Saturday, December 02, 2006

Green Lantern #15

Nothing here to break up my foul mood. Expect the creator bashing stick to remain readily available this month, because if I can't enjoy Green Lantern it's a bad sign for everything else I read.

Ivan Reis should not be allowed to design female costumes anymore. Granted, at least this one is pretty, but still disturbingly indecent and impractical, and completely impossible to wear as a convention costume. Someone needs to get that artist a date.

I liked parts of this issue, but I still hate Geoff Johns for that storyline that's popped up in issue #10, issue #14, and this one. You'll probably hear a lot more about it because its irritating the shit out of me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let's Play a Game!

Time to see who's still hanging around after that month of downtime. We'll do an easy one. What's White Tiger saying?


Don't be shy, de-lurk and make a joke!

White Tiger #1

(ETA, Dec 3: Ouch! My mother just told me I should feel bad about this review. I probably shouldn't have read this one right after getting so angry at Green Lantern #14.)

I know, I know, I promised ninjas. Is this close enough?



There was a lot of buildup and hype to White Tiger, no small part of it was the anticipation of seeing what a female writer from outside the industry, who was known for writing books that appeal to young women, could do with a female hero. I was looking forward to the chance to either laud Tamora Pierce for an excellent job, or tear her writing to pieces for not living up to the high expectations.

I can't do either until she works with a new artist.

The artist used the hideous backbreaking posture that I dislike on principle, and there were a couple annoying cheesecakey breast shots in the first page, but there was really only one that made me loathe this guy's art, and it had nothing to do with which gender he drew. I really, really hate this guy's heads and faces. His foreheads are too large and features too small, and there is some unusual angle with his necks that makes things a bit strange. Character faces are pretty important for mood, expression and characterization and if they don't look right it makes it hard to like the character.

Anatomy isn't everything, its just what strikes me as most unlikeable about Phil Briones' work. I do like artists that have a less than perfect grasp of anatomy, but that's a matter of style. With some artists I can see through the superficial problems that a lot of people write them off for, and find something that makes me love, or at least tolerate them. It started with Howard Porter's JLA. Oh, we bought it for Grant but I constantly complained to my sister about the art, and even she rolled her eyes at his Wonder Woman depiction. Still he had his pluses, look in the background of the early issues of JLA that he drew. You can find little details like oreos in J'onn's quarters, or feathers after Zauriel flies off. There's even a flood scene that shows two fishermen catching a shark (the town was flooded with stolen oceanwater). Even aside from the little details that hardcore fans would notice, Howard Porter was just damned good at drawing action and motion. He could do those huge cosmic shots in outer space that Grant Morrison's writing needs and even if he could never get the characters perfect the rest of it was good enough to read it.

Patrick Gleason's people are blocky and doughy, but the flow in his work has been incredible. In GLC, every character is posed and every panel is angled to give the impression that the story is nothing but nonstop action even when everyone is just talking for most of the issue. And the faces in his closeups can be absolutely gorgeous. Gleason put more expression in a shot of Kyle's masked and lensed eyes narrowing at the sight of Fatality than Briones put in an entire page of Black Widow and White Tiger conversing in a bar. I might never like Patrick Gleason's human bodies (though his aliens are awesome and his original design for Isamot's girlfriend was beyond awesome) but his storytelling ability set him pretty high on my "favorite artists" list.

And of course, there's Frank Quitely, an artist you either adore or despise. A lot of people despise his characters their squat, wrinkly bodies, but he has done so much with posture and expression in All-Star Superman that I adore most everything he does.

The problem I have with Briones isn't exactly his big weakness so much as his lack of any strength to make up for that weakness. The backgrounds are mediocre. The action is by the numbers. There's nothing innovative in his storytelling. There's nothing in his layouts that draw the entire page together. It's generally unremarkable enough that all of what for other artists would be little mistakes are glaringly unforgiveable muckups in his hands.

During one of my regular person to person ranting episodes (when I let out all of the frustrations that never make it to these blog), a friend asked if my problem with him was a lack of direction because he is doing a book written by a novelist. She's unfamiliar with the comic book medium, so he probably didn't get the best direction he could have. No, that's not it. Anyone who's watched creative teams get jumbled knows that a skilled and talented artist can more than make up for a weak writer.

