Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Point of Diminishing Returns: The DC Reboot, Week Three

Aaaannd we're back! Two posts in one night, bringing us up to date on the DC Reboot with a look at the funnybooks of Week Three, which came out just yesterday. That's ground-breaking speed for this blog, my friends, but I'm afraid it's come about as a result of some diminishing returns for the Reboot. In Week One, I bought five titles in all, three of which I'll be checking out again next month. In Week Two, I bought four, but only one of them will be getting a second look. And this week... Well... After getting burned so hard last time out... I only bought two comics.

Some of that is because this week didn't bring me many new talents to try out, or any indie comics faves graduating to books they can actually make money doing. No, Week Three seems to be all about Known Quantities. Writers and artists I already know I don't like, whose books I feel pretty safe skipping without fear that I'll be missing anything worth my time and money. Which doesn't explain why I bought this first book...

Wonder Woman #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang

I'm not a big fan of Brian Azzarello. I don't think he's a bad writer, really. He's just maybe one that doesn't appeal to me. He often has really intriguing ideas, but I usually walk away from his work feeling like I've seen the same things done better elsewhere. And that bothers me.

But his Wonder Woman, I'm incredibly pleased to say, does not bother me in the slightest. In fact, other than Grant Morrison's Action Comics, it's the Reboot book I've enjoyed the most thus far. It's a fresh new start for a character desperately in need of one, and you can see the facelift in action just from artist Cliff Chiang's cover alone:


click to embiggen ... or you just might piss her off!

That's nice work. An action shot that goes a long way toward getting across the tone of what's inside. The rain of arrows, the bloody sword, the sun setting behind dying trees... Yeah. That looks like something I wanna read. Even the new logo, with its boldly modern design and "weathered" finish, fairly screams at you that this is going to be something new.

Bats and Crap: The DC Reboot, Week Two

So we're still running a little behind schedule here on the Dork Forty. We went on vacation at the start of the month, and it's thrown our coverage of the DC Reboot off. But tonight we play catch-up, with not one, but two posts, covering both Weeks Two and Three. Once again, I'll only be looking at the books I actually bought. And once again, I'll be trying to take the wider audience into account at some point in each review. So without further ado, let's get going with Week Two...

Batwoman #1
by JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman

A fine launch, and a good follow-up to last year's ground-breaking Detective Comics run. The artwork of JH Williams is the real draw here, of course, and he does not disappoint, delivering another issue of pretty pretty pictures and innovative layouts. This is one of those rare occasions in funnybook history where you feel like you're reading something creatively historic, watching an artist create new rules of comics storytelling out of whole cloth.

Williams has, thus far, been accomplishing this through two main tricks: panel borders that become character motifs, and slightly altering his drawing style on different aspects of the story. Batwoman panels, for instance, are arranged in creative, fluid layouts, and often happen in the shape of lightning bolts, the better to herald the electricity of her arrival. And they're drawn in a style with a heightened sense of reality, where the ink lines soften and stark color does much of the work on defining shapes and figures. When she changes out to her everyday life as Kate Kane, however, everything snaps to a traditional panel grid, and everything in those panels is defined by hard, thick lines colored with more of a pastel pallet. The artwork is no less beautiful, mind you. It's just that everything is much more sharply defined (if a bit less "real").

Williams even has a sort of "in-between" style for the "in-between" pages with Kate training or doing detective work in her Bat-Tree-House. The layouts are still on the creative side, but they tend to be a bit more structured and squarish, and the artwork's done with a lighter line and a mix of the stark and pastel colors. There's a pretty stunning two-page spread done in this style featuring Gotham detective (and Batwoman love interest) Maggie Sawyer at a crime scene. It's a nice style choice, and an even nicer layout, built around the motifs of the opening arc's villain, La Llorna:


Please oh please click to embiggen

(Please excuse the red circle. It's got something to do with the Reboot's meta-mystery plot involving some mysterious woman who they keep inserting into crowd scenes. I don't really care about that, but my scanner's not big enough to handle a two-page spread, and I stole the best web image of this one I could find.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking West

Everybody here on the Dork Forty would like to wish Mr. Adam West a very happy birthday.

You're still our favorite Batman.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three Outta Five Ain't Bad: The DC Reboot, Week One

Say one thing for the DC reboot, it's got me buying more DC funnybooks in September than I've bought in many a moon. How many will I be buying in October? Well, that remains to be seen. We're two weeks in now, and even being selective, very little has blown me away. Of course, as I said when looking over the solicitations this summer, that may not be a bad thing in regards to the wider market.

Or, as Warren Ellis put it: The New DC comics stuff looks so much like stuff I would never read that it oddly fills me with hope that they are targeting the core audience they want. If a 43-year old man looks at most of this promo stuff and goes meh, then that’s very probably a good sign for them.

So there you go. With that in mind, I'll be reviewing each of the new books (the ones I bought, anyway) in two parts: my impressions, and my thoughts on how the book might do with an audience that's... not me. And, since I missed writing about week one in a timely manner due to a vacation, I've got lots of ground to cover. Today we'll deal with the first week's books, and try to get to week two before week three hits the stands this Wednesday. So let's get started with what many people are seeing as the real flagship of the reboot...

