Trade Post: Godland Celestial Edition One

Written by Joe Casey, drawn by Tom Scioli
Collects Godland #1-12, The Image Holiday Special
It’s been a week or so since I finished reading the first 12 issues of Godland and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the book. I want to love this book about Adam Archer, an astronaut who was granted powers by some aliens on a planet he was exploring and now, several years later he’s playing superhero. I want to love it because I really dig Joe Casey both as a writer and as a personality in the comics industry, plus, I want to support any non-big two superhero comic because I think they’re generally allowed to be more innovative. But, I was left kind of flat after reading this book.

The concept is great. Not only does Archer have powers, but he’s got three sisters who act as his support system. Well, one of them seems to hate him because she was supposed to be next in line for the space program which got shut down after her bro’s accident. The problem is that, with the exception of that sister, the other two are really one note and boring. You’ve got the brainy one and the one who fancies herself an anarchist. That’s about all they’ve got going for them which is too bad because there’s a lot of potential for interesting dynamics right there which, for all I know, really take center stage in later volumes, I’m not sure. Archer himself doesn’t really do much for me as a character either. He’s a true hero, but he spends a good deal of time bitching about how a fellow hero named Crashman is beloved while he is feared. It’s a realistic complaint to have, but when you’re starting off a brand new series and introducing the reader to new characters they don’t know anything about, it seems like a strange characteristic to focus on.

More than characters, though, I had trouble getting a grasp on the world itself. Is this a world that had superheroes before Archer or not? At first I figured he was the first, but then he’s got a villain named Basil Cronus who has a head floating in a jar which at the very least implies fantasy or sci-fi elements to the story. There’s also Discordia, a supervillain whose father Tormentor went underground several years prior. This is a tough complaint for me because, on one hand, I don’t want to read a textbook explaining the world to me, however, these kinds of questions begin to nag after a while which takes me out of the story. Again, it’s possible these elements get nailed down in a later volume, but it bugs me that after reading a year’s worth of stories, I’m this confused about the book.

My internal confusion spreads to Tom Scioli’s art as well, not that it’s confusing in a stylistic or storytelling regard, but that my personal reaction to it is confusing. As you know if you’ve ever seen an issue of Godland, the visuals are heavily influenced by the great Jack Kirby. I’ve become a really big Kirby fan over the past few years, so on one hand it’s cool to see what his art style might have looked like had he made it to the days of really great digital coloring and other modern artistic methods. On the other hand, I don’t know if I like someone aping another artist’s look to exactly. Some other artists who have been heavily influenced by Kirby like, say, Erik Larsen, at least add their own spin on the King’s style to make it unique to them, but Scioli’s art just looks like Kirby.

Like I said, I’m conflicted about this comic. I like the idea and parts of the execution, but was left flat by some of the characters (a complaint I had in my early readings of Kirby’s solo DC work now that I think about it). Perhaps Casey and Scioli are mirroring Kirby’s style TOO much. Anyway, I liked where Casey seemed to be going with the book enough to try and get my hands on the next Celestial Edition volume (this one is packed with extras, an intro by Grant Morrison and a full cover gallery), but I’m not as excited about the concept of doing so as I hoped I’d be.

Casting Internets

Hearing about Dwayne McDuffie’s passing on CBR today really saddens me. His works like Milestone, JLU and Deathlok all hold very special places in my heart. RIP Dwayne.

On to less depressing links. Check it out, I wrote a big thing about Conner Kent the current Superboy for MTV Geek, a surprisingly complicated story to suss out.

Not to toot my horn too much, but yesterday’s pic on my Tumblr page is pretty amazing. Go check it out.

Meanwhile, over on Topless Robot, my buddy Jon Gutierrez did a great list about 8 questionable cartoon spin-offs. Personally I’d put Toxic Crusaders at the top of the list because wow, what a difference between source and spin-off.

Kurt Busiek says Superstar will be out this week. I read the first issue way back when Gorilla Comics launched at Mid Ohio Con and have always wondered where that book went. Coolness.

Were you wondering what Soundgarden–one of the more unfortunate lost but surviving bands of the 90s–were up to? Rolling Stone talked to guitarist Kim Thayil to get the dirt.

Hip-hop data mining? I had no idea what that meant until Wired explained it. Pretty interesting stuff. It’s got to be interesting to study a form of music that has a relatively short life that can theoretically be studied in it’s completion. Scott C drew the Toxic Avenger on Showdowns! He continues to astonish.

