April 21, 2010

Jump to full Kick-Ass review.

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

The Week's Picks and Pans, plus Awards of Dubious Merit Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this week. An archive can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants You don't put it in the crazy, but how about in the overly wise? Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #2 (of 4), Hercules Fall of an Avenger #2 (of 2). "Other Media" Capsules: Things that are comics-related but not necessarily comics (i.e. comics-based movies like Iron Man or Hulk), or that aren't going to be available via comic shops (like comic pack-ins with DVDs) will go in this section when I have any to mention. They may not be as timely as comic reviews, especially if I decide to review novels that take me a week or two (or ten) to get around to. Kick-Ass: MARV/Lionsgate - See previously posted Rant for more details. In short, I liked the way it took the ultraviolet nihilism of a Hong Kong revenge actioner from the 1980s and totally changed its meaning by having a geek in a wetsuit stumble into the plot. It's hardly high art, but it's very well done ultraviolence and a decent story that apparently has the good bits Millar came up with for the comic without most of the crap bits. And as discussion of the full review revealed to me, there were a LOT of crap bits to remove. Recommended, with loads of caveats. Time-Shifting: Sometimes I get a comic a week or two late because of Diamond's combination of neglect and incompetence. If it's more than a week late, though, I won't review it unless it's very notable. Additionally, I will often get tradepaperbacks long after publication or even sometimes before Diamond ships them, and those will go here. If I'm reasonably sure I'm reviewing something that didn't ship this week, this is the section for it. Atomic Robo Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #2 (of 4): Red5 Comics - This is notable for having an entirely new supporting cast...the only character in this issue who has appeared before (unless someone had a bit part that I'm forgetting) is Robo himself. And the plot seems to be unrelated to the Vampire Dimension, although last issue's events are the pretext for Robo being in Japan in time for this little super sentai homage. Well, sentai and Evangelion and Super Robot. There's a five-team, but they get a non-combining mech (with a head suspiciously like Robo's own), and while there might be an obscure or one-episode-of-the-series example that's escaping me, five person sentai teams ALWAYS have combining robots. Singular robots usually have solo pilots, sometimes trios (Mach Baron or Boss Borot, for example) or more rarely duos. In fact, the only large-squad singular mecha that come to mind are Defender X and Sky Sentinel from the Monsterpocalypse comic (Nova ESR and Laser Knight may have smaller crews, Legionnaire is a combiner). Of course, given the "Biomega" monster in this issue, a Monsterpocalypse comparison is certainly apt. The Evangelion elements come from the Big Gun used by the mech. :) There's also a certain amount of DaiGuard in here, but that may just be parallel evolution rather than a sign that Clevinger or Wegener are as mecha-geeky as I am. All in all, though, a very funny and well done survey of the "Japanese robots versus monsters" genres. Strongly recommended. $3.50 Gold Digger Peebri's Big Adventure! #1: Antarctic Press - This is actually two stories, the title adventure and a Peegi-focused story called "Raiders of the Styrofoam Peanuts!" plus a couple of short interludes in between them (the Peebospy one-pager required me to do some googling and I rather regretted it). With a few exceptions, both are told as a series of vertical four-panel strips (the exceptions being full page height half page width "splash" strips), with the sort of marginal notes at the bottom we've come to expect from Peebo and Tiff&Charl stories. The first story involves Peegi on an archaeological quest while being thwarted by a Roomba. Peebri's Big Adventure involves a bicycle, and the learning to ride thereof. Let's just say the police in the Diggers' neighborhood are getting awfully jaded by this point. Recommended. $3.99 New Comics: Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell. These reviews will generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in. Transformers Spotlight #25 (Prowl): IDW - Interestingly, the alternate covers are coastally themed, with a Hollywood sign background for the west coast and a damaged Statue of Liberty for the east. I decided the east coast cover was more interesting. This is another intermezzo, set between All Hail Megatron and The Transformers, showing what Prowl was up to during some of the two year gap between series (and also revealing what happened to Thrust). E.J. Su's art has a blockier feel to it now, in places looking like an homage to Geoff Senior's, although I dislike the random grime marks on everything mechanical. Maybe they're supposed to be shadow outlines, but it's up there with Pat Lee's "everything is cracked" in terms of annoying visual affectations. In terms of the story, I found Prowl's change of attitude to be cliched in its abruptness and completeness. I can see what Costa was shooting for, and it was broadly telegraphed, but that's not the same as making sense. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #4: IDW - As the penultimate chapter, it's time to lay out a bunch of backstory, some of which happens while Ironfist's group is hanging out waiting for the Decepticons to break into the room with the plot device. There's also some more flashbacks (okay a LOT more flashbacks) and most but not all of the cards are laid on the table. A bunch of UK-comic Decepticons show up briefly in one of the flashbacks, and the pencilling definitely drifts into UK art homage in several places. The switching between Roche and Guidi on the art is far from seamless, unfortunately, and Burcham's coloring sometimes gets so gaudy as to obscure things. While a bit scattered, the story's otherwise good, and Verity manages to slip some innuendo past the editors. :) Recommended. $3.99 REBELS #15: DC - The cover's a bit misleading, or at least jumping the gun. The character on the cover may be joining the team soon, but she doesn't even MEET them this issue. The issue is a mix of her getting onto the scene and everyone else tying up loose ends from the Starro arc. And ya gotta give Vril credit for thinking big. :) Recommended. $2.99 X-Factor #204: Marvel - Second Coming Revelations banner. Yeah, the big X-over interrupts the ongoing plots, but PAD is an old hand at this by now and while the opening sequence is totally cheaty he makes up for it by making the X-over stuff flow organically into the existing plots. The ending cliffhanger is pretty transparent, although if the "D.R. Tech" is the same as www.drtechinc.com it'll be interesting to see how THAT worked out. Recommended. $2.99 Iron Man Iron Manual Mark 3: Marvel - Like the second Iron Manual, this is just a themed OHOTMU issue focused on Iron Man, rather than a specialty book covering just the Iron Man armors. In fact, Iron Man himself only gets a single page update, since he had an extensive entry fairly recently. Iron Man 2.0 also gets a page, while Iron Man 2020 gets two pages. Like most of the recent themed OHOTMUs, there's some odd omissions (i.e. no Bethany Cabe or Crimson Dynamo) as well as a few "Huh?" entries like the Ani-Men who barely brushed up against Iron Man but wouldn't fit into more appropriate books. The back cover copy describes this book as having been kitbashed, but most of us kitbashers try to make our creations look a little more coherent. I suppose we'll never get a true update of the Iron Manual, but this is as good as any of the other recent OHOTMUs. Recommended. $3.99 The Amazing Spider-Man #628: Marvel - Part two of Stern's Captain Universe story, plus a backup by Waid, Peyer and Nauck. Over on rec.arts.comics.creative there's a discussion about comicbook tropes that get on your nerves, and Stern just highlighted one of the most annoying ones here: people who will spent half an hour fighting and saying things like "You wouldn't understand!" when it would take them twenty seconds to explain matters. It's pretty obvious that the current Captain Universe suffers from this in spades, and once we do hear his tale it'll be exasperatingly simple. Spidey will probably hang a lampshade on it by saying something like, "You could have said so three hours ago!" too. Eh. The backup is okay, although I have no idea why Absorbing Man is unable to stop from turning into things he touches or why Iron Man is in the old Mk V armor...it's not like this is an ancient inventory story, it's predicated on Parker's current joblessness plot. Mildly recommended. $3.99 Avengers vs. Atlas #4 (of 4): Marvel - The main story ends decently enough, although for a moment I thought it might be leading into a crossover with Mighty Avengers. Parker plays in that most Lovecraftian of sandboxes, divergent timelines and the struggle every time travel story has to face between nihilistic infinitely branching worlds (where nothing matters because everything happens) and stultifying one-track timelines (where time travelers can never change anything). Speaking as someone who's wrestled that particular nine-crocodile, I think Parker manages it pretty well. The backup is a bit of a gunslinger story featuring Gorilla Man...decent, although the art didn't work for me. Recommended. $3.99 Hercules Fall of an Avenger #2 (of 2): Marvel - The main story opens with a contest of champions (but not a Contest