Mini-Review: JONAH HEX #48

I’m under the weather, so no Thor commentary this week. Here, then are just a couple of thoughts on Jonah Hex #48. You are warned, here be spoilers.

There’s something about Jonah Hex. Something about this bitter, deformed, misanthropic Wild West sellsword that turns storytelling upside down. I mused on this detail a bit when I compared his stories to those of Superman. You don’t need him to behave in complicated ways. He just does what he does, and story happens around him.

Jonah Hex #48 is essentially an extended fight scene. The assassins who Turnbull has assembled from all over the world jump Hex on a darkened town street, and he spends the issue fending them off. And it works.

Stream of Blog: X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (pt. 2)

This being the conclusion of my impressions of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, recorded as I see it for the first time.

You are warned, here be spoilers.

* Ah, the first appearance of the much-lamented Gambit! … Seriously, guys, if you see a gambler making the cards fly through the air with what can only be telekinesis, perhaps you should pick a different table.

* I’m not familiar with this John Wraith character, but his teleport/invisibility/whatever effect is damn cool. He appears to disappear from the outside in, leaving a glimpse of his skeleton before he vanishes completely.

* Gambit doesn’t annoy me (yet). And his little Zack Snyder-esque slow-mo display with his explosive cards is actually very cool. That said, when Wolvie cut off his dramatic speech with an elbow to the face, I cheered.

* Hugh Jackman’s got Wolverine’s patented head-low face-first claw-charge down, and Liev Schreiber can totally sell loping along on all fours, even if there is CGI backing him up.

* N-no, Gambit, you don’t get to use a bo-staff as a helicopter. Windmills do not work that way.

* Colonel Stryker’s speeches make no sense. I’m just sayin’.

* Weapon X Project Security Fail.

* They’ve taken bits of Deadpool’s origin, and turned him into Baraka. With no mouth.

* Pssst. Making your bullets adamantium does not make them capable of penetrating his skull. It just means they won’t deform when they bounce off.

I think the scriptwriter just copied and pasted “Rule of cool!” for 40 pages. This movie, while often dumb, is incredibly awesome. I don’t dare breathe a word about the climactic fight with Deadpool. The movie is more coherent, and vastly more visually impressive, than either of the X-Sequels, though the cast has a lot less charisma to share between them than in those movies.

Stream of Blog: X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

Jon picked up a copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I felt like watching it tonight. I’ve been jotting down my thoughts as we go. We started late, so I only got partway through before zoning out. The rest I’ll do tomorrow.

You are warned, here be spoilers.

* I’ve gotta say, I do love Marvel’s studio logo these days.

* The opening scene looks like A Series of Unfortunate Events, yet has music that sounds ripped from “Battlestar Galactica”.

* Oooh, Wolvie’s claws are naturally-occurring in this. I could’ve sworn they were, in other continuities, a byproduct of the Weapon-X project.

* “He wasn’t your father. … Son.” I’m astonished by how much schlock they’ve managed to cram into the first… 4 minutes?

* I do like the opening credits – fading in and out as Ickle Wolverine and Ickle Sabretooth run through history. Though… I do hope they’ll give us an explanation as to why the boys both fought in the Civil War, given that Wolverine’s traditionally Canadian. Still, gorgeous credits. Very Watchmen-ish.

* Hugh Jackman is always awesome to watch. Liev Schreiber isn’t quite so invincible, but is damned cool. I’m still watching the opening credits and he’s already chewing the scenery.

* I’m enjoying the cinematography so far.

* Col. Stryker: “I’m putting together a special team. With special privileges. Now, how would you like to really serve your country?” Which country? The Weapon X project is a project of the Canadian government, and the previous X-Men movies (with which this movie theoretically shares a continuity) have confirmed this detail.

* DEADPOOL! Okay, so he’s already very clearly a watered-down Deadpool, and they so far haven’t identified him as Deadpool (just “Wade”), but he’s still Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds is perfect for this role, and I hope the actual, true-to-the-comic Deadpool movie gets made.

