Friday, 29 April 2011

Robot Porn

Trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon has been released. Gotta say, I really enjoyed the first Transformers movie, it was solid mindless entertainment. But the second was solid mindless crap. Will probably check this out on dvd. In cinemas 1st of July.

American Jesus: Chosen

Written by Mark Millar
Illustrated by Peter Gross

From what I can gather, many internet people consider Mark Millar a sellout Hollywood whore. Having only read Kick Ass, Superman: Red Son and now American Jesus: Chosen from his canon of work, I can't say I'm of the same opinion.

The plot: 12 year old Jodie Christianson (I believe they call that post-modern irony) and his friends skip school to investigate reports of a discarded nudie magazine in the woods. Jodie is lagging behind playing on a games console when a truck on the bridge above him swerves to avoid a dog and plows through the barrier, crushing him. Somehow Jodie manages to survive this accident completely unscathed, but is taken to hospital for observation. There he is visited upon by his local priest, whom he asks for the explanation of his survival. Could it be, he asks, a miracle? Father O'Higgins is quick to quash any such notion and tells Jodie sometimes stuff just happens and there's no explanation for it. Jodie's mother, however, has no qualms about her son's brush (or lack thereof) with death, directing him towards passages of the Bible which tell of Christ's second coming and the impending apocalypse. It's not long before Jodie is turning water into wine, curing the sick and spying on the girl next door when she's changing. So could he actually be the re-incarnation of Christ?

Mark Millar
The good: Millar plays this pretty straight. Jodie acts the way you would expect a 12 year old who suddenly discovers he has amazing abilities to act- he and his friends immediately gather bottles of water and try to turn it into wine.  The best bits of the book are definitely when Jodie and his friends are together, Millar pitches their dialogue and reactions perfectly; for example, when they put Jodie's healing abilities to the test by trying to cure Markie's squint, with no apparent effect- "I guess we shoulda looked a little harder for a real blind person, man. Maybe this stuff doesn't work on people who just got weird-ass eyes." "Up yours, Lucas Kornblith. I'm waiting for a big operation." Although I do feel Millar may have missed a trick  by not having Jodie charge for these tiny miracles he's producing- it's what I would expect a 12 year old  who smokes, drinks and skips school to do, particularly as Millar doesn't have him exhibit any of the weight or guilt of his burden.  

The bad: My main bone of contention is that what works for the story also works against it-it's played too straight until you get to the twist at the end. If the intention was to have it sedately amble along to make the  reveal more dramatic, I don't think it really worked. The problem is you get the story from the blurb- kid is second coming of Christ, kid performs few miracles, local community enthralled. By the time I got to the twist at the end, I just went 'well, huh' (I do that). At no point did the narrative really grip me. I suppose on the one hand, you could congratulate Millar for keeping it restrained and real, but the story just isn't strong enough to support this approach. The inclusion of the dis-believing priest-who-lacks-faith-only-to-re-discover-it-via-miracle is too cliched, even when given a faintly wry, ironic dimension once you look at it again after having got to the revelation at the end. One of the smaller issues which was a bit grating was Jodie developing super-intelligence- one of Jesus' more well-known 'powers'. The turn of events towards the close of the book felt a bit like a sellout as it completely changes the premise of the original story, which  was promising. Unfortunately, nothing of real interest is done with it. To sum up, it's readable but forgettable.

Overall rating: 3/5 

The Link-up

Matt Smith becomes the first Dr to be nominated for a television BAFTA

Film critic Roger Ebert finally won the New Yorker's cartoon caption contest after 107 tries

Argentina is considering paying writers a pension

He's back- Arnie will reprise his role as the Terminator, luckily machines don't really age

The 'how weird can we make Ryan Reynolds look' competition continues in the Green Lantern banner poster 

Couple of new pictures from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Anybody? No, me neither.

