Sunday, July 26, 2009

Apropos of absolutely nothing...

I didn't make it to "Star Trek" while it was in theatres, but I've already seen at least one way in which it's superior to the original:











Saturday, July 25, 2009

SDCC Commentary

* One of Marvel's many confounding tendencies is their occasional imitation of a DC Big Event via a Small Event. Last time it was "Identity Disc", now it's the upcoming X-Men crossover "Necrosha" which apparently involves the undead wreaking havoc. The fact that I automatically thought of "Blackest Night" even though I'm not reading "Blackest Night" is probably not a good sign. Still, if Craig Kyle and Christoper Yost are to be believed, it's one of those crossovers where each series tells a self-contained story - a fortunate choice, given how "Messiah War" turned out.

* "X-Men Noir" is coming back for a sequel miniseries. I liked the first one, might end up checking this out.

* Gerard Way has two upcoming projects coming out at Dark Horse: a third volume of "Umbrella Academy" (always welcome) and a new series called "Killjoy". Now, Way did not do himself any favors by calling it a love letter to the '90s, since the '90s are already back with their damned ugly foilograms... On the other hand, I was reserved about "Umbrella Academy" too - a comic from the lead singer of My Chemical Romance? Parents, hide your razors and black hair dye! - and it turned out to be one of the best stories Dark Horse has published in years.

* I'm expecting a hail of posts around the blogosphere titled "It's A Miracle!" Yes, Marvel has finally completed its acquisition of Marvelman/Miracleman, perhaps the greatest "lost epic" in mainstream comics. And this would be a coup worth celebrating, but there are a few caveats that bother me. For starters, I'm sorry, but this is Marvel Comics we're talking about: much as I'd love to be optimistic, this wouldn't be the first time they made a big splash at a convention and then utterly failed to come through, as I'm sure any fan of Stephen King recalls - they went from "Stephen King is writing comics" to "Stephen King is overseeing comics" to "Stephen King's assistant is co-writing comics". Here, too, any celebration may be premature: it seems Marvel's initial plan is to reprint the Mick Anglo Silver Age material, which is... well, it's Silver Age material. And not particularly good examples at that. It's the Moore/Gaiman saga everyone's waited for all these years.

Which raises another interesting question: am I to believe that Marvel, once it gains access to those specific issues, will reprint them faithfully? They're going to publish the childbirthing scene in "The Red King Syndrome"? The destruction of London in "Olympus"? Or are we going to start hearing about quiet censorship, "minor" tweaking of panels and so on? It seems unthinkable, but so does the notion that Marvel - having cowered in the face of possible controversy in the past - might balk at some of the themes Moore explored in his trilogy.

So... I don't know. Not breaking out the champagne yet. It would be wonderful if we got the whole hexalogy out there - "A Dream of Flying", "The Red King Syndrome", "Olympus", "The Golden Age", "The Silver Age" and "The Dark Age" - but I've seen Marvel drop the ball way, way too many times to get as worked up about this as I would have two or three years ago. We'll have to see what happens...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In the beginning God created CANCELLED DUE TO LOW SALES


Okay. Decision time. I think it's becoming counter-productive to pick up new monthlies these days - I feel like a complete idiot for buying the first three issues of Jeff Parker's "Exiles" given its just-announced cancellation at issue 6. It feels like bad faith on Marvel's part: they got me to pay for a fragment of a story and they don't feel at all obligated to see it through.

I'll admit this is a personal reaction, because I did get invested in Parker's story (what little he had written so far), and that's just another dead-end now.

All of which is basically justifying the trade-waiting mindset; yes, I've heard the counterarguments that waiting for the trade lowers monthly sales and ultimately leads to cancellation... and yet for all the Big Two whine and cry about it, they're largely responsible for this situation by not supporting the lower-tier, Not Even Remotely Connected To Norman Osborn books at all.

So barring a few potential exceptions in the immediate future, I'm putting a moratorium on new series. I'm utterly sick and tired of having the rug pulled out for under my feet.

Where does this leave my position at "The Savage Critics"? Well, the webcomic reviews don't seem very popular, so I might need to think about a new approach. We'll see.

On a somewhat-related note, my pull list as of July 2009 (alphabetically):

Cable: I like the premise, but after a year I'm still not completely won over yet. This one's on thin ice, as it were.

