Archive for the Comics Category

Northlanders 1–3

Posted in Action/adventure, Comics with tags , , on April 28, 2012 by Cara Marie

I wish I could like this comic. I picked it up because I knew Dean Ormston worked on some of it, but sadly assumed that I’d like it, and thus ended up with way more than I could ever need. Volume 1 is a complete story itself, and I liked the protagonist reasonably well. It was an enjoyable if not particularly memorable story. Volumes 2 and 3 each contain multiple short stories, and they’re where the nihilism really starts to set it.

Part of it is the need to be gritty: grr, argh, violent men! Blood and guts! Torment and torture! And … I am not opposed to these things? But I feel like Wood fails to express anything else.

Then there’s sneaking suspicion I got that Brian Wood was not especially interested in historical accuracy. Even though it feels like that’s what the grittiness is meant to be. This became clearest in volume three, which features a story about three women who have survived the destruction of their village. And at one point, one of them says, ‘You talk of our future. What future is there without men? What good is wealth? What can we spend it on? What can we be allowed to own?’

So, what everything I learnt about Vikings as a kid was wrong? Women didn’t get to keep the property they brought with them to a marriage? They couldn’t own land?

I think Wood is actually making Vikings less interesting.

Also in the issue ‘The Viking Art of Single Combat’ there is this commentary on Loki as a god of war.

The young among us will happily chirp out ‘Thor!’ when asked about the gods of war, but a proper warrior, the sort who won’t do something as cowardly as bleed out in a shield wall when he’s supposed to have your back … that man will smile and talk of Loki.

Slippery, slippery Loki. The ideal war god, sure, but also the god of poetry, education, deceit and trickery, all rolled into one.

Which is … no. As a description of Odin, that would do well. With Loki’s name there, I don’t buy it.

The other problem with that issue was the sheer amount of narrative text, which detracted from the flow of the art. The issue is a single fight scene, which you’d assume goes by relatively quickly, but the narration slows it down so much that you can hardly make sense of the action. Maybe it’s deliberate, and he wants to slow the fight scene down and imbue it with meaning … but in slowing it down, it doesn’t parse as a fight scene any more.

The artists, at least, are all excellent. I am a big Ormston fan, of course, and his issues were the ones I enjoyed the most, but I also thought the other artists did some gorgeous work.

It’s just a shame about the writing.

Uncanny X-Men 8

Posted in Comics, Superhero with tags , on March 7, 2012 by Cara Marie

I had been a bit annoyed with the next-to-latest issue of Uncanny X-Men, because it was quite hard to follow … except it wasn’t, I’d just missed an issue. Duh.

It makes a lot more sense now. But it is the very latest issue that is most wonderful. See, Hope and Namor are stuck with the condundrum of how to placate a city of lake-dwellers they have no language in common with …

but wait. There is one language Namor is fluent in that all speak. And he goes and seduces the lake-dwellers’ queen. To Hope’s horror. ‘Ick, ick, ick!’ she says. (They’re not the most attractive of species.) And later she asks Namor if he’ll judge her if she calls him ‘king of ab-lantis’. ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘favourably.’ (Okay, Hope is not really very good at jokes, but she doesn’t have much experience, does she? And the kids her age she’s not really on an even footing with, because of the team leader minor-mind-control thing. Shame. Anyway!)

They are so funny and delightful together. It’s nice to see Hope having a positive relationship with someone! Not that I’d have picked it. Plus, it’s nice to see someone remember how young Hope is. Namor doesn’t treat her like a messiah or an abomination. Just a human who can be reasonably entertaining and just needs to be brought up right.

I’m getting quite fond of Namor, really. Doesn’t hurt that he goes around half-naked, using his wiley wiles for diplomacy and all.

I read this issue in the morning and it basically made my whole day 10x better. Maybe some other stuff happened in it, I hardly noticed over how awesome Hope and Namor were.

iZombie and a romantic digression

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Young adult with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

In things-I-haven’t-been-following-issue-by-issue, iZombie has turned from just reasonably entertaining to zomg why can’t I have more now? I think it’s the sort of thing that will really pay off reading in full, and rereading it, there’s lots of moments that don’t come to pay off till later. Also, you want to reread previous volumes before starting a new one – the overarc is a multi-volume one, and it’s easy to forget things.

