Archive for January, 2012


Best Adaptation of Another Work, 2011: Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles

January 31st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

The first thing adaptations of any sort need to do is justify their existence. What does Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 do that Arthur C Clarke’s novel doesn’t? That justification is crucial, because otherwise, why not just read the book? Adaptations that are just direct, or near-direct, copies, like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City or Zach Snyder’s Watchmen may provide a briefly visceral thrill at seeing what was previously limited to your imagination turned into real life and then displayed on a giant screen, but they don’t have anything over the original works beyond being films. Adaptations need to reveal some previously hidden truth or adjust the story for a new context in order to be truly worthwhile. A 1:1 adaptation simply isn’t enough. Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles, the latter half of which was published this year, is an adaptation that justifies its own existence.

It’s based on Needle, a science-fiction novel from 1950 by Hal Clement. In Needle, an alien life form comes to Earth and takes up residence inside a human boy. The alien is on Earth in hot pursuit of another alien, a hostile one this time, and enlists the boy to help in that battle. The hostile alien has hidden inside another human, and they must solve the puzzle before it’s too late.

7 Billion Needles keeps the broad strokes of the story. There is a kind alien and a hostile one. The boy has been replaced by Hikaru Takabe, a teenaged girl, and the conflict plays out in a vastly different manner. Rather than dealing with paranoia, it’s more about growth, both emotional and physical. Hikaru is exceedingly reserved after a personal tragedy, and has trouble making friends. She’s quiet with her family, too, even though they have taken her in. Thanks to the influence of the alien, she learns how to open up and just how important relationships actually are. You could even say that she learns just how important the relationships she already has are to her, though she may be actively avoiding or simply not cognizant of that fact. It takes time. There’s no magic button that opens up her emotions, but she eventually grows into a fuller human being.

Evolution plays a major role in the series, too. The question of what direction life on Earth should take, how dominant species can upset an ecosystem, and how species contamination works, are important parts of the latter half of the series. While it may not be scientifically sound, it does make for a very interesting wrap-up to a series that’s simultaneously personal and apocalyptic.

7 Billion Needles is a great example of pulling inspiration from an existing work and then doing it justice. Direct adaptations might as well be photocopies. Finding something new to say with an old story is much more interesting.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 5: Liberty Files (2 of 2)

January 30th, 2012 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett

When we last left off, our heroes were… oh, that’s right, it looked like the war had gone to hell and in the aftermath of the brawl in the desert, The Owl was injured and currently resides in a nearby hospital.

The two spies are to meet with a field officer for debriefing, Terry Sloane. I’ll bet some of you will be absolutely shocked to discover that he has a mocking nickname from his underlings, “Mister Terrific”. As Terry dines with a beautiful woman, the two spies go to check up on a local contact.

And thus we meet the antagonist of book two, a Nazi spy/torturer known as the Scarecrow. He’s already killed the Owl (who held out against his techniques before dying), but the dead contact has given him all the intel he needs. The Bat cautions that he’s dealt with the bastard before and they need to use guns. The Hour ignores this, pops his pill, and lets everything go to hell.

The Bat and the Hour chase after the Nazi, and Terry is left with Eva in his arms. The ring he had been palming to propose to her does him little good as she slips away.

Cut back to: 1939, somewhere inside Germany. Hitler attends a demonstration by one of his scientists, who believes he can open a wormhole to other times, places, or dimensions. Something unseen emerges from the portal – something bulletproof. As the few guards in the room are cut down by their own ricocheting ammunition, Hitler places a pistol to the back of the other survivor’s head and fires, walking forward to greet the being, and give him a name.

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Sakamichi no Apollon might be the new hotness

January 30th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I don’t know anything about Yuki Kodama’s (shoujo?) manga Sakamichi no Apollon, but Crunchyroll recently posted an interesting bit of news about it. It’s being turned into an anime. Looks like the English title might be “Kids on the Slope.”

Key words: director Shinichiro Watanabe, music production by Yoko Kanno, set in Japan during the late ’60s, features jazz in a major way.

So yeah, to say that I’m “cautiously optimistic” would be underselling my feelings on this show. I want it like I haven’t wanted a TV show since Michiko e Hatchin, which I’m still missing because the anime industry doesn’t cater to me like it should, and I publicly offered to murder David “Second David” Uzumeri if that’ll help someone license and broadcast it online over here.