* This movie may have the most ridiculously awesome pistol-reload shot ever.

* With each passing movie, Wolverine’s sideburns seem to be creeping up on his mouth. There will come a day where only a thin bald strip separates his face from a full beard.

* I have to admit, for all the movie’s bad press, I’m entertained so far. Sure, I’m watching my roommate’s copy for free at home, rather than shelling out $15 to see it in a theater. Bolt’s domestic psionics are really cool, and really well depicted.

* “Y’know, I always though it would be Wade come knocking at my door.” “Well, Wade’s gone.” Khaaaaaaaaan!

* So, wait. Wolverine (1) has a habit of waking up from nightmares thrashing with his claws, and (2) doesn’t sleep alone, and the pair of them haven’t worked out a system for this? Y’know, having him sleep in boxing gloves, or in bondage or something?

* “Zero! Back to the car.” Heheheheheheh.

* “This isn’t about you, Logan! Your country needs you!” “I’m Canadian.” … So…. what? Stryker’s American? Is the whole Weapon X project American then, even though previous movies have situated it in Canada? Is Wolverine American, and just adoptively Canadian since walking away from the government strike team? This matters to me, movie!

* Oooh. They used the “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice” line. It even fits naturally.

* “You’re not from around here, are you?” Yes, because people who can carve faces in a wooden table with their fingernails are common, just not around here.

* There’s a touch of prequel-itis here. Wolverine’s out for Sabretooth’s blood, but we know he doesn’t get it. Sabretooth shows up in the regular X-Men movies.

* Around the time we actually get in to him actually undergoing the Weapon X process, to bind his skeleton with adamantium, I grow profoundly bored. Well, okay, Wolverine’s naked chase across the countryside is amusing, as are his mishaps as he figures out how to use his claws.

* Seriously, guys. Next time, wipe the guy’s memory before you make his skeleton indestructible.

* I will admit this movie’s action sequences are delightfully ingenious and incredibly cool. They mostly consist of Wolverine slicing stuff, but he slices stuff real good.

* “The only thing that will take him down is an adamantium bullet.” Um? Conventional bullets pierce through him just fine. He just heals afterwards. What, do adamantium bullets do agg damage? Is this World of Darkness?

* Ooh, Scott Summers. … Pssst. Kid? If you’re going to need to wear red shades to class every day, and this is going to be a problem, perhaps you need to ge a doctor’s note or something.

* The first shot of Scott Summers’ eye-beams in use is, in fact, incredibly awesome.

Ostou: 1.1.6 Phoney’s Inferno

This post is part of an ongoing series.

Bone
Part I: The Valley
Book One: Out from Boneville
Chapter VI: Phoney’s Inferno

You are warned, here be spoilers.

This chapter, the conclusion to Book One, pushes in opposite directions in delightful and chilling fashion. On the one hand, the immediate tension of the last few chapters – the rat creatures’ raid on Gran’ma Ben’s farmhouse – is at last relieved. Morning has come, and the farmhouse is a smoking wreck, but Gran’ma Ben is okay, and the rat creatures have left for the moment. Gran’ma Ben, Thorn, and Fone head to Barrelhaven, and all three Bone cousins are at last reunited. At the same time, though, we get an ominous creepiness that, at least for me, far exceeds anything we’ve seen so far.

To back it up a bit: the previous chapter ended with the dragon carrying Fone and Thorn back to the farmhouse, only to see it a smoking wreck. At the start of this chapter, Gran’ma emerges from the wreckage, a bit sooty but unharmed. After the first flush of relief, Thorn introduces the dragon – the Polkaroo curse is broken at last. The dragon and Gran’ma Ben eye each other, the dragon cool and Gran’ma scowling with her hands on her hips.

Gran’ma Ben: Hello, dragon.

Dragon: Hello, Rose. It’s been a while.

GB: Yep.

Dragon: Well… Looks like everything’s under conrol here. Guess I’ll be goin’.

