Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #12

Something seems ... different.  Hold on a second, let me figure out what's going on.  Be right back...




I think there's something weird at the top of the page somewhere.  Not sure yet.  Hmm; lemme have another look.




Hey, wait a minute!  This is a new blog!  Hey, asshole!  What have you done with Ramblings Of A Honk Mahfah?!?
  
Settle down, there, Logan; we've just moved into a new house and rebranded a bit.  Ain't no government conspiracy or nothin'.
 
*****
 
Yes, folks, it's true: I have retired good old "Honk Mahfah," and opened shop under a new roof.  A casual perusal will make it evident that in so doing, I ported over the vast majority of my posts from Ramblings, gussied up the language a bit in a few places, and otherwise have decided to just carry on.  I thought briefly about just starting over from scratch with a brand-new blog, but that seemed like a silly solution; far superior to just change some titles and move everything worth moving to a new URL.
 
And here we are.  I may write a post soon concerning the reasons -- all of them boring as hell even to myself -- why I felt a need for change, but one thing hasn't change: my slavish desire to write about the comic books I'm buying.  This column was once titled "The Heroic Honk Mahfah!" and is now titled "Bryant Has Issues" (an almost unbelievably dorky title, but one I like for no apparent reason).
 
The title may have changed, but I can assure you: it's the same old bullshit that it always was.
 
Let's see if we can find some corn in it, eh?





Issue #2 of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - The Man In Black seems like a good place to start.  I wasn't overly impressed by #1, as you might recall; some of that hesitancy had to do with the art by Alex Maleev, and some with the ways in which the story by plotter Robin Furth veered away from King's novel.
 
Unfortunately, I found that these problems only became more amplified this issue.  Anyone who has read the novel The Gunslinger undoubtedly knows to expect the slow mutants to show up somewhere in this arc of the comics, and that time is now.  Here, Furth makes a substantial addition/alteration to the story, and has the Man In Black speaking with the muties, even bargaining with them in some way.  Check it out:




Now, maybe this is simply my preference for Michael Whelan's art creeping in, but I despise the way Maleev depicts the slow mutants.  And I'm not a fan, particularly, of Furth's decision to ally them -- albeit loosely -- with the Man In Black, but I can live with that.  I have a harder time living with Peter David's script, which actually has one of the slow mutants make a lolcat joke.  Don't know what a lolcat is?  Where have you been?  Again, check it out:




Yep; that's hilarious.  Don't need to be reminded of it -- or of one of the bajillion others like it -- while reading a Dark Tower comic.  I've frequently found fault with Peter David's scripts on this series, but a lolcat reference might be a new low.  And in case you were wondering whether "haz" was previously used when a different pack of slow mutants appeared in "The Little Sisters of Eluria," allow me to offer up evidence that it weren't so:




That dialogue is straight out of King's novella, incidentally.  Why change "has" to "haz"?  It's either to make people think of lolcats and chuckle, or it's not, and if it isn't, some editor somewhere ought to have caught it and put the kibosh on it; if it is, it's even more annoying.  Is this too trivial a detail for me to be making so big a deal out of?  Mayhap it is, pard; mayhap it is.  But it seems that I'm constantly coming across "little" things like this in these comics that pull me right out of the story, and they accumulate, they do.
 
Elsewhere in the issue, Roland talks to Jake a lot, and tells him stories about the Dark Tower and about Gabrielle dancing with Marten during the Sowing Night Cotil.  I enjoyed all of this stuff, and Maleev's style seems somehow better-suited to these sections.  His version of Gabrielle is pretty darn hot, too, but don't tell Roland I said so, please.
 
The whole thing culminates with the slow mutants showing up to menace Roland and Jake, and they look like shitty versions of The Lizard from the recent mediocre film The Amazing Spider-Man; this is more insulting than it might sound, because The Lizard looked like ass in that movie to begin with.  These green fellows look even worse. Have I mentioned lately that I miss Jae Lee?  Because I miss Jae Lee.
 
At this point I feel as though I need to make an admission: I'm beginning to get tired of these comics.  I don't know if Marvel plans to continue the series once this arc is finished, but I found myself wondering during this issue if I wouldn't prefer that they just fold the whole thing.  If they move into The Drawing of the Three, I'll buy it, but I'm not feeling terribly confident in Marvel's (or Furth's, and especially not David's) ability to adapt future volumes in a satisfactory manner.
 
Truth be told, I haven't been fully on board with this series in years. Individual issues still impress me from time to time, but overall, it feels as though the hands guiding the whole enterprise have grown a bit sweaty and lost their grip.




Speaking of losing their grip, the fine folks behind Saga haven't.  Damn it, I just love this comic so far.  Why?  Well, the first panel is a full page in which a character named Prince Robot IV (pictured above) is sitting on a toilet, reading a novel.  Not pooping; just reading.  My gut reaction (so to speak) is to think it would have been funnier if he had been dropping a deuce, but no, I think it's funnier for him to just be sitting there reading.
 
