Thursday, December 28, 2006

Comic (and other) Reviews with minimal spoilers -- December 27th, 2006

Last reviews of 2006, how exciting! I hope everyone had a great Christmas. It was extra special in the Ferguson household this year but I'll leave it at that. ;) So only two comics to review this week, Astonishing X-Men #19 and The Great and Secret Show #8. On top of that I'll be adding a review of Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and the "movie" An Inconvenient Truth (*gasp* I touch on something beyond on comics???).

Astonishing X-Men #19 -- It's getting harder and harder to review this series. It's great. Issue after issue I just love the work of Whedon and Cassaday. There may be points where I might linger over a panel and say "This isn't Cassaday's best panel" or kinda get taken out of the story by a glitch in the story or dialogue. Was I the only one who found it weird that Colossus was speaking in very broken English at times? I haven't seen anyone write him like that in a long time. Then again, I didn't really follow the X-Men too much. But despite any shortcomings the book may have, I still love every issue. All I can say is give me more!

The Great and Secret Show #8 -- Yeah, it seems like I've been repeating myself over and over on this series as well. Still solid art. Still the same quality of writing. That's a great thing for this comic as both have been well done but it's harder for the reviewer (ie. me). Some things still remain a problem for me like trying to keep track of things from month to month (especially if particular characters happen to go missing for an issue or two due to the story) but at this point, what can you do? Once the series is over I'll probably re-read it before delving into the sequel that Clive Barker wrote. So any Clive Barker fans may want to look up the TPB when it's out (I think the first 6 issues were already collected).

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud -- Yeah, it only took me 13 years to get around to reviewing it. :) Warning: This book is only for the comic enthusiast. Those who are currently content to just sit back and enjoy comics for what they are would be better off avoiding this. Those interested in creating comics on the other hand or those who are borderline obsessed with them, this should probably be a must read. The appreciation you get for comics, their history, and their future would be a blessing. Though you do need an open mind and maybe a little patience through some parts. But I think each chapter has a wealth of hidden tidbits that would help out any aspiring comic book creator and give enthusiasts a little bit more to chew on. You might find yourself having your brain open up to new ideas. Like me for instance, I've never been fond of most non-North American comics but as McCloud mentions ideas that came to North America from Japanese comics I had to admit my ignorance. And as he discusses some rationale behind cartoony characters existing along side more realistic ones and objects depicted as cartoony in one panel and realistic the next, it started to make a bit more sense to me. I still don't think I'll be rushing out to read more but at least my eyes and mind are a little more open now. It was definitely worth the time and money as this will stick with me for a long time. I can't wait to read the more recent "Making Comics" by McCloud.

An Inconvenient Truth -- Although I wanted to see this I never got around to seeing it in the theatre. For those that don't know about the movie/documentary, it's Al Gore talking about global warming. He has been travelling the world doing a talk about global warming and one day they decided to shoot it. But just to keep things interesting they intertwine the talk with little asides about Gore's childhood and why he's so interested in this topic. And in case anyone was wondering, I asked for this as a Christmas gift, it wasn't given to me by someone who felt I "really needed to see it". Avoiding the "controversial" message for a moment, as a documentary this movie is put together really well. The shifting from slide show to Al's personal life keeps the viewer invested in both the presentation and Mr Gore himself. And Gore comes across as an incredible public speaker, though it doesn't hurt that he really displays a passion for this. There was something that made me wince slightly though. I had thought that this documentary was advertised as something that didn't attack any US administration, past or present, yet there were a few times where I felt it did go after the current Bush administration. The problem being though that the current Bush administration opened the door with it's attacks on global warming. I only worry that once the mud-slinging begins the message is lost. And as for the message, I have to admit, I do believe the "current scientific consensus on climate change" which according to Wikipedia is " recent warming indicates a fairly stable long-term trend, that the trend is largely human caused, and that serious damage may result at some future date if steps are not taken to halt the trend." Though I also believe that even if that consensus is wrong that taking measures to curb green house gas emissions and pollution just makes sense and also wouldn't lead to the economic crisis that some would have you believe. So having said that, this movie moved me. I do take some steps already such as replacing light bulbs with more energy efficient ones and trying to keep the temperature in my condo cooler in the winter, warmer in the summer and I'll continue to do so with even more vigor. So the message appealed to me but I know it won't for a large number of people out there. I only hope that it continues to get people talking about global warming and maybe one day, we will actually start listening to each other as well. Because I feel that only then will we be able to do anything.

