Friday, May 29, 2009

Twin Peaks: Season 2 Episode 4 (or episode 11)

[Jill Duffy, Girl Reporter, continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels on the bottom.]


A shrill scream of terror.

A faint voice sings, repeatedly, “Bobby?” and “Leo.”

This is a terrifying opener. It grips the audience and promise a mystery. For me, it works. I’m immediately into this episode. This is what Twin Peaks is all about. The level of terror and horror is over the top by television standards. It’s truly frightening, not just on the surface, but deep down where real unspeakable stuff lies.

There are several scenes in this series that I cannot believe were ever allowed to air on television. However, the opening terror in this episode is counter-balanced soon after with comedy. Here comes good old Deputy Andy, asking Doc Hayward if he’s allowed a do-over on his sperm test.

And then, the episode tumbles downhill, with more subplot focus than I can keep up with. For example: There’s a buzz in the wee town of Twin Peaks that the biggest food and hotel critic in the Northwest is on his way! But, oh no! No one knows what he looks like! Everyone from Norma at the greasy spoon to Horne at his hotel is sprucing up the joint, laying out the linen tablecloths and rolling out the red carpet. Who could it be?

Who cares?

Meanwhile, the orchid guy, Harold, inexplicably and out of nowhere has Laura’s secret diary. Donna continues to hang around him and flirt with him. Audrey gets drugged. Some one gets shot. Maddy and Donna are at odds with each other, fighting over James mostly, but at the same time they have to work together. Josie is playing Truman like a freaking fiddle, and Josie and the mysterious man from Hong Kong have one of the worst acted scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

But, you have to watch. This is one of those shows that make it difficult for viewers to skip an episode, as you never know when something big is going to happen. With soap operas, the rule of thumb is that as long as you watch on Monday, when all the plots and characters get their new direction, and Friday, when the cliffhanger happens, you can reasonably keep up. With Twin Peaks, I started to feel like I had to pay attention to all the scenes, plots, and characters that didn’t interest me because they might be important to resolving the murder-mystery. The whole premise of the show is that I will be rewarded for paying close attention to detail as Cooper and Truman put together the pieces of the puzzle. That’s what mysteries do. That’s part of the genre.

The problem with Twin Peaks is deciding whether it fits in that genre at all, as many people argue that it does not. As I wrote in one of my original posts on Twin Peaks, I never understood who Frost and Lynch intended to write a murder mystery in a television series that did not have a definite end date. Many of the best television drama series that have come around in the past few years knew ahead of time that the show would only last, say, six seasons, allowing the creators and writers to better pace out their extended miniseries.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #223

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right or the labels below].

“Omens & Portents”

The X-Men are once again based in San Francisco (predicting the relocation to that same city by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker in Uncanny #500 – whose publication is imminent as of this writing). This time the team are hiding out in Alcatraz, which is a fun idea. It’s a shame it will last only for a couple issues. In the meantime, after the exhilarating Marauders two-parter, Claremont shifts his focus back to the Storm/Naze “vision quest” material. Unfortunately, this was working just fine as a simmering subplot, e.g., issue 222’s bit with the oddly named “Eye Killers.” Here, Claremont simply recapitulates the previous month’s motif, wherein Naze manipulates Storm into fighting demons that – unbeknownst to her – actually are operating under his orders.

The most noteworthy aspect of Storm’s hallucinatory experience is the inclusion amongst her delirium-induced visions of a giant bear. This is the titular villain of 1984’s “Demon Bear” arc in New Mutants, wherein Danielle Moonstar – a Cheyenne Indian, just like Forge and Naze – faced down the monster, which had possessed her parents years earlier. Though the connection is never spelled out explicitly, the fanatic devourers of all things Claremont are invited to connect the dots: the bear is one of the demons that Forge freed years ago during the Vietnam War, an agent of the villain who we will learn over the course of this story arc is known as “the Adversary.”

That Claremont leaves this all for readers to intuit is an example of one of his quirks – something he’s been both criticized and praised for. But it only makes sense for a comic book writer to work this way. The medium is inherently dependent on readers’ willingness to fill in gaps; as Scott McCloud pointed out, the spark of imagination ignited by the “gutters” – the space between panels -- is what makes comics unique among artistic media. Claremont’s extending this principle to the gaps between different comic book series is a shrewd way to stimulate the reader on multiple levels at once. The effect, for those patient enough to collect and process all the relevant pages, is genuinely arresting.

Darth Vader vs Hank Azaria

I know I mentioned this on twitter but I am watching this clip too much not to put it on the blog. This is the trailer for Night at the Museum 2, a movie I will never watch, unless someone I trust tells me there is more of what starts at 1:39:

It is a testiment to the genius of Hank Azaria that he can manage to be funny surrounded by such dreck (though there seem to be a few other talented people nearby they are not nearly as amusing on the trailer). Think about how many ways the line "I don't think so" could have been intoned, and then realize that Azaria found the best one -- sort of faux-generous, as to say "I don't think it works, and you surely agree with me."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 10: Jimmy Olson 137

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]

Jimmy Olsen #137 “The Four-Armed Terror”

Sound is the theme to this issue featuring the unknown Wild Area inhabited by the Hairies and the Outsiders. This makes sense because these groups are a take on hippie counterculture, but the beauty of music is tough to represent in a medium devoid of sound. Kirby succeeds in this challenge, but the remainder of this issue is largely forgettable.

The prologue involves the Outsiders (who apparently have been hanging outside the Mountain of Judgement all this time) being ambushed by the four-armed terror that was created by Mokkari and Simyan last issue. The Outsiders lament the loss of their leader Jimmy who apparently was their greatest leader yet despite his very short tenure. The concept of The Outsiders don’t seem fully realized and I expect this might be their last appearance. They’re ambushed by the DNAlien (a.k.a. the four-armed creature) and flee to warn the others.

In the meantime, Jimmy and Supes are hanging out with the Hairies at their Friday Night “sing in”; a clever take on the sit in protest. It involves a “solar phone” which gathers radio-signals from the stars and converts them into mental images. It looks like a psychedelic experience as the characters soar through the mental images they’re receiving. These images again are a pastiche of photographs distorted by DC’s limited printing capabilities. After the warning from Orion last issue, it would seems Superman, the protector of earth, really needs to get back from this mental vacation. Kirby’s intentions might be to sideline him so his New Gods can take center stage, but what about DC’s other 100 superheroes? Anyways, the kids are shaken up when the Life Project walls begin to shake. Superman receives a distress call, zooms away and tells the kids to stay out of it which of course they do not. The DNAlien continues his mindless rampage feed for energy. He destroys a power unit, causing the Tree City to begin to collapse. Superman attacks the DNAlien feeding off radioactivity and proceeds to be pummeled by it’s four arms. The DNAlien is one of Kirby’s least inspired creations, with it’s monochromatic color scheme and mindless motivation. Superman breaks loose as the Newsboy’s and Jimmy arrive. Jimmy suspects this creature is susceptible to his new sound gun, however Superman deliveres a suspect warning that the gun will have no effect on the monster’s two brains. The DNAlien counter attacks by shooting an electric cage which traps the heroes in a pink egg similar to the one that spawned the monster. With it’s enemies out of the picture, the monster makes it’s way to the Atomic Pile which supplies the power to the entire Project. Simyan and Mokkari track his progress as many more DNAliens begin to hatch in their incubation room.

Kirby continues the establishment vs. anti-establishment conflict, but the villain is uninspired and the Life Project pales in comparison to the space saga of The New Gods. If done in modern times, the Olsen title would be better suited for a man on the street type book akin to Marvel’s Front Line series. This issue is not a complete throw away for me as it again adds depth to the work of Grant Morrison. The description of the solar phone is something that would be entirely at home in a Morrison script. Scientifically, there’s little merit, but the purity and natural poetry to utilizing the light from the stars to create beautiful music is a magic I’ve only seen from comic books. I’m also reminded of Superman’s use of a song to solve Final Crisis.

I’d like to see the Jimmy Olsen title delve into more detail on the clones and what makes the Hairies special. Play up the social dropout story line or the morality of cloning. Although I’ve peeked further into the book and apparently Draculas and Don Rickles await me. Nertz. Thank goodness Mr. Miracle #2 is up next.

Free Form Comments

Say whatever you want to in the comments to this post -- random, off topic thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions, recommendations, criticisms (which can be anonymous), surveys, introductions if you have never commented before, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If I forget, remind me. Remember these comments can be directed at all the readers, not just me.

ALSO. You can use this space to re-ask me questions you asked me before that I failed to answer because I was too busy.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore.

You do not have to have a blogger account or gmail account to post a comment -- you can write a comment, write your name at the bottom of your comment like an e mail, and then post using the "anonymous" option.

WRITING FOR THIS BLOG. If I see a big free form comment that deserves more attention, I will pull it and make it its own post, with a label on the post and on the sidebar that will always link to all the posts you write for this blog. I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #222

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]


Concluding the X-Men vs. Marauders two-parter begun last issue, “Heartbreak” cranks up the intensity a bit further. Last issue was a blast thanks to the creative team’s shared sense of kinetic exuberance; this time, the fun comes in watching Claremont, Silvestri and Green crank the levels up and get hardcore.

Granted, there is still plenty of goofiness to be found here: the return of the sycophantic Japanese kids from issue 181; the cameo by Dirty Harry; the joking nod to George R.R. Martin’s “Wild Cards” series of fantasy novels; and more liberal application of Silvestri’s sexy-meets-slapstick aesthetic (hence, three babes hitting the ground face-first on the final panel of Page 2).

But the wackiness is counter-pointed by some well-applied trademark Claremontian pathos. Havok’s angst over realizing what’s happened to Polaris is quite effectively realized, for example, and wow, do Silvestri and Green just nail the reveal: The deliciously evil expression on Malice, combined with Claremont’s devilish “Hi, lover. ‘Bye, lover!” as she blasts Alex in the gut, make for a wrenchingly melodramatic moment.

