Had lunch with a friend recently and afterwards went to a comic store with him. While nothing hit me on the the mainstream rack, the indies had me curious. So here, in no particular order, and possibly not as new as “this weeks long underwear books”, is a smattering of what caught my eye, and got me to purchase them.
Pope Hats #4,5– when I got home, I discovered I had issue 4 in my “stack”, so I read ‘em both. Hartley Lin, current master of short stories about everyday people with issues, goes with an anthology style of shorts in 4 with good results. A half a dozen quick narratives are the stomping ground, with a huge swath of characters and some poignant conclusions on them. While each has a distinctness of it’s own, it s in issue 5 where Lin lets his inner talents loose with a lengthy 60 page story all about his well realized Frances, a young lady who’s watched her bff/roomie move away for work, and now deals pretty much alone with her position as a law clerk at a huge firm. While I could say it’s a more complicated version of Betty and Veronica, the love he has for the fate of Frances is more than communicated with a warm, formal, cartooning style that nearly brought me to tears here more than once. I now love Frances, I just can’t help myself.
Black Hammer-Age of Doom #8– while I picked up this middle issue cold, I was still familiar enough with the concept and the group here enough to catch on to the endless reboot theme thats underlying here. While there’s not terribly much meat on this comic, Dean Ormstrom’s art carries it, along with just enough willingness on my behalf for patience to see where Jeff LeMire is going with this. On the edge of teetering from it’s own weighty premises, Black Hammer gives something for those too crazy or stupid to give up on superhero comics.
House Amok #5 – one of those favorite Vertigo replacement series from Black Crown, Chris Sebela manages to take a fast paced crazy family story with likable characters and just about kill all the momentum he built in the first four issues. Not the ending I wanted, but Shawn McManus’ great cartooning helps digesting this mess immensely. Decent first four issues, though, the train wreck that composes issue 5 kills it.
Lodger #2 – Another Black Crown book, noir styled authors Maria and David Lapham relate a story here about a nomadish guy that gets involved with certain peoples lives, mostly for a bad ending for them. Lapham’s experience with down trodden folks and a love for depicting real violence give this one a convincing tone, and makes me curious for another.
All in all, not bad. Makes me want to try it again sometime. The threat of walking into a comic series cold was balanced by enough talent, and for the exception of Black Hammer, the ability to read a copy of something and get a warm fuzzy feeling while experiencing comics again, enjoying the random issues.
I hate being sick as an adult. Being sick as an adult means you have to first convince yourself you’re sick enough to take a sick day, then ask other people to trust your judgment. When you’re a kid, you only have to convince someone else you’re sick enough. It’s not like if the school nurse says you’re fine, go back to class, you get to say, “nah, going home,” and then just go. Of course, being sick at home by yourself as an adult isn’t really any fun. Nothing’s in reach, even if it’s in reach. This morning I had the alarm set, which requires lots of leaning and stretching to reach, and my phone alarm set. Because even after the initial decision to call in, which I was very much against even as I got into bed last night at nine and spent thirty minutes trying to get myself calm—I really didn’t want to call in. There’s the whole “I’m infectious, I shouldn’t get people sick” thing, but you’ve got to be confident in the sick to employ that one. “Luckily,” I had a slight but significant enough fever to tell me I was really sick. I figure once you’ve got a fever, it’s out of your hands. I got us one of those zap-the-forehead thermometers from China (by way of Amazon) a while ago and this morning was the first time it reported a fever. But, based on the chills, I knew. Knowing didn’t stop me from setting the alarm for every half hour, then twenty minutes, until I hit the point of no return on calling in. So lots of twisting and turning to manage the alarms. And kicking one of the cats, but he’s fine. It was more of a shove kick than a kick kick. I didn’t know he was there, because I was out of it. When I woke up, the fever had broken. At some point since last night, I’d gotten another throw blanket. I knew there was one, but I hadn’t realized there were two. So being chilly in the blanket nest was a big indicator, after all. But then the fever’s broken so it means you’re not too sick anymore. It’s not retail, you’re not going to go in and do the second half of your shift. What am I going to do? Unpleasant chores, because American Calvinistic guilt over calling in sick.
