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Cobra Command

Cobra Command. I’ve been meaning to interlibrary loan this crossover from IDW’s G.I. Joe family of comics. I finally took the plunge and am extremely thrilled with the results. Cobra Command is freaking awesome. This is what G.I. Joe needs to be. 

So, what is Cobra Command? With the death of Cobra Commander, a competition was held among the High Command of Cobra to determine who would become the new Commander. The competition, to kill and damage the Joes, is won by Krake. Cobra Command is Krake’s first move as Commander. He’s taking Cobra out of the shadows and into the light. He accomplishes this goal by targeting the nation of Nanzhao (an expy of Myanmar) for conquest. But that is not the only operation he’s running. He also plans to ensure his authority and remove dissident voices from Cobra.

And, in the end, Cobra wins. Nanzhao is, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. Krake is in full command of Cobra. And all of his opposition within the organization has been removed. 

I freaking love this. The problem with G.I. Joe has always been the fact that Cobra has been depicted as a joke. While this is not really true of the comics, it is hard to escape the far more famous cartoon series. But with this version of Cobra? The Joes are on the defensive. 

Despite my enthusiasm for the crossover, I do have some quibbles. 

The biggest problem is Snake Eyes. He kills a tank company. By himself. Seriously. He is that over powered. And it kills the story. I get that Snake Eyes (and Storm Shadow) is the Wolverine of the Joes, but the problem is that he kills the dramatic tension of the story. The Joes should be on the defensive. They should be losing. Not have Snake Eyes go all lone ranger on the mooks. And Storm Shadow is just as bad. 

Another issue I have is that while several Joes are killed during the operation, their actual deaths are never shown. Their deaths are only revealed in an epilogue. Those deaths should have been shown. 

Besides that, I really enjoyed this story. greatly. Now I want to discover what happens next. And maybe tackle World War III, the last G.I. Joe story from Devil’s Due.

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Teen Titans (New 52) Vs. Young Avengers (Marvel Now)

This post indicates either A) I’m a complete DC fanboy or B) many comic book reviewers are morons. 

The Teen Titans are a group of young superheroes who have come together to protect themselves and other young metahumans from a nefarious (and mysterious) organization. The Young Avengers are a group of (mostly legacy) young superheroes who have reunited to defeat an interdimensional parasite with a mother complex. Both works are the latest iteration of popular franchises. Both works have seen controversy. And both works have (or will) end(ed) recently. I have read both series. I have read all of the Teen Titans available at my local library (Our Right to Fight and The Culling, plus I’ve read Rise of the Ravagers). I have also read the first volume of Young Avengers (Style > Substance). All that considered, I have to say that I actually like Teen Titans more than the Young Avengers.

What?

I will not deny that Scott Lobdell’s writing leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when it comes to Teen Titans. The plotting is haphazard at best and the dialogue is (at times) reminiscent of really bad teen dramas. But the core plot driving the series is a good on. A strong one, actually. In contrast Kieron Gillen’s writing is stronger with more coherence and better dialogue. But the core plot driving the series is, in my opinion, a stupid one. 

I just don’t like it. Seriously does Wiccan making a mistake have to be the cause of every Young Avengers series going forward? Wasn’t that what caused the last series? 

Wiccan is my favorite character from Young Avengers and I hate how he is characterized in the first issue and in subsequent issues. And the more I think about it, the less interested I become in the series as a whole. 

I’m talking about the confrontation between Billy and Teddy after Teddy’s down low superheroics. Teddy’s dialogue makes no sense. And it makes less sense the more times I read it. How does Teddy not having his adoptive mother (while Billy has his foster parents and the Scarlet Witch) excuse his breaking his promise to his boyfriend? It comes off, in text, as nothing more than a deliberate guilt trip. And to serve the plot as a means to get Billy to perform his, increasingly requisite, misuse of his powers to generate the plot. 

Clearly, I loathe this scene and how it initiates the story.

