Last Week’s Pulls, Week of 3-1-23
I’d actually enjoyed Superman issue one so much that I thought I’d pop over and see what’s going on in Action Comics. Oh wait, there’s that super team that I wasn’t interested in…
It’s a difficult place to start too. I don’t know where a lot of these characters came from and it just seems like they’re all there, jumbled together. The book isn’t terribly accessible to new readers. Oh well, I wasn’t that interested in it anyway.
I also saw a new Spider Gwen series. I was hoping it would be a good jumping on point, but really, it’s just more of the same. I am so tired of the endless parade of derivatives that we’re getting out of the spiderverse. It almost seems like because Spider Gwen was a knock off herself, that the only people that she can hang out with are clones and other knock offs. Spider Gwen Octopus… Spider Gwen Sandman… it’s all really tiresome. Gwen herself was an interesting creation, but it seems like Marvel just doesn’t have any idea what to do with her right now, so it’s just variant after variant. I really would rather us just get back to good storytelling.
Can you tell it’s been an unsatisfying week? Even the Rogue and Gambit first issue was a little confusing. I’m always glad to see these two, and I do like the whole look that they’re giving Gambit now. It’s a little bit more simplified, but still evokes the classic costume. And Rogue flat out is in her nineties outfit… probably the best version of her costume we’ve ever seen. We’re definitely starting on a caper here, with The character Destiny sending them off on an adventure to go collect Manifold and rescue Lady Deathstrike… I think. Look, this one I’m still gonna ride out just because of a lifetime love of these characters, and we’ll just hope that things get clearer from here. I may go through and read this one again to try and get a better idea. The X books have been largely their on little fifedom for the last 10 years or so, but if this can shine on its own, I’m all for it.
I also decided to dip my toe in the glorious mess that is Barbarella. Look, I’ve seen the movie, I figured I knew what I was getting into… and, not so much. We arrive at the planet Barbarella’s traveling companion… a fluffy bunny sort of alien, where they’re having issues and hes trying to rescue them and…. it’s just weird. It starts off as generic sci-fi, then shifts into funny animal comedy, then morphs into a furry fantasy. The book is all over the place, but then again, this IS Barbarella. That’s probably par for the course. I’m not sure that I’m gonna keep on with this duck at that but it seems interesting enough for me the to want to drop in on it once in a while.
And then there’s The Human Target.
Remember when this series started? Remember how excited I was for it? Remember how much I loved that 1st issue? How on Earth did Tom King mess this up so badly?
I even forgot this thing was being published. I’ve said that a couple times now, and it continues to be true. I managed to grab the last issue, after having missed the past 4… and you know what? I don’t feel like I missed anything. Chance is dead, we’re wrapping up loose ends, and Ice is trying to prove that she’s a lot more hardcore and not so sweet anymore.
Here’s the thing. This particular series was way too long. I mean, there is not nearly enough story to stretch 12 issues plus an intermission… no wonder I lost interest. This thing should have gone 6 issues and out. But moreover, it’s missing everything that makes the Human Target attractive. That 1st issue had it. Christopher Chance in disguise, being the stuntman/bodyguard for The imperiled. We’ve got a good mystery starting off within the edges of the DC universe, “who tried to kill Lex Luthor”, and we’ve got some stakes. Chance has to find out in time to find the antidote to the poison and save his own life. This is good stuff. It’s a great setup. But we never actually get back to it. We get a few months of him romancing Ice, feeling sorry for himself, and drinking himself stupid. We don’t get any more costumes, we don’t really get a whole lot of actual investigation… it’s mostly just an excuse to deconstruct not only Christopher Chance, but the Justice League International is well. Who thought this was a good idea?
Look, I get that the JLI is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I like the campy and jokey take… but I was never happy that it was the main, prime Justice League title. It always worked better when it was a backup idea… A mini series like “I can’t believe it’s not Justice league“, I’d rather see them as the super buddies than the JLA. But whatever else you want to say about them, it gave purpose to a lot of forgotten characters. It gave us a real revitalization for Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, both titles said it kind of fall in flat on their faces. It elevated fire and ice from backbencher’s, to recognizable b-listers. It gave Guy Gardner something to do then just be a reserve Green Lantern. It worked… and it worked because it didn’t take itself seriously. Because they wanted to grim superhero action. In fact, when they tried to play at straight in extreme Justice, it demonstrated just how much it didn’t work. And this is the team that you want to deconstruct?
