Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Posts tagged “Comic Books

Humphries’ Uncanny X-Force Coming To An Uncanny End

Uncanny-X-Force-BannerSam Humphries made the announcement on his Tumblr page that his run on Uncanny X-Force will be coming to an end with issue number 17 early next year. This comes as sad news to me, who only yesterday started reading the series on the suggestion of my co-worker who praised it as the best X-book on the stands right now. I am currently loving all the x-books and think everyone working on those titles are doing a bang-up job, with major props to Brian Wood and Brian Bendis for revitalizing the line after my own interest had started to flag a little bit.

Uncanny X-Force is indeed every bit as good as my cohort describes. If you aren’t reading it you should definitely give it a read. It has a very distinct voice when coupled with all the other X-books. Humphries instills characters like Psylocke and Storm with a boldness and unique voice that I personally feel they have sorely lacked in the past. Also, anybody who has the good sense to realize that Puck deserves to get some of the spotlight from time to time deserves a whole heap of praise.

Humphries and Garney put together a truly special x-book that I am sad to see go. I wish I would have been able to go along for the ride from the beginning. I’ll follow through with it to the end now, though. I hope I’m not alone.

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Film Review – Cowboys & Aliens

I like mashup films. I think they’re great fun. One of the best times I had at the movies last years was with The Warrior’s Way or as it is affectionately referred to in most circles “Cowboys vs. Ninjas.” There’s nothing wrong with a little pulpy crossover action to waste some time at the theater. Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau, is an admirable effort that has many great components but fails to fit together to form a perfect overall picture. The cast is superb; Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Sam Rockwell, Walton effing Goggins…but a good majority of the material they’re given really doesn’t merit their involvement. The overall product is just too bland for its own good. It’s a summer blockbuster, so some level of pandering to the lowest common denominator is expected, but the truth is that at no point in the course of the film do they aim to do anything really memorable. I’m sure I’ll have forgotten most of the film by this time tomorrow which is why I’m writing the review now, basically thirty minutes after the credits started to roll.

Let me say what does work; Daniel Craig cuts a good figure as the classic “man with no name” archetype here, a testament to his screen presence elevating the material enough that we as an audience want to stick it through until the end. Harrison Ford is more lively and vivid here than he has been in years and it serves to remind us why at one point he was the biggest movie star in the world. Sam Rockwell being Sam Rockwell. He can do no wrong and here is no exception. Favreau must have had a hell of a time working with him on IronMan 2 to bring him back again for a role that’s especially meaty. Olivia Wilde’s eyes. Dear god. I know some people argue that she’s either the hottest woman on earth or a strange looking creature but I can’t get past her eyes. Cue drooling.

What doesn’t work is a little bit harder to nail down. The film has some pacing problems, bordering on dull on a few occasions. The action scenes are not especially fantastic or captivating. It’s really a case of the people in the cast not getting enough to do. I think a majority of the problems can be traced to the fact that the script has over five credited authors and that’s never the sign of a unified front when it comes to the narrative. It’s a hodge-podge at best. A well shot hodge-podge filled with some great talent, but still a hodge-podge.

And now in the hopes of driving some decent web-hits, I will populate the rest of the post with sexy photos of Olivia Wilde, because that seemed to help in previous posts.






Cost Benefit Analysis : Pricing In The Modern Comics Market

PriceyAt the NYCC this past weekend, both Marvel and DC promised that costs on their publications would drop in early 2011, with DC stating that their books would drop two pages of content and return to a $2.99 price tag. A good majority of comic fans rejoiced, knowing that most of their books have been $3.99 for a while and that saving a dollar on each of those books would be a huge relief in the long run. Others voiced concerns that cutting content is not the answer and that paying what was the norm not too long ago for less material is not an acceptible comprimise.

Marvel has remained vague on their price changes, noting only that no new regular books will be launching next year at $3.99. I doubt that their major moneymakers like the Avengers or X-Men franchises will decrease in price anytime soon. I think they would sell more issues at $2.99, especially considering the way Bendis writes. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I feel like I don’t get my money’s worth with his decompressed writing. In the long run I greatly enjoy his work, but if I had to pay $3.99 for his Daredevil run way back when I might have gone insane. Seriously, go back and read that run sometime, it’s amazing stuff but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a little padded in some areas.

