Archive for October, 2011


This Week in Panels: Week 108

October 16th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s Sunday, New York Comic Con is over and I am completely exhausted. Wait, shit. It’s Sunday, which means I have to go home to doing a ThWiP update? Ughhhhhhh… All right, let’s get to it.

I’m joined by David Brothers, Was Taters and brand new contributor Solenna. Space Jawa is currently on location in Turkey, filming the next Agent Cody Banks installment. I wish him well.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

Batman and Robin #2
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Batgirl #2 Play-by-Play

October 13th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell


This will be a short play-by-play, since the story in this issue is very dense in some scenes while others are knock-down drag-out fights.

We start where we left off last week, with Mirror having killed a criminal, and a cop, in the hospital, and the cop’s partner and Batgirl standing aghast.  I’ve decided that I was too hard on the title last week.  It seems the entire universe is younger, and if the male Bats are exactly where they used to be, well, it’s not like that franchise hasn’t always been given priority.  Batman has been the economic and public recognition power house for DC for decades, and that’s not going to let up.  Since it’s been established that he works with the Robins closely, and not Batgirl closely, his continuity is pretty much always going to be more protected.

Babs regains her resolve and runs after the villain as he flees.  The next ten pages are a knock-down drag-out fight between the two of them, broken up briefly by Detective McKenna telling Commissioner Gordon that they need to issue a warrant for Batgirl’s arrest.  Babs manages to steal Mirror’s hit list, finding both her identities on it, but at the end he disappears and she can barely change clothes and limp home.

Back at home, her roommate, Alysia, is shocked by Babs’ condition, but rallies, and manages to patch her up and put her to bed.  Afterwards, she asks Babs why, exactly, she’s beat to hell, and why, exactly, Alysia shouldn’t call the cops.  Babs assures her she’s ‘not a criminal or a victim.’  I think you’ll find, when you check with your dad, Babs, that the former is no longer true.  She then borrows some clothes – which I have never managed to do with all my myriad roommates because none of us are even remotely the same size, but this is comics, and there are only so many body types to go around.

The clothes she borrows allow her to go on a date with her physical therapist, who protests the entire time that this is not ethical.  Named Gregor.  Is he buff and cheerful, with black hair?  Of course he is!  Oh, Babs.  Just go back to Dick already and make us all happy.  Well.  Make me happy.

Gregor asks about how Babs got the use of her legs back.

“I’m a skeptic, Gregor.  I don’t believe in miracles.”

What a coincidence, Babs.  Neither does any reader of the title.

“And if someone is handing them out . . . Why should I, of all people in the world, be the recipient?”

You’re recognizable and potentially lucrative.  Done!  Move on!

And the comic does.  Babs does some research, and finds out that Mirror is a federal agent whose family died in a flaming car crash.  She breaks into the agent’s place and finds a small armory and Mirror talking to her on one of those giant computer screens that comic book villains love so much.

It seems that he thinks life is too painful, and that the survivors of any disaster deserved to die and be relieved of their suffering.  Why he had to kill them in the most painful and horrifying way possible is just a mystery.  His next victim is a guy who was saved from a train, and rides it to work every morning.  Mirror has put a bomb on it, to show Batgirl that there is ‘an end to all miracles.’

Can’t anyone in this universe just get therapy and slowly learn to live a fulfilling life again?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 6

October 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s time to start round 2 of this experiment. It’s the second month and we’re getting our second issues. Will the good comics continue to be good? Will I regret giving some of them another shot?

The DC comics I didn’t get this week due to dropping them a month ago are Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove and Red Lanterns. To fill the void, I figure I’ll talk briefly about the two miniseries that just started up.