Peter Milligan already did the deconstruction thing with Christopher Chance. He did it while telling mysteries and stories with a Vertigo flare, and he did it better. And you know what? I didn’t like it then either. You know what I DID like? The Human Target TV show. Both of them… not just the cheesy Rick Springfield one, but the serious bodyguard based 1 that we got in the early 2 thousands And that’s why I keep saying, This could have worked. I liked the whole hard boiled pulp detective take. I liked the fifties aquamarine noir take. If you’d given me a mystery and some distinctly human target action this way,… it really could have worked.
It’s astonishing how sour I got on this book over the year that they were publishing it.
Sorry, hopefully this week will get some better entertainment.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The Snyder Cut to me feels like very much the same movie, but more of it. The episodic chapter breaks help, because this isn’t paced ANYTHING like a normal film.
Ever see that episode of Family Guy where Brian meets George RR Martin? There’s a line where Martin tells him “You just got high and slapped together a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy tropes!”
“You could tell I was on drugs when I made this????”Brian asked, shocked.
“Oh yeah,” Martian relies. “thing is, Drugs don’t make you write good, they just make you write LOTS.”
Special Director cuts are kinda thier own drug….
But like I said, It really helps (me anyhow) to see it broken up and almost presented as a mini series rather than a film. You can definitely see the path Snyder is taking. I will say this – it kept me watching, the whole time through. A five min pause here or there to hit the bathroom or refill my cup. Some chatting online with others watching it at the same time and jotting down my thoughts in a FB thread, but no real distractions. No painting and building a costume while I watched (I was going to finish the BvS helmet while I screened the film, but ended up never touching it), no fast forwarding, no folding laundry, no stopping it and picking up a couple hours later. It kept me engaged enough to do the whole thing in one shot.
I think my great frustration with justice league has very little to do with the Snyder cut itself, it’s that people didn’t give The theatrical cut more of a chance. I’m more than four years old. I remember the whole of fandom hating on Snyder, calling him a hack, saying he didn’t know what to do with these characters, and rejoicing (I mean it. Cheering and celebrating) when he left the DC movie scene. Those same people are calling this the greatest epic in….ever! A different movie! It makes me angry that Whedon’s cut was ever released! (all actual comments I’ve heard).
I didn’t hate the original. I thought it was fine… just not spectacular (which is really what everyone expects). The CG erasing Henry Cavill’s mustache never bothered me (I can’t even really see it unless it’s pointed out to me), and you know what? I still stand by my defense of the Martha moment and BvS as a whole. A lot of people who hated the original however, seem to love this one – which is what I find perplexing, because all the things I hear people saying they see in the Snyder cut, I saw in the original. Affleck is still an amazing Batman, Cyborg was always the heart of this team ( I didn’t even care about Cyborg in the run up to the movie. The actual theatrical film MADE me care about him because he was done so well)… And a brilliant representation of the character. The theatrical cut was still epic, still had tones of 300 in it. But I genuinely believe people went into the theatrical cut expecting and intending to hate it (in the wake of Batman versus superman) as well as comparing it to much better films. All the criticism that I saw though, too dark, mischaracterizations, overblown, it’s all still here in this Snyder cut. All the good, and all the bad from the theatrical cut. Clownfish TV made a good point – the Snyder cut is still a mess, just like the Whedon cut, it’s just that this mess makes a little more sense.
It’s not the praise for the Snyder cut the bothers me. It’s the trashing of the theatrical. Both have the same DNA and far more in common than difference. It’s kind of like the outsized praise Wonder Woman got. That’s a good movie. But it’s not the ultimate triumph it was lauded as (In equal parts because it was female led and directed, and because it was the first DC movie that was better than “okay”). It feels like the Snyder cut is being given outsized praise because of all the good will that went into getting it released, not necessarily because of the film’s merits in of themselves.
Steppenwolf is still a lame villain, and I got to say, I absolutely hate everything that they did with the apocalypse characters. I hate the design. But that’s nothing new, I hated it In the original one too. I also seriously do not care for CGI barbarian Darkseid….fortunately his appearance improves greatly later in the film. On of my friends objects to my characterization of Steppenwolf as a wierd choice for the villian.
