Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wherever this god is, be someplace else.

Thos bloody footsteps represent
your wallet's traumatic doom!
For this week I'm rewinding a little over a year to A God Somewhere from John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg, which at the time was generating a lot of good press. Being open to trying new things here and there (when collected - and as this was an OGN, that wasn't a problem) I gave it a go, and found myself wondering why. There's a whole swathe of problems with this book, which may be why Amazon currently don't have this 200 page tome of boredom in stock (though why anyone would pay $25 US for a new copy is beyond me).

Exactly 1 minute 14 seconds after discussing
the ass of the woman who jogged past that
wasn't Eric's brother's wife.
The story deals with a hypothetical "average guy gets superpowers" type story, and throws in graphic violence and the odd bit of nudity. Actually, advertised that way, I can see why I bought this (unashamed Garth Ennis fan that I am). Even that set-up has a couple problems. The "average guy" work for UPS UDS with his buddy from high school, hangs out with his married younger brother (who everyone seems to treat as a genius, though that goes absolutely nowhere), and is a God Botherer (he seems to be continually pestering his friend into attending church, if only to pick up chicks). This guy ends up getting powers during a weird (unexplained) explosion (though it seems like a nuke going off, it's never confirmed)  and proceeds to be, well, naive, and a jerk. He stops robberies, makes demands on the mayor to protect his brother (since he can't convince him to move to a nicer neighbourhood), jerks around the PoTUS, and eventually cracks. As in, cracks and kills his brother. And rapes his brother's wife. Because he realises that he's so far beyond normal humans that he can't relate to them, and can do what he wants with them. That, and he had a dream one night about people worshipping him as a god. Right.

Heroic, and weiny.
Now if this still sounds like a good read, let me just say that you're only half way done. If, up until this point, you consider the story is about Eric (He Who Has Superpowers), the second half is all about his friend, Sam. Sam who got saved from getting killed by rednecks by Eric and Hugh (Eric's brother), Sam who has always wanted Hugh's wife. Sam who fits in with no-one, and was getting Eric's groupies. Sam who, if he tried, might just about rise to the greats of earning your hard earned pity. See after Eric is arrested for what he did to his family (he wanted to talk to Sam about his dream, you see, so he gave himself up), and Eric's escape, Sam becomes a journalist (didn't see anything about those skills earlier in the book) that is embedded with the military unit assigned to killing his friend.
To angry and overweight Ultimate Thor.
In the end, yes the military win (go team), Eric goes from underweight Ultimate Thor to overweight Ultimate Thor, Sam gets to fly courtesy of Eric's amazing powers, Hugh and family survive, and Sam goes from refusing to make huge amounts of money off the only story he has worth writing, to selling the story and becoming at least moderately wealthy.

Now some people would claim that the behavioural patterns shown in this book are realistic, human, and that it shows the true nature of people, and what happens when you are given seemingly limitless power without having earned it. I personally think it's a fine example of sloppy, big action movie plotting combined with poor, charmless characterisation. An example people would do well to stay away from. An example I hope I don't see repeated.

Thus far I've beat up on Arcudi's work pretty severely, but then again Snejbjerg's art certainly doesn't do anything to distract you. There are numerous panels where people (for no apparent reason) have maniacal grins on their faces. There are plenty of examples of people that look bored, disinterested, or depressed with conversations for no reason. And about one third of the other facial expressions could be summated as wide-eyed surprise. Sometimes you'll get them all combined. It's disconcerting. At a guess, I'd say that Snejbjerg wanted it too look like David Gianfelice's work on Northlanders. But it doesn't. And it never should have.
To mass-muderin' crazy person.
How can you really believe THAT? 

Overall, I can see why some people liked it. I can see why it would possibly win critical praise. I can also see it being called superficial action schlock. Personally I think the best criticism I can level at this book goes to whoever at Wildstorm decided to green-light such a wretched book as an OGN (according to the editorial credits this could be Scott Peterson or Peter Tomasi).

