More NonSense: Zero Month

If you recall the bygone summer of 2011, you may remember that I was optimistic -- though cautiously so -- about DC's New 52. The new creative teams and continuity freedom allowed with the relaunch provided some hope that the turgid superhero universe inhabited by Superman, Blue Devil, Porcupine Pete, Geo-Force, and Batgirl would be reborn into something more vibrant. Creators could all all do their own powerful versions of these characters. We could have seen a line-wide effort that would match the continuity-free heights of "All-Star Superman" or "Batman: Year One," or if not that, then at least we would get a line-wide equivalent of the confident streamlining and rebranding that came with Geoff Johns's earlier-last-decade revamp of "Green Lantern." - Timothy Callahan
Really? In light of all of DC's multiple line-wide relaunches and where they eventually ended up? That's not just being cautiously optimistic. That's desperately hoping that an already overused top-bottom approach will still yield even greater rewards in individual creativity.

A year latter, and Timothy deems only three of the initial fifty two titles worth following. His assessment of Zero Month is just as sobering:
So there you have it. Nine good-to-really-good comics in a stack of 54. And only two that I would actually recommend to anyone who wasn't already heavily into the DC catalog. (emphasis mine)
Sword of Sorcery #0: Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti, Hi-Fi Design, Rob Leigh, Joshua Middleton

Chris Sims doesn't find the attempted gang-rape in Sword of Sorcery #0 to be very well written, or appropriate to the the title:
The more I thought about it, though, the more infuriating it was, and a large part of it was that this was the last book where I expected it to crop up yet again. As goofy and fannish as it may seem, I feel like they suckered me into getting excited about it, presenting it as a genuine attempt to draw in new readers and experiment with genres that they hadn't tried for a while. Instead, it's just the same thing they always do. They have once again shown themselves to be the Lucy Van Pelt of rape comics, pulling that football away just as soon as you hand over four bucks for the privilege of trusting them not to.
Sword of Sorcery was the one title I was looking forward to reading  J. Caleb Mozzocco has his own reaction. Read the comments that follow.

David Brothers and J. Caleb Mozzocco rip into the sycophantic Laura Sneddon article on Grant Morrison.

Speaking of Morrison, Greg Rucka was set to write Wonder Woman: Earth One before he was kicked off the project to make room for the Scot. That was too much for him. And thus he became the latest in a line of high-profile creators to cut their ties with DC.

Geoff Johns is one of the architects of the New 52. Matthew Brady is here to tell you that his Green Lantern comics are pure garbage.

Nagraj Rules!

Ah, the Nineties. Remember the massive shoulder pads? And Stan Lee, what a shyster.

Hail to the King, Jack Kirby.

Heidi MacDonald on why DC and Marvel consistently fail to show much interest in reaching beyond their man-child targeted demographic.

Design: The Batman '66 Project

Riot Girl by Dylan Todd
Riot Girl
Dynamic by Dylan Todd
Millionaire Playboy by Dylan Todd
Millionaire Playboy
Go to: The Batman '66 Project by Dylan Todd (via Dylan Todd)


Please Don't Browse

Comic Quest, SM Megamall, Ortigas

I'm in absolute agreement with Chris Schweizer when he states that one of the pleasures and advantages to visiting a bricks-and-mortar comic book store is the ability to peruse the comics before making the decision to buy them. I've also enjoyed the open-ended delights of wasting as much time as desired shopping at a well-stocked comic book store or bookstore. But that's not the case everywhere. His post made me reflect on how differently Filipino comic book stores deal with customers who like to browse. To put it bluntly, they kind of suck.

The first truly tangible Direct Market presence in the Philippines (as far as I can remember) was in the early Nineties, riding on the speculator-driven boom of the time. The most important retailers were Filbar's and Comic Quest. Business must have been good, because back then the two franchises dueled so fiercely it wasn't unusual to find competing branches at any large shopping center. Things haven't gone so well since, as both have scaled back their operations and diversified their offerings to the point were when one enters their stores, it either looks like a hobby shop or a newstand. But in terms of store layout, they were virtually identical. Both would bag or shrink-wrap their floppies and graphic novels, and put them behind the counter. Needless to say, this made it difficult for customers to examine the comics. They could if they wanted to, but that meant asking one of the uniformed salesladies (It was always a young woman) to pull a copy of the rack since they were the only people allowed access to them. So customers got a lot of individual attention, whether they wanted it or not. And as you can imagine, it's not easy finding enjoyment in a comic when someone's hovering over you. But at least the clerks (to steal a cliche from Tom Spurgeon) never had to yell at some no-good kid for messing-up the racks and not purchasing anything.

