Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Comics Out 25 October 2006

Four things this week:

1

Last week had a lot of stuff I was looking forward to: Grant Morrison and Jim Lee's Wildcats #1, Morrison and Gene Ha's Authority #1, and my new favorite book, Cassanova, #5. But this week, two of the most important comic book series come to a kind of end: Morrison and J.H. William III's Seven Soldiers #1 ends one of the best and uniquely ambitious comic book projects ever; and after SIX years Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary, with the exception of an epilogue, closes.

Planetary was the book that pretty much inspired How to Read Superhero Comics and Why. Before issue 15 it seemed like it was going to be as important as Watchmen. Alas, it was only a great idea for a book, and not a great book, as its slow publishing schedule meant that it continued on after it was really relevant; it was riffing quite heavily on the X-Files and the X-Files ended badly and now feels like something from an age gone by, something very 90s. Remember that there are more issues of Seven Soldiers than there are of Planetary, even though Planetary is six years old and Seven Soldiers began less than two years ago. And Seven Soldiers is better. Ellis and Cassaday clearly lost patience for Planetary -- much of the issues after 15 seemed like a sloppy race to the finish line. (Ellis: "Perhaps Elijah's purpose can be that he saves things! Wait ... I better stop the plot three issues before the climax to show how he saved the Drummer to establish that." Cassaday: "I can reuse a panel of Stone's finger nail gadget from issue 11 in issue 25 if I reverse the image and change the colors!").

2

Bad news at Newsarama: Morrison's Wildstorm books last week were lackluster, I thought, though the Authority was at least ... interesting (a hybrid of a superhero book and Sphere). Since they both merely establish the status quo they could get great when the status quo changes (as each book claims it will). Unfortunately the status quo on Wildcats won't change for quite some time as issue two won't come out for 5 MONTHS. It has been cancelled and will be re-solicited in January, to be out in March. Whedon's Astonishing X-Men has only been pushed back to November 8.

3

Also (sort of comics related) November's Wired magazine published 33 short stories of only six words each. Neal Stephenson, who usually writes novels upward of 2500 pages came up with
Tick tock tick tock tick tick.
That's ok, I guess. You will not be surprised who managed to write a great one. Here is Joss Whedon's entry:
Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
Hilarious. It's the comma that makes it art.

(Liam forwarded this from a friend who blogged about it).

4

In other news Mitch has a new article up at Silver Bullet Comics. It's called X-traordinary People: Mary Tyler Moore and the Mutants Explore Pop Psychology, and it looks like fun.

22 comments:

Geoff Klock said...

Plus: Richard Donner's Superman and the new Runaways trade (if you have been following it in TBB format). Review, Discuss, tell me what I should be reading.

Madd_Hadder said...

Furthers my opinion that Joss Whedon is a genius

ping33 said...

WildCATS #2 delayed 5 months... told you so.
This is a really weak (short) week for me... consisting of the three books Geoff mentions, The Superman/Batman Annual (which will probably be bad)52 (last week was the best single issue of the series and actually was my fave book of a week in which Casanova, Runaways and Exterminators all came out) and Jack of Fables (which is one of those books which I always feel like I should cut until I read it and it earns itself a slight reprieve)

In other news: my wife Sabrina and I watched S60 and then I later watched Heroes, I think both shows are moving in the dead opposite directions with Heroes getting (slightly) smarter and (much) more interesting with each show and S60 getting lamer and lamer by the minute, Sabrina made an interesting point about S60 though: that the Ed Asner character is the only one who doesn't speak in Aaron Sorken's voice, the uniformity of cadence is something which has really bothered her since show one. That sort of thing has never bothered me, but it is true that like Hal Hartley, Sorken's characters all tend to use the same rhythms and cadence. I imagine that this is probably a plus to someone like Geoff who is really interested in poetry which has the enforcement of rhythm as a goal.

Totally OT: Has anyone ever seen the Orson Wells film: F is for Fake? it's a strange essay/documentary about the nature of Art and What is Genuine, and is, for my money: the single best movie ever made (and it's not even close.) I bring this up because I just saw a trailer for Hoax, a biopic about some of the events featured in F is for Fake. Sadly, Hoax stars Richard Gere but I think I need to see it anyway. If you haven't seen F is for Fake, for shame... go out and get the Criterion and watch it twice in a row.

alex said...

