Friday, June 21, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #33

Boy, oh boy, how I'd love some cookies and whoppin' big glass of milk right now.

Instead of that, let's talk about some comics!

Or, in this case, some comic, singular.  That's right, I've only got one title tonight.  And since Stephen King once wrote an episode of The X-Files, this is at least vaguely King-related.


What was that...?

I signed up for this comic under the assumption that it was going to suck.  But I was curious, and I decided heywhatthehell, letsgiveitashot.  Or something like that.

The result?


I'm not quite sure yet.  I kinda want to say it sucked, and I kinda want to say it shows potential; I'm not sure which of my desires is winning out.

The story picks up an indeterminate amount of time after the events of I Want to Believe, the disappointing 2008 movie that should have relaunched the franchise and instead kicked a fresh several layers of dirt over it.  Mulder and Scully are in protective custody, going by the name "Blake" for a surname.

Why?  I Want to Believe included a bit in which Mulder was let off the hook for the crime of which he was convicted in the series finale.  So I'm not sure there is an adequate explanation for this state of affairs.  Perhaps one will be revealed.  It's such an obvious headscratcher that I'm tempted to assume we're supposed to assume it's a mystery which be revealed.  If so, it doesn't come across that way.  Is it possible that I Want to Believe is being ignored altogether?  Have I misremembered some crucial detail?  Did Xzibit's character from that movie revoke Mulder's amnesty between movie and comic?  Time will tell.  Maybe.

Whatever the case, they're in protective custody.  Skinner shows up with some news: the FBI has been hacked, and information pertaining to the X-Files may have been compromised.  From there, stuff happens, some of it really rather surprising.  One bit in particular had me raising a surprised eyebrow, and in the good way; if the series turns out to be capable of doing that on a regular basis, then we'll possibly be on solid ground.

The script is by Joe Harris, who I've never heard of.  Series creator Chris Carter receives a "story by" credit (with Harris), as well as an executive producer credit, but I tend to assume that his input was negligible.  Harris's script is decent enough; Mulder seemed like Mulder and Scully seemed like Scully and Skinner seemed like Skinner, so that's a decent place to begin from.  As I said, there's one big unexpected moment which indicates Harris is perhaps inclined to go to thoroughly dark places.  I support that.

The art is by Michael Walsh, with colors by Jordie Bellaire.  I'd heard of neither; which is saying nothing, because I am no expert in comics, despite the fact that I write about them on occasion.  I read what I read, but beyond that my knowledge is slim.

Walsh's art is somewhat rough, and I suspect many X-Philes are going to think it is awful.  I'm of a more mixed mind about it; some things I like, some I don't.  Let's look at a few sample panels:

One of the big problems with licensed titles is that artists frequently struggle to make the characters look like the characters (i.e., the actors) we know and love.  One way to approach this is to go for a less realistic look; by merely hinting at the looks of the actor, the artist can summon an approximation of their character by means of impression rather than strict realism.  The advantage to that approach is that while the above drawing doesn't look much like Gillian Anderson, it feels like Gillian Anderson.  To me, at least.  The simplicity of Walsh's approach is what makes that work.

I hate this panel, but I'll be damned if I can tell you why.  It just doesn't feel like The X-Files to me.  This may be a case of the colors not working, or the postures of the characters; or something.  Hell if I know.  But I think it comes down to a lack of realism; these are very cartoony-looking kids.  I know what you're thinking: you're thinking, "Hey, didn't Bryant just talk about the lack of realism working in terms of depicting Scully?"  And you're totally right; I did.  But what works for a single character might not work for an entire comic, and this panel -- I think -- is putting me off because there's no grit to it.  The X-Files is all about grit, so I think what's going on with my reaction to this is that I'm feeling a dissonance between the image and the series to which is ostensibly belongs.

Here's Mulder's first appearance.  Doesn't work for me at all.  Mulder is being a smartass, but he looks like he's blind and is trying to find a can of soda he left on the counter.  He looks like Mulder, though, so there's that.

Here's another Mulder panel; it's a simple image, maybe even stark.  It adds some drama to the scene from which it has been plucked; you don't have the context for it, so you may be looking at it and wondering what the big deal is.  And there is no big deal, per se; it was just a moment that I thought worked.