Things haven't changed that much. In the newer stores, the shelves are now located over-the-counter. But a lot of them still practice bagging and shrink-wrapping their comics. Or even funnier, putting them behind sliding glass displays. Oh well, I guess it keeps them safe and in good condition.

This is something I took for granted for a long time because that's just the general retail culture of the country. You can walk into any regular bookstore and expect to find that some of the books are bagged or shrink-wrapped. If National Bookstore doesn't exactly encourage leisurely browsing, don't expect anything different from the majority of comic book stores.



Bad Movies: Resident Evil: Retribution

Resident Evil: Retribution
Li Bingbing and Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Retribution (via Aceshowbiz)

The Resident Evil film series is pure crap. It's also a decade old, which is surprisingly durable for a movie franchise based on a video game. One wonders though. How much longer will lead actress Milla Jovovich be willing or able to perform its signature gun fu moves while wearing ridiculous fetish gear? As for this latest entry, there's this scene were Jovovich's character Alice is engaged in prolonged hand-to-hand combat with a zombie horde. She flips a gun clip into the air, where it stays up long enough for the audience to forget it exists, then falls back to earth at an opportune moment for Alice to catch it and reload. That's the film in the nutshell. Oh, now there are zombie soldiers who can shoot and drive. And apparently it's no longer just Alice who can be cloned. The Umbrella Corporation can clone programmable mooks from anyone who's ever worked for them. Hence the largely wasted returns of Oded Fehr and Michelle Rodriguez. Finally, can someone please explain to me why the homicidal supercomputer from the first film switched from trying to contain the T-virus to becoming a pale imitation of Skynet?


Blog: Verabee

Adventure Time! by Vera Brosgol
Adventure Time!
Go to: Verabee by Vera Brosgol (via Lauren Davis)

Faramir on war and terror

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend..."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
So, does this make him a favorite of neocons, or of Al Qaeda?


Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1, By James Stokoe, Heather Breckel, Frank Teran
By James Stokoe, Heather Breckel, Frank Teran

Godzilla created by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Shigeru Kayama, Ishirō Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya

For those of you not familiar with the kaiju genre, the fifty year movie career of its most famous star Gojira (Godzilla) is divided by fans into three eras, each with its own distinctive approach. But what has remained the touchstone for every one of them is the 1954 movie that began the franchise. This grim and oftentimes heavy-handed story was a thinly-veiled protest of American underwater tests of the Hydrogen Bomb in the Pacific at the time. And it captured the recent and still sharply felt trauma of a country recovering from the devastation of WWII. It still embodies the nation's strong anti-nuclear sentiments. Needless to say, it's something of a revered object in Japan. Not that this stopped Hollywood in 1956 from heavily editing it by inserting Raymond Burr into some key scenes.

The first issue of Godzilla: The Half-Century War is another insertion into the original narrative. But one that's more self-conscious. The film's main plot is kept at arm's length, and the comic instead focuses on the street-level POV of Japanese soldier Lieutenant Ota Murakami. He gets to experience first-hand Godzilla's initial rampage on Tokyo as one of the tank operators sent in to stop the beast. And he later bears witness to it's destruction at the hands of the from Tokyo Bay.

That none of the film characters appear allows the comic to tell a very different story. It could even be said that writer/artist James Stokoe has found the action movie hidden within the original narrative. All that serious philosophizing about humanity's capacity for self-destruction or the folly of messing with nature is conveniently shoved aside, remaining only as subtext for the informed Godzilla fan. In place of introspection is a cool set piece. Much of this issue revolves around Ota's attempts to keep Godzilla distracted while the civilians are evacuated. It's gorgeously drawn and colored destruction-porn, captured mostly in wide-angle and from below as Ota stares up at the behemoth as it wrecks the city. The Hollywood-style attention to detail makes for a remarkable contrast to the dark and menacing silhouette stomping Tokyo in the 1954 movie. Unfortunately, Ota himself is a somewhat uninteresting character, coming mostly out of central casting. The stoic hero-act turns him into a typical Hollywood movie protagonist.

So this is a dumb comic, but one that nicely exhibits Stokoe's virtuosity as an artist. I'm a little curious to see if he's using this as a launching point for a completely different take on Godzilla, or whether he'll be touching on the various movie incarnations produced during its iconic half-century career.

