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Review: Justice League: Cry for Justice

I don’t recall having previously reviewed Justice League: Cry for Justice despite having first read the miniseries around the time of James Robinson’s relaunch of Earth 2 as part of DC’s New 52. Obviously, Cry for Justice is written by James Robinson with art by Mauro Cascioli, Scott Clark, et al. When I first read the series, I enjoyed it. But on a second reading, I find myself not as enamored.

Justice League: Cry for Justice tells the story of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow leaving the Justice League after Final Crisis and focusing on preemptive superheroics. The two are successful until the villain Prometheus initiates a plan that will cost thousands of lives. To stop Prometheus, a team of heroes damaged by Prometheus’s initial moves gathers to stop him.

The story is a good one. It raises fundamental questions about what it means to be a superhero. So often, superheroes are reactive protagonists who wait for their respective villains to initiate whatever scheme they’ve got cooked up at any one time. What does it mean for a hero to take the offensive in their war on crime/ evil?

That is the question at the heart of this miniseries. The answer may very well be a darker hero, a more militaristic hero. Now compound that with a villain whose scheme absolutely negates that militarism (or does it)?

I like this. There is excitement and underused heroes are showcased. And this provides a nice “pilot arc” for Robinson’s run on Justice League of America. But I do have some serious issues with this miniseries as well.

I don’t know if there was any build up for this miniseries in the wider DC Universe, but I think there should have been. The plot is epic enough that there should be foreshadowing and hints of Prometheus’s movements long before the heroes learn of his return. Instead things proceed too quickly. Prometheus makes for a great main antagonist for a sustained run on a comic book series.

Perhaps an ongoing arc would have prevented several of the plotting missteps that plague the series.  The conclusion feels too rushed. The reveal and the fight fly by at near lightning speed without really delivering.

Furthermore, a reader must wonder why exactly the heroes do not remove whatever gadgets Prometheus has that prevents Miss Martian’s telepathy.  I’m assuming it rests in his helmet (which is miraculously repaired after being destroyed by an enraged Donna Troy).  This is a real problem that should have been caught by editorial.

Finally, the final dispatching of Prometheus is truly anticlimatic. To the point of ruining the great potential of the series’s plot.

The dialogue is unfortunately a weakness. There is a wooden quality that, while recalling the earlier periods of superhero comics, does not lend itself well to modern comics (though this does seem to be a weakness in Robinson’s writing).

Justice League: Cry for Justice  is very good, even with my criticisms and the controversy that surrounds it.

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Double Post: A Big No and Excoriating Myself

This is a double post today. Today is a post of sadness, frustration, and anger. Let’s get to it.

No, No, No!

James Robinson, one of my favorite comic book writers, is leaving Earth 2, my favorite comic book series. This is very sad news. But Robinson’s last issue doesn’t drop until September with issue 16. So, we still have a few months before the end. 

So, now comes the question: who will replace Robinson? And what is their vision for Earth 2? Hopefully, the series will still be as successful. But, as with every change, there is also trepidation.

Where’s My Cat o’ Nine Tails? (I’m Kidding)

This afternoon I got into a flame war over the nature of Artemis’s divinity. I’m a passionate Greek Mythology nerd. And it annoys me to no end when I see pop culture or people bad information about the Greek myths. And the gods.

All I wanted to do was read up on the fight between Wonder Woman and Artemis in the latest issue of Wonder WomanAnd somehow, I got into an ultimately stupid argument over Artemis’s divinity. 

The frustrating thing, the thing that makes me angry, is that the argument was, ultimately, futile. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, the other commentator just refused to recognize that Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, is a Titan. Therefore, she was divine. She was a god. She was not a mortal. 

All the sources I know have Leto as a Titan, the daughter of Phoibe and Koios of the same generation of Titans as Rhea and Kronos.

Now, there is a reference in a Star Trek episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais?,” where Apollo claims Leto to have been mortal. But where does this come from? Is there an ancient source for this, or did the episode writers, Coon and Ralston, make it up? Is the source for this their own imaginations, like their interpretation of the gods as powerful aliens?

Hell, I even skimmed “Adonais” by Shelley to see if the matter could be settled. But Apollo is only referenced once. As a reference to Keats. No Leto. No Leto as mortal woman. 

And there were a few other areas of argument- what could kill Greek gods, etc. 

Now, clearly, I’m a defender of the core myths. Modern adaptations who deviate too far, beware! I’ve ranted before about this (“Greek Myths on Film”). 

