Joe Rice Media Review 4/2/07

Hey, guess what!  As an elementary school teacher, guess who has the next week-plus off!  It's me!  I do!  Who's still sitting in his PJs without a care in the world?  Also me!  Who has a gigantic stack of comics to review?  That one is not me.  I have a few, though, and even a movie!  And this week, 66% fewer potshots at Greg Burgas--GUARANTEED!

DMZ wrapped up its latest storyline in a manner I found more satisfying than I'd anticipated.  I didn't see a whole lot of ways out, and this overall ending was unexpected.  At times the art changed from the European cartooning style to an almost Mike-Zeckian hyper-romantic thing, and, if this was purposeful (I believe it was) it was used effectively.  Roth, our protagonist, goes from skinny journalist trying to find his friends to larger and larger, almost heroic-proportions.  His actions take him over, and Burchelli turns him into a more typical American action comics figure.  But when the danger is over and Roth's situation is deflated, so is he.  He again is smaller, skinny, and literally needs the support of his friends.  And it's the smaller, more personal scenes at the end that really make this story work, and they showcase Wood's considerable strengths as a writer of human beings.

I wish Andy Kubert's dad inked the inside of Batman, too.  He might have made his son stage the action in more understandable ways.  But Grant Morrison's writing is at least fun in this installment.  Morrison's seemed to have more trouble making a good Batman comic than anyone other than his most dunder-headed detractors would have predicted.  So far the Morrison run has been half-good, half-eh and one issue (the previous) of just plain awful.  This issue is more of a "straight-up" Batman story, with some nice Bruce Wayne action, a fey Andre 3000-as-pimp, mysterious fears of a "black casebook" and a pumped-up Bane/Batman hybrid with too much testosterone.  Hm--a sudden thought.  Is Morrison writing his Batman run to parallel the publishing history of Batman?  (Violent beginning; some treading of water; a gimmicky, visual-gag-ridden time; adventure around the world; psychological horror; pumped up imitation Batmen . . .) It's something to look into for people better-versed in said history.  That said, it was an entertaining, well-crafted issue with sadly few marks of the author.

I believe with the last issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four I had expressed doubts as to whether the art was going to drive me away from what might be a fun story.  Well, as of this issue it has.  I've never been fond of Kolins' work, but it's sadly the stronger half of this issue.  Mark Brooks' work is a bland combination of artists I don't like to begin with with a horrible design sense but, I'll admit, decent storytelling.  Maybe if I found this story a bit more interesting I'd find it worthwhile, but I do believe I'll wait until Ferry returns for the Silver Surfer arc.  (He is coming back, right?  Please?)

And, lo, there did come a new issue of Optic Nerve.  The third and final part of Adrian Tomine's first multi-issue story arrived at Rocketship and I just finished reading it.  It's going to take a while to completely unpack it.  It's dense, it's difficult, and it's achingly real.  Tomine's sense of humor never disappears, even during the most heart-wrenching of moments there's enough self-mockery to keep the book from self-indulgence.  Interracial relationships are the heart of the issue, along with how one projects his or her shortcomings on the rest of the world.  My sister dated someone like the white guy in this book for a while, so I found him extra-entertaining.  But this really was a great demonstration of Tomine's talents, as a satirist, as a revealer of human conditions, and as a fantastic cartoonist.  Every line (of pen or dialogue) is expertly crafted for the express purpose of expressing Tomine's purpose.    If you haven't followed this story, you can probably pick up all three issues still.  Optic Nerve really is a vital part of today's comics and well-worth your time.  Don't make the beginner's mistake of thinking Tomine approves of his characters behavior all the time.  He's often ridiculing it and exorcising it from himself.

My wife and I went to see The Host on Friday.  If you haven't heard of it, it's a Korean-import monster film that's really getting a lot of buzz.  I went in ready for a fun genre romp, but it really went beyond that while still being a fun genre romp.  The story involves an accidentally-created big slug/leech/something monster that lives in the Han River in South Korea.  It goes nuts and attacks a bunch of people.  Our perspective is centered around a disfunctional family and their efforts to save themselves and each other from the beast.  I can't recall a movie that so effectively used horror, humor, and actual human emotions and blended them in such a seemless way.  It's really remarkable, honestly, and only Children of Men in the past year or two has really bested it in terms of overall movie quality.  Check it out.

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