Meanwhile, Claremont has fun pouring on the tough-guy rhetoric in the Golden Gate Bridge sequence, as Wolverine, the ultimate alpha male, takes on not only his fan-favorite archenemy, Sabretooth, but Scalphunter and Scrambler as well. It’s one of the most relentlessly “male” scenes in Claremont’s entire canon – the character names alone feel like they should be tattooed on a bicep. Sample dialogue includes the following:

Wolverine [while delivering a backhand slap to Scrambler]: “That don’t slow me down punk ... or make me any less strong.”

Sabretooth: “But when my claws rip out your throat, Logan, my boy ... you’ll die!”

Wolverine: “My bones are laced with adamantium. They can’t be broke. You’d have a gentler time punchin’ steel! Scrambler can’t affect them!” [Logan stabs Sabretooth.] “He can’t affect my claws,” and finally

Scalphunter: “Your bones may not break, X-Man – but your flesh’ll still bleed! And when I’m done ...” [he opens fire on Wolverine] “ ... there won’t be a piece of it left!”

The whole thing positively oozes testosterone, and it’s glorious -- the superhero-comicbook equivalent of a Sam Shepard play.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Scene from a Classroom (now with working photo)

Brad sent me a pic from his iPhone of his fiancee Briegh's LA high school classroom. [Edited to Work now]

Friday, May 22, 2009

LOST, BSG and Twin Peaks (Major Spoilers for all three)

My office-mate Joe noted something the other day --

In Twin Peaks Leland and Agent Cooper are possessed by Bob, the spirit of evil.

Starbuck dies and returns as an Angel for some mysterious god, probably good (though they leave open the question as to whether this is some kind of Gnostic god).

Locke died, apparently for real if the actor is to be believed (or if he even knows), and is then he is possessed by (let's call him) Easu.

Interestingly Quantum Leap turns out to show this theme from the other perspective.

Why are we so interested in our human characters being possessed by, or swapped out for, cosmic forces?

Twin Peaks: Season 2 Episode 3 (or episode 10)

By Jill Duffy

[After a six-month hiatus, Jill Duffy, girl reporter, resumes her episode-by-episode review of Twin Peaks, the 1990 television series from Mark Frost and David Lynch. To any of you out there that promised me writing, I will tell you what I tell my students about their writing: don't not submit it because you feel bad it is late. We here at Geoff Klock's blog are generous, and will welcome you with open arms. ]


In November, I was writing episode-by-episode responses (in a “reader response theory” style) to the television series Twin Peaks on this site. I stopped abruptly, not because I lost interest in the show, but because I started plowing through the show faster than I could gather thoughts about what had happened in each episode.

My boyfriend and I had been routinely watching the show together, and at some point early in the second season, our mentality about getting to the final episode changed: While at first we clung to the edges of our seats, eager to find out what would happen next, we later became fatigued viewers who pushed through episode after episode simply to get through it as fast as we could. Our commitment to watching the show through to the end superceded my writing about it.

For a week or so, I thought I could catch up by reviewing some of the episodes on fast-forward. I’d pop a DVD into my computer, slap on some headphones, and watch the little screen-within-a-screen in the corner while keeping Microsoft Word panel open, too.

That worked for one or two episodes, but I never really caught up. By January, quite frankly, I needed some distance from the show.

But now, I’ve managed to carve out some time, and patience, to re-watch season 2.

The Episode (no. 10)

In season 2, Twin Peaks becomes very plot-focused. There are still some elements of mysticism and mystery, but the emphasis is definitely on subplots in development, like the love triangle of Maddy, James, and Donna, complicated by the jealousy of a new character, Harold, the shut-in orchid grower. Audrey has been kidnapped, creating another clear subplot: How will she be saved, and will it be Agent Cooper who saves her? Shelly, Leo, and Bobby are the subjects of yet another subplot, while Lucy finds out she’s knocked-up by Dick, the salesman—although Andy is still hoping to win her back. The one-armed man is acting very strange, as is Leland Palmer. Nadine has superhuman strength and continues to slip in and out of consciousness, and when she fully awakens in this episode, she believes she is 18 years old again.

More and more, the layering of subplots seems more like a soap opera than a TV drama. Pieces of each plot are acted out, and then the camera cuts to a different plot entirely, skipping among them rather than lacing them together. At times, it feels like the writers are throwing plots at a wall and waiting to see which ones stick.

The most stunning characters are still Cooper, Truman, Albert (the FBI agent sent to follow up on Cooper), and Hawk. Shelly, played by Mädchen Amick, seems to be a great actress, but her role in this show feels limiting. Shelly is a weak young woman, in love with the reckless and immature Bobby, while never fully rejecting her abusive husband Leo.

Donna, Lara Flynn Boyle’s character, irks me more and more as the show moves forward, although there is a great scene toward the end of this episode when she goes to Laura’s grave and delivers a pretty grand soliloquy, yelling at Laura that, even though she’s dead, her problems are still very much present, and that Donna is tired of always trying to solve them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #221

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]

“Death by Drowning”

Claremont knows how to have fun. A case in point are the Marauders – an agglomeration of super-villains, no one of which has a particularly compelling personality or superpower, yet who collectively made such a delightfully chilling impression during the “Mutant Massacre” storyline. Now, as Claremont sets up a deliciously action-packed rematch between the X-Men and their latest set of archenemies, Claremont begins with an intriguing new wrinkle: The first appearance of the Marauders’ evil mastermind, Mr. Sinister.

With his Silver Age name, his audaciously extemporized visual design (thank you, Marc Silvestri), and his absurdly opaque motivations, Sinister is on every level an audacious villain. Reportedly, this is all intentional: Sinister was to be revealed as the evil side of a mutant stuck in a state of permanent emotional adolescence. Not only was Sinister deliberately created to be the generically evil boogeyman of a child, but 1990’s Gambit – a character who, like Mr. Sinister, was and is all surface “cool” with no true substance, and thus, inevitably, also was and is a huge hit with the fans – was apparently going to be the other side of that same strange child’s personality. Sinister was an agglomeration of generically villainous elements; Gambit, the ultimate hodge-podge of heroic character traits.

This is all a rather intriguing idea, but Claremont never got around to fleshing it out – the closest he came is with the back-up strips in Classic X-Men #’s 42 and 43, which introduced the mutant boy, Nate, but didn’t go very far in explaining the connection between him and Sinister. Later writers gave the villain a different origin and motivation entirely, casting him banally as a long-lived 19th-century geneticist.

Despite all that, Mr. Sinister is a fantastically over-the-top character, and – as the Marauders did a year earlier – he makes a powerful impression in his debut here, hitting the ground running as the X-Men’s new, major powerhouse villain. The series needed such a catalyzing figure at this point – it was running out of major bad guys as a side effect of Claremont upending the X-Men’s politics and making allies out of former enemies.

Granted, both Sinister and the Marauders are extreme to the point of absurdity – killing mutants, and other friends of the X-Men, for no apparent reason. But what they lack in dimensionality, they recoup by means of dramatic impact. (And, in fact, they do have a reason to kill Madelyne, though it won’t be explained for another year and half.)

The fight choreography between them and the X-Men in “Death by Drowning” is exhilarating, Silvestri and Green designing a number of creative action set-pieces, while Claremont gives the entire thing an added gloss of melodrama by tapping the Rogue/Alison antagonism from five-year-old issues of the Dazzler solo series.

All in all, the creative team works hard to sell us on what is – in many ways – a whole new comic book, as different from the Uncanny X-Men of one year ago as the Cockrum X-Men were from the Lee/Kirby iteration. Consider that in “Death by Drowning,” none of the Cockrum-designed characters appear except Storm, long ago punked-out and de-powered and whose subplot with Naze only comprises two pages here anyway. To all intents and purposes, the “All-New, All-Different” Cockrum/Wein X-Men, as of this issue, do not exist.

Claremont and company, however, deliver such a vibrant, adventure-filled comic that one scarcely misses the previous team. This new iteration of X-Men – scrimped and scraped from other adjacent mythologies in the Marvel Universe – are proving every bit as exciting as their predecessors.

[One of Morrison's main points in Flex Mentallo and other works is that the "grim and gritty" era of comics was the result of immaturity: "Only an unhappy adolescent would confuse pessimism with realism." Now it appears that Morrison was only activating a dormant Claremont point. Claremont was already beginning to deconstruct the influence of Dark Knight.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 9: New Gods #2

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the label at the bottom or the toolbar on the right.]

“Oh Deadly Darkseid!”

New Gods continues to be the main stage title for the Fourth World opus as it brings in elements from Forever People and Jimmy Olsen while continuing to expand the reader’s knowledge of New Genesis and Apokolips.

We get a quick recap of the history of the old gods where Kirby directly uses the word ‘holocaust’ to describe their demise. Kirby is of Jewish heritage and the holocaust of World War 2 figures significantly into Darkseid’s regime. We see a truly amazing rendition of New Genesis with children frolicking on a device so wild, it belongs in a Dr. Seuss’ book. Kirby the narrator explains that all of New Genesis is covered in the greens of grass and forest save for a giant advanced floating city above it! A modern reading of this structure could be a go green initiative from our New Gods rather than a class system which is probably how it was intended. It’s also how Asgard is handled in the current Thor title which is of little surprise knowing Kirby’s resume. The story on New Genesis ends with Highfather and Light Ray clumsily explaining the nature of Orion’s gift/curse under the guise of Light Ray asking to join Orion on Earth. Again the ‘show, don’t tell’ theory is ignored which is a shame because Kirby shows quite well which makes the telling more unnecessary.