GB: Yep.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Meanwhile, in Barrelhaven, Phoney and Smiley continue to plot their cow-race hustle while working at the tavern. It comes out that their enormous, frighteningly tightly-wound boss is named Lucius Down. We also get a scene that creeps the living daylights out of me: We get ten panels in a row of Phoney washing dishes, an open window visible behind his back. In that window, we can see the Hooded One standing outside, moving slightly closer with each panel. He looks like the Grim Reaper – heavily cloaked, with a long scythe in one hand, his head still drooping forward so that his hood covers his face. The Hooded One moves closer and closer – gets closer and closer, I should say; he doesn’t appear to walk. He just is closer in each panel. Finally, his head – still concealed – is actually sticking in the window; he’s just freaking Phoney out with menacing talk of taking the Bone’s soul, when Smiley shows up with another tub of dishes. Phoney is startled, and the Hooded One Vanishes.

This is a scene I’d already read both as a kid and as an adult, and it’s still creepy as all hell. I actually blurted, “Oh, f—,” as I re-read it for this blog post, when I realised that that was this page.

There are strong hints in this chapter that Phoney knows exactly why the Hooded One is after his soul, but no explanations. Gran’ma Ben quizzes Fone about Phoney’s connection with the rat creatures, and the Hooded One himself talks like he and Phoney have “unfinished business”.

Speaking of Fone and the rat creatures, Fone thanks Thorn for sticking up for him when they were cornered, back in the woods. Re-reading that section, I don’t know that Thorn showed any more courage than Fone did. Sure, she shouted “You can’t have him!” and the like, but she didn’t do anything, and I’ve got no sense that she could have. She and Fone were equally helpless. Still, she at least showed brave intent. And here, the next day, there’s less “ideal Disney princess” to her air, and a touch more “adventurer” – her hair is back in a ponytail, and her dress has been replaced by some sort of tunic or tabard and a pair of trousers. And Fone definitely perceives her as heroic – when she says “Of course we stuck together! We’re friends, aren’t we?” and smiles warmly at him, he falls off his riding-cow, head aswirl with hearts.

Lucius, the bar owner, appears to be something of a community leader. When Fone, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben first arrive in town, they’re stopped by a tree that’s been felled across the road. The affable young man guarding the impromptu roadblock with a rake says, “Lucius had us block th’ road! There was some strange doin’s in th’ woods last nght. The hairy men were out!” As they chat, we can see that the Hooded One is observing from high in a tree.

“So… once again, small one, your friends have come to you……. But make no mistake… …we will complete our transaction… You have been spared…. …for now….. Phoncible P. Bone……..”

A Year of Thor: THOR #4

This post is part of an ongoing series.

Thor #4

You are warned, here be spoilers.

So much of what works in this run on Thor is its treatment of Thor as a god. Sometimes it’s the tension between this role and his perceived role as a superhero. The way Straczynski writes him, Thor himself doesn’t seem to see himself as a superhero – there’s merely a lot of overlap between the two roles.

At its climax, this issue gives us another round of mythic storytelling – not “mythic” in the sense of “big event with lots of characters”, the sense in which it’s used interchangeably with “epic”. No, this is a true myth – the story of the origin of something.

The issue starts out with the pure mundane – first the charming, quaint mundane of Dr. Donald Blake’s Oklahoma, then the darker, bleaker mundane of a refugee camp in Africa. Dr. Blake journeys there with Médecins Sans Frontières, to help treat the victims of tribal genocide. While there, the camp is attacked. Thor fends off the attack, and three of refugee camp’s bodyguards turn out to be the Warriors Three, trapped in mortal guise. After the attack, Thor frees them.

What began with the mundane, then, leads into the technically sublime – the deeds of gods. This aspect is driven home with the aforementioned mythic event: Thor asks the locals where their territory ends and the territory of the aggressors begins. Once he’s been shown, Thor uses his divine might to open a great chasm, separating the two. Thor changes the geography of the land. The land now has a great canyon in it, whose origin is not simple erosion or the movement of fault lines, but a story involving gods.