This is not to say that all of the issues I had with this issue should definitely be laid at the feet of the artist. I was impressed, early on, that Pierce and Liebe managed to avoid the biggest mistake a writer moving from prose to comics can make, which is wordy narration. She let the artist show the story and saved the captions for important issues. But there were a few minor irritations that set me off in this book, and the biggest one came six pages in.



It's a girl.

It's a girl!?!

I see absolutely no reason for the bad guy to call attention to his opponent's gender. I mean, this is the Marvel Universe, home of Black Cat, Black Widow, Elektra, Psylocke, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, Echo, Spider-Woman, and numerous others. Is it really that surprising anymore when the black clad warrior with the glowing talisman who is kicking your ass turns out to be female?

I can see establishing a villain's personality as sexist, but I really don't see what that adds to the story in this case. Maybe my standards are just set too high because it's disappointing that fight scenes still get interrupted to point out the gender of the participants. It tore me out of the story for a few minutes. I much prefer a world where women kicking ass was accepted as natural and not something worth commenting but I suppose that's too much escapism for even comic books.

Of course, it's possible that I am completely overreacting and that I never would have noticed this if I wasn't already irritated to be reading something drawn by such a terrible artist. Good art covers a multitude of sins. There just wasn't any good art nearby to soothe my easily inflamed and oversensitive temper.

Aside from that were a few scenes that seemed a bit too long (but could have been saved by a better artist), and some character issues. Black Widow just seemed "off," not at all like herself. It took me until her name was said to realize it was Natasha, and in Marvel Comics she should be distinctive immediately. The Spanglish was cliche. I still don't feel comfortable enough calling White Tiger by her first name, so I think more could have been done to make the character personable, but this is just the first issue by a writer who's never written before. It could be turned around later.

On the whole, I would grade it as "Better than Judd Winick and Tom Raney."

Getting Back on the Blogging Horse

I'm a bit rusty at the blogging right now, so we'll start small -- with a long story about my chosen online handle, a statement on hyperbole and sarcasm, and some words from the eminently quotable and incredibly clever Mr. Chris Sims of the Invincible Super-Blog. I'm still in the National Novel Writing Month participant habit of padding my statements in order to up my wordcount, so please do excuse the clumsier parts of this first post when it comes to word choice and grammarical structure. Shortening your sentences after a straight month of trying to make everything as long as possible to make your wordcount takes some getting used to, but I am confident of my ability to shake unhealthy writing habits as I change writing venues.

Mr. Sims stumbled across this thread, which linked to one of his old posts, over on the Comic Book Resources Comics Should Be Good Forum. One of the commenter thought that Chris was too emphatic to be serious in his hatred of the Terry Long character, and that erroneous assumption required swift correction. He lacked both an account and the motivation to create one, so he asked me to post for him. I posted this (for the purposes of historical accuracy, the censored obscenity was "fucking"), linked Chris to it and explained that I used the old online handle that I had created when I was a teenager on the old site for Comic Book Resources. Chris reacted as you would expect:
...
You?
Patience?

BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHA.
I rolled my eyes privately, and kindly told him that the name had been chosen from the James Garner film that was on television at the time when I first created my Comic Book Resources account back in the 90s, and when I made a new account after a few years of being offline I'd felt nostalgic enough to use the old name again. Chris reacted to that in a way that made me thoughtful, to say the least:
I've always thought "Ragnell the Foul" was a little melodramatic and eye-roll-ey, but if that's the alternative, then I appreciate your honesty and candor.
Now, the reality of it is that I had chosen Ragnell the Foul after my Arthurian obsession which occurred in the last two years of High School and the first two years of my United State Air Force term of enlistment, and Patience during an afternoon that I whiled away with a marathon of a Western style television series, called Sugarfoot, that starred an actor named James Garner (who, coincidentally, is from Norman, Oklahoma, in this this very state and very close to the city in which I live). The Western style television series, called Sugarfoot, featured at least two female characters who had a name which was chosen specifically because it described the exact opposite personality the female lead displayed, Prudence for a very foolish woman and Patience for a temperamental person. At the time, everyone on the JLA board was obsessed with the wait for JLA #16, and that was the first board I posted on. So, it was born of sarcasm.