Planetary: Apparently, Paul Pope is Elijah Snow. Otherwise underwhelming.

F for Fake is brilliant stuff.

Geoff Klock said...

Ping: F for Fake is fantastic. I went though a big Orson Wells thing years ago and it was a real surprise.

On the subject of Studio 60, my love for Sorkin has carried me as far as it will go and I am now moving from "it is not his best work" to "it is very very bad". I will blog on it soon I think.

Alex: It was underwhelming if it came out on time every month -- but after six years of waiting to see Dowling in something other than a flashback? No.

ping33 said...

Hoax Trailer: http://images.apple.com/movies/miramax/the_hoax/the_hoax_h640w.mov

Like I said it doesn't look great, but I still want to see it to contrast with Wells' movie and the archival materials (and "straight documentary") on the F is for Fake Criterion.

Mitch said...

Geoff and Ping: you should take this Studio 60 discussion into the podcast arena and just debate endlessly for 9 hours. I would literally pay money to hear it. Please keep discussing it, even if the show gets worse. I don't think it will-- as the Slate article said Mark McKinney is taking over the sketch portions, which should be interesting. Also, I feel compelled to mention what has become the catchphrase of S60 on this site: It's STILL better than anything else on TV-- most significantly, even the worst sketch parts better than Saturday Night Live has been in years.

Speaking of TV, my beloved Boston Legal is going through a bizarre (and disappointing) identity crisis in its third season. Half of the show thinks its The Practice again—the past four or five episodes have focused on a melodramatic murder trial. The other half of the show feels the need to be even zanier to compensate: Shatner, for instance, is dating a Little Person who constantly sneaks into scenes and delivers dialogue into his crotch. Funny stuff, but lacking the restraint that made the first two seasons brilliant.

Regarding Planetary- I've read the whole thing in trades, so this waiting period has been endless. If this says anything, the Batman and Justice League crossovers are still my favorite issues. (Perhaps even among my top five comics...)

Finally: hanks, as always, for linking me, Geoff. My next feature at SBC will be a piece on the 200th Episode of Comic Geek Speak in Reading, PA. That's mid-November, so it'll be up shortly thereafter. Should be a blast.

alex said...

I don't know, I wasn't expecting fisticuffs as a resolution, but there had been a build toward Snow displaying "darker" characteristics that sort of petered away. I do think the end was a natural, but I can't help but think the return of the "we're archeologists" lines and "I'm here to save things" was a bit abrupt. The speech didn't quite jibe with what he actually did to dowling, and reminded me of what you said about Batman's speech in the last movie. And we'll see, but I'm not quite sure how it'll read in a shorter span. It did remind of what Gaiman did in Black Orchid though, telling a story and trying to finish it in a "new way".

ping33 said...

Mitch: The Wire is better than everything else on TV... by a motherfuckin' light-year.
There hasn't been a show this good since Errol Morris' First Person, and that doesn't really count.
I don't even think that there's a debate between me and Geoff though, I just saw the truth first ;)

ping33 said...

Planetary: I agree that at some point The End became more of the point than The Journey. But in a lot of ways The Journey WAS the End... a treatise on the forthcoming "reconstruction" of comics. Once Ellis had reconstructed all he wanted to I'm sure that he lost some interest in the project because playing with other peoples' toys was more fun (and interesting) than letting his own wind-up toys play it out to the inevitable endgame.
Also I happen to think that the Work wasn't as important after Alan Moore did the same thing with his ABC books.
Interesting that all the optimism of the DC/Wildstorm launch has regressed into Civil War (and The Ultimates V2) I guess that in the end Wonder doesn't sell nearly as well as shit-kicking-destruction. If Planetary's conclusion feels hollow, maybe it's because, in the end, in the Real World, The Four will always win in the end.

Geoff Klock said...

Ping: actually you are right about me and Studio 60. You did see it first. My faith in writers I like failed me this time, at least so far. I liked West Wing and Sports Night so much, I assumed that if I didn't like Studio 60 it was my fault. I was wrong.