First up is Action Comics by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Brent Anderson. The wave of awesome continues and Morales eyes or not, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The carefree Superman really is a breath of fresh air and I just wish more writers could get a handle on it more than Morrison and, from little we’ve seen so far, Johns. What I truly enjoyed was how it portrays Lex Luthor. He goes from cruel and egotistical on his quest for knowledge and dominance to a desperate coward at almost the drop of a hat. One thing I’ve always loved about Lex Luthor is his main weakness of being closed-minded. Once he believes something, it takes a lot of persuasion for him to change his mind on it. It’s much like how AI characters lose due to humans making human choices, but for Luthor, it’s about non-Luthor people making non-Luthor choices. That’s why he could never put it together that Clark and Superman were the same in older continuity. If he were Superman, he’d never have a secret identity, ergo Superman is just Superman. This leads to him acting like he has four aces when it turns out Superman has a royal flush up his sleeve. Then we get this perfect angry face.

I have a feeling the new Luthor is going to have a couple more character surprises. I can’t wait. Better believe I’m sticking.

Speaking of rad comics, Animal Man follows up on the first issue’s momentum. It’s kind of jarring, yet welcome, how similar the Baker family is to the Richards family in FF, only more suburban and a couple family members don’t have powers. It’s reached its stride in being an off-putting horror comic, but there’s just enough family togetherness to make it work. Ellen is justifiably pissy about what’s going on, but not pissy enough to make her unlikeable. Maxine’s know-it-all hold over her now powers mixed with being a naïve child make her almost as creepy as whatever the real threat is, but it’s kind of sweet how she stands up for her brother. I also find it kind of funny how when Cliff – the son of a superhero – is threatened, the very first person he calls for help is his mother. That’s a cute touch.

When it’s creepy, it’s disturbing. The hippo sequence is gross as hell and we still don’t know what we’re really up against. Just that whatever it is, it’s unsavory and downright demonic. I’m hooked. Sticking.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


There to Here and Back Again [On Refn’s Drive]

October 10th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Like everybody else, I’ve been thinking about Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive since I saw it a while back. But first:


And a good song from the soundtrack:

(The Drive soundtrack’s really very good, by the way. Stretched out John Carpenter synths, real ’80s sort of sound.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this movie. I was actually thinking about it before falling asleep last night, and came up with a killer opening paragraph, but then I fell asleep. I had a couple of good email conversations with Morgan Jeske about it the day it came out, too. (Apologies to him if I accidentally steal any of his ideas.)

Drive is a movie that is aware that you watch movies. There’s a certain level of self-consciousness to a lot of modern films, sort of a Family Guy-esque drop in a reference and let you fill in the blank. Daniel Craig’s James Bond I think did this a few times to emphasize the difference between the sexy James Bond and the new thug, Die Hard 4 was better titled John McClane Versus Die Hard’s Bastard Children, Featuring Parkour Guy, Ninja Girl, and The Matrix Guy. It’s a wink at the audience, essentially, rather than any sort of effective storytelling. It’s a pat on the head, a congratulations for having seen a bunch of stupid movies. (Comics fans will know it as “continuity porn.”)

Drive comes off differently. It’s aware of the arc of your average action movie, it gets Michael Mann’s movies about dudes who are good at a thing, and it understands throwback aesthetics. And instead of rewarding the audience for knowing these things with a doggie biscuit and “Good boy!”, Refn and Amini use… I called it “negative space” in my emails to Morgan, and that’s really the best term I can come up for it. They simply don’t fully flesh out certain things, and we’re left with the responsibility of inferring the full shape.

It took me a while to realize that this is what they’re doing. It’s a very quiet movie, dialogue-wise, with an almost distractingly high number of knowing looks, tentative smiles, sidelong glances, and grins. There are precious few times where someone stands up and says, “I feel like this and so I am going to do that.” It works well, in context. It makes what could have been a cliché movie into something a little more ethereal. It’s to Drive‘s credit that it doesn’t quite feel like what it actually is.

