeless stories this bizarre literary and cinematic movement have produced. Cyberpunk gave us the Matrix, which changed the way blockbusters would be made for most of a decade, for better or worse, and William Gibson’s masterpiece Neuromancer (which really gave legitimacy to the whole genre) opened the flood gates for science fiction writers to push boundaries and blur the line between genre fiction and literary fiction. Both of these stories are told with a sort of dream logic, and they explore philosophical ideas that transcend genres and challenge the viewer/reader’s perception of humanity in the digital age. I truly believe they will remain relevant works of fiction for generations to come.

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*This is important*

But for every Matrix or Neuromancer filling the science fiction landscape, there’s a Strange Days or Virtual Light (also by Gibson).  I don’t mean to say either of these are bad works. In fact, both are quite good…for when they were written. The problem a lot of cyberpunk works have is that their speculations are not terribly far flung. There usually aren’t spaceships or time travel or alien races walking around in these stories, and that’s not necessarily a strike against them. But when you write a story that takes place twelve years in the future, you may want to reel things in and then try to cast your line a bit farther out (I’m looking at you Gibson with your hologram car hoods in the year 2006).

Time catches up to cyberpunk fiction way too quickly. And while some of the predictions made are frighteningly on the nose, some of them (hologram car hoods; sorry for harping on this) are just plain silly and present day audiences (or anyone who consumes these works a decade or so after they’re released) will just laugh them off.

Tokyo Ghost is somewhere in the middle. It’s future is far enough out there (2089) that when things do catch up to the year, all the people who read it will either be dead or too old to give a shit that Rick Remender and Sean Murphy didn’t hit the nail exactly on the head.

The Atomic Garden, which collects the first five issues of Tokyo Ghost, suggests a world where people have become addicted to technology (sound familiar?). This is nothing new in the world of Cyberpunk, but what is new is where the story turns. We follow Led Dent and Debbie Decay, a pair of lovebirds who work as “constables” and handle the dirty work for a shady business mogul/slum lord/gangster (I’m not sure, really). When Dent and Debbie take on a job in Japan, where technology has been outlawed, they find something they weren’t bargaining for, both good and terribly, horribly, violently bad.

This is another one of those books I don’t want to give you too much information about. Much like Rick Remender’s Low (we’ll get to that in a future review), there’s very deliberate story build up and sucker punch character arcs in each issue.

I enjoy this book a great deal. It certainly breathes some life into an all but dead subgenre.

There isn’t a whole lot of new ideas brought to the table in Tokyo Ghost, but the story elements and cyberpunk aesthetics are executed with such confidence you won’t notice how derivative it can be at times.

If I had to pick one thing that really didn’t work for me, it would be the comic’s villian, a twisted murderer who sees the world as nothing more than his digital playground and speaks in mellinial slang. Where this character should be a terrifying nemesis, he just comes off annoying. Hopefully his back story and motivations get fleshed out in future issues. 

Ultimately I had a blast with Tokyo Ghost, and I look forward to see what comes next.

Oh…and Led Dent’s motorcycle is called “Zeus’ Dick,” so there’s that…

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*Vroooooom!*

Final Grade: B

 

40 Bullets: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice **SPOILERS!**

I’m just going to come out and say it: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was an unbridled pile of shit that made me want to burn every DC comic I own. Now, there are a FEW things I did like about the film (see if you can pick them out below), but overall, the movie was an incoherent mess. Here are 40 random thoughts about the film.  SPOILERS! Lots and lots of SPOILERS! If you actually want to see this train wreck without being tainted by “plot” details of the film, stop here…or don’t. Save you $10 and go to Chipotle or something instead. sup