Someone on the Onion had this excellent complaint: in the most recent episode Sorkin expects the audience to look down on the cliche of the black comedian, but expects us to swallow the cliche of the "diamond in the rough" not once but TWICE (both guys were "saved" from South Central LA, and one had a story straight out of Boys in the Hood).

On the subject of Planetary, I was holding out hope that Ellis was going to make a big industry comment and have the Four kick the crap out everyone in the end, proving that violence always carries the day in comics, as it does in Civil War and the Ultimates.

ping33 said...

I would have been sad if Planetary had ended like that... it needed to stay true to itself. It's not the book's fault that Cassaday broke and left the book behind. It's a 1999 book which got pushed to 2006. If Civil War and Ultimates 2 #11 and #12 hadn't come out before Planetary 26 I could have even argued that there was still hope. And, you know, I still like to think that there's hope... even as Manifest Eternity, what by all rights should be the most money making new IP in comics, gets canceled; Even as Civil War continues to be a greater commercial and critical success than Infinite Crisis; even as destruction seems to always win out over creation I have hope... yeah I'm a dumb-ass.

I just saw that s60 ep tonight... There was a VERY similar (in concept) to a scene in The Wire Season 3 where the Landscaper tells the Ex-Con about what it takes to make it on the straight and narrow, (rough quotes) "it's a tough road, your back hurts EVERY DAY, it's hot EVERY DAY, and you gotta forget about that nice ride... but it's real" contrast this with the Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket quality of the s60 scene and it's no comparison. Maybe Sorken needs the drugs... because this shit is weak.

Geoff Klock said...

Here is the link to all the Wired Stories: http://wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/sixwords.html

alex said...

Planetary: Oh, I actually like Ellis's habit of infusing even his bastards with conscious morality and his religious faith in the future, life is inherently full of wonder and all that. He likes (and I like) working heroes, if you will. In planetary I don't think it was so much a hollow end as nonpropulsive--natural and convincing, but anticlimatic.

Hmmm. I may have read this one too fast. I'm aware of the skill Cassaday has, but there's a delicacy to every element of his work that makes it a bit static for me, or that every panel has equal weight...but I might not be giving it enough credit, if slow it down...well, one more issue then. Trying to read it less like a manga perhaps...

S60: I've only watched one episode, is it really that bad? Fail is such a big word. It could just be mediocre. I mean, I watch Battlestar Galatica and it's so chock full of plot holes, irrational characters, bouts of bad acting, foolish dialogue...and I still think it's good.

Geoff Klock said...

Alex: it is not that it is so bad. But it fails in terms of the standard it sets for itself (this will be the show that sets the tone for all smart TV) and it fails in comparison to West Wing and Sports Night.

Scott said...

If Ellis's Authority was an end of century book, was Planetary a beginning of century book that got dragged out?

I find it interesting that it's ending at the same time as both Seven Soldiers and the Ultimates because I think these three titles may be the ones that inform us of what comics can be and are for the next 5 to 10 years. They all spring from a similar well first seen in Authority and even Morrison's JLA but each shows a different approach to the grand, epic story.

Mitch said...

Unfortunately Ping, I haven't got cable-- But I've officially heard enough good things about The Wire to buy it on DVD.

Geoff: Perhaps, you'll find the the comment on violence you desire from Ellis in his soon to be canceled NEXTWAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E. Ellis has this to say about the book:

"I took The Authority and I stripped out all the plots, logic, character and sanity."

"It’s an absolute distillation of the superhero genre. No plot lines, characters, emotions, nothing whatsoever. It’s people posing in the street for no good reason. It is people getting kicked, and then exploding. It is a pure comic book, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. And afterwards, they will explode."

And Stuart Immonen's art is, as always, very nice.

Anonymous said...

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why got me back into reading superhero comics at a time when I had gotten back into reading other sorts of comics but had not yet rejoined the mainstream. And one of the key points in doing that was the first two trades of Planetary.

So I guess I'm relieved, in a way, to find that you also found the ending to Planetary so disappointing. I don't know if I see it in terms of eras, but I certainly agree it fell totally flat. I finished the issue and thought, Why was I reading this? Why did I care?