The negative space thing is interesting. I had no trouble filling in any of the blanks in the movie, and it occurs to me that this is a sort of audience participation, too. I built part of this movie, maybe some fairly important parts, myself. That just strengthens my suspension of disbelief, since I’m not going to come up with something I can’t believe in, and strengthens the movie, too. It makes it more personal, more mine, than it would be if everything were clearly spelled out. For example, the romance part of the movie feels awkward and almost teenaged in demeanor. No one declares their love, and it isn’t even clear whether or not there’s a sexual aspect to their relationship. You assume so, sure, but was there really?

In Drive, Ryan Gosling’s character is nameless. It abstracts him as a person. He’s “The Driver.” What does he do? He drives. That isn’t the fullest explanation of who he is, but we’re left to interpret that for ourselves. We have to crystalize his abstraction into something we can believe in. For me, Gosling saying that he doesn’t carry a gun tripped something over in my head. He participates in sometimes violent crimes. He’d be held responsible in a court of law, but he divorces himself from the actual violence of the act. He won’t help you stick some place up and he won’t carry a gun. He’ll drive you from A to B, and that’s all you get. Is driving an adrenaline rush for him? It’s clearly something he’s good at, and he’s fairly clever, too. But he doesn’t want to carry a weapon or do the actual job. Does that keep him from overstepping his limits? “I don’t carry a gun” is a limit. It’s a rule, and we have rules because at some point someone did something that required the creation of the rule.

Bryan Cranston’s character mentions that Gosling just walked in off the street one day and asked for a gig. That suggests that he’s transient, and his lack of friends does, too. He’s not on the run from something, exactly, but he is escaping from something. Maybe he made a mistake or maybe he couldn’t do something any more.

So, working backwards: The Driver leaves some place (my first thought is Chicago, actually) and moves to LA. He left because, at some point, he carried a gun and something went sour and somebody died or worse. The Driver got off clean, but still had to vacate. He comes to LA, finds a small job, and falls back into an old habit, but is careful to keep the worst aspects of that habit at a distance. “I don’t carry a gun.” And then, when given sufficient reason, he falls back into those old habits, not with relish, but a sort of… grim determination. Like the end of The Big Fat Kill–“We gotta kill every last rat-bastard one of them. We gotta kill them because we need them dead.”

There isn’t pleasure in the act, not that I can see, so much as a responsibility. He’s good at what he does, whether that is driving or killing. The problem is that that opens up something inside him that’s genuinely ugly and terrible. He understands fear and theatrics, on at least a surface level. That fits with Refn’s idea that Drive is a superhero origin story. But Drive isn’t, not really. It’s the end of a thug’s life.

The Driver’s “sufficient reason” isn’t your traditional action movie love. He becomes attached to a neighbor, Carey Mulligan’s Irene, and her young son Benicio. He takes them on a tour of the LA river, and they have a brightly lit, fun, familial picnic at a beautiful, but polluted, locale. The picnic is shot like Heaven, and the implication is pretty clear. This is a place the Driver thinks is cool, and it is, but it’s also tainted. At the same time, this brief taste of Heaven is enough to show the Driver a way out of his life, something to grasp to pull himself out of his past.

I really don’t think that Irene and the Driver had a physical relationship. The Driver filled a need while her husband was locked up, whether it was security or a strong role model for Benicio. They both filled a need, really. Irene and Benicio represented Heaven for the Driver. There was so much unspoken in their relationship, and they were definitely into each other, but it seems very much like that they were in the budding stages of a relationship up to the point where Irene says “My husband’s coming back” while riding with the Driver somewhere. That line’s dropped in there with murderous finality, and may well be one of the longest sentences she’s uttered up to that point. It certainly felt like the one with the most impact.

