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2 + 2 = 6 ?

 

Today’s blog is piece of rampant speculation, based on a nothing more than a comment the lovely Nicola Scott made while I was hassling her at Supanova Perth and a couple of pieces of comics news. I will say from the outset that I have no insider information whatsoever on this; I am merely trying to emulate Sherlock Holmes’ power of deduction with the theory which follows. 

So now, as Sherlock does, let us review the evidence (such as it is): 

1. I hassled Nicola Scott a hell of a lot during Perth’s Supanova a few weeks back, and during our wide ranging chats Nicola mentioned she would be working on a new project for DC soon, along with some creator-owned stuff. This off the cuff comment came and went, as Nicola talked about the fun she was having finishing issue 25 of  Earth 2 run (especially delineating the big battle between the evil Superman and Val, the new Superman), we wondered over the pencil work and composition of a page of Alan Davis artwork I had bought and an acolyte sat at her feet and learnt words of wisdom (NB: The “sat at feet” bit was metaphorical). Thus the comment was almost forgotten, until……..

2.  DC announced a new artist and writer on Earth 2, noting Nicola would no longer on the book s of issue 27 of the title.  Nicola had mentioned she was still working on something for DC, I seemed to remember, but if it is not Earth 2 then what could it be ? I continued to wonder in vain until I saw…

3. This piece of news on Bleeding Cool today. I agree Gail Simone is indicating there is a new Secret Six in the works, but the item caused a light bulb to appear over my head as the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place (and a mixed metaphor emerged). 

My theory then, is this: Nicola Scott is the artist for the relaunched Secret Six, just as she launched the original Secret Six all those years ago ! Gail Simone will of course reprise her role as writer, and DC will bring back one of the most popular books of the last decade (which didn’t involve Batman or the Green Lantern).

What do you think ? Am I close, and should await a call from Sherlock who will now surely want to team up with me to fight criminal masterminds ? Let me know ! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Court of Owls: A Return to Batman’s Detective Side

comicbookevangelist:

A great review !

Originally posted on THE EXTREMIS REVIEW:

Batman-The_Court_of_Owls,_Part_One_Knife_TrickThe New 52. Oh, most dreaded of reboots. I fear to touch thee, lest I be infected by the new age of senseless retcons!

Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit. But that’s how I was when it came to The New 52 for a long time. I don’t like retcons. I don’t like reboots. I think they’re terribly lazy shortcuts for writers who don’t want to take the time to know all of the canon of their material (which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of them). The DC universe has been particularly bad about retcons, even in the Batman universe, changing their minds no less than three times on whether or not the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents has a name. So, in a typical boy-ish comic book fan way, I was determined to boycott the reboot, and stick to reliving Year One, Knightfall

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Wicked + Divine is Heaven sent !

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I have been waiting since the initial announcement of Wicked + Divine to read the first issue. I am a huge fan of both Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, and an even bigger fan of their collaborations (If you haven’t read their work on Young Avengers stop reading this and order the trade paperbacks immediately. Seriously, it will be the best comics purchase you have ever made). Anyway, I was jonesing for this book in the same way Tyrone Shoelaces does for his basketball (hey man, there are far too few references to Cheech and Chong in comics reviews !) and with each pic on the Tumblr, press release and interview I became more excited. With this book I committed the cardinal sin – I DID believe the hype (sorry Flava Flav)

So, when I grabbed my copy of Wicked + Divine #1 I was scared to read it. I had built this thing up so much in my mind that I felt I could only be disappointed by what actually lay between the covers. So it is that despite having the issue for a couple of weeks I have only just read it today. Man, what a fool in love I was ! This is a perfect comic, with incredible images and clever dialogue and a plot that as well paced as a Ramones song, saying all that needs to be said but leaving a tantalising vision of something bigger underneath.

Here are my initial thoughts on the issue mere minutes after I read it:

* Jamie’s art is incredible, making the characters both glamorous and vulnerable (funny given they are gods)

* The Beatles references were awesome

* So was “didn’t get past Bowie in her parent’s retro record collection”. I have happily “inflicted” (as my wife puts it) Bowie on all my kids, so it is not unusual to see both my 15 year old daughter and 5 year old son happily rocking out to Let’s Dance. Oh, and the aforementioned 5 year old’s favourite song EVER is Modern Love.

* I DID feel the Phonogram vibe, especially in the concert sequence which reminded me of the Pull Shapes issue (Oh yeah, if you haven’t read Phonogram again stop reading and grab it. Especially the Singles Club issues making up the second volume, of which the Pull Shapes issue is my favourite and led me to the intoxicating Pipettes).