So far, I’ve liked Azzarello’s interpretation of the Greek myths. But that’s the thing. Shouldn’t we have been arguing Azz’s interpretation of the myths? Not irresponsibly citing the core myths, Star TrekHercules the Legendary JourneysGod of War, etc?

Yes, I feel the need to defend the Greek myths much like other fans feel the need to defend their passions. But fuck it all, it takes too much energy. And does it ever really accomplish anything when neither party will bulge. And when does it go too far? At what point should I say “fuck it” and walk away? I feel I should have said my bit then walked away. And ignore the subsequent replies. I never should have responded after my initial reply. 

I like to think that I’m willing to change my mind when I’m wrong. I know I did when Al Harron corrected some misconceptions on REH. And I’d like to think I’ll accept it when I’m wrong. No matter how passionate I hold my position. 

This was, perhaps, my second flame war/ stupid debate. I hate it when this happens. I just need to make sure I never do it again. 

Criticism: The Positive and Negative

I’ve been thinking about criticism a lot lately. The problem, I think, is what is criticism actually good for? Are there times when criticism is alternately positive or negative? Or is it all negative? And really, what should the response be to criticism from creators, critics, and fans alike?

A Definition is in Order

A Handbook to Literature (Harmon and Holman) define criticism as “the analysis, study, and evaluation of individual works of art, as well as the formulation of general principles for the examination of such works.” Now, this definition is highly academic but still, I think, very useful. Especially for someone who comes from an English Literature major background.

Let’s try a definition from Merriam- Webster’s for criticize “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly” and “to find fault with.”  Very interesting definitions, I think.

To Help

Positive criticism, either focusing on positive, negative, or both aspects of a work can lead to improved works of art. The arts, of every kind, improve with continually engaging in it and listening to criticism geared toward helping to improve the work.

But I guess how positive criticism is worded makes as much difference as the intent. One must, I think, use kind and encouraging words when wanting to aid an artist in developing and improving their work. If a work isn’t doing it for you, explain why in as gentle and non aggressive way as possible.

The Place of Popular and Academic Criticism

Can reviews for popular consumption be positive? What about criticism for either popular or academic readers? This is a tough one, I think.

Maybe the issue is the intent on the part of the critic. If a critic intends to write a fair minded argument for or against, can that still be positive even if the verdict is negative?

Whenever I do reviews or critical analysis, I’m always afraid that I’m not being fair. Often times, I worry if I’m being too mean when I review things. Especially if I’m not a fan of the work. But even positive reviews can be problematic. If I really like a work, can my judgement be trusted. And vice versa?

I guess what got me started thinking about these questions is an article on After Elton. Com entitled “Hate Watching Glee.” From my limited experience of the show, I think Jurgens is largely spot on with his criticisms. And many in the comments section have excellent criticisms too. And I’ve gone on record with calling the writing atrocious and the narrative world building schizophrenic (and not in the good way).

But are we fair? Like I’ve said before, I have very limited experience with the show. But what about those who are passionate and know their stuff? The criticism seems right to me.

But, and here is the big but. How should “negative” criticism be taken?

Of Intent

I think the intent plays a large role in this.

If a critic’s intent is to be malicious, then their criticism is, honestly, worthless. Though his or her words may hurt, they offer nothing positive. Only vileness and negativity.

Now, if a critic is attempting to analyze and evaluate a work to see how and if it works, then perhaps there is something there to hold on to. Just like in the roles of alpha and beta readers (or Critters).

The Creator/ Artist/ Etc. Takes It How?

I think every one takes criticism differently. Some may genuinely take it to heart and use it to improve their art. And others may ignore it completely, even if it does have excellent points to think about.

But is that criticism good only for the creators targeted? I say, honestly, hell no.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not overly interested in working in television. But there have been tons of very useful advice coming out of After Elton’s articles concerning Glee (especially in the comments). Of course, there is also a ton (and I mean a ton) of worthless crap.

And I hope that other creatives take the time to appreciate good advice, too.

But What About the Fans?

The fans of a work can often be the most vicious when it comes to criticism. Both in attack and defense of the source of their fanaticism. Often times fans can be the most ardent criticizers of a work as well as the most savage when it comes to defense.

I think it is important to remember that no work is perfect. And never let the passions blind one’s judgement.

A Personal Example

I’m a fan of James Robinson’s Earth 2. I’ve fallen in love with that series. And it does hurt when comic book reviewers give individual issues ratings lower than I think they deserve.

Now, I will admit that most comic book reviews vary wildly in quality within even their own websites/ individual reviewers. And sometimes, they really don’t make a whole lot of sense in what they complain about.