A thought: it is possible to portray rapid-fire romances that do work for me. (I read an interview with Clive Barker that was all, the people who are wtf about Gazza just don’t understand my art, and it annoyed me. I refuse to believe I just fail as a reader, thanks for that suggestion CB.)

So: iZombie doesn’t conflate insta-attraction with insta-love. The romance comes from the fact Gwen and Horatio spent this awesome evening really connecting. You know? I can buy the speed of the intensity because you can see the way they click.

Tamora Pierce’s Mastiff, which I read recently, does have a really rapid falling in love – but it still happens over the course of the book, we explicitly see how Beka becomes comfortable with Farmer, we see enough of his personality to understand the attraction and why she would come to love him. Plus intense circumstances and all.

Maybe Gazza would have worked better for me if we’d spent any time with him before he met Candy? I feel like it’s important to understand why both partners are attracted to one another – and we the reader already like Candy, but we know nothing about this Gazza fellow or whatever charming qualities he has. Candy doesn’t have any time to see them. And maybe you want to make a point about their trans-lifetime connection but if you want me to buy two characters being in love I have to know what there is to love.

Horatio takes down a bunch of men in black.

Even if it’s something really shallow like he’s a badass monster hunter.

Many issues in quick succession

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

The Flash

I find the speed force kind of bewildering. How does being able to go really fast result in all these different abilities?

Random bystander says, 'Thanks for thawing us out, Flash. How'd you ...?' 'Friction,' Flash says.

But, I find Barry kind of adorable and I really like the art. I never intended to read The Flash? But it was apparently my mother’s favourite when she was young, and the covers were pretty …

All the good characters are really decent people, which is a refreshing change. Particularly when some characters you don’t expect to have a nasty streak end up having one …

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman I have yet to get the latest issue. The first couple of issues were great but it’s rapidly gone meh for me. Also I expect Wonder Woman to be a superhero, not a Vertigo heroine. And I’m not opposed to Vertigo heroines, but Wonder Woman going to shows and smashing glasses into people’s hands (gods or no) and having an identity crisis is not really what I signed on for.

I’m just going to blame it on Brian Azzarello. It was his run I stopped reading Hellblazer the first time I was reading it. (Which I think is a pity now – because I was so close to Mike Carey’s run! Which I loved! But hey, the comics aren’t going anywhere.)

Demon Knights

Demon Knights is still fun. The dinosaurs are still wtf. I enjoy the tone of it, the mish-mash of high fantasy and all the things Paul Cornell thinks are awesome. I’d quite like to be consuming it in larger chunks.

Batwoman

Amy Reeder is good, but I feel a bit sorry for her, taking on Batwoman. Because she’s no JH Williams III. Some people might find the layouts easier to follow though! And Kate doesn’t look quite as anaemic.

Journey into Mystery

JiM is still charming. I like Hellstrom better here than anything else I’ve read him in.

'So,' Loki asks, 'Why the leather trousers and the lack of shirt?' And Leah says, 'I like the lack of shirt.' Me too, Leah.

Also, Leah has a lot of nice moments. Even the ones when she’s not there. ‘Even in a dream, Leah wouldn’t be nice!’ Loki says. Yup. Also, the bit where Thori’s  asking Hellstrom to be his master … it’s just great :D

Avengers Academy

I may be going off Avengers Academy. But then, I dislike time travel so it may just be this particular plotline. And Gage has a lot of characters to juggle now. (I just want my Finesse + Quicksilver bonding.) I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out? I would have preferred sticking to a smaller group. More time for character development. Less forgetting people exist (Sentinel boy).

Supergirl

I am a sucker for felt-tip colours at the moment. Still quite enjoying this, ignoring how on earth Kara managed to survive this issue (other than the power of love). There are some rather touching moments, where you see how young and on-the-verge-of-living Kara is.

Also, I have always been biased towards Supergirl :D

Sometimes alternative canons grate

Posted in Comics with tags , , on February 4, 2012 by Cara Marie

Okay, I know the comics don’t equal the mythology. But. Since when does Heimdall see the future? Why is Freya, who is a witch and most likely a seeress, asking him for assistance? If she had to ask someone, there are a billion seeresses and seers in Norse mythology. Who aren’t Heimdall.