Given the cost of this book, if I were you I'd save my money. Really I would, because in the long run you may want to buy something worthwhile. Something like this:
If you haven't had enough of
L.A. Noire by now, get on this.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

With Only One Vote Cast, I was Powerless To Avoid Re-reading This

I had no idea what this
was about when I bought it.
So after the last entry in my re-read-athon (yes it was a whole fortnight ago), only one person voted, and for that (thanks Scott) I set off to read Powerless again. Which funnily enough was nowhere near as terrible as I remember it which means that either:
a) I misjudged it the first time around; or
b) I misjudged it the second time around.
(I am, of course, discounting that I've been wrong on two consecutive occasions with this book, as that seems impossible.)

The book is not that long (6 issues totalling a slender 144 page book - Amazon don't have it in stock, but you can likely pick up a copy for under $5 US), but it does pose an interesting idea "What If: No-one Had Super Powers?", and does it from the point of view of an observing psychiatrist who, wait for it, woke up from a coma where he was in the 616 universe. Now this premise does irk me. Probably because I'd read Marvels just before reading it the first time, and probably because it was fairly obvious where a lot of the plot threads would lead. That said, Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson do weave an interesting tale, and Michael Gaydos does give his usual uncomplicated pencils.
I can't see these helping you fight Hulk.

The main "hero" characters (apart from our psychiatrist friend) are all there on the cover, however there are numerous other characters littered throughout with their impact varying from cameo (barely in some cases) to antagonist. The interesting thing with this book is that while it's clearly not a full-on super-hero book, it's still as realistic as most action movies, however, it's also (very subtly) quite tongue in cheek about it all, right down to the origins that are off only in that no-one gets powers. Logan is still a mind-tampered killer with claws (though the claws are part of a mechanism which neatly harks back to the original concept for Wolverine just being a guy with gloves), Peter Parker is still a geek that got bitten by a radioactive spider (though this time it was while working for Tony Stark on an Iron Man suit, and his arm becomes withered), and Matt Murdock is still a blind lawyer working against the Kingpin.

While you'd be right in expecting this to be somewhat of a character analysis of three of the bigger superheroes in Marvel's stable, the problem is that it's not an analysis of the actual characters themselves, but their alterna-egoes. And it doesn't quite work. Peter Parker without the power has no real need for the responsibility, yet here he has responsibility. Matt Murdock without a true sense of community has only selfish reasons for taking on the Kingpin. Wolverine looking for revenge instead of answers has no need for honour, but he spares Victor Creed (though not Mystique). Tony Stark builds the Iron Man as a means to make a profit, rather than to survive his own injuries and give back to the community. Norman Osborn still has the split personality, but no mind altering drugs. Like I said, it doesn't quite work, doesn't quite ring true. There's a mirror being held up the characters to be sure, but it's a carnival mirror that distorts them a little here and a little there. And being a mini-series, it doesn't go any further than the end of the book, and that's okay because you got a full story, and you got closure, but more could have been done with the concept.

Now all that said, it's still entertaining if you're in the mood for a "What If" story with a slight noir feel, or even if you just want a break from the spandex but can't shrug the need for familiar faces. If you can pick it up for under $5 US (with shipping at under $10) it's worth a go. If you have this on the shelf pick it up and give it another read, let me know what you think.

In the meantime, I feel like reading something that seemed to get much better publicity than it ought to when released, because I thought it was very shallow, and short of any real meaning. If you want to know what that is, tune in next week...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crisis * INF = INF.

This cover really gives you very little to go on.
This week it's all about Infinite Crisis, the most readable of the three core Crises. It's a reasonable sized 264 pages, going for sub $15 USD at Amazon, which tells you a couple things:

  1. it's shorter than the original Crisis on Infinite Earths; and
  2. it still sells for resale (meaning it's not so bad it's being offloaded on the cheap, and it's not so good that it's warranted a price bump - though Amazon seem to be on their last couple of copies before restocking).
There's a few other things that are important about Geoff Johns' Crisis though, and they're important to know before you pick this book up. First, it's an "event" book (the comics equivalent of the last part of a movie trilogy in that it's must see/read, wraps up the series thus far, and plants seeds for further movies). Second, it ties in to DC history (though not so much as CoIE, or many other crossover events). Third, it was the centrepiece of the DCU for the time it was being published (including events both before and after), so there are a bucket of lead in books you could choose to read (I read none), books that chronicle events tied to a handful of characters during the Crisis, and books that deal with the ongoing events following the Crisis. Finally, it's now 6 years old, and if you recall what I said about Iron Man Extremis consider what time may have done to this book.

