Comics, Feature

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1

Since its announcement back in February, I, along with the rest of those obsessed with “Watchmen,” have been beyond conflicted when it comes to the decision to read the new “Before Watchmen” books. The series has been met with much controversy, due to creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ clear and public disapproval of the revisiting of the “Watchmen” universe.

After months of deliberation, despite everything in my soul telling me not to, I finally reached a decision to read at least the first issue as a way test the water. I mean, If worse came to worst and it turned out to be terrible, I could just pretend like this was an elaborate and mass produced fan fiction that had nothing to do with the original graphic novel, right?

So as soon as I arrived home from class, I decided to begin my journey to the comic book store. As if I wasn’t conflicted enough about my decision to get this book, a torrential downpour began as soon as I got in my car. One AWOLNATION album later I finally arrived to the shop, only to find that this storm had caused a power outage, forcing me to travel across downtown Baton Rouge in search of an ATM.

It would seem that the powers that be were trying to tell me something.

 Finally, two hours after my trek began, I finally made it back to my apartment complex, comic book in hand.

Darwyn Cooke (“DC: The New Frontier”) serves as both the writer and artist of “Before Watchmen: Minutemen.” Cooke has made a name for himself by writing and penciling some of the most popular characters in both the Marvel and DC Universes since 2000. Considered one of the best cartoonists of our time, as well as a great story teller, I was delighted to find that he would be taking on this series.

The first thing I noticed when began reading was that it felt like a “Watchmen” comic. Yes, it was a bit more colorful and bright, but it had still had the old school, pulpy feel that Gibbons pulled off in the original. In any case, I would not hesitate to say that Cooke has created what is, for all intents and purposes, a perfect recreation of the “Watchmen” universe from a visual standpoint.

It is quite clear that Cooke has a great understanding of the universe from a storytelling standpoint as well. It opens up on recently retired Hollis Mason (aka Night Owl), as he tries to put the finishing touches on his book, “Under the Hood.” This six page prologue is the darkest point in the book and allows the reader to clearly see the journey that Mason has made, from a young, naive cop turned vigilante, to a retired hero, tormented by emotional scars.

Cooke uses Hollis Mason’s book, “Under the Hood,” as the narrator, which, in my opinion, was a genius move. It allows him to seamlessly and briefly introduce each character individually, then bring them all together at the conclusion and set the stage for the rest of the story.

This book was undoubtedly created for Watchmen fans by Watchmen fans. The artwork was clearly influenced by that of Gibbons, and it tells a story that not only stays true to the original novel, but expands the universe and it’s characters in a way that will leave most fans more than content.

If you’ve ever wondered what life was like for the first generation of masked vigilantes of the Watchmen universe or asked yourself what kind of journey they took that led to their demise or even if you just really like “Watchmen,” I highly recommend that you pick this up.

As skeptical as I was going in, this book has given me a glimmer of hope for the revisiting of my favorite story. Alan Moore may not be involved, but it is quite obvious that his vision lives on in the hearts and minds of the creators who have been inspired by it.

Comics

Summerfield’s Soapbox: Spider-Man: Attack of the Clones

Hello GeekTi.mers!

Halloween is now inching itself closer and closer upon us. And, for whatever reason, I tend to love dressing up as costumed heros for Halloween (last year I was Rorschach, and when I was a kid I dressed up as the Red Ranger and Batman quite frequently). So, I got the idea stuck in my head that I’d be Scarlet Spider/Ben Reilly for this Halloween (since Scarlet Spider/Ben Reilly Spider-Man/Spider Carnage were always my favorite web head outfits), and after I placed the order for my scarlet full body suit I went ahead and ordered the first two volumes of the original 1990’s Spider-Man Clone Saga Epic, partially because I owned a few of the issues as a kid and partially because I used costume research as an excuse to read more comics.

So, here I am having read a ton of Clone Saga Spider-Man, well after its publication, having heard of a reissue of the Clone Saga that started in 2009, and I have a massive headache. I went into the series from Spidey’s past thinking that I had just had issues piecing things together the last time I read bits of it because I was much younger, but now after rereading through a large chunk of the Clone Saga, I can safely say that the Clone Saga is one of Spider-Man’s most memorable series and also one of the most convoluted and hard-to-follow epics yet.

That isn’t to say that some, if not a large part, of the writing is great, which it is. There is a huge cast that often times shines, specifically Venom’s relationship with Peter’s clones, but as a sum of all of its parts, the Clone Saga is a mess. Most of the early issues are really sporadic (1978, mid-1980s, early 1990s, and then the series hit its peak in the mid-to-late 1990s) and it seems like every issue corrects small problems from the last every run. As a whole, it is quite the tapestry of all things Parker, but when one inspects a bit closer suddenly the seams appear to be frayed.