I like the All-mothers better in Journey into Mystery when they’re schooling Loki not to use sexist language. (That’s not fair. I like everything better in Journey into Mystery. And maybe Heimdall has been a seer for ages in the Thor comics. Just. Sometimes it is hard.)

Reading comics layouts

Posted in Comics on January 25, 2012 by Cara Marie

When I was house-sitting last weekend I found a copy of ‘Drawing Words, Writing Pictures’, a textbook on creating comics by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. So I sat down and started reading.

And I’d like to get myself a copy, I think, but there was one thing that had me scratching my head. Now, at the start of the book, the authors claim that the material is applicable whatever kind of comics you are making, wherever.

But. They present the following panel layout as being bad:

Two panels stacked on top of each other, with one other on the right, spanning them both.

I keep feeling I must be misremembering this – it’s such an inoffensive layout.

Which was quite confusing for me. In the example, they used, they even turn it into a joke about the apparent ambiguity of the layout. Only I didn’t get the joke until they explained it, because that’s a perfectly obvious layout.

And they can’t have read much manga, because it’s used all the time there.

Tezuka uses it:

Scan from Tezuka's Apollo's Song, where the dialogue clearly indicates you read down first, not across.

Scan from Osamu Tezuka’s Apollo's Song (flipped).

 Soryo uses it:

Again, you can tell from the dialogue you're meant to read down first.

Fuyumi Soryo’s Eternal Sabbath (unflipped).

 Yazawa uses it:

Ditto with Nana.

Ai Yazawa’s Nana (unflipped).

Every single book of manga I picked off my shelf used it at some point. And they all used it the same way.

It’s not an unusual layout, and it seems bizarre to claim there are no rules for reading-order for it.

Finding examples in English-language comics was quite a lot tougher, but I still found them:

An example from The Incredible Hercules

Reilly Brown’s The Incredible Hercules.

An example from Osborn: Evil Incarcerated

Emma Ríos’s Osborn – note that Ríos also has the speech bubble overlapping the gutter, to lead you in the right direction.

Again, the longer column is always read last. Country-specific conventions aside, it makes sense:

  • If you follow the gutter, you’ll run into a panel edge if you try and read across the page first – so you go down instead
  • You’re following a more natural path overall – top-down is pretty normal, back against your natural reading direction is not. (Which isn’t to say it’s never done– but there will be other clues.)

No wonder I prefer manga page layouts, if English-language comics supposedly don’t even have a rule for such a simple situation.

The gift of friendship

Posted in Comics, Middle fiction, Superhero with tags , , , on January 23, 2012 by Cara Marie

After Leah has asked what it is, Loki says, 'A Yuletide fist!' and thups her in the arm.Apparently, I like friendships where both parties commit violence upon each other. I’m talking Loki and Leah from Journey into Mystery here, but there are others, like Cable and Deadpool, where it’s just a normal part of the relationship.

Loki tells Leah they’re going to be BFFs, sure, but he also insults her regularly. Not that she’s not happy to strike back. Or steal his milkshake.

Loki stumbles out of the cave with his new dog Thori, looking the worse for wear. Green flames, courtesy of Leah, trail out around him.I was briefly confused as to why Leah fire-blasting Loki (in issue 632) didn’t seem to me a bad thing for their friendship. Violence should be incompatible with friendship, right? Even when you are a god and can deal.

Except, no.

When we were teenagers, I gave my friend L a bag of plastic cutlery for his birthday (this wasn’t that weird a present for us). We then proceeded to throw knives and forks at each other, for quite a while. Even the forks can draw blood if you throw them hard enough, who knew?

(More recently, I had to suffer through him getting a Nerf gun. I may need to get my own so I can retaliate.)

We insult each other often, we argue all the time, but I also spend more time talking to him than probably anyone else except maybe my mother.

So it’s weirdly familiar, watching Leah and Loki interact. And it’s not something I had thought to miss from my fiction. But now I am getting it it is awesome. I hope to be reading their wacky BFF antics for a long time.