But I digress…

What does this mean for those of us who still have the disposable income in this economy to collect comic books? I think a good majority of people won’t change their buying habits one bit. They’re not going to use the money saved to buy other titles, they’re going to put it back in their pocket and walk away. It’s not going to do anything to help out the comic publishers. While I’m sure a select few will spread some money around, the majority most likely will not. I’ve been working in a comic shop for close to five years now and I see the way people react to price changes. Granted, this is the first time prices have dropped after going up, but it’s not that dissimilar to running a discount sale. You offer a discount and people will use it on what they were already getting and then shove the money they save back in their wallet and walk away. I don’t blame them. All I hear from people is how most of the mainline books have been declining in quality while the prices increased. I hear that gripe about Amazing Spider-Man just about every week. Not everybody feels this way. I personally haven’t liked Spidey this much in years. But the mindset of the consumer right now is heavily influenced by the recession we’re in. They’re picking and choosing their books with a lot more insight. I’m hoping that this price cut will help people discover new books. Take that four extra bucks and buy a book you normally don’t. Jonah Hex is amazing. Supergirl is getting a new creative team and looks like it should be pretty epic. Freedom Fighters is solid. Over at Marvel you’ve got Avengers Academy, Young Allies, or the new Spider-Girl. I’m just saying there’s good stuff out there you should give a chance.

The real interesting element of all this will be to see how the stores handle it. If people do only buy the same books they buy now, that means that the shops will be looking at a smaller profit for the same amount of books sold. In an industry where a lot of stores are hurting for business, this isn’t going to help. I’m lucky enough to work in a shop where even if one department starts to dip, like comics, the others can pick it up; ie. gaming, toys, statues, etc. But what about the small shop in the strip center down the road who works on a very thin margin? It’s not fun to think about but it needs to be discussed so that everybody can stay in business.

Basically this is just me telling you that if you’ve got the extra cash and you really love this industry, put it toward another book when these price shifts happen. You’ll get the added enjoyment of reading something you previously didn’t have the chance to and everybody from the writers and the artists to the people who sell the books get to keep doing so for a long time to come.


Fandom Makes My Head Hurt

I’m a comic fan. I read the books, I follow characters and creators specifically, I have a friggin’ website dedicated to projecting my love/criticisms of the weekly books, but I do not consider myself part of any “fandom.” I don’t claim any character as my own the way some people will (though I will pimp Jubilee and Dazzler any chance I get. UNDER APPRECIATED I SAY!). My recent forays into the world of Tumblr, which is in and of itself a harmless site, have led me to some places that I don’t want to go again. It is a streamlined portion of the internet hate machine the likes of which is not often seen.

Ouch

I mean, yeah. Look, I can see where it’s funny. I don’t think it’s really meant as a direct statement that books like Birds of Prey shouldn’t exist. I doubt the person that made it gives two shits either way and was just trying to get a laugh. But this thing immediately got reblogged by like eighty bajillion folks and the feminist hordes who champion books like Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman started gnashing their teeth and getting overprotective. And it was at that moment that I had a sort of realization about comics and their part in the readership’s everyday life.

I realize that a healthy portion of the comic reading population latches onto a particular title or character because of how they can relate to the characters within. That is the sign of a character’s strength in their ability to resonate with the reader. But I’ve noticed that any percieved slight against a character or a book is taken extremely personal by the people who have claimed that character as their own. You do NOT want to see what some Wonder Woman fans are saying on Tumblr right now in regards to that new costume. Jim Lee and Stracynski might want to avoid going into public spaces for a little while.

I’ve been accused of taking comics too seriously in the past. I immediately hung my head in shame because that’s the last thing I want to do. When you start taking all of this too seriously, you come off as the kind of fan that the nightly news mocks when they cover a comic convention.

I’m not saying that you can’t be passionate. But the average fan-person seems to deal in black and white absolutism when it comes to “their” character. That anything said that goes against the grain of their definition is inheritly wrong. Is that graphic above insulting to women? Certainly, it’s meant to mock and insult. Was it malicious? I can’t immediately assume so. I’m sure there are plenty of female comic readers who have made similar jokes about the chest-thumping over-wrought masculinity of something like Conan the Barbarian or something similar. I love Conan, I’d probably see such a graphic and say “Heh, yeah,” not call for the burning of male genitalia on a social networking blog.