Detour should be episodic, but it’s not. The film chronicles the misadventures of Tom Neal’s night club pianist, who’s stuck not being good enough for Carnegie Hall and having a fickle fiancée (Claudia Drake) from the outset. When he does decide to follow her out to her dreams in California, instead of saving bus fare, he hitchhikes and things go badly for him.
Along the way–and even from the opening bookend (Detour‘s almost entirely in flashback)–he runs across interesting people and situations. And even though Martin Goldsmith’s script has some great stuff in it, neither director Ulmer nor Goldsmith turn these little encounters into vignettes. They’re part of a lengthy narrative, with Neal doing a voiceover for the whole thing. The result is a seventy minute picture with some boring spots, which it shouldn’t have.
Part of the problem is how long it takes Detour to define itself. The script has a full first act setting up Neal’s uninteresting back story. He’s a whiny jerk, Drake isn’t likable, Ulmer doesn’t have to budget to do big club scenes–but Goldsmith’s script does make it all interesting. Neal doesn’t even give a good performance.
Things start getting interesting after the hitchhiking montage when Edmund MacDonald picks up Neal. MacDonald’s a real creep; it softens Neal up a bit. But he’s just a MacGuffin to get Ann Savage into the picture. She’s a realistically, thoughtfully conceived evil human being. Savage is occasionally histrionic, but she makes Detour special.
Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; October 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.
Robocop: Last Stand #3 gives a great example of what’s lost in the idea of adapting Robocop 1, 2, 3, or 4 to comic books—the damage to Robocop. The movies are all about him getting beat to crap, just about broken, losing limbs, his human face getting revealed, on and on. This issue has something similar, but since Robo doesn’t have anyone to play off of, Grant and Oztekin can’t give any insight into his condition. The comic doesn’t have any Robo-vision shots giving the efficiency level. It’s just a lot of dialogue-free action as Robocop tries to survive an ambush by the Japanese cyborg bad guy. It’s a great sequence, thanks to Oztekin’s art and how he paces it, but it’s extremely detached from Robocop’s trials.
In fact, when he rescues a young girl left homeless by a fire (one the evil company doesn’t let the firefighters fight until Robocop forces them to do so), Grant’s script moves to her perspective (because she’s talking) and Oztekin follows suit (a little, but a little shift in the art’s narrative distance is a big thing).
The issue opens awkwardly once again; turns out the final panel of last issue was one of those panels where Oztekin was doing important, unspoken visual exposition. Once the issue reorients—there’s a twisted back twist to start things off, which might play differently in the trade—it’s straight into the Robocop action. The beginning, albeit with the plot twist teaser and some black comedy, is all evil company OCP plotting and bickering. The comic’s biggest leap in logic is how such a dysfunctional organization could coordinate enough to even set a trap for Robocop. And not because Robocop is too smart, but because there’s no one particularly bright at OCP.
Once the action starts at the burning building, it never stops. The third act of the issue, with Robo playing guardian to the little girl, is just him getting into a souped up car so he can outrun the OCP cops chasing him. It’s got an excellent pace thanks to Oztekin (and presumably Grant) and a rather effective finish.
Though, once again, it feels like Grant is just starting the story. Now we’re going into the second act, at the end of #3. Of eight.
So it’ll be very interesting if the next issue really does end with a “Volume One” feel.
It took Disney a long, long time to make decent R-rated movies. Well into the nineties. If you look at their Silver Screen Partners history, which is a list of mostly lousy movies, you can see why they were so desperate for Miramax back then.
But as Disney takes over Fox, well… Fox has basically been in a quality rut since Alien 4. Though Independence Day more kicked it off in 1996. It was a sign of things to come, whereas Die Hard 3 had been a sign of things gone. There were actually some good “Fox” not “Fox Searchlight” movies in 1996 (and some bad Fox Searchlight movies from that year).
I remember learning who Tom Rothman was back in the late nineties, early 2000s just because he was the terrible Fox guy who screwed up all their genre pictures. Fox made more and more genre pictures, they did them worse and worse (I make that observation as a–limited–AVP 1 apologist too).