Early on we’re given the premise: The Jackal hates Spider-Man for being responsible for the death of his star pupil/pervy old man love interest Gwen Stacey. The Jackal creates some clones of Peter Parker under the guise that they will kill Peter and then take his place while The Jackal pulls all of the strings, and then Peter thinks he killed his clone but his clone returns (thinking that he is the real Parker). Sadness ensues, Clone Parker renames himself and leaves, we wonder if there are more clones, there are, and then a LOT of villans get written in for seemingly no apparent reason. Then, Peter finds out that MJ is pregnant, Clone Parker (since been Ben Reilly, a.k.a. the Scarlet Spider) decides to let Peter live a normal life and takes on the mantle of being Spider-Man (with new duds though, my favorite). Reilly has to pretend to remember his old team-ups, older Clone brother Kaine arrives, wants to murder Ben Reilly and Parker for being blessed with normal lives instead of instability and insanity, and then I stopped spoiling the comics. If you want to find out more, including the hundreds of pages of random filler side stories that happens between each comma I wrote up there you should read the Wikipedia article or order the collections on Amazon (but be warned, each compilation is 450 pages, and I think there are at least 7 of them).

Anyway, long story short (no thematic pun intended) the rewrites are aiming to tell the core story that was always wanting to be told and they’ve been steadily released since 2009, so I have  half a mind to check that out (updated visuals, fingers crossed). As far as 1990s Spider-Man is concerned, however, I think the Identity Crisis run may still be my favorite.

Comics

The Panel – On the DC Reboot


If you have any knowledge of the comics industry, beyond being mildly aware of its existence, then you must have heard that DC comics is rebooting its entire line this September. This is a monumental step for the company that has the potential to widen their audience base and bring in much more income, thereby keeping the comic-book medium that much more alive. The downside, however, is that the potential for such benefits does not come without the possibility for catastrophe.

Action Comics #1

One of the hurdles that DC has had to try to jump so far is the preexisting fan-base’s negative response to the reboot. This has not been a helpful reaction from the fans. Many are outraged that the reboot is even occurring, and refuse to support it.

I do not understand this.

The strength of the comic medium is the progressive development of a mythology through the telling of many stories from many authors about iconic characters. These icons grow through this process into modern day legends. They’re deified figures that stand as avatars of the changing times and ideals.

What I am saying is that reboots occur all of the time, whether they are called such or not. Every time a character drastically changes, or enters a new era of their lives, the concept is essentially the same a reboot. The best example of this is character death. When a character dies in a comic book, they can easily be reborn in another issue at a later date. This has been a staple of the various superhero comic-book universes since the beginning. Each time a hero is brought back from the dead, they are essentially beginning anew.

The main difference between this and a reboot is that the latter often rewrites parts or all of a character’s history. At least, that is often the goal. This is never achieved. A character’s past history always, without exception, affects their current history. Even when a title is rebooted, parts of the older, now “non-cannon” history work their way into the “new take” on the character. There is no such thing as a true reboot, only the expanding of an icon’s legend.

Justice League #1

Long-time fans should support the reboot for this reason. Their favorite characters will be expanded and bettered by it just as they would if it never happened.

Also, there is the potential for new readership. It is far easier for new readers to approach a series at #1 than it is at #173. The larger numbers are intimidating, and so they are scared away. The comics industry lacks new readership, and this is bad. If the medium cannot attract new readers, then it cannot support itself, let alone grow.

The age of the average comic reader is increasing each year, and with that the number of readers is stagnating, even decreasing. If the industry is to survive it must attract more readers, especially in these harsh economic times.

One of the driving forces for the DC reboot is to attract new readers. Hopefully it will be successful in doing so. This chance for success will depend on the attraction of new readers and the maintaining of the core fan-base.

Maybe this is just a gimmick. Maybe DC just hopes they may get ten or twelve new subscribers and are simply money-grubbing to do so. Maybe this is all a plot to keep the rights to Superman.  In any event though, even if you have no faith in the goodwill of the company towards its readers, ask yourself this: if many new readers are attracted, and the company makes more money, maybe even significantly more money, then would you be terribly against a lowering of comic prices for once?

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

With the commentary now out of the way, here is a basic summary of what is happening in September:

  • Only the superhero titles will be affected
  • Continuity may be a bit interesting after this, as it seems that some characters will be drastically altered whilst others remain largely unchanged.
  • There will be 52 #1’s released during the month
  • The new flagship title is Action Comics, not Justice League as previously thought
  • The official solicitations for September have been posted

This does not have the stink of a summer event or gimmick, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

 

Comics, Feature, Film & TV

Justice League: I Wish it Was Coming to a Theater Near You


I’ll be the first to admit that my love for Marvel is greater than that of my love for DC. Is it weird, then, that I’d much rather see “The Justice League” on the big screen than I do “The Avengers”? Perhaps. Maybe I need to rethink this comic love balance, because DC has slowly started to win me over the last couple of years.