For me, the jury is out on the art.  I can't honestly say that I like it very much, and if somebody had placed me in charge of the comic, I'd have gone a different route with it.  Thing is...I also can't honestly say that it doesn't work.  I never found myself looking at it and lamenting how shitty a job Walsh had done depicting Mulder and Scully, and that's something that I frequently find myself doing with licensed comics.  I stopped reading IDW's Star Trek title because of that problem, in fact.  But here, I thought the characters worked well enough that it allowed me to take the story on its own merits.

Problem with that is, I'm not 100% convinced it actually has any.  But I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.  I'll stick with this series through the first five issues (the stated length of the first arc according to the issue's title page -- "Believers," it says, with a "Part 1 of 5" after that); if it hasn't persuaded me by then, I'm out.

But I do want to believe it's going to be good...


  1. The funny thing is, I never looked at IWTB as an attempt to re-launch anything.

    I always saw it as the show creator's trying to go off on an optimistic note.

    I don't really know what to say in terms of the comic as I've never read any of it, and the only Files comic I did read was something I leafed through in a comic shop once.

    I wasn't impressed, I think.

    As to Snyder's Batman.

    I tend to agree when you say it's maybe best to just reboot the whole series and start a whole other mythology rather than trying to build (more like riff maybe) off Miller's Year One.

    Like I said before, I think the whole driving force for this is a lot of the fan reaction.

    They seem to have had enough of the Dark Knight being too dark, either that or together Nolan and Snyder have taken Miller's concepts to their final logical conclusions with DK and DITF, the result being that it leaves the fans thinking it's time to restart and play the game again, albeit different.

    Who knows, maybe fans are now starting to look for something more in the vein of the late to early seventies Silver Age after all these years, and I base this on comments I've heard about how the characters "should" be from Bryan McMillan and the "Atop the Fourth Wall" guy.

    If there's any truth to that, well, I'm not going to argue, it's just a matter of waiting to see what the suits decide.

    I suppose everybody has their idea of what Batman and the characters of that mythos "are" or "should be".

    A lot of my own (very limited) take on the character stems from two sources. One is the conviction that he's a copy of archetypes found in stories like Crime and Punishment or Pink Floyd's The Wall.

    The other is the idea sparked in my mind by Gerard Jones Men of Tomorrow, that not only is Jerry Siegel (maybe, who knows) the true life inspiration for Batman, but that a lot of DC comics stories ultimately turn in some way on the history between Siegel and Harry Donnenfeld, like they are the two main inspirations for DC's comics history.

    In other words, like Siegel is Superman to Donnenfeld's Luthor, or Siegel's Batman to Donnenfeld's Joker. This may sound limited, yet something about Jones' book makes me think that's somehow the underlying lynch pin of a lot of DC's stories.

    I have no idea, that's just how it seems to me, either way, if the Batman mythos should, of all things, be going in a lighter direction, well, I'm not bothered either way, really.

    I did enjoy the Superfriends back in my childhood after all, although as I recall I always kept following Wonder Women around the screen whenever she was on, I'm quite sure why or how to explain it, it was just something about her...

    I'm sorry, you were saying?


    1. Hah!

      Yeah, I bet Wonder Woman has distracted a lot of boys that way over the years. Probably a fair number of girls, too.

      That "Men of Tomorrow" book sounds interesting; might have to add that to my extended reading list.

      I agree that most fans of characters like Batman develop their own ideas about who the character "is"/"should be," myself included. I like to think that I am capable of adapting to change in that regard, provided the storytelling is good/persuasive, and I think that's the case, but maybe I'm just psyching myself out. Hard to say.

      I don't know whether to think people have had enough of Batman being dark. That trend has been going on since at least "The Dark Knight Returns," so we're talking close to thirty years now. And it's worth pointing out that that take was seen as somewhat transgressive / transformative, and also that there were plenty of non-dark takes on Batman that persisted in its wake. Watch the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher movies now and see how campy they look in comparison to what came later.

      My argument would be that there was a process of culture-wide natural selection that happened there that said yes, we DO want Batman to be dark and serious and semi-realistic. But I'm not sure people want that from EVERY superhero story, hence the mixed reactions to the latest Superman and Spider-Man movies. Batman is built to handle that sort of thing well; Spider-Man and Superman CAN handle it, but not without straining a bit in that direction, and that's exactly what happened.

      For that reason, I think the relative sunniness of the "Avengers"-affiliated films shows what people generally want from non-Batman superheroes: characters they can believe in, but have a good time with. They want there to be stakes, but for the films to also be escapist. And Marvel, so far, has succeeded.