There’s a scene late in the movie that directly juxtaposes the Driver’s past and present. He’s in an elevator going down (you don’t go down to Heaven, by the way) to the parking garage with Irene. A man in the elevator is clearly a shooter come to clean both of them up. Driver and Irene kiss in the elevator, completely with a bright, heavenly light, and then the Driver turns, slams the shooter against the elevator, and then kicks his head in. Thanatos and Eros right there, or maybe just Heaven and Hell. Irene steps out of the elevator and the doors close with the Driver in the bloody elevator. The doors literally closed on his future. He was always damned, and getting a taste of Heaven tipped him over just enough to ruin his equilibrium. He was closed off emotionally, and then Irene and Benicio opened him up, and then it was too late. You don’t get to pick and choose your emotions, and that bright red poison inside him came out at its first opportunity.

Later, the Driver tells the story of the scorpion and the frog. It feels really on the nose and eye-rolly, but after I thought about it some… it isn’t. The story doesn’t track. He didn’t ask for help. He was shanghaied into helping someone else. And then, after being betrayed, he set about the business of hurting people until things were put right. The only thing that applies is that scorpions hurt people. That’s their nature.

And that train of thought swung me back around to “I don’t carry a gun” (because if he had his tools, he would hurt people) and Irene and Benicio as escape hatch (because it is definitely both of them, not just Irene. He wants to go somewhere and be a family man) and the way that he stomped that guy out in the elevator. I don’t think that he would have harmed Irene and Benicio, but at some point, he would have hurt someone and fallen once again. The scorpion & frog speech wasn’t about what he was about to do to the people. It was about him. It was a confession. “This is what I do when you make me break my rules.”

It’s a well made movie, is what I’m saying. It encourages conjecture while still managing to be complete in and of itself. The conjecture is integral and superfluous at the same time. It knows you know how these shake out, so it can skip the exposition and backstory. That’s your half of the movie. Refn and Amini’s half informs and overrides yours, but the two halves make for a great whole.

It’s great. Visually, it works really well, too, but that’s another essay. I did want to share this image that Morgan sent over to me. It’s thumbnailed because there’s bare breasts and this is theoretically a worksafe site, but check this:

Look at the focal point of the frame. I like this level of attention paid to small details. The strippers in this scene almost act as the audience, watching with somehow rapt attention and blank faces, simultaneously attracted and repelled by the violence to come… yeah, I like this movie quite a bit. It hit the spot perfectly. I’m flying to Los Angeles today, and I basically just bought the Kindle version of Drive just because. It’s short, you know?

Catch the flick if you can.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“designed by takeshi koike”

October 10th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Takeshi Koike is doing the designs (or more?) for the 40th anniversary animation of Monkey Punch’s Lupin the Third. Here’s some more info, courtesy of Crunchyroll. The special is called Lupin the III: Chi no Kokuin ~ Eien no Mermaid.

Lupin is very much one of my favorite things. It’s a smart and clever crime series with plenty of jokes, an interesting cast of characters (marksman, samurai, femme fatale, dedicated idiot cop, and a goofball kind-hearted savant in the lead), and a throwback style. The series always feels like the ’60s tipping over into the ’70s, when suits were still in style and cigarettes were something everyone smoked.

The cast is seriously good. Fujiko Mine is, yes, a chesty femme fatale, sending men to their doom with the power of her beauty while simultaneously making off with the loot. Jigen is a jaded shootist. Goemon is a fallen samurai who is all about the ideas of honor and legacy. Inspector Zenigata is… well, he’s talented, but he’s no match for Lupin, who is the emperor of all thieves. There’s nothing special about any of the characters in theory, but when thrown into the same mix, you have this weird motley crew of bad guys having adventures in glamorous locations. Lupin and Fujiko’s off-again, on-again, no way, it’s off-again because she just bit the heist Lupin was planning relationship is great. Jigen and Goemon playing conscience for Lupin (to an extent) makes for two devils on his shoulder, not one. And Zenigata is a bumbling oaf who is consistently ten steps behind, but trying his hardest to catch up. It’s endearing and funny. It just works. I can’t explain it. It’s good. Shut up.

Koike, of course, is the guy behind Redline, one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past two years. It was goosebumps all up and down the arms good, and the ending was dead on perfect.

And a hypey review from yours truly.

