Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pride of Baghdad, Buffy Season 8

From DC's Vertigo line, I recently picked up a gorgeous hardcover edition of Brian K. Vaughn's "Pride of Baghdad". You might know Vaughn's other works in "Y: The Last Man" or "Runaways", but as much fun as I've found those two titles great fun, Pride of Baghdad was just: wow.

It's based on a news snippet from 2003, when in the initial attack on the city by American forces, a pride of four lions escaped from the Baghdad zoo. After that, though, everything is the writer's playground. Think "Lion King" meets "Watership Down" and toss it together in a bowl of current affairs, and you can start to get an idea of what Pride is.

And the art by Niko Henrichon was just awe inspiring. A Quebec artist himself, he really burst out on to the scene with his moody and dramatic offerings in this work. He'll be a big star, I've no doubt, should he continue to produce work of this caliber.


I also had shipped this week the first two issues of Buffy Season 8 from Dark Horse Comics. I was nervous about this title, because even though Buffy-creator Joss Whedon is writing it, much of his previous work on Buffy comics hasn't resonated with me like the show.

Whedon has been working on "Astonishing X-Men" for the better part of two years now, and his comic-writing chops have gotten better with experience, and as such, The new Buffy comics read more like an episode, and fans of the show should be pleased that all the little quips and the timing that made the show so great read really well in the first two issues. Continuity is also a factor, and thus far it has slid easily into the gap it left when Buffy ended and Angel ran for one more season.


There you have it. A pretty good week in comics for me, and from some unexpected sources no less.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Comic Book Movies: Big Red Cheese

I just read over at CBR that there is a "Captain Marvel" movie in the works, and reports have appeared stating that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been sniffing around for the lead. I'm not sure how a Shazam movie would fly, especially after my distinct indifference towards the latest Superman film. But I do like the Rock.

Captain Marvel is an odd character, and for me, has really only captured my attention as a foil for Superman, be it in "Kingdom Come" or in "Justice League Unlimited". I think that's mostly because I can't name a single arch-enemy for him, not one of any consequence at least.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Movies: Spider-Man 3.

I went out to see Spider-Man 3 last night, and even now I'm having trouble putting together my thoughts about how I felt about it.

So I'm going to break it down here. If you haven't seen it, and are adverse to spoilers, you probably don't want to read any further. Consider that your *Spoiler Alert*.

I think my main issue with the movie is the same issue I had with both parts 1 and 2; I don't buy into Tobey Maguire or Kirsten Dunst as the leads. Peter Parker is played very dry, and often looking very sad sack about everything, and Mary-Jane is supposed to be a firebrand, and even if you wanted to argue that they are allowed to recreate characters for film, I believe that the guilty look on Dunst's face makes you simply resent her for even being there at all.

Maguire (or director Sam Raimi) is missing something about Peter Parker. Pete is supposed to be the "cool loser", with his issues and fear more kept to an internal conflict rather than a glassy-eyed hard luck joe. I had always cast Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in my head because he was able to be a dork, look cool, and banter all the while giving a sense that he's covering up some pain inside. Tobey doesn't even try that, and it takes away from Spidey.

The rest of the cast is pretty well done. I like James Franco as Harry Osborne, and as the new Goblin, his fight scenes in the 3rd installment carried the most dramatic weight. It did of course have the benefit of a two movie buildup, but I thought it well executed and managed to both convey emotion and look cool at the same time.

The Sandman was an example of great economy, with motivations and origins wrapped up quickly so he could dive right into the action. I bought Thomas Hayden Church's acting, and most of his displays of power were classic and visually cool looking. Not so hot, for me, was the "sandstorm" flying power, and the giant sand creature-thing at the end. Too much CG, not enough reality there.

Venom was quite possibly the one that had me the most worried, in terms of how they were going to make him look. I personally would have gone for a more "liquid" look, but that's nitpick-y, and all in all, he looked good. Topher Grace as Eddie Brock was good too. He was a dick, plain and simple, and they didn't try and over do it with him. Venom was alright, and since I never really got excited about him in the comics, that's about as good as it gets.

The character of Ursula breaks my heart. I <3 her.

The CG was better this time around, and Spidey's web-swinging looked more interesting than in past films. The fights were still a little too chaotic, and they used the "shakey-cam" technique a little too often towards the end.

I'm still chewing on the plot, so maybe I'll get to that a little later on, but right now, I can say I liked it well enough, and it was pretty to look at, but it wasn't close to awesome, and it failed getting a real, sustained emotional response from me.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Captain America: What went wrong? (cont.)

Continuity is my favorite part of comics, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make it difficult to catch someone up on what's going on.

