Monday, December 31, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #24

As I'm writing this, there are fireworks being fired off outside, a couple of apartment buildings over.  I want to tell them, hey, five hours until midnight, but what good would that do?  None.  Doesn't bother me, anyways; I'm enjoying the skittish looks the noises are getting from my cats, who are licking their own buttholes and yawning and whatnot.  Good times.

I've got several weeks' worth of comics stacked up, so let's go ahead and get a look at them; with any luck, I'll finish this post while the year still ends in a "2."




Tops on the list: Locke & Key: Omega #2.

Surprise, surprise: this issue is excellent.  I don't know what else to say about it, really, except to mention that it focuses on a character who hasn't appeared in a while, and who I've mostly only thought of as a peripheral character: Rufus, Ellie Whedon's mentally challenged son.  If this issue is any indication, though, he's going to have a much large role to play in the climax than I would have suspected.

Here's a great panel from the issue:




If that doesn't make you want to read this series, I don't know what would.

A couple of other random thoughts:

*  Gabriel Rodriguez's art is always great in general, and his character art specifically is always great.  And so it comes as no surprise that his character work in this issue is terrific; Rodriguez offers up depictions that run the gamut from horrifying to heartbreaking to hilarious.

*  Hill's dialogue for Rufus's world of imagination is wonderful, as is the conceit in general.  Here -- spoilers, lol -- we find out a bit more about who motivates his robot soldier persona.  Try to not be moved by it; go on, I double-dog-dare ya.

*  Kavanaugh in a prom dress.  I don't even have the words.

*  Only five issues left?!?  Say it aint so, Joe!




Scott Snyder's Joker-centric "Death of the Family" storyline rolls on.  I enjoyed this issue reasonably well; there's the requisite excellent art from Greg Capullo, and Snyder does a good job with a key meeting of the entire Bat-family in the middle of the book.  It all ends with Batman figuring out where the Joker is currently hiding away, and it's a satisfying reveal.  I'm not sure how many total issues "Death of the Family" is planned to run; I suspect there are three or four more after this one, which feels like a midway point.  Here's hoping Snyder sticks the landing.

Love that cover, by the way.





I also love that Swamp Thing cover.  However, the comic housed beneath it...?  Not so much.

I've been fairly ambivalent toward this "Rotworld" thing DC/Snyder/Lemire are doing, and my ambivalence has turned toward outright dismissal: I remember almost literally nothing about these two comics, except that I read through them as quickly as possible on account of being utterly disinterested in what was going on.

Unless the writers have got some of a major trick up their sleeves, "Rotworld" is turning out to be a complete dud.  The news recently broke that Snyder -- a busy, busy man -- is leaving Swamp Thing after issue #18.  I'm not too bummed out by that, to tell you the truth.  His take on the character showed a huge amount of promise initially, but seemed to lose focus at some point.  "Rotworld" has done absolutely nothing except worsen the problem.

What a shame.






This month in Fashion Beast: I continue to have only the most marginal clue of what exactly in the hell is going on in Fashion Beast.  Also, I continue to not care; I freakin' love this book so far.  Life ain't all about instant gratification, kiddies, and so it is that I'm content to wait for some clarity to manifest.  Might be next issue, or not until the final issue.  Or, perhaps, not at all.  Who can say?  All I can do is enjoy the ride, which so far I have definitely done.

So, what's notable this month?

*  I love the regular cover (it's the one on top).  It seemingly bears no real relation to anything that happens in the issue -- a frequent gripe in "Bryant Has Issues" -- but is a charming, interesting image in its own right, which is good enough for me.

*  I like the wraparound cover a lot, too.  Why is there a guy with a camera from the 1800s there?  Beats me.

*  Facundo Percio is apparently good at drawing a great many things.  Add snowfall to the list.

*  A photographer shows up and is called Muybridge.  Should we make anything of this?  Possibly so, possibly no.  However, between the two photography-centric covers and certain events toward the end of the issue, photography is definitely a major subtheme running through issue #4.  I'll be curious to see if this leads anywhere.

*  We meet Le Patron.  Sort of.  His hair reminds me of Alan Moore himself.  I can only assume he will eventually become a more prominent figure in the story.  Le Patron, that is, not Alan Moore.

*  Numerous amusing facial expressions from Tomboy.

*  The girl depicted on the Haute Couture cover continues to stumble around in the background and occasionally into the forgeound.  I suspect she will eventually emerge as an important character.  Do we know her name yet?  I don't think we do.



 
 
 


Our slog through Before Watchmen continues, mostly indifferently.  The best-case scenario, I guess, would have been for these books to be really, really good.  The second-best-case scenario would have been for them to be really, really bad.  Mostly, though, neither has been the case; instead, they've been determinedly average.

