Monday, April 30, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 142

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Morrison's New X-Men run; for more posts in this series click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post.]

The last group of New X-Men issues have been bad -- Morrison lost his way for a dozen issues, maybe more: a year of reading has been pretty good at best, and issue 140 was the low point. With 141 Morrison comes roaring back, creating the first perfect arc since E for Extinction, and the first perfect issue since the silent one. You can disagree with my assessment of the last 12 issues, but if you have been following these posts you know ALL my reasons for thinking it.

Years ago I wrote an essay on Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men, Grant Morrison's New X-Men and Gnosticism. Section Six of the essay focuses on Assault on Weapon Plus (New X-Men 142-145). In that section I said the bulk of what I have to say about that arc, so if you want the main review you will have to go there. I am just going to make some quick notes for this post, and the next three posts, on things in those issues that I did not talk about in the essay.

Bachalo's artwork in in top form, and Morrison has brought writing to match. We get an extreme close up of Cyclops's visor as he gets drunk watching a stripper at the Hellfire Club -- we get so close one panel, the maximum zoom, is just red; Cyclops responds to the stripper's "you really know how to murder a nice romantic mood" with "Yeah. I guess so. I think it might be my new mutant power", and then we just get empty space at the bottom of the page. The art is great and the line is sweet, silly, funny, perfectly in character (he ruined the mood by talking about the junky outfit the stripper will wear when she goes home to her boyfriend) and a parody of Morrison's introduction of "secondary mutations" to justify giving the Beast a new look or Emma a new power. The empty space at the bottom of the page makes the comic timing work. Cyclops notes the reserved table across from him and club honor gets from Sebastian Shaw, "reserved -- a little like yourself." Its these little things, this understanding of how characters speak, that tells me Morrison is back.

Bachalo does a great job with single color tones -- the club is burnt read, the bathroom is all white. Cyclops and Wolverine drinking is fun, and Bachalo draws one page in a twisty road shape to capture their intoxication. When Wolverine goes to the bathroom Bachalo plays a perspective game with a little picture of a pinup girl over the urinal -- we see her as closely as Wolverine does -- before Wolverine and Sabertooth get into a conversation about penis size. A glamour shot of the stripper is wonderfully used to punctuate a scene and to indicate time has passed.

Fantomex is drinking Champagne -- of course he is, he is French, or at least pretending to -- and he orders Tylenol for Cyclops, who now has little green bubbles around his head to indicate his drunkenness. They stand out in pages and pages of red, and are fun. This is what Bachalo
does best, and why I love him. He has a sense of humor. I think he would pair well with Whedon, and would have been my artist of choice for Whedon's Runaways.

The issue ends with Wolverine telling Fantomex that there is no one he would rather have in his corner than Scott Summers, which is really nice: Bachalo really sells it, ending the issue a page later with a single panel, surrounded with empty space (like the camera is backing away), of Wolverine and Fantomex standing over Cyclops who is on the floor saying "*hic*". The humor sells the emotion, which is Whedon's main device (the final lines of Serenity are the best example of this, I think).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tim Minear's Drive

I discovered on Stephen Frug's blog that Tim Minear's new TV venture Drive was cancelled after only four episodes. I watched the better part of the first three (I was cooking at a friend's house while it was on and may have missed a few details), and I wanted to share what I thought was wrong with it, beyond the Google Earth scene transitions (a complaint registered by Sara). What was right with it, by the way, was Nathan Fillion and that girl from Heavenly Creatures. Also right was that is was a show about something other than teens, doctors, lawyers, or cops.

Minear pitched his show about an illegal cross country race to Fox by saying "Drive will be to the Amazing Race what Lost is to Survivor." In interviews he joked about how his earlier shows got cancelled, and cited the titles as factors: "Wonderfalls" and "Firefly" aren't super clear about the content of the show and so he called his new show "Drive" as an analogue to the super clear LOST.

Minear's Wonderfalls and Firefly are great, and should not have been cancelled; you get the feeling that with Drive he has decided to try to cater more directly to the execs and a large a public as possible, try to stop being all "artsy" and get something on the air that will stay on the air. Lost is clearly his model.

And it is Lost that ultimately sinks Drive. Very different from Lost on the surface, Minear's Drive is reaching into the essence of Lost and trying to recreate it in another format. But it is too close to survive. Drive has a huge cast that have been thrown together and must figure out how to get along regardless of their very different backgrounds. Each episode can feature one particular character and his experience of the race -- in his interaction with his partner, we can learn his back story, what got him involved in the race and who he is. This slows down the frame sotry about the race, just as the flashbacks slow down the island narrative. Not everyone is who they seem. There are little side adventures off the beaten path to provide variation from the main story, like having to rob a bank. And most importantly, the whole thing is being manipulated by a shadowy group behind the scenes who love secrets and mind games and speak through soft spoken representatives.

As if this was not enough like Lost, the third episode brings it home in a thudding way. Nathan Fillion from Firefly is pulled over during the race by an aggressive cop who clearly hates him for apparently no reason, and smashes him in the head with a nightstick after putting him in the squad car. When he awakes he is in a police interrogation room with one of those two-way mirrors. As far as we know Fillion is a farmer from Nebraska whose wife has been kidnapped; he was dragged into the race by shadowy people who hint if he wins he will get her back. One character remarks that they must really want him in the race bad if they went to all this trouble -- who is Fillion really, we wonder. The cop insists he is the getaway driver from a robbery that went wrong, and says he is a murderer hiding from his past. Fillion insists over and over that that have the wrong guy. When he finally admits who he really is, the cop laughs and says "I wondered how long it would take you to realize who you really are." He smashes the window, and -- lo and behold -- they are NOT in a police station, but in a warehouse, and the cop is not a cop but part of the mysterious people who run the race; he gives Fillion a muscle car -- Fillion's "real car" and not the beaten up truck he has been driving. Fillion takes charge and heads to the front of the race.

The worst detail: the actor who plays the cop -- Buck from Kill Bill -- was, earlier this year, one of the Others from Lost, the guy who wants to kill Sawyer and who Juliette shoots. Could it be any clearer that Drive is Lost? Did you have to cast one of Lost's low level mysterious manipulators of our main characters as one of Drive's low level mysterious manipulators of our main characters?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

TV Week in Review

LOST: This week's Lost was extraordinarily strong, especially on the emotional level -- Sun's dilemma and her reaction to it was very moving; it involved a lot of complex emotion that was well handled. We also get to see her being quite tough at the end of her flashback. And a note on how to handle exposition, which is something I complain about all the time in comics and elsewhere -- When Jin and Sun argue over his past, over how old he was when he joined the army, the bit about him being in the army is not the point: the point is he is avoiding talking about it. But when we return from the flashback to the island we see Jin fight and it works because they slipped in information about him being in the army before we realized it. With Desmond and company, we get more than one big surprise, but nothing much to talk about yet. There are only four more episodes of this show this season, and they all look like dooseys from the previews -- you can read little captions about them on Wikipedia, including whose flashbacks they are. I won't spoil any of them, but they look very exciting.

