Friday, August 31, 2007

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 a week goes by and I have failed to add you to the blog roll TELL ME TO DO IT AGAIN, and KEEP TELLING ME UNTIL IT GETS DONE. I can be lazy about updating the non-post parts of this site.

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 (but now might not be). That is often the reason I fail to get back to people, and on a blog, after a few days, the comments thread dies and I just kind of forget about it. Let's use this space to fix that, because it does need to be fixed; I look like a jackass sometimes, leaving people hanging. I will TRY to respond to any questions here.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore. For example, if you thought of a great quote for the great quote commonplace book, but now no one is reading that, you could put it here.

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.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mike Mignola's Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 1 (2 of 2)

The thing that got me into Hellboy was the Alan Moore blurb on the back of one of the collections -- I cannot find it right now but he talks about all the influences that have been synthesized: Kirby, Lovecraft, Toth, world mythology. Hellboy, and his world, is a design triumph, a tremendous artistic success. I just want to grab a few moments where Mignola handles his influences beyond superheroes.

The first panel is split between a haunted castle structure (which turns out to be a broken church with no roof) and a prose diary in courier type-writer font, prose right out of the pulps. An American Sergeant, gruffly skeptical of all the paranormal stuff going on around him, writing in England in 1944 and World War Two is thrown in as well. The next panel is a triumph -- The Nazi dark priest or whatever. This guy combines three different kinds of bad guys into one formidable whole – A Nazi, a Satanic High Priest, and a Mad Scientist – he has a swastika on his chest surrounded by a upside-down pentagram; he quotes Lovecraftian speeches about evil, but also has crazy techno gloves that have a host of wires connected to what look like various power sources. I think he is generating a kind of lightning blast, but the point I think is another allusion, to Frankenstein, the creation of a monster with a soul. Mignola is setting a great stage for the introduction of his character.

In his office, the professor says he feels that he has been cut off from his past, that he cannot remember, that he is too old. Hellboy’s first line ever is to tell the professor that he looks fine to him. The line is reflexive: Mignola is telling the audience that the horror comic is not cut off from its past even though superhero comics dominate, that there is a lot to draw on and a lot to remember.

I realized that I was moved to write these posts this week because of Morrison’s most recent Batman story. I was thinking of Hellboy as a better example of artistic synthesis and allusion to many different kinds of comic book history. You may disagree, but I think it is a good thing to consider as a contrast.

I also should say that I am not that familiar with how John Byrne fits into all this. I call the character Mignola's because the character is so closely associated with him, but I know it is more complicated than that. Unfortunately, I am not the guy to take this on -- anyone want to give it a shot?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comics Out August 29, 2007

Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Eric Powell's Action Comics 855. Bizarro attacks earth (specifically Superman's house). Superman travels to the weird cube shaped Bizarro World, which gets a big two page spread. Superman, it turns out, will be extra powerful now (under the light of the blue sun) and may even get new powers! But Bizarro will be different as well, changed perhaps. Once on the Bizarro world Superman is swarmed by mobs of Bizarros all talking crazy and acting insane. But the issue has heart as well (Superman remembers a tough childhood). And it turns out that the Bizarro world may not have long to exist and may take Superman with it! Now he has to fulfil the title and Escape From the Bizarro World!

I liked this issue better when it was written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely and was called All Star Superman #8.

And what happened with the whole Superman joins the Injustice Gang to stop Zod. Did I miss that? I know a few issues of Action Comics passed since I read that story, but I thought they were by fill in writers and artists and I was supposed to pick up that plot here -- is this some kind of a flashback to fill me in on Bizarro? I am not getting this stupid book anymore. And I kinda maybe could have been convinced to like Eric Powell's art, but now I am in too bad a mood to care.

Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo's Hellboy: Darkness Calls 5 (of 6). I am glad I stuck with this even though Mignola is not doing the art. Every issue I like Duncan Fegredo more and more. The third panel of this issue with the acorn, the arrow and the specks of blood is just perfect, especially as the action is hilariously frozen in the background of the next panel. The Pan's Labyrinth guy and the Kirby energy dots on the Medieval / Russian priest lookin guy are great as well. I am about an inch away from saying I like this as much as Mignola's art. The story is maybe a little exhausting, with this Terminator guy that just keeps coming and coming every issue, but it is a great visual reward.

In Comics News, Newsarma has an interview with Douglas Wolk and a two part excerpt from his new book, his chapter on The Invisibles. I have not had a chance to look at it closely, but it seems like smart stuff, even though I cannot enjoy how messy The Invisibles is -- I really just like the issues where the art does not suck. NOTHING can justify sucky art to me. Newsarama also has an interview with Brian K Vaughan about his upcoming Buffy issue, and it turns out Adrian Alphona, of Runaways fame, will be doing the art on Spiderman Loves Mary Jane.

Also on Newsarama, Batman 668 gets a review and they guy reviewing didn't notice Williams is mimicking other art styles until this issue. How many people are reading his review? I bet it is more than are reading this blog. Scheesh.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From Oscar Wilde's The Critic as Artist (Commonplace Book)

This is for you Streebo. Not to change your mind -- just for you to think about.

That is what the highest criticism really is, the record of one's own soul. It is more fascinating than history, as it is concerned simply with ones self. It is more delightful than philosophy, as its subject is concrete and not abstract, real and not vague. It is the only civilized form of autobiography, as it deals not with the events, but with the thoughts of one's life; not with the physical accidents of deed or circumstance, but with the spiritual moods and imaginative passions of the mind.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mike Mignola's Hellboy: Seed of Destruction 1 (1 of 2)

[Just for fun today I though I would write about Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1. We hit a good stopping point with the Whedon posts. Nothing says I can't have more than one issue-by-issue analysis going, or that I can't try one issue and just drop it.]

The second page of the first issue of Hellboy shows a superhero -- in a army trench-coat, with a bright red shirt, covered in mud splatter and drinking something out of a tin cup. The Torch of Liberty. He looks none-too-heroic. Mignola acknowledges the superhero genre that dominates comics -- and that has such a huge influence on what he will be writing -- but is careful to indicate that it is only a small part of the background of his horror story. In the image he just looks like one of the soldiers, but with a bright shirt and a kato-mask.

With the Nazis Mignola does an amazing job bringing together disparate elements into a new whole. We see regular Nazi soldiers early on in the issue, but in the foreground are "weird" Nazi villains -- stylized and uber-creepy. One has a kind of gas-mask on his face. The other has a swastika prominently displayed on one of the lenses of his goggle-glasses. These are the kind of bad guys you figure could be for the superhero on page two, except they look like they could eat him for breakfast. Mignola is creating a space where Hellboy will be needed for these threats -- Superheroes won’t do the job, he implies. Hellboy will appear at the broken church in front of the statue of Christ. He is born in fire – a bigger fire than implied by the superhero’s torch.

The good guys adopt him as their own, and this flashback ends with a photograph of everyone who was there. Here, again, Mignola handles his influences deftly – in the front and centre of the photograph is Hellboy, of course, and over him are the mystics. At the back and to the right is the superhero. His emblem is still clear on his chest, but the black and white of the photo has robbed him of his bright colors, and the shadows have effectively taken away his mask – his eyes look much like the shadowed eyes of the solders around him. He used to have a bright red shirt; Hellboy, in a nice detail, has the faintest hint of red, even in a black and white photo.

The first appearance of the adult Hellboy picks up the superhero image again. He is in a trench coat and has military packs on his belt – just like the superhero. And just like the superhero the trench coat frames bright red, here Hellboy’s chest. Mignola could not be more clear – Hellboy is here as a replacement to the superhero, as someone to handle what the superhero cannot. That is why mythological creatures stand behind him for his first appearance – this is what he is here to face.

