Friday, March 16, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 14th, 2007 -- SPOILERS!!!

A whopping three books for me this week but I'll also fit in a movie review. It's for 300 so I think I'm allowed. So let's get to it, this week's reviews are for Buffy The Vampire Slayer #1, Civil War: The Confession (just when I thought I was done with Civil War they suck me back in), and Lone Ranger #5. And being the Joss Whedon/Buffy fan I am, that one went straight to the top of my pile.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #1 -- So this is it, season 8 of Buffy in comic book format. First up, it's Joss Whedon writing Buffy so with that I had built it up as an 11/10 without reading it. And I don't think any single issue can live up to that hype. Having said that, I wasn't disappointed in it and am still happy to see Buffy's story continue but when you get yourself anticipating an 11/10 even a 9.5 just doesn't seem to hit the mark. In a couple days as I get to absorb it more, I'll get over it and appreciate it for the great book it was. As much praise as I give Whedon, I think the cast of Buffy deserved a lot as well. And somehow, no matter how hard I imagine it the lines just don't seem the same without Nicolas Brendon or Sarah Michelle Gellar delivering them. A plus for me was Buffy's narration. You get to be a little more in her head this way and see exactly where she's at, not just in her surroundings but emotionally and psychologically. I knew going into it that I'd have to get used to a different feel and it may take an issue or two. But in the end, I'm still excited to see where Joss Whedon and the other writers take us. As for the art, that's a tough one. To be honest, I don't think he was that great on the likenesses of the characters but on the other hand, it was nicely drawn comic where there was sufficient pullouts to give you a sense of what's going on, monsters were drawn well, actions were clear and exciting when need be, and all that. So I can't really complain about it too much. There were a few scenes where he pulled out and the character's faces seemed to become a little cartoony (almost like a Manga sorta thing) but I can get over that. I consider it a must read for Buffy fans and an all around great comic.

Civil War: The Confession -- Yeah, I thought I was done with Civil War but I heard some positive reviews of this book so I thought I'd give Marvel one more chance. I did find this to be a good book. The artist takes risks to really get a sense of emotion and also to keep the reader's attention in a book of just dialogue. Some of the risks work well, some maybe not so much but still get the point across and I give the artist kudos for his work here. The dialogue is pretty good. Tony's reasoning is at least put out there, although I totally disagree with it and it bothers me to no end that the rest of the characters in the Marvel Universe seem to be going along with this idea that Tony Stark is the only man who knows what's best for the world and are whilling to forgive his actions of murder, torture, backstabbing, lying to them, etc. because he's an "inventor" but I digress. I do get the sense of this being another one of those "telling us instead of showing us" moments though because again, we have Tony telling us about what he tried, what he knows, what he saw coming, etc, but we don't see any of this. Given Tony's lies and actions of recent memory I guess it's up to the reader to decide just how much Tony fought against doing what he did. But either way, I do feel that this idea that Tony knew for years what was going to happen but it's only now that the readers are hearing about his actions and not actually seeing them leaves me rather hollow. But what irks me the most about this book is yet again how it doesn't really feel like it ties in properly. At the end of Civil War Cap was a man who had accepted his fate. In Frontline he thought he was doing the right thing but seemed to be accepting of being under arrest and wanted to speak to Tony to explain his actions to him. Then in this book he's suddenly a "sore loser" (both he and Tony say this), it doesn't feel like this is the Cap that surrendered, this is the Cap that lost the fight (not just the argument as he says in Civil War) and is really bitter about it. It just doesn't seem to fit. Though Tony fits in well with his Frontline depiction of regretting what he had to do but doesn't really fit well with the ending of Civil War where he was almost gloating about his new position as Director of SHIELD and getting Maria Hill to fetch him coffee. And let's not mention the fact that these SHIELD agents were given specific weapons and armour that seemed geared towards keeping Cap in custody yet the few police who escort him to the courthouse (where he was shot) were given vests and... well, vests. In the end, this book felt too little too late for me. The whole event just doesn't seem well planned, there didn't seem to be a clear focus on the story or the characters, and it was all about selling books by having shock moments. In my mind, they might as well go the whole nine yards and bring back holofoil covers (though they already have "variant" covers) because although they say they're looking to put out good stories, I don't really see them working towards that. Some individuals may be putting out a few good stories but as a whole, Marvel seems to be losing it's focus. Or maybe it's better to say they found their focus and it's not on comic books.

