Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death in the X-Men, Death of the X-Men


I haven't been reading the X-Men lately. I tried reading Uncanny X-Men, and Nation X, but dropped out half way through. It was such a disjointed story. I was happily reading and enjoying X-Force, until "Necroasha" became the last story by the great writing team on that book. And so far, as evidenced by the Vampire/X-Men event, it doesn't look like the X-Men are going to get back to basics anytime soon. Still, I keep my eyes open and stay apprized of what the Merry Mutants are up to.

So, the big death Marvel was warning us about was Nightcrawler, who died teleporting into an enemy's attack to keep Hope, the mutant messiah, safe. I'm honestly not that upset about his death, surprisingly. I keep thinking, in a number of years, we're just going to have another resurrection like we had with Colossus - just because Nightcrawler is such a classic character. But, really, that's all he has been of late - a "classic character", and only that. The last interesting thing Nightcrawler was involved in was trying to become a Priest, which didn't pan out in the end. There were some horribly weak willed attempts to take Nightcrawler back to his old fun-loving jokester days, but it didn't stick. The character has just been through too much - he's not the same happy go-lucky elf we once knew when Chris Claremont was writing him. When Ed Brubaker was writing Uncanny X-Men, he took a good approach with Nightcrawler by having him be the loyal X-Man still standing beside Xavier, even when Xavier wasn't very popular. Despite that, he ultimately still felt like filler. He's just been one of the cogs in the X-Men, neither effecting the team or moving in a different direction.

Mind you, Nightcrawler isn't the only X-Men who's been reduced to just another team member. Iceman has become equally as useless, character-wise, only surviving this long because (no pun intended) of his cool powers. The best characterization Iceman has had has been wether he's permanently turning to Ice or not. Not exactly riveting stuff.

I still like Nightcrawler, have always liked him, but he simply wasn't contributing to the series enough to avoid death. Can this be construed as a commentary on how far down the X-Men have sunk, that the best plot device they can manage is killing off a classic character? I know for a fact this isn't because of lousy writing, as I recently feel in love with Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man book. It's just a general reality of X-Books right now. Like the species, their dying. So much attention has been given to the Avengers, that the former company head-liners have fallen by the wayside. I think, in particular, the extinction of the mutant race has been a big psychological factor in this downward trend. Extinction is just a depressing topic - making for lack luster stories.

The upcoming Vampire story-line does seem to promise more interaction with the core Marvel Universe, which might indeed be an improvement. The X-Men have been very cut off from the general Marvel Universe for a long while. The only X-Book that's been working, in my eyes, has been X-Factor, which has smartly dealt with a more entertaining subject of Private Investigating, rather than extinction.

So, maybe Nightcrawler's death will ultimately be a stepping stone in the right direction to making the X-Men books good again. I doubt it, though. Killing off classic characters, especially during troubled runs on a series, rarely go over well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kick Ass

Roger Ebert called it morally reprehensible. The artist on the comic, John Rotmia Jr, said it was the most violent book he's ever drawn. Every media outlet was letting me know this was the most violent and horrible movie I could ever expose myself to.

It's really not. Honestly, the adaptation of "Wanted" was MUCH more violent than this movie. I almost opted out of going to this film, despite my love for comics and my enjoyment of Mark Millar's work. I'm glad I went. Seriously, the worst thing about this movie is probably the one above-adult swear a 10 year girl says - and that really means nothing once she starts cutting up bad guys.

And even the big time violent, stabbing, beatings, and gun shots - it's never drawn out unless germane to the plot, and even then the plot-line is quick enough to not let you dwell on the overly horrible things that happen in this movie. An example of what I'm trying to explain: when Hit Girl (the 10 year old assassin) cuts up a bunch of gangsters, many limbs are cut off. These wounds are barely seen after the initial cut, and aren't even overly bloody.

The real reason this movie, I think, got such a harsh response from critics, is because it involves a 10 year old girl doing bad things. I heard a lot worse than appeared in the recent movie Runaways.

Yes - 10 year olds should not be assassins. Yet this movie was clearly never advocating such a thing, and the concept was executed with more humor than anything else.

This movie was simply a laugh riot. Every poignant swear and overt assault often left the audience laughing. This was a funny, well thought out and smartly constructed movie. Just the pure concept, of an idiot deciding to really become a super-hero, is so seamlessly executed, that this movie can stand as the definitive take on the subject.

Although I'm a comic fan, and a Mark Millar fan, I didn't actually read the comic this movie was based after. I was told, even by the creators themselves, that the book was too violent. Whatever the comic was actually like - the movie adaptation seemed perfect.

