Category Archives: comics

Casanova Quinn: Interdimensional Superspy

Having officially moved to waiting for the trades, it took me this long to get into Casanova. That’s a shame because it is one killer comic, and its slimline format just might be enough to get me back into the shop on Wednesday afternoons. I recently picked up the first collected volume Casanova Volume 1: Luxuria.

Matt Fraction has created a melange of far-out espionage and science fiction tropes that manages to be both reminiscent of what has come before and still fresh and original. The plot, which is intricate and exceedingly bizarre, centers on one Casanova Quinn a bad-ass super thief not unlike Diabolik. The comic opens with him ninja-ing his way into a European villa to steal a ruby, which turns out not to be a precious gem, but rather a sex-android named Ruby. The heist goes awry when he is busted by E.M.P.I.R.E the worldwide espionage/law enforcement agency that his father runs from a position of Nick Fury-like authority. It seems Casanova’s twin sister Zephyr, star agent of E.M.P.I.R.E., is dead. She went down in the line of duty and Casanova’s father wants him to attend the funeral. Cass is the black sheep of his family, it seems. Tending toward crime and chaos while his family sticks to law and order. Before long, a renegade crime lord from a parallel world recruits Casanova Quinn by dragging him into a world where the roles are reversed. In his new surroundings, he was the agent of E.M.P.I.R.E. who died while his sister is the rogue. The crime lord, Newman Xeno wants to use Casanova to impersonate his erstwhile surrogate and infiltrate the organization.

casanova quinn comic book

That is just the starting point and over the six issues that make up Luxuria, Casanova Quinn finds himself engaging in psychic combat with “three monks that practiced some form of occult zen for so long they fused together as a wad” and mutated into a floating mutant brain, defending a highly technological secret island whose inhabitants pretend to be primitive tribesmen from the outside world after taking “a bongload of evolution,” and taking over a giant Chinese war robot for his own purposes. Fraction takes the reader on a pretty wild ride and it’s up to you to keep up. The issues are more or less self-contained, and while there is a definite overall story progressing the emphasis is on the psychedelic adventure of the current story. Occasionally, the characters will have an aside where they fill the reader in on important bits of information in-character. It’s a device that could grow tiresome, but Fraction uses it sparingly enough that when Casanova appears in an aside it doesn’t get on my nerves.

Casanova Quinn: Punching God

Oh yeah, at one point Casanova has to punch an ascended god in the brain and then create a robot double of him.

Matt Fraction wears his influences on his sleeve with this work, but Luxuria reads more like a loving homage than any sort of derivative knock-off. There is a hearty dose of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius in Casanova Quinn’s freewheeling Devil-May-Care attitude and jaunting from parallel worlds. Like Cornelius, Casanova is an agent of chaos but he’s too cool to be truly evil. There are echoes of Nick Fury and S.H.E.I.L.D., and references to The Crying of Lot 49 among others. There is a definite aura of psychedelic spy fiction, like what you would see if you dropped LSD and watched all the James Bond Movies back to back with episodes of Alias
in between while listening to Grace Slick. It feels hectic and weird, but in a good way. There is a great deal going on in each individual chapter of Luxuria, and a number of different influences but the author blends them pretty seamlessly and the result is a totally fun comic with tons of intrigue, adventure, betrayals and doublecrosses (on both sides of the law), sex, and exploding robot monsters.

casanova luxuria

I’m not wild about the artwork, though. Gabriel Ba certainly brings an energy to the proceedings and the layouts work well but there is something about his anatomy that I am just not wild about. There is a green hue to the art that initially turned me off but I warmed up to over the course of Luxuria. This is personal preference, and other might disagree but I am curious to see how the book looks now that Gabriel Ba’s twin brother Fabio Moon has taken over penciling chores. I understand it has switched to a blue shift. Interesting…

I understand that Matt Fraction wants to release a total of seven Casanova collections, naming each one after the seven deadly sins : Luxuria (lust), Gula (gluttony), Avaritia (greed), Acedia (sloth), Ira (wrath), Invidia (envy), and Superbia (pride). I’m sure that Casanova Quinn and his associates are filled to the brim with these characteristics and I am fully on board for the next one.