I also won't spoil what I learned about the numbers, but let me tell you where you can spoil it for yourself, if it is not just mis-information. Between seasons two and three ABC (and Chanel 4 in England where I saw it), tried out a viral marketing campaign for Lost, advertising designed to beat tivo. There was a TV ad for the Hanzo corporation (the money behind Dharma); call the number on screen and it would lead you to a website, which was then hacked by a woman whose last name is Blake (another philosophy name; this is all quite silly but I love it) -- you follow what she is trying to tell you by following different secret links on the website and calling telephone numbers and so on. A guy claiming to be a Hanzo employee was on a real life talk show; someone claiming to be Blake showed up at a comic con, and so on. You get the idea; it is not something I would have wanted to participate in (it all sounds maddening, especially as it included a lot of product placement, Sprite and so on), but you can read all about it on Wikipedia. At the end, just before season three aired, people who followed this learned what the numbers mean. I have to tell you I found the answer surprisingly satisfying, which makes me think it is not mis-information -- it ties in very well thematically. At the same time, if it proves to be the material in the season finale in a few weeks, I may wish I did not know ahead of time. But someone wanted some Lost fans to know, so you might not condider it a spoiler. And also, again, it might not be true. Head to Wikipedia if you want to know.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Free Form Comments

Hey -- its those free form comments again. Say whatever you want in the comments: introduce yourself, express random "off topic" ideas, suggestions, questions, recommendations, and request to be added to the blog roll which I never update, but really should start.

Edit: Update: Newsarama is breaking news today that Whedon will be putting out an Angel Season 6 (to match his Buffy Season 8) and they reviewed Spiderman 3.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Note: no new post today

I am not going to put up a new post today. I posted twice yesterday -- I wanted to put the Satacracy post up early once I realized voting for it to win an award closes Friday.

I also put a big comment in this week's Comics Out post today; I half accept and half defend charges that I have been mean spirited toward comic books as of late.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Satacracy 88 Episode 7 parts one through three and Episode 8 part one

The seventh episode of Satacracy 88 went up a while ago at It has a new format -- instead of one roughly five minute episode where you vote at the end, each episode comes in three smaller parts and you vote at the end of the third one. This allows Brad to put them up more often -- once a week for three weeks before a short hiatus till the next set begins. The first part of episode eight went up today, and I wanted to catch up on them. Just a few brief notes:

Episode 7 part 1

Best. Episode. Break. Yet. And, in a subtle a joke, the episode break is also a literal break -- the break of his neck.

Episode 7 part 2

Changing scenes buys time -- it allows the cliffhanger from the previous episode to remain a cliffhanger longer. Lost does this all the time expertly. What is Jack going to do now that he is captured? You will have to wait three weeks to find out because the next episode is all about Sun (on a boat), and the one after that is about Locke (in the jungle).

The actress playing Susan does a great sarcastic face in this episode -- Brad has Tarantino's love of tough women.

It is a nice touch that the bag in this episode is a real bag, like the kind you would get from a deli, rather than some leather sci-fi monstrosity. Reality is in the details.

Notice also how part one had us in a confined white room, and this episode has us in a confined black room, a nice contrast.

Episode 7 part 3

In this one Brad is hitting up big mythology -- the dreamplane, the sprig of a magic plant, the elixer, the answer is inside the hero. He is also playing with Star Wars, -- the guy dressed like the Emperor says in a raspy voice "There is a disturbance" -- "in the Force" is how the line continues in the movie (I think it is actually "I sense a disturbance in the force" but the point still stands). Star Wars, of course , drew on mythology in the same way Satacracy does: Brad is locating Satacracy at the same conjunction of mythology and science fiction.

Episode 8 part 1

The Origin Story is the something special you want for the eighth episode of Satacracy 88. (When Brad gets a TV deal for this series I will recommend to him that he plan for four seasons, so that the final episode of the series will be the 88th episode). It is hand drawn to boot.

The end of the episode gives us the best shot of 88 so far, and a great little preview of Susan, waiting. Her makup reveals another wrinkle in this universe Brad is weaving.

Go to to vote for Satacracy to win a Webby award. Voting ends Friday.

Comics Out 25 April 2007

Nothing in comics news grabbed me this week and the only comic book I picked up today was Justice Society of America #5. Because of the JLA/JSA Crossover (for which this is the second part and the first JSA part) I wanted to track down issues 1-4 before I got to 5. I got 1-3 and did not like them -- too much exposition and too much nostalgia, which is a bad combination. Either assume your audience knows who all the characters are, or don't and give them proper introductions, but don't half-ass both. One of the things that is making the nostalgia dense is what I think are pre-Crisis characters, who, it looks like, will be soon interacting with the cast of Kingdom Come (the Mark Waid Alex Ross comic book and not the LL Cool J movie, though they latter is so much a better idea).

Mark Waid established "hypertime" in the post-Kingdom-Come Kingdom Come stories -- the idea that story lines do not have to be wiped out to create a coherent continuity (the first Crisis) -- all the universes of every story exist at once and borders can always be crossed (the second Crisis). For the record the only reason I know that is that Frank Quitely drew one of the post Kingdom Come Kingdom Come books (I cannot for the life of me remember what they were called: Kingdom Come Again? Kingdom Commer? Kingdom Come 2?). It didn't stick, and Johns is going to try again. This is where DC is going with all their countdown stuff I think. They even used Ellis's Bleed in Green Lantern, since Ellis made a big deal of this structure of universes with the Snowflake in Planetary. Frankly watching these guys develop the structure of a multi-verse so that continuity glitches will not keep them awake at night is very boring. Just give me a well told story with good art. I don't care if it does not have a clear place in your neat little universe structure, you big engineering geeks with your graph paper and your mechanical pencils trying to figure out the real world physics of the light saber.

Long story short: I could not find JSA 4 so JSA 5 is going to have to wait. Flipping through it Batman appears to be fighting the Batman of the Multiverse (Miller's Batman, Vampire Batman, Adam's Batman and so on). I already read that story in Batman/Superman: Vengeance and before that in the Planetary/Batman Crossover. Before that I saw it in the Batman Animated where the kids tell stories of all the different Batman (Miller's Batman, the 60s Batman), which was itself based on a comic book. Yeash.

Solomon saith: There is no new thing upon earth.
So that as Plato had an imagination, that all
knowledge was but rememerance; so Solomon giveth
his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.

Except Matt Faction's Casanova.

[Before anyone objects that Casanova is hardly knew, drawing in everything in its gravity, Casanova FEELS new, which is all I am really asking for.]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words 3 (Commonplace Book)

I continue my uber-nerdy selections from Bryson's little book. Be sure not to correct anyone on these out loud; you will get beaten up, perhaps deservedly so.