Finally, /Film reports that Netflix has made a deal with CBS to stream some of their archived shows like Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, Cheers, Family Ties and the Star Trek franchise. I’m very excited to see all of Twin Peaks. I’ve got the first season on DVD and never got around to getting the second, so I haven’t seen the whole thing. Sounds like a fun watching/blogging experience in the making.

Digging Double Oh Seven: Never Say Never Again (1983)

While I don’t actually believe in cosmic significance to basic events, I do find it interesting that the year I was born there were two James Bond movies released in theaters. You have the in-cannon Octopussy which will be tomorrow’s movie and Never Say Never Again which brought Sean Connery back to the role he made famous quite a few years before. As I mentioned in my review of For Your Eyes Only, I was worried about this movie for a few reasons. One, I was worried Connery would be too old for the role (much as I thought Moore looked to be getting older in his series) and two, that it wouldn’t really matter because it’s not in cannon. Luckily neither of those wound up being a problem.

I should explain how there could be a James Bond movie that isn’t a part of the James Bond series. Back when Thunderball was being written and created, there was a screenwriter who worked on the project that wound up feeling as though his ideas were used somehow unfairly. There was a lawsuit and Bond creator Ian Fleming made a deal with him that involved cash and the use of some of the characters and ideas. So, with his fair share of legal rights to Bond, SPECTRE and Blofeld, that dude–Kevin McClory–got his stuff together, hired Irvin Kerschner to direct and got Connery to return as Bond. And you know what? The results are surprisingly entertaining. So much so that I wish this movie was actually included in the box set (even though it was original made by Warner Bros. it was eventually sold to MGM who hold the rest of the catalog).

Unlike the other Bond movies, this one actually addressed one of the facts of the movies that we haven’t seen addressed before: Bond not necessarily being the kind of character that fits in with modern sensibilities. In this version of the story, Bond has been around for as long as the movies have been (presumably) and now he’s dealing with a government that doesn’t seem to care about the Double Oh program and doctors who want him to cut out martinis and red meat. But soon enough, he’s needed again as the villain Largo–part of SPECTRE–has a plot to blow up various parts of the world. It’s interesting that, while part of the story revolves around Bond’s age, another part revolves around technology, specifically video games. There’s a scene in a big casino that has a whole section devoted to games like Centipede. Meanwhile, Largo has a 3D game he created himself that involves shooting parts of a 3D map of a country to gain control away from your adversary. It seems silly, but it’s actually a pretty tense moment as Bond plays–and eventually beats–the game’s creator. Is this the first video game bad guy in a movie?

From an action standpoint, the movie doesn’t disappoint. There’s an opening scene of Bond taking out some bad guys that looks like a lot of other 80s action movies which makes it kind of interesting for a Bond movie. There’s also a pretty slick car/motorcycle chase that involves rockets and even some cool gadgets as Bond and Felix Leiter fly around on what look like jet stands for lack of a better term. There’s even a big underground bad guy headquarters with accompanying assault by the good guys, some dangerous ladies (include Bond girl Kim Basinger) and a drop down drag out fight between Bond and a gigantic henchman. All in all, it’s the film’s differences from the rest of the late 70s/early 80s Bond flicks that actually makes it the most fun to watch. There’s a different take on the character and the mythos along with a lack of familiar elements that have made the last two or three canon Bond flicks kind of boring to watch. Oh, Rowan Atkinson’s even in it pre-Bean. He plays a kind of hapless bureaucrat there for comedic purposes, but his character is handled well and doesn’t get annoying, which is something that can’t be said for similar parts in other Bond movies. All in all, good stuff.

Audiobook Review: Double Cross By James Patterson, Read By Peter J. Fernandez & Michael Stuhlbarg

I mentioned yesterday in my review of the audiobook version of Patricia Cornwell’s The Front that I felt like it wasn’t an easy book to jump into. Thankfully, I didn’t have that problem with James Patterson’s Double Cross, though I did have a series of problems with it that I will get to. This is the 13th entry in the Alex Cross series and I didn’t have any problem understanding the relationships or the characters or anything like that. The story revolves around Cross and his new girlfriend/cop Bri trying to stop a serial killed dubbed the DC Audience Killer who likes to create and play characters with the aid of makeup and other disguise techniques and then kill people in front of large groups. There’s also the matter of criminal mastermind Kyle Craig who apparently used to work with Cross who has broken out of a supermax prison and is working his way up to Cross.

