Thursday, March 31, 2005
More cheap trades
Writers: Scott McCloud and Paul Dini
Artists: Rick Burchett, Bret Blevins, Terry Austin
I’m not a big Superman fan. In fact I generally think Superman is pretty stupid. I haven’t read that many Superman comics, but his villains seem kind of stupid (Toymaster?) and generally the character doesn’t hold much interest for me. I picked this up anyway though.
It’s based on the Superman: The Animated Series cartoon, and generally has the same look as that show artwise (though I like Blevins art more then Burchett’s). The stories are ok. They seem to rely on people having actually seen the Superman cartoon though, characters are reintroduced who we’re supposed to know already. Okay, so I know who Lex Luthor is, but some of the other characters I have no idea.
The last two issues collected here (there are six in total) are the best in the collection. In issue five, Superman fights Livewire, who in revenge for centuries of male oppression has decided to oppress males for once, using her powers to prevent any males from appearing on television or the radio, only females can. The ending is kind of creepy though, with Superman fighting Livewire until Lex Luthor zaps her into a coma. Um, yeah…
The last issue has Superman fighting some terrorists and then suddenly standing amid the wreckage of Metropolis. Mr. Mxyzptlk (yes, I had to look that up to spell it) appears and time starts travelling backwards. Superman is in the future somehow and Mxyzptlk has given him a chance to save Metropolis. Superman has to see how one event is caused by another and saves Metropolis by catching a baseball. Yay.
JLA: A League of One
Writer/Artist: Christopher Moeller
I’m not sure, but I think I might like Batman (and perhaps the other superheroes in the JLA) more in the JLA then in their own books. In the JLA there can’t really be much character development or anything. It’s just “horrible crisis!” and then they save the day, with Batman being brutally calculating and intelligent but also totally badass
This graphic novel features really nice painted artwork by Moeller and has Wonder Woman hearing a prophecy that the JLA will die while killing a dragon. Wonder Woman must then incapacitate the rest of the JLA so that she can sacrifice herself and kill the dragon. You sort of know that she’s not going to die (ie. There isn’t a big Elseworlds logo on the cover), but the lead up is still good.
Moeller’s depiction of the dragon is pretty cool to begin with, but what I think are awesome are his depictions of the many gnomes and their underground caverns that appear. The gnomes themselves are pretty neat, but the draconomes (gnomes infected with dragon’s breath) look excellent.
It seems odd that I wrote more about a graphic novel I didn’t like that much (the Superman one), but I’m pretty much done reviewing this one…
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Tintin Audio Adventures
I found this link on a message board I frequent. It’s a half hour audio adaptation of the Tintin adventure “The Seven Crystal Balls.” It’s kind of neat, though some of the voices aren’t that great and it’s not as good as the comic in any way.
I think Batman’s a pretty awesome character, but most of his comics are, at best, light entertainment. I don’t think they’re worth $4 each or whatever. However I recently found a bunch of cheap trades. So here are reviews of them (in chronological order).
Batman: Son of the Demon
Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Jerry Bingham
This was pretty fun. It wasn’t really a Batman story though, it was really more of an action movie that Batman happened to be in (Rodney says it’s an eighties action movie, as the comic was made in the eighties and he’s seen more eighties action movies then me who am I to argue?). The story is kind of bizarre. Batman and his enemy Ra's Al Ghul team up to fight some terrorists and stuff. It’s pretty forgettable honestly, but really fun at the same time. The end was pretty bizarre though. Batman has a kid? What? Has that been crisised out of existence? (Ah, Wikipedia explains that this is an Elseworlds comic).
Batman: Night Cries
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Scott Hampton
While this looks really nice it is not what I want from a Batman comic. I do not think that superhero comics are really the place to deal with real life issues. And while child abuse is a serious issue that has to be dealt with, dealing with it in a Batman comic seems kind of wrong. I want my Batman comics to be escapist fiction; I just want Batman to fight super villains. When he faces real events I think it, to some extent, makes these real events seem less real and thus less serious.
