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Sequential Critique

A blog focusing mostly on comic books with a little bit of movies, TV, and music thrown in.

Last Post

Sorry for not updating in such a long time, but a lot's been happening lately, but I'm starting another blog in a fresh direction over here, so check it out. I'll have a couple Grant Morrison related posts up soon. Thanks for reading my blog and I kinda feel abd leaving mid project, but I promise I'll work harder at being more reliable. It's one of my New Year's Resolutions. So, check out my otehr blog. I'd appreciate it a lot.

While I Completely Trust Sam Kieth To Be Original

His new Batman book looks really crossover-ish, Kieth weaves a dark tale of violence and mayhem, and how heroes are treated by the media and viewed by the public. As Batman and The Joker face off, their confrontation is inadvertently caught on film — and Gotham`s protector appears to be pummeling Joker without mercy, much to the delight of the frenzied press! Plus, a secret from young Bruce Wayne`s past is revealed!

Man, I hate it when comic reviewers mildly dislike a book, and then to compound their displeasure in reading it, they mention, and the concept seems a little thin, like it couldn't support x issues. And they have no idea how well the concept'll support x issues. If, when teh mini series is over, and it retreads thematic/stroycentric ground, then feel free to bash it because the author did geep enough or there wasn't enough to dig, but don't put the comic down before that, okay blogosphere?

Soldier #6


MF Doom!

How could I not make a merry band of rappin soldiers without a resident super villain?

The answer, dear readers, is I could not. Mixing Big Boi's ascent (or descent) into commercialism, is MF Doom, who, along with his main collaborator Madlib, ahve alwasy been on teh edge of hip hop. He combines cartoon themes with banging basslines and rhymes 6 or 7 syllables. He's the perfect collaborator to add tot eh group. he produces distincttracks and raps with his own hypnotic, droning voice. He can add a little something to any track he's on, unlike Big Boi, who can only rap. But, with that said, he is kind of a jack of all trades and only truly makes good music when he's collaborating with someone.

Fortunately, in his career, he's made, like, 5 tracks taht were compeltely solo work. He's used to collaborating,a nd making the tracks light up. He's great the way he is, just needs a bigger light shined on him.

Scorpion: Poison Tommorrow

by Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers Guy), and Leonard Kirk (Solid Superhero action guy)
Marvel Press (Not as diverse as DC Comics Publisher
$8 (Cheap Price for 6 issues)

This is probably the best digest Marvel has published yet. While Limewires is a close second, this is jsut oozing with awesomeness. Van Lente makes a cool lil intrigue plot surrounded by a believable cast of characters all with separate motivations. Besides some ham fisted origin telling, it's awesome material. Totally worth an ongoing series if Van Lente (or if Alex deCampi, who quit after seeing the artist that wasn't Leonard Kirk to work on it) wrote it. Besides taht, though, I wanted to point out how coolily it used the medium of sequential storytelling instead of just telling a story that could be in any medium. When Carmilla Black finds her birth certificate, her reaction is side by side with the birth certificate informatiom, so the full scene of viewing the birth certificate is seen in 2 panels, instead of teh panning or camera view shifts a movie would require. Don't eveng et me started on how a book would be different.

And the book is litterred with cool stuff like that. Van Lente gets a big Strongly Reccomended from this blogger, and I wanna check out his non Action Philosophers comics a lot right now. A LOT.

Some Comics That Came Out Recently

Ultimates 2 #9:

Holy Crap Holy Crap Holy Crap. It's been forever since an event like this has gotten me so fanboyishly excited! Everything happened! Everything went down! And, provided Millar doesn't screw this up, it'll be good! PS I know there are cynical people who relish at how obvious the traitor was, but it's jsut so much more monumental than a simple traitor trying to disband the Ultiamtes and kill them. It's a bunch of frickin people hijacking America! That's some awesome blockbuster comcis, and any misgivings I may have had about Millar's run before get rectified by this one awesome reveal. PPS It's good.