There’s a certain amount of wish fulfillment here, naturally. After characters have spent much of the issue discussing the lack of easy answers for this situation, God fixes it. Far from diminishing the significance of the real-world problem of genocide, Straczynski’s depiction of this divine solution is as good as an admission that there is no obvious solution. God fixed it. Nothing else will do.

I have more nitpicks with this issue than any other up to this point. There’s a bad depiction of a French accent – the French-speaker gets most of his English right, but throws in French “accent words” – greetings, courtesy terms for people, oui and non. This is backwards – those are the easy words, therefore those are the words for which he’s least likely to lapse back into French.

A bigger nitpick is in something Thor says while he’s creating the chasm:

“Born I was a god of thunder… son of Odin… but also a son of the Earth… a child of the elder goddess Gaea. Only recently I learned this, and rarely have I invoked that power, or spoken with that voice.”

I can grant him the use of the Hellenic “Gaia”, rather than a Germanic “Jörd”, but “only recently I learned this”? Really? Marvel makes a point of using the real world as the baseline for its own universe. Whereas in the DC universe, Lex Luthor can become president, in the Marvel U it’s Bush, Clinton, Bush II, Obama. Presumably, then, the Marvel universe has copies of the Prose Edda – or, for that matter, Wikipedia. Thor and the other Asgardians being ignorant of their own mythology will come up again, later in these issues, with greater significance – we will see a character shocked by a revelation that shouldn’t be any revelation at all.

Though this issue has its faults, I still find it quite satisfying. Straczynski’s implementation of the myth is utterly delightful, an impressive and seamless melding of the classical form with modern characters and setting.

Review: DEADPOOL: MERC WITH A MOUTH #3

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #3

You are warned, here be spoilers.

I don’t get a sense that Victor Gischler has an ingenious master plan for Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth the way Daniel Way seems to with Deadpool. In the first two issues, Gischler sort of threw things at the wall to see what stuck. Here in Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #3, not much sticks.

Oh, I think it’s funny and clever that some of the issue is narrated by the extradimensional-zombie-Deadpool-head (which I’m starting to see referred to as “Headpool”), and that said head has its own set of internal voices to argue with. And the last panel with Deadpool in it in this issues is brilliant and hilarious. But for the most part, the issue is caught up in the wild adventure ride Gischler’s set up in the previous two issues.

Sure, the adventure feels plenty wacky. Even if there aren’t many effective touches of humour in this issue, it’s still about friggin’ Deadpool, carrying his extradimensional counterpart’s zombified head (and I will never get tired of typing that), with a buxom blonde archaeologist with no time for his zaniness at his side, fighting dinosaurs in the Savage Land. That’s awesome. But Gischler needs to come up with some new material, before it burns out. It starts to feel like it’s trying too hard – like a comedy that uses a Weird Al song with its opening credits.

The art is good, though it’s symptomatic of the slightly forced zaniness. Characters’ proportions are exaggerated comically, and Deadpool’s mask is just a little too loose (and doesn’t tuck in at the neck), robbing him of some of the slickness of his appearance. (The contrast between his slick appearance and ridiculous behaviour is supposed to be one of the sources of hmour with Deadpool.)

It’s a good issue, but I hope Gischler comes up with something new soon. Deadpool needs stronger foils to play off of – Dr. Betty doesn’t have enough personality, and Headpool’s wisecracks are a touch redundant.

Review: WONDER WOMAN #36

Wonder Woman #36

You are warned, here be spoilers.

Wonder Woman #36 is thick with continuity, its action predicated entirely on the events of both the previous issue and the previous arc, and yet this issue, more than any other from the past year, feels right as a jump-in point for review.

Wonder Woman has just been told by Tom Tresser that their relationship is over. Most of the issue is taken up with flashbacks of the discussion that followed, and her futile attempts to change his mind. Intercut with these flashbacks is a fight – then team-up – with Giganta.

Diana has screwed up. She’s hidden her real desires – in particular, her desire for children – from Tom, and he’s angry that she’s kept it from him.

