Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is it hot in here?

Oh my. Tim Kring, have you been reading the HoYay thread at Television Without Pity and decided this was slightly less twisted than 'shipping Nathan and Peter?

Also, a Daily Bugle exclusive! For those of you wondering how Tony Stark talked Peter Parker into unmasking: wonder no more!

Because it's easier to take off your mask after you take off your clothes.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Passing Sentences #4

Death was working overtime this week; good thing her mascara never runs.

Rome, Philippi: Whatever artistic license "Rome" may employ in depicting historical events and persons, certain aspects are immutable. In that sense, there's little point in depicting the Battle of Philippi as though it could unfold any other way. Fortunately, Bruno Heller is a step ahead of his audience: rather than focus on the question of who wins (a question to which we already know the answer; take note, George Lucas!), Heller shifts the emphasis of this climactic episode to the emotional context. This is, after all, the point where the bodies start piling up, among them characters who've been with us from the start. It's one thing to know Brutus, Cassius and Cicero are doomed; it's another to see Pullo execute the cowardly-but-resigned Senator in full view of a wailing slave, or watch Cassius slip away amidst talk of his birthday. And Brutus... poor, vanquished Brutus gets a death that's quite different from that of his non-fictional counterpart, and yet it works so much better: heroic in one sense, suicidal in another, poetic justice in a third, and all that is conflated in a few bloody, poignant moments.

Heroes, Unexpected: Death makes another pit-stop, and this time she picks up someone I wasn't very fond of. Simone Deveaux has been a problem for me since day one, largely because of her wishy-washy nature. I mean, she dies while bringing back Isaac's key for the third fucking time in two episodes. Sure, I could be charitable and call it evidence of a conflicted heart, except that... well, what did we know about Simone outside the context of other characters? Did she ever do anything but faciliate another protagonist's plotline (sending Hiro to Vegas, revealing Claire's location to Peter, dumping Isaac so he'd be motivated to switch sides, etc.)? Even her death serves only the purpose of cementing the rivalry between Peter and Isaac (and now I'm wondering if Sylar had anything to do with Isaac's fate in episode 2). I'd feel the same way had the victim been Janice Parkman, Matt's wife - it's pretty difficult to care about the fate of a plot device. If anything, I'm glad she's gone because that complicates matters, and forces the characters who actually matter to find less convenient ways of moving along. I was more inclined to feel bad about losing Dale, even though she was only on for two scenes (side note: Zach Quinto is getting disturbingly hotter every week).

Anyway, the Stan Lee cameo was adorable (because, you see, he's a bus driver, a ferryman transporting Hiro from one kind of journey to another, and whether it's more or less heroic than the first depends entirely on how you like your comics), I really hope we haven't seen the last of Claude, and Milo Ventimiglia rocks the Dark Phoenix impression. It's interesting that Ventimiglia, like Jared Padalecki, communicates menace, rage and malice so well; could it be that the WB has been misfiring its castings all these years, and the pretty boys should have been villains all along? Or maybe it's the years of playing sanitized twerps that has them putting a little extra oomph into being bad.

Veronica Mars, Mars, Bars: Aw, Death, it's like you're apologizing for taking away my Menzies by purging TV of annoying people. :) Incompetence, obnoxiousness, sleaziness... all these adjectives (and more besides) describe Sheriff Don Lamb, who was sent rocketing to Hell this week courtesy of Richard Grieco (himself on an express train to Mephisto's Pit of Talent-Free Torment). While we may pity the quite-attractive Michael Muhney, let's not forget that Lamb thinks tough love is the way to go with rape victims, and he's never solved a case on his own, and he pissed off Lucy Lawless.

Someone at the Television Without Pity forum made an interesting comment about Lamb's death in the context of the entire series: somewhere along the line, "Veronica Mars" quietly shifted out of the noir (or rather, neo-noir) genre, and Rob Thomas might not be compensating enough for that. Lamb, after all, represented the law as a helpless (at best) or corrupt (at worst) institution. Removing him, and replacing him with someone who we know is both benevolent and reliable, doesn't quite work in a universe aligned against our protagonist (which was always the justification for Veronica's attitude). In terms of the power balance, Veronica seems to be much more in control of herself and the world around her than she should be - to wit, her utter domination of Logan in their relationship, to the extent that even when he dumps her, she makes the move that brings them back together, and then breaks it off herself. That might be precisely the problem that's causing this feeling of ennui; Thomas never defined the series again after the noir trappings were removed.