Amazing Fantasy #15:

Dan Slott makes a great gag character in Blackjack who, given enought ime as a feature in Amazing Fantasy could very well become a great enduring character, but he won't get the chance. It's sad, because most characters in the golden Age started as simplistic action stories, but comics have evolved past that point where that kinda gag will hold a reader's interest for a while. Also, Greg Pak creates a great new character in Mastermind. I really want to read mroe of their adventures, but unfortuantely I don't see them given taht chance by the modern Marvel company. They jsut don't have enough support for characters like these outside of Amazing Fantasy, and even more insulting is the insertion of cliffhangers in the comic, so whatever story we get of the new characters is either far off or non existent. Although the actual comic is good, it's a very unsatisfying feeling to read these and realize there are no new comics featuring them til at least March (next Marvel solicitations). On the whole a good comic, but unsatisfying.

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #2:

Billy Patton looks jsut average compared to Pasqual Ferry, who lit up the first comic's interiors. And this 4 issue mini series gets more artists than Ultimate Secret, but Morrison packs a lot more comic in this issue than in that whole series. The setting of Kirby's New Gods is trememdously different than this series, this being an urban center, and Shiloh Norman is, quite literally, a "New God". He's a young upstart who makes a bunch of money at doing impossible feats. But he's still a pawn in the game Dark Side and Metron play. Quite literally they play chess in wheelchairs as Shiloh tries to escape from the Black Racer. But that's not the most intriguing aspect of the story.

The book serves as meta-commentary on the DC Universe. The once powerful Metron is now reduced to a squabbling guy in a wheel chair, and the rest of the New Gods are a bunch of gods/writers who have completely changed their looks/sensibilities to fight evil/tell stories that are kinda like how they were in the past, and there's this one guy, Shiloh Norman/Grant Morrison, who's famous even in the new age of gods/comics. He's compeltely changing the game, causing both sides to rethink their positions. Or I'm reading too much into it, and it's jsut a good vs evil story of lost glory for the good while the world's corruption has helped the evil side. In any case, even though teh artist is at most a tenth as good as Ferry, it's still strongly reccomended.

Hatter M: The Looking Glass #1:

This comic is jsut so ridiculus! Besides being $4, the main character is an implanted agent of "Alyss" searching for her in the modern world. He has knives that come out of his back, or just a blade with many edges. He has to have a hat, and conversely, hatters are the msot trustworthy people to him. He throws a knife at a judges nose and escapes! What the Fuck! He suffers a jury in Paris at the Turn of the Centruy, and they look like they have powdered wigs from the 1700's. It's jsut so ridiculus, and if you're in the mood for zanyness, read the book, it's full of it, but I can't stomachwackiness of the plot, the Frenchmen saying "le huh?" or the wizard taht raises zombies. It's just too crazy and out there and focusing on dream world rules. Not Reccomended. PS, Templesmith's art is really good, though. It's nto quite as expressive as Fell, but it still hits the right notes.

Seven Soldiers: The Bulleteer #1:

This is probably the most dissappointing of the Seven Soldiers series. Yanick Paquette's art is obviously photoreferenced, and the main character sometimes has her feet arched like she's wearing high heels, but she's barefoot or wearing flats. Plus, instead of teh otehr books' subtle meta commentary, this is just blatant statements about cheesecake in super heroes. The guy who pushed to add cheesecake in the comic died, but he still spread the concept to other people. And taking away the fact Morrison would obviously never got for the cheesecake effect, it really doesn't factor into the story this first issue. It's just part of the art. Sigh, not Reccomended, and the first Seven Soldier's book to earn that from me.

The Alien Effect

Phillip K Dick, in my opinion, is a great science Fiction writer. SImilar to Grant Morrisson in the crazy idea plus great, affecting characterization. Unfortunately, in his most out there sci fi books, he suffers from, with lack of a better word, The alien effect. He instantly transports his readers to a crazy world teeming with political ideals, amazing inventions, and he bundles it together with many themes attacking political institutions, and about human nature. Unfortunately, since he is such a crazy idea man, his books have crazy ideas too.

For instance, in my latest PKD reading, "The Crack In Space" (I don't see a button to underline), the audience is given a world where poor people sleep until labor conditions improve, blacks (or cols as they're called in the book, not a disrespectful term, but a general denotation for those of African descent). He gets some great working condition statements there. Then he launches into the character of Jim Briskin, the first Col Candidate. He's fighting acainst a cauc candidate (Whtie person). The majority of his platform is against the Golden Door, which prevents birthrates by sexually pleasing those with money. But his campaign manager tells him to isntead support that bc of public opinion. Then they talk about military pensions and how having a baby means you lose yours.