Just saying…


The Spider-Man Wedding : A Treatise on the Dynamic Nature of the Ever-Shifting Comic Book Status Quo and the Reactions It Produces

Last night I watched my friend get married. Today I feel compelled to write about the demolition of Spider-Man’s marriage by the One More Day storyline. I know it’s been a long time since that particular story arc actually occurred, and that in the two and half years since it transpired we’ve had about five years worth of Spider-Man stories condensed down on us in the Brand New Day format. The fact that we have had so much happen in the Spider-Man universe since the deal with Mephesto ended his marriage is one of the factors that has helped Marvel quietly settle it’s readership into the new status quo. We as readers have mostly adapted to the point where Mary Jane no longer being a regular part of Peter’s life doesn’t register on our radar unless explicitly shoved in our face, ie. whenever Mary Jane shows up and makes cryptic references to the past that never was.

My feelings on the dissolution of the Spider-Marriage are fairly simple. I think that in the context of the story, it was poorly executed, but in the realm of comic-books, where fluidity is the name of the game, I cannot condemn it any more than I can condemn the death of Captain America or the Heroes Reborn debacle, or the Clone Saga for that matter. In the end, the events of One More Day are only as permenant as the popular writers of the day choose to make it. If tomorrow Geoff Johns jumped ship to Marvel with a plan to reunite Mary Jane and Peter, you bet Quesada would bow to his whims because he knows it would garner massive media attention and sales. That’s what it all boils down to, commerce. While comic books are an art form, they are also a business. Joe Quesada made a business decision based off of personal preference. There was no malice intended ot the fans in his action, simply a desire to run the creative side of the Spider-Man franchise that was more in line with what he envisioned as an Editor-In-Chief.

I think that the main reason for the uproar over the end of Peter’s marriage, aside from the qualms with the manner in which it happened, is that the majority of readers for Spider-Man grew up with Peter Parker and Mary Jane interlocked and inseparable. To them, Peter without Mary Jane seems like an incomplete machine, a muscle car without an engine.  I’m sure anyone who picks up a Spider-Man book in the aftermath of the One More Day storyline would argue that Mary Jane has no more right to be the definitive Peter Parker significant other than Carlie or any of the other new characters introduced after the end of the marriage at the hands of Mephesto.

I think this all boils down to how in the world of comics, due to the fluidity and ever-shifting organic nature of the medium as a whole, events that add an edge of finality are basically a timebomb. Graduation from High School for teenaged heroes, marriages, deaths, children, etc. These elements serve the purpose of allowing the character to grow, but at the same time put up roadblocks that will eventually have to be dealt with. It’s a paradox in every concievable way.

I think this is why I, along with many other readers, are being drawn to series that have a finite run, with a clear beginning and end. You don’t have to worry about important developments being reversed in a series like The Boys, or The Walking Dead because their nature will not allow for it. Superhero comics do not seem to have that advantage. For long-running serialized characters, there will be change after change and then reversion. For every step gained there will inevitably be two steps back. This isn’t to say that serialized superhero comics are somehow inferior to limited-run series, but the fandom associated with the DC/Marvel superheroes will always encourage this sort of behavior.

My overall contention with all this is that there seems to be an overwhelming negativity when it comes to any change made to a mainstream character. I am simply saying that instead of grousing about it for two and a half years, enjoy the progression of the story that comes in its wake and patiently wait for the eventual return of the status quo that you enjoyed so much. And if you simply can’t handle the things being done to the character in between, find another title that doesn’t cause you so much mental anguish.

After all, comics are supposed to be fun.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

Ladies and gentlemen, I drank a 1/2 gallon of Gatorade yesterday. I am more hydrated than I have been in my entire life and I’m pretty sure my brain is suffering because of it. So small talk be damned, it’s review time.

ARRIVALS 6-2-2010
AVENGERS PRIME #1 (OF 5) HA 3.99
FRANKEN-CASTLE #17 2.99
HAWKEYE & MOCKINGBIRD #1 HA 3.99
IZOMBIE #2 (MR) 2.99
JONAH HEX NO WAY BACK HC 19.99
JSA ALL STARS #7 3.99
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #39 2.99
SERENITY FLOAT OUT ONE SHOT #1 FRANK STOCKTON CVR 3.5
THANOS IMPERATIVE #1 (OF 6) 3.99

Stand back, I’m prepared to do criticism!


