A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Month: November 2011

New 52 Notes: Green Lantern books, OMAC, Supergirl, Wonder Woman

Reading Green Lantern #3 and Green Lantern Corps #3, I’m impressed by the quality of the latter, technically second-tier title for delivering the kind of action and outer-spacey adventure I like to see from the title. Though it got quite cluttered in the second issue, the “Ring Slayers” story shines again in a very good third issue. The former also is very good, but I don’t recall Hal Jordan ever being this much of a hot-headed jerk. Reading these together, it almost feels like Hal and Guy Gardner swapped roles.
OMAC #3 delivers pretty much the same story as the first two issues did — Kevin Kho lands himself in an odd place where he has to fight a powerful and turns into OMAC to win the day. It’s still good, but overly serialized in a bad way and the overall plot is being pushed too far into the background. I still love the art, which has obvious Kirby roots but also a nice modern sheen to give it a contemporary look.

In retrospect, I think the first two issues of Supergirl should have been one issue — either a condensed version of the two-part story or a double-size issue. It just reads that way to me. Supergirl #3 takes things in a different direction, as Supergirl tries to find out the truth about where she is and how she got here and acquires a new (at least I think he’s new) nemesis in Simon Tycho. So far, I like the writing on this book and the take writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson have on the character. The art takes a slight detour here, with Bill Reinhold’s inking and Paul Mounts’ coloring darkening the overall bright look of the first two issues. It’s not an improvement, but it’s definitely not the kind of bright and inviting look that seem to best suit this character.
Wonder Woman #3 was the best issue to date of the series, which itself is one of the best of The New 52. It’s hard to say too much about this without giving away rather significant origin-related spoilers. But just about everything in this comic book works, from Brian Azzarello’s plot and script to the art by Cliff Chiang and outstanding colors by  Matthew Wilson. Excellent stuff. 

Checking Out ‘Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts’

Last week, I had a chance to see the new documentary film Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts in its Los Angeles premiere screening at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. This is the second movie — I have to resist my tendency to call any movie a “film,” because very few of them are made with it anymore — from the Sequart Research and Literacy Organization, publishers of such fine tomes as my own Mutant Cinema: The X-Men Trilogy from Comics to Screen (buy it now!). Their previous film, Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, was a bona-fide hit with comics fans and got a lot of attention in the mainstream press and was screened at conventions and film festivals. The Ellis version is made by the same filmmakers, headed up by director and film editor Patrick Meaney and d.p. Jordan Rennert — both of whom attended this L.A. premiere screening.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

Like the Morrison doc, Captured Ghosts is an engaging portrayal of the writer behind such huge comic book hits as Transmetropolitan, Planetary, StormWatch, The Authority, Global Frequency, Red, NextWave, Doktor Sleepless, Ministry of Space, Ocean, Desolation Jones, Strange Kiss, Bad World and FreakAngels. The film follows a typical path of starting at the beginning and detailing Ellis’ life from childhood through to becoming a writer and his extensive impact on the industry. Meaney and his crew do a great job of keeping a movie that is probably 95 percent talking heads moving at a fast and entertaining clip. There is a lot of ground to cover in this movie because Ellis is the most influential writer of comics since Chris Claremont (more on him in a bit).

I first came across Ellis’ work on Transmetropolitan, of which I picked up the first three issues after seeing some good reviews online in the ancient internet days of 1997. It instantly became my favorite series of the moment — due in no small part to the lead character being a kick-ass journo — and set off a bit of Ellis-mania. When the one-two punch of Authority and Planetary hit in 1999, Ellis had definitely arrived and the rest has been, as they say history. Though his presence in mainstream comics has dwindled in recent years — mostly by his choice to work with a publisher like Avatar that will allow him do anything he wants without the interference that working on Marvel or DC properties entails — he’s still one of the most popular and well-known writers in comics.

The movie has a slightly different approach than Talking With Gods, as Ellis himself is self-deprecating and even humble when talking seriously about his work and its impact. A lot of the portrait comes through from the interviews with writers and artists and editors he’s worked with over the years. Many of those tales are quite sweet and touching, most notably the story of how Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick first met on the old Warren Ellis Forum, began dating and now are married with two children.

The many interviews — Meaney says he did about 50 of them for the movie — is a who’s who of comic book creators and other celebrities, and runs a huge gamut from Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, John Cassaday and Joss Whedon, to Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswalt and Helen Mirren, who starred in the movie adaptation of Red and is from the same town in England as Ellis. The pacing manages to keep it all very entertaining and packs in a lot of information. It’s clear from all this that Ellis is much-admired as a writer and valued as a friend.

For those who know Ellis’ biography and bibliography, there’s not a ton of new information save for some details on Ellis’ life prior to his breaking into comics writing and some neat bits on Ellis’ reputation among serious futurists. And there’s not much information that puts his accomplishments into perspective, especially for non comics readers. It’s all a bit jumbled and even though you come out of it feeling entertained, it’s still not really clear from the film why what Ellis has done is of such note.

And it’s a problem compounded for viewers not familiar with Ellis, his comics work or the comic book industry in general. One Variety colleague of mine said the film was “interminable” for non-comics folks and a far cry from Terry Zwigoff’s classic Crumb. I can’t disagree on that point, but I also don’t think this movie is made for anyone other than fans of Ellis and his books who want to know more about both subjects. And as such, it’s a success, and a film well worth checking out.