But now the Mouse House is taking over and Disney’s been making solidly agreeable movies since… 2010? Earlier if you like Pirates of the Caribbean (which I’ve still yet to see). Will Disney save Die Hard .5/6? Will they say no to whatever dumb idea Ridley Scott’s got for the Alien franchise? Will they keep James Cameron happy? Does it matter if you keep James Cameron happy, given all his Avatar (also haven’t seen) audiences have aged considerably? Will Kevin Feige make a good Fantastic Four movie?
Maybe? Maybe not?
Until Disney announces their plan for Fox properties, it’s all in limbo. An imagined one. With a lot of potential, but… a lot of negative possibility too.
Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition
Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other h…
Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; September 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.
The previous issue of Robocop: Last Stand had a weird ending; it was truncated. This issue continues that scene and it’s very awkward since the previous context is gone. Maybe Grant’s not so much being quirky with the screenplay adaptation as just not knowing how to break out scenes because this issue goes out on a very similar truncation. Instead of the end of a scene, it’s like the “movie” fades out on a reaction shot.
But once that awkward opening is done—it’s also part of the Robocop and Marie character arc, which is pretty strange—the issue’s incredibly solid. Grant just has a hard time with the two characters. Robo it’s hard because he doesn’t have a story arc (it started before the comic did, with the cops being shut down or maybe Nancy Allen getting killed), Marie because she’s the tech person without any history. She’s a Robocop expert—at one point she tells Bertha how she’s only in it for Robocop, not to help save Old Detroit from OCP and the Japanese bad guys. Oztekin uses a lot of in-panel action this issue, often with Marie and Bertha, because he’s trying to move along conversation without going over to talking heads for exposition. It’s a nice move but it doesn’t leave time to really think about the ramifications of Bertha or Marie’s statements; see, Bertha doesn’t think it’s cool Marie is trying to make Robo fall for her, even if Bertha does just think Robo’s a tool.
There’s some more interesting “sequel” stuff this issue, with Dan O’Herlihy’s “Old Man” from the first two movies returning. He wasn’t back in that Miller Robocop 2 adaptation, so it’s a bit of a surprise (even if it’s an inglorious cameo). Meanwhile, villain lady from 2 is also back, which is a bigger surprise when taking that Frank Miller Robo 2 adaptation into account—the character, while a villain lady, was a different villain lady. Grant does a rather good job bringing the character back here; she’s in charge of the company’s brainwashing unit, which electro-shocks teens into behaving well. It’s all prelude to a solid action sequence.
Lots of good art from Oztekin, but more impressively the way he utilizes the panels to move scenes along. Grant has a some decent scenes too, though—like I said before—the end has a similar truncation problem to the first issue.
I really do wonder if Boom! laid out the comic to be read in two four issue trades. I’ll have to pay attention to the end of #4.
When I decided to write about Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy, it was because I wanted to make the wee dick move of putting it in Stop Button’s rarely used “Cult” category.
Thought it’d be funny.
Controversy, which never suggests it’ll be anything but writer-director-star Mahoney setting up a flimsy straw man and knocking over while making fun of mainstream scholars and, eventually, Israeli women–Controversy suggests I need a new category for “Bullshit.” And I could get into why I saw Controversy, but eh. I could talk about the manipulative, condescending misinformation ads Mahoney’s partners run “before” the film, but after the theaters showing it cut down the lights on the Fathom Events stream. There’s a lot surrounding Moses Controversy, including the only real “controversy” and the one Mahoney doesn’t even acknowledge… you know, was there really a Moses. Because… probably not? Like, let’s be real.
After trying to identify all of Mahoney’s manipulations, I immediately understood why the “God Awful Movies” guys take notes. It’s hard to keep up with all the blithering nonsense. It’s an assault of it. And there’s a question about how much Mahoney is knowingly manipulating—the whole thing seems to boil down to his dad being a deadbeat and Mahoney wanting the Bible to be true so his superstar single parent mom wasn’t wrong about it. And not just kind of true. Literarily true. The Patterns of Evidence series starts with Exodus, now God Gave Us Alphabets (spoiler, sorry), meaning Mahoney will probably get to parting the Red Sea sometime in… 2040. He’s got a lot to get through. Especially the way he wastes two hours—plus the intermission—to come up with some fanfic about God creating the alphabet and giving it to Joseph so Moses could write the Torah to share with Jews and infect the world. It’s not even as cool as the androids spreading aliens in Alien 6. But, if you wanted to give Mahoney some benefit of doubt, maybe he just wants to acknowledge his mom’s accomplishments.
