Updates, Hobos, Supergods and Deadmans.

Quick update just to keep track of where the hell I’ve been the past week or so.

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Aside from trying to feel something other than apathy over another celebrity death, and feeling oddly upset about the shooting incident in Norway, I’ve been numbing my real world senses by following the SDCC ’11 coverage and of course enjoying (?) those teaser trailers for Batman and Spider-man, and finally I caught ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’, which is still doing the rounds at a small number of cinemas.

I reviewed the film for Starburst Magazine, so check that out if you are still curious about this messy little gem.

http://bit.ly/r1O1qm

— Please note that the opening paragraph did fall at the mercy of a sub-edit, and the slightly rambling nature of the bit was not entirely my doing. I’m not bitching about it, but I think it will always grind the nerves a little —

My ongoing Cinematic Pile of Shame was reduced by one, after seeing ‘Goodbye Lenin’, another in a terribly long list of films I was just always too damned lazy to watch. Culture, yay!

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Reading wise, I’m still not done with last weeks comics due to lack of time, with Issue #2 of ‘Deadman and the Flying Graysons’ and ‘Daredevil’ #1 still sitting on my to do list. I think I may have saved the best for last with Daredevil though.

I also got a copy if Grant Morrision’s exploration of the Cape comics relationship to human society throughout the years, ‘Supergods’. So far it’s been a decent read, a combination of the obvious and the headspinningly obscure.

That guy knows comics, of course, but his additional insights in to the strange world of magic, myth and his much documented personal… ummm… Interests, add something fairly fresh to this look at the social importance of those oddly dressed icons and why we are more like them than you might think.

I’ll be posting a review of ‘Supergods’ whenever I can get time to read the rest of the thing.

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The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer

Predictably, I was pretty psyched to see the teaser for Christopher Nolan’s final entry in his Batman story before seeing ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’ this week.

Now, Warners have released the trailer for all to see across the web, and for those that saw the bootlegged version last week, you might actually be able to discern some detail this time!

I won’t break anything down like most sites have, as it really speaks for itself and hardly warrants analysis. Then again, I’ve never known outlets have such a feindish desire for even the tiniest detail about a movie so far from release before, so you can’t blame them for trying to get some extra mileage from this official release.

Some have commented on thee rushed feel to the teaser. That I can agree with, but it still lets us know enough about whats going on to make it a worthwhile watch.

I only have until July 20th 2012 to worry about the fate of Jim Gordon and the rest of Gotham City.

“You deserved better, kid”. The throwaway death of Bucky Barnes

Characters die in comic book events. Its a rule, and it will never change.

How else can creators show the gravity of a situation without a token death to make everybody realise that the monster of the month is actual serious business?

One thing I appreciate in any form of fiction, is not treating death lightly. Sure people die, but hopefully we would get a decent explanation for such an occurrence. In comics, that usually means that for a couple of issues other characters can look sad and upset and vow to change things for the better in light of the sacrifice their friend made.

In other words, despite the temporary nature of death in comics, it HAS to mean something for how little time the character actually stays dead. Lets take a look.

When Peter Parker died last month in Ultimate Spider-man, his family were crushed, but Parker learned exactly what it was to be a hero.


When the Human Torch sacrificed himself, it was a heroic end for sure.

Other characters in the world cared (and had great covers to boot)

When Bruce Wayne took one in the face it didn’t make any sense at first, but it meant a whole load of awesome would happen in the years to follow.

You get the point by now.

In Fear Itself, Marvel Comics event series for 2011 lots of… stuff… was going on.

People got awesome magical hammers from Serpent who (shock) wants to kill everything, Odin was angry at Thor and the Asgardians left Earth for some-such reason. Then, Sin killed Bucky Barnes in two hits. Literally two hits.

We don’t really see what happened, but when the smoke clears, he is missing his cybernetic arm and has a massive hole in his chest. Then he dies (off page, confirmed in the recap page of issue 4).

This, surely should have been one of those huge death things like the ones pictures just a little way up the page. Bucky Barnes, the new Captain America, greatest ally of the original Captain America Steve Rogers, who himself came back unexpectedly as the awesome bad-ass Winter Soldier guy that we came to care about over, what, only six years of brilliant storytelling? Yeah, he deserves a decent send-off even if his actual demise was a pathetic confrontation that lasted two pages.

No. Actually he doesn’t. The most we get from any character, comes from the eternally warm and emotionally connected Nick Fury.

“You deserved better, kid.”

Then, minutes later Steve has his old uniform on and joins Iron Man and Thor in going to fight things.