Dangling Modifier. Oh, so many examples of this one, everyone has a favorite. I will go with one Judd Winick mentions in his fantastic Frumpy the Clown strip: "There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his name-o". One of the little kids in the strip remarks "Is Bingo the name of the dog or the farmer? Grammatically, it could go either way..."

"Deprecate" means to disapprove of strongly; it has been so long confused with "depreciate" (to lower the value, as in "self-depreciate") most dictionaries accept the additional meaning.

"Diagnosis, prognosis." To make a diagnosis is to identify and define a problem; a prognosis is a projection of the course and likely outcome of a problem. Diagnosis applies only to conditions and not to people; people cannot be diagnosed with cancer, but their cancer can be diagnosed.

"Differ, diverge". To diverge is to move farther apart so it should not be used to indicate a difference of opinion unless that difference is widening.

"Different" can often be deleted without loss, as in a sentence like "He has written five different books on poetry."

"Disassemble, dissemble." Unlike dissociate and disassociate, these two words mean different things: the first means too take apart, the second to conceal.

"Discomfit, discomfort." Discomfit has nothing in common with discomfort besides sound; it means to rout, overwhelm or completely disconcert.

"Empathy, sympathy." The first denotes deep emotional understanding of the feeling or problems of another. The second is more general. The first is for serious misfortunes, the second can apply to any small annoyance.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 141

Bishop's partner Sage, who we last saw with a gun to her head, has been incapacitated, and before she recovers she gibbers random things including "sun in a box" and "horse trap". Both are nicely chosen, and foreshadow what is to come: Magneto is hiding within the walls of the mansion waiting to leap out, as the soldiers waited to leap out of the Trojan Horse; rather than hiding in a horse, Magneto pretends to be a man in an iron mask who has a star for a brain -- a sun in a box.

It appears Sage was the victim of a psychic attack -- you have to wonder what the point of pulling a gun on her at all was -- and now she cannot remember the last hour. This is a high tech version of being hit on the head and getting amnesia, which is very very lame.

Hank says of the murder: "I bet everyone thinks it's me, don't they?" What a pathetic thing to say. He sounds like a depressed teenager who make everything about themselves. Is there ANY reason for anyone to think he did it?

Bishop says the murder weapon was "custom engineered by experts to fire a diamond bullet capable of shattering Emma Frost in her mineral form." "You checked for fingerprints..." is Professor X's response. Yeah, the guy had this super weapon custom designed by experts and tailor made to kill one person, and he forgot to wipe his fingerprints off of it, or Bishop forgot to check for them. Idiots.

Jean, in a very weird shot by Jimenez in this issue, has the largest breasts I have seen since Lady Death. You just feel like there is no one at the helm of this ship.

Jean uses the Phoenix Force to resurrect Emma and says, in a line I love, that Emma has fallen in love with Scott and that it is actually quite sweet. Angel has a weird litter of babies that have hybrid Beak-Angel mutations that are actually quite fun and silly.

But this plot arc completely fails to deliver on the level of plot at all. No reader believes Emma is really dead -- and we turn out to be right, which is sad. We never believe any of Bishop's "suspects" could really have done it. We learn Esme psychically manipulated Angel to shoot Emma Frost because she learned something secret, but we don't find out what because the relevant information has been deleted from their minds. Also, if Emma learned something she should not have and then suddenly had to be killed, way to plan ahead and have a weapon that was custom designed to kill her just lying around. Then we learn Esme did NOT manipulate Angel at all and that is was someone else altogether but no one knows who. We learn someone else is behind Esme, but we don't find out who. And after Bishop ran a detailed investigation to catch the murderer, Esme, the only person who could tell them anything, literally just walks out of the front of the mansion after knocking out both Bishop and Sage in an instant and gets in a cab. Bishop said with psychics, crime takes on a whole new meaning, but obviously that did not involve him doing ANYTHING to protect he and his partner from any kind of psychic attack. Jean could not have done anything to catch that taxi taking Esme from Westchester?

This is a fancy way of saying Morrison wrote a murder mystery in which the victim comes back to life and the killer gets away with what he did without being identified. The low point of the series; the next issue is a high point of the series. See what I mean about uneven?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

TV in Review this Week

LOST: Brian K Vaughan (of Marvel's Runaways fame) co-wrote this one, and he lets you know when Hurley and Charlie start the episode with the famous Flash v Superman debate. Right there is exactly what is wrong with the guy -- the idea to have them talk superhero comics to signal your work is great; but did you have to go with such a cliche? For the sake of comparison think of how much more spark the Quentin Tarantino scripted Silver Surfer debate is in Crimson Tide (test audiences found the film so dull the studio hired Tarantino to write some additional scenes to spruce the thing up).

The episode is OK, but not great. I enjoyed the flashback quite a bit, but the main story was predictable -- of course the new person is not who Desmond expects (and since we have no idea who it is it is almost meaningless); characters like Charlie only die in stories when the flashback is their own. I am surprised how much of a sympathetic character Sawyer has become. My favorite Sawyer scene was last episode, when Jack returned: the actor did a great job showing how disappointed he was to loose the defacto leader position Hurley had been grooming him for, even though he resisted it.

Review, recommend, and discuss this week's TV.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Free Form Comments

Free Form Comments: any random thought, observation, question, suggestion, put it here, along with any requests to be added to the blog-roll. Also if you are a lurker, this is the place to introduce yourself. And don't forget you can use this post to talk to each other -- your random thought does not have to be for me, it can be for someone else here.

Quick question from me. Everyday my myspace account gets "phished"; I change the password every day. Does anyone know what I do to stop having to go through the password change every day?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 140

[This post is part of a series looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue; for more of the same click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post].

Emma Frost has been murdered; someone in the mansion did it, and so the place is sealed off until the murderer can be discovered by a detective brought in. "No one in, no one out; everyone in this room is a suspect." Morrison is doing a golden age Agatha Christie style murder mystery with Bishop in the Miss Marple role (the quote above is his). This is one of the worst ideas in the whole run. People get mad when I say stuff like that, but it is not a free standing quote -- I always give a lot of evidence. The basic problem is this: a genre fusion should feel organic -- space IS like the old west frontier; if superheroes are zombies then bringing in Galactus makes perfect sense. The superhero Agatha Christie story just doesn't fuse.

In Agatha Christie the lockdown is there so the murder will not be an outside job or an off the wall twist; it gives you a limited number of suspects so you have a chance to figure it out. But I cannot understand how this lockdown is practical in a superhero comic. Bishop SAYS that in a world of mindreaders, shapechangers and disembodied consciousnesses crime takes on a whole new meaning, but this is maddening: everything he DOES suggests this is an old fashioned -- like 1920s fiction old fashioned -- attempt to find a killer. He asks each person at the mansion a question or two -- not even very good questions -- and then moves on to someone else. Even psychics just get questions like Where were you at the time of the murder? Part of the problem is time -- in a 22 page comic you cannot flesh out these scenes; Bendis and Oeming's Powers can take the pages and pages it takes to establish the tension in these kinds of conversations but Morrison does not have that kind of time. Also Bendis is writing something a lot more like actual cops, which makes much more sense then resurrecting a long dead genre in bizarre a new context.