Help me help you, anime. (Sorry, David, but I’m sure you understand.)

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Best Use of Color, 2011: Rico Renzi (Loose Ends)

January 30th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Colors can make or break a comic book. Great colorists–Matthew Wilson, Dave Stewart, June Chung, Matt Hollingsworth, Laura Allred, Frazer Irving, Laura Martin, Dave McCaig, and more–are as essential to a comic book as the writer and artist. Colors can set the mood in subtle ways, heighten or lessen the horror of a scene, or help turn an abstract idea into a concrete one. Great comics don’t have bad colors. It simply doesn’t work. Colors, including black and white, are too essential, too vital to the format, to be something that you can phone in. Colors count.

Rico Renzi’s colors in Loose Ends, published by 12 Gauge Comics, are fantastic. To be honest, the entire book clicks on every cylinder. Jason Latour’s story is on point, a crime tale that unfolds slowly, but in an entertaining and surprising way. Chris Brunner’s art is great, no matter whether he’s drawing slumping fellas, tired women, great sound effects, or faded flashbacks. Renzi’s colors are great, though. It may be an overused term, but his colors “pop.” Neon signs draw your eye, just like they do in real life. The gloom of a late night crawls across the page. He eschews sepia tone for flashbacks, choosing instead to render one of them with a greenish-blue and purple screentone overly.

The first issue is dominated by reds. The bar where most of the action takes place is open late and nearly empty, but that doesn’t stop things from going down. What should have been an easy night turns into a violent and horrible one, and an appropriately bloody shade of red begins to dominate the pages in spikes and bursts. When things quiet down, the red gives way to a cool blue and eventually black. The transition is an impressive one, and isn’t the type of thing that you’ll consciously notice on your first read.

Renzi makes a number of brave color choices over the course of the series. He’s not going for realism, not really. Realism in crime comics generally means lots of browns, blues, and blacks; rainy days and dark alleys. Renzi’s palette is more like something from a summer blockbuster or cape comic, but adjusted for the subject matter. The bright colors practically blast off the page, doubly so when they’re hidden in an otherwise flat flashback.

He uses a lot of unnatural colors, too, like Kool-Aid blue (the same blue I associate with that magical octopus/squid Kool-Aid introduced in the ’90s, remember that?) for sparks or lights and a sickly green for cash money. As a result, Loose Ends doesn’t look hardly anything else you’ll find on the shelves. It’s a crime comic that looks like it’s been lit by bioluminescence, and the finished product is beautiful. Rico Renzi knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s obvious from simply flipping through Loose Ends. After you read it the first time, take some time to just flip through the book and look at the art. Glance at how the colors shift as the book goes on. You won’t regret it. I like Loose Ends enough to follow these guys wherever they go.

(I’m editing this weeks after I first wrote this and I just realized what these colors remind me of: Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, starring my main man Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina, the girl of my dreams. It’s a fairly dark story, at least in summary, but the palette and storytelling is like something out of a fairy tale or cartoon. It makes for a very strange film, and it’s one of my favorite movies.)

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This Week in Panels: Week 123 (4, get your woman on the floor)

January 29th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Tonight was the Royal Rumble, which means I’m in a good mood. While the show was fun as usual, I didn’t do well when it came to my friend Bob’s Royal Rumble Game. This game, which he’s been using for at least five years, goes like this: all the guests pick numbers 1-30 (40 last year) and those numbers represent us. There were ten of us tonight, so we got three each. When one of your wrestlers hits a signature move, you get one point. A finisher will get you two points. An elimination gets you three. Making the final three is worth three points, final two is four and your guy winning gets you five points. I did this last year and did a little less than average.

This year, my picks were #6, #16 and #20. That meant I got Primo, Hunico and Michael Cole. That means I was the first person in the history of the Royal Rumble Game to ever get ZERO POINTS. So I’m like the Drew McIntyre of that game. :damn:

This week I’m helped out by Was Taters, Space Jawa and luis. Let’s get it on!

