Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Was it obvious?

Or should I start thinking I'm clairvoyant? I mean, I haven't been to the comic shop yet, but I've read the preview pages, and it seems like I called the issue-five twist way back in May:

I suppose the biggest twist left is that we'll learn how Barry caused all this himself by going back in time and saving his mother's life...
Back then, and largely since then, I thought the story was paint-by-numbers autopilot plotting. Given my generally terrible record at comic book prognostication, this doesn't exactly change that impression.

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"Well, one thing's for sure: nobody's going to be looking at your face."

As is becoming a theme, new pictures have leaked from the set of "Man of Steel," giving us our first really clear look at the new Superman costume. Some key shots (stolen shamelessly from Superman Homepage and ComicVine) here:

Rock-Em Sock-Em Superheroes!
Dude's face is chiseled.
Whoops.
White boy ain't got no 'S'!

Well, one thing's for sure: Ma Kent didn't sew that one. I'll just tackle things the way I did when the first pictures hit. Set your browsers to 'bulleted list'!
  • The Hair: Nary an S-curl in sight in these shots. It's a really minor detail, but something about his hair in these shots looks funny, like the part is off, in a way that allowing some of it to hang down on his forehead might alleviate. But it also seems to be the middle of a battle scene, so who knows?
  • The Cape: Shots with and without the cape. I'm glad it's there and it's fabric (and in at least one shot, it's clearly quite large), but I wouldn't be surprised if it were added with CGI in some of the scenes. I also wouldn't be surprised if, in the hot, humid weather we've been having in these parts, Cavill just wants to have it off as much as possible. It's a little disappointing that it doesn't have a gold shield on it, but it's hardly the first version of the Superman costume to be missing that little detail.
  • The Boots: Not much new detail on the boots. They look to have the same texture as the rest of the suit, which is okay. They're definitely better than the roboto-boots that New 52 Superman is rocking.
  • The S-Shield: It's different, in the way that the only official image suggested, looking a lot like some of the variations we saw in the Golden Age, which were eventually adapted into the Earth-2 Superman emblem. I actually like it a lot; it evokes what Morrison and Quitely originally set out to do in All-Star Superman and boil the S-shield down to simpler, more basic elements, and I think it does that job better. The clean curves and size variations make it look somewhat alien, without making it unrecognizable as the Superman symbol. I'll enjoy seeing this on all the licensed goods a lot more than I enjoyed the beveled "Superman Returns" version.
  • The Belt: Not really a belt, as it turns out, but texturing that suggests a belt. This is, frankly, what I hoped they'd be doing when they removed the briefs from the design: adding some other elements that compensate. It'd be nice to have a bit more color variation to separate things, and the converging lines do seem to draw attention toward Kal's lowercase El, but I think it generally works. The shapes remind me a little of Cosmic Boy's Waid-era costume.
  • The Texture: I could do without it, but it doesn't really distract from things. It's a little weird that it's uniform over the S-shield, but broken up by the plasticky design elements.
  • Additional Design Elements: I'll be interested to see what the harder plastic-looking bits do in the final product. Previous shots demonstrated that they're glossier than the rest of the costume, and that might very well be purposeful, to make these lines shine or glow in various sorts of ways under studio lights or in post-production. It could be taken to a ridiculous extreme, of course, but it might be another way to make the costume look otherworldly and break up the blue field. Of course, that's largely speculation. As they are, again, I wish they provided a little more contrast, but they don't really detract.
  • The Briefs: No briefs, which I still generally think is a bad thing for this costume. The other elements compensate, but still don't quite cover the fact that between the shield and the boots is almost nothing but blue, and there's nothing to tie the main costume in with the cape--which is what the briefs do, for better or worse.
  • The Colors: I'm still not thrilled with the more muted palette, which I'd hoped we'd get away from after "Superman Returns." But I've seen enough of "Watchmen" and "300" that I know 'bright shiny colors' just aren't Snyder's thing. It's not unexpected, but it would be awfully nice to have a new Superman movie that's as vibrant and colorful as "Captain America: The First Avenger."
  • Overall: I actually like it, and the more I see of it, the more I like it. There are definitely things I'd change or do differently, but I'm excited to see it in action. And remember, it could be much, much worse.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boldly Going

I finally picked up some of the Batman: Brave and the Bold DVDs, and while I'm waiting for the first season to arrive, I popped one of the second-season discs into the DVD player for background. I've watched the show off and on enough to know it's awesome, but "A Bat Divided" is just a special kind of great. It's not just the interesting new twist on Firestorm--which I hope carries over somewhat into the New 52 where the status quo seems similar--nor is it the huge number of cameos--Killer Moth! The Eraser! The Ten-Eyed Man!--it's Dr. Double X, who is just a sensational character rediscovery.

