Saturday, September 17, 2011

Even More New DC Comics

I think the major problem with this line-wide reboot so far is that there's just so damn much of it. This thing is really not designed to pick up new readers at all. It's the same mistake Marvel made a decade ago with the Ultimate line: they want to do everything at once. Instead of starting with a smaller number of titles and reestablishing or recreating the DCU in a new direction, we've got 52 titles all coming out in the same month, all desperate to eke out their little corner of the same universe, which means there are so many characters and organizations that have to already exist in order for it to work... why keep pretending this is a reboot? It's not. It all depends on established DC history, it's just that some of the origins and character relationships have been tweaked. A little bit.


Seriously, for all of the stuff people are getting mad about (Superman has a collar now!), it's still the same old place, just with this prevailing sense of being cool and slick and badass. Otherwise, all we've seen so far that's different is that the Justice League met differently and Superman started out his career as Ultimate Superman, the wiseass kid in Metropolis. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same damn universe. And it knows it.

Anyway, my thoughts on what I read this week.

THE GOOD:

First thing first: I LOVED Demon Knights. I think the DCU needs an epic fantasy comic book, and I love the way this one is handled. It's not obsessed with continuity (yet, anyway), and it's still in prologue mode, but I like the way it introduces the characters and wants to have fun with them. I enjoy the reimagining of the Shining Knight, and it does my heart surprisingly good to see Vandal Savage as a boisterous axe-swinger enjoying the hell out of his immortality instead of being self-consciously urbane and fighting the Flash. I do miss Etrigan rhyming, but he didn't become a rhymer until much later, anyway. It's just a fun, enjoyable book; it reminds me of some of the Eclipse Comics fantasy series of the 80s. I will keep reading this book for sure. Finally, something fun in the nu-niverse!

I think I liked Batwoman, but I'm not sure I understood what the hell was going on in there. I don't really know anything about the recent incarnation of the character, and it came across to me as sort of Promethea-lite. Maybe JH Williams III is putting his experience with Alan Moore on that underrated title to good use. As much as I didn't understand it, I thought the characters were interesting (particularly Detective Sawyer) and, of course, the art was wonderful. I'm intrigued by what's going on, which is the best you can reasonably ask for from the nu-52 titles at this point. I think I'll keep reading for a while and see if I can figure it out.

Quick question, though: the Teen Titans happened? I thought the Teen Titans were something new started by Tim Drake? Seriously, DC, it's called planning.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed Green Lantern. I've always enjoyed the concept of the Green Lanterns more than the actual execution (except in cartoons), and this is absolutely 0% reboot (if you aren't at least passingly familiar with the whole concept and some of the history of the Lanterns and the Guardians, you will be lost here), but it's enjoyable. It's somewhat old-fashioned superhero writing, and it turns Hal Jordan back into the douchey hotshot he used to be. I like the concept of Sinestro being a Green Lantern again and having to redeem himself by shutting down the Sinestro Corps. The GL mythos has been over-complicated for a long time now, but this is a story I enjoyed. I'll keep reading this one until it inevitably gets stupid.

I liked Resurrection Man, but having no previous experience with the character, I'm not sure I get what's going on here. It's a fairly clean intro, though; I went into it with no preconceived notions, at least. I'm intrigued enough to read a second issue.

I also really liked Superboy. I wasn't even going to touch it at first, but I like Scott Lobdell as a writer, generally, so I changed my mind. Lots of technobabble, but I find the character much more interesting and easier to relate to than I ever have before. Thought obviously went into this book. I was a little disappointed when they teased the Teen Titans at the end, because I'm really just interested in finding out more about Superboy and why he was created. I'll keep reading this one, too.

THE BAD:

Red Lanterns feels awfully pointless. I don't know what's going on with the whole multicolored Lanterns thing, except that it keeps reminding me of the Care Bears crossed with Skittles. It's just a bad comic book, and while Atrocitus makes a great villain for the Green Lantern Corps, there's just no point in the Red Lanterns having their own comic book. This is Image Comics in 1995 stuff.

