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CSBG Archive

Joe Rice Media Review 3/3/07

Mostly superhero comics again this week, but certainly a wider variety in quality than last week.  A few very-well done books that take the genre and tell stories with interesting twists or characters you can actually feel.  And two more of increasingly bad quality.  And the best book of the week may be a surprise.

Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona end their long run on the comic they created together, Runaways.  I do not envy anyone taking this book over . . .I can think of few mainstream books more completely associated with its creators.  Even when other talented, clever writers write these characters, it just doesn’t seem right.  Perhaps in large part to Vaughan’s ability to impart a real humanness to his characters; not “human” as the misinformed byword for “worst possible cynical take” but the “whole is more than the sum of its parts” type.  Whereas other comics in this review rely on one-note characterization and seem proud of it, the kids in Runaways contain multitudes.  I doubt I’ll be reading this book with the new team.  The art isn’t to my taste and Whedon’s never impressed me outside of very few instances.  But this is a rare instance where I will check it out.  Such is the strength of Vaughan and Alphona’s work on this . . .they have actually made me care enough about fake people to check in on them.  What’s Alphona doing after this?  He’s gone from being a competent to a wonderful cartoonist all on this one book.  This was a very good book.

 

Vaughan also wraps up Doctor Strange:  The Oath, this time with Marcos Martin.  It ends the only way it could, really, given the restraints of the “superhero universe.”  But by God it was a nice trip.  Vaughan gives us a likable, aloof, charming Dr. Strange and Martin’s spare line tells the reader much with little, all while keeping a beautiful eye on drama and design.  And, I’m sorry, when Strange takes his gloves off, revealing all the scars, and proceeds to kung fu the crap out of the antagonist, there should not be a single nerd not losing his or her shit.  It was my utter pleasure taking a sneak peek at this with the famous nealalian.  That’s how to tell a superhero story:  with humor, action, drama, characters you care about, and beautiful art.  Oh, and an ending.
With Jack Staff, Paul Grist has always been interested in formal play.  That sort of work isn’t easy, but when it works it more than makes up for generic qualities of superhero books.  Yes, this is essentially a “parallel universe gone wrong” story, but you haven’t really read one until you’ve read Grist’s take, including Rocky Reality, the chimp who guards reality and has his own jingle.  And it all wraps up in an issue, while still giving an emotional impact and a hook for a future story.  Grist should start a school.  A lot of people could learn a lot from him.

 

Throughout the miniseries, Nail Gaiman and John Romita Jr’s Eternals have really been a bit of a mixed bag.  The art was pretty much always on target, the cartooning enhancing the iconic nature of the characters.  But the story would veer from “average superhero story with very interesting ideas” to “average superhero story.”  And in the previous issue with religious overtones, Messianic messages, and changes to the status quo, my hopes rose dramatically.  So, really, why the hell did we need this issue?  It served almost completely as a “Yup, things are different like we said they were last issue.”  Aside from a touching scene with Sprite and Zuras, absolutely nothing is gained with this issue (other than a plug for a big crossover).  Is Gaiman intending to write a monthly or a sequel?  I have to doubt it.  And while I sincerely doubt he could pull of the Messiah angle, I have no doubts that pretty much the rest of the Marvel staff would fail at it.  They really should have kept it at six issues.  Ambiguous endings are great . . .until you spend a complete other issue repeating the ambiguity.  Nothing’s very poorly done here, of course, I just fail to see the point.

 

I have a soft spot in my cold, cold heart for superhero team-up books.  It was always fun, as a kid, to find back issues with bizarre pairings that just begged you to read WHAT WAS GOING ON?!?!?  So, despite my reservations, I checked out Brave and the Bold by Mark Waid and George Perez.  I went in with very low expectations; Waid hasn’t impressed me since his first run on Captain America and George Perez, though a fine draftsman, is kind of the exact opposite of what I like in comic book art.  Well, low as my expectations were, I still didn’t like this.  The story itself is inoffensive but equally uninteresting.  It read like a mini-comic that would come with an action figure.  “This is Green Lantern, he does this!  This is Batman, he does this!”  This played into the worst habits in Waid’s characterization, especially in two dreadful one-note characterization bits (Hal:  “Movie reference!”  Bruce:  “Huh?”  Hal:  “Get out more!”; Hal: “Hit me in blackjack even though that’s stupid!”  Bruce:  “YER FEARLESS!!!!”).  Perez’s art wavers from standard superhero competence to incomprehensibility to painfully dated.  Check out this partial page for examples of both these complaints.