As you can see, he introduces crazy concepts and inventions at least every page, and as a reader, when I'm trying to take this in, it requires mroe patience and slower reading to reread passages and grasp teh concepts he's trying to convey while digging deeper tahn surface meanign of actions. In shrot, it's information overload by thrusting the reader into an alien world, and it's the reason Sci FI doesn't get it's proper respect nowadays.

Compare this to comics, where something like the Golden Door is explained in a panel and a caption, adn suddenly, it's not an overload. It's just a cray idea. And that relative easier reading is probably why I drifted away from Science Fiction in novel form but love it in a sequential narrative. Oh, and feel free to dismiss this post as a ramble from 3 in the morning, becuase that's what it is.

Soldier #7

Big Boi, From Outkast.

He's that cool friend that I used to hang out with all the time. Then the popular kids accepted him.

And he's just not the same.

Now, instead a makin great songs with my boy Dre (3000), he's hanging out with Killer Mike, Konkrete, and Goodie Mob. And it just isn't the same. Instead of a conscious MC with a great flow, he's another crunk rapper. Easily Dismissable. Just like a coupla comic book characters I can think of that had their distinctive traits hollowed out and replaced with whatever's popular. So I nominate Big Boi as the rapper most in need of a character rewrite by Grant Morrison. While other crunk/gangsta rappers might do interesting things, they don't have as interesting a base. And, just like Zatanna, he went and did something very bad.

So, he's my first Soldier.

For comparison of those not incredibly well versed in rap, here's what he was like

And here's what he's like now


I'm really surprised no one's bitched about the sheer amount of ads in the beloved and awesome All Star Superman #1. 18 ads and 22 pages of story sure seems like a lot, but maybe all teh DC comics this month have that ratio. I wouldn't know because I'm trying out mailordering comics (well, I've done it for two months and decided I can't stand waiting).

Starman Pt III: Night & Day, Times Past, and Talking WIth David

Here's where Starman completely evolves from a simple superhero story into the awesome beast it will become. At #6, the comic braches out and instead of just telling you of this Starman, Jack Knight, you hear of exploits of Ted Knight. And they're amazing interludes. James Robinson becomes a storyteller instead of author at this point. He's willing to sit down and tell you tales about anything. And the point of the Times Past stories may not always be apparent or particularly meaty, but that's not the point of Times Past. The point is for James Robinson to just tell stories. He's created a huge cast of characters, all with pasts riddled with holes that he can fill. And a new facet is added. Instead of the idiosyncratic writer with the flowery prose that perfectly matches the "timeless, but of a time gone by" city of Opal.

And then Robinson chooses to expand his cast even more by having Jack Knight visit the Carnival! And the reader's assaulted with wicked imagery of an octopus mixed with a human, a Fish boy, and msot importantly, a blue skinned alien named Mikaal. It's a whole other landscape Robinson visits, and a whole new story for him to plow. And that is part of the joy of Starman. There are always new landscapes to watch, more seeds to be sown, and more land to be tilled.

Also, James Robinson invents new ways to tell thsoe stories too. Just after the trip to the Carnival, we're treated to watching a day from 5 different perspectives. While maddening to read with a long wait in between, the trick of replaying an event sever different times from different POV's is a trick taken from films and TV, not from other comics. Robinson is willing to mix any way to tell a story along with all the whacked out stories he can tell. And by doing this, he makes Starman not a Superhero comic, but a Storytelling comic. It's a rare thing to be treated to something with so much ancestry, tradition, and settings, but it's well worth slogging through his flowery prose to enjoy this rare genre of comic.

Finally, with all these different directions Robinson can take, he leaves himself a home to always return to. Talking With David. Every year, Jack Knight revisits one of his msot important relationships, that with his brother. And while the story before it may be a wild western tale with Scalphunter, and the year's filled with wild space travel, David's relationship becomes the driving force of the book. It's becuase of David's picking on him and because of him dying that Jack became who he wanted be in the way that he became Starman. And becuase Jack enver properly spent time with him when David was alive,t eh chance to watch Jack's relationship grow, or to investigate mroe itno the relationship as it evolves, is the true steering wheel behind the comic. And it's because of that, more than anything, that I lvoe Starman so much.