I didn't care about anything going on in Deathstroke. Yeah, yeah, Deathstroke is a badass and he kills people, who cares?

I was underwhelmed by Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE. Frankenstein was at least better represented and more fun to read than he was the last time I saw him, in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory reboot five or six years ago. But the whole thing felt derivative of Hellboy to me--there's one character they may as well have named Female Abe Sapien Analogue--and it adds a Hit Girl rip-off to make sure to hit all of the fanboy bases. I guess this sort of fell between good and bad for me; it's not a bad comic book, it just didn't grab me. I'm uncertain whether I'll keep reading it. Probably not, though.

I really hated Batman and Robin. The whole reboot situation really would've been a good time to discuss exactly how many books Batman needed to appear in every month. Every Batman so far feels like a different Batman. The Batman in Batman and Robin doesn't feel at all like the same Batman in Detective Comics and neither feel like the Batman in Justice League. Pick a Batman and stick with him.

This book particularly doesn't bode well for DC's new continuity, because it's carrying on as though it's just the new issue of Batman and Robin. Based on dialogue in this issue, not only has every past issue of the comic happened (Damien makes reference to Dick Grayson having been Batman), but the whole "Return of Bruce Wayne" story happened, too. Batman says, basically to the audience, that he's going to choose life and start honoring his parents' wedding anniversary every year instead of their murder, and that's the only attempt at a reboot we've got (along with the new, pointless lines on Batman's costume). So now we've got a DCU where the Return of Bruce Wayne happened... doesn't that sort of imply that Infinite Crisis happened, too? Or Final Crisis, or whatever? Seriously, this book is just a mess of continuity AND the degrading spectacle of Batman whining about death.

Damien says early on to Bruce, "You were a lot easier to admire when you weren't around." Amen to that.

And for the record, the only thing I liked in any Batman comic in the last five years was Dick Grayson being Batman.

Also, this Batman, Inc. stuff is utterly ridiculous to me. The Lanterns are the Care Bears and Batman is a McDonald's franchise. Great.

AND THE UNREAD:

I didn't give a shit about Suicide Squad before, and I don't now. For a character I don't even like, I'm embarrassed by Harley Quinn's new costume. Again, mid-90s Image Comics stuff. I also don't care about Grifter, so I didn't bother with that one. I'm not a fan of Mister Terrific, so I skipped that one, too, and picking up Legion Lost didn't even enter into my mind. So I skipped all of those.

What's really surprising to me is that the good outweighed the bad this week, and there was even one comic that I just loved, so that's something I wasn't expecting. When the dust settles, I think I'm going to be done with Batman and Superman, who are just being mishandled in the extreme, but there are some surprises in here that I took to. I'm going to read Demon Knights for as long as Paul Cornell keeps writing it. I'm intrigued enough to pick up second issues of Batwoman and Resurrection Man, and even Superboy is interesting to me. And I've found at least one superhero comic that was a good time in, surprisingly, Green Lantern. So, you know, at least there's something in here so far that I can read.

Interesting week.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dakota


Awwwwwwwww.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo

Easily my favorite parody trailer for The Muppets. (So far, I hope--I am loving these.)

More New DC

Well, against my better judgment, I ended up looking at more of the nu-52, and I can't say I'm impressed. Maybe it's because I've been reading a lot of really good DC Comics from the seventies lately, but I just generally can't stand the way comics are right now. Remember when DC Comics got way too grim and gritty? They're beyond grim and gritty now. They're into sadism, and into this weird idea that not giving a shit about violence is slick and cool. Oh, and attitude. Everyone has a smug 'tude. It's like DC went back to the 90s, previously the worst period in comics, and decided to keep the smugness and forced cool and up the violence. Apparently it's anathema right now at DC to think that comics should be fun, or even readable.


Here's what I've attempted to wrap my brain around so far.

THE GOOD:

Ummmmmmm.

