Posts Tagged ‘comics’

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Batman: Gotham Knight

August 31, 2008

If you enjoyed the depth of Dark Knight Returns, you’ll probably also dig Gotham Knight.

An animated movie of 6 chapters, with different directors and writers, but connected, Gotham Knight manages to hit the best kinds of Batman stories and surprisingly gets deeper than what I expected. All of the chapters manage to avoid the #1 pitfall to a Batman story- making it all about the villains. These stories manage to swing the focus back to the real relationships: Batman to Gotham and Batman to himself.

The first two chapters focus on the people of Gotham living and what Batman means to them- skater kids bragging to each other about seeing him, detectives arguing about the morality of a vigilante on the streets. After that, we swing into questions about Batman’s morals, and even throw some grey areas on him (Bruce keeps a gun collection – “Know your enemy. Though I never fired one, I can see the appeal…”).

The best of the chapters is written by Brian Azzarello (of 100 Bullets fame). “Working through the Pain” where we get a flashback to Bruce traveling to India, seeking the training to overcome pain.

Whereas this could have been a simple cultural appropriation montage, instead, we see him get rejected by the Fakirs (“He said you were not being honest with him. You’re not here for enlightenment.”) and instead, learning from Cassandra, an Indian woman (British raised? Hmm. Maybe.) who had to steal the knowledge because she was forbidden to learn the techniques herself. She’s hard, and real, and neither subservient nor a romantic interest- she’s her own character and pretty badass. And she doesn’t spend the chapter spouting mysticisms either. By the end of the story, you even see how broken Bruce is- that which makes him strong cripples him at the same time.

The other thing- all 6 chapters are surprisingly well done in terms of representation- tons of POC (which makes sense if you go with the Gotham = Chicago idea) and they’re not criminals, nor victims. (ETA: also, they called out the corruption of gentrification through “redevelopment”. Nice.)

Overall, this gets 4/5 from me, for being an awesome DVD, and well worth picking up if you’re a Batman fan.

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Me and the Devil Blues – Hiramoto, vol. 1

July 31, 2008

Today I picked up Me and the Devil Blues – The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson, by Akira Hiramoto.

So first, it’s a fictionalized version of Robert Johnson’s life, where he sells his soul to the Devil to become an awesome blues musician… maybe. Like a lot of horror/psychological thriller stories, you’re never 100% sure what’s going on- maybe his hand really did grow 10 fingers, or maybe it’s in his head. Maybe the old guy Ike really is the Devil, or maybe he’s just an old guy. These ambiguous mysteries make the story a great read, as well as the research that Hiramoto went into for the time period.

Second, I’m impressed with the way in which Robert is the protagonist, he’s always a flawed, everyman who just gets himself in too deep, not a magical negro (weird music powers or not). For the first third of the book, not even a single white character shows up. It is, literally, the life of black folks in their own world. You see bits of manga tropes pop up though- old blues players passing down koan like tests for Robert, blues duels where the fingers fly across the pager and it makes it the most intense thing you’ve ever seen.

Now, this doesn’t mean this book doesn’t have some problematic stuff. For example, the black women are always yelling. And I’m not sure how true to the author’s original intent is “Shut yo’ mouth!” which shows up a lot. I’d really like to read another volume or two and see if he balances things out in the longer run or if it’s just problematic stuff for it’s own sake. Just the same, it’s still painfully better and more accurate than what mainstream US comics have been doing, so you may or may not give it a pass.

Nonetheless, it’s a 525 page manga for $20, and I’m hoping that we get to see more volumes. Apparently, it’s doing well enough in Japan that it’s been running for 4 years straight.

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Comics Review 5.21.08

May 22, 2008

GeNeXt #1

Since I last read him, Chris Claremont apparently learned to scale back the pages of dialogue he’d try to cram into each panel from his days with Jim Lee. GeNeXt takes an interesting premise- what happens if the X-Diaspora actually aged in real-time, and it’s 50 years later?

We get a new team who… seem like interesting individual characters, and not so much an interesting team.

The first issue is kinda of interesting, as Becka, Storm’s daughter is dealing with her powers, which, sadly manages to hit both the “Women can’t control their powers” and “Black people are almost out of control” twitches. We at least get some idea of her internal thoughts, and there’s motivation to what’s going on, and she gets some character development, but I have the feeling her “internal doubts” won’t ever be fully resolved and she’ll get sidelined for the male characters. Also expect her skin to lighten to the point of passing 10 issues down the line.

Verdict: Jury’s out, but not a lot of faith given Marvel & mainstream comics history.

Yozakura Quartet #2

The first volume seemed ho-hum, aside from cute character designs and a couple of kickass fight scenes. Volume two, though, has me hooked. Let’s just talk about the focus of the book- a group of kickass demon girls (vampire, hopping ghost, etc.) fight to protect their town of demons and otherwise kick it. It’s like if someone mixed Hellsing and Stand By Me and made all of it equally entertaining.

The manga does fall into the -harem- manga genre, though most of the women don’t give a damn about the male lead, though there is stuff like slightly fetish wear (nun’s outfit, nurse outfit, etc.) but at least doesn’t go crazy with the fan service.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars! Pretty awesome and looking forward to the next one.

The Invincible Iron Man #1

The first 4 pages are everything I hated about the movie. Let’s see- montage of Tanzania, with narration to let you know how poor and backward they are, followed by superpowered suicide bombing without motivation, followed by Tony’s new sextoy, a woman speaking broken english (at least(?) she’s not visually cued as asian or latina).

Bullshit aside, it introduces an interesting premise- what does Tony Stark do when you have a villain who is better at the tech game than he is, and has no morals? Older Iron Man stories mostly dealt with the idea of someone stealing his technology and misusing, but what happens when someone surpasses it?

Verdict: Intriguing idea, but since it starts on bullshit, I’m not expecting much good.

Wonder Woman #20

Gail Simone’s run on WW is pretty awesome. I got in on issue #18 on the recommendation of my good friend Ladyjax, and it’s been good stuff. This issue looks like we’re going to see Wonder Woman rewrite the Grendel story… hee. Enough said.

Verdict: Moar!