Might be nice if he acknowledged her actual accomplishments instead of her churchy-ness, but whatever. He might be coming from a good place.
Though, then there’s all the deceitful bullshit he does, like suggest Douglas Petrovich is some kind of art historian and not some Bible school truther. Mahoney doesn’t just do it to cover how his Bible guys don’t have any actual street cred, he also lies about Chris Naunton (Egyptologist for hire, think Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones ran a WordPress site with the ads turned on). Apparently meeting in a building means Mahoney’s interviewee should have that building’s organization mentioned on their credentials.
So it’s probably no surprise when he interviews Orly Goldwasser, the only woman interviewee, he doesn’t do it in her office but outside in Jerusalem. Where he can put subtitles up when she speaks English and then cuts her to appear like she’s a dismissive contrarian. One of the other fine Christians in the audience loudly referred to her as “Goldmonster” when she’d come on screen.
And it’s actually kind of strange, because before Mahoney does the whole “God gave me the ABCs” thing, he seems like he’s going to do “Why don’t you mainstream scholars think ancient Israelites could have come up with an alphabet, are you saving they’re not very smart.” Then cut to Mahoney digging on Goldwasser. Though she doesn’t get the brunt of the attacks. The film’s… ha. Wocka wocka—film. Okay, sure. The film’s two villains are retired professor William G. Dever (I’m actually shocked Mahoney didn’t dig on Dever’s Harvard Ph.D.) and actual sitting George Washington University professor Christopher Rollston. Rollston comes out okay in the end because apparently he does believe Moses was real and could read and write. But until that end, Mahoney takes him through the mud. Not as much as “agnostic but we all know he means atheist” Dever; it’s really mean too because of all the actual professors (well, except Goldwasser who seems to have no idea Mahoney’s going to diss her so bad in the final product), but of most of the professors—Rollston’s the nicest to Mahoney. Yes, the old retired guys like Dever do treat him a little bit like a dope. Because he looks like a dope sitting listening to them. Only, he might not actually be sitting listening to them because Mahoney fakes a lot of reaction shots throughout. He also looks into the camera and narrates, but the teleprompter app on the iPad he carries around the whole movie like he’s a serious interviewer keeps screwing up and he can’t find a rhythm. Or doesn’t know he should have a rhythm. Really, who knows. Who cares.
The heroes in the film are either from Liberty University or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; neither school has any direct connection with the film. Oh, right. How did I forget.
Mahoney wears around Columbia Sportswear shirts the whole movie with the tags really visible, which is something to pull off because his cameraman often can’t figure out how focus works. On a digital camera. He must have been fiddling with it.
So, yeah, you could assign Mahoney some possible earnestness but then it turns out he’s making a big show out of wearing this brand… who aren’t official sponsors so… is he maybe getting shopping points on their website. I mean, there’s even a shirt with a tag on the back brand identifying. It’s something to see. Something you shouldn’t see, sure, but something to see.
Mahoney’s best pal in the movie is David Rohl (who can’t even bring himself to agree with Mahoney one hundred percent of the time). Rohl is the cool archeologist guy in Egypt or whatever. Where he’s an archeologist doesn’t matter because the only time he takes Mahoney into a cave to look at a relic it’s a CGI recreation. They don’t go to the actual historical site. Because it’s bullshit.
Rohl appears to be the one who came up with Mahoney and Patterns of Evidence’s idea of 1500 BCE Exodus or something. Earlier than real fake historians would’ve put it. So he agrees with Mahoney on the whole God created the alphabet thing and gave it to Joseph who gave it to Moses who Jesus said wrote about him (in that alphabet but, you know, not really) and so it’s all true. The Patterns Mahoney keeps talking about are either his immaterial questions or a linear timeline. He uses the term for both, but really, the timeline thing… it’s incredible. He’s just talking about cause and effect yet can’t seem to… think his way around the idea.