Does NOT happen in Infinite Crisis.
The book itself picks up (20 years of publishing later) where CoIE left off with Superman and Lois of Earth 2, Superboy of Earth Prime and Alex Luthor of Earth 3 trapped in their "paradise" and greatly displeased with what they've seen the superheroes of New Earth doing (eg killing, fighting amongst themselves, turning evil, using bad language, disrespecting people's mothers and the elderly, and behaving like annoyingly sad twits). This combines with the Justice League of America disbanding due to trust issues, and the generally unhealthy events going on (see the lead up series for these). As a result Alex, Superman 2, and Superboy Prime work towards building a tower to recreate the DC Multiverse (collapsed to a single universe during CoIE). What isn't revealed until much later is just how many of the recent events Alex has instigated, and just what Alex is aiming to do. Adding further interest, it's clear that Superman 2 is not as involved in the plan as Alex or Superboy, because while he believes the Earth needs to be replaced, he's also open to the idea of helping make New Earth a better place (although it won't save Lois 2).

If you're confuse, you needn't be. The book explains all this in a much more straightforward manner than I have. What you do need to keep in mind though is that really there's only three other plot elements:
  1. the New Earth heroes fight back (predictably) and incur some losses (predictably);
  2. Superboy turns evil; and
  3. Alex is actually trying to create a perfect Earth by mixing the best of each of the alternate Earths.
And pissing this guy off is never a good
step on the road to getting your own way.

Alex's plan all comes undone when Superman 2 (and to some extent Power Girl) fight back against Alex,  and Superboy Prime becomes obsessed with simply returning Earth Prime as the sole Earth.  Yes, it really is a Pokemon level solution of "team work and friendship wins the day", which really is the basis of an Event book.

Now that's fine, that's dandy, but it took 7 issues to do it, and the major shakeup that could have happened to the DCU with the reinstating of the Multiverse never really seemed to take off. I've never really been that big on DC, and to be honest the reboots have nothing to do with it. See DC could do a reboot whenever they wanted, and they don't need a Crisis to do it, they can simply decide to tell most stories on another reality. It meant that CoIE was unnecessary, and gave reason to Infinite (beyond "it's been 20 years since CoIE"), but then what follows it? Same old, same old? Have we as fans gotten that lazy/stupid/apathetic ? Do we really need the ongoing history to accept comics any more? (Anyone reading Indy comics would likely say no, as would anyone who wishes to delete the late 1990s from their minds as far as comics went.)

The art (from Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, and Andy Lanning) is wonderful, nay, sensational. It's clear, it's concise, and it captures the chaos brilliantly. My only criticism (and this goes for the writing as well), is that there's so much going on that the magnitude of the struggle is lost in the shots where all and sundry have been injected to keep the fans happy.

Earlier I mentioned the ageing problem that Iron Man Extremis had, and this is a bit similar, in that the status quo going into (and coming out of) Infinite Crisis is so far gone that it's no longer required reading unless you're reading other books of that era. I'd go so far as to suggest that its best function is to establish the starting point of 52, but even then there's a slight gap in time. I'm being harsh here, because unlike Extremis, there's still some meat on the bones of this story (something Extremis never had), but for any Event book there's always a shelf life, unless it is so astoundingly brilliant that it does become a classic. Unfortunately I can't say that's the case for Infinite Crisis.

I'm happy to recommend this book to people, it's good value for money, but to be honest I can't do so with the enthusiasm that might be required for someone to actually spend their money on it.

Next week... I can't commit to picking a book. So until I get home Thursday night (roughly between 5:30 and 6pm Australian Central Time) it's up to the readers to choose from the following. If no-one votes, I'll pick whatever I want.

Seriously, there's one of these I'd want to read.
Let's see how much you want me to suffer.