YET ANOTHER X-MEN DVD!If you're like me, you've been looking forward to the release of the X-MEN movie on DVD coming up on 21 November. This one seemingly has it all: Deleted scenes, the FOX television special "The Mutant Watch", gag bits, excerpts from the director's interview on the Charlie Rose Show, Hugh Jackman's screen test, animatics, seamless branching, still galleries, and television spots.
But after reading the NEW YORK POST this weekend I'm not so sure anymore. Brian Singer has announced in an interview in Sunday's paper that 20th Century Fox has already agreed to do a second disc, incorporating additional deleted scenes, some new stuff shot for the release, a commentary track, more outtakes, and probably more stuff.
How ticked off are you now that you pre-ordered the first disc?
The strange thing is that early word on the disc before it was officially announced made it sound like it was going to be a 2-disc boxed set. All of the behind the scenes video shot by Bryan Singer was going to be edited down to a nice long documentary-type thing, which Singer says in the POST article he'd still like to do. That would have been a major part of the second disc. There's also 40-plus minutes' worth of footage sitting on the cutting room floor on this movie. That was going to be thrown in.
After all this talk, it was a slight disappointment when Fox announced the single disc with minimal additional scenes version that we're getting in a couple of weeks.
Now it seems they're ready to give it another go. This new disc sounds like something Criterion might put together. That might be worth picking up. Right now, it just looks like a big money gouging exercise by Fox. They needed to put out a version of this DVD for the holidays, but they knew that if people knew a second disc was coming they might not buy this first one. This way, people buy both.
Kind of sneaky, if you ask me. It points to a weakness inherent in the rising popularity of DVD. More people want more stuff faster. This stuff can't be produced overnight, but the demand is such that the studios can't not release something.
Ah, but this isn't a DVD web site. So never mind. At least the FANTASIA boxed set comes out next week. I just have to finish watching this TOY STORY 3-disc set before then.
THIS WEEK'S COMICS (PART ONE)Was this a great week for comics, or what? While there were one or two disappointments (both of them Bat-related from the least-likely creative teams) the week still presented us with a tough decision in the "Which do I read first?" department.
The highlight of the week was PLANETARY #12. In part, I'm so hyped about this book now because I just reread all twelve issues in a sitting. At first, the book seemed to me to be a cute series of takeoffs on selected comics legends. Everyone from the Fantastic Four to the Hulk to Godzilla has been re-imagined for this book. Warren Ellis' interesting and twisted stories combined with John Cassaday's art for some interesting and beautiful reading. (Can't discount Laura Depuy's coloring, either, although she hasn't done all the issues.)
When you read all the issues back to back to back to back to (etc.), you start seeing the story threads. You see the repeating background characters. You start to wonder what those little throwaway lines between Snow and Jakita Wagner are all about. You begin to wonder what this is all leading up to.
Now we know. It all lead up to the twelfth issue. This issue does, by no means, answer all the questions. In fact, it's a damned frustrating book in how little it answers versus how many questions it raises. But there's a certain sense of weight to this issue. Ellis is playing with the readers. Most of the issue takes place as a conversation inside of Snow's office. The lighting is low and moody. The dialogue is terse and tense. The reader is strung along to see where Snow is going with all of this until he finally reveals the question that's haunted this book since Day One: "Who is the Fourth Man?"
We now know. Maybe. Sorta. Where do we go from here? The next issue isn't due out until December. We're stuck until then. WAH!
Go ahead and pick up the first PLANETARY trade paperback in the meantime, and pay special attention to the last issue in there, "The Four." It's the biggest clue-giver of them all.
In the meantime, maybe if we beg WildStorm nicely, they'll put out a poster of the beautiful cover they worked up for this issue. It's a head and shoulders shot of Elijah Snow super-imposed over the previous eleven issues of the series in the background, presented chronologically, without a page missing. It's really nice. Of course, given the cold shoulder given to the previous PLANETARY poster offer that forced its cancellation, I doubt this request will have any ears listening. (That poster is reprinted on a page in the trade paperback, by the way. That's another good reason to pick it up.)
One of the disappointments of the past week was BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES. Tim Levins' art is as gorgeous as ever, and Lee Loughridge continues to be one of the best colorists in the business without any name recognition.
Scott Peterson's tale has its usual moralistic edge to it, but his plot twist is obvious from too early in the story to maintain any sense of suspense through the book. I was ruined in part because ABC TV's GIDEON'S CROSSING did a similar story to this a few weeks ago. As soon as this plot was set up, I knew exactly where it was heading, and found myself wanting to yell at Batman for not figuring out the most obvious and simplest solution to his problem.