Oh yeah, for those who did see the movie in theatres the DVD has 30 extra minutes where Al Gore talks about more up to date publications, data, and events. If you enjoyed the movie then it's worth checking out. I guess the only problem is that just like all areas of research, our knowledge continues to grow. So like Gore needs to keep updating his slides, we probably need to keep updating this DVD.

In conclusion, if you had any inkling of seeing this film then I recommend you do so. If you're already preparing a scathing response to this review then it's probably not for you. And in the end, don't let it be the end all of the story. Keep an open mind, take the time to listen and better educate yourself, and never dismiss an idea.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekly Comic Reviews for Dec. 20th, 2006 -- SPOILERific

A busy week (by my standards) with 7 books and a Wizard Magazine (which I haven't read yet). And on top of that, my Chapters order came in yesterday consisting of two books by Scott McCloud about understanding and making comics and the TPB for Fray. I'll be posting my thoughts on the McCloud books when I get to read them. So let's jump right in:

She-Hulk 2 #14 -- I've been rather hard on this book as of late but this issue restored some of my faith in it. The downside of that though is that the book concentrated on Awesome Andy and She-Hulk was relegated to appearing in the first and last few pages of it. I've really liked what Slott has done with Awesome Andy, he's such a loveable character and the chalkboard he uses to communicate (explained in this issue) was a great touch. So from the solicitation and cover to this book I had some concern about what they were going to do with him. In the end, I'm sorry to see him go but I'm glad they added the switch ending. I also have to say that my jaw almost dropped when he seemingly held Mjolinor, if only for a brief moment. As for the art, it still wasn't great but it seemed to be less of an impact on this issue. Perhaps it's because it focussed on Andy, he's really not that hard to draw. And then there's the teaser for next issue, Clay Quartermain returns and drafts She-Hulk into SHIELD. I liked Clay in the Peter David run on the Hulk where he, Rick and Bruce/the Gray Hulk travelled around in a little van so it'll be nice to see Slott using this character (hopefully). So the series stays on my list for now.

Elephantmen #5 -- In this issue we jump back in time to the "rescue" of the Elephantmen. The solicitations seemed to focus a bit more on the fact that it was the first fight between Hip Flask and Obadiah Horn but that doesn't really do it justice. There was much more to this issue and much more to the "fight" than a simple slugfest. Starkings (the writer) really does a masterful job at interweaving events to highlight the individual characters that make up the Elephantmen. The fight isn't just a slugfest, it's a clash of ideals. And on top of that, we also get a few more plot details filled in from Hip Flask: Mystery City. Elephantmen has quickly moved up to the top of my pile as the book I look forward to the most.

New Avengers Illuminati #1 (of 5) -- I haven't been a big fan of the New Avengers or Civil War so I had a bad feeling going into this book. To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Although you have to wonder how a bigger fan of these characters feels about their portrayal. I mean really, they think they're just going to walk into the Skrull armada and walk away without so much as a boo from the Skrulls? And in the end, what did they accomplish? They might have delayed the next attack or they might have made things worse (now that the Skrulls have what they wanted, whatever that was). And they know it in the end too. It's really interesting to see how this super group of the supposedly top minds can make a mess of things while also being darn impressive (they did survive in the end after all) at the same time.