Elsewhere in this issue: an unexpected pregnancy; an unexpected shooting; a brutal fight scene; unexpected jeopardy for Lying Cat (oh noes!!!); a pair of purple buttocks; another unexpected shooting; gorgeous art by Fiona Staples; and the best letter column I am aware of (which isn't saying all that much because there aren't many letter columns these days although even if there were this would probably still easily be the best).
 
If you read comics, Saga is mandatory as far as I'm concerned.




I wish I could say the same about Before Watchmen, but I can't.  With each passing week, it's becoming more and more obvious that this series is wildly inconsistent, and so far, no particular overarching theme has arisen to bind the various titles that compose the series.  Is that a problem?  Not necessarily.  But it certainly isn't a virtue, either.
 
I enjoyed the first issue of Silk Spectre more than I expected to, and whattaya know, I enjoyed #2 as well.  It goes to some goofy places -- there is a villainous plot involving hippie mind control -- that I can't entirely reconcile with the original Watchmen, but in a way, that makes me like this series more, not less.
 
I may as well admit something, too: partially, I enjoy this issue because there are a lot of cheesecake drawings of Laurie as Silk Spectre.  Yeah, yeah, I know, pervo comics-reading loser thinks chicks in tight costumes are hot, blah blah blah.  Well, guess what, genius?  Chicks in tight costumes are hot.  Don't blame me for enjoying it.
 
Apart from that, I just enjoy Amanda Conner's art in general.  I think I might need to find some more of her stuff.  Did I say that when I reviewed Silk Spectre #1?  Probably; if so, it was true then, and it's still true now.




That's one of the better comic-book covers my geeky eyes have ever seen, and while it's very cool on its own, it sets up an expectation that the comic itself does not meet.
 
As the cover implies, a big chunk of this issue consists of a flashback to a situation -- as yet unexplained -- that involved the Fourth Doctor teaming up with Kirk and Spock to battle some Cybermen.  I've been jazzed for this since I first saw this cover weeks and weeks and weeks ago, and when I saw the excellent painted art by J.K. Woodward in issues one and two, I got even more excited for this Tom Baker/William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy crossover.
 
Imagine my disappointment to discover that those sections of the story were drawn by someone else entirely, and in standard comic-book letters-and-ink fashion.  Ugh.  This would be fine if the entire series had been handled that way, but since that isn't the case, these twelve pages represent a major step downward in quality, at least as far as the art is concerned.  The writing is fine; in fact, Spock's reaction to the Doctor's offering him a jelly baby is fairly priceless, and the Tiptons do a good job of making the integration between the two universes feel seamless.
 
The art, though; it's just not very good.  Some of that is undoubtedly a function of my personal disappointment at not being given the style of art I was expecting, but that's only part of the problem.  A big chunk of the rest of it lies in the fact that The Sharp Brothers really seem to struggle with drawing lips:




Them lips just don't look right to me, nosir they don't.  Elsewhere:




Three things about this:
 
(1) Even though it seems consistent with the tone of the original series Trek, I have a hard time believing Kirk could put up much of a fistfight against a Cyberman.  Doesn't ring true (although it is awfully satisfying to see him deliver one of his patented dropkicks later on).  (2) What is Bones doing there?!?  Looks like he's doing some sort of weird dance?  (3)  What the hell is Spock doing?  He appears to be about to attempt to hit a Mariah Carey-style high note.  Weird.
 
This is by no means a bad issue; the writing remains (mostly) quite good, and it's all evidently coming from a place of love for both of these sci-fi franchises.  However, yeah, I was thoroughly bummed out by the art in these flashback scenes, and it does indeed seem to have put a damper on my enthusiasm for the series overall.
 
Maybe #4 will pick things up for me again.




Our final floppy for the week finds me picking up an issue #1 of a Marvel superhero book.  Now, I may as well admit that I have no earthly idea what's going on in Marvel continuity, so in a sense I was lost while reading this.  Captain America shows up, and Spider-Man shows up, and Ms. Marvel -- remember her? -- apparently takes over the Captain Marvel duties, on account of the real Captain Marvel having died, or something.  Beats me.
 
The truth is, I bought this because I thought the woman behind it was hot.  No, no, not Carol Danvers (although she is hot); I'm talking about writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.  I heard her on a podcast a few months back, and thought gosh, she sounds delightful.  So I did what all pathetic losers do, which is to consult Google Images and find out if she was, in fact, as hot as she sounded.  And guess what?  She is.




Sigh...
 
More importantly, she's also a rather witty writer, and the podcast made it sound as though she had a good handle on how to make an interesting Captain Marvel book.  Based on this first issue, I think that's exactly the case.  It's not a slam-dunk for me (partially, I'd imagine, because I felt a little lost continuity-wise), but it's a promising beginning, and I'm planning on sticking around for several more issues.
 