In the Q and A after the screening Meaney and Rennert said they had interviewed Ellis in two day-long sessions a year apart. They shot at a Holiday Inn in England near Ellis’ home because it is the only hotel in the area that has a room that could accommodate Ellis’ cigarette habit. The bulk of the interviews were done in the intervening year, and the film cost about $10,000 to make, with much of the donations coming from Kickstarter.

To see the film, head over here and scroll down for a list of upcoming screenings or here to pre-order the movie on DVD; it’s due out in February.

Which is about as natural a segue as there is to mention Meaney’s next project, a shorter documentary on Claremont’s run as X-Men writer from 1975-1991. (The project has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, which is good news.) The project is called Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont’s X-Men and will include a round-table discussion between Claremont and his former X-Men editors Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson in its 45-minute run time. It looks like a great project, and I look forward to seeing it when it comes out.

Check out this cool early look at the project:

Links, Layout and Other Housekeeping Notes

Readers may have noticed some tweaks to the design of this blog. I decided last week to update the links and did something screwy to the previous design, which I created in Artisteer, and could not restore it the way it was. So I took the opportunity to create something similar but different. It was nice to find that Blogger has really updated its template and layout functionality, so I no longer need Artisteer to get a look that I like.

Secondly, I updated a lot of the links so they should all work. If you find one that doesn’t, please let me know. Also, if you have a comics-related site that you think should be included, let me know and I’ll add it asap.

I’ve had a few folks approach me with some sponsored links — easy enough to figure out which they are. If anyone else is interested in sponsored links or buying an ad, let me know and I’m sure we can work something out.

And lastly, if anyone’s interested in just giving a donation of any kind to support the blog, I’ve added a Paypal donation button at right. No donation is required, but any amount you feel like sharing is much appreciated.

Reviews: Hulk #1, DD #5, Cold War #1, Last of the Greats #1, Aquaman #2, Justice League #3

The Incredible Hulk #1 was better than I expected. Not having read the book in years, I missed out on and don’t understand most of the Red Hulk stuff or what mental state Bruce Banner and the Hulk are in these days. I therefore expected to be confused, but wasn’t, though I’m sure it helped that I recognized the Mole Man’s underground minions. Writer Jason Aaron did a good of job of putting it all together and making sure there was some actual action in a first issue. The art by Marc Silvestri et. al was quite good — definitely Silvestri’s distinctive style but amped up with some nice detail that came through quite well in the inks and was well-complemented by Sunny Gho’s colors. That said, I”m not interested enough in the Hulk to make this a regular read at $3.99 a pop.

Daredevil #5 is another terrific issue from Mark Waid and Marcos Martin. This reads very, very smoothly and is clear enough that I think the average reader could pick it up and understand pretty much the whole thing. It looks incredible, too. Martin and colorist Javier Rodriguez deserve very high marks for making such a great-looking book.
Cold War #1 is a new, period espionage thriller from John Byrne that I was mildly disappointed with because I thought Byrne had done such a great job on the revived Next Men series. This isn’t quite as good as that, as it’s just a bit too restrained and dated. The dated part is on purpose, as though this is a series Byrne has wanted to do for decades, i.e., a time when this kind of thing would have been much more relevant. It’s still a nice modern Byrne comic, though, with solid art and decent storytelling. It just doesn’t have the kind of zip that a book like this should have.
The Last of the Greats #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Brent Peebles is for me a tough one. I like the concept, which is that seven alien beings came to Earth and used their powers to solve many of mankind’s problems in return for demanding control and fealty from the people of Earth. People then turned on them, and all but one were killed. The issue begins with six humans coming to the last of these aliens, dubbed the “Greats,” and asking for his help with a fairly big problem. But I think the execution is talky and exposition heavy, and think this could have been much more compelling by show more than telling.
On to the DC relaunch books, Aquaman #2 was about the same as the first issue — a story that’s slick and commercial if not particularly deep — but it was the cover that struck me the most. My first thought was it was a recolored version of the cover to Star Wars #64, my least-favorite issue from the original Marvel series. It’s close enough to be an homage — or a swipe if you’re so inclined — but it’s far too distracting for me and I don’t know I will remember much else about this particular issue.
Justice League has been getting better with each issue and #3 is the best yet. Finally, we get to meet Wonder Woman, and she both charms and kicks ass. The action kicks into high gear with a huge invasion from Darkseid’s minions, while writer Geoff Johns delivers a nice chunk of the ongoing Cyborg origin subplot. It’s interesting to note the ways in which Jim Lee’s art has evolved as well as the ways its stayed the same. The finale’s introduction of Aquaman gives him a hairstyle, facial hair and costume straight out of 1996. Some other details, like the cops on the first page also look a bit dated. But the way Lee draws his heroic figures — both men and women — has improved tremendously from his days on The Uncanny X-Men, with anatomy and posing that’s overall more realistic and more solid looking. Wonder Woman here is a far cry from the somewhat plastic looking sexy Psylocke from way back in the day. Anyway, issue #4 looks like it’s going to be a barn-burner.
That’s only a fraction of the stack I’m looking to get through, so I may just stay up late and read funny books until my eyes pop out of my head to get a look at more New 52, the Fear Itself epilogues and more X-Men: Regenesis.

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