3.29.2007

I love you, Buffy Summers

Before I hit up my LCS last week, I had gone a good six weeks or so without picking up my books, if not more.

Sometimes that happens, after all. Bills and other expenses pile up, and soon you just can't make it out to the shop.

So I'm really late in actually getting around to reading some of these books. I think I may share thoughts on a majority of them at some point (hopefully soon) but for now I'm just going to go with one, and it's pretty damn late, but it's one that's close to my heart.

I grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many a Tuesday night during my rough and awkward high school years were spent in front of the telley, watching the latest Buffy epic from the folks at Mutant Enemy unfold.

To the rest of my friends, I was what you might call a Buffyverse connoiseur. I still remember the name of the guy Faith accidentally killed in Season 3's Bad Girls (Deputy Mayor Allan Finch, by the by). I know the general history of Spike, Angel(us), Drusilla, and Darla. For a time, I could recite the name of each episode (of both shows) in order. When Buffy died at the end of The Gift, I don't think I cried, but the next morning I saw the world just a little bit differently.

I think it's safe to say that I was obsessed.

I can't pinpoint an exact reason I was so in love with Buffy Anne Summers and her adventures. They were intelligent. They were funny. They were grand, but personal. They were dramatic and compelling. And whatever otherworldy tomfoolery was going on, the characters were real.

The show had amazing, believable characters - even villains. As time went on, these characters learned and grew and...evolved while remaining the same at their core (as we so often do).

I think it's safe to say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is what introduced and fostered my love of serialized storytelling. The idea of a story that didn't wrap up by the time the credits rolled, but instead moved on to the next episode (and the next and so on), featuring the same characters growing and changing, was something I'd not encountered at the time.

Without Buffy, I doubt I would care about good storytelling in general - and I definitely wouldn't care about comic books.

When Buffy ended in 2003, I was saddened. The kind of sad that you feel when you part with an old friend and you know you may never see them again. Watching the final scene with the survivors of Sunnydale staring in awe at the crater that was once their home felt like the end of a journey - not just for the characters, but for me as well. I was sad. But it felt...right. It felt like it was time for the characters to move on.

But that doesn't mean I wanted it to stop.

When Joss and Dark Horse announced a year or so ago that Buffy was coming back in comic book form, I was stoked. I've been eagerly anticipating this day for a year, and now it's here.

I've never been a fan of the Buffy comics. To me, they've always felt derivative at best and just plain bad at worst. Even IDW's Angel books, which I've been slowly but surely coming around to as the quality has increased, have left me feeling underwhelmed. Maybe it's the writing, maybe it's the art. Maybe it's the fact that part of the thing that works so well about the Buffyverse is the actors portraying the characters. I don't know what, but there was always something.

I don't have any of that here.

Right out of the gate, I feel like I'm home. The characters - well, Buffy and Xander and Dawn, as they're the only "regulars" we see here - sound pitch perfect, which makes sense considering who's at the helm.

Joss smartly takes what happened at the end of Chosen (as well as the limitless budget of the comic book medium) and runs with it. Our girl Buffy is no longer a girl taking down evil one danger at a time - she leads an army now. She's in the big leagues and she's got the artillery to prove it.

This issue feels like the first act of a television script, but that's okay. It's a first issue and there's bound to be a lot of set-up. I'm really loving a lot of the story elements we're introduced to here - the aforementioned Buffy army, Xander as de facto Watcher, and giant Dawn (wtf?) to name a few.

I think my favorite, though, is the involvement of the United States government. I was always a fan of the Initiative from Season 4, even though a lot of people disliked it. And it makes sense that something as enormous as the destruction of an entire town would draw in some government attention. I'm very interested to see where this goes.

Georges Jeanty's art, as you can see, is beautiful. 'Nuff said.

My only real gripe here is Amy. I imagine we'll get her motivation for wanting to get rid of Buffy sooner or later, but as it stands, Amy has never been the "supervillainess" type. The worst thing she ever really did was turn Willow into Warren (The Killer in Me - ugh, what a bad episode), and even then that was more Willow's subconsious, if I recall. And that was really about as bad as it got - before that, all she really did was hang around and be a rat and get into magic trouble with Willow in Season 6. I guess we'll see; I imagine it has something to do with this "boyfriend."