Characters like Dr. Double X are the reason why I wish I knew more about the zanier eras of Batman, since the zany tide of the Silver Age crazied all boats. I just wish I'd known about him when I was doing Walking with Superman. I can already imagine the plot...

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Flooded

I picked up the first trade of the most recent "Batgirl" series over the summer, and enjoyed it enough to pick up the second trade as my last online purchase before Borders announced its forthcoming closure. Unfortunately, with time and so forth, it's sat unread on my nightstand since then. I finally plowed through it today, and it was just fantastic. Miller was clearly crafting a great cast around Stephanie, and it's sad to know that it's all over.

If you haven't checked out the series yet, I highly recommend it. And I'm looking forward to the next trade(s?).

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't You Hate Pants?

"Pants," in this case, used in the British sense of the word. A less-posed image of the Henry Cavill Superman costume has come about, which reveals some of what was hidden about Superman's costume:

It's Bigfoot!

I snagged that shot from Cosmic Book News, which has a couple of different angles and a look at the black-caped Faora. Zod's costume, apparently, will be added in digitally later. It'll be interesting to see what that's like; a part of me hopes that it looks as alien and futuristic now as the weird glowy Kryptonian clothes looked in "Superman."

As for the Man himself, it's clear that he's lost the trunks. As I mentioned in the last post on the subject, losing the trunks for the film could be a good thing, depending on what they do with other aspects of the design. The other shot of Superman at CBN shows a distinct shininess to his cuffs and flanks, which was suggested by the difference in texture those showed in the promotional image. If that stands out enough, it might break up the costume in the way it needs for the trunks to be gone. It's not clear if he's rocking a full belt with this, or just a buckle of some sort, but there's at least some ornamentation there.

I'm on record as generally thinking that the trunks are an important and necessary part of the Superman costume design, and I do think this looks like a lot of uninterrupted blue. It's a lot of a slightly peculiar blue, too, a different shade than we usually see on Superman (although I like the color of the cape--and lighting/digital color correction is everything). I'm not thrilled with the change, but I'm interested to see what's done with it.

It's at least one step better than his DCnU armor.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some more snippets

New Doctor Who starts this coming weekend! I'm excited, even if Torchwood has been doing a decent job of filling the Doctor-shaped hole in my life. I've caught some of BBC America's lead-up specials, doing the VH1-style talking heads thing. It's a little disappointing that these "Best of" showcases are limited to the last two seasons, because I kind of doubt that "the Siren who turned out to be a holographic nurse with terrible bedside manner" would show up on anyone's "best Doctor Who monsters" list. But it also has Natalie Morales and Mark Sheppard and Paul F. Tompkins, so there's that.

One thing that's become clear from these clip shows is how long Steven Moffat has been laying in the "Doctor is his own worst enemy" theme. I thought the twist of the mid-season finale, that the Doctor's "I'm super-badass and you all should be afraid of me" speeches have finally come back to bit him in the ass, was particularly inspired. But now I see that Moffat laid the same twist into "The Pandorica Opens," where the Doctor is seen to be the greatest threat in the universe, but we still side with him because the ones who think he's dangerous are his enemies. "Amy's Choice" gave us the Doctor's self-loathing made manifest, threatening his companions; meanwhile, "The Doctor's Wife" showed just what kind of danger the Doctor has put those companions into just by bringing them into his massive, insane time machine. Even "The Lodger" has what appears to be the Silence putting the world in danger by trying to imitate the TARDIS.

It'll be nice if this means that the series scales back a little; ending every season with the destruction of everything is going to get really tedious after awhile, if it hasn't already. I would love to see another "Black Orchid," for instance.


I finally got a Wii. It's not something I've been exactly itching to buy, but there are definitely some games I'd like to play on it--not the least of which are on the Virtual Console. I downloaded Super Mario World and Chrono Trigger--the latter of which I missed out on years ago--and I'm excited to get into those. The newest Mario Kart proved to be as entertaining and frustrating as previous iterations for me, and I got WiiFit because I'm really trying to get into shape.

But the reason I mention it here is Batman: Brave and the Bold, which I picked up the day I bought the system. I'd heard good things about the game, and the show is fantastic, so it was kind of a no-brainer. I haven't played much, and it's certainly no "Arkham Asylum," but it's a damn fun game. It's old-school action platforming similar to "Scott Pilgrim," which is still a great game, but Batman: Brave and the Bold goes one better by including Batman. So far, it's everything that I've loved about River City Ransom, the "Brave and the Bold" TV show, and the Animated Batman game for the Genesis/SNES era. The controls, animations, and collision detection are sometimes a little clunky, but otherwise I'm having a blast.

Siskoid's recent Superman post has me thinking about Super Friends again. The show was just a little before my time (an ad for the then-forthcoming series appeared in one of my Mom's comics that I read growing up), but I watched several episodes when it was on Cartoon Network while I was in high school. It's one of the few media incarnations of Superman that I haven't really looked into, and the relative dirt-cheapness of the DVD sets on Amazon has me thinking about giving it a shot.