A Valentine sideplot featuring Bronson, Mac, Parker and Logan was thoroughly enjoyable in a fluffy sort of way... but, see, that's indicative of an identity crisis too, because as much fun as fluff can be, it simply hasn't been a part of Veronica's world until now.

Children of Men: It was beautiful. It was horrible. It was simple. It was complex. It made me cry. It made me smile. It was fucking depressing and ridiculously uplifting and I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. In keeping with the Theme of the Week, "Children of Men" stands as another example of how death can be an incredibly powerful emotional catalyst for the reader/viewer... and, conversely, how the concept of life (new life, to be specific) can change everything. There's something about the way this film uses death: it starts with the murder of a character we never meet but whose influence is inescapable, and it goes on to ruthlessly whittle down the supporting cast in such a way that you can't help feeling each loss, and yet it ultimately turns out that death isn't the point of the movie at all. It's something much more profound than that. As an aside, I wish I hadn't seen this right after the above episode of "Rome", because that one-two punch had me sobbing into my pillow until three in the morning. Between "Children of Men" and "The Prestige", my faith in cinema - or rather, the potential inherent in cinema - is slowly but surely being restored.

Civil War: I never get tired of seeing how out-of-touch the Marvel admins are with what actually sees print under their watch. To wit, Tom Brevoort recently gave Newsarama an interview where he offers up a script excerpt about the moment that decides the outcome of the war - an excerpt that makes sense of the whole issue, and says quite a bit about the leaders of the two factions. There's just one problem: that excerpt doesn't actually appear in Civil War #7. Nothing remotely similar to that excerpt appears in Civil War #7. Which accounts for the current outrage sweeping the boards.

(As an aside, Brevoort has also contradicted Joe Quesada yet again, claiming Mark Millar had planned the whole thing out in advance while Quesada's constantly reminding us of how Joss Whedon swooped to the rescue and helped shape the conclusion of the story. Oops.)

In any event, I don't have much to say about this debacle: I made the choice, back when it was first announced, to avoid "Civil War" in its entirety, and I've done just that - sure, it's nice to know that it was the right call (for me, at any rate), but at this point I'm far more interested in critical response to "Civil War" than anything the actual event could offer.

Ray of light? I do believe that "World War Hulk" and the impending X-Men crossover will fare better than their predecessors, if only because - for the first time in recent memory - the writers involved actually stand a chance in hell of pulling it off. See, this is the truth I've discovered with regards to comics: it's very, very easy to glean what a creator is and is not capable of, just by giving their past bodies of work (which are eminently accessible) a glance. Just because Marvel lacks any kind of discerning perspective doesn't mean we as readers suffer the same liabilities - we might, for example, question the idea of a subtle, complex tale of political intrigue being assigned to Mark "Mjolnir" Millar (the guy who wrote "Red Son", "The Authority", and "Ultimates" for God's sake!). And this, I think, is a big part of the problem: the writing is, and has always been, on the wall, but it has become the habit of the greater part of fandom to only take a look long after it ceases to matter. Sure, you can jump up and rage about "Civil War" now - #7's out, Marvel made a lot of money, and from their point of view it hardly matters if the end result is embraced or not. Their primary mission - cashing in - was achieved. Now, if the Zombies had said no a bit earlier (like, say, issue #2), maybe things would've been different.


World War Hulk

Well, the checklist is out... not nearly as bad as it could have been, given that most of "World War Hulk" consists of miniseries.

I'll be picking up Pak's books (the primary mini and the main Hulk monthly) and possibly the X-Men tie-in by Gage.

Of course, even that amount of participation is entirely dependent on how the event is structured - if it'll turn into another "Civil War" where critical plot developments are buried in contradictory tie-ins, then screw it. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Kevin Church points the Finger of Blame in an interesting direction.

