The Death of Dying

Two posts in a year, you ask? Apparently so. Now let’s get right to it.

SPOILERS FOR TMNT #44 AHEAD


Being realistic, anyone reading this probably already knows. But Donatello was supposedly killed in the most recent issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though originally created with no real defining characteristics, Donny has grown into a fan favorite as he has evolved into the technologically savvy and intelligent member of the team. Donny has fallen victim to something that hasn’t happened within the Ninja Turtles universe before. The death of one of the 4 turtles. The past week has seen people clamoring for a copy as he comic book market worships “the death of” issues as achievements and cling on to the idea that these comics will somehow be valuable.

The sad fact is that none of these issues really retain physical worth. Sentimental worth for sure. But monetary, not as much. People have this ridiculous idea that their Death of Superman #1 will pay for their kids college. While this comic has value, this isn’t an issue that will ever pay for even a semester in college.

But I digress, the real topic I wanted to discuss was why we kill comic book characters off anyway. Lets look at Donny’s death. While presented as dead within issue 44, we have soliciations for May’s Free Comic Book Day issue with Donny fully healthy. And while this might not be within continuity, it points out the absurdity that is killing off a comic book character. They will come back. It is inevitable. It happens. To the point where they explain in continuity the fantastical and miraculous way in which a deceased hero (or even villain) makes it back to the land of the living. So why does this continue to happen? Wolverine was killed off about 3 months ago, and yet it is inevitable that he will be back. So why write a sub par books only to bring back the character a few years later.

In a book like All Star Superman, there is a narrative significane in Superman’s death. Today, there is no such significance. It’s seen as an event. A decadence. Our characters are killed off, often in brutal ways, and we gleefully devour this media knowing full well we’ll get the character back. 

Or lets look at Marvels (now doomed) Ultimate Universe. Death matters in this universe. Dead characters don’t come back. Yet this only makes the death frenzy more rabid. After Ultimatum (in which half of the Ultimate Universe was killed off) Marvel felt they needed to outdue this event, and has almost annually culled the remaining heroes. Proving that the death frenzy is only worse if death is permanent.

Thus why do it at all? Death has no story real story significance in the current comic book environment and causes unhealthy and unrealistic expectations by those who frenzy over it. So why do it? Why not focus instead upon writing great narratives for these characters? Why not focus on great interpretations of these characters? Why not use death as a narrative tool rather than a narrative in that of itself?

That ended up being more of a rant than I had expected, I apologize for the chaos of thoughts.

Until the next time,

Rn

Blockbuster: The Comic Book

Here I go again. Thinking I can do this again. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. Either way, I’m going to post this and go from there. “But you’ve hurt us before with your lies!”. I sure have. I’m not going to apologize, shit happens. Nor am I going to waste time to explaining it. So I’m just going to go right into it.

Recently I saw Kingsman. I thought it was a sensational film and I was so enthused I immediately picked up a copy of Mark Millar’s Secret Service (the source material). Can I just say that the book is awful. It lacks the humor and imagination of the film and proved my opinions right. Millar writes his books in hopes that someone else can make a better film.

Enter Chrononauts. The highly touted Millar and Murphey comic. If you’ve read this blog before you know I’m a big fan of Sean Murphey’s art (you totally can look it up if not). So naturally I was excited for this book. Plus Millars’ Jupter’s Legacy has changed my tune on his works (though Frank Quietly’s art is the big reason I love the book as much as I do). That being said I had hoped that this book would be another solid book on Millars’ pedigree, and with the positive early buzz, I thought it was going to happen. I thought I would be proven wrong. I read it, and aside from Murphey’s solid turn on art (so sensational, I’d pick up the book again, but that’s me). The story however, lacked much to be desired. I felt Millar had just given me an early screenplay he was ready to pawn off to someone with more vision and the skill to follow through with it. Not even 24 hours later was it announced that a movie deal was agreed upon. Look’s like Mark Millar wins again. Some talented visionary will make Chrononauts into a sensation film franchise, and the book will be syndicated and celebrated with hipster and nerd alike claiming they read the book before they saw the movies. Great, so did I. 