Batman: Crimson Mists
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Kelley Jones
This is the third part of an Elseworlds series where Batman fights Dracula and becomes a vampire. I read the first part of this a few years ago, but I don’t remember it (My memory is atrocious). However that I don’t remember the first volume, and never read the second volume doesn’t really matter, as this volume manages to sum up the previous volumes and lets the reader know what’s going on. So what is going on? Well Batman’s out of action and the super-villains from the normal Batman universe have been running amuck. Batman is brought back by Alfred to fight this menace, and fight he does, brutally killing a number of these super-villains. Batman is giving into his bloodlust and is afraid he’s going to start killing innocents. Two-Face, Killer Croc, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon must team up and destroy Batman. The story’s pretty good, though the art is of different quality. While one panel will look really awesome, the next one will look really bad. It seems sort of odd really. Worth what I paid at least.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Essential Super-Villain Team-Up
There are no words to describe how much I love this comic. It’s so amazing and stupid and in no possible way Essential. The fact that Marvel is putting out things that are clearly not essential in this format is awesome though. Tomb of Dracula, Luke Cage Power Man, Defenders: none of these would get traded any other way, but its fun stuff.
This collection is huge and includes over twenty issues of comics and is over 500 pages long. It’s a lot of bang for your buck. In fact I’ve spent ages reading this comic because it’s so big and I can only take so much of Namor at one time.
The book starts with the Dr. Doom bits from Astonishing Tales issues 1-8, the main reason these are included is, I believe, because the Doom bits from issues 5-6 were printed as SVTU #15. They’re about Doom in Latveria and start off with this awesome bit where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin find a “perfectly round and obviously man-made” sphere on the moon. They bring it back to earth where it’s given to the president for some reason and Doom is like “you’re screwed! But not today.” The rest of these issues deal a lot with attempts to overthrow Doom by the prince he overthrew and you sort of see a problem develop that continued through SVTU. Doom can’t win and take over the world, or even Wakanda, but he can’t lose either. Every issue pretty much has to end as a stalemate. It’s still fun though, and there’s some awesome stupid ideas (Doom goes to the Riveria! He “had hoped to find some small amusement at this far-famed resort! But the antics of the idle rich have only bored me!” I’ve just realized that everything Doom says end in an exclamation mark or a question mark. “How quiet and serene the realm is!”) and visuals (Doom’s iron clad head overlooking Latveria).
The first issue of Giant-Sized Super-Villain Team-Up (triple hyphens!) reprints a couple of earlier issues where Doom teamed up with Namor and Diablo. While the print quality of some of these pages isn’t the best I was impressed to see at the end of the book two pages that had not been included in this earlier reprint and the cover of the issue of Marvel Super Heroes reprinted. The only thing not included is the cover of Sub-Mariner #20 (it’s here if you want to see it). But still, I really commend Marvel on the completeness of this collection.
The second issue is basically the lead into the Super-Villain Team-Up series which featured Namor and Dr. Doom teaming up. The only reason I can really understand this is because they’re both monarchs (as the comic keeps pointing out) and Fantastic Four villains. They spend more time fighting and double crossing each other then actually teaming-up. So it’s not really the best alliance.
Generally the first few issues of this series are pretty fun, loads of other super-villains show up (Tiger Shark, Attuma, and so forth) and a number of super heroes. At one point the Fantastic Four defeat Dr. Doom, only to be told by Henry Kissinger that because Latveria and the USA have just signed a non-aggression pact with Latveria the Fantastic Four can’t do anything to Doom. Awesome!
However, following this is probably the series’ low point. The Shroud plays a fairly major role and he is, to me, an incredibly stupid character. Also the Crime Circus shows up. In Latveria. For some reason I can’t figure out. While I’m sure the Crime Circus is an idea that can be used perfectly well, this is not the place for it.
Thankfully there follows a crossover with Avengers which is much better and features some pretty awesome captions where the writer (Gerry Conway) just talks about how great the art (by George Perez) is.
After the Avengers cross over the series seems to go into “resolve all subplots for immanent cancellation.” Yes once again, as has happened several times already (and it’s only issue 10!) there’s “A dynamic new direction.” Bill Mantlo writes several issues where Doom teams up with Captain America to defeat the Red Skull (in space!) and resolves all the subplots created in the series (including freeing the Atlanteans). These issues were actually pretty good, and waaaay better then what was going on before the Avengers cross over. Anyway these issues feature Dr. Doom and Captain America being shrunk down to tiny size by Doom’s own “Rainbow Missile” and fighting a snake.! I couldn’t make this stuff up. These issues also feature probably my favourite panel from the entire collection. It’s totally bizarre, so I’ve scanned it in.
What on earth is going on?