See ya, Bucky! Was great while it lasted son.

The issue at hand isn’t the nature of event comics, or even how we treat death in the medium, but more the fact that one writer can undo the work of another with just a couple of misplaced pages.

Ed Brubaker made Captain America a book that could be appreciated by everyone, not just the die-hard comic book nerds or the even more die-hard super patriots of the USA.

He was a man adjusting to the world with its new views on right and wrong, good and evil, fighting not for any country or allegiance, but because it was the right thing to do. His supporting cast were fleshed out, and the long dead Bucky was reintroduced as a complicated and affecting character who also had to bear the brunt of being a man-out-of-time with no real place to belong. We really grew to accept that not only was Bucky alive again, but that he was a meaningful presence in the world.

I preferred this version to the Fear Itself one.

Then at the pen of Matt Fraction, he becomes nothing more than a plot point. I cant help feeling that had this occurred in the actual Captain America series, this would have been a death actually worth happening.

There are other reasons of course. Steve Rogers needed to become Captain America again, especially with a new #1 issue being released to coincide with the Captain America movie that’s just around the corner. This I’m sure we all understand. But as a rule, try not to throw characters into the grinder just to advance a plot, especially if they aren’t your characters to deal with anyway.

Still. Its not quite as bad as this questionable moment in the career of Jeff Loeb. Don’t even get me started on the deep seated issues behind this beauty.

Seriously, this happened.

Not Another Crisis: Thoughts on the DCU Relaunch (Part One)

Much publicized across pretty much every internet outlet, September 2011 sees DC Comics relaunch its entire catalog with 52 (very clever) new titles. And lo, The Internet exploded.

Jim Lee's new look JLA. Collars!

To the normalfolk, the idea of grown men and women displaying such a strong reaction was most likely laughable. It is a little embarrassing, I’ll admit. I didn’t cry I’ll have you know. I may have succumbed to mild panic attacks, but I’m revealing nothing more. Even as a relatively casual reader, it got to me.

After my initial… reaction, my personal perspective remains mixed. I’m curious as to what the new books will bring for the familiar characters moving in to a new era of fiction, disappointed at the early indications of the directions certain characters will take, but most of all I’m left  understanding the need for a clean slate.

Marvel comics, regardless of the relative importance of the character, do a great job of offering new readers and casual followers the chance to jump in at any singular issue or trade paperback and follow the subsequent pages without feeling left out or in the dark about what is happening and why (X-Men aside of course, it’s a universe all of its own at this point).

For some reason, DC never achieved this.

It is often said that Marvel characters are simply more recognizable to the wider audience, and as such, DC has less reason to cater for the mass market. I feel it has nothing to do with mainstream awareness. DC’s animated series have been both critically well received and popular with viewers of all ages. I don’t know a single human who didn’t see ‘The Dark Knight’, or the Donner Superman films of old. These characters are everywhere. Even my mother knows who The Flash is.

When I stopped reading comics in the nineties, it was because they sucked. When I got back in to comics, I maintained a strong Marvel only habit, with the happenings of Infinite Crisis retold to me by a colleague of the time. My reactions were simple, usually laughter and confusion. Superboy Prime lost his shit, threw a tantrum, and the world went wrong. To this day, it sounds awful.

While the Crisis events are considered to be a clearing house of continuity, you can’t make something confusing appear simpler by adding more confusion. It remains a mess.

While my mother knows who The Flash is, she won’t understand why there are so many of them. While I love unconditionally Grant Morrison’s work on Batman and the stories it gave rise to, explaining what happened to Bucky and Cap is far less of an undertaking than interpreting  ‘Batman Inc.’ to a puzzled onlooker. While there’s plenty of madness in the Marvel universe, it cuts away at the debris with an elegant catch up page and little more. I doubt the same could be workable for DC without this relaunch.

So, the reasons for the relaunch are clear. It’s all in the tireless quest for the “new reader”, that most nebulous of beings, constantly pursued by publishers of all media,  like catching fairies with a bug net. Hopefully the old consumer base, the ones with the disposable income to spend on all that lucrative merchandise, wont be alienated in the process.

Perhaps seeing the giant “Issue 1” on a cover will help the nervous make the jump from furtively stuffing Spider-man into their briefcase on a lunch break and try a DC book without having to study Wikipedia when they get back to their desks. If we take it at face value that the characters are nothing more than who we see on the cover having adventures, finding their allies, beating their enemies, it works out more fun for everybody.

Something tells me that the fan community, who invested so much in the history of the DCU, may not want everybody to be given that point of ingress.

To be continued