Friday Night Fights: Stepping Into the Ring Towards the End of the Round

Darwin, The Evolving Boy from the Uncanny X-Men

Darwin is pretty attached to his Professor, and he’s not afraid of getting a little Shi’ar blood on his knuckles to find him. Why does the punch hurt so much? Because of evolution. Eat that, Intelligent Designers. I’m trying to hang with Bahlactus.

Iron Fist-ing: This Had Better Not Be the Last Iron Fist Story

I have recently read Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Last Iron Fist Story and lo, it was good. I love the martial arts, and therefore have a natural soft spot for ninjas, samurai, and general ass-kickers. Iron Fist has always been one of my favorite characters (his formerly ludicrous outfit notwithstanding).

His kung-fu was strong, and he was always ready to hang out with his super-best pal Luke Cage. In addition to the allure of the martial arts angle, I like the street-level heroes. Maybe the Moon Knights and Daredevils of the world don’t get quite the attention that their more galactically-oriented colleagues do, but I sure like ’em. True, Batman gets to play with the Justice League but he always strikes me as out of his element. This isn’t true of Iron Fist. He Keeps it Real. Which is no mean feat for a billionaire. Matt Fraction keeps it real, too. In the latest adventure, we get snippets of the exploits of past men and women who wore the green and gold of Iron Fist creating a sense of legacy for Danny Rand. He may have grown up in a mystical Shangri-la called Kun Lun and mastered mad skills, but he wasn’t the first. Over the course of this story he finds out about his immediate predecessor and has to learn quick even as he goes up against the hordes of Hydra and prepares to enter a mystical Mortal Kombat. This comic felt like a cool eighties movies. Ninjas, terrorists, pulp heroes, opium, kung-fu and even a touch of boardroom intrigue await the reader. It doesn’t feel too rushed, and the art by David Aja really sells the look and feel of the world Iron Fist inhabits. The fight scenes are fluid and retain a sense of the improbably awesome while still holding a veneer of realism. When Iron Fist kicks a hydra ninja in the head, it looks as though it hurts like a kick to the head should hurt. And he gave the character a much-needed redesign:

My only real complaint about the collection is that it is only the first six issues and seems like it didn’t need the hardcover treatment.

Monoculture in Motion

This is a little rant from Transmetropolitan, set to music and made to look all pretty with motion and the like. This little speech always intrigued me and inspired not one, but two separate papers during my undergrad career. This looks pretty cool, but it sounds like the narrator has a slight lisp that I found a little distracting. Also, he isn’t quite vitrilolic enough for my tastes. Oh well.

via Warren Ellis

Okay, So I Lied

Why should I devote my attention to writing that actually matters and which my academic future depends on when I can do meaningless blog updates instead?

First things first: As a card-carrying member of the Geek League I was required to catch a midnight showing of Spider-Man 3 last night so my sorry is tired. I didn’t get out of the theater until 3:00am. I was drawn in once again, and though the running time is long, I never felt bored or like the movie was dragging. It was awesome, although possibly slightly less awesome than the previous two installments.

spider-man 3

I do have two complaints:(exceedingly minor spoilers)
1. There were some weird musical numbers that seemed out of place, including a “Spider-Man Rag” number, in which Tobey Maguire goes all “Chicago.” Kirsten Dunst may or may not be a good singer. I really can’t say, but did we need her to sing two different songs in the same movie? (That was a rhetorical question. We did not.)