I mean, look at the clothing here.  It might seem like a minor complaint, but it isn’t hard to buy or even look at a goddam fashion magazine.  Bruce’s suit looks like a suit, but a bit of research could have really put him in something nice.  And the girls . . .Jesus H. Christ!  Has George Perez seen a girl outside of a porno from 1973?  That jewelry, those dresses . . .it isn’t hard to get some reference and do clothing right.  If you’re going to bother to draw a hundred little details they should have a point.  They should make sense.  Anyway, this book is like a catalogue of everything that’s depressing about average superhero comics.  Aside from the fashion, nothing was horrible, really.  But in aiming low to make a “simple superhero story” they failed to even capture the interest that is supposed to have.

 

Oh, and Alex Cox of Rocketship, screw you!  “Hey, look, Animal Man!  I bet this 52 is really Morrison-centric!”  A comic book with the Marvel Family and Animal Man with Grant Morrison’s input should be an absolute dream for me.  This was ugly, nonsensical, derivative, unnecessarily gory, and pointless.  And on top of that we get Mark Waid continuing the dumb, serious take on Plastic Man he so loved in JLA.  Ugh.  Please, I need a good comic to cleanse me!
Thankfully, the ever-awesome Alex Cox of Rocketship recommended me Hunter & Painter by Tom Gauld.  I loved his Guardians of the Kingdom book, so I got pretty excited for this.  And it actually exceeded my high expectations.  The book is about two cavemen, who (as you might guess if you’re real, real smart) hunt and paint, respectively.  The book mostly centers on Painter’s next big debut.  He’s got creative block after last year’s smash hit, “Bear Hunt.”  When he finally gets an idea, his friend Hunter doesn’t like it at first, but says he’s warming to it.  You cut to Painter exiled from the village.  The entire book is lovingly drawn with simple cartooning that allows much interpretation of emotion in a great way.  The humor is sharp but caring and works effortlessly.  It’s read quickly, but is completely enjoyable the entire way through.  As much as I loved Vaughan’s work this week, Hunter & Painter takes the cake as the best book of the week.  Search it out and get it.  It’ll be the most fun five dollar examination on the demands of creating art for an audience you’ve ever bought.

50 Comments

Ah, 52. I really did think it would be some great, mystical, vaguely strange journey towards….something.

Something awesome.

Instead, the mystical “something awesome” was quickly ditched in favour of a bunch of almost staggeringly non-connected stories that just…seemed to…stop in mid-air, with no real relevance to the overall picture (and I can’t really see them doing a ZOMGZ! TIED TOGETHER!!! in the remaining handful of issues considering what’s coming up).

the Animal Man thing is decent, and his is the most interesting tale in 52 so far (don’t get me started on the Dibny thing. Oh God, so angry….so very….angry)…but (like so much of the space hero stuff) it seems like its going to seriously mis-fire like everything else in 52.

The biggest goof so far was making those stupid four horsemen…sorry, three horsemen and a lizard…the “big bads” of the book so far.

they should have run with Lady Styx as the big bad for this one. vaguely spooky, otherworldy and unstoppable demonic force from beyond the something-or-other?

awesome.

seen it all before, but awesome anyway and had great potential. that introductory Styx issue of 52 was spectacular, chilling and depressing all in one go.

and what did they do?

flush her into some stupid sun eater (or something…I think…) and stuck a big READ MYSTERY IN SPACE, LOL flyer inside the next few issues.

yeah, great.

maybe she’ll tie back into the overall picture in the next few issues, but bleh. any momentum that arc had was created and dashed to the ground in the space of about 3 issues, like they couldn’t really work out whether to go with Styx or horsemen as the big nasty threat. now i don’t really care about her reappearance, and I could have done without the lame Aliens knockoff scene.

and what IS it with all the gore these days?

oh, right. Its DC. Sorry, I forgot.

I don’t care…I like 52. I was shocked by the last three pages of the current issue. And I don’t see how Waid’s Plastic Man could be considered that bad. If anybody wants to campaign to “liberate” Plas and Captain Marvel from mainstream DC continuity, whatever. Have Jeff Smith do Cap on odd months and Kyle Baker on Plas for evens. If it would make fans happy, that woulld be good.

52 is decent for what it is, but they’ve screwed up so many things in it by this point I’m wondering if its fixable. Like that end to the Steel story – all of a sudden, he’s happy to let that dude fall to his death? to the outside observer, it looks like some nutcase with a hammer has smashed his way into Lex Towers, busted up the place, killed some dude, bashed up Lex Luthor and dropped a giant letter L onto whatever happened to be below? all this WITH poop seeping into his bloodstream?

i mean, it just made no sense. was he led off the premises in handcuffs? if not, why not? what happened next? who knows, bam, onto the next story quick.