Okay, I sort of liked Swamp Thing #1. It's nice that DC remembered that Swamp Thing is supposed to be a horror comic. What I didn't like was the pacing. Mostly what happens is that Alec Holland just talks to us in narration about being turned into Swamp Thing--once again, relying on our previous knowledge of the character instead of reintroducing him in, say, a reboot fashion--and has a conversation with Superman, and then has a nightmare about Swamp Thing. That's it. Something that Neil Gaiman could probably have handled in four pages now takes an entire issue. That's part of the problem with nu-52; the pacing of every book is incredibly slow because they're basically just setting up issue number 5. It's all set-up, no story. Story went into the same bin as fun.

Also, this:

No one is ever going to be able to draw Superman's military dress uniform in a way that's appealing to me at all. It's just not going to happen. And, honestly, I resent Superman's appearance in this issue. DC is way too concerned with drawing up a continuity and forcing you to remember that this is all taking place in the same universe but in one of three or so possible time periods. Already, the continuity-obsessed cracks are showing.

I might read a second issue, just because the character and premise have always had such potential, but if it's going to keep forcing us into the heart of the DC nu-niverse, I'm going to get bored fast. There is no story being told in this issue whatsoever. Just tell me a freaking story!

Also, I kinda sorta almost liked Batwing #1. It's potentially interesting, but the execution is pretty boring. Once again, they're taking the long way 'round the barn as far as introducing a character and telling a story. There was a time when a single issue of a comic could do both. That time is a faded memory at DC.

THE BAD:

The Adam Hughes cover of Batgirl #1 was the only thing I liked about this comic. And if you know how little regard I hold Adam Hughes in, you know that's saying something. Otherwise, it's a complete disappointment. It doesn't justify taking Barbara out of the wheelchair, and it's surprisingly hacky and apologetic for something written by Gail Simone.

Green Arrow #1 was virtually unreadable. They just make Green Arrow into a douche and take the costume from Smallville and applaud themselves: reboot done.

I didn't like Men at War #1 a whole hell of a lot, either; I'm willing to accept a Sgt. Rock who's the grandson of the original Sgt. Rock, and I like the idea that we're seeing how the military has to change in a world with superheroes, but the whole thing reads like James Cameron fan fiction. Garth Ennis could write the hell out of this book. Larry Hama could've done an excellent job with it. As it stands, it's not worth the time.

I think a major part of the problem here is that DC wants to pretend it's having this bold new beginning, but none of the writers feel like they can make this big, universe-shaking splash with their characters. Everything feels tentative and held back, like no one knows what it's okay to try and do yet.

Also, the much-lauded Animal Man #1 did nothing for me. Interesting shot on the last page, but I didn't care one whit about the character. I do think it's nice that at least someone in the nu-niverse got to remain married and have a family, but I just wasn't interested enough to read a second issue.

THE UGLY:

They should just change the name of Detective Comics to Sadism Comics right now. I didn't expect much from this comic with Tony Daniel writing and drawing--he's terrible at both--but I saw a lot less detecting than I did sick violence. This book sucks, big time. There's nothing redeeming about it. And there's nothing new about it. This is the same Batman as ever, with the same hokey, stupid, testosterone-infused lines: "I own the night," "I am Gotham." Boring.

You know, I just don't care about Batman anymore. This character's done. There's nothing new you can do with him. It's the same story every time, only we're back to Batman wasting time fighting cops because, you know, the only way to preserve law and order is to break the law at every opportunity. Don't give me this crap about justice, because Batman's not interested in anything but punishing the world for killing his parents. He's just a criminal who gets off on punching people. Same old, same old.

After years of tapdancing around it, they've gone and made the Joker into a total sadist. He's not a criminal anymore, he's just some psychopath who goes around stabbing people repeatedly. Boring. Boring and tedious and disgusting. And this little waltz is a pointless read, because it's the same pattern as always. What a waste of a book.

Oh, but Jim Gordon's hair is red now. Reboot!

Also, Static Shock #1 was so bad that I couldn't even finish reading it. Not only was Static's attitude just over-the-top smarmy, but I could barely even tell what was going on. Badly-written, badly-laid out. Just a terrible comic.