* I could tell there is so much back story to be revealed – why only four gods in 1923 ? Who was the sophisticated old “owl” lady ? Am I right to call her the owl lady ? Was Lucifer one of the four we saw in 1923 ? I am guessing he/she was the girl with the “Pris from Blade Runner” make up. Where are the other gods shown in the mandala for Chapter 2 ?

* The cliff hanger was unexpected, as we don’t usually see them in Gillen/McKelvie stuff (though I am probably forgetting a million from the Young Avengers run). Usually there is a climax three-quarters of the way through the issue and a denouement following, allowing one to light up a cigarette and enjoy the afterglow. 

* Speaking of YA, can very much see the influence of that comic in the design of the pages – the chapter breaks, the title of the story being incorporated into the panels themselves, the banter between the characters (especially the sequence with Sekhmet chasing the “red dot” and Luci’s commentary on such).

* A-Ha ! You didn’t fool me though, I realised the red dots on Luci were from sniper rifle scopes, so I was waiting for the shots to be fired.

* Was it wrong of me to laugh when I later turned the page and saw the panel of the judge’s head explode ? If so, I say in my defence that it was nervous laughter, of the kind that is a release from the incredible tension of the previous pages focussing on the “finger click”

So there it is. Wicked + Divine #1 was even better than I expected it to be. I thought I had hyped myself to the point where reading it could only be a Highway to Hell, but the experience was ultimately a Stairway to Heaven !

PS: Yep, there were a few music references in there, how many can YOU spot ?

Great Batman Eternal Theory from a special guest !

This time I have a very special treat, as Acolyte Anthony, one of my comic reading mates, gives us his theory on who the Big Bad in the Batman: Eternal weekly series is.  Anthony told me his theory a couple of weeks ago, and when I suggested he write it up for the blog he graciously did so. 

So, sit back, don your deerstalker and open your mind to the clues being deciphered in this brilliant theory, which I think is 100% correct !  Take it away Anthony 

Big boss man for Batman Eternal

 Well we have had twelve issues of Batman Eternal where for those who haven’t been reading the series, we have seen the following: Jim Gordon has been arrested for mass manslaughter, GCPD are no longer Batman’s allies and a gang war is enveloping Gotham, started by the returning mafia crime boss Carmine Falcone. Throughout all of this though we have been told that there is someone behind Falcone and what is going on in Gotham City and I believe that I know who it is. It is one of Batman’s greatest villains from one of DC’s best Batman stories. Our big baddy is the one and only……..Hush.

Out of all the major Batman villains Hush hasn’t yet made an appearance since the New52 and while a weekly series would be the best way to introduce him, I believe we have already met Hush. More on that later…

Now my first clue to our big baddy being Hush came in the very first issue, though at the time the character Hush wasn’t on my mind for potential enemies, where I shows Batman without his cowl tied to the bat signal while Gotham city burned and at that point our big baddy knew Batman was Bruce Wayne but I believed that he knew this fact before the scene.

My next train of thought took me to who in the New52 knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman and I could only think of three characters, Ra’s Al Gul, Two-Face and Joker. Now either of them seemed like good candidates but none of them matched it perfectly. Firstly while Al Gul does seem like a person wanting to make Gotham burn and destroy the Bat but he is already the main villain of Batman & Robin so I don’t believe DC would have him as the main enemy of another series. I don’t really picture Two-Face to doing this big of an attack on Batman and from the end of Batman & Two-Face I believe that he won’t be around for a while. Finally I don’t think Joker would try to break down the Bat as from what we saw in Death of the Family he wants to make Batman the best that he can be. Destroying all of Gotham will NOT help with that ! Add the fact that the character on that page referred to Batman as Bruce and Joker doesn’t care about Bruce only the Bat.

At this time I was only thinking of characters in the New52 and didn’t think of Hush who we all know knew that Bruce was Batman; but what really lead me to believe that our big baddy was Hush was the last panel of issue 10 where we see a sort of hooded figure in the shadows with only the eyes being lit up. When I saw that panel I knew that it was Hush.

At first Hush was a bit of a long shot guess but the more that I thought about it the more it made sense: Hush looks like the figure at the end of issue 10, our first introduction to Hush (in Batman 610-619) had him playing mind games with the Bat and having Gotham turn on Batman is exactly the kind of thing that Hush would do. 

The one flaw with my theory would be the fact that we haven’t been seeing Hush as his public identity of Thomas Elliot and showing Elliot would ruin the surprise of it being Hush, but I have thought of that already. Thomas Elliot won’t be appearing in the New52 because the New52′s version of Hush won’t be Thomas Elliot but another Thomas…….Wayne Jr to be exact ! (others may know him as Lincoln March from the Court of Owls story line).