It’s at this point the series gets a bit weird. There’s another issue written by Mantlo that crosses into the Champions (which he was also writing), then (judging by the cover dates) a year later there’s another issue of SVTU that reprints old Dr. Doom and Red Skull appearances from Astonishing Tales. Then six months after that there’s a two parter featuring the Red Skull and some other characters. It’s pretty bad and is presumably only included to have all the issues of SVTU.
Generally the artwork in this collection is at least bearable, though there are a few issues that are pretty bad. The best art by far comes from the Avengers issues included, George Perez drew them, and so you can sort of assume the art’s going to be pretty good. The issues of SVTU following the crossover feature some art by Keith Giffen and Bob Hall that’s pretty good too. Generally the loss of colour doesn’t really affect these comics very much, the only time I really noticed it was when one character got excited when she saw the Vision because he was also red. I hadn’t realized the girl had red skin at all. But as this is barely mentioned it doesn’t really matter that much.
Overall this collection was pretty awesome, if you want fun, old, goofy Marvel comics about Dr. Doom this is probably a pretty good place to start. It just makes me want to start picking up a bunch of the other Essential collections as well. If only Marvel would put out everything in that format.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Mini issue reviews!
The main story (written by Ed Brubaker) deals with a series of murders in the 40s in Gotham. The story has the golden age Green Lantern (his weakness is wood? What the hell?) and comics retailer James Sime shows up as a corpse. It’s pretty fun.
The backup story in the first issue is written by Judd Winick and is about Josie Mac who’s a police officer with some sort of telepathic powers. It’s pretty good and leads into Gotham Central apparently.
The other backup is part two of three and is by Rick Spears and Rob G who worked on Teenagers From Mars together. I really loved the first four issues of Teenagers From Mars, and though I didn’t like the last four issues as much I still think these creators are really talented. This story deals with a dog catcher finding the Joker’s dog and not knowing what to do with it. The writing is good and funny, while the art is generally good. I think it suffers a bit due to the colouring, but that’s probably more because Rob G has (I think) pretty much entirely worked in black and white before.
Catwoman, volume 2 #25-26 (January-Febuary, 2004)
These are, I think, the first two issues drawn by Paul Gulacy and the art really isn’t as good as the earlier cartoony art. The writing by Brubaker is pretty solid and there are some nice touches (the gang made up of some of the Joker’s former henchmen). Gulacy’s art however is a mixed bag, while his version of Selina Kyle is pretty good (looks sort of like Trinity from the Matrix), his version of Catwoman looks more like something out of Ghost World then a superhero comic.
Sebastian O #1 (May, 1993)
This is the first issue of a miniseries from the early nineties by Grant Morrison. It’s about a sort of Victorian dandy in, um, a steampunk like setting. The comic’s sort of confusing (like much of Morrison’s work I guess) but pretty good overall and I’d like to read the other two issues. I like the house full of traps.
Namor, The Sub-Mariner Annual 1 (1991)
This is from the early nineties and features four different stories. First there’s an origin retelling that’s pretty basic and forgettable. Then there’s part five of “Subterranean Wars” which I guess was a cross over between various annuals that year. Anyway, it’s ok. However I was amused to discover that it featured Lord Vashti who I recognized from Essential Super-Villain Team-Up. It’s also got Stingray who’s in the next comic I’ll review (who reviews two comics with Stingray in one week?).
The third story is an Invaders story flashback. It takes place during the Potsdam conference and features everyone’s favourite comic book character, Stalin! It’s also got the Red Guardian a Soviet superhero (so I should really wait to review this comic until I review the other comics I’ve got with Soviet superbeings). This comic’s kind of stupid and features the way people are interrogated in the Soviet Union, with vodka! The art’s pretty good in this one, the replacement Captain America is an amusing jerk constantly hating communism. I wish more information on the Red Guardian’s origin was given, the half page used for it doesn’t really help that much. Man, I’m such a sucker for anything about Russia.
The final story included is an incredibly stupid one I’m not even going to mention. Though what the fuck is wrong with the Thing in this comic? It looks like he’s got a weird rocky helmet on.
The last page is pretty neat though, a pinup of the Avengers by Mike Mignola. His art’s awesome.