The professor is attacked, and Hellboy responds. This is what he narrates: “I’d be the first to admit that I have not shortage of faults. But if I had to pick one, the one that’s gotten me into the most trouble over the years … it would be that I sometimes get angry. And when I get angry I sometimes do stupid things. Things like charging headlong into a pitch black room. I’m tougher and stronger than any human. But I can’t see any better in the dark. I wish I could.” Hellboy is clearly linked to the Hulk here – it is the addition to a wry sense of self that marks the difference. It is also one of the things that makes Hellboy the book stand out. The hero is kind of a lug-head and knows it and is not above being sarcastic. And, it turns out, he is firing the gun that the superhero in the prologue carried. It was given to him from a superhero called the Torch of Liberty. The torch – get it? – has been passed from the superhero genre to Hellboy, and he must carry it forward.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Criticism in the Comments (Comment Pull Quote)

[I just had an idea: we have lots of smart and/or important discussions in the comments, but I fear there are a number of readers who do not post here that also do not read the comments. How about Sundays I take a comment from the week and give it its own post here, to make sure it is not missed by incurious readers, like the discussion of heart in Casanova with Jason Powell and Matt Fraction last week?]

Unfortunately, this idea was inspired by a negative comment made today on a post from four days ago, but the guy makes at least one fair, if old, point, and I thought I should bring my response forward. It would make me nuts if anyone read it but did not read my response, and it makes me nuts thinking there are people who are thinking what he is thinking and not saying anything.]

So here it is. The Brian's comment was cut and pasted, so any mistakes are his own. I corrected a word on my post, because, well, it's my blog. Ha.

Brian said...

I'm not even particularly fond of this arc so far- although I think it's going somewhere- but I find the statement that your favorite Morrison story was his JLA: Classified arc.

It was pointed out by a Wizard writer, talking to Douglas Wolk about his book and mentioning yours as a point of comparison, that your book was all text-based and didn't talk about the art at all. That's a very real criticism, as art is a huge part of comics.

I'm sure a comparison could be made between this Batman story and the JLA story: three issues apiece and involving some of the same characters, issue 668 even making reference to a mind-controlling ape, but I just feel the need to point out that these Batman issues win on an art level. Not like this makes a good comic automatically- Killing Girl is still pretty bad, actually- but those JLA issues have one massive flaw in a place where this arc finds much of its power.

It's also worth noting that your lack to engage the visual side of things is missing out on a lot of the implied history of reinvention.

Brian said

I know you address the art in these reviews- you think the style comes off as a mishmash on the page, which I think speaks to an inability to read the image.

Geoff Klock said

I am well aware that the criticism that my book does not talk about art is a serious one. I always defend it the same way: The ground-breaking book on poet and painter William Blake was written by Northrop Frye, but he mostly just talked about the words. So did many of the people around that time. Blake studies was starting out and everyone did what they could do best. Now, everyone loves to point out that weakness, but there is no way to deny that Blake studies would be nowhere without Frye. My superhero book is not as ground-breaking as Frye's but the point is the same -- I wrote what I was good at writing about, and never said that was the last word on the subject.

Second, I was 21 when I wrote it and that was seven years ago.

Third, Reprinting art in an academic book -- not easy, or cheap.

Fourth: One of the main aims of this blog has been to look more at the art. I have many posts here about visual style. It has been something I have been working on for years, because I know it is important. Go read some of the comments on the New X-Men posts and you will find people telling me that I am spending far too much time focusing on art, that it does not matter that much. I disagree and say so, and continue on talking about the art.

Fifth: My comments on Batman are a bullet point review. A first impression. Now, with Tim Callahan, more will be coming, and the art will be discussed. Again -- I never said that Batman review was everything that could be said.

Sixth: you can say that my claim about style shows an inability to read the image, but notice how you offer no evidence, reasons or examples. If you think the style is unified -- not a crazy or uncommon claim and one that we are all going to get into again with Tim Callahan -- be be a little more specific at how that can be.

I am going to avoid talking about your grammar and tone of voice. I am going to avoid grammar because I make mistakes like you make here all the time. I am going to avoid talking about tone of voice because everyone can see it, and it does not need pointing out.

That last paragraph there uses a fancy rhetorical device with a 14 letter name -- it involves talking about something by claiming you are not going to talk about it. Ain't I a stinker?

The last two paragraphs of mine are cheap, yeah? I never know how to respond to internet criticism. Talk all nice, and you look like a push-over. Talk mean, and you become a message board psycho.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Brad Winderbaum's Satacracy 88.10.1

The first part of the tenth episode Brad Winderbaum's Emmy Award winning Satacracy 88 is up at Also, it is right here.

The teaser flash-forward prologue is great here, especially with the swooping camera that then modifies to give us stills of Angela and Susan. Michael Bay would have just swooped in and out, forcing you to ask your date what the hell was going on.

Something about the film quality, the three tough chicks, the car, the lighting, the setting and the quick beat-down of a male aggressor are all suggesting Death Proof to me, in a good way -- part of the way an episode of less than two minutes must work is by invoking larger patterns of violence for authority and scope.

Cassie Pappas, who plays Susan, has an undeniable charisma. Something about the way she holds herself as she walks back to the car.

Friday, August 24, 2007

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 a week goes by and I have failed to add you to the blog roll TELL ME TO DO IT AGAIN, and KEEP TELLING ME UNTIL IT GETS DONE. I can be lazy about updating the non-post parts of this site.

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 (but now might not be). That is often the reason I fail to get back to people, and on a blog, after a few days, the comments thread dies and I just kind of forget about it. Let's use this space to fix that, because it does need to be fixed; I look like a jackass sometimes, leaving people hanging. I will TRY to respond to any questions here.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore. For example, if you thought of a great quote for the great quote commonplace book, but now no one is reading that, you could put it here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 12 (Part Two of Two)

[This post is part of an issue by issue look at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For more of the same, click the Astonishing X-Men tag at the bottom of this post.]

Finally we come to the last page, the return of the Hellfire club that has been whispering in Emma's head the whole time -- a Hellfire Club that includes Casandra Nova. Emma of course comes from the Hellfire Club, so this is a great choice; it is amazing Morrison never invoked them in any serious way. But to put Morrison's Nova in the club is beyond brilliant. Here Nova appears on Genosha with the super-sentinel -- we are fully drawing on Morrison's first arc. It never occurred to me Whedon would draw on Morrison so directly. Ironically drawing on a predecessor character feels fresh, because I did not know it was in the options box. Whedon's anxiety of influence revisonary swerve is amazingly successful: He will not have to stand against Morrison so starkly if he offers himself up as a continuation of what Morrison began.

If I was talking about the relationship between New X-Men and Astonishing X-Men in How to Read Superhero Comics and Why, I would have quoted Bloom's fifth revisionary ratio, Askesis: "The later poet does not, as in Kenosis, undergo a revisionary movement of emptying, but of curtailing; he yields up part of his own human and imaginative endowment, so as to separate himself from others, including the precursor, and he does this in his poem by so stationing it in regard to the parent-poem as to make that poem undergo and askesis too; the precursor's endowment is also truncated."

But you probably get the idea. A Morrison run separate from the Whedon run demands comparison, and Whedon will lose, just from lack of scope. But if Whedon continues Morrison then his run is a part of a new whole. That means that Whedon's run does not stand on its own, but it does gain power from the connection; and Morrison's run is now retroactively figured as part of Whedon's, the necessary "prologue."

Cassaday repeat background watch: Here and there, but the art is top-notch in this issue.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comics Out August 22, 2007

Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson's The Order #2. Barry Kitson draws sixteen same size panels of a girl sitting in a chair talking, five more of her sitting in bed talking, and four more in the same vein as the first sixteen. I would not have believed that that could be done without boring me to death, but this guy is good -- the little variations in each panel are thoroughly entertaining. The shots of her at other times in her past have a great rhythm as well. It all works wonderfully to make us care about her before the little bombshell on the last page, which has me intrigued. Also loony Russians go nuts and a bear with a jetpack gets punched in the face, if you want to be so crass as to talk about the meat of the story.

Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III's Batman #668. I am starting to feel that Morrison's Batman run is gaining on his X-Men run in terms of how is a normally great storyteller screwing up this badly moments. With the exception of some hauntingly designed tableau's -- the black and red autopsy, the bat shaped and claw shaped panels, the painted palm and sunset -- I really want nothing to do with this. The Agatha Christie murder mystery in New X-Men was the worst thing Morrison has ever done. You would think he would not go near it again, but here we are. Meta-comments on "classic" book-case doors and team ups are getting on my nerves. Morrison is not Joss Whedon, and should never try -- he has his own strengths. Idiotic, poorly "re-imagined" secondary characters from a generation long past, like the French and Argentinian Batmen are pissing me off even more, especially in such a serious atmosphere -- not one of these guys has been recreated anywhere near as thoughtfully as the least of the Seven Soldiers. The Indian, as someone here pointed out, is just a stereotype. The Knight and Squire are maybe an exception here, but that is because I liked them so much in my favorite Morrison story, JLA: Classified. In fact most of the Batmen are barely "re-imagined" at all -- they are to stand in, for no reason that I can see (and I am kind of an expert on this), for various moments in comic book history; they are carefully and skillfully rendered to invoke art styles from those periods, but the result is an annoying mishmash on the page. Coupled with the "retro"-style opening, this book is reminding less of Planetary's first fourteen issues, with their careful synthesis of comic book history, and more of a dark age version (oh the irony that Morrison has fallen into the mode he helped work us out of) of Alan Moore's irritatingly "post-modern" Supreme run that had "Superman" analogues from various ages, skillfully rendered, interacting in a bad story.

Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja's The Immortal Iron Fist #8. I used up a lot of my energy just now bitching about Morrison, but don't let brevity stop you from knowing -- KNOWING -- that this is a great book. Character names like Dog Brother #1 and the Prince of Orphans, a story broken up into "round 1" and "round 2" rather than "part 1" and "part 2" (aren't all great comics basically fights anyway) and a to be continued panel that looks like a Mortal Kombat menu are only a few of the reasons to get this book.

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men #22. I will save this for my issue by issue analysis, except to say, it turns out Whedon had a reason Danger does not kill (sorry Joss...), and, for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on just yet (but may have to do with shipping delays) this issue was a bit of a letdown. Maybe. I have to think about it. And you can be assured I will. That's kinda my thing.

Nothing in comics news hit me, but the DC and Marvel solicits for November are out. I did not find anything worth a mention, but if there is something I need to be paying attention to, please let me know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hugh Laurie's "Mystery" (Commonplace Book)

The commonplace book is supposed to be a collection of good quotes. But I can use it for cool YouTube clips as well. Here is one of doofy British comedian Hugh Laurie -- who many Americans know only as Dr. House -- performing a song of his own composition on his sketch comedy show A Bit of Fry and Laurie. The genius of the song is how the unremitting rhyme scheme generates all the best lines.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 12 (Part One of Two)

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

The X-Men and Xavier defeat Danger and Casandra Nova's super-sentinel, Xavier gets in trouble, and the hook for the next arc is revealed.

In a breathtaking page Whedon must have been drooling over Kitty Pride saves everyone from the super-sentinel blast. If I love seeing Xavier be a bad-ass, Whedon must love seeing Kitty be a bad-ass. "Is that all you got ... bub" she says, exhausted. Cassaday's super-sentinel is gorgeous.

Whedon tries to outdo the climax to his first arc in this arc by simply doubling the number of Fastball Specials that will not be named as such, and deflating the device with Emma's "You can't just throw people at all your problems." It's pretty funny, I guess, but not the most successful "do it and deflate" Whedon moment. But you can see why he wants it: he wants to replace the big male powerhouse Wolverine with his little geeky girl fighter in the Fastball Special and in the book as a whole. He wants to put her front and center always. That is his revisonary swerve and always will be. Smart girls replace dumb men: Buffy, Firefly, Sugarshock. Even Runaways already has this in the concept.

Emma simply wanders off in the middle of the fight. Cyclops says "Honey...? War?" which is not exactly in character, but I do love me some Whedon dialogue, so I will forgive it. This is all to build toward one of Whedon's best hooks, the hook to end year one -- one more bit of tension before the reveal of who has been whispering in Emma's head since issue 6.

The fight scenes here are beautiful and pretty fun I guess, though maybe this one is a bit of an anti-climax compared to the last two. Henry drops the professor to attack Danger and defends himself by saying when you deal with computers you have to work on instinct: that is a repeat of what Colossus did with Emma, but without the joke. Whedon may be running out of fight ideas after four issues of fighting.

Kitty says "I promise to come back" to Colossus after she asks him to throw her into the sentinel. It is a nice moment because it cuts immediately to what the issue is in the scene. Economical is what I would call it. This kind of thing, and not the jokes, is why Whedon is great.

Once inside she gets the sentinel to unlock a program Danger has closed - its memory of the Genosha attacks from Morrison's second issue. It flies away in grief, taking Danger with it since she has uploaded herself into it. This is a little tricky. What you want to do in a story is establish a rule, then adhere to that rule in surprising ways. In Sixth Sense we establish that the kid can talk to dead people to help them; at the end we figure out Willis is one of the dead. Here I was unclear on the rule -- I did not realize that the machines Danger brought to life were capable of emotions like grief. I know the old school sentinel from earlier in the arc talked religious nonsense, but I thought she was screwing with the X-Men by remote control, not giving a sentinel religious feelings; the blackbird jet, I notice, did not care that it blew up a base in China in Morrison's X-Men annual (if it is the same jet and if she did not lock that memory away as she did with the sentinel). All this is to say that the defeat of the super sentinel is maybe a little unsatisfying. It was not clear to me why Danger could not re-program the sentinel and return right away. But again, replacing Wolverine with Kitty is the point -- Wolverine's violence will not save the day; the day requires a woman to unlock an emotion. Alright. Fine. I can live with that as a theme or whatever.

In the last post I mentioned that Whedon's Xavier is as persuasive as Millar's Xavier. Here the comparison sinks Whedon. In the denouement to this issue Xavier, it turns out, knew he was oppressing an AI intelligence when he created the Danger Room. The Xavier of Astonishing X-Men 11, like the (for me) definitive Xavier of Millar's Ultimate X-Men is morally questionable, which is wonderful. I like Xavier to have a creepy post-human sheen of beyond-good-and-evil about him. But Xavier in this issue is less like Millar's Xavier and more like Brubaker's Xavier in the "sort of dreary but maybe sort of well written I guess" Deadly Genesis: he is not beyond good and evil so much as he is just guilty, in a crummy please forgive me kind of way. In Millar's Xavier and the Xavier of just last issue he knows he breaks merely human law and does not care -- he is writing mutant law. Here, as in Deadly Genesis, he is just a bit of a fuck-up, and pitifully accepts the censure of the team he created. This is a big step down. It is sad, and lame, to see they guy who took apart Danger with an axe hanging his head in shame over his bad behavior like a wounded puppy.

I will talk about the last page next time, in a short post.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Casanova and Pathos with Matt Fraction (reprint from Free Form Comments)

Jason Powell asked a really good question about Casanova in yesterday's Free Form Comments; I answered it in a way I think Matt Fraction, the author, would not have. I thought it was a good topic for discussion, and knowing that Fraction drops by sometimes and comments as well, I thought I would give him a heads up if he wanted to weigh in on this. He did, which is awesome. Now I have cut and pasted the whole conversation into its own post so this quite good back and forth is not missed by incurious readers who, like me, often read blogs without reading comments. If you want to add to this discussion, do it here and not in Free Form, if you want to be heard.

Jason Powell said...

Geoff, a statement and a question for you.

Statement: I finally got and read my copy of the Cassanova Vol. 1 hardcover. Obviously you've raved about it many times in many forums but the single line that had really made me curious was your saying that its "surface is too dense to pick apart in a single reading." Very evocatively worded sentence, I thought, and I wanted to read the book that inspired it. I was happy to discover that it was true. There really is a lot going on, and in such a way where you glide along the surface picking up as much as you can on the way and hope you didn't miss anything TOO important. I haven't re-read it a second time to see all the stuff I missed yet.

