Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mitch Reviews Radiohead's In Rainbows

[Guest blogger Mitch, with his second official review for this site].

How much is Radiohead worth to you?

When Kurt Vonnegut died, PBS replayed an older interview with Charlie Rose where Vonnegut mockingly admitted that the book he was supposed to be promoting was probably deserved a “C” rating relative to Slaughterhouse Five. It was a funny thing to hear coming from an artist, because one of the most natural acts in actively consuming any form of media is the assigning of value. Radiohead’s seventh album seems to be playing a capitalistic joke on this idea of determining worth. The monetary cost of In Rainbows —much like any rating of the music’s artistic value— is entirely up to you.

My enjoyment of Radiohead puzzles me. Their music nestled its way into my life by way of an ex-girlfriend with unimpeachable taste. Since our relationship took place at a time when Radiohead was firing on all cylinders (Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief all came out while we were together), our enjoyment of Radiohead developed into something significant in the fabric of the relationship. When the relationship ended, here I was with all of these CD’s that had become unbearable artifacts of a now finished period in my life. It’s been years now and thanks to this new album, it seems at last that my personal enjoyment of Radiohead can exist independently of the relationship.

The new album, In Rainbows, is refreshing in its exemplification of everything Radiohead stands for. Like Kid A and Amnesiac, ambiguously romantic and philosophical lyrics peak out from behind drum-machine beats that seem to be played through constantly peaking speakers. Meanwhile, there is also a strong presence of Pablo Honey and The Bends-era guitar work in the album's ten tracks. Imagine that Radiohead's two periods (Brit Rock and Trippy Electronics) are two nations looking at each other across a great ravine. For years, the album OK Computer served as an sensible and obvious bridge to unite those two countries of sound. Now imagine that there is a horrible storm that blows the OK Computer bridge away—gone forever. As the people of Radiohead-land begin the rebuilding process, they decide to use the latest technology to build a new bridge between the two countries. That new bridge is In Rainbows. It might not have the magic newness of its predecessor, but it sounds like they were a whole lot happier while they were making it.

This is the thing that nails me every time I listen to In Rainbows. Radiohead have always been the masters of mellow melancholy. But this album is a new kind mellow for the group. It's a contented mellow. There are these unapologetically sunny snatches of guitar in every song, coupled with such appreciative lyrics like "you're all I need" or "I'm in the middle of your picture"—as if this person's picture is SO striking, that you can take a break from evaluating its aesthetic qualities and finish doing so at a later sitting. This newfound optimism even manifests itself in the line "No matter what happens now I won't be afraid, because I know today has been, the most perfect day I've ever seen," a jarringly unflappable end to the most somber track on the album, "Videotape".

So there is the unbridled optimism and there are the two music styles, but there are also the usual inspired quirks that turn each song into a half-story: the joyful surrender in a song about zombies, the sensation of drifting in a song about bizarre marine life and a song where the dead protagonist is confronted by videotapes from his life. The band has to be careful here, because if you make a commitment to being charismatically “weird” on every album, each album must contain “new weird”. Unfortunately, some of this weird is “old weird.” As I understand, Radiohead has been touring with a number of these songs for years now, so it isn't surprising that sometimes the tone is a little out of sync. Ultimately, Radiohead knows from out of sync and I’ll trust them to take me there anytime. I keep buying their albums as long as they keep recording songs like "The Reckoner," the tempo and fluid texture of which largely make me feel like the Silver fucking Surfer—shiny, invincible and moving at light speed.

This album has been a great tool for reacquainting myself with Radiohead. Maybe for some of you, it'll just be "more of the same old weird" or a "C" effort relative to OK Computer, but to me it's worth a lot.

Slavoj Zizek's Titles (Commonplace Book)

Hegelian-Lacanian theorist Slavoj Zizek is a genius with titles, especially in a field where people come up with such awful ones, that start with a vague phrase, then have a colon, then try to do some weird pun using slashes, bits of words in parenthesis, and intentional misspellings.

Actually, if anyone has any great examples of horrible academic titles, put them in the comments of this post.

Here are Zizek’s better ones:

Interrogating the Real
The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity
Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle
The Metastases of Enjoyment
The Universal Exception
Enjoy Your Symptom!
Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?
The Art of the Ridiculous Sublime
Opera’s Second Death
The Plague of Fantasies

And my favorite:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock)

I wish I had called my first book Everything You Wanted to Know about Superhero Comics (But Were Afraid to Ask Harold Bloom).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 17

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run. For more in this series click the Astonishing X-Men links in the right toolbar.]

First of all, this issue has surely one of the best X-Men covers of all time – a white background and Wolverine’s head, looking around the corner in the lower left hand side like a frightened little girl, one claw the tip of his teeth like someone who bites their fingernails as a nervous habit. When you see a really striking cover like this you realize how little variation is allowed in superhero comic book cover design. It was one of the reasons Planetary was so exciting when it was first coming out. You never knew what the covers we going to look like.

This issue opens suddenly, with no context, into a sequence of more than five pages in which Kitty and Peter have a son, years pass, the X-Men (including Peter) take her son from her (with vague justification about the kid having “terrible power”), and she returns to confront Peter and get her son back. The emotional pitch here is as good as anything Whedon has ever written in any medium. The cutie pie happy stuff (Kitty: “I made him myself”) gives way to the X-Men coming, in uniform to take the kid. The uniforms are a nice touch – when the X-Men visit Kitty in the hospital they are casually dressed like friends – when they arrive in uniform they are much more imposing. In a heartbreaking moment Colossus turns on her and helps his team-mates take his son from Kitty. This could have been handled as a nightmare scenario in which everyone turns on Kitty for no reason, but Casaday and Whedon have Colossus seem very upset by what he is doing. Had he smiled evilly we would have said “Oh, this is all a dream sequence…”. Here we are less sure, which gives the moment more emotional resonance.

We immediately cut to dark and stormy night in which Kitty has the handle of an axe phased through Peter’s temples – “You blink and I let go.” The image is stunning because it is a serial killer tableau (though the axe is being used differently, it would be the weapon of choice anyway). Amazingly the previous four pages make us side with Kitty, even though the image, in isolation, would have us feeling otherwise. When Peter pleads, Kitty says “Don’t talk to me like a person. You’re not a person! Big metal fucking robot and somehow I didn’t see it.” The frighteningly few pages Whedon has for this sequence are all the time he needs to tell this powerful little story. One of the best moment in Astonishing, period.

It is all a mental manipulation – taking up 18 months of her mental time -- to get Kitty to break into a box in the mansion. Kitty is being made to believe her son is in the box, but whatever is in the box is what the Hellfire club is after.

One scene here that maybe got on my nerves. Whedon has had a lot of serious stuff in this issue and he needs to balance it out with some humour. I feel like there are scales on his end, and that the darker he goes the lighter he needs the humour to be to counterbalance. The problem here, maybe, is that he counters with a scene in which Wolverine – brainwashed to act like a Dickensian waif by Nova – gets hit on the head with a can of beer in the explosion of Danger and Ord entering, and remembers who he is. This is funny, but it also feels a little too broad. Barely too broad. You can argue Nova is not paying attention – that this would have worn off anyway -- but it is awfully silly for this story. I do not hate it, but I am also not sure how much I like it.

Kitty gets the thing out of the box thinking it is her son – it is a pile of green goo readers will remember as the alien that Emma trapped Nova’s consciousness in at the end of Grant Morrison first year on New X-Men. Looking at something issue by issue is bound to get a little redundant, but I will just say it again: Whedon draws on Morrison’s run in surprisingly specific ways, and does it very well. Whedon’s use of the Hellfire Club was all a big distraction. It looked, for a moment, like he was using a this set of villains to avoid using a bad guy Morrison used, but it turns out it was all smoke and mirrors for the real story he was telling: The Return of Casandra Nova. The way the story is told we do not feel like we are going around in circles, which is important, as “we are going around in circles” was one of Morrison’s big (and stupid) themes.

In another of the best moments in Whedon’s run Emma is shot in the back, and the ending page reveals Cyclops, in his New X-Men jacket and no glasses, holding the smoking gun. Casaday puts the “camera” low, so Cyclops is even more imposing. Whedon may be drawing on Morrison’s Nova and his New X-Men run, but here he has earned to right to be so bold as to outdo Morrison in the treatment of Cyclops. The difference between Morrison’s Xavier suddenly just having a gun at the start of New X-Men, and Whedon’s Cyclops needing a gun this deep into Whedon’s run is telling – the symbol is the same (Change is Here) but the execution is more convincing, because it is less arbitrary. Cassaday has been stunning throughout this issue (especially in the axe scene) but this last page is where he really needs to come though. And he sells the moment perfectly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Satacracy 88.11.1

The first part of the eleventh episode of Brad Winderbaum's Emmy Award winning Satactracy 88 is up at itsallinyourhands.com. This one has a quirky sense of humor, as well as the two leads beating on each other a bit, which is a good direction for the show to continue in.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #3b

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more of the same click Jason's name in the right toolbar.]