And also the trailer:

The upcoming X-Men prequel gets yet another international trailer: 

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Where stuff confuses me

I'm a huge Batman fan. I don't know whether this came about by way of sampling and rejecting other supes, but my love for the Bats is pretty much supreme. About 6 weeks ago, I was chuntering about the fact that I hadn't read a Batman book in a while, so I went online to search for Batman trades worth reading which I didn't already own.

As nothing is worth doing if you're not going to overdo it, I ended up buying *deep breath* No Man's Land vols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, New Gotham: Evolution, Secrets, A Lonely Place of Dying, Going Sane, The Last Arkham, Black and White vols 1 and 2, Ego and other Tails and Batman: The Collected Adventures 1 and 2. Don't look at me like that.

When I was in the throes of above spree, I was wholly committed to the idea that as a proper Batman fan, I really should own all the trade titles (I don't like collecting issues). However, problems have risen. Yeah. . .didn't see that coming. The thing is, some of them are just not very good. The second thing is I do not like 50's style art. Do not like. Possibly hate. I find myself unable to read a story if the art is in that style. I know it's of a particular era and a distinct style which some consider kitsch or cool, but I just can't get into it. Which brings us to the third thing: I can't keep books I don't like on my shelves. Call it a quirk or whatever, but if I really don't like a book, it needles me to see it taking up space on my shelf, which could be inhabited by a good book (especially since my Dad rejected my floor-to-ceiling shelving idea. Thanks Dad). If I can find one decent thing about a book I'll keep it. I was going to get rid of Batman vs Robin until I got to the pages in the end and saw all the different logos with their various colour combinations, which I thought were amazing and kept it solely for that.

And so I have come to the conclsuion I am not a completist. Does this make me a bad fan? I don't know. Anyhow, as much as I love yonder pointy eared dude, the following are moving on to pastures anew (read Ebay)-

The bad art. Also somebody please bitch slap the hysterical female.
A Lonely Place of Dying: which internet people said was good and IT WASN'T. My own fault for believing them. Not only did it have the bad art ( which is what I shall now refer to it as, much like the bad colour in The Village), it also had the bad dialogue (is it me or am i starting to sound French?). This is allegedly a treatise on the the pro's and con's of Robin's existence, but it failed to convince me.  I like Tim Drake, I think he's a really solid character, but his introduction here seemed mainly to consist of him  annoyingly popping up everywhere and plaintively bleating  'Batman needs a Robin!' which does not a story maketh. Eventually Bats is so fed up of him he just caves. Although I did love the way Dick and Alfred were really suspicious of Tim, you could just see they didn't want to let him join their little secret gang.

By Frank Quitely, he of the good art.
Batman: The Last Arkham: I get it. Batman is mentally finely balanced. He is haunted by haunting demons. He tippy toes the line of psychosis. Any moment he could tip over the edge. Or has he already? Or hasn't he? Or has he? I know I'm really simplifying here but I'm just a wee bit sick of these kind of stories, especially when they don't have anything particularly new to add. Also, it had the bad art.

New Gotham: Evolution: Utter crap. Seriously, words fail me. I really enjoyed No Man's Land, even if the pacing was a bit off and it was 2 volumes too long, and was expecting good things from this follow up story. Incoherent and unnecessary. Utter tripe.

Having vented above rant, I must admit I have been contemplating buying Batman and Robin Reborn again. I sold it because I was that disgusted with it. The art was fine, Frank Quitely = love, Grant Morrison = not. But I have the second volume and intend to get the third and now I feel I should have the first.

Yeah. . . I'm going to go now.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Trying to limit the book purchases as it's my birthday next week, so hopefully getting lots of stuff then :) Couldn't resist getting a few though:

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Brian Talbot
One of those books I've been meaning to read for ages, but have always opted for another title instead. Finally ordered it.

Lori by Robert Bloch, illustrated by Ben Templesmith
Once again proving there is no end to my density, I bought this thinking it was a comic. It's not. Was kind of thrown by the fact that it's illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Sounds good anyhow.