Now there are a few reasons why I think Marsh will be a replacement for Elliot as Hush and they are

1: March, like Elliot, know knows that Bruce is Batman,

2: His vendetta, like Elliot, is personal against the Bat,

3: Before March was shown to be an enemy he was a good friend of Bruce just as Elliot was before his reveal as Hush.

So those are our similarities with Elliot but there are also a few other things to keep in mind. At the end of the Court of Owls we never saw the death of Marsh and we all knew he was going to come back at some point also he cannot come back in his Talon outfit otherwise he will look too similar to Owlman from Earth 3 who we all know is still lurking around somewhere from the end of Forever Evil. 

So there you have it my predictions for the boss at the end of Batman Eternal Hush and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Thanks Anthony for letting us all in on your  great theory ! 

 

Tinker, Tailor, Winter Soldier, Spy

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I wanted to do two reviews of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier: This one will be spoiler-free and focus more on the cinematic roots of the movie, while the second one (I’ll post it tomorrow) will dig into the comic roots of the story and reveal some of the Easter Eggs which are deftly planted throughout the movie. 

Before I get too far into the review, let’s get the important bit out of the way: I LOVED THIS MOVIE ! The other phase two releases I enjoyed mostly because of the reactions of others – my wife and son loved Iron Man 3 and I enjoyed their enjoyment of it, despite some elements I was less than impressed with. Same with Thor 2, which was full of plot holes but adored by my daughter, so I liked it too. Cap 2, however, I just flat out loved because the film itself was so damn good !!! I give it a 4.5 stars out of 5. 

One of the main reasons I enjoyed the movie so much was the way it succeeded in making a movie that was, as Kevin Feige described it “a 70s spy thriller, with a superhero thrown in”. This was a movie which had more in common with the Le Carre adaption I mangled in the title than with, say, a Spider-Man film. It was a film whose roots lay in the great spy/espionage thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and – appropriately given the introduction of a new hero, The Falcon and the Snowman

 Like those films, The Winter Soldier is chock-full of betrayals, twists, fakes, double crosses and investigation of clues. From the outset we have the Black Widow enacting a mission within a mission, Nick Fury being coy with information and a mysterious Macguffin (in this case a USB drive) which propels the action going forward. We also have an enemy who is relentlessly capable yet cloaked in mystery, an operative who “was spoken of in whispers” and “believed to be a myth” according to our own super spy Black Widow.

The plot works very much like a spy thriller too, with some action interspersed with exposition and investigation before an action-packed climax sees the world saved and the heroes changed.

So, I loved this movie not because it features my favourite superheroes (Captain America, the Black Widow and Falcon)  but also because it is a great spy thriller in the mode of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy – albeit with less manilla folders and more action. 

 

 

Please use the insult “graphic novel” properly ! (An Open Letter to David and Margaret)

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Hitting the wrong target 

 

I am a massive fan of ABCs David and Margaret At the Movies TV show. Both David Stratton and Margaret Pomerantz are the most knowledgeable, intelligent and eloquent movie critics – and fans – in Australia, if not the world. So, it pains me to write this missive, to appeal to them to use the insult “graphic novel” properly.

I was moved to write after watching this review of the 300 sequel, 300:Rise of An Empire. In it, both Margaret and David use the term “graphic novel” in a derogatory way, primarily to deride the way the film’s visual effects constantly overshadow, and interrupt, the narrative. Now, obviously as a lover of comic books and graphic novels I would rather they never use either term as a way to insult film, but on some level I understand what they mean. However, what really annoys me is the way they use the terms to deride those aspects of a film that are cinematic tropes, NOT graphic novels/comic book ones. 

What do I mean ? I mean I would not mind too much if Margaret and/or David were to look down on a choice that is based on comic book tropes. For example, it makes sense to complain that in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films it strained credulity that virtually every villain had some connection to Peter Parker, as that is a trope which comes firmly from the comics. It is also reasonable to point out that a WW2 super soldier would not be able to stand up to a god-like alien for even two seconds, making the fight scene between Captain America and Thor in the Avengers film a bit silly as again, this sort of thing happens all the time in Avengers comics. In my heart of hearts I would cringe to hear these complaints, but I accept they are reasonable.