“You obviously don’t know much about the Fourth World.”
I have a passing familiarity with it but no, I’m not steeped in the lore – and that’s kind of my point. If I’m not completely up on Kirby’s New Gods saga, the general public DEFINITELY isn’t! That’s what makes it an odd choice to me. Loki was a good choice for Avengers since he’d already appeared in Thor and was an integral part of his mythos (Like say, if Lex Luthor or the Joker were a villian in JLA). Steppenwolf though….The Projection Booth podcast had a good observation. Marvel took 20+ movies before they got into the crazy, out-there stuff like Thanos and infinity stones and gauntlets and such. DC gets four movies in and throws Jack Kirby’s wildest creations right at you. This is advanced DC lore, not the entry level stuff we should be seeing at this stage in the game.
As the movie went on, this thing just stopped dead in its tracks right in the middle while they come up with a backstory for cyborg and flash (I will say this about the flash, I agree with him… I too, am a black hole for snacks – a true snack hole). I understand they had to do that, because then established in the previous films, but man it just kills all momentum. I remember always being perplexed that they didn’t use the CW shows as a jumping off point. They already had a universe built, which would have made a great foundation here, even with the tonal difference. They also had a far less annoying Barry Allen. like there’s this scene when Barry was trying on different hats, and asking Aquaman what he thought, I really wanted to see Arthur just backhand him and tell him to get in the truck. I was also kind of waiting for them to say “run Barry run” just before he activated the mother box.
I really do like this version of Commissioner Gordon, and wish we had gotten More of it. (of course I really wanted more of everything with Affleck’s Batman!). However, this movie really does get laden down With having to produce an enormous amount of backstory. I can see why so much of this got cut. The episodic format here actually works in his favor with all this extra stuff. Definately a better ending yes, and I really needed more Darkseid. I’m glad we got him. But I think Batman’s always been done well in these (I don’t get why people never saw that before), and I honestly don’t see how flash and Cyborg got shortchanged in the theatrical or how they were better here, there was just more backstory – all of which ground the movie to a screeching halt and should have happened elsewhere. I’d also say the only difference between this Leto Joker and the other was the lack of tattoos and gold teeth. Yes, I realize that it’s tough to look past that misguided appearance and actually watch the performance, but that performance in JL was EXACTLY the same one I praised in Suicide Squad.
All of this brings me back to my original impression. This really is the same movie. just more of it. And by the way, that’s not an insult. All the way back at the beginning, remember, I said, I liked the theatrical. It was fine. This is too. But I still have all the problems that I did with the original – the darker tones, and the general feeling of “I waited all my life for a Justice League movie – it’s a shame, this dark and gritty version is the one we ended up getting”. Gary at Nerdrotic actually had a great take on this – in the tradition of DC, this is an Elseworlds story. And it’s a spectacular Elseworlds tale, an imaginary story much like the stack of injustice trades I’ve been reading lately, but it’s not what I’d prefer as the prime timeline. that would look a lot more like the CW shows, but without the Social Justice. Indeed, I remember looking forward to the arrowverse crossovers like World’s Finest even more than BvS or JL. I recall thinking, “This FEELS more like the real JLA than the movies – and isn’t that kind of a shame?”
I’m also not thrilled with where things would go. According to the Projection Booth podcast, Snyder is on record as saying the next installment would be the Knightmare film – Batman would have fallen in love with Lois Lane, but would be unable to sacrifice himself for her and she dies at the hands of Darkseid, causing the dictator like Superman we see in the dreams. The next film would be him trying to turn back time and set things back to normal. That’s right. It gets darker. That’s not really what I wanted.
but at the same time being glad just to get it and being especially glad that for once, the film industry heard the cries of the fans, and finally gave them what they wanted.
The future of Comic Book movies
So blockbuster season is firmly in the past. I saw what I was going to see, and successfully avoided Dark Knight (not a nolan fan, I’ll get around to it on DVD). and I’m wondering how much longer this can last.