At first, I was reminded of one of the last pieces contributed by Andrew Wheeler to Ninth Art. But Wheeler's commentary was an expression of disappointment and self-implication, whereas Church... Church is pure rage.

(Gee, I wonder what could have set him off, she asked sarcastically.)

What impressed me, though, is how effectively Church channels that anger. He drops precise, methodical criticism on a lot of problem zones that people (myself included) have clucked their tongues about without suggesting viable alternatives.

I've always believed in the ideas that Church is espousing here - namely, the notion that the readership bears a great deal of responsibility for both the highs and the lows of the Big Two. Also, that a consolidated and organized readership could find itself wielding more power and influence than any executive. There's precedent - readers restored Mark Waid to "Fantastic Four", to name one recent example. Marvel and DC get away with a lot because they're allowed to do so, because Frank Miller and Jim Lee suffer no reprecussions if "All-Star Batman" is both vile in content and insulting in frequency. The feminist backlash doesn't manifest strongly enough to stop an idiot like Michael Turner glorifying Paris Hilton by giving her superpowers. Church is absolutely right: we're getting what we deserve because we don't demand more.

Unfortunately, his article ends by imploring his peers to take action, and that's where he and I part ways, ideologically speaking. I've long since given up on the hope that the readership can or will ever be motivated to exercise their power en masse, because let's face it: dropping books you don't enjoy should be common sense, not something that requires soapboxing. But the comics industry are plagued by those individuals Wheeler calls Zombies, and they provide a basic safety buffer for the companies. If you know 40,000 people will always buy your product come hell or high waters, you'll feel confident enough to do things no sane consumer in any other business would even contemplate, such as price-gouging and duplicitous solicitations that border on fraud and false advertising.

At any rate, it's good to know some people believe change is still possible. Who knows, maybe if people like Church make enough noise, and enough people listen... Okay, cue John Lennon's "Imagine" here.

Still. It'd be nice.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Passing Sentences #3

Rome, Heroes of the Republic: This episode marks the mid-season point, and it's been a pretty wild ride so far. In five weeks, we've jumped from Caesar's assassination to the birth of the Second Triumvirate; Vorenus went Dark Side, Octavian got a full-body makeover, Brutus lost his mind, Timon found religion, and Atia and Servilia decided to stop playing nice, because encouraging incest and having your enemy stripped and humiliated in the streets just isn't permanent enough.

It's rushed, no question about it. I accept that, because there's no choice; HBO has a limited amount of episodes to get us from last season's end-point (Caesar's death) to the next optimal jumping-off point (Augustus), while keeping every other plotline from the previous season running. But even with (necessary) compression wreaking havoc on the timeline and on balanced screen-time (Eirene who?), I'm constantly amazed at how nuanced "Rome" can be. To wit, I realized the other day that there's a near-constant tension between the characters as they are now and as they were when the story began. It's as if they're all caught in a state of flux, vacillating between their past and present selves. Octavian reaches adulthood and makes it on his own, only to become his mother's puppet again. Vorenus and Pullo have practically swapped bodies - now Pullo's the domestic, moral man while Vorenus steeps himself in violence, darkness and sex. Brutus plunges into the depths of guilt and anguish, and comes out the other side leading an army, just as he did before (and more importantly, just as his ancestors did, and just as Servilia expects him to).

And that whole mess is a microcosm of Rome itself, caught in the tides of history, going back and forth between the Republic of the past and the Empire of the future, and nobody's sure what they're supposed to do or where they're supposed to stand.

I'm really going to miss this show when it's gone.

Heroes, Run!: Not quite as fulfilling as I'd hoped, because the plot only mimicked forward movement without really going anywhere. So, yeah, Nathan is Claire's father, but she doesn't even see him or get his name. Meredith's a golddigger who's set to disappear again. Hiro and Ando get sidetracked again. "Mohinder's List" starts rolling, and it just serves to pull Sylar in so he'll be involved in an ongoing plotline. Matt and Jessica throw down, and you'd think something huge would happen there, but... well, no. So it's more or less an exercise in wheel-spinning.

