Tagged: wrong

Manga Friday: Swords and Psychics

Manga Friday: Swords and Psychics

This week was going to be Samurai Week, but I threw in a book about psychics for spice – just to keep it interesting.

Dororo, Vol. 3
By Osamu Tezuka
Vertical, August 2008, $13.95

This is the third and final book in a samurai saga from Tezuka, the “godfather of manga.” (I’ve previously reviewed volume 1 and volume 2 for ComicMix.) I’ve seen references that say this series was truncated rather than continuing to its expected end, and that’s plausible from the book itself.

It does have something like an ending; the swordsman Hyakkimaru confronts and defeats his evil father, and parts from the young thief Dororo (whose secret he’s recently learned). But the stories of these main characters aren’t actually done – Hyakkimaru is not finished with his quest to become human again, and Dororo needs to grow up (and probably to battle some evil feudal lords on behalf of downtrodden farmers).

So this isn’t really the ending one would hope for – it doesn’t cut off, uncompleted, but there clearly were more stories to be told. (On the other hand, Tezuka left off work on Dororo in 1971, and lived for nearly twenty years afterward, which probably means something.) But the individual stories are still exceptionally well-told, in Tezuka’s characteristic clean lines, and the thematic undertones remain under, and deepen rather than threatening to sink the narrative.


Review: Invincible the Series

Review: Invincible the Series

During the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, MTV New Media debuted their new animated series based on Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s Invincible comic. Published by Image Comics, [[[Invincible]]] tells the story of Mark Grayson, a young man who inherits his father’s superpowers. It’s been released through various outlets: iTunes, Xbox, Amazon, MTV2, MTV.com, and MTV Mobile.

Instead of creating brand new animation, the series has decided to use the latest editing techniques to “animate” Cory Walker’s actual comic book art. Just use existing comic art and let the camera to give the illusion of movement. To younger viewers this may seem innovative, but it’s been done as far back as the Marvel Comics based cartoons from the 1960’s. It was used again, very artistically by MTV, when they brought [[[The Maxx]]] to television. Even more recently [[[The Watchmen]]] has been done in this style.

While the story and art deserve all the critical praise that the Invincible comic has received over the years, [[[Invincible the Series]]]’ biggest stumbling block is its editing. The MTV produced show has the same pacing as MTV’s promo spots, wildly kinetic with lots of flashing graphics and texts. Never let the eye settle for minute. This is fine for 15-second ad, but watching a full show like that is taxing.

In a one step forward, two steps back move, the show decided to include the actual word balloons from the comic. But instead of letting people read it, the text has a subtle shake to it. To emphasize energy, I guess. While nothing sits still on the screen, you would expect the parts you want people to read to be motionless.

A good way to judge an animated show’s sound is to close your eyes and listen. Does the soundtrack still create images of the action? In Invincible’s case, the answer is yes, but barely. The voice acting and sound effects are serviceable. They don’t do anything cringe worthy, but neither do they stand out. No Kevin Conroy or John Di Maggio here.

If the production calmed down, this could’ve been a great show that brought quality comic books to video formats. But as it is, I couldn’t stand watching this for more than a few episodes. And like I said, I’m a fan. Imagine the effect to someone who’s browsing MTV2 late at night.

Watch the first episode for yourself below. Let me know if you think I’m right or wrong in the comments section.


Review: ‘After 9/11’ by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

A few years back, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón came up with the novel idea of retelling the 9/11 Commission Report in comic book form.

Now they’re back with something of a sequel, After 9/11: America’s War on Terror (Hill and Wang, $16.95). While their earlier book was a simple recreation of an existing document, this is a more impressive endeavor, as they compile facts from a great number of sources to create one of the most encompassing yet looks at our ongoing wars.

I really only have one criticism. The book is labeled “graphic journalism,” which is a bit of a misnomer. The creators did no original reporting, as far as I can tell, instead researching media reports for their information.

It’s really an illustrated work of history, an encompassing paper-bound documentary of the past seven years in American foreign policy. Which is to say it’s a pretty depressing read.

The creators organize their collection of news reports and government documents in chronological form, as the U.S. launches its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter through no small part of deception.


Review: ‘Slow Storm’ by Danica Novgorodoff

Review: ‘Slow Storm’ by Danica Novgorodoff

Slow Storm
By Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, September 2008, $19.95

This is Novgorodoff’s first full-length graphic novel; she was an Eisner nominee last year for the one-shot [[[A Late Freeze]]]. She’s got an assured, pseudo-outsider art style, with big blocks of color and slablike faces, but her writing isn’t quite up to the same level yet. [[[Slow Storm]]] will be in stores in September, but comics stores and online retailers are, as always, already taking pre-orders.