On Earth, Orion and the humans rescued from Apokolips have just walked into a room to find a stoic Darkseid awaiting their arrival. Orion charges at him, proclaiming that he broke the trust between the two planets which gives Orion the right to finish Darkseid off. Again, Darkseid is unharmed as his minion Brola stuns Orion with a shock-prod. Brola was cleverly revealed to the reader in the first panel and his visage reminds me of Kang the Conquerer, another Kirby creation. Orion and Brola duke it out with unnecessary banter until Orion puts him through a wall. Darkseid saves Brola from death and teleports back underground. Darkseid shames Brola for his failure but quickly moves on to his next plan: a machine that can spread fear into the minds of humans. Many of Darkseid’s key components are brought to the forefront: fear, control, lack of free will.

Back above ground, the humans gather around Orion and shout their names out as if they were game show contestants. Dave, the alpha male of the pack, proclaims Darkseid is number one in his top ten nightmares which is just a very odd thing to say. Orion thankfully interrupts by revealing his motherbox to the group which explains the danger Earth is in from Apokolips. Darkseid’s minions are on earth and growing in number every day. Page 15 is a full page shot of Mantis who now is branded a ‘digger’ who’s power level rivals Darkseid’s. He seems to be awake and not hibernating as he was at the end of Forever People #2. Page 16 is a full panel and description of the Hairies and the Wild area. Are the Hairies the minds that Darkseid seeks? Motherbox interrupts it’s own exposition for more pressing matters: the city (again unnamed) is in chaos with it’s people in a grip of an unknown fear. Orion answers the call with the power of the Asto-force at his side. The source of the invisible fear wave has been cleverly disguised within a illustrated eye on a billboard ad. This calls to mind the use of subversion within advertisement and the paranoia of ‘big brother’ watching over us . Orion makes quick work of the device and Darkseid is unable to find the minds he seeks. In his anger he overtly praises Orion which heavily points to the fact that Orion is Darkseid’s son. Back at the apartment (possibly Orion’s?) the group of Apokolips survivors pledge their help towards Orion’s cause while Orion yet again ponders his place in life and his future.

On this Ninth issue I finally made the thematic connection to Kirby’s The Fourth World and Lucas’ original Star Wars Trilogy.

Source = The Force
Apokolips = The Death Star
Darkseid = Darth Vader
Orion = Luke
Power of the dark side = the anti-life equation

Even the opening page where Orion is Ambushed by Darkseid is reminiscent of when Darth Vader gets the drop on Han and Leia in Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. I'm sure I’m not the first, nor the last, to make this connection, but is this just a coincidence? I’ve never seen a quote from Lucas about it, but there’s a great article on it here: I’d love some feedback on this.

As Geoff has pointed out, the geography of these books is very ambiguous which I assume must be deliberate. The Wild area is off even the character’s radar, but in this era of comics, most editors would be adamant about giving the reader a setting of the story. Is the City Orion is in the same one the Forever People occupy? Are they all in Metropolis, the only city that has been name checked?

A final note: Kirby’s art seems to be growing in size every issue. The panels are getting bigger as is the size of our characters on the page. It is symbolic of the growing tension and scale of the story and is a thing of beauty to watch.

Free Form Comments

Say whatever you want to in the comments to this post -- random, off topic thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions, recommendations, criticisms (which can be anonymous), surveys, introductions if you have never commented before, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If I forget, remind me. Remember these comments can be directed at all the readers, not just me.

ALSO. You can use this space to re-ask me questions you asked me before that I failed to answer because I was too busy.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore.

You do not have to have a blogger account or gmail account to post a comment -- you can write a comment, write your name at the bottom of your comment like an e mail, and then post using the "anonymous" option.

WRITING FOR THIS BLOG. If I see a big free form comment that deserves more attention, I will pull it and make it its own post, with a label on the post and on the sidebar that will always link to all the posts you write for this blog. I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #220

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]

“Unfinished Business”

People accuse Claremont of not resolving plot threads, but that’s only part of the truth. He finishes them; he merely takes a long, circuitous route (“the spiral path”) between set-up and conclusion. Issue 220 – appropriately titled “Unfinished Business” -- is a quintessentially Claremontian comic book in both respects, as Claremont ignores several developments from the previous couple issues in order to resolve a different story thread entirely – one that is now nearly three years old.

Thus, Havok’s discovery of a Brood ship in Uncanny #218 is dropped completely, and not to be picked up again until spring of 1988. Storm’s talk of faking the X-Men’s death last issue is likewise put on hold for the next seven months. On the one hand, this is perverse on Claremont’s part, messing with readers’ expectations so flagrantly. On the other, readers couldn’t seem to get enough of this torture. Uncanny X-Men was the top-selling comic book at this time, and would remain so for the rest of Claremont’s tenure. In other words, the man knew what he was doing.

“Unfinished Business” opens with a hallucinatory three-page sequence beautifully illustrated by Silvestri/Green and evocatively colored by Oliver. After that, it settles quickly into a solo Storm adventure, serving mainly to reacquaint readers with the open threads from Uncanny X-Men #’s 184-188, wherein the mutant Native American known only as Forge was positioned the only man who could prevent the fabric of the universe from unraveling. After much build-up – including Forge’s mentor and fellow Cheyenne Indian, Naze, being possessed by an evil entity – this material was all dropped abruptly midway through issue 188.

It’s at last reintroduced here in Uncanny #220, which is the start of a domino-chain of issues that will climax very satisfyingly seven months later, Claremont proving once again that no matter how much he might meander from time to time, he’s capable of snapping back into focus with razor-like precision and intensity.

[Dropping a plot thread only to return to it much later by cutting away from a current arc is exactly how much of LOST is structured. Locke and Boone find the hatch in episode 11 of the first season and we don't find out what is inside until the first episode of the second season, nearly 10 months later. It is also quite common to end an episode with some big revelation about some character, and then have them appear not at all in the following episode. This is probably something they learned from Claremont, given that the creators are big comics guys.]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mysteries and Origins and LOST, BSG etc.

Andy Bentley has been looking at the New Gods and I was struck by the lack of explanation from Kirby, at least as far as I know, about Serafin -- why is there a Cowboy in this cosmic bunch? I like the lack of explanation there. I have also been thinking about the LOST season 5 finale. I wanted to quote Anthony Lane's New Yorker review on Star Trek. I hated the review, but this sentiment was worth a discussion:

"A long range backstory -- a device that in the Hollywood of recent times has gone from an option to a fetish. I lost patience with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" once we learned of Willy Wonka's primal trauma (his father was a dentist and forbade him candy, so guess how he reversed that depravation?), and likewise, with Batman Begins, from the moment that mini-Bruce tumbled into a well full of bats. What's wrong with BATMAN IS? In all narratives there is a beauty to the merely given, as the narrator does us the honor of trusting that we will take it for granted. Conversely there is something offensive in the implication that we might resent that pact, and like plaintive children demand to have everything explained. Shakespeare could have kicked off with a flashback in which the infant Hamlet is seen wailing with indecision as to which of Gertrude's breasts he should latch onto, but would it really have helped us to grasp the dithering prince?"

In Dark Knight the only part that really works is the Joker -- and the Joker simply IS.

New Gods 8: The Forever People #2

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels on the bottom.]

“Super War”

Super War involves the Forever People banning together to take on Mantis, a rather peculiar but powerful servant of Darkseid. Mantis name and color scheme iis taken from the insect however his motif is decidedly vampiric as he arrises from an oval coffin to suck the earth dry of power. He also has wings on his costume (like Dracula’s cape) that allow him to glide from rooftop to rooftop. He displays a myriad of powers when fully charged including hot and cold bursts from his hands and atomically charging innate objects with energy.

Before the Forever People can meet the challenge of Mantis, they must first get situated on Earth. We’re treated to a fish out of water scenario as the FP (Forever People) have parked the Super Cycle in the middle of a crowded street. Insults are thrown by frustrated motorists and our FP are first confronted with the earth term “hippie”. They’re unfazed by the accusation because they do not appear to know what it means. However the FP do seem to have a affinity for other earthly designs such as campy dated furniture and the western genre of fiction. They react to the threats peacefully, and phase themselves to a more remote location in the city.

Below the city (which hasn’t been named), Darkseid has awakened a cranky Mantis who begs for more slumber to be at full power. Darkseid gives his approval for Mantis to wreak havoc on the city merely to placate the beast. Back above, the FP discover a boy on crutches who is immediately drawn to the FP’s wild looks and mannerisms. His Uncle reacts oppositely and pulls a gun on them. This continues Kirby’s theme of compassionate youth vs. the prejudiced adults. Beautiful Dreamer solves the conflict by psychically changing their appearance into that which Uncle Willy finds normal. This action is somewhat in conflict with her definition of truth in reality on the page before. However her statement sets up the thematic battle between them and Darkseid: truth vs. lie

Willy and his nephew Donnie invite the FP to stay with them for the time being and the house guests waste little time making themselves at home. They delight in the run down and broken pieces of the apartment. Serafin seemingly watches old Westerns on a broken TV much to the confusion of Donnie. It’s revealed that a white, pill-shaped ‘cosmic cartridge’ that sits on Serafin’s hat expands his sensitivities to the universe and offers Donnie a go with it. Donnie excepts and is treated to the experience below:


Did I just see an adult push a psychological drug on a crippled child in a comic code approved funny book? Albeit a space version, but a stimulating drug nonetheless. The implications here are too numerous for me to cover in this column. I will say Kirby was not reportedly a drug user nor advocate, but this certainly depicts the desired results of drug abuse without any consequence. Our drug trip is interrupted by a news report on TV (the same TV that was broken a page before!) of Mantis’ attack on the city and the FP leap into action. The displacement to become Infinity Man occurs and it becomes apparent that Beautiful Dreamer can also join the Infinity Man swap. It’s also shown that TAARUU! is the word that initiates the change.