All-Star Western #5 (Was Taters’ pick)
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat and Phil Winslade

All-Star Western #5 (Gavin’s pick)
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat and Phil Winslade

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His Reasoning Is Askew

January 24th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Joshua Hale Fialkov wrote an anti-piracy piece the other day. It’s interesting, but I disagree with most of it, if not all of it. It’s not that I don’t get his point (it’s basically “Times are hard, no one reads comics, and piracy sucks” from his POV), it’s that his reasoning feels suspect to me, a little Team Comics-y. Stuff like this:

The comic market consists of about 200,000 people, on the high end. Now, certainly, you’ll have your Justice Leagues and Batmans and Flash’s that do amazing sales and are generating profits. But almost every other book that isn’t up there in the top 25 or so titles is almost certainly losing money.

rings false to me. In the direct market, sure, that may be true, but Scholastic has printed ten million copies of Jeff Smith’s Bone, a comic for the children who do not read comics, since 2005. The anthology Flight went for eight volumes over the course of a few years, plus spinoffs. Robert Kirkman has his The Walking Dead, Felipe Smith is over in Japan making manga, and on and on. These may be outliers, but the comics culture, for lack of a pithier way to say “people who buy comics,” is much larger than 200,000 people. That’s probably even true of the Direct Market.

There’s also this:

So, while I’m telling you to stop being an asshole, I need you to do something for me. Be an asshole. You know how when someone you’re talking to makes a horrificly offensive racist comment and you immediately tell them to watch their mouth (or smack them or what have you…)? Well, I want you to do that about Piracy. Call them a fucking cockhead.

This is just silly. One, that’s not how anyone has ever been convinced of anything. Calling somebody a cockhead is probably what led to Lucifer and God falling out. Two, it doesn’t do anything but make both people into jerks and spark completely unproductive arguments. Three, I get his point, that we should take a stand against piracy amongst our peers, but seriously? This isn’t the way to do it. You’d be better off trying to actively guilt trip them, and that is the pass-aggest thing in the entire world.

But what I really wanted to talk about, what really crawled all the way under my skin, was this:

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible.”

I like that, because it pushes all of the responsibility for lost money and a broken industry onto the consumer. “What’s wrong with this industry? You are, dear consumer. That will be $2.99 plus tax, enjoy your read.” That’s MPAA/RIAA talk right there, and it’s completely counterproductive and ridiculous. Fialkov seems like a smart dude, from what I’ve read of his interviews, so I’m actually surprised these words came out of his mouth.

But sure, let’s do this.

When I was a kid, I could buy comics for a dollar or two. It was the early ’90s and comics were a thing children did and parents tolerated in case it made money. I never had much of an allowance (Thanks, Mom), but I would get ten or twenty bucks for helping my aunt clean houses around town once I got old enough to push a mop, so I could finance my own entertainment.

I owned a Super Nintendo, but SNES tapes were like 70 bucks a piece, or something equally unreachable as a kid. I think I only ever owned Super Mario World, Star Fox, Mario Kart, and probably Street Fighter. I rented games from our local video store (either Blockbuster or Video Warehouse, though I don’t think it was called that then) for something like 2-5 bucks for 3 days.

Music was pretty expensive, too. 18 bucks at the mall for a CD, 12 at the BX. I didn’t buy my first CD until like 1998, with Heltah Skeltah’s (still great) Magnum Force, so it was the radio (free) or cassette tapes (ten bucks or less) for me.

From what I recall, my mom handled paying for theater movies, and I would rent them along with the video games. I had the option of playing outside, which I took fairly often, because the south has really nice weather, or working with my grandfather on his lawn, which I had no choice in at all and was basically free child labor. Oh, and I could go to the library if I could talk someone into driving me. Toward the late ’90s, we lived near a library, so I could bike there on a Saturday and bike back with half a dozen books to tear through.

