This is a page from Umezu’s Lord Of The Flies-goes-to-the-Negative-Zone horror epic The Drifting Classroom, a title I’ve found to be remarkably addicting. I bought the first installment on a lark, ordered the second two from Amazon, and just now took receipt of a package containing the remaining 8 volumes. It’s harrowing and completely unafraid of assailing you with out-and-out weirdness.
On a different, more meta note, this is the final installment of Friday Night Fights, Bahlactus’s unique effort to get a bunch of nerds to share a common theme while introducing readers to new blogs. It was wildly successful and got me hooked on a few sites and I’m pretty sure it brought some new people to this wretched excuse of a website. While someone else may pick up the torch, I’m pretty sure that nobody will be able to match his flair when it came to each week’s presentation. Thanks, B!
Both of the Mighty Avengers trades I read were kind of a mess: Bendis depending too much on the flashback-heavy storytelling that valiantly tries to bulk up paper-thin plots, everyone sounding pretty much the same (except for the hilarious machismo of Ares,) and the goofiest take on Dr. Doom since StarJaws. Pretty art by Frank Cho in the first book, mind, and the second story’s jaunt into the Marvel Universe circa 1982 is handled very nicely, with Mark Bagley doing a more-than-passable John Byrne when drawing The Thing, yellowed pages, coloring dots, and text ads for period titles on the bottom of the page.
I know I’m not really the target audience for these titles, but it seems to be so much more about flash than story at this point. Bendis and Marvel’s concerted efforts to build to their events – Secret Invasion, Dark Reign – seems to take priority over making a superhero comic that’s fun to read on its own.
The third media tie-in comic I’ve received in a row for review from Wildstorm, Mirror’s Edge suffers the most compared to its source, a fast-moving, kinetic video game that’s set in a Dystopian future where parkour runners serve as an underground courier service. From the clips of the game online, it’s apparent that it’s a game centered around movement and vertigo and, by using the first-person point of view, giving the player the chance to do physical feats that would likely leave them in the hospital if attempted.
This leaves Rhianna Pratchett, who wrote the game’s script, and Matthew Dow Smith with an odious task: taking the focus of the title away from what players can do while picking up a controller and instead using static imagery and some licensee-approved backstory to craft something that captures something from the gameplay experience and brings it to the comics page. Not surprisingly, they fall short of their goal, but to be fair, there’s very few people (Paul Pope comes to mind) that could convey the motion that the source material is centered around. Smith’s art has progressed greatly from his earlier Mignola-derived work, but the generic-seeming world of the game and humorless, paper-thin characterizations don’t give him much to work with.Â Mind you, I’m getting more and more likely to pick up the game itself, so maybe by giving me a reminder, the comic did its job just fine by the beancounters.
A disproportionate number of existing superhero comic book readers – they who use the term “civilian” to describe those who don’t hit up their local establishments on weekly basis, as if they’re in the front lines in Iraq – want their stories spoon-fed to them, leading to an equivalent percentage of superhero comic book “stories” that aren’t worth the electricity it took to email the files to Quebecor.
Obvious, I know, but I figured that the reiteration of the obvious is germaine to the discussion. I was just looking at a recent Hulk comic in which the first page served as a text recap: there’s two Hulks, one’s Green, one’s red, and the red one (given the idiotic portmanteau of “Rulk”) has done something really awful. The first page of the actual comic is narration: “Oh, hey, Bruce Banner here, I’m The Hulk! There’s another Hulk! He’s red! They call him the Rulk! He did something bad.” While I am, as regular readers know, all about making sure titles are as new-user friendly as possible, losing a page of storytelling at the front of a book (that’s cut into two halves right now, mind) to a recap means that you should go straight into the action.
One of David Mamet’s better pieces of advice (and the man throws out many worth paying attention to) is that you can lose the first ten minutes of any movie, as they’re generally exposition and little else. By picking up a comic book or sitting into a seat at the multiplex, the audience has already said “I trust you. Give it to me.” Thus, by having Banner reiterate the situation, Jeph Loeb (a screenwriter by trade, it should be noted) oversells his goods and creates a moment where, consciously or not, the reader sees the puppet’s strings. Banner’s bemoaning the setup that’s just been recapped is the Marvel Comics equivalent of Jackie Chan making sure we see his face when he does those crazy stunts: it places the writer/performer ahead of the story. I’m more than happy to let Jackie Chan do his thing; that’s why I’m there. I’m not reading a Hulk comic to watch Jeph Loeb write dialogue circles.
One of the reasons I enjoy Grant Morrison’s work with superheroes so much is that trusts the audience to follow along and very deliberately slices out narration and expository dialogue, letting the medium tell the story and exemplifying Mamet’s tenet. This is why Morrison’s reveals and relevatory moments are so memorable. “I can see you!” and “You’re Martians, aren’t you?” stand out because they’re organic and when they hit, chunks of the rest of the story suddenly make perfect sense. Morrison’s work may occasionally suffer due to artists who can’t quite pull off his scripts (Tony Daniel on Batman being an obvious example) but it’s obvious that he respects his audience more than contemporaries like Mark Millar.
Morrison also trims the fat out of his stories whenever possible: rarely is someone seen walking out of a room or driving a car unless the narrative is furthered by it, and he’s fond of cutting off either end of those scenes to move to the next piece of the script. Very rarely do people sit and talk: they’re in motion. Witness the majority of “talky” scenes in his JLA run, or All-Star Superman #6, in which the Chronovore’s attack and the explanation of its importance to Superman’s life overlap, leading to a final moment that is better for the lack of outre sentimentality.
Having to read and look at the art and think isn’t what the majority of the comic book audience wants to do, however. They’ll throw up any number of excuses or complaints, saying that it’s hard to follow or that they shouldn’t have to “work” to enjoy a story with Thor in it. I’m not going to say that Morrison is not without his opaque moments – his masturbatory opus The Filth, for example – but his superhero material places only the slightest of demands on the readers and is thus reviled by many, even as those in editorial (and snot-nosed, self-important bloggers) reward him for at least trying. When so little change is permanent in superhero comics, someone with the bravura of Morrison is to be admired. There’s a reason I’ll pick up anything with his name attached to it. Even when he makes storytelling choices I disagree with, it’s plain there’s thought behind them.
Michael Alan Nelson talks to Shaun Manning at CBR about his new series, Hexed, coming out through BOOM! in the next few months. There’s also 8 pages of art from Emma Rios and Chris Peter. I’ve read the entire first issue and very much enjoyed it. Nelson’s one of the exceptions to my “No Horror” rule because he really gets what makes things tick. He’s a really interesting guy to talk about process with because it’s so intuitive to him that he’ll say something brilliant but obvious to him, pause, and go “Oh, wow, that’s kind of smart, isn’t it?” The book’s in the current Previews, and I think you can still order the first issue.
Despite being a fan of “music” and “comics,” I’d not picked up Mike Allred’s Red Rocket 7 over the years because it looked like an ill-conceived mishmash of Forest Gump and the crappier end of new-age “science fiction” like The Phoenix, but a 10th anniversary edition with a competitive price point made it a “what the hell” purchase.
Annoyingly, my initial instincts were correct. While it’s hard to find an artist whose work I enjoy more than Mike Allred, this comic about an alien clone and his place in rock and roll is ill-conceived, trite (the Allrods?), and comes very close to out-and-out whitewashing a significant chunk of music history despite lip service being paid in a few places to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix. There’s nothing here that couldn’t be better learned by watching the 10-hour History of Rock And Roll series, as it lacks a dopey Mormon metaphor disguised as Science Fiction. Disappointing, if very easy on the eyes.