The other disappointment came, oddly enough, from Chuck Dixon's pen. The NIGHTWING 80 PAGE GIANT is nothing but a long origin story. I never really felt like Dick Grayson was in much trouble. A lot of the points of the plot were given to him. They didn't seem to be caused by things he did. For example, the whole plotline of the story is asking the question, "Who is Hella?" About three quarters of the way through the story, he asks the bartender about her, and he gives Grayson the whole story. Grayson also appears dumb in one scene. Does he really not know what the black band around an officer's badge signifies? He wasn't faking stupidity as a rookie cop there, either. It was genuine stupidity. ;-)
In addition, the issue features one extra-long tale, but a bunch of extra artists - Manuel Gutierrez, John Stanisci, Sean Parsons, Mike Collins, Steve Bird, Mike Collins, and Wayne Faucher. I couldn't tell you exactly which ones are the pencillers and which the inkers. (OK, Faucher is an inker. I know that much.)
Besides the varying styles seen throughout the issue, there's also a problem with the styles themselves. They don't do much for me. They're not too exciting, and Nightwing even looks like he's just going through the paces once or twice.
There are a couple of nice bits in this issue, though. All is not lost. Dick and Babs' exchanges are interesting, for one thing. The opening action sequence is pure Dixon all the way.
I get the feeling this issue is being used to set up a recurring villain for the NIGHTWING series. If so, it wouldn't be a total waste, but it will seem anti-climactic.
With all due respect to the artists listed above, I think these 80 Page Giant books would sell much better if they could put a single artist on an issue and get some better-known artists to do them. It would make the books less like filler, and more like an event. You're asking readers to fork over six dollars for a single issue.
Oh, and 80 pages of story would be nice, too. There's actually closer to 70 story pages in the issue. It seems a little bit like false advertising to sell this book for being 80 pages when the first page is the credits, and nine pages are advertising. Yes, this is very little advertising for a book this size, but it still counts against the page count, if you ask me.
I'm nit-picking now, though.
I reviewed THE FIRST #1 here in a special PCR Extra last Wednesday. I still think it's a beautiful book, but the color reproduction in the issue itself was a little darker than in the printouts I had last week. The art, thus, looks a little muddier than it needs to be. That's too bad, but it's not enough reason to give up on the book. It's still very pretty.
100 BULLETS #18 finishes up the four-part storyline that might easily be the best one in the book so far. It had a great combination of anthologized storytelling as well as the mythology of Agent Graves and his agents. The final part of the story here does not disappoint, and features some great fight scenes.
F5 #4 ends the mini-series that turned out to be a complete waste of paper. I had such high hopes for this book. It could have been the G.I. JOE of its time. Instead, it's a mess of too many characters, too few personalities, and a plot that I just couldn't be bothered with in the end. Just to add insult to injury, Tony Daniels brings in a fill-in artist to help him finish seven pages in this last issue. As if all of that weren't enough, the cover is a gratuitous butt shot.
Ian Churchill seems to get into some troubles when he's busy trying to draw voluptuous or sexy babes. They look all out of whack. The body twists at odd angles, and the proportion of the upper body to lower body really starts to play with your mind.
With WOLVERINE #157, he seems to avoid all those traps. Aside from one heavily armored female NYPD member, the book focuses on the fantastic, with Spider-Man, the Mole Man, and his realm of small yellow followers leading the way. Churchill does a great job in making the characters seem to have a sort of weight. They appear three dimensional in the book. They use cross-hatching now just to set up shadows, but also to set up curves and volume.
His storytelling still leaves a little to the imagination in favor of some cool looking shots. If he could improve on that, he might be one of the more popular artists in the industry.
…and that's just the first six books I read. I haven't touched on BATGIRL, BATMAN: DARK VICTORY (I'm going to read all 13 issues one weekend), BATMAN: TURNING POINTS, SUPERMAN, WORLD'S FUNNEST (not "Funniest," as so many people want to call it), WILDCATS, DAREDEVIL NINJA, PUNISHER, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, UNCANNY X-MEN, and GATECRASHER. With the exception of the two books in that list I haven't read yet and so can't comment on, there's not a stinker in that bunch.
Hunh. I suppose I need to write another PCR Extra, eh? Come back here on Thursday for part two of this set of reviews!
DISTRIBUTION RUMINATIONHere's one final thought for you to consider before Friday's column delves into some distribution issues surrounding comics:
An interesting conundrum: In a comics industry in which the trade paperback predominates, what need is there for back issues? We've already gotten to the point where the purpose of the direct market's existence is antiquated. Remember, part of the concept behind the direct market is that it allows retailers to order more books, cheaply, so that their specialty store can carry back issues. How many stores today do you think care about back issues? Their back issue bins are filled with useless extra copies of books nobody wanted. Retailers are too afraid to order any copies of any books they don't think they can sell in the first week on the shelf, let alone the first month.
Secondly, if the future is in trade paperbacks, doesn't that make back issues pointless? Trade paperbacks have never been collectible. They're meant for reading. If they become the industry norm, then single copies of single issues become worthless. Nobody will want them. They'll just want the collection.
Thus, trade paperbacks make back issues pointless.
One would think that's OK since retailers don't order for back stock anymore.
But then why have the direct market?
Something to think about.