Sunday, March 4, 2007

Passing Sentences #5

Heroes, Company Man: I'm a bit conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I liked how the flashbacks were worked in, and there were plenty of interesting revelations and strong character moments both in the past and in the present. But I'm not sure this episode actually answered any questions I brought to the table: What is Mr. Bennet's first name and why is it such a big deal? How did he get involved with the organization? If they don't have Suresh's list, how are they finding the Heroes? What exactly are they doing to the Heroes? (Bennet says tagging and releasing, but they're clearly responsible for powering up Matt, Ted and Isaac, and Claude mentions vivisections...) And where the hell did present-day Eric Roberts come from? A bit uneven, then, but very effective in terms of changing our perception of a character (possibly two, I doubt I'll be feeling any sympathy for Ted in the near future).

Brick: Oy, what a misfire. I'm sorry, I get it's supposed to be noir-meets-high-school, but hearing Joseph Gordon Levitt talk about taking the heat and shaking the trees and ratting out the finks just veers into comical territory for me. Like "Sin City" before it, there's something inherently ridiculous about the way "Brick" slavishly follows its chosen genre; for starters, we're not living in the pulp era anymore, so injecting archaic dialogue into a modern-day setting only serves to point out how silly noir can be in any other context (insert random Frank Miller parody here). Also, these films follow the pre-established generic patterns so closely that there's no real surprise - yes, the black-clad mystery girl will be a femme fatale, and she's probably the real mastermind behind the story, and drugs will be involved, and the crimelord's top thug has his own dirty secret, etc. On some level, "Brick" is just regurgitating the old tropes via new faces, and I imagine it'd be terminally boring to anyone who's experienced the genre before, in any capacity.

Runaways, Live Fast / Doctor Strange: The Oath: In which Marvel says goodbye to Brian Vaughan, and is all the more creatively barren for it. There was something suitably low-key about "Live Fast" as the coda to Vaughan's run; nobody died, no grand revelation changed everything we knew forever, but at the same time there's an air of finality even before Iron Man bursts in to remind everyone that there's this thing called "Civil War" and maybe you'd like to read it (the "death" of a unique book via invasion of a mega-crossover: meta-text? Surely not). But anyway, I'm definitely going to miss Vaughan on this series - with the news that Whedon's run is in fact limited to six issues, this feels much more like an ending than it should, with only an epilogue to look forward to.

Meanwhile, Joe Quesada and I have our differences, but one of the very, very few things we agree on is the problematic status of Doctor Strange. Specifically, the Sorcerer Supreme has always been a tempting figure for lazy writers to use as a deus ex machina - just wheel him in to do some hocus-pocus and the day is saved. Brian Bendis ever-so-helpfully demonstrated this during "Avengers Disassembled" and "House of M" (and God only knows what "New Avengers" will look like), and Quesada has a point when he claims that Marvel's amorphous definition of magic basically puts Strange in a quasi-omnipotent position. Vaughan offers the simplest solution: rather than try to redefine magic (a task apparently assigned to the upcoming "Mystic Arcana" miniseries), all that's required is to put Doctor Strange's enemies on his level and make the story a mystery that requires unraveling, rather than a solution that can be instantly achieved with some arcane alliteration. That way, Strange can't just wave a magic wand and set things right. In the process, Vaughan unsurprisingly delivers excellent characterization of Strange, Wong and the Night Nurse, so much so that I desperately wanted this to be the first arc of an ongoing series.

With "Y: The Last Man" going bimonthly as it enters its final arc, and only a four-issue run on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the immediate future, I can't help feeling like the industry is losing one of its brightest, most talented stars. And for sodding Lost, of all things. Let's hope Vertigo snatches him up for another 60-issue series, eh?