Lone Ranger #3 -- I got chills when the message is openned and the last line reads "Lone Ranger remains" (though why "remains" isn't capitalized when every other word in the message was is kinda funny). For fans of westerns or the Lone Ranger or just a good book should enjoy this series. My only complaint, there are a few times where things aren't made quite as clear as they could be. Part of it is the art, part of it might be something else. At the start of the book we see him chipping a hole in some wood and then pouring metal (his melted badge) into it. I was left wondering if the wood could actually work to forge a bullet like that but also, how he was able to dig up a bullet shaped hole was also weird (it looked like it could only make half a bullet). Then, when Tonto has him on the floor and asks him if he knows what happens to horse thieves there is a silent panel and then Tonto says "yeah, something like that". I found that part poorly done as it's not quite clear at first what's happening. As the panel is small it took me a minute to realize Tonto and the Ranger were looking over to something and then it took a minute to realize what that something was. But overall, these little details could be overlooked (and maybe improved in the future) as the story more than makes up for them.

Civil War Frontline #9 -- Now we move into the Civil War portion of the reviews. I can't stand picking up this book. I really can't. If I wasn't a completist who wanted some of the details of Civil War flushed out a bit more I'd stop buying it. To be honest, I might actually enjoy Civil War more if I did drop it. The female reporter leaves Cap after 5 minutes to go out on a date because she says the interview is going badly. EXCUSE ME??? This is Captain America, leader of the anti-registration heroes and currently locked in a bloody civil war with one of his best friends and she's just going to walk away from the interview? I don't care how bad the interview is, a reporter isn't just going to walk away from an exclusive like that. And it all comes back to that stupid note the senator passed her that seemingly turned her into a different character. Oh, and somehow Spidey is fine, still in his armour suit and helping Ben Eurich discover that Tony Stark has been using the Civil War as an opportunity to make a whole bunch of money. Maybe this happened before CW #5 but that seems weird as Ben mentions Spidey switching sides. Then we have Speedball being taken to a pretty sad prison that's being used to house criminals (I guess the prison in the negative zone is reserved for heroes only and now Speedball won't be going there). Of course they drag him within arms reach of the vilains (who for some reason is allowed to have metal hooks on his arms) and without going into all the other things that are just as stupid we have Speedball's new powers manifest and go kaboom. Gee, who'd a thought? Oh, that's right, I did. I guess that makes me smarter than that SHIELD chick, She-Hulk, and Reed Richards. I rock. SHIELD shows up and Speedball is sitting amongst the wreckage and says he's going to sign the registration. Next mini-story, Reed's looking for who helped Osborn undue the nanite stuff and Tony tells Reed he's known who the traitor was all along. The end. Yeah, that was useless. Although it also had a dog walking around in it. Next, Osborn is being interrogated about killing the Atlantean and claims it wasn't him. At least the cops acknowledge how things don't make sense (as he was able to get through security with a gun and stuff) but every time Osborn tries to explain his mouth goes all frothy. And a mystery figure comes in and takes Osborn away leaving the police in the dark. Seriously, how many dark mystery figures do we need in this series? I've lost track. I think the last issue is going to be a checklist so you can go back and see who everyone was.

Iron Man Captain America Casualties of War -- Taken alone this book wasn't bad (although slightly on the boring side). It had some nice flashbacks to the history Cap and Iron Man have. And if it wasn't for the pro-reg side torturing, killing, recruiting homicidal maniacs, silencing and manipulating the media, cloning, jailing for life without trial, yadda, yadda, yadda, I might be able to read it. But to be honest, Civil War's portrayal of the pro-reg side irks me so much. This book reminded me of why I'm just eager for Civil War to end so I can drop all these books.

Civil War Casualties of War -- Out of the Civil War books this week, I enjoyed this one the most. Just when you think Wilson Fisk is being left out of things, he shows just why he's the Kingpin. Though it's weird to see Stark as more of a stooge, answering to that SHIELD woman, in this book.