It seems that DC is slowly starting to breathe life into its characters with major films based on their major players coming out and being announced. If they follow Marvel’s trend, we could be seeing a Justice League movie sooner rather than later.

With the infinite fantasies about this potential project running though my head, I feel it is necessary to pour my ideas into an article. It’s the noble thing to do, as I have great ideas.

First off is the matter of the cast. The following is the big 7 and their nemesis for my proposed movie. DC. Warner Bros…take notes.

Henry Cavill as Superman

The biggest casting question mark in this movie would have to be Cavill as Superman (the first of two actors who are actually playing who I’ve casted them as in announced movies). I had a choice when working out the cast. Do I replace Cavill with someone I’m more comfortable with, or do I leave him in the cast and see how it works? As you can see, I left him in.  Having known virtually nothing about the guy (aside from the fact that he’s British and does, in fact, have the chin to do Supes justice), I decided to look him up. He plays a rather important role in the Showtime series “The Tudors”, which I something I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. After seeing him play the part, I have no real worries about Cavill as the Man of Steel. He’s a very good actor.

Cavill, coupled with the guidance of Zach Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer, could possibly bring the Superman franchise the live action movie it’s been waiting for since Superman II ended back in 1978. And if this is the case, then Cavill would be a welcome addition to the Justice League.

Jon Hamm as Batman

Jon Hamm is, quite possibly, the embodiment of everything cool. He can be incredibly dapper and knows how to be suave and charming. These are all traits that are typically seen in Bruce Wayne. All he’d need to do is add a bit more ego and mysteriousness to the role. I shouldn’t really have to convince anyone on this. Jon Hamm is a national treasure and I spit on your dreams if you say otherwise.

The only thing he’d need is a bit of action and combat training, which isn’t unheard of in the movie industry. Most of the time, he’d be using a stunt double (or so I’d imagine), but a little regimented work and training schedule and Hamm IS the Batman.

Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern

Reynolds was the second person on this list that I put (or left, in this case) in a role. A lot of people rolled their eyes when he was cast as Lantern in the first place, but I was a bit excited. I have a lot of faith in Reynolds’s dramatic and comedic acting, although it’s his comedic acting that would make me want to see him in a separate role. He’d be a perfect Flash, however I’m going to give his turn as Hal Jordan a shot. The movie looks interesting enough and I’m excited to see what Reynolds brings to the Justice League. I mean…if The Avengers can have Robert Downey Jr., it’s only fair the Justice League gets to keep Ryan Reynolds.

Hal himself is very thoughtful and competent as a hero, discovering his true prowess as a hero as time went on. That being said, he had an ego and got carried away with it on occasion. Reynolds plays the hot shot roles pretty well, but can also tone it down when necessary for serious scenes. Complete faith given to his performance. The movie itself is a toss up (though I’m amped about it regardless).

Charlize Theron as Wonder Woman

If someone was to give me two words to describe Wonder Woman, the two words I’d pick would undeniably be “Sexy” and “Powerful.” As a matter of fact, a discussion with one of my friends at work let to the conclusion that she’s, essentially, a super powered dominatrix with a penchant for JUSTICE. While, perhaps, not the most important choice, Wonder Woman’s actress was my last and most difficult choice to make. There are a lot of pretty actresses out there. There are a lot of GOOD pretty actresses out there. My choice of Charlize Theron for the role was made as I was watching Æon Flux. I think it was on TV, but I was so tired, I may have accidentally watched the DVD. Three things were evident as I watched it:

1. Charlize Theron looks good in fight scenes.

2. Charlize Theron looks good with black hair.

3. Charlize Theron looks good in skin tight getups.

Moral of the story is, despite Æon Flux doing it’s best to be a bad movie, Charlize Theron looks good. This isn’t to discredit her talent. She’s a fantastic actress as well, winning and being nominated for multiple awards for past roles. She has had a taste of the super power life in 2008’s Hancock, but she spent the first half of that movie being relatively normal (if not overly standoffish). It remains to be seen if she could handle her own movie AND an ensemble movie in the role of DC’s most iconic female hero…but I think she would be able to handle herself well.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Flash

My original idea was to be funny and cast Ryan Reynolds as everyone (seeing as he is rumored to be every superhero ever, it seems), but then I realized that movie would be to sexy for its shirt and moved on from that idea. When it came time to actually cast for The Flash, I enlisted some outside help. I was speaking to my friend Farko (that’s not his real name, but we’re going to roll with it for now) on Facebook and he gave me this nugget to chew on:

“The Flash would need someone energetic or twitchy, I would think.”

And then he suggested Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role and it clicked in my head. Gordon-Levitt’s turn as Arthur in Inception proved some things. He’s very good at the sophisticated and smooth look, but he’s also got the noble team player role down too. And if you’ve ever seen him in real life, he’s very energetic and friendly. In a lot of ways, he could pretty much play himself with a bit more seriousness tossed in for variety. In interviews, the man is very genuine and nice, which are traits Barry carries as The Flash.

