Melodrama often has a hard time translating to the page of a comic when colorful superheroes aren’t involved but I have to say that I love the melodramatic aspects of Mind the Gap as much as I do the more mystical and mysterious elements of the story. The art is just lovely. I will say that I enjoyed the art in issue one just a bit more than issue 2. There were several pages that were a bit too dark and murky for my tastes. However, the cover to issue one is one of the most stunning, eye catching covers that I have seen in a long while. The story is solidly entertaining and gripping. I’ve read issue one and two of Mind The Gap and I will definitely be on board for future issues as long as the story is this entertaining and the quality of the talent involved is this good.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
This week I’ve been examining the first two issues of new comic book series to see if they warrant my buying a third. So far I’ve had two series that failed to convince me to continue on and one series that won me over instantly. In this fourth part of the series we’re going to take a look at Mind The Gap from Image Comics. Written by Jim McCann (who worked on the critically acclaimed “Hawkeye & Mockingbird” series at Marvel Comics) with art and covers by Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback. In issue one, a young woman named Elle Peterssen has been injured or possibly attacked and is in a coma. Whirling around her is a generous helping of mystery, melodrama and the metaphysical as we learn about her family and friends, some of whom are not what they seem, some are jerks, and one might be the person who failed in their attempt to end her life.
There’s also lots of drama in the hospital. Dr. Geller is the ER doctor on call and she is first to treat Elle. But Geller is pushed aside by the seemingly career climbing Dr. Hammond. Hammond is fully aware that Elle’s family is rich and a patron of the hospital. Meanwhile, the comatose Elle’s mind is still active and functioning in a strange limbo like world called “The Garden”. Here wanders the minds of those with damaged brains who are trying to find their way back to their bodies and their previous lives. In issue 2, Dr. Geller finds out that Elle’s brain activity is much higher than normal for someone in a coma. In the Garden, Elle learns that she has the ability to inhabit the bodies of other comatose patients.
Dr. Gina Geller shares some suspicions she has about the Elle Peterssen case and the career climbing Dr. Hammond with her wife, Detective Annie Wallace. There’s also some strange goings on with Elle’s seemingly detached mother and distraught father. Mind the Gap is a bit like Twin Peaks meets Ghost meets Deadman. I am intrigued by the story that McCann is weaving here. Reading this series I am reminded of the fun of the old night time soaps such as Falcon Crest, Dynasty, St Elsewhere and others in that vein.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
|Bionic Woman #1|
In this second part of my “Two Issues/Last Chance" feature, we’re going to take a look at the first two issues of Dynamite Entertainment’s Bionic Woman series. I’ve written on this blog about how much I enjoy Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man series, also from Dynamite. Bionic Man is fast paced with witty writing and lots of fun nods to the original series. In Bionic Woman 1 we see what appears to be a female agent and a spy she’s trying to both protect and get information from, both on the run from other agents who supposedly want them both dead, or something.
While running, the female agent starts asking questions about Jaime Sommers aka the Bionic Woman. It’s here that we get a sort of running commentary about the history of the Bionic Woman, how she quit the OSI and went rogue, as well as finding out about a group of criminals who are kidnapping people who were once part of the OSI’s “six million program” and stealing and selling their bionic parts. This often has the side effect of leaving them dead. Issue one leaves off with a cliffhanger as a bullet is making it’s way towards Jamie’s head.
The covers are even worse. They are terribly unimaginative and boring. Issue 2 has Jaime on a motorcycle even though we never see any sign of Jaime riding a motorcycle. I’m a fan of the original TV shows and after enjoying the Bionic Man comic, I was very excited to read these new adventures of Jaime Sommers. Sadly I was disappointed by what I saw in issues one and two. So, unfortunately, I won’t be buying issue 3 of the lifeless, poorly written and unimaginative Bionic Woman.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
For me, the first two issues of a comic book is make or brake time. It's the possibility for a home run or a first and second strike in a game with only two strikes before you're out. We live in financially precarious times and many comic book budgets have been cut down drastically. Mine included. Writers are taking a chance by giving us decompressed stories with few hooks in the first couple issues. So if a comic doesn’t really have me completely sold on it’s story by issue 2, then I cut that title loose. Of course it’s always possible that I’ll revisit it again when it becomes a trade and is for sale at a discount on Amazon. But these days I am far more selective about monthly comic purchases than ever before in my 40 year career as a comic book reader and collector. To stick with a title or give up. That is the question. I’m currently at such a crossroads with four different titles at the moment and I’ll be examining the first two issues of each of these new series in the following four posts.