A quick rundown:
 
The Comedian #4 has a few interesting moments, but the miniseries continues to suffer from an inability to really decide how it wants us to view The Comedian himself.  To be fair, maybe that's the point.  Certainly, Watchmen itself has a certain ambivalence toward Blake.  I suppose it's asking a bit much for Brian Azzarello to somehow be definitive without compromising the original comic; maybe that's one reason why Before Watchmen wasn't all that great of an idea.

I continue to enjoy the hell out of Darwyn Cooke's The Minutemen, of which this is the penultimate issue.  The art is great, as has been the case in each issue so far.  This time, we get a more or less complete story, involving two comic-book characters, Bluecoat and Scout, who show up at the Minutemen headquarters with a mission for the group.  The Minutemen play along, and eventually we find out what's going on with the unlikely duo.  It's pretty darn great stuff.  The issue ends with a new development in the child-kidnapping case that has served as the unifying story for the miniseries.  If it leads where I think it's going to lead, I'm not sure I'll like it much.  I'll reserve judgment until the final issue, though.

How great is that Rorschach #3 cover?  Pretty damn great.  I wish I could say the same for the rest of the issue, which has its moments, but is ultimately -- like the first two -- a blah bit of business.

The cover for Dr. Mahattan #3 is similarly good.  I'm undecided on the issue itself.  I enjoyed it, but Straczynski is definitely telling a four-part tale here, and until it's complete I simply don't know what to make of it.  What seems likely to me is that it's attempting to broaden our understanding of what it must be like to be Dr. Mahattan.  I think Straczynski has done a good job with that so far, and if the fourth issue is as good, then I think this miniseries can be considered a success.  However, I'm not sure I have faith that that will end up happening.  We shall see.  But it seems to be a possibility, which is better than I would have predicted.

And finally, we have Moloch #2, also from the pen of J. Michael Straczynski.  This issue basically tells the story of how Adrian Veidt used Moloch as a central cog in his master plot.  I'm still not a fan of the way Eduardo Risso draws Moloch, but the story itself is not bad at all, and Risso does a good job depicting Adrian.  Overall, the two-part Moloch tale turned out better than I expected it to do.




Good old Saga; you haven't let me down yet, not even close.

This time: a customarily excellent cover; the final, devastating page of A Night Time Smoke by D. Oswald Heist; some sort of weird squid (or, possibly, a brain) floating in a tank, complete with a voice and, if I'm not imagining things, an anus; an excellent flashback to the time Alana and Marko met; more giant-scrotum shots; an appropriate new outfit for Alana, provided by her father-in-law; a new Freelancer, glimpsed only in cameo, who has a mohawk and a truly excellent mustache; and a final-page appearance by someone who I can only assume will be a major new character.

Best of all -- and worst of all -- the letters column teases what seems to be the reappearance of The Stalk in Chapter Nine.  Take a look:




Ugh.  I love it, but ... ugh.




Like most comics readers, I first developed a love for comics when I was a child.  A big part of that love was love for comic-book adaptations of movies.  From the Star Wars movies to the Star Trek movies to Dune to Blade Runner to Octopussy to 2010, I read more than a few movie adaptations via comic books back in the day.

So when I heard that Vertigo was publishing a five-issue adaptation of Django Unchained, the new Quentin Tarantino movie, I said "Hell yes I'll have one o' them!"  And so I shall.

The first issue is out now, and it is a near-complete success.  Drawn by R.M. Guera, the adaptation is drawn from Tarantino's first-draft screenplay, and therefore includes scenes deleted from the final version of the film.  This needn't concern you if you're approaching the comic as a comic; you won't feel the differences, obviously.  However, if you happen to be a fan of the movie, I think this makes the comic something even more worth checking out than it already is.

Guera's art is somewhat plain and straightforward, but it's extremely effective.  He tends toward lots of small panels, which may have been a function of needing to cram all of Tarantino's flowery -- and rude -- dialogue into the comic.  However, there are a few places where Guera has used larger panels, and each time, he does so to excellent effect.  There is no credit here for "sequential adaptation" (meaning it is unclear who decided on the layouts), but I suspect Guera himself is responsible.  Whoever did it did a good job.

Bring on the next four issues!

By the way, in case you're wondering, I loved the movie.  I'm a big Tarantino fan, so I was predisposed to enjoy it, but even within those boundaries, I'd say it's a success.  It's not a perfect film; the violence goes way over the top in a few key scenes, but in ways that aren't quite as interesting as maybe they could have been.  Also, in a first for Tarantino, there isn't a single decent female character to be found, which is a problem.  Still, it's quite good overall, with an awesome performance by Samuel L. Jackson, another one by Christoph Waltz, and another one by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Jamie Foxx is also quite good, although his character isn't given the opportunities to shine that some of the supporting players are given.