  1. Who was that in Wayne Tower in Metropolis at the beginning of the film? It sounded like Bruce was calling him “Dad” or “Jack.” I couldn’t tell. Does Bruce have a step-dad? If not, why should we care about him?
  2. Why did it take a phone call from Bruce to evacuate the building? Um, hello…Kryptonian slug fest happening outside: GET THE FUCK OUT!
  3. What was with all the horses in this movie?
  4. So, wait, does Superman kill people now? He totally killed the mercenary dude by flying him through a brick wall. Does Superman not understand how humans work? Was this some sort of flesh bag durability trial he was conducting?
  5. Why was the whole Lexcorp bullet thing so important? Was it just a dumb plot device to give Lois Lane something to do?
  6. Wait, was that Jimmy Olsen as the CIA operative? Holy shit, it was. What?
  7. So is Lex just mad because he’s not Superman? Seems petty for a villain who is supposed to be cool and calculating.
  8. I am not okay with this Lex Luthor. I kept trying to convince myself that Jesse Eisenberg was doing a good job…but I’m not sure he was. Maybe he just went nuts without any sort of direction. It just goes to show that Zack Snyder sucks at making compelling villains. He even fucked up Ozymandias in Watchmen, a character that should have been insanely easy to bring to life. Snyder only thinks in absolutes when it comes to antagonists.
  9. What does Lexcorp do? I mean, I get the whole weapons thing, but the office looks like something you’d see in HBO’s Silicon Valley. What is Lexcorp’s front?
  10. Batman kills people. Like, a lot of people. I’m actually okay with this. He has become Frank Miller’s “The Goddamn Batman” (or just Michael Keaton’s Batman, who killed SO MANY people; seriously, go back and watch Batman and Batman Returns).
  11. I actually like this 20-year veteran Batman not giving a shit about mutilating and murdering criminals. Honestly, I feel like this would be the natural progression of Batman.
  12. Why was the “bat brand” a mark for death in prison? That was not explained at all.
  13. I like drunk Alfred.
  14. So I guess Alfred is playing the Lucius Fox role, too. Okay…why?
  15. Batman is pretty dumb for being the world’s greatest detective.
  16. How did Bruce not know Lex was sending him all the nastygrams?
  17. Is Bruce Wayne that easily shaken that he’d go to war with a god because someone was being mean to him?
  18. Why didn’t Bruce follow the whole “oh, wow this Diana Prince lady is over a 100 years old” thing further? You’d think it’d be important for Batman to know what her deal was before picking a fight with Supes.
  19. Hey Chris Pine was in the 1918 Wonder Woman picture. Cool.
  20. What the fuck was the Flash saying to Bruce in the Batcave? “Am I too early?” What does that mean?
  21. That dream sequence Bruce had was kinda cool, but I had no idea what was going on.
  22. What happened to Wayne Manor? Why was it burned to a crisp?
  23. Jeremy Irons voice is amazing…this has nothing to do with the movie, but I just wanted to comment on it.
  24. Lex’s plan was incredibly dumb…so was his backup plan. If Batman didn’t kill Superman, Lex was going to let Doomsday off his chain, right? Okay…then who would take out Doomsday? Even if Batman did slay The Man of Steel, would Doomsday still be let out of his weird birthing sack? It seemed like Lex was planning to execute these two schemes concurrently, which made no damn sense at all.
  25. Wonder Woman looked cool and I like how she fought. But that was about it. They did fuck all with her character.
  26. The Justice League cameos were laughably out of place.
  27. However, Aquaman looked pretty rad.
  28. Why aren’t these movies playing into the DC TV shows?
  29. We get it: Superman is Jesus and the Kryptonite spear is the Spear of Destiny. Yes, he’s the messiah…he had to be a martyr, yadda yadda. If that shit was any more ham-fisted, they would have buried Superman in a cave and then had a title card read “three days later.” Subtext should never be TEXT.
  30. The actual Batman/Superman fight was boring (just like most of this movie).
  31. “Martha!” Fuck off… That was the single dumbest way to bury the hatchet between rivals I have ever seen.
  32. Doomsday looked terrible. Like, really bad.
  33. It seemed like Wonder Woman would have eventually taken care of Doomsday by herself.
  34. Doomsday had no dick. Maybe this was why he (she?) was so angry.
  35. The Zod/Luthor hybrid/test-tube love child backstory of Doomsday works for the sake of movie continuity, but it was still pretty dumb. Doomsday had a badass backstory in the comics (which, honestly, was the only interesting thing about his character). Batman rescuing Martha Kent was pretty awesome. The way he fought a room full of people was exhilarating to watch, but it was too little, too late.
  36. Batman really had nothing to do during the last fight.
  37. Why didn’t Wonder Woman impale Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear? Oh, right…Superjesus had to do it.
  38. Wonder Woman questioning Bruce about why they should form the Justice League was the only rational thing any character in this movie said.
  39. Superman’s coffin was pretty.
  40. And finally, fuck this movie.
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Mark Millar’s World Part 1: The Burning Clog FUN SIZE REVIEWS

This is something new. I’m going to look back at what I’ve read by a certain writer and give each comic in their bibliography  a brief review and letter grade (cuz the Interwebs loves letter grades and/or stars). Now, some of these may turn into full-length (or King Size?) entries in the future, but at this time, I’m rocking Fun Size Reviews.