…wait, Sage is dead? who knew? i thought he’d died at the new years issue, but no, he’s suddenly breathing again while being dragged in the snow. there’s no definite “you’re dead” bit in the comic, but then an issue or so later….everyones talking about him in the past tense.

oh wait, so he IS dead now. meh.

Dibny…..gah. gah, and bah. it would have been more interesting to tie his story to the four horsemen thing by making the helmet be the fourth horseman, and having him gather all those crackpot items for some crazy mystical asswhuppage of doom.

but no, they break out some loser and dump Neron into the action basically out of nowhere. what did they actually have to do with the supposed “mystery of 52″ as a whole? seemingly nothing. seems to me they didn’t know what to do with this story either, and just pulled them out of thin air.

and i don’t get how his finger ripped off when he should have been all bendy or whatever.

plus, isn’t Faust running round again after the end of 52? so what, Ralph gets dead and….about ten weeks later, Faust and (presumably Neron) are free. now, i know ralph may well spring out of his “MIA because of 52″ closet at the end of the story in current continuity, but i’m not holding my breath. so yet again, we probably have another totally pointless death in 52.

Michael Siglain: “We’re not in the business of killing characters just so we can say that we’re killing characters.. A character’s death must mean something, and must have some consequence.”

…comedy gold, right there.

I saw all these reviews about the Neron / Ralph issue saying how great it was that Ralph got his detective game back on, and it was an awesome reminder of his superb detective skills, blah blah etc etc.

too bad he’s probably dead and you won’t see them again anytime soon, but whatever.

Baker’s Plas was explicitly in continuity, for those that care. But it just got ignored for all the “serious” deadbeat dad takes.

It also got ignored because it was well-written, which was probably offensive to Didio and company. Good writing is a no-no at DC. One-note characterization like you pointed out from Brave and Bold? That’s A-OK!

I don’t get any of your criticisms of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, sorry. The story is quite good for what it is- throws in a lot of neat wild things, gets the characters and their interactions right. It doesn’t go into a lot of depth on the characters, but it doesn’t need to. There are plenty of other superhero books which focus on the navel-gazing.

And I found Perez’s art perfectly comprehensible throughout- he’s the one guy who can handle this kind of messy action and make it something you can follow.

As for “dated”- I’m sorry, why does that matter? It’s just a different aesthetic; there’s nothing inferior about it.

“For what it is” is a dangerous phrase. What wild neat things happen? A joke about a decade old movie? Something happening with a penny that Perez’s single-lineweight art can’t express? I couldn’t follow the cave fight, and looking around at other reviews that seems pretty common.

I don’t want navel-gazing, but characterization isn’t just “HE’S FEARLESSSS!!!!”

If you’re not drawing a period piece and you bother to draw clothes on people, the clothes should make sense. Researching fashion is one of the simplest things you can do. Not to do it is lazy and creates eyesores like the above example.

What neat things happen? The body of one dead man is discovered, intact, in 62 separate locations, including near Earth orbit over Venice. The killers, aliens after the Book of Destiny, a tome that accurately prophecies that ever will happen ever, attack Batman and Green Lantern using the Haruspex, a souped up cosmic energy gadget that functions on similar principles to Green Lantern’s ring, but is more versatile. They make side-bets on the outcome of their first attack. Green Lantern brings a dinosaur to life.

And “eyesores”? I’m sorry, you must have a larger hate for seventies fashion than I. I don’t care if the styles are current, they look cool and colorful. More muted styles wouldn’t fit in Vegas anyway.

“For what it is” is a wholly appropriate phrase for criticism. Roger Ebert always says that he tries to review the movie that was made, not the movie that he wished had been made. It’s only fair, really; otherwise you get into things like WIZARD OF OZ not being realistic enough or a Fifties SUPERMAN comic not having any character conflict.

When did I say “muted”? I want it to be correct, not muted.

I’ll say it again: If you’re going to draw people in real clothes, it’s a good idea to have an idea what real clothes look like. And jewelry . . .

No, “For what it is” doesn’t keep Wizard of Oz in the “good movie” quality. Good writing, great songs, and amazing production value do.

Brave and the Bold had cliched writing, unclear and poorly-researched art, and absolutely nothing new brought to the genre. I’d rather read a worse story than one this boring.

And unclear generic alien weapons and a silly use of a Sandman concept in a flimsy superhero book . . .yeah, this really is more suited for inclusion in a cheap action figure.

I thought Brave and the Bold was fun, myself. It’s in the same vein as the old Haney/Aparo issues, only less blisteringly insane, which makes it slightly less charming. It does what it says on the tin: tells a plotastic adventure yarn that teams up the two fellows on the cover. It was fine comics. I vastly prefer it over most of the “important” stuff DC’s putting out.

