Comics & Graphic Novels

We’re Looking At It All Wrong

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If you’ve been hiding behind a nerd shield, then you may not be aware that the Kingdom of Nerd is all shook up this morning. It actually came in late last night, hopeful I guess, that the inhabitants were busy playing D&D or wrapped up in a good fantasy book. Warner Bros. and DC announced the next actor to play Batman in the 2015 Superman/Batman crossover movie. It is Ben Affleck.

Stones are being thrown, comments hurled wildly into the nether. The majority of folks I know and follow across the internet don’t seem to like this news. I’m remaining neutral (as best I can) because Affleck isn’t a horrible actor, and there’s also one other thing that comes to my mind: he wasn’t really cast to play The Batman, he was cast to play Bruce Wayne.

All the previous actors – Keaton, Bale, Kilmer, Clooney – they were chosen for what they could bring to the role of playboy Bruce Wayne. A philanthropist owner of a multi-billion dollar corporation who dabbles in a bit of everything to fund a very dangerous hobby started by the death of his parents at a very young age. A man who’s closest friend/parent/confidant is his butler. A man who has more emotional depth and complex social grid then anyone I know in real life. Bruce Wayne is a multi-dimensional character that requires attention and detail from whomever takes on that mantle.

But what about The Batman? Batman is his own person. An actor may fill the inside of the suit, but the costume and the writing take care of the rest. Batman will be whatever the director and the writers tell him to be. Affleck will simply be the skeleton it is molded over. In other words, if this incarnation of Batman turns out to be the worst ever, it will be Snyder’s fault and the fault of the script writers. Where Affleck will succeed or fail is with Bruce Wayne. If he can bring him to life and give him a portrayal worthy of the name, then he will be in good hands.

Comics No More & The Great Toy Purge of 2004

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Free Comic Book Day was this past Saturday, and our own local comic shop – Outer Limits – appeared to have a great turnout. I say appeared because this year, my son and I didn’t go. You see, when I jumped into comics a little over a year, right before the big Flashpoint storyline that lead to DC’s The New 52 lineup, I already knew I was in over my head. Comics are great, they’re fun to read, to look at, to collect. There are many titles I loved and new titles I quickly fell in love with. I’m a sucker for things like this! That’s where my small problem came in. Comics can get expensive the more you come across new titles and multiple titled that spawn from the same character. I tried to limit myself, but failed. I had to have ‘em all.

That was completely my fault, of course, but one that couldn’t be sustained in a reasonable persons life that has too many other things going on. For example, video games, gadget fever – the usual stuff. There is also the eventual problem of storage. Where to put them, how to put them and what to do once you put them. So instead of forcing myself to trim huge portions off of my comic book pull list, I dropped the whole thing completely. I have all my comics bagged, boarded and boxed up for now. Perhaps one day in the future my son and I can step back into that comic collecting world and begin building our collection again.

Of course, that’s not the end of my story. While I’m not venturing out to support my local comic shop every Wednsday anymore, I will still browse eBay for back issues of older comics I use to collect. Titles that were lost in the Great Toy Purge of 2004. What’s that? I’ve never mentioned the Great Toy Purge of 2004? Ah, well I’m sure I have at some point, but to quickly catch you up to speed:

When The Wife and I found out she was pregnant and expecting our first (and currently only) child, we were thrilled. When we found out it was going to be a girl, we were still thrilled but she was a little more thrilled then I was. We had also just gotten married and lived in a small 2 bedroom townhouse with no storage. This was a problem mainly for me because I had a huge stash of toys, comics, books, videos (the old VHS style), baseball cards, etc. When I say huge, I mean the giant rectangular Rubbermaid totes filled to the top and the lids popping open because they’re so full huge.

In my head, a girl wouldn’t want any of these things that I had accumulated since my childhood. A girl wouldn’t read – at least until much much later in life, maybe, the types of books I read. And I had some books, let me tell you. Three large bookshelves full of paperback and hardback novels. So I made a decision. We needed space. We needed room for the baby and her clothes. I packed up all my stuff. On eBay, I sold several dozen books and nearly all of the toys I had collected. This earned us some cash to have on hand to prepare for baby. The giant collection of Star Wars figures and vehicles, Hot Wheels collectible cars, etc, I gave to The Wife’s younger cousins. Sports cards went to some folks at work. VHS movies were big at the pawn shop in town, so I quickly dumped them off there and made some cash.

We were set. We had extra money and lots of space to welcome our new baby girl who would have absolutely no interest in my nasty boy toys and collectibles. Then we went to the doctor one day, 3 months before our child was due, and they diagnosed my wife with toxemia poisoning. They ran a quick ultrasound on her and announced that – WHOOPS! OUR BAD! – we were actually having a baby boy! They then rushed her to the hospital and delivered our son 3 months early.

So, there, my friends, is the story of the Great Toy Purge of 2004. I still tell this story to this very day to my son when I start to feel guilty about not having all of these cool items from my past to hand down to him. It hurts, sometimes, but we make do. We go out on hunting trips to comic shops and collectible vendors at flea markets looking for things that I use to have or always wanted. It gives us something else to bond with, talking about something new he’s discovered and me saying, “Oh, yeah, I use to have one of those.” And the search is on.