So with Marvel Studios continuously throwing gas on the Civil War hype fire, I figure it’s only fitting to put the author of the original mini-series, Mark Millar, under the microscope.

Here we go:

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Kick-Ass (2008-2010)

Dave Lizewski is a teen loser who one day decides to take up crime fighting and becomes the masked vigilante Kick-Ass. There is a catch, however: after donning the suit, he’s still a teenage loser. This amusing concept would work well as one-shot (think Garth Ennis’ The Pro), but the joke gets agonizingly dull over the course of eight issues. I wanted to like Kick-Ass (the comic and the titular hero) but every single hero, villain, and supporting character in this comic is either boring, unlikable, or dumb as a grapefruit.

Kick-Ass is not without its merits, though. John Romita Jr.’s art is great, and there are a few jokes that elicited some hearty chuckles. And while the character of Hit Girl is a divisive one (especially the film adaptation’s incarnation) she’s a blast to watch mercilessly tear through throngs of nameless Mafia goons, panel after bloody panel. I can also appreciate the satirical nature of this book (the deconstruction of superhero deconstruction books and the ugly reflection of mass media violence being shoved in the face of of the viewer), but I can’t get past how juvenile the whole thing is.

Final Grade: C+

 

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Civil War (2006-2007)

Like most rational people who don’t strive on arguing, I try not to discuss politics with someone who I know will disagree with me, especially if I have to see them on a day-to-day basis. You know you’re not going to change someone’s mind or give them some sort of huge insight into a greater truth regarding yadda yadda yadda, so it’s best just to shut the fuck up and leave things be. You stay in your camp, and they stay in theirs until election season.

But what if one day, you decide you really need to lay it down on Lois in accounting? She’s always up in arms about one thing or another and she’s always fucking wrong. So you do your homework and you work up a great argument to back up your case. You even get Tina from sales and Clark in shipping to get on board with you and form a nice little debate team. You plan your attack perfectly and when you’re about to strike, Lois has her own argument and her own facts and her own back up debate team and the whole thing turns into a goddamn a mess! Civil War applies this scenario to superheros, and it works. It works very well…

Also Steve McNiven’s work is so damn good in this series it should be a crime. Seriously, I’ve always said I’m not a big art guy, but his work is some of my favorite out there.

Final Grade: B+

 

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Nemesis (2010)

This one is a mess, you guys. Even McNiven’s usually stellar artwork seems to be suffering here. Nemesis is a four part limited series about a guy who is essentially Batman but on the other side of the law. I remember seeing promos for this book and getting really excited. There was this really cool image floating around online with Nemesis’ blood-splattered face grinning at you and the words “what if Batman was a complete cunt?” written in big blocky letters across the image. It was awesome, and the idea of an anti-Batman sounded like such a simple concept and the right execution would kick so much ass. With a talented writer like Millar, this book should have been stellar, but sadly…it wasn’t. In fact, I think this might be my least favorite of Millar’s work. Seriously, I do not like this book. What should have been a simple story that has fun with the lunacy inherent to its concept turns into a cloak and dagger tale that never gets fully resolved. This would be fine if the true nature of Nemesis wasn’t revealed until its final issue with such banality. It’s a bait and switch that is completely insulting to the reader. Millar is better than Nemesis. So is McNiven. However, if the long-delayed (possibly canceled forever) Nemesis 2 finally sees the light of day, I will give it a chance. There is a nugget of greatness in this book and I hope against hope the creators can turn it into gold.

Final Grade: D

 

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Ultimate Fantastic Four (2004)

Marvel’s Ultimate Universe was a mixed bag that ultimately (Ba dum tsh) wore out its welcome. Don’t get me wrong, the revamp/alternate version of a large swath of Marvel’s flagship properties certainly gave birth to some great incarnations of famous characters.