I have to chime in with the “liking ‘Brave and the Bold’ too” contingent; it’s light-hearted, upbeat escapist fun, an action-adventure comic that is aimed at diversion and entertainment. If you want a deep, angsty analysis of the damaged psyches of Hal Jordan and Bruce Wayne, you should be shot without trial–er, I mean, you should look elsewhere. :)

I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with making super-heroes shallow, but sympathetic characters. Frankly, I think it’s a more viable approach for a long-term series than writing damaged, morally ambiguous characters with feet of clay. Sure, that approach worked for ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Miracleman’, but both of those series together ran less than 50 issues. If you’re writing a character readers have a hard time liking, you can’t stretch it out forever.

“If you want a deep, angsty analysis”

This is the second time now that someone’s had to add in an adjective that Joe never used nor expressed. Is that because you can’t argue with what he IS saying?

“I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with making super-heroes shallow, but sympathetic characters.”

Writing a shallow character as shallow is okay, but making a whole group of characters because of their genre?

That’s ridiculous.

“Frankly, I think it’s a more viable approach for a long-term series than writing damaged, morally ambiguous characters with feet of clay.”

And those are the only two options, of course.

“Roger Ebert always says that he tries to review the movie that was made, not the movie that he wished had been made.”

And he’s always right, of course, because he’s on TV.

Successfully acheiving what it set out to do does not make a movie good. Otherwise, porn would be great cinema.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 3, 2007 at 11:46 pm

“Successfully acheiving what it set out to do does not make a movie good. Otherwise, porn would be great cinema.”

Porn serves it’s purpose – it’s not trying to be great cinema, it’s there for you to get off to.
Why should it be anything else?

Re #14: No, the reason I go with Ebert on this is he’s one of the best film critics around (for a certain value of “around” given his recent incapacitation), and the reason is he’s usually able to get past his biases or, failing that, state them so openly that we recognize them for what they are.

Though, if you wish, I could also drag in Pauline Kael. “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them.”

BRAVE AND THE BOLD is a quality piece of trash. None of the flaws pointed out- unrealism, lack of emphasis on character- so far are stuff that would be out of place in the average AVENGERS episode. Or even a decent DOCTOR WHO installment. If there’s a rubric by which that is bad art, I don’t want to know.

I think I agree with your criticism of the Brave and the Bold Joe. I probably enjoyed it slightly more than you, but I still can`t argue much with any of the points you are making. The only thing I`m unsure about is wether Perez` art really is that incomprehensible. It`s not like I really understood what the hell was going on with that coin, or with the dinosaur either for that matter, but I don`t know if I should blame the art or the script. That being said, I don`t really know that much about DC superheroes. Is it part of Hal Jordans powers to bring dinosaurs to life and make coins expand?

Also: how is Perez the exact opposite of what you like in comic book art? Is it because he tends to be incomprehensible? Because I don`t think he is. I do, however, think that his art tends to be too static, and that is really the opposite of what I myself like in comic art. On the other hand I like the way he seems to pay careful attention to details, especially facial features (male ones that is…), in a way that most artists don`t. Another thing Perez does well is to imbue the comics he draws with a kind of mythical grandeur (sp?), which isn`t really necessary in the Brave and the Bold, but totaly awsome in, say, Infinity Gauntlet.

Anyhoo, it would be interesting to hear what you think about Perez, because I think I may agree with you, and because so few people really seem to try to criticize him in the first place.

Clothing and costumes have always been Perez’s weakest areas. I don’t think he’s ever designed an attractive superhero costume, and even in the 70s and 80s, the everyday clothing on his characters looked dated- everybody looks like they should be in a soap opera on Telemundo.

In recent years his panel arrangements have become increasingly confusing. I usually get what he’s trying to do, but it’s sometimes unclear which panels to read first.

There’s still plenty to like about Perez- his faces, his attention to detail, every character looks “on model”, the cosmic stuff, etc.

I thought Brave and the Bold was okay enough, but hardly spectacular. I’ll probably give the next issue a look, if only because it seams like the plan is to have an ongoing story with rotating team-ups like those fun Claremont/ Byrne Marvel Team-Ups.

Is it part of Hal Jordans powers to bring dinosaurs to life and make coins expand?

If it helps, it’s a deactivated robot dinosaur, and the coin has always been gigantic. Two of Batman’s most famous Batcave trophies.

I think I’m somewhere between Bill and Joe on Brave and the Bold. Didn’t like it as much as Bill, didn’t hate it as much as Joe. I thought it was on the low side of okay.