Colorist Glynis Oliver is one of the unsung heroes of the X-Men, having colored almost every issue of the book for almost the entirety of Claremon'ts run. The coloring on the opening page of "Mourning" is particularly gorgeous - arguably her best single page in the entire "X" canon.

"Mourning" takes place chronologically very soon after Uncanny X-Men #95 (the "a" story in Classic #3), as the X-Men bring John "Thunderbird" Proudstar's body back to New Mexico for burial. The opening sequence, with Proudstar's body being stolen, teases at this being a mystery/action story, but Claremont subverts expectations right away. The reader learns immediately who stole the body, and instead this turns out to be another character piece, with each member of the X-Men reflecting - often via flashback - on their brief relationship with Thunderbird. Thus Claremont and Bolton add some genuine tragic weight (retroactively) to his death, while simultaneously offering insights into the psychology of the rest of the cast.

Bolton's best panel in the story is the image of John Proudstar's parents. Bolton etches an incredible amount of character into their single appearance here, and the father's line to Professor X -- "You took our firstborn son from us, and brought him home. You've ... done enough." - is devastating. It's the only time in the Claremont run that we ever see John Proudstar's parents, but it's all we ever need to see. Beautiful.

At the end, Claremont also gives us a thoughtful Wolverine, a long time before we ever saw this version of Logan in the original run. Wolverine's internal monologue when he realizes that Proudstar had been a soldier is excellent:

"You lied about your age. Went off to war, way before your proper time ... and something happened. Don't matter what. But it cut the heart out of your life. Too bad. ... You wear a man's boots, shoulder a man's responsibilities - you take the consequences. It's a lesson all the X-Men better take to heart - real flamin' quick."

Wolverine's line that it "don't matter what" destroyed Proudstar is fascinating, and oddly enough it could apply to the Claremont/Bolton backups in general, in that you don't have to read the old stories to which they're tied in order for them to be effective. This is certainly true of "Mourning" in particular. The tragedy of Proudstar's death is what's important here; the story works perfectly well, if not better, if one doesn't know HOW John died. (The name "Count Nefaria" is never uttered throughout "Mourning" - to do so would be counterproductive to the tone of the piece.) What's striking and significant is the parallelism that Claremont sets up: It was a violent war that somehow damaged Proudstar's soul, and it was another violent conflict that ultimately took Thunderbird to his peace.

It's also nice that Logan stays in character during his monologue - he's obviously got sympathy for John, but only to a point. This is dead-on Wolverine characterization. Contrast his "you take the consequences" line with an earlier, much more sympathetic musing earlier by Nightcrawler, in which he reflects on how obvious it was that John was in pain from the moment he joined the team. "I thought time would work things out for him," Kurt says. "The sad thing is, maybe I was right."

From the beautifully colored opening page to Wolverine's closing ruminations, this is pretty much a perfect story. But Claremont makes a misstep in the final few panels, in which John Proudstar's younger brother, James, swears revenge on Xavier. James' B-movie monologue is jarring when placed after the somber and reflective 11 pages that preceded it, and while it's not enough to derail "Mourning" entirely it constitutes an unfortunate swerve back into Silver Age corniness, which the bulk of the story had studiously avoided.

Friday, October 26, 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.

WRITING FOR THIS BLOG. If you think your free form comment here might be better as its own post, but you do not want it to be public yet, email it to me. My email address is availible on my blogger profile page. If I think it will work on this site, your post will be published here with your name in the title of the post. You can propose what you will, I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pushing Daisies 2

I blogged about Pushing Daisies last week, but I wanted to write a brief follow up -- because this week's episode, "Pigeon," was easily my favorite. The overbearing narration and exposition was gone, for the most part. The phrase "unorthodox urban honey pioneer" surely encapsulates everything that is great about this show -- and they know it because they repeated it. That might have been over-doing it, but it really is a great turn of phrase. The episode switched gears at every commercial break -- a different kind of quest in each act -- which was really a lot of fun. But the thing that officially made me love this show was taking a They Might Be Giants song, and turning it into a diagetic musical interlude.

I grew up on musicals (I attended a performing arts high school) and I kind of hate them, but I really admire the sheer balls required to bring any part of them to bear on any kind of contemporary story. I love genre, and the American Musical is one of the most challenging popular genres to keep alive in a form other than horrid cloying cartoons, and nostalgia -- especially the nostalgia of "wasn't it great when everyone went to see live shows instead of staying at home and watching television," an attitude that drives me up the wall. Mulan Rouge did its level best, and I thought it was reasonably fun, but it was also kind of a dead end aesthetically -- I mean it does not exactly open up a space for a lot of movies in the same vein. Same goes for South Park. South Park's meanness kind of kills the central thing about musical, though the songs are often really funny. The Nightmare before Christmas is great, but the music is almost always much less memorable than the film's other virtues. David E. Kelly created the horrible Cop Rock, but I have always been very sympathetic to his attempts to have characters sing on Picket Fences, Boston Public, and most importantly the much too maligned Ally McBeal. (You can read my very brief defence of that show the "The Best of the Blog" on the right -- the show was often stupid, but it had virtues you could not find elsewhere). Buffy tried a musical episode, but it relied almost exclusively on the good will the show earned in its earlier episodes. I cannot remember a single song, and it would not be in a top ten, or even top twenty, list of Buffy episodes. Scrubs tried to repeat the move, but it was so awful I dove across the room to grab the remote before they were a few bars into the first song.

There are a few things that are great about the way the song appears in Pushing Daisies. For one thing, the characters singing are in a car, a place, like the shower, where it seems somehow natural to sing, especially on a big "road trip" (which is sort of what this is, given that the aunts have been indoors for so long). Having Swoosie Kurtz being annoyed with the singing is an easy, but fairly effective, way of providing a lace for an audience who is not going to go for this. The best thing of all is the choice of song. Ally McBeal often went for nostalgic songs, clearly rooted in another age and time. "Little Birdhouse in Your Soul" certainly has a kind of recent nerdy nostalgia to it, but it is a genuinely good song that is nothing but fun -- just what you want in a musical. And the audience for the band and the show overlaps enough (I imagine) that many people, like me, were able to sing along. Singing along with characters in a musical is really the best the genre can achieve. I have to be impressed with a show that did it, even it it was just for a moment.

UPDATE: Pushing Daisies has been picked up for a full season. Whodathunk? Kick-ass.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Comics Out October 24, 2007

Casanova 10. I am getting tired of watching myself type "this is my favorite comic book" month after month so let's just dive into specifics. Eeeeeevil bad guys, a recipe for lamb, lots of sexy bits rendered as only Fabio Moon can, and backmatter with extra funny (Ice-T) and heart (Henry and Ray). And I forgot that Fabio himself points out the connection between the bad guys here and the bad guys in his twin brother and Casanova predecessor Ba's Umbrella Academy that I pointed out in the comics out post last week (I read a preview issue of Casanova 10 a few weeks ago).

In comics news, Newsarama has a preview-review of first part of the new X-Men crossover, written by Brubaker and drawn by Silvestri. I wasn't going to get it, but the combination of the fact that people keep telling me Brubaker is great (I have made a decision to get his Captain America run in trade), I love the X-Men, and I find myself, surprisingly, having fond thoughts about Silvestri since my review of Here Comes Tomorrow. The three factors together might be enough to put me over the edge. Is anyone else going to get this?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Erin: Captain Fugmerica

[We have a new guest-blogger, Erin, writing for us today. I am a huge fan of the fashion-attack blog Go Fug Yourself (link on the right) -- a blog where they evaluate celebrity's clothes in viciously mean and funny ways. So I asked Erin, a fashion-conscious friend of mine, to write about Captain America's new uniform -- which was previewed on Newsarama last week -- in the style of the Go Fug Yourself girls. I wanted to try something new. I know some of you got annoyed with my discussion of the outfits in New X-Men, but I say an essential part of the superhero genre is crazy outfits, so here we go. Feedback is important here as it will determine if something like this ever appears again.]

Ok, ok, ok, ok, OK! Are you bageled up people? Ready? (claps hands) New Costume. New. Costume. Now this is Captain America we're talking about here. He is an awesome, powerful dude. Seriously. Like America's powerful. Totally a scary dude. And now, like, scarier than he was before. Steve Rogers is dead and some new guy is taking his place. This new guy is scary, and MAD, so mad he added a leotard, so you know this is NO FUCKING JOKE.