Millar co-wrote the first six issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four with fellow prolific comic scribe, Brian Michael Bendis (another guy who will probably get the Fun Size treatment in the future). I was never much of an FF fan as a kid so when I picked up the first trade of Ultimate Fantastic Four, I didn’t know what to expect other than that a stretchy guy, a fire guy, a rock guy, and a transparent lady would be yelling at each other and eventually fight some metal-faced villain. Well, as it turned out that’s exactly what I got. This book was a lot of fun, but in not sure who is to blame for that: Millar or Bendis.

Fo real, tho…The Thing poop joke was great…

Final Grade: B

 

 

 

The Devil in the Details: Thoughts on Season 2 of Daredevil **SPOILERS**

Note: there will be massive Spoilers in this post. If you have not watched the first two seasons of Netflix’s Daredevil and don’t want things ruined, stop reading now

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Are they gone? Good.

So I just finished Daredevil season 2, and much like the first season, I had mixed feeling after the finale’s credits rolled but ultimately found the 13 hour viewing experience enjoyable. Here’s the good, the bad, and the stupid from this season:

 

  • Jon Bernthal’s Punisher is awesome. I know just about everyone on the Internet is raving about his performance to the point where it might sound a little hyperbolic to say he was born to play Frank Castle, but it’s true. Every single good thing written about Bernthal’s portrayal and the Punisher’s story arc (especially in the first four episodes) is absolutely true. The character truly comes to life and Bernthal deserves every scrap of praise he’s getting. He makes the Punisher not just a badass vigilante, but a badass vigilante with complex emotions and a relatable drive for what he’s doing.
  • Charlie Cox seems way more comfortable in his role this season, but I can’t help but laugh every time he turns his head to listen to something. I know his mannerisms makes complete sense based on Matt’s handicap/power, but it just reminds me of a dog listening to its owner’s voice on an answering machine.
  • DD’s costume looks way less goofy this season.
  • Elodie Yung’s Elektra is cool and all, but it’s a far cry from the character’s comic counterpart. I really like her as an actress and she’s sultry and fierce enough to bring Elektra to life, but the writers sorta dropped the ball on this one. This is not the Elektra you know and love. If you can get over that, then you will probably enjoy her screen presence.
  • Speaking of Elektra, the Black Sky stuff did not work for me. It seemed shoehorned in at the end of season 1 and felt really cheesy in season 2. I’m totally on board for magic-apocalypse-cult-ninjas, but I felt like The Hand never seemed menacing enough.
  • However, those exsanguinated kids were creepy as shit.
  • Foggy was great this season. The Punisher court scenes were amazingly well-constructed and really gave Elden Henson the opportunity to prove he could be the standout in an episode. More Foggy, please.
  • I’m sure you’re going to see a ton of “One batch, two batch, penny and dime” memes very, very soon.
  • I didn’t realize how much I missed Vincnet D’Onofrio until Fisk showed up in the second half of the season.
  • Fisk vs. Castle = awesome.
  • Fisk vs. Murdock = hilarious
  • Holy shit, dat episode 3 stairwell fight, tho…
  • This season did a much better job at balancing the action and court drama than the first season did. There was very little slog in this season.
  • Nobu was badass, but his face should have been in way worse condition after his immolation in season 1.
  • I wanted the fight between Nobu, Daredevil, and Elektra to have a little more gravitas. It felt kinda cheap after some of the earlier fights in the season (e.g. the stairwell fight).
  • How Nobu was killed was also badass.
  • Which brings me to Stick being badass. Scott Glen is great and I was very pleased to see more of him this season.
  • Karen seemed to have more story arcs in this season than anyone else. It seemed like she was always getting into things that never involved her.
  • I liked Matt and Karen’s romance.
  • I liked Matt and Elektra’s sick obsessiveness over each other more.
  • “Hi, Finn Cooley!”
  • “Bye, Finn Cooley!”
  • But for real, is Cooley really dead? I mean he took a shotgun blast to the face, but if there’s going to be a Punisher spin-off (which Marvel would be nuts not to do one) Cooley showing back up (sans face) as a Punisher villain would be awesome and would play into the Ennis’ era lunacy of the comics.
  • Any dialogue between Frank and Matt was great.
  • Any dialogue between Frank and Karen was even better!
  • Why the hell did Karen get a job at the New York Bulletin? Is it because she’s good at sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong? But can she write? Didn’t make sense to me.
  • Big props to the make-up artists this season. I love how Frank’s bruises in episode 6 gave him this whole skull-faced monster look in low light. Very nice touch. A bit heavy-handed, but still nice.
  • “See ya around, Red…” Jeez, I hope so.
  • I missed Ben Urich.
  • I honestly didn’t see that whole Blacksmith reveal coming. I wished there was more to that story, though. It felt only half realized, but of course, this is Daredevil’s show, not the Punisher’s (but it probably should be the Punisher’s; just sayin’).
  • Frank stabbing that guy in the guts with a butcher knife made me cringe.
  • Stick getting tortured via bamboo shoots under his fingernails made me cringe even more.
  • I could have used more Frank during the second half of the season (but then again: not Punisher’s show).
  • I loved all the little cameos and nods to the bigger Daredevil universe, but…
  • WHERE THE FUCK IS BULLSEYE?
  • The teaser for Luke Cage after the finale was great.
  • Bottom Line: I felt this season was just as good as the first. Fisk being gone didn’t hurt the series as bad as I thought it would have. The Punisher more than made up for most of this season’s short comings. And for better or worse, no one character consumed too much screen time. If anything, you want to see more of certain characters. I recommend Daredevil for fans of the character or anyone looking for a good binge watch. 