I think the book they are hoping to do — a fun fast-paced superhero adventure with a sense of swashbuckling humor — is not what they ended up with. But I give them credit for trying; it’s so rare to see anyone even TRYING to have fun at the Big Two any more that I almost feel like I should support anything in that ballpark just so they get the idea that it sells.

I think the book would really benefit from a more Bob Haney-esque SCREW CONTINUITY approach, though I realize that’s blasphemy. Still, I think if they treated the book editorially like “Solo,” rotating different talent through with the only stipulation being that the story has to be about DC heroes teaming up, you could really get something fun and cool.

Really I just I miss the old Brave and Bold and want it back. This came close enough, and I enjoyed it enough, to give them a couple more issues.

“If it helps, it’s a deactivated robot dinosaur, and the coin has always been gigantic. Two of Batman’s most famous Batcave trophies.”

That did help. I had a feeling it was my own lack of DC-knowledge…

And a robot dinosaur… That`s actually pretty awsome!

Yeah, what’s with the “if he thinks this is bad characterization he loves grim and gritty, angsty comics”? Even as a straw man, that doesn’t make much sense. My favorite superhero comics are All Star Superman and Jeff Smith’s Shazam! Not exactly angst-fests there, but not exactly one-note B&B style, either. You can be positive or well-rounded without being shallow. Shallow characterization is weak writing; you might enjoy it and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it good.

For Brave and the Bold to be quality junk entertainment, it would still need to amp up the fun factor by at least showing us either something we haven’t seen a million times or at least show us something familiar in a new way. This book doesn’t do that, so I can’t show it much respect.

As for my thoughts on Perez, he’s certainly a fine draftsman and can sometimes compose a page quite well. But he’s very representational rather than expressive, and he’s not even all that strong at representation. His work feels static to me and his design sense is one of the worst around. He’s kind of the avatar or prime example of the Neal Adams-derived, over-detailed representational stiff art style that I really don’t like about superhero comics.

It sucks – I had a Brave and the Bold #1 review ready to go (and it’ll still be up, because as I say – if I receive a review copy, it will be reviewed!), and Joe basically stole all my critiques (he added some of his own)!!! The bastard!

I’m mainly in the Hatcher camp, though. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t recommend it either. It was decidedly okay, which isn’t enough for me to recommend it.

To be fair, I thought it was “OK,” too, I guess. I just hate “OK.”

Personally, I thought Brave & the Bold was a lot of fun. One of the best mainstream superhero stories I’ve read in months. I’ll take it over overly-serious, self-important stuff like Civil War or Infinite Crisis any day.

That’s like saying you’d take a night of horrible diarrhea over ten nights of it. No thanks to any of it, fine thank you.

When mainstream superhero comics have examples like Smith’s Shazam, Morrison’s Superman, the Spirit, Runaways, nextwave (and the list keeps coming) I have a harder time making excuses for “OK” work.

“That’s like saying you’d take a night of horrible diarrhea”

Is this really a fair analogy for something you admit is “OK”? I mean, it’s fine not to like mediocre, but that doesn’t make it the same as bad.

I woulda gone with “That’s like saying you’ll take a Big Mac over barbecued dog shit. No thanks to either.”

A Big Mac = diarrhea when I eat it.

“BRAVE AND THE BOLD is a quality piece of trash. None of the flaws pointed out- unrealism, lack of emphasis on character- so far are stuff that would be out of place in the average AVENGERS episode. Or even a decent DOCTOR WHO installment. If there’s a rubric by which that is bad art, I don’t want to know.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like you already do. You’re the one who’s calling it trash.

Check the name of the blog. “Comics Should Be Good”. Not “It’s No Big Deal if Comics are Mediocre, because There’s Lots of Mediocre Art and This Wasn’t Even Trying to Be Good in the First Place”.

“Porn serves it’s purpose – it’s not trying to be great cinema, it’s there for you to get off to.
Why should it be anything else?”

You totally misunderstood what I wrote. 100%

Joe, you’re probably going to think I’m evil, but I enjoyed Brave and the Bold #1. Especially that blackjack scene you pointed out. I thought it was a fun comic and I don’t regret buying it.

Now I’m off to kick a puppy or something.

Oh and by the way, I totally agreed with you about this week’s 52. Very disappointing. Though I thought it was fun how those aliens gave Animal Man a tune-up.

