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CSBG Archive

Joe Rice Media Review 1/11/07

There’s a lot of ones in this date.  I don’t like it.  Today I will review some comic books and also some other stuff.  It’s been a while since this was accurately titled as a media review.  I hope you comic folks don’t mind the rest of the arts intruding upon your domicile on the internet.  I do not want you to be angry at me.

I somehow missed the second issue of Dwight T. Albatross’s The Goon Noir.  And, no, it isn’t as good as The Goon usually is.  But there’s a nice Arcudi/Nowlan story, a cute Hilary Barta story, and Powell’s bit is, of course, golden.  Eh, it’s a lark and it’s better than most anthologies just because of Powell’s presence.

It’s like every issue of Runaways is saying, “Hey, I bet you thought you knew what would happen next.  WELL YOU ARE STUPID FOR THINKING THAT BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.”  And it’s that kind of abuse that I date, marry, and love to read.  The storytelling is sharp;the characters are well-formed, natural, and interesting; and the art is perfectly evocative.  A 6th grade student of mine loves this, I’ve been giving her the digest editions.  I’m hoping to get her written review up here soon.  Anyway, stuff happens in an unexpected manner, revelations are made, relationships are tested, and it’s goddam compelling.  And Alphona’s really come into his own as an artist.  I really anxiously await what he’ll do next.

Ah, The Punisher.  Any writer should be this lucky to write this well, this quickly, this consistently.  The start of a new arc and it appears that “Punisher Widows” are planning some revenge.  Some interesting dynamics within that group, and another lady somehow connected with them with some serious . . .issues.  Most of the Frank appearances in this issue are flashbacks, but they’re no less powerful for it.  How does Ennis do this so well so quickly?  Seriously, he’s like a modern day pulp writer, except with more meaning than your average Doc Savage novel by about a hundred.  And no Mrs. Raymond on the cover . . .Bradstreet is no Land, thank Christ.

Agents of Atlas.  Now that was a fine ending to a fine little superhero mini-series.  Are nerds freaking out about the revelations contained herein?  Probably not.  The awfulest nerds most likely didn’t read this.  Looking at numbers, not too many folks did.  That’s a shame, as it was one hell of a rollicking adventure story with fun, danger, humor, romance, and evil Asians.  I’m not sure what else one would ask for in a book like this except maybe a shitawesome guitar solo that played automatically during guitar scenes.  (Someone get to work on that idea.)  Fu Manchu was mentioned!  It’s a Wold Newton Crossover!  Rejoice, lit-nerds!  If you didn’t read this mini, read the inevitable trade.  I won’t cry if there’s never a sequel, but I for sure will check out Parker’s next project.

Way back in the day I enjoyed the first issue of the Thunderbolts.  That was quite a twist.  But like a lot of self-consciously “old-school” superhero rags, it got real boring real fast.  And “boring” is what Thunderbolts have been about for years.  There was the awesome little Arcudi run during the height of Jemas/Quesada’s “Let’s see if this workds” period that the ubersupernerds LOATHED.  But I found the examination of the seedier side of superhumanity interesting without being overly dark.  So I suppose I have a soft spot in my heart for things that makes Thunderbolts fans upset.  To me, nothing says “bland” like Grummet + Busiek/Nicieza.  Talented, yes, skilled, perhaps, but too in love with what’s come before and too unwilling to really do something new or on their own.  Now Ellis’ version isn’t exactly new.  It’s kind of a Con Air/Dirty Dozen thing but it’s so far certainly done with style.  And I don’t think it’s just my joy at seeing Thunderbolts readers in a tizzy enjoying this book.  It’s not great, by any means, but it is an entertaining action satire.  (Cronin, how can you say he’s playing it straight?  The commercial and the news stuff was comedy gold!)  My only complaint is Deodato’s art, especially the celebrity riffs.  I showed a page to my wife and she immediately asked what Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones were doing.  It’s silly, it’s inconsistent, and it’s distracting.  Just draw.

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I finally got around to reading Gary Panter’s Cola Madness.  It’s not easy to explain this sort of dream-logic work, but I can tell you it’s really, really good.  An absurdist frame and content bely quite a bit going on underneath.  One read of this and you’ll immediately understand why he’s considered such a master of the form.  It’s the kind of insanity you think you can just throw on paper but you really can’t.  Genius work, and I don’t use that lightly.

So now on to movies so I can legitimize the title of the column.  I recently re-watched Talledaga Nights.  My first viewing left me with the feeling it was a well-done goofball comedy with some golden moments.  But further review really brings out the higher qualities of the film.  It’s a pretty damn brilliant satire of flyover American idiocy.  By the end you have viewers and characters, rednecks all, cheering on Bush making out with a gay Frenchman, basically.  It’s love.  And Gary Cole turns in a pretty frakkin spectacular performance, comedically and otherwise.  He’ll get no nominations, I’m sure, but that was hot damn acting.

I remembered thinking Robot Jox was awesome when I was a kid.  My academic team in junior high took up the “crash and burn” mantra the year we became state champs (eat it, inferior nerds!) and that’s honestly all I could remember about it.  So, yeah, a post-apocalyptic movie about giant robots fighting should equal pure awesome.  It doesn’t.  What a lousy piece of crap movie.  Jesus H. Christ.  I was apparently retarded.

Sci-fi movies usually are pretty terrible.  But occasionally one comes out that transcends the genre, hokey as the cliche is.  Children of Men is one of those films.  SuPERBly acted, MASTERFULLY directed, and tightly written, this was one HELL of a good movie.  It’s the best I’ve seen in the theater in a long, long time.  Each performance is almost virtuosic.  Owen owns the film, but everyone holds their own.  The war scenes are among the most riviting I’ve seen in any genre.  The humor works and occasionally eases the tension built up by the premise of the film.  I really cannnot recommend this film highly enough.  Go see it.  Now.  Put down your back issues of Thunderbolts for Christ’s sake.  I’m sure the Beetle will be back some day.  But this movie needs the big screen.

