Archive for culture

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1 (of 6)

Posted in Comics, DC, Final Crisis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 29th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Snap, crackle, Pop!

Snap, crackle, Pop!

“This Is How We Do It”
Author: Joe Casey
Artist: ChrisCross
Inkers: Rob Stull, with Mick Gray, Wayne Faucher, & ChrisCross
Colorist: Snakebite
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Editors: Eddie Berganza, Rex Ogle & Ian Sattler
Cover Artist: Stanley “Art Germ” Lau

Finally! A new DC book I can get excited about!  Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance may as well be named Super Young Team because that’s what it is: a new comic mini-series starring those upstart Japanese superheroes we saw too little of (and loved) in Final Crisis.

For the record, I think it’s great that DC is experimenting with new books and ideas like these in a time of financial uncertainty.  The trade off, of course, is the title, but who cares when a book is as good as this?  The artist is called ChrisCross as well – what’s with that?  Again, it doesn’t matter, because his pencils are hot; they’re manic and clean; they crackle and fizz with sci-fi and J-Pop and…honour – all of those things that a Japanese super-team needs.

That’s kind of what this book is about.  The Super Young Team – Most Excellent Superbat, Big Atomic Lantern Boy, Shiny Happy Aquazon, Shy Crazy Lolita Canary, and Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash – post-Crisis find themselves on a satellite surrounded by hot-shots and PR people trying to groom them into the next sensation.  The satellite is to be their new headquarters, it seems.  They have ice sculptures and sushi platters in their meeting room, and a trophy room full of conquests they never made.  They have a rave party with the Paris Hiltons and various other good-fer-nothin’s to kick things off, all the while wondering aloud if this is really what this superhero biz-o is all about.  A personal highlight for me: the Most Excellent Superbat receives a visitation from the ghost of the late great Ultimon, who harshly admonishes him for dishonouring the proud traditions of superheroism.  By now the youngsters grow restless for action, and they want to see what’s happened to Japan behind the curtains and levers.

The beckoning of the Ancient amidst the noise of Pop so perfectly encapsulates Japanese culture and the Meiji Restoration conflict that it’s hard to imagine it was written by a non-Japanese.  Joe Casey has completely nailed the concepts, the focus, and the dialogue – all of it has an unmistakable Japanese-ness, and all of it is supremely entertaining.  The Most Excellent Superbat’s internal monologue appears in the form of ‘Twitterati’ posts (‘@MosExBat about 2 seconds ago’) – a great new spin on the caption box.

My God, did I mention that the colours are gorgeous?  Neon yellows, pinks, greens, and metallic blue.  This is the sexiest comic I’ve laid eyes on for a while.

The whole thing feels like a jaunt through the mind of Grant Morrison, which is great (and always a privelege), because he devised this team for Final Crisis, obviously with the intention of someone running with them later.  Thing is, Dance has all the verve and modernity of Morrison – the same energy that propelled Metal Men and Booster Gold – and yet, I can’t imagine this being any better had Morrison himself written it.  (Morrison this, Morrison that; Morrison, Morrison, Morrison – why don’t I just marry the guy already?) Joe Casey may not be Grant Morrison, but you know what they say: “a rose by any other name…”

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born Hardcover

Posted in Comics, Dark Tower, film, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 24th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Welcome to Stephen King's living, breathing world.

Welcome to Stephen King's living, breathing world.

Creative Director: Stephen King
Script: Peter David
Plot: Robin Furth
Artist: Jae Lee
Inker/Colorist: Richard Isanove
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Nicole Boose
Editor: John Barber
Senior Editor: Ralph Macchio

Stephen King is no stranger to comic books.  I can confirm, for one thing, that he has at least read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.  Whether or not he read the whole thing, I can’t say for certain, but he definitely knew his stuff when writing the foreword to “Worlds’ End”.  What came through in King’s foreword was not only his deep respect for Neil Gaiman as an author, but also for the comic book medium itself.  It should, then, come as no surprise that King enlisted the services of two notable comic book artists to illustrate his long-running series and “magnum opus” The Dark Tower, Dave McKean and Bernie Wrightson.  Then I read King’s afterword to The Dark Tower, and discovered that he’s also read and loved Watchmen, Preacher, and V for Vendetta.  All of this bodes well for a Stephen King graphic novel.