Fray (the trade paperback) -- Last but definitely not least, my review of Fray. Fray was a series written by Joss Whedon which tells the story of a Slayer in the future. I'm running short on time (too many reviews I tell ya) but this book is amazing. Simply amazing. I started reading it thinking that I'd stop about half way so I could go to bed but I just couldn't. I had to finish it. It's definitely not "Buffy in the future" as Fray's personality, situation, and environment all give a different tone to the story but it's amazing nonetheless. The art fits and is full of energy. The demons and creatures look amazing as does the city. There are some connections to Buffy (like this is actually the first appearance of the scythe that Buffy retrieves and uses during the last few episodes of the TV series) but nothing that would hurt a newbie to the universe. Everything is laid pretty cleanly. The only downside of the series is that even though it closes things up fairly well it still leaves me hanging, wanting more. And to date, I think there's only been one other short story featuring Fray. Darn it Joss, either stop writing all these amazing stories that leave us wanting more or write faster. Did I already mention my idea for cloning him?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weekly comic reviews -- Nothing happening

No comics this week so no reviews. I might borrow my brother's copy of the recent Onslaught returns book (whatever it's called) this weekend so there may be that.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A farewell to Divine Leap

For those of you not in the know, Divine Leap was my attempt at doing a webcomic. I have been working on it and posting it on DrunkDuck for about 2 years now (I think) but I've decided to stop working on it. I've decided to post a message on DrunkDuck shortly outlining my decision and below is the first draft. I figured some of you may be interested in it as well. But the message I post on there won't have these pesky other images inserted. For the curious amongst you, before I finally decided not to continue with Chapter 2 I had begun working on some pages. None of the pages are finished, some are fairly close to being done while others need some fairly major correcting. But I figured what the heck, why not post them.

I had come up with the idea for the story to Divine Leap a long time ago and let it brew in my head for quite some time and even sketched out some character designs and a page or two. But for the longest time it never went beyond that. It wasn't until talking to my good bud Dave at the local comic shop about his webcomic that I decided to try my luck at actually putting Divine Leap on paper (or in this case, the web). So about two years ago my journey began.

Over the past two years I have become to appreciate even more the work that goes into every aspect of creating a comic book. From original concepts, to generating the story, to writing, to drawing, inking, lettering, etc, etc. I had to admit, it was much more work than I expected. And looking back at the beginning of this chapter I can really see how little I knew. Looking at the ending of the chapter, I see just how much I still need to learn.

So you might be wondering why I'm ending it here instead of continuing on. Well, it boils down to seeing it as a failure on my part. I'm currently looking at 6 users who have favourited it (at least one of which was a friend I kinda pressured into it), only 2 or 3 users who routinely comment on it, and a relatively small number of pageviews. So if I haven't generated more interest by the end of Chapter 1 I have to re-examine what I'm doing. While doing some of that re-examination I look at the weak artwork, the not-so-engaging storyline and dialogue, and the general amateurishness of the book. So instead of tredging on I think it might be best for me to put Divine Leap aside and move on to something else. Improve my skills in another way. Maybe one day I'll want to re-visit the life of Anthony and his quest to find Beatrice but not until I feel I can do it justice.

So in conclusion I'd like to thank all of you who have dropped by to read the book especially for those of you have left comments or votes, those were greatly appreciated. I'd also like to really thank those who took the time to give me critiques on the book either in the comments or in the forums. Feedback from people like mykill (not even sure he's still around) really gave me a sense of where I needed to improve. I'd like to think that I put at least some of their comments to good use. And the support from my friends who actually took the time to read the book like Carl, Jason, and Dave helped me get at least this far. I'm sure there are more to thank so basically if you're reading this, thank you.

So that's it for me for now. Hopefully I'll see you all again soon with something a bit more worthy of reading. Until then, take care of yourself.



PS. Oh yeah, in case anyone cares; No, that's not Beatrice in the bathtub.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Weekly comic reviews for December 6th, 2006 -- SPOILER FREE!!

Three books this week and I think I'll be able to keep spoilers to at least a minimum if not out altogether. This week had three books for me; Hulk, White Tiger, and American Splendor. So enough with the chit chat...