THE SPIDER 1&2. Dynamite Entertainments The Spider is one of the latest pulp characters to be revived for a new generation. Instead of keeping the character in the 1930s, writer David Liss has transplanted the Spider to contemporary times. Richard Wentworth aka The Spider is a no holds barred vigilante. A veteran of an unnamed war. In the pulp magazines of the thirties, Wentworth was in love with best friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick’s daughter Nita. Here, Nita is a high powered print and cable news editor. Instead of being the daughter of the Commissioner, she’s his husband. This complicates things a bit as Wentworth is still in love with Nita. Seems Wentworth was going to marry Nita but was about to be deployed a second time and he didn’t think he’d return so he broke off the relationship rather cruelly.
Now they’re friends and the only way Wentworth can still keep some kind of closeness to Nita is to share with her that he is, in fact, the vigilante known as the Spider. The first issue does an exceptional and efficient job of setting up who Wentworth is, what his motivations are as well as letting us know about the other characters in his orbit. We also get lots of great, action packed, vigilante violence. Also in this first issue we find out that a certain Detective Joe Hilt suspects Wentworth of being the Spider and he isn’t shy about voicing his opinion to anyone who’ll listen. By the end of the issue we find out that some kind of military grade nerve gas is turning people into violent zombies.
Anput makes for a great villain for the Spider to face off against. Her motivations make her sympathetic and that’s the mark of a great villain. Wentworth aka The Spider is also well written by David Liss. Liss gives us a ruthless, cynical vigilante yet one who is nursing a broken heart and who is trying to maintain a closeness to a lost love that is the wife of his best friend. Lots of juicy, complex melodrama to be found here. I am also enjoying the dark, moody, dynamic art of Colton Worley. Issue one was excellent, issue two was just as good. The Spider is a comic that has completely won me over and I’ll be sticking with this series for the foreseeable future.
One of which gets their head blown off by the chief architect of this villainy, a voice on the phone known only as Anput. In issue two we see the number of citizens being turned into zombies has escalated. We find out more about the villainess called Anput. How tragic circumstances led her and her mother from Cairo to New York, where her mother died from not being able to get proper medical attention due to lack of insurance. Anput then became a prostitute who trained and turned herself into an even more fearsome and ruthless vigilante than the Spider could ever hope to be. Issue one and two of The Spider are fast paced, well written, with characters full of potential.
Monday, June 18, 2012
The film roundtable that I take part in spent most of 2011 examining the "Film Noir". This year we are taking on "The Western". I was hesitant at first as Westerns have never been my favorite genre. Of course there are some that I do enjoy. The westerns of Anthony Mann and some of the Ford classics. However, the more I watch the more I like. One obscure little gem that I stumbled upon on Turner Classic Movies was CATTLE DRIVE (1951). This charming movie made me feel like a kid again, on the floor in front of the tv on a Saturday afternoon. It's so rare to see a really great coming of age movie that genuinely tugs on the heartstrings without being cheesy but Cattle Drive definitely delivers the goods in that respect. I think what makes this such a wonderful film is that it transplants the Captains Courageous story from the sea to a cattle drive in the old west. Dean Stockwell is the spoiled hell raising son of an absentee father and railroad magnate (Leon Ames). Traveling east by rail, the train pulls over at a water stop in the middle of the desolate southwest. Stockwell gets out to explore and is left behind. He is found by cattleman Joel McCrea who takes him under his wing. Stockwell is rebellious at first but he's an intelligent and fearless boy.