Question: Would maybe be answered by the aforementioned re-read-that-hasn't-happened-yet, BUT -- what I didn't get was the warm-fuzzy-toned ending with him and his sister. Their relationship was pretty insane and not at all warm throughout the book, but then they seem to share this heartfelt, familial good-bye at the end. If there was a place where the transition occurred, somewhere amidst the densely-packed information, that's one I missed.
Geoff Wrote

I love me some Casanova. It is my favorite comic book of all time. I have gone on and on and on and on about how great it is, perhaps to the point of mind-numbing stupidity. I also know Matt Fraction reads this blog, and occasionally comments here. I hope this bit next bit will not offend him, but I am not about to avoid good, direct questions from people who post here.

I did not realize how much "heart" matters to Fraction in Casanova until I heard Fraction talk about it in the Comic Geek Speak interview we did. He did not like the comparison of Kill Bill vol 1 to Casanova because he felt Kill Bill vol 1 had no heart. That kind of surprised me. It wasn't that I thought of Casanova (the book) as heartless; it is just that there was so much right with it I did not think the heart Fraction was talking about was vital to the book's success. I did not notice he was going for that effect so much. You can see heart I think in both Kill Bill vol 1 and in Casanova but in both cases I think the heart of both is how much FUN the creators are having, and how clearly they LOVE what they are doing, and the influences they are drawing on. That Fraction's personal heart is the heart of the book is clear to me from the backmatter to issue 7.

When I got to that moment in 7 where the tone goes warm and fuzzy I just read it as one more of-the-wall surface effect: monks fused together in a wad! floating head exposition! hot girls! an emotional ending! robots! But from the interview I did with Fraction it was clear that he did not see it like that -- he sees emotional moments like that as the core that anchors the surface. If I am right that he sees it that way, and if you read it that way, you might call that brother-sister good bye a small error, an un-earned emotional weight. But if you read it like me it's just one more pure surface crazy throw everything at the wall and -- MY GOD --EVERYTHING sticks moment that makes Casanova fun.

Or I just need to re-read Casanova again with this in mind: there may be more justification for their good-bye than I remember. You can always argue that their antagonism is displaced love, that brothers and sisters always fight but really love each other through and through, but that is not what I would argue. I would argue the emotion is just one more nutzo surface effect, one more thing to add to the mix at the close of the book because -- as the narration of a fight scene in issue 2 reads -- THE GENRE DEMANDS IT!

fraction. said...

The hardest thing I ever had to do was forgive someone that broke my heart.

"This / Is the process whereby pain of the past in its pastness / May be converted into the future tense / Of joy," as Robert Penn Warren wrote.

Or "War is over," as Casanova/I stole&said, at the instant when he saw the truth in it. And what's the follow-up to that classic line? "If you want it."

I wanted it, or needed it, maybe, as did Casanova. And thus did the pain of the past begin its miraculous transmutation through time.

You might choose to see how that motif exists throughout the rest of the work if you wish or, as you do now, as an unearned (or at least questionable) gratuity, or, as Geoff does, yet another Nouvelle Vague-style crescendo piled upon crescendo that achieves subversiveness by being exactly the kind of traditional third-act payoff CASANOVA had set one up to not expect, or, most simply, just flip the page to where the villain of the piece and three naked women are preparing to eat a guy for laffs. I'm just happy you read it at all, and loaned it space in your head, even for a little while.

I don't know how anybody forgives anybody, but I believe in its power and profundity.

Jason Powell wrote:

I don't mean to imply that I thought it was "unearned" or "unjustified." More like, incongruous. But really -- when I said it was something I "didn't get," I really was putting the onus on myself -- it wasn't one of those disingenuous "I'm sorry, but I just don't get this" ploys that critics sometimes use to try and take the edge off the fact that they hate something.

So I wasn't sure if maybe there was a thread buried among the crazy latticework of Cassanova that set me up properly for the warm, fuzzy ending and I just missed it. (I read it all in one night, and I really was thinking periodically as I was reading, thoughts like, "Okay, I think I've got it all straight so far -- no, wait -- what? Oh yeah, right, I remember that.")

Maybe a good way of explaining my reaction is not to say that I wondered whether the ending was "earned" or not, but rather whether this was the ending I was supposed to want. Like, should I have been rooting all along for the brother and sister to reconcile?

Hmm. Now after all this talk I think I'll just have to read it again to see how it strikes me on the second go-round.

Anyway, cool to have both Geoff and the author himself weigh in. And P.S. to Mr. Fraction -- I love the bit where that one guy shoots the other guy for saying that The Beatles are overrated. Honestly, who among us hasn't wanted to do that?
fraction. said...


i didn't mean "unearned" as a pejorative there at all, or to correct you somehow if you did indeed feel that way-- i just didn't want to sound like Mr. Writer Guy coming down from on high and instructing you on THE way to interact with the text because you so clearly know nothing and blah blah. i hate hate hate that shit, and you see it on the internet all the time, you know?

anyway, it was a good question so i wanted to respond a little-- not correct you, but toss it out there for consideration.

the only invalid way to respond to the work-- mine, yours, anybody's-- is to say i don't get it, as that says nothing about the work and everything about you (the royal you, as it were, and not the you-you). because that's really just saying i like what i know. in which case you've nothing to say about anything new at all.

but that's another show, oprah.

Friday, August 17, 2007

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, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If a week goes by and I have failed to add you to the blog roll TELL ME TO DO IT AGAIN, and KEEP TELLING ME UNTIL IT GETS DONE. I can be lazy about updating the non-post parts of this site.

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 (but now might not be). That is often the reason I fail to get back to people, and on a blog, after a few days, the comments thread dies and I just kind of forget about it. Let's use this space to fix that, because it does need to be fixed; I look like a jackass sometimes, leaving people hanging. I will TRY to respond to any questions here.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore. For example, if you thought of a great quote for the great quote commonplace book, but now no one is reading that, you could put it here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 11

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

In this issue Xavier squares off against Danger, while the X-Men regroup and join him.

This issue opens strong, continuing the excellent framing story from the last issue -- even panels paced and sized for maximum tension, and great, terse exchanges. After the initial setup, Xavier simply plows into Danger with the cab of an 18-wheeler (rigged to allow him to work the pedals with his hands, a nice, unremarked detail by Cassaday). "What did you think? That I'd save myself with reason?" As I mentioned earlier, Xavier is one of my favorite characters, and I love it when he gets to be a bad-ass -- this surely has to be the most bad-ass Xavier issue ever. Danger was so collected fighting the X-Men; it is a god-damned sight to see, when Xavier riles her to the point where she degenerates into "Kill this fucking cripple!" He even gets her into a mind-space and throws philosophy at her ("If no one had limitations what would God do with his time?") before the reveal that this is all a distraction so he can hack her robot body to pieces with an axe. Best Xavier issue anywhere. At the end she just looks at him and says "They don't have the slightest idea of what you are, do they?" to which he replies calmly "I like to think Jean knew." Mark Millar came up with a serious bad-ass Xavier in Ultimate X-Men -- probably the best investigation into the character I know and the most persuasive Xavier to me -- but this is as good as anything Millar came up with. This is my Charles Xavier: aloof, brilliant, in control, zealous to a fault, and not incapable of violence and coercion.

But this issue is not without its flaws. Early in their fight Xavier tells Danger that he has had "a friend" shut down all machines in the area so that she cannot bring any to life; he adds that "this is not his battle." I find it unpersuasive that THIS Xavier, a guy who has done some morally questionable things (as we will find next issue), and who takes her apart with an axe knowing what she is, would feel so honor bound to establish this kind of artificial proving ground, and not just have his friend, obviously Magneto, atomize her. That would be the practical thing to do -- as far as he knows she may have just killed all of his X-Men, and the whole truck-axe thing suggest he wants to be practical, violently and ruthlessly so. You can argue that given his responsibility for her (I do not want to get into the next issue here), and given that he thinks he has lost everything, and given that he is an ego-maniac, he would just want to do it himself, personally, but invoking Magneto in this half-assed way is just not doing it for me. The explanation is lacking, and raises more questions than it answers. Whedon should have avoided it altogether. I don't really see why is is needed in the first place. I bet editorial insisted on it.