Here's where I'd rank the movie within the boundaries of Tarantino's films as a director:
 
#1 -- Pulp Fiction
#2 -- Inglourious Basterds
#3 -- Kill Bill Vol. 1
#4 -- Django Unchained
#5 -- Jackie Brown
#6 -- Kill Bill Vol. 2
#7 -- Reservoir Dogs
#8 -- Death Proof
#9 -- Four Rooms

It should be pointed out that I love the first eight films on the list; and even Four Rooms, which is only about half a good movie, is fairly decent.
And now, back to the comics:






Here are a few brief stopovers in the Buffyverse.  Willow Wonderland #2 is fairly solid, with good art and a nicely epic scope that makes good use of what a comic can do (as opposed to what a television-series-on-a-budget can do).  It even includes a direct mention of something that happens in the next issue we're talking about, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine #16, which is a nice crossover, I guess.  The Buffy issue is the first in a new arc, and it seems to want to reset some of the pieces a bit.  Fine by me; Season Nine has mostly been underwhelming so far, although I like the direction this new issue seems to point toward.

Meanwhile, Angel & Faith #17 gives us a little more info on the return of a certain character whose name I won't mention.  Is it persuasive?  Well, I'm undecided on that so far.  I'm more decided on the fact that I enjoyed all the flashbacks to a young Giles ("Ripper," as he was known) kicking ass; that's all fun.  This continues to be a solid comic, and is well worth reading for Buffy and/or Angel fans.




And finally, the new issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, which continues the "United We Stand" thingy that is going on in Marvel's Ultimate universe and which I have zero interest in.  Which is slightly more interest than I have in the original-universe Spider-Man storylines, which apparently involve Peter Parker and Doc Ock swapping bodies, and then Dock Ock getting Peter's memories, and then Peter dying while in Doc Ock's body, or some ridiculous crap like that.

Thank you, Marvel, for continuing to remind me why I read as few of your comics as possible.

As for this one I'm ostensibly reviewing, it's decent.  Miles gets in a fight with a hot Giant Woman who -- I guess -- is working for Hydra.  That's got some cool moments to it.  However, I feel a bit as though Bendis has -- possibly at Marvel's behest -- made Miles way too powerful and competent way too quickly.  I was all in on this book for a while, but ever since the crossover into the "Divided We Fall" and "United We Stand" stories, I've been steadily losing interest.

Let's blame Marvel for this.  It continues to be a well-written and well-drawn book on a regular basis, but the overall direction is just utterly uninteresting lately.  Not sure I'll be around much longer.  
 
Especially with a brand-spankin'-new monthly car bill to pay.  Did I mention that earlier?  Cause yeah, THAT happened between this comics column and the previous one.  And by "THAT," I mean the death of a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, and the leasing of a new 2012 Honda Civic.  So whereas the monthly budget previously included $0 in car payments, it now includes about 209 additional dollars.

All of which means Bryant has to start being way more selective about what comics fit the bill as reasonable expenses.

Sadly, I believe we've seen the last of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man in "Bryant Has Issues."  I'd love to keep reading, but that monthly $209's gotta come from somewhere.

*****

I see I've been successful in getting this sucker composed while it's still 2012, and so it is that I'll shortly be pressing "publish" on my final blog post of the year.

2013 awaits.  I hope it find you all in good health and good cheer!

*****

You know how comics sometimes have big last-minute surprises on the final page or two?

Well, this column has one of those, too.  It wasn't there when I finished writing it, but popped up an hour or so later.

You don't want to read this.  Seriously.  Just stop reading now.  The only reason I'm writing it at all is because I need to write it somewhere and this seems like the best solution.  It may not always be apparent, but I pour a lot of myself into this blog, so when it comes time to need to say something, this seems like the obvious place for me to do it.

But that's no reason for you to read it, so trust me when I tell you: this twist ending is no goddam good for anyone.

Here goes; you've been warned.

After polishing off the first version of this post, I decided to watch television for a while.  I put on an episode of Game of Thrones, but after a half hour or so, got sleepy and decided to go to bed.  I got up, went to the closet, took my jeans off, and then went into the bathroom.  A few seconds later, one of my cats -- Scarlett -- landed at my feet after trying to jump onto a shelf in the closet.  She misjudged the jump, or missed, or something (I'm not really sure what happened).  She landed poorly, probably because of where I was standing, and broke either her back or her neck.  Not sure which one; probably her neck, but that's purely a guess, and doesn't matter particularly.