Veronica Mars, Postgame Mortem: O-kay, now we've got another multi-episode murder investigation involving both Keith and Veronica, on top of the ongoing Dean O'Dell mystery, concerning a character we've seen exactly once before. Hmm. Then again, both cases progressed this week, while accomodating a rather cute Logan sequence where he gets his groove back thanks to the little God Girl from "Joan of Arcadia". Not so bad, then.

Supernatural, Tall Tales: Another really good one, though for completely different reasons than last week. Bobby arrives to find the Winchester boys bickering and at a total loss regarding their current case, which seems to involve everything from vengeful spirits to alien abductions. Dean and Sam alternately fill Bobby in through flashbacks, though each brother puts his own spin on the story (I can't believe I'm saying this, but excellent acting from both Ackles and Padalecki - and hey, that's two finger-snaps in a row for the Pads!). It's a very lighthearted episode, a surprising but welcome relief from the unrelenting angst of season 2 so far. Not that the angst hasn't been good, in moderation, but it's nice to get a little something different now and again.

Man of the Year: I've always ever had the one problem with Robin Williams - he has a certain way of line-delivery (especially the ones with comedic slants) that just blurs together all the characters he's ever played. I look at Tom Dobbs and I see Patch Adams, Philip Brainard, Alan Parrish, Peter Banning and Daniel Hilliard. It's not that he isn't funny on occasion (though I wasn't especially amused by this film), it's that I never get the feeling he's actually separating the roles in his head, as opposed to just pulling out one generic character and slapping multiple names on it.

Starsky and Hutch: While channel-surfing late last night, I stumbled onto two episodes of "Starsky and Hutch", the series finale and an episode where Hutch is forcibly addicted to heroin. I doubt I'm going to go looking for more, but it was okay, a nice way to pass some time. And those two were so doing it. :)

Thunderbolts: I said I'd give Warren Ellis two issues. I did. And I still have no idea whether this is working for me or not. I think I'll err on the side of caution for now (also, Ellis, not exactly batting a million these days) and drop it.

Batman: Dark Moon Rising: Still on the subject of comics - awesome stories by Matt Wagner (was there ever any doubt?), very evocative of Miller circa Year One without making the common mistake of aping him so closely the thing descends into parody (see: "Spider-Man: Reign"). And I was all set to give this the big review and the many praises it deserves, but then I'd just get depressed that something like "Dark Moon Rising" is the exception and not the rule, and why hasn't anyone signed Wagner on for more work, huh? And where the fuck are those Grendel trades?! So let me just say that it's an excellent mini-series telling somewhat unconventional tales of the Dark Knight, with a touch of the old Grendel flair, and that just makes for fun reading. See, Dan DiDio? Batman can be fun! And we didn't run screaming like our hair's on fire! Try it sometimes!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Book Review Double Feature: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Go Ask Malice by Robert Joseph Levy
Blackout by Keith R.A. DeCandido

It's probably indicative of how much I loved "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in its prime that even now, more than three years after the show ended, I'm still interested in that fictional world, its characters and mythologies.

However, I find that I'm not nearly as invested in the titular heroine anymore; in fact, when I scour the Net or local bookstores for Buffy fiction, I try my best to avoid Buffy herself. Why? Well... here's the thing. From my perspective, Buffy Summers is a ruined character. Marti Noxon took a sympathetic yet empowered everygirl, and made her an obnoxious, self-righteous bitch with more issues than 2000AD. So much of seasons 6 and 7 is pure ugliness, with the mutual rapes and the ceaseless emo whining, and no one's really stepped in to redeem her since. I'm hoping the upcoming "eighth season" from Dark Horse will at least have a mitigating effect - if anyone can do it, Joss Whedon and Brian Vaughan can.

In the meantime, I've been fortunate enough to stumble onto two novels that don't center around Buffy at all. Robert Joseph Levy presents Faith's pre-Sunnydale backstory in "Go Ask Malice", while Keith R.A. DeCandidio's "Blackout" expands the glimpses we've had of Nikki Wood into a full-fledged tale of New York in the late '70s. In that sense, the books share common elements, but they're very different in terms of how they present their protagonists.