Animal Man’s plot in 52 makes increasingly little sense. I didn’t much mind the bit with Sobek and Osiris toward the end (I’ve been desensitized by video game violence!), but the whole issue would’ve been more effective in the hands of just about any artist but Dan Jurgens. He’s just too old-school for a lot of what the issue was trying to do, and would’ve been better saved for an issue that featured the Supernova/Booster Gold plot more prominently.

bam, back to 52!!

for an issue with some extremely intruiging cover of buddy on it, we sure did get a lot of….black adam and the marvels going through the motions. yes, yes, you all hate each other, blah blah punch etc. yawn.

animal man, however? he got what, 3 pages? and the final page with him on didn’t even feel like a “to be contnued, kids!” page…it just ended out of nowhere. i had to double check that there weren’t pages stuck together or something.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 5, 2007 at 12:53 am

“You totally misunderstood what I wrote. 100% ”

No I didn’t – I think your analogy was faulty.

Cinema and Porn are two different things – If a porn did make great cinema, than it failed in what it set out to acheive.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 5, 2007 at 12:57 am

“Clothing and costumes have always been Perez’s weakest areas. I don’t think he’s ever designed an attractive superhero costume, and even in the 70s and 80s, the everyday clothing on his characters looked dated- everybody looks like they should be in a soap opera on Telemundo.”

Actually his biggest weakness is hair (especially curly hair). Even when I really like Perez’s art, I usally dislike the hair.

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like you already do. You’re the one who’s calling it trash.”

What’s wrong with trash entertainment?
Dusk Till Dawn is trash, but it’s more entertaining (and better made) than a lot of other films that came out in the same year.
The upcoming Grindhouse is garunteed to be trash, but I’m looking forward to it more than any other film due out this year.

Nobody’s saying junk entertainment is awful. They’re saying it, like any other artform, should be good. The contention is that B&B isn’t even that.

Apodaca said:

“Check the name of the blog. “Comics Should Be Good”. Not “It’s No Big Deal if Comics are Mediocre, because There’s Lots of Mediocre Art and This Wasn’t Even Trying to Be Good in the First Place”. ”

This does seem to be your stock response whenever anyone defends a comic for being entertaining and diverting. I don’t consider it a sin that a comic is escapist fun rather than High Art, and I find no small degree of snobbishness in your constant insistence that finding entertainment in pop comics written for the sole purpose of entertainment is somehow “unworthy of the medium”. There are different kinds of “good.” Is ‘Brave and the Bold’ #1 the same kind of “good” as ‘Sandman’ #1? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that all comics have to aspire to being the next Great Work, anymore than it means that ‘Terminator’ is bad because it’s nothing like ‘Remains of the Day’.

John, once again, I’m not saying that and I’m sure that Dan isn’t either. One can be pure entertainment, light fare, and still do it better than this. One can have a light, traditional superhero book with action and adventure and not have a bland, poorly-characterized, outdatedly-drawn thing like B&B. I’ve named multiple examples already. The truth is, even when stacked up against other pop superhero comics, B&B falls short.

I do understand you’re not saying that (hazards of discussing things with multiple people at once–person A and B might both disagree with C, but that doesn’t mean they’re saying the same thing.) (I think I’m C in that analogy. Hold on. Let me go to the flowchart.) And you’re right as well in saying that your initial review complained solely about “one-note” characterization, rather than insufficiently dark. However, I do feel, and not without some justification when you look at the source material, that the “deeper” characterization tends to get in modern super-hero comics, the angstier, darker, and less sympathetic the character becomes (especially Batman). I don’t think it’s a “straw man” argument, but I should definitely show my work when I make that claim. :)

With that said, I’ll get into a bit more specific discussion of what I did like about B&B. (The writing. I never feel like I’m really qualified to discuss art, much in the same way that fish don’t discuss meteorology.)

The “hook” is spectacular, one of the all-time greats. The corpse in space is such a brilliant, incongrous murder mystery that I’d think you could do a whole anthology based on giving writers that hook and letting them run with it. The way it ties into Batman, getting him (and potentially other heroes) involved is also quite clever. (And while you complain about the characterization in the Vegas scenes, the dialogue here brings out Hal and Bruce quite well, I thought, without hammering it into the reader’s face.)

The fight scene was less thrilling, but I think that it might work better in re-reads, and from a pacing stand-point, I have to approve. It throws out a) the idea that villains are watching Batman and Green Lantern, and b) lots of hints about the villains’ modus operandi and motivations. That’s a lot of stuff to put in one fight sequence, and I think that since we don’t know what’s being hinted at, it came off as more confusing than entertaining. I’m willing to reserve judgement until I find out what’s going on (mainly because I loved that hook.) It does suffer, though, from a seeming lack of motive on the part of the villains; why are they attacking then and there, apart from wanting to get a quick fight scene in?