Hulk #101 -- Over all the story continues to be a good one but I don't find it being presented in the best possible way. For one thing I find the narrative choppy. There doesn't seem to be a flow to it and things just seem to happen abruptly throughout (stuff that shouldn't be happening abruptly that is). I like the regular artist on this book and he's consistent but the insertion of some Gary Frank pages seemed out of place. At first I thought those few pages weren't really well done but after looking more closely at them, it's not that they weren't well drawn but that they just didn't fit. Frank's Hulk looked more human-ish and more like his professor Hulk. The Hulk just prior to these pages (and afterwards) was more brutish looking, more of a monster, and bigger looking. If the Hulk appeared like that in two different comics I'd be okay with it. Having it in the same comic kinda took me out of it. And then there's the ship, the one the Hulk pulls out of the ground. It didn't look that big when Frank was drawing it but the next page it seemed huge. But I might have to double check that, I might have just missed a shot by Frank that showed how big it was. So all in all, it's a good story but it almost needs a cleanup to the storytelling.

White Tiger #2: The art is fairly solid in this book with a few little problems. Some times it's just that there seems to be a difference to the art from page to page. It's hard to explain but it's almost like there was more than one inker or something. Maybe there was, I didn't check the credits. Plus, twice now I've seen unexplained dangling feet. In the first issue there was a panel where she jumped down amongst a group of thugs and although you can see her amongst them you can also see someone from the waste down hanging from the top of the panel. Then in this book, it's the same thing. She drops down amongst the bad guys and you can see legs dangling above her. So I'm assuming it's the artist trying to draw multiples of her to show how quick she's moving but somewhere along the line the information is being missed because the legs don't match hers in colour and if you are doing that then you might want to make the snapshots of her faded (almost ghostly). The writing is pretty good as she explores her new powers and new costume and I'm starting to clue in a bit more about what's happening but there are still some hiccups. You could almost say that as a new superhero maybe that's the reason for it but there are times where the dialogue just seems to jump and I feel I missed something. As she jumps into the afore-mentioned fight she says something about the bad guy's driver (Cobra), then a few other people say stuff, then you have the bad guy say something about not needing "that Snake". As it's building to the fight I find I start to read a little faster but when I read that line I was wondering who he was talking to or about. Because the previous lines weren't really talking about anyone. I had to look further up to see what he was responding to. This kind of dialogue flow (or lack thereof) seemed to take me out of the moment. I think I said I was going to give this one more issue to test it out, I think it survived for another issue or two.

American Splendor #I don't know -- What can I say about this book that I haven't already said? It continues along the same lines of just telling simple stories from Harvey's life yet it's still addictive to read. Possibly because I see a lot of my own neurotic tendencies in Harvey. I think if I ever spent time with Harvey (which is weird for me to say) I'd probably go insane, feeding off his stress and how everything becomes an event until I snapped. Yet I enjoy reading about his life. I guess having that barrier helps. Yeah, not much else to say. The artists all bring their own personal touches to the story and it works. I really didn't think I'd be getting this much out of this series but I am.

Friday, December 01, 2006

No Comic Reviews for November 29th, 2006

Unfortunately I picked up no books this week so I have nothing to review. I did pick up another Wizard Hot To Draw book and I'm sure I'll be eager to vent about how most of it is reprinting the earlier books but I haven't gotten to read it yet. Yeah, I don't know why I keep buying those.

Knowing that I had no reviews to do I was preparing to rant about some of the comic fans who have reacted to the latest Civil War delays with more attacks on the penciller, Steve McNiven, but I think it might be best to let it go. Instead, I wish McNiven the best as he recovers from strep throat. Funny, I say that as if he's going to read it. :) And as for the delay, at least it's not on the same schedule as the Ultimates book. Or worse yet, Spider-Man/Black Cat.

So unless I finish that Wizard book or find something else to rant about, I'll see you all next week.