Now before I get accused of giving Teen Titans a pass, I’m not particularly fond of Red Robin’s character in the New 52. He is certainly a downgrade from the Tim Drake pre New 52. And don’t get me started on N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Could there be another nebulously nefarious organization with as convoluted a history? And, to be honest, Harvest should have been more of a salesman. He should have been more of a tempter. 

In the end, though, I find Teen Titans, though not as artistically original, to be the better read. Young Avengers, though artistically original, doesn’t really achieve its promise. I want to read more Teen Titans. I’m not looking forward to Young Avengers.

Young Avengers ended with issue 15 of Gillen’s run. It is a shame that there doesn’t seem to be any moves for a third creative team (so far). 

Joining Young Avengers in cancellation is Teen Titans with next months issue. I wonder what the next Teen Titans series looks like. 

Hopefully it isn’t a rehash of previous runs. Same goes for Young Avengers.

I just hope Bunker and Solstice don’t end up forgotten in limbo. 

 

 

Supervillain Ideologies: Sinestro and the Sinestro Corps

The best way to describe the Sinestro Corps is: a Vorlon leading an army of Shadows. For those not familiar with Bablyon 5, what I mean is that Sinestro is an order obsessed authoritarian who leads an army of chaos breeding psychopaths.

By itself, this situation cannot stand because Sinestro is leading an army of beings he, himself, despises the most. Unless, of course, Sinestro is either using his Corps for purposes hidden from his troops or he is a hypocrite.

The truth, for those who have read The Sinestro Corps War and Sinestro’s subsequent actions since, is clear. Sinestro, though banished from the Green Lantern Corps, is still loyal to the ideals of that organization taken to a radical and militaristic extreme. For Sinestro, the Corps should not just preserve order but impose it, harshly. This is typified by Sinestro’s totalitarian regime on his homeworld. He wants to spread this ideal to the entire universe.

So, why use a force composed of, largely, chaos producers to achieve his goals? Simple.

To defeat the Sinestro Corps, the Guardians allow their Green Lanterns to kill. This action is the start of an increasing militarization of the Guardians of the Universe to the point that they, themselves, begin to impose order on the universe. Thus, Sinestro manipulates the Guardians into embracing his ideology.

Therefore, it is obvious that Sinestro is merely using his Corps to force the Green Lanterns to become more like him in ideological outlook.

But why do the Sinestro Corps follow a leader who will  likely dispose of them once he has achieved his goal? Because (duh) they are a bunch of psychopaths who don’t think much further ahead than “when do I next get to commit mass slaughter?”.

 

 

The Superhero Binge Posts

I’m currently on a binge of superhero comic books. So expect a series of posts with comic book related topics. Here is a preview of some of the topics I’m planning on tackling.

Supervillain Ideologies featuring Sinestro, the Court of Owls, Zeke Stane, and any others interesting ideologies I come across during my binge.

Teen Titans vs. Young Avengers

And any other interesting topics I come across.

Worrying about Serials and History in Fantasy

This is one of those posts that are proving to be a pain to write. I am torn between two purposes in regards to the subject matter’s direction. On the one hand, I wanted to write two essay posts. One would explore the influence of soap operas on long running epic fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire (though I wonder at the influence of comic books, too). The other essay would argue, after MedievalPOC’s tumblr post on A Song of Ice and Fire, that while history is an important influence on most fantasy, that the fantasies themselves are more reflective of the world today than the past. (Hey, the postcolonial analysis of ASoIaF sounds really promising.) But the problem with writing both posts is that I need to do far more research. I will need to watch a lot of soaps, read a lot of history, and read a lot of fantasy. And well, I’m not actually a professional literary critic. I want to spend my time writing my own stories. 

So, instead of blathering on about soap operas and critically looking at the role of history in select fantasy novels, I will explore how these ideas could entail into my own work as influences. 

I will admit that I have an obsession with primetime soap operas. Hell, I have half a mind to write a closet primetime soap. Or possibly adapt one of my too numerous to count projects into such a format. 

And there, in a nutshell, is my problem. 