And so it is that about forty-five minutes before the end of 2012, my poor sweet little cat Scarlett literally died at my feet.  She landed with a thud, didn't move again, and only made one noise: a low sort of yowl, the kind of deeply-hurt noise that I've never heard before and hope to never hear again.

Her sister, Sheridan, is currently prowling the apartment, trying to figure out where Scarlett is.  Or so I imagine; maybe she's doing nothing of the kind.  Sheridan won't find her sister, though; she'll never think to look in the freezer (the only place I can keep Scarlett until I can take her to a vet for disposal tomorrow, or the next day if there's not a vet open on the holiday).

I've got five cats, and I love all of the silly little things, each in different ways.  (I notice after the fact that I typed "five cats," when it is in fact now only four.)  Any pet owner knows that you develop very individualized relationships with animals, based on their individual quirks and personality traits.  One of Scarlet's quirks was that she loved to sleep on my hip at night.  Another was that she loved to meow at me when I was talking on the phone; I always suspected that she was convinced I was actually talking to her, convinced that we were having extremely detailed conversations about when she was going to be fed again, and what the nature of the food would consist of.
 
She had some sort of a weird thing about me blowing my nose, too; that would also make her meow, and if I did it when she was asleep, she'd meow in her sleep.  I kid you not.

I named her (as I think I mentioned in a previous post, at some point) Scarlett Johansson because I found her one night after having gone to see Lost In Translation.  I saw her (and the cat I assume to be her sister) hanging around outside my apartment when I got home, and decided, hmm, I could use two more cats, why not.  Scarlett came trotting right into my apartment, too; it was like she said, "Ah, there you are!  Home!"  And that was that.

She was a very sweet little animal, and I'm going to miss her terribly.

Not much to say other than that, is there?  I can't see particularly well at the moment, so I'll just wrap things up by posting some of the better photos of her that I've got.



















Bye-bye, darlin'; I'm awful pleased to have known you.

10 comments:

  1. Aw man! RIP, Scarlett. My God, how awful, I'm so sorry to hear it. Cats / pets / companions passing in general is heartbreaking enough, but to lose one that way... ugh. Those are great pics.

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  2. I have to say in regards to two points in it, three actually.

    First is Scoot Snyder's Batman. Here's a link to the Popmatters article on the Joker, Batgirl confron (sic)I ran across without meaning too.

    http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/165592-overcoming-the-hurt-batgirl-14/

    I'll admit when I saw it I was reluctant to go near it for reasons I've laid out elsewhere and won't repeat here. If I do I'll just compile appendices of everything that strikes me as wrong about the backstory around this whole issue.

    Moving onto pleasanter climes, two notes about Before Watchmen.

    The first is semi-unrelated. It has to do with that Wiater, Goldenn book on King as opposed to their book on Neil Gaiman. In many ways, the "Stephen King Universe" is burdened with the conviction of this overarching Grand Scheme that isn't really all that much there in their source Tower books.

    Their convictions about Gaiman, happily, aren't the same. Gaiman has written stories based around continuing characters, yet not in the way King does it seems.

    Aside from Sandman, Gaiman hasn't written thi grand mythology leading up to expectation of a battle apocalyptic proportions (unless maybe you count American Gods, and even that was contained to one novel). This time with "Prince of Stories" Golden and Wiater are now much more content to let each story be it's own thing, and they have an added ace up the sleeve the King book never had: The Complete and Total Cooperation of the Author, along with various collaborators like illustrator Dave Mckean.

    They also detail Gaiman's collaboration with Alan Moore on a lesser know opus called Miracle-man. As a basically non-superhero comic reader, all can do is ask, ever heard of it?

    End of part 1

    ChrisC

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    Replies
    1. Continued from last part.

      There's really not more to say except for maybe the downside of comics like BW...Sorry.

      You're comment on BW reminded me of a couple of vlog reviews I saw from that Atop the Fourth Wall guy I mentioned, don't know if you caught any of his stuff, or his thoughts on the Watchmen movie.

      Anyway, you're comments on how the characters are depicted reminded me of these this videos. Link below.

      http://blip.tv/at4w/at4w-batman-fortunate-son-2504981

      While as a non-DC/Marvel reader I'm not fit to judge, as die hard rock fan I can say it's hard not to be offended. You decide.

      ChrisC

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    2. I've definitely heard of Miracleman/Marvelman. I've read most of Moore's issues (which areterrific), but not quite all of them yet; I've read none of Gaiman's, but I'll probably get to them one of these days.

      That "Fortunate Son" comic looks abysmal!

