March 18, 2015

So, whatcha been reading, ChemGuy?

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence) - I will readily admit that I didn't get it.

I went into Birdman excited and really wanting to get it. I'd heard that it was one of the best films of the year and that it was some sort of technical marvel - not that any of the hints and reviews that I'd done fair diligence to avoid made more than oblique reference to whatever the technical marvel was just saying that Birdman deserved high praise for its special effects.

I get most of the film, an aging former comic book movie star directs, produces, and stars in his own adaptation of a Raymond Carver play trying to redeem himself - for himself and for his reputation. I get the lack of cuts in the film - that's impressive, yeah. I get the impressive acting from all involved - Keaton, Stone, Norton, Galifianakis. I get the older actor trying to stay relevant in the internet age.

I don't get what the truth of the film was. (Spoilers: highlight at your own risk.) I saw things that clearly aren't real - flying, telekinesis, floating, voices from inside Keaton's head, fire raining down on the street, a giant bird landing on and destroying a building, Keaton shooting himself in the head on-stage and surviving. And I saw clear signs that those things weren't real - the taxi driver chasing Keaton into the theater for his fare, the street not really being destroyed from the bird attack, Keaton using his hands to toss his dressing room after using his 'telekinesis' to do the same. Then came the ending with Stone looking into the sky...with joy. Dead or not dead? Really a superhero or not? In a dream or in reality? What are we supposed to believe? (spoilers over)

I like to think I'm a sophisticated enough movie watcher that I can tolerate a little ambiguity, but for whatever reason, this ambiguity didn't sit well with me.

I don't get it.

Saga (vol 4) - The saga of Saga continues to roll along. The first three were spectacular. This one's a notch or two below those, but it's still good quality reading. Don't start here but do start from the beginning and get here.

American Vampire (vol 7) - I'd kind of forgotten that there was a thorough and over-arching plot here, but this volume is all plot, bringing Skinner Sweet back into the plot as he, Pearl, and the other remaining American Vampires find themselves being hunted by the Grey Trader, the first vampire, the devil. Here we see a the American Vampires tying into the greater vampire family tree, trying to save child vampires from the older clans from the Grey Trader.

Then the final, largely prose, story comes along and knocks it all out of the park. This is one of the better volumes of the series, but it would certainly be a tough one to step into without having read the rest of the series up to now.

It's another one to read...but from the beginning.

Amazing X-Men (vol 1 & 2) - Boring, not great...

Nightcrawler is dead but comes back to life. The X-Men find their way to heaven, hell, and purgatory in a quest to find their friend, a quest that they happened to find themselves on rather than one for which they went questing. Meh...

The second volume with the curse of the Wendigo (you turn into a Wendigo if you eat human flesh on Canadian soil) is a bit more impressive but not exactly spectacular, either. Meh again...

Superman: Red Son - This is probably the best read of the week. This Elseworlds tale posits what might have happened if Superman's rocket had landed on Earth twelve hours later (or earlier, who knows which), putting him in the Ukraine where he grew up believing in truth, justice, and the Soviet way.

Along the way of Superman's rise from poor kid on the collective farm to world leader sees the characters of Batman, Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and most of the supporting characters in the Superman mythos. It's a brilliant rewriting of the entire story that becomes even more impressive as the tale wraps around to eat its own tail in the last page.

Great stuff...

The Superior Spider-Man (vol 6) - I'd been curious as to how the writers were going to wrap up the story of Otto Octavious living Peter Parker's life and residing inside Parker's head. Their choice - to have Otto realize that he couldn't possibly beat the Green Goblin as Octavious but rather must give himself back to Parker and allow himself to dissolve away. It all works very well here. Nice job, Dan Slott.

The Amazing Spider-Man (vol 1, 1.1, 2) - Dan Slott continues here with the recently restored Peter Parker trying to slip back into a life that has changed in some drastic ways thanks to Otto's running of it while the true office holder was out on other business. Turns out Peter likes some of the changes, and people are somewhat reluctant to hang out with the recently grouchy PP. Anna Marie, Otto's soon-to-be fiance, takes things surprisingly well. Well enough that I have to assume there's another shoe to drop somewhere along the way.

The return of a racked off Black Cat, a retelling of the Spider-Man origin with new 'villain', the introduction of a pending Spider-Verse, team-up with the new Ms Marvel, surprising return of the 'villain' from Peter's origin all works really well. It's good to have the original back.

Teen Titans: Earth One (vol 1) - boring...I do appreciate that it's the Teen Titans without Robin but that otherwise it's pretty much the team that I know and love (Terra, Cyborg, Joseph Slade, Changling, Raven, and Starfire). I didn't appreciate that their origins all came from alien 'DNA' grafting. I won't be hunting down the second volume. Even the artwork from the Dodsons didn't do anything for me. Yes, it's cute to see alternative-reality versions of the storylines I know and love with tons of little nods for people who had read the original comics, but nostalgia doesn't mean greatness.

Thanos: Infinity Revelation - I don't know whether this is an example of synergy between the movie and print arms of the Marvel mega-megia empire or just coincidence, but Thanos is about the has his profile raised significantly with the coming Marvel Phase III films. (As always, go Charlie Wen)

The story is written to be epic in scope and to further the continuing rivalry between Thanos and Adam Warlock. I don't know the two characters' combined history, so it didn't have much impact on me. Meh...

Inhumans - The artwork is Jae Lee at his sloppiest barely looking in many cases like the gorgeous artwork he's produced in the past. The storyline revels in a horrible combination of 'I'm smarter than you' between Black Bolt and his jailed brother. Each tops the other by claiming he had known all along what the other's plan was and showing...telling us, he had anticipating that exact move. Little too much of that for all of me. I do appreciate the somewhat creative way to get the Inhumans moved into hiding again.

Fantastic 4 (by James Robinson) - The only good thing I can say here is that I love the cover to the first volume (seen to the left). Nothing else is worth perusing.

Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba - This one was fascinating and oddly, wasn't about super heroes. I know how rare it is for me to turn to the non-spandex stories, but I did, and I'm glad I did.

We get here a retelling of a dozen birthdays of the fictional Bras, the son a great author in Brazil. Bras's story is told through retellings of what might have been on each of his birthdays. Unluckily for Bras, he dies in the course of each retelling - though it appears that he doesn't die when Bras shows up the next issue as fine as frog's hair.

Great stuff here

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