The trick for the Flash’s movie is to pick out one of the three men to take the Flash mantle to base the movie on. This would, of course, have to be Barry Allen (Flash #2). His costume is most recognizable as The Flash to today’s generations. While Wally West had the same costume and is, quite possibly, more popular, his origins would be hard to delve into. It would involve a lot of references to DC’s Final Crisis, which would complicate matters if these movies were to be in their self contained universes. Adding to this idea is the fact that Barry Allen was in the original Justice League. Plus, I like Barry’s origin story better. Struck by a bolt of lightning that turns out to be him in the future? Oh yes. That is cool.

Billy Crudup as Martian Manhunter

When creating this cast list, my decision on who to play Martian Manhunter was made first and almost immediately (even before choosing to keep Cavill and Reynolds in their respective roles). Crudup has proven he can play an intelligent, stoic, otherworldly being perfectly in his portrayal of Dr. Manhattan (in “The Watchmen”, another DC property). The difference here is that Crudup, as J’onn J’onzz gets to show a more human characteristic in the character. While Manhattan was very “above” the human condition (for lack of better phrasing), Manhunter adapted to us humans over time and began to understand them. This added layer of humanity will most likely bring more relatablity to a superpowered fish out of water story. The next biggest point is that Crudup looks good digitally (which is what I imagine the scenes in which Manhunter is in alien form will be). The thing about this, though, is that J’onn is able to morph between human form and alien form at will. We’ll actually get to see Crudup’s real face way more often than in Watchmen, which is a plus. Working without digital pom-poms on you all day is a lot easier than with.

Nobody as Aquaman

Aquaman is dumb. The only time his dumb-ness is acceptable is when he is portrayed as dumb (overly jolly, they’d have you believe) in the cartoons. The image I have painted in my mind’s eye has room for comedy. It doesn’t have room for fools

Instead, I propose:

Daniel Craig as Hawkman

I was debating for a while over who would fill Aquaman’s spot. My internal debate came down to Hawkman and one other hero. I couldn’t choose, so I decided I’d write about both in the article. As soon as I get that done, my realization sensors kick in and I decide Hawkman is the choice that needs to be made.

Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Hawkman (at least in comparison to the other heroes on this list). I did some reading and his origin story (at least the one I read about) seems like an interesting idea. The basic premise is that Hawkman (archeologist Carter Hall) is the reincarnation of Egyptian Prince Khufu. Khufu and his lover, Chay-ara (later reincarnated as Carter’s lover Shiera Saunders, Hawkgirl), would be murdered by Hath-Set with a Nth Metal dagger (the same metal that makes up their wings. Because of the metal, they would constantly be forced to reincarnate, become lovers, and be murdered by a reincarnation of Hath-Set.

That’s a pretty cool idea if I do say so myself. I’ve heard Hawkman’s story has gotten muddled over the years, but a simple origins story with both Hawkman and Hawkgirl defeating Hath-Set (thus breaking the curse cycle) would make for a good movie. I keep playing an opening sequence in my head starting with Khufu and traveling forward in time little by little, showing Carter and Shiera being murdered by Hath-Set at various points in history…until finally stopping on Carter investigating the tomb of his original incarnation. I think, if given a bit of a suit redesign (more modern…less nipple) and the right actor, Hawkman could shine as a great superhero film. Daniel Craig, I think, could play Carter (and the various incarnations from the opening sequence I have in mind) well. He’s the adventurous type in his movies (I mean…Bond? Come on!) and he’s a good actor in his own right. If I’m being honest, the guy could probably make Aquaman presentable.

This entire list (save for Reynolds and Cavill…and, potentially, Crudup…because what is he doing right now?) is fantasy, obviously. I’d hope they’d take the parts, but there’s a good probability they wouldn’t. But that’s OK. This is my imagination and anything is possible in this realm.

Now it looks like we just need a plot and a villain. I can do that.

Comics, Feature

The Panel – We’re Not in Fabletown Anymore


This past week I had the good fortune to finally read something I had been trying to get my hand on for a while: Legends: The Enchanted by Nick Percival.

The plot is mainly about a group of characters from children’s fables who live in what seems to be the future who are being systematically hunted down by an evil witch in order to fuel her own evil plans.

Jack the Giantkiller

First off, this graphic novel has some of the best art I have ever seen in a comic book before.

Every panel seems to have been painstakingly and intricately painted, each with the intention of being able to stand its ground in an art show. The writing here is also top-notch, offering a unique take on classic fable characters.

Though the Vertigo series Fables has already carved out a niche of its own with its unique use of story-book characters, that does not make Legends: The Enchanted redundant. It takes a much darker look at the characters and their stories, throwing them into a steam-punk world of bloodshed and murder.