Jean just uses the Phoenix Power to simply and magically convince him that she did not do it. As readers we are asked to just believe this; it isn't that I don't -- obviously Jean did not get a gun and shoot Emma -- but is shows you how rushed Morrison is. Everyone gets about a page to be cleared.

The image of badass Bishop looking like a futuristic version of a 70s cop in a leather trench coat and body armor sitting in the professor's office drinking tea out of tiny cup and sticking his pinkie finger out as he does so sort of sums up the whole problem. It is such a silly image, and it is surely not supposed to be -- this story is the buildup to the Magneto story, and a main character has been killed.

Xorn -- Magneto -- has the kids playing Clue. OK. As a murder mystery game in a mansion this is a parody of the story arc it appears in -- Basilisk says "It was professor Sex with the lawnmower -- that's whodunnut." Morrison is making fun of himself, but it is hard to see what the point is. Whedon makes jokes like that, but emotionally deflates the story in such a way that you can care about it more (the people on screen are only human). Morrison highlights how artificial the whole thing is, which has the opposite effect.

Bishop, figuring out Kick is involved, goes to a prison to talk to one of Quentin's Gang and find out who supplied the drug to the mansion. Two things to note here. Given that the "Riot" had an epilogue, it seems clear that there was some down time between "Riot" and "Murder in the Mansion". One: Did no one try to find out how these very dangerous drugs got into the school BEFORE sending the gang to prison? As a psychic headmaster, you think this would be important and easy. Two: all this talk about post-human, rather than merely human, justice, about the dawn of a new age where new rules will be applied and this is what you get -- they sent the remaining members of the gang to a perfectly human New York State Maximum Security Penitentiary? Casandra Nova kills 16 million mutants and is rehabilitated at the mansion; a teenager sells drugs and does drug related violence in a gang of teens and he goes to normal human prison, where he is clearly being abused -- he begs Bishop to get him away because "there are people in here that really do not like mutants". I do not get it.

Then Beak says he killed Miss Frost -- we do not believe this for one second -- and someone pulls a gun on Sage, Bishop's partner, as the ending beat to this story. Really? A gun to the head? Can a woman with a computer for a brain even be killed like that? It is an ending that makes sense in another story, but means nothing here.

If I am wrong about any of this -- if these are not really problems at all -- please let me know. Cause they seem like MAJOR problems to me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Comics Out April 18, 2007

Brad Meltzer and Shane Davis's Justice League of America #8. Meltzer has a character do a trick with a chessboard I did not know about even though I played competitive chess for years. That was kinda cool. We also have a weird allusion to the Legion of Superheroes being "seven soldiers," "scattered" across time; I do not know what to do with that, especially since Seven Soldier scribe Grant Morrison handled the last major Justice League launch. I doubt anything will come of it, but ... strange. This is the first part of the JLA/JSA team up and I think it is going to get on my nerves. I am going to need to find a website that can give me some footnotes on who everyone is; Johns and Meltzer are going ga-ga with the nostalgia, and I hate nostalgia. But I will stick with it, if only because I enjoyed JLA 1-6 (though not 7) and know Meltzer's run wraps up with 13.

Mike Carey and Chris Bachalo's X-Men #198. I get it for the art. I am never disappointed.

In comics news Ed Norton is the new Bruce Banner.

Also, Julie Tamor (The Lion King) is slated to direct SPIDERMAN: THE MUSICAL with Bono and the Edge doing the songs. Anytime now, someone is welcome to yell April Fool's. Anytime. Please -- God -- someone yell April's Fools.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words 2 (Commonplace Book)

I continue my look through Bryson today. No one likes this about me, and I am not even a stickler about using words like this correctly; but I think it is fun, so there. I am a nerd.

"Comic, Comical." Comic is intended to be funny. Something that is comical is funny whether or not that was the intention.

"Compare to, compare with." The first should be used to liken things, the second to consider their similarities or differences.

"Compendium." No doubt because of the similarity in sound to comprehensive, the word is often taken to mean vast and all embracing; in fact "compendium" is a succinct summary of abridgment.

"Complacent, complaisant". The first means self-satisfied to the point of smugness. The second means affable and cheerfully obliging.

"Comprise." Comprise means to contain; a house may comprise seven rooms but seven rooms do not comprise a house.

"First conceived, initially conceived, originally conceived". All redundant. Something can be conceived only once.

"Condone" This word does not mean to approve or endorse. It means to pardon, forgive, or overlook. You can condone an action without supporting it.

"General consensus". Redundant.

"Consummate". An overused term of praise, consummate means unrivaled or nearly so, not just very good.

"Continual, continuous." Continual refers to things that happen repeatedly but not constantly. Continuous refers to an uninterrupted sequence.

"Convince, persuade". You convince someone he should believe, but persuade him to act. I have been using this one dramatically wrong for years in my writing.

"Culminate" does not mean outcome; it means high point.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 139

Jean has discovered that Scott and Emma are having a psychic affair. This has been building since the beginning so you need this issue to be huge; what you get is a bad episode of 90210.

When the women get in a fight doors start slamming, cause that is how girls fight. Lame. Scott's claim in the issue that the affair was just mental is pathetic, and makes me think he is an idiot -- if your thoughts are like the holodeck, the distinction between mental and physical worlds is stupid. The fact that Morrison feels the need to clear up the fact that the affair was not ever physical at all -- including a flashback to the very suggestive X-Men Annual practically hitting us over the head to clear things up -- is very boring. It is an attempt to take the teeth out of the affair on purely technical grounds, like nervous prom kids who don't go "all the way" but do "everything but." These are adults, and should act like adults, or I cannot take any of them seriously. And given that this issue is about a major development in the life of the main characters, it should be taken at least kind of seriously. When Scott is exonerated by Jean's psychic probe, she cries out, like a teenager, "But they were thinking about it -- They were thinking about it the whole time!" Wow, the Phoenix -- power cosmic -- is a whiny 13 year old who needs to be sent to her room. Also unbelievably juvenile is Scott running off like a spoiled teenager just as everyone finds out the relationship was not physical. Jiminez's illustration really makes him suck. These are powerful adults acting like bratty little kids.

One more minor but notable offence: in the flashback of Emma's childhood we see her father looking to divvy up his empire among his children -- including one named Cordelia; the allusion to King Lear is pointless, pretentious, and very very annoying.

Morrison, as a great writer screwing up badly, does not let this issue go without one great scene. Wolverine and Emma bond -- two adults with an illicit love for one member of this couple -- and this one page makes you believe, really believe, that Emma genuinely loves Scott. It is really moving.