What is NOT reasonable is to blame as an artefact of graphic novels or comic books aspects of a film that are cinematic in nature. as such, it does not make sense to say that the slow-motion, over the top fight scenes which punctuate 300: Rise of an Empire are bad because they come from graphic novels, as these are visual effects that come from movie-making. This ‘bullet time” effect comes from the Wachowski siblings’ Matrix films, not from any comic book or graphic novel. Similarly, the huge amounts of blood flying at the screen is an old trope used in everything from Hammer horror films to the remake of Carrie (not to mention the original Carrie of course). again, this is a cinematic effect, not a graphic novel one. 

To be charitable, I understand their confusion. Over the past thirty years comic books have used more tricks of the cinematic trade, and artists like Frank Miller (who is mentioned in the review) have made a career out of using these tricks to tell a graphic novel story in a new way. So when you read the original 300, Sin City or Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot comics you can see these cinematic techniques used abundantly. This does not mean, however, that they are graphic novel or comic book techniques, but film ones borrowed to be used in graphic novels.  A comic may use the image of a rocket stuck in the moon’s eye, but this does not change the fact the image was first used by the film-maker Georges Méliès. 

Now this may seem pedantic, but when talking about people who have shown considerable intelligence and ability to research I expect more. So, I respectfully suggest both Margaret and David at least read Scott McClouds Understanding Comics, to get an idea of what  graphic novel techniques are, and how they differ from cinematic ones.

 

 

Australia’s Best Publisher

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Today is the Australia Day public holiday, which has been perfectly timed this year to be a Monday – yesterday was the actual date for Australia Day, but we Aussies love days off work more than just about anything else, so we are taking the day off today so we don’t miss out on that quintessential Aussie experience ! And since I am having the day off work, watching the cricket and having a beer, I thought the blog for today should be appropriately Aussie too. As such, today’s blog will focus on Australia’s best comics publisher, Perth’s own Gestalt Comics.  

Gestalt Comics has an ethos which is very much reflected in the graphic novels and comics they publish: Story First. Gestalt has released horror comics, anthologies, all-ages graphic novels and genre-mashing Western horror/magic tales in a number of formats, from the traditional comic book and graphic novel as well as the digital new frontier. They have published works by Australia’s best artists and writers, including Nicola Scott, Tom Taylor, Christian Read and one of my all-time favourite Aussie artists, the inestimable Gary Chaloner ! You can buy all of their awesome stuff on their website (which this month has a sale !!), at the Oz Comic-con and Supanova conventions or, best of all, at their great launch parties ! 

My first exposure to Gestalt was at the launch party for Volume One of Perth artist Justin Randall’s magnum opus Changing Ways

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I was new to the whole Perth comic scene at the time, and didn’t know anyone at the party as I walked in. Within minutes though I was given a beer, watched a incredible trailer of the book and had a chat about comics new and old with the publisher himself, Wolfgang.  Never had I been made to feel so welcome in a room full of strangers, and by the end of the night I had made a couple of connections with people as passionate about comics as I was – even more so, really, as they were creating and publishing comics !! Justin Randall is not only an immensely talented artist, with a style reminiscent of Perth artist alums Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith (whom Justin had taught Graphic Design in his “real job” as a lecturer at Curtin University), he is also an easygoing, humble, hilarious and generally  great bloke to chat to who was genuinely excited to be talking to one of his readers. I had such a great time merely buying the book that reading it and discovering a clever, creepy and beautifully produced horror story was the icing on the cake ! Needless to say I bought the second volume from the launch party too, and I will be the first in line at the launch of Volume Three !

 Thus started my relationship with Gestalt Comics, publisher Wolfgang and their array of great creators. The experience I had with Changing Ways has been replicated a  number of times now, and I have had the pleasure to talk to Tom Taylor when buying his brilliant all-ages book The Deep, discuss with Nicola Scott her evolving art style since she worked with Andrew Constant on werewolf tale Torn,   and be spoilt by Wolfgang with previews of everything from new issues of Unmasked to the trailer for The Deep animated series !

So, perhaps I am biased when it comes to Gestalt due to the amazing experiences I have had the personnel behind the company. Maybe these have coloured my reading of Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate, a great mash-up of the hard-bitten shaman/cowboy with Doctor Strange and Unmasked (in which loser super villains try to make it as “regular” criminals), making only so-so stories seem like masterpieces. It’s possible. However, I reckon the works speak for themselves, and once you have ventured into the Deep with the Nekton family or marvelled at Gary Chaloner’s line work in Unmasked #3 you too will be singing the praises of the publisher which loves great stories so much it is their ethos !  

My son Jamie asked that I put a picture here of the Nekton family from his favourite series The Deep. Jamie says about the first book: 

“The boy is the best because he teaches the fish to fetch a stick like he is a dog. That’s silly and funny’ 

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