"Go Ask Malice" is subtitled "A Slayer's Diary"; the idea is that we're reading Faith's journal, discovered in the ruins of Sunnydale after the events of the series finale. So it's Faith telling her story here, starting six months before her Calling and ending after her fateful first encounter with Kakistos. Levy's recreation of Faith's voice is surprisingly accurate, taking into account that the bulk of her narrative is set before her transformative traumas occur. As a result, she's not nearly as jaded and cynical as she was when she met Buffy, but she's not pristine either. We can clearly see the shadow of what she'll become.

One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is how Levy uses the epistolary format. We expect complete access to Faith's innermost thoughts, only to discover that she's writing at the insistence of her social worker, and her fear of prying eyes leads her to constantly mislead the reader and edit herself. For example, the very first entry provides an idyllic, almost utopian description of Faith's birthday, but concludes with the following: "P.S. Oh, and by the way, one more thing, if you're reading this and have no idea who I am: All of the above is complete and utter crap." Other entries are partially erased or blacked out. Ironically, her caution is justified: we are, in a sense, invading her privacy, guilty of the same voyeurism she expects from others. So Faith remains in complete control of her story (the tragedy, of course, being that she lacks the self-awareness to really understand what's happening to her).

The diary itself also grows and changes as the novel progresses; by the time she begins training with her first Watcher, the made-up scenarios trickle to a halt, replaced with shorthand notes about demons and vampires wedged between entries, or fragments from other texts "taped" into her own. And at the end of the story, it becomes a hastily-written goodbye letter - abrupt and open-ended, even though we know what's coming next.

If this novel has one serious flaw, it's when Levy tries to craft an adventure for Faith to start off her tenure as the Slayer, only to get entangled in a byzantine subplot about vengeance demons, Arashmaharr, the spirit of a dead Slayer and imaginary friends. It's a bit much, especially since it ends in a massive infodump that doesn't quite remain true to the diary format (ie: we're supposed to believe Faith could replicate a long-winded explanatory speech word-for-word?).

Still, this is primarily a character piece, and on that level, Levy does a fairly good job of presenting a Faith we've never seen before, yet one who evokes familiarity as well. Her past as he depicts it is mostly his invention, but since that's not an area likely to be explored in official Whedon canon, I'm happy to use "Go Ask Malice" as Faith's official origin story.

Keith DeCandido's approach to Nikki Wood in "Blackout" is quite different. Rather than construct his own take on her backstory and graft it onto what we've already seen, DeCandido works entirely within the context of the televised scenes. In "Fool For Love", Nikki's appearance was clearly inspired by/an homage to the blaxpoitation genre - long leather coat, Afro, disco beat in the background during her fight with Spike. DeCandido expands on that, giving "Blackout" the shape of a Shaft-esque narrative where Nikki is the "Big Mama Jama" stalking the streets, at war with a vampiric crime organization. Indeed, Nikki sees herself as a mix of Cleopatra Jones and Batman, and that sense of cool (in the '70s meaning of the word) radiates from the character, both internally and externally. DeCandido creates a vivid, realistic portrait of New York circa 1977; his love for the city comes through in the way he describes the people, the streets, that slang that looks almost comical until you realize people did talk like that thirty years ago. He blends history and fiction (ie: conflating vampire activity with the infamous 1977 blackout and the ensuing riots) while never losing sight of what's happening to his protagonist.

Seventh-season canon is taken into account here, and Robin Wood is present as a precocious four-year-old; fortunately, his presence here isn't nearly as grating as his adult counterpart's would eventually become. In fact, DeCandido takes advantage of Nikki's motherhood, using it to add another dimension to the character and to the very concept of a Slayer. I can think of only one other story that tried to tackle this issue - "Abomination" from the first "Tales of the Slayer" anthology, and based on the name alone you can probably guess how that turned out.

But of course, the core of the novel concerns Nikki's battles against the undead, both on the page and off it (DeCandido makes some interesting references to an as-yet-unwritten conflict with Darla, and a victory over Dracula). On that level, "Blackout" does its job well: it provides an entertaining adventure that dovetails into Nikki's rivalry with Spike - the outcome of which is never truly in doubt. But DeCandido also succeeds on another level entirely: when "Fool For Love" first aired and we watched Spike kill the then-unnamed 1977 Slayer, we might have felt a bit sad for this kick-ass cipher, but it's clearly inevitable within the context of Spike's biography, which he's retelling to Buffy. By the end of "Blackout", I didn't want Nikki to die. And this is perhaps DeCandido's greatest triumph: he reverses "Fool For Love", makes Spike a secondary character in Nikki's story rather than the other way around. In doing so, he makes us see her as something more than "Spike's victim".