I want to create worlds of depth that are typified by the soap opera/ serial genre. I want to dive in and explore as much of these characters as I can. I want to wring as much storytelling gold from those worlds as I can. 

But I have way too many projects I want to write. And I’m leary of being confined to just a few works. And there is always the problem of prose only serial fiction. 

Though novel series seems to be the preferred fantasy storytelling form, many series are hampered by many readers waiting for the series to be completed before buying the individual books in the series.How many prospective series have been cancelled midway through due to low sales when there is a huge waiting market at the end?

And traditional book publishing is relatively slower compared to television and comic books. 

I want to write some serials. So how do I solve this problem?

Well, what is the definition of a series? And what other publishing avenues are there? Does it actually have to be a series of novels?

The Lord of the Rings is a single long novel broken up into three volumes. Does that count as a series? Could I write a single long novel that could, should a traditional publisher choose, be split into a duology or trilogy? That is one solution.

Another solution could be some form of hybrid publishing. I could write a true serial, publish installments online and look into having volumes traditionally published. Sort of like how Monkey Brain Comics is approaching their publishing model. (At least the last time I checked).

But do the works really need to be solely prose novels? Why not experiment? Why not have The Goetic High be a Lord of the Rings length super novel, Two Cities be a closet television series, Hobbes County be a “novel” in short stories, whatever the hell Tyler Spang eventually stars in as a comic book series, etc? (Please don’t steal my title names. Or Tyler Spang. And if I do write a comic book series, please remind me not to attempt the art, too.)

To be honest, if I were to write a series the size of A Song of Ice and Fire or The Wheel of Time, I would probably prefer them to be in a form other than strictly prose novels. Personally, I find such large series to become, at some point or another, bloated for the sake of being bloated. 

I’ve blathered on about serials and I haven’t even touched on history, yet. Time to rectify that. 

If a critic has not yet written a book on history and fantasy, then someone should. The relationship of history as influence and setting to fantasy is a rich and complex one that would bear, and benefit from, a professional and scholarly critical eye.

Anyway, I’ve always been torn when it comes to history’s role in fantasy literature. On one hand, fantasy is generally set in a “historical” setting. On the other hand, most fantasy is not written to portray an “accurate” historical reality. Hell, the historical narrative tells us as much about ourselves as it does about “the past.” 

So, while I recognize the fact that fantasy uses history as a metaphor for the present, it is so hard to not be hung up on the minutiae of the research. Or on being affected by those fans who demand “historical accuracy,” whatever the hell that means. 

In the end, the only answer I can come up with is to try, as hard as possible, to maintain an internal consistency. But leave a little wriggle room to make sure the world of the text doesn’t come off as too artificial. 

So, what have I learned? Don’t be bound to forms. Be willing to write in whatever form feels right. Right to you and to the individual project. And, finally, never let the research, whatever the research is, hijack the narrative. I’m not rewriting the Hundred Years War, after all. 

 

R.I.P. Teen Titans (Until Next Time)

So. Teen Titans is coming to an end in April. 

The New 52 iteration of the Teen Titans has been controversial since the beginning. Rather than reintroducing the team with core (and traditional) members (say the team as constituted in the Teen Titans animated series), the team is a mix of traditional members (Robin/ Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Superboy) and newer members (Bunker, Solstice, and Skitter) with Raven and Beast Boy being relatively late additions to the team. 

This decision, coupled with the initial storylines, and the unfortunate dictates of trying to figure out/ make up what the hell is actually going on in the New 52 incredibly hampered the series. (And several other series in general, but this is not a post to slam the New 52). 

Was this new iteration of Teen Titans any good? It was decent but it could have been a lot better. It certainly was a critical failure. 

For me, I was disappointed much of the time. While I like the idea behind the team’s formation, I’m bitterly disappointed by the execution. And, to be honest, Tim Drake’s character is a butchered shell of what it once was. But hey, there is still Bunker (my favorite after Red Robin). 