So, what are his powers, and how do we show them? Well, he's really really strong. Indestructibly strong. How do we show strength? Muscles! Big ass muscles! And lots of them. Get out the anatomy books -- all that oblique stomach shit you only ever seen in real life at pilates, that's what we're talking about. So he doesn't look top heavy add some huge thighs. And so he doesn't look absurd with thighs that big, add some boots with folded tops. (pause) Ok, I have just been informed that Captain America has always had huge muscles and Peter Pan boots. Apparently he also has a red white and blue shield that he hurls and hits people with and hides behind, all of which sounds . . .defensive.

You know what? I think old Captain America needs to go on the offensive. Here's an idea. What does America have that makes it special, and strong? Not Hayden Panettierre. Guns! We have guns. And you know what else we have? New York City police officers, who are super tough and strong, but also heroes, because of what they did before on 9-11, or all the time, whatever, which makes them heroes. Like Hayden Panettierre. So I think what Captain America really needs now is to stop always falling back on the super strong and indestructible super-power thing, and solve a couple of these super problems with super bullets. Faster than punching, and sexier too. He can keep his piece in a hip holster on a black leather belt, just like NYC cops wear. It will look cool and business-like and also maybe a little plumber-like, which is an issue, but seriously he can store the gun there and maybe a huge guerrilla knife, and some ah, gum, and like pepper spray or plastic cuffs or whatever else Captain America needs to GET AT THE TRUTH and save the day. Wire taps, maybe, maybe presigned warrants. Whatever -- that's not our job, that's for the writer dweebs. So a belt with stuff and some awesome boots and a big A for Awesome right on the old dome, couple little bat ears and I think we're done here.

He still kind of looks like a plumber in a leotard.

Ok, well, let's make the suit shiny. Plumbers never wear anything shiny. That should do it.

Mark Twain on Clothes (Commonplace Book)

[Obviously this one was selected to go with today's guest blogger].

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little to no influence in society.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 16

[This post is part of a series of posts looking at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run issue by issue. For more in this series go to the toolbar on the right and look under "Best of the Blog".]

In this issue Ord escapes SWORD custody, Kitty regroups the team and confronts "Perfection" (and we learn who "Perfection" really is), and the mutant who will destroy the Breakworld is revealed.

In the opening few pages you can see something has changed -- Cassaday is firing on all cylinders. Characters are not repeated, and backgrounds are fully drawn with details rather than patterns, for the most part. Even the panel composition is more interesting that it usually is: in the opening splash page a soldier's face is put upside down and screaming in the extreme foreground while the center of the image, Ord fighting, is in the middle ground. ("Middle ground"? Is that the right word?). Later in this issue he draws a great image of Kitty biting her lip as Wolverine babbles at her like a little kid. It is one of the few panels where he draws a cute girl cute. The reason I complained about Cassaday so much in the book is that he is clearly capable of more. Now he has decided to give it to us, which is nice.

Whedon continues his emasculation of Wolverine, who is hiding in a tree from Beast and narrating like a Dickensian waif: fairly funny I think, if a little obvious. When Beast finds him his prayers turn to "I hate you, Lord! I hate you lord!" and in another obvious but still funny joke Wolverine pops his claws and, instead of remembering who he really is, as we might expect, screams like a little girl. I say this is obvious and a little broad, but I do not think anyone has done it before, so Whedon gets points for doing something different at least.

We learn the Hellfire club is trying to get into a mysterious metal chamber in the mansion and that they have manipulated Kitty to be on the team from the beginning so she can open it. For the second issue in a row Whedon continues to set the stage for the ascendancy of his favorite girl archetype at the expense of the team. She is like Batman on the JLA, as I have already pointed out. If you like Whedon you will like this; if not, not.

Finally we get a really great dramatic moment when it appears Emma is confronting some kind of other personality in a mirror: she says to herself "Did you really think you could hide in there." It turns out nicely, that it is Kitty on the other side of the mirror -- it is a nice twist on the moment that you can only do in a story where one character has psychic powers and another can walk through solid objects. As much was Whedon imposes himself on these characters, he is also a master at finding persuasive tensions and scenes. Unlike his standard jokes, I think you can appreciate moments like this, even if you do not like Whedon.

But this scene twists again -- Whedon always finds that extra twist of the screw you did not think could be there. It turns out Perfection, the secret woman in the hood whose face was never shows, is ... The White Queen! So there is a double of Emma after all! Except, as JossWhedon knows perfectly well -- this makes no sense. Rather than belabor us with a long speech about how such a thing could be possible, he simply shows Kitty in wide eyed shock one moment, then squinting and thinking about it (as the reader is) as she delivers the now classic Whedon line "Yeahbuhwhat?" End scene.

There are two kinds of twists. One is the kind where if you were smart enough, you could figure it out because all the clues were there -- The Sixth Sense for example. The other kind of twist is the out of nowhere twist that is there just for the sake of shaking things up -- just for the fun and crazy of it. Raymond Chandler is fond of this kind of twist, as was Alias. (The main problem with the Xorn reveal in New X-Men was that Morrison seemed unclear what kind of twist it was). Hard science comic book fans like the former kind -- because it is more like a puzzle, something they can figure out, like the real-world physics of the light saber. Both can be great, but the nice thing about the unjustified twist is that there is no need for laborious explanation -- because there is not one to be had. Whedon generally does not degenerate into exposition, which is one of the reasons I love him.

(Peter is revealed to be the mutant who will destroy the Breakworld, but I do not have anything to say about that right now. Next time.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Streebo on 30 Days of Night -- The Film (link to imdb.com)

Streebo reviews 30 Days of Night at imdb.com. Below I have excerpted the first paragraph of his review -- click it to go to the whole thing. But I do have a quick question for him below.

First, here's a bit of backstory for you. As you know by now, Streebo is a long time reader of comic books and when the story of 30 Days of Night came out in 2003 (?) I was eager to read it. I was immediately impressed by the simplicity of the concept – if not the execution. Ben Templesmith's dark and atmospheric art helped keep the book horrific and violent throughout. The story by Steve Niles was unchallenging, simple and brilliant all at the same time. I remember reading the book and thinking this was a cool enough graphic novel – but it would make an amazing movie. Apparently Steve Niles originally wrote 30 Days of Night as a screenplay and shopped it around Hollywood for years. He never drew interest in the script – so he converted the script into a graphic novel. The comic comes out and is a huge hit. The next thing you know Hollywood comes knocking on Steve Niles' door. Niles dusted off his script and Sam Raimi's Ghosthouse pictures gave him a one million dollar check for it. Now fast forward four years later. . .

I have not seen 30 Days of Night, and it is not likely I will anytime soon, but I wondered, Streebo, if you would like to respond to the following criticism of the film on the AV Club. Again I have not seen the film, but it seems like a devastating thing to say. It is the kind of thing that makes me avoid a film.

For some unaccountable reason, a key conflict [from the graphic novel] within the vampire ranks doesn't make the big-screen transition, so the bulk of the drama falls to a stock collection of human characters. Which is more interesting: Vampires fighting over the potential long-term blowback of their Alaskan buffet, or a couple of exes bonding under duress? Seems like an easy decision, but 30 Days Of Night makes the wrong choice.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Casanova 8 Online, For Free, Legally

Matt Fraction linked to this on his blog a while ago, but I forgot to put it here. Myspace has a thing where you can read Casanova 8 online for free, legally. Plus if you have never seen Dokkktor Klockhammer -- the Casanova villain whose name totally sort of comes from my name -- now is your chance. CLICK HERE.

EDIT: This is so cool, that I decided to make it part of the toolbar on the right. I am all about updating the toolbar on the right this week.

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #2b

[Jason Powell continues his look at Claremont's X-Men -- including the back up portions of Classic X-Men, as this this post is looking at. Click his name in the tool bar on the right for his earlier posts on this blog.]

"First Friends"

Claremont and Bolton's back-up strip for Classic X-Men #2 has another "First" in the title (see Classic #1), and details a sort of first date (placed chronologically somewhere amidst "the days, the weeks of training" alluded to in X-Men #94) between Jean and Ororo. This is a "Claremont cliché" - the intensely close friendships between female characters. "First Friends" is more about Storm than it is about Jean, although both characters get some nice moments. Essentially, the story expands upon the question of why Ororo, who had an idyllic existence in the land that she loved, would give that up to become a superhero in crowded, polluted New York City. Len Wein's explanation in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 amounts to little more than that she needed a change. This story goes deeper, suggesting that Ororo still has certain psychological demons to overcome, and that her new friendships among the X-Men - and particularly the one she forges here with Jean Grey - might give her the strength to face those demons. This is Claremont being typically idealistic, and a good example of why I love his work. The "X-Men" premise is tied, in a very pseudo-scientific way, to notions about evolution, but in Claremont's hands, "evolution" refers more to personal, psychological growth. Over the course of his 16-year run on the title, all of the main characters evolve in fascinating ways - some for the better, some for the worse - but the overriding theme (which Claremont often makes explicit) is about the importance of personal growth, and of one's willingness to change as time goes on, rather than stagnate.