Ursa Crain is a firefighter in Kentucky’s rural Oldham County who has a very confrontational, unpleasant relationship with her brother and coworker, the very thuddingly named Grim. (What kind of family names their two kids Ursa and Grim, anyway? Did they know their kids would be characters in a story with heavy symbolism?) These two siblings clearly don’t get along, but we don’t know why – and their sniping and digs don’t give us much of a clue. Grim also complains that his sister “looks like a moose,” as if he wants her to increase her sexual attractiveness – which doesn’t sound like any brother-sister relationship I know. (Particularly since the other firefighters – the ones not related to her – are already sexually harassing Ursa in their mild, Southern, good-ol-boy way.)

Rafael Jose Herrera Sifuentes (Rafi) is a stableboy from Mexico, living in Kentucky illegally upstairs in the stable where he works. He comes from horse country himself, but he could only live hand-to-mouth there, and so he got himself smuggled into the US to be able to send money back to his family. He had the usual bad experiences on the way – robbed by the coyotes taking him over the border, shot at by a racist rancher – and somehow settled into this Kentucky stable.


Review: ‘Burma Chronicles’ by Guy Delisle

With all of the past year’s insanity in Burma — mainly monk uprisings and government oppressions — you’d think Guy Delisle’s nonfiction comic Burma Chronicles would be especially topical. But you’d be wrong.

As is Delisle’s style, he passes up on the chance to take an expansive view of the country where he lived for six months (he’s written previously about stints in Pyongyang and Shenzhen).

Instead, the book is almost self-centered in how it simply recounts Delisle’s experience as the husband to a Doctors Without Borders. He depicts himself as the ultimate average Joe, a dude content to live life as it comes.

Most of the cartoons are of little moments, like Delisle venting about the sporadic electricity (and sporadic air conditioning), or his hunt for ink to finish a book.

That isn’t to say he doesn’t experience Burmese culture or interact with the locals. He does, but the majority of what he includes in the book are little innocuous windows into the country.


Review: ‘The Country Nurse’ by Jeff Lemire

Review: ‘The Country Nurse’ by Jeff Lemire

Essex County Vol. 3: The Country Nurse
By Jeff Lemire
Top Shelf, October 2008, $9.95

The finale of the “[[[Essex County]]]” trilogy – which will be available in October, so start saving your pennies now – draws together the first two graphic novels in the series, but at the expense of not being as coherent as a story itself. It has two main plot threads – one set in the modern day, following the nurse of the title, and one in 1917.

The modern plot is similar to the frame story of the second volume, Ghost Stories – Anne Quenneville travels around this fictionalized corner of Ontario, Canada on her rounds one day, looking in on her usual patients and giving us some callbacks to those first two stories. (The kid Lester has given up his cape and mask; ex-hockey player Lou is toast.) It does pull together all of the strands of “Essex County” neatly and well, but that’s pretty much all it’s doing; there isn’t much in the way of events, just Anne meeting people we already know or will soon come to recognize.

The other plot starts off about young Lawrence Lebeuf, a twelve-year-old orphan at an isolated orphanage deep in the woods. (Was it really common to have orphanages out in the middle of nowhere, staffed only by a nun and a caretaker? I guess it exemplifies “out of sight, out of mind.”) The orphanage is run by Sister Margaret, and the caretaker is a scruffy man named Charles Gerrard. Lawrence is something of a protégé of Charles’s; he’s the oldest of the orphans and Charles talks to him quite a bit about what he should do when he soon leaves the orphanage.


Review: ‘Bluesman’ by Vollmar & Callejo

Review: ‘Bluesman’ by Vollmar & Callejo

By Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo
NBM, August 2008, $24.95

[[[Bluesman]]] was published once before, as three album-sized collections, but this is the first time the entire story has been collected between two covers. It’s a moody tale, told in black and white – but mostly in grays, from the background to the characters.

Lem Taylor is a blues guitarist, wandering through the rural Mississippi Delta in the late ‘20s, hungry and foot-sore. With him is a blues pianist, Ironwood Malcott, and together they make some excellent music. But that doesn’t put food in their bellies half the time, let alone a roof over the heads and a bed at night more than every so often.

As the book begins, their luck is beginning to look up: they get a decent gig at a popular juke house called Shug’s and are invited up to Memphis to record some sides by J.L. Dougherty, a traveling salesman who also acts as a talent scout.


