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Wednesday Comics Post Mortem Part 3: Superman October 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Micah Griffin @ 20:49

When Wednesday Comics was first being announced one of the headlining notes was the Superman strip appearing in USA Today for the first week. If you wanted an art piece to show people I’m not sure there was a better week one showcase. It was something easy to digest. Easy on the eyes as they say. That’s good, cause it’s the best part of this strip.

Normally I give my overall thoughts on a section of wednesday comics at the end, but I’ll just tell you this straight up. Not a fan. Not a fan at all. So be prepared for nine hundred word stream of conciousness that happened as I tried to comprehend what John Arcudi was doing.

Superman is a tricky character to do. I understand that. It’s hard to make him relate to a lot of people. You have to rely on his human emotions. That’s all well and good, there’s one thing though that just never works. Depressed Superman. The first and only really needed failing of this story was that the main conflict centered around Superman dealing with not knowing whether or not he belonged here. Yup. Sorry, hoss. If this was a young superman “I’m adopted” storyline then we can talk. I don’t like it, but at least it makes a little bit of sense. This is a Superman that’s been around a while.

First page he fights some green alien that looks totally boss, then the alien is all “Kryptonian, you don’t belong here. Do you?” And that is what sends Superman into a cosmic death spiral? Really? Crazy talk.He goes and chat’s it up with his boy Batman in Gotham, and gets the most sage advice he can get. “Super Prozac.” I don’t see how this is unreasonable. Bermejo’s Superman Batman look pretty neat together. Sure they stay in one pose for the entire page just chillin on a gargoyle chattin’ it up, doesn’t stop it from looking cool.

It really is amazing how slow this story moves. Clark feels down and decides to go to Smallville. Not home to  his wife, but back to a Kansas farm totally wearing his Super PJs. Of course no one is going to follow him, but still, it’s not smart thinking. If the Kents had anything resembling neighbors they’d sure know who Superman was now.

PAUSE BREAK! Children:Why can’t anyone draw them. It’s shocking how bad people are at drawing children that look like children. Dig Page Four. Go ahead. Look at it. Is that Chucky running around the fairground. Guard your women and children! If Clark Kent should be worried about anything it’s that thing. I wonder what it is about drawing a face that looks like it could be between five and sixteen. No one has the ability to make this look good. Even Bermejo. I’d love to see alex ross draw a sixty looking fourteen year old. BACK TO ACTION!

WAIT! Not time for action, time for more moping around. He just spent a day at the fair and can’t be happy. Fried Cotton Candy on a stick! How is he not just beaming from ear to ear? I’ll never understand the guy. (Flash Fact: Cotton Candy makes me url. Any more than one bite and my body absolutely shuts down). Know what gets you feeling like you really belong somepleace? No? I’ll tell you. Looking at a history of the planet that blew up to send you to where you are. That definitely perks you right up.

BOOM! A  house blows up. Know what’s neat? Superman sleeps in his uniform. (this is totally breaking all  kind of rules, but Faith Hill? I think it’s her. But whoever it is that sings the terrible Sunday Night Football intro needs their vocal cords taken out. Shit’s awful. And now you know when I wrote this piece 10-18-2009. and it probably won’t post until November.  That’s just how I roll.) Anyway. BOOM! A house blows up. That’s really the ONLY thing that happens in one of these weeks.

Oh! There is something positive. When there actually is a fight scene they include WHACKS, THWACKS, and WHOMPS! WHOMP! Uh Oh! We’ve figured something out. These alien villains can read minds! Now, there’s no motivation yet, other than kicking the snot out of superman, but we have a clue. And that’s more than we’ve had so far through this entire run. These aliens have big lips. Not so attractive faces either, they should definitely keep the masks on. Nothing good going on there.

Now, Wednesday Comics Superman has been a pretty big dolt up until now, and all of a sudden he becomes way smart. Know what the villain does? Not only does the villain read minds, but it talks to superman. Now, superman couldn’t notice someone feeding him thoughts of depression, sending him back through his entire life to find a weakness they could use. Also, the three Aliens are a hive mind. So, superman decides to. . . think really hard.

YESSIR! That’s how you defeat a collective hive mind of angry aliens with the power to make you melancholy. Think real hard. And if you want any specefic things to think of superman gives a nice list.

1. Supergirl

2. Darksied.

3. Picking up a car.

4. Dying.

5. Lex Luthor contemplating what hair style he’s going to go with today.

6. One of the nastier looking Bizarros. Just looks like he’s short a chromosome, not backwards.

But I guess that’s enough to rock the crap out of a group of aliens trying to take over Superman’s crap. And, even though the Neural Node is gone from Superman’s Head he still feels the need to announce to the town that his parents live there. Yeah he whispered, but hen he shouted about it.

OH WAIT! LOIS! Yes, your wife. You haven’t talked to her since Friday you goober. Don’t worry, she isn’t wearing her wedding ring anyway. And Batman came through to Metropolis to give her some business. You know he did. Bruce Wayne is a playboy. He also took out the alien monster you left there, CK.

