Archive for March 2017

American Gods No 1

You may have noticed from previous posts that I have a thing for mythology. Tales of the gods and their progeny fascinate me and will always garner my attention. It was this love of mythology that attracted me to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I had loved his work on Sandman and him playing with myth in the modern era was enough to entice me to read the book.

When I heard that they would be doing a comic adaptation of the book, I was excited. The first issue came out last week and I snatched it up as soon as I saw it. I did not get time to read it until over the weekend.

I read the issue twice in one sitting. The first reading was filled with that giddy excitement of getting something you’ve been waiting for. The second was to fully process what I read.

After processing, I have to say that the first issue of American Gods is Meh.

I know!

It feels like sacrilege to say a comic by Neil Gaiman is just Meh!

Hear me out.

I have read this story before, several times to be exact. I am familiar with the rhythm of the narrative and flow of characters. I have images in my head that I have conjured in these many readings. This leaves a comic a very high bar to achieve.

This first issue, as one would expect, tackles the opening of the book. Literally. We follow the beginning in an almost reverent fashion. The panels tell us the story of Shadow and his Campbellian call to the post of the hero. This issue picks up on the languid pace that the book always seemed to have in my mind and stretches that across these pages as well.

I know this story. I know the cadence that it begins. The slow drum beat that builds and builds over so many pages. I enjoyed it in novel form but it seems laboriously slow in comic form. Instead of getting lost in the prose, I felt like the story dragged moving from panel to panel. The bits and pieces of the story that kept me rapt were built into the descriptions in the prose and are lost in comic form as they are just backgrounds.

The art is my second stumbling block. Like I mentioned, the descriptions in the book add more to the narrative than detract and brought you into the story. These pieces are given little attention in this issue. The art style is reminiscent of Breaking Bad. It has a gritty and half formed feel that just grates on me. It is well done done but just does not work for me.

Overall, I was disappointed in this issue. I was expecting a more dynamic retelling of the story and what I am getting is the story just retold. The art style leaves me cold and I miss the tiny bits that stood out in the prose that are glossed over in the comic. I am going to give issue no 2 a try but I am not holding out hope.

I would give American Gods No 1 two bear paws out of four. It is a retelling of a story I already know without adding anything new. The art is good but of a style that just grates on me. If you are new to American Gods or must have everything by Gaiman, pick up american Gods No 1. Otherwise, wait for the trade.

Animosity: The Wake

My taste in comics can be described as vanilla. My fandom runs the regular superhero circuit with a few forays into the independent arena with titles like East of West or Thief of Thieves. My exposure to companies other than Marvel, DC, and Image is also limited as Valiant has been the only new company added to my pull list in a long while.

Luckily I have friends that also read comics and have decided that my horizons need to be broadened. I went out to my friend Stick Pup’s local comic shop to check it out. My habit is to always buy something at a local shop if I visit to show support for the people in my fandom in the area. I picked up several Rick and Morty trade paperbacks and some Star Wars comics for a friend. While looking around, Stick Pup began adding things to my pile. The list is a bit extensive and I am slowly plowing through it. The piece that stood out for me was Animosity from Boom Studios.

The trade for volume one was gorgeous. The cover, as it should, arrested my eye. It is a picture of a little girl with a rifle on her back, her loyal dog by her side. Standing outside the light, the shadowed faces and glowing eyes of wolves can be seen looking on. I was sold from this image and it was the first thing I read from the pile when I had the chance.

The premise behind Animosity is that one day, all the animals on the planet woke up. Not in that they were asleep but that they were not conscious in the way that humans are. The story then spools out from there. The animals gain not only consciousness but understanding as the world is not suddenly filled with billions of two year olds. The animals just awaken, as if from a dream. For the most part, these new sentients have the cognitive capacity of an adult with exceptions just like humans. The results are spectacular.

I love the story that Bennett has created. she creates a world where instead of the animals becoming another zombie plague, they become people just like us. They have their own motivations, their own capabilities and biases. She highlights these individual quirks throughout the story with little scenes illustrating how the animals dealing both with their relationships with humans and other animals. In particular, the first few pages we get to see as animals wake up in various situations. There is a recurring panel where there is a family at the vet with their god, obviously struggling with the decision to put him down. The next panel we are shown the dog telling them “Don’t cry. I understand…I forgive you.” Gut punch! On the flip side there is a series of panels with cute pandas being cared for. The tilt happens and they have grabbed guns and are committing suicide crying, “Why did you keep us alive for so long?” Another gut punch.

These vignettes serve as a backdrop to the journey of Jesse and Sandor, an 11 year old girl and her loving dog. WE get to see how the family survives the early days of the awakening and how the two then survive after things go south. Bennett takes the faithful dog trope and turns it on it’s ear as everything in the world goes sideways and that loyalty and caring are tested in ways that are sometimes difficult to watch.

I talk about the story but the art is stupendous on this book as well. The panels I mention earlier are all small squares, part of a larger page. But each one captures the tone and emotions and conveys it unmistakably.De LaTorre has way of capturing complex scenes and communicate the myriad emotions with aplomb. He takes the depth of the story that Bennett has crafted and renders it lovingly on the page.

