Good Reviews & Bad Reviews

September 2nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The thing about reviewing, critiquing, and talking about comics, or any media, is that there has to be two components to your text. You have to have facts and you have to have opinions. The facts are what is actually in the book– Superman punches a dude, Wonder Woman does something boring, Spider-Man cries like a baby. The opinion should be defensible and derivable from the facts that are in the book. “Batman punched a lady for no reason, I think that was pretty lame.”

There are wrong opinions, of course– ones that were created from incorrect or incomplete data, ones that don’t reflect reality, or (to be perfectly frank) ones that are just stupid. It’s possible for two intelligent people to come to diametrically opposed conclusions about a work, as in here, where I disagree with some very good friends of mine and one of my favorite writers about comics about certain elements of Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter. Different strokes, different experiences, different conclusions. All of that is fair.

I try to keep all this in mind while I write. I want to be sure that I’m not bringing something to a work that isn’t there. I keep this in mind when reading reviews, too. I learned from my time doing games journalism that a lot of reviews are objectively terrible and uninformative, which basically means that they are worthless.

All of this preamble is to say that Jesse Schedeen and IGN’s review of Starr the Slayer #1 is of poor quality, factually inaccurate, and not useful to someone looking for an informed opinion on the book. It’s crap, son.

The biggest problem with it, the most mind-blowing thing, is this:

Unfortunately, different doesn’t automatically equate to good. Writer Daniel Way makes the risky choice of communicating this story almost entirely through rap. Yes, you read that right. Instead of a standard omniscient narration, the tale of Starr and his creator is relayed through hip-hop rhymes. Suffice it to say, I’m not prepared to crown the writer as Mixmaster Way anytime soon.

Here’s the first page of the book:


I’m going to be charitable and assume that Schedeen has never heard rap, or else he’d understand that mixmasters are DJs, not emcees. I’m also going to assume that he’s a bit behind on his history reading, or else he’d recognize that Way is not using the art from the Bronx, but rather something that is centuries old, if not older. Do you know the classic The Tale of Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python’s Holy Grail? Way’s using a bard, or a griot, or a storyteller, a type of person who often used music or song to tell their story while trying to make some money on the side. “Busts mad rhymes on the street corner?” Nah, son.

Schedeen goes on to say that Way’s rap goes on and on (with a breakadawn joke), to the point that he feels the pages are cluttered and hard to read and he just stopped paying attention. And, sure, that’s fair– some pages have a caption box or two with like six words per box, that’s a ton! Other pages, something like ten of them, don’t have a caption box, or have just a single box on the entire page. That’s tough reading!

But Schedeen not paying attention? That shows in the review. He describes Corben’s style as being “significantly exaggerated here,” when, no, it looks just like his Cage work which looks like his Den work which looks like his Edgar Allen Poe work. It looks like a Corben book, and isn’t more exaggerated than any other one.

He says that Len Carson’s world warps and the fictional world intrudes on the real one. That’s a fairly liberal reading of the book, considering that the intrusion isn’t the sort of thing that develops over the book. It takes place over three panels and one page and close out the book. Not very slow, that. It’s far from a Telltale Heart situation, I think.

He goes on to say, “Starr’s world, by comparison, is a little bland and surprisingly devoid of violence and bloodshed at the moment.” Starr’s world is the one where all the action happens. One guy gets his brains busted out (with one punch!), another gets his face pounded into pulp, and three people straight up die. I can see how that would pale against… a playback of an old man’s failed career as a writer and all the fast cars he used to drive.

Schedeen again:

In discussing this book, Corben has revealed that he, Way, and editor Axel Alonso constructed the story in the “Mighty Marvel Manner”, which essentially means that Way constructed a basic outline, Corben drew the issue, and then Way filled in the dialogue afterward. This certainly isn’t a common approach anymore, and for good reason. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to make the writing stand out in this art-centric comic, Way has needlessly burdened the script with unusual narration and pointless homoerotic humor.

The homoerotic humor thing– there’s one gay “joke,” though it’s more of a metaphor (first panel, first page, above), so that’s a stretch. I’ll grant you unusual narration, though, and we’ll chalk the homoeroticism up to taste.