Mind you, I'm giving this movie a lot of praise - but it is, indeed, violent. But never so violent or outrageous that I was ever offended or disgusted. (And, to be honest, I can be very squeamish with truly violent movies. I steer clear of Japanese Gore films, for example.)

The overly protective media and watchdog groups are simply overreacting to this film. It's indeed not for kids - but no where near as bad as Roger Ebert would have you believe.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

JSA All-Stars Review

JSA All-Stars has reached it's 5th issue as I write this. I was somewhat concerned about the Justice Society splitting up into two books. It seemed to fly in the face of the consensus at the end of Geoff John's run on the JSA - that everyone was staying a member of the team - that no one was going to be left behind. Essentially, this in-fighting between the younger and older generations seemed entirely forced - with Magog being the sole catalyst for this team split. Now Magog has finally been kicked off the team - and at the end of the recent JSA Annual, Stargirl asked why their teams couldn't be together again. GOOD QUESTION! There really is no reason for them to be split up, besides the economic reason of having two JSA books. More JSA is fine and good - but does the team have to always be at odds with each other, to explain the reasoning for two books? Why not just say there are two strike forces - like what the X-Men did when they first expanded into two books. That way they can even live in the same place.

Besides my gripping over the forced team-split, otherwise how is this new JSA All-Star team doing? It seems like the All-Star Team is still bursting with too many characters who don't get enough screen time. (I still want to see Judomaster's story continue) But even with the team's size, there are still characters missing in action. JakeemThunder seemed to drop off the face of the Earth - so I'd like to really see him come back. They at least got Sand and Atom Smasher back in action.

The plot-line, so far, has been nothing short of erratic. Johnny Sorrow, the villain leading the Injustice Society, has focused on Stargirl for some reason. We don't know why - but it all has something to do with resurrecting some even more horrible monster. The reasoning and planning of Johnny Sorrow seems to make no sense - beyond a lot of mystic mumbo-jumbo - and it all boils down to a somewhat unsatisfying excuse for the new team to charge in and fight.

The art of the series, I'm sure, has been a source of controversy. Freddie Williams II's art is exaggerated, cartoony, and sometimes far too artistic for it's one good. That said, I've still not disliked him either. His art is strange, but it does burst with kinetic energy - and I thus far haven't been disappointed with the pacing of the storylines. It's serviceable art, I suppose is the best I can describe it. Sometimes he pulls off a great stylistic shot of characters - and the backgrounds are nicely detailed giving it a rich appearance. It's not great, but it's good.

What has also concerned me is the regular back-up feature. The first story-line they decided to do features Liberty Belle and Hourman. I thought this was great - as this is where some of the more ignored characters can get a chance to shine. But, as 5 issues, I see this same storyline draging on. It seemed cute, at first, to have Liberty Belle and Hourman (newly weds) going on an over-seas mission of espionage and murder. The problem is this storyline has gone on far too long, taking my patience with it. The plot clumsily has Hourman and Belle continually running into a villainous duo of Icicle and Tigress. They fight some, get away, fight again - and now they are teaming up. I simply stopped caring about this entire storyline 2 issues back! This should have been a smaller and more condensed storyline. As is, being 6 (or more) parts long has just made me feel ripped off.

The series, also of note, has had some glaring continuity problems. One instance is when Wildcat II expresses his like for the name "Tomcat" (he asked his father never to call him that) Sand suddenly has lost his silicon-based powers, which allowed him to turn into sand and travel underground. When, exactly, did this change take place??! Also, during the Hourman/Liberty Belle storyline, it's off handedly mentioned that Rick Tyler no longer has flash-forwards anymore. (Where he sees events one hour into the future) I don't recall him loosing that ability - and, apparently, it doesn't matter - because the story pointed this power-loss out, and then promptly ignored it. It's like a character saying that a toaster is broken, and then 5 seconds later toast is being made.

So, with all of my complaints - what's my verdict on this new title so far? I'm going to keep getting it, despite it's flaws. It does seem like this is the title where all the action is actually happening - in comparison to the dwindling ranks of the regular JSA books. (The did just get back Hawkman and Hawkgirl. That should eventually bolster their ranks.) The story and art seems to be all over the map - but not in an unenjoyable way. It just needs to be a little more focused. As it stands I have hopes the series will continue to do better after finding it's bearings. Actually finishing the Liberty Belle and Hourman back-up storyline will definately help as well.