This is a violent story. However, though the violence is not overly graphic, what really makes this series fall more into the realm of ‘horror,’ in the opinion of this lowly writer, is the nightmarish art.

The world teems with dark colors and twisted images of distorted and disgusting creatures, like the giants or Pinocchio himself, who is an unholy blend of magic and machinery.

The character depictions are quite awesome, the award for the best being a tie between Red Riding Hood and Jack the Giantkiller. The monsters, as said earlier, are horrific.

The witch, present in so many of the stories and ever in opposition of the main characters, is the sheer stuff of terror. She glides across the frames in an eldritch robe, bringing with her a sense of dust and decay. She is the symbol of corruption in this world, and it fits perfectly.

One character I ended of really liking was called ‘The Squire.” At first he seemed like a basic evil guy who had a two-dimensional motivation. This ended up being far from the truth. I won’t say anything more here, as it would be a great detriment to the plot, but I will leave with this statement: The Squire is a cool character with a cool, idealistic goal that actually makes sense.

A rarity in comics.

Red Riding Hood

On the subject of awesome, the two coolest characters were Jack the Giantkiller and Red Riding Hood. But I already said this; what I haven’t said yet is that half of what made them so awesome was their gear.

Jack had his magic beans. Really, really, really, cool magic beans. Each time he popped a bean, his eyes would glow and magical shenanigans would ensue. They did result in a lot of deus ex machina, but it did not break the flow of the story at all.

Red Riding Hood, had…well…her hood. Due to the color scheme of the book, its bloody hue contrasted beautifully with all of the cold shades of blue and purple that abounded throughout the world.

Overall, Legends: The Enchanted stands as a monumental success in the graphic medium and is a book not to be missed.

Comics, Feature

The Panel – Doom of a Hero

 

Ultimate Spider-Man is a special title to me. It was the title that got me into comics years ago, and it is one I have followed ever since, which is amounting to quite  a span. With the recent release of Ultimate Spider-Man #156, the “Death of Spider-Man” arc has officially begun.

Marvel has been playing this plot-line up more than just a bit, with the writer, Brian Michael Bendis,  stating again and again that this arc will redefine the book and will be unlike any Spider-Man story ever told. The original artist, Mark Bagley, returned to the comic for this arc. It is a big deal.

The question of the hour, then, is ‘where will Ultimate Spider-Man go after this arc’?

The best place to start is with the most drastic: the end of the line. Ultimate Spider-Man finishing its glorious run and retiring forever into the dusty resting places of the back-issue bins. This is a possibility.

USM (Ultimate Spider-Man) has seen drastically dropping sales rates for a while now. Maybe the numbers have become too low for Marvel to handle. The Ultimate Marvel line in general has seen dropping numbers.

I do not want to admit that it might be a possibility that one of Marvel’s most consistent titles could be in danger, but that does not make it any less true. Sort of.

One interesting tidbit in this pessimistic onslaught is this: USM is the basis for an upcoming television series. That means that Marvel is still trying to cash in on it, which can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could be a last-ditch attempt to milk the name for any cash it can bring in. It might also be a sign that the line has garnered faith from Marvel. Bringing Bagley back was a good move, especially for longtime readers like myself. Very nostalgic.

But longtime readership may be part of the problem: it doesn’t grow. Maybe the current arc is geared toward generating interest by printing such a bold title across the top of the book as “The Death of Spider-Man.” This is extremely likely, which brings us to the next possibility: Peter Parker may actually die.

It could happen. Bendis has proved time and again to have no problem with reinventing characters and their relationships and personalities, so maybe he will take the step no one else has taken: actually kill Spider-Man.

But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Why kill a character that is both the center of the series and has 156 issues of backstory? It doesn’t make too much sense. However, that is exactly why it would be unexpected. It would also provide a jumping off point for some new person to ‘take up the tights,’ as it were.

They could bring in the Ultimate version of Spider-Woman, who made a cameo not too many issues ago. There was the beginning of a love plot there between her and The Human Torch, so that would definitely be a place to expand upon. Heck, maybe Jameson will become Spider-Man.

Okay that won’t happen, but it would be the greatest irony of all time.

What seems to be the most likely course of events is that Spider-Man either undergoes a very traumatic event (evidence from #156 would support this, being that Captain America makes such a point of showing Parker the cemetery and speaking to him about what it means to be a soldier) learns some sort of lesson about the seriousness of what he is doing and risking, and becomes one of the Ultimates, or dons a new name and costume and performs more or less the same function as he has since he became a superhero.

It would be an interesting course of events for Spider-Man to gain a new name, but it might also lead to some confusion in terms of sales, so the maturity boost wins out in this columnist’s humble opinion. If Parker doesn’t either play dead or legitimately get killed, that is.

Whatever the case may be, I look forward to reading about what fate lies in store for the teen webslinger.