And finally it turns out EVERYONE -- all the X-Men and all those children -- are alive. That is lame ass. The explanation in the issue: Danger only cares about Xavier, they mean nothing to her. Well that fails on a couple of levels. One, it takes self-control to incapacitate but not kill a bunch of trained fighters -- if she really did not care about them I think she would have simply killed them all. She did throw a giant spike through two of them and it must have been easier to have it kill them than to calculate a way to make that not instantly fatal. Two, if she hates Xavier so much surely killing the students that mean so much to him would be a great way to strike at him. And don't give me that "Robots cannot understand human emotion" stuff; she is out for revenge and we see she gets very angry. Also she understands enough about humans to make detailed religious metaphors, and that is way more advanced than emotion.

Finally, at the end of this issue, in its cliffhanger of the giant sentinel from Morrison's run -- nice to see that again -- we see Whedon's structure in total for this arc: (1) a prologue, (2) a sentinel attack, (3) a sort of locked in a haunted house thing, (4) the X-Men versus Danger, (5) Xavier versus Danger, and (6) Danger and Casandra Nova's giant wild sentinel against the X-Men and Xavier. You can understand why the famously talky Whedon might err on the side of action, and people did call it an error. (Whedon lamented that fans complained the first arc had too little action and the second arc had too much). But I admire the attempt to give us such a sustained series of action set pieces set off by sweet character moments like Peter and Kitty talking in this issue.

Cassaday repeat/background watch: Danger gets a zoom, Kitty gets a repeat, and there are quite a few panels at the mansion where everyone is in a grey matrix. Overall, not bad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Comics Out August 15, 2007

Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes's Justice League of America #12. This has been a very strange run. I liked the first six issues, the arc about building the Justice League, with all its clever fake outs (Starro! New Gods! Amazo!) and I liked that it focused on one specific character I was not all that familiar with, but came to like, the Red Tornado. The becoming human and then losing it has been done too much, but I like how to story was told, with the perspective of so many voices, well organized into a coherent whole. Then there was this weird little nostalgic epilogue to that story, an issue without a conflict whose centerpiece was a gatefold image of the team posing for a photograph. After Metzler went to so much trouble in Identity Crisis to introduce serious ethical lapses and rape into a Justice League period that seemed so upbeat, it was odd to watch this guy do things such as resurrect the old JLA headquarters from Superfriends (even if he did update it). Then we got a rambling JLA/JSA crossover that demanded I get JSA issues to follow it (I don't know the JSA). The focus of the crossover was the Legion (who I also dont know) -- more crazy nostalgia -- then really had nothing do to with any of them. All it did was bring back an older version of a hero that got killed off in another book I didn't read -- more nostalgia! Ah for the days when so-and-so wore the mantle of hero-guy. Also that story had no villain -- heck it was dealing with too many characters as it was, so I can see why, but still. Then we get a one shot high concept thing with two JLA members without powers trying to escape from out of the rubble of a collapsed building. No villain, but points for doing something new. Now the run ends here -- with another no villain, character study where good guys just wax nostalgic about what a beautiful thing the Justice League is. And we literally just did that five issues ago. People accused Planetary of navel gazing, but at least is looking at OTHER comic books. If it wasn't an excuse for writing a superhero comic book like a fawning obitutary you could almost admire the idea of trying to write twelve issues of a major team book where characer study replaces punch-em-ups.

And to make matters worse I don't have much patience for a writer who introduces mysteries and conflicts, then leaves them for someone else to deal with. Because I am not going to continue to follow this book unless I know, going in, I like the new guy.

Also did I need "meet my young daughter" as a signal for "We're going to have sex."

In comics news two things of note, for me at least. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch will be taking on the regular Fantastic Four title. Click here for the interview. I have always wanted to like a Fantastic Four book (The first issue of Millar's Ultimate FF, and Morrison's FF 1234 was as close as I came), so I am kinda excited about this. Millar saying this helps:

I got great advice from Stan before I started and I've taken this onboard for the main book. He told me there was no idea too insane for Fantastic Four and that was actually very liberating. Some ideas are too crazy for the Hulk or Spidey or the X-Men, but the FF is where the crazy ideas live and breathe. You have to give them a hook a nine year old can understand, but they can be as wild as you like. This is what led to the Marvel Zombies (something that seemed so unlikely editorial actually laughed when I suggested it) and I've tried to bring that same head to this run too. I've been flying on it since I started and really having a good time.

And Hitch says this, which I like:

For better or worse, Ultimates became a magnum opus of sorts and you can't follow it with another one. I can relax. So I'm just setting out to hit the schedule and get some big, bold fun comics out and remind myself that it doesn't have to be hand-wringing, sweating, cursing, worry and poverty to make a good comic. It can actually be good fun, very rewarding and, in the great scheme of world problems, a walk in the park.

And Alex Ross is doing an Invaders/Avengers Crossover in regular continuity. I don't know anything about the Invaders, sort of the Golden Age Avengers who will travel forward in time to confront the modern age Avengers, but I know Alex Ross gets on my nerves. For stuff like this:

NRAMA: So…who needs villains?

AR: Not maybe that far, but the thing is, this is along the lines of a lot of storylines in my comics, especially Kingdom Come - what ultimately set off the trouble in that story is not an organized villain front, as much as it’s just superhumans screwing things up for each other.

The greatest conflicts write themselves without having to bring in the unknown quantity of the villain in the corner to come in and be the mover and shaker to really get everybody charged up against them. There will ber surprises to titillate and satisfy that need, though.

NRAMA: Given what you said there, it seems like there could be a temptation at least, to compare these Golden Age heroes to modern day? Almost the metatextual object lesson of, “No – look, this is what a hero is?” which DC kind of started off with in Infinite Crisis?

AR: Well, no, but in a way, I could see that people might think that we’re bringing the original Invaders to the present to “put the Marvel Universe back on track” like another project… There might be some dramatic implications on that front, given that people can look at what that project meant and what it did with the idea, but that’s not why we’re doing this.

Ross just worships the good old days of Golden Age heroes. You can see it everywhere with him, even when he tries to deny it. Super-Nostalgia.

And Metzler's JLA run, Invaders Avengers, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Civil War, World War Hulk. Where oh where have all the villains gone?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Stage Direction from a Samuel Beckett Play (Commonplace Book)

I cannot remember which short Beckett play this is from -- its one of the very short one or two pagers I think -- but here is the best stage direction ever:

"Door imperceptibly ajar"

That is pure deadpan Beckett funny, but you maybe have to be very immersed in Beckett, as I was, when I read it. I suppose, to be fair, it communicates something to the actor about the scene, maybe. But how on earth is a set designer supposed to accomplish this? How do you take into account, on the stage, something that, by definition, no one can notice? "Door imperceptibly ajar" translates onto the practical stage as "closed." You have to love Beckett.

Not as good, but still pretty great, is the infamous stage direction in Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. Shakespeare of course did not write his own stage directions, but you have to admire whoever got to add the equally deadpan funny "Exit, pursued by a bear" to the Shakespeare canon.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Onion AV Club on Superhero Comics

Noel Murray and Keith Phipps discuss superhero comics on the AV Club this week. The discussion is framed with a "Should the genre be dead" thing that is less what the piece is about and more a way of getting people to read their thoughts on comics. Much of what they say, long time comics readers know already: Morrison is cool, crossovers are exhausting, no one ever stays dead, most comics are dull, a handful stand out, monthly books try to refresh the same stories over and over and fail most of the time, re-prints are available if you want the best old version, superhero comics are culturally relevant, good writing is the future of good comics (I cannot believe someone had to make that point, and that it was not supplemented with good art is the future of good comics as well). The thing ends, as you expect it will, with "flaws and all, I think it's a genre that will remain relevant and alive as long a new batch of creators comes along every generation to reexamine what we want from our heroes, and what those wants say about us. (And to find new ways to make fight scenes interesting, of course.)" No surprises here.