The Marvel Way thing, though, is kinda clearly due to a misunderstanding of how the Marvel method works. When you’re working with a talent like Richard Corben, a guy who has been creating comics that are consistently better than the average since before I was born, working in the Marvel style isn’t that bad of an idea. It gives him a chance to deliver a beautiful book that’s paced according to the art, rather than the story. The thing about the Marvel Way not being common any more is straight up untrue– George Perez reportedly uses it, Kurt Busiek has used it on recent projects, and it’s a pretty viable way to do comics to this day.

Boiled down, Jay-Z already said what I’m trying to say: “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?” This review feels like Schedeen skimmed through it and guessed to fill in the blanks.

I read Starr the Slayer and thought it was pretty fun. A solid B/B+ right now, with definite room for improvement. It’s a Conan story that takes itself exponentially less seriously than actual Conan stories. A guy drinks “roofinium” before being sacrificed, there’s a strain of dark humor throughout it, and the song is bawdy and funny, kind of like the first scene in Romeo & Juliet.

It’s a comic that works. Way’s script doesn’t trample over Corben’s art, and Corben’s art is Richard Corben: the bomb. It’s immature, but it’s also funny. I read it, I liked it, I’ll cop the inevitable hardcover. It’ll go on my shelf next to Richard Corben’s Edgar Allen Poe books.

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Batwoman: Greg Rucka x IGN

June 12th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

IGN interviewed Greg Rucka about the upcoming Batwoman feature in Detective Comics. There are a couple of things I wanted to pull out and call attention to.

You know, nobody wants to read, and we certainly didn’t want to write an after school special. But as you’ll see in the origin, there is a moment when she has to pay a huge price for the fact that she is gay. She has to sacrifice something of incredible value to her just to be true to herself.

Ten bucks says that she falls victim to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The concept art mentions a military background, and Rucka emphasizes that she isn’t Batwoman for the same reasons as Batman. Say if she were driven to serve, and it was something she truly believed in, and she was bounced out of the military? She gets back to Gotham, does the alcoholic thing for a while, and suits up, because she’s going to help people one way or another. Sound plausible?

But she is the first mainstream superhero who starts out of the box gay. And arguably she’s going to be the most prominent gay superhero.

What definition of mainstream is Rucka using here? There were a few characters in X-Statix a few years ago, and fifteen years ago we had what’s probably the best gay couple in comics– Donner & Blitzen, from Milestone’s Shadow Cabinet and Heroes.

Milestone isn’t obscure– it was published in cooperation with DC Comics, is fondly remembered by many, and sales don’t appear to have been too bad up until it closed its doors. What’s up with that?

As an aside– I don’t know if you noticed this, but IGN managed to misspell Renee Montoya’s name throughout the interview. Good going, guys. Way to, I don’t know, keep up the high standards.

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Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

April 22nd, 2008 Posted by Gavok

The weekend of chunky guys dressed like Colossus and hot women dressed as Slave Leia has come to an end. I myself had a great time, spent with hermanos from this very site and a whole bunch of guys from Funnybook Babylon. Sadly, Thomas “Wanderer” Wilde deemed himself “too broke” to consider joining us and Hoatzin would have probably involved a gigantic plane ticket paid in rare diamonds, since he’s from Europe. I don’t know. I really have no grasp on how that type of thing works. Besides, Hoatzin seems to have vanished from our planet. What happened to that guy?

This one movie sent the other movie into space.

Day One

Last year I got to New York the day before the con started, which allowed me enough rest and whatnot. This year I had to come in the first day of the event and kill time until David Uzumeri came in from Canada, since he was in charge of dealing with the hotel. I walked straight from the Port Authority bus terminal to the Javits Center, which tired me the hell out.

After getting my swanktastical press pass, I met up with hermanos and Joseph of FBB. They were at a panel starting up that was a screening for a new Will Eisner documentary. Since I was tired from all that walking, I decided to stick around and watch it. I found it interesting in the sense that I honestly didn’t know all that much about Eisner, which is almost a sin if you’re a comic fan. The four of us (David U. showed up towards the end) mostly agreed that while it had some fantastic stuff in there, such as taped conversations between Eisner and guys like Kirby, the sum of it was incredibly dry.

