Posts tagged with "superhero" - Faerye Net 2008-07-25T08:03:00+00:00 Felicity Shoulders The Dark Knight reviewed 2008-07-25T08:03:00+00:00 2008-07-25T11:49:13+00:00 <p>I love Batman. And so, evidently, does Christopher Nolan. We even seem to love the same Batman &#8211; dark, driven, not played for laughs. The kind of Batman that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, with awe if not with fear. That&#8217;s what I meant a few years ago when I said <a href="" taget="links">&#8220;They made a Batman movie with Batman in it.&#8221;</a> THE Batman. The real one.</p> <p>Well, they did it again. <em>Dark Knight</em> was complex, well-written, and well-acted. As <a href="">Ryan</a> pointed out to me, it also had blessedly little <span class="caps">CGI</span>. Since we recently offended our eyes and brains by inflicting <em>Spider-Man 3</em> on them, this is particularly pleasant to note. It also lacked the one horrible jarring note that made rewatching <a href=""><em>Batman Begins</em></a> an alloyed joy: no Katie Holmes.</p> <p>I was somewhat concerned that the Joker in the previews would not seem like the &#8216;real&#8217; Joker. My fears were unfounded. Pared down, certainly, but the real, menacing core was there, vivid and compelling. The Joker is quicksilver, self-defining and self-redefining, striving for a moral victory as terrifying and shifting as himself.</p> <p>There were some pleasant surprises in plot and characterization, which I won&#8217;t get into as I enjoyed the way even the broad strokes of the subplots were left intact by the trailers I saw before going. Suffice it to say they involved some of my favorite things and people in Gotham (but not Harley Quinn, <a href=""> heart-stopping rumors</a> notwithstanding.) There were some honest frights and some moments of sheer, awed joy. The quick-cut action scenes did not interfere with my enjoyment overmuch. The music was, well, exactly the same as last time and exactly the same throughout. More of a missed opportunity than a regret.</p> <p>This movie maintained and deepened the moral tone of the first. It was important not only that Batman save X, Y or the city of G, but that he make the right choices, understand the complex choices before him. That richness goes far towards explaining why I say that these movies feature the real Batman. My favorite major superhero, in the best superhero movies ever. Sometimes they get it right.</p> The Roulette Wheel of Death and Rebirth 2004-03-18T14:07:43+00:00 2008-07-08T11:32:40+00:00 <p>Some of you may know &#8211; in fact, many people who have a minimal or marginal interest in comic books know &#8211; that Jean Grey (aka <em>Marvel Girl</em>, aka <em>Phoenix</em>, aka <em>The first X-Woman</em>) dies all the freakin&#8217; time. So much so that I have it on good authority that the following exchange actually occured in X-Men continuity at a recent Jean Grey funeral:<br /> <b>Emma Frost</b><em> (reformed villainess and X-Man)</em>: <strong>snicker</strong><br /> <b>Scott &#8220;Cyclops&#8221; Summers</b>: Goddammit Emma! It&#8217;s not funny!<br /> <b>Emma</b>: Yes it is, Scott, and <em>you know it</em>.</p> <p>If my source didn&#8217;t invent that passage through wishful thinking, then Marvel knows damn well that Jean Grey&#8217;s tragic deaths are as predictable as the tragic deaths of any number of Captain Kirk girlfriends. Why do they keep doing it? Why? I think I have the answer.</p> <p>Last night I was perusing the polychromatic pages of the periodical (okay, I&#8217;ll stop now) <em>Batman/Superman</em>. Er, <em>Superman/Batman</em>. Whatever, this is why they have a logo, not a title. And the last frame of this comic book, after several frames of people talkin&#8217; Kryptonian (yeah, Kryptonian. It&#8217;s kindee funny-lookin&#8217;.) shows Superman telling Batman as he gives the blonde girl he&#8217;s been talking to his cape to wear, &#8220;This is Kara Zor-El, my cousin from Krypton.&#8221; At this point, my head broke.