Tag Archives: comics

Catching Up With a Decade of Comics (Gifted, Dangerous, House of M Reviews)

After watching X-Men: The Last Stand, I decided I wanted to catch up on changes to the comic book universe. I’ve been out of comics since the mid-nineties, when I graduated from college and moved out to SoCal. So I’ve missed almost a decade’s worth of stories. Gotta be something big that went down between then and now, right? The major stories should be nicely packaged in graphic novel format by now.

So I go down to my local comic book store to see what I could find. What I found, sitting behind the counter, was a guy who looked and dressed exactly like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I shit you not: brown hair in a pony tail, goatee, overweight, wearing a t-shirt tucked into sweatshorts pulled up to his bellybutton. Surreal. I figured this would be the guy to talk to. I give him a rundown of the situation, figuring he won’t even know where to start. Actually, I was pretty sure he would know where to start. But he doesn’t. He tells me nothing really stands out when you look at the last ten years. Things are pretty much the same as I left them. I think, maybe it’s like when you talk to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and nothing really stands out: same job, same house, same life – nope, nothing new to report. Oh, but it has been hot out, recently… Anyway, he points out a book that’s gotten good reviews, written by Joss Whedon of Firefly/Serenity fame. I pay the man and take it home.

About two pages into it I’m thinking, who’s the blonde bimbo sleeping with Scott Summers? Flipflip. She’s in charge of the school? Where’s Professor X? Flipflip. Flipflipflip. Where’s the hell is Professor X?

Those were exactly the kinds of changes I wanted to read about. So I jump into the Batmobile and make a bee line back to the store. “What’s the deal?” I ask Comic Book Guy. “You said nothing changed. Trust me, things have changed!” He sticks to his guns for few seconds before he breaks down and admits that running a comic book store doesn’t actually leave him time to read comics. He hadn’t read comics since Magneto was on trial for, I don’t know, being Jewish or something. It was before I got into comics, so he was useless to me.

Well, I was on my own, so I turned to the most reliable source of wisdom I knew of: Amazon reader reviews. I really want to support my local comic book store, but if they can’t give me the advice I need, then I don’t mind saving over 30% at Amazon. I mean, that comes to about $5 a book. Combined with my Amazon Prime trial, I get everything cheap, tax free, and delivered within 3 days. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Sure, you can’t flip through them, but I’m after the major stories everyone knows about and has enjoyed. Previewing usually has little effect on my purchase decision unless the art is truly sub par.

So I plowed ahead and bought some highly rated stuff, and over time I’ll be chiming in on them with short reviews, starting with these. I’m still not caught up with the stories, but I’m definitely impressed with the state of the art (litterally). The artists are fully utilizing digital ink and paint systems, to the point where they’re adding things like motion blur and depth of field. Yes, depth of field! In a comic book! Like I’ve said before, we’re living in the future.

The only complaint I have is the book bindings. No, they’re not falling apart, they’re actually bound too tightly. This is fine until you come across two-page spreads showing epic battles (House of M is full of these), and you can’t clearly or fully see the part where the pages meet. They need to use the lay-flat binding that O’Reilly uses for their computer books. That would work perfectly.

Gifted / Dangerous
These two books collect Astonishing X-Men 1-12. They’re written by Joss Whedon, so there’s a lot more humor than usual. One issue I had with Gifted is that X-Men: The Last Stand borrowed heavily from it, so there are many plot parallels (figures, the first book I buy has a storyline I’m already familar with). As soon as it’s released, I plan on picking up Torn, which collects issues 13-18.

House of M
This is HUGE, meaning world altering. Meaning it alters the current, mainstream Marvel universe instead of creating yet another alternate. It involves the X-men, Avengers (new, old, I really don’t know since I never read that series), Spiderman, and others. Also features Scarlett Witch, Magneto, and Quicksilver (at least they were baddies in the 90’s; nothing’s clear anymore). The art is pretty fantastic, IMHO. Without giving anything away, it’s a good place to start to see the state of the universe after certain super-powers have their way with it.

On the way:

  • Decimation: X-Men – The Day After: follow-up to House of M
  • X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga: Ok, this took place before I started reading comics, but is supposedly an all-time great and I’ve never read it.

If anyone has any suggestions, preferably in the mainstream Marvel or DC universes (I’ll get to non-superhero stuff later), I’d appreciate them!