 

Comics, Feature

The Panel – How the Dead Walk


This week will be a break from the recently established theme of differing takes on comic book characters and stories,  just so I can talk about The Walking Dead: Compendium One

First Off
The most obvious place to start is the quality of the binding. Compendium editions bound in this way have, in my experience, a tendency to fall apart. I previously bought a compendium for The Darkness, and it more or disintegrated in about four hours. Though it is more costly to get the the 12-issue hardcover collections or the 24-issue omnibus editions, it would be a better idea to do so. The series is worth whatever it takes to acquire it, without doubt. The only problem is that the cheapest option is exactly that-the cheapest.

Nextly
The Walking Dead is somewhat of a special case in terms of plot. It is a zombie story, but the undead apocalypse this time around is more of a setting and a reason than it is a central point. The zombies are killing everything and everyone and the world has been destroyed, but this a story of how people react to such occurrences, not the occurrences themselves. In fact, we are never told exactly how the zombies came into being, we just know they are.

It’s not important.

The characters and their interactions, however, are vital. This is a story about people, and it excels as such. The dialogue is fantastic, never failing to resound with emotional realism.  The people are affected in rational ways, often questioning their sanity and that of their comrades. They lose control at times, showing the wear that such a stressful situation has on them. There are several that even go completely insane, committing terribly sadistic acts on their fellow survivors.

These are people put through an unimaginably violent turn of events, and they react accordingly.

The plot follows a revolving-door cast of survivors, centered around Rick Grimes, who is the main character. As events progress, he is brought to question his existence and the meaning of many of today’s socially accepted actions and behaviors. Other characters react in similar ways, confronting Rick or themselves with questions of morality that lie deep within the domain of the gray.

A bit of warning, though, the story here, while it is very good, is also very, very bleak and dark.

Third-Wise
Character deaths. This belongs in its own section due to the sheer number of times it occurs. Getting too attached to characters in this series will more than likely lead to massive letdowns as they are horrendously devoured. It is actually quite surprising how often the author slays the cast. Obviously some characters are just zombie-fodder from the beginning, but even important or seemingly ‘main’ characters are mercilessly thrown to the rotting horde.

This was annoying after a little while. It has always seemed odd to me to kill very well-developed characters randomly, but it does emphasize one point: death comes to us all, and almost always at an unexpected time. This idea gives meaning to the the fates of the fallen, but it does not ease their passing.

Fourthish
The art through which all of this emotion and interpersonal complexity is conveyed is monochromatic, but also has a colossal level of detail to it. The maggots on the rotting bodies of the dead that walk crawl about disgustingly, as  emotions paint the faces of the characters about to be devoured.

Emotions are an up in this series as well, the characters showing a level of expressiveness that rivals Scott Pilgrim. Fear and anger, hope and despair, happiness and bliss, all are perfectly drawn.

The gore is of a similar caliber, being appropriately brutal and graphic. This is not a series for kids, and it is not a light-hearted tale. The violence has a gritty realism to it that really drives home the desperation of the situation through a pretty accurate depiction of what would happen if someone were to try and bite your face off. And succeed.

Flow frames also work out quite well. These are hard things to get right, being there has to be just the right amount of subtle change between each panel. The artists here execute it masterfully, making for some very dramatic moments.

Speaking of which, the dramatic one-page panels are the most appropriate I have ever encountered. I have seen too many times a one-pager describe something the reader has already figured out or revolves a single statement that lacks in the epic department. These, however, do not. Some of the best, most somber moments that I have encountered in all of my readings lie within this omnibus.

The artist for the series changes after the first few issues, which is a little jarring at first, being that it makes telling the characters apart very difficult. Five men who haven’t shaved in several months all look rather similar. But, this is a minor complaint as it is easy to get used to the new style, and the art remains largely the same for the rest of the compendium.

En Conclusionary
The Walking Dead
: Compendium One is definitely worth checking out for anyone who can stomach it, provided they watch a nice, happy film afterward. Or go outside and catch fireflies.


 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Comics, Feature

The Panel – How to Succeed as the Great Patriot


There are a slew of comic films due out in the near-future (everyone seems to be trying to cash in on the capes), but one of particular interest to me is Captain America: The First Avenger. It has quite a few qualities that might make it either really awesome or a bitter disappointment.

Being the Man Who Bears the Shield

First off, I do not have high hopes for the Captain America movie. The subject matter might be very basic comic film fare, but the character is not. In  fact, Captain America may one of the most complicated roles to play in terms of demands made on the actor.

In order to play Captain America, the actor need only don a silly wing-tipped helmet, bright blue jumpsuit and carry around a patriotic dinner platter. In order to be Captain America, the actor needs to embody the overcoming of adversity, the transcendence of right over wrong, and all that it means to reach that idealized classical American awesomeness.

This is a lot to ask. It might be fully possible to execute the film and never touch on such a level of character complexity. This would, however, doom it to being regarded as just another “super-hero movie.”