 

Two Tidbits for the Weekend

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I remember hearing a week or so ago that AMC had renewed Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men “reality” series. Looking it up myself, sure enough, it seems to be true! While I was a little luke warm on the series during it’s 6-episode limited run, by the end of the 6th episode, I was disappointed that there wouldn’t be anymore. Thankfully AMC felt the same way, I guess, because the guys and their well-screened walk-in customers will be back. You can read more about CBM’s renewal and that of The Talking Dead at The Wrap. (The Wrap: Kevin Smith’s ‘Comic Book Men,’ ‘The Talking Dead’ Renewed by AMC)

Secondly, on a more personal note, I have successfully kicked my own butt and am back on my reading list. Around the end of February, I completely lost all interest in picking up a book and flipping a page due to work, lack of spare time, etc. Even having given up WoW and my PS3 being down, I still had no free time. Now, I’m back on track and have some catching up to do.

Have a good weekend!

Pull List Reading for the Week of 5/2

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Tonight, while flipping through the comics I picked up this past week, I realized something. It’s been awhile since I did one of my quick review/preview posts of the books I picked up and read for a particular week. Not only am I far behind in my comic reading, but I’m behind on my posts concerning those trades as well. So, I thought I’d throw this past weeks books out there.

Dial H #1 (DC Comics) – Part of the second wave of The New 52, Dial H is … well … I’m not really sure yet. The book – from what I could tell – follows an obese man who has had a minor heart attack. He is assisted by his friend, who isn’t in the best of shape himself. They get into an argument when the friend suggests a change in lifestyle to get rid of some of the weight, then leaves in a hurry. Having said some harsh words to his friend, who was just trying to help, our main character of the book, Nelse, goes after him. He comes across a few guys roughing up his friend, beating him senseless.

Here is where I lose all coherent thoughts, folks. Nelse runs to a pay phone, picks it up and starts to dial – the police? Either way, for some reason, he instead dials 4376 (which spells, H E R O), and all hell breaks loose. I’m not sure what happens, and at times I find it difficult to know who is speaking or even who they are talking to. For a first issue book, I really lost me right off the get-go, but I’m a sucker for punishment and will see it through a few more issues.

Earth 2 (DC Comics) – Another title from the second wave of New 52, Earth 2 takes place on an alternate Earth in DC’s multiverse. Here, things are familiar, yet completely different because of slight (or major) changes that occurred off kilter from our own timeline. In the first issue here, we discover that Earth has been over run by Apokolips’ parademons. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are about to make a last ditch effort to try and bring down the creatures, but it will cost them everything – including their lives. The three die in the wastes of what was once Metropolis, Supergirl and Batman’s daughter (and the current Robin) vanish in a flash of bright light.

We are then offered two peeks at some other folk. Alan Scott has provided the voice over for the memorial video that was created for all to see, detailing the events that lead to the superhero’s deaths. Another glance gives us a 21 year old Jay Garrick, who is seeing his girlfriend off to college. Correction, make that, ex-girlfriend, as she is fondly dumping him as she gets into her car. The issue ends with the god, Mercury, appearing to Jay with a final plea. End issue 1. Looking forward to a “fresh” take on the already familiar universe. But I wonder how long it will be before Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are resurrected in this universe?

Action Comics #9 (DC Comics) – Ahh, DC’s Multiverse. It strikes again here, but not with Earth 2! Here, we get a look at Earth 23, and more specifically, the Superman that lives there. Similar birth origin, except this Superman was found and raised by a poor black couple when he crashed (that’s okay, you see, he’s black, too – Superman is.) If fact, from what I could tell, all the Justice League that was features was also black. Clark wasn’t Superman’s alter ego, though. On Earth 23, Superman goes by the name Calvin Ellis and he is President of the United States.

Issue 9’s side story opens with Superman fighting Lex Luthor. He destroys the mechanical suit Luthor has created then ventures into the lab his arch nemesis was working in. Inside, he discovers a portal to parallel worlds, and as he is staring at it, three figures come running through, two of them badly burnt. One of the burnt figures dies instantly, the woman of the group proclaiming, “No! Jimmy!” but her second companion is still barely alive. She reveals his name to be Clark. The woman tells Superman that they are from a world where their imaginations – via a neat little machine – have the power to bring ideas to life. In their world, Superman was thought to life, however he could only maintain form for less than an hour. So, they sought out funding to build a more powerful machine.

The people that bought it, however, didn’t need a more powerful machine, they just needed more brain power. With hundreds of people thinking the same thoughts, they created a killing machine. A Superman with no feeling or remote – a faceless killing machine. Calvin isn’t going to stand for it and swears to protect the group, instantly locking in combat as the hate-filled Superman comes through the portal.

I’ll leave the end for any readers to discover. Needless to say, anything can happen in parallel worlds because we may never even go back to visit those. Heros can die, change, be bad guys, etc. But at the end of the book, an interesting observation is made about this world’s Superman, especially concerning his status to the public as President of a free country versus defender of the free world. It was nice to read a little something different in the line, but I wonder if this was just an off the wall one-shot, or if the writers have something up their sleeve for the future.