Marvel Two-In-One #64: The Thing and Stingray (June, 1980)
This comic is pretty ridiculous, however once again ESVTU has helped me understand it better. Mentions of Hydrobase and Dr. Henry Croft, both of whom appeared in ESVTU, make this comic more amusing to me. The fact that the Fantastic Four have giant pictures of themselves in their headquarters is pretty amusing. Looking through this comic again I realized that like 8 billion characters appear and there seem to be like 14 different subplots going on. However the major appeal of this comic is the Serpent Squad (basically the Serpent Society?), they’re awesome.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Thunderbolts: How to lose
Thunderbolts vol 1 issues 76-81 (April-September, 2003)
Writer: John Arcudi
Penciller: Francisco Ruiz Velasco
Hot off the sort of success of completely changing everything about X-Force by giving the title to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, Marvel does it again, completely revamping Thunderbolts into a series that has nothing to do with what happened in the first 75 issues. However, this time it fails horribly and the series is cancelled after one storyline (six issues).
But what a storyline! Arcudi turned a comic about ex-super-villains becoming superheroes into a comic about ex-super villains trying to get on with their lives. Daniel Axum was a super-villain called “The Battler.” He fought Spider-Man, and lost (getting horribly scarred in the process), then spent three years in jail. Now he’s out of jail, living with his mom and working at a construction site. He doesn’t like his job that much; in fact he seems to hate it and wishes he had another, better paying job. The only reason he continues to go is because his parole instructions say he has to have a job. He also isn’t allowed to drink, something his parole officer makes sure he sticks with. Meanwhile his girlfriend has broken up with him, and he can only see their son on weekends.
Could this comic have worked outside the Marvel universe? Possibly, but I think that being in the Marvel universe added something to it. While I have no idea if The Battler (or several other characters) has ever fought Spider-Man before, or even appeared in a Marvel comic before, it doesn’t really matter. Having Spider-Man as the person that put
While the comic does end after only six issues all the plot points are pretty much tied up. I think the final issue could have been written differently if the series hadn’t been cancelled then, but the six issues work as complete story, and perhaps works better because it is only six issues long.
The art by Velasco is generally really good, though I’m not sure how much of this came down to the very nice colouring job that was done on the comic. No, that’s not giving Velasco enough credit for his art, it’s solid, his character designs are good and he was the person who coloured most of the issues. The muted pastels used for much of the series make it look different from a lot of other comics out there, and they make it look really good. The last issue, for some reason, doesn’t have as nice a colouring job. I wonder why…
So if this comic’s so good why did it fail? Well one of the reasons is because it was completely mismarketed. I’d sort of compare it to Fight Club, which had ads that made it seem like some stupid Brad Pitt movie. In this case the series was tagged as “Marvel Comics for Real Men” and the covers of each of the issues looks more like a Maxim cover then a comic book. There’s a scantily clad babe (who usually doesn’t even appear in the comic) and taglines for nonexistent articles such as “How to meet girls – and NOT get your teeth kicked in,” while at the top of each issue there’s a list of things that will be included in the issue, namely “Bling-bling, Booty, Boxing, Bars.” The thing is all of this is used in a fairly ironical sense, but you can’t really pick up on that until you read the comic. But the people who would have enjoyed the comic for what it was probably didn’t pick it up in the first place, while the people that picked it up did so for the wrong reasons. If I’d bought a comic based on it looking like Maxim or something and claiming to be “for real men,” I probably would have stopped buying it.
Based on the advertising I completely ignored the comic when it first came out. Okay, I thought the cover to issue 80 was really nice, but I still wasn’t going to buy the comic. However I heard good things about the series, and when I found it in a dollar bin I figured I’d pick it up. I suggest you do the same.
These issues were also collected in a volume called Thunderbolts: How to Lose.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Milestone retrospective part ten (of ten)
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: John Paul Leon
And so the return of the Milestone universe, at least for a while. Presumably DC allowed this comic to be published because of the success of the Static Shock cartoon (which I’ve never seen). (Also, though I’m not sure of the details, because of some weirdness with the contract between Milestone and DC only DC can publish Milestone comics).
The writer for this series is Dwayne McDuffie, one of the founders of the Milestone universe and one of their major writers during their existence. The art comes from John Paul Leon, who is perhaps now better known for his work on Earth X, but was the original artist on Static. Anyway, his art here is amazing, it is, no offence to some of the excellent artists who worked on earlier Milestone comics, some of the best art I’ve seen in a Milestone comic. It’s more similar to
While the name of the comic is “Static Shock,” and Static features prominently many other Milestone characters appear. In these two issues Rocket, Hardware and members of the Blood Syndicate have shown up. The story seems interesting enough, and I actually want to read the last two issues. Hmm, this review’s just sort of faltered. I think it’s because it’s half of a miniseries. I like this comic, just like I like the rest of the Milestone universe. There’s nothing else to say really.