The Dark Tower, as a comic book adaptation of a Stephen King novel, is a difficult book to review.  If it’s well-written (and it is), who gets the credit for it?  Stephen King, who wrote the original novels?  Peter David who wrote the scripts?  Or Robin Furth, who plotted the thing?  Well, if I had read the original novels, I’d be able to tell you!  But I haven’t, so I’m just going to have to thank King for the source material, Peter David for his speechcraft, and Robin Furth for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Mid-World (apparently he knows more about the world of Dark Tower than Stephen King himself!).  I’ve also been informed that The Gunslinger Born is a prequel after some fashion, beginning the story in chronological order for the first time, and so in many ways, this is new ground for the series.

Mid-World – the world of Dark Tower – is an interesting milieu of cultures.  The gunslingers are Old West, but their dialect is known as the High Speech.  The consistency in language really contributed to this feeling of a living, breathing world.  There are wizards and mystical orbs of power, but they still need oil supplies to refuel their World War I tanks.  The unusual placement of familiar objects is all at once surreal and fantastical, but with echoes of reality.  It feels as though Mid-World has always existed, and is simply being revealed to us bit by bit, rather than being built from the ground up.

The Gunslinger Born follows a pretty simple mythic structure.  A boy named Roland Deschain undergoes a rite of passage to become a man, then leaves his family and sets out on a perilous journey with his mates (or his ka-tet).  The gunslingers are an Arthurian Order, Roland falls in love with the damsel in distress, and all the while a dark lord is preparing his army.

The presentation of this comic is probably the most cinematic I have seen, so I have little doubt that this will work brilliantly as a feature film under J.J. Abrams’ care and attention.  The characters are beautifully drawn by artist Jae Lee – again, playing on that grounded surrealism – while Richard Isanove’s colours are moody and atmospheric.  My only qualm with the art, and indeed, the entire book is that the backgrounds are a little too samey from panel to panel.  One the one hand, it maintains this consistency of place and atmosphere, but still, it’s a little minimalistic given the stunning foreground detail, and it did wear me down eventually seeing only one background colour per page.  I know it’s cinematic, and I know it’s fantasy, but it’d be nice to have a hand-drawn background every once in a while.  Still, the book is gorgeous.

As someone who’s never made it through a Stephen King novel, I can honestly say this was an enjoyable read with an enticing world and interesting characters.  The Dark Tower is a great touching point for anyone who’s new to the medium and wants to read a story without the baggage of continuity.  It’s also a great place to start for Stephen King fans who want to gain an appreciation of graphic storytelling, to see what it can do with their favourite story.

Welcome to Bat-Shark Repellent!

Posted in Comics, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

bat-shark-repellent

Hello. Hello? Is this thing on?

Welcome to my blog. This is hopefully the last of many blogs (check to the right if you’re curious), but what can I say? I’m feeling prolific at the moment. It’ll probably wear off, but I’ll give it a go.

Ummm…introduction, yes. My name is Adam Redsell, and I am an attention whore–I mean, I like writing. A lot. I’m what I like to call a ‘culture vulture’ – videogames, comics, film, music – I just lap it up. But having experienced so much of it, I’m also a harsh bastard.

That’s why I’m using this blog to review comic books (and what better day to start than Free Comic Book Day?). Now here’s the thing: I’ll mostly be reviewing comics of the DC superhero variety. I do branch out occasionally into the realms of Dark Horse, Marvel, and the indies, but the bread and butter of my comic reading regimen is pretty much Batman and Superman prancing about saving the world, K? I’ll also be reviewing comics that I’ve bought with my own money. What that means is there may not be too many negative reviews here unless I bought a lemon, or my favourite writer has a bad hair day. Because I’m not in the habit of wasting money.

(Basically, if you see a review up here, take it as a recommendation at first glance, but read on anyway, you presumptuous git.)

Hopefully those things don’t preclude me from writing entertaining reviews. That’s what the blog title is supposed to elicit: comics are, above all things, entertaining. Packing and pacing a self-contained story, often within the framework of an over-arching, greater story, all within the confines of 22 pages. That’s better than TV, is what that is.

And yes, Batman does actually keep shark repellent in his utility belt. I’ve seen it.