*****
 
Before I sign off, I've got a recently-read graphic novel to talk about: Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? by Alan Moore and Curt Swan.




A two-parter that was first published in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 way back in 1986, this "imaginary story" (as Moore calls it in a charming prelude) does what would later become a standard practice for DC in its "Elseworlds" line of one-shots: it tells a story that is totally set outside of the continuity of the regular comics.  In other words, none of what happens to Superman here actually happens to Superman; it's all just make-believe.

Part of what must have attracted Moore to the project was that mere idea: that a comic book could be described as "make-believe" in comparison to another comic book.  There's a weird, compelling, pathetic, and oddly moving notion in that somewhere.  Let's have a look at Moore's introductory words on the matter:




That last sentence gives me goosebumps; the first one damn near brings tears to my eyes (and deep into the story, there is a single panel that completed the task).

A good shorthand way of describing Moore as a comics writer is that he is a deconstructionist.  Even as far back as his 2000 A.D. days, he was playing around with dismantling traditional ideas of what storytelling was, and I suppose -- though, being no scholar, I am not sure -- that's a good shorthand way of describing what deconstructionism is.  What Moore does that really interests me, though, is put the pieces all back together again once he's dismantled them; they fit in different ways, and mean different things, and yet somehow mean exactly the same thing.  That sounds like gobbledygook to you, I bet; it sounds like gobbledygook to me, too, but I've got the benefit of knowing what I'm trying to say as opposed to what I'm actually saying, and so it makes sense to me.  If you're merely rolling your eyes at this point, I understand completely.

What makes this an "imaginary story" is that it tells a Superman story that DC would never -- at least in 1986 -- have allowed to be told in continuity, for the simple reason that it would have brought both Superman and Action Comics to an end.  Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? is, in essence, a series finale.

Now, stop and think about the implications of the idea that this is an "imaginary story."  What's so hard to believe about the idea of Superman's story coming to an end?  Is that really so radical an idea that it would be necessary for the author to speak up at the beginning of the sotry and tell us: "Hey, look, this is just a bunch of stuff I made up; it doesn't actually count."

Yeah, it kinda is that radical an idea.  And yet, somehow, Moore and artist Curt Swan deliver a "series finale" that manages to actually BE a series finale, complete with all of the emotion that an effective series finale can bring.  We have characters here whose stories are ended definitively (in a completely imaginary sense, of course); we have themes that are brought to a resolution; we have laughter, we have tears, we have goofy comic-book moments that are SO goofy that they go full circle and become awesome again.  We have echoes of Moore's Watchmen (the first two issues of which were published the same months Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? hit shelves), and also of stories he would later tell in his America's Best Comics line of titles.

You will notice, perhaps, that I am being stingy with actual details of what this story is about.  That seems almost like a contradictory impulse, given that all of this is "imaginary," and that none of it is actually real within the confines of the Superman mythos.  And yet ... giving away what happens seems like the wrong thing to do, even for a 26-year-old comic book.  You'd think it's impossible to "spoil" an imaginary story.  And maybe it is.

And maybe that means that in all the important respects, this isn't an imaginary story at all.  It's simply a story: an effective, touching, and memorable one, too.

*****

Since there are some areas of thematic overlap, I'd originally intended to transition from that review into a review of The Dark Knight Rises, which I have now seen twice.  However, I got about three hours of sleep last night, and my bloggin' juice is just slap run out.  So it's going to have to wait until the next time.

The short version: it's really good.

I'll give you the long version in a week or so.

Thanks for stopping by!

10 comments:

  1. I've often wondered where that cheezeburger (just typing it that way makes me wince) came from. I'd been hearing it off and on and now I think I find out.

    My response to reading the comic panel was "We are now entering Star Wars Episode 2 level quality here". Technically it's a perfect example of everything that could have gone wrong with the books and thankfully hasn't.

    In a way though, this is encouraging, and I urge you to keep reading. If you do, then maybe, just maybe, one day you'll understand why I have such bad vibes about Doctor Sleep.

    ChrisC

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    1. Can I be honest, Chris?

      I'm starting to get a wee bit worried about "Doctor Sleep" myself, based solely on the fact that a release date hasn't been announced yet.

      I do understand your apprehension, though. Mucking with a classic -- and "The Shining" is a genuine classic -- is never a good idea. If ANYONE can pull off a sequel to a book that iconic, it's King, but the odds are against him. In this case, though, I'm operating on the assumption that he wouldn't be releasing the book if he didn't feel the quality was up to snuff. Doesn't mean I'll agree with him, or you, or anyone else, but if it works for him, it's tentatively good enough for me.

      But given the hitches in the release date being announced, it makes me wonder...