Milestone retrospective: The end.
Coming soon? The first eight parts of the Milestone retrospective? Is it worth my time to go back and reread them all (well, some of them) and write reviews of them. We’ll see.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Astonishing X-Men vol 1: Gifted
Writer: Joss Whedon
Penciller: John Cassaday
I’d heard good things about Whedon’s X-Men. It was supposed to be following in the footsteps of Morrison’s X-Men, if not in content then at least in quality. However I wasn’t really sure about X-Men comics anymore. I used to read X-Men comics. Or more specifically I read a number of the X-Men spin off titles (complete run of Excalibur! Um, the first one, not the new one) and watched the X-Men cartoons and so forth.
However last time I bought a new X-Men comic it was after the X-Men 2 movie. I’d enjoyed the movie and wanted to read more X-Men comics. So I picked up the 25cent issue Marvel put out. Unfortunately it was an issue by Chuck Austen. It was so bad I wondered why I’d liked the X-Men characters in the first place. I wasn’t willing to give up though, I also picked up Essential X-Men volume 3, and while it’s not as strong as the first two volumes it’s still pretty good.
So I liked X-Men comics again, or at least the idea of them. I think I’ve read about half of Morrison’s run, but that was while it was still coming out. The last X-Men related comic I think I read was the Wolverine: Snikt miniseries put out by Nihei Tsutomu, one of my favourite manga creators. Although that was hardly X-Men related at all and was really just another of the post apocalyptic comics that Nihei does so well.
So I’d heard Astonishing X-Men was good, but would it be good? The creators seemed pretty solid. I’ve liked John Cassaday’s art on Planetary. While on the writing side Joss Whedon wasn’t an unknown either. I’d thought that Buffy was generally a pretty good show, and I bought Fray, the comic he did about a future slayer, for my girlfriend in an attempt to get her to read comics. It was really good. So both creators could work on good comics, but just because someone’s done something I’ve liked in the past doesn’t mean I’ll like something else they’ve done.
I figured that Astonishing X-Men would, at the least, be pretty fun.
The story is about the X-Men becoming a superhero force again. Ditching the black costumes because they scare civilians and going back to garish superhero costumes. The X-Men are once again there to save the world. Also included are attacks from some sort of alien creature who wants to destroy the X-Men (and all mutants), and a supposed cure for the “disease” of mutancy. These storylines are well developed with different characters reacting differently when new information arises. Will Beast, who appears to have further mutated into some sort of cat creature during Morrison’s run, take the cure? Will Wolverine and Cyclops fight for beer?
The writing which Whedon is known for is present here. The dialogue is well written, and at times really funny. There where a few times I laughed out loud, I didn’t expect that. The story also features more serious scenes and carries off the characters emotions. Expanding onto the characters without apparently erasing anything that had come before.
I wasn’t sure if continuity would effect by enjoyment of the comic. I mean I hadn’t read a recent X-Men comic in a few years. Thankfully Whedon and Cassaday have created a work that doesn’t seem to rely too heavily on prior storylines. Or at least it’s stuff I don’t have trouble dealing with. Jean’s dead? Happens (quite a lot really). Colossus is dead too? Is that his first time? Scott’s hooked up with Emma? A bit surprising, but it works. Beast’s a cat thing now? Ok, it looks neat. Perhaps if I had no prior experience with the X-Men this would have created a larger problem, I can’t really say.
There are references to older storylines, some of which I probably missed, but others that I caught because I’d read those Essential collections. The book opens with a number of scenes of Kitty Pryde remember past things that had happened to her while living at Xavier’s mansion. Professor Xavier is a jerk. Additionally there’s a later scene where a reference is made to “two words” before a fairly famous manoeuvre involving multiple X-Men is made. It doesn’t actually give the name, which might confuse some new readers, but caused me an amount of joy.
Cassaday’s art is generally strong. There are a few places where it seems a bit weak, but usually this is only the art in one panel. This does however cause a slight problem when all, or part, or a panel is digitally duplicated several times on the page, meaning the same ugly Emma Frost is staring up at you for three panels. Gah. The colouring, by I believe Laura Martin, is really excellent and helps make Cassaday’s art look even better.
Overall I enjoyed Astonishing X-Men more then I thought I would. I enjoyed it enough that I viewed the announcement that Whedon and Cassaday would be doing a second full year of the comic as a good thing. However I didn’t enjoy the comic enough to want to buy the next eighteen or so issues. Hopefully someone I know will get them so I can borrow them.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Milestone retrospective part nine of ten.