 

 

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East of West REVIEW

NOTE: This review covers the first four trade paper backs of East of West, which collect issues 1 – 19 and The World source book.

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*Source: imagecomics.com*

Read this book. Now. Stop reading this, go get the trades, and consume them with you eye teeth. They are fantastic.

East of West is one of those rare books that takes genre tropes, tosses them in a blender, and produces something on the page that is larger and far more intriguing than its separate parts. I mean, it would be easy to call this book a science fiction story and move along, but you would be doing the work Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have produced a great disservice.

This book has everything: drama, horror, romance, action, adventure, Native American mysticism, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, family blood feuds, gunslingers, political intrigue, and a robot balloon. When I say East of West has everything, I mean it has EVERY-FUCKING-THING.

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*source: East of West #19 (I think) from Image Comics*

The last time I recall being shotgunned by ten different genres and loving every moment of it would be when I read the first three Dark Tower books by Stephen King.

While being shotgunned by genres may seem overwhelming, the abundance of stuff jammed into each issue does nothing to hinder the flow of the story or character development.

“So, Mike, what is East of West all about?” you might ask.

To which I would like to reply, “Shut your face and just read it.” But what I would probably tell  you is that the comic follows one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death (yes, that Death) as he travels across a version of the United States, where the line between magic and technology is blurred, in search of his lost child, a child who just might be the harbinger of End Times, like, for real.

I guess that would be the elevator pitch. And if that didn’t grab you, I’d probably tell you about the robot balloon again.

I don’t want to be cryptic about this comic. I really don’t, but every time I write a word in this review, I feel like I’ve said too much.

This is one of those stories that it methodical in its telling. And while sometimes what’s going on can seem arcane, things always come around full circle.

This is a challenging book, but not challenging in the way one would consider Alan Moore’s A Disease of Language challenging. This book likes to keep you in the dark right up to the point where you want to drop the comic like a vomiting baby that’s not yours and walk away. But the precipice of making you do so is never crossed. Just when you think you’re going to give up, East of West grabs your stupid, stupid face and makes you read its crazy words and look at its batshit, bonkers pictures and then it shakes you silly and makes you scream, “thank you, sir, may I have another?” and then it give you this:

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*Source: East of West #3*

On a Pale Robot Horse Thing or Something… 

This book does not give a shit if you like it or not. And its apathy isn’t presented in a pretentious Radiohead sort of way; it’s in a switchbladeand broken beer bottle, punk rock sort of way. This book has a permanent sneer on its face and it wants to show you something different. It wants you to feel the plight of its characters in every panel and reconsider what you think makes traditional story telling work. And love it or hate it, there’s something to be said for that.

At the time of this writing, the first four trades paper backs are out now and the fifth will be released soon. There is also a deluxe hardcover that collects the first 15 issues called The Apocalypse: Year One. Pick them up or get the singles if you’re a glutton for punishment.