But, I want to focus some on Sara Lima (of Comic Vine)‘s reviews of Earth 2. Do I think she was fair to give Robinson a lower rating for Sam’s death? And what about issue 6? Well, at first, I admit I was not happy. But the more I think about it, and reread the issues, I find that I’m actually starting to agree with her.

I’ve come to see that she has a point that Sam’s death is problematic. But isn’t the death of a loved one a powerful motivator for super heroes? Yes, but it sucks. Why can’t a hero be heroic for the sake of heroism? Why is that push needed?

And yes, Alan Scott’s defeat of Grundy is rather unsatisfying.

To Conclude

Damn it, this post is really long. And I wanted to touch on the role of bias in criticism. But, to be honest, I’m tempted to have biased criticism be adjacent to malicious criticism. I mean, if you can’t see the value in a work, why the hell are you criticizing it anyway?

Remember, Post 300 is coming up.  . .

 

My Comics Run at the End of July

My comic book buying is spotty and inconsistent at best. I cannot always go to Bankstons (the local comic book shop) or Hastings. Nor can I buy all the books I would like. So, I buy only those books I want to buy when I can buy them. Which makes for a very interesting run much of the time. So, how was my last run?

Pretty good, I must say. I finally picked up Dial H #3 and Wonder Woman #11. And I finally picked up my first Marvel comic in years with Captain Marvel #1. 

As far as Dial H #3 is concerned, I want to do another joint review with Earth 2. So expect a quadruple review when I get Earth 2 #4 and Dial H #4 this Friday (I hope).

But, let’s take a look at Wonder Woman #11. I will admit that I haven’t been following Azzarello and Chiang’s run on the series. And seriously? I’m kicking myself for it.

Writing a good Wonder Woman series has been troublesome for years now. In the past decade, how many different takes on Wonder Woman have there been? Personally, Azzarello’s take on Wonder Woman is what I’ve been craving. I love it that Wonder Woman is firmly entrenched within her mythological context. I agree with Sara Lima of Comic Vine when she calls Wonder Woman the Greek mythological version of Fables.

This new take works far better than anything I’ve read in Wonder Woman from the past decade, at least.

Moving on to Captain Marvel #1this book is freaking awesome. Kelly Sue Deconnick does an amazing job with this first issue. As someone who is unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel, I feel that I did not need to know all of her back story. The essentials are given in a way that seamlessly fits into the story. And the characterization, amazing.

Dexter Soy’s art work is amazing. I rather like the “painted” style of coloring that some Marvel series have been utilizing for a few years now. And the art work here is very good.

So, if you haven’t picked up Earth 2Dial HWonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, why not? Don’t kick yourself later!

Looking forward, I am certain to continue collecting Earth 2 and Dial H. Other DC titles I’ll probably pick up first issues or random jumping on points.  I would like to pick up Wonder WomanBatman, and Justice League Dark, though.

As for drops? Well, I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to walk away from a few titles for now. Stormwatch during  Milligan’s run has been very lackluster. So until the direction changes or a new team is placed on the book, I’m done with the title.

The same is true for Teen Titans. I haven’t really kept up with Titans, but what I’ve read and heard does not give me much hope. So, again, I’m done till a new creative team comes on board.

In a previous post, I mentioned that Marvel had nothing that interested me. Well, I was wrong. Captain Marvel looks to be a keeper. And I’m planning on checking out Gambit when it hits later this month.

Looking out to the future, I’m excited by Uncanny AvengersAll New X-Men, and whatever new Young Avengers/Kid Loki/ Teen Heroes book has been teased (as long as it isn’t written by Allan Heinberg).

I realize now that I’ve given Marvel a short shrift over the past few months. I’m positively kicking myself for not having gone after Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and especially Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. But, there are always the collected editions. . .

Anyway, that is it for this post. The months to come look to be very interesting in the world of comics.

Comic Books: Characters, Creators, and Being a Gay Fan

I’m a lapsed comic book fan who has recently gotten back into comic book reading. In an earlier post, I described myself as a DC fanboy who wants to branch out into smaller publishers and creator owned titles. And I don’t know why I’m not enthusiastic about Marvel. I’ll aim to follow those two threads in another post or two on comics in the near future. What I want to discuss here is how I choose what comics I want to read.

Generally, fans of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) come in (roughly) permutations of two broad categories. Readers in the first category (and likely the most prevalent) are those who follow specific titles and characters. Readers of the second category are those who follow specific creators and creative teams. Now, the key to this formulation lies in permutations. Some readers start out being more character or title centric, but become fans of a specific creator or team and decide to follow their concurrent and subsequent work. And there are many other possible permutations (which can be left alone for now).

