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Avril Brown Presents:

You know what they say about first impressions: they are essential, meaningful and must be great otherwise your life and ambitions will unravel before your very eyes. Yet they also say first impressions aren’t everything nor are they necessarily the best and most accurate read one can get from a person or story.

So which faceless, talkative ‘they’ do you listen to?

Both, naturally.

While it is important to at least try and make a good first impression, we all need to expand our understanding and be more generous with our second chances.

When it comes to the human race, I’m as cynical and bitter as the next mid-20s liberal who works at an animal shelter, where I’ve seen some of the scummiest people to walk the planet. However, I do attempt to keep an open mind about people given the simple fact that we’ve all fucked up a first meeting at some point in our lives. If you tell me gleefully you kick puppies for a living, or you wish the Constitution would be altered so Bush could run a third term, I am not going to seek an encore audience. Thankfully not everyone is a puppy-abusing Bush fan, and it is important to keep that in mind.

With books, comics and films, first impressions are colored by our initial emotions, and depending on our expectations going into the story our judgment may be clouded. For example, the first time I saw ‘Hellboy’ I was definitely disappointed. I was expecting something along the lines of the first two X-Men movies: a supernatural story and characters, but presented in a slightly more serious vein in an attempt to make it as believable as possible. ‘Hellboy’ is not serious, it’s campy. The heroes, villains, and plots were silly and fun, and meant to be enjoyed with ones tongue planted firmly within ones cheek. Once I understood that, my second viewing was infinitely more enjoyable, and it got me pumped as hell to see the sequel. (Which was well-deserved hype; ‘Hellboy 2 rocked. Even my mother, who fell asleep in the theater during the final firefight in ‘Serenity,’ had a good time.)

Occasionally our emotions can lead us astray. A thrilling story with fancy effects and other eye-catchers can make a favorable first impression, but once the glamour wears off you’re left with what’s really there, and it ain’t that great. For me, the movie ‘300’ fits this particular bill. I saw it when it first came out in theaters on a six-story IMAX screen and MAN was I blown away. The graphics were stunning and the multitudes of very pretty people to gaze upon certainly didn’t hurt matters. There was a small voice in the back of my mind whispering ‘300’ really wasn’t that stellar of a film, what with the cheesy dialogue and woeful historical inaccuracies, but as a Frank Miller comic book adaptation it seemed to work. I bought it on DVD and the more I watch it, the louder the voice gets. Yet this is a film I will continue to watch despite its fall from grace in my eyes, mainly because ‘300’ remains a visual sensation, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a larger collection of lick-able abs outside of Chippendales.

Mangled first impressions can also lead us to even better things, making our subsequent disappointment easier to swallow. Being a huge Joss Whedon fan, I picked up the first issue of his take on RUNAWAYS, a comic series following several teens on the run after they found out their parents were super-villains. So I came in on issue #25 and absolutely loved it. I thought the characters were fascinating and funny and I couldn’t wait to see what Joss had in store for them. I also picked up all the previous issues in trade form so I could play catch-up, and after reading them I came to the conclusion that Brian K. Vaughn, the original writer of RUNAWAYS, is a complete and utter genius. Nothing could compare to his spectacular story telling and the voice he gave these enjoyable characters; not even the great and powerful Joss. Perhaps it was the fact it took almost a year to publish Joss’s five-issue arc (not entirely his fault), or that the plot just didn’t have the same pizzazz Whedon’s work normally has, yet despite a positive first impression I was not the biggest fan by the conclusion of the story. Regardless, I will always be pleased I picked up the book for it led me to discover one of the most entertaining comics I have ever read. And it isn’t like Joss’s stint was horrible; personally I can’t wait to see what happens with this new uber-wicca version of Nico.

Todd McFarlane mentioned in an interview with CWR and Chicago Redeye columnist Elliott Serrano that too many story ideas aren’t given a chance to develop. If a book doesn’t make the big bucks with the first couple of issues it’s usually dropped. Clearly this is a way to lose many great ideas before they can fully form, but the very first issue staring a brand new character with an exciting, fresh world, still needs to have something. Issue #1 doesn’t have to be an Eisner winner, but it should give you enough to draw you in. A witty exchange, a jaw-dropping action sequence, or a character you laugh and cry with; something to make you say, “Well, that was interesting.”

Some people deserve to be cut a little slack. Some movies should be granted a second screening…and some should not. And many comics, especially those with an intriguing introductory issue, earn their chance to grow into a lasting story. Hold on to your first impressions, for valuable information is contained within, but don’t let them dominate the way you feel about the future.

Avril Brown

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