Professor Seedy’s Weekly Progress Report for 5.7.2014

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Title Art Story Characterization Originality Format Grade
Original Sin #01 + + / C-
Great artwork doesn’t compensate for the unfocused roll call story.
Rai #01 + + + / + A-
Beautiful Cyber Punk Dystopia told from relatable narrators.
Southern Bastards #01 + + + C
Southern Style is Tasty but the brewing story ain’t refreshing.
New 52 Future’s End #01 / + D-
If not for Firestorm & Grifter holding it together, Future’s End would be a monotonous mess.
The Wake #08 + + + + + A
The Wake pulls you into the deep depths of it’s world and never lets you go.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #01 + + + / + A-
A poetic narrative & burning art style about balancing on the razor’s edge
Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight #08 + + + + B
Grindhouse is as septic & sloppy as a stripper’s dollar bill with undying novelty
Nemo: The Rose of Berlin + + + B
Effortlessly weaves together Nazi’s & German Expressionism with needless hot splashes of T&A
Powers The Bureau #09 + + + + + A
This time Powers does a tongue in cheek commentary on groups like New Mutants
Batman Eternal #05 + / + C-
Batgirl always screaming the obvious was obnoxious. We know already move on
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Black Science Vol. 1 (2014) Review

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STORY BY Rick Remender

ART BY Matteo Scalera

COLORS BY Dean White

Black Science is a genre redefining science fiction epic. Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera take us on a reality hoping adventure with a team of flawed ego-maniacal scientists. They’ve just finished building “The Pillar” which allows people to travel to alternate dimensions. They describe it like an onion, the Pillar slides them down through layers of reality to presumably arrive at the core and foundation to all realities. Nevertheless, all is not well since the Pillar had been sabotaged and is constantly jumping the team from one hostile dimension to the next.

Although each jump usually leads the team to a more desperate location, to stay behind will inevitably forfeit their chances of ever going home. With the diminishing crew dying off, even if they choose to carry on who knows how long until it leads to their ultimate destruction. Meanwhile, there’s the chance the Pillar itself is cracking through realities and making all of existence unstable.

Unlike other similar stories such as Fantastic Four, Lost in Space, or Sliders, Remender always puts the danger in the foreground. The peril and doom is just as prominent as any character whether it’s coming from sources such as Frog Warriors, possessed primates, or getting caught in a genocide war or much more. It also serves as the primary motivation for Grant and the team to get everyone back to their own reality. If that wasn’t enough, there’s constant inner-group conflict revolving around power struggles and trust.

As the story progresses, we discover that the team has just as many layers as an Onion. In many stories a character like Grant would be the hero or all round good guy; however, Remender doesn’t insult the readers with stereotypes, cliches, or overused tropes. Instead, Remender likes to bring healthy doses of realism to his characters. From little Pia to Kadir, each is well defined with their own personal flaws, self absorbed motivations, as well as their brilliance and fearlessness. A large amount of tension stems from conflicts between all these very diverse set of characters. This isn’t to say the characters aren’t likable. In fact, not only are the readers able to connect to these characters, but also their realistic portrayal helps anchor us down in this unbelievable epic. For example, we see Grant break away from the idealism and conventional nature of explores and scientists. Each new threat or revealed secret peels back another layer of Grant’s ego until only his raw and primal nature remains. Perhaps he sums it up best when he says,

“Ideology is masturbation. A jerk-off afforded to those few privileged with time on their hands and no wolves at the door. Put that shit to the test in the field. This is what you get. A savage monkey willing to die so long as he destroys his enemy”.

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Also, Remender isn’t afraid to sacrifice lives in order to remain true to the tale. By issue six, the readers have already seen some prominent characters die. With a steady death count, most writers fail to keep the readers from becoming detached. However, each life which is lost, no matter how small their role, is always a gut punch to the readers. Because we care about these people, it adds just that much more tension and feeling of risk. Once again, this shows how much talent is embedded in the writing.