Runaways: Dead End Kids (vol 8) by Joss Whedon, Michael Ryan
There's nothing quite like bad books to make you appreciate better ones. It may be a simplistic formula, but it's done well. Got through volumes 1-7 last year and picking this up again now.

& Cola

Monday, 25 April 2011

Beasts and China

Every now and then, I feel I should be be further down the road of literary betterment and proceed to purchase or borrow books which will enable this. I dont' remember who, but someone recommended I read China Mieville, so I bought Perdido Street Station and The City and The City from Amazon and have yet to read either. To all intents and purposes, the latter should really be right up my alley as it supposedly a crime/ noir with a bit of science fiction thrown in, but I've read the about two chapters of it and can't seem to get into it. Funnily enough, the only one of Mieville's books I have read is his latest, Kraken, which is probably his worst reviewed novel to date. The up and down side of working at a library is that you come across so many books that look interesting (ones that perhaps you wouldn't normally pick up) and yet only end up reading about a fifth of them.

And so it was I came across Kraken. I'd read the reviews of it, but very little is going to stop me reading a book about a ginormous squid being mysteriously kidnapped by a group of fanatical religious types who believe it to be a God. I'm a sucker for abnormally over-sized sea creature stories- I love crappy B-movies like The Deep (1996) and Deep Rising (1998). Anyhow, I can't honestly say the story was up to much. I don't mind religious ideology in novels and I'm sure deep and incisive points about the nature of belief were made, although I'd struggle to tell you what they were.  Yes, it was very imaginative, but the scope of it seemed too vast and parts of it were just convoluted and unecessarry. I pushed on through the rambling wordiness, thinking it was going to go somewhere, but in the end it seemed like a series of things that happened, rather than a cogent narrative. Having said that, I'm not going to give up, will definitely be giving The City and The City another go.

In the meantime, I think I will watch Deep Rising as part of my convalescence period:

Pictorial: Darwyn Cooke

In my opinion, the perfect comics artist. His drawings are cartoon-y, with such drama and expression. And no, I don't know anything about art since you ask.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Dr Who: The Impossible Astronaut- Initial Thoughts

Apart from the Dr dying (Can it be true?! Probably not.), the brief table turning of the characters knowing more than the Dr for once and the arresting image of the astronaut walking out of the lake, I didn't really feel that engaged in the episode. Yes, I understand it's a two-parter so it's setting up situtaions that will be addressed later, but there was a distinct lack of emotional and narrative investment. The Silence were sort of subtly scary as a terror only acknowledged when faced, but that was it. I think a lot resides on the second part, so I'm reserving most of my judgement- could be great, could be more of the same.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Link-up

Cartoonist Scott Adams took to the comments section of various sites to defend his own genius. Hilarity ensued.

The Kindle will soon be compatible for e-book borrowing from libraries in the US. No news on the UK.

Marion Cotillard and Joseph Goron-Levitt's roles in The Dark Knight Rises revealed, cue fresh speculation

And Dr Who is back tomorrow! With River Song in it! Goodness.

The trailer for Cowboys and Aliens looks really good. I love alien movies and also westerns, by way of my dad, but I don't know whether I should get the comic. I tried Jonah Hex and just didn't like it. Will be going to see this though.

The Stuff of Legend: The Dark

Mike Raicht, Brian Smith
Illustrated by Charles Paul Wilson III

You know when you're on Amazon and you click on some suggestion or recommendation and then another and then another and before you know it, youve clicked yourself (and your credit card) into oblivion? This happens to me a lot. It was on one of these trippy, clicking journey that I came across The Stuff of Legend. When I'm deciding whether to buy a book on Amazon, I try to read as little as possible about it. On a lot of the pages you can pretty much read the whole story on there, which for me defeats the purpose of then buying the book. If the bare basics grab me, I'll buy it and then see if it's good or bad.

