Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #19

After the colossal suck that was last week's batch of comics, I approached this week's batch somewhat trepidatiously.

And guess what?

This week's batch sucks, too.

This piece a crap here is leading the way.

I haven't enjoyed any of the issues of The Man In Black, but this one is far and away the worst, because it's the one that should pack a hefty emotional punch.  It should feel like a bit of a culmination, not merely of this arc, but also of The Gunslinger overall, and maybe of the series overall.

This is not that.  This is a comic that is failed utterly by bad art.  A few weeks ago, I was complaining about how Alex Maleev -- allegedly a talented professional artist -- had botched the design and depiction of the slow mutants.  In that case, I could theoretically have just been responding to Maleev not drawing the characters the way I see them in my head (thanks to my previous familiarity with the story).  If someone accused me of that, I'd shrug and admit that they could possibly be right.

Not so this time out.  Here, I am prepared to say that what Maleev is doing in this issue is simply not good art.  Is it good compared to what I could do?  Good lord, yes.  Is it good compared to what one ought to expect from a Marvel comic?  It is not.  Not in my opinion.

Now, my inclination is to cut the entire comic apart panel by panel and explain to you in excruciating detail why I think this issue is a load of poo-doo.  Life's too short for that.  Instead, a few examples:

Is that a mouth, or does Jake have a massive black handlebar mustache?!?

Is Roland a squirrel?  It looks like he's hiding nuts in his cheeks so that he can bury them for the winter!

Is that a shadow over Roland's eyes, or is he wearing Bono-style sunglasses?

Jake looks like he has an IQ of approximately 36.

Here, not only does Jake look like Haley Joel Osment circa The Sixth Sense, but he appears to be bending an invisible steel bar.  In reality, he's about to fall off the bridge, but it looks more like he's holding an invisible Easter basket.

I could go on.  Why bother?

Before Watchmen wasn't too bad this week.  It was certainly a step up over the lousy Comedian issue we got last week.  I enjoyed the flirtatious relationship J. Michael Straczynski wrote between Nite Owl and whassername on the cover there.  Andy Kubert's art anoys me in places, but there are just as many places where I think it's really good.

Overall, there's nothing particularly bad in this issue (except, maybe, for the big reveal -- which is Rorschach-centric and has nothing to do with Nite Owl! -- that comes toward the end), but there's also nothing particularly inspiring.

Only one issue remains in the Nite Owl miniseries, and to be honest, I just don't care about it at all.  And apart from The Minutemen and Silk Spectre (both of which I would be happy to keep right on reading past the ends of their respective runs), I just don't care about Before Watchmen very much.  It's good enough that my moral outrage over it has abated, but not good enough to (with those stated exceptions) actually interest me in what's going on.

I'll be glad when it's done, frankly.

Speaking of which...

Spider-Men, the big crossover between original-universe Peter Parker and Ultimate Universe replacement Spidey Miles Morales, comes to an end with a lame issue in which there is a lot of standing around talking near a purple rift between universes.  Mysterio is there, too.

At some point, I'm going to need somebody to explain to me why, exactly, this miniseries sucked as bad as it did.  Issue #4 was great; otherwise, it was a near-complete dud.  I still have no clue where this is supposed to fall in Miles' chronology, either.

The only good thing that happens here is also a bad thing, because it teases a direction for a possible sequel.  I like that notion, but frankly, I'm not going to be happy if I have to buy a sequel to this and it ends up sucking as bad as this one sucked.

You may have noted I said "have to buy" there.  About that...

Fact is, as long as Brian Michael Bendis is writing the tales of Miles Morales, you can count me in.  Every single issue of the main Miles comic has been good, and some -- including this one -- have been great.  Yeah, sure, I thought Spider-Men sucked; so what?  I'm going to choose to chalk it up to Bendis being forced by Marvel to do something he didn't want to do.  (There's no evidence of that being the case; it just makes me feel better.)

In this issue, we get a lot of Miles out of the suit, which is fine by me; a lot of the issue involves him being questioned by Maria Hill, who suspects he might know something about his Uncle Aaron's exploits as The Prowler.  Not, apparently, in the "she thinks he's the new Spider-Man" sense, but in the regular old "this kid was close to his uncle and may have overheard something" sense.  It's a logical subplot, and the fruit it bears -- Miles finding out that he was not responsible for his uncle's death (it was shoddy tech's fault) -- is an excellent bit of character development.

Still, I suspect we haven't seen the last of this subplot.

Elsewhere, Miles decides -- at Ganke's suggestion -- to go and join the Ultimates.  This doesn't go as well as they might hope.

Good stuff.  Well done, Bryant 2011, for deciding to start buying this to see what a legacy take on Spidey could be like!  I, Bryant 2012, applaud your foresight!

I liked the first issue of this a lot.

I liked the second issue a lot less.  It's not bad, but I was hoping for scads more of Spike on a spaceship; if the whole thing had somehow turned to a Spike version of Farscape, I'd've been okay with that.

Sadly, it quickly becomes Earthbound again.  But that's not to say it's bad; it just doesn't go where I was hoping for.  The dialogue continues to be good, as does the art, which includes way more giant-demon-frog tongue-severings than any comic I've ever read before.  Granted, that only adds up to 1, but still...

I now have no clue where the remainder of the miniseries is going, but that's fine; I'm along for the ride any way, and it's been enjoyable so far.


Finally, a brief bit of comic-scented news to pass along:

Yesterday, Alan Moore made a rare convention appearance in his native Northampton,  The entire panel's audio can be heard here, and there's also a few videos on that page.  Or if you like, there's a write-up of the thing to be had here.