Now, though, begins the wait to see what happens to the team as a new creative team, eventually, relaunches the series. Will the team’s composition be the same? What will happen to Bunker, Skitter, and Solstice? That is my biggest fear. When new characters are suddenly left adrift after a creative change, they, and their fans, are often left out in the cold. 

But that is the deal comic book fans make. 

I just hope Bunker will stick around and not be consigned to comic book limbo. 

 

R.I.P. Young Avengers (Until Next Time)

What is wrong with Young Avengers? The latest series is ending in January after fifteen issues and a full year in publication. Apparently, the current creative team had a set story they wished to tell, and now that it is told, they have nothing else to add. Seriously? That was all?

Prepare for a rant in three, two, one . . .

Don’t get me wrong. I like Kieron Gillen’s writing. I love Jamie McKelvie’s art. But a fifteen issue single arc dealing with a transdimensional parasite with a kyoiku mama complex is all they had? Cue eye roll.

I’ve bitched about Young Avengers before. I despised Children’s Crusade and disliked Young Avengers: Dark Reign quite strongly. And I cannot say I’ve been too fond of this present, soon to be ended series. After reading the first two issues, I cannot say that kyoiku mama parasite interested me. Even if the whole point is to try and find new ways of engaging with and writing about younger superheroes.

Perhaps I have the same relationship with Young Avengers that I have with Naruto: a strongly love/ hate relationship. I want to love the series, but the foibles the series commits makes that impossible.

In a way nothing about the plot of this series has really pleased me.

My favorite character is Wiccan (not a shock, I know), but I detest how his character has been written lately. It is great that he is, arguably, the main protagonist of the series (and of Children’s Crusade). But seriously, is writing him as a Shinji Ikari expy the best direction?

Let’s be clear, the plots of the last two Young Avengers arcs have featured Wiccan initiating the story by fantastically fucking up. The first time, in his pursuit to find and redeem his mother, a teammate died at Doom’s hands and saw the birth of Kang. This time? I haven’t been keeping up, but it seems to be a clusterfuck, all because he wanted to do something nice for his boyfriend.

After all of this, Wiccan had the right idea when he gave up superheroics. In universe, at least, why the fuck is he not at Avengers Academy or Jean Grey? The boy needs freaking training, regardless of whether or not he going to remain a hero or not.

Personally, an arc that drives Wiccan back into superheroics rather than reinforcing his choice to quit would have been better. One that Wiccan himself did not generate. What that could have been, I do not know. I’m not writing it.

The only good point about this whole thing is, perhaps, the relationship troubles it is giving Wiccan and Hulkling. Not that it will go anywhere in the end. . .

Part of the problem with Young Avengers as a series is that it has to deferentiate itself from other teen superhero books. Especially Teen Titans. I’ve been thinking of the two series together for a while. Now, Marvel itself is not limited to Young Avengers when it comes to teen superhero books. It has/ had Avengers AcademyAvengers ArenaWolverine and the X-Men, etc. And each takes a different track in how it approaches being a teen superhero.

For the Young Avengers, that track is reminiscent of a bunch of fanboys (and girls) cosplaying their favorite Avenger. The only problems are that these kids have super powers and face life and death situations without any sort of training. (Not that Spider-man was ever actually trained, either. . . ).

In addition to the elements of cosplay, the direction of idea separation, of difference, is to make Young Avengers feel more like a teen drama like 90210 or Glee (it has explicitly been compared to Skins). Whether the attempt is successful or not depends on the eye of the reader.

Compare Young Avengers (vol. 2) to Teen Titans (New 52). Teen Titans is a far more traditional superhero comic book. And it is very successful, despite the lambasting of the writing from many fans. While Young Avengers started strong with the first few issues, it dropped precipitously. Currently, it hovers in the early hundreds. Compare to Teen Titans that routinely beats it by at least twenty points on the sale charts and for a good portion of its existence, rested in the thirties (it was in the seventies for last month’s issue).

What is an observer to make of this? Gillen is by far the better writer, but Lobdell is beating him on the numbers. Is this just habit buying or is there something else going on?