Meanwhile, Matteo Scalera does an excellent job of balancing the familiar with the exotic. Each creature, plant, civilization looks somewhat familiar while simultaneously new and exotic. The eyes never feel like they are staring at another world or planet; rather, they are looking at this world from a flipped and reinvented perspective. Furthermore, praise also goes to Scalera and his team’s endurance for being able to completely rebuild our world from issue to issue. Each new dimension has its own unique and defining characteristics, and it’s always a dark and beautiful treat for the eyes.

At the end of the first arc, we’re left with a nail biting conclusion that Remender has only just begun this ride. He’s kicked off a dynamic and beautiful tale which is willing to challenge conventional story telling and examine how human nature and destiny fit into scientific and technological progress.

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Uncanny Avengers Annual (2014) Review

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STORY BY Rick Remender

ART BY Paul Renaud

Rick Remender takes a break from his reality splitting, time hopping madness of his Apocalypse Twins story arc. Instead, Remender gives us a satire about the entertainment industry while using Mojo as his surrogate. The story begins with Mojo trying to pitch his new high concept story arc to a room full of statistic vomiting board members until they finally green light a story about the Uncanny Avengers being attacked by their supernatural counterparts. Sound familiar because it should. This is a nod to the DC crossover event, Forever Evil, which was kicked off by Justice League and Justice League Dark fighting each other before they united to confront a larger antagonist, the Crime Syndicate. This metafictional nod sets the tone for the whole rest of the issue while Remender consistently makes fun of the poor choices the artists, editors, writers, and critics have been guilty of making in the Comic Book if not Entertainment Industry as a whole.

It’s interesting when the board members tell Mojo the story needs more highschool type drama in order for its target demographic to better relate to the characters. This is a self-referential sucker punch to Young Avengers, Jean Grey’s School, Hellfire Club, Avengers Academy. It has become increasingly frustrating watching the story arc play second fiddle to the love quadrangles. Brian Michael Bendis has admitted that the relationship between Emma Frost and Scott Summers made little sense. Storm is now with Wolverine instead of Black Panther. Does it matter? Nope, but the writers will still use this gossip to world build like it was one of Grandma’s daytime soap operas. Seriously, Logan is old, hairy, short, broke, angry, alcoholic, who had killed his “one true love” who he was having an affair with. Yet, Wolverine has slept with more people that would make even Emma Frost blush. If Wolverine didn’t have the healing factor, 80% of Marvel’s female population would have STD’s because of him.

However, the big jab is towards audiences in general. Remender comments how today critics are too afraid to say they don’t understand a plot. Instead, they will take the opposite approach and compliment the story no matter how indecipherable the story may be. No one wants to appear stupid so everyone goes along with the flow. In addition, if the story is too straight forward, people will whine about how boring it is. Basically, Rick Remender has boiled critics down to an adolescent child who suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.

Quite honestly, how can we argue? Plot twists, action, and relationships being shoveled in just to keep peoples attention doesn’t equal good writing. Soon, it turns into a tangled mess and like Rogue in this story warns, “don’t pull too hard at the loose plot strings”; otherwise, it will cause the whole story to unravel. Perhaps the audience should dare to question the integrity of these stories. Hang on Mark Waid. How’s Daredevil able to jump around a city without killing the little girl with a bomb inside her gut or Hulk jumping around the city with his brain hanging out? Let’s not even get into the babbling nonsense of Faction’s Inhumanity or Spenser and Kot’s Secret Avengers.

In addition, it’s always a pleasure when writers stab at marketing research which force writers to curve their writing towards what is hot and trending in order to connect with their target demographic. For example, using a Marvel version of twitter in place of dialogue boxes even though it slows the pacing to a grueling stop is just as tacky as when the 80’s Teen Titans would reference Michael Jackson or product slogans. Yep, here’s looking at you Brian Bendis and Kieron Gillen.