Infinity man and Mantis battle over the fate of the city and Mantis appears to have the upper hand when he freezes Infinity Man in a block of ice. It’s then revealed that Darkseid has been watching all along with his servant Desaad (1st appearance). The exchange between Darkseid and Desaad here seems reminiscent of the exchanges seen on Superman: The Animated series. I can hear Michael Ironside, the voice of Darkseid in that series, speaking the dialog as I read it. Darksied’s inquiry into the fear quotient of the city affirms his description in the Superman series that he “psychically feeds on the despair and misery of others”. So Darkseid is also a vampire to some degree.

Back above the city, Infinity Man escapes his icy tomb by manipulating it at an atomic level. His actions and dialog have an air of eastern philosophy to him. Another battle with Mantis ensues with Mantis on the losing end of an Infinity beam. He crawls away to his power pod to lick his wounds and plot another attack. Darkseid scoffs at Mantis’ limited vision and refers to himself as a silent stone. This aptly describes Darkseid’s appearance: grey, jagged and often lifeless.

Next up: Orion and the New Gods #2

[The "cosmic cartridge" is a really strange and complex idea. For one, it is odd that the cowboy, out of all of them, has it -- and this is before we get into a conversation about why New Genesis produces Cowboy themed adventurers. It is fascinating that he keeps them on his hat where I have always assumed bullets are kept (is that right?) -- there is a kind of "exchange weapons for drugs" thing that chimes with the space hippie thing well. If Kirby, it seems, was not a drug user, I wonder if his interest in it is aesthetic, as kind of second hand inspiration -- or justification -- for fantastic surreal visuals. It makes perfect sense in a way -- it matches the place of violence in comics, which in the best ones are just metaphors for other kinds of conflicts, pure style.]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Green Day Review

by Scott

Green Day’s American Idiot was not a great album because in was a ‘(punk?) Rock Opera’; it was great in spite of that because it, quite simply, was the best collection of tunes the band has ever recorded. Virtually every song on that album was a viable ‘hit’. Green Day’s not-so-secret weapon is Billy Joe Armstrong, he has an uncanny gift for writing infectious melodies and addictive hooks. When I was in high school, I hung out with the cool kids who used to make fun of Green Day but, secretly, I thought “Basket Case” was one of the most perfect songs ever recorded. Lyrically, Armstrong is really a singer songwriter at heart and the line, “I read the graffiti on the bathroom stall like the holy scriptures of a shopping mall” from American Idiot’s “Jesus of Suburbia” is the 21st century version of “the words of the prophets were written on the subway wall.”

So, my expectations for their latest, 21st Century Breakdown were rather high; unfortunately, it falls a bit short. Allow me to emphasize the fact that it is by no means a ‘bad’ album; it’s just not as good as I was hoping it would be. The main problem, stated in the simplest possible terms, is that the songs on this album aren’t as good as the last album. Once again, this doesn’t mean they are bad; the grinding Clash-flavored first single “Know Your Enemy” is catchy as hell, but in comparison with its thematic predecessors “American Idiot” and “Holiday” (or “Warning” and “Minority” for that matter) it just doesn’t quite measure up.

Breakdown is far more ambitious than American Idiot but, as a result, it lacks some of the basic tunefulness of that record. In fact, I don’t really see any of these tracks ruling the radio the way that “American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (overplayed, yes, but still a great tune) and “Holiday” did a few years ago. Butch Vig’s production might also have something to do with that; it seems a bit muddy. I feel like there are a lot of layers to these tracks but, due to the production, I can’t hear everything as clearly as I would like.

Lyrically, this album also feels a lot preachier than American Idiot; now, American Idiot was probably quite preachy I just didn’t notice/mind so much because the songs were so good. Also, the verses feel too crowded; it’s as though Armstrong is giving the clarity of the idea priority over the meter… one of the advantages of all poetry, including lyrics, is that you’re allowed to sacrifice some clarity for the sake of sound.

Another problem might be that, at 18 tracks, the album seems a bit long. This makes it more of a chore to get through the whole album without skipping which, for a concept album/Rock Opera like this one, always seems a bit like cheating (at least the first few times through).

Still, it’s a very good album overall; the gorgeous “Restless Heart Syndrome” and the Flamenco-tinged “Peacemaker” are standout tracks and, while it doesn’t quite measure up to “Jesus of Suburbia”, “21st Century Breakdown” provides a suitably epic opening to the album. It's not without pleasant surprises either, Armstrong is rather underrated as a vocalist; he has a great instinct for how to use his voice. In the song chorus of the song "21 Guns" he effortlessly shifts his vocal into a falsetto halfway through the phrase "Twenty-One Guns" giving it this nifty little hiccup effect. This could be one of those albums that grows on me over time; in a month I may love it but, for the time being, I’m going to have to give it a solid ‘B’.

Friday, May 15, 2009

LOST Season 5 Finale (Major Spoilers)

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I really enjoyed the cold open, which did a great job of opening up the conflict to the next, and maybe final, level -- Jack and Locke's Free Will v Destiny debate was enlarged with the Ben v Widmore conflict and now that appear to be transumed by the Jacob v Dude from Deadwood conflict that appears more cosmic in nature. Like Widmore and Ben there is some strange rule that prevents Jacob and his nemesis from killing each other. The ancient past always appears too clean or something on Lost -- every time they are in a temple I always get shades of Hercules or something, but I still liked it.

The John Locke twist was the other thing in the finale that I was really impressed by, though Stephan Delatovic's partner pointed out that that means Locke's story may have ended in a dirty hotel room. (There is always the possibility that Locke's resurrection goes back farther than that -- did Jacob bring him back to life after the fall that paralyzed him?). That reveal was shocking in the way I want Lost to be shocking. And I adored Jacob's intimation that someone was on their way. That is also what Lost does well.

I also loved the Fade to White, which was used as well as it was on the second to last episode of Sorkin's West Wing. When you are used to ending on black, ending on white is really striking. I loved that the perspective was just one woman crying in a well alone. I liked how cramped that view was as the end.

There were some interesting echoes to past seasons -- especially from finale to finale. Juliet in the shaft echoed and complemented everyone looking down the shaft of the hatch in the season one finale, both final shots. Also from the season one finale Jack with the nuke in the backpack echoed the dynamite they carried from the Black Rock (which appeared at the opening of this finale). The blast from that position echoed Desmond in that same hatch turning the key, the finale with also revealed the foot where the other part of this took place. The dumping of the real Locke's body on the ground echoed the discovery of Locke's body at the end of the four finale -- even the same camera work over the box. The AV Club pointed out that three of LOST's finales end with Sawyer on a vehicle that just can't leave the island and 3 with Lock in a coffin.

I was pleased to see Bernard and Rose dealt with, but it seemed to me that the writers did so reluctantly. I think they wanted the audience to forget all about them, and when they didn't had to put something there.

Frank's line that the people who go out of their way to tell you they are the good guys are usually the bad guys was nice, and echoed some of the things ben has said.

But Jacob visiting the major castaways did not add much to the overall narrative. We did not learn anything about the people who know what lies in the shadow of the statue or where they come from. Widmore was nowhere to be seen, nor was the smoke monster (though to be fair the monster already got a lot of play in the most recent Ben episode). The nuke needing to be hit with a rock when the shaft did not work was lame. Magnetically flying around junk always looks goofy to my eye. Chaing was weirdly ineffective -- that guys was for so long hinted at in early seasons he has been a real disappointment now that we get to spend time with him in season five. Desmond, Penny, their kid not in evidence. No Christian or Claire.

And a large chunk of the finale insisted we be very invested in the Jack-Juliet-Kate-Sawyer thing, and I am not, at all, except that this season did a surprisingly good job making me care about Juliet and Sawyer as a couple. When she was the one who was maybe too conveniently caught in the chains, I was not that happy -- If that means she is out, then we are left with the same triangle we had in season one, which is unfortunate. Juliet and Sawyer felt like progress, a chance for a reasonable happiness. I was also especially disappointed that Juliet got a non-Jacob flashback that served only to rationalize her sudden change of mind about Jack's Plan: the format of the show was broken for no reason than to make it seem like the shift the writers wanted Juliet to take made sense. We are to believe that just at that moment she realized that people can love one another and still not be meant to be together. I almost like the sentiment, it just felt shoehorned in badly.

Mostly my problem with the finale was the directness of it. They said they were going to kill Jacob and set a nuke off at the swan and that is exactly what happened -- and the season ended before we got even a glimpse of what either of those events could possibly MEAN, just as in season one the hatch was open and then it was all over. Except this time it is more "see you in ten months for the final 17 episodes. I expected 2 minutes after the nuke so shock us with the new status quo.

All in all, good not great. Season Six is going to be jammed if they even try to answer half of the mysteries they have set up.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jason Powell on X-Men Annual 11

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series, see the labels on the bottom of this post, or the toolbar on the right.]

“Lost in the Funhouse”

Illustrated by Alan Davis and Paul Neary, the 1987 X-Men annual looks fabulous. It even features Brian Braddock and Meggan in a guest role, just so that fans of Davis’ work on the Captain Britain series can be treated once again to his peerless iteration of those characters.

In terms of story, however, this is all almost entirely non-essential. It plays on a well-worn sci-fi cliché, wherein characters are defeated by the fulfillment of their own “heart’s desires.” Claremont even erases the story from continuity at the end, implying that it won’t be long before the X-Men forget that it even happened.

Not much commentary needed, then. However, I would like to discuss a few key details in the story, and examine how they refute a standard accusation leveled at Claremont now and then.

In Geoff’s book, for example, he suggests that an “angst-filled teenage morality” is at play throughout Claremont’s X-Men (or “Clairmont’s X-Men,” a misspelling I’ve come to love, deciding that it’s the name of an “imaginary” Claremont, the writer everyone thinks of when they hear the name, based on stereotype rather than the actual content of the author’s work). Geoff reduces the love relationships in X-Men to the soap-opera mentality with the line, “Oh, but how can I even think of kissing him, when he is with her?”

