Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ultimate X-Men: Reservation X

51JvJHig0aL._SY346_First, a quick scheduling note: I know it’s weird that there’s no book in between the last set of graphic novels and this one, but I’m about to be off the grid for a couple of weeks, and I both didn’t want to start a new book yet when I know I’ll be taking a couple with me and especially didn’t want to take any of these out into the wild, so, here we are. (Also, nobody at all was actually asking this question, but on the off chance one person was? This paragraph is dedicated to you, hero!)

So, anyway, Reservation X? Although it opens with a completely out of left field premise that in the aftermath of America’s eight-way civil war, the new President has a cure for the formula that was used to create so many mutants over the past few decades, it quickly becomes the first story since mutants became outlawed that actually feels kind of like it’s the X-Men again. See, Kitty Pryde (the de facto leader of the remnant of mutantkind who did not opt for the cure) is offered a chunk of desolate land where her people can form their own sovereign nation[1], and where they must find a way to live in a world that once again almost accepts them as, y’know, people while dealing with internal power struggles and external threats and resentments and also still The City, which you will mostly not remember is where all the new mutants in the SEAR reside and where Jean Grey is still hanging out.

What struck me most about the book, aside from my footnote just now, is how every moment of the story felt like it was building toward the same schism between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr that marked the birth of mutantkind the first time around. Hopefully that does not sound to you and will not be treated by the authors and editors as trite, because in my opinion it’s nice to see some kind of familiar order imposed on the Ultimate universe. They won me over on Miles Morales, and now the X-Men has mostly stopped being a muddled, sprawling hash of a storyline too. I dig it!

[1] Um, wow. How did it take until I was reviewing this book to realize that the Ultimate mutants have been the Jews since like 2009? (Plausibly longer.)

The Walking Dead: What Comes After

WalkingDead_Vol18_WhatComesAfterIt seems like the last several Walking Dead collections have left me feeling reluctant to continue with the series, yet I keep finding new reasons to go on. And there’s probably a lot of truth to that, though I still stand by my most recent prediction that extending beyond today’s storyline will be a huge mistake. Luckily, that has not happened yet, and so I can document my positive reactions and not feel like a chump.

So, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, What Comes After? Besides a painfully generic title, I mean. I guess my answer is, a cult of personality? Also, a renewal of my certainty that Carl Grimes is the toughest customer this side of The Internet’s Chuck Norris. But yeah, what I mean is, Negan is downright fascinating, for all that he’s a terrifying psychotic killer. Far more entertaining than the Governor ever was, and as long as he stays that way and nothing else really boring comes along, I’ll be fine seeing this storyline extend onward a ways. Could wrap up in one book? Could extend for two and not feel like it was being milked, if done properly. But after that? Yeah, I dunno.

But it does seem like 20 is a nice round number, you know?

The Boys: Herogasm

the_boys5In its way, Herogasm is pretty clever. See, it starts off with the concept that big superhero crossover events are all faked, and while the various teams are off “fighting off the alien menace” (or whatever it is this year), they’ve really taken a week or two off at an orgy resort, to recharge their batteries. And since the biggest conceit of the Boys series is how superheroes are basically all horrible people who make the world a consistently worse place, I can appreciate what Ennis is doing here.

Of course, then he and his artist take this premise as a challenge to draw and write the filthiest scenes they can come up with, and they keep throwing it at you nonstop, and at some point even my prurience threshold was overcome. I like to hope this was the point, but I imagine I’m fooling myself there.

But then (and here’s the clever bit), suddenly there’s all kinds of deep politics, both in the present-day and flashback portions of the story, bubbling up around the non-stop porn, and before you know it really big events have occurred and you were still trying to figure out if you were tired of the nipple parade and you almost missed it. I’m definitely not saying that Ennis was trying to slide some mocking social commentary over on his readers here; like I said, I’m not even sure he was trying to make the point that I should have been getting tired of it in the first place. But I am saying that it was an artful job of playing to his strengths.

Ultimate Iron Man: Demon in the Armor

518iRfWjZWL._SY346_The perplexing thing about Ultimate Iron Man is how really well he’s written in the Ultimates (and in any guest role he performs in other comics, usually Spider-Man), yet how mediocrely he’s written on any of the few occasions he gets his own title.[1] Continuing this trend (and the trend of really generic collection names) is Ultimate Comics Iron Man, in which Tony learns that a Chinese conglomerate calling itself the Mandarin is in the midst of a decidedly hostile takeover of Stark International.