Rick Remender has given us a fun commentary about the state of the Comic Book Industry. Although it came out of nowhere, it is nice that an A list writer validates the back slide of comic book standards. Although a critic can now be anyone with an internet connection, a 7th grade level of education, and a working knowledge of pop culture, doesn’t mean the industry should lower their own standards. Somebody should take accountability for the quality and content.

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Forever Evil: Blight (2014) Review

justice league darkSTORY BY J.M. DeMatteis, Ray Fawkes

ART BY Mikel JaninVicente CifuentesGuillermo Ortego, Francis Portela

Blight is the Jungian Shadow projection or manifestation of all of Humanity’s fears and evil thoughts. Unlike other stories which claim evil is an outside antagonist influencing people’s actions, evil in Fawkes and Matteis story is created by people themselves. When the Crime Syndicate invaded earth causing massive amounts of death and destruction, people’s fears and anger enhanced Blight’s strength and presence until it became it’s own devastating force. This imbalance between good and evil disrupted the natural order of Earth thereby forcing heroes like Swamp Thing and new Justice League Dark member Nightmare Nurse to find a way to restore balance. Meanwhile, Constantine remains self-invested in finding his lost lover Zatana. This was a nice throwback to the silver age of DC comics when writers would borrow heavily from new age philosophies.

With two writers, it’s impressive the characterization of everyone remained consistent. This keeps the story focused and although there are times the characters get in their own way, such as John Constantine, the story never undermines the characters in order to gain a cheap win. For example, Nightmare Nurse goes against her antagonistic nature in order to heal her team mates. Phantom Stranger goes against the league in order to save his friend. Constantine ends up being exiled for his bias towards self preservation. However, got to give Constantine credit for his uncanny ability to find a way to be naked around every female character in this story. Although we see character development, the writers never go against their protagonist’s natures. Each motivation, flaw, and strength makes the characters believable and relatable.

Another excellent feat is this is a eighteen issue story arc, yet it never slows down by throwing in filler and fluff. The action is steady but they weight it down with just the right amount of exposition boxes to give it the needed tone and danger. With an eighteen issue story arc of adrenaline action it could have been easy to just let the action push the story along; however, the writers take this opportunity to use inner dialogue boxes to further flesh out each person’s motivation. This is a nice contrast to some of the other Forever Evil story arcs which have villains being evil for evil sake or other shallow and unimaginative plot development.

Despite the heavy concept and high octane pacing, the story arc still manages to find room for humor to completely round out the story’s dynamic. The epitome of this comes when the protagonists are asking the great and powerful God for help and the writers rip a page from Wizard of Oz. Yep, the voice of god comes through a dog who is a mirror image of Toto and explains to John Constantine that he really does have a heart. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long before Constantine grows tired and walks out on God’s divine ability to state the obvious and take credit for other peoples work. Relax, this is a story where one of the most powerful heroes is a talking tree trunk. It isn’t exactly scripture although there was that talking bush that one time. Hmm, with all the other biblical references it wouldn’t be too far fetched for Matteis and Fawkes to write a scene about the Parliament of Trees speaking to Moses. After all, half the fun of reading Justice League Dark and Trinity of Sin is to see how the writers weave different religious mythology into the DC world.

Overall, Forever Evil: Blight is definitely one of the better installments. Although it lacks A list villains and heroes, the readers will inevitably care for each player involved, even the villains are able to earn the readers sympathy. In addition, these writers have proven they are capable of more than sitting on the sidelines cheering on the main Crossover event. Instead, they have crafted together an intense ride which showcases the difficulty of flawed individuals with conflicting motivations working together to achieve one goal.

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PPF 4/30

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This week, we talk about Star Wars casting, Krampus, Batman vs Superman, Forever Evil: Blight, new summer comics, C2E2, Wolverine, Agents of Shield, Penny Dreadful, Community, Game of Thrones, the Other Woman, Silicon Valley, and Peacewalker