Such claims are contradicted in the sexually permissive relationship between Wolverine and Storm in X-Men Annual #11. The story is ostensibly framed within the context of Wolverine’s angst at having lost his one, true love, Mariko Yashida. In spite of that, Logan nonetheless casually shares a passionate kiss with Ororo on Page 14, just before the team embark on their latest adventure.

Claremont is being as clear with his implication as he can in a Comics Code-approved superhero comic, but the writing between the lines is not hard to read. As blogger Patrick puts it here, Logan and Ororo are “friends with benefits” – and seemingly guiltlessly too, despite Logan’s pledge to love Mariko.

Further along in the story, Claremont goes on to imply that Storm’s sexual spectrum is wider than readers might have guessed, alluding to a romantic attraction between her and Yukio during a flashback to their adventures from Uncanny #’s 172 and 173.

None of this is perhaps as blunt as the superhero threesomes in The Authority (which Geoff sets up in opposition to the work of Clairmont in his book), but the implication of a more complex, and more permissive, sexual dynamic among certain members of the cast of X-Men is intensely persuasive within its context, and one of Claremont’s least celebrated innovations for the series.

[Mistakes were made. Jason, I love that you have started this massive project on this blog with the, even partial, aim of setting me straight. it is totally working.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Free Form Comments

Say whatever you want to in the comments to this post -- random, off topic thoughts, ideas, suggestions, questions, recommendations, criticisms (which can be anonymous), surveys, introductions if you have never commented before, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If I forget, remind me. Remember these comments can be directed at all the readers, not just me.

ALSO. You can use this space to re-ask me questions you asked me before that I failed to answer because I was too busy.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore.

You do not have to have a blogger account or gmail account to post a comment -- you can write a comment, write your name at the bottom of your comment like an e mail, and then post using the "anonymous" option.

WRITING FOR THIS BLOG. If I see a big free form comment that deserves more attention, I will pull it and make it its own post, with a label on the post and on the sidebar that will always link to all the posts you write for this blog. I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books.

New Gods 3: Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #136

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Jack Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]

“The Saga of the DNAliens!”

By the end of this issue, the genres of each book have become evident. Jimmy Olsen is Kirby’s monster book which allows him to draw weird and distorted creations like the ones he used to draw at Marvel in the 40’s and 50’s. The New Gods starring Orion is his purest cosmic odyssey. Mr. Miracle is his classic Superhero affair and Forever People is a Teen Titans/fish-out-of-water type book. This might explain why Olsen is my least favorite title as I’m not much of a fan of the creature feature.

The story picks up in the middle of a battle between the giant Jimmy Olsen clone and the recently resurrected Golden Guardian. Kirby depicts the struggle between the two figures with bold clean lines and bright pure colors. As the opponents contort their bodies into fluid and dynamic shapes, the Newsboys and Jimmy look on, posed in the classic Kirby crouch. The dialogue is again a mixed bag. The Newsboys speak in hokey catch phrases and describe the action which is quite apparent. There are quotes, particularly from New Gods or the Guardian, that have a heightened clarity to them which fits with their appearance. Superman joins the fight, however it is cut short when a mysterious burst of gas envelopes the giant’s head and he passes out. Could the victory in this battle be seen as an indication of the new direction in the comic? Upon investigation, a small cloned paratrooper released the gas bomb from the monsters neck. Several more troopers, all cloned from Newsboy Scapper’s DNA, parachute in to subdue the Jimmy clone. The appearance of animated toy soldiers dousing a giant green Jimmy Olsen clone with liquid nitrogen is bizarre, but apparently business as usual at the Life Project

The narrative shifts to Mokkari and Simyan getting a dressing down for their clone mishap from an off-planet Darkseid. The two renew their vow to bring Chaos to earth and make their way to a replica model of the Life Project which seems like a high school diorama project with a million dollar budget. Truly, Darkseid has hired some really weird nerds. They make their way to another experiment involving human tissue which has been modified by their Beta Gas with unknown results. They believe the humans grown here could be their key to victory.

Back at the Life Project, the senior Newsboys arrive to declare their cloned Guardian a success. The junior Newsboys want answers and the fathers tell the story Jim Harper, the first guardian. I’m predicting the junior Newsboys are clones as well with the absence of any mothers. Superman uses this time to take Jimmy on a tour of the Life Project. It would appear the Superman/Jimmy dynamic is back to a father/son relationship. He explains that he was the first to donate cell tissues (which seems wrong for a human DNA project) and that the project has had many different results. There appear to be mindless clones for grunt work, advanced intelligence clones such as the Hairies from the first issue, and even clones that are so distorted, they appear alien in nature. One such clone is Dubbilex, a researcher and conversation piece for the project. Dubbilex has purple skin, a distended face, and horns. Jimmy is startled by his visage and finally calls Superman out on the moral and dangerous implications a project of this magnitude might have. Superman reacts bizarrely by turning the conversation to their unseen enemy. Where’s the cautious and worried father figure that warned Jimmy in issues prior?? Oh well, at least he sets up our final page which takes place back with Mokkari and Simyan who are watching their experiment come to fruition. The Beta gassed humans break from their alien cells with four limbs attached to their bodies and terror in their hearts.

Returning to the Olsen issues is a regression from the explosion of New Gods material from the past two issues. After being left with the impending showdown between Orion and Darkseid, we’ve returned to Darkseid’s lackeys prepping another monster to destroy Earth. It is a 4 book saga so I don’t expect Darkseid vs. Orion soon, but I’d have enjoyed seeing a new denizen of Apokolips more. Jimmy has taken a back seat in his own title but he does have a strong moment where he expresses apprehension about the cloning process. It would be effective to have some repercussions for these experiments later in the books. They are irresponsible and unethical to me, however I live in a world where cloning is much more real that it was 35 years ago. Clones can be a cheat for a writer and the stories can end up without consequence (or a source of great humor in the Adult Swim cartoon, The Venture Brothers). I have faith Kirby will not resort to a cop out.

Next up, Forever People #2 featuring Infinity Man vs.Mantis!

[Matt Fraction is a big fan of a line from this issue that jumped out at me because he quoted it on his website (with no context): "What KIND of humans will emerge from these egg-sacs, Mokkari!"

Also -- the little trooper taking out the big guy is a beat that pops up when Morrison uses the New Gods in his JLA run -- Atom shrinks and gets into Darkseid's brain I think. Atom's wife does a similar trick in Meltzer's junky Identity Crisis. Is this an origin or is this just an extreme version of the David and Goliath fight that played out in comics before this all the time?]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jason Powell on Fantastic Four versus the X-Men

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the labels on the bottom or the toolbar on the right.]

At this point in X-Men chronology, Claremont was indulging his penchant for open-ending storytelling in the Uncanny X-Men series to such an extent that, although still capable of pulling off some extraordinary narrative tricks in the mainstream serial narrative, his most coherent X-Men tales – just in terms of possessing a definite beginning, middle and end – would turn up in spin-off material like this.

Albeit the premise is built on a series of credulity-straining coincidences, “Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men” – the final issue of which was published in February of 1987 – is Chris Claremont’s single most heartwarming X-Men story.
To speak first to the coincidences: Readers are asked to accept, first of all, that the X-Men would seek out Reed Richards’ help in curing Shadowcat’s degenerative condition (from the wounds sustained during the Morlock massacre) at the exact same time that Dr. Doom has decided to spy on the X-Men for reasons of his own. Furthermore, that this all would occur at the same time that a psychological trap laid for the Fantastic Four by Doom years earlier happens to be accidentally sprung by Reed’s wife. Almost perversely testing readers’ suspension of disbelief, Claremont also peppers in minor coincidences – i.e., that Magneto would confront the Thing and She-Hulk mere seconds after they happen to get into an argument over whether or not Magnus has truly reformed. As plot mechanics go, this miniseries is built on a structure as insubstantial as Shadowcat herself.

Yet the story works in spite of all that, because intellectual logic is swept aside, at every turn, by the extraordinary force of the story’s emotional momentum. Claremont is relentlessly sentimental here, from beginning to end. He’s teamed with penciller Jon Bogdanove, who “draws the best hugs in the [comics] biz,” as editor Ann Nocenti puts it in her introduction to the trade paperback. Not one to put a talent like that to waste, Claremont loads this story with embraces – between mother and son, husband and wife, lovers, friends, kids, adults ... “FF vs. X-Men” may contain more hugs per page than any other superhero comic ever published.

At the core of the story is the emotional connection that emerges between Franklin Richards – the son of Sue and Reed – and Kitty Pryde in the third and fourth chapters. Redeeming Claremont’s awkward attempts at writing a child in the Wolverine/Katie Power team-up of Uncanny #205, Claremont’s Franklin (illustrated by Bogdanove and inker Terry Austin) is off-the-charts cute ... an adorably wide-eyed avatar of pure goodness, who – in his naively brilliant child-savant manner – saves the day several times over the course of the storyline. To summarize some of the dramatic beats of this mini would be to make them sound absurd – Franklin preventing Kitty from committing suicide, Franklin convincing Dr. Doom to swallow his pride, Franklin reprimanding the feuding FF and X-Men – yet Claremont and Bogdanove force the reader to fall in love with the little guy, and it all makes perfect sense. I defy anyone (who doesn’t thrive on misanthropy) not to grin at the image – Issue 4, Page 23, panel 2 -- of Franklin, mounted atop an airborne Lockheed, his hands on his hips, scolding the Fantastic Four and the X-Men for fighting instead of working together to save Kitty. (“You grown-ups are all a bunch of stupid babies!”)