2. Three villains seems a tad excessive, not to the laughable degree that marked the stalling out of the Batman franchise, but still the movie seemed a little overstuffed. I suppose there are worse complaints to make about a movie than that it had “too much stuff happening.” And how I think about is inextricably linked with the future of the franchise. If this really was the last Spider-Man film from Senor Raimi and the gang, than I can forgive them a little for wanting to do too much. I understand that the whole Harry/Green Goblin II angle may have been slightly repetitive and can see why they would want to punch things up with some other underwear perverts. But Sandman and Venom are both huge parts of Spidey’s rogues gallery and I think either one could have warranted the “lead villain” role alone. I think it would have been better to introduce Eddie Brock and the symbiote in this film, to let the bad blood between them and Peter Parker develop while he is dealing with Sandman and Green Goblin II. Then have Venom emerge as the central villain in the next installment.

But if this was the last film from these guys (with 40 years of Spider-Man backstory and a ton of cash rolling in, I’m sure there will be a sequel but the involvement of Maguire et al is up in the air) I can see why they wouldn’t want to bother with all the long haul storytelling. As it stands, it does seem like things happen fast and not all the characters get time to really develop. There are fewer quiet moments than in the previous installments, and while it is by a narrow margin, I would have to say this my least favorite Spider-Man film (so far). The fact that I can say that about such a kick-ass film is a testament to the strength of the whole series.

Can’t we let the man rest in peace?

The Steve Rogers I knew and mourned would never, ever try to grope a woman with his burrito. But that is exactly what happened near my home town this past weekend. If there is one thing Brevard County has never been short of, it would be crazy drunken assholes, though they are usually not dressed quite so colorfully.

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This particular case revolved around a drunken doctor who had to ruin an office costume party by stuffing his pants with a burrito and trying to force women to touch it. It’s a pretty sordid affair.

“Everything was fine until, witnesses said, Captain America started
getting too forward with a burrito he kept tucked inside his blue
tights, a burrito that ultimately landed him in jail.”

Let that be lesson to all would be underwear perverts with Mexican food harassment fetishes.

The first rule of Gamma Club is you don’t talk about Gamma Club

Cinematical has some kick-ass news. It looks like Edward “Rupert” Norton will be playing the Hulk in the next movie. I’ve been a little hesitant about this movie. It comes from the same director who gave us the Transporter movies which I was less than enamored with. But I think this is an excellent casting decision and I can get behind director who pulled it off. I agree with Scott Weinberg that all the hostility people felt for the Ang Lee version is unwarranted. I can see why people were turned off by parts of it, and while it was far from perfect I think the scenes with the Green Goliath fucking up the army in the desert were worth the price of admission. Either way, it looks like we’re getting something awesome in the reboot.

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My Mutant Powers

I’ve always wanted to be special. From a young age I felt like I may have special powers that set me apart from feeble, fragile humanity. I can remember sitting and staring and squinting and groaning as I would try to move a kickball using the no doubt awesome power of my mind. It was after I had seen “The Empire Strikes Back” and I couldn’t see any valid reason why I couldn’t levitate my father’s conversion van the way Luke levitated his X-wing. Sadly no amount of brow-furrowing or focus enabled me do it because it seems I am not telekinetic.

But does that mean I don’t have any powers at all? Not necessarily. For every unstoppable killing machine with an immortal healing factor or time-bending Japanese office worker, there have to be several individuals born with less obvious powers. I think I may have one ore more of these abilities, which may not be as flashy as the kind you see in comic books, but make life much more convenient.

For example, I seem to have a prescient sense of timing for television shows. I have an innate sense of when commercials will air and when the show resumes. It goes beyond just good guessing, or a general sense of how long commercials take into the realm of preternatural ability. I can stop and start my DVR on a dime, down to the millisecond when a commercial ends and the show fades up from the break. I can also flip back and forth between channels, effortlessly returning to my primary channel just as the program is restarting. It’s not really something I asked for, like all those gifted with great powers I find it can often be more of a curse than a blessing. Sometimes I miss really clever commercials.