Action Comics #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Rags Morales

I joked that I'd only be truly satisfied with Grant Morrison's "back to the beginning" take on Action Comics if Superman went after corrupt landlords and threw wifebeaters out windows the way he did in his early adventures. Well consider me truly satisfied, then, because damn if that's not exactly what he does in this issue! Okay, so the wifebeater thing happens off-camera. But I didn't expect it to happen at all, so it counts.

But I'll get to all that. First impressions first. On the surface, this book is a pleasing action-oriented thrill ride that establishes some surprising things about its star. It opens with Superman going after a rich developer named Glen Glenmorgan (the afore-mentioned corrupt landlord), bullying a confession of wrong-doing out of the man, and declaring in no uncertain terms that he has no faith in the criminal justice system. It's quite an introduction, and quite a far cry from the bastion of the status quo we've been conditioned to expect.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Same Shit, Different Universe: The DC Reboot Goes Live

Justice League #1
by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee

I wasn't going to buy this comic. In fact, when I was in the funnybook store last Wednesday, I gave it a quick flip-through and put it back on the rack. Sure, I'm curious about the DC Reboot (of which this is the very first comic), but not curious enough to buy books I don't think I'm going to enjoy. I'm not generally a fan of either Geoff Johns or Jim Lee, and nothing I saw in my once-over convinced me that I needed to give it a shot. So back on the rack it went.

But then... Then I got into a discussion of the book on-line, started spouting opinions about it, and decided that, if I was gonna do all that, I should buy the damn thing and actually read it. As it turns out, my flip-through gave me a pretty accurate picture of the issue, but since I went and spent four bucks on the thing, I figure I might as well give it a more thorough working-over here.

Not that I hated the book once I read it. To be honest, I thought it was a perfectly okay (but only okay) example of 21st Century super-heroics. It's not something I'd normally spend money on, but in concept, if not execution, I found it to be a good start for a longer, more in-depth look at the Justice League's origins. Which is to say, I had my usual problems with Johns' script and Lee's art, but I liked the ideas quite a bit. This is a raw, new world we're dealing with here, one with lots of room to grow, and that's pretty exciting. In fact... The first page tells us that this story is set "five years ago," but I really wish all the books were going to be set in this era. There's more conflict, and the young heroes have interesting character flaws their more experienced selves will no doubt have shed.

Which brings us to the first DC fanboy bone of contention with the issue. It mostly focuses on the first meeting between Batman and Green Lantern, and they don't get along all that well. Batman is stand-offish, very much the seasoned pro annoyed by an enthusiastic amateur, while Green Lantern is an over-confident jock. This page pretty much sums the relationship up:

And that seems pretty much right on the money to me for these guys at this point in their careers. I mean, my one complaint about this aspect of the issue is that it's too tame. To my eye, it plays out a little too much like a PG-rated version of Frank Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin. PG-rated, and more boring. In comparison to Miller's tongue-planted-firmly-in-the-goddamn-bat-cheek approach, Justice League #1 reads kinda like your dad's super hero comic. Which is something I'd assume that DC would really rather avoid with this youth-oriented reboot. But maybe they made a wise choice there in terms of their current core audience; based on the reviews I've been reading, conflict and character flaws don't fly in the Fanboy Nation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movie Night on the Dork Forty: Enter Mr. Lobo's Domain!

So it's been a long, hot summer here on the Dork Forty. We took a little vacation from the reviews, turned our attention elsewhere for a while, and kinda just let things pile up around here on the nerd farm. You should see the giant stack of stuff we've got sitting there waiting to be belatedly written up. It's frankly a bit overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that we won't be getting to it tonight.

No, tonight I wanted to simply direct your attention to the Dork Forty's new favorite portion of the YouTube empire: Cinema Insomnia TV! As we've spent ample time outlining in the past, we're big fans of the horror host genre around here, and Mr. Lobo (host of Cinema Insomnia) is our favorite of the current generation of hosts.

The Man Himself!

Lobo's mix of classic (and not-so-classic) public domain schlock, retro commercials and some genuinely clever host humor segments always make for an entertaining evening, whenever we can catch it. And now, we can catch it pretty much whenever we wanna. Because Mr. Lobo's posted up about 20 full-length episodes, with movies, to his YouTube station. These are mostly the episodes he's been making available via streaming video at his website, but now you can watch whichever of them you want, whenever you want, instead of constantly stumbling upon the Superbug episode like we do.

(Which, you know... Nothing against Superbug. It's a funny episode, with one of those rare movies that's so mind-bogglingly awful that you can't believe it exists. But after the third or fourth viewing, even if you're just turning it on to nap to... Well, let's just say that the nerd wranglers get restless, and that's never a good thing.)

Anyway. After the jump, I've linked to one of my all-time favorite B Movies, and one of my favorite episodes of Cinema Insomnia as well: Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth. It's a genuinely effective low-budget adaptation of the novel I Am Legend, and in his portion of the show, Mr. Lobo paints a portrait of masculinity that should be all too familiar to those of us in the Dork Nation. It's worth a click just to see the opening PSA, though...