Plot-wise, the story was really interesting. They split the reading up between Peter J. Fernandez and Michael Stuhlbarg with one of them reading all of the hero parts and the other reading all of the bad guy parts (both DCAK as he’s called and Craig). I got into the story, was curious to find out what the deal with DCAK was and how he was finally going to get caught and how Craig was going to play into the whole thing. For that I’m grateful because otherwise, the 10 hour drive to Ohio would have been a pretty dull and boring one.

However, I would not call this a well-written piece of fiction. For one thing, everyone comes off as way too perfect. Bri Stone (terrible, made-up sounding name) is basically the pinnacle of womanhood. She’s cool and smart and funny and hot and can kick ass and a supercop and on and on and on. She seems to have zero flaws. Meanwhile, Cross–who came off as super smarmy to me and the missus as we were listening–just bugs me. He’s full of himself and arrogant and I just can’t get away from the word smarmy when I think about him (possibly do to his narrator, but I think it’s inherent in his character). The biggest problem the missus and I had with him though was that he never once tried to hide his three kid or grandmother even though he had not one but TWO crazy serial killers after him. That would be the first thing I’d do and yet you hear little to no mention about his kids except one moment where the oldest runs away after dad missed a meeting with a prep school basketball coach. Even that gets solved in moments and is wrapped up in a nice little bow.

Listening to Double Cross was kind of like watching a movie on a Saturday during the day that you’ve never really seen and don’t need to watch again but might check it out sometime in the future if there’s nothing on again. I didn’t realize until reading a few things online, but the character of Alex Cross is the same one from movie adaptations Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider which I haven’t seen but star Morgan Freeman. I think I’d like his take on the character a lot more than this one.

Audiobook Review: The Front By Patricia Cornwell, Read By Kate Reading

I get the feeling that listening to Patricia Cornwell’s mystery The Front on audiobook is less like picking up a random issue of Spider-Man and more like doing such with Archer & Armstrong. Obviously the metaphor is specific to me, but it’s like this: sometimes books in a series like this (this is only one of two, but you get the idea) either have a built in knowledge that come with them or fill in some of the natural blanks that come with a character who has a long fictional history. I don’t really know Spidey continuity, but I’m pretty sure I could jump right in, read some issues and get the gist. On the other hand, I don’t know anything about Archer & Armstrong, so I have no idea if I’d understand what the heck was going on.

Man, that’s a longwinded and potentially alienating way to explain that I was left a little flat by this book. Our hero Win Garano is a cop who works for a jerky DA whose life he saved previously (not sure if that’s in the previous book At Risk or just talked about). Anyway, she puts him on a 40 year old murder case in a stupid attempt to make herself look good. He kind of works on that, but also puts equal effort into hitting on a detective who also owns a cheese and wine shop. Oh, there’s also a woman who looks like Raggedy Anne poking around, an annoying Harvard journalist, a bunch of copper being stolen from job sites, a bank robber and Garano’s grandmother who is just about every Wiccan stereotype and oddity wrapped into one.

Here’s my problem with the book and this is definitely SPOILER territory. So, as you might expect, the old case turns out to be sad, but not really important politically or otherwise. As it turns out, the DA was under investigation for giving money to terrorists, but more accurately a terrorist group funneling money through a charity aimed at helping children in another country. More on that in a second. So, the main case doesn’t really matter. Then, as it turns out the reporter is not only a criminal but also the bank robber, running the copper thing AND banging the DA. There’s an explanation, but not really the kind you want because it’s explained by someone else and we don’t actually see the reporter again. He’s just talked about. But, the most infuriating aspect of the ending is that Garano winds covering for the DA for no discernible reason. He has an end-of-book convo with the DA where they talk about her losing control after all the bad stuff that happened to her previously, but it still seems weak. Does he feel sorry for her? If so, why does he spend the entire novel complaining about her both thanks to the omniscient narrator and his own comments.

So, my overall complaint is that the book winds up feeling both confusing and too easily wrapped up. Plus, the title doesn’t make much sense. I know it refers to an organization mentioned in the book and also probably something like the front that the DA or maybe Win puts up towards the other, but I think that’s a pretty weak title. After finishing another audiobook that I will probably get around to interviewing tomorrow, we actually got through this one pretty quickly as it’s only four or so discs. The funny thing is that, going in, both the missus and I were talking and had NO idea how all the different stories would get wrapped up. That should have probably been the sign of a quick, somewhat sloppy wrap up, but I didn’t see it coming.