      As for "Batgirl," I'm not a reader of that title. It's written by -- I think -- Gail Simone, who is generally a very well-thought-of writer. Given more money and more time, I'd probably be reading her stuff. As is, though...

      Part of the problem I'm having engaging with Snyder's current Joker storyline in the way most other Batman fans seem to be doing is that I just despise the way the Joker has been treated by DC. I obviously don't mind comics being dark and disturbing on occasion, but do I really need for the Joker to be wearing his own sliced-off face? I do not. That happened on some other writer's book, though, so I'm not blaming Snyder; he's doing the best he can with an annoying character development.

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    3. "I obviously don't mind comics being dark and disturbing on occasion, but do I really need for the Joker to be wearing his own sliced-off face? I do not."

      Heh, heh, yeah. I do remember coming upon this comment by Moore which was, basically, "Why so dark?"

      I think his main point was he trying for "Maturity" as opposed to "Darkness," or at least useless grue that serves no purpose in a story.

      I kind of expect the Joker to one day ask about "the Lambs, Clarice. What about the Lambs?"

      BTW, int the Golden/Wiater Gaiman book, they publish an essay Gaiman wrote for DC/Vertigo called "Notes Toward a Vegatable Theology" which I think is suposed to tie together several stands of the Batman and Swamp Thing Universes.

      ChrisC

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    4. Marvelman aka Miracle-Man has been a many-decades-long mystery for Moore fans. I've got one trade of Gaiman's stories on the title. It's good, but not quite my thing. I'd love to read all of Moore's, eventually. Now that the rights-issue has finally been settled, I'm sure I will. Marvel's got the rights to publish it now, right? I think I recall reading that. I'll look it up after this.

      As for the Joker and wearing his own sliced-off face... I'm an old-school Batman fan and tend to dislike most recent-decade iterations of the Bat-verse, from the Joker right on up to Bruce Wayne. But Lego Batman (for the Playstation) gets it right. :-)

      As these Before Watchmens pile up in my closet, and as I read these Bryant Has Issues columns... I'm not looking fwd to reading them as much as I was. But, I will. Then you can expect one long-ass-comments-thread from yours truly. Or long-ass blog of my own, whatever happens first. Or both.

      I'm enjoying FashioN beast, but I have to go back and read the previous issues with each new issue, just to figure out what's going on or if I missed something. I kind of wish it was a more compressed story. If Neonimicon could be told in 4 issues, I don't see why this is dragging on the way it is (no pun intended.) But I do enjoy it. Alan Moore's shopping lists probably would hold my attention; the guy is just a natural writer.

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    5. I get the sense that "Fashion Beast" will read much better as a graphic novel than as a ten-month-long series. I'm content to keep reading it this way for now, though, as it is the first time I've ever actually read a Moore series as it was being released.

      As for "Before Watchmen," well, my opinions are fairly well-documented at this point on that score. Overall, I feel it's largely been a waste of time for everyone involved, albeit one with a few genuinely bright spots (I thought "Silk Spectre" was kinda terrific, and "The Minutemen" is in the same boat, provided it sticks the landing). Little of it has been outright BAD; some of it, yes, and some genuinely good, but mostly it's just been kinda mediocre and frustrating.

      I dearly hope DC does not decide to continue it, although I fear they will.

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    6. ChrisC - (Bryant, too, of course) regarding darkness in comics and Moores' reflections on it, you ever read a terrific Moore story about the new, violent folks that take over a formerly-innocent place called "In Pictopia?" It was published in Anything Goes #2. It's really something and might be right up your alley, if you haven't read it, or at least directly addressing these concerns via fiction.

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    7. I have read "In Pictopia." That's a minor masterpiece, that is.

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  3. The first Moore series I read as-it-was-coming-out was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, book one. But, prior to that, I'd read Swamp Thing, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, 1963 and plenty more, just after-the-fact.

    I might stop reading Fashion Beast as it comes out and just read it all in one fell-swoop after issue ten. I enjoy getting the individual issues over the trades any day. (Though I grumble about it everytime I have to spend a day bagging boarding and boxing.)

    I, too, by the way, keep thinking about expenses to cut as new bills and obligations arise. It's a never-ending shuffle. There are definitely things I want to get when they appear, like the new Seaguy and Umbrella Academy, when those eventually appear, and anything Alan Moore puts out will always get a few dollars from me. But I'm thinking of a comics moratorium for a few years. Famous last words. I doubt anything will come out, though, that will skyrocket in value or that I otherwise couldn't pick up just as easily in a few years once things settle down. (Daycare essentially will be my main expense for the next few years; highway effing robbery, man.)

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