Friday, January 05, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews (and 24 season 3 DVD) some spoilers -- January 3rd, 2007

Happy new year everyone! Let's get right to the reviews because I might be ranting a bit today. Spoilers will be kept to a minimum where possible (mostly for Carl's sake with Civil War #6). We have three books this week with Civil War #6, Civil War Frontline #10, and Incredible Hulk #103. On top of that we have Watchmen and 24 Season 3.

Civil War #6 -- I find the penultimate issue in most comic book stories to be a downer. It's generally that lull where things are put into place for the big finale but nothing really significant happens. Civil War #6 was really not much different. Yes, we get some of the "traitor" stuff resolved though I'm curious how in Frontline Tony and Reed claimed to know about the traitor and who he/she was but seem genuinely surprised here. I'm not sure the whole "traitor" thing was resolved. Punisher provides a few highlights. But after reading it I just felt "meh". It didn't really help that I felt this was some of McNiven's weaker artwork on the series. The artwork had its highs and lows but it just didn't seem to have the intensity it needed. And that hurts some panels. And when it comes to Tony's line about no shame in "making enemies", it comes off as rather callous in the face of all the deaths that the pro-reg side has been responsible for in this war, especially when the looks on Reed and Tony's face seem to be just happyness. You don't even get a sense that they're just trying to put on a brave face or anything, it almost seems like they're enjoying it. I continue to dislike where Marvel is going with this series but there was very little meat to this book so there's less for me to gripe about.

Civil War Fronline #10 -- Technically, I read Hulk second but I'll keep the Civil War reviews together this week. This book continues to be crap. Last issue the two reporters each discovered "the secret" behind the Civil War. The first half of this issue they plan on meeting up and telling each other. Well, they eventually meet up (after Ben Eurich quits) and then spend a few pages running from explosions that just happen to be happening around them. It's a fight between some pro-reg villains and some anti-reg heroes. Of course Venom is drawn as the old Eddie Brock Venom for a panel or two (and some scrawny Venom-lite in the background of one panel) and "Daredevil" is there (making me wonder about the timeline, I guess this is where they captured him but that doesn't seem to mesh either). And we have the pro-reg heroes and villains blowing up buildings and killing people (apparently civilians and anti-reg people). Yay for that nano-technology SHIELD put in them to monitor their activities. And yay for Radioactive Man who had turned good in Thunderbolts but seemed to be going along with the death and destruction. But enough about that, the two reporters get to a safe spot and ... and ... cut to a few minutes later, after they've revealed their big finds to each other, the end. What the heck!!! I'm all for building suspense but that's just crap! That story contained absolutely nothing of use. As an aside, when reading Scott McCloud's book about making comics he says to remove a panel and see if the story changes. If it doesn't then maybe that panel isn't needed. The fact that you could remove this whole 12 pages and other than the one panel where Ben quits the reader would miss out on absolutely nothing shows just how unnecessary this story was. It was filler, plain and simple. And as a consumer I felt ripped off. The second half of the book was slightly better. Sure, I knew the result but in this case it was my fault for reading the preview stuff on the Thunderbolts. But even with that, it just dragged on and on. Page after page or repetitive junk. I almost fell asleep reading it... in fact, I wish I did. And the dialogue is pretty bad, especially Reed. The whole "Don't do this, you'll be committing suicide" while avoiding saying what "this" is comes off as unbelievable and unrealistic. But at least they got rid of those comparisons of this Civil War to the real one. Yeah, this series has been junk.

Incredible Hulk #103 -- The good story continues. But so does the so-so presentation in my mind. At least this time there were a few reminders like "one hour ago" and "now" to let you know about the jumps (even though they still seem jarring) but then at the end it seems to fall apart. A big problem is that there's not enough space provided in the writing to create scene establishing shots. Instead of having a larger scene showing that the setting has changed and we're moving ahead in time we get a couple headshots and dialogue that seems to be mismatched. It's a page later that we discover we jumped ahead in time and to a different location. In some instances that can be used as a story telling device. In this instance, it's out of place and a little jarring. Having said that, I can still forgive these issues due to the fact that the Hulk has a decent storyline to it. But the one thing I can't really get over is the Hulk's display of strength. By the description of the act (which I'll avoid spoiling) it almost seems to be something that pre-Crisis Superman would have done. And as much as I want the Hulk to be shown some respect when it comes to his strength I don't want him to fall into the "overpowered" crowd either. But overall, still a good series.

Watchmen TPB -- Okay, it might have taken me 13 years to get around to "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud but it took about 20 years to get around to reading Watchmen. And that's really sad considering. The praise this book has received for not only re-inventing the world of comics (showing the potential for the medium) but as an exceptional literary work (being listed in the top 100 English literature books by Time Magazine in 2005) is all over the place so I won't get into that. Let's just say I had to read it eventually and I think most comic book enthusiasts have to. And in some ways it's probably best that I waited until I was old enough to appreciate it. By this time the book may have lost some of its "oomph" as many comics have followed in its path. No longer is it so shocking to see a serious attitude taken to writing a complex and meaningful story in a comic book format. So you kinda have to remind yourself of what the comic book world was like in 1986. But putting all that aside as well, the story still holds out. The characters still have the emotional impact on the reader, the symbolism is all there for those who want to delve into it while for others it will just be an amazing story. You could spend forever discussing the ins and outs of Rorschach (probably the most memorable character in the book for many people) or any other character in the book (though Rorschach would be my pick). The art might seem dated by today's standards but it's effective in telling the story and still holds its own. The body language, the emotion, the settings, it's all top notch. Many artists of today could learn a thing or two from examining those details. Personally, I cringe at all the work that went into it. All those pages of 9 panels, each panel containing more information and detail than some artists put in a whole page. And just when you think you've absorbed it all you learn something new on a second or third look or when it's pointed out to you. The same goes for the writing and story. It's really a masterpiece and the more I think about it the more I realize that it deserves all the praise it gets. If you're a serious fan of comic books and haven't read this than do yourself a favour and do so.

24 season 3 -- Yeah, I'm behind on this as well. How I got into this series? Well, people kept talking about it but I never bothered with it. Then one night I was channel surfing and saw Sean Astin. Since nothing seemed to be on and I've enjoyed his work in the past I figured why not watch whatever it was. It was 24 season 5 of course and I was almost immediately hooked. The problem was that I had no clue what was going on but I was hooked nonetheless. So I resolved to stop watching it and catch up via DVDs. Seasons 1 and 2 were amazing which leads me to season 3. I had heard that this was the weakest of the seasons but I don't know about that. I really enjoyed it. The intensity remains. You never know what's going on or what's going to happen and just when you think you do, the rug gets pulled out from under you. I have commented in the past how everything seems to happen on the hour every hour (since the show is in real-time and you need that cliff hanger every week) but other than that, it's great. It leaves you on the edge of your seat constantly. It's addictive actually. You keep saying "one more episode before going to bed" but after each episode you have to see what happens next. The joy of watching it on DVD, you don't have to wait for that week in between. Plus, you don't have to worry about missing an episode. In season 2 I hated Jack's daughter. Her constant nagging of him while he's busy with stuff (like you know, saving the world from WW3 and little stuff like that) made me very angry. In season 3 it's Chloe while the daughter wasn't nearly as bad. Chloe just rubbed me the wrong way and was just way too annoying. I'll have to see if that improves in season 4 (oops, that might be a spoiler there). And for the Heroes fans out there it might be hard to watch the actor who now plays Sylar. Every scene he was in I half-expected him to start ripping people's heads apart to get at their brains. Wow, I just got deja vu. Weird. Anyways, it's a great show and I can't wait until I get season 4. It's smart, it's emotional, it's engaging, etc, etc. :)

As a preview for my next reviews (at least I hope I'm done the book by then) I'll just mention that I've been reading "Making Comics" by Scott McCloud. I'm about half way through it and have come to the conclusion that McCloud is a god of comics. I think every comic book writer and artist should read this book. I might even do a few of his little exercises, especially the ones about body language and emotions. I've been told several times that the characters I draw are too rigid and such (which I admit is very very true) so it would be good to try some of these things out. But enough about me. Once I'm done the book I'll say more but already it's high (probably the top book) on my recommended reading list for comic writers and artists.

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