Dork Dispatch: Mistah Rogers- He Dead…

Captain America is dead. I don’t think spoilers apply when the New York Daily News and other sources are talking about it and what it means politically. Captain America is a guy who first came on the scene by JACKING HITLER IN THE JAW!

captain america number 1

and now he has been taken out by a sniper and seems to be truly dead (or at least as close to it you can be in the world of comic books). The whole things reminds me of the Death of Superman story from a few years ago, in as much as it seems to have people talking about comics and turning out to buy the issue in record numbers. Captain America, or “Cap” as he is affectionately known to fans has been kicking ass since World War II. He might not have been around as a certain Kryptonian, and Hollywood hasn’t been as kind to him but Cap still holds serious iconic weight and him being Kennedy’ied is kind of a big deal.

captain america fallen son

Crash Course:

Steve Rogers was a patriotic and upstanding young man who wanted nothing more than to fuck shit up for the Nazis and serve the cause of freedom/democracy. Too bad for him he was a scrawny weakling that the Army rejected for active duty. But he still had serious game, so they used him as a guinea pig for the Super Soldier Serum. BAM! Now Steve had the muscles and agility to match his noble spirit, though not crazy powerful. He was always depicted as being at the peak of human ability, but couldn’t through cars around or smash buildings with the Hulk. Soon enough, the powers that be gave him a spiffy red, white, and blue outfit with an indestructible shield and set him loose on the Krauts, Nips, and Eye-ties that were threatening 1940s stability. He had a number of WWII adventures, and was in the fight way before our country was officially. As a propaganda tool, he was at least partially used to drum up support for American involvement in the war. Michael Chabon has a pretty cool take on the whole affair (though it is fictionalized) in his book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Anyway, at the end of the war Cap gets frozen in arctic ice (don’t ask.) In the sixties, he gets thawed out by the Avengers and he’s been an integral part of the marvel universe ever since.

captain america

So now has been shot. He is dead. Will he stay dead? No, of course not. In the four-color world no one stays dead. Conventional wisdom holds that the only two deaths that are permanent are Spider-man’s dead Uncle who taught him all about power and responsibility and Bucky, Captain America’s old sidekick from World War II (don’t ask,) But last year, they brought Bucky back, so everything is up in the air. Comic books are different from other forms of fiction in that they can never have a true narrative arc. Whereas a novel can kill off a main character as an organic part of the story and give the reader resolution, the ongoing monthly comic book is designed to be just that: ongoing. Resolution is anathema. There can be narrative arcs, but in most ways that count things have to be returned to the status quo for the character. Cap has been around for over fifty years, and it would be retarded to ill him off permanently. He is a vital part of the Marvel stable.

My prediction: even if he is “truly dead” for the purposes of the story he will be reborn within the next few years and back again. In the meantime, there will be stories that explore what a world with Cap is like, and someone else will probably take the mantle for a while. This has even happened before. Cap has never dies, but for a variety of reasons he has given up the costume and other people have taken up the shield.

Its playing right into Marvels’ hands to discuss this in terms of the allegorical, but I happen to be a big fan of the writer who did the deed, and I think it might be interesting to explore what the symbol of America means by showing us what the world is like without him. I think Brubaker could do some interesting things with this, and so what if it ultimately gets reversed? The company has painted itself into a corner with its recent Civil War storyline, and offing Cap is one way to deal with the fallout (It’s an extremely long story , but suffice it to say that Captain America has actually been imprisoned for leading a super-insurgency against a semi-totalitarian US Government.) So if nothing else, this will open some new storytelling opportunities. I would not like if Captain America turned into an episode of Oz.