I’m trying to think of anything else before I stop subjecting us all to this response. I didn’t write down all the dog whistle phrases like mainstream but there are a couple other ones. There was one moment the audience laughed when Mahoney pulled one over on the smarties and I laughed too because Mahoney says they answered a question but didn’t actually ask it, just cut their responses the way he liked. Because it’s bullshit.
If I were going to start writing about this kind of crap, I would have to create that “Bullshit” category.
Okay, last thing. Mahoney and his lousy CGI team (you can forgive the million people in the desert who’d never be able to eat long enough to get to Mount Sinai unless they went Donner). They rip off the Raiders of the Lost Ark ark. Not well. But they try. And it’s crap.
I’m probably going to start writing about music on Visual Reflux, but not any time soon. I haven’t even gotten around to the TV yet. I’ve just started the first focused comic responses post-L&R. I’m taking my time on VR. I’m still not sure I like that abbreviation either. But long before must I want to start writing about podcasts, if only because when someone asks if I have a favorite podcast, I’ve got two possible answers. One is if I don’t want to have an atheism talk, the other is “Rocket”. The former is “Godless Bitches”, which has sort of rebranded itself as “GB 2.0” but not really. “Godless Bitches” has, since we’ve started listening to it, become more about social justice and equity and checking privilege than atheism. It’s really good. There have been a couple phenomenal episodes, including last weekend’s. Certainly not the white male atheism you get everywhere else. Free speech absolutist nonsense and whatever.
“Rocket” had a spectacular episode too recently, one of those, holy shit look what a podcast can do type thing.
Hopefully I’ll link to the episodes, but can’t right now because iPad Air typing.
So I do want to write about podcasts, even though the site tag line is “All things seen,” which isn’t a Thin Red Line misquote but is a TRL misquote. I worry it’s a little ableist. I don’t have someone to check with about me being ableist. I have one friend who has to check me on various things, usually when I’m making a cheap joke. Cheap I’m good with, offensive not.
And usually I know when I’m being offensive. Like. I do know better. I just like the turn of phrase or something and need someone to metaphorically smack me upside the head.
Another thing I want to do on Reflux (which just sounds weird) is the multi-topic blog post, which everyone used to do back in the olden blogging days. For example, I wanted to write about the plans for the e-zines going forward. I even have a cover for the relaunched series, which is going to be out of VR as opposed to Stop Button. But I don’t know how to attach a photo in Ulysses and have it post.
Tomorrow I’ve got a big post for Stop Button. Nothing good. Something absurdly bad, but it’s still a much different kind of post than usual.
I wonder if I could get the iPad keyboard to be tolerable in bed. I’m nearly tired enough to do some stream of consciousness passing out writing exercises, which was an MFA program favorite.
Instead though, I think bed. Because old. And nice new Casper sheets.
It’s sort of the end of the first week of Visual Reflux. I soft-launched with the Captain Marvel post last weekend (a few days before Stop Button got it) and I’ve been pretty good about getting up a post a day. Until today. Well, until yesterday. I was a little burned out yesterday, which—as I write this post—is still today for me. I started to write this kind of a post—the nothing post—yesterday (meaning Thursday), but wanted to write that Robocop: Last Stand #1 post instead. Mostly because I wasn’t sure how I was going to write that post. I know how to write these posts; you just type until you hit the word count and then you wrap it up real quick. I thought about doing some link posts but I don’t have much to say at length about the new Avengers: Endgame trailer or poster. I hope they don’t screw up. I have no reason to think they will. Kevin Feige’s turned into a fine producer, regardless of the PGA thing or the whole cappie situation.
I also have nothing to say at length about James Gunn being back for Guardians 3, other than a tweet about hoping Marvel somehow screws WB over—Gunn is making “The” Suicide Squad for WB before he makes Guardians. Given the first Suicide Squad is one of the few recent films I detest more than Guardians 2, it’ll be interesting to see—on home video—what Gunn does with that crap pile.
I don’t think there was any other significant entertainment news. There might have been some comic stuff, but nothing worth discussing at length. Even at the link length, which I haven’t really figured out yet. I’ll probably come up with word count guidelines for every post type (spoiler: it’s mostly 350; 350 for these “Summing Up” posts, 350 for the “Focused” comic—and eventually TV—posts). I don’t actually know how long the Robocop 2 or Alien 3 comic posts went. I should probably figure that data into the mix.