Shortly after, we went to the panel on online journalism, with guys from Newsarama and CBR there. It wasn’t as good as the comic blogging panel from last year and mostly focused on arguing over criticism vs. getting press releases. Once that was done with, I was rested up enough to do some wandering.

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You Weak, Pathetic Kryptonian!

April 17th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

I should be getting some rest for this weekend or catching up on relevant comics that have slipped me by, but then the internet has to go and toss a curve ball right my way.

Years ago, Capcom and Marvel had their guys fight each other. It was weird, but it fit better than it had any right to.

Over time, Namco has had their Soul Calibur crew fight Spawn, Link and soon Darth Vader and Yoda.

Just recently, Nintendo gave us the dream match of Mario vs. Sonic, while tossing Solid Snake in there.

With all that having gone on, not once did I expect to hear this announcement on a day that wasn’t April 1st. It’s still not April 1st anymore, right? Right?


My reaction to this is simply the Li’l John reaction: What? WHAT?! …Okay. Because to be honest, no matter how bad it turns out to be, it’ll still be one of the better DC videogames. And as a fighting game it’ll be head and shoulders above Justice League Task Force. This is going to be really stupid, but really interesting.

Hey, maybe they’ll have Geoff Johns design the fatalities!

Credit to Mortal Kombat Online. They’re good people.

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MLK & Cheese

April 12th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I am so sorry.

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Alan Davis? Excellent.

April 11th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Oh yes.

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Oh Snap

April 11th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Oh no! Marvel has completely white-washed Storm! And maybe brown-washed, too, I can’t tell with homegirl on the top right.

I’m kidding. Congrats to that guy for winning a TV show I don’t watch.

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Not Comics: New Toys

April 3rd, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I tossed a new plugin into the mix today. It should put a pretty fancy image zoom onto the images posted here on 4l. Does it work?

Compton Bill


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Review: Peter David’s Iron Man Movie Novelization FIGHTS! and FIGHTS! with Repulsor Rays!

March 26th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

A year ago, I bought, read and reviewed Peter David’s novelization of Spider-Man 3. I thought it was pretty good and went on record to say that Sam Raimi would have to go out of his way to fuck up that movie. Wouldn’t you know it, he did exactly that. He deleted a handful of scenes that would have turned the movie’s three villains into more than ridiculous, one-dimensional jokes. While he removed all the valuable Eddie Brock and Sandman scenes, he made it even worse by hardly shaving off any whiny Mary Jane moments.

I made the decision to go for round two. This time Peter David writes a novelization based on the upcoming Iron Man film. More than anything, I was curious. The build-up has been nice. Not just with the trailers, but the feeling that there’s love in the movie. I recall Jon Favreau saying that in preparation, he had been reading every single issue of Iron Man from the 60’s on. So would love be enough to make this story work?

Yes. Yes it really would.

I’m not going to give out explicit spoilers, but if you really want an absolute blank slate to the point that you didn’t even watch the trailers, by all means don’t read this and instead just give me $5.

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Dear IGN

March 13th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

IGN: From Comics to Screen: Marvel’s Babes

(Nevermind the fact that most of these fictional ladies were created by sex-starved geeks, who imagined such busty and scantily clad female characters from either their mother’s basement, or a studio filled with other similarly sexually deprived male artists.)

Sue Storm: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mystique: created by Dave Cockrum (married)
Jean Grey: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mary Jane: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and John Romita Sr (his son JRjr was born 08/1956)
Elektra: created by Frank Miller (married to Lynn Varley in the ’80s, divorced now)
Rogue: created by Chris Claremont (has a wife and kids) and Michael Golden (can’t find any info on him)
Storm: created by Len Wein (married twice) and Dave Cockrum (married)

Sex-starved geeks? Sexually deprived?

Characters that were “busty and scantily clad” upon creation: 1 (and that’s Elektra, which is being a little generous.)
Characters created in someone’s mother’s basement: 0
Number of worthwhile articles on IGN.com, period: 0

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