Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Arrow and some comics.

Arrow: In just a couple of weeks the show continues to evolve and change things around. While the first episode showed us that Ollie's mother has her own secrets, she continues to have shades of gray. She doesn't seem to be on the side of the angels, but we see her devoted to her family She just seems to make the wrong choices when it comes to good parenting skills. Likewise, her new husband alternately seems to be just what he seems. A businessman and an honest one at that. Just out of his league. The fact the actor seemed perpetually stuck as "guest star" figured he'd be a casualty, especially once he started finding out some of the Queen family secrets. Instead, he simply goes on an extended business trip. Then the show didn't turn bodyguard Diggle into a caricature by having Ollie constantly escaping from him, but changing up the status quo, having him in on Ollie's secret.

This past week, we see Oliver showing some forethought, attempting to stay ahead of the police by addressing their suspicions head on. Oliver Queen is the first person to have reported seeing the guy and in an instance unsubstantiated by any other witnesses. Add to it the cop Lance investigating does not like or trust Queen for good reason and would love to be able to pin anything on him. Between Lance's by the book stubborn determination and his personal vendetta, it makes sense that Queen would want to deflect his suspicions as much as possible in this area.

However, it seems foolish that he would have put his plan into motion BEFORE he revealed his identity to the bodyguard and had him on board since it was completely dependent on his complicity.

Thing I don't care for is just how much pussy-footing around the Green Arrow name they go: he's called the hood, Robin Hood, archer, vigilante, anything but what is the title of the show. You can see them struggling to call him anything but. Meanwhile, Deadshot was called Deadshot. Also, the generic black leather outfits of the super-villains, with the key differentiating features being the masks. In Deathstroke's case, the mask was especially weak. Pseudo realistic military ops outfit with what looks to be a foam mask with molded eyebrow ridges. The perpetual scowl it gave him made him look more comical than threatening. An emotionless and rougher cloth or dyed leather mask would have been better. This week's episode looks to feature the Royal Flush Gang, again in what appears to be generic black outfits with striking masks. The villains shouldn't look like they all go to the same Villains-R-Us outfitter store. Interesting that characters like Captain America, Hawkeye, Green Arrow, Deadshot, and Deathstroke all have costumes that are actually tailor made for live action, especially with the demand for semblance of realism. They all have costumes that already break up the lines of the body, which compensate for the lack of superheroic ideal bodies. They all have body armor already part of their costumes and allow for wrinkles, thus the rest could easily be cloth or tight leather as opposed to spandex/lycra/leotards. To work in live-action, they only need be tweaked, not wholesale redesigned.
Aquaman 13: We get to the end of The Others and Black Manta arc and it ends with pretty much a whimper. Probably because this arc had too many characters and too much on its plate while being presented in a widescreen format that really didn't allow for a lot of depth. By virtue of having the Atlantean artifacts and the need for cannon fodder to add gravitas, the Others were necessary to the story. But, we never really got beyond the surface ticks of each of the characters. The name itself seems more like a placeholder in the script until the writer came up with something better and never did. They received a bit of build-up but they never really do anything of substance. This cropped up quite a bit in Geoff Johns' JSA, characters were more plot points and not really allowed to be characters. And, when  their arc was done, they'd disappear. Sometimes killed off, sometimes just not mentioned or seen until another story idea presented itself. This extended to Black Manta as well. All this build-up of Black Manta as a mega-threat and in the end, he relies on his darts and is easily taken out by Aquaman despite having several of the Atlantean artifacts. Johns couldn't wait to be rid of him, there's not even a scene of him being carted off to jail and you have the necessary enigmatic scenes that dovetails this story into the next issue to let you know that the resolution is not really a resolution. Aquaman's decision to NOT kill Manta might carry more weight if he didn't just kill an underling last issue and showing no remorse.

The epilogue with Prisoner of War would have been stronger for instance and made the arc feel more cohesive, if his part in the story was more pronounced and more developed. Actual stronger storytelling with the parallel themes of men tortured by the past and seeking redemption/attonement (Aquaman, Prisoner of War, Shin and to an extent Black Manta). The ingredients are there, but the structure of how the story was told doesn't pull it off. Instead, it feels just tacked on, to give some semblance of an actual and emotional ending to the story.

As much as I've liked Reis' artwork on the comic, I'm looking forward to Paul Pelletier's take. He's a bit more of an old school superhero artist. I've not followed anything he's done recently, but I'm hoping that maybe his being on the book will rid of the tendency towards decompression and widescreening the stories. On the flip side, not looking forward to the crossing over with the Justice League. In the past, I've cancelled a mediocre title due to crossovers or just refused to get those issues.

Talon #1: The zero issue was an origin issue in that it was a character study, establishing his motivations, abilities and values and the context and milieu of the character.  This issue also stands fine as a first issue as it establishes the status quo, an ongoing mission, and even a supporting cast member. Again, it doesn't matter if you've read the Batman books or not. I haven't, and found everything I needed to know was on the page without feeling clunky. The artwork continues to be strong.

Joe Kubert Presents #1: There's a bit of sad irony to this title as there's a page of a drawn Kubert addressing the readers and wanting to be a dialogue between him and the readers yet he didn't live to see the book published. But, it sums up the title's mission statement pretty well. Like many disillusioned fans, Kubert lamented that the kind of books that he liked and interested him were not being produced these days. So, an editor was insane enough to give him a book to do just the kind of book he wanted.

It's not all Kubert but it is very much old-style. The Hawkman story is a visual joy. No one really captures flying the way he does, makes the characters seem really held aloft by their wings and moving free from gravity. Clearly based on the Silver-Age Hawks, it's a continuity all its own. It is telling, that he delivers more story, a complete story, and completely defines the characters in so few stories when the Nu52 book couldn't do any of that, not even tell us who or what Carter Hall was. From art to storytelling, it's clear and concise. The chief flaw is it needs a scripter. The dialogue was not only bad, but sexist in the way it treated Hawkgirl and how Hawkman talked to her. "Angel & the Ape" was reminiscent of Mad Magazine. Parody, satire, surreal and slapstick all thrown together. "Spit" was a more serious work by Kubert than his Hawkman story. A serial about an orphan in the days of masted schooners and whaling, it showed depth and insight to the human condition. Likewise Glanzman delivers an extremely powerful war story in U.S.S. Stevens, hearkening back to the days that DC used to do war comics like this all the time. Brutal, character driven, and realistic, that just twists the knife in your gut.

Shadowman #1: Strong first issue, a superhero comic that is also a horror comic. The writer manages to sidestep his way around from having to give the lead character a deep south accent by way of creole and cajun idioms by having him spending most of his life away from the town of his birth. The artwork was a little unclear in places, as one character is a midget, but the initial viewpoint angles don't give the feel for his height or lack thereof. The colorist is somewhere in between the standard computer colorists and using the technology to achieve greater ranges of subtlety and styles. Some scenes are done wonderfully, others fall on the standard glossy skin with strong highlights and shadows and texture fills. The fact that he can actually let a background just be white without adding some kind of texture instills all sorts of hope. However, the scene of the charnel house that a nightclub is over-colored, that the subtle details and horror are a bit lost by not using a more limited color palette and letting the line work carry it through. Not crazy about the hero being apparently one of possession, a completely separate personality. Lessens Jack Boniface a bit if it's not really his decision and actions that make him a superhero, but some alien/supernatural presence. Still, a strong enough opening, I'm willing to give it another issue.

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