The Vegas scenes–the characterization was sketched quickly, yes, but I don’t think that’s so much a fault as an operational limitation; Waid is trying to keep the plot moving, and really only needs to put in a few reminders/refreshers on how these characters think and operate. Anything longer would take time away from the plot…I hesitate here to slam other writers, but I do think a flaw of modern comics is that they frequently pause the plot for “character moments”, which add depth at the expense of pacing. I’m a pacing Nazi, so that might be why “one-note” characterization in a fast-moving plot is good for me, and bad for you. (Like Sutekh, “Your evil is my good.” Ooh, Doctor Who moment!)

The re-use of Roulette is something I’m not a fan of, just because I’d like to see more new villains and less recycling of the back catalog, but at least she’s a villain that hasn’t suffered from over-use, and Waid makes sure to familiarize new readers with her backstory well. (I’m also an exposition Nazi as well as a pacing Nazi.) The second villain attack works much better than the first, as we’re already familiar with their M.O. and it seems much more motivated than the first.

The Book of Destiny, while absolute nerd porn, is a great MacGuffin once you think about it. What villain wouldn’t want to get ahold of a book that tells the future? (Actually, any sane one–the Book of Destiny has always been portrayed as showing an unalterable truth; it’s useless if you read about your future, since you can’t change it. Drive you crazy just thinking about that.) But by that same token, the revelation that the Book says Batman’s going to lose and the Book is never wrong is a good cliffhanger, without having to be purely physical.

So, for anyone who managed to keep reading to the end of this, a more specific, concrete, and less simply, “Gee, _I_ liked it!” version of why I think you were harsh on the Brave and the Bold. Bet you regret asking now, huh? :)

Actually, no. John’s outlined most of the things I thought were on the good side of okay. What I personally found myself taking issue with, much more than the story, was the art. I really wonder what this would have looked like if Jim Aparo had drawn it in the old B&B style. Because it reads like it was WRITTEN that way. I think Waid was trying to channel Bob Haney and that’s where that “breezy” (or “shallow,” whichever term you feel like using) characterization is coming from. But the art is too modern, it’s fighting the story and not serving it. Slow when it should be fast, hyper-realistic and mannered when it should be cartoony and fluid.

The hell of it is I can’t think of a modern equivalent of Jim Aparo who’d be a good fit for this. But that’s what the book needs.

That’s an interesting observation, Greg. And I think it’s pretty apt, actually. Maybe I would be more willing to forgive Waid’s shorthand if the art were more on track with what he’s doing. As it is, I feel we have two of the weakest tendencies in superhero comics, on opposite sides, duking it out.

Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen Perez’s style characterized as “too modern.” Not sure I can agree that that’s the problem.

“No I didn’t – I think your analogy was faulty.

Cinema and Porn are two different things – If a porn did make great cinema, than it failed in what it set out to acheive.”

Yeah, you did, because that wasn’t my analogy. My whole point was that they are two different things.

“What’s wrong with trash entertainment?
Dusk Till Dawn is trash, but it’s more entertaining (and better made) than a lot of other films that came out in the same year.
The upcoming Grindhouse is garunteed to be trash, but I’m looking forward to it more than any other film due out this year.”

Again, not what I’m saying. It’s not an argument of one being inherently better than the other.

You can’t call something trash and, at the same time, claim you don’t understand how it could be considered bad. You just called it GARBAGE.

“This does seem to be your stock response whenever anyone defends a comic for being entertaining and diverting. I don’t consider it a sin that a comic is escapist fun rather than High Art, and I find no small degree of snobbishness in your constant insistence that finding entertainment in pop comics written for the sole purpose of entertainment is somehow “unworthy of the medium”. There are different kinds of “good.” Is ‘Brave and the Bold’ #1 the same kind of “good” as ‘Sandman’ #1? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that all comics have to aspire to being the next Great Work, anymore than it means that ‘Terminator’ is bad because it’s nothing like ‘Remains of the Day’.”

No, it’s my stock response whenever anyone defends a comic for being mediocre, for being “not that bad”, or for being “decent enough”. It’s just really pathetic to me to see people have such little respect for themselves as an audience.

I really don’t care if you think I’m a snob. I’m sorry that it offends you when I don’t settle for comics that are just “okay”. I want comics that are good. If that seems like a stock response, maybe that’s because it’s the name of the blog. Am I a snob for holding the bloggers to the standard set by their own blog?

It’s just really pathetic to me to see people have such little respect for themselves as an audience.

And you decided that how, exactly? Quality is only one of many aspects of an artistic work that elicits response. If it’s good, yeah, there’s more to respond to, but if it’s not, that doesn’t mean it can’t be legitimately enjoyed on some level.

I realise as a lurker (whose familiarity with comic goodness doesn’t extend much past Spider-Man and the X-Men tv series) I don’t have much right to speak here.
But I really do enjoy reading the various comment threads, and my heart just sinks whenever a great discussion is interrupted by the ‘we can’t enjoy it because it’s not good‘ mantra. Isn’t being fun a fairly vital component of comic goodness?

Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen Perez’s style characterized as “too modern.”

When you get to my age, sonny, everything past 1978 or so seems ‘modern.’ I guess after thirty years I should stop classifying George Perez as “that kid who was on Avengers and revived the Titans,” he’s a revered old industry figure now. I still think of him as one of the new guys, though. It’s all in your frame of reference.

I suppose I should define my terms a little better. By “modern” what I mean is this thing of treating the page as a symmetrical stained-glass window, making the panel design an art element in itself. Perez is one of the worst offenders with this. They think of the design and then fill in the blanks with art, as opposed to leading the eye from the top left to the lower right with the necessary plot points getting maximum impact. Perez and a lot of his imitators tend to design the pages from just top to bottom as opposed to top-left to lower-right. They leave a lot of real estate unused, or rather they use it for frilly decorations or useless background.

What it really does as an end result for the reading experience is slow the eye down. That’s where that ‘static’ complaint of Joe’s is coming from. It’s too symmetrical. The more off-balance a page layout is, particularly the more the artist weights it in the lower right corner where your instinct as a reader is leading you anyway, the more dynamic and urgent it feels.

If Waid’s script had been laid out THAT way — the more traditional method, using a six or even an eight-panel grid, I think the old-school feel would have been a lot more obvious and it would have been a much more fun, retro kind of experience. I think if Darwyn Cooke had done this script, or maybe Michael Lark, or SOMEBODY that’s still drawing old-school story-first page layouts as opposed to these decorated mural things, it would have been a lot more successful at what (I assume) the original objective was, to evoke the old hell-for-leather Haney/Aparo B&B feel. Look at what Waid wrote and compare it to Haney’s scripts — the story beats are almost a perfect match. Weird mystery, heroes meet, quick character exposition, fight, fish-out-of-water/offbeat setting, bigger fight.

Understand that when I outline these things I am not being all snooty and perjorative. The argument’s about what constitutes ‘good trash.’ My feeling is that Waid delivered a classic ‘good trash’ B&B script and then and Perez let him down.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

March 6, 2007 at 12:15 am

“Yeah, you did, because that wasn’t my analogy. My whole point was that they are two different things.”

My fault then.
Would have been nice for you to clarify in your first response, but I admit I misread it.

“Again, not what I’m saying. It’s not an argument of one being inherently better than the other.

You can’t call something trash and, at the same time, claim you don’t understand how it could be considered bad. You just called it GARBAGE.”

I disagree – as ‘trash’ is a term used differently when discussing pop culture/art.

Continuing my example of Dusk Till Dawn – yes it’s a vampire film that disposes of plot halfway through – qualifying it as trash cinema – but it is very well shot and edited, the acting is great, and it has top sense of fun about it.
It’s a film where I do have trouble understanding when someone says they don’t enjoy it.

“No, it’s my stock response whenever anyone defends a comic for being mediocre, for being “not that bad”, or for being “decent enough”. It’s just really pathetic to me to see people have such little respect for themselves as an audience.”

Or perhaps they just wanted a fun diversion from life for a little while and that’s what a certain book gave them?
It may not have been high art, or the best they’ve read, but it had enough of what they like to keep them happy.
What’s wrong with that?

“I really don’t care if you think I’m a snob. I’m sorry that it offends you when I don’t settle for comics that are just “okay”. I want comics that are good.”

OK is a positive term though.

I don’t thinks he’s offended by you not liking them, more your habit of telling people off when they say they like them.

“If that seems like a stock response, maybe that’s because it’s the name of the blog. Am I a snob for holding the bloggers to the standard set by their own blog?”

Nothing wrong with that – but you try to hold people in the comments section to that standard, and they aren’t the bloggers.

Oh damn! Fanboy Logic Fallacy #217 in EFFECT!

To paraphase:

“If you like books that aren’t good, you obviously don’t respect yourself.”

Which can be logically rearranged into:

“If you like books that aren’t good, you are flawed as a person.”

Which basically means:

“It is possible for me to judge an individual’s value as a human being based in large part on how I judge the quality of their taste in entertainment.”

I love how it’s the self-proclaimed Internet Smart Guys who fall into this sort of rubbish thinking, too. God forbid someone should disagree or have different ideas of what’s good. And there’s certainly to be no debate or disagreement in the comments!!

Does anyone think that Brave and the Bold would have been a better fit with Chris Sprouse? I think of his stuff on Tom Strong, and it seems like he’s good at the simple, clean, fast line-work that fits a “light read” like this. I’d also say Mike Parobeck, but, well…sadly, IIRC, that’s no longer possible.

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