Although the mainstream Uncanny series continued to grow darker and darker over the course of the late 1980s, “Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men” stands as a towering example of Claremont’s undiminished ability to write with astounding optimism when the occasion called for it. The depth of feeling plumbed by the author in this little piece of four-color fiction is testament not only to his talent, but also his fearlessness in making transparent his own sense of sentimentality and hopefulness. “Love is all you need” may be a naive philosophy, but reading a comic like this, one actually believes – even if only for a few fleeting seconds – that it might actually be true. For that alone, this miniseries is a phenomenal accomplishment. Speaking personally, I’m moved to tears every single time I read it.

[I want to make a personal note about this issue though it is not strictly relevant to Jason's post. My first comic book ever was Uncanny 301. When I began talking about these "X-Men" at school one of my friends brought me two graphic novels from his brother's collection -- Wolverine v Hulk (their first meeting) and X-Men v Fantastic Four. These were the first collections I had ever read -- I did not know there was such a thing as a comic book collection. The only memory I really have of this issue is the ghostly Kitty: but what I remember is that somewhere in this series is an image of Kitty's face that I looked at again and again in what could have been the start of some kind of life-altering Joss Whedon style crush on the character. If only I had thought to invent Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a result.]

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek Review (Major Spoilers)

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they go to an alternate universe where Tasha Yar did not die and everything was super dark. It is to date the only Star Trek episode I think about fondly. The lesson is I only like Star Trek in an alternate universe.

I have always hated Star Trek in its various incarnations, mostly because it includes two of my least favorite things: hard science, and ham fisted allegories for contemporary problems, like a planet full of Native Americans or whatever. When people talk about Abrams streamlining, this is the fat he cuts out. You can argue that hard science and social relevance are not fat but rather essential parts of Star Trek, but you can't deny that Abrams' movie is a good movie in its own right.

Star Trek was the perfect summer popcorn blockbuster, no question. It has the essential quality for Summer blockbusters that Dark Knight sorely lacked -- it was brisk. Dark Knight was 2 hours and 40 minutes and felt like 4. Star Trek was less than 2 hours and felt like 70 minutes. And it showed a lot of economy -- not a wasted sequence. Brad pointed out a tiny detail that really captures the whole well: young Kirk, driving a stolen car, hangs up on his step-dad on a futuristic iPhone. You hear that guy's voice for maybe three sentences -- and never see him -- and that is all you need to know about the man who raised Kirk after his father died and how he became a different man as a result. The humor -- the sequence in which Bones keeps injecting Kirk with things was a particular standout.

My favorite example of economy was the simplicity of introducing the idea of the alternate time line -- two, maybe three sentences on the bridge. This guy went back in time and killed your dad. If that had not happened all this would have happened differently. Then off to the next sequence. It does an excellent job situating itself -- neither a sequel nor prequel nor reboot, it is part of the canonical but also basically free from it. That is exactly the distance Abrams needs to tell a good story -- enough room to have his own thing, but enough closeness so that the decisions he makes matter because they are perceived as moving against, or paying homage to, some established original. Poetic freedom only makes sense in opposition to something, says Harold Bloom, and he is totally right.

My Trekie friends told me that in the original series there was an episode in which Spock made out with Uhura, so the alternate universe made explicit something implicit in the original, which is a nice detail if you care about that kind of thing. Brad pointed out to me that in the Next Generation movie in which Shatner plays a role he dies falling off a cliff: the sequence where kid Kirk sends the car over the cliff without falling himself is Abrams saying My Kirk will never die by cliffs because that is the wrong ending for that character. Spock on the other hand -- that character was handled perfectly in the films, so he literally gets to survive in Abrams new universe. (Side note: did anyone think it was interesting that the number of Vulcans killed in this movie was said to be either 6 billion or 6 million, and Spock found a new home for the surviving 10,000 -- I felt like maybe this was drawing on Nemoy's Jewish identity, obviously an important part of his career, connecting the destruction of his planet with the Holocaust). Nemoy in the alternate timeline also pays tribute to the past show in a reserved way -- it would have been easy to load this movie up, so that every extra would have been from the various franchises.

Abrams knows what matters. He has a great structure, which is the most important thing for a movie like this (though that subject will require more than one viewing for me to discuss properly. I cannot remember the last time I saw I movie twice in the theaters but this one may deserve it). And he understands how to hang a movie on character, which is the other thing a good movie needs. The destruction of planets and so forth is all style -- and what communicates its status as style more than the fact that the mega death weapon is the "red matter" which like similar spinning red ball on Alias or even the rabbits foot in Mission Impossible 3, gets no explanation because it needs no explanation. Because that is not what this is about. This guy killed Kirk's Dad. Then he killed Spock's mom. Spock and Kirk develop a friendship in the course of getting revenge. And that is what the movie is about. That may seem obvious but the Matrix sequels are not the only examples of science fiction getting caught up in its own mythology and forgetting the fundamental truth that you are telling stories about people. That is why Lost will not explain the numbers, and why BSG should not have made its final sequence about being kind to robots. Just as Abrams learned (by counter example) from the Matrix sequels to focus on character first and avoid explanations of mythology he also picked up camera work (shaky cam in space, lens flair even in conversations) and a good sense of dirt from Firefly -- while still paying homage to the cleanliness of the original series by having the Enterprise look brand new because it actually is brand new. (Also in the spirit of Firefly, a joke in which the Enterprise fails to launch after a dramatic build).

The score from the guy who does the music for LOST, was wonderful too I thought, though this sentence lacks a paragraph to be in. Sorry.

The woman painted green seemed false to me -- the effects seemed crude (she literally seemed painted) -- but a Trekie friend pointed out that the effects seemed an intentional throwback to the original. This was a point that was made when the trailer revealed the Enterprise being built on a planet rather than in space where it would have been more practical. Star Trek is partly about an older generation's vision of what the future would be like, and that is part of the fun. The casting of Trek fans Simon Pegg and John Cho in right in the spirit of pure fun, and I loved them both.

The only complaint I had about Star Trek -- the only moment when I could not even understand what they were TRYING to do was Why on earth would you cast 37 year old Winona Ryder as Spock's mom? That seriously lost me. No sense at all. Until in talking to Brad I recalled the Frasier episode in which he and Niles go to a restaurant and had the perfect meal -- except for one tiny flaw. Ironically, of course the tiny flaw is part of their perfect evening as no night out for them could be perfect without some tiny flaw to enjoy picking at for the rest of the night. Star Trek fans I think are right on the same page, so maybe this is the perfect movie.

Notice also: Klingons mentioned but never shown. Abrams also knows how to keep something in the bag for the sequel. Nice.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek (Minor Spoilers)

by Scott

[I see Star Trek Sunday morning and will probably write up something about it then. -- Geoff]

Star Trek was everything that X-men Origins: Wolverine was not; more than that, it has everything that an ‘origin’ movie should have that XMO: Wolverine did not: fun, emotionally engaging, beautifully paced. The characters have depth and beloved icons are brought to life in a way that is both faithful to the original interpretations and entertaining for new viewers.

I’m not a huge Star Trek geek, but I’m just familiar enough with the mythology to get most of the references. That being said, you don’t HAVE to get the references to enjoy the movie; they are done in such a way that they are just seen as another part of the story. Case in point, the film depicts a famous instance from Star Trek mythos, Kirk beating the supposedly unbeatable Kobyashi Maru simulation at Starfleet Academy. Fans of the series will immediately recognize the scenario and will love getting to see it played out on the big screen but, for those who aren’t fans of the series, it is an entertaining scene that further establishes and develops the character of James T. Kirk (none of the ‘and that’s the origin of that’ feeling of Wolverine).

In another case of Wolverine versus Star Trek, let’s take a look at how the two movies brought a fan-favorite character, known for having a particular accent, to life. Wolverine has Gambit. The actor playing Gambit cannot do a Cajun accent but he still tries. Also, he can’t act and he’s just sort of there so you can go “Oh, look! Gambit!” Star Trek has Simon Pegg as Scotty… ‘nuff said. (The guy playing Dr. McCoy was also great for that matter).

Most importantly, the use of time travel in the film is not merely a device for Leonard Nimoy to make an appearance; it actually serves an important purpose, not just in terms of plot, but for reinvigorating the franchise as a whole. In addition to explaining any continuity gaffs for the hardcore Trek geeks, it also allows the franchise to be rebooted while still acknowledging the original all within the same film. A pretty daring feat if you ask me. Also, it allows us to have a ‘new’ James T. Kirk; one who is, essentially, the same character we know and love but, due to events depicted in the film, experiences a different formative history which allows him to be a little darker, a little edgier, a little more modern.

All this and Scotty even gets to have a cute little alien buddy!

You might have heard that it's 'this summers Iron Man'... it's not... it's better!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Dollhouse, LOST and Seaguy this week

Dollhouse: Briar Rose. The second to last episode of Dollhouse was the very first one that made me not want to see the series be cancelled. The Patton Oswalt one was an improvement, and Haunted was pretty good, but this is the first one I was fully invested in. Eleven hours is a long time to wait to see the show really nail the concept. Alan Tudyk humiliates most of the other people playing dolls by demonstrating the ability to just BECOME SOMEONE ELSE NOW. You feel both halves are fully persuasive. Victor did OK impersonating that NSA dude, but this is what the show needs to do to work. The dialogue Tudyk gets is gold and he delivers it wonderfully: "I'm not comfortable having people in my home who are not delivering Thai food.” And “This is like one of those buddy cop movies where you’re the hard-nosed badass and I'm the guy who hates buddy cop movies!” Lovable AND Terrifying. The show has reached a fantastic pitch of moral grey-ness with the idea of "consensual slavery" brought up -- you really do know know who you want to win in the fight between Paul and Echo's old handler. PLUS, we have the hint that Amy Acker is Whiskey -- now imprinted with a permanaent doctor persona after being ruined by Alpha last time -- and maybe has some interesting connection to Alpha (who asks her if she always wanted to be a doctor, then tells her she is lying). Victor's future as a second scarred doll is an equally good development that will need a second season to play out. And even the opening mission of the show in which Echo is imprinted with the healthiest outcome of an abused little girl to show her what she could be was really persuasive. The story of Briar Rose was maybe too much on the head in terms of the show yelling THEME THEME THEME, but the fact that she liked to carry knives and had one on her chimed well with Alpha's weapon of choice. NOW, and only now, am I going to be pissed if this show does not get another season.