This made me think about how often this happens these days. This book landed a deal after the first issue, Lemire’s Descender landed a media deal months before the first issue was in our hands. And the list goes on. So who are comic books aimed towards? It certainly doesn’t seem like they are aimed for us. With Image and Dark Horse and the like being a safe haven for those disillusioned with the big two (Marvel because of it’s gimmicks and over glorification, and DC because no one at the company seems to have a clue what they are doing, what they should be doing, and that their audience is more than just 40 year old white men). That being said, if these independant books are now no longer being written because the writer wants to right a book they have been dreaming up for years, should we dare read them? If the writer is only creating something in hopes of cashing out in film, can we honestly expect the books we are reading to be anything but half assed attempts at a screen play?

This isn’t to say it’s all doom and gloom. We still have books like Saga, Sex Criminals, and the Nameless. Creators like Vaugh, Fraction, and Morrison have proven that they genuinely care about their craft and continue to thrill us with creator owned stories or by with big two properties (like Fraction’s Iron Fist and Hawkeye and Morrison’s everything). But I am rather disgusted by the current trend of creators and comic books in general. I am slowly growing to despise the films based off of these books too. Despite how bad the industry looks, I know there will always be a book I can dive into as long as the likes of Morrison and Vaughn continue to publish books.

I guess I’m not just burnt out about all of the comic book films, but disappointed that the shelves of the comic store are being flooded with books published not in the sake of art or craft or even livelihood, but because someone wants to cash in with a Hollywood exec.

Maybe I’m taking things to seriously and not looking at the big picture. But when will enough be enough?

Until the next time,

Rn

The Old 52

With the most recent announcement that 4 original DC titles are getting the ax (Superboy, Birds of Prey, Batwing, and All-Star Western) in August, the remains of the “New” 52 are all but gone. Of all the books DC publishes now, only 21 original titles remain. That’s less than half of the books that were launched. While their are exceptions (Suicide Squad and Teen Titans are getting relaunched, JLI was scrubbed for story purposes, etc) it is still rather alarming to think that the original New 52 has dwindled this far. While DC has added solid replacements such as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn, those serve as the exceptions to DC’s line. The ongoing series’ and the once that have survived are the 21 I have noted above. Of all the books launched to replace books, very few of them exist. Of the Second Wave only Earth 2 survives, with Worlds Finest now joining Batman Inc, Dial H, The Ravagers, and GI Combat. Of the Third Wave, we Phantom Stranger is joining Talon, Sword of Sorcery, and Team 7. The next few launched were JLA and Katana, also now gone.

While I will give DC credit for trying new things, with only 23 books on the shelf that have proved to be tried and true, a problem has emerged. Only time can tell if some of DC’s more recent gambits such as JLU, Infinity Man, Constantine, JL 300, and the Superman-Batman/Wonder Woman books will test as well as Earth 2 and Harley Quinn have thus far. To truly succeed and gain back market share, DC is going to need to be bold, but also smart. I posted previously how I felt Marvel’s Hawkeye strategy was effective, and should be emulated. DC needs some help adding titles that can survive in the long run. And with characters like Cyborg, Captain Marvel, and even Lex Luthor gaining increased popularity, DC has the characters to do it. Once again, I’m all for them trying new and bold things, but they need to balance that with books that can and will sell. I may not know exactly what those books look like, but I’m pretty sure all of us out there have many ideas that DC could utilize. For that we’ll have to wait and see what we get to replace these books come October.

What are your thoughts on the matter? What do you think DC has done right and how do you think they could improve for the future?

Until the next time, Rn

Ravingnerd Reviews: Godzilla

I know I still have an Amazing Spider-Man Two review to do, but this is more recent and thus more pressing. I, like most people found myself incredibly excited for the reboot of Godzilla. I have long been a fan of monster movies, and watched my neighbors boxed set of the original films incessantly as a child. With the billed cast being solid, I had every expectation to thoroughly enjoy the film, as many have.