Then Emma gets mysteriously killed, as the set up one of the worst genre mash-ups EVER -- THE SUPERHERO DRAWING ROOM MYSTERY. I will save my bile for this wretched idea for next time.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


On his website (link on the right), Matt Fraction has put up the solicit for the 8th issue of Casanova. I wrote him back in August to tell him Casanova, only three issues in, was my favorite comic book of all time, and I wrote him again to send him a link to my Gutter Geek review of the first four issues. I told him I was finishing up my doctorate and he said "Future Doctor Klock (A comic book name if I ever heard one)." Check out the name of the bad guy in Casanova 8:

Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Fábio Moon
Cover by Gabriel Bá
22pp - $1.99

An all-new storyline and an all-new artist-- the stunning Fábio Moon-- ignites here as CASANOVA returns with the perfect jumping-on point for new readers. What terrible truth lurks inside Dokkktor Klockhammer's horrible horror hospital? How much time passes on page eleven? Who IS that masked man? Who's the stone-cold fox behind the stick of that sick assault aircraft from the future? Do all women from the future look like that? We sure hope so-- because the future is where we'll spend THE REST OF OUR LIVES. And it's only the future that holds the answer to these questions and more, including the biggest, bestest question Casanovanauts near and far will be asking themselves for a long time to come:


CASANOVA volume 2: we have come from tomorrow to save you from boring.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

TV Week in Review

LOST. Sara called what would happen in this episode just as soon as we read the little TV info box: the castaways do not accept Julie (one of the Others); Clair gets a mysterious illness. I wonder how those two plots will come together? Everything you expect to happen, happens, but -- as LOST always does -- there are so many little twists, turns, variations, revelations (the one at the end was GREAT) and tidbits of information the whole thing is just fascinating. I do not think I have ever enjoyed following a show more -- including West Wing and Buffy.

Oh, and another pointless philosophy allusion: Juliette's last name is Burke, giving us Burke, Hume, Locke, Carlyle, Rousseau, and Bakunin. Yeah, that's really silly, but I do not care because I LOVE LOST. And now only five episodes until the season finale on May 23rd.

But why the hell are they not going to live in the air-conditioned village with a fence that will protect everyone from the monster they have feared since the pilot? If there is a reason, someone on the show needs to say it OUT LOUD. I said I enjoyed following this show more than any other, but that does not mean it is better written than any other. This is just a mistake.

TV this week: discuss, review, recommend.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Free Form Comments

Whatever the hell random thing you want to say to me or anyone else here, including shameless self promotion and requests to be added to my blog-roll -- ask again if I forgot, I can be an idiot about this stuff -- do it here.

If you do read but do not post, stop doing that. Don't stop reading, but do start posting, is what I mean. Just introduce yourself -- everyone around here is nice.

This post is brief, but I will have a fun little announcement soon that has me giddy with geeky-ness.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 138

[This post is part of a series looking issue by issue at Morrison's New X-Men run; for more of the same click the labels link at the bottom of this post.]

Is there a joke about the Beast, who is pretending to be gay as a stunt, saving two old homosexual stereotypes from a giant "flamer"? (Quentin's Wax friend is on fire running at a bus; this is in the first few pages of this issue). If there is I don't get it. The whole sequence catching Herman goes on far too long. It is a weird anti-climax as well, since the riot is over.

Are we supposed to take Wolverine's posturing seriously as he screams at Quentin's gang like a military leader screaming at his troops? The problem is how do you not laugh when he barks, describing the aftermath of the riot, "one dead, and one missing, presumed evaporated"? I just don't know what to do with that. A failed attempt at weird seriousness? A failed attempt at humor? It must be a failed attempt at something since I cannot tell what it is supposed to be clearly.

Is Emma Frost really younger that I am? Cause that is freaking me out a little, as she turns out to be only 27. Was I the last to know she was not in her thirties?

What are we to make of stupid Quentin Quire's apotheosis? He converts to pure light as a secondary mutation caused by DRUGS. Morrison likes his drugs, apparently, but Kick is supposed to be a bad drug -- we will learn more about why it is evil at the end of the run, and it has nothing but bad effects on Magneto. Yet it triggers Quentin's ascension to a higher plane of consciousness. Later we will learn how far he ascends, but it is quite surprising. Quentin goes from jackoff to the guy who spouts Morrison's most beloved peace-love-sheep one-world philosophies: the world is one thought that has been divided into ignorant boxes, fighting each other is like one finger fighting another and so on. (I have never found these ideas very persuasive, but do not hold them against Morrison at all, as long as he remains, overall, a good storyteller). Why does Quentin get to get enlightened?

In terms of being a good storyteller we get some good foreshadowing as Quentin speaks while becoming light -- Manhattan gone, the school is gigantic, the professor missed the point, the enemy within. Wonderfully, these serve double duty -- we think many of them are fulfilled by Planet X but then we see they are better fulfilled in Here Comes Tomorrow. That is good writing.

Why does Xavier consider Quentin's apotheosis to be a waste, and not a positive change? He told Lilandra that maybe her empire being ruined by Nova was not a bad thing. Xavier steps down as headmaster and says the Riot has taught him to reconsider non-violence. The riot taught him that? Really? Because the girls had to just take him down after talking didn't work? Wolverine has done stuff like that a hundred times. I don't get it.

The riot shuts down basically because the school is going on break. Morrison is making fun of the student riots in France in 68, which shut down for the same reason. Lots of stupid kids everywhere, I guess is the point, though it is an odd one.

Dust is on the plane with Jean. A great character, this is her second, and second to last, scene in the run. What a waste of an interesting character.

Scott is breaking up with Emma just as Jean catches them in an embrace. What a cliche!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Note on Grindhouse

Be sure to see Grindhouse this week if you want the intended experience. The film has been loosing a lot of money -- the running time is a turn off and the Village Voice ran an article about how it was badly marketed, not released to actual grindhouse theaters and grindhouse festivals if you can believe it. So it looks like it may be split into two films (which will cost you twice as much to see) and god knows what happens to the trailers; the DVD might also be split like this, so now may be your only chance. I give Grindhouse a B (because Tarantino's intentionally frustrating but brilliant pacing is hard to take after sitting down for so long before his film starts), "Planet Terror" a B, and Tarantino's "Death Proof" an A. I would not see Grindhouse twice, but will be first in line to buy "Death Proof" however it is packaged and watch it again and again. God bless Quentin Tarantino and everything he stands for. And ya gotta love both these guys and the Grindhouse film for just being nuts.

Comics Out April 11, 2007

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All Star Superman #7. This was my least favorite issue of this series, but that does not mean it is less than great, or that the series is not the best comic book being published right now. There was just nothing in it that jumped out at me in the same way that, say, Jimmy Olson stood out in issue 4, or the two page prison spread stood out in five, or the elegant plotting stood out in 6. Only five issues to go, if you can believe it. If you have not been getting this fantastic comic book today is the day -- issues one through six are collected in hardcover today; pick the seventh one up at the same time and you will be all caught up.

Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti's Punisher War Journal #6. This thing has an "initiative" banner on the top, so it is still under the shadow of Civil War and its aftermath. "I'm going to Mexico and I'm going to shoot that guy in the face" is a great line, as is microchip calling Punisher "ya spooky asshat," but the Punisher is just not a character for me. I don't even know what to do with the ending and the cover to the next issue. No offence to Matt Fraction, who is a genius, but I just want to get the hell away from all things Civil War.