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #1, By James Stokoe, Heather Breckel, Frank Teran


Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol. 4

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Vol. 4 by Naoko Takeuchi
Sailor Moon Vol. 4 continues the trend of upping the stakes begun in the last volume. With two of the Sailor Senshi kidnapped by their enemies the Black Moon, the strain on Sailor Moon (Usagi Tsukino) and the remaining senshi begins to weigh heavily on them. In the previous Dark Kingdom arc Usagi spent most of the time mooning over (pun not intended) Mamoru Chiba when he was kidnapped by Queen Beryl. But her concern here for her missing comrades' safety is felt even by friends who remain unaware of her double-life as the incarnated princess of a lost kingdom. There's a real vulnerability to Usagi that was absent in earlier volumes that tended to emphasize her "cute" shortcomings, such as her clumsiness and laziness. And even Sailor Jupiter (Makoto Kino) is treated to some brief character development that goes beyond her identity as the team's "big girl" before quickly becoming the story's next kidnap victim.

A lot of the unease is due to Usagi's antagonistic relationship with Chibi-Usa. She's the only person who openly distrusts the mysterious child's true motives, and doesn't understand why the others on the team are more willing to indulge her oddball behavior (I'm a little confused about that myself). When Chibi-Usa's latest escapade almost results in disaster for everyone, Usagi lets her have it. After all, the team's down to half-strength, the missing members could be dead for all she knows, and here's this obnoxious brat stealing her magical items and running around half-cocked. This also leads to Usagi and Mamoru's first lovers spat. Usagi resents Mamoru's affectionate interactions with Chibi-Usa. I know. Being jealous of a prepubescent girl isn't Usagi's finest moment. Late in the volume this almost gets her killed. And when Chibi-Usa reveals who she really is, the whole thing between the three acquires an even more twisted meaning. But so far, this pettiness is the most relatable emotion to come out of the series. Usagi and Mamoru do get to make up afterwards, only for creator Naoko Takeuchi to become more coy than a film director working under the Hays Code. So you'll have to decide for yourself whether they consummated their romance or not.

The big reveal of this volume (Spoiler Alert) is that Chibi-Usa and the Black Moon are from the future, where everything was fine until the Black Moon decided to take over the world and invade the past. So everyone gets to travel to the future and meet a new senshi, Sailor Pluto. What can I say. It wasn't that long ago when Pluto was stripped of its planet label. Whatever. For the needs of this series, Sailor Pluto is the guardian of the underworld (patterned after her mythical namesake) and this apparently makes her the guardian of time as well. So I guess we'll be seeing more for her. The whole time travel trope generates a new wrinkle on the series love vs. fate theme. Before, Usagi and Mamoru worried about repeating the past. Now they worry about whether the future is written in stone. Actually their future selves turn out alright. But the future in general is another thing altogether.

You know how you're supposed to believe that Bedford Falls is a hunky-dory place, while Pottersville is its undesirable doppleganger, but deep in your heart you find the former to be utterly drab and would prefer to hang out at the nightclubs of the latter? Future Tokyo is even more uninteresting than that sleepy American town, resembling Krypton from Richard Donner's Superman. It's an advanced, stable society where everyone is near-immortal. It's meant to be seen as a utopia. But it feels sterile. This future is seen mainly through the eyes of Chibi-Usa, who turns out to be a princess. She should be happy. It's apparent that she's a spoiled child. But she's downright miserable, subverting the classic princess fantasy. Living in the shadow of her charismatic mother. Not exhibiting any of the supernatural abilities that are her royal birthright and being teased mercilessly for it. And worse of all, stunted in her physical growth so that she has inexplicably remained a little girl for nine hundred years. Her existence sounds like a child's worst nightmare. And this revelation transforms her from a very unlikeable character into a truly pitiable figure. Why hasn't she joined the Black Moon and tried to overthrow the status quo?

Here's one explanation: The rebel leader Prince Demande is a creep. Aside from the mass murder he carries out in both the present and the future, he constantly threatens Chibi-Usa's life, forces himself on a helpless Usagi, and calls himself "prince" like it actually means something. His villainous grandstanding makes the previous wannabe-royal Queen Beryl look like a decent human being. Whatever moral ambiguity that could arise in other parts of the book is replaced by the simple desire to see someone kick this guy's ass. Unfortunately, that will have to take place in future volumes.