Yet I found that not to be the case. Instead of being enjoyed and entertained by the film, I was bewildered and put off by it instead. Where people laughed, I was confused and where people were in awe, I was lamenting. This movie did very little to help its own cause, instead the entire film just furthered it’s own dilemma. That of a lack of direction. This film did not fit into any genre. Their were monsters, but they were only really a backdrop in a grand struggle for humanities survival. With the exception, that this film failed to even do that. Rather than show the consequences, the film makes light of it. There is no point in the film where the impact of the massive carnage is ever felt. Instead we see it to the backdrop of Elvis in a casino, or a kid yelling dinosaur at a television screen. The film suffers from a miss match of feelings. When we are supposed to be frightened, the film has us laugh. The film is sending us mixed messages which I found quite jarring. The true genre for this film should have been comedy, as there were very few points in that film that were dramatic or dared to try to weigh the consequences of what was going on.

With the two best actors in the film (Cranston and Watanabe) being relegated to near bit parts so that we can focus on G.I. Generic trying to get back to his wife and child (never seen that one before). We were left with only the monsters to entertain us. Yet Godzilla, in typical fashion, was in the film for maybe 30 minutes. The two villainous EMP monsters were in it for longer, but were mired in a pool of unparalleled incompetence.

Upon leaving this film, I realized that every aspect of this film had been done better at points before. While Pacific Rim was not as well received as Godzilla and didn’t garner an insta-sequel, it was far more enjoyable. It hit all the notes the film was supposed to, as well as giving us more than ten minutes of monster fight scenes. Transformers followed a similar generic solider, but that also managed to deliver as a film. I have already drawn scorn for the parallel, but even the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers movie was more fulfilling in carnage, destruction, and monster fights than Godzilla was.

At the end of the day, Godzilla earns a 4 out of 10 on my books. Not nearly as solid as I had hoped and generally lacking a sense of consequence. 

Favorite part of the film: Laser breath.
Least favorite part of the film: Lieutenant Generic.

That’s all I have time for today, I hope this review finds you well and stay tune for a revamping of content like you’d never expect.

Until the next time,

Rn

Ravingnerd Reviews: Captain America the Winter Soldier

Naturally I wasn’t finding myself super exciting for the upcoming Captain America film. The first one was good, but in the scope of the Marvel cinematic universe I generally consider it to be on the weaker end of the spectrum. I find one of the biggest complaints that people who are unfamiliar with Captain America is that they claim he isn’t relevant outside of his Nazi fighting escapades. One of the biggest challenges this film had to face was to prove his relevance in our world. Additionally this film had to introduce the Falcon and promised to show case not only Cap but Black Widow as well.

While there was a lot going on in this film, I think the cast was the most compelling. All the long standing characters did an excellent job at further developing their characters. Both Fury and Widow especially got a lot of extra help thanks to strong performances by Sam and Scarlet. I think what drove this film thought was the great turns by both Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford. Both of their performances were stellar and not only drove much of the plot forward, but also in the case of Mackie helped to establish and update a long standing Marvel character. 

In addition to the stellar performances, the movie was home to some of the best action sequences I have ever seen in a film. Period. This movie was strikingly visual and the fights didn’t leave much to the imagination. They were fast paced and energetic. The movie was constantly exciting, and the extremely energetic action sequences made up for it’s predictable plot. Yes, much of the plot was predictable, but that is to be expected. Anyone who has some passive knowledge of comic books will be able to understand the big Winter Solider twist. That being said, the plot is involving and does keep you on the end of your seat. Lastly this film benefits from having loose subject material to base itself on. Many of my complaints with comic book films is that they play it loose with the subject material. This film however nails the parts it needs to while allowing everything else to fall into place organically.

All in all this is one of the best films in the Marvel universe. It’s catching, gripping, and entertaining. The films shortfalls are few and superfluous in comparison to the scope of the film. This movie did everything it needed to do and more. By a landslide.