I describe myself as a mixture of the two. During my first period of heavy comic book reading, I was strongly character and title driven. Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Catwoman, Robin (Tim Drake), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), etc. are some of the titles I followed as a kid, creative team unimportant. Flash forward a few years. I’m now increasingly more a creator centric reader rather than a character/ title centric reader. Although the character/ title does still influence what I want to read.

Of the titles I’m following, the two that most align to focusing on character and title are Teen Titans and Stormwatch. The rest of what I follow are mostly geared towards creative teams. In fact, increasingly whether I like the creative team trumps whether or not I am “devoted” to the title or characters.

Being a gay comic book fan (I won’t describe myself as a geek) adds an interesting complication to things. Yes, part of the reason why I picked up Teen Titans and Stormwatch is because of the inclusion of gay heroes. While I am generally interested in the Teen Titans (and Tim Drake), Bunker did play a role in my picking it up. And of course, Stormwatch is notable for having two of the premier gay superheroes in Apollo and the Midnighter. Now, some could consider my picking up Earth 2 as being similarly influenced by Alan Scott’s sexuality. But at the time I picked up Earth 2 #1, I was under the impression that the new gay hero would appear in Geoff Johns’s Justice League! I picked up Earth 2 because I’m a fan of James Robinson.

There is, to a degree, a sort of politics that goes along with following the adventures of gay heroes. It is important to let the major publishers know that diversity is a good thing and encourage further inclusion. I want to read about the adventures of gay heroes. And hell, what about some gay villains, too?

But, this does not mean that I’m going to follow a series with gay characters if I don’t think it is any good. A good example is Stormwatch. Paul Cornell’s initial run is a great read and introduction to the characters. I hate to admit that I missed issues 7 and 8, and I’ve read issues 9 and 10. Right now, I’m not loving Peter Milligan’s run on the series. It seems to be a series of scattered oneshots and character pieces that don’t really go anywhere. Of all the titles I’m following, it is likely that Stormwatch will be the first I drop. Unless something changes.

Now, a few years ago, I was really into Young Avengers. Personally, I think it is a shame how badly mishandled the series was. Once Heinberg  left Marvel after the first 12 issues, another creative team should have taken over the book. The occasional miniseries that come out in regards to various Events did the property no favors, in my opinion. Marvel should not have waited for Heinberg to finish out the concept with Children’s Crusade. It should have been a monthly ongoing. Now, fans of the team and its members will have to hope that other writes will release them from the Limbo of Forgotten Characters.

How fans choose to approach reading and collecting comics is an important one. And it is important to understand the reasons behind making conscious selections. Making the right choices can alleviate the frustrations that go along with being comic book fans.

As a gay comic book fan, I think it is important to include glbt characters in a number of roles. As I said earlier, I want to read about gay heroes and villains. But comic book shopping decisions must not be based solely on limited criteria.

 

Double Issue Review

Today, I have two reviews of the first two issues of Dial H and Earth 2. Now, the easy review would be that I love both series and urge everyone to check both out. But, to do a just review, one must utilize depth.

Dial H

From the brilliant and creative mind of China Mieville, this series has all of the elements that makes a great Mieville story. The series follows Nelson, an obese out of luck Londoner, who happens on the H Dial when his friend is attacked by the gangsters he works for. Thus begins the random heroic career of a most unlikely superhero.

And that’s the key. Nelson should not be a super hero, but he is. And that, I think, makes this series work so well. Nelson is not even an everyman. He is someone no body would want to be. He doesn’t even want to be himself. Which introduces an amazing series of characterization shots.

Indeed, beyond the superhero surface is a heartfelt and compassionate study of identity and the desire to become someone else, someone heroic.

The progression of the series has so far been fast paced and addicting. And the villains have so far been very cool and extremely weird.

Mieville has found an excellent partner in Mateus Santolouco and the rest of the art team. My goodness, the art is gorgeous in a weird, somewhat surrealist style.

For those of you who have not checked out Dial H, what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Earth 2


To begin this review, one must acknowledge the controversies surrounding it. For one thing, the revelation of Alan Scott as a gay man in this new universe. And, of course, there are the deaths of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the first issue during the final battle with the forces of Apokolips.

The thing is, you see, this series is a radical departure from the usual Earth Two depiction. Instead of these heroes existing in a Golden Age of Super Heroes, these heroes (Scott, Garrick, etc.) are the second generation of heroes (or wonders as the residents of Earth 2 call them).

James Robinson has embarked on something akin to an superhero epic. The old heroes, hell the old gods, are dead. Who will take their place when the world needs new heroes? I look forward to that answer.