      No worries on the subject of the comics, by the way. They could be drawn in crayon and I'd probably continue to read them. I'm just beginning to wish Marvel would stop giving me the option.

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  2. I'm on your new site, Bryant! Love the title and the banner picture! My one comment would be that the bright blue lettering on top of the gray background is hard to read. Maybe it's just the way the light is reflecting on my screen, though. I don't know. Anyway, good luck here, it's looking good so far!

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    1. Michele, thanks a bunch for the constructive criticism! That's the kind of feedback I always appreciate, because when it comes to design, I basically suck a big ole pile of ass.

      And now that that has been pointed out to me, the blue looks TERRIBLE. I shall change it forthwith!

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  3. Well, it's interesting to here what you say about "Sleep".

    I'll confess my hope right now is that he's been reading over what he's done and maybe having second thoughts. Of course like Sgt. Schultz, I know nothing, so don't go by me.

    I do remember reading an interview Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline) had with King where King said "It was the pissed off thing to do". Now I don't know what could have got him so miffed he'd toss an idea like "Sleep" off, however I do remember thinking such moods aren't conductive to good writing.

    Anyway, here for the record are any alternate titles for the new blog free of charge if you find the current one unserviceable:

    Restaurant of the Mind.

    Freaks and Geeks: The Next Generation

    How every film and story ever made SHOULD! have ended, damn it.

    and my personal title pick:

    Intern: Mr. Lucas, I'm sorry, the script isn't really all that-

    GL: Shut up and shoot Mr. NYU Film pants!

    ChrisC

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    1. Some sort of variation on Restaurant Of The Mind would have been pretty great, actually!

      As for the George Lucas thing, I think it might send the wrong signal as to content of the blog...

      :)

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  4. I'm glad to find another Stephen King nerd blog. I myself am a huge Dark Tower dweeb, complete with ka tattoo on my inner left wrist, but without the circle around it as my body is the wheel, as is my blood (plus it would have cost more).
    I'm currently reading The Wind through the Keyhole, and I have no idea how to feel about it. It's equal parts awesome to be back in the universe, and cringe worthy, when they get to a town named "Gook" and have to avoid a "Starkblast." Christ, at one point, someone even says "the Starkblast is coming." Why didn't he just call it The Wind Through the Keyhole, Game of Thrones fan fiction.
    As for the Dark Tower comics, I agree with you, that I miss Jae Lee. His images were jaw dropping. And I understand the comics and the books are two different entities, but hearing the man in black give them orders is asinine. Its an alternate universe, why do they need to be given orders? Its been explained that the world is moving on, and the tower is falling, hence bad shit is happening all over the place.
    As for Dr. Sleep, from the excerpt he's read it sounds interesting, and it can't be any worse than Insomnia. I'll just choose to read it as a separate book, so as not to go into a nerd rage.

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    1. The prospect of a nerd rage always seems to be lurking out there, doesn't it? I have 'em on the regular.

      Totally agree with you that the excerpts King has read from "Doctor Sleep" sound interesting. If the whole novel follows suit, I think I'll probably love it; but my guess is it's going to be the most divisive novel he's published since the final Dark Tower novels.

      Speaking of which, I personally loved "The Wind Through the Keyhole." The Starkblast did indeed put me in the mind of the idea that winter was coming (real damn quick in this case), but it didn't bother me; given the wacky things that start happening in "Wolves of the Calla," it seems rather appropriate, if anything.

      That town named Gook, though ... that's a weird one.

      Here's a link to the review I wrote of the novel earlier this year: http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2012/02/a-brief-review-dark-tower-wind-through.html

      When you've finished it, feel free to stop by and let me know what you thought (good, bad, or indifferent).

      Delete
  5. Re: Amanda Connor - her cheesecake shots are better than anyone's, for my money. She mixes the sensibilities of Frank Cho with Milo Manara. To paraphrase you from another blog, if you don't enjoy looking at Laurie in this issue, you're doing it wrong.

    The hippie mind control cult does seem a bit out of place, but I had the same reaction. While processing "This doesn't seem tonally right," (particularly when the Merry Pranksters and Owsley showed up - and stayed right through the end of the series, even!) I had a simultaneous reaction of "...and I like it!"

    I've only read Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and Minutemen so far. So far, Silk Spectre's been my favorite.

    I'm not a HUGE fan of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. But most of my antipathy towards it is wrapped up in malaise at Crisis/reboot/crash-ending-era of DC in general. As an homage/ wrap-up of pre-Crisis Superman, it's a nice gesture but doesn't capture the Weisinger era well enough for me. Moore did a better homage with Supreme, IMHO. I feel towards this one the way I feel towards The Killing Joke - not bad stories but not among my favorite Superman or Batman representations.

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    1. I haven't read any "Supreme" yet. I think it's coming up relatively soon, though.

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