of Champions), with representatives of Apollo, Artemis and Nyx (now there's an ironic alliance) facing off against champions of Athena, Poseidon and Hebe. Since this is only part of one issue, we're not talking massive knock-down-drag-out, but there's a decent amount of fighting before Amadeus thinkifies his way out of the situation. The upcoming Prince of Power series is then set up as Cho manages to fulfill his destiny but for his own reasons. Oh, and there's a lovely bit of out of context dialogue with Phobos and Cho to which I respond, "Well, I know *I* would, but aren't you a little young to?" The backup continues to be rather touching as we see the jewel in the crown of Hercules's financial legacy. Strongly recommended. $3.99 Gone Missing: Stuff that came out some places this week and that I wanted to buy, but couldn't find for whatever reason, so people don't have to email me asking "Why didn't you review X?" (If it's neither here nor in the section above, though, feel free to ask, I might have forgotten about it!) Current list as of 4/21/10: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105 and #116, Gold Digger Sacred Library #3, Marvel Boy: the Uranian #3. Awards: "Do All Small Payload Orbital Launch Vehicles Have Pistol Grips?" Award to Atomic Robo Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #2 (of 4) "Eagerly Awaiting Crossover With Questionable Content" Award to Peebri's Big Adventure #1 "One More Time And 'Transform To Save Child' Officially Becomes A Trope" Award to Transformers Spotlight #25 "The Power Rangers Managed To Make Theirs Pocket-Sized" Award to Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #4 "And I Rann, I Rann So Far Away..." Award to REBELS #15 "If It IS The Same D.R. Tech, Can We Expect A Cow-Boy Crossover?" Award to X-Factor #204 "You'd Think People Would Stop Using A Codename After So Many Predecessors Died Messily" Award to Iron Man Iron Manual Mark 3 "Kinda Scary When Juggernaut Is The Reasonable One" Award to The Amazing Spider-Man #628 "Once Again, Pym Screws Up On A Cosmic Scale" Award to Avengers vs. Atlas #4 (of 4) "Hmm, Could That Be Kirby 2.0 In The Backup?" Award to Hercules Fall of an Avenger #2 (of 2) Dave Van Domelen, "Why are Transformers such a buncha size queens?" - Verity, Transformers Last Stand of the Wreckers #4 Bonus Quote: "Why do we even HAVE the Square Cube Law?" - Atomic Robo

Dave's Rant Special: Kick-Ass the Movie

This was originally going to be part of this week's Capsules, but it just kept getting longer as I found more things to say, and spoilers crept in, and...well, it's been a while since I posted a full Rant anyway. :) Short form: I liked it, but saw it as a variation on the theme of the Hong Kong revenge actioner. If loads of (admittedly balletic) violence and/or cussing put you off, you should probably give this one a pass. Spoiler space, although I don't go into loads of detail and the basic plot has been available in the comic form for a while now.... Kick-Ass: MARV/Lionsgate - I have never read the comic this is based on, and generally avoid Mark Millar projects ever since Ultimates #6. However, this is one of those times when I was kinda counting on the inevitable Hollywood rewrites and test audience watering down to get around Millar's flaws (including "everyone is a total jerk al the time" as a substitute for characterization). In the chatter I've read about this movie, I have yet to see someone say they loved the comic and disliked the movie, though, suggesting that they may have kept the good Millar stuff (hey, I don't think he's 100% bad, just more bad than good) and ditched the bad Millar stuff. This is a 1980s Hong Kong revenge actioner into which stumbles a kid who decides to be a superhero. The action plot (as opposed to the coming of age plot surrounding the title character) is straight out of HK actioners, but with a superhero overlay (the movie's not too clear, but it looks like Big Daddy may have been at least a little Batman-ish before Kick-Ass debuted, and just cranked up the comicbook elements later). If saying "Hong Kong actioner" doesn't make it clear enough, there is a LOT of violence. Sometimes beautifully choreographed ballets of bullets, but it's still very violent and rather bloody, albeit not in a Shaw Brothers sort of arterial spray way. The people involved in directing and shooting Kick-Ass definitely grok the genre, though, and the fight scenes are like distilled John Woo (among other directors, but I figure most of the people reading this will have heard of Woo). There's also a lot of cussin', but no more than you can hear in the hallways of the average high school (which is to say a ****-load of it), and some breast-objectification, but frankly if you can handle the violence you probably won't find the other stuff bothersome. While I can't say for sure having