EDIT: Seriously? Godland?  Takes all kinds I suppose.


Yeah. Runaways. Here’s a story: It’s my son’s favorite comic book. I’ve read every issue of Volume 1 to him as bedtime reading and we’re just starting Volume 2. He’s 6 years old.

Yet, it’s also one of my favorite comic books as well.

Does that make me emotionally stunted, or does it make him incredibly sophisticated? Or both?

Still not sold on Thunderbolts, alas, as if that did (or should) matter to anyone enjoying it.

On a non-comics-related note, I must say I found your analysis of Talladega Nights dead on. Given that Sacha Baron Cohen’s in it, I tend to treat it as the fictional companion piece to the pseudo-fictional Borat movie. Both are about exposing the prideful ignorance, shallow narcissism, and cheap triumphalism that seem to have infected much of America.

I guess I’ll have to read this issue of Thunderbolts to figure out why anyone, anywhere, at any time, for any reason, would want to be in the same room with Venom.

It’s not like anyone in the book is saying “Hey, let’s go hang out with Venom!” It’s a job. I don’t like being around some of my coworkers, but it’s my job.

Ellis is certainly being satirical with his take on the news and the commercial, but at the same time, while he’s being humorous, I think he is also trying to get across that the Americans in this comic book really DO feel this way about the Thunderbolts, so to THAT point, I think he’s playing it straight, and I think that’s a bit weird, that America would embrace the Thunderbolts this much.

As a strict joke, it is great – but I don’t think it’s just strictly a joke.

That’s the thing about satire though . . .you have to follow it through. You can’t have the commercial/news and then show realistic consequences based on actual human behavior. You’ve got to continue the satirized charicature.

Personally, I think Venom would live about two days. “You’ve just killed twelve SHIELD agents, then signed on as a Thunderbolt to avoid prosecution. Now you’ve got electro-shock nanites in your bloodstream, controlled by…SHIELD agents.”

“Oops, my finger slipped.”

“Children of Men” is the next movie on my list. Glad to hear you liked it.

I bet there’s a group of Marvel nerds who think the Fu Manchu reference was meant to be aimed at Shang-Chi, who was that character’s son as long as Marvel held the rights.

What is the problem with liking “old school” books? I don’t really enjoy all the “new school” books because they’re filled with characters with attitude and are usually overly violent. I already have too few comics to read, that I don’t understand someone wanting someone else to be upset because a comic they enojoyed has been totally changed. Of course maybe it’s the “new school” attitude. Oh, well, at least I know if you like a new comic, I won’t like it. Except Runaways. Until Joss Wheedon takes over.

You’re making a false dichotomy, Dean. I have no love for overly violent “new school” books either. My favorite superhero rag is All Star Superman. But there’s “taking what’s good about the old” and “writing as if you’re still in that time.” I think modern comics have a lot to learn from old school comics. But I think old school writers have a lot to learn from more recently displayed writing technologies. “Old school” is a bad term for stuff like Thunderbolts, in truth. It should be more like “boring and lacking in formal mastery.”

I’m replying again because I want to make clear I’m not one of these “Fun comics suck serious comics rule!” dorks. I’m a different dork. I actually can’t stand the stuff that came out of the “let’s imitate Ellis at Wildstorm” trend. DC’s rapey output is pretty gross. I enjoy clever, well-written comics. Most “old school” aren’t and most “new school” aren’t. But Thunderbolts has always stuck in my craw as this long-lasting testament to mediocrity. And the reception to Arcudi’s understated run just finished it.

You know, I didn’t think Thunderbolts was the best comic out there but I did enjoy it. That sort of storytelling should still have it’s place alongside the stuff you like. Personally, I think Warren Ellis’ stuff is boring, obnoxious and pretentious. Mostly boring though. After a point I find trying to be shocked or whatever he is trying to accomplish in his writing just boring. And most of the English writers are like that. He’s over the top, sometimes just to be over the top. That’s not really good writing. Nicenza may not be a great writer either but he’s the kind I can tolerate. I think if we combined the two writing styles we might actually have a good writer.

You know, I didn’t think Thunderbolts was the best comic out there but I did enjoy it. That sort of storytelling should still have it’s place alongside the stuff you like.

When done at least a bit more interestingly.

Personally, I think Warren Ellis’ stuff is boring, obnoxious and pretentious. Mostly boring though. After a point I find trying to be shocked or whatever he is trying to accomplish in his writing just boring.

Let it be known that outside of NextWave’s fun, I haven’t enjoyed a Warren Ellis book since the first arc of Authority. I, too, find his repeated tropes boring. If you’re barking at the Ellis fan, that’s the other tree over there.

And most of the English writers are like that.

Really? Seriously? Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are boring shock-jocks? Is that what you’re saying here? Because that I cannot endorse in the slightest. What makes those two men excellent is the breadth of their imagination and the strength of their technical skills. They were marinated in comics of yore but learned to write in a more skillful manner.

Nicenza may not be a great writer either but he’s the kind I can tolerate.

I’d frankly rather read a horrible writer than a tolerable one. Horrible can at least be interesting to critique.


January 12, 2007 at 4:41 pm

“But I think old school writers have a lot to learn from more recently displayed writing technologies”

Dragging an 8-page story out into six issues?

Someday I hope someone will make the Citizen Kane of Giant Robot Fighting movies.

I doubt it will be Michael Bay though.

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