Avengers Origins: Thor

Posted in Comics, Superhero with tags , , , , on January 9, 2012 by Cara Marie

Written by Kathryn Immonen, pencils by Al Barrionuevo

I know this series of one-shots is called ‘Avengers Origins’, but I was really hoping for Thor and Loki’s wacky teenage hi-jinks for this, not an Origin Story with a capital O. The sale material had led me to expect hi-jinks! So I was disappointed in that regard.

But then it had to add to the offense by just not being very good.

The structure is incoherent. At one point I was flicking back pages to make sure I hadn’t missed anything – quite a bit of the comic is about Thor (and Loki’s) relationship with Sif, and Sif being kidnapped is the fulcrum of Thor’s origin here. But we go from Thor intending to rescue Sif to ‘and then Thor ran around the nine realms killing things’ without actually seeing any details of the rescue, or the two interacting afterwards.

I felt sure I’d missed something, but no. Instead of going on to complete a story about Thor and Sif, the comic goes on to a speedy recap of Thor’s whole origin story (getting banished and so on). The pacing is all off, and instead of feeling like a whole, satisfying story, it feels like a mess.

The other thing that bothered me about this comic was Thor being sent to get treasures from the dwarves, because it takes a story I really like and then removes all the good bits. That is, the very motivation (Loki trying to cover his arse), the reason why Loki tries to stuff up the dwarves’ progress (in the comics, it’s to make Thor fail; in the mythology, it’s so he doesn’t have to pay up if the dwarves win the the bet), and the fantastic ending where Loki says he offered his head to the dwarves if they won, but he didn’t say anything about his neck, so the dwarves sew his lips shut instead and leave pissed off. Such a fitting punishment for the liesmith!

It takes those things away, all the character and the humour, and gives us something altogether less interesting. I know that the Marvel characters don’t always have much to do with the gods, but dammit, they shouldn’t be serving up such a bland retelling!

The only thing Immonen’s added to the story is a motivation for Loki’s shearing off Sif’s hair in the first place – it’s for a spell to make Sif fall in love with someone other than Thor (are we to assume Loki himself?) There’s no explanation for that act in the mythology (I personally subscribe to the ‘calling her an adulterer’ theory :D).

And I guess that illustrates the difference between mythology!Loki and comics!Loki. Mythology!Loki motivations are generally:

  1. Getting himself and/or the other gods out of trouble
  2. For the hell of it.

And comics!Loki’s motivations are generally:

  1. Villainy!
  2. Because he’s so jealous of Thor and everyone hates him.

Which has its appeals too, but in this instance it just means the story’s way less fun. (This is probably why I like Gillen’s kid!Loki so much: he seems to be drawing more on the mythological Loki.) And that on top of everything else wrong makes me wish I hadn’ t bothered with this issue.

Thor, Journey into Mystery, and Wolverine and the X-Men

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Middle fiction, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by Cara Marie

Thor: The World Eaters

Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry

This was rather underwhelming. If Asgard is now on earth, what is in Asgard’s place? I like the idea, and I can see what it was going for – but it didn’t have nearly the length to develop it. This is a seven-issue arc, and it really needs, oh, twice that. More time on the bit players and the exodus from the other realms. A greater sense of dread.

On the other hand, it does introduce kid!Loki, who is totally my fav.

Journey into Mystery c. #632

Kieron Gillen and various artists

I feel this is just getting into its stride. I’ve loved it from the start, but I feel like having to tie into Fear Itself – and having quite important character stuff appear offscreen, in The Mighty Thor – meant it didn’t sit together as well as it could.

But it seems to read smoother now, having found the right tone. And Gillen is happy to spend issues with characters other than Loki – Volstagg telling Thor’s death to his children I especially like (Gillen just writes awesome Volstagg in general).

This issue is a light one, though it is still replete with how much of an outsider Loki is. And his determined cheer in the face of that. He and Leah make a great team.

'Oh, such dainty words,' Leah says. 'I feel something move, deep within me.' She proceeds to knee Loki in the groin, saying 'Vomit or bile, I'd wager.'

From issue 625, pencils by Doug Braithwaite, colours by Ulises Arreola.

Okay, not always. I love how, when Loki first encounters Leah, he tries to charm her with flattery. After she tells him to shove it, he moves to insulting her delightedly.