The plot: It's 1942 and its evening in Brooklyn, where a young boy lies sleeping in his bed with his pet dog nearby. Suddenly the dog begins barking and as the boy leans over to hush him, inky black tentacles shoot out of the wardrobe and wind themselves around all his body, pulling him into the dark realm within. His toys, bound by the code of remaining inanimate around humans, watch on powerlessly. Once the dark has swallowed him up, they huddle around to discuss what to do. It's eventually decided that a small group of them will venture into the Boogeyman's lands to attempt to rescue the boy. Along the way they discover things about each other and themselves, suffer losses, all the while unaware of a betrayer amongst their ranks.

The good: The characterisation of the toys is great, the attributions of each toy just seem so fitting. This works especially well when the toys cross into the Boogeyman's land and find they have become changed- Max the teddybear becomes a real grizzly, the type you wouldn't want to cross, Jack-in-the box becomes a spindly clown with a very elaborate way of speaking (for some reason I imagine him with a posh British dandy accent) and Quakers the wooden duck who finds he can fly ('I'm a real duck!'). This is where the art also comes into play as you can really see the difference in the characters before and after their transformations whilst still recognising them and their personalities. While I'm a huge fan of colour art, the yellowed sepia-tone used here is in accordance with the flashback story feel I think the authors were going for.

There's definite references to Alice In Wonderland, particularly in the scenes where they stumble across a town where all the toys are involved in a bizarre never-ending game which no-one ever or seems to win or know the rules to, and in which they become inadvertently engaged after stepping onto the board. It's also pleasing to have a villian who is genuniely frightening (reminiscent in looks of Mr Dark in Fables)- the Boogeyman is a swirling black organic mass who has filled his land with toys whose fears of abandonment and loneliness he has preyed on.

The bad: I can't really think of any outstanding criticisms to be honest. I don't know whether the authors of this intend to make this an ongoing series (which would be great if they could sustain the story for that long) or just a two-parter, but this is a fantatstic first volume- well written, poignant and with depth -and I will certainly be picking up the next book.

Overall verdict: 5/5

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Adaptation Argument

Hope Larson
A while ago over at Robot 6, Chris Arrant reported how cartoonist Hope Larson would be adapting Madeline L'Engle's novel A Wrinkle In Time into comic format. The resulting comments thread for the article turned into a minor shitstorm, with people telling Hope she should produce her own original material (she does) and not plunder and ruin another author's work.

There is often this kind of grumbling and mild outrage when books are adapted for another medium. As far as I can see, the main agrument against the development of books into films or comics is two-fold. The first is that they are puling people away from reading. In my limited experience, I don't think this is true. Almost invariably when I have watched a movie I liked and know it is based upon a book, I seek out the book to read it. Many peole also try to read the original source material before a movie's release. Earlier in the year, before the film Never Let Me Go opened, reserves of the Kazuo Ishiguro's novel upon which it was based rocketed at Leeds Libraries. And this is a recurring trend.

For me, the problem is one of perception and expectation. When you read a book, you imagine characters to look and behave a certain way, envision situations to enfold in a particular manner. Ultimately you are putting your own slant and interpretation on the text, with your imagination working with the words being read and producing a unique representation. Therefore this is different for every person. When, for example, a film version of a book is made, different people will expect different things from it. They each expect the film to be a manifestation of what they conjured in their head whilst reading. When viewing things on screen, usually everybody sees the same thing- the extent to which films are open to interpretation is much more limited than in a book. In the end, the film is a combination of the director, screen-writer and actors' interpretation.

When books are adapted into films, words like 're-imagination', 're-working', 'different take/spin' are bandied around. The depth and nuance of words and ideas in literature makes it difficult to make a straight adaptaion of a book onto celluloid and in many cases the people 'adapting' the work don't attempt to do so. Taking Richard Matheson's 1954 I Am Legend as an example (which I read after I had seen the film) and the 2007 Will Smith film of the same name, you get two vastly different texts.