There is one teensy problem, which is that there are an awful lot of DVD releases, with no really clear order--not surprising, for a show that ran for thirteen years in various iterations. That, and from my own experience and proclivities, I know I've liked the Wonder Twins and New Gods years than some of the others. Then again, I've more recently been getting more partial to the Silver/Bronze Age mentality that has been on-display in some of the episodes I've seen, so maybe the Wendy-and-Marvin years are where I should start.

So I put the question to my legions of knowledgeable readers: if I want to start watching Super-Friends, where do I begin?

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where is my Super-Suit?

Oh hey, I forgot, while I was gone at GenCon, they unveiled the new movie Superman costume. Or at least, they unveiled it as much as they could while also leaving it partially veiled by shadow. If you haven't already seen the image, here it is, courtesy of the Superman Homepage.

Texturize!

I hate to say much of anything about it without a better shot, but there are a few things worth mentioning even now.
  • The Hair: Set reports and other pictures suggest that Cavill will be rocking the spit curl, and not this Dean Cain-esque style. I certainly don't mind it as it is, but it'd be nice to see that.
  • The Cape: I like the way you can see how it attaches to the costume. I further like that it's not tucked into the tight collar, the way Brandon Routh's was. Reeve could get away with it, largely because of the wider neckline.
  • The Boots: The classic shape, though the element that in comics typically looks like some kind of embellishment or seam has shrunk on these to a bit of top-of-the-boot piping. These are higher than Routh's, but look to be a bit shorter than Reeve's. No complaints.
  • The S-Shield: Hey, it's an Earth-2 Superman movie! Seriously, every screen version of the S-shield has been a bit different, and this is only about as big a departure from the trademarked version as Routh's was. It looks a lot like the shield Superman wore back in the early '40s (see here or here, for example). It'll be interesting to see it in a more head-on shot.
  • The Belt: The buckle looks pretty traditional. No extra S-shields there.
  • The Texture: Hoo boy. Superman looks like he's wearing snakeskin or something. I frankly miss the simple cloth, and Superman's the character who should be able to do that, what with being invulnerable and all. This textured vinyl just looks uncomfortable. The resolution's not good enough to see if it's going the "Superman Returns" route of having a texture that's repeated S-shield shapes. But then, it didn't distract from "Superman Returns," and I suspect it'll be a minor issue.
  • Additional Design Elements: Here's where I part ways a bit with the costume designer. From the cuffs, the visible leg, and the spot above the belt, it looks like there are parts of the costume with a different color and a smoother texture. It's similar to what Shane Davis did in "Superman: Earth One," and I think it's generally pretty unnecessary. You don't need to add stuff to Superman's costume; you don't need to make it busier.
  • The Briefs: What briefs? It's impossible to tell whether or not they're a part of this costume. If they aren't, and the costume is taking a hint from the "Earth One" costume, then that might be a good thing. One of the biggest problems of that design was that the briefs interrupted those fields of color, and the fields were reversed after the interruption, making it look like a coloring error. Leaving the briefs out, but breaking up the color in other ways, is actually a design compromise I can handle.
  • The Colors: It's hard to tell, since the image is washed-out in a style that Snyder's done before. I hope the suit is bright and bold and pretty primary-colored, rather than the darker, more subdued tones we saw on Brandon Routh. It's definitely too early to tell, and what's more, it's going to depend a lot on how they filter and color-correct the movie.
  • Overall: Damn, Cavill has the look. Seriously, he's the first live-action Superman--except perhaps Dean Cain--who looks like he really has the Superman size down.
  • Any excuse to make a bulleted list these days. Sheesh.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What's the Flashpoint?

I know that's not an original title, but it's a fitting one. After a GenCon-caused delay, I made it to the comic shop this week and bought most of two weeks' worth of comics. Naturally, though I'm not entirely sure why at this point, that included "Flashpoint" #4. Reading through it, and through some Flashpoint tie-ins of varying quality, really solidified some of the series' problems in my mind.

First, and most trivially, there's the usual-by-this-point problem of editing.
Freddy is also the one clearly talking and gesturing, as per the art.
I'm sure the New 52 has everyone working overtime to make things run smoothly, but when you have a panel where a whole bunch of difficult-to-distinguish characters are talking, it might be a good idea to make sure the word bubbles are pointing at the right people. Especially when those word bubbles are being used for relatively important (to the issue) characterization. And especially in the tentpole frigging crossover title you're using to launch your whole new initiative. This is the most high-profile book I've seen this kind of editing error on (unless you count "Superman: Earth One"), but it seems like every week, I pull out a new DC comic with some kind of crazy mistake. The last one I remember was, as I recall, one of the Kid Flash tie-ins, where the art credits were printed twice, on the same page, but in one case clearly accidentally over the art. It's becoming a trend.