And that's my ode to Starman.

Hip Hop as Superhero comics

Hip Hop's a lot like Superhero comics in many ways. Besides the fact both exploded around the same time (The speculator's boom in late 80's along with the gangsta rap explosion in late 80's), both feature similar topics and themes explored very intensely by a sometimes talented, sometimes not group of people. Besides the intense exploration of good vs evil along with self propagation, both feature guest stars out the wazoo! When a new single by Lil John comes out, you can bet the East Side Boys, Usher, Ludacris, Fat Joe, and Nelly'll all come gust star. And it'll be an amazing hit because it features everyone everyone is comfortable with. And that's not mentioning the fact most have pseudonyms and a fake personality on the rhymes, or a secret identity.

So, with this comparison in mind, and with Devon of Seven Hells (http://sevenhells.blogspot.com/) as an influence, I'm gonna do a Seven Soldiers of Hip Hop Superstars.

Look for the opening post sometime tonight or tommorow, after Starman Pt III

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and a Tangent on Medium Differences

Note: Harry Potter Spoilers (well, duh)

This movie is as slow moving as Ethan Van Sciver's pencil*. For starters, it's 2 and a half hours, which is not an extremely long time for a movie. Return of teh King was 3 and a hlaf hours long (maybe longer). But the entirety of the movie's plot is incredibly small. VOldemort Returns, Harry gets into a contest, and eventually Voldemort returns full scale. Fairly linear, but in the book, J K Rowling completely dresses this average girl into a beauitful ball gown by telling a complete year in the student's lives. Every murmur of Cho Chang, every glimpse of her is told in melodramtaic teenager detail. Whenever Ron gets bullied by Draco, you see his reaction. In the movie, these scenes are setup as an afterthought. When Draco makes fun of Harry and Ron at the World Cup, no time is given to their reaction, and the introduction of Lucius Malfoy is very sudden.

It feels like the director's palying lip service to the audience. After all, we've seen Lucius' cruelty to his house elf, but throughout the movies, no characterization is given until his rude remark to Harry. And that's all it is. There're no whispers of Draco's dad being a death eater, and it's importance is completely eschewed by rushed storytelling. Because the movie tries to tell more than it possibly could, and becaase I have a handy dandy reference for the story in the book, it feels rushed but it moves slow. A very odd combination for the movie, but it completely owes it's character development to the book.

Had the audience not known of the characters beforehand, their actions and motivations are completely random and arbitrary. Fortunately, since it is an adaptation, it allows itself that luxury. It doesn't have to be a great movie, just a best of from the book. Everyone I've talked to that's seen it has been completely amazed by it's awesomeness, and besides the majestic landscape and spectacular dragon fight, I find it to be just a capable adaptation. Nothing particularly well done. Unlike the first three films which were very tight stories that complimented the effects of being a movie isntead of a book, with plenty of great action sequences.

But the movie tries to be the book. It tries to add in the ultimately pointless Hermione/Viktor Krum romance, it tries to add in Rita Skeeter, who does absolutely nothing in the story, and it tries to foreshadow Snape's coming deception, but the effects of all those are not seen.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say, from this source material, this could not have been a great movie. The richness of the tale comes with the leisurely pace of reading the book. You can escape into Harry's adventures for 15 minutes or 15 hours, and it would not change. In a movie, however, you sit through the entire thing, and a pause halfway through at a scene ending is infinitely more jarring and disorienting. So the playful paradigms established of Harry Potter asking Cho Chang to the dance, or Ron's struggle for acceptance are not established as paradigms. They are just scenes taht push the movie forward. When reading the book, it takes more time to ingest the information printed, as in a movie you're instantly related to the tone of a scene. So the collection of days that is Harry Potter is not translatable when you approach the fourth book in the series.

Because J K Rowling tried to compeltely make a well rounded piece tonally, she took her time. Harry's happiness lasted a while, as did him being miserable. But in the movie, he races through those phases in 15 minutes, and because it is a movie, to repeat one last time, those phases are actually changes. I do not have high hopes for the fifth movie.

With that being said, the movie is incredibly fun and worth your time if you've enjoyed Harry Potter before. The movie just stuck out as an example of differences in mediums.

*Oh, Snap!