Don’t get me wrong. Comic Book films aren’t going away. They never have. There have been comic book films pretty much as long as there has been cinema. I have old Captain America serials and Superman movies from the 40 and 50s. I think there were a grand total of five Shadow movies. But as you look over history, you can see certian…eras. Especially in the last few decades. Usually it’s started off by a Superhero film that redefines the genre. Superman did it, and that was really the model for a good chunk of the 80s, until Batman in 1989. That redefined things as gritty, dark and rubber suits if you were going to go with a costume like in Captain America – but you weren’t allowed to show the suits too much. No costume? You just went dark and grindhousey like in the Punisher. Oh and the supporting cast didn’t really have to resemble their comic book counterparts. You can toss Judge Dredd, The Crow, Spawn and Blade in there, probably even X-Men though around that time things began to change. Specifically, Spider-Man changed all of that. Now we were looking more at making the costume as closely resemble the source material as possible, like Cap and the Avengers and Thor and Green Lantern and Hellboy ect….and it also defined the Superhero movie as THE blockbuster event of the summer.
And that’s where we’ve been for a while. In fact, we’ve kind of gone from a comic book movie being an event because it’s so rare, to any other kind of blockbuster being an event because it’s so rare. Remember Independence Day? Mission Impossible (two was my favorite)? Godzilla? How about the original Total Recal or Terminator 2? Demolition Man? We don’t see these movies so much now because the Superhero movie has taken their place. Indeed, one of the reasons The Expendables has been such a big deal is because the 80’s action movie has become nearly extinct.
Which brings me to my point. How long can this last? We’ve been on the superhero blockbuster ride for a decade now and what really has me thinking about this is The Avengers. It seems to me that with the Avengers, the comic book blockbuster has reached critical mass. It’s a brilliant achievement in of itself, and really the epitome of everything Avi Avrad was trying to do when he set Marvel down the path to making movies (his belief was that film was where Marvel would make it’s money and was the future of the company) in the 90’s.
But where do we go from here? Already the landscape is changing again. The Dark Knight seems to be the new template, judging by the look of The Amazing Spider-Man and Man of Steel. If Superhero film is moving in that direction, then the Avengers is already falling behind. And as DC moves forward to try and duplicate the success from the Avengers, the glut of Superhero movies on the market is only going to get worse, making market fatigue inevitable…and quickining it’s progress.
That’s really my fear. That it becomes so common place it breeds contempt. Without some new innovation, a REAL game changer (not just an tonal change like we got from the Dark Knight) that Hollywood will ride this train into the ground, until Superhero movies become box office poison.
And here’s the really scary thought to me both as a comic fan and as a comic artist on Violent Blue.
Because comics these days are so heavily tied to the movie properties to support them, when the Comic Book movie goes back underground or vanishes completely for a while (like it did in the seventies)…what happens to comic books?
Catching up on Comics (part one)
Sheesh. It’s been at least four months since I was in a comic shop. A whole freaking lot can happen in that time……
I was aware that Valiant was coming back. I was also somewhat aware of the new Shadow series that Dynamite was going to start, but I was a little hazy on exactly WHEN any of this would be happening. I had no CLUE that DC had the rights to Masters of the Universe again. I also really wasn’ t aware that the Extreme universe was relaunching under Image comics.
So I stopped to grab a stack of comics and catch up. I had NO IDEA how much I missed. Let’s start off with the small stuff, I’ll leave the titles I really want to talk about untill tomorrow.
The New 52
I still hate Superman’s new costume. It’s been a year. You’d think it would grow on me, but I just hate it. It’s kind of like the way Matt Smiths costume in Doctor Who bugs me….wait. No it’s not. I got used to that….and the longer coat he sometimes wears is a great improvement. Superman just looks….wrong. Superman doesn’t need armor…or “Kryptonian bio-tech”. He looks like a bad Extreme villain from the 90s (Oh and just you wait. We’ll get to that.) It’s a pity too, becasue I kind of like Clark Kent’s new look….and that’s about it. I just don’t recognize this guy as Superman. He fails to instill that sense of awe in me. This Superman isn’t the aspirational figure I’m used to to and that’s a shame. We are all lessened by it.
Really digging the Ame-Con girls series. It’s fluff and it knows it is, but it’s fun fluff and gives those figures a purpose at least.
All Star Western is a GREAT idea, but so poorly realized that it’s almost heartbreaking. I love the western Gotham. I love bringing in a bunch of old DC western heroes, but lose Wayne and give me a more compelling story. It just didn’t work.