On the other hand the sixth Runaways trade was great fun, very well done (even if I had been spoiled about the big event at the end of the collection... one of the drawbacks of waiting for the trade, I guess).

As someone who, with very few exceptions, reads trades, I haven't gotten that far in Seven Soldiers yet. But you make we want to pick up the last few volumes when they come out. Based on the first trade, I thought it was okay, but not knock-out -- and I like a lot of Morrison's work a lot (Invisibles, Filth, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, we3 -- usual stuff). But I will probably end up getting it eventually (although at the moment I'm more excited that they are putting out the old Doom Patrol trades at a good clip! And when is All-Star Superman coming out in a collection? That sounds great!)

Anyway, yeah, I was very disappointed by Planetary. And frankly my reading of other Ellis -- somewhat spotty -- hasn't convinced me that he's as worth following as, say, Moore or Morrison. Nextwave was very funny, but otherwise I haven't been blown away yet. Is there any Ellis that does sustain the level that Planetary had in the first few issues?

Anonymous said...

This comment, for some reason, is appearing on the pop-up but not on the actual page of the post. So I'm trying it again.

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why got me back into reading superhero comics at a time when I had gotten back into reading other sorts of comics but had not yet rejoined the mainstream. And one of the key points in doing that was the first two trades of Planetary.

So I guess I'm relieved, in a way, to find that you also found the ending to Planetary so disappointing. I don't know if I see it in terms of eras, but I certainly agree it fell totally flat. I finished the issue and thought, Why was I reading this? Why did I care?

On the other hand the sixth Runaways trade was great fun, very well done (even if I had been spoiled about the big event at the end of the collection... one of the drawbacks of waiting for the trade, I guess).

As someone who, with very few exceptions, reads trades, I haven't gotten that far in Seven Soldiers yet. But you make we want to pick up the last few volumes when they come out. Based on the first trade, I thought it was okay, but not knock-out -- and I like a lot of Morrison's work a lot (Invisibles, Filth, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, we3 -- usual stuff). But I will probably end up getting it eventually (although at the moment I'm more excited that they are putting out the old Doom Patrol trades at a good clip! And when is All-Star Superman coming out in a collection? That sounds great!)

Anyway, yeah, I was very disappointed by Planetary. And frankly my reading of other Ellis -- somewhat spotty -- hasn't convinced me that he's as worth following as, say, Moore or Morrison. Nextwave was very funny, but otherwise I haven't been blown away yet. Is there any Ellis that does sustain the level that Planetary had in the first few issues?

-- Stephen Frug

Anonymous said...

[Sorry... I guess once I put through the second one the first one came up. [And yes, I'd tried reloading the browser first.] Geoff, if you want to delete one of the two, and this one, go ahead.]

-- Stephen Frug

Geoff Klock said...

Mitch: that Ellis quote makes me want to pick up the book!

Stephen: sadly no, nothing Ellis has done comes close to the first fourteen issues of the Planetary.

Seven Soldiers is a mess, so you will like it if you like a mess (enjoying the mess is part of the point of the book and one of its main themes). Use Seaguy as a marker -- if you like Seaguy you will love Seven Soldiers. But do yourself a favor and go get the 5 All Star Superman issues. They are amazing. And while you are at it get Casanova. Ten comics to make you happy.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely planning to pick up All-Star Superman once it's collected. But since I, generally, really prefer trades (I like not having ads, not to mention having something that doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart if I read it twice) I'll wait until then. Definitely looking forward to it, though.

And I'll probably end up getting Seven Soldiers just because it sounds so wild. I have to admit I haven't read Seaguy. I read the other two of those 96 pagers -- loved We3, though Vivanarama (sp?) felt a bit phoned in, though I did love that one shot of the protagonist bicycling down the street and the dancing choruses behind him -- brilliant.

But do get Nextwave. It's simply a hoot. I enjoyed it a lot. It doesn't have the resonance of, say, Planetary, but boy is it funny.

(PS: For some reason, comments on this blog are only showing up on my screen when I click for the pop-up, not when I load the actual thread... and it's not just mine; Geoff's last one did that too. Dunno why.)