Milestone was a comic book company with a difference. One of they’re primary objectives was to create and publish comics featuring minorities in main roles and to discuss issues that affected minorities. Thus Milestone comics were filled with people of black, Latino and Asian ethnicities, and of various sexualities. Issues such as racism, homophobia, eating disorders and other things were discussed. Thus I find it somewhat sad that they could not survive as a company, and after just over four years folded.
I first picked up issues 0-3 of Xombi from a fifty cent bin because I’d heard good things about them. I thought they were really good and thus started my quest to acquire lots and lots of Milestone comics. I looted my local store’s quarter and fifty cent bins and came away with about fifty Milestone comics and started reviewing them in more or less chronological order. Since then I’ve picked up about forty more, but I’ve still got loads to find.
Static issues 33-35 (March-May, 1996)
Writers: Addie Blaustein & Yves Fezzani
Penciller: Jeffrey Moore
Static is a teenage hero who gained electricity powers at “The Big Bang” (the even which started the Milestone universe). Static uses these powers to fly around on garbage can lids and fight crime. A lot of the story in Static (and indeed many Milestone comics) was also about their alter ego. Virgil Hawkins had to deal with racism, homophobia, eating disorders and other problems facing youth during his comic. I found the writing was generally really good for a comic book about a teenager, which unfortunately is not something that common.
These issues are some of the first of this writing team and are pretty solid, they have a villain who is made of bees, which is pretty cool, but not as cool as The Swarm (the nazi bee villain from Spider-Man). The other villains to show up in these issues are kind of stupid (The Rubber Band Man?), but at least the aspects of Virgil’s life are pretty good.
Heroes issues 2-4 (of 6) (June-August, 1996)
Writer: Matt Wayne
Penciller: Chris Cross
I think this was originally intended to be an ongoing series, but got reduced to a miniseries before it even started. It features a bunch of characters from The Shadow Cabinet (an earlier Milestone comic that had been cancelled by this point) and Static. I don’t’ recognize all of the characters appearing, and a lot of the character interactions seem to be based on The Shadow Cabinet, also: missing the first issue can’t help.
The story is about a new group of superheroes in the Milestone universe. They intend to be a public superhero team and have press conferences and a not so secret base and so forth. It’s a pretty fun comic, the dialogue is good and the characters are part of Milestone’s attempt to have not just straight, white, Americans in comics. In addition to the people of other races usually found in Milestone comics, two of the major characters are also lesbians. This leads to a pretty amusing scene where Static (a fifteen year old) finds out and gets fairly excited because he’s a fifteen year old kid. The stories in general are pretty fun, the group trying to find a base, taking the subway (a joke used before in Blood Syndicate) and other stuff. I don’t really like Chris Cross’s art though.
Wise Son: The White Wolf issue 2 (of 4) (December, 1996)
Writer and Penciller: Ho Che Anderson
Wise Son: The White Wolf is a miniseries Milestone had been hyping in their…hype pages since they started publishing comics. It finally comes out just a few months before the company closes. My only previous experience with Ho Che Anderson is with the first two volumes of his biography of Martin Luther King. I wasn’t that impressed by it, though the second volume mentions his extreme slowness in regards to creating comics. Hmm…
This story follows Wise Son from the Blood Syndicate during a time he is not with that group (I thought they’d broken up in the last issue of Blood Syndicate, but they appear in another Milestone comic this month too). It’s mostly about Wise Son and his life before he became a super powered guy. It deals with his old friends, his family, his ex-girlfriend (who he has a child with (raised by his parents), and who is now pregnant again by someone else). It’s not about Wise Son: guy with superpowers. In the end though I can’t really get into it, and it sort of saddens me that this is the last of the regular Milestone comics I’ll be reviewing.
Links: http://milestone.luthor.com/: Basically the only Milestone site I’ve been able to find. It’s pretty good though.
Next week: The tenth and final part of my Milestone retrospective. Static Shock #1-2 – A miniseries appearing in 2001 (I think) that revisited the Milestone universe.
Friday, March 11, 2005
What do you do when you’re supposed to be a hero to the people, but the people don’t want you?
Rai trade paperback (collecting issues 1-4 and 0)
Published by Valiant (1993)
Story: Jim Shooter, David Lapham,Bob Layton, Jon Hartz (0)
Writer: David Michelinie (1-4), Bob Layton (0)
What do you do when you’re supposed to be a hero to the people, but the people don’t want you?
