Friday, September 08, 2006

Comic Reviews for September 6th

Yeah, it's past the 6th but I need to keep dating these comic reviews posts and the easiest thing to do is put the date the comics actually came out (not when I actually got around to picking them up and reading them). So we have 4 books to look at today.

Lone Ranger #1 -- Yep, the Lone Ranger makes his triumphant return to comics ... sorta. I say "sorta" because although the book was actually pretty great in terms of art and story (it wasn't an overly mind-blowingly original story or anything) this is his origin. We see the dark times that forged a hero and not the hero himself just yet (at least not the masked version). It had a nice flow to it in story and in art. I was worried that the book wouldn't be taken seriously and it would be assigned to a real amateurish artist but that's definitely not the case here, the art is really good. The colouring over pencils technique works for the story, fitting in nicely with the time period (just as it did for Origin, the Wolverine origin story). To be honest, the art kinda reminds me of a bit more old school Sal Buscema look (which works for me) but that might just be me. Dave at the Silver Snail said he's had quite a number of people coming in asking about the book so it looks to be rather popular even outside the regular comic crowd. Oh, and the covers by Cassady (I'm including the variant I saw and the cover to issue 2) are simple (simple in layout, not in the amount of effort Cassady puts into them) yet strike a chord with the reader. The ranger badge half buried in dirt and blood... you just know it's going to be a great story inside. Yep, I recommend this book.

1602 The Fantastick Four -- The first 1602 series (written by Neil Gaiman) had an interesting premise but I found for the first few issues it was all about the novelty. You spent your time looking for clues to which regular universe superhero/villain a particular character was mapped to (and not all of them did which kinda threw you off if you were looking). By the time you got done with that you forgot that there was a story going on. Then the ending seemed rather week to me. So next came another 1602 series (written by Pak I believe) which focused on some characters a bit more (like Banner and Peter Parquah/Parker). I found I could get into the story more here as there wasn't the novelty aspect to it but the over all story just wasn't as good (and neither was the art). So it was actually kinda disappointing. Now we have the Fantastick Four (concentrating on the Fantastic Four of course) written by Peter David (who normally writes stuff I enjoy). This one seems to take it a step further and not only doesn't hide who the characters are but gives them their superhero names (the ones they use in the regular universe) and it doesn't work for me. It seems rather cheesy to me (as does the whole abduction of William Shakespeare). There are flashes of "ooh, this looks like it could be interesting" (such as the scene with Invisible Woman at the end that I won't give away) but if it wasn't Peter David, I know I wouldn't bother with the second issue. Since it is, I hope he's building to something much better than this.

Mythos Hulk #1 -- I put off buying this for a week and it nearly killed me. :) I'm a Hulk fanatic but did I really need yet another "let's revamp his origin" book? So again, we have pretty much the same story with tweaks. Some things are improved (they move away from Banner being gung ho about creating a destructive gamma bomb which they've also done in the comics to some degree) and some things aren't (like Rick Jones going from a stupid kid who did something really stupid and must live with the knowledge that he had a hand in creating the Hulk to a stupid intern who didn't get the memo). It wasn't a bad story (though it could have been improved) but I just didn't think we needed to go down that path again of coming up with yet another revamped origin story. And although the art was different it also wasn't something I'd say you would need to pick up this book to see. I don't mean that in a bad way but if you're just picking this book up because they're telling the story in a sorta painted style then you might be disappointed. I don't regret picking it up and reading it but I also think it's a book that could be passed over.

American Splendor -- All written by Harvey Pekar. I haven't seen the movie (though I do want to, especially after reading this book). I haven't read any of his previous work (not sure I really want to though... I guess I would if someone presented them to me but I won't be searching for them). You get a few disjoint stories of Harvey. You get him talking about his parents (beautifully illustrated in my opinion). You get him watching a woman eating a muffin. You get him interacting with his step daughter. It's just a weird experience to open up a comic book and get something so personal presented to you. You really feel a connection to him over just a simple story. I picked this one up on a whim but I might be looking for more.

And also comic related, there was a message board discussion I was reading where the artistic quality of a book was brought into question. One poster put up a link to a "gallery" of the artist's work and said something along the lines of "How could you not like his work?" So, being curious, I clicked the link. After two or three pages of thumbnails I came to the conclusion that it wasn't work appropriate. Work is pretty good about letting us browse non-work sites but these images were getting pretty mature in nature. So I took a better look from home last night. The first page was just filled with women in "sexy" poses. On page 2 I saw that one image was labeled "Avengers" (or maybe it was "New Avengers", I don't want to go back to find out) so I waited for that one to load. Sure enough you see Cap, Spider-Man et al looking manly in their heroic poses and then in the foreground you have Spider-Woman on all fours with her backside to the viewer looking over her shoulder. Her back was all bent to get a maximum shot of her arse. I guess the artist got confused and thought that she shot webs out of her butt (which would make this an action pose for her instead of what it really is). So there I was flipping through page after page of comic women in their underwear (or sexualized costumes). There was the odd shot of Superman, Batman, the Hulk, etc. but they definitely weren't the majority. The shots of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman often had the two guys ready for action while Wonder Woman stood tall, back bent, chest out. Is she really ready for action in that pose? Eventually it got into pages he'd done for a comic that centered around a team of females. So maybe all this sexy stuff was just fanboys being overzealous with a few "fun" drawings he had done. Nope. The pages themselves were filled with butt shots (along with other "shots" that I won't go into). So not only are the fanboys obsessing about pictures of sexy comic women (based on this gallery) but the artist himself seems to be as well.

You really can't wonder why women are turned off most North American comics when you see this stuff out there. And it's sad really. It's becoming so much of a part of the North American comic culture that we don't even realize it anymore. I've noticed it myself. I was laying out a page where I wanted the reader to be looking at a scene from behind a woman. I wanted her fist to be a focal point but I wanted the reader to be looking at the scene from a lower vantage point to give the impression that all of a sudden this woman was standing tall. She was not running anymore and this was her moment. And while doing my layouts I just did a panel that I'd seen so many times before where her full butt was in view. Before I drew the panel I looked at it and wondered why I did that? Why didn't I move her over? Sure you lose her butt (only seeing one cheek) but her clenched fist gets more into focus and it gives a better perspective of her surroundings and more room for the menace that's after her. If she were a male character I wouldn't be putting the butt as a focal point. But when I thought about it I recalled all those times in comics that you have a panel of superheroes fighting and right there in the foreground is She-Hulk's butt (or some other female character like Wasp flying around or Wonder Woman). Despite all her strength she's resorting to standing on the outside of the fight so the reader can see her butt. So I moved her over and you now only see half a butt cheek and the back of her thigh (as well as her fist of course). Perhaps I'm wrong but the more I think about it, comic artists often learn from looking at other artists' work and when you see these panels over and over again it just becomes the way to do it. So I felt pretty good about myself. Of course on the next page I take away her "power" yet again. Oh well, baby steps.

Yikes, how's that for a rant and a half?

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