The friendship that develops between Stockwell and McCrea is just wonderfully charming. McCrea is the father that every young boy dreams of. I felt like I was on this adventure with them. It was also fun to see Stockwell win over the rest of the cowboys. I loved how the film was able to make me see the adventure of the west as new through the eyes of spoiled easterner Stockwell and his friendship with McCrea. It was also a beautifully shot film in vivid Technicolor with nary a projected backdrop in site. This is a terrific family film and definitely one to watch with Dad.
Stockwell starts out helping cook Chill Wills but before long he's helping to drive the herd. Of course he learns a few life lessons along the way. He fixes a race between McCrea and the camp troublemaker and learns a valuable lesson in honor. And he's almost killed in a stampede when he tries to catch a wild stallion for McCrea. Stockwell (who some will remember as the holographic side kick from the 80s time travelling TV show "Quantum Leap") is great in this. It's rare to see a child actor who can be subtle without looking wooden, animated without looking overdramatic (Freddy Bartholomew anyone?).
It’s an old but inherently entertaining premise in comics: two incarnations of a hero meet, most likely get into some misunderstanding or other, fight, make up, become friends and unite to defeat the enemy. SPIDER-MEN, the 5 issue mini series from writer Brian Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, unites Peter Parker’s amazing Spider-Man with the Marvel’s “Ultimate Universe” version of the character, Miles Morales. As some may or may not know, the “Ultimate” universe is a sort of variation of the Marvel Universe “proper” aka the “616” universe. The 616 universe is where all the original Marvel characters reside. The “Ultimate” universe is a sort of alternate universe where we are given different incarnations of the Marvel Superheroes. In the 616 universe, Peter Parker is alive and well and fighting crime. In the Ultimate Universe, Peter Parker is murdered and a young man of African American-Latino descent named Miles Morales has taken over the role of the web swinging crime fighter. He’s younger than Peter Parker, still in high school and his powers are slightly different than those of his predecessor (although still based on those of a spider).
In SPIDER-MEN #1, Peter discovers his old nemesis Mysterio is up to no good. Mysterio is behind some sort of light that engulfs Peter and sends him to a parallel world where he has died and everyone knows his real identity. By the end of issue one, Peter meets a new version of Spider-Man. Unfortunately, not much happens in this first issue. In fact, the first half dozen pages doesn’t achieve much at all except to let us know that we are looking at a very much alive Peter Parker who foils a rather mundane crime and swings around thinking about how swell New York is. Things do pick up when Mysterio enters the picture and we get a little mystery going. Then Spider-Man is zapped to an alternate New York where he quickly runs into the Ultimate Universe version of himself.
Brian Wood continues to deliver some great storytelling and James Harren’s art is simply amazing. Harren draws in an interesting and unique style and that’s rare in comics. His renditions of Conan and the bloodthirsty Belit is some of the most attractive art I’ve seen in a while. This is a must buy.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE #1 by writer Darwyn Cooke and artist Amanda Conner shows us the early years of Silk Spectre 2 aka Laurie Jupiter. In this first issue we see Laurie dealing with typical high school problems, a cute boy, a group of mean girls and training with her mother Sally Jupiter aka the first Silk Spectre, to carry on the family superhero tradition. Well, almost typical problems. The story begins in the aftermath of Sally’s divorce and then years later when her daughter is a teenager who is beginning to rebel against her controlling mother. A mother who is dealing with the loss of fame and the limelight through alcoholism and living vicariously through her daughter.
The real treat here is the art of Amanda Conner. Every panel is simply a visual and emotional delight. Facial expressions that are comical and poignant. Wonderful detail and layouts that are beautifully rendered. While not as visually dynamic as her now legendary run on Power Girl, Conner still gives us quite a show here and given that Watchmen is inherently a more bleak and depressing story than Power Girl, it's nice to see her vibrant style shine though regardless. Every panel of Conner’s art is a treat. Of all the Before Watchmen prequels, Silk Spectre looks like it will be my personal favorite.