Quick reminder: Robot Balloon.

Final Grade: A

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Batman v. Frank Miller: Dawn of Callousness

So Frank Miller is (sort of) writing Batman again. This calls for cheer and jeers for myriad reasons. Thus far, DC Comics has only published 3 (out of 8) issues of the third installment of the Dark Knight Returns series, The Dark Knight 3: The Master Race (yes, I shuddered when I ready the bit after the colon, too).

Before we dive into my thoughts on TDK3 (which are not fully developed since the series hasn’t even reached its halfway point), there are a few things I want to bring to light regarding my love/tainted-love/hatred of Mr. Frank Miller and his body of work. Here goes:

I know at this point anyone who sites The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR) as being one of those books that changed the way they looked a superhero stories and comics in general, like, forever, sounds like a broken record, but that doesn’t make the sentiment any less true. Especially in my case.

For some people the moment of realization that masked vigilantes would actually be stark-raving lunatics if they were integrated into the real world was presented to them by Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s brilliant Watchmen; for me, I caught that sucker punch from TDKR.

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*source unknown, but from somewhere probably awesome*

The library across the street from my house actually had a paperback copy of the trade. I recall walking there at the age of 15 and checking out the dogeared trade and tearing through it one summer afternoon. I also remember returning it and then going home to chastise my other comics for not being as good.

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Get your shit together, Chris! 

A couple years later, it was announced that there was going to be a sequel. I was elated by the news.

The day of its release, I picked up the first issue of The Dark Knight Strikes Again (TDK2). I read it with the same fervor I had when I first devoured its predecessor. But did TDK2 have the same shattering impact on my comic psyche? Not so much.

But how could it? I wasn’t expecting it to be. I was, however, expecting something slightly better than this:

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Gentlemen, indeed. Hopefully one of them is a chiropractor.

What made TDKR so great was its dark underworld and dystopian society; its self-referential satirical tone that never traveled to cuckoo land territory, but instead embraced the lunacy without making if feel like a cartoon. All of that was gone in its little-loved follow up.

The work Miller churned out in those three grueling issues (especially the post-9/11 ones) made me wonder if he lost a bet or maybe lost his mind. The latter appeared to be more likely after the releases of the jingoistic Holy Terror graphic novel and that god-awful-what-the-fuck-am-I-watching? Spirit movie. It was then that I wondered if Frank Miller was just a shitty artist (and shitty dude), and what I was reading was the first time he was blatant enough to drag his unmasked shittiness into his art…

…I’m gonna go with yes.

Now I don’t think everything Miller has created since Strikes Again has been awful. I’m a fan of some of the Sin City stories (That Yellow Bastard in particular) despite some of the blatant sexism that rides a dangerous line between social commentary and perhaps Miller’s own vision that all women as either damsels in distress or whores. Oh, wait…it just occurred to me That Yellow Bastard came out five years before TDK2. Soooo…Never mind. Everything he has created since then has been garbage (maybe even since Sin City: Hell & Back, which was a huge let down for me, too).

But I digress.

It really does feel like The Dark Knight Strikes Again was the turning point in Miller’s career: before SA and after SA. Before we had great works like Ronin and his run on Daredevil (although it fell victim to some of the same trappings as Sin City) and after SA…well, we covered that. Oh, wait, did I mention this happened too?

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*source: DC comics (they might deny it, though)*

That’s right. Soak it in.

But now we have a new goddamn Batman. Or the return of an old goddamn Batman or some goddamn thing…I don’t goddamn know. Let’s just say the Internet shit its collective pants when DC officially announced that Miller was returning to his Dark Knight Universe with The Master Race. The title alone raised a ton of red flags. This is completely understandable since the words “Master Race” have a certain connotation that’s pretty hard to escape. And given Miller’s 21st Century work, one can only strike up an image like…

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*source: history we wished never fucking happened*

Yeah, that.

Now, I know Miller is no stranger to evocative subject matter (even when he was killing it in the 70s and 80s) so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to buy The Master Race as it is released month-to-month (something I DO NOT like doing). So how is the comic? Is it super racist and insulting? Is it just plain boring? Does it suck? Does Wonder Woman still need a spinal realignment?