</p> <p>You see, DC has had this here &#8220;Cousin from Krypton&#8221; angle before. She was the original Supergirl. Or the second one. Or something. Before Supergirl was an angel, or an alien-human hybrid, or an angel-human hybrid, or a shapeshifting girlfriend of Lex Luthor&#8217;s&#8230;umm, okay, I&#8217;m already confused. I don&#8217;t read Superman, and I don&#8217;t understand Supergirl history. But I do know she&#8217;s been reinvented so many times that even I, who, as I said, <em>do not read Superman titles</em> have seen at least one Supergirl debut — she was supposed to be Lois and Clark&#8217;s daughter from the future. So do you start to see what I&#8217;m saying here?</p> <p>A long long time ago, someone at DC and someone at Marvel made a bet that he (Marvel) could kill Jean Grey (Marvel Girl) more often than he (DC) could reinvent Supergirl. It all makes sense! At the time, it was a lark! Now, so many Jean Greys stenciled on that Marvel guy&#8217;s desk, a dartboard of Supergirl concepts mounted on the DC office wall, it&#8217;s a grim battle, each comics titan straining against the other to control the cheesiness of the superheroine ethos. This week some poor schmo at Marvel, with &#8220;counterintelligence&#8221; scrawled on his cubicle tag, read <em>Batman/Superman</em> and groaned. &#8220;Guys? Do you have the next Jean Grey death ready? I mean, have you got her alive again and ready to go? Those wily bastards have hidden it in this <em>Batman/Superman</em> thing &#8211; I know, a Bat-title! Sneaky! But &#8220;cousin from Krypton&#8221; only has one meaning&#8230;&#8221;</p> <p>Or, you know, maybe it sells comics.</p> Batman: The Killing Joke 2003-10-30T16:00:33+00:00 2008-07-25T14:18:15+00:00 <p><img src="img/articles/killingjoke.jpg" alt="Book cover" title="Batman: The Killing Joke" class="imageRight" /></p> <p>Yesterday I gave this trade paperback a second read, and I can&#8217;t say it changed my first impressions. As a Bat-fan, I picked up the book because it contains an important moment in Bat history, central to the story of a character I care about. <em>Batman: The Killing Joke</em> is the storyline in which the Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon, former Batgirl&#8212;a constraint that eventually led to her becoming &uuml;berdecker to the hero world, Oracle.</p> <p>I&#8217;ve bought some fairly cheesy trade paperbacks in the name of Bat history lessons&#8212;<em>Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying</em>, for example, is the story of how Tim Drake becomes Robin, and it&#8217;s dripping with cheese and earnestness. I can cope with cheese (see my enjoyment of <a href="" target="links">70&#8217;s X-Men</a>) but there&#8217;s something about <em>The Killing Joke</em> that really rubs me the wrong way. It was written by Alan Moore, one of the two &#8220;dark&#8221; writers of the 80&#8217;s, who shocked the comics world out of its idyllic 70&#8217;s fluff and into grittiness. The other was Frank Miller. And while it&#8217;s obvious that Frank Miller has dark thoughts and muses far too much on sex with Wonder Woman, it&#8217;s equally obvious that Frank Miller loves superhero comics. Alan Moore, I have read and I now believe, hates superhero comics.</p> <p>The plot of <em>The Killing Joke</em> goes a little something like this: (don&#8217;t worry, I&#8217;m not spoiling anything good) Batman goes to Arkham to talk to Joker about stopping the eternal struggle that will eventually kill one or both of them. Joker has busted out, leaving some guy (they never explain who) in white makeup and a green wig in his cell. Joker buys an abandoned amusement park. Joker shoots Babs in the spine and has his lackeys carry off her father. Joker undresses Babs and takes pictures of her writhing in her own blood. Joker puts Gordon through a funhouse ride of horror, with huge flat-screen displays showing psychadelic nonsense; his own face as he harangues Gordon with very facile logic about how he, Gordon, ought to go insane; and pictures of Gordon&#8217;s daughter naked and writhing in her own blood. Batman easily figures out where Joker and Gordon are. Gordon is not insane, just very sad, and determined that he and Batman should &#8220;show Joker our way works&#8221;&#8212;&#8220;bring him in by the book.