Despite any misgivings I may've had at first, I think it's fairly safe to say that I'm hooked. Thank you, Mr. Whedon.

Welcome back, Buffy. I've missed you.

-M

January 22, 1950 - March 25, 2007

There's been a lot of hubbub the past few days about the death of some big-time Batman artist, Marshall Rogers.

I'm not familiar with Rogers' work. I've never read any books drawn by him (that I'm aware of), and honestly, before news of his death by heart attack hit I'd never even heard of the man. Quite simply, he was before my time.

To be completely blunt, aside from the usual "man, that sucks" feeling you get when you hear about death in general, Rogers' passing didn't much affect me.

But then I stumbled across this image posted on just about every blog on my blogroll:

I've written before that I don't really have an eye for art - at least, not any more than any other Joe Shmoe. But there's some art that's just so good that you'd be blind not to take notice.

That menacing face, the posture - this is an amazing Joker.

But what really gets it for me is the sound effects.

Take a look at any of Rogers' art and you can tell that the man had a knack for clever use of a sound effect. Take that image of the Joker, for example - the laughter swirling around him, like smoke. Pure genius.

Everything else I've seen from the man has been equally as stellar. It's unfortunate that he's gone, and it's unfortunate that I've only become aware of his fantastic body of work after the fact.

I don't really know how to end one of these things to be honest, so I offer words written by comic book historian Scott Tipton, who dedicated his latest column to Rogers...

"You can't sum up a man's career with just a few images, and it almost seems shameful to try. All I wanted to do here was give you a taste of how talented Marshall Rogers was, in the hopes that you'll be inspired to read it for yourself. Life is short, and there's never time enough, and in the end, all that remains is the work one leaves behind. In that sense, Rogers' legacy is a proud one."

-M

3.28.2007

Busy busy busy

Just wanted to take a quick second to apologize to all of you (well, all three of you or so) for the lack of a substantial post of any kind over the last few days. This weekend has been really hectic. I've been working, and when I haven't been working I've been helping to finish the newest edition of the Valley Forge (my college paper) ready to go to print.

Things are starting to slow down though, so hopefully I'll have a minute to whip something up either tonight or tomorrow.

See ya then!

-M

3.24.2007

Heroes in a half-shell.

Disclaimer: As I write this, it's nearing 2 AM and I'm tired as all whatever - please excuse any lameitude that may or may not follow.

So I saw TMNT earlier tonight. I've got kind of mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it was a really enjoyable flick - it was damned fun to watch. The CGI was fantastic - undoubtedly one of the best computer-generated pictures ever - and all of the action was fluid and well coreographed.

The tone was an interesting blend of the semi-seriousness of the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the more wacky cartoon fun of the old TV show. The characterization was spot-on, not that it's overly difficult to handle - Leonardo is responsible, Donatello is smart, Raphael is tough, and Michellangelo is the goofball.

In short - as a fan of the cartoon in my childhood, I couldn't help but enjoy the sheer semi-mindless fun that the film contains.

But as an amatuer film critic and overall fan of decent storytelling, there were some things that left me feeling underwhelmed.

Despite the amazing CGI, it helped in making me feel as though I was watching a video game - they were advanced enough to make me go "wow," but also cartoon-y enough for me to feel like I should've had a controller or something (and my girlfriend keeps reminding me that Splinter closely resembles Chester Cheeto). It reminded me of the Coca-Cola ad that spoofs Grand Theft Auto; you know the one. The plot itself kind of feels like one out of an action game - the expository scenes mostly serve to push the Turtles to the next "level" of kicking ninjas and monsters in the face.

And as an extreme continuity freak, I couldn't help but nitpick over which "timeline" the film takes place in. It seems like it may be intended to be a semi-sequel to the live action flicks, but I suppose it could work in the cartoon-verse as well - it's only established that at some point in the past, Shredder was defeated. I suppose it could work interchangeably for whatever timeline you want to shoehorn it into should you decide to do so, or perhaps it can be written off as a "psuedo-sequel" in the way that Superman Returns was. I can't complain on this one too much because it doesn't actually detract from any enjoyment of the film itself - it's more of a nitpick on my part.