Well, no… the book so far is actually good. It’s no Dark Knight Returns, but it doesn’t make me want to set every Batman comic I own on fire either. It’s somewhere in the middle. The dialogue is good, not great. The story seems to be ramping up to something big. The art it tight and easy to follow. There isn’t a lot wrong with the book other than it isn’t super engaging or challenging.

I’ll say it: this comic seems safe. But I don’t know if it will stay that way. Like I mentioned before, we’re not even halfway through this thing.

I think the reason for this sterile version The Dark Knight is because of Miller’s involvement, or lack thereof really. The book appears to be spearheaded by writer Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Wonder Woman) and artist Andy Kubert (all the X-Men comics I loved in the 90s), leaving Miller as the backseat driver of the project. Azzarello, whose work I absolutely love, seems to be trying to imitate Miller’s voice to a certain degree and Kubert’s art is much cleaner than I’m used to.

It’s as if Frank Miller jotted down some story points and just handed everything over to the new team, but the new team was too scared to make it their own. Instead, it seems like they want to relive the glory days of The Dark Knight Returns and slap Miller’s name on it so jaded comic nerds like me can maybe admire the guy’s work one last time.

Now I don’t know if that’s true or not (I try to shy away from behind the scenes stuff about media development until I’ve consumed it). But damn if what I’ve read so far doesn’t make me believe that’s the case.

Look, I wish TDK3 all the best. I want it to be good. Hell, I want it to be great. I can forgive that shitty Superman cover Miller drew for the mini comic in the first issue since his pencils for the interior pages were fine. I can (almost) forgive the $6 cover price DC is charging per issue and the $12 per issue hardback version. I can forgive the stupid layout and awkward mini-comic being glued to a piece of card stock making the whole book a pain in the ass to read.

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I let THIS slide, Miller! Do me a solid, man! 

But I don’t think I can forgive Miller for all his previous artistic transgressions. At least not yet, anyway. But hell, he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need forgiveness from any of us. He’s given us some great work, some of comics’ finest. And as much as I want nothing more than to love Frank Miller once again, I don’t.  And maybe, just maybe everything he gave us before The Dark Knight Strikes Again should be enough to outweigh any negative views we have of the man and his late career work.

This isn’t the Frank Miller was want, but maybe it’s the Frank Miller we deserve.

 

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Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham Book 1: The Golden Age REVIEW

Okay. Since this is the first review on this blog I want to get a few things out in the open about me as comic reader:

  1. I am not fan of buying single issues. It’s an expensive habit (addiction) that I have all but abandoned many years ago. However, the shelves of my book case are suffering from the number of trade paper backs that inhabit them. I make no apologies for this.
  2. I am not a superhero guy and I haven’t been since I was ten years old. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good story about an established character. If there is a bunch of backstory I need to consume prior to reading an arc about Batman or Supes or The X-Men, etc. that has piqued my interest, I’ll take a dive into related trades or read up on stuff on a wiki. But superhero books are not my go-to. I’m a fan of crime, sci-fi, fantasy, and alternative (whatever the hell that means) comics, and I have been since I first read Sin City in the pages of Dark Horse Comics Presents back in middle school (ah, the good ol’ days, back when Frank Miller was considered only a chauvinist and  not a xenophobic, racist, chauvinist).
  3. I seek comics out based on who wrote them. I love comic art, and I appreciate well construction sequential work, but this is not what attracts me to the medium.
  4. I am not going to post “spoilers” unless the review warrants them. If there is a potential spoiler (and I’m not talking about something that is omnipresent in pop culture like Vader being Luke’s old man) I’ll warn you. I want you to read the comics I write about here, even if I think they suck.
  5. I am not a comic scholar. If I get some stuff wrong or cross the streams of comic continuity, feel free to let me. Just don’t be a dick about it. The same goes for typos. I often have a few drinks when I write so I’m sure there will be some sentence snafus.
  6. I love Alan Moore, and I will not apologize for this either.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into it:

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**

Back in the early 80s, Alan Moore tackled the all-but-dead property of Miracleman and wrote his first super hero deconstruction story. This was before Watchmen. Before Top 10. Before Alan Moore was ALAN-FUCKING-MOORE.