&#8221; Batman pursues Joker through the funhouse (yawn). Batman catches the Joker. Batman tries to convince the Joker that he can help him if he wants to be helped. Joker tells Batman a mediocre joke and they laugh together.</p> <p>Are you bored yet? The only thing that enlivens the very twistless story is the counterpoint of a possible creation story for the Joker, where he&#8217;s a loser stand-up artist who can&#8217;t get a gig, tries one night of crime to support his pregnant wife, etc. The creation story is a little more interesting than the rest of it, but it&#8217;s a little more set in stone, a little more definitive, then I&#8217;ve ever seen DC let anyone do for a Joker story. He&#8217;s <span class="caps">SUPPOSED</span> to be mysterious&#8212;an image of the madness that can be birthed without reason from man. Except for &#8220;he fell in a chemical vat&#8221;, there is no bottom line on this man.</p> <p>The story lacks emotional punch where it needs it &#8211; the crippling of a major ongoing character, for chrissakes; Gordon finding the resolve not to snap in the face of this <strong>coughstupidcough</strong> sophisticated psychological torture &#8211; and, in fact, seems emotionally illogical. Gordon doesn&#8217;t ask Batman whether Babs is <span class="caps">ALIVE</span> when he&#8217;s rescued. The fiercely protective Batman, after never laughing at a single thing the Joker has ever said (I mean, that&#8217;s part of why Mr. J hates him!), laughs at a mediocre joke he tells after <em>nearly killing Batgirl</em>. Are these human beings? No, they aren&#8217;t. They&#8217;re mouthpieces for Moore&#8217;s shallow conceits &#8211; one bad day makes people insane, in different ways, and the world is so awful you just have to laugh &#8211; and the only thing they show any commitment to is debating those overblown theories.</p> <p>On top of that, the story makes no <span class="caps">LOGICAL</span> sense, something I am more than happy to overlook in a comic book, provided something else &#8211; emotional punch or comedic value &#8211; fills the void. Who was the guy in the Joker suit in Arkham? Where did the Joker get the money to buy the amusement park, or, for that matter, to outfit it with vast flat-screen displays and deadly traps within a few days? Where did the Joker find so many sideshow freaks who like to hurt people? And finally, when did bondage midget minions (who lead a naked Gordon around by a leash) become part of Joker&#8217;s schtick? Joker is, Jack Nicholson aside, an asexual villain (please see Harley Quinn&#8217;s sexual frustration for details.) Stripping Babs for the pictures, while probably a humiliation for the character, is Alan Moore saying, &#8220;Ooh, I&#8217;m so <span class="caps">BAD</span>!&#8221; <span class="caps">NOT</span> anything the Joker would do.</p> <p>In short, I <em>do</em> believe Alan Moore hates superhero comics. And as Lana said on <em>Smallville</em> yesterday, &#8220;If you hate your job so much, why don&#8217;t you just quit?&#8221;</p> <p><b>Bottom line:</b><br /> Pretentiously &#8220;meaningful&#8221; and pretentiously dark, not to mention painfully 80&#8217;s. Characterization shallow and perfunctory, story trite and unexciting. Pictures okay&#8212;a few very good Joker portraits.<b> 2 out of 10</b> An open letter to Clark Kent 2003-06-24T11:16:47+00:00 2009-04-20T23:17:18+00:00 <p>Circa Season Finale, 2003<p><br /> <br /> Mr. Clark Kent<br /> 24 Ubermensch Road<br /> Smallville KS<br /> <br /> Dear Clark;<br /> <br /> I have been following your adventures with some interest. Recently, I sympathized with your desire not to conquer the world as allegedly destined. However, I have been increasingly dismayed at the methods you are employing to avoid that fate.