That was it. That’s what I had to entertain myself from whenever I became conscious of money on through probably 1999.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today, over the past 12 or so hours:
-Went on went on and tried to find some new anime to watch
-I added gdgd fairies to my list because a friend recommended it, along with a couple other shows that looked mildly interesting/not-moe
-I bought two albums from Amazon: Gangrene’s Vodka & Ayahuasca and The Suzan’s Golden Week For The Poco Poco Beat, both of which bang pretty hard
-I ordered Greneberg on vinyl because I like raw raps, and Mos Def’s The Ecstatic because I’ve been looking for it since I got a turntable
-I added several sample chapters to my Kindle and continued reading David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero while they
-Spent three hours online doing research for a new work project. I’ve undoubtedly read the equivalent of several video game magazines worth of content across maybe a dozen different websites (a pox on Metacritic).
-Listened to both the albums I bought this morning via Google Music, made notes for songs to delete from Google Music because I’m perilously close to the limit
-Went to add something to my Netflix queue (I Saw The Devil) only to realize that it was already in my queue
-Made plans with a friend to watch a foreign movie on Blu-ray
-Watched a few trailers on Hulu (Get down with Madagascar or get laid down)
-Watched music videos on Youtube (you could do this in the past, but only on TV and you couldn’t pick what was what unless you had The Box)
-Posted some stuff on Tumblr

And some stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting, but let me get to my point. I’m not rich. I’ve got a job, which is a really nice thing to have, and it lets me buy nice things, but that’s about it. But besides the money, which really just lets me consume in a greater volume than I did as a child rather than breadth, the main difference between when comics made everybody a bunch of money and today is this:

We have options now, when it comes to what we choose to entertain us. You can drown in entertainment without putting forth really any effort at all today. It’s not like back then, when comics were a larger part of a smaller pie.

The internet didn’t exist (or “wasn’t a going concern” for the pedants who are sure to tell me about DARPA or ARPA or Al Gore or whatever) when I was a kid. Game consoles weren’t multimedia devices. Mobile phones were a joke. Cordless phones were the new hotness. Long distance calling was a special occasion. Etc etc woe is past me, blah blah blah.

To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is “singly responsible” for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is “yes.”

But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is “everything else.” We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.

I don’t even have to leave my house to be flooded with things to do. I can have food delivered, songs and movies I buy (or download, whatever) appear on my hard drive or PlayStation like magic, video games can be bought and played without ever touching a physical disc… we’re living in the future, and that’s without even going outside. Outside, I can go to the movies, check out stand-up open mics, hang out with friends, drink Starbucks, eat donuts, play board games, go to bars…

There is so much to do, and when you tell me my choice is between (in this instance) a comic that averages out to being just okay and costs three to four dollars to read for five to ten minutes and doing anything else, I’m going to choose anything else, nine times out of ten, with exceptions made for creators I enjoy or books that might have a good hook that I’m curious about.

And I like comics. At this point, I’ve probably written a million words about them. I like supporting the people who make comics, whether with an email about how much I like their work, a Paypal donation, or just buying their books when they come out. My apartment is a mess because I like these stupid picture books so much.

It’s a new age. You either figure out how to progress along with time or you get washed away. Which is maybe “a fucking cockhead” thing to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 1996 rules don’t apply any more. You have to change for that new status quo.

I like this group named Pac Div a whole lot. It’s three cats (BeYoung, Like, and Mibbs) out of LA who can rap their butts off. They’ve got a style and subject matter that I’m into. They’ve gotten nine bucks out of me, because I bought The Div off Amazon. That album came out in 2011. I’ve been listening to the Div since 2009, and have enjoyed three of their full-length mixtapes, which are completely free. I don’t really go to concerts, so the only way I could support them was by buying that record when it came out. Their mixtapes are good enough that I would’ve paid for them out of pocket, so dropping ten dollars on The Div wasn’t even a question. I gladly throw money at them because I like what they do.

Their model, which is shared by a lot of rappers these days, doesn’t work for everyone, but they’re trying something that was unheard of back when the music industry was making money hand over fist. Pac Div knew that they weren’t going to come out of the gates and sell a million like it’s nothing, so they built a fanbase, toured the country (and eventually Europe, like they did in 2011 six months before their album dropped), and then released a tape at retail. Giving stuff away is no way to make a living, but they figured out how to monetize that model, and I assume it’s worked out pretty well for them. Hopefully, anyway–I’d like to see these guys succeed.