Moore cranked out 16 issues (three volumes) published under the now defunct Eclipse Comics, and I’m here to tell you, they were damn good. I suggest you scoop up the recently released reprints from Marvel (even if Mr. Moore had his name removed from their pages). It’s a seminal work, and the impact of his run can still be felt in comics (and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which borrows heavily from Miracleman) to this day. In a way, Miracleman was a dry run for Watchmen.

Moore’s meta-revisionist take on the character was bold and exciting even if some issues suffered from tail-chasing meditations on what it means to be a superhero/god in the modern world. But after Moore’s departure, Neil Gaiman took up the reigns and guided the book in a very different direction.

It’s difficult to really consider this book the 4th volume in the Miracleman saga since the titular character is barely in in it. The Golden Age mainly deals with the world left behind after the events of Moore’s run. And honestly, it’s to the series’ benefit.

Gaiman’s run picks up a few years after Miracleman’s battle with his adversary, Johnny Bates (AKA Kid Miracleman) in London, which left the city demolished and thousands dead. Instead of following the exploits of our hero, Gaiman and Buckingham peak into the day-to-day existence of several characters living in or around London after the fallout. These stories are told with a wonderful lyrical quality and are punctuated with ever-changing visuals thanks to Buckingham’s incredibly versatile artwork.

Gaiman and Buckingham’s collaboration is amazingly fluid and organic. This seems to be a personal book. All the introspective tangents Moore traveled never felt humanized since they were essentially from the point of view of a god. What Gaiman does so earnestly and with such elegance grants the reader some of those same viewpoints from the human perspective, making the unfathomable idea of living among superheros grounded in reality.

Gaiman essentially took a meta-narrative and turned it into a story about faith, loss, love, and hope. That’s no small feat.

Now, I won’t say that I enjoyed this book more than the previous ones. Honestly, their respective tones are so different, they almost feel disconnected (I say, almost). Gaiman wanders the world Moore created with a childlike wonderment that few writers are brave enough to embrace so willingly. There’s something beautiful about that. Where Moore propagated deconstruction, Gaiman tried to build something wondrous and ethereal. There’s amazing heart to this book.

Gaiman and Buckingham are far from finished. When they took over as the creative team on the series, they had planned three six-issue story arcs. Unfortunately, Eclipse went out of business two issues into their second volume, The Silver Age. Luckily, Marvel is releasing the “lost issues” of Miracleman and is giving Gaiman and Buckingham the green light to finish what they originally started nearly twenty years ago.

But enough praise…

Now what I’m about to write is really based on my own personal bias (what review isn’t?). But you know how I mentioned I seek out comics based on who wrote them? Yeah, well Neil Gaiman was not always one of those writers and he still doesn’t have me nosediving for books the day of release.

My relationship with Gaiman’s work has been up and down: I never got into Sandman (yes, I know, I suck); I thought American Gods was basically a bunch of great ideas jammed into a lackluster novel; and I was left underwhelmed by his Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Batman story. That being said, when Gaiman is firing on all cylinders (like he is in The Golden Age), it’s impossible to deny his brilliance.

I am extremely interested in seeing how it will play out. Both Mr. Gaiman and Mr. Buckingham have evolved as artists over the last 20 years and I can’t wait to see how their respective growths will influence how they move forward.

I highly recommend reading The Golden Age along with the books that came before it. The transition from Moore’s work to that of Gaiman’s is surprisingly digestible and quite rewarding.

Final Grade: B+

**Image from previewsworld.com

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New Direction

Like Stain’d so famously put it, “It’s been awhile.” (thank you, Scott Aukerman for the joke that keeps on giving).

I feel like this blog has been dormant for far too long so I’m going to use it for something I love to do but don’t do often enough: talk about comic books.

That’s right. Comics. Graphic novels. Funny books. That thing you read on your iPad because you hate paper or you’re running out of room for long boxes. You know the things.

I’m going to start this off this week (in the next post) with a review of Neil Gaiman’s Miracleman The Golden Age TBP. And yes, I will talk about Alan Moore in that post. And yes, I’ll get into why I don’t really like super heroes. And yes, I’ll discuss my strenuous relationship with Mr. Gaiman’s work. And yes, I will assign it some sort of letter score because the Internet seems to crave that sort of thing.

So after a bit of a face lift and a some push on the Twitter, I think this’ll be something that sticks…

Or not. Who knows?

 

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