Friday, October 19, 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.

If you think your free form comment here might be better as its own post, but you do not want it to be public yet, email it to me. My email address is availible on my blogger profile page. If I think it will work on this site, your post will be published here with your name in the title of the post. You can propose what you will, I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books. Captain America's new outfit, and the new Radiohead album are taken -- I hope we will see them both here soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pushing Daisies

There has been some excitement about Pushing Daises from folks who like smart weird TV. For those that are watching it the attitude has been the sadly appropriate "this is great: this will be cancelled any second now." It was created by Bryan Fuller who also brought us Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls -- similarly quirky shows that deal with death and spirituality in a very pop-silly way.

Pushing Daisies has an exhausting premise. For no reason a guy has the ability to touch things and bring them back to life. If he touches them again, even accidentally, they go back to being dead, this time forever. If he brings something back to life for more than a minute the universe "course corrects" (as Desmond on Lost would put it) and takes the life of a random person in proximity. I got tired just writing that, but nowhere near as tired as I get hearing it reiterated at the beginning of every episode by a condescending, if endearingly sweet, narrator. Joss Whedon has said that the first six episodes of any show are the pilot -- you have to keep reintroducing your concept in your first six episodes because anyone of these might be a viewer's first one. Firely does this deftly. Pushing Daisies tries to use variations on the lesson to keep us from getting bored -- at least they do not repeat the rules the same way again and again over the opening credits for example -- but there is so much that needs explaining, I cannot imagine there is any way to do it where you do not feel like you are getting punched with the exposition fist. At least one reviewer said the narrator makes it work because he is so perfect; the narrator does a yeoman's job, I agree, but in my opinion there is no way to pull it off gracefully. Explaining the premise is like one guy lugging a sofa into the room every week. (To make matter's worse this is not the only place the narrator intrudes -- constantly the show is telling when it should be showing). And the arbitrary rules do not grow from the story -- they feel imposed by the screenwriters to gives their characters good conflicts: Ned brings his childhood sweetheart back to life, but they can never touch now (ten bucks says the creator's favorite star crossed lovers were Rogue and Gambit); Ned went over the one minute mark when he was a child and accidentally killed his sweetheart's dad; keeping his sweetheart alive killed someone else. And so on. Good conflicts all, but not natural ones.

The show feels like nothing else on television, but it feels a lot like early-1990s Tim Burton, especially the colors, and whimsical stock characters. Since even Tim Burton is no longer Tim Burton, I suppose this is necessary, I still feel like I am watching re-runs.

On the other side of these problems, however, is a charming cast, possibly the most charming I have ever seen -- in part because none of the actors is overexposed, none of them are standard issue. Lee Pace, who plays Ned, is a relatively new actor but I already love him. He has the weirdest part to play, the strangest mix of emotions about his powers, and he carries it off brilliantly. Suppressed friendliness, love forever chained to fear.

I fell head over heals in love with Anna Friel years ago when she did Pantene Commercials in the UK (and this new wonderful Virgin Atlantic commercial there as well). Pantene is pronounced Pan-TEN in the UK by the way. (and Adidas in the UK is prounced AHD-ee-das not Ad-EE-dis).

She is elfin, but completely approachable, beautiful in a unique and specific way. I would describe her as quirky-beautiful -- exactly the mode the show is going for. Plus her name is "Chuck." My heart absolutely melts.

And Chi McBride, whose best role was the principle on Boston Public (a show I loved) -- has tremendous presence, and does weird better than I would have expected. Swoosie Kurtz is great to see again, and even Kristin Chenoweth, who I kinda hate, really gets the part she is supposed to play.

The show has a lot of problems, but the casting alone is enough to keep it afloat for me. This is the TV equivallent of buying a comic book just for the art. It probably will not be enough to keep it afloat for the network so watch it now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Comics Out October 17, 2007

The Umbrella Academy 2. I liked this issue quite a bit more than the last one, and I liked the last one pretty good. The colors, which I failed to talk about last time are great -- the washed out fall present, particularly the sky, the red and rich browns of the apocalyptic future, the hot pink for the carnival under laser blast, the single bit of primary red for the inside lining of our villain's opera cape. Spaceboy, the evil floating bots (with that wonderfully updated clunky old look), the little kid having fun in the future -- all rendered with a lot of joy. The story's whimsicality feels less forced now: the villain and his plan I like a lot, seeing these wacky different people all together (so much more fun than the matching little kids -- we should have started with this and seen the kids in a flashback at some point later), even the understated "The Umbrella Academy" title I thought were all really charming. Not my favorite book ever -- the Grant Morrison blurb on the cover overstates I think but that is what blurbs and Grant Morrison are supposed to do -- but a nice one. I think it is every bit as good as Hellboy for example. Way to go Dark Horse.

One little overlap -- there is a visual chime between Ba's shot of the villain and his crew and the last page of Casanova 10 which Ba used to draw and which is not out yet but will be shortly -- you will see what I mean. Coincidence? Or a little wish on Ba's part to be back at his old job? Or just me over reading? I am willing to admit I over-read occasionally (occasionally).

Marvel Zombies 2 #1. I was not going to get this. I liked the original Marvel Zombies pretty well -- the idea is inspired as is the basic way the story continues (The Silver Surfer! Of Course!) and I liked the art. But exposition was clunky, and the hype was annoying. But I got a kick out of the first splash page of the new issue, which suggested this was going to go a new direction, and sure enough there seems to be some life still kicking in this concept. Exposition still rattles like an old car on a hot day: there is 0% imagination in how they reestablish that the zombies cannot eat each other for example, and Kirkman loves to set a scene with the worn out "Earth...", "New Wakanda...", "Meanwhile, out in deep space..." (where the fuck did he think I would think they were without the caption? Near space?), "Back on Earth...", "Elsewhere in New Wakanda...". The absolute worst moment was a panel of Black Panther and his wife sleeping. The caption reads "Later that night. Aboard Asteroid M, the quarters of Black Panther and his wife." The very next panel is captioned "Elsewhere" and off we go. Why is Kirkman prepping this for audiobook? Is this comics for blind people? Phillips is great because this feels like the book he was born to draw, but even he is far too addicted to that big posed tee-shirt ready shot of Marvel heroes in Zombie form -- four times in the issue. Do I look like a whack-a-mole? I get it. I know it is superheroes in zombie form but stop treating me like I am an idiot.

I had wanted to talk about Captain America's new costume here, but I am currently talking to a guest blogger about covering it and I have decided to save all my comments for that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sexist English Lit Maxims (Commonplace Book)

[Mitch sent me this one, which he heard in high school:]

Essays should be like a woman's skirt. Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.

[Which reminded me of another sexist but memorable maxim -- I do not know where from:]

Translations of poetry are like women. The beautiful ones are apt to be unfaithful, and the faithful ones are apt to be ugly.

[Not nice -- but entertaining advice from an earlier age. Half the fun is in the idea and execution, and half the fun is imagining the venue in which this would have been appropriate.]

[This post was slightly edited at 8:57pm]

Picture Update

The picture in the right toolbar has been updated because I looked like I was balding in the earlier photo. Wow am I vain.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chandler Bennett: Emerson, Captain America, Miracleman

[Let's welcome our third guest-blogger, Chandler Bennett. He read my essay on Emerson, X-Men and Gnosticism -- which you can get to by clicking the link in the toolbar on the right -- and sent me this email, which I thought would make a good blog post. It has been edited by me to look like a post and not a letter.]

[I have quoted the Emerson passage he cites on this blog earlier, though I think it was a commonplace book entry and I did not say much about it; it is a favorite. I still think the Emerson passage I cited in the essay means primarily what I said that it meant, but Bennett is dead right about the passage he likes better].

X-Men, Emerson, Gnosticim triggered an admittedly wordy grab-bag of responses: it made me want to talk about another passage from the Emerson essay "Experience" that I think proves your point a little better, then to review a couple particularly good examples of the Captain America send-ups which abounded in '80s comics, and finally to look at Alan Moore's Miracleman.

I know you chose the passage about Emerson's son to link him explicitly with Professor Xavier, but I actually think that what Xavier is describing - his "monstrous" condescension toward a son he perceived as a lower species - is a little different from Emerson's lament that even the deepest human griefs attenuate over time. A beautiful passage more clearly reflecting Emerson's Gnostic condescension toward everyday domestic life is this one in the closing paragraph of the "Experience" essay:

We must be very suspicious of the deceptions of the element of time.It takes a good deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars, and a very little time to entertain a hope and an insight which becomes the light of our life. We dress our garden, eat our dinners, discuss the household with our wives, and these things make no impression, are forgotten next week; but, in the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him.