Most pertinent to our immediate interests was the announcement that Moore has written a follow-up to Neonomicon, which is called Providence.  It sounds like it won't be a sequel, but will instead be a take on Lovecraft himself.  Frankly, I don't give a shit what it's about.  Alan Moore = Bryant buys with enthusiasm, and Alan Moore + H.P. Lovecraft = Bryant buys with even more than the normal amount of enthusiasm.

No word yet on when Providence will come out, but you can rely on reading about it here.


  1. As far as I can tell, I think the artist on Man in Black was going for a whole Modern Art type look, trying to blend museum style art with the pages of a comic book.

    Illustrators with more talent than him might be able to pull it off, he's just no one of them.

    Also there's the script. I use the original 81 unedited version of the Gunslinger as the benchmark for the few samples I've seen.

    Without having to be a comic reader, I can say that it keeps neither the source text, nor a look and feel proper to it. The text has all the urgency of the best suspense combined with an acid dream, and the dialogue conveys both while also tugging at the heart and nerves.

    The comic is subdued, and I could be wrong, but it seems like whoever was at the helm, didn't really care for the job. Maybe that's just me. Either way, a job not well done.

    This is a good spot to bring up a related topic suggested by Hans Lilja of all people, on his Lilja and Lou podcast. The idea was to do the Tower movies using pixar motion capture animation, similar to King Kong or Gollum.

    I'm aware of the "Uncanny Valley" and the threat of flat computer performance, yet the idea has merit. It allows actors to be Mike Whalen's illustrations (although I'd go with Wrightson for Walter) and something else pointed out on the podcast, it eliminates the threat of premature aging for Jake.

    Does this sound like a good idea?


    1. My understanding of what they were saying on that podcast is that they were recommending that Pixar the company do the movies. I'd trust Pixar to do it well -- I've loved every movie they've done so far, from "Toy Story" in 1995 to "Brave" in 2012 -- but it's not the type of subject matter they would take on.

      As for the idea of doing it in animation -- be it mo-cap-style animation or otherwise -- I'm 50/50 on the idea. On the one hand, it certainly would make the Jake issue irrelevant; on the other hand, I've never yet encountered an animated film for adults that I didn't feel would have been done better as a live-action production.

      And the way I see it, ANY animated take on "The Dark Tower" would be so expensive to produce (if done as well as it would deserve to be done) that it would be even more expensive than a live-action version would be. I like the idea of trying to capture the style of the original artists, though; that's a cool idea, although it'd probably be difficult to sustain.

      For the time being, I just don't think it's financially feasible, unless it were done as el-cheapo animation like the stuff that DC and Marvel are putting out.

      And I really, really don't want that to happen.

      Now, as for the comic:

      I'm glad somebody else agrees with me about that art! Maleev is well-thought-of in the industry, and I liked what he did adapting "N." for Marvel, but this stuff is just ... ick.

      The story itself, in this issue especially, had no sense of urgency. It's plotted by Robin Furth, who wrote the Dark Tower Concordances, so she knows her stuff. I really liked what she did on some of the earlier DT comics, too. But this particular miniseries has been a near-total failure.

      I dread seeing how the fifth issue -- which is, I'd imagine, going to consist entirely of Roland's palaver with the Man In Black -- turns out. Both graphically and plotwise, it seems as if it will be a train-wreck, and that's a real shame; that stretch of the novel is one of my favorite scenes from ANY novel. I'm not going to enjoy seeing it ruined.

    2. Here's my take on Maleev, I think he wants to be taken as a serious artist. His style for the comic put me in mind of the following, Jackson Pollack, Paul Klee and M.C. Escher without all that genius baggage.

      As for Furth, I don't know, she has too much of comic book fan girl take on material that's more literary. I don't think they'll be able to pull off the palaver either. It requires a late sixties acid trip film look sensibility and style, and that's easier to capture on camera than it is on ink and paper. Also one of the things their sure to miss, I'm convinced the orignal unedited dialogue is somehow a glimpse into King's mind, along with the three impersonators in the final Tower book of course.

      And as far as I can tell, the Pixar mote-cap idea seems the best way to go, hey maybe even Clint could do it, he's already demonstrated he can work blue screen by talking to people who aren't there (rimshot)! It was mentioned that Pixar seems to want to stretch it's creative legs a bit, though the big obstacle their is disney, nough said. Still, we'll have to see. One final advantage to computer animation? Four words: Done on the cheap.


    3. "Done on the cheap"?!? Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying there, but top-notch computer-animated films (e.g., Pixar films) routinely cost north of $200 million. So producing an animated film series (of any substantial quality) based on "The Dark Tower" is, if anything, MORE expensive a proposition than doing them live-action.

      Combine that with the fact that animated films that are not inherently family-friendly NEVER do big business, and you've got a no-go scenario. In seriously considering the possibility of Pixar taking on the series, Lilja and Lou were betraying a fundamental lack of understanding of how the movie business works these days, especially as regards animation.

      Really, though, the best animated films have always been super-duper expensive. It's why there has never been a serious push toward adult animation: the market simply isn't there.

      Now, on the subject of the dreaded palaver issue that we'll be getting in a month or so:

      I pretty much agree with everything you're saying there. I've seen nothing from Maleev to indicate that he is even vaguely qualified to handle the layouts that will require. The only possible saving grace is if scripter Peter David somehow writes good layouts into his script, maybe it'll spark something in Maleev. I don't see it happening, though. It's going to be more poorly-executed crap that only serves to make me realize just how good the novel really is.

      Speaking of which, can I assume from the context of your comments that (like me) you prefer the original version of The Gunslinger to the revised version...?

      If so, I salute you on your good taste! ;)

      (For the record, I love both versions, but the original holds an allure for me that none of the other novels in the series -- great though they are -- quite managed, the revised version included.)