Picking up from where I left off last time, at the end of the "House of M" there was a short period of "normal" life in the Marvel Universe. Good guys fought bad guys, Woverine said 'bub', Cyclops was a dick. Everything was hunky dory.

The most important thing that happened to the story of Captain America was the creation of a new Avengers team. After a raid on the maximum security prison "The Raft" a group of heroes gathered by chance to fight the chaos and capture as many of the villains as they could. Once the dust settled, Cap, Iron Man, Spider-man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, The Sentry, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage and the mysterious Ronin were the new Avengers, and operated out of Stark Tower. They fought some bad guys for a while. Everything was great.

Then a couple of things happened.

  • The Illuminati, a secret cabal of heroes, shipped the Hulk off into space as a final solution to his rampages.
  • The New Warriors, on live television, went to bust a gang of villains. One of them, Nuke, used his power to escape, and in the process killed hundreds of people (including a nearby schoolyard-full of children and all of the New Warriors save Speedball).
The latter sets off a furor in the Marvel Universe, prompting the US government to introduce the Superhuman Registration Act, forcing any metahumans to register their powers, as well as to be trained and evaluated before they are able to use them, as a security measure to protect the civilian population from rogue heroes (like the New Warriors) getting in it too deep and resulting in another Connecticut disaster.

Heroes across the board are conflicted about this, and quickly polarize towards either supporting the act and the security it brings or acting against it, seeing it as an affront to freedom. They fall in with the two icons on either side of the debate, Iron Man (pro) and Captain America (con). Things rapidly degenerate when military force is used to capture unregistered heroes at midnight on the day of the act becoming law. Captain America, Falcon, Luke Cage and a handful of others are assaulted and retreat into hiding, trying to marshal up a resistance force.


I'll take a break here to express some thoughts.

Captain America, the greatest hero the United States has ever had, is against the act. He seemed to be taking a passive resistance towards it, sitting quietly as the deadline passed. Who's brilliant idea was it to send a tactical military force to detain him at 12:01?

Also, Tony Stark really starts acting like a dick here. He turns on his friends, trying to manipulate them and bully them into siding with him. He personally turns friend on friend, and alienates his closest allies in doing so. He and Reed Richards begin to play chess with their friends and family, and it gets vicious and perverse very quickly. Tony's a smart guy, and I can't help but think he's got some plan down the road, but it mostly seems as if he is just amassing power for himself. The General consensus on the internet is "Iron Man is a tool", and with every passing month, he seems to be digging deeper and deeper.


Flash forward through the "Civil War" event, there were a few milestones here to cover:
  • At Iron Man's urging Peter Parker revealed to the world he was Spider-Man. This was an attempt to show the transparency of the Act.
  • Peter was attacked on all sides by his enemies, forcing Aunt May and Mary-Jane to move into Stark Tower for their own protection.
  • Reed Richards cloned Thor, and this clone (Clor!) killed Black Goliath in a showdown between Cap and Iron Man's forces.
  • The FF broke up, mostly because Reed was acting without even talking things over with his wife.
  • Namor, Black Bolt and Black Panther all strained their US relations in some way as a result of the registration act.
  • Spider-Man joined Cap's side after seeing how far Tony was ready to go, specifically killing another hero in Black Lightning.
  • The government formed an officially sanctioned super-team to track down renegades in the Thunderbolts. The team included registered metas Green Goblin, Bullseye and Venom amongst others.
  • Iron Man and Reed Richards created a super-prison in the neutral zone to hold non-conformists.
  • Cap and his team attacked the prison, freeing everyone within and an epic battle began.
There is a lot more that happened in the series, but that's up to you to read. Again, wikipedia has it all summarized in great detail.

The important thing to remember is that real questions were being asked about the Marvel Universe's civil freedoms and how much were they worth when compared to the promise of security.

The Civil War ends when, mid-battle, Captain America realises that the collateral damage being caused by this mid-Manhattan brawl is too great, with hundreds dead and millions in damages, and surrenders to Iron Man.

Yeah, he just gives up.

And goes to jail.

That's how Civil War ends.

Back in his own book, he is taken to court, and upon making his exit, Sharon Carter (under the influence/manipulation of the Red Skull) snipes Captain America, shooting him 4 times with a high-caliber rifle and killing him on the steps of the court house.

Just like that.


An interesting addendum to this is that Marvel leaked news of this story to the media the day the book hit the stands, so many readers heard about it in the paper or on the radio before they could get to the comic shop with nary a spoiler warning in sight.

The issue also sold out very quickly due to the interest generated by the press. I myself was not able to get a copy, the stores in my area selling out before I had a chance to get to the shop.