I want to root for Young Avengers. I want to love it. I was so psyched for the possibilities teased by Gillen, but now I’m wallowing in the bitterness of lost opportunities. Maybe whoever is going to write Young Avengers volume 3 will avoid these pitfalls. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. After all, this seems to be endemic to Young Avengers. But how can the series be successful if this continues?

31 Days of Post (2) Day 22: A Comic Book Post

I’m fickle. I go through periods of obsession that sputter out. I’ve written about this before. And I’m sure to write about it again. Right now, I’m going through a period of transition. For a about a year, I was obsessed with comic books after a period of deep manga obsession. But now, I’m growing less and less interested in comics. 

This became obvious to me when I checked out Wonder Woman volume 2 from the library last week. I flipped through the book (of which I do have the last two issues that comprise it) and found myself completely uninterested in actually reading it. Compare that to my passion for Tsubasa and annoyance at the library for not getting the past few volumes of Fairy Tail

Why am I so uninterested in comic books right now? What changed? I think the answers are pretty obvious.

For one thing, buying individual issues are expensive. And that is true of graphic novel collections that don’t add much besides the issues themselves. And the length of time it takes for graphic novel collections to be released are ridiculous when it comes to Marvel and DC.

I’m also getting tired of superheroes. All but a few of my comic book purchases were superhero books. And while many of them were quite good, I’m just tired of them.

And, to be honest, I wasn’t in love with the direction some of the stories were going in. This is especially true of Young Avengers. I had such high hopes for the series, but I am bitterly disappointed with the direction it has gone. Another series that saddens me is the direction the plot of Earth 2 is going. I loved that series deeply, but it just lost it along the way. 

Heck, I’m not even following comics news as much as I used to. I just don’t care.

So, what is taking comic books’ place in my, admittedly, fickle  heart? Manga. For all the passion I had for Earth 2, it pales in comparison to the passionate love and hate I have for Naruto. Nor does it compare to the love I have for Fairy Tail.

It is moments like this that I am most annoyed with myself. In my obsession with comics, I got rid of all my manga. Now I want my manga back. Arrgh.

Well, since I wrote about comics today, maybe I should have a manga post tomorrow?

31 Days of Post (2) Day 11: The Art Post

Pastel Obsession

I have no idea why I’m obsessed with pastels. But I am. I remember back to taking art in high school and finding the pastel sections to be the most fun I’ve had in the class. 

In a way, pastels are a callback to childhood. Their form are identical to the crayons of youth. But they are so different. While crayons are single application colors, pastels are versatile with their ability to create various effects. 

Using pastels also require other art skills, namely my old bane- drawing. I’ve never been very good at drawing. Or at least fine drawing. My drawings are often fat and clumsy. And uneven.

But I remember when I drew from some old National Geographic magazines that I wanted to get it right. There was this one picture of a butterfly on a leaf. I loved that picture. I loved drawing it. I loved giving it color. And most of all, I loved the fact that it was, in the end, a gift to my Mom, who loves butterflies (and the ultimate tragedy of that butterfly painting’s fate still pisses me off, years later). I also remember a young Indian groom I painted. As I drew, as I gave it color, I fell in love with him (as much as an artist can fall in love with their model). (And like such loves, I have no idea what happened to that painting).

Remembering all of this just reinforces what I loved about drawing and pastels, though it has been years since I have done anything other than quick sketches (Sara Simblett’s ball point ink doodle drawings are amazing, by the way). 

Damn it all! I need some pastels. And paper. 

Applying that Drive to Manga and Comics

When I’ve blogged about art, I’ve almost exclusively written in terms of my ambitions to write comics (either manga or traditional comics). Clearly, I’m being stupid putting the end goal before building up the skills needed to accomplish it. 

I’m still passionate about manga both as a storytelling form and as a form of art. I make a better writer than an artist, though.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t use a manga style in my own art. And I’ve been dying to experiment with applying pastels to comics art.