Starman: Sins of The Father Part II

From the first page, you can tell how much Robinson cares about Opal City. It's as much a character, or maybe even moreso than Jack Knight. Almost all the characters have special feelings for Opal in the series, and Opal changes as much as anyone. Except, it retains its main characteristics. It's "old and pristine", "glorious and singular", and it's "ornate and streamlined". The city's full of contradictions that, when the boundaries are discovered, form a beautiful whole.

And suddenly, we're transported to the current Starman, David Knight. What starts as a monologue about his pride and joy about being Starman quickly disintegrates into his death. And suddenly, the reader knows this is not merely a superhero comic. In just one page of prose a piece, we're suddenly intimately familiar with two important characters that nothing was known about before. We're mad that this David Knight, who conquered his fear of heights, had to die so suddenly. And the image of his death and him falling to the concrete, falling through the heights he overcame, is incredibly powerful. And becuase James Robinson chose to tell us about his life and personality, we're suddenly thrust into the main story, with barely any time wasted.

Well, we're actually thrust into a conversation, but it quickly becomes the main dramatic component of the story. Again, in just two pages, we instantly know the relationship of Jack, Ted, and David Knight. Jack is somewhat maligned, and is probably only tolerated by the otehr two, and Ted Knight favors David Knight. Becuase of this, they have a sibling rivalry of sorts, but even though there're these problems, they still love each other.

And then Jack's world goes to hell. He finds out about David's death, someone injures Ted Knight, and someone attempts murder on him. And suddenly, because of his responsibility to the family, and his desire for acceptance from his father, he puts on the Starman mantle, just to rescue Ted Knight.

After Jack struggles with becomeing Starman, the incredible pacing of the story becomes apparent. As soon as a conversation is finished, James Robinson pumps the reader's blood with excitement, and then tehre's another breather. The highly emotional talk between Ted and Jack about their relationship where Ted asks Jack to leave town is juxtaposed with the destruction of Jack's mother's museum wing. Jack saving the wing is juxtaposed with Shade and teh mist's conversation about villainy. All the events blend perfectly together, and jsut as you get relaxed, the excitement amps up one more notch. When teh excitement gets amped up, you're taken out into another conversation to rest, while the characters in the story do the same. And then the book truly comes alive.

At the start of the last issue, we witness Jack and David as kids. They're typically arguing about who's better when the younger tries to get respect from the older, and we see Kyle and Nash, the Mist's posterity, have a lving conversation. It's so different from David and Jack's relationship. Then they both race off to fight each other. As they trade blows, Jack recalls the day we saw before with David. As Kyle taunts Jack, their punches are harder. Jack taunts back, and the other assault on the Mist is formulated. Jack jabs Kyle with his rod. David tears Jack's comic book. Kyle stabs Jack, Jack retreats and regroups, readying another attack. The Shade obtains a SWAT team and attacks the Mist's hideout. Kyle hits Jack with his cosmic belt, David makes Jack eat sand, the SWAT team closes in on the Mist, David and Jack have a great time racing, Jack smaks Kyle, the Swat team enters the Mist's hideout, David insults Jack after breaking one of his collectibles, Jack gets hit, and finally....

Jack kills Kyle.

He lights him on fire with his cosmic rod jsut as he reflects on Daivd's life as his emotions run towards a crescendo. James Robinson perfectly conveys the injection of emotions and memories into someone's actions, and it's amazing. The comic moves from a collection of characters and stories to fluid, moving organism where everyone acts as they would in real life. That issue, #3, is one of the most perfect comics I've read.

Next: After a couple posts, onto Night and Day. y'know, that story where Robinson takes 5 issues to describe all of one day.

Starman: Sins of Father

Because of Dave (Of Dave's Long Box fame), and his recent post on Starman (http://daveslongbox.blogspot.com/2005/11/starman-44-dc-comics-1998.html), my love for Robinson's perfectly flawed story has been reignited. It was a mysterious comic the first time I'd approached it. The enigmatic painted cover of a man's dissappointement was an odd one for what I'd heard called "Old School Superheroics With Modern Sensibilities". The way the strange man with green goggles overlooked the shadowy businessman and depressed drinker scared me. This was far from my comfort zone of anything appropriately Vertigo or Morrison written. Nor was it in any way similar to my Batman comics. This was just... enigmatic. A star emblem backdropped the cover, reinforcing the Starman motif, but more importantly, making an even more alien and intricately woven design to be inspected by me. Little did I know what the character's inside would reveal that would make even mroe intricate designs.