It’s by no means a bad story, and in fact the “romantic” subplot is basically great. But it’s telling that I had to grasp for the preceding sentence, instead of working to try to hold back discussion fodder in case of spoilers. Oh, okay, I should also add that the Demon in a Bottle callback in the run’s unmentioned title is probably quite clever, a nice parallel but with 2013’s Tony being addicted to heroism instead of liquor, but since I haven’t actually read Demon in a Bottle yet, this seems like the kind of parallel I’m not qualified to confirm.

But man, mostly I’m just grateful to Robert Downey Jr. for showing me that at least someone can do Tony Stark right.

[1] Armor Wars was an exception, though not a bright shining one.

The Map of the Sky

9102OsNohAL._SL1500_You know that book The Map of Time that is so intimately tied up in my Kindle ownership? It turns out that it was the first book of a trilogy of standalone books. Who knew? The important thing to focus on here, besides that I also definitely liked The Map of the Sky, is that word “standalone”. Because while this book makes more sense if you’ve read the first one, that is not necessary and there is definitely not a cliffhanger at the end, or even any more hint of a third volume than the first one implied that this book was coming. So if you’re worried about reading it? Don’t, it will be fine.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way: You know how the first book in the Victorian trilogy riffed on the Time Machine? This one riffs on the War of the Worlds, albeit a lot more straightforwardly than that other time. And really, I think that should be all you need to know? Yes, it’s in the same tone and voice as the first book, like you’d expect, and since that worked for me just fine then, I’m happy with it here as well. And what it somewhat lacked in byzantine twists, it made up in my deepened emotional attachment to the characters (and their deepened emotional attachments, for good or ill, to each other).

Also, one part of the book, set in the 1830s instead of 1898, is possibly based on a Poe novel instead of War of the Worlds? I am saddened to be unfamiliar with it, if so, and especially saddened that I did not get to choose him as my American Literature senior focus, back when I was getting my lit degree. I tried, but one can only wait so many semesters before you just have to agree to get on with graduating instead. In any event, it reminded me a great deal more of a completely different narrative which I shan’t mention here, to avoid spoilers.

The Conjuring

A large percentage of the modern horrorscape is devoted to possessions, hauntings, and the intersection between the two. So it makes perfect sense that people would comb through the documented cases of such things and put together a movie around that. After all, nothing adds verisimilitude to a project like slapping “based on a true story” to the tagline.

Thusly, The Conjuring, in which actual people named Lorraine and Ed Warren set out to assist an actual Rhode Island family which consists of two adult Perrons and their five daughters, who mostly like to play Hide&Clap and get haunted by restless demons who are hidden implausibly poorly in a boarded up basement. Which doesn’t sound so implausible, I know, except that the house’s furnace is in the basement, and the first time it got cold (demonic or regular), someone was going to go looking for that, you know?

The thing about a true story is, you’re constrained by it. If you’re trying to be anything like faithful to the narrative at all, you will have sudden stops and starts that don’t really fit the expectations of story progression, and no particular themes, just a series of disconnected events and an unreasonably creepy doll. The upshot of which is, this is a perfectly serviceable scary story about which I have basically nothing relevant to say.

The Wolverine (2013)

MV5BNzg1MDQxMTQ2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk3MjAzOQ@@._V1_The Wolverine is the first new sequel to the X-Men trilogy in seven years. That’s kind of a long time, right? I’m not going to get into a “worth the wait” discussion, since those never end well and speak to expectations, which I try not to set in the first place. But certainly it was good.

First, a recap of relevant information: Wolverine is a pretty old mutant whose DNA has an impressive healing factor, such that he can recover from nearly any wound you can imagine and he doesn’t really age. Over the past hundred, maybe hundred and fifty years, he’s seen a lot of the world. Also, he has claws that grow out of his hand. Also also, his entire skeletal structure has been coated in adamantium, the hardest substance known to comic-book man. (This was made possible by his healing factor, you see. If you pause a moment to consider what having molten metal forged around your bones would feel like, not to mention the logistics of it, you will see why this would suck more for anyone else than the prodigious amount of sucking it did for him.)

So, okay, that should have you nice and caught up. This movie? Is about a haunted Wolverine, filled with regrets over the outcome of the last X-Men movie. Then, he gets caught up in some Japanese family politics. Since this is a comic book movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to promise you some hot mutant-on-ninja action, and also there’s a samurai with a distinctly silvery cast to his features, if you know what I mean and I bet you probably don’t, honestly.

The most important plot issue in a mostly character-driven movie (despite all that ninja action) is in the scene after the credits, when we are promised one hell of a spectacle of a new fully X-Men sequel. So, y’know, yes please.