‘Heroes’ Hopes for Rebound Season

‘Heroes’ Hopes for Rebound Season

After a pretty unambiguously down second season, the NBC show Heroes is looking to get the magic back from its debut season that marked it as the network’s most important show.

In an interview with the New York Times, Heroes creator Tim Kring gave some insights into what’s to come, as well as reflecting back on what went wrong last year.

The scale tipped toward disappointment at the start of last season, as Mr. Kring acknowledged in an interview way back in November, just after production was abruptly cut off by the writers’ strike that shut down Hollywood. At that time he cited a list of early missteps, including introducing too many new characters, dabbling too much in romance and depositing one of the fans’ favorite characters, Hiro, in feudal Japan for too long. …

The new volume, which will run in 13 episodes, is called “Villains” and will focus on a single big story line, Mr. Kring said, relying almost totally on its core of main characters, and will return the show to exploring what he called “the primal questions” from Season 1: “Who am I? What is my purpose?”

The third season (volume, whatever) begins on Sept. 22.

Thomas Scioli on Gødland, Day Jobs and Joe Casey

Thomas Scioli on Gødland, Day Jobs and Joe Casey

Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has been conducting a great series of weekly interviews that, for no good reason whatsoever, I’ve been neglecting to point out here on ComicMix. It’s time to change that.

His most recent interview, with Gødland co-creator and artist Thomas Scioli, was a real gem. Much like Spurgeon, I’m not very familiar with Scioli himself, but I’ve enjoyed the way he’s channeled Jack Kirby in Gødland ever since I came across the first issue. However, despite the critical praise the series received, Casey and Scioli recently announced that Gødland would end with issue #36.

Spurgeon has a frank chat with the award-winning artist about Gødland, the reasons behind its cancellation, the collaborative process and what he has planned for the future.

Here, Scioli discusses one of the conditions that led to the series’ termination:

The collections did a lot better than the single issues. The first collection was far and away the most successful book. Most of my earnings from this series are from that single volume. Before this series came out, I had a lot of assumptions about what would sell, and I was pretty much wrong. I thought that there was more of a hunger for this type of material. I know this is the kind of comic I’d like to see more of. Maybe my expectations were too high, though. I mean it is the most successful thing I’ve ever been involved in. We sold a lot of comics, relatively speaking, but the number you need to consistently sell to really make a go of it is awfully high.

The main frustration is that I wish there was more room for us. It’s crowded out there. I kept hearing from people who couldn’t get a certain issue because their store sold out of it, or they ordered it but it never showed up at their store. Hearing that kind of thing makes me crazy.

Head over to The Comics Reporter for the full interview, and be sure to check back there every Sunday for more of Spurgeon’s interviews.

Getting Reality Right, by Dennis O’Neil

Getting Reality Right, by Dennis O’Neil

Vinnie Bartilucci said it better than I did. Commenting on a couple of columns that asked, sort of, if the science in comics should be real, Vinnie wrote, “… once a writer chooses to mention actual, proper science, he should get it right.”

Yes. Exactly. Well put.

But I wonder if we shouldn’t extend the idea to other real life areas. Social problems, for example.  Or such knotty personal problems as addiction. One of the difficulties is, there isn’t the kind of consensus on personal and societal quandaries that there is on the basics of, say, physics. All but the most skeptical – or reactionary – can agree that Newton’s three laws are on the money and Einstein was right about relativity, both general and special, and even Heisenberg’s principle doesn’t seem terribly uncertain these days.

But, to pluck just one example from the ether…addiction? What, exactly, is it? My imperfect understanding is that many, if not most, addictions are caused by environment acting on genetics. In other words, nature and nurture combine to rot out somebody’s life. But, with patience, determination, and rigorous self-honesty, the addict can put his demons in the coal bin, and if he’s able to continue being patient, determined, and honest, they’ll stay there until he dies and they die with him. Addiction is not exactly a disease, in the conventional sense, but it’s more that than character defect.

That was, more or less, the version of addiction I posited in an extended comic book continuity some years ago, and most people who saw the stories seemed to agree with me. But not everyone. A source I trust told me that a person much higher on the corporate food chain than either my editor or me thought that the fictional addict should have just…I don’t know – snap out of it? (In fairness to all concerned, the executive in question never confronted me personally, so I am taking a trusted somebody’s word for what happened.) On another occasion, an excellent artist, a man I respect, refused, politely, to draw a one-page shot of a hero dreaming he was drunk – just dreaming, mind you – because, in the artist’s opinion, heroes don’t behave like louts, even when snoozing.