I don’t know what model is the future of comics. I do believe that it isn’t three and four dollar puzzle pieces, and it isn’t two dollar digital comics, either. Comics have a hard uphill climb, because the return on investment (to use a particularly odious phrase) just isn’t there for the reader. Four bucks for a comic featuring Wolverine that lasts ten minutes versus four bucks for a coffee with friends vs three bucks for a movie rental on Amazon vs five bucks for digital manga vs five bucks for an MP3 album on sale vs six bucks for a pre-noon movie on a lazy Saturday vs nine bucks for a Kindle book vs whatever else is out there. .99 for Angry Birds and Bejeweled 2. Not to mention drugs and romance, which is a whole other kettle of hopefully good-looking fish.

I paid twenty bucks for a season of Justified. That’s five comics. The difference in value there, assuming we aren’t talking about completely transcendant comics (which are few and far between), is harsh.

A lot of things have hurt comics. Needlessly conservative storytelling, crap coloring (maybe that’s just me and my art snob friends though), bad comics, rising prices, a lack of speculators, the Hollywood money being exponentially better, companies going for the short gain instead of the long-term gain (I’m looking at you, Humanoids, and your reprinting of comics classics in strictly deluxe formats that are too expensive for the casual reader who needs that stuff and you, Marvel, who can’t even keep a trade of a book that’s buzzing super hard in print, and you, comic shops, for banging your doofus drum every time somebody does something in digital comics you don’t like), and yes, piracy, have all hurt comics.

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible” is an untruth, and to be honest, I’d be remarkably surprised if it was largely responsible for the current state of comics. Nobody even has actual, non-made up numbers on how piracy has personally affected them. They look at numbers on Demonoid or Rapidshare and go “See? I lost 3 dollars times thirty thousand downloads.” That’s fake reasoning. That’s assuming that everyone who got curious would have paid for your book, or that people aren’t backing up their legal copies, or half a dozen other situations. There are bots that seed torrent files just because they exist, users who download everything because they like having a large ratio, or because of some dumb OCD internet thing.

People were losing money on comics long before piracy was something that comics companies noticed. I get that piracy makes for a nice scapegoat, but the fall of comics, if it is in fact falling rather than changing into something else, is way bigger than piracy, no matter how hard people bang that drum and close their ears to dissent.

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30 Things I Currently Enjoy About WWE

January 24th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

About nine months ago, shortly after a really depressingly bad Wrestlemania and the infamous Christian two-day title run, I was ready to stop watching WWE completely. Everything good was being drowned out by bad writing, terrible Superman booking for Cena and Orton and some masturbatory patting of the back about how great the Attitude Era guys were. Though the morbid part of me does find that Wrestlemania funny for getting to see John Morrison commit career suicide live on PPV.

After Christian dropped the title, I decided that I’d give WWE one more week to hold my attention. R-Truth’s heel turn was the only major thing keeping me amused by that point. It ended up being a good thing that I gave WWE a little slack because that led to CM Punk taking the company by storm and the infinitely good Money in the Bank show. Then things started to get a little awkward, with pieces of brilliance in there. Unfortunately, Triple H and Kevin Nash felt the need to interrupt the angle of the year so they could enjoy the spotlight. It was like the bombing scene at the end of Jarhead with the Clique as the asshole commander. I was able to hang onto my love for everything Mark Henry to keep me going and over the past couple months I’ve found the company to be in a pretty good place. There’s been improvement all over the place. I’m feeling pretty positive, especially as they move into Wrestlemania season.

They say that if you have nothing nice to say, you should say nothing at all. Not like that’s ever stopped me, but as it is right now, I have 30 nice things to say about the current state of the WWE. Here are the things I dig in no particular order.

1) The Return and Trolling of Chris Jericho

I mean, this one goes without saying. I have no idea where they’re going with this angle outside of a possible Jericho vs. Punk match at Wrestlemania, but I know they can pull it off. Why? Because Jericho is pretty well-liked by the higher ups and I’m sure he has a lot of creative control in this. One of the things I love about it, other than the pure Dadaist nature of it all, is that Jericho is always insistent on starting things anew. After he became stale as hell during the last couple years of his first run, he realized that he had to constantly reinvent himself. I’d say he’s doing a good job so far.

2) Cody Rhodes Living Up to the Past

It’s got to be hard being the son of a beloved wrestler. It’s like releasing a hit album and having to make a decent follow-up. You have to be good enough, but not too similar or you won’t be able to stand outside the shadow. Cody’s in a bad place because not only is his dad Dusty Rhodes, but his brother is Goldust. It wasn’t until a poll between the Divas named him the most handsome guy in the locker room that Cody finally found a way to make it all work.