Captain America: No complaints about Brubaker yet...

Daredevil: With a tremendous amount of hesitation, I'll stick around for the start of Andy Diggle's run, just to see how he handles it. If it works, great, I'll keep reading. If not, #500's my stop.

Fables / Jack of Fables: Running strong, no reason for me to drop either of them.

Immortal Iron Fist: Has this been cancelled? I can't seem to find any information on what comes after the Immortal Weapons mini...

The Sword: Like "Girls" before it, this latest series from the Luna Brothers has a set conclusion and we're already in the final act of the story. It's rather light, as these things go, but I'll see it through.

X-Factor: Loving what Peter David's doing with this series, as it's unpredictable and a lot of fun, rewarding both long-time readers and the guys who only know Trevor Fitzroy from Wikipedia.

X-Men Legacy: Depends entirely on what direction Carey takes after the Dark Reign tie-in - which I've duly skipped. Don't care, won't read.

And... that's it. Eight series, a third of what I was following back in the Jemas days. And I never thought I'd miss the Jemas days. Ever.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Episode in Review: Dollhouse - Epitaph One

I wrapped up my season review of Dollhouse with the following comment:

"I suppose the question of whether I'll be watching season 2 is moot, given the vultures circling over this show, but I'm going to have to chalk this up as another disappointment from Camp Whedon. And those are really starting to pile up. I do hope he comes out with something in the near future to remind me why I used to love his work..."

As it turns out, I was wrong on several counts. For starters, "Dollhouse" has been renewed for a second season. This was quite a shock to me, given that the networks have been utterly merciless with genre TV over the past year or two given the cancellations of "Pushing Daisies" (no, still not over that), "Middleman", "The Unusuals", "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", "Reaper", et cetera ad nauseum.

And then there's "Epitaph One".

For those who aren't familiar with the background, FOX initially commissioned thirteen episodes for the series' first season, but this included the unaired pilot - which Whedon famously discarded after completion - so that, even though the cast and crew had already produced "Epitaph One" as a coda to the first season, the network refused to air it, with only vague promises that it would eventually do so at some unspecified date in the future.

It should be said that this isn't yet another case of network interference derailing a narrative: for all intents and purposes, "Omega" is the finale. "Epitaph One" is an afterword.

It's also the best thing Whedon's done since "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog".

There's a certain habit I seem to be developing with regards to Joss Whedon, where I'm continually disappointed by his work only for him to create something that utterly astounds me, seemingly out of nowhere, perpetually redeeming my opinion of him as it were. After the Noxon years of "Buffy" he regained a lot of my faith "Dr. Horrible", lost it again during the unfortunate X-Men/Runaways/Buffy Season 8 Let-Down Hat Trick, and "Dollhouse" was inconsistent to the point of utter frustration: a return to form in some respects, a bitter failure in others. But if the second season stays in the ballpark of this episode, all slights will be forgiven and forgotten.

Why is this episode so great? At its core, "Epitaph One" is an expression of Whedon's greatest strength as a creator (and, I think, the reason he's so popular): the man takes chances. He puts real risk into the creative process and isn't afraid to change gears for the sake of the story. Case in point, our coda begins a decade in the future, with an entirely new cast, in a world gone utterly mad due to public use of Dollhouse technology. We'd seen hints of the potential dangers before, but only in generalized, undefined ways: for Mag, Zone and their companions, it's reality. Use a radio and you might catch a stray signal that will wipe your mind, or imprint you with a psychotic personality.

In the midst of this chaos, the survivors accidentally discover the original Dollhouse and start piecing together the mysteries of the past. We learn a bit about what happened to various characters (Topher's fate, in particular, is heartbreaking, and that's some more Whedon magic right there: I never thought I'd feel anything but disgust for Topher, and all it took to change that was one scene). After a few twists, one of which left my jaw hanging (you'll know it when you see it), the episode ends on an open note that allows for quite a few possibilities. Will the second season continue from this point and explore the post-apocalyptic landscape, making this episode the mother of all deck-clearing exercises? Or is this the series finale and upcoming episodes will retroactively build towards it?

Either way, I'm on pins and needles for more, which certainly wasn't the case after "Omega". Good show, Mr. Whedon.