I think that phrase "to earn a hundred dollars" is very good because it makes you think two things about worldly affairs: 100 dollars was a grand sum (even now it can buy at least 5 nice trades), and yet the phrase makes it sound arbitrary, crude, finite – not so grand after all. The rest of the passage speaks for itself. Emerson's attitude toward his wife, whom he associates with the ephemeral pastimes of life under the sun (as opposed to the solitary thoughts which put a man in touch with the eternal) is very like the attitude you observe in Xavier's talk about his family (I saw the journal quote you pulled in your Emerson citation, and that is also strong evidence in your case).

Your discussion of the whole line of Weapon Plus creations which Morrison envisions made me want to bring up a couple more examples of imaginative riffs on Captain America. One I think you explicitly refer to is Nuke, from the Miller-Mazzucchelli Daredevil story Born Again. Nuke is even more blatantly than Alan Moore's Comedian the Vietnam-era Captain America, a pill-popping psychotic American experiment who can only be subdued through the combined efforts of DD and Captain America, in concert with heavy artillery. Morrison actually has Miller to thank, in part, for the concept of a succession of super-soldiers, as Miller explicitly states that Captain America is Nuke's predecessor in the program.

Around the same time, but from the independent comics world, there was Dan Clowes' "Battlin' American" (who appeared in Clowes' pre- Eightball series The Adventures of Lloyd Llewellyn).The first story with this character is a good example of Clowes' Mad Magazine-like knack for taking an idea that starts out simply as parody (What if Captain America lived in the American city of today? He'd be a junkie withered by the very steroids he takes to be a hero!) and following it into more creepy and sobering territory. The story ends with the Battlin' American busting into the hideout of some teenagers who stole his supply of strength serum, and are now sick and deranged from withdrawals. One of them is dead, and another bashes the "Battlin' American's" head into the wall, demanding, "HOW DO YOU…STOP…THE PAIN!?"

One of the earliest bizarro versions of Captain America is Big Ben, a British super soldier essentially mind-controlled by patriotic comic-book fantasy (Miller must have been thinking of this character with Nuke) in Alan Moore's Miracleman. This brings up a question I have for you: when are you going to write about Miracleman? I know you've said that the scarcity of Miracleman issues makes it less useful than the readily-available and universally-known Watchmen, but it just seems like too perfect (and self-conscious, even) an example of your argument about later writers revising the continuity in which their characters function. In Miracleman, Moore appropriates the history of his character even more radically and aggressively than he went on to do in Swamp Thing, recasting the entire original run of Miracleman adventures as dreams fed into the drugged minds of government test subjects, fantasies meant to flatter and pacify them, and to keep them from perceiving the monstrous truth that they've been gene-spliced with aliens by government conspirators who mean to deploy them in the arms race. This is an idea that questions the whole nature of our involvement with superhero-comics, and which continues to resonate today: for the Alan Moore of Miracleman, the concept of super beings fighting a clear-cut good-versus-evil battle in a Manichean universe is a form of mind control promulgated by behind-the-scenes villains who are very much of this world.

Incidentally, I did not know at first that the informational chapters at the end of the first Eclipse issues aren't a Watchmen-like fabrication of continuity, that there was a "historical" Miracleman (actually called "Marvelman," but renamed in the reprints due to pressure from Marvel Comics). This makes Moore's comic much more powerful. The panels showing the Miracleman family hooked up to the mad scientist's equipment and kept occupied by superhero fantasies are deeply chilling, even if you have no previous involvement with the character, but they gain greatly in resonance when you learn that the entire history of an actual character is being "shown" to be a malicious illusion to which even the original readers of the comic were victim. It is one of the most artful, daring, and devastating examples of ret-conning I have ever seen.

[If you have not gotten Miracleman it is worth the absurd price it probably costs on EBay. Just for fun -- how many people have read it? If enough people have I can at least consider writing about it in more detail. It just seems mean to leave so many people out of the loop by talking in detail about an expensive and hard to find comic book run when there is so much to talk about that is easily available.]

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 15

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. For the whole series so far, go to the links under "Best of the Blog" in the right toolbar.]

In this issue the Hellfire club finishes their attack, taking everyone down except Kitty Pryde, who is ready to rally back by the end.

I remember being a little frustrated with this issue. Taking Scott down took a whole issue, and I just assumed that we would get one issue taking down one member of the team at a time -- issue 15: Beast v. Nova; issue 16: Colossus v Shaw; and so on. Taking down everyone else here probably makes more sense, and it is also serves to highlight how much of a badass Scott is -- his take-down needed a whole issue; everyone else requires only pages. Whedon should do a whole Scott Summers miniseries. Whedon is the King of Scott Summers-ville.

Throughout my Astonishing X-Men posts I have been taking Casaday to task for laziness -- he has a bad habit of giving us either no backgrounds or backgrounds that are just patterns, and he will repeat an image whenever he can. Though it will not fully kick into high gear until next issue, it is clear from 15 that he is making an effort. The first page basically repeats an image four times, but for a good reason, and for the rest of the issue he seems more committed. When backgrounds drop out they drop out for a reason, and every character seems to get due attention. It is nice to see him bounce back. We even get a nice visual motif of panels giving us Leonie style close-ups on intense eyes: The Beast's are furious, Scott's are vacant, Wolverine's are intense as a set up for a joke, and Kitty's are determined. The blind girl's eyes are also highlighted, as are Emma's, with her fake tears.

Casaday's Nova is as terrifying as Morrison intended her to be. She stands confident and simple in a variation on the Safari outfit Morrison introduced her with -- it is the "camera" that leans at a 45 degree angle to register how off, how weird, and how frighteningly powerful she is.

Whedon delivers some very nice character moments. Kitty calls her opponent "some goth punk" then chastises herself for how old she has gotten. Nova's analysis of her opponents betrays Whedon's sharp grasp of character: Hank is a beast who thinks he is a man, and Wolverine is a boy who thinks himself a beast. Similarly Danger appears to Ord -- Whedon nicely does not just forget about his first two villains with the entrance of a third -- and smartly argues how much they have in common: both the last hope for their respective people fighting against mutants. Characters are given Dante-esque ironically appropriate punishment by the Hellfire Club (get it: Hell, Dante): Shaw says "Summers is a Zombie, Pryde's a Ghost, Rasputin, a victim of his own rage." Whedon gets character, and fights with him are always an excuse to explore character. We are even reminded, yet again, of Agent Brand -- you can feel him building to bringing all these elements together.

Whedon does have his usual preoccupations, and while I like them, I can understand the objection that they become predictable. A little girl, Hisako, is shown to be tremendously powerful -- like Buffy, River, Willow, and so on. And another standard masculine hero is deflated, as Wolverine is reduced by Nova to a whimpering little boy; tough men get unmanned in Whedon often -- Angel's reduction to a puppet in Season Five of his show will serve as a single example, but there are many. Whedon is divisive among fans -- if you share Whedon's joy in these things you will probably like him most of the time; if you do not he will probably get on your nerves mostly. He is a very good writer but you see his limitations quickly -- and either accept or reject them early.

The issue ends with a great moment I have written about already: you can click here to go to that post.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blog Updates

I am pretty sure that my update of the toolbar on the right is done. It now features a new picture of me, links and images of all my print publications, the link to my updated MySpace page, and links to the best of the blog -- 18 of my favorite posts on poetry, books, children's literature, music, movies and comics as well as links to my extensive issue by issue treatments of Grant Morrison's New X-Men and Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. I have created links to the works of guest bloggers -- that will be updated every time a submission to this site is accepted; if you want to know what I am looking for I have created a link to the initial post asking for guest bloggers. (Free Form Comments on Fridays will also feature specific requests for submissions). I have created links to my other online work; if the original site has gone down, I have cut and pasted from my final draft on Word into blogger. I have provided links to all my interviews on websites and on Comic Geek Speak, for your listening entertainment. Finally, the links and blogroll have been updated.

Thacher on Spiderman: One More Day (Comment Pull Quote)

[I think I may be pulling to many comments now, but I really like the one the way this one is worded. Also it is the weekend, so i get to be lazy. This comment is from the Comics Out post on Wednesday.]

Thacher wrote:

On Newsarama, when they posted preview pages of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, one person posted commented that the brown pigeon that is seen on the first page is similar to the brown pigeon that was in the first issue, and then surmised that the brown pigeon was in fact Mephisto, and he would attempt to offer Peter a deal. I found it to be the most totally ridiculous, out-there theories anyone pulled out of their asses. Then I read the issue today.

That pigeon was totally Mephisto.