Lone Ranger #5 -- In 5 issues I've gone from loving this series to being eager for the storyline to end so I can drop it. The multiple storylines and the shadowy figures/names of people that we never see or know very little about are just going on too long now. I get that they're trying to build the legend up but there was very little to chew on in this book. Even the deaths at the end of this book were hollow. At the beginning of this series the deaths of his father and brother were emotional because we saw the connection between him and these characters. The flashbacks showed us their relationships and showed us something about these men to make us care about them. The deaths of his mother and brother here (at least I hope I'm understanding that right) just didn't really connect with me. You see him being emotional about it but since we've never seen any interaction between him and these characters, we can only guess that they even had any sort of connection. And since we've seen very little of these characters (just a few pages in this book) they are just a tool by the writer and so their deaths really don't resonate with me either. It was just another woman and kid thrown in to the story to be killed and it seemed weak. All in all, I'm really losing interest in the characters and the story here.

Now on to movies...

300 -- This movie, just like the book, relies heavily on visuals because the story is a pretty simple one. Not that that's a bad thing necessarily. This is all about glorifying the 300 Spartans who fought in that battle even if that means tweaking history or simply re-writing it. And once you get past that, the movie is a beautiful piece of eye candy to behold. The visuals are really quite stunning and the work that went into them (including the training the actors went through to play the Spartans) has to be acknowledged. The acting was all top notch in my opinion as each actor played their part as though on some glorious stage, there was very little subtlety to it but subtlety wouldn't have fit here anyways. Now I've read quite a bit from people who know much more about the history of this battle and in an interview Frank Miller said his greatest adversary when writing this was reality (or maybe it was historical accuracy) so he just threw it out the window. He's not claiming any of this as fact, he's just taking that battle and like story tellers of old "embellishing" it. I have slightly mixed feelings about this but I do give him credit for stepping up and saying that instead of trying to pass this off as set in reality or history. Heck, many people won't even realize that there is a historical base for this story and will go on believing it's 100% fiction so as long as nobody believes it to be 100% fact, I can move on. And moving on, I really did enjoy this movie and you really do feel rather pumped after spending so much time feeling like you're on the battle field with these Spartans. Despite the outcome, you almost come out feeling good. But also, the movie is not for the youngens. Battles are very graphic with body parts (including arms, legs, and heads) flying through the air in glorious fashion as they are separated from their owners. And I've read from some parents (and some sons/daughters) that there was a definite feeling of discomfort of watching some of the more graphic sex/nude scenes while siting next to their sons/daughters/parents. I know my mother has expressed interest in seeing it and I think she could handle it fine but I also know I'd feel slightly awkward at some points. So it may be a matter of convincing my father to actually go out to a movie for the first time in months (maybe a year) so he can take her. So for the young (and some older) movie goers who enjoy some amazing visuals, intense action, and a story that although it's not the great American novel does have plenty of emotion and can really resonate with the viewer, this is probably a must see movie. And I do wonder if it will be remembered around Oscar time for at least some categories such as cinematogrophy or art direction or if it came out too early and will be forgotten by that time (though the DVD might be coming out then so there's that).

And as for next week, I'm slowly making my way through Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud and the more I read from Mr McCloud, the more in awe I become. His discussion of the comic book industry and some of the things holding it back or that led to it's near collapse back in the 90's really resonate. I think more comic book professionals need to read, re-read, and really listen to what he has to say. But I'll have more to say on that when I actually finish the book.

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