LOST. Follow the Leader. This is a hard one to talk about as it really is just a set up for the finale. I was disappointed that it was not a proper Richard flashback as rumor and Wikipedia suggested, but like The Variable by the end I was on board -- I love the addition of trying to kill Jacob to the events of the season finale, even if I am not super sure about the motivation. The episode did a great job tying together all the threads under the theme of leadership -- and true, useless, misguided and insane leaders: Locke, Ben. Alpert, Chiang, Radzinski, Horace, Jacob and Sawyer are all contenders in various ways. And Chiang's questioning Hurley was one of my favorite LOST moments ever: Fumbling questions like "When you were born" and "Who is the president of the United States" is funny, but funnier is that it is SIMPLER for him to just give in an say he is from the future, and even funnier when you remember one of the first things he said when then landed was "What if they ask us who is president of the United States?" Kate in the sub was annoying, and like I said a few weeks back pathetic Ben is such a let down, but I really do find myself caring whether Sawyer and Juliette can live happily ever after, something that really surprises me since I never cared about Jack and Kate for example.

From the AV Club

-I’ve been thinking a lot about Daniel’s big “The variable is made out of people!” speech from last week, and I even wrote a little something extra about it in the comment section last weekend. My understanding of his new theory isn’t that it’s some lovey-dovey “people can do anything” hoo-hah, so much as a growing awareness that since the time-travelers are experiencing the past as the present, and since they’re human beings with free will, they are under no obligation to try to avoid changing the past. They should just do what they do and let the chips fall. I’ll add that in the most recent podcast, Darlton said that the original script contained a longer explanation from Daniel about how much they can alther the past. To wit: If they do little things, they’ll change nothing, much like a tiny stone makes a little ripple but has no lasting effect on the stream it’s tossed into; but if they do something huge, they can make a big enough splash to redirect the flow.

-On that same subject, Eloise’s “course-correction” theory and all the chatter about how “the island’s not done with you yet” makes a lot more sense if you take time-travel into account. “The island’s not done with you” could just mean that Eloise (and others) have first-hand experience of those people appearing on the island again. And “course-correction” may not be some cosmic effect so much as Eloise and her band of “whatever happened, happened” zealots hustling their buns off to make sure that the course remains fundamentally the same. If I’m right about this, her “Eh, close enough” Ajira 316 plan doesn’t seem quite so slipshod after all. For years, she’s been putting the pieces in place the best she can, and improvising where necessary.

That makes me feel better about this goal post moving "You can't change the past oh wait yes you can" though it really needed to be in the show -- that is an important bit of info to end up on the cutting room floor.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye 2. I do not have a lot to say about this, as it seems to basically reiterate the previous series as Seaguy struggles out of various incarnations of the Bower of Bliss. But I did want to note -- his facemask does vaguely resemble Cyclops's and there is an interesting moment in this issue where he has to free himself from the (false) emotional entanglement of a wife and child because they block the way to his true self and the adventure he deserves. Shades of Madeline Pryor her or has this blog just immersed me in too much Claremont?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #219

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the label below]

“Where Duty Lies”

A letter writer to the X-Men once pointed out the way Chris Claremont not only seems to favor the female members of his cast, but actually is a little bit cruel to his males. Issue 219 was cited by the correspondent as a case in point: After inviting Dazzler to join them in issue 214 – partly out of a desire to keep her safe from the Marauders -- their reaction to Havok when he arrives at the mansion is to erase his memories and send him back to New Mexico the first time. The second time, they seem to consider killing him (!). Certainly Claremont’s logic seems unaccountably bent in this issue. Also, his writing is sloppy. As established in last issue’s cliffhanger, Havok has come to the mansion with a specific purpose: to warn the X-Men that a Brood ship has landed on Earth. That plot thread is not even mentioned here – it’s lost in the massive logic-gap that seems to swallow up most of this issue.

Claremont also seems to have forgotten a lot of Alex Summers’ character history as well, if the narration is any indication. Alex’s rampant hatred for Magneto seems out of proportion, given that the X-Men never fought Magneto while Havok was a member. (This could perhaps be explained by Havok knowing about Lorna’s history with Magneto – although, Lorna actually only ever encountered a robot duplicate, but then again she might not realize that ... ah, the complexities of X-Men continuity....) Alex also makes mention of bad memories that he associates with the school, even though he attended the school only very briefly during X-Men history, and accrued few bad memories during that time as far as readers are aware.
Also, what are we to make of Havok’s narration on Page 12, “Professor X was associated with a lady scientist in Scotland, a good friend to the X-Men ...”? Alex – along with Lorna and Madrox – actually lived with Moira MacTaggart for a long stretch of time. Yet now he seems not even to remember Moira’s name ... ? Claremont’s writing is decidedly screwy here.
The one redeeming bit to this issue – with its skewed plot logic – is Claremont’s cleverly striking a parallel between Alex and Scott. At the start of the issue, Havok leaves Lorna alone to seek out the X-Men, and she is subsequently assaulted by the Marauders. This is, of course, exactly how Scott and Madelyne’s story played out roughly one year earlier in X-Factor #1 and X-Men #206 (albeit the Marauders’ involvement with Madelyne’s disappearance was revealed more recently, in issue 215).

To make sure readers pick up on the parallelism, Claremont spells it out in a canny two-panel sequence on Page 12: Just after a bus with a giant X-Factor ad drives by an oblivious Havok, he thinks to himself, “Why’d I leave Lorna behind? Summers stubborness [sic]. Summers stupidity.” Much the way Claremont struck a parallel between Scott/Phoenix and Corsair/Kate years ago – two generations of Summers, both losing the women they love under similar circumstances – he now does the same with the Summers brothers. And again, it involves the loss of their lovers. Only a few issues down the line, the “Greek tragedy” quality of the Summers saga will be further intensified by a quasi-incestuous angle, with Alex and Madelyne becoming romantically involved.

Repetition and resonance also play out in this issue’s use of Polaris, who – for the third time in her comic-book career – has her will suborned by a supervillain. (The first was by Magneto in Arnold Drake’s original Lorna story, the second by Eric the Red in one of Claremont’s very first X-Men issues.)

Despite some wonky storytelling in “Where Duty Lies,” the issue nonetheless contains these wonderful instances of recursiveness and parallelism that elevate it. Claremont is now in a fantastic position as a writer: He is the primary caretaker of a dense and multi-layered mythology, from which he can pluck elements at whim in order to complicate and enrich each chapter of his unending narrative.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Andy Bentley on The New Gods 6: Mister Miracle 1

[Andy Bentley continues his issue by issue look at Kirby's New Gods. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the label below.]

“Murder Missile Trap”
The issue opens on Mr. Miracle, a super escape artist being trussed up by his assistant Oberon to prepare for a death defying stunt. Watching is Scott Free, a man who was given his unique name in an orphanage where he was raised. Oberon begins to set fire to the sealed box Mr. Miracle is trapped in and Scott Free is compelled to interrupt the proceedings. His actions are unnecessary as Mr. Miracle bursts forth from his would-be fiery coffin. Introductions between Mr. Miracle (Thaddeus Brown) and Scott are cut short when Intergang, atomic age gangsters, arrive and threaten Mr. Miracle at the request of their boss, Steel Hand. Threats turn to assault and with Scott’s keen reflexes the thugs are defeated and the trio return to Thaddeus’ home. Scott is then given the history of the Mr. Miracle moniker: Thaddeus Brown was once “The Great Thaddeus” and had another assistant in the form of his son Ted, who created the Mr. Miracle costume for his father. Ted unfortunately was killed in the Korean war and his mother had also passed. Thaddeus has begun to slow down in his older age, but is adamant that he can continue to be Mr. Miracle even if his assistant Oberon objects. Scott reveals that he has several technological inheritances that might help assist the elder escape artist in his endeavors. Thaddeus and Oberon put Scott to the test by chaining him tightly with a padded lock and moments later the chains burst and Scott is as his namesake, free. Scott reveals his secret to be a a miniature device that caused an intense magnetic repulsion.

The next day, Scott, Thaddeus and Oberon take to the countryside to test another Miracle stunt. This time Mr. Miracle is to evade an incoming metallic boulder all the while chained to a tree. Unbeknownst to them, Steel Hand and a sharp shooter have located the trio and have Mr. Miracle in their sites. As Oberon releases the boulder, the sniper connects with his target and Mr. Miracle is left helpless with the boulder fast approaching. Scott reacts quickly by appearing to punch the boulder off target. He frees Mr. Miracle but it is too late, Thaddeus is dying and Scott wishes to ease his passing. He rolls up his sleeve to reveal an intricate series of computer chips and processors on his arm which cumulate in a mother box! He removes the box and places it to the ear of the dying Mr. Miracle and it soothes the pain of death. Oberon grieves for his dead master and then reveals the origin of the conflict between Steel Hand and Mr. Miracle: The two men were hospitalized in the same room several years ago and agreed to a bet that Steel could create a trap that Miracle couldn’t escape from.

Days later, Steel Hand is proving the strength of his augmented hand when in through a window appears Mr. Miracle. Miracle disarms Steels right hand man, but is overpowered by Intergang soldiers. They take Miracle’s body to the top of a readied missile and bind him to the nose. The missile lifts off and detonates in the air and Steel hand basks in his enemies defeat. Steel Hand returns to his office and is shocked to find once again Mr. Miracle alive in well. The two face off with Steel Hand punching and smashing and Miracle evading and using gadgets to gain an advantage. Steel Hand is caught in a Compact Cocoon and led away by the authorities. Oberon and Scott decide Mr. Miracle must live on and so he shall in the pages of Mr. Miracle monthly.