Toward the end they get to how the genre should survive: Noel thinks Detective Comics and Action Comics and so on should be cancelled, and be replaced with this:

"[Marvel and DC] should set the good writers loose on a series of graphic novels. Ditch continuity altogether, and let them brainstorm the kinds of Superman and Avengers stories they've always longed to tell. Some can be traditional, like Kurt Busiek's Avengers Forever, and some can be left-field homages, like Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity. Some can be for mature audiences, and some for kids. A shift in focus will also give the top artists in the industry the chance to do their best work without the pressure of a monthly deadline. Both of the big two already do this to an extent, but maintaining monthly titles as well has overextended the creative teams and the characters."

Keith counters with "how realistic is the only-classics-please model? It's a bit like asking for Arrested Development without the many more conventional sitcoms that give it context. Any genre is kept alive as much by its everyday, placeholder entries has by its stellar examples."

This struck me as odd, and made me feel like this conversation was being held in some kind of vacuum. These guys sound like they are making suggestions, but they are really just telling me about the comics industry. Basically, a host of conventional everyday, placeholder, monthly comics (e.g. Superman, Uncanny X-Men) support a handful of amazingly well written, well drawn prestige comics (All Star Superman, Astonishing X-Men) that are published as comics before being collected only for reasons of tradition. People DO put out weird and continuity-free versions of mainstream superhero books; it is not hard to recognize the first eight issues of the Authority as a mature readers version of the JLA. And we need the monthly comics as a background, and as a breeding ground for cool ideas and new talent and whatnot; also comics, as Joss Whedon points out in his interview, do not pay that well, so the prestige guys can't do fancy stuff all the time. Not many people are going to like this example, but Morrison can pay his bills with Batman, and keep me entertained with All Star Superman, that is fine with me.

The AV Club coverage reminds me of the Simpson's episode where Lisa goes to the fortune teller and the woman, to prove her power to the skeptical Lisa tells her exactly what her family is going elsewhere at the Ren Fair they are at. "Wow" says Lisa, "you really can foretell the ... present." The whole discussion is just a description of the present state of comics, that everyone who reads comics knows about, and everyone who does not will not care about. The target audience for this piece is the people who read them for a while and then quit -- people who wonder what happened since they left.

I keep wondering why I am not doing stuff like this for the AV Club -- but then I would never pick this topic because there is nothing new to say about it, and only a handful of people who would care about it, yet also not know this already.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blog Numbers

The numbers of hits for this blog are down. I want them to go up. All I do is post a bulletin to my 1200+ Myspace friends, but that is clearly not working as well as it used to. I think we lost a lot of readers when the New X-Men posts stopped. I know I need to do pod-casting and video-blogging but I SWEAR I cannot find the time to figure the tech out what with prepping classes, and trying to find more work (since I am merely an adjunct).


Friday, August 10, 2007

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, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If a week goes by and I have failed to add you to the blog roll TELL ME TO DO IT AGAIN, and KEEP TELLING ME UNTIL IT GETS DONE. I can be lazy about updating the non-post parts of this site. Tim Callahan, Dark Horse Presents (with the free Joss Whedon Fabio Moon comic, and the free Gabriel Ba comic) have been added to the sidebar links this week, as has my favorite website, Go Fug Yourself.

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 (but now might not be). That is often the reason I fail to get back to people, and on a blog, after a few days, the comments thread dies and I just kind of forget about it. Let's use this space to fix that, because it does need to be fixed; I look like a jackass sometimes, leaving people hanging. I will TRY to respond to any questions here.

AND you can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore. For example, if you thought of a great quote for the great quote commonplace book, but now no one is reading that, you could put it here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 10

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

I am just going to say that the cover to this issue is bad; I can see what they were going for but a black and white blurry zoom on Professor X's weird cranium on a white background is not really working for me.

In this issue Danger beats the crap out of the X-Men, and then Professor X shows up, ready to put her down.

The frame story with Danger and Xavier is perfect. Professor X is one of my favorite comic book characters, and I love it when he gets to be a bad-ass. Cassaday keeps the tension high by showing a series of even sized close-ups until the final page; Whedon keeps the exchanges almost Western in simplicity, and ends with Xavier's wonderfully confident "I am incalculable ... You've fought the X-men a thousand times, a million in your mind. But you've never fought me." Maybe one of the great Charles Xavier moments. The shot of him in efficient black combat gear, in a giant stone wheelchair, is awesome.

The main part of the issue itself has some problems, however. I am not in love with Danger's "The thing I have in common with every dimestore villain these X-Men ever faced: I want to be understood." That is maybe too on the nose, or something, too clear a justification of the villain speech, I think. Eventually, in his old age, Whedon will just have stories where all the characters sit at desks, scripting their own lives complete with stage directions they can say out loud.

And oh dear, you have to be very careful about allusions, intentional or otherwise. Danger is a robot with big boobs and a shapeshifting hand. Where have I seen that before? Oh. Yeah. Terminator 3. When invoking other works a good rule of thumb is to stick to the ones that do not suck outright. Especially if your bad guy already has design problems.

We get a shot of how Danger is thinking, how she processes the fight. This is admittedly not an easy thing to do -- comics, like film, are not great at showing internal states (as novels are). So I have no idea how this could have been improved. But I have no patience for things like text superimposed over Cyclops that reads "92% probability of early frontal attack." Cause computers think like this. No, that is just annoying, and reminds be of Ziggy on Quantum Leap, in a bad way. Danger is a combination of the Fem-Bot from T3 and Ziggy Quantum Leap. Scheesh.

And Danger throws a spike through Kitty and Colossus. The way Cassaday draws this -- and people can say I am wrong about this -- but it seems to me it would be instantly fatal, just because of the size of the spike. And yet you know Whedon is not going to kill off these characters, so the moment just feels like a mistake, a cheap attempt at making me think you are doing something only to take it away next issue. And no I do not care that a healer has already been established in the mansion -- instantly fatal. He would have to be Jesus Christ Man or something to bring back the dead.

But back to the good: There is a great moment when Brand makes fun of a psychic alien, who "senses destruction" when the mansion is clearly blowing up; Whedon reminds us of Brand, Brand's mole, Emma's secret, and of Ord -- this is all going to come together soon, where a lesser writer would have left Ord behind for five years until a dramatic return. There is also a pitch perfect joke in which Cyclops throws Emma at Danger just to do something Danger would not expect.

Cassaday repeat/background watch:Danger gets a double take, then another. Emma gets a triple take; there are maybe 25 panels here with just no background, but there are a lot with background; it is only a little annoying in spots.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Comics Out August 8, 2007

Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon's Casanova #8.

The new issue of Casanova is out, and it is blue, shockingly blue. It was a shade of blue I was not expecting when Fraction sent me the black and whites and told me they would be blue. It is blue-tastic.

It is also the first, and probably last sight of a super-villain (well, not so super to tell the truth) whose name really was was inspired by my name, DOKKKTOR KLOCKHAMMER, appearing here less that two weeks after I finished at Oxford and officially became Doctor Klock. Nice timing Fraction.

Casanova 8 doubles as a great introduction for those that have never read Casanova before -- if you want to jump on, today's the day; Fraction does a great job re-establishing a lot of things without making you feel like he is re-establishing a lot of things. Cause in Casanova exposition, even review-exposition, is always fun. As Fraction himself says in the back-matter, the thing does a needle scratch through the album that is the first seven issues, remixing all of their great stuff in 16 pages. But be warned -- Casanova 8 will make you want to shell out the money for the hard-cover collection of Casanova 1-7.

As for the issue itself. It has a hilarious Dungeons and Dragons reference, a genuinely surprising ending on a couple of levels, and the art is amazing even though it is not by Gabriel Ba, which should not be possible (Fabio Moon is Gabriel Ba's twin brother if you can believe it; and I probably do sometimes) - it has a looseness that goes over well. Fraction (I think) has said that Moon brings the Pope while Ba had the Mignola in his pocket -- that's exactly right. You will love this issue.

Plus: I have seen upcoming issues and read upcoming scripts and I know stacks of secrets and I can promise you that this is going somewhere awesome, somewhere that will rival volume 1.