After knocking around time and space with Dr. Strange, begging everyone good or bad on earth to save his aunt, but no one can (not even, I guess, the X-Men kid who can heal people with his touch). Despondent, he leaves, and the pigeon morphs into a little girl, who makes a menacing offer of help.

Is it wrong to think that a hero who makes a deal with Satan becomes extraordinarily irredeemable? I mean, I know a spider-marriage is unacceptable, but is a spider-faustian deal?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jason Powell and Neil Shyminsky: X-Men: Created by Bad Guys (Comment Pull Quote)

[This is from Friday's Free Form Comments]

Jason Powell wrote:

This is a possibly interesting thing that I didn't realize till I read your Morrison reviews. When -- in one of Morrison's earliest "New X-Men" issues -- Professor X reveals to the world that he's a mutant, resulting in a large change in tone and direction for the comic, he does so while under the mental influence of Cassandra, a villain. This is actually a canny use of tradition on Morrison's part. In Giant-Sized X-Men #1, when Professor X recruits all the new X-Men, he does so under the mental influence of the villlain, Krakoa (this is explicitly stated in GSX #1). And when Professor X recruited the New Mutants, the first X-Men spinoff back circa 1983, he does so because he's got an alien egg growing inside him that is influencing his decisions and making him recruit superhuman hosts for more eggs. So it's like, every major decision in Professor X's life regarding the X-Men has come about because of an external, and malign, factor. I have to give Morrison credit for that one -- it was pretty shrewd.

Neil Shyminsky wrote:

That's a fantastic point, but also causes me to wonder - was Krakoa's influence taken into consideration when Xavier was villified for putting together that first team of 'new' X-Men? The one featuring Havok and Cyclops' other brother, the team that was thought dead and prompted Xavier to recruit the 'new' team in GSX #1? Because I think it would be pretty silly for Morrison to earn all of these reprimands from X-Men traditionalists that have since followed when the guys that have taken over seem, in fact, much worse at paying attention to some major continuity points.

Jason Powell wrote:

Krakoa's influence over Xavier has been tacitly ret-conned over the years. It's not mentioned in Classic X-Men #1, for example, and Scott Lobdell did a scene in X-Men #300, where we learn that Xavier had already found Nightcrawler, Storm, et al even before he founded the first team, and could "foresee them becoming the team's second generation." (Groan.)

But Krakoa's influence over Xavier is explicitly and entirely ret-conned in the story you mention, "Deadly Genesis," in which all of Krakoa's dialogue is ret-conned as having not really happened -- up to and including Krakoa's line about having "planted the suggestion to get more mutants into the mind of the crippled one," or whatever the line is in Giant-Sized #1. According to Deadly Genesis, Krakoa couldn't speak, and Professor X was fooling everybody into thinking he could as part of a cover-up. So all that dialogue of Krakoa's that the X-Men heard and we read was "actually" manufactured by Xavier.

I don't know the details of it beyond that, having only skimmed the trade at Barnes and Noble. I certainly don't mind ret-conning Giant Sized X-Men #1, because that story as originally published makes absolutely no sense. From what I understand, "Deadly Genesis" does cover all its bases as far as "continuity" goes, making sure that all the contradictions are addressed and smoothed over in some way. If it gets a pass from continuity buffs, it's probably earned.

As for whether it's a good story in its own right ... that, I can't really speak to. Seemed like a good example of a certain flavor of "contiuity porn," wherein continuity is trashed, but in a way that makes certain elements of past stories make more sense, rather than less, so continuity buffs really dig it. Ten years ago I probably would've loved it. These days I think it's just a bemusing curiosity.

Friday, October 12, 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.

If you think your free form comment here might be better as its own post, but you do not want it to be public yet, email it to me. My email address is availible on my blogger profile page. If I think it will work on this site, your post will be published here with your name in the title of the post. You can propose what you will, I am always looking for reviews of games, tv, movies, music and books.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jason Powell on Claremont's Classic X-Men 2 and 3 (UXM 94 and 95)

[Jason Powell continues his look at Claremont's X-Men -- not quite issue by issue but awfully close, as here he goes at two at a time. For more of the same click Jason Powell's name at the bottom of this post. I like how we are building a whole library of X-Men posts here: Claremont, Morrison, Whedon. Anybody want to take on the Kirby issues?]

These two issues contain the very first Chris Claremont X-Men story, "The Doomsmith Scenario," although Claremont only provides dialogue here. The story is plotted by Len Wein, and probably for that very reason it's still quite rooted in 1960s superhero traditions: A team of villains to challenge the team of heroes, a ticking-clock situation, and a criminal mastermind so by-the-numbers that he has a cane, mustache and monocle.

Since the plot is so rote, the only thing that makes the story standout is Claremont's melodrama, but it all feels rather shoehorned in here. The comic is such a bombastic, Silver Age action story that it feels discordant to see the angst layered on so thick. It would take a while before Claremont became more fluent. For now we get moments like:

--Thunderbird showing his disrespect for Cyclops by calling him "one-eye." "The name is Cyclops, mister!" is Cyclops' retort. Is "one-eye" somehow a stupider-sounding name than Cyclops?

--The introduction of Count Nefaria. He has some dialogue from off-panel, and Dragonfly says, "What? Who ssspeakssss?" Dragonfly is apparently an idiot. Then Frog-Man says, "Who do you think, Dragonfly? It's the boss ­ our lord an' master." Nefaria then reveals himself on-panel and says, "Yes, Count Nefaria is your lord and master." And on and on it clunks.

--Claremont's transition from Nefaria back to the X-Men. Nefaria says, "Now, the game begins in earnest," which segues to a narrative caption: "Games. Some like 'em, some don't. Take Scott Summers ­ he gave up games a long time ago." Claremont is really trying too hard here.

The bit in this story that I genuinely love is the resolution of the cliffhanger on the first couple pages of issue 95, when the X-Men calmly work things out while plummeting to their deaths. They're so sanguine that Nightcrawler ­ as John Byrne has somewhat disparagingly pointed out ­ delivers a physics lecture. ("If I teleport from this height, the law of conservation of energy demands that I rematerialize at the same velocity. I will be killed regardless.") It's fantastically over the top, which is how superhero comics ought to be.

The ending of the "Scenario," with Thunderbird dying, was Len Wein's idea. Claremont protested it, presumably on the grounds that it was a waste of a potentially cool character. In practice, it does come off as a bit of a cheap ploy, although Claremont added some scenes in the "Classic" reprints to make us care more about Thunderbird. There's an entirely new thread in which Thunderbird is having a huge crisis of confidence, because he realizes that there's nothing he can do that one of the other X-Men can't do better -- entirely true, as it turns out. It's a great humanizing touch, and it adds much more pathos to Proudstar's grandstanding at the end which leads to his death.

The Overflow of Powerful Feelings

Years ago I read an essay on poetry by Penelope Laurans called "'Old Correspondences': Prosodic Transformations." It contains this passage "Indeed, it seems to me that [Elizabeth] Bishop exercises her technical proficiency to cut her poetry off from that 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling' so immediately central to the Romantic imagination. Frequently it is this quality of restraint that keeps the poetry from sentimental excess and gives it its elegantly muted modernest quality." She has made a kind of dreadful mistake here in using that quotation. I freaked out about it in class, but have not though about it for years.

This week I was reading Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty Three of the World's Best Poems (You, or at least I, have to admire how she got her name in the subtitle). Now Camille Paglia, for the most part, is a critic I really like, someone who, like Bloom, writes about poetry in such a way as to actually make people feel it is important and exciting, as it should be. But she makes that same damn mistake when she writes "Wordsworth called poetry 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings'. The new Romantic values were immediacy and emotional truth, replacing the cooler, more formal standards of Neoclassicism, such as symmetry, perfection, and control."

The mistake in both cases is that they have truncated the Wordsworth quote to make it say something very close to the opposite of what it says in context. What Wordsworth actually wrote was this: "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." That last phrase is kinda important, since both Laurans and Paglia use the truncated quotation to demonstrate an opposition between Romantic poetry (sentimental excess, immediacy and emotional truth) and something else (technical proficiency, restraint, cool, symmetrical, perfect and in control) -- when it is clear from the full quote that Wordsworth thinks Romantic poetry contains that something else. If anyone ever wondered (though I am sure no one did) why Bloom says that Modernism and Post-Modernism are just Late-Romanticism, this is at least one reason why.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Comics Out October 10, 2007

Runaways 28. I count roughly 21 characters in play here: The Runaways (Molly, Victor, Nico, Karolina, Xavin, Chase), The Arabs (The Swell, Lillie, Tristan), The Upward Path (Nightstick, Daystick, the Difference Engine, Black Maria, and the Adjudicator), The Sinners (Maneater, Forget-me-not, Morphine, Kid Twist, and Mr. and Mrs. Yorke), plus little Klara (and Klara's dad who is quite minor). That's a lot of people to keep track of. The issue is kinda bitter-sweet (especially Molly's misunderstanding about Klara's "chores"), funny and smart (the "Difference Engine" is a great name for a character and his punch card was hilarious), and The Yorkes are wonderfully humanized. The art is even a step up in places. But maybe because there is so much going on it seems somehow to be less than the sum of its parts -- it does not come together for me the way Fray or even Sugar Shock does, though no one can call it bad, I think.