This is the world Rai lives in.
I have had very little exposure to Valiant comics. I didn’t really start going to comic stores until after they had started to collapse as a company. I own a few Valiant comics, but they’re pretty random and the only one I can recall is Rai and the Future Force #12, which I got free when I ordered comics from somewhere. Oh, and Shadowman #0.
I also picked up the first Quantum and Woody trade last year and didn’t think much of it. But that was from a later form of Valiant comics and can’t really be compared.
So what did I know about Valiant? They were one of the major successes of the early nineties, before the bubble burst and comics stopped selling as well. I mean there were over 800,000 copies of Rai and the Future Force #9 published? Holy fucking shit. But I digress.
When I was given the Rai trade paperback (which had well over 100,000 copies made, that would make it one of the best selling comics today…) I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard good things about some of their comics, but in my mind they were basically lumped in with all the other companies from the early nineties that weren’t around anymore.
So when I opened the trade and saw that David Lapham (Stray Bullets) had drawn some of it, I was pleasantly surprised. I guess there would be something good about it. Then I started reading it, and was drawn into the world of Rai. Set two thousand years in the future,
Rai is supposed to be the hero of
The story has an introspective feel to it, with Rai spending a lot of time thinking and wondering if what he’s doing is the right thing to do. The art is generally pretty strong, and kind of fun. There are a few badly thought out character designs (and characters in general: Icespike is just stupid), but none of these really damage the comic.
Each of the four issues is basically self-contained. There is an overarching plot, but you get a complete story in each issue, something that hasn’t been as common recently. Issue four ends sort of on a cliffhanger so I’d like to read the rest of the series. Time to start hitting back issue bins!
The issue 0 from the end really seems tacked on. It comes after issue 8 of the Rai series and doesn’t even feature Rai. Instead it sets up what’s supposed to happen in the future of the Valiant universe. Also, despite my original optimism towards Lapham’s art, the art isn’t that good in this issue.
One of my few complaints with this collection is that it doesn’t include the first appearances of Rai. These were published as a flip book with Magnus Robot Fighter for four issues and that story line directly leads into Rai’s own comic. What happened in these first appearances is explained well enough both in the comic itself and the introduction to the collection, but I would still like to read them.How did Valiant become one of the biggest comic publishers? I don’t really know, but if this trade is any indication they made some good comics for a while.
http://www.valiantcomics.com/valiant/valiantdays.asp: This is a pretty awesome article about the rise and fall of Valiant. You can explore the rest of the site for more information on Valiant comics.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
It seems a bit odd to start a comics blog with a review of a movie, but it is a movie based on a comic, and comic reviews will start up soon enough.
I’d say I first saw Nausicaa when I was in junior high school (so at least seven years ago), and I thought it was really good. It was around this time that I also saw a number of Miyazaki’s films, and in general I thought they were excellent. However they were available only in fansubbed, bootlegged versions. Not something I could really buy in a store.
In high school Princess Mononoke (by the same writer and director) came out in theatres (even here!) and then on DVD. It was exciting, perhaps soon Miyazaki’s other films would come out.
Disney owned the rights to release the rest of the Studio Ghibli films, but choose to do it incredibly slowly for some reason. Waiting for ever and ever to release them.
While I was in high school I bought the collected versions of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Written and drawn by Miyazaki (I believe the only long form comic Miyazaki has completed), the manga is the basis for the movie. However Nausicaa is unlike many other manga to anime adaptations. For one the manga was unfinished when the anime was made, only the first two (of seven) volumes were completed when Miyazaki made the movie. These two volumes cover about the first half of the movie, while the second half of the movie goes in a different direction then the manga eventually did. The manga took over twelve years to be produced, starting in 1982 and not finishing until 1994 (though there were a number of break years as Miyazaki worked on movies). The manga was excellent and it only made me want to see the movie again more, but I couldn’t.
(The version I have is the four volume set released by Viz in the mid nineties. It’s larger then the current size most manga is put out in, but smaller then a traditional American comic. Currently there’s a new, larger, edition out that looks really nice and is tempting me to buy it again. I will be strong though.)
In 2002 (I was in university by this point) Spirited Away came out in theatres. In 2003 Disney released Spirited Away on DVD, additionally they released Laputa, Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service, with promises of more DVD releases of Studio Ghibli films to come. The excitement of it all!