In comics news this week Frank Quitely has a nice interview up at Newsarama, in which he mentions something we were talking about in terms of "Riot at Xavier's": like me, Quitely does not like to see someone else inking his work. Also great for me in this interview was that the interviewer lists off all of his Morrison collaborations -- Flex Mentallo, The Invisibles, Earth-2, New X-Men and WE3 -- and Quitely reminds him of one more, a nine page story in the 1997 Vertigo anthology Weird War Tales #3 of 4 called "New Toys". Couldn't believe my luck when my little local store in Queens had it; I assumed I would have to hit e-bay or at least visit all the major Manhattan stores. The story is great and you should track it down -- it is a kind of sick fusion of Toy Story and the Invisibles.

Also in the news: someone other than Grant Morrison and Gene Ha will be writing and drawing The Authority 5-10. I do not know what that means for this series -- I do not know if their run will be interrupted, or is only supposed to be four issues long, but that sucks, because I really enjoyed The Authority 1-2, and didn't mind the ridiculously slow pace screwing up the bigger picture Wildstorm relaunch.

Also in the news: Morrison is also writing the film script for the adaptation of the video game Area 51, but I do not have high hopes for that being much better than Frank Miller's Robocop 2 and 3.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (Commonplace Book)

I have decided to use the commonplace book to go through bits of Bryson's book. This is a thing I enjoy even though this kind of stuff bothers a lot of people. I will do a few words each week, paraphrasing from his book.

"Admit to" is almost always wrong. Remove "to." You admit a misdeed, you do not admit to it.

"Advance planning" is common but always redundant, since all planning must be made in advance.

"Aggravate" means to make a bad situation worse. People can never be aggravated, only circumstances.

"All intents and purposes" is a redundant waste of words; replace with "in effect".

"Anxious" comes from "anxiety," and so should contain some sense of being worried or fearful. I should not be used to mean eager or expectant, as in "I am anxious to see a new play".

"Blueprint" is overworked as a metaphor. If you must use it, remember that a blueprint is a finished plan and not a preliminary one.

"Celibacy" does not mean abstinence from sex; it means unmarried. A married man -- for example, Cyclops when he talks about is vow of celibacy in Morrison's New X-Men annual -- cannot be celibate, though he can be chaste.

"Close proximity" is tautological, since "proximity" means "close."

"Collide, Collision." Collisions occur only when two or more moving objects come together; if a vehicle runs into a stationary object it is not a collision.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 137

[This post is part of a series on Morrison's New X-Men run; for more, click the New X-Men label at the bottom of this post].

I have not talked about the covers in a while, but Quitely's covers are great and this is the best one in the arc. Just a tremendous about of clearly articulated chaos; your eye knows just where to go. Quitely is a great designer.

This issue -- this one issue -- is the riot: the rest of the arc is build up (a failed buildup in which no tension is established, as I have demonstrated) and epilogue. Our points about the gang reach fruition here: Morrison has been making fun of privileged teens by making them look like idiots and this issue is no exception: their "riot" is hot wax tossed out of broken windows, literally.

Emma says that she misses the verve and imagination of her old students -- the ones from Generation X, drawn by Chris Bachalo. So do I. In a great line, she makes fun of Quentin's Gang with "Seize the school and then what?" Of course she is right -- these guys have no plan. The problem, already covered here, is that you can make fun of Quentin's gang for being lame but you cannot expect to generate any story tension if your bad guys are morons. If they have no plans, they are not much of a threat. It's cool that Quentin can fuck with Wolverine, but it just seems like the worst these guys are going to do is kick everyone out of the school and break all the windows. When Cyclops hits one in the face, they freak out like the pathetic teenagers they are: "That's assault!" The anti-authority riot kids are now phrasing things for the police report they want to fill out; when push comes to shove these guys want to rely on traditional human authority to save their asses. I know this is to make fun of them, but Morrison is doing too good a job -- I fucking hate these guys, and want to be past this stupidity.

Then, in the chaos, Dummy -- from the special class -- is cut and dissipates (he is an intelligent gas in a rubber suit). This moment is a good one: we have bonded with this character last issue, so the death has some meaning.

As for the good guys? Saying "Let's all calm down" is still the best plan the paramilitary X-Men who bombed China can come up with to deal with drug addicted teenagers with powers formidable enough to disable Wolverine. Idiots.

Xavier just somehow -- it must have been so easy it is not worth showing -- got out of the helmet and calls them on being lame. "The revolution lasted minutes." The Cookoos say that this fight is not youth versus experience, or anarchy versus authority -- the fight is always "in" versus "out." I don't quite know what to do with that, but I kind of like it -- I like their point that, for example, experience or authority could be "in" (fascism, for example, in the Authority).

Quentin has got to be one of my least favorite comic book characters, but at least he dies cool, ripped apart psychically by the cookoos into skin, nerves, muscle, and skeleton. Thank god the X-Men had these girls as students, because the X-Men hade NO IDEA how to deal with the riot. Quentin did it all to impress a girl who died, somehow. Morrison keeps it off screen. Fine.

People are getting mad and my bad mood with these issues, and don't know when I will snap out of it. Here is a preview: Murder at the Mansion (three issues): AWFUL. Assault on Weapon Plus (four issues): AMAZING. Planet X (five issues): BAD. Here Comes Tomorrow (four issues): QUITE GOOD ACTUALLY. Assault on Weapon Plus and Planet X will be shorter posts, becauase I have written about them elsewhere, and will link to what I said when I post about them.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Grindhouse (Spoiler Free)

Kill Bill is my favorite movie, so I was at an 11:30pm show of GRINDHOUSE -- a double feature of Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof will added fake trailers. This review will be spoiler free, but I wanted to give it its own post so that spoilers can be in the comments thread, if people want it.

The first thing that strikes me about Grindhouse is that it seems like a bit of a joke on Rodriguez, like when two friends agree to shave their heads and then, the next day at school, the other guy doesn't do it: I know they are both friends and I am sure they worked together closely, but it feels a bit like they got together and said "Let's make a pair of Grindhouse flicks": Rodriguez exemplifies the genre, as his hyperbolic mode is only a parody in the sense that making an old fashioned movie like this, complete with missing reels and crackling sound, NOW pretty much HAS to be a parody; Tarantino, rather than exemplifying the genre as Rodriguez does, delivers ... something else. I cannot say what that something else is without ruining his film, but there is a reason the trailers are filled with images from Rodriguez's film, a reason a girl with a machine gun leg is the icon of the film.