Also of interest is DeCandido's characterization of Spike. The novel contains a framing sequence set in season 6, where Buffy and Spike face off against a vampire who was involved in the events of 1977. It's a bit clumsy, very clearly stapled on as an afterthought, and I get the feeling DeCandido only used it to placate purists who wouldn't touch the book unless Buffy Summers was in attendance. At any rate, as I said, there's something peculiar about the way DeCandido writes Spike; or rather, the way DeCandido writes Spike is indicative of the schism that made him such a problematic figure after season 3. Namely, there are no mitigating factors in Spike's villainy, not the slightest hint that he could ever be anything but pure evil. In the framing sequence, Spike is as much Buffy's reformed lap dog as he indeed was at that point in the series, but once we go back to 1977, we see Spike as deviant, a fiend, an enemy of the Slayer. And this is hardly an interpretation unique to DeCandido; in "Spike and Dru: Pretty Maids All In A Row" (another highly enjoyable and well-written pre-Sunnydale novel), Christopher Golden depicts Spike as a monstrous, infant-devouring demon.

And that's exactly where Marti Noxon fucked up. She saw Spike as a "bad boy" rather than a monster, and had him "tamed" by the heroine. And that created a dissonance in Spike's character arc, because his pre-series history never suggests redemption as a most remote possibility. Sure, you could make the same claim about pre-soul Angelus, but let's not forget that Spike was helping the Scoobies out three years before getting his soul back. That's the schism at the heart of Noxon's Spike: he still (proudly) lays claim to some pretty horrific acts of violence and bloodshed, but at the same time we're supposed to see some hope of his eventual turn to antihero, or even plain heroism. The villain became fetishized to the point where he became a leading character in a story that wasn't even his to begin with.

"Blackout", conversely, is not a story about Spike. It's a story about Nikki Wood, the Vampire Slayer. And you know what? It's all the more interesting for that.

Passing Sentences #2

Very, very, very late, because I haven't been able to access LJ since Friday. :(

Rome, Testudo et Lepus: I don't quite know what to think of Simon Woods as the new Octavian; we'll see how that turns out, I suppose. The Atia/Servilia feud hits an all-time high in visceral horror, and I like that neither woman has ever been portrayed as the "good guy" in the conflict; sure, Atia started the whole thing by breaking up Caesar and Servilia, but Servilia's really gone above and beyond appropriate actions for a scorned lover. The Timon subplot seems a bit forced, in that he seemed perfectly willing to kill Servilia back when Cleopatra blew into town, but whatever. And yes, I bawled like a two-year-old when Vorenus reunited with his family. "Rome" really knows how to hit the emotional jugular.

Heroes, Distractions: Yeah, George Takei was awesome. And Zach Quinto's Sylar? Finally scary - ever since they pulled the big reveal, he hasn't felt like a genuine threat until now. I like that Claude isn't quite the omniscient Yoda everyone expected him to be, because he's wrong about how Peter's ability works. Of course, the breaking of that cliche comes somewhat at odds with Nathan being Claire's biodad, but that twist doesn't bother me much given that, from the very first episode, we've seen the cast interacting in ways even they weren't aware of. Everyone's connected.

Veronica Mars, There's Got To Be A Morning After Pill: The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round... it's probably a bad sign when I agree with Dick Casablancas about anything, but seriously, Logan: get up, shut up, grow up.

Supernatural, Born Under A Bad Sign: If this show keeps vacillating between excellent and subpar episodes, I'm going to be seasick. Last week was dull as paste; this week? Pure awesomeness. Curiously, Jared Padalecki seems much more comfortable as a villain, exuding a subtle but tangible menace that - after two years of watching this show - I never would have expected from him. Warning lights are on, though, because Kripke said this episode was supposed to resolve some issues, and at first it seems things are moving forward with the whole "Sam's Destiny" thing, except it all turns out to be a feint. Again. For all that Kripke's saying he doesn't want this to be "X-Files" again, and he doesn't want to deny the audience answers for so long that they stop caring... well, between this and the whole bait-and-switch they pulled at the end of "Croatoan", I have to wonder.