Not digging the new Green Lantern. Seems too much like pandering to me. I still need to catch up on Grifter and Justice League and Wonder Woman may be worth a second look too. Batman is okay, but just….meh.
On to Extreme.
See, here’s the thing with Extreme. I liked Extreme, but never bought into the hype when Image was at it’s height. I bought all of my Image second hand, after the industry crash and got them for .50 – .25 or less. It’s fun stuff. It’s flashy and violent and loaded with belt pouch goodness, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously. You’re not reading this stuff for the same reason you read The Sandman. You’re reading it to see big fights, big racks and lots of lens flares.
I’m not sure if Image understands that. Bloodstrike is a prime example. This was a weird series that started as a team book, then was reworked to a solo book, and then reworked again back into a team book when we learned the mysterious title character of the solo book was the leader of the old team-book version…..
*pauses to catch breath*
It’s back to a team book now, they are trying to pick up where they left off and bringing back all the old characters from the beginning of the series, but the art is merly mediocre, and the costumes are a little more 2012….and that’s not good. just about everything that was fun about this book has been sucked out of it, and we’re only three or four issues in.
The relaunched Youngblood on the other hand is a bit better handled. I think they are relying a little to much on a couple of the previous relaunches and it seems like a bit of a Frankenstein project. A bit of the YB that was a media satire, a bit of the ’93 YB, bit of team YB…I’m not sure how to feel here. I like the idea that Shaft has been replaced. Not so sure I like the team being considered a joke by pop culture in general (remember, along with Spawn, this was one of Image’s primary flagship titles). Serious props for that panel where Diehard rips off his mask. At first the way they were handling Vogue was a little upsetting, but they’ve gone just a little deeper and shown some reasons for it….I can handle it. Great line from her to Diehard: “One night is a mistake. One year is just a guy breaking a girls heart”. That’s better writing that this title deserves. It’s interesting that they are still following Jeff Terral even though he’s not Shaft right now and this title has a lot of potential. I hope they don’t mess it up.
I don’t want to even talk about Prophet. I think the vision for this series has always been a little hazy and it’s lost its way to such an extent that it’s unrecognizable from the series I knew and loved when it began in the 90’s.
Valiant is a whole other story.I was really disappointed in the Acclaim version of Valient, I realized why they had to change everything (weird contractual obligations…I don’t have the space here….)but it was a real drag. The new valiant is so much better. X-O Manoowar is a perfect example. The art and designs are so much more clean and polished- modern. But the look and the story do the source material justice. The new suit looks very cool, and a little shocking when you see a spider alien in it. Even more shocking is Aric loosing a hand. It’s all good stuff. Every bit as good as Valiant in the 90’s. Not necessarily better, and that’s okay. Valiant in the 90’s was good stuff in of itself.
BloodShot has a similar premise to Bloodstrike. Reanimating the dead, occasionally messing with thier memories and turning them into the perfect soldier. Bloodshot makes it work, something Bloodstrike 2012 fails to do. I didn’t read much Bloodshot back in the day, I’ve come across him here and there in crossovers but don’t have enough history with the character to have an opinion on how well he’s being handled. I’ll thell you this though, the art? This title LOOKS better than it ever has before. Speaking of art, Archer and Armstrong also comes to mind
Archer and Armstrong crossed over with my favorite Valiant title Shadowman a bunch of times. I’m well familiar with t he guys. I even have a small collection of their title because I’m a bit of a valiant fanboy and I KIND OF liked what I saw in Shadowman.
I’m really liking the relaunch. It looks better than before and it reads really easily. I’m interested in the quest and really like the renewed dynamic between the two title characters. I’m interested in where they are going with this one and I expect to actually stick with this series for a while.
That’s it for today. Go read some Violent Blue and I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the comics that REALLY caught my attention.
The DC Reboot
So, predictably I’m sure, I’m not impressed with Justice League #1. It almost feels like I’m reading an old 90’s Image comic, but with DC characters insted – and that’s not a good thing. Image was long on flash and short on story. This new JLA is like that, what story there is feels a little juvenile and vacent. More than ever, I’m reasonably sure this is my jumping OFF point with DC (for a while at least).
However, don’t worry, there’s no reboot coming any time soon for Violent Blue….but a new strip will be up tomorrow.