The first issue is powerful and heart breaking. Especially the relationship between Batman and his daughter, Robin. And that last scene, wow.

The second issue picks up with the introduction of the Flash (Jay Garrick). In this reality, he gains his powers from a dying god (guess who). So, much of this issue is built around him learning how to use his new powers and his first experiences as a hero. Indeed, his growth as a character is very well done. He is, I think, going to develop in to a fine hero.

Less time is devoted to Alan Scott and the newly arrived Michael Holt. I look forward to seeing how Mr. Terrific integrates into this new world.

Moving on to the future Green Lantern, the handling of his sexuality and his love life is excellently handled. There is a touching frankness to it that is deceptively simple to achieve. And Robinson achieves it. Now, the question is, what will happen to Sam? That final splash does not look good for him. Again, making a reader worry for a newly introduced character mere moments after their introduction is an excellent achievement.

The art team on this book led by Nicola Scott is excellent. Again, I think the series is very well served by the art.

This series has me dying to know what is coming for the future Justice Society.

If you haven’t checked this series out, why the hell not. Get to it! Now!!

200: A Potpourri of Writing, Comics,Texas Politics, and Current Children’s Cartoons

I had intended this post to explore my love for Fairy Tail, but I decided to wait until I read volume 19. So, it could be a while. Instead, I have a potpourri post up tackling some issues that have been bugging me over the past week or so. Let’s begin with:

Texas Politics

I’m dejected right now. Seriously, should I even bother to vote? Yeah, I could just vote for President Obama and the democratic senate nominee then ignore the rest of the ballot. But still, this is depressing.

What I find so distressing is the real weakness of the Texas Democratic Party in my area. I’ve checked and no Democrat is running for our congressional seat, or state house seat, or seat on the state board of education. Who am I to vote for, the Libertarian candidate if he/ she is less egregious than the Republican candidate?

Well, I guess that is what you get for having a one party state…

Next topic is . . .

Current Children’s Cartoons

This is an example of me putting my foot in my mouth. I had, for years, believed that PBS’s children’s shows were the best. But having watched many cartoons geared at children with my niece, I have come to the conclusion that I am wrong.

Dora the ExplorerGo, Diego, Go!Ni Hao, Kai-lanPocoyo, Yo Gabba Gabba, etc. are all very good. And they’re all on Nick. That’s not to say that PBS’s offerings are any worse than I remember. But, PBS is not the only show in town anymore when it comes to excellent and educational children’s programming.

It is always nice to be proven wrong.

Moving on to . .  .

Comics of two subjects

The rumors are true, Alan Scott is revealed to be gay in Earth 2 #2. Personally, I love this development. Reading James Robinson’s interview about his processes in making the decision is highly informative and, I think, paints DC in a much better light than a number of fans seem willing to grant. Unlike Northstar’s wedding next month, DC had not intention of announcing it. Dan Didio answered a question at a convention. The media (both comic and not) took it from there.

Despite the fact that gay and lesbian characters are becoming more common in all sorts of media, the inclusion and introduction of gay characters still draws media attention, however the company approaches the issue.

One aspect of this whole event is how much it reveals about the relative ignorance of how the creation of a comic book actually works. Robinson has been planning this book for at least eight months. And the same is true of Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. Comic books are not produced on the fly. It takes months of planning, editorial input, rewrites, artwork, etc. to produce a final product.

Speaking of writing, I’m wondering if one of the problems with global manga may be issues of writing. Whenever I read articles on creating global manga, I mostly see it discussed almost exclusively in terms of art  rather than writing.It is important to remember that sequential art tells a story. And that story requires some form of writing. To be a successful manga artist, one needs both excellent art skills and strong writing skills.

But regardless of my own feelings on the matter, I look forward to Deb Aoki’s look at ways to correct the sorry state of American manga.

Now finally. . .

More writing

As I have stated before, it is important for writers in this day and age to be willing to produce works in multiple formats. From novels and short stories to video games, comics, movies, etc all should be on the table at least in the contemplative stages. Now, some of these formats are harder to break into than others and all have their own intricacies when it comes time to shop your ideas and work around. And, at the end of the day,  you may find yourself preferring one or two formats rather exclusively. The key thing is, I think, to explore one’s options to the fullest.

And this is true of how one publishes. I’ve gone on record that I prefer a more traditional approach to publishing, but I also think that all writers need to be aware of what e-publishing offers. Personally, I would feel like a hypocrite if I rooted exclusively for self e-publishing. How can I write about this subject when I don’t have an e-reader?

Anyway, that’s it for my 200th post.  I’ll try to get a few more posts up later this weekend.