With all that description and apparent praise said, the cover for the first trade paperback turned me against it, and it wasn't until a couple months passed with it's existence in my knowledge that I decided to pick it up. The cover's style still strikes me as odd for what comic book it is, but I've accepted it in time, that yes, that is how the book will be presented. That is how it will be done.

Tommorrow: What makes the contents so special and intriguing.

Man, What happened to Darwyn Cooke doing an arc on the Flash? I remember a long time ago newsarama reported Darwyn Cooke'd do an arc and then Joey Calaveri(ugh) would follow him as regular writer. I mean, I at least a Flash that looks cooler than this

Ugh. And now his series is ending(http://www.newsarama.com/forums/showthread.php?s=245f4d8df260ca2c815e4bead07cfa00&threadid=49326). Sigh. At least Cooke's Spirit launches in June. And hopefully, DC'll make another creative team change in the Spirit/Batman special, replacing Loeb with Cooke. Sigh. I miss Cooke. He hasn't done anything since his SOlo issue.

Captain America #11 and The Jack Cross Effect


This is just a quick post on a recurring storytelling device I've noticed prominently displayed in two comics. Captain America #11 and, to a greater degree, Jack Cross #1. In both comics, the story continues along at a nromal pace, being an aggressively mediocre read by both creators*. But then after the story/exposition ends, there's an arresting emotional scene, or hook. Suddenly the events of the issue have a greater impact than the reader once surmised. Instead of Jack Cross taking care of terrorism adn homeland security, he's suddenly a conflicted individual and we, as the audience, must know more about him! And Catptain America #11 does not abuse the Jack Cross effect near as mucha s it's namesake does. It merely utilises it to a good effect.

During the briefing reading, perhaps becuase Captain America is so stoic in the scene leading up to Bucky's story, the exposition chugs along very average. It's a cool little fill in the gap issue, but nothing more. And then suddenly we see Captain America devastated by the emotional weight of Bucky's death. And suddenly we want to know how he's going to be affected by it. How much pain did it cause him. Instead of being a cheap cliffhanger of the protagonist "dying", it's a cliffhanger that actually carries emotional impacts, and causes the plot to move forward, while pulling in the audience more.

And hey, it got this reader to buy another issue of Jack Cross when I was completely unimpress with the first.

*in my opinion, and why didn't Michael Lark do Captain America #11, and Epting do #9. Oh well, another post.

The Boondocks... Now in animated form!

There's this kinda new show that Cartoon Network just put on Adult Swim called Boondocks. It's like the newspaper strip but, y'know, a cartoon. And it's even more vitriolic and funnier than the strip. And the best part is, instead of just completely bashing the modern administration (which needs some bashing, just not in the political cartoon way), it incorporates Aaron Mcgruder's disdain for it into a story. The main characters move into the suburbs at the start, and they adjust to living with the ruling elite, white devil, the enemy, or any of the various names the little guy calls them. They see firsthand that the people with all the power, all the wealth, are just a bunch of easily amused vegetables oblivious to the world around them. As was stated "These people don't care what's put in front of them, they just laugh and clap at it". They were amazed at how articulate he was, and completely ignoring his message saying Jesus was Black (to a conservative preacher), Reagan was the devil, and that the current government lied about 9/11. They just complimented him on how well he spoke.

And besides that main theme, an undercurrent of teh word "nigga" cuts throughout the show. The main character's granfather constantly refers to him as "nigga" or "little black ass" while he punishes the main character for using those words. Consequently, he's accepted by the wealthy elite. And he constantly tries to keep his grandkids in check, but it doesn't matter at all whether he does or not. He's still accepted by teh wealthiest person in town.

I could go on explaining the plethora of political commentary, but it's unsubtle enough. And if you're looking for some good ol' Republican bashing, this is right up your alley. It may not be incredibly deep or realized, but Aaron McGruder's rage against the way the world is remains mroe than entertaining. It's on at 11:30 Eastern on Cartoon Network on Sundays. Record or TiVo it if you must.