Has anyone ever used pastels to color manga or comics? I know that the traditional method is water colors, and the current method is using computer programs. 

Something to look forward to, even if it is just for me. 

Learning Again

If taking lessons is a problem, how then can someone learn (or relearn) how to draw and paint? Well, get some books, watch PBS how to programs, or check out what the net has to offer. 

Now, be aware that some books, programs, sites, etc. will vary in quality and use. 

For example, PBS (to my knowledge) exclusively has painting programs with no drawing, pastel, or sculpting programs. Art books obviously vary in quality and usefulness. And the same can be said for using the web.

Personally, I find using the library to find interesting and useful books for future perusal to be very helpful. However, I am disappointed by the pastel books on offer at the library, oh well. The drawing books are excellent, though.

Fan Art vs. Comics (and Manga, too)

When it comes to how to draw manga books, I get the feeling that most of them are designed for the fan artist. The focus is almost exclusively on how to draw the figure. There is no attention paid to laying out a scene, the forms of perspective, page layout, etc. 

If you are a budding comics artist, whether manga or not, it probably is a good idea to check out comic book how to books (there are a lot of good ones) merge those lessons with a manga style (and add some comic book writing books, too if you want to write as well). (Of course nothing can beat actually studying various manga series). I should also rant about the lack of any books on how to actually write manga. The only book I know of that touches on the subject is McCloud’s Making Comics. So, is there any doubt why I think most western manga how to books are geared to the fan artist?

Wrapping It Up

I may, eventually, write up a post on the artists and styles I like in manga, comics, etc.. And I really should have a rant on why Art 21 doesn’t have more seasons. I love that show.

 

Coming Fast at You, Three Posts in One Day

Part Three: Why Can’t I Get This Comic Book Post Right?

Previously, I almost talked myself out of my desire both to write and to do the art on any comics projects I had coming up. It didn’t stick. There is a desire, a need to do the art. I’m compelled. So who am I to argue?

Now, I had originally wanted to write an analytical post on LGBT comics. But I really don’t have enough background to do an adequate job. I don’t (usually) read comics by and for LGBT. 

And that led to my second plan. Why don’t I take Dale Lazarov’s article in Bleeding Cool and go from there. That could work despite my limited knowledge. 

But, would you, the reader, really want to read me review a small amount of gay erotica from Class Comics? 

So, I’m in a bit of a bind as to how to approach this. 

Maybe what I can do is discuss what I want. What I want to see and what I want to write when it comes to comics (by which I also mean manga). 

For most of you who read this blog, you know that I’ve had my eye on two projects recently, a shonen inspired series and a gay erotic comic. I’m going to set the more mainstream project aside for a bit and focus on the erotic project. 

My initial idea was a type of slice of life inspired by my college years. But the more I thought about the idea, the harder the time I had finding a plot. I want to write something more than the romantic and sexual misadventures of a promiscuous young gay man. 

Idea B was centered around an island and a criminal enterprise. I don’t want to go into too much depth here, though. I like the idea. It would give the characters more to worry about. But, there is a huge issue. How economically feasible would it be to set up such an island? 

So, I’m stuck. Until it hit me. Why not just use one of my other ideas that involve a gay protagonist? Or modify another project. And then sexy it up. That could work, I think. Or soap up the first idea. 

Going on a tangent to discus art, I know that I need practice. A lot of practice. But I can build up my skills while writing novels. (One of these days, I need to blog about my idea notebooks). 

To get back on subject, the kinds of comics I want to write and read have LGBT characters. But they’re not overly concerned with what could be called an LGBT common culture. 

Take Class Comics. I like some of the art, but the writing is, often, atrocious. There’s that same quality to it that reminds me of Dryland’s End that I just cannot stand. I don’t quite know what it is, but it is just downright off putting. Maybe there’s too much camp. (Remind me to revisit the issue after I’ve read more comics by and for LGBT.)

To be honest, I’m not happy with this post either. But it will have to do. So ends my three posts in one day. 

Now I need to go get the laundry.