My final ranking of the film is an 8/10. This film was solid and should easily fit within the top 5 Marvel films. I highly recommend this film to any one who enjoys comic books and anyone who finds themselves invested in the ongoing plot line of the Marvel movie universe.

My favorite moment of the film was probably Anthony Mackie’s performance. They did a stellar job at updating and introducing the character to the Marvel Universe and the friendship he developed with Cap was one of the nicer touches to the film.

My least favorite moment of the film was when everyone gasped when they revealed that Bucky was the Winter Solider. Read a book.

Until the next time,

Rn 

On The Stack

It’s Wednesday, and before I get my stack of new books, I’m here to detail the best books of the week before.

5. Ghost Rider #1 was a rather brilliant book, I have already sung the praises of this first issue, and will let you read it here. That being said, it was definitely one of the best things from last weeks stack.

4. Aquaman #29 continues what writer Jeff Parker has been doing with Aquaman. When Johns left it was easy to thing Aquaman could fall by the wayside, and become a forgettable title. Yet Jeff Parker has managed to spin an impressive yarn about a more human Aquaman ever since stepping in. It is a thrill to see, and this issue proves that Parker has a lot more going on.

3. The Wake #7 made me realize I missed the book since the last issue. Murphey’s art stole the show, as we see our characters caught by the villainous government. What’s fascinating about this book is once the plot shifted, it feels like the government and people are the bad guys. The Merfolk are no longer the primary villains, though they are there. I am excited and fascinated to see where this book goes as it heads towards its conclusion 3 issues from now.

2. Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #6. Rogues Rebellion was the tie in that could. While much of Forever Evil has been stellar, the Rouges centered limited series was the best tie in of the bunch. It perfectly grasped the concept of the Rogues, and seeing them embark on their own small heroic journey of sorts was excellent. Seeing where they go without Captain Cold and Heatwave (who’s dead?) will be interesting. Seeing if Mirror Master can continue to lead the team will be fascinating as well.

1. Afterlife with Archie #4 was one of the most emotional books I have ever read. In just a few short pages, we are forced to feel immense sorrow as Archie not only loses his dog (who has heartbreaking internal dialogue) but also as he realizes that he can’t save everyone. This book continues to thrill at every turn, and this issue made the book feel all the more real.

In other news, I was extremely underwhelmed by Silver Surfer #1. The art was excellent, but the story was forgettable and slow. I hope it can pick up from a poor first issue, as I need to see Allred’s art on a monthly basis.

Until the next time,

Rn

Ravingnerd Reviews: Ghost Rider #1

I have never had a love for Ghost Rider. The character has done nothing to excite me and has only ever appeared in awkward ways. I have never felt he has a bearing on anything else in the Marvel Universe. So when they were relaunching Ghost Rider with a new identity, and now with a car, it was one of the books I felt I could skip. Trad Moore’s art looked awkward in all the solicitation images, and I was worried the artist who brought us Luther Strode wouldn’t be able to stick the landing. This is what I found out instead.

1. Tradd Moore’s style is unconventional but provides an awesome background for what looks to be a solid story.
2. Even Felipe Smith’s story was fascinating. His settings were on point and the book moved at a quick pace.
3. This book feels like everything and nothing happened all at once. We learn about the characters, the setting, see Robbie get his powers, the end.

Rating before reading: 5
Rating after reading: 7

This book was solid, and well worth another look. After my initial read, I was taken aback. I was almost angry, believing the book could have been about have as long and told the story. I felt like the book had left empty space. Yet upon my second look through I realized we would have missed all the amazing art which really makes this book shine. So what I would describe as the books one major downfall, was also one of its biggest assets. Much of the book is silent panel work, but Moore really is allowed to shine in a way that I wasn’t expecting. What I anticipated as one of the weakest #1’s ended up being one of the strongest. I would recommend this book to any new reader, and truly hope that they can hit the ground running after this issues initial quality.

Until the next time,

Rn