Put basically, Matheson's novel is about accepting the change that has occured in the world, in the end his protaganist realises that the 'other' he has been fighting against is not the evil he had thought, but  the next step forward in evolution and is at peace with the idea of becoming one of them. His is acceptance and enlightenment, not resignation and defeat. In the 2007 movie, Will Smith's doctor fights against the 'other' until the very end, eventually finding a cure which he passes onto other survivors, the implication here being that all will be saved from turning into these vampiric monsters, thus eliminating the 'other' totally and returning to normality. The two texts carry almost opposing messages, but the film gained it's idea from Matheson's novel. Quite simply, it is not an adaptaion of the book Richard Matheson wrote.

Now there are people who would get angry about that- 'it's a desecration' 'they've changed the book' , but I think it's important to view each text separately and in its own right. The issue seems to revolve around this precious attitude around literature/books, whereby turning them into movies or comics somehow lessens them. It isn't necessarily a matter of 'dumbing down' texts to make them more accessible, it can be somebody loving a book or idea so much and taking it as a reference point to create something similar yet new. When you reverse the process, taking films such as Star Wars which has hundreds of books in which the adventures of Han and co are continued, nobody seems to view this as violation of sacrement. Instead these books are looked down upon as fan-fcition, although ostensibly it's the same process.

I think adaptations of books, films, comics etc can be hugely enjoyable provided you approach them in a certain way. There is nothing to be gained by promoting the idea that books are sacred and untouchable in this day and age; anything that provides an entry point into literature and reading is a good thing.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Batman Live first look

The first images from the Batman Live production have been released. Cue outrage from cyber fanboys world-wide: the costumes are wrong, the colours are wrong, how very dare they blah blah blah. My friend asked me if I wanted tickets for this for my birthday and I told her to go ahead. I think it looks fun. Of course it's not going to be The Dark Knight part 2 (although my feelings for that movie are ambivalent), but I have a feeling it will be good. Yeah, a 'feeling'. Whatcha gonna do?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

& Cola

Because we've been neglecting the coke side of life.

Recently accquired

Been meaning to read this since ages, came in the post this morning while I was at work:

Also got this from the book sale at work:

Monday, 11 April 2011

Comments conundrum


Doug Braithwaite, Alex Ross

Recently I have decided I must branch out my reading of superhero comics to include characters other than Batman. The thought of going cold turkey terrifies me a little, so I've decided to begin with a foray into JLA titles in which Bats is still present. I got given the final volume of Justice a couple of months back and decided it sounded interesting enough to merit buying the preceding volumes. Two weeks of scouring Ebay later, I had the whole set in my clammy hands. First of all, I must admit I am not Alex Ross's hugest fan. While I can acknowledge his talent and the time, effort and skill required to produce such art, I don't know whether I think it's best suited to the medium of comics. Having said that, I feel with Justice, they were going for an epic story, and his art certainly contributes to the feel of this.

GL creates a cool photo op. Bats and the Flash remain unimpressed.

The plot: All over the world, the JLA's greatest foes are experiencing the same dream: a vision which shows the demise of the universe's superheroes. Seemingly moved by this premonition, Luthor, Bizarro, the Joker, Riddler and others join forces to offer the world an alternative solution. Why is it, they ask, that with all the combined powers and abilities at the JLA's disposal, there is still the existence of poverty and famine and disease? We have joined together, they say, to offer you a cure for your diseases and a chance to begin life anew.

Needless to say things aren't as straightforward as they appear. As people around the globe are magically cured of cancer, paralysis and disease, the apparently reformed villains begin housing them in eight glorious new cities of their own creation. Even whilst Superman is furrowing his brow in suspicion and Batman is gathering his investigative wits, the members of the JLA are attacked one by one, individually incapacitated and unable to contact one another, leaving the world to assume that they have no response to the new alliance's challenge.