never read the comic, based on such Millar as I have read I bet a lot of the more jarringly gratuitous sexual content is where the screenwriters were being faithful to the source material. Since it's all the news can talk about, I'll now address the matter of Hit Girl. There's really only one brief scene in which she could be considered to be sexualized, and even then everyone in the scene recognizes that she's too young ("I can WAIT. I vow I will save myself for her." "Shouldn't be too difficult."). Her red carpet appearances push that particular envelope a lot farther than the movie ever does. More ethically troublesome is how she's basically been turned into an 11-year-old living weapon by her obsessed father. She's like Cassandra Kane, but instead of her vocabulary being replaced by fighting moves it's replaced by cussin'. And she's 11. Again, though, if you don't mind seeing guys get shot in the face repeatedly, you can probably contain your outrage...plus it's not like her storyline is totally a moral vacuum. It just starts that way. In terms of general storytelling, the movie is...well, if you go in expecting 1980s HK actioner you won't find the storytelling disappointing. The foreshadowing is so heavy they might as well just show us a flashforward of the relevant scenes, the characters tend to be genre savvy to the point where you suspect the writers are addicted to TVTropes.com, and the love interest is less believable than the fact the title character survives his first fight. But it's worth putting up with for the action sequences, which had the audience at my showing oohing and aahing. Does the movie have a Message? Well, it does try to have one about the nature of heroism and how people need to try to make a difference (made very tellingly in the case of one minor character who pulled a "I see nothing" early in the movie and then got gunned down when he tried that a second time). But the main message is that ultraviolence is hellacool...as long as it's happening to someone else. If you have something worth living for, you might want to think twice before going all the way to the extreme of putting on a costume and fighting crime. Turning a blind eye is bad, jumping in feet first is suicidal, find a middle ground. And then watch the pretty explosions from the safety of that middle ground. I've read that Millar originally planned to have the story be just about Big Daddy and Hit Girl, but while I can't speak to the execution in the comic, the decision to bring in Kick-Ass himself definitely changed the tone of the ending of the movie. Rather than being about just the private revenge story, it became about the beginning of a movement. Kick-Ass was just some schmuck with a costume, but his involvement in things brought it to the public eye. He's not just the viewpoint through which the reader/viewer sees the revenge tale, he's the window of his world onto things. So, for all the nihilism and darkness of the core revenge tale, there's a more hopeful ending overall because some nerd in a wetsuit decided to go after muggers with a stick. In a standard HK revenger, the fall of the villain at the end has no real effect on the otherwise corrupt world, so it's all rather pointless. But by tying it to the weird bildungsroman of Kick-Ass himself, it may have made an impact on society. The movie's fairly vague on that point, though, and we only have Kick-Ass's voiceover to go by. All in all, I'd recommend this to fans of HK actioners. Not so much to fans of superheroes or comics if they aren't also into the Category III sort of actioner. But even though I had to drive 20 miles away to see it (the local theater didn't have it), I felt like my time and money were well spent. As an interesting aside, the employees of that theater (a little 4 screen place I've only seen movies at two or three times before) were dressed up as home-made superheroes. They clearly knew where most of their business this week would be coming from.... Dave Van Domelen, wonders if the local theater will look at ticket sales from Junction City and decide to make room for it this week. Later Addendum: I've since been told some of the details of what was changed between the comic and the movie, and most of the changes seem to have been of the "stop making everyone and everything suck" variety. While the love interest's behavior seems to be more plausible in the comic, it's at the price of just about every cool thing about the story being ground into the dirt under the bootheel of Millar's nihilism. Everyone's life is worse at the end, assuming they even survive. Nothing about the world has been changed, except maybe to be made a little worse. So, yeah, John Rogers's comment about taking out all the Millar and thereby making a good movie seems to be on the mark.
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