A few warnings: I am not sure that the whole Grindhouse package sits well together. The fake trailers are fun, especially the one for Machete, but some of the others -- what did I expect from Eli Roth -- made that subtle shift from funny-violence to wrong-violence. I might be the only person that felt this way, but I enjoyed all the violence of Rodriguez's movie but wanted to get out of the theater during Roth's trailer. Not so much my thing. Also just about every great image in Rodriguez's entry you have seen on the trailer. Then after an hour and a half into Grindhouse you get Tarantino's film -- it is a GREAT film, but part of the way the film works is to spend time on seriously languid pacing and dialogue at more than one point before getting to the pair of action sets. On the one hand, of course, it is Tarantino. But as part of the Grindhouse package, that promises exploitation at every turn, my audience got VERY restless after sitting in the theater for so long. But it is worth the small to moderate frustration -- if unlike me you are not Tarantino obsessive and love every scene: Tarantino's film is exquisite.

TV Week in Review

LOST: The show continues to weave its six-degrees-of-separation thing -- now the flashbacks are more dramatically interacting. Every week that goes by the fan-theory that the island is some kind of purgatory -- everyone on the plane died, but these people have to work through their spiritual issues before they can move on -- becomes more plausible. Of course that is not really an answer at all -- as Brad said to me, then why does purgatory involve a monster and a hatch? And a note on casting: the actress playing Juliette played Dr. Carry Weaver's first girlfriend on ER (a social worker psychologist), adding to the sexy girls-handcuffed together tension. Or maybe that was just me being juvenile. Wouldn't be the first time. I have one big technical fan-geek complaint about the episode, but I need to save that for the comments so as not to spoil anything.

This series is basically just a vehicle for good stories -- it is a short story collection wrapped up in a sci-fi frame, just as Chaucer has each pilgrim tell his story as part of their religious pilgrimage.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Free Form Comments

Random thoughts, suggestions, ideas, criticism, off topic anything, self-promotion, you name it: it goes here.

On my end, I am already thinking about what series I should take on issue-by-issue next. I want to do something non-Morrison, and am seriously thinking about THE MAXX. Your ideas are welcome.

On the videoblogging end I have the camera, but cannot figure out how to work the microphone that comes with it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 136

[This post is part of a series looking at every issue of Grant Morrison's New X-Men; for more click the New X-Men label.]

In the comments to last issue NeilShyminsky wrote: "These are just angry white kids at a private school who are pushed to rebellion by the revelation that one of them was adopted. Like Geoff says, it's lame; and like you said, it's mundane. I think that's supposed to be the point. The problem is, while that makes for a decent critique of privileged kids who long for some identification with oppression, it makes for storytelling that's seriously lacking in tension or surprise." That is exactly the problem. Morrison is a storyteller first and a cultural critic second (or third or fourth): Morrison can make his point, but if it is not wrapped in a good story, he has failed. If he wants to be a cultural critic first he is welcome to write an essay of cultural criticism.

The U-Men are back in this issue and Quentin and the Gang run them down in what looks like the Mystery Mobile painted purple. Weirdly lame. When the U-Men complains, as he is being killed, that he spent the last of his savings on this suit, that is really sad -- just as in last issue it becomes hard to know who to sympathize with the least. When everyone in a story sucks, it makes me want to put the story down.

One of the things that makes Riot at Xavier's so bad is that there is so little to it, in order to package it as a prologue and a four issue arc, this second issue has only two scenes related to the title plot. The third issue is the Riot itself and the fourth is really an epilogue -- Riot at Xaviers is essentially a one issue story. The rest of this issue is Xorn and the Special Class on a camping trip.

This is the issue where I start to like the Special Class more. With pop-sexy X-Men nowhere to be seen these guys start to get out from under that shadow. I still don't like any of them, and I am not that entertained listening to them being idiots and making fart jokes, but you feel, in this context, that these characters have so much potential to grow and change -- something Scott has been struggling with in the run -- you start to like them more. The same problem arises, however: the U-Men suck -- they have to check a website for their orders, for example -- so there is not enough conflict or tension. Instead you get a lot of bickering teenagers. It is a nice counterpoint Quentin -- these guys are actually fighting for their lives while Quentin is being a jackass -- but the story is only so-so.

Then we see that Xorn has devastated the U-Men, a very strong and very surprising moment that should have come a long time ago, or been built up more from the beginning. Xorn has left the kids to fend for themselves and when Angel tracks him down, he tells her he was teaching them a lesson and that what he himself has done should remain a secret. The lesson is crap: many of the individual character traits he claims to be helping the kids with were not established as character traits before he said it: for example, that Ernst has no one to be responsible for comes out of nowhere. This speech would be better if Morrison had established this and it had been true, but it is acceptable if Morrison just wanted to put an obvious lie in his mouth -- more evidence that Xorn is not who he seems. But the destruction of the U-Men is a GREAT moment -- now you really begin to suspect that there is something more to this character; now we get a sense that the mystery surrounding this guy may be less than sweet.

But notice the problem: all of this has nothing to do with the Riot. I care more about this moment than anything else in the arc, and that is bad storytelling. Same problem in Superman Returns: James Marsden was so strong, I cared more about him than Superman, distracting me from what the movie was supposed to be about. Next to Marsden, the normal guy hero who loves Lois and raised somone else's child, Superman looks like a dick, special only because of the powers he has, rather than the person he is. Next to Xorn blowing up the U-Men, the Riot just seems even more lame.

In the end of the "subplot" Xorn comes to accept the reality of No-Girl, a member of the Special class that may be a mutant undetectable by Xorn, or may be a class Imaginary Friend. It is another very strong, and sweet, moment, but again, one that again draws attention and sympathy from the main story.

Back to the Riot, Quentin and his gang hit Xavier over the head with a baseball bat -- fucking LAME -- then call for a Riot out the window with a megaphone. This should be an exciting moment -- it is the beat that will lead into the next issue -- but I wish I was back with Xorn and the Special Class, and that is not good storytelling, especially since the next issue will be all about Quentin.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Comics Out April 4, 2007

A nice day for comics, especially if you are a Joss Whedon fan:

Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja's The Immortal Iron Fist #4:

Aja is great -- even simple stuff, like a layout that has a two-by-four grid of panels over a larger image just shines. Aja is amazing -- this guy is rapidly becoming a favorite, and anyone who wants to recommend something he has done before would be welcome. His bodies just have the natural weight and grace you see in live action kung-fu movies. One of the best fits with a book I have ever seen. With this issue Fraction -- and with Five Fists of Science I am sure it is Fraction -- gets to add in some of that amazing 19th century science stuff that he loves, to great effect. Pneumatic subway systems: how can you not love them? Plus "Lightning of God" is a nice touch -- what a great idea and a great set-up for making it work.

Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes's Justice League of America #7:

The epilogue for Meltzer's first arc is cheesy, but after a great six issue story I am almost willing to call his sentimentality lovable. Almost. The league elects people with a card that says "The Justice League of America [in the font] hereby elects BATMAN [his name written in like a High School diploma], with all privileges and gratuities including" blah blah blah "possession of the golden key which permits entry..." blah blah blah "n special commendation for expert assistance in the case we have entitled in our scrolls THE TORNADO'S PATH". ?!?! SCROLLS?!?! is this a D&D club? Scheesh.
Lots of DC history drawn on here, Green Arrow's sidekick, some girl named Terra who died. I won't spoil the new HQ design, but it is exactly as sweet as it is cheesy and nostalgic. If you have been around me for a while you know I don't go for nostalgic. Metzler claims, in the issue, to be drawing on history, but look at the images -- it is a museum everywhere you turn. That's not drawing on history to build the future (as Morrison did in his JLA) -- it's building cold vacuum sealed monuments to nostalgia.
But the pacing, structure, and scene transitions are great and I will be staying with the book till the end. I just don't think that the JLA needs these X-Men style no-action epilogues -- after every big X-Men plot there would be an issue where everyone just plays football or something. That works because it is a school and they are a family. I don't think the JLA should be such goofy "I love you man" buddies. But that could just be me.

Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan's Runaways #25:

I am not in love with the art -- I wish whats-his-name could have stayed on -- but the story was pretty good, the jokes are good, and Whedon does bang-on characterization in just a moment. It is something he is very good at. The scene with Nico and Karolina was strong, for example. And Whedon can do an ending beat like no man's business. As for the end of Vaughn's run, where the kids get captured by Iron Man, it seems like either Whedon is ignoring that, or it will turn out that they have been forced into working with Iron Man to catch bad guys -- there is evidence in the issue for either one, though the second seems more likely.

Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #2:

I liked this issue quite a bit more than the last one. Sure it is a geek-fest, but it is a fun geek fest and I am a sucker for stuff such as Xander getting water on his Nick Fury outfit and pointing out that he only has two of them. A nice fake-out between Xander and Buffy is not just for no reason -- it leads into what is needed to get Buffy back. That's the Joss Whedon touch: even the fake-outs are more than just jokes. But one bad art moment -- don't have the two night guards not notice a horde of zombies until dozens of them have almost clawed up to the top of the wall.

Genesis 5:20-24 (Commonplace Book)

"And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died. And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."

This passage is in a big list, so it does not leap out at you. But Enoch is one of only two characters in the Bible (the other being Elijah) that does not die. These lines, paltry as they are, spawned a whole apocalyptic cult around Enoch, who is also a big figure in Kabbalah.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Grant Morrison's New X-Men 135

[This post is part of a series looking at Grant Morrison's New X-Men run issue by issue -- for more of the same click the New X-Men tab at the bottom of this post].

Quentin is dressing provocatively to reclaim offensive mutant stereotyping -- lame -- and Xavier complains about it -- also lame. It is like he has been teaching for years and this is the first rebellious teenager he has every seen. Xavier is inviting humans and mutants to come to an open day and wants to avoid confrontation, which just seems dumb, what with people trying to kill them all the time. Quentin calls Jumbo Carnation "our greatest artist", which goes to show how juvenile he is, holding up a fashion designer as the greatest artist of a species. Quentin acts like a brat, saying he does not want to live side by side with murderers, and Xavier accuses him of not being logical, which is also lame -- the very idea that Xavier thinks the Spock thing is going to be his best tool in this situation is very very lame. This is the first clash between our two Riot antagonists, and it is boring, because they are both acting stupid. We need a dark foreshadowing here, and this is just two annoying talking heads. Even Quitely is being inked by someone else, and the result is not as good as when he inks his own stuff.

When Quentin gets his uniforms for his gang, one of them says "Glam! Industrial! Clockwork Orange!". This is, I think, supposed to be lame, to show us idiot high school kids who don't know enough to know that A Clockwork Orange is not the best, coolest film ever. The bad guys here are a bunch of high school kids in a dorm room doing drugs -- this is not providing nearly enough tension. When Quentin says that the drug is like "breathing the electric air of the future" we cannot help but notice they are wearing throwback clothes (from Uncanny X-Men 14), speaking in cliches, doing drugs, getting tattoos and acting like punks -- that is to say acting like kids. Nothing futuristic about it. Then they kill a bunch of defenseless humans, like a bunch of jerks. Quentin even likens them to Star Trek: The Next Generation -- they are the NEW X-Men; we are supposed to notice that that show went off the air many years ago, when Quentin cannot have been very old. Nothing new here. Again, not exactly the sublime ideological confrontation Quentin wanted. They are just bullies and Morrison wants us to see them as lame. It may be we are supposed to see them as lame because Morrison is using them to criticize his own, supposedly "New" X-Men, but planned or not, if your bad guys are lame your story is no fun, so it does not matter what your point was.

Your story is also no fun if your good guys are lame, and that is what we get next: Xavier says "the Xavier institute does not tolerate vigalante assaults." Really? I thought that was pretty much what the X-Men were, masked vigalantes who going around assaulting people. They bombed a facility in China without warning not so many issues ago. Lame. Also lame: it is clear that the X-Men suspect Quentin killed those humans -- you think someone could find out for sure, somehow. They just sit in a room talking lame ideas of what to do with rebels -- give them the vote, let them grow out of this phase and don't act like a jerk, give them limits. LAME.

Magneto, very much in character as Xorn, I guess, takes the "special class" camping in the subplot: "Let us learn from one another as we share the beauty and mystery of this great world together." Ernst says that Martha, the telepathic floating brain, is telling her that Xorn was locked in a jail for years. I can buy, but I don't want to, that Xorn's helmet, like Magneto's, shields him from telepathy; but how on earth is he able to trick Martha into seeing the Xorn story? If he already converted her and she knows he is Magneto and is lying for him, then how did he do that? He says more peaceful cliches -- he is getting quite annoying at this point. Then we see they are being watched. OK. Fine.

On the plus side Quentin kills a guy by "carving his name right across his memory" and the "Magneto was Right" shirt he wears the next day is great. Also great is Emma's description of the drug kick: "I felt angelic and violently insane for five hours."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

TV in Review this Week

Lost is again the only thing I am going to talk about this week, but feel free to use the comments to this post to discuss any TV you saw this week.

Like a lot of people I was annoyed by the introduction, at the beginning of season three, of Paulo and Nikki -- we are to understand they have been on the island the whole time and suddenly they are foregroundded, and we are supposed to accept them as characters of equal status as Locke, Kate and Jack. Any good screenwriting guide will warn you about a mistake called third act characters -- with very few exceptions, all your characters must be in place by the end of the third act: introduce a character later in the story and audiences will resist identifying with them. This is what Paulo and Nikki are when they first appear -- you just instantly hate them for no reason than that they were introduced late.

In this week's episode, however, we learn that their introduction was not what it first appeared -- this has all been an elaborate set up for a bit of a joke in short story form. It is quite fun, and there are some fun self-conscious bits -- the initial Nikki flashback pokes fun at what will happen later in the episode. It is a dark little Hitchcock Presents self-contained short with no relevance to any later episodes.

Or will it become relevant? Remember -- in this same episode Locke warns Paulo, when he searches for a hiding place for his treasure, that nothing on this island stays buried.

Lost is Genius.