THE UNREAD:

I didn't bother with Stormwatch because I never liked those guys in the first place and they don't really make sense as part of the DCU when you've already got the Justice League hanging around (and hey, don't hold your breath waiting for Apollo and the Midnighter to come out, you'll hurt yourself). I didn't bother with Justice League International, either, because I have good memories of the Keith Giffen-era that I don't want tainted with this slick bullshit version of the DCU. My love for Giffen, however, did not compel me to read OMAC, because I just finished reading Jack Kirby's OMAC and loved it, and don't feel the need to see the character as part of the DC nu-niverse. If it ain't Kirby, I don't care.

Oh, and Hawk and Dove? Life is way too fucking short to subject my eyes to anymore of Rob Liefeld's poor excuse for art. I'd rather read a comic drawn by forgery conman extraordinaire Rob Granito.

AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE:

Well. Here we are.

I didn't think it was as bad as everyone said it was. Oh, it was bad, and poorly written, but it wasn't the affront that a lot of people felt it was. Was it good? Not by any stretch. Again, we're getting the whole thing dragged out, and every character is annoyingly too-cool-for-school (with, of course, the "I love him because he's just an ordinary guy" Batman placed as the coolest of them all, because somehow his being a guy with no powers makes him able to take off Green Lantern's ring without him realizing it, because being a guy with no powers and a superior physique and a limitless supply of money embezzled from your own corporation also gives you magic). Writers like Geoff Johns make it hard to believe that there was once a time in comic books when someone could write a whole Marvel Team-Up without needing two issues to introduce Spider-Man and his guest star before getting to the damn story.

Also, you're just never going to convince me that Jim Lee is a great artist.

Never bought that one for a second. I mean, sure, if you consider a lot of extraneous line detail great art, I can see why he'd do it for you, but I've just never seen what's so great about the guy.

Anyway, I'll probably read the first storyline, just because I am curious to see how they introduce Wonder Woman and the Flash and Aquaman to the gang. But I'm not seeing an epic here. This is nothing monumental. As an introduction to a rebooted comic book universe--a universe where none of the characters know each other yet and none of the old stories count because none of them ever happened--it's not really very exciting. It doesn't grab hold of you the way you want it to. It's just there, and it's fairly enjoyable as a third-rate JL story (which is the best we can hope for from DC these days).

Frankly, I've never been a huge fan of the Justice League as an ongoing series. It doesn't make sense to me. There aren't enough epic threats to the planet to justify it, which is why they always have to add a bunch of side characters to make us believe that, when Batman and Superman are busy, Vibe and Vixen and Steel and Zauriel are really the best heroes the planet has to offer. It seems more like you'd want to save it up and do a Justice League miniseries or prestige one-shot or something, to make it really big and special. It should be an event when these guys all team up, not just another Wednesday.

And honestly? I miss Plastic Man. I know Plastic Man isn't cool or dark or sadistic, but I love him. He's the kind of fun you can count on not being a part of this whole reboot enterprise.

Meh. Like I said, I'll probably read through the first storyline. And I'll probably read the second issues of Swamp Thing and Batwing, but I'm not excited for them. I'm not excited by any of this. It's more of a desperate attempt to make DC Comics relevant again and save a sinking line than it is a reboot.

I'm more convinced than ever that DC Comics are over.

Guess I'll see what this week brings...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.


DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010)
A more accurate title would be Diary of a Douchey Kid. That kid's not a wimp, he's a douche. He wants to be popular so bad that in his quest for popularity he comes across like a total douche, especially at the expense of his sunny, optimistic best friend. He learns his lesson in the end, and it's a cute movie, and Chloe Moretz weaves in and out of it, but that kid... what a douche. Sure loved the best friend, though. *** stars.

PHINEAS AND FERB: ACROSS THE 2ND DIMENSION (2011)
Phineas and Ferb has been one of the funniest and most inventive shows in recent animation. This movie was completely hilarious. The creators have such a good grasp on their characters, and the actors are so game. And they found something epic to do with it instead of making a really long episode. Love this show, love the movie. **** stars.