(The thing about Redline is that it made me feel like style vs substance is a false dichotomy. I probably need to think it through more, but Redline‘s style made what was an otherwise straightforward plot (a boy and his hobby, a boy and a girl) into something magical. It isn’t a bad plot, and it’s pretty well-written. The style just kicked it up another notch entirely, and there are points where that style bleeds into the script, too.)

(I miss Lupin’s red jacket though)

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Fourcast! 97: On Comics And Comedy

October 10th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-We’re talking comics!
-Not comic books. Joke comics. Ha ha ha.
-This ended up being a fairly long conversation, so I split it (roughly) in half.
-We tell some jokes, we talk about some jokes, you know how it goes.
-We talk about tv shows, mainly Louie, 30 Rock, the usual suspects
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-Here comes a new challenger!
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
Podcast Alley feed!
RSS feed via Feedburner
iTunes Store

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


This Week in Panels: Week 107

October 9th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

blah blah blah panels blah David Brothers, Was Taters blah Space Jawa.

On with the show.

Action Comics #2
Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Brent Anderson

Animal Man #2
Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Barnes and Noble vs. DC Universe

October 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Interesting things afoot with DC Comics as of the past couple of days. With the release of the new Amazon Kindle Fire, DC announced that there would be 100 DC trades that would be digital exclusives to the new device. It’s quite a list, too. All of the company’s top sellers.

Barnes and Noble saw this and had a complete cow. As one of their rules in the e-book war, B&N refuses to stock physical copies of books that other devices get in digital form via exclusives. That’s a pretty big deal here. That means that B&N is recalling all 100 of those DC trades. The rest of DC’s library that are usually being sold in stores are still going to be there. The recalled books are still available as orders, both on and through ship-to-home orders from within the store. You just won’t be able to find stuff like All-Star Superman and Y the Last Man on the shelf. I don’t know if this is going to last the four months of DC and Amazon’s deal or longer, but I do know that this is going to hurt.

As I’ve mentioned now and again, I work at a Barnes and Noble. Been there for six years. I’ve read some online reactions to this news and how B&N is fucking themselves over and how dumb they’re being. The whole “cut off their nose to spite their face” thing came up an awful lot. As someone who has some experience in the field, I thought I’d give my two cents.

First thing’s first. Do I think this is a great idea? Not really. Policy or not, it stinks of being petty. It’s B&N’s call and from a business perspective it isn’t the worst thing they can do, but it does make them out to be jerks who are taking their ball and are going home. Their biggest mistake here is burning bridges and that could one day bite them on the ass.

In the near future, though? B&N is going to be slightly bruised. DC is going to be the one that will suffer more than anything.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Path of Mark Henry: An Inspirational Story of Splitting Wigs

October 7th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I’ve always said that professional wrestling is the most fascinating of all businesses to the point that a lot of the times, the goings on behind the curtain are more intriguing than what’s going on before the audience. Unfortunately, the business is also marred by being incredibly scummy and petty, giving us stories very much like that of the film the Wrestler. Because of that, it’s always nice to see a story that actually gives us a happy ending. Recently, one of the big stories to put a smile on my face is that of Mark Henry.

(Gifs by Jerusalem who is the coolest of cool dudes, except for the Matt Striker one by Klauser, but he’s okay too)

Since I’ve been watching WWE through his entire career, I thought I’d take a second to go over what’s been a pretty interesting and endearing story. Mark Henry competed in the Olympics in 1996 to pretty big fanfare, known for being a record-breaking power lifter. WWF signed him to a major contract of $10 million for ten years, figuring him to be such a big deal that he’d easily be worth the money. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well for them. Mark Henry ended up losing at the Olympics due to injuring his back while trying to pick up too much weight. Still, there was much potential in a guy they could label “The World’s Strongest Man”.