<br /> <br /> Apparently in your search for role models as &#8220;foundling farm boy with phenomenal cosmic powers is destined to conquer the world,&#8221; you have lit upon Rand al&#8217;Thor as the chap to emulate. This is the only explanation I can posit from your decision to estrange everyone you care about &#8220;so they don&#8217;t get hurt,&#8221; including the several girls wooing you, and your decision to hare off by yourself with no plan and a backpack full of angst. Besides the fact that this behavior qualifies you as a wooly-headed lummox of the first water, and thus eligible for the Clue-by-4&#8482; (now with Kryptonite inlay) treatment, if you&#8217;ll read a bit further (I know it&#8217;s a bit heavier going than 18-page comic books) you&#8217;ll find your role model IS conquering the world with cosmic powers and iron fist. Duh, Mr. Kent.<br /> <br /> If you must emulate someone, might I suggest drawing upon your &#8220;farm boy with special powers and heroic destiny has a &#8216;dead father&#8217; who nonetheless speaks to him and urges him toward evil&#8221; archetype and get yourself a glowy sword.<br /> <br /> Most Sincerely,<br /> Felicity<br /> <br /> P.S. You are not going to get hot Lana-and-Chloe action, let alone hot Lana-Chloe-and-Wonder-Woman action, so if that&#8217;s why you&#8217;re pulling a Rand, give it up. Essential X-Men Volume 2 2003-06-19T14:05:19+00:00 2008-08-01T19:39:01+00:00 <p><img src="img/articles/ess_x-men2.jpeg" alt="Book cover" title="Essential X-Men Volume 2" class="imageRight" /><br /> <p>This Marvel <span class="caps">TPB</span> (Trade Paperback) is from before, in the immortal words of Wayne, &#8220;we got the money.&#8221; One of the first Marvel actions upon the box office success (is success a big enough word? Once more with reverb: suuuuukseeeeeess!) of <em>Spider-Man</em> was to hire about a dozen people to start their Trade Paperback department. Since then, while they haven&#8217;t stopped printing these &#8220;Essential&#8221; suckers, they haven&#8217;t been forthcoming with the next installment. You see, the &#8220;Essential&#8221; books are cheap. Very cheap. Reprinted old comics on newsprint in black &amp; white cheap. But I like them. They are sweet, sweet continuity.</p> <p>This particular gem is a big newsprint collation of <em>Uncanny X-men</em> issues #120-144. Those issues were written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Byrne. For those of you curious, this volume not only follows <em>Essential X-Men Volume 1</em>, but <em>Essential Uncanny X-Men Volume 1</em>. The latter volume comprises the first issues of the title, penned by Stan Lee himself. Now, I haven&#8217;t read those, but I can tell you this; they feature Cyclops, Marvel Girl (=Jean Grey), Iceman, Beast, and Angel; the heroes are younger and less experienced, though better at teamwork; and they all wear the same uniform. Very much the &#8220;Xavier&#8217;s Academy&#8221; focus. Those X-Men, along with part-time X-Men Havoc (Cyclops&#8217;s kid brother) and Polaris (Havoc&#8217;s green-haired squeeze), were mysteriously captured at some point. Cyclops managed to get free, and Professor X assembled the new X-Men at the beginning of <em>Essential X-Men #1</em>. These are an older, edgier, and wincingly multicultural group. They comprised Nightcrawler (German), Colossus (<span class="caps">SOVIET</span> Russian ooooooh!), Storm (Harlem + Egypt=whatever), Wolverine (history missing, presumed Canadian), Banshee (Irish), Sunfire (Japanese), and most wincingly of all, Thunderbird (Apache). Oh, and Cyclops (I&#8217;m not whitebread, I&#8217;m red! Well, everything&#8217;s red. My bad.)