Is the whole thing a gimmick? Maybe, but it went down way more under-the-radar than when Supes kicked the bucket, so the sales will only really increase for the second printings, which will not be as highly sought. But gimmicky or not, I don’t have a problem with it. But his creator might have said it best. “It’s a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now,”

Dork Dispatch: Ghost Rider

Somewhere deep inside me lurks the soul of a full on Comic Book Guy. I like comic books, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been reading them for most of my life, and I’ve accumulated a fair amount of comics knowledge, though I try to keep from foisting it upon the uninterested. I have varying degrees of success with this, but I’m generally pretty good about reserving my in-depth explanations of comic book lore for situations that call for it. Because of this, I am the Go-To Geek whenever one of my friends or family members has questions about the four-color world and once in a great while they will solicit me for thoughts and opinions on Comic Movies, because it is where several of my interests intersect.

ghost rider, motorcycle hero

So it’s no wonder people keep coming up to on the street and asking me about Ghost Rider, which stars Nicholas “Almost Superman” Cage and opens this week. To say I’m less than excited about this movie would be like saying that Yogi Bear kind of likes Picnic Baskets. I will go see it, because I am philosophically obligated to see every comic book movie that comes, thus voting with my dollar to keep them coming. But I don’t think I’ll like it. I’m praying for mediocrity on this one, as I feel that is the most anyone can hope for. This fills me with rage, hot fiery rage.

I think the recent emergence of mainstream comic book movies has been a good thing, by and large. It brings well-loved characters into new media and introduces them to a whole new public. Comics are visual narratives and lend themselves well to the cinema (when done right). But for every Batman Begins, we get a Daredevil. For every Spider-Man we get a Catwoman. And for every X-Men, we get a Ghost Rider. In the rush to cash in on the comic movie trend, studios are mining deep, and what they shake out isn’t always cinematic gold. This is a shame because all they can do is tarnish the good name of some cool characters.

A crash course (Get it?) on the Ghost Rider: Originally published in the early 70s, the series told the story of Johnny Blaze, stunt motorcyclist who had sold his soul to the devil in order to cure his step-father’s cancer. The devil was true to his word and he cured the cancer, but Johnny’s dad soon died in a motorcycle accident. When the devil showed up to collect poor Johnny’s soul, he was devil cock-blocked by Johnny’s sweetheart. The pure love of his girlfriend kept the devil at bay, but in revenge he cursed Johnny to become the flaming-skulled demon at night. In effect, Johnny was possessed by a demon who began as an unspeaking cipher but showed more and more personality as the series progressed. The Ghost Rider did not have Johnny’s consciousness, but his thoughts and feelings influenced the otherworldly biker into doing (mostly) good although his unpredictable nature could cause serious harm to Johnny’s friends. He could somehow “burn people’s souls” with his hellfire, and was mean with a chain. There was also a 1990s reboot of the character, with a different young man becoming the Ghost Rider. It was pretty cool, and Dan Ketch served as my introduction to the character, but it is Johnny Blaze who will be the subject of the movie. He’s a stunt rider, an impulsive hothead who also has a heart of gold and must literally and figuratively overcome his demons to save the people he loves.

I think that’s a complex character, and a cool story. So why will the movie suck? It is doomed to fail. I don’t believe there was any possible way to translate Ghost Rider to the big screen. A giant skeleton with a flaming skull riding around on a demonic chopper looks mighty cool on the comics page, but no amount of CGI will save it on the movie screen. Had this been a cartoon maybe it might have stood a chance at coolness, but as it is Ghost Rider looks ridiculous. It is simply too much to ask people to suspend their disbelief that this guy’s head is constantly flickering with infernal fire. It just looks kind of dumb, and if there is one thing the Ghost Rider should never be it is goofy looking. He should be scary. Is this scary?

ghost rider movie

I’ve never gone on record with who my favorite heroes are, but the top three are probably Daredevil, Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. Now two out of three have been brought to the big screen in an aggressively mediocre way. Hopefully Moon Knight is safe. I’m willing to be surprised, but as I enter the theatre on Friday it will be with a sense of dread in my heart as I prepare to let the studio “Daredevil” me into submission.