OH WAIT! I didn’t even notice this on my first read through. Dig the last page of the story. He totally calls  Lois from a pay phone. With people listening around. Yup. Definitely the worst I’ve read so far. Fortunately, that’s only stories, and the worst is yet to come.

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Wednesday Comics Post Mortem Pt 2: Kamandi October 8, 2009

Filed under: comics — Micah Griffin @ 22:54

The last boy on earth is one of the simpler concepts to come out of Jack Kirby. At least on the surface. World is in ruin, one human boy left alive just fighting to survive. He picks his name off the door of a bunker, then spells it wrong. Now you’re up to speed on the whole concept. LETS GO!

One of the prized jewels of newpaper comic strips for ages has been Prince Valiant. The way those stories are told seem absolutely perfect for this format. Give a narration and let the artwork take over. There’s something magical to be said whenever you can just look at a page or a panel and not need the words to let you know tne entire story. I don’t know any of Ryan Sook’s work before drawing Kamandi, but I know I haven’t seen very many comic book artists convey drama the way this guy does. Doesn’t hurt that he draws a killer walking tiger.

Dave Gibbons is a name I really know from Watchmen and Broken Sword, and as both of those he was an artist. Here he tells one of the best adventure stories in a while. It’s quite fantastic. In a world with walking tigers, rats, apes, and dogs it’s easy to stumble into a completely unbelievable story. Even as a fantasy comic where we’re suspending our disbelief it doesn’t take much to throw it off kilter. I mean. There are giant rats.

Why are there giant rats? Why do apes talk? Why are these tigers walking around? When did Kamandi and Prince Tuftan become friends? Where did Dr. Canus come from? Doesn’t matter. I’ve always said that if you have a strong enough story the periphery stuff doesn’t matter. These are just characters interacting, and it doesn’t matter that this one’s a tiger and that one is a dog. I do love how in this world of walking tigers, rats, lions, and apes that horses haven’t quite gotten up to speed. They still chill on four legs and are used for transportation.

This world of Kamandi is interestingly presented. It’s a sparse environment, the landscapes are plane, but Sook finds a way through immense details and great color work to keep it from boring you. Just the look and feel of the expansive skyline with the clouds flowing over a blimp that manages to have neat distinctive features while not tearing away from what your brain feels a blimp should be like.

I love how every logo for Kamandi is a different color. Each one stands out and looks distinctive. None more so that week four’s. It’s also the point where the story explodes. It’s obvious this store has a very very clear path. Dave Gibbons knows where the story is going and exactly how he’s getting there. He crafts Kamandi into an instantly likable character, and makes me route for him to get out of every situation he finds himself in. He adds a new character into the mythology (as far as I know. and I’m probably wrong on this.) and she fits right in as if she’s always been there. The addition of a female human speaking a different languages opens up the world in an almost unquantifiable way. Where did she come from? Is there a chance there are other humans around? Why does she kick so much butt?  Who tailored that swank dress she’s rockin?

Not important. What is important is the ultra convenient plot device of throwing in walking lions where you didn’t expect them. So, you have two warring factions of animals. Tigers and Apes. The main conflict so far has centered around Kamandi, Canus, and Orora (the new girl) trying to save Prince Tuftan and his father Great Ceasar from the evil Apes. Thy have no real way to go into Ape camp and free ther friends so they need help. Where to turn? Lions. These guys have stayed out of the fray up until now.

What JERKS! When they hear that the tide has turned against their striped counterparts they agree to wage war. They were just sitting it out letting the tigers do all the work. No, let them keep the evil would be overlords at bay. We’ll just reap the rewards here, us with are fleet of hummers and giant turret guns.  Regardless of their prior wimpery it was nice to see Sook bring an army of angry Lions in hummers through a ravaged Washington D.C.

There’s also something magical about last second victories coming from defeat. You knew Kamandi and crew were going to get to Tuftan in time, but seeing it happen is always good. Sook keeps the feeling of battle tight while still getting you the story of all major players. Kamandi and the lions, Prince Tuftan and his father, Baaku the evil Gorilla leader, and Dr. Canus. They all fit wonderfully into place during the climactic battle. Though it barely lasts for an issue it didn’t feel too long or either rushed.

In a true test of how well he’s developed a character, Dave Gibbons drives a dagger right through the heart. Traditionally, I have a hard time with characters dying in stories. It often feels like a cheap ploy to draw emotion out of you. Not serving a point, deaths come as just a reminder at how deadly the villain is, how precious life is, any number of things that normally don’t do anything but remove an extranious piece from the puzzle. I wasn’t sure how to take this story’s death. There are obviously aren’t time issues. Keeping Orora alive isn’t going to change future story arcs. So why did she have to die?