I’m a spy, Diana. I lie for a living. I hurt people, and sometimes they hurt me. My luck isn’t infinite. I can’t have kids. I can’t do that to kids. And you didn’t ask.

I think Tom is a touch unfair here – no, she didn’t ask him about kids, bu it’s not like she conceived without talking to him about it. She doesn’t need his permission to hope, especially so early in their relationship, when actual pragmatic talk of kids would be, a least among non-Amazons, wildly inappropriate. But he’s right in that what she wants is something he can’t give, and she’s made it clear to him that it’s a priority for her.

The ongoing plot – that of the Amazons’ replacement in the gods’ favour with a tribe of male warriors – is the least interesting part of this issue. It’s not the strongest plot Simone has come up with, but also it has stiff competition from the earlier scenes with Giganta, and from the apparent conclusion of the Tom Tresser plot. Fortunately, the Amazonian plot doesn’t get much pagecount.

I was delighted to see Giganta, here interrupted while waiting for her date with the Atom. Gail Simone’s run on The All-New Atom – which constituted most of the series’s run – was a joy and a pleasure from one end to the other, and I was saddened to see Simone’s run end, and unsurprised when the series itself ended a few issues later. Wonder Woman popped up a couple of times in The All-New Atom, and I’d love to see the Atom and Giganta return the favour.

The art’s good; Aaron Lopresti’s pencils and Xi-Fi’s colours are what I think of when I think of DC art in general, and DC could definitely do worse in that regard. It’s detailed enough to show expression, to show the movement of cloth and muscle, and yet it has the light, smooth freedom of traditional comic book art.

This issue is not Diana’s finest hour. It is, however, an incredibly solid issue. There’s tremendous chemistry between Diana and Giganta, and Simone waves their scenes together with Diana’s memories smoothly and effectively.

Review: INVINCIBLE: #66

Invincible #66

You are warned, here be spoilers.

At the heart of Invincible #66, there is an image of terrible sadness and cruel, haunting grandeur. In this issue it’s revealed that the Viltrumite Empire – the evil, violent empire whose expansion is central to the overall story of Invincible – has been the victim of a terrible plague. We get a series of images of this plague making its way through the Viltrumite population, causing mighty Viltrumes to double over, vomiting blood, or fall violently to enemies after the plague leaves them weakened. These images are gruesome, but not half so arresting as what follows: the dumping of countless Viltrumite dead into the cold darkness of space, their number so vast that they form a ring around Viltrum itself.

I say this is “an image” – singular – and it is, but only in the cinematic sense. It’s revealed over the course of five panels, the first being a two-page spread of the bodies being dumped from a huge spaceship; the “camera” “pulls back”, with the bodies growing ever less distinct, until we’re looking at Viltrum – rather Earth-like, from space – with a vast, serene purple ring around it.

The issue has Nolan – Invincible’s father, a traitor Viltrumite – teaming up with Allen the Alien, who helps him make contact with the Coalition of Planets, the Viltrumite Empire’s main opponents. Then he and Allen set off in search of a long-buried weapon, whose location Nolan knows. The issue ends with them discovering – to their peril – that the weapon’s owner isn’t dead.

The issue is fine, though not quite as fun as some of the others in the series. Although there’s a hilarious scene with Nolan, Allen, and Allen’s lover Telia, for the most part it’s downhill after the shot of the ring of the dead around Viltrum.

Cory Walker’s pencils are good, but I’m not convinced the added shading and shaping provided by Dave McCaig’s colours are entirely helpful. These are silly, over-the-top characters with ridiculous visual designs, and when you start to try to depict them in a real, three-dimensional space, the ridiculousness starts to stick out.

Although Invincible still, astonishingly, lacks a formal recap page, this issue might well be a pretty good jump-on point for the series. It reveals who the Viltrumites are, who Nolan is, and introduces a few other players, even if it doesn’t actually depict Invincible himself. It’s a solid issue, if not Kirkman’s best.