The Idea Behind a Strong Comic Film

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with superhero movies (I write the comic book column, after all).

However, I do believe that if Marvel wants to have its Dark Knight, Captain America might be a good place to start. The character has tremendous potential to be something spectacular, especially with the recession that this country has been in for so many years. There does not seem to be that much national pride to go around at the moment, just dissatisfaction and fear. To rekindle some of this lost nationalism in the hearts of the audience would have a profound effect.

Captain America was created in 1941, the era of WWII. He is a character born, like so many comic book heroes, out of times of adversity. Humanizing and modernizing him could have some amazing results. He has been depicted as a flawed man in a few of his numerous stories, and Marvel would do well to remember this.

The Dark Knight worked so well because there was no character in that film that was not believable. Some of the gadgets might have been a bit outlandish, but every human was just that: human. Yes, Captain America is a super soldier, but Marvel has already proven that it can make anything down to earth. They humanized Iron Man, didn’t they?

Tony stark was an extremely flawed rich playboy. That’s all. Though the film quickly fell into the basic super-hero shtick, it started out very strong and very darkly down-to-earth.

If Captain America is depicted in such a likely light, and then becomes something more through the conquering of his adversities, he might appeal to the lambent patriotism of this nation through the establishment of a common enemy–the toughness of the times. Maybe a connection with Steve Roger’s childhood in the great depression would be a good place to start as far as bringing in the harsh side of life into the film.It would be tricky, but it can be done.

Of course, the success of the film depends on the director, writer(s), and everyone else involved, but a large majority of the pressure would be on the actor playing Captain America. You can’t have a new age symbol of patriotism without an amazing performance.

The Conclusion

All in all, Marvel could either capitalize on what DC has done by making comic movies viable cinema, using it as an excuse to make significantly better movies, or they can remain in the comfortable limbo of action-only films in which they currently reside.

 

Comics, Feature

The Panel – The Pilgrimage Begins


For those of you that did not read “The Panel” last week, I announced that part of the column each week would dedicated to an analysis of various adaptations of various characters. It seems only appropriate to start this pilgrimage into the world of transitions with the comic-to-film, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

The world of Scott Pilgrim is one not much unlike our own. The story takes place in Toronto and revolves around an average Joe and his group of friends. One night, he sees a girl in his dreams. Later the following day, he sees her in the library in real life. He then proceeds to fall in love with said girl, and things are going quite well. The catch to this fairytale romance is that, in order to date her, he must defeat her “Seven Evil Exes.” This leads to a long series of video-game inspired fight scenes and thousands of flying coins.

Okay. So maybe it is a highly-fantasized story, but take a closer look and you’ll find that, behind all of the coinplosions and super-powers, the core of this tale is a meditation on how people deal with loss and learn to move beyond it.

At least in the graphic novels. The film is a very different matter.

The Scott Pilgrim Movie focuses mainly on special effects and cinematography. The level of depth that is present in the story of the graphic novels is completely lost in the translation from comic to film. The latter’s primary interest is creating a deluge of colors, and it does this quite well. The special effects here are fantastic and a joy to behold. Colors lance and flash across the screen constantly, but they remain entertaining, never really losing their value.

Most movies that go a predominantly visual route have some problems from too many pretty colors and explosions. G.I.Joe, for instance, gets a little old after a while simply due to everything everywhere blowing up all the time. Not so with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. All of the effects form a cohesive whole and are in no way repetitive. Each fight has its own stylization and theme, which is really cool.

Another of the film’s achievements is the surreal smoothness of the scene transitions. Each scene blends into the next, sometimes going so far as to make it nearly impossible to tell the two apart. Creating a series of images that flow this well is not an easy task, but it was executed here with the utmost finesse.

The last thing I would like to address about the film before plunging into the comic world is the casting. This is a wonderfully cast movie. Each character fits not only the basic look of their ink-and-paper counterpart, but also their personality. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s casting as Ramona Flowers is probably the best example of this.

Winstead as Ramona Flowers

The one problem with Scott Pilgrim Vs the World‘s cast was Michael Cera. He just did not fit the role as Scott. It just didn’t work.

But, the movie was an overall enjoyable experience, even if it could have been better. Maybe if they had stretched it over a trilogy instead of just one film it would have improved automatically and the the sacrifice of the main theme of the comics would not have been necessary. There just didn’t seem to have been enough time for the film to cover all of the ground it needed to. This makes sense, given that the graphic novel series includes six volumes, the last of which is quite long. But eh. Still a cool movie.

The graphic novels, however, are awesome. There is simply no other way to describe them.

The first volume really seemed to be the problem child in terms of flow. The little snippets of dialogue that rang so amazingly in the film were, to my surprise, from the film. Their absence from the book was sorely felt. Many scenes in the first volume appear choppy and grating. This problem is adressed, however, in later volumes.