See, being a Rhodes isn’t about being a funky and indecipherable southern man of the people or a painted sexual predator film buff. It’s about being fucking crazy. Find a persona and make that persona fucking crazy. It may mean calling yourself “dashing” for several minutes at a time. It may mean wearing a mask and acting like a hybrid of Vega and Dr. Doom. Whatever it is, Cody’s got it and he’s potentially the future of the company.

Not only that, but I’d like to believe that he and Randy Orton have some kind of mentor/protégé relationship behind the scenes, especially seeing as how they’ve not only been in a stable together, but they’ve feuded no less than three times over the years. There are a lot of parallels in their career paths and gimmicks (generic face, unhinged villain, heelishly milking an injury, abusing Ted Dibiase Jr., etc), but while Orton was first, I think that Cody has what it takes to be an overall superior performer.

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“It’s going to focus its sound into a beam!” [Hiroshi Yamamoto’s MM9]

January 23rd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I read Hiroshi Yamamoto’s MM9 in a couple of days. Maybe three at the outside. It flew by, however long it took me. It’s divided into a handful of chapters, episodes really, each a story unto itself. They each have their own TV show-style titles, too. I think my favorite title is “Danger! Girl at Large!” but “Arrival! The Colossal Kaiju of the Apocalypse!” is pretty great, too.

Here’s a summary of MM9 from Amazon:

Japan is beset by natural disasters all the time: typhoons, earthquakes, and…giant monster attacks. A special anti-monster unit called the Meteorological Agency Monsterological Measures Department (MMD) has been formed to deal with natural disasters of high “monster magnitude.” The work is challenging, the public is hostile, and the monsters are hungry, but the MMD crew has science, teamwork… and a legendary secret weapon on their side. Together, they can save Japan, and the universe!

You can read an excerpt here or read the first chapter on Amazon.

This book was good. I was expecting just a regular monster book, something where kaiju come in and wreck shop and then the government puts things back together. I was surprised on a couple of different levels. The most obvious surprise was that the book is more of a short story collection than a straight-up novel, in a way. The episodes take place in chronological order, and they do build on each other, but they feel more like short stories in the same universe than the regular progression you’d see in a novel. The characters are loosely defined archetypes. Sakura’s an eager and earnest young lady who dosen’t always make the best decisions. We get a brief look at Yuri’s home life. Yojiro is the experienced man in the field. Chief Kurihama has heart problems. Everyone’s a sketch, but the type of sketch that you can easily fill in for yourself.

Yamamoto’s cast is movie-ready, that’s obvious, but that isn’t really a bad thing. It’s actually a boon to the short story format, because Yamamoto can get right into the kaiju drama after doing a little bit of character-building work to open the chapter and show us how far we’ve progressed in time. Sometimes he weaves it throughout the story, as when Ryo goes on a date with his girl just prior to a kaiju attack, but for the most part, the characters are defined by what they do, not who they talk to. I don’t mean that as a negative, though it can surely be seen as one. Yamamoto amps up the spectacle instead of the drama, but not necessarily at the expense of it, is what I’m doing a poor job of saying.

A nice twist is that the MMD aren’t a bunch of totally awesome gun-toting superheroes. They’re scientists and researchers. They don’t handle any of the violence or kaiju extermination. They’re there to advise and consult. They examine the kaiju while it’s on approach, figure out the rules for battling it, and help decide where to stage the showdowns. The military handles the actual combat. That configuration helps make the book pretty fresh, since we’re just a step removed from the action, but still in the middle of it. It doesn’t really get into military otaku fetishism, either. Yamamoto is very plain about what type of ammo works on each kaiju and why, but he doesn’t dwell on those specifics.

The other surprise was that this isn’t just a kaiju book. I was expecting oblique references to the greats, like Godzilla, Mothra, and maybe–if Yamamoto was willing to stretch–Ultraman or some tokusatsu. I was reading it for lines like this:

Kurihama quickly understood. He grabbed the microphone and yelled, “Run, Ryo! That’s a parabola. It’s going to focus its sound into a beam!”

