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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dead@17 #2, John Woo's 7 Brothers #2, Punisher War Journal #1 

Dead@17 #2:

Well, you know what you’re getting.

The real story is Josh Howard’s evolution as a storyteller. Dead@17 has always been at least mildly entertaining, in all its iterations with all its creative teams. Howard, though, is the one who gave us the original mini-series, and Viper Comics its launch title.

He’s come a long way since then. The original Dead@17 was basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer in demographics and content, sort of a lo-cal supernatural action title with vague ambitions at setting up a greater cosmology, presumably for future titles like this one. Howard’s distinctive art went a long way toward getting the title some attention. But while his art seems to mostly have stayed in the same place, his writing is growing.

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John Woo's 7 Brothers #2:

John Woo’s 7 Brothers is a weird one for Garth Ennis. I don’t pretend to know the division of labor between Ennis and Woo, however; Woo is credited as the creator, and Ennis as the scripter. How much credit goes to one, how much to the other? If I had to guess, I’d say Woo wrote the general outline and Ennis ran with it, doing much of the actual development and work. So we come back to: this is a weird one for Garth Ennis.

Why? Because the conventions underlying the story are so very superhero. For anyone who knows Thing One about Ennis, this goes against type.

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Punisher War Journal #1:

I’m having a hard time figuring out what to think of Punisher War Journal. No one but Garth Ennis has had anything interesting to say about Frank Castle in several years. In that span of time Ennis’s spin has become the catholic version of Marvel’s most infamous vigilante, at least as definitive as Steven Grant’s Circle of Blood and Chuck Dixon’s Punisher War Zone.

But along comes a new writer with his own take on the character. Matt Fraction has never made much of an impression on me; he usually comes off as an uneasy wannabe mix between Warren Ellis, Brian Wood, and Joe Casey. Furthering the problem is that a lot of his concepts are reheated spins on material from those same writers, six to twelve months later. Are talking gorillas the kitschy cool thing these days? Fraction’ll put out Mantooth. Are loopy action-comedies featuring historical figures in? Here comes Five Fists of Science. How about “reinventions” of revered 60’s comic book genres? Here’s Casanova to Casey’s Godland.

So I don’t want to dismiss this new PWJ because Fraction seems challenged in the Original Ideas department. Or because I secretly think Ennis is the only guy who should be writing the character. (I don’t.) Or even because of all the Civil War nonsense.

And yet I still don’t like it.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Adventures in Quote Whore Hyperbole, Part 1 

Wherein we find that, according to Maxim's Pete Hammond, almost every major comedy release this year is the best comedy of the year.. or even, perhaps, the decade.

Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny: "The Pick of Destiny may be the year's greatest guilty pleasure."

There's also the silly quote from the TV ad -- conspicuously missing from the online review -- that declares Pick of Destiny the "greatest rock comedy ever," or somesuch nonsense. Without having actually seen it, I'm gonna go ahead and say that's bullshit.

Borat: "Its [sic] not just the funniest movie of the year, it's the funniest movie in many years."

Yes, Borat is very funny. It may be the funniest movie of the year -- though I'm not sure. But the funniest movie in many years? No, not a chance.

School for Scoundrels: "Consistently and uncontrollably hilarious — at least some of the time" (Wait, what? Doesn't that seem like a direct contradiction?) [...] "It's surprisingly clever and refreshing entertainment that deserves a place at the head of the comedy class."

Accepted: "Accepted makes the comedy honor roll for being inventive and riotously funny. It's Animal House meets Ferris Bueller for a new generation — but so much more."

Uh.

Snakes on a Plane: "SOAP may be saddled with ludicrous dialogue but it's got more action-packed fun than just about any other movie seen this summer. This sucker really works! In other words, welcome to the season's number one guilty pleasure."

Talladega Nights: "Talladega Nights is the summer comedy winner that clocks more laughs per minute than any other."

Yeah, no.

The Break-Up: "In fact, The Break-Up should be required viewing for anyone who is, has ever been, or thinks they will be in a relationship. The Break-Up is a hilarious, honest, edgy, and painfully funny movie that truly proves men and women really are from different planets. [...] This ranks as one of the best American comedies in years."

I'm pretty sure The Break-Up wasn't even the best American comedy that weekend.

Over the Hedge: "Over the Hedge jumps waaay over the top on the laugh meter. [...] Trust us — this movie should be in the Funny Hall of Fame."

Funny Hall of Fame, you say... tell me, do you, the reader, know anyone who actually saw this?

American Dreamz: "This is just part of the off-the-wall premise of an outrageously funny film that goes for big laughs and nails them every time. American Dreamz is the kind of dead-on, politically incorrect satire Hollywood movies rarely attempt anymore."

That's funny. When I walked out of American Dreamz, I was trying to imagine a satire even safer and more spineless than the one I'd just seen. I couldn't.

I know, I know. This is Pete Hammond of Maxim we're talking about here. He's not exactly Manohla Dargis and Maxim ain't no New York Times. But hey: nobler critics than myself have taken time out of their schedule to snipe the people who make their profession look like shit. I can only do the same.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction 

There is a man.

And, at first, that is all that matters about this man: he exists.

He has a job, true. He has a sort-of friend he only talks to at work. He has nice but unassuming suits. Beyond that, his life is as featureless and unadorned as his apartment. Seriously—hotel rooms have more life and verve than this guy’s place.

Okay, and he’s not entirely sexless. When he meets an interesting, attractive spitfire of a woman, he notices. So we know that much about him now: despite his completely regimented existence, there are particular types of women who can catch his eye and occupy his thoughts… and there’s no better way to learn what makes a person tick than by watching them And we know, somewhere in the back of our minds, that this man’s life will become a tragedy. Story economics tells us you can’t have a tragedy if there’s no connection to the main character, and so we know we will learn more.

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