In fact, it is addressed in the very next volume. In Volume two of the series, also named Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, the issues with the flow are eradicated, leaving only a comic made with skill such that I have rarely been witness to. The best example is the silent scenes. Silent scenes in a comic are difficult things to accomplish, since they rely entirely on the expressiveness of the artwork. Scott Pilgrim definitely is one of those rare occasions. These scenes, thanks to the expressiveness of the art, flow without end and elicit a much more emotional response from the reader.

The art’s expression is the next item on the discussion list, funnily enough.

The art style used in Scott Pilgrim is very basic. It consists almost entirely of rather plain characters who, at the start of things, are sort of difficult to tell apart. What such a style allows for, though, is an entirely new level of expression. The character’s emotions are made plain through their mannerisms in such a way that you feel as if you are actually speaking to them, watching their body language in an attempt to derive extra meaning from their words and being rewarded for the effort.

This expressiveness really humanizes the characters and makes them quite believable, even if they do inhabit a strange, video-game inspired world. The believability of the characters also lends itself to the relevance of the story. The main point of Scott Pilgrim is that everyone has baggage and that sometimes in life you must simply move on. It is a fantastic study of the dynamic complexity of human relationships.

Another thing that the art does is perfectly nail the sarcastic tone of the work by adding in small details such as guitar tabs and biographical information boxes.

These little flourishes make the series something truly unique, only compounded by the gravity of the overall theme in order to allow the series to reach a height of magnificence that is rarely ever attained.

Comics, Feature

The Panel – Adaptations and Conversions


Adaptations and Conversion

We live in a world comprised of stories. We read the latest tales of what we know as ‘news’ from all over the world each day. We recount our histories and charming anecdotes to both those we treasure and those we have never met. Everything has a story and everything is a story.

Comic books, as a storytelling medium, have undergone so many changes over the years that it is simply impossible to recount them all in anything short of a dissertation. They have shifted into darkness, risen to new levels of hopefulness, and catapulted erratically between different writers and styles.

In recent years, they have even started to be recognized as a tremendously effective source of material for the movie industry. More comic films are released each year, and each year they improve considerably. Take the difference in level of storytelling quality between Ghost Rider and The Dark Knight, for instance. One was a veritable flop whilst the other was a dark, dramatic masterpiece.

The Dark Knight set a new standard for the comic film, showing that if approached correctly it can rise above the simple formula of origin–>heroics–>problems–>villain–>resolution and lesson.

The presence of comic book characters in popular media grows with each day, which is an interesting phenomenon. What has been for so long a much more specialized and cult industry is now generating a much wider appeal with audiences everywhere.

Why?

The stories that comics tell, even the characters within them, are never set in stone. In the comic world, everything is malleable, in a constant state of flux. Characters may die in one issue and rise again in another, in order to accomplish a symbolic (or sales generating) purpose.

Most of all, however, the interpretation of the characters is steadily changing. What was once an upright hero of everything bright and heroic may become a gritty anti-hero overnight.

All stories reflect the times in which they are written: without the environment of the times, the ideas which lead to their inception could never be thought. So it is with comic books, just to a greater degree. The interpretation of a character is a rather nice reflection of the author’s ideas, the offspring of the ideas of the present era. A darker time in a society’s history may breed simultaneously darker and brighter heroes.

In the coming weeks I will be taking a closer look at how these stories mold and change over time and in different situations. Until then I leave you with this: if these are the stories, the myths, of our time, what are they saying?

This Week’s Releases

–>Marvel

Amazing Spider-Man #654
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #4
Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #515
Captain America and the Korvac Saga #3
Captain America: First Vengeance #1
Carnage #3
Cassanova: Gula #3
Dark Tower: The Gunslinger – Sisters of Eluria #3
Deadpool Team-Up #885
Dream Logic #3
Heroes for Hire #3
Incredible Hulk #622
Invaders Now! #5
Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #11
New Avengers #9
Onslaught Unleashed #1
Osborn #3
Power Man and Iron Fist #1
Thunderstrike #3
Ultimate Comics Avengers Vs New Ultimates #1
Ultimate Comics Captain America #2
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #153
Ultimate Comics X #4
Widow Maker #4
X-Factor #215

–>DC

Adventure Comics #253
All New Batman: The Brave and the Bold #4
Assassin’s Creed: The Fall #3
Batgirl #18
Batman and Robin #18
Birds of Prey #9
Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #1
DC Universe Legacies #9
Deus Ex #1
Doc Savage #11
The Flash #9
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #7
Justice League: Generation Lost #19
Knight and Squire #5
Northlanders #37
R.E.B.E.L.S. #25
Red Robin #20
Superman #708
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4
Titans #32
The Unwritten #22

–>Image

27 #3
Hack/Slash #1
Haunt #13
Spawn #202
The Li’l Depressed Boy #1
The Walking Dead #81
The Walking Dead Weekly #6