Buy this issue or something probably bad will happen to you.

Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti's Punisher War Journal #10. The White Supremacists Punisher arc comes to an end, white supremacists get the crap beaten out of them (and who does not love to see that -- that's what comics were make to to back when Hitler was setting everything on fire), little Clark really grows as a person and as a killer, and Fraction finds a hell of an ending, a hell of a thing to set between his two main characters. Also the bad guys here have an H-ray generator (hate-rays); what do the bad guys in Casanova have? An H-element generator. Interesting... (Ok, maybe not interesting, but kinda fun.... Remember when you noticed that the Philosopher's stone in Morrison's JLA was the Hand of Glory from the Invisibles -- kinda like that, but with more ... something).

Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III's Batman #667. This is a lot like Seven Soldiers #0, but slower -- Morrison and J.H. Williams team up to show you a bunch of superhero-losers (including a fat guy), then let loose the killing. There is even an image reminiscent of The Whip on the second to last page of Seven Soldiers 0. It is also a bit like Identity Crisis, with the nostalgia and dire consequences. I loved the two page title spread, Batman's appearance to the group, the two images framed in the hand, and the cruelty of the death, but I am not really feeling on board with this story. I just get annoyed at loser superheroes. It is an easy shot to take? Or I don't care? Something.... Even Williams had as many snoozer images as knockouts. Morrison's Batman is just not doing it for me, even with one of the best artists around.


Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon's Sugershock (Online, and for free) #1. Oh, this is a lot of fun, and Fabio Moon is just the right guy to draw this -- Cassaday is great, but I think Whedon benefits from someone more lose and energetic. You have to give Moon a lot of credit-- this guy knows how to pick who to work with. He is having a great week -- not long ago I did not know who he was and now I love him twice over. Girls, robots, rock bands, awesome. [I was told about this by a commenter a while ago, but was too busy to notice; then Alex Su reminded me today. Two quick questions -- what is the home-page for this and is there a way of being alerted when the new issue comes out so I don't miss it? I mean I know you guys will tell me, and please do, but still...]

Nothing in comics new jumped out at me.

Review, recommend, and discuss this week's comics and comics news.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Other People Who Have Doctorates (Commonplace Book)

In honor of my finishing my doctorate -- and having a super villain name in Doctor Klock -- here is a list of fictional characters that go by Doctor or Professor. The list is from I would also add to the list Dr. Dre (yeah, I know he is not fictional, but still, I am putting him on the list), Doctor Who, Doctor Claw and Matt Fraction's Dokkktor Klockhammer (who makes his first, and probably last, appearance tomorrow). Also Alan Moore, when he was slumming with Rob Liefeld in the 90s gave us a very brief glimpse of an old superhero team Youngblood fought (or an older version of Youngblood fought) which included a character called Dr. Clock (who had a cape, and a clock for a head); this is, oddly, also the name of Heather Graham's character on Scrubs. I have put the standouts, just in terms of cool names, in italics.

Doc (DC)
Doc (Disney)
Doc (G.I. Joe) -
Doc Abstruse
Doc Cyber
Doc Danger (Danger Unlimited)
Doc Horror
Doc Oxford
Doc Samson -
Doc Savage -
Doc Seismic
Doc Strange (Tom Strange) -
Dockles, Herschel
Docteur Q
Doctor, The (14 characters with this name)
Doctor (60s movies), The -
Doctor (Wildstorm) (01), The
Doctor (Wildstorm) (02 - Jeroen Thornedike), The
Doctor (Wildstorm) (03 - Habib Ben Hassan), The
Doctor (Wildstorm) (03 - Renegade), The
Doctor 13, the Ghost-Breaker
Doctor Alchemy (01 - Albert Desmond) -
Doctor Allirog of Earth-S
Doctor Bedlam
Doctor Bong -
Doctor Brain
Doctor Brainard
Doctor Cobra
Doctor Cornelius
Doctor Crocodile
Doctor Cyber
Doctor Darrk -
Doctor Davis
Doctor Death (DC) -
Doctor Death (Marvel)
Doctor Decibel
Doctor Delphi
Doctor Demonicus -
Doctor Destiny
Doctor Diehard
Doctor Doog
Doctor Doom
Doctor Doomsday
Doctor Dorcas -
Doctor Double X
Doctor Druid -
Doctor Eclipse
Doctor Evil of Earth-1
Doctor Fate (01 - Kent Nelson) -
Doctor Fate (02 - Eric & Linda Strauss) -
Doctor Fate (03 - Inza Nelson)
Doctor Fate (04 - Hector Hall) -
Doctor Faustus
Doctor Gittelsohn
Doctor Glitternight
Doctor Gotham
Doctor Gym'll
Doctor Hastings
Doctor Hayward
Doctor Hibbert
Doctor Hypno
Doctor Impossible
Doctor Jace (DC)
Doctor Janus
Doctor Juris
Doctor Kilgore (Milestone)
Doctor Kocohm -
Doctor Leofrix
Doctor Light (01)
Doctor Light (02 - Jacob Finlay)
Doctor Light I (Arthur Light) -
Doctor Light II (Kimiyo Hoshi) -
Doctor Manhatthan -
Doctor Manx
Doctor Mayavale
Doctor Mid-Nite (01 - Charles McNider) -
Doctor Mid-Nite (02 - Pieter Anton Cross)
Doctor Midas
Doctor Midnight -
Doctor Mime
Doctor Minerva -
Doctor Mirage
Doctor Mist
Doctor Moon
Doctor Morlo
Doctor Nemesis
Doctor Nick
Doctor Nirvana
Doctor No
Doctor Occult (Earth-2) -
Doctor Occult (Post-Crisis)
Doctor Octopus (01 - Otto Octavius) -
Doctor Octopus (Ultimate)
Doctor Pangea
Doctor Phosphorous -
Doctor Poison (02)
Doctor Polaris -
Doctor Potsam
Doctor Psycho (post-Crisis) -
Doctor Regulus
Doctor Regulus (post-Zero Hour)
Doctor Riddle
Doctor Rigoro Mortis
Doctor Shrivel
Doctor Silk
Doctor Sivana of the post-Crisis Earth -
Doctor Solar
Doctor Sparta
Doctor Spectro
Doctor Spectrum (01 - Kinji Obatu)
Doctor Spectrum (02 - Joe Ledger)
Doctor Spectrum (03 - MAX)
Doctor Spectrum (04 - Martha Gomes)
Doctor Spectrum (05 - Alice Nugent)
Doctor Spectrum (Billy Roberts)
Doctor Spin
Doctor Stasheff
Doctor Strange
Doctor Strangefate
Doctor Sun -
Doctor Tambura -
Doctor Tolstoy
Doctor Tyme
Doctor Tzin-Tzin
Doctor U'bx
Doctor Venom
Doctor Verlag
Doctor Voodoo of Earth-S
Doctor X
Doctor Yamashita
Doctor Zodiac
Dr. Adele Burkhart -
Dr. Cassandra Knox -
Dr. Cyclops
Dr. Mindbender -
Dr. Rachel Steel
Dr. Reinstein
Dr. Rocket
Dr. Trap -
Dr. Venom -
Professor Appel (Crimson Guards) -
Professor Fallout
Professor Flutesnoot
Professor Fortune
Professor Frink
Professor Garbanzo -
Professor Harbinger
Professor Ivo
Professor Killgrave
Professor Kox
Professor Merlin
Professor Nutjob
Professor Power -
Professor Prometheus
Professor Radium
Professor Riggles
Professor Universe of Earth-S
Professor X
Professor Zodiak
Professor Zoom (01 - Reverse-Flash) -
Professor, The

I will also add to this list all the members of The Surgery, a throway team from Warren Ellis's Nextwave: Doctor Injectable, Doctor Nosexy, Doctor Meatball and Doctor Headless.

Now all I have to do is get knighted, like Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 9

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For more of the same click the Astonishing X-Men link at the bottom of this post.]

In the danger room Wing gives weird speeches, and the X-Men attack, releasing the Danger Room in humanoid form.