The good: This is a great story, very well written. Although a JLA title, ostensibly it's about two people- Green Lantern and Batman.The page where Hal escapes from his space prison:

Hal is glad his existential ruminations have come to an end

When you come to this bit in the story, you can hear the music rising to a crescendo and peaking at the page above. So Alex Ross must be doing something right. Green Lantern's incarceration and subsequent breakout are vital to the story. I've not read any Green Lantern stories, but I've ordered 'Rebirth'  as a direct influence of his role here. Although Bats is more of an orchestrator here, it seems members of the JLA are as obsessed with him as I am, constantly worrying about what he will think. Or maybe I'm projecting. Also good- the Joker as a zealous preacher. You know some things you see and wonder why they haven't been done before as they just seem right? This was one of them.

The bad: The only criticism I have of this is the point of view narration. It switches between a lot of characters whilst there are many characters in the frame, so it can take a while to work out who is speaking. Also it is just me or does Batman's armour look decidedly feminine?

Overall verdict: 5/5

Friday, 8 April 2011

Supermodel, work

Capes, colour-blocking, ankle boots- dude is so on trend right now.

The Link-up

Big Willie and Little Willie to star in M. Night Shyamalan's next project, my sister sees this as Will Smith having nothing to lose, I'm not as sure.

John Parker ruminates  on the demise of Gotham Central. Also some interesting comments in the, er, comments section:

IDW are publishing a collected version of Darwyn Cooke's adaptation's of Richard Stark's Parker novels, which will feature a new additional story, out in July,

The new series of Dr Who begins later this month and Neil Gaiman has written an episode. Yay!

New footage of the Green Lantern movie, released at Wonder Con, suggests it may not be as shit as the inital trailer suggested. Ryan Reynolds withstanding. Which is newsworthy indeed.

Yellow thoughts

A great comic about comics. Check out Sean and Brandon's site.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The hour of our release. . . draws near?

Morning Glories, vol 1
Joe Eisma, Nick Spencer

Okay. Gathering thoughts. Which is difficult to do when you don't have many. I'm pretty slow so I was quite confused by this book. When I tentatively told Imran I would be a doing a review on it, he texted me 'Morning Glories is really good!' I don't know what this means or how it's relevant, but hey. So let's see what we have:

Plot: A group of six teenagers begin school at the prestigious Morning Glory Academy. We are led to believe that each of them has certain abilities, apparently unknown to them, and that these are the basis for their selection. Upon arrival, one of the girls calls her parents to assure them of her safe journey, only to discover that they no longer remember who she is and deny that they have ever had a daughter. This triggers a chain of events that leads the group of students to realise they are imprisoned at the academy for reasons unbeknownst to them.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Boys, Men and Simon Pegg

Got the fourth volume of The Boys in the post today, how cool is this cover:

For the newly initiated, The Boys is about a group of 5 individuals who are secretly employed by a branch of the US government to 'take care' of situations involving the capes and tights crew, in a world where superheroes are prevelant. There are also running narratives about personal motivations, secrets and hidden relationships.

I've been reading reports that Adam Mckay (The Other Guys, Anchorman) wants to direct an adaptation of The Boys, while Hollywood's penchant for turning comics into movies is still riding high. It's all in very, very, early stages, but McKay has said he's talked to Russell Crowe about playing Billy Butcher (Gerard Butler, anyone?). I'm still waiting to see a good bad superhero movie; Hancock started promisingly then just veered off into the crazy. Personally, I'd be surprised if The Boys movie ever comes to light. The comics are just too graphic and unless they seriously diluted it (thus changing it into something else completely), it seems unlikely that a studio would invest big money into a film like that.  Having said that, the casting of Hughie is one problem Mckay won't have:

I mean, of all the people to base a comic character on- Simon Pegg?!