So I'm trying to decide exactly how I feel about the damn thing. I don't know - I enjoyed the hell out of it, but the plot really left me hungry for more. Maybe I expected too much?

What do YOU guys think?

-M

3.22.2007

O Bagley, Where Art Thou?

I found this piece of art accompanying a feature over at Wizard's site. It is, if you aren't already aware, an imaginary battle between the original Avengers line-up and the Justice League from Mark Waid's JLA: Year One mini-series, as depicted by Mark Bagley.

Now I'm not what you would call qualified in any way to critique art, but I know what I like and I like Mark Bagley.

I wouldn't say this is Bagley's best work - his mid-to-late-90's stuff on Amazing Spider-Man was better if you ask me - but in my humble opinion (which is my own and is in no way professional) pretty damn good.

I wanted to post it because it reminded me how good of an artist Bagley can be. Lately he's just doing Ultimate Spider-Man, but the art is so damn inconsistent - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's okay, and sometimes it's just pooey. You can look at the book and tell he's ready to skedaddle.

So yeah - nothing in-depth today. I just wanted to throw up that li'l piece of art and discuss it a bit..

As always, I ask: thoughts?

-M

3.21.2007

Random things that I think at work when it gets slow.

I've yet to see 300.

Does that somehow make me less of a man?

Discuss.

-M

Some Assembly Required.


I've a bone to pick with New Avengers.

I noticed before I sat down to write this that there's a post over at Legion of Doom that says some pretty similar things as I'm about to. So I'm linking there because, well, it's probably a better post than this one is going to end up becoming and hey, I've gotta give credit where credit is due.

Where was I? Oh yeah, New Avengers. Bone to pick.

When the New Avengers first debuted back in '04, I remember thinking to myself, It's a good line-up, but it's not the Avengers. They should just take Cap and Iron Man out of the equation and re-name the team the New Defenders or make up a new name. Throw Daredevil in there for posterity.

But alas, this did not happen. Cap and Iron Man stuck around, so I shrugged my shoulders and went along my merry. After all, so long as Cap and/or Iron Man are on the team, you can get away with calling any team the Avengers, am I right?

But here we are, in March of '07. The good Captain is no more, and Iron Man has found himself with a bad case of fascism and is too busy heading up this new Mighty Avengers team to be bothered hanging out with his old New Avengers buddies.

So now the New Avengers have a line-up consisting of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Dr. Strange, Wolverine, and some new Ronin. This "new" team, being Anti-Reg, is essentially made up of outlaws.

I dunno, I just don't look at that team and think "Avengers." Honestly, I think Marvel should've just launched a new team book with this line-up under a different name - the aforementioned New Defenders or some other new title. This way, you've still got your cash cow team (i.e. a team with Spider-Man and Wolverine on it) and you have any added sales that a new #1 issue brings around. Meanwhile, New Avengers can either continue with the new line-up from Mighty Avengers, rename itself Mighty Avengers, or be canceled altogether (for another new #1).

But I digress. If Marvel wants to call this new team The New Avengers, I guess I can't do anything about it. I don't read either of the books except when I happen to come across a trade at Borders or something, so I can't really comment since I'm not actually spending any cash on either book.

Enough about that, though - I've more bones to pick.

If Marvel is so insistent on having two Avengers books - and the possibility of more, what with Civil War's 50 State Initiative in place - why on God's green and bountiful Earth is Bendis writing them both?

Now, don't get me wrong. Bendis can spin a great yarn. Daredevil? Great stuff. Ultimate Spider-Man? It's pretty sweet when it wants to be (which is to say not lately). But I don't know if he's so great that he should be writing two Avengers books. At once.

Look at it this way. So you've got two Avengers books, right? Doesn't it make sense - logically, that is - to have two different creative teams? Surely there's someone else in the Marvel bullpen who'd be itching to write an Avengers book - and said writers are probably just as qualified (if not more) than Bendis to do so. Seems a little bit fair to spread the love, does it not?