I’m not sure what category this falls in. I don’t feel annoyed by it. I like where it leaves us at the end. Is it a little cheap? It’s totally a cheap death. It served it’s point though. The last page is just damn cool. There really is no apter phrase.  Kamandi standing all “Last Boy on Earth” style in front of a busted up Lincoln Memorial with the capitol building in the background is damn cool. And well worth a cheap death.  Comics don’t really get much cooler than Dave Gibbons’ and Ryan Sook’s Kamandi series.

 

Wednesday Comics Post Mortem Pt. 1: Batman October 4, 2009

Filed under: comics — Micah Griffin @ 21:18

You expect a lot from the title that got the title page. If you’re reading this the right way, this is the first title you see after unfolding. What’re the expectations for this? Best title up front? One the most people will read? One with the most stunning art? Or just something people are familiar with. Something that’ll set the tone for the experience you’re about to get. Thinking about what this is, a classic serialized comic, what better choice is there than Batman?

Brian Azzarello seems like he’d be a perfect fit for Batman as well. A writer well versed in crime and noir writing  a character steeped in crime and noir in a format that seems to fit crime and noir. Well, the last part is a bit of a stretch, but it all seems to make sense.

The first issue sets the tone for what we’re to expect. Batman and Gordon are in their normal meeting spot discussing their failure. It’s dark, there’s a nice burnt orange tint to everything. Right until everything turns blue. That’s when you learn that Bruce Wayne is a terminator. What? No, but He’s definitely odd looking. Just because he’s out of uniform doesn’t mean he’s off his game.  It’s interesting how each of the pages in this Batman story take on a different color tone. I’m not sure if there’s symbolism invovled, or just mood setting, but it works for the look of it. Helps to keep you intersted and in the feel of the story even during the pages Burce or Batman aren’t the central focus.

Looking at this as sort of  a Batman showcase you might expect the story to involve a Two-face, Riddler, or a Joker. Instead Azzarello & Risso go for a smaller story. A man is murdered, there’s big money involved and Bruce has to solve it. Everyone we meet is obviously a slime and guilty of something (save for the nice little old lady at the funeral).

The next three issue turn yellow (for a nice dinner date), green (in the batcomputer lit cave), and then a dark blue (inside a thug’s apartment. Each page consistently darkening.  The story proves to be great at lifting it’s skirt appropriately to you. Alfred’s debut is riddled with sage dialogue. The closing panels are a fantastic lead in to the first time we get to see Batman in action. There’s just something fun and exciting about watching Batman fly through a window and punch someone. We got part of that, and it was enough.

I’ve mentioned the color schemes but have failed to really talk about the art up until this point. Mostly because comic book art is something I’m not good at criticizing.  I see it as a function of story telling, and barring it being fantastic or terrible I don’t notice it. I don’t know who Robins or Mulvihill are, but I like their stuff. They grit teeth a bit hard for my liking, but their art is good at communicating Azarello’s story and the colors are wonderful. The detail between the shadows is fantastic.

My favorite part of comic book story telling is the ability to control time. No other medium works time to it’s advantage as well as comics do. Writers make it up as they seem fit. The same amount of retail on a page can traverse seconds or years. Batman takes advantage of this very feature at the half way point. The story had, till this point, been progressing for hours at a time. Now it slows down to handle some business.

Batman is an awesome interrogator. Dropping glass to the neck like a guillotine and placing cigarettes near the eye are good ways to get me to talk. The color scheme changes. Issue seven has a very bold and deep blue violently interrupted by an intimidating orange. The sickly yellow green provides a nice subdued backdrop to the appearance of Gordon setting up the final acts. The color shifts ever so slightly to a lighter shade of that same sickly green and Batman discovers the secrets to this mystery.

From here on out it’s pink pink pink. Azzarello really knows how to close out a story. The final three issues have to take place in less than five minutes. The character Luna is a hot piece of work. It’s a total shame she has to be a a villainous wench. Seeing Batman punch a dog is delightful. Flash Fact: Batman is great at fighting small fuzzy things. Luna should’ve read up on the issue. It’s noted that Bats doesn’t murder the dogs so PETA doesn’t have to worry.

Azzarello uses the denoument to really make you feel for the two major players. Bruce has his ideals. He wants things to work out well. He likes happy endings. Luna doesn’t share his views. It’s clear how this is going to end and you are still on the edge of your seat.  Seeing characters in certain failure situations is fascinating. They always make for great character studies and high drama. There’s no way this character is going to waste away in jail. How do you work your way out of this situation when all the odds are stacked against you. If you can’t how do you get out on your terms?

The way Robins & Mulvihill set up the panels add great depth to the story telling. They only show you what you’re suppose to see. Framing shots so that when bullets are fired you can’t tell who’s reacting to what. The cheesy ending is cheesy, but fitting. The villain dame has to find out that bruce is batman before the lights turn out. It’s fitting. Of course Gordon keeps everyone just far enough away from the final scene to protect his buddy.

I’ll admit, when I was reading it as it went along I wasn’t sold. The issues went slow, I didn’t know where it was going. This is a much better read in one solid chunk. Just take it all in at  once.  I’m definitely throwing this an easy 4/5.