The concept of Mr. Miracle, escape artist, has been often seen as a homage by Kirby to fellow comic book artist Jim Steranko who performed as an illusionist and escape artist in his early 20’s. It’s also been theorized that the often bound Mr. Miracle represents the frustration Kirby felt within the comic book business. Miracle also continues to represent Kirby’s progressive ideals and enthusiasm in youth. The mantle is passed down from the weary elder magician to the technology enabled, enthusiastic youth. This passing of the torch is indicative of the transition from golden age superheroes to silver age superheroes. Many of the golden age creations were steeped in mystics and magics where the silver age creations were born of science and technology. There’s also a bit of Batman mixed in with Scott’s array of gadgets. His costume borders on being too busy, but it works especially when you learn it’s theatrical origin. The name Scott Free is one I found ridiculous in my Image comic days but is now one I can appreciate knowing it’s origins. Steel hand isn’t much of a villain, but shooting a bound old man certainly is a start. Steel hand suffers from the “telling instead of showing” syndrome as he explains his character and motivations to himself for a good 6-10 panels. Oberon is a bit of an oddity, being a balding dwarf with a purple tunic and red tights. Perhaps there’s a fourth world explanation forthcoming.

This is a classic origin issue with shades of Star Wars and Fellowship of the Ring as a youth gets the call to action from an elderly wizard. The pace is fast and enjoyable as we begin the issue in mid scene and briskly transform Scott Free into the new Mr. Miracle by issue’s end. Scott seems unaware of his technologies origin, he merely knows what they can accomplish. The mother box continues to impress by giving Scott zen like moments. It appears as a technological way of focusing his chi. I have no doubt Miracle’s escape artist origin will likely lead to some fantastic death traps that will rival the 1960’s Batman TV show. Mr. Miracle compliments the cosmic opus of events in New Gods well with fast action and great Kirby gadgets. It is the longest running of the four series and I eagerly anticipate the next issue.

[For reasons I cannot explain, something about reading the original appearances makes his appearance in Morrison's comics make so much more sense, even though I cannot really point to anything I did not know about the character before, just from general comic book knowledge. The spirit of the thing, I guess.]

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- SPOILERS

I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine with a group of friends Saturday night. Instead of a proper review I am going to give you our reactions to various moments. It was all part of a post-movie conversation so the attributions here are pretty loose. Here are some samples from that conversation. The headings are often who remembered us talking about it in the later email exchange than who said it. And I moved and combined comments. I write a few things at the end.

Wolverine Drinking Games:

- Every time Hugh Jackman, or any other character, looks up into the heavens and cries out in despair or agony - drink
- Every time "And That's The Origin of That" happens - drink
- Anytime Jackman "cheescake" pose (or loses his shirt) - drink, while saying "This is January in my Hugh Jackman Calender." Advance the months as appropriate. Wolverine on a motorcycle. Wolverine naked jumping into a waterfall. Wolverine naked in a barn. Wolverine starring off into the distance.

"He has such advanced senses he can tell if you are lying from 50 feet away, but he can't smell the difference between real blood from actual wounds, and faked blood, poured out of a bag, (even if it is her own)?"

"Apparently, if someone tells you you cannot just walk away from black ops military shit, you can anyway. Like literally walk off while everyone watches you."

"Shoot him in the memory?" WHAT?!?

"Anybody want to guess when this movie takes place? Sometime between Vietnam and ... ?"

"Weapon 11 is being controlled by the super technology of... LOGOS!!!" "Go D-E-C-A-P-I-T-A-T-E.

"African General Juma messes with Jack Bauer AND Wolverine. Not smart."

"You do it for your country" "You mean Canada? Would ya like some poutine? Perhaps a LaBatt? I'm gonna go watch the Canadians play the maple leafs! GRETZKYYYYYY!"

Gambit comes down into the alley twirling his staff like a helecopter blade over his head. Sara leans over and says to me "Go Go Gadget Gambit."

"Did Wolverine and Sabertooth dose-do on top of a reactor?"

Please do not do a dramatic character reveal (Gambit) if the reveal only shows that this character is being played by.... huh, who is he? I just imdb'd and apparently his biggest credits are Friday Night Lights and Snakes on a Plane. And, if an actor cannot do a convincing accent of any sort - don't let them do it. (See also Kevin Costner in Robin Hood).

I weep for culture:


"Wolverine, I am going to make you indestructible and immediately try to kill you. I will send my best soldiers after you, including a super sniper, but not give them the adamantium bullets, the only thing that can stop you, even though I have them right here."

"LOST Charlie (i don't know what his name was in the movie, they weren't good about letting you know who, what, when, where & why): check out the awesome acting on the telepathic skills: I put my fingers to my head and look like I am concentrating real hard..."

By the way -- did anyone else think it was weird to see Charlie and Keamy from LOST in a movie where a key plot point is how to return to an island?


"I like the B-movie cliched dialogue schemes like: 'You wanted me to be an animal, then an animal is what I'll be!'"

"The always reliable dying declaration of a woman to her man: 'I'm cold.'"

"The near instantaneous assemblage of a torch-carrying mob chasing after the two boys."

"When Heroes does the "mutants hunting mutants at the behest of a secret government agency" better than you do it, then your movie truly sucks."

"I'm going to call this the Han Solo-effect, but when a character that has been written out of a major action sequence (Gambit) just happens to emerge at the EXACT MOMENT to save the hero... that's just absurd."

"Didn't it seem like they were setting it up where Gambit broke free from some deeply isolated hidden island facility, only to reveal that he fucking escaped from Three-Mile Island...not exactly alcatraz..."

"Let's not forget claws -- especially in the "funny" bathroom seen -- that looked faker than the sentient cartoon gun in Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

"Tekken-inspired fight finale."

Total destruction of a nuclear cooling tower with no fear whatsoever of radiation poisoning...and supposing this took place in the late 70s, were we to assume that Deadpool's optic blasts were the cause of the infamous Three Mile Island meltdown incident?


"This was a movie clearly written/directed/special effects done by Avi Arad's recently bar mitzvah'd son, a mall focus group, and a junior high AV club."

Producer: What would you like us to do with Deadpool, the "Merc with a Mouth?"
Focus Group: Take away his mouth!
Junior High AV Club member: "It would be so cool if he had 4 foot swords pop out of his arms."
Producer: "How will he bend at the elbow?"
Junior High AV Club member: "It would be so cool! And....cyclops powers? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!"

"Wolverine: Origins: The Movie that Date Raped Continuity"

Gambit: "Man, when you said you were gonna kill everyone, you weren't exaggerating."
Wolverine: "Well, if by "exaggerating," you mean "I said I'm gonna kill everyone, but in fact killed NO ONE AT ALL," then actually, I think I was exaggerating a bit." [If your theatre played the Weapon 11 post credits scene you will see not even Weapon 11 was killed.]

Gambit: "Wolverine. Let's get out of here. A truck from the Penselvania fire department is coming! We cant handle them!"

"All mutants must have the ability to leap super high, run up the sides of walls, and teleport, often losing their shirt in the process."

Emma Frost: Bedazzled.

Lil' Sabeytooth - You gotta keep running!
Lil' Wolvie - I wanna go home!
Lil' Sabey - What, really? You literally just walked out of your home, you are maybe 10 steps away from it.

"Well, I just shot 500 million dollars of TARP funds into Wolverine, then immediately tried to kill him. Now I am going to shoot him IN THE MEMORY. I should like, I dunno, double check to make sure it worked, or perhaps take him back into custody to recoup some of that bailout money. NAAAAAH."

"You gotta box him if you want him to tell you the answer!"

"Box Office Weekend Estimate -$87 million. I'm ashamed we contributed to that."


"Nobody kills my little brother -- BUT ME!"

Worst cold open in this history of anything. Seriously. That was some laugh out loud stuff happening in Canada in 1845.

Also -- After Iron Man has a post-credit sequence involving revealing a Samuel L Jackson cameo -- WHERE HE PLAYS NICK FURY -- you do not get to end your Marvel movie with a nothing moment. Many members of the audience, who know Marvel, are going to be looking for him somewhere, maybe arresting Stryker. Even I did not realize the difference between Fox studios and Marvel studios meant Nick Fury was off the table. If they could not have gotten him they should have gotten SOMEONE. Even the horrific CGI de-aged Prof X would at least have demonstrated they understood the IDEA of the post credits sequence.

Here was the only positive thing I thought about the movie, and I say this without irony. After all the Super Soldiers fighting Wolverine the guy that finally takes him down is just a man in a grey suit with a gun who shoots him in the head after an unpretentious and short fight. That brought this from an F to a D- in my estimation.

So everyone looked clean and beautiful in this movie, even when working as a lumberjack or just after getting in a fight. Fine. I guess. Lot's of sexy calender shots of Wolverine. But you expect this thing to have some appallingly busty treatment of women in the Image mode and you get NOTHING. AT ALL. Wolverine's schoolteacher girlfriend is not unattractive -- she was almost thoughtfully cast to make her death chime further with that of Jean in X3 -- but she, along with Emma's brief cameo, is clearly not supposed to compete with Jackman and Reynolds and their rippling muscles and flawless hair. When Brady said the film feels like it was made by junior high kids with an unlimited budget he was not kidding: that is the best way to characterize the movie. We often talk about juvenile cinema, but usually that means immature depictions of sexuality. This one deals with a fear of female sexuality by just eliminating it. Even 300 had a (very silly porno-style) sex scene.

It was also strange how much of Morrison's continuity -- ignored in the comics -- was in the movie including Weapon 10 and 11, and Emma Frost's diamond skin. I imagine the guys writing the movie wanted to either find out who Wolverine was or brush up on him and the Morrison run was what someone gave them.