Some of you may frequent comic book message boards. If you don't, you should probably check one out sometime - it can be pretty amusing. Anyway, if you scour one of 'em long enough, it's only a matter of time before you see someone post something along the lines of, "OMG BENDIS SUX SO HARD AND MARVEL LET HIM DO WHATEVER HE WANTZ " (note: the name "Bendis" is sometimes interchangeable with "Millar," especially nowadays).

Obviously this isn't the case - Bendis has some kind of editorial barriers - but when I see stuff like this, where you've got one guy writing two high-profile books of the same "franchise," I can't help but wonder if the fanboys are right, if even a little bit.

I wonder what would happen if someone like Bendis were to write two or three X-Men books at once? If I were an X-fan (at least one who picked up the titles with anything resembling regularity) I would be pretty miffed.

I dunno, it bugs me. Maybe I'm just talking out of my ass here, though. Thoughts, anyone?

-M

3.20.2007

Steve Rogers is spinning in his grave.

A few days after all of the media blitz, Marvel offered up an image of Frank Castle all decked out in semi-familiar duds and posing the question, Is this the new Captain America?

This looks bad, sure, but the image was also accompanied by an image of plain ol' Frank in his regular Punisher duds - and that one had the usual banner stating that that was to be the cover for Punisher War Journal #7. Even though it's unlikely Marvel would produce this lone piece of artwork simply as a foiler without some other teaser images (say, the Winter Soldier decked out as Cap), one could argue that it was simply a fun piece of speculative art, and nothing that was actually set to happen.

Today, however, Marvel released their soliciations for the month of June, and the cover for Punisher War Journal #8 features Frank Castle decked out in his altered Cap garb, fighting it up with some kind of Nazi or something (again with the Nazis).

I've got to say, it seems kind of silly to me. I mean, we all saw the Punisher pick up Cap's discarded mask all ominously at the end of Civil War #7, and a whole bunch of people have speculated that something like this was going to happen.

I guess the story could work - it has the capacity to work, supposing that Frank doesn't start running around calling himself Captain America. I don't think I could see him changing his name (but then again I don't see him donning this ridiculous costume either), but if he does it should be something that fits. I don't know, "Corporal Punishment" or something silly like that.

Hm. "Corporal Punishment." I kind of like it, actually. Has a kind of cheesy ring to it.

But, seriously - do not allow Frank Castle to re-name himself "Captain America" for any period of time. Any man who runs around shooting people in the face is not what the symbol of Captain America should stand for - just as the symbol does not stand for MySpace, YouTube, or NASCAR.

Then again, I can also see this working kind of in the same vein as the "Death/Return of Superman" story of the early 90's - after Superman's demise, four (well, three, technically) other heroes took on the mantle of Superman, and each one was decidedly NOT what Superman was - a meched-up cyborg, a punk kid with "attitude," and a grim-n-gritty hero who was willing to kill if necessary. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, but it worked to show fandom that there were no substitutes - the only man that can truly uphold the mantle of Superman is the original, accept no substitutes.

That could work for Steve Rogers, I suppose, except for the fact that Joe Quesada swears up and down and he's dead-dead-dead also for the fact that it'd be a blatantly repetitive rip-off of DC.

I'm pretty damn skeptical of this, as I am with most of Marvel's stuff these days.

Thoughts, anyone?

-M

Holy Cleavage, Batman!

By now, I imagine a whole heck of a lot of you (whoever is actually reading at this point, that is) have seen Mike Turner's cover to Justice League of America #10, due out this June. Turner has always drawn his girls like, omg hawt, and naturally in the world of comics that comes with enourmous "boobies," for lack of a better term, but come on - this is completely ridiculous.

I think those might actually be bigger than her head. Seriously. And that waist? This depiction of Power Girl completely disregards anything resembling realistic anatomy and all laws of physics.

And what's going on with Black Canary in the background? She's staring holes in the back of ol' Kara Zor-L's head. Is she jealous of her position of prominence on the cover or the ridiculously enormous size of her breasts? Maybe both? It's hard to tell.