When it comes to absorbing audiobooks, I think my expectations are much higher, not necessarily from a quality standpoint but at least an entertainment one. If I’m watching a movie on Netflix, I want it to be good, but it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a time investment. But with an audiobook I’m more depending on the story to be good, absorbing and interesting because I need to be sucked in and hopefully forget about some of the hours I have to drive through. Luckily, even though I had problems with this story, it was still entertaining enough to keep me interested and curious. For that, I’m thankful for this book, but I can’t say it was good and I probably wouldn’t recommend it. I think I’ll still to Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, like The Scarpetta Factor which we both enjoyed quite  a bit.

Digging Double Oh Seven: James Bond Jr. Comics

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We’re traveling back from Ohio today, so the odds of me being able to watch a James Bond movie are slim to none. As it is, I figured I’d extend James Bond Jr. weekend onto this fine holiday with a gallery of all 12 covers from the Marvel comic series. Fun fact: writer extraordinaire Dan Abnett worked on some of these issue.

Digging Double Oh Seven: James Bond Jr. Covers

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To go along with the animated series and toy line of the same name writer John Peel was tasked with writing a series of books based on the character under the pseudonym of John Vincent. The pics are from his site, as is the following excellent quote:

Sadly I discovered two drawbacks. First, I wasn’t going to be allowed to use my own name on the covers. They came up with “John Vincent” for me to be instead. (I suspect a joke on the name of self-help writer Norman Vincent Peale…) Second the scripts were bad. Really bad. For example, James Jr., despite his name, is James Bond’s nephew, not his son. So he can’t possibly be a Junior unless his father is also named James… My editor selected the six least-worst scripts for me to work on, and there was a lot to be done to make them readable. I did my best, but the books and the show disappeared quickly…

Follow that link to find out what each of the six books is about along with the occasional commentary from Peel, it’s a pretty interesting, quick read.

Digging Double Oh Seven: James Bond Jr. Toys

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Right off the bat, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due and let you know that I grabbed these images from the James Bond Jr. page over on the wonderful Virtual Toychest. The animated series these toys were based on kicked off in 1991 as did the toy line which, as was common around that time, outlasted the series itself. Consisting of updated 90s versions of characters like Odd Job (dig those hip hop threads!), Jaws and Doctor No, brand new villains like Captain Walker D. Plank and Dr. Derange and of course young relatives of Bond characters like James Bond (James Bond Jr.), Felix Leiter (Gordo Leiter) and Q (IQ), the line was…interesting. I never owned one of these figures, but I’ve had my eye out for some at flea markets to no avail (yet).

Digging Double Oh Seven: James Bond Jr. Weekend

Since I will be traveling to Ohio this weekend for the first of many baby showers, I’m going to have to skip James Bond movie reviews for a few days. To keep up the run of DDOS’s though, I decided to write about one of the stranger aspects of the Bond legacy: the 1991 animated series James Bond Jr. which isn’t about Bond’s son, but his nephew. The series spawned a series of action figures, an NES-era video game, a comic from Marvel and a series of novels (look for posts about these later in the weekend). Bond finds himself enrolled at a boarding school called Warfield Academy where he meets fellow students geeky IQ (Q’s grandson), surfer dude Gordo Leiter (Felix’s son) and Tracy, his love interest. The kids soon find themselves at odds with a villainous organization called SCUM (Saboteurs and Criminals United in Mayhem).

Sure, it’s a silly 90s animated series with an amazing number of cliches and familiar characters (Tracy’s best friend Phoebe has more than a passing resemblance to Irma from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and now that I think about it Tracy looks kind of like April, no?) but the first episode has some fun moments. That opening chase scene is better than most and how cools is his flying Aston Martin?

I’m also impressed that the story revolves around SCUM using an electromagnetic pulse to hold Britain’s computer information hostage. I doubt a lot of cartoons of the day were using similar ideas. Anyway, I’m sure the show wears on the nerves after a while with quips upon quips and the usual inanity that comes from most 90s cartoons, but I’d be interested in watching more of the 65 episodes on Netflix Instant though, to be honest, odds of me actually paying for something like this would be pretty low as I’m sure the rewatch value isn’t there. Anyone else watch this series or have any memories of the tie-ins?