That being said, this issue suffers from more of the same kind of thing that Chris Sims rightly noted in the last three: namely, that there doesn't seem to be anything even approaching a plan. Issue #1: Barry tries to cope with new world, regain his powers, recruit Batman to set things right. Issue #2: Barry tries to convince Batman to help him regain his powers so he can set things right. Issue #3: Barry regains his powers and tries to recruit Superman, who will help set things right. Issue #4: Superman runs away, Barry decides that setting things right is too hard and instead wants to help people.

Seriously.

I just don't know where to begin. Issue 3 turned out to be utterly unnecessary; the only worthwhile thing it seems to have done was bring Cyborg into the superheroes-changing-the-world fold, but that could easily have been accomplished in issue #1 or 2 as well. The first section of #3 was dedicated to doing what they'd already done in #2, and the Superman plot ended with things in exactly the same position they'd been before. Now, a sizable part of this issue was spent complaining that the heroes didn't get together when they got together in issue #1, and subsequently getting those heroes--or at least some of them--together. I appreciated the moments of characterization for the Shazam Squad, but there's not enough space for them to have any more depth than they did back in #1, and dedicating that space to "war affects people and is bad" seems like a waste.

But hey, we got a full-page splash introducing Element Woman! I guess Geoff Johns slept through the day in creative writing when they explained what a cheat and a bad idea it is to introduce key characters in the fourth act.

But there's the bigger problem of Barry Allen, who wants to set things right, who has Batman on his side because he wants to set things right, who gets the Captain Thunder Kids Club on his side because he wants to set things right, and who has a ticking clock in his head that, if he doesn't beat it, will prevent him from setting things right. And he decides that it would be too hard to set things right, so instead they should go stop the war that wouldn't be happening if they set things right.

"Boy, the Emperor sure is intimidating. You know what? I think I'll go back to Toshi Station after all."

"Gee, I never expected Mount Doom to be so awfully hot, and this ring's not so bad. Come on, Sam, let's head back to the Shire."

"Holy Hannah, it sure is hard to destroy these horcruxes. That's what, like, four of them? Screw this, I'm going back to my cupboard."

Barry Allen, the Fastest Man Alive, has spent the last three issues spinning his wheels, and decides in this one to just head off in a completely different, irrelevant, unnecessary direction. This is the hero who inspired a legacy? This is the steadfast beacon of hope who outshone even the Man of Steel? This is a man who raced back from death itself to save the world that he sacrificed his life to save once before?

The worst part is his rationalization: "Trying to figure out what events he altered will be like trying to find the right grain of sand in the ocean." Well, sure, I guess, except that if you go back in time to stop him, you should actually see him altering those events. You know, catch him in the act. Altering them. And I suppose it would be hard to find the right grain of sand in the ocean. If only you had the ability to travel through time, thus allowing for a near-infinite amount of it, and some kind of super-speed ability that would make examining a large number of things possible in a short amount of time. Of course, it would help if the person with those abilities also had expertise in a branch of science that went to places and pieced together what had occurred after the fact, some kind of forensic science. But where on Earth would we find a character with super-speed, time-travel abilities, and forensic science expertise?

Look, if the point of the whole series up 'til now is Barry learning that, in this new world, he can't just do things the way he used to do them--round up the heroes, get to work, etc.--then it's been awfully obtuse. Especially since "rounding up the heroes and getting to work" has worked about 50% of the time. But honestly, I can't see another point. Meanwhile, I keep feeling like we're missing out on a much more interesting story, replaced with these repeats and retreads of what we've already seen, and plot elements that either go or come out of nowhere.

So I suspect that August 31st will give us Barry and Zoom's inevitable confrontation, the return of Superman, and Barry finally setting things right...but not quite everything and not quite right, because of his swiss-cheesed memory. And then it'll all be even mooter than it is right now, because we'll have the New 52 to contend with.

But if "Flashpoint" is meant to be our gateway into the New 52, then it seems like we've got a lot of repetition, disjointed storytelling, bad editing, and repetition to look forward to.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Low-Content Mode

In about forty-five minutes, I'll be heading down to Gen Con Indy for five-ish days of science education and geeky indulgence. As a result, things will probably be pretty quiet around here. If you're in Indianapolis, feel free to drop by our panels; I think you'll be glad you did.

And in the meantime, since I'm missing out on comics this week, try not to break the Internet or spoil "Superman" #714 too badly.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

More Science!

If you'd like a taste of what we're offering at Gen Con, my good friend Don has posted videos from last year. If you enjoy them, then you're sure to love our presentations this year! If you don't enjoy them, then make sure to come by this year and see how much we've improved! Hope to see you there!

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