And look at that red indicator… I’m done with this post.
It’s early days with Visual Reflux. Really, really early days considering it’s self-hosted and not even getting the spam hits off WordPress.com. So I’m trying to establish writing behaviors without doing anything too themed. Like, it’s not worth the time to link to all the Robocop movie posts on Stop Button or all the Robocop comic posts on Comics Fondle—which I considered—because the eyes aren’t there. Here. The eyes aren’t here.
I once wrote a story with no Os in it. I tried to write it without any Is first, but it was too hard.
Robocop: Last Stand; Boom! Studios; August 2013; $3.99, 32 pgs; available collected.
Robocop: Last Stand is, conceptually, a tough sell. It’s a comic book adaptation of a movie no one liked (Robocop 3) when it came out twenty years before the first issue of Last Stand dropped. It’s ostensibly based on Frank Miller’s original screenplay, but when a different publisher did a “based on Frank Miller’s original screenplay” adaptation of Robocop 2 (just called Frank Miller’s Robocop), it turned out Miller’s Robocop 2 script included a lot of his Robocop 3 too. That much-hyped adaptation, Frank Miller’s Robocop, wasn’t just a bad comic, it was a notoriously late one. It’s also not like there had been any particularly good Robocop comics over the years. But the license kept bopping around as one publisher after another tried to hit Robo-gold.
So it’s interesting Last Stand is so… well… good.
The comic is a perfect storm of creative impulse—Steven Grant’s adaptation of the film (which he’d already adapted for Dark Horse back in 1993) is one event after another, with Korkut Öztekin’s punky cartooning tying them together. This first issue has plenty of action violence, but never gets particularly gory. Or, more accurately, Öztekin doesn’t focus on the gore. He emphasizes the action, focuses on the characters.
The issue opens with the issue’s only direct tie-in to the Frank Miller’s Robocop series, which Boom! (Last Stand publisher) reprinted when they picked up the Robo-license. It’s a TV ad showing the future dystopia, which the movies did a lot better. The TV segment also reveals some of the ground situation—Robocop has gone rogue. The newscasters, again played by Leeza Gibbons (who hadn’t returned for the actual Robocop 3) and Mario Machado don’t buy it. The evil company, OCP, has fired all the cops. They’ve also renamed their urban housing project for some nonsensical reason. Maybe something with the license?
Seriously, if it weren’t for Öztekin, the most interesting thing about Last Stand would definitely be the behind-the-scenes editorial mandates.
There’s an action intro to Robocop, saving a streetwalker from the OCP cops, then the action cuts to a new character, Marie. She’s trying to find Robocop. Only Grant doesn’t establish her name so her identity is unclear; she could even be Nancy Allen. Only she’s not because there’s a flashback to Nancy Allen dying and making Robocop promise to avenge her, which he’s apparently doing now as he takes on the OCP cops.
Meanwhile, OCP is trying to kick people out of their homes in Old Detroit and they’ve only got five days to do it, then OCP and their Japanese financing partners will default. There’s a big expository altercation involving a company suit, Bertha (who everyone always assumed was a Frank Miller nod to Martha Washington, but who knows), and then Robocop. Öztekin gets to do a big action scene involving an ED-209 robot, then the issue ends awkwardly with Marie—introducing herself finally—tracking down Robocop.
The awkward finish, which leaves the scene hanging mid-conversation, is just the sort of awkward Last Stand needs. Grant and Öztekin can only do so much, with a Robocop 3 adaptation, with a Robocop comic, and the truncated finish seems to acknowledge it. Grant’s not willing to make Robocop a more traditional protagonist, but he’s also shifting the spotlight. Not in this first issue, anyway.
The comic functions as a peculiar hook, distinguishing itself—in no small part thanks to Öztekin—from all those conceptual limitations and obligations.
Maybe it’s all thanks to editors Alex Galer and Eric Harburn. But whoever’s responsible… it’s a Robocop comic where you want to read the next one, which is quite a feat.