Conservative Comic Book Pundit

Monday, July 25, 2005

Weekly Review - GLA (the series)

Well, Dan Slott is my new favorite writer. Between his excellent work on She-Hulk and his understated masterpiece Spider-Man/Human Torch, Slott is the best writer currently working for Marvel.

This series is great. Slott resurrects old, obscure characters like Squirrel Girl (created by Steve Ditko, artist and often plotter on the original Spider-Man comics) and makes us care for them, deeply. The humor is thick and fast, and its a measure of Slott's ability that he can find the humor is a tale where characters are dying at an unprecedented rate (not counting Mr. Immortal who dies three or four times an issue).

Beyond that, Slott manages to make extra-textual comments in ways that serve the story and allow those "in the know" to get the joke - yet clueless newbies will not feel lost. Slott creates tales with the perfect balance of accessibility for new readers and in-jokes and allusions for the long time fans.

A perfect example comes from the second issue, where Flatman and Doorman go to New York in order to recruit heroes. On one level, it's a rather hilarious romp where they get turned down by famous hero after famous hero - and it works on that level just fine. However, once you realize the heroes have turned them down with excuses like "I'm a loner - teams just don't work for me - I'm not a team player" and then notice all those heroes are now members of the New Avengers - well, it allows for a whole nother level of humor.

The last issue (which came out last Wednesday) has a hilarious ending, yet it also manages to be more than just funny. Mr. Immortal finds out new truths about himself that gives meaning to his suffering - and the result is almost touching - and then it leads into the best joke of the book. But go read it yourself - or get the trade if/when it comes out. Either way - this is one of the best books of 2005.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Weekly Review - Serenity #1

Perhaps I should just rename this site "Joss Whedon love fest" or something. I never got into the Dark Horse Buffy/Angel comics, mostly because I was late to the Buffy thing in general (I didn't start viewing until the fifth season). And - as said before, I have never been a fan of anything with "X" in title and published by Marvel, so I have missed the Whedon revolution over in the X-titles.

But beyond that, I think Joss Whedon is a genius. Politically I can't agree with much of his reflexively "Hollywood" liberal politics, but the man is a gifted storyteller and a top notch writer. Thus, I was saddened when FOX stayed true to form and cancelled his sci-fi/western series Firefly. It was a great series, marred only by a few early week episodes (episodes Joss was forced to write at the behest of the network - which should be a red flag. TNT made JMS do the same for Crusade, and that didn't last either).

Luckily, Serenity is coming. A big(ger) budget version of the TV show with the same cast, it looks to be a promising flick. This comic series is plotted (but not written) by Whedon and bridges the gap between the TV series and the Movie.

This first issue does well. Unlike the IDW Angel series, this comic does not spend large chucks of time helping "those of you who came in late" catch up. But rather than assuming that the reader is familiar with the characters, it nicely balances the middle road of telling a tale in a new, accessible way that uses, but does not require knowledge of, the rich backstory. Even if you have never seen the TV series (and if you haven't - repent now and buy the series on DVD!), you should pick this comic up. It uses all the main characters and operates as a nice action tale.

The writer, Brett Matthews, has Whedon's style down pat, but manages not to sound like a copycat, and the artists give spot on renditions of the characters and illustrate the action so well, I almost felt like I was watching TV.

One disappointment: I'm not up on spoilers for the upcoming movie, but this issue hints that Shepard Book (my favorite character) is dissatisfied with the crew and is gearing up to leave. This suggests to me that he will have a small part in the movie. Shame. Ron Glass is a great actor and he brings a lot of humanity and intrigue to the role. Perhaps if this movie does well, he'll have larger parts in later sequels. I can only hope. More sci-fi shows need sympathetic religious characters.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Review - Angel: The Curse #1 from IDW comics

Well, as a mega fan of pretty much anything Joss Whedon (except his run on X-Men, as for some odd reason I have never ever ever been interested in mutant related comics) I was sorry to hear when the bizarre beings know as TV executives at the WB decided to cancel one of their best rated shows. Especially since the last episode ended with a gripping cliff hanger.

This comic takes place at some unspecified time after that - and Angel himself is "alive" (or alive as a vampire with a soul can be). He's off in Romania trying to find the last remnants of the gypsies who cursed him with his soul. However, he finds that the Romanian wilderness is lousy with vampires, all of whom want to kill Angel.

As far as first issues go, this was a decent read. It's a bit sad that we get no hint of what has happened with the other Buffyverse/Angelverse characters, but with licenses still split between companies (Dark Horse is still publishing Buffy comics) and Whedon seems to have reserved the resolution of the season ending cliff hanger to his own brilliant pen, that's to be expected.

The pace moves along well, and exposition is mixed well with action, though much of the exposition cover territory already familiar to anyone who has seen the TV series - in essence there's a condensed version of Angel's backstory for the newbies, and it has nothing new for the die hard fans. However, this is a first issue and it has to fill in the casual readers in - and luckily this author does it in a way that seems natural - it doesn't seem forced.

There are few nitpicks with the art. Some of the sequences that worked well on TV, such as Angel producing stakes from his sleeves and impaling vampires, do not translate well to the comics panel - or at least, in this case they don't. It seems rather stiff and unexciting. But that is such a minor nit, and many fans are expecting such a scene anyway, I wonder why it bothered me so much. Oh, well.

IDW is an overlooked comic company with a lot of great titles. Apparently, they've picked up Peter David's brilliant but cancelled by DC comics Fallen Angel series (no relation to the Angel in this review), so if your comic store doesn't yet carry IDW comics, go in there and demand they immediately start doing so.