AVENGERS PRIME # 1

I wasn’t going to pick this one up at all but got suckered into it by Alan Davis’ pretty pretty drawerings. I don’t have much to say about the writing, because it’s typical Bendis fare; but it’s good Bendis fare, as we get some good cathartic character interaction between Tony and Steve that really needed to happen before the whole Heroic Age could take off. While the book seems to be heralded as the reunited Avengers back together for the first time since the Disassembled disaster, they actually spend most of the book’s length separated, which works in establishing what this series will focus on, as it’s definitely tied heavier to Thor than either of the other big three.

I don’t think that this book is truly in any way essential, other than the character interactions between Steve and Tony which could have easily been done in the opening pages of the mainline Avengers book. This is mostly an exercise in capitalism. It’s a cash grab, honestly. But it’s a well written and superbly drawn cashgrab, which is more than I can say for some other recent attempts.


HAWKEYE AND MOCKINGBIRD # 1

I will be honest and say that I don’t know too much about Hawkeye and Mockingbird’s backstory. The entirety of my knowlege is made up by what was presented in this introductory issue. I enjoyed what was presented but I don’t have the emotional attachment to these characters the way some people do. I will say that from what I saw on the page, this series could be an interesting one as the dynamic and the setup is different from just about every other Marvel b0ok out there right now. It’s a team book without being a team book. The group of specialists that Hawkeye and Mockingbird run with in this book, including none other than Dominic Fortune, give off a dynamic not unlike Birds of Prey, which doesn’t bode well for the inevitable Green Arrow/Black Canary comparisons that are bound to stick with the book despite being much better written than that book ever could have hoped as well as establishing itself as a lynchpin in the Avengers universe.

Hawkeye, despite the fact that I haven’t had much exposure to him, is central to the Avengers dynamic. He’s as attached to Steve Rogers at this point as the Falcon is, and they play on that well in this issue. I think that this series will serve as a nice companion piece to the new Avengers-centric Marvel Universe. I just hope it doesn’t get hamstrung by the fact that Hawkeye is, let’s be honest, a 2nd tier character and series built around those tend to have fairly limited runs. Like Hawkeye’s own series that lasted about twelve issues before getting shut down so he could die in Avengers Dissassembled.

Just saying…


Jonah Hex : No Way Back (Original Graphic Novel)

I stopped following the monthly exploits of Jonah Hex about twelve issues back. I just had to find some room to trim on the pull list and I switched it over to trades. But when this came along I had to pick it up because I’m a sucker for original graphic novels. This one is very well done, and feels like the monthly series but with the dial turned up to eleven. Honestly, this feels like what the movie should be. It’s a taut western tale that adheres to and embraces alot of the western tropes and devices, while seeming decidedly modern in it’s raw narrative structure and effectively blunt depictions of violence in the old west.

I’ll say that if you wanted mass market appeal for the character in the weeks leading up to his theatrical debut, you could have gone with an artist that is more easily palatable to the everyday reader, but Tony DeZuniga’s sketchy style fits the character well. He’s done some amazing work on some of my favorite characters, and while I think his style is a good fit for the narrative, some complaints about his artwork are bound to arise.

What I liked most about this book was really how it appeals to any and all Jonah Hex readers. Newbies get a pseudo-origin story and can jump right into the action with no real trouble at all, while old fans will undoubtedly love it for how well it stays in line with what’s come before. It hits all the notes it needs to and then some.

Highly recommended.

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And that’s it for this week. I’m going to focus my attention on these scrumtious extra crispy strips from KFC that I’ve picked up for lunch. They are just aces, and they won’t immediately put you into a death coma like a DoubleDown will. So, that’s just a check in the plus column.


Your Monday M.O.D.O.K. Moment

This is someone's fetish...
From Marvel Superhero Squad

Every Monday, we will bring you a panel, snapshot, or drawing
of the greatest Marvel character of all time
in an attempt to generate awareness of his glory.
This will end only when we run out of
glorious MODOK Material.

Which will be never.