Henry made his WWF debut at Summerslam 1996, where he joined the commentary table with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect to watch a match between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Henry got involved and it led to him making his wrestling debut against Lawler at the next In Your House PPV. Henry won and proceeded to singlehandedly fight off Marty Jannetty, Leif Cassidy and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The guy was made to look like this unstoppable patriot who was easy to get behind. Then, in preparation for Survivor Series, Henry got injured. Well, shit.

Henry came back and joined the company’s resident militant black stable the Nation of Domination. His only positive note during this time is that the company booked him to destroy Vader on more than one occasion, causing Vader to experience internal bleeding. Killed momentum aside, there were other problems with Henry. The guy just wasn’t very good in the ring, his weight was starting to balloon a bit and he was getting lost in the shuffle. In 1996, when the company was in dire straights, WWF believed he could give them a push against WCW. But when he was gone, the company began to find itself and new stars rose upwards. Henry simply wasn’t needed.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 5

October 4th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s the last week of #1s for the New 52 and it’s an interesting one. The last few weeks have been filled with comics that I had been genuinely looking forward to, but not so much for this week. This week it’s nothing but DC trying to win me over. Characters I don’t care for, characters I’ve never read before and a couple comics that feature heroes in new comics that already set the bar high. Let’s dive in.

First is All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Moritat, which surprised me as being one of the top three of the week. Nothing says “western” like a fictional city in New Jersey, but whatever. I bet they figured that despite being a pretty awesome character, Jonah Hex’s name was too poisoned by the recent movie to carry the title. Or they’re going to be doing non-Hex stories down the line. Anyway, it’s an interesting pairing with Hex and Dr. Arkham, with the latter reminding me of the biographer character from Unforgiven, only with actual talents to keep him useful. It’s a murder mystery from the past mixed with a buddy cop movie… only the two will surely still hate each other by the story’s end.

I like that with Arkham around, we have a protagonist who could talk down at Hex to us as being something of a monster (though he’d never have the balls to do so to Hex’s face) and yet we have our cake and eat it too by being able to follow and root for Hex as the other protagonist. A prostitute gets fridged because, well, there’s nobody else to really get at someone like Hex through and even that only shakes him up verbally. With his gritty know-how and Arkham’s occasionally helpful brilliance, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they have this wrapped up with no problem. Then the ending turns it all on its ear where even our two main characters accept that they may indeed be fucked. I’m drawn in and definitely want to see this story through. Between that and Moritat’s Tony Moore-like art, I’m sticking.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis is probably the best intro we can get that doesn’t involve turning him into the beloved Zap-Brannigan-meets-Hank-Scorpio incarnation that Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave us. I don’t know when the whole “Aquaman is worthless” thing truly came into being. I’d like to think that it was something people silently agreed on for years, especially in relation to the first season of Superfriends and didn’t fully explode until that skit on the State where Superman gives the Superfriends missions, tells Aquaman to “go talk to some fish” and everyone begins laughing relentlessly at him. Either way, the guy has been a laughing stock and DC’s been trying so hard to make him work. Personally, I loved what they did with him last time they gave him a reboot with the One Year Later underwater Conan concept where he carried a sword and hung out with King Shark. That ruled pretty hard until Busiek left the book.

It’s a strong start. Aquaman acts like a badass to the point that getting shot in the head causes him to get slightly cut open in the temple, but he’s considered to be this big joke by the police and public. After years of stories about superheroes doing the right thing only to be hated for being menaces who everyone thinks are really evil, it’s pretty great to see a different, more light-hearted take on it. Granted, no matter how Aquaman tries, he’ll still never measure up to Namor. I bet if that asshole blogger guy asked Namor about what it’s like to be nobody’s favorite superhero, he would have flown off through the wall and come back later to tell him that he’s now that blogger’s mother’s favorite superhero. Then he’d punch him in the dick for good measure.

I tend to have faith in Johns’ storytelling and I like what he’s doing so far. As long as he doesn’t draw out the “Aquaman sucks” gimmick too long, I’m sticking.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon