Saturday, 21 April 2012

#47 Bad writing strikes again.

I loved The Dark Knight Returns and Batman:Year One both amazing graphic novels by Frank Miller, and which I will read again.  Which is also why I read The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller.  I knew it was poorly reviewed and largely hated, but how could someone who had written greatness write something so universally detested?  I couldn't believe it for one minute so I decided to sit down and read it and was utterly amazed--not in a good way.  Oh let me count the ways in bullet point form.
  • The art.  Frank Miller is an amazing artist and stylist as an artist.  HIs art was beautiful for the Dark Knight Returns, but in this one it was confusing, anatomically impossible, and inappropriate.
  • The dialogue seems crude and low brow at times.  This could be Miller making a satirical jab at the collapse of values and a childish culture, but he could have made his point in more subtle ways.
  • And finally the story.  Where can I begin?  I don't even think I can summarize whatever I just finished reading.  Nothing made sense, the plot was non-existent, and nothing seemed linear or even connected. I think this book either should have been 4-times longer to explain what was going on, or not written at all.  Miller threw everything into this book, but it all clustered together into nonsense.  I literally have no idea what I just read and it makes me frustrated.  tHe big question is how can Miller, once the comic genius, fallen so low?  How did he change in the 15 years between the Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again?  Did fame go to his head?  What!?

Marvel Civil War

106 comics later at 30+ hours of reading, I finally finished Marvel's ultimate crossover event.  I was disappointed at the end.

It was a good idea.  Congress passes a superhuman registration act forcing all superhuman/heroes to register with the government and receive pay for doing what they have been doing for free.  But this requires them to identify themselves and receive some training so that they do not accidentally kill civilians while trying to stop a super-vilain.  Trouble is half of the superhuman community disagrees with this and call it un-American and fascist.  This faction is led by Captain America.  The side that agrees with the registration is led by the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe - Hank Pym, Reed Richards, and Tony Stark.

This is the event that leads to Spiderman revealing to the world he is Peter Parker, and the death of Goliath.  Other events happened as well that were memorable, such as Stark becoming head of S.H.E.I.L.D. and shifting of the Marvel Universe forever, and probably not in a good way.

So here are my gripes:  The idea was solid, but after reading the same arguments over and over and over and over and over again, the tedium wears on the reader.  Each comic has a writer and each writer is writing from the same script, which means that the same arguments for and against the registration are repeated ad nauseum.  At first you don't mind because this is all fresh, but then you start to mind.

Another thing is the ending.  Captain America is about to finish Iron Man and instead holds his punch and surrenders because he has a revelation of sorts.  So all of this shit that happened ends with CA changing his mind?  Marvel set this epic story up and was afraid to make any serious choices.  The war could have ended with the death of either Ironman or CA, instead he surrenders?  Why make this story at all if you end it with this disappointing and unrealistic change of heart?  At least have Ironman defeated but alive and let one side win outright.  Not this surrender.  This angered me, especially as I put in a lot of time reading each comic and following the development of all of the characters as the war progressed.

My other gripe is that no major characters were killed in this war.  I know, people hate to see a favorite get killed.  Not even a famous villain gets killed.  Its a war and no one other than Goliath gets killed?  I felt this was Marvel protecting its product, too afraid to kill off one of their characters.  Can't they just make more?  Make new and interesting characters as the old ones die.

At the end I hated this event.  I started by loving it and voraciously reading the comics, and this is how I am repaid?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Irredeemable Ant Man

I have mentioned before, but I am a fan of Robert Kirkman, and have been since 2005 when I picked up hardcover volume one of The Walking Dead.  I recently read his comedic series Battle Pope, and have also read his Marvel Zombies series.  His style is a style I like, especially as he knows how to build a story and create characters a person can relate to.  It doesn't hurt that his characters will change over the course of the story arc, which I guess is why his best works have been original and not part of an established comic like X-Men or Batman.   I imagine he would begin to change the characters personality and show growth in a comic world stagnated from fear of change.

So my latest endeavor into a Kirkman comic was The Irredeemable Ant-Man which is a limited run series, or maybe it was cancelled (Not sure).  It follows a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that ends up with Hank Pym's ant suit and decides to exploit the suit for his own lust and gain.  He really isn't a hero, more of a shallow jerk that spies on women taking showers.  And also rescuing some women and using this as a means to get a date.  The humor is here, as well as the story.  This series also contains one of the most pointless moments in all of the comics I have read, and that is Ant-man versus the Hulk.  The comic consists of our lusty hero shrinking down and entering the Hulk through the nose (Pictured) and then trying to bring the hulk down from the inside by ripping him up.  He does absolutely nothing, he can't harm the hulk and leaves covered in snot and failure.  The pointlessness and futility impressed me to no end.

Friday, 13 April 2012

#44 Fahrenheit 451

I finally read this book, and it was about more than the burning of books.  It is about a dystopic future where the burning of books is not only mandated by the state, but the vast populace could care less about the destruction of human knowledge.  The world is a place where TV and radio turn the people into empty mindless drones who do not seek to understand their existence or question authority, or really anything.  TV has destroyed the minds of the majority of people, making them think they are happy without consulting philosophers and poets, and it works in this dreary future.  The problem is that as a society we started to tune into TV and forgot everything else, and this allowed the beginning of the firemen and the revision of history to suit the propaganda of the state.

This isn't nearly as scary and 1984, and not quite as amazing, but as a SF book it was top-notch.  I enjoyed it, thought about what it had to say, and felt it was prescient, especially as it was written in the 50s, before reality TV shows and countless channels of distraction.  Like 1984 this too seems a possible future, maybe more in line with Huxley than Orwell.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Princess of Mars

A couple of weeks ago I watched John Carter of Mars.  It wasn't a great movie, but it wasn't too bad.  Anyways one of the characters in the film was a young Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as I was watching I realized that I have never read anything by this titan of SF, so I found the first book of the Martian Tales, which the movie was based on, and found I liked it.  I'm not going to say the book was better, as the movie updated the "science" and changed some things from the original to add depth to the story and to explain the actual traveling of John to Mars, which wasn't explained at all in the book.  The movie also added these mysterious strangers who controlled everything, and again this was not in the book.  Maybe they are introduced in the sequels.  There are points to be commended on both versions.

One thing I do want to point out is that the book seemed to be an allegory of the Native Americans.  At first I thought the Native Americans were being represented by the green Martians, the Tharks, but this does not seem to be the case.  Anyways that representation would have been insulting in the very least, as that would have shown a great amount of ignorance and racism to compare the Tharks to Native Americans.  But as this was my first ERB book I did not know his sentiments.  Anyways his allegory is for the "red martians" to represent the "red rascals"(John Carter's words).  The allegory is strange in that it doesn't make much sense, and maybe it is an idealization more than anything.  But the comparisons are constantly brought up in the book to remind the reader that this Martian planet is like Arizona and the Red Martians are like Native Americans.  I'm not quite sure what his thought process was, but a casual glance does not seem to bear much fruit.  I will have to consider this more, maybe reading the following book will help.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

#42 Knightfall

In anticipation of this summer's Batman film which will host the dangerous Bane, I read the huge story arc: Knightfall.  Just doing my research for this summer's movies.  Next up are the Kree and Skrull war from the Avengers.

Knightfall is the first real menacing appearance of Bane and his drive to break Batman physically and mentally.  This is the famous storyline where Batman literally has his back broken by Bane and Azrael puts on the Batman costume while Bruce Wayne recovers.  But like all Batman stories there is always the moral problems of chivalry vs. outright vigilantism.  Should I just turn the thug over to the police or should I kill him so he is removed forever from Gotham.  This is handled, I felt, poorly by the two writers, who I felt were not up to the task of breaking Batman.  I can only imagine how Frank Miller would have handled this storyline.  What greater more enduring themes would Miller have investigated?  Instead we got Knightfall, which wasn't bad, it gave us Bane, but it wasn't great.

Monday, 2 April 2012

So Charlotte isn't the name of the pig?

I had a vague feeling what happens in this Newberry book, but not really.  My assumptions were that there was a pig named Charlotte (WRONG) and a spider that made words in webs.  But why this was happening was beyond my reasoning.

This is a lovely little tale by E.B. White that I should have read a long time ago so that every time WIlbur the pig is mentioned I can go--"Oh yes, good one."  Also, it is a 'terrific' story of friendship, where Wilbur finds his true friends, which wasn't Fern by the way.  I guess she grew up.  This was another quick subway reading.