Penny Arcade

Masterchief recently pointed me towards Penny Arcade, a gamer-oriented online comic strip. They’ve also started the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), an alternative to E3 for consumers (E3 are being dicks about letting in non-industry types). I was going to hit Seattle until air fares skyrocketed, which I am against. Anyway, the strip is pretty hilarious, here are some I liked:

My thoughts on pineapple pizza exactly
D&D online misadventures
She knows what you’ve been watching
I’m pretty sure Blizzard doesn’t need to do this, with their license to print crack
On the benefits of manga
Why I still feel self-righteous about quitting WOW
Fun at Fry’s?
An accurate portrayal of WOW’s patch distribution
What are friends for?

Wolverine’s Origin

30 years after his introduction, Marvel has finally released an official backstory for Wolverine. It was released in a miniseries (available in TPB) called Origin. The art is quite good, as you’d expect of a work of such importance. Without giving spoilers, it covers his parentage, upbringing, awakening, and passage into adulthood. Some details are given through innuendo, but it’s certainly clear enough for any adult reader with decent comprehension. A few plot points are a bit contrived; the character is fairly complex, and they tried to give an origin/cause for all major character traits and interests. Considering the age of the character (detailed in the book, finally), you’d figure some interests were developed later in life. Still, a must read for any fan, and who isn’t?

I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!

This goofy video has apparently been circulating long enough to get a nod in X-Men: The Last Stand (don’t worry, no spoilers). Basically, it’s a bunch of guys recording their own audio track for one of those ’90s era X-Men cartoons. It’s not safe for work, due to profanity. Obviously the cartoon is safe to watch, so I guess it’s fine if you’ve got earphones.

JLU Canceled

Man, this is really turning into The Bad News Blog. Yes, I know that’s my fault. And I also know it’s only a downer to me, so don’t rub it in.

Anyway, my hunch was just confirmed: Justice League Unlimited, this generation’s The Superfriends, recently aired its final episodes. Not entirely sure what caused it, but there’s talk about stupid character turf wars. That explains why the Joker never appeared (the Batman movie option covers the character rights? Stupid, if that’s the case.)

Well, it was a great show with top voice talent. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but apparently The WB has been airing The Batman, another animated series. Sounds like it’s about a younger Batman, ala Batman Begins. Could be cool if it’s not some Amer-anime targeted at 6 year olds. Before you say it, Justice League was for kids 8 and up, so nyaaa!

V for Vendetta Veneration

Yep, I liked it, allot. I liked just about everything about it. Casting, cinematography, choreography, costumes, the way they were able to put together intelligent and interesting dialogue that had every letter starting with the same letter (they used V, not C like I was doing until I ran out of words). The dialogue was so good I was convinced that Kevin Smith must have been involved with the screenplay until I saw the credits. I think the reason I enjoyed V for Vendetta the most was because it didn’t feel like the regular Hollywood script written by a committee of idiots, steered by marketing monkeys and studio nitwits. Usually, in the process of dumbing down a script to feed it to the target audience, they ensure that there is a clear and simple message, yet in this case it wasn’t that way at all. Is the terrorist a good guy? See it and think about all his actions for a full day before you answer. It wasn’t complex or deep so much as fully developed in ways that are refreshing in modern cinema. Furthermore, the main ?non-spoiler? plot theme was that an oppressive government with religious overtones is bad (aka the big bad republicans if it had been written in Hollywood), yet I recognized a few quotes made by the good guy from NRA speeches and propaganda!

Of course, I LOVED Natalie, and not just in a venereal way (adj relating to sex acts or sexual desire). She rocked in at least 7 different ways that I counted. She should be in every movie that deserves her, which sadly is not that many. When she did that thing to that guy, damn, it was like, wow! (You try to write a review without spoilers.) Now, I know there will be some who will disagree with me here, but I actually loved her English accent, and I had watched Pride and Prejudice the night before (for her sexalicious clone, Kierra, who also was amazing, of course).

The actor playing the lead was also astounding. He was able to put more feeling and emotion in scenes while covered from head to toe in his costume, including the mask and hat, than most Hollywood ?actors? would be able to express if they were set on fire naked! Truly an amazing performance. Same with the lead antagonist. His speeches were scary good. I hope he never moves to Germany and runs for political office. Overall, I can’t think of the any of the main cast that wasn’t great. Bravo all around. I recommend the movie with all the credibility as a movie aficionado that I deserve.

Cavaliers and Clay Men

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for writers of Golden Age comic books, I heartily recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (The Wonder Boys). The two heros are comic book pioneers whose basic background closely resembles that of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman.
     The level of detail in setting and and character were truly awe inspiring. Most of the story takes place in late 1930s-40s NYC, and I couldn’t tell where fact ended and fiction began. It’s a masterful book that feels exhaustively researched.
     Michael Chabon received the Pulitzer Prize for it, joining some of my other favorite authors: Roger Ebert, Dave Barry, and Scott McNeely. Who says I’m not cultured?