The Dresden Files: Hmm. The first episode didn't make much of an impression on me, probably because it starts in medias res (the sequence was messed up, with the origin story airing at a later date than was intended) but also because the writing's kind of mediocre and I didn't get a good handle on any of the characters. I think I'll let this one develop some more before going back to it, nothing about it really grabbed my attention.

The Prestige: Yes, I'm late to the party as always, but WOW. On some level, this movie was practically guaranteed to please me - I like Christopher Nolan's style, I'm a fan of both Christopher Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the high concept of two magicians at war with each other is quite interesting. But to top it all off, "The Prestige" delivers a complex, multi-layered story, making use of multiple framing narratives (Borden is reading Angier's diary, which describes Angier reading Borden's diary, and there's something about that back-and-forth reflection that's so appropriate given their relationship). Nolan masterfully chops up the timeline for maximum suspense and surprise without ever going so far as to lose the viewer. In a way, the film is a magic trick in itself, with the added bonus that in the end, you learn the secret behind the trick, and you still ask yourself how they did it.

The Night Driver: A graphic novel courtesy of... well, I'm not quite sure. CinemaGraphix and Moonstone, and apparently it was written by John Cork in another medium and then adapted into comics by Christopher Mills (of the webcomic "Femme Fatale"). Anyway, this is precisely the kind of disturbing mindfuck I can really get into: questions of identity, memory, criminality, and it's all tinged with just a bit of surrealism until you suddenly understand what's going on.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Cause of Death: Lateness

Astonishing X-Men #21 has been delayed from March to May. Astonishing X-Men #22 has been delayed from April to July.

If ever there was a call to justify trade-waiting? This is it. Hell, this is justification for sitting out the entire bloody run until it's completed and collected.

Curiously, other examples include "All-Star Superman", "Authority" and "Age of Bronze"... is there some kind of vast conspiracy against the letter A in the comics industry? Were Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada equally traumatized by an episode of "Sesame Street" where that furry elephant creature tried to teach them the alphabet?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Passing Sentences #1

Sort of a new feature I'm trying out: extra-short reviews of stuff I've seen this week.

Rome, These Being The Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Quite possibly the best thing currently on TV (narrowly beating out "Heroes" thanks to the copious amounts of male nudity), and this episode was no exception. Awesome blend of the political and the personal. But I miss Max Pirkis already. :(

Heroes, The Fix: I don't get why they insist on calling Peter an empath, or how Hiro got so nuts over the Magic Sword, but those are minor nitpicks and everything else is still running strong. And it's nice to see Sylar's still in the game.

Veronica Mars, Poughkeepsie, Tramps and Thieves: Oh God, please, enough with the melodrama already! How many times are Veronica and Logan going to break up this year? Don't either of them have anything better to do?

Supernatural, Touched: Meh. After last week's exciting developments, Eric Kripke wastes an hour trying to tackle The God Question. Which is pointless, since he hasn't established any concrete mythologies in the Supernaturalverse anyway. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Order of the Stick: It's been a great couple of months for OotS fans - Elan and Haley got together, the threat of Xykon is steadily growing, and this week saw Miko Miyazaki's fall from grace. That, and the subsequent smackdown, has been long overdue, and the payoff was flawless.

Friendly Hostility: In her annotations, Sandra says the point of this week's storyline (Collin had a sex dream about his straight friend Arath) was to underscore Collin's insecurities about Fox and women (because Fox has sex dreams about women all the time). I can't quite connect the dots on that one, as it seems more natural that Collin would angry because Fox doesn't care - not only is he not jealous of Arath, he regales his boyfriend with stories of his Dream Harem. Something's not right there, IMO.

Something Positive: Flashbacks are always interesting, especially the pre-Boston ones when Davan and Aubrey had this whole other group of friends. I like that Milholland doesn't drive home the fact of how doomed Scott and Rose are - we know what happens to them, but it's kind of nice to see them as they were before it all went so wrong.