<br /> <br /> <p>Through stodginess (Sunfire), death (Thunderbird) and additions, we come up with the X-Men featured in this volume: Cyclops, Phoenix (=Jean Grey), Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and either Banshee or Sprite, depending on the period. Banshee has these tragic power-negating attacks of laryngitis, ya see&#8230;well, it happens a lot to him. Eventually he gives over heroing as much inferior to settling down with his girlfriend. As for Sprite (Kitty Pryde, later &quot;Shadowcat&quot;), she&#8217;s a teenager added partway through. She has one of <span class="caps">THE</span> most cool powers ever to grace a comic book (phasing through solids, walking on gases/liquids), and, while the outdated writing is most winceworthy in her case, being a teen (Golly gee! Neat!), she&#8217;s still a very cool character.<p><br /> <br /> Anyway, enough with that, on to the opinions! This volume contains some of the all-time classic X-Men storylines, including the Dark Phoenix saga, and my personal favorite, &#8220;Days of Future Past&#8221;. Both of these stories are epic and moving (at least to me). You shouldn&#8217;t have much trouble figuring out where you stand, because at the time extensive recaps and internal monologue explaining everybody&#8217;s powers was par for the course.<br /> <br /> <p>I don&#8217;t want to make it sound like I&#8217;m trashing the writing, here. Some people probably have trouble with this style &#8211; very word-heavy, paragraph-heavy even, and not very conversational at times. (&#8220;Malefic destiny&#8221;? Dude, Scott, it was cheesy when the narrator said it, so you had to pick it out of the ether?) I admit if you have a headache it&#8217;s not the comic book to head for. But the plot is engaging, the action is quick, and the intense verbiage can be thought of as opera arias &#8211; certainly not realistic, but an important part of the art form.<br /> <br /> <p>The characters are well-defined but not shallow &#8211; each of them has problems and quirks that play into non-fight interaction, as well as the personality and style that is obvious in fights. Storm is claustrophobic, still grieving for her parents, and really alien to mainstream American culture; as well as being &#8220;dignified and moral.&#8221; Colossus misses his family and farming, thinks it would be wrong to act on his and Kitty&#8217;s mutual attraction (she&#8217;s 14 or so, he&#8217;s 17), and questions why he&#8217;s a hero and whether it&#8217;s disloyal to the <span class="caps">USSR</span> to be an X-Man; as well as being &#8220;stalwart and kind.&#8221; You get to know these characters <em>very</em> quickly &#8211; there&#8217;s not much subtlety at play &#8211; but you can&#8217;t help but care about them.<br /> <br /> <p>The art is really great. Of course it&#8217;s dated, and some people&#8217;s costumes (especially the bit players &#8211; Havoc and Polaris need a re-draw STAT) are just a bit weird, but Byrne draws action-packed fights that are easy to understand; clear, realistic emotions; and well-proportioned human figures (leaving aside the comic-book pretty-people issue &#8211; I mean that their eyes, heads, legs, always look comfortable and graceful, and in the right place. Don&#8217;t scoff, I&#8217;ve seen some really gifted comic book artists put eyes too high or forearms too short.) My only real beef is that a lot of the white girls look the same. Jean Grey is &#8220;pretty white girl with medium-length curly red hair.&#8221; Amanda Sefton is &#8220;pretty white girl with medium-length wavy blonde hair&#8221; et cetera. That, frankly, is <em>still</em> common (<em>Ultimate Spider-Man</em>, I&#8217;m looking at you!), and at least these are quite pretty.<br /> <br /> <p>In short? If you hate four-color superheroes&#8230;why are you reading this? If you can take a bit of camp and still care about the characters, this is a great thing to pick up. It has great characters, twisted plots, pretty pictures, the occasional funny, and, I&#8217;ll admit it, the first time I read it I cried at least twice. (<em>&#8220;Once upon a time, there was a woman named Jean Grey, a man named Scott Summers. They were young. They were in love. They were heroes.&#8221;</em> I get misty just typing that.) Time travel, gods, alien empires, love, betrayal, racism, pinball, roller skates, disco, and sweet sweet continuity. Can&#8217;t beat that for $14.95.