Punisher War Journal 12. Morrison's justifiably maligned metaphor comparing good comics writing to how the Beatles added in minor chords to the standard C F G set and changed rock and roll seems especially appropriate here (if it did not, you know, kinda suck as a metaphor, as has been demonstrated around here by people who know more about music than I do). Punisher 12 is just a dippy one-off story that is the most generic kind of throwaway crossover tie-in -- but Fraction tosses in just enough over-the-top ridiculousness to make it a lot of fun. After a deft sketch of the events of World War Hulk for people not following it -- and take note people, this is how to do exposition when you need it -- we know everything we need to know, and are set for Frank vs. the Creature from Outer Space. A lesser writer might have gone with a more Predator feel, but Fraction knows that the money is in grindhouse or even drive-in silliness -- "They Came from New Jersey!" "Guns that Shoot Swords!" "Jellyball eyes of the Skull Chest Meat Shell!" Olivetti is great fun here.

Two slightly more serious things to note about Fraction's work. First, his Spiderman loves his wife, his Punisher and Casanova love their jobs explicitly. Angst may be a great thing to draw on for creativity, but Fraction seems to be drawing on some surprisingly positive sources, or at least doing such a good job converting negative feelings that it looks that way.

Second, a ghostly Punisher stands over lower Manhattan on the last page, a Manhattan in ruins (from the Hulk who stands over the city in a ghostly way on the first page). Lower Manhattan is a photograph, and the Twin Towers are notably absent (especially noticeable because it is a photograph). Three questions: would the towers have been where Frank's legs are? Was there a picture of Captain America like this as a 9-11 tribute in a Marvel thing somewhere? And what are we to make of this, if anything.

Comics News at Newsarama did not excite this week.

Review, recommend, and discuss this week's comics and comics news. And I would love it of someone would spoil Spiderman: One More Day part 2 for us.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blake v. Einstein (Commonplace Book)

"What is grand is necessarily obscure to weak men. That which can be made explicit to the idiot is not worth my care." -- William Blake

"[If a physical theory cannot be explained to a child, it is probably worthless]." -- Albert Einstein

Obviously, different situations. One is poetic truth, one scientific. Plus, granted, you could argue that it is easier to explain something to a child than to an idiot, if you imagine the difference is that children are more open minded. And Einstein, not being a crazy prophet, tossed in the qualifier "probably". But if you only had to chose one to live by, which one would you go with? I can never decide and just go back and forth as the mood strikes me. Alternate Question: which quote covers your most recent mood.

[I cannot find the exact Albert Einstein quotation -- only a paraphrase. Let me know if you know it.]

Monday, October 08, 2007

Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men 14

[This post is part of a series of post looking issue by issue at Joss Whedon's AXM run issue by issue. For more of the same click the label at the bottom of this post.]

In this issue Emma begins her psychic attack on Cyclops.

Whedon does what he does best here -- emotional weight reinforced through some light undercutting. Whedon gets excellent milage out of Scott and Jean's history. He sees without his goggles because of her, and they are comfortable with each other -- and when she asks if she makes him sad, it is a real question and a good one. Whedon's emotional compass here is great right where it needs to be for this issue to work -- he shows us how Scott is too controlled, how he feels inferior to Jean. We know this, of course, but as on Buffy Whedon knows how to give genre fiction serious emotional weight. And so much of the issue is just talking -- but it is such intense well realized talking it is never a defect. The talking is really getting to the heart of these characters here. Many times the "let me know you your dark desires" comes off as staged -- but here you believe this could break him down. Emma's arguments are actually pretty good -- maybe Xavier DID make Scott the leader because he had nothing else. Using Morrison's Black Bug Room is a great touch -- Whedon is deft here -- he does not tell us more than Morrison did about it -- but gets more pack for his punch out of the fact that the reader's know that it is bad news and little else. After demonstrating how well he understands Scott's character Whedon adds his own bit to the mythology -- the day Scott, as a boy, decided not to control his power. Maybe this is a false memory, maybe not, but Whedon has earned our trust with his handling of Scott in this story, and so he earns the right to add something new. People say Morrison did a great job with Scott Summers. He did. But Whedon puts him to Shame with this run.

Kitty and Peter's lighthearted subplot -- also with sex as a theme -- serves just to get us out of all this intensity, and it works perfectly.

A hook for the next issue: Brand knows the mutant that will destroy the Breakworld (though we do not yet) and Beast and Nova meeting again -- and he is out with a great issue.

Whedon is in fine form, but Cassaday fails him here. This issue is especially egregious in terms of Casaday's backgrounds and repeats. Not all are terrible -- some are used for good comic effect -- but there are so many of them they seem lazy, when you see them in aggregate. And I have mentioned this before -- Casaday is a great artist in many respects but Emma and Jean need to be very sexy to make this seduction work and Cassaday, as far as I can think, does not do sexy faces well. Travis Charest is the guy I would want here.

Cassaday repeat/background watch: a zoom on Scott, a zoom on Scott and Jean, Jean is repeated, Jean is repeated twice, we have a triple zoom in, a panel of kids on a couch is repeated, Peter and Kitty get a zoom, Scott is repeated, Emma and Scott get a zoom, Scott is repeated twice, a panel is almost exactly repeated twice. As for backgrounds, again, we have a lot of patterns and blank spaces: Sunset for Scott and Jean, a curtain and a wall, wood paneling, bookcases, blank brown backgrounds, a photograph of earth, grey, red, blue.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Best of the Blog

A new feature has been added to the toolbar on the right -- links to the best posts I have done (in my opinion), including easy links to the issue-by-issue looks at Morrison's New X-Men and Whedon's Astonishing X-Men.

Let me know if you think it should be edited in any way: perhaps you have a favorite post that is not there, or you think I have overrated one of my old posts.

If guest bloggers become regulars, I will give them their own links on the right.

Neil Shyminsky on Morrison's Batman 667-669

[Neil published a smart post in this subject on his blog. Below, I have reprinted the conclusion. Click the quote to go to the full post (not a long one) on his blog. My only quibble would be that I think Morrison wants to revive the league of Batman, wants to show them as not lame -- he just fails for the most part].

For all its seeming genre-playfulness, the story is impossible to actually submerge yourself within. As Batman remains critically, even patronizingly, distanced from the exercise of the story, it becomes difficult for us as readers to feel anything for - as Robin described them last issue - the 'league of Batman impostors'. It's an ironic revision of a terribly lame concept that supplies us with equally lame motivations for the villains and does little more than convince us that, yes, clichés and Batman impostors are, as I said, terribly lame. Didn't we already know that?

James on All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder 7 (Comment Pull Quote)

[How did I fail to notice how hilarious this line from issue 7 is? Thanks you James.]

I wanted to mention something from All-Star Batman #7 that lept out at me, but I haven't seen picked up on. Batman mentions someone who can fly, and "the idiot doesn't even know he can". I thought that was a great line akin to DKR's "why do you think I wear a target on my chest"? It offers an explanation for the first Superman comics where he couldn't fly, and simultaneously paints Batman as such a badass that he knows more about Superman's powers than Superman does.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Steven Bryant: Donors Choose

[Here is Steve Bryant on Donors Choose].

I'm currently running a challenge at my blog (http://www.atomictiki.blogspot.com/) regarding a charity called Donors Choose.

Donors Choose is a website that allows teachers in our underfunded public school systems to appeal directly to citizens for help in funding special projects. People contribute directly via the Donors Choose website and can pick the initiatives they want to support.

I started a challenge requesting that comic people contribute to a few of the comics-in-the-classroom initiatives that I saw:

Friday, October 05, 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.

If you think your free form comment here might be better as its own post, but you do not want it to be public yet, email it to me. My email address is availible on my blogger profile page. If I think it will work on this site, your post will be published here with your name in the title of the post. You can propose what you will, but this week I am looking for reviews of The Kingdom, the new Weakerthans album, and Michael Clayton.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mitch Reviews Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited

[A second guest blogger joins us, with a review of Wes Anderson's new movie. I asked Mitch to keep it to 500 words, but now I think that may have been unnecessarily harsh. Point being, if you think this is too short, that is my fault, not Mitch's. He may have more to say in the comments. A spoiler follows, but I do not care much about spoilers for a movie like this , whose virtues are elsewhere.]