Detective Comics #9 (DC Comics) – “Night of the Owls” is the subtitle of this cross-title adventure. The book opens with Arkham Asylum on lock-down and the police recommending Dr. Arkham take refuge in the hospital’s safe room. He instead chooses to go check on a patient who claims to have been cured. No sooner has he entered the room than all heck breaks loose. It seems a group called The Court of Owls had decided Arkham must die for aiding the criminals in his institution. Luckily, Batman just happens to bust in to save the night.

Arkham seems a bit unstable as he talks to himself in the book. The things he believes he is doing to actually help the insane rogues gallery his prison holds is a bit off whack. When he is saved by Batman and sent fleeing, he decides Batman is just as much an intruder as the Owls. So, he does the most logical thing – he recruits False Face to take down Batman and releases all the other criminals to fight the Court of Owls.

I liked it, check it out. I’m behind in my reading of this series, but jumping into this book didn’t seem to have me behind at all on what was going on. As a bonus, at the end of the first Owls story, we are given a 2nd story featuring Two Face called, 50/50.

I despise story lines that make me buy titles I do not even read just to get the complete “story.” I’m not really sure this one is going to be worth it to buy all the Bat titles.

G.I. Combat #1 (DC Comics) – G.I. Combat gives us 2 stories to sink our teeth into. The first takes us to North Korea where there is something strange going on. The special forces team in route has no idea what they are about to encounter because nothing is coming in or out of the area. As the team is briefed on their reconnaissance mission, the scene cuts to one of the choppers being attacked by a pterodactyl (or whatever they’re calling them these days.) And this leads us to The War That Time Forgot, the first story in the book. I do not like the art, but since I’m not professional on the subject, all I can say is that it isn’t to my liking. Too clean and cartoonish (as in television cartoon). And considering the story is cut short to make room for the second feature, titled The Unknown Soldier.

The Unknown Soldier  picks up in Afghanistan as a soldier is kicking down a door and preparing to lay down fire on some terrorists. No dialogue interrupts the scenes, but the text presented is in the form of a letter being written to a lady named Darla. The person narrating wishes them to know about the man known as The Unknown Soldier. Again, I’m no art major or critic, but this time the art is dark and dirty. The story, however, is good enough to make me want to come back for the next issue. It’s the typical story of a disfigured man with no idea of who he is called into service by his country because of a certain skill set. You know, the usual.

I’d give G.I. Combat a heavy “meh” because of the mixture of the stories. One is so-so, the other has potential.

Teen Titans Annual #1 (DC Comics) – Here is the second book I read that is setting up a cross-title arc. This Teen Titans Annual brings us into a 4-part arc titled The Culling. The Culling is a Battle Royal between meta humans. They fight it out to see who survives, and those that live become part of a group known as the Ravagers. Of course, the Teen Titans have other plans, and are joined by Legion Lost (oh look! A crossover!) Good story, good art, as usual. I like this team for the most part but, again, not sure if I’m going to invest in the other three books just to finish the arc started here.

Just a reminder folks, I’m no professional reviewer, I just call ‘em as my little mind see ‘em. These were the titles I picked up for the week of May 2nd, and of the 6 books I picked up, I’d say 2 1/2 actually captured my attention. Better luck next week! :)

The Avengers – Opening Day!

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Went to see The Avengers today. I flew it solo, as the wife and son didn’t want to go today. Hated to do it, but I ditched them like a bad habit and drove to the 3:40 PM showing. No lines, but the theater was packed by the time the lights went down, and after it was over, walking out, I wasn’t too surprised to see a line formed from the theater door, down a wall, wrapped around and trailing off to the ticket booth of folks waiting to see the next showing. I’m glad I didn’t wait til later this weekend!

To get it out of the way right up front: excellent movie, worth the wait, going back to see it again this weekend with the wife and son.

That is my review! You’ve read about The Avengers for a year or more. You’ve seen clips, behind the scenes videos, interviews cut with snippets of footage, etc. And, honestly, if you’ve watched all the previously mentioned then you have pretty much seen about 90 % of the movie, and that’s not a bad thing, but it is a bit disappointing that the studio didn’t leave a little more to the imagination when promoting the film all this time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll step off the great Avengers band wagon a minute. The Avengers has, indeed, raised the bar for superhero movies. It is groundbreaking. Is it a great movie in and of itself? No, of course not. But, where The Avengers stands out – in both comic book films and regular films – is that it is an action packed movie that has a huge big-named cast playing some A-List superheros. These guys have been brought together to headline a single film and have to share the screen time with one another. It should be chaos with all the egos and glitz blinding the camera, but it isn’t! It is, instead, a great film that I can’t wait to own when it is released on Blu Ray.

So, should you go see this? Yes. Even if you aren’t a fan of comics or guys in costumes? Yes, it’s a really good movie, great actors, fairly solid script, explosions, fighting, aliens and even a tragic loss of life to rally the heroes together for one last confrontation.

The Avengers. Five thumbs up.