THE GREEN HORNET (2011)
It's basically the same Seth Rogen-written movie structure, only it's also a superhero movie, with Seth hyperventilating his way through action scenes. It gets really muddled in the inevitable second act falling out, but I really enjoyed this movie and the Black Beauty looks amazing. I especially enjoyed Jay Chou as Kato, and Christoph Waltz was hilarious as the villain. And Cameron Diaz is underused, which is nice, since I hate Cameron Diaz. Cute movie; inconsequential, but I liked it. *** stars.

DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2011)
So much voice over... Not a great adaptation of the wonderful comic book, but fairly enjoyable. I liked Brandon Routh as Dylan, and Sam Huntington was funny (I don't always like him), but I just kept thinking about how Hellboy did the same thing so much better and how the filmmakers could've really gotten moody and bizarre with things and instead opted for trying to be funny. Hopefully, at some point, someone's going to make the really good Dylan Dog movie that can be made. **1/2 stars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TV Report

:: What the fuck, Hell's Kitchen? Still with this Elise nonsense? Are people really clamoring for more of her insane bullshit? Didn't this used to be a show about cooking? I have to say, they've whipped me up into a froth of total indifference to whatever happens in the finale. Will I watch it? Sure I will. But I don't really care about who wins, because at this point the inner workings have been so nakedly manipulated by producers that how could I possibly care? And watching Elise successfully game Will and Paul into defending her just made me lose my respect for both. And Tommy's been an unpleasant sub-moron since day one, so who gives a shit?


:: Another brilliant finale for Curb Your Enthusiasm. And nice to see Michael J. Fox for a change, too. I didn't laugh at anything harder this week than the last few minutes of the finale. The great thing about Curb is the way it tends to end so brilliantly; I'd gladly watch another season, as always, but the end of every season has always managed to be a satisfying finale for the entire series, if it comes to that.

:: I've really reached a point with True Blood where I'm comfortable. I expect it to be stupid, and I enjoy the stupidity. Becca truly hates it; she'll look at something on the show and get irritated and think "This is extremely stupid," whereas I'll look at it and think "This is extremely hilarious." God, does that mean I like something ironically? Egad. I'll be wearing a scarf and thick black glasses next.

:: I've been watching the most wonderful anime series called Usagi Drop. I don't ever seek out anime, but I'm really glad I saw this. There's one episode left, but I never want it to end. It's about a 31 year-old man who changes his priorities to care for a 6 year-old girl fathered, unbeknownst to the family, by his late grandfather. It can be wonderfully cute and tender and heartwarming, but a lot of it is a serious rumination on the nature of parenthood and the feeling of security a family can bring. It's really an excellent series, and I love it.

:: The "Duckling" episode of Louie was one of the best things I saw all summer. Nothing more to say than that.

:: Still not so into the new season of Doctor Who. Last weekend's episode was better than I thought it would be, but I still hate Amy Pond. Last season was so great, I really had high hopes for season six...

:: Yep, still watching Teen Mom, but I am so sick of Farrah and her awful parents... can't this whole show just be about Maci and Catelynn from now on? Maybe combine them with Kailyn and Leah from Teen Mom 2 and just drop everyone else?

I guess that more or less sums up my non-Netflix and non-DVD summer viewing. I'm really looking forward to the new season starting, if only because I've really missed Castle.

Rowlf. In a Hammock.

My favorite image released from The Muppets so far. Probably because my favorite Muppet is the focal point!

Pam

Monday, September 12, 2011

Andy Whitfield 1974-2011

Spartacus star Andy Whitfield succumbed to yesterday to the lymphoma that forced him to quit the show. I'm very sorry to hear it; being prepared for it doesn't make it any easier, and 37 is just too fucking young to die.

Kristen Bell Mondays

And so the summer ends...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

A decade later, and we've still yet to recover. I wonder if we ever will.

Song of the Week: "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)"

Seemed appropriate. Billy Joel, from the Concert from New York in 2001.

Cliff Robertson 1923-2011

I'm sorry to hear this. I always liked him as an actor, but I'm going to have to admit I loved him the most in the Spider-Man movies. He was such a perfect Uncle Ben.

Sunday Hottie 345

EMILY BROWNING