A huge part of the appeal of kaiju is not destruction, but how that destruction happens. Any idiot can stomp around a power plant in a rubber suit. Real idiots have beams. Sometimes it’s just a burst of nuclear flame, like Godzilla. Others shoot lasers. Some robots shoot missiles from hatches on their chest that are cleverly disguised as breasts, which isn’t a beam, but a close cousin. Still others rock the old Itano Circus style of beam, a wildly gyrating group of flying death beams. Beams rule, basically. A few comics characters have them, too, most notably Cyclops, Superman, and Iron Man. (They’re boring, in comparison, but I just thought I’d mention them so you know exactly what I mean.)

MM9 has a few good beams, but it’s also very upfront about what kaiju are: living cultural myths. One of the chapters involves a mandrake. Another is all about guiafairo, a bat monster from Senegal. Yamamoto takes cultures from around the world and just slightly re-contextualizes them for his purposes. Japanese yokai make appearances, too, and Yamamoto does a deft job of delineating the differences between kaiju and yokai.

It’s an interesting take, and one that hadn’t even crossed my mind before picking up the book. Yamamoto spends some time talking about American kaiju, how radioactivity affected kaiju after World War II, and how kaiju work despite the fact that they’re violating several laws of physics. It never feels like a thick infodump, even when he’s delving into the anthropic principle and the history of the universe.

Here’s another bit I liked, which is part of a longer (sorta evil) monologue:

“It is. Humans need to be afraid. When they think of kaiju, they need to feel dread and awe. With this great disaster, we will instill within them a terror they will never be able to forget and they will never be able to deny—not for thousands of years, not for tens of thousands of years, until the day the very last human dies.

MM9 is pop fiction. If you’re at all curious about Godzilla or movie monsters, this is probably the book for you. I caught references to Godzilla and Mothra, of course, and maybe a few others besides. It can’t be understated how easy a read this is, either. It burns like a good airport novel, something you dive into for a little while and leave entertained, if not necessarily enriched. I came into it almost entirely cold, not having read anything by Yamamoto before and having only read the excerpt before picking it up. It’s a little funny, in a broad sort of way, and a kick to read.

(googling around after finishing this tells me that the book is actually a short story compilation, so go me for being able to recognize obvious structural elements of books?)

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This Week in Panels: Week 122

January 23rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Hey people. ThWiP time again. This time I’ve got Was Taters, Jody and Space Jawa. Jawa is basically using this installment as self-promotion since I’m using a panel from his own comic project Robot Viking Ninja Pirates. Something he sent me a copy of a while back and I totally forgot to read it because I’m a total dickhead. Sorry, man.

Avenging Spider-Man #3 (Jody’s pick)
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira

Avenging Spider-Man #3 (Gavin’s pick)
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira

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Star Wars Uncut: Director’s Cut is the Most Surreal Fan Film You’ll See This Year

January 22nd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Ever read that crossover with Planetary and Batman? There’s a whole gimmick where this crazy guy has powers to alter reality and without warning, Batman keeps changing incarnations throughout the story. He’ll go from Adam West to Frank Miller-style to wearing the purple gloves from his original appearance and change his tone to fit the situation. As great as that was, Star Wars Uncut brings it to an entirely new level.

The idea is that several hundred groups had been tasked to recreate Star Wars: A New Hope… 15 seconds each. Each party is assigned a specific 15 seconds and has to remake the scene however they see fit. Then all of it is stitched together to form a completely bizarre and hilarious interpretation of the full movie.

You’ll go from seeing someone’s kids dressed up as Stormtroopers to trippy animation to special effects and acting out of Be Kind Rewind to claymation to silent film to puppets to someone talking upside down with eyes drawn on their chin. There’s plenty of gold in there, such as Lady Gaga Darth Vader, C3PO getting way too sexual, a basket of ferrets reenacting the garbage scene, an Anti-Monitor action figure playing the role of R2D2 and my new favorite impression of Chewbacca. Sometimes the footage will go into completely different universes, like turning into a Disney movie, World War II dogfights, a western, the Seventh Seal, Tron, Yellow Submarine and even at one point the Big Lewbowski.

There are some stinkers in there, sure, but that’s all part of the charm. It’s a great way to spend a couple hours.

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