'You are a wonderful woman, Leah,' Loki says, 'Weave your magic and, assuming survival, I'll commission statues in your honour. And I'll make sure the sculptor makes a flattering one, disguising that hideously distended chin.'

Issue 629, pencils by Whilce Portacio, inks by Allen Martinez, colours by Arif Prianto and Jessica Kholinne.

More recently he has decided they are to be BFFs. Which Leah is not so happy with. Being as she’s living in a ‘dirty great hole in the ground’. But also, how much do I love Loki’s priorities when he talks about outfitting it for her. All the important things, ‘rugs and bedding and food and books’. Anyway. I will be most excited to see this friendship resolve itself!

Artwise, it’s varied quite a bit … Whilce Portacio I don’t like, I don’t like the character’s faces or the scratchy inkwork that goes with it. It probably doesn’t help coming after Doug Braithwaite either, who I think is awesome.

The latest issue is Mitch Breitweiser, who I do like and would be happy to see stick around. Although he may just be for the one issue. His style reminds me of old children’s illustrations, which works really well for this Yuletide issue. Also just the characters look like themselves and the right age.

This is my favourite comic coming out at the moment, and I hope it sticks around a long time to come.

Wolverine and the X-Men

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo

I read the first two issues, but was not really pulled in. I find the art overly stylised and the layouts hard to follow. (I feel like I’m getting lazier when it comes to reading comics, by which I mean I expect the artists to do more of the work and actually think about how the eye is meant to move across the page, dammit.)

Reading a preview from issue four, I was sorry to read some of Idie’s dialogue, which just didn’t sound like the Idie I was reading in Generation Hope. Which makes me sad, because I liked Idie – I know a lot of people found her annoying – but it’s upsetting to see her moved into a new book, where she should have the chance to develop as a character (in a more positive environment) but instead she’s just changed into someone else. Someone easier. It’s like the writer read her dossier but didn’t look at her actual portrayal. So I don’t think I’ll bother keeping on with this.

Avengers Origins: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver

Posted in Comics, Superhero with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by Cara Marie

Written by Sean McKeever, art by Mirco Perfederici, colours by Javier Tartaglia and Gerry Henderson

I picked this up mostly because I really like Scarlet Witch. For some fairly shallow reasons, admittedly. It’s not that I’ve read so much with her in it, but anyone who didn’t listen when their mother told them not to wear red and pink together is alright by me.

I’m fond of Quicksilver for more solid reasons. So I felt sad reading this, because he’s so young. He’s still earnest and right-minded. And as I’ve recently read Silent War, it was especially bittersweet to see him like that. (Silent War is an amazing comic – the artwork and especially the colours are stunning, but man, would I like it not to be canon. Not that Quicksilver hasn’t turned his life around since then, but it is painful.)

This was a satisfying story – not stand-out, but hey, at least it was optimistic. I’m not sure how long a time period it’s meant to be set over – it starts shortly before Magneto finds them, and ends with them joining the Avengers. But their time in the Brotherhood of Mutants is very skimmed over – enough to see, yes, Wanda has formed a relationship with Eric – strong enough that she calls him that, not Magneto – that she is willing to believe in him. But Pietro is discontented, questioning. Suspicious of Magneto’s motives around his sister. (Well, suspicious of everyone’s motives around his sister, not unjustifiably.)

(I wonder, when Pietro tells Wanda to put some clothes on, shall I take that as a reference to the X-Men: First Class movie? Because it’s not that he’s denying her pride in her mutanthood, it’s that no brother wants to see his sister naked. Ultimates notwithstanding.)

Despite Wanda’s name being first in the title, this is more Pietro’s story, told from his point of view. Wanda we only see through other people’s eyes, Pietro’s, or other men’s. Pietro we see through his own eyes (even literally, looking in a mirror). So I don’t really know Wanda any better at the end of this; it’s Pietro whose changes are most evident.

Well, and the changes in the whole Marvel universe. In this story, we see Pietro’s line in the sand come when Magneto expects him to kill. And there’s the sense of, gosh, what innocent days those were!

Now even the good guys can’t agree that children shouldn’t have to murder.

I think Wanda and Pietro have the right idea at the end of this. Going out and being in the world and of the world, like the rest of humanity.

Too bad for the present day status quo.