Three more Studio Ghibli films were supposed to be released in 2004. And so I waited, and waited and 2004 passed and still I waited. And finally they were released. I hate Disney so much, I just want them to release these films in a vaguely timely matter.
It’s been twenty years since Nausicaa originally came out, and at least seven since I originally saw it in a bootlegged, fansubbed version, but finally I have a copy of my own (though even that was difficult).
When I heard the DVDs were coming out I did not rush out immediately to buy them as that would mean going to one of the places I like the least: the mall. However, later that week I had the misfortune of being in the mall and went to buy them. The first store I went into didn’t have it. They had Porco Rosso, but that was it (they did however have lots and lots of copies of Porco Rosso). So on I went to discover that the other stores didn’t even have Poroco Rosso. I resigned myself to not owning Nausicaa for a while yet. Meanwhile two of my friends had journeyed to the ends of the earth (the other side of town) to get copies of Nausicaa after phoning up every DVD selling place in town they had found one store that had three copies of it.
About a week later I discovered that my girlfriend was in the mall area and was actually (shock horror) going into the mall itself. I asked her to get me the DVDs and said I’d pay her back if she could get them. Success! I had acquired both Nausicaa and The Cat Returns, my collection of legitimate Studio Ghibli films is complete once more (until, hopefully, next year). But I was now faced with a new problem. I had moved and did not have a DVD player at my new house. In fact I didn’t even have a television. Almost a week went by before I could acquire a television and a DVD player (during this week I lent out my copies of Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns to a roommate and a friend who could watch them elsewhere).
Finally I could watch it. Myself and my roommates hooked up the television and DVD player (actually a PS2), though even this caused problems (why does our living room have so few electrical outlets? We shouldn’t have to use an electrical socket in the kitchen to watch a movie), and we were able to watch the movie. I was vaguely worried that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered it. It had been a long time since I had seen it, and perhaps I wouldn’t like it this time.
Thankfully I was wrong; the movie was as good as I remembered it. Since it had been a long time since I had seen the movie, and since I had read the manga, giving an alternate series of events since then, the movie even held certain surprises for me. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is set one thousand years after the collapse of civilization. Much of the world has been destroyed and a giant forest of poisonous plants and giant insects dominates. Beyond the edges of this forest lies a desert, and the occasional fertile area where humans can still survive. Those humans that are still around haven’t really learnt much and still plot war and destruction, the newest plan being one to destroy the forest by using one of the weapons used to hurt the earth in the first place (Nausicaa, like several of Studio Ghibli’s other films, has a fairly central environmental message).
Nausicaa is a princess, and a popular one. But unlike the princesses that you see in many of Disney’s movies she takes action. Nausicaa makes frequent trips into the forest on her glider to view the plans and insects that live there. When the weapon ends up in Nausicaa’s valley, she does her best to keep the fighting and violence away from her people there. Nausicaa travels across the land and meets (and sometimes fights) people and tries to discover what is best for her land and her people.
The animation is generally strong, though there are a few weak points, and features some beautifully designed flying machines and animals. The characters are well developed, though the ideas of good and evil are not as muddled as they are in the comic (but as Miyazaki had far more room in the comic to develop characters this can easily be excused). The music can be very eighties in a few parts too, but like the rest of the movie is generally excellent.
The DVD comes with a number of extras, including complete storyboards (sort of pointless), all the Japanese trailers (mind numbingly boring after 8 minutes of the same footage being used over and over again), a documentary I haven’t watched yet but that’s supposed to be pretty good, and an interview with the English voice actors. I’ll probably never hear the English dub, they’re generally pretty crappy. And even if they are good (like Princess Mononoke’s was, I’m unlikely to watch them as the dialogue will have been changed for North American audiences. I’m not even sure who they’re aimed at. Little kids I guess.
One thing that is currently puzzling me is a scene I thought I had remembered from Nausicaa when I saw it many years ago. It was a scene where two characters (the male and female leads I believe) are chasing each other through a forest while a battle between the two sides they represent is fought by a castle nearby. I had thought this scene was in this movie, but it is not. Where on earth is from?
So was it worth the wait? Yes. Though I wish that I hadn’t had to wait at all. I wonder how long I will have to wait until the next DVD releases (Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro and…?). Probably at least a year, hopefully not another two.
Still to come: Reviews of Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns (over the next few weeks), and reviews of Valiant and Milestone comics later this week.