I want to live in the world inside Wes Anderson’s head, where everything is immaculately framed by revealing nick-knacks and is perfectly choreographed to ambivalent folk music. Anderson’s worthy new film, The Darjeeling Limited, reinforces this desire.

The film’s title refers to a powder blue passenger train transporting three estranged brothers through India on a self-imposed “spiritual journey.” Anderson also continues to study the human response to death – in The Royal Tenebaums Gene Hackman’s pending death (counterfeit or otherwise) motivates his reconciliation with his family, in The Life Aquatic Steve Zissou vows to avenge a dead friend and in Darjeeling the three Whitman brothers must finally make sense of their father’s death after a year. One wonders if Anderson is secretly working on a five-part box set of films about the stages of grief.

As with the director’s other films, the aesthetic is impeccable. The messy red Sanskrit on the exterior of the train, the Julian Davies song on Jason Schwartzman’s iPod player, the set of monogrammed luggage designed for the film by Marc Jacobs of Louis Vuitton – there is an inimitable magic in Anderson’s arrangement of this stuff. These elements, like good song lyrics, might seem trite or needlessly random when taken out of context, but sequenced correctly they crackle with a sudden and brief harmony.

The screenplay (written by Anderson, Schwartzman and Roman Coppola) characterizes the backstabbing brothers with much glee. If one character leaves a scene, the other two instantly form an alliance against him, until he returns and the process repeats. In one very entertaining scene, each brother attempts to one-up the strength others’ illegal painkillers. Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Schwartzman navigate the subtleties of the material charmingly. Wilson is particularly good as the bandaged, overbearing Francis; but the synchronicity of the actor’s recent suicide attempt and his beaten-up demeanor in this movie absolutely boggles my mind.

Viewers (like me) who were put off by the abrupt character death towards the end of The Life Aquatic might be frustrated by a similar plot swerve in this film. Granted, the execution here isn’t as hasty as in Aquatic, but its occurrence and necessity to the plot still troubles me, like the old screenwriting adage against suddenly “burning the barn down” in the third act.

Then again, it seems unfair to chastise a film for a sudden death, when the whole premise of the story hangs on the reaction to sudden, unexpected death? If I really want to live in Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic head, I suppose I have to accept that the same ideas are bound to whiz by a couple of times.

Green Wing

[Apologies to my British readers who already know this. Back me up in the comments.]

Of the not insignificant amount of television I was exposed to in my two years living in England, Green Wing was surely the best of the bunch. It is an hour long comedy with an ensemble cast centered around a hospital. There is is a story in the sense that things happen, but there is not really a "plot" to the episodes: each episode shows a day at the hospital and maybe the aftermath at a bar or something.

Comedy relies on surprise, and Green Wing does what Adult Swim did when it first premiered -- jokes always come out of left field. This is harder to do in live action than cartoons, where there is more range for the anarchic -- but Green Wing pulls it off. Part of the genius of the show is that underneath all the madness is a hospital drama about a new female doctor trying settle her romantic feelings for two of her colleagues. I think that plot only serves to lull us into a false sense of security at regular intervals, before ABSURD jokes like I have never seen come flying out of nowhere. Hour after hour the show continues to surprise, which is not an easy thing to do.

When something dull is going on the film speeds past it and when something interesting is going on the film slows down to catch it. The editing, on one level, is not exactly rocket surgery, but coupled with an amazing, original, and indispensable soundtrack the show taps directly into the idea that comedy requires perfect timing and rhythm to work. This principle is usually reserved for describing single jokes, but Green Wing essentially replaces story structure with a comic rhythmic structure on a much larger scale.

I could go on about the show for days -- including Dr. Alan Statham who is surely one of the great comedy creations (though his first scene is not representative of the genius of the character). But someone put the first eight and a half minutes of the first episode up you YouTube, so here it is for you to see for yourself -- much better than me trying to put examples into words.

[As a side-note I often hear people wishing they would make Region 1 DVDs of British television. Do what I do -- get a region free DVD player (not even that expensive) and then get DVDs through EBay or whatever. British TV rocks.]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Comics Out October 3, 2007

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 7. A second clunker from the overrated Vaughan. That bit where someone who does not have a pass acts bitchy and is let in because of that is such a cliche, but Vaughan makes it so much worse by vocalizing the idea behind it with the doorman actually saying "You're one of them, all right." Only in bad screenplays do people talk like this. Was that really the plan anyway? And did anyone not anticipate that the two rock monsters would be defeated by getting them to crash into each other? That's the only reason there were two of them. The telegraph: it is not just an old fashioned communication device. At least the art was better than last time.

Spiderman Loves Mary Jane vol 4. I have not had time to read this, but I am looking forward to it. I hope the new series with Terry Moore and Alphona will be as good as this, but I doubt it. I wish Terry Moore was doing the art and McKeever was still on story.

Nothing in comics news caught my eye.

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

[If I had known I was going to have so little to say this week, I woud have posted Jason's thing today.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jason Powell on Claremont's Classic X-Men #1

[Guest writer Jason Powell begins his look at Claremont's X-Men, something I probably need to be schooled in. Let's welcome the first guest writer for this site, and hope we have many more. This may be the first in an issue by issue look at the run.]

This is Chris Claremont's elaboration upon the story first told in Giant-Sized X-Men #1, which brought Len Wein and Dave Cockrum's "all-new, all-different" X-Men into the fold. Claremont, a superhero writer who's more interested in emotional interaction than fight scenes, tells a story in which the new X-Men members interact with the old ones.

Iceman is cast as something of a punk in this story, ostensibly because he's the youngest of the X-Men and therefore the least open-minded (note Angel's line about Bobby: "He's a kid. He doesn't appreciate the possibilities...").

There's a wonderful sequence in which Bobby interrupts a moment of burgeoning camaraderie among Banshee, Colossus and Nightcrawler. After making nasty comments about Nightcrawler's demonic appearance and Colossus' native Russia (Classic X-Men #1 was published in 1986, when the Cold War was on everybody's mind), there's a great exchange between Kurt and Bobby:

Kurt: "I resemble a monster, therefore I am one? You object to Peter's government, and condemn him by association? You're all for mutant rights, but only for those mutants who fit your aesthetic and political criteria? A most charitable attitude, Herr Drake. Most enlightened."

Bobby: "That's not what I said! You’re putting words in my mouth!"

Kurt: "Then prove me wrong. Take my hand, and Peter’s, and welcome us with an open heart."

Nightcrawler's chastisement of Iceman is devastating, but then turns on a dime into a heartfelt plea for compassion and brotherhood. It's abeautiful character moment for Nightcrawler, and also a good example of the excellent flow that Claremont's dialogue has when he's really cooking. These "Classic X-Men" stories with John Bolton represent Claremont at the very top of his game.

The heart of "First Night," however, is Claremont's forefronting of the Cyclops-Jean-Wolverine love-triangle, which originally did not figure into the earliest "all-different" X-Men adventures quite so prominently.

Here, Claremont reveals Jean's visceral attraction to Wolverine as one of her primary reasons for quitting the team, which is a huge ret-con. Interestingly, Claremont chooses not to put Cyclops and Wolverine in a scene together. Instead, Cyclops cloisters himself in an office (to finish filling out a report on the Krakoa battle "while the impressions are still fresh," which is delightfully square) and Jean goes for a walk on the grounds, where Wolverine makes a play for her.

Then in a marvelous little parallel, while Wolverine comes on to Jean on the ground, we have Angel trying to woo Storm in the air. (Interestingly, Warren is almost more forward than Logan.) But in the midst of his flirtation, Warren notices the scene below, and immediately forgets about Storm in order to come between Wolverine and Marvel Girl. This is good characterization of Warren, as it both demonstrates the shallowness of his attempted flirtation with Ororo, and hints that he's not entirely over Jean (Roy Thomas did a Scott-Jean-Warren love triangle back during the X-Men's original run).

His line to Logan, "She's spoken for - and even if she wasn't, she's too good for the likes of you," is fantastic. Losing Jean to Scott - that's one thing. But Jean preferring Logan to Warren doesn't sit nearly as well.

Classic X-Men #1 ends with one of my favorite X-Men scenes: Jean goes to Charles and tells him that she is leaving the team. The pages are lit very somberly by Glynis Oliver, and Bolton draws Xavier in such a way that you can just feel his heart break. This exchange is particularly memorable:

Jean: "What of my own dreams and plans – for love, for a family. Must they be sacrificed on this terrible altar of responsibility?"

Xavier: "Dear Jean, is that what you believe the X-Men’s purpose is? Have I failed you so utterly?"

Xavier, who is often portrayed as fairly unflinching in his confidence, questioning whether he's failed his first student, tugs at the heart quite a bit. It's an excellent dramatic turn on Claremont's part, making Xavier so vulnerable in that moment.