I could rave about this book a lot but I don’t want to spoil it. Bennett has crafted a world that I want to know more about. I devoured this story quickly and am waiting for more. The art lives up to the standard that the story sets and leaves nothing behind. My one caveat is that if you are soft hearted where it comes to animals, then this may not be the book for you. The violence can be brutal and heart-wrenching.

This is a four bear paws out of four book. You should definitely pick up the trade and add the second series to your pull list. I am looking forward to seeing more of the Journey of Jesse and Sandor and those that they pick up along the way.

I bearly recommend this book!

Logan

Several months back, there was talk of a new Wolverine movie. It was bantered about that it would be a variant of the Old Man Logan comic book. I was not interested as the prior Wolverine moves had been lackluster outside of the performances provided by Hugh Jackman.

But then, there was the trailer set to Hurt performed by Johnny Cash. It struck me right in the feels and I was all in. Further trailers were presented with even better soundtracks. Any reticence on my part to see the movie evaporated.

I went with two friends and watched it in the VIP section of my local Cinemark and was transported to a very different world.

It was a much darker world than that of previous movies, but by far the, the best world of all the Wolverine and X Men movies.

Logan is a well made and delivers a simple, solid story with good acting from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. It takes up threads that have been strewn about the various X Men and Wolverine movies and brings them all together to be examined under a very harsh light. It takes the story found in Old Man Logan and blends it with the story of Cable and Faith. It adds a dash of The Last of Us too present a grim dark dystopian future where sometimes the best you can hope for is to die fighting.

The studio took a risk and allowed Logan to be rated R. This was an excellent decision for both the character and they story that is being told here. Logan has always stated that he is the best at what he does and that what he does isn’t nice. Here, the director puts paid to this statement as we watch a mutant with claws that can cut through anything actually fight with them. The results are brutal and bloody and shows you what an actual fight with Wolverine would play out like.

In addition to the brutal violence we get Logan and Professor X having conversations that use language that one would expect from people at the end of their rope. Yes, Fuck is used. It is used both for shock value but it is also used to lend a gravitas to the conversations that these characters have as they struggle to reach the end of life with some dignity or respect left in tact. The conversations between Charles and Logan are in turns comedic and poignant. The ability to use all the words in their vocabulary makes the conversations feel more organic and less stilted.

Logan takes up the fears of the middle aged man and makes them manifest is harsh and brutal ways. The dystopian future wherein the story takes place has no more mutants being born and those that are left being isolated. Logan struggles in a world that has left him behind with failing health, few friends, and an aging father figure that needs much more support than he can return. The loneliness and isolation are palpable from the opening scenes. Hell, the movie even touches upon erectile dysfunction in a scene after a fight. Logan is cleaning up his wounds and dealing with a claw that would not come out during the fight. We watch as he forcibly pulls the claw out and winces and bleeds to get everything back in working order.

The movie also finally takes up the idea that Wolverine has been fighting for a very long time. It shows a logan that is isolated from the world but not just because of whom he is but because he no longer knows how to interact with a world that doesn’t require a fighter. This is highlighted by a scene in the Las Vegas hotel. Charles is watching Shane on the big screen with Laura. He explains how this was a touchstone movie for him. The scene that is playing is where shane is explaining that there will not be guns in the valley anymore, they’re not needed and he will be leaving. It is a quintessential piece of americana that is easily missed unless you’ve spent some time with westerns. It points out that not only does Logan not know how to be a part of this world, but that the damage to himself from fighting so long leaves him unable to get outside of himself to try and be better.

The final thing that made me love this movie was how it took up the idea of family. Once again, we are here at the end of the line with Charles and Logan. We, the audience, know the story of the family that was created around these two. We get hints of how that ended and the guilt that both feel over the outcome as well as anger at each other over not doing more to avert the catastrophe. All these emotions come pouring out at they try to save Laura from the Reavers that seek to recover her. She becomes the catalyst that allows Logan to pry off scar tissue and take one final stab at doing the right thing. Watching the process is painful as you want the four color Wolverine that we have been given before but this iteration feels more authentic and more vulnerable and thus better.

Logan is definitely four bear paws out of four. For all of the above reasons as well as many easter eggs strewn within the movie referring to many other great stories and characters that we will hopefully get to see someday on the big screen.

Make time to see Logan on the big screen, you will not regret it.

Midnighter & Apollo

Once again, I have been remiss.

DC Comics has had a title out that I’ve been reading since issue one and it is definitely something that I should have spoken about here.

Midnighter and Apollo replaced Midnighter after it’s short run. It picked up the story of these two gay super heroes after they had been reunited at the end of Midnighter. The title is currently on issue six.

I was ecstatic that these two once again received their own title. I had been a fan of the characters since The Authority. I know that they had appeared prior to that but one remembers their first exposure to character more than the actual first appearance.