And the art isn't even that good. Why does Michael Turner keep getting all kinds of work again?

-M

3.18.2007

Hey kids, it's Smile Time - again!



Yesterday I posted a bit from WWLA which mentioned that Brian Lynch would be following up his "Spike: Asylum" mini-series with one called "Spike: Shadow Puppets." Today there's a report over at CBR which goes a bit more in-depth with the writer.

Even after this interview, I'm not really convinced. The mini-series, apparently, is a direct sequel to Smile Time. Doesn't sit quite right with me.

Don't get me wrong - for what it is, Smile Time is a great episode of Angel. It's laugh-out-loud funny. The premise is so ludicris that it can't help but be sheer brilliance. But I think it really only works as a one-time kind of deal.

When you boil it down, Smile Time is a gimmick episode. It's a good gimmick episode and it works because it's a one-off. Creating a sequel seems, to me, to be entirely unnecessary and it dilutes the brilliance of the original episode.

It's not simply the premise of the mini-series - I mean, come on. Spike fighting against an army of ninja puppets? Sheer awesomeness. But we know for a fact that Spike will get all puppety by the end of the series - along with some other Angel alum, apparently - and that seems to be a bit of overkill (then again, I thought the Puppet Angel story in IDW's "Angel: Masks" special was also unnecessary).

And a nitpicky aside, if I may - Lynch says that this takes place sometime within Angel's fifth season. Honestly, I don't know where it fits if that's the case. It seemed kind of obvious to me that "Asylum" took place an indeterminite amount of time after the series finale (and I thought that Scott Tiptons "Angel: Auld Lang Syne" mini-series picked up very shortly after the end of it, and I know for a fact that that one is intended to be post-Season 5). But I digress. That's a small nitpick.

All of this ranting aside, I know for a fact that I'll pick up all four issues because a.) I'm a completist and b.) Lynch did pretty well with the "Asylum" mini-series.

And all distaste aside - I mean, how can you not look at that image up there and go "cool"?

-M

3.17.2007

Angel: Season 6?

It appears that Joss Whedon is gearing up to continue the story of Angel in the same way he's currently continuing that of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - that is, in comic book form.

This bit of info comes from the IDW panel at Wizard World Los Angeles this weekend. IDW has been the publisher for Angel comics since summer of 2005. CBR reported on the panel:

The first announcements were projects in the Buffyverse, including "Spike: Shadow Puppets," written by Lynch and drawn by Franco Urru. Ryall said, "I talked to Joss, and he said, 'I am talking to Bryan Lynch about doing a season six [for 'Angel,' picking up where the show left off]. He really got the humor and the rhythms, and I thought if they could do the story, why wouldn't they?'" Ryall confirmed that a new "Angel" comic would in fact continue the story from the television show, be in canon and be co-written by Whedon. Stay tuned to CBR News for an interview with Lynch.

CBR also provided some art for the upcoming "Spike: Shadow Puppets" mini-series. The mini-series apparently takes it's cues from the Season 5 episode Smile Time...


Interesting news...I'll be following this one closely. I'm curious to see where the folks at IDW take this now that they've got (or will be getting) the go-ahead to write stories that are firmly established within the show's continuity - up until now, a "gag order" from FOX has prevented any of the books from detailing too much of what might have gone on after the cliffhanger finale of Not Fade Away or from moving the story along too much.

I'm not yet sold on this "Shadow Puppets" thing, because the whole puppet angle was kind of worn out by the end of the episode it's aping (Smile Time, in which Angel is turned into a puppet. It's better than it sounds). Normally I'm down with the IDW Angel books, but so far this one leaves me cold, I'm afraid to say. Then again, Brian Lynch - who wrote the admittedly decent "Spike: Asylum" mini-series is on-board for this, so I suppose I'll have to give it a chance.

Thoughts, anyone?

-M

So it begins.

I've been wanting to try my hand at the comic book blogosphere for a little while now. I've been dabbling a bit over at my MySpace blog, so I thought I'd take that extra step and make a full-fledged blogspot page for it.

Here goes...

-M