"This being has power we can't fathom, and all it has ever known in violence." This is a persuasive point, and justifies Whedon's idea of a sentient danger room. Whedon adds some stuff about consciousness and contradiction and finding yourself in the contradiction which is actually pretty good, I think, though I do not know much about the science of consciousness and language. It sounded pretty good, which is all that matters here. And the contradiction Whedon imagines makes sense: we thought the danger room was programed not to kill, but Whedon's idea is that is was programed to kill and then had a separate parent program that prevented it from killing -- hence the anger, aggression, and the feeling of being trapped. This is pretty good stuff, well thought through.

Two problems here, though. The first may not really be a problem, and I need to check it to be sure, but Chris Bachalo drew an arc of Uncanny in which Cerebro became sentient, then came back to kill the X-Men. I expect, and like, major plots like Return to Weapon X and Days of Future Past to be returned to again and again in different versions. That is inevitable, and good, as I explained in the context of Morrison. I am less sure what to say, and what to think, about a doubling of a minor earlier story with no real acknowledgement. That seems to leave allusion and revision behind for less reputable modes of memory. Or is could just be inevitable that stuff like this happens in a comic book that has been around for more than forty years, and it is no big deal.

Problem number two? As everyone pointed out at the time the Danger Room -- Danger from here out -- has dreadlocks. Now the word dreadlocks refers to the dread of god Rastafarians have; they do not cut their hair because of a biblical commandment. This fits in with the religious stuff the religious stuff Danger has been spouting. But it does not do much about the fact that Danger is a bit of a design disaster. She is at boring and a bit silly when something awe-inspiring is needed. It has other problems too, which I will talk about next time, as it comes up.

Cassaday repeat/background watch. Wolverine gets a zoom, the X-plane gets a double take, Wing gets a double take. The X-Men spend time in a blank grey space, much of the danger room is a blank red space, which morphs into blank blue space. Enough of the panels have a background, or assorted details, to make the empty ones acceptable. Cassaday does some cool stuff here, before the reveal of Danger.

Friday, August 03, 2007

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, personal news, self-promotion, requests to be added to the blog roll and so on. If a week goes by and I have failed to add you to the blog roll TELL ME TO DO IT AGAIN, and KEEP TELLING ME UNTIL IT GETS DONE. I can be lazy about updating the non-post parts of this site.

Two new idea for free form comments: 1. you can use this space to re-ask me questions you asked me before that I failed to answer because I was too busy (but now might not be). That is often the reason I fail to get back to people, and on a blog, after a few days, the comments thread dies and I just kind of forget about it. Let's use this space to fix that, because it does need to be fixed; I look like a jackass sometimes, leaving people hanging. I will TRY to respond to any questions here. 2. You can use this space to comment on posts that are old enough that no one is reading the comments threads anymore. For example, if you thought of a great quote for the great quote commonplace book, but now no one is reading that, you could put it here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Comics Out July 25, 2007 (The Week Late Review)

[Last week was an awesome week to go to the comic book store, but I only got these yesterday, because I was in Oxford and found out that the only comic book store in town closed. Oxford University is amazing but Oxford the town is not great. Case in point: A University town that cannot keep a single comic book store in business. Ridiculous. Anyway I wanted to do bullet point reviews of last week comics.]

Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's Batman #666. Last week in free form comments James wrote:

"Geoff is right. Once again, Morrison puts himself up against Miller's Batman, with a tale of an uncompromising, ultra-violent Batman of the future. We seem to be back in New X-Men territory here, with Morrison admitting defeat in the face of what can't be changed/escaped. Morrison's fun, "bare-chested love-god" Batman has literally fathered a violent, anti-heroic Batman of the future (see: The Dark Knight Returns), exactly what Morrison wanted to get away from. Furthermore, the only way Morrison's Batman can defeat the last of the dark, violent, impostor Batmen* and gain primacy/immortality is to sell his soul to the Devil (Miller). Try as he might, Morrison couldn't replace Miller, and it is Miller's Batman that has assimilated Morrison's, and not the other way around. The silver-lining here, is that (hopefully) Morrison can now concentrate on doing his own thing, and stop worrying about Miller. J. H. Williams III and The Batmen Of All Nations seems like a perfect opportunity to do just that.

*I quite liked that just as the last one was a version of Bane, this next one was a version of the Azrael-Batman, with his orange face-plate and flamethrower."

It is freaky how much James is on my wavelength here. He has said all I would have said, exactly. I would also add that the Yeats quote is lame, and reminds me of Morrison's bad use of Milton in Batman: Gothic. (It may serve only to call up that book as another alternate Batman).

Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo's Hellboy: Darkness Calls #4. There is a great moment in which a guy catches his own severed head a split second before it hits the ground and a perfect weird little girl character in this issue, one of the best I have seen. But her speech about her story exemplifies what bothers me about Hellboy -- chunks of Mignola's research just sit on the page, undigested, and Hellboy just sort of walks around it, doing very little. The art is great though, and keeps me hooked.

Joss Whedon and Paul Lee's Buffy the Vampire Slayer #5. The art is not perfect, and there are moments that do not quite work (the out of control truck), but I thought this issue was very moving, and also dialed down Whedon's silliness, which in three running comics now is getting to be a little much, even for me. Newsarama thought the issue failed to make us care about the main character enough, but I thought the intriguing jarring story structure kept us from quite following everything until the end, at which point it is too late to really know this girl. I thought that was genuinely sad, and well done.

Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker's Immortal Iron Fist #7. I have heard complaints that the narration takes the reader out of the story, that the narration is too dissonant. I disagree. It turns out that the narrator of this issue is a character, but for much of it I just heard Fraction's own voice, the voice of his blog. It felt a bit like a Mystery Science Theater experience; I imagine this is what Fraction sounds like if you were to watch a serious kung-fu movie on his couch with him. "She beats people up. For money!" This is a different kind of harmony, and it is also different from Joss Whedon's ironies, which is nice.

Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #6. I love this book: everyone is right about what is wrong with it but it all works on another level, as I have argued (hit the Frank Miller link below to see what I said). In this issue Miller continues to do ABSURD things with story structure, warping it sideways. I double dog dare you to read Jack Kirby's introduction of the Black Racer in New Gods and tell me that Frank Miller is doing something fundamentally different in his use of Black Canary or the introduction of Batgirl. In both the story is absurdly interrupted by some new character the writer felt like introducing. Goddam Batman became an Internet catch phrase for how absurd this book is, so what did Frank Miller do? -- he used it twice in one issue. Blake said it best: Exuberance is Beauty.

Mike Carey and Humberto Ramos's X-Men #201. Humberto Ramos does not suck, but he is not the artist for me. I had to order this without seeing it, and did not know Bachalo would not be drawing it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Comics Out August 1, 2007

Greg Pak and John Romita Jr's Wold War Hulk 3 (of 5). Romita delivers satisfying violence, and Pak does a pretty good job giving us something to slow down the punching: Ross gives a good speech, and a conversation between Banner and and Strange leads to a strong moment in which the Hulk is so strong he can cripple Strange at a distance. There is also a smart moment in which we the audience of the book are implicated in all the violence, cheering it on and demanding more. Unfortunately the last page was a little silly, but you never know, maybe it will work. I also do not like that so much hinges on the Sentry, a character I know next to nothing about. But this issue was better than the last two.

Comic-cons annoy me, with their 99% hype and 1% news ratio, and I do not have much to say about San Diego; except that I am glad to hear that Morrison is on Final Crisis with J.G. Jones. Cause I always get suckered into these big events, and at least it has guys I really like attached.

Review, recommend, and discuss this week's comics and comics news.

I am going to blog about the wonderful comics that came out last week later.

Technical Difficulties Solved, Apparently

The Comics Out post will be up later today.

Technical Difficulties is down, and so are the images on this blog since they were connected to The credit card that was maintaining the site expired, so all I have to do is give them the new credit card information. I am a little busy now, having just got back from the UK, but I will be on this as soon as I can. In the meantime, things will continue here as usual, except, you know, no pictures. Everything else works.