I chose Ragnell the Foul after reading a reference book on Arthurian Legend which listed the wife of Sir Gawain as "Ragnell the Foul." I liked the phrasing. I like the sound of it. I liked the character it referred to. And, most importantly, I liked the story it referred to, so I picked this one when I re-entered fandom after a brief hiatus of two or three years of patriotic and idealistic (it had to patriotic and idealistic as it was highly unprofitable) military service.

I liked the exaggerated title because I have always found overstatement to be comedic, and, because I had had enough of "Chill out, Pat, live by your name" online when I was a teenager, I found it to be a useful warning to anyone who might stumble across my posts.

All of this, of course, brings me back to the original problem of one Mr. Chris Sims, lately of the Invincible Super-Blog, which was an online reader taking a writer's overstatement for the purposes of comedy to be overstatement for the purposes of sarcasm. To which I can only offer my name, and my own example.

That is to say I might at some point say "I find the writing of Judd Winick in Green Lantern, Volume Three, Green Arrow and Outsiders to be so brain-meltingly simplistic and gut-wrenchingly horrible that I would rather gnaw my own arm off at the elbow than hand over payment for an issue of either series knowing that the money would lead to encouraging Judd Winick to keep writing comic books like he does in those titles."

Now, everybody reading is well aware that I would likely not gnaw my own arm off at the elbow for such a trivial purpose. But, most everyone who regularly reads this blog is well aware that I have valid reasons for disliking at least parts of the Green Lantern, Volume Three run of Judd Winick, and that I have detailed those reasons elsewhere on this blog.

See, overstatement for the purposes of comedic effect without sarcasm. As Terry Long the character is to Chris Sims, so Judd Winick the writer is to Ragnell the Foul.

Excellent! All of the references are hyperlinked. Everything is in first person. Everything is factual. Everything is about comics. I would say that I am ready to return to blogging now.

Wordcount: 916
(Damn, seventy and four words short of one thousand. I am going to have to add ninjas to the next post.)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Now I Am Officially Finished.

Ending NaNoWriMo Wordcount: 51257

I was not only able to break 50K, but I actually finished the story before the end of the month. YAY!

I hadn't expected to wrap it up that fast, and if I hadn't picked "Humor" as a genre, I wouldn't have been able to wrap it up that fast. As it turned out, I wrote a joke, read it, reread it, and realized that it was my ending. I'd had three plotlines to wrap up, and one ended with that joke and another had ended with a joke earlier in the chapter. For the one remaining plotline, all I had to do there was write chapter. It had to be inserted right before the last one because that joke ahd to be the end. It was the Last Word on the whole story.

This whole experience has been a blast, I want badly to do this next year. Hell, I'm tempted to go for the July one. Until then, I can probably content myself with editing what I have and working on some fiction writing for a little while.

I'm going to take a few days to rest before I start back on the regular blogging, though.

Thanks to everyone who dropped well-wishes over the month! I appreciate the encouragement!

My One Wordcount Post.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wow

Don't expect things to go back to normal immediately. This does not mean I'm finished. Somewhere around 49K, the wildly different plotlines just then started to converge. I THOUGHT I had one wrapped up, but I missed a logical detail and had to throw a quick twist in. Aside from that, I have four other major plotlines to wrap together neatly before I'm truly finished. I just couldn't go to bed at 49914. I just couldn't.

I need a nap now. Anyone up for NaNoFiMo with me?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Update

I'm back from Thanksgiving vacation and while I finished one very important writing assignment on the plane, I only managed to pound out 3K words for Nanowrimo in the whole 5 days. Which leaves me 4 days to pound out 20K words.

I have not checked my email for a week. I just finished rummaging through livejournal for WFA links, and my feedreader is next. I make no promises that anyonw will see the backlog for a few days. I also make no promises that I'll reach 50K words this year.

I just thought I'd check in and let people know I'm alive, almost well (got a little sick over vacation, probably climate change) and that Action Comics was absolutely wonderful this week.