Let’s start with the obvious reason for enjoying this title which is that it features a gay couple. For superhero comics and DC Comics, this is something that is rare. So, getting to see my tribe represent in one of my favorite media makes me happy. In particular, Orlando treats them like a couple. there is touching, kissing, and the regular interplay that you find between any couple. There is no shying away from it or treating them like they are just a team like Batman and Robin. A good example is two panels from this latest issue where the two are fighting their way out of hell. In one panel midnighter says, “You blew me up. how’d you know I wasn’t the bendable one?” In the next panel Apollo responds, “Please..you think I don’t recognize the back of your head?” Priceless!

It is this normalization of the relationship that makes this book stand out for me. This treatment had been a staple of the characters back in The Authority but had been stripped from them when they graced the pages of the New 52 at the beginning. Seeing it being embraced once again was like seeing a piece of art being restored. It made me happy.

The other reason I am currently enjoying Midnighter and Apollo may not be so obvious. I am a fan of greek and Roman mythology. I have mentioned this on my site many times. So, watching Midnighter and Apollo play through the Orpheus and Eurydice myth made me squee with delight!

For those unfamiliar with the myth, allow me to give a brief synopsis. Orpheus, the son of Apollo, was a great musician. He fell in love with the Eurydice, a woman of unique beauty and grace. It was believed that their union was perfection that would endure. But like all things, a prophecy was made that told of Eurydice’s coming demise. Upon her death, Orpheus’ grief was so great that even the gods were moved. Apollo and the other gods provided him their protection so that he might descend into the underworld and retrieve his love. Hades had one catch, that Orpheus could not look back upon his love until they had returned to the surface. Having been so long without her and not trusting Hades, Orpheus looked back and lost his love forever.

The greeks did love their tragic love stories.

I love that Orlando uses the classical katabasis as the hook for a six issue story. He takes a story that is a quintessential love story and allows it to encompass these two characters and evolve just like the greek myths did in their retelling to each new audience. It allows you to know the basic story structure you are going to see throughout the story but the details are where you will be kept wrapt.

Orlando does not disappoint.

My one nitpick with the book so far is the art. It is good but there are no points where I want to spend more time with the art. Even the covers lack the punch that I get from my other favorite titles. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t elevate the story the way I expect the art too in a comic.

Midnighter and Apollo is a great comic. It provides a great story with good art and excellent representation. Definitely something you should have on your pull list at your local comic shop.

Three out of four bear paws.

Faith No. 9

I have been remiss.

I talk about a lot of things and I have not spoken about one of the best comics out currently.

If you are not reading Valiant Comic’s Faith, you are missing something special.

It was way back in May of last year when I was introduced to this title. I wrote about it here. Valiant gave Faith her own mini-series in the spring of last year. I read it cover to cover and was captured with the hope and fun that was conveyed in the pages of the book. It was unlike any other books that I was reading at the time. The main character, Faith, was a woman of size. She was not portrayed as some fumbling fool or some overpowered demigod. She was a well rounded character that had a geeky heart that made it easy for me to identify with her.

I was elated when it was announced that she would be having her own ongoing series as well as appearing in the pages of Harbinger: Renegades.

Faith has been on my pull list since the first issue.

The current issue that came out this week is number 9 and typifies the reasons that I love this book.

Jody Hauser and Kate Niemczyk give us a day in the life of Faith in this issue. The very first page hits on one of the best thing about this title which is the diversity the cast. The first page gives the reader a look into how Faith’s supporting cast begins their day. We see Mimi, Jay, and Paige each start their morning at a different time and a different way. Each life is treated equally and with respect. Niemczyk’s art is gorgeous as always and makes these domestic scenes all the more heartwarming for the attention to detail. Their normalcy provides a nice contrast to the next page which is a full page of the building where they all work with Faith flying in just in the nick of time.

We follow the group through a normal day’s work at the Zipline offices where faith works. A new intern has began to work at the office. This provides a new wrinkle for the small group of journalists that have come to call Faith, in both roles, friend. The issue provides each person’s view of how they view themselves as they help Faith maintain her cover identity. Each story is presented as a fantasy sequence with art by Marguerite Sauvage. These vignettes provide insight into how the characters wished things were in full reality as well as how knowing Faith has positively impacted them over the time they have known her.

I won’t spoil the end, but it was good!

I love these slice of life stories for heroes. They ground the character as well as providing a more in-depth look into the supporting cast. I was already a fan of Mimi, Paige, and Jay. In nine issues we gotten to see each of these characters become more important to Faith. This issue we get to see how Faith has become important to these characters and why they do what they do.

The storytelling is wonderful. The use of timestamps to highlight the progress through the day is nice. It provides a bit of urgency in a story that could have been a slow read. Each character is given time to breath and strut in the spotlight which I love. The art is stupendous with the transitions between the two artists being seamless. The transition between the two styles fit well with the story and provided and another bit of drama that was just right.

You should be picking up Faith from Valiant comics. Issue Nine is an excellent jumping on point as it gives a good idea of what has gone before without feeling weighed